The Project Gutenberg eBook of Stories of the Badger State

This ebook is for the use of anyone anywhere in the United States and most other parts of the world at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this ebook or online at If you are not located in the United States, you will have to check the laws of the country where you are located before using this eBook.

Title: Stories of the Badger State

Author: Reuben Gold Thwaites

Release date: November 25, 2011 [eBook #38137]
Most recently updated: January 8, 2021

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Roberta Staehlin, David Garcia, Matthew Wheaton
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at


Stories of the Badger State







Copyright, 1900, BY


W. P. I.



The student of nature lives in a broader and more interesting world than does he who has not learned the story of the birds, the streams, the fields, the woods, and the hedgerows. So, too, the student of local history finds his present interest in town, village, city, or State, growing with his knowledge of its past.

In recognition of this fact, these true stories, selected from Wisconsin's history, have been written as a means to the cultivation of civic patriotism among the youth of our commonwealth. It is not the purpose of the book to present a continuous account of the development of the State; for this, the author begs to refer to his larger work, "The Story of Wisconsin" (in the Story of the States Series). Rather is it desired to give selections from the interesting and often stirring incidents with which our history is so richly stored, in the hope that the reader may acquire a taste for delving more deeply into the annals of the Badger State.

Wisconsin had belonged, in turn, to Spain, France, and England, before she became a portion of the United States. Her recorded history begins far back in the time of French ownership, in 1634. The century and a third of the French régime was a picturesque period,[4] upon which the memory delights to dwell; with its many phases, several of the following chapters are concerned. The English régime was brief, but not without interest. In the long stretch of years which followed, before Wisconsin became an American State, many incidents happened which possess for us the flavor of romance. The formative period between 1848 and 1861 was replete with striking events. In the War of Secession, Wisconsin took a gallant and notable part. Since that great struggle, the State has made giant strides in industry, commerce, education, and culture; but the present epoch of growth has not thus far yielded much material for picturesque treatment, perhaps because we are still too near to the events to see them in proper perspective. An attempt has been made to present chapters representative of all these periods, but naturally the earlier times have seemed best adapted to the purpose in hand.

R. G. T.




The Mound Builders 7
Life and Manners of the Indians 14
The Discovery of Wisconsin 24
Radisson and Groseilliers 33
The Story of Joliet and Marquette 42
The Jesuit Missionaries 51
Some Notable Visitors to Early Wisconsin 59
A Quarter of a Century of Warfare 70
The Commerce of the Forest 81
In the Old French Days 87
The Coming of the English 92
Wisconsin in the Revolutionary War 97
The Rule of Judge Réaume 105
The British capture Prairie du Chien 110
The Story of the Wisconsin Lead Mines 117
The Winnebago War 125
The Black Hawk War 134
The Story of Chequamegon Bay 146
Wisconsin Territory formed 155
Wisconsin becomes a State 159
The Boundaries of Wisconsin 162
Life in Pioneer Days 171
[6] The Development of Roads 177
The Phalanx at Ceresco 183
A Mormon King 190
The Wisconsin Bourbon 196
Slave Catching in Wisconsin 202
The Story of a Famous Chief 209
A Fight for the Governorship 216
Our Foreign-born Citizens 222
Swept by Fire 230
Badgers in War Time 236
Index 247




In the basin of the Mississippi, particularly in that portion lying east of the great river, there are numerous mounds which were reared by human beings, apparently in very early times, before American history begins. They are found most frequently upon the banks of lakes and rivers, and often upon the summits of high bluffs overlooking the country. No attempt has ever been made to count them, for they could be numbered by tens of thousands; in the small county of Trempealeau, Wisconsin, for instance, over two thousand have been found by surveyors. Most of the mounds have been worn down, by hundreds of years of exposure to rain and frost, till they are but two or three feet in height; a few, however, still retain so majestic an altitude as eighty or more feet. The conical mounds are called by ethnologists tumuli. Other earthworks are long lines, or squares, or circles, and are probably fortifications; some of the best examples of these are still to be traced at Aztalan, Wisconsin. In many places, especially in Ohio and Wisconsin, they have been so shaped as to resemble buffaloes,[8] serpents, lizards, squirrels, or birds; and some apparently were designed to represent clubs, bows, or spears—all these peculiarly shaped mounds being styled effigies.

The mounds attracted the attention of some of the earliest white travelers in the Mississippi basin, and much was written about them in books published in Europe over a hundred years ago. Books are still being written about the mounds, but most of them are based on old and worn-out theories; those published by the Ethnological Bureau, at Washington, are the latest and best. Many thousands of these earthworks have been opened, some by scientists, many more by curiosity seekers, and their contents have, for the most part, found their way into public museums. Many of the mounds have been measured with great accuracy, and pictures and descriptions of them are common.

Until a few years ago, the opinion was quite general, even among historians and ethnologists, that the mounds were built by a race of people who lived in the Mississippi basin before the coming of the Indians, and that the mound builders were far superior to the Indians in civilization. Many thought that this prehistoric race had been driven southward by the Indians, and that the Aztecs whom the Spaniards found in Mexico and Central America four hundred years ago were its descendants. We have in Wisconsin a reminder of the Aztec theory, in the name Aztalan, early applied to a notable group of earthworks in Jefferson county.

There were many reasons why, in an earlier and more imperfect stage of our knowledge concerning[9] Indians, this theory seemed plausible. It was argued that to build all these mounds required a vast deal of steady labor, which could have been performed only by a dense population, working under some strong central authority, perhaps in a condition of slavery; that these people must have long resided in the same spot; and must have been supported by regular crops of grain, vegetables, and fruit. It was shown that Indians, as we found them, lived in small bands, and did not abide long in one place; that their system of government was a loose democracy; that they were disinclined to persistent labor, and that they were hunters, not farmers. Further, it was contended that the mounds indicated a religious belief on the part of their builders, which was not the religion of the red men. The result of these arguments, to which was added a good deal of romantic fancy, was to rear in the public mind a highly colored conception of a mythical race of Mound Builders, rivaling in civilization the ancient Egyptians.

But we are living in an age of scientific investigation; scientific methods are being applied to every branch of study; history has had to be rewritten for us in the new light which is being thrown upon the path of human development. This is not the place to set forth in detail the steps by which knowledge has been slowly but surely reached, regarding the history of the once mysterious mounds. The work of research is not yet ended, for the study of ethnology is only in its infancy; nevertheless, it is now well established that the Indians built the mounds, and we may feel reasonably certain for what purpose they used them.


Indian population was never dense in North America. The best judges now agree that the entire native population consisted of not over two hundred thousand at the time when the Pilgrim Fathers came to Plymouth. Of these, Wisconsin probably had but nine thousand, which, curiously enough, is about its present Indian population. But, before the first whites came, many of the American tribes were not such roamers as they afterward became; they were inclined to gather into villages, and to raise large crops of Indian corn, melons, and pumpkins, the surplus of which they dried and stored for winter. We shall read, in another chapter, how the white fur trader came to induce the Indian agriculturist to turn hunter, and thereby to become the wandering savage whom we know to-day. Concerning the argument that the modern Indian is too lazy to build mounds, it is sufficient to say that he was, when a planter, of necessity a better worker than when he had become a hunter; also, that many of the statements we read about Indian laziness are the result of popular misunderstanding of the state of Indian society. It is now well known that the Indian was quite capable of building excellent fortifications; that the most complicated forms of mounds were not beyond his capacity; and that, in general, he was in a more advanced stage of mental development than was generally believed by old writers. Modern experiments, also, prove that the actual work of building a mound, with the aid of baskets to carry the earth, which was the method that they are known to have employed, was not so great as has been supposed.



It has been recently discovered, from documents of that period, that certain Indians were actually building mounds in our southern States as late as the Revolutionary War. In the north, the practice of mound building had gone or was going out of fashion about a hundred and twenty-five years before, that is, in the days when the French first came to Wisconsin. It is thought that some of our Wisconsin mounds may be a thousand years old; while others are certainly not much over two hundred years of age, for skeletons have been found in some of them wearing silver ornaments which were made in Paris, and which bear dates as late as 1680.

It is easy to imagine the uses to which the Wisconsin mounds were put by their Indian builders. We can the more readily reason this out, because we know, from books of travel published at the time, just what use the southern Indians were making of their mounds, in the period of the Revolutionary War. The small tumuli[12] were for the most part burial places for men of importance, and were merely heaps of earth piled above the corpse, which was generally placed in a sitting posture; he was surrounded with earthen pots containing food, which was to last him until his arrival at the happy hunting ground, and with weapons of stone and copper, to enable him there to kill game or defend himself against his enemies. The larger tumuli were, no doubt, the commanding sites of council houses or of the huts of chiefs. Each Indian belonged, through his relationship with his mother's people, to some clan; and each clan had its symbol or totem, such as the Bear, the Turtle, the Buffalo, etc. The Indians claimed that the clan had descended from some giant animal whose figure, or effigy, was thus honored. Many white people place their family symbol, or crest, or coat of arms on their letter paper, or on the panels of their carriage doors, or upon their silverware; so Indians are fond of displaying their respective totems on their utensils, weapons, canoes, or wigwams. In the mound building days, they reared totems of earth, and probably dwelt on top of them. As in each village there were several clans, so there were numerous earth totems, many of them of great size. This, no doubt, is the origin of the so-called effigies. Add to these the mystic circles of the medicine men, the fantastic serpents, and the fortifications necessary to defend the village from the approach of an enemy up some sloping bank or sharp-sided ravine, and you have the story of the mounds. An Indian village in those old mound building days must have presented a picturesque appearance.


Just why the Indians stopped building mounds is not settled; but it is noticeable that they were being built in various parts of the country about up to the time of the white man's entry. It may be that the coming of the stranger, with his different manners, hastened the decay of the custom; or perhaps it had practically ceased about that time, as many another wave of custom has swept over primitive peoples and left only traces behind.

The mounds, with which the forefathers of our Indians dotted our land, remain to us as curious and instructive monuments of savage life in prehistoric times. No castles or grand cathedrals have come down to us, in America, to illustrate the story of the early ages of our own race; but we have in the mounds mute, impressive relics of a still earlier life upon this soil, by our primitive predecessors. It should be considered our duty, as well as our pleasure, to preserve them intact for the enlightenment of coming generations of our people.



At the time when white men first came to Wisconsin, there were found here several widely differing tribes of Indians, and these were often at war with one another. The Winnebagoes, an offshoot of the Sioux, occupied the valleys of the Wisconsin and the Fox, and the shores of Green Bay as far down as Sturgeon Bay. If the theory of the ethnologists be correct, that most of the Wisconsin mounds were built by the Winnebagoes, then at times they must have dwelt in nearly every corner of the State. This is not unlikely, for the centers of Indian population were continually shifting, the red men being driven hither and thither by encroachments of enemies, religious fancies, or the never-ending search for food. We know only that when the whites found them, they were holding these two valleys, between Green Bay and Prairie du Chien. A broad-faced people, with flat noses, they were in personal appearance, habits, and morals the least attractive of all our tribes. Their cousins, the wild and dashing Sioux, were still using northwest Wisconsin as a hunting ground, and had permanent villages in Minnesota, and elsewhere to the west of the Mississippi River. The Chippewas (or Ojibways, as the name was originally spelled), the best [15] of our Wisconsin aborigines, were scattered through the northern part of the State, as far south as the Black River, and perhaps as far eastward as the Wolf. East of them were the Menominees (Wild-Rice Eaters), a comparatively gentle folk, who gathered great stores of grain from the broad fields of wild rice which flourishes in the bayous and marshy river bottoms of northeast Wisconsin. The Pottawattomies, with feminine cast of countenance, occupied the islands at the mouth of Green Bay, and the west shore of Lake Michigan, down into Illinois. The united Sacs (or Saukies) and Foxes (Outagamies) were also prominent tribes. When first seen by whites, the Sacs and Foxes were weak in numbers, but, being a bold and warlike people, they soon grew to importance, and crowded the Winnebagoes out of the Fox valley and, later, out of much of the Wisconsin valley, becoming in their pride and strength bitter enemies of the French.


Scattered elsewhere through the State were some smaller tribes: the Mascoutins (Fire Nation), chiefly in the neighborhood of the present city of Berlin; the short-limbed Kickapoos, in the Kickapoo valley; and, at various periods, bands of Hurons, Illinois, Miamis, and Ottawas, none of whom ever played a large part here. The Stockbridges, Oneidas, Brothertowns, and Munsees, now numerous in northeast Wisconsin, are remnants of New York and Massachusetts tribes who were removed hither by the general government in 1822 and later.

No two tribes spoke the same language. In Wisconsin, the Indians were divided by language into two [16] great families, the Algonkin and the Dakotan. The Sioux and the Winnebagoes belonged, by their similar speech, to the Dakotan family, just as the English and the Germans belong to the great Teutonic family. All the others were of the Algonkin group, just as the French, the Spanish, and the Italians belong to what is called the Latin family, and speak languages which have the same origin. The Indian history of Wisconsin is the more interesting, because here these two great families or groups met, clashed, and intermingled. Despite the diversity of tongues, they were, with certain variations, much the same sort of people; and for our present purpose, the description of one tribe will serve for the description of all.

In size, Indians resemble Europeans; some are shorter than the average white man, some taller; the Kickapoos were among the short men. Indians have black eyes and coarse, black hair. Most of them wear no beard, but as the hairs appear, pluck them out with tweezers of wood or clam shell. They have thin lips, high cheek bones, broad faces, and prominent noses; the Winnebago's nose is large, but much flattened.

In primitive times, the summer dress of the men was [17] generally a short apron made of the well-tanned skin of a wild animal, the women being clothed in skins from neck to knees; in winter, both sexes wrapped themselves in large fur robes. In some parts of North America, especially in the south, where the Indians were more highly developed than those in the north, they wove rude cloths of thread spun from buffalo hair, or of sinews of animals killed in the chase. It is not supposed that there was much of this cloth made in Wisconsin. What specimens have been discovered in our mounds, no doubt were obtained from the native peddlers, who wandered far and wide carrying the peculiar products of several tribes, and exchanging them for other goods, or for wampum, the universal currency of the forest. Moccasins of deerskin were in general use; also leggins, with the fur turned inward or outward according to the weather. Much of their clothing was stained red or black or yellow; some was painted in stripes or lace work, and some was decorated with pictures of birds and beasts, or with scenes which they wished to commemorate. One old writer quaintly speaks of "a great skinne painted and drawen and pourtrayed that nothing lacked but life." Their dress was also ornamented by beads and porcupine quills; in the fringed borders of their leggins and robes were often fastened deer's hoofs, the spurs of wild turkeys, or the claws of bears or eagles, which rattled as their wearers walked along. Around their necks were strings of beads, and their ears and noses were pierced for the hanging of various other ornaments. In their hair, the men tied eagle feathers, one for each scalp taken.


The "war bonnet," worn by the leading warriors, was a headdress of skins and feathers, which trailed down the back and often to the ground, and was highly picturesque. Add to this, the general habit of tattooing, or, on ceremonial occasions, of fantastically, often hideously, painting the face and neck and breast in blue, black, and red, and one can well imagine that an Indian village, on a fête day, or at other times of popular excitement, presented a striking scene.

Each tribe could be readily distinguished from others, by the shape and material of its wigwams or huts. The Chippewas, for instance, lived in hemispherical huts, covered with great sheets of birch-bark; the Winnebago hut was more of the shape of a sugar loaf, and was covered with mats of woven rushes; the Sioux dwelt in cone-shaped huts (tepees), covered with skins, the poles sticking out at the top. These huts were foully kept, and all manner of camp diseases prevailed; pulmonary complaints and rheumatism were particularly frequent, and both men and women looked old and haggard before they reached middle age.

In the old mound building days, the huts of the village leaders or chiefs were no doubt built upon the tops of the mounds, while the common people lived on the lower level. On top of a very large, conspicuous mound was the council house, where important events were discussed and action taken. Every warrior, that is, [19] every man who had taken the scalp of an enemy, was permitted to be heard around the council fire; but the talking was for the most part done by the privileged class of headmen, old men, wise men, and orators.

The political organization of the Indians was weak. The villages were little democracies, where one warrior considered himself as good as another, except for the respect naturally due to the chiefs or headmen of the several clans, or to those who had the reputation of being wise and able. The sachem, or peace-chief, whose office was hereditary through connection with his mother's family, had but slight authority unless his natural gifts commanded respect.


When war broke out, the fighting men ranged themselves as volunteers under some popular leader, perhaps a regular chief, or perhaps only a common warrior. When the village council decided to do something, any man might, if he wished, refuse to obey. It was seldom that an entire tribe, consisting of several villages, united in an important undertaking; still more unusual was it, for several tribes to unite. This was, of course, a weak organization, such as a pure democracy is sure to be. The Indian lacked self-control and steadfastness of purpose, and the tribes and villages were jealous of one another; so they yielded before the whites, who better understood the value of union in the face of a common foe. The formidable conspiracies of King Philip, Pontiac, and some others were the work of Indians of quite unusual ability in[20] the art of organization; but the leaders could find few others equal to their skill, and the uprisings were shortlived.

The Indian's strength as a fighter lay in his capacity for stratagem, in his ability to thread the tangled forest as silently and easily as the plain, and in his habit of making rapid, unexpected sallies for robbery and murder, and then gliding back into the dark and almost impenetrable forest. He soon tired of long military operations, and, when hard pressed, was apt to yield to the white men who were often inferior in numbers, but who soon learned to adopt the aborigine's skulking method of warfare.

Lord of his own wigwam, and tyrannical over his squaws, the Indian was kind and hospitable to unsuspected strangers, yet merciless to a captive. Nevertheless, prisoners were often snatched from the stake, or the hands of a cruel captor, to be adopted into the family of the rescuer, taking the place of some one killed by the enemy. The red man was improvident, given to gambling, and, despite the popular notion, was a jolly, easy-going sort of fellow around his own fire; but in council, and when among strangers, he was dignified and reserved, too proud to exhibit curiosity or emotion. He indulged in a style of oratory which abounded in metaphors drawn from his observations of nature. He was superstitious, peopling the elements with good and bad spirits; and was much influenced by the medicine men, who were half physicians and half priests, and who commanded long fastings, penances, and sacrifices, with curious dances, and various forms of necromancy.


The Indian made tools and implements which were well adapted to his purpose; the boats which he fashioned of skins, of birch-bark, or of hollowed trunks of trees have not been surpassed. He was remarkably quick in learning the use of firearms, and soon equaled the best white hunters as a marksman. A rude sense of honor was developed within him; he had a nice perception of what was proper to do; he knew how to bend his own will to the force of custom, thus he overcame to some extent the natural evils of democracy. He understood the arts of politeness when he chose to practice them. He could plan admirably, and often displayed much skill in strategy; his reasoning was good. He knew the value of form and color, as we can see in his rock-carvings, in his rude paintings, in the decorations on his leather, and in his often graceful body-markings. In short, he was less of a savage than we are in the habit of thinking him; he was barbarous from choice, because he had a wild, untrammeled nature and saw little in civilized ideas to attract him. This is why, with his polite manner, he always seemed to be yielding to missionary efforts, yet perhaps never became thoroughly converted to Christianity.

When first discovered by white men, Wisconsin Indians were using rude pottery of their own make. Their arrowheads and spearheads, axes, knives, and other tools and weapons were of copper obtained from Lake Superior mines, or of stone suitable for the purpose. They smoked tobacco in pipes wrought in curious shapes from a soft kind of stone found in[22] Minnesota, and ornaments and charms were also frequently made from this so-called "pipestone." Game they killed with arrows or sling-shots, and in war used these, as well as stone spears and hatchets and stone-weighted clubs. The bulk of their food they obtained by hunting, fishing, and cultivating the soil, although at times they were forced to resort to the usually plentiful supply of fruits, nuts, and edible roots. Indian corn was the principal crop. Beans were sown in the same hills, while sometimes between the rows were planted several varieties of pumpkins, water-melons, and sunflowers. Tobacco and sweet potatoes were grown by some tribes, but not in Wisconsin. In our State, wild rice (or oats) furnished a good substitute for corn, and was similarly cooked.

The whites wrought a serious change in the life and manners of the Indians. They introduced firearms among the savages, and induced them to become hunters, and to wander far and wide for fur bearing animals, the pelts of which were exchanged for European cloths, glass beads, iron kettles, hatchets, spears, and guns and powder. Thus the Indian soon lost the old arts of making their own clothing from skins, kettles from clay, weapons from stone and copper, and wampum (beads used both for ornament and money) from clam shells. It did not take them long to discover that their labor[23] was more productive when they hunted, and purchased what they wanted from the white traders, than when they made their own rude implements and utensils and raised crops. But the result was bad, for thereby they ceased to be self-sustaining; their very existence became dependent on the fur traders, who introduced among them many vices, not least of which was a love for the intoxicating liquors in which the traders dealt.

The Indian, at best, was never a lovable creature. He was dirty, improvident, brutal; he was, as compared with a European, mentally and morally but an undeveloped man. He is to-day, as we find him upon the reservations, pretty much the same as when found by the French over two and a half centuries ago, except that to his original vices he has added some of the worst vices of the white man. The story of the Indian is practically the story of the fur trade, and that is the story of Wisconsin before it became a Territory.



In the year 1608, the daring French explorer, Samuel de Champlain, founded a settlement on the steep cliff of Quebec, and thus laid the foundations for the great colony of New France. This colony, in the course of a century and a half, grew to embrace all of what we now call Canada and the entire basin of the Mississippi River.


New France grew slowly. This was largely owing to the opposition of the fierce Iroquois Indians of New York, whom Champlain had greatly angered. Another reason was the changing moods of the Algonkin Indians of Canada and the Middle West; and still another, the enormous difficulties of travel through the vast forests and along streams frequently strewn with rapids. Champlain was made governor of New France, and varied his duties by taking long and painful journeys into the wilderness, thus setting the fashion of extensive exploration. There were two very good reasons for encouraging explorers: in the first place, New France was then largely controlled by a company of merchants, called[25] the Hundred Associates, who desired to push the fur trade far and wide among the savage tribes; in the second place, the French Catholic missionary priests were anxious to reach the Indians, to convert them to the Christian religion. Thus it came about that, during the twenty-five years when the energetic and enterprising Champlain was governor, there was little talked or thought about in New France but exploration, the fur trade, and the missions to the Indians.

In order to carry out his schemes for opening new fields to the traders and missionaries, Champlain found it necessary to train young men to this work. Only those were selected for the task who had a fair education, and were healthy, strong, well-formed, and brave. They were, often when mere boys, sent far up into the country to live among the Indian tribes, to be adopted by them, to learn their habits and languages, and to harden themselves to the rough life and rude diet of the dusky dwellers in the forest. It took several years of this practice, with patient suffering, for a youth to become an expert who could be trusted to undergo any hardship or daring task that might be asked of him. It was one of these forest-bred interpreters who became the first white discoverer of Wisconsin.

In those early days of New France, most of its people were from the west and northwest provinces of France. The crews of the ships which engaged in the trade to New France were nearly all from the ports of Rouen, Honfleur, Fécamp, Cherbourg, Havre, Dieppe, and Caen; in these north-coast cities lived the greater part of the Hundred Associates, and from their vicinity[26] came nearly all of the Jesuit missionaries and the young men who were trained as interpreters.

Jean Nicolet was born in or near Cherbourg, and was the son of a mail carrier. He was about twenty years of age when, in 1618, he arrived in Quebec; "and forasmuch as," says an old Jesuit writer of that time, "his nature and excellent memory inspired good hopes of him, he was sent to winter with the Island Algonkins, in order to learn their language. He tarried with them two years, alone of the French, and always joined the Barbarians in their excursions and journeys, undergoing such fatigues as none but eyewitnesses can conceive; he often passed seven or eight days without food, and once, full seven weeks with no other nourishment than a little bark from the trees." These "Island Algonkins" lived on Allumettes Island in the Ottawa River, nearly three hundred miles from Quebec; their language was the principal one then used by the Indians in the country on the north bank of the St. Lawrence and in the great valley of the Ottawa.

Although the life was so hard that few white men could endure it, Nicolet, like most of the other interpreters, learned to enjoy it; and, passing from one tribe to another, in his search for new languages and experiences, he remained among his forest friends for eight or nine years. He had been with the Algonkins for three or four years when he went, at the head of four hundred of them, into the Iroquois country, and made a treaty of peace with this savage foe, whom the Algonkins always greatly feared. It is related that thence he went to dwell with the Nipissing Indians, living[27] about Lake Nipissing, "where he passed for one of that nation, taking part in the very frequent councils of those tribes, having his own separate cabin and household, and fishing and trading for himself."

Possibly Nicolet might have been recalled from the woods before this, but, between 1629 and 1632, Canada was in the hands of the British; and he remained among the Indians, inspiring them to hostility against the strangers. In 1632, when the country was released to France, Champlain and his fellow-officers returned to Quebec, and Nicolet was summoned thither, and was employed as clerk and interpreter by the Hundred Associates.

Champlain was eager to resume his explorations. He had once been up the great Ottawa River, and thence had crossed over to Lake Huron, and had become keenly interested in what were then termed the "upper waters." Of Lakes Ontario and Erie he knew nothing, for the dreaded Iroquois had prevented the French from going that way; and Lakes Superior and Michigan were, as yet, undiscovered by whites. Vague rumors of these unknown regions had been brought to Quebec by bands of strange savages who had found their way down to the French settlements in search of European goods in exchange for furs.

Among the many queer stories brought by these fierce, painted barbarians was one which told of a certain "Tribe of the Sea" dwelling far away on the western banks of the "upper waters," a people who had come out of the West, no man knew whence. In those early days, Europeans still clung to the[28] notion which Columbus had always held, that America was but an eastern projection of Asia. This is the reason that our savages were called Indians, for the discoverers of America thought they had merely reached an outlying portion of India; they had no idea that this was a great and new continent. Governor Champlain, and after him Governor Frontenac, and the great explorer La Salle, all supposed that they could reach India and China, already known to travelers to the east, by persistently going westward. When, therefore, Champlain heard of these strange Men of the Sea, he at once declared they must be the long-sought Chinese. He engaged Nicolet, in whom he had great confidence, to go out and find them, wherever they were, make a treaty of peace with them, and secure their trade.

Upon the first day of July, 1634, Nicolet left Quebec, a passenger in the second of two fleets of canoes containing Indians from the Ottawa valley, who had come down to the white settlements to trade. Among his fellow passengers were three adventurous Jesuit missionaries, who were on their way to the country of the Huron tribe, east of Lake Huron. Leaving the priests at Allumettes Island, he continued up the Ottawa, then crossed over to Lake Nipissing, visited old friends among the Indians there, and descended French Creek, which flows from Lake Nipissing into Georgian Bay, a northeastern arm of Lake Huron. On the shores of the great lake, he engaged seven Hurons to paddle his long birch-bark canoe and guide him to the mysterious "Tribe of the Sea."


Slowly they felt their way along the northern shores of Lake Huron, where the pine forests sweep majestically down to the water's edge, or crown the bold cliffs, while southward the green waters of the inland sea stretch away to the horizon. Storms too severe for their frail craft frequently detained them on the shore, and daily they sought food in the forest. The savage crew, tiring of exertion, and overcome by superstitious fears, would fain have abandoned the voyage; but the strong, energetic master bore down all opposition. At last they reached the outlet of Lake Superior, the forest-girt Strait of St. Mary, and paddled up as far as the falls, the Sault Ste. Marie, as it came to be called by the Jesuit missionaries. Here there was a large village of Algonkins, where the explorer tarried, refreshing his crew and gathering information concerning the "Tribe of the Sea." The explorers do not appear to have visited Lake Superior; but, bolder than before, they set forth to the southwest, and passing gayly through the island-dotted Straits of Mackinac, now one of the greatest of the world's highways, were soon upon the broad waters of Lake Michigan, of which Nicolet was probably the first white discoverer.

Clinging still to the northern shore, camping in the dense woods at night or when threatened by storm, Nicolet rounded far-stretching Point Detour and landed upon the shores of Bay de Noquet, a northern arm of Green Bay. Another Algonkin tribe dwelt here, with whom the persistent explorer smoked the pipe of peace, and they gave him further news of the people he[30] sought. Next he stopped at the mouth of the Menominee River, now the northeast boundary between Wisconsin and Michigan, where the Menominee tribe lived. Another council was held, more tobacco was smoked, and one of Nicolet's Huron companions was sent forward to notify the Winnebagoes at the mouth of the Fox River that the great white chief was approaching; for the uncouth Winnebagoes were the far-famed "Tribe of the Sea" whom Nicolet had traveled so far to find.

The manner of their obtaining this name, which had so misled Champlain, is curious. The word was originally "ouinepeg," or "ouinepego," and both Winnipeg and Winnebago are derived from it. Now "ouinepeg" was an Algonkin term meaning "men of (or from) the fetid (or bad-smelling) water." Possibly the tribe, far back in their history, once dwelt by a strong-smelling sulphur spring. The French, in their eagerness to find China, fancied that the fetid water must necessarily be salt water, hence the Western Ocean or "China Sea;" that is why they called the Winnebagoes the "Tribe of the Sea," and jumped at the conclusion that they were Chinese.

By this time, Nicolet had his doubts about meeting Chinese at Green Bay. As, however, he had brought with him "a grand robe of China damask, all strewn with flowers, and birds of many colors," such as Chinese mandarins are supposed to wear, he put it on; and when he landed on the shore of Fox River, where is now the city of Green Bay, strode forward into the group of waiting, skin-clad savages, discharging[31] the pistols which he held in either hand. Women and children fled in terror to the wigwams; and the warriors fell down and worshiped this Manitou (or spirit) who carried with him thunder and lightning.

"The news of his coming," says the old Jesuit chronicler, "quickly spread to the places round about, and there assembled four or five thousand men. Each of the Chief men made a feast for him, and at one of these banquets they served at least six-score Beavers." There was a great deal of oratory at these feasts, with the exchange of belts of wampum, and the smoking of pipes of peace, and no end of assurances on the part of the red men that they were glad to become the friends of New France and to keep the peace with the great French father at Paris.


Leaving his new friends at Green Bay, the explorer ascended the Fox River as far as the Mascoutins, who had a village upon a prairie ridge, near where Berlin now lies. He made a similar treaty with this people, and learned of the Wisconsin River which flows into the Mississippi, but did not go to seek it. He then walked overland to the tribe of the Illinois, probably returning to Quebec, in 1635, by way of Lake Michigan. Nicolet had proceeded over nearly two thousand five hundred miles of lake, river, forest, and prairie; had been subjected to a thousand dangers from man and beast, as well as from fierce rapids and stormtossed waters; had made treaties with several heretofore unknown tribes, and had widely extended the boundaries of New France.

For various reasons, it was nearly thirty years before another visit was made by white men to Wisconsin. Nicolet himself soon settled down at the new town of Three Rivers, on the shores of the St. Lawrence, between Quebec and Montreal, as the agent and interpreter there of the great fur trade company. He was a very useful man both to the company and to the missionaries; for he had great influence over the Indians, who loved him sincerely, and he always exercised this influence for the good of the colony and of religion. He was drowned in the month of October, 1642, while on his way to release a poor savage prisoner who was being maltreated by Indians in the neighborhood.



In the preceding chapter, the story was told how, in the year 1634, only fourteen years after the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, Jean Nicolet was sent by Governor Champlain, of Quebec, all the way out to Wisconsin, to make friends with our Indians, and to induce them to trade at the French villages on the lower St. Lawrence River. Whether any of them did, as a result of this visit, go down to see the palefaces at Three Rivers or Quebec, and carry furs to exchange for European beads, hatchets, guns, and iron kettles, we do not know; there is no record of their having done so, neither are we aware that any white man soon followed Nicolet to Wisconsin.

Fur traders were in the habit of wandering far into the woods, and meeting strange tribes of Indians; sometimes they would not return to Quebec until after years of absence, and then would bring with them many canoe-loads of skins. The fur trade was under the control of the Company of the Hundred Associates. The laws of New France declared that there could be no traffic with the Indians, except what this great company approved; for they had bought from the king of France the right to do all the trading and make all[34] the profits, and New France really existed only to make money for these rich Associates. The fur trade laws provided severe punishments for those violating them; nevertheless, although the population was small, and everybody knew everybody else in the whole country, there were many brave, daring men who traveled through the deep forests, traded with the Indians on their own account, and paid no license fees to the Associates. These men, whom an oppressive monopoly could not keep down, were the most venturesome explorers in all this vast region; they were known as coureurs des bois, or "wood rangers." La Salle, Duluth, Perrot, and many other early Western explorers, were, at times in their career, coureurs des bois.

