It was this day in 1832 that the true source of the Mississippi river was “discovered” by Henry R. Schoolcraft. An explorer, ethnologist, geographer and geologist, Schoolcraft was born in New York in 1793.  At the age of 25, he left home to go exploring in the west.

In 1820, he joined Lewis Cass’ expedition to chart boundary issues between US and Canada and to try to determine the headwaters of the Mississippi. Upon arriving at Upper Red Cedar Lake, they could no longer navigate by boat, so re-named the lake to Cass Lake and proclaimed it the beginning of the Mississippi.  But the natives who were part of the expedition told Schoolcraft that earlier in the year when the water was higher, you could keep going by canoe.  Two years later, Schoolcraft did just this and was able to get to what was then known as Elk Lake, the true headwaters of the Mississippi.  As was the custom of the time, Schoolcraft promptly re-named it, making up Lake Itasca from the Latin veritas (truth) and caput (head)

Soon after, he was assigned as the first Indian agent in the area, based in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan, where he met and married Jane Johnston. Jane was the oldest child of a Scottish fur trader and his Ojibwa wife.  Jane’s Ojibwa name was “Woman of the Sound the Stars Make Rushing Through the Sky” and a writer in her own right, she taught Schoolcraft her language and culture.  He went on to research and document much of Native American life and history, including a six-volume survey of Native American tribes that has since been indexed and updated.  He even spent two stints at Fort Snelling, once as the commander of the fort.

There are quite a few things named after Schoolcraft, from townships in Michigan and Minnesota as well as parks, schools, roads, lakes, islands and even the ship SS Henry R Schoolcraft (launched in 1943). He passed away in 1864 at the age of 71.  Of his many accomplishments, he is best known for his discovery to the headwaters of the Mississippi.

Tell us about the lake that is named after you!

24 thoughts on “Headwaters”

  1. Morning all. For all of you history buffs, just wanted to let you know that Saturday was the actual anniversary of his discovery of headwaters. This post was originally going to run over the weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. There actually is a lake named after my mother’s side of the family. Brunner Lake in Goodhue County near Prairie Island is small, swampy and mostly inaccessible. That sounds about right.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    My lake would be a calm reflecting pool, with no algae, zebra mussels, or carp allowed. My preference would be that it is located at the MN Landscape Arboretum so a brainy professional can take care of it with the latest in conservationist technology—and I don’t have to do anything.

    There are engines, towns in Kansas, Nebraska, and Ohio, and a mountain in Vermont that all bear my last name—Stratton. The original Strattons were passionate abolitionist Quakers, so much so, that a distant grandfather fought in the Revolution and was kicked out of the Quaker church becoming a “Free Quaker.” I have heard a number of times that some African Americans in Philadelphia took the Stratton name as their surname because the Quakers on the Underground Railroad had that name, which matches the family history. That is better than a lake any old day.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. I can’t say that a lake is named “after” me, but there is a Norbury Lake Provincial Park in British Columbia. 🙂 (who’d a thunk it?) My wife and I came across it on one of our many trips to the Canadian Rockies. We haven’t stayed there (yet) but we did stop and take a picture at the entrance sign to prove that it’s a real place. Unfortunately, that picture was taken years ago as a slide, so I can’t easily post it online. But look it up on a map if you don’t believe me. It’s in the southern part of BC along either Highway 93 or 95 (I think).

    Chris in Owatonna
    (glad to be back in the rotation after my “subscription” accidentally got canceled. Didn’t get email notices of posts for several weeks.)

    Liked by 3 people

  5. My lake might be small enough that it would more accurately labeled a pond, Plain Jane Pond. It might be found deep in a cool forest; a calm and safe watering hole for all kinds of wildlife and birds.

    Liked by 5 people

  6. Ummm, a lake? Named after me?

    I would like to have my own lake. Who wouldn’t? Mine would be named Kristal Lake. It would be in the very northeastern tip of Minnesota, near Grand Marais. The water would be Kristal Klear. Loons would sing at night and plump trout could be caught every morning for breakfast. Moose and other animals would visit to drink and swim. I would have a red canoe on my blue and green, Kristal Klear, little lake.

    Liked by 7 people

  7. I’d like a combination of everybody’s lake here, except that maybe I don’t need swampy. And I don’t need trout every morning. However I would love to have a lake that has reeds along the edges and dragonflies. Lake Verily.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I’ll name my lake after my maternal grandfather – Sterling Lake – as in sterling silvery water, or in a “valuable, esteemed” setting. So it would be a pristine little lake that allowed no fast motors, had plenty of loons and a variety of fish, Kristal clear, and like Jacque’s has no invasive species, or for that matter, Loch Ness monsters lurking about… It’s always just the right temperature for swimming, and there’s one sandy shallow shoreline where water volleyball can be played, and a tree there with a branch hanging out over the water to drop from… (I’m actually describing Sweet Lake, where we used to have Hassing family gatherings, in NW Wisconsin.)

    Liked by 3 people

  9. There is a Lake Renee in Pennsylvania, just a reservoir but good for fly fishing. A lake named after the actual me should be clear and have a nice sandy bottom, no houses on it so as to reduce any icky discharges into it, and only trolling motors. Also nice, fat, walleye.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Goodness! As I stream MPR and hear aal the flood warnings I worry that the Twin Cities Metro is one big Baboon lake. Are you all ok?


  11. We had a wind gusts of 77 mph at midnight last night and then a 4 hour power outage. It took all this time to get to the Twin Cities/metro.


  12. No water in the basement at my place, and the street didn’t even look very wet when I got home. When I left my volunteer, shift, though, the sun had come out and produced the most amazing rainbow. A big arch of color over the eastern sky that lasted maybe an hour. Really, really beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The sky this evening was exceptionally colorful, and beautiful. And that rainbow was amazing, it was double for a while.

      The dampness in my basement is a pretty chronic state if affairs all summer long, not attributable to any particular downpour. It’s not standing water on the floor, or anything. Guess these old sandstone walls are just a slow conduit for all the moisture in the soil.


  13. i got caught in the downpour going with my daughter to a play at latte da during rush hour

    the rain was heavy and the phone blasted flash flood watch right now til 11 right where you are . then the street we were on turned into a river with water to the headlights, the car in front of us keptt pushing forward. my 20 year old daughter was driving and i was barking commands to back up!!! she said i can’t theres a car behind me . i said back up around him and she did. the car behind us backed up and turned around and so did we. the car in front of us undoubtably got swillowed by the rising waters. it was raising so fast the headlights on the car in front of us disappeared as we backed up. an adventure. looking for a dry path to our destination was an extended adrenalin rush. a preview of the musical a children’s christmas was on last night and was so remarkable i was blown away . doesn’t happen often. did last night.
    my lake is leech
    lake tim sounds better and more welcoming
    i love leech
    big enough to be many things intimate enough to be personal and memorable and special.

    Liked by 1 person

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