Richard J Harney.

History of Winnebago County, Wisconsin, and early history of the Northwest online

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tiful scenery of that broad river, which, from
its mouth to Lake Winnebago, is a succession
of lovely views; its high sloping banks, in some
places quite open, in others covered with a
dense forest; the river for distances sweeping
along in placid flow, and at some points foam-
ing and tearing along in rapids and falls, which
in one place are over half a mile in width.
The head of the river is divided by a large
island at the outlet of the lake; the present
beautiful site of the manufacturing cities of
Neenah and Menasha. Here the broad waters
of Lake Winnebago break on the view, stretch-
ing away as far as the eye can reach.

A few miles travel along its shores, and the
great prairie and opening country of the West
is reached. Here is the beginning of the beau-
tiful tract now known as Winnebago County.
Its broad rivers and lovely lakes, the pic-
turesque surface, with its distant views of rolling
prairie, like vast, smooth, grassy lawns, inter-
spersed with groves and stretches of dense
forest; the rank, lu.xuriant vegetation of its
fertile soil; and the vastness of that great agri-
cultural territory which stretches from here
away to the South and West, for an almost

illimitable distance, in all the wild loveliness of
a state of nature, formed a scene well calcu-
lated to inspire the grandest emotions and the
most glowing visions of the future civilized
development of this favored region.

Here was the great, busy channel of frontier
and aboriginal life, trade and travel. The
abundance of game, fish and fur-bearing ani-
mals, the wild rice which grew luxuriantly in
the shallow portion of its waters, the rich,
warm soil of its planting-grounds, its facilities
for canoe-travel, and the easy portages between
the great water-courses, made it the center of
Indian population, and one of the chief seats
of Indian diplomacy and power. Here dwelt
some of the most powerful tribes of the Sacs,
Foxes or Outagamies, Winnebagoes and
Menominees, and their noted chieftains, famous
in Indian song and legend. On these lakes
and river-banks were the picturesque sites of
their villages and planting-grounds, their coun-
cil fires and war-dances; and here occurred
great tribal wars and some of the most sangui-
nary conflicts of Indian warfare, in their strug-
with a race which was destined to supplant

Here the first intercourse took place between
the two races in the west; and here the French-
men met the diplomats of the Indian tribes to
form treaties of alliance to facilitate that
nomadic traffic which pioneered the earlier civili-
zation of the country; and here, for a century
and a half, the two races mingled alternateh^
in friendly intercourse or deadly conflict.

Captain Jonathan Carver, of the English
army, ascended the Fo.x River in 1766. Arriv-
ing at the Island, now the site of Neenah and
Menasha, he found a great Indian town —
Winnebagos. The tribe was ruled by a queen,
who received him with great civility and enter-
tained him sumptuously during the four days
he lemained there. "The town contained fifty
houses. The land," he says, "was very fertile;
grapes, plums, and other fruits grew abund-
antly. The Indians raised large quantities of
Indian corn, beans, pumpkins, squashes,
watermelons and some tobacco." On the
Wisconsin River he foi)nd the largest and best
built Indian town he ever saw. "It contained
about ninety houses, each large enough for
several families, built of hewn planks, neatly
jointed, and covered so completely with bark
as to keep out the most penetrating rains. * *
The streets were both regular and spacious,
appearing more like a civilized town than the
abode of savages. The land was rich, and
corn, beans and melons were raised in large
quantities. "

Many of the planting-grounds on the banks




of the lakes were lovely spots, and in the corn-
husking time, or in the wild-rice harvest, when
multitudes of canoes were engaged in gather-
ing the grain, presented a cheerful scene.

The voyageur's camping-ground was fre-
quently adjoining; and many a festive summer
night has echoed with the song and mirth of
the backwoods frolic, in which both races have
enjoyably participated.

An Indian summer scene on these lakes,
when nature was garlanded in all the gorgeous
colors of her autumnal beauty, was an enchant-
ing sight. The weird-like hush, the softened
outlines and shadows, the distant vistas fading
in the hazy air, the reflections in the placid
waters of the flitting figures in the silently
gliding canoe, and the picturesque groups of
wigwams on the banks, all mingled harmon-
iously in the exquisite picture.

