Juliette Augusta Magill Kinzie
Part 2 out of 7
was little prospect of finding his game when it was brought down, he did
not give way to the wanton pleasure of shooting merely to destroy life.
In quitting this charming lake, and again entering the narrow, tortuous
course of the river, we bade adieu to everything like scenery, until we
should reach our journey's end.
We had now seventy miles to pass through a country perfectly monotonous
and uninteresting, the distastefulness of which was aggravated by the
knowledge that we could, had we been provided with horses or a carriage
of any kind, have crossed over to the Portage from Gleason's, through a
pleasant country, in little more than three hours. Even our great
resource, the cheering, animating songs of our voyageurs, was out of the
question; for the river, though deep, is so narrow that, in many places,
there is no room for the regular play of the oars; and the voices of
Frenchmen can never "keep tune" unless their oars can "keep time."
Lapierre, one of our men, did his best with a paddle, or, as he called
it, the "_little row_," but it was to no purpose--it _would not go_.
Besides this, the wild rice abounds to such an extent in many places,
that it almost completely obstructs the progress of even a
moderate-sized boat, so that a passage through its tangled masses is
with difficulty forced by the oars. Tedious and monotonous as was the
whole course of the two following days, the climax of impatience and
discouragement was not reached until we arrived in sight of the white
walls of Fort Winnebago, looking down from a rising ground upon the vast
expanse of low land through which the river winds.
The Indians have a tradition that a vast serpent once lived in the
waters of the Mississippi, and that, taking a freak to visit the Great
Lakes, he left his trail through the prairies, which, collecting the
waters from the meadows and the rains of heaven as they fell, at length
became the Fox River.
The little lakes along its course were probably the spots where he
flourished about in his uneasy slumbers at night. He must have played
all the antics of a kitten in the neighborhood of the Portage. When the
fort was first pointed out to me, I exclaimed, with delight, "Oh, we
shall be there in half an hour!"
"Not quite so soon," said my husband, smiling. "Wait and see." We sat
and watched. We seemed approaching the very spot where we were to
disembark. We could distinguish the officers and a lady on the bank
waiting to receive us. Now we were turning our backs on them, and
shooting out into the prairie again. Anon we approached another bank, on
which was a range of comfortable-looking log houses. "That's the
Agency," said my husband; "the largest house belongs to Paquette, the
interpreter, and the others are the dwellings of our Frenchmen. The
little building, just at the foot of the hill, is the blacksmith's shop,
kept there by the Government, that the Indians may have their guns and
traps mended free of expense."
"But are we going to stop there?"
"No; do you not see we are going back to the fort?"
And, to be sure, our course had now turned, and we were setting in our
first direction. In this manner, after tacking to the right and left and
putting backwards and forwards during the greater part of two hours, we
at length reached the little landing, on which the assembled party stood
ready to greet us.
Major and Mrs. Twiggs, and a few of the younger officers (for nearly all
of the older ones were absent), with our brother Robert, or, as he is
called throughout all the Indian tribes, "Bob," gave us a cordial
welcome--how cordial those alone can know who have come, like us, to a
remote, isolated home in the wilderness. The Major insisted on our
taking possession at once of vacant quarters in the fort, instead of at
"the Agency," as had been proposed.
"No--we must be under the same roof with them. Mrs. Twiggs had been
without a companion of her own sex for more than four months, and would
certainly not hear of a separation now. But we must be their guests
until the arrival of the boats containing our furniture," which, under
the care of our old acquaintance, Hamilton Arndt, was making its way
slowly up from Green Bay.
A dinner had been prepared for us. This is one of the advantages of the
zigzag approach by the Fox River--travellers never take their friends by
surprise; and when the whole circle sat down to the hospitable board, we
were indeed a merry company.
After dinner Mrs. Twiggs showed me the quarters assigned to us, on the
opposite side of the spacious hall. They consisted of two large rooms on
each of the three floors or stories of the building. On the ground-floor
the front room was vacant. The one in the rear was to be the
sleeping-apartment, as was evident from a huge, unwieldy bedstead, of
proportions amply sufficient to have accommodated Og, the King of
Bashan, with Mrs. Og and the children into the bargain. We could not
repress our laughter; but the bedstead was nothing to another structure
which occupied a second corner of the apartment.
This edifice had been built under the immediate superintendence of one
of our young lieutenants, and it was plain to be seen that upon it both
he and the soldiers who fabricated it had exhausted all their
architectural skill. The timbers of which it was composed had been
grooved and carved; the pillars that supported the front swelled in and
out in a most fanciful manner; the doors were not only panelled, but
radiated in a way to excite the admiration of all unsophisticated eyes.
A similar piece of workmanship had been erected in each set of quarters,
to supply the deficiency of closets, an inconvenience which had never
occurred, until too late, to the bachelors who planned them. The three
apartments of which each structure was composed, were unquestionably
designed for clothes-press, store-room, and china-closet; such, at
least, were the uses to which Mrs. Twiggs had appropriated the one
assigned to her. There was this slight difficulty, that in the latter
the shelves were too close to admit of setting in even a gravy-boat, but
they made up in number what was wanting in space. We christened the
whole affair, in honor of its projector, a "Davis," thus placing the
first laurel on the brow of one who was afterwards to signalize himself
in _Cabinet_ making of quite a different character.
The bold promontory on which Fort Winnebago was built looked down upon
the extended prairie and the Fox River on one side, and on the other
stretched away into the thickly-wooded ridge that led off to Belle
Fontaine and Lake Puckaway.
In front lay an extent of meadow, across which was the Portage road, of
about two miles in length, leading between the Fox and the Wisconsin
Rivers. Teams of oxen and a driver were kept at the Agency by the
Government, to transport the canoes of the Indians across this place,
which at many seasons was wet, miry, and almost impassable.
The woods were now brilliant with the many tints of autumn, and the
scene around was further enlivened by groups of Indians, in all
directions, and their lodges, which were scattered here and there, in
the vicinity of the Agency buildings. On the low grounds might be seen
the white tents of the traders, already prepared to furnish winter
supplies to the Indians, in exchange for the annuity money they were
about to receive.
A great concourse had been for many days assembling in anticipation of
the payment, which was expected to take place as soon as Shaw-nee-aw-kee
should arrive with the silver.
Preparatory to this event, the great chief of the nation, Four-Legs,
whose village we had passed at the entrance to Winnebago Lake, had
thought proper to take a little carouse, as is too apt to be the custom
when the savages come into the neighborhood of a sutler's establishment.
In the present instance, the facilities for a season of intoxication had
been augmented by the presence on the ground of some traders, too
regardless of the very stringent laws prohibiting the sale of liquor to
Poor Four-Legs could not stand this full tide of prosperity. Unchecked
by the presence of his Father, the agent, he carried his indulgence to
such excess that he fell a victim in the course of a few days. His
funeral had been celebrated with unusual pomp the day before our
arrival, and great was my disappointment at finding myself too late to
witness all the ceremonies.
His body, according to their custom, having been wrapped in a blanket,
and placed in a rude coffin, along with his guns, tomahawk, pipes, and a
quantity of tobacco, had been carried to the most elevated point of the
hill opposite the fort, followed by an immense procession of his people,
whooping, beating their drums, howling, and making altogether what is
emphatically termed a "_pow-wow_"
After the interment of the body, a stake was planted at its head, on
which was painted in vermilion a series of hieroglyphics, descriptive of
the great deeds and events of his life The whole was then surrounded
with pickets of the trunks of the tamarack-trees, and hither the friends
would come for many successive days to renew the expression of their
grief, and to throw over the grave tobacco and other offerings to the
It was a consolation to find that, although delayed, we were yet in time
to furnish a quantity of white cotton for a flag to wave over the grave,
and also to pay a considerable bill at the sutler's for the different
articles that had been found necessary for the funeral parade--it being
a duty expected of their Father to bury the dead suitably.
The funeral observances in honor of the chief had not yet ceased.
Throughout the day, and all that night, the sound of instruments,
mingled with doleful lamentations, and with the discordant whoops and
yells of those in a partial state of intoxication, filled the air, and
disturbed our repose. To these were added occasionally the plaintive
sounds of the Indian flute, upon which the young savage plays when he is
in love. Grief and whiskey had made their hearts tender, and the woods
resounded to their melancholy strains.
Early the following morning, before I left my room, I was startled by
the sounds of lamentation and woe proceeding from the adjoining
apartment. On entering it, I found several squaws seated on the floor,
with downcast looks expressive of condolence and sympathy, while in
their midst sat a little ugly woman, in tattered garments, with
blackened face and dishevelled hair, sobbing and wailing bitterly.
Not doubting they were the family of the deceased chief, I was quite
troubled at my inability to express, otherwise than by gestures, my
participation in their sorrows.
Unacquainted as I was with their customs, I took it for granted from
their wretched appearance that poverty and destitution formed one of the
sources of their affliction. One of the party, at least, seemed in the
very depths of misery. "Can it be possible," said I to myself, "that
this poor creature has only these scanty rags to cover her?"
Stepping back to my own room, I brought out a pretty calico wrapper,
which I presented to the little, dirty, blackened object. She took it,
and commenced a fresh series of sobbing and sighing. I made signs to her
to put it on, opening it and explaining to her how it was to be worn,
and recommending to her, by gestures, to lose no time in making herself
At this, the other women burst into a laugh.
"Very mal-a-propos," thought I, "and somewhat unfeeling." At that moment
my husband, entering, explained to me that the chief mourner was Madame
Four-Legs, the widow; that she had undoubtedly a comfortable wardrobe at
home, but that it was part of the etiquette of mourning to go for a
season with neglected persons and blackened faces. All this was told me
in the intervals of shaking hands, and offering and receiving
condolences in the most uncouth, guttural language I had ever heard.
Their Father at length dismissed them, with a promise of some presents
to help dry up their tears. It must not be inferred that the grief of
the poor little widow was not sincere. On the contrary, she was greatly
attached to her husband, and had had great influence not only with him
but with the nation at large. She was a Fox woman, and spoke the
Chippewa, which is the court language among all the tribes, so that she
was often called upon to act as interpreter, and had, in fact, been in
the habit of accompanying her husband, and assisting him by her counsels
upon all occasions. She was a person of great shrewdness and judgment,
and, as I afterwards experienced, of strong and tenacious affections.
After breakfast I received a visit from the principal chiefs, who had
put on their best of apparel and paint to receive their new mother.
