Vestiges of the labor of the so-called mound builders still exist in Crawford county, in the form of earthworks consisting of mounds; some rudely representing animals; others seemingly like low battlements; while a third variety are simply elevations, usually conical in shape.
On the questions of the origin and design of these monuments of antiquity, I have but little at present to say. On these questions much has been said and written, but from it all the world has become but little the wiser or better. Their existence, together with the evidence we have of design, taste or ambition to perpetuate the memory of some noted event or honored individual, give ample evidence of intelligence far in advance of the Aboriginees found here by the Anglo-Saxon race, who at present occupy the country.
The trees frequently found growing upon them of 400 years' growth declare their antiquity and the recent discoveries in the copper region of Lake Superior of mines over which trees of the same age are growing, makes it probable that the same race who wrought those mines also built these mounds.
Who these ancient people were, whence they came and what became of them, have been questions of deep and abiding interest for the last fifty years, or since the whites have been settling the great valley in which their works abound; and various methods have been resorted to to derive some plausible answer to each question, but all to no purpose. Indeed, he who can answer one can answer the others. But nothing has, as yet, come to light satisfactory to the public mind on this engrossing subject.
The Book of Mormon, which has caused two civil wars, cost many lives and is now founding a new State, if not a new empire, among the mountains of California, is the first, the last and the only book ever published purporting to be a history of the people who inhabited this country at the time when the tumuli and fortifications were erected. 2 But as no one except the followers of the prophet give any credence whatever to the story, the world is not the whit the wiser for the information it contains, and we remain in the dark, and probably shall till the end of time, as to who were the people who did this work, where they came from, what became of them, or what was their design in erected these mounds.
The fact that human bones have been found in some of them is no evidence that they were erected as tombs for the honored dead; because the Aborigines found here by the whites, have long been in the habit of burying their dead in them; and a many of these tumuli have been opened without finding either bones or anything else in them but soil, the presumption is very strong that the bones sometimes found in them are from the interments of the Indians who more recently occupied the country.
For aught that I know, or any one else knows, they may have been built for tombs; but I say the finding of bones in them at this time is no evidence of such a design; and one very strong, and to me unanswerable argument in favor of this position, is, what must be known by every one, that human bones could not have continued in them undecayed for the space of 400 years, the acknowledged age of these tumuli. In some instances, and in positions, or under circumstances peculiarly calculated to preserve them, as by embalming, or being in dry nitrous caves, bones have been preserved for a longer period; but no case can be found on record where much preservation has been had with bones exposed to the dampness of the soil, or mixed with the earth, as those found in these tumuli are.
In some few instances slabs of stone were placed around the bones; but the rude masonry found in such cases would be no protection from dampness, while surrounded with a damp soil; and it must be admitted that this rude masonry corresponds much better with the rude state of the modern Aborigines, than with the more improved state of the builders of these ancient mounds; and if we suppose, which is very probable, that the same race which built the ancient works at Aztalan, also erected these mounds, we must suppose that their masonry would have been greatly in advance of anything yet discovered of the kind; and further, the decay of the work at Aztalan, shows conclusively that their antiquity is such that human bones would have long since mouldered back to their mother dust; for, if burnt bricks have so decayed as to render them scarcely distinguishable form the earth with which they are intermixed, most certainly bones would have long since entirely disappeared; and this fact, together with the known fact, that the recent Indian inhabitants of the country were in the habit of interring their dead in these mounds, and in the mode and manner in which bones have been found, shows conclusively to my mind, that the bones thus discovered are of more recent burial than that of the builders of these tumuli.
And further, and in confirmation of this conclusion, the fact that metallic substances have been found in these tumuli, which could not have been known to the natives previous to the discovery of the country by the whites, shows that the skeletons found with such substances must have been interred since the whites came to the country, which does not agree well with the antiquity of trees 400 years old, so frequently found on these mounds.
The mounds found in the county of Crawford, are of various forms and sizes. On Prairie du Chien, one of the largest and highest of these tumuli, having a base of some 200 feet and about twenty feet high, of a circular form, was leveled for the present site of Fort Crawford. Another, of about the same dimensions and form, stood within the old or first fort built at this place by the Americans, on which now stands the splendid mansion of H L Dousman, Esq. A cellar, well, and ice-house vault, were dug in this last, and a well dug where the first stood, but in neither were any evidences found of the design of their erection; nothing was found but bones, rifles, etc., of recent interment.
The circular form is the most common for these tumuli, but many are of different forms. Some are from one to two hundred yards long, from ten to twenty feet wide, and from two to three feet high. These frequently have an open space through them, as if intended for a gate, and they would have the appearance of breast works if they had angles, or a rear protection, as of a fort.
Others, especially on the dividing ridge between the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers, in towns 8 and 9 north, of range 5 west, are in the form of birds with their wings and tails spread and of deer, rabbits and other animals, and one which I have seen resembles an elephant. The birds lie spread out on the ground, while the other animals lie on their sides, with limbs stretched as if on the jump. In this region, also, some few mounds resemble a man lying on his face. These mounds are from three to four feet high, at the highest points, tapering off to the extremities, corresponding with what they were intended to represent.
On the margins of these two rivers, on the beach lands and the highest peaks of the bluffs, these tumuli are very numerous, and can often be seen from the boats passing on the river. Indeed there is no point yet discovered of any great extent, in the country, which is not honored, to a greater or less extent, with these marks of ancient settlement, corresponding with the descriptions above given, and varying in form and size; some being not over ten feet on the base and two feet high, circular in form, while others, as above stated, have a base of 200 feet, and twenty feet elevation, and others are in forms of animals which generally are 100 feet long. And it is believed that at least 1000 of them can be found in the county, which is, however, geographically large. But in no case that has come to my knowledge, in thirteen years residence, have bones, or other matter than earth, been found in them, except with evidence of recent Indian interment.
One rather singular circumstance is observable in the construction of some of the mounds on Prairie du Chien, and especially those near the fine dwelling of B W Brisbois, Esq. They stand on the margin of the Mississippi, on the extreme west of the prairie, and about one and a half miles from the bluffs. The soil on the prairie is river sand intermixed with vegetable mould. But these tumuli are of a different soil, a loam, the like of which has not yet been discovered within several miles of its present location; so that, to appearance, the earth of which these mounds are composed must have been brought from a considerable distance.
It is also a singular feature of all the mounds and fortifications I have examined in the west --- and they are quite numerous --- that there is no appearance that the earth of which they are composed was dug up from the side of them or even near by them. The surface of the surrounding soil generally comes up to the base of the mound on a smooth level. In some instances the mound stands on a natural elevation, showing that the entire mass of which it is composed was carried from below, up to the place of deposit.
One such mound, which stands in a group of them, on the southwest angle of Prairie du Chien, has a base of some fifty feet, and is about ten feet high; but being on a natural elevation, it has the appearance, a short distance from it, of being twenty feet high; yet there is no evidence that the earth of which this mound is composed, though of the common soil of the prairie, was taken from the neighborhood of its present location. From the top of this mound can be seen to advantage the extensive low bottom lands and lakes which lie between the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers, and were it not for the timber on the margin of the two rivers, their flowing currents could also be seen for some distance. This circumstance induces the belief that it was built for a kind of watch-tower or looking-out place, to watch the approach of enemies. But the hand of civilization, the plow, the hoe, and the spade, are fast demolishing these monuments of antiquity. When they fall within an enclosure, and the plow breaks the sod, the action of the water in time of rain, and of the wind in time of draught, together with continued cultivation, contribute to level them rapidly with the surrounding earth; and but a few years will elapse before they will be lost in the oblivion of their builders, and will be forgotten, except as their memory will be preserved by the hand of intelligence on the page of the historian.
In reflecting upon the destiny of this people --- a people once so numerous and intelligent as those must have been, who laid up with skill and care, these evidences of their existence, taste and mental improvement --- we can hardly avoid feelings of melancholy. It amounts to annihilation, so far as this world is concerned. We have no trace as to who they were, where from, or where they are gone; we only know that they lived and are dead.
If they reflected as we do on the future and contemplated that in a few centuries nothing but these mounds would be left of their whole race, that not a man, not a name, not a song, nor even a tradition of them would be left on earth, their feelings must have been gloomy in the extreme. The idea of annihilation is said to be even more painful than thoughts of a miserable existence. But we turn from such melancholy reflections with hopes blooming with immortality. The mental and moral culture which we enjoy with the blessings of the pen and the press, inspire in us the pleasing reflection that though our individual names may not be noted centuries to come, yet our race will be known on the page of history, and our institutions and the monuments we leave behind of our intelligence and wisdom, which we trust will continue to improve our race as they descend the stream of time, will bless the world, and we shall not have lived in vain. One object, and the great object of this association is to preserve from oblivion those scraps of history which are fast passing into forgetfulness, and by embodying them into a history, transmit to posterity not only our name, as a people, but also such facts, snatched from the destructive hand of time, as will cast some light, the best we have, on the past history of the State; and though we have not omniscience and cannot solve the historic problems of the past to our entire satisfaction, yet we can do much for the information of ourselves and of our fellow-men, and thus discharge a debt we owe to others for the benefits we have derived from histories of other countries and other times.
The Wisconsin river is the largest stream within the State, having its source on the boundary line between Wisconsin and Michigan, in a small sheet of water known as "Lac Vieux Desert," and running into the Mississippi at Prairie du Chien. Its general course is nearly south as far as the Winnebago portage, where it almost unites with the Neenah. At this point it is suddenly deflected towards the southwest and west. Its length cannot be less than 400 miles, and it has an aggregate descent of about 900 feet, or two and a quarter feet per mile. It drains an area of about 1100 square miles. The valley of this fine stream, form Winnebago portage to its junction with the Mississippi, may be deemed the great central seat of population a the time of the erection of the animal-shaped earthworks; at least we must so infer from their comparative abundance and importance along that valley.
The first published notice of the mounds in the valley of the Wisconsin, is in the narrative of Long's Second Expedition, in 1823. It is here stated that "one of the block-houses of the fort (at Prairie du Chien) is situated on a large mound, which appears to be artificial. It was excavated; but we have not heard that any bones or other remains were found in it."
Mr. Alfred Brunson, in a paper on the "Ancient Mounds of Crawford county, Wisconsin," read before the State Historical Society, remarks that another similar one formerly existed on the prairie, now removed; but no evidences of the design of their erection were found --- nothing was observed but bones, rifles, etc., of recent interment.
"One mound, standing in a group at the southwest angle of this prairie, has a base of some fifty feet, and is about ten feet high, on an eminence of about the same elevation. From its top can be seen to advantage the extensive low bottom lands which lie between the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers; and were it not for the timber on the margin of the two rivers, their flowing currents could also be seen for some distance. This circumstance induces the belief that it was built for a kind of watch-tower, or look-out place, to watch the approach of enemies."
Trace of mounds were discovered by me (in 1852) along the whole extent of the prairie, apparently similar to others found in the vicinity; but from cultivation, and the light sandy nature of the materials, they are now almost entirely obliterated. The large round tumuli, situated along the island between the "slough" and the main channel of the Mississippi, are so near the level of the river that their bases are often washed by the floods. In 1826, at the highest known floods, (it being eight feet higher than the high water of 1832, and about twenty-six feet above the lowest stage,) the mounds were all that could be seen of this island above the water. These were doubtless for burial, and of less age than the more elaborate works in the interior of the country.
Below the town and fort, towards the mouth of the Wisconsin, are similar tumuli, equally subject to overflow; and on the high bluffs south of that river are some look-out stations or mounds.
Advantage is taken of these elevations for the foundations of the better class of dwelling houses, above the reach of high water; being, perhaps, the only instance in which the ancient works are rendered useful to the present inhabitants. In general it is deemed necessary to remove them, as incumbrances, rather than to preserve them as matters of convenience.
Some traces of a ditch and embankments observed on the island, evidently of a military character, proved, on inquiry, to be the remains of the original American fort that was taken by the British in the War of 1812.
It is quite clear that this interesting place has been a favorite one with all the different tribes or races of inhabitants, from the days of the first mound builders to the present time; and the construction of a railroad (soon to be completed) connecting this point with Lake Michigan, at Milwaukee, will doubtless render it one of the greatest importance.
Proceeding up the Wisconsin, the first locality requiring notice is called by the French the Petit Cap au Gres; which was visited by Messrs. Keating, Say and Seymour, of Long's exploring party, and of which the following account is given: "They found the bluff which borders on the Wisconsin, about four miles above its mouth, covered with mounds, parapets, etc.; but no plan or system could be observed among them, neither could they trace any such thing as a regular inclosure. Among these works they saw an embankment about eighty-five yards long, divided towards its middle by a sort of gateway about four yards wide. This parapet was elevated from three to four feet; it stood very near to the edge of the bluff, as did also almost all the other embankments which they saw. No connection whatever was observed between the parapets and the mounds, except in one case, where a parapet was cut off by a sort of gateway and a mound placed in front of it. In one instance the works, or parapet, seemed to form a cross, of which three parts could be distinctly traced; but these were short; this was upon a projecting point of the highland. The mounds which the party observed were scattered without any apparent symmetry over the whole of the ridge of highland which borders upon the river. They were very numerous, and generally from six to eight feet high, and from eight to twelve in diameter. In one case a number of them, amounting perhaps to twelve or fifteen, were seen all arranged in one line, parallel to the edge of the bluff, but at some distance from it.
Mr. Brunson, in a paper read before the Ministerial Association of the Methodist Church, held at Viroqua, Sept. 7, 1858, says:
"History is among the most pleasing and entertaining of human studies. By it we converse and become familiar with men and things of ages long in the past, and live, as it were, from the beginning of time to the present hour; but we cannot extend our researches into the future. History relates to the past. Prophecy to the future.
"History embraces the biography of men and Nations; their ups and downs, rise and fall, detailing the incidents which have been , the changes which have occurred, the improvements which have been made, and when known, the reasons therefor, which is the philosophy of history.
"There are, however, many things of interest on the face of the earth of which we have no history, for the reason that none has reached us, if any was ever written; of such we can only draw inferences of their causes from the effects which lie before us. Such is the case in reference to the ancient tumuli which abound to an unknown extent in the western States, but in none of them more numerously than in our own.
"Their forms, and the materials of which they are made, clearly indicate the work of human hands, and intelligence and design on the part of the builders. The forts and fortifications indicate the existence of wars among them, and that the combatants had more or less knowledge of military science. In some of them the existence of something like brick or pottery indicates some advances in the arts of civilization, much more so than anything found among the aborigines which the Anglo-Saxon race found in the country. But the present race of Indians have no traditions of the people who made these mounds, nor of the design for which they were built.
"The age in which these builders lived, or the distance of time from the present, is inferred from the age of trees found growing in the mounds, some of which, from their annual rings, are supposed to be 400 years old. But who were the builders, whence they came, whither they went, or by what means they became extinct, lies in the impenetrable darkness of the past, and is not likely to be known in time. But there is an interest excited in the mind on seeing these ancient works, a written history of which would highly gratify, if it were authentic, or believed so to be. This interest in us shows the duty to the future, to record what we know of the past or present, for its edification, as we would that others should have done unto us, even so we should do to those who are to follow us.
