(originally published in the Twenty-Ninth Annual Archaeological Report, 1917, Being part of Appendix to the Report of the Minister of Education, Ontario. pp.78-85.)
Big and Little Sand Points, on the west limit of Constance, or Sand Bay, on the south shore of Lake Deschênes in the township of Torbolton, Carleton County, Ontario, and the sandy beach, on the east side of Black Bay, running northward from McCook's wharf, in the township of Eardley, Ottawa County, Quebec, seem to have been important gathering places of the Indians, for many years before the advent of Europeans. Even within the memory of some of the older people, now living in the neighbourhood, Big Sand Point was occupied every summer by camps of Indians, of various Iroquois tribes, who had traditions of their forefathers having made a camping ground of this place during the French régime.
Big Sand Point
A long, narrow spit of sand running about one hundred and fifty yards out into the lake, at low water, and lying within the angle formed by the western shore of Constance Bay and the south shore of the main river, and behind this, above high-water mark, a large dune of more or less drifting sand, that maintains its height, north-westerly, in a considerable ridge or hog's-back, for about two hundred yards along the river front, until it lowers away into the moderately high sandy banksof the lake-such is Big Sand Point.
On a former visit to this place, in 1912, my son-Edwin Sowter-now of the 38th Batt. Royal Ottawas-discovered an Indian fire-place, containing fragments of pottery, on the sand dune facing the main river, about fifty yards from the easterly end of the ridge. This turned out to be one of the outlying fire-places of a prehistoric Indian village.
In 1914, in company with my son Tom, I again camped at this point. Nothing was found on the bay side, but along the river, or lake front, for about a quarter of a mile, we collected a considerable quantity of broken pottery, broken flint, a few arrowheads, musket and pistol flints, a badly rusted knife, apparently of French make, some trade bullets, and a couple of pieces of badly corroded iron or steel, each resembling a toy tobacco pipe with a straight stem about two inches in length with an egg-shaped bowl bent away from the stem at an angle of forty-five degrees, or, a quarter note in music, with a very thick stem to it. I find that these pieces of metal are of about the same size and shape as parts of the hand and wrist guards of an old sword in my possession-an heirloom of the eighteenth century.
It may be mentioned here, that some years ago, at a point about two miles or more down the river, beyond Pointe à la Bataille, in the bush back from the shore, Mr. Jacob Smith, of the Interior Department at Ottawa, kicked up what looked like an old-fashioned sword, rather badkly decayed with rust. Mr. Smith presented the blade to Lt.-Col. A.L. Jarvis, I.S.O., Assistant Deputy-Minister of Agriculture, who kindly allowed me to inspect the ancient weapon and take measurements. We
took approximate measurements and found that the handle, or shank. was six inches in length and the blade twenty-seven and three-quarter inches. The blade is double-edged, carinated longitudinally midway between the edges, which are about one and a quarter inches apart at the shank and taper regularly, becoming broadly curved inward to what may be described as a rapier point. Lt.-Col. Jarvis, who is keenly interested in archaeology, has been so kind as to look up the history of the weapon in the records of the parliamentary library at Ottawa, and is satisfied that it is a sample of the primitive bayonet, dating from the days of Champlain. This blade could be used as a light hand weapon for stabbing purposes, or could be stuck into the muzzle of a musket as a bayonet.
Also, many years ago, George Buckham, Esq., who resides on the ancestral homestead, nearly two miles away, at the head of Buckham's Bay, found several articles of European origin at Big Sand Point, among them being a small cannon, about twenty inches in length, and s uch as is said o have been attached to boats or batteaux in the early days: The cannon was given to the late Dr. Collar Church, of Aylmer. Que., who in turn presented it to the museum of McGill University at Montreal.
Mr. Buckmam, who is upwards of seventy-five years of age, also informed us that in his younger days the Indians that. camped at this point every summer, had a tradition that their forefathers, in the old time, often made it a gathering place: and that during such visits they always kept a squaw on the big sand mound to watch for the canoes of white traders or Indians passing up or down the river.
Continuing our research. we found two more fire-places on the top of the sand dune, one about fifteen feet to the south-east, and the other an equal distance to the north-west of the one unearthed in 1912.
