CHARLES PHILIP HEXOM
CHARLES PHILIP HEXOM
A. K. BAILEY & SON, INCORPORATED
CHARLES PHILIP HEXOM
In the preparation of this article it has been the compiler's
aim to make the work as complete and correct as possible. Dili-
gent search has been made for information, and considerable
pains have been taken to give the people of Winneshiek county
a reliable account of the Indians who once inhabited this section
of the country. The writer has discovered that a number of
erroneous statements in regard to these Indians have unfortu-
nately found their way into print. In such instances every effort
has been made to procure accurate information.
In gathering the data here assembled the writer has had the
kind assistance of the Wisconsin Historical Society, the Iowa
Library Commission, and the United States Ethnological Bu-
reau. Thanks are also due to Oliver Lamere (a first cousin of
Angel De Cora), who has made diligent search for desired in-
formation among members of his tribe on their reservation in
Nebraska; Geo. W. Kingsley, Angel De Cora, Little Winne-
shiek, and Antoine Grignon (all of whom are Winnebago In-
dians, except the last, who is part Winnebago and part Sioux) ;
Dr. Eben D. Pierce ; Roger C. Mackenstadt ; Chas. H. Saun-
ders, and H. J. Goddard.
All of the above have responded in a most gratifying man-
ner to requests for information, some of them taking the trouble
to prepare long communications, which have been indispensable
in the preparation of the following article and which the writer
cherishes as among his most valued possessions. All quotations
credited to them in this article have been taken from letters re-
ceived by the writer since December, 1912.
In regard to Angel De Cora, a summary of her career is
given in the body of the article, where the main facts about
Antoine Grignon's life will also be found. That the reader may
form a proper conception of the value of the information im-
parted by other individuals mentioned above (and all this has
a bearing on the trustworthiness of the article), the following
statements are appended :
"During the month of August, 1911, there came to Madison
from the Nebraska reservation two Winnebago Indians, Mr.
Oliver Lamere and Mr. John Rave. Both men were in the em-
ploy of Dr. Paul Radin of the American Bureau of Ethnology,
who for several years past has been conducting researches
among their tribe for the government. They remained in Wis-
consin until the first weeks in September. Both were Indians of
exceptional intelligence. Mr. Lamere is a grandson of Alex-
ander Lamere, one of the group of early Lake Koshkonong fur-
traders, and a grandson of Oliver Armel, an early Madison fur-
trader. Mr. Lamere [Oliver] acted as Dr. Radin's assistant
and interpreter." From an article in "The Wisconsin Archeolo-
gist," 1911, by Charles E. Brown, secretary and curator of The
Wisconsin Archeological Society, and chief of The State (Wis.)
Historical Museum, Madison, Wis.
"George Kingsley * * * * a member of the Wiscon-
sin Branch of the Winnebago Tribe of Indians, I consider to be
the best authority on these matters." L. M. Cpmpton, Super-
intendent of Tomah School (United States Indian Service),
Dr. Eben D. Pierce is a member of the state (Wis.) and
county (Trempealeau) Historical Societies. He has written a
biography of Antoine Grignon, a short history of the Winne-
bago Indians, and has contributed several articles on the history
of that section.
Roger C. Mackenstadt, now at the Uintah and Ouray In-
dian Agency, Utah, was formerly chief clerk at the Winnebago
reservation in Nebraska.
Chas. H. Saunders is a white man who has lived with the
Indians most of the time (since he was thirteen years old). He
married into the Waukon family of Winnebago Indians, whose
language he speaks fluently. He was raised at Lansing, la., and
was for a number of years a resident of Wisconsin. He now re-
sides in Nebraska.
H. J. Goddard of Fort Atkinson has been a resident of
Winneshiek county since 1849. Mr. Goddard has willingly
placed at the disposal of the writer his well-stored memory of
early recollections. He is a Civil War veteran and is thus es-
pecially competent to speak with authority in regard to military
matters connected with the fort.
Other old settlers have also responded cheerfully to re-
quests for information. In most instances their names appear in
the article. The writer acknowledges a debt of gratitude to
The following authorities have been consulted :
"History of Winneshiek and Allamakee Counties." W. E.
"Atlas of Winneshiek County." Anderson & Goodwin,
"The Making of Iowa." Henry Sabin, LL. D., 1900.
"History of Iowa," v. i. G. F. Gue, 1903.
"The Red Men of Iowa." A. R. Fulton, 1882.
"The Indian, The Northwest." C. & N. W. Ry., 1901.
"North Americans of Yesterday." F. S. Dellenbaugh.
"Handbook of American Indians." B. of A. E., 1911.
"Smithsonian Report," 1885.
"Annals of Iowa." '
"The Wisconsin Archeologist." a
CHARLES PHILIP HEXOM.
June 18, 1913.
1 Articles by Eliphalet Price, C. A. Clark, and War Dept. Records
of Fort Atkinson.
* " The Winnebago Tribe," by P. V. Lawson, LL. B.
THE WINNEBAGO TRIBE
Taki maka a-icha'gha hena mita'wa-ye lo Yo, yoyo!
All that grows upon the earth is mine Yo, yoyo!
Translation of a Sioux song.
The Winnebago tribe is the fourth group of the great
Siouan, or Dakota, family. The Wninebagoes were styled by
the Sioux, Hotanke, or the "big-voiced people;" by the Chippe-
was, Winipig, or "filthy water ;" by the Sauks and Foxes, Wini-
Pyagohagi, or "people of the filthy water." Allouez spells the
name Ovenibigouts. The French frequently called them Puans,
or Puants, names often roughly translated Stinkards, The lowas
called them Ochungaraw. They called themselves Ochungurah,
or Hotcangara. Dr. J. O. Dorsey, the distinguished authority on
the Siouan tribes, states that the Siouan root, "changa," or
"hanga," signifies "first, foremost, original or ancestral." Thus
the Winnebagoes called themselves Hotcangara, "the people
speaking the original language," or "people of the parent
speech." Traditional and linguistic evidence shows that the
Iowa Indians sprang from the Winnebago stem, which appears
to have been the mother stock of some other of the southwestern
The term "Sioux" is a French corruption of Nadowe-is-iw,
the name given them by the Chippewa Indians of the Algonquin
family. It signifies "snake," whence is derived the further
meaning "enemy." The name Dakota, or Lakota, by which the
principal tribes of the Siouan stock call themselves, means "con-
Regarding the remote migrations that must have taken
place in such a widespread stock as the Siouan. different theories
are held. An eastern origin is now pretty well established for
this stock; for in Virginia, North and South Carolina, and
Mississippi were the homes of tribes now extinct, which eth-
nologists class as belonging to the Siouans.* The prehistoric
migration of these Indians, which undoubtedly was gradual, pro-
ceeded towards the west ; while the Dakotas, Winnebagoes, and
cognate tribes, it appears, took a more northerly course.
Passing to the authentic history of the Winnebagoes the
first known meeting between this tribe and the whites was in
1634, when the French ambassador, Jean Nicolet, found them in
Wisconsin near Green Bay. At this time they probably ex-
tended to Lake Winnebago. How long the tribe had main-
tained its position in that territory previous to the coming of
the whites is unknown. They were then numerous and power-
ful. Father Pierre Claude Allouez spent the winter of 1669-70
at Green Bay preaching to the Winnebagoes and their Central
The Winnebagoes constituted one party in a triple alliance,
to which also the Sauks and Foxes belonged, and were always
present with the Foxes in their battles against the French, and
their ancient enemy the Illinois Indians. In an effort to com-
bine all the tribes against the Foxes, the French in some way
won over the Winnebagoes. After being on unfriendly terms
with the Foxes for several years, the old friendship was re-
vived ; yet the Winnebagoes managed to retain the friendship of
the French and continue in uninterrupted trade relations with
them, for, following the missionary, came the trader.
In 1763 France ceded Canada to England. The Winne-
bagoes, however, were reluctant to transfer their allegiance to
"The Siouan Tribes of the East," by James Mooney, Bulletin Bureau
of Ethnology, 1894, Washington.
the English ; but when they did, they remained firm in their new
fealty. The English were known to the Winnebagoes as
Mo n hi n to n ga, meaning "Big Knife ;" this term is said to have
originated from the kind of swords worn by the English.*
When the thirteen colonies declared their independence in 1776,
the Winnebagoes allied themselves with the British and fought
with them through the Revolutionary War. They participated
in the border outbreaks in Ohio and were among the savages
defeated by General Anthony Wayne on August 20, 1794. In
the War of 1812-15 they espoused the cause of England, and in
the years immediately following this war they became quite in-
The so-called Winnebago War of 1827 was of short dura-
tion. The energetic movements of Governor Cass, the prompt-
ness of the militia under Colonel Henry Dodge, and the des-
patch of General Atkinson of the federal army filled the Winne-
bagoes with such respect for the power of the United States that
the disturbance was quelled before it had fairly begun. At this
time the tribe numbered nearly 7,000. It might also be men-
tioned that a few of the tribe secretly joined the Sauks and Foxes
in the Black Hawk War of 1832.
Smallpox visited the tribe twice before 1836, and in that
year more than one-fourth of the tribe died. Mr. George Catlin,
famous painter of the Indians, made the statement, when at
Prairie du Chien in 1836, that, "The only war that suggests it-
self to the eye of the traveler through their country is the war
of sympathy and pity."
* " The Omaha Tribe," by Alice C. Fletcher and Francis La Flesche,
Eth. Ann. 27, pg. 611.
REMOVAL TO IOWA
Historical evidence reveals the fact that at one time the
northern part of Winneshiek county formed a small part of the
vast hunting grounds of the Sioux Indians, and that the south-
ern portion was given over to the Sauks and Foxes. In a coun-
cil held at Prairie du Chien, August 19, 1825, a boundary line
was established between the Sioux, on the north, and the Sauks
and Foxes, on the south. The principal object of this treaty was
to make peace between these contending tribes as to the limits
of their respective hunting grounds in Iowa.
This boundary line began at the mouth of the Upper Iowa
river and followed the stream, which traverses Winneshiek
county, to its source. In order to decrease still further the en-
counters between the Sauks and Foxes, on the one hand, and
the Sioux, on the other, the United States secured, at a council
held at Prairie du Chien July 15, 1830, a strip of territory twenty
miles wide on each side of the boundary line already established
and extending from the Mississippi to the east fork of the Des
Moines. This strip, forty miles in width, was termed the "Neu-
tral Ground." The tribes on either side were to hunt and fish on
it unmolested, a privilege they ceased to enjoy when this terri-
tory was ceded to the Winnebagoes. In this way the tract of
land now known as Winneshiek county became a part of the
September 15, 1832, the Winnebagoes ceded to the United
States their lands south of the Wisconsin and Fox rivers, east of
the Mississippi. The government on its part, by this treaty
granted to the Winnebagoes "to be held as other Indian lands
are held, that part of the tract of country on the west side of the
Mississippi river known as the Neutral Ground, embraced with-
in the following limits." The boundaries specified confined the
Winnebagoes to that portion of the Neutral Ground extending
forty miles west of the Mississippi. By the terms of this treaty
they were to be paid $10,000 annually for twenty-seven years,
beginning in September, 1833.
November I, 1837, a treaty was concluded with the Winne-
bagoes at Washington, by the provisions of which they ceded to
the United States the remainder of their lands on the east side
and certain interests on the west side of the Mississippi river,
and agreed to remove to a portion of the Neutral Ground in
Northeastern Iowa, set aside for them in the previous treaty of
September 15, 1832. This treaty of 1837 was loudly proclaimed
by the tribe to be a fraud. It was stated that the delegation
which visited Washington in that year had no authority to exe-
cute such an instrument. Chiefs, also, who were of this party all
made the same declaration. *
The first attempt to remove the Winnebagoes was made in
1840, when a considerable number were induced to move to the
Turkey river. That year a portion of the Fifth and Eighth regi-
ments of U. S. infantry came to Portage, Wis., to conduct their
removal. Antoine Grignon and others were connected with this
force as interpreters.
Two large boats were provided to transport the Indians
down the Wisconsin river to Prairie du Chien. Captain Sum-
ner, who later was a commanding officer at Fort Atkinson,
secured 250 Winnebagoes in southern Wisconsin. These were
also taken to Prairie du Chien. They first disliked the idea of
going on to the Neutral Ground, because on the south were the
Sauks and Foxes, and on the north were the Sioux, and with
* Wisconsin Archeologist, Vol. 6, No. 3, pg. 112.
these tribes they were not on friendly terms. Considerable re-
sentment was felt by the Sauks and Foxes towards the Winne-
bagoes for having delivered Black Hawk over to the whites,
although previous to this occasion the Winnebagoes had been
in intimate relationship with these tribes. However, they soon
grew to love the Iowa reservation.
And they painted on the grave-posts
On the graves yet unforgotten,
Each his own ancestral Totem,
Each the symbol of his household;
The Song of Hiawatha.
In each tribe there existed, on the basis of kinship a divi-
sion, into clans and gentes. The names given to these divisions
were usually those of the animals, birds, reptiles, or inanimate
objects from which their members claimed descent, or which
were regarded as guardian deities common to them all; these
were known as their totems.
The term "clan" implies descent in the female, and "gens"
in the male line. Clans and gentes were generally organized into
phratries ; and phratries, into tribes. A phratry was an organi-
zation for ceremonial and other festivals.