"As the matter relative to these mounds now stands, conjecture alone can answer the inquiries of the antiquarian, which in most cases is as unsatisfactory as the total darkness in which the history of those times is now enveloped. Some have thought that these mounds were thrown up as monuments over the distinguished dead, and have inferred this from the fact that in some of them relics have been found. But as the most and the largest of them, on examination, are found to contain no such remains, the inference is not well founded.
"That human bones and Indian relics have been found in some of them of late years is no proof that they were erected for places of interment; for since the whites have been in the country, our modern Indians have been in the habit, more or less, of burying their dead in them, and frequently guns, axes, kettles, etc., have been found with the bones --- and sometimes without them --- which shows that the interment took place since the whites came to the continent, and the fact that such metallic substances have been found without the bones, shows that if men were buried there at first, their bones could not have continued in a state of preservation until this time.
"It is worthy of remark that while in Ohio the most prominent of these tumuli were forts or fortifications in Wisconsin, but few of that description are found. I can now call to mind but one such, that at Aztalan, and in traveling extensively in the State for twenty-two years, I have noticed but few of these mounds south of a line drawn east from the mouth of the Wisconsin river to the lake, while north of this line and between the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers there are probably 1000 of them. In Crawford county alone there are at least 500, 100 of which can be found in the towns of Prairie du Chien and Wauzeka.
"The evidences of ancient mining found in the Lake Superior copper region, with trees on them of 400 years' growth or more, indicating some degree of intelligence and skill, makes it probable that those mines were wrought by the same race of people who made the mounds, and at about the same time; and yet, there being no copper relics found in these mounds, makes it probable that either they had no commerce with each other, or that they were few in number and emigrated from place to place, to avoid their pursuing enemies, and that those mines were their last retreat, from which they disappeared from this country, either by emigration or by being destroyed. The latter, I think, is the most probable."
The earliest record we have of the occupation of Crawford county and contiguous territory, by the Indians, is that given on the map of Samuel Champlain, dated in 1632. It is there seen that reports had reached the ears of the French upon the waters of the St. Lawrence, of a great river to the westward of Lake Huron and to the southward of Lake Superior, but which it was said flowed north into the lake last mentioned. This was a vague account of the Mississippi. Upon that river are located savages, which, probably, were those afterward known as
Bands of this Nation occupied the whole country immediately north of the Wisconsin and adjacent to the Mississippi. It is not known that they had any village within what is now Crawford county; but this region was, probably, their hunting grounds, if they did not actually occupy it with their wigwams.
It was known to the French, also, before any white man had ever set foot upon any part of Wisconsin or the northwest, that these Sioux were in the habit of going in their canoes to trade with the Winnebagoes, who were located at that time (before 1634) around Lake Winnebago. Farther than this, no knowledge had been gained of these savages. Not many years afterward they must have withdrawn farther up the Mississippi, leaving the country upon and down this river for some distance from the mouth of the Wisconsin, without inhabitants. At this time, the nearest savages eastward, were the Kickapoos, Miamis and Mascoutins, who were located on Fox river above Lake Winnebago. Such was the case in 1634, when John Nicolet, the first man to explore the present State of Wisconsin, reached that river.
"The first inhabitants of this region," says the Rev. Alfred Brunson, "included in the original county of Crawford, of whom we have any knowledge, except from ancient tumuli, were the Dakota or Sioux Indians. The builders of those tumuli are so far lost in the past, that no pretence is made to a history of them, except in the pretended visions of Joe Smith, in his so called Golden Bible. When the French missionaries and traders from Canada first visited the country south of Lake Superior, east of the Mississippi, and north and west of the Wisconsin, the Sioux were the lords of the soil.
"I learned from the Chippewas at La Pointe, when I was agent for the United States among them in 1842-3, that previous to their crossing Lake Superior to settle upon its southern shores, the Sioux occupied the whole country south of it, and as far east, at least, as Ke-we-wa-non Bay, then called Che-goi-me-gon; for there, in 1661, it seems they captured and killed the missionary Rene Mesnard, whose cassock and breviary were afterwards found among the Sioux, kept by them as amulets." 3
What is now Crawford county and its surrounding country remained a derelict region until finally the Sacs and Foxes from the east came to Fox river and then moved westward to the Wisconsin. Of all the tribes who have inhabited this State, they are the most noted. The Sacs were sometimes called Sauks or Saukies and the Foxes were frequently known as the Outagamies. They are of the Algonquin family, and are first mentioned in 1665, by Father Allouez, but as separate tribes. Afterward, however, because of the identity of their language, and their associations, they were and still are considered one Nation. In December, 1669, Allouez found upon the shores of Green bay a village of Sacs, occupied also by members of other tribes, and early in 1670 he visited a village of the same Indians located upon the Fox river of Green bay, at a distance of four leagues from its mouth. Here a device of these Indians for catching fish arrested the attention of the missionary. "From one side of the river to the other," he writes, "they made a barricade, planting great stakes, two fathoms from the water, in such a manner that there is, as it were, a bridge above for the fishes, who by the aid of a little bow-net, easily take sturgeons and all other kinds of fish which this pier stops, although the water does not cease to flow between the stakes." When the Jesuit father first obtained, five years previous, a knowledge of this tribe, they were represented as savage above all others, great in numbers, and without any permanent dwelling place. The Foxes were of two stocks --- one calling themselves Outagamies or Foxes, whence our English name; the other, Musquakink, or men of red clay, the name now used by the tribe. They lived in early times with their kindred the Sacs east of Detroit, and as some say, near the St. Lawrence. They were driven west, and settled at Saginaw, a name derived from the Sacs. Thence they were forced by the Iroquois to Green bay; but were compelled to leave that place and settle on Fox river.
Allouez, on the 24th of April, 1670, arrived at a village of the Foxes, situated on Wolf river, a northern tributary of the Fox. "The Nation," he declares, "is renowned for being numerous; they have more than 400 men bearing arms; the number of women and children is greater, on account of polygamy which exists among them --- each man having commonly four wives, some of them six, and others as high as ten." The missionary found that the Foxes had retreated to those parts to escape the persecutions of the Iroquois. Allouez established among these Indians his Mission of St. Mark, rejoicing in the fact that in less than two years he had baptized "sixty children and some adults." The Foxes, at the summons of De la Barre, in 1684, sent warriors against the Five Nations. They also took part in Denonville's more serious campaign; but soon after became hostile to the French. As early as 1693, they had plundered several on their way to trade with the Sioux, alleging that they were carrying arms and ammunitions to their ancient enemies frequently causing them to make portages to the southward in crossing from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi. Afterward they became reconciled to the French; but the reconciliation was of short duration. In 1712, Fort Detroit, then defended by only a handful of men, was attacked by them in conjunction with the Mascoutins and Kickapoos. However, in the end, by calling in friendly Indians, the garrison not only protected themselves but were enabled to act on the offensive, destroying the greater part of the besieging force.
The Nation continued their ill will to the French. The consequence was that their territory in 1716 had been invaded and they were reduced to sue for peace. But their friendship was not of long continuance. In 1718 the Foxes numbered 500 men and "abounded in women and children." They are spoken of at that date as being very industrious, raising large quantities of Indian corn. In 1728 another expedition was sent against them by the French. Meanwhile the Menomonees had also become hostile; so, too, the Sacs, who were now the allies of the Foxes. The result of the enterprise was, an attack upon and the defeat of a number of Monomonees; the burning of the wigwams of the Winnebagoes (after passing the deserted village of the Sacs upon the Fox river), that tribe, also, at this date being hostile; and the destruction of the fields of the Foxes. They were again attacked in their own country by the French, in 1730, and defeated. In 1734 both the Sacs and Foxes came in conflict with the same foe; but this time the French were not as successful as on previous expeditions. In 1736 the Sacs and Foxes were "connected with the government of Canada;" but it is certain they were far from being friendly to the French.
The conflict between France and Great Britain, commencing in 1754, found the Sacs and Foxes allied with the former power, against the English, although not long previous to this time they were the bitter enemies of the French. At the close of that contest so disastrous to the interests of France in North America, these tribes readily gave in their adhesion to the conquerors, asking that English traders might be sent them. The two Nations, then about equally divided, number, in 1761, about 700 warriors. Neither of the tribes took part in Pontiac's war, but they befriended the English. The Sacs had emigrated farther westward; but the Foxes, at least a portion of them, still remained upon the waters of the river of Green bay, which perpetuates their name. A few years later, however, and the former were occupants of the upper Wisconsin; also to a considerable distance below the portage, where their chief town was located. Further down the same stream was the upper village of the Foxes, while their lower one was situated near its mouth at the site of the present city of Prairie du Chien. At this date, 1766, and even later, what is now Crawford county, was within the territory claimed as theirs. Gradually, however, they retreated down the Mississippi until, before the close of the century all their possessions in what is now Wisconsin, was in the extreme southwest. They no longer had their hunting grounds to the northward of the Wisconsin river. Another tribe had, as it were, crowded them out.
During the War of the Revolution, the Sacs and Foxes continued the firm friends of the English. In 1804 they ceded their lands south of the Wisconsin river to the United States; so that they no longer were owners of any lands within this State. From that date, therefore, these allied tribes cannot be considered as belonging to the Indian Nations of Wisconsin. They were generally friendly to Great Britain during the War of 1812-15, but they soon made peace with the United States after that contest ended. A striking episode in their subsequent history is the Black Hawk War, which will be narrated in a subsequent chapter. The exact date of the Foxes leaving the Wisconsin river country is unknown. They sold the prairie at the mouth of that stream to some Canadian French traders, in 1781, and subsequently vacated their village. Probably about the beginning of the present century they had abandoned this region as their home, although they long after visited it for the purposes of trade.
On the 8th of October, (1766), we got our canoes into the Ouisconsin river, which at this place is more than a hundred yards wide and the next day arrived at the great town of the Saukies. This is the largest and best built Indian town I ever saw. It contains about ninety houses, each large enough for several families. These are built of hewn plank, neatly jointed and covered with bark, so compactly as to keep out the most penetrating rains. Before the doors are placed comfortable sheds, in which the inhabitants sit, when the weather will permit, and smoke their pipes. The streets are regular and spacious, so that it appears more like a civilized town than the abode of savages. The land near the town is very good. On their plantations, which lie adjacent to their houses, and which are neatly laid out, they raise quantities of Indian corn, beans, melons, etc., so that this place is esteemed the best market for traders to furnish themselves with provisions of any within 800 miles of it.
The Saukies can raise about 300 warriors, who are generally employed every summer in making excursions into the territories of the Illinois and Pawnee Nations, from whence they return with a great number of slaves. But those people frequently retaliate, and, in their turn, destroy many of the Saukies, which I judge to be the reason why they increase no faster.
Whilst I stayed here I took a view of some mountains, (Blue Mounds), that lay about fifteen miles to the southward, and abounded in lead ore. I ascended one of the highest of these, and had an extensive view of the country. For many miles nothing was to be seen but lesser mountains, which appeared at a distance like haycocks, they being free from trees. Only a few groves of hickory and stunted oaks, covered some of the valleys.
So plentiful is lead here that I saw large quantities of it lying about the streets in the town belonging to the Saukies, and it seemed to be as good as the produce of other countries. On the 10th of October we proceeded down the river, and the next day reached the first town of the Outagamies. This town contained about fifty houses, but we found most of them deserted, on account of an epidemical disorder that had lately raged among them, and carried off more than one half of the inhabitants. The greater part of those who survived had retired into the woods to avoid the contagion.
On the 15th we entered that extensive river, the Mississippi. The Ouisconsin, from the carrying place to the part where it falls into the Mississippi, flows with a smooth but strong current; the water of it is exceedingly clear, and through it you may perceive a fine and sandy bottom, tolerably free from rocks. In it are a few islands, the soil of which appeared to be good, though somewhat woody. The land near the river also seemed to be, in general, excellent; but that at a distance is very full of mountains, where, it is said, there are many lead mines.
About five miles from the junction of the rivers I observed the ruins of a large town, in a very pleasing situation. On inquiring of the neighboring Indians why it was thus deserted, I was informed that, about thirty years ago, the Great Spirit appeared on the top of a pyramid of rocks, which lay at a little distance from it toward the west, and warned them to quit their habitations; for the land on which they were built belonged to him, and he had occasion for it. As a proof that he, who gave them these orders, was really the Great Spirit, he further told them that the grass should immediately spring up on those very rocks from whence he now addressed them, which they knew to be bare and barren. The Indians obeyed, and soon after discovered that this miraculous alteration had taken place. They showed me the spot, but the growth of the grass appeared to be no ways supernatural. I apprehended this to have been a stratagem of the French or Spaniards to answer some selfish view; but in what manner they effected their purpose I know not. This people, soon after their removal, built a town on the bank of the Mississippi, near the mouth of the Ouisconsin, at a place called by the French Les Prairies les Chiens, which signifies the Dog Plains; it is a large town and contains about 300 families; the houses are well built, after the Indian manner, and pleasantly situated on a very rich soil, from which they raise every necessary of life in great abundance. I saw here many horses of a good size and shape. This town is a great mart, where all the adjacent tribes, and even those who inhabit the most remote branches of the Mississippi, annually assemble about the latter end of May, bringing with them their furs to dispose of to the traders. But it is not always that they conclude their sale here; this is determined by a general council of the chiefs, who consult whether it would be more conducive to their interests to sell their goods at this place, or carry them on to Louisiana or Michillimackinac; according to the decision of this council, they either proceed farther or return to their different homes.
The Mississippi, at the entrance of the Ouisconsin, near which stands a mountain of considerable height, is about half a mile over; but opposite to the last mentioned town, it appears to be more than a mile wide and full of islands, the soil of which is extraordinarily rich and but thinly wooded.
The first we hear of these people (the Foxes) is from early missionaries of New France, who call them, in a list drawn up for the government in 1736, "Gens du Sang" and Miskaukis. The latter I found to be the name they apply to themselves. We get nothing, however, by it. It means red earth, being a compound from misk-wau, red, and aukie, earth. They are a branch of the great Algonquin family. The French, who formed a bad opinion of them as their history opened, bestowed on them the name of Renouard, from which we derive their long standing popular name. Their traditions attribute their origin to eastern portions of America. Mr. Gates, who acted as my interpreter and is well acquainted with their languages and customs, informs me that their traditions refer to their residence on the north banks of the St. Lawrence, near the ancient cataraqui. They appear to have been a very erratic, spirited, warlike and treacherous tribe, dwelling but a short time at a spot, and pushing westward as their affairs led them, till they finally reached the Mississippi, which they must have crossed after 1766, for Carver found them living in the villages on the Wisconsin. At Saginaw they appeared to have formed a fast alliance with the Sauks, a tribe to whom they are closely allied by language and history. They figure in the history of Indian events about old Michilimackinac, where they played pranks under the not very definite title of Muscodainsug, but are first conspicuously noted while they dwelt on the river bearing their name, which falls into Green bay, Wisconsin. 4 The Chippewas, with whom they have strong affinity of language, call them Outagamie, and ever deemed them a sanguinary and unreliable tribe. The French defeated them in a sanguinary battle at Butte de Mort, and by this defeat drove them from Fox River.