We screened the contents of these through a wire net. with a half-inch mesh. and got fragments of pottery, chunks of unworked flints. the bones of small animals, with small pieces of charred wood. The bones and charred wood, however, appeared to be of quite recent origin, and were found on the surface.
A day or so after this, my son found a piece of pottery lying on a large uprooted stump at the base of the steep bank facing the river, and reaching with his hand into a ground-hog burrow, above the stump, he drew out several more fragments of pottery. We then got to work with a shovel and soon laid bare a large ash-bed, about six feet wide and six inches deep. The bed was a compact mass of ashes, clam shells, a few unworked flints, pieces of pottery, and bones of small animals.
There seemed to be a few important features about this last ash-bed which we noted with some care. We satisfied ouselves that it was above high-water mark, from observations of the shore farther up the river, where the spring floods have been washing away the banks, with their forest growth of large trees, for many years. The bed rested upon the upper surface of what appears to be pleistocen sand of unknown depth. Above this was a fifteen-inch layer of forest humus, mixed with sand, covered by five feet of clean, drift sand, which is overgrown, just at this place, with scrubby trees and a tall pine rampike. about a foot in diameter. Stumps of other trees, with roots in position, in this upper deposit of drift sand, are upwards of two feet in diameter.
Upon reviewing our work in 1914. some time after our return home. it occurred to me that Indian fire-places might be found beneath the forest humus behind the sand ridge, among the pitch pines farther back from the shore. In accordance with this idea we returned in the autumn of 1915, to investigate. Some holes were made in several places without results, and our task seemed hopeless, when some tiny fragments of clam shells were observed on a hill of black ants. In the absence of a shovel, which we had neglected to bring with us, an excavation was made at the ant-hill with a crudely made digging stick and a graniteware washbasin, and, beneath some six inches of forest deposit, an ash-bed, about five feet wide and nine inches deep, was exposed. It rested immediately upon the pleistocene sand, and was a duplicate of the bed beneath the sand ridge, being a mass of ashes, clam shells, small animal bones, broken pottery and some chunks of flint. Ashes and clam shells were also found in two or three other openings made among the trees.
Now, it would appear from the foregoing data, that before the forest growth, (that now covers the bluffs or Sand Hills, as they are called. within the peninsula between Constance and Buckham's Bays and the main river) had encroached upon the shore line, there was an acre or so of comparatively level sand at this point, upon which the red hunters made their camp-fires and appeased their appetites with roast clams, and other and varied bounties, which field and stream must have yielded them in great abundance, for even within the last half century, game of all sorts was plentiful hereabouts, as was fish, also, in the adjacecent waters.
After a while, for some unaccountable reason, possibly one of the red, wilderness tragedies, the story of which is lost to us, this plot of sand was abandoned to the forest, which held dominion over it until there was deposited fifteen inches of vegetable matter. Then the winds began to drift the sand over the edge of the forest, apparently killing it out and forming the ridge, already described, which rises to its greatest height, at its south-eastern extremity, in what has been called the Wendigo Mound. The forest then took possession of the top of the ridge, as did, also, the Indians, whose camp-fires once more glimmered through the branches.
As these late comers had not discarded their pottery, which bears exterior decorations quite similar in design to that found in the earlier beds beneath the forest mould and sand drift; and, as these later fire-places, as well as the earlier ones-which by the way, were found on the level, and not in fire-pits-have shown no traces of European contact, it would seem that these more recent occupants of Big Sand Point were still too early upon the scene to be identified as the same traditionary gentry who kept a sharp-sighted squaw sentinel on the Windigo Mound ind who man-handled the French traders coming up the river, and purloined their merchandise.
The old Wendigo Mound is not now what it used to be, as its protecting Wendigoes have long since departed and left it to its fate, to become, in recent years, the victim of a sordid commercialism that has carted away a large portion of it for building purposes.
The Indian tradition that this sand dune was at one time the habitation of a family of Wendigoes has already been referred to in a former paper of mine on "The Highway of the Ottawa," and an amusing incident that occurred to us during our visit, in the autumn of 1914, may permit the suggestion that the native belief of Wendigoes may have had its origin in the hasty observation and misinterpretation of a perfectly natural phenomenon.
