Chief Kawbawgam, photo via Michigan’s Past & Superior View Gallery
Michigan’s Past shares all kinds of great old photos on Twitter. This one shows Chief Kawbawgam, a Chippewa who was reportedly over 100 years old when he died in Marquette in 1903. According to the January 1903 edition of the The Lake Superior Journal:
Charley Kaw-baw-gam’s long life was brought to a close about 2 o’clock Sunday afternoon, when the old chief passed peacefully away at St. Mary’s hospital at Marquette, where he had been lying ill for the past couple of months.
Charley was one of the best known figures in Marquette, and he enjoyed this distinction from the first day when white men began to frequent the spot where the city was to grow. Charley’s reputation was not local alone. He was known throughout the upper peninsula and even below the straits his name and fame were familiar to many people.
He was an excellent type of the original owners of the soil, and an unusually creditable specimen. He was a full blooded Chippewa and a chief by blood. What is more he was a good Indian, and he lived a good life, according to his lights.
Kaw-baw-gam was also remarked upon time and again for his great age. It is believed that he was over 100 years old at the time of his death.
In 1849 when Peter White first landed on the shores of Iron bay it is well known that the first Indian to greet him and the party of which he was a member was the same chieftain. In the same year 1849, Mr. White, in carrying on a conversation in Chippewa with Charley asked him, for the sake of having something to say, “How old are you, Bawgam?” Charley replying said: “I am fifty. I spent twenty at the Soo; twenty years on the Tonquomenon bay and ten years on the Canadian side.” If Charley spoke the truth on that occasion he was about 103 years of age when he died, and there was no reason to doubt that this was the case. The Indians of his day were a notoriously long lived race and Charley was a find Indian physically, strong, tireless and healthy. Furthermore his countenance was that of a patriarch.
You can see Chief Kawbawgam’s grave in Marquette’s Presque Isle Park.
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