History of the White Earth Reservation

Chapter XVIII.
History of the White Earth Reservation. (continued)

First Catholic Priest at White Earth

Father Genin, the Catholic priest who brought in Sitting Bull from Canada, was the first priest that made regular trips to this reservation, but Father Tomazine was the first priest who located here, and I might say, started the first mission.


The Fairbanks Family

Robert Fairbanks was born at Sandy Lake, Minn., on the 21st day of September 1825. When he was quite young he was sent to Fredonia, New York, to be educated, and at the age of twenty he was employed at the headquarters of the American Fur company at La Pointe, Wisconsin, as clerk. In 1846 he married Catherine Beaulieu the youngest sister of C. H. and Paul Beaulieu. He remained at La Pointe until 1851, when he removed to Crow Wing with his family where he remained in trade for a number of years, where he had a comfortable home and family of seven children, four sons and three daughters.

In 1868 he removed to White Earth with his family, where he had taken charge of the store belonging to Joseph Wakefield, which he ran for a year, when he opened up a store of his own which he ran until he died. Benjamin Fairbanks and George A. Fairbanks were sons of George Fairbanks, Sr., a brother of Robert Fairbanks, who was born at Sandy Lake, Minn., on the 26th day of August, 1827. he was for many years a prominent trader at Leech Lake, Crow Wing, and White Earth, where he moved his family in 1878, being one of the first traders at that place.

George A. Fairbanks, Jr., was born at Crow Wing on the 10th day of August, 1851, and went with his parents to White Earth in 1868, and succeeded his father in trade, in which he remained until his death on the 19th of November, 1891.

Ben. Fairbanks was born at Crow Wing, Nov. 4th, 1853.


Frank M. Campbell.

Frank M. Campbell, of White Earth, was born in Green County, Ill., on the 27th day of January, 1832, and came to Crow Wing, Minn., in 1855. He came to White Earth in Sept., 1868, and has lived there ever since. He says he thinks he is about the only white man who has lived in Northern Minnesota 50 years without drinking any intoxicating liquor.

He is that father of George M. and William F. Campbell, of White Earth.

The former was born at Crow Wing June 29th, 1859, and William was born at the same place on the 12th of March 1865.

Mr. Frank Campbell took the census of all of Becker County in 1870.

Mr. Campbell died January 29th, 1907.

Building on the Reservation.

Nearly all the public buildings constructed on the reservation from 1871 till 1878 were built under the supervision of Charles P. Wilcox, whose home was then at Detroit, but who now lives in Pasadena, California. He says:

I went to White Earth in the spring of 1871. The agent at that time was E. P. Smith, and had been there but a few months.
My first work on the reservation was to superintend the construction of a church and parsonage for the Episcopal Church as ordered by Bishop Whipple, and the same year I also built a schoolhouse for the government. Then followed the rebuilding and enlarging of the sawmill at White Earth Lake in 1872, and the building of a large barn, and boarding-house for the schools. An industrial hall for the government, and a hospital for Bishop Whipple followed, and a flour mill at White Earth Lake. Next was a dam and sawmill at the Wild Rice River about 18 miles north of the agency, then a large school building near the agency, and a church building at Wild Rice. The latter by order of Bishop Whipple. My last work was the construction of a water power grist-mill on White Earth River, about five or six miles north of the agency. This was about the year 1877.

Allan Morrison
George A. Morison

Allan Morrison, Sr.

Allan Morrison, a younger brother of William Morrison, was born at Teerebonne, near Montreal, Canada, June 3d, 1803, and received a common school education in his native village, which prepared him for a clerkship in a country store.

Being a lad of uncommon physical development and activity, he did not take kindly to indoor life, and his brother William having made his first return visit to Canada in 1820, he was easily induced to accompany him to what the French Canadians called "Les pays d'en Haut" or The Upper Countries.

The delays incidental to the settlement of their father's estate prevented them from starting with the returning boats and canoes, and they were compelled to start much later; so late in fact, that winter overtook them before the journey to the far north was half over.

