(originally published in 1895, The Ottawa Naturalist, Vol. IX, No.5: 114-116)
By T. W. Edwin Sowter
Along the shores of Lake Deschênes are many points of Archaeological interest; and it is in the hope that some of the members of the Field Naturalists' Club may devote their time to a more special investigation of this branch of scientific research that I now call attention to some of them.
It is needless to say that the Ottawa River, of which this lake is an expansion, was, during the French régime, the great highway between the region of the great lakes and the French settlements on the St. Lawrence. Indians and "coureurs de bois" engaged in the fur trade, as well as governors of Canada, either in voyages of discovery or expeditions against their Indian enemies, traversed the waters of this river. It was at times, also, the objective point of war parties of hostile Iroquois, who, after the subjugation of their Huron kinsmen, carried the tomahawk, in a war of extermination, far into the wilds to the north of the Ottawa.
Some of the descendants of the Indians and voyageurs who took part in these stirring scenes, connected with the pioneer days of New France, are now living in Aylmer and vicinity; and it would be well to secure from them the traditions and stories attaching to points of local interest before the present generation passes away.
On the Ontario shore of the lake, at Raymond's point opposite Aylmer, is the site of an old Indian workshop where flint weapons have been fabricated. My attention was first called to it, some time ago, by Jacob Smith of the Interior Department, its discoverer. Mr. Smith shewed the writer some flint arrow heads, and a spear head of the same material, which he had discovered at this place.
Narcisse Noël of Aylmer, in company with the writer, also found some imperfect arrow-heads at this place, which appear to have been rejected by the ancient workmen. For about 100 yards along the shore, between high and low water mark, the rocks are littered with chips and shreds of black flint, which are also washed out of the gravel at high water mark after heavy rains. These flints resemble those found in great abundance in the Trenton limestone at Hull, from which place it is just possible they may have been taken. It is said that these flint chips have also been found on Snake Island a short distance from here, so that this locality seems to offer opportunities to the archaeologist that should not be overlooked.
Some years ago a quantity of human bones was found buried in the sand on the Light-house Island just above Aylmer, which the late Dr. C. M. Church, to whom they were presented, regarded as typical of the North American Indian.
A short time ago, at Pointe a la Bataille about to miles above Aylmer on the Ontario shore of the lake, Joseph Leclaire of Aylmer discovered a large "cache" of bullets. As Mr. Leclaire bought home nearly halt a bagfull without exhausting the find, it does not appear credible that so large a quantity of ammunition could have been "cached" by hunters; but, judging from the name of the place, one inclines rather to the supposition that this store had some connection in the past, with the movements of war parties, either white or Indian, operating along the lake.
An interesting tradition, told by the old "voyageurs" now living in Aylmer, is associated with Lapoté's and Sand Points lying respectively to the east and west of Sand Bay at the mouth of Constance Creek about 15 miles above Aylmer. The tradition is a follows:—-Many years ago, during the French règime, a party of "coureurs de bois" were encamped at the former point; while Sand Point to the west of the bay was occuied by a superior force of Indians, probably a war party of hostile Iroquois. An encounter was imminent and it remained to be seen which party would circumvent the other. The French fur traders, whose daring and brilliant exploits at this period are a matter of history, were not to be taken by surprise. Leaving their camp fires
burning on the high rocky shore at Lapoté's Point, to deceive their wily enemies, the little band of intrepid Frenchmen traversed the forest to the east of the bay, forded Constance Creek, passed beneath the shadow of the pine groves on the sand hills to the north of the bay and fell suddenly on the Indian camp on Sand Point. The encounter was sharp and terrific and resulted in the utter defeat and route of the Indians.
Wm. Baillie, of Aylmer, informed the writer that a great many bones are scattered over this point ; and Mr. Montgomery, who recently lived in the vicinity, stated that his two sons discovered, at this place, an almost perfect human skeleton. Mr. Baillie also states that some years ago, on the eastern shore of the bay, a number of copper kettles, of ancient design, were unearthed. These facts would seem to corroborate to some extent, the above tradition and invite a closer investigation of the subject. The weird Indian legends of prolonged conflicts with Wendigoes, supposed to have inhabited the sand dunes of Sand Point, should also be collected before the generation of old men, now retaining them, have passed away.
The old Indian portage at the Chats should also be a point of great interest to the archeologist. The remains of old bullets, badly decayed, have been found by the writer in the crevices of the rocks at this place, strongly suggestive of the times when these "carrying Places" were disputed, foot by foot, by hostile war parties. An old copper coin and other ancient works of art, found on the lake shore at Aylmer, as well as an iron tomahawk of peculiar design discovered by S. H. Edey some two miles inland from this place, are matters of interest.
Finally, I might say that members of the Field Naturalists' Club who wish to make a careful examination of places alluded to in the above will soon be in a position to do so. Capt. Davis will shortly have a steamboat running between Britannia and the Quyon, which will enable us to make any of these places the objective point of an excursion of the club. Traditions and folk-lore stories associated with Lake Deschenes should then be collected and recorded before the hand of time has placed them beyond our reach.
T. W. EDWIN SOWTER.