Short URL for this page:
The lure of furs and lead brought to the region about Prairie du Chien — an area that is now comprised in the four States of Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, and Iowa — Frenchmen, Englishmen, and Americans each in turn. And on the Iowa side of the Mississippi Spaniards from New Orleans and St. Louis engaged in bitter rivalry with English traders over the control of the traffic in pelts. For more than a century and a half the fur trade was the principal commerce of the region.438
Prairie du Chien, long a neutral ground for the meeting of Indians thereabouts and favorably located at the junction of the Wisconsin and the Mississippi, early became an important mart. At this frontier village every phase of the traffic was enacted. Here expeditions were fitted out for the Indian country in the fall, and flotillas laden with packs of furs returned in the spring. Keel-boats and Mackinaw boats heavily loaded with valuable cargoes of furs left the river landing at this old French town bound for Mackinac, and later for St. Louis. Here, too, a factory was established by the government after the War of 1812 in a benevolent attempt to furnish the Indian with goods at honest prices. The Indian agents at Prairie du Chien and the commandants at Fort Crawford supervised the granting of licenses to traders when the government determined to exclude foreigners from the trade in this region. The competition of rival traders and the ultimate monopoly of the traffic by the American p180 Fur Company were closing scenes in the drama of the fur trade in the territory over which Fort Crawford stood guard.439
During the French period of the fur trade efforts were made to regulate the traffic by building posts in the heart of the fur country and by the license system. Despite these efforts to supervise the trade coureurs des bois, wild adventurous fellows, some peasants, others sons of the best families, roamed through the woods collecting pelts in defiance of the king and his laws.440
In the early days of the fur trade there developed a peculiar type of organization which in a modified form continued through successive stages of the traffic. The chief trader, who held a license from the government, was known as the bourgeois. He was "governor of pack and train, master of the canoe-brigade, despot of the trading post." Immediately under him were the commis, clerks in training for the position of bourgeois. These young men lived with the master, had charge of his correspondence, sometimes commanded subsidiary posts, and made side expeditions to native villages. Next in order came the voyageurs or engagés, French-Canadian peasants or half-breeds for the most part, sturdy care-free youths, who preferred the wild life of the forests and waterways to tilling the paternal fields. They signed contracts or engagements in which they promised to obey the bourgeois, "to do his will, to seek his profit, avoid his damage, and refrain from trading on their own account." They did the menial work of the trip — propelled the canoes, carried them and their cargoes over the portages, pitched tents, cooked the meals, furnished part of the rations by hunting and fishing, and at the trading post supplied fire wood, and packed the furs.441
p181 The engagés or voyageurs were divided into two classes. Those who were employed for the first time were known as mangeurs de lard, pork eaters, a term of contempt which indicated their lack of experience and ineptitude for the coarse fare of the wilderness. After a season or two of experience the voyageurs gained the appellation of hivernants or winterers — seasoned employees who would endure privation and fatigue. The voyageurs became skilled in woodcraft and were indispensable to the traffic. In spite of his care-free life the lot of the voyageur was not an easy one. His fare was simple, hulled corn with a little tallow, dried peas, and game comprised his usual daily ration. His wages, too, were low, not more than one hundred dollars per year. While the bourgeois furnished him a yearly outfit of two cotton shirts, a triangular blanket, a pair of heavy cowhide boots, and a stout collar for carrying goods over the portages, he was obliged to pay for luxuries such as pipes, tobacco, and liquor, himself. His work was arduous — driving a heavily laden canoe or Mackinaw boat through the water and carrying heavy packs of fur or merchandise over the portages were burdensome tasks. When a voyageur became too old to stand the heavy labor, or broke down under its strain he usually settled near a fort, married an Indian wife, and lived to a ripe old age. Many such inhabitants were to be found in the population of Prairie du Chien.442
French control of the fur trade in the region about Prairie du Chien began when Nicolas Perrot came to the Upper Mississippi in 1685 and erected two or three forts or trading houses, and continued until the surrender of New France to the English in 1763. English traders using the same methods as the French and employing p182 experienced voyageurs in the field inherited a commerce already flourishing. But the transfer of Louisiana to Spain by the secret treaty of 1762 placed a rival to the English traders west of the Mississippi. During the period of Spanish control of the Iowa country a bitter contest was waged with the English over the Indian trade. It was during this period that the Spanish Governor of Louisiana granted Andrew Todd in 1794 the right to the exclusive trade of the Upper Mississippi. During this period, too, the