Juliette Augusta Magill Kinzie.

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prairie which extended along the bank. The tent, which had been packed
in the rear of the wagon, was too much saturated with mud and water to
admit of its being used as a shelter; it could only be stretched in the
sun to dry. We opened an umbrella over our poor sister's head, and now
began a discussion of ways and means to repair damages. The first thing
was to cut a new pole for the wagon, and for this, the master and men
must recross the river and choose an _iron-tree_ out of the forest.

Then, for the harness. With provident care, a little box had been placed
under the seat of the wagon, containing an awl, waxed ends, and various
other little conveniences exactly suited to an emergency like the

It was question and answer, like Cock Robin:

"Who can mend the harness?"

"I can, for I learned when I was a young girl to make shoes as _an
accomplishment_, and I can surely now, as a matter of usefulness and
duty, put all those wet, dirty pieces of leather together."

So we all seated ourselves on the grass, under the shade of the only two
umbrellas we could muster.

I stitched away diligently, blistering my hands, I must own, in no small

A suitable young tree had been brought, and the hatchets, without which
one never travels in the woods, were busy fashioning it into shape, when
a peculiar hissing noise was heard, and instantly the cry, -

"_Un serpent sonnette_! A rattlesnake!"

All sprang to their feet, even the poor, shaking invalid, just in time
to see the reptile glide past within three inches of my mother's feet,
while the men assailed the spot it had left with whips, missiles, and
whatever would help along the commotion.

This little incident proved an excellent remedy for the ague. One
excitement drives away another, and by means of this (upon the
homoeopathic principle) sister Margaret was so much improved that by the
time all the mischiefs were repaired, she was ready to take her place in
the cavalcade, as bright and cheerful as the rest of us.

So great had been the delay occasioned by all these untoward
circumstances, that our afternoon's ride was but a short one, bringing
us no farther than the shores of a beautiful sheet of water, now known
as Crystal Lake. Its clear surface was covered with loons, and _Poules
d'Eau_, a species of rail; with which, at certain seasons, this region

The Indians have the genius of Aesop for depicting animal life and
character, and there is among them a fable or legend illustrative of
every peculiarity in the personal appearance, habits, or dispositions of
each variety of the animal creation.

The back of the little rail is very concave, or hollow. The Indians tell
us that it became so in the following manner: -


There is supposed, by most of the Northwestern tribes, to exist an
invisible being, corresponding to the "Genie" of Oriental story. Without
being exactly the father of evil, _Nan-nee-bo-zho_ is a spirit whose
office it is to punish what is amiss. He is represented, too, as
constantly occupied in entrapping and making examples of all the
animals that come in his way.

One pleasant evening, as he walked along the banks of a lake, he saw a
flock of ducks, sailing and enjoying themselves on the blue waters. He
called to them:

"Ho! come with me into my lodge, and I will teach you to dance!" Some of
the ducks said among themselves, "It is Nan-nee-bo-zho; let us not go."
Others were of a contrary opinion, and, his words being fair, and his
voice insinuating, a few turned their faces towards the land - all the
rest soon followed, and, with many pleasant quackings, trooped after
him, and entered his lodge.

When there, he first took an Indian sack, with a wide mouth, which he
tied by the strings around his neck, so that it would hang over his
shoulders, leaving the mouth unclosed. Then, placing himself in the
centre of the lodge, he ranged the ducks in a circle around him.

"Now," said he, "you must all shut your eyes _tight_; whoever opens his
eyes at all, something dreadful will happen to him. I will take my
Indian flute and play upon it, and you will, at the word I shall give,
open your eyes, and commence dancing, as you see me do."

The ducks obeyed, shutting their eyes _tight_, and keeping time to the
music by stepping from one foot to the other, all impatient for the
dancing to begin.

Presently a sound was heard like a smothered "quack," but the ducks did
not dare to open their eyes.

