Pages 61-77 (excluding page 69-70) From the book
"History of Wabasha County" Published in 1884
Concerning Wabasha and Winona Counties in Minnesota
After considerable exploration of the country, charmed with the scenery and pleased with the
soil and water, we decided to build a house in the little valley pointed out to us by Reed, and where we
had before built a small cabin. When our determination was made known, Reed, his son-in-law
Dauville, and a hired man and team, came at once to aid us, and we soon had raised up a comfortable
log house. A year or two after Reed's appointment as farmer and subagent of the Wah-pah-sha band,
I returned the favor in part by aiding Reed to construct the body of the first house ever built in Winona.
The men who aided me in "carrying up the corners" were Joseph Borrette, Reed's wife's son, a nephew
of La Bath, James Dauville, Reed's son-in-law, and a Canadian named Goulet, alternately employed by
Reed as cattle-grazer, wood-chopper and storekeeper. Goulet had been previously employed by La
Bath at Minnesota City, knew Wah-pa-sha and his band thoroughly, and was quite a favorite with
them. While in Reed's service at Prairie island, he was found by some of the Sioux in a state of
intoxication, badly burnt from having fallen in the fire, and died soon after from the effects of his
debauch. After the loss of his office by the prospective removal of the Sioux, Reed took down the
building and floated the sawed lumber, the valuable portion of it, to Trempealeau, where it was used as
an addition to his residence. When he settled upon his farm at Little Tamarack, he sold his residence
and lots in the village to Mr. Ben Healy, and some clear joists and other lumber that had been used in
Reed's Winona building now constitute a part of the large wooden store building of Mr. Fred Kriba, the
principal hardware merchant of Trempealeau. During a recent visit Mr. Kribs and Antoine Grignon
pointed out to me some of the identical joists used in 1844 by us in the construction of Reed's
storehouse for government supplies, and which was also used as a residence for himself and men while
performing their duties. The body of the house was built of white-ash logs, cut by John La Point and
Goulet, Reed's men, and floated from the islands above the present city, and it occupied a spot near the
store of S. C. White. It has been supposed by some that the Rev. J. D. Stevens built a temporary
abode upon the site of Winona, but there were no inducements offered him to do so, and after his
decided repulse by the Wah-pa-sha band, it would have been foolhardy for him to have attempted it.
Reed, the Grignons, and the Indians all agree in this, that no missionaries were acceptable to
Wah-pa-sha, and when he made his final treaty, he insisted as a condition of the treaty that money
alone should be paid him, and that he should be allowed to manage his own affairs without interference
of any kind with his band. Some ash logs left by Reed were used in erecting a cabin which was pulled
down by Capt. Johnson, and they were finally cut up for firewood.
My brother Willard was much pleased with the game the country afforded, and made
frequent excursions with Reed for brook-trout and deer. Reed was a great hunter, but had been too
long among Indians to needlessly offend them by slaughtering their game, but as he had a large family he
needed large supplies of meat, and it was no unusual occurrence for him and my brother to return from
a fire-hunt with three or four red deer in their canoes, or from a fishing excursion with a gross or more
of brook-trout. A favorite resort for trout was the spring brook or creek upon which the Pick-Wick
mills are situated, and which Willard named Trout creek. The east branch of the creek, where he
caught six dozen in about two hours' fishing, he called "Little Trout."
As for deer, there was never a scarcity, for the whole range of bluffs on the Minnesota side,
or right bank of the Mississippi, was a favorite resort for them. Here were scorns in plenty, and after
they had eaten what satisfied them, the deer went out upon some promontory of bluff to watch their
enemies, or descended to some breezy sandbar to escape the stings of the deer-fly. At nightfall the
merciless attacks of gnats and mosquitos drove the deer into the waters of creeks and rivers, and as the
bewildering firelight of the hunter noiselessly approached them in the light canoe, the deer fell a victim to
his curiosity. The flashing eyes of the deer reflected back the torchlight, and told with unerring certainty
where to direct the murderous shot. Outside of the timber, on the borders of the prairies but a short
distance from Winona, elk were abundant, and a little further west buffalo were still to be found quite
numerous. We were told by Reed that only a few years previous to our arrival buffalo were seen on
Trempealeau prairie and on the big prairie slough at the mouth of the Chippewa river known as Buffalo
Upon one of my numerous excursions to St. Paul and Fort Snelling I remember seeing Gen.
