In 1673, Louis Joliet, accompanied by a missionary, James Marquette, and five other Frenchmen, ascended the Fox river to the portage, now Portage, Columbia Co., Wis.; crossed over to the Wisconsin river and dropped down that river to its mouth. Thence, Joliet journeyed down the Mississippi.
In the month of June, 1673, two frail birch-bark canoes glided down the current of the Wisconsin river. It was the first time the ripples on its broad bosom were stirred by the oar of a white man. The canoes bore Louis Joliet and Father James Marquette with five attendants in quest of the great river toward the west, of which the French on the upper lakes had heard from the Indians. On the seventeenth of the month (corresponding to the twenty-eighth, new style), their eager eyes beheld the Mississippi. They entered its current, as the missionary relates, turned their canoes into its channel, and with joy inexpressible, let their canoes gently glide with the water, while they sounded its depths. They observed, attentively, the peculiarities of the majestic river and the surrounding scenery as they proceeded on their voyage. Marquette's account is silent respecting the vicinity of Prairie du Chien, doubtless because everything in that direction was hidden from observation by a belt of woodland that formerly skirted the Wisconsin.
"We knew that there was, three leagues from Maskoutins, a river emptying into the Mississippi; we knew too, that the point of the compass we were to hold to reach it, was the west-south-west; but the way is so cut up by marshes and little lakes, that it is easy to go astray, especially as the river leading to it is so covered with wild oats, that you can hardly discover the channel. Hence, we had good need of our two guides, who led us safely to a portage of 2700 paces, and helped us to transport our canoes to enter this river, after which they returned, leaving us alone in an unknown country in the hands of Providence.
"We now leave the waters which flow to Quebec, a distance of 400 or 500 leagues, to follow those which will henceforth lead us into strange lands. Before embarking, we all began together a new devotion to the Blessed Virgin Immaculate, which we practiced every day, addressing her particular prayers to put under her protection both our persons and the success of our voyage. Then after having encouraged one another, we got into our canoes. The river on which we embarked is called the Meskousing; it is very broad, with a sandy bottom, forming many shallows, which rendered navigation very difficult. It is full of vine-clad islets. On the banks appear fertile lands diversified with wood, prairie and hill. Here you find oaks, walnut, whitewood, and another kind of tree with branches armed with long thorns. We saw no small game or fish, but deer and moose in considerable numbers.
"Our route was southwest, and after sailing about thirty leagues, we perceived a place which had all the appearances of an iron mine, and in fact, one of our party who had seen some before, averred that the one we had found was very good and very rich. It is covered with three feet of good earth, very near a chain of rock, whose base is covered with fine timber. After forty leagues on the same route, we reached the mouth of our river, and finding ourselves at 42 1/2 deg. north, we safely entered the Mississippi on the 17th of June, with a joy that I cannot express."
Louis Joliet, with his companion James Marquette, and the five other Frenchmen were the first white men who ever set foot upon any part of what is now Crawford county.
The next visit of any white men to Crawford county was in 1680, upon the
In 1680 La Salle, who was then on the Illinois river, was desirous to have the Mississippi explored above the point where it was first seen by Joliet; that is, above the mouth of the Wisconsin river; so he dispatched one Michael Accau, on an expedition thither; with him were Antoine Auguel and the Rev. Louis Hennepin, a recollet friar. The party proceeded down the Illinois river in April and up the Mississippi river. They were the second white men who ever saw any portion of what is, at this time, Crawford county, or who set foot upon its territory. This was in May, 1680. The leader of this party was Accau; Father Louis Hennepin wrote the account here given. It was first published in 1683.
"We set out from Fort Creve Coeur [on the Illinois river] the 29th of February, 1680, and toward evening, while descending the river Seignelay [Illinois] we met on our way several parties from Illinois returning to their village in their periaguas or gondolas loaded with meat. They would have obliged us to return, our two boatmen were strongly influenced, but as they would have had to pass by Fort Creve Coeur, where our Frenchmen would have stopped them, we pursued our way the next day, and my two men afterward confessed the design which they had entertained.
"The river Seiguelay on which we were sailing, is as deep and broad as the Seine at Paris, and in two or three places widens out to a quarter of a league. It is skirted by hills, whose sides are covered with fine, large trees. Some of these hills are half a league apart, leaving between them a marshy strip, often inundated, especially in the autumn and spring, but producing, nevertheless, very large trees. On ascending these hills you discover prairies further than the eye can reach, studded, at intervals, with groves of tall trees, apparently planted there intentionally. The current of the river is not perceptible, except in time of great rains; it is at all time navigable for large barks about a hundred leagues, from its mouth to the Illinois village, whence its course almost always runs south by west.
"On the 7th of March we found, about two leagues from its mouth, a Nation called Tamaroa, or Maroa, composed of 200 families. They would have taken us to their village lying west of the river Colbert, six or seven leagues below the mouth of the river Seignelay; but our two canoemen, in hopes of still greater gain, preferred to pass on, according to the advice I then gave them. These last Indians seeing that we carried iron and arms to their enemies, and unable to overtake us in their periaguas, which are wooden canoes, much heavier than our bark one, which went much faster than their boats, dispatched some of their young men after us by land, to pierce us with their arrows at some narrow part of the river, but in vain; for soon discovering the fire made by these warriors at their ambuscade, we promptly crossed the river, gained the other side, and encamped on an island, leaving our canoe loaded and our little dog to wake us, so as to embark more expeditiously, should the Indians attempt to surprise us by swimming across.
"Soon after leaving these Indians, we came to the mouth of the river Seignelay, fifty leagues distant from Fort Creve Coeur, and about 100 leagues from the great Illinois village. It lies between 36 deg. and 37 deg. north latitude, and consequently 120 or thirty leagues form the Gulf of Mexico.