Now, as a coureur de bois was an outlaw, because he wandered and traded without a license, naturally he was not in the habit of telling where he had been or what he had seen; then again, though brave men, few of these outlaws were educated, hence they seldom wrote journals of their travels. For these reasons, we are often obliged to depend on chance references to them, in the writings of others, and to patch up our evidence as to their movements, out of many stray fragments of information.

So far as we at present know, there were no white men in Wisconsin during the twenty years following the coming of Nicolet. It is uncertain when the next white men came upon our soil, but there is good reason to believe that it was in the autumn of 1654. These men were Pierre-Esprit Radisson and Médard Chouart des Groseilliers. Like so many others in New France,[35] they were from the northern part of old France, and came to Canada while yet lads, Groseilliers in 1641, and Radisson ten years later. In 1653, Groseilliers married a sister of Radisson, and after that the two men became inseparable companions in their long and romantic wanderings.


They experienced a number of thrilling adventures with Indians, both as traders to the forest camps of savages friendly to New France, and as prisoners in the hands of the French-hating Iroquois of New York. Nevertheless they had grown accustomed to the hard, perilous life of the wilderness, and were thoroughly in love with it. It was, as near as we can ascertain, early in the month of August, 1654, when these two adventurers started out "to discover the great lakes that they heard the wild men speak of." They followed, most of the way, in the footsteps of Nicolet, up the Ottawa River, and by the way of Lake Nipissing and French River to Georgian Bay of Lake Huron. This had now become a familiar route to the fur traders and Jesuit missionaries; but of the country west of the eastern shore of Lake Huron scarcely anything was yet known, except what vague and often fanciful reports of it were brought by the savages.

Like Nicolet, our two adventurous explorers traveled by canoes, with Indians to do the paddling. Passing between the Manitoulin Islands, in the northern waters of Lake Huron, they visited and traded with the Huron Indians there, thence proceeded through the Straits of Mackinac, and across to the peninsula of Door county, which separates Green Bay from Lake Michigan. Here[36] they spent the winter with the Pottawattomies; they held great feasts with them, at which dogs and beavers, boiled in kettles into a sort of thick soup, were the greatest delicacies; they smoked pipes of peace with them, at wordy councils which often lasted through several days; they hunted and fished with them, in a spirit of good fellowship; and, in general, they shared the fortunes of their forest friends, whether feasting or starving, after the manner of all these early French explorers and fur traders. In the curious journal afterward written in wretched but picturesque English by Radisson, he says, "We weare every where much made of; neither wanted victualls, for all the different nations that we mett conducted us & furnished us with all necessaries."

Springtime (1655) came at last, and the two traders proceeded merrily up the Fox River, still in the wake of Nicolet, past the sites of the present cities of Green Bay, De Pere, Kaukauna, Appleton, Neenah, and Menasha. They frequently had to carry their boats around the rapids and waterfalls, but after passing Doty's Island[37] they had a smooth highway. Paddling through Lake Winnebago, and past the site of Oshkosh, then an Indian village, they pushed on through the winding reaches of the Upper Fox, and at last came to a broad prairie near Berlin, whereon was stationed the village of the Mascoutins, or Fire Nation.

The Mascoutins treated the strangers, as they had Nicolet, with great kindness. With this village as headquarters, the explorers made frequent expeditions, "anxious to be knowne with the remotest people." Radisson quaintly writes, "We ware 4 moneths in our voyage without doeing any thing but goe from river to river." The explorers cared little, we may suppose, except to have a good time and make a profitable trade with the Indians; they do not appear to have made any map. Writing about their travels, many years after, Radisson says, in one place, that they went into a "great river" which flowed southward, and journeyed to a land of continual warmth, finer than Italy, where he heard the Indians describe certain white men living to the south, who might be Spaniards. It is supposed by many historians that Radisson meant that he was on the Mississippi; if this supposition be true, then the two explorers undoubtedly found the great river by going up the Fox from the Mascoutin village, carrying their canoe over the mile and a half of intervening marsh at Portage, and gliding down the Wisconsin to its junction with the Mississippi at Prairie du Chien. This is important, for the credit of discovering the Upper Mississippi is usually given to Louis Joliet and Father Marquette, who took this very course[38] in 1673, eighteen years later. But the whole question of what "great river" Radisson meant to describe is so involved in doubt, that very likely we shall never know the truth about it.

Leaving their Mascoutin friends at last, apparently in the autumn of 1655, the two adventurers returned down the Fox River to Green Bay; thence on to the large villages of Indians which clustered around the Sault Ste. Marie. Received there, as elsewhere, with much feasting and good will, Radisson and Groseilliers conducted trade with their hosts, and explored a long stretch of the southern coast of Lake Superior, but do not appear to have ventured so far as the Pictured Rocks. They also made long expeditions into the country, on snowshoes, to visit and trade with other tribes in the Michigan Peninsula and northern Wisconsin, and even as far off as Hudson Bay, at one time being accompanied by a hundred and fifty Indian hunters.


In this wild fashion they spent the winter of 1655-56, and finally reached Quebec in August, 1656. They had been absent from home for two years, and had experienced many singular adventures. It happened that during their absence the Iroquois had succeeded in keeping the Hurons and other friendly Indians from visiting Quebec, so that the fur trade, upon which New France depended, was now quite ruined; for this reason the arrival of Radisson and Groseilliers, with a great store of furs from far-away Wisconsin and Lake Superior, was hailed as a joyful event, and, despite their having departed without a license, they were made[39] welcome at Quebec, the cannons being fired and the people flocking on the beach to meet them.

Men who love adventure cannot be kept out of it long, whatever the risk. Three years later, in the summer of 1659, Radisson and Groseilliers again set off for Lake Superior, up the old Ottawa and Georgian Bay routes. This time they were specially bidden by the king's officers at Quebec not to go, so that they were obliged to slip off secretly, and join a fleet of Indian canoes returning home after the annual trade at the French settlements.

At Sault Ste. Marie they spent a short time with their savage friends, and then paddled westward, along the southern shore of Lake Superior. In their company were several Huron and Ottawa Indians, who had recently been compelled to flee to Wisconsin because of Iroquois raids, which now extended as far west as Michigan. The travelers were obliged to carry their boats across Keweenaw Point, and at last found their[40] way to Chequamegon Bay, a noble sheet of water, hemmed in by the beautiful Apostle Islands, and to-day a popular summer resort.

Not far to the west of where Ashland now lies, somewhere near Whittlesey's Creek, they built for themselves a rude hut, or fort, of logs. The place was a small point of land jutting out into the water, a triangle, Radisson describes it, with water on two sides and land at the base. The land side of the triangle was guarded with a palisade of pointed stakes, and to prevent surprises by night, for Indians were always prowling about looking for plunder, the traders surrounded their house with boughs of trees piled one upon the other, intertwined with a long cord hung with little bells.

After staying at their fort for a few weeks, they managed to cache (secretly bury) the greater part of their goods; and then set out on a hunt with their Huron neighbors upon the headwaters of the Chippewa River. Unusually severe weather set in, and a famine ensued, for there was no game to kill, and the snow was so deep that they could hardly travel.

In the following spring (1660) the Frenchmen went with their Hurons on a long search for provisions, getting as far west as the Sioux camps in northern Minnesota. Then they returned to Chequamegon Bay, where they built another little fort, and from which they visited some Indians on the northwest shore of Lake Superior. In August they returned home, again in a fleet of Huron canoes going down to Montreal to trade. But this time the officers of the colony punished them for being coureurs des bois, and confiscated[41] most of their valuable furs, which meant the loss of nearly all the property they possessed.

Angered at this treatment, Groseilliers went to Paris to seek justice from the king; but, obtaining none, he and Radisson offered their services to the English, whom they told of Hudson Bay and its great furtrading possibilities. It took several years, however, for negotiations to be completed; and it was while in London that Radisson, for the information of the English king, wrote his now famous journal of explorations in the Lake Superior country. Finally, after some unfortunate voyages, our explorers, in 1669, reached Hudson Bay in an English ship; and, as a result, there was formed in England the great Hudson Bay Company, which from that day to this has controlled the rich fur trade of those northern waters.

In later years (1678), we find Radisson and Groseilliers, who had been pardoned by Louis XIV., king of France, for their desertion to the English, back again in Paris. But after a time, suspicions as to their loyalty spread abroad, and they again joined the English, to whom they were useful in attracting Indian trade away from the French to the Hudson Bay Company. They died at last, in London, considered by the French as traitors to their own country. They will, however, live in history as daring explorers, who opened to the fur trade the country now known as Wisconsin, the waters of Lake Superior, and the vast region of Hudson Bay.



In history there are two "discoveries of the Mississippi"; the lower waters were discovered by the Spanish explorer, De Soto (April, 1541); and the upper waters, by Frenchmen from Canada or New France. Nothing came of De Soto's discovery for over a hundred years, for the Spaniards had no love for exploration that gave no promise of mines of precious metals, and it is to the French that we give chief credit for finding the Mississippi; for their discovery immediately led the way to a general knowledge of the geography and the savages of the great valley, and to settlements there by whites.

It is seldom safe to say who was the first man to discover anything, be it in geography, in science, or in the arts; generally, we can tell only who it was that made the first record of the discovery. Now it is quite possible that Frenchmen may have wandered into the Upper Mississippi valley before Radisson and Groseilliers appeared in Wisconsin (1654); but, if they did, we do not know of it. It is still a matter of dispute whether the "great river" described in Radisson's journal was the Mississippi; some writers think that it was, and that to him and to[43] Groseilliers belongs the honor of the first-recorded discovery. Then, again, there are some who think that in 1670 the famous fur trader La Salle was upon the Mississippi; but that is a mere guess, and honors cannot be awarded upon guesswork. We do know, however, that in 1673 Joliet and Marquette set out for the very purpose of finding the Mississippi, and succeeded; and that upon their return they wrote reports of their trip and made maps of the country. Having thus opened the door, as it were, white men were thereafter frequent travelers on the broad waterway. Hence it is idle to discuss possible previous visits; to Joliet and Marquette are due the credit of regular, premeditated discovery.

Louis Joliet, who led this celebrated expedition, was at the time but twenty-eight years old. He was born in Quebec, had been educated at the Jesuit college there, and early in life became a fur trader. He learned several Indian languages, and made numerous long journeys into the wilderness, and, like Jean Nicolet before him, was regarded by the officers and the missionaries at Quebec as a man well fitted for the life of an explorer. In 1671 he went with Saint Lusson, one of the officials of New France, to Sault Ste. Marie. St. Lusson made peace with the Indians of the Northwest, and, in the name of the king of France, took possession of all the country bordering on the upper Great Lakes.

Upon returning to Quebec, Joliet met the famous Count Frontenac, but recently arrived from Paris, where he had been appointed as governor of New[44] France. Frontenac was curious to know more about the Mississippi River, especially whether it flowed into the Pacific Ocean, or the "Southern Sea" as it was then called in Europe. In looking about for a man to head an expedition to the great river, he could hear of no one better prepared for such service than Joliet.


In those early days, no exploring party was complete without a priest; the conversion of the savages to Christianity was quite as important, in the eyes of the king, as the development of the fur trade. Father Jacques Marquette, then thirty-six years of age, was the Jesuit missionary at Point St. Ignace, on the Straits of Mackinac. When Joliet reached that outpost, after a long and weary canoe voyage up the now familiar Ottawa River and Georgian Bay route, he delivered orders to Marquette to join his party. Joliet was a favorite with his old instructors, the Jesuits, so that the two young men were well pleased with being united upon this project, Joliet to attend to the worldly affairs of the expedition, and Marquette to the religious. Both of them had had long training in the hard life of the wilderness,[45] and understood Indian character and habits as well as any men in New France.

It was upon the 17th of May, 1673, that the two explorers, in high spirits, set forth from Marquette's little mission at Point Ignace. Five French boatmen paddled their two canoes, and did most of the heavy work of the journey, carrying the boats and cargoes around rapids, or along portage trails from one river to another. Marquette says in his journal: "Our joy at being chosen for this expedition roused our courage, and sweetened the labor of paddling from morning to night."

The course they took was, no doubt, that followed through nearly two hundred years thereafter by persons journeying in canoes from Mackinac to Green Bay. They paddled along the northern shores of Lake Michigan and Green Bay, until they could cross over through the stormy water known as "Death's Door," to the islands beyond the Door county peninsula; and then crept down the east shore of Green Bay, under the lee of the high banks.

They seem to have made good time, for on the 7th of June they reached the village of the Mascoutins, on the south shore of Fox River, near where Berlin now is, the same village, it will be remembered, where Nicolet, Radisson, and Allouez had already been entertained. We do not know upon what day our two explorers had reached De Pere, where the Jesuit mission was established, but they probably stayed among their friends there for some days, before going up the Fox.


In his journal, the good missionary described nearly everything he saw, with much detail. The Menominee Indians interested him greatly; he calls them "the People of the Wild Oats," and tells how they gather the grain of these wild oats (or wild rice), by "shaking the ears, on their right and left, into the canoe as they advance" through the swamps. Then they take the grain to the land, strip it of much of the chaff, and "dry it in the smoke on a wooden lattice, under which they keep up a small fire for several days. When the oats are well dried, they put them in a skin of the form of a bag, which is then forced into a hole made on purpose in the ground; then they tread it out, so long and so well, that the grain being freed from the chaff is easily winnowed; after which they reduce it to meal." There are still to be seen, on the shores of Lake Koshkonong, and several other Wisconsin lakes and rivers, the shallow, bowl-like holes used by the Indians in threshing this grain, as described by Marquette two and a quarter centuries ago.

The Mascoutin village also claims much attention in the missionary's diary. The Mascoutins themselves are rude, he says; so also are the Kickapoos, many of whom live with them. At this village are also many Miami Indians, who had fled from their homes in Indiana and Ohio, through fear of the fierce Iroquois of New York. These Miamis are, Marquette tells us, superior to the Wisconsin Indians, being "more civil, liberal, and better made; they wear two long earlocks, which give them a good appearance," and are brave, docile, and devout, listening carefully to the[47] missionaries who have visited them. The Father also describes the site of the village: "I felt no little pleasure in beholding the position of this town; the view is beautiful and very picturesque, for from the eminence on which it is perched, the eye discovers on every side prairies spreading away beyond its reach, interspersed with thickets or groves of lofty trees. The soil is very good, producing much corn; the Indians gather also quantities of plums and grapes, from which good wine could be made, if they chose. As bark for cabins is rare in this country, they use rushes, which serve them for walls and roof, but which are no great shelter against the wind, and still less against the rain when it falls in torrents. The advantage of this kind of cabins is that they can roll them up, and carry them easily where they like in hunting-time."

Above the Mascoutin village, the Fox begins to narrow, being hemmed in, and often choked, by broad swamps of reeds and wild oats. The canoe traveler who does not know the channel, is sometimes in danger of missing it, and getting entangled in the maze of bayous. Two Miami guides were therefore obtained from their hosts, and on the 10th of June the travelers set off for the southwest, "in the sight of a great crowd, who could not wonder enough to see seven Frenchmen alone in two canoes, dare to undertake so strange and so hazardous an expedition." The guides safely conducted them to the place where is now situated the city of Portage, helped them over the swampy plain of a mile and a half in width, and, after seeing[48] them embarked upon the broad waters of the Wisconsin River, left them "alone in an unknown country, in the hands of Providence."

The broad valley of the Wisconsin presents a far different appearance from that of the peacefully flowing Upper Fox, with its outlying marshes of reeds, and its numerous lakes. The Wisconsin, or Meskousing, as Marquette writes it, is flanked by ranges of bold, heavily wooded bluffs, which are furrowed with romantic ravines, while the channel is, at low water, studded with islands and sand bars, and in times of flood spreads to a great width. Marquette himself describes it thus: "It is very broad, with a sandy bottom, forming many shallows, which render 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." About ninety miles below Portage, they thought that they discovered an iron mine.

At last, on the 17th of June, they swiftly glided through the picturesque delta of the Wisconsin, near Prairie du Chien, and found themselves upon the Mississippi, grateful that after so long and tiresome a journey they had found the object of their search. Joliet's instructions were, however, to ascertain whether the great stream flowed into the "Southern Sea"; so they journeyed as far down as the mouth of the Arkansas. There they gathered information from[49] the Indians which led them to believe that the river emptied into the Gulf of Mexico; thus the old riddle of the supposed waterway through the heart of the North American continent was left unsolved.

In returning, Joliet and Marquette came up the Illinois River, and reached Lake Michigan by portaging over to the Chicago River. They were back at the Jesuit mission at De Pere, in September. Marquette having fallen ill, Joliet was obliged to return to Quebec alone, leaving the missionary to spend the winter with his Wisconsin friends. When almost within sight of the French settlement at Montreal, at the mouth of the Ottawa River, poor Joliet lost all his papers in the dangerous Lachine rapids, and could make only a verbal report to the government. He later prepared a map of his route, with great care, and forwarded that to France; it is one of the best maps of the interior parts of North America made in the seventeenth century. Joliet, as the leader of the expedition, had hoped to receive, either in office or lands, substantial rewards for his great discoveries; but there were now new officials at Quebec, with whom he had little influence, and the recompense of this brave spirit was small. Others reaped what advantages there were in the opening of the Mississippi valley to the fur trade.

On the other hand, the unworldly priest who was his friend and companion, and who neither desired nor needed special recognition for what he had done, has, all unconsciously, won most of the glory of this brilliant enterprise. Under the rules of the Jesuit order, each missionary in New France was obliged to forward[50] to his superior at Quebec, once each year, a written journal of his doings. Marquette prepared his report at leisure during the winter, while at De Pere, and in the spring sent it down to Quebec, by an Indian who was going thither to trade with the whites. Accompanying it was a crudely drawn but fairly accurate map of the Mississippi basin. The journal and map arrived safely, but for some reason neither was then printed; indeed, they remained almost unknown to the world for a hundred and seventy-nine years, being at last published in 1852. Marquette never learned the fate of either Joliet's elaborate records or his own simple story of the expedition, for he died in May, 1675, on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, worn out by disease and by excessive labors in behalf of the Indians.

By the time Marquette's journal was finally published, Joliet had been well-nigh forgotten; and to Marquette, because his journal was the only one printed, is given the chief credit in nearly every American history. The legislature of Wisconsin has placed a beautiful marble statue of the gentle Marquette, as the discoverer of the Mississippi, in the capitol in Washington; whereas the name of his sturdy chief is perpetuated only in the principal prison city of Illinois.



In planting settlements in Canada (or New France, as it was then called), the French had two principal objects in view: the fur trade with the Indians, and the conversion of these Indians to the Christian religion. Roman Catholic missionaries from France therefore accompanied the first settlers, and were always prominent in the affairs of the colony. Governor Champlain brought to Quebec some missionaries of the Recollect order, a branch of the Franciscans; but after a few years, the difficulties of their task proved so great that the Recollects asked the Jesuits, a much stronger order, to come over and help them. It was not long before nearly all the Franciscans returned home, and the Jesuits were practically the only missionaries in New France.

During the first few years, these missionaries spent their winters in Quebec, ministering to the colonists, and each spring went out to meet the Indians in their summer camps. It was soon found, however, that greater persistence was needed; and after that, instead of returning home in the autumn, they followed the savages upon their winter hunts. In order to convert the Indians, the missionaries studied their many languages,[52] their habits, and their manner of thought, lived as they lived, and with them often suffered untold misery, for life in a savage camp is sometimes almost unbearable to educated and refined white men, such as the French Jesuits were. They did not succeed in winning over to Christianity many of their savage companions; indeed, the latter frequently treated them with great cruelty, and several of the missionaries were tortured to death.

Such were the ignorance and superstition of the Indians, that every disaster which happened to them, poor luck in hunting, famine, accident, or disease, was attributed to the "black gowns," as the Jesuits were called because of their long black cassocks. When the missionaries were performing the rites of their church, baptizing children or sick people, or saying mass, it was thought by these simple barbarians that they were practicing magic for the destruction of the red men. Thus the Jesuits, during the hundred years or more which they spent in traveling far and near through the forests of New France, seeking new tribes to convert, while still laboring with those already known, were in a state of perpetual martyrdom for the cause of Christianity. No soldier has ever performed greater acts of heroism than these devoted disciples of the cross. Several of the best and bravest of them were among the pioneers of the Wisconsin wilderness.


The first Jesuit missionary to come to Wisconsin was Father René Ménard (pr. Ray-nay' May-nar'). He had sailed from France to Canada in the year 1640, when[53] he was thirty-five years old, and on his arrival was sent to the savages east of Lake Huron, among whom he labored and suffered for eight years. Later, he went to the Iroquois, in New York, and at last had to fly for his life, on account of an Indian plot to murder all the French missionaries in that country. He was for some time the superior of his order, at the Three Rivers mission, on the St. Lawrence, halfway between Quebec and Montreal, and in the early autumn of 1660 was summoned to go to Lake Superior, which had been made known through the explorations of Radisson and Groseilliers.

These brave adventurers had returned from their second voyage into the Northwest, accompanied by a fleet of Indian canoes; several of the canoes were manned by Hurons from the Black River, who had come down all the way to Montreal to trade their furs for European goods. The red men spent some ten days there, feasting with the fur trade agents, and about the first of September set out on their return. With them were Ménard, his servant, and seven other Frenchmen.

Ménard was now only fifty-five years old, but so severe had been his life among the Indians, that his hair was white, he was covered with the scars of wounds, and "his form was bent as with great age." The long journey was therefore a severe strain upon the good man, for in addition to the exposure to weather, he was forced to paddle most of the time, to carry heavy packs over the numerous portage trails, and to suffer many indignities at the hands of his hosts.[54] By the time the company had finally made their weary way up the Ottawa River, over to Georgian Bay, and through to Sault Ste. Marie, the missionary was in a deplorable condition. An accident happened to his canoe, and the Frenchmen and three Indians were abandoned on the south shore of Lake Superior, at Keweenaw Bay. There he was forced to spend the winter in a squalid Ottawa village, and nearly lost his life in a famine which overtook the natives of that region.

In the spring of 1661, while at Keweenaw Bay, Ménard received an invitation to visit a band of poor, starving Hurons at the headwaters of the Black River. Several of these Indians had been baptized by Jesuits before the Iroquois had driven them out from their old home to the east of Lake Huron. In spite of his weak condition, and the many perils of this journey of a hundred and fifty miles through the dense forest, the aged missionary bade farewell to the Keweenaw Ottawas, among whom had also wintered several French fur traders, and in July set out to obey the new summons. In his company were his servant and several Hurons who had come to trade with the Ottawas.

They proceeded along the narrow trail which ran from Keweenaw Bay to Lake Vieux Désert, the headwaters[55] of the Wisconsin River, but the feeble missionary's gait was too slow for the Indians, who, after the manner of their kind, promptly deserted their white friends, leaving them to follow and obtain food as best they might. At the lake the Frenchmen embarked in a canoe upon the south-flowing Wisconsin, and paddled down as far as Bill Cross Rapids, some five or six miles above the mouth of Copper River, and not far from where is now the city of Merrill. From the foot of these rapids, they had intended leaving their canoe, and following a trail which led off westward through the woods to the headwaters of the Black, near the present town of Chelsea. Ménard's servant took the canoe through the rapids, while the missionary, as usual, to lighten the boat, walked along the portage trail. He must have lost his way and perished of exposure in the depths of the dark and tangled forest, for his servant could not find any trace of him. Thus closed the career of Wisconsin's pioneer missionary, who died in the pursuit of duty, as might a soldier upon the field of battle.

The death of Ménard left the Lake Superior country without a missionary; but four years later (1665), another Jesuit was sent thither in the person of Claude Allouez (pr. Al-loo-ay'), who chose Chequamegon Bay for the seat of his labors. There he found a squalid village, near Radisson and Groseilliers' old forts, on the southwest shore; it was composed of remnants of eight or ten tribes, some of whom had been driven westward by the Iroquois and others eastward by the Sioux. He called his mission La Pointe, from the neighboring[56] long point of land which, projecting northward, divides Chequamegon Bay from Lake Superior.


Allouez could make little impression upon these poor savages. After four years of hard service and ill-treatment, he was relieved by Jacques Marquette, a youthful and enthusiastic priest. Late in the autumn of 1669, Allouez went to Fox River, and there he founded the mission of St. Francis Xavier, overlooking the rapids of De Pere.[1] This was a more successful mission than the one at Chequamegon Bay; for, during the next summer, the western Sioux furiously attacked the Indian neighbors of Marquette and sent them all flying eastward, like dry leaves before an October gale. The zealous Marquette accompanied them, and, with such bands as he could induce to settle around him, opened a new mission on the mainland near Mackinac Island, at the Point St. Ignace of to-day.

Meanwhile, Allouez continued his mission at De Pere, making long trips throughout Wisconsin, preaching to the Indians, and establishing the mission of St. Mark on the Wolf River, probably on or near Lake Shawano, [57]where the Chippewas then lived in great numbers. Later, he opened St. James mission at the Mascoutin village near Berlin. His churches were mere huts or wigwams built of reeds and bark, after the manner of the natives. Another Jesuit, Louis André, was sent to Wisconsin to assist this enterprising missionary, and they traveled among the tribes, preaching and healing the sick in nearly every Indian village in the wide country between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi. The career of these good missionaries was not one of ease. Their lives were frequently in peril; they suffered severely from cruel treatment, hunger, cold, and the many hardships of forest travel; and were rewarded by few conversions.

Allouez remained in Wisconsin until 1676, when he departed to carry on a similar work in Illinois, dying thirteen years later, after a score of years spent in Western missions. In Wisconsin, he was succeeded, in turn, by several others of his order; chief among them were Fathers Silvy, Albanel, Nouvel, Enjalran, and Chardon. Chardon was the last of his kind, for he, with other Frenchmen, was driven out of Wisconsin in 1728, at the time of the Fox War.

It was during the time of Enjalran, at De Pere, that Nicolas Perrot, a famous fur trader, was military commandant for the French in the country west of Lake Michigan. In all this vast district, Enjalran was then the only priest. In token of his appreciation of its work, Perrot presented to the mission a beautiful silver ostensorium (or soleil) made in Paris. The ostensorium is one of the vessels used at the altar, in celebrating the mass. [58] This was in the year 1686; the following year, during one of the frequent outbursts of Indian hostility against the missionaries, Enjalran was obliged to fly for his life. In order to lighten his burden, he buried this silver vessel, evidently intending to return some time and regain possession of it.

In 1802, a hundred and fifteen years later, a man was digging a cellar in Green Bay, several miles lower down the bank of the Fox River than is De Pere, when his pickax ran through this piece of silver. It was brought to light, and for safe keeping was given to the Catholic priest then at Green Bay. Nobody would have known its story except for the clearly engraved inscription on the bottom; the words are in French, but in English they signify: "This soleil was given by Mr. Nicolas Perrot to the mission of St. Francis Xavier, at the Bay of the Puants, 1686"; for the early French name for Green Bay was "Bay of the Puants." The old ostensorium, with its inscription just as plainly to be read to-day as when engraved over two centuries ago, can now be seen among the treasures of the State Historical Society, at Madison. It is an enduring memorial to the labors and the sufferings of Wisconsin's first missionaries.

[1] French Rapides des Pères, or "The Fathers' Rapids"; but it was soon shortened into Des Pères, and finally, by the Americans, into De Pere.



It has been pointed out that wandering fur traders were in Wisconsin at a very early date. We have seen that Nicolet, Radisson, and Groseilliers made Wisconsin known to the world, at a time when Massachusetts colony was still young. It will be remembered that when Father Ménard went to Lake Superior, in 1660, to convert the Indians, there were several French fur traders with him. As early as the spring of 1662, these same traders had gone across country to the mouth of the Fox River. Three years later the Menominees and Pottawattomies, then living on both sides of the bay, were visited by Nicolas Perrot, a daring young spirit from Quebec, who had come to the then Far West to make his fortune in trading with the red men.

Perrot was one of the most picturesque characters in Wisconsin history. In Canada he had been a servant of the Jesuit missionaries, acquiring in this work an education which was slight as to books, but broad as to knowledge of the Indians and of forest life. He was now twenty-one years of age, and started out for himself as soon as he was his own master. For five years Perrot wandered up and down the eastern[60] half of Wisconsin, frequently visiting his friends, the Mascoutins and Miamis, on the Fox River. He smoked pipes of peace with them and with other forest and prairie tribes, and joined in their feasts of beaver, dog, and other savage delicacies.

In 1670 he and four other Frenchmen, packing their furs into bundles of convenient size, joined a large party of Indians going down to Montreal in canoes, to trade. Perrot did not return with his companions, but visited Quebec, and there received an appointment from the government to rally the Western tribes in a great council at Sault Ste. Marie. Here a treaty was to be made, binding the savages to an alliance with France. The French were very jealous of the English, who had, through the guidance of Radisson and Groseilliers, commenced fur trade operations in the Hudson Bay country. It was feared that they would entice the Indians of the upper Great Lakes to trade with them, for the English offered higher prices for furs than did the French.

Perrot spent the winter in visiting the tribes in Wisconsin and along the northern shores of Lakes Michigan and Huron, and succeeded in inducing large bands of them to go to the Sault early in May (1671). The council was attended by an enormous gathering, representing tribes from all over the Northwest, even from the north shores of Lake Superior and Hudson Bay. Father Marquette was there with the Ottawas, and several other famous missionaries came to the council. The interpreter, who knew Indian dialects by the score, was no less a person than Louis Joliet. The French[61] government was represented by Saint Lusson, who concluded the desired treaty, with great ceremony, took formal possession of all this country for the king of France, and reared on the spot a great cedar pole, to which he fastened a lead plate bearing the arms of his country. This symbol the simple and wondering savages could not understand: and as soon as the Frenchmen had gone home again, they tore it down, fearing that it was a charm which might bring bad luck to the tribesmen.

And now we find Perrot suddenly losing his office, and forced for ten years to live a quiet life in the French settlements on the lower St. Lawrence. He married a well-to-do young woman, reared a considerable family, and became a man of some influence. But he was always eager to be back in the forest, wandering from tribe to tribe, and engaging in the wilderness trade, where the profits were great, though the risks to life and property were many. In 1681 he returned to the woods, but not till three years later was he so far west as Mackinac.

In 1685 he appeared once more at Green Bay, this time holding the position of Commandant of the West, with a little company of twenty soldiers. He now had almost unlimited authority to explore and traffic as he would, for the only salary an official of that sort used to get, in New France, was the right to trade with the Indians. He had already lost money in working for the government as an Indian agent, and his present operations were wholly directed toward getting it back again. He went up the Fox and down the Wisconsin,[62] and then ascended the Mississippi to trade with the wild Sioux tribe. For headquarters, he erected a little log stockade on the east bank of the Mississippi, about a mile above the present village of Trempealeau, and south of the mouth of Black River. In the year 1888, the site of this old stockade was discovered by a party of historical students, and many of the curious relics found there can now be seen in the museum of the State Historical Society, at Madison.

All through the winter of 1685-86, Perrot traded here with the Sioux. He had a most captivating manner of treating Indians; for a long time, few of them ventured to deny any request made by him. Chiefs from far and near would come to the Trempealeau "fort," as it was called, and hold long councils and feasts with the great white chief, and more than once he was subjected to the curious Sioux ceremony of being wept over. A chief would stand over his guest and weep copiously, his tears falling upon the guest's head; when the chief's tear ducts were exhausted, he would be relieved by some headman of the tribe, who in turn was succeeded by another, and so on until the guest was well drenched. This must have been a very trying experience to Perrot, but he was shrewd enough to pretend to be much pleased by it.

In the spring of 1686, the same year in which he gave the silver ostensorium to the Jesuit chapel at De Pere, the commandant proceeded up the Mississippi to the broadening which was, about this time, named Lake Pepin by the French. On the Wisconsin shore, not far above the present village of Pepin, he erected[63] another and stronger stockade, Fort St. Antoine. It was here, three years later, that, after the manner of Saint Lusson at Sault Ste. Marie, he formally took possession, in the name of his king, of all the Upper Mississippi valley.

Several other forts were built by Perrot along the Mississippi, none of them more than groups of stout log houses. These were surrounded by a stockade wall of heavy logs well planted in the ground, sharpened at the top, pierced for musket fire, and sometimes surmounted by a small cannon. The stockade whose ruins were unearthed at Trempealeau, measured about forty-five by sixty feet. One of his stockades, Fort Perrot, was on the Minnesota shore of Lake Pepin; still another, Fort St. Nicholas, was near the "lower town" of the Prairie du Chien of to-day, at the confluence of the Wisconsin and the Mississippi; and it also appears that he had a stockade lower down the Mississippi, to guard a lead mine which he had discovered near Galena, because lead was an important article for both fur traders and Indians. Sometimes traders fought among themselves, for the possession of a lead mine.

