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' Gov. D'lberviile, of Louisiana, tuif^'^usttd, in 1T03, that tlie great Sioux
nation be rcniovtHl to the MI^soul■i country, to as to he more ronvciiicnt for
securing llieir trade; thai, in f<iur or live years, a conuueree could be
established witli thi'ui of aixty or eiylny tiiousaud bulfalo bkias. See
Neill's Jliianesota, 171-7:3.

- Margry's Decuuvcrten IM'S Fnincnis Du)ir, UAineriquc, u, 2~)l; Neill's
Notes on Early Wisconsin E.vplorai ions, i'tc, in this volume; and Win-
chell's Historical Slcetch of Explorations and S-drvcys in Miniwsota, 188^.
p. 12.

" Magry ii, 2r)7-58; Wincheirs Historical Sketvli, p. 14.

Early French Forts in Western Wisconsin. 32;^

the most fitting place for trading purposes of any point in
the Wisconsin country, we may well judge, that La Salle,
with his long experience and observation, was not slow to
fix his trading establishtnont at that favorite locality, and
he deserves the credit of having, in all probability, been the
primitive trader at that point, so far as we have any
recorded evidence. Whatever he did, however, was not so
much in the interest of effecting the settlement of the
country, as in securing trade and profit in furs and peltries,
which was equally true of all the early traders, with their
forts and trading establishments scattered along the lakes
and streams of the North- West.


Mr. Butterfield states, that any old French fort at Prairie
dii Chien is a myth. If this be so, then nearly all the early
map makers on the North- West, during the seventeentii
and eighteenth centuries, and the early settlers of Prairie
du Chien, dating back over a century, have alike labored
under a grave mistake.

The '^ great map of Franquelin," as Parkman worthily
denominates it, of 1084, improved in n;SS, together with
both D'Anville's and Bellin's, of Koo, Coven's and Mor-
tier's Auuiterdcun Atlas, of 1757, and the Atlas Moderne
Paris, 17(1 i, all locate Fort St. Nicholas north of the mouth
of the Wisconsin — unquestionably referring to the locality
of Prairie du Ciiien. Bellin's Atlas, of 1701, again repeats the
locality as north of the Wisconsin. In Bellin's published
Remarks, of 1775, explaining and describing his map, he
states: "Nicholas Perrot built a fort at the mouth of the
Wisconsin," and lus map shows that it was on the northern
side. This is certainly a formidable array of authorities,
who rank aimnig the ablest cartograi.hers of the past two


Jefferys, a noted English map publisher and geographer
in the time George Third, has alone been cited as placing
Fort St. Nicholas below the mouth of the Wisconsm; but
this is doubtful, as Dr. Neill has indicated in the present vol-
ume By a careful examination of Jefferys' Map of North

32i Wisconsin State Historical Society.

America, prefixed to his work on the Xatnral and Civil
.lli,stonj of the French Dominion of y,>iih America, UOi),
we find that he placed the le^^end " Ouisconsin River " on
the upper side of tlie stream at its mouth, and thus fiUing
the space, pkiced the other legend below — "Fort St. Nicho-
Las destroyed;" but without any indication or mark of tlie
locality of the fort itself. In the text of his work, Jefi'erys
makes no reference whatever to l^ort St. JNicholas. S(j we
need not wonder that David Mills, in the first edition of his
lleport on the Ontario Jloundaries, V6\o, in reproducing
Jeiferys' .Alap, and finding the old fort unlocated, placed it
athwart the Wisconsin river.

But even admitting tliat Jefi'erys had really placed Fort
St. Nicholas below the mouth of the WisccHisin, he would
stand solitary and alone among all those early authorities,
and in opposition to all tlie earlier and more distinguished
geographers of the country. Surely, their combined evi-
dence, had such a condition existed, onglit far to outweigh
his; besides, in their case, the locality of Prairie da Chien is
a fitting one, while no suitable spot for such an establish-
ment is found below the mouth for some considerable dis-
tance. Had there really been any conllict of statement,
those early French cartographers had far better means of
procuring correct infromation about the early French set-
tlements in the West, than an English geographer at a
much later period — seventy odd years after Franquelin's
time. After all, there is no reliable evidence that Jefferys
dilfered from them.'

