WASSON (Ouasson, Ousson, Owasser, Warsong, Wassong), Ojibwa chief; b. probably c. 1730 in the Saginaw valley (Mich.); d. after 1776. At the time of Pontiac*’s uprising Wasson had several daughters of marriageable age; little else is known about his family.
On 31 May 1763 Wasson brought some 200 warriors from the Saginaw valley to join Pontiac’s force in the siege of Detroit. After conferring, Wasson and Pontiac decided to end the attacks on the fort and concentrate instead on cutting off the approaches so that no supplies or reinforcements could be brought in. The plan might have succeeded had the British not been able to pass through the blockade by using the ships Charles Robertson* had built on the Niagara River in 1761 and 1762. Early in July Wasson’s nephew was killed in a British sortie, and in retaliation Wasson brutally murdered a British officer, Donald Campbell*, who was a hostage in the Ottawa camp. Enraged over the loss of their prisoner, the Ottawas determined to execute John Rutherford, a prisoner of the Ojibwas. Wasson intervened, took Rutherford into his own lodge, and became so impressed with the young Englishman that he offered his daughter in marriage. In August Wasson sent a letter to the commandant, Henry Gladwin, demanding the surrender of the fort, a demand that Gladwin ignored. As winter drew near, Wasson and the other chiefs began to have second thoughts about the campaign. In October he and others conferred with Gladwin in the fort, and soon the siege was abandoned.
Wasson was back at the fort the following summer, “begging mercy in the most submissive manner” according to Jehu Hay, and giving excuses for having missed Sir William Johnson’s peace council at Niagara (near Youngstown, N.Y.). Several weeks later at Cedar Point (near Toledo, Ohio) he met John Bradstreet’s expedition against the unsubmissive tribes. When Bradstreet sent a party under Captain Thomas Morris into the Illinois country, Wasson apparently agreed to accompany Morris as far as Pontiac’s camp. Early in September Wasson was back in Detroit, where he was the principal Indian speaker at Bradstreet’s peace conference of 7 Sept. 1764. He told the assembled officers and chiefs that this was one war not started by hot-headed young men. “Every thing that was done last Year bad,” he said, “was done by the old Warriors, without Cause . . . . This day, the Young Chiefs broke all their old Chiefs.” Greatly impressed, Bradstreet agreed to peace terms.
Wasson was present at another Detroit peace conference in August 1765, but it is not certain what role he played. More than a decade later, in the summer of 1776, Wasson and several Ojibwa warriors met at Fort Pitt (Pittsburgh, Pa) with commissioners appointed by the Continental Congress. On 19 May 1790 an Ojibwa chief named Wasson was with a group of Detroit chiefs including Potawatomis, Hurons, and Ottawas that negotiated the cession of land in present southwestern Ontario. This could well have been the same Wasson, aged about 60, but there is not enough evidence available to be certain.
The name of Wasson was honoured among the Saginaw Ojibwas for many years, but the various bands were never again able to achieve the unity brought about by this great chief.
Clements Library, Jehu Hay, diary of the siege of Detroit, p.50. National Archives (Washington), RG 75, Michigan Superintendency, Mackinac Agency, letters received, January–June 1838, 4, ff.387–88. PAC, RG 10, A2, 1825. American archives (Clarke and Force), 5th ser., II, 511–18. Canada, Indian treaties and surrenders . . . [1680–1906] (3v., Ottawa, 1891–1912; repr. Toronto, 1971), I, 1–3. [Thomas Morris], “Captain Morris’ journal,” ed. H. [H.] Peckham, Old Fort News (Fort Wayne, Ind.), VI (February 1941), 3–11; “Journal of Captain Thomas Morris, of his majesty’s XVII Regiment of Infantry, Detroit, September 25, 1764,” Early western travels, 1748–1846 . . . , ed. R. G. Thwaites (32v., Cleveland, Ohio, 1904–7), I, 293–328. [Robert Navarre?], Journal of Pontiac’s conspiracy, 1763, ed. C. M. and M. A. Burton, trans. R. C. Ford (Detroit, 1912). The new regime, 1765–67, ed. C. W. Alvord and C. E. Carter (Springfield, Ill., 1916), 56–57. The revolution on the upper Ohio, 1775–1777 . . . , ed. R. G. Thwaites and L. P. Kellogg (Madison, Wis., 1908; repr. Port Washington, N.Y., and London, 1970), 201. [John Rutherford], “Rutherford’s narrative – an episode in the Pontiac war, 1763 – an unpublished manuscript by Lieut. Rutherford of the ‘Black Watch,’” Canadian Institute, Trans. (Toronto), III (1891–92), 229–52. Peckham, Pontiac.
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Cite This Article
Harry Kelsey, “WASSON,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed March 30, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/wasson_4E.html.
The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:
|Author of Article:||Harry Kelsey|
|Title of Article:||WASSON|
|Publication Name:||Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4|
|Publisher:||University of Toronto/Université Laval|
|Year of publication:||1979|
|Year of revision:||1979|
|Access Date:||March 30, 2023|