Histories > Eau Claire Co. Historical Accounts
"History of Northern Wisconsin, 1881"
(-as transcribed from pages 293 - 295)
When it is remembered that the General Government had great trouble in fixing the boundary between Michigan and Wisconsin, so late as 1836, on account of the imperfection of the maps, it seems hardly possible that this region could have been visited and somewhat carefully described at so early a period as 1767, as it was by Jonathan Carver. The route pursued by Joliet and Pere Marquette up the Fox and down the Wisconsin rivers, of course, did not include the Chippewa or any of its tributaries. So the earliest account of this region was that given by Carver of his trip up the Mississippi, beginning in June, 1766, and he furnishes the following description of his journey up the Chippewa:
"Having concluded my business at La Prairie ie Chien, I proceeded once more up the Mississippi, as far as the place where the Chipaway River enters it, a little below Lake Pepin. Here, having engaged an Indian pilot, I directed him to steer towards the Ottawa lakes, which lie near the head of this river. This he did, and I arrived at them the beginning of July (1767). The Chipeway River, at its juncture with the Mississippi, is about eighty yards wide, but it is much wider as you advance into it. Near thirty miles up it separates into two branches, and I took my course through that which lies to the eastward. The country adjoining to the river, for about sixty miles, is very level, and on its banks lie fine meadows, where larger droves of Buffaloes and Elks were feeding than I had observed in any other part of my travels. The track between the two branches of this river is termed the Road of War between the Chipaway and Naudawessie Indians. The country to the Falls, marked in the plan at the extent of the traders' travels, is almost without any timber, and above that very uneven and rugged, and closely wooded with pines, beech, maple and birch. Here a most remarkable and astonishing sight presented itself to my view. In a wood, on the east of the river, which was about three-quarters of a mile in length, and in depth farther than my eye could reach, I observed that every tree, many of which were more than six feet in circumference, was lying flat on the ground, torn up by the roots. This appeared to have been done by some extraordinary hurricane that came from the west some years ago, but how many I could not learn, as I found no inhabitants near it of whom I could gain information. The country on the west side of the river, from being less woody, had escaped, in a great measure this havoc, as only a few trees were blown down. Near the head of this river is a town of the Chipeways, from whence it takes its name. It is situated on each side of the river (which at this place is of no considerable breadth), and lies adjacent to the banks of a small lake. This town contains about forty houses, and can send out upwards of 100 warriors, many of whom were fine stout young men. The houses of it are built after the Indian manner, and have neat plantations behind them; but, the inhabitants, in general, seemed to be the nastiest people I had ever been among. In July (1767), I left this town, and having crossed a number of small lakes and carrying places that intervened, came to a head branch of the River St. Croix. This branch I descended to a fork, and then ascended another to its source. On both these rivers I discovered several mines of virgin copper, which was as pure as that found in any other country."
It may not be improper to mention here that Mr. Carver's heirs subsequently laid claim to a large tract of land in this region by virtue of an alleged patent from George III. It was, however, not allowed by Congress, though the cause became one of the most noted in the annals of land adjudications in the country. The next authentic account given of this region was not until 1820, when Lewis Cass was Governor of the Northwestern Territory, with headquarters in Detroit. The Hon. James Duane Doty, in a communication to Gov. Cass, under date of September 27, 1820, furnishes his Excellency with all the information he is able to obtain in relation to what is now Northern Wisconsin, and, although the particular region described lays mostly north of the counties represented in this work, an abstract of this part of the history of Northern Wisconsin will be appropriate in this connection, and will have an increasing interest as time goes on.