Now, if a gentle keeper of sheep in Scotland, and an amateur archaeologist in Canada, were thus alarmed at their own shadows, what impression would a similar
visitation have had upon the mind of all untutored savage? especially if the shade threatened him with a club? which in my case, turned out to be the reflection of a large iron spoon, which, of course as a weapon of offence, no Wendigo would ever think of using if he had any respect for himself.
Little Sand Point.
About midway between Big Sand Point and the outlet of Constance Creek, a slight outward bulge in the western shore line of Constance Bay is called Little Sand Point. On our visits, in 1914, and 1915, we found the beach at this point, for about one hundred and fifty yards in length and twenty yards in width from high-water mark, strewn with fragments of pottery and broken flints. A piece of a stone pipe, the corroded blade of what looks like a French knife, and a few flint arrowheads were also found; but no trace of any ash-beds was discovered.
The presence of so much brokon earthenware, here as well as at Big Sand Point, made it appear as if, in the Indian wars of the remote past. some red Gideon had re-enacted the miracle of the broken pitchers.
The shore line, however, offers many and convincing proofs that no miracle is necessary to account for the abundance of domestic refuse found on the beach at each of these points. The fact of the matter is that, in the days of the ancient lake dwellers, the greater part of the west shore of the bay, as well as much of the main shore of the river, running up stream from the big point, extended outward fully twenty yards beyond the present high-water mark, and here, doubtless, the shards of earthenware accumulated in and about Indian fire-places. But year after year the spring floods carried away portions of the banks, and floated off the trees as driftwood, as they do to-day, leaving behind only the heavier sand and earthenware, with, here and there, a few old forest trees, larger and more deeply rooted than their fellows, such as the ash, elm and soft maple, to mark the former limits of the shore. Similar examples of large trees, in various stages of isolation from the parent forest, due to the recession of the shore under denudation by wave action that is now going on, may be observed at and below Breckenridge's Creek. and at other places lower down the river.
From Big Sand Point we crossed the Ottawa and tied up at McCook's wharf, which runs out into the lake from a point formed by the junction of the main shore of the river and the east limit of Black Bay. Stepping from the wharf. there lay before us a large wood-yard; to the right, McCook's house; while beyond these, to the northward, was a field of light sandy loam, from which a potato crop had been removed. Here we found a strip of land, including the yard and extending about one hundred and fifty yards along the side of the field next the bay, that was strewn with abundant evidences of former Indian occupation. There was a profusion of broken pottery, of which we collected some of the larger pieces, together with a number of whole and broken stone celts, and quite a varied assortment of arrowheads. No ash-beds were observed, as any that may have been there, when the land was cleared, have long since been obliterated, as the ground has been under cultivation for many years.
This field was an ideal spot for a village site, as it lies wholly within the bay and even to-day a fringe of large trees along the upper part of the bank offers a shelter from the prevailing west winds; while the roots, deep amongst the pebbles,
together with small boulders lower down to the water, are effective barriers to denudation by the river. The light sandy loam of the field is underlaid by a Laurentian outlier of the hills to the north. This rock, which outcrops at the wharf, and is mostly red granite, forms the shore of the river down stream to Powell's Bay, and rises, in places, to upwards of thirty feet above the lake.
The Haunted House.
About a mile below McCook's, we examined a cut bank of impure clay, on the top of which, some twenty feet above the water, there is a small log shanty called the Haunted House. At the foot of the bank we collected some fragments of stone celts, flints and arrowheads, that had doubtless come from the top of the bank, which exposes a surface of soil of sandy loam, over a foot deep. Some fields beyond were either in stubble, or long after-grass, which effectually hid any relics that may have been there. This is about the loveliest spot on Lake Deschênes with elms of immense girth, the largest anywhere on the lake, and below the house, to the east, the land slopes to a creek that might have been used as a harbourage for canoes; but the meadow beyond is a favourite picnic ground every summer for the people in the neighbourhood.
INDEX TO MAP.
1.-Big Sand Point.