RECOLLECTIONS OF WISCONSIN SINCE 1820
BY COL. EBENEZER CHILDS, OF LA CROSSE.
I was born in the town of Barre, Worcester county, Massachusetts, April 3rd, 1797. At the age of ten, I was left an orphan, and never inherited a cent from any person. I was turned loose upon the wide world without any one to advise or protect me, and had to struggle through poverty.
I remained in my native State until 1816. I was then nineteen years of age, and was hard at work at fifty cents per day, when the Town Collector called on me for a minister tax. The amount was one dollar and seventy-five cents, which appeared to me like a large sum to pay a minister, who performed no manual labor. I told the collector I had no money, and inquired what would be the consequence if I failed to pay the tax? "Pay or go to jail," was the reply; I didn’t like the jail alternative, so I told the collector he must wait until I could get some money. He consented, and called again in a few days; but I was still moneyless. He insisted on the payment of the tax; I finally put him off until the next Monday, promising to get the money on Saturday, and take it to him in time on Monday, so he could make his returns, as that was his last day. It began to be close times with me--I must pay, go to jail, or run away. I determined on the latter course, settled with my employer on Saturday night, who paid me for my services, and made the necessary preparations for a quiet departure.With a fine pony, and a few articles of clothing, which I packed into an old pair of saddle-bags, I started on Sunday morning after the people had gone to church. I went as much as I could across lots, and along unfrequented roads, in order to get past the church without being discovered. Indeed, I resorted to as much caution to get out of town as I should have done had I stolen a sheep. I finally got safely beyond the limits of the town; but in passing through another town, I had necessarily to go close to the church, in passing which I was hailed from the front door. I cast a furtive glance in that direction, and saw a long-spliced Yankee coming towards me. I spurred up the pony, and kept out of Yankee’s reach. Soon finding that his long legs could not overtake my nimble horse, he went back, and mounted a fine horse in the church shed, and gave me chase. By this time my horse was on the keen jump. Had the tithing-man been a good rider, he would have overtaken me; as it was, after pursuing about two miles, he gave up the chase, and returned. We made more disturbance along the road than an army would have made if allowed to pass unmolested. I arrived at my sister's that night, and left early the next morning for the State of New York. My business took me off the main traveled road from Boston to Albany, and when I regained it, I learned that a tithing-man and several assistants had passed in hot pursuit, but I was too smart for them, and evaded them all. It was at that time a violation of law for a traveler to journey on the Sabbath in Massachusetts, and if he could not be arrested on that day by the tithing-man, he could be followed and apprehended anywhere within the State. When I crossed the State line, and got into New York, I felt greatly relieved. I was then in the land of freedom, and out of the reach of oppression.I did not re-visit my native state until twenty-four years after my runaway. Everything had changed; the obnoxious laws that had driven me from the land of my nativity had been repealed, and more liberal ideas prevailed.
After my hegira, I stopped at Troy, on the Hudson, the population of which, at that time, was about two thousand. Thence I went to Saratoga Springs, which had one public house and about two hundred inhabitants; after remaining there three months, I went to Utica, which had a population of about twelve hundred. I tarried there a short time, and went to Homer, Cortland county, remaining there a year; thence I went to Waterloo, Seneca county, and continued there until the winter of 1818-19, when I went to Buffalo, where I tarried until the opening of navigation. Meanwhile I visited Black Rock, the population of which was about the same as that of Buffalo, al. out six hundred. I also visited Niagara Falls, nearly all around in a state of nature, scarcely any improvements, with some twelve families residing there.
The first steam-boat built on the Upper Lakes, called the Walk-in-the-Water, then lay in a small stream below Black Rock. She ran from Buffalo to Detroit, making the round trip once in two weeks. I left Buffalo in April, on board a small schooner; we encountered head winds, and got out of fuel. All the passengers were requested to try and pick up driftwood, which drifted off from shore; at length a large tree was discovered, when all hands were called to try and stop it. I thought I would be very smart, so I got over the stern of the vessel, and hung myself down so as to hitch my foot into a crotch of the tree; the vessel meanwhile pressing on in one direction and the tree floating the other. The consequence was, I was forced to let go my hold on the vessel, and dropped on to the tree; and there I was, a-straddle of it, in the middle of Lake Erie, the laughing-stock of the crew and passengers. After awhile the Captain lowered his small boat, came and picked me up. We at length reached Cleveland, after a passage of eight days, where I remained until the spring of the following year.
It was very unhealthy in Cleveland at that time; and, soon after my arrival, I was attacked with the ague and fever, which stuck to me through the whole season and ensuing winter. In the spring of 1820, my doctors told me that I must leave that place, and go up the Lakes, if I would get over the disease. So on the first of April, I left Cleveland on board a small schooner, bound for Detroit, and arrived there after a three days' passage. There were but few Americans then in Detroit, the inhabitants being mostly French and half-breeds. There was but one brick house in the place, which had been built by Gov. HULL before the war of 1812. I remained in Detroit but a short time, when I took passage in a small schooner for Mackinaw; thence I went to Sault Ste. Marie, where there were no Americans, and but a few British traders. I returned to Mackinaw, which was the head quarters of the American Fur Company. Here all the furs taken in the whole North-west were brought, and re-packed for New York; and here the traders connected with this company obtained their goods in August or September, conveyed them to their respective trading stations, remained during the fall and winter, and repaired with their furs to Mackinaw in June or July.
About this time, Congress passed an act prohibiting foreigners from obtaining licenses to trade in the Indian country (1). So the Fur Company had to employ American clerks, who had to get the necessary license. It was about this period also, through the influence of JOHN JACOB ASTOR, that the Secretary of War designated certain points throughout the Indian country as most suitable for trading establishments, and licenses to trade were confined to some one of these localities. This was done to favor the American Fur Company, for if a license was granted to some adventurous trader not connected with that Company, he was only permitted to trade at some designated point already occupied by that opulent and formidable Company; and the consequence was, that the Company would sell goods at half their real value, and thus drive away the new opposition trader who could not compete with them, and then the Company would again put up their goods to the old prices, and soon make up for the little loss sustained while performing the necessary process of breaking down all show of opposition.
Among the traders was WILLIAM FARNSWORTH, who now resides at Sheboygan. He had been a clerk in the employ of the American Fur Company; but having had some difficulty with his employers, he left them and went to the Indian Agent at Mackinaw to obtain a license to trade with the Indians at the mouth of the Menomonee river. The Agent being a great favorite of the American Fur Company, refused to grant the license, when FARNSW0RTH went to Sault Ste. Marie, and readily obtained one from the Indian Agent there located. He afterwards brought suit against the Mackinaw Agent for refusing the trading license, and recovered heavy damages.
FARNSWORTH located his trading post near the mouth of the Menomonee River, close alongside that of the American Fur Company. The Company sent an experienced trader to bring their peculiar tactics, usual in such cases, to bear upon the man whom they regarded as little better than an audacious interloper. The Company's Agent or trader, like the craft generally, was fond of the "ardent"; he had a young Indian, in his employ, whom he would send to FARNSWORTH with eight or ten muskrat skins to exchange for whiskey, and FARNSWORTH was always so fortunate as to have a little left. This traffic continued for a long time, until one of the Company's Agents came around to inspect the affairs at that post, and soon found that the trader had but few furs; and upon instituting an, inquiry into the matter, the little Indian informed the Agent that the trader had bought a great many furs, which had been sent to FARNSWORTH'S for whiskey almost as fast as they had been taken. The reckless and improvident trader was discharged, and another sent to supply his place. The new trader had a half-breed wife, quite a good looking woman, who accompanied him from one trading-post to another; but he, too, like his predecessor, was fond of his drops. FARNSWORTH soon made friends with him, inviting him to his house, and treating him freely; and the upshot of the matter was that FARNSWORTH soon obtained his furs by barter, and coaxed away his wife, when the poor fellow, furless and wifeless, the next spring left the country.
About this time the Agent of the American Fur Company reported FARNSWORTH to the commanding officer at Fort Howard, as selling whiskey to the Indians contrary to the laws regulating the Indian trade. The commandant sent down an officer with a file of men to destroy FARNSWORTH'S whiskey, and drive him out of the Indian country. Upon arriving at the place, the officer informed FARNSWORTH of the object of his visit; when the latter expressed his astonishment that anyone should have made such a complaint against him; inviting the officer to search thoroughly and see if he could find any whiskey; that he freely confessed he kept a little good brandy for himself and friends, but that he never sold any, and concluded by inviting the officer to take a little of his choice liquor. He readily consented. FARNSWORTH then asked the officer if he might offer some to his men, which was granted; and he helped the soldiers to a bountiful supply. The officer stuck closely to the brandy, and sent the soldiers in search of whiskey; but they did not search very thoroughly, and after paying their respects once more to the brandy, reported that they could not find any whiskey, and that they believed that it was nothing but malice that prompted the Fur Company to charge FARNSWORTH with vending whiskey to the Indians. The report was perfectly satisfactory to the officer; and FARNSWORTH gave them all a good supper, lodging and breakfast, and plenty of the beloved brandy, and then parted good friends--the generous trader not forgetting to supply them with several bottles of the favorite beverage to last them on their return journey. During this farcical search, FARNSWORTH had four or five barrels of whiskey buried close by his house.
