Juliette Augusta Magill Kinzie
Part 1 out of 7
Produced by Gene Smethers and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team
EARLY DAY IN THE NORTHWEST.
MRS. JOHN H. KINZIE,
"If we but knew the exact meaning of the word 'WAU-BUN,'
we should be happy."--_Critic_.
"WAU-BUN--The dawn--the break of day."--_Ojibeway Vocabulary_.
* * * * *
Every work partaking of the nature of an autobiography is supposed to
demand an apology to the public. To refuse such a tribute, would be to
recognize the justice of the charge, so often brought against our
countrymen--of a too great willingness to be made acquainted with the
domestic history and private affairs of their neighbors.
It is, doubtless, to refute this calumny that we find travellers, for
the most part, modestly offering some such form of explanation as this,
to the reader: "That the matter laid before him was, in the first place,
simply letters to friends, never designed to be submitted to other eyes,
and only brought forward now at the solicitation of wiser judges than
the author himself."
No such plea can, in the present instance, be offered. The record of
events in which the writer had herself no share, was preserved in
compliance with the suggestion of a revered relative, whose name often
appears in the following pages. "My child," she would say, "write these
things down, as I tell them to you. Hereafter our children, and even
strangers, will feel interested in hearing the story of our early lives
and sufferings." And it is a matter of no small regret and
self-reproach, that much, very much, thus narrated was, through
negligence, or a spirit of procrastination, suffered to pass unrecorded.
With regard to the pictures of domestic life and experience (preserved,
as will be seen, in journals, letters, and otherwise), it is true their
publication might have been deferred until the writer had passed away
from the scene of action; and such, it was supposed, would have been
their lot--that they would only have been dragged forth hereafter, to
show to a succeeding generation what "The Early Day" of our Western
homes had been. It never entered the anticipations of the most sanguine
that the march of improvement and prosperity would, in less than a
quarter of a century, have so obliterated the traces of "the first
beginning," that a vast and intelligent multitude would be crying out
for information in regard to the early settlement of this portion of our
country, which so few are left to furnish.
An opinion has been expressed, that a comparison of the present times
with those that are past, would enable our young people, emigrating from
their luxurious homes at "the East," to bear, in a spirit of patience
and contentment, the slight privations and hardships they are at this
day called to meet with. If, in one instance, this should be the case,
the writer may well feel happy to have incurred even the charge of
egotism, in giving thus much of her own history.
It may be objected that all that is strictly personal, might have been
more modestly put forth under the name of a third person; or that the
events themselves and the scenes might have been described, while those
participating in them might have been kept more in the background. In
the first case, the narrative would have lost its air of truth and
reality--in the second, the experiment would merely have been tried of
dressing up a theatre for representation, and omitting the actors.
Some who read the following sketches may be inclined to believe that a
residence among our native brethren and an attachment growing out of our
peculiar relation to them, have exaggerated our sympathies, and our
sense of the wrongs they have received at the hands of the whites. This
is not the place to discuss that point. There is a tribunal at which man
shall be judged for that which he has meted out to his fellow-man.
May our countrymen take heed that their legislation shall never unfit
them to appear "with joy, and not with grief," before that tribunal!
CHICAGO, July, 1855.
Departure from Detroit
Michilimackinac--American Fur Company--Indian Trade--Mission
School--Point St. Ignace
Arrival at Green Bay--Mrs. Arnot--General Root--Political Dispatches--A
Morning Song--Mr. Cadle's Mission--Party at Miss Doty's--Misses
Grignon--Mrs. Baird's Party--Mrs. Beall
Arrangements for Travelling--Fox River--Judge Doty--Judge
Reaume--M. Boilvin--Canadian Voyageurs: their Songs--The
Kakalin--Wish-tay-yun--Rev. Eleazar Williams--Passage through
the Rapids--Grande Chute--Krissman
Beautiful Encampment--Winnebago Lake--Miss Four-Legs--Garlic
Breakfast at Betty More's--Judge Law--Fastidiousness; what
came of it
Butte des Morts--French Cognomens--Serpentine Course of Fox
River--Lake Puckaway--Lac de Boeuf--Fort Winnebago.
Major and Mrs. Twiggs--A Davis--An Indian Funeral--Conjugal
Affliction--Indian Chiefs; Talk-English--The Wild-Cat--The
Housekeeping--The First Dinner
Indian Payment--Pawnee Blanc--The Washington Woman--Raising
Louisa--Garrison Life--Dr. Newhall--Affliction--Domestic
Accommodations--Ephraim--New-Year's Day--Native Custom--Day-kau-ray's
Views of Education--Captain Harney's Mince-Pie
Lizzie Twiggs--Preparation for a Journey--The Regimental Tailor
eparture from Fort Winnebago--Duck Creek--Upset in a
Canoe--Pillon--Encamping in Winter--Four Lakes--Indian
Encampment--Blue Mound--Morrison's--A Tennessee Woman
Rev. Mr. Kent--Losing One's Way--A Tent Blown Down--Discovery
of a Fence--Hamilton's Diggings--Frontier Housekeeping--Wm.
S. Hamilton--A Miner--Hard Riding--Kellogg's Grove
Rock River--- Dixon's--John Ogie--Missing the Trail--Hours of
Trouble--Famine in the Camp--Relief
A Pottowattamie Lodge--A Tempest--Piche's--Hawley's--The Du
Page--Mr. Dogherty--The Aux Plaines--Mrs. Lawton--Wolf
Fort Dearborn--Chicago in 1831--First Settlement of Chicago--John
Kinzie, Sen.---Fate of George Forsyth--Trading Posts--Canadian
Voyageurs--M. St. Jean--Louis la Liberte
Massacre at Chicago
Massacre, continued--Mrs. Helm--Ensign Ronan--Captain
Wells--Mrs. Holt--Mrs. Heald--The Sau-ga-nash--Sergeant Griffith--Mrs.
Burns--Black Partridge and Mrs. Lee--Nau-non-gee and Sergeant
Treatment of American Prisoners by the British--Captivity of Mr.
Kinzie--Battle on Lake Erie--Cruelty of General Proctor's
Troops--General Harrison--Rebuilding of Fort Dearborn--Red Bird--A
Humorous Incident--Cession of the Territory around Chicago
Severe Spring Weather--Pistol-Firing--Milk Punch--A Sermon--Pre-emption
to "Kinzie's Addition"--Liberal Sentiments
Colonel McKillip--Second-Sight--Ball at Hickory Creek--Arrival
of the "Napoleon"--Troubles of Embarkation
Departure for Port Winnebago--A Frightened Indian--Encampment
at Dunkley's Grove--Horses Lost--Getting Mired--An Ague
cured by a Rattlesnake--Crystal Lake--Story of the Little Rail
Return Journey, continued--Soldiers' Encampment--Big-Foot Lake--Village
of Maunk-suck--A Young Gallant--Climbing--Mountain-Passes--Turtle
Creek--Kosh-ko-nong--Crossing a Marsh--Twenty-Mile Prairie--Hastings's
The Agency--The Blacksmith's House--Building a Kitchen--Four-Legs, the
Dandy--Indian Views of Civilization--Efforts of M.
The Cut-Nose--The Fawn--Visit of White Crow--Parting with
Friends--Krissman--Louisa again--The Sunday-School
Plante--Removal--Domestic Inconveniences--Indian Presents--Grandmother
Day-kau-ray--Indian Customs--Indian Dances--The Medicine-Dance--Indian
Graves--Old Boilvin's Wake
Indian Tales--Story of the Red Fox
Story of Shee-shee-banze
Visit to Green Bay--Disappointment--Return Journey--Knaggs's--Blind
Commencement of the Sauk War--Winnebago
Council--Crely--Follett--Bravery--The Little Elk--An
Alarm--Man-Eater and his
Party--An Exciting Dance
Fleeing from the Enemy--Mata--Old Smoker--Meeting with
Menomonees--Raising the Wind--Garlic Island--Winnebago Rapids--The
Panic at Green Bay--Tidings of Cholera--Green Bay Flies--Doyle,
the Murderer--Death of Lieutenant Foster--A Hardened Criminal--Good
News from the Seat of War--Departure for Home--Shipwreck
at the Grand Chute--A Wet Encampment--An Unexpected
Arrival--Reinforcement of Volunteers--La Grosse Americaine--Arrival
Conclusion of the War--Treaty at Rock Island--Cholera among the
Troops--Wau-kaun-kah--Wild-Cat's Frolic at the Mee-kan--Surrender
of the Winnebago Prisoners
Delay in the Annual Payment--Scalp-Dances--Groundless Alarm--Arrival
of Governor Porter--Payment--Escape of the Prisoners--Neighbors
Agathe--"Kinzie's Addition"--Tomah--Indian Acuteness--Indian
Famine--Day-kau-ray's Daughter--Noble Resolution of a Chief--Bread
for the Hungry--Rev. Mr. Kent--An Escaped Prisoner--The
Cut-Nose again--Leave-taking with our Red Children--Departure
from Fort Winnebago
THE "EARLY DAY" IN THE NORTHWEST.
DEPARTURE FROM DETROIT.
It was on a dark, rainy evening in the month of September, 1830, that we
went on board the steamer "Henry Clay," to take passage for Green Bay.
All our friends in Detroit had congratulated us upon our good fortune in
being spared the voyage in one of the little schooners which at this
time afforded the ordinary means of communication with the few and
distant settlements on Lakes Huron and Michigan.
Each one had some experience to relate of his own or Of his friends'
mischances in these precarious journeys--long detentions on the St.
Clair flats--furious head-winds off Thunder Bay, or interminable Calms
at Mackinac or the Manitous. That which most enhanced our sense of
peculiar good luck, was the true story of one of our relatives having
left Detroit in the month of June and reached Chicago in the September
following, having been actually three months in performing what is
sometimes accomplished by even a sail-vessel in four days.