After staying some days at one of the trading posts, to give time for the ice to thicken, they started on afoot and it was not long before they had to use snow shoes, traveling being made so much easier with them after the snow got to be six or eight inches deep.

Their route from Montreal, was up the Ottawa River to a portage into Lake Nipissing, and thence via Georgian Bay to Saulte Ste. Marie, via Manitou Island, and thence on the ice of Lake Superior to old Superior, Wisconsin, which they reached in February, 1821. There he signed articles of engagement with the American Fur Company, for a five years' apprenticeship and in due course of time was given a small outpost to manage, and later on was placed in charge of the trading post at Red Lake, Minnesota.

About 1825 he married Charlotte Louisa Chabrille, a mixed blood Chippewa born at Old Fort William, on Lake Superior; by her he had several children, the only ones now surviving being Mrs. Mary A. Sloan of St. Cloud, Mrs. Caroline Grandelmyer and Miss Rachel Morrison of Brainerd, and John George and Allan Morrison of White Earth. All have allotments of land on the White Earth Indian Reservation, where John, George and Allan built substantial homes on their farms.

During the many years he was engaged in the fur trade, Allan Morrison was successively in charge of nearly all the American Fur Company's trading posts in Northern Minnesota, and finally he settled down at Crow Wing, on the Mississippi, an important post, where he represented the interests of the late Henry M. Rice, during the period that gentleman engaged in the fur trade in the upper Mississippi country.

He was a member of the Territorial Legislature of Minnesota, and Morrison County was named for him; was also postmaster at Crow Wing, Minnesota, for several years.

Leaving Crow Wing in the fall of 1874, he removed to White Earth, Becker County, where he resided to the time of his death, November 21, 1876, and where he was buried in the Catholic cemetery.


John George Morrison.

John George Morrison, son of Allan and nephew of William, was born at Lake Winnebegoshish, Minnesota, April 29th, 1843, where his father was managing a trading post for the American Fur Company.

He attended the Mission Schools at Crow Wing and Belle Prairie, Minnesota, for a few years, but was compelled to quit school on account of his father's ill health; he soon became the mainstay of the family and so continued until his brother Allan became old enough to take his place.

Mr. and Mrs. John George Morrison


While yet a mere boy, he carried on some trading with the Indians around Gull Lake and towards Leech Lake, and became quite popular with them; during the Indian outbreak he was chosen by Governor Ramsey and the Indians themselves to carry messages between the two camps and in that capacity rendered valuable services.

After the Civil War, in 1865, the United States government, desiring to ascertain the true conditions and feelings of the Indian tribes, organized, at all Indian agencies, bodies of scouts, whose mission was to inquire into and report the causes of troubles and dissatisfaction among the Indians. These scouts were chosen from among the intelligent and loyal mixed bloods, and were place under the supervision of the military authorities.

Upon the recommendation of the officer then in command at Fort Ripley, John George Morrison was placed in charge of the scouts at the Crow Wing Agency, and so remained until the corps was disbanded. July 3rd, 1863, he married Margaret Elizabeth Fairbanks, daughter of Robert Fairbanks and Catherine Beaulieu. Ten children were born to them; six in Crow Wing and four near White Earth Agency. Two lived only a few years, the others are, with the exception of his daughter Mrs. Julia A. Spears, (the second), who lives at Red Lake, all members of the White Earth Reservation, and possess valuable landed interests there. He removed to the White Earth Reservation, from old Crow Wing, on the Mississippi, in the fall of 1874, and some years afterwards entered the government service and occupied several positions, being successively captain of Indian police and judge of the court of Indian offenses, and later government farmer, which position he held until the winter of 1892-3. In the fall of 1893, he removed to Red Lake, and has since successfully carried on hotel keeping and trading.


George A. Morrison.