Spanish land grants to Julien Dubuque, Basil Giard, and Louis Honoré Tesson brought the first fur traders who actually lived in the Iowa country. The policy of the Spaniards, however, in attempting to exclude the British from trade relations with the Indians on the west side of the Mississippi became more and more impracticable. Through the liberal distribution of presents the British traders secured a firm hold upon the affections of the natives, and more and more they encroached upon the Spanish domain. In 1799 Jean Baptiste Faribault, an agents of the North West Company operating from Canada, established a post called "Redwood" •some two hundred miles above the mouth of the Des Moines River. For four years he remained in charge of this lonely post, bringing each spring a valuable assortment of furs to an accredited agent of the company at the mouth of the river. Although the treaty of peace following the Revolutionary War gave to the United States control of the east bank of the Mississippi, and the purchase of Louisiana in 1803 placed similar jurisdiction over the region west of the river, British domination of the fur trade in the Upper Mississippi country continued.443
The journey of Lieutenant Zebulon M. Pike up the p183 Mississippi and back in 1805‑1806, already described in this narrative, revealed the hold of the British traders on the fur trade of this region. Pike's warnings to the officials of the North West Company to leave the west side of the Mississippi and to observe the United States laws in regard to paying duties on their goods went unheeded. But the year, 1808, marked an important extension of American opposition to English traders in the Iowa country by the establishment of the factory at Fort Madison. Despite the hostility of Black Hawk's band of Sauk and the agents of the Mackinac Company who fanned the flame of Indian hostility toward the Americans, trade flourished at the new factory. An inventory completed to the end of 1809 showed merchandise, furs, peltries, cash on hand and debts due at the "Le Moine Factory" to the value of $12,000, and $5000 worth of goods in transit for the trade. At the same time, too, there lay unsold at St. Louis shaved deer skins in hair, bear, skins, otter skins, and tallow to the value of $1500 more. Early in 1811 Nicolas Boilvin, Indian Agent at Prairie du Chien, made a plea for a government factory at that place. He declared that the Sauk, Foxes, and Ioway could be as well supplied there as at Fort Madison "particularly as they have mostly abandoned the chase, except to furnish themselves with meat, and turned their attention to the manufacture of lead, which they procure from a mine •about sixty miles below Prairie des Chiens.º During the last season they manufactured •four hundred thousand pounds of that article, which they exchanged for goods." Boilvin further declared that as soon as the Indians turned their attention to lead the Canadian traders would abandon the country as they had no use for p184 that article in a commercial way. "The factory at Prairie des Chiens", he continued, "ought to be well supplied with goods, and lead ought to be received in exchange for the merchandise. This trade would be the more valuable to the United States, as lead is not a perishable article, and is easily transported; whereas peltries are bulky, and large quantities are annually spoiled before they reach the market; under such a system, the Canadian trade would be extinguished."444 But before Boilvin's suggestion was acted upon events had carried England and the United States into the War of 1812.
The period of American control of the fur trade in the region bordering on Prairie du Chien began when the government, as a part of its aggressive policy in reasserting control of the northwest, established Fort Crawford and a trading factory at this point in 1816. In this same year Congress, at the instigation of John Jacob Astor it is said, passed an act prohibiting foreign merchants and foreign capital from participating in Indian trade within the United States.445 Upon the passage of this act Astor bought out the interests of Montreal merchants in the South West Company and reorganized the American Fur Company with headquarters at Mackinac Island.446 The American Fur Company began operations in 1817. As the act of 1816 was interpreted so as not to exclude foreign engagés or voyageurs from the trade Astor secured a large number of traders who had formerly been in the employ of British merchants. Licenses were taken out in the name of young American clerks, but the actual conduct of the trade was in the hands of those who had carried it on for years. The coming of Astor's agents into the field about Prairie du Chien marked the beginning of bitter rivalry with private p185 traders who in time either cast their fortunes with the monopoly or were driven out of business.447
With the entire system of the fur trade the military officials at Fort Crawford had little to do except in the matter of regulation. According to the act of Congress of March 30, 1802, supplemented by the act of April 29, 1816, no one could carry on trade with the Indians without obtaining a license from an Indian agent.448 This system of regulating private traders at once caused trouble. When two trading boats of the American Fur Company arrived at Prairie du Chien in the autumn of 1817 from Mackinac en route to the Des Moines River, Lieutenant Colonel Chambers ordered the masters, Russell Farnham and Daniel Darling, to procure new licenses from Governor Clark of Missouri Territory. As they had already obtained licenses from the Indian agent at Mackinac before starting their journey, they threatened to disobey the order as soon as they were below Fort Armstrong. This threat led Chambers to order Morgan at the latter post to send them on to St. Louis under guard. Astor brought suit against the officers concerned in this affair and, as indicated in an earlier chapter, he eventually secured damages of $5000 for this official interference with his traders.449