Perrot made frequent voyages to the settlements on the St. Lawrence River, and engaged in some of the French expeditions against the hostile Iroquois of New York. While, on the whole, he was successful in holding the Western tribes in friendship to New France, his position was not without grave perils. One time his old friends, the Mascoutins, rose against him, claiming that he had killed one of their warriors. The claim may have been true, for he was a man of violent temper, and[64] ruled the Wisconsin forests after the despotic fashion of an Asiatic prince. The Mascoutins captured Perrot, in company with a Pottawattomie chief, and carrying them to their village, robbed the commandant of all his furs, and decided to burn the prisoners at the stake. But while being conducted to the fire, the two managed by artifice to escape, and at last reached in safety their friends at the mouth of the Fox River. Another time, the Miamis captured Perrot, and would have burned him except for the interference of the Fox Indians, with whom he was friendly.

In 1699, owing to the uprising of the Foxes, the king ordered that all the Western posts be abandoned, and their little garrisons removed to Montreal and Quebec. Thus suddenly ended the career of Perrot, who returned a poor man, for his recent losses in furs had been heavy, and his expenses of keeping up the posts large. Again and again he sought redress from the government, and the Wisconsin Foxes earnestly pleaded that he be sent back to them, as "the best beloved of all the French who have ever been among us." But his star had set, he no longer had influence; and it had just been decided to punish his friends the Foxes. Perrot lived about twenty years longer, on the banks of the Lower St. Lawrence, and died in old age, like Joliet, in neglect and poverty.

During much of the time that Perrot was commandant of the West, several other great fur traders were conducting operations in Wisconsin. The greatest of these was the Chevalier La Salle, the famous explorer, who plays a large part on the stage of Western history,[65] particularly in the history of the Mississippi valley. It has been claimed for La Salle that he was in Wisconsin in 1671, two years before Joliet, and actually canoed on the Mississippi River, but this is more than doubtful. We do know that in 1673 one of his agents was trading with the Sioux to the west of Lake Superior; and that in 1679 he came to Green Bay in a small vessel called the Griffin, the first sailing craft on the Great Lakes above the cataract of Niagara. La Salle was a coureur de bois, most of this time, for he operated in a field far larger than that for which he had a license. Leaving his ship, which was afterward wrecked, he and fourteen of his men proceeded in canoes southward along the western coast of Lake Michigan, visiting the sites of[66] Milwaukee and other Wisconsin lakeshore cities. Finally, after many strange adventures, they ascended St. Joseph River, crossed over to the Kankakee River, and spent the winter in a log fort which they built on Peoria Lake, a broadening of the Illinois River.


At least one priest was thought necessary in every well-equipped exploring expedition. La Salle had quarreled with the Jesuits, and hated them; hence the ministers of religion in his party were three Franciscan friars, one of them being Father Louis Hennepin, who afterward became famous. When La Salle determined to spend the winter at Peoria Lake, he sent Hennepin forward with two coureurs de bois, to explore the upper waters of the Mississippi. These three adventurers descended the Illinois River in their canoe, and then ascended the Mississippi to the Falls of St. Anthony, where now lies the great city of Minneapolis; there they met some Sioux, and went with them upon a buffalo hunt. But the Indians, although at first friendly, soon turned out to be a bad lot, for they robbed their guests, and practically held them as prisoners.

This was in the early summer of 1680. Luckily for Hennepin and his companions, the powerful coureur de bois, Daniel Graysolon Duluth (du Luth) appeared on the scene. Duluth was, next to Perrot, the leading man in the country around Lake Superior and the Upper Mississippi valley. He had been spending the winter trading with the Sioux in the lake country of northern Minnesota, and along Pigeon River, which is now the dividing line between Minnesota and Canada. With a[67] party of ten of his boatmen, he set out in June to reach the Mississippi, his route taking him up the turbulent little Bois Brulé River, over the mile and a half of portage trail to Upper Lake St. Croix, and down St. Croix River to the Mississippi. On reaching the latter, he learned of the fact that Europeans were being detained and maltreated by the Sioux, and at once went and rescued them. The summer was spent among the Indians in company with Hennepin's party, who, now that Duluth was found to be their friend, were handsomely treated. In the autumn, Duluth, Hennepin, and their companions all returned down the Mississippi, up the Wisconsin, and down the Fox, and spent the winter at Mackinac. After that, Duluth was frequently upon the Fox-Wisconsin route, and traded for buffalo hides and other furs with the Wisconsin tribes.

Another famous visitor to Wisconsin, in those early days, was Pierre le Sueur, who in 1683 traveled from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi, over the Fox-Wisconsin route, and traded with the Sioux at the Falls of St. Anthony and beyond. His fur trade grew, in a few years, to large proportions; for he was a shrewd man, and was related to some of the officials of New France. This enabled him to secure trading licenses for the Western country, and other valuable privileges, which gave him an advantage over the unlicensed traders, like Duluth, who had no official friends. In 1693, Le Sueur was trading in Duluth's old country; and, in order to protect the old Bois Brulé and St. Croix route from marauding Indians, he built a log fort at either end, one on Chequamegon Bay, and the other on an island[68] in the Mississippi, below the mouth of the St. Croix. A few years later, Le Sueur was in France, where he obtained a license to operate certain "mines of lead, copper, and blue and green earth," which he claimed to have discovered along the banks of the Upper Mississippi. In the summer of 1700, he and his party opened lead mines in the neighborhood of the present Dubuque and Galena, and also near the modern town of Potosi, Wisconsin. He does not appear to have been very successful as a miner; but his fur trade was still enormous, and his many explorations led to the Upper Mississippi being quite correctly represented on the maps of America, made by the European geographers.

A missionary priest, Father St. Cosme, of Quebec, was in Green Bay in October, 1699, and proposed to visit the Mississippi region, by way of the Fox and[69] Wisconsin rivers. But the warlike Foxes, who were giving the French a great deal of trouble at this time, had forbidden any white man passing over this favorite waterway, so St. Cosme was obliged to go the way that La Salle had followed, up the west shore of Lake Michigan and through Illinois. The party stopped at many places along the Wisconsin lake shore, but the only ones which we can identify are the sites of Sheboygan and Milwaukee, where there were large Indian villages.

It is not to be supposed that these were all the Frenchmen to tarry in or pass through Wisconsin during the latter half of the seventeenth century. Doubtless there were scores, if not hundreds of others, fur traders, voyageurs, soldiers, and priests; we have selected but a few of those whose movements were recorded in the writings of their time. Wisconsin was a key point in the geography of the West; here were the interlaced sources of rivers flowing north into Lake Superior, east and northeast into Lake Michigan, and west and southwest into the Mississippi River. The canoe traveler from Lower Canada could, with short portages, pass through Wisconsin into waters reaching far into the interior of the continent, even to the Rocky Mountains, the lakes of the Canadian Northwest, and the Gulf of Mexico. This is why the geography of Wisconsin became known so early in the history of our country, why Wisconsin Indians played so important a part on the stage of border warfare, and why history was being made here at a time when some of the States to the east of us were still almost unknown to white men.



Wisconsin was important, from a geographical point of view, because here were the meeting places of waters which flowed in so many directions; here were the gates which opened upon widely divergent paths. The explorer and the fur trader soon discovered this, and Wisconsin became known to them at a very early period. France had two important colonies in North America, New France (or Canada), upon the St. Lawrence River, and Louisiana, extending northward indefinitely from the Gulf of Mexico. It was found necessary, in pushing her claim to the ownership of all of the continent west of the Alleghany Mountains and east of the Rockies, to connect New France and Louisiana with a chain of little forts along the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. The forts at Detroit, Mackinac, Green Bay, Prairie du Chien, and Kaskaskia (in Illinois) were links in this chain, at the center of which was Wisconsin; or, to use another figure, Wisconsin was the keystone of the arch which bridged the two French colonies.

There were six principal canoe routes between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi: one by way of the Maumee and Wabash rivers, another by way of St.[71] Joseph River and the Kankakee and the Illinois, another by way of the St. Joseph, Wabash, and Ohio rivers, still another by way of the Chicago River and the Illinois, and we have already seen that from Lake Superior there were used the Bois Brulé and the St. Croix routes. But the easiest of all, the favorite gateway, was the Fox-Wisconsin route, for all the others involved considerable hardship; this is why Wisconsin was so necessary to the French military officers in holding control of the interior of the continent.


Affairs went well enough so long as the French were on good terms with the warlike and crafty Fox Indians, who held control of the Fox River. But after a time the Foxes became uneasy. The fur trade in New France was in the hands of a monopoly, which charged large fees for licenses, and fixed its own prices on the furs which it bought, and on the Indian goods which it sold to the forest traders. On the other hand, the fur trade in the English colonies east of the Alleghanies was free; any man could engage in it and go wherever he would. The result was that the English, with the strong competition among themselves, paid higher prices to the Indians for furs than the French could afford, and their prices for articles which the Indians wanted were correspondingly lower than those of the French.

The Indians were always eager for a bargain; and although the French declared that those trading with the English were enemies of New France, they persisted in secretly sending trading parties to the English, who were now beginning to swarm into the Ohio[72] valley. The Foxes, in particular, grew very angry with the French for charging them such high prices, and resented the treatment which they received at the hands of the traders from Quebec and Montreal. At one time they told Perrot that they would pack up their wigwams, and move in a body to the Wabash River or to the Ohio, and form a league with the fierce Iroquois of New York, who were friends and neighbors of the English. Had they done so, the French fur trade in the West would have suffered greatly.

The Foxes began to make it disagreeable for the French in Wisconsin. They insisted on collecting tolls on fur trade bateaux which were being propelled up the Fox River, and even stopped traders entirely; several murders of Frenchmen were also charged to them. The French thereupon determined to punish these rebellious savages who sat within the chief gateway to the Mississippi. In the winter of 1706-07, a large party of soldiers, coureurs des bois, and half-breeds, under a captain named Marin, ascended the Fox River on snowshoes and attacked the Foxes,[73] together with their allies, the Sacs, at a large village at Winnebago Rapids, near where is now the city of Neenah.

Several hundreds of the savages were killed in this assault, but its effect was to make the Foxes the more troublesome. A few summers later, this same Marin arranged again to surprise the enemy. His boats were covered with oilcloth blankets, in the manner adopted by the traders to protect the goods against rain; only two voyageurs were visible in each boat to propel it. Arriving at the foot of Winnebago Rapids, the canoes were ranged along the shore, and nearly fifteen hundred Indians came out and squatted on the bank, ready to collect toll of the traders. All of a sudden the covers were thrown off, and the armed men appeared and raked the Indians with quick volleys of lead, while a small cannon in Marin's boat increased the effectiveness of the attack. Tradition says that over a thousand Foxes and Sacs fell in this massacre; this is one of the many incidents in white men's relations with the Indians, wherein savages were outsavaged in the practice of ferocious treachery.

Despite the great slaughter, there appear to have been enough Foxes left to continue giving the French a great deal of annoyance. There were fears at Quebec that it might be necessary to abandon the attempt to connect New France and Louisiana by a trail through the Western woods, in which case the English would have a free run of the Mississippi valley. There seem, however, not to have been any more warlike expeditions to Wisconsin for several years. But[74] in May, 1712, the French induced large numbers of the Foxes, with their friends, the Mascoutins, the Kickapoos, and the Sacs, to come to Detroit for the making of a treaty of peace. At the same time the French also assembled there large bands of the Pottawattomies and Menominees from Wisconsin, with Illinois Indians, some camps from Missouri, and Hurons and Ottawas from the Lake Huron country; all of these were enemies of the Foxes.

The records do not show just why it happened; but for some reason the French and their allies fired on the Foxes and their friends, who were well intrenched in a palisaded camp outside the walls of Detroit. A great siege ensued, lasting nineteen days, in which the slaughter on both sides was heavy; but at last the Foxes, worn out by loss of numbers, hunger, and disease, took advantage of a dark, rainy night to escape northward. They were pursued the following day, but again intrenched themselves with much skill, and withstood another siege of five days, when they surrendered. The French and their savage allies fell upon the poor captives with fury and slew nearly all of them, men, women, and children.

The poor Foxes had lost in this terrible experience upward of fifteen hundred of the bravest of their tribe, which was now reduced to a few half-starved bands. But their spirit was not gone. Next year the officers at Quebec wrote home to Paris: "The Fox Indians are daily becoming more insolent." They had begun to change their tactics; instead of wasting their energies on the French, they began to make friends[75] with, or to intimidate, neighboring tribes. By means of small, secret war parties, they would noiselessly swarm out of the Wisconsin forests and strike hard blows at the prairie Indians of Illinois, who preferred to remain their enemies. In this manner the Illinois Indians were reduced to a mere handful, and were compelled to seek shelter under the guns of the French fort at Kaskaskia. At the same time the Foxes were in close alliance with the Sioux and other great western tribes, who helped them lock the gate of the Fox-Wisconsin rivers, and plunder and murder French traders wherever they could be found throughout Wisconsin.


Again it seemed evident that New France, unless something were done, could never maintain its chain of communication with Louisiana, or conduct any fur trade in the Northwest. The something decided on was an attempt to destroy the Foxes, root and branch. For this purpose there was sent out to Wisconsin, in 1716, a well-equipped expedition under an experienced captain named De Louvigny, numbering eight hundred men, whites and Indians. The[76] Foxes were found living in a walled town upon the mound now known as Little Butte des Morts, on the west side of Fox River, opposite the present Neenah. The wall consisted of three rows of stout palisades, reënforced by a deep ditch; tradition says there were here assembled five hundred braves and three thousand squaws and other noncombatants.

The French found it necessary to lay siege to this forest fortress, just as they would attack a European city of that time; trenches and mines were laid, and pushed forward at night, until, at the close of the third day, everything was ready to blow up the palisades. At this point the Foxes surrendered, but they gained easy terms for those days, for De Louvigny was no butcher of men, and appeared to appreciate their bravery. They gave up their prisoners, they furnished enough slaves to the allies of the French to take the place of the warriors slain, they agreed to furnish furs enough to pay the expenses of the expedition, and sent six hostages to Quebec to answer for their future behavior. The next year, De Louvigny returned to the valley of the Fox, from Quebec, and made a treaty with the Foxes, but nothing came of it. Treaties were easily made with Indian tribes, in the days of New France, and as easily broken by either side.

In the very next year, the Foxes were again making raids on the French-loving Illinois, and the entire West was, as usual, torn by strife. It was evident that the Foxes were trying to gain control of the Illinois River, and thus command both of the principal roads to the Mississippi. The French were at this time enthusiastic[77] over great schemes for opening mines on the Mississippi, operating northward from Louisiana; agriculture was beginning to flourish around Kaskaskia; and grain, flour, and furs were being shipped down the Mississippi to the French islands in the West Indies, and across the ocean to France. More than ever was it necessary to unite Louisiana with Canada by a line of communication.

But just now the Foxes were stronger than they had been at any time. Their shrewd warriors had organized a great confederacy to shut out the French, and thereby advance the cause of English trade, although it is not known that the English assisted in this widespread conspiracy. Fox warriors were sent with pipes of peace among the most distant tribes of the West, the South, and the North, and it seemed as if the whole interior of the continent were rising in arms. A French writer of the period says of the Foxes: "Their fury increased as their forces diminished. On every side they raised up new enemies against us. The whole course and neighborhood of the Mississippi is infested with Indians with whom we have no quarrel, and who yet give to the French no quarter."

This condition lasted for a few years. But Indian leagues do not ordinarily long endure. We soon find the Foxes weak again, with few to back them; in 1726, at a council in Green Bay, they were apologizing for having made so much trouble. The French were, however, still afraid of these wily folk, and two years later (1728) a little army of four hundred Frenchmen and nine hundred Indian allies advanced on the Fox villages by[78] way of the Ottawa River route and Mackinac. The Foxes, together with their Winnebago friends, had heard of the approach of the whites, and fled; but the white invaders burned every deserted village in the valley, and destroyed all the crops, leaving the red men to face the rigor of winter with neither huts nor food.

Fleeing from their native valley before the onset of the army, the unhappy fugitives, said to have been four thousand in number, descended the Wisconsin and ascended the Mississippi, to find their Sioux allies in the neighborhood of Lake Pepin. But the Sioux had been won by French presents, distributed from the fur trade fort on that lake, and turned the starving tribesmen away; the ever-treacherous Winnebagoes of the party sided with the Sioux; the Sacs expressed repentance, and hurried home to Green Bay to make their peace with the French; the Mascoutins now proved to be enemies. Thus deserted, the disconsolate Foxes passed the winter in Iowa, and sent messengers to the Green Bay fort, begging for forgiveness.

But there was no longer any peace for the Foxes. Indians friendly with the French attacked one of their Iowa camps; and in the autumn of 1729 they sought in humble fashion to return to the valley of the Fox; but they were ambuscaded by a French-directed party of Ottawas, Menominees, Chippewas, and Winnebagoes, and after a fierce fight lost nearly three hundred by death and capture; the prisoners, men, women, and children, were burned at the stake.

Turning southward, the greater part of the survivors of this ill-starred tribe sought a final asylum upon[79] the Illinois River, not far from Peoria. Three noted French commanders, heads of garrisons in the Western country, now gathered their forces, which aggregated a hundred and seventy Frenchmen and eleven hundred Indians; and in August, 1730, gave battle to the fugitives, who were now outnumbered full four to one. The contest, notable for the gallant sorties of the besieged and the cautious military engineering of the besiegers, lasted throughout twenty-two days; probably never in the history of the West has there been witnessed more heroic conduct than was displayed during this remarkable campaign. It was inevitable that the Foxes should lose in the end, but they sold themselves dearly. Not over fifty or sixty escaped; and it is said that three hundred warriors perished in battle or afterwards at the stake, while six hundred women and children were either tomahawked or burned.

It is surprising, after all these massacres, that there were any members of the tribe left; yet we learn that two years later (1732) three hundred of them were living peaceably on the banks of the Wisconsin River, when still another French and Indian band swept down upon and either captured or slaughtered them all. Of another small party, which sought mercy from the officer of the fort at Green Bay, several, including the head chief of the Foxes, Kiala, were sent away into slavery, and wore away their lives in menial drudgery upon the tropical island of Martinique.

The remainder took refuge with the Sacs, on Fox River; and the following year the French commander at Green Bay asked the Sacs to give them up. This[80] time the Sacs proved to be good friends, and refused; and in the quarrel which followed at the Sac town, eight French soldiers were killed. This led to later retaliation on the part of the French, but in the battle which was fought both sides lost heavily; and then both Sacs and Foxes fled from the country, never to return. They settled upon the banks of the Des Moines River, in Iowa, whither French hate again sought them out in 1734. This last expedition, however, was a failure, and the Fox War was finally ended, after twenty-five years of almost continuous bloodshed. During this war not only had the great tribe of the Foxes been almost annihilated, but the power of France in the West had meanwhile been greatly weakened by the persistent opposition of those who had held the key to her position.



We have seen in previous chapters why Wisconsin, with her intermingling rivers, was considered the key to the French position in the interior of North America; why it was that fur traders early sought this State, and erected log forts along its rivers and lakes to protect their commerce with the people of the forest. It remains to be told what were the conditions of this widespreading and important forest trade.


The French introduced to our Indians iron pots and kettles, which were vastly stronger than their crude utensils of clay; iron fishhooks, hatchets, spears, and guns, which were not only more durable, but far more effective than their old weapons of stone and copper and bone; cloths and blankets of many colors, from which attractive clothing was more easily made than from the skins of beasts; and glass beads and silver trinkets, for the decoration of their clothing and bodies, which cost far less labor to obtain than did ornaments made from clam shells. To secure these French goods, the Indians had but to hunt and bring the skins to the white men. The Indian who could secure a gun found it easier to get skins than before, and he also had a weapon which made him more powerful against his[82] enemies. It was not long before the Indian forgot how to make utensils and weapons for himself, and became very dependent on the white trader. This is why the fur trade was at the bottom of every event in the forest, and for full two hundred years was of supreme importance to all the people who lived in the Wisconsin woods.

All trade in New France was in the control of a monopoly, which charged heavy fees for licenses, severely punished all the unlicensed traders who could be detected, and fixed its own prices for everything. French traders were obliged, therefore, to charge the Indians more for their goods than the English charged for theirs; and it was a continual and often bloody struggle to keep the Indians of the Northwest from having any trade with the English colonists from the Atlantic coast, who had with great labor crossed the Alleghany Mountains and were now swarming into the Ohio River valley. It was impossible to prevent the English trade altogether, but the policy was in the main successful, although it cost the French a deal of anxiety, and sometimes great expense in military operations.

During the greater part of the French régime in Wisconsin, the bulk of the goods for the Indians came up by the Ottawa River route, because the warlike Iroquois of New York favored the English, and for a long time kept Frenchmen from entering the lower lakes of Ontario and Erie. Finally, however, after the fort at Detroit was built (1701), the lower lakes came to be used.

It was, by either route, a very long and tiresome journey from Quebec or Montreal to Wisconsin, and owing[83] to the early freezing of the Straits of Mackinac, but one trip could be made in a year. It was not, however, necessary for every trader to go to the "lower settlements" each year. At the Western forts large stocks of goods were kept, and there the furs were stored, sometimes for several seasons, until a great fleet of canoes could be made up by bands of traders and friendly Indians; and then the expedition to Montreal was made, with considerable display of barbaric splendor. When the traders reached Montreal, the inhabitants of the settlement turned out to welcome their visitors from the wilderness, and something akin to a great fair was held, at which speculators bought up the furs, feasts were eaten and drunk, and fresh treaties[84] of peace were made with the Indians. A week or two would thus pass in universal festivity, at the end of which traders and savages would seek their canoes, and, amid volleys of cannon from the fort, martial music, the fluttering of flags, and the shouts of the habitants, the fleet would push off, and soon be swallowed again by the all-pervading forest.

When the French were driven out of Canada, in 1760, and the British assumed control, the English Hudson Bay Company began spreading its operations over the Northwest. But in 1783, at the close of the Revolutionary War, the Northwest Company was organized, with headquarters at Montreal. The British still held possession of our Northwest long after the treaty with the United States was signed. Soon sailing ships were introduced, and many goods were thus brought to Mackinac, Green Bay, and Chequamegon Bay; nevertheless, canoes and bateaux, together with the more modern "Mackinac boats" and "Durham boats," were for many years largely used upon these long Western journeys from Montreal. To a still later date were these rude craft sent out from the Mackinac warehouses to Wisconsin, or from Mackinac to the famous headquarters of the company at the mouth of Pigeon River, on the western shore of Lake Superior, the "Grand Portage," as it was called.

It was a life filled with great perils, by land and flood; many were the men who lost their lives in storms, in shooting river rapids, in deadly quarrels with one another or with the savages, by exposure to the elements, or by actual starvation. Yet there was a[85] glamour over these wild experiences, as is customary wherever men are associated as comrades in an outdoor enterprise involving common dangers and hardships. The excitement and freedom of the fur trade appealed especially to the volatile, fun loving French; and music and badinage and laughter often filled the day.

After the Americans assumed control, in 1816, Congress forbade the British to conduct the fur trade in our country. This was to prevent them from influencing the Western Indians to war; but turning out the English traders served greatly to help the American Fur Company, founded by John Jacob Astor, and having its headquarters on the Island of Mackinac. Nevertheless the agents, the clerks, and the voyageurs were still nearly all of them Frenchmen, as of old, and there was really very little change in the methods of doing business, except that Astor managed to reap most of the profits.

John Jacob Astor

The fur trade lasted, as a business of prime importance to Wisconsin, until about 1835. It was at its greatest height in 1820, at which time Green Bay was the chief settlement in Wisconsin. By 1835 new interests had arisen, with the development of the lead mines in the southwest, and with the advent of agricultural[86] settlers from the East, upon the close of the Black Hawk War (1832).

The fur trade led the way to the agricultural and manufacturing life of to-day. The traders naturally chose Indian villages as the sites for most of their posts, and such villages were generally at places well selected for the purpose. They were on portage trails, where craft had to be carried around falls or rapids, as at De Pere, Kaukauna, Appleton, and Neenah; or they were on portage plains, between distinct water systems, as at Portage and Sturgeon Bay; or they were at the mouths or junctions of rivers, as at Milwaukee, Sheboygan, Oshkosh, Lacrosse, and Prairie du Chien; or they occupied commanding positions on lake or river bank, overlooking a wide stretch of country. Thus most of the leading cities of Wisconsin are on the sites of old Indian villages; for the reasons which led to their choice by the Indians held good with the white pioneers in the old days when rivers and lakes were the chief highways. Thus we have first the Indian village, then the trading post, and later the modern town.

The Indian trails were also largely used by the traders in seeking the natives in their villages; later these trails developed into public roads, when American settlers came to occupy the country. Thus we see that Wisconsin was quite thoroughly explored, its principal cities and highways located, and its water ways mapped out by the early French, long before the inrush of agricultural colonists.



In establishing their chain of rude forts, or trading posts, along the Great Lakes and through the valley of the Mississippi, the French had no desire to plant agricultural settlements in the West. Their chief thought was to keep the continental interior as a great fur bearing wilderness; to encourage the Indians to hunt for furs, by supplying all their other wants with articles made in Europe; and to prevent them from carrying any of their furs to the English, who were always underbidding the French in prices.

The officers of these forts were instructed to bully or to persuade the Indians, as occasion demanded; and some of them became very successful in this forest diplomacy. Around most of the forts were small groups of temporary settlers, who could hardly be called colonists, for they expected when they had made their fortunes, or when their working days were over, to return to their own people on the lower St. Lawrence River. It was rather an army of occupation, than a body of settlers. Nearly every one in the settlement was dependent on the fur trade, either as agent, clerk, trapper, boatman, or general employee.

Sometimes these little towns were the outgrowth of early Jesuit missions, as La Pointe (on Chequamegon[88] Bay), or Green Bay (De Pere); but sooner or later the fur trade became the chief interest. Most of the towns, however, like Milwaukee, La Crosse, or Prairie du Chien, were the direct outgrowth of commerce with the savages. There were trading posts, also, on Lakes Chetek, Flambeau, Court Oreilles, and Sandy, but the settlements about them were very small, and they never grew into permanent towns, as did some of the others.

At all these places, the little log forts served as depots for furs and the goods used in trading with the Indians; they were also used as rallying points for the traders and other white inhabitants of the district, in times of Indian attack. They would have been of slight avail against an enemy with cannon, but afforded sufficient protection against the arrows, spears, and muskets of savages.


The French Canadians who lived in these waterside hamlets were an easy-going folk. Nearly all of them were engaged in the fur trade at certain seasons of the year. The bourgeois, or masters, were the chiefs. The voyageurs were men of all work, propelling the canoes and bateaux when afloat, carrying the craft and their contents over portages, transporting packs of goods and furs along the forest trails, caring for the camps, and acting as guards for the persons and property of their employers. The coureurs de bois, or wood rangers, were everywhere; they were devoted to a life in the woods, for the fun and excitement in it; they conducted trade on their own account, far off in the most inaccessible places, and were men of great daring. Then there were the habitants, or permanent villagers; sometimes[89] these worked as voyageurs, but for the most part they were farmers in a small way, cultivating long, narrow "claims" running at right angles to the river bank; one can still find at Green Bay and Prairie du Chien, traces of some of these old "French claims." The object of having them so narrow was, that the habitants could live close to one another, along the waterside.

They were of a very social nature, these French habitants. They liked to meet frequently, enjoy their pipes, and tell stories of the hunt or of old days on the St. Lawrence. They were famous fiddlers, too. No wilderness so far away that the little French fiddle had not been there; the Indians recognized it as a part of the furniture of every fur trader's camp. Music appealed strongly to these warm natures, and the songs of the voyageurs, as they propelled their canoes along the Wisconsin rivers, always greatly interested travelers. French Canadians are still living in Wisconsin, who remember those gay melodies which echoed through our forests a hundred years ago.

The old French life continued in Wisconsin until well[90] into the nineteenth century. Although New France fell in 1760, and the British came into control, they never succeeded in Anglicizing Wisconsin. English fur companies succeeded the French, and British soldiers occupied the Wisconsin forts; but the fur trade itself had still to be conducted through French residents, who alone had the confidence of the Indians. Great Britain was supposed to surrender all this country to the United States in 1796; but it was really 1816 before the American flag floated over Green Bay, and the American Fur Company came into power. But, even under this company, most of the actual trading was done through the French; so we may say that as long as the fur trade remained the chief industry of Wisconsin, about to the year 1835, the old French life was still maintained, and French methods were everywhere in evidence.

It is surprising how strongly marked upon our Wisconsin are the memories of the old French days. A quiet, unobtrusive people, were those early French, without high ambitions, and simple in their tastes; yet they and theirs have displayed remarkable tenacity of life, and doubtless their effect upon us of to-day will never be effaced. Our map is sprinkled all over with the French names which they gave to our hills and lakes and streams, and early towns. We may here mention a few only, at random: Lakes Flambeau, Court Oreilles, Pepin, Vieux Désert; the rivers Bois Brulé, Eau Claire, Eau Pleine, Embarrass, St. Croix; the counties Eau Claire, Fond du Lac, La Crosse, Langlade, Marquette, Portage, Racine, St. Croix, Trempealeau;[91] the towns of Racine, La Crosse, Prairie du Chien, Butte des Morts. Scores of others can readily be found in the atlas. In the cities of Green Bay, Kaukauna, Portage, and Prairie du Chien, and the dreamy little Fox River hamlet of Grand Butte des Morts, are still to be found little closely-knit colonies of French Creoles, descendants of those who lived and ruled under the old French régime.

The time must come, in the molding of all the foreign elements in our midst into the American of the future, when the French element will no longer exist among us as an element, but merely as a memory. If our posterity can inherit from those early French occupants of our soil their simple tastes, their warm hearts, their happy temperament, their social virtues, then the old French régime will have brought a blessing to Wisconsin, and not merely a halo of historical romance.



Upon the eighth day of September, 1760, the French flag ceased to fly over Canada. In a long and bitter struggle, lasting at intervals through an entire century, French and English had been battling with each other for the control of the interior of this continent; and the former had lost everything at the decisive battle on the Plains of Abraham, before the walls of Quebec.

Reduced to the last extremity, the authorities of New France had ordered her fur traders, coureurs de bois and all, to hurry down to the settlements on the St. Lawrence, and aid in protecting them against the English. Thus in the Wisconsin forests, when the end came, there were left no Frenchmen of importance. Leaving their Indian friends, and many of them their Indian wives and half-breed families, they had obeyed the far away summons, and several lost their lives in the great battle or in the skirmishes which preceded it. The others, who at last returned, were quick to show favor to the English, for little they really cared who were their political masters so long as they were let alone. The Indians, too, although personally they preferred the French to the English,[93] were glad enough to see the latter, because they brought better prices for furs.

Wisconsin was so far away that it took a long time for British soldiers to reach the deserted and tumbledown fort at Green Bay. About the middle of October, 1761, there arrived from Mackinac Lieutenant James Gorrell and seventeen men to hold all of this country for King George. The station had been called by the French Fort St. Francis, but the name was now changed to Fort Edward Augustus.

It was a very lonely and dismal winter for the British soldiers, for nearly all the neighboring savages were away on their winter hunt and did not return until spring. Mackinac, then a poor little trading village, was two hundred forty miles away; there was a trading post at St. Josephs on the southeast shore of Lake Michigan, four hundred miles distant; and the nearest French villages on the Mississippi were eight hundred miles of canoe journey to the southwest. All between was savagery: here and there a squalid Indian village, with its conical wigwams of bark or matted reeds, pitched on the shore of a lake, at the foot of a portage trail, or on the banks of a forest stream. Now and then a French trading party passed along the frozen trails, following the natives on the hunt and poisoning their minds against the newcomers, who were struggling to make their poor old stockade a fairly decent shelter against the winter storms.

But, when the savages returned to Green Bay in the spring, they met with fair words from Gorrell, a[94] plentiful distribution of presents, and good prices for furs, and their hearts were won. In 1763 occurred the great uprising led by Pontiac against the English in the Northwest, during which the garrison at Mackinac was massacred. This disturbed the friendship of Gorrell's neighbors, with the exception of a Menominee band, headed by chief Ogemaunee; and in June of that year the little garrison, together with the English traders at Green Bay, found it necessary to leave hastily for Cross Village, on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, escorted by Ogemaunee and ninety painted Menominees, who had volunteered to protect these Englishmen from the unfriendly Indians.