"In the angle formed on the south by this river, at its mouth, is a flat precipitous rock, about forty feet high, very well suited for building a fort. On the northern side, opposite the rock, and on the west side beyond the river, are fields of black earth, the end of which you can not see, all ready for cultivation, which would be very advantagious for the existence of a colony. The ice which floated down from the north kept us in this place till the 12th of March, whence we continued our route, traversing the river and sounding on all sides to see whether it was navigable. There are, indeed, three islets in the middle, near the mouth of the river Seignelay, which stop the floating wood and trees from the north and form several large sand-bars, yet the channels are deep enough, and there is sufficient water for barks; large flat-boats can pass there at all times.
"The river Colbert [Mississippi] runs south-southwest, and comes from the north and northwest; it runs between two chains of mountains, very small here, which wind with the river, and in some places are pretty far from the banks, so that between the mountains and the river there are large prairies, where you often see herds of wild cattle browsing. In other places these eminences leave semi-circular spots covered with grass or wood. Beyond these mountains you discover vast plains, but the more we approached the northern side ascending, the earth did not appear to us so fertile, nor the woods so beautiful as in the Illinois country.
"This great river is almost everywhere a short league in width, and in some places, two leagues; it is divided by a number of islands covered with trees, interlaced with so many vines as to be almost impassable. It receives no considerable river on the western side except that of the Olontenta and another, which comes from the west-northwest, seven or eight leagues from the Falls of St. Anthony, of Padua. On the eastern side you meet first an inconsiderable river, and then further on another, called by the Indians Ouisconsin, or Wisconsin, which comes from the east and east-northeast. Sixty leagues up you leave it, and make a portage of half a league to reach the bay of the Puans [Green bay] by another river which, near its source, meanders most curiously. It is almost as broad as the river Seignelay, or Illinois, and empties into the river Colbert, 100 leagues above the river Seignelay.
"Twenty-four leagues above, you come to the Black river, called by the Nadouessious [Sioux], or Islati, Chabadeba, or Chabaoudeba, it seems inconsiderable. Thirty leagues higher up, you find the Lake of Tears [Pepin], which we so named because the Indians who had taken us, wishing to kill us, some of them wept the whole night, to induce the others to consent to our death. This lake which is formed by the river Colbert, is seven leagues long and about four wide; there is no considerable current in the middle that we could perceive, but only at its entrance and exit. Half a league below the Lake of Tears, on the south side, is Buffalo river, full of turtles. It is so called by the Indians on account of the numbers of buffalo found there. We followed it for ten or twelve leagues; it empties with rapidity into the river Colbert, but as you ascend it, it is always gentle and free from rapids. It is skirted by mountains, far enough off in some places to form prairies. The mouth is wooded on both sides, and is full as wide as that of the Seiguelay."
The next expedition independent of that of Accau, and down the Mississippi from the St. Croix to the Wisconsin river, and, therefore, along the western border of what is now Crawford county, was that of Daniel Greysolon DuLhut, generally known as Duluth. He and some companions, in 1680, made the journey across from Lake Superior to the Mississippi by way of Bois Brule river and the St. Croix. Upon reaching the Mississippi, he learned the fact that some Frenchmen had passed up and had been robbed and carried off by the Sioux. This was Accau and his party. These, however, he finally induced the Indians to liberate, and the whole party floated down the river to the mouth of the Wisconsin, returning by that stream to Mackinaw.
LeSueur, a Frenchman, passed up the Mississippi from the mouth of the Wisconsin in 1683; but of this voyage we have no account, only that he was on his way to the Sioux country.
Nicholas Perrot was the next to ascend the Mississippi; and his was the fourth expedition that had floated along the western border of what is now Crawford county. This was in 1684. Perrot had been appointed by the governor of Canada to command in the west, leaving Montreal with twenty men. His object was the establishing of a post on the Mississippi. He proceeded from the St. Lawrence to Green bay, and up the Fox river to the Portage; thence down the Wisconsin and up the Mississippi to Lake Pepin, on the east side of which, near its mouth, he erected a stockade.
The next year he prevented with a good deal of difficulty the capture of his post by the Fox Indians and their allies. He passed the winter of 1685-6 in his stockade, and then returned to Green bay by the same route traveled by him when going out. In 1688 he again ascended the Mississippi from the mouth of the Wisconsin to the mouth of the St. Peters, and returned by the same route to Green bay. This ended the explorations of Perrot in the valley of the Mississippi.
In the year 1700 the fifth explorer ascended the Mississippi. His name was Le Sueur, the same who had seventeen years before been among the Sioux. From the 1st of September until the 5th he advanced but fourteen leagues. It is probable he landed several times in what is now Crawford county. Le Sueur was the last to ascend the Mississippi until 1727, when Sieur La Perriere attempted a renewal of the fur trade which the governor of Canada had resolved to abandon west of Mackinaw, some time previous.
"Fort Beauharnais," on Lake Pepin, was erected by La Perriere, but it was not long occupied as a military post. The same year, a Jesuit missionary, Louis Ignatius Guignas, attempted to found a mission among the Sioux on the upper Mississippi, passing up the river for that purpose to Fort Beauharnais, but it proved a failure. He was on the Mississippi again in 1736, and at Lake Pepin, with M. de St. Pierre, but of his latter voyage little is known. From this time until the war of 1755-60, between France and Great Britain, French traders at intervals passed up the Mississippi; but during that conflict the river was totally abandoned by Frenchmen.
The first to ascend the river after Great Britain had assumed control of the country, was Jonathan Carver. In 1766 he reached the mouth of the Wisconsin, just above which he found an Indian village called La Prairies les Chiens by the French, the site of the present village of Prairie du Chien, in Crawford Co., Wis. It was inhabited by the Fox Indians. He says the name meant Dog Plains.
"It ('Prairies les Chiens') 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 the 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 interest 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 further, or return to their different homes.
"The Mississippi, at the entrance of the Wisconsin, 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.
"A little further to the west, on the contrary side, a small river flows into the Mississippi, which the French call Le Jaun Riviere, or the Yellow river. I then bought a canoe, and with two servants, one a French Canadian, and the other a Mohawk of Canada, on the 19th proceeded up the Mississippi."