Again, and again, the sound of the flute would be interrupted, and a
gurgling cry of "qu-a-a-ck" be heard. There was one little duck, much
smaller than the rest, who, at this juncture, could not resist the
temptation to open one eye, cautiously. She saw Nan-nee-bo-zho, as he
played his flute, holding it with one hand, stoop a little at intervals
and seize the duck nearest him, which he throttled and stuffed into the
bag on his shoulders. So, edging a little out of the circle, and getting
nearer the door, which had been left partly open, to admit the light,
she cried out, -

"Open your eyes - Nan-nee-bo-zho is choking you all and putting you into
his bag!"

With that she flew, but Nan-nee-bo-zho pounced upon her. His hand
grasped her back, yet, with desperate force, she released herself and
gained the open air. Her companions flew, quacking and screaming, after
her. Some escaped, and some fell victims to the sprite.

The little duck had saved her life, but she had lost her beauty. She
ever after retained the attitude she had been forced into in her moment
of danger - her back pressed down in the centre, and her head and neck
unnaturally stretched forward into the air.



The third day of our journey rose brilliantly clear, like the two
preceding ones, and we shaped our course more to the north than we had
hitherto done, in the direction of _Big-foot_ Lake, now known by the
somewhat hackneyed appellation, Lake of Geneva.

Our journey this day was without mishaps or disasters of any kind. The
air was balmy, the foliage of the forests fresh and fragrant, the little
brooks clear and sparkling - everything in nature spoke the praises of
the beneficent Creator.

It is in scenes like this, far removed from the bustle, the strife, and
the sin of civilized life, that we most fully realize the presence of
the great Author of the Universe. Here can the mind most fully adore his
majesty and goodness, for here only is the command obeyed, "Let all the
earth keep silence before Him!"

It cannot escape observation that the deepest and most solemn devotion
is in the hearts of those who, shut out from the worship of God in
temples made with hands, are led to commune with him amid the boundless
magnificence that his own power has framed.

This day was not wholly without incident. As we stopped for our
noon-tide refreshment, and dismounting threw ourselves on the fresh
herbage just at the verge of a pleasant thicket, we were startled by a
tender _bleating_ near us, and presently, breaking its way through the
low branches, there came upon us a sweet little dappled fawn, evidently
in search of its mother. It did not seem in the least frightened at the
sight of us. As poor Selkirk might have been parodied, -

It was so unacquainted with man,
Its tameness was charming to us.

But the vociferous delight of the children soon drove it bounding again
into the woods, and all hopes of catching it for a pet were at once at
an end.

We had travelled well this day, and were beginning to feel somewhat
fatigued, when, just before sunset, we came upon a ridge, overlooking
one of the loveliest little dells imaginable. It was an oak opening, and
browsing under the shade of the tall trees which were scattered around
were the cattle and horses of the soldiers, who had got thus far on
their journey. Two or three white tents were pitched in the bottom of
the valley, beside a clear stream. The camp-fires were already lighted,
and the men, singly or in groups, were busied in their various
preparations for their own comfort, or that of their animals.

Lieutenant Foster came forward with great delight to welcome our
arrival, and accepted without hesitation an invitation to join our mess
again, as long as we should be together.

We soon found a pleasant encamping-ground, far enough removed from the
other party to secure us against all inconvenience, and our supper
having received the addition of a kettle of fine fresh milk, kindly
brought us by Mrs. Gardiner, the hospital matron, who with her little
covered cart formed no unimportant feature in the military group, we
partook of our evening meal with much hilarity and enjoyment.

If people are ever companionable, it is when thrown together under
circumstances like the present. There has always been sufficient
incident through the day to furnish themes for discourse, and subjects
of merriment, as long as the company feel disposed for conversation,
which is, truth to tell, not an unconscionable length of time after
their supper is over.

The poor Lieutenant looked grave enough when we set out in advance of
him the next morning. None of his party were acquainted with the road;
but, after giving him directions both general and particular, Mr. Kinzie
promised to _blaze_ a tree, or _set up a chip_ for a guide, at every
place which appeared more than usually doubtful.

We now found ourselves in a much more diversified country than any we
had hitherto travelled. Gently swelling hills, lovely valleys, and
bright sparkling streams were the features of the landscape. But there
was little animate life. Now and then a shout from the leader of the
party (for, according to custom, we travelled Indian file) would call
our attention to a herd of deer "loping," as the Westerners say,
through the forest; or an additional spur would be given to the horses
on the appearance of some small dark object, far distant on the trail
before us. But the game invariably contrived to disappear before we
could reach it, and it was out of the question to leave the beaten track
for a regular hunt.