The Fur Company now hit upon another expedient to get FARNSWORTH out of the country. A large party of Indians was employed to go to his house and seize his goods and whiskey, if he declined to give them to them. So in the winter of 1820-21, they made their appearance, and frankly told their business, adding that they were brave men, determined to carry out their design. FARNSW0RTH told them in return that he too was brave, and would put their boasted bravery to the test; and then produced a keg nearly full of gunpowder, with the head out, and carefully inserted the lower end of a lighted candle in the combustible article, so that the light was about six inches above the powder, and then composedly lit his pipe and sat down beside the Indians, saying he would soon see who the brave men were. The Indians soon rushed out of the house as for their lives, when FARNSWORTH cautiously removed the candle so as not to drop a spark. After this exhibition of bravery, the Indians became very friendly with FARNSWORTH, and the Fur Company gave up their fruitless efforts against him. I give this sketch of WILLIAM FARNSWORTH to show to what extremities the Fur Company would carry their plans in order to rid themselves of any one who attempted to oppose them, or interfere with their desired monopoly of the Indian trade. I may add that FARNSWORTH remained at his post, near the mouth of the Menomonee, a great many years; and by his woman whom he took away from the trader, he raised three fine children, all of whom have made good citizens.
At Mackinaw I engaged with a man of the name of BURR, who was going to Green Bay with a stock of goods. I took charge of the goods, and placing them on board of a small schooner, sailed for Green Bay, where I arrived on the 9th of May, 1820. I rented a store three miles above Fort Howard, opened my goods and groceries and commenced trading. About that time a detachment of troops was sent to Green Bay to build another fort on the east side of Fox River, a short distance above where I was located. The soldiers were daily passing and re-passing from one garrison to the other; and would frequently call at my place and get something to drink. The officers finding it out, forbid the soldiers calling at my trading establishment. A few days after, an officer called and inquired what I kept for sale? I replied that I kept all kinds of groceries, and invited him to take a drink of good brandy. He did so. Then learning for a certainty that I kept liquor, he asked me if I sold any to the soldiers? I frankly confessed that I had done so, when he told me that I must not do so any more, and advised me to close up my business and leave the country, or I would be sent out. I asked him who would send me out? He said that the commanding officer would. Mounting his horse, he still made use of abusive language. By this time my Ebenezer got up to the boiling point, when I sprang towards him with the intention of pulling him off of his horse, and giving him a sound thrashing; but he was too quick for me, for he put spurs to his horse, and was soon out of my reach.
The next day a sergeant and file of men made their appearance to apprehend me and convey me to the fort. The sergeant was a fine fellow, and I reasoned with him, asserting that I was a free born Yankee, in my own castle, and should not go to the fort alive; and added, that I did not wish to have any trouble with him, and if the commanding officer wished to see me he had better come where I was. I then treated the sergeant and his men, and they left me unmolested. The sergeant afterwards told me that when he reported to the commanding officer, the latter flew into a great passion, charging the sergeant with cowardice, and declaring that he would go himself and take me dead or alive, and send me out of the country. I presume, upon the sober second thought, he concluded it would be the better part of valor to let me alone, for I never heard anything more about sending me out of the country. By way of punishment, he issued an order forbidding me entering the fort--a thing I did not care to do. So the prohibition amounted to nothing. After that, the soldiers' wives would come and buy sugar of me, first carefully depositing a two quart canteen well filled with whiskey in the bottom of a large tin kettle, and packing the sugar on top, and smuggle it into the fort. The sentinel would hail them as they were re-entering the fort to learn what they had; when they would answer sugar, and looking into the pail the sentinel would let them pass. I remained unmolested for six months, while two other establishments, similar to mine, were torn down and their goods destroyed.
That summer DANIEL WHITNEY came to Green Bay, with a stock of goods. He was the first American who opened a store at Green Bay. That fall General WILLIAM DICKINSON came with a stock of provisions and groceries; and three more Americans came that fall. All of these early settlers are now dead, except Mr. WHITNEY, who still resides at Green Bay. Gen. DICKINSON died some ten years ago.
There were quite a number of very respectable French families residing at the Bay when I arrived there; Judge LAWE, Judge PORLIER, and seven brothers and two sisters named GRIGNON, all of whom are now dead, except AUGUSTIN GRIGNON, who now resides at the Big Butte des Morts, on Fox River. They were all engaged in the Indian trade under the American Fur Company, each cultivating a small quantity of land. Their manners and customs were of the most primitive character. They never used the yoke for their oxen; but instead, fastened sticks across the oxen's horns, to draw by, and mostly used for tugs, rope made out of bark. Their plows were very uncouth, the plow-shares being about as large as a smoothing-iron; while the beam was about twelve feet long, with a pair of wheels near the fore end to keep it sufficiently elevated from the ground. They could not plow within fifteen feet of their fences. I made the first ox-yoke that was ever seen at the Bay. Their principal food was wild game, fish and hulled corn. They caught large quantities of sturgeon and trout, and they made immense quantities of maple sugar. At the proper season in the spring, the entire settlement would remove to their sugar-camps, often remain two months, each family making eight or ten hundred pounds of the finest sugar I ever saw.
In the winter of 1820, the President sent out a commissioner to examine the land claims of the French settlers at Green Bay. Under the ancient French regime, they had guarantied to them as much land as they would cultivate. In examining these claims, it was found that while they varied in extent, they were very narrow on the river, running back three miles. The next spring, the President sent out patents for these claims. Early in the season of 1821, a large delegation of Oneida and Stockbridge Indians arrived at Green Bay, to make arrangements with the Menomonee Indians to settle in the country. The arrangement was made, and the Oneidas located six miles west of the Bay, and the Stockbridges twenty-four miles above Green Bay on Fox River. The Oneidas still reside where they first located, but the Stockbridges subsequently removed to the east side of Lake Winnebago where they still remain.
During the winter of 1820-21, I built a store for DANIEL WHITNEY, three miles above Fort Howard, on the east side of Fox River; and this was the first one of the kind erected in the place, all others being mere log shanties used by the Indian traders. WHITNEY left Green Bay about the first of January for the East, traveling on foot to Detroit. He returned in the spring with a large assortment of goods, and opened the largest store west of the Lakes. The lumber which I used in the erection of this building was all sawed with a whip-saw.
In 1821 I made a trip to St. Louis in a bark canoe up Fox River, across the Portage, and down the Wisconsin to Prairie du Chien, and thence down the Mississippi. I was sixteen days on my journey, and saw but seven white men in the whole distance, outside the forts. I met one keel-boat on the Mississippi bound up for Fort Armstrong at Rock Island. There was a small garrison opposite the mouth of the Des Moines River. There were but few Americans and few Spaniards at St. Louis; the inhabitants were mostly French. There was but one brick building in the place, and no buildings were located on Front street, or where the levee now is. I encamped on the sand beach, near where the old market is located. I remained two weeks, did my business, when I was advised to return by way of the Illinois River.
I started by that route, and the next day was taken down with the ague and fever, and the day following one of my men was also taken with the same complaint, which left me with one Indian and one Frenchman to paddle my canoe. I did not provide a sufficiently large stock of provisions when I left St. Louis, presuming that I could get plenty on the Illinois. But all I was able to obtain was, one ham full of maggots, and one peck of Indian meal. I saw but one house from the mouth of the Illinois to Fort Clark, where Peoria now is; at which latter place one French trader resided. When we reached there, I was completely exhausted, and remained a few days to recruit a little, when we left to prosecute our journey. We continued up the Illinois to the junction of the Kankakee and Eau Plaine, and thence up the Eau Plaine to where I supposed we had to make a portage to Chicago River; but I could not see any signs of the portage. There had been heavy rains for several days, which had so raised the streams that they over-flowed their banks. I concluded that I had gone far enough for the portage, so I left the Eau Plaine and took a north-east direction. After traveling a few miles, I found the current of the Chicago River. The whole country was inundated; I found not less than two feet of water all the way across the portage.
That night I arrived at Chicago, pitched my tent on the bank of the Lake, and went to the Fort for provisions. I was not, however, able to obtain any; the commissary informing me that the public stores were so reduced, that the garrison were subsisting on half rations, and he knew not when they would get any more. I went to Col. BEAUBIEN, who furnished me with a small supply. I found two traders there from Mackinaw; and as my men were all sick, I exchanged my tent and canoe for a horse, and took passage on board the Mackinaw boat as far as Manitowoc. One of our party had to go by land and ride the horse. There were at this time but two families residing outside of the Fort at Chcago, those of Mr. KINZIE and Col. BEAUBIEN.
(1) This act was passed at the session of 1815--16: see Lockwood's Narrative Wis. Hist. Coll. ii. p. 102, 103. L.C.D.
After we left Chicago, we did not see any person until we reached Milwaukee, where we found SOLOMON JUNEAU, and thence went to Manitowoc, where I left the boat and met the man and horse. I was unable to walk, but mounted the horse and started for Green Bay. One of my men, who was also much reduced, attempted to walk, but did not travel far when he gave out. We had to leave him, but provided him a shelter, a kettle of water, and half of our provisions. We hurried on as fast as we could, and as soon as I reached Green Bay, I despatched two men with a horse and necessaries to bring in the man we left behind. They found him alive, and by slow travel brought him to the Bay. When I arrived at the Bay, no one knew me, I was so changed by sickness and exposure. I was sick for nearly a year.
