Chesterton Tribune

Joseph Bailly's journal shows life of businessman in the wilderness

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Joseph Bailly used classic bookkeeping and creative spelling in his business journal which Valparaiso University professor Dr. Randa Duvick has translated from French to English. Dr. Duvick described the journal and told of the experience of translating it to more than sixty members and guests of the Duneland Historical Society on November 18 at the Library Service Center.

This journal consists of seventy-seven 8 X 12 pages and dates from August 1799 to May 1802. It is owned by the Porter County Historical Society and there are others in Indianapolis which Dr. Duvick has been able to examine.

Bailly was born near Montreal, Quebec in 1774, a British subject in an area which retained the French language and culture. In 1796 he went to Michilimackinac in what later became the state of Michigan. It was here that he operated his fur trade and wrote the journal.

His move to the Duneland area was in 1822 when he came with his wife Marie and their children. Some of his property here, including the Bailly Homestead, is now part of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

Dr. Duvick compared her work on Bailly’s records to an archealogical dig. She showed the audience some representative pages in Bailly’s handwriting and then showed lists of five types of things mentioned: items traded to the Indians, things he and his men used, animals whose furs were traded, food and names of people and places.

The long list of items to be traded included fabric, mirrors, combs, garnets, candle wicking, shoes, scissors, blankets, ribbons, knives, earrings, beads, nets, kettles, crosses, gunpowder and rum.

He and his men were supplied with clothing including deerskin shoes, leather shoes, leggings, shirts, trousers and coats. Their tools were pocketknife, scales, file, axe, funnel, tarp, shovel, hammer, auger, firesteel, canoes, sails, netting and caulk. Also listed were horses, candle wicking, tobacco, snuffbox, barrels/kegs, rum, Turlington’s Balm and lavender water.

A report on furs traded started with 1,336 deer and 979 raccoons followed by foxes, martens, minks, fishers, otters, wildcats, bears, bear cubs, muskrats and beaver.

Food items were heavy on pork with 1/2 piglet, lard, pork rind, ham and bacon along with wheat, potatoes, corn, lyed corn, bread, chocolate, tea, salt, pepper, vinegar, rum, sugar and maple sugar.

No women were mentioned and men were listed with their pay in livres. Some of the places named with their French or Indian spellings are recognizable as places in Michigan such as La Manesty and Kikalimazo. Fur trading was a laborious business. Men such as Bailly had to order the items to trade with the Indians, arrange to ship the furs to Europe and hire voyaguers who would paddle canoes up to 40 feet long loaded with several thousand pounds of goods, furs and people. Dr. Duvick showed maps of the waterways used and of the sometime long portages needed to reach the areas rich with furs.

Bailly’s journal, while not a personal diary, has been painstakingly translated and gives a good look at life two hundred years ago. The Duneland Historical Society will not meet in December and January. The next meeting will be February 17, 2005.

The following officers were elected for 2005: president, Nancy Hokanson; vice president, Eva Hopkins; vice president for programing, Joan Costello; treasurer, Marilyn Cook; secretary, Fran Meyer; and board members, Betty Canright, Audrey Lipinski, Dorothy Weidman Meyers, Rita Newman, Bertha Still, Nancy Vaillancourt, Jane Walsh-Brown and Ascher Yates.


Posted 11/23/2004