EARLY DAY IN THE NORTHWEST.
MRS. JOHN H. KINZIE,
"If we but knew the exact meaning of the word 'WAU-BUN,' we should be happy."—Critic.
"WAU-BUN—The dawn—the break of day."—Ojibeway Vocabulary.
* * * * *
Every work partaking of the nature of an autobiography is supposed to demand an apology to the public. To refuse such a tribute, would be to recognize the justice of the charge, so often brought against our countrymen—of a too great willingness to be made acquainted with the domestic history and private affairs of their neighbors.
It is, doubtless, to refute this calumny that we find travellers, for the most part, modestly offering some such form of explanation as this, to the reader: "That the matter laid before him was, in the first place, simply letters to friends, never designed to be submitted to other eyes, and only brought forward now at the solicitation of wiser judges than the author himself."
No such plea can, in the present instance, be offered. The record of events in which the writer had herself no share, was preserved in compliance with the suggestion of a revered relative, whose name often appears in the following pages. "My child," she would say, "write these things down, as I tell them to you. Hereafter our children, and even strangers, will feel interested in hearing the story of our early lives and sufferings." And it is a matter of no small regret and self-reproach, that much, very much, thus narrated was, through negligence, or a spirit of procrastination, suffered to pass unrecorded.
With regard to the pictures of domestic life and experience (preserved, as will be seen, in journals, letters, and otherwise), it is true their publication might have been deferred until the writer had passed away from the scene of action; and such, it was supposed, would have been their lot—that they would only have been dragged forth hereafter, to show to a succeeding generation what "The Early Day" of our Western homes had been. It never entered the anticipations of the most sanguine that the march of improvement and prosperity would, in less than a quarter of a century, have so obliterated the traces of "the first beginning," that a vast and intelligent multitude would be crying out for information in regard to the early settlement of this portion of our country, which so few are left to furnish.
An opinion has been expressed, that a comparison of the present times with those that are past, would enable our young people, emigrating from their luxurious homes at "the East," to bear, in a spirit of patience and contentment, the slight privations and hardships they are at this day called to meet with. If, in one instance, this should be the case, the writer may well feel happy to have incurred even the charge of egotism, in giving thus much of her own history.
It may be objected that all that is strictly personal, might have been more modestly put forth under the name of a third person; or that the events themselves and the scenes might have been described, while those participating in them might have been kept more in the background. In the first case, the narrative would have lost its air of truth and reality—in the second, the experiment would merely have been tried of dressing up a theatre for representation, and omitting the actors.
Some who read the following sketches may be inclined to believe that a residence among our native brethren and an attachment growing out of our peculiar relation to them, have exaggerated our sympathies, and our sense of the wrongs they have received at the hands of the whites. This is not the place to discuss that point. There is a tribunal at which man shall be judged for that which he has meted out to his fellow-man.
May our countrymen take heed that their legislation shall never unfit them to appear "with joy, and not with grief," before that tribunal!
CHICAGO, July, 1855.
Departure from Detroit
Michilimackinac—American Fur Company—Indian Trade—Mission School—Point St. Ignace
Arrival at Green Bay—Mrs. Arnot—General Root—Political Dispatches—A Summerset—Shanty-Town—M. Rolette—Indian Morning Song—Mr. Cadle's Mission—Party at Miss Doty's—Misses Grignon—Mrs. Baird's Party—Mrs. Beall
Arrangements for Travelling—Fox River—Judge Doty—Judge Reaume—M. Boilvin—Canadian Voyageurs: their Songs—The Kakalin—Wish-tay-yun—Rev. Eleazar Williams—Passage through the Rapids—Grande Chute—Krissman
Beautiful Encampment—Winnebago Lake—Miss Four-Legs—Garlic Island—Wild Rice
Breakfast at Betty More's—Judge Law—Fastidiousness; what came of it
Butte des Morts—French Cognomens—Serpentine Course of Fox River—Lake Puckaway—Lac de Boeuf—Fort Winnebago.
Major and Mrs. Twiggs—A Davis—An Indian Funeral—Conjugal Affliction—Indian Chiefs; Talk-English—The Wild-Cat—The Dandy
Housekeeping—The First Dinner
Indian Payment—Pawnee Blanc—The Washington Woman—Raising Funds
Louisa—Garrison Life—Dr. Newhall—Affliction—Domestic Accommodations—Ephraim—New-Year's Day—Native Custom—Day-kau-ray's Views of Education—Captain Harney's Mince-Pie
Lizzie Twiggs—Preparation for a Journey—The Regimental Tailor
eparture from Fort Winnebago—Duck Creek—Upset in a Canoe—Pillon—Encamping in Winter—Four Lakes—Indian Encampment—Blue Mound—Morrison's—A Tennessee Woman
Rev. Mr. Kent—Losing One's Way—A Tent Blown Down—Discovery of a Fence—Hamilton's Diggings—Frontier Housekeeping—Wm. S. Hamilton—A Miner—Hard Riding—Kellogg's Grove
Rock River—- Dixon's—John Ogie—Missing the Trail—Hours of Trouble—Famine in the Camp—Relief
A Pottowattamie Lodge—A Tempest—Piche's—Hawley's—The Du Page—Mr. Dogherty—The Aux Plaines—Mrs. Lawton—Wolf Point—Chicago
Fort Dearborn—Chicago in 1831—First Settlement of Chicago—John Kinzie, Sen.—-Fate of George Forsyth—Trading Posts—Canadian Voyageurs—M. St. Jean—Louis la Liberte
Massacre at Chicago
Massacre, continued—Mrs. Helm—Ensign Ronan—Captain Wells—Mrs. Holt—Mrs. Heald—The Sau-ga-nash—Sergeant Griffith—Mrs. Burns—Black Partridge and Mrs. Lee—Nau-non-gee and Sergeant Hays
Treatment of American Prisoners by the British—Captivity of Mr. Kinzie—Battle on Lake Erie—Cruelty of General Proctor's Troops—General Harrison—Rebuilding of Fort Dearborn—Red Bird—A Humorous Incident—Cession of the Territory around Chicago
Severe Spring Weather—Pistol-Firing—Milk Punch—A Sermon—Pre-emption to "Kinzie's Addition"—Liberal Sentiments
Colonel McKillip—Second-Sight—Ball at Hickory Creek—Arrival of the "Napoleon"—Troubles of Embarkation
Departure for Port Winnebago—A Frightened Indian—Encampment at Dunkley's Grove—Horses Lost—Getting Mired—An Ague cured by a Rattlesnake—Crystal Lake—Story of the Little Rail
Return Journey, continued—Soldiers' Encampment—Big-Foot Lake—Village of Maunk-suck—A Young Gallant—Climbing—Mountain-Passes—Turtle Creek—Kosh-ko-nong—Crossing a Marsh—Twenty-Mile Prairie—Hastings's Woods—Duck Creek—Brunet—Home
The Agency—The Blacksmith's House—Building a Kitchen—Four-Legs, the Dandy—Indian Views of Civilization—Efforts of M. Mazzuchelli—Charlotte
The Cut-Nose—The Fawn—Visit of White Crow—Parting with Friends—Krissman—Louisa again—The Sunday-School
Plante—Removal—Domestic Inconveniences—Indian Presents—Grandmother Day-kau-ray—Indian Customs—Indian Dances—The Medicine-Dance—Indian Graves—Old Boilvin's Wake
Indian Tales—Story of the Red Fox
Story of Shee-shee-banze
Visit to Green Bay—Disappointment—Return Journey—Knaggs's—Blind Indian—Ma-zhee-gaw-gaw Swamp—Bellefontaine
Commencement of the Sauk War—Winnebago Council—Crely—Follett—Bravery—The Little Elk—An Alarm—Man-Eater and his Party—An Exciting Dance
Fleeing from the Enemy—Mata—Old Smoker—Meeting with Menomonees—Raising the Wind—Garlic Island—Winnebago Rapids—The Waubanakees—Thunder-Storm—Vitelle—Guardapie—Fort Howard
Panic at Green Bay—Tidings of Cholera—Green Bay Flies—Doyle, the Murderer—Death of Lieutenant Foster—A Hardened Criminal—Good News from the Seat of War—Departure for Home—Shipwreck at the Grand Chute—A Wet Encampment—An Unexpected Arrival—Reinforcement of Volunteers—La Grosse Americaine—Arrival at Home
Conclusion of the War—Treaty at Rock Island—Cholera among the Troops—Wau-kaun-kah—Wild-Cat's Frolic at the Mee-kan—Surrender of the Winnebago Prisoners
Delay in the Annual Payment—Scalp-Dances—Groundless Alarm—Arrival of Governor Porter—Payment—Escape of the Prisoners—Neighbors Lost—Reappearance—Robineau—Bellaire
Agathe—"Kinzie's Addition"—Tomah—Indian Acuteness—Indian Simplicity
Famine—Day-kau-ray's Daughter—Noble Resolution of a Chief—Bread for the Hungry—Rev. Mr. Kent—An Escaped Prisoner—The Cut-Nose again—Leave-taking with our Red Children—Departure from Fort Winnebago
THE "EARLY DAY" IN THE NORTHWEST.
DEPARTURE FROM DETROIT.
It was on a dark, rainy evening in the month of September, 1830, that we went on board the steamer "Henry Clay," to take passage for Green Bay. All our friends in Detroit had congratulated us upon our good fortune in being spared the voyage in one of the little schooners which at this time afforded the ordinary means of communication with the few and distant settlements on Lakes Huron and Michigan.
Each one had some experience to relate of his own or Of his friends' mischances in these precarious journeys—long detentions on the St. Clair flats—furious head-winds off Thunder Bay, or interminable Calms at Mackinac or the Manitous. That which most enhanced our sense of peculiar good luck, was the true story of one of our relatives having left Detroit in the month of June and reached Chicago in the September following, having been actually three months in performing what is sometimes accomplished by even a sail-vessel in four days.
