Sunteți pe pagina 1din 76

$2 .


Historic Tales

- of the


Fox R·ver Valley
- GilB5 CIBrk

Historic Tales
of the

Fox River Valley



Becker, Cheryl
Bublitz, Mark
Cogger , Tom
Gademus, Jerry
Gostas, Diane
Knuth, " Spike"
Moran, Nancy
McEnroe, Steve
Nehring, Don
Novakofski, Gary

Petrie, Charles
Reifer, Steven

Cover: Spike Knuth

Lake Winnebago
Horicon Marsh

Copyright© Giles Clark 1973

All Rights Reserved


Educational Enterprises

Menasha, Wisconsin

J & J Printing, Appleton, Wisconsin


History of the Early No rthwest

Table of Contents

Lake Winnebago .................. . ................ . .......... . ....... 7

The Mo und Builders . . .... . ........................................... I 0
The Winnebago . . ................... . .............. . . . ... . ............ 13
The Indian Fisherman . . ........ . ...................................... 16
Beaver! .............. . .................... . .... . ................. . .... 20
Wild R ice ..................................... . ...................... 22
Lac des Puans ......... . .... . ... ........ ......... . .... .......... ...... 24
Indian Trails . . ................ . .... . .............................. . . . . 25
Indian Food ................................... . .............. .... .... 26
How Indians Told Time ... . ........ . . . ... . . .. ... . ...... .. . . ........ . .. 32
On Naming the Fox . . .. . .. . ........... .. ....... . ................... . .. 33
How Lake Winnebago Was Formed . . .................... . ............. 34
The Calumet .............. . ... . .... ... . . ...... . ... ........... ......... 36
Friendship Drum ........... . .......................................... 39
Jean Nicolet .......... . ....... . . . ...................................... 40
Voyage of Discovery .................. ....... ... . .. . .................. 42
Battle of Butte des Morts .............................. ...... ........ . . 46
Chief Oshkosh ........................................................ 50
Trial of Chief Oshkosh ................................................ 53
Lake Sturgeon ................... . .................................... 54
The Saga of Red Bird ....... ..... ................... .... .............. 5 8
The Upper Fox in 1830 ......... .......................... . ........... 61
Not-ta-Ways ........................................................... 62
Date of Significance ...................................... . ........... . 67
1 Places to Visit . . .......... . ......... ........ .. . .......... ......... .... 69
Index . ...... . ............. . .. . ..................... . ....... . .......... 70
Selected References ........ . .................. . ... . ................ . . . . 7 1

Lake Winnebago . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Voyage of Discovery ..... ..... ...... .. ....... ........ .............. ... 42
Battle of Butte des Morts ... . ............... . .......................... 4 7



( 1M • P,,pt•••.,
. '"4•1r s "'"••) ....
I '
4 5.
1'' I
Lake Winnebago
The most conspicuous 'landmark' of the entire Fox River Valley is
beautiful Lake Winnebago. Unpredictable, placid, and stormy are her moods.
It's a lake of a thousand dreams, a lake of abundance and plenty, of tragedy and
ruin. Her story is an ancient one, as old as man himself.
"In the beginning of things," when the northern hemisphere was still held in
the icy grip of a great mountain of snow and ice, Lake Winnebago was only a
dream. As the great glacier retreated to its Labrador homeland, as the moun-
tains of ice melted under the onslaught of milder days, a lake was formed. From
the north raced the waters of the Wolf, to empty into Lakes Poygan and Win-
neconne, then to mingle with the waters of the Upper Fox at Lake Butte des
Morts. From the south, from the great Eldorado marsh, came the surging waters
of the Fond du Lac River. What was once only a gigantic brick of ice and snow
became a lake. To be sure, the shorelines were further back than they are now,
and her waters overflowed west and south, into the Mississippi River. But the
everlasting snows and rains had ceased to fall and the 'big lake' was drying,
gradually taking upon itself her present form. If nature had been allowed to run
her course, she might eventually have become only a wide ribbon of water,
snaking through a marshy sea of cattails, bullrushes, pond weed and lily pads.
The waters of the Upper Fox, the Wolf, the Fond du Lac Rivers, and the
thousand other streams and rivulets which pour their contents into the lake
would have only slowed before they plunged and thundered north into 'La
Baye' of Lake Michigan. The Parade of Plants would have marched on, poplar
would spring up, the marshland would have filled .... a marsh, a meadow, a
prairie .... through which flowed a mighty river. But such was not the destiny
of "the big lake."
Beauty and abundance have always characterized Lake Winnebago. It's why
the Indians came here in the first place. These aborigines left no written records
of their impressions and thoughts, but the white man did. To a man ail these
early missionaries and explorers, Dablon, Allouez, Marquette, described the
country in the most favorable terms. The land abounded with game of all kinds
and with huge flocks of ducks and geese. The wetlands and surrounding forests
provided habitat for many wild creatures, and the lake could always be counted
upon to provide fish of many species. There were giant lake sturgeon, fresh
water cod, pike and bass. Even the now lowly drum, or sheepshead, grew to
eighteen inches in length and up to five pounds in weight. Is it any wonder why
the Indians loved this land?
In the Jesuit Relations of 1671 Father Claude Allouez, S.J. described, with
surprising accuracy, the boundaries of Lake Winnebago.
"We arrived in the evening at the entrance to Lake des Puans, which we
have named Lake Saint Francois; it is about twelve leagues long and four
wide, extends from the North-Northeast to the South-Southwest, and

abounds in fish, but is uninhabited, on account of the Sioux who are held in
Present day statistics show that the "big lake" does , indeed , merit its
reputation. She covers 137,708 acres of land, is twenty-eight miles from head to
toe, and ten and o ne-half miles across. Although she ranks number one as

- regards to size, Lake Winnebago is far down the list as regards to depth. Her
deepest point is twenty-one feet, and perhaps it is this shallowness which makes
her so dangerous. When the wind whips her into foaming whitecaps, when those
low rumbling clouds marshal in the .west, get off the 'b ig lake' o r you, too, might
join the legion who has been swept to a watery grave in her depths.
The coming of the white man changed things, both for the Indian and for
Lake Winnebago. First it was the furs. Whereas the Indi an would only kill to
provide for his essent ial needs of food, clothing, and shelter, he was soon per-
suaded to kill the animals and then to sell the hides to the white traders who
wou ld in turn provide him with trinkets, guns, and other gifts. The white man,
with an eye on the usefulness of the ever rushing waters, built first grinding
mills, then sawmills; then he harn essed the waters to power them. He built dams,
d ug canals, and he made Lake Winnebago in to a huge flowage and a storage
place for the vast amounts of water which was needed in his manufacturing
processes. When the dams were built in Menasha and Neenah in 1850 it is
estimated that over 50,000 acres of low lying land were flooded. The land con-
tour surrounding the lake is such that most of t~is flooding took place along the
so uth and the southwest shores. If you' ll take your canoe along the shoreline
some bright summer day, you can still see the trunks of huge trees that once
grew where the water is now. Other changes, too, were wrought by the coming of
the white man. The wi ld rice, which once grew so prodigiously along the shores
of Lake Winnebago , was flooded o ut and gradually disappeared. Then , in 1879,
carp were imported into our country, and within two years Lake Winnebago
was stocked with this fish. The repercussions of this decision remain with us to
the present day.
But if much of the primitive beauty of Lake Winnebago has been lost, much
stil l remains to be seen and experienced. The waters still abound with great
numbers of fish , and large flocks of blu ebills and whistling swans can still be
seen at migration times. Deer, racco o n and many other wild animals still slip
down to the quiet waters of the " big lake" to drink. High Cl iff State Park,
Calumet County Park , and the entire shoreline afford countless opportunities to
study the many species of birds that g lide and spiral across this ferti le lake. The
lake tly, that nuisance insect which is so valuable for bird and fish life alike, still
makes life miserable for residents each summer. The swallows and martins stil l
chirp and sweep across the evening sky. And if you'd 1ike to see the great blue
heron. put your canoe into the water someday before sunrise. Paddle into the
misty morning haze. and when yo u hear that raucous squak , look up along the
tree tops. and you' ll see the beau.tiful , graceful flight of that fragile bird which
still lives here .
This is beautiful Lake Winn ebago!

The Mound Builders
Once the Fox River Valley had many effigy mo und s which served to remind
all that this land has, indeed, known the ways of many people. Most of these
monuments, call ed effigy mounds, were near lakes and rivers. The area sur-
rounding Lake Winnebago and the Upper Fox River was especial ly rich in these
earthen formations. The Island , now the Cities of Neenah and Menasha, was
once covered with mounds. Along the southside of Big Lake Butte des Marts
were the famo us Oakwood Mounds while another group co uld be fo und around
the Rush Lake area.
But who bui lt these mounds, and what has happened to them? Archeologists
and histo ri ans have studied them and have come upo n so me remarkable finds.
First we learn that it was the Effigy Mound peo ple, a prehistoric tribe who lived
in this area abo ut 1000 A.D ., who were r esponsib le for them. There are several
theories as to why and when they were built, so you can take your choice here,
or choose both if you wish. One theory suggests that it was an Indi an custom on
the buria l of a chief or brave of distin ctio n to consider his grave as entitled to
the tr ibute o f a port ion of earth from each passer bye. It wouldn't take too many
years for such a grave to grow to large proportions. The second theory ho lds
that these mounds were bui lt d uring special seasons, such as the planting or
hunting season, when the tribes got together and had a b ig celebration. Baskets
were fi ll ed with dirt, and the entire population worked until the project was
completed. The mo unds were shaped to resemb le var ious animal s, hence the
panther, the eag le, bear, the turtle, and the lizard mounds. The completed
project served as a sort of eart hen totem poles and a record of events for those
who built it.
Originally these mounds were almost five feet tall, but they have been worn
do wn by the wind and rain or cut down by the plowman so that now most are
little mo re th an unrecognizab le ripples in the earth. Still there are some to see
and, do ubt less ly, others to be discovered. A set of panther mounds can be seen n
in beautiful Smith Park in Menasha. Ano ther set, scen ica lly located and plainly
marked, may be seen at High Cliff State Park. There are some more on top of
Cal umet County Park, but yo u'll need some st urdy hiking shoes to get to these.
And there are others, altho ugh most are located on private lands and not ,
therefore, o pen to the general pub lic.
Perhaps the most fa mous burial and effigy mound of all was that which was
located on the west sid e of Little Lake Butte d es Morts. In 1851 Dr. In crease A.
Lapham , one of Wisconsin's best known early archeo logists, visited this mound,
and this is what he reported .
"The tumulus is abo ut eight feet high and fifty feet in diameter. It is to be
hoped that a monument so conspicuous and so beautifully situated may be

forever preserved as a momento of the past. It is a picturesque and striking
object in passing along this fine lake and may have been the cause of serious
reflections and high resolves to many a passing savage. It is well calculated
to affect not less the bosoms of more enlightened men. There is neither
necessity nor excuse for its destruction; and we cannot but again express the
hope that it will be preserved for the benefit of all who may pass along that
celebrated stream.
"The summit of the mound is about fifty feet above the lake, affording a
very pleasing view embracing the lake and the entrance to the north chan-
nel of the river."
Twelve years later, in 1863, the Chicago and Northwestern Railway con-
structed a bridge across the lake, and this famous "Hill of the Dead" was used
for fill for the railroad embankments. It's reported that many skeleto ns were ex-
posed in the process of demolition. There's little doubt that many Indians were
buried here after the famous Battle of Butte Des Morts and that these skeletons
were the remains of the Indians killed there. You can still visit the site of this
famous 'hill of the dead,' at Fritze Park, in the Town of Menasha. In addition to
its being a significant historical site it's also a good place to launch a boat and
catch some fish.