Their present numbers cannot be accurately given. I was informed that the village I visited contained 250 souls. They have a large village at Rock Island, where the Foxes and Sauks live together, which consists of sixty lodges, and numbers 300 souls. One-half of these may be Sauks. They have another village at the mouth of Turkey river; altogether they may muster from 460 to 500 souls. Yet, they are at war with most of the tribes around them, except the Iowas, Sauks and Kickapoos. They are engaged in a deadly and apparently successful war against the Sioux tribes. They recently killed nine men of that Nation, on the Terre Blue river, and a party of twenty men are now absent, in the same direction, under a half-breed named Morgan. They are on bad terms with the Osages and Pawnees, of the Missouri, and not on the best terms with their neighbors, the Winnebagoes.
I again embarked at 4 o'clock AM (8th). My men were stout fellows, and worked with hearty will, and it was thought possible to reach the prairie during the day by hard and late pushing. We passed Turkey river at 2 o'clock, and they boldly plied their paddles, sometimes animating their labors with a song; but the Mississippi proved too stout for us, and sometime after night-fall we put ashore on an island, before reaching the Wisconsin.
In ascending the river this day, I observed the pelican, which exhibited itself in a flock standing on a low sandy spot of an island. This bird has a clumsy and unwieldy look, from the duplicate membrane attached to its lower mandible, which is constructed so as when inflated to give it a bag-like appearance. A short sleep served to restore the men, and we were again in our canoes the next morning (9th) before I could certainly tell the time by my watch. Daylight had not yet broke when we passed the influx of the Wisconsin, and we reached the prairie under a full chorus and landed at 6 o'clock.
The various tribes, in visiting the "prairie," or in passing up and down the Mississippi, sometimes came in deadly conflict within the present limits of this county, since the first settlement here by white men --- the result, in many cases, of ancient hostilities existing between them. Two writers have well described some of these conflicts, and their accounts are appended.
During the first half of the present century, there existed between different Indian tribes of the north and west, a succession of sanguinary wars. The conflicts between the contending parties were marked by the characteristic traits of cruelty and ferocity of a barbarous race. The tribes engaged in these hostilities were the Sioux, Chippewas, Sacs, Foxes and Winnebagoes. Their battles were not always fought in their own country, nor on their own lands. Whenever and wherever a hostile party met, a contest was sure to be the result; and many incidents connected with this warfare were observed by the early settlers of Wisconsin, one of which I witnessed, and will relate.
In the month of May, 1830, with my family, I visited Prairie du Chien, on the Mississippi; we were guests of the late Joseph Rolette, then a trader, and agent of the American Fur Company. One evening, a few days after our arrival, we were startled by hearing the continual and successive reports of fire-arms, apparently on the Mississippi below. The firing continued for an hour or more, and was succeeded by sounds of Indian drums and savage yells, with an occasional discharge of guns.
The family having retired at the usual time, were aroused from their slumbers about midnight by hearing foot-steps on the piazza, conversation in the Indian language, and finally by knocking on the door and window shutters. Mr. Rolette immediately arose and went out to ascertain the cause of the disturbance, when he was informed that a bloody battle had been fought, and the visitors were the victors, and had called up their trader to inform him of their victory, and to obtain the necessary spirit water to celebrate the glorious event in regular savage style. Their wants were supplied, of course, when they took their leave, but not to sleep; neither could we sleep, as the warriors kept up through the night a most horrible powwow, enlivened by savage yells, all plainly within our hearing.
In the morning we heard the particulars of the savage fight, and during the day witnessed one of the most disgusting and revolting exhibitions that human beings could display.
On the day before the battle, or rather massacre, a war party of some twenty or twenty-five Sioux encamped on an island opposite Prairie du Chien. They were there joined by a few Menomonees, who volunteered to assist their friends, the Sioux. It appears that the latter had previously received information that on that day a party of Sacs and Foxes, their inveterate enemies, would leave their village, situated on the Mississippi, some distance below Prairie du Chien, intending to visit the latter place; and that they would encamp for the night at a regular camping ground, near the mouth of the Wisconsin river.
In the afternoon of that day, the Sioux war party embarked in several canoes, and descended the river. Arriving near the spot where they knew their intended victims would encamp, they drew their canoes on land, and carefully hid them in the thick woods, and then selected a spot covered with a dense growth of bushes, and within a short gun-shot of the landing place on the camping ground. Here, with true Indian cunning, they lay in ambush, awaiting the arrival of the unsuspecting Sacs and Foxes. No fire was made, and the stillness of death reigned in the forest. Nor had they long to wait for the arrival of their foes.
Between sunset and dark, the party, in three or four canoes, arrived at the fatal landing place, and dis-embarked. It consisted of eighteen persons, one old chief, one squaw, one boy about fourteen years old and fifteen warriors. Upon landing, the party commenced unloading the canoes. The concealed war party remained perfectly quiet, scarcely breathing, so that their victims might be completely surprised. After all had landed, and while carrying their effects on shore, leaving their guns and war-clubs in the canoes, the party in ambush bounded to their feet, with a horrible yell, and fired a murderous volley at the surprised party, by which all fell except one man and the boy. The former reached a canoe, seized a loaded gun, and discharged it, mortally wounding one of the Sioux; but the poor Sac was soon despatched, and the only one of the eighteen who survived was the boy, who happened to be in a canoe. He seized a paddle, pushed into the stream, and made his escape down the swift current of the river.
After the massacre, all who yet breathed were despatched, and horribly mutilated. Hands, feet, fingers, ears and scalps were cut off, and more horrible still, the heart of the aged chief was cut from his breast, and all taken by the victors as trophies of the bloody conflict.
On the day succeeding the murder, the victorious party assembled, and accompanied by a few squaws, paraded the streets of Prairie du Chien, with the monotonous sounding drum and rattle, and displaying on poles the scalps and dismembered human fragments taken from the bodies of their victims. The whole party was painted with various colors, wore feathers, and carried their tomahawks, war-clubs and scalping-knives. Stopping in front of the principal houses in the village, they danced the war-dance and scalp-dance, ending with yells characteristic of incarnate devils.
The mangled limbs were still fresh and bleeding; one old squaw had carried on a pole the entire hand, with a long strip of skin from the arm of one of the murdered men, elevated above her head, the blood trickling down upon her hair and face, while she kept up the death-song, and joined in the scalp-dance. After this exhibition, which lasted two or three hours, the warriors went to a small mound, about 200 years from Mr. Rolette's residence, and in plain sight made a fire and roasted the heart of the old murdered chief, and then divided it into small pieces among the several warriors, who devoured it, to inspire them with courage, and "make their hearts glad."
The whole scene was shocking and disgusting in the extreme, and such a one, we hope, never again will be witnessed in a civilized community.
The incidents just related occurred in a town containing a civilized (?) population of 600 or 800 inhabitants, under the walls of the US garrison, and within musket shot of the fort. Neither civil nor military authorities made any effort to prevent the exhibition of the revolting and savage trophies of the sanguinary battle. In the afternoon, the party of Sioux warriors embarked in their canoes and ascended the Mississippi, on their return to their own village, leaving on the minds and memories of those who witnessed these horrible and frantic orgies recollections not soon to be forgotten.
In 1830 a party of Sauks and Foxes killed some Sioux, on or about the head-waters of Red Cedar river, in the now State of Iowa; and the same season a band of Fox Indians, who resided about where Dubuque now is, had occasion to visit Prairie du Chien on business with the agent, whom they had previously informed that they would arrive on a certain day. An Indian called the Kettle was their chief. It was generally believed that John Marsh gave the Sioux information of the coming of the Foxes, and of the time they were expected; and on the morning of the day appointed for the arrival of the Foxes at Prairie du Chien, a small war party of young Sioux made their appearance here, and joined by a few of the Menomonee young men, proceeded down the Mississippi to the lower end of the Prairie du Pierreaux, some twelve or fifteen miles below Prairie du Chien, where a narrow channel of the Mississippi runs close to that end of the prairie, fringed with small trees, bushes and grass. They knew the custom of the Indians in going up stream to avail themselves of all such side channels, as there was less current in them than in the broad river; and secreting themselves among the bushes, trees and grass, awaited their unsuspecting victims. When the Foxes came within point blank shot, they all fired upon them, killing their chief Kettle and several others. The Foxes finding their chief killed, returned down the river to carry the news of their misfortunes to the tribe, while the Sioux and Menomonees returned home with the tidings of their victory and to dance over it. They passed through Prairie du Chien, and remained a short time here, but for some unaccountable reason, no notice whatever was taken of it.
The signs of several war parties of the Foxes were reported to have been seen on the opposite side of the river during the year; but they effected nothing until sometime, I think, in June, 1831, when a considerable number of Menomonees had collected at Prairie du Chien, and encamped on an island near the eastern shore of the Mississippi, about one-fourth of a mile from the old Fort Crawford. They had obtained whisky enough for all to get socially drunk upon --- and it is rare to find a Menomonee who will not get drunk when he has a chance --- and they had carried their revels far into the night, until men, woman and children were beastly drunk. About two hours before day, a Fox war party, that had been watching their movements, fell upon them in that helpless state and killed about thirty of them. By this time some of the more sober of them were aroused, and commenced firing upon the Foxes; who fled down the river, pursued a short distance by the Menomonees.
Thomas P Burnett, the sub-Indian agent, was sleeping with me in my store. It being very warm weather, we had made a bed of blankets on the counter, when about two hours before daylight, we were awakened by the cries of a Menomonee woman at the store door. We let her in, when she told us of the disaster to the Menomonees. Mr. Burnett took my horse and went to inform Gen. Street, the Indian agent, who lived about four miles above this, and who arrived about daylight and gave the first information to the fort. Although there had been a great firing of guns and hallooing among the Indians, the sentinels had reported nothing of it to the officers; but on hearing of the affair, the commandant immediately dispatched a company of men in boats after the Foxes, but they did not overtake them. The government demanded of the Sauks to deliver up the perpetrators of this deed. The Foxes fled to the Sauks, and their chief, Kettle, being dead, they remained among and amalgamated with them, and have not since continued a separate Nation or tribe. I have always believed this to be the origin of the Black Hawk War. There were, I suppose, other causes of discontent, but I believe that this transaction was the immediate cause of the movements of Black Hawk.
The same year, 1830, the Fox and Sauk Indians killed some Sioux, at the head of Cedar river, in Iowa. Capt. Dick Mason 5 started with a number of troops for the scene of disturbance, and I went along as guide. We arrived at the place of the fight, found everything quiet and all we did was to turn about and go back the way we came.
Soon after, the Sioux and a number of Monomonees attacked a party of Sauks and Foxes at Prai du Pierreaux and killed some ten Indians, among whom was Kettle, the great Fox chief. 6
The Sauks and Foxes were coming up to a treaty unarmed, and the Sioux, made aware of this through their runners, got the Monomonees and laid in ambush on the east shore. The unsuspecting Foxes were fired into from the ambuscade and their best warriors lost their scalps.
After the fight the Monomonees and Sioux came up here to have a dance over the scalps. The Indians presented a horrid appearance. They were painted for war and had smeared themselves with blood and carried the fresh scalps on poles. Some had cut off a head and thrust a stick in the throttle and held it on high; some carried a hand, arm, leg or some other portion of a body, as trophies of their success. They commenced to dance near the mound over the slough, but Col. Taylor soon stopped that by driving them across the main channel on to the islands, where they danced until their own scalps went to grace the wigwams of the Sauks and Foxes.
In April of 1831, I was in the hospital at Fort Crawford, when, through the influence of Col. Taylor and Dr. Beaumont, I got my discharge. When I was convalescent, which was about June, a war party of Sauk and Fox Indians came up from their part of the country to the bluff north of Bloody Run, from where they watched the Monomonees, who were encamped on an island opposite Prairie du Chien, a little north of the old fort. One night the Monomonee camp was surprised by the Fox and Sauk war party, and all in the camp killed except an Indian boy, who picked up a gun and shot a Fox brave through the heart and escaped. After massacreing, scalping and mutilating the bodies, the Fox Indians got into canoes and paddled down the river past the fort, singing their war song and boasting of their exploits. Soldiers were sent to punish them, but I believe they failed to catch them. In the morning I helped to bury those killed. There were twenty-seven bodies, all killed with the knife and tomahawk, except the Fox brave shot by the boy. They were buried in three graves on the landing below the present Fort Crawford, and until within a few years the spot marked by a small muslin flag kept standing by the few Monomonees who lingered in this vicinity; but nothing is now left to preserve the graves from sacrilege, and soon the iron horse will course o'er the bones of those red men, long since gone to their happy hunting grounds.
After the Monomonee massacre, a warrior of that tribe was found in the old Catholic graveyard and buried. He had no wounds and it is thought that when the Foxes attacked the Indians on the island, he got away and ran so fast that he had to lean against a wall to rest, and that he rolled over and died.
The Indian agency was removed this year to Yellow River and the Rev. Mr. Lowrey appointed agent. It was afterwards removed to Fort Atkinson, Iowa. The mission buildings can be seen now on Yellow river, about five miles from its mouth.
The Nation which displaced the Sacs and Foxes upon the Wisconsin river and its contiguous territory, including what is now Vernon county, was the Winnebagoes. It is now 250 years since the civilized world began to get a knowledge of the Winnebagoes --- the "men of the sea," as they were called, pointing, possibly, to their early emigration from the shores of the Mexican gulf, or the Pacific. The territory now included within the limits of Wisconsin, and so much of the State of Michigan as lies north of Green bay, Lake Michigan, the Straits of Mackinaw and Lake Huron were, in early times, inhabited by several tribes of the Algonquin race, forming a barrier to the Dakotas, or Sioux, who had advanced eastward to the Mississippi. But the Winnebagoes, although one of the tribes belonging to the family of the latter, had passed the great river, at some unknown period, and settled upon Winnebago lake. Here, as early as 1634, they were visited by John Nicolet, an agent of France, and a treaty concluded with them. Little more was heard of the Winnebagoes for the next thirty-five years, when, on the 2d of December, 1669, some of that Nation were seen at a Sac village on Green bay, by Father Allouez.
As early at least as 1670, the French were actively engaged among the Winnebagoes trading. "We found affairs," says one of the Jesuit missionaries, who arrived among them in September of that year, "we found affairs there in a pretty bad posture, and the minds of the savages much soured against the French, who were there trading; ill treating them in deeds and words, pillaging and carrying away their merchandise in spite of them, and conducting themselves toward them with insupportable insolences and indignities. The cause of this disorder," adds the missionary, "is that they had received some bad treatment from the French, to whom they had this year come to trade, and particularly from the soldiers, from whom they pretended to have received many wrongs and injuries. It is thus made certain that the arms of France were carried into the territory of the Winnebagoes over 200 years ago.
The Fox river of Green bay was found at that date a difficult stream to navigate. Two Jesuits who ascended the river in 1670, had "three or four leagues of rapids to contend with, when they had advanced one day's journey from the head of the bay, more difficult than those which are common in other rivers, in this, that the flints, over which they had to walk with naked feet to drag their canoes, were so sharp and so cutting, that one has all the trouble in the world to hold one's self steady against the great rushing of the waters. At the falls they found an idol that the savages honored; never failing, in passing, to make him some sacrifice of tobacco, or arrows, or paintings, or other things, to thank him that, by his assistance, they had, in ascending, avoided the dangers of the waterfalls which are in this stream; or else, if they had to ascend, to pray him to aid them in this perilous navigation. The missionaries caused the idol to be lifted up by the strength of the arm, and cast into the depths of the river, to appear no more, to the idolatrous savages."
