Chapter 3
VERY EARLY TIMES
Pages 579-589

From the book about Wabasha Co. Minnesota
"HISTORY OF WABASHA COUNTY"
Compiled by Dr. L. H. Bunnell
Published Chicago by H. H. Hill, Publishers, 1884
Republished Currently by Higginson Books

In writing the history of any nation, county or town, it is desirable that it should be done before all traces of the facts related or the eyewitnesses of the events recorded should have passed away, in order that their accuracy may not be disputed. These records of the early history of Wabasha and this part of Minnesota, are all the more useful since the times which they chronicle have become already historic; and, as we take into consideration the manner in which these border men held themselves amenable to the laws, being men of education and intelligence, we wonder not that they held the respect and fear of the savage tribes with whom they trafficked, or at their success among them. Men of brave, bold hearts themselves, the savage, so long as his rights were not infringed upon, could imitate, admire and respect the white man. The Indians have no heralds, no colleges, in which the lineage of their great men can be traced; they have no parish register of marriages and births, by which to ascertain their ancestry; no monuments of their own art, to commend to future ages the events of the past; no Indian pen records the deeds of their warriors, their chiefs, and their prowess, or their wrongs. Their spoilers have been their historians! And although reluctant assent has been awarded to some of the noble traits of their nature, yet, without yielding a due allowance fort the peculiarities of their situation, the Indian character has been presented, with a singular uniformity, as being cold, morose and revengeful, unrelieved by any of those varying lights and shades which are admitted in respect to other peoples no less wild and uncivilized than they. Forgetting that in the annals of the Hebrews their second monarch did not scruple to "saw his prisoners with saws," and to "harrow them with harrows (harrow: a cultivating implement set with spikes, spring teeth, or disks and used primarily for pulverizing and smoothing the soil) of iron;" (1st Chronicles 20:3) forgetful, likewise, of the scenes at Smithfield under the direction of our own British ancestors, and later, of the persecutions of the Quaker and the terrors of witchcraft! But the poor untutored Indian has been, and is still, denounced with one accord as a monster of unapproachable barbarity! As though the summary tomahawk were worse than the iron tortures of the harrow, and the torch of the savage were hotter than the faggots (faggot: a bundle of sticks) of Queen Mary (Queen Mary the 1st had nearly 300 people burned at the stake for heresy, earning her the nickname, "Bloody Mary")! There has been none to weep for the poor Indian, while his wrongs have been wholly ignored and unrecorded. The Indians have no writer, no scribe, to relate their own side of the story; and yet the annals of men probably do not attest to a more kindly reception of foreigners than was given to the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth by the faithful Massaoit and the tribes under his jurisdiction; nor did the "forest kings" take up arms until they too clearly saw that either their visitors or themselves must be driven from the soil which was their own, derived, as they believed, from the Great Spirit himself; and that nation is yet to be discovered that will not fight for their homes, the graves of their fathers, and their family altars. No! and until it be forgotten that by some Christians in infant Massachusetts it was held to be righteous to kill Indians as the familiars of Agazel, or until the early records of even tolerant Connecticut, which disclose the facts that the Indians there were seized and sold as slaves in British West Indies, or until the rivers Amazon and La Plata shall have washed away the bloody history of the Spanish-American conquest, and until the fact the Cortez stretched the unhappy Gautimozin naked upon a bed of burning coals is proved to be a fiction, let not the American Indian be pronounced the most cruel of men!