The Winnebago
Once this beaut iful land echoed to the whoops of a mighty band of Indians;
once no one but a Winnebago dared set foo t here without losing his life. They
were a fierce, proud, and haughty race who spared no one and declared war on
everyone. Like most Indian tribes they had no written language, so the only way
we know of their traditions, customs, and history is through the patient work of
the historian and archeologist. What they have unravelled for us is a story of
savagery and pride, honor and sacrifice.
They are generally co nsidered to be members of the Dako ta, or Sioux
family, a widely spread fa mily of Indians who lived throughout all of North


America. Bul even here there is roo m for disputation. Richard Harney, in his
book, History of Winnebago County and the Early History of the Northwest,
auotes Jonathan Carver, an early historian and explorer , as saying that the Win -

nebago most probably came from Mexico when the Spanish attacked that coun-
try. Carver further suggests that the Winnebago on ly had a stro ng attachment to
the Sioux family. The Algonquins called them Wennibegouk, or " Men of the
Salt Sea." I just wonder, was this why Jean Nicolet came here in the first place,
thinking that this band of Indians knew the route to the "great ocean?" But we'll
have to leave this question for another time.
Turn back the clocks 350 years, and imag in e that you're there in the village
of the Winnebago. How did they live and what were their problems?
Thei r ho uses were dome-shaped wigwams, fas hio ned from basswood
saplings an d covered with woven mats. They lived a community life, and many
of the houses were over thirty feet in length and more than twenty feet across. In
the summertime they raised corn and tobacco, beans and melons. They caught
great quantities of fish, mostly by netting but sometim es by spearing. In the fall
they harvested wild rice, and collected berries, nuts, and 'wapatoo' which grew
everywhere a lo ng the marshes. After the work of the harvest was over, off they
would trek to a great buffalo hunt on the western prairies, now the State of
Wintertime, though, was a cruel time of want and privation, and to this the
Winnebago was no exception. T his was the t ime when the old men and the weak
died, leaving only the fittest to survive. It was the In dian way. By February and
March the worst was past, and the sap began to rise. Then a party wo uld
snowshoe west to the great stands of sugar maple, and there they would meet
other tri bes, tap the sweet nectar, and have a g reat frolic. When that first call of
the migrat ing geese was heard , the Indians kn ew that the t ime of plenty would
soon be at hand and he rejoiced.
The Winnebago were farmers; they were hunters, and they were fishermen.
But perhaps more than all this, they were warr iors, fierce and implaccable. War-
fare was a way of life for them, and happy the yo un g man who could take his
place with the "men" of the tribe on account of his taking the scalp of an enemy
in battle.
They were also a superstitious and religious peo ple who had dieties and
who believed their witchdoctors. They worshipped the Sun , the Moon, the Mo r-
ning Star, the Earth and Water. And each man had his own sacred dream. As the
young warrior approached manhood , he went off by himself and he fasted ,
waiting to hear his Manitou speak. Would he be a great warrio r? a Buffalo hun-
ter? a mighty wo lf hunter? For each man had a purpose, each man had a dream
g iven to him by the great Manitou.
They were also cannibals. One gruesome story tel ls how they dealt with a
tribe of Ill inois who had come to their village to offer them help. There were, it
relates, a lmost 500 of the Illino is' best men assembled, preparing to help the
Winn ebago in an hour of great distress. But the priests of the Winnebago cried
out that the shades of their dead called for vengeance, so then , while the guests
were being feted, their bowstrings were cut. Then occured a great massacre and

not a single Illin ois escaped. Perhaps this is what prompted Perrot to write:
"This nation was a populous one, very redoubtable and spared no one; they
violated all laws of nature . .. ~l any stranger came among them he was
cooked in their kettles ... The y declared war on all nations whom they
could discover, although they had only stone knives and hatchets."
It was this tribe of Indians that Nicolet approached 'in 1634 and, thinking
that he may have been on the threshhold of China, donned robes of Chinese
damask and shot his 'sticks of thunder', to impress them that he was, indeed, the
Manitouririnou, "The Wond e rful On e." It was this tribe that Jonathan Carver
visited in 1766 and was entertained so royally by the famous Queen, Glory-in-
But the White man's coming doomed the Indian, no matter how powerful.
For the Winnebago it didn 't take long to lose his grip on the land. Once they
held al I the territory from Southern Door County to Lake Winnebago and
Westward all the way to the Rock River Vall ey. What we now call Horicon
Marsh was once called The Great Winnebago Marsh. What we now call Lake
Winnebago was known to th em as Nee sah-kooche-rah. Slowly and surely this
was all taken from them. But they didn't give up without a fight. In 1827 they
were ready to take on the United States Army but were invaded before
host ii ities began. Two years later Fort Winnebago was built near Portage, just to
keep the unruly Winnebago in line. By 1837 they signed away all their land in
Wisconsin and were given other land in Iowa. But Iowa was filling up too, so
they were moved to eastern Minnesota, then to South Dako ta. Many, of course,
took " French leave" and re turned to the land they loved, but the time of the
mighty Winnebago was over. Today many have found a home in northeastern
Nebraska, at a place called, Winnebago , Nebraska.

The Indian Fisherman
The Indians depended upon fish for survival, so fishing for sport was
unknown to them. The only 'limit' they had was imposed by the efficiency of
their methods and their need for food. If a net worked better than a spear and
brought them more fish, they netted. And they knew the habits of fish, and this
too helped them catch more fish. A report of just how the Indians made use of
their knowledge of the habits of fish was made by Father Paul Le Jeune, an early
Jesuit missionary who lived with the Indians in the late I 640's. He wrote:
'~s to their fishing, they use nets as we do, which they get in trade from the
French and Hurons.
''Jn regard to Eels, they fish for them in two ways, with a weir and with a
harpoon . They make the weirs very ingeniously, long and broad, capable of
holding five or s'ix hundred eels. When the water is low, they place these
upon the sand, securing them so they will not be carried away by the tides.
At the two sides they collect stones, which they extend out like a chain or
little wall on both sides; so that this fish, which always swims towards the
bottom, encountering this obstacle, will readily swim toward the mouth of
the nets, to which these stones guide it; sometimes they find one or two hun-
dred eels in a single tide.
"The harpoon fishing is usually done only at night. Two Savages enter a
canoe-one at the stern, who handles the oars, and the other at the bow,
who by the light of a bark torch fastened to the prow of his boat, looks
searchingly for his prey, floating gently along the shores of this great river.
When he sees an Eel, he thrusts his harpoon down, without loosening his
hold of it, pierces it, then throws it into his canoe. There are certain ones
who take three hundred in one night, and even more. The Savage&dry these
long fish in smoke."
The eels that Father Le Jeune makes reference to were probably lawyers, or
freshwater burbot. These fish are still being speared below the dams at Neenah
and Menasha during spawning season, and they are netted by the boatloads
from the waters of Lake Winnebago by the crews of the Department of Natural
But the fish most sought was the great lake sturgeon, the king of fish. The
best time to catch these mighty fish was in the spring, at the end of May and
early June, during their spawning run. They crowd up along the rocky
shorelines where they could easily be taken with a gaff hook or herded, like cat-
tle, into the shallows. When Father Claude Allouez paddled his canoe down
Green Bay and into the mouth of the Lower Fox, h~ saw the Indians fishing for
sturgeon, and here is what he wrote:

"The seventeenth (April, 1670) we went up the River St. Francis,* two and
sometimes three arpens wide. After having advanced four leagues, we found
the village of the Savages nam ed Saki, who began a wo rk that merits well
here to have its place. From one side of the ri ver to the other, they made a
barricade, planting great stakes, two fathoms from the water, in such a man-
n er that there is as it were, a bridge above, for the fishers who by the aid of
a little bow-net easily take sturgeons and all other kinds of fish wh ich this
wier stops, although the water does not cease to flow bet ween the stakes;
they call this device Matchikan ; they make use of it in the spring and part of
the summer. "

*Father Allouez attempted, unsuccessfully, to rename the Fox River and Lake Winnebago the R ive r and Lake of St.


..- ~-· .· ~.-- ... · ~• j..: ' ._ ._.:;;~, ...· ,.. .


Dr. Stephen Bedwell*, an archeologist at the University of Wisconsin-

Oshkosh , studied the ways of Indians for man y years, and it was his thought that
netting was the most efficient way of catching fish for the Indians. But he was
also quick to po int out that he has discovered fish hooks made of copper,
probably carried from the Keeweenaw Peninsula in Upper Michigan, and bone.
He even found a number of barbed harpoon heads which had been fashioned
from bone. One of the ingenious ways an Indian caught fish was by using a fish
gorge. This was simply a baited object, with no hook , which when swallowed by
the fish turned sideways in its stomach, thus catching the fish as securely as if it
were hooked in the regular way. The fish had no way of spitting out this 'fish
gorge' so it co uld easi ly be taken so long as the line didn't break. Another object
which was found in some of the old Indian sites which had been excavated by
Dr. Bedwell was a fish lure, carved, generally, out of a clam shell. The purpose
of these lures was to attract the fish to the area where they could be speared or
shot with a bow and arrow.
But if yo u wou ld like to learn more about how Indians caught fish, why not
pay a visit to the Oshkosh Public Museum and see the excellent collection they
have gat hered. You'll find your time well-spent.

• o r . Bedwell d ro wned in La ke Winnebago in the summer of 1972.

Consider the beaver! This little animal changed the Indian from a free and
independent creature into the slave of the French. It supplied hats for the gentry
of Europe and soothed many a woman's vanity. It also supplied something else
which sho uld make everyone wince and grimace. It gave us castor o il ! Nowa-
days, of course, castor oil is squeezed from the castor bean, but back many years
ago it also came from the beaver! In fact, the old French name for beaver is
casto r!
In a letter dated October 29, 1660, Lava l, the Vicar Apostolic of New
France and later the Bishop of Quebec, wrote to Pope Alexander VIL
"This summer a priest of the Society of Jesus left for a mission more than
500 leagues from Quebec. That country is inhabited by innumerable nations
who have never even heard of the Catholic faith. Seven Frenchmen joined
this apostle; they to buy castors, he to conquer souls. H e will surely have to
suffer a great deal, and has everything to fear from cold, hunger, disease,
and the savages. But the love of Jesus Christ and the· zeal for souls conquers
all. "
Unfortunately for Father Menard, who was the missionary in question, his
love and zeal did n't keep him from getting lost. On July 13, 1661 he disap-
peared and was never seen again. As for the seven other Frenchmen who went to
buy 'casto rs' we have no further knowledge, but they were probably successful ,
for the north wo ods were rich in beaver at th is time.
"Castor" is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as a " reddish-brown
unctuous substance having a strong smel 1 and nauseo us bitter taste, obtained
from two sacs in the inguinal region of the beaver, and used in medicine and

Wild Rice

It was the Men om inee Indians who are most closely associated with wild
rice. An Indian legend tells how it was they who brought rice with them
wherever they traveled, then planted it, to insure a harvest for the coming year.
The early Frenchmen called these people " Folle Avoine" which, translated,
means "wi ld oats' eaters." The 'oats' to which they referred were, of course, wild
The requirements of this plant are quiet, clear water, such as was found in
the marshes of early Lake Winnebago, Lakes Poygan and Winneconne. The
waters of the Lower Fox, plunging and boiling over the many rapids, were too
swift for wild rice to grow, but once these waters reached Green Bay, wild rice
would aga in spr ing up among the marshes of "La Ba ye."
Pere Jacques Marquette, while on his historic voyage of discovery of the
Mississippi River , described how the Indians harvested and used this grain. As
he came along the n orth sho re of Lake Michigan and entered into Green Bay,
he penned these observations:
"The wild oat, whose name they bear because it is to be found in their
country, is a sort of grass, which grows naturally in the small Rivers with
muddy bottoms, and in Swampy Places. It greatly resembles the wild oats
that grow our wheat. The ears grow upon hollow stems, joined at in-
tervals," they emerge from the Water about the month of Jun e, and continue
growing until they rise about two feet above it. The grain is not Larger than
that of our oats, but it is twice as long, and the meal therefrom is much
more abundant. The Savages gather and prepare it for food as follows. In
the month of September, which is the suitable time for the harvest, they go
in canoes through these fields of wild oats,. they shake its ears into the
Canoe, on both sides, as they pass through. The grain falls out easily, if it be
ripe, and they obtain their supply in a short time. But, in order to clean it
from the straw, and to remove it from a husk in which it is enclosed, they
dry it in the smoke, upon a wooden grating, under which they maintain a
slow .fire fo r some days. When the oats are thoroughly dry, they put them in
a skin. made into a bag, thrust it into a hole dug into the ground for this ·
purpose, and tread it with their feet-so long and so vigorously that the
grain separates .fi"om the straw, and it very easily win no wed. After this, they
pound it to reduce it to .flour,-or even , without pounding it, they boil it in
\\'(i/er and season it with fat. Cooked in this fashion the wild oats have
almost as delicate a taste as rice has when no better seasoning is added."