There was Naw-kaw, or Kar-ray-mau-nee, "the Walking Turtle," now the
principal chief of the nation, a stalwart Indian, with a broad, pleasant
countenance, the great peculiarity of which was an immense under lip,
hanging nearly to his chin. There was the old Day-kau-ray, the most
noble, dignified, and venerable of his own, or indeed of any tribe. His
fine Roman countenance, rendered still more striking by his bald head,
with one solitary tuft of long silvery hair neatly tied and falling back
on his shoulders; his perfectly neat, appropriate dress, almost without
ornament, and his courteous demeanor, never laid aside under any
circumstances, all combined to give him the highest place in the
consideration of all who knew him. It will hereafter be seen that his
traits of character were not less grand and striking than were his
personal appearance and deportment.
There was Black-Wolf, whose lowering, surly face was well described by
his name. The fierce expression of his countenance was greatly
heightened by the masses of heavy black hair hanging round it, quite
contrary to the usual fashion among the Winnebagoes. They, for the most
part, remove a portion of their hair, the remainder of which is drawn to
the back of the head, clubbed and ornamented with beads, ribbons, cock's
feathers, or, if they are so entitled, an eagle's feather for every
scalp taken from an enemy.
There was _Talk-English,_ a remarkably handsome, powerful young Indian,
who received his name in the following manner. He was one of a party of
sixteen Winnebagoes who had, by invitation, accompanied their Agent and
Major Forsyth (or the Chippewa, as he was called) on a visit to the
President at Washington, the year previous.
On the journey, the question naturally addressed to them by people not
familiar with Western Indians was,--
"Do you talk English?"
The young fellow, being very observant, came to his Father. "What do
they mean by this? Everybody says to me, _talk English!_"
The Agent interpreted the words to him. "Ah, very well."
The next place they arrived at was Lockport, in the State of New York.
Jumping off the canal-boat upon the lock, he ran up to the first man he
met, and, thrusting forward his face, cried out, "Talk Eengeesh?"
"Yes," said the man; "do you talk English?"
From that time forward he always bore the name of _Talk-English_, and
was registered on the pay-rolls by a title of which he was not a little
Hoo-wau-ne-kah, "the Little Elk," was another of the distinguished men
of the tribe. He had likewise been at Washington. Henry Clay, when he
visited them, after looking carefully at the countenances and bearing
of all the members of the deputation, had indicated him as the one
possessing the greatest talent; and he was greatly pleased when informed
that he was the principal orator of the nation, and decidedly superior
in abilities to any other individual of the tribe.
Wild-Cat, our Indian Falstaff in all save the cowardice and falsehood, I
have already mentioned.
Then there was Kau-ray-kaw-saw-kaw, "the White Crow," a Rock River
Indian, who afterwards distinguished himself as the friend of the whites
during the Sauk war. He was called by the French "le Borgne," from
having lost an eye; and the black silk handkerchief which he wore
drooping over the left side of his face to disguise the blemish, taken
with his native costume, gave him a very singular appearance.
There was a nephew of the defunct chief Four-Legs, to whom with justice
was given, by both whites and Indians, the appellation of "the Dandy."
When out of mourning his dress was of the most studied and fanciful
character. A shirt (when he condescended to wear any) of the brightest
colors, ornamented with innumerable rows of silver brooches set thickly
together; never less than two pairs of silver arm-bands; leggings and
moccasins of the most elaborate embroidery in ribbons and
porcupine-quills; everything that he could devise in the shape of
ornament hanging to his club of hair behind; a feather fan in one hand,
and in the other a mirror, in which he contemplated himself every five
minutes; these, with the variety and brilliancy of the colors upon his
face, the suitable choice and application of which occupied no small
portion of the hours allotted to his toilet, made up the equipment of
This devotion to dress and appearance seemed not altogether out of
place in a youthful dandy; but we had likewise an old one of the same
stamp. Pawnee Blanc, or the White Pawnee, surpassed his younger
competitor, if possible, in attention to his personal attractions.
Upon the present occasion he appeared in all his finery, and went
through the customary salutations with an air of solemn dignity, then
walked, as did the others, into the parlor (for I had received them in
the hall), where they all seated themselves upon the floor. Fortunately,
the room was now bare of furniture, but "alas!" thought I, "for my
pretty carpet, if this is to be the way they pay their respects to me!"
I watched the falling of the ashes from their long pipes, and the other
inconveniences of the use of tobacco, or kin-nee-kin-nick, with absolute
The visit of the chiefs was succeeded by one from the interpreter and
his wife, with all the Canadian and half-breed women, whose husbands
found employment at the Agency or at the American Fur Company's
By this time my piano had been taken from its case and set up in our
quarters. To our great joy, we found it entirely uninjured. Thanks to
the skill of Nunns and Clark, not a note was out of tune.
The women, to whom it was an entire novelty, were loud in their
exclamations of wonder and delight.
"_Eh-h-h! regardez donc! Quelles inventions! Quelles merveilles!_"
One, observing the play of my fingers reflected in the nameboard, called
in great exultation to her companions. She had discovered, as she
thought, the hidden machinery by which the sounds were produced, and was
not a little mortified when she was undeceived.
As the boats might be expected in a few days, it was thought best to
begin at once what preparations were in my power towards housekeeping.
These were simply the fitting and sewing of my carpets, in which I was
kindly assisted by Mrs. Twiggs; and, the wife of one of our Frenchmen
having come over from the Agency and made everything tidy and
comfortable, the carpets were soon tacked down, and the rooms were ready
for the reception of the rest of the furniture.
I had made many fruitless attempts, both in Detroit and Green Bay, to
procure a servant-woman to accompany me to my new home. Sometimes one
would present herself, but, before we could come to a final agreement,
the thoughts of the distance, of the savages, the hardships of the
journey, or, perhaps, the objections of friends, would interfere to
break off the negotiation; so that I had at length been obliged to rest
satisfied with the simple hope held out by my husband, that one of his
French employes, with his wife, would be contented to take up their
abode with us.
In this state of things, all difficulties seemed to be obviated by the
proposal of Major Twiggs, that we should take into our service a young
colored girl whom he had brought from Buffalo, in the spring, to wait on
Mrs. T. until her own servants should arrive from the South.
Louisa was accordingly sent for, an uncommonly handsome young negress,
with an intelligent but very demure countenance, who called herself
fifteen years of age, but who, from the progress in vice and iniquity I
afterwards discovered her to have made, must have been at least several
years older. Be that as it may, she now seemed to have no fault but
carelessness and inexperience, both of which I had great hopes she would
get the better of, under careful training.
My first week's visit with Mrs. Twiggs had just expired when word was
given that the boats were in sight--the boats that contained our
furniture--and the expected arrival of Louis Philippe to visit Queen
Victoria could scarcely have created a more universal sensation, than
did this announcement in our little community. Although we knew that
some hours must yet elapse before they could reach the spot for
disembarkation, we were constantly on the watch, and at length all the
young officers, followed by as many of the soldiers as were off duty,
accompanied Mr. Kinzie down the bank to the landing, to witness and, if
necessary, to assist in helping everything safe to land.
Sad was the plight in which matters were found. The water poured out of
the corners of the boxes as they were successively hoisted on shore. Too
impatient to wait until they could be carried up to the fort, the
gentlemen soon furnished themselves with, hammers and hatchets, and fell
eagerly to work, opening the boxes to explore the extent of the damage.
Alas for the mahogany! not a piece from which the edges and veneering
were not starting. It had all the appearance of having lain under the
Grande Chute for days. Poor Hamilton was load in his protestations and
It was the fault of the men, of the weather, of the way the things were
packed. "Confound it! he had taken the best care of the things he
possibly could--better than he had ever taken before--it _would_ get
There was nothing but to be patient and make the best of it. And when
the pretty sideboard and work-table had been thoroughly rubbed and set
up, and all the little knick-knacks arranged on the mantel-piece--when
the white curtains were hung at the windows, and the chairs and
dining-table each in its proper place in relation to the piano, our
parlor was pronounced "magnificent." At least so seemed to think
Hamilton, who came to give one admiring look, and to hear the music of
the piano, which was a perfect novelty to him. His description of it to
the young officers, after his return to the Bay, was expressive of his
admiration and wonder--"There it stood on its four legs! Anybody might
go up and touch it!"
In due time the dinner- and tea-sets were carefully bestowed in the
"Davis," together with sundry jars of sweetmeats that I had prepared in
Detroit; the iron and tin utensils were placed in a neat cupboard in the
kitchen, of which my piano-box supplied the frame; the barrel of eggs
and tubs of butter, brought all the way from Ohio, were ranged in the
store-room; a suitable quantity of salt pork and flour was purchased
from the commissary; and, there being no lack of game of every
description, the offering of our red children, we were ready to commence
The first dinner in her own home is an era in the life of a young
housekeeper. I shall certainly never forget mine. While I was in the
lower regions superintending my very inexpert little cook, my husband
made his appearance, to say that, as the payment (then the all-absorbing
topic of interest) would not commence until afternoon, he had invited M.
Rolette, Mr. Hempstead, and four other gentlemen to dine with us.
"So unexpected--so unprepared for?"
"Never mind; give them anything you have. They have been living for
some days in tents, and anything will taste well to them."
My dinner had been intended to consist chiefly of a venison pasty, and
fortunately the only dish among my store was of very large proportions,
so that there was already smoking in the oven a pie of a size nearly
equal to the famous Norwich pudding; thus, with some trifling additions
to the bill of fare, we made out very well, and the master of the house
had the satisfaction of hearing the impromptu dinner very much commended
by his six guests.
INDIAN PAYMENT--MRS. WASHINGTON.
There were two divisions of the Winnebago Indians, one of which was paid
by the Agent, at the Portage, the other at Prairie du Chien, by General
Street. The first, between four and five thousand in number, received,
according to treaty stipulations, fifteen thousand dollars annually,
besides a considerable amount of presents, and a certain number of
rations of bread and pork, to be issued in times of emergency throughout
The principal villages of this division of the tribe were at Lake
Winnebago, Green and Fox Lakes, the Barribault, Mud Lake, the Four
Lakes, Kosh-ko-nong, and Turtle Creek. Messengers were dispatched, at or
before the arrival of the annuity-money, to all the different villages,
to notify the heads of families or lodges to assemble at "the Portage."
When arrived, the masters of families, under their different chiefs,
give in their names, and the number in their lodges, to be registered.
As, in paying, a certain sum of money is apportioned to each individual,
it is, of course, an object to the head of a lodge to make the number
registered as great as possible. Each one brings his little bundle of
sticks, and presents it to the Agent to register. Sometimes a dialogue
like the following occurs:
"How many have you in your lodge?"
The Indian carefully, and with great ceremony, counts his bundle of
"How many men?"
"Two." The Agent lays aside two sticks
"How many women?"
"Three." Three more sticks are separated.
"How many children?"
"Eight" Eight sticks are added to the heap.
"What is the meaning of these two sticks that remain?"