But the certainty of encountering similar misadventures would have weighed little with me. I was now to visit, nay, more, to become a resident of that land which had, for long years, been to me a region of romance. Since the time when, as a child, my highest delight had been in the letters of a dear relative, describing to me his home and mode of life in the "Indian country," and still later, in his felicitous narration of a tour with General Cass, in 1820, to the sources of the Mississippi—nay, even earlier, in the days when I stood at my teacher's knee, and spelled out the long word Mich-i-li-mack-i-nac, that distant land, with its vast lakes, its boundless prairies, and its mighty forests, had possessed a wonderful charm for my imagination. Now I was to see it!—it was to be my home!
Our ride to the quay, through the dark by-ways, in a cart, the only vehicle which at that day could navigate the muddy, unpaved streets of Detroit, was a theme for much merriment, and not less so, our descent of the narrow, perpendicular stair-way by which we reached the little apartment called the Ladies' Cabin. We were highly delighted with the accommodations, which, by comparison, seemed the very climax of comfort and convenience; more especially as the occupants of the cabin consisted, beside myself, of but a lady and two little girls.
Nothing could exceed the pleasantness of our trip for the first twenty-four hours. There were some officers, old friends, among the passengers. We had plenty of books. The gentlemen read aloud occasionally, admired the solitary magnificence of the scenery around us, the primeval woods, or the vast expanse of water unenlivened by a single sail, and then betook themselves to their cigar, or their game of euchre, to while away the hours.
For a time the passage over Thunder Bay was delightful, but, alas! it was not destined, in our favor, to belie its name. A storm came on, fast and furious—what was worse, it was of long duration. The pitching and rolling of the little boat, the closeness, and even the sea-sickness, we bore as became us. They were what we had expected, and were prepared for. But a new feature of discomfort appeared, which almost upset our philosophy.
The rain, which fell in torrents, soon made its way through every seam and pore of deck or moulding. Down the stair-way, through the joints and crevices, it came, saturating first the carpet, then the bedding, until, finally, we were completely driven, "by stress of weather," into the Gentlemen's Cabin. Way was made for us very gallantly, and every provision resorted to for our comfort, and we were congratulating ourselves on having found a haven in our distress, when, lo! the seams above opened, and down upon our devoted heads poured such a flood, that even umbrellas were an insufficient protection. There was nothing left for the ladies and children but to betake ourselves to the berths, which, in this apartment, fortunately remained dry; and here we continued ensconced the livelong day. Our dinner was served up to us on our pillows. The gentlemen chose the dryest spots, raised their umbrellas, and sat under them, telling amusing anecdotes, and saying funny things to cheer us, until the rain ceased, and at nine o'clock in the evening we were gladdened by the intelligence that we had reached the pier at Mackinac.
We were received with the most affectionate cordiality by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Stuart, at whose hospitable mansion we had been for some days expected.
The repose and comfort of an asylum like this, can be best appreciated by those who have reached it after a tossing and drenching such as ours had been. A bright, warm fire, and countenances beaming with kindest interest, dispelled all sensations of fatigue or annoyance.
After a season of pleasant conversation, the servants were assembled, the chapter of God's word was solemnly read, the hymn chanted, the prayer of praise and thanksgiving offered, and we were conducted to our place of repose.
It is not my purpose here to attempt a portrait of those noble friends whom I thus met for the first time. To an abler pen than mine should be assigned the honor of writing the biography of Robert Stuart. All who have enjoyed the happiness of his acquaintance, or, still more, a sojourn under his hospitable roof, will carry with them to their latest hour the impression of his noble bearing, his genial humor, his untiring benevolence, his upright, uncompromising adherence to principle, his ardent philanthropy, his noble disinterestedness. Irving in his "Astoria," and Franchere in his "Narrative," give many striking traits of his early character, together with events of his history of a thrilling and romantic interest, but both have left the most valuable portion unsaid, his after-life, namely, as a Christian gentleman.
Of his beloved partner, who still survives him, mourning on her bereaved and solitary pilgrimage, yet cheered by the recollection of her long and useful course as a "Mother in Israel," we will say no more than to offer the incense of loving hearts, and prayers for the best blessings from her Father in heaven.
Michilimackinac! that gem of the Lakes! How bright and beautiful it looked as we walked abroad on the following morning! The rain had passed away, but had left all things glittering in the light of the sun as it rose up over the waters of Lake Huron, far away to the east. Before us was the lovely bay, scarcely yet tranquil after the storm, but dotted with canoes and the boats of the fishermen already getting out their nets for the trout and whitefish, those treasures of the deep. Along the beach were scattered the wigwams or lodges of the Ottawas who had come to the island to trade. The inmates came forth to gaze upon us. A shout of welcome was sent forth, as they recognized Shaw-nee-aw-kee, who, from a seven years' residence among them, was well known to each individual.
A shake of the hand, and an emphatic "Bon-jour—bon-jour," is the customary salutation between the Indian and the white man.
"Do the Indians speak French?" I inquired of my husband.
"No; this is a fashion they have learned of the French traders during many years of intercourse."
Not less hearty was the greeting of each Canadian engage, as he trotted forward to pay his respects to "Monsieur John," and to utter a long string of felicitations, in a most incomprehensible patois. I was forced to take for granted all the good wishes showered upon "Madame John," of which I could comprehend nothing but the hope that I should be happy and contented in my "vie sauvage."
The object of our early walk was to visit the Mission-house and school which had been some few years previously established at this place by the Presbyterian Board of Missions. It was an object of especial interest to Mr. and Mrs. Stuart, and its flourishing condition at this period, and the prospects of extensive future usefulness it held out, might well gladden their philanthropic hearts. They had lived many years on the island, and had witnessed its transformation, through God's blessing on Christian efforts, from a worldly, dissipated community to one of which it might almost be said, "Religion was every man's business." This mission establishment was the beloved child and the common centre of interest of the few Protestant families clustered around it. Through the zeal and good management of Mr. and Mrs. Ferry, and the fostering encouragement of the congregation, the school was in great repute, and it was pleasant to observe the effect of mental and religious culture in subduing the mischievous, tricky propensities of the half-breed, and rousing the stolid apathy of the genuine Indian.
These were the palmy days of Mackinac. As the head-quarters of the American Fur Company, and the entrepot of the whole Northwest, all the trade in supplies and goods on the one hand, and in furs and products of the Indian country on the other, was in the hands of the parent establishment or its numerous outposts scattered along Lakes Superior and Michigan, the Mississippi, or through still more distant regions.
Probably few are ignorant of the fact, that all the Indian tribes, with the exception of the Miamis and the Wyandots, had, since the transfer of the old French possessions to the British Crown, maintained a firm alliance with the latter. The independence achieved by the United States did not alter the policy of the natives, nor did our Government succeed in winning or purchasing their friendship. Great Britain, it is true, bid high to retain them. Every year the leading men of the Chippewas, Ottawas, Pottowattamies, Menomonees, Winnebagoes, Sauks, and Foxes, and even still more remote tribes, journeyed from their distant homes to Fort Malden in Upper Canada, to receive their annual amount of presents from their Great Father across the water. It was a master-policy thus to keep them in pay, and had enabled those who practised it to do fearful execution through the aid of such allies in the last war between the two countries.
The presents they thus received were of considerable value, consisting of blankets, broadcloths or strouding, calicoes, guns, kettles, traps, silver-works (comprising arm-bands, bracelets, brooches; and ear-bobs), looking-glasses, combs, and various other trinkets distributed with no niggardly hand.
The magazines and store-houses of the Fur Company at Mackinac were the resort of all the upper tribes for the sale of their commodities, and the purchase of all such articles as they had need of, including those above enumerated, and also ammunition, which, as well as money and liquor, their British friends very commendably omitted to furnish them.
Besides their furs, various in kind and often of great value—beaver, otter, marten, mink, silver-gray and red fox, wolf, bear, and wild-cat, musk-rat, and smoked deer-skins—the Indians brought for trade maple-sugar in abundance, considerable quantities of both Indian corn and petit-ble, beans and the folles avoines, or wild rice; while the squaws added to their quota of merchandise a contribution in the form of moccasins, hunting-pouches, mococks, or little boxes of birch-bark embroidered with porcupine-quills and filled with maple-sugar, mats of a neat and durable fabric, and toy-models of Indian cradles, snow-shoes, canoes, etc., etc.
It was no unusual thing, at this period, to see a hundred or more canoes of Indians at once approaching the island, laden with their articles of traffic; and if to these we add the squadrons of large Mackinac boats constantly arriving from the outposts, with the furs, peltries, and buffalo-robes collected by the distant traders, some idea may be formed of the extensive operations and important position of the American Fur Company, as well as of the vast circle of human beings either immediately or remotely connected with it.
It is no wonder that the philanthropic mind, surveying these, races of uncultivated heathen, should stretch forward to the time when, through an unwearied devotion of the white man's energies, and an untiring sacrifice of self and fortune, his red brethren might rise in the scale of social civilization—when Education and Christianity should go hand in hand, to make "the wilderness blossom as the rose."
Little did the noble souls at that day rejoicing in the success of their labors at Mackinac, anticipate that in less than a quarter of a century there would remain of all these numerous tribes but a few scattered bands, squalid, degraded, with scarce a vestige remaining of their former lofty character—their lands cajoled or wrested from them, the graves of their fathers turned up by the ploughshare—themselves chased farther and farther towards the setting sun, until they were literally grudged a resting-place on the face of the earth!
Our visit to the Mission-school was of short duration, for the Henry Clay was to leave at two o'clock, and in the mean time we were to see what we could of the village and its environs, and after that dine with Mr. Mitchell, an old friend of my husband. As we walked leisurely along over the white, gravelly road, many of the residences of the old inhabitants were pointed out to me. There was the dwelling of Madame Laframboise, an Ottawa woman, whose husband had taught her to read and write, and who had ever after continued to use the knowledge she had acquired for the instruction and improvement of the youth among her own people. It was her custom to receive a class of young pupils daily at her house, that she might give them lessons in the branches mentioned, and also in the principles of the Roman Catholic religion, to which she was deeply devoted. She was a woman of a vast deal of energy and enterprise—of a tall and commanding figure, and most dignified deportment. After the death of her husband, who was killed while away at his trading-post by a Winnebago named White Ox, she was accustomed to visit herself the trading-posts, superintend the clerks and engages, and satisfy herself that the business was carried on in a regular and profitable manner.