The United States factory at Prairie du Chien had been in existence only six years when the act was passed abolishing the factory system.450 Although this factory was in charge of John W. Johnson, the same trader who had conducted the Fort Madison factory with such success until it was destroyed during the War of 1812, its operations were hampered by the competition and hostility of private traders and the American Fur Company. The government factors were not allowed to extend credit p186 to the Indians and credit, indeed, was the very basis of the fur trade. The trader took his goods on credit, and in turn gave out these goods on credit to the Indians. The Indians received weapons, ammunition, traps, blankets, and provisions on credit, without which he could not hunt. Often when he brought in his furs all he received was a cancellation of his debts.451 Moreover, the factors were not allowed to use liquor in carrying on trade with the Indians whereas this commodity was the most potent purchasing agent of the private trader. The Indian would give up anything he owned, even his squaw, for whisky. The goods, too, supplied by the factories were of inferior quality, and the Indians, encouraged of course by the private traders, looked with contempt upon a government turned trader. The unfavorable report of the factory system made by Jedediah Morse after his inspection tour of 1820, aided and supported by the powerful influence of the American Fur Company, finally secured the abolition of the system in 1822. The government system of fair dealing was to be replaced "by the private trader's rapacious system of exploitation."452
Whisky continued to find its way to the Indians not only secretly by the traders but especially by people who did not take out licenses to trade at all. Traders were forbidden by law from introducing liquor into the Indian country but this regulation was difficult to enforce. In 1822 Lieutenant Colonel Morgan reported from Fort Crawford that he had caused the boats of all traders who passed his post to be searched to prevent liquor from being carried to the Indians. He recommended that the best places to stop the shipments of ardent spirits into the region about Prairie du Chien were at Fort Howard and Fort Armstrong where the traders p187 first entered the Indian country. He further said that no law or regulation could prevent the Indians living on the borders from obtaining liquor in any quantity they desired. He himself did not feel authorized to check the liquor traffic at the Galena lead mines to which Sauk and Foxes were resorting. Despite all attempts of Indian agents and commandants to enforce the laws against the use of liquor in the Indian trade, it continued to challenge their efforts as long as traffic in furs continued.453
From Prairie du Chien as a center traders carried on a flourishing fur traffic with Indians in the Iowa country. The region of the Upper Iowa, the Turkey, the Maquoketa, the Wapsipinicon, the Iowa, the Cedar, and the Des Moines rivers fairly teemed with game. Indeed, Prairie du Chien was almost the hub of a wheel down the spokes of which traders and Indians brought the product of the hunt and chase. From the north came bands of Sioux, Chippewa, Winnebago, and Menominee; down the Wisconsin came other bands of Winnebago and Menominee with an occasional Pottawattamie. From the Iowa country and up the Mississippi came the Sauk, the Foxes, and the Ioway. The Indians travelled mostly by river in canoes, but a few came on "ponies, afoot, and horseback from the interior."454
When the Indians came from far and near to trade at Prairie du Chien "they were painted in their most gaudy colors, the bucks using red, yellow, and green to decorate their faces, while the squaws used vermilion, and painted a round spot of this color on each cheek and a streak down the middle of the hair where it was parted." The canoes used on these journeys to the Prairie were both the dug‑out and the birch bark. A fleet usually consisted p188 of twelve or fifteen canoes, although sometimes as many as forty arrived at a time. The Indians brought with them "furs, wild game, and pemmican made out of clean, fat venison pounded to a pulp, or of buffalo meat treated in the same manner." They also brought "venison and buffalo meat" that had been jerked, scorched and smoked. "Baskets, mats, wild honey, maple sugar, berries in season, and dried lotus-root, which when cooked tasted like a potato" often formed part of their cargo. Sometimes brooms made out of birch, hickory, or ash were brought along. For these commodities the Indians obtained by sale or barter "flour, pork, coffee, tobacco, blankets, hatchets, knives, dress-goods, ribbons, ammunition, and trinkets of many kinds." Bows and arrows for the white boys of Prairie du Chien, and moccasins and buckskin for their elders were other articles of traffic. When the Indians came to Prairie du Chien they usually remained for a week or two to feast, drink, dance, and otherwise enjoy a touch of civilization. All night long the tum tum tum of the Indian drum when a dance was in progress, "mingled with the crude songs and yells of the dancers", made the night hideous. On the occasion of such visits Indian agent and officers of the post were alert to prevent a celebration turning into a hostile demonstration, for when the Indians became drunk fighting often followed and shooting affrays were not uncommon.455