About this time, Dr. MADISON, the surgeon of the troops at Green Bay, started for the East with two soldiers. When near Manitowoc, and the soldiers a short distance in advance on foot, the Doctor was shot from his horse, by an Indian in ambush, the whole charge lodging in the back of his neck. The soldiers instantly returned and found him badly wounded; when one of them mounted the Doctor's horse and returned to Green Bay for help. A number of officers and soldiers started for Manitowoc, but when they arrived the Doctor was dead. There were no Indians to be seen. They carried the body to Green Bay for interment. It was some time before the murderer was taken; he was sent to Detroit for trial, together with another Indian who had killed a Frenchman about that time. I had to go to Detroit as a witness; both Indians were found guilty, and executed at Detroit (1).
About this period, ROBERT IRWIN was appointed the first Justice of the Peace and the first Clerk of the Court, under Michigan authority west of Lake Michigan; and near the same time, in 1821 or '22, he was appointed the first Postmaster in what is now Wisconsin. The mail was then carried from Green Bay to Detroit and back in the winter season by the soldiers; if we received the mall twice in the course of six months we thought it a great treat. In the summer the mail was transmitted by schooner to and from Detroit some four or five times during the period of navigation.
ROBERT IRWIN was the first member elected from the west side of Lake Michigan to the Michigan Territorial legislature, and, I think, served two sessions. He was subsequently appointed Indian Agent for the Winnebagoes, and stationed at Fort Winnebago, after its erection in 1828, and died there; his remains were brought to Green Bay for interment. There was quite a large family of the IRWINS, who came early to Green Bay--ROBERT IRWIN and lady; their sons ROBERT, ALEXANDER J. and SAMUEL, and three daughters. They have all passed away except two daughters, who are married and reside in Green Bay--Mrs. J. V. SUYDAM, and Mrs. FOLLETT. ROBERT IRWIN married a lady at Eric, Pennsylvania, and brought her to Green Bay, and their eldest daughter, now Mrs. MARY C MITCHELL, of Green Bay, was the first American child born in what is now Wisconsin.
Old Judge CHARLES REAUME lived about two years after I settled in the country. He was a man of great importance when I first came to the Bay, and for a long time previously. He had been appointed a sort of Justice, I think by General HARRISON, when he was Governor of Indiana Territory. When REAUME held his courts, he would dress in his British uniform red coat, and cocked hat, and put on an air of pompous dignity. There was a noted case brought before him by a young lady for seduction and breach of marriage promise. After hearing the testimony, the honorable court rendered judgment in this wise--the seducer was sentenced to purchase a calico dress for the injured lady, and two dresses for the baby, and the constable to pay the costs by splitting a thousand rails for the Judge. The decision of the Court was complied with, though the constable was not well pleased with the part assigned him--not being able exactly to comprehend why he should be mulcted in damages; but at length agreed to split the rails on condition that the Judge should board him while doing so. This was paying pretty roundly for the honors of office.
The first jury trial held at Green Bay before ROBERT IRWIN, I was the plaintiff. The late JAMES H. LOCKWOOD, of Prairie du Chien, happening to be at Green Bay at the time of the trial, I employed him as my attorney, and with his assistance, I gained my suit. The defendant in the case was a Frenchman. He and his friends were outrageous in their denunciations of the d--d Yankee court and jury. The next trial which was brought before Squire IRWIN, was one in which a colored man claimed pay for labor done for L. GRIGNON. A jury was impanneled, when GRIGNON, the defendant, brought in his account as an offset against the negro's claim; and in the account, tobacco was charged at four dollars per pound, common clay pipes at fifty cents each, common calico for the Indian trade at one dollar and fifty cents per yard. The jury took the responsibility to reduce GRIGNON'S account one half, and striking a balance, returned a verdict in the darkey's favor, at which he was greatly rejoiced, while his opponent was not a little restive under his discomfiture.
About 1822 or 1823, DANIEL WHITNEY brought his wife to Green Bay. In 1824, Hon. JAMES D. DOTY was appointed Judge for the North-Western district of Michigan Territory, comprising the counties of Mackinaw, Brown, and Crawford-the two latter being the only counties west of Lake Michigan. The first term of Judge DOTY'S court was held at Green Bay, when he charged the grand jury to inquire particularly in relation to persons living with women to whom they were not legally married. The grand jury found thirty-six bills of indictment against inhabitants of Green Bay for fornication, and two bills for adultery. I was a witness before the grand jury in eighteen cases, and I was also one of the jury. When my turn came, the foreman requested me to withdraw, when I was hauled over the coals, but not finding any testimony against me, I was left off. The court was, however, very lenient towards those who had been indicted; the Judge informing' them that if they would get married within ten days, and produce a certificate of the fact, they would not be fined. They all complied with this requirement, except two, who stood their trial. Their plea was, that they were legally married, had lived a great many years with their wives, and had large families of children--that their marriages had been solemnized according to the customs of the Indians. he court took a different view of the legality of those marriages, and fined those two men fifty dollars each and costs. We all thought at the time that Judge DOTY was rather hard in, breaking in rough shod, as he did, upon our arrangements; but, w had to submit, and make the best we could of the matter.
A sort time before the first term of Judge DOTY'S court, HENRY S. BAIRD came to Green Bay, and was appointed Prosecuting Attorney by the Judge. BAIRD was the first lawyer that ever located at Green Bay, and prosecuted all the cases which came before the court at its first session, except one--in which he was employed by the defendant, because, I presume, he got better pay. In that case, the court in its wisdom saw fit to appoint me as prosecutor; and I examined the witnesses, and made so able a plea, that I beat BAIRD all hollow. When BAIRD settled at Green Bay, he brought his wife with him from Mackinaw. About this time, Judge DOT¥ brought his wife to the Bay, and I believe that his son CHARLES DOTY was the first American male child born in what is now Wisconsin. Mrs. BAIRD and Mrs. WHITNEY had children about this time.
JOHN P. ARNDT and family came to the Bay about this time from Pennsylvania; he had three sons and two daughters. MARY, the eldest daughter, was married to Captain COTTON of the army, soon after the arrival of her family at the Bay. Judge ARNDT opened the first tavern, and established the first public ferry across Fox River, about this period. HENRY S. BAIRD, A. J. IRWIN and I were appointed Commissioners to lay out a road on the cast side of Fox River, from opposite of Fort Howard to the Grand Kau-ka-lin. The French people, through whose farms the road was laid, were decidedly hostile to such an innovation upon the customs of the country; but we went on and opened the road, and in due time they not only became reconciled to, but even liked the new improvement.
In 1825, I built at Green Bay, for Judge DOTY, the first framed house ever erected in Wisconsin; it was then considered a great curiosity, and hundreds came to see it, pronouncing it a great display of architecture. About this time, Gen. A. G. ELLIS brought his wife to Green Bay, and he with his associate, J. V. SUYDAM, started the first newspaper ever printed west of Lake Michigan--a sort of seven-by-nine sheet, which appeared semi-occasionally.
In this year, 1825, Col. WM. S. HAMILTON, son of the celebrated ALEXANDER HAMILTON, drove the first cattle to Green Bay, for the use of the troops. He purchased his cattle in Illinois, and drove them by way of Chicago.
About this time the head chief of the Menomonee Indians died, leaving no male offspring. The hereditary male line having run out, there arose a great deal of hard feeling among the Menomonees. Each of the different bands claimed that they had the best right to elect the new head-chief. The difficulty was reported to the President, and he appointed Gov. CASS and Col. T. L. McKINNEY, commissioners. They came to Green Bay in 1827, and called the Indians together at Little Butte des Morts; and after examining the claims of the different bands, they selected OSHKOSH as the one best qualified to serve his people as head-chief, and when the decision was made, all parties seemed pleased with it. We had a good time at the treaty, and all parted good friends.
In 1827, I got permission, in connection with Judge ARNDT, from the Secretary of War, to build a saw-mill on the Indian lands, provided the principal Menomonee chiefs would give their consent. This was granted, and we agreed to give them three barrels of flour per annum for the privilege. We commenced the erection of a mill twenty-six miles below Fort Howard, on the west side of the Bay. I made a contract with a man to put up the mill and erect a dam.
Judge ARNDT took the contract to supply the troops at Fort Howard with fresh beef. He employed me to go to Illinois or Missouri to purchase a drove of cattle for him. I left the Bay the fore part of March, in company with ARNDT'S son and a Menomonee Indian, and two horses. We travelled through he wilderness to Milwaukee, where we found SOLOM0N JUNEAU. From him we got a small supply of provisions, and started for Chicago. We took the wrong trail, and went too far west, and soon found ourselves on the west side of the Eau Plaine River, which we could not cross. We got out of provisions the fourth day. I heard the discharge of a gun in the distance, and started in the direction of the report. I found an Indian, who had a large quantity of muskrats; I bought a number, and had a fine feast. We got the Indian to take us and our baggage across the Eau Plaine in his canoe, making our horses swim alongside. We learned that we had passed Chicago, having gone some fifteen miles to the west. The Indian put us on the right-track, and we arrived at Chicago the next morning pretty well used up. We remained there a few days. The place had not improved any since 1821; only two families yet resided there, those of KINZIE and Col. BEAUBIEN. I left our horses there, bought a canoe, and started for St. Louis. After a passage of six days we arrived there, and remaining a few days, concluded the cattle required could be best purchased in Illinois; and therefore proceeded up the river as far as where Alton is now situated. Leaving my canoe at the mouth of Wood Creek, I selected Carrollton as my head-quarters to purchase and collect my drove. I may here state that while in St. Louis there was an arrival of a small flat-bottomed steam-boat, and the whole population rushed to the river to see the great sight.
