History of Wisconsin
[Source: Wisconsin: Its Story and Biography, 1848-1913, Volume 1; By Ellis Baker Usher; Publ. 1914; Transcribed and donated by Andrea Stawski Pack.]
THE GENESIS OF WISCONSIN --HOW THE WATERS OF THE GREATEST LAKES AND OF THE GREATEST RIVER OF THE CONTINENT FIXED ITS DESTINY
Wisconsin At The Meeting Of The Waters-The Thoroughfare Of The Fur Trader And The Temple Of The Black Robed Priest-It Passes From French To British Hands To Become An American Trophy Of The Revolution.
The omnipotent foresight of Creation placed Wisconsin upon the northwestern apex of the roughly triangular outline of waters that wash the eastern and southern coasts of the United States and find communication with our great Mediterranean basin, and the heart of the continent through two majestic rivers, the Mississippi and the St. Lawrence.
Champlain, the Man of Prescience
French enthusiasm had early been inflamed by the discoveries of Columbus, Cabot and other adventurous spirits, and it was as early as 1506 that the first Frenchman, Denys of Harfleur, pointed his daring prow toward the New World. But it was almost an hundred years later (1604) that the first and the greatest of the Frenchmen whose names link with French dominion on this hemisphere, became a member of a company of traders that sailed to the Bay of Fundy. In the employ of De Chastes, a soldier of the civil wars, and De Monts. A Huguenot nobleman of the King's household came Samuel Champlain, under whose leadership three years were passed at Port Royal in Nova Scotia. At the end of that period the patent of De Monts' was being revoked, the post was abandoned.
The man of prescience, who, full of the restless spirit of adventure, yet developed purpose beyond chivalrous exploit and mere fortune hunting, whose genius was that of statesmanship, had reached the scene of his opportunities, and, as has been well said by another, the biography of Samuel Champlain is the record of the first French establishment of permanent character in Canada. He built his habitation at Quebec in 1608, and even in his choice of a commanding site gave evidence of his capacity. This was but a year after the first English settlement at Jamestown, and antedated the arrival of the "Mayflower" at Plymouth by twelve years.
In Champlain's employ was another bright, enterprising and capable young Frenchman, Jean Nicolet, who was the first white man to visit the wilds of Wisconsin. He penetrated somewhat beyond the portage between the Fox and Wisconsin rivers as early as 1634, four years after the founding of Boston and when Peregrine White, the first born of "Mayflower" stock, was but fourteen years of age. Some have thought that Nicolet may have seen the Mississippi, and there are shadowy suggestions that two of his successors in Wisconsin exploration, Pierre Esprit Radisson and Medard Chouart des Groselliers, may have reached the Mississippi near its headwaters as early as 1654, but there is no positive record to support either of these claims, and the first authentic explorer of the Upper Mississippi was Father James Marquette, whose canoe glided into the "River Conception," as he graphically named it, from the Wisconsin, on the 17th of June, 1673.
What a noble panorama must have met his gaze, in that beautiful month of sunny skies and perfect verdure-a scene, still beautiful and even in this day imposing, must have unfolded to him in all its pristine magnificence, and its majesty must have found eloquence in a stillness disturbed only by the soft murmur of that swift and mighty sweep of waters. Father Marquette was moved to deep emotion, feelingly writing that he was thrilled with an inexpressible joy.
It was thus that one of the gentlest and most devout of the Jesuit Fathers w-ho early trod our soil became the discoverer of the Upper Mississippi. From the mouth of the Wisconsin he and his companion, Louis Joliet, floated down stream and left the upper reaches of the Father of Waters to be pioneered, seven years later, by another Jesuit, Father Louis Hennepin.
The impressive statue of Father Marquette, which stands in one of Wisconsin's two allotted places in Statuary hall, in the National Capitol at Washington, is the state's official testimonial to the importance of this epoch-making achievement.
This was the Frenchman's and the white man's first passage from the sea into the upper reaches of the main artery of a system of navigable rivers draining an empire which embraces more than 15,400 miles of navigable waters and another one thousand miles of streams susceptible of navigable improvement. The United States engineers record the system formed by the Mississippi and its more than fifty tributaries, as "forming an extensive chain of inland waterways of more than thirteen thousand miles." This system, taken with the Great Lakes and their tributaries and the rivers which flow independently into the Gulf of Mexico from the southern states, exceeds in extent any field of navigable fresh water in the world.
The French as Masters of the Inland Waters
De Tocqueville in 1835 wrote of this wonderful basin, with its fresh water Mediterranean at the north and its warm salt Mediterranean at the south, a thousand miles apart:
"It is upon the whole, the most magnificent dwelling place prepared by God for Man's abode, a space of 1,341,649 square miles, watered by a river which, like a god of antiquity, dispenses both good and evil."
Marquette had opened the inner door of Champlain's great vision. A door that God himself had set ajar. The portals of a pregnant destiny that had been entered when the French first ascended the St. Lawrence now expanded to a dream of empire that Champlain of all his countrymen seemed most fully to grasp and comprehend. He apparently saw that the mastery of the Great Lakes, the greatest bodies of fresh water upon the globe, and the control of the splendid river that drained and commanded the heritage of a yet unnumbered people, held hope of empire of proportions more magnificent than the world had hitherto realized.
While the English settlements were clinging to a narrow littoral that lay between the Appalachian chain of mountains and the sea, much of it barren, cold and unresponsive to the hand of man, the light hearted French, advancing from the east, full of the spirit of wild frolic and adventure, lured by that earliest and most illusive promise of a passage to the China sea; by the rich booty in furs, in peltries, and in fish; their imaginations lit by dreams of gold, ranged far into the unknown Indian country among the lakes and rivers of the north, laying claim to the territory as they advanced. Then by a somewhat strange, unexpected and fortuitous chance of European war, they became also the possessors of that other and strategically most important southern key to the interior-the mouth of the Mississippi.
The seas and the water courses have, from the first records of men, been the early speedways of all primitive peoples. They have unlocked the secrets of continents, and have become the busy, pulsing arteries of civilization and commerce.
From the days of the Phoenicians, who explored and helped to people the shores of the Mediterranean sea, to the days when the French voyagers and the Jesuit Black Robes reached the heart of North America, and still forward to our time-trade, religious propaganda, and the pursuit of empire, have, consciously and unconsciously, cooperated to people the earth and advance what we believe to be the Kingdom of God and the higher civilization. When in our recent war with Spain, we were told that "the constitution follows the flag," we heard, in modern phrase, the latest "forward" cry of the old, irresistible, onward march of empire.
The French, thanks chiefly to the foresight and capacity of Champlain, who somewhat successfully begat a lust of empire in a few of his broader minded countrymen, established a string of outposts, early in the eighteenth century, that furnished a thin line of continuous communication from the seat of government at Quebec to far off Louisiana, at the portal of the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf of St. Lawrence in the land of snows, and the sunny, southern entrepot, New Orleans, were the continent's most commanding and strategic outlets to salt water.
The English could be cut off from any expansion beyond the Alleghenies by a strong French occupancy of the interior water courses. French leaders acted upon this theory, and at Green Bay, the Wisconsin outpost to the Mississippi thoroughfare, and at points along the Ohio and its tributaries, and along the Illinois, planted their posts and established the fur trade, and the Jesuit Fathers founded missions and preached the gospel to the savages. But trade and fortune hunting, not settlement, was really the dominating influence. Those who followed Champlain in command of French interests in North America were not empire builders. They lacked his large conception of the new land's potentialities. Their methods were despotic and they failed to appreciate that such limitless space of itself inspires men to independence, and breaks the restraining leash of distant government. Little of the early French immigration brought with it the elements of husbandry and permanent homemaking upon the land.