At Cross Village were several soldiers who had escaped from Mackinac, and the two parties and their escorts soon left in canoes for Montreal, by the way of Ottawa River. This old fur trade route was followed in order to escape Pontiac's Indians, who controlled the country about Detroit and along the lower lake. They arrived safely at their destination in August. The following year there was held a great council at Niagara, presided over by the famous Sir William Johnson, who was then serving as British superintendent for the Northern Indians. At this council Ogemaunee was present representing the Menominees of Wisconsin. In token of his valuable services in escorting Lieutenant Gorrell's party to Montreal, and thereby delivering them safely from the great danger which threatened, Ogemaunee was given a certificate, which reads as follows:[95]

[SEAL OF WAX] By the Honourable Sir William Johnson Baronet, His Majesty's sole agent and superintendent of the affairs of the Northern Indians of North America, Colony of the six United Nations their allies and dependants &c. &c. &c.

To OGemawnee a Chief of the Menomings Nation:

Whereas I have received from the officers who Commanded the Out posts as well as from other persons an account of your good behaviour last year in protecting the Officers, Soldiers &c. of the Garrison of La Bay, and in escorting them down to Montreal as also the Effects of the Traders to a large amount, and your having likewise entered into the strongest Engagements of Friendship with the English before me at this place. I do therefore give you This Testimony of my Esteem for your Services and Good behaviour.

Given under my hand & Seal at Arms at
Niagara the first day of August 1764.

Wm. Johnson.


This piece of paper, which showed that he was a good friend of the English, was of almost as great importance to Ogemaunee as a patent of nobility in the Old World. He carried it with him back to Wisconsin, and it remained in his family from one generation to another, for fully a hundred years. One day a blanketed and painted descendant of Ogemaunee presented it to an American officer who visited his wigwam. This descendant, doubtless, knew little of its meaning, but it had been used in his family as a charm for bringing good luck, and in his admiration for this kind officer he gave it to him, for the Indian is, by nature, grateful and generous. In the course of years the paper was presented to the State Historical Society, by which it is preserved as an interesting and suggestive relic of those early days of the English occupation of Wisconsin.



We ordinarily think of the Revolutionary War as having been fought wholly upon the Atlantic slope. As a matter of fact, there were enacted west of the Alleghanies, during that great struggle, deeds which proved of immense importance to the welfare of the United States. Had it not been for the capture from the British of the country northwest of the Ohio River by the gallant Virginia colonel, George Rogers Clark, it is fair to assume that the Old Northwest, as it came to be called, the present States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, would to-day be a part of the Dominion of Canada.

After the brief flurry of the Pontiac conspiracy (1763), the Indians of the Old Northwest became good friends of the British, whose aim was to encourage the fur trade and to keep the savages good-natured. The English have always been more successful in their treatment of Indians than have Americans; they are more generous with them, and while not less firm than we, they are more considerate of savage wants. The French and the half-breeds, too, were very soon the warm supporters of British policy, because English fur trade[98] companies gave them abundant employment, and evinced no desire other than to foster the primitive conditions under which the fur trade prospered.

The English were not desirous of settling the Western wilderness with farmers, thereby driving out the game. Our people, however, have always been of a land-grabbing temper; we have sought to beat down the walls of savagery, to push settlement, to cut down the forests, to plow the land, to drive the Indian out. This meant the death of the fur trade; hence it is small wonder that, when the Revolutionary War broke out, the French and Indians of the Northwest upheld the British and opposed the Americans.

A number of scattered white settlers and a few small villages had appeared along the Ohio River and many of its southern tributaries. In Kentucky there were several log forts, around each of which were grouped the rude cabins of frontiersmen, who were half farmers and half hunters, tall, stalwart fellows, as courageous as lions, and ever on the alert for the crouching Indian foe, who came when least expected. The country northwest of the Ohio River was then a part of the British province of Quebec. Here and there in this Old Northwest, as we now call it, were small villages of French and half-breed fur traders, each village protected by a little log fort; some of these villages were garrisoned by a handful of British soldiers, and others only by French Canadians who were friendly to the English. Such were Vincennes, in what is now Indiana; Kaskaskia and Cahokia, in the Illinois country; Prairie du Chien and Green Bay, in Wisconsin; and Mackinac[99] Island and Detroit, in Michigan. Detroit was the headquarters, where lived the British lieutenant governor of the Northwest, Henry Hamilton, a bold, brave, untiring, unscrupulous man.

Hamilton's chief business was to gather about him the Indians of the Northwest, and to excite in them hatred of the American settlers in Kentucky. In 1777, war parties sent out by him from Detroit, under cover of the forts of Vincennes, Kaskaskia, and Cahokia, swept Kentucky from end to end, and the whole American frontier was the scene of a frightful panic. The American backwoodsmen were ambushed, many of the blockhouse posts were burned, prisoners were subjected to nameless horrors, and it seemed as if pandemonium had broken loose. By the close of the year, such had been the rush of settlers back to their old homes, east of the mountains, that but five or six hundred frontiersmen remained in all Kentucky. Had the British and the Indians succeeded in driving back all of the settlers, they would have held the whole interior of the continent, and the American republic might never have been permitted to grow beyond the Alleghanies and the Blue Ridge; hemmed in to the Atlantic slope, this could never have become the great nation it is to-day.

Prominent among the defenders of Kentucky in 1777 was George Rogers Clark. He was but twenty-five years of age, had come from a good family in Virginia, and had a fair education for that day, but had been a wood rover from childhood. He was tall and commanding in person, a great hunter, and a backwoods land surveyor, such as Washington was. With chain[100] and compass, ax and rifle, he had, in the employ of land speculators, wandered far and wide through the border region, knowing its trails, its forts, its mountain passes, and its aborigines better than he knew his books. Associated with him were Boone, Benjamin Logan, and others who were prominent among American border heroes.

Clark saw that the best way to defend Kentucky was to strike the enemy in their own country. Gaining permission from Patrick Henry, governor of Virginia, for Kentucky was then but a county of Virginia, and obtaining some small assistance in money, he raised, in 1778, a little army of a hundred fifty backwoodsmen, clad in buckskin and homespun, who came from the hunters' camps of the Alleghanies. The men collected at Pittsburg and Wheeling, and in flatboats cautiously descended the Ohio to the falls, where is now the city of Louisville. Here, on an island, they built a fort as a military base, and the strongest of the party pushed on down the river to the abandoned old French Fort Massac, ten miles below the mouth of the Tennessee, from which they marched overland, for a hundred twenty miles, to Kaskaskia in western Illinois.

Capturing Kaskaskia by surprise (July 4), and soon gaining the good will of the French there, Clark sent out messengers who easily won over the neighboring Cahokia; and very soon even Vincennes, on the Wabash River, sent in its submission. It was not long before Hamilton, at Detroit, heard the humiliating news. He at once sent out two French agents, Charles de Langlade and Charles Gautier, of Green Bay, to raise a[101] large war party of Wisconsin Indians. They succeeded so well, that Hamilton set out from Detroit in October, to retake Vincennes. His force consisted of nearly two hundred whites (chiefly French) and three hundred Indians. Such were the obstacles to overcome in an unbroken wilderness, that he was seventy-one days in reaching his destination. Clark had left but two of his soldiers at Vincennes, and as their French allies at once surrendered, there was nothing to do but to give up the place.

Now came one of the most stirring deeds in our Western history. Clark, at Kaskaskia, soon learned of the loss of Vincennes; at the same time, it was told him that the greater part of Hamilton's expedition had disbanded for the winter, the lieutenant governor intending to launch a still larger war party against him in the spring. Thereupon Clark determined not to await an attack, but himself to make an attack on Hamilton, who had remained in charge of Vincennes.

The distance across country, from Kaskaskia to Vincennes, is about two hundred thirty miles. In summer it was a delightful region of alternating groves and prairies; in the dead of winter, it would afford fair traveling over the frozen plains and ice-bound rivers; but now, in February (1779), the weather had moderated, and great freshets had flooded the lowlands and meadows. The ground was boggy, and progress was slow and difficult; there were no tents, and the floods had driven away much of the game; and Clark and his officers were often taxed to their wits' ends to devise methods for keeping their hard-worked men in good[102] spirits. Often they were obliged to wade in the icy water, for miles together, and to sleep at night in soaked clothes upon little brush-strewn hillocks, shivering with cold, and without food or fire.

But at last, after nearly three weeks of almost superhuman exertion and indescribable misery, Vincennes was reached. The British garrison was taken by surprise, but held out with obstinacy, and throughout the long moonlight night the battle raged with much fury. The log fort was on the top of a hill overlooking the little town; it was armed with several small cannon, but Clark's men had only their muskets. They were, however, served freely with ammunition by the French villagers; and, being expert marksmen, could hit the gunners by firing through the loopholes, so that by sunrise the garrison was sadly crippled. The fight[103] continued throughout the following morning, and in the afternoon the British ran up the white flag. Hamilton and twenty-six of his fellows were sent as prisoners overland to Virginia.

Clark remained as master of the Northwest until the close of the Revolutionary War. The fact that the flag of the republic waved over Vincennes, Kaskaskia, and Cahokia when the war ended, had much to do with the decision of the peace commissioners to allow the United States to retain the country lying between the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and the Great Lakes.

During the Revolution, none of the forts in Wisconsin were occupied by British soldiers, and they were allowed to tumble into decay. Wisconsin was, however, used as a recruiting ground for Indian allies. Not only did Langlade and Gautier raise a war party of Wisconsin Indians to help Hamilton in his expedition against Vincennes, but they were frequently in Wisconsin on similar business during the war. In 1779 Gautier led a party of Wisconsin Indians to Peoria, in the Illinois country, where there was an old French fort which, it was thought, might fall into the hands of the Americans. Gautier burned this fort, and then hastily retreated because he found that Clark was making friends with all the Illinois Indians.

Clark's agents traded as far north as Portage, in Wisconsin. At Prairie du Chien they induced Linctot, a famous French fur trader, to join the Americans. Linctot put himself at the head of a party of five hundred French and half-breed horsemen, who were of much assistance to Clark in his various movements[104] after the capture of Vincennes. Meanwhile another large party, chiefly of Indians, assembled at Prairie du Chien in the British cause, led by three French traders, Hesse, Du Charme, and Calvé. They raided the upper Mississippi valley, capturing provisions intended for the Americans, and making a futile attack on the Spanish village of St. Louis, which was thought to be assisting Clark.

Despite these military operations in Wisconsin, the English fur trade continued in full strength, with headquarters upon the Island of Mackinac, but with French agents and boatmen, whose principal dwelling places were at Green Bay and Prairie du Chien. Upon Lake Superior large canoes and bateaux were used; but upon Lake Michigan were three small sloops, the Welcome, the Felicity, and the Archangel, which carried supplies and furs for the traders, and made frequent cruises to see that the "Bostonians," as the French used to call the Americans, obtained no foothold upon the shore of the lake.

Just before the close of the war, the British commander at Mackinac Island, Captain Patrick Sinclair, held a council with the Indians, and for a small sum purchased for himself their claims to that island and to nearly all of the land now comprising Wisconsin. But the treaty of 1783, between the British and the Americans, did not recognize this purchase, and Sinclair found that he was no longer the owner of Wisconsin. It had become, largely through the valor of Clark, and the persistence of our treaty commissioners, a part of the territory of the United States.



By the treaty of peace with Great Britain, in 1783, the country northwest of the Ohio River was declared to be a part of the territory of the United States; but it was many years before the Americans had anything more than a nominal control of Wisconsin, which was a part of this Northwestern region. The United States was at first unable to meet all of its obligations under this treaty; hence Great Britain kept possession of the old fur trade posts on the Upper Lakes, including Mackinac, of which Wisconsin was a "dependency." A British garrison was kept at Mackinac, thus controlling the fur trade of this district, but no troops were deemed necessary within Wisconsin itself.

To the few white inhabitants of the small fur trade villages of Green Bay and Prairie du Chien, there was slight evidence of any of these various changes in political ownership. Beyond the brief stay among them of Lieutenant Gorrell and his little band of redcoats, in the years 1761-63, the French and half-breeds of Wisconsin led much the same life as of old.

In 1780, an English fur trader, John Long, passed up the Fox River and down the Wisconsin, and bought up a great many furs in this region. Some years later[106] he wrote a book about his travels, and from this we get a very good idea of life among the French and Indians of the Northwest. Long was at Green Bay for several days, and tells us that the houses there were covered with birch bark, and the rooms were decorated with bows and arrows, guns, and spears. There were in the village not over fifty whites, divided into six or seven families. The men were for the most part engaged as assistants to the two or three leading traders; they spent their winters in the woods, picking up furs at the Indian camps, and in summer cultivated their narrow strips of gardens which ran down to the river's edge. It mattered little to them who was their political master, so long as they were left to enjoy their simple lives in their own fashion.

To this primitive community there came one day, in 1803, a portly, pompous, bald headed little Frenchman, named Charles Réaume. Wisconsin was then a part of Indiana Territory, of which William Henry Harrison was governor. It was for the most part a wilderness; dense woods and tenantless prairies extended all the way from the narrow clearing at Green Bay to the little settlement at Prairie du Chien. There were small clearings at Portage, Milwaukee, and one or two other fur trading posts. There was no civil government here, and the few white people in all this vast stretch of country practically made their own laws, each man being judge and jury for himself, so long as he did not interfere with other people's rights.


Réaume bore a commission from Governor Harrison,[107] appointing him justice of the peace at Green Bay, which meant nearly all of the country west of Lake Michigan. Thus "Judge Réaume," as he was called, was the only civil officer in Wisconsin, and although apparently never reappointed, he retained this distinction by popular consent until after the War of 1812-15; indeed, for several years after that, he was the principal officer of justice in these parts.

The judge was a good-hearted man, when one penetrated beneath the crust of official pomposity with which he was generally enveloped. He appears to have owned a volume of Blackstone, but the only law he understood or practiced was the old "Law of Paris," which had governed Canada from the earliest time, and which still rules in the Province of Quebec, and it is related that he knew little of that. His decisions were arbitrary, but were generally based on the right as he saw it, quite regardless of the technicalities of the law.

A great many queer stories are told of old Judge Réaume. He loved display after his simple fashion, and invented for himself an official uniform, which he wore on all public occasions. This consisted of a scarlet frock coat faced with white silk, and gay with spangled buttons; it can still be seen in the museum of the State Historical Society. He issued few warrants or subpœnas; it is told of him that whenever he wanted a person to appear before him, either as witness or principal, he sent to that person the constable, bearing his honor's well-known large jackknife, which was quite as effectual as the king's signet ring of olden days. [108]

Quite often did he adjudge guilty both complainant and defendant, obliging them both to pay a fine, or to work so many days in his garden; and sometimes both were acquitted, the constable being ordered to pay the costs. It is even said that the present of a bottle of whisky to the judge was sufficient to insure a favorable decision. The story is told that once, when the judge had actually rendered a decision in a certain case, the person decided against presented the court with a new coffee-pot, whereupon the judgment was reversed.

There may be some exaggeration in these tales of the earliest judge in Wisconsin, but they appear to be in the main substantiated. Nevertheless, although there doubtless was some grumbling, it speaks well for the old justice of the peace, and for the orderly good nature of this little French community without a jail, that no one appears ever to have questioned the legality of Réaume's decisions. These were strictly abided by, and although he was never reappointed, he held office under both American and British sway, simply because no one was sent to succeed him.


Not only was Réaume Wisconsin's judge and jury during the first two decades of the nineteenth century, but as there was, during much of his time, no priest hereabouts, he drew up marriage contracts, and married and divorced people at will, issued baptismal certificates, and kept a registry of births and deaths. He certified alike to British and American military commissions; drew up contracts between the fur traders and their employees; wrote letters for the habitants; and performed for the settlers all those functions of Church and state for which we now require a long list of officials and professional men. He was a picturesque and important functionary, illustrating in his person the simple fashions and modest desires of the French who first settled this State. We are now a wealthier people, but certainly there have never been happier times in Wisconsin, all things considered, than in the primitive days of old Judge Réaume and his official jackknife.



Although the Northwest was obtained for the United States by the treaty with Great Britain in 1783, the fur trade posts on the Upper Great Lakes were openly held by the mother country until the new republic could fully meet its financial obligations to her. After thirteen years, a new treaty (1796) officially recognized American supremacy. Nevertheless, for another thirteen years English fur traders were practically in possession of Wisconsin, operating through French Canadian and half-breed agents, clerks, and voyageurs, until John Jacob Astor (1809) organized the American Fur Company, and English fur traders were forbidden to operate here.

The military officers in Canada were firmly convinced that the Americans could not long hold the Northwest. They believed that some day there would be another war, and the country would once more become the property of Great Britain. Therefore they sought to keep on good terms with our Indians and French, giving them presents and employment.

Thus, when our second war with Great Britain did break out, in 1812, nearly all the people living in Wisconsin, and elsewhere in the wild northern parts of the[111] Northwest, were strong friends of the British cause. To them the issue was very clear. British victory meant the perpetuation of old times and old methods, so dear to them and to their ancestors before them. American victory meant the cutting down of the forests, the death knell of the fur trade, and the coming of a swarm of strange people, heretofore almost unknown to Wisconsin. These people had been described to them as an uneasy, selfish, land grabbing folk, who knew not how to enjoy themselves, and were for turning the world upside down with their Yankee notions. Naturally, the easy-going, comfort loving Wisconsin French looked upon their coming with great alarm.

The principal event of the war in Wisconsin was the capture of Prairie du Chien by the British, in 1814. Wisconsin was then a part of Illinois Territory, and west of the Mississippi River lay the enormous Missouri Territory. General William Clark, a younger brother of George Rogers Clark, was governor of Missouri Territory, and had in charge the conduct of military operations along the Upper Mississippi River.

Governor Clark had heard that the British, by this time strongly intrenched on Mackinac Island, intended to send an expedition up the Fox River and down the Wisconsin, to seize upon Prairie du Chien, which had not been fortified since the old French days. Clark recognized that the power that held Prairie du Chien practically held the entire Upper Mississippi River, and controlled the Indians and the fur trade of a vast region. Accordingly, early in June (1814) he ascended the river from his headquarters at St. Louis, with three hundred[112] men in six or eight large boats, including a bullet-proof keel boat, and erected a stockade on the summit of a large Indian mound which lay on the bank of the Mississippi a mile or two above the mouth of the Wisconsin. The name given to this stockade was Fort Shelby. Lieutenant Joseph Perkins was left in charge of the garrison, which was divided between the fort and the keel boat, the latter being anchored out in the Mississippi.

The British expedition from Mackinac had been greatly delayed. During the preceding autumn, Robert Dickson, an English fur trader, had been engaged in recruiting a large band of Indians in the neighborhood of Green Bay, and with them intended to occupy Prairie du Chien. But the Indians were evidently afraid to fight the Americans, and delayed Dickson so that the canoes of his party were caught in the ice on Lake Winnebago (December, 1813), and he was obliged to go into winter quarters on Island Park (known to the white pioneers as Garlic Island).

Poor Dickson had a sorry time with his war party. As soon as it was learned that provisions were being freely given out at this island camp, Indians from long distances came to visit him, under pretense of enlisting under the banner of the British chief. Councils innumerable were held, presents and food had to be given the visitors continually, and Dickson was put to sore straits to keep them satisfied. He found it impossible to get sufficient supplies from British headquarters on Mackinac Island, and was being severely criticised by the officers there, for his exorbitant demands upon them. Nevertheless, unless he kept his Indians good-natured,[113] they would promptly desert him. He was, therefore, forced to rely upon the French of Green Bay for what food he needed. This came grudgingly, and at so high prices that Dickson roundly scolded the Green Bay people, and promised to report them for punishment to the British king, for daring to take advantage of his Majesty's necessities.

While Dickson was thus engaged in Lake Winnebago, a British captain was drilling a number of young Frenchmen at Green Bay, and trying to make soldiers of them; at Mackinac, a similar work was being done among the voyageurs by the two leading fur traders of Prairie du Chien, Brisbois and Rolette. On the other hand, at Prairie du Chien, the American Indian agent, Boilvin, was issuing circulars calling on the people to claim American protection before it was too late.


Late in June the leaders of the expedition started from Mackinac, under the command of Major William McKay, and at Green Bay, Lake Winnebago, and Portage picked up various parties of French and Indians. These bands were much reduced from those who had been so liberally maintained during the winter, for most of the Indians were anxious to keep away from the fighting until it should be evident which side would win, and many of the French were of the same mind. By the time Fox River had been ascended by the fleet of canoes, and the descent of the Wisconsin begun, the allied forces consisted of but a hundred twenty whites and four hundred fifty Indians. All of the latter, according to McKay's report, proved "perfectly useless."


On the 17th of July, the British war party landed at Prairie du Chien, to find the Americans, some sixty or seventy strong, protected by a stockade and two blockhouses, on which were mounted six small cannon. In the river, the keel boat contained perhaps seventy-five men and fourteen cannon. The British had, besides their muskets, only a three-pounder, and the situation did not look promising.

Perkins was summoned to surrender, but he declared that he would "defend to the last man." For two days there was a rather lively discharge of firearms on both sides. Apparently, the British were the better gunners; their cannonading soon forced the men on the keel boat to desert their comrades on shore, and McKay then centered his attention on the fort. The Indians were unruly, being principally engaged in plundering the Frenchmen's houses in the village. The British supply of ammunition had quite run out by the evening of the 9th, and McKay was seriously contemplating a retreat, when he was surprised to see a white flag put out by the garrison.

It appears that the stock of food had become exhausted in the fort, and Perkins had formed an exaggerated idea of the strength of the invaders. The British guaranteed that the Americans should march out of Fort Shelby at eight o'clock in the morning of the 20th, with colors flying and with the honors of war, and that the Indians should be prevented from maltreating them. This last agreement McKay found it very difficult to carry out, for the savages wished, as usual, to massacre the prisoners. To the honor of the[115] British, it should be recorded that they exercised great vigilance, and spared neither supplications nor threats, to insure the safety of their prisoners, whom they soon sent down the river to the American post at St. Louis.

When the British flag was run up on the stockade, the name was changed to Fort McKay, in honor of the British leader. During the long autumn and succeeding winter, the British experienced their old difficulties with the Indian allies. The warriors sacked the houses of the French settlers, all over the prairie, and destroyed crops and supplies. Council after council was held at Fort McKay, and large bands of lazy, quarrelsome savages, encamped about the fort, were fed and were loaded with presents; altogether, the occupation of Wisconsin proved an expensive luxury. It was no doubt with some relief that the British garrison at last learned, late in May 1815, of the treaty of peace signed on the previous 24th of December, and made arrangements to withdraw up the Wisconsin and down the Fox, and across the great lake to Mackinac.


In point of fact, the withdrawal of Captain Bulger, at that time in charge of Fort McKay, was in reality a hasty and undignified retreat from his own allies. The Indians had learned with amazement that the British palefaces were going to surrender to the American palefaces, without showing fight, and simply because somewhere, far away in another part of the world, some other palefaces, whom these Englishmen had never even seen, had held a peace council and buried the hatchet. This sort of thing could not be understood by the savages encamped outside the walls of Fort McKay, save as an evidence of rank cowardice. They called the redcoats a lot of "old women," became insolent, and even threatened them.

Captain Bulger saw that it would not do to await the arrival of the American troops from St. Louis, so he sent an Indian messenger with a letter to the American commander, telling him to help himself to everything in Fort McKay. Then, only forty-eight hours after the arrival of the peace news, he pulled down his flag and hurried home as fast as he could, fearful all the way that an Indian war party might be at his heels. Thus ignominiously ended the last British occupation of Wisconsin.



It was the fur trade that first brought white men to Wisconsin. The daring Nicolet pushed his way through the wilderness, a thousand miles west of the little French settlement at Quebec, solely to introduce the traffic in furs to our savages, and others were not long in following him. Soon it was learned that there were lead mines in what is now southwest Wisconsin.

It is not probable that the aborigines, before the coming of white men, made any other use of lead than from it to fashion a few rude ornaments. But the French at once recognized the great value of this mineral, in connection with the fur trade. They taught the Indians how to mine it in a crude fashion, and to make it into bullets for the guns which they introduced among them.

The French traders themselves mined a good deal of it for their own use, and shipped it in their canoes to other parts of the West, where there were no lead mines, but where both white men and Indians needed bullets. For in a remarkably short period nearly all the Indians had turned from their old pursuits of raising maize and pumpkins, and killing just enough game[118] with slings and arrows to supply themselves with skins for their clothing and flesh for their food. They had now become persistent hunters for skins, which they might exchange with white men for European-made guns, ammunition, kettles, spears, cloths, and ornaments.

Some of the Indians in the neighborhood of the lead mines found it more profitable to mine lead for other hunters, than to hunt; hence we find that, at an early date, the mines came to be regarded as the particular property of the Indians, a fact which had considerable influence upon the history of the region. With the French, most of our Wisconsin Indians were quite friendly. The French were kind and obliging, often married and settled among them, and had no thought of driving them away. They throve upon the fur trade with the Indians, and in general did not care to become farmers. The English and the Americans, on the contrary, felt a contempt for the savages, and did not disguise it; the aim of the Americans, in particular, was gradually to clear the forest, to make farms, and to build villages. In the American scheme of civilization the Indian had no part. Therefore we find that Frenchmen were quite free to work the lead mines in company with the savages; but the Anglo-Saxons, when they arrived on the scene, were obliged to fight for this right. In the end they banished the Indians from the "diggings."

Marquette and Joliet had heard of the lead mines, and of the Frenchmen working at them, when they made their famous canoe trip through Wisconsin, in 1673. Through the rest of the seventeenth century, wherever[119] we pick up any French books of travel in these regions, or any maps of the Upper Mississippi country, we are sure to find frequent, though rather vague, mention of the lead mines.

The first official exploration of them appears to have been made in 1693 by Le Sueur, the French military commandant at Chequamegon Bay, on Lake Superior. He was so impressed by the "mines of lead, copper, and blue and green earth" which he found all along the banks of the Upper Mississippi, that he went to France to tell the king about his great discoveries, and seek permission to work them. It was forbidden to do anything in New France without the consent of the great French king, although the free and independent fur traders did very much as they pleased out here in the wilderness. But Le Sueur was a soldier, and had to ask permission. Obtaining it, he returned at great expense with thirty miners, who proceeded up the Mississippi from New Orleans; but somehow nothing came of these extensive preparations.

Several French speculators, in succeeding years, thought to make money out of supposed mines of gold, silver, lead, and copper along the upper waters of the Mississippi. Some of them came over from France with bands of miners and little companies of soldiers to guard them; but, like Le Sueur, they spent most of their time and money in exploration, not content with those lead mines that were well known to exist, and invariably left the country in disgust, their money and patience exhausted. Now and then a more practical man came quietly upon the scene, and seemed well[120] satisfied with lead when he could not find gold; most of such miners were French, but a few were Spanish, for Spain then owned all the country lying westward of the Mississippi River.


Occasionally the French commandant at Mackinac or Detroit would come to the mines, and with the aid of his soldiers and the Indians, get out a considerable quantity of the ore, and take it home with him in his fleet of canoes; or a fur trader would do the same, for the purposes of his own trade with the savages. The little French village of Ste. Geneviève, near St. Louis, had become, by the opening of our Revolutionary War, a considerable lead market, from which shipments were made in flatboats and bateaux down the Mississippi to New Orleans, or up the Ohio to Pittsburg. Lead was, next to peltries, the most important export of the Upper Mississippi region, and throughout the West served as currency.

During the Revolutionary War, the British were at first in command of the upper reaches of the great river, and guarded jealously the approach to the lead mines, for bullets were necessary to the success of the fast growing Kentucky settlements; American military operations against the little British garrisons at Vincennes, Kaskaskia, Cahokia, and Detroit would be powerless without lead. Gradually the influence of the American fur trade grew among the Indians, and it was not long before the Americans in the West were able to obtain through them all the lead they wanted.

Toward the close of the war, Julien Dubuque, a very energetic French miner, bought up large claims from[121] the Spaniards, in Missouri and Iowa, and for about a quarter of a century was the principal man in the lead region. He was remarkably successful in dealing with the Indians, whom he employed to do the principal work. His mining and trading operations were not confined to the Spanish side of the river, but were carried on in American territory as well, and his influence with the savages for a time prevented American miners and fur traders from obtaining a foothold.

When at last (1804) the United States obtained possession of the lands west of the Mississippi, numerous enterprising Americans forced their way into the lead district. They managed to mine a good deal of the metal, here and there, but frequently met with armed opposition from the Indians. It was fifteen years before the Americans equaled the French Canadians in number. In 1819, the Indian claims to the mining country having at last been purchased by the federal government, there was a general inrush of Americans. Among the earliest and most prominent of these was James W. Shull, the founder of Shullsburg, in Iowa county. Another man of note was Colonel James Johnson, of Kentucky, who brought negro slaves into the region, to do his heaviest labor, and maintained a fleet of flatboats to carry lead ore from Galena River to St. Louis, New Orleans, and Pittsburg.

At first the operations of Johnson, Shull, and others had to be carried on under military protection; for the Indians, although they had sold their claims, persisted in annoying the newcomers, being urged on by the French miners and traders who were still numerous [122] in the mining country. But so soon as the news spread that a large trade in lead was fast springing up, other Americans began to pour in; mining claims were entered in great numbers, a federal land office was opened, and by 1826 two thousand men, including negro slaves brought in by Kentucky and Missouri operators, were engaged in and about the mines. The following year the town of Galena was founded, and in 1829 there was a stampede thither.

Henceforth, for many years, the lead trade of southwestern Wisconsin, northwestern Illinois, and parts of Missouri and Iowa was the chief interest in the West. By this time the fur trade had almost died out, and the old French Canadian element had become but a small proportion of the population of the Mississippi valley. In those days, Galena, Mineral Point, and other lead mining towns were of much more importance than Chicago or Milwaukee, and their citizens entertained high hopes of the future. The lead trade with St. Louis and New Orleans was very large; but the East also wanted the lead, and the air was filled with projects to secure routes by which lead might be carried to vessels plying on the Great Lakes, which could transport it to Buffalo and other far away ports.

For a time the most popular of these projects was the old fur trade route of the Wisconsin and Fox rivers. A canal was dug along the famous carrying trail at Portage, and the federal government was induced to deepen Fox River, which is naturally very shallow, and to attempt to create a permanent channel in the Wisconsin River. But, although much money has been [123] spent on these schemes, from that day to this, the Fox-Wisconsin route is still impracticable save to boats of exceptionally light draft; and in our time the project of connecting the Mississippi River with Lake Michigan, by the way of Portage and Green Bay, is almost wholly abandoned. Another scheme was the proposed Milwaukee and Rock River canal, by which Milwaukee was to be connected with the Rock River, which joins the Mississippi at Rock Island; but this plan died a still earlier death. It was the struggle to connect the port of Milwaukee with the lead region that finally led to the building of the railroad between that city and Prairie du Chien.

More immediately effective for the benefit of the lead trade, was the opening of a wagon road from the lead mining towns, through Madison, to Milwaukee, along which great canvas-covered caravans of ore-laden "prairie schooners" toiled slowly from the mines to the Lake Michigan docks, a distance of about a hundred and [124] fifty miles. Other roads led to Galena and Prairie du Chien, where the Mississippi River boats awaited similar fleets of "schooners" from the interior. A good deal of the lead was sent by similar conveyances to Helena, a little village on the Wisconsin River, where a shot tower had been built against the face of a high cliff; from here, shallow-draft boats took the shot to Green Bay, by way of the Portage Canal and Fox River, or descended the Wisconsin to Prairie du Chien.

From various causes, the lead trade of the Upper Mississippi region had sadly declined by 1857. Among these causes was the finding of gold in California (1849), which attracted large numbers of the miners to a more profitable field; again, the surface or shallow diggings having been exhausted, much more capital was required to operate in the lower levels; more serious was the lack of sufficient transportation facilities, and these did not come until the great silver mines of the Rocky Mountains had been opened, lead being thenceforth more profitably produced in connection with silver.

The effect of the lead industry upon the development of Wisconsin was important. Many years before farmers would naturally have sought southern Wisconsin in their pushing westward for fresh lands, the opening of the mines brought thither a large and energetic industrial population, and a considerable capital, and awakened popular interest in land and water transportation routes.



The world over, white men, representing a higher type of civilization, have wrested, or are still wresting, the land from the original savage occupants. This seems to be inevitable. It is one of the means by which civilization is being extended over the entire globe. We glory in the progress of civilization; but we are apt to ignore the hardship which this brings to the aborigines. While not relaxing our endeavor to plant the world with progressive men who shall make the most of life, we should see to it that the savage races are pushed to the wall with as kindly and forbearing a hand as possible; that we apply to them humane methods, and give them credit for possessing the sentiments of men who, like us, dearly love their old homes, and are willing to fight for them. These sentiments have certainly not often been applied in the past, by our Anglo-Saxon race, to the Indians of North America.

