The first regularly laid out road in Crawford county, leading out of it, was what was known as the "Military Road." It was built at the expense of the United States for the transportation of supplies from Fort Howard, as the army post at Green Bay was called, to Fort Winnebago, near what is now the city of Portage, Columbia county and Fort Crawford at Prairie du Chien, and for the passage of troops to and from these posts. In summer, provisions and the munitions of an army could be transported in batteaux by water from the lakes to the Mississippi, but in winter this could not be done; hence, the necessity for a road between Green Bay and Prairie du Chien by way of the portage of the Fox and Wisconsin rivers.
The road was a crude affair and was constructed by cutting through timber land, clearing a track about two rods wide and setting mile stakes. On the prairies, the mile stakes were also set, and mounds thrown up of earth or stones. On the marshes or other low places, corduroy roads were made by crossing timbers and covering with brush and earth.
Commencing at Fort Crawford in Prairie du Chien, the road ran to Bridgeport. A ferry at this point took soldiers and supplies across the Wisconsin river. The road then ran up on to the divide, keeping it to the Blue Mounds. The first stopping place after leaving Prairie du Chien was at Wingville, forty-one miles distant, where there was a log house; the next was at the Blue Mounds, at the same distance beyond.
Concerning this highway, a report was made to Congress, Sept. 1, 1839, by Capt. T J Cram, as follows:
"Military road from Fort Crawford, by Winnebago, to Fort Howard, at Green Bay; Commencing at Prairie du Chien, and running as far east as to the Blue Mounds, this road is laid on the ridge dividing the waters flowing toward the north from those flowing toward the south. At the Blue Mounds this dividing ridge deflects toward the northeast, and continues on this course to within about four miles of Fort Winnebago, where it is lost in a summit level, denominated the portage. This remarkable summit is one among a few others of similar character in our country, possessing the property of dividing the waters flowing into the Gulf of Mexico from those which flow into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The part of the road from Fort Crawford to the portage, a distance of about 115 miles, will need the sum of $5700 to be expended, chiefly in the repairs and construction of small bridges and the opening of ditches, which are not only necessary to the immediate use of the road, but also to the preservation of the road itself. The construction of a safe and permanent road across the portage for about four miles, will require the sum of $5955. Owing to the periodical overflowings of this summit level, the road across it is rendered utterly impassible, and continues so for several days at a time, amounting to some weeks during each year. At such times the United States mail and travelers to Fort Winnebago are obliged to be taken around on a circuitous route of about fifteen miles, crossing a lake on their way, in order to reach the desired point; and it is not unfrequently the case that the unwary traveler is led into the middle of the portage before he becomes fully apprised of his danger, when all of a sudden, his horses are mired in the midst of a flood of water, from which he finds it impossible to extricate his team, and might perish in sight of the fort, but for the assistance of the soldiers, who come off in canoes to his rescue. A thorough and critical examination has been made with a view of constructing a road around the portage. It is found, however, that the cost of such a construction, besides an increase of distance and the inconvenience of a ferry, would quite equal the cost of making the present road good and safe at all times.
"The sum required to complete the construction of the part of the road between Fort Winnebago and the south end of Lake Winnebago, a distance of about sixty miles, is $6320. The land in the vicinity of this portion of the road is of good quality, and similar in most respects to that described elsewhere in this report. From the south end of Lake Winnebago to within about six miles of Fort Howard, at Green Bay, the road is exceedingly bad, and the cost of transportation over it is a heavy tax upon the settlers, and tends greatly to retard the settlement of the whole tract of country between Green bay and the Wisconsin river.
"The tract of land bordering the east side of Lake Winnebago, and thence along Neenah river to Green bay, is chiefly covered with excellent timber, consisting of various kinds of oak, white pine, sugar maple, bass wood, black walnut, etc., and from its proximity to navigable waters, on both sides, must become valuable. The soil of this tract is deep, with a substratum of limestone, and being well watered with numerous small brooks, is well adapted to farming. The military road along here passes directly through the settlements of the Brothertown and Stockbridge Indians. The farms of the Brothertown people are in a promising condition; and the clearings, fences and snug buildings show that their proprietors are not behind any of the farmers of Wisconsin in the art of agriculture. Their respectable appearance, civil and quiet demeanor and exceedingly industrious habits, all combine to render them good and worthy citizens of the United States. It is to be regretted, however, that the general appearances of the Stockbridge settlements are not so favorable; and yet, were it not for the contrast of their neighbors, the Stockbridge people might be said to have evinced signs of civilization not often met with in the settlements of the red men.