Sibley return from a successful buffalo hunt, and he told me that in times past they had been seen from
the knobs almost in sight of his establishment. The General was noted as an expert hunter and scientific
rifle-shot, but upon the expedition referred to his delight in the chase was cut short by a sprained ankle
received by the fall of his horse.
On the buffalo slough or channel of the Chippewa, around jutting points, deep trails were
visible, where buffalo had repeatedly passed to water, and these were in common use by elk and deer
at the date of our arrival in the country.
Willard's use of the Chippewa tongue for a time prejudiced his interests as a trader, and he
did not embark in the business among the Sioux for some time after his arrival here. In the autumn of
1842 he and a Menominee Indian of great repute went up the Trempealeau river to hunt and trap, and
in order to escape observation, and perhaps for convenience, he duplicated his Indian comrade's
costume throughout. At that time there was some danger from raiding parties of Chippewas, and Will
said that if any should be encountered, his knowledge of their language and his costume, unlike that of
the Sioux, would be his safeguard.
Will made a very successful hunt, and as furs were quite high in those days, the skins brought
in sold for a considerable sum of money. In an oak grove above the site of Dodge my brother killed
three bears in one day. His dog, a very noted one, obtained from Capt. Martin
Scott, brought the bears to a stand, and he killed them in quick succession. At Elk creek, named
during his hunt, he killed a couple of elk, and the Indian killed some also, but how many I have
forgotten. The Menominee had, during the fall before, caught over fifty beavers, but while upon the
hunt with Willard he had almost totally failed to trap that cunning animal. Finding himself outwitted by
the beaver, and surpassed in skill as a hunter, the Indian became moody, and began a fast to propitiate
the evil influences that he believed were assailing him. Will tried to reassure him, but to no purpose; so,
after repeated successes on Will's part, and failures of the Menominee to catch the coveted beaver,
they dried their meat, and taking the skins of the elk killed, they stretched them over a willow
boat-frame, and thus equipped, their hunting canoes on each side of their skin boat, they descended the
Trempealeau just as the ice was about to close the Mississippi. Will returned alone to that once noted
resort of beaver, mink and otter, and as the warm spring branches were seldom closed by ice, he was
able to catch those valuable furred animals in winter. The beaver skins were at that time worth about
$4 per pound. Game was quite abundant in those early days, for there were no vandal hunters to
wantonly destroy it, or if they did the Indians were very likely to destroy them. Wild fowl and
pigeons nested in the country and raised their broods undisturbed. As for myself, I was no hunter in its
proper sense, and having repeatedly missed deer at short range, and standing broadside to me, I
determined to learn the only art that would command the respect of the pioneer settlers, or instill a
wholesome dread of my marksmanship among the warlike Sioux. My failure to kill deer was more a
habit of preoccupation than a want of ability to shoot, for with my rifle, a target gun, I could pick off the
heads of grouse or pigeons, and at a mark I had repeatedly excelled Willard and Reed, who were
the Indians even as the best hunters on the Mississippi, excepting, perhaps, Joe Rock, of Wah-pa-sha,
and Philo Stone, of the Chippewa river. The grand climax, to my chagrin, was reached when Red
accused me of "buck fever." I repelled the accusation with scorn, and aiming at the eye of the next deer
I shot at, it fell in its tracks, and for ever after I was able to kill elk, bear and deer, with about equal
In September, 1843, in company with Tom Holmes, Wm. Smothers and my brother, I went
up the Trempealeau river for the purpose of hunting elk, but our purpose was frustrated by almost
incessant rain while we were on the hunt. A few deer were killed by my brother, who knew the ground
hunted over, but I killed nothing but a few pinnated grouse, and a goose which I brought down with my
rifle as it was flying over our camp. Neither Homes nor Smothers killed anything, but they caught a few
beavers and muskrats, the skins of which were not prime. While at the mouth of Elk creek we saw an
aerolite (a stony meteorite) pass over our camp, which must have been of unusual size, judging from the
attending phenomena. We were afterward informed that several had been seen within the memory of
some old Indians, to their great bewilderment.