Enter, the Hardheaded, Empire-building Englishman
Meanwhile, hardheaded Englishmen came to New England in whole communities. They frequently brought their preachers along, for worldly as well as spiritual advice, for they were looked up to by their flocks for their superior learning, as well as for their religious calling. Fighting savages, enduring the rigors of a severe climate, and struggling with a cold and stony soil, these men made true homes on inhospitable shores and struck deep the roots of substantial, enduring settlement. To the southward, New York and Virginia, under kindlier skies, were closing strong grip upon a permanent patrimony, and, with their intervening neighbors, were becoming one people in all the interests that make for co-operation under the compelling force of mutual welfare and community of danger.
Thus, briefly swept, we find the outline of the French and English beginnings on the American continent. They are as opposite in character as the natures of Gaul and Briton whom they typify. They illustrate the controlling motive that differentiates the common failure of Latin peoples in the assimilation of new ideas and men, because they have always attempted to govern the conquered in subjection.
These early French and English colonies in America were but the outflung picket lines of a struggle destined to be waged almost continually on sea and land in Europe and America for almost an hundred years.
Struggle for the Mississippi Valley
In reality the contest called into being by this European rivalry and the struggle for possession of the Mississippi valley, ran the gamut from barbaric warfare to the fencing of wits in the highest and most exclusive diplomatic circles. Its last sparks flickered out only in our day, in the Indian massacre at Mankato, Minnesota, in 1864, and in the final subjugation of Geronimo and his band of savage Apaches in 1886. The lurid, fervent fires of border warfare had then lighted the advance of civilization across the American continent and had spanned three hundred years.
The sturdy, plodding Englishman with his face to the sea and his back against the Appalachian hills, thought little of the hinter-land beyond until population began to press upon subsistence when the sturdy pioneer, an idealist and an iconoclast, with axe and gun in hand, pushed English outposts through the mountain passes of Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina, into the richer, virgin country beyond.
The French woodsmen and fur traders were men of courage and endurance. This type of hardy Frenchmen was adventurous and he was particularly successful in friendly dealings with the Indian. He had learned to look upon all the interior of the continent as his preserve and therefore resented, and taught his red allies to resent, the encroachments of the British.
The treaty of Utrecht, in 1713, brought about peace between the mother countries. But the colonists were destined to long, weary and bloody contention, in which savage warfare played a conspicuous part, as they were slowly forced to realize the broad conflict of interests, in the continental struggle that ensued.
French and Indian Wars
The last days of the seventeenth century were signalized by wars known as the French and Indian wars. They were the beginnings of a conflict in which the savages fought, almost uniformly, against the colonists, first with the French, then with the British. These wars flamed up along all the borders and their last embers had not died down until after the Revolution, and were never without their fearsome menace to Americans until the British flag was finally hauled down at Mackinac in 1816, two years after the peace had been signed that forever freed this territory from British domination.
During most of this period of pioneer warfare the Wisconsin wilderness, with its few small settlements at Green Bay, La Pointe, and Prairie du Chien, was the contemporaneous range of the Indian, the trapper, the French fur trader and the Jesuit Fathers. Wisconsin French half-breeds and Winnebago Indians, under Charles de Langlade of Green Bay, who still has descendants in Wisconsin, ambushed Braddock at Fort Pitt. He led bands of Wisconsin Winnebago braves against General Wolfe on the Plains of Abraham, and among the Indians that attacked Detroit. Later, this time in the red coat of a British captain, under Burgoyne, de Langlade again fought his red savages against the colonists along the shores of Lake Champlain.
Control of Territory Embracing Wisconsin
The territory embracing Wisconsin had by treaty with the Indians at Sault Ste. Marie in 1671, become a possession of the French. In 1763 it became English territory and by act of parliament in 1774 it was attached to the province of Quebec, practically under French law, and Catholic religious influence. The speedy uprising of the Revolution prevented the vitalizing of this last arrangement, and by the treaty of 1783, with England, the northwest was ceded to the United States and the Great Lakes were fixed as the international boundary between the States and the British Canadian possessions.
So far as the Wisconsin region was concerned all these were but paper contracts, and for eleven years after the treaty of 1783 the Indians of the northwest continued to harry the white settlers who were slowly forcing their way into the wilds on this side of the Alleghenies.
The records tell us that there were thirteen settlements, three of them in Wisconsin, when the Ordinance of 1787 creating Northwest Territory was passed by congress. This territory embracing everything northwest of the Ohio to the Mississippi has been roughly estimated to have had not more than thirty thousand white inhabitants, though the figure is probably large. A letter of Burnet, who settled in Cincinnati in 1796, says: "The entire white population, between Pennsylvania and the Mississippi, from the Ohio to the Lakes, was estimated at fifteen thousand." Its native Indian inhabitants ranged over most of it at will, and a large portion of the whites were still French, and those who were not employed as fur gatherers in their own behalf were the representatives of English fur traders.
It was not until the Jay treaty with England in 1794 that Wisconsin may be said to have become officially recognized territory of the United States, but as a matter of fact, so remote was the region from civilization, that the British posts were never actually abandoned and the British flag was not finally hauled down until May 24th, 1815, when a British garrison under Captain Bulger evacuated the fort at Prairie du Chien.
Then began Wisconsin's history as an integral part of the United States of America.
Emerging From The Wilderness Through Many Jurisdictions-The Name Wisconsin-The "badger" Nickname:-"A Firmament In The Midst Of The Waters."
At the beginning of the War of the Revolution, in 1776, colonial boundaries were somewhat doubtful and there were many conflicting and uncertain claims set up by the original thirteen colonies to territory lying to the westward. Something more than the lower one third of what is today Wisconsin was claimed by the colony of Massachusetts. In 1783 the treaty of peace ceded to the United States what are now the upper two-thirds of Michigan and Wisconsin and a small portion of what is now Minnesota. Then, between 1781 and 1790, the original colonial states ceded to the United States government all territory to which they laid claim, lying to the west of the Alleghany mountains, and by 1790 Wisconsin thus became, through the relinquishment of the claim of Massachusetts, a part of "The Territory Northwest of the Ohio river," and the Mississippi river became the recognized western boundary of the United States. By 1800 a new division had been made which gave the title of "Territory Northwest of the Ohio river," to that portion east of a line drawn south from the Straits of Mackinac to the Ohio river. Everything west of that line to the Mississippi was called "Indiana Territory." At the time of the Louisiana Purchase, which more than doubled the land area of the United States, Wisconsin was included in the "Territory of Indiana."
Meanwhile Ohio had been formed into a state and the remainder of "the Territory Northwest of the Ohio" attached to "the Territory of Indiana." This was in 1802. This arrangement lasted until 1805, when Michigan territory was organized, with the boundaries the state now has, but leaving the remainder still Indiana territory.
In 1809 Indiana territory shrank to the boundaries of the present state of that name, and the remainder, which included Wisconsin, became "the Territory of Illinois."
In 1818, with the admission of Illinois as a state, the "Territory of Michigan" absorbed Wisconsin, and by 1834 Michigan territory included everything north of the states of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois to the east of the Mississippi river, and everything lying north of the state of Missouri and westward to the Missouri river. Michigan territory thus included the present states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and the two Dakotas.
When, in 1836, Michigan was constituted a state in its present form, all the remainder became the "Territory of Wisconsin." By 1838, the creation of "the Territory of Iowa" left the "Territory of Wisconsin'' mainly to the east of the Mississippi river, giving it, besides, what later became a part of Minnesota, to the west, between the headwaters of the Mississippi and the head of Lake Superior, and north to the Canadian boundary. When Wisconsin was admitted as a state in 1848, it lost this last mentioned considerable area, and its boundary at the northwest became the St. Croix and the St. Louis rivers. The last state to be made from "the Territory Northwest of the Ohio river" Wisconsin came out worst in the apportionment of territory.
Between the beginning of the Revolution, in 1776, and its admission to the Union, Wisconsin had been claimed as a part of, or belonging to, six separate and distinct civil jurisdictions besides that of England, and was longest a part of the territory of Michigan, but, in all, the transition period of American territorial dominance was but seventy-two years. It has been a state but sixty-five years, while the years of its French and English attachments numbered one hundred and forty-two, or the longest period of its history under any form of white man's government. This is a notable fact when considered in connection with its great distance from the sea, and is attributable to its commanding location at the head of both the Mississippi river and the water system of the Great Lakes.
