Cass County

History of Gull Lake

In 1852, James Lloyd Breck, who was then engaged in the Indian mission work of the Protestant Episcopal church, received a call from the Indians dwelling in the northern forests of Minnesota to go and teach them. Obeying this call, he went to Gull Lake, in north central Minnesota, and established there a mission station. The Indians among whom he settled were the same people, substantially, with those who greeted the first settlers in Virginia and with those who signed the treaty with William Penn. Breck erected mission buildings, and a church, where he had daily service, procured female helpers, and established schools. He also taught them to labor. Rising daily at 4 a. m., he went to the fields with the Indians, teaching them to plant, sow. hoe, and raise all kinds of vegetables. The Indians tell how "once, when there had been a long-continued drought, and the gardens were just on the point of being ruined, and the sky was still brazen and cloudless as it had been for weeks, that he rang his little bell for prayers, and summoned them all to pray for rain; and though there was not a cloud in the sky when he began, the dropping rain began to fall as they came out of the church, and there was a great rain." They also tell how children who were apparently dying or dead, revived when he knelt and prayed for them and baptized them.

Some years later, he left his prosperous mission at Gull Lake, and established another at Leech Lake — still deeper in the wilderness. Here, whisky flowed like water among the Indians, supplied by the traders of mixed blood, who were incensed against the missionaries because the latter, knowing the extortionate rates charged by these traders for their goods, let the Indians have large quantities of mission goods at reasonable prices, in exchange for fish, maple sugar, etc. The hostility of the traders being thus excited, they instigated the Indians to acts of hostility which compelled the missionaries to leave. One cause of the failure of this mission — and perhaps of others — was that the missionaries gave the Indians too much and thus encouraged habits of indolence and a feeling of dependence, when a spirit of independence and self-help is essential to their becoming well-disposed and useful citizens. After the withdrawal of the missionaries the Indians became the prey of frontier liquor dealers and were exposed to contact with all the vices that accompany the white man on the first wave of civilization.

Contributed 26 Jul 2022 by Norma Hass, extracted from History of the Great Northwest and Its Men of Progress, published in 1901, pages 19-20.

Design by Templates in Time