The Agency-house, with its unusual luxuries of piazza and gardens, was situated at the foot of the hill on which the fort was built. It was a lovely spot, notwithstanding the stunted and dwarfish appearance of all cultivated vegetation in this cold northern latitude.
The collection of rickety, primitive-looking buildings, occupied by the officials of the Fur Company, reflected no great credit on the architectural skill of my husband, who had superintended their construction, he told me, when little more than a boy.
There were, besides these, the residences of the Dousmans, the Abbotts, the Biddles, the Drews, and the Lashleys, stretching away along the base of the beautiful hill, crowned with the white walls and buildings of the fort, the ascent to which was so steep that on the precipitous face nearest the beach staircases were built by which to mount from below.
My head ached intensely, the effect of the motion of the boat on the previous day, but I did not like to give up to it; so, after I had been shown all that could be seen of the little settlement in the short time allowed us, we repaired to Mr. Mitchell's.
We were received by Mrs. M., an extremely pretty, delicate woman, part French and part Sioux, whose early life had been passed at Prairie du Chien, on the Mississippi. She had been a great belle among the young officers at Fort Crawford; so much so, indeed, that the suicide of the post-surgeon was attributed to an unsuccessful attachment he had conceived for her. I was greatly struck with her soft and gentle manners, and the musical intonation of her voice, which I soon learned was a distinguishing peculiarity of those women in whom are united the French and native blood.
A lady, then upon a visit to the Mission, was of the company. She insisted on my lying down upon the sofa, and ministered most kindly to my suffering head. As she sat by my side, and expatiated upon the new sphere opening before me, she inquired:
"Do you not realize very strongly the entire deprivation of religious privileges you will be obliged to suffer in your distant home?"
"The deprivation," said I, "will doubtless be great, but not entire; for I shall have my Prayer-Book, and, though destitute of a church, we need not be without a mode of worship."
How often afterwards, when cheered by the consolations of that precious book in the midst of the lonely wilderness, did I remember this conversation, and bless God that I could never, while retaining it, be without "religious privileges."
We had not yet left the dinner-table, when the bell of the little steamer sounded to summon us on board, and we bade a hurried farewell to all our kind friends, bearing with us their hearty wishes for a safe and prosperous voyage.
A finer sight can scarcely be imagined than Mackinac, from the water. As we steamed away from the shore, the view came full upon us—the sloping beach with the scattered wigwams, and canoes drawn up here and there—the irregular, quaint-looking houses—the white walls of the fort, and, beyond, one eminence still more lofty crowned with the remains of old Fort Holmes. The whole picture completed, showed the perfect outline that had given the island its original Indian name, Mich-i-li-mack-i-nac, the Big Turtle.
Then those pure, living waters, in whose depths the fish might be seen gliding and darting to and fro; whose clearness is such that an object dropped to the bottom may be discerned at the depth of fifty or sixty feet, a dollar lying far down on its green bed, looking no larger than a half dime! I could hardly wonder at the enthusiastic lady who exclaimed: "Oh! I could wish to be drowned in these pure, beautiful waters!"
As we passed the extreme western point of the island, my husband pointed out to me, far away to the northwest, a promontory which he told me was Point St. Ignace. It possessed great historic interest, as one of the earliest white settlements on this continent. The Jesuit missionaries had established here a church and school as early as 1607, the same year in which a white settlement was made at St. Augustine, in Florida, and one year before the founding of Jamestown, Virginia.
All that remains of the enterprises of these devoted men, is the remembrance of their labors, perpetuated, in most instances, only by the names of the spots which witnessed their efforts of love in behalf of their savage brethren. The little French church at Sandwich, opposite Detroit, alone is left, a witness of the zeal and self-sacrifice of these pioneers of Christianity.
Passing "Old Mackinac," on the main land, which forms the southern border of the straits, we soon came out into the broad waters of Lake Michigan. Every traveller, and every reader of our history, is familiar with the incidents connected with the taking of the old fort by the Indians, in the days of Pontiac. How, by means of a game of ball, played in an apparently friendly spirit outside the walls, and of which the officers and soldiers had come forth to be spectators, the ball was dexterously tossed over the wall, and the savages rushing in, under pretext of finding it, soon got possession and massacred the garrison.
The little Indian village of L'Arbre Croche gleamed far away south, in the light of the setting sun. With that exception, there was no sign of living habitation along that vast and wooded shore. The gigantic forest-trees, and here and there the little glades of prairie opening to the water, showed a landscape that would have gladdened the eye of the agriculturist, with its promise of fertility; but it was evidently untrodden by the foot of man, and we left it, in its solitude, as we took our course westward across the waters.
The rainy and gusty weather, so incident to the equinoctial season, overtook us again before we reached the mouth of Green Bay, and kept us company until the night of our arrival upon the flats, about three miles below the settlement. Here the little steamer grounded "fast and hard." As almost every one preferred braving the elements to remaining cooped up in the quarters we had occupied for the past week, we decided to trust ourselves to the little boat, spite of wind, and rain, and darkness, and in due time we reached the shore.
Our arrival at Green Bay was at an unfortunate moment. It was the time of a treaty between the United States Government and the Menomonees and Waubanakees. Consequently, not only the commissioners of the treaty, with their clerks and officials, but traders, claimants, travellers, and idlers innumerable were upon the ground. Most of these were congregated in the only hotel the place afforded. This was a tolerably-sized house near the river-side, and as we entered the long dining-room, cold and dripping from the open boat, we were infinitely amused at the motley assemblage it contained. Various groups were seated around. New comers, like ourselves, stood here and there, for there were not seats enough to accommodate all who sought entertainment. The landlord sat calm and indifferent, his hands in his pockets, exhibiting all the phlegm of a Pennsylvania Dutchman.
His fat, notable spouse was trotting round, now stopping to scold about some one who, "burn his skin!" had fallen short in his duty; now laughing good-humoredly until her sides shook, at some witticism addressed to her.
She welcomed us very cordially, but to our inquiry, "Can you accommodate us?" her reply was, "Not I. I have got twice as many people now as I know what to do with. I have had to turn my own family out of their quarters, what with the commissioners and the lot of folks that has come in upon us."
"What are we to do, then? It is too late and stormy to go up to Shanty-town to seek for lodgings."
"Well, sit you down and take your supper, and we will see what we can do."
And she actually did contrive to find a little nook, in which we were glad to take refuge from the multitudes around us.
A slight board partition separated us from the apartment occupied by General Root, of New York, one of the commissioners of the treaty. The steamer in which we came had brought the mail, at that day a rare blessing to the distant settlements. The opening and reading of all the dispatches, which the General received about bed-time, had, of course, to be gone through with, before he could retire to rest. His eyes being weak, his secretaries were employed to read the communications. He was a little deaf withal, and through the slight division between the two apartments the contents of the letters, and his comments upon them, were unpleasantly audible, as he continually admonished his secretary to raise his voice.
"What is that, Walter? Read that over again."
In vain we coughed and hemmed, and knocked over sundry pieces of furniture. They were too deeply interested to hear aught that passed around them, and if we had been politicians we should have had all the secrets of the working-men's party at our disposal, out of which to have made capital.
The next morning it was still rain! rain! nothing but rain! In spite of it, however, the gentlemen would take a small boat to row to the steamer, to bring up the luggage, not the least important part of that which appertained to us being sundry boxes of silver for paying the annuities to the Winnebagoes at the Portage.
I went out with some others of the company upon the piazza, to witness their departure. A gentleman pointed out to me Fort Howard, on a projecting point of the opposite shore, about three-quarters of a mile distant—the old barracks, the picketed inclosure, the walls, all looking quaint, and, considering their modern erection, really ancient and venerable. Presently we turned our attention to the boat, which had by this time gained the middle of the river. One of the passengers was standing up in the stern, apparently giving some directions.
"That is rather a venturesome fellow," remarked one; "if he is not careful he will lose his balance." And at this moment we saw him actually perform a summerset backward, and disappear in the water.
"Oh!" cried I, "he will be drowned!"
The gentlemen laughed. "No, there he is; they are helping him in again."
The course of the boat was immediately changed, and the party returned to the shore. It was not until one disembarked and came dripping and laughing towards me, that I recognized him as my own peculiar property. He was pleased to treat the matter as a joke, but I thought it rather a sad beginning of Western experience.
He suffered himself to be persuaded to intrust the care of his effects to his friends, and having changed his dress, prepared to remain quietly with me, when just at this moment a vehicle drove up to the door, and we recognized the pleasant, familiar face of our old friend, Judge Doty.
He had received the news of our arrival, and had come to take us at once to his hospitable mansion. We were only too happy to gather together our bags and travelling-baskets and accompany him without farther ceremony.
Our drive took us first along the edge of Navarino, next through Shanty-town (the latter a far more appropriate name than the former), amid mud and mire, over bad roads, and up and down hilly, break-neck places, until we reached the little brick dwelling of our friends. Mrs. Doty received us with such true, sisterly kindness, and everything seemed so full of welcome, that we soon felt ourselves at home.
We found that, expecting our arrival, invitations had already been prepared to assemble the whole circle of Green Bay society to meet us at an evening party—this, in a new country, being the established mode of doing honor to guests or strangers.
We learned, upon inquiry, that Captain Harney, who had kindly offered to come with a boat and crew of soldiers from Fort Winnebago, to convey us to that place, our destined home, had not yet arrived; we therefore felt at liberty to make arrangements for a few days of social enjoyment at "the Bay."
It was pleasant to people, secluded in such a degree from the world at large, to bear all the news we had brought—all the particulars of life and manners—the thousand little items that the newspapers of that day did not dream of furnishing—the fashions, and that general gossip, in short, which a lady is erroneously supposed more au fait of, than a gentleman.
I well remember that, in giving and receiving information, the day passed in a pretty uninterrupted stream of communication. All the party except myself had made the journey, or rather voyage, up the Fox River and down the Wisconsin to the Mississippi.
