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Troubles With The Indians

From the Winona County section of the 1884 book

In 1807 it was becoming evident that the various Indian tribes in the Northwest were forming a hostile league against the United States government. In 1809, a Nicholas Jarrot made affidavit that English traders were supplying Indians for hostile purposes. Indian runners and envoys from the "Prophet" were visiting the Chippewas, while Dickson, who was the principal trader in Minnesota, held the Indians along the waters of the Mississippi subject to his will.

Gov. Edwards, of Illinois, reported to the secretary of war that "The opinion of Dickson, the celebrated British trader, is that, in the event of a war with Great Britain, all the Indians will be opposed to us, and he hopes to engage them in hostility by making peace between the Sioux and Chippeways, and in having them declare war against us." A principal cause of the great influence of Dickson was his alliances by marriage with the noted Dah-ko-tah chief "Red Thunder," whose sister he had taken as his wife.

In May, 1812, two Indian couriers were arrested in Chicago, supposed to have letters for Dickson. The Indians had anticipated arrest, or else, for greater security, had buried their letters until they should resume their journey, and nothing being found upon their persons they were released. A Mr. Fraser was present when the letters were finally delivered to Dickson, who was then at "the Portage" in Wisconsin, and said the letters conveyed the intelligence that the British flag would soon be flying upon the fort at Mackanaw.

During this period, Cadotte, Deace and others were collecting the Chippewas of northeastern Minnesota on Lake Superior, and at Green Bay. Black Hawk was given command of the Indian forces to be assembled. Dickson gave his a certificate of authority, a medal and a British flag. Before it was known that war had been declared, the American commandant at Mackanaw was surprised by the landing of British troops and traders, and a demand for the surrender of the garrison.

With the British army came well known traders, prepared with goods to trade under the British flag.

An American, taken prisoner at the time, wrote to the Secretary of War: "The persons who commanded the Indians are Robert Dickson, Indian trader; John Askin, Jr., Indian agent, and his son," both of whom were painted and dressed in savage costume. Neill says: "The next year (1813) Dickson, Renville, and other fur traders, are present with the Kaposia, Wah-pa-sha, and other bands of Dah-ko-tahs, at the siege of Fort Meigs."

While Renville was seated, one afternoon, with Wah-pa-sha and the then chief of the Kaposia band, a deputation came to invite them to meet the other allied Indians, with which the chief complied. "Frazer, an old trader in Minnesota, told Renville that the Indians were about to eat an American." * * * "The bravest man of each tribe was urged to step forward and partake." * * * A Winnebago was urging a noted Sioux hunter to partake of the horrid feast, when his uncle told him to leave, and addressed the assembled warriors as follows: "My friends, we came here not to eat Americans, but to wage war against them; that will suffice for us." Trah-pa-sha said: We thought that you, who live near to white men, were wiser and more refined than we are who live at a distance, but it must indeed be otherwise, if you do such deeds." Col. Dickson sent for the Winnebago who had arranged the intended feast and demanded his reason for doing so disgusting a deed. His answer sheds no light upon his motive.

The fall of Mackanaw alarmed the people of the Mississipppi valley, and they called loudly for the defense of Prairie-du-Chien.

In May, 1814, Gov. Clark left St. Louis for this purpose, and taking possession of the old Mackinaw House, found a number of trunks full of papers belonging to Dickson, on of which contained this interesting extract: "Arrived from below, a few "Winnebagoes with scalps. Gave them tobacco, six pounds of powder and six pounds of ball."

A fort was built by the American, and named "Shelby." The Mackanaw traders, hearing of this, organized a force under McKay, an old trader, and started in canoes to dispossess the Americans.

The British force was guided by Joseph Rolette, Sr., and, landing some distance up the Wisconsin river, marched to the village and demanded its surrender.

The fort was unfinished and scarcely defensible, but its commander, Lieut. Perkins, replied that he would defend it to the last.

On July 17 the gunboat, under command of Capt. Yeiser, was attacked by the British and Indians. The boat moved to a commanding position above, but was soon dislodged by the enemy, who crossed to the island, where they availed themselves of the shelter of trees.

The boat was then run a few miles below, but was unable to do much execution. For three days Lieut. Perkins made a brave resistance, but was finally compelled to capitulate, reserving the private property of his command.