During the winter of 1842-3 we made some improvements, visited La Crosse, Holmes'
Landing, Black River Falls, and made a few trading expeditions to winter encampments of the Sioux
and Winnebagoes. Our commerce was carried on principally by the sign-language, sticks often
representing numerals above the capacity of the fingers and memory of the Indians to carry. Although
the Sioux still called my brother Ha-ha-tone, the Chippewa, he was rapidly gaining their esteem, and his
success as a hunter commanded their admiration. As a consequence he was in demand as a trader. I
made several trips with him that were very successful, and one with Nathan Myrick that was
memorable. Upon one occasion, while Nathan Myrick and myself were attempting to reach Decorah's
camp upon the "Broken Gun Slough," a branch of Black river, during an exceedingly cold night in
winter, Myrick drove his horse into an air-hole that had been filled by drifted snow, and but for the
well-known war-whoop of Decorah, who I had informed of the event upon running to his camp, the
horse would have disappeared under the ice, for Myrick was nearly benumbed with the cold when I
returned to him with the aid the war-whoop had instantly called to our assistance. A few minutes
sufficed for the Winnebagoes to get the horse out of the Mississippi, but being unable to rise to his feet,
the horse was dragged to the shore, blanketed and rubbed until warmth was restored, when he was
taken to Decorah's camp and a fire built for his comfort by order of the chief. It is due to savage
hospitality that the event be recorded.
The Indians of those early times were not always as humane and considerate as Decorah.
Many times I have been fired at while passing them in a canoe, simply to gratify their innate dislike of
white men. Sometimes my canoe would be hit, but as a rule they would direct their shots so as to skim
the water at my side or just ahead of me. To vary their diversion, if they caught me pre-occupied, they
would steal upon me and discharge their rifles so near as to give the impression that it was not really all
fun that was intended. Reed assured me that I was daily gaining in favor among the Sioux, and that if I
would join in one of their sun-dances and go through the ordeal I might become a chief. He further
informed me that I was called Wah-sheets-sha, meaning the Frenchman, a distinguishing mark of their
favor, that most likely had saved my scalp from adornment with vermilion and ribbons. Partly to
reciprocate their interest in me, and to confirm them in the good opinion Reed had facetiously said they
were forming of me, against the advice of the old traders, I pitched two Winnebagoes out of the house
when the next proof of their friendship was offered me, and giving the oldest son of Decorah (then head
chief by inheritance) a deserved thrashing for a wanton display of his affection, I was not again troubled
by any of their ordeals.
Previous to that time Willard and myself (I) had been frequently annoyed, and sometimes
angered, by the insults offered us, although aware that our nerve was simply being tested; but we had
decided to put an end to all future attempts at Indian levity; and when soon after five rifles of a hunting
party were leveled at me when I was unarmed, I told the Indians, who complemented me for not
flinching, that it was well for them I had no rifle to aim at them!
Willard and myself (I) were both able, in due time, to make the Indians respect us, but many
white people had their traps stolen and their blankets appropriated by the young warriors anxious to
win a reputation for bravery.
Early in the spring of 1843 Peter Cameron, a transient trader and fur buyer, came to La
Crosse with a kind of keelboat loaded with goods, and after taking possession of an unoccupied cabin,
and securing the services of Asa White to manage his affairs in La Crosse, concluded to make a trading
voyage up the Mississippi in advance of any steamboat.
Cameron made me a proposition to go with him, allowing me pay for my services, and the
privilege of taking, as a venture in trade, certain goods I wished to dispose of, and of a kind he had not
in his cargo.
I had almost an intuitive perception of the draft of water, and had picked up considerable of
the Sioux tongue. Me prospective usefulness induced Cameron to make me a good offer, and I
Cameron was a sharp, keen trader, and one of the best judges of furs that ever came up the
The boat selected for the voyage up the Mississippi was built for a supply boat on Black
river. It was about forty feet long, seven or eight feet wide, and eighteen inches deep, too low for
safety, in Lake Pepin, but the trader was anxious and adventurous, and Dousman, Brisbois, Rice and
Sibley had, by astute management, got possession of the trade, not only at Fort Atkinson, but of the
entire upper Mississippi. Hence, if any furs were to be purchased by outside traders, they were
required to be sharp and adventurous. It was rumored that the Ewing company of Fort Wayne,
Indiana, were first crippled and then floored by Rice who succeeded Dousman in the management of
the Choteau company below, while Gen. Sibley had control of the trade at the mouth of the Minnesota
The great St. Louis company were also filling up the spaces between their largest stations
with smaller traders in their interest. Therefore transient traders had to watch their opportunities, and
pounce down upon the tidbits as occasion afforded.
Cameron and myself decided that if we could get safely through Lake Pepin in advance of
the steamboat Otter, which it was understood would go through the lake as soon as the ices was out,
we would be reasonably sure of making handsome profits on our ventures.