- ..-=-~--=-
-- __-...
- :.- -


But it's been a long time now since wild rice has cracked in the autumn
blasts. The dams, built at Menasha and Neenah, flooded the rice fields. Then the
carp, a bottom feeder who rips up the lakes and marshes in his search for food,
do o med the wild rice to almost total extinction.
Today wild rice is just another memory of the beautiful Fox River Valley.

Lac des Puans
Translated literally this phrase means "Lake of the Smells." There are many
stories which surround the name, and what I've discovered won't answer all the
questions, but surely it will shed some light on the subject.
It was Jean Nicolet who first came here in 1634, and he came for several
reaso ns. First of all he wanted to pacify the Indians, but just as important to him
and to the French government was the discovery o f a waterway which would
lead to China. When Nicolet got to the Sault, instead of continuing west and
n orth onto the waters of Lake Superior, he turned southwest instead , eventually
arriving here. The question is what was it that prompted him to turn to the
southwest? Could it be that he heard from his Algonquin friends that this was
the home of the Wennibegouk, or "Men of the Salt Sea?" We'll never kno '4, for
Nicolet left few notes of his thoughts or impressions.
But the Jesuit fathers did, and one of them , Father Marquette, came \this
way just thirty-nine years later. In his notes appears the following: · \
"Th is bay bears a Name which has a meaning not so offensive in t\e
language of the Savages; For they call it la baye salle (salt bay) rather than,
Bay des Puans, although with Them this is almost the same and this is also
The name which they give to the Sea. This led us to make very careful re-
searches to ascertain whether there were not some salt-water springs in
This quarter, As there are among the hiroquiois, but we found none. We
conclude, therefore, that This name has been given to it on account of the
quantity of mire and Mud which is seen here, whence noisome vapors Con-
stantly arise, Causing the loudest and most Continual Thunder that I have
ever heard."
In Hennepin's Map of 1697 Green Bay was known as Baye de Puans. Then
m 172 1 another Jesuit, Father Charlevoix, addressed himself to the same sub-
ject, and here is what he wrote concerning this Puants, or Winnebago:
"They have settled on the shores of a lake and I do not know but it is living
on fish of which the lake furnisf1ed them in great abundance that has given
them the name of Puants (four smelling) because all the length of the shore
where were built their cabins one saw only drying fish, with which the air
was infected. It appears to be at least the origin of the name that the other
savages had given them before us and which has been communicated to the
Baye. "
Then there's the official translation from the French, which follows below:
"Puant" Stinking, feted; fulsome, disgusting, nasty, beastly, offensive,
shocking; mean, paltry, gross, impudent, barefaced; full of conceit, con-
ceited, foppish.. "
And if you aren't yet straight abo ut the whole matter, let me say that the
Winn ebago themselves called their favorite lake, now known as LAKE WIN-
NEBAGO, "Nee-sah-koochee-rah."

Indian Trails
Once the Fox River Valley was crisscrossed and ribboned with Indian
trails. But to discover where these trails were, you must take yourself back to the
days before the dams at Neenah and Menasha were built and before the rising
waters changed the lakes, streams, and rivers across which the Indians passed.
For it was the fords which determined these Indian trails. Just as a road, without
bridges, is almost useless, so too a cross country Indian trail depended upon a
fording place for it to be of any value. Publius V. Lawson, in his book History
of Winnebago County, wrote with knowledge and understanding about these
ancient Indian trails.
"The fords determined the cross country trails. The Fox River trail, known
as the "Tomahawk Trail" on the route from Green Bay to Fort Winnebago,
was a very ancient trail. It came into the northwest part of the county on
the shore of the river and ran inland a half mile at Caldwell's (now
Stroebe's) island at the foot of Lake Little Butte des Morts, to reach a for-
dable place over Mud Creek; it then comes back to the margin of the higher
banks of the lake which lay above the flood plain or bottoms. It runs south
along this higher land or margin of the lake, winding along the sinuosities
of the headlands and down over the wide channels of ancient creeks until is
passes the Hill of the Dead, midway along the west bank of the lake; it then
curves away from the lake on a gravel ridge at Blair's Springs, which it
follows to the Big Butte des Morts ford."
It was along this famous Indian trail, at the fording places, that the great trading
posts were built. It should come as no surprise that Kaukauna was once a busy
trading post, indeed, that is what brought Augustin Grignon there in the first
place. The village of Butte des Morts was also a center of Indian trade, and it
was there that rival trading companies vi~d with each other for Indian trade.
In one respect the Indian trails ceased their usefulness once the dams were
completed at Neenah and Menasha. The rising waters covered the fordable
places to a depth that a man simply could not safely cross. But in rnany other
respects the Indian trails have never changed at all. They were the roadways of
our early pioneers, and even today many of our highways follow these ancient
trails. It's true that most of those huge trees that once served as guideposts to the
Indian on his way across the country have been cut down , and only a few
So next time you drive through beautiful Fox River Valley, keep a sharp
eye, study the road carefully, for you just might be traveling along an ancient
Indian trail. Many things have changed, yet how much still remains!

Indian Food
Set yourself back 300 years ago. Take away your refrigerator, your stove,
and your deepfreeze. Take away the tractors, the plows, the saws and the steel
axes. In their place substitute a wilderness, filled with marshes, a dense hard-
woods' forest ... beautiful, rugged, and fo reboding. It's in this setting of trees
and rivers, marshes and lakes that you must survive. Whether you starve or not
will depend upon you and your knowledge of the game, the land, and the ways
of the wilderness.
What will you eat, and how will you manage? Nowadays we take the
gathering and preparing of food pretty much fo r granted. But back then, before
the white man came here, there was no such thing as survival without constant
work and effort on the part of everyone. Food gathering was a way of life and
constant activity.
The Indians themselves left no written records, so we must depend upon the
observations of those early missionaries, the Jesuits, and 'the reports which they
forwarded to their superiors. One such report, written by Pere Paul LeJeune in
1634, tells us something about the In dian diet and eating habits.
"They eat, besides some small ground fruits, such as raspberries,
blueberries, and strawberries, nuts which have very little meat, hazelnuts,
wild apples sweeter than those of France, but much smaller, cherries, of
which the flesh and pit together are not much larger than the pit of the
Bigarreau cherry in France. They also have other small wild fruits of dif-
ferent kinds, in some places Wild Grapes; in short, all the fruits they have
(except strawberries and raspberries, which they have in abundance), are
not worth one single species of the most ordinary fruits of Europe.
"They eat, besides, roots, such as bulbs of the red lily; a root which has a
taste of liquirice; another that our French People call "Rosary." because it
is distinguished by tubers in the form of beads, and some others, not very
"When they are pressed by famine, they eat the shavings or bark of acer-
tain tree, which they call Mithtan, * which they split in the Spring to get
from it a juice, sweet as honey or as sugar; I have been told of this by
several, but they do not enjoy much of it, so scanty is the flow.
''As to their drinks, they make none, either from roots o r f ruits, being
satisfied with pure water. It is true that the broth in which they have cooked
the meat, and another broth which they make of the ground and broken
bones of the Elk, serve as beverages. When they have cooked a very fat
Bear, or two or three Beavers, in a kettle, you will see them skim off the
grease f rom the bro th with a large wooden spoon, and taste this liquor as if
what they had were the sweetest Parochimel. Sometimes they fill with it a
• sugar maple.

large bark dish , and it goes the rounds of the guests at the feast, each one
drinking with pleasure. At other times, having gathered their clear grease.
they throw into it a quantity of snow; this they do also in their greasy soup,
when they wish to drink it somewhat coo l. I almost have forgotten to say
that they generally drink everything warm or tepid, and sometimes blame
me when they see me drink cold water, telling me that I will become thin,
and that it will chill me to the bone."

But the favorite food of the Indians was a dish called "Sagmaite" which, tran-
slated, means "the repast of chiefs." It consisted of corn which had been poun-
ded into meal, and meat, fish, or oil. Sometimes vegetables such as beans, peas,
corn, and even pumpkin were added to spark up the flavor. We still call the
mixture "succotash."
But what about the Indians of the Fox River Valley? What did they eat?
The answer is that here was everything needed to surv ive. Wild rice grew abun-
dantly, there were game and fish beyond our wildest dreams. Mr. Harold Bach-
mann, an historian of Menasha, thoroughly researched the food of the Indians
and he uncovered a long list of food that was available in the Valley. Many of
the foods are still present, sometimes in abunda nce, although they are seldom
harvested. Below is a list of these foods. Have you ever eaten any of them?
Beaver Sturgeon Squash Rosemary
Deer White bass Corn Thyme
Bear Pickeral Onions Dill
Squirrel Eels or lawyer Garlic Mustard
Rabbit Sheepshead Cattail
Turkey Clams Wild carrot
Duck and Geese Frogs Mi'lkweed


Wintergreen Plum MapleSugar Hickory
Red Clover Grape Acorn
Corn Silk Cherry Hazel
Blueberries Walnuts
Co nspicuous by its absence is salt, and the simple fact is that Indians had no
salt. They seasoned their food with maple sugar!
Still we shouldn't think that the In dians were blessed with a continual
vari ety and abundance of food. They weren't! It 's true that during the time of

the migrations and during the harvest seasons there was a great abundance. But
remember that the winters were long and cold, and unless you had gathered and
provided for those cold, lean months, you would starve.
One method used by the Indians to preserve their food for future use was by
drying it in the sun . Wild grapes and plums could be preserved this way, and so
could milk weed, pumpkin and corn. Venison, when cut into thin strips and
dried in the sun became known as "jerky." Fish, similarly, were dried in the sun,
or smoked, for future use.
The food could be roasted, barbecued, or boiled. The most popular method
was boiling, and much Indian food came in the form of a stew. They would heat
stones the size of a man's fist, then when hot, drop them into the stew. They
roasted the large chunks of meat and barbecued the smaller chunks, much as we
do today.
But whether sipping soup made from arrowhead leaves, or eating
sheepshead stew, the Indian always had time for thankfulness for the bounty of
this favored land.

How Indians Told Time
In 1766 Captain Jonathan Carver, an English mapmaker and surveyor, left
Mackinac to exp lore and travel through interior America. For three years he
roamed through the forests and lakes, learning and writing his observatio ns
abo ut the Ind ians and their customs. His boo k of "Travels" is still a valuab le
source of information abo ut Indian life as it existed during that time.
When he arrived at the " Island ," now the cities of Menasha and Neenah , he
fo und it ruled over by an Indian Queen, Ho -po-ko-e-kaw, Glory-in-the-
Morning. He wrote of the village:
"The to wn contained fifty houses. The land was very fertil e; grapes, plums
and other fruits grew abundantly. The Indians raised large quantities of In-
dian corn, beans, pumpkins, squashes, watermelons, and some tobacco."
Among other observations concerning his life with the Indians, Captain
Carver wrote how they counted time. They had not divided the time into years ,
months, days and hours, as we do. But they knew when the fish would run, when
to harvest their corn and the wild rice, and when to set out on their annual hunt
for the buffa lo. It was the MOON and not the sun which they marked. August
was the mo nth of the Sturgeo n Moon; September the month of the Corn Moon.
October they called the Traveling Moon, for that was when they set o ut for
their western hunt; and February was. the Snow Moon, for reasons any Wiscon-
sinite can attest. Can you name the others?
There was the Cold Moon and the Planting Moon . About November the
beaver began to build his lodge, so they called this time the Beaver Moon. Then
there was the Buck Moon, the Worm Moon, and the Flower Moon. And finally
there was the Hot Moo n, when the Sun's rays are the brightest.
Have I missed any'?