But the certainty of encountering similar misadventures would have
weighed little with me. I was now to visit, nay, more, to become a
resident of that land which had, for long years, been to me a region of
romance. Since the time when, as a child, my highest delight had been in
the letters of a dear relative, describing to me his home and mode of
life in the "Indian country," and still later, in his felicitous
narration of a tour with General Cass, in 1820, to the sources of the
Mississippi--nay, even earlier, in the days when I stood at my teacher's
knee, and spelled out the long word Mich-i-li-mack-i-nac, that distant
land, with its vast lakes, its boundless prairies, and its mighty
forests, had possessed a wonderful charm for my imagination. Now I was
to see it!--it was to be my home!
Our ride to the quay, through the dark by-ways, in a cart, the only
vehicle which at that day could navigate the muddy, unpaved streets of
Detroit, was a theme for much merriment, and not less so, our descent of
the narrow, perpendicular stair-way by which we reached the little
apartment called the Ladies' Cabin. We were highly delighted with the
accommodations, which, by comparison, seemed the very climax of comfort
and convenience; more especially as the occupants of the cabin
consisted, beside myself, of but a lady and two little girls.
Nothing could exceed the pleasantness of our trip for the first
twenty-four hours. There were some officers, old friends, among the
passengers. We had plenty of books. The gentlemen read aloud
occasionally, admired the solitary magnificence of the scenery around
us, the primeval woods, or the vast expanse of water unenlivened by a
single sail, and then betook themselves to their cigar, or their game of
euchre, to while away the hours.
For a time the passage over Thunder Bay was delightful, but, alas! it
was not destined, in our favor, to belie its name. A storm came on, fast
and furious--what was worse, it was of long duration. The pitching and
rolling of the little boat, the closeness, and even the sea-sickness, we
bore as became us. They were what we had expected, and were prepared
for. But a new feature of discomfort appeared, which almost upset our
The rain, which fell in torrents, soon made its way through every seam
and pore of deck or moulding. Down the stair-way, through the joints and
crevices, it came, saturating first the carpet, then the bedding, until,
finally, we were completely driven, "by stress of weather," into the
Gentlemen's Cabin. Way was made for us very gallantly, and every
provision resorted to for our comfort, and we were congratulating
ourselves on having found a haven in our distress, when, lo! the seams
above opened, and down upon our devoted heads poured such a flood, that
even umbrellas were an insufficient protection. There was nothing left
for the ladies and children but to betake ourselves to the berths,
which, in this apartment, fortunately remained dry; and here we
continued ensconced the livelong day. Our dinner was served up to us on
our pillows. The gentlemen chose the dryest spots, raised their
umbrellas, and sat under them, telling amusing anecdotes, and saying
funny things to cheer us, until the rain ceased, and at nine o'clock in
the evening we were gladdened by the intelligence that we had reached
the pier at Mackinac.
We were received with the most affectionate cordiality by Mr. and Mrs.
Robert Stuart, at whose hospitable mansion we had been for some days
The repose and comfort of an asylum like this, can be best appreciated
by those who have reached it after a tossing and drenching such as ours
had been. A bright, warm fire, and countenances beaming with kindest
interest, dispelled all sensations of fatigue or annoyance.
After a season of pleasant conversation, the servants were assembled,
the chapter of God's word was solemnly read, the hymn chanted, the
prayer of praise and thanksgiving offered, and we were conducted to our
place of repose.
It is not my purpose here to attempt a portrait of those noble friends
whom I thus met for the first time. To an abler pen than mine should be
assigned the honor of writing the biography of Robert Stuart. All who
have enjoyed the happiness of his acquaintance, or, still more, a
sojourn under his hospitable roof, will carry with them to their latest
hour the impression of his noble bearing, his genial humor, his untiring
benevolence, his upright, uncompromising adherence to principle, his
ardent philanthropy, his noble disinterestedness. Irving in his
"Astoria," and Franchere in his "Narrative," give many striking traits
of his early character, together with events of his history of a
thrilling and romantic interest, but both have left the most valuable
portion unsaid, his after-life, namely, as a Christian gentleman.
Of his beloved partner, who still survives him, mourning on her bereaved
and solitary pilgrimage, yet cheered by the recollection of her long and
useful course as a "Mother in Israel," we will say no more than to offer
the incense of loving hearts, and prayers for the best blessings from
her Father in heaven.
Michilimackinac! that gem of the Lakes! How bright and beautiful it
looked as we walked abroad on the following morning! The rain had passed
away, but had left all things glittering in the light of the sun as it
rose up over the waters of Lake Huron, far away to the east. Before us
was the lovely bay, scarcely yet tranquil after the storm, but dotted
with canoes and the boats of the fishermen already getting out their
nets for the trout and whitefish, those treasures of the deep. Along the
beach were scattered the wigwams or lodges of the Ottawas who had come
to the island to trade. The inmates came forth to gaze upon us. A shout
of welcome was sent forth, as they recognized _Shaw-nee-aw-kee,_ who,
from a seven years' residence among them, was well known to each
A shake of the hand, and an emphatic "_Bon-jour_--_bon-jour_," is the
customary salutation between the Indian and the white man.
"Do the Indians speak French?" I inquired of my husband.
"No; this is a fashion they have learned of the French traders during
many years of intercourse."
Not less hearty was the greeting of each Canadian _engage_, as he
trotted forward to pay his respects to "Monsieur John," and to utter a
long string of felicitations, in a most incomprehensible _patois_. I was
forced to take for granted all the good wishes showered upon "Madame
John," of which I could comprehend nothing but the hope that I should
be happy and contented in my "_vie sauvage_."
The object of our early walk was to visit the Mission-house and school
which had been some few years previously established at this place by
the Presbyterian Board of Missions. It was an object of especial
interest to Mr. and Mrs. Stuart, and its flourishing condition at this
period, and the prospects of extensive future usefulness it held out,
might well gladden their philanthropic hearts. They had lived many years
on the island, and had witnessed its transformation, through God's
blessing on Christian efforts, from a worldly, dissipated community to
one of which it might almost be said, "Religion was every man's
business." This mission establishment was the beloved child and the
common centre of interest of the few Protestant families clustered
around it. Through the zeal and good management of Mr. and Mrs. Ferry,
and the fostering encouragement of the congregation, the school was in
great repute, and it was pleasant to observe the effect of mental and
religious culture in subduing the mischievous, tricky propensities of
the half-breed, and rousing the stolid apathy of the genuine Indian.
These were the palmy days of Mackinac. As the head-quarters of the
American Fur Company, and the entrepot of the whole Northwest, all the
trade in supplies and goods on the one hand, and in furs and products of
the Indian country on the other, was in the hands of the parent
establishment or its numerous outposts scattered along Lakes Superior
and Michigan, the Mississippi, or through still more distant regions.
Probably few are ignorant of the fact, that all the Indian tribes, with
the exception of the Miamis and the Wyandots, had, since the transfer of
the old French possessions to the British Crown, maintained a firm
alliance with the latter. The independence achieved by the United
States did not alter the policy of the natives, nor did our Government
succeed in winning or purchasing their friendship. Great Britain, it is
true, bid high to retain them. Every year the leading men of the
Chippewas, Ottawas, Pottowattamies, Menomonees, Winnebagoes, Sauks, and
Foxes, and even still more remote tribes, journeyed from their distant
homes to Fort Malden in Upper Canada, to receive their annual amount of
presents from their Great Father across the water. It was a
master-policy thus to keep them in pay, and had enabled those who
practised it to do fearful execution through the aid of such allies in
the last war between the two countries.
The presents they thus received were of considerable value, consisting
of blankets, broadcloths or _strouding_, calicoes, guns, kettles, traps,
silver-works (comprising arm-bands, bracelets, brooches; and ear-bobs),
looking-glasses, combs, and various other trinkets distributed with no
The magazines and store-houses of the Fur Company at Mackinac were the
resort of all the upper tribes for the sale of their commodities, and
the purchase of all such articles as they had need of, including those
above enumerated, and also ammunition, which, as well as money and
liquor, their British friends very commendably omitted to furnish them.
Besides their furs, various in kind and often of great value--beaver,
otter, marten, mink, silver-gray and red fox, wolf, bear, and wild-cat,
musk-rat, and smoked deer-skins--the Indians brought for trade
maple-sugar in abundance, considerable quantities of both Indian corn
and _petit-ble_, beans and the _folles avoines_, or wild rice;
while the squaws added to their quota of merchandise a contribution in
the form of moccasins, hunting-pouches, mococks, or little boxes of
birch-bark embroidered with porcupine-quills and filled with
maple-sugar, mats of a neat and durable fabric, and toy-models of Indian
cradles, snow-shoes, canoes, etc., etc.
It was no unusual thing, at this period, to see a hundred or more canoes
of Indians at once approaching the island, laden with their articles of
traffic; and if to these we add the squadrons of large Mackinac boats
constantly arriving from the outposts, with the furs, peltries, and
buffalo-robes collected by the distant traders, some idea may be formed
of the extensive operations and important position of the American Fur
Company, as well as of the vast circle of human beings either
immediately or remotely connected with it.
It is no wonder that the philanthropic mind, surveying these, races of
uncultivated heathen, should stretch forward to the time when, through
an unwearied devotion of the white man's energies, and an untiring
sacrifice of self and fortune, his red brethren might rise in the scale
of social civilization--when Education and Christianity should go hand
in hand, to make "the wilderness blossom as the rose."
Little did the noble souls at that day rejoicing in the success of their
labors at Mackinac, anticipate that in less than a quarter of a century
there would remain of all these numerous tribes but a few scattered
bands, squalid, degraded, with scarce a vestige remaining of their
former lofty character--their lands cajoled or wrested from them, the
graves of their fathers turned up by the ploughshare--themselves chased
farther and farther towards the setting sun, until they were literally
grudged a resting-place on the face of the earth!
