(From “St. Paul Location-Development-Opportunities” by F. C. Miller, Ph. D., Webb Book Publishing Co., St. Paul, Minnesota, 1928)
Difficulties are tilings that show what men arc.
Jonathan Carver was born in Connecticut in 1732. He was of good parentage, received a good education, and served with distinction in the French and Indian War. After peace had been made, he resolved to explore the new territory acquired by Great Britain. Accordingly, he left Boston in the summer of 17GG and arrived at Green Bay in the early fall of the same year. Entering the Fox River in a canoe, he went up that river to its well-known portage (Portage, Wisconsin). Carrying his canoe over the small stretch of land, he continued his voyage down the Wisconsin River to its junction with the Mississippi. After rowing up the Mississippi he arrived at the site of St. Paul some time in October, most likely at the foot of Indian Mounds Park.
Carver, who understood the Indian character better than many oilier explorers, had no difficulties with the natives. Indeed his relations with them were very friendly, and there is little doubt that the Indians themselves showed him their cave. This cave is in a steep St. Peter sandstone bluff immediately or almost immediately below Indian Mounds Park.
At present, the approach to the cave is rather difficult, as the switching tracks of the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railway are just in front of the cave. The only practical method of approach seems to be a switch-back tunnel (which, let us hope, will soon be built) from the park above.
Carver says that "about thirty" [about ten miles by land or twenty by river is more accurate] "miles below the Falls of St. Anthony is a remarkable cave of an amazing depth. The Indians call it Waka-Teebe, that is, the 'Dwelling of the Great Spirit.’ The entrance to it is about 10 feet wide, the height of it 5 feet."
These dimensions were presumably true when Carver saw the cave. At present the entrance is an unsightly, more or less circular, opening about five feet in diameter. Carver found the entrance by "ascending a narrow steep passage that lies near the banks of the rivet*." Dining the construction of the tracks of the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railway and those of the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railway, the entrance was doubtless demolished, and the present entrance must be some thirty to forty feet back of the original entrance.
Carver says further, "The arch within is nearly fifteen feet high and about thirty feet broad. The bottom of it consists of fine clear sand. About twenty feet from the entrance is a lake, the water of which is transparent and extends to an immeasurable distance, for the darkness of the cave prevents all attempts to acquire a knowledge of it. I threw a small pebble towards the interior parts of it with my utmost strength. I could hear that it fell into the water, and, notwithstanding it was of so small a size, it caused an astonishing and horrible noise that echoed through all those gloomy regions. I found in the cave many Indian hieroglyphics which appeared very ancient, for time had nearly covered them with moss, so that it was with difficulty that I could trace them. They were cut in a rude manner upon the inside of the walls which were composed of a stone so extremely soft that it might be easily penetrated with a knife, a stone everywhere to be found near the Mississippi."
There is no doubt that Carver had been a great friend of the Indians. Still, there is some doubt concerning the grant of land reported to have been made to Carver and his lawful heirs. The tract of land said to have been given to Carver embraced a considerable and valuable stretch of land on the east bank of the Mississippi to the south end of Lake Pepin. In the appended deed a detailed description of the land grant may be found.
The preface of the 1781 London edition of Carver's book contains the following "deed." "To Jonathan Carver, a chief under the most mighty and potent George the Third, King of the English......in return for the many presents and other good services done by the said Jonathan to ourselves and allies, give grant and convey .... the whole of a certain tract of land, bounded as followed: (viz) from the fall of St. Anthony on the east bank of the Mississippi, nearly southeast, as far as the south end of Lake Pepin, where the Chippewa river joins the Mississippi, and from thence eastward, five days travel, at twenty English miles per day, and from hence north six days travel, at twenty English miles per day, and from thence again to the fall of St. Anthony, on a direct straight line......reserving for ourselves and heirs the sole liberty of hunting and fishing on land not planted by the said Jonathan, his heirs and assigns, to which we have affixed our respective seals at the great cave, May the first 1767.
Jawnopawjatin his mark.
Otohtongoomlisheaw his mark."
The grant included all that part of Minneapolis east and south of the St. Anthony Falls, all St. Paul, (except the West Side, or Riverview), Stillwater, Eau Claire, and many other towns in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
In 1848, a grandson of Jonathan Carver visited St. Paul in order to obtain some record of the deed, or some evidence that might throw light upon the matter. The search was in vain and, upon appealing to Washington, the commandant of Fort Snelling was ordered to make an investigation. The adverse report of the commandant induced Congress to take no action in the matter.
In his book (Travels Through the Interior Parts of North America in the Years 1766-67-68. London, 1781) Carver reports an Indian funeral oration which he claims to have heard, most likely, in Indian Mounds Park and which furnishes the background for a beautiful poem by the German poet Frederick Schiller. This poem found such favor among English-speaking people that two English poets, Sir Edward Bulwer and Sir John Herschell, and one American poet, E. A. Bowring, translated it into English. We give here a few verses of Sir John Herschell’s version, slightly altered.
THE NADOWESSIAN'S DEATH LAMENT
See, where upon the mat he sits
Erect before his door,
With just the same majestic air
That once in life he bore.
But where is fled his strength of will,
The whirlwind of his breath?
To Manitou to whom lie sent
The peace pipe's mounting wreath.
The hatchet place beneath his head.
Still red with hostile blood;
And add, because the way is long,
The bear's fat shanks for food.
The scalping knife beside him lay
With paints of gorgeous dye,
That in the land of souls his form
May shine triumphantly.
The cave was located by Lieutenant Pike in 1806 and by Featherstonehaugh in 1835. Both explorers were prevented from entering by fallen debris that blocked the entrance. Nicollet seems to have entered it in 1837, as he reports that Carver's description of the cave was correct. In 1867, the Minnesota Historical Society celebrated the centennial of Carver's Grant of Land and a committee of the society among whom was Father John Ireland entered the cave to a depth of 112 feet, to a point where another cave some hundred feet up-river was discovered, separated from Carver's Cave by a small stream. In 1913 the Mounds Park Improvement Society, under the leadership of J. H. Colwell, tried to explore the cave thoroughly and open it to the public as an adjunct or rather main point of attraction of Indian Mounds Park.
This serious attempt failed because the exploration was stopped by high water and other physical obstacles. On account of its mysterious character and historical interest it is very probable that the cave will be further explored and that easier access will be provided.
By what route did Carver reach the Mississippi?
How was lie received by the Indians?
Where is the cave that was named for him?
Try to make a trip to it.
What grant of land was made to Carver?