On Naming the Fox

In a letter published in the November 8, 1855 issue of the Menasha Ad-

vocate James Duane Doty tells how the Fox River received its name. It's an in-
teresting story, and inasmuch as Judge Doty was one of the most knowledgeable
men on Indian lore in the entire area, it bears repeating.
In the early days of the French occupation there was a band of Indians
which inhabited the area around Green Bay and east of the Fox River. To this
band the Chippewas applied the name "Outagamie" which meant " people of the
wet land" or " people of the marsh." But the French, due to some unrecorded
episode, soon began to call these same Indians "Les Reynards," which, trans-
lated into English, means "The Fox." The Winnebago Indians translated the
French word into their language and called this people "Wausharra." Judge
Doty, in further relates, wanted the Fox river named the "Neenah river," to
distinguish it from the Illinois Fox and to preserve its Indian name. "Neenah" is
a Winnebago word which means "clear water," and the Winnebago referred to
the river by this name. Doty writes:
"The Wisconsin Portage when I entered the country, thirty-five years ago
(in 1820) was occupied and was called by them " Wau wau-o-hah.1' At this
point they called the Wiskonsan river Neekooserah, which signified "the
river;" and the Fox river "Neenah," which was 'known to mean " clear
water," as differing from the Wiskonsan river whose water appeared turbid
or colored by the sand in its bed and banks."
But the name Fox river was too firmly implanted to be changed by Doty's
suggestion, and it continues to live to the present time.

How Lake Winnebago Was Formed

Four times huge masses of ice and snow drove southward across the North
American Continent. T he icy fin gers of these mountaino us glac iers spread as far
south as Kansas, and not only did they shape the surface of much of the North
American Continent, but they drast ically affected the en tire northern
hemisphere. As each of these glaciers advanced , it leveled mountains, sco ured
the surface of the earth, and even carried entire sections of mountains far to the
south. Then, as the weather grew mi lder and as the snows and ice melted, these
retreating giants deposited their glacial debris in the form of gravel , boulders
and clay. Often a large chunk of ice would be left behind, and it was these which
fo rm ed many of our lakes.
The glaciers have been named after that State in which the glacial deposits
are best represented. The o ld est of the g lacial deposits is fo und in Nebraska, and
the g lacier is called the Nebraskan. Next is the Kansan , then the lll inoian , and
finally , the Wisconsin.
As the Wisconsin glac ier moved into our state, it advanced in the form of
huge tongues of ice, called lobes. When this mountain of compacted ice and
snow hit the tip of Door County it ran into an anc ient geological formation
cal led the Niagara Escarpment, and it caused the ice to split into two lo bes. One
of these lobes, called the Lake Michigan lobe, is responsible for this "great"
lake. The other lobe, known as the Green Bay lobe, sculptured out and is
respons ib le for Green Bay, the Fox River Valley, Lake Winnebago , the Horicon
Marsh, and many other lakes and rivers in this area.
The glacier has long ago retreated to its Labrador home, but the Niagara
Esca rpment may still be seen. It is probably best represented at High Cliff State
Park in Calumet County. It runs along the eastern side of Lak e Winnebago, up
through Do or County, then continues under Lake Michigan, only to crop out
again where Lake Erie flows in to Lake Ontario, causing the world famous
Niagara Falls.
But the Indians has quite a different explanatio n as to how the Fox R iver
Valley and Lake Winnebago were formed. They believed that "in the beginning
of things" there lived in the Mississippi River a huge serpent. One day this ser-
pent grew dissatisfied with his home and wished to explore other lands and
places. It was in the springtime when he set out on his journey east. He ascended
the Wisconsin River, throw ing up sand banks and making many shal low places
as he went. When he arr ived at Po rtage he followed the waters fr om the Wiscon-
sin into a small stream which was fl owing eastward. As he turned and twisted,
trying to find the easiest passage, he deepened and widened the channel. T he


waters from the meadows combined with the rains from the heavens, and the
serpent's trai l became the Fox River. Eventually, of course, he arrived at which
is now Lake Winn ebago . Around in circles he went, searching for the weakest
point of the barr ier so that he could co ntinue his way east. He chose the north-
western section, for there the land was lower . T hen he scooped o ut a small lake,
now called Little Lake Butte des Morts. As he looked ahead and saw the steep
and rocky slope of the L ower Fox River, he realized that he wo uld need a
bigger volume of water to help him over the ro ugh places ahead. So he return ed
to Lake Winn ebago, cutting another channel and leaving behind an island.
Thus we see that this huge and legendary serpent was responsible for the
Fox River, Lake Winnebago, and "the island". now the C ities of Neenah and
Menasha. After all this work the adventuresome serpent continued his journey
to Green Bay and eventually into the waters of Lake Michigan.

The Calumet

The early Indians were a superstitious people, imbued with a deep sense of
the supernatural. They believed that the sun was their father, the earth their
mother, and that the nuggets of copper which they found in their clear flowing
streams were the riches of the gods who dwelled in the depths of the earth.
Sickness, they thought, was caused by not feasting after a successful fishing or
hunting expedition and the Sun , who took pleasure in feasts, made them ill for
their ingratitude. The fish of the lake, they believed, contained the souls of their

departed, and for that reason they never threw their bones into the fire, "for fear
they will offend these souls, so that they will cease to come into their nets." But
nothing, it is said, was more sacred to them than the calumet. Father Jacques
Marquette, on his historic trip which carried him to the Mississippi River, wrote
the following description of what the calumet meant to the Indians:
"There is nothing more mysterious or more respected among them. Less
honor is paid to the Crowns and scepters of Kings than the Savages bestow


upon this. It seems to be the God of peace and war, the Arbiter of life and
death. It has but to be carried upon one's person, and displayed , to enable
one to walk safely through the midst of Enemies who, in the hottest of the
Fight, lay down Their arms when it is shown. For That reason, the Illinois
gave me one, to serve as a safe guard among all the Nations through whom l
had to pass during my voyage. There is a Calumet for peace, and one for
war, which are distinguished solely by the Color of the feathers with which
they are adorned; Red is a sign of war. They also use it to put an end to
Their disputes, to strengthen Their alliances, and to speak to Strangers. It is
fashioned from red stone*, polished like marble, and bored in such a man-
ner that one end serves as a receptacle for the tobacco, while the other fits
into the stem: this is a stick two feet long, as thick as an ordinary cane, and
bored through the middle. It is ornamented with the heads and necks of
various birds, whose plumage is very beautiful. To these they also add large
feathers, red, green, and other colors, wherewith the whole is adorned.
They have a great regards for it, because they look upon it as the calumet of
the Sun; and, in fact, they offer it to the latter to smoke when they wish to
obtain a calm, or rain, or fine weather."
Marquette was given one of these famous calumets by the Illinois Indians, and it
wasn't long afterwards when he was to discover its true value, not only to him-
self but to the entire expedition. He writes:
"We heard from afar the Savages who were inciting one another to the Fray
by their Continual yells."
From the banks of the river came a mighty war whoop, then racing toward them
came the attacking Indians, armed with bows and arrows, hatchets, clubs, and
shields. One Indian threw his tomahawk, but it missed. Surrounded and with no
escape in sight, Father Marquette raised on high the Calumet. Marquette con-
"The alarm continued, and they were a lready preparing to pierce us with
arrows from all sides, when God suddenly touched the hearts of the old
men, who were standing at the water's edge. This no doubt happened
through their sight of our Calumet, which they had not clearly distinguished
from afar; but as I did not cease displaying it, they were influenced by it,
and checked the ardor of their Young men. Two of these elders even, after
casting into our canoe, as if at our feet, their bows and quivers, to reassure
us, entered the canoe, and made us approach the shore, whereon we landed,
not without fear on our part. At first, we had to speak by sign, because none
of them understood the six languages which I spoke."

• Frnm 1he famous .. Pipe Stone Quarry .. in Minnesota.

Thus the lives of Father Marquette and his companions was saved by the power
associated with the Calumet.
But there was a greal deal more to the Calumet than its being a symbol of
peace. A sacred and elaborate dance is also associated with it. To picture this
ceremony imagine yourse lf back there, three hundred years ago, with the In-
It is an import ant occasion, and a neighboring nation which has been
feuding with your Tribe has been invited to attend. It's summertime, and the
spot chosen is a small clearing, surrounded by giant trees. Spread out in the
midst of this clearing are brightly colored rush matts. To one side is a great and
oddly shaped stone, a sacred Manitou. Near this Manitou is placed the Calumet,
and around it are placed the weapons which have been used by the mighty
warriors who are here assembled. Everything is now ready, and the hour is at
hand. From outside the forest walls come the men and women who will perform
at the ceremony. As each enters the circle he bows to the Calumet. Finally the
leader comes, the singing begins, and with perfect rhythm and harm ony the
Calumet dance begins.
"This is done so well-with slow and measured steps, and to the rhythmic
sound of the voices and drums-that it might pass for a very fine opening of
a Bal let in France. "
After this comes a lengthy speech, delivered by a mighty chief who holds the
Calumet in his hand. He tells about past battles, abo ut his victories, his captives.
He is then presented with a gift for his great service, upon which he hands the
sacred Cal um et to another, who recounts his own glories. After all have done
their sacred duty , the President presents the Calumet itself to the leader o f the
Nation who has been invited to this ceremony, as a "token of the everlasting
peace that is to exist between the two peoples."
Yes, and it all happened here in the beautiful Fox River Valley. As you
drive along Highway 55, along the east shore of Lake Winnebago, as you pass
Stockbridge, Brothertown, Quinny, Calumetville, and Pipe, why don 't you just
look at this beautiful land and think about the legend and tradition of the

Friendship Drum

"According to tradition , the Friendship Drum was made as a result of a

dream: if the drum were made by members of one tribe and given to a neigh-
boring tribe, the fighting between the tribes would stop. This drum originated
with a Sioux tribe and passed to the Chippewa, the Menominee, and finally the
Winnebago in the· late nineteenth century.
A strict ceremony was connected with friendship drums. The drum had to
be carefully oriented, the drummer had to be exactly positioned, and an offering
of tobacco had to be made when the drum was used."
Neville Public Museum
Green Bay, Wisconsin
Jean Nicolet