George A. Morison, nephew of William and Allan Morrison, was born in St. Hyacinthe, Province of Quebec, Canada, October 4th, 1839; his father being Donald Geo. Morison and his mother M. A. Rosalie Papineau, daughter of D. B. Papineau, and niece of the Hon. Louis Papineau, the talented leader of the French element in Canada, and the principal instigator of the Canadian rebellion of 1837.

Morison attended common schools until nearly ten years of age, then went to college for five years in his native village, rounding up his education with a four year term in a large village store.

He visited the west in 1858 and 1859, spending several months in Old Superior, Wisconsin, in Crow Wing on the Mississippi, and also at Long Prairie, the old agency for the Winnebago Indians.

That was in the early days, when travel was by canoes or over Indian trails, and the trip from Superior to Crow Wing was made in a birch canoe, up the St. Louis River to Floodwood River, which was followed nearly to its source, thence over a portage into Prairie River, which flows into Sandy Lake, and thence into he Mississippi River.

He returned to Canada in November, 1859, where he remained a few years. In May 1865, he landed in St. Paul, Minnesota, and lived in Little Falls and Crow Wing during the next three or four years.

He started in business at Leech Lake in January, 1869, and in the fall of the same year came to White Earth annuity payment with a stock of goods which he eventually closed out to Wm. W. McArthur, then a licensed Indian trader there. In August, 1870, Morison and McArthur combined their business and carried on trading in the Indian country, under government license, at Leech Lake, Red Lake, White Earth and Otter Tail, under the above firm name, dissolving co-partnership in August, 1871; Morison retaining all trading posts in the Chippewa country, except that of Otter Tail, where McArthur continued in business. Morison remained in the Indian trade until July, 1880, and made his headquarters at White Earth Agency during the last five years of his career as an Indian trader. He, however, continued to live on the reservation, where he carried on farming and stock raising, on a small scale, with his cousin Allan Morrison, Jr.

In the fall of 1882, he in company with Arnold A. Ledeboer, also of White Earth, opened a general store at Red Lake Falls, Minnesota, (at that time a very much boomed town), but owing to a series of bad crop years, low prices, and general dull times, the venture was not successful and they closed their business in 1887; Morison returned to White Earth.

In the fall of 1894, he entered government service at White Earth Agency, and later, in January 1896, was stationed at Red Lake Sub-Agency, as reservation overseer, a position he held until July 1st, 1901, when he returned to White Earth. Since January, 1905, he has formed part of the office staff at the agency, having charge of the allotting of land under the provisions of the "Steenerson Act."

By an Indian wife he has one son, Allan F. Morison, born February 6th, 1882. He has been in the government Indian service for a number of years and is now attached to the agency office force.

It will be noticed that William and Allan Morrison wrote their names with two r's, while Geo. A. Morison writes the name with only one r, as did a long line of ancestors before him. This difference in writing the name, was brought about in a curious manner. When William Morrison joined the Northwest Fur Company, he had to sign article of engagement, as they called it at the time, to serve for five years, and the notary who did the writing, wrote the name Morrison, as did other branches of the family; when William came to sign, he called the notary's attention to the error in spelling, but was told that it mattered little, to sign it as written and it would be just as good. Several years later when Allan Morrison, his brother, came to Lake Superior, he also had to write his name as his elder brother did, and hence the change in their manner of writing the name. In the Island of Lewis, Scotland, which is the cradle of the family, the name has been spelt for a thousand years or more, with only one r, thus, Morison.


Donald McDonald.

Mrs. Duncan McDougal, who lives on the White Earth Reservation a little north of the village of Richwood says:

My father, Donald McDonald, was born in Canada about the year 1790. He came to Otter Tail Lake about the year 1850 or 1851 as near as I can remember, and died at White Earth in 1890, and was about 100 years old as near as I can tell. I was born at Sandy Lake in 1831.
My father had a store at Detroit Lake and traded with he Indians for about one year. I was not there with him, but as near as I can remember and find out, it was near where Detroit connects with some other lake. I was not married at the time so it must, I think, be more than fifty years ago.
The U. S. land office was opened at Otter Tail Lake in 1859 and was moved to St. Cloud in 1861, at the beginning of the Sioux outbreak. Wm. Sawyer, of Ohio, was the receiver, Major J. B. Clitheral, of Alabama, was the first register, T. Mills the second, and Oscar Taylor the third register.