My packages were light, but Cameron piled in barrel after barrel of whisky, pork, flour and
heavy articles that greatly endangered our safety.
We started as soon as loaded, taking as pilot an old French voyageur named Le Vecq, and a
half-breed that had been employed by James Reed at times, and who was a most excellent hand when
on duty. We rigged a large square-sail, and had a long line to run out ahead in swift water, but were so
favored by the southerly spring winds that we ran up to the foot of the lake without having had to dip an
oar. At the widow Hudson's (now Reed's Landing) we had a good trade, and by my advice Cameron
was induced to sell a few barrels of pork and flour to lighten our boat through the lake. As the nights
had been clear he determined to make an attempt to go through the lake by moonlight if the wind
should go down with the sun. The night came on with weird stillness and gloom, but later on toward
midnight the moon came through the clouds and all was changed to brightness.
Le Point had been given permission by Cameron to go down to Rock's, or Campbell's, a
short distance below where we were to await his coming. Cameron's orders were imperative to be
back when the wind fell. The wind lulled to a calm, but Le Point did not come; so after many
benedictions had been left at the camp we started through the lake. The upper air had given
token by sending clouds of fleecy vapor that the calmness of the lower stratum might be broken at any
time, but my moral courage was not great enough for me to tell my fears. Cameron was very deaf, and
unconscious of danger that did not appeal to him through his sight; and as for Le Vecq, he seemed to
have no judgment, and I had lost all faith in him long before we had reached the lake. We coasted
along near the north shore until nearing North Pepin we were forced out from the jutting point by ice
lodged upon the coast. Here for some time we halted, uncertain what to do, but discovering a narrow
opening in the floe, that seemed to extend up to open water, we ventured in, rowing most lustily. We
had got almost through the icy strait when I heard a roar as if Dante's inferno had been invaded and the
troubled spirits let loose. The noise came gradually nearer, and I was then able to comprehend its
cause. It was the ice piling higher and still higher upon the distant point above us, and as the wind had
veered around to the westward a few points, the ice was being driven down upon us with great
Time is required to tell the story, but not much was needed for the crisis to reach us. I was
steering the boat, while Cameron and Le Vecq were rowing. Cameron at first did not heed my warning
to prepare for danger, and showed more courage than discretion; but when he saw that we had, as if
by magic, become blockaded in front, and that no time was allowed us for retreat, he wrung his hands
and cried out, as if in agony of grief, "My God, Bunnell! What shall we do?" I answered: "Face the
danger like men; our goods, not ourselves, are threatened; we can run ashore on the ice."
The ice was thick enough to have borne up a horse.
Our worthy bishop (Le Vecq) seemingly was not of my opinion, for dropping upon his knees,
he poured forth such a torrent of invective, or invocation, it was uncertain which, as would have moved
anything less cold than ice. The ice, however, came crowding on, and I instantly formed a plan to save
the boat. All appeals to the devout Frenchman were useless, so I motioned Cameron to my aid, and
we drew the boat to the edge of the ice on the north side of the narrowing channel, where we awaited
its close. My plan was to tilt up the shore side of the boat as the ice approached to crush it, and thus
make use of the overlapping ice to carry up the inclined plane of ice that the pressure in tilting the boat
I unstepped the mast and placed it in readiness for use as a lever. I placed one oar beside
our pilot voyageur, for use when his prayer should end, but all to no purpose ~ he could not be
aroused. I called upon him in most vigorous terms, but in vain. Cameron again offered his services, but
I wished him to bale his valuables, and he had scant time to do it ere the floe I knew would be down
upon us; besides he was too deaf to hear in the noise, and as the sky was becoming rapidly overcast,
sight could not be entirely depended upon. Exasperated beyond further endurance, I jerked our
paralyzed guide from his prayerful stupor out upon the ice, and having made him comprehend my
intention, he took the oar, the boat was tilted up at the right moment, and all was saved.
We were swept toward the shore with great steadiness and power, but as the ice was
smooth, without injury of any kind. Le Vecq was sent to sleep on the land, where we had
transferred our lighter goods, but Cameron and myself returned to the boat and slept soundly until
daylight, when a storm of wind and rain came to break up the ice, and we were able before nightfall to
cross to Bully Wells' (now Frontenac) in safety. It was April, and the wind that had subsided with the
fall of rain sprang up again. The lake above was all open, but we were held wind-bound to enjoy the
pioneer stories of Mr. Wells, who had established himself with a native woman some years before.