The influence upon its government of the long French overlordship, and of the other and rapid transitions in subsequent political history, are treated separately in a chapter upon "The Government of Wisconsin."
The Name Wisconsin
Wisconsin, it is believed, took its name from its principal river, and the earliest record of the use of the name upon a map is by Joliet, dated 1673-1674, upon which is inscribed the "Riviere Misconsing." In another place Joliet inscribes it the ''Riviere Miscous," which Prof. Justin Winsor thought, no doubt correctly, was intended for "Miscons," which, down to our day, has been practically retained; for "the Old Wisconse,'' a familiar soubriquet bestowed upon it by the early lumbermen, might easily be an evolution of this Indian name. Father Marquette, whose companion Joliet was, gave it the slight variation of "Mescousing," and Hennepin used "Misconsin," and to him is also attributed the first use of the French orthography "Onisconsin," which later went into general use with the change of the first n to u, thus- '' Ouisconsin.''
A Spanish medal described in Volume IX, pp. 121-3, of the Collections of the Wisconsin Historical Society, was thought to have been presented to the Sauk Chief "Huisconsin." In Volume III, the secretary of the society, Mr. Lyman C. Draper, remarks upon the use of this chief's name by a Spanish governor, in a message to the Sauks and Foxes, and says in a footnote to page 504:
'' It will be observed in Cruzat's message, that one of the Sauk and Fox chiefs, who had paid him a visit, was named 'Huisconsin'-evidently 'Ouisconsin' of French orthography, or Wisconsin of the English. This is the only instance, we believe, of which there is any record, that this name now the appellation of our beloved State, was ever the cognomen of an Indian.''
This Sauk chief is more closely identified by Charles Gautier, who visited his village at the site of Sauk City, in 1777, when upon his trip to the Mississippi with Langlade's "red hatchet" to enlist the Indians against the Americans in the Revolutionary War. In Gautier's report, (Wis. Hist'l. Col. Vol. XI, page 107), he writes of "Sisikonsin, chief of the village," and later of "the portage of the Sisikonsin," which fixes the name as that of the river.
As late as 1805, when Lieut. Zebulon Pike was sent up the Mississippi to make the first official reconnaissance after the Louisiana Purchase, he put down the name of the river as "Ouisconsin," and by 1823 Major Long's report had inscribed it upon his map as the "Wisconsan," which was the name, spelled "Wiskonsan," used by McLeod in his book on the territory, published in Buffalo as late as 1846. But as early as 1837 Gen. William R. Smith wrote of his "Observations on The Wisconsin Territory." Lapham's "Wisconsin" was published in Milwaukee in 1844, and a revised edition in 1846, so that the official orthography used in creating the territory in 1836, was some time in becoming fixed in common usage, and Governor Doty and many other pioneers persisted especially, in using the "k," until long after the present spelling had been made a matter of official action.
Meanings of the word have been given some poetic latitude but our historical authorities generally dispose of them all by saying that the exact meaning is unknown.
Bishop Baraga in his "Grammar and Dictionary of the Otchipwe Language," (Montreal, 1882,) makes an interesting contribution to this field of speculation as follows:
"Wiskons. Wisconsin,-Wiskonsing, in Wisconsin, from or to Wisconsin. The small lodge of a beaver or muskrat."
It is an interesting fact, seldom alluded to, that the Wisconsin "region," was early referred to as "the Huron district." Robert Baird, in a volume written in 1832 and published in Philadelphia in 1833, entitled "View of the Valley of the Mississippi or The Emigrant's and Traveller's Guide to the West," etc., says on page 180: "In 1820 the population of Michigan, including the Huron district, was 8,856."
"Mitchell's United States," published in Philadelphia in 1834, says: "This 'region' will probably soon be separated from Michigan proper, and organized as a distinct government under the title of Ouisconsin or Huron territory."
The "badger" State
The soubriquet of "The Badger State," which was early attached to Wisconsin, unquestionably had its origin in the badinage of the early mining camps of the lead diggings of southwestern Wisconsin. The late Moses M. Strong, whose home was in Mineral Point, one of the most important places in the lead region, is given credit for the story of this nickname which has been adopted by Dr. R. G. Thwaites and other historians and is now incorporated in the Legislative Blue Book as a part of the recognized official historical epitome of the state. It is there given as follows:
"why The 'badger' State?
"In the early lead-mining days in Southwestern Wisconsin, the miners from Southern Illinois and farther south returned homo every winter and came back to the diggings in the spring, thus imitating the migrations of the fish popularly called the 'sucker,' in the Rock, Illinois, and other south-flowing rivers of the region. For this reason, the south-winterers were jocosely called 'Suckers,' and Illinois became known as 'The Sucker State.' On the other hand, lead-miners from the Eastern States were unable to return home every winter, and at first lived in rude dug-outs-burrowing into the hillsides after the fashion of the badger (Taxidea americana). These men were the first permanent settlers in the mines north of the Illinois line; and thus Wisconsin, in later days, became dubbed 'The Badger State.' Contrary to general belief, the badger itself is not frequently found in Wisconsin.''
In corroboration of this very probable story of the Badger nom de plume, Mr. Donald McLeod, in his "History of Wiskonsan" published in Buffalo in 1846, on page 214, in treating of Iowa county, refers to the "sucker holes," as the "pits dug in search of lead," and in a rare pamphlet entitled "The Home of the Badgers," published in "Milwaukie," in 1847, by I. A. Hopkins, reference is made to the "suckers," as "Southern Illinoisans," and on page 37 the people of Janesville are alluded to as "Badgers." Again on page 41, allusion is made to the "Hoosiers of Indiana," the "Suckers of Illinois" and the "Badgers of Wisconsin." These quotations are the earliest printed references to "the Badgers of Wisconsin" among the early writers whose books and pamphlets are preserved. They go to show that the term was familiarly applied in territorial days, but it is worthy of note that Gen. William R. Smith, who afterward became a prominent citizen of Wisconsin and of Mineral Point and was one of the state's early historians, makes no mention of "Badgers" in his letters written from Wisconsin to his brother in Philadelphia, in 1837, while Iowa was still a part of Wisconsin territory.
A Firmament Dividing The Waters
As suggested in opening this chapter it was the Creator who said- '' Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.''
This was the important office assigned to the state of Wisconsin. Set at the east upon the margin of Lake Michigan; its northern shores washed by Lake Superior, the noblest of fresh water seas; with the imperial Mississippi at the west, and the St. Croix and St. Louis rivers laving its northwestern flank, the new state of Wisconsin could at its birth boast of more than a thousand miles of navigable water upon its boundaries, a water line equaled by few states of the Union.
Of her interior waters the Fox, the Rock, the Wolf, the Wisconsin, Black, and Chippewa rivers have each borne steamboats upon their bosoms, as have Lake Winnebago, the Madison Four Lakes and many others. Wisconsin has five rivers wholly within her borders which range from 125 to 370 miles in length, and 7 more ranging from 45 to 95 miles in length. These larger water courses and their many affluents, the 1,240 lakes now surveyed, together with many lesser streams and smaller spring fed lakes, were at once the forecast and the crown of the state's destiny.
Lake Michigan is the largest body of water wholly within the United States, and Lake Winnebago is the largest body of fresh water wholly within a single state.
But, to add further emphasis to the high office assigned to Wisconsin, it was made the "firmament" to separate the waters which flow southward with the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico, from those that flow northward and eastward to the Great Lakes and follow the St. Lawrence to mingle with the cold waters of the North Atlantic.
At Portage there are still times when these waters meet without aid of the canal, and the headwaters of the Wisconsin, the Chippewa, and the Montreal, the Bois Brule, the St. Louis, and the St. Croix, are such short distances apart at the dividing watersheds that they were the early highways that naturally and constantly tempted the birch canoe Indian, and the fur trader who was his pupil, to wider and wider fields of exploration, adventure and trade.