The wild-rice, which grew spontaneously in
the shallow waters, in tracts of a thousand
acres, or more, in a place, furnished great
quantities of nutritious food. When this
grain was ripe, the squaws paddled their
canoes into it, and, bending the stalks in
bunches over the canoe, threshed off the grain
by beating it with small sticks, the kernels, of
course, falling in the bottom of the canoe,
which, when loaded, was paddled to the place
of deposit on the shore, and the process
repeated until the harvest was gathered. The
grain grew so abundantly that it was a staple
article of food with the Indians inhabiting this
section ; hence the name Menominees ( wild
rice men).

Myriads of wild water-fowl frequent these
rice marshes; deer and other wild animals con-
gregate around these lakes and rivers, and
the waters abound in fish, among which is the
sturgeon, generally weighing from fifty to a
hundred pounds — a valuable fish for food,
its flesh being very thick and rich — great q-uan-
tities of which are captured in the season of
running up the streams. White and black
bass and pike are also plentiful.

The soil ofthe planting-grounds was very fer-
tile, and corn, beans and squash were raised
with comparatively little labor; and the maple
forests yielded them a supply of sugar. It
was, therefore, a land of plenty for the Indian
— an aboriginal paradise. But their improvi-
dence and wretched habits of indolence often
j induced great suffering and want, which was
frequently aggravated by tribal wars.

When the French first came to this country,
the Indians of this vicinity were the Mascou-
tins, on the Upper Fox; their village occupy-
ing the site of Buttes des Morts (Hills ofthe
Dead); the Winnebagoes, inhabiting the tract

south ofthe Upper Fox, and also what is now
Doty's Island and the site of Menasha and its
vicinity. The Ou-ta-ga-mies, or Foxes, at the
foot of Lake Winnebago, and on the Lower
Fox, their principal village on the western
shore of Little Buttes dcs Morts, near the site
of Neenah; the Sauks at the mouth of the
Lower Fox, and the Menominees (wild rice
eaters) occupying the tract from the mouth of
the Lower Fox to the Menominee, and the
land adjacent to the latter river.*

These tribes were all, except the Winneba-
goes, originally from Canada. Black Hawk,
the great Sauk chief, said that his people were
originally from the country near Quebec.

The original occupants of Wisconsin were
the Sioux, who were dispossessed of this terri-
tory by the Chippewas and other Algonquin
tribes, and driven across the Mississippi.

The Sauks and Foxes were united by so close
an alliance, as to be practically one nation. In
the early days ofthe French traders, they were
the strong tribes of this valley, warlike and
hostile to the whites, resisting all the allure-
ments of civilization and continually making
predatory incursions on the Menominees and
other tribes. Their warlike and marauding
habits kept the country in constant disturb-
ance; they were the dominant power, and
seemed determined to compel all others to
yield to their snpremacy. One of their prin-
cipal villages was at Petite Buttes des Morts,
on the handsome rise of ground, on the expan-
sion of the Fox, below Doty's Island. Some
time after Allouez's visit to the Mascoutins, in
the village at Big Buttes des Morts, they
seem to have come into possession of that
place; for in 17 16, the}' were fortified at that
point in resistance to the P'rench and were in
possession ofthe Upper Fox. The rivers were
named after the Foxes, they being the occu-
pants of the country. They were the only
Algonquin tribes against which the French
ever made war. The French expelled them
from this valley and their country came into
the possession ofthe Menominees.

War having broken out between the French
and English colonies, the Foxes leagued with
the English against the former power.

In 1712, the Sauks and Foxes attempted the
destruction of Detroit, the garrison at that
place numbering only thirty men. The garri-
son being reinforced by a number of friendly
Indians, who opportunely came to its rescue,
then attacked the Foxes, who had entrenched
themselves in earthworks. After nineteen

*NoTE — For more specific boundaries of these Indian
nations, see subsequent page in History of Winnebago County.




days desperate fighting the Sauks and Foxes
adroitly escaped in the darkness of the night,
but being pursued and overtaken at Presque
Isle, they were attacked, and . suffered great
loss. This was the beginning of a series of
battles between these tribes and the French
which resulted in the expulsion of the former
from the valley of the Fox. The most noted
of these are the battles of the Big and Little
Buttes des Morts, the sites of two of their chief