To name the explorers, the missio naries, and the traders who travelled up
the turbulent Lower Fox, who floated on the quiet waters of Lake Winnebago,
and to tell their deeds, would fill many a volume of lore. There was Father
Allouez; there was Pere Marquette and his companion, Louis Jolliet; there were
the nameless coureurs de bois and the voyageurs, and the soldiers. But there is
always a special honor that comes with being first, an d that prize fell to Jean
Nicolet. To tell the sto ry of the Fox River Valley and not to tell of his life and
adventures would be to miss one o f the greatest adventures of them all.
Nicolet was a native of France, bo rn in Cherbourg, in Normandy. At the
age of twenty, in 1618, he shipped for New France. Samuel de Champlain was
the Governor of New France at the time, and it was his idea to send yo ung men
into the lands of the Indians where they might learn their language, their
customs, and with this knowledge help other Frenchmen in their projects of ex-
ploration . So apt was Nico let, and so exemplary in character, that he soo n drew
the attent ion of the Governor, and he was selected for this work. For two years
Nicolet lived with the Island Algonquin s; then for eight more years he lived with
the Algonquin Nipissiriniens. It was during this time that he earned the respect
of the Indians as a man of character and a man of honor. Eventually Nicolet
was recalled and was appointed as Agent and Interpreter.
In l 634 the life of Jean Nicol et was led to another great adventure. On July
1 of that same year a fleet of birch bark canoes left Quebec, bo und for interior
America. Commissioned by Samuel de Champlain it had as its mission the
building of a fort at Three Rivers and the exploring and discovery of "The Up-
per Country." When this fleet reached the site of Three Rivers, it sto pped.
Nicol et and his party paused just long enough to help set the foundatio n for that
city wh ich was later to be his home. Then ... onward ... to discover the
" inland" and to help arrange peace between the warring Hurons and the Puants,
sometimes known as the Ouinipigo u.
Heading up the party of which Nicolet was a part was Father Brebeuf, S.J .
When they reached Alumette Island, they were so exhausted with their labors
that they co uld go no farther. Nicolet, hardened now by over ten years of living
with the In dians, continued on alone, accompanied by seven Huron Ind ians.
Onward . . . onward . . . they paddled. Down the French River, into
Georgian Bay .. . into the setting sun. When they reached the Sioux, that famous
passageway through which passes the waters of Lake Superior on their way to
the Atl an tic Ocean, Nicolet turned so uth and west. Why? Probab ly because he
heard from the Indians that there lived in those d istant lands a mighty tribe of
Indians, the " Winnebego uk," the Men of the Salt Sea. And remember, men of

the time were still eagerly searching and looking for a short cut to the Orient.
Perhaps, he thought, the great Pacific Ocean was just over the horizon. Was this,
then , the gateway to the Orient for which so many men had been searching?
Across the waters of Lake Huron the little band of eight traveled, then
north, past Mackinac, into Lake Michigan. It's related that he passed "numerous
small nations" .. . the Noquebay Indians, no doubt. Finally he reached Green
Bay . . . Red Banks . . . and the Fox River.
"When they arrived at their destination, they fastened two sticks in the
earth, and hung gifts thereon , so as to relieve these tribes from the notion of
mistaking them for enemies to be massacred. "
The news of his coming spread, and soon Nicolet and his band were surrounded
by friendly Indians, curious to see and meet the "Manitouririnou," The Won-
derful One. He wore a "grand robe of China damask, all strewn with flowers
and birds of many colors. No sooner did they perceive him than the women and
children fled, at the sight of a man who carried thunder in both hands-for thus
they called the two pistols that he held."
Did this famed meeting take place at Red Banks, or did it take place on
" the island," where Menasha has placed a monument? It is an argument which is
filled with controversy, and both claim the honor.
Upon his return to Quebec Nicolet continued his work as an Interpreter
and Agent. It was, in fact, near Quebec, on October 22, 1643, that Nicolet met a
tragic end. He had just set out on his way to Three Rivers, his object being the
deliverance of an Indian prisoner who other Indians were setting to torture to
death. It was thought that Nicolet, having great influence with the Indians,
could save this man. A swirling gust of wind caught his ship, it capsized, and
there, in the cold and dark waters of the St. Lawrence River, Nicolet's life was
snuffed out. Though he had undergone a thousand perils and endured years of
hardship, Nicolet had never learned to swim! Such is the tragic end to the story
of Jean Nicolet, adventurer, explorer, and man of honor.




Voyage of Discovery

"Undiscovered" is the best single word that describes the Fox River Valley
and the way west in 1673. It is true that Jean Nicolet had passed this way nearly
forty years earlier, and, doubtless, other nameless coureurs de bois had come
here during the intervening years. In 1659 two adventurers by the names of
Radisson and Groseilliers are thought to have spent some time in the Fox River
Valley, and in. 1669 Father Claude Allouez paddled to where the City of De
Pere now stands and established the Mission of St. Francois-Xavier. But no
white man had yet passed further than the Indian village of Mascouten, near the
present City of Berlin on the Upper Fox River.
The French government, like the governments of most other European
nations, was interested in finding a way to the Orient. Witness the long and dif-
ficult voyages of Samuel de Champlain and his years of searching for that
elusive "Northwest Passage." Read of the heroic voyage of Jean Nicolet, and
discover how he was led to believe that only three days travel was between him
and the River Meskousing. Was this the long sought passageway to the Orient
and her fabled riches? In those days it didn't take much to spark the interest and
backing of men who wished to know the answer. So it should not be surprising
to learn that the principal purposes of this historic "Voyage of Discovery" were
both to claim the lands and waters for France and to discover a route that might
lead to the Great Vermilion Sea of California.
The man chosen to lead this expedition was Louis Jolliet, an experienced
explorer and woodsman of twenty-eight years. Jolliet had already distinguished
himself, and he had long ago been recognized as a man of exceptional ability
and courage. He was born in Quebec, the son of a wag.onmaker. In his early
manhood he had studied for the priesthood, but his restless spirit chaffed under
the discipline of confinement and he had left that calling for the life of ex-
ploration and the outdoors. In the summer of 1672 Jean Talon, a high official
in the government of New France, summoned Jolliet and set before him a plan
and commission "to discover and explore and to claim all lands and waterways
and adjacent lands for France."
For any expedition of the duration that was planned for this one, it was
necessary to take along a chaplain who could minister to the spiritual needs of
the men. Chosen for this work was Father Jacques Marquette, SJ. Marquette
was eight years older than Jolliet, having been born in Laon, France on June l 0,
1637. He had taken his early training in France and arrived at Quebec in 1666.
For the next six years he lived and administered to the Indians at several

missionary stations undergoing the difficulties and hardships that were common
to all the missionaries of the time. Through it all he had proven himself to be
not only an outstanding missionary priest but also a master linguist. By 1872,
when he was stationed at the Mission of St. Ignace, he had already learned to
speak six different Indian languages. If any man was qualified to take this
historic journey, it was he.
In the course of their work the paths of Jolliet and Marquette crossed. In
many respects they were alike. Both shared the enthusiasm for discovery and ad-
venture, and both were dedicated men, cool in the face of danger. You can
imagine that scene, on December 8, 1872, when Jolliet came to Marquette's
mission at St. Ignace, bearing a great sealed envelope from his Superior, Father
Dablon, S.J. In it were the orders and the news that he, Father Jacques
Marquette, had been chosen to accompany Jolliet on his now famous "Voyage
of Discovery." For Marquette it was a dream come true. For many years he had
heard about the mighty tribe to the so uth , the Illinois, and he had fervently
hoped and prayed that some day he might have the opportunity to establish a
mission among these people.
"/ was all the more delighted at This good news, since I saw that my plans
were about to be accomplished."
How slowly that winter of 1673 must have passed. Would the ice never
melt, would the day never come? For Marquette, based there in his Mission at
St. Ignace, there was so much to do , yet the days dragged by so slowly. Finally
the weather warmed and the great booming and cracking of ice told that the
break up was at hand. Time began to speed up. March melted into April; then,
in the second week of May, a knock on the door, and there stood Louis Jolliet
and five sturdy Frenchmen. The canoes were ready, two of them. both birchbark
which had been made the previous summer by the friendly Huron. It didn 't take n
Marquette long to get ready!
"We were not long in preparing all our Equipment, although we were about
to Begin a voyage, the duration of which we could not foresee. Indian
Corn, with some smoked meat, constituted all our provisions; with these we
Embarked -Monsieur Jolliet and myself; with jive men in two bark canoes,
fully resolved to do and suffer everything for so glorious an Undertaking."
Marquette makes little mention of the rugged beauty of this trip, but that is
understandable. There were other things that occupied his mind, and Nature,
when you are pitted against her, is a stark thing, to be feared and battled more
than admired. When they reached the lower end of Green Bay and entered into
th e mouth of the Lower Fox, Marquette describes the scene.
"We left This bay to enter the river that discharges into it; and it is very

beautiful at its Mouth, and flows gently; it is full of bustards, Ducks, Teal
and other birds, attracted thither by the wild oats of which they are very
fond. But after ascending th e river a short distance, it becomes very difficult
of passage, on account of both the Currents and the sharp Rocks, which cut
the Canoes and the feet of Those who are obliged to drag them, especially
when the waters are low. "
As they passed across the State of Wisconsin , Jolliet and Marquette witnessed
the primitive beauty of the land and the changing scene. The rushing waters of
the Lower Fox gave way to the quiet marshlands of Lake Winnebago and the
Upper Fox. When this little party of seven reached the Indian Village of
Mascouten , they picked up two Indian guides to lead them through the maze of
marshlands that extended all the way to the "River Meskousing." Then, as they
passed southwest on the beautiful Wisconsin River, they saw many deer and
herds of buffalo along the banks. On the seventeenth of June, 1673, this brave
little band entered the mighty Mississippi.
At this point you may well wonder how it is that Father Marquette has
received so much credit for this historic voyage when it was really under the
leadership and command of Louis Jolliet. The answer is wrapped in tragedy and
fate. Jolliet's canoe was swept under and his papers lost as he approached Mon-
treal. Then, to compound this misfortune, a cabin near Sault St. Marie, where
Jolliet had reportedly stored a second set of papers, burned to the ground just
before he was to have picked them up. So it was only the journal of Father
Marquette which remained to tell of this famous voyage.
Three hundred y·ears have passed since this mighty journey began, and
many changes have come to the historic Fox River Valley. The little Mission of
St. Francois-Xavier has become the City of De Pere; the Indian village of
Mascouten has been erased from the face of the map. The plunging and boiling
waters of the Lower Fox have been tamed and channeled to serve their masters.
But the memory of Father Marquette, Jolliet, and those five other sturdy
Frenchmen is still alive, woven into the fabric of our beautiful and historic Fox
River Valley.

Battle of Butte des Moris

The Battle of Butte des Morts was really a series of battles with causes
rooted in such complex matters as economics, politics, and national pride. In
the final analysis it was the French and the Fox Indians who were the chief an-
tagonists in this battle over the control of the Fox River. But the larger view
shows that there were many ot her forces and nations involved in these sanguin-
ary conflicts which have given rise to the legend , tradition, and history which
surround the names of two lakes and o ne village in historic Winnebago County.
But let's turn the clocks back some 250 years and see for ourselves what was
really happening. The French, who claimed control of the waterway of which
Little Lake Butte des Morts was but one importan t link, used it as a road to
transport furs and supplies. These sturdy Frenchmen , anxious to keep the water-
ways open and safe for their traders, made promises, treaties, and brought with
them all kinds of inducements to keep the Ind ians pacified. By this time the In-
dians had become increasingly dependent upon the fur trade and the goods sup-
plied by the French, but their respect fo r treaties and blandishments lasted only
as long as the power for their en force ment and disposal was close at hand. Once
the French were gone the Indians oftentimes returned to their old ways and
demanded tribute from each passing canoe. A torch would be lit, and either the
canoe would pull ashore or it wo uld be attacked. To the French, with their
tradition of military prowess and expertise, it seemed unthinkable that a band of
savages could thwart the designs of their power and trade. So it was that this
problem of interior America became known as the 'I ndian problem' and the of-
ficial policy became extermination.
And that is what the Battle of Butte des Morts was about ... a series of bat-
tles which had their final result in the breaking down of Fox domination of this
route west. But these battles also had another dire consequence for the French,
and that is that they caused many other tribes, neutral or pro French till then, to
become anti French. Ultimately this cost the French valuable support in their
fight against the British. Thus, it can be seen that the Battles of Butte des Morts
may well have sealed the fate of France in North America.
So much for the setting; now to the battles themselves. In 1716 a Lieutenant
De Louvigny outfitted a band of 800 soldiers and Indians and set out to put an
end to the nagging 'Indian problem.' The fleet sailed from Quebec, and even-
tually a great battle was fought near the present village of Butte des Morts. The
Indians were decisively defeated, but instead of annihilation they were given
terms on the promise that they would mend their ways and become peaceful
people. Once the soldiers were gone, though, they returned to their habits of
demanding tribute from all who passed. By 1728, with the battle only a distant

