Richard J Harney.

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

. (page 17 of 71)
Online LibraryRichard J HarneyHistory of Winnebago County, Wisconsin, and early history of the Northwest → online text (page 17 of 71)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

that instant two favorite greyhounds w horn we had brought
with us, and who stood whining upon the bank, reluctant to
lake 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 prepaaing 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 nnd placed me again
upon the bank.

" There my husband insistetl on my putting on dry shoes
and stockings, and (must 1 confess it) drinking a little brandy
to obviate the etfects 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 rid-
ing 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 thai our friends at the fort
should have an opportunity, as they certainly would have done,
of laughing at our inauspicious commencement.

".Soon our horses were put in order, and our march com-
menced. The day was fine for the season. 1 felt no incon-
venience from my wet garments, the exercise of riding taking
away all feeling of chilliness. It was to me a new mode of
traveling, 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 alighted at an open space, just within the verge nf
the v\'ood, or, as it is called by western travelers, '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 soon ignited by
the sparks from the flint — there were no loco-focos in those
days — and, aided by the broken liranches and bits of
light wood, soon produced a cheering flame. "The bourgeois,"
in the meantime, 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 or'flame away from the opening
or door. Within upon the ground were spread, fir.^t a bear
skin, then two or three blankets, of which each equestriaH had
carried two, one under the s.addle and one above it, after
which, the remainder of the lugg.ige being brought in, I wa.s
able to divest myself of all my wet clothing and replace it with
dry. .Some idea of the state of the weather 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 out experience upon the Vox
River to describe the ham broiled upon the 'broches.'the toasted
bread, the steaming coffee, the primitive table furniture. There
is, however, this difl'erence, that of the latter we carry with us
in our iourneys 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, ne.xt to divide the piece of ham which is
placed on the half of a traveling biscuit, which is held in the
left hand, and fulfills the office of a plate. It is an art only to
be acquired by long practice, to cut the meat so skillfully as not
at the same to destroy the dish.

"March ninth. Our journey this day led us past the first of
the Four Lakes. .Scattered along its banks was an encampment
of Winnebagoes. They greeted (heir 'father' with vociferous
joy. ^Bon-jour, bon-jottr, ShaiO-tit'e-a7V'kee. Nee-ne:.'-korrav-
i-ay-nooi" (How do you do ?) To this succeeded the usual
announcement, ^Wy^-knp-rak hhoonsh-koO'fice-710!' (I ha\e
no breatl.)

" This is iheir form of bcjjging, but we coidd not afford to
be generous, for the uncertainty of obtaining a supply, should
our own be exhausted, obliged us to observe the strictest econ-

" How beautiful the encampment looked in the morning
sun 1 The matted lodges, with the blue smoke curling from
their tops, the trees and hushes powdered with a light snow
which had fallen through the night, the lake shining and
sparkling atmostat our feet — even the Indians, in iheir peculiai
costume, adding to the]iicturesque.

" When we reached Morrison's, 1 w a^ -o much exhausted
that, as my husband allempled to lift me from the saddle, I fell
into his arms.

" 'This will never do,' said he. 'To morrow we nuisi turn
our face-s towards Fort Winnebago again.'

"The door opened hospitably to receive us. VVe were wel-
comed by a lady with a must sweet, benignant countenance, and
by her companion, some years younger. The first was Mrs.
Morrison; the other Miss Elizabeth Dodge, d.iughter of Gen-
eral Dodge.

" My husband laid me upon a >mall Ned, in a room where
the ladies had been sitting at work. They look olV my bonnet
and riding dress, chafed my hands, aud prepared mc 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 Atorrisoii'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 have 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 bus-
l)and and two black servant women.

■'The next morning, after a cheerful breakfast, at » hich 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 from home.

'"Whose cabins are these,' asked Mr. Kinzieuf a man who
was cutting wood at the door of one.

" 'Hamilton's,' was the reply ; and he stepped forward at
once to assist us to alight, hospitality being a matter of course
in these wild regions.

"I soon contrived, with my husband'> aid, to disembarrass
myself of my wrappings ; and, having seen me comfortably dis-
posed of, and in a fair way to be thawed after my freezing
ride, he left me, to see after his men and horses.