"About sixty miles below this lake is a mountain remarkably situated; for it stands by itself exactly in the middle of the river, and looks as if it had slidden from the adjacent shore into the stream. It cannot be termed an island, as it rises immediately from the brink of the water to a considerable height. Both the Indians and the French call it the mountain in the river.
"One day, having landed on the shore of the Mississippi, some miles below Lake Pepin, whilst my attendants were preparing my dinner, I walked out to take a view of the adjacent country. I had not proceeded far before I came to a fine, level, open plain, on which I perceived at a little distance a partial elevation that had the appearance of an intrenchment. On a nearer inspection I had greater reason to suppose that it had really been intended for this many centuries ago. Notwithstanding it was now covered with grass, I could plainly discern that it had once been a breast work of about four feet in height, extending the best part of a mile, and sufficienly capacious to cover 5000 men. Its form was somewhat circular, and its flanks reached to the river. Though much defaced by time, every angle was distinguishable, and appeared as regular, and fashioned with as much military skill, as if planned by Vauban himself. The ditch was not visible, but I thought on examining more curiously, that I could perceive there certainly had been one. From this situation also I am convinced that it must have been for this purpose. It fronted the country, and the rear was covered by the river.; nor was there any rising ground for a considerable way that commanded it; a few straggling oaks were alone to be seen near it. In many places small tracks were across it by the feet of the elk and deer, and from the depth of the bed of earth by which it was covered, I was able to draw certain conclusions of its great antiquity. I examined all the angles and every part with great attention and have often blamed myself since for not encamping on the spot, and drawing an exact plan of it. To show that this description is not the offspring of a heated imagination, or the chimerical tale of a mistaken traveler, I find on inquiry since my return, that Mons St. Pierre, and several traders, have, at different times, taken notice of similar appearances, on which they have formed the same conjectures, but without examining them so minutely as I did. How a work of this kind could exist in a country that has hitherto (according to the general received opinion) been the seat of war to untutored Indians alone, whose whole stock of military knowledge has only, till within two-centuries, amounted to drawing the bow, and whose only breast work even at present is the thicket, I know not. I have given as exact an account as possible of this singular appearance, and leave to future explorers of these distant regions to discover whether it is a production of nature or art. Perhaps the hints I have here given might lead to a more perfect investigation of it, and give us very different ideas of the ancient state of realms that we at present believe to have been from the earliest periods only in the inhabitations of savages.
"The Mississippi below this lake flows with a gentle current, but the breadth of it very uncertain, in some places being upward of a mile, in others nor more than a quarter. This river has a range of mountains on each side throughout the whole of the way, which in particular parts approach near to it, in others lie at a greater distance. The land betwixt the mountains, and on their sides, is generally covered with grass, with a few groves of trees interspersed, near which large droves of deer and elk are frequently seen feeding. In many places pyramids of rocks appeared, resembling old ruinous towers; at other amazing precipices, and what is very remarkable, whilst this scene presented itself on one side, the opposite side of the same mountain was covered with the finest herbage, which gradually ascended to its summit. From thence the most beautiful and extensive prospect that imagination can form opens to your view. Verdant plains, fruitful meadows, numerous islands, and all these abounding with a variety of trees that yield amazing quantities of fruit, without care or cultivation, such as the nut-tree, the maple which produces sugar, vines loaded with rich grapes, and plum trees bending under their blooming burdens; but above all, the fine river flowing gently beneath, and reaching as far as the eye can extend, by turns attract your attention and excite your wonder."
The following excellent summary of explorations from DuLuth to Carver, is from the Illustrated Historical Atlas of Wisconsin of 1878:
"In 1680, the trader DuLuth was at the head of Lake Superior; and at the same time, LaSalle was on the Illinois river. The latter dispatched Father Louis Hennepin, with two companions to explore that river to its mouth. From this point they turned their canoe up the Mississippi, and fell into the hands of the Sioux, who led them captive to their home above the falls of St. Anthony, where they passed the winter. The following summer, 1681, Hennepin represented to his captors that he expected a party of Frenchmen at the Wisconsin with merchandise, which induced them to set out in canoes to meet the traders, the Father being permitted to follow. The party in advance, upon reaching the Wisconsin and finding no Frenchmen, retraced their course and met their prisoner with severe reproaches for deceiving them. DuLuth, hearing of these men, descended the St. Croix with five attendants and joined them on the Mississippi, whereupon taking Hennepin under his protection, the whole party proceeded down the Mississippi and by way of the Wisconsin to Green bay, stopping within a day or two's journey of the Wisconsin, to smoke some meat.
"Nicholas Perrot proceeded by this route to visit the Sioux in 1683. He was at the time, or soon afterward, commissioned by the governor of Canada to manage the interests of commerce from Green bay westward. He built a small log fort nearly opposite the mouth of Chippewa river, which he appears to have made his winter headquarters for several years. It was called the post of the Nadouessioux (Sioux). De Borie Guillot is mentioned by Charlevoix as trading near the Mississippi, whence he was recalled in 1687; and is cited by Perrot as commanding the French traders in the neighborhood of the Wisconsin on the Mississippi. LeSueur, in 1683, descended the Wisconsin and ascended the Mississippi to the Sioux in the region about St. Anthony, with whom he continued to trade at intervals until 1702. His last voyage was made from Louisiana, the governor of Canada refusing permission, having resolved to abandon the country west of Mackinaw. An attempt was made to renew the traffic with the Sioux by this route in 1727 by an expedition under the Sieur de LaPerriere, which established a post and erected a stockade on the north side of Lake Pepin. The traders reached this point at intervals for a few years; after which, it was entirely abandoned. These are all the trustworthy accounts given of this region during the French domination in the northwest. They show that the waters of the Wisconsin and the Mississippi were traversed at intervals, but do not indicate that the locality of Prairie du Chien was visited or attracted any attention. This may be explained in connection with the causes that subsequently brought it into notice.