Our visit to the Mission-school was of short duration, for the Henry
Clay was to leave at two o'clock, and in the mean time we were to see
what we could of the village and its environs, and after that dine with
Mr. Mitchell, an old friend of my husband. As we walked leisurely along
over the white, gravelly road, many of the residences of the old
inhabitants were pointed out to me. There was the dwelling of Madame
Laframboise, an Ottawa woman, whose husband had taught her to read and
write, and who had ever after continued to use the knowledge she had
acquired for the instruction and improvement of the youth among her own
people. It was her custom to receive a class of young pupils daily at
her house, that she might give them lessons in the branches mentioned,
and also in the principles of the Roman Catholic religion, to which she
was deeply devoted. She was a woman of a vast deal of energy and
enterprise--of a tall and commanding figure, and most dignified
deportment. After the death of her husband, who was killed while away at
his trading-post by a Winnebago named _White Ox_, she was accustomed to
visit herself the trading-posts, superintend the clerks and engages, and
satisfy herself that the business was carried on in a regular and
The Agency-house, with its unusual luxuries of piazza and gardens, was
situated at the foot of the hill on which the fort was built. It was a
lovely spot, notwithstanding the stunted and dwarfish appearance of all
cultivated vegetation in this cold northern latitude.
The collection of rickety, primitive-looking buildings, occupied by the
officials of the Fur Company, reflected no great credit on the
architectural skill of my husband, who had superintended their
construction, he told me, when little more than a boy.
There were, besides these, the residences of the Dousmans, the Abbotts,
the Biddles, the Drews, and the Lashleys, stretching away along the
base of the beautiful hill, crowned with the white walls and buildings
of the fort, the ascent to which was so steep that on the precipitous
face nearest the beach staircases were built by which to mount from
My head ached intensely, the effect of the motion of the boat on the
previous day, but I did not like to give up to it; so, after I had been
shown all that could be seen of the little settlement in the short time
allowed us, we repaired to Mr. Mitchell's.
We were received by Mrs. M., an extremely pretty, delicate woman, part
French and part Sioux, whose early life had been passed at Prairie du
Chien, on the Mississippi. She had been a great belle among the young
officers at Fort Crawford; so much so, indeed, that the suicide of the
post-surgeon was attributed to an unsuccessful attachment he had
conceived for her. I was greatly struck with her soft and gentle
manners, and the musical intonation of her voice, which I soon learned
was a distinguishing peculiarity of those women in whom are united the
French and native blood.
A lady, then upon a visit to the Mission, was of the company. She
insisted on my lying down upon the sofa, and ministered most kindly to
my suffering head. As she sat by my side, and expatiated upon the new
sphere opening before me, she inquired:
"Do you not realize very strongly the entire deprivation of religious
privileges you will be obliged to suffer in your distant home?"
"The deprivation," said I, "will doubtless be great, but not _entire_;
for I shall have my Prayer-Book, and, though destitute of a church, we
need not be without a _mode_ of worship."
How often afterwards, when cheered by the consolations of that precious
book in the midst of the lonely wilderness, did I remember this
conversation, and bless God that I could never, while retaining it, be
without "religious privileges."
We had not yet left the dinner-table, when the bell of the little
steamer sounded to summon us on board, and we bade a hurried farewell to
all our kind friends, bearing with us their hearty wishes for a safe and
A finer sight can scarcely be imagined than Mackinac, from the water. As
we steamed away from the shore, the view came full upon us--the sloping
beach with the scattered wigwams, and canoes drawn up here and
there--the irregular, quaint-looking houses--the white walls of the
fort, and, beyond, one eminence still more lofty crowned with the
remains of old Fort Holmes. The whole picture completed, showed the
perfect outline that had given the island its original Indian name,
_Mich-i-li-mack-i-nac_, the Big Turtle.
Then those pure, living waters, in whose depths the fish might be seen
gliding and darting to and fro; whose clearness is such that an object
dropped to the bottom may be discerned at the depth of fifty or sixty
feet, a dollar lying far down on its green bed, looking no larger than a
half dime! I could hardly wonder at the enthusiastic lady who exclaimed:
"Oh! I could wish to be drowned in these pure, beautiful waters!"
As we passed the extreme western point of the island, my husband pointed
out to me, far away to the northwest, a promontory which he told me was
Point St. Ignace. It possessed great historic interest, as one of the
earliest white settlements on this continent. The Jesuit missionaries
had established here a church and school as early as 1607, the same year
in which a white settlement was made at St. Augustine, in Florida, and
one year before the founding of Jamestown, Virginia.
All that remains of the enterprises of these devoted men, is the
remembrance of their labors, perpetuated, in most instances, only by the
names of the spots which witnessed their efforts of love in behalf of
their savage brethren. The little French church at Sandwich, opposite
Detroit, alone is left, a witness of the zeal and self-sacrifice of
these pioneers of Christianity.
Passing "Old Mackinac," on the main land, which forms the southern
border of the straits, we soon came out into the broad waters of Lake
Michigan. Every traveller, and every reader of our history, is familiar
with the incidents connected with the taking of the old fort by the
Indians, in the days of Pontiac. How, by means of a game of ball, played
in an apparently friendly spirit outside the walls, and of which the
officers and soldiers had come forth to be spectators, the ball was
dexterously tossed over the wall, and the savages rushing in, under
pretext of finding it, soon got possession and massacred the garrison.
The little Indian village of L'Arbre Croche gleamed far away south, in
the light of the setting sun. With that exception, there was no sign of
living habitation along that vast and wooded shore. The gigantic
forest-trees, and here and there the little glades of prairie opening to
the water, showed a landscape that would have gladdened the eye of the
agriculturist, with its promise of fertility; but it was evidently
untrodden by the foot of man, and we left it, in its solitude, as we
took our course westward across the waters.
The rainy and gusty weather, so incident to the equinoctial season,
overtook us again before we reached the mouth of Green Bay, and kept us
company until the night of our arrival upon the flats, about three miles
below the settlement. Here the little steamer grounded "fast and hard."
As almost every one preferred braving the elements to remaining cooped
up in the quarters we had occupied for the past week, we decided to
trust ourselves to the little boat, spite of wind, and rain, and
darkness, and in due time we reached the shore.
Our arrival at Green Bay was at an unfortunate moment. It was the time
of a treaty between the United States Government and the Menomonees and
Waubanakees. Consequently, not only the commissioners of the treaty,
with their clerks and officials, but traders, claimants, travellers, and
idlers innumerable were upon the ground. Most of these were congregated
in the only hotel the place afforded. This was a tolerably-sized house
near the river-side, and as we entered the long dining-room, cold and
dripping from the open boat, we were infinitely amused at the motley
assemblage it contained. Various groups were seated around. New comers,
like ourselves, stood here and there, for there were not seats enough to
accommodate all who sought entertainment. The landlord sat calm and
indifferent, his hands in his pockets, exhibiting all the phlegm of a
His fat, notable spouse was trotting round, now stopping to scold about
some one who, "burn his skin!" had fallen short in his duty; now
laughing good-humoredly until her sides shook, at some witticism
addressed to her.
She welcomed us very cordially, but to our inquiry, "Can you
accommodate us?" her reply was, "Not I. I have got twice as many people
now as I know what to do with. I have had to turn my own family out of
their quarters, what with the commissioners and the lot of folks that
has come in upon us."
"What are we to do, then? It is too late and stormy to go up to
Shanty-town to seek for lodgings."
"Well, sit you down and take your supper, and we will see what we can
And she actually did contrive to find a little nook, in which we were
glad to take refuge from the multitudes around us.
A slight board partition separated us from the apartment occupied by
General Root, of New York, one of the commissioners of the treaty. The
steamer in which we came had brought the mail, at that day a rare
blessing to the distant settlements. The opening and reading of all the
dispatches, which the General received about bed-time, had, of course,
to be gone through with, before he could retire to rest. His eyes being
weak, his secretaries were employed to read the communications. He was a
little deaf withal, and through the slight division between the two
apartments the contents of the letters, and his comments upon them, were
unpleasantly audible, as he continually admonished his secretary to
raise his voice.
"What is that, Walter? Read that over again."
In vain we coughed and hemmed, and knocked over sundry pieces of
furniture. They were too deeply interested to hear aught that passed
around them, and if we had been politicians we should have had all the
secrets of the _working-men's party_ at our disposal, out of which to
have made capital.
The next morning it was still rain! rain! nothing but rain! In spite of
it, however, the gentlemen would take a small boat to row to the
steamer, to bring up the luggage, not the least important part of that
which appertained to us being sundry boxes of silver for paying the
annuities to the Winnebagoes at the Portage.
I went out with some others of the company upon the piazza, to witness
their departure. A gentleman pointed out to me Fort Howard, on a
projecting point of the opposite shore, about three-quarters of a mile
distant--the old barracks, the picketed inclosure, the walls, all
looking quaint, and, considering their modern erection, really ancient
and venerable. Presently we turned our attention to the boat, which had
by this time gained the middle of the river. One of the passengers was
standing up in the stern, apparently giving some directions.
"That is rather a venturesome fellow," remarked one; "if he is not
careful he will lose his balance." And at this moment we saw him
actually perform a summerset backward, and disappear in the water.
"Oh!" cried I, "he will be drowned!"
The gentlemen laughed. "No, there he is; they are helping him in again."
The course of the boat was immediately changed, and the party returned
to the shore. It was not until one disembarked and came dripping and
laughing towards me, that I recognized him as my own peculiar property.
He was pleased to treat the matter as a joke, but I thought it rather a
sad beginning of Western experience.
He suffered himself to be persuaded to intrust the care of his effects
to his friends, and having changed his dress, prepared to remain quietly
with me, when just at this moment a vehicle drove up to the door, and we
recognized the pleasant, familiar face of our old friend, Judge Doty.
He had received the news of our arrival, and had come to take us at
once to his hospitable mansion. We were only too happy to gather
together our bags and travelling-baskets and accompany him without
Our drive took us first along the edge of Navarino, next through
Shanty-town (the latter a far more appropriate name than the former),
amid mud and mire, over bad roads, and up and down hilly, break-neck
places, until we reached the little brick dwelling of our friends. Mrs.