Cameron chafed at Wells' recitals, and as night fell upon us, insisted that the wind had died out and that
we could go on. Wells told him that if we attempted it we would probably swamp or water-log on
Point-no-Point, as we could scarcely clear that iron-bound shore with the wind beating on it as it did at
the time. I was able to hold Cameron in check until about two in the morning, when, exasperated by
his seeming forgetfulness of the danger we had so narrowly escaped, I told him that if we beached or
water-logged, his, not min, would be the loss, and we started out into the lake to clear the point.
We got well out into the lake and had made a good offing, before we caught the swell, when
it was soon made manifest to me that a sail should be set to give us headway, or we would swamp
before reaching the point. I proposed the sail, but Le Vecq said to Cameron, "Suppose you hist ze sail,
you go to ze dev." Just then a white cap broke over the bow gunnel of the boat, and, taking a wooden
bucket in hand, Cameron gave it to the Canadian, telling him to bail, and without reservation gave me
charge of the boat. I called him to the tiller while I bent on the sail, and in a few minutes we were
skimming the water like a gull. Dropping a lee-board I had taken the precaution to rig, we crawled off
Point-no-Point, and rounding into the cove above, landed as daylight appeared. This second display of
incapacity in Le Vecq ended his career as principal voyageur, and I was installed as captain and
We run (ran) on up to Red Wing after breaking our fast, and had already disposed of a large
quantity of our heavy goods, relieving our boat the better to encounter the more rapid current, when
looking down the river we saw the Otter steaming to the landing. Le Point was on board, so we at
once pulled out for the St. Croix. We made a rapid run to Still-Water and Taylor's Falls, and after
selling out everything at high prices, Cameron commenced buying furs for cash, having ample supplies
of coin for that purpose. Taking our way back leisurely, sometimes floating with the current, at others
pulling enough for steerage wary, we were able to see and stop at every trading post and Indian
encampment on our way down to La Crosse. At Wa-pa-sha's Village, then situated on the high ground
back of the river front, west of Main street, we stayed over night. Wah-pa-sha's sister, We-no-hah,
(really a cousin) gave us a tent in which to quarter for the night, saying that it was better than our cloth
tent, as there was a cold rain falling at the time. In recognition of the woman's hospitality and
forethought, I gave her upon leaving in the morning, a six quart pan of flour from our scanty stores, as
we had no goods of any kind left. Cameron's subsequent career in La Crosse was unfortunate.
Soon after my return to La Crosse I made a trip to St. Louis, and having an Indian's memory
of localities, I was able to fix the course of the Mississippi as far as Galena in my mind. There were but
two steamboat pilots in those days for the entire river above Prairie Du Chien, and the services of those
were always retained by the American or Chouteau Company, or by the supply steamers of the United
States contractors for the Indian and military departments.
Louis Morrow, one of the pilots, was in the full vigor of mature manhood, and a more noble
specimen it would be difficult to find; but the other pilot, Lewis De Marah, was getting old, and his sight
was failing him so fast, that, as he himself said, he would soon have to leave the river to younger eyes.
Finding me interested in the course of the channel, De Marah would point it out to me when traveling
with him, and in a short time after our first acquaintance he offered to teach and retain me with him on
the river. I declined the offer, but my taste and passion for beautiful scenery led me to study the river
while traveling upon it. At that time there were but few boats running above Prairie Du Chien regularly,
and those of the smallest kind, such as the Rock River and the Otter. The Harrises of Galena were so
successful with the latter boat, that they soon brought out the Light Foot, the Time and Time, the
Senator, the War Eagle and others in quick succession. The demand for those steamers created a
demand for pilots, and Sam Harlow, Pleasent Cormack, Rufus Williams and George Nichols came to
the front and proved themselves as capable men as ever turned a wheel. Of the lower river pilots I
remember Hugh White of St. Louis as one of the best, and his services were always in demand by the
Falcon Cecilia, General Brooke and other boats of the lower trade. Although I was never a member of
any legislature, I was as welcome to a free ride on any of the boats named, as a modern "dead head"
on any of the subsidized railroads. As there was seldom but one pilot on a boat above Prairie Du Chien
who knew the river well, my services were thought to be an equivalent for all the favors shown me, and
I could go to St. Louis or St. Paul at will. Upon one occasion I saved De Marah from a blunder at
night, similar to the one which happened (to) him while on the Lynx in 1844. That new and beautiful
steamer was run out in 1844 on the shore below the Keye's residence by De Marah. The night was
inky black, and as the fast-running steamboat steered a little hard, the watchman was called to aid De
Marah at the wheel. The Lynx was on her down trip from Mendota and St. Paul, and was running at a
fair rate of speed. As they reached the shore at Keye's point, a thunderstorm burst upon them; and as
the lightning flashed, the open sky of Pleasant Valley revealed the overflowing water at the lower end of
the prairie, and it was mistaken for the Mississippi.