The culprit, whose arithmetic has not served him to carry out his
deception, disappears amid the shouts and jeers of his companions, who
are always well pleased at the detection of any roguery in which they
have had no share.
The young officers generally assisted in counting out and delivering the
money at these payments, and it was no unusual thing, as the last band
came up, for the chiefs to take a quantity of silver out of the box and
request their Father to pay his friends for their trouble, seeming
really disturbed at his refusal. In this, as in almost every instance,
we see the native courtesy and politeness, which are never lost sight of
among them. If a party comes to their Father to beg for provisions, and
food is offered them, however hungry they may be, each waits patiently
until one of the company makes an equal distribution of the whole, and
then, taking his share, eats it quietly, with the greatest moderation. I
never saw this rule violated, save in one instance.
Our friend, Pawnee Blanc, _the Old Dandy_, once came with a party of
Indians, requesting permission to dance for us in the open space before
the door. It was a warm, dusty afternoon, and as our friends grew heated
and fatigued with the violent and long-continued exercise, a pitcher of
raspberry negus was prepared and sent out to them. Pawnee received the
pitcher and tumbler, and, pouring the latter about half full, gave it to
the first of the circle, then filled the same for the next, and so on,
until it suddenly occurred to him to look into the pitcher. What he saw
there determined his course of action; so, setting the tumbler upon the
ground, he raised the pitcher with both hands to his lips and gave a
hearty pull, after which he went on, giving less and less, until he was
called to have the pitcher replenished. All present agreed it was the
only instance they had ever witnessed, of an Indian's appearing afraid
of getting less of a thing than his share.
During the payment a good many kegs of whiskey find their way into the
lodges of the Indians, notwithstanding the watchfulness of both officers
and Agent. Where there is a demand there will always be a supply, let
the legal prohibitions be what they may. The last day of the payment is,
invariably, one of general carousing.
When the men begin their _frolic_, the women carefully gather all the
guns, knives, tomahawks, and weapons of every description, and secrete
them, that as little mischief as possible may be done in the absence of
all restraint and reason. I am sorry to record that our little friend,
Pawnee Blanc, was greatly addicted to the pleasures of the bottle.
Among the presents for the chiefs, which Shaw-nee-aw-kee had brought
from the East, was a trunk of blue cloth coats, trimmed with broad gold
lace, and a box of round black hats, ornamented in a similar manner. All
who are familiar with Indians, of whatever tribe, will have observed
that their first step towards civilization, whether in man or woman, is
mounting a man's hat, decorated with tinsel; ribbons, or feathers.
Pawnee was among the happy number remembered in the distribution; so,
donning at once his new costume, and tying a few additional bunches of
gay-colored ribbons to a long spear, that was always his baton of
ceremony, he came at once, followed by an admiring train, chiefly of
women, to pay me a visit of state.
The solemn gravity of his countenance, as he motioned away those who
would approach too near and finger his newly-received finery--the
dignity with which he strutted along, edging this way and that to avoid
any possible contact from homely, every-day wardrobes--augured well for
a continuance of propriety and self-respect, and a due consideration of
the good opinion of all around. But, alas for Pawnee! late in the day we
saw him assisted towards his lodge by two stout young Indians, who had
pulled him out of a ditch, his fine coat covered with mud, his hat
battered and bruised, his spear shorn of its gay streamers, and poor
Pawnee himself weeping and uttering all the doleful lamentations of a
* * * * *
Among the women with whom I early made acquaintance was the wife of
Wau-kaun-zee-kah, _the Yellow Thunder_. She had accompanied her husband,
who was one of the deputation to visit the President, and from that time
forth she had been known as "the Washington woman." She had a pleasant,
old-acquaintance sort of air in greeting me, as much as to say, "You
and I have seen something of the world." No expression of surprise or
admiration escaped her lips, as her companions, with childlike, laughing
simplicity, exclaimed and clapped their hands at the different wonderful
objects I showed them. Her deportment said plainly, "Yes, yes, my
children, I have seen all these things before." It was not until I put
to her ear a tropical shell, of which I had a little cabinet, and she
heard its murmuring sound, that she laid aside her apathy of manner. She
poked her finger into the opening to get at the animal within, shook it
violently, then raised it to her ear again, and finally burst into a
hearty laugh, and laid it down, acknowledging, by her looks, that this
was beyond her comprehension.
I had one shell of peculiar beauty--my favorite in the whole
collection--a small conch, covered with rich, dark veins. Each of the
visitors successively took up this shell, and by words and gestures
expressed her admiration, evidently showing that she had an eye for
beauty--this was on the occasion of the parting visit of my red
Shortly after the payment had been completed, and the Indians had left,
I discovered that my valued shell was missing from the collection. Could
it be that one of the squaws had stolen it? It was possible--they would
occasionally, though rarely, do such things under the influence of
strong temptation. I tried to recollect which, among the party, looked
most likely to have been the culprit. It could not have been the
Washington woman--she was partly civilized, and knew better.
A few weeks afterwards Mrs. _Yellow Thunder_ again made her appearance,
and carefully unfolding a gay-colored chintz shawl, which she carried
rolled up in her hand, she produced the shell, and laid it on the table
before me. I did not know whether to show, by my countenance,
displeasure at the trick she had played me, or joy at receiving my
treasure back again, but at length decided that it was the best policy
to manifest no emotion whatever.
She prolonged her visit until my husband's return, and he then
questioned her about the matter.
"She had taken the shell to her village, to show to some of her people,
who did not come to the payment."
"Why had she not asked her mother's leave before carrying it away?"
"Because she saw that her mother liked the shell, and she was afraid she
would say, No."
This was not the first instance in which Madame Washington had displayed
the shrewdness which was a predominant trait in her character. During
the visit of the Indians to the Eastern cities, they were taken to
various exhibitions, museums, menageries, theatres, etc. It did not
escape their observation that some silver was always paid before
entrance, and they inquired the reason. It was explained to them. The
woman brightened up, as if struck with an idea.
"How much do you pay for each one?"
Her Father told her.
"How do you say that in English?"
"_Two shinnin--humph_" (good).
The next day, when, as usual, visitors began to flock to the rooms where
the Indians were sojourning, the woman and a young Indian, her
confederate, took their station by the door, which they kept closed.
When any one knocked, the door was cautiously opened, and the woman,
extending her hand, exclaimed--"_Two shinnin_."
This was readily paid in each instance, and the game went on, until she
had accumulated a considerable sum. But this did not satisfy her. At the
first attempt of a visitor to leave the room, the door was held close,
as before, the hand was extended, and "_Two shinnin_" again met his ear.
He tried to explain that, having paid for his entrance, he must go out
free. With an innocent shake of the head, "_Two shinnin_," was all the
English she could understand.
The Agent, who had entered a short time before, and who, overhearing the
dialogue, sat laughing behind his newspaper, waiting to see how it would
all end, now came forward and interfered, and the guests were permitted
to go forth without a further contribution.
The good woman was moreover admonished that it was far from the custom
of white people to tax their friends and visitors in this manner, and
that the practice must be laid aside in future.
Another instance of the disposition of the Indians to avail themselves
of all the goods that fortune throws in their way, was the following:
Upon the same trip, while passing through Ohio, one of the party
inquired of the Agent,--
"Do you pay for all those provisions that are set before us at the
"Yes. Why do you ask?"
"Nothing: I thought you perhaps paid for just what we ate of them."
At the next stopping-place a fine breakfast was set upon the table, of
which, as usual, they partook plentifully. Just as they had finished,
the horn sounded for all to take their places in the stage-coaches. Each
sprang to his feet. One seized the plates of biscuits and poured them
into the corner of his blanket; another the remains of a pair of
chickens; a third emptied the sugar-bowls; each laid hold of what was
nearest him, and in a trice nothing was left upon the table but the
empty plates and dishes. The landlord and waiters, meanwhile, stood
laughing and enjoying the trick as much as any of the spectators.
Upon another occasion, their Father had endeavored to impress upon them
the unseemliness of throwing their refuse pieces, bones, and fragments
of food about on the table-cloth, pointing out to them the orderly
manner of the whites at table, and the propriety of keeping everything
neat and nice around them.
At their next meal, they were served first with a chicken-pie, of which
they ate very heartily, and the accumulation of bones on their plates
was very abundant. Presently another and more favorite dish appeared,--a
fine, large, roasted turkey. A gentleman sat near, and was evidently
preparing to carve it. No time was to be lost. What was to be done with
the bones? They looked around in some perplexity. A large apple-pie was
standing near. The most eager drew it towards him, and quick as thought
all the bones were deposited upon it, while, with a triumphant laugh at
the happy idea, he coolly transferred the bird to his own dish, and
proceeded to distribute it among his companions. The amazed stranger
soon joined in the laugh at the unceremonious manner in which his share
of the dinner had vanished.
LOUISA--DAY-KAU-RAY ON EDUCATION.
The payment was now over, and the Indians had dispersed and gone to
their wintering grounds. The traders, too, had departed, laden with a
good share of the silver, in exchange for which each family had provided
itself, as far as possible, with clothing, guns, traps, ammunition, and
the other necessaries for their winter use. The Indians are good at a
bargain. They are not easily overreached. On the contrary, they
understand at once when a charge is exorbitant; and a trader who tries
his shrewdness upon them is sure to receive an expressive _sobriquet_,
which ever after clings to him.
For instance, M. Rolette was called by them "Ah-kay-zaup-ee-tah," _five
more_--because, as they said, let them offer what number of skins they
might, in bartering for an article, his terms were invariably "five
Upon one occasion a lady remarked to him, "Oh, M. Rolette, I would not
be engaged in the Indian trade; it seems to me a system of cheating the
"Let me tell you, madame," replied he, with great _naivete_, "it is not
so easy a thing to cheat the Indians as you imagine. I have tried it
these twenty years, and have never succeeded!"
* * * * *
We were now settled down to a quiet, domestic life. The military system
under which everything was conducted--the bugle-call, followed by the
music of a very good band, at reveille; the light, animated strains for
"sick-call," and soon after for "breakfast;" the longer ceremony of
"guard-mounting;" the "Old English Roast-Beef," to announce the
dinner-hour; the sweet, plaintive strains of "Lochaber no more,"
followed most incongruously by "The Little Cock-Sparrow," at retreat;
and, finally, the long, rolling "tattoo," late in the evening--made
pleasant divisions of our time, which, by the aid of books, music, and
drawing, in addition to household occupations, seemed to fly more
swiftly than ever before. It was on Sunday that I most missed my Eastern
home. I had planned beforehand what we should do on the first recurrence
of this sacred day, under our own roof. "We shall have at least," said I
to myself, "the Sabbath's quiet and repose, and I can, among other
things, benefit poor Louisa by giving her some additional lessons of a
So, while she was removing the breakfast-things, I said to her,--
"Now, Louisa, get your work all finished, and everything put neatly
aside, and then come here to me again."