Soon after mid-day, we descended a long, sloping knoll, and by a sudden
turn came full in view of the beautiful sheet of water denominated
Gros-pied by the French, _Maunk-suck_ by the natives, and by ourselves
Big-foot, from the chief whose village overlooked its waters. Bold,
swelling hills jutted forward into the clear blue expanse, or retreated
slightly to afford a green, level nook, as a resting-place for the
dwelling of man. On the nearer shore stretched a bright, gravelly beach,
across which coursed here and there a pure, sparkling rivulet to join
the larger sheet of water.

On a rising ground at the foot of one of the bold bluffs in the middle
distance, a collection of neat wigwams formed, with their surrounding
gardens, no unpleasant feature in the picture.

A shout of delight burst involuntarily from the whole party, as this
charming landscape met our view. "It was like the Hudson, only less
bold - no, it was like the lake of the Forest Cantons, in the picture of
the Chapel of William Tell! What could be imagined more enchanting? Oh I
if our friends at the East could but enjoy it with us!"

We paused long to admire, and then spurred on, skirting the head of the
lake, and were soon ascending the broad platform on which stood the
village of Maunk-suck, or Big-foot.

The inhabitants, who had witnessed our approach from a distance, were
all assembled in front of their wigwams to greet us, if friends - if
otherwise, whatever the occasion should demand. It was the first time
such a spectacle had ever presented itself to their wondering eyes.
Their salutations were not less cordial than we expected.
"Shaw-nee-aw-kee" and his mother, who was known throughout the tribe by
the touching appellation "Our friend's wife," were welcomed most kindly,
and an animated conversation commenced, which I could understand only so
far as it was conveyed by gestures; so I amused myself by taking a
minute survey of all that met my view.

The chief was a large, raw-boned, ugly Indian, with a countenance
bloated by intemperance, and with a sinister, unpleasant expression. He
had a gay-colored handkerchief upon his head, and was otherwise attired
in his best, in compliment to the strangers.

It was to this chief that Chambly, or, as he is now called,
Shaw-bee-nay, Billy Caldwell, and Robinson were dispatched, by Dr.
Wolcott, their Agent, during the Winnebago war, in 1821, to use their
earnest endeavors to prevent this chief and his band from joining the
hostile Indians. With some difficulty they succeeded, and were thus the
means, doubtless, of saving the lives of all the settlers who lived
exposed upon the frontier.

Among the various groups of his people, there was none attracted my
attention so forcibly as a young man of handsome face, and a figure that
was striking even where all were fine and symmetrical. He too had a gay
handkerchief on his head, a shirt of the brightest lemon-colored calico,
an abundance of silver ornaments, and, what gave his dress a most
fanciful appearance, one legging of blue and the other of bright
scarlet. I was not ignorant that this peculiar feature in his toilet
indicated a heart suffering from the tender passion. The flute, which
he carried in his hand, added confirmation to the fact, while the
joyous, animated expression of his countenance showed with equal
plainness that he was not a despairing lover.

I could have imagined him to have recently returned from the chase,
laden with booty, with which he had, as is the custom, entered the lodge
of the fair one, and thrown his burden at the feet of her parents, with
an indifferent, superb sort of air, as much as to say, "Here is some
meat - it is a mere trifle, but it will show you what you might expect
with me for a son-in-law." I could not doubt that the damsel had stepped
forward and gathered it up, in token that she accepted the offering, and
the donor along with it. There was nothing in the appearance or manner
of any of the maidens by whom we were surrounded, to denote which was
the happy fair, neither, although I peered anxiously into all their
countenances, could I there detect any blush of consciousness; so I was
obliged to content myself with selecting the youngest and prettiest of
the group, and go on weaving my romance to my own satisfaction.

