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Document Number: AJ-127
Author: Carver, Jonathan, 1710-1780
Title: Travels Through the Interior Parts of North America, in the Years 1766, 1767, and 1768 [excerpt]
Source: Carver, Jonathan. Travels through the Interior Parts of North America, in the Years 1766, 1767, and 1768. By J. Carver, Esq. Captain of a Company of Provincial Troops During the Late War with France. Illustrated with Copper Plates, Coloured. The Third Edition. To Which Is Added, Some Account of the Author, and a Copious Index. (London: Printed for C. Dilly; H. Payne; and J. Phillips, 1781). Pages 1-22; i-xvi; 17-180; and 6 plates.
Pages/Illustrations: 211 / 7
Citable URL: www.americanjourneys.org/aj-127/

Author Note

Jonathan Carver (1710-1780) was born in Weymouth, Massachusetts, in 1710 but grew up in Connecticut. His early life is obscure, but in 1746 he married and in 1749 moved to the Connecticut River town of Montague, Massachusetts. During the 1750s he served in local militia units fighting the French and Indians in upstate New York, was wounded, captured, and promoted to the rank of captain. When the war ended in 1760, England gained control of Canada and the interior of the continent. Major Robert Rogers, whom Carver may have known during the war, was charged with consolidating the fur trade in the northwest and he hired Carver to accompany another former officer on the first British exploration into that region.

After the expedition described here, the British government balked at paying him for his labors so Carver went to London to argue his case. He arrived in early 1769 and, desperate for money, began to weave a web of deceptions about himself. He claimed to have received an enormous land grant west of the Mississippi, for example; and despite already having a wife in Massachusetts he married a London widow. Although he was awarded about 1,400 pounds for his services, he died impoverished in London in January 1780.

Expedition of 1766-1767

On May 20, 1766, Carver left Boston for the Great Lakes, reaching the junction of lakes Huron, Michigan, and Superior at the end of August. On September 3, 1766, he left Machilimackinac for present-day Green Bay, crossed present-day Wisconsin to the Mississippi at Prairie du Chien, and turned upriver past the site of modern Minneapolis. He spent the winter somewhere in west-central Minnesota with the Dakota nation. In May 1767 he returned to Prairie du Chien before heading north again, this time bearing east along the Chippewa, Namekagon, and Brule rivers to the vicinity of present-day Duluth, Minnesota. When expected supplies failed to appear, Carver followed Lake Superiorís north shore back to Machilimakinac, where he arrived at the end of August, having been away on his explorations almost exactly a year.

Document Note

Hoping to earn some profits from a book about his travels, Carver carried his journals with him to London. Unfortunately his publisher and editor attempted to improve his manuscript by plagiarizing lengthy passages from French travelers Louis Armand, Baron de Lahontan, Louis Hennepin (see AJ-124), and others. Although this quickly prompted challenges to its credibility, Carverís book was an international success which went through sixteen editions over the next two decades, including translations into French, German, and Dutch.

Other Internet and Reference Sources

We give only an excerpt here because the entire book is already available at Early Canadiana Online (www.canadiana.org).

Carverís original journals, now in the British Library, were edited by John Parker and published as The Journals of Jonathan Carver and Related Documents, 1766-1770 (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1976).

The James Ford Bell Library at the University of Minnesota has a biography of Carver on its Website at http://bell.lib.umn.edu/hennepin/carver.html that includes pictures, a bibliography and links to other sources.

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