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Document Number: AJ-156
Author: Marston, Morrill
Title: Report on Indians of the Upper Mississippi Valley, 1820 [manuscript]
Source: Draper Manuscripts: Thomas Forsyth Papers, 1 T 58 to 58-29, Wisconsin Historical Society.
Pages/Illustrations: 31 / 0
Citable URL:

Author Note

Early in 1820 Connecticut geographer Jedediah Morse (1761-1826), who had already been asked by two missionary societies to investigate conditions among American Indians, secured funding from the U.S. Secretary of War to visit and observe various tribes on the border. Morse not only traveled as far west as modern-day Detroit and Green Bay but also sent a list of questions to missionaries, army officers, traders, government agents, and other people with personal connections in Indian communities. Morse folded all this together in a report to the Secretary of War submitted in November 1821.

One of his informants was Major Morrill Marston, who was in charge of Fort Armstrong at the mouth of the Rock River near Davenport, Iowa. Born in New Hampshire or Massachusetts, Marston was made a lieutenant in 1812 and commissioned major in 1814 for “gallant conduct” at Fort Erie during the War of 1812. He migrated west to Fort Armstrong on the Mississippi soon after it was built in 1816-1817. A few months after submitting the document given here he was moved to dilapidated Fort Edwards, near Keokuk, Iowa, and in 1824 was dismissed from the army for reasons unknown. A local historian in 1880 ascribed his dismissal to alcoholism, a conjecture given credence by the fact that Marston drowned in a drainage ditch near his home in 1831.

Document Note

Marstons interviews with Sauk and Fox leaders were held in the summer of 1820 and his report was sent to Morse that November. It appeared, slightly altered, on pages 120-140 of Morses Report to the Secretary of War of the United States, on Indian Affairs, Comprising a Narrative of a Tour Performed in the Summer of 1820, under a Commission from the President of the United States, for the Purpose of Ascertaining, for the Use of the Government, the Actual State of the Indian Tribes of Our Country (New Haven, 1822). A clean copy retained at Fort Armstrong came into the hands of Thomas Forsyth (1771-1833), the Indian agent there from 1822 to 1832. Lyman Copeland Draper acquired the papers of Forsyth about 1868 from his son; Marstons report to Morse is in volume 1T (Thomas Forsyth Papers), document 58 pages 90-109. It was printed in 1911 in The Indian Tribes of the Upper Mississippi Valley and Region of the Great Lakes... edited by Emma Helen Blair (Cleveland: A.H. Clark Co., 1911-1912)

Other Internet and Reference Sources

Historical information about the Sauk, Fox, and Kickapoo peoples can be found in the Houghton Mifflin Encyclopedia of North American Indians at na_000107_entries.htm.

What little is known about Marston is brought together in Allaman, John Lee. “The 1831 Probate Inventories of Daniel Harris and Morrill Marston” in Western Illinois Regional Studies 1991 14(1): 5-16. Morse and his investigation are discussed in The Life of Jedidiah Morse: A Station of Peculiar Exposure by Richard J. Moss (Knoxville: U. of Tennessee Pr., 1995).

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