The Winnebago social organization was based on two phra-
tries, known as the Upper, or Air, and the Lower, or Earth,
divisions. The Upper division contained four clans: (i) Thun-
der-bird, (2) War People, (3) Eagle, (4) Pigeon (extinct) ; while
the Lower division contained eight clans: (i) Bear, (2) Wolf,
(3) Water-spirit, (4) Deer, (5) Elk, (6) Buffalo, (7) Fish, (8)
The Thunder-bird, and Bear, clans were regarded as the
leading clans of their respective phratries. Both had definite
functions. The lodge of the former was the peace lodge, over
which the chief of the tribe presided, while the lodge of the Bear
clan was the war, or disciplinary, lodge. Each clan had a num-
her of individual cutsoms, relating to birth, the naming-feast,
death, and the funeral-wake. An Upper individual must marry
a Lower individual, and vice versa.
When Carver, an early traveler, first came in contact with
the Winnebagoes, their chief was a woman. The man, how-
ever, was the head of each family. Where clans existed, a man
could become a member of any particular clan only by birth,
adoption, or transfer in infancy from his mother's to his father's
clan, or vice versa. The place of woman in a tribe was not that
of a slave or beast of burden. The existence of the gentile or-
ganization, in most tribes with descent in the female line, forbade
that she be subjected to any such indignity.
Dr. J. O. Dorsey obtained a list of the gentes of the Hot-
cangara, or Winnebagoes.* They were (i) Shungikikarachada
('Wolf'); (2) Honchikikarachada ('Black Bear'); (3) Huwani-
kikarachada ('Elk'); (4) Wakanikikarachada ('Snake'); (5)
Waninkikikarachada ('Bird'); (6) Cheikikarachada ('Buffalo'):
(7) Chaikikarachada ('Deer') ; (8) Wakchekhiikikarachada
('Water-monster'). The Bird gens was composed of four sub-
gentes, namely: (a) Hichakhshepara ('Eagle'), (b) Ruchke
('Pigeon'), (c) Kerechun ('Hawk'), (d) Wakanchara ('Thunder-
bird'). It seems probable that each gens was thus subdivided
into four sub-gentes.
In 1843 tne y were on the Neutral Ground in different bands,
the principal one, called the School band, occupying territory
along the Turkey river.
The late J. Owen Dorsey of the Bureau of American Ethnology,
in Bull. 30, pg. 961.
MANNERS AND CUSTOMS
The Winnebagoes are distinctly a timber people, and always
confined themselves to the larger streams. In early days their
wearing apparel consisted commonly of a breechclout, mocca-
sins, leggings, and robes of dressed skins. The advent among
them of the whites enabled them to add blankets, cloths, and
ornaments to their scanty wardrobes.
Jonathan Emerson Fletcher, the Indian agent at the Turkey
river, furnished Mr. Henry R. Schoolcraft, LL. D., at one time
Indian agent for Wisconsin Territory and author of "Historical
and Statistical Information Respecting the History, Condition
and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States," a des-
cription of the costume of the Winnebagoes, from which the
following is condensed* : "White blankets are preferred in
winter, and colored in the summer. Red is a favorite color
among the young, and green with the aged. Calico shirts, cloth
leggings, and buckskin moccasins are worn by both sexes. In
addition to the above articles, the women wear a broadcloth
petticoat, or mantelet, suspended from the hips and extending
below the knee.
"Wampum, ear-bobs, rings, bracelets, and bells are the most
common ornaments worn by them. Head-dresses ornamented
with eagle's feathers are worn by the warriors on public occa-
sions. The chiefs wear nothing peculiar to designate their office,
except it be medals received from the President of the United
* Wisconsin Archeologist, Vol. 6, No. 3, pg. 121.
"Some of the young men and women paint their blankets
with a variety of colors and figures. A large majority of the
young and middle-aged of both sexes paint their faces when
they dress for a dance.
"Old and young women divide their hair from the forehead
to the back of the crown, and wear it collected in a roll on the
back of the neck, confined with ribbons and bead-strings. The
men and boys wear their hair cut similar to the whites, except
that they all wear a small quantity on the back of the crown,
long and braided, which braids are tied at the end with a ribbon.
The men have but little beard which is usually plucked out by
One style of Winnebago wigwam consisted of an arched
frame-work of poles firmly set in the ground and lashed together
with strips of bark and so arranged as to give it sloping sides
and a rounded top. Cross-pieces of wood secured the poles to
one another. The roof and sides were covered with pieces of
bark, or matting. The general outline was round or elliptical.
Conical lodges were employed chiefly in the summer time. Fur
robes, matting, and blankets served for bedding. Branches were
heaped around the side walls, and on these, covered with blan-
kets, served as a bed.
Mr. Fletcher stated * that the lodges at the Turkey river,
Iowa, were "from twelve to forty feet in length, and from ten
to twenty feet in width, and fifteen feet in height from the ground
to the top of the roof. The largest would accommodate three
families of ten persons each. They generally have two doors.
Fires, one for each family, are made, along the space through
the center. The smoke escapes through apertures in the roof.
The summer lodge is of lighter materials and is portable."
* Wisconsin Archeologist, Vol. 6, No. 3, pg. 124, condensed from
Information furnished to H. R. Schoolcraft.
Council houses and other structures were erected in each
village. Mr. Oliver Lamere states : "It is said that all of their
councils were held at the Turkey river, as that was their agency
at the time. Usually everything went as the chiefs wanted it."
Regarding the vicinity of Fort Atkinson, Mr. H. J. Goddard
says : "There were two Indian camping grounds south of here,
one about a quarter of a mile, and the other half a mile, distant.
One had about 50 wigwams, and the other between 300 and
400. They took poles and stuck them in the ground, then bent
them over and tied the tops together and covered them with
bark. The bark was pealed from the water- or slippery-elm trees
during the spring."
Bark served the Indians in a multitude of ways. It was
stripped from trees at the proper season by hacking it around
so that it could be taken off in sheets of the desired length. The
Winnebagoes also made a kind of drink from bark. Mr. Lamere
says, "They also made a matting from reeds sewed or matted
together with strings made out of bass-wood bark; of course,
they used canvas when they could purchase it, but their perma-
nent lodges would be of bark."
It was the man's duty to protect his village and family, and
by hunting to provide meat and skins. The women dried the
meat, dressed the hides, made the clothing, and, in general, per-
formed all the household duties. The processes employed for
dressing skins were various, such as fleshing, scraping, braining,
stripping, graining, and working. In the domestic economy of
the Indian, skins were his most valued and useful material, as
they also later became his principal trading asset. A list of the
articles made of this material would embrace a great many of
the Indian's principal possessions.
Moccasins and other articles made of skin were often cov-
ered with artistic bead-work, replete with tribal symbolism. The
Winnebagoes also had, not long ago, a well developed porcupine
In common with other tribes the Winnebagoes were accus-
tomed to prepare dried and smoked fish and meat. Nuts, wild
fruits, and edible roots of various kinds were also used for food.
Corn was raised and such vegetables as squash, pumpkins, beans,
potatoes and watermelons. Corn was often eaten green, but
usually after it had been dried, ground, and made into bread ; it
was sometimes boiled with meat. At the Turkey river near Fort
Atkinson the Indians cached their corn in holes dug in the
ground three or four feet square and about three feet deep.
Wild rice was raised and was prepared by being boiled with
meat and vegetables. Shelled dried corn, dried hulled fruit, and
nuts were cached in storage pits for future use. Tobacco was
raised, but only in small quantities. Notwithstanding the abund-
ance of animal and vegetal food that the fields and forest
afforded, the Indians suffered occasionally from famine. For
wood the limbs of trees were used, but not the trunk; in the
neighborhood of Fort Atkinson evidence remains to-day of this
Of the Winnebago marriage customs Moses Paquette, who
went (1845) to tne Presbyterian school at the Turkey river,
stated* in 1882 : "Presents to the parents of a woman, by either
the parents of the man or the man himself, if accepted, usually
secure her for a partner. However much the woman may dis-
like the man, she considers it her bounden duty to go and at
least try to live with him. Divorce is easy among them. There
are no laws compelling them to live together. Sometimes there
are marriages for a specified time, say a few months or a year.
When separations occur, the woman usually takes the children
with her to the home of her parents. But so long as the union
exists, it is deemed to be sacred, and there are few instances of
Wisconsin Archeologist, Vol. 6, No. 3, pg. 126.
infidelity. Quite a number of the bucks have two wives, who
live on apparently equal, free, and easy terms ; but although there
is no rule about the matter, I never heard of any of the men
having more than two wives. With all this ease of divorce,
numerous Indian couples remain true to each other for life."
Many of the early traders took Winnebago wives.
The Indians had their favorite pastimes and games, some of
which were played by the women and children. There were also
several kinds of dances for various occasions.
Regarding their burial customs, the graves were in later
times protected by logs, stones, brush, or pickets. With the
bodies of the deceased were buried their personal possessions
or symbolical objects. With the corpse of a woman were buried
her implements of labor. The graves of chiefs and persons of
distinction were sometimes enclosed with pickets. Over such a
grave it was customary to place a white flag. The blackening of
the face by mourners was a common custom. In the winter the
remains were encased and placed on a scaffold and then elevated
into the branches of a tree, or placed between two trees. In the
spring the permanent burial was made in a shallow grave. Over
this was erected an A-shaped structure, consisting of two short,
forked posts, which, placed one at each end of the grave, sup-
ported a cross-piece. Against this frame-work were placed
Lengthwise the graves at the Turkey river extended from
from east to west, in order that the dead might "look towards
the happy land" that was supposed to lie somewhere in the direc-
tion of the setting sun. The body of the dead was sometimes
placed in the grave in a sitting posture, the head and chest ex-
tending above the ground. A pipe of tobacco was buried with
an adult male, and a war-club was placed in the grave of a war-
rior. The hieroglyphics painted on the post at the head of a
warrior's grave represented the exploits of those who danced
about the grave at his funeral.
Mr. Goddard says: "There were about a dozen or more
Indian graves close to the fort, but these have long since been
obliterated. An Indian child, about seven or eight years of age,
was put above ground in a coffin placed between, and near the
top of, four cedar posts set in the ground, and about seven or
eight feet high. I was told by the Indians who later traveled
through the country quite frequently that the child belonged to
a Chippewa woman who was visiting the Winnebagoes. Later,
a man who stopped at my place took from inside the heavily
beaded blanket, in which the child was wrapped when buried, a
round mirror ornament with a loop for suspension, about three
inches in diameter, on the back of which was a picture of Gen-
"An Indian grave was on the top of a hill in Jackson town-
ship, section twenty. The Indians told me that a chief called
Black Bear was buried there ; however, there is nothing further
authentic to prove this. The grave was surrounded by a stock-
ade made of boards split out of logs and was seven feet high ; it
enclosed a space about seven by eight feet in area. The boards
were spiked together.
"Near the Little Turkey river, a fork of the Turkey river,
at a point about one and one-half miles from Waucoma in Fay-
ette county, was a farm of about 100 acres broken up (suppos-
edly by the government) and owned by a chief called Whaling
Thunder [evidently Whirling Thunder, but not definitely
known]. Here Whaling (?) Thunder died, and on his land was
a group of about thirty graves, six Indians being buried in one
Hon. Abraham Jacobson, of Springfield township, stated*
* " Reminiscences of Pioneer Norwegians," by Hon. A. Jacobson in
"The Illustrated Historical Atlas of Winneshiek County, Iowa," 1905,
Sec. II, pg. 12.
that, "On the banks of the Upper Iowa river many Indian graves
were found. The bodies were buried in a sitting position, with
the head sometimes above ground. A forked stick put up like a
post at each end of the grave held a ridge pole on which leaned
thin boards placed slanting to each side of the grave. Thus each
grave presented the appearance of a gable of a small house."
On Mr. J. I. Tavener's land in West Decorah are three
mounds, or artificial hillocks, now nearly obliterated by culti-
vation. These mounds are circular in form and, before being
worn down by the plow, were low, broad, round- topped cones
from two and one-half to three feet high in the center. The
largest of the group was about forty feet in diameter. Conical
mounds are, as a rule, depositories of the dead. As yet, no
bones have been exhumed from any of these mounds, so that it
is not known at present what purpose they served ; but it seems
probable that they were burial mounds.
The early settlers furnished evidence of the existence of
many Indian graves throughout the county, notably where the
city of Decorah is located. These graves are now almost im-
Ye whose hearts are fresh and simple,
Who have faith in God and Nature,
Who believe, that in all ages
Every human heart is human,
That in even savage bosoms
There are 1'ongings, yearnings, strivings
For the good they comprehend not,
That the feeble hands and helpless,
Groping blindly in the darkness,
Touch God's right hand in that darkness
And are lifted up and strengthened;
Listen to this simple story,
The Song of Hiawatha.
The fundamental religious concept of the Indian is the be-
lief in the existence of magic power in animate and inanimate
objects. This gave rise to their idea that there are men who
possess supernatural power. This magic power is called Ma n 'una
(Earth-maker)* by the Winnebagoes, and corresponds to the
Gitchi Manito of the Central Algonquian tribes, and Wakandtf
of the Siouan tribes. As a verb, "wakanda" signifies "to reckon
as holy or sacred, to worship ;" the noun is "wakan" and means
"a spirit, something consecrated." "Wakan," as an adjective, is
defined as "spiritual, sacred, consecrated, wonderful, incompre-
hensible, mysterious." "Wakan" and various other forms of
that word are of common occurrence in the Winnebago lan-
The Winnebago mythology consists of large cycles relating
to the five personages, Trickster, Bladder, Turtle, He-who-
Bureau of American Ethnology. Bulletin 30, part 2, pg. 960.
t Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 30, part 2, pg. 897.
wears-heads-as-earrings, and the Hare. Other deities known to
them are Disease-giver, Sun, Moon, Morning Star, the Spirits of
the Night, One-horn, the Earth, and the Water.