At that time there were but three principal places of residence of the Indians in this region, at what was then called Leech Lake, Sandy Lake and Lake Superior. The Leech Lake Indians must have been frequently on the war-path, for there were only about 200 men, while there were 350 women, and 1,100 boys and girls. Their game was deer, bear, beaver, otter, muskrat, martin, fishers, raccoon, and a few red and grey foxes. They only secured buffalo on the borders of the Sioux country. The otter and muskrat were found on the small rivers, the beaver on the larger streams. The other game were found throughout the region. Whitefish are spoken of as being abundant in the lakes but wanting in the rivers. In both the lakes and rivers were found an abundance of various kinds of fish, as pike, carp, black bass, catfish and others. Another fish, not unlike, but unequal to, the whitefish, was also spoken of as being very common, and called by the Indians tee-na-bee, and by the French "telibee." They were taken in nets sixty to 100 fathoms long, and were, with wild rice, the principal food of the traders. Indeed, without these the traders could not have subsisted in the country. The water fowl throughout the region were identical; they were the bustard wild goose, which civilization has driven farther north, several kinds of ducks, swan, pelican, loon and the gull. Another, called a cormorant, was also not uncommon. It lived on fish, was about the size of a crow and black. had a leg like a loon, a bill four inches long, hooked and pointed at the end. It was said to roost by suspending itself by the bill. The birds were represented as being about like those in the Eastern States. Moose, reindeer, red and white ermine, wolverine, lynx, skunk, porcupine, woodchuck and red striped squirrels are found in different parts of the country. The wolf only in the southern part. Turtles of various sizes were found. The only snakes were thle common striped variety. The government of the Indians was through chieftains, not unlike all other tribes. The Sandy Lake Indians were the second in size, and included, among three or four hundred, thirty-five half-breeds. These Indians had a kind of ground nut, resembling the potato. It was found in wet, clay ground, about one and a half feet deep. It was called the waup-esseepin, was mealy and palatable when boiled. Another root, sometimes three feet long, called waup-tappin-ee. It was preserved by drying. These roots and the wild rice, with occasional game, was tlie principal food of the Indians. In March every year the men go to the borders of the Sioux country to hunt for beaver, which they call "mic." Their families then repair to the sugar camp, where they make large quantities of maple sugar. This they could hardly Ihave made previous to contact with tile whlites, on account of the want of kettles. The only boiling they could do was by placing hot stones in a wooden trough. In the Fall the wild rice is gathered by paddling among it on the shallow lakes, where it grows, and beating it off into the canoe. To tread it out in shallow pits, to remove the rough hull, required much labor, which was not considered beneath the men to perform. The other, or Lake Superior, tribe of Indians have no abiding place. They wander around tlle lakes and rivers. Their game is moose, bear, marten, mink, muskrat, lynx, hedgehog, otter and a few beaver. No buffalo, deer, wolf, raccoon, fox or wolverine. In 1820, there were forty-five men, sixty women and 240 children, and there were thirty half-breeds and three freemen with their families. The report has an account of the rivers and other geographical features of tlhe country, which it is unnecessary to summarize here. At the time of the early settlement of Wisconsin, the native Indians were the Chippewas, Pottawatomies, Menomonees, and Sacs and Foxes; and from New York, the Oneidas, Stockbridges, Alunsees and Brothertowns. The Algonquin was the language of the Indians from Massachusetts to beyond the Mississippi, and from the St. Lawrence to the Cumberland in Kentucky.
In 1875, T. E. Randall, of Eau Claire, one of the earliest settlers, published a series of articles on the history of the Chippewa Valley, in the Free Press, which were finally issued in book form. Many valuable facts for this history have been obtained from that work. And to show Mr. Randall's style, as well as for the information contained in it, a single chapter of that work is here transcribed, which relates to the Indians of the Chippewa Valley:
The settler on any of our western prairies, and the axmen who enter upon the primeval forests, where no signs of man's destructive force or redeeming power is seen or felt, is frequently the subject of strange reflections as he follows his plow, turning up the virgin soil that through all the ages has remained undisturbed, or hews down the stately pine that for a thousand years has flourished and grown, unnoticed and uncared for by the hand of man; he wonders how it occurs that he, of all the people that have lived or stilllive on the face of the earth, swarming as it does with so many millions, should be the first to appropriate to his comfort and convenience the blessings so long held in reserve in nature's vast store-house. He also wonders why his race should require all the resources of the earth, the productions of forests, mines, rivers, lakes and oceans, of the soil, plowed, planted, cultured and garnered; the flocks and herds feeding and gamboling on a thousand hills, for his subsistence, while other races have remained from generation to generation in all the untamed wildness of the deer and elk on which they subsist. What of the race that but yesterday was here? Have these rivers, fields and forest, now so peaceful, always been so calm and still? or have they, like the old world, been the scene of savage and sanguinary conflicts? We speculate almost in vain on the long ago dwellers, upon the banks of these pleasant streams, their war dance and savage yells may have been the only human sound that ever waked the stillness of these