The annual fires had at that time kept down all arbol growths except at the water's edge, and
the sandy ridge of prairie between the river and the open water beyond had been overlooked during the
momentary flash of lightning. The shadows of the Min-ne-o-way bluffs joined with the dense foliage of
the islands and shut out the view to the east. The Lynx was run out several rods upon the overflowed
land before "fetching up," and when she halted, no means at the disposal of Captain Hooper could get
her back into the channel. The most of the men were discharged and with a few passengers left in a
yawl for Prairie Du Chien.
A few days after, while at work upon ways to slide the boat into (the) river, the Gen. Brooke
came steaming up the channel, and was hailed for assistance. After landing and viewing the situation,
Capt. Throcmorton decided to go on to Fort Snelling and discharge his cargo, lest some accident might
forfeit his insurance, but gave Capt. Hooper assurances of aid on his return. Capt. Throcmorton's great
experience suggested work to be done during his absence, and on his return he was enabled to at once
pull the disabled boat into the river and take her in tow. The Lynx was docked and lengthened, but she
never recovered her speed, and was soon disposed of by her builders. The brick and mortar thrown
overboard on the prairie in taking out her boilers has been taken by some for the remains of an old
building. A short time since, while strolling on the river bank near the locality of the disaster, I picked
from the sand shore an iron pulley-wheel that probably was dropped overboard by some one on the
Lynx, as the deeply rust-eaten wheel indicated that it had been many years in the sand. It may be seen
in the museum of the Winona Normal school.
On May 21, 1844, a few weeks before the misfortune happened to the Lynx, Robt. D.
Lester, sheriff of Crawford county, Wisconsin, was murdered by a Sioux of Little Crow's band, named
O-man-haugh-tay. A fruitless search had been made for the body, which was known to be in the river,
but as the boat from the Lynx was descending, on its way to Prairie du Chien, the occupants of the boat
found the swollen body in a pile of driftwood, and towed it to La Crosse, where it was buried. Mr.
Lester's successor in office, Mr. Lockhart, subsequently had it removed and buried at Prairie du Chien.
The murder occurred within the limits of Winona county, opposite the "Queen Bluff," and not "six miles
below Reed's Landing," nor "twenty miles from La Crosse," as the historian of La Crosse county has
Mr. Lester was returning from an official visit to the Chippewa mills, and stopped at
Trempealeau on his way down in a canoe. His old friend Reed offered him hospitality, which he
declined, but accepted a lunch to eat on his way. Lester stopped at a spring rivulet just above the
queen bluff, and while eating his lunch, which was scanty enough, O-man-haugh-tay, on his way up
from La Crosse in a canoe, landed and demanded a part of it. Lester declined a division of his scanty
fare, and soon after started on his journey to Prairie du Chien. He had proceeded but a few rods, his
back turned to the Indian, when the report of O-man-haugh-tay's rifle, and the body of the sheriff seen
falling out of his canoe informed La Bath, who just then came in sight, that a murder had been
committed. O-man-haugh-tay jumped into his canoe and fled from La Bath's approach, but not before
he was recognized by La Bath, who knew the Indian as a vicious member of Little Crow's band.
La Bath informed the authorities that though he did not see the Indian until after the shot was fired, there
could be no doubt but that O-man-haugh-tay had committed the murder. After considerable delay and
the use of an escort of troops to capture hostages, the murderer was delivered up and taken to Prairie
du Chien. He was kept there in prison for some time, and then, for reasons best known to the
authorities of that period, he was taken across the river in the night to a landing above
McGregor, and was turned loose, as stated by himself to his listening auditors.