Doty received us with such true, sisterly kindness, and everything
seemed so full of welcome, that we soon felt ourselves at home.
We found that, expecting our arrival, invitations had already been
prepared to assemble the whole circle of Green Bay society to meet us at
an evening party--this, in a new country, being the established mode of
doing honor to guests or strangers.
We learned, upon inquiry, that Captain Harney, who had kindly offered to
come with a boat and crew of soldiers from Fort Winnebago, to convey us
to that place, our destined home, had not yet arrived; we therefore felt
at liberty to make arrangements for a few days of social enjoyment at
It was pleasant to people, secluded in such a degree from the world at
large, to bear all the news we had brought--all the particulars of life
and manners--the thousand little items that the newspapers of that day
did not dream of furnishing--the fashions, and that general gossip, in
short, which a lady is erroneously supposed more _au fait_ of, than a
I well remember that, in giving and receiving information, the day
passed in a pretty uninterrupted stream of communication. All the party
except myself had made the journey, or rather voyage, up the Fox River
and down the Wisconsin to the Mississippi.
There were plenty of anecdotes of a certain trip performed by the
three, in company with a French trader and his two sisters, then making
their debut as Western travellers. The manner in which Mademoiselle
Julie would borrow, without leave, a fine damask napkin or two, to wipe
out the ducks in preparation for cooking--the difficulty of persuading
either of the sisters of the propriety of washing and rinsing their
table apparatus nicely before packing it away in the mess-basket, the
consequence of which was, that another nice napkin must be stealthily
whisked out, to wipe the dishes when the hour for meals arrived--the fun
of the young gentleman in hunting up his stray articles, thus
misappropriated, from the nooks and corners of the boat, tying them with
a cord, and hanging them over the stern, to make their way down the
Wisconsin to Prairie du Chien.
Then there was a capital story of M. Rolette himself. At one point on
the route (I think in crossing Winnebago Lake) the travellers met one of
the Company's boats on its way to Green Bay for supplies. M. Rolette was
one of the agents of the Company, and the people in the boat were his
employes. Of course after an absence of some weeks from home, the
meeting on these lonely waters and the exchanging of news was an
occasion of great excitement.
The boats were stopped--earnest greetings interchanged--question
"_Eh bien_--have they finished the new house?"
"_Et la cheminee, fume-t-elle?_" (Does the chimney smoke?)
"And the harvest--how is that?"
"Very fine, indeed."
"Is the mill at work?"
"Yes, plenty of water."
"How is Whip?" (his favorite horse.)
"Oh! Whip is first-rate."
Everything, in short, about the store, the farm, the business of various
descriptions being satisfactorily gone over, there was no occasion for
farther delay. It was time to proceed.
"_Eh bien--adieu! bon voyage!_"
"_Arrachez, mes gens!_" (Go ahead, men!)
Then suddenly--"_Arretez! arretez!_" (Stop, stop!)
"_Comment se portent Madame Rolette et les enfans?_" (How are Mrs.
Rolette and the children?)
* * * * *
This day, with its excitement, was at length over, and we retired to our
rest, thankful that we had not General Root and his secretary close to
our bed's head, with their budget of political news.
My slumbers were not destined, however, to be quite undisturbed. I was
awakened, at the first slight peep of dawn, by a sound from an apartment
beneath our own--a plaintive, monotonous chant, rising and then falling
in a sort of mournful cadence. It seemed to me a wail of something
unearthly--so wild--so strange--so unaccountable. In terror I awoke my
husband, who reassured me by telling me it was the morning salutation of
the Indians to the opening day.
Some Menomonees had been kindly given shelter for the night in the
kitchen below, and, having fulfilled their unvarying custom of chanting
their morning hymn, they now ceased, and again composed themselves to
sleep. But not so their auditor. There was to me something inexpressibly
beautiful in this morning song of praise from the untaught sons of the
forest. What a lesson did it preach to the civilized, Christianized
world, too many of whom lie down and rise up without an aspiration of
thanksgiving to their Almighty Preserver--without even a remembrance of
His care, who gives His angels charge concerning them! Never has the
impression of that simple act of worship faded from my mind. I have
loved to think that, with some, these strains might be the outpouring of
a devotion as pure as that of the Christian when he utters the inspiring
words of the sainted Ken--
"Awake, my soul! and with the sun," etc.
* * * * *
Among the visitors who called to offer me a welcome to the West, were
Mr. and Miss Cadle, who were earnestly engaged in the first steps of
their afterwards flourishing enterprise for the education of Indian and
half-breed children. The school-houses and chapel were not yet erected,
but we visited their proposed site, and listened with great interest to
bright anticipations of the future good that was to be accomplished--the
success that was to crown their efforts for taming the heathen and
teaching them the knowledge of their Saviour and the blessings of
civilized life. The sequel has shown how little the zeal of the few can
accomplish, when opposed to the cupidity of the many.
Our evening party went off as parties do elsewhere. The most interesting
feature to me, because the most novel, was the conversation of some
young ladies to whom I was introduced, natives of Green Bay or its
vicinity. Their mother was a Menomonee, but their father was a
Frenchman, a descendant of a settler some generations back, and who,
there is reason to believe, was a branch of the same family of Grignon
to which the daughter of Madame de Sevigne belonged. At least, it is
said there are in the possession of the family many old papers and
records which would give that impression, although the orthography of
the name has become slightly changed. Be that as it may, the Miss
Grignons were strikingly dignified, well-bred young ladies, and there
was a charm about their soft voices, and original, unsophisticated
remarks, very attractive to a stranger.
They opened to me, however, a new field of apprehension; for, on my
expressing my great impatience to see my new home, they exclaimed, with
a look of wonder,--
"_Vous n'avez donc pas peur des serpens_?"
"Snakes! was it possible there were snakes at Fort Winnebago?"
"At the Portage! oh! yes--one can never walk out for
I am not naturally timid, but I must confess that the idea of the
_serpens sonnettes_ and the _siffleurs_ was not quite a subject of
There was one among these young ladies whose tall, graceful figure,
rich, blooming complexion, and dark, glancing eye, would have
distinguished her in any drawing-room--and another, whose gentle
sweetness and cultivated taste made it a matter of universal regret that
she was afterwards led to adopt the seclusion of a convent.
Captain Harney and his boat arrived in due time, and active preparations
far the comfort of our journey commenced under the kind supervision of
Mrs. Doty. The mess-basket was stowed with good things of every
description--ham and tongue--biscuit and plum-cake--not to mention the
substantiate of crackers, bread, and boiled pork, the latter of which,
however, a lady was supposed to be too fastidious to think of touching,
even if starving in the woods.
We had engaged three Canadian voyageurs to take charge of our tent,
mess-basket, and matters and things in general. Their business it was to
be to cut the wood for our fires, prepare our meals, and give a helping
hand to whatever was going forward. A messenger had also been sent to
the Kakalin, or rapids, twenty-one miles above, to notify
_Wish-tay-yun_, the most accomplished guide through the difficult
passes of the river, to be in readiness for our service on a specified
In the mean time, we had leisure for one more party, and it was to be a
"real Western hop." Everybody will remember that dance at Mrs. Baird's.
All the people, young and old, that would be gathered throughout, or, as
it was the fashion to express it, _on_ Green Bay, were assembled. The
young officers were up from Fort Howard, looking so smart in their
uniforms--treasures of finery, long uncalled forth, were now brought to
light--everybody was bound to do honor to the strangers by appearing in
their very best. It was to be an entertainment unequalled by any given
before. All the house was put in requisition for the occasion. Desks and
seats were unceremoniously dismissed from Mr. B.'s office, which formed
one wing, to afford more space for the dancers. Not only the front
portion of the dwelling, but even the kitchen was made fit for the
reception of company, in case any primitive visitor, as was sometimes
the case, should prefer sitting down quietly there and smoking his
cigar. This was an emergency that, in those days, had always to be
Nothing could exceed the mirth and hilarity of the company. No
restraint, but of good manners--no excess of conventionalities--genuine,
hearty good-humor and enjoyment, such as pleasant, hospitable people,
with just enough of the French element to add zest to anything like
amusement, could furnish, to make the entertainment agreeable. In a
country so new, and where, in a social gathering, the number of the
company was more important than the quality, the circle was not always,
strictly speaking, select.
I was aware of this, and was therefore more amused than surprised when a
clumsy little man, with a broad, red, laughing face, waddled across the
room to where I had taken my seat after a dance, and thus addressed me:
"_Miss_ K----, nobody hain't never introduced you to me, but I've seen
you a good many times, and I know your husband very well, so I thought I
might just as well come and speak to you--my name is A----."
"Ah! Mr. A----, good-evening. I hope you are enjoying yourself. How is
"Oh! she is a great deal worse--her cold has got into her eye, and it is
all _shot up_."
Then turning full upon a lady who sat near, radiant with youth and
beauty, sparkling with wit and genuine humor:
"Oh! Mrs. Beall," he began, "what a beautiful gown you have got on, and
how handsome you do look! I declare you're the prettiest woman in the
room, and dance the handsomest."
"Indeed, Mr. A----," replied she, suppressing her love of fun and
assuming a demure look, "I am afraid you flatter me."
"No, I don't--I'm in earnest. I've just come to ask you to dance."
Such was the penalty of being too charming.
VOYAGE UP FOX RIVER.
It had been arranged that Judge Doty should accompany us in our boat as
far as the Butte des Morts, at which place his attendant would be
waiting with horses to convey him to Mineral Point, where he was to hold
It was a bright and beautiful morning when we left his pleasant home, to
commence our passage up the Fox River Captain Harney was proposing to
remain a few days longer at "the Bay," but he called to escort us to the
boat and instal us in all its comforts.