"In 1766, Jonathan Carver visited this region with a view of ascertaining favorable situations for new settlements, and is the first traveler who mentions Prairie du Chien. He set out from Mackinaw, the most remote British post in the northwest, in the month of September, in the company of some traders. In passing down the Wisconsin, he observed upon the right bank about five miles above its mouth, at the eastern base of a pyramid of rocks, the ruins of a village of the Foxes, which had been abandoned for the better location at the Prairie du Chien. Here he found about 300 families in houses well built after the Indian manner, and pleasantly situated on a very rich soil, from which the necessaries of life were raised in abundance. The occupants had many horses of good size and shape. The peculiarities of the location are remarked, and the place is described as a summer resort for traders, who were met here annually about the month of May, by a large assemblage of the Indian tribes, both near and remote, with furs to dispose of, so that it had become a trading mart of considerable importance. While here, the different tribes, even though at war with each other, refrained from any acts of hostility, a voluntary agreement which they ever afterward observed. Sometimes, however, they proceeded to Mackinaw or Louisiana before disposing of their furs. In Carver's faithful and minute narrative, no mention is made of any French settlement or other white residents, or of fortifications, from which circumstance it is highly probable that there were none in existence. His book did not induce the progress of settlement into this region, and the British outposts were advanced no further than Mackinaw, consequently, Prairie du Chien is not again brought in notice by accounts of that period, until 1780. In June of that year, the traders had collected a lot of peltries, and deposited them at the Prairie, in charge of Charles de Langlade, a noted trader of Green Bay and Mackinaw. The American forces then occupied Illinois, and hearing reports that they were intending the capture of Prairie du Chien, the commandant at Mackinaw, sent forward an expedition to bring away the stores, in charge of John Long, lieutenant in a company of traders enrolled as militia at that post. The party consisting of twenty Canadians, and thirty-six of the Fox and Sioux tribes, proceeded in nine large birch canoes, laden with presents for the Indians at the village. Arriving on the seventh day at the mouth of the Wisconsin, they found there an array of 200 Foxes on horseback, armed with spears, bows and arrows, who at first did not seem pleased with the visitors, but after a short parley, conducted them to their village, and feasted them upon dog, bear, beaver, deer, mountain cat, and raccoon, boiled in bear's grease, and mixed with huckleberries. A council was then held, the presents were distributed, the chiefs assented to the removal of the peltries, and the visitors re-entered their canoes and moved up to the place of deposit, a log house, where they found Capt. Langlade. Three hundred packs of the peltries were placed in the canoes, the remainder, some sixty in number, they were unable to store away, and therefore burned, after which they returned to Mackinaw. The Americans never came, as anticipated. The narrative shows no material change in the place, or the course of trade since Carver's visit, except that the traders from the lakes had erected a building, in which their furs could be temporarily lodged and guarded."
We find no further accounts of visits of travelers until 1780. At that date Capt. J Long while at Mackinaw was sent by the commanding officer to accompany a party of Indians and Canadians to the Mississippi. Information had been received at Mackinaw that the Indian traders had deposited their furs at Prairie du Chien, where there was a town of considerable note, built under the command of Mons. Langlade, the King's interpreter, and the object of the expedition was to secure these furs and keep them from the Americans. Capt. Long left Mackinaw with thirty-six Indians of the Outagamies and Sioux, twenty Canadians in nine large birch canoes, laden with Indian presents. The party arrived at Green Bay in four days and proceeded through the Fox and Wisconsin rivers to the forks of the Mississippi where he met 200 of the Fox Indians, and had a feast of five Indian dogs, bear, beaver, deer, mountain cat and raccoon boiled in bear's grease and mixed with huckleberries! He proceeded to Prairie du Chien where he found the merchants peltries in packs in a log house, guarded by Capt. Langlade and some Indians. He took 300 packs of the best skins and filled the canoes. Sixty more were burnt to prevent the enemy (the Americans) from taking them. He then returned to Green Bay (in seventeen days) and thence to Mackinaw.
Capt. Long's account of this trip written by himself will be found in full in a subsequent chapter.
It was nearly forty years subsequent to Carver's visit before the Mississippi was ascended by any one who left a record of his journey. In 1805 Maj. Z M Pike made a reconnoisance up the river. We give his description of what he saw as he passed from a point below the mouth of the Wisconsin up to "a prairie called La Crosse:"
Sept. 2, , Monday. --- After making two short reaches, we commenced one, which is thirty miles in length, the wind serving, we just made it; and encamped on the east side opposite to the mouth of Turkey river. In the course of the day, we landed to shoot at pigeons; the moment the gun was fired, some Indians, who were on the shore above us, ran down and put off in their peroques with great precipitation; upon which Mr. Blondeau informed me, that all the women and children were frightened at the very name of an American boat, and that the men held us in great respect, conceiving us very quarrelsome, and much for war, and also very brave. This information I used as prudence suggested. We stopped at an encampment, about three miles below the town, where they gave us some excellent plums. They dispatched a peroque to the village, to give notice, as I supposed, of our arrival. It commenced raining about dusk, and rained all night. Distance, forty miles.
September 3, Tuesday. --- Embarked at a pretty early hour. Cloudy. Met two peroques of family Indians; they at first asked Mr. Blondeau, "if we were for war, or if going to war?" I now experienced the good effect of having some person on board who could speak their language; for they presented me with three pairs of ducks and a quantity of venison, sufficient for all our crew, one day; in return, I made them some trifling presents. Afterwards met two peroques, carrying some of the warriors spoken of on the 2d inst. They kept at a great distance, until spoken to by Mr. Blondeau, when they informed him that their party had proceeded up as high as Lake Pepin, without effecting anything. It is surprising what a dread the Indians in this quarter have of the Americans. I have often seen them go around islands, to avoid meeting my boat. It appears to me evident, that the traders have taken great pains to impress upon the minds of the savages, the idea of our being a very vindictive, ferocious and warlike people. This impression was perhaps made with no good intention; but when they find that our conduct towards them is guided by magnanimity and justice, instead of operating in an injurious manner, it will have the effect to make them reverence, at the same time they fear us. Distance, twenty-five miles.