The Winnebagoes, by this time, had not only received considerable spiritual instruction from the Jesuit fathers, but had obtained quite an insight into the mysteries of trading and trafficing with white men; for, following the footsteps of the missionaries, and sometimes preceding them, were the ubiquitous French fur traders. It is impossible to determine precisely what territory was occupied by the Winnebagoes at this early date, farther than that they lived near the head of Green bay.
A direct trade with the French upon the St. Lawrence was not carried on by the Winnebagoes to any great extent until the beginning of the eighteenth century. As early as 1679, an advance party of LaSalle had collected a large store of furs at the mouth of Green bay, doubtless in a traffic with this tribe and others contiguous to them, generally, however, the surrounding Nations sold their peltries to the Ottawas, who disposed of them, in turn, to the French. The commencement of the eighteenth century found the Winnebagoes firmly in alliance with France, and in peace with the dreaded Iroquois. In 1718, the Nation numbered 600. They had moved from the Fox river to Green bay. They were afterward found to have moved up Fox river, locating upon Winnebago lake, which lake was their ancient seat, and from which they had been driven either by fear or the prowess of more powerful tribes of the west and southwest. Their intercourse with the French was gradually extended and generally peaceful, though not always so, joining with them, as did the Menominees, in their wars with the Iroquois, and subsequently in their conflicts with the English, which finally ended in 1760.
When the British, in October, 1761, took possession of the French post, at the head of Green bay, the Winnebagoes were found to number 150 warriors only; their nearest village being at the lower end of Winnebago lake. They had in all not less than three towns. Their country, at this period, included, not only that lake, but all the streams flowing into it, especially Fox river; afterward extended to the Wisconsin and Rock rivers. They readily changed their course of trade --- asking now of the commandant at the fort for English traders to be sent among them. In the Indian outbreak under Pontiac, in 1763, they joined with the Menomonees and other tribes to befriend the British garrison at the head of the bay, assisting in conducting them to a place of safety.
They continued their friendship to the English during the revolution, by joining with them against the colonies, and were active in the Indian war of 1790-4, taking part in the attack on Fort Recovery, upon the Maumee, in the present State of Ohio, in 1793. They fought also on the side of the British in the War of 1812-15, aiding, in 1814, to reduce Prairie du Chien. They were then estimated at 4500. When, in 1816, the government of the United States sent troops to take possession of the Green bay country, by establishing a garrison there, some trouble was anticipated from these Indians, who, at that date, had the reputation of being a bold and warlike tribe. A deputation from the Nation came down Fox river and remonstrated with the American commandant at what was thought to be an intrusion. They were desirous of knowing why a fort was to be established so near them. The reply was that, although the troops were armed for war if necessary, their purpose was peace. Their response was an old one: "If your object is peace, you have too many men; if war, you have too few." However, the display of a number of cannon, which had not yet been mounted, satisfied the Winnebagoes that the Americans were masters of the situation and the deputation gave the garrison no further trouble.
On the 3d of June, 1816, at St. Louis, the tribe made a treaty of peace and friendship with the general government; but they continued to levy tribute on all white people who passed up Fox river. English annuities also kept up a bad feeling. At this time a portion of the tribe was living upon the Wisconsin river, away from the rest of the Nation, which was still seated upon the waters flowing into Green bay. In 1820 they had five villages on Winnebago lake and fourteen on Rock river. In 1825 the claim of the Winnebagoes was an extensive one, so far as territory was concerned. Its southeast boundary stretched away from the source of Rock river, to within forty miles of its mouth, in Illinois, where they had a village. On the west it extended to the heads of the small streams flowing into the Mississippi. To the northward, it reached Black river and the Upper Wisconsin, in other words, to the Chippewa territory, including what is now Vernon county, but did not extend across Fox river, although they contended for the whole of Winnebago lake. In 1829 a large part of their territory in southwest Wisconsin, lying between Sugar river and the Mississippi, and extending to the Wisconsin river, was sold to the general government.
Just previous to this time occurred the Winnebago war, an account of which will be found in the next chapter. In 1832, all the residue of the Winnebago territory south and east of the Wisconsin and the Fox river of Green bay, was disposed of to the United States.
Finally, in the brief language of the treaty between this tribe (which had become unsettled and wasteful) and the United States, of the 1st of November, 1837, "the Winnebago Nation of Indians" ceded to the general government "all their lands east of the Mississippi." Not an acre was reserved. And the Indians agreed that, within eight months from that date, they would move west of "the great river." This arrangement, however, was not carried out fully. In 1842 there were only 756 at Turkey River, Iowa, their new home, with as many in Wisconsin, and smaller bands elsewhere. All had become lawless and roving. Some removed in 1848; while a party to the number of over 800 left the State as late as 1873. The present home of the tribe is in Nebraska, where they have a reservation north of, and adjacent to the Omahas, containing over 100,000 acres. However, since their first removal beyond the Mississippi, they have several times changed their place of abode. The period of Winnebago occupancy of Crawford county and the region of country contiguous thereto, properly began about the commencement of the present century and ended, virtually, in 1848.
Within the last two years steps have been taken toward paying such of the Winnebagoes, in Wisconsin, as might come forward to be enrolled, at least a portion of the money due to them under the act of Jan. 18, 1881. It has been found by this enrollment that the whole number of Winnebagoes in Wisconsin at this time (1884) is about 1200; while those in Nebraska number about 1400; so that the entire Nation now consists of about 2600 souls.
Concerning the removal of the Winnebagoes, John H Fonda says:
During the year 1848, just previous to the adoption of the State Constitution, the Winnebago Indians were scattered through the country along the Wisconsin and Fox rivers, through the Kickapoo timbers, and the Lemonweir valley. Orders came from the sub-Indian agent, J E Fletcher, to collect and remove them to their Reservation, near Fort Atkinson, Iowa.
In 1848, when orders were received at Fort Crawford to remove the Winnebagoes, several attempts were made to do so, but with poor success. Early in the same year I received the following official letter:
Office Sub-Indian Agent, } > Turkey River, Jan. 4, 1848. }Sir: --- In answer to your inquiry respecting the disposition to be made of the Winnebago Indians, who may be found wandering about through the country, I have to say that I wish you to arrest them, cause them to be securely guarded, and report them to me as early as may be practicable.
Very respectfully your obd't servant, J E Fletcher, To Lieut. ------ ----------, Indian Ag't. Commanding Ft. Crawford, W T
Upon receipt of the above, I made all necessary preparation, and started with fifty men to collect the Indians. This attempt was quite successful, and several hundred were arrested, and sent to Fort Atkinson, Iowa. It may appear strange to some persons that such a handful of men could take many hundred Indians prisoners, and guard them day and night as we traveled through a wild unsettled country; but it was done, and I have a list of names of those men who accompanied me on that expedition. My journal, kept during the time we were hunting the Indians, presents numerous interesting items, only one or two of which, I will relate.
In taking the Indians, great caution was necessary to enable us to approach them. When the scouts reported that Indians had been discovered, four or five of the men would start on ahead, enter the Winnebago camp, collect all the guns and take off the locks before the Indians were aware of their intention. Frequently a hunting party would come in while the men were un-locking the guns, and make a demonstration of resistance, by which time our entire party would arrive, and prevail on them to submit to the same treatment, telling them if they came along with us quietly, no harm would be offered them. On the 10th of May we encamped in a valley near the Baraboo, and three days after were on Dell creek. Here the scouting party captured a Winnebago Indian, who told me his part of the tribe were encamped at Seven Mile creek. I sent eleven men to the camp, which was very large and comprised many lodges. When the main body had come up to the Indian camp, we found the men had succeeded in getting all the guns but one, which belonged to a young brave who refused to give it up. Fearing he might do mischief, the gun was taken from him. It was a fine rifle, of which he was proud; but in spite of his remonstrance, the lock was taken off, and put in a bag with others. When the piece was rendered unservicable, they handed it back to the young Indian. He looked at it a moment, and then grasping the barrel he raised it above his head, and brought the stock down with such force against the trunk of a young sapling, as to break it to splinters, and threw the barrel many rods from him. His sister, an Indian girl about seventeen years old, picked up the barrel and handed it to him. The brother bent it against the tree and then hurled it over the bank into the creek.
The addition of the Indians put us on short allowance, and I was obliged to send one of the wagons back to Baraboo for provisions and grain. Just before making camp on main ridge the 15th of May, my horse was bitten on the nose by a rattlesnake. The horse's head was soon swelled to twice its natural size, and I thought him as good as dead, when an old Frenchman offered to make the horse well by the next morning. I turned the horse over to his care, and sure enough, the morning following the swelling had all disappeared, and the horse was as well as ever. I asked what he had put on to effect the sudden cure, he said he did not apply anything, but one of the men told me that he cured the horse by looking at and talking to it. This was the same man who cured one, Theo. Warner, now  living in Prairie du Chien, when he was bitten by a rattlesnake. His name was Limmery, and a strange man he was; his eyes were the smallest I have ever seen in the head of any human being, with a piercing expression that once seen could never be forgotten. He would never allow a snake to be killed if he could help it, and could take up the most venomous snake with impunity. I saw him take up a large moccasin snake while we were in the Kickapoo bottoms, and it never offered to bite him, while it would strike fiercely at any third person who approached it. I could only attribute the strange power of this man to some mesmeric influence.
We were fortunate enough to bring all the Indians to Prairie du Chien without accident, where they were delivered to a body of regulars from Fort Atkinson, who moved them to their Reservation. That was the last of the Winnebagoes in Wisconsin as a tribe. There are now a few stragglers loitering near their old hunting grounds, in the Kickapoo and Wisconsin bottom lands, but altogether they do not exceed a hundred souls.
In 1816 the Menomonees inhabited the country about Green bay, and their women occasionally married Winnebagoes, but not often. The Menomonees were a quiet and peaceful race, well disposed and friendly to the whites. Tomah, the acting chief of the Nation, was well spoken of by all the traders who knew him.
The principal villages of the Winnebagoes were at the lower and upper end of the lake of that name, with an occasional lodge along the Fox river. At the season that traders generally passed the Portage of Wisconsin, they would find old grey headed Day-Kau-Ray at the Portage with his band. Their village was a short distance from there up the Wisconsin, and the Winnebagoes had villages up the Baraboo river, and several small ones along down the Wisconsin to near its mouth and up the Mississippi. They were estimated at that time by the traders best acquainted with them, to be about 900 warriors strong. Of the Day-Kau-Rays, there were four or five brothers, who were all influential men in the Nation. One sister had a family of children by a trader named Lecuyer, who had married her after the Indian manner. Tradition says that their father was a French trader, who, during the time the French had possession of the country, married a Winnebago woman, the daughter of the principal chief of the Nation, by whom he had these sons and daughter; that at the time the country was taken possession of by the English, he abandoned them, and they were raised among the Indians, and being the descendants of a chief on the mother's side, when arrived at manhood they assumed the dignity of their rank by inheritance. They were generally good Indians, and frequently urged their claims to the friendship of the whites by saying they were themselves half white.
The locations of the different tribes of Indians in the vicinity of Crawford county, in 1818, including also the homes of the Winnebagoes, is clearly pointed out in the narrative of Edward Tanner, published in the Detroit Gazette of January 8 and 15, 1819:
"The first tribe of Indians after leaving St. Louis is the Oyiwayes, (Iowas). This tribe live about 100 miles from the west side of the Mississippi, on the Menomonee, and have about 400 warriors. The next tribe are the Sauks, who live on the Mississippi, and about 400 miles above St. Louis. They emigrated from the Ouisconsin (Wisconsin) about thirty-five years ago. Their military strength is about 800 warriors, exclusive of old men and boys, and are divided into two divisions of 400 men. Each division is commanded by a war chief. The first are those who have been most distinguished for deeds of valor, and the second the ordinary warriors. They have also two village chiefs who appear to preside over the civil concerns of the Nation. The next tribe is the Fox Indians. This tribe have a few lodges on the east side of the Mississippi near Fort Armstrong and about four miles from the Sauk village. Thirty miles above this, at the mine De Buke (Dubuque), on the west side, they have another village, and another on Turkey river, thirty miles below Prairie du Chien. Their whole military strength is about 400 warriors. They are at this time in a state of war with the Sioux; and as the Sauks are in strict amity with the Fox Indians, and have the influence and control of them, they are also drawn into the war. This war was in consequence of depredations committed by the Fox Indians on the Sioux.
"Prairie du Chien, on which the village of that name stands, is a handsome plain, about half a mile wide from the bank of the river to the bluff or commencement of the rising ground, and out of danger from inundations. In consequence of the serpentine course of the river, the plain widens above and below the village. The soil is a black sand about fifteen inches deep, appearing to be very productive. The foundation is gravelly, containing amber stones susceptible of a handsome polish. Timber is scarce. The upland in the vicinity is very broken, poor and nearly barren. In the settlement are about 1500 inhabitants, exclusive of the military, who are principally creoles. As a place of business, it now appears on the decline.
"The river Ouisconsin (Wisconsin) is about half a mile wide --- common depth one to four feet --- no falls, but generally a brisk current. The channel is subject to change, from the numerous bars of sand which lie in it, and frequently alter their position. In the river are numerous islands, on which grow the principal timber of the country. The banks are generally low and sandy --- some plains lined with the common granite stone. The bordering country is very broken, sandy and barren. In the interior the same description will answer. Barren, broken and destitute of vegetation, few places can be found that will admit of settlements. The Winnebago Indians inhabit the country bordering on the tributary streams of both sides of the river. They appear to go abroad for their game, and have no conveniences for dwelling, except a kind of lodge which they carry with them wherever they go. Their territory extends from the Mississippi to the vicinity of Green bay, and the number of their warriors is 700."
From the commencement of the settlement upon the "Prairie des Chiens" until the final disappearance of the Winnebago Indians, as elsewhere described, Indian affairs in some way engrossed a large share of the attention of the pioneers. Important treaties were held here, notably in 1825 and 1829. For a number of years the Winnebagoes assembled here annually, to receive their payments. One of the most tragical events of the Winnebago war occurred near here, as explained in another chapter; and the closing incidents of that brief season of hostile acts were upon the "prairie." During the Black Hawk War, in 1832, Prairie du Chien was an important point of operations for the Americans, as is fully shown in another portion of this history.
Twelve treaties were held at different times between the United States and the Sac and Fox Indians and the Winnebagoes, affecting, immediately or remotely, the territory now included within the limits of Crawford county, as follows:
1. A treaty was held at St. Louis, Nov. 3, 1804, between the Sacs and Foxes and the United States. William Henry Harrison was acting commissioner on the part of the government. By the provisions of the treaty, the chiefs and head men of the united tribes ceded to the United States a large tract on both sides of the Mississippi, extending on the east from the mouth of the Illinois to the head of that river, and thence to the Wisconsin, and including on the west considerable portions of Iowa and Missouri, from the mouth of the Gasconade northward. In what is now the State of Wisconsin, this grant embraced the whole of the present counties of Grant and Lafayette and a large portion of Iowa and Green counties. The lead region was included in this purchase. In consideration of this cession, the general government agreed to protect the tribes in the quiet enjoyment of their land, against its own citizens and all others who should intrude on them. The tribes permitted a fort to be built on the upper side of the Wisconsin river near its mouth, and granted a tract of land two miles square adjoining the same. The government agreed to give them an annuity of $1000 per annum. The validity of this treaty was denied by one band of Sac Indians, and this cession of land became, twenty-eight years after, the alleged cause of the Black Hawk War.