It was because of this invitation to gather with the waters, and where the way hence to the far south and the far east was all "down hill," that distant Wisconsin began so early to figure in the annals of the French interior of North America. It was the charm of these unfettered and foretelling waters that filled the primeval forests of this region with happy, roving, dare-devil and picturesque French couriers of the wood, before the early English immigrant had fought out his first decade of struggle with the hard granite of New England's inhospitable shores. It was the life upon these waters that enveloped the earlier history of Wisconsin with the shadowy light of half wild romance and all the dream charm of untamed imagination.
Captain Carver Saw The Strategic Value Of The Mississippi In 1766 -Early Wisconsin Writers Saw The Importance Of Interior Waterways-Professor Shaler's Opinion Setting The Forest Above The Plain-The Early Routes Of The Fur Trade.
The important and favorable situation of this region was early suggested by those who explored it. Capt. Jonathan Carver, who in 1766 followed the path of Father Hennepin, by way of the Fox and Wisconsin rivers to the Upper Mississippi, first introduced public attention to the defensive value of the rich interior region of the Mississippi valley. He wrote: "As this River is not navigable from the sea for vessels of any considerable burthen, much higher up than the Forks of the Ohio, and even that is accomplished with much difficulty, owing to the rapidity of the current, and the windings of the river, those settlements that may be made on the interior branches of it, must be indisputably secure from the attacks of any maritime power. But at the same time the settlers will have the advantage of being able to convey their produce to the sea ports with great facility, the current of the river from its source to its entrance into the Gulph of Mexico, being extremely favorable for doing this in small craft. This might also in time be facilitated by canals or shorter cuts; and a communication be opened by water with New York, Canada, etc., by way of the Lakes.''
The importance of the Mississippi had been known to the Recollects' before its actual discovery by the French, for they had the Indian accounts of the "Great Water," which was early confused with the China Sea, and had, no doubt, for they were men of education, also heard the tales of Spanish discovery which antedated the earliest French visitations to Wisconsin by fully an hundred years, and that De Soto, the Spanish discoverer of the Lower Mississippi, was reputed to have found it navigable for a thousand miles.
The theory of Captain Carver that the Mississippi and the Great Lakes were at once the promise of safety and the assurance of outlet to the world's markets, is apparent to any student of the subject, and it comes down to our own time with a vigor not merely unabated but gathering emphasis and force.
Early Views Of Wisconsin Waterways
In an article upon "Wisconsin Territory" in The Home Missionary for November, 1839, is the following paragraph: "An interesting feature in the physical character of the country is the great facilities which it promises for communication by water. Besides Lake Michigan, on its entire eastern border, and the Mississippi river on the western, the Wisconsin and Fox rivers afford a channel diagonally across the country, of about 400 (250) miles in extent. At Fort Winnebago, a canal of only one mile and a quarter in length would unite these rivers; and thus, as has been humorously remarked, 'Navigation could be opened from Green Bay to the Mississippi at less expense than it would cost the government to talk about it.'"
Seven years later Donald McLeod enthusiastically wrote: "Take the map of Wiskonsan; look at its geographical situation, see the mighty waters of Lake Superior on the North, the blue, clear waters of Lake Michigan on the East, and the great Mississippi rolling its accumulating volumes on the west, the river of 'flowery banks,' and the Wiskonsan, with its calm and placid stream a natural canal, passing through its center; the beautiful Rock River, another natural avenue winding its course from near Winnebago Lake, through the Territory, until it mingles with 'the Father of Waters,' the Mississippi. Look again at the Fox, (Pishtaka), and Milwaukee rivers, each irrigating rich sections of the country, and then again the beautiful Neenah or Fox River, connecting Green Bay and Lake Winnebago, and then again to within a mile or so of the Wiskonsan, besides numberless other streams on the North.''
Such quotations illustrate what the early, adventurous spirits who crossed the mountains to the "western waters" meant when they delighted to be known as men of "the Western World." To them were given both the idealism and the "staying qualities" to forge the dream of Champlain into magnificent reality. It was a dream too splendid in its proportions for the uncertain grasp of Champlain's own roving, easygoing countrymen. But it was to come true, singularly, strikingly true, under the hard, compelling hand of the Anglo-Saxon, whose strange fusion of the overwhelming, compelling, courage of the spirit and the irresistible force of physical endurance, have wrought the miracles of which the story of Wisconsin is a worthy and important part.
But we must not circumscribe our vision or we lose the proper sense of proportions. As our own broad minded historian, Mr. Frederick J. Turner, has well said: '' By fixing our attention too exclusively upon the artificial boundary lines to the States, we have failed to perceive much that is significant in the westward development of the United States. For instance, our colonial system did not begin with the Spanish War; the United States has had a colonial history and policy from the beginning of the Republic; but they have been hidden under the phraseology of 'interstate migration' and 'territorial organization.'"
The history of Wisconsin's development cannot be separated from that of its neighbors. As its waters have floated the lumber to build Chicago and St. Louis, so have its various stages of progress and advancement gone hand in hand with the settlement of the great Mississippi valley, and the mighty, swift advance of our territorial expansion and civilization across the continent to the Pacific ocean, to the China sea, and into the far frozen northwest, athwart the Arctic circle, and close under the equator.
Champlain's seventeenth century dreams and hopes were for a Catholic empire upon this continent, into which not even a French Huguenot should be allowed to enter, not to mention an English Puritan. What would he think of the twentieth century realization of his vast projects? Knowing that our own grandfathers, could they suddenly awaken to these realities, would meet them with helpless wonder, it is difficult to conceive the prescient Frenchman who led the way 300 years ago among the untrodden pathways of lake, and river, and forest, blinking blindly before achievements which transcend all the dream-children of his vivid imagination. Men still of middle age have actually witnessed and been a part of most all the marvels that have expanded our territory from the Mississippi river westward, across the Pacific ocean, until within the dominion of the Stars and Stripes, are grouped the Far West, the Far East, the Arctic Pole, and Tropics almost at the equator.
Link Between Great Lakes And Mississippi Valley
Describing the Mississippi valley, Prof. N. S. Shaler, beginning at its eastern boundary, the "Appalachian district," with its three hundred thousand square miles of mountains and table-lands, says the latter fades gradually into the Mississippi valley, which is "a characteristically tableland valley, with a general surface of rolling plain, varying from three hundred to five thousand feet above the level of the sea,'' and almost free of mountains. On the west of the Mississippi another series of tablelands rise gradually from the main trough of the river and its western arm, the Missouri, until they are lost in the foot-hills of the lofty range of the Cordilleras, a system having a width of nearly one thousand miles. "In estimating the value of North America to man," says Professor Shaler, "the limitation of good forests to the region east of the Mississippi must be regarded as a disadvantage which is likely to become more serious with the advance of time." And be calls attention to "Wisconsin's broad areas of forests, and says, significantly: "The rivers of a country are a result and a measure of its climate," and he makes acknowledgment of the fact that "the rivers of America have been of very great importance in the settlement of the land."
It is necessary, in order to fully appreciate the attractions of Wisconsin, which led to its being an early and permanent western abode of the white men, to include, along with its wealth of water and forest, the fur-bearing animals that were a part and a result of these natural advantages and of the climate in which they existed.
In his valuable paper upon "The Character and Influence of the Fur Trade in Wisconsin," Prof. Frederick J. Turner, tells us that, "The water system composed of the St. Lawrence river and the Great Lakes is the key to the continent," and that "Wisconsin was the link that joined the Great Lakes and the Mississippi."
Winsor tells us that the early routes from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi were as follows:
1. -By the Miami (Maumee) river from the west end of Lake Erie to the Wabash, thence to the Ohio and the Mississippi.
2. -By the St. Joseph's river to the Wabash and Ohio.
3. -By the St. Joseph's river to the Kankakee, and thence to the Illinois and the Mississippi.
4. -By the Chicago river to the Illinois.
5. -By Green Bay, Fox river, and Wisconsin river.