"September 4th, Wednesday. --- Breakfasted just below the mouth of the Wisconsin. Arrived at the Prairie Les Chiens about 11 o'clock; took quarters at Capt. Fishers, and were politely received by him and Mr. Frazer.
"September 5th, Thursday. --- Embarked about half past 10 o'clock in a Schenectady boat, to go to the mouth of the Wisconsin, in order to take the latitude, and look at the situation of the adjacent hills for a post. Was accompanied by Judge Fisher, Mr. Frazer and Mr. Woods. We ascended the hill on the west side of the Mississippi, and made a choice of a spot which I thought most eligible, being level on the top, having a spring in the rear, and commanding a view of the country around. A shower of rain came on which wet us, and we returned to the village without having ascended the Wisconsin as we intended. Marked four trees with A, B, C, D, and squared the sides of one in the center. Wrote to the General.
"September 6th, Friday. --- Had a small council with the Puants and Winnebagoes; and a chief of the lower band of the Sioux. Visited and laid out a position for a post, on a hill called Petit Gris, on the Wisconsin, three miles above its mouth. Mr. Fisher accompanied me; was taken very sick, in consequence of drinking some water out of the Wisconsin. The Puants never have any white interpreters, nor have the Folle Avoine (Menomonee) Nation. In my council I spoke to a Frenchman, he to a Sioux, who interpreted to some of the Puants.
"September 7th, Saturday. --- My men beat all the villagers hopping and jumping. Began to load my new boats.
"September 8th, Sunday. --- Embarked at half past 11 o'clock in two batteaux. The wind fair and fresh. I found myself very much embarrassed and cramped in my new boats, with provision and baggage. I embarked two interpreters, one to perform the whole voyage, whose name was Pierre Rosseau, paid by Mr. Frazer to accompany me as high as the Falls of St. Anthony. Mr. Frazer is a young gentleman, clerk to Mr. Blakely, of Montreal; he was born in Vermont, but has latterly resided in Canada. To the attention of this gentleman I am much indebted; he procured for me everything in his power that I stood in need of; dispatched his bark canoes and remained himself to go on with me. His design was to winter with some of the Sioux bands. We sailed well, came eighteen miles and encamped on the west bank. I must not omit here to bear testimony to the politeness of all the principal inhabitants of the village. There is, however, a material distinction to be made in the nature of those attentions. The kindness of Messrs. Fisher, Frazer and Woods (all Americans), seemed to be the spontaneous effusions of good will, and partiality to their countrymen; it extended to the accommodation, convenience, exercises and pastimes of my men; and whenever they proved superior to the French openly showed their pleasure. But the French Canadians appeared attentive, rather from their natural good manners, the sincere friendship; however, it produced from them the same effect that natural good-will did in others.
"September 9th, Monday. --- Embarked early. Dined at Cape Garlic or at Garlic river, after which we came on to an island on the east side about five miles below the river Iowa, and encamped. Rained before sunset. Distance twenty-eight miles.
"September 10th, Tuesday. --- Rain still continuing, we remained at our camp. Having shot at some pigeons, the report was heard at the Sioux lodges; when La Yieulle sent down six of his young men to inform me that he had waited three days with meat, etc., but last night they had began to drink, and, that on the next day he would receive me with his people sober. I returned him for answer, that the season was advanced, that time was pressing, and that if the rain ceased, I must go on. Mr. Frazer and the interpreter went home with the Indians. We embarked about 1 o'clock. Frazer returning, informed me that the chief acquiesced in my reasons for pressing forward, but that he had prepared a pipe (by way of letter) to present me, to show to all the Sioux above, with a message to inform them that I was a chief of their new fathers, and that he wished me to be treated with friendship and respect.
We embarked about half past 3 o'clock, came three miles and encamped on the west side. Mr. Frazer we left behind, but he came up with his two pirogues about dusk. It commenced raining very hard. In the night a pirogue arrived at the lodges at his camp. During our stay at their camp, there were soldiers appointed to keep the crowd from my boats. At my departure their soldiers said: As I had shaken hands with their chief, they must shake hands with my soldiers. In which request I willingly indulged them.
"September 11th, Wednesday. --- Embarked at 7 o'clock, although raining. Mr. Frazer's canoes also came on until 9 o'clock. Stopped for breakfast and made a fire. Mr. Frazer staid with me, and finding his pirogues not quite able to keep up, he dispatched them. We embarked; came on until near 6 o'clock, and encamped on the west side. Saw nothing of his pirogues after they left us. Supposed to have come sixteen miles this day. Rain and cold winds, all day ahead. The river has never been clear of islands since I left Prairie les Chiens. I absolutely believe it, here, to be two miles wide. Hills, or rather prairie knobs, on both sides.
"September 12th, Thursday. --- It raining very hard in the morning, we did not embark until 10 o'clock, Mr. Frazer's pirogues then coming up. It was still raining and was very cold. Passed the Racine river, also a prairie called La Crosse, from a game of ball played frequently on it by the Sioux Indians. This prairie is very handsome; it has a small, square hill, similar to some mentioned by Carver. It is bounded in the rear by hills similar to the Prairie les Chiens. On this prairie Mr. Frazer showed me some holes, dug by the Sioux, when in expectation of an attack, into which they first put their women and children, and then crawl themselves. They were generally round, and about ten feet in diameter; but some were half moons and quite a breastwork. This I understood was the chief work, which was the principal redoubt. Their modes of constructing are, the moment they apprehend or discover an enemy on a prairie, they commence digging with their knives, tomahawks and a wooden ladle; and in an incredibly short space of time they have a hole sufficiently deep to cover themselves and their family, from the balls or arrows of the enemy. They have no idea of taking those subterraneous redoubts by storm, as they would probably lose a great number of men in the attack; and although they might be successful in the event, it would be considered a very imprudent action. Mr. Frazer, finding his canoes not able to keep up, staid at this prairie to organize one of them, intending then to overtake us."
