Indian trade ledgers collection
Scope and Contents
The Indian trade ledgers collection, 1819-1979 (bulk 1819-1935), primarily includes eight original and two photocopied ledgers recording trade relations between settlers and Indigenous groups in the Upper Mississippi Valley. The trade ledgers list merchandise traded by Native Americans and settlers, such as food, work tools, and animals. Some ledgers also list inventories of merchandise in stock at the trading posts and accounts for money owed. The collection also includes a list of persons licensed to trade with Indian Nations by Thomas Forsythe, Agent of Indian Affairs, photographic slides of each page from the eight original trade ledgers, a speech by William D. Barge about Native American trade, and an academic paper by Aaron Backman about the trade ledgers.
- Creation: 1819-1979
- Creation: Majority of material found within ( 1819-1835)
Language of Materials
English and French
Conditions Governing Access
Due to their fragility, access to the original trade ledgers is limited to those who cannot view the collection digitally on the Upper Mississippi Valley Digital Image Archive http://www.umvphotoarchive.org. Access to the rest of the collection is open for research.
Conditions Governing Use
Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright. Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from Augustana College Special Collections and the copyright holder.
Materials in this collection represent several frontiersmen associated with American Indian trade in the Upper Mississippi Valley in the early 19th century.
George Davenport was born in 1783 in Lincolnshire, England. As a young adult, Davenport was apprenticed to his merchant uncle and travelled with him around the Baltic Sea for business. After a leg injury in 1804 in New York, the doctor ordered him to rest in the country in order to heal properly. He joined the army and participated in the War of 1812 and the Peoria War (1813). He came to Rock Island, Illinois, in 1816 with Colonel Lawrence on an expedition to Fort Armstrong, located in present day Rock Island. After Davenport was discharged, he became a merchant and began trading with local Illinois and Iowa Native American tribes (Sauk and Fox). Davenport began a business partnership with Russell Farnham in 1819, and together they founded Farnhamsburg, part of present-day Rock Island. In 1826, Davenport and Farnham resigned from their business to become agents for John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company and oversee the company’s interests from Iowa to the Turkey River, a northern tributary river of the Mississippi River near present-day Millville, Iowa, and Cassville, Wisconsin. In 1835, Davenport (along with six others, including Antoine LeClaire), purchased land along the Mississippi River across from the present-day Rock Island Arsenal and named the city Davenport, Iowa on 23 February 1836. In 1828, George Davenport became the United States Indian Agent representative to the Sauk and Fox tribes until 1840. Davenport left the American Fur Company in 1842 and retired to his private home in Rock Island. Three years later, a band of ruffians broke into Davenport’s home and murdered him during a robbery attempt.
Russell Farnham was born in Massachusetts in 1784. He is best known as a fur trader and for his work with John Jacob Astor to establish the Pacific Fur Company at the mouth of the Columbia River. He was a member of the Astor Expedition headed by Wilson P. Hunt from 1810 to 1812, and he was the first American to semi-circumnavigate the world, travelling by foot from Fort Astoria (now Astoria, Oregon) to St. Petersburg, Russia in 1814. After Farnham’s return from his semi-circumnavigation trip, Astor employed Farnham to oversee his business interests of the American Fur Company in the Great Lakes region, but he was arrested as a spy during the War of 1812. After several appeals by Farnham’s friends at the trial of Prairie du Chien, the British authorities dropped the charges. In 1817, Farnham again travelled to the Midwest on behalf of the American Fur Company, and later formed a partnership with George Davenport to trade with the Sauk and Fox tribes in the Mississippi Valley. In 1826 while trading at Fort Armstrong, near present-day Rock Island, Illinois, Farnham and Davenport founded a settlement along the Mississippi River known as Stephenson. Along with the town of Farnhamsburg, the two settlements would eventually become known as Rock Island. Farnham also founded Muscatine, Iowa, a few years later, after leaving the Rock Island area. In 1827 Farnham formed the American Fur Company’s Upper Missouri Outfit with Ramsey Crooks. He remained in charge of the Fort Edwards trading post, and in 1829, he founded another trading post several miles upriver at present day Keokuk, Iowa. Farnham was married to a Native American woman named Agathe Wood from 1820 to 1826 and had one daughter. When he moved to St. Louis in 1826, he married his second wife, Susan Bosseron. He died of cholera in St. Louis on 23 October 1823.
Amos Farrar was born on 5 March 1796 in Concord, Massachusetts. Farrar was a partner of George Davenport and Russell Farnham as traders on the Mississippi River. In 1821, Farrar succeeded Colonel George Davenport as the representative of the firm of Davenport, Farrar, & Farnham, agents for the American Fur Company at Portage on the Fever River, near present-day Galena, Illinois. He traded with the Sauk and Fox. He married a Fox woman and had three children with her, but they all passed away. In 1823, he acquired a trading house on the bank of the river, between Perry and Franklin Streets in Galena, Illinois. In 1825, Farrar received a permit from Charles Smith to occupy five acres of United States land for cultivation and built another cabin on that land. In 1830, he married his second wife, Sophia Gear. Farrar died of consumption (tuberculosis) in Galena, Illinois on 26 July 1832.