As Franquelin was the first geographer to give the loca-
tion and record the name of Fort St. JNicholas, his credibil-
ity as a writer may very properly be considered. He was
the hydrographer of the king of France, under the patron-

' In Neill's firdt edition of his Ilistonj of Minnesota, p. 138. he fell into
two errors in stating that Fort St. Nicholas w;is estubUshed in IG^;}, before
Perrut liad yet visited the country, and that it was located below the month
of the Wisconsin, misled as to location, by an erroneous I'epriut of Jef-
ferys' Map, which mistakes he corrected in Jater editions of his work.
Mills, following, Dr. Neill's original statement, committed the same errors
in his Ontario Boandaricti, revised edition, lb77, p. 14-15.

Early French Forts in Western Wisconsin. 325

age of the Government, residing at Quebec — the place of
all others, at that period, where lie could best meet and
interview returning ollicers, traders, mi^^sionariesand explor-
ers from the (ireat West. (iov. J)e La Darre, of (Canada,
commended the (irst map of Franquehn, not so full as the
subsequent one, for the " perfect knowle.lge " of the region
of In' ew France it represented; that he was "as skillful as
any in France," and that he was then at work on " a very
correct map of the country "—that of Uiss, re-produced from
tracings of the original in NeiU's revised edition of his lli.s-
toi {j of Miniu;sot<i.

Parkman declares it " a great map — the most remarkable
of all the early maps of the interior of North Anun-ica;" and
that ''La Salle and others of his party undoubtedly supplied
the young engineer with nuiterials." Dr. Neil), the able
historian of .Minnesota, pronounces it " the most complete of
the unpublished maps in the French archives," and "an
advance on geographical accuracy;" and gives a copy of
the tracing of it in his llistorij of Minncsoin.

Judge C.C;. Baldwin, President of the Western Reserve
and Northern Ohio Historical Society, and author of an
interesting monogram on the J^Jarlij Maps of Ohio and Ihe
West, writes: "The Franciuelin of Kiyrf, is a wonderful
map; and I think so afresh every time I look at. It
seems to me, that Franquelin, by his position, ability, care
and learning, is the very best authority as to the locality of
Fort St. Nicholas." Unstinted praise, on every hand, is
accorded to this master-piece of North- Western cartology
made by Franquelin two centuries ago.

Mr. Buttertield supplied or inspired an article in the Mad-
ison Democrat, oi December ;5, 1865, animadverting on Dr.
Butler's paper on a French fort at or near Prairie du CMiien,
and the brief note I appended to it; declaring that these
" statements are likely to be all traced back to the same
source -La Potherie — who wrote without having seen the
country, and without sufficient knowledge of it."

In Mr. Butterfield's article, preceding this paper, he seems
to have abandoned this untenable position -untenable, at
least, so far as my statements are concerned; and now takes

326 Wisconsin State Histouical Society.

a juster view of the situation. lie says: "If the maps of
FraiKjuelin and D'Anvillc were to be relied on, they prove
too niueh '' for him; for they h^cate ]'\)rt St. Nicliolas on the
east side of the Alississippi, and abuvo the month of the Wis-
consin. "I must," says Mr. lUittf-iti«dd, "discredit these maps
or lose my case.'' An<l so he dilibciatcly goes to work to
discredit tliem, and in a very nni(]no way — at least he thus
disposes of Francpielin's map: " I'^iainpielin put his little
niarlv [indicating tin; locality of J^'ort St. Nicholas| above
the mouth of that rivt'r [the AVis(M)nsin ], whon lu.' should
have ])ut it below." No authority is given for this bcjld
statement — a statement v/hich applies with equal forco to
the other worlhy cartograi^hcrs, who have also placed their
" little mark " above the mouth of the Wisconsin, namely:
D'Anville, Bellin, CU)ven and ]\lortier, and the author of the
Atlas Moderne, of ITii:.'. Here, then, we have a mere mod-
ern supposition, on the one side, and l*'ran(jaelin, backed by
Gov, Le Barre, and several notable geographers, on the other.