We sat down to our books, and read and waited; we waited and read
another hour--no Louisa.
There was music and the sound of voices on the parade in front of our
windows, but that did not disturb us; it was what we were daily
I must go at length, and see what could be keeping my damsel so. I
descended to the kitchen. The breakfast-things stood upon the table--the
kettles and spider upon the hearth--the fire was out--the kitchen empty.
Passing back into the hall, which extended the whole length of the house
and opened in front upon the parade, I perceived a group collected in
the area, of all shades and colors, and in the midst, one round, woolly
head which I could not mistake, bobbing up and down, now on this side,
now on that, while peals of laughter were issuing from the whole group.
"Louisa," I called, "come here. What are you doing there?"
"Looking at inspection."
"But why are not your breakfast-things washed, and your kitchen swept?
Did I not tell you I wished you to come up and learn your lessons?"
"Yes, ma'am; but I had to see inspection first. Everybody looks at
inspection on Sunday."
I found it was in vain to expect to do more for Louisa than give her an
afternoon's lesson, and with that I was obliged to content myself.
I felt that it would be very pleasant, and perhaps profitable, for all
the inmates of the garrison to assemble on this day; one of our number
might be found who would read a portion of the church-service, with a
sermon from one of our different selections.
I approached the subject cautiously, with an inquiry to this effect:
"Are there none among the officers who are religiously disposed?"
"Oh, yes," replied the one whom I addressed, "there is S----; when he is
half tipsy, he takes his Bible and 'Newton's Works,' and goes to bed and
cries over them; he thinks in this way he is excessively pious."
S---- was among the officers who had never called upon us; it was fair
to infer that if his religious principles did not correct his own evil
habits they would not aid much in improving others; therefore it seemed
useless to call in his co-operation in any scheme for a better
observance of the Lord's day.
We had to content ourselves with writing to our friends at the East to
interest themselves in getting a missionary sent to us, who should
officiate as chaplain in the garrison--a plan that seemed to find favor
with the officers. The hope of any united religious services was, for
the present, laid aside.
The post-surgeon having obtained a furlough, his place was supplied by
Dr. Newhall, of Galena, and thus, by the addition of his gentle, quiet
wife, our circle of ladies was now enlarged to three. Here we were, in a
wilderness, but yet how contented and happy!
A gloom was soon to replace this envied tranquillity in our home. A
Frenchman, named Letendre, one day suddenly presented himself. He had
come from Chicago, with the distressing intelligence of the
extreme--indeed, hopeless--illness of our dear relative, Dr. Wolcott. My
husband immediately commenced his preparations for instant departure. I
begged to be permitted to accompany him, but the rapidity with which he
proposed to journey obliged him to refuse my entreaties. In a few hours
his provisions, horses, and all other things necessary for the journey
were in readiness, and he set off with Petaille Grignon, his usual
attendant on such expeditions, leaving Letendre to follow as soon as
recruited from his fatigue.
Sad and dreary were the hours of his absence, notwithstanding the kind
efforts of our friends to cheer me. In a few days I received the news of
the fatal termination of Dr. W.'s illness, brought by another messenger.
That noble heart, so full of warm and kindly affections, had ceased to
beat, and sad and desolate indeed were those who had so loved and
As soon as he could possibly leave his family, my husband returned; and
it was fortunate that he had delayed no longer, for the winter now began
to set in, and with severity.
Our quarters were spacious, but having been constructed of the green
trees of the forest, cut down and sawed into boards by the bands of the
soldiers, they were considerably given to shrinking and warping, thus
leaving many a yawning crevice. Stuffing the cracks with cotton batting,
and pasting strips of paper over them, formed the employment of many a
Then the chimneys, spite of all the currents of air, which might have
been expected to create a draught, had a sad habit of smoking. To remedy
this, a couple of gun-barrels were, by order of the commanding officer,
sawed off and inserted in the hearth, one on each side of the
fire-place, in the hope that the air from the room below might help to
carry the smoke into its proper place, the chimney.
The next morning after this had been done, Louisa was washing the
"Pray, ma'am," said she, "what are these things put in here for?"
I explained their use.
"Oh, I am so glad it is only that! Uncle Ephraim (Major Twiggs's
servant) said they were to be filled with powder and fired off Christmas
Day, and he was terribly afraid they would blow the house up, and we in
Ephraim, who was a most faithful and valuable servant, often amused
himself with playing upon the credulity of the younger portions of the
"Is it true," asked Louisa, one day, "that Pillon and Plante were once
"Prairie-wolves! what an idea! Why do you ask such a foolish question?"
"Because Uncle Ephraim says they, and all the Frenchmen about here, were
once prairie-wolves, and that, living so near the white people, they
grow, after a time, to be like them, and learn to talk and dress like
them. And then, when they get to be old, they turn back into
prairie-wolves again, and that all the wolves that the officers bait
with their dogs used to be Frenchmen, once."
After a time, however, I ceased to straighten out these stories of Uncle
Ephraim, for I was gradually arriving at the conviction that my little
colored damsel was by no means so simple and unsophisticated as she
would have me believe, and that I was, after all, the one who was
The snow this winter was prodigious, and the cold intense. The water
would freeze in our parlors at a very short distance from the fire, for,
although the "fatigue-parties" kept the halls filled with wood, almost
up to the ceiling, that did not counterbalance the inconvenience of
having the wide doors thrown open to the outer air for a great portion
of the day, to allow of their bringing it in. We Northerners should have
had wood-houses specially for the purpose, and not only have kept our
great hall-doors closed, but have likewise protected them with a
"hurricane-house." But the Florida frontier was not a climate in which
our Southern bachelors could have acquired the knowledge available when
the thermometer was twenty-five degrees below zero--a point at which
brandy congealed in the sideboard.
The arrival of Christmas and New-Year's brought us our Indian friends
again. They had learned something of the observance of these holidays
from their French neighbors, and I had been forewarned that I should see
the squaws kissing every white man they met. Although not crediting this
to its full extent, I could readily believe that they would each expect
a present, as a "compliment of the season," so I duly prepared myself
with a supply of beads, ribbons, combs, and other trinkets. Knowing
them to be fond of dainties, I had also a quantity of crullers and
doughnuts made ready the day before, as a treat to them.
To my great surprise and annoyance, only a moderate share of the cakes,
the frying of which had been intrusted to Louisa, were brought up to be
placed in the "Davis."
"Where are the rest of the cakes, Louisa?"
"That great fellow, Hancock, came in with the fatigue-party to fill the
water-barrels, and while I had just stepped into the store-room to get
some more flour, he carried off all I had got cooked."
And Louisa made a face and whined, as if she had not herself treated
every soldier who had set his foot in the premises.
At an early hour the next morning I had quite a levee of the
Ho-tshung-rah matrons. They seated themselves in a circle on the floor,
and I was sorry to observe that the application of a little soap and
water to their blankets had formed no part of their holiday
preparations. There being no one to interpret, I thought I would begin
the conversation in a way intelligible to themselves, so I brought out
of the sideboard a china dish, filled with the nice brown crullers, over
which I had grated, according to custom, a goodly quantity of white
sugar. I handed it to the first of the circle. She took the dish from my
hand, and, deliberately pouring all the cakes into the corner of her
blanket, returned it to me empty. "She must be a meat voracious person,"
thought I; "but I will manage better the next time." I refilled the
dish, and approached the next one, taking care to keep a fast hold of it
as I offered the contents, of which I supposed she would modestly take
one. Not so, however. She scooped out the whole with her two hands, and,
like the former, bestowed them in her blanket. My sense of politeness
revolted at handing them out one by one, as we do to children, so I sat
down to deliberate what was to be done, for evidently the supply would
not long answer such an ample demand, and there would be more visitors
While I was thus perplexed, those who had received the cakes commenced a
distribution, and the whole number was equitably divided among the
company. But I observed they did not eat them. They passed their fingers
over the grated sugar, looked in each other's faces, and muttered in low
tones--there was evidently something they did not understand. Presently
one more adventurous than the rest wet her fingers, and taking up a few
grains of the sugar put it cautiously to her mouth.
"Tah-nee-zhoo-rah!" (Sugar!) was her delighted exclamation, and they all
broke out into a hearty laugh. It is needless to say that the cakes
disappeared with all the celerity they deemed compatible with
good-breeding. Never having seen any sugar but the brown or yellow
maple, they had supposed the white substance to be salt, and for that
reason had hesitated to taste it.
Their visit was prolonged until Shaw-nee-aw-kee made his appearance, and
then, having been made happy by their various gifts, they all took their
About this time, Mr. Kinzie received a letter from Colonel Richard M.
Johnson, of Kentucky. This gentleman had interested himself greatly in a
school established in that State for the education of Indian youths and
children. The purport of his letter was to request the Agent to use
every endeavor to induce the Winnebagoes not only to send their children
to this institution for their education, but also (what was still more
important) to set apart a portion of their annuity-money to assist in
There happened to be, at this holiday season, a number of the chiefs in
the neighborhood of the Portage, and a messenger was sent to convene
them all at the house of Paquette, the interpreter, that their Father
might hold a talk with them.
On the day appointed they all assembled. The subject-matter of the
letter was laid before them, and all the advantages of civilization and
education duly set forth--the benefits which would arise to their
nation, if even a small portion of the younger members could be well
taught by the whites, and then return to their tribe, to instruct them
in the learning, the arts, manufactures, and habits of civilized life.
To each paragraph, as it was uttered to them, they responded with a
unanimous "Humph!" (Good!)
When their Father's address was ended, _Day-kau-ray_, the oldest and
most venerable among the chiefs, rose and spoke as follows:
"Father,--The Great Spirit made the white man and the Indian. He did not
make them alike. He gave the white man a heart to love peace, and the
arts of a quiet life. He taught him to live in towns, to build houses,
to make books, to learn all things that would make him happy and
prosperous in the way of life appointed him. To the red man the Great
Spirit gave a different character. He gave him a love of the woods, of a
free life, of hunting and fishing, of making war with his enemies and
taking scalps. The white man does not live like the Indian--it is not
his nature. Neither does the Indian love to live like the white man--the
Great Spirit did not make him so.
"Father,--We do not wish to do anything contrary to the will of the
Great Spirit. If he had made us with white skins, and characters like
the white men, then we would send our children to this school to be
taught like the white children.
"Father,--We think that if the Great Spirit had wished us to be like
the whites, he would have made us so. As he has not seen fit to do so,
we believe he would be displeased with us, to try and make ourselves
different from what he thought good.
"Father,--I have nothing more to say. This is what we think. If we
change our minds, we will let you know."