Charlevui.x, tlie historian of New F"rance,
in his relations of De Louvigny's expedition
against the Sauks and Foxes in 17 16, says:
"The Outagamies (F"oxes) notwithstanding the
blow which they had received at Detroit in
1 712, were more exasperated than ever against
the French. They collected their scattered
bands on the Fox River of Green Bay, their
natural country, and infested all the communi-
cations between the colony and its most distant
posts, robbing and murdering travelers, and
in this they succeeded so well that they brought
over the Sioux to join them openly, while
many of the Iroquois favored them clandes-
tinely. In short, there was some danger of a
general confederacy amongst all the savages
against the French."

"This hostile conduct on the part of the
Foxes induced the Marquis De Vaudreuil, who
was then governor-general, to propose a
union of the friendly tribes with the P"rench, in
an expedition against the common enemy; the
other tribes readily gave their consent; a party
of French was raised and the command of the
expedition was confided to M. De Louvigny,
the King's Lieutenant at Quebec. A number
of savages joined him on the route, and he soon
found himself at the head of eight hundred
men, all resolved not to lay down their arms
while an Outagamie remained in Canada.
Every one believed that the Fox nation was
about to be entirely destroyed, and so the
Outagamies themselves judged, when they saw
the storm gathering against them, and there-
fore determined to sell their lives as dearly as
possible. "

De Louvigny proceeded with his forces to
Big Buttes des Morts, where the Foxes with
five hundred warriors and two thousand women
and children had surrounded themselves with
three ranges of oak palisades, with a deep ditch
in the rear.

The following is the official account of the
battle, a copy of which was procured by
General Lewis Cass, while oflFiciating as Ameri-
can minister in that countrj':

OCTORER 14. 1 7 16.
I have ihe honor to lliaiik very hiiinhly the Council for

the Lieutenancy of the King, which it has pleased them to
grant me, and I will endeavor to fulfill my duty in such a way
that they will be satisfied with my services. I will also have the
honor to render to them an account of the expedition I have
made against the Foxes, from whence I returned the 12th of
this month, having started from here the I4'h of March :

" After three days of open trenches sustained by a continu-
ous fire of fusileers, with two pieces of cannon, and a grenade
mortar, they were reduced lo ask for peace, notwithstanding
they had five hundred warriors in the fort, who fired briskly,
and more than three thousand women; they also expected
shortly a reinforcement of three hundred men. But the prompti-
tude with which the officers who were in this action pushed
forward the trenches that I had opened at only seventy yards
from their fort, made the enemy fear, the third night, that they
would be taken. As I was only twenty-four yards from their
fort, my design was to reach their triple oak stakes by a ditch of
a foot and a half in the rear. Perceiving that my balls had
not the eft'ect I anticipated, I decided to take the place at the
first onset, and to explode two mines under their curtains.
The boxes being properly placed for the purpose, I did not
listen to the enemy's first proposition ; but they having made
a second one, I submitted it to my allies, who consented to
it on the following conditions :

That the Foxes and their allies would make peace with all
the Indians who are submissive to the King, and with whom
the French are engaged in trade and commerce ; and that they
would return to me all the French prisoners that they have, and
those captured during the war from all our allies. This was
complied with immediately. That they would take slaves from
distant nations, and deliver them to our allies to replace their
dead; that they would hunt to pay the expenses of this war;
and, as a surety of the keeping of their word, they should
deliver me six chiefs, or children of chiefs, to take with me to
M. La Marquis De Vaudreuil as hostages, until the entire exe-
cution of our treaty; which they did, and I took them with me
to Quebec. Besides I have reunited the other nations at variance
among themselves, and have left that country enjoying universal
peace. "

" I very humbly beseech the Council to consider, that this
expedition has been very long and very laborious; that the vic-
torious armies of the King have been led by me more than five
hundred leagues from our town=, all of which has not been
executed without much fatigue and expense ; to which I ask
the Council lo please give their attention, in order that they
may allow me the gratification they may think proper, as I have
not carried on any kind of commerce. On the contrary, I gave
to all the nations which were with me, the few beaver skins
that the Foxes had presented me with, to convince them that
in the war the French were prosecuting, they were not guided
by motives of interest. All those who served in the campaign
with me can testify to what I take the liberty to tell the
Council. Louvigny.