The fur traders usually left for the Indian country in September, or in October if they had a shorter distance to go. They took their supply of provisions and goods in large canoes, in barges, or in cordelles. The barges were propelled with long poles, the cordelles were drawn with ropes from shore although oars were also employed, while p189 the voyageurs drove the canoes with paddles, sometimes using oars in swift cross currents. The goods included tobacco, hatchets, knives, powder, lead, kettles, blankets, woolen dress goods, calico, and trinkets such as beads, ribbons, looking glasses, and silver ornaments. Traps for catching animals, and a secret supply of rum, loaded perhaps after the agent had checked the invoice, were important items in the cargo.456
When the trader reached his post or trading quarters up the Wisconsin, up or down the Mississippi, or in the Iowa country he would send his trappers into the interior. During the fall, winter, and early spring he would collect pelts at his trading shack. Then when the spring trapping was over, with his boats loaded with packs of muskrat, deer, beaver, bear, and raccoon skins, he would set out for Prairie du Chien. On these return journeys the voyageurs became a merry crew. They were eager for their year's pay, small as it was; and their regular diet of hardtack, hulled corn, peas, and salt pork had begun to pall on jaded appetites. Singing their French boat songs by the hour and keeping time with their paddles they drove their canoes mile after mile toward home. Often in the springtime in the late twenties or early thirties, a visitor standing on the landing near the warehouse of the American Fur Company at Prairie du Chien, could hear "the music of these boatmen's songs float out over the valley of the Mississippi" and then suddenly see a flotilla of "canoes, bateaux, and barges round a bend and appear in sight with the head canoe flying the American flag at its bow."457
Traders and voyageurs remained during the summer at Prairie du Chien, and in the fall set out for the wilderness again, glad to return to the wild life of the forest p190 and its freedom from conventions. On the day of its departure the voyageurs were a picturesque group in their gaudy turbans or plume bedecked hats, their brilliant handkerchiefs tied around swarthy necks, their calico shirts, and their bracelets of flaming hue which held knife and tobacco pouch. Rough trousers, leggings, and cowhide shoes or moccasins completed their costume. Scenes of hugging and kissing occurred between the voyageurs and their friends and relatives of both sexes. "Bon voyage!" "Bon voyage!" would echo from the shore as the swarthy boatmen, pushing the prows of their canoes into the stream, dipped their paddles simultaneously into the water and slipped away from the shore. At the same time the leader would commence to sing in a tremulous voice, and the air would be taken up by his fellows.458
The Indians adjusted their mode of living to the seasons of the fur trade, and became more and more dependent upon the traders for their livelihood. After a season's hunt the Indians returned to their villages in the spring. With the departure of traders and voyageurs for Prairie du Chien Indian braves set their squaws to work making maple sugar, and later to planting corn, watermelons, potatoes, and squashes. With the return of the trader and his assistants in the fall the Indians were supplied with necessary goods prior to their setting out for the hunting grounds. Throughout the hunting season the trader kept in touch with the Indians thereabouts through runners who carried merchandise to the red men and returned laden with furs.459
Among the noted characters engaged in the fur trade at Prairie du Chien who trafficked with the Indians in the Iowa country was Joseph Rolette. He had earlier p191 been active in behalf of the British interests, and after the permanent occupation of Prairie du Chien by Americans he attained great success as a private trader. Because of his influence with the Indians and his employees he became known as "King Rolette". Astor, realizing Rolette's power in the region of the Upper Mississippi, induced him to become a member of the American Fur Company. Many are the local stories about the rivalry between Rolette and Michael Brisbois, another long time trader at the Prairie. Hercules L. Dousman, a representative of the American Fur Company's interest at Prairie du Chien, also achieved wealth and prominence in the business. As partners with the American Fur Company Dousman and Rolette at Prairie du Chien, and Henry Sibley in the region about Fort Snelling dominated the traffic in pelts in the Upper Mississippi territory during the thirties and forties. Down the river and operating under licenses from the Indian agent at Rock Island, Maurice Blondeau, Russell Farnham, and George Davenport, as well as others, all successful and independent traders among the Indians in the Iowa country, at length cast their lot with the great monopoly.460 Thus the fur trade continued until the influx of settlers drove the Indians to the westward and ended this picturesque episode in the pageant of the Upper Northwest.