It will be seen from these remarks of Day-kau-ray that the Indians
entertain a conviction that the Great Spirit himself teaches the white
man the arts and sciences, and since he has given the red man no
instruction in these branches, it would be unbecoming in him to attempt
to acquire them in an irregular manner.
With little incidents of this kind, and with an occasional dinner- or
tea-party to the young officers, sometimes given at the Major's
quarters, sometimes at our own, our course of life passed pleasantly on.
At times I would amuse myself by making something _very nice_, in the
form of a fruit cake or pie, to send to the quarters of the young
officers as a present, it being supposed that possibly, without a lady
to preside over their mess, it might be sometimes deficient in these
delicacies. Mrs. Twiggs was so fortunate as to have well-trained
servants to do for her that which, thanks to my little dark handmaid,
always fell to my share.
One day I had made some mince pies, which the Major and my husband
greatly approved, and I thought I would send one to each of the young
It happened that my husband, that day, in returning from superintending
his men on the other side of the river, had occasion to call on some
errand at Captain Harney's quarters.
Dinner had just been placed upon the table, and the Captain insisted on
his visitor's sitting down and partaking with him and another gentleman
who was present. The pork and beans were pronounced excellent, and being
removed there followed a mince pie.
The Captain cut it, and helped his guests, then taking a piece himself,
he commenced tasting it. Pushing back his plate with an exclamation and
a sudden jerk, he called to his servant, a little thick-set mulatto who
waited--"David, you yellow rascal, how dare you put such a pie on my
table?" And, turning to the company apologetically, he said,--
"If there is anything on earth David _does_ understand, it is how to
make a mince pie, and here he has filled this with brandy, so we cannot
eat a morsel of it!"
"Please, sir," said David, modestly, "I did not make the pie--it is one
Mrs. Kinzie sent as a present."
The poor Captain was now in a predicament. He raved at himself, at the
same time conjuring my husband most earnestly not to tell me what a
mistake he had made--an injunction that was lost sight of as soon as the
latter returned to his home. As for the unlucky Captain, he did not
venture to call on me again until he felt sure I had forgotten the
PREPARATIONS FOR A JOURNEY.
Early in January the snow fell in great abundance. We had an unusual
quantity at the Portage, but in "the diggings," as the lead-mining
country was called, it was of an unheard-of depth--five or six feet upon
An express had been dispatched to Chicago by the officers to take our
letters, and bring back the mail from that place. A tough, hardy
soldier, named Sulky, acted as messenger, and he had hitherto made light
of his burden or the length of the way, notwithstanding that his task
was performed on foot with his pack upon his shoulders. But now Sulky
had been absent some weeks, and we had given him up entirely, persuaded
that he must have perished with cold and starvation.
At length he appeared, nearly blind from travelling in the snow. He had
lain by three weeks in an Indian lodge, the snow being too deep to
permit him to journey. The account he gave put an end to the hopes I had
begun to entertain of being able to visit our friends at Chicago in the
course of this winter.
We had, before the last heavy fall of snow, been forming plans to that
effect. Captain Harney had kindly commenced preparing some trains, or
boxes placed on sledges, which it was thought would, when lined with
buffalo-skins, furnish a very comfortable kind of vehicle for the
journey; and I was still inclined to think a good, deep bed of snow over
the whole country no great obstacle to a sleigh-ride. The whole matter
was, however, cut short by the commanding officer, who from the first
had violently opposed the scheme, declaring that he would order the
sentinels to fire on us if we attempted to leave the fort. So, finding
the majority against us, we were obliged to yield.
The arrival of sweet, lovely little Lizzie Twiggs, before January was
quite past, was an event that shed light and joy in at least two
dwellings. It seemed as if she belonged to all of us, and as she
increased in size and beauty it was hard to say who, among us all, was
most proud of her. If we had ever felt any languid hours before, we
could have none now--she was the pet, the darling, the joint property of
Whatever regret I might have had, previous to this event, at the idea
of leaving my friend for the three weeks to which we proposed to limit
our visit to Chicago, I felt now that she would scarcely miss me, and
that we might hold ourselves in readiness to take advantage of the first
improvement in the weather, to put this favorite project in execution.
During the latter part of February the cold became less severe. The
snows melted away, and by the beginning of March the weather was so warm
and genial, that we were quite confident of being able to make the
journey on horseback without any serious difficulty.
Our plans once settled upon, the first thing to be provided was warm and
comfortable apparel. A riding-habit of stout broadcloth was pronounced
indispensable to my equipment. But of such an article I was destitute.
Nothing among my wedding travelling gear seemed in any way to offer a
substitute. What was to be done? The requisite material was to be found
in abundance at the sutler's store (_the shantee_, as it was technically
termed), but how to get it manufactured into a suitable garment was the
The regimental tailor was summoned. He was cook to one of the companies,
and there were at first some doubts whether he could be permitted to
forsake the spit for the needle, during the time I should require his
services. All his tailoring-work had, heretofore, been done at odd times
on a bench in the company kitchen, and thither he now proposed to carry
the riding-habit. I suggested that, in order to superintend the work, I
should thus be driven to take up my abode for the time being in the
barracks, which would be a decided inconvenience.
To remedy the difficulty, he was finally so happy as to find a soldier
in "Company D," who consented to officiate in his place as cook until
his term of service to me should expire.
Behold, then, a little, solemn-looking man in his stocking-feet, seated
cross-legged on an Indian mat by my parlor window. He had made all his
arrangements himself, and I deemed it wisest not to interfere with him.
The cutting-out was the most difficult part, and, as he had never made a
lady's riding-habit, that task fell to my share. I was as great a novice
as himself, and I must admit that this, my first effort, was open to
criticism. But the little tailor was of a different opinion. He was in
an ecstasy with our joint performance.
"Upon my word, madam," he would exclaim, surveying it with admiring
eyes, "we shall have a very respectable garment!" I do not know how many
times he repeated this during the three days that the work was in
I believe he had not perfect confidence in the culinary powers of his
comrade of "Company D," for regularly a half-hour before beat of drum
his work was folded and laid aside, his snips gathered up, and, all
things being restored to order, he would slip out, resume his shoes,
which, _Turk-like_, he had left outside the door, and speed over to the
barrack-kitchen to see how matters were going on.
In the mean time, great preparations were making below, under the
supervision of our tidy, active little French servant, Mrs. Pillon, the
wife of one of the _engages_, by whom the irregular and unmanageable
Louisa had been replaced.
Biscuits were baked, a ham, some tongues, and sundry pieces of salt pork
were boiled, coffee roasted and ground, sugar cracked, isinglass cut in
pieces of the size requisite for a pot of coffee. For the reception of
all these different articles cotton bags of different sizes had been
previously prepared. Large sacks of skin, called by the Canadians
_porches_, were also provided to hold the more bulky provisions, for our
journey was to be a long one.
The distance from Fort Winnebago to Chicago was not very formidable, it
is true, if the direct route were taken; but that we knew to be
impossible at this season of the year. The route by Kosh-ko-nong was out
of the question; all the Indians being absent from their villages in the
winter, and the ice being now gone, we could have no means of crossing
the Rock River at that place.
There remained therefore no alternative but to proceed south to Dixon,
or, as it was then called, Ogie's Ferry, the only certain means of
crossing this broad and rapid stream. This route being so much out of
our direct course that we could not hope to accomplish it in less than
six days, it was necessary to prepare accordingly.
While the wardrobe and provisions were thus in preparation, arrangements
were also being made as to our retinue and mode of conveyance.
Mr. Kinzie decided to take with him but two men: Plante and Pierre
Roy,--the former to act as guide, on the assurance that he knew every
mile of the way, from the Portage to Ogie's Ferry, and from Ogie's Ferry
The claims of the different saddle-horses were discussed, and the most
eligible one was selected for my use. We hesitated for a time between
"Le Gris" and "Souris," two much-vaunted animals, belonging to Paquette,
the interpreter. At length, being determined, like most of my sex, by a
regard for exterior, I chose "Le Gris," and "Souris" was assigned to
young Roy; my own little stumpy pony, "Brunet," being pronounced just
the thing for a pack-saddle. My husband rode his own bay horse "Tom,"
while Plante, the gayest and proudest of the party, bestrode a fine,
large animal called "Jerry," which had lately been purchased for my use;
and thus was our _cortege_ complete.
DEPARTURE FROM FORT WINNEBAGO.
Having taken a tender leave of our friends, the morning of the 8th of
March saw us mounted and equipped for our journey. The weather was
fine--the streams, already fringed with green, were sparkling in the
sun--everything gave promise of an early and genial season. In vain,
when we reached the ferry at the foot of the hill on which the fort
stood, did Major Twiggs repeat his endeavors to dissuade us from
commencing a journey which he assured me would be perilous beyond what I
could anticipate. I was resolute.
Our party was augmented by an escort of all the young officers, who
politely insisted on accompanying us as far as Duck Creek, four miles
distant. Indeed, there were some who would gladly have prosecuted the
whole journey with us, and escaped the monotony of their solitary,
uneventful life. In our rear followed an ox cart, on which was perched a
canoe, destined to transport us over the creek, and also an extensive
marsh beyond it, which was invariably, at this season, overflowed with
water to a considerable depth. We had much amusement in watching the
progress of this vehicle as it bumped and thumped over the road,
unconscious hitherto of the dignity of a wheeled carriage.
Our little, shock-headed, sunburnt, thick-lipped Canadian (who happened
most miraculously to be the husband of my pretty servant, Mrs. Pillon)
shouted vociferously as the animals lagged in their pace, or jolted
against a stump, "_Marchez, don-g_," "_regardez_," "_prenez garde_," to
our infinite diversion. I was in high spirits, foreseeing no hardships
or dangers, but rather imagining myself embarked on a pleasure excursion
across the prairies. It had not even suggested itself to me that a straw
bonnet and kid gloves were no suitable equipment for such an expedition.
Never having travelled at so inclement a season, I was heedlessly
ignorant of the mode of preparing against it, and had resisted or
laughed at my husband's suggestions to provide myself with blanket
socks, and a woollen _capuchon_ for my head and shoulders. And now,
although the wind occasionally lifted my head-gear with a rude puff, and
my hands ere long became swollen and stiffened with the cold, I
persuaded myself that these were trifling evils, to which I should soon
get accustomed. I was too well pleased with the novelty of my outfit,
with my hunting-knife in a gay scabbard hanging from my neck, and my tin
cup at my saddle-bow, to regard minor inconveniences.