It took me some six weeks to effect my purchases. I purchased altogether two hundred and sixty-two head very cheap, paying about two dollars per hundred pounds for beef cattle, and from five to seven dollars a piece for cows. I left Carrollton about the middle of May; passed through Jacksonville where there were a few houses; the next place was Springfield, which had a population of about two hundred. Thence I went to Sangamon, where I met EBENEZER BRIGHAM, from Worcester county, Massachusetts. He was the first live Yankee that I had seen from my native county, since I had left there in 1816, and I was the first that he had seen from that county. I had a yoke of blind oxen that gave my men a great deal of trouble to drive. As BRIGHAM had a tread-mill, I thought my blind oxen would do as well for that purpose as though they could see; so I proposed to the gentleman from Worcester county to exchange my oxen for a horse. He said as we were both from Worcester county he would try and accommodate me. I told him my oxen were a little blind, but I thought they would do him good service. After it became a little dark, I took him to see my oxen; he liked them very well. He then took me to see his horse. It was by this time quite dark; I did not examine him much, but he appeared to be a fine looking animal. We exchanged honorably, as we were both from Worcester county; we did not wish to take any advantage of each other as we were from the same native region. In a word, we felt and acted like brothers. But the next morning, when I joined the drove, I found that my new horse was as blind as a bat, and I do believe he had not seen for ten years; and he appeared older than the ancient hills around us! But it was all right, as friend BRIGHAM and I were both from Worcester county. We have, many a time since, laughed heartily over our early trade.
Thence we went to the rapids of the Illinois River, a short distance above where Ottawa now stands. We crossed the river at the Rapids, and struck the Fox River which empties into the Illinois at Ottawa; followed up the Fox River to Mequanego, and there found a great many Pottawattamie Indians. They were rather ugly in appearance, and threatened to kill my cattle. I told them if they killed my cattle I would kill them; and then I unstrapped my rifle, cocked and primed it, and then told them to fire on my drove if they wished, but they finally thought best not to trouble me. Thence I went to Big Foot Lake, and thence to where Waukesha now is, where I found three or four hundred Indians with some of whom I was acquainted. They informed me that some of the Winnebagoes had been to their village with their war-wampum, inviting the Pottawattamies to join them in war against the pale faces. My intention had been to go with my drove through the country to Winnebago Lake, and thence to Green Bay. Had I pursued that route, I should have had to pass through the Winnebago country, which the Pottawattamies advised me not to do. After reflection, I concluded to steer my course for Lake Michigan, in reaching which I had to pass through swamps and marshes. I struck the Lake where Port Washington, or Ozaukee, now is. We were out of provisions, except fresh beef, and had been for a long time. I was compelled to kill a young creature every two or three days; we had no salt, and the weather was so warm, that the meat soon spoiled, and we had nothing whatever to eat with it.
We followed the Lake shore to Sheboygan, where we tarried a few days to recruit the cattle; and while there, young ARNDT left us for the Bay, where he probably thought he would fare better. We next aimed at Manitowoc; and at Pine River the trail or path passed near the bank of the Lake. I had heavy packs on my blind horse which I got from the Worcester county gentleman; and unfortunately in his blindness he struck his pack against a tree, which gave a lee lurch, and over the bank he went some eighty feet down to the Lake shore, before reaching which he was stripped of his packs by some of the old trees which had slid down the bank, through which and over which he passed during his exciting if not fatal adventure. I looked over the bank, and saw my poor blind horse stretched on the sand beach, and apparently dead. The men went down and secured the packs, but left the poor horse alone "in his glory". We then made the best of our way to Green Bay, where we arrived July 3d, with two hundred and ten head of cattle. I had killed four for food, and thus forty-eight head had strayed away. I remained two days at the Bay, when I returned in order to find the missing cattle. I found eight head on Root River, some three miles above where Racine now is; at Milwaukee I found a cow and calf that SOLOMON JUNEAU had purchased from the Indians, and I paid him what he had paid the Indians. With these nine head of cattle and the calf, I returned to Green Bay. The other missing thirty-nine head had been killed by the Indians I had no doubt, as I found a great many hides and horns that I could identify at their villages.
Early in this year, 1827, the Winnebagoes became quite hostile. They attacked a keel-boat on the Mississippi, between Prairie du Chien and Fort Snelllng; the crew mostly saved themselves by laying down on the bottom of the boat. There were thirty ball holes pierced through the sides of the boat. About the same time, they killed a part of two families a few miles from Prairie du Chien; one of the families, some eight miles north-east of that place, were engaged in making maple sugar. These depredations were reported to the President, and the Secretary of War ordered out troops to arrest the murderers. There were but a few soldiers at Green Bay. The commanding officer at Fort Howard requested the citizens to turn out as volunteers, and unite with what force he could spare from the fort. Gen. DICKINS0N and I raised a company of Oneida and Stockbridge Indians, sixty-two in number. We were mustered into Col. WHISTLER'S detachment at the Little Butte des Morts. I had enlisted a young woman as a washer woman, but Col. WHISTLER would not permit it, so I had to discharge my female warrior very much against my will. We all went up Fox River in boats and canoes; I was placed in the advance boat, to look out ahead for breakers. Our progress was slow, but we at length arrived at the Portage, with our scalps all safe on our heads.
We encamped on the ground where Fort Winnebago was built in the following year, 1828; the Winnebagoes were encamped on the Wisconsin, where Portage City is now located and were several hundred strong. We had several rumors that they were determined not to surrender the murderers, but to give us battle. We had been there but a few days when we heard that General ATKINSON was on his way to join us, ascending the Wisconsin in boats. The Winnebagoes heard the news of ATKINSON's approach the day before we did; we discovered a great stir in the Winnebago camp, shouting, hallooing and dancing, and we soon after discovered a party of thirty warriors leave their camp and advanced towards ours. Col. WHISTLER ordered the whole detachment under arms. I was the officer of the guard; he ordered me to take the guard, and go down to the river, and ascertain what the Winnebagoes wanted. They soon arrived, singing and shouting the deathsong. I crossed the river with my guard and an interpreter. They informed me that they had come to deliver up the murderers; I received them, recrossed the river, when they showed me the three murderers, and said that those were the guilty ones. The principal one was called the RED-BIRD. He was dressed in fine style, having on a suit made of neatly dressed buffalo skins, perfectly white, and as soft as a kid-glove; and on each shoulder, to supply the place of an epaulette, was fastened a preserved red bird-hence the name of this noted chief, RED BIRD. The other two Indians were well dressed.
While I was engaged in putting up a guard-tent, we heard the roar of cannon from Gen. ATKINSON'S detachment, and soon after Gen. DODGE arrived with a large company of mounted volunteers from the Lead Mines. The Indian prisoners were delivered over to Gen. ATKINS0N, and taken to Fort Crawford, where they remained some time, when they were pardoned by the President (2), but before their trial RED BIRD died in prison. Our detachment returned to Green Bay and were disbanded.
Soon after, the man who had contracted to build the saw-mill for Judge ARNDT and myself, as already mentioned, on the west side of Green Bay, sent me word that the mill was completed, and wished to have me come down and receive it. I accordingly took three men and a woman in a boat; and upon arriving there, I found the doors and windows barred and bolted. I enquired the reason, and was informed by the contractor, that the Indians had threatened the lives of himself and party, and declared they would burn the house and mill; and the whites had to keep guard all the time to prevent the Indians from burning the property. The contractor soon left with his men, as I could not persuade them to remain any longer. I took possession, and threw away the bars and bolts.
A few days after, as I was in the house alone, with the door open, and lying on my bed smoking, I cast my eyes down the path, and discovered some thirty Indians approaching. They came within a short distance and stopped; and after a brief consultation, one of their number advanced to the house, and looked in at the window. I told him that dogs peeped in at windows, but that men always came in boldly at the door. He then went round, and came in at the door, and the rest soon followed him. I invited them to sit down, which they did. I called the halfbreed woman, who came into the room, and acted as interpreter. The speaker got up and said, that they had come to get something to eat and drink, and they wished some goods also. I told them that I had nothing to sell or give away. They said that I was cutting their timber, and stopping up their river, and they must have their pay. I informed them that I had permission to build the mill from their Great Father, sanctioned by their head chiefs, and that I had paid the chiefs for the privilege. They said that the chiefs had no right to give me that privilege, that they owned that river, and that no one had any right there but themselves. I told them plainly that they lied, and that they dare not tell their chiefs what they had told me. They said that their friend, the big British trader, had told them that I had no right there; that they mustn make me give them whatever they wanted, and they would have what they called for. By this time my Ebenezer was fairly up; I threw my pipe into the speaker's face, jumped from the bed, caught hold of a large poker, and went at them right and left, and soon cleared the house. They went off a short distance; held a consultation, and returned to the house, and wanted to know if I was mad? I told them I was mad. They expressed a strong desire to be friends; they liked me, they said, because I was brave. I then invited them into the house; we smoked the pipe together, and shook hands; and I gave them something to eat and drink, and told them when they were hungry that I would feed them. We parted good friends, and so we continued from that time forward. After this I went into the Indian trade, and annoyed their British trader very much. I furnished the Indians with provisions that fall and winter; they paid me in furs and maple sugar. I purchased some six tons of sugar of them.