The Indian had no understanding of a single, all-powerful
deity, the "Great Spirit," till the Europeans, often unconsciously,
informed him of their own belief. He believed in a multitude of
spirits that were the source of good or bad fortune, and whom
he feared to offend.* He seems to have had no conception of a
future punishment. The mortuary rites of the Winnebagoes,
and other tribes, testify to the fact that they believed in a life
after death ; but as to the nature of "the happy land of the west"
their ideas were vague.
The Winnebagoes had two important tribal ceremonies, the
Mankani, or Medicine Dance, and the Wagigo, or Winter Feast.
The Medicine Dance could take place only in summer; and the
Winter Feast, only in winter. The Medicine Dance was a secret
society, ungraded, into which men and women could be initiated
on payment of a certain amount of money. The purpose of the
society was the prolongation of life and the instilling of certain
virtues, none of which related to war. These virtues were in-
stilled by means of the "shooting" ceremony, the pretended
shooting of a shell, contained in an otter-skin bag, into the body
of the one to be initiated. The ceremony was performed in a
long tent occupied by five ceremonial bands, whose positions of
honor depended on the order of invitation. The general cere-
mony itself was public, but a secret vapor-bath ceremony pre-
ceded, and a secret ceremony intervened between the first and
The Winter Feast was a war feast and the only distinctively
clan ceremonial among the Winnebagoes. Each clan had a
sacred bundle, which was in the hands of some male individual,
and was handed down from one generation to another, care
Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 30, part 2, pg. 284.
being always taken to keep it in the same clan. The purpose of
this feast was to appease all the supposed deities known to
them. Mr. Fletcher, the agent at the Turkey river, gave Mr.
Schoolcraft a description of the War dance and the Medicine
There were a number of other important ceremonies, of
which the best known were the Herucka and the Buffalo Dance.
The latter was performed in the spring, and had for its purpose
the magical calling of the buffalo herds. All those who pre-
tended to have had supernatural communication with the Buffalo
spirit might participate in the ceremony, irrespective of clan.
It seems that the object of the Herucka was to stimulate an
Moses Paquette gave Dr. Thwaites of Wisconsin a brief
account of the Buffalo Dance, which he describes, as "Probably
the most popular of their dances." "They represent," he con-
tinues, "themselves to be bisons, imitating the legitimate motions
and noises of the animal, and introducing a great many others
that would quite astonish the oldest buffalo in existence. Of
course it has been a long time since any Winnebagoes ever saw
buffaloes; their antics are purely traditionary, handed down
from former generations of dancers."*
Other dances and feasts were the Snake, Scalp, Grizzly-
bear, Sore-eye, and Ghost dances. Little Hill, a Winnebago
chief, gave Mr. Fletcher an account of their creation, which, in
all its parts, bears testimony to their belief in numerous spirits, f
Mr. Lamere states that, "The Buffalo Dance was carried on by
the Winnebagoes for a long time, but the dance that they
seemed to have liked and indulged in mostly while there [Iowa]
was the Fish Dance, which was only a dance of amusement.
The Herucka dance was adopted from some of the western tribes
Wisconsin Archeologist, Vol. 6, No. 3, pg. 130.
t " Red Men of Iowa," by A. R. Fulton.
and was brought back by the Winnebagoes who enlisted as
scouts during the Sioux outbreak in 1862 and was introduced
after the Winnebagoes came here to Nebraska;" he further
states, "The Thunder-bird was held in awe by the Winne-
bagoes, and they believed that thunder-storms were caused by
these beings, the lightning being caused by the opening and
closing of their eyes ; the Winnebagoes do not describe them as
birds, but beings of the human type and always wearing cedar
boughs on their head, or hair, and carrying flat war-clubs."
GENEOLOGY AND HISTORY OF THE
How fair is Decorah,
Our city named so
For the Indians that roamed
O'er its hills years ago,
Whose well trodden pathways
The story could tell
How from all directions
They came here to dwell.
In fitting remembrance
These lines we inscribe
To Waukon Decorah,
A chief of their tribe.
Whose name is a landmark
And honored shall stand
For heeding the fiat
"Move on, yield your land."
And Indians that peopled
This beautiful site,
Reluctant but friendly
Relinquished their right.
They left us this valley
With beauties untold,
Gave way to the settlers,
Our pioneers bold.
Things have changed, to be sure,
In this valley, still
'Tis but sixty odd years
Since they camped on yon hill
Where now stands the courthouse
A pride of our town,
The heart of the county,
Of widespread renown.
Mra. John C. Hezom.
Hopokoelcau, or "Glory of the Morning," also known as the
Queen of the Winnebagoes, was the mother of a celebrated line
of chiefs, all of whom, well known to border history, bore in
some form the name Decorah. Her Indian name is also given
as Wa-ho-po-e-kau. She was the daughter of one of the prin-
cipal Winnebago chiefs. There is no record of the date of her
birth or death.
She became the wife of Sabrevoir De Carrie, who probably
came to Wisconsin with the French army, in which he was an
officer, in 1728. He resigned his commission in 1729, and be-
came a fur-trader among the Winnebagoes, subsequently marry-
ing "Glory of the Morning." He was adopted into her clan
and highly honored. After seven or eight years, during which
time two sons and a daughter were born to him, he left her,
taking with him the daughter. The Queen refused to go with
her husband, and remained in her home with her two sons.
"The result is to-day that one-half or two-thirds of the Winne-
bago tribe have more or less of the Decorah blood in their
veins."* Through the intervening generations there has been
no other mixture of Caucasian blood, so that the Decorahs of
to-day are probably as nearly full-bloods as any Indians in any
part of the country.
De Carrie returned to Canada, re-entered the army, and was
killed at Ste Foye in the spring of 1760. The daughter whom
he took with him, became the wife of a trader, Constant Keri-
goufili, whose son, Sieur Laurent Fily (so-called), died about
Captain Jonathan Carver, who visited the Queen in 1766,
states that she received him graciously, and luxuriously enter-
tained him during the four days he remained in her village,
which "contained fifty houses." Her two sons, "Being the de-
scendants of a chief on the mother's side, when they arrived at
Statement by Geo. W. Kingsley.
manhood * * * * assumed the dignity of their rank by
inheritance. They were generally good Indians and frequently
urged their claims to the friendship of the whites, by saying
they were themselves half white."
Choulceka Dekaury, or Spoon Decorah, sometimes called the
Ladle, was the eldest son of Sabrevoir De Carrie and Hopokoe-
kau. The name is also rendered Chau-ka-ka and Chou-ga-rah.
After having been made chief he became the leader of attacks on
the Chippewas during a war between them and the Winne-
bagoes, but he maintained friendly relations with the whites.
He was the ancestor of the Portage branch of the family. It was
principally through his influence that the treaty of June 3, 1816,
at St. Louis, Mo., was brought about.
His wife, Flight of Geese, was a daughter of Nawkaw
(known also as Carrymaunee and Walking Turtle), whose man-
agement of tribal affairs was decidedly peaceful. According to
La Ronde, Choukeka's death occurred in 1816, when he was
"quite aged." He left six sons and five daughters. The sons
were: (i) Konokah, or Old Gray-headed Decorah; (2) Augah,
or the Black Decorah, named by La Ronde, Ruch-ka-scha-ka,
or White Pigeon ; (3) Anaugah, or the Raisin Decorah, named
by La Ronde, Chou-me-ne-ka-ka ; (4) Nah-ha-sauch-e-ka, or
Rascal Decorah ; (5) Wau-kon-ga-ka, or the Thunder Hearer ;
(6) Ong-skaka, or White Wolf, who died young. Three of the
daughters married Indians. One married a trapper named
Dennis De Riviere and later married Perische Grignon. The
other married Jean Lecuyer.
Cyrus Thomas* makes the statement that, "From Chou-
keka's daughters who married white men are descended several
well known families of Wisconsin and Minnesota."
Chah-post-kaw-lcaw, or the Buzzard Decorah, was the second
son of De Carrie and "Glory of the Morning." He settled at
* Of the Bureau of American Ethnology.
La Crosse in 1787, with a band of Winnebagoes, and was soon
after killed there. He had two sons: (i) Big Canoe, or One-
eyed Decorah ; and (2) Wakun-ha-ga, or Snake Skin, known as
Old Gray-Headed Decorah, called by the whites Konakah
(eldest) Decorah, often mentioned as Old Dekaury, was
the eldest son and successor of Choukeka Dekaury. His
common Indian name was Schachipkaka, or The War
Eagle. The signature "De-ca-ri" attached to the treaty of Prai-
rie des Chiens (as the word is frequently spelled in early docu-
ments), Michigan Territory, August 19, 1825, is probably that of
Old Dekaury. He signed the treaty of Prairie du Chien, Michi-
gan Territory, August I, 1829, as "Hee-tsha-wau-sharp-skaw-
kau, or White War Eagle. "Among those representing the Fort
Winnebago deputation at the treaty of Fort Armstrong, Rock
Island, 111., September 15, 1832, he signed as "Hee-tshah-wau-
saip-skaw-skaw, or White War Eagle, De-kau-ray, sr."
Old Decorah was born in 1747, and died at Peten well, the
high rock on the Wisconsin river, April 20, 1836, about ninety
years old. Old De-kau-ry's town contained over 100 lodges,
and was the largest of the Winnebago villages. Before he died
he called a Catholic priest, who baptized him the day of his
Before his father's death, in 1816, Old Gray-headed De-
corah had joined a band of Winnebagoes who took part, August
2, 1813, in the attack led by General Proctor, with 500 regulars
and 800 Indians, on Fort Stephenson on lower Sandusky river,
Ohio, which was so gallantly defended by Major George Crog-
han with a force of 150 Americans and only one cannon. He
also fought with Proctor and Tecumseh, a celebrated Shawnee
chief, at the battle of the Thames, Canada, where a great part
of the British army was either slain or captured by the American
forces under General Wm. H. Harrison, October 5, 1813, and
where Tecumseh was shot. Old Decorah was held as a hostage
for the delivery of Red Bird, a war chief, during the so-called
Winnebago War. Old Decorah gave assurance to General
Atkinson, during this war, of the peaceable intentions of the
It was while Major Zachary Taylor was located at Prairie
du Chien that he received from Old Gray-headed Decorah a
peace pipe now in the State Historical Museum at Madison,
Wis. This calumet is a fine specimen, the head is of catlinite
inlaid with lead polished to look like silver. The stem, or wooden
handle, is about three feet long, rather rudely carved.
Mrs. J. H. Kinzie described* him as "The most noble, dig-
nified, and venerable of his own or indeed of any other tribe.
His fine Roman countenance, rendered still more striking by his
bald head, with one solitary tuft of long silvery hair neatly tied
and falling back on his shoulders ; his perfectly neat, appropriate
dress, almost without ornament, and his courteous manner,
never laid aside, under any circumstances, all combined to give
him the highest place in the consideration of all who knew him."
Mrs. Kinzie further states t : "The noble Old Day-kau-ray
came one day from the Barribault to apprise us of the state of
his village. More than forty of his people, he said, had now-
been for many days without food, save bark and roots. My hus-
band accompanied him to the commanding officer to tell his
story, and ascertain if any amount of food could be obtained
from that quarter. The result was the promise of a small allow-
ance of flour, sufficient to alleviate the cravings of his own
family. When this was explained to the chief he turned away.
'No,' he said, 'if his people could not be relieved, he and his
family would starve with them,' and he refused for those nearest
and dearest to him the proffered succor until all could share
* " Wau-Bun," pg. 89.
t Same reference as above, pg. 484.
alike." During the winter of 1832-33 food was scarce at Fort
Winnebago, and the Indians suffered severely.
Old Day-kau-ray delivered an address on education to the
agent, Mr. Kinzie, at a conference held with the Winnebago
chiefs in 1831, in regard to sending the children of the Indians
away to school. The following quotation is from his speech * :
"The white man does not live like the Indian; it is not his na-
ture; neither does the Indian love to live like the white man.
* * * * This is what we think. If we change our minds we
will let you know."
The known sons of Old Dekaury were (i) Little Decorah
and (2) Spoon Decorah.
Big Canoe, or One-eyed Decorah, a son of Chatpost-kaw-kah,
told George Galef about 1855 that he had but one brother,
Waukon Decorah. One-eyed Decorah's Indian name was
Wadge-hut-ta-kaw, or the Big Canoe. The signature, Watch-
ha-ta-kaw, (by Henry M. Rice, his delegate) is attached to the
treaty of Washington, October 13, 1846, and is undoubtedly
that of One-eyed Decorah.
He was born about 1772, and was fifteen years of age when
his father settled at La Crosse. He aided in the capture of
Mackinaw, July 17, 1812, and was with the British in the attack
on Fort Stephenson, August 2, 1813, near Fremont, Ohio, and
with McKay at the capture of Prairie du Chien. It is said that
he signed the treaty there in 1825. The act for which he became
celebrated was the capture of Black Hawk and the Prophet, in
1832. Black Hawk's force was pursued by General Atkinson,
who completely defeated him August 3, 1832. The famous
Sauk leader and the Prophet escaped to the northward and
* Smithsonian Report, 1885, part 2, pg. 128.
t A Wisconsin pioneer who in 1851 removed to the copper Mississippi
region, where he was judge, state senator, etc., founding the village of
Galesville and the academy thereat. He wrote a history of the Winne-
bago Indians, which is still in manuscript form in the Wisconsin His-
torical Society's possession.
sought refuge among some Winnebagoes, whither they were
followed and captured by One-eyed Decorah and Chaetar (an-
other Winnebago), who delivered him to General Street (a
former Winnebago agent) at Prairie du Chien, August 27, 1832.
On this occasion One-eyed Decorah made the following
"My father, I now stand before you. When we parted I
told you I would return soon, but I could not come any sooner.