6. -By the Boise Brule river to the St. Croix river.
Early mention was also made of a route from Lake Superior by the Montreal river into the headwaters of the Chippewa.
The first two routes were unavailable so long as the powerful Iroquois Indians were unconquered and it will be seen therefore that two of the earliest available routes-possibly three-were through Wisconsin, and four of them were reached by way of Lake Michigan. As it was necessary to pass Green Bay to reach the Chicago route, which required a canoe trip of 250 miles in the open lake, the more sheltered passages were easiest reached and most used. But another and controlling influence was in favor of the Wisconsin routes. Professor Turner thus explains it: "We are now able to see how the river courses of the Northwest permitted a complete exploration of the country, and that in these courses Wisconsin held a commanding situation. But these rivers not only permitted exploration; they also furnished a motive to exploration by the fact that their valleys teemed with fur bearing animals. This is the main fact in connection with Northwestern exploration. ''
The prairies at the south and to the west of us did not at first invite either the adventurer or the settler. Our abundant water and timber, which they lacked, meant variety in climate and soil, and fur trade with the Indians opened an immediate opportunity for profitable barter. The fur trader was the avaunt courier. The lumberman was next to find a commercial outlet. The permanent tiller of the soil usually came last, and he was often a restless and temporary resident.
"We have learned since those early days that the 96th parallel of longitude divides the continent into two nearly equal parts, and that the area of densest population and of arable land are coterminous at the west with the area of rainfall suitable for successful agriculture. This arable area lies east of the foothills and foot-plains of the Cordilleras, and population to the east of what was once marked upon the school maps as "the Great American Desert," is seven times as great as that of the states lying in, and to the west of it.
The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 settled what had for forty years been a source of trouble with Spain, and the pioneers of the "western waters,'' were finally made secure in the free passage of the Mississippi river to the Gulf of Mexico.
The Economic Advantages Of Water Transportation Always Have Held The Imaginations Of Practical Men - Champlain And The Panama Canal And The Improved Waterways Of His New Prance Of North America.
The scope and the overshadowing importance of the waterways of the interior of the continent, considered in all early estimates of its potential values, have been more than justified by the subsequent development of the middle section of the country. '' The Middle West,'' is a new title, with new meaning in our day, for our continental basin.
The economic advantages of water navigation have continued to hold the imaginations and command the confidence of the public despite systematic efforts to shake them, and now even the broader railway captains of the country realize that railroads must be supplemented by the waterways in order to move the rapidly accumulating inter-state commerce. This commerce is growing in its international character by such strides that relations with the outside world are already making demands upon shipping facilities which leave local commerce upon the sidetracks.
Five years ago, Gov. John Franklin Fort, of New Jersey, in an address before the first national conference of governors at the White House in Washington, said: "Measured in ton miles, the freight traffic of the country has increased over 400 per cent in twenty years." The value of our foreign commerce has increased over one hundred per cent in fourteen years, from $1,850,000,000. to $4,000,000,000., using round figures. In tonnage the percentage of increase is much greater.
Interior Waterways' Improvements
The first practical effort to make an improved outlet by water to the Atlantic ocean, for the commerce of the country tributary to the Great Lakes, the Erie canal, was due to the foresight and persistence of Gov. De Witt Clinton of New York.
The Brie canal, connecting Lake Erie and the Hudson river, was opened for traffic in 1825, at an original cost of $7,602,000, and up to the beginning of the twentieth century the total outlay upon it had been but $52,0000,000. "Untold wealth has been won for the state of New York and the city of New York by its operation," says a competent authority. This pioneer artificial waterway is now being enlarged, straightened and deepened at a cost of $110,000,000.
Following this work almost immediately the Canadian government deepened the St. Lawrence river for more than one hundred miles, and built the Lachine, Soulanges, Cornwall, Farran's Point, Rapide Plat, Galops, Welland, and Sault Ste. Marie canals, the last being completed in 1895. This system of Canadian improvements first made Montreal a seaport and then connected it, most of the way by Canadian water, with the far western and northwestern provinces. The distance from Port Arthur on the north shore of Lake Superior to the Gulf of St. Lawrence is 2,260 statute miles. The Welland Canal is still too small for the passage of ocean vessels, so Montreal remains the head of seagoing navigation.
The United States pioneered waterway improvements by way of the Great Lakes as early as 1855, and completed a canal at Sault Ste. Marie, known officially as "the Saint Mary's Falls Canal," with accommodations for vessels drawing 12 feet of water. This, to meet the demands of expanding traffic, was enlarged in 1896, to provide an eight hundred-foot lock and 20 feet depth of water. The St. Clair river and other improvements have kept pace, and today more vessels and of larger tonnage pass the two "So Canals" than are known upon any other artificial water courses in the world.
The Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, commonly known as the Drainage canal, finished in 1900 with a depth of 22 feet, connects Lake Michigan, through the Illinois river, with the Mississippi, and the proposition is under discussion of making it navigable from Lake Michigan to St. Louis.
This is an early route of the Indians and explorers.
The first attempt to connect the Lakes and the Mississippi by canal, by way of an old Indian canoe path, trail and portage, was by the Miami (or Maumee) and Scioto rivers, from Toledo to Cincinnati, Ohio. This work was inaugurated while the Erie canal was building, about 1821. The next effort was by way of the Fox and Wisconsin rivers, with a canal at "Portage City," as it was then known. Agitation began in 1829, when all the west was aroused upon the subject of internal improvements. It took twenty-four years of struggle to provide a way for the "Aquilla," the first steamboat from Pittsburgh to pass from the Mississippi to Green Bay through the Wisconsin and Fox rivers, by way of this improvement.
The national government gave aid, but between the stools of state, national and private management, the enterprise fell into disuse and has finally been virtually abandoned. A railroad bridge across the mouth of the Wisconsin, and others across the Fox are spiked, subject to . any demand of the war department to open them for navigation-a demand that is seldom made-and when it is, usually for some vagrant pleasure craft and not for commerce.
The other chief Wisconsin portage from the Lakes to the headwaters of the St. Croix river by way of the Boise Brule and the St. Louis rivers, is the subject of periodic discussion as a canal route to bear commerce from the Lakes to the Mississippi. The proposed improvement is also expected to furnish a means, by regulation of the flow of water, for the maintenance of the Mississippi river at an invariable stage sufficient to float the commerce of the Great Valley to the Gulf of Mexico during the eight to nine months' season of navigation on the upper river. It is also thought that barges can be used so large that they would need break bulk only at tide water, and that might even be of sufficient seaworthiness to be towed across the Gulf to Cuba, to Mexico, and to the Trans-isthmian railway at Tehuantepec.
Mississippi Valley Of The Twentieth Century
The Mississippi valley was described at the White House Conference of Governors in 1908, by Mr. Lyman E. Cooley, a distinguished associate of Eads in building the St. Louis bridge and the jetties at the mouth of the Mississippi, in language, which for imaginative sweep and vivid description will match the vision of Champlain. But this twentieth century vision is illuminated with the marvelous verities of established surveys, population, railway communication, and all the teeming, multitudinous developments of husbandry, trade, commerce, and the arts.
"The Mississippi valley, as a geographic and economic entity, spreads broadly out between the Rocky mountains on the west and the Alleghany mountains, the Niagara frontier and Hudson bay on the east, and extends from the Gulf of Mexico to the northern ripening limit of barley and the potato. It has a general breadth of 1,300 miles and a general length of 2,100 miles, and an area of 2,765,000 square miles, or more than that of all Europe.
"In recent geologic time a greater Lake Winnipeg spilled its waters across the northern divide to the Mississippi at less than 1,000 feet of altitude, and the Great Lakes also spilled their waters across the Chicago Divide at less than 600 feet altitude; and these ancient outlets define the lowest continental lines and the base routes for a waterway system. These three basins, in their present drainage, comprehend seventy-two per cent of the area of the Mississippi valley, the remainder being distributed in three remnants of direct drainage to the gulf of Mexico, Hudson bay and Mackenzie river.