We have failed to appreciate that the Indian, in being driven from his lands, has retaliated from motives of patriotism. His methods of fighting are often cruel and treacherous; but it must be remembered that he is in a stage of development akin to that of the child, and that white men upon the frontier have often been quite as cruel and treacherous toward the Indian as he was[126] toward them, for such are ever the methods of the weak and the primitive. The Indian is blamed for his custom of wreaking vengeance upon all white men, when but an individual has injured him; yet, on the border, it has always been seen that white men have retaliated on the Indians in exactly the same spirit. "The only good Indian is a dead Indian," has been their motto, the offense of one Indian being considered the offense of all. Our dealings with the red men, both as individuals and as a nation, have, for over a hundred years, often been such as we should blush for. We are doing better now than formerly; but our treatment of the weak and unfortunate aborigines is still far from being to our credit.

The story of the Winnebago War, in Wisconsin, is illustrative of the old-time method of treating our barbaric predecessors. No doubt it would have been better if the United States had, from the first, held all the Indians to be subjects, and forced them to obey our laws. But the tribes were considered in theory to be distinct nations, over whom we exercised supervision, and with whom we held treaties. This at first seemed necessary, owing to the patriarchal system among the Indians, by which heads of families or clans are supposed to control the younger members, all affairs being decided upon in councils, in which these wise old men participate. It was thought that, through the chiefs, binding agreements could be made with entire tribes. It was not then generally understood that each Indian is, according to the customs of those people, really a law unto himself; that the chiefs, in signing a[127] treaty, are seldom representative in the sense that we use the word, and that they generally represent no one but themselves; that the only way in which they can commit their tribes is through the respect or fear which they may foster in the minds of their followers.

In the month of August, 1825, when Wisconsin was still a part of Michigan Territory, there was a treaty signed at Prairie du Chien between the United States and the Indians of what are now Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. The treaty set boundaries between the quarrelsome tribes, and agreed on a general peace upon the border. Like most Indian treaties, this document was drawn up by the officers of the general government; and the chiefs, knowing little of its contents, were simply invited to sign their names to it. They signed as requested, but went home in bad temper, because the American commissioners would not make them costly presents of guns, ammunition, beads, hatchets, cloths, and rum, as the British in Canada always did; and the savages were not even allowed to celebrate the treaty by a roistering feast. The Americans, from their cold, businesslike conduct, impressed the Indians as being "stingy old women."

Nobody on the frontier, the following winter, seemed to pay the slightest attention to the terms of the treaty. The Sioux, who lived west of the Mississippi, the Winnebagoes in southern and western Wisconsin, and the Chippewas in the north, quarreled with one another and scalped one another as freely as ever; while French traders, in British employ, stirred up the red men, and told them that Great Britain would soon have the whole[128] country back again. The Winnebagoes, in particular, were irritated because two of their braves had been imprisoned for thieving, at Fort Crawford, in Prairie du Chien. They held numerous councils in the woods, and resolved to stand by the British when the war should break out. In the midst of this uneasiness, the troops at Fort Crawford were suddenly withdrawn to Fort Snelling, on the Upper Mississippi River, near where St. Paul now is. This was supposed by the Indians to mean that the American soldiers were afraid of them.

The spring of 1827 arrived. A half-breed named Methode was making maple sugar upon the Yellow River, in Iowa, a dozen miles north of Prairie du Chien. With him were his wife and five children; all were set upon by some Winnebagoes and killed, scalped, and burned. Naturally there was an uproar all along the Upper Mississippi. Excitement was at its height, when word was brought in by Sioux visitors to the village of Red Bird, a petty Winnebago chief, that the two men of his tribe who had been imprisoned in Fort Crawford had been hung when the troops reached Fort Snelling. The wily Sioux suggested vengeance. The Winnebago code was two lives for one. Inflamed with rage, Red Bird set out at once upon the warpath to take four white scalps.

Meanwhile the clouds were gathering for a general storm. The American Indian agent at Prairie du Chien, with singular indiscretion, was not treating his Winnebago visitors with kindness. English and French fur traders were, on behalf of Great Britain, making liberal[129] promises for the future. Winnebagoes were being brutally driven from the lead mines by the white miners, who were now swarming into southwest Wisconsin. The Sioux along the west bank of the Mississippi, in Minnesota, were encouraging the Winnebagoes to revolt; and were displaying a bad temper toward Americans, whom they thought cowardly because apparently unwilling to use military force to keep the Indians in order.


One day in June, Red Bird, a friend named Wekau, and two other Winnebagoes, appeared at the door of a log cabin owned by Registre Gagnier, a French settler living on the edge of Prairie du Chien village. Gagnier was an old friend of Red Bird, and invited the four Indians in to take dinner with him and his family. For several hours the guests stayed, eating and smoking in apparent good humor, until at last their chance came. Gagnier and his serving man, Lipcap, were instantly shot down; an infant of eighteen months was torn from the arms of Madame Gagnier, stabbed and scalped before her eyes, and thrown to the floor as dead; but the woman herself with her little boy, ten years of age, escaped to the woods and gave the alarm to the neighbors. The Indians slunk into the forest and disappeared. The villagers buried Gagnier and Lipcap, and, finding the infant girl alive, restored[130] her to her mother. Curiously enough, the scalped child recovered and grew to robust womanhood.

According to the Winnebago code, four white scalps must be taken in return for the two Indians supposed to have been killed at Fort Snelling. Red Bird had now secured three, those of Gagnier, Lipcap, and the infant; a fourth was necessary before he could properly return to his people in the capacity of an avenger, the proudest title which an Indian can bear. How he obtained these scalps was, to the mind of his race, unimportant; the one idea was to get them.

On the afternoon of the third day after the massacre, Red Bird and his friends were visiting at a camp of their people, near the mouth of the Bad Ax River, some forty miles north of Prairie du Chien. A drunken feast was in progress, in honor of the scalp taking, when two keel boats appeared on their way down the Mississippi from Fort Snelling to St. Louis. The Sioux, at what is now Winona, had threatened the crews, but had not attempted to harm them. The Winnebagoes now appeared on the bank and raised the war whoop, but the crew of the foremost boat thought it only bluster, so in a spirit of bravado ran their craft toward shore. When it was within thirty yards of the bank, the Indians, led by Red Bird, poured a volley of rifle balls into the boat. The crew were well armed, and, rushing below, answered by shooting through the portholes. The boat ran on a bar, and a sharp fire lasted through three hours, until dusk, when the craft was finally worked off the bar, and dropped downstream in the dark. Although seven hundred bullets penetrated[131] the hull, only two of the crew were killed outright, two others dying later from wounds, and two others were slightly wounded. The Indians lost seven killed and fourteen wounded.

The "battle of the keel boats" was the signal for military activity. In July a battalion of troops from Fort Snelling came down to Prairie du Chien; and a little later a full regiment from St. Louis followed. General Henry Atkinson was in command, and early in August he ordered Major William Whistler, then in charge of Fort Howard, to proceed up Fox River with a company of troops, in search of the fugitives Red Bird and Wekau. At a council held with the Winnebagoes, at Butte des Morts, the chiefs were notified that nothing short of the surrender of the leaders of the disturbance would satisfy the government for the attack on the boats; were they not delivered up, the entire tribe should be hunted like wild animals.

Great consternation prevailed among the tribesmen, as the runners sent out from the Butte des Morts council carried the terrible threat to all the camps of the Winnebagoes, in the deep forests, in the pleasant oak groves, and upon the broad prairies throughout southern Wisconsin. Whistler had reached the ridge flanking the old portage trail between the Fox and Wisconsin rivers, but had not fully completed the arrangements of his camp when an Indian runner appeared in hot haste, saying that Red Bird and Wekau would surrender themselves at three o'clock in the afternoon of the following day, that the tribe might be saved.


Whistler and his officers, as true soldiers, were prompt to appreciate bravery. They were broad enough to judge these savages by the standards of savagery, not by those of a civilization from which the Indian is removed by centuries of human progress. They knew full well that the culprits were but carrying out the law of their race in seeking white scalps in vengeance for the Winnebagoes supposed to have been slain at Fort Snelling. Whistler knew that the Indians considered Red Bird and Wekau as heroes, and could feel no pangs of conscience, because treachery toward enemies was the customary method of Indian warfare. Realizing these facts, the American officers recognized that it required a fine type of heroism on the part of these simple natives thus to offer themselves up to probable death, to redeem their tribe from destruction.

For this reason the soldiers were brought out on parade; and when, prompt to the hour named, Red Bird and Wekau, accompanied by a party of their friends, came marching into camp, clad in ceremonial dress, and singing their death songs, they were received with military honors. The native ceremony of surrender was highly impressive. Red Bird conducted himself with a dignity which won the admiration of all. Wekau, on the contrary, was an indifferent looking fellow, and commanded little respect.

Red Bird made but one request, that, although sentenced to death, he should not be placed in chains. This was granted; and while, during his subsequent imprisonment at Prairie du Chien, he had frequent opportunities to escape, he declined to take advantage of[133] them. A few months later he fell an easy victim to an epidemic then raging in the village, thus relieving the government from embarrassment, for it was felt that he was altogether too good an Indian to hang; indeed, his execution might have brought on a general border war.

The murderers of Methode were also apprehended and given a death sentence; but upon the Winnebagoes promising to relinquish forever their hold upon the lead mines of southwestern Wisconsin and northwestern Illinois, President Adams pardoned all the prisoners then living. The following year (1828), a fort was erected at the Fox-Wisconsin portage, near the scene of Red Bird's surrender; being in the heart of that tribe's territory, it was called Fort Winnebago. Thereafter the Winnebagoes were kept in entire subjection. Indeed, the three forts, Howard at Green Bay, Winnebago at Portage, and Crawford at Prairie du Chien, now gave the United States, for the first time, firm grasp upon the whole of what is now Wisconsin.



In November, 1804, the Sac and Fox Indians, in return for a paltry annuity of a thousand dollars, ceded to the United States fifty million acres of land in eastern Missouri, northwestern Illinois, and southwestern Wisconsin. There was an unfortunate clause in this compact, which quite unexpectedly became one of the chief causes of the Black Hawk War of 1832; instead of obliging the Indians at once to vacate the ceded territory, it was stipulated that, "as long as the lands which are now ceded to the United States remain their property, the Indians belonging to said tribes shall enjoy the privilege of living and hunting on them."

Within the limits of the cession was the chief seat of Sac power, a village lying on the north side of Rock River, three miles above its mouth. It was picturesquely situated on fertile ground, contained the principal cemetery of the tribe, and was inhabited by about five hundred families, being one of the largest Indian towns on the continent.

From the beginning of the nineteenth century, the principal character in this village was Black Hawk, who was born here in 1767. Black Hawk was neither[135] an hereditary nor an elected chief, but was, by common consent, the village headman. He was a restless, ambitious, handsome savage; was possessed of some of the qualities of successful leadership, was much of a demagogue, and aroused the passions of his people by appeals to their prejudices and superstitions. It is probable that he was never, in the exercise of this policy, dishonest in his motives. A too confiding disposition was ever leading his judgment astray; he was readily duped by those who, white or red, were interested in deceiving him. The effect of his daily communication with the Americans was often to shock rudely his high sense of honor; while the studied courtesy accorded him upon his annual begging visit to the British military agent at Malden, in Canada, contrasted strangely, in his eyes, with his experiences with many of the inhabitants on the Illinois border.

       BLACK HAWK              

At the outbreak of hostilities between Great Britain and the United States in 1812, Black Hawk naturally allied himself with Tecumseh and the British. After burying the hatchet, he settled down into the customary routine of savage life, hunting in winter and loafing[136] about his village in summer, improvidently existing from hand to mouth, although surrounded with abundance. Occasionally he varied the monotony by visits to Malden, whence he would return laden with provisions, arms, ammunition, and trinkets, his stock of vanity increased by wily flattery, and his bitterness against the Americans correspondingly intensified. It is not at all surprising that he hated the Americans. They brought him naught but evil. The even tenor of his life was continually being disturbed by them; and a cruel and causeless beating which some white settlers gave him, in the winter of 1822-23, was an insult which he treasured up against the entire American people.

In the summer of 1823, squatters, covetous of the rich fields cultivated by the "British band," as Black Hawk's people were often called, began to take possession of them. The treaty of 1804 had guaranteed to the Indians the use of the ceded territory so long as the lands remained the property of the United States and were not sold to individuals. The frontier line of homestead settlement was still fifty or sixty miles to the east; the country between had not yet been surveyed, and much of it not explored. The squatters had no rights in this territory, and it was clearly the duty of the general government to protect the Indians within it so long as no sales were made.

The Sacs would not have complained had the squatters settled in other portions of the tract, and not sought to steal the village which was their birthplace[137] and contained the cemetery of their tribe. There were outrages of the most flagrant nature. Indian cornfields were fenced in by the intruders, squaws and children were whipped for venturing beyond the bounds thus set, lodges were burned over the heads of the occupants. A reign of terror ensued, in which the frequent remonstrances of Black Hawk to the white authorities were in vain. Year by year the evil grew. When the Indians returned each spring from the winter's hunt, they found their village more of a wreck than when they had left it in the fall. It is surprising, in view of their native love of revenge, that they acted so peaceably while the victims of such harsh treatment.

Returning to his village in the spring of 1831, after a gloomy and profitless winter's hunt, Black Hawk was fiercely warned away by the whites; but, in a firm and dignified manner, he notified the settlers that, if they did not themselves remove, he should use force. This announcement was construed by the whites as a threat against their lives. Petitions and messages were showered in by them upon Governor John Reynolds, of Illinois, setting forth the situation in exaggerated terms that would be amusing, were it not that they were the prelude to one of the darkest tragedies in the history of our Western border.

The governor caught the spirit of the occasion, and at once issued a flaming proclamation calling out a mounted volunteer force to "repel the invasion of the British band." These volunteers, sixteen hundred strong, coöperated with ten companies of regulars in a[138] demonstration before Black Hawk's village on the 25th of June. During that night the Indians, in the face of this superior force, quietly withdrew to the west bank of the Mississippi, whither they had previously been ordered. On the 30th they signed a treaty of capitulation and peace, solemnly agreeing never to return to the east side of the river without express permission of the United States government.

The rest of the summer was spent by the evicted savages in a state of misery. It being now too late to raise another crop of corn and beans, they suffered for want of the actual necessaries of life. White Cloud, the eloquent and crafty Prophet of the Winnebagoes, was Black Hawk's evil genius. He was half Sac and half Winnebago, a hater of the whites, an inveterate mischief maker, and, being a "medicine man," possessed much influence over both tribes. He was at the head of a Winnebago village some thirty-five miles above the mouth of the Rock, on the east side of the Mississippi; and to this village he invited Black Hawk, advising him to raise a crop of corn there, with the assurance that in the autumn the Winnebagoes and Pottawattomies would join him in a general movement against the whites in the valley of the Rock.

Relying on these rose-colored promises, Black Hawk spent the winter on the west bank of the Mississippi, recruiting his band, and on the 6th of April, 1832, crossed the great river at Yellow Banks, below the mouth of the Rock. Thus he invaded the State of Illinois, in the face of his solemn treaty of the year before. With him were his second in command, Neapope,[139] a wily scoundrel, who was White Cloud's tool, and about five hundred Sac warriors with their women and children, and all their belongings. Their design was to carry out the advice of the Prophet, in regard to the corn planting, and if possible to take up the hatchet in the autumn.

But it became evident to Black Hawk, before he reached the Prophet's town, that the main body of the Pottawattomies, now controlled by the peace loving Chief Shaubena, did not intend to go to war; and that the rascally Winnebagoes, while cajoling him, were preparing as usual to play double. He tells us in his autobiography that, crestfallen, he was planning to return peacefully to the west side of the Mississippi, when of a sudden he became aware that the whites had raised an army against him, and he was confronted with a war not in the time and manner of his asking.

The news of his second invasion had spread like wildfire throughout the Illinois and Wisconsin settlements. The United States was appealed to for a regiment of troops; and meanwhile, under another fiery proclamation from the governor of Illinois, an army of eighteen hundred militiamen was quickly mustered. Amid intense popular excitement, during which many settlers fled from the country, and others hastily threw up log forts, the army was mobilized by General Atkinson, who appeared at the rendezvous with three hundred regulars. There were many notable men upon this expedition: Abraham Lincoln, then a rawboned young fellow, was captain of a company of Illinois rangers; Zachary Taylor, famous for his bluff manner, was a[140] colonel of regulars; and Jefferson Davis, who was wooing Taylor's daughter, was one of his lieutenants; also of the regulars, was Major William S. Harney, afterward the hero of Cerro Gordo in the Mexican War; and the mustering-in officer was Lieutenant Robert Anderson, who was to become famous in connection with Fort Sumter.

Black Hawk was foolish enough to send a message of defiance to General Atkinson, and, retreating up the Rock, he came to a stand at Stillman's Creek. Here he repented, and sent out runners with a flag of truce, to inform the white chief that he would surrender; but the drunken pickets of the militia advance wantonly killed these messengers of peace. This so angered the Hawk that with a mere handful of thirty-five braves, on foot, and hid in the hazel brush, he turned in fury upon the two hundred seventy-five horsemen who were now rushing upon him. The cowardly rangers, who fled at the first volley of the savages, without returning it, were haunted by the genius of fear, and, dashing madly through swamps and creeks, did not stop until they had reached Dixon, twenty-five miles away. Many kept on at a keen gallop till they reached their own firesides, fifty or more miles farther, carrying the absurd report that Black Hawk and two thousand bloodthirsty warriors were sweeping northern Illinois with the besom of destruction.

Rich in supplies captured in this first encounter, and naturally encouraged at the result of his valor, the Hawk thought that so long as the whites were determined to make him fight, he would show his claws in[141] earnest. Removing the women and children to far-away swamps on the headwaters of the Rock River, in Wisconsin, he thence descended with his braves for a general raid through northern Illinois. The borderers flew like chickens to cover, on the warning of the Hawk's foray. There was consternation throughout the entire West. Exaggerated reports of his forces, and of the nature of his expedition, were spread throughout the land. His name became coupled with fabulous tales of savage cunning and cruelty, and served as a household bugaboo the country over. The effect on the Illinois militia was singular enough, considering their haste in taking the field; in a frenzy of fear, they instantly disbanded!

A fresh levy was soon raised, but in the interval there were irregular hostilities all along the Illinois-Wisconsin border, in which Black Hawk and a few Winnebago and Pottawattomie allies succeeded in making life miserable enough for the frontier farmers of northern Illinois and the lead miners of southwest Wisconsin. In these border strifes fully two hundred whites and nearly as many Indians lost their lives; and there were numerous instances of romantic heroism on the part of the settlers, men and women alike.

In about three weeks after Stillman's defeat the reorganized militia took the field, reënforced by the regulars under Atkinson. Black Hawk was forced to fly to the swampy region of the upper Rock; but, when the pursuit became too warm, he hastily withdrew with his entire band westward to the Wisconsin River. Closely following upon his trail were a brigade of Illinois troops[142] under General James D. Henry, and a battalion of Wisconsin lead mine rangers under Major Henry Dodge, afterwards governor of Wisconsin Territory.

The pursuers came up with the savages at Prairie du Sac. Here the south bank of the Wisconsin consists of steep, grassy bluffs, three hundred feet in height; hence the encounter which ensued is known in history as the Battle of the Wisconsin Heights. With consummate skill, Black Hawk made a stand on the summit of the heights, and with a small party of warriors held the whites in check until the noncombatants had crossed the broad river bottoms below, and gained shelter upon the willow-grown shore opposite. The loss on either side was slight, the action being notable only for the Sac leader's superior management.

During the night, the passage of the river was accomplished by the fugitives. A large party was sent downstream upon a raft, and in canoes begged from the Winnebagoes; but those who took this method of escape were brutally fired upon near the mouth of the river by a detachment from the garrison at Prairie du Chien, and fifteen were killed in cold blood. The rest of the pursued, headed by Black Hawk, who had again made an attempt to surrender his forces, but had failed for lack of an interpreter, pushed across country, guided by Winnebagoes, to the mouth of the Bad Ax, a little stream emptying into the Mississippi about forty miles above the mouth of the Wisconsin River. His intention was to get his people as quickly as possible on the west bank of the Mississippi, in the hope that they would there be allowed to remain in peace.


The Indians were followed, three days behind, by the united army of regulars, who steadily gained on them. The country between Wisconsin Heights and the Mississippi is rough and forbidding in character; there are numerous swamps and rivers between the steep, thickly wooded hills. The uneven pathway was strewn with the corpses of Sacs who had died of wounds and starvation; and there were frequent evidences that the fleeing wretches were sustaining life on the bark of trees and the flesh of their fagged-out ponies.

On Wednesday, the 1st of August, Black Hawk and his now sadly depleted and almost famished band reached the junction of the Bad Ax with the Mississippi. There were only two or three canoes to be had, and the crossing of the Father of Waters progressed[144] slowly and with frequent loss of life. That afternoon there appeared upon the scene a government supply steamer, the Warrior, from Fort Crawford (Prairie du Chien), at the mouth of the Wisconsin. The Indians a third time tried to surrender, but their white flag was deliberately fired at, and round after round of canister swept the camp.

The next day the pursuing troops arrived on the heights above the river bench, the Warrior again opened its attack, and thus, caught between two galling fires, the little army of savages soon melted away. But fifty remained alive on the spot to be taken prisoners. Some three hundred weaklings had reached the Iowa shore through the hail of iron and lead. Of these three hundred helpless, half-starved, unarmed noncombatants, over a half were slaughtered by a party of Sioux, under Wabashaw, who had been sent out by our government to waylay them. So that out of the band of a thousand Indians who had crossed the Mississippi over into Illinois in April, not more than a hundred and fifty, all told, lived to tell the tragic story of the Black Hawk War, a tale that stains the American name with dishonor.

The rest can soon be told. The Winnebago guerrillas, who had played fast and loose during the campaign, delivered to the whites at Fort Crawford the unfortunate Black Hawk, who had fled from the Bad Ax to the Dells of the Wisconsin River, to seek an asylum with his false friends. The proud old man, shorn of all his strength, was presented to the President at Washington, imprisoned in Fortress Monroe,[145] forced to sign articles of perpetual peace, and then turned over for safe keeping to the Sac chief, Keokuk, his hated rival. He died on a small reservation in Iowa, in 1838. But he was not even then at peace, for his bones were stolen by an Illinois physician, for exhibition purposes, and finally were accidentally consumed by fire in 1853.

Black Hawk, with all the limitations of his race, had in his character a strength and manliness of fiber that were most remarkable, and displayed throughout his brief campaign a positive genius for military evolutions. He may be safely ranked as one of the most interesting specimens of the North American savage to be met with in history. He was an indiscreet man. His troubles were brought about by a lack of mental balance, aided largely by unfortunate circumstances. His was a highly romantic temperament. He was carried away by mere sentiment, and allowed himself to be deceived by tricksters. But he was honest, and was more honorable than many of his conquerors were. He was, above all things, a patriot. The year before his death, in a speech to a party of whites who were making a holiday hero of him, he thus forcibly defended his motives: "Rock River was a beautiful country. I liked my town, my cornfields, and the home of my people. I fought for them." No poet could have penned for him a more touching epitaph.



Chequamegon Bay, of Lake Superior, has had a long and an interesting history. Nearly two and a half centuries ago, in the early winter months of 1659, two adventurous French traders, Radisson and Groseilliers, built a little palisade here, to protect the stock of goods which they exchanged with the Indians for furs. This was on the southwestern shore of the bay, a few miles west of the present city of Ashland, and in the neighborhood of Whittlesey's Creek.

These men did not tarry long at Chequamegon Bay. For the most part, they merely kept their stock of goods hid in a cache there, while for some ten months they traveled through the woods, far and wide, in search of trade with the dusky natives. But they made the region known to Frenchmen in the settlements at Quebec and Montreal, as a favorite meeting-place for many tribes of Indians who came to the bay to fish.

The first Jesuit mission on Lake Superior was conducted by Father René Ménard, at Keweenaw Bay; but he lost his life in the forest in 1661. In 1665 the Jesuits determined to reopen their mission on the great lake, and for that purpose sent Father Claude[147] Allouez. Having heard of the advantages of Chequamegon Bay, Allouez proceeded thither, and erected his little chapel in an Indian village upon the mainland, not far from Radisson's old palisade, and possibly at the mouth of Vanderventer's Creek. He called his mission La Pointe.

Conversions were few at La Pointe, and Allouez soon longed for a broader field. He was relieved in 1669 by Father Jacques Marquette, a young and earnest priest. But it was not long before the Sioux of Minnesota quarreled with the Indians of Chequamegon Bay; and the latter, with Marquette, were driven eastward as far as Mackinac.


Although the missionaries had deserted La Pointe, fur traders soon came to be numerous there. One of the most prominent of these was Daniel Grayson Duluth, for whom the modern lake city of Minnesota was named. For several years he had a small palisaded fort upon Chequamegon Bay, and, with a lively crew of well-armed boatmen, roamed all over the surrounding country,[148] north, west, and south of Lake Superior, trading with far-away bands of savages. He had two favorite routes between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. One was by way of the narrow and turbulent Bois Brulé, then much choked by fallen trees and beaver dams; a portage trail of a mile and a half from its headwaters to those of the St. Croix River; and thence, through foaming rapids, and deep, cool lakes, down into the Father of Waters. The other, an easier, but longer way, was up the rugged St. Louis River, which separates Wisconsin from Minnesota on the northwest, over into the Sand Lake country, and thence, through watery labyrinths, into feeders of the Mississippi.

Another adventurous French forest trader, who quartered on Chequamegon Bay, was Le Sueur, who, in 1693, built a fort upon Madelaine Island. During the old Fox War the valleys of the Fox and the Wisconsin were closed to Frenchmen by the enraged Indians. This, the most popular route between the Great Lakes and the great river, being now unavailable, it became necessary to keep open Duluth's old routes from Lake Superior over to the Upper Mississippi. This was why Le Sueur was sent to Chequamegon Bay, to overawe the Indians of that region. He thought that his fort would be safer from attack upon the island, than upon the mainland. As La Pointe had now come to be the general name of this entire neighborhood, the island fort bore the same name as the old headquarters on land. It is well to remember that the history of Madelaine Island, the La Pointe of[149] to-day, dates from Le Sueur; that the old La Pointe of Radisson, Allouez, Marquette, and probably Duluth, was on the mainland several miles to the southwest.

In connection with the La Pointe fort protecting the northern approach to Duluth's trading routes, Le Sueur erected another stockade to guard the southern end, the location of this latter being on an island in the Mississippi, near the present Red Wing, Minnesota. The fort in the Mississippi soon became "the center of commerce for the Western parts"; and the station at La Pointe also soon rose to importance, for the Chippewas, who had drifted far inland with the growing scarcity of game, were led by the presence of traders to return to Chequamegon Bay, and mass themselves in a large village on the southwest shore.

Although Le Sueur was not many years in command at the bay, we catch frequent glimpses thereafter of fur trade stations here, French, English, and American in turn, most of them doubtless being on Madelaine Island. We know, for instance, that there was a French trader at La Pointe in 1717; also, that the year following, a French officer was sent there, with a few soldiers, to patch up and garrison the old stockade. Whether a garrisoned fort was kept up at the bay, from that time till the downfall of New France (1763), we cannot say; but it seems probable, for the geographical position was one of great importance in the development of the fur trade.

We first hear of copper in the vicinity, in 1730, when an Indian brought a nugget to the La Pointe post; but the whereabouts of the mine was concealed by the[150] savages, because of their superstitions relative to mineral deposits.

The commandant of La Pointe, at this time, was La Ronde, the chief fur trader in the Lake Superior country. He and his son, who was his partner, built for their trade a sailing vessel of forty tons burden, without doubt the first one of the kind upon the great lake. We find evidences of the La Rondes, father and son, down as late as 1744; a curious old map of that year gives the name of "Isle de la Ronde" to what we now know as Madelaine.

We find nothing more of importance concerning Chequamegon Bay until about 1756, when Beaubassin was the French officer in charge of the fort. The English colonists were harassing the French along the St. Lawrence River; and Beaubassin, with hundreds of other officers of wilderness forts, was ordered down with his Indian allies to the settlements of Montreal, Three Rivers, and Quebec, to defend New France. The Chippewas, with other Wisconsin tribes, actuated by extravagant promises of presents, booty, and scalps, eagerly flocked to the banner of France, and in painted swarms appeared in fighting array on the banks of the St. Lawrence. But they helped the British more than the French, for they would not fight, yet with large appetites ate up the provisions of their allies.

The garrison being withdrawn from La Pointe, Madelaine Island became a camping-ground for unlicensed traders, who had freedom to plunder the country at their will, for New France, tottering to her fall, could no longer police the upper lakes. In the autumn of[151] 1760 one of these parties encamped upon the island. By the time winter had set in upon them, all had left for their wintering grounds in the forests of the far West and Northwest, save a clerk named Joseph, who remained in charge of the goods and what local trade there was. With him were his wife, his small son, and a manservant. Traditions differ as to the cause of the servant's action; some have it, a desire for plunder; others, his detection in a series of petty thefts, which Joseph threatened to report. However that may be, the servant murdered first the clerk, then the wife, and in a few days, stung by the child's piteous cries, killed him also. When the spring came, and the traders returned to Chequamegon, they inquired for Joseph and his family. The servant's reply was at first unsatisfactory; but when pushed for an explanation, he confessed to his terrible deed. The story goes, that in horror the traders dismantled the old French fort, now overgrown with underbrush, as a thing accursed, sunk the cannon in a neighboring pool, and so destroyed the palisade that to-day certain mysterious grassy mounds alone remain to testify of the tragedy. They carried their prisoner with them on their return voyage to Montreal, but he is said to have escaped to the Huron Indians, among whom he boasted of his act, only to be killed by them as too cruel to be a companion even for savages.

Five years later a great English trader, Alexander Henry, who had obtained the exclusive trade on Lake Superior, wintered on the mainland opposite Madelaine Island. His partner was Jean Baptiste[152] Cadotte, a thrifty Frenchman, who for many years thereafter was one of the most prominent characters on the upper lakes. Soon after this, a Scotch trader named John Johnston established himself on the island, and married a comely Chippewa maiden, whose father was chief of the native village situated four miles across the water, on the site of the Bayfield of to-day.

About the beginning of the nineteenth century, Michel, a son of old Jean Baptiste Cadotte, took up his abode on the island; and from that time to the present there has been a continuous settlement there, which bears the name La Pointe. Michel, himself the child of a Chippewa mother, but educated at Montreal, married Equaysayway, the daughter of White Crane, the village chief on the island, and became a person of much importance thereabout. For over a quarter of a century this island nabob lived at his ease; here he cultivated a little farm, commanded a variable but far-reaching fur trade, first as agent of the Northwest Company, and, later, of the American Fur Company, and reared a large family. His sons were educated at Montreal, and become the heads of families of traders, interpreters, and voyageurs.

To this little paradise of the Cadottes there came (in 1818) two sturdy, fairly educated young men from Massachusetts, Lyman Marcus Warren, and his younger brother, Truman Warren. Engaging in the fur trade, these two brothers, of old Puritan stock, married two half-breed daughters of Michel Cadotte. In time they bought out Michel's interests, and managed the American Fur Company's stations at many far-distant places,[153] such as Lac Flambeau, Lac Court Oreilles, and the St. Croix. The Warrens were the last of the great La Pointe fur traders, Truman dying in 1825, and Lyman twenty-two years later.

Lyman Warren, although possessed of a Catholic wife, was a Presbyterian. Not since the days of Marquette had there been an ordained minister at La Pointe, and the Catholics were not just then ready to reënter the long-neglected field. Warren was eager to have religious instruction on the island, for both Indians and whites; and in 1831 succeeded in inducing the American Home Missionary Society to send hither, from Mackinac, the Rev. Sherman Hall and wife, as missionary and teacher. These were the first Protestant missionaries upon the shores of Lake Superior. For many years their modest little church building at La Pointe was the center of a considerable and prosperous mission, both island and mainland, which did much to improve the condition of the Chippewa tribe. In later years the mission was moved to Odanah.

Four years after the coming of the Halls, there arrived at the island village a worthy Austrian priest, Father (afterward Bishop) Baraga. In a small log chapel by the side of the Indian graveyard, this new mission of the older faith throve apace. Baraga visited Europe to beg money for the cause, and in a few years constructed a new chapel; this is sometimes shown to summer tourists as the original chapel of Marquette, but no part of the ancient mainland chapel went into its construction. Baraga was a man of unusual attainments, and spent his life in laboring for the betterment[154] of the Indians of the Lake Superior country, with a self-sacrificing zeal which is rare in the records of any church. At present, the Franciscan friars, with headquarters at Bayfield, on the mainland, are in charge of the island mission.