memory and with their manpower losses recouped, the Fox Indians were once
again the terror of old. That year another force set out from Quebec, this time
with over 1400 men . But someone tipped off the Indians, for when the French
arrived they were gone. According to De L ignery's acco unt of this expedition:
"The allies, the Sacquix, doubt
less had info rmed them of our
approach, and they d id not
deem it advisable to wa it our
arrival, fo r we found in their
village on ly a few women,
whom our savages made their
slaves, and one old man, whom
they burnt to death in a slow
fire, without appearing to en -
tertain the least repugnance
towards committing so bar-
barous an act." LAKS
The Frenchmen would have WINNea1ir;o
pursued the fleeing Indians, but
the season was late and it was a
long way back. So they ravaged
the crops, burn ed the wigwams,
and , in general, did everything
possible to destroy the means
that these Indians would need
to survive the winter. • BATTLE OF
But all this destruction did BUTTE des MORTS
little good, for the canoes were
still stopped and tribute was
paid , o r else. Then in 1730
Sieurr Pierrie Morand, a fur
trader whose post was located
on the mouth of the Menominee River and whose trade was losing a great deal of
business because of the constant interference with his boats which used the Fox,
obtained a com mission from the French government, raised a vo lunteer force of
over 800 men at Mackin aw, and set out to wage war against the wily Fox. As this
fleet of trading canoes pulled across the waters of Little Lake Butte des Morts,
near the present site of Fritze Park, the In dians set out the torch.
" What do you wan t?" shouted Morand .
"Skootay Waubo," they cried, "To shore with the boats,"
"Stay back, stay back, replied Morand, "don't touch the boats." The Savages
closed in, then the oilskins of the canoes were thrown back, and what looked to
the Indians like a fl eet of loaded trading canoes was an army of men, muskets in
hand , ready to fire.

"Fire away," cried Morand, and a deadly volley poured through the un-
believing Indians. A cannon, loaded with "grape" cut down many. The Indians
who could escape rushed back to their village only to be greeted by another
horror. Indians allied to Morand had gone overland, circled in behind, and were
setting fire to their homes. The carnage was beyond anything Morand had ex-
pected, and he ordered it stopped, to no avail. Thus in one short hour an entire
Indian village was almost completely destroyed. The dead were piled up and
buried in a large common grave, known afterwards as "butte des morts" or Hill
of the Dead.
Some of the Fox Indians managed to escape to the west and joined with
other bands of the tribe. They gathered together, it's said, at a place about three
miles above the present village of Butte des Morts, probably somewhere near the
present site of Winneconne. There another pitched battle was fought and the
power of the Wisconsin Fox was broken forever.
Such is the tradition, history, and legend of the famous Butte des Morts, the
memory of which is still preserved in Fritze Park, only a few feet from the
original site of that grisly conflict which gave rise to those beautiful and famous
lakes of the same name.

no a saredd

---- ·· -- __,,-.. -
-=.. ~

- ~ ·-
~ ,._.:-; - - -- -

~- -----------
- -....... ~

~ -::::. -
- --::_._
Chief Oshkosh

In 1821, when Oshkosh was twenty-six years old, Chief Tomah, the leader
of the Menominees, died and the tribe was left leaderless. Six years later, in
1827, General Lewis Cass, the Territorial Governor called for a ti;eaty making
meeting, to be held at Little Butte des Morts. But the Menominees had not· yet
chosen a new chief to represent them at this meeting. Naturally it was important
to General Cass that a chief be chosen so that he could sign the treaty, so he
decided to take matters into his own hand. He studied the matter carefully and
found that the choice was between Josette, a son of Chief Tomah, and Oshkosh,
known as Os'koss the Brave. After several days of deliberation he named
Oshkosh as the new head of the Menominees. Naturally the followers of Josette
were disappointed, but they quickly forgot their disappointment ·a nd rallied
behind the new Chief.
Oshkosh was soon to learn .that he would need both patience and wisdom to
lead his nation during these difficult and changing times. The Whiteman was
constantly moving in upon his lands, taking the best, asking for more. But the
new Chief Oshkosh had learned many things from his teacher, Chief Tomah,
and high on the list was that war was no solution to the problems of the en-
croaching whites. Oshkosh was a man of peace, and he bent his every strength to
preserving peace between his nation and the whites.
So, in 1836, when Henry Dodge, Wisconsin's Territorial Governor, called a
second "treaty making meeting" the Chief was there, ready for the worst but
hoping for the best. The resulting treaty is known as the Treaty of the Cedars,
and a plaque on the Fox River near the City of Kaukauna tells some of the
details. Under the treaty the Menominee Indian nation ceded to the United
States almost 4,000,000 acres of land for $700,000.00 or about 17t per acre.
That area now contains the cities of Marinette, Oconto, Appleton , Neenah,
Menasha, Wausau, Wisconsin Rapids, Stevens Point, and many smaller cities
and communities. Payments for these lands were made to the Indians at the
Poygan paygrounds, located only a few yards from the Winnebago County
campsite on the south shore of Lake Poygan.
Slowly but surely the noose was being tightened around the Indians, but
still Chief Oshkosh refused to go on the warpath against the whites, as so many
other tribes did.
Then, in 1848, the year that Wisconsin became the 30th state of the Union,
another ."treaty making meeting" was called, this time by Colonel William
Medill. It seems that the official government policy was now to move all the In-
dians west of the Mississippi. The Menominees were given lands in Minnesota,
and Chief Oshkosh was requested to move his people there. The Chief visited

I '

' \


. ' ' I' ...1 '.
I ,· • l i'
I ' )-. .
I . 4. , ,: ·.
1_'\ ,., "
\ \ l. t ·
these new lands, and when he returned to Wisconsin to the startled officials he
"Th e Crow Wing country is not suitable to the needs of m y people. "
Th e Menom in ee Indians had defied the United States government, and they
wo uld no t move! Chief Oshkosh then requested to meet with the President of the
United States, and to President Fillmore he stated:
"My tribe is small and we want to live in p eace for the little time remaining
to U.S."
The president designated a time limit of June 185 1 before the Menominees
would have to move.
But how quickly that time passed , and as the greenery of summer falls
in exo rab ly to the blasts of winter, so too that fateful day arrived. Still the
Menom in ees did not move! On November 2, 1852 the federal agents, desperate
for a sol ution, moved against this little band and ordered all of them to move
no rthward to what for so many years was known as the Menominee Indian
Reservation. Into the cold waters of the Wo lf River this proud band of Indians
moved upstream. In the lead canoe was a man of peace, a quiet, persistent man
who had fought and won for his people a home in Wisco nsin.
His name was Chief Oshkosh, the Brave.

Trial of Chief Oshkosh
There is an historic painting in the Wiscon sin Supreme Courtroom at
Madison which is entitled "The Trial of Chief Oshkosh." The principal charac-
ters in this famous trial were Oshkosh, Chief of the Menominees, Judge James
Duane Doty, master statesman , judge, and early po litical leader of Wisconsin,
and Henry S. Baird, the first pract icing attorney in Wisconsin, who was the
prosecuting attorney.
The facts of the case are these. On June 3, 1830 Okewa, an Indian of the
Paunee tribe, shot and killed Meshkewette, an Indian of the Menominee tribe.
The shoo ting was accidental, but tribal law said that the killing must be
avenged. So it was that Chief Oshkosh, who was the prin cipal ch ief of the
Meno minees, found Okewa and,
"with a certain knife of the value of sixpen ce ... did strike and thrust,
giving to the said Okewa three mortal wounds of the breadth of two inches
1 each and the depth of six inches each, of which said mortal wounds the said
Okewa then and there instantly died."
Since Chief Oshkosh was livi ng in the T erritory and was, thereby, subject to
the laws of the Territory, he was taken into custody and charged with murder.
Such are the simple facts of the case.
How Judge D oty handled this case is an example of masterly fo resight and
judgment. Clearly, Chief Oshkosh was living in the T er ri to ry and was, thereby ,

- bound by its laws. But the law of the Indians was not always the law of the
White man, and when the two came into conflict, whose law would prevail? This
was not an easy question to answer, and it required the Wisdom of Solomon to
know the answer. Judge Doty wrote:
"This verdict, which is rendered under the laws of the Territory, present the
case of a party of uncivilized Indians, who were found, within a township,
enfo rcing their laws, usages or customs, among themselves, upon their own
members; and the question raised upon this verdict, on a motion for
judgment is, whether it was lawful for them to do so!"
Judge Doty, un able to satisfy his own mind that Chief Oshkosh had
"willfully and malicio usly vio lated any statute of the T erritory ... " acquitted
This acquittal of Ch ief Oshkosh established the Indian's faith in the justice
of the White man and a lmost certainly avoided many unnecessary tragedies of
later date.

Lake Sturgeon

Lake Winnebago, reportedly, contains the world's largest population of

sturgeon. To many the only distinguishing characteristic of this fish is its size.
On closer study, though, it is revealed that there are many fascinating facts and
stories about this ancient fish.
It is, first of all, a native fish, and its ancestors are thought to have
inhabited the Devonian Age Seas of almost 300 million years ago. There are
over twenty-five species known to exist, ranging in size from the mammoth
beluga sturgeon of the Caspian Sea to the relatively diminutive shovel-nose
sturgeon of the Mississippi River system. All have common habits and charac-
teristics. They are bottom feeders who have no teeth, who probe and scour the
shallow lakes and river bottoms for food which may consist of insects, algae,
worms, crustaceans and similar organisms. In Lake Winnebago it is the red
worm, a larval form of the infamous lake fly, which provides the principal food
for the sturgeon. They ingest this food much as a vacuum cleaner picks up dirt
from a floor, and since some of the matter is undigestable even in the thick giz-
zardlike stomach of these fish, it is triturated and expelled in the same manner a
hawk or owl will rid itself of the feathers and other undigestable matter of its
victims. Sturgeons have no scales, but they do have rows of bony bucklers,
called scutes, which are shiny and give rise to their scientific name of ganoids,
which means "shiny in appearance. " These plates are a reminder of ancient
times when many fish wore armor plates. With their sharklike tail, their leathery
skin , and the four barbels extending from their snout, they are easily
recognized. While most sturgeon spend their lives in the marshy edges of the sea
and run up freshwater streams only to spawn, the rock or lake sturgeon spends
its entire life in fresh water. It is this species of sturgeon which inhabits the
waters of Lake Winnebago and some of the other lakes and rivers in the Great
Lakes region.
In the early years there was a great supply of sturgeon, and they were con-
sidered a nuisance and were a glut on the market. So they were hauled out by
the thousands, sold for what they would fetch, or were used for fertilizer. One
old timer still recalls how his grandfather carted a whole wagonload of fish
from Menasha to Green Bay, then had to dump them when he could find no
buyers. In the 1884 report of the United States Commission of Fish and
Fisheries there is a report which reflects both the plentitude and the wasteful at-
titude toward this fish.
In Green Bay the fishermen set their pounds for fall fishing about the tenth
of September. The Sturgeon are in abundance and the nets often contain a