"The economic or potential value may be estimated in terms of the average humid territory of middle latitudes. Making due allowance for the semi-arid region, the sterile rock of the northern highlands, and the margining out in value toward the barley and potato limit, the equivalent value is taken at 2,000,000 square miles in round numbers. This is five times or more the combined areas of France and Germany, and will carry a population five times as great, or 450,000,000, and perhaps double on an ultimate development."
In this greater Mississippi valley, which transcends the boundaries of nations as well as of states, Mr. Cooley tells us there are twenty-five thousand miles of waters that have actually been navigated. The future will yet see wonders of a new progress measured by the wants of millions still destined to increase and people this bountiful region.
The Mississippi valley, within the limits of our own domain, has held the center of population for sixty-five years. Within it focus the center of improved farms; the center of cotton raising-and American cotton is still king, with no danger of dethronement; the center of the four billion bushel corn crop; the center of the wheat crop and the center of oats. The center for the six great cereal crops is on the west bank of the Mississippi river, near Keokuk, Iowa, and following closely the home market which these great agricultural productions have created, the manufacturing center of the Union has moved westward to the center of Ohio, and the nation's center of population is in western Indiana. Most of these significant evidences of development are within the area of the old Northwest Territory.
Links Between The West And The Far East
Four hundred years after the first rounding of the Cape of Good Hope came the opening of the Suez canal which clipped off weeks and months from the time of travel between Europe and the Orient. If the Panama canal is opened, in 1914, as is anticipated, it will be about four hundred years from the time when Balboa first set the world to studying isthmian geography for a solution of the old, old problem of a passage to the China sea; a problem, that Champlain brought with him to Canada and which accompanied Jean Nicolet to Oreen Bay in the year 1634. For our far sighted Frenchman who, in 1603, proposed a canal at Panama, had after a season of investigation among the Spanish discoveries in the New World, visited Mexico and returned by way of Panama. This was before he had seen the northern coast. Even then the idea was not new. A Biscayan pilot had proposed it to Philip the Second, of Spain, but the proposal had aroused no interest. The brilliant young Frenchman saw its possibilities and gave the plan endorsement and from that day it was to lie without accomplishment, awaiting the brains, the energy-, and the wealth of the United States.
Wisconsin may yet furnish the waterway to link the Lake basin and the Mississippi valley to this new transcontinental waterway and "the China Sea." Its two most used early portage routes are no less practical today than they were two hundred and fifty years ago. They are no more visionary than the canal at Panama, which has persisted since 1520, despite the monumental failure of De Lesseps.
Dreams come true in these days of gigantic enterprises. Men do things today that nations dared not undertake two generations back. The mission of Nicolet to Wisconsin may, in our time, reach its fulfillment.
PART TWO -- SETTLEMENT AND POPULATION
THE PEOPLE OF WISCONSIN - WHENCE CAME THEY, WHY AND WHEN
The Early Settlements At Green Bay, Prairie Du Chien, And The "Lead Diggings"- Other French Missions And Trading Posts.
''I am the state!'' said the imperial ruler of France, and in truth he was the personification of the France of his day.
In this country "the state" is the people who compose the nation and the commonwealth. They are the government, because they are sovereigns and may make and unmake the rules necessary for the conduct of their affairs, by which they agree to abide.
It is, therefore, a matter of fundamental importance to inquire into the character of the inhabitants of Wisconsin before proceeding to any narrative of their achievements.
Whence and how came these people who, with their progeny, are now the state?
This chapter has attempted, in a discursive and quite unscientific, but it is hoped, a suggestive and careful manner, to deal with Wisconsin's development in population.
There are some fictions of race and settlement that are so old and have been so often repeated that it may almost seem lese majeste to call them in question. But where doubts are raised it is done solely in the interest of historic truth.
Wisconsin has long since progressed to the point where her quota of alien blood is less than in most of the New England states, and where her sons of foreign parents have actually been less liberal in the more recent naturalization laws than was the native American assembly that framed the state constitution.
The Ordinance of 1787 organized the territory which included what was later to become Wisconsin, and recognized the Mississippi river as the western boundary of the United States. Wisconsin thus became, under various territorial jurisdictions, the extreme northwestern corner of the Union. The Ordinance of 1787 was a document of scarcely less wisdom and importance to this nascent commonwealth than were the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, which was adopted the same year.
That this ordinance promulgated civil and religious liberty, and forever barred slavery and involuntary servitude from "The Territory of the United States Northwest of the Ohio River," accounts in no small measure for the immediate movement of emigration which set in from the northeastern colonial states.
It is worthy of note that the first colony to settle in Ohio, in 1788, was led by a distinguished New England soldier of the Revolution. Its arrival and its beginnings, which are typical of many others, are thus described by Jacob Burnet, who was an early immigrant from New Jersey, and one of Ohio's first United States senators: "A colony, of this description, from New England, landed at the mouth of the Muskingum, in April, 1788, for the purpose of occupying and settling the grant made by Congress, to Sergeant Cutler and others, in trust for the Ohio Company of Associates. Most of them had served in the War of the Revolution, and a number had been officers of distinction and merit. Their settlement was commenced at the mouth, on both sides of the river. Their first object was to erect a stockade, for protection, at Point Harmar, near the fort of that name. In their journey westward they struck the Monongahela river, if I remember correctly, at the mouth of Yoghigana, and, as it was highly dangerous to proceed in open boats, they halted at that point, and built a substantial row-galley, completely decked over, in which they were effectually protected against the rifles of the Indians. This was the first decked vessel that ever floated on the Ohio river! and after their arrival at the place of their destination, it was found to be of great use for the safe transportation of persons and property from place to place. Although most of these emigrants were men of distinction and energy, yet General Rufus Putnam was regarded as their principal chief and leader."
It was not inappropriate that this unique, bullet proof boat was called by its builders-"The Mayflower."
General Cleveland, another Revolutionary veteran, led a colony to settle in northern Ohio, and these, with various other settlements which soon followed, were in many respects the prototypes of the communities of their English forbears who arrived in America in homogeneous groups, with their religious teachers, their civil leaders, their schools, and their devotion to what were, for their day, advanced ideals of religious and civil liberty.
Professor Turner in his "Rise of the New West," very properly calls attention to the fact that the strength of this invasion came from the northernmost parts of New England. The men of the older frontier naturally sought the opportunities of the newer frontier, and with them came a spirit which he very correctly describes as follows: "In general, northern New England-Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, showed a distinct tendency toward democracy, in southern New England the fortifications of Federalism and Congregational power lay in a wide belt along the Connecticut River."
The more democratic forces always flourished nearer to the sea and closer to the pine forests. The Old Newbury colonists had early contended for the fair treatment of Quakers and against Presbyterian church government.
This northern movement first peopled New York from Lake Champlain to Lake Ontario, and from this population was later to come much of the stock for the foundations of population m Michigan and Wisconsin.
In all this movement the pine tree was an important factor, not to be forgotten or overlooked. It has been a sign to beckon the Maine Yankee along the Forty-fifth parallel of latitude across the continent, from the St. John's river to Puget sound.
When Burnet settled in Cincinnati, in 1796, he records that "The entire white population between Pennsylvania and the Mississippi, from the Ohio to the Lakes, was estimated at 15,000."
The French At Green Bay, 1670-1835
The settlements at Green Bay and Prairie du Chien, which were the first permanent ones established in Wisconsin by white men, are worthy of especial study, as their history marks the transition of this state from the age of discovery and romance to the full fruition of our twentieth century civilization. In Daniel S. Durrie's "Green Bay for Two Hundred Years," he thus records its beginnings: "In the year 1669 it was determined to make an effort to establish a mission at Green Bay, and on the 3d of November of this year Father Claudius Allouez left Sault St. Marie for this purpose with two French companions and two canoes of Potawatomie's. With great danger and hardship he reached the Bay and spent the winter preaching to the Potawatomie's, Menominee's, Sacs, Foxes and Winnebago's, whom he found mingled there. He established a mission on the Fox river at the 'Rapide des Peres.' He said his first mass December 3d, the Festival of St. Francis Xavier, and called the mission by his name, at which six Frenchmen at the Bay joined in the devotions with the Father and his two companions. In September of this year he was joined by Father Marquette. AUouez writes that he found here only one village comprising four nations, containing about 600 souls, and says all these nations have their fields of Indian corn, gourds, beans, and tobacco, and saw clouds of swans, bustards and ducks."