"There are pliysical reasons," says i\Ir. IJuttertield, " why
Fort St. Nicholas was not above the AVisconsin;" because,
he says, that the prairie which extends up from that stream
nearly eight miles, is " sometimes overllowed," and " in no
place, is it but little if any above high water mark."' To say
nothing of the earlier forts wliich by many are bt^lieved to
have been located at Prairie du Chieii, we need only to ad-
vert to the recognized fact, that during the war of 1811-15,
the Americans and Jjritish in turn maintained a fort there,
which our Government re-established in 181G, occnpyiug it
continuously, with only a single year's intermission, till
ISoiJ — thus showing that a fortilid lind a foot-hold there for
forty years, until thei-e no longer existed any occasion for
one. ]\[r. IJutterfield's Hi.sloi 1/ of Craicford Count ij may be
ciled as fully substantiating this statement.

lUit these "physical reasons" apply with much more force
to the region below the mouth of the Wisconsin. In the
treaty of 1801 between the Sauks and Foxes and the United
States, those tribes conceded to our Government the right
to establish a military post " at or near the mouth of the
Ouisconsing," and "as the land on the lower side of the

Early French Forts in Western Wisconsin. 327

river may not he suitable for that purpose," they agreed
that such fort might be established either above tlie mouth
of the Wisconsin, or on tlie opposite side of the JMississippi,
as might be found most lltting for the object.

Gen. John il. liountree, do v. Nelson Dewey, Hon. Jfobert
Glenn, Sr., and Nathaniel W. Kend;ill, all early settlers of
Grant county, Wisconsin, haviiig icsided there from forty
to sixty years, and long familiar with tiie region below the
mouth of the Wisconsin, unite in declaring, that they have
never heard of any tradition oi- any vestiges of an early ])ost
south of the Wisconsin in that quarter; that the country
from the mouth of tlie AVisconsin to the locality of Wyalu-
sing, about four and a half miU-s, is altogether too low for a
suitable locality for a fort, fre(UiC'ntly overliowing to the
distant blutl's on the east. If, therefore, located bek)w
the Wisco]isin, it must, from necessity have been (juite
a number of miles from its mouth. ]\[ujor A. .AFacken-
iiie, U. S. Engineer, stationed for many years at Kock
Island, and superintending the Government surveys and
improvements on the Upper i\Iississippi, gives it as his opin-
ion, that "the ground between Prairie duChien and Wyalus-
ing affords no i)oint suitable fc^r a fort;" and that the site of
Fort Crawford, at Prairie du Chien, is the locality to which
reference is made as a military point, "* at or near the
mouth of the Wisconsin."

At a point seven or eight miles below tlie mouth of the
Wisconsin, on the eastern bank of the ]\[ississippi, and on a
high piece of bottom land that seldom overllows, many rel-
ics have been found, including leaaen balls and shot, bits of
lead apparently dropped upon the ground in a molten state,
together with buttons and silver ornaments. This would
seem to have been the locality of an Indian village, or other
settlement; but within the past fifteen or twent}^ years, sev-
eral rods of this bottom have been washed away, so that
where most of these relics were picked up, is now in the
channel of the river.'

Hon. Horace Beach, an old resident of Prairie du Chien,

' Mb. letter of Robert Glenn, Jr., of Wyalusing.

32S Wisconsin State Historical Society.

and a close anti({a:irian obssrver, writes: '' The locality of
the old French fort at this place i.s on the first hi^h ground
above Wyalusing suitable for such an establishniL'nt, and
is the first dry prairie that could be reached by boat ab )ve
that place. The ' Pig's lilye ' att'ords an ample channel
from the JMississippi to the main land ot sulliident width
and depth for the largest I'iver boats, and is the oidy chan-
nel of the kind above Wyalusing, which is about six miles
below. Another reason why this })lact} presented a strong
claim as a suitable location for a trading })()st was, that it
was a favorite lesort for the Indians, Vvhose relics are to
this day foiuul scattered all over the surface at this locality.''