"The village of the Prairie les Chiens is situated about one league above the mouth of the Wisconsin river.
The prairie on which the village is situated is bounded in the rear by high, bald hills. It is from one mile to three-quarters of a mile from the river, and extends about eight miles from the Mississippi to where it strikes the Wisconsin, at the Petit Gris, which bears from the village southeast by east.
From the village to Lake Pepin we have, on the west shore, first Yellow river, about twenty yards wide, bearing from the Mississippi nearly due west. Second, the Iowa river, about 100 yards wide, bearing from the Mississippi about northwest. Third, the Racine river, about twenty yards wide, bearing from the Mississippi nearly west, and navigable for canoes sixty miles. Fourth, the rivers Embarra and L'Eau Claire, which join their waters just as they form a confluence with the Mississippi, and are about sixty yards wide, and bear nearly southwest.
"On the east shore, in the same distance, is the river de la Prairie la Crosse, which empties into the Mississippi, at the head of the prairie of that name. It is about twenty yards wide, and bears north-northwest.
"We then meet with the Black river.
In this division of the Mississippi the shores are more than three-fourths prairie on both sides, or, more properly speaking, bald hills, which, instead of running parallel with the river, form a continual succession of high, perpendicular cliffs and low valleys; they appear to head on the river, and to transverse the country in an angular direction. Those hills and valleys give rise to some of the most sublime and romantic views I ever saw. But this irregular scenery is sometimes interrupted by a wide extended plain, which brings to mind the verdant lawn of civilized life, and would almost induce the traveler to imagine himself in the center of a highly cultivated plantation. The timber of this division is generally birch, elm and cottonwood, all the cliffs being bordered by cedar."
Maj. S H Long having made a tour to the portage of the Fox and Wisconsin rivers, returned to Prairie du Chien and made a voyage to the Falls of St. Anthony, in a six-oared skiff, accompanied by a Mr. Hempstead as interpreter, and by two young men named King and Gunn, grandsons of Capt. Jonathan Carver, who were going up to the Sauteurs to establish their claim to lands granted by those tribes to their grandfather. The day after his arrival, (July 23, 1817,) he examined the country to find a location better adapted for a post than the present one, but did not succeed. While here he made excursions in the surrounding country, and refers to the remains of ancient earth-works above the mouth of the Wisconsin, more numerous and of greater extent than had heretofore been noticed. On the 25th he measured and planned Fort Crawford. He says it is a square of 340 feet each side, of wood, with a magazine 12x24 of stone --- that it will accommodate five companies --- block houses, two stories high, with cupolas or turrets. The building of the works was commenced July 3, 1816, by troops under command of Col. Hamilton, previous to which time no timber had been cut, or stone quarried for the purpose. He says: "Exclusive of stores, workshops and stables, the village contains only sixteen dwelling houses, occupied by families. In the rear of the village about three-quarters of a mile are four others, two and a half miles above are five, and at the upper end of the prairie are four, and seven or eight scattered over the prairie. So that the whole number of family dwellings now occupied does not exceed thirty-eight. The buildings are generally of logs, plastered with mud or clay, and he thinks the village and inhabitants have degenerated since Pike was here in 1805. The inhabitants are principally of French and Indian extraction. One mile back of the village is the 'Grand Farm,' an extensive enclosure cultivated by the settlers in common. It is about six miles in length, and one-quarter to one-half a mile in width, surrounded by a fence on one side, and the river bluffs on the other, thus secured from the depredations of cattle." He speaks highly of Capt. Duffhey, the commanding officer. He says of the name of the village, it derives its name from a family of Indians, formerly known by the name of "The Dog," that the chief's name was "The Dog." This family or band has become extinct. The following tradition concerning them came to his knowledge: "That a large party of Indians came down the Wisconsin from Green Bay; that they attacked the family or tribe of the "Dogs" and massacred almost the whole of them and returned to Green Bay; that the few who had succeeded in making their escape to the woods, returned after their enemies had evacuated the prairie, and re-established themselves in their former place of residence, and that they were the Indians inhabiting the prairie at the time it was settled by the French.
I set out this morning with a view, if possible, to reach Prairie du Chien, but having no wind in our favor, and current strong, we could get no further than the mouth of the Ouisconsin. Distance to-day, twenty-four miles.
Monday, July 5, 1819. --- I arrived to-day at 9 AM, at Prairie du Chien, and immediately the wind sprang up and blew a fresh breeze. This was vexing, as I had experienced five days of head winds successively. I found here, awaiting my arrival, the Red Wing's son, a Sioux Indian, who wished to be considered something, with a band of followers. He invited me to a talk, and after relating the loss of one of his young men who was killed by the Chippewas, he expressed a wish that I would take pity on all present, and give them some goods. All this was a begging speech. I told him that I meant to go up with the troops to the river St. Peter's, and on my way up I would stop at their different villages, where I would speak to them, and give them a few goods. Here I had nothing to say, as I could not give any goods at this place, because it required goods to give weight to words, and make them understand me well. Yet he is such a beggar, that he would not take any refusal. I got up in an abrupt manner and left him and band, to study awhile. The Leaf, the principal chief of the Sioux, arrived this evening.
Tuesday, 6th. --- The Kettle chief, with a band of Foxes, arrived here to-day, to make arrangements with Mr. Partney about selling him the ashes at the different mines. A boat belonging to the contractor arrived to-day, loaded with provisions for the troops, in twenty-five days from Wood river.
Wednesday, 7th. --- The contractor's boat left this day to return to Wood river.
Thursday, 8th. --- A young Folle Avoine (Menomonee) stabbed a young Sioux in a fit of jealousy to-day, near the fort. He was in liquor.