2. Another treaty was held at Portage des Sioux, now a village in St. Charles Co., Mo., on the Mississippi river, Sept. 13, 1815, with certain chiefs of that portion of the Sac Nation then residing in Missouri, who, they said, were compelled since the commencement of the late war, to separate themselves from the rest of their Nation. They gave their assent to the treaty made at St. Louis in 1804, and promised to remain separate from the Sacs of Rock river, and to give them no aid or assistance, until peace should be concluded between the United States and the Foxes of Rock river.
3. On the 14th of September a treaty was made with the chiefs of the Fox tribe, at the same place. They agreed that all prisoners in their hands should be delivered up to the government. They assented to, recognized, re-established and confirmed the treaty of 1804 to the full extent of their interest in the same.
4. A treaty was held at St. Louis, May 13, 1816, with the Sacs of Rock river, who affirmed the treaty of 1804, and agreed to deliver up all the property stolen or plundered, and in failure to do so, to forfeit all title to their annuities. To this treaty Black Hawk's name appears with others. That chief afterward affirmed that though he himself had "touched the quill" to this treaty, he knew not what he was signing, and that he was therein deceived by the agent and others, who did not correctly explain the nature of the grant; and in reference to the treaty of St. Louis in 1804, and at Portage des Sioux in 1815, he said he did not consider the same valid or binding on him or his tribe, inasmuch as the terms of those treaties, territory was described which the Indians never intended to sell, and the treaty of 1804, particularly, was made by parties who had neither authority in the Nation nor power to dispose of its lands. Whether this was a true statement of the case or otherwise, it is quite certain that the grant of lands referred to was often confirmed by his Nation, and was deemed conclusive and binding by the government. The latter acted in good faith to the tribes, as well as to the settlers, in the disposition of the lands.
5. A treaty of peace and friendship was made at St. Louis, June 3, 1816, between the chiefs and warriors of that part of the Winnebagoes residing on the Wisconsin river. In this treaty the tribe state that they have separated themselves from the rest of their Nation; that they, for themselves and those they represent, confirm to the United States all and every cession of land heretofore made by their Nation, and every contract and agreement, as far as their interest extended.
6. On the 19th of August, 1825, at Prairie du Chien, a treaty was made with the Sioux, Chippewas, Sacs and Foxes, Winnebagoes, Ottawas and Pottawattamies, by which the boundary between the two first Nations was agreed upon; also between the Chippewas, Winnebagoes and other tribes.
7. Another treaty was held Aug. 5, 1826, at Fond du Lac of Lake Superior, a small settlement on the St. Louis river, in Itasca Co., Minn., with the same tribes, by which the previous treaty was confirmed in respect to boundaries, and those of the Chippewas was defined, as a portion of the same was not completed at the former treaty.
8. A treaty was made and concluded Aug. 1, 1827, at Butte des Morts, between the United States and the Chippewa, Menomonee and Winnebago tribes, in which the boundaries of their tribes were defined; no cession of lands was made.
9. A treaty was made at Green Bay, Aug. 25, 1828, with the Winnebagoes, Pottawattamies and other tribes. This treaty was made to remove the difficulties which had arisen in consequence of the occupation by white men of that portion of the mining country in the southwestern part of Wisconsin which had not been ceded to the United States. A provisional boundary was provided, and privileges accorded the government to freely occupy their territory until a treaty should be made for the cession of the same. This treaty was simply to define the rights of the Indians, and to give the United States the right of occupation.
10. Two treaties were made at Prairie du Chien on the 29th of July, 1829, and Aug. 1, 1829. At the first date, with the Chippewas, Ottawas and Pottawattamies, by which these Nations ceded all their lands which they claimed in the northwestern part of Illinois; and at the latter date with the Winnebagoes, by which that Nation ceded and relinquished all their right, title and claim to all their lands south of the Wisconsin river, thus confirming the purchase of the lead-mine region. Certain grants were made to individuals, which grants were not to be leased or sold by the grantees.
By this important treaty, about 8,000,000 acres of land were added to the public domain. The three tracts ceded, and forming one whole, extended from the upper end of Rock river to the mouth of the Wisconsin, from latitude 41 degrees 30 minutes to latitude 43 degrees 15 minutes on the Mississippi. Following the meanderings of the river, it was about 240 miles from west to east, extending along the Wisconsin and Fox rivers, affording a passage across the country from the Mississippi to Lake Michigan. The south part of the purchase extended from Rock Island to Lake Michigan.
11. At the conclusion of the Black Hawk War, in 1832, for the purpose of clearing up the Indian title of the Winnebago Nation in the country, a treaty was made and concluded at Fort Armstrong, Sept. 15, 1832. All the territory claimed by this Nation lying south and east of the Wisconsin and Fox rivers of Green bay, was ceded to the United States, and no band or party of Winnebagoes was allowed to reside, plant, fish or hunt on these grounds, after June 1, 1833, or on any part of the country therein ceded.
12. The Winnebago Nation, by the chiefs and delegates, held a treaty with the government at Washington, Nov. 1, 1837. That Nation ceded all their lands east of the Mississippi, and obligated themselves to remove, within eight months after the ratification of the treaty, to certain lands west of the Mississippi which were conveyed to them by the treaty of Sept. 21, 1832.
On the day we delivered the goods to the Winnebagoes, after the Indians were all seated on the ground in rows, the chiefs on the highest spot in the center, on benches, clothed in the most sumptuous manner; where they could see and be seen to the best advantage; every tribe by itself; the half-breeds in one place, the full whites in another. As I passed through the open spaces between the ranks, my attention was forcibly drawn to a particular spot by a constant snarling, hissing noise of some miserable human being, whom, on approaching I ascertained to be an Indian woman, shriveled, haggard and old, though remarkably neat in her person and dress. She appeared to be about sixty years of age, and scolded incessantly. Some of the goods placed before her, as her share of them, she complained of as being too fine; others as being too coarse; some cost too much, while others were quite too cheap, and none of them seemed to please her. Wishing, if possible, to please all of them, and especially the ladies; actuated by the best of motives, I endeavored by every argument in my power to satisfy her, that so far as I could do anything towards it, great care had been taken in the distribution to do justice to every individual. I told her that her great father, the President, had specially ordered me, so far as in me lay, to please all, and to see that none went home dissatisfied. At that moment she returned upon me a volley of epithets too degrading to be repeated, even though applied to myself, as I felt conscious of not deserving them. Turning around to some females who were politely sitting on the ground behind me, I learned the fault finder was an old maid, (unmarried men at sixty years of age I will call bachelors, but ladies never), and that the only distinguishing mark of attention she had ever received from any man was a smart blow with a flat hand on her right ear.
As there is no law regulating taste, and sometimes no rational way of accounting for some of its freaks; and as some sights are the aversion of some persons, while the appearance of other objects is equally disagreeable to others; and as I never could endure the ideas conveyed to my mind by a rattlesnake, a heartless politicion, an iceberg and a cold-hearted woman, I turned away from her in disgust, and never saw her more nor inquired her name, for fear I should remember it. She was the only person who left the treaty ground dissatisfied with the commissioners. To please her it was utterly impossible.
Seated, as I said, upon rising ground on benches, clad in blankets, either red or green; covered with handsome fur hats, with three beautiful ostrich plumes in each hat; dressed in ruffled calico shirts, leggins and moccasins, all new, and faces painted to suit the fancy of each individual, who held in his hand a new rifle, adorned too, with silver brooches, silver clasps on every arm, and a large medal suspended on each breast; the chiefs, principal warriors and head men, to the number of forty-two, sat during the two hours after all the goods had been delivered to the Nation.
Every individual of both sexes in the Nation had lying directly before the person on the ground the share of the goods belonging to the individual. Great pains had been taken to give each, such, and just so many clothes as would be suitable for the owner to wear during the year to come. The clothes were cut so as to correspond exactly with the size of the owner. The pile of clothes for each person was nearly two feet in thickness, the sight of which entirely overcame with joy our red friends, and they sat, during two hours, in the most profound silence, not taking off their eyes one moment from the goods, now their own. For the first time during my constant intercourse of several weeks with these interesting sons and daughters of the forest, as I passed repeatedly through their ranks, not an eye appeared to see me, not an ear to hear my heavy tread, not a tongue, as always heretofore, repeated the endearing name of "Oconee Kairake." (the good chief), which their kind partiality had given me on my first landing at Prairie du Chien. Their minds were entirely overcome with joy.
The day being far spent, and, as the landing of the canoes, in which they were about to depart, would necessarily occupy some little time, I informed the chiefs and principal men that the time had arrived when we should part to meet no more; that the great gun at the fort would soon be fired to do them honor. With one accord they all arose, and shaking me heartily by the hand, many of them shedding tears on the occasion, they one and all invited me to visit them at their respective places of abode. In a shrill tone of voice Nankaw issued his orders for every individual to arise, take up his or her goods, and repair to the beach of the river near at hand, and there await the signal from the fort for their embarkation.
In fifteen minutes they were all seated on the sands by the river's edge, where they all sat in breathless silence awaiting the signal, which was soon given. As soon as that was given each chief came forward, shook me again cordially by the hand, accompanied by the warmest protestations of friendship. In a few moments more they were off, covering a considerable surface with their canoes, each one of which carried its flag of some sort floating in the gentle breeze, which ruffled the surface of the Mississippi.
The Chippewas, Ottawas and Pottawattamies had received their goods in the same manner as the Winnebagoes; had been treated precisely in the same way, and three guns, one for each Nation, had given them signal to depart, and they had parted with me in the same kind and affectionate manner.
After the departure of the above named Indians, we had the Sauks and Foxes still with us, with whom we had orders to hold a council to ascertain from them "if they would sell their mineral lands, situated west of the Mississippi?" --- and if they would sell them, upon what terms?"
Gen. M'Neil, who was in command as a military officer in this section of country, addressed these tribes and was answered by Keokuk on the part of the Sauks, and by Morgan for the Foxes. I regret that the injunction of secrecy rests on these speeches in the United States Senate; otherwise I should take great pleasure in laying them before the reader. Keokuk, in particular, made one of the best speeches I ever heard, and it was admired as such by several members of the Senate. Keokuk, on the part of these Indians, complained to us of certain white men who had settled on the Indian lands along the Mississippi in order to supply persons navigating the river with necessaries, such as poultry, milk, butter, eggs, and above all, cordwood for the steamboats. He complained that the United States had cultivated lands as a garden for the garrison at Prairie du Chien --- had erected a mill without leave, on Indian land --- and had not fulfilled former treaties with them.
Making them liberal presents, we naturally deferred the whole subject in discussion for the consideration of the government of the United States to act on it; and I take pleasure in saying the government has, since that time, done its duty to these sons of the forest.
After arranging all matters with them as well as we could, which occupied several days, they were dismissed in a very friendly manner, as all other Indians had been already, and they immediately descended the river for their homes.
Before leaving this place I wish to make a few remarks of a general nature.
Though I neither am, nor ever pretended to be a military man, yet I venture a few remarks on some of the military establishments in the northwest.
The fort on Rock Island is commanded by hills on both sides of it, and could not stand an hour against an enemy with cannon posted on the heights.
Why this fort was placed here where it is, no man of sense can tell, if the British were to be the attacking enemy. If this work was intended to protect this frontier against Indians it is in so dilapidated a state that by crossing on the island above the fort, or gliding along in their canoes under the western side of the island, which forms the outside of the fort, the Indians could in any dark night make themselves masters of the garrison in fifteen minutes. Whenever they please they can collect at this point in ten days 4000 warriors, to contend with 400 soldiers. There is no regular mail connecting this post with the United States, and war might be declared for three months, in some seasons of the year, without the garrison's knowing it.
There is a postoffice established here, and in summer the officers sometimes go to Galena for their papers and letters, 100 miles above them --- and sometimes they go to Springfield, in the Sangamo country, a distance of seventy miles perhaps, for their letters. The officers must go themselves, as the soldiers, if permitted to go, would desert the service. Cut off from all the world, that is, the civilized world, during six months of the year, the officers and soldiers lead a life as dull as need be. The officers who have families have established a school for their children, which is doing very well.
Ascending the Mississippi, 200 miles or more above Rock Island, we arrive at Fort Crawford, at Prairie du Chien. This post like that at Rock Island, stands near the Mississippi on its eastern shore, and is entirely and completely commanded by the hills on each side of the river. It enjoys, too, a situation so low that nearly every summer, during the dog days, its site is under water from six to ten feet in depth, from the overflowing of the river.
This work is in so dilapidated a state that I presume it is now abandoned for another site somewhat more elevated but nearer the high hill that will forever command it, just east of it. Maj. Garland pointed out to me the spot where he supposed a new fort would be erected.
There is a propriety in placing a military post somewhere, at or near the mouth of the Wisconsin, in order to form a line of posts situated on Green bay, where there is a fort --- and in the interior, at the spot where Fort Winnebago is; but what consideration could have induced the government to place a garrison at St. Peters, 300 miles and more beyond a single white settlement --- unconnected, too, with any other post in the very heart of the Indian country, I am unable to determine. If this post was intended to strengthen this frontier, it certainly weakens it to the amount of the force stationed there added to an amount of force enough to succor and defend it. If the object was to station a garrison where an intercourse with the Indians, for the purposes of trade, was sought, Lake Pepin, far below it, is the place where it should have been located. As it is, it so happens often that the officers and others who pass and repass between Prairie du Chien and St. Peters are taken prisoners on the route by the Indians. Unless some one wished to get a good governmental job by getting this post established, then I cannot account for this strange location, and I am equally at a loss to account for the continuance of this worse than useless establishment where it is.
All the officers in the Indian country, who have been there ten years, ought instantly to be relieved by others. Lieut. Col. Z. Taylor, has been in the Indian country constantly with his family, about twenty years. Here he and his lady, who were bred in the most polished and refined society, have been compelled to rear, as well as they could, a worthy and most interesting family of children. Col. Taylor commands Fort Crawford, at Prairie du Chien. Dr. Beaumont and his amiable and accomplished lady; Maj. Garland and his, belonging to this garrison, are doing the same. It is an interesting sight, to see such persons, located as they are, in a fort, on the very verge of civilized life, educating a family of young children. The situation of delicate females, belonging to some of the best families in the Nation, reared in tenderness, amidst all the luxuries and refinements of polished society, now living in a fort, calls for our sympathy and admiration of their fortitude, which enables them to bear with all the ills, and overcome all the difficulties attendant on their mode of living. When I was very unwell, from exposure, miserable water, and the worst of cookery, and worn down too by fatigue of body and mental suffering, I always found sympathy, food that I could eat, and smiles and kindness which touched my heart, in the families I have named, nor can I ever forget the females belonging to the families of Mr. Rolette and of Judge Lockwood, at Prairie du Chien. Without their kindness towards me, I must have perished. I do not deny my fondness for woman, because I know that in cases of distress and suffering, her sympathy and cheering voice, infuses into man new life, new vigor, and new fortitude, and he marches onward with redoubled energy, to climb over every alps that is placed in his way. Living, as these ladies do, amidst dangers, in an Indian country, they are familiarized with them and their animating voice is worth an army of men. I never can forget them, nor their families while I live. Would the government hear my feeble voice, such officers would not be compelled, with their families, to spend all their days, in an Indian country, while others who have known no suffering in the service, are attending levees and gallanting about the ladies at Washington City.