"The cost of constructing the road from Fond du Lac to Green Bay, about fifty-six miles, would be $17,292, to be expended in bridging, ditching, and filling the wet places with durable materials, all of which exist in abundance on the road. Thus the whole sum required to complete the construction of the military road from Fort Crawford, by Fort Winnebago, to Fort Howard, an extent of about 235 miles, amounts to $35,267. This sum, with strict economy in adopting the most simple kind of construction, would not more than cover the cost of completing this road, which, in a military point of view, is of unquestionable importance; connecting, as it does, a chain of military posts, which the safety of the people of Wisconsin and the north part of Illinois will require to be maintained for several years to come."
A steamboat first made its appearance in Crawford county in 1821. It was called the Virginia, and owned in St. Louis. Joseph Rolette, Alexis Baily and a few more went on her to Fort Snelling. They stopped and cut wood as they needed it. J B Toyer went as pilot. It was a stern wheeler, and a man with a pole was stationed on the bow to aid in steering. The inhabitants were greatly surprised when they first saw the boat in the middle of the river without sail, as the keel boats always kept near the shore in ascending the river.
Baily was the first man to see the boat; he procured a spy glass of Michael Brisbois and thus discovered its character. Madame Brisbois went on board and remarked how strange it was that they did not have to go down into it, as in other boats she had seen.
The first school taught in Crawford county was a private one. It commenced in Prairie du Chien, May 25, 1818. It was taught by Willard Keyes. In June he had about thirty scholars, "mostly bright and active, at two dollars per month." He boarded with Mr. Faribault. He taught three months. Mr. Keyes remained in Prairie du Chien until May, 1819, when he found it "of no use to remain longer in this expensive place;" so he went down the river to Madison Co., Ill.
In 1823 Judge James Duane Doty, at Prairie du Chien, finding that the mail matter for the place came up the river on keel-boats, or by military express, sent occasionally for the special purpose, to Clarksville, Mo., a village about 100 miles above St. Louis, and the then nearest postoffice, made application to the post office department for the establishment of a postoffice at Prairie du Chien, which was granted. This was the first postoffice in Crawford county. Judge Doty was appointed postmaster --- the first one in the county. The judge was given the privilege of expending the proceeds of the office for carrying the mail. The receipts for postage, together with contributions from the principal inhabitants and officers of the garrison, enabled him to send John B Soyer, an old voyageur, one trip to Clarksville during the winter, for which he was paid $30.
During the winter of 1823-4, Judge Doty concluded to change his residence from Prairie du Chien to Green Bay, and resigned his office of postmaster, and recommended James H Lockwood for the vacancy. Mr. Lockwood was appointed with the same power and authority that Doty had. Lockwood applied during the summer of 1824, and got a postoffice established at Galena, and Ezekiel Lockwood appointed postmaster; also an office at Rock Island, with Lee Davenport, postmaster; the proceeds of both offices to be applied by James H Lockwood to defraying the expenses of conveying the mail from Prairie du Chien via Galena and Rock Island, to Clarksville, Mo. The increased fund, by this new arrangement, enabled the postmaster at Prairie du Chien, James H Lockwood, to send the mail twice during the winter to Clarksville; and thus the postal arrangements remained until the close of 1825, when a post route was extended from Springfield, Ill., to Galena; and, on the first of January, 1826, John D Winters, the contractor, arrived at Galena with the first mail sent through by this arrangement. The office at Prairie du Chien continued to sent to Galena for her mail at her own expense until the fall of 1832, when Dr. Addison Philleo, who had obtained the contract to Prairie du Chien, sent the mail through; and thus the latter place had a regular mail for the first time brought there under permanent government arrangements.
The first Sunday school established in Crawford county was at Prairie du Chien, in the spring of 1825, by Mrs. Juliana Lockwood, wife of James H Lockwood. There was not, at that time, any meeting to attend on Sunday; even the Roman Catholics had a priest visit them only occasionally; and Mrs. Lockwood having been accustomed to see the children collected in Sunday schools, and seeing a large number playing about the streets on the Sabbath, concluded it would be doing them a good service to gather them into a Sunday school. She proposed the subject to Miss Crawford, a young lady reared in the place, who spoke English and French fluently, and who had a good common education. The latter agreed to assist her. The two together influenced Dr. Edwin James, the surgeon of the United States army, who was then stationed at Fort Crawford and John H Kinzie, formerly of Chicago, then quite a young man, in the employment of the American Fur Company, at Prairie du Chien, also to take hold of the matter.
The four collected the children and commenced their school in the spring of 1825; and continued it until the winter following, but not without opposition. Some took the ground that it was the design to make Protestants of the children. To counteract this, the teachers introduced and taught the children the Roman Catholic catechism. During the winter, however, Dr. James was ordered to another post, and Mrs. Lockwood went in the spring of 1826 to New York. Mr. Kinzie and Miss Crawford also left the place, both going to Mackinaw. This broke up the school, and another was not collected until 1830, when the members of the different Protestant denominations united in forming a union Sunday school. This continued for a few years, until the Methodists, becoming, by far, the most numerous, assumed the management of it, and it became a Methodist Sunday school.