We had to go a great distance. You see we have done what you
sent us to do. These (pointing to the prisoners) are the two
you told us to get. We have done what you told us to do. We
always do what you tell us, because we know it is for our good.
Father, you told us to get these men, and it would be the cause
of much good to the Winnebagoes. We have brought them, but
it has been very hard for us to do so. That one (Black Hawk)
was a great way off. You told us to bring them to you alive ;
we have done so. If you had told us to bring their heads alone,
we would have done so, and it would have been less difficult than
what we have done. We would not deliver them to our brother,
the chjef of the warriors, but to you, because we know you, and
we believe you are our friend. We want you to keep them safe ;
if they are to be hurt, we do not wish to see it. Wait until we
are gone before it is done. Father, many little birds have been
flying about our ears of late, and we thought they whispered to
us that there was evil intended for us ; but now we hope these
evil birds will let our ears alone. We know you are our friend
because you took our part, and that is the reason we do what
you tell us to do. You say you love your red children ; we think
we love you as much as, if not more than, you love us. We
have confidence in you and you may rely on us. We have been
promised a great deal if we would take these men that it
would do much good to our people. We now hope to see what
" Red Men of Iowa," pgf. 160.
will be done for us. We have come in haste ; we are tired and
hungry. We now put these men into your hands. We have
done all that you told us to do."
In 1832, One-eyed Decorah married two wives and went to
live on the Black river, Wis. He had at least one son, Spoon
Decorah. Chas. H. Saunders says. "One-eyed Decorah has one
daughter, Mrs. Hester Lowery, still living in Wisconsin. Her
Indian name is No-jin-win-ka. She is between eighty-five and
ninety years old." One-eyed Decorah was living in Iowa be-
tween 1840 and 1848, as Moses Paquette, who went to the Pres-
byterian school at the Turkey river, says that he saw him while
he was at school, and Decorah was then an old man. Big Canoe
disliked to leave their Iowa reservation.
Geo. W. Kingsley says : "One-eyed Decorah or Big Canoe,
after being driver around by the United States Government from
the Turkey river reservation, Iowa, to Long Prairie in northern
Minnesota, then back to Blue Earth, southern Minnesota, his
family brought the old chief back to his native home and stamp-
ing grounds in Wisconsin. * * * * He requested his chil-
dren not to bury him, but instead, to place him on top of the
ground in a sitting position, and so it was done."
He lived for a number of years with his tribe on Decora's
Prairie, Wis., which is named after him; there is also a bluff
called Decora's Peak back from the Prairie which was also
named after him. George Gale states : "The One-eyed De
Carry, who is now [about 1864] about ninety years old, had his
cheedah (or wigwam) and family during the summer of 1862
two miles west of Galesville, Wis., and a part of the summer of
1863 ne was near New Lisbon." On both of these occasions
Gale interviewed him on the traditions of his tribe and family.
One-eyed Decorah (also written One-Eyed Decorah) died near
the Tunnel, in Monroe county, not far from Tomah, Wis., in
August, 1864. A. R. Fulton says* : "While young he [One-
eyed Decorah] had the misfortune to lose his right eye."
Some historiest contain the statement that, "One-eyed De-
corah, a son of Waukon Decorah, was a drunkard and unworthy
of his father;" there is no evidence, however, to show that he
was more debauched than other chiefs, for nearly all Indians
were more or less addicted to firewater. That he was a son of
Waukon Decorah is an error, as One-eyed Decorah himself testi-
fies that Waukon was his brother.
Wakun-ha-ga, or Snake Skin, a son of Chahpost-kaw-kah,
was commonly known as Waukon Decorah, or Washington
Decorah because in 1828 he went to Washington with the
chiefs ; he also visited Washington later. Waukon Decorah was
a great council chief and orator of his tribe.
The following treaties were signed by him : August 19,
1825, Prairie des Chiens, Michigan Territory, as "W 7 an-ca-ha-ga,
or snake's skin;" August 25, 1828, Green Bay, Michigan Terri-
tory, as "Wau-kaun-haw-kaw, or snake skin;" August i, 1829.
Prairie du Chien, Michigan Territory, as "Wau-kaun-hah-kaw,
snake skin ;" among those representing the Prairie du Chien
deputation at Fort Armstrong, Rock Island, 111., September 15,
1832, as "Wau-kaun-hah-kaw, or snake skin, (Day-kau-ray) ;"
November i, 1837, Washington, D. C., as "Wa-kaun-ha-kah,
(Snake Skin)." In 1832, Mr. Burnett found him, with the prin-
cipal part of his band from the Wisconsin and Kickapoo rivers,
about sixty miles up the Mississippi from Prairie du Chien.
This was during the Black Hawk war, at which time Waukon
Decorah aided the whites. This chief belonged to the Missis-
sippi river bands.
Mr. Saunders says, "Wakun-ha-ga had one son named
'Ma-he-ska-ga, or White Cloud;' he is buried here on this reser-
* "Red Men of Iowa," A. R. Fulton; "The Making of Iowa," Sabin.
f Same reference as above.
ration [Nebraska]. This man was known around Prairie du
Chien and Lansing as John Waukon (there is a Charley Wau-
kon who is now living at Lansing, la., but he is no relation to
the Waukon Decorah family). John Waukon has one daugh-
ter, Mrs. Henry Big Fire, and two sons, Henry Smith ('Hunting
Man') and John Smith ('Che-wy-scha-ka') still living. John
Waukon was my father-in-law; my wife's name, by birth and
number of female children, was Oc-see-ah-ho-no-nien-kaw. She
died February 21, 1913."
Waukon Decorah's portrait (recently identified), painted by
J. O. Lewis* at the Treaty of Prairie du Chien in 1825, is shown
in Lewis' Aboriginal Portfolio. He is there called "Waa-kaun-
see-kaa, or the Rattle Snake." Its chief distinction is a turban
composed of a stuffed rattlesnake, wound around the head, on
which are some feathers ; a blanket is draped around the lower
part of his form, while a bunch of hair (evidently horsehair) is
thrown over his arm.
Waukon Decorah evidently had adopted for his badge a
stuffed snake skin, so that by some he was called "snake skin,"
by others, "rattlesnake," the former term, according to historical
data, being more commonly used. Thomas McKenney, later
United States Indian Commissioner, gives a portrait of this chief
in McKenney and Hall's "Indian Tribes," with a biography.
Here he is called "Wa-kaun-ha-ka, a Winnebago Chief." In his
biographic note McKenney speaks of "Wa-kaun-ha-ka" as a De-
corah, moreover, he says that the subject was part French. The
Wa-kaun-ha-ka of McKenney and the Waa-kaun-see-kaa of
* Mr. J. O. Lewis was employed by the Indian Department from 182?.
to 1834 to make portraits of the Indians, which was In furtherance of the
plan of Hon. J. A. Barbour, Secretary of War. He accompanied Governor
Lewis Cass and Colonel H. L. McKenney in their western tours, 1819 and
1829, and was present at the several treaties made by these gentlemen
with the Chippewas, Winnebagoes, Sioux, Pottawattamies, and others.
One of the folios contained a letter from General Cass in September, 1835,
to Mr. Lewis, confirming the correctness of his pictures and commending
him to the public. The sketches made by Mr. Lewis were deposited in the
Indian Office, War Department, at Washington, and many of them were
afterwards copied, at two different times, for the work of McKenney and
Hall. Part 2, Smithsonian Report, 1885.
Lewis are portraits of the same person, and both coincide in the
The variation in Indian names *is not a formidable matter in
identification. Mr. Lamere states that, "The literal translation
of 'Wa-kaun-see-kaa' is 'the Yellow Snake.' " Mr. Saunders
says: "At times of feasts or medicine dances Wa-kun-ha-ga
wore on his head a cap [turban] made of yellow rattlesnake
skins; the feathers denote bravery in battle." L. H. Bunnell
mentions that the yellow rattlesnakes of the Mississippi bluffs
were held as acred by the Winnebagoes and Dakotas, who killed
them only when a skin was required for a religious ceremony or
Miss Kellogg, research assistant to Reuben G. Thwaitest,
reports as follows : "We can unhesitatingly affirm, that there is
every probability that this is the well known Winnebago known
as Waukon Decorah. * * * * I think there can be no
doubt that Lewis's portrait is a genuine one, and correctly iden-
Several historians* of Iowa, it seems, have taken their ac-
counts of Waukon Decorah from a statement originally made in
the "Annals of Iowa," 1866, by Eliphalet Price of Elkader, Clay-
ton county. This contains numerous errors. The Waukon De-
corah described as a very small Indian is not the person of that
name known to Wisconsin history. Price says, "He was usu-
ally called 'the Blind Decorah,' having lost his right eye;" he
further states that the meaning of Waukon Decorah is "White
Snake." In this he is also mistaken, as the previously given
treaty signatures testify. Decorah is a corruption of the French
surname De Carrie.
* Wisconsin Archeologist, Vol. 6, No. 3, pgr. 134.
t Superintendent of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin.
t A. R. Fulton, " The Red Men of Iowa; " B. F. Gue, " History of
Iowa," Vol. 1; Sabin in "The Making of Iowa" also gives the same
$ In his article entitled " Wakon Decorah," Annals of Iowa, 1866.
WAA-KAUN-SEE-KAA (The Rattlesnake or Waukon-Decorah)
From a painting by J. O. Lewis at the Treaty of Prairie du Chien, 1825
George W. Kingsley makes the following statements :
"There was a White Snake also, but he was not a chief, although
a very prominent Indian. He died in Houston county, Minne-
sota, about the time the Decorahs lived in Iowa, his remains
were left in a sitting position on the point of a hill about one
mile north of the village of Houston. White Snake lost a part
of his family in a massacre on the Wapsipinicon river, Iowa, a
few years after the Black Hawk war while on an elk hunt, by a
band of Sauk and Fox Indians by mistake. White Snake was
The speech referred to and partly quoted in W. E. Alex-
ander's History of Winneshiek and Allamakee counties, 1882,
and credited to Waukon Decorah, is obviously connected with
this incident. Evidently the speech was made by White Snake.
He complained that his tribe had been firm friends of the whites,
had aided them in the Black Hawk war, and because of this had
incurred the enmity of the Sauks and Foxes, who first struck
at his own family. He desired some token of remembrance for
It is claimed by Alexander* that, "The name 'Wachon
Decorah' is found translated in some places as the 'White Crow' ;
this is an error. There was a White Crow whose Indian name
was Wa-haw-ska-kaw, also given as Kau-kich-ka-ka. He was
a prominent Winnebago civil chief and orator and died about
the year 1834 in Wisconsin, and was buried there. Spoon De-
corah, a son of Old Gray-headed Decorah, stated that White
Crow was a one-eyed chief.
Eliphalet Price took the census of 1850 and is credited by
the Day family (who were some of the first white settlers in
Winneshiek county) with suggesting Decorah as a very proper
* In his History of Winneshiek and Allamakee counties.
name for the town site that they had in mind to plat.t In the
act of organizing the county (1851) Decorah is herein first
named, two and a half years before the town plat was recorded.
The district represented by Hon. Eliphalet Price consisted of
Clayton, Fayette, Allamakee, and Winneshiek counties. John
Day made the remark* that Decorah "was a small Indian about
five feet in height."
Mr. Price and Mr. Day were probably mislead in their
identification of this chief, as there were other Winnebagoes
whose names began with Waukon. Apparently, they were
familiar with the name Waukon Decorah, and had this in mind
when it came to selecting a name for the new town. Mr. Price
in his article relates that, "Soon after the removal of the Winne-
bagoes from the Wisconsin to the Neutral Ground in Iowa, De-
corah and his band took up their residence on the Iowa river
near the present site of the town that bears his name, in the
county of Winneshiek." Antoine Grignon states : "Wakun-
ha-ga [Waukon Decorah] was camped on the Iowa river
[Upper Iowa] when I knew him. * * * * He did not re-
main in that section long." Mr. Saunders says, "Wakun-ha-ga,
and his band, also had a village at or near Waukon, la., where
they went in the summer, and raised corn and squash, and picked
berries for winter use."
In a statement made by Col. C. A. Clark in "Annals of
Iowa," 1903, he remarks that, "The name of the city of Decorah
evidently comes from Little Decorah." This is very improbable,
as there is nothing which corroborates it. Old Waukon lived a
generation or two before Little Decorah, and was a distin-
guished chief, while it appears that the latter was of lesser note.
It is evident, therefore, that our county seat is named in
honor of the venerable Waukon Decorah. Alexander states,
t From a paper prepared by A. K. Bailey for deposit in the corner
atone of the new Court House.
In Alexander's History of Winneshiek and Allamakee counties.
"Our neighboring town of Waukon gained its name from the
first half." Oliver Lamere confirms this in the following ac-
count: "Waukon and Waukon Junction have derived their
names from Waukon Decorah. * * * * A very prominent
chief lived at the time the Winnebagoes were there [Iowa]
called 'Ah-la-me-ga.' It is thought that the name Allamakee
is taken from him, and therefore it is a Winnebago name."
Waukon Decorah was noted for his large and imposing
stature and is said to have been a fine-looking man. Col. Bris-
bois of Prairie du Chien, who knew him well, speaks particularly
of his stature. Antoine Grignon states that, "he was a large
man over six feet tall and very powerful;" he further states,
"Mr. Price is mistaken, Waukon Decorah was not blind." He
is said to have had a family of several children while here in
Iowa, but the number is not known. Wakun-ha-ga was a
member of the Snake clan and belonged to the Lower phratry.
It is said that his sons had eagle clan names and claimed to be
of the eagle clan.