The following is M. De Vaudreuil's letter,
dated Quebec, October 30th, 1716, relative
to the services of M. De Louvigny:

" By my memorial of the sixteenth of this month, I informed
the Council of the manner in which the Sieur De Louvigny put
an end to the war with the Foxes. "

" I now feel it my duty to call the attention of the Council
to the merits of that officer. He has always served his country
with much distinction; but in his expedition against the Foxes,



he signalized himself still more by his valor, his capacity, and
his conduct, in which he displayed a great deal of prudence.
He urged the canoes that ascended with him to make all possi-
ble speed, and he obliged those in Detroit to accompany
him. He showed the Hurons and other Indians of that place,
that he was going to the war in earnest ; that he was not a
trader, and he could dispense with their services. This brought
them back to their duty. But it was especially at Michili-
mackinac, where he was anxiously expected, that his pres-
ence inspired in all the Frenchmen and Indians a confidence
which was a presage of victory. Again ; he made the war
short, but the peace which resulted from it will not be of short

" I shall be obliged to dispatch him in the very commence
ment of next spring to return to Michilimackinac to confirm
this peace, embracing in it all the nations of the Upper Coun-
try, and to keep the promise he made to the chiefs of the Foxes
who are to come down to Montreal, that they would find him
at Michilimackinac. All these movements are not made with-
out great labor and many expenses, and I cannot omit saying
that this officer deserves that the Council should grant him some

Signed : Vaudreuil.

On the margin is written: Approved by the Council, Feb-
ruary 26, 1717.

Signed : La Chapelle.

Notwithstanding the assurance of peace on
the part of the Foxes,, and the hopes enter-
tained by the French that quiet would prevail
between them and the neighboring tribes, still
they had committed so many depredations
when on the war-path in times past, that they
were regarded with the greatest hostility by
other tribes, who only waited an opportunity
for revenge; and while a party of Foxes were
on a summer hunt, they were attacked by a
party of Illinois, a tribe that they had long
aggrieved, who surrounded them, killing and
capturing the entire band. Hostilities now
broke out afresh and the various tribes were in

English emmissaries availed themselves of

t the general disturbance among the Indians to
incite them against the French. Secret wam-
pums were sent by the English to the tribes of

j the Upper Country, and the Foxes once more
took the war-path against the French and
their allies. An expedition was, therefore,
sent against them under the command of M.
De Lignery, in 1728, composed of 1,000
Indians and 450 French. The expedition
proceeded up the Fox River; but the Foxes

i and Winnebagoes, who were then in alliance,
having been apprised of the formidable force
moving against them, fled, deserting their
villages and planting grounds in the greatest
possible haste. The French destroyed the
four principal Indian villages on the Lower
and upper Fox; and also the growing crops
on their planting grounds, and their stores of

Indian corn, peas, beans and gourds, of which
they had a great abundance.

The following is an account of De Lignery 's
expedition in 1728:

* * * * * *

" The tenth of August we left Michilimackinac, and entered
Lake Michigan. As we had been detained there two days by
the wind, our savages had had time to take a hunt, in which
they killed several moose and elk, and they were polite enough
to offer to share with us. We made some objections at first, but
they compelled us to accept their present, saying that since
we had shared with then? the fatigues of the journey, it was
right that they should share with us the comforts which they
had found, and that they should not consider themselves as men
if they acted in a different manner toward others. This dis-
course, which one of our men rendered in French for me,
affected me very much. What humanity in savages ! And how
many men might be found in Europe to whom the title of bar-
barian might much better be applied than to these inhabitants of
America. "

" The generosity of our savages merited the most lively
gratitude on our pait; already for some time not having been
able to find suitable hunting grounds, we had been compelled
to eat nothing but bacon ; the moose and elk which they gave
us, removed the disgust we began to have for our ordinary
fare. ''