On reaching Duck Creek, we took leave of our young friends, who remained
on the bank long enough to witness our passage across--ourselves in the
canoe, and the poor horses swimming the stream, now filled with cakes of
Beyond the rising ground which formed the opposite bank of the stream,
extended a marsh of perhaps three hundred yards across. To this the men
carried the canoe which was to bear us over. The water was not deep, so
our attendants merely took off the pack from Brunet and my side-saddle
from Le Gris, for fear of accidents, and then mounted their own steeds,
leading the two extra ones. My husband placed the furniture of the
pack-horse and my saddle in the centre of the canoe, which he was to
"Now, wifie," said he, "jump in, and seat yourself flat in the bottom of
"Oh, no," said I; "I will sit on the little trunk in the centre; I shall
be so much more comfortable, and I can balance the canoe exactly."
"As you please; but I think you will find it is not the best way."
A vigorous push sent us a few feet from the bank. At that instant two
favorite greyhounds whom we had brought with us, and who had stood
whining upon the bank, reluctant to take to the water as they were
ordered, gave a sudden bound, and alighted full upon me. The canoe
balanced a moment--then yielded--and, quick as thought, dogs, furniture,
and lady were in the deepest of the water.
My husband, who was just preparing to spring into the canoe when the
dogs thus unceremoniously took precedence of him, was at my side in a
moment, and, seizing me by the collar of my cloak, begged me not to be
frightened. I was not, in the least, and only laughed as he raised and
placed me again upon the bank.
The unfortunate saddle and little trunk were then rescued, but not until
they had received a pretty thorough wetting. Our merriment was still
further increased by the sight of the maladroit Pillon, who was
attempting to ride my spirited Jerry across the marsh. He was clinging
to the neck of the animal, with a countenance distorted with terror, as
he shouted forth all manner of French objurgations. Jerry pranced and
curveted, and finally shot forward his rider, or rather his _burden_,
headforemost, a distance of several feet into the water.
A general outcry of mirth saluted the unfortunate Frenchman, which was
redoubled as he raised himself puffing and snorting from his watery bed
and waddled back to his starting-place, the horse, meanwhile, very
sensibly making his way to join his companions, who had already reached
the farther bank.
"Well, wifie," said Mr. Kinzie, "I cannot trust you in the canoe again.
There is no way but to carry you across the marsh like a pappoose. Will
you take a ride on my shoulders?"
"With all my heart, if you will promise to take me safely." And I was
I most confess that the gentleman staggered now and then under his
burden, which was no slight one, and I was sadly afraid, more than once,
that I should meet a similar fate to old Pillon, but happily we reached
the other side in safety.
There my husband insisted on my putting on dry shoes and stockings, and
(must I confess it?) drinking a little brandy, to obviate the effects of
my icy bath. He would fain have made a halt to kindle a fire and dry my
apparel and wardrobe properly, but this I would not listen to. I
endeavored to prove to him that the delay would expose me to more cold
than riding in my wet habit and cloak, and so indeed it might have been,
but along with my convictions upon the subject there was mingled a spice
of reluctance that our friends at the fort should have an opportunity,
as they certainly would have done, of laughing at our inauspicious
Soon our horses were put in order, and our march recommenced. The day
was fine for the season. I felt no inconvenience from my wet garments,
the exercise of riding taking away all feeling of chilliness. It was to
me a new mode of travelling, and I enjoyed it the more from having been
secluded for more than five months within the walls of the fort,
scarcely varying the tenor of our lives by an occasional walk of half a
mile into the surrounding woods.
We had still another detention upon the road, from meeting Lapierre, the
blacksmith, from Sugar Creek, who with one of his associates was going
to the Portage for supplies, so that we had not travelled more than
twenty-three miles when we came to our proposed encamping-ground. It was
upon a beautiful stream, a tributary of one of the Four Lakes, that
chain whose banks are unrivalled for romantic loveliness.
I could not but admire the sagacity of the horses, who seemed, with
human intelligence, to divine our approach to the spot where their toils
were to cease. While still remote from the point of woods which foretold
a halt, they pricked up their ears, accelerated their pace, and finally
arrived at the spot on a full gallop.
We alighted at an open space, just within the verge of the wood, or, as
it is called by Western travellers, "the timber." My husband recommended
to me to walk about until a fire should be made, which was soon
accomplished by our active and experienced woodsmen, to whom the felling
of a large tree was the work of a very few minutes. The dry grass around
furnished an excellent tinder, which, ignited by the sparks from the
flint (there were no _loco-focos_ in those days), and aided by the
broken branches and bits of light-wood, soon produced a cheering flame.
"The bourgeois," in the mean time, busied himself in setting up the
tent, taking care to place it opposite the fire, but in such a direction
that the wind would carry the smoke and flame away from the opening or
door. Within upon the ground were spread, first a bear-skin, then two
or three blankets (of which each equestrian had carried two, one under
the saddle and one above it), after which, the remainder of the luggage
being brought in, I was able to divest myself of all my wet clothing and
replace it with dry. Some idea of the state of the thermometer may be
formed from the fact that my riding-habit, being placed over the end of
the huge log against which our fire was made, was, in a very few
minutes, frozen so stiff as to stand upright, giving the appearance of a
dress out of which a lady had vanished in some unaccountable manner.
It would be but a repetition of our experience upon the Fox River to
describe the ham broiled upon the "broches," the toasted bread, the
steaming coffee, the primitive table-furniture. There is, however, this
difference, that of the latter we carry with us in our journeys on
horseback only a coffee-pot, a tea-kettle, and each rider his tin cup
and hunting-knife. The deportment at table is marked by an absence of
ceremony. The knife is drawn from the scabbard--those who remember to do
so, vouchsafe it a wipe upon the napkin. Its first office is to stir the
cup of coffee--next, to divide the piece of ham which is placed on the
half of a travelling biscuit, held in the left hand, to fulfil the
office of a plate. It is an art only to be acquired by long practice, to
cut the meat so skilfully as not at the same time to destroy the dish.
We take our places around the mat to enjoy what, after our fatiguing
ride, we find delicious food. The Frenchmen are seated at a little
distance, receiving their supplies of coffee, meat, and bread, and
occasionally passing jokes with the bourgeois, who is their demi-god,
and for whom their respect and devotion are never lessened by his
affability or condescension.
The meal being finished, the table-furniture is rinsed in hot water and
set aside until morning. A wisp of dry prairie-grass is supposed in most
cases to render the knife fit to be restored to the scabbard, and there
being, at this season of the year, no amusement but that of watching the
awkward movements of the spancelled horses in their progress from spot
to spot in search of pasturage, we are usually soon disposed to arrange
our blankets and retire to rest.
At break of day we are aroused by the shout of the bourgeois,--
"How! how! how!"
All start from their slumbers. The fire, which has been occasionally
replenished through the night, is soon kindled into a flame. The horses
are caught and saddled, while a breakfast, similar in kind to the meal
of the preceding evening, is preparing--the tent is struck--the
pack-horse loaded--"_tout demanche_," as the Canadian says. The
breakfast finished, we rinse our kettles and cups, tie them to our
saddle-bows, and then mount and away, leaving our fire, or rather our
smoke, to tell of our visit.
March 9th.--Our journey this day led us past the first of the Four
Lakes. Scattered along its banks was an encampment of Winnebagoes. They
greeted their Father with vociferous joy--"_Bon-jour, bon-jour,
Shaw-nee-aw-kee_," "_Hee-nee-kar-ray-kay-noo?_" (how do you do?)
To this succeeded the usual announcement, "_Wys-kap-rah
tshoonsh-koo-nee-noh!_" (I have no bread.)
This is their form of begging; but we could not afford to be generous,
for the uncertainty of obtaining a supply, should our own be exhausted,
obliged us to observe the strictest economy.
How beautiful the entrapment looked in the morning sun! The matted
lodges, with the blue smoke curling from their tops--the trees and
bushes powdered with a light snow which had fallen through the
night--the lake, shining and sparkling, almost at our feet--even the
Indians, in their peculiar costume, adding to the picturesque!
I was sorry to leave it, as we were compelled to do, in all haste,
Souris, the pack-horse, having taken it into his head to decamp while we
were in conversation with our red friends. As he had, very sensibly,
concluded to pursue his journey in the right direction, we had the good
fortune to overtake him after a short race, and, having received much
scolding and some blows from young Roy, whose charge he specially was,
he was placed in the middle of the cavalcade, as a mark of disgrace for
his breach of duty.
Our road, after leaving the lake, lay over a "rolling prairie," now bare
and desolate enough. The hollows were filled with snow, which, being
partly thawed, furnished an uncertain footing for the horses, and I
could not but join in the ringing laughter of oar Frenchmen as
occasionally Brunet and Souris, the two ponies, would flounder, almost
imbedded, through the yielding mass. Even the vainglorious Plante, who
piqued himself on his equestrian skill, was once or twice nearly
unhorsed, from having chosen his road badly. Sometimes the elevations
were covered with a thicket or copse, in which our dogs would generally
rouse up one or more deer. Their first bound, or "lope," was the signal
for a chase. The horses seemed to enter into the spirit of it, as
"halloo" answered "halloo;" but we were never so fortunate as to get a
shot at one, for although the dogs once or twice caught they were not
strong enough to hold them. It was about the middle of the afternoon
when we reached the Blue Mound. I rejoiced much to have got so far, for
I was sadly fatigued, and every mile now seemed like two to me. In fact,
the miles are unconscionably long in this country. When I was told that
we had still seven miles to go, to "Morrison's," where we proposed
stopping for the night, I was almost in despair. It was my first journey
on horseback, and I had not yet become inured to the exercise.
When we reached Morrison's I was so much exhausted that, as my husband
attempted to lift me from the saddle, I fell into his arms.
"This will never do," said he. "To-morrow we must turn our faces towards
Fort Winnebago again."
The door opened hospitably to receive us. We were welcomed by a lady
with a most sweet, benignant countenance, and by her companion, some
years younger. The first was Mrs. Morrison--the other, Miss Elizabeth
Dodge, daughter of General Dodge.
My husband laid me upon a small bed, in the room where the ladies had
been sitting at work. They took off my bonnet and riding-dress, chafed
my hands, and prepared me some warm wine and water, by which I was soon
revived. A half-hour's repose so refreshed me that I was able to
converse with the ladies, and to relieve my husband's mind of all
anxiety on my account. Tea was announced soon after, and we repaired to
an adjoining building, for Morrison's, like the establishment of all
settlers of that period, consisted of a group of detached log houses or
_cabins_, each containing one or at most two apartments.
The table groaned with good cheer, and brought to mind some that I had
seen among the old-fashioned Dutch residents on the banks of the Hudson.
I had recovered my spirits, and we were quite a cheerful party. Mrs.
Morrison told us that during the first eighteen months she passed in
this country she did not speak with a white woman, the only society she
had being that of her husband and two black servant-women.