After placing his prisoners on parole, the British victor escorted them to one of the gunboats, upon which they had but about a month before come up, and, crestfallen at their discomfiture, they were sent back down the river, pledged not to bear arms until exchanged.

Some blood thirsty savages followed them in canoes, but made no victims.

Lieut. Campbell came up from St. Louis about this time with a small force to strengthen the garrison, and, landing at Rock Island, held a conference with Black hawk at his village near by. Directly after leaving, news came to Black Hawk of the defeat at Prairie-du-Chien. His braves at once started in pursuit of Campbell's command. A severe encounter was incurred, the lieutenant was wounded and some of his men killed. During the fight a boat was captured, and the force was compelled to retreat back to St. Louis.

After the capture of Fort Shelly, it was named by the British Fort McKay.

In August, 1814, Maj. Zachary Taylor was sent up with a force in gunboats to punish the Indians who had attacked Lieut. Campbell, but to his astonishment found the British and Indians in possession of Rock Island.

Fire was opened upon Taylor from a battery, and the first ball fired passed through a gunboat commanded by Capt. Hempstead.

Taylor's boats were all disabled and he was compelled to retreat down the river a short distance for repairs. In that engagement one was killed and eleven wounded. With the Americans who came down to St. Louis after the surrender of Prairie-du-Chien was a "one-eyed Sioux," who had aided in the defense of Capt. Yeiser's gunboat.

During the autumn of 1814, in company with another Sioux of the Kaposia band, he ascended the Missouri to a convenient point above, and, crossing the country, enlisted a number of his people in favor of the Americans.

After these professions of friendship, most likely from Sioux nearest St. Louis, he went down to Prairie-du-Chien . Dickson, upon his arrival, asked his business, and snatched from him a bundle, expecting to find letters.

The Indian told Dickson that he was from St. Louis, and would give no further information.

Dickson confined the Sioux in Fort McKay, and threatened him with death if he did not give information against the Americans. The "one-eyed Sioux" was proof against all threats, and he was finally released.

The stubborn savage soon left for a winter sojourn among the river bands, and returning in the spring of 1815 he soon heard the news of peace having been restored.

As the British evacuated the fort they set it on fire, with the American flag flying as it had been run up, seeing which, the "one-eyed Sioux" rushed into the burning fort and saved the flag. A medal and a commission were given him by Gov. Clark, which he treasured and exhibited upon frequent occasions, while rehearsing his many exploits.

These interesting facts taken from Neill's valuable history, relate

These interesting facts taken from Neill's valuable history, relate to Ta-ha-mie, the "Rising Moose," mentioned by Lieut. Pike in his journal.

He was well known to the writer as the "one-eyed" medicine chief, or priest, of the Wah-pa-sha band of Sioux, though he seemed equally at home with other bands and with the Winnebagoes, all of whom reverenced him for his bravery and intelligence. His frequent boast of having been the only American Sioux during the war of 1812, made him quite famous among the American settlers of Winona county, while the pretentious cock of his stove-pipe hat and the swing of his mysterious medicine-bag and tomahawk-pipe gave him character among his Sioux and Winnebago patrons. His services were in frequent demand, and even now, in 1882, he is spoken of by the older Indians as a great hunter, a great warrior, and a good priest. His more modern name of Tah-my-hay, "The Pie," corrupted into Tom-my-haw by the American setters, was probably taken by himself as the adopted brother of Lieut. Pike, after an Indian custom. His Winnebago name of Na-zee-kah, an interpretation of his Sioux name, shows clearly that he was known as "The Pike." In regard to the "Tomahawk," that so mystified Dr. Foster, whose interesting and elaborate article is quoted from by Neill, it appears probable, allowing something to imagination, that the father of Lieut. Pike had a tomahawk, the head and handle of which formed a pipe, and that Lieut. Pike had taken it with him on his mission to the Sioux and Chippewas as a calumet or pipe of peace. That, meeting with and forming a close tie of friendship with Ta-ha-mie, the "Rising Moose," he gave him a memento of his everlasting friendship, in peace or war, by presenting the "pipe tomahawk," in such common use along the Canadian border in early days. The writer's memory was in fault as to the certainty of its being Tah-my-hay who, of all the Sioux, was so expert in the use of the tomahawk, but R. F. Norton, a merchant of Homer, Minnesota, comes to his aid by relating the following incident:

During the early days, said Norton, my brother, the doctor, and myself, were listening to an old dragoon settler's account of his skill and prowess with the sabre. Flourishing a stick, he told how easy it was to defend himself against the assault of lance or bayonet. Tom-my-haw happened to be present, and understanding more than the valorous cavalryman supposed, or, as proved agreeable, asked the white warrior to strike him with his stick. This the dragoon declined to do, but, being urged, he mad a demonstration as if intending to strike, when, with a movement of Tom-my-haw's tomahawk, the stick was caught, and whirled to a distance. Norton described the tomahawk as a combined hatchet and pipe.

In his youth, Tom-my-hay was a noted hunter, and after the disruption of the Me-day-wa-kant-wan band, joined Red Wing's subdivision, and afterward that of Wah-pa-sha. He told the writer that during one of his hunts, while following the game into a dense Tamarack thicket, a sharp, dry twig entered one eye and destroyed its sight. The vanity of Tah-my-hay was something remarkable, but his devotion to the Americans was vouched for by his tribe.

After the war had closed, Little Crow and Wah-pa-sha, by request of the British command, made a long journey, in canoes, to Drummond's Island, in Lake Huron.

After landing their valor, and thanking them in the name of his king, the officer laid some few presents before them as a reward for their meritorious services. The paltry presents so aroused the indignation of Wah-pa-sha, that he addressed the English officer, as appears in Neill's History of Minnesota, as follows:

"My Father, what is this I see before me? A few knives and blankets! Is this all you promised at the beginning of the war? Where are those promises you made at Michilimackinac, and sent to our villages on the Mississippi? You told us you would never let fall the hatchet until the Americans were driven beyond the mountains; that our British father would never make peace without consulting his red children. Has that come to pass? We never knew of this peace. We are told it was made by our Great Father beyond the water, without the knowledge of his war-chiefs; that it is your duty to obey his orders. What is this to us? Will these paltry presents pay for the men we have lost, both in the battle and in the war? Will they soothe the feelings of our friends? Will they make good your promises to us?"

"For myself, I am an old man. I have lived long, and always found means of subsistence, and I can do so still!"

Little Crow, with vehemence, said: "After we have fought for you, endured many hardships, lost some of our people, and awakened the vengeance of our powerful neighbors, you make a peace for yourselves, and leave us to obtain such terms as we can. You no longer need our services, and offer these goods as a compensation for having deserted us. But no! We will not take them; we hold them and yourselves in equal contempt." So saying, he spurned the presents with his foot, and walked away.

The treaty that soon followed at Portage-des-Sioux, won over to the United States the fealty of the Dah-ko-tahs, of Minnesota, and the disgust expressed by "Little Crow" and Wah-pa-sha on their return to their people, for a time, at least, rendered any further serious difficulty with them improbable.

A period has now been reached in the early exploration and occupation of the territory of the Dah-ko-tahs, when the traditions relating to that era have been merged in the experiences of the writer. It is not merely the vanity of self-assertion that induces him to give his own personal experiences in early pioneer life, but, to connect the past, with the present mode of life in Minnesota, he thinks, may give a clearer impression of the character of the early pioneers than has generally hitherto obtained.

The writer's father, Dr. Bradly Bunnell, was born in New London, Connecticut, in about 1781, and his mother, Charlotte Houghton, was born in Windsor, Vermont, in about 1785. Soon after their marriage they came to Albany, New York, where the eldest sister of the writer was born, and where also was born her husband, Stephen Van Renssalaer. From Albany his parents moved to Homer, New York, where the eldest son, Willard Bradly Bunnell, was born in 1814. Ten years later, 1824, the writer was born in Rochester, New York.

While living in that beautiful city, his father conceived the idea of visiting the Territory of Michigan, and in 1828 went to Detroit. The writer is made sure of the time, by the date of a diploma of his father's membership in the Detroit Medical Society, signed by Stephen C. Henry, president, and R. S. Rice, secretary, and other papers in his possession.

In the autumn of 1881, Bradley Bunnell started for Detroit, with the intention of establishing himself in the practice of his profession, but, delayed by the inclemency of the season, and lack of secure transportation, was induced to open an office in Buffalo.