The village stood encircled by an amphitheatre of hills, so precipitous,
and with gorges so steep and narrow, that it seemed almost impossible to
scale them, even on horseback; how, then, could we hope to accomplish
the ascent of the four-wheeled carriage? This was the point now under
discussion between my husband and the Pottowattamies. There was no
alternative but to make the effort, selecting the pass that the
inhabitants pointed out as the most practicable. Petaille went first,
and I followed on my favorite Jerry. It was such a scramble as is not
often taken, - almost perpendicularly, through what seemed the dry bed of
a torrent, now filled with loose stones, and scarcely affording one
secure foothold from the bottom to the summit! I clang fast to the
mane, literally at times clasping Jerry around his neck, and, amid the
encouraging shouts and cheers of those below, we at length arrived
safely, though nearly breathless, on the pinnacle, and sat looking down,
to view the success of the next party.

The horses had been taken from the carriage, the luggage it contained
being placed upon the shoulders of some of the young Indians, to be
_toted_ up the steep. Ropes were now attached to its sides, and a
regular bevy of our red friends, headed by our two Frenchmen, placed to
man them. Two or three more took their places in the rear, to hold the
vehicle and keep it from slipping backwards - then the labor commenced.
Such a pulling! such a shouting! such a clapping of hands by the
spectators of both sexes! such a stentorian word of command or
encouragement from the bourgeois! Now and then there would be a slight
halt, a wavering, as if carriage and men were about to tumble backwards
into the plain below; but no - they would recover themselves, and after
incredible efforts they too safely gained the table-land above. In
process of time all were landed there, and, having remunerated our
friends to their satisfaction, the goods and chattels were collected,
the wagon repacked, and we set off for our encampment at Turtle Creek.

The exertions and excitement of our laborious ascent, together with the
increasing heat of the sun, made this afternoon's ride more
uncomfortable than anything we had previously felt. We were truly
rejoiced when the whoop of our guide, and the sight of a few scattered
lodges, gave notice that we had reached our encamping-ground. We chose a
beautiful sequestered spot by the side of a clear, sparkling stream,
and, having dismounted and seen that our horses were made comfortable,
my husband, after giving his directions to his men, led me to a retired
spot where I could lay aside my hat and mask and bathe my flushed face
and aching head in the cool, refreshing waters. Never had I felt
anything so grateful, so delicious. I sat down, and leaned my head
against one of the tall, overshadowing trees, and was almost dreaming,
when summoned to partake of our evening meal.

The Indians had brought us, as a present, some fine brook trout, which
our Frenchmen had prepared in the most tempting fashion, and before the
bright moon rose and we were ready for oar rest, all headache and
fatigue had alike disappeared.

* * * * *

One of the most charming features of this mode of travelling is the
joyous, vocal life of the forest at early dawn, when all the feathered
tribe come forth to pay their cheerful salutations to the opening day.

The rapid, chattering flourish of the bob-o'-link, the soft whistle of
the thrush, the tender coo of the wood-dove, the deep, warbling bass of
the grouse, the drumming of the partridge, the melodious trill of the
lark, the gay carol of the robin, the friendly, familiar call of the
duck and the teal, resound from tree and knoll and lowland, prompting
the expressive exclamation of the simple half-breed, -

"Voilà la forêt qui parle!"[46]

It seems as if man must involuntarily raise his voice, to take part in
the general chorus - the mating song of praise.

Birds and flowers, and the soft balmy airs of morning! Must it not have
been in a scene like this that Milton's Adam poured out his beautiful
hymn of adoration, -

"These are thy glorious works, Parent of Good"?

This day we were journeying in hopes to reach, at an early hour, that
broad expanse of the Rock River which here forms the Kosh-ko-nong. The
appellation of this water, rendered doubly affecting by the subsequent
fate of its people, imports "_the lake we live on_."

Our road for the early part of the day led through forests so thick and
tangled that Grignon and Lecuyer were often obliged to go in advance as
pioneers with their axes, to cut away the obstructing shrubs and
branches. It was slow work, and at times quite discouraging, but we were
through with it at last, and then we came into a country of altogether a
different description, - low prairies, intersected with deep, narrow
streams like canals, the passage of which, either by horses or
carriages, was often a matter of delay and even difficulty.

Several times in the course of the forenoon the horses were to be taken
from the carriage and the latter pulled and pushed across the deep
narrow channels as best it might.