Thomas Forsyth was born in 1771 in Detroit, Michigan. He began trading with Native Americans in his youth and spent several years living with the Ottawas on Saginaw Bay, Michigan. Later in his life, he formed a trade partnership with his half-brother, John Kinzie and his son, Robert Forsyth; the trio began a trading post in Chicago in 1802. In 1804, Forsyth married Keziah Malote, moved to Peoria, Illinois, and established himself as a trader and Indian sub-agent in Peoria. Opposed to the War of 1812, Forsyth persuaded the Potawatomi of the Illinois River to remain neutral, but Illinois Ranger Captain Thomas E. Craig captured Forsyth and took him prisoner in December 1812. After the War of 1812, Forsyth began trading again with the Sauk and Fox tribes primarily at Fort Armstrong, near present day Rock Island. He continued to trade until his retirement to St. Louis, Missouri in 1830, where he lived until his death in 1833.
Antoine LeClaire was born in 1797 in St. Joseph, Michigan. He had a French-Canadian father and a Potawatomi mother. William Clark, co-leader of Lewis and Clark expedition, sponsored his education in English and many different Native American languages. He first received employment as an interpreter at Fort Armstrong in 1818 and married Margaret LePage in 1820. LeClaire was also employed as an interpreter during the Black Hawk War and for many years after continued to help interpret for Native Americans in the area and for treaties. In the 1832 treaty at the end of the Black Hawk War, the Native Americans insisted that LeClaire be given two sections of land. LeClaire continued to prosper as an interpreter and in trade. Later in his life, his land and trading enterprises were worth $500,000. Along with George Davenport and others, LeClaire helped purchase the land that would become the city of Davenport, Iowa, in 1835. LeClaire lived in Davenport until his death in 1861.
Sources used for this note: “Lithographic Portraits.” A History of Ogle County, Illinois, containing A History of the County – Its Cities, Towns, Etc.. Chicago: H. F. Kett & Co., 1878. 255-261. Thrapp, Dan L. “Davenport, George.” Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography: A-F. Volume I. Glendale: First Bison Book printing, 1991. 376-377. Thrapp, Dan L. “Farnham, Russell.” Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography: A-F. Volume I. Glendale: First Bison Book printing, 1991. 483. Thrapp, Dan L. “Forsyth, Thomas.” Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography: A-F. Volume I. Glendale: First Bison Book printing, 1991. 510. Thrapp, Dan L. “LeClaire, Antoine.” Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography: G-O. Volume II. Glendale: First Bison Book printing, 1991. 376-377. Van der Zee, Jacob. "Fur Trade Operations in the Eastern Iowa County from 1800 to 1833." Ed. Benjamin F. Shambaugh. The Iowa Journal of History and Politics XII (1914): 479-567 [bulk: “Licensed Traders and Their Posts in the Iow Country After 1824," 540-549].
1.1 Cubic Feet (/ 3 boxes)
The Indian trade ledgers collection, 1819-1979 (bulk 1819-1935), primarily includes eight original and two photocopied ledgers recording trade relations between settlers and Indigenous groups in the Upper Mississippi Valley. The trade ledgers list merchandise traded by Native Americans and settlers, such as food, work tools, and animals. Some ledgers also list inventories of merchandise in stock at the trading posts and accounts for money owed. The collection also includes a list of persons licensed to trade with Indian Nations by Thomas Forsythe, Agent of Indian Affairs, s photographic slides of each page from the eight original trade ledgers, a speech by William D. Barge about Native American trade, and an academic paper by Aaron Backman about the trade ledgers.
The trade ledgers and Forsyth’s "List of Persons Liscensed [sic] to Trade with Indian Nations" were separated from MSS 27 John Henry Hauberg papers circa 1956. The William D. Barge speech is a photocopy of an item in the John Henry Hauberg papers [box 41, folder 6, “Part VI. Collections: Indians, Notebook No. 11, The Indian Agency at Rock Island (Typewritten copies of Photostats)”]. Aaron Backman donated his paper to the collection ca. 1979. The slides of the trade ledgers were created by Augustana College Special Collections staff in the early 2000s to generate use copies of the ledgers.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Received from John Henry Hauberg, circa 1950s, and Aaron Backman, circa 1979.
Existence and Location of Copies
Location of original Russell Farnham Trading Post and Antoine LeClaire ledgers unknown. John Hauberg may have photocopied these ledgers from original records held in other repositories.
Processed by Kelsey O'Connell, 2010. Revised by Atticus Garrison, June 2016.
- Indian trade ledgers collection, 1819-1979 (bulk 1819-1835).
- In Progress
- Atticus Garrison
- June 2016
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Part of the Augustana College Special Collections Repository
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Thomas Tredway Library
Rock Island Illinois 61201 United States