NEW DIGGINGS ON THE FEVER 1824-1864
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"...A Great Itching for Privilege"
Pages - 15-19
Some of these men who came to the diggings in 1829 - perhaps all of them - may have seen Chandler's map, which had appeared in a Cincinnati newspaper early that year. Chandler, a resident of Galena, used marginal space to describe Galena as "the principal depot of the mines, with about 250 houses and 800 inhabitants. The mail," he said, "arrives weekly in stages from St. Louis, and private hacks run from Galena to every part of the mining district. In 1828", he added, 'there were 99 arrivals of Steamboats and 74 Keels at the port of Galena."' In further comments, he described the country as 'gently rolling', with one third being 'first rate farming land'. About one-tenth, he said, was covered with timber growing in detached groves; the balance was prairie. 'Springs of the purest water are to be found in abundance", he added. On his map he located seven farms, three near Galena and four in the Territory of Michigan. 'Farming", he wrote, 'is permitted free of rent wherever it can be done without interfering with the timber needed for mining purposes." He listed the amount of lead manufactured from 1825 through the first three