There were plenty of anecdotes of a certain trip performed by the three, in company with a French trader and his two sisters, then making their debut as Western travellers. The manner in which Mademoiselle Julie would borrow, without leave, a fine damask napkin or two, to wipe out the ducks in preparation for cooking—the difficulty of persuading either of the sisters of the propriety of washing and rinsing their table apparatus nicely before packing it away in the mess-basket, the consequence of which was, that another nice napkin must be stealthily whisked out, to wipe the dishes when the hour for meals arrived—the fun of the young gentleman in hunting up his stray articles, thus misappropriated, from the nooks and corners of the boat, tying them with a cord, and hanging them over the stern, to make their way down the Wisconsin to Prairie du Chien.
Then there was a capital story of M. Rolette himself. At one point on the route (I think in crossing Winnebago Lake) the travellers met one of the Company's boats on its way to Green Bay for supplies. M. Rolette was one of the agents of the Company, and the people in the boat were his employes. Of course after an absence of some weeks from home, the meeting on these lonely waters and the exchanging of news was an occasion of great excitement.
The boats were stopped—earnest greetings interchanged—question followed question.
"Eh bien—have they finished the new house?"
"Et la cheminee, fume-t-elle?" (Does the chimney smoke?)
"And the harvest—how is that?"
"Very fine, indeed."
"Is the mill at work?"
"Yes, plenty of water."
"How is Whip?" (his favorite horse.)
"Oh! Whip is first-rate."
Everything, in short, about the store, the farm, the business of various descriptions being satisfactorily gone over, there was no occasion for farther delay. It was time to proceed.
"Eh bien—adieu! bon voyage!"
"Arrachez, mes gens!" (Go ahead, men!)
Then suddenly—"Arretez! arretez!" (Stop, stop!)
"Comment se portent Madame Rolette et les enfans?" (How are Mrs. Rolette and the children?)
* * * * *
This day, with its excitement, was at length over, and we retired to our rest, thankful that we had not General Root and his secretary close to our bed's head, with their budget of political news.
My slumbers were not destined, however, to be quite undisturbed. I was awakened, at the first slight peep of dawn, by a sound from an apartment beneath our own—a plaintive, monotonous chant, rising and then falling in a sort of mournful cadence. It seemed to me a wail of something unearthly—so wild—so strange—so unaccountable. In terror I awoke my husband, who reassured me by telling me it was the morning salutation of the Indians to the opening day.
Some Menomonees had been kindly given shelter for the night in the kitchen below, and, having fulfilled their unvarying custom of chanting their morning hymn, they now ceased, and again composed themselves to sleep. But not so their auditor. There was to me something inexpressibly beautiful in this morning song of praise from the untaught sons of the forest. What a lesson did it preach to the civilized, Christianized world, too many of whom lie down and rise up without an aspiration of thanksgiving to their Almighty Preserver—without even a remembrance of His care, who gives His angels charge concerning them! Never has the impression of that simple act of worship faded from my mind. I have loved to think that, with some, these strains might be the outpouring of a devotion as pure as that of the Christian when he utters the inspiring words of the sainted Ken—
"Awake, my soul! and with the sun," etc.
* * * * *
Among the visitors who called to offer me a welcome to the West, were Mr. and Miss Cadle, who were earnestly engaged in the first steps of their afterwards flourishing enterprise for the education of Indian and half-breed children. The school-houses and chapel were not yet erected, but we visited their proposed site, and listened with great interest to bright anticipations of the future good that was to be accomplished—the success that was to crown their efforts for taming the heathen and teaching them the knowledge of their Saviour and the blessings of civilized life. The sequel has shown how little the zeal of the few can accomplish, when opposed to the cupidity of the many.
Our evening party went off as parties do elsewhere. The most interesting feature to me, because the most novel, was the conversation of some young ladies to whom I was introduced, natives of Green Bay or its vicinity. Their mother was a Menomonee, but their father was a Frenchman, a descendant of a settler some generations back, and who, there is reason to believe, was a branch of the same family of Grignon to which the daughter of Madame de Sevigne belonged. At least, it is said there are in the possession of the family many old papers and records which would give that impression, although the orthography of the name has become slightly changed. Be that as it may, the Miss Grignons were strikingly dignified, well-bred young ladies, and there was a charm about their soft voices, and original, unsophisticated remarks, very attractive to a stranger.
They opened to me, however, a new field of apprehension; for, on my expressing my great impatience to see my new home, they exclaimed, with a look of wonder,—
"Vous n'avez donc pas peur des serpens?"
"Snakes! was it possible there were snakes at Fort Winnebago?"
"At the Portage! oh! yes—one can never walk out for them—rattle-snakes—copper-heads—all sorts!"
I am not naturally timid, but I must confess that the idea of the serpens sonnettes and the siffleurs was not quite a subject of indifference.
There was one among these young ladies whose tall, graceful figure, rich, blooming complexion, and dark, glancing eye, would have distinguished her in any drawing-room—and another, whose gentle sweetness and cultivated taste made it a matter of universal regret that she was afterwards led to adopt the seclusion of a convent.
Captain Harney and his boat arrived in due time, and active preparations far the comfort of our journey commenced under the kind supervision of Mrs. Doty. The mess-basket was stowed with good things of every description—ham and tongue—biscuit and plum-cake—not to mention the substantiate of crackers, bread, and boiled pork, the latter of which, however, a lady was supposed to be too fastidious to think of touching, even if starving in the woods.
We had engaged three Canadian voyageurs to take charge of our tent, mess-basket, and matters and things in general. Their business it was to be to cut the wood for our fires, prepare our meals, and give a helping hand to whatever was going forward. A messenger had also been sent to the Kakalin, or rapids, twenty-one miles above, to notify Wish-tay-yun, the most accomplished guide through the difficult passes of the river, to be in readiness for our service on a specified day.
In the mean time, we had leisure for one more party, and it was to be a "real Western hop." Everybody will remember that dance at Mrs. Baird's. All the people, young and old, that would be gathered throughout, or, as it was the fashion to express it, on Green Bay, were assembled. The young officers were up from Fort Howard, looking so smart in their uniforms—treasures of finery, long uncalled forth, were now brought to light—everybody was bound to do honor to the strangers by appearing in their very best. It was to be an entertainment unequalled by any given before. All the house was put in requisition for the occasion. Desks and seats were unceremoniously dismissed from Mr. B.'s office, which formed one wing, to afford more space for the dancers. Not only the front portion of the dwelling, but even the kitchen was made fit for the reception of company, in case any primitive visitor, as was sometimes the case, should prefer sitting down quietly there and smoking his cigar. This was an emergency that, in those days, had always to be provided for.
Nothing could exceed the mirth and hilarity of the company. No restraint, but of good manners—no excess of conventionalities—genuine, hearty good-humor and enjoyment, such as pleasant, hospitable people, with just enough of the French element to add zest to anything like amusement, could furnish, to make the entertainment agreeable. In a country so new, and where, in a social gathering, the number of the company was more important than the quality, the circle was not always, strictly speaking, select.
I was aware of this, and was therefore more amused than surprised when a clumsy little man, with a broad, red, laughing face, waddled across the room to where I had taken my seat after a dance, and thus addressed me:
"Miss K——, nobody hain't never introduced you to me, but I've seen you a good many times, and I know your husband very well, so I thought I might just as well come and speak to you—my name is A——."
"Ah! Mr. A——, good-evening. I hope you are enjoying yourself. How is your sister?"
"Oh! she is a great deal worse—her cold has got into her eye, and it is all shot up."
Then turning full upon a lady who sat near, radiant with youth and beauty, sparkling with wit and genuine humor:
"Oh! Mrs. Beall," he began, "what a beautiful gown you have got on, and how handsome you do look! I declare you're the prettiest woman in the room, and dance the handsomest."
"Indeed, Mr. A——," replied she, suppressing her love of fun and assuming a demure look, "I am afraid you flatter me."
"No, I don't—I'm in earnest. I've just come to ask you to dance."
Such was the penalty of being too charming.
VOYAGE UP FOX RIVER.
It had been arranged that Judge Doty should accompany us in our boat as far as the Butte des Morts, at which place his attendant would be waiting with horses to convey him to Mineral Point, where he was to hold court.
It was a bright and beautiful morning when we left his pleasant home, to commence our passage up the Fox River Captain Harney was proposing to remain a few days longer at "the Bay," but he called to escort us to the boat and instal us in all its comforts.
As he helped me along over the ploughed ground and other inequalities in our way to the river-bank, where the boat lay, he told me how impatiently Mrs. Twiggs, the wife of the commanding officer, who since the past spring had been the only white lady at Fort Winnebago, was now expecting a companion and friend. We had met in New York, shortly after her marriage, and were, therefore, not quite unacquainted. I, for my part, felt sure that when there were two of our sex—when my piano was safely there—when the Post Library which we had purchased should be unpacked—when all should be fairly arranged and settled, we should be, although far away in the wilderness, the happiest little circle imaginable. All my anticipations were of the most sanguine and cheerful character.
It was a moderate-sized Mackinac boat, with a crew of soldiers, and our own three voyageurs in addition, that lay waiting for us—a dark-looking structure of some thirty feet in length. Placed in the centre was a frame-work of slight posts, supporting a roof of canvas, with curtains of the same, which might be let down at the sides and ends, after the manner of a country stage-coach, or rolled up to admit the light and air.
In the midst of this little cabin or saloon was placed the box containing my piano, and on it a mattress, which was to furnish us a divan through the day and a place of repose at night, should the weather at any time prove too wet or unpleasant for encamping. The boxes of silver, with which my husband was to pay the annuities due his red children, by treaty-stipulation, were stowed next. Our mess-basket was in a convenient vicinity, and we had purchased a couple of large square covered baskets of the Waubanakees, or New York Indians, to hold our various necessary articles of outward apparel and bedding, and at the same time to answer as very convenient little work or dinner-tables.
As a true daughter of New England, it is to be taken for granted I had not forgotten to supply myself with knitting-work and embroidery. Books and pencils were a matter of course.
The greater part of our furniture, together with the various articles for housekeeping with which we had supplied ourselves in New York and Detroit, were to follow in another boat, under the charge of people whose business it professed to be to take cargoes safely up the rapids and on to Fort Winnebago. This was an enterprise requiring some three weeks of time and a great amount of labor, so that the owners of the goods transported might think themselves happy to receive them at last, however wet, broken, and dilapidated their condition might be. It was for this reason that we took our choicest possessions with us, even at the risk of being a little crowded.