" He was a long time absent, and I expected he wouhl
return, accompanied by our host ; liut when he reappeared it
was to tell me, laughing, that Mr. Hamilton hesitated to pre-
sent himself before me, being unwilling that one who had
been accpiainted with some of his family at the east, should see
him in his present mode of life. Hotvever, this feeling appar-
ently wore off, for before dinner he came in, and was intro-
duced to me, and was as agreeable and polite as the son of
Alexander Hamilton would naturally be.

"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 portion.

"Mr. Hamilton passed most of the afternoon with us, for the
storm raged so without that to proceed on our journey out
of the question. He gave us many pleasant anecdotes and
reminiscences of his early life in New York, and of his adven-
tures since he had come to the western wilderness. When
obliged to leave us for a while, he furnished us with scunc
books to entertain us, the most interesting of which was the
biogr.aphy of his father.

" Could this illustrious man have forseen in a scene —
the dwelling of his son, this book was to be one day perused,
what would have been his sensations ?

"The next d.ay's sun rose clear aud bright. Refreshed
and invigorated we looked forward with pleasure to a recom-
mencement of (rar journey, confident of meeting no more mis.
ha]is by the way.

" At length, just at sunset, we reached the dark, rapid
waters of the Rock River. The 'ferry,' which we had traveled
so far out of our way to take advantage of, |)roved to be merely
a small boat or skiff, the larger one having been swept ofl' 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
mc with the saddles, packs, etc., in the boat, aud, as at
that late hour, no time was to be lost, he ventured, at the same




lime to hold the bridles of the most docile horses, to guide
them in swimming the river.

"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.

"A most savory supper of ducks and venison, with their
accompaniments, soon smoked upon the board, and we did
ample justice to it. Traveling 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 difficuliy,' said he 'if you keep a little to the
nonh, and strike the 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 right track that the
Sauks have made in going every year from the Mississippi to
Canada to receive their presents from the British Indian

"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 traveled for the first few miles
alou:^ the beautiful, undulating banks of the Rock River,
always in an easterly direction, keeping the beaten path, or
rather road, which led to tort Clark, or Peoria. The Sauk
trail, we had been told, would cross this road at the distance
of about six miles.

"After having traveled, as we judged, fully that distance, we
came upon a trail bearing northeast, and a consultation was
held as to the probability of its being the one we were in
search of,

" Mr. Kinzie was of opinion that it tended too much to the
rih, and was, moreover, too faint and obscure for a trail so
much used, and by so large a body of Indians in their annual

" Plante was positive as to its being the very spot where he
and 'Piche, ' in their journey to Fort Winnebago the year
before, struck into the great road. 'On that very rising ground
at the point of woods, he remembered perfectly stopping to
shoot ducks, which they ate for their supper.'

" But Monsieur Plante was convinced of his mistake, when
the trail brought us to the great bend of the river, with its bold,
rocky bluffs.

" 'Are you satisfied now, Plante?' asked Mr. Kinzie. '■ By
your leave, I will now play pilot myself,' and he struck off
from '.he trail, in a direction as nearly east as possible.

" The weather had changed and become intensely cold, and
we felt that the detention we had met with, even should we
now be in the right road, was no trifling matter. We had not
added to our stock of provisions at Dixon's, wishing to carry as
tnuch forage as we wert able for our horses, for whom the
scanty picking around our encamping grounds afforded an
insufficient meal. But we were buoyed up by the hope that
we were in the right path at last, and we journeyed on until

night, when we reached a comfortable 'encampment,' in the
edge of a grove near a small stream.

"Oh, how bitterly cold that night was ! The salted provis-
ions, to which I was unaccustomed, occasioned me an intoler-
erable thirst, and my husband was in the habit of placing the
little tin coffee-pot, filled with water at my bed's head, when
we went to rest, but this night it was frozen solid long before
midnight. We were so well wrapped up in blankets that we
did not suffer from cold while within the tent, but the open air
was severe in the extreme.

" March fifteenth. We were aroused by the 'bourgeois'
at peep of day, for starting. We must find the Sauk trail this
day at all hazards. What would become of us should we fail
to do so ? It was a question no one liked to ask, and certainly
one that no one could have answered.