John Rock, a Pine Point Indian, who was born at Floyd Lake in Detroit Township in 1844, says:

McDonald built his store at Detroit Lake on the little prairie, a little west of the Pelican River inlet when he was ten years old. He thinks he traded there about two years.


In the history of such a man as the Rev. J. A. Gilfillan, of White Earth, for instance, there is a mass of material which would afford inspiration for the mission writer at long range such as no published statistical reports could faintly suggest. Mr. Gilfillan's life has been one of the most heroic and self-sacrificing in all the history of missions -- home or foreign. Privation, exposure, separation from friends, isolation from the world -- these are but suggestions of what such a man must endure.
Many a time while the newspaper man was in the woods did he hear of "Father" Gilfillan. You could hardly find a man in all the vast unsettled reservations of Minnesota who does not know this man. You can hear many and many a story about him, but you will not hear one that is not settled in a foundation of good will. He came to America from England when quite young. A quarter of a century ago he was rector in a small church in Duluth. Thirty-two years ago, he went into the pine woods, and there he has been ever since, a mission worker among the Indians.
Some years ago, Mr. Gilfillan fell heir to a large fortune, left him by relatives in England. There were many thousands of dollars which came to his hand. A large amount of this has been expended already, but, so it is said, enough yet remains to net an income of about $12,000 a year, and this amount is annually being spent. And how? In doing good among the Indians. A large block of his fortune was spent for them, and now, save for the needs of himself and family, the major portion of his income goes to aid the Indians.
A quite interesting and, in one sense, amusing experience was told of his generosity. Mr. Gilfillan had bought a car load of seed potatoes, which he was going to give to the Indians to plant. He had the potatoes sent up to the reservation by team, but was himself delayed in getting there. When he reached home, a week or so later, he found that the tribe had made rather more immediate use of the potatoes than he had anticipated -- they had eaten up the whole car load.
Mr. Gilfillan is one of the most modest of men, speaks in the most unassuming manner of his work, and has never a word of complaint over his isolation from he world, or the privations to which he is put. -- Minneapolis Journal

Clipping from the first number of the first volume of the first newspaper ever printed on the White Earth Reservation:

"A Higher Civilization; The Maintenance of Law and Order"
Gus. H. Beaulieu, Publisher
Theo. H. Beaulieu, Editor

Vol. I.
White Earth Agency, Minn., Thursday, March 25, 1886.
No. I.

With this number we make our bow to the public. The novelty of a newspaper published upon this reservation may cause many to be wary in their support, and this from a fear that it may be revolutionary in character. Our motto will undeceive such. We propose to remain true to this motto, true to the standard of social and individual morality it would express. We shall aim to advocate constantly and without reserve, what is our view, and in the view of the leading minds upon this reservation, is the best for the interests of its residents. And not only for their interests, but those of the tribe wherever they are now residing.
The main consideration in this advocacy, will be the political interests, that is, in matters relating us to the general government of the United States. We shall not antagonize the government, nor act in the presentation of our view in any way outside of written or moral law.
We intend that this journal shall be the mouth-piece of the community in making known abroad and at home, what is for the best interest of the tribe. It is not always possible to reach the fountain head through subordinates, it is not always possible to appeal to the moral sentiment of the country through these sources, or by communications through the general press.
Hence we establish The Progress as an organ, and an organ only in this sense.