In the year 1828 Gen. Joseph M Street was appointed Indian agent at Prairie du Chien, and arrived alone in the fall of that year to assume the duties of his office; and, in the winter, returned to Illinois, and brought his family to Prairie du Chien in the spring of the following year, being the first family who settled in Prairie du Chien that made a profession of religion of the Protestant faith, of any of the different sects.
In 1830, a man by the name of Coe, who claimed to be a minister of the Presbyterian Church, and missionary to the Indians, passed through the country, and remained over Sunday at Prairie du Chien, and made an attempt at preaching; but he was a very illiterate man, and not overstocked with good sense. He made several trips to the upper Indian country, and on one occasion took passage on a keel boat and arrived within about thirty miles of Fort Snelling on Saturday night; and as the boat would start early in the morning, and he would not travel on the Sabbath, he went on shore without provisions, and encamped over Sunday, and on Monday made his way to Fort Snelling, hungry and nearly exhausted. Sometime in the year 1832, a student of divinity, of the Cumberland Presbyterian sect, came here and taught school for about six months, and on Sundays attempted to preach.
At the treaty of Fort Armstrong, Rock Island, of which Gen. Scott and Gov. Reynolds were the commissioners, concluded Sept. 15, 1832, in part consideration for a claim of land, it was stipulated that the general government should, for a term of twenty-seven years, maintain a school at or near Prairie du Chien for the education and support of such Winnebago children as should be voluntarily sent to it, to be conducted by two or more teachers, and at an annual cost not to exceed the sum of $3000. To carry out the stipulations of the treaty, the United States, the next year (1833), sent the Rev. David Lowry, of the Cumberland Presbyterian denomination, as superintendent of the Indian school; but it was about a year before suitable buildings were erected on the Yellow river, in Iowa, and Mr. Lowry remained at Prairie du Chien, and preached on Sundays; and during this time he collected those professing religion, of the different denominations, into a society.
In the fall of 1835 the Rev. Alfred Brunson visited Prairie du Chien, and returned home the same autumn; and in the spring of 1836 he came back with his family, as superintendent of the Methodist Episcopal Mission of the upper Mississippi and Lake Superior. He purchased a farm and built a house, the materials for which he brought with him from Meadville, Penn., and continued several years laboring in his missionary capacity. He several times visited the missions on the upper Mississippi, and when at Prairie du Chien preached and formed a Methodist society.
In the year 1836 the Rev. Mr. Caddle, of the Episcopal Church, came to Prairie du Chien as a missionary, but was shortly after appointed chaplain to Fort Crawford, in which capacity he continued until 1841, when feeling, as he expressed it, that he was not in his proper place, preaching to soldiers who went to hear him more from compulsion than anything else, he resigned his chaplaincy and again entered the missionary service in another part of the territory. Mr. Caddle, while chaplain of the fort, formed a Church of the few communicants of Prairie du Chien, and of the officers and ladies of the fort, which he called Trinity, but was obliged, for most of the Church officers, to elect non-communicants.
In the year 1842 the Rev. Mr. Stephens, of the Presbyterian Church, who had been on a missionary service somewhere in the Indian country, came as a missionary of that denomination, formed a Church, and continued here two or three years. There being too few members of his Church to supply the means of support with the stipend he received from the missionary society, he left.
In 1842, the subject of religion created considerable interest, and at a quarterly meeting of conference, held in Prairie du Chien on the 25th day of September, in that year, the project of building the First Methodist Episcopal church, was talked over and resolved on. At that same meeting a committee of three, Mr. Dandley, H Brace and Sam Gilbert, were appointed to secure a suitable piece of ground on which to build; to make out plans, estimate the cost, and to obtain subscriptions in money, materials and labor for the erection of the church. The committee selected lot No. 15, of H L Dousman's addition to St. Friole, part of farm lot No. 32, as the most suitable piece of ground for the purpose. This lot was donated to the Church by Col. H L Dousman. Subscriptions to the amount of $1034.93, in cash and materials were soon raised; and on the 6th of April, 1843, the building committee, Rev. A Brunson, Sam Gilbert and H Brace, entered into a contract with H H Baily and G W Blunt, for the erection of the church. The building was to be fifty feet long by thirty-six feet wide, with stone foundation; to have on the front end a tower fourteen feet square at the base, and thirty feet high from the main plate, with spires at each corner; to have a gallery on the front end eight feet wide. Blunt and Baily agreed to have this building finished by Sept. 1, 1843, in consideration of $1010; but the church was not finished at the time.
The Sunday School Library was formed by subscription and donations, and comprised many volumes --- some very valuable works.