La Pointe has lost many of its old-time characteristics. No longer is it the refuge of squalid Indian tribes; no longer is it a center of the fur trade, with gayly clothed coureurs de bois, with traders and their dusky brides, with rollicking voyageurs taking no heed of the morrow. With the killing of the game, and the opening of the Lake Superior country to the occupation of farmers and miners and manufacturers, its forest trade has departed; the Protestant mission has followed the majority of the Indian islanders to mainland reservations; and the revived mission of the Mother Church has also been quartered upon the bay shore.



What we now know as Wisconsin was part of the vast undefined wilderness to which the Spaniards, early in the sixteenth century, gave the name Florida. Spain claimed the country because of the early discoveries of her navigators and explorers. Her claim was undisputed until there came to North America the energetic French, who penetrated the continent by means of the St. Lawrence and Ottawa rivers and the Great Lakes, and gradually took possession of the inland water systems, as fast as discovered by their fur traders and missionaries. It should be understood, however, that there were very few, if any, Spaniards in all this vast territory, except on or near the Gulf of Mexico.

In 1608 Quebec was founded. It is supposed that twenty-six years later the first Frenchman reached Wisconsin, which may, from that date (1634) till 1763, be considered as a part of French territory. When Great Britain conquered New France, Wisconsin became her property, and so continued till the treaty of 1783, by which our Northwest was declared to be American soil.

Owing to the vague and undefined boundaries given by the British government to its original colonies on the[156] Atlantic slope, several of the thirteen States claimed that their territory extended out into the Northwest; but finally all these claims were surrendered to the general government, in order that there might be formed a national domain, from which to create new States. By the famous Ordinance of 1787, Congress created the Northwest Territory, which embraced the wide stretch of country lying between the Great Lakes and the Ohio and the Mississippi rivers. The present Wisconsin was a part of this great territory.

In the year 1800 Indiana Territory was set off from the rest of the Northwest Territory, and took Wisconsin with it. Nine years later Illinois Territory was formed, Wisconsin being within its bounds. Nine years after that, when Illinois became a State, all the country lying west of Lake Michigan was given to Michigan Territory; thus was the ownership of Wisconsin once more changed, and she became a part of Michigan.

By this time settlers were coming into the region west of the lake. There had long been several little French villages; but, in addition to the French, numerous American farmers and professional men had lately arrived. The great distance from Detroit, at a time when there were no railways or telegraphs, was such as to make it almost impossible to carry on any government here. Hence, after a good deal of complaint from the frontiersmen living to the west of Lake Michigan, and some angry words back and forth between these people and those residing east of the lake, Congress was induced, in 1836, to erect Wisconsin Territory, with its own government.


Thus far, this region beyond Lake Michigan had borne no particular name. It was simply an outlying part of the Northwest Territory; or of the Territories of Indiana, Illinois, or Michigan, as the case might be. But, now that it was to be a Territory by itself, a name had to be adopted. The one taken was that of its principal river, although "Chippewau" was preferred by many people. Wisconsin is an Indian name, the exact meaning of which is unknown; some writers have said that it signifies "gathering of the waters," or "meeting of the waters," but there is no warrant for this. The earliest known French form of the word is "Misconsing," which gradually became crystallized into "Ouisconsin." When the English language became dominant, it was necessary to change the spelling in order to preserve the sound; it thus, at first, became "Wiskonsan," or "Wiskonsin," but finally, by official action, "Wisconsin." The "k" was, however, rather strongly insisted on by Governor Doty and many newspaper editors, in the days of the Territory.


The first session of the legislature of the new Territory of Wisconsin was held at the recently platted village of Belmont, in the present county of Lafayette. The place of meeting was a little story-and-a-half frame house. Lead miners' shafts dimpled the country round about, and new stumps could be seen upon every hand.[158] There were many things to be done by the legislature, such as dividing the Territory into counties, selecting county seats, incorporating banks, and borrowing money with which to run the new government; but the matter which occasioned the most excitement was the location of the capital, and the bitterness which resulted was long felt in the political history of Wisconsin.

A month was spent in this contest. The claimants were Milwaukee, Racine, Koshkonong, Fond du Lac, Green Bay, Madison, Wisconsinapolis, Peru, Wisconsin City, Portage, Helena, Belmont, Mineral Point, Platteville, Cassville, Belleview, and Dubuque (now in Iowa, but then in Wisconsin). Some of these towns existed only upon maps published by real estate speculators.

Madison was a beautiful spot, in the heart of the wild woods and lakes of central southern Wisconsin. It was unknown save to a few trappers, and to the speculators who had bought the land from the federal government, and thought they saw a fortune in inducing the legislature to adopt it as the seat of government. Madison won, upon the argument that it was halfway between the rival settlements on Lake Michigan and the Mississippi, and that to build a city there would assist in the development of the interior of the Territory.

When Madison was chosen, a surveyor hurried thither, and in a blinding snowstorm laid out the prospective city. The village grew slowly, and it was November, 1838, before the legislature could meet in its new home.



Some of the people of Wisconsin were not long content with a Territorial government. The Territory was only two years old when a bill was introduced in Congress for a State government, but the attempt failed. In 1841 Governor Doty, the leader in the movement, had the question put to popular vote; but it was lost, as it also was in the year following. In 1843 a third attempt was defeated in the Territorial council (or senate); and in 1845, still another met defeat in the Territorial house of representatives (or assembly).

But at last our Territorial representative in Congress gave notice (January 9, 1846), "of a motion for leave to introduce a bill to enable the people of Wisconsin to form a constitution and State government, and for the admission of such State into the Union." He followed this, a few days later, by the introduction of a bill to that effect; the bill passed, and in August the measure was approved by President Polk.


Meanwhile, the council and house of Wisconsin Territory had favorably voted on the proposition. This was in January and February, 1846. In April the question of Statehood was passed upon by the people of the Territory, the returns this time showing 12,334 votes for, and 2487 against. In August, Governor Dodge issued a proclamation calling a convention for the drafting of a constitution.

The convention was in session in the Territorial capitol at Madison, between October 5 and December 16, 1846. But the constitution which it framed was rejected by the people. The contest over the document had been of an exciting nature; the defeat was owing to differences of opinion upon the articles relating to the rights of married women, exemptions, banks, the elective judiciary, and the number of members of the legislature.

As soon as practicable, Governor Dodge called a special session of the Territorial legislature, which made provisions for a second constitutional convention. Most of the members of the first convention declined reëlection; six only were returned. The second convention was in session at Madison from December 15, 1847, to February 1, 1848. The members of both conventions were men of high standing in their several communities, and later many of them held prominent positions in the service of the State and the nation.

The constitution adopted by the second convention was so satisfactory to most people, that the popular verdict in March (16,799 ayes and 6384 noes) surprised no one. Arrangements for a new bill in Congress, admitting Wisconsin to the Union, were already well under[161] way. Upon the very day of the vote by the people, before the result was known, the Territorial legislature held its final meeting, and left everything ready for the new State government.

The general election for the first State officers and the members of the first State legislature was held May 8. President Polk approved the congressional act of admission May 29. Upon the 7th of June, Governor Nelson Dewey and his fellow-officials were sworn into office, and the legislature opened its first session.

In the old lead mining days of Wisconsin, miners from southern Illinois and still farther south returned home every winter, and came back to the "diggings" in the spring, thus imitating the migrations of the fish popularly called the "sucker," in the south-flowing rivers of the region. For this reason the south-winterers were humorously called "Suckers." On the other hand, lead miners from the far-off Eastern States were unable to return home every winter, and at first lived in rude dugouts, burrowing into the hillsides after the fashion of the badger. These burrowing men were the first permanent settlers in the mines north of the Illinois line, and called themselves "Badgers." Thus Wisconsin, in later days, when it was thought necessary to adopt a nickname, was, by its own people, dubbed "The Badger State."



In the Ordinance of 1787, whereby Congress created the old Northwest Territory out of the triangle of country lying between the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and Lake of the Woods and the Great Lakes, it was provided that this vast region should eventually be parcelled into five States. The east-and-west dividing line was to be "drawn through the southerly bend or extreme of Lake Michigan"; south of this line were to be erected three States, and north of it two. "Whenever," the ordinance read, "any of the said States shall have sixty thousand free inhabitants therein, such State shall be admitted" to the Union.

It should be said, in explanation of this east-and-west line, that all the maps of Lake Michigan then extant represented the head of the lake as being much farther north than it was proved to be by later surveys. The line as fixed in the ordinance proved to be a bone of contention in the subsequent carving of the Northwest Territory into States, leading to a good deal of angry discussion before the boundaries of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, the five States eventually formed from the Territory, became established as they are to-day.


Ohio, the first State to be set off, insisted that Maumee Bay, with the town of Toledo, should be included in her bounds, although it lay north of the east-and-west line of the ordinance. Michigan, on the other hand, stoutly insisted on the line as laid down in the law. In 1835 and 1836 there were some popular disturbances along the border; one of these, though bloodless, was so violent as to receive the name of "the Toledo war." Congress finally settled the quarrel by giving Ohio the northern boundary which she desired, regardless of the terms of the ordinance; Michigan was compensated by the gift of what we now call the "northern peninsula" of that State, although it had all along been understood that the country lying west[164] of Lake Michigan should be the property of the fifth State, whenever that was created. Thus, in order that Ohio might have another lake port from Michigan, Wisconsin lost this immense tract of mining country to the north.

When Indiana came to be erected, it was seen that to adopt the east-and-west line, established by the ordinance, would be to deprive her entirely of any part of the coast of Lake Michigan. In order, therefore, to satisfy her, Congress took another strip, ten miles wide, from the southern border of Michigan, and gave it to the new State. Michigan made no objection to this fresh violation of the agreement of 1787, because there were no important harbors or towns involved.

Illinois next knocked at the door of the Union. The same conditions applied to her as to Indiana; a strict construction of the ordinance would deprive her of an opening on the lake. The Illinois delegate who argued this matter in Congress was shrewd; he contended that his State must become intimately connected with the growing commerce of the northern lakes, else she would be led, from her commercial relations upon the south-flowing Mississippi and Ohio rivers, to join a Southern confederacy in case the Union should be broken up. This was in 1818, and shows how early in our history there had come to be, in the minds of some far-seeing men, a fear that the growing power of slavery might some time lead to secession. The argument prevailed in Congress, and there was voted to Illinois a strip of territory sixty-one miles wide, lying north of the east-and-west line.


Thus again was the region later to be called Wisconsin deprived of a large and valuable tract. When Wisconsin Territory was created, there was a great deal of indignation expressed by some of her people, at being deprived of this wide belt of country embracing 8500 square miles of exceedingly fertile soil, numerous river and lake ports, many miles of fine water power, and the sites of Chicago, Rockford, Freeport, Galena, Oregon, Dixon, and numerous other prosperous cities.

An attempt was made in 1836, at the time the Territory was established, to secure for Wisconsin's benefit the old east-and-west line, as its rightful southern boundary. But Congress declined to grant this request. Three years later, the Wisconsin Territorial legislature declared that "a large and valuable tract of country is now held by the State of Illinois, contrary to the manifest right and consent of the people of this Territory."

The inhabitants of the district in northern Illinois which was claimed by Wisconsin, were invited by these resolutions to express their opinion on the matter. Public meetings were consequently held in several of the Illinois towns interested; and resolutions were adopted, declaring in favor of the Wisconsin claim. The movement culminated in a convention at Rockford (July 6, 1839), attended by delegates from nine of the fourteen Illinois counties involved. This convention recommended the counties to elect delegates to a convention to be held in Madison, "for the purpose of adopting such lawful and constitutional measures as may seem to be necessary and proper for the early adjustment of the southern boundary."


Curiously enough, the weight of public sentiment in Wisconsin itself did not favor the movement. At a large meeting held in Green Bay, the following April, the people of that section passed resolutions "viewing the resolutions of the legislature with concern and regret," and asking that they be rescinded. With this, popular agitation ceased for the time; and in the following year the legislature promptly defeated a proposition for the renewal of the question.

Governor Doty, however, was a stanch advocate of the idea, and at the legislative session of 1842 contrived to work up considerable enthusiasm in its behalf. A bill was reported by the committee on Territorial affairs, asking the people in the disputed tract to hold an election on the question of uniting with Wisconsin. There were some rather fiery speeches upon the subject, some of the orators going so far as to threaten force in acquiring the wished-for strip; but the legislature itself took no action. However, in Stephenson and Boone counties, Illinois, elections were actually held, at which all but one or two votes were cast in favor of the Wisconsin claim.

Governor Doty, thus encouraged, busily continued his agitation. He issued proclamations warning Illinois that it was "exercising an accidental and temporary jurisdiction" over the disputed strip, and calling on the two legislatures to authorize the people to vote on the question of restoring Wisconsin to her "ancient limits." At first, neither the legislatures of Illinois nor Wisconsin paid much attention to the matter. Finally, in 1843, the Wisconsin legislature sent a rather warlike[167] address to Congress, in which secession was clearly threatened, unless the "birthright of Wisconsin" were restored. Congress, however, very sensibly paid no heed to the address, and gradually the excitement subsided, until eventually Wisconsin was made a State, with her present boundaries.

We have seen that the northern peninsula was given to Michigan as a recompense for her loss of Toledo and Maumee Bay. But when it became necessary to determine the boundary between the peninsula and the new Territory of Wisconsin, now set off from Michigan, some difficulty arose, owing to the fact that the country had not been thoroughly surveyed, and there was no good map of it extant.

There were various propositions; one of them was, to use the Chocolate River as part of the line; had this prevailed, Wisconsin would have gained the greater part of the peninsula. But the line of division at last adopted was that of the Montreal and Menominee rivers, by the way of Lake Vieux Désert. This line had been selected in 1834, because a map published that year represented the headwaters of those rivers as meeting in Lake Vieux Désert; hence it was supposed by the congressional committee that this would make an excellent natural boundary. When, however, the line came to be actually laid out by the surveyors, six years later, for the purpose of setting boundary monuments, it was discovered that Lake Vieux Désert had no connection with either stream, being, in fact, the headwaters of the Wisconsin River; and that the running of the line through the woods, between the far-distant[168] headwaters of the Montreal and Menominee, so as to touch the lake on the way, involved a laborious task, and resulted in a crooked boundary. But it was by this time too late to correct the geographical error, and the awkward boundary thus remains.

As originally provided by the Ordinance of 1787, Wisconsin, as the fifth State to be created out of the Northwest Territory, was, even after being shorn upon the south and northeast, at least entitled to have as her western boundary the Mississippi to its source, and thence a straight line running northward to the Lake of the Woods and the Canadian boundary. But here again she was to suffer loss of soil, this time in favor of Minnesota.

As a Territory, Wisconsin had been given sway over all the country lying to the west, as far as the Missouri River. In 1838, all beyond the Mississippi was detached, and erected into the Territory of Iowa. Eight years later, when Wisconsin first sought to be a State, the question arose as to her western boundary. Naturally, the people of the eastern and southern sections wished the one set forth in the ordinance. But settlements had by this time been established along the Upper Mississippi and in the St. Croix valley. These were far removed from the bulk of settlement elsewhere in Wisconsin, and had neither social nor business interests in common with them. The people of the northwest wished to be released from Wisconsin, in order that they might either cast their fortunes with their near neighbors in the new Territory of Minnesota, or join a movement just then projected for the creation[169] of an entirely new State, to be called "Superior." This proposed state was to embrace all the country north of Mont Trempealeau and east of the Mississippi, including the entire northern peninsula, if the latter could be obtained; thus commanding the southern and western shores of Lake Superior, with the mouth of Green Bay and the foot of Lake Michigan to the southeast.

The St. Croix representative in the legislature was especially wedded to the Superior project. He pleaded earnestly and eloquently for his people, whose progress, he said, would be "greatly hampered by being connected politically with a country from which they are separated by nature, cut off from communication by immense spaces of wilderness between." A memorial from the settlers themselves stated the case with even more vigor, asserting that they were "widely separated from the settled parts of Wisconsin, not only by hundreds of miles of mostly waste and barren lands, which must remain uncultivated for ages, but equally so by a diversity of interests and character in the population." All of this reads curiously enough in these days, when the intervening wilderness resounds with the hum of industry and "blossoms as the rose." But that was long before the days of railroads; the dense forests of central and western Wisconsin then constituted a formidable wilderness, peopled only by savages and wild beasts.

Unable to influence the Wisconsin legislature, which stubbornly contended for the possession of the original tract, the St. Croix people next urged their claims upon Congress. The proposed State of Superior found little[170] favor at Washington, but there was a general feeling that Wisconsin would be much too large unless trimmed. The result was that when she was finally admitted as a State, the St. Croix River was, in large part, made her northwest boundary; Minnesota in this manner acquired a vast stretch of country, including the thriving city of St. Paul.

Wisconsin was thus shorn of valuable territory on the south, to please Illinois; on the northeast, to favor Michigan; and on the northwest, that some of her settlers might join their fortunes with Minnesota. The State, however, is still quite as large as most of her sisters in the Old Northwest, and possesses an unusual variety of soils, and a great wealth of forests, mines, and fisheries. There is a strong probability that, had Congress, in 1848, given to Wisconsin her "ancient limits," as defined by the Ordinance of 1787, the movement to create the proposed state of "Superior" would have gathered strength in the passing years, and possibly would have achieved success, thus depriving us of our great northern forests and mines, and our outlet upon the northern lake.



So long as the fur trade remained the principal business in Wisconsin, the French were still supreme at Green Bay and Prairie du Chien; and, until a third of the nineteenth century had passed away, there existed at these outposts of New France a social life which smacked of the "old régime," bearing more traces of seventeenth-century Normandy than of Puritan New England. With the decline of the fur trade, a new order of things slowly grew up.

There being little legal machinery west of Lake Michigan, before Wisconsin Territory was erected, local government was slow to establish itself. Nothing but the good temper and stout common sense of the people prevented anarchy, under such a condition of affairs. For many years, the few public enterprises were undertaken at private expense. At Green Bay, schools were thus conducted, as early as 1817. In 1821 the citizens of that village raised a fund by popular subscription, and built a jail; and eleven years later, they asked the legislature of Michigan Territory to pay for it. There were some Territorial taxes levied in 1817, but the gathering of them was not very successful. The first county to levy a tax was Crawford, of[172] which Prairie du Chien was the seat, but considerable difficulty appears to have been experienced in collecting the money.

Finally, Wisconsin Territory was organized, and the legislature assembled (1838) in Madison, the new capital. The accommodations at that raw little woodland village were meager, even for pioneer times. The Territorial building of stone, and a few rude frame and log houses in the immediate neighborhood, were all there was of the infant city. Only fifty strangers could be decently lodged there, and a proposition to adjourn to Milwaukee was favored. But as the lakeshore metropolis, also a small village, could offer no better accommodations, it was decided to stay at the capital, and brave it out on the straw and hay mattresses, of which, however, there were not enough to supply the demand.

This was long before railroads had reached Wisconsin. Travel through the new Territory was by boat, horseback, or a kind of snow sledge called a "French train." There were no roads, except such as had been developed from the old deep-worn Indian trails which interlaced the face of the country, and traces of which can still be seen in many portions of the State. The pioneers found that these trails, with a little straightening, often followed the best possible routes for bridle paths or wagon roads. It was not long before they were being used by long lines of teams, transporting smelted lead from the mines of southwest Wisconsin to the Milwaukee and Galena docks; on the return, they carried supplies for the "diggings," and sawmill machinery into the interior forests. Farmers' wagons[173] and stagecoaches followed in due time. Bridges were but slowly built; the unloaded wagons were ferried across rivers in Indian "dugout" canoes, the horses swimming behind, and the freight being brought over in relays.

In 1837 there was a financial crisis throughout the country, and this checked Western immigration for a few years. But there was not enough money in Wisconsin for bank failures materially to affect the people; so, when the tide of settlement again flowed hither, the Badgers were as strong and hopeful as ever.

People coming to Wisconsin from the East often traveled all the way in their own wagons; or would take a lake boat at Buffalo, and then proceed by water to Detroit, Green Bay, or Chicago, thence journeying in caravans to the interior.

Frontier life, in those days, was of the simplest character. The immigrants were for the most part used to hard work and plain fare. Accordingly the privations of their new surroundings involved relatively little hardship, although sometimes a pioneer farmer was fifty or a hundred miles from a gristmill, a store, or a post office, and generally his highway thither was but a blazed bridle path through the tangled forest.


Often his only entertainments throughout the year were "bees" for raising log houses or barns for newcomers, and on these occasions all the settlers for scores of miles around would gather in a spirit of helpful comradery. Occasionally the mail carrier, either afoot or on horseback, would wish accommodation over night. Particularly fortunate was the man who maintained a[174] river ferry at the crossing of some much-frequented trail; he could have frequent chats with strangers, and collect stray shillings from mail carriers or other travelers whose business led them through the wilderness.

Often the new settler brought considerable flour and salt pork with him, in his journey to the West; but it was not at first easy to get a fresh supply. Curiously enough, although in the midst of a wild abundance, civilized man at the outset sometimes suffered for the bare necessaries of life. As soon, however, as he could garner his first crop, and become accustomed to the new conditions, he was usually proof against disaster of this kind; fish and game were so abundant, in their season, that in due time the backwoodsman was able to win a wholesome livelihood from the storehouse of nature.

Satisfactory education for youth was a plant of comparatively small growth. At first there was not enough money in the country to pay competent teachers. The half-educated sons and daughters of the pioneers taught the earliest schools, often upon a private subscription basis; text-books were few, appliances generally wanting, and the results were, for many years, far from satisfactory. As for spiritual instruction,[175] this was given by itinerant missionary preachers and priests, of various denominations, who braved great hardships while making their rounds on horseback or afoot, and deserve to rank among the most daring of the pioneer class. In due time churches and schools were firmly established throughout the Territory.

In addition to these farmer colonists, there came many young professional and business men, chiefly from New York and New England, seeking an opening in the new Territory for the acquisition of fame and wealth. Many of these were men of marked ability, with high ambition and progressive ideas, who soon took prominent part in molding public opinion in the young Wisconsin. There are, all things considered, no abler, more forceful men in the Wisconsin of to-day than were some of those, now practically all passed away, who shaped her destinies in the fourth and fifth decades of the nineteenth century.

The sessions of the legislature were the principal events of the year. Prominent men from all over Wisconsin were each winter attracted to Madison, as legislators, lobbyists, or visitors, crowding the primitive little hotels and indulging in rather boisterous gayety; for humor in those pioneer days was often uncouth. There was overmuch "horseplay," hard drinking, and profanity; and now and then, as the result of a warm discussion, a tussle with fists and canes.

The newspapers were given to rude personal attacks upon their enemies; one would suppose, to read the columns of the old journals, that editors thought it their chief business in life to carry on a wordy, bitter[176] quarrel with some rival editor or politician. But this was largely on the surface, for effect. As a matter of fact, strong attachments between men were more frequent then than now. There was a deal of dancing and miscellaneous merrymaking at these legislative sessions; and travelers have left us, in their letters and journals, statements which show that they greatly relished the experience of tarrying there on their winter journeys across the Territory, and of being entertained by the good-hearted villagers.

Pioneers, in their stories of those early years, are fond of calling them the "good old times," and styling present folk and manners degenerate. No doubt there was a certain charm in the rude simplicity of frontier life, but there were, as well, great inconveniences and rude discomforts, with which few pioneers of our day would wish to be confronted, after having tasted the pleasures arising from the wealth of conveniences of every sort which distinguishes these latter days. As far back in time as human records go, we ever find old men bewailing prevalent degeneracy, and sighing in vain for "the good old times" when they were young. It is a blessing given to the old that the disagreeable incidents of their youth should be forgotten, and only the pleasant events remembered. As a matter of fact, we of to-day may well rejoice that, while Wisconsin enjoyed a lusty youth, she has now, in the fullness of time, grown into a great and ambitious commonwealth, lacking nothing that her sisters own, in all that makes for the prosperity and happiness of her people.



When white men first came to our land, the Indian trails formed a network of narrow, deep-sunken paths over the face of the country, as they connected village with village, and these with the hunting and fishing resorts of the aborigines. Many of the most important trails simply followed the still earlier tracks of the buffalo, which in great herds wandered from plain to plain, in search of forage, or in hiding from man, through the dark forest and over the hills. The buffalo possessed an unerring instinct for selecting the best places for a road, high ridges overlooking the lowlands, and the easy slopes of hills. In the Far West, they first found the passes over the Rockies, just as, still earlier, they crossed the Alleghanies by the most favorable routes.

The Indian followed in the footsteps of the buffalo, both to pursue him as game, and better to penetrate the wilderness. The white man followed the well-defined Indian trail, first on foot, then on horseback; next (after straightening and widening the curving path), by freight wagon and by stagecoach; and then, many years later, the railway engineer often found his best route by the side of the developed buffalo track,[178] especially in crossing the mountain ranges. The Union Pacific and the Southern Pacific railways are notable examples of lines which have simply followed well-worn overland roads, which were themselves but the transcontinental buffalo paths of old.

An interesting story might be written concerning the development of the principal Indian trails in Wisconsin into the wagon roads of the pioneers, and some of these into the military roads made by the federal government for the marching of troops between the frontier forts. Without fairly good roads, at least during the winter and summer months, it would have been impossible for Wisconsin to grow into a great State; for good roads are necessary to enable settlers, tools, and supplies to get into the country, and to afford an outlet for crops. For this reason, in any newly settled region, one of the first duties of the people is to make roads and bridges.

We have still much to do in Wisconsin, before we can have such highways as they possess in the old eastern States. In many parts of our State, the country roads in the rainy seasons are of little credit to us. But the worst of them are much better than were some of the best in pioneer days, and some of our principal thoroughfares between the larger cities are fairly good.

The federal government set a good example by having its soldiers build several military roads, especially between Forts Howard (Green Bay), Winnebago (Portage), and Crawford (Prairie du Chien). In Territorial and early Statehood days, charters were granted by the legislature for the building and maintenance of certain tollroads between large towns; some of these were[179] paved with gravel or broken stone, others with planks. Many of the plank roads remained in use until about 1875; but before that date all highways became the property of the public, and tollgates were removed. Bridges charging tolls are still in use in some parts of the State, where the people have declined to tax themselves for a public bridge, which therefore has been built by a private company in consideration of the privilege of collecting tolls from travelers.

Early in the year when Wisconsin Territory was erected (1836), and while it was still attached to Michigan Territory, there was a strong movement, west of Lake Michigan, in favor of a railway between Milwaukee and Prairie du Chien, connecting the lake with the Mississippi River. Congress was petitioned by the legislative council of Michigan to make an appropriation to survey the proposed line. There were as yet very few agricultural settlers along the route; the chief business of the road was to be the shipment of lead from the mines of the southwest to the Milwaukee docks; thence it was to be carried by vessels to Buffalo, and sent forward in boats, over the Erie Canal, to the Hudson River and New York.

This was in January; in the September following, after Wisconsin Territory had been formed, a public meeting was held in Milwaukee, to petition the Territorial legislature to pass an act incorporating a company to construct the proposed lead-mine road, upon a survey to be made at the expense of the United States, and there was even some talk of another road to the far-away wilderness of Lake Superior.


But this early railway project was premature. Wisconsin had then but twenty-two thousand inhabitants, and Milwaukee was a small frontier village. Then again, railroading in the United States was still in its infancy. In Pennsylvania there was a small line, hardly better than an old-fashioned horse car track, over which a wheezy little locomotive slowly made occasional trips, and the Baltimore and Ohio railway had not long before experimented with sails as a motive power. It is not surprising, therefore, that Congress acted slowly in regard to the overambitious Wisconsin project, and that it was nearly fourteen and a half years before a railway was actually opened in this State.

Indeed, many people thought at that time that canals, costing less in construction and in operation, were more serviceable for Wisconsin than railways. The people of northern Wisconsin were particularly eager for canals; in the southern part, railways were most popular. The most important canal project was that known as the Fox and Wisconsin rivers improvement. From the earliest historic times, these two opposite-flowing rivers, whose waters approach within a mile and a half of each other at Portage, had been used as a boat route between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. We have seen, in preceding chapters, what an important part was played by this route in the early history of Wisconsin. But when large vessels became necessary to the trade of the region, and steam navigation was introduced, it was found that the historic water way presented many practical difficulties: the Fox abounds in rapids below[181] Lake Winnebago, and in its upper waters is very shallow; the Wisconsin is troubled with shifting sand bars. In order to accommodate the traffic, a canal was necessary along the portage path, and extensive improvements in both rivers were essential.

As early as 1839, Congress was asked to aid in this work, and from time to time such aid has been given. But, although several millions of dollars have, through all these years, been spent upon the two streams, there has been no important modern navigation through them between the Great Lakes and the great river. The chief result has been the admirable system of locks between Lake Winnebago and Green[182] Bay, making available the splendid water power of the lower valley of the Fox.

Another water way project was that of the Milwaukee and Rock River Canal. This was designed to connect the waters of the Milwaukee and Rock rivers, thereby providing an additional way for vessels to pass from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi. A company was incorporated, with a capital of a million dollars, and Congress made a large grant of land to Wisconsin Territory. But after some years of uncertainty and heavy expense the project was abandoned as impracticable.

The Territorial legislature began to charter railway companies as early as 1836, but the Milwaukee and Mississippi was the first road actually built. The track was laid in 1851 and a train was run out to Waukesha, a distance of twenty miles. In 1856 the line reached the Mississippi. This was the modest beginning of the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul system.

The Chicago and Northwestern Railway entered Wisconsin from Chicago about the same time (1855). Numerous small lines were built before the War of Secession, nearly all of them being soon swallowed up by the larger companies. During the war, there was stagnation in railway building, but when peace was declared there was renewed activity, and to-day Wisconsin is as well provided with good railways as any State of its size and population in the Union.



In the fourth decade of the nineteenth century there was much agitation, both in France and America, over the teachings of a remarkable man named François Marie Charles Fourier. He claimed that if people would band themselves together in communities, in the proper spirit of mutual forbearance and helpfulness, and upon plans laid down by him, it would be proved that they could get along very well with no strife of any sort, either in business, or religion, or politics. Then, if the nations would but unite themselves in the same way, universal peace would reign.

During the stirring times of the French Revolution and of the great Napoleon, there had been much social agitation of the violent sort. A reaction had come. The talk about the rights of man was no longer confined to the violent, revengeful element of the population; it was now chiefly heard among the good and gentle folk, among men of wealth and benevolence, as well as those of learning and poverty.

In France, Fourier was the leader among this new class of socialists. In France, England, and Holland, colonies more or less after the Fourier model were established; and it was not long before communities[184] came to be founded in the United States. The most famous of these latter was Brook Farm, in Massachusetts, because among its members were several well-known authors and scientists, who wrote a great deal about their experiences there. But the only community in America conducted strictly on Fourier's plan, flourished in Wisconsin.

The New York Tribune, edited by Horace Greeley, a noted reformer, was earnest in advocating Fourierism, as it was called, doing much to attract attention to "the principle of equitable distributions." One of the many readers of the Tribune was Warren Chase, of Kenosha, a young New Hampshire man, thirty years of age, who became much attached to the new idea.

This was during the winter of 1843-44. Chase gathered about him at Kenosha a group of intelligent men and women, some of whom had property, and they formed a stock company, incorporated under the laws of Wisconsin Territory, but based strictly on the plans laid down by Fourier.

Having purchased six hundred acres of government land, in a gentle valley within the present Ripon township, in Fond du Lac county, nineteen pioneers, led by Chase, made their way thither in May. There were no railroads in those days, and the little company proceeded overland through flower-decked prairies, and over wooded hills, in oxcarts and horse wagons, with droves of cattle, and tools and utensils.

The reformers called their colony "Ceresco," after Ceres, the goddess of agriculture. Plowing was commenced, buildings were erected, shops and forges established.[185] Very soon some two hundred men, women, and children had arrived, and in due time many branches of industry were in full operation.

The Ceresco community was, as suggested by Fourier, styled a "phalanx." The members were classified, according to their capacity to labor, in educational, mechanical, and agricultural series, each series being divided into groups. The government was headed by a president and nine councilors; each series had a chairman, and each group a foreman.