hundred or more. This is said to continue until about the middle of Oc-
tober when they diminish in number and the whitefish become plentiful. As
the latter are the fish sought for, the Sturgeon are considered a nuisance
and annoyance. A few fishermen are considerate enough to lower the cor-
ner of a net and allow them to escape, but the commoner way is to draw
them out of the net with a gaff hook and let them go wounded, or to draw
them ashore and throw them on the refuse heap, asserting that there will be
so many less to trouble them in the future.
Howevermuch these early fishermen considered the sturgeon to be a
worthless fish , the fact of the matter was quite the opposite. Of all fish it ranked
high on the list, if not first , for its usefulness, both when alive and after being
netted or speared. The eggs of most sturgeon are prized, and this fish is no ex-
ception. A typical female lake sturgeon weighing one hundred pounds might
contain almost twenty five pounds of eggs, and that can make a lot of caviar.
The air bladder was used to produce isinglass, a transparent, flexible material
which was made into windows- of early automobiles and filters for the produc-
tion of fine wines. The leatherlike, scaleless skin proved to be an excellent sub-
stitute for leather, and except for the scutes which left holes in its hide, might
have been used more widely. Its cartiliginous skeleton could be boiled down
and made into glue and, similarly, its offal made into oil. As for its flesh, it can
be steaked and baked, smoked, or pickled. Once it was considered a poor man's
meat, now it's considered a delicacy. Even its rubbery nose, one wag claims, was
used as the center for the original "super" baseball.
There is a variety of ways to take sturgeon. During the spawning season,
when they school up on the shallows, the Indians would harpoon and net them.
Spawning time, in fact, is probably the most vulnerable for this fish, and the
Department of Natural Resources still finds it necessary to· post a constant vigil
around their spawning beds during the later part of May and early June.
Nowadays the only legal methods to take sturgeon are by spearing them through
the ice in the wintertime or with hook and line on designated rivers during a
limited season in early fall.
Who took the oldest and the largest sturgeon? The answer to this question
is filled with controversy, but one certain fact is that in the early days there were
bigger fish than there are now. Tradition tells about lake sturgeon growing to
eight and nine feet in length. Fish of this size are unheard of nowadays. The fish
has almost no natural enemies; it is long-lived, and if left undisturbed it could
grow to great age and size. When it is newly hatched it has a sharp and very un-
palatable spine, and by the time it lose·s this protection it is already too large for
other fish to tangle with. At any rate, the oldest lake sturgeon ever taken, or at
least of which there is a verified record , was one taken in the Lake of the
Woods, Ontario, Canada in 1953. It weighed 215 pounds, was six feet eleven

inches long, and was judged to be 152 years old! The age of a sturgeon is de-
termined by counting the rings on its pectoral fin, much as one would count the
rings of a tree to determine age. Two sturgeons, amazingly, are tied for the
largest verified catch. One was taken from Batchewana Bay in Lake Superior in
1922, and the second was taken from Lake Michigan in 1943. Both tipped the
scales at 310 pounds. In the inland waters of Wisconsin the largest lake sturgeon
ever taken was the "Butte des Morts Whale", speared in the winter of 1879 just
off Page's Point in Little Lake Butte des Morts. In the January 23, 1879 ed ition
of the Menasha Press is found the following note:
Ashland could learn something about big fish by taking a look at the 212
pound sturgeon caught in Lake Butte des Morts Sunday ... llbert and
Lochman butchered the Butte des Morts whale and hung it up in front of
their market for sale. It is estimated that after it has fed 5000 people there
will be seven basketfulls left.
In the January 25th edition of the Neenah Gazette it reads
Two young men of Menasha, by the names of Page and Fisher, respectively,
caught the largest sturgeon in Lake Butte des Morts, Sunday, that was ever
seen in these waters. It measured 7' 4" in length, and weighed 230 pounds.
Now let us hear from other towns.
Another giant was speared in the Big McKenzie Creek, a tributary of the
Nemakagon River, by Glen Marsh in 1910. This fish weighed in at 21 l pounds
and measured 7' 4 1/211 in length. It is now hanging in the New Department of
Natural Resources building in Spooner, Wisconsin. And there are others which
merit special mention. Dn August 6, 1913 , Michael Goyke and Arthur Hafer-
man caught a 187 1/2 pounder which was 61 711 long on a set line which was
located off the Taycheedah shore. On February 19, 1922 Carl Heckrodt speared
a 193 pounder just off the Lime Kiln Point, and this fish · was reportedly eight
feet long. But the official and modern record holder is Elroy Schroeder of Ap-
pleton, who on February 17, 1953 speared a sturgeon which weighed in at 180
pounds, was 61 7" long, and had a girth of 37 1/2 inches. The pectoral fin of this
fish was studied and it was determined that the fish was between 70 to 75 years
Still the final chapter of record sturgeon may yet be written, for it is re-
ported in Stockbridge, Wisconsin's Sturgeon Center of the World, that there is
yet another huge sturgeon swimming in the waters of the "big lake." Locally he
is known as " Old Moses," referring, no doubt, to his great age and wisdom. May
his reign continue!

The Saga of Red Bird

It was in 1634 that Jean Nicolet first landed on these ancient shores and
was greeted by that proud and powerful tribe, the Winnebago. Who could have
known, at that first meeting, that in less than two hundred years their land
would be taken from them and that one of their great leaders would die in a
prison? Such was the tragic fate of Wanick Choute, Red Bird, a chief of the once
mighty Winnebago.
Here is his. story:
The year was 1827, and people were just beginning to know about the
beauty and abundance that was Wisconsin. The early settlements grew up along
the route of the Fox-Wisconsin Rivers, the traditional route west. Green Bay,
protected by Fort Howard, was the eastern terminal, and Prairie du Chien,
located where the Wisconsin River flows into the Mississippi, was its western-
most outpost. Between these two villages lay 300 miles of twisting waterways
and lakes, filled with wild rice and abounding in fish and game, an Indian
paradise. Once this was the home of the Winnebago; it was a land they loved,
where the bones of their fathers were buried; it was a sacred land. But bit by bit
and piece by piece they saw their lands come under the power of the en-
croaching whites. Now it was the lead mines of southwestern Wisconsin which
were drawing the pioneers and fortune hunters by the hundreds. It was only a
question of time before some event would trigger a reaction from this once
powerful tribe. It was in late summer of 1827 that it came.
A story was spread that there had been an Indian murdered by White men
at Fort Snelling. In their eagerness and frustration to right the wrongs of so
many years the Indians believed the story as it was told. They demanded
retaliation. The law of the Indian says, "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth."
When a brave was murdered, it demanded vengeance. The burden to uphold this
Indian law fell upon Red Bird, a young chief whose village was located near the
pioneer outpost of Prairie du Chien.
"Take meat," he was ordered.
How Red Bird's heart must have longed for revenge, for he had both seen
and heard how his people had been abused, mistreated and cheated; how their
land had been taken from them, and how they had become only a shadow of
their former greatness. But Red Bird also knew what murder would mean, and
he hesitated. But he went out, then returned and announced,
"There is no meat to take."
He was jeered and ridiculed. Was Red Bird a coward? He set out again, this time
he would prove his manhood and carry out his sacred duty.


Colonel Thomas L. McKenney from a

memoir on the capture and arrest of
Red Bird. September 2, 1827.
They came to the cabin of Registre Gagnier, a half breed , who was living on
the outskirts of Prairie du Chien. He had visited here many times before, and
a lways he had been greeted as a friend . But this time his motive was revenge, not
on Gagnier, but against all White men who had driven his people from their
land. A brave had been murdered, and a man must die. Quicker than lightening
the deed was done, and two white men, Gagnier and his hired man, were mur-
dered, and child was scalped and left to die. Mrs. Gagni er, who had escaped
with another child , rushed off to sound the alarm.
From the north and Fort Snelling, from Fort Howard in the east, and from
Galena to the south came the military to put down the ' Indian uprising.' Fearful
of ambush and a bloody confl ict they set up camp on a hill overlooking the Fox
and Wisconsin rivers. Here they would await the arrival of Colonel Atkinson
and more troops. But there was no need for more troops, and there was no need
to hunt down Red Bird! On September 2, 1827, dressed in savage splendor and
with so lemn step Red Bird emerged from the forest, singing his death song.
"/am ready," he said, "but don't put me in irons. I wish to be free. I have
given away my Life; it is gone."
He pleaded for immediate execution, thinking that by giving his own life other
lives would be spared. But such was not the way of the White man's justice.
James D . Doty, who was the judge in this area, was away in Washington, seeking
a reappointment to another term. Red Bird was jailed to await the trial.
The proud spirit of Red Bird cou ld not endure th e confinement, and too
late the news came from Washington that President Andrew Jackson had par-
doned the murderers and that the Federal co urts would not prosecute the others
who had participated in the Winnebago uprising. On February I 7, 1828 Red
Bird died, some say of starvation, others say it was of a broken heart.
So when next year you visit High Cliff State Park and gaze upon that
beautiful statue of Red Bird wh ich stands overlooking the country where once
his people roamed free, remember his story.

The Upper Fox in 1830

"The current now grows stronger; the Little Kaukauna is near. That long,
narrow low-lying island which you see to the right is the home of Rev. Eleazer
Williams. He has a considerable tract of land west of his dwelling, given to him
by the Oneida Indians, who were located here a few years ago. Here are the
rapids known as Little Kaukauna, sometimes very difficult to pass. If the river is
high we can push through that short canal to the right, which was a flume or
waste weir. At an early date the United States built a mill here, but owing to a
faulty construction of the dam , which soon gave way, it was abandoned. As the
river is about at the right stage, a few quick and vigorous shoves of the poles will
soon take us through that quick -running mass of troubled water.
Well done, my good and gallant crew! The halfway stake is passed, and not
half the day gone. Moor the boat and rest a spell while we lunch and refresh the
inner man. The time is up and we proceed. The only change in the general land-
scape is the receding of the high bank from the river, leaving along the shore
long narrow strips of low land . The same dense forest crowds to the water's
Note these hieroglyphics on the oak trees that stand leaning over the water.
They are made to represent a deer, and sometimes the hunter in the act of firing
his gun . They record the hunter's success in the chase. There are hundreds of
them all along the shores, many of them well executed and painted with ver-
million. In June, when the deer are in the red, and seek the water, the Indian
places a torch in the bow of his canoe with a screen behind which he hides gun
in hand ready to shoot, while his companion slowly and noiselessly poles and
manages the canoe. The deer is an inquisitive animal; the light attracts his at-
tention, he approaches and falls an easy victim to the cunning of the hunter."

Written by John Wallace Arndt, a

pioneer of the Fox River Valley, on his journey
from Green Bay to Menasha in June, 1830.
Published in the Proceedings of the Wisconsin State
Historical Society, 1913.

Once they owned all the land on the Hudson River. Their days were spent
hunting and fishing, gathering the fruits of an unspoiled wilderness. There,
along the banks of the beautiful Hudson River , they lived as their fathers had
lived , worshipped the same gods, hunted and fished the same as they had from
time immemorial. In the fastness of their hidden forests they waged tribal wars,
for ho nor and fame. But that was long, Jong ago. As surely as day follows night,
as summer follows winter, so too it was inevitable that one day this wilderness
home of the Iroquois would be discovered and the ancient drama of Indian
ways would be confronted with the need for change. It's a melancholy story, and
it is filled with many a tale of tragedy and valor. By the early 1800's the days of
these mighty warriors were coming to an end.
In the summer of 1817, with the pressures of the white man continuing to
drive in upon them, the New York Indians began to look anxiously for a place
to escape. John Metoxen and Solomon Hendrick, leaders of the already
displaced Mo-he-kun-nucks, wanted the tribe to move to a place in Indiana, but
that plan fell through when the government purchased the lands on which they
were planning to settle. "A thousand plans were proposed and rejected, till at
length an attempt was made to induce them to remove to the Indian Territory,
southwest o f Missouri." But that plan also met with failure. It was at this time
that a remarkably talented young man named Eleazer Williams appeared on the
scene, and things began to happen.
At the time Eleazer Williams was working with the Oneida Indians as a
Catechist and Lay Reader. So persuasive, so energetic, and so dynamic an in-
dividual was he that it wasn't long before his Services were being attended by
great throngs of Indians. As he looked about he saw, like John Metoxen had
seen, that the only salvation for his harried flock was to move to a distant place
where the tribe could pursue traditional tribal life and where its integrity could
be maintained. Mr. Williams drew up a plan and presented it to his superiors.
They were impressed, and they gave their approval to an ambitious plan of
resettlement among the western tribes which were located in Wisconsin. In 1821
application was made and approved by the War Department for a delegation of
Indians to visit these lands, known to us as the Fox River Valley. In the summer
of that same year Dr. Jedediah Morse of the American Board of Missions
traveled to Green Bay to investigate and, while here, delivered what is reported
to be the first Protestant sermon ever heard in the Fox River Valley.
The Winnebago and Menominee Indians, upon whose lands they wished to
settle, received them enthusiastically and called them Not-ta-ways, which is an
Indian word meaning grandfather. This refers to an earlier time when many of
the eastern tribes lived in the Mississippi River Valley as friends and allies.
When the full realization of just what was involved began to sink in, the Win-
nebago and Menominee became less enthusiastic about this project of reset-
tlement. To host their eastern tribesmen as visitors was one thing, but to give
and to share with them their lands was another matter! The Winnebago
registered their concern simply by walking out and heading west, to their
.... ........
~, .....~ ,.. ·'
traditional hunt. The Menominee, however , stayed long enough to conclude
negotiations whereby they agreed that the New York Indians could occupy their
land in common with them. The French population of Green Bay, meantime,
had little good to say about this entire affair. From the very beginning they had
viewed Eleazer Williams as little more than an enterprising opportunist who
wanted to create an Indian Kingdom in the Fox River Valley, with himself as


John W. Quinney
Chief, Stockbridge Indians.