There is something wrong in all this, that I hope will be rectified yet.
At each of the military posts, the officers have established a library and a reading room, at their own expense. Their books consist of useful works, connected with their pursuits. History, geography, mathematics, chemistry and scientific books, are in the library, and the officers and their families are well read in them all. Though they may be uninformed as to the passing events, at the very moment they occur, yet, at unequal periods, their regular files of all the best newspapers published in the United States, are received and read with care. The National Intelligencer, National Gazette, all the literary periodicals, worth reading, are carefully perused.
The young officers were all educated at West Point Academy, and whenever I met one of them, I always found a gentleman, and man of science, brave, active, vigorous, energetic, high minded, honorable, strictly honest and correct in all his deportment. He claimed all that belonged to him, and not one tittle more, of any one. These officers, belonging to the first families in the Nation, educated in the very best manner, are induced by their self respect, to conduct themselves in the very best manner on all occasions. They fear nothing but disgrace, originating in their own bad conduct, and they scrupulously avoid it everywhere, and at all times. As officers, as gentlemen and as men, I feel proud of them as my countrymen.
I pray them to accept this testimony in their favor, as a small payment towards a large sum, justly due to them for their good conduct in every part of the Union where I have had the pleasure of meeting with them. My only regret is, that this honest, heartfelt approbation of them is all I have it in my power to bestow upon persons so worthy. Those who are in actual service on the Indian frontier, deserve more pay than they receive, in a country where everything is so extravagantly dear. Congress ought to remember these worthy men, and make future provision for them, and to Congress I submit their case. While those who shine in every fashionable circle at Washington, under the eye of Congress, are well paid for their services, it is to be hoped that others, who undergo nothing but hardships, will not be forgotten, as I know they will not be by the Senate.
Having completed all our business of a public nature, so far as we could at this place, about the middle of August, as near as I now remember, we concluded to give our friends here a ball on the evening preceding our leaving them. It was attended by all of the respectable part of the people in the garrison and in the village. It was a most interesting scene. Within the council house, where the civilized people were assembled, might be seen persons of both sexes, as polished and as refined in their manners, as well bred, and educated as well too, as any person in the United States; and at the same moment might be seen on the outside of the house, at the doors and windows, looking on and occasionally dancing by themselves, by way of experiment, or to show what they could do as dancers in the open air, as motley a group of creatures, (I can scarcely call them human beings) as the world ever beheld. They are a race peculiar to those parts of the upper Mississippi, where settlements were originally made by the French, soon after the conquest of Canada by the English, under Gen. Wolf. They are of a mixed breed, and probably more mixed than any other human beings in the world; each one consisting of negro, Indian, French, English, American, Scotch, Irish and Spanish blood; and I should rather suspect some of them to be a little touched with the prairie wolf. They may fairly claim the vices and faults of each and all the above named Nations and animals, without even one redeeming virtue.
The reader will see that we were on the very confines of civilized and savage life.
The officers and their families from Fort Crawford, and the best families in the Prairie, were all very happy, and we parted with them all in friendship, and retired to rest at about midnight.
We finally left Mackinack for our destination on the Mississippi, on the 1st of July. The convocation to which we were now proceeding, was for the purpose of settling internal disputes between the tribes, by fixing the boundaries to their respective territories, and thus laying the foundation of a lasting peace on the frontiers. And it marks an era in the policy of our negotiations with the Indians, which is memorable. No such gathering of the tribes had ever before occurred, and its results have taken away the necessity of any in the future, so far as relates to the lines on the Mississippi.
We encountered head winds, and met with some delay in passing through the straits into Lake Michigan, and after escaping an imminent hazard or being off into the open lake in a fog, reached Green Bay on the 4th. The journey up the Fox river, and its numerous portages, was resumed on the 14th, and after having ascended the river to its head, we crossed over the Fox and Wisconsin portage, and descending the latter with safety, reached Prairie du Chien on the 21st, making the whole journey from Mackinack in twenty-one days.
We found a very large number of various tribes assembled. Not only the village, but the entire banks of the river for miles above and below the town, and the island in the river, was covered with their tents. The Dakotahs, with their high-pointed buffalo skin tents, above the town, and their decorations and implements of flags, feathers, skins and personal "braveries," presented the scene of Bedouin encampment.
Wanita, the Yankton chief, had a most magnificent robe of the buffalo, curiously worked with dyed porcupine's quills and sweet grass, a kind of war flag, made of eagles' and vultures' large feathers, presented quite a martial air. War clubs and lances presented almost every imaginable device of paint, but by far the most elaborate thing was their pipes of red stone, curiously carved, and having flat wooden handles of some four feet in length, ornamented with the scalps of the red-headed woodpecker and male duck, and the tail feathers of birds artificially attached by strings and quill work, so as to hang in the figure of a quadrant. But the most elaborately wrought part of the devices consisted of dyed porcupine quills, arranged as a kind of aboriginal mosaic.
The Winnebagoes, who speak a cognate dialect of the Dacotah, were encamped near; and resembled them in the style of lodges, arts and general decorations.
The Chippewas presented the more usually known traits, manners and customs of the great Algonquin family --- of whom they are indeed the best representatives. The tall and warlike bands from the sources of the Mississippi --- from La Point, in Lake Superior --- from the valleys of the Chippewa and St. Croix rivers, and the Rice lake region of Lac du Flambeau, and of Sault Ste. Marie, were well represented.
The cognate tribe of the Menomonees, and Pottawattamies and Ottawas from Lake Michigan, assimilated and mingled with the Chippewas. Some of the Iroquois of Green Bay were present.
But no tribes attracted as intense a degree of interest as the Iowas, and the Sac and Foxes --- tribes of radically diverse languages, yet united in a league against the Sioux. These tribes were encamped on the island, or opposite coast. They came to the treaty ground, armed and dressed as a war party. They were all armed with spears, clubs, guns and knives. Many of the warriors had a long tuft of red horse hair tied at their elbows, and bore a necklace of grizzly bears' claws. Their head dress consisted of red-dyed horsehair, tied in such manner to the scalp lock as to present the shape of the decoration of a Roman helmet. The rest of the head was completely shaved and painted. A long iron shod lance was carried in the hand. A species of baldric supported part of their arms. The azian, moccasin and leggins constituted a part of their dress. They were, indeed, nearly nude and painted. Often the print of a hand in white clay, marked the back or shoulders. They bore flags of feathers. They beat drums. They uttered yells at definite points. They landed in compact ranks. They looked the very spirit of defiance. Their leader stood as a prince, majestic and frowning. The wild, native pride of man, in the savage state flushed by success in war, and confident in the strength of his arm, was never so fully depicted to my eyes, and the forest tribes of the continent may be challenged to have ever presented a spectacle of bold daring, and martial prowess, equal to their landing.
Their martial bearing, their high tone, and whole behavior during their stay in and out of council, was impressive, and demonstrated, in an eminent degree, to what a high pitch of physical and moral courage, bravery and success in war may lead a savage people. Keokuk, who led them, stood with his war lance, high crest of feathers, and daring eye, like another Coriolanus, and when he spoke in council, and at the same time shook his lance at his enemies, the Sioux, it was evident that he wanted but an opportunity to make their blood flow like water. Wapelo, and other chiefs backed him, and the whole array, with their shaved heads and high crest of red horse hair, told the spectator plainly, that each of these men held his life in his hand, and was ready to spring to the work of slaughter at the cry of their chief.
Gen. William Clark from St. Louis, was associated with Gen. Cass in this negotiation. The great object was to lay the foundation of a permanent peace by establishing boundaries. Day after day was assigned to this, the agents laboring with the chiefs, and making themselves familiar with Indian bark maps and drawings. The thing pleased the Indians. They clearly saw that it was a benevolent effort for their good, and showed a hearty mind to work in the attainment of the object. The United States asked for no cession. Many glowing harangues were made by the chiefs, which gave scope to their peculiar oratory, which is well worth the preserving. Mongazid, of Fond du Lac, Lake Superior, said: "When I heard the voice of my Great Father coming up the Mississippi valley calling me to this treaty, it seemed as a murmuring wind; I got up from my mat where I sat musing, and hastened to obey it. My pathway has been clear and bright. Truly it is a pleasant sky above our heads this day. There is not a cloud to darken it. I hear nothing but pleasant words. The raven is not waiting for his prey. I hear no eagle cry, come let us go. The feast is ready --- the Indian has killed his brother."
When nearly a whole month had been consumed in these negotiations, a treaty of limits was signed, which will long be remembered in the Indian reminiscences. This was on the 19th of August, 1825, vide Indian Treaties p. 371. It was a pleasing sight to see the explorer of the Columbia, in 1806, and the writer of the proclamation of the army that invaded Canada in 1812, uniting in a task boding so much good to the tribes whose passions and trespasses on each others lands kept them perpetually at war.
"Tis war alone that gluts the Indian's mind, As eating meats, inflames the tiger kind. ---Hute.
At the close of the treaty, an experiment was made on the moral sense of the Indians, with regard to intoxicating liquors, which was evidently of too refined a character for their just appreciation. It had been said by the tribes that the true reason for the commissioners of the United States government speaking against the use of ardent spirits by the Indians, and refusing to give them, was not a sense of its bad effects, so much, as the fear of the expense. To show them that the government was above such a petty principle, the commissioner had a long row of tin camp kettles, holding several gallons each, placed on the grass, from one end of the council house to the other, and then, after some suitable remarks, each kettle was spilled out in their presence. The thing was evidently ill relished by the Indians. They loved the whisky better than the joke.
Imposter. --- Among the books which I purchased for Gen. Cass, at New York, was the narrative of one John Dunn Hunter. I remember being introduced to the man, at one of my visits to New York, by Mr. Carter. He appeared to be one of those anomalous persons of easy good nature, without much energy or will, and little or no moral sense, who might be made a tool of. It seems no one in New York was taken in by him, but having wandered over to London, the booksellers found him a good subject for a book, and some hack there, with considerable cleverness, made him a pack-horse for carrying a load of stuff about America's treatment of the Indians. It was called a "captivity," and he was made to play the part of an adventurer among the Indians, somewhat after the manner of John Tanner. Cass reviewed the book on our route and at the Prairie for the North American, in an article which created quite a sensation, and will be remembered for its force and eloquence. He first read to me some of these glowing sentences while on the portages of the Fox. It was continued, during the leisure hours of the conferences, and finally the critique was finished, after his visiting the place and the person, in Missouri, to which Hunter had alluded as his sponsor in baptism. The man denied all knowledge of him. Hunter was utterly demolished, and his book shown to be as great a tissue of misrepresentation as that of Salmanazar himself.
August 21st the party separates. I had determined to return to the Sault by way of Lake Superior, through the Chippewa river. But, owing to the murder of Finley and his men at its mouth in 1824, I found it impossible to engage men at Prairie du Chien, to take that route. I determined, therefore, to go up the Wisconsin, and by the way of Green bay. For this purpose, I purchased a light canoe, engaged men to paddle it, and laid in provisions and stores to last to Green Bay. Having done so, I embarked about 3 o'clock PM, descending the majestic Mississippi, with spirits enlivened by the hope of soon rejoining friends far away. At the same time, Mr. Holliday left for the same destination, in a separate canoe. On reaching the mouth of the Wisconsin, we entered that broad tributary, and found the current strong. We passed the point of rocks called Petit Gris, and encamped at Grand Gris.
Several hours previous to leaving the Prairie, a friend handed me an enveloped packet, saying, "read it when you get to the mouth of the Wisconsin." I had no conception what it related to, but felt great anxiety to reach the place mentioned. I then opened it, and read as follows: "I cannot separate from you without expressing my grateful acknowledgments for the honor you have done me, by connecting my name with your Narrative of Travels in the Central Portions of the Mississippi Valley, etc." Nothing could have been more gratifying or unexpected.
22d. A fog in the valley detained us till 5 o'clock AM. After traveling about two hours, Mr. Holliday's canoe was crushed against a rock. While detained in repairing it, I ordered my cook to prepare breakfast. It was now 9 o'clock, when we again proceeded, till the heat of noon much affected the men. We pushed our canoes under some overhanging trees, where we found fine clusters of ripe grapes.
In going forward, we passed two canoes of Menomonees, going out on their fall hunt, on the Chippewa river. These people have no hunting grounds of their own, and are obliged to the courtesy of neighboring Nations for a subsistence. They are the most erratic of all our tribes, and may be said to be almost nomadic. We had already passed the canoes, when Mr. Lewis, the portrait painter, called out stoutly behind us, from an island in the river, "Oh! Ho!" I did not know but there was some other breaking of the canoe, or worse disaster, and directed the men to put back. "See, see," said he, "that fellow's nose! Did you ever see such a protuberance?" It was one of the Menomonees from Butte des Morts, with a globular irregular lump on the end of his nose, half as big as a man's fist. Lewis' artistic risibles were at their height, and he set to work to draw him. I could think of nothing appropriate, but Sterne and Strasbourg.
23d. A heavy fog detained us at Caramanis village till near 6 AM. The fog, however, still continued so thick as to conceal objects at twenty yards distance. We consequently went cautiously. Both this day and yesterday we have been constantly in sight of Indian canoes on their return from the treaty. Wooden canoes are exclusively used by the Winnebagoes. They are pushed along with poles.
We passed a precipitous range of hills near Pine creek, on one of which is a cave, called by our boatmen, L'diable au Port. This superstition of peopling dens and other dark places with the "arch fiend," is common. If the "old serpent" has given any proofs to the French boatmen of his residence here, I shall only hope that he will confine himself to this river, and not go about troubling quiet folks in the land of the lakes.
At Pine river we went inland about a mile to see an old mine, probably the remains of French enterprise, or French credulity. But all its golden ores had flown, probably frightened off by the old fellow of L'diable au Port. We saw only pits dug in the sand overgrown with trees.
Near this spot in the river, we overtook Shingabowossin and his party of Chippewas. They had left the prairie on the same day that we did, but earlier. They had been in some dread of the Winnebagoes, and stopped on the island to wait for us.
In passing the channel of Detour, we observed many thousand tons of white rock lying in the river, which had lately fallen from the bank, leaving a solid perpendicular precipice. This rock, banks and ruins is like all the Wisconsin valley rocks --- a very white and fine sandstone.
We passed five canoes of Menomonees, on their way to hunt on Chippewa river, to whom I presented some powder, lead and flour. They gave me a couple of fish, of the kind called pe-can-o by the Indians.
24th. We were again detained by the fog till half past 5 AM, and after a hard day's fatiguing toil, I encamped at 8 o'clock PM, on a sandy island in the center of the Wisconsin. The water in the river is low, and spreads stragglingly over a wide surface. The very bed of the river is moving sand. While supper was preparing I took from my trunk a towel, clean shirt and a cake of soap, and spent half an hour in bathing in the river upon the clean yellow sand. After this grateful refreshment, I sank sweetly to repose in my tent.