Jhit after Mv. Ihitterfield has, as one would suppose, satis-
factorily corrected Franquelin, by venturing to remove the
'•■ little mark " from above the mouth of the Wisconsin, to
some point below, then he seems dissatisfied with liis
strange historical and geographical feat, or, perhaps, en-
couraged by the easiness of tin; removal — then pushes the
" little mark " to a point on the western bank of the
Mississippi, twenty French leagues, or forty-eight English
miles, as he lias it, above the Lead Klines or Dubucpie, and,
as he reckons distance, about twelve miles below Prairie
du Chien. In fixing this locality for Fort St. Nicholas,
strange to say, I\Ir. Putterfield relies, in jiart, on La Potherie,
whom he had previously declared, "' wrote, without having
seen the country, and without sullicient knowledge of it;"
and, in part, on an unlocated Indian tradition, and for
whi(di he gives no authority.

In this case. La Potherie is erroneously credited with the
statement, that Fort St. Nicholas was located twenty leatrues
above the Lead Mines or Dubuque. In point of fact. La
Potherie no where mentions the name of Fort St. Nicholas —
gives no intimation to warrant that it was situated on the
western bank of tlie Mississij^pi, and hints nothing abitut
the twenty league locality above the Lead Klines. It is true,
however, that Dr. Butler, on page DO of this volume, conveys
such an idea, which Mr. Butterfield, perhaps, unwittingly
followed; but when too late to correct the text, Dr. Butler
discovered his error, which is set right in the errata —

Early French Fokt.s in Western Wisconsin. 329

showing that the Lead jMines wero twenty-one leagues, ac-
cording to Charlevoix, above tlie !Moiiigona, or I)es ^^loines
river, and nolliing whatever is said by La Putherie or
Charlevoix as to the distance of Fort 8t. Nicliolas above the
Lead ]\lines — La Pothorie referring t(; this fort, if at all,
only by vague reference, and (Jharlevoix making no men-
tion of it.

Even had La Potherie stated, as Mr. Putterfield erro-
neously su])poses, that Fort St. Nicholas was twenty leagues
above the Dubuque Lead Mines, it would have been approx-
imately the correct distance to Prairie du Ciiien. By (Gov-
ernment survey, as Maj. A. jMackenzie, the U. !S. Engineer
at Lock Island, informs me, it is iifty-seven and a half
miles from Dubucpie to l*rairie du ('hien. Webster, Wor-
cester, Chandjers, and the Jievised linptrial Dictionanj
agree, that in France the common league is about two miles
and three-(iuarters, or literally :3.7G, and the legal league,
2.11 statute miles; Chambers' (Jlt/clopadia adding that the
league of :!"> to a degree is v^^O statute English miles, and
this, Dr. Butler informs me, is ihe connnon reckoning of the
French — or a little over two and three-fourths JCnglish
miles to a league. According to this reckoning, twenty
French leagues would be nearly lifty six miles.

No iTian living has paid so much attention to the early
French explorations of the North- West, by long and faith-
ful investigations into original sources, as has Dr. Neill.
Mr. Butterfield professes not to be certain that he under-
stands Dr. Neill's meaning when he states, that Fort St.
Nicholas was, in his opinion located ''at Prairie du Chien."
If this plain and emphatic language is not suflicieutly com-
prehensible, a mere look at Franquelin's map cannot fail to
explain the idea Dr. Neill intended to convey.

It is not clear when Fort St. Nicholas was established. It
might have been when Perrot first visited the Wisconsin
and Upper ]\lississippi country, in 1US5. Certain it is, that
Perrot and Bois-Guillot were " trading near the Mississippi "
in 1G87;' and on Franquelin's map of 1G88, we find our first

•Shea's Charlevoix, iii, 280; Neill's Minnesota, fourth edition, 1882, 141.
22 -XL C.