The fort established by Perrot was still in existence in the time of the French and Indian war, and was occupied as a military post at different times, until these lands were ceded to the English in 1760. After the peace of 1763 between France and England was declared, Jonathan Carver, of Connecticut, conceived the project of exploring the northwest, and leaving Boston in June, 1766, he arrived at Mackinaw, then the most distant post of the British, in August, and from that point pursued the usual route to Green Bay, where he arrived on the 18th of the same month. The French post at that point was then standing, although much decayed. In company with several traders, he left Green Bay and proceeded to "a town on the Mississippi, near the mouth of the Ouisconsin, called by the French, La Prairie du Chien. It was a large town, containing about three hundred families. At a small stream called Yellow river, and just opposite Prairie du Chien, the traders, who had thus far accompanied him, took up their residence for the winter, and from that point Carver, with a Canadian voyageur and a Mohawk Indian for companions, proceeded in a canoe up the Mississippi. They reached Lake Pepin on the first of November, landing a few miles below. Carver was very much struck with the appearance of the surrounding land at this halting-place, and he says, while his companions were preparing dinner, he "took a walk on land," and the surface of the county struck him as very peculiar. He thought "it must be the site of some vast artificial earthwork." This was undoubtedly below Wabasha, at what is now called Sand Prairie, also a part of the "Grand Encampment," where mounds and relics of the prehistoric age have been found, many of which are traceable and easily seen. It is worthy of remembrance, that Carver was the first to call the attention of the civilized world to the existence of ancient monuments in the Mississippi valley. In his account of this ground, he says: "On the first of November I reached Lake Pepin, a few miles below which I landed, and while the servants were preparing dinner I ascended the bank to view the country. I had not proceeded far before I came to a fine level, open plain, on which, at a little distance, I perceived a partial elevation, that had the appearance of an entrenchment. On a nearer inspection I had greater reason to suppose that it had been intended for this many centuries ago. Notwithstanding it was now covered with grass, I could plainly see that it had once been a breastwork of about four feet in height, extending the best part of a mile, and sufficiently capacious to cover five thousand men. Its form was somewhat circular, and its flank reached to the river. Though much defaced by time, every angle was distinguishable, and appeared as regular, and fashioned with as much military skill, as if planned by Vauban (Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban: 1633-1707 French military engineer; marshal of France; great tactician and designer of fortifications; designed socket bayonet) himself.

"The ditch was not visible, but I thought, on examining more curiously, that I could perceive there certainly had been one. From its situation, also, I am convinced that it must have been designed for that purpose. It fronted the country and the rear was covered by the river, nor was there any rising ground for a considerable way that commanded it; a few straggling lakes were alone to be seen near it. In many places small tracks were worn across it by the elks or deer, and from the depth of the bed of earth by which it was covered I was able to draw certain conclusions in regard to its great antiquity. I examined all the angles and every part with great attention, and have often blamed myself since for not encamping on the spot and drawing an exact plan of it. To show that this description is not the effect of a heated imagination or the chimerical (chimera: an illusion or fabrication of the mind) tale of a mistaken traveler, I find, on inquiry, since my return, that Monsieur St. Pierre and several traders have at different times taken notice of similar appearances, upon which they have formed the same conjectures, but without examining them so minutely as I did. How a work of this kind could exist in a country that has hitherto (according to the general received opinion) been the seat of war to untutored Indians alone, whose whole stock of military knowledge has only within two centuries amounted to drawing the bow, and whose only breastwork, even at present, is the thicket, I know not. I have given as exact an account as possible of the singular appearance, and leave to future explorers of those distant regions to discover whether it is a production of nature or art.

"Perhaps the hints I have here given might lead to a more perfect investigation of it, and give us very different ideas of the ancient state of realms that we at present believe to have been, from the earliest period, only the habitation of savages."*

*(Science and research are daily establishing the truth of Carver's suppositions in regard to investigations, also that man existed in this region as far back in geological time as on the European continent; and it may be shown that America is really the birthplace of the earliest race of man. One of the late important discoveries is that of Mr. E. L. Berthoud, which is given to the Philadelphia Academy of Sciences. He reports the discovery of ancient fireplaces, rude stone monuments, and implements of stone in great variety, in several places along Crow creek in Colorado, and also on several other rivers in that vicinity. These fireplaces indicate several ancient sites of an unknown race, differing entirely from the mound-builders and the present Indians, while the fossils and shells found with the remains make it quite certain that the deposit in which these ancient sites are found is as old as the Middle Tertiary period, and Mr. Berthoud thinks the evidence strongly in favor of these locations having been near some fresh-water lake, whose vestiges the present topography of region favors. ~ Scientific American.)

In Louisiana, layers of pottery six inches thick, with remnants of matting and baskets, have been found twelve feet below the surface, and underneath what is believed to be strata of the Drift (drift: a deposit of clay, sand, gravel, and boulders transported by a glacier or by running water from a glacier). Pages of similar testimony might be quoted to establish these truths, but this work does not call for any argument or discussion in relation to the existence of man before the Drift, or whether pre-glacial man was civilized or not.