Until now I had never seen a gentleman attired in a colored shirt, a spotless white collar and bosom being one of those "notions" that "Boston," and consequently New England "folks," entertained of the becoming in a gentleman's toilette. Mrs. Cass had laughingly forewarned me that not only calico shirts but patch-work pillow-cases were an indispensable part of a travelling equipment; and, thanks to the taste and skill of some tidy little Frenchwoman, I found our divan-pillows all accommodated in the brightest and most variegated garb.
The Judge and my husband were gay with the deepest of blue and pink. Each was prepared, besides, with a bright red cap (a bonnet rouge, or tuque, as the voyageurs call it), which, out of respect for the lady, was to be donned only when a hearty dinner, a dull book, or the want of exercise made an afternoon nap indispensable.
The Judge was an admirable travelling companion. He had lived many years in the country, had been with General Cass on his expedition to the head-waters of the Mississippi, and had a vast fund of anecdote regarding early times, customs, and inhabitants.
Some instances of the mode of administering justice in those days, I happen to recall.
There was an old Frenchman at the Bay, named Reaume, excessively ignorant and grasping, although otherwise tolerably good-natured. This man was appointed justice of the peace. Two men once appeared before him, the one as plaintiff, the other as defendant. The justice listened patiently to the complaint of the one and the defence of the other; then rising, with dignity, he pronounced his decision:
"You are both wrong. You, Bois-vert," to the plaintiff, "you bring me one load of hay; and you, Crely," to the defendant, "you bring me one load of wood; and now the matter is settled." It does not appear that any exceptions were taken to this verdict.
This anecdote led to another, the scene of which was Prairie du Chien, on the Mississippi.
There was a Frenchman, a justice of the peace, who was universally known by the name of "Old Boilvin." His office was just without the walls of the fort, and it was much the fashion among the officers to lounge in there of a morning, to find sport for an idle hour, and to take a glass of brandy-and-water with the old gentleman, which he called "taking a little quelque-chose."
A soldier, named Fry, had been accused of stealing and killing a calf belonging to M. Rolette, and the constable, a bricklayer of the name of Bell, had been dispatched to arrest the culprit and bring him to trial.
While the gentlemen were making their customary morning visit to the justice, a noise was heard in the entry, and a knock at the door.
"Come in," cried Old Boilvin, rising and walking toward the door.
Bell,—Here, sir, I have brought Fry to you, as you ordered.
Justice—Fry, you great rascal! What for you kill M. Rolette's calf?
Fry,—I did not kill M. Rolette's calf.
Justice (shaking his fist).—You lie, you great —— rascal! Bell, take him to jail. Come, gentlemen, come, let us take a leetle quelque-chose.
* * * * *
The Canadian boatmen always sing while rowing or paddling, and nothing encourages them so much as to hear the "bourgeois" take the lead in the music. If the passengers, more especially those of the fair sex, join in the refrain, the compliment is all the greater.
Their songs are of a light, cheerful character, generally embodying some little satire or witticism, calculated to produce a spirited, sometimes an uproarious, chorus.
The song and refrain are carried on somewhat in the following style:
BOURGEOIS.—Par-derriere chez ma tante, Par-derriere chez ma tante.
CHORUS.—Par-derriere chez ma tante, Par-derriere chez ma tante.
BOURGEOIS.—Il y a un coq qui chante, Des pommes, des poires, des raves, des choux, Des figues nouvelles, des raisins doux.
CHORUS.—Des pommes, des poires, des raves, des choux, Des figues nouvelles, des raisins doux.
BOURGEOIS.—Il y a un coq qui chante, Il y a un coq qui chante.
CHORUS.—Il y a un coq qui chante, etc.
BOURGEOIS.—Demande une femme a prendre, Des pommes, des poires, des raves, des choux, etc.
CHORUS.—Des pommes, dos poires, etc.
BOURGEOIS.—Demande une femme a prendre, Demande une femme a, etc.
And thus it continues until the advice is given successively,
Ne prenez pas une noire, Car elles aiment trop a boire, Ne prenez pas une rousse, Car elles sont trop jalouses.
And by the time all the different qualifications are rehearsed and objected to, lengthened out by the interminable repetition of the chorus, the shout of the bourgeois is heard—
"Whoop la! a terre, a terre—pour la pipe!"
It is an invariable custom for the voyageurs to stop every five or six miles to rest and smoke, so that it was formerly the way of measuring distances—"so many pipes," instead of "so many miles."
The Canadian melodies are sometimes very beautiful, and a more exhilarating mode of travel can hardly be imagined than a voyage over these waters, amid all the wild magnificence of nature, with the measured strokes of the oar keeping time to the strains of "_Le Rosier Blanc_," "En roulant ma Boule_," or "_Leve ton pied, ma jolie Bergere."_
The climax of fun seemed to be in a comic piece, which, however oft repeated, appeared never to grow stale. It was somewhat after this fashion:
BOURGEOIS.—Michaud est monte dans un prunier, Pour treiller des prunes. La branche a casse—
CHORUS.—Michaud a tombe?
BOURGEOIS.—Ou est-ce qu'il est?
CHORUS.—Il est en bas.
BOURGEOIS.—Oh! reveille, reveille, reveille, Oh! reveille, Michaud est en haut!
It was always a point of etiquette to look astonished at the luck of Michaud in remaining in the tree, spite of the breaking of the branch, and the joke had to be repeated through all the varieties of fruit-trees that Michaud might be supposed able to climb.
By evening of the first day we arrived at the Kakalin, where another branch of the Grignon family resided. We were very pleasantly entertained, although, in my anxiety to begin my forest life, I would fain have had the tent pitched on the bank of the river, and have laid aside, at once, the indulgences of civilization. This, however, would have been a slight, perhaps an affront; so we did much better, and partook of the good cheer that was offered us in the shape of hot venison steaks and crepes, and that excellent cup of coffee which none can prepare like a Frenchwoman, and which is so refreshing after a day in the open air.
The Kakalin is a rapid of the Fox River, sufficiently important to make the portage of the heavy lading of a boat necessary; the boat itself being poled or dragged up with cords against the current. It is one of a series of rapids and chutes, or falls, which occur between this point and Lake Winnebago, twenty miles above.
The next morning, after breakfast, we took leave of our hosts, and prepared to pursue our journey. The bourgeois, from an early hour, had been occupied in superintending his men in getting the boat and its loading over the Kakalin. As the late rains had made the paths through the woods and along the banks of the river somewhat muddy and uncomfortable for walking, I was put into an ox-cart, to be jolted over the unequal road; saluting impartially all the stumps and stones that lay in our way, the only means of avoiding which seemed to be when the little, thick-headed Frenchman, our conductor, bethought him of suddenly guiding his cattle into a projecting tree or thorn-bush, to the great detriment not only of my straw bonnet, but of my very eyes.
But we got through at last, and, arriving at the head of the rapids, I found the boat lying there, all in readiness for our re-embarking.
Our Menomonee guide, Wish-tay-yun, a fine, stalwart Indian, with an open, good-humored, one might almost say roguish countenance, came forward to be presented to me.
"Bon-jour, bon-jour, maman," was his laughing salutation. Again I was surprised, not as before at the French, for to that I had become accustomed, but at the respectable title he was pleased to bestow upon me.
"Yes," said my husband, "you must make up your mind to receive a very numerous and well-grown family, consisting of all the Winnebagoes, Pottowattamies, Chippewas, and Ottawas, together with such Sioux, Sacs and Foxes, and Iowas, as have any point to gain in applying to me. By the first-named tribe in virtue of my office, and by the others as a matter of courtesy, I am always addressed as 'father'—you, of course, will be their 'mother.'"
Wish-tay-yun and I were soon good friends, my husband interpreting to me the Chippewa language in which he spoke. We were impatient to be off, the morning being already far advanced, and, all things being in readiness, the word was given:
"Pousse au large, mes gens!" (Push out, my men).
At this moment a boat was seen leaving the opposite bank of the river and making towards us. It contained white men, and they showed by signs that they wished to detain us until they came up. They drew near, and we found them to be Mr. Marsh, a missionary among the Waubanakees, or the New York Indians, lately brought into this country, and the Rev. Eleazar Williams, who was at that time living among his red brethren on the right bank of the Fox River.
To persons so situated, even more emphatically than to those of the settlements, the arrival of visitors from the "east countrie" was a godsend indeed. We had to give all the news of various kinds that we had brought—political, ecclesiastical, and social—as well as a tolerably detailed account of what we proposed to do, or rather what we hoped to be able to do, among our native children at the Portage.
I was obliged, for my part, to confess that, being almost entirely a stranger to the Indian character and habits, I was going among them with no settled plans of any kind—general good-will, and a hope of making them my friends, being the only principles I could lay claim to at present. I must leave it for time and a better acquaintance to show me in what way the principle could be carried out for their greatest good.
Mr. Williams was a dark-complexioned, good-looking man. Having always heard him spoken of, by his relations in Connecticut, as "our Indian cousin," it never occurred to me to doubt his belonging to that race, although I now think that if I had met him elsewhere I should have taken him for a Spaniard or a Mexican. His complexion had decidedly more of the olive than the copper hue, and his countenance was grave, almost melancholy. He was very silent during this interview, asking few questions, and offering no observations except in reply to some question addressed to him.
It was a hard pull for the men up the rapids. Wish-tay-yun, whose clear, sonorous voice was the bugle of the party, shouted and whooped—each one answered with a chorus, and a still more vigorous effort. By-and-by the boat would become firmly set between two huge stones—
"Whoop la! whoop! whoop!"
Another pull, and another, straining every nerve—in vain.
"She will not budge!"
"Men, overboard!" and instantly every rower is over the side and into the water.
By pulling, pushing, and tugging, the boat is at length released from her position, and the men walk along beside her, helping and guiding her, until they reach a space of comparatively smooth water, when they again take their seats and their oars.
It will be readily imagined that there were few songs this day, but very frequent pipes, to refresh the poor fellows after such an arduous service.