Friday, 9th --- The Sioux Indians yesterday seized on the Folle Avoine Indian who had stabbed the young Sioux, and kept him in confinement, well tied and guarded by a few young Sioux; but the Sioux chiefs sent for the Folle Avoine, and made him a present of a blanket and some other articles of clothing, and made him and the young Sioux whom he had stabbed eat out of the same dish together, thus forgiving and forgetting the past.
Sunday, 11th. --- Every day since my arrival at this place, the wind has blown up the river; to-day it came around south and with rain; wind settled at the northwest.
Monday, 12th. --- The Red Wing's son is still here a begging. He invited me to talk with him in council yesterday. This I refused as I did not wish to be troubled with such a fellow.
Tuesday, 13th. --- Much rain this morning; wind southwest.
Wednesday, 14th. --- Some Winnebagoes arrived from headwaters of Rocky river, and portage of Ouisconsin. These fellows are scientific beggars. Wind north.
Thursday, 15th. --- Yesterday evening the Red Wing's son's band of Sioux Indians set out for their homes, and I am glad of it, for they are a troublesome set of beggars. The wind blows hard from the north to-day, which makes it much cooler than it has been for many days before.
Friday, 16th, --- The wind continues to blow hard from the north, and the weather is still cool. Two men arrived this evening from Green Bay in a canoe.
Saturday, 17th. --- Mr. Bouthillier (Francois Bouthillier) arrived here to-day from Green Bay. Mr. Shaw also arrived here to-day from St. Louis in a canoe, having left his horses at Rocky Island. He informs me that he left Belle Fontaine on the 15th ult., that the recruits destined for the Mississippi set out on the day before and may be expected shortly.
Sunday, 18th --- Took a ride out in the country. Found some of the situations handsome, but the farmers are poor hands at cultivation. Flour, $10 per cwt.; corn, $3 per bushel; eggs, $1 per dozen; chickens, $1 to $1.25 a couple. Butter, none made.
Monday, 19th --- A little rain, and cool all day. Mr. Shaw left to-day to return home.
Tuesday, 20th --- A little rain to-day.
Wednesday, 21st --- Winds fair for boats coming up the river, and little rain to-day.
Thursday, 22d --- A fine wind up the river to-day, with much rain. The old Red Wing, a Sioux chief, with about twenty of his followers, arrived to-day. This is another begging expedition.
Friday, 23d --- The wind is still up the river, with some rain. The old Red Wing and I had a long talk, and, as I supposed, the whole purport was begging.
Saturday, 24th --- Having heard much talk about Carreis' claim to land at or near St. Peter's river, and understanding that the Red Wing knew or said something about it last year, curiosity led me to make inquiries of him, having now an opportunity. He told me he remembered of hearing his father say that lands lying on the west side of Lake Pepin, known by the name of the old wintering places, were given to an Englishman; that he is now an old man (about sixty years of age), and does not, himself, remember the transactions. I wished to continue the conversations, but the old man did not like it and therefore I did not press it.
Sunday, 25th --- Wind north and a warm day.
Monday, 26th --- Capt. Hickman and family left this place to-day in an open boat for St. Louis. Wind north, and another warm day.
Tuesday, 27th --- Another warm day. No news of any kind.
Wednesday, 28th --- A boat arrived here from Green Bay.
Thursday, 29th --- This is the warmest day I have experienced this season, although there blew a hard wind up the river all day.
Friday, 30th --- Yesterday evening the war party of Foxes who had been on a hunt of some of the Sioux of the interior, returned without finding any. Much wind and rain this morning. I returned Mr. Moore $3, which Mr. Aird gave me last September to buy him some articles, which could not be procured.
Saturday, 31st --- Wind light up the river; no boats, no recruits, no news, nor anything else from St. Louis.
Sunday, August 1st --- Maj. Marston set out to-day early with twenty-seven troops in three boats to garrison Fort Armstrong, at Rocky Island. The boat which brought the settlers' goods from Green Bay a few days since set out to-day to return home. Some rain to-day; weather warm.
Monday, 2d --- Thank God! a boat loaded with ordnance and stores of different kinds arrived to-day, and said a provision boat would arrive to-morrow, but no news of the recruits.
Tuesday, 3d --- Weather warm, with some rain.
Wednesday, 4th --- This morning the provision boat arrived. No news from St. Louis. This boat brings news of having passed a boat with troops on board destined for this place. Some of the men say two boats. Some rain to-day.
Thursday, 5th --- Much rain last night. Col. Leavenworth is determined to set out on the 7th if things can be got ready for the expedition to St. Peter's. The colonel has very properly, in my opinion, engaged the two large boats now here, with as many men belonging to the boats as will remain to accompany the expedition, their contents being wanted for the new establishment at St. Peter's. Without the assistance of these two boats, it would appear impossible for the expedition to go on.
Friday, 6th --- Yesterday evening some Frenchmen, who would not agree to go any further up the Mississippi, set out for St. Louis in a bark canoe. This morning eight discharged soldiers set out from this place for St. Louis in a skiff.
Saturday, 7th --- Every exertion was made to get off to-day, but impossible. A fine wind up the river.
Sunday, 8th --- This morning the colonel told me that he would be ready in an hour, and about 8 o'clock we set out for river St. Peter's. The troops consisting of ninety-eight rank and file, in fourteen bateaux and two large boats loaded with provisions and ordnance, and stores of different kinds, as also my boat; and a barge belonging to the colonel, making seventeen boats; and in the whole ninety-eight soldiers and about twenty boatmen. I felt myself quite relieved when we got under way. We made to-day eighteen miles.
From Schoolcrafts "Discovery of the Sources of the Mississippi River," we extract the following:
"At the rapids of Black river, which enters opposite our encampment, a saw mill, we are informed, had been erected by an inhabitant of Prairie du Chien. Thus the empire of the arts has begun to make its way into these regions, and proclaims the advance of a heavy civilization into a valley which has heretofore only resounded to the savage war-whoop. Or, if a higher grade of society and arts has ever before existed in it, as some of our tumuli and antiquities would lead us to infer, the light of history has failed to reach us on the subject.