As he helped me along over the ploughed ground and other inequalities in
our way to the river-bank, where the boat lay, he told me how
impatiently Mrs. Twiggs, the wife of the commanding officer, who since
the past spring had been the only white lady at Fort Winnebago, was now
expecting a companion and friend. We had met in New York, shortly after
her marriage, and were, therefore, not quite unacquainted. I, for my
part, felt sure that when there were two of our sex--when my piano was
safely there--when the Post Library which we had purchased should be
unpacked--when all should be fairly arranged and settled, we should be,
although far away in the wilderness, the happiest little circle
imaginable. All my anticipations were of the most sanguine and cheerful
It was a moderate-sized Mackinac boat, with a crew of soldiers, and our
own three voyageurs in addition, that lay waiting for us--a dark-looking
structure of some thirty feet in length. Placed in the centre was a
frame-work of slight posts, supporting a roof of canvas, with curtains
of the same, which might be let down at the sides and ends, after the
manner of a country stage-coach, or rolled up to admit the light and
In the midst of this little cabin or saloon was placed the box
containing my piano, and on it a mattress, which was to furnish us a
divan through the day and a place of repose at night, should the weather
at any time prove too wet or unpleasant for encamping. The boxes of
silver, with which my husband was to pay the annuities due his red
children, by treaty-stipulation, were stowed next. Our mess-basket was
in a convenient vicinity, and we had purchased a couple of large square
covered baskets of the Waubanakees, or New York Indians, to hold our
various necessary articles of outward apparel and bedding, and at the
same time to answer as very convenient little work or dinner-tables.
As a true daughter of New England, it is to be taken for granted I had
not forgotten to supply myself with knitting-work and embroidery. Books
and pencils were a matter of course.
The greater part of our furniture, together with the various articles
for housekeeping with which we had supplied ourselves in New York and
Detroit, were to follow in another boat, under the charge of people
whose business it professed to be to take cargoes safely up the rapids
and on to Fort Winnebago. This was an enterprise requiring some three
weeks of time and a great amount of labor, so that the owners of the
goods transported might think themselves happy to receive them at last,
however wet, broken, and dilapidated their condition might be. It was
for this reason that we took our choicest possessions with us, even at
the risk of being a little crowded.
Until now I had never seen a gentleman attired in a colored shirt, a
spotless white collar and bosom being one of those "notions" that
"Boston," and consequently New England "folks," entertained of the
becoming in a gentleman's toilette. Mrs. Cass had laughingly forewarned
me that not only calico shirts but patch-work pillow-cases were an
indispensable part of a travelling equipment; and, thanks to the taste
and skill of some tidy little Frenchwoman, I found our divan-pillows all
accommodated in the brightest and most variegated garb.
The Judge and my husband were gay with the deepest of blue and pink.
Each was prepared, besides, with a bright red cap (a _bonnet rouge_, or
_tuque_, as the voyageurs call it), which, out of respect for the lady,
was to be donned only when a hearty dinner, a dull book, or the want of
exercise made an afternoon nap indispensable.
The Judge was an admirable travelling companion. He had lived many years
in the country, had been with General Cass on his expedition to the
head-waters of the Mississippi, and had a vast fund of anecdote
regarding early times, customs, and inhabitants.
Some instances of the mode of administering justice in those days, I
happen to recall.
There was an old Frenchman at the Bay, named Reaume, excessively
ignorant and grasping, although otherwise tolerably good-natured. This
man was appointed justice of the peace. Two men once appeared before
him, the one as plaintiff, the other as defendant. The justice listened
patiently to the complaint of the one and the defence of the other;
then rising, with dignity, he pronounced his decision:
"You are both wrong. You, Bois-vert," to the plaintiff, "you bring me
one load of hay; and you, Crely," to the defendant, "you bring me one
load of wood; and now the matter is settled." It does not appear that
any exceptions were taken to this verdict.
This anecdote led to another, the scene of which was Prairie du Chien,
on the Mississippi.
There was a Frenchman, a justice of the peace, who was universally known
by the name of "Old Boilvin." His office was just without the walls of
the fort, and it was much the fashion among the officers to lounge in
there of a morning, to find sport for an idle hour, and to take a glass
of brandy-and-water with the old gentleman, which he called "taking a
A soldier, named Fry, had been accused of stealing and killing a calf
belonging to M. Rolette, and the constable, a bricklayer of the name of
Bell, had been dispatched to arrest the culprit and bring him to trial.
While the gentlemen were making their customary morning visit to the
justice, a noise was heard in the entry, and a knock at the door.
"Come in," cried Old Boilvin, rising and walking toward the door.
_Bell_,--Here, sir, I have brought Fry to you, as you ordered.
_Justice_--Fry, you great rascal! What for you kill M. Rolette's calf?
_Fry_,--I did not kill M. Rolette's calf.
_Justice_ (shaking his fist).--You lie, you great ---- rascal! Bell,
take him to jail. Come, gentlemen, come, _let us take a leetle
* * * * *
The Canadian boatmen always sing while rowing or paddling, and nothing
encourages them so much as to hear the "bourgeois" take the lead in
the music. If the passengers, more especially those of the fair sex,
join in the refrain, the compliment is all the greater.
Their songs are of a light, cheerful character, generally embodying some
little satire or witticism, calculated to produce a spirited, sometimes
an uproarious, chorus.
The song and refrain are carried on somewhat in the following style:
BOURGEOIS.--Par-derriere chez ma tante,
Par-derriere chez ma tante.
CHORUS.--Par-derriere chez ma tante,
Par-derriere chez ma tante.
BOURGEOIS.--Il y a un coq qui chante,
Des pommes, des poires, des raves, des choux,
Des figues nouvelles, des raisins doux.
CHORUS.--Des pommes, des poires, des raves, des choux,
Des figues nouvelles, des raisins doux.
BOURGEOIS.--Il y a un coq qui chante,
Il y a un coq qui chante.
CHORUS.--Il y a un coq qui chante, etc.
BOURGEOIS.--Demande une femme a prendre,
Des pommes, des poires, des raves, des choux, etc.
CHORUS.--Des pommes, dos poires, etc.
BOURGEOIS.--Demande une femme a prendre,
Demande une femme a, etc.
And thus it continues until the advice is given successively,
Ne prenez pas une noire,
Car elles aiment trop a boire,
Ne prenez pas une rousse,
Car elles sont trop jalouses.
And by the time all the different qualifications are rehearsed and
objected to, lengthened out by the interminable repetition of the
chorus, the shout of the bourgeois is heard--
"Whoop la! a terre, a terre--pour la pipe!"
It is an invariable custom for the voyageurs to stop every five or six
miles to rest and smoke, so that it was formerly the way of measuring
distances--"so many pipes," instead of "so many miles."
The Canadian melodies are sometimes very beautiful, and a more
exhilarating mode of travel can hardly be imagined than a voyage over
these waters, amid all the wild magnificence of nature, with the
measured strokes of the oar keeping time to the strains of "_Le Rosier
Blanc_," "En roulant ma Boule_," or "_Leve ton pied, ma jolie Bergere."_
The climax of fun seemed to be in a comic piece, which, however oft
repeated, appeared never to grow stale. It was somewhat after this
BOURGEOIS.--Michaud est monte dans un prunier,
Pour treiller des prunes.
La branche a casse--
CHORUS.--Michaud a tombe?
BOURGEOIS.--Ou est-ce qu'il est?
CHORUS.--Il est en bas.
BOURGEOIS.--Oh! reveille, reveille, reveille,
Oh! reveille, Michaud est en haut!
It was always a point of etiquette to look astonished at the luck of
Michaud in remaining in the tree, spite of the breaking of the branch,
and the joke had to be repeated through all the varieties of
fruit-trees that Michaud might be supposed able to climb.
By evening of the first day we arrived at _the Kakalin_, where another
branch of the Grignon family resided. We were very pleasantly
entertained, although, in my anxiety to begin my forest life, I would
fain have had the tent pitched on the bank of the river, and have laid
aside, at once, the indulgences of civilization. This, however, would
have been a slight, perhaps an affront; so we did much better, and
partook of the good cheer that was offered us in the shape of hot
venison steaks and crepes, and that excellent cup of coffee which none
can prepare like a Frenchwoman, and which is so refreshing after a day
in the open air.
The Kakalin is a rapid of the Fox River, sufficiently important to make
the portage of the heavy lading of a boat necessary; the boat itself
being poled or dragged up with cords against the current. It is one of a
series of rapids and _chutes_, or falls, which occur between this point
and Lake Winnebago, twenty miles above.
The next morning, after breakfast, we took leave of our hosts, and
prepared to pursue our journey. The bourgeois, from an early hour, had
been occupied in superintending his men in getting the boat and its
loading over the Kakalin. As the late rains had made the paths through
the woods and along the banks of the river somewhat muddy and
uncomfortable for walking, I was put into an ox-cart, to be jolted over
the unequal road; saluting impartially all the stumps and stones that
lay in our way, the only means of avoiding which seemed to be when the
little, thick-headed Frenchman, our conductor, bethought him of suddenly
guiding his cattle into a projecting tree or thorn-bush, to the great
detriment not only of my straw bonnet, but of my very eyes.
But we got through at last, and, arriving at the head of the rapids, I
found the boat lying there, all in readiness for our re-embarking.
Our Menomonee guide, _Wish-tay-yun_, a fine, stalwart Indian, with an
open, good-humored, one might almost say _roguish_ countenance, came
forward to be presented to me.
"_Bon-jour, bon-jour, maman_," was his laughing salutation. Again I was
surprised, not as before at the French, for to that I had become
accustomed, but at the respectable title he was pleased to bestow upon
"Yes," said my husband, "you must make up your mind to receive a very
numerous and well-grown family, consisting of all the Winnebagoes,
Pottowattamies, Chippewas, and Ottawas, together with such Sioux, Sacs
and Foxes, and Iowas, as have any point to gain in applying to me. By
the first-named tribe in virtue of my office, and by the others as a
matter of courtesy, I am always addressed as '_father_'--you, of course,
will be their '_mother_.'"
