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Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, Winter 2019

Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, Winter 2019

Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, Winter 2019

Volume 112, Number 4

We close 2019 with three outstanding scholarly contributions to Illinois history. In “Getting to ‘Lake Michigan’: a 350-year Onomastic Odyssey,” Michael McCafferty, a linguist at Indiana University Bloomington, explores the origins of the placename, “Michigan.” While popular translations have long affixed the meaning “big water” to the placename “Michigan,” McCafferty finds that this myth is not supported in the linguistic evidence. McCafferty turns to the three earliest spellings of what became “Michigan” and their French authors, all dating to the late seventeenth century. He finds that the correct translation from the Old Ottawa language is «Machihiganing», which first appeared in the Jesuit priest Claude Jean Allouez’s mission report of 1669-70. Allouez’s translation means “at the clearings” in the original Algonquian language, not “big water.” But Allouez’s effort, intended for his Jesuit superiors—a rather modest and modestly sized audience—did not survive. Instead, what did survive was based on two faulty translations, typically rendered as either «Michigané» or «Missihiganin», attributed to René de Bréhant de Galinée and Louis Jolliet (or his mapmaker Jean Baptiste Louis Franquelin), respectively. Why? Both de Bréhant de Galinée and Jolliet cut their teeth in the late seventeenth century world of French commerce and empire, and thus their words had significantly greater reach and currency. As McCafferty tells us, “Placenames created for and used by royal authorities and trading enterprises associated with them were written down and heard on a daily basis in practical situations, and thus were the ones most likely to endure.” And so, the “big water” meaning attributed to the placename “Michigan” comes down to us today, the result of what was a kind of official, 350-year bureaucratic mistake.

In “A Writer of More Than Usual Charm: The Dynamic Influence of Dr. Milo Milton Quaife and Harriet Martineau on Juliette Magill Kinzie’s Contributions to American Frontier Literature,” literary historian Franklin E. Court traces Quaife’s influence in both elevating Kinzie to, and preserving her place in, the canon of early nineteenth century American frontier literature. Quaife, the well-known and oft cited early twentieth century historian of Chicago and the Northwest took keen interest in Kinzie’s Wau-Bun, the “Early Day” in the North-West, first published in 1856, writing the usefully annotated “Historical Introduction” to the 1932 reprint. Along with her Indian agent John, Kinzie arrived in Chicago in 1833 and together, as Quaife put it, the Kinzies soon “were numbered among the substantial citizens of Chicago, their home a center of whatever social and cultural life the period could boast.” It was here that Kinzie drew stylistic and thematic inspiration for Wau-Bun from the travel stories of Harriet Martineau and Fredrika Bremer, both of whom spent time at the Kinzie home in their respective visits to America. As Court makes clear, Quaife was the first historian to recognize the imprimatur of Bremer on Kinzie’s depictions of frontier life in Wau-Bun. Martineau’s earlier visit and subsequent literary output, Court suggests, very likely had a similar stylistic influence. Certainly, Martineau was impressed with the Kinzies—she included an admiring account of the couple in her ground-breaking travel memoir, Society in America (1837). Kinzie took up the journalistic prose style of Martineau, and in particular, emphasized the unique challenges and moral lessons of frontier living for women like herself. Kinzie’s place in nineteenth century American letters can be traced to her life in early Chicago, the inspiration provided by pioneering women writers like Bremer and Martineau, and to Milo Milton Quaife’s own scholarly project to recover and document the history of frontier Chicago and the Old Northwest.

In “Sorrow Comes to All: Bloomington, Illinois’s Demonstration of Community Participation in Civil War Grief,” Megan VanGorder explores the rituals and practices surrounding death and grief in the Civil War. The battlefield death of Bloomington’s William McCullough in late 1862 reached well beyond his immediate family circle. Through their letters to each other and to family members, friends and acquaintances—including David Davis, Leonard Swett, William Ward Orme, and President Lincoln himself—made clear their deep sorrow at the loss of the McCullough family patriarch. In the process they registered the norms associated with death and grieving in mid-nineteenth century American culture, and the subtle ways in which the sheer scope of death during the Civil War altered traditional conceptions of the Good Death.

One final bit of business. The Winter 2019 issue of the Journal will be my last as editor. I want to take this opportunity to thank the Illinois State Historical Society for entrusting me with the editorship these last six years. Moving forward I am certain the Journal will continue to remain essential reading for scholars and students of Illinois history.


“Getting to ‘Lake Michigan’: a 350-year Onomastic Odyssey”
Michael McCafferty

“A Writer of More Than Usual Charm: The Dynamic Influence of Dr. Milo Milton Quaife and Harriet Martineau on Juliette Magill Kinzie’s Contributions to American Frontier Literature”
Franklin E. Court

“Sorrow Comes to All: Bloomington, Illinois’s Demonstration of Community Participation in Civil War Grief”
Megan VanGorder

Book Reviews

Looking for Lincoln in Illinois: Historic Houses of Lincoln’s Illinois. By Erika Holst
Reviewed by Wallace Dean Draper

Lincoln and the Abolitionists. By Stanley Harrold
Reviewed by Robert Tracy McKenzie

Two Charlestonians at War: The Civil War Odysseys of a Lowcountry Aristocrat and a Black Abolitionist. By Barbara A. Bellows
Reviewed by William Horne

Interrupted Odyssey: Ulysses S. Grant and the American Indians. By Mary Stockwell
Reviewed by Wayne Ratzlaff

An Illini Place: Building the University of Illinois Campus. By Lex Tate and John Franch
Reviewed by Mark Pohlad

Liquid Capital: Making the Chicago Waterfront. By Joshua A. T. Salzmann
Reviewed by Roger Biles

Power Lined: Electricity, Landscape, and the American Mind. By Daniel L. Wuebben
Reviewed by Douglas Hurt

Force of Nature: George Fell, Founder of the Natural Areas Movement. By Arthur Melville Pearson
Reviewed by Danielle Fischer

Great Plains Weather: Discover the Great Plains. By Kenneth F. Dewey
Reviewed by Nathan Tye

Faith in Black Power: Religion, Race, and Resistance in Cairo. By Kerry Pimblott
Reviewed by Shirley J. Portwood


René Bréhant de Galinée. 1670. “Carte des Grands Lacs de l’Amérique du Nord dréssée en 1670 par Bréhan de Gallinée, missionnaire sulpicien” (detail) [“Map of the Great Lakes of North America Drawn in 1670 by Bréhant de Galinée, Sulpician missionary”], in Étienne Michel Faillon. Histoire de la colonie française en Canada. Tome III. Villemarie. (Montreal, 1866), 305.

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