3.30 AViscoNsiN State Histohical Society.

certain knowledge of Fort St. Xichola^. When Perrot took
formal possession of the Upper Country at Fort St. Antonio,
near the foot of Lake Pepin, ^fay sLli, lOS'J, h:5espceially
refers to P.ois-Cruillot as " conunandin^' the FrcneU in the
neighborhooil of tiio Wisconsin, on tiie ]^Iississippi." This
desij^nation of (laiHot's post by Pen-rot himself is sii^-niti-
cant— in the "environs" or ntMj-':]iborhood of tlie Wisconsin,
and not, as .^Ir. Putterfield supposes, several miles below the
Wisconsin, and on the western-side of the :Mississippi. '• In
the neighborhood of the Wisconsin," very fittingly describes
the locality of Prairie du Chien, where Franipielin an<l
other early cartographers locate Fort St. Nicholas.

liow long Fort St. Nicholas existed, we have no means of
determining. The last certain knowledge we have of it,
Bois Gaillot was still therein :\[ay, H3.>U. It might have
been abandoned when Perrot finally left the country in 1 liwi,
to take command among the iliamis near Kalamazoo, in
Michigan. No mention is made of any fort there by Peni-
caut when he ascended the ]\Iissi3sippi in 1 loo — prior to
which, according to the early maps of D'Anville, P>ellin and
others, ithad probably been "destroyed-;" but precisely when,
or how, are only left to conjecture.


The difrerent posts established by Perrot for trading pur-
poses along the ]\Iississipi)i has douljtless proved somewhat
confusing. Three such were erected on and about Lake
Pepin, and Foi-t St. Nicholas, near tlie mouth of the Wiscon-
sin named in honor of his patron saint. These trading
posts had gradually extended from tlie Fox River A^alley to
the Wisconsin, and thence- into the Sioux country.

If we may credit La Pother ie, I'errot located yet another
post on the ]\tississippi. It was below the month of the Wis-
consin, which would seem to im[)ly that it was on the sa ne
or eastern side of the ^Mississippi. The circumstances which
led to its establishment are brieily these: Having served
in the war against the Iroquois, Perrot, in the spring of 169u,
left Montreal, accompanied by Louvigny and others, with
messages and presents for the Indians of the Upper country,

Early French Forts in Western Wisconsin. 331

with the further purpose of obtaining })eltries which he had
not in former years, been able to transport to market in
consequence of the Ii'oquois war.'

After reaching the Wisconsin country, a delegation of
Miami Indians, then residing on the .Alississipin, mot Perrot,
and made liim a present, among other things, of a specimen
of lead ore, from a "ruisseau" — brook or rivulet — wliich emp-
ties into the ^Mississippi; and i-equested liim to fix a trading
post for their convenience below the Wisconsin, which he
readily promised to do, within twenty days.

Having fulfilled this purpose. Pea-rot hastened to the Sioux
country, and exei'ted his good otllces, backed by (joverninent
presents, with which he was charged, in bringing about a
precarious peace among the hostile Indians in that quarter;
and then "returned to the post which /<e had recenfh/ hnilt..'''

Tailhan and Dr. Neill suggest that this establishment was
in the region of Perrot's Lead JMines, which Charlevoix
states were twenty-one leagues above the ]\Ioingouna — a
great error, if by the .Mojugouna was meant the 1) ;s Moines;
for, in point of fact, it is nearly three times tliat distance
from the Des Moines to the Perrot or l)ubu<pie mines. It is
well established that the Perrot mines were located twenty
leagues below the Wisconsin, as proven by the statement of
Penicaut, who ascended the IMississippi in 1700, and by De
Lisle's map three years later;' and that is the approximate
distance from the mouth of the Wisconsin to Dubuque.