25th. The fog dispersed earlier this morning than usual. We embarked a few minutes after 4 AM, and landed for breakfast at 10. The weather now was quite sultry, as indeed it has been during the greater part of every day since leaving Tipesage --- i.e. the prairie. Our route this day carried us through the most picturesque and interesting part of the Wisconsin, called the Highlands or River Hills. Some of these hills are high, with precipitous faces towards the river. Others terminate in round, grassy knobs, with oaks dispersed about the sides. The name is supposed to have been taken from this feature. 7 Generally speaking, the country has a bald and barren aspect. Not a tree has apparently been cut upon its banks, and not a village is seen to relieve the tedium of an unimproved wilderness. The huts of an Indian locality seem "at random cast." I have already said these conical and angular hills present masses of white sandstone wherever they are precipitous. The river itself is almost a moving mass of white and yellow sand, broad, clear, shallow, and abounding in small woody islands and willowy sandbars.
While making these notes I have been compelled to hold my book, pencil and umbrella, the latter being indispensible to keep off the almost tropical fervor of the sun's rays. As the umbrella and book must be held in one hand, you may judge that I have managed with some difficulty; and this will account to you for many uncouth letters and much disjointed orthography. Between the annoyance of insects, the heat of the sun, and the difficulties of the way, we had incessant employment.
At 3 o'clock PM we put ashore for dinner in a very shaded and romantic spot. Poetic images were thick about us. We sat upon mats spread upon a narrow carpet of grass between the river and a high perpendicular cliff. The latter threw its broad shade far beyond us. This strip of land was not more than ten feet wide, and had any fragments of rock fallen, they would have crushed us. But we saw no reason to fear such an event, nor did it at all take from the relish of our dinner. Green moss had covered the face of the rock and formed a soft velvet covering, against which we leaned. The broad and cool river ran at our feet. Overhanging trees formed a grateful bower around us. Alas, how are those to be pitied who prefer palaces built with human hands to such sequestered scenes. What perversity is there in the human understanding to quit the delightful and peaceful abodes of nature, for noisy towns and dusty streets.
"To me more dear, congenial to my heart, One native charm than all the gloss of art."
At a late hour in the evening we reached the Wisconsin portage, and found Dr. Wood, USA, encamped there. He had arrived a short time before us, with four Indians and one Canadian in a canoe, on his way to St. Peter's. He had a mail in his trunk, and I had reason to believe I should receive letters, but to my sore disappointment I found nothing. I invited Dr. Wood to supper, having some ducks and snipes to offer in addition to my usual stock of solids, such as ham, venison and buffalo tongues.
Galena stands on the land we afterwards purchased of the Indians, and is the largest town in Illinois. When we arrived there it had been settled about three years. It contained several taverns, a considerable number of stores, about a dozen lawyers, and four or five physicians, with little to do, as the country is healthy. There were three religious congregations in the place --- Methodists, Roman Catholics and Presbyterians. The town is built on the side hill, is the form of a crescent, on the north side of Fever river, and contains, perhaps, 1000 inhabitants. It is a seat of justice of Jo Daviess Co., Ill., and is situated in latitude about 42 degrees, 30 minutes north. It contains at all times very large quantities of lead, brought here either as rent to the government, or for sale to the merchants. The superintendent of the mines and his assistant, Maj. Campbell, live here. The latter gentleman and his amiable and interesting lady had been with us on our passage from St. Louis, and they were happy to find themselves at the end of as disagreeable a journey as was ever made on these waters.
Numerous groceries appeared in the town, to us, and two billiard tables were occupied by persons who wished to amuse themselves at billiards.
Mr. James Barnes, formerly of Chillicothe, Ohio, kept an excellent boarding house, and I found many old acquaintances in the town, enjoying the best of health, and they appeared cheerful and happy.
Here we learned that a large body of Indians had already been assembled at Prairie du Chien, for some time, and were in readiness to meet us. Knowing the necessity of supplying them with food, that ours would not reach us for sometime yet, and knowing this to be the last opportunity we should find to purchase any food, we purchased 500 bushels of corn, and loading all we could convey, we left this beautiful town on the next day, and departed for our final destination, where we arrived about the middle of July, 1829.
As soon as we were discovered by our red friends, a few miles below the fort, opposite to their encampment, they fired into the air about 1500 rifles, to honor us. Our powder had become wet, and, to our extreme mortification and regret, we could not answer them by our cannon. Having fired their arms, some ran on foot, some rode on their small horses furiously along over the prairie to meet us where we landed. Amidst the motley group of thousands, of all ages, sexes, classes of society, colors and conditions of men, women and children, who met us on the wharf --- Nawkaw and Hoochopekah, with their families, eagerly seized my hand, and I was happy, indeed, to meet them here. During twenty years I had seen them several times, and they recognized me in a moment, among the crowd, and assured me of their friendship and good wishes. These chiefs of the Winnebagoes and their families pressed around me, and continued close by me until we reached the tavern where we went. There we entered into a long conversation, and they introduced me to their red friends. I assured them of my ardent friendship, and that they and their people should be dealt with, not only justly but liberally; that the President, their great father, was their friend, a warrior like them, and never would do them any injury; that I wished them all to remember what I now told them, and when we finally parted, if my solemn promises thus voluntarily made to them had not been kept to the very letter, I wished them to publicly tell me so. Shaking me heartily by the hand, and assuring me of their friendship, they then appealed to Col. Menard, who heartily agreed with me in assuring them of our good intentions towards them.
Dr. Wolcott, the agent for the Chippewas, Ottawas and Pottawattamies, here met us, and he had been at incredible pains to get his Indians here, where they had been for nearly a month, perhaps. Mr. Kinzy, the sub-agent of the Winnebagoes, whose sub-agency is located at Fort Winnebago, had also come and with him all the principal persons of that Nation, residing in that direction.
All the Indians with whom we were sent to treat were represented on the ground, and all that was wanting to begin our councils we urged forward with all the energy that the officers of the government and their numerous friends could muster. The next day, in company with Gen. Street, the agent of the Winnebagoes, resident here, several sub-agents and interpreters, I met the principal men of the Winnebagoes, and we impressed upon them the necessity of keeping their young men under subjection, and arranged with them the outlines of the manner in which our business should be conducted. The talk was a long one and occupied the afternoon. Gen. Street was very zealous in the service of the government.
Gen. McNeil and his officers at the fort erected a council shade near the fort and in about three days we were ready to hold a public council, when Dr. Wolcott's Indians informed me that they could not meet in public council until an Indian was buried, and inquired of me if I objected to the burial, to which I replied that I could not object to the burial, certainly. On the next day, to my regret, I learned they would not assemble in council until the Indian was buried, and again inquired whether I was willing to have the person buried, to which question I replied in the affirmative, when I was informed that the relatives of the deceased would not consent to the burial of the murdered person until they had received a horse, as the compensation for his death. Understanding the difficulty at last, the commissioners gave the horse, the deceased was buried and the Indians agreed to meet in council next day.
I took some pains to get the murderer and the relatives of the deceased together in order to have a perfect reconciliation between them. They shook hands very cordially in appearance, but the relatives of the deceased person informed me privately afterwards that, as soon as the murderer got home with his horse and goods, they would kill him and take his property, which he could better keep than they could until then. If I am correctly informed they did as they assured me they would after their arrival in their own country. So that compounding for the murderer only procrastinated for a time the punishment of the crime.
When everything was in readiness for the opening of the council, the Indians of all the tribes and Nations on the treaty ground attended, and requested to have translated to them, severally, what we said to each tribe, which being assented to on our part, the Winnebagoes, the Chippewas, Ottawas, Pottawattamies, Sioux, Sauks, Foxes and Monomonees, half-breeds, the officers from the fort, the Indian agents, sub-agents, interpreters and a great concourse of strangers from every city in the Union; and even from Liverpool, London and Paris, were in attendance. The commissioners sat on a raised bench facing the Indian chiefs; on each side of them stood the officers of the army in full dress, while the soldiers, in their best attire, appeared in bright array on the sides of the council shade. The ladies belonging to the officers' families', and the best families in the Prairie, were seated directly behind the commissioners, where they could see all that passed and hear all that was said. Behind the principal Indians chiefs sat the common people --- first the men, then the women and children, to the number of thousands, who listened in breathless and death-like silence to every word that was uttered. The spectacle was grand and morally sublime in the highest degree to the Nations of red men who were present, and when our proposition to sell all their country to their Father had been delivered to them, they requested an exact copy of it in writing; the request was instantly complied with and the council broke up. The next day we addressed the Winnebagoes, as we had the Chippewas, etc., the day before, and at their request gave them a copy of our speech.
After counciling among themselves, the Chippewas, etc., answered favorably as to a sale, though they would do nothing yet until they had fixed on their terms.
The Winnebagoes appeared in council and delivered many speeches to us. They demanded the $20,000 worth of goods. "Wipe out your debt," was their reply, "before you run in debt again to us."
Our goods, owing to the low stage of the water, had not arrived yet, and the Indians feared we did not intend to fulfill Gov. Cass' agreement of the year before. When our goods did arrive and they saw them they then changed their tone a little; but in the meantime, great uneasiness existed, and I was often seriously advised by Nawkaw and other friends to go into the fort, as Gen. McNeil had done. Col. Menard's ill health had compelled him to leave the ground and go to Gen. Street's, five miles (the general calls it three) from the council house. Unless we left the ground, we were told by the Winnebagoes, that they "would use a little switch upon us." In plain English, they would assassinate the whole of us out of the fort. Two hundred warriors under Keokuk and Morgan, of Sauks and Foxes, arrived and began their war dance for the United States, and they brought word that thirty steamboats with cannon and United States troops, and 400 warriors of their own, were near at hand. The Winnebagoes were silenced by this intelligence, and by demonstrations, not misunderstood by them.
When Keokuk arrived, he brought two deserters from the garrison here, whom he had made prisoners on his way up the river. Quasquawma and his son-in-law, Tia-ma, came with Keokuk. It was a season of great joy with me, who placed more reliance on these friendly warriors than on all our forces. Good as our officers were, our soldiers of the army were too dissipated and worthless to be relied on one moment. Taking Keokuk aside and alone, I told him in plain English all I wanted of him, what I would do for him and what I expected from him and his good officers. He replied in good English: "I understand you sir, perfectly, and it shall all be done." It was all done faithfully, and he turned the tide in our favor.
The goods arrived and also our provisions; Col. Menard's and Gen. McNeil's health were restored and they appeared again at the council house and everything wore a new aspect. They approved of all I had done in their temporary absence.
On the 29th of July, 1829, we concluded our treaty with the Chippewas, Ottawas and Pottawattamies.
On the 1st day of August a treaty was concluded with the Winnebagoes.
So the treaties were executed at last, and about 8,000,000 acres of land added to our domain, purchased from the Indians. Taking the three tracts, ceded, and forming one whole, it extends from the upper end of Rock Island to the mouth of the Wisconsin; from latitude 41 degrees, 30 minutes, to latitude 48 degrees, 15 minutes, on the Mississippi. Following the meanderings of the river, it is called 240 miles from south to north. It extends along the Wisconsin and Fox rivers, from west to east, so as to give us a passage across the country from the Mississippi to Lake Michigan. The south part of the purchase extends from Rock Island to Lake Michigan south of the Wisconsin, the Indians now own only reservations where they live, which, as soon as the white people settle on all the ceded lands, will be sold to us, and the Indians will retire above the Wisconsin, or cross the Mississippi, where the bear, the beaver, the deer and the bison invite them. The United States now owns all the country on the east side of the Mississippi, from the Gulf of Mexico to the mouth of the Wisconsin.
When I have crossed Rock river, after having passed over the interior of the ceded country, I will describe it more particularly.
It remains for me to make a few remarks upon the country along the Mississippi from Fort Edwards upward, and briefly describe Prairie du Chien.
Ascending the Mississippi, the country appeared to rise up out of the river at Fort Edwards, and the hills assume a greater elevation still, at Du Buque's mine and tomb not far from Galena. From thence upwards, the bottom lands are narrow, the river turns towards the northwest and becomes very crooked, bounded by high hills. Cassville, thirty miles below Prairie du Chien, stands on a narrow bottom, where an opening into the mineral country, in the direction of Mineral Point, presents itself. This easy passage down to the river has located a town here of a few houses, consisting of a tavern, a storehouse for the lead, belonging to the United States; and here a government sub-agent to collect and receive the government's share of lead resides, Maj. Beal.
Opposite to the mouth of the Wisconsin stands Pike's hill, lofty and abrupt, and just above this place, on the eastern bank of the river, begins the low prairie ground on which Fort Crawford and the village of Prairie du Chien stand. The town begins to show itself three miles above the Wisconsin, and extends upwards about nine miles, where it ends. The river is full of islands, and when at its highest altitude in a freshet is three miles in width, from hill to hill. Originally settled by the French, it was once a place of some importance, as the remains of old cellars and chimneys show. That importance is no more, and probably never will be again. Overflowed by high waters, and but little good land near it, without waterpower, I see little inducement to build up a town here. On the north side of the Wisconsin there is no land on which a town can be located near the Wisconsin, and the south side is preferable for it, where one will, one day, rise up. The town, though, is a seat of justice for a county of Michigan, and perhaps thirty families, besides those belonging to the garrison, reside here. No Indians reside near here, and there is no sort of need of nor propriety in having an agency, etc., here for the Winnebagoes, because Fort Winnebago is the proper place for the agency.
Gen. Street, the agent and near relative of Mr. Barry, the postmaster general, is the present agent, and his residence, I consider to be about five miles above the fort, though I am aware that Gen. Street's estimated distance is only three miles.
The water found by digging in this prairie is not always good, and that in our well was the worst I ever tasted, operating upon the bowels like glauber salts, and I suffered excessively from using it. Even the food cooked in it affected me seriously. The well in the fort is better and some persons obtain water from springs in the river when it is low. The river covers all the town and where the fort is in high water. The Mississippi rising late in the season, and subsiding in the summer solstice, this place must be sickly in summer every year, when a freshet takes such a time to appear. In 1829 there was no such rise in the river, of any amount, and the place was healthy.
The only Indians living on this river below this place and near it, are the Sauks and Foxes. The principal town of the former, on the east side of the Mississippi, is situated on the north side of Rock river, near its mouth, and in sight of the Mississippi. Not many years ago this town contained, it is said, 4000 or 5000 inhabitants. They have sold all the country east of the river Mississippi, and are withdrawing from it to a new town some ten miles west of the old town, and about the same distance from Rock Island.
The principal town of the Foxes is on the brink of the river near Du Buque's mine, and in sight of his tomb, which is erected on a high hill, where the cross on his grave can be seen from the river to a considerable distance from it. Du Buque was an Indian trader and lived and died here.
The Fox town contains twenty wigwams or upwards, and I presume some 200 Indians. I saw but a few acres of poorly cultivated corn near the town, and the wigwams looked shabby enough. Morgan is the principal warrior of this village, as Keokuk is of the Rock river town.
The Sauks and Foxes were so useful to us as auxiliaries, that I feel grateful to them and make a few remarks on their principal men who were with us.
Keokuk, the principal warrior of the Sauks, is a shrewd, politic man, as well as a brave one, and he possesses great weight of character in their national councils. He is a high-minded, honorable man, and never begs of the whites.
While ascending the Mississippi to join us, at the head of his brave troops, he met, arrested and brought along with him to Fort Crawford, two United States soldiers, who were deserting from the garrison when he met them. I informed him that for this act he was entitled to a bounty in money; to which he proudly replied, that he acted from motives of friendship towards the United states, and would accept no money for it.