What are said to be the remains of Waukon Decorah,
which have been twice re-interred, now repose in the Court
House Square, near the northeast corner. These are, however,
the bones of some other Indian. The first grave supposed to be
that of Decorah was on ground now occupied by Winnebago
street, just below Main, almost at their intersection. The open-
ing of the street to travel made it desirable that the remains be
removed to another spot. This was done by a formal meeting
of prominent citizens August 4, 1859. When the grave was
opened the remains were found to consist of human bones, a
blanket, a tomahawk, a pipe, and a great number of beads.
These were taken out and buried under Ellsworth and Landers'
store, the place now occupied by John C. Hexom & Son, where
they remained for about six months. When the stone wall in
front of the Court House was completed, the remains were re-
interred. They were placed in the Court House Square, where
they lay undisturbed for about seventeen years. But the grad-
ing and terracing of these grounds and the building of the new
stone wall compelled another re-interrment in the summer of
1876. The bones were taken out and placed in a box to be
buried again inside the new stone wall.
When the remains were first exhumed in 1859, the skull had
black hair ; this assertion is corroborated in a statement made by
R. F. Gibson, January 27, 1913, to the writer of this article.
Mr. Gibson was one of a committee of three appointed to take
charge of the remains.
Waukon Decorah was at this time living in Minnesota with
his people ; this fact has been established beyond question. It is
stated in Alexander's history that even prominent participants
in the first exhumation of the alleged remains of Decorah
were confused with doubts, by rumors, current at the time,
to the effect that Decorah was still living. He died at
the Blue Earth agency, southern Minnesota, in 1868, and
was buried there. Mr. Lamere says, "He was about ninety-
three years old when he died, and it is said that his hair was as
white as it could be." This is practically conclusive proof that
the death of Waukon Decorah did not occur here, and that his
remains are not buried in the Court House Square.
Little Decorah was the oldest son of Old Gray-headed De-
corah. His Winnebago name is given as "Maw-hee-coo-shay-
naw-zhe-kaw," which Mr. Kingsley interprets as "The pillar that
reaches the clouds." The following treaties were signed by
Little Decorah: November i, 1837, Washington, D. C., as
"Ma-hee-koo-shay-nuz-he-kah, (Young Decori) ;" October 13,
1846, Washington, as "Maw-hee-ko-shay-naw-zhee-kaw ;" Feb-
ruary 27, 1855, Washington, as "Maw-he-coo-shaw-naw-zhe-
kaw, "one that Stands and Reaches the Skies, or Little De-
corie;" April 15, 1859, Washington, as "Little De Corrie;"
March i, 1865, Washington, as "Little Dacoria." It is probable
that "Little Decorah" is simply another term for Decorah,
This chief established a village on the Iowa river (Upper
Iowa) in 1840, and it is thought that he was about forty years old
while here. Antoine Grignon, who was acquainted with him,
says, "Little Decorah spent very little time in Iowa but lived
mostly in the region of Portage, Wis." He belonged to the Mis-
sissippi river bands of Indians. Waukon Decorah and Little
Decorah had separate camps on the Upper Iowa river.
Little Decorah was of medium height, five feet, eight or ten
inches, and was chunky and fleshy. It is said that he was slow
of action and speech, but possessed a mild and kind disposition
and was very sensible. He belonged to the Cloud clan. Little
Decorah died near Tomah, Wis., April i, 1887, about 100 years
Spoon Decorah was a son of Old Gray-headed Decorah. (It
will be remembered that Old Decorah had a brother Choukeka,
also called Spoon Decorah). Spoon Decorah was born at his
father's village near the mouth of the Baraboo river, Wisconsin.
In March, 1887, Dr. Reuben G. Thwaites had an interview with
him. He was then "living with his aged squaw," whose name,
it is said, was Gray Eagle-eye. "His progeny, reaching to the
fourth generation, were clustered about the patriarchal lodge
in family wigwams." He could only converse in his native
tongue. He related, "In 1840, we were all moved to the Turkey
river [Iowa] ; but in the spring our party went to Iowa
[Upper] river, where Little Decorah had a village. We went
down soon afterwards to the Turkey river to get our ammuni-
tion, but for some reason perhaps because we had moved to
Iowa river without the consent of the agent we couldn't get
any."* He then went back to Wisconsin, where he died Octo-
ber 13, 1889, in a cranberry marsh, near Necedah. It is said that
he was about eighty-four years old when he died, t
Spoon Decorah, a cousin of the Spoon Decorah interviewed
by Dr. Thwaites in 1887, was a son of One-eyed Decorah. In
regard to him we have no further information.
Angel De Cora known in private life as Mrs. William Deitz
is the daughter of a descendant of the hereditary chief of the
Winnebagoes. The name "Angel" came about through an acci-
dent; its bearer was carried, while a baby, to a young kins-
woman, who, being asked to choose a "Christian name," opened
a Bible at random, and the first word which caught her eye was
''angel." Her Indian name, which means "Queen of the Clouds,"
identifies her with the Thunder-bird clan. Angel De Cora
Deitz states: "Wakan [Waukon Decorah] was a generation or
two before Maw-he-coo-shaw-naw-zhe-ka [Little Decorah].
The latter was my grandfather."
Her education began, while very young, when she was car-
ried off to Hampton, Va. A strange white man appeared on the
reservation and asked her, through an interpreter, if she would
like to ride on a steam car ; with six other children she decided to
try it, and when the ride was ended she found herself in Hamp-
ton. "Three years later, when I returned to my mother," says
Angel De Corat, "she told me that for months she wept and
mourned for me. My father and the old chief and his wife had
died, and with them the old Indian life was gone." She then
returned to Hampton, where, through the efforts of a kind
family who gave her employment, she was enabled to work her
way through a local preparatory school for girls, and later the
art department of Smith College, Northampton, Mass.
* Wisconsin Historical Collections.
f Same reference as above.
t The Literary Digest, January 27, 1912, pg. 161.
Same reference as above.
Her husband's name is Wicarhpi Isnala, or Lone Star ; he is
one-quarter Sioux and the rest German. Both are now teaching
art at the Carlisle Indian School, her husband having also
studied art and become an artist of some note. Angel De Cora
has been under the art instruction of such men as Howard Pyle,
Frank Brown, Joseph De Camp, and Edmund Tarbell. She has
won distinction in her work. In 1904 her husband, Lone Star,
supervised the interior and mural decorations of the Indian ex-
hibit at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis. It was
while in St. Louis that he became acquainted with Angel De
Roger C. Mackenstadt, whose boyhood was spent in the
city of Decorah, where his parents still reside, says, "Our best
policeman, and one of my intimate friends, was Peter Decora, a
grandson of Chief Wakan Decorah. * * * * In the whole
tribe I would say that fifty are named Decora. They drop the
H. There are several Waukons, about ten, and twenty Winne-
shieks. The Winneshieks and Waukons are all Wisconsin Win-
nebagoes and about half of the Decoras are Wisconsin." Mr.
Mackenstadt having received a promotion, is now stationed at
the Uintah and Ouray Agency, Utah.
1. Peace pipe presented by Old Gray-Headed Decorah to Maj.
2. Chief Winneshiek's pipe (after suggestion furnished by Oliver
3. Winnebago courting flute, known on the frontier as the deerskin
flute, after Oeo. Catlin.
* From an article in The Literary Digest, January 27, 1912, pg. 161.
And though the warrior's sun has set,
Its light shall linger round us yet.
Translation from the Spanish by H. W. Longfellow.
Winneshiek, who seems to be a somewhat shadowy charac-
ter, was a notable chief of the Winnebagoes. It appears that
there was a family, like the Decorah family, that took that name.
The name Winneshiek is evidently not a Winnebago name, but
an Algonquian (that is, Fox) name, and is properly Winnishig*
and signifies "a dirty person who is lying down." He was com-
monly known by his Fox name. In his own language he was
called "Wa-kon-ja-goo-gah," meaning "Coming Thunder;" he
was also called "We-lou-shi-ga," meaning "ties them up," or
"has them tied up." It is also said that his name in his own
language was "Maun-wau-kon-kaw ;" *regarding the last two
names Little Winneshiek says, "I understand that this name
[We-lou-shi-ga] is a Sioux word for Wa-kon-ja-goo-gah, or
Coming Thunder. The name, Maun-wau-kon-kaw, is unknown
to us." The following treaty signatures show the name to be
variously written : August 25, 1828, Green Bay, Michigan Ter-
ritory, " Wee-no-shee-kaw ;" February 27, 1855, Washington, D.
C., "Wau-kon-chaw-koo-haw, the Coming Thunder, or Win-no-
shik," (the first Indian to sign the treaty.)
From A. R. Fulton, in "Red Men of Iowa," we learn that,
"He was promoted to the rank of a chief when quite young, and
always maintained popularity among his people. * * * *
Both physically and intellectually he was a remarkably fine speci-
* Wisconsin Historical Collections.
men of his race. * * * * As a man he was modest, kind,
and courteous ; as a chief, dignified, firm and just in the exercise
of his authority. * * * * Winneshiek was made head chief
of the tribe in 1845 t at tne Turkey river, Iowa], an appoint-
ment that did not affect his position as chief of his own particular
band." Alexander states* : "He was made chief by order of
the United States War Department, on account of his ability
and fitness for the position. Under him as head chief, there
were several chiefs of respective bands into which the tribe was
divided." When the tribe was removed to Long Prairie, Minn.,
Winneshiek was the head chief, and in 1857, when they
were at Blue Earth, he was called a worthy chief and ruler of his
Old chief Winneshiek was an intelligent and very kind man,
and had perfect control over his people. He belonged to the
Thunder clan, and was a member of the Upper phratry. Mr.
Lamere says : "He is said to have been of medium size, had
black mustache and chin whiskers. He was very handsome, and
it is said that he always wore goggles, or dark glasses. He al-
ways carried a pipe, which was made out of a round stick about
a foot and a half long with the stem hole bored through it, and
the bowl bored into the other end; he carried this most all the
time, and especially at council meetings would he have it with
Mr. Kingsley says : "We-no-shee-kah was strictly a pagan;
he did not believe in the white man's way, therefore his band of
followers, which consisted of about one-half or two-thirds of the
tribe, were known as blanket Indians. He was a very shrewd,
wise, and stubborn man, but free-hearted to everybody ; no per-
son ever left or entered the chief's great lodge without receiving
* In his History of Winneshiek and Allamakee Counties. There is
no further authentic mention regarding this statement.
t Wisconsin Archeologist, Vol. 6, No. 3, pg. 166.
something to eat. These were his teachings ; he regarded all the
Winnebagoes as his children and treated them as such. We-no-
shee-kah was no orator, therefore in council with the govern-
ment, or otherwise, he always had a speaker. He was no trav-
eler, although he made a trip or two to see his Great Father at
Washington, President Polk, who, as a token of friendship, gave
We-no-shee-kah a medal; struck on the reverse side were two
hands clasped, an Indian's in that of a white man's [regarding
this medal see statement by Little Winneshiek]. Chief We-no-
shee-kah was a great father as well as a head chief. He had four
wives, who, with himself and family, lived in one lodge. His
principal home was about seven miles west of the village of
Houston, on the Root river, Houston county, Minnesota; here
he lived, during the winter, in a dirt wigwam." Fulton states* :
"He had four wives, one of whom was the reputed daughter of
Colonel Morgan, a former officer in the United States army;"
there is no further authentic mention which corroborates this
statement by Fulton.
That Winneshiek also had a camp on the Upper Iowa river
is evident, as Antoine Grignon says, "While he [Winneshiek]
was camped on the Iowa river my brother Paul and one James
Reed visited his band to find out about some cattle the young
Winnebagoes had stolen from the Sioux. They were given in
compensation an equal amount of cattle, or a number cor-
responding to the number that had been stolen, and Winneshiek
warned his band not to molest the cattle as they were being
driven out, as the young men were making preparations to
stampede the herd by waving red blankets in front of them."
P. V. Lawson, a Wisconsin historian, saysf : "The Indians
in a drunken pow-wow at Prairie du Chien had killed his
* " Red Men of Iowa," pg. 158.
t Wisconsin Archeologist, Vol. 6, No. 3, pg. 156; taken from Wiscon-
sin Historical Collections 9, 287.
brother. Word of this tragedy being sent to him, he coolly
loaded his pistol, and with it concealed beneath his blanket,
went to the place where his brother lay. He had the murderer
brought beside his victim and then suddenly shot him dead;"
there is no further mention made of this incident. It is stated,t
however, that Winneshiek was in 1829 head chief of the Winne-
bago village at La Crosse.
He was on the British side in 1812-15, and in 1832 refused to
assist the Americans against the Sauks. When invited by the
whites to join them, the matter was discussed with the chiefs and
braves. "Win-o-she-kaw was opposed to the measure, and de-
clined having anything to do with it. He said the Sauks had
twice that season presented the red wampum to the Winne-
bagoes at Portage, and that they had as often washed it white
and handed it back to them ; further, that he did not like that red
thing; that he was afraid of it. Waudgh-ha-ta-kau [evidently
the One-eyed Decorah] took the wampum, and said that he with
all the young men of the village would go; that they were
anxious to engage in the expedition and would be ready to ac-
company us on our return."* A short while after this it was
found that Winneshiek and Wau-mar-nar-sar had gone up the
river with part of the band to hunt and dry meat.
His mother was a sister of Wabokieshiek (White Cloud),
the half-Sauk, half-Winnebago Prophet, who assisted Black
Hawk. Little Winneshiek says, "For this relationship he fought
in a number of battles under Black Hawk in the war of 1832."