It was altogether a new spectacle to me. In fact, I had hardly ever before been called upon to witness severe bodily exertion, and my sympathies and sensibilities were, for this reason, the more enlisted on the occasion. It seemed a sufficient hardship to have to labor in this violent manner; but to walk in cold water up to their waists, and then to sit down in their soaking garments without going near a fire! Poor men! this was too much to be borne! What, then, was my consternation to see my husband, who, shortly after our noon-tide meal, had surprised me by making his appearance in a pair of duck trowsers and light jacket, at the first cry of "Fast, again!" spring over into the water with the men, and "bear a hand" throughout the remainder of the long stretch!
When he returned on board, it was to take the oar of a poor, delicate-looking boy, one of the company of soldiers, who from the first had suffered with bleeding at the nose on every unusual exertion. I was not surprised, on inquiring, to find that this lad was a recruit just entered the service. He passed by the name of Gridley, but that was undoubtedly an assumed name. He had the appearance of having been delicately nurtured, and had probably enlisted without at all appreciating the hardships and discomforts of a soldier's life. This is evident from the dissatisfaction he always continued to feel, until at length he deserted from his post. This was some months subsequent to the time of which I am writing. He was once retaken, and kept for a time in confinement, but immediately on his release deserted again, and his remains were found the following spring, not many miles from the fort. He had died, either of cold or starvation. This is a sad interlude—we will return to our boating.
With all our tugging and toiling, we had accomplished but thirteen miles since leaving the Kakalin, and it was already late when we arrived in view of the "Grande Chute," near which we were to encamp.
We had passed the "Little Chute" (the spot where the town of Appleton now stands) without any further observation than that it required a vast deal of extra exertion to buffet with the rushing stream and come off, as we did, victorious.
The brilliant light of the setting sun was resting on the high wooded banks through which broke the beautiful, foaming, dashing waters of the Chute. The boat was speedily turned towards a little headland projecting from the left bank, which had the advantage of a long strip of level ground, sufficiently spacious to afford a good encamping ground. I jumped ashore before the boat was fairly pulled up by the men, and with the Judge's help made my way as rapidly as possible to a point lower down the river, from which, he said, the best view of the Chute could be obtained. I was anxious to make a sketch before the daylight quite faded away.
The left bank of the river was to the west, and over a portion less elevated than the rest the sun's parting rays fell upon the boat, the men with their red caps and belts, and the two tents already pitched. The smoke now beginning to ascend from the evening fires, the high wooded bank beyond, up which the steep portage path could just be discerned, and, more remote still, the long stretch of waterfall now darkening in the shadow of the overhanging forests, formed a lovely landscape, to which the pencil of an artist could alone do justice.
This was my first encampment, and I was quite enchanted with the novelty of everything about me.
The fires had been made of small saplings and underbrush, hastily collected, the mildness of the weather rendering anything beyond what sufficed for the purposes of cooking and drying the men's clothes, superfluous. The soldiers' tent was pitched at some distance from our own, but not too far for us to hear distinctly their laughter and apparent enjoyment after the fatigues of the day.
Under the careful superintendence of Corporal Kilgour, however, their hilarity never passed the bounds of respectful propriety, and, by the time we had eaten our suppers, cooked in the open air with the simple apparatus of a tea-kettle and frying-pan, we were, one and all, ready to retire to our rest.
The first sound that saluted our ears in the early dawn of the following morning, was the far-reaching call of the bourgeois:
"How! how! how!" uttered at the very top of his voice.
All start at that summons, and the men are soon turning out of their tents, or rousing from their slumbers beside the fire, and preparing for the duties of the day.
The fire is replenished, the kettles set on to boil, the mess-baskets opened, and a portion of their contents brought forth to be made ready for breakfast. One Frenchman spreads our mat within the tent, whence the bedding has all been carefully removed and packed up for stowing in the boat. The tin cups and plates are placed around on the new-fashioned table-cloth. The heavy dews make it a little too damp for us to breakfast in the open air; otherwise our preparations would be made outside, upon the green grass. In an incredibly short time our smoking coffee and broiled ham are placed before us, to which are added, from time to time, slices of toast brought hot and fresh from the glowing coals.
There is, after all, no breakfast like a breakfast in the woods, with a well-trained Frenchman for master of ceremonies.
It was a hard day's work to which the men now applied themselves, that of dragging the heavy boat up the Chute. It had been thought safest to leave the piano in its place on board, but the rest of the lading had to be carried up the steep bank, and along its summit, a distance of some hundreds of rods, to the smooth water beyond, where all the difficulties of our navigation terminated.
The Judge kindly took charge of me while "the bourgeois" superintended this important business, and with reading, sketching, and strolling about, the morning glided away. Twelve o'clock came, and still the preparations for starting were not yet completed.
In my rambles about to seek out some of the finest of the wild flowers for a bouquet, before my husband's return, I came upon the camp-fire of the soldiers. A tall, red-faced, light-haired young man in fatigue dress was attending a kettle of soup, the savory steams of which were very attractive.
Seeing that I was observing his occupation, he politely ladled out a tin-cupful of the liquid and offered it to me.
I declined it, saying we should have our dinner immediately.
"They left me here to get their dinner," said he, apparently not displeased to have some one to talk to; "and I thought I might as well make some soup. Down on the German Flats, where I come from, they always like soup."
"Ah! you are from the German Flats—then your name must be Bellinger or Weber."
"No, it isn't—it's Krissman."
"Well, Krissman, how do you like the service?"
"Very well. I was only recruited last summer. I used to ride horse on the Canawl, and, as I can blow a horn first-rate, I expect I will soon be able to play on a bugle, and then, when I get to be musician, you know, I shall have extra pay."
I did not know it, but I expressed due pleasure at the information, and wishing Krissman all manner of success in his dreams of ambition, or rather, I should say, of avarice, for the hopes of "extra pay" evidently preponderated over those of fame, I returned to my own quarters.
My husband, with his French tastes, was inclined to be somewhat disappointed when I told him of this little incident, and my refusal of Krissman's soup; but we were soon gratified by seeing his tall, awkward form bearing a kettle of the composition, which he set down before the two gentlemen, by whom, to his infinite satisfaction, it was pronounced excellent.
Everything being at length in readiness, the tents were struck and carried around the Portage, and my husband, the Judge, and I followed at our leisure.
The woods were brilliant with wild flowers, although it was so late in the season that the glory of the summer was well-nigh past. But the lupin, the moss-pink, and the yellow wallflower, with all the varieties of the helianthus, the aster, and the solidago, spread their gay charms around. The gentlemen gathered clusters of the bittersweet (celastrus scandens) from the overhanging boughs to make a wreath for my hat, as we trod the tangled pathway, which, like that of Christabel, was
"Now in glimmer and now in gloom,"
through the alternations of open glade and shady thicket. Soon, like the same lovely heroine,
"We reached the place—right glad we were,"
and, without further delay, we were again on board our little boat and skimming over the now placid waters.
WINNEBAGO LAKE—MISS FOUR-LEGS.
Our encampment this night was the most charming that can be imagined. Owing to the heavy service the men had gone through in the earlier part of the day, we took but a short stage for the afternoon, and, having pulled some seven or eight miles to a spot a short distance below the "little Butte," we drew in at a beautiful opening among the trees.
The soldiers now made a regular business of encamping, by cutting down a large tree for their fire and applying themselves to the preparing of a sufficient quantity of food for their next day's journey, a long stretch, namely, of twenty-one miles across Winnebago Lake. Our Frenchmen did the same. The fire caught in the light dry grass by which we were surrounded, and soon all was blaze and crackle.
Fortunately the wind was sufficient to take the flames all in one direction, and, besides, there was not enough fuel to have made them a subject of any alarm. We hopped upon the fallen logs, and dignified the little circumscribed affair with the name of "a prairie on fire." The most serious inconvenience was its having consumed all the dry grass, some armfuls of which, spread under the bear-skin in my tent, I had found, the night before, a great improvement to my place of repose.
Our supper was truly delightful, at the pleasant sunset hour, under the tall trees beside the waters that ran murmuring by; and when the bright, broad moon arose, and shed her flood of light over the scene, so wild yet so beautiful in its vast solitude, I felt that I might well be an object of envy to the friends I had left behind.
But all things have an end, and so must at last my enthusiasm for the beauties around me, and, albeit unwillingly, I closed my tent and took my place within, so near the fall of canvas that I could raise it occasionally and peep forth upon the night.
In time all was quiet. The men had become silent, and appeared to have retired to rest, and we were just sinking to our slumbers, when a heavy tread and presently a bluff voice were heard outside.
"Mr. Kinzie! Mr. Kinzie!"
"Who is there? What is it?"
"I'm Krissman; didn't you mean, sir, that the men should have any liquor to-night?"
"Of course I did. Has not Kilgour given out your rations?"
"No: he says you did not say anything particular about it, and he was not coming to ask you if you forgot it; but I thought I wouldn't be bashful—I'd just come and ask.'"
"That is right. Tell Kilgour I should like to have him serve out a ration apiece."
"Thank you, sir," in a most cheerful tone; "I'll tell him."
Krissman was getting to be quite a character with us.
A row of a few miles, on the following morning, brought us to Four-Legs' village, at the entrance to Winnebago Lake, a picturesque cluster of Indian huts, spread around on a pretty green glade, and shaded by fine lofty trees.
We were now fairly in the Winnebago country, and I soon learned that the odd-sounding name of the place was derived from the principal chief of the nation, whose residence it was. The inhabitants were absent, having, in all probability, departed to their wintering grounds. We here took leave of our friend Wish-tay-yun, at the borders of whose country we had now arrived.
"Bon-jour, Chon!" (John:) "bon-jour, maman." A hearty shake of the hand completed his adieu, as we pushed off into the lake, and left him smoking his kin-nee-kin-nick and waiting until the spirit should move him to take up his long Indian trot towards his home in the Menomonee country.
With him our sunshine seemed to have departed. The skies, hitherto so bright and serene, became overcast, and, instead of the charming voyage we had anticipated over the silver waters of the lake, we were obliged to keep ourselves housed under our canvas shelter, only peeping out now and then to catch a glimpse of the surrounding prospect through the pouring rain.