James Reed happened to be at Keoxa (Winona) when O-man-haugh-tay arrived. Wah-pa-sha and his
band received the Indian with consideration, and while a repast was being prepared for him, Reed
listened to the recital of the murderer, who, among his Indian friends, made no concealment of his
motives or of the murder. O-man-haugh-tay's conclusion was that the white men of the prairie were
good to him, but that they were afraid of him. During his recital, after the Sioux custom, a pipe of
friendship was passed around the circle of the tent, and noticing that Reed declined the proffered pipe,
O-man-haugh-tay offered it to Reed in person. The audacity of the Sioux fired the old hunter, and
although Reed was the only white man present, he struck the pipe to the ground and told the Indian that
there was one white man who was not afraid of a dog. That epithet applied to a Sioux was the greatest
insult that could be offered, but it was not resented, and O-man-haugh-tay soon took his departure
from the village.
Reed was a man of sterling integrity of character, hospitable, and devoted to his friends, and had the
murderer of Lester but have made a movement of resentment, his life would probably have paid the
forfeit. Reed was a bearer of dispatches in the Black Hawk war, and had good opportunities for
observation. He took dispatches from Prairie du Chien to the commander of the American forces
when no other messenger could be induced to incur the risk, and just after the slaughter at Battle-
slough, found a young squaw whose father and mother had been killed. Reed took her with him on his
return to Fort Crawford, from whence she was finally sent to her tribe in Iowa. James Reed had a
personal acquaintance with all the historical personages of his time, and it is a subject of regret that his
family and friends have not recorded more of his experiences in pioneer life. Charles Reed, of "Reed's
Landing," should note down his recollections of early times, for the pioneers of Wa-pa-sha county have
had interesting experiences.
From Reed I learned of the existence in Beef-slough of a large quantity of square timber and shingle
logs that had been gotten out under direction of Jefferson Davis and other army officers for use in
building Fort Crawford. This timber was said to have been run into the slough under the impression
that it was the main channel of the Chippewa river, and as there was no outlet at that time, a large raft
of flood-wood and trees obstructing the channel, the lumber was abandoned, and new material
prepared and run down the proper channel of the Chippewa. Reed's statement was confirmed to me
by one made by James T. Ruth, who had also been a soldier at Fort Crawford. In company with
James McCain, a Pennsylvanian, we broke the drifts and opened the channel of the slough, and were
well rewarded for our labor.
During the spring and summer of 1843 Philip Jacobs and Dr. Snow put up a trading-house in La
Crosse, and the Doctor gave some attention to the practice of medicine. During the month of
November of that year he attended my brother's wife at the birth of her son Porter, who was the first
white child born in Trempealeau county. My brother's daughter, Frances Matilda Bunnell, now Mrs.
Frank Hampson, of River Falls, Wisconsin, who was born at Homer, Minnesota, on February 22,
1850, was the first white child born within the limits of Winona county. There were eight children in
Willard Bunnell's family, five of whom are still living.
In 1843 Nathan Myrick was married and brought his wife to La Crosse. Accompanying Mrs. Myrick,
as companion and friend, was Miss Louisa Pierson, of Burlington, Vermont. Like most Vermont girls,
Miss Pierson was rosy and bright, and as fearless as were "The Green Mountain Boys." If a horse had
balked in the sand of the prairie, her hand would soothe the stubborn brute into forgetfulness, and he
would then do his duty. No saddle or bridle was needed to ride her favorite chestnut, and at her call,
even the pacing Indian ponies belonging to the firm would amble to her feet. Such a woman among
frontiersmen would command admiration, and for a time, at least, her conquests were numerous and
her influence beneficial, but soon it became but too evident that her preferences had been given to
Myrick's partner, H. J. B. Miller, and her whilom (former) admirers turned their inconstant devotion to
the native daughters of the realm.
Among the traders of that early period there were some who took squaws for wives, either permanent
or after the morganatic fashions of the highly civilized courts of Europe. The usual method of obtaining
a help-meet from among the Indians was to pay court to the parents of the maiden desired, and after
incidentally informing them of the esteem in which their offspring was held, obtain some approximate
idea of her value.
It was also though advisable to make a present to the medicine-man, with an intimation that if the spirits
were friendly to your suit a larger gift might be expected. Two traders of my acquaintance, Asa White
and Tom Holmes, formally espoused native queens, and remained faithfully with them and their children
through all changes of fortune and civilization that drove them farther and still farther to the frontier.
Other, not so true to the parental instinct, because in higher life, left their squaw wives, but their
children remain in the tribe, cared for and reared by their mothers, vigorous emblems of the love once
borne for their fathers.