Thomas Clay, an aged Winnebago, heard Winneshiek tell this
from time to time at death-wakes, where the brave men, or war-
riors, were supposed to tell the truth. Clay's statement t is as
t Wisconsin Archeologist, Vol. 6, No. 3, pg. 156: taken from Wiscon-
sin Historical Collection 8, 287.
* Wisconsin Historical Collections, 2, 267, 256.
t As given by Mr. Oliver Lamere.
"Winneshiek was a nephew of a Sauk and Fox Indian called
White Cloud [Wabokieshiek], that is why Winneshiek was an
aid to the Sauk and Fox Indians during- Black Hawk's war.
Winneshiek was taking, or guiding, the Fox Indians into the
Winnebago country, or to the village, and as they were crossing
the Mississippi river somewhere near where Prairie du Chien
now stands, a steamboat came up the river and anchored in the
middle of the stream. Then some one called out from the boat
and asked if Black Hawk was there among them. 'Yes/ was
the answer from the Indians. 'Will he surrender or not?' was
the next question from the boat. Then Winneshiek spoke up,
and said : 'Uncles (meaning the Fox Indians, as that was what
he always called them), tie a white cloth to a pole and I will
go and surrender.' So they made a white flag for him, but as he
was about to get into the stream to swim to the boat, the Fox
people said : 'Perhaps after all you had better not go,' and saying
thus, they held him ; and the soldiers in the boat could see that
he was being held. Then Winneshiek said : 'Uncles, I meant to
do this that you might live, but the result shall be your fault.'
Just then the question came again from the boat, 'Will you sur-
render?' The answer from the Indians was 'No! we will not
surrender,' and no sooner was it said than the soldiers fired upon
them, and even at the first volley many of the Indians were
killed. Then Winneshiek said : 'Uncles, thus far only, am I
able to be with you, as I shall leave you here ;' and saying thus,
he and his real uncles went up the bank of the river and there
watched the fight. When night came upon them, he took his
Fox uncles back to the Wmnebago village with him. When
they arrived at the village, Winneshiek's mother met him, cry-
ing : "Oh ! my son, because you have aided Black Hawk in the
war, they have taken your father to the fort as a prisoner.'
When the soldiers learned that Winneshiek was back at his own
village they came after him and released his father. Winneshiek
was questioned very severely, but he was angered instead of
frightened, and he would not even speak, and for four days he
would not eat the food that was given him. Then one of the
officers said to his fellow officers: 'You must be very severe in
questioning Winneshiek. I will question him myself, to-day.'
So the officer went to him and as he entered he called Winne-
shiek by name, greeting him and shaking hands with him, he
said : 'Winneshiek, I understand that some officers have ques-
tioned you, but that you were angered and would not even speak
to them, and I told them that they must have acted very un-
gentlemanly towards you to cause you to act as you did.' Win-
neshiek said : 'Yes, that is the way they have acted.' 'That is
what I thought,' said the officer, and continued. 'Winneshiek,
I am going to talk with you with good words/ and Winneshiek
assented; so the officer said: 'Winneshiek, as you have been
spoken to roughly, which caused you to not eat for four days,
and as I am going to speak to you with good words, therefore
I desire that you should eat before we talk and I will have
cooked for you a very nice dog that I own myself, and at noon,
after you have had your noon meal, then we shall talk.' Then
the officer got some Indians that were about the fort to cook the
dog for him in the way they usually cook them for themselves.
So when it was thus served to Winneshiek and he had partaken
of it, then he and the officer talked. The officer was very much
pleased that Winneshiek talked with him in a good spirit. Then
he said : 'Winneshiek, I am going to ask you a question and I
would like to have you tell me the truth;' Winneshiek assented.
The officer asked : 'Were you with the Foxes in the war ?' Win-
neshiek said : 'Yes/ and the officer asked again : 'Did you take
part ?' Winneshiek said : 'As you have asked me for the truth,
I will tell it to you, yes, I took part/ Then the officer said :
'Winneshiek, I thank you because I asked you for the truth and
you gave it to me/ Then the officer did not question him any-
more, but left. Winneshiek was kept in prison one year for
being an aid to Black Hawk."
Kingsley says : "We-no-shee-kah and his band after being
moved about from one reservation to another were finally re-
moved from Blue Earth, Minnesota, to Usher's Landing, or
Fort Thompson, S. D. Here a part of the band starved to death
and others died of exposure. He took the remnant of his band
and started down the Missouri river in canoes, in hopes of going
to St. Louis, and hence up the Mississippi to his native haunts in
Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota; but the old chief got as far
down as St. Joseuh, Mo., and there winter overtook him and his
little band. The old chief took sick and died very suddenly. ''
At this time the old chief evidently was on the Kansas side of
the Missouri, as Mr. Lamere says : "He died in Kansas, or just
across the southern line of Nebraska among the Iowa Indians/'
One wife and the family came through the next summer. Little
Winneshiek, a son of the old chief, says : "My father traveled
extensively in the interest of the tribe, he with other chiefs were
in Washington on two occasions for the purpose of ceding large
areas of land at each time to the Federal Government ;" he fur-
ther says: "Your county was named in honor of my father.
Chief Winneshiek, who was considered the head of the Winne-
bago tribe at the time they were occupying the Turkey river dis-
trict in Iowa. Ours was the family to which Geo. Kingsley re-
ferred to as moving to Wisconsin after my father's death."
No one knows who gave the county its name ; this, like cer-
tain other things concerning the earliest history of the county,
has apparently never been recorded. At an old settlers' meeting
held in Decorah, July 4, 1876, Mr. A. K. Bailey delivered an
address in which it was strongly intimated that this might have
been the work of Hon. Eliphalet Price. Alexander accepted this
as good enough history and gives it as such in his history of the
county. However, Mr. A. K. Bailey corrects this by a later
article* in which he states : "The very recent discovery that the
county was named legally [February 27, 1847], and its boun-
daries described, more than four years before the organizing act
fi85i] was passed (which has until now  been considered
as the beginning of county existence), makes this credit to Mr.
Young Winneshiek, or Winneshiek the Younger, so-called in
history, was a younger brother of old chief Winneshiek, or Com-
ing Thunder. It is statedt that he was a son of the old chief, but
this is an error and does not refer to his son Little Winneshiek
who says, "Young Winneshiek was named Ah-hoo-sheeb-gah,
or Short Wing, by his fellow tribesmen; he was a younger
brother of my father and did not participate in the Sauk and
Fox war ." It is said! that during the so-called Winne-
bago war, in 1827, Young Winneshiek was held as a hostage by
Colonel Dodge for the good behavior of the tribe. This state-
ment is made by several historians! in which connection they
also mention him as taking part in the Black Hawk war, 1832;
Mr. Clay's narrative refers to chief Winneshiek, an older brother
of Young Winneshiek. Little Winneshiek's statement (as given
above) confirms Mr. Clay's narration. It is stated in Alexander's
history that Winneshiek was a noted orator. Obviously, this
refers to Young Winneshiek, for in the Report of the Indian
agent for 1840+, there is a speech made by Young Winneshiek,
in which he refers to himself as "a boy," protesting against the
removal to Iowa. Kingsley testifies that old chief Winneshiek
(Coming Thunder) was "no orator."
From a paper prepared by A. K. Bailey, for deposit in the corner
stone of the new Court House, and republished in the " Illustrated His-
torical Atlas of Winneshiek County," Sec. II, pg. 3.
f Wisconsin Historical Collections, 2, 331.
II Wisconsin Historical Collections, 2, 331.
Fulton, Gue, and Sabin; the latter two, it seems, have taken their
accounts from Fulton. They were probably under wrong impressions in
reference to "Young Winneshiek" as their statements (according to his-
torical data) seem to apply to more than one person.
J Wisconsin Historical collections.
Antoine Grignon says, "Young Winneshiek was a bright
young man. He died rather young, at Black River Falls, Wis."
When the Winnebagoes were being removed from Blue Earth,
the chiefs Decorah and Winneshiek (evidently One-eyed Dcorah
and Young Winnshiek) fled with their families and other mem-
bers of the tribe to Wisconsin. Young Winneshiek had a village
on the Black River and died there in May, 1887.
No-gin-kah (meaning, Striking Tree and Younger Winne-
shiek) is the youngest son of Chief Winneshiek, or Coming
Thunder. He is seventy years old and is still living in Wiscon-
sin. He is more commonly known as Little Winneshiek. No-
gin-kah says, "John Winneshiek and I are the only sons of Chief
Winneshiek living and his other descendants produced by our
deceased brothers and sisters diverge into a very large family."
He further states that, "The medals issued to Winnebago chiefs
by the United States Government are lost, the one described by
Geo. W. Kingsley was lost by one of my elder brothers. I have
only one medal in my possession, on which is engraved King
George the 3d and Latin inscriptions [this medal, (with the ex-
ception of a slight variation in size) conforms to a description of
the one issued by the British military authorities in 1778]."
John Winneshiek's Indian name is Ko-sho-gi-way-ka, mean-
ing "One that goes low;" he is seventy-eight years old.
Old chief Winneshiek's Indian name is given by some his-
torians* as Wa-kun-cha-koo-kah, but this is evidently an error.
Wa-kun-cha-koo-kaht is the Indian name of chief Yellow Thun-
der, who migrated with his tribe to Iowa. Yellow Thunder did
not remain long at the Turkey river, for within a year he and his
wife (known in history as "the Washington woman")* returned
to Wisconsin ; here he entered a tract of forty acres as a home-
* Fulton, "Red Men of Iowa:" Gue, "History of Iowa," Vol. 1;
Sabin, " The Making of Iowa."
f Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 30, pt. 2, pg. 996.
I "Wisconsin Archeologist, Vol. 6, No. 3, pjf. 160.
NO-GIN-KAH (Striking Tree or Little Winneshiek)
stead on the west side of the Wisconsin river. He died in Feb-
ruary, 1874. Yellow Thunder was greatly respected by his peo-
ple, and was an able counsellor in their public affairs.
Other Winnebago chiefs known to have been in the county
were Whirling Thunder (Wau-kaun-ween-kaw), Little Hill (Sho-
gee-nik-ka) who, at Long Prairie, became head spokesman for
the chiefs; Big Bear, and Kayrah-mau-nee, a son of Carry-
maunee (or Nawkaw).
MISSION SCHOOL AND TRADING POST
By the treaty of September 15, 1832, it was stipulated that
the government should annually, beginning in September, 1833,
and continuing for twenty-seven years, give the Winnebagoes
$10,000 in specie, and establish a school among them, at or near
Prairie du Chien, with a farm and garden, and provide other
facilities, not to exceed in cost $3,000 a year, for the education of
their children, and continue the same for twenty-seven succes-
sive years. Six agriculturists, twelve yoke of oxen and as many
plows, and other farming tools were to be supplied by the gov-
ernment. The buildings were erected in 1833, on the Yellow
river, Allamakee county, Iowa, and President Jackson appointed
Rev. David Lowry, a Presbyterian minister, to assume charge.
The mission school was removed in 1840, from the Yellow river
to a point on the Turkey river, in Winneshiek county, about
four miles southeast of the fort buildings.
The erection of the mission was superintended by Rev.
Lowry. There were about twenty buildings at the mission. One
was a large school house, another a small church, while the rest
were dwellings. Early Catholic pioneers, who settled near the
Turkey river (1849), purchased these buildings. The small
church was used as a chapel, hence the name Old Mission. In
1853 it was destroyed by fire.
There was also a mission one mile east of the fort, on the
Turkey river, established by Catholic missionaries. Here there
were a number of graves, and at the head of each was a cross.
It is unknown whether any of the graves were those of converted
Indians or not. The buildings belonging to this mission were
burned down by a prairie fire in the early fifties.
Alexander states * that, "Rev. Lowry's assistant was one by
the name of Col. Thomas. To him was turned over the work of
instructing the Indians in agricultural pursuits. The first year,
under Col. Thomas' supervision, a farm of 300 acres was opened.
However, little work could be got out of them, and the crops
planted began to show neglect." There was an abundance of
game in the country round about, and therefore the temptation
for the Indian to roam and hunt was very strong. As a result he
became negligent about tilling the soil. In 1843 Col. Thomas,
under governmental instructions, built the first grist mill in
Winneshiek county. The mission and farm was continued until
the reservation was sold to the government. Lowry finally re-
signed to take charge of a mission in Minnesota and, in 1846,
Mr. Fletcher was appointed agent for the Winnebagoes by
President Polk, and served in that capacity for eleven years.
During that time he resided at Fort Atkinson, Iowa, Long
Prairie, Minn., and Blue Earth, Minn. Under the careful man-
agement of Mr. Fletcher the Winnebagoes attained to consider-
able proficiency in agriculture, and otherwise improved their
During his service as Indian agent Mr. Fletcher was accom-
panied by his wife, who engaged earnestly in the work of teach-
ing the Indians. Their eldest son, Frank Fletcher, acquired such
command of the language of the Indians that he became his
father's interpreter. General Fletcher, while serving as agent,
contributed through the publications of Mr. Schoolcraft a vast
amount of information concerning the religion, traditions, and
customs of the Winnebagoes while at the Turkey river. In 1858
Mr. Fletcher returned to Iowa, where he died April 6, 1872, on
his farm near Muscatine, sixty-six years old.
* In his History of Winneshiek and Allaraakee Counties.
When the crop, planted under Col. Thomas' supervision,
began to show neglect, a force of garrison men were detailed to
cultivate it, and were paid for their labor out of the Indian annu-
ity. Hon. A. Jacobson states* : "Ole Halvorsen Valle, un-
doubtedly the first Norwegian to visit the county, was engaged
in the service of the government as teamster, hauling provisions
from Fort Crawford, Wis., to Fort Atkinson and the Old Mis-
sion ; he was also employed in breaking up pieces of bottom land
on the Upper Iowa river. One of the largest fields thus pre-
pared for the Indians to plant their corn was situated just below
the outlet of Trout Run." Mr. Goddard says, "An Indian chief
had a farm about one-half mile southwest of Spillville, and a
considerable part of the ground was broken up."