Morgan is the principal warrior of the Foxes, and resides at Du Buque's mine on the western bank of the Mississippi. Though less versatility of talent belongs to him than Keokuk possesses, yet he is a brave man and fond of war. More than a year before we were in this country, this Indian general had gone to the Sioux country and killed a woman and three children of that Nation, which act produced the war, then raging between the two Nations. This act has since been dreadfully avenged by a large party, on some twenty individuals of the Foxes.
Tiama, a principal civil chief of the same tribe, is an excellent man, and son-in-law of Quasquawma. Their village is already noticed as being located on the west side of the river, opposite where we lay on an island, at the head of the lower rapids.
Quasquawma was the chief of this tribe once, but being cheated out of the mineral country, as the Indians allege, he was degraded from his rank and his son-in-law, Tiama, elected in his stead. The improvisatori, whose name has escaped my recollection, is a shrewd wit and a very good man, certainly a very amiable and agreeable one. He is highly esteemed by all his people.
Tom, a half-blood, is a great pet among the whites. He speaks prairie-wolf French and a little English, in addition to his knowledge of Indian languages.
Of the above named individuals, and several others belonging to these brave and generous allies, I brought away with me as correct a likeness as I ever saw drawn. Gratitude towards them was my motive for being at the expense of these beautiful paintings which have gone to London a year since. Like many other expenses I was necessarily put to, I have never received even one cent from the government towards them, nor have I received one cent, either for my expenses or my services at St. Louis, the lower rapids, Rock Island or Galena. I say this because it has been stated very differently, even on the floor of the House of Representatives. It is not true that all my expenses were paid by the United States; nor is it true that my services have been paid for by the government at all. In saying this, I do it in justice to myself as I would to do justice to any other injured individual, however humble in the Nation. I am even yet unpaid, but I never will condescend to beg for my pay at the doors of Congress. I did once expect very different treatment from my country.
In 1846 the citizens living contiguous to the Wisconsin river were treated to a genuine Indian scare, and as the Winnebagoes were the supposed enemies, an account in this history is properly given of the event.
In the winter of 1844-5, and while the Legislature of the State was in session at Madison, the capital, a rumor that an Indian war had broken out, came to the ears of the legislators with a thousand fearful forebodings, and producing intense excitement. At this time the militia laws had all been repealed, probably with a view to counteract the supposed influence of Gov. Doty, and the capital he might have made by the organization of the militia, and the appointment of the officers from among his friends, the majority of the Legislature being opposed to Doty. At this juncture, however, a change in the administration of the general government had changed governors, and Gen. Dodge was again at the helm of the territory. But the law which abolished the militia service with a view to hamper and trammel Doty, was now, in a time of need, fount to trammel and hamper Dodge, for though great fear was excited, that plunder and murder would be, or were actually being committed by the Indians, the governor's hands were tied by the law, which he had himself approved. The representations of the Indian disturbances made to the governor he communicated to the Assembly.
The emergency of the case was such as to call the two Houses together at an evening session, to receive the governor's message on the subject, and to devise ways and means for the public defense. And while one was looking at another, at a loss to know what to do, a member penned and offered a bill to repeal the act by which the militia organization had been abolished, and to restore the former laws upon the subject. In offering the bill which contained only a few lines, he moved a suspension of the rules, so that the bill passed at once, and was sent to the council; and by the same process, it was passed there, and in about half an hour from the time it was first offered, the governor had approved of it, and the whole militia of the territory was organized, officers and all, and measures were taken to call out a portion of it, to chastise the supposed marauders, when a second communication to the governor showed that there was no occasion for it. The first report had grown out of exaggerated statements of some white hunters, who had come in contact with some Indians in the same pursuit, and who probably took some game which the whites would have been glad to have taken; and possibly some pigs had been taken on the credit of the Indians, but this was never proven against them.
By reference to the Legislative journals, it appears that this matter happened on the last evening, Feb. 3, 1846. The governor communicated the proceedings of a meeting of the citizens of Muscoda, on the Wisconsin river, in Grant county, dated Sunday night, Feb. 1, 1846, stating as follows: "The citizens of this prairie and surrounding country, having been for the last several months annoyed and harrassed by the depredations of the Winnebago Indians, and submitted to their bullying and insults, have at length been forced to the dernier resort; to take up arms for our protection. This evening a skirmish took place between the Indians and the citizens, in which four of the former were severely, if not mortally wounded; and from the known character of the Indians, we may naturally expect more serious consequences to ensue. A true and correct statement of the occurrences of the day is substantially as follows: A number of the Indians came down the north side of the Wisconsin river to Capt. Smith's, and stole his canoe. He discovered them and called to them to bring it back, which they refused to do. The captain, with several other men, came over to this shore, found the Indians who took his boat, and chastised one or two of them with a stick, and in the melee one of his men was severely hurt with a club in the hands of one of the Indians. The Indians then ran, and the citizens, a number of whom had by this time collected, followed them a little way and returned. In a short time the Indians came back also. All the citizens having by this time assembled, Capt. James B Estes and Booth advanced towards them, unarmed, and in a peaceable manner, making friendly manifestations, all of which time the Indians threatened, by drawing their knives, throwing off their blankets, waving their guns in the air, and pointing them toward the whites. Finding it impossible to pacify or appease them they separated, and in a moment they fired upon the citizens; the next minute their fire was returned, and four of them fell." They then add, that the Indians have sent their runners to collect their scattered bands, and the whites have sent for aid; that they want the governor's assistance, and are determined to kill or drive every Indian on the Wisconsin over the Mississippi; have upwards of forty men under arms, and have chosen James B Estes for captain.
Gov. Dodge recommended the adoption of a memorial to the secretary of war, asking for a corps of dragoons to protect the frontier settlements. "In the course of half an hour," says the Madison Argus of that period, "resolutions were adopted to that effect, and the militia law of the territory revived;" and on the adjournment of the Legislature, the governor set out immediately for the scene of disturbance, but the excitement had died away and no more trouble was apprehended.
At what period the Chippewas began to occupy that portion of the country south of Lake Superior, and within the ancient limits of Crawford county, it is difficult to ascertain. Their first council fire within these limits was kindled on the Island of Magdalene, now, La Pointe --- but when, neither history or their traditions definitely inform us. Whenever it was, the Sioux occupied the main land, and I was shown points and places on the island, as well as on the main land, where the severest of battles were fought between these warlike tribes. From the best date I have the Chippewas were on this island in 1722; for about that time a trading post existed there, and how long previously is not determined. In 1665, the missionary, Claude Allouez reached Kenenana, and interposed his influence in preventing a party of young warriors from going against the Sioux; from which it would appear that Kenewana was then the western limit of the Chippewas, on the south shore of that lake. 8
After the Chippewas had gained a foothold upon the Magdalene Island, their first move "inland" was towards the head branches of the Chippewa, and resulted in planting a colony at Lake Flambeau. As early as 1659, the Chippewas were near Green bay, and west and northwest of it to the Wisconsin and Lake Superior, from which the Flambeau colony probably received accessions, and by degrees they extended their conquest down the Chippewa, until the battlefield between them and the Sioux was between the falls of Chippewa and Lake Pepin.
In the meantime this warlike and conquering people extended their excursions to the head of the lake, and up the St. Louis river; and passing the falls by a nine mile portage, they continued, to ascend that river, and the Savannah branch of it, --- and by a five mile portage reached the waters of Sandy Lake, on the Mississippi, where they planted a colony, and this region became the battle ground between them and the Sioux in that direction until the line was pushed down the river to the Sauk rapids. In 1825, when General Cass, as governor of Michigan and superintendent of Indian affairs, had a general congress of Indian Nations at Prairie du Chien, to settle the boundaries of their respective lands, a dispute arose between the Sioux and Chippewas, as to the line between them. The latter claimed to the St. Peter and the Mississippi rivers, while the former claimed to Lake Superior, and averred that their fathers had always occupied and owned the country to that point.
General Cass inquired of the Chippewas, "on what ground they claimed the country, the Sioux having occupied it before the Chippewas came to it." Upon this Hole-in-the-day, then but a young man, rose and said, "We claim it on the same ground that you claim this country from the King of England --- by conquest." "Then," said Governor Cass, "you are entitled to it." One of the most sanguine battles fought between these tribes was at the mouth of the Crow Wing river, as near as I could learn, from Indian tradition, about the year 1768. The battle lasted four days between seventy Chippewas and 400 Sioux, the most of the latter being killed. In 1843 the remains of the fortifications, such as holes dug in the ground, and breast works thrown up by the Chippewas, were plainly visible; and the affair was explained to me by William Aitkin, Esq.
The next Indian occupants of a portion of the soil in this original country, seem to have been the Sacs, (Sauks or Saukies) and the Foxes, the latter called Ottigaumies by Carver. At what time they commenced their occupation is uncertain. In 1673, and for some time before, they lived on Fox river, not far from Green bay. But in 1766, Carver found the Sauks at Sauk Prairie, and the Foxes at Prairie du Chien. And, according to his account of the time of building their village --- it being thirty years pervious to his reaching the place --- it must have been as early as 1736, and perhaps earlier. These confederated tribes, who had been like Ishmael, their hands against everybody, and, of course, in self defence, everybody's hand against them, were driven from the St. Lawrence step by step, until they were reduced in numbers, and compelled to unite their fragments of bands for mutual defence and self-protection, and settle on Fox river, fifty miles from Green bay, where in 1706, they were defeated by the French and some allied Indians, who killed and took most of them prisoners. 9 It is probable that soon after this event they moved over upon the Wisconsin river, and wrested the country from the Sioux, with whom and the Chippewas they kept a continual war, until, as Black Hawk says, in his life by Le Clerc, they discovered the beautiful country on Rock river, the occupants of which were weak and unable to defend themselves. Of this country they took possession, driving off the former occupants. This being the way this banded confederated tribe got possession of the countries they occupied, we can have the less pity for them, even if their sorrowful story of frauds practiced upon them by the whites were true.
Somewhere between 1706 and 1736, they must have moved to the Wisconsin; and they were there as late as 1790, as I was informed by Mitchael Cadotte, who showed me mounds with holes in them for breast works, about five miles north of the falls of Chippewa river, which were made by the Sacs and Foxes when warring against the Chippewas. The chief of the Foxes, who was first found by the whites at Prairie du Chien, was named Dog; and the prairie upon which he built his town, was called his, or Dog's prairie.
After the Sauks and Foxes left the Wisconsin and the country north of it, and took up their abode on Rock river and west of the Mississippi, the Winnebagoes moved from the vicinity of the lake of their name, to the country vacated by the former; at what date is uncertain. But as the Sauks and Foxes were here in 1790, and not here in 1805 when Lieut. Pike ascended the river, the Winnebagoes came here probably about the beginning of the present century. At this period the Sioux, Chippewas and Winnebagoes, were the occupants of the soil as hunting grounds. The Menomonees claiming a part of the country west of the Wisconsin, and above the Portage. In 1825 the metes and bounds of these respective claimants were settled, in a general council of all the tribes within reach; and continued so until 1837, when the Sioux and Winnebagoes sold out to the United States all of their claims east of the Mississippi, and the Chippewas sold all they claimed to it, south of 46 deg. north latitude. And within ten years the Chippewas and Menomonees have sold out the remainder of their claims, so that the Indian title to the soil is now fully extinguished.
The fur traders and missionaries were attracted to this distant quarter by nothing save the Indian settlements. There was at first no habitation of the red men at Prairie du Chien or in that immediate neighborhood. The Foxes, the Miamis, Kickapoos and Mascoutins were confederate tribes, seated east of the portage of the Wisconsin. The Sioux and Iowa tribes, somewhat similarly allied, were above and across the great river. Between these two confederations thee was a continual warfare, which kept a large district of country between them unoccupied and uninhabitable. It was a war party of Sioux, in pursuit of the Miamis, that took Hennepin prisoner. Perrot, in 1685, with difficulty prevented the capture of his post near Lake Pepin by an expedition of Foxes and their allies, who designed turning his ammunition against their hereditary enemies. The journal of Le Sueur gives further incidents of a similar nature.
The region about the mouth of the Wisconsin was notoriously infested by predatory bands and warlike expeditions from one side or the other. The efforts of the French to establish a trade with the Sioux were met at first by remonstrances from the Foxes, because their sanguinary enemies were thus supplied with fire arms and ammunition. Being unheeded, they determined to close the road to the Mississippi by way of the Wisconsin, which lay through their country, and visit vengeance upon all who attempted to pass that way. This was so far effectual, as early as 1699, that none ventured to take that route if they could avoid it. The French endeavored to chastise and bring these troublesome people to terms, and a long period of bloody opposition followed. Laperriere's expedition made its way to the Mississippi during a lull in the hostilities; their revival caused the abandonment of the enterprise, as already stated. Finally, the greater portion of the Fox tribe, if not all, withdrew from the river, which bears their name, and established themselves in the valley of the Wisconsin, about its mouth, somewhere near 1750.
Thus, instead of being attracted to the shores in this derelict region, the voyageurs and traders avoided them as much as possible, whenever they traveled the dangerous route. The licensed traders were attached to the interests of the government and made instruments of extending its territorial jurisdiction by being given a sort of quasi military command over their employes, and at places convenient for their traffic, erected block houses or stockades, which they held in the name of the king, at their own expense. These were the only posts or garrisons ever established by the French west of Green bay. There was no inducement whatever for such a post in the vicinity of the Prairie. The reference in Perrot's official minute indited at Green bay, in 1689, to the trader, De Borie Guillot, as commanding the French in the neighborhood of the Wisconsin on the Mississippi, has been assumed as evidence of the existence at that time of a post at Prairie du Chien. With reference to this assumption, it is only necessary to remark that the Iowas were the only Indians seated in the neighborhood, and they were upon the opposite side of the Mississippi, about Yellow river. If that trader had any established post, which is altogether improbable, it is neither designated by name or locality, nor referred to in any way. 10
At the beginning of the war between France and Great Britain, in 1754, the former made peace with the Foxes, some of whom subsequently enlisted under their banner. This reconciliation and the establishment of that tribe at the mouth of the Wisconsin, by opening the way for the traders, made an entire change in affairs. The place is now heard of for the first time, as the seat of a village of the Foxes, known among the traders by a name derived from that of their principal chief, Alim, or in the French language, Chien, the dog; hence, La Prairie les Chiens, signifying the Prairie of the Dogs, which has been modified to its present form, Prairie du Chien. There was no effort, however, to extend the authority of France in this direction; its attention was withdrawn and its energies concentrated to retain possession of Canada, and with the surrender of that province to the British, in 1760, all its claims upon the northwest, as far as the Mississippi, were totally abandoned.
In 1781 the Foxes sold the prairie at the mouth of the Wisconsin to some Canadian-French traders, and subsequently vacated their village, but at what precise date cannot be determined. Their withdrawal, doubtless, occurred within a few years in the course of the general migration of that Nation, by which its occupancy of the region upon the north side of the Wisconsin was abandoned, and its southern borders extended to Rock Island. Its should be remarked, however, that their bands frequented the place as long as it continued to be a place of resort for the neighboring Indian tribes for purposes of trade. The country abandoned by them was soon occupied by the Winnebagoes, from Chippewa river to the Wisconsin, except that they laid no claim to the prairie.