(1) Dr. WILLIAM S. MADISON was murdered early in the year 1821. In Niles’ Register of June 23rd, 1821, we find the following: "Dr. Madison, a surgeon in the army of the United States, and stationed at Green Bay, having leave of absence to visit his family in Kentucky, was, shortly after starting on his journey, murdered by a Chippeway Indian, who has been detected and delivered up by his tribe. The murderer confesses the fact, but can assign no reason for it-on the contrary, he says that the whites have always been his friends”. The name of the Indian murderer was Ke-Tau-Kah. A Menomonee Indian named Ke-Wa-Bis-Kim had, near the close of 1820, killed a Frenchman near Green Bay, of the name of CHARLES ULRICH. Both were tried at Detroit in October, 1821, and convicted; and were both executed there on the 27th of December following. L.C.D.(2) The original pardon, signed by J. Q. ADAMS as President, and HENRY CLAY as Secretary of State, is preserved in the Cabinet of the Wisconsin Historical Society. The two Indians pardoned were WA-NI-GA, or The Sun, and CHICK-HON-SIC, or The Little Bueff. They were convicted of murder at the September term of the Court at Prairie du Chien, in 1828, Judge DOTY presiding, and condemned to be hung on the 26th of December following. The pardon bore date Nov. 3d, 1828, upon the receipt of which the Indians were liberated. L.C.D.
It was in 1827, I think, that MORGAN L. MARTIN came to Green Bay. He and HENRY S. BAIRD were the two first lawyers that practised west of Lake Michigan-except to a small extent, the late JAMES H. LOCKWOOD, of Prairie du Chien.
In the winter of 1827-28, DANIEL WHITNEY obtained permission of the Winnebagoes to make shingles on the Upper Wisconsin. He employed twenty-two Stockbridge Indians, and one white man to superintend the party; and he engaged me to take the party up the Wisconsin, and supply them with provisions. I conveyed them up as far as the mouth of Yellow River, which unites with the Wisconsin in Juneau County, where I left them, and returned to Green Bay. I took eight loads of cranberries to Galena, and exchanged them for provisions for the use of the shingle makers. When I reached Fort Winnebago on my return, Major TWIGGS, the commanding officer of that garrison, informed me, that WHITNEY'S men must be sent out of the country; that he expected the Indian Agent that day from Prairie du Chien, who would go up and conduct the whole party off from the Wisconsin; that WHITNEY had no right there, and if the Indian Agent needed any assistance in putting a speedy check to this trespass upon the Indian lands, he should furnish the necessary quota of soldiers to effect it.
Major TWIGGS then advised me not to attempt to go up where the men were making shingles; that if I did, I might get into trouble. I told him that I was employed by WHITNEY to supply his men with provisions; and that all the Indian Agents and soldiers combined could not prevent me from fulfilling my engagements. I told him furthermore, that this difficulty had all been brought about by false representations to the Agent; that I had delivered provisions to the Winnebagoes for WHITNEY'S men, and that they were all satisfied that WHITNEY should make as many shingles as he pleased. He flew into a violent passion, and told me that I would be sorry for my course, and for what I had said. I told him that I disregarded all his threats, and then left him.
I then went up to where the men were at work. They had made about two hundred thousand shingles. I delivered my provisions to the party, and was about leaving camp, when a Frenchman came on a clean jump. He told me that there was a great lot of soldiers and officers at GRIGNON'S Trading Post, a short distance below; that Mr. GRIGNON had sent him to inform me that the soldiers were after me; and that I had better go back into the woods, and keep out of the way. I told my men to take their teams a short distance down the river, and remain there until I should call for them; and with my own team I went down to GRIGNON'S, where I found the Agent, one officer and twelve soldiers. The Agent informed me, that he had come up to take all of WHITNEY'S men out of the country. I asked him if he proposed to take me? He replied that he should take all he should find committing trespass on the Indian lands; or, in other words, all those engaged in making shingles. They soon got ready and started for the shingle camp. I went with them. When we arrived, the men were all out in the woods. I started to where they were at work, and I went to work shaving shingles. The Agent soon arrived with his party. I told the shingle-makers that they must quit work, which they did; but I kept on until all left, hoping they would attempt to arrest me, but they did not. After awhile I went to the shanty, where they were all assembled. The overseer asked me to go out of doors with him, that he wished to speak with me. When we got to the door, I asked him what he wanted of me; he replied that he wanted my advice as to what course he should pursue. I told him that if that was what he wanted, I would give him the best advice I had, in the house, before the whole party, Agent, soldiers and all; that if I were in his place, and had charge of the men, I would not surrender alive, but that he might do as he pleased. The overseer consulted with his men, and they finally concluded to surrender.
At this juncture, I called on my eight stout Frenchmen, who speedily came up with their teams. I told them that as the foreman and Indians were prisoners, that we would take charge of the shanty and property belonging to WHITNEY; upon which we all spread down our blankets, and turned in for the night. The next morning the overseer called to his men to get breakfast. I jumped up and told them, that as they were prisoners, they were out of WHITNEY's employ, and forbade them touching a single thing in or about the shanty. I called my men, and told them to get breakfast. That opened the eyes of the Agent and officer; and the latter remarked, that; the commissary at the Fort had sent his compliments to me, requesting me to let him and his men and the prisoners have provisions enough to last them back to the Fort. I told him that he should not have a pound of anything--that they might starve first. Soon after the Agent came to me, and coaxed me until I concluded to let them have a supply; I sold them pork at fifty cents per pound, flour twenty-five cents, corn fifteen dollars per bushel, and let them have a horse and (1) train to return with for ten dollars. They took breakfast and left. I collected all of the tools, provisions, and other articles, and took them down to GRIGNON'S, and stored them. The next day I started for the Portage, and encamped where Portage City is now located. That night a sergeant came to my camp to inform me that I had better not proceed by Way of the Fort, as Major TWIGGS was in a high rage, swearing that if I should come nigh the Fort, he would have me arrested, put in irons, and sent to Prairie du Chien; that I was as much a trespasser on the Indian lands as any of the party of the shingle-makers, as the officer and soldiers of the detachment sent up the river had seen me making shingles. The sergeant advised me to go across the country, and keep entirely clear of the Fort. I kindly thanked him for his good wishes, but told him that I had business with the sutler at the Fort, and should go that way to see him; and that I was not in the habit of dodging any mortal man or set of men. The Agent sent me word, that I had not better go near the Fort; that he had heard what TWIGGS had said, and it would be prudent to avoid coming in contact with him. Still I was determined to go by way of the Fort, while my teamsters were averse to it. I simply told them, if they were cowards they could go any way they pleased.
On the ensuing morning I got ready, and started for the Fort, my men all following. Nearing the garrison, I discovered all of the officers down at the river near the crossing place. The soldiers were getting out ice. When they saw me, TWIGGS left, and went to the Fort. I crossed the river, and drove up to the sutler's store. I had not been there long, when a soldier came in and informed me, that Capt. GWIN, the commissary, wanted to see me at the Fort. I told the soldier that I would endeavor to be more polite than the Captain had been--that he might give my compliments to him, and tell him if he wished to see me more than I did him, that he would find me at or near the store. The clerk was very uneasy, and requested me to leave the store, as he was fearful of trouble. I went out of doors. Soon after a number of officers came near where I stood--Capt. GWIN among them. The Captain asked me if I had really refused to let the officer and soldiers have provisions when they were up the Wisconsin? I frankly told him that I did; and if it had not been for the Agent, I certainly should not have let them had any, and that I was sorry that I had yielded to the Agent's urgent solicitations. Capt. GWIN was very indignant, and said that the officers had hitherto thought a great deal of me, but now I had forfeited all of their respect and confidence. I expressed my regret at losing their confidence; that I had my own views of duty, in doing which I could not consult their wishes. I got on my train and started; and in passing the Fort, I gave three cheers, and went on my way rejoicing. I did not see TWIGGS again.
Not long after, Maj. TWIGGS sent up the Wisconsin, and got a part of WHITNEY'S shingles, and burnt the balance, so that WHITNEY lost not less than one thousand dollars by his shingle operation, and all through TWIGG'S malice. WHITNEY commenced a suit against TWIGGs, but the Major was transferred and left the country. He, however, before his departure, caused a military order to be published forbidding either WHITNEY or myself entering the Fort, and also forbidding the soldiers to convey either of us across the river at the ferry. Soon after the publication of the order, I had occasion to cross the ferry, when the soldiers told me that they were prohibited from ferrying me over. I went a little below the ferry, urged my horse into the stream and swam over, the officers all viewing the scene. After I got over, I yelled back, thanking them for their goodness in the matter. I met a friend who told me that I must look out for TWIGGS; that if I should come near the Fort, he would cowhide me. I told him that TWIGGS had better let that job out; that if he should ever attempt to interfere with me, I would take his heart's blood. On my return, I again crossed the river by swimming my horse, and got finely immersed in the operation. I boldly passed the Fort, but did not see the cowardly TWIGGS.