Wish-tay-yun and I were soon good friends, my husband interpreting to me
the Chippewa language in which he spoke. We were impatient to be off,
the morning being already far advanced, and, all things being in
readiness, the word was given:
"_Pousse au large, mes gens!_" (Push out, my men).
At this moment a boat was seen leaving the opposite bank of the river
and making towards us. It contained white men, and they showed by signs
that they wished to detain us until they came up. They drew near, and we
found them to be Mr. Marsh, a missionary among the Waubanakees, or the
New York Indians, lately brought into this country, and the Rev. Eleazar
Williams, who was at that time living among his red brethren on the
right bank of the Fox River.
To persons so situated, even more emphatically than to those of the
settlements, the arrival of visitors from the "east countrie" was a
godsend indeed. We had to give all the news of various kinds that we had
brought--political, ecclesiastical, and social--as well as a tolerably
detailed account of what we proposed to do, or rather what we hoped to
be able to do, among our native children at the Portage.
I was obliged, for my part, to confess that, being almost entirely a
stranger to the Indian character and habits, I was going among them with
no settled plans of any kind--general good-will, and a hope of making
them my friends, being the only principles I could lay claim to at
present. I must leave it for time and a better acquaintance to show me
in what way the principle could be carried out for their greatest good.
Mr. Williams was a dark-complexioned, good-looking man. Having always
heard him spoken of, by his relations in Connecticut, as "our Indian
cousin," it never occurred to me to doubt his belonging to that race,
although I now think that if I had met him elsewhere I should have taken
him for a Spaniard or a Mexican. His complexion had decidedly more of
the olive than the copper hue, and his countenance was grave, almost
melancholy. He was very silent during this interview, asking few
questions, and offering no observations except in reply to some question
addressed to him.
It was a hard pull for the men up the rapids. Wish-tay-yun, whose clear,
sonorous voice was the bugle of the party, shouted and whooped--each one
answered with a chorus, and a still more vigorous effort. By-and-by the
boat would become firmly set between two huge stones--
"Whoop la! whoop! whoop!"
Another pull, and another, straining every nerve--in vain.
"She will not budge!"
"Men, overboard!" and instantly every rower is over the side and into
By pulling, pushing, and tugging, the boat is at length released from
her position, and the men walk along beside her, helping and guiding
her, until they reach a space of comparatively smooth water, when they
again take their seats and their oars.
It will be readily imagined that there were few songs this day, but very
frequent _pipes_, to refresh the poor fellows after such an arduous
It was altogether a new spectacle to me. In fact, I had hardly ever
before been called upon to witness severe bodily exertion, and my
sympathies and sensibilities were, for this reason, the more enlisted on
the occasion. It seemed a sufficient hardship to have to labor in this
violent manner; but to walk in cold water up to their waists, and then
to sit down in their soaking garments without going near a fire! Poor
men! this was too much to be borne! What, then, was my consternation to
see my husband, who, shortly after our noon-tide meal, had surprised me
by making his appearance in a pair of duck trowsers and light jacket, at
the first cry of "Fast, again!" spring over into the water with the men,
and "bear a hand" throughout the remainder of the long stretch!
When he returned on board, it was to take the oar of a poor,
delicate-looking boy, one of the company of soldiers, who from the first
had suffered with bleeding at the nose on every unusual exertion. I was
not surprised, on inquiring, to find that this lad was a recruit just
entered the service. He passed by the name of Gridley, but that was
undoubtedly an assumed name. He had the appearance of having been
delicately nurtured, and had probably enlisted without at all
appreciating the hardships and discomforts of a soldier's life. This is
evident from the dissatisfaction he always continued to feel, until at
length he deserted from his post. This was some months subsequent to the
time of which I am writing. He was once retaken, and kept for a time in
confinement, but immediately on his release deserted again, and his
remains were found the following spring, not many miles from the fort.
He had died, either of cold or starvation. This is a sad interlude--we
will return to our boating.
With all our tugging and toiling, we had accomplished but thirteen miles
since leaving the Kakalin, and it was already late when we arrived in
view of the "Grande Chute," near which we were to encamp.
We had passed the "Little Chute" (the spot where the town of Appleton
now stands) without any further observation than that it required a vast
deal of extra exertion to buffet with the rushing stream and come off,
as we did, victorious.
The brilliant light of the setting sun was resting on the high wooded
banks through which broke the beautiful, foaming, dashing waters of the
Chute. The boat was speedily turned towards a little headland projecting
from the left bank, which had the advantage of a long strip of level
ground, sufficiently spacious to afford a good encamping ground. I
jumped ashore before the boat was fairly pulled up by the men, and with
the Judge's help made my way as rapidly as possible to a point lower
down the river, from which, he said, the best view of the Chute could be
obtained. I was anxious to make a sketch before the daylight quite faded
The left bank of the river was to the west, and over a portion less
elevated than the rest the sun's parting rays fell upon the boat, the
men with their red caps and belts, and the two tents already pitched.
The smoke now beginning to ascend from the evening fires, the high
wooded bank beyond, up which the steep portage path could just be
discerned, and, more remote still, the long stretch of waterfall now
darkening in the shadow of the overhanging forests, formed a lovely
landscape, to which the pencil of an artist could alone do justice.
This was my first encampment, and I was quite enchanted with the novelty
of everything about me.
The fires had been made of small saplings and underbrush, hastily
collected, the mildness of the weather rendering anything beyond what
sufficed for the purposes of cooking and drying the men's clothes,
superfluous. The soldiers' tent was pitched at some distance from our
own, but not too far for us to hear distinctly their laughter and
apparent enjoyment after the fatigues of the day.
Under the careful superintendence of Corporal Kilgour, however, their
hilarity never passed the bounds of respectful propriety, and, by the
time we had eaten our suppers, cooked in the open air with the simple
apparatus of a tea-kettle and frying-pan, we were, one and all, ready to
retire to our rest.
The first sound that saluted our ears in the early dawn of the following
morning, was the far-reaching call of the bourgeois:
"How! how! how!" uttered at the very top of his voice.
All start at that summons, and the men are soon turning out of their
tents, or rousing from their slumbers beside the fire, and preparing for
the duties of the day.
The fire is replenished, the kettles set on to boil, the mess-baskets
opened, and a portion of their contents brought forth to be made ready
for breakfast. One Frenchman spreads our mat within the tent, whence the
bedding has all been carefully removed and packed up for stowing in the
boat. The tin cups and plates are placed around on the new-fashioned
table-cloth. The heavy dews make it a little too damp for us to
breakfast in the open air; otherwise our preparations would be made
outside, upon the green grass. In an incredibly short time our smoking
coffee and broiled ham are placed before us, to which are added, from
time to time, slices of toast brought hot and fresh from the glowing
There is, after all, no breakfast like a breakfast in the woods, with a
well-trained Frenchman for master of ceremonies.
It was a hard day's work to which the men now applied themselves, that
of dragging the heavy boat up the Chute. It had been thought safest to
leave the piano in its place on board, but the rest of the lading had to
be carried up the steep bank, and along its summit, a distance of some
hundreds of rods, to the smooth water beyond, where all the difficulties
of our navigation terminated.
The Judge kindly took charge of me while "the bourgeois" superintended
this important business, and with reading, sketching, and strolling
about, the morning glided away. Twelve o'clock came, and still the
preparations for starting were not yet completed.
In my rambles about to seek out some of the finest of the wild flowers
for a bouquet, before my husband's return, I came upon the camp-fire of
the soldiers. A tall, red-faced, light-haired young man in fatigue dress
was attending a kettle of soup, the savory steams of which were very
Seeing that I was observing his occupation, he politely ladled out a
tin-cupful of the liquid and offered it to me.
I declined it, saying we should have our dinner immediately.
"They left me here to get their dinner," said he, apparently not
displeased to have some one to talk to; "and I thought I might as well
make some soup. Down on the German Flats, where I come from, they always
"Ah! you are from the German Flats--then your name must be Bellinger or
"No, it isn't--it's Krissman."
"Well, Krissman, how do you like the service?"
"Very well. I was only recruited last summer. I used to ride horse on
the _Canawl_, and, as I can blow a horn first-rate, I expect I will soon
be able to play on a bugle, and then, when I get to be musician, you
know, I shall have extra pay."
I did not know it, but I expressed due pleasure at the information, and
wishing Krissman all manner of success in his dreams of ambition, or
rather, I should say, of avarice, for the hopes of "extra pay" evidently
preponderated over those of fame, I returned to my own quarters.
My husband, with his French tastes, was inclined to be somewhat
disappointed when I told him of this little incident, and my refusal of
Krissman's soup; but we were soon gratified by seeing his tall, awkward
form bearing a kettle of the composition, which he set down before the
two gentlemen, by whom, to his infinite satisfaction, it was pronounced
Everything being at length in readiness, the tents were struck and
carried around the Portage, and my husband, the Judge, and I followed at
The woods were brilliant with wild flowers, although it was so late in
the season that the glory of the summer was well-nigh past. But the
lupin, the moss-pink, and the yellow wallflower, with all the varieties
of the helianthus, the aster, and the solidago, spread their gay charms
around. The gentlemen gathered clusters of the bittersweet (celastrus
scandens) from the overhanging boughs to make a wreath for my hat, as we
trod the tangled pathway, which, like that of Christabel, was
"Now in glimmer and now in gloom,"
through the alternations of open glade and shady thicket. Soon, like the
same lovely heroine,
"We reached the place--right glad we were,"
and, without further delay, we were again on board our little boat and
skimming over the now placid waters.
WINNEBAGO LAKE--MISS FOUR-LEGS.
Our encampment this night was the most charming that can be imagined.
Owing to the heavy service the men had gone through in the earlier part
of the day, we took but a short stage for the afternoon, and, having
pulled some seven or eight miles to a spot a short distance below the
"little Butte," we drew in at a beautiful opening among the trees.
