From the Archives: Joe Manitou’s Pestle

Here at the Leelanau Historical Society Museum, the archives are filled with interesting objects, documents, and photographs that help remind us of the people and stories that make up the past and the present of Leelanau County. One such artifact is Joe Manitou’s pestle.

One end of the the well-worn wooden pestle.

The note archived with this artifact reads:

Pestle Used by Joe Manitou, “last chief of the Ottawas.”

“With it he pounded herbs, leaves, roots and bark in a mortar fashioned out of a hollowed log, to make medicines for his people. It had belonged to his father “on the islands” he said. In 1902 or 1903, when he was reputed to be 100 years old, Chief Joe gave the pestle to Karl Detzer.

The old man was a familiar early-day sight, standing in his dugout canoe as he paddled about Lake Leelanau. He kept the canoe in the little cove about 300 feet east of the present William Dabney summer home on Lake Leelanau, and lived part of the time in the hills back of the present Otto Schaub farm on M-204.”

“He occasionally shared a “wigwam” of cedar poles and bark at a point about 50 feet north of the Dabney house with one Tom Pe-ann [sic], whose spring, on the site of the Dabney reflecting pool, flowed all year and was called locally, Tom Pe-ann’s well.

One early remedy that settlers adopted from the Indians was a tea brewed from pulverized roots of “golden thread” (coptis trifolia) which was much esteemed as a cure for “tightening of chest.” Used externally, it was rubbed on the chest, but was not effective unless the rubber applied it in the shape of a cross.”

-Karl Detzer of Leland, MI (Donor)

Measuring 45 inches long, the narrow section in the middle was utilized as the handle.

The image below is of Leelanau County resident, Susan Miller, demonstrating a mortar and pestle.