hills, or a race long extinct may have plowed and sowed, builded and loved and worshiped and cultivated all the graces and amenities of civilized life, but the record of whose deeds and virtues have been obliterated by the convulsions of time's relentless changes. Of the race whose steps are fast receding, and giving place to ours, we know comparatively little, as their own traditions, and their history for the past 200 years, written by foreigners, is very imperfect; but what is known as to the Indians who occupied this valley, will now claim our attention. The Chippewas were considered by the early French missionaries as the bravest, most war-like, and, at the same time, the noblest and most manly of all the tribes on the American continent. They were derived from the Algonquin race, or type, and were first met with by the French on the Chippewa River near Montreal, Canada, in 1642, and were immediately taken into political alliance with them, matrimonial alliance soon followed, and their relations soon became very intimate. The Jesuit missionaries speak of the language of the Chippewas, as the most refined and complete of any Indian tongue. Their territory seems to have been confined, at that time, to what is now the New Dominion and the lower peninsula of Michigan. Of the Sioux,or Dacotas, still less is known. At the time of which we are now speaking, 1642, they seem to have been in possession of all the territory south of Lake Superior, west of lakes Huron and Michigan, south as far as Milwaukee, and west to or even beyond Missouri River, for about this time they took a Jesuit priest prisoner at the Sault St. Marie and killed him as an intruder upon their territory. And, in 1660, the Jesuits having established a mission at La Pointe, on Magdalene Island, Lake Superior, were driven off by the Sioux. Soon after this, about 1670, the Chippewas commenced their inroads upon the territory of the Sioux, on the north and east, and fought their way south and west to the lines hereinafter described. In the meantime, the Winnebagos, a migratory tribe from Mexico, to escape the Spaniards, came among the Sioux, who gave them lands near Green Bay, probably to shield themselves from the Chippewas. But the Sacs and Foxes came up from the south and took forcible possession of their territory, and compelled them to "go west," and they in turn were crowded out by the Menomonees. In consequence of these predatory wars and immigrations, the claims of the several Indian nations to their respective territories became very complicated, and the cause of almost incessant war amongst them. To prevent this as much as possible, the United States Government, in 1825, authorized a general treaty to be held at Prairie du Chien between all the tribes within a district of 500 miles each way. This joint treaty was signed on the part of the government by Gens. William Clark and Lewis Cass, and by Wabasha, Red Wing, Little Crow and twenty-three other braves, on the part of the Sioux, and by Hole-in-the-Day and forty other chiefs and braves, for the Chippewas. To fix the boundaries between the various nations definitely was the first and principal object of this treaty. The eastern boundary of the Sioux commenced opposite the mouth of the Iowa River, on the Mississippi, runs back two or three miles to the bluffs, following the bluffs to and crossing the Bad Axe to Black River, from which point the line described is the boundary between the Sioux and Winnebagoes, and extends in a direction nearly north to a point on the Chippewa River half a day's march from Chippewa Falls. From this point on the Chippewa, which was fixed at the mouth of Mud Creek, near Rumsey's Landing, the line becomes the boundary between the Chippewas and Sioux, and runs to the Red Cedar River, just below the falls; from thence to the St. Croix, at a place called the Standing Cedar, about a day's paddle in a canoe, above the lake on that river, thence passing between the two lakes called Green Lakes, from thence to the Standing Cedar, and thence to the mouth of the Rum River, on the Mississippi. The boundary line between the Chippewas and Winnebagoes was also defined, as commencing at this same point on the Chippewa River, half a day's march below the falls, and thence to the source of the Clear Water, thence south to Black River, thence to a point where the woods project into the meadows, and thence to the Plover portage of the Wisconsin. The boundaries thus described were pretty carefully observed by the respective parties to the treaty, except whlen war parties were fitted out by the Sioux or Chippewas, for the WVinnebagoes remained perfectly neutral. The intervening territory between the first mentioned boundary often became tile theatre of many a hard fought battle, and hulmting there was considered very unsafe by all those tribes. On the 29th of July, 1837, at Fort Snelling, Gov Dodge, on the part of the United States, and Hole-in-the-Day, with forty-seven other chiefs and braves, on the part of the Chippewas, signed a treaty, ceding to the United States the northwestern part of Wisconsin. In September of the same year, at Washington, the Secretary of War, Joel R. Poinset, made a treaty with Big Thunder and twenty other chiefs and braves belonging to the Sioux, when the latter ceded to the United States all their lands east of the Mississippi and all their islands in the river. October 4, 1842, at La Pointe, in Lake Superior, Po-ga-ne-ge-shik and forty others of the Chippewas, ceded all their lands in Wisconsin to the General Government. It is proper to state that several bands of the Chippewas became very much dissatisfied, and with their reservation above Sand Lake, in Minnesota, and begged so hard to come back, that the government, in 1854, gave them back several townships and half townships on the Court Oureilles and some other branches of the Chippewa, and located an agency there for the distribution of part of the annuities promised them by the terms of the treaty, as consideration for the land.
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