By 1822 the way was cleared and the gates were opened. To the beautiful
Fox River Valley came the Stockbridge, the Munsee, the Brothertown, and the
Oneida, seeking shelter and refuge. Unfortunately for all co ncerned, bitterness
and misgivings arose, and for the next twenty years rival factio ns of Indians and
whites wrangled and battled over rights. In 1827 the matter was brought up at
the Treaty of Butte des Morts and the problem brought to the attention of John
Quincy Adams, thinking that he could provide a solution. In 1831 the famous
Stambough Treaty set boundaries and declared rights. Ultimately, of course, all
these treaties led to a division of lands and a definition of rights , but the basic
problems never really were solved. Originally the New York Indi ans had been
promised over one-half million acres of land, but by 1838 only 65,000 acres
remained. Many still call it the " Parade of Broken Treaties." The grim reality of
the situation was that a once powerful League of Indian Nations was reduced to
a shadow of its power and greatness. The dream and hope of Eleazer William to
establish an Indian Kingdom in Wisconsin was shattered and crushed forever. ·-
Now we won't chronicle and list all those events which led to the final
disposition of the various eastern tribes that came to the Fox River Valley. It is
a complex story, and other books and studies are available. We will note,
however, that the Stockbridge and Brothertown Indians settled along the
eastern shore of Lake Winnebago where they distinguished themselves as in-
dustrious and hardworking people. Many a pioneer farmer from Oshkosh, Fond
du Lac, and other communities of the Fox River Valley brought their wheat to
the grist mills which were built and operated by these Indians. And did you
know that the first steamship to operate on Lake Winnebago was the ·Man-
chester, built by the Brothertown Indians at Manchester Harbor? The story of
the Oneida Indians contin ues even to the present time, and many members of
this tribe can be found living in the village of Oneida, located just west of the

City of Green Bay. Their controversial and enigmatic leader, Eleazer Williams,
had long since passed from the scene. Was he really the Lost Dauphin , as he
claimed? Opinions and history are still divided on this point. If you have some
time this summer why not drive over to where his old home still stands, at Lost
Dauphin State Park, on the banks of the histor ic Lower Fox River? The State
Historical Society has erected a plaque which tells his story. It is a pleasant spot
both to have a picnic and to contemplate those blustery years of long ago.

p . 40, 1 D'.le 3fL.
Siou.""t t o Sault

P· 67 , line 2
· 1 671 to 1669

p . 67 , line 4
1669 to 1673

Dates of Significance
1634 Jean Nicolet visits the Fox River Valley.
1671 Father Claude Alloue~. S.J., founds Mission of St. Franco is-Xavier at Rapides des Peres, now the
site of De Pere.
1669 Louis Jolliet ~nd Jacques Marquette, S.J., pass through the Fox River Valley on their historic
Voyage of Discovery.
1686 Nicolas Perrot presents Silver Ostensorium to Father H. No uve l, S.J., missionary priest at De Pere.
170 I French build Fort La Baye, latte r called Fort St. Francois, at Green Bay.
1728 Mission of St. Francois-Xavier abandoned.
I 730 A Battle of Butte des Morts occurs.
1745 Augustin and Charles De Langlade establish the first permanent white settlement in Green Bay.

1746 Another Battle at L. Butte des Morts.

1761 Fort St. Francois foils to the English who eventually take control over entire area.
1766 Jonathan Carver , English mapmaker and explorer, visits Winnebago village at Winnebago Rapids,
now the Cities of Neenah and Menasha. He is hosted by Glory-of-the-Morning, a Winnebago Chief-
1787 A trading post is established at Fond du Lac.
1804 Augustin Grignon arrives in Kaukauna.
1814 Colonel Robert Dickson , Commander of the British Forces in the area, winters at Wild Cat's village
on Garlic Island in Lake Winnebago.
1816 United States builds Fort Howard on location of old Fort St. Francois.
I 818 A trading post is established at Butte des Morts by Augustin Grignon and Jacques Porlier.
1821 Arrival of Indians from New York aboard the Walk-in-th e-Water, the first steamboat to navigate o n
Lake Michigan and the Fox River .
1823 James D. Doty is appointed Circuit Judge.
1827 Surrender of Red Bird, a Chief of the Winnebago.
Treaty of Butte des Morts; Oshkosh appointed Chief of the Menominee.
1830 Trial of Chief Oshkosh. James D. Doty is the judge.
1832 Henry S. Baird, first practicing attorney in Wisconsin, locates in Green Bay.
18 35 T he government establishes an educational project at Winnebago Rapids, but project fails.
1836 The Treaty of the Cedars is signed and "Indian Territory" becomes government land .
1838 A small pox epidemic decimates the Winnebago village o n "the island."
1844 The Manchester, the first steamship ever to sail on Lake Winnebago is launched at Manchester Har-
bor on east shore of Lake Winnebago. Ship was built by the Brothertown Indians.
The Grand Loggery, the home of Governor Doty, is buih o n "the island," which is now the s ite of
the Cities of Neenah and Menasha.
1847 Lawrence College is established by the Reverend William Harkness Sampson and the Reverend
Henry R . Colman under the sponsorship of Amos A. Lawrence.
A sawmill is established at Oshkosh.
1848 Father Theod'ore Van den Broek returns to his mission at La Petite Chute, now the Village of Little
Chute, with a group of settlers from Holland.
Wisconsin becomes the thirtieth State of the Union.

Places to Visit

Some Places of Historical & Kaukauna

Cultural Interest in the Grignon Home
Augustine Street
Lower Fox R iver Valley.
Appleton Menasha
Oard Hunter Paper Museum Smith Park
I 043 E. South River Street Keyes Street
De Pere High Cliff State Park
Heritage Ha ll Nine miles east o f Menasha
o n State Highway 114.
De Pere Historical Society
366 Main ~treet
Lost Dauphin State Park Do ty Grand Loggery
Five miles south of De Pere Lin co ln Street
on County T runk D.
Bergstrom Art Center
Fond du Lac 165 S. Park Street
Galloway House and Museum
818 Pioneer Road Oshkosh
Oshkosh Public Museum
Green Bay 1331 Algoma Boulevard
Baird Law Office Paine Art Center and Arboretum
2632 S. Webster Avenue 1410 Algoma Bo ulevard.
Cotton House
2632 S. Webster Avenue
I 008 S. Mo nroe Avenue
Fo rt Ho ward Hospital Museum
402 N. C hestnut Avenue
Roi -Porlier-Tank Cottage
860 Fift h Street
National Railroad Museum
2265 W. Broadway
Neville Public Museum
129 S. Jefferson Street

Adams, J. ............................ .......... 64 Jackson, Andrew .......... ....... .... .......... 60
Allouez, C .................... 7, 17, 18, 40, 43 J0lliet, L ........... ... ...................... 44, 45
Arndt, J..........................................61
Atkinson, Col. ........... .... ............... .. .. 61 L
Lapham, Increase A .......................... 11
B Laval, ........................................... .21
Baird, Henry S ................................. 53 Lejeune P ................................. 17, 27
Bedwell, S ....................................... 19 Lechman, ....................................... 56
Brebeuf, P .. ...... ........ ... ..... ..... .......... 40 Lawson, Publius ................... ...... ...... 25

c M
Carver, J .............................. 13, 14, 32 Marquette .............................. 7, 22, 24
Cass, General. : ................................. 51 36, 37, 38, 40, 44, 45
Champlain, S .............................. 40, 43 Marsh, G ........................................ 56
Charlevoix, P ............ ...... .. .. ... ... ....... 24 Mc Kenney, T . .. .... ................. ..... .... 59
Medill, William ................................ 51
D Menard ......................................... ..21
Dablon, C ................................... 7, 44 Meshkewette .................................... 53
De Louvigny .......... .... ... ... ................ 46 Metoxen, J . ....... ....... ... ... ....... .......... 63
De Lignery .............. ... ............... ...... 47
Dodge, Henry .... .. .. .......... ......... ....... 51 N
Doty, James D .. ....... ..... ... ...... 33, 53, 60 Nicolet, J ............................. .40, 41, 58

F 0
Fillmore, President ............................ 52 Okewa ............................................ 53
Oshkosh ..................................... 52, 53
Gagnier, Registre .............................. 60 p
Glory-in-the-Morning ............. ... ....... .32 Page, F ........................................... 56
Goyke, M ... ................. . .......... ...... ..56 Perrot ............................................. 15
Grignon, A ......................................25
Grosseilliers .................. .... .. .... ........ .43 Q
Quinney, J ...................................... 64
Haferman, A . .... ........................ ... .. .56 R
Harney, R ................... ....... ............. 13 Red Bird ............ ...... ....................... 58
Heckrodt, C .................................... 56
Hendrick, S ..... .................. ......... ..... 63 s
Hennepin .. ... .... .... .... ......... .... ..... ..... 24 Schroeder, E ................................... .56
Ilbert, ............................................ 56 Tomah ........................................... 51

Williams, E ........... ........ ........ 63, 64, 65
Selected References

Donnelly, Joseph P. Jacques Marquette, S.J. 1968

Draper, Lyman Copeland ed. Collections, Volumes 1-X
Wisconsin State Historical Society
Good e, George B. ed. Fishery Industries of the United States 1887
Harney, Richard J. History of the Early Northwest and
History of Winn ebago County 1880
Kellogg, Louise Phelps The French R egime in Wisconsin and
the No rth west 1880
Kinzie, Mrs. John Wau Bun 1908
Lawson, Publius V. History of Winn ebago County 1908
Legler, Henry E. Leading Events in Wisconsin 1898
Mackesy, Lillian and
Sager, Kenneth, editors L and of the Fox 1949
Martin , Debo rah Beaumont Art Work of the Fox River Valley 1902
Morton, W. E. Early Indian Tribes of Wisconsin 1959
Quaife, Milo M . Wisconsin: Its Histo ry and Its People 1924
Quimby, George Irving Indian Life in the Upper Great Lakes 1960
Rowe, Chandler W. Mound Culture of Wisconsin 1956
Smith, Alice E. James Duane Doty 1957
Smith, William R. The Histo ry of Wisconsin 1854
Strong, Moses M. History of Wisconsin 1885
Thwaites, Reuben G. Collections, Volumes XI-XX
Wisconsin State Historical Society
Thwaites, Reuben G. The Jesuit R elations and
Allied Do cuments 1925
Titus, William C. H istory of the Fox River Valley, Lake
Win nebago and Green Bay Region 1930
Usher, Ellis B. Histo ry of Wisconsin 1914





Interese conexe