It will be seen at once that, without doubt, these earthworks were thrown up and entrenched even centuries before Fort Perrot was erected a few miles farther up the river, and it is still a mooted question whether they are the production of nature or art. It seems a great pity, too, that scientists have not pushed these investigations before all traces of the works should be effaced. Many of these mounds are still traceable and easily seen, and if they are the production of art, they but correspond to accounts we have of mounds and mound builders in other states, especially in Florida; and these remains, in connection with a general estimate of aboriginal civilization, are to be found in each division of the western continent. That portion of the United States which lies between the Appalachian and the Rocky mountains presents three groups, at once the oldest and rudest monuments of bygone times. In Florida the natives always endeavored to build on high ground, or at least to erect the houses of the cacique or chief upon an eminence. As the country was very level and high places seldom found, they constructed artificial mounds of earth, the top of each being capable of containing from ten to twenty houses. Here resided the cacique, his family and attendants. At the foot of this mound was a square according to the size of the village, around which were the houses of the leaders and most distinguished inhabitants. The rest of the people erected their wigwams as near to the dwelling of their chief as possible. An ascent in a straight line, from fifteen to twenty feet wide, led to the top of the hillock and was flanked on each side by trunks of trees, joined one to another and thrust deep into the earth, other trunks of trees forming a kind of stairway; the other sides of the mounds were steep and inaccessible.

Many of the artificial mounds noticed by travelers of the present day, and about which there has been so much learned speculation, were doubtless artificial structures thrown up by the natives for the purposes here given. These mounds of earth seem to be for similar purposes with those of stone on which are erected the ancient edifices found in Central America.

The first group of the United States extends from the sources of the Allegheny to the waters of the Mississippi; the second group occupying the Mississippi valley, and the third stretches from South Carolina to Texas. These groups consist wholly of mounds and circumlocutions of earth and stone varying from each other very little. Whether these structures were intended for worship or defense, it is impossible to decide; more probably, however, they were of a military character. But, whatever their origin, they derive great interest from the analogous fact that within the same limits vases of earthenware and copper have been dug up, and pipe-bowls decorated with human heads of the type of existing aborigines, together with domestic utensils, personal ornaments, hatchets of stone, and weapons of copper, mica and shell.

While attempting to appreciate aboriginal civilization, we cannot fail, in the light of these remains, to be struck with their magnitude rather than with their beauty, and the only safe conclusion is that in the new world, as in the old, there were different degrees of civilization, ~ some of them much higher than we could have expected in the utter absence of useful metals, and also beasts of burden, And again, stray visitors of a higher type might have produced all the phenomena ~ visitors such as appear to have figured in the traditions of Mexico and Peru; or again, as Mr. Donnelly in his "Atlantis" would have, visitors from the submerged continent from whom both Europe and America derive their similarity of architecture, manners, traditions, religion and customs.

From facts and circumstances equally conclusive we surely may deduce an age for most of the mounds of the Mississippi valley of not less than two thousand years, but by whom built, or whether their authors migrated to remote lands, under the attraction of more fertile soil or genial climate, or whether they disappeared beneath the victorious arms of an alien race, or were swept out of existence by some climatic change or terrible epidemic, are questions probably beyond the power of human investigation. History is silent concerning them, and their very name is lost to tradition itself. The tenacity with which the minds of the credulous cling to the marvelous is wonderful; yet the facts connected with the Mississippi valley indicate that the ancient population was numerous and widely spread, as the features common to all identify.

Cartier in Canada, Smith in Virginia, as well as the Pilgrims, and the French in New York, all found the Indians constructing defenses, consisting of palisades, ditches, embankments and other works, the remains of which are still numerous. Again, it is noteworthy that while the existence of minerals was known to the savages who lived near Lake Superior, and it was made known to the first explorers of that lake and its vicinity, the working of the deposit was not commenced till nearly two centuries later. Stranger still, that a race far older than the savages with whom the Jesuit fathers conversed, a race of which but little more is known than that it existed, must have been extracting copper from the mines of Lake Superior long before Columbus set forth to discover the new world. These people are supposed to be mound-builders; and in the mounds, which are their only memorials, copper utensils and ornaments have been found. The Indians inhabiting the country had no knowledge of mining nor skill in working metals.