It was what might have been expected on an autumnal day, but we were unreasonable enough to find it tedious; so, to beguile the time and lessen my disappointment, my husband related to me some incidents of his early history, apropos to the subject of "Four-Legs."
While he was living at Prairie du Chien, in the employ of the American Fur Company, the chiefs and other Indians from the Upper Mississippi used frequently to come to the place to sell their furs and peltries, and to purchase merchandise, ammunition, trinkets, etc.
As is usual with all who are not yet acclimated, he was seized with chills and fever. One day, while suffering with an unusually severe access of the latter, a chief of the Four-Legs family, a brother to the one before mentioned, came in to the Company's warehouse to trade. There is no ceremony or restraint among the Indians: so, hearing that Shaw-nee-aw-kee was sick, Four-Legs instantly made his way to him, to offer his sympathy and prescribe the proper remedies.
Every one who has suffered from ague and the intense fever that succeeds it, knows how insupportable is the protracted conversation of an inconsiderate person, and will readily believe that the longer Four-Legs continued his pratings the higher mounted the fever of the patient, and the more intolerable became the pain of head, back, and limbs.
At length the old man arrived at the climax of what he had to say. "It was not good for a young man, suffering with sickness, and away from his family, to be without a home and a wife. He had a nice daughter at home, handsome and healthy, a capital nurse, the best hand in all the tribe at trapping beaver and musk-rats. He was coming down again in the spring, and he would bring her with him, and Shaw-nee-aw-kee should see that he had told no falsehood about her. Should he go now, and bring his daughter the next time he came?"
Stunned with his importunate babble, and anxious only for rest and quiet, poor Shaw-nee-aw-kee eagerly assented, and the chief took his departure.
So nearly had his disorder been aggravated to delirium, that the young man forgot entirely, for a time, the interview and the proposal which had been made him. But it was recalled to his memory some months after, when Four-Legs made his appearance, bringing with him a squaw of mature age, and a very Hecate for ugliness. She carried on her shoulders an immense pack of furs, which, approaching with her awkward criss-cross gait, she threw at his feet, thus marking, by an Indian custom, her sense of the relation that existed between them.
The conversation with her father now flashed across his mind, and he began to be sensible that he had got into a position that it would require some skill to extricate himself from.
He bade one of the young clerks take up the pack and carry it into the magazine where the furs were stored; then he coolly went on talking with the chief about indifferent matters.
Miss Four-Legs sat awhile with a sulky, discontented air; at length she broke out,—
"Humph! he seems to take no more notice of me than if I was nobody!"
He again turned to the clerk.—"Give her a calico shirt and half a dozen bread-tickets."
This did not dissipate the gloom on her countenance. Finding that he must commence the subject, the father says,—
"Well, I have brought you my daughter, according to our agreement. How do you like her?"
"Ah, yes—she is a very nice young woman, and would make a first-rate wife, I have no doubt. But do you know a very strange thing has happened since you were here? Our father, Governor Cass, has sent for me to come to Detroit, that he may send me among the Wyandottes and other nations to learn their customs and manners. Now, if I go, as I shall be obliged to do, I shall be absent two or three years,—perhaps four. What then? Why, the people will say, Shaw-nee-aw-kee has married Four-Legs' daughter, and then has hated her and run away from her, and so everybody will laugh at her, and she will be ashamed. It will be better to take some good, valuable presents, blankets, guns, etc., and to marry her to one of her own people, who will always stay by her and take care of her."
The old man was shrewd enough to see that it was wisest to make the best bargain he could. I have no doubt it cost a round sum to settle the matter to the satisfaction of the injured damsel, though I have never been able to ascertain how much. This I know, that the young gentleman took care not to make his next bargain while in a fit of the ague. The lady up on the Mississippi is called, in derision, by his name to this day.
About midway of the lake we passed Garlic Island—a lovely spot, deserving of a more attractive name. It belonged, together with the village on the opposite shore, to "Wild Cat," a fat, jolly, good-natured fellow, by no means the formidable animal his name would imply.
He and his band were absent, like their neighbors of Four-Legs' village, so there was nothing to vary the monotony of our sail. It was too wet to sing, and the men, although wrapped in their overcoats, looked like drowned chickens. They were obliged to ply their oars with unusual vigor to keep themselves warm and comfortable, and thus probably felt less than we, the dulness and listlessness of the cold, rainy, October day.
Towards evening the sun shone forth. We had passed into the Fox River, and were just entering that beautiful little expanse known as Butte des Morts Lake, at the farther extremity of which we were to encamp for the night.
The water along its shores was green with the fields of wild rice, the gathering of which, just at this season, is an important occupation of the Indian women. They push their canoes into the thick masses of the rice, bend it forward over the side with their paddles, and then beat the ripe husks off the stalks into a cloth spread in the canoe. After this, it is rubbed to separate the grain from the husk, and fanned in the open air. It is then put in their cordage bags and packed away for winter use. The grain is longer and more slender than the Carolina rice—it is of a greenish-olive color, and, although it forms a pleasant article of food, it is far from being particularly nutritive. The Indians are fond of it in the form of soup, with the addition of birds or venison.
BREAKFAST AT BETTY MORE'S.
The earth, the trees, and the shrubbery were all too much filled with the heavy rain which had fallen to allow us to think of encamping, so we made arrangements to bestow ourselves in our little saloon for the night. It was rather a difficult matter to light a fire, but among the underbrush, in a wild, undisturbed spot, there will always be found some fragments of dried branches, and tufts of grass which the rain has not reached, and by the assistance of the spunk, or light-wood, with which travellers always go well provided, a comforting fire was at length blazing brightly.
After our chilling, tedious day, it was pleasant to gather round it, to sit on the end of the blazing logs, and watch the Frenchmen preparing our supper—the kettle nestling in a little nook of bright glowing coals—the slices of ham browning and crisping on the forked sticks, or "broches," which the voyageurs dexterously cut, and set around the burning brands—- the savory messes of "pork and onions" hissing in the frying-pan, always a tempting regale to the hungry Frenchmen. Truly, it needs a wet, chilly journey, taken nearly fasting, as ours had been, to enable one to enjoy to its full extent that social meal—a supper.
The bright sun, setting amid brilliant masses of clouds, such as are seen only in our Western skies, gave promise of a fine day on the morrow, with which comforting assurance we were glad to take our leave of him, and soon after of each other.
We had hardly roused up the following morning, in obedience to the call of the bourgeois, when our eyes were greeted with the sight of an addition to our company—a tall, stalwart, fine-looking young mitiff, or half-breed, accompanied by two or three Indians. Vociferous and joyous were the salutations of the latter to their "father" and their new "mother." They were the first Winnebagoes I had seen, and they were decidedly not the finest specimens of their tribe. The mitiff, a scion of the wide-spreading tree of the Grignons, was the bearer of an invitation to us from Judge Law, who, with one or two Green Bay friends, was encamped a few miles above, to come and breakfast with him in his tent. We had not dreamed of finding white neighbors here, but our vicinity could be no secret to them, as long as there was an Indian in the neighborhood. So, delaying only for the soldiers to finish their breakfast, we pushed on for the "Butte des Morts," or, as Mrs. A always persisted in calling it, Betty More's.
The white tent of the Judge gleamed in the morning sun as we approached the little rising ground on which it stood. The river was filled with canoes, paddled principally by squaws. Many Indians were to be seen on the banks, all with their guns and hunting accoutrements, for the air was filled in every direction with flocks of teal, which at this season are most abundant and delicious. The immense fields of wild rice abounding here and in the little lake below, make this vicinity their favorite place of resort in the autumn months. The effect of this nourishing food is to make the flesh of the birds so fat, so white, and so tender, that a caution is always given to a young sportsman to fire only at such as fly very low, for if shot high in the air they are bruised to pieces and rendered unfit for eating by their fall to the ground.
We were hemmed in by a little fleet of canoes which surrounded us, the women chattering, laughing, and eagerly putting forward their little wooden bowls of fresh cranberries as an offering of welcome to me.
I amused myself with tossing crackers to them, some of which would reach them, others would fall into the water, and then such a scrambling and shouting! Hands and paddles were in requisition, and loud was the triumph of her who was successful in reaching a floating one.
Among the Indians with whom Shaw-nee-aw-kee was now engaged in shaking hands, and who all seemed old friends, were many fine, straight, well-formed figures, all of them exhibiting frames capable of enduring fatigue and the hardships of their mode of life. One was describing with much gesticulation the abundance of the game in the neighborhood, and he seemed greatly delighted at receiving a quantity of ammunition, with which he instantly departed to make good his boasts in the matter.
After walking a short distance, we reached the tent, where I was introduced to Judge Law and a pleasant little gray-haired French gentleman of the name of Porlier. Several voyageurs and half-breeds were near, the former busily at work, the latter lounging for the most part, and going through with what they had to do with a sort of listless indifference.
The contrast between the "all-alive" air of the one class and the apathetic manner of the other, was quite striking.
After a short conversation among the members of the party, breakfast was announced, and we entered the tent and took our seats on the ground around the Indian mat which supplied the place of a table.
The post of honor, namely, the head of the table, was of course given to me, so that I could not only look around upon the circle of the company, but also enjoy a fine view out of the open door of the tent, and take an observation of all that was going on at the side-table outside. Judge Doty sat opposite me, with his back to the opening of the tent, and the other gentlemen on either hand. We had for our waiter the tall "mitiff" who had been the messenger of the morning. He was still in the same garb—calico shirt, bright-colored scarf around his waist, and on his head a straw hat encircled with a band of black ostrich feathers, the usual dress of his class.
The tin cups which were to hold our coffee were duly set around, then breakfast-plates of the same metal, with knives and forks; then followed the viands, among the most conspicuous of which was a large tin pan of boiled ducks.
The Judge, wishing to show, probably, that, although we were in the vast wilderness, all fastidious nicety had not been left behind, took up the plate which had been set before him, and, seeing something adhering to it which did not exactly please him, handed it over his shoulder to Grignon, requesting him to wipe it carefully. Grignon complied by pulling a black silk barcelona handkerchief out of his bosom, where it had been snugly tucked away to answer any occasion that might present itself, and, giving the tin a furious polishing, handed it back again. The Judge looked at it with a smile of approbation, and giving a glance around the table as much as to say, "You see how I choose to have things done," applied himself to his breakfast.