The wooded banks of the Kosh-ko-nong were never welcomed with greater
delight than by us when they at length broke upon our sight. A ride of
five or six miles through the beautiful oak openings brought us to
_Man-Eater's_ village, a collection of neat bark wigwams, with extensive
fields on each side of corn, beans, and squashes, recently planted, but
already giving promise of a fine crop. In front was the broad blue lake,
the shores of which, to the south, were open and marshy, but near the
village, and stretching far away to the north, were bordered by fine
lofty trees. The village was built but a short distance below the point
where the Rock River opens into the lake, and during a conversation
between our party and the Indians at the village, an arrangement was
made with them to take us across at a spot about half a mile above.

After a short halt, we again took up our line of march through the
woods, along the bank of the river.

A number of the Winnebagoes (for we had been among our own people since
leaving Gros-pied Lake) set out for the appointed place by water,
paddling their canoes, of which they had selected the largest and

Arrived at the spot indicated, we dismounted, and the men commenced the
task of unsaddling and unloading. We were soon placed in the canoes, and
paddled across to the opposite bank. Next, the horses were swum
across - after them was to come the carriage. Two long wooden canoes were
securely lashed together side by side, and being of sufficient width to
admit of the carriage standing within them, the passage was commenced.
Again and again the tottering barks would sway from side to side, and a
cry or a shout would arise from our party on shore, as the whole mass
seemed about to plunge sideways into the water, but it would presently
recover itself, and at length, after various deviations from the
perpendicular, it reached the shore in safety.

We now hoped that our troubles were at an end, and that we had nothing
to do but to mount and trot on as fast as possible to Fort Winnebago.
But no. Half a mile farther on was a formidable swamp, of no great width
it is true, but with a depth of from two to three feet of mud and water.
It was a question whether, with the carriage, we could get through it at
all. Several of the Indians accompanied us to this place, partly to give
us their aid and counsel, and partly to enjoy the fun of the spectacle.

On reaching the swamp, we were disposed to laugh at the formidable
representations which had been made to us. We saw only a strip of what
seemed rather low land, covered with tall, dry rushes.

It is true the ground looked a little wet, but there seemed nothing to
justify all the apprehensions that had been excited. Great was my
surprise, then, to see my husband, who had been a few minutes absent,
return to our circle attired in his duck trousers, and without shoes or

"What are you going to do?" inquired I.

"Carry you through the swamp on my shoulders. Come, Petaille, you are
the strongest - you are to carry Madame Kinzie, and To-shun-nuck there
(pointing to a tall, stout Winnebago), he will take Madame Helm."

"Wait a moment," said I, and, seating myself on the grass, I
deliberately took off my own boots and stockings.

"What is that for?" they all asked.

"Because I do not wish to ride with wet feet all the rest of the day."

"No danger of that," said they, and no one followed my example.

By the time they were in the midst of the swamp, however, they found my
precaution had been by no means useless. The water through which our
bearers had to pass was of such a depth that no efforts of the ladies
were sufficient to keep their feet above the surface; and I had the
satisfaction of feeling that my burden upon my husband's shoulders was
much less, from my being able to keep my first position instead of
changing constantly to avoid a contact with the water.

The laugh was quite on my side when I resumed my equipment and mounted,
_dry-shod_, into my saddle.

It will be perceived that journeying in the woods is, in some degree, a
deranger of ceremony and formality; that it necessarily restricts us
somewhat in our conventionalities. The only remedy is, to make ourselves
amends by a double share when we return to the civilized walks of life.

By dint of much pulling, shouting, encouraging, and threatening, the
horses at length dragged the carriage through the difficult pass, and
our red friends were left to return to their village, with, doubtless, a
very exaggerated and amusing account of all that they had seen and
assisted in.

We had not forgotten our promise to Lieutenant Foster to put up a
"guide-board" of some sort, for his accommodation in following us. We
therefore, upon several occasions, carried with us from the woods a few
pieces, of three or four feet in length, which we planted at certain
points, with a transverse stick through a cleft in the top, thus marking
the direction he and his party were to take.

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Online LibraryJuliette Augusta Magill KinzieWau-bun The Early Day in the Northwest → online text (page 17 of 27)