In the winter of 1847-8 a most curious discovery was made on the south shore of Lake Superior, near the Ontonagon river, where the Minnesota copper mine is situated.* Mr. Knap discovered the remains of an old working, and found a mass of native copper ten feet long, three feet wide and nearly three feet thick, and weighing six tons. In the vicinity of the same were found stone hammers, copper knives and chisels, and wooden bowls for bailing out water. Though very rude, yet they were most ingenious, and must have been made by a people which had made greater progress in civilization than the Indians who succeeded and supplanted them.

*Ray's "From New Foundland to Manitoba."

As Minnesota, and this part of it so near our city, was the first place in the new world where the attention was called to the existence of earthworks, I have given some space to the consideration of the same and the opinion of others.

Lake Pepin excited Carver's admiration greatly, as it has that of every traveler since his time, and he says of it, "I observed the ruins of a French factory, where it is said Capt. St. Pierre resided and carried on a great trade with the Nadoussioux before the reduction of Canada." Undoubtedly this "factory," as he calls it, was old Fort Beauharnais. Carver was the first English traveler who visited the Falls of St. Anthony, and this Capt. St. Pierre is supposed to be the same to whom Washington bore despatches from Gov Dinwiddie in 1753. At that time the aged St. Pierre was in command of a rude post in Erie county, Pennsylvania.

During the war existing between France and England in America, the officers of the northwestern posts were called into action and stationed near the enemy, so that several posts were left unprotected. It appears that the erection of trading-posts on the Mississippi had enticed the Dakotahs from their old residence on the Rum river to come to these posts, which gave them the name of River Bands. Carver, in speaking of the Nadoussioux, says there were originally twelve bands, but one band revolted and left, which, at the time he made their acquaintance, left eleven; and they were called "River Bands, because they chiefly dwell near the banks of this river," meaning the Mississippi. Carver's theory in regard to the Indians is not unlike that of many others who have given much time to research and the study of mounds and their builders. He supposed the Dahkotahs came from Asia, but says "this might have been at different times, and from various parts, as Tartary, China, Japan, for the inhabitants of those countries greatly resemble each other." Others have observed the resemblance between the American Indian and those of Tartary (a vast historical region in Asia & E Europe roughly extending from the Sea of Japan to the Dnieper ~ Mirriam Webster Online), and theologians have generally believed that they could trace an affinity with the Hebrew, others again, with the Gaelic or Erse, particularly at the Sandwich islands. In his book of travels Carver says nothing in relation to a grant made to him from the Dahkotahs, but after his death it was asserted that there was a deed in existence belonging to him of valuable lands, and that it was executed at the cave in the eastern suburbs of St. Paul. In this deed is the first known mention of "brother Jonathan," and it is presumed the term arose from this transaction. The deed claims to have been executed "at the Great Cave, May 1, 1767," and signed by HAWNOPAWJATIN and OLOHTONGOOMLISHEAU.

After Jonathan Carver's death a claim was urged for the land upon which St. Paul now stands, and many miles adjacent; and in 1840 a corps of engineers came on to look up the lands for the English heirs, he having had two wives, the second one being an English lady. No good title, however, has ever been acknowledged, neither was the original deed presented by the heirs' assignees, and in 1823 the committee of public lands made a report to the United States, stating that, owing to the want of proof as to those facts, in their opinion "the claim was not such as the United States were under any obligation to allow;" and the territory has remained the property of the United States.