" We pursued our way, however, and a devious one it must
have been. After traveling in this way many miles, we came
upon an Indian trail, deeply indented, running at right angles
with the course we were pursuing. The snow had ceased,
and, the clouds becoming thinner, we were able to observe the
direction of the sun, and to perceive that the trail ran nort'n
and south. What should we do? Was it safest to pursue our
easterly course, or was it probable that by following this new
path, we shoul fall into the direct one we had been so long
seeking ? If we decided to take the trail, should we go north
or south ? He was of opinion we were still tuo far north —
somewhere about the Grand Marias or Kish-wau-kee. Mr.
Kellogg and Plante were for taking the northerly direction.
The latter was positive his bourgeois had already gone too far
south — in fact, that we must now be in the neighborhood of the
Illinois River. Finding himself in the minority, my husband
yielded, and we turned our horses' heads north, much against
his will. After proceeding a few miles, however, he took a sud-
den determination. 'You may go north, if you please,' said he,
' but I am convinced that the other course is right, and I shal 1
face about — follow who will.'

"So we wheeled around and rode south again, and many a
long and weary mile did we travel.

" The road, which had continued many miles through the
prairie, at length, in winding around a point of woods, brought
us suddenly upon an Indian village. A shout of joy broke
from the whole party, but no answering shout was returned —
not even a bark of friendly welcome — as we galloped up to the
wigwams. All was silent as the grave. We rode round and
round, then dismounted, and looked into several of the spacious
huts. They had evidently been long deserted. Nothing
remained but the bare walls of bark, from which everything in
the shape of furniture had been stripped by the owners, and
carried with them to to their wintering-grounds; to be brought
back in the spring, when they returned to make their corn-
fields and occupy their summer cabins.

"Our disappointment may be better imagined than described.
With heavy hearts we mounted and once more pursued our
way, the snow again falling and adding to the discomforts of
our position. At length we halted for the night. We had
long been aware that our stock of provisions was insufficient
for another day, and here we were, nobody knew where, in the
midst of woods and prairies — certainly far from any human
habitation, with barely enough food for a slender evening's

"The poor dogs came whining around us to beg their usual
portion, but they were obliged to content themselves with a




bare 1)one, and we retired to rest with the feeling that if not
actually hungry then, we should certainly he so to-morrow.

"The morrow came. Plante and Roy had a bright fire and
a nice pot of coftee for us. It was our only breakfast, for on
shaking the bag and turning it inside out, we could make no
more of our slock of bread than three crackers, which the rest
of the family insisted I should put in my pocket for my dinner-
) was much touched by the kindness of Mr. Kellogg, who
drew from his wallet a piece of tongue and a slice of fruit-cake,
which he said he had been saving for the lady since the day
before, for he saw how matters were a-going.

"Poor man 1 it would have been well if he had listened to
Mr. Kinzie, and provided himself at the outset with a larger
store of provisions. As it was, those he brought with him were
exhausted early the second day, and he had l)een boarding
with us for the last two meals.

" We still had the trail to guide us, and we continued to
follow it until about nine o'clock, when, in emerging from a
wood, we came upon a broad and rapid river. A collection o'
Indian wigwams stood upon the opposite bank, and, as the
irail led directly to the water, it was fair to infer that the stream
was fordable. We had no opportunity of testing it, however,
for the banks were so lined with ice, which, was piled up tier
upon tier by the breaking up of the previous week, that we
tried in vain to find a path by which we could descend the
bank to the water.

''The men shouted again and again, in hopes some strag-
gling inhabitant of the village might be at hand with his canoe.
No answer was returned, save the echoes. What was to be
done ? I lookecFat my husband and saw that care was on his
brow, although he still continued to speak cheerfully. 'We
will follow this cross-trail down the bank of the river,' said he.
'There must be Indians wintering near in some of these points
of wood."

"I must confess that I felt somewhat dismayed at our pros-
pects, but I kept up a show of courage, and did not allow my
despondency to be seen. All the party were dull and gloomy

"We kept along the bank, which was considerably elevated
above the water, and bordered at a little distance with a thick
wood. All at once my horse, who was mortally afraid of Indi-
ans, began to jump and prance, snorting and pricking up his
ears as if an enemy were at hand. I screamed with delight to
my husband, who was at the head of the file, "Oh John ! John :
there are Indians near — look at Jerry.'

At this instant a little Indian dog ran out from under the
bushes by the roadside, and began barking at us. Never were
sounds more welcome. We rode directly into the thicket, and
descending into a little hollow, found two scpiaws crouching
behind the bushes, trying to conceal themselves from our

"They appeared greatly relieved when Mr. Kinzie addressed
them in the Pottaw attamie language :

" 'What are you doing here ?'

" 'Digging Indian potatoes'— (a species of artichoke.)

" 'Where is your lodge ?'