Labor was voluntary, the shops being owned by the community at large; while the land was divided equally among all the members, old and young, save that no family might possess over forty acres. As the community grew, more land was purchased for their use. The council laid out the work to be done, or the policy to be pursued. When there was a question to be decided, the series interested voted upon it; but in some important cases, the matter was referred for final action to the several groups. Each person received pay according to his value as a worker, the record being kept by the foreman of his group. They were not paid upon the same scale; for instance, the members of the council and the school-teachers received more than skilled mechanical laborers, and these in turn more than ordinary workmen.

The phalanx at first lived in temporary quarters, and a year later erected a large building "four hundred feet in length, consisting of two rows of tenements, with a hall between, under one roof." Each family lived in its own compartments, but all ate in common at[186] a boarding house called the "phalanstery," where a charge was made of seventy-five cents a week for each person. The "unitary" was a large building used for business and social meetings, these being held in the evenings; each Tuesday evening the literary and debating club met, Wednesday evening the singing school, and Thursday evening a dancing party.

Unlike many other communities, the Fourier colonies were not religious in character. Each member of the phalanx at Ceresco might worship as he pleased. At various times, for the membership fluctuated somewhat, ministers of different denominations were members of the colony, and frequently there were visits from wandering missionaries.

None of the colonists were allowed to use intoxicating liquors as a beverage. There must be no vulgar language, swearing, or gambling; and one of the by-laws commanded that "censoriousness and fault-finding, indolence, abuse of cattle or horses, hunting or fishing on the first day of the week, shall be deemed misdemeanors, and shall be punishable by reprimand or expulsion." These punishments were the only ones which the community could inflict upon its members, for it had no judicial powers under the law.

But there was small need of punishments at Ceresco. Its members were, as a rule, men and women of most excellent character. There was never any dishonesty, or other serious immorality, within the phalanx; the few neighboring settlers regarded the reformers with genuine respect. All the proceedings of the community were open, and its carefully kept accounts and records[187] might be inspected by any one at any time. Whenever charges were brought against a member, they were laid before the full assembly at the next weekly meeting; a week elapsed before consideration, in order to give ample opportunity for defense; then the entire body of colonists, women as well as men, voted on the question, acquitting the offender or reprimanding him or, by a two-thirds vote, expelling him from the phalanx.

Wisconsin was then sparsely settled at best; the peaceful little valley of Ceresco was equally far removed from the centers of population at Green Bay and in the southern portion of the Territory. Yet many pioneers came toiling over the country, to apply for admission to this Garden of Eden. But it is recorded that not one in four was taken into fellowship, for the phalanx desired "no lazy, shiftless, ne'er-do-well members," and only those believed to be wise, industrious, and benevolent were taken into the fold.

And thus the Ceresco phalanx seemed mightily to prosper. Its stock earned good dividends, its property was in excellent condition, the quality of its membership could not be bettered. Far and near were its praises sung. The New York Tribune gave weekly news of its doings, and was ever pointing to it as worthy of emulation; the Brook Farm paper hailed it as proof that socialism had at last succeeded.

Had each member been equally capable with his fellows, had the families been of the same size, had there been no jealousies, no bickerings, had these good folk been without ambition, had they, in short, been contented,[188] the phalanx might have remained a success. They were clothed, fed, and housed at less expense than were outsiders; they had many social enjoyments not known elsewhere in the valley; and, according to all the philosophers, should have been a happy people.

The public table, the public amusement rooms, and all that, had at first a spice of pleasant novelty; but soon there was a realization that this had not the charm of home life, that one's family affairs were too much the affairs of all. The strong and the willing saw that they were yoked to those who were weak and slothful; there was no chance for natural abilities to assert themselves, no reward for individual excellence.

Wisconsin became a State in 1848. Everywhere, ambitious and energetic citizens in the rapidly growing commonwealth were making a great deal of money through land speculations and the planting of new industries, everywhere but in Ceresco, where the community life allowed no man to rise above the common level. The California gold fields, opened the following year, also sorely tempted the young men. The members of the phalanx found themselves hampered by their bond. Caring no longer for the reformation of society, they eagerly clamored to get back into the whirl of that struggle for existence which, only a few years before, they had voted so unnecessary to human welfare.

In 1850 the good folk at Ceresco voted unanimously, and in the best of feeling toward one another, to disband their colony. They sold their lands at a fair profit to each; and very soon, in the rush for wealth[189] and for a chance to exercise their individual powers, were widely distributed over the face of the country. Some of them ultimately won much worldly success; others fell far below the level of prosperity maintained in the phalanx, and came to bemoan the "good old days" of the social community, when the strong were obliged to bolster the weak.



In the year 1843 there came from New York to the village of Burlington, Racine county, an eccentric young lawyer named James Jesse Strang. Originally a farmer's boy, he had been a country school-teacher, a newspaper editor, and a temperance lecturer, as well as a lawyer. Possessed of an uneasy, ambitious spirit, he had wandered much, and changed his occupation with apparent ease. Strang was passionately fond of reading, was gifted with a remarkable memory, and developed a fervent, persuasive style of oratory, which he delighted in employing. He often astonished the courts by the shrewd eloquence with which he supported strange, unexpected points in law. It is related of him that, soon after he came to Wisconsin, he brought a suit to recover the value of honey which, he claimed, had been stolen from his client's hives by the piratical bees of a neighbor, and his arguments were so plausible that he nearly won his case.

In less than a year after his arrival in Burlington, the village was visited by some Mormon missionaries. They came from Nauvoo, Illinois, on the banks of the Mississippi River, where there was a settlement of so-called Latter-Day Saints, who lived under the sway of[191] a designing knave named Joseph Smith. Strang at once became a convert, and entered into the movement with such earnestness that, with his oratory, his ability to manage men, and his keen zest for notoriety, he became one of the most prominent followers of the faith.

Six months after Strang's conversion, Joseph Smith, the president and prophet of the Mormons, was killed by an Illinois mob. At once there arose a desperate strife among the leaders, for the successorship to Joseph. Two of the number, Brigham Young and Strang, were men of ability, and the contest soon narrowed down to them. Young had the powerful support of the council of the church, known as "the twelve apostles"; but Strang produced a letter said to have been written by Joseph just before his death, in which Strang was named as his successor, with directions to lead the Mormons to a new "city of promise" in Wisconsin, to be called "Voree."

The "apostles" at Nauvoo denounced Strang as an impostor, declared that his letter was a forgery, and attacked him bitterly in their official newspapers, published at Nauvoo and at Liverpool, England. But Strang was not easily put down. A great many of the fanatics at Nauvoo believed in this impetuous young leader, who defended his cause with tact and forceful eloquence; and for a time it looked as if he might win.

However, in the end the "apostles" had their way, and the adroit Young was elected to the headship of the church. Strang at once called forth his followers,[192] and in April, 1845, planted the "City of Voree" upon a prairie by the side of White River, in Walworth county, Wisconsin. It soon became a town of nearly two thousand inhabitants, who owned all things in common, but were ruled over, even in the smallest affairs of life, by the wily President Strang, who claimed to be divinely instructed in every detail of his rigorous government.

The people dwelt "in plain houses, in board shanties, in tents, and sometimes, many of them, in the open air." Great meetings were held at Voree, and the surrounding settlers gathered to hear Strang and his twelve "apostles" lay down the law, and tell of the revelations which had been delivered to them by the Almighty. Strang, who closely imitated the methods of Joseph, pretended to discover the word of God in deep-hidden records. Joseph had found the Book of Mormon graven upon plates dug out of the hill of Cumorah, in New York; so Strang discovered buried near Voree similar brazen plates bearing revelations, written in the rhythmic style of the Scriptures, which supplemented those in the Book of Mormon.

President Strang was a very busy man as the head of the Voree branch of the Mormon church. He obtained a printing outfit, and published a little weekly paper called Gospel Herald, besides hundreds of pamphlets, all written by himself, in which he assailed the "Brighamites" in the same violent manner as they attacked him in their numerous publications. He also, with his missionaries, conducted meetings in Ohio, New York, and other States in the East, gathering converts[193] for Voree, and boldly repelling the wordy attacks of the Brighamites, whose agents were working the same fields.

Despite some backslidings, and occasional quarrels within its ranks, Voree grew and prospered. By 1849 there was a partially built stone temple there, which is thus described by an imaginative letter writer of the time: "It covers two and one-sixth acres of ground, has twelve towers, and the great hall two hundred feet square in the center. The entire walls are eight feet through, the floors and roofs are to be marble, and when finished it will be the grandest building in the world."

Nevertheless, it was early seen by Strang that the growing opposition of neighboring settlers would in the end cause the Mormons to leave Wisconsin, just as the Nauvoo fanatics were compelled (in 1846) to flee from Illinois, to plant their stake in the wilderness of the Far West.

He therefore made preparations for a place of refuge for his people, when persecutions should become unbearable. In journeying by vessel, upon one of his missions, he had taken note of the isolation of an archipelago of large, beautiful, well-wooded islands near the foot of Lake Michigan. The month of May, 1846, found him with four companions upon Beaver Island, in this far-away group. They built a log cabin, arranged for a boat, and returned to Voree to prepare for the migration of the faithful.

The new colony at first grew slowly, but by the summer of 1849 the "saints" began to arrive in goodly numbers. Strang himself now headed the settlement;[194] and thereafter Voree ceased to be headquarters for the "Primitive Mormons," as they called themselves, although a few remained in the neighborhood.

Very soon, about two thousand devotees were gathered within the "City of St. James," on Beaver Island, with well-tilled farms, neat houses, a sawmill, roads, docks, and a large temple. A hill near by they renamed Mount Pisgah, and a River Jordan and a Sea of Galilee were not far away.

One beautiful day in July, 1850, Strang, arrayed in a robe of bright red, was, with much ceremony, crowned by his "apostles" as "King of the Kingdom of St. James." Foreign ambassadors were appointed, and a royal press was set up, for the flaying of his enemies. Schools and debating clubs were opened; the community system was abolished; tithes were collected for the support of the government; tea, coffee, and tobacco were prohibited; and even the dress of the people was regulated by law. Never was there a king more absolute than Strang; doubtless, for a time, he thought his dream of empire realized at last, and that here in this unknown corner of the world the "saints" might remain forever unmolested.


But the sylvan archipelago, and Beaver Island itself, had other inhabitants; these were rude, sturdy, illiterate fishermen, who lived in huts along the coast, and had little patience with the fantastic[195] performances of their neighbors, King Strang and the court of St. James. His majesty had, also, jealous enemies among his own subjects.

Trouble soon ensued. The fishermen frequently assaulted the "saints," and carried on a petty warfare against the colony at large, in which the county sheriff was soon engaged; for false charges came to be entered against these strange but inoffensive people, and they were now and then thrown into jail. The king, thereupon, in self-defence, "went into politics." Having so many votes at his command, he easily secured the election of Mormons to all the county offices, and of himself to the legislature of Michigan.

But despite these victories over outside foes, matters at home went from bad to worse. The enemies in his camp multiplied, for his increasingly despotic rule gave them abundance of grievances. At last, about the middle of June, 1856, two of the malcontents shot their monarch from behind. He was taken by vessel to his old home in Voree, where he was tenderly cared for until his death, a month later, by his poor, neglected wife, who had remained behind when he went forth to the island. His kingdom did not long survive him. The unruly fishermen came one day with ax and torch, leveled the royal city to the ground, and banished the frightened "saints."

To-day the White River prairie gives no evidence of having once borne the city of Zion, and even in the Michigan archipelago there remain few visible relics of the marvelous reign of King Strang.



Two years after Louis the XVI., Bourbon king of France, and his beautiful queen, Marie Antoinette, were beheaded by the revolutionists in Paris, in the closing decade of the eighteenth century, their imbecile child of eight years, called the "dauphin," was officially reported to have died in prison. But the story was started at the time, and popularly believed, that the real dauphin, Louis the XVII., had been stolen by the royalists, and another child cunningly substituted to die there in his place. The story went that the dauphin had been sent to America, and that all traces of him were lost; thus was given to any adventurer of the requisite age, and sufficiently obscure birth, an opportunity to seek such honor as might be gained in claiming identity with the escaped prisoner.

Great was the excitement in the United States, when, in 1853, it was confidently announced by a New York magazine writer that the long lost prince had at last been discovered, in the person of the middle-aged Eleazer Williams, an Episcopal missionary to the Oneida Indians at Little Kaukauna, in the lower valley of the Fox.

The Bonaparte family, represented by Louis Napoleon, were just then in control of France; but the Bourbon[197] family, of which Louis the XVII., were he alive, would naturally be the head, considered themselves rightful hereditary masters of that country. Of course, there was at the time no opportunity for any Bourbon actually to occupy the French throne; but the people of that country are highly emotional, revolutions have been numerous among them, and displaced royalists are always hoping for some turn in affairs which may enable them once more to gain the government. It was this possible chance of the Bourbons getting into power once more, that added interest to the story.

Let us see what sort of person this Eleazer Williams of Wisconsin was, and how it came about that he made the assertion that he was the head of the Bourbons, and an uncrowned king. It had heretofore been supposed by every one who knew him that he was the son of Mohawk Indian parents, both of whom had white blood in their veins, living just over the New York border, in Canada. Certain Congregationalists had induced this couple to allow two of their sons, Thomas and Eleazer, to be educated in New England as missionaries to the Indians; and for several years they attended academies there, becoming fairly proficient in English, although their aboriginal manners were not much improved.

At last returning to his Canadian home, Eleazer neglected his Congregational benefactors, and soon became interested in the Episcopal Church. He would have become one of its missionaries at once, but just at that time the War of 1812-15 broke out; and instead he became a spy in the pay of the United States, conveying to his employers important information concerning[198] the movements of British troops in Canada. When the war was over, having, as an American spy, incurred the dislike of the Canadian Mohawks, he was sent as an Episcopal missionary to the Oneida Indians, then living in Oneida county, New York.

Williams appears to have differed from the ordinary Indian type, although he was thickset, dark haired, and swarthy of skin. Some took him to be a Spaniard; others there were who thought him French; and comments which he had heard, concerning his slight resemblance to the pictures of the Bourbons, doubtless caused Eleazer in later years to pretend to be the lost dauphin. He was a fair orator, and in his earlier years succeeded well in persuading the simple red men about him. His plausible manner, and this ease of persuasion, finally led him astray.

The Oneida Indians in New York and their neighbors (formerly from New England), the Munsees, Stockbridges, and Brothertowns, were just then being crowded out of that State. A great company had acquired the right from the federal government to purchase the lands held by these Indians, whenever they cared to dispose of them. In order to hurry matters, the company began to sow among the poor natives the seeds of discontent.

Certain of their leaders, among them Williams, advocated emigration to the West. It appears that Williams, who was a born intriguer, conceived the ambitious idea of taking advantage of this movement to establish an Indian empire in the country west of Lake Michigan, with himself as dictator.


Moved by the clamor of the red men, the federal government sent a delegation to Wisconsin, in 1820, to see whether the tribes west of the lake would consent to accept the New York Indians as neighbors. This delegation was headed by Dr. Jedediah Morse, a celebrated geographer and missionary. Morse visited Mackinac and Green Bay, and returned with the report that the valley of the lower Fox was the most suitable place in which to make a settlement. That very summer, Williams himself, with several other headmen, had on their own account journeyed as far as Detroit on a similar errand, but returned without discovering a location.

The owners of the land selected by Morse were the Menominees and Winnebagoes, with whom Williams and his followers held a council at Green Bay, the following year. A treaty was signed, by which the New York Indians were granted a large strip of land, four miles wide, at Little Chute.

The ensuing year (1822), at a new council held at Green Bay, the New Yorkers asked for still more land. The Winnebagoes, much incensed, withdrew from the treaty, but the Menominees were won over by Williams's eloquence, and granted an extraordinary cession, making the New York Indians joint owners with themselves of all Menominee territory, which then embraced very nearly a half of all the present State of Wisconsin.

Ten years of quarreling followed, for there was at once a reaction from this remarkable spirit of generosity. In 1832 there was concluded a final treaty, apparently satisfactory to most of those concerned, and[200] soon thereafter a large number of New York Indians removed hither. The Oneidas and Munsees established themselves upon Duck Creek, near the mouth of the Fox, and the Stockbridges and Brothertowns east of Lake Winnebago. As for Williams, the jealousies and bickerings among his people soon caused him to lose control over them, thus giving the deathblow to his wild dreams of empire.


During the next twenty years, in which he continued to serve as a missionary to the Wisconsin Oneidas, Williams was a well-known and picturesque character. His home was on the west bank of the river, about a mile below Little Kaukauna. Although a man of much vigor and strength of mind, he soon came to be recognized as an unscrupulous fellow by the majority of both whites and reds in the lower Fox, and his clerical brethren, East as well as West, appear to have regarded him with more or less contempt.

Baffled in several fields of notoriety which he had worked, Williams suddenly posed before the American public, in 1853, as the hereditary sovereign of France. He was too young by eight years to be the lost dauphin; that he was clearly of Indian origin was proved by a close examination of his color, form, and feature; his dusky parents protested under oath that the wayward Eleazer was their son; every allegation of his in regard to the matter has often been exposed as false;[201] and all his neighbors who knew him treated his claims as fraudulent.

Nevertheless, he succeeded in deceiving a number of good people, including several leading clergymen of his church; one of the latter attempted in an elaborate book, "The Lost Prince," to prove conclusively that Williams was indeed the son of the executed monarch.

The pretensions of Eleazer Williams, who dearly loved the notoriety which this discussion awakened, extended through several years. They even won some little attention in France, but far less than here, for several other men had claimed to be the lost dauphin, so that the pretension was not a new one over there. Louis Philippe, the head of the Bourbon-Orleans family in France, sent him a present of some finely bound books, believing him the innocent victim of a delusion; but, further than that, and a chance meeting at Green Bay, between Eleazer Williams and another French royalist, the Prince de Joinville, then on his travels through America, the family in France paid no attention to the adventurous half-breed American Indian who claimed to be one of them.

The reputation of Williams as a missionary had at last fallen so low, and the neglect of his duties was so persistent, that his salary was withdrawn by the Episcopal Church, and his closing years were spent in poverty. He died in 1858, maintaining his absurd claims to the last.



There had been a few negro slaves in Wisconsin before the organization of the Territory and during Territorial days. They had for the most part been brought in by lead miners from Kentucky and Missouri. But, as the population increased, it was seen that public opinion here, as in most of the free States, was strongly opposed to the practice of holding human beings as chattels. Gradually the dozen or more slaves were returned to the South, or died in service, or were freed by their masters; so that, at an early day, the slavery question had ceased to be of local importance here.

As the years passed on, and the people of the North became more and more opposed to the slave system of the South, the latter lost an increasing number of its slaves through escape to Canada. They were assisted in their flight by Northern sympathizers, who, secretly receiving them on the north bank of the Ohio River, passed them on from friend to friend until they reached the Canadian border. As this system of escape was contrary to law, it had to be conducted, by both white rescuers and black fugitives, with great privacy, often with much peril to life; hence it received the significant, popular name[203] of "The Underground Railroad." Wisconsin had but small part in the working of the underground railroad, because it was not upon the usual highway between the South and Canada. But our people took a firm stand on the matter, sympathizing with the fugitive slaves and those who aided them on their way to freedom.

When, therefore, Congress, in 1850, at the bidding of the Southern politicians, passed the Fugitive Slave Law, Wisconsin bitterly condemned it. This act was designed to crush out the underground railroad. It provided for the appointment, by federal courts, of commissioners in the several States, whose duty it should be to assist slaveholders and their agents in catching their runaway property. The unsupported testimony of the owner or agent was sufficient to prove ownership, the black man himself having no right to testify, and there being for him no trial by jury. The United States commissioners might enforce the law by the aid of any number of assistants, and, in the last resort, might summon the entire population to help them. There were very heavy penalties provided for violations of this inhuman law.

The Fugitive Slave Law was denounced by most of the political conventions held in our State that year. In his message to the legislature, in January, 1851, Governor Dewey expressed the general sentiment when he said that it "contains provisions odious to our people, contrary to our sympathies, and repugnant to our feelings." But it was three years before occasion arose for Wisconsin to act.


In the early months of 1854, a negro named Joshua Glover appeared in Racine, and obtained work in a sawmill four miles north of that place. On the night of the 10th of March, he was playing cards in his little cabin, with two other men of his race. Suddenly there appeared at the door seven well-armed white men,—two United States deputy marshals from Milwaukee, their four assistants from Racine, and a St. Louis man named Garland, who claimed to be Glover's owner.


A desperate struggle followed, the result being that Glover, deserted by his comrades and knocked senseless by a blow, was placed in chains by his captors.

Severely bleeding from his wounds, he was thrown into an open wagon and carted across country to the Milwaukee county jail, for the man hunters feared to go to Racine, where the antislavery feeling was strong. It was a bitter cold night, and Glover's miseries were added to by the brutal Garland, who[205] at intervals kicked and beat the prisoner, and promised him still more serious punishment upon their return to the Missouri plantation.

The news of the capture was not long in reaching Racine. The next morning there was held in the city square a public meeting, attended by nearly every citizen, at which resolutions were passed denouncing the act of the kidnapers as an outrage; demanding for Glover a trial by jury; promising "to attend in person to aid him, by all honorable means, to secure his unconditional release"; and, most significant of all, resolving that the people of Racine "do hereby declare the slave catching law of 1850 disgraceful and also repealed." There were many such nullifying resolutions passed in those stirring days by mass meetings throughout the country, but this was one of the earliest and most outspoken. That afternoon, on hearing where Glover had been imprisoned, a hundred indignant citizens of Racine, headed by the sheriff, went by steamer to Milwaukee, arriving there at five o'clock.

Meanwhile, Milwaukee had been active. News of the capture had not been circulated in that city until eleven o'clock in the morning. One of the first to learn of it was Sherman M. Booth, the energetic editor of a small antislavery paper, the Wisconsin Free Democrat. Riding up and down the streets upon a horse, he scattered handbills, and, stopping at each crossing, shouted: "Freemen, to the rescue! Slave catchers are in our midst! Be at the courthouse at two o'clock!"

Prompt to the hour, over five thousand people assembled[206] in the courthouse square, where Booth and several other "liberty men" made impassioned speeches. A vigilance committee was appointed, to see that Glover had a fair trial, and the county judge issued in his behalf a writ of habeas corpus, calling for an immediate trial, and a show of proofs. But the federal judge, A. G. Miller, forbade the sheriff to obey this writ, holding that Glover must remain in the hands of the United States marshal, in whose custody he was placed by virtue of the Fugitive Slave Law.

The local militia were called out to suppress the disorder, but they were without power. It soon became noised about that Glover was to be secretly removed to Missouri. This made the mob furious. Just at this time the Racine contingent arrived, adding oil to the flames. The reënforced crowd now marched to the jail, attacked the weak structure with axes, beams, and crowbars, rescued the fugitive just at sunset, and hurried him off. An underground railroad agency took the poor fellow in charge, and soon placed him aboard a sailing vessel bound for Canada, where he finally arrived in safety.

Throughout Wisconsin the rescue was approved by the newspapers and public gatherings. Sympathetic meetings were also held in other States, at which resolutions applauding the action of Booth and his friends, and declaring the slave catching law unconstitutional, were passed with much enthusiasm. There was also held at Milwaukee, in April, a notable State convention, with delegates from all of the settled parts of the commonwealth; this convention declared the law unconstitutional,[207] and formed a State league for furnishing aid and sympathy to the Glover rescuers.

In 1857, as a result of the Glover affair, the Wisconsin legislature passed an act making it a duty of district attorneys in each county "to use all lawful means to protect, defend, and procure to be discharged ... every person arrested or claimed as a fugitive slave," and throwing around the poor fellow every possible safeguard. Such was Wisconsin's final protest against the iniquity of the Fugitive Slave Law.

Naturally, Booth had been looked upon by the United States marshal as the chief abettor of the riot. He was promptly arrested for violating a federal law by aiding in the escape of a slave; but the State supreme court promptly discharged him on a writ of habeas corpus. Thereupon he was brought before the federal court, but again the State court interfered in his favor, because of a technical irregularity.

On the first of these occasions, the State court issued a very remarkable decision upon State rights, that attracted national attention at a time when this question was violently agitating the public mind. It declared, after a clear, logical statement of the case, that the Fugitive Slave Law was "unconstitutional and void" because it conferred judicial power upon mere court commissioners, and deprived the accused negro of the right of trial by jury. One of the justices of the court, in an individual opinion, went still further: he held that Congress had no power to legislate upon this subject; that "the States will never quietly submit to be disrobed of their sovereignty" by "national functionaries";[208] that the police power rested in the State itself, which would not "succumb, paralyzed and aghast, before the process of an officer unknown to the constitution, and irresponsible to its sanctions"; and that so long as he remained a judge, Wisconsin would meet such attempts with "stern remonstrance and resistance."

The federal court reversed this action, and again arrested Booth in 1860, but he was soon pardoned by the President, and met with no further trouble on account of the Glover affair.

As for the people of Racine, they made life rather uncomfortable for the men who had assisted the Milwaukee deputy marshals in arresting Glover. The city became a fiercer hotbed of abolition than ever before, and several times thereafter aided slaves to escape from bondage. Fortunately for their own good, as well as for the cause of law and order, they found no further occasion to take the law into their own hands, in the defense of human liberty.



One of the best-known Indians with whom Wisconsin Territorial pioneers were thrown into personal contact was Oshkosh, the last of the Menominee sachems, or peace chiefs. It is worth while briefly to relate the story of his career, because it was the life of a typical Indian leader, at the critical time when the whites were coming into the country in such numbers as to crowd the reds to the wall.

Oshkosh was born in 1795, at Point Bas, on the Wisconsin River. Cha-kau-cho-ka-ma (meaning Old King), the peace chief of the Menominees at that time, was his maternal grandfather. The war chief was Glode, the orator of the tribe, and a mighty hunter. The Old King lived until 1826, but Glode died in 1804, his successor being Tomah (the French pronunciation of Thomas, his English name).

In the War of 1812-15, a large band of Wisconsin Indians joined the ranks of Tecumseh, in raiding upon the American borderers. The principal Menominee chiefs were Tomah, Souligny, Grizzly Bear, and Iometah, and among the young men was Oshkosh.

Their first expedition was against Fort Mackinac, in 1812, that stronghold being captured from the Americans[210] without bloodshed. Among white men, such an enterprise would not seem to offer much opportunity for the display of personal bravery; but savage and civilized standards of courage differ, and young Oshkosh appears to have satisfied the old men upon this occasion, so that he then received the name by which we know him, meaning in the Menominee tongue, "brave."

By the following May, Oshkosh, now in his nineteenth year, and prominent among the young warriors, went out with Souligny and Tomah, and joined Tecumseh in the siege of Fort Meigs at the rapids of the Maumee River. Later, during the same summer, he was engaged in the memorable British-Indian siege of Sandusky. The succeeding year he was one of a large party of Menominees assisting the British to repel a fierce but futile American attempt to recapture Fort Mackinac. This was his last campaign, for peace between Great Britain and the United States soon followed.

Oshkosh, now living upon the lands of the tribe in northeastern Wisconsin, appears to have passed a quiet existence, after his exploits of 1812-15. Lacking the stimulus of war, he maintained a state of artificial excitement by the use of fire water, and soon won a bad reputation in this regard. But he was not wholly debased. Few in council had more power than he. Although he was slow to speak, his opinion when given had much weight, because of a firm, resolute tone, beside which the impassioned flights of Tomah and Souligny often failed in effect.


When the Old King died without any sons, a contest arose over the successorship to the chieftaincy. In many tribes there would have been no question about the election of Oshkosh, for he was the son of Old King's daughter; but the Menominees did not recognize any heirship except through sons. So many claimants arose, each determined to fight for the position, that the United States government feared an outbreak of civil war within the tribe, with possible injuries to the neighboring white settlers.


Hence a court of claims was organized, to choose a chief among the contestants. This court, headed by Governor Lewis Cass, of Michigan Territory, met at Little Butte des Morts (near Neenah) in August, 1827, and selected Oshkosh. Cass, in the presence of the tribesmen, hung a medal about the neck of the victor, shook hands with him, and ordered a feast in honor of the event.


The first five years of the reign of this dusky chieftain were peaceful enough, so far as relations with other tribes were concerned. But within the Menominee villages there were frequent drunken frolics, which sometimes ended in bloodshed or in endless disputes between families; and in these disturbances, which often greatly alarmed the white settlers, Oshkosh had his full share.

When in June, 1832, the great Sac leader, Black Hawk, was harassing the settlements in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin, while being slowly driven northward by the white troops, fears were entertained in the valley of the lower Fox that he would turn toward Green Bay. With the hope of preventing this, a force of three hundred Menominee Indians was recruited there, and sent to the seat of war, officered by American and French residents. Oshkosh headed his people, but arrived too late to do any fighting; Black Hawk had already been vanquished by white soldiers, at the battle of the Bad Ax. Oshkosh and his braves found no more savage foe than a small party of Sacs, old men and women and children, flying from the battlefield, and these they promptly massacred, proudly carrying the scalps back with them to Green Bay.

Four years later, the Menominees sold all of their lands in Wisconsin to the federal government, and were placed upon the reservation at Keshena, where they still live.

In 1840, the little four-year-old white settlement at the junction of the upper Fox with Lake Winnebago thought itself large enough to have a post office, hence[213] the necessity for adopting a permanent name. The place had at first been known to travelers as Stanley's Tavern, because here a man named Stanley ran a ferry across Fox River, and kept a log hotel. Then the Green Bay merchants fell into the habit of marking "Athens" on boxes and bales which the boatmen carried up to Stanley's.

When the question arose over the name for the post office, there were several candidates, "Osceola," "Galeopolis," and "Athens" being prominent. Robert Grignon, a French fur trader at Grand Butte des Morts, desiring to be on good terms with his Menominee neighbors, proposed "Oshkosh." Thereupon party spirit ran high. Upon a day named, a popular election without distinction of race was held at the office of the justice of the peace, who provided a free dinner to the voters; among them were a score of Indians, brought in by Grignon. Several ballots were taken, between which speeches were made in behalf of the rivals. "Oshkosh" finally won, chiefly by the votes of Grignon's Indians. Harmony was soon restored, and the election ended in drink and smoke, after the fashion of border gatherings in those days.

We hear little more of old chief Oshkosh, until fifteen years later. In the year 1852 occurred a kidnaping case, which became famous in the frontier annals of Wisconsin. Nahkom, a Menominee squaw, was accused of having stolen a little white boy, the son of Alvin Partridge, of the town of Neenah, in Winnebago county. The Indians stoutly denied the truth of this accusation; indeed, Partridge himself failed to recognize his lost son[214] in the person of Nahkom's boy. But the relatives and neighbors of Partridge were confident as to the identity, and the bereaved father was induced to ask aid of the courts in obtaining the child.

The case hung fire for three years, the courts always deciding in favor of Nahkom, although Partridge regained temporary possession of the boy under writs of habeas corpus. Finally, pending the decision of a Milwaukee judge upon the application for a writ, the little fellow was placed in the jail of that city. From there the Partridges kidnaped him and fled to Kansas, leaving poor Nahkom childless, for undoubtedly it was a case of mistaken identity, and the child was really hers. Ultimately the boy was found and restored to her.

This was in 1855. Oshkosh and a number of Menominee headmen went at once to Milwaukee, upon learning of the jail delivery, and laid their complaints before the judge. Recognizing the press as a medium of communication with the public, Oshkosh and Souligny also visited the editor of the Sentinel, asking him to state their grievance and plead their cause. The speech which Oshkosh made to the editor was given in full in that paper, and is a good specimen of the direct, earnest method in Indian oratory.

He said, among other things: "Governor Dodge told us that our great father [the President] was very strong, and owned all the country; and that no one would dare to trouble us, or do us wrong, as he would protect us. He told us, too, that whenever we got into difficulty or anything happened we did not like, to call on our great father and he would see justice done. And now we[215] come to you to remind our great father, through your paper, of his promise, and to ask him to fulfil it.... We thought our child safe in the jail in the care of the officers; that none could get the child away from them unless the law gave them the right. We cannot but think it must have been an evil spirit that got into the jail and took away our child. We thought the white man's law strong, and are sorry to find it so weak." Upon the conclusion of his visit, Oshkosh and his friends returned to their reservation, determined never again to mingle with the deceitful and grasping whites.

Upon their way home to Keshena, Oshkosh stopped at the thriving little city which had been christened for him, and expressed pride at having so large a namesake. It was his first and only visit. Three years later he died in a drunken brawl, aged sixty-three years. He was a good Indian, as savages go, his chief vice being one borrowed from the whites, who forced themselves upon his lands and contaminated him and his people.