A Tennessee woman had called in with her little son just before tea,
and we amused Mr. Kinzie with a description of the pair. The mother's
visit was simply one of courtesy. She was a little, dumpy woman, with a
complexion burned perfectly red by the sun, and hair of an exact
tow-color, braided up from her forehead in front and from her neck
behind. These tails, meeting on the top of her head, were fastened with
a small tin comb. Her dress was of checkered homespun, a "very tight
fit," and, as she wore no ruff or handkerchief around her neck, she
looked as if just prepared for execution. She was evidently awestruck at
the sight of visitors, and seemed inclined to take her departure at
once; but the boy, not so easily intimidated, would not understand her
signs and pinches until he had sidled up to Mrs. Morrison, and, drawing
his old hat still farther over his eyes, begged for a _whang_, meaning a
narrow strip of deer-skin. The lady very obligingly cut one from a large
smoked skin, which she produced from its receptacle, and mother and son
took their leave, with a smiling but rather a scared look.
After tea we returned to Mrs. Morrison's parlor, where she kindly
insisted on my again reposing myself on the little bed, to recruit me,
as she said, for the ensuing day's journey. My husband, in the mean
time, went to look after the accommodation of his men and horses.
During the conversation that ensued, I learned that Mrs. Morrison had
passed much time in the neighborhood of my recent home in Oneida County,
that many of the friends I had loved and valued were likewise her
friends, and that she had even proposed to visit me at Fort Winnebago on
hearing of my arrival there, in order to commence an acquaintance which
had thus been brought about by other and unexpected means.
Long and pleasant was the discourse we held together until a late hour,
and mutual was the satisfaction with which we passed old friends and
by-gone events in review, much to the edification of Miss Dodge, and of
the gentlemen when they once more joined us.
WILLIAM S. HAMILTON--KELLOGG'S GROVE.
The next morning, after a cheerful breakfast, at which we were joined by
the Rev. Mr. Kent, of Galena, we prepared for our journey. I had
reconciled my husband to continuing our route towards Chicago, by
assuring him that I felt as fresh and bright as when I first set out
There seemed some apprehension, however, that we might have difficulty
in "striking the trail" to Hamilton's _diggings_, our next point of
The directions we received were certainly obscure. We were to pursue a
given trail for a certain number of miles, when we should come to a
crossing into which we were to turn, taking an easterly direction; after
a time, this would bring us to a deep trail leading straight to
Hamilton's. In this open country there are no landmarks. One elevation
is so exactly like another, that if you lose your trail there is almost
as little hope of regaining it as of finding a pathway in the midst of
The trail, it must be remembered, is not a broad highway, but a narrow
path, deeply indented by the hoofs of the horses on which the Indians
travel in single file. So deeply is it sunk in the sod which covers the
prairies, that it is difficult, sometimes, to distinguish it at a
distance of a few rods.
It was new ground to Mr. Kinzie, whose journeys from the Portage to
Chicago had hitherto been made in the direct route by Kosh-ko-nong. He
therefore obliged Mr. Morrison to repeat the directions again and again,
though Plante, our guide, swaggered and talked big, averring that "he
knew every hill and stream and point of woods from that spot to
We had not proceeded many miles on our journey, however, before we
discovered that Monsieur Plante was profoundly ignorant of the country,
so that Mr. Kinzie was obliged to take the lead himself, and make his
way as he was best able, according to the directions he had received.
Nothing, however, like the "cross trails" we had been promised met our
view, and the path on which we had set out diverged so much from what we
knew to be the right direction, that we were at length compelled to
abandon it altogether.
We travelled the livelong day, barely making a halt at noon to bait our
horses and refresh ourselves with a luncheon. The ride was as gloomy and
desolate as could well be imagined. A rolling prairie, unvaried by
forest or stream--hillock rising after hillock, at every ascent of which
we vainly hoped to see a distant fringe of "_timber_." But the same
cheerless, unbounded prospect everywhere met the eye, diversified only
here and there by the oblong openings, like gigantic graves, which
marked an unsuccessful search for indications of a lead-mine.
So great was our anxiety to recover our trail, for the weather was
growing more cold, and the wind more sharp and piercing, that we were
not tempted to turn from our course even by the appearance, more than
once, of a gaunt prairie-wolf, peering over the nearest rising-ground
and seeming to dare us to an encounter. The Frenchmen, it is true, would
instinctively give a shout and spur on their horses, while the hounds,
Kelda and Cora, would rush to the chase; but the bourgeois soon called
them back, with a warning that we must attend strictly to the
prosecution of our journey. Just before sunset we crossed, with some
difficulty, a muddy stream, which was bordered by a scanty belt of
trees, making a tolerable encamping-ground; and of this we gladly
availed ourselves, although we knew not whether it was near or remote
from the place we were in search of.
We had ridden at least fifty miles since leaving Morrison's, yet I was
sensible of very little fatigue; there was, however, a vague feeling of
discomfort at the idea of being lost in this wild, cold region,
altogether different from anything I had ever before experienced. The
encouraging tones of my husband's voice, however, "Cheer up, wifie--we
will find the trail to-morrow," served to dissipate all uneasiness.
The exertions of the men soon made our "camp" comfortable,
notwithstanding the difficulty of driving the tent-pins into the frozen
ground, and the want of trees sufficiently large to make a _rousing_
fire. The place was a _stony side-hill,_ as it would be called in New
England, where such things abound; but we were not disposed to be
fastidious, so we ate our salt ham and toasted our bread, and lent a
pleased ear to the chatter of our Frenchmen, who could not sufficiently
admire the heroism of "Madame John" amid the vicissitudes that befell
The wind, which at bed-time was sufficiently high to be uncomfortable,
increased during the night. It snowed heavily, and we were every moment
in dread that the tent would be carried away; but the matter was settled
differently by the snapping of the poles, and the falling of the whole,
with its superincumbent weight of snow, in a mass upon us.
Mr. Kinzie roused up his men, and at their head he sallied into the
neighboring wood to cut a new set of poles, leaving me to bear the
burden of the whole upon my shoulders, my only safety from the storm
being to keep snugly housed beneath the canvas.
With some difficulty a sort of support was at length adjusted for the
tent-covering, which answered our purpose tolerably well until the break
of day, when our damp and miserable condition made us very glad to rise
and hang round the fire until breakfast was dispatched, and the horses
once more saddled for our journey.
The prospect was not an encouraging one. Around us was an unbroken sheet
of snow. We had no compass, and the air was so obscured by the driving
sleet, that it was often impossible to tell in which direction the sun
was. I tied my husband's silk pocket-handkerchief over my veil, to
protect my face from the wind and icy particles with which the air was
filled, and which cut like a razor; but, although shielded in every way
that circumstances rendered possible, I suffered intensely from the
We pursued our way, mile after mile, entering every point of woods, in
hopes of meeting with, at least, some Indian wigwam at which we could
gain intelligence. Every spot was solitary and deserted; not even the
trace of a recent fire, to cheer us with the hope of human beings within
miles of us.
Suddenly, a shout from the foremost of the party made each heart bound
"_Une cloture! une cloture!_" (A fence! a fence!)
It was almost like life to the dead.
We spurred on, and indeed perceived a few straggling rails crowning a
rising ground at no great distance.
Never did music sound so sweet as the crowing of a cock which at this
moment saluted our ears.
Following the course of the inclosure down the opposite slope, we came
upon a group of log cabins, low, shabby, and unpromising in their
appearance, but a most welcome shelter from the pelting storm.
"Whose cabins are these?" asked Mr. Kinzie, of a man who was cutting
wood at the door of one.
"Hamilton's," was his reply; and he stepped forward at once to assist us
to alight, hospitality being a matter of course in these wild regions.
We were shown into the most comfortable-looking of the buildings. A
large fire was burning in the clay chimney, and the room was of a genial
warmth, notwithstanding the apertures, many inches in width, beside the
doors and windows. A woman in a tidy calico dress, and shabby black silk
cap trimmed with still shabbier lace, rose from her seat beside a sort
of bread-trough, which fulfilled the office of cradle to a fine, fat
baby. She made room for us at the fire, but was either too timid or too
ignorant to relieve me of wrappings and defences, now heavy with the
I soon contrived, with my husband's aid, to disembarrass myself of them;
and, having seen me comfortably disposed of, and in a fair way to be
thawed after my freezing ride, he left me, to see after his men and
He was a long time absent, and I expected he would return accompanied by
our host; but when he reappeared it was to tell me, laughing, that Mr.
Hamilton hesitated to present himself before me, being unwilling that
one who had been acquainted with his family at the East should see him
in his present mode of life. However, this feeling apparently wore off,
for before dinner he came in and was introduced to me, and was as
agreeable and polite as the son of Alexander Hamilton would naturally
The housekeeper, who was the wife of one of the miners, prepared us a
plain, comfortable dinner, and a table as long as the dimensions of the
cabin would admit was set out, the end nearest the fire being covered
with somewhat nicer furniture and more delicate fare than the remaining
The blowing of a horn was the signal for the entrance of ten or twelve
miners, who took their places below us at the table. They were the
roughest-looking set of men I ever beheld, and their language was as
uncouth as their persons. They wore hunting-shirts, trowsers, and
moccasins of deer-skin, the former being ornamented at the seams with a
fringe of the same, while a colored belt around the waist, in which was
stuck a large hunting-knife, gave each the appearance of a brigand.
Mr. Hamilton, although so much their superior, was addressed by them
uniformly as "Uncle Billy;" and I could not but fancy there was
something desperate about them, that it was necessary to propitiate by
this familiarity. This feeling was further confirmed by the remarks of
one of the company who lingered behind after the rest of the _gang_ had
taken their departure. He had learned that we came from Fort Winnebago,
and, having informed us that "he was a discharged soldier, and would
like to make some inquiries about his old station and comrades," he
unceremoniously seated himself and commenced questioning us.
The bitterness with which he spoke of his former officers made me quite
sure he was a deserter, and I rather suspected he had made his escape
from the service in consequence of some punishment. His countenance was
fairly distorted as he spoke of Captain H., to whose company he had
belonged. "There is a man in the mines," said he, "who has been in his
hands, and if he ever gets a chance to come within shot of him, I guess
the captain will remember it. He knows well enough he darsn't set his
foot in the diggings. And there's T. is not much better. Everybody
thought it a great pity that fellow's gun snapped when he so nearly
_had_ him at Green Bay."
Having delivered himself of these sentiments, he marched out, to my
Mr. Hamilton passed most of the afternoon with us; for the storm raged
so without, that to proceed on our journey was out of the question. He
gave us many pleasant anecdotes and reminiscences of his early life in
New York, and of his adventures since he had come to the Western
wilderness. When obliged to leave us for awhile, he furnished us with
some books to entertain us, the most interesting of which was the
biography of his father.