As early as June, 1825, Hon. JOHN P. ARNDT obtained a license to maintain a ferry across Fox River, a short distance above Fort Howard. Soon after, the commanding officer placed a guard on the west side of the river, to prevent the ferry-boat from landing--contending that no one had a right to cross without first obtaining leave of him. I was at this time boarding with ARNDT, and took one of his boats, with one man with me, to try and see what the guard would do with me. As I approached near the opposite shore, the guard came down to seize the boat; I directed the man to turn the boat round, and throw the stern to the shore. He did so, and as I jumped out, the boat received an impetus which pushed it into the stream, when the man returned unmolested. I was arrested, went to the Fort, and laughed at the officers, and told them that I thought I was in a free country; and so believing, that I should go and come when and where I pleased, that they might all go to______.
Soon after, Judge ARNDT thought that he would try the experiment of crossing and landing on the western bank of the river. But as soon as they landed, he and his companion were arrested, and taken to the Fort. ARNDT was a little mulish, and refused to go, but was overcome by numbers, and dragged to the Fort by brute force. He was finally discharged with an admonition not to attempt to cross again without permission from the commanding officer. The court sat a short time after, and ARNDT commenced a suit against the commanding officer for false imprisonment; the officer was fined fifty dollars and costs, and the court decided that Fox river was a public highway, and that any person had a right to obtain license for a ferry at any point across the river, and the military had no right to interfere. The guard was withdrawn, and we had no further trouble about crossing and re-crossing Fox River.
As Judge ARNDT and I were doing the most business on the river, going to and from our mill with a small schooner and smaller boats, the commanding officer, probably to gratify his pride and arrogance, issued an order requiring all boats, vessels, or canoes, passing up or down the river, to stop and report at Fort Howard. I concluded in my mind that I would pay no attention to this arbitrary requirement. So one day as I was coming up the river with a load of lumber in our schooner, when I came near the Fort, the sentinel hailed me, and ordered me to heave to and report. I had a fine breeze, and under full sail, I replied that I could not stop. By this time I was directly opposite the Fort, when the officer of the day ordered me to heave to and come ashore. I replied that I had not time. He said if I did not stop, he would fire on me. He wheeled a cannon round, and prepared to fire; when all of my men went below into the cabin. I told him to shoot and be ____. But he didn't shoot; and this was the last time that they attempted to stop me.
The mineral country took a start during the period of 1827-'28. A great many fine citizens migrated to the Lead Region, such as Gen. DODGE, JOHN MESSERSMITH, Col. EBENEZER BRIGHAM, Col. ABNER NICHOLS, Col. John B. TERRY, Gen. CHARLES BRACKEN, Gen. JOHN H. ROUNTREE, Gen. GEO. W. HICKCOX, and others. They did not cultivate much land, but devoted their attention exclusively to digging mineral. I think that Gen. DODGE built the first smelting furnace. About this time, there were Government troops sent into the Mining District to prevent the people from digging lead without a license; and when the miners were driven from one point, they would go to another, and renew their labors. At length the Government gave up the chase, and sent agents into the Mineral Country to collect a certain per cent. on all lead dug and smelted.
In 1829, I was appointed sheriff of Brown County under the following circumstances: The United States' court was held at Green Bay, in a log shanty; the grand jury holding their deliberations in the same room. There was then no trouble of seeking a private room; everything was done openly and above board. GEORGE JOHNSON was the first sheriff; but when ROBERT IRWIN, Jr., represented Brown county in the Territorial Legislature of Michigan, he procured the appointment of his father, ROBERT IRWIN, Sen., as sheriff in place of JOHNSON. IRWIN had twenty days, according to law, after receiving his appointment, in which to qualify; but a few days after the arrival of his appointment, a man by the name of HEMPSTEAD was to be bung for murder, and Maj. IRWIN refused to qualify before the culprit was executed, as he did not wish to signalize his advent into office by hanging a fellow-being. JOHNSON refused to serve in this case, for he had been sheriff a number of years, and had not before been called on to execute a man for a capital offence, and he declared that his last act should not be one of that character. Thus was Judge DOTY left without a sheriff to execute the sentences of the court. I was, at this period, residing at Grand Kakalin, and received a message from Judge DOTY, desiring my immediate presence at Green Bay, as he had no sheriff, and was empowered to fill any vacancy, and wished me to accept of it. I accordingly repaired to Green Bay, received my appointment, gave bail, and qualified, before the middle of the day, and led the prisoner to the scaffold at 1 o'clock, P.M.
Brown county was then very large, embracing the whole region from the Illinois State line to Mackinaw, and west as far as the center of the portage of the Fox and Wisconsin rivers; Crawford county embracing all the country north and west of the portage to the Mississippi, including most of the Lead Region. I held the office of sheriff under Judge DOTY'S appointment for two years, when I was re-appointed several times by Gen. CASS, and thus held the office until Wisconsin was organized as a Territory in 1836; and then re-commissioned by Gov. DODGE. While serving as sheriff, it became my duty to execute a second person for the crime of murder; these executions were the most unpleasant duties I ever performed--and these two murderers were the first and last ever executed in all that part of Wisconsin.
In 1829, I was appointed post-master at Grand Kakalin, on Fox River; and resigned after serving one year. I was the second post-master appointed in the north-eastern part of Wisconsin. I had charge of the first Durham boat that ever went up Fox River and crossed the portage; I went to Galena and purchased the first lead that was brought thence to Green Bay. Fort Winnebago was built in 1828; and, in 1829, the President appointed Commissioners to hold a treaty with the Winnebagoes, and they procured the cession of the entire country to which they laid claim east of the Mississippi. The first annuity paid the Menomonee Indians was paid to them at the Grand Chute, twenty-five miles above Green Bay.
At an early day the Sauk and Fox Indians sold the General Government their lands east of the Mississippi, which were situated on Rock River. BLACK HAWK was not pleased with the sale, and refused to sign the treaty. In 1831, he returned with his people to their old planting grounds on Rock River. There were, at this time, a number of white families settled in that region, who did not like their Indian neighbors; they complained to the Governor of Illinois, and an arrangement was finally effected with BLACK HAWK; and his followers to leave the country, for doing which they were to receive three thousand bushels of corn as an equivalent for their abandoned crops. But the next season :BLACK HAWK and his people again returned to the homes of their fathers; they could not bear the idea of permitting the pale faces to plow up the graves of their ancestors. Again did the white inhabitants report to the Governor; when a body of volunteers was raised to dispossess the troublesome Indians. Mai. STILLMAN, with an advanced corps, pursued up Rock River. BLACK HAWK heard of the advance of the whites, and sent two young Indians with a white flag to ascertain the cause of so many men approaching in hostile array. STILLMAN'S defeat soon followed, and thus commenced the Black Hawk war.
BLACK HAWK soon broke up his camp, and went up Rock River as far as Lake Koshkonong, and selected his headquarters on an island (2) in the Lake. Gen. ATKINSON marched up Rock River to a point opposite of BLACK HAWK's camp, and commenced to build a fort, when BLACK HAWK, with his warriors, women and children left, leaving about twenty young men at the Indian camp as a rear guard to watch the movements of the whites. They remained some time, until the main body had had sufficient time to get out of the way of their pursuers; when the young warriors also decamped. BLACK HAWK directed his course westerly, passing through where Madison, the capital of Wisconsin, is now located, encamped two miles west of the Fourth Lake. Gens. DODGE and HENRY were in hot pursuit, and near the locality of SLAUGHTER'S farm, on the west bank of Fourth Lake, they came across the Indian trail, and followed it some two miles, when they came to an Indian camping-place, with fresh signs. The whites renewed the pursuit, and near the Wisconsin they discovered a number of Indians in a grove a short distance east or south of the river. With scarcely a show of resistance, the Indians fled. The Americans had no means of crossing the river in pursuit of the Indians; and had to proceed down the river some sixty miles before they could cross. BLACK HAWK, with his retreating followers, had pursued a westerly course, and struck the Mississippi near the mouth of the Bad Ax River; and the old chief, with sixteen of his Indians, had just crossed the Mississippi, when the Americans came up and attacked the main body, still on the eastern bank of the river. A small steamer sent up from Prairie du Chien, took part in the attack. A great many of the Indians were killed, and some taken prisoners.
BLACK HAWK, and the few who were with him, went across the country to Turkey River, where they remained until the Indian Agent at Prairie du Chien sent out, and had BLACK HAWK brought in, and finally sent on a mission to see his Great Father, the President. On his return from his Eastern tour, he came by way of Green Bay. I had, in former years, frequently talked with him about our large cities and the large number of pale faces, and he had rather doubted my statement. But now, after he had seen New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Boston, and other large places, I reminded him of our former talk, and asked him if he saw many pale faces? He replied: "Do you see that cedar swamp back of the Fort? Well, you can go, perhaps, and count the trees, but you can never count the multitude of leaves upon them. So with the pale faces." I then parted with him, and did not see him again until I met him at Burlington, Iowa, in 1837 and '38, at the sessions of the Territorial Legislature. He used there to come and stay with me, and I would take him with me into the Assembly Hall. He was very much interested in the debates, though he could understand but a few common-place words in English.