Between the time when Wisconsin became a state (1848), and the opening of the War of Secession (1861), party feeling ran high within the new commonwealth. Charges of corruption against public officials were freely made; many men sought office for the plunder supposed to be obtained by those "inside the ring"; newspaper editors appeared to be chiefly engaged in savage attacks on the reputations of those who differed from them, and general political demoralization was prevalent. When, however, important issues arose out of the discussions of the strained relations between North and South, a higher and more patriotic tone was at once evident, and this has ever since been maintained in Wisconsin politics.

The most striking event of the years of petty partisan strife which preceded the war, was the fight for the governorship of the State, between William A. Barstow and Coles Bashford.

Barstow, a Democrat from Waukesha county, had been secretary of state during Governor Dewey's second term (1850-51). Owing to bitterness occasioned by the rejection of the first State constitution, the[217] Democratic party in Wisconsin was torn into factions, at the head of one of which was Barstow. While serving as secretary of state, he made many enemies, who freely accused him of rank official dishonesty, and associated him with the corrupt methods of the early railway companies which were just then seeking charters from the legislature. Nevertheless, like all strong, positive men, he had won for himself warm friends, who secured his election as governor for the year 1854-55.


His enemies, however, grew in number, and their accusations increased in bitterness. His party renominated him for governor; but he had lost ground during the term, and could not draw out his full party strength in the November election of 1855. Besides, the new Republican party, although as yet in the minority, was making rapid strides, and voted solidly for its nominee, Bashford, a Winnebago county lawyer. As a result, the voting for governor proved so close that for a full month no one knew the outcome. Meanwhile there was, of course, much popular excitement, with charges of fraud on both sides.

Finally, in December, the State board of canvassers met at Madison. It consisted of the secretary of[218] state, the State treasurer, and the attorney-general, all of them Barstow men. Their report was that he had received one hundred fifty-seven more votes than his opponent. The Republicans at once advanced the serious charge that the canvassers had deliberately forged supplemental returns from several counties, pretending to receive them upon the day before the count. Large numbers of people soon came to believe that fraud had been committed, and Bashford prepared for a contest.

Upon the day in early January when Barstow was inaugurated at the capitol, with the usual military display, Bashford stepped into the supreme court room and was quietly sworn in by the chief justice. Thereupon Bashford appealed to the court to turn Barstow out, and declare him the rightful governor.


There followed a most remarkable lawsuit. The constitution provides that the State government shall consist of three branches, legislative, judicial, and executive. It was claimed that never before in the history of any of the States in the Union had one branch of the government been called upon to decide between rival claimants to a position in another branch. Barstow's lawyers, of course, denied the jurisdiction of the court to pass upon the right of the governor to hold his seat; for, they argued, if this were possible, then the judiciary would be superior to the people, and no one could hold office to whom the judges were not friendly. There was a fierce struggle, for several weeks, between the opposing lawyers, who were among the most learned men of the State, with the result[219] that the court decided that it had jurisdiction; and, on nearly every point raised, ruled in favor of the Bashford men.

Before the decision of the case, Barstow and his lawyers withdrew, declaring that the judges were influenced against them by political prejudices. However, the court proceeded without them, and declared that the election returns had been tampered with, and that Bashford really had one thousand nine majority. He was accordingly declared to have been elected governor.

This conclusion had been expected by Barstow, who, determined not to be put out of office, resigned his position three days before the court rendered its decision. Immediately upon Barstow's resignation, his friend, the lieutenant governor, Arthur McArthur, took possession of the office. He claimed that he was now the rightful governor, for the constitution provides that in the event of the resignation, death, or inability of the governor, the lieutenant governor shall succeed him. But the supreme court at once ruled that, as Barstow's title was worthless, McArthur could not succeed to it, a logical view of the case which the Barstow sympathizers had not foreseen.

It was upon Monday, March the 24th, that the court rendered its decision. Bashford announced that he would take possession of the office upon Tuesday. There had been great popular uneasiness in Madison and the neighboring country, throughout the long struggle, and the decision brought this excitement to a crisis. Many of the adherents of both contestants armed themselves[220] and drilled, in anticipation of an encounter which might lead to civil war within the State. There were frequent wordy quarrels upon the streets, and threats of violence; and many supposed that it would be impossible to prevent the opposing factions from fighting in good earnest.

Affairs were in this critical condition upon the fateful Tuesday. Early in the day people began to arrive in Madison from the surrounding country, as if for a popular fête. The streets and the capitol grounds were filled with excited men, chiefly adherents of Bashford; they cheered him loudly as he emerged from the supreme court room, at eleven o'clock, accompanied by the sheriff of the county, who held in his hand the order which awarded the office to Bashford.

Passing through the corridors of the capitol, now crowded with his friends, Bashford and the sheriff rapped upon the door of the governor's office. McArthur and several of his friends were inside; a voice bade the callers enter. The new governor was a large, pleasant-looking man. Leisurely taking off his coat and hat, he hung them in the wardrobe, and calmly informed McArthur that he had come to occupy the governor's chair.

"Is force to be used in supporting the order of the court?" indignantly asked the incumbent, as, glancing through the open door, he caught sight of the eager, excited crowd of Bashford's friends, whose leaders with difficulty restrained them from at once crowding into the room.

"I presume," blandly replied Bashford, "that no[221] force will be essential; but in case any is needed, there will be no hesitation whatever in applying it, with the sheriff's help."

McArthur at once calmed down, said that he "considered this threat as constructive force," and promptly left his rival in possession. As he hurried out, through rows of his political enemies, the corridors were ringing with shouts of triumph; and in a few moments Bashford was shaking hands with the crowd, who, in the highest glee, swarmed through his office.

The legislature was divided in political sentiment. The senate received the new governor's message with enthusiasm, and by formal resolution congratulated him upon his success. The assembly at first refused, thirty-eight to thirty-four, to have anything to do with him; but upon thirty of the Democrats withdrawing, after filing a protest against the action of the court, the house agreed, thirty-seven to nine, to recognize Governor Bashford. Thereafter he had no trouble at the helm of State.



It is probable that no other State in the Union contains so many varieties of Europeans as does Wisconsin. About seventeen per cent of our entire population were born in Germany; next in numbers come the Scandinavians, natives of Great Britain, Irish, Canadians, Poles, Bohemians, Hollanders, Russians, and French.

These different nationalities are scattered all over the State; often they are found grouped in very large neighborhoods. Sometimes one of these groups is so large that, with the American-born children, it occupies entire townships, and practically controls the local churches and schools, which are generally conducted in the foreign tongue. There are extensive German, Scandinavian, and Welsh farming districts in our State where one may travel far without hearing English spoken by any one. Some crowded quarters of Milwaukee are wholly German in custom and language; and there are other streets in that city where few but Poles, Bohemians, or Russians can be found.

Although these foreign-born people, as is quite natural, generally cling with tenacity to the language, the religion, and many of the customs in which they were reared, it is noticeable that all of them are eager to learn[223] our methods of government, and to become good citizens; and their children, when allowed to mingle freely with the youth of this country, become so thoroughly Americanized that little if any difference can be distinguished between them and those whose forefathers have lived here for several generations past.

There is, however, hardly a family in Wisconsin which is not of European origin. Some of us are descended from ancestors who chanced to come to the New World at an earlier period than did the ancestors of others of our fellow-citizens; that is all that distinguishes these "old American families" from those more recently transplanted.

It is a very interesting study to watch the gradual evolution of a new American race from the mingling on our soil of so many different nationalities, just as the English race itself was slowly built up from the old Britons, Saxons, Norsemen, and Norman French. But we must remember that this "race amalgamation," although now proceeding upon a larger scale than was probably ever witnessed before, has always been going on in America since the earliest colonial days, when English, French, Hollanders, Swedes, Scotch, and Irish were fused as in a melting pot, for the production of the American types that we meet to-day.

A variety of reasons induced foreigners to come to Wisconsin in such large numbers; they may, however, be classified under three heads, political, economic, and religious. The political reason was dissatisfaction with the government at home, chiefly because it repressed all aspiration for liberty and forced young men to sacrifice[224] several of the best years of their lives by spending them in the army. The most powerful economic reason was inability to earn a satisfactory living in the fatherland, because worn-out soils, low prices for produce, overcrowding of population, and excessive competition among workmen resulted in starvation wages. The religious reason was the disposition of European monarchs to interfere with men's right to worship God as they pleased.

In 1830 there were serious political troubles in Germany, and thousands of dissatisfied people emigrated from that country to America. Many of the newcomers were young professional men of fine education and lofty ideals. In those early days American society was somewhat crude, especially upon the frontier. These spirited young Germans complained that, both in religion and politics, the life of our people was sordid and low, with little appreciation for the higher things of life; and especially did they resent our popular lack of appreciation of their countrymen.

Therefore, in 1835, there was formed in New York a society called "Germania," which was to induce enough Germans to settle in some one of the American States to be able to gain control of it and make it a German State, with German life and manners, with German schools, literature, and art, with German courts and assemblies, and with German as the official language. A great deal of discussion followed, as to which State should be chosen; some preferred Texas, others Oregon, but most of the members wished some State in what was then called the Northwest, between the Great Lakes[225] and the Mississippi River. The society disbanded without result; but the agitation to which it gave rise was continued throughout many years on both sides of the ocean.

Wisconsin was strongly favored by most of the German writers on immigration, especially about the time that it became prominent through being admitted to the Union (1848). Nothing came of all this agitation for a German State, except the very wide advertising which Wisconsin obtained in Germany, as a State admirably suited for Germans, in soil, climate, liberal constitution, and low prices for lands, and as possessing social attractions for them, because it had early obtained an unusually large German population.

The counties near Milwaukee were the first to receive German settlers. This movement began about 1839, and was very rapid. Soon after that, Sauk and Dane counties became the favorites for new arrivals. Next, immigrants from Germany went to the southwestern counties, about Mineral Point, and northward into the region about Lake Winnebago and the Fox River. By 1841 they had spread into Buffalo county, and along the Mississippi River; but since 1860 they have chiefly gone into the north central regions of the State, generally preferring forest lands to prairies. The first arrivals were mainly from the valley of the Rhine; next in order, came people from southern Germany; but the bulk of the settlers are from the northern and middle provinces of their native land.

The principal Swiss groups in Wisconsin are in Green, Buffalo, Sauk, Fond du Lac, and Taylor counties. That at New Glarus, in Green county, is one of the most[226] interesting. In the sterile little mountainous canton of Glarus, in Switzerland, there was, about 1844, much distress because of over population; the tillable land was insufficient to raise food for all the people. It was, therefore, resolved by them to send some of their number to America, as a colony.

Two scouts were first dispatched, in the spring of 1845, with instructions to find a climate, a soil, and general characteristics as nearly like Switzerland as possible. These agents had many adventures as they wandered through Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, before finally selecting Green county, Wisconsin, as the place best suited for their people.

It was supposed that those left behind would wait until a report could be sent back to them. But one hundred ninety-three of the intending emigrants soon became restless, and started for America only a month later than the advance guard. The party had a long and very disagreeable journey, down the Rhine River to the seaport, where after many sore trials they obtained a vessel to take them across the Atlantic. This ship was intended for the accommodation of only one hundred forty passengers; but nearly two hundred crowded into it, and had a tempestuous and generally disheartening passage of forty-nine days, with insufficient food.

At last, reaching Baltimore, they proceeded by canal boat to the foot of the Alleghanies, crossed the mountains by a crude railway, and then embarked in a steamer down the Ohio River, bound for St. Louis. After their arrival at that city, there ensued a long and[227] vexatious search for the scouts, who, not expecting them, had left few traces behind. But perseverance finally won, and by the middle of August all of these weary colonists were reunited in the promised land of New Glarus, five thousand miles away from their native valleys.

The experience of the first few years was filled with privations, because these poor Swiss, fresh from narrow fields and small shops at home, did not comprehend the larger American methods of farming, with horse and plow. But, by the kindness of their American neighbors, they finally learned their rude lessons; and, soon adopting the profitable business of manufacturing Swiss cheese, by thrift and industry they in time succeeded in making of New Glarus one of the most prosperous agricultural regions in Wisconsin.

It is estimated that in Green county there are now eight thousand persons of Swiss birth, or the descendants of Swiss, about one-third of the entire population. The language which they still use in business affairs is the German-Swiss dialect.


The first Norwegian immigrants to America arrived in 1825, after some strange adventures on the ocean, and settled in the State of New York; this was before Wisconsin was ready for settlers. From 1836 to 1845, thousands of Norwegians came to Illinois and Wisconsin, their first settlement in Wisconsin being made in 1844, in the town of Albion, Dane county. They are[228] now scattered quite generally over the State, in large groups, with hundreds of ministers and churches, and many newspapers; but they are still strongest in Dane county, where, probably, there are not less than fourteen thousand who were either born in Norway or are the children of Norwegian-born parents.

The Belgians are closely massed in certain towns of Door, Kewaunee, and Brown counties, in the northeastern portion of the State. The beginning of their immigration was in 1853, when ten families of the province of Brabant, in Belgium, determined to move to America, where they could win a better support for themselves, and suitably educate their children. The vessel in which they crossed the Atlantic was forty-eight days in sailing from Antwerp to New York, the passage being tedious and rough, accompanied by several terrific hurricanes. The poor pilgrims suffered from hunger and thirst, as well as sickness, and lost one of their number by death.

It was while on board ship that the majority decided to settle in Wisconsin, and upon landing, hither they promptly came. Arriving in Milwaukee, they knew not what part of the State was best suited for them; but began to prospect for land, and finally settled near Green Bay, simply because a large portion of the population of that village could speak French, which was their own language. At first they had determined to locate near Sheboygan, but were annoyed at not being able to make themselves understood by the inhabitants of that place. The little band of Belgians was at last established within rude log huts, in the[229] heart of a dense forest, ten miles from any other human habitation, without roads or bridges, or even horses or cattle. They experienced the worst possible inconveniences and hardships naturally appertaining to life in the frontier woods, and for the first year or two the colony seemed in a desperate condition. Its hopeful members, however, hiding their present misery, sent cheerful letters home, and enticed their old neighbors either to join them, or to form new settlements in the neighborhood. In due time, the Belgians of northeastern Wisconsin became prosperous farmers and merchants.

Similar tales might be related, of the great difficulties and hardships bravely overcome by several other foreign groups in Wisconsin: for instance, the Poles, the Dutch, the Welsh, the Bohemians, the Cornishmen of the lead-mine region, and the Icelandic fishermen of lonely Washington Island. But the foregoing will suffice to show of what sturdy stuff our foreign-born peoples are made, and cause us to rejoice that such material has gone into the upbuilding of our commonwealth.



Before the great inrush of agricultural settlers, in 1836, most of the surface of Wisconsin was covered with dense forests. In the northern portion of the State, pines, hemlocks, and spruce predominated, mingled with large areas of hard wood; elsewhere, hard wood chiefly prevailed, the forests in the southern and eastern portions being frequently broken by large prairies and by small treeless "openings."

In the great northern pine woods, lumbermen have been busy for many years. They leave in their wake great wastes of land, some of it covered with dead branches from the trees that have been felled and trimmed; some so sterile that the sun, now allowed to enter, in a rainless summer bakes the earth and dries the spongy swamps; while all about are great masses of dead stumps, blasted trunks, and other forest débris. Settlers soon pour in, purchase the best of this cut-over land, and clear the ground for farms. But there are still left in Wisconsin great stretches of deforested country, as yet unsettled; some of these areas are worthless except for growing new forests, an enterprise which, some day, the State government will undertake for the benefit of the commonwealth.


Now and then, in dry seasons, great fires start upon these "pine barrens," or "slashings," as they are called, and spread until often they cause great loss to life and property. These conflagrations originate in many ways, chiefly from the carelessness of hunters or Indians, in their camps, or from sparks from locomotives, or bonfires built by farmers for the destruction of rubbish.

Nearly every summer and autumn these forest fires occur more or less frequently in northern Wisconsin, working much damage in their neighborhoods; but usually they exhaust themselves when they reach a swamp, a river, or cleared fields. When, however, there has been an exceptionally long period of drought, everything in the cut-over lands becomes excessively[232] dry; the light, thin soil, filled with dead roots and encumbered by branches and stumps, becomes as inflammable as tinder; the dried-up marshes generate explosive gases.

The roaring flames, once started in such a season, are fanned by the winds which the heat generates, and, gathering strength, roll forward with resistless impetus; dense, resinous forest growths succumb before their assault, rivers are leaped by columns of fire, and everything goes down before the destroyer. In a holocaust of this character, all ordinary means of fire fighting are in vain; the houses and barns of settlers feed the devouring giant, whole towns are swept away, until at last the flames either find nothing further upon which to feed, or are quenched by a storm of rain.

The most disastrous forest conflagration which Wisconsin has known, occurred during the 8th and 9th of October, 1871. There had been a winter with little snow, and a long, dry summer. Fires had been noticed in the pine forests which line the shores of Green Bay, as early as the first week in September. At first they did not create much alarm; they smouldered along the ground through the vegetable mold, underbrush, and "slashings," occasionally eating out the roots of a great tree, which, swayed by the wind, would topple over with a roar, and send skyward a shower of sparks.

Gradually the "fire belt" broadened, and, finding better fuel, the flames strengthened; the swamps began to burn, to a depth of several feet; over hundreds of square miles the air was thick and stifling[233] with smoke, so that the sun at noonday appeared like a great copper ball set on high; at night the heavens were lurid. Miles of burning woods were everywhere to be seen; hundreds of haystacks in the meadows, and great piles of logs and railroad ties and telegraph poles were destroyed.

For many weeks the towns along the bay shore were surrounded by cordons of threatening flame. The people of Pensaukee, Oconto, Little Suamico, Sturgeon Bay, Peshtigo, and scores of other settlements, were frequently called out by the fire bells to fight the insidious enemy; many a time were they apparently doomed to destruction, but constant vigilance and these occasional skirmishes for a time saved them.

Reports now began to come in, thick and fast, of settlers driven from blazing homes, of isolated sawmills and lumber camps destroyed, of bridges consumed, of thrilling escapes by lumbermen and farmers. On Sunday, the 8th of October, a two days' carnival of death began. In Brown, Kewaunee, Oconto, Door, Manitowoc, and Shawano counties the flames, suddenly rising, swept everything within their path. Where thriving, prosperous villages once had stood, blackened wastes appeared. Over a thousand lives were lost, nearly as many persons were crippled, and three thousand were in a few hours reduced to beggary. The horrors of the scenes at New Franken, Peshtigo, and the Sugar Bush, in particular, were such as cannot be described.

This appalling tragedy chanced to occur at the same time as vast prairie fires in Minnesota, and the terrible conflagration which destroyed Chicago. The civilized[234] world stood aghast at the broad extent of the field of needed relief; nevertheless, the frenzied appeals for aid, issued in behalf of the Wisconsin fire sufferers, met with as generous a response as if they alone, in that fateful month of October, were the recipients of the nation's bounty. Train loads of clothing and provisions, from nearly every State in the Union, soon poured into Green Bay, which was the center of distribution; the United States government made large gifts of clothing and rations; nearly two hundred thousand dollars were raised, and expended under official control; and great emergency hospitals were opened at various points, for the treatment of sick and wounded.

As for the actual financial loss to the people of the burned district, that could never be estimated. The soil was, in many places, burned to the depth of several feet, nothing being left but sand and ashes; grass roots were destroyed; bridges and culverts were gone; houses, barns, cattle, tools, seed, and crops were no more. It was several years before the region began again to exhibit signs of prosperity.

In the year 1894, forest fires of an appalling magnitude once more visited Wisconsin, this time in the northwestern corner of the State. Again had there been an exceptionally dry winter, spring, and summer. The experience gained by lumbermen and forest settlers had made them more cautious than before, and more expert in the fighting of fires; but that year was one in which no human knowledge seemed to avail against the progress of flames once started on their career of devastation.


During the summer, several fires had burned over large areas. By the last week of July, it was estimated that five million dollars' worth of standing pine had been destroyed. The burned and burning area was now over fifty miles in width, the northern limit being some forty miles south of Superior. Upon the 27th of the month, the prosperous town of Phillips, wholly surrounded by deforested lands, was suddenly licked up by the creeping flames, the terrified inhabitants escaping by the aid of a railway train. Neighboring towns, which suffered to a somewhat less degree, were Mason, Barronett, and Shell Lake.

In 1898 Wisconsin was again a heavy sufferer from the same cause. The fires were chiefly in Barron county, upon the 29th and 30th of September. Two hundred fifty-eight families were left destitute, and the loss to land and property was estimated at $400,000. Relief agencies were established in various cities of the state, and our people responded as liberally to the urgent call for help as they had in 1871 and 1894.

A more competent official system of scientifically caring for our forests, restricting the present wasteful cutting of timber, and preventing and fighting forest fires, would be of incalculable benefit to the State of Wisconsin. The annual loss by burning is alone a terrible drain upon the resources of the people, to say nothing of the death and untold misery which stalk in the wake of a forest fire.



The men of Wisconsin who had fought and conquered the hard conditions of frontier life, developing a raw wilderness into a wealthy and progressive commonwealth, were of the sort to make the best of soldiers when called upon to take up arms in behalf of the nation.

From the earliest days of the War of Secession until its close, Wisconsin troops were ever upon the firing line, and participated in some of the noblest victories of the long and painful struggle. General Sherman, in his "Memoirs," paid them this rare tribute: "We estimated a Wisconsin regiment equal to an ordinary brigade." It is impracticable in one brief chapter to do more than mention a few of the most brilliant achievements of the Badger troops.

In April, 1862, the Fourteenth, Sixteenth, and Eighteenth Wisconsin infantry regiments, although new in the service, won imperishable laurels upon the bloody field of Shiloh. The men of the Fourteenth were especially prominent in the fray. Arriving on the ground at midnight of the first day, they passed the rest of the night in a pelting rain, standing ankle-deep in mud; and throughout all the next day fought as though they were hardened veterans.


A Kentucky regiment was ordered to charge a Confederate battery, but fell back in confusion; whereupon General Grant asked if the Fourteenth Wisconsin could do the work. Its colonel cried, "We will try!" and then followed one of the most gallant charges of the entire war. Thrice driven back, the Wisconsin men finally captured the battery; confusion ensued in the Confederate ranks, and very soon the battle of Shiloh was a Union victory.

In the Peninsular campaign of the same year, the Fifth Regiment made a bayonet charge which routed and scattered the Confederates, and turned the scales in favor of the North. In an address to the regiment two days later, General McClellan declared: "Through you we won the day, and Williamsburg shall be inscribed on your banner. Your country owes you its grateful thanks." His report to the War Department describes this charge as "brilliant in the extreme."

Some of the highest honors of the war were awarded to the gallant Iron Brigade, composed of the Second, Sixth, and Seventh Wisconsin, the Nineteenth Indiana, and the Twenty-fourth Michigan. At Gainesville, in the Shenandoah Valley campaign, also in 1862, this brigade practically won the fight, the brunt of the Confederate assault being met by the Second Wisconsin, which that day lost sixty per cent of its rank and file; the brigade itself suffered a loss of nine hundred men.

The Third opened the battle at Cedar Mountain, and very soon after that was at Antietam, where it lost two-thirds of the men it took into action. The Fifth also was prominent near by, and the Iron Brigade,[238] behind a rail fence, conducted a fight which was one of the chief events of the engagement.

At the battle of Corinth, several Wisconsin regiments and four of her batteries won some of the brightest honors. In the various official reports of the action, such comments as the following are frequent: "This regiment (the Fourteenth) was the one to rely upon in every emergency;" a fearless dash by the Seventeenth regiment, one general described as "the most glorious charge of the campaign"; there was an allusion to the Eighteenth's "most effectual service"; in referring to the Sixth battery, mention is made in the reports, of "its noble work."

At Chaplin Hills, in Kentucky, a few days later, the First Wisconsin drove back the enemy several times, and captured a stand of Confederate colors. The Tenth was seven hours under fire, and lost fifty-four per cent of its number. General Rousseau highly praised both regiments, saying, "These brave men are entitled to the gratitude of the country." The Fifteenth captured heavy stores of ammunition and many prisoners; the Twenty-fifth repulsed, with withering fire, a superior force of the enemy, who had suddenly assaulted them while lying in a cornfield; and the Fifth battery three times turned back a Confederate charge, "saving the division," as General McCook reported, "from a disgraceful defeat."

At Prairie Grove, in Arkansas, at Fredericksburg, and at Stone River, still later in the campaign of 1862, Wisconsin soldiers exhibited what General Sherman described as "splendid conduct, bravery, and efficiency."


Men of Wisconsin were also prominent in the Army of the Potomac, during the famous "mud campaign" of the early months of 1863. At the crossing of the Rappahannock, theirs was the dangerous duty to protect the makers of the pontoon bridges. In the course of this service, the Iron Brigade made a splendid dash across the river, charged up the opposite heights, and at the point of the bayonet routed the Confederates who were intrenched in rifle pits.

At Chancellorsville, the Third Wisconsin, detailed to act as a barrier to the advance of the Confederates under Stonewall Jackson, was the last to leave the illfated field.

At Fredericksburg, not far away, the Fifth Wisconsin and the Sixth Maine led a desperate charge up Marye's Hill, where, in a sunken roadway, lay a large force of the enemy; this force, a few months before, had killed six thousand Union men who were vainly attempting to rout them. This second and final charge overcame all difficulties, and succeeded. As the Confederate commander handed to the colonel of the Wisconsin regiment his sword and silver spurs, he told the victor that he had supposed there were not enough troops in the Army of the Potomac to carry the position; it was, he declared, the most daring assault he had ever seen. Such, too, was the judgment of Greeley, who declared that "Braver men never smiled on death than those who climbed Marye's Hill on that fatal day." The correspondent of the London Times also wrote, "Never at Fontenoy, Albuera, nor at Waterloo was more undaunted courage displayed."


In the campaign which resulted in the fall of Vicksburg, in 1863, numerous Wisconsin regiments participated, many of them with conspicuous gallantry. It was an officer of the Twenty-third who received, at the base of the works, the offer of the Confederates to surrender.

The part taken by Wisconsin troops at Gettysburg, was conspicuous. The Iron Brigade and a Wisconsin company of sharpshooters were, day by day, in the thickest of the fight, and gained a splendid record. At Chickamauga, several of our regiments fought under General Thomas, and lost heavily. They afterward participated in the struggle at Mission Ridge, which resulted in the Confederate army under Bragg being turned back into Central Georgia.

The Iron Brigade was in Grant's campaign against Richmond, serving gallantly in the battles of the Wilderness, in the "bloody angle" at Spottsylvania, at Fair Oaks, and in the numerous attacks before Petersburg.

Wisconsin contributed heavily to the army of Sherman, in his "march to the sea," and in the preliminary contests won distinction on many a bitterly contested field. Several of our regiments were in the assault on Mobile, the day when Lee was surrendering to Grant, in far-off Virginia. Others of the Badger troops, infantry and cavalry, served in Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas, fighting the Confederate guerillas, while our artillerymen were distributed throughout the several Union armies, and served gallantly until the last days of the war.

Wisconsin soldiers languished in most of the great[241] Southern military prisons. A thrilling escape of Union men from Libby Prison, at Richmond, was made in February, 1864, by means of a secret tunnel. This was ingeniously excavated under the superintendence of a party of which Colonel H. C. Hobart of the Twenty-first Wisconsin was a leader.

Another notable event of the war, of which a Wisconsin man was the hero, occurred during the night of the 27th of October, 1864. The Confederate armored ram Albemarle, after having sunk several Union vessels, was anchored off Plymouth, North Carolina, a town which was being attacked by Federal troops and ships. Lieutenant W. B. Cushing of Delafield, Waukesha county, proceeded to the Albemarle in a small launch, under cover of the dark; and, in the midst of a sharp fire from the crew of the ram, placed a torpedo under her bow and blew her up. The daring young officer[242] escaped to his ship, amid appalling difficulties, having won worldwide renown by his splendid feat.

The saving of the Union fleet in the Red River was an incident which attracted national attention to still another Wisconsin man. The expedition up the river, into the heart of the enemy's country, was a failure, and immediate retreat inevitable. But the water had lowered, and the fleet of gunboats found it impossible to descend the rapids at Alexandria. The enemy were swarming upon the banks, and the situation was so hazardous that it seemed as if the army would find it necessary to desert the vessels. Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Bailey of the Fourth Wisconsin infantry, serving as chief engineer on General Franklin's staff, proposed to dam the river, then suddenly make an opening, and allow the boats to emerge with the outrush of imprisoned water. The plan is a familiar one to Wisconsin lumbermen, in getting logs over shoals; but it was new to the other officers, and Bailey was laughed at as a visionary. However, the situation was so desperate that he was allowed to try his experiment. It succeeded admirably; the fleet, worth nearly two millions of dollars, was saved, and the expedition emerged from the trap in good order. Bailey was made a brigadier general, and the grateful naval officers presented him with a valuable sword and vase.

No account of Wisconsin's part in the War of Secession should, however brief, omit reference to a conspicuous participant, "Old Abe," the war eagle of the Eighth Regiment. He was captured by an Indian, on the Flambeau River, a branch of the Chippewa, and until[243] the close of the long struggle was carried on a perch by his owners, the men of Company C. He was an eyewitness of thirty-six battles and skirmishes, and accompanied his regiment upon some of the longest marches of the war. Frequently he was hit by the enemy's bullets, but never was daunted, his habit in times of action being to pose upon his perch or a cannon, screaming lustily, and frequently holding in his bill the corner of a flag. No general in the great struggle achieved a wider celebrity than "Old Abe." Until his death, in 1881, he was exhibited in all parts of the country, at State and national soldiers' reunions, and at fairs held for their benefit. At the great Sanitary Fair in Chicago, in 1865, it is said that the sales of his photographs brought $16,000 to the soldiers' relief fund.

Upon the opening of the Spanish-American War, in April, 1898, Wisconsin's militia system was one of the best in the country, and its quota of 5390 volunteers was made up from these companies.

The First Regiment was sent to Camp Cuba Libre, at Jacksonville, Florida; the Second and Third to Camp Thomas, at Chickamauga; and the Fourth, at first to the State military camp at Camp Douglas, and later to Camp Shipp, Alabama. The First was the earliest raised, and the best equipped, but its colonel's commission was not so old as those held by the other regimental commanders from this State; therefore, when two Wisconsin regiments were to be sent in July to Puerto Rico, the Second and Third were selected, leaving the First reluctantly to spend its entire time in camp. After the war, it had been intended to detail the Fourth,[244] not mustered in until late in the struggle, to join the American army of occupation in the West Indies; but, owing to the fact that a large percentage of the men were suffering from camp diseases, they were finally mustered out without leaving the country.

The Second and Third had an interesting experience in Puerto Rico. Arriving at the port of Guamico upon the 25th of July, they took a prominent part in the bloodless capture of the neighboring city of Ponce. This task completed, they were detailed, with the Sixteenth Pennsylvania, to form the advance guard of the army, which prepared at once to sweep the island from south to north. Our men were almost daily under fire, particularly in road clearing skirmishes under General Roy Stone.

Two days after the landing at Guamico, Lieutenant Perry Cochrane, of Eau Claire, an officer of the Third, was sent forward with seventeen other Eau Claire men, to open up the railway line leading to the little village of Yauco, lying about twenty miles westward of Ponce, and to capture that place. The track and the bridges had been wrecked by the fleeing enemy, so that Cochrane's party endured much peril and fatigue before they reached their destination; and Yauco was not disposed to succumb to this handful of men. Cochrane successfully held his own, however, until the following day, when reënforcements arrived.

A few days after the fall of Ponce, the Sheboygan company was acting as guard to a detachment repairing the San Juan road, several miles out of town. Hearing that a party of Spanish soldiers had taken a stand at[245] Lares, eighteen miles away, a detail was sent with a flag of truce, to treat with them. The squad consisted of Lieutenant Bodemer, four privates, and a bugler. The Spaniards were not in a pleasant frame of mind, and but for their officers would have made short shrift of the visitors, despite the peaceful flag which they bore. Finally, the Spaniards agreed to receive a deputation of native Puerto Ricans, and talk the matter over with them. Our men withdrew, and sent natives in their stead; but the latter were treacherously assaulted, and only one of them escaped to tell the story.

Upon the 9th of August, there was a sharp fight at Coamo. Both of our regiments were actively employed in this encounter, and were of the troops which finally raised the American flag over the town walls.

The final engagement was fought two days later, at the mountain pass of Asomanta, near Aibonito, where 2500 Spanish troops were centered. The Second Wisconsin was the last American regiment in this fight, and lost two killed and three wounded. These were Wisconsin's only field losses during the war, although her deaths from camp diseases were about seventy.




Typography by J. S. Cushing & Co., Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.