Parallel with the development of the traffic for furs and continuing in even greater force after the Indians were driven out, lead mining activities occupied an important place in the commerce of the region below Prairie du Chien. The lure of lead brought trespassers to the Indian country on both sides of the Mississippi. Indeed, the Winnebago outbreak in 1827, previously discussed in this narrative, was caused primarily by Indian resentment p192 over the aggressions of miners in the region between the Galena and Wisconsin rivers. On numerous occasions, too, detachments of troops from Fort Crawford were sent to the mining region to enforce the laws of the United States against trespass on the Indian land.461
Although the French heard of mineral wealth in what is now southwestern Wisconsin and northwestern Illinois at an earlier date, it was Nicolas Perrot who was the real discoverer of the lead mines in this region. Due to his popularity with the Indians a Miami chief about 1690 made known the secret of the mines to him and obtained his promise to build a fort in that vicinity. The exact site of this post is not known — it was somewhere below the mouth of the Wisconsin. It is supposed, however, that the lode worked by Perrot was at the present site of Dubuque, Iowa, and his post was across the river near the present site of Dunleith, Illinois.462 From Perrot's time throughout the entire French régime the mines were worked by the Indians and by French traders, although the Fox wars interfered considerably with the progress of lead mining. After the close of the Fox wars mining increased to a considerable extent. "Lead became a useful adjunct of the fur trade, and in the case of certain tribes almost took the place of hunting."463
Most of the work in the Indian diggings was done by old men and the squaws. The ore was dug out by all sorts of implements such as buck horns, hoes, and gun barrel crow-bars. Ledges containing ore were laboriously cracked by building a fire beneath, then pouring cold water on the heated rocks. Up an inclined plane the squaws carried the ore in birch-bark "mococks", and placed it on a crude furnace of logs. They then set fire to the whole, and as the molten metal ran down it was p193 collected in a depression in the ground, and allowed to cool. These "plats", irregular in shape, thick in the middle and thinned out at the edge, weighed •from thirty to seventy pounds. Despite these crude and wasteful methods of smelting, hundreds of tons of lead were thus obtained by the Indians and traded to the whites for goods.464
A new era in the story of lead mining in the Upper Mississippi region began when Julien Dubuque, then engaged in the fur trade at Prairie du Chien, obtained from the Fox Indians the sole right to work the mines in the region which now bears his name. This grant was obtained in September, 1788, and Dubuque with ten French-Canadian voyageurs soon removed to the Iowa side of the river. There a farm was cleared, and a trading-house, a mill, and a smelting furnace were soon erected. Mining began at once. Dubuque apparently employed Indians to do the work of mining and smelting, using the French-Canadians as overseers and helpers in the fur trade. As he prospered Dubuque desired to make himself more secure in his possessions. Accordingly, having named his diggings the "Mines of Spain" he asked for and obtained in 1796 a confirmation of his rights by the Spanish Governor of Louisiana. Twice a year he journeyed down the river to St. Louis with his boats loaded with furs and lead. In exchange he secured trinkets and merchandise for the Indian trade. But through extravagance and mismanagement he fell in debt, and to satisfy his claims assigned to Auguste Chouteau his property to be delivered at his death. Dubuque died in 1810, but his friends, the Indians, would allow no other whites to occupy the region.465
Throughout the next decade Indians mined lead in p194 great quantities on both sides of the river. Between 1815 and 1820 John Shaw made eight trips with a trading boat between St. Louis and Prairie du Chien, and visited the mines of Galena River several times. On one occasion he brought away seventy tons of metal and still left much at the furnace. Prior to 1819 several American traders who attempted to go among the Sauk and Fox miners had been killed, but in that year a general movement toward the lead region of southwestern Wisconsin and northwestern Illinois began. In the summer of 1819 Major Thomas Forsyth, Indian agent for the Sauk and Foxes, obtained definite information as to the number and location of the mines on both sides of the river. Contractors with supplies for Fort Crawford and for the new Fort Snelling were at this time beginning to pass the mines, and both whites and Indians found ready customers for their lead.466
Although the Fox Indians at Dubuque's mines had manifested great jealousy of the whites, and fearing that they would encroach upon their rights had refused to allow strangers to view their diggings, Henry R. Schoolcraft succeeded in the summer of 1820 in making a careful inspection of the region. It will be recalled that he was a member of the expedition of Governor Cass who was engaged in making an extensive tour through the western part of the territory under his jurisdiction. Realizing that there would be a delay at Prairie du Chien Schoolcraft obtained permission from Cass to visit Dubuque's mines.467
Taking a canoe with eight voyageurs and one guide he first stopped at an island in the Mississippi opposite Kettle's village where a number of traders were stationed to supply the Indians with merchandise and to purchase p195 their lead. Accompanied by Doctor Samuel S. Muir, formerly an army surgeon but now a trader, and an interpreter, Schoolcraft crossed to the Indian village. When he asked permission to visit the mines objections were raised at once, but liberal presents of tobacco and whisky soon gained the desired consent.