From this time onward Green Bay was a Jesuit Mission and from this beginning it was long the entrepot to the vast interior of the Mississippi valley. The Jesuits and French fur hunters began early to find their way to La Pointe and the head of Lake Superior, by way of Sault Ste. Marie, but those settlements were not permanent until about 1835. To quote Mr. Durries again: "The first permanent settlement of Green Bay, and also of Wisconsin, was made in the year 1745. Augustin De Langlade, and his son Charles, left Mackinaw in 1745, and migrated to Green Bay, where they became the principal proprietors of the soil. They settled on the east side of Fox river, near its mouth, somewhat above and opposite the old French post, and near the residence of the late Judge J. P. Arndt. They were accompanied by M. Souligny, the son-in-law of the Sieur Augustin De Langlade, and his wife. They were afterwards joined by Mons. Carron, who had been for more than twenty years an Indian trader, and some others. Probably some eight persons formed this first colony in Wisconsin. Capt. De Velie was in command of the small garrison. The little settlement appeared to have increased very slowly."
By 1756 the French and Indian war had begun and Mr. Durrie says: "Although it does not appear that it had any special influence for good or evil upon the Green Bay settlement as it was too far remote to feel any sensible effects from the operations of the combatants, it, however, opened a new field for the enterprising spirit of Charles De Langlade. In 1755, with the Ottawa's, Chippewa's, Menomonee's and other tribes, he went for the defense of Fort du Quesne, and was a commanding officer. In 1757, he served under Montcalm, in the capture of Fort William Henry, at the head of Lake George. The next year, he was at Ticonderoga and Crown Point, and at the last great battle that settled the question of supremacy, at the Plains of Abraham, where his great commander Montcalm was killed."
Charles De Langlade's stirring history has been well collected in the archives of the Wisconsin State Historical Society, and his scarlet uniform is preserved in the museum of the society.
Green Bay had, for some time previous, been a French military post when, on October 12, 1761, the British took possession as a result of the conquest of Canada the year previous. From this time onward to 1815, Green Bay was under British control.
Mr. August Grignon has said that "from his earliest recollections, say 1785, there were but seven families, who, with their assistants and employees, did not exceed fifty-six souls." In his opinion there might have been a population of one hundred and fifty persons in Green Bay after the close of the war, in 1816.
Schoolcraft reports about five hundred inhabitants in 1820, and there were stationed at Fort Brown, and Camp Smith, three miles above the fort, six hundred United States Infantry. The fort buildings were of logs, enclosed within a stockade. He describes the inhabitants as "with few exceptions, descendants of the original French, who intermarried with Indian women, and who still speak the French and Indian languages. They are indolent, gay and illiterate."
In 1821 the steamer Walk-in-the-Water brought troops and passengers from Detroit, the beginning, as far as records show, of the tide of immigration that, later, and for many years, flowed to Wisconsin by way of the Lakes.
Such New England men as Daniel Whitney, Ebenezer Childs, and the Rev. Eleazer Williams, were among the arrivals about this time. Colonel Childs, in 1825, built the first frame house in the village and he claimed that it was, also, the first frame dwelling in the territory west of Lake Michigan. At this time there were no white settlers between Green Bay and Prairie du Chien. Each of these towns was a county seat. Brown and Crawford counties, the only counties west of Lake Michigan, that were later to be included in Wisconsin, had been created in 1818, by proclamation of Governor Cass, of Michigan territory. They embraced a much larger area than the present state of Wisconsin, as they extended to Michilimackinac county on the north, and to the Lake of the Woods, on the northwest. Michilimackinac originally included a strip of land along the entire south shore of Lake Superior, the southern boundary of which was a line drawn due east and west just above the sources of the south flowing streams, to a point due north of Sturgeon Bay, thence south to Sturgeon Bay, thence south by direct line through Lake Michigan, to the boundary of Indians territory as established in 1805. This boundary put a part of the peninsula, now in Door county, into this northernmost county, which lay to the west of the Straits of Mackinac.
The settlement of the interior was much retarded by Indian ownership, for it was not until 1831 that the United States government purchased the country lying between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi, which had previously been the property of the Menomonee's and Winnebago's.
As late as 1833, so Durrie tells us, Daniel Le Roy, M. L. Martin, and P. B. Grignon went from Green Bay to Milwaukee, following the Lake shore, without finding a white settler enroute. Solomon Juneau was trading at Milwaukee. The government survey of lands near Green Bay was not made until 1834, and a land office was not opened until 1835.
Beginnings At Prairie Du Chien, 1755-1835
This brief story of the settlement of Green Bay is largely duplicated in the history of Prairie du Chien, which was settled at a later date. It is recorded that the French established a fort at Prairie du Chien in 1755, and it is generally believed that a French post had been located here as early as 1689, though its traces had disappeared by 1755.
Capt. Thomas G. Anderson, British trader, and prominent during British occupation, found in the spring of 1800, at Prairie du Chien, "a little village of perhaps ten or fifteen houses," and three farmers about three miles back. With the exception of one "framed house," the houses were all built of logs, plastered with mud, and covered either with cedar, elm, or black ash bark.
Lieutenant Pike, who made the first explorations of the Louisiana Purchase for the United States government, in 1805, found in the vicinity some thirty-seven houses with a population of perhaps three hundred and seventy. This was a mixed population and in the spring and fall, when trade with the Indians was active and the traders and their engagees were in town, the population rose to five or six hundred, besides many Indians.
Judge Lockwood says that in 1816 it was a traders' village of between twenty-five and thirty houses. Colonel Hamilton says that the inhabitants at this time were "principally of French and Indian extraction."
On the 5th of August, 1820, Schoolcraft found "80 buildings" including the military quarters, and a population of five hundred, "exclusive of the garrison." In 1830 the population was placed at six hundred. In 1836, General Smith placed it at one hundred and fifty, and the census of 1840 gave the population of Crawford county, which was everything north and west of the Wisconsin river, including what is now northeastern Minnesota, at 1,502.
Not until 1835 was there any movement of permanent American settlement to this neighborhood, although Prairie du Chien traded by way of the Mississippi river, with St. Louis, and by way of the Wisconsin and Fox rivers, and the Lakes, with Green Bay and the east. Permanent settlers were held back by the fact that the lands were still the property of the Indians.
These outposts were the earliest seats of religious, military, and civil authority, on Wisconsin soil. Their story is typical of the process of evolution from the barbarism of the red native to the civilization of the Anglo-Saxon, who was destined to lead the real and final advance of the Old Northwest. Between the two social states were all the gradations of savage, semi-savage and semi-civilized conditions. The history of Green Bay, which dates back to 1634, and of Prairie du Chien, the earliest record of which was made by Father Marquette, and the permanent settlement of which was placed by the English traveller, Latrobe, as contemporaneous with that of Philadelphia, is the history of much of the American frontier from the Bay of Fundy westward to the Pacific ocean.
Lieutenant Pike, in a foot note to his report to the government of his tour of the Upper Mississippi in 1805, Appendix to Part 1, p. 46, says: "The present village of the Prairie des Chiens, was first settled in the year 1783, and the first settlers were Mr. Giard, Mr. Antaya, and Mr. Dubuque. The old village is about a mile below the present one and had existed during the time the French were possessed of the country."
Schoolcraft, who in 1820 visited Prairie du Chien, also says the old town was commenced "by Mr. Dubuque and his associates in 1783."