In May, 1800, the Northwestern Territory was divided. The portion now distinguished as Ohio was organized as the territory of Indians, and in December following the Province of Louisiana, of which Minnesota was a part, was officially delivered to the United States by the French. President Jefferson, thinking it highly important to explore the country acquired, took measures for an expedition to the upper Mississippi. The first American who visited Minnesota, on business of a public character, was Lieut. M. Pike; and in September, 1805, he arrived at Prairie du Chien, where he was politely entertained by the traders there at that time. These traders were Fisher, Frazer and Woods. Fisher traded there until 1815, when he went to the Red River of the North in service of the Hudson Bay Company, where he remained several years. From 1824 until 1826 he was at Lake Traverse. One of his daughters was the mother of Joseph Rolette, of Pembinaw, by J. Rolette, trader at Prairie du Chien. Mr. Rolette had two wives; his first wife had two daughters, one of whom is still living, Mrs. Maj. Hooe, of Washington. His second wife married Mr. H. L. Dousman, a partner in the American Fur Company, of New York, and trader at Prairie du Chien, where they continued to reside until Mr. Dousman's death, which occurred in September, 1868. They had one son, who now resides in one of the palatial residences of St. Paul. Mr. Dousman was a man of sound and cultivated judgment, and great executive ability, and was successful in al his efforts to bring to proper working system the operations of traffic of the wide field in which he was engaged. Frazer has a son living at Mendota. Jean Baptiste Faribault was the last survivor of the old traders. He and his sons resided at Faribault for many years. Mr. Faribault entered the service of the Northwest Fur company when a very young man, in spite of great opposition from his family, and the station or post to which he was assigned was that of Kankakee, on the river of that name, and not very far from the present city of Chicago, license having been granted them to trade within the jurisdiction of the United States by the proper authorities. Mr. Faribault, displaying so much business tact, was assigned the charge of a more important post on the des Moines river, about two hundred miles above its mouth. The post was named Redwood, and the Indians with whom he traded, the Yankton Sioux. He continued in charge of that post four years, during which time he saw no white man except his own assistants. The region abounded with beaver, otter, deer, bear, and other wild animals, and it was the favorite resort of the Sacs and Foxes, the Iowas and Sioux.

The wages of a good clerk at that time was (sic) two hundred dollars per annum, an interpreter one hundred and fifty dollars, and a common voyageur one hundred dollars; rations allowed them being of the simplest kind.

Having served his time, Mr. Faribault returned to Mackinaw with the intention of going back to Canada, but hearing there of the sudden death of both his parents within fifteen days of each other, he again entered the service of his former employers and was dispatched to the river St. Peters (now Minnesota) and took charge of a post at Little Rapids, about forty miles above its mouth. The band of Sioux with whom he traded were called Wah-pay-ton, or People of the Leaf, and during the third year of his residence there he was married to a daughter of a Mr. House, a previous superintendent of Indian affairs. The groom was in his thirty-first year and his bride in her twenty-second. He was thenceforth a permanent denizen of the northwest. His eldest son, Mr. Alexander Faribault, was born at Prairie du Chien, and this son was the founder and a highly respected citizen of Faribault, in this state. The Northwest Fur Company, not being permitted to continue their business upon American territory, sold out their interests to the American Fur Company, of which John Jacob Astor, of New York, was the head. Joseph Rolette was constituted the agent of the newly formed association for the supply of merchandise requisite for his trade, and afterward removed his trading station to Pike's island, near the present site of Fort Snelling. Mr. Faribault had four sons and several daughters, but one of whom is still living. He died August 20, 1860, at the ripe age of eighty-seven years. His memory deserves to be respected and perpetuated among the pioneers of Minnesota.

After Lieut. Pike's stay of some days at Prairie du Chien he resumed his ascent of the Mississippi, and at Point du Sable, on Lake Pepin, he found a trader by the name of Cameron, and his son, who accompanied Pike to the Cannon river, where he found Red Wing, the second war-chief of the Dahkotahs. Continuing his ascent, he finally reached the encampment of J. B. Faribault, which was three miles below Mendota, where he made a short stay. Thence he ascended the river and continued his explorations as far as Red Cedar lake, and at Lake La-Sang-Sue hoisted the American flag, effecting at both these points peace with the Sioux and Chippewas.

Upon this trip he fixed the source of the Mississippi to be Leech lake, that being the highest point he reached, owing to the inclemency of the weather, which prevented his pushing his discoveries still farther.

Upon his return he passed through Lake Pepin with barges, and stopped at a prairie about nine miles below the lake, on the right bank going down, and there went out to view some grounds which he though had the appearance of an old fortification. These fortifications, no doubt, were the same described by Jonathan Carver. Upon reaching Prairie du Chien, Pike was again entertained by the traders. Lieut. Pike was a bold, enterprising man of great tenacity of purpose, and will ever be entitled to the distinction of having been the first to extend researches to regions so wild and repulsive, at a time, too, when there existed no fort on the Mississippi above Prairie du Chien, the old French forts having been abandoned for years.

End of Chapter



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