At diggings Schoolcraft found old men and women working with hoes, shovels, pick-axes, and crow-bars purchased from the traders. No shafts were sunk but drifts dug at an angle descended into the hills. Baskets of ore were carried out of the pits to the Mississippi and ferried over to the island where the traders purchased it at the rate of two dollars for one hundred and twenty pounds, payable in goods. The traders then smelted the ore in their furnaces. Formerly the Indians had smelted the ore on log heaps by which much of the metal was lost in the ashes. These ashes were now being collected by the Fox and sold to the traders for one dollar per bushel. Schoolcraft found a stone monument over the grave of Dubuque. The Indians, he said, had "burnt down his house and fences, and erased every vestige of civilized life, and they have since revoked, or at least denied the grant, and appear to set a very high value upon the mines." After as thorough an examination of the property as his time would permit, Schoolcraft rejoined the exploring party at Fort Crawford. Three years later when J. C. Beltrami,a an Italian refugee then on a trip up the Mississippi, sought to visit Dubuque's Mines he, like Schoolcraft, had to have recourse to the "all‑powerful whiskey to obtain permission to see them." The mines were so valuable, he said, and the Americans so enterprising that he doubted the ability of the Indians to retain possession of them much longer.468
p196 The first legal occupation of the lead region in northwestern Illinois and southwestern Wisconsin began in 1822 when the government granted four leases for as many sections of land in the Galena River country. One of these grants was made to Colonel James Johnson who for three years had been operating in the country without a license. He immediately brought to the mines a number of workmen including some negro slaves, and a supply of tools. Anticipating opposition from the Indians he had procured an order from the Secretary of War to Colonel Morgan for military protection. Detachments of troops were sent from Fort Edwards, Fort Armstrong, and Fort Crawford to the lead region, and Johnson commenced operations on the most extensive scale yet known in that country.469
At once a horde of squatters and speculators from Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and southern Illinois flocked to the lead region. Little attention was paid to congressional enactments relative to leases, and disputes ensued between the lessees and the intruders. From the report made in 1826 by Lieutenant M. Thomas, then superintendent of the lead mine district, it appears that the number of persons in the Galena River diggings increased from one hundred on July 1, 1825, to four hundred and fifty-three on August 31, 1826.470 How this rapid influx of miners led to the Winnebago outbreak of 1827, and the subsequent treaties of 1828 and 1829 whereby the Indian title to the lead mine region east of the Mississippi was extinguished has been told in an earlier chapter. After the settlement of the Indian title to this land immigration poured in anew. Between 1821‑1830 miners in this region extracted 40,000,000 pounds of ore. The rapid development in the mining region east of the p197 Mississippi was due in part to the fact that the Sauk and Foxes refused to permit the whites to work the mines on the Iowa side of the river. The government, too, regarded the region west of the Mississippi as private property and warned prospectors to keep off. In a letter from Secretary of War John C. Calhoun to Chief "Pee-mash‑kee" in 1824, the latter was informed that Agent Forsyth had been directed to keep all intruders from the lead mines on the west side of the river. Another letter from T. L. McKenney, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, to Forsyth directed the latter to use force if necessary to keep the whites away from the lead mines of the Foxes west of the Mississippi.471
The Upper Mississippi Military Frontier
How the Fox Indians in great alarm abandoned their village at Dubuque's Mines and fled to Rock Island after a delegation of their band en route to Prairie du Chien had been massacred by a war party of Sioux and Menominee has already been related. This bloody encounter occurred in the spring of 1830. No sooner did the whites in the Galena country hear of the departure of the Indians than they rushed across the Mississippi to take possession of the mines. Among these intruders were the Langworthy brothers, James and Lucius, who later became prominent citizens of Dubuque. But the intruders were not allowed to enjoy the fruits of their illegal invasion. Early in July Lieutenant Colonel Taylor, then commandant at Fort Crawford, ordered them to decamp, and when they refused sent a detachment of troops by steamboat to enforce his orders. Learning of the coming of the troops the miners recrossed the river, and when the soldiers arrived they took only three prisoners who had lingered too long. During the stay of the troops the Foxes ventured back, and began anew to work the lodes.472