Lieutenant Pike's report to the government throws a strong side light upon social conditions in Prairie du Chien, such as would illuminate the story of many another frontier settlement, of that day and later. He says: "There are a few gentlemen residing in Prairie des Chiens, and many others claiming that appellation, but the rivalship of the Indian trade occasions them to be guilty of acts at their wintering grounds which they would blush to be thought guilty of in the civilized world. They possess the spirit of generosity and hospitality in an eminent degree. Almost one-half the inhabitants under twenty years have the blood of the aborigines in their veins. The inside furniture of their (log) houses is decent, and in those of the most wealthy displays a degree of elegance and taste."
In his "History of the Chippewa Valley," T. E. Randall, himself a pioneer of the New England type, gives a description of society in Chippewa Falls, in 1862, that retains much of the earlier frontier color. It describes social conditions which have descended to times much more recent, in many northern Wisconsin localities. The writer says: "As this year marks a new era in the social condition of this Valley, it may be interesting before taking final leave of the old regime, to speak more at length of its peculiar aspects. Without schools, churches, and literary culture, the elements of social intercourse are very much restricted in a neighborhood, especially where several races and nationalities are represented; balls being the only available resource from which all distinction of race, color, language, family, or worldly position was utterly banished. Every winter several of these were given in different localities, some of which were grand affairs, and having frequently attended with my family at these gatherings, I will try to describe a grand ball of that period. It required about all the women in the Valley to afford an opportunity, by keeping them constantly on the floor, for every man to get a partner for a single cotillion set, and accordingly, having sent out invitations to every settlement and family, the party giving the ball would send two men and team with conveyance to every lady whose presence was considered doubtful, and to these it was no use to make excuses, she 'must' go, and nothing short of severe illness would induce them to leave the house without her. One of the long dining halls of the mill company is cleared of tables and most of its benches, and a motley group are assembled, many of whom are the dark-haired daughters of the forest, more, a shade lighter, are from Her Majesty's dominion of Canada, a few from the Red River of the North (now Manitoba), and the rest from all parts of the country, and while the company are assembling greetings are heard in half a dozen different languages, while an invitation to drink awaits every new comer of the men, and by the time the music strikes up several are too far gone to take part in the enjoyments. A survey of the room discloses about three gents to one lady, so there is no danger of any one of the ladies drooping as a 'wall-flower.' It also discloses some half-dozen hardvisaged men, mostly from the South, with revolvers and bowie knives carried conspicuously about their persons, who are ready to rope in and fleece any unsuspecting new comer, or to pick a quarrel with some one against whom an old grudge exists. For several years, Dan McCann, 'Old Dan,' as he is called, was the only hope of any terpsichorean assembly in this Valley, as it was to the touch of his fiddle bow that every light fantastic toe must yield active or passive obedience. He knew nothing of music as a science, but could play a number of marches, cotillions, and one waltz, very well by rote, and woe to the hapless ball or party that failed to secure his indispensable services. A marked feature of all such gatherings was the perfect equality manifested between all parties, their perfect freedom from envy and petty heart-burning on account of dress, family, or other distinctions; in fact they were perfect free-and-easies, and being about the only social recreation, were regarded with much favor by all, and exerted a very healthful influence, the only drawback being the presence of ,the blacklegs, who sometimes made things lively by promiscuous shooting amongst the dancers, whenever a dispute arose at the gaming table. Such is the picture of the highest social enjoyment in the good old time."
Other French Missions And Trading Posts
The French were first, but, as has already been pointed out, they were not nation builders under such conditions. Their unwritten story, much of it lost in the shadowy half lights of the earlier years of the Old Northwest, is, in the main, as the shimmer of dream and fable over the pages of later and substantial history. It is a record so unsubstantial that the imagination may frolic with it at will. From it the savage wood nymph, the painted warrior, the French cavalier, his picturesque and lawless courier de bois, and the early trader and adventurer, may be conjured, as befits the mood.
La Pointe And Fond Du Lac-1660-1835
Beside these two posts, there were early missions and trading camps at Chequamegon Bay, and upon Bay Saint Louis, or Fond du Lac, at the head of Lake Superior. Of the former, Father Chrysostem Verwyst, the most recent historian of the church, says that Father Menard arrived in the Lake Superior country in 1660; that Father Allouez was located at Chequamegon Bay in 1665, and that Father Marquette began his labors there in 1669-71. Du Luth is recorded by the same authority as visiting the Sioux at the head of the Lake, and going up the Bois Brule and down the St. Croix river, in 1679. But these points all had long seasons of suspended animation.
Father Baraga, who revived the mission at La Pointe, and who visited Fond du Lac in 1835, according to Father Verwyst, found a French Canadian, Pierre Cotte, at the head of the Lake, who "had been trading with the Indians for upwards of thirty years." He mentions no other white man. Father, afterward Bishop Baraga, was a German Jesuit, and his appearance was the turning point, and marked the change from French to German church direction in that field.
Col. Charles Whittlesey's "Recollections of a Tour Through Wisconsin in 1832," in the Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. 1, says, "the red man had gone from Mackinac," and "the white man has gone after him to 'Fond du Lac' at the extreme of Lake Superior."
The first settlement at the City of Superior was made in 1853, according to Ritchie.
These were the earliest settlements .in Wisconsin that owed their origin chiefly to the fur trade.
The "lead Diggings"
But there was another important settlement, and one of a very different character in the southwestern corner of Michigan territory, in the future territory of Wisconsin. It was variously known to the early records as '' The Lead District," or "The Lead Diggings.''
In a report to his superior officer, in 1842, Capt. William H. Bell, of the Ordnance Department of the Army, says: "The amount of mineral land in Wisconsin is more than four times as great as is to be found in Iowa and Illinois combined."
To Nicholas Perrot is credited the discovery of this lead region, in 1689, when on his way to the Upper Mississippi. In his voyage up the river in 1700, he evidently heard of the lead district, upon both sides of the river, at what is now Galena, and at Dubuque. The Indians owned the mines, had used them before white men appeared and later used their product in trade with the whites.
Stories of the wealth of these mines were widely spread abroad until the whites were tempted by the glowing accounts of their riches and there were "stampedes" into the lead district not unlike those of more recent times into the Alaskan gold placers, or when Indian lands have been opened for settlement in Oklahoma and the later day New West.
Colonel Whittlesey, writing in 1838, of his visit in the year 1832, says of the lead deposits, "the supply appears to be inexhaustible," and he describes the conditions he found as follows:
"Arriving at Galena, we found the place crowded with people. The mineral riches of the Dubuque country were well known, and it was expected that General Scott would secure the title to a considerable tract west of the river, including the richest mines. The negotiation was still pending at Rock Island relative to the purchase. Thousands of adventurers lined the eastern shore of the Mississippi, ready to seize upon the possession and pre-emption rights in the new territory the moment they became perfect. In this case as in many others, guards of soldiers were necessary to keep the whites from taking unlawful occupancy of Indian lands."
This condition has since been common to the opening of every Indian reservation in the West. Friction between the intruding whites, who rushed into southwestern Wisconsin, and the Indian owners, helped to bring on trouble with the Winnebago's in 1828. As late as 1842, Capt. William H. Bell reported to the government a condition of affairs in the titles of lands in the Wisconsin lead mines that probably suggests the lawless character of much of the earlier controversy with the Indians. After describing in detail some of the fraudulent methods of obtaining titles and of obscuring, with fraudulent clouds, perfectly good titles to lands, Captain Bell says:
"Thus, by a flagitious and complicated course of perjury and injustice, locking up by injunctions, many of the public mines; depriving the United States, for seven or eight years, of all income from the greater proportion of the most valuable of the same; and producing in the community infinite confusion of titles, vexation, derangement and litigation."
This quotation is evidence of conditions of society familiar to the frontier mining camp, remote from civilization and direct contact with official authority. Similar conditions have recently raised questions as to the title to coal and other mineral lands in Alaska territory.
[Source: Wisconsin: Its Story and Biography, 1848-1913, Volume 1; By Ellis Baker Usher; Publ. 1914; Transcribed and donated by Andrea Stawski Pack.]