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The Carver Grant

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

When Jonathan Carver was mustered out of the English army in New England following the Treaty of Versailles in 1763, he continued to feel a call to help his country and his king by exploring the newly acquired English territory between the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes. He spent three years on the Upper Mississippi, from 1766 to 1768 taking account of the commercial possibilities for a report to the king, but when Carver really ended up doing was redefining the phrase, "help yourself."

When he arrived at the Falls of St. Anthony in 1766, he discovered himself in the midst of a war between the Chippewa and the neighboring Naudowisses that had been going on for forty years. Carver lived with each tribe long enough to learn the rudiments of their languages and their ways. Using this information, Carver was able to effect a semi-permanent peace between the two tribes.

Both tribes were grateful to this great white man, but it was the Naudowisses who rewarded him most handsomely. The took Jonathan Carver to a large cave near the Falls of St. Anthony to which they went once a year to bury their dead and conduct tribal business. Here, they made Carver a chief of their nation, and in gratitude for peace, they deeded him a tract of land.

The document still exists, and it reveals that the Indians must have learned English somewhat better than Carver learned Naudowisse. "To Jonathan Carver, a chief under the most mighty and potent King George the Third," the document begins. It continues. "We, chiefs of the Naudowisses, who have hereto set our seals, do by these presents for ourselves and heirs forever…give, grant, and convey to him the said Jonathan…" And then it gives specifics on the grant.

Apparently, the two chiefs ran out of all the English words they knew just as they got to the end, for the document is signed by the mark of a beaver and a snake. Nevertheless, in the grant, those generous Indians gave Carver nearly all of Minnesota and much of Wisconsin. Carver's heirs kept Minnesota courts busy for a hundred years, and it may not be over yet.

Is your last name Carver? Trace your ancestry right now; you may own five or six of those ten thousand lakes. Or all of Duluth.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by the Scott County Regional Authority, with additional funding from the Illinois Arts Council and Augustana College, Rock Island.

Beginning 1995, historian and folklorist Dr. Roald Tweet spun his stories of the Mississippi Valley to a devoted audience on WVIK. Dr. Tweet published three books as well as numerous literary articles and recorded segments of "Rock Island Lines." His inspiration was that "kidney-shaped limestone island plunked down in the middle of the Mississippi River," a logical site for a storyteller like Dr. Tweet.