When BLACK HAWK left Lake Koshkonong, it was thought by many that he would attempt to make his way, with his half-starved followers, by way of Green Bay to Canada. There were then but a few troops at Fort Howard. The inhabitants became alarmed. Col. SAMUEL C. STAMBAUGH, the former Indian Agent at Green Bay, desired me to go into the Menomonee country, and request the Indians to assemble at Green Bay, to protect the inhabitants. I collected about three hundred, and brought them to the Bay. We encamped near the Agency; I took charge of them, and was appointed commissary. I kept out a scouting party of Indians constantly for ten days, when we received an express from Gen. ATKINSON, directing that the Indian Agent would embody as many of the Menomonees as could be spared from the Bay, and pursue BLACK HAWK'S party. Col. STAMBAUGH was assigned to the command of this Indian corps, aided by Captains GEORGE JOHNSON, and AUGUSTIN GRIGNON, A. J. IRWIN, Col. CHARLES TULLER, ROBERT GRIGNON, and others. At the Blue Mounds they learned that BLACK HAWK, with the main body of his followers, were north of the Wisconsin, and Gen. DODGE and others in pursuit; and that a small party of the enemy had gone down the river. Col. STAMBAUGH pursued the latter, and overtook a small band, attacked and defeated them a short distance from Cassville. While on this trip, STAMBAUGH'S party captured a small Indian girl, took her to Green Bay, and placed her in the Mission School, where she remained about a year. She would not learn, and ate but little, became feeble and emaciated, and they had to send her back to her people to save her life.
(1) A wooden sled, with plank runners, drawn by a single horse, is much used in Canada, and is called a tram. L.C.D.
(2) There is no authority to corroborate this, and it is probably a mistake. Col. D. M. PARKINSON, in his Narrative in the 2d vol. of the Wis. Hist. Coll. p. 354. describes a well-chosen camp of BLACK HAWK, on Rock River, near Lake Koshkonong; and this is probably the one to which Col. CHILDS refers. L. C. D.
In 1834, I think, the first Land Office was opened at Mineral Point; and, in 1836, a Land Office was established at Green Bay, with SAMUEL W. BEALL as Receiver, and Col. WM. B. SLAUGHTER as Register. At the first sale of lands at Green Bay, there was a great rush to purchase, mostly from Milwaukee and Chicago. A Land Office was established at Milwaukee in 1837 or '38, and most of the land near Milwaukee was soon sold. SOLOMON JUNEAU built the first frame-house in Milwaukee, and did the first grading ever done there. He selected four fine lots, erected a Court House on the property, and generously presented the whole to the County. There was a great rush of adventurers to Milwaukee at this early period--GEO. H. WALKER, BYRON KILBOURN, HANS CROCKER, E. STARR, H. N. WELLS, D. A. J. UPHAM, WILLIAM BROWN, GEORGE DOUSMAN, Mr. VLIET, and many others.
At this period, other towns started into existence. Capt. GILBERT KNAPP commenced at Racine; JOHN BULLEN, CHAS. DURKEE, and others took the lead at Southport, now better known as Kenosha, and both places made fine advances. The first log house erected at Fond du Lac was erected in 1836; and THOMAS GREEN kept the first public house there.
In 1835, the citizens of Green Bay obtained a charter from the Michigan Legislature to build a dam across Fox River, five miles above its mouth, at Depere, which improved the navigation of the river very much.
Delegates were elected, in 1835, to form a State Constitution for Michigan; which being effected, left the region west of Lake Michigan, to be organized into the separate Territory of Wisconsin. The new Territory was organized July 4th, 1836, with Gen. HENRY DODGE for Governor, JOHN S. HORNER for Secretary, CHARLES DUNN for Justice of the Supreme Court, and WM. C. FRAZIER and DAVID IRWIN, Jr. for Associate Justices. The first election held for members of the Territorial Legislature, was in September, 1836. According to the apportionment, Brown county was entitled to two members of the Council, and three representatives in the House of Assembly; and HENRY S. BAIRD and JOHN P. ARNDT were chosen to the Council, and EBENEZER CHILDS, ALBERT G. ELLIS, and ALEX. J. IRWIN to the House--GEO.. McWILLIAMS contested IRWIN'S seat and gained it. When I was nominated for a seat in the Legislature, I resigned the office of Sheriff of Brown county, and was elected without opposition.
The Governor convened the first Legislature at Belmont, in what is now La Fayette county, and we met there on the 25th of October, 1836. What is now the State of Iowa, then formed a part of Wisconsin Territory. Wisconsin proper then had a little over 7,000 population, and Iowa proper a little over 5,000. The representation from the Iowa side of the Mississippi was nearly as large as that from Wisconsin proper--what for convenience sake, I will call Iowa, had six Councilmen and twelve Representatives, while Wisconsin proper had seven Councilmen and fourteen representatives. The accommodations at Belmont were most miserable, there being but a single boarding-house. The whole of the Brown delegation lodged in one room, about fifteen by twenty feet, and our lobby friends roomed with us. Our beds were all full, and the floor well-spread with blankets and over-coats for lodging purposes. The session lasted till the 9th of December. At that session a bill passed locating the seat of government at Madison; but the Legislature appointed Burlington, in Iowa, as the place of the meeting of the next session, until proper buildings could be erected at Madison.
A majority of the members from Wisconsin proper were opposed to making, at that time, a permanent location of the seat of government; we contended for a temporary location at Green Bay or Milwaukee, or any other place, until the country should become more settled. We contended that the members representing the region west of the Mississippi, though they had a legal right, yet they had no just right to vote on and determine the permanent seat of government for Wisconsin Territory, as they expected soon to be set off into a separate Territory of their own--as they were in 1838. I labored hard to prevent a permanent location at that session; but those who favored the measure from Wisconsin proper had some interest in Madison, and the members from the west side of the Mississippi were bought up to go for Madison. Thus the measure was carried by a small majority. As soon as the Governor signed the bill, there was a great rush for the Land Office at Mineral Point, to purchase land in the neighborhood of the newly located capital. The town plat of Madison was divided into twenty shares; I was offered one share for the small sum of two hundred dollars--I presume that was done, thinking, if I accepted it, that I would vote for Madison for the capital; I rejected the offer with disgust, and felt better satisfied than I should to have sold myself for the twentieth part of Madison. When I returned to Green Bay, my friends were well pleased with the course that I had taken.
The year 1837 brought with it a large increase to the population in all parts of the Territory. Early in November the Legislature met at Burlington, and held a session of some ten weeks. All the members had to travel by land on the west side of the Mississippi. There were then but few settlers from Burlington to Dubuque; we had to camp out on the prairies, when the weather was intensely cold. It was the 20th of January, 1838, we adjourned. I was on a committee to investigate the affairs of the old Dubuque Bank. There was then but one public house in Dubuque, and some five hundred inhabitants. I remained there two weeks on this business, and then started alone for Green Bay. At Mineral Point I met a brother of Col. A. A. BIRD, of Madison, who had recently come from there; I waited for him to return, and accompanied him. We started, and went as far as my old Worcester County friend, Col. E. BRIGHAM'S, at the Blue Mounds, with whom we staid all night. The next day we started for Madison, but lost our way and traveled all day and most of the night, when we came to a log shanty, where we tarried the remainder of the night, without, however, anything to eat.
In the morning we renewed our journey, and went to Madison. We found Col. A. A. BIRD there; his mother was quite ill, and attended by the army surgeon from Fort Winnebago. The house or shanty that BIRD lived in was a miserable cold affair. There were then but three other families in Madison. The doctor from Fort Winnebago designed to return the next day, and wished me to wait for him. I concluded to do so, and crossed Fourth Lake to its head, near Pheasant Branch, and spent the night with Col. W. B. SLAUGHTER, who then lived on the west bank of the Lake. The next morning the doctor came over. We started for the Fort, between SLAUGHTER'S and which, there was not a single house. I had my conveyance; and the doctor had his, with a driver. When about half way, I asked the driver how the doctor stood the cold --for it was a stinging cold day; the doctor, who was completely covered up with buffalo robes, made no reply, and the driver, of course, could not answer for him. I drove past them, and on reaching a grove of timber, I stopped and made a fire. When the other conveyance came up, I went to see the doctor, took the robes off, and found him completely chilled through, and could not speak. We took him out of the sleigh, carried him to the fire, and rubbed him a long time before he could speak. I had a little brandy with me; he drank some of that, and after a while he was able to walk, when we again started for the Fort. When we arrived at the Fort, as we did without further mishap, we found that the thermometer stood thirty-two degrees below zero. I did not suffer at all with the cold, as I ran the most of the way.
The next day, I left alone for Green Bay. There was not then a house between Fort Winnebago and Fond du Lac; the snow was deep across the prairies. I overtook two Stockbridge Indians nearly exhausted from fatigue and cold. I carried them in my jumper to the first timber, when we stopped and made a large fire, and left them. The snow was so deep, that my horse could not draw them. They staid there until the next day, and got home safe. If it had not been for me, they would undoubtedly have perished on the prairie. I arrived at Green Bay safe and sound. There was then but one house between Fond du Lac and Green Bay.