La Potherie mentions that the lead at these mines was
difficult to obtain, as U was in i-ockij crerices. The earliest
mines at Dubuque were worked along Catfish Creek — no
doubt the '* ruisseau " alluded to by La Potherie — a mile or

' Taillian's Perrot, 32,i; A^ew York Colonial Documents, ix, 470; Neill'a
il/t74?iesofa, fourth eilition, 14G; his Explorers and Pioneers of Minn>'>iota,
1881, 33; his Concise History, 1887,20; his Notes on Early Wisconsin Ex-
plorations, Forts and Trading Posts, in this vohune, aud sketch of Perrot,
in Historical Magazine, July, 1805.

•^ Charlevoix, fourth edition, 1744, iii, 397-93; Taillian, in Perrot, 326-
328; sketch of Perrot, in Historical Magazine, July, 1865; Neill's Minne-
sota, 146, aud his Concise History, 20.

^ Margry, V., 412; Neill's Minnesota, 839, and his Concise History, 20.

332 Wisconsin State Historical Society.

two below that city; and "the simplest form in which load
ore is found in this region is in Iha vertical or upriiiht crev-
ice, from one to three inches in thickness." '

La Potherie states, that there was a French establishment
opposite to the Lead Mines.' The indefinite article before the
•word establishment shows that a post not before mentioned
is meant, otherwise lia Potherie would have written "the
French establishment," as lie does on pag-t; :iiJl of the ^ame
volume. So it is clear that it ref(3rs to neither of his uj)[ior
posts previously established. As the Perrol .Mines at Dubuijue
seem to have been tlie one referi-(jd to, tiiis new eslaldish-
nient was apparently located at, or a litllo below, Duidfilli,
which the venerable Gen. G. W. Jones, of IJubuque, says,
in a recent letter, nfl'orded a good position for a tradini^ post,
either on the plateau or on the elevated bluffs in the rear —
the latter espcicially fulfilling La Polherie's description, that
it was a " situation very strong against th<; assaults of neigh-
boring tribes,"' should they at any time evince a hostile dis-

If, as some might suppose, this establishment was located
opposite the Galena ilines— which Penicaut evidently in-
cludes in his reference to Perrofs as " on the right and left"
of the I\Iississippi — still there was a fitting elevation for
sucli a fort equally "strong a^^ainst assaults," a hundrLMl feet
above the river, on tlie wt stern side, on a commanding rocky
poitit, just abov(; the mouth o. Tete des .Morts creek, and
some ten or eleven miles below Dubuipie.'

The fact that the village of the grand chief of the IMianiis
was but four leagues below this new French establishmont,"
was a good reason U)Y locating it at tliis place, where it would
be convenient for him and his people t<> barter their furs for
the necessaries of which they stood in need, and near tho
famous Lead Mines which the Miami leader had taken so

' Historical Atlas of Iowa, 341.
■' La Potherie. ii, 310.
" La Potherie, ii, 270.

-• Neill's Minnesota edition, 1858, 139; MS. letter of A. C. Simpson, sur-
veyor of Jackson Co., Iowa,
' La Potherie, ii, 2G0.

■ Early FiiENCii Fokts in Western Wisconsin. 333

much pains to bring to Perrot's notice. Very likely the grand
chief, and perhaps Perrot as well, felt impressed wit)i the
importance of the Lead Klines as a })lace of future resort and
commerce alike to the red man and the white. Wherever
the enterprising traders penetrated with their French

"fusils'' so great an improvement on ihe ancient bow and

arrow — a constant demand was necessarily created f»)r lead.
Thus, it will be seen, that this locality opposite of llu.' Dubii.iue
Lead Mines was a most suitable one for a trading establish-
ment made at the instance of tlie grand chief of theMiamics.
These Mianues seem to have made freciuent removals; for,
not very long thereafter, we find a hundred of them " on the
AVisconsin,"' while the rest had gone to the Chicago countr},
on accou)it of tlie beaver.'

That this •' neic fort,'^ made by I'errot below (he Wiscon-
sin, in IG'JO, was not Port hi:. Nicholas, is sulUciently evident

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