His practice grew into importance, and during the season of cholera, 1832, the calls for his services to relieve the distressed and dying were almost constant.

The writer had an attack of Asiatic cholera, and [passed into what was supposed by consulting physicians to be a collapsed stage of the disease, but the heroic treatment decided upon caused a rally of the vital forces, and the grim enemy was routed. Although but eight years old at the time of the Black Hawk war, that event, and incidents connected with it, he distinctly remembers. The passage through Buffalo of United States troops on their way to the scene of conflict a vivid impression that years have failed to eradicate. In 1833 it was thought advisable by the writer's father to move up to Detroit, but meeting with what he thought a better opportunity to establish himself, after a short delay at Detroit, continued on up to Saginaw. There he purchased forty acres of land, that now forms part of that flourishing city. He also bought forty acres that forms the site of Carrolton. Soon dissatisfied with his purchase, and the felicity afforded by howling wolves and croaking bullfrogs in their gambols and songs of love, he left in the sweet spring-time for metropolitan life in the French village of Detroit. His family, on the score of economy, and most likely for want of ready funds, were left in Saginaw to care for the household goods and garden, and the children to cultivate their unfolding intellects at a country school. The writer was called "Pet" by his mother, and was allowed to run at large with Chippewa children (whose tongue was soon acquired), visit their camps, sugar-groves, hunt, fish, swim, skate and fight, to his unbounded satisfaction. His pride was to excel his dusky competitors in all things, and this was soon accomplished, to the admiration of an old Chippewa warrior instructor by his killing two immense bald eagles at the age of eleven. The writer was not then aware of the importance Indians attach to the killing of an eagle.

His mother soon became satisfied that her "Pet" was learning more of the camp than the school, more of the hi-yah, of Indian music, than of that taught by his sisters. After a few written notes received from his teacher (confidential), and a vain attempt to take all of "his hide off," after the most approved methods of that "good old time"(?). It was thought best, upon one of his father's periodical visits, to place the writer in a Detroit "classical school."

At about the age of twelve the misguided boy was placed in the Latin school of Mr. O'Brien, of Detroit, who has for many years taught the young ideas "to shoot," fitting many young men with preparatory instruction for useful lives. Mr. O'Brien had been educated for the Catholic priesthood, but discovering some peculiarity in his character (it was thought to be his temper) unsuited to so sacred an office, he opened his Latin school in Detroit.

There can be no doubt of the masterly ability of O'Brien as a teacher; but his method was the old one he learned in his bible, to "spare not the rod!" So, after a very short term at that school, receiving in the meantime a few extra lessons in the manly art of self-defense, the writer one day with a ty-yah! Left the school and his books never to return.

A new method was then tried with the young savage, and his experience at the "Bacon Select of High School," of Detroit, are cherished in grateful memory. The writer made rapid progress toward the goal of his ambition, a liberal education, but the "Wild-cat mania" had seized upon his father, and as a consequence of losses, sickness and deaths in his family, the boy aspirant had to be made self-supporting.

He was placed in the drug store of Benjamin T. Le Britton, opposite Ben Woodworth's hotel, where he boarded for a time upon his arrival in Detroit, and with that kind and upright gentleman, and his successor in business, he remained until the fires that raged in the wooden buildings of that period had destroyed them. Before the destruction of the American of Wale's Hotel by fire the writer was boarded at that house by his employer, and while there remembers that Henry R. Schoolcraft boarded there also for some considerable time, engaged, probably, upon his Indian works. A Chippewa maiden in attendance upon his invalid wife (who was of mixed blood), though shy, seemed pleased when spoken to in Chippewa, which, boy like, the writer would do.

For a time, at intervals, though young for the work, he was sent by his employer to take orders and make collections in Ohio, Kentucky and Virginia.

It was now thought advisable to engage the writer in the study of medicine. This was distasteful to him, but finally, with his experience as a druggist to build on, in 1840 he went into his father's office in Detroit, and in winter, for want of other resources, attended private clinics and demonstrations.

The reading and confinement involved was too great a change from his former and accustomed habits, but nevertheless, in order not to disappoint the fond expectations of his parents, he worked against his inclinations. He had continued his studies, more or less regularly, when a most welcome letter from his brother, Willard B. Bunnell, decided him, in the spring of 1842, to go to Bay-du-Noquet, where Willard was engaged in the fur trade.