p198 Hopes of purchasing the mines west of the river by the government were blasted in 1831 when the Sauk and Foxes sent a war party against the Sioux and Menominee and massacred a camp of the latter almost under the guns of Fort Crawford. Fearing that this breach of the Treaty of 1830 would result in punishment by the United States government the Foxes once more abandoned the mines at Dubuque. In October, 1831, Lieutenant Jefferson Davis was sent by Colonel Morgan from Fort Crawford to the lead mine region to watch the Indians and to prevent trespassing on the Indian domain. He remained on duty at the mines until the spring of 1832, making frequent reconnaissances into the surrounding country sometimes as far as the Maquoketa River. In March, Davis, who had obtained a furlough to visit his home in Mississippi, was relieved by Lieutenant J. R. B. Gardenier, who remained until the opening of the Black Hawk War.473
While General Scott was negotiating a treaty with the Indians in September, 1832, following the close of the Black Hawk War, scores of adventurers crowded Galena, Illinois, eager to seize upon possessions west of the Mississippi. Although the treaty permitted the Sauk and Foxes to remain in the ceded portion until June 1, 1833, scarcely was the ink dry on the paper before the miners began to cross the river to work the ancient mines of Julien Dubuque. Again they were ordered to leave, this time by Marmaduke S. Davenport, the new Indian agent at Rock Island. Many, after making a formal protest to the Secretary of War, recrossed the Mississippi. But at this stage of affairs an agent of the Chouteau claimants appeared at Galena, and leasing the mines to such persons as would agree to work them, induced many to invade once more the property across the Mississippi.474
p200 To remove this squatters Colonel Taylor sent another detachment of troops from Fort Crawford this time under the command of Lieutenant George Wilson. Despite his prohibition trespassers continued to cross the river, and a larger force under Lieutenants J. J. Abercrombie and Jefferson Davis was despatched to the mines. It was in the dead of winter and so cold that the troops went all the way on the ice. As Davis had known many of the miners when they lived on the east side of the river the task of inducing them to retire devolved on him. He went to their homes, explained the absence of any power on the part of the military to modify, or delay the execution of their orders, and being a friend of Major Thomas C. Legate, then superintendent of the lead mines in the Galena district, promised "to secure through him to every man, the lead or prospect then held" as soon as the Indian title was extinguished. The miners agreed to depart, and this peaceful removal was always a source of gratification to the later President of the Confederacy. Troops, however, were maintained at the mines until May, 1833, Lieutenant E. F. Covington being in charge of the detachment throughout March and April.475
In June, 1833, when the Indian title to the eastern Iowa country ended permits were granted by the superintendent of the Galena district to scores of persons to mine and smelt lead in the old "Mines of Spain". All other persons found upon the Black Hawk Purchase without authority were to be reported to the Indian agents at Rock Island and Prairie du Chien. Armed with United States licenses miners began to transform this "lonely but coveted section of the Iowa wilderness into a prosperous frontier community".476 Danger of removal by soldiers from Fort Crawford was ended.
438 Van der Zee's Fur Trade Operations in the Eastern Iowa Country under the Spanish Régime and Fur Trade Operations in the Eastern Iowa Country from 1800 to 1833 in The Iowa Journal of History and Politics, Vol. XII, pp355‑372, 479‑567, give a comprehensive view of the traffic in Iowa. Volumes XIX and XX of the Wisconsin Historical Collections furnish a large amount of source material relative to the Wisconsin aspects of the trade. The chapter on The Indians and the Fur Trade in Buck's Illinois in 1818, pp1‑35, describes the traffic in Illinois.
439 Turner's The Character and Influence of the Fur Trade in Wisconsin in the Proceedings of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1889, pp52‑98.
440 Kellogg's The French Régime in Wisconsin and the Northwest, pp366, 367.
441 Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. XIX, pp. xiii, xiv. Typical engagements are given on pp292, 343.
443 The Iowa Journal of History and Politics, Vol. XII, pp355‑372, 479‑483.
444 The Iowa Journal of History and Politics, Vol. XII, pp490‑493, 497‑504; American State Papers, Indian Affairs, Vol. I, pp769, 770, 772, 773. For Boilvin's letter see the Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. XI, pp251, 252.
445 Chittenden's The American Fur Trade of the Far West, Vol. I, pp310, 311; Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. II, pp102, 103.
446 Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. II, p101, Vol. XVIII, p440, Vol. XIX, pp405‑407, 451.
447 Buck's Illinois in 1818, pp23‑25. For the extent of the early operations of the American Fur Company see their list of employees, 1818‑1819, in the Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. XII, p154.
448 United States Statutes at Large, Vol. II, pp139‑146, Vol. III, pp332, 333.
449 Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. XIX, pp477‑479, 483, 484.