" The fourteenth of the same month we continued our
journey as far as the Detour de Chicagou, and as we were
doubling Cap a la Mort, which is about five leagues across, we
encountered a gust of wind, which drove ashore several canoes
that were unable to double a point in order to obtain a shelter ;
they were broken by the shock ; and we were obliged to dis-
tribute among the other canoes the men who, by the greatest
good foitune in the world, had all escaped from the danger.
The next day we crossed over to the Folles Avoines, in order
to entice the inhabitants to come and oppose our landing ; they
fell into the trap, and were entirely defeated. The following
day we camped at the mouth of a river called La Gasparde.
Our savages went into the woods, but soon returned, bringing
with them several roebucks. This specie of game is very com-
mon at this place, and we were enabled to lay in several days
provisions of it. "

" About mid-day, on the seventeenth, we were ordered to
halt until evening, in order that we might reach the post at
the Bay during the night, as we wished to surprise the enemy
whom we knew were staying with their allies, the Sacquis,
whose village lies near Fort St. Francis. At twilight we com-
menced our march, and about midnight we arrived at the
mouth of Fox River, at which point our fort is built. As
soon as we had arrived there, M. De Lignery sent some
Frenchmen to the commandant to ascertain if the enemy were
really at the village of the Sacquis ; and having learned that we
ought still to find them there, he caused all the savages and a
detachment of French troops to cross over the river, in order
to surround the habitation, and then ordered the rest of our
troops to enter the village. Notwithstanding precautions that
had been taken to conceal our arrival, the savages had
received information of it, and all had escaped with the excep-
tion of four ; these were presented to our savages, who, after
having diverted themselves with them, shot them to death with
their arrows."

" I was much pained to witness this spectacle ; and the
pleasure which our savages took in making those unfortunate





persons suffer, causing them to undergo the horrors of thirty
ileaths before depriving them of life. I could not make this
accord with the manner in which they had appeared to think
some days before. I would willingly have asked them if they
did not preceive, as i did, this opposition of sentiment, and
have pointed out to them what I saw condemnable in their pro-
ceedings; but those of our party who might have served me as
interpreters were on the other side of the river, and I was
obliged to postpone until another time the satisfaction of my

" After this little ioupdemain we went up Fox River, which
is full of rapids, and is about tffirty-five or forty leagues in
length. The twenty-fourth of August we arrived at the village
of the Puants (Winnebagoes) much disposed to destroy any
inhabitants that might be found there; but their flight had
preceded our arrival, and we had nothing to do but to burn
their wigwams, and ravage their fields of Indian corn, which is
their principal article of food. "

" We afterwards crossed over the little Fox Lake, at the end
of which we camped, and the next day (day of St. Louis,) after
mass, we entered a small river which conducted us into a kind
of swamp, on the borders of which is situated the grand habita-
tion of those of whom we were in search. Their allies, the
Sacquis, doubtless, had informed them of our approach, and
they did not deem it advisable to wait our arrival, for we found
in their village only a few women, whom our savages made their
slaves, and one old man, whom they burnt to death at a slow
fire, without appearing to entertain the least repugnance towards
committing so barbarous an act. "

"This appeared to me a more striking act of cruelty than
that which had been exercised towards the four savages
found in the village of the Sacquis. I siezed upon this occasion
and circumstance to satisfy my curiosity, about that concerning
which I have just been speaking. There was in our company
a Frenchman who could speak the Iroquois language. I
entreated him to tell the savages that I was surprised to see
them take so much pleasure in torturing this unfortunate old
man — ■ that the rights of war did not extend so far, and that so
barbarous an action appeared to me to be in direct opposition
to the principles which they had professed to entertain towards
all men. I was answered by an Iroquois, who in order to
justify his companions, said, that when they fell into the hands
of the Foxes and Sacquis, they were treated with still greater
cruelty, and that it was their custom to treat their enemies in the
same manner that they would bo treated by them if they were
vanquished. " * * *

" I was about to give him some further reasons, when orders
were given to advance upon the last stronghold of the enemy.
This post is situated upon the borders of a small river which
empties into another called the Ouisconsin, which latter dis-
charges itself into the Mississippi, about thirty leagues from

Online LibraryRichard J HarneyHistory of Winnebago County, Wisconsin, and early history of the Northwest → online text (page 10 of 71)