A Decision of the Judge and the Verdict of an Intelligent Jury, Maintains the Freedom of the Press on the Reservation!
Oct. 8th, 1887
In the month of March last year, we began setting the type for the first number of The Progress and were almost ready to go to press, when our sanctum was invaded by T. J. Sheehan, the U. S. Indian Agent, accompanied by a posse of the Indian police. The composing stick was removed from our hands, our property seized, and ourselves forbidden to proceed with the publication of the journal. We had, prior to this time, been personally served with a written notice from Mr. Sheehan detailing at length, surmises beyond number as to the character of The Progress, together with gratuitous assumptions as to our moral unfitness to be upon the reservation, charging the publisher with the voicing of incendiary and revolutionary sentiments at various times. We did not believe that any earthly power had the right to interfere with us as members of the Chippewa tribe, and at that White Earth Reservation, while peacefully pursuing the occupation we had chosen. We did not believe there existed a law which should prescribe for us the occupation we should follow. We knew of no law which could compel us to become agriculturists, professionals, "hewers of wood and drawers of water," or per contra, could restrain us from engaging in these occupation. Therefore we respectfully declined obeying the mandate, at the same time reaching the conclusion that should we be restrained we should appeal to the courts for protection.
We were restrained and a guard set over our property. We sought the protection of the courts, notwithstanding the assertion of the agent, that there could be no jurisdiction in the matter.
The U. S. district court, Judge Nelson in session, decided that we were entitled to the jurisdiction we sought.
The case came up before him, on jury trial. The court asserted and defended the right of any member of a tribe to print and publish a newspaper upon his reservation just as he might engage in any other lawful occupation, and without surveillance and restrictions. The jury before whom the amount of damage came, while not adjudging the amount asked for, did assess and decree a damage with a verdict restoring to us our plant.

By referring to the date on the first page of this issue, our readers will observe that we made our bow, or rather, more strictly, we began to bow, but a heavy hand upon us, and we have not been able to resume the perpendicular until now. In another column, we give a detailed account of the proceedings which arrested our work, together with the subsequent events which issued in our being able to finish the bow began so long ago. Our editorial back is straight once more, and we return to the work we laid out for ourselves so many months ago, with vigor and courage in no wise abated, and with renewed determination to advance the interests of the reservation, and the welfare of the Indian in general.

Kind readers, many of you have looked for our coming long and patiently, and now that we are with you and you have looked us over, you may feel that your yearning was unfitting the occasion; to such we would say, that the long time which has elapsed since we first attempted to launch our little craft, which was attended with difficulties, the rough blustering breezes, the general unfavor of the weather, the unnecessary quarantine we were subject to, and the time employed in dry dock, etc., somewhat disorganized our material and we have had to alter our once set course to suit circumstances.
Now that we are once more at sea, fumigated and out of quarantine, and we issue from dry dock with prow and hull steel-clad tempered with truth and justice, and with our clearance registered, we once more box our compass, invite you all aboard, and we will clear port, set sails to favorable breezes, with the assurance that we will spare no pains in guiding you to a 'higher civilization.'

On Aug. 18, 1896, Senator Knute Nelson, accompanied by the famous French traveler and explorer, Paul du Chaillu, arrived on a visit to the Chippewa Indians of the White Earth Reservation. During the day the gentlemen drove around and visited the different places of interest about the agency.
The next day a large delegation of the Chippewas, head men and members of the reservations assembled at the agency office for a "big smoke and to make good medicine" and to smoke the pipe of peace and welcome the great father's councilor and his distinguished friend, the great hunter. The late lamented chieftain, White Cloud, acted as master of ceremony, and his choicest native oratory, through an interpreter, made the address of welcome, and which was responded to in feeling words of appreciation by the senator. Paul du Chaillu, a small, sparsely built and grizzled Frenchman, was then introduced as the "big hunter, from the land of the Win-de-go-cannibals," and he entertained the assemblage with some very interesting recitals, illustrating, by motion and gestures, some of his exciting and perilous experiences in hunting the gorilla, lion and tiger, and hair-breadth escapes from cannibals, etc., greatly to the amusement of his audience. "Yes, my friends," said he, "you shall have a good school building if it lies in my power to provide one." -- Minneapolis Tribune
-- Feb. 4th, 1897
    MRS. WEST.