" 'On the other side of the river.'

" 'Good — then you have a canoe here. Can you lake us
across ?'

" 'Yes — the canoe is very small.'

They conducted us down the bank to the water's edge,
where the canoe was. It was, indeed, very small. My hus-

band explained to them that they must take me across first, and
then return for the others of the parly.

" 'Will yon trust yourself alone over the river ?' incpiired he,
'You see that but one can cross at a time '

'"Oh ! yes' — and I was soon placed in the bottom of the
canoe, lying flat and looking up at the sky, while the older
squaw took the pad<lle in her hand, and placed herself on her
knees at my head, and the younger, a girl of fourteen or fifteen,
stationed herself at my feet. There was just room enough for
me to lie in this position, each of the others kneeling in the
opposite ends of the canoe.

" While these preparations were making, Mr. Kinzie
questioned the woman as to our whereabouts. They knew no
name for the river but Saumanong. This was not definite, it
being the generic term for any large stream. But he gathered
that the village we had passed, higher up, on the opposite side
of the stream, was Wau-ban-see's, and then he. knew that we
were on the Fox River, and probably about lifty miles from

"The squaw, in answer to his inquiries, assured him that
Chicago was 'close by.'

" 'That means," said he, 'that it iv noi so far oil' as Canada
We must not be too sanguine.'

" The men sat about unpacking the horses, and I, in ihe
meantime, was paddled across the river. The old woman
immediately returned, leaving the younger one with me for
company. I seated myself on (he fallen trunk of a tree, in the
midst of the snow, and looked across ihe dark waters.

" We followed the old squaw to her lodge, which was at no
great distance in the woods. I had never before been in an
Indian lodge, although I had occasionally peeped into one of
the many clustered around the house of the interpreter at the
Portage on my visits to his wife.

"This one was very nicely arranged. Four sticks of wood
placed to form a sqare in the center, answered the purpose of
a hearth, within which the fire was built, the smoke escaping
through an opening in the top. The mats of which the lodge
was constructed were very neat and new, and against the sides
depending from the poles or frame work, hung various bags of
Indian manufacture, containing their dried food and other
household treasures. .Sundry ladles, small kettles, and wooden
bowls also hung from the cross poles, and, dangling from the
center by an iron chain, was alarge kettle, in which some dark
suspicious looking substance was seething over the scanty fire.
On the floor of the lodge, between the fire and the ouier wall,
were spread mats, upon which my husband invited me to be
seated and make myself comfortable.

" Two little girls, inmates of the lodge, sat ga/ing at me
with evident admiration and astonishment, which was increased
when I took my little prayer book from my pocket and began
to read. They had, undoubtedly, never .seen a book before,
and I was amused at the care with which they looked away.'
from me, while they questioned their mother about my strangel
employment and listened to her replies.

" While thus occupied, I was startled by a sudden sound aC
'hogh !' and the mat which hung over tbe entrance i f the lodg|
was raised, and an Indian entered with that graceful boun^
which is peculiar to themselves. It was the ma.ster of the lodgel
who had been out to shoot ducks, and was just returned. Hei
was a tall, finely-formed man, with a cheerful open counte-i
nance, and he listened to what his wife, in a quiet tone, relate4l
to him, while he divested himself of his accoutrements in the{
most unembarrassed, well-bred manner imaginable.





"Soon my husband joined us. He had been
engaged in attending to the comfort of his
horses, and assisting his men in making their
fire, and pitching their tent, which the rising
storm made a matter of some difficult}'.

"From the Indian he learned we were in
what was called the 'Big Woods,' or 'Piche's
Grove,' from a Frenchman of that name living
not far from that spot — that the river we had
crossed was the Fox River — that he could
guide us to Piche's, from which the road was
perfectly plain, or even into Chicago if we pre-
ferred, but that we had better remain
encamped foi- tliat day, as there was a storm
coming on, and in the meantime he would go
and shoot some ducks for our dinner and sup-
per. He was accordingly furnished with some
powder and shot, and set off again for game
without delay.

" I had put into my pocket on leavinghome a
roll of scarlet ribbon in case a stout string
should be wanted, and I now drew it forth, and
with the knife which hung around my neck, I
cut off a couple of yards for each of the little
girls. They received it with great delight, and
their mother, dividing each portion into two,

Online LibraryRichard J HarneyHistory of Winnebago County, Wisconsin, and early history of the Northwest → online text (page 17 of 71)