Could this illustrious man have foreseen in what a scene--the dwelling
of his son--this book was to be one day perused, what would have been
The most amusing part of our experience was yet to come. I had been
speculating, as evening approached, on our prospects for the night's
accommodation. As our pale, melancholy-looking landlady and her fat baby
were evidently the only specimens of the feminine gender about the
establishment, it was hardly reasonable to suppose that any of the other
cabins contained wherewithal to furnish us a comfortable lodging, and
the one in which we were offered nothing of the sort to view, but two
beds, uncurtained, extended against the farther wall. My doubts were
after a time resolved, by observing the hostess stretch a cord between
the two, on which she hung some petticoats and extra garments, by way
of a partition, after which she invited us to occupy one of them.
My only preparation was, to wrap my cloak around me and lie down with my
face to the wall; but the good people were less ceremonious, for at the
distance of scarcely two feet, we could not be mistaken in the sound of
their garments being, not "laid aside," but whipped over the
partition-wall between us.
Our waking thoughts, however, were only those of thankfulness for so
comfortable a lodging after the trials and fatigues we had undergone;
and even these were of short duration, for our eyes were soon closed in
The next day's sun rose clear and bright. Refreshed and invigorated, we
looked forward with pleasure to a recommencement of our journey,
confident of meeting no more mishaps by the way. Mr. Hamilton kindly
offered to accompany us to his next neighbor's, the trifling distance of
twenty-five miles. From Kellogg's to Ogie's Ferry, on the Rock River,
the road being much travelled, we should be in no danger, Mr. H. said,
of again losing our way.
The miner who owned the wife and baby, and who, consequently, was
somewhat more humanized than his comrades, in taking leave of us "wished
us well out of the country, and that we might never have occasion to
return to it!"
"I pity a body," said he, "when I see them making such an awful mistake
as to come out this way; for comfort _never touched_ this Western
We found Mr. Hamilton as agreeable a companion as on the preceding day,
but a most desperate rider. He galloped on at such a rate that, had I
not exchanged my pony for the fine, noble Jerry, I should have been in
danger of being left behind.
Well mounted as we all were, he sometimes nearly distanced us. We were
now among the branches of the Pickatonick, and the country had lost its
prairie character and become rough and broken. We went dashing on,
sometimes down ravines, sometimes through narrow passes, where, as I
followed, I left fragments of my veil upon the projecting and interwoven
branches. Once my hat became entangled, and, had not my husband sprung
to my rescue, I must have shared the fate of Absalom, Jerry's ambition
to keep his place in the race making it probable he would do as did the
mule who was under the unfortunate prince.
There was no halting upon the route, and, as we kept the same pace until
three o'clock in the afternoon, it was beyond a question that when we
reached "Kellogg's" we had travelled at least thirty miles. One of my
greatest annoyances during the ride had been the behavior of the little
beast Brunet. He had been hitherto used as a saddle-horse, and had been
accustomed to a station in the file near the guide or leader. He did not
relish being put in the background as a pack-horse, and accordingly,
whenever we approached a stream, where the file broke up to permit each
horseman to choose his own place of fording, it was, invariably the case
that just as I was reining Jerry into the water, Brunet would come
rushing past and throw himself into our very footsteps. Plunging,
snorting, and splashing me with water, and sometimes even starting Jerry
into a leap aside, he more than once brought me into imminent danger of
being tossed into the stream. It was in vain that, after one or two such
adventures, I learned to hold back and give the vexatious little animal
the precedence. His passion seemed to be to go into the water precisely
at the moment Jerry did; and I was obliged at last to make a bargain
with young Roy to dismount and hold him at every stream until I had got
"Kellogg's" was a comfortable mansion, just within the verge of a
pleasant "grove of timber," as a small forest is called by Western
travellers. We found Mrs. Kellogg a very respectable-looking matron, who
soon informed us she was from the city of New York. She appeared proud
and delighted to entertain Mr. Hamilton, for whose family, she took
occasion to tell us, she had, in former days, been in the habit of doing
The worthy woman provided us an excellent dinner, and afterwards
installed me in a rocking-chair beside a large fire, with the "Life of
Mrs. Fletcher" to entertain me, while the gentlemen explored the
premises, visited Mr. Kellogg's stock, and took a careful look at their
own. We had intended to go to Dixon's the same afternoon, but the snow,
beginning again to fall, obliged us to content ourselves where we were.
In the mean time, finding we were journeying to Chicago, Mr. Kellogg
came to the determination to accompany us, having, as he said, some
business to accomplish at that place: so Mrs. Kellogg busied herself in
preparing him to set off with us the following morning. I pleaded hard
to remain yet another day, as the following was Sunday, on which I
objected to travel; but in view of the necessities of the case, the
uncertainty of the weather, and the importance of getting as quickly as
possible through this wild country, my objections were overruled, and I
could only obtain a delay in starting until so late in the afternoon as
would give us just time to ride the sixteen miles to "Dixon's" before
No great time was required for Mr. Kellogg's preparations. He would
take, he said, only two days' provisions, for at his brother-in-law
Dixon's we should get our supper and breakfast, and the route from there
to Chicago could, he well knew, be accomplished in a day and a half.
Although, according to this calculation, we had sufficient remaining of
our stores to carry us to the end of our journey, yet my husband took
the precaution of begging Mrs. Kellogg to bake us another bag of
biscuits, in case of accidents, and he likewise suggested to Mr. Kellogg
the prudence of furnishing himself with something more than his limited
allowance; but the good man objected that he was unwilling to burden his
horse more than was absolutely necessary, seeing that, at this season of
the year, we were obliged to carry fodder for the animals, in addition
to the rest of their load. It will be seen that we had reason to rejoice
in our own foresight.
My experience of the previous night had rendered me somewhat less
fastidious than when I commenced my journey, so that, when introduced to
our sleeping-apartment, which I found we were to share with six men,
travellers like ourselves, my only feeling was one of thankfulness that
each bed was furnished with a full suit of blue checked curtains, which
formed a very tolerable substitute for a dressing-room.
ROCK RIVER--HOURS OF TROUBLE.
It was late on the following day (March 13th) when we took leave of our
kind hostess. She loaded us with cakes, good wishes, and messages to her
sister Dixon and the children. We journeyed pleasantly along through a
country beautiful in spite of its wintry appearance.
There was a house at Buffalo Grove, at which we stopped for half an
hour, and where a nice-looking young girl presented us with some
maple-sugar of her own making. She entertained us with the history of a
contest between two rival claimants for the patronage of the
stage-wagon, the proprietors of which had not decided whether to send it
by Buffalo Grove or by another route, which she pointed out to us, at no
great distance. The _driver_, she took care to inform us, was in favor
of the former; and the blush with which she replied in the affirmative
to our inquiry, "Is he a young man?" explained the whole matter
At length, just at sunset, we reached the dark, rapid waters of the Rock
River. The ferry which we had travelled so far out of our way to take
advantage of, proved to be merely a small boat or skiff, the larger one
having been swept off into the stream, and carried down in the
breaking-up of the ice, the week previous.
My husband's first care was to get me across. He placed me with the
saddles, packs, etc. in the boat, and as, at that late hour, no time was
to be lost, he ventured, at the same time, to hold the bridles of the
two most docile horses, to guide them in swimming the river.
When we had proceeded a few rods from the shore, we were startled by a
loud puffing and blowing near us, and looking around, to our great
surprise, discovered little Brunet just upon our "weather-bow."
Determined not to be outdone by his model, Jerry, he had taken to the
water on his own responsibility, and arrived at the opposite shore as
soon as any of the party.
All being safely landed, a short walk brought us to the house of Mr.
Dixon. Although so recently come into the country, he had contrived to
make everything comfortable around him; and when he ushered us into Mrs.
Dixon's sitting-room, and seated us by a glowing wood fire, while Mrs.
Dixon busied herself in preparing us a nice supper, I felt that the
comfort overbalanced the inconvenience of such a journey.
Mrs. Dixon was surrounded by several children. One leaning against the
chimney-piece was dressed in the full Indian costume--calico shirt,
blanket, and leggings. His dark complexion, and full, melancholy eyes,
which he kept fixed upon the ashes in which he was making marks with a
stick, rarely raising them to gaze on us, as children are wont to do,
interested me exceedingly, and I inquired of an intelligent little girl,
evidently a daughter of our host,--
"Who is that boy?"
"Oh, that is John Ogie," answered she.
"What is the matter with him? he looks very sad."
"Oh, he is fretting after his mother."
"Is she dead, then?"
"Some say she is dead, and some say she is gone away. I guess she is
dead, and buried up in one of those graves yonder"--pointing to two or
three little picketed inclosures upon a rising ground opposite the
I felt a strong sympathy with the child, which was increased when the
little spokeswoman, in answer to my inquiry, "Has he no father?"
"Oh, yes, but he goes away, and drinks, and don't care for his
"And what becomes of John then?"
"He stays here with us, and we teach him to read, and he learns
When the boy at length turned his large dark eyes upon me, it went to my
heart. It was such a _motherless_ look. And it was explained when, long
afterwards, I learned his further history. His mother was still living,
and he knew it, although, with the reserve peculiar to his people, he
never spoke of her to his young companions. Unable to endure the
continued ill treatment of her husband, a surly, intemperate Canadian,
she had left him, and returned to her own family among the
Pottowattamies. Years after, this boy and a brother who had also been
left behind with their father found their way to the Upper Missouri, to
join their mother, who, with the others of her tribe, had been removed
by the Government from the shores of Lake Michigan.
A most savory supper of ducks and venison, with their accompaniments,
soon smoked upon the board, and we did ample justice to it. Travelling
is a great sharpener of the appetite, and so is cheerfulness; and the
latter was increased by the encouraging account Mr. Dixon gave us of the
remainder of the route yet before us.
"There is no difficulty," said he, "if you keep a little to the north,
and strike the great _Sauk trail_. If you get too far to the south, you
will come upon the Winnebago Swamp, and, once in that, there is no
telling when you will ever get out again. As for the distance, it is
nothing at all to speak of. Two young men came out here from Chicago,
on foot, last fall. They got here the evening of the second day; and,
even with a lady in your party, you could go on horseback in less time
than that. The only thing is to be sure and get on the great track that
the Sauks have made, in going every year from the Mississippi to Canada,
to receive their presents from the British Indian Agent."
The following morning, which was a bright and lovely one for that season
of the year, we took leave of Mr. and Mrs. Dixon, in high spirits. We
travelled for the first few miles along the beautiful, undulating banks
of the Rock River, always in an easterly direction, keeping the beaten
path, or rather road, which led to Fort Clark, or Peoria. The Sauk
trail, we had been told, would cross this road at the distance of about
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