The soldiers now made a regular business of encamping, by cutting down a
large tree for their fire and applying themselves to the preparing of a
sufficient quantity of food for their next day's journey, a long
stretch, namely, of twenty-one miles across Winnebago Lake. Our
Frenchmen did the same. The fire caught in the light dry grass by which
we were surrounded, and soon all was blaze and crackle.
Fortunately the wind was sufficient to take the flames all in one
direction, and, besides, there was not enough fuel to have made them a
subject of any alarm. We hopped upon the fallen logs, and dignified the
little circumscribed affair with the name of "a prairie on fire." The
most serious inconvenience was its having consumed all the dry grass,
some armfuls of which, spread under the bear-skin in my tent, I had
found, the night before, a great improvement to my place of repose.
Our supper was truly delightful, at the pleasant sunset hour, under the
tall trees beside the waters that ran murmuring by; and when the bright,
broad moon arose, and shed her flood of light over the scene, so wild
yet so beautiful in its vast solitude, I felt that I might well be an
object of envy to the friends I had left behind.
But all things have an end, and so must at last my enthusiasm for the
beauties around me, and, albeit unwillingly, I closed my tent and took
my place within, so near the fall of canvas that I could raise it
occasionally and peep forth upon the night.
In time all was quiet. The men had become silent, and appeared to have
retired to rest, and we were just sinking to our slumbers, when a heavy
tread and presently a bluff voice were heard outside.
"Mr. Kinzie! Mr. Kinzie!"
"Who is there? What is it?"
"I'm Krissman; didn't you mean, sir, that the men should have any liquor
"Of course I did. Has not Kilgour given out your rations?"
"No: he says you did not say anything particular about it, and he was
not coming to ask you if you forgot it; but I thought I wouldn't be
bashful--I'd just come and ask.'"
"That is right. Tell Kilgour I should like to have him serve out a
"Thank you, sir," in a most cheerful tone; "I'll tell him."
Krissman was getting to be quite a character with us.
A row of a few miles, on the following morning, brought us to Four-Legs'
village, at the entrance to Winnebago Lake, a picturesque cluster of
Indian huts, spread around on a pretty green glade, and shaded by fine
We were now fairly in the Winnebago country, and I soon learned that the
odd-sounding name of the place was derived from the principal chief of
the nation, whose residence it was. The inhabitants were absent, having,
in all probability, departed to their wintering grounds. We here took
leave of our friend Wish-tay-yun, at the borders of whose country we had
"_Bon-jour, Chon!_" (John:) "_bon-jour, maman_." A hearty shake of the
hand completed his adieu, as we pushed off into the lake, and left him
smoking his kin-nee-kin-nick and waiting until the spirit should move
him to take up his long _Indian trot_ towards his home in the Menomonee
With him our sunshine seemed to have departed. The skies, hitherto so
bright and serene, became overcast, and, instead of the charming voyage
we had anticipated over the silver waters of the lake, we were obliged
to keep ourselves housed under our canvas shelter, only peeping out now
and then to catch a glimpse of the surrounding prospect through the
It was what might have been expected on an autumnal day, but we were
unreasonable enough to find it tedious; so, to beguile the time and
lessen my disappointment, my husband related to me some incidents of his
early history, apropos to the subject of "Four-Legs."
While he was living at Prairie du Chien, in the employ of the American
Fur Company, the chiefs and other Indians from the Upper Mississippi
used frequently to come to the place to sell their furs and peltries,
and to purchase merchandise, ammunition, trinkets, etc.
As is usual with all who are not yet acclimated, he was seized with
chills and fever. One day, while suffering with an unusually severe
access of the latter, a chief of the Four-Legs family, a brother to the
one before mentioned, came in to the Company's warehouse to trade. There
is no ceremony or restraint among the Indians: so, hearing that
Shaw-nee-aw-kee was sick, Four-Legs instantly made his way to him, to
offer his sympathy and prescribe the proper remedies.
Every one who has suffered from ague and the intense fever that succeeds
it, knows how insupportable is the protracted conversation of an
inconsiderate person, and will readily believe that the longer Four-Legs
continued his pratings the higher mounted the fever of the patient, and
the more intolerable became the pain of head, back, and limbs.
At length the old man arrived at the climax of what he had to say. "It
was not good for a young man, suffering with sickness, and away from his
family, to be without a home and a wife. He had a nice daughter at home,
handsome and healthy, a capital nurse, the best hand in all the tribe at
trapping beaver and musk-rats. He was coming down again in the spring,
and he would bring her with him, and Shaw-nee-aw-kee should see that he
had told no falsehood about her. Should he go now, and bring his
daughter the next time he came?"
Stunned with his importunate babble, and anxious only for rest and
quiet, poor Shaw-nee-aw-kee eagerly assented, and the chief took his
So nearly had his disorder been aggravated to delirium, that the young
man forgot entirely, for a time, the interview and the proposal which
had been made him. But it was recalled to his memory some months after,
when Four-Legs made his appearance, bringing with him a squaw of mature
age, and a very Hecate for ugliness. She carried on her shoulders an
immense pack of furs, which, approaching with her awkward _criss-cross_
gait, she threw at his feet, thus marking, by an Indian custom, her
sense of the relation that existed between them.
The conversation with her father now flashed across his mind, and he
began to be sensible that he had got into a position that it would
require some skill to extricate himself from.
He bade one of the young clerks take up the pack and carry it into the
magazine where the furs were stored; then he coolly went on talking with
the chief about indifferent matters.
_Miss Four-Legs_ sat awhile with a sulky, discontented air; at length
she broke out,--
"Humph! he seems to take no more notice of me than if I was nobody!"
He again turned to the clerk.--"Give her a calico shirt and half a dozen
This did not dissipate the gloom on her countenance. Finding that he
must commence the subject, the father says,--
"Well, I have brought you my daughter, according to our agreement. How
do you like her?"
"Ah, yes--she is a very nice young woman, and would make a first-rate
wife, I have no doubt. But do you know a very strange thing has happened
since you were here? Our father, Governor Cass, has sent for me to
come to Detroit, that he may send me among the Wyandottes and other
nations to learn their customs and manners. Now, if I go, as I shall be
obliged to do, I shall be absent two or three years,--perhaps four. What
then? Why, the people will say, Shaw-nee-aw-kee has married Four-Legs'
daughter, and then has hated her and run away from her, and so everybody
will laugh at her, and she will be ashamed. It will be better to take
some good, valuable presents, blankets, guns, etc., and to marry her to
one of her own people, who will always stay by her and take care of
The old man was shrewd enough to see that it was wisest to make the best
bargain he could. I have no doubt it cost a round sum to settle the
matter to the satisfaction of the injured damsel, though I have never
been able to ascertain how much. This I know, that the young gentleman
took care not to make his next bargain while in a fit of the ague. The
lady up on the Mississippi is called, in derision, by his name to this
About midway of the lake we passed Garlic Island--a lovely spot,
deserving of a more attractive name. It belonged, together with the
village on the opposite shore, to "Wild Cat," a fat, jolly, good-natured
fellow, by no means the formidable animal his name would imply.
He and his band were absent, like their neighbors of Four-Legs'
village, so there was nothing to vary the monotony of our sail. It was
too wet to sing, and the men, although wrapped in their overcoats,
looked like drowned chickens. They were obliged to ply their oars with
unusual vigor to keep themselves warm and comfortable, and thus probably
felt less than we, the dulness and listlessness of the cold, rainy,
Towards evening the sun shone forth. We had passed into the Fox River,
and were just entering that beautiful little expanse known as Butte des
Morts Lake, at the farther extremity of which we were to encamp for the
The water along its shores was green with the fields of wild rice, the
gathering of which, just at this season, is an important occupation of
the Indian women. They push their canoes into the thick masses of the
rice, bend it forward over the side with their paddles, and then beat
the ripe husks off the stalks into a cloth spread in the canoe. After
this, it is rubbed to separate the grain from the husk, and fanned in
the open air. It is then put in their cordage bags and packed away for
winter use. The grain is longer and more slender than the Carolina
rice--it is of a greenish-olive color, and, although it forms a pleasant
article of food, it is far from being particularly nutritive. The
Indians are fond of it in the form of soup, with the addition of birds
BREAKFAST AT BETTY MORE'S.
The earth, the trees, and the shrubbery were all too much filled with
the heavy rain which had fallen to allow us to think of encamping, so we
made arrangements to bestow ourselves in our little saloon for the
night. It was rather a difficult matter to light a fire, but among the
underbrush, in a wild, undisturbed spot, there will always be found some
fragments of dried branches, and tufts of grass which the rain has not
reached, and by the assistance of the spunk, or light-wood, with which
travellers always go well provided, a comforting fire was at length
After our chilling, tedious day, it was pleasant to gather round it, to
sit on the end of the blazing logs, and watch the Frenchmen preparing
our supper--the kettle nestling in a little nook of bright glowing
coals--the slices of ham browning and crisping on the forked sticks, or
"broches," which the voyageurs dexterously cut, and set around the
burning brands--- the savory messes of "pork and onions" hissing in the
frying-pan, always a tempting regale to the hungry Frenchmen. Truly, it
needs a wet, chilly journey, taken nearly fasting, as ours had been, to
enable one to enjoy to its full extent that social meal--a supper.
The bright sun, setting amid brilliant masses of clouds, such as are
seen only in our Western skies, gave promise of a fine day on the
morrow, with which comforting assurance we were glad to take our leave
of him, and soon after of each other.