An Indian trading post was established two miles southwest
of the fort by a Mr. Olmstead and one Joseph Hewitt. It seems
that they had a permit from the government to trade with the
Indians. The buildings, all one story high, were constructed of
logs. There were five in number, two large dwelling houses, one
large store, one storage house, and a blacksmith shop. Capt.
Joseph Hewitt's principal occupation was hunting, trapping, and
fishing. In 1851 he left the country and located at Clear Lake,
la., where he experienced no little trouble with the Sioux In-
dians. In 1849 Josiah Goddard bought the old Indian trading
post from Olmstead, and in 1850 moved his family on to the
land. Three or four acres of this land had been broken up by
In his article " Reminiscences of Pioneer Norwegians," published
In the Historical Atlas of Wlnneshlek County, 1905. Sec. II, p. 11.
Now, the boys in blue, you bet,
Earn whatever praise they get.
Joseph Mills Hanson, "Frontier Ballads."
In 1840 the Winnebago Indians were removed to their new
home on the Neutral Ground. In order to protect them from
the incursions of their neighbors, among whom were the Sauk
and Fox tribes, as well as from intrusions of the whites, and in
turn to prevent them from trespassing beyond the limits of the
reservation, soldiers were stationed among them. A detachment
of the 5th Infantry (Company F) under command of Captain
Isaac Lynde left Fort Crawford, with a complement of eighty-
two officers and enlisted men, and went into camp, May 31, 1840,
in the neighborhood of Spring creek (now known as Goddard's
creek) on the Turkey river. The camp was named "Camp At-
kinson" in honor of Brigadier General Henry Atkinson, U. S.
Army, the Department Commander who was so prominent in
military operations in the upper Mississippi valley. Barracks
and quarters sufficient to accommodate one company were
erected, and in March, 1841, the Secretary of War ordered that
the station be known as Fort Atkinson.
Rumors of the warlike attitude of a portion of the Sauk and
Fox Indians, who, it was believed, intended sending out a party
against the peaceable Winnebagoes, caused Governor Dodge of
Wisconsin, in a letter dated January 23, 1841, and directed to the
Commissioner of Indian affairs, to urge strongly that, in addi-
tion to the garrison there at that time, a mounted force be sta-
tioned at Fort Atkinson. The following is an extract from
Governor Dodge's letter :
"In compliance with the instructions of your Department
the Agency and School have been removed to the new site on
Turkey river with about 700 of the Indians of the Winnebago
Nation. These Indians, it is confidently expected, will not re-
turn, unless another blow should be struck by the Sauks and
Foxes. Such an event may not be looked for this winter, but it
is the opinion of Mr. Lowry that it may certainly be calculated
upon in the ensuing spring unless a mounted force should be
stationed at Camp Atkinson.
"Information was received by Mr. Lowry through Governor
Lucas, obtained from a portion of the Sauks and Foxes not un-
friendly to the Winnebagoes, that a war party was to have set
out against the latter in November last. A very extraordinary
snow storm is believed to have prevented this attack. The war
party is now on Red Cedar (fifty miles west of Camp Atkinson) :
a large body of Sioux are also in that vicinity, and scouts of the
former have been fired at by the latter but as yet no blood has
been shed. The difficulty of keeping the Winnebagoes at their
new homes, under these circumstances, and without an adequate
force for their protection, must be readily seen."
This letter was referred to the War Department, where it
was in turn referred to General Atkinson with instructions to use
every effort to prevent any collision between the Indians. Gen-
eral Atkinson responded to these instructions March I, 1841,
as follows :
"Sir : I have the honor to report, that I have received your
letter of instructions of the I5th ultimo, accompanied by an ex-
tract of a letter from Governor Dodge of the 23d of January, in
reference to establishing a mounted force at Fort Atkinson for
the protection of the Winnebago Indians. It is impossible to
station a mounted force at that point before the middle of May,
as there are no barracks, quarters or stables for their accommo-
dation, nor forage for their horses. I will, however, order the
troop at Fort Crawford to make excursions through the country
of Turkey and Cedar Rivers, till the season opens to enable it to
go under tents, at which time the grass will be grown suffi-
ciently to subsist the horses.
"No time should be lost by the Quartermaster's Depart-
ment in proceeding to erect quarters, barracks, and stables for
the troop at the post on Turkey River, or they will not be ready
for their accommodation by the coming of the next winter. I
request, therefore, that orders to that effect may be given with-
"With great respect, Sir, your most obedient servant,
(Signed.) H. ATKINSON,
Brigadier General U. S. Army.
Brigadier General Jones,
Adjutant General U. S. Army, Washington."
On the 24th of the following June, Company B of the ist
Dragoons arrived at the fort and took up their station, and from
that time until 1847 the fort was a two-company post. Septem-
ber nth Captain Lynde's company was relieved by Company K
of the ist Infantry, Captain J. J. Abercrombie.
In the year following, at various times, on the requisition
of Governor Chambers of Iowa Territory, detachments and
patrols were sent out from this fort to remove squatters and
other intruders from the lands of the Sauk and Fox Indians and
to prevent their return. August 7th Company I, ist Dragoons,
under Command of Captain James Allen, arriving at the fort,
whence they proceeded to the Sauk and Fox Agency, where
they established Fort Sanford. From this time until its abandon-
ment Fort Atkinson was successively garrisoned by the follow-
ing organizations :
Company B, ist Infantry, Captain Sidney Burbank; Com-
pany A, ist Infantry, Captain Osborne Cross; Company E, ist
Infantry, Captain A. S. Miller; Company A, ist Iowa Volunteer
Infantry, Captain James M. Morgan; Company A, ist Iowa
Volunteer Dragoons, Captain John Parker; a detachment of
Wisconsin Volunteers, Dodge Guards, under command of Lieu-
tenant Benjamin Fox; (here was an interim of several months
during which the Fort was not garrisoned ;) and from September
25, 1848, until the time of its abandonment, Company C, 6th In-
fantry, Captairi F. L. Alexander.*
The fort was situated in the northwestern part of Washing-
ton township (on the old military road constructed from Fort
Snelling to Fort Gibson) and stood on a rock-ribbed hill over-
looking the site of the town which now bears its name. This hill
is about eighty-four feet above the Turkey river. The fort build-
ings were two stories high, twenty feet to the eaves. Each build-
ing had an upper porch along its entire length, the one on the
officers' quarters being screened in with the old fashioned mov-
able wooden blinds. The buildings occupied an acre of ground.
The stables, about 40 feet wide and about 300 feet long, extended
north and south and were about 20 rods east of the street. The
bakery, and the blacksmith shop and carpenter shops were north
of the fort on the north side of the street.
The main barracks consisted of the commissioned officers'
quarters, built of stone, the non-commissioned officers' quarters,
built of logs hewn fiat, one soldiers' quarters (including hospital
rooms), built of stone, and another soldiers' quarters (including
church and school rooms), built of flat hewn logs. The soldiers'
quarters were 250 feet long. These four main buildings enclosed
a parade- and drill-ground (with a flag-staff at one end), and in
turn were enclosed by a stockade twelve feet high and made out
of logs hewn flat and set on end in a narrow trench. The top
of the stockade consisted of spikes driven into the sharpened
ends of the logs. Port holes were cut at about every four feet.
* War Department Records of Fort Atkinson in " Annals of Iowa,"
July, 1900, Vol. IV, No. 6.
In two corners of the stockade were located cannon-houses ;
and in the other two corners, the Quartermasters' store house
(adjoined by the sutler's store) and the magazine, or powder-
house. The guard-house was near the sutler's store, and a senti-
nel's beat was constructed near the powder-house. The plat-
form of the sentinel's beat was about three feet below the top
of one side of the stockade and extended nearly its whole length.
At one end, by the magazine house, was constructed a small
shelter for the protection of the sentinel during inclement
weather. The outer walls of the Quartermaster's store extended
somewhat outside the stockade.
Alexander states* : "The material of which it was built was
prepared at Fort Crawford, Prairie du Chien, Wis., and the cost
of making a wagon-road, the same ever since known as the Old
Military road, and transporting the material to its destination,
brought the cost of building the fort to $93,000." However, all
the material was not prepared at Fort Crawford, as Mr. Goddard
says, "The government had a sawmill at Old Mission, where all
the hardwood used in the fort was cut. The stone used was
quarried in the immediate vicinity of the fort. The pine lumber
and other material was brought from Fort Crawford."
Alexander says :t "The first blacksmith in Winneshiek
county was Harmon Snyder. He came from Prairie du Chien
with the force (of about 50 mechanics) detailed to build the fort,
and was employed, chiefly, in work for the garrison. At the
same time he did a great deal of work for the Indians. They
would stand around and watch him while at his work, with
wonder and admiration."
Antoine Grignon, who aided in the removal of the Winne-
bagoes in 1848, says, "Fort Atkinson was quite a lively place
when I was there ; there was a company of cavalry there at that
In his history of the county,
t Same reference as above.
time." Concerning the Indian agency which was established in
connection with the fort, Mr. Kingsley relates that, "The Winne-
bagoes were given food, clothing, gold, and silver. In money
they received $46.00 per head, twice a year. The head of the
family represented his family by the number of sticks in his hand,
and the annuity was disbursed to him accordingly. I have
heard my mother say that she was a young girl, about fourteen
years old, the time of the Turkey river reservation days; her
father, being a sub-chief, drew a portion of the supplies; these
were tied up in a buffalo robe and put on a pony that she rode.
The cash amounted to between $1,000 and $2,000."
February 24, 1849, tne P ost was finally abandoned. It was
turned over to the Secretary of the Interior for disposition Janu-
ary 10, 1851. At the present time all that is still standing of the
fort is the cannon-house of the southwest corner.
"Orders No. 9.
Headquarters 6th Military Department.
St. Louis, Missouri, February loth, 1849.
In pursuance of General Orders No. 3, of the 23d ultimo,
for the abandonment of Fort Atkinson, the Company of the 6th
Infantry stationed there will be withdrawn to Fort Crawford,
and will form a part of the garrison of that post.
The public stores at Fort Atkinson will be removed or sold,
as may be found expedient under the circumstances.
By order Bvt. Major General Twiggs :
D. C. BUELL,
Asst. Adjt. Gen.
Although the military appearance was no longer kept up,
the fort was not entirely abandoned as a post. A discharged
soldier of the regular army, named Alexander Faulkner, who
held the rank of first sergeant, was appointed by the government
to look after it. Josiah Goddard, who, with his family, moved
from Wisconsin to this section in 1849, spent the winter of 1849-
5O in the old fort when it was in charge of Mr. Faulkner. Soon
after, Faulkner was relieved by Geo. Cooney, whom Alexander
says*, "was a well-known citizen of the county, who lived in the
vicinity of the old fort." The fort became useless as govern-
ment property, and was sold at public auction to one J. M.
Flowers for $3,521. The reservation is described as containing
1,920 acres. This land was finally disposed of under the pro-
visions of the acts of Congress of July 30, 1856, and June 7,
Of the officers who served at this post, six, namely : Cap--
tain John J. Abercrombie and Lieutenants Schuyler Hamilton,
John H. King, and Joseph B. Plummer, of the ist Infantry, and
Captain Edwin V. Sumner and Lieutenant Alfred Pleasanton, of
the ist Dragoons, attained to the rank of general officers in the
U. S. Army in the Civil War.
Assistant Surgeon William S. King was retired as an Assist-
ant Surgeon General. Captain Osborne Cross of the ist In-
fantry was transferred to the Quartermaster's Department and
became Assistant Quartermaster General with the rank of Col-
onel. Captain Sidney Burbank of the ist Infantry commanded
his regiment, 2d U. S. Infantry, during the Civil War and was
breveted for gallantry.
Lieutenants Simon B. Buckner and Henry Heth of the 6th
Infantry, and Abraham Buford and Alexander W. Reynolds of
the ist, resigned their commissions at the outbreak of the Civil
War and became general officers in the Confederate service.
Assistant Surgeon Charles H. Smith served in the medical de-
partment of the Confederate army. A. R. Young, father of
Frank Young of Decorah, was a soldier at Fort Atkinson, and
left with other troops for Mexico, but returned soon after the
country was opened to settlers.
* In his history of the county.
The first death of a white man in Winneshiek county was
that of a government teamster named Howard, frozen to death
October 4, 1840, near Castalia, while driving from Fort Craw-
ford to Fort Atkinson. He was buried at the latter place. The
first white child born in the county was Miss Mary Jane Tapper,
born at the fort January 16, 1841.
October 13, 1846, the Winnebagoes ceded "all claim to
land," and especially their rights on the Neutral Ground, and
were given a tract of land selected by the chiefs at Long Prairie,
Minn. The Indians were not satisfied with the location, and
most of them remained scattered throughout the country.
Mr. Henry M. Rice secured the contract to remove these to
Minnesota, and employed Moses Paquette, Antoine Grignon,
and others to assist him. Antoine Grignon, who is now eighty-
four years old and a resident of Wisconsin, says, "I went to
school four years with Moses Paquette; he was a Winnebago
mixed blood. I have no Indian name, but am part Sioux and
Winnebago. I helped locate camps for H. M. Rice, along the
river, and we gathered the Indians together in La Crosse, took
them by steamboat to St. Paul, then overland by wagon to Long
Prairie, Minn. I remained at Long Prairie until 1854. They
disliked very much to leave Iowa. They were removed in
wagons, being guarded by dragoons from Fort Atkinson."