The trail for Fort Winnebago then led from the shore opposite Butte des Morts, through Ma-zhee-gaw-gaw swamp, and past Green Lake, and it was well for the Judge that his horses stood waiting for him to "mount and away" as early as possible after breakfast, or I am afraid the story I should have been tempted to tell would have made his ride an uncomfortable one throughout the day.
We had hardly finished breakfast when our hunter, who had received the ammunition, returned, bringing with him about fifty fine ducks, which he had shot in little more than an hour. From that time until the close of our journey our supply of these delicate birds was never wanting.
BUTTE DES MORTS—LAKE PUCKAWAY.
The Butte des Morts, or Hillock of the Dead, was the scene long since of a most sanguinary battle between the French and the Mis-qua-kees, or Foxes. So great was the carnage in this engagement, that the memory of it has been perpetuated by the gloomy appellation given to the mound where the dead were buried. The Foxes up to this time had inhabited the shores of the river to which they had given their name, but, being completely overwhelmed and beaten in this conflict, they retired to the neighborhood of the Mississippi, and sought an asylum among their allies, the Saukies, or, as they are now called, the Sauks, with whom they became gradually incorporated, until the combined tribes came to be known, as at present, by the name of "Sauks and Foxes."
Among the French inhabitants of the upper country, each tribe of Indians has a particular appellation, descriptive of some peculiarity of either their habits or their personal appearance. Thus, the Chippewas, from their agility, are denominated "Sauteurs," or Jumpers; the Ottawas, the "Courtes-oreilles," or Short-ears. The Menomonees, from the wild rice so abundant in their country, are called "Folles Avoines;"—the Winnebagoes, from their custom of wearing the fur of a polecat on their legs when equipped for war, are termed "les Puans;"—the Pottowattamies, from their uncleanly habits, "les Poux;"—the Foxes are "les Renards," etc. etc.
Hence you will never hear a French or half-breed resident of the country mention an Indian in any other style. "Such a person is a 'Court-oreille.'" "Is that woman a 'Winnebago'?" "No, she is a 'Folle Avoine.'" In this manner a stranger is somewhat puzzled at first to classify the acquaintances he forms.
All the native friends with whom we were here surrounded were "les Puans," or, to use their own euphonious appellation, the "Ho-tshung-rahs."
Having with great regret said adieu to our friend Judge Doty, whose society had contributed so much to the pleasure of our trip, and whose example, moreover, had given us a valuable lesson to take things as we find them, we bade good-bye at an early hour after breakfast to our kind hosts, and set forward on our journey.
From Butte des Morts to the Portage, the distance by land is about seventy miles; by water, it is not less than a hundred and thirty, so serpentine is the course of the river through the low swampy prairies which stretch over a great portion of this part of the country.
About six miles above the Butte, a tolerably broad stream, called Wolf River, joins the Fox, and as it is much the more direct and promising of the two, strangers have sometimes mistaken it for the main stream, and journeyed up it a considerable distance before discovering, to their great chagrin, that they must retrace their steps.
Beyond this place, the river begins to play its pranks with the compass. As I was always looking out for pretty scenery to sketch, I was at one spot much attracted by a picturesque group on a bank quite close to the stream. There were broad overhanging trees, and two or three wigwams nestled under their shade. Bright-looking little children, quite unencumbered with clothing, were sporting about, and their two mothers were sitting on the ground, engaged in the manufacture of a mat for their lodge. It was a pretty scene, and I commenced a sketch. As usual, the whole party on the bank set up a shout when they recognized Shaw-nee-aw-kee,—
It was an occasion on which they became demonstrative. After a little time we proceeded, and I went on to complete my drawing. The sun kept coming more and more into the wrong place. He had been just behind me, presently he was on my left hand, now he was straight ahead. I moved from time to time; at length the sun was decidedly on my right hand. What could be the matter? I looked up. "Oh, here is a pretty scene; I must have this too! But how surprisingly like the one I have just finished, only in a different direction." Again we were greeted with shouts and laughter; it was the same spot which we had passed not an hour before, and, having taken a circuit of nearly four miles, we had returned to find that we had made an actual progress of only the width of the bank on which the trees and wigwams stood. Decidedly not very encouraging to an impatient traveller.
We reached Lake Puckaway late in the evening of our second day from Butte des Morts. Here lived a white man named Gleason, the same concerning whom, owing to his vast powers of exaggeration, poor Hooe was fond of uttering his little pun, "All is not gold that Gleasons." We did not seek shelter at his house, for, late as the season was, we found the shore so infested with mosquitoes that we were glad to choose a spot as far as possible from the bank, and make ourselves comfortable in our boat.
This lake has its name from the long flags or rushes which are found in its waters in great abundance, and of which the squaws manufacture the coarse matting used in covering their wigwams. Their mode of fabricating this is very primitive and simple. Seated on the ground, with the rushes laid side by side, and fastened at each extremity, they pass their shuttle, a long flat needle made of bone, to which is attached a piece of cordage formed of the bark of a tree, through each rush, thus confining it very closely, and making a fine substantial mat. These mats are seldom more than five or six feet in length, as a greater size would be inconvenient in adjusting and preparing the lodges.
It is a species of labor usually assigned to the elder women of the family. When they become broken down and worn out with exposure and hardship, so that they cannot cut down trees, hoe corn, or carry heavy burdens, they are set to weaving mats, taking care of the children, and disciplining the dogs, with which every Indian lodge abounds.
Lac de Boeuf, or Buffalo Lake, into which our course next brought us, is a lovely sheet of water. In some places its banks are exceedingly picturesque, with beautiful headlands jutting out into the clear depths, where they, and the magnificent groups of trees which crown them, lie reflected as in a mirror. Now and then we would catch a glimpse of deer darting across the glades which at intervals opened through the woodlands, or a pair of sand-hill cranes would rise, slowly flapping their wings, and seek a place of more undisturbed repose. The flocks of teal now skimming the surface of the water, now rising higher towards the shelter of the forests, tempted our sportsman sorely; but, as there was little prospect of finding his game when it was brought down, he did not give way to the wanton pleasure of shooting merely to destroy life.
In quitting this charming lake, and again entering the narrow, tortuous course of the river, we bade adieu to everything like scenery, until we should reach our journey's end.
We had now seventy miles to pass through a country perfectly monotonous and uninteresting, the distastefulness of which was aggravated by the knowledge that we could, had we been provided with horses or a carriage of any kind, have crossed over to the Portage from Gleason's, through a pleasant country, in little more than three hours. Even our great resource, the cheering, animating songs of our voyageurs, was out of the question; for the river, though deep, is so narrow that, in many places, there is no room for the regular play of the oars; and the voices of Frenchmen can never "keep tune" unless their oars can "keep time." Lapierre, one of our men, did his best with a paddle, or, as he called it, the "little row," but it was to no purpose—it would not go. Besides this, the wild rice abounds to such an extent in many places, that it almost completely obstructs the progress of even a moderate-sized boat, so that a passage through its tangled masses is with difficulty forced by the oars. Tedious and monotonous as was the whole course of the two following days, the climax of impatience and discouragement was not reached until we arrived in sight of the white walls of Fort Winnebago, looking down from a rising ground upon the vast expanse of low land through which the river winds.
The Indians have a tradition that a vast serpent once lived in the waters of the Mississippi, and that, taking a freak to visit the Great Lakes, he left his trail through the prairies, which, collecting the waters from the meadows and the rains of heaven as they fell, at length became the Fox River.
The little lakes along its course were probably the spots where he flourished about in his uneasy slumbers at night. He must have played all the antics of a kitten in the neighborhood of the Portage. When the fort was first pointed out to me, I exclaimed, with delight, "Oh, we shall be there in half an hour!"
"Not quite so soon," said my husband, smiling. "Wait and see." We sat and watched. We seemed approaching the very spot where we were to disembark. We could distinguish the officers and a lady on the bank waiting to receive us. Now we were turning our backs on them, and shooting out into the prairie again. Anon we approached another bank, on which was a range of comfortable-looking log houses. "That's the Agency," said my husband; "the largest house belongs to Paquette, the interpreter, and the others are the dwellings of our Frenchmen. The little building, just at the foot of the hill, is the blacksmith's shop, kept there by the Government, that the Indians may have their guns and traps mended free of expense."
"But are we going to stop there?"
"No; do you not see we are going back to the fort?"
And, to be sure, our course had now turned, and we were setting in our first direction. In this manner, after tacking to the right and left and putting backwards and forwards during the greater part of two hours, we at length reached the little landing, on which the assembled party stood ready to greet us.
Major and Mrs. Twiggs, and a few of the younger officers (for nearly all of the older ones were absent), with our brother Robert, or, as he is called throughout all the Indian tribes, "Bob," gave us a cordial welcome—how cordial those alone can know who have come, like us, to a remote, isolated home in the wilderness. The Major insisted on our taking possession at once of vacant quarters in the fort, instead of at "the Agency," as had been proposed.
"No—we must be under the same roof with them. Mrs. Twiggs had been without a companion of her own sex for more than four months, and would certainly not hear of a separation now. But we must be their guests until the arrival of the boats containing our furniture," which, under the care of our old acquaintance, Hamilton Arndt, was making its way slowly up from Green Bay.
A dinner had been prepared for us. This is one of the advantages of the zigzag approach by the Fox River—travellers never take their friends by surprise; and when the whole circle sat down to the hospitable board, we were indeed a merry company.
After dinner Mrs. Twiggs showed me the quarters assigned to us, on the opposite side of the spacious hall. They consisted of two large rooms on each of the three floors or stories of the building. On the ground-floor the front room was vacant. The one in the rear was to be the sleeping-apartment, as was evident from a huge, unwieldy bedstead, of proportions amply sufficient to have accommodated Og, the King of Bashan, with Mrs. Og and the children into the bargain. We could not repress our laughter; but the bedstead was nothing to another structure which occupied a second corner of the apartment.