We had hardly roused up the following morning, in obedience to the call
of the bourgeois, when our eyes were greeted with the sight of an
addition to our company--a tall, stalwart, fine-looking young _mitiff_,
or half-breed, accompanied by two or three Indians. Vociferous and
joyous were the salutations of the latter to their "father" and their
new "mother." They were the first Winnebagoes I had seen, and they were
decidedly not the finest specimens of their tribe. The mitiff, a scion
of the wide-spreading tree of the Grignons, was the bearer of an
invitation to us from Judge Law, who, with one or two Green Bay friends,
was encamped a few miles above, to come and breakfast with him in his
tent. We had not dreamed of finding white neighbors here, but our
vicinity could be no secret to them, as long as there was an Indian in
the neighborhood. So, delaying only for the soldiers to finish their
breakfast, we pushed on for the "Butte des Morts," or, as Mrs. A always
persisted in calling it, _Betty More's_.
The white tent of the Judge gleamed in the morning sun as we approached
the little rising ground on which it stood. The river was filled with
canoes, paddled principally by squaws. Many Indians were to be seen on
the banks, all with their guns and hunting accoutrements, for the air
was filled in every direction with flocks of teal, which at this season
are most abundant and delicious. The immense fields of wild rice
abounding here and in the little lake below, make this vicinity their
favorite place of resort in the autumn months. The effect of this
nourishing food is to make the flesh of the birds so fat, so white, and
so tender, that a caution is always given to a young sportsman to fire
only at such as fly very low, for if shot high in the air they are
bruised to pieces and rendered unfit for eating by their fall to the
We were hemmed in by a little fleet of canoes which surrounded us, the
women chattering, laughing, and eagerly putting forward their little
wooden bowls of fresh cranberries as an offering of welcome to me.
I amused myself with tossing crackers to them, some of which would reach
them, others would fall into the water, and then such a scrambling and
shouting! Hands and paddles were in requisition, and loud was the
triumph of her who was successful in reaching a floating one.
Among the Indians with whom Shaw-nee-aw-kee was now engaged in shaking
hands, and who all seemed old friends, were many fine, straight,
well-formed figures, all of them exhibiting frames capable of enduring
fatigue and the hardships of their mode of life. One was describing with
much gesticulation the abundance of the game in the neighborhood, and he
seemed greatly delighted at receiving a quantity of ammunition, with
which he instantly departed to make good his boasts in the matter.
After walking a short distance, we reached the tent, where I was
introduced to Judge Law and a pleasant little gray-haired French
gentleman of the name of Porlier. Several voyageurs and half-breeds were
near, the former busily at work, the latter lounging for the most part,
and going through with what they had to do with a sort of listless
The contrast between the "all-alive" air of the one class and the
apathetic manner of the other, was quite striking.
After a short conversation among the members of the party, breakfast was
announced, and we entered the tent and took our seats on the ground
around the Indian mat which supplied the place of a table.
The post of honor, namely, the _head_ of the table, was of course given
to me, so that I could not only look around upon the circle of the
company, but also enjoy a fine view out of the open door of the tent,
and take an observation of all that was going on at the _side-table_
outside. Judge Doty sat opposite me, with his back to the opening of the
tent, and the other gentlemen on either hand. We had for our waiter the
tall "mitiff" who had been the messenger of the morning. He was still in
the same garb--calico shirt, bright-colored scarf around his waist, and
on his head a straw hat encircled with a band of black ostrich feathers,
the usual dress of his class.
The tin cups which were to hold our coffee were duly set around, then
breakfast-plates of the same metal, with knives and forks; then followed
the viands, among the most conspicuous of which was a large tin pan of
The Judge, wishing to show, probably, that, although we were in the vast
wilderness, all fastidious nicety had not been left behind, took up the
plate which had been set before him, and, seeing something adhering to
it which did not exactly please him, handed it over his shoulder to
Grignon, requesting him to wipe it carefully. Grignon complied by
pulling a black silk barcelona handkerchief out of his bosom, where it
had been snugly tucked away to answer any occasion that might present
itself, and, giving the tin a furious polishing, handed it back again.
The Judge looked at it with a smile of approbation, and giving a glance
around the table as much as to say, "You see how I choose to have things
done," applied himself to his breakfast.
The trail for Fort Winnebago then led from the shore opposite Butte des
Morts, through _Ma-zhee-gaw-gaw_ swamp, and past Green Lake, and it was
well for the Judge that his horses stood waiting for him to "mount and
away" as early as possible after breakfast, or I am afraid the story I
should have been tempted to tell would have made his ride an
uncomfortable one throughout the day.
We had hardly finished breakfast when our hunter, who had received the
ammunition, returned, bringing with him about fifty fine ducks, which he
had shot in little more than an hour. From that time until the close of
our journey our supply of these delicate birds was never wanting.
BUTTE DES MORTS--LAKE PUCKAWAY.
The Butte des Morts, or Hillock of the Dead, was the scene long
since of a most sanguinary battle between the French and the
Mis-qua-kees, or Foxes. So great was the carnage in this engagement,
that the memory of it has been perpetuated by the gloomy appellation
given to the mound where the dead were buried. The Foxes up to this time
had inhabited the shores of the river to which they had given their
name, but, being completely overwhelmed and beaten in this conflict,
they retired to the neighborhood of the Mississippi, and sought an
asylum among their allies, the Saukies, or, as they are now called, the
Sauks, with whom they became gradually incorporated, until the combined
tribes came to be known, as at present, by the name of "Sauks and
Among the French inhabitants of the upper country, each tribe of Indians
has a particular appellation, descriptive of some peculiarity of either
their habits or their personal appearance. Thus, the Chippewas, from
their agility, are denominated "Sauteurs," or Jumpers; the Ottawas, the
"Courtes-oreilles," or Short-ears. The Menomonees, from the wild rice so
abundant in their country, are called "Folles Avoines;"--the
Winnebagoes, from their custom of wearing the fur of a polecat on their
legs when equipped for war, are termed "les Puans;"--the Pottowattamies,
from their uncleanly habits, "les Poux;"--the Foxes are "les Renards,"
Hence you will never hear a French or half-breed resident of the country
mention an Indian in any other style. "Such a person is a
'Court-oreille.'" "Is that woman a 'Winnebago'?" "No, she is a 'Folle
Avoine.'" In this manner a stranger is somewhat puzzled at first to
classify the acquaintances he forms.
All the native friends with whom we were here surrounded were "les
Puans," or, to use their own euphonious appellation, the
Having with great regret said adieu to our friend Judge Doty, whose
society had contributed so much to the pleasure of our trip, and whose
example, moreover, had given us a valuable lesson to take things as we
find them, we bade good-bye at an early hour after breakfast to our kind
hosts, and set forward on our journey.
From Butte des Morts to the Portage, the distance by land is about
seventy miles; by water, it is not less than a hundred and thirty, so
serpentine is the course of the river through the low swampy prairies
which stretch over a great portion of this part of the country.
About six miles above the Butte, a tolerably broad stream, called Wolf
River, joins the Fox, and as it is much the more direct and promising of
the two, strangers have sometimes mistaken it for the main stream, and
journeyed up it a considerable distance before discovering, to their
great chagrin, that they must retrace their steps.
Beyond this place, the river begins to play its pranks with the compass.
As I was always looking out for pretty scenery to sketch, I was at one
spot much attracted by a picturesque group on a bank quite close to the
stream. There were broad overhanging trees, and two or three wigwams
nestled under their shade. Bright-looking little children, quite
unencumbered with clothing, were sporting about, and their two mothers
were sitting on the ground, engaged in the manufacture of a mat for
their lodge. It was a pretty scene, and I commenced a sketch. As usual,
the whole party on the bank set up a shout when they recognized
It was an occasion on which they became demonstrative. After a little
time we proceeded, and I went on to complete my drawing. The sun kept
coming more and more into the wrong place. He had been just behind me,
presently he was on my left hand, now he was straight ahead. I moved
from time to time; at length the sun was decidedly on my right hand.
What could be the matter? I looked up. "Oh, here is a pretty scene; I
must have this too! But how surprisingly like the one I have just
finished, only in a different direction." Again we were greeted with
shouts and laughter; it was the same spot which we had passed not an
hour before, and, having taken a circuit of nearly four miles, we had
returned to find that we had made an actual progress of only the width
of the bank on which the trees and wigwams stood. Decidedly not very
encouraging to an impatient traveller.
We reached Lake Puckaway late in the evening of our second day from
Butte des Morts. Here lived a white man named Gleason, the same
concerning whom, owing to his vast powers of exaggeration, poor Hooe was
fond of uttering his little pun, "All is not gold that Gleasons." We did
not seek shelter at his house, for, late as the season was, we found the
shore so infested with mosquitoes that we were glad to choose a spot as
far as possible from the bank, and make ourselves comfortable in our
This lake has its name from the long flags or rushes which are found in
its waters in great abundance, and of which the squaws manufacture the
coarse matting used in covering their wigwams. Their mode of fabricating
this is very primitive and simple. Seated on the ground, with the rushes
laid side by side, and fastened at each extremity, they pass their
shuttle, a long flat needle made of bone, to which is attached a piece
of cordage formed of the bark of a tree, through each rush, thus
confining it very closely, and making a fine substantial mat. These mats
are seldom more than five or six feet in length, as a greater size would
be inconvenient in adjusting and preparing the lodges.
It is a species of labor usually assigned to the elder women of the
family. When they become broken down and worn out with exposure and
hardship, so that they cannot cut down trees, hoe corn, or carry heavy
burdens, they are set to weaving mats, taking care of the children, and
disciplining the dogs, with which every Indian lodge abounds.
Lac de Boeuf, or Buffalo Lake, into which our course next brought us, is
a lovely sheet of water. In some places its banks are exceedingly
picturesque, with beautiful headlands jutting out into the clear depths,
where they, and the magnificent groups of trees which crown them, lie
reflected as in a mirror. Now and then we would catch a glimpse of deer
darting across the glades which at intervals opened through the
woodlands, or a pair of sand-hill cranes would rise, slowly flapping
their wings, and seek a place of more undisturbed repose. The flocks of
teal now skimming the surface of the water, now rising higher towards
the shelter of the forests, tempted our sportsman sorely; but, as there
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