450 Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. XX, pp. xv, xvii, 256, 257.
451 Kellogg's The French Régime in Wisconsin and the Northwest, p370; Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. XX, pp. xv‑xviii.
453 Morgan to Gaines, November 15, 1822, in the Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. XX, pp291, 295, 296; The Iowa Journal of History and Politics, Vol. XII, pp551‑553.
454 Recollections of Antoine Grignon in the Proceedings of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1913, p124.
455 Proceedings of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1913, pp124, 125.
456 Proceedings of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1913, pp125, 126.
457 Proceedings of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1913, p126.
458 Proceedings of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1889, pp77, 78; Latrobe's The Rambler in North America, Vol. II, p266.
459 Proceedings of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1889, pp88‑91; The Iowa Journal of History and Politics, Vol. XII, pp557, 558, 559.
460 The Iowa Journal of History and Politics, Vol. XII, pp532, 536, 540, 542, 554‑558; Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. XX, p304, footnote. See also chapter four of an unpublished thesis, "The American Fur Company at Prairie du Chien", by Veronica Cull, St. Mary's College, Prairie du Chien.
461 Van der Zee's Early History of Lead Mining in the Iowa Country in The Iowa Journal of History and Politics, Vol. XIII, pp3‑52, is a comprehensive account of the Iowa aspects of the story. Thwaites's Notes on Early Lead Mining in the Fever River Region in the Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. XIII, pp271‑292 is an illuminating account of the industry on the east side of the Mississippi.
462 Kellogg's The French Régime in Wisconsin and the Old Northwest, pp359, 360; Blair's Indian Tribes of the Upper Mississippi and the Great Lakes Region, Vol. II, pp59, 66, 74; Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. X, pp330‑333, Vol. XVI, pp143‑152.
463 Kellogg's The French Régime in Wisconsin and the Old Northwest, pp361‑363.
464 Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. II, p132, Vol. VI, pp281, 282; Kellogg's The French Régime in Wisconsin and the Old Northwest, p360.
465 The Iowa Journal of History and Politics, Vol. XIII, pp6‑26.
466 Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. XIII, pp285‑289.
467 Schoolcraft's Narrative Journal, p340.
468 Schoolcraft's Narrative Journal, pp340‑345, 349, 354; Beltrami's A Pilgrimage in Europe and America, Vol. II, pp163, 164.
469 Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. VI, pp272, 273, Vol. VIII, p250, Vol. XIII, p290.
470 Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. XIII, pp290, 291; House Executive Documents, 19th Congress, 2nd Session, Pt. II, Document No. 7.
471 Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. XIII, pp291; The Iowa Journal of History and Politics, Vol. XIII, p34; Indian Office Letter Books, 1824, Vol. I, pp168, 169.
472 The Iowa Journal of History and Politics, Vol. VIII, pp317, 318, 321, 378, Vol. XIII, pp40‑44. The story of the Langworthy brothers, James, Lucius, Edward, and Solon, forms an interesting chapter in the annals of Dubuque.
473 The Iowa Journal of History and Politics, Vol. XIII, pp44, 45. See also Davis's letter to G. W. Jones in Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. IV, pp231, 232, and Post Returns, Fort Crawford, 1831‑1856, October, 1831, to April, 1832, in the Adjutant General's Office, War Department, Washington, D. C.
474 The Iowa Journal of History and Politics, Vol. XIII, pp47‑51; Senate Documents, 23rd Congress, 1st Session, Vol. IX, No. 512, pp558‑560.
475 The Iowa Journal of History and Politics, Vol. XIII, pp49‑51; letter from Davis to Jones, August 5, 1882, in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. IV, p232; Post Returns, Fort Crawford, 1831‑1856, February, March, April, May, 1833, in the Adjutant General's Office, War Department, Washington, D. C.
476 The Iowa Journal of History and Politics, Vol. XIII, pp51, 52.
a Properly Giacomo Costantino Beltrami (1779‑1855); he published some of his most important works in French, and the French form of his name — Jacques Constantin — underlies the initials here. He was a refugee, or more properly a political fugitive, because there was some question of hanging him for his French-style revolutionary activities in the Papal States. A good bibliography is provided by the Municipal Library of his home town of Bergamo.
Images with borders lead to more information.
The thicker the border, the more information. (Details here.)
Old Fort Crawford
History of Wisconsin
History of Iowa
A page or image on this site is in the public domain ONLY if its URL has a total of one *asterisk. If the URL has two **asterisks, the item is copyright someone else, and used by permission or fair use. If the URL has none the item is © Bill Thayer.
See my copyright page for details and contact information.
Page updated: 24 Oct 16