In June, 1838, the Territorial Legislature again met at Burlington. We had a short session, commencing on the 11th, and closing on the 25th of June. During the session we received the news that Iowa had been separated from Wisconsin, and formed into a distinct Territory; and as soon as this intelligence reached us, we adjourned to meet at Madison in the autumn. While at Burlington, Gov.. D0DGE appointed me Commissary General, with the rank of Colonel--that was, perhaps, the first military commission issued in Wisconsin; I still retain it as a memento of the olden time.
The next Legislature met, for the first time, in Madison, on the 26th of November, 1838. The new capital edifice was not yet in a suitable condition to receive the Legislature; so we had to assemble in the basement of the old American House, where Gov.. DODGE delivered his first message at the new seat of Government. We adjourned from day to day, until we could get into the new capitol building. At length we took possession of the new Assembly Hall. The floors were laid with green oak boards, full of ice; the walls of the room were iced over; green oak seats, and desks made of rough boards; one fire-place and one small stove. In a few days the flooring near the stove and fire-place so shrunk on account of the heat, that a person could run his hands between the boards. The basement story was all open, and JAMES MORRISON'S large drove of hogs had taken possession; they were awfully poor, and it would have taken two of them, standing side by side, to have made a decent shadow on a bright day. We had a great many smart members in the house, and sometimes they spoke for BUNCOMBE. When members of this ilk would become too tedious, I would take a long pole, go at the Hogs, and stir them up; when they would raise a young pandemonium for noise and confusion. The speaker's voice would become completely drowned, and he would be compelled to stop, not, however, without giving his squealing disturbers a sample of his swearing ability.
The weather was cold; the hails were cold, our ink would freeze, everything froze--so when we could stand it no longer, we passed a joint resolution to adjourn for twenty days. I was appointed by the two houses to procure carpeting for both halls during the recess; I bought all I could find in the Territory, and brought it to Madison, and put it down after covering the floor with a thick coating of hay. After this, we were more comfortable. The American Hotel was the only public house in Madison, except that Mr. PECK kept a few boarders in his old log-house, which was still standing not long since. We used to have tall times in those days--times long to be remembered. The Forty Thieves were then in their infancy; stealing was carried on in a small way. Occasionally a bill would be fairly stolen through the Legislature; and the Territory would get gouged a little now and then.
About this period, Hon. MORGAN L. MARTIN and Hon. MOSES M. STRONG suggested that the Democrats should draw party lines. I opposed it all I could, believing it to be wrong while we remained under a Territorial organization. They held a Convention and organized as a party. The Whigs were compelled to organize also, and held a Convention at Milwaukee. We had a great time, and among other things had an ox roasted whole for our dinner. Thenceforward party lines were generally drawn.
Near this time, the people of Green Bay called a meeting to nominate candidates for the Legislature. We met at the Astor House at Green Bay. The Democrats were too smart for the Whigs; they elected their chairman and secretary. The Whigs then withdrew, and organized at another place. Both parties appointed their committees to make nominations. The Democratic committee waited on me, and desired me to accept a nomination from their party as representative to the Legislature. I declined receiving a nomination from either party, as against the other; but I told them that if the people wished me to represent them, that there must be a general wish to that effect, independent of party, as I would not consent to run as a party man. The consequence was, that both parties nominated me; I was elected, and served two years longer in the Legislature--thus serving the first seven sessions of the Territorial Legislature, commencing in 1886, and ending with the August session of 1840. At the next session, I was elected sergeant-at-arms of the Council, and was present when JAMES R. VINEYARD, a member of the Council from Grant county, deliberately killed CHARLES C. P. ARNDT, a member of the Council from Brown county--killed in cold blood in the Council room; one of the most foul and cold-hearted murders I ever heard of. Both VINEYARD and ARNDT were great friends of mine, and of each other, up to the time of the murder. VINYARD had boarded in the family of Judge ARNDT, the father of his victim, during the winter of 1835-86 and was treated with all ,the kindness as if one of the family. VINYARD went unpunished, and is now, I believe, in California.
In 1836, Gov. DODGE had been appointed commissioner by the General Government; to hold a treaty with the Menomonee Indians. The treaty was held at the Cedar Rapids, or Cedar Point, on Fox River; HENRY S. BAIRD was Secretary to the Commissioner; OSHKOSH and all the leading Menomonee chiefs were present. The Menomonee's ceded to the Government some four millions of acres west and north of Winnebago Lake and Fox River; and a strip of country along Wisconsin River, three miles in width on each side of the River, and forty-eight miles in length--above the grant made to AMABLE GRIGNON; said tract to contain eight townships or 184,820 acres. This cession gave a new impulse to the settlement of Northern Wisconsin; and doubtless led to the establishment of the boundary line between Wisconsin and the State of Michigan, which was run under the direction of Capt. T. J. CRAM, of the Topographical Engineers, during the summer of 1841. He came to Green Bay, where he procured most of his men to assist him. He employed me to take charge of the packers and provisions. We left the Bay the first of June, went down Green Bay as far as the mouth of the Menomonee River, where we commenced the survey. We were four months in running the line; nothing to eat but pork and bread. Quite a number of our party got the scurvy, and suffered, l a great deal. We did not see a white man during our four months absence, except those connected with the survey. Capt. CRAM had employed an old Frenchman for a guide; and, on our return, in order to correct our first survey, he sent me with the old guide to look out a nearer course. We took but a small supply of provisions, supposing that we could look out the route from Montreal River to Lake Vieux Desert, and return to camp in three days; but the old guide lost his way, and instead of three days, we were absent seven, and were nearly starved, subsisting a part of the time on roots and berries which we found, and barely kept us alive. The entire country through which the boundary passes, between Wisconsin and Michigan, is a poor barren region. On some part of the line, there is no doubt of their being extensive deposites of iron and copper ore. When we returned to Green Bay, I nearly killed myself eating potatoes.
In 1845, I left Green Bay and started across the country for Lake Superior in company with Col. CHARLES TULLER. We left the Bay in March, when there was no snow on the ground, and when we reached the dividing ridge we found snow four feet deep, which made it very bad traveling; and we were twenty-two days making the trip from Green Bay to Copper Harbor. I remained nearly three years in the Lake Superior country, part of the time at Copper Harbor, and a part at Kc-way-we-naw Bay, at which latter place I built, in 1846, the first saw-mill ever erected on Lake Superior. The soil in that region is generally very poor, all round the Lake; there is but very little timber, and that mostly pine and oak; but it is a rich mineral country. Potatoes, oats and peas grow very well at some points. The indians do not dig many of their potatoes until spring. Before the ground is much frozen in the autumn, the snow falls to a great depth, which takes out what little frost there is in the ground. The snow remains on the ground until May, when it disappears, and the people dig their potatoes.
When I left the Lake Superior country, I went to Milwaukee, where I remained two years. In 1848, I was appointed by the President as Exploring Agent for the Menomonee Indians, to examine a new country in which for them to locate. I went some three hundred miles above St. Paul, to the Red River of the North; I never in all my life saw a finer country. I was four months in making the trip. It did not, however, eventuate in the removal of the Menomonees.
I came to La Crosse in 1852. The population of the place, at that time, all told, was just one hundred and sixteen; now it amounts to six or seven thousand--nearly as large as that of the whole Territory at its organization in 1836. Here I shall probably spend the remainder of my days.
It came hard for me to leave Green Bay for good, after having lived there twenty-five years. After Chicago, Milwaukee and other towns on the western shore of Lake Michigan commenced their growth and improvements, Green Bay rather retrograded. It did not improve much for a number of years. From 1820 to 1835, all boats and vessels that came up the Lakes, came to Green Bay; there was no other place to go, except there would occasionally be one or two schooners that would go to Chicago with supplies for the troops. Soon after the arrival of the first steamboat at Green Bay--in 1821 --the first, school house was built at the place, and about the same time the first missionary school was opened.
Of the American settlers who came to Wisconsin prior to 1830, but few are now living; prominent among them are DANIEL WHITNEY, HENRY S. BAIRD, JAMES D. DOTY, ALBERT G. ELLIS, JOHN P. ARNDT, MORGAN L. MARTIN, HENRY DODGE, EBENEZER BRIGHAM, DANIEL M. PARKINSON, JAMES MORRISON, H. L. DOUSMAN, PETER PARKINSON, CHAS. BRACKEN, EPHRAIM OGDEN, JOHN H. ROUNTREE, LEVI STERLING, JESSE SHULL, A. A. TOWNSEND, and a few others.
After the Black Hawk war of 1832, the country gradually settled up to 1836, when the Territorial government was organized; since which the increase has been rapid to the present time.
I only regret in drawing my narrative to a close, that my feeble attempt at describing my early recollections of our noble state, has not been more successful.
La Crosse, March, 1858.
[Source: Pgs 153-163, REPORT and COLLECTIONS of the STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY of WISCONSIN for the YEARS 1857 AND 1858. VOLUME IV Madison, Wis. , James Ross, State Printer, printed at the "Patriot" book and Job Office. 1859; Transcribed by Diana Morse]
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