"At the spot of our encampment, as soon as the shades of night closed in, we were visited by hordes of ephemera. The candles lighted in our tents became the points of attraction for these evanescent creations. They soon, however, began to feel the influence of the sinking of the thermometer, and the air was imperceptibly cleared of them in an hour or two. By the hour of 3 o'clock the next morning (Aug. 5, 1820), the expedition was again in motion descending the river. It halted for breakfast at Painted Rock, on the west shore. While this matter was being accomplished, I found an abundant locality of unios in a curve of the shore which produced an eddy. Fine specimens of U. purpureus, elongatus and orbiculatus were obtained. With the increased spirit and animation which the whole party felt on the prospect of our arrival at Prairie du Chien, we proceeded unremittingly on our descent, and reached that place at 6 o'clock in the evening.
"Prairie du Chien does not derive its name from the dog, but from a noted family of Fox Indians bearing this name, who anciently dwelt here. The old town is said to have been about a mile below the present settlement, which was commenced by Mr. Dubuque and his associates in 1783.1 The prairie is most eligibly situated along the margin of the stream, above whose floods it is elevated. It consists of a heavy stratum of diluvial pebbles and bowlders, which is picturesquely bounded by lofty cliffs of the silurian limestones, and their accompanying column of stratification. The village has the old and shabby look of all the antique French towns on the Mississippi, and in the great lake basins; the dwellings being constructed of logs and barks, and the court-yards picketed in, as if they were intended for defence. It is called Kipisagee by the Chippewas and Algonquin tribes, generally meaning the place of the jet or overflow of the (Wisconsin) river. This, in popular parlance, estimated to be 300 miles below St. Peter's and 600 above St. Louis.2
Its latitude is 43 deg., 3 min., 6 sec. It is the seat of justice of Crawford county, having been so named in honor of W H Crawford, secretary of the treasury of the US. It is, together with all the region west of Lake Michigan, attached to the territory of Michigan. There is a large and fertile island in the Mississippi, opposite the place.
"We found the garrison to consist of a single company of infantry, under the command of Capt. J Fowle, Jr.,3 who received us courteously, and offered the salute due to the rank of His Excellency, Gov. Cass. The fort is a square stockade, with bastions at two angles. There was found on this part of the prairie, when it came to be occupied with a garrison by the American, in 1819, an ancient platform-mound, in an exactly square form, the shape and outlines of which were preserved with exactitude by the prairie sod. This earthwork, the probable evidence of a condition of ancient society, arts and events of a race who are now reduced so low, was, with good taste, preserved by the military when they erected this stockade. One of the officers built a dwelling house upon it, thus converting it to the use, and probably the only use, to which it was originally devoted. No measurements have been preserved of its original condition; but judging from present appearances, it must have squared seventy-five feet and have had an elevation of eight feet.
"I solicited permission of Gov. Cass to visit the lead mines of Dubuque, which are situated on the west bank of the Mississippi, at the computed distance of twenty-five leagues below Prairie du Chien. Furnished with a light canoe, manned by eight voyageurs, including a guide, I left the prairie at half-past 11 a.m., (Aug. 6), passed the entrance of the Wisconsin, on the left bank, at the distance of a league.4 Opposite this point is the high elevation which Pike, in 1806, recommended to be occupied with a military work. The suggestion has not, however, been adopted; military men probably thinking that however eligible the site might be for a work where civilized Nations were likely to come into contact, a simple style of defensive works would serve the purpose of keeping the Indian tribes in check. I proceeded nine leagues below, and encamped at the site of a Fox village5 located on the east bank, a mile below the entrance of Turkey river from the west.
The village, consisting of twelve lodges, was now temporarily deserted, the Indians being probably absent on a hunt; but if so, it was remarkable that not a soul or living thing was left behind, not even a dog. My guide, indeed, informed me that the cause of the desertion was the fears entertained of an attack from the Sioux, in retaliation for the massacre lately perpetrated by them on the heads of the St. Peter's."
In 1823, Count Beltrami came up the Mississippi on the steamer Virginia (118 feet long and twenty-two feet wide) in the month of May, and stopped at Prairie du Chien; among the passengers were Maj. Biddle, Mr. Talliaferro, and Lieut. Russel.
Maj. S H Long, USA, the same year, made his journey up the Mississippi by order of the Government to discover the sources of St. Peter's river. His party left Philadelphia for Fort Dearborn, Chicago, and thence by land northwest through Illinois and what is now the southwestern counties of Wisconsin to Prairie du Chien, where they arrived on June 20 --- found Col. Morgan in command. The route taken from Fort Dearborn is believed to be the first that ever was taken by the whites, the journey occupied nine days, traversing 228 miles. He says that there were about twenty dwellings with a population of 150. The Fort, he says, is the rudest and most uncomfortable he had ever seen. The site is low and unpleasant. He refers to the ancient mounds in the vicinity which have been heretofore described. The party were here re-inforced, and proceeded up the river. There were but few Indians here at the time.
Col. T L McKenney, one of the commissioners to treat with the Indians at Butte des Morts, came up the Fox river and down the Wisconsin to Prairie du Chien, arriving at this place, September 3, 1827. He says: "The buildings are old and in a state of decay, only two good houses, Rollette's and Judge Lockwood's, about 100 decaying tenements, the picket fort standing on the plain a little north of the village, [where the Dousman residence now (1884) stands] and quite a ruin."
2 - These distances are reduces by Cx. Doc. 237, respectively to 260 and 542 miles.
3 - This officer entered the army in 1812, serving with reputation. He rose through the various grades of the service to the rank of Lieut. Col. Of the 6th infantry. He lost his life on the 25th of April, 1838, by the explosion of the steamer Moselle, on the Ohio River.
4 - It was at this spot, 137 years ago, that Marquette and M. Joliet, coming from the lakes, discovered the Mississippi.
5 - Now the site of Cassville, Grant Co., Wis. It is a post town, pleasantly situated, with a population of 200.