The names of the twenty-four Indian signers of the Treaty
of Washington, negotiated with the Winnebago Indians October
13, 1846, are as follows :
Watch-ha-ta-kaw, (by Henry M. Rice, his delegate.)
Mr. Lamere has translated most of the above names; the
translations are as follows: Hoong-ho-no-kaw, or Little Chief
(also called Little Priest) ; he was a member of the Wolf clan.
Co-no-ha-ta-kaw ; "Co-no" is the name of all the first born
male children of the Winnebagoes (the word "co-no" does not
mean first-born, but is the name of the first born) ; "ha-ta" means
"big." As there were usually two or three families in a lodge
and more than one "co-no," they usually called the oWer one
"co-no-ha-ta-kaw," meaning, "older, or big-first-born."
Maw-hoo-skaw-kaw, or White Sturgeon ; this is a Fish clan
Shoong-skaw-kaw, or White Dog; a member of the Wolf
Koez-a-ray-kaw, or the Created; a member of the Bear
Waw-ma-noo-ka-kaw, or the Stealer (Thief) ; this is a self-
taken name, a right the warriors had, especially, when they had
accomplished anything of importance in battle. This particular
name signifies that he overcomes his enemies so easily that it is
like stealing them.
Ha-naw-hoong-per-kaw ; "Ha-naw" is the name of the
second born male child in a family ; "hoong-per" signifies "good
chief," thus the meaning would be "the second born good chief ;"
his English name was "White-horse" and he was a member of
the Wolf clan.
Wo-gie-qua-kaw, or "Strikes them as he comes." This is
a Buffalo clan name, and is taken from the actions of a bull
buffalo running a herd, when he seems to lead or drive them by
butting, or striking them about.
Wau-kon-chaw-she-shick-kaw, or Bad Thunder (a Thunder
Chas-chun-kaw, or the Wave (a Fish clan name.)
Naw-hey-kee-kaw, or "He who makes trees dead ;" a Thun-
der clan name taken from the action of the lightning when it
strikes trees, so that they dry up and die.
Ah-hoo-zheb-kaw, or Short Wing (Young Winneshiek).
Waw-roo-jaw-hee-kaw, or "Thunders on them" (Thunder
Waw-kon-chaw-per-kaw, or the Good Thunder (Thunder
Waw-kon-chaw-ho-no-kaw, or the Little Thunder (Thun-
der clan name).
Maw-hee-koo-shay-naw-zhee-kaw, or Little Decorah (One
who Stands and Reaches the Skies).
Maw-nee-ho-no-nic, or Little Walker (Eagh clan name).
Maw-ho-kee-wee-kaw, or "He who goes along in the sky ;"
the word "kaw" on the end of every name means "he" or "the."
Sho-go-nee-kaw, or Little Hill.
Watch-ha-ta-kaw (undoubtedly One-eyed Decorah).
About 1300 were removed to Minnesota at this time, leav-
ing, it was estimated, about 400 still remaining in Iowa and Wis-
consin. Others were removed in 1850.
"A place of notoriety that existed in the early history of
Winneshiek county was a spot called 'Grab-all/ This place
was a high bench of timber land, half way between the Iowa
trail and Postville. It was given this name because the Gov-
ernment stationed a sergeant's guard there to 'grab all' the
Indians passing that way, for removal."*
It is easily understood why the Winnebagoes, when later
removed to other places, returned in little bands, quite fre-
quently, to visit the scenes they loved so well; they persisted
in this until civilization shut them out forever. The Winne-
bagoes had many favorite camping sites along the rivers of the
county. Mr. Lamere says that the Winnebago Indian name
for Iowa river, with reference to the Upper Iowa, is "Wax-
hoche-ni-la," meaning Iowa river, also called "Wax-hoche-ni-
sha-nuk-la." The Winnebago Indian name for the Turkey river
is "Zee-zee-ke-ni-la," meaning Turkey river, also called "Zee-
zee-ke-ni-sha-nuk-la." James Smith, a Winnebago, states.t "a
river south of Lansing, la., is called Yellow Hair river* by the
Indians; the Winnebago name for this river is 'Na-jew-zee-ni-
* Alexander's " History of Winneshiek and Allamakee Counties."
f A statement made to Mr. Oliver Lamere.
t Evidently the Yellow river, which has its source in Winneshiek
When the first homeseekers came to Winneshiek county the
remains of several Winnebago Indian villages were still in exist-
ence. Numerous Indian trails were in evidence in nearly all
parts of the county, many of which led to the site of the present
city of Decorah.
In " Reminiscences of Springfield Township f " Hon. A.
Jacobson states: "The Indians who had inhabited this portion
of the country where we settled were removed by government
troops two years previous to our arrival. They had evidently
intended to return at some future time as they had made large
cellar-like holes in the ground in which were deposited all kinds
of goods covered with the bark of trees. Such things as corn,
feathers, axes, and kettles were in good preservation when ex-
humed by the new settlers.
"Quite large parties of Indians traversed the country, but
they had their homes in the territory of Minnesota and did not
molest us in the least. There were no settlements northwest of
us the first year, hence being on the frontier we often felt un-
easy, having heard that some traders sold them whiskey.
"Indian trails, well marked, crossed the country in various
directions, and with little deviation continued to be the roads of
early settlers, until the fencing in of the fields pushed the roads
into the worst places."
Alonzo Bradish, who came to Decorah in 1852, says* :
"One of their trails followed the east bend of Pleasant Hill and
t Sec. II, pg. 11, Atlas of Winneshiek County, 1905.
In a personal interview with him.
left off at a point about where the Catholic church now stands
on East Broadway. This trail was well marked by frequent
travel, and in places there were considerable depressions below
the surface, caused, to a certain extent, by the dragging of tipi
poles fastened to the backs of horses [travois].
"In the early days travelers had to ford the stream where
the Twin Bridges now span the Upper Iowa. The road leading
from here up through the valley, to the district now called Clay
Hill, was known as the St. Paul stage road, and the valley was
called Cruson's Hollow. This route was very frequently traveled
by the Indians. A favorite camping place of the Indians, when
traveling through, was on the ground now known as the Court
"They always carried a blanket, and wore leggings that
reached up over the thigh, and a clout. Many carried hatchets,
of which the most were made of iron. The young Indian boys
were expert marksmen with the bow and arrow, hitting pennies
and nickels at fifty to sixty feet distance.
"I had opened a hardware and tin shop, and here the In-
dians occasionally came to have their guns repaired. These
guns were the only kind used then and were known as flintlocks,
the ammunition being big lead balls. The Indians were supplied
with them by the government.
"A young Indian and his squaw were camped at a spot
about where the stockyards are now located at the east end of
Water street. The river at this time was very low and he busied
himself in making a dugout canoe from the trunk of a large
cottonwood which he had felled. When the high water came
they put the boat in the stream and getting in were soon on
their way down stream, headed for Lansing at the mouth of the
Upper Iowa, where a part of the tribe were encamped."
Philip Husted, an old settler, relates * that, "Quite often
In a personal interview with him.
parties of Winnebago Indians would travel through the country ;
one of their favorite camping places was on the Yellow river
near Frankville. They would sell their beadwork, and were
very pleasant and peaceable with the whites."
A number of years ago Mr. E. C. Bailey met two
Indians at the Methodist church corner, on upper Broadway.
One was a very old Indian, and the other middle-aged. Mr.
Bailey (who was then about twenty years old) was asked if he
knew where a Mr. E. Anderson lived. One of them opened
a neat note book in which was written, "These Indians are good
Winnebago Indians, and they are to be trusted."
(Signed.) E. ANDERSON,
Sheriff of Winneshiek county.
It is not definitely known what year Mr. Anderson was
sheriff, but his statement is only another example of the confi-
dence early settlers placed with the Winnebagoes.
Although Iowa was in a manner always neutral ground and
escaped many of the worst results of the encounters between
the whites and the Indians, the early settlers of Winneshiek
county had their Indian scare, and they had good reason to be-
come alarmed. What led to this was the Indian uprising and
Sioux massacre in Minnesota in June, 1862.
They had swept Minnesota with bullet and brand
Till her borders lay waste as a desert of sand.
When we in Dakota awakened to find
That the red flood had risen and left us behind.
Then we rallied to fight them, Sioux, Sissetons, all
Who had ravaged unchecked to the gates of Saint Paul.
Joseph Mills Hanson, "Frontier Ballads."
At this time the Winnebagoes were at Blue Earth in south-
ern Minnesota. Although they took no part in the Sioux mas-
sacre, and even though they offered the government their serv-
ices in punishing the Sioux, the inhabitants of Minnesota de-
manded their removal. They were hastily removed to South
Dakota, where they suffered many hardships.
This Indian scare was general throughout the county and
was an occurrence well remembered by the old settlers. A con-
tributor to The Decor ah Journal, 1882, states : "As I write the
word 'Indians/ my memory takes me back to the early days of
my childhood in Decorah. Again I see a rider on a foaming
steed dash along Broadway, as I did twenty or more years ago,
shouting at the top of his voice, 'The Indians are coming!'
Again I see the street thronged with blanched faced men and
trembling women, running to and fro in wild excitement and
gazing with anxious faces off into the west * * * . Again
I hear the whispered consultation of the men as to the best
means of protecting their loved ones. Again I feel my hand
clasped in that of my sainted mother as I toddle along at her
side, down Mill street hill, across the old red bridge, and over
to West Decorah a place of imagined safety. It was a false
alarm, and probably faded from the memory of many of our
readers, and remembered by others only as the dim recollection
of a half forgotten dream."
At Decorah, men, women, and children gathered on the
Court House Square, and prepared to withstand a siege.
Settlers left their homes and gathered in Decorah as a place of
refuge, many of them camping on the flat now known as Park
Addition. Men armed themselves with any kind of weapon that
lay handy, and determined to defend their families and homes,
but were greatly relieved when the threatened attack proved to
be only a rumor.
J. C. Fredenburg, of Canoe township, says*, "I remember
the Indian scare. Some one came to our house one night about
twelve o'clock and told father the Indians were coming and that
they were about twenty miles away, killing people and burning
Sec. II, pg. 14, Atlas of Winneshiek County.
all the houses. Father and mother talked it over and father said,
'I will go to Burr Oak and see what is to be done/ He left
mother and me at home, and when he arrived at Burr Oak
nearly all the people were there for several miles around, some
with their teams and families. They held a council and decided
that all should meet there and build a fort for their protection,
but no Indians came, so the people settled down again. It was
some time, however, before all fear had vanished."
Other similar accounts might be given, but the preceding
narratives describe the conditions as they existed, during this
scare, throughout the county.
There is no evidence to show that any Indian murders took
place within the boundaries of our county. There were, how-
ever, several such murders committed in the near neighborhood :
that of the Gardner family, in Fayette county; of Riley, near
Monona; and of Herchy, near the mouth of the Volga. The
contaminating influence of the bootlegger was the direct cause
of these murderous deeds. "Firewater" was the curse of the
Indian, as it has since been to many a white man.
Taft Jones and Graham Thorn were two bootleggers who
infested the neighborhood of the Winnebago reservation. The
government did not allow such characters to come on the reser-
vation, so they came as near to its boundaries as they dared
and established so-called trading-posts in the vicinity of Monona,
giving them the names of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Indians
used to frequent these places and always got badly cheated.
Alexander gives* the following account:
An old Indian visited Taft Jones' den, at Sodom, and traded
in all his worldly effects for whiskey, he even sold the blanket
from his shoulders. Becoming intoxicated, he was turned out
of doors, and on his way to his lodge died from exposure and
cold. The next morning his son, a youth of about twenty sum-
* In his history of the county.
mers, found the dead body of his father out in the snow, naked
and frozen. His revengeful feelings were aroused, and going
to the whiskey den at Gomorrah, he shot the first man he saw
through the window. Unfortunately it happened to be an in-
offensive man named Riley. A detachment of troops under
command of Lieutenant David S. Wilson was sent out to cap-
ture the Indian who committed the murder. He was appre-
hended, taken to Fort Atkinson, and confined in the guard-
house; but by the connivance of a sympathizing white man he
escaped and was never recaptured. Jones lived a short time
after this occurrence and died from chronic alcoholism."
Thus an attempt has been made to give in brief outline the
Indian history of Winneshiek county. The writer soon discov-
ered, after taking up the study of the subject, that nowhere was
accurate information in concise form to be had in regard to the
aboriginal inhabitants of the county; their occupation of the
county seems to have been an obscure period in their history.
The writer has regarded it as well worth while to gather the
data here presented, and has had in view that this article should
faithfully preserve the early scenes of our predecessors in the
The river, whose peaceful waters reflected the light of their
campfires, now furnishes the power that lights the modern struc-
tures of the white men, by which their wigwams have been sup-
planted. But the memory of the red men will never perish from
the minds of those who have succeeded them. The names of
Winneshiek and Decorah, that are attached to our county and
county seat, will be an enduring monument to their former
occupation of the soil.
Here still a lofty rock remains,
On which the curious eye may trace
(Now wasted half by wearing rains)
The fancies of a ruder race.
Here still an aged elm aspire*.
Beneath whose far projecting shade
(And which the shepherd still admires)
The children of the forest played.
There oft a restless Indian queen
(Pale Sheba with her braid and hair),
And many a barbarous form is seen
To chide the man that lingers there.
By moonlight moons, o'er moistening dews,
In habit for the chase arrayed,
The hunter still the deer pursues,
The hunter and the deer a shade!
And long shall timorous Fancy see
The painted chief, and pointed spear,
And Reason's self shall bow the knee
To shadows and delusions here.
dosing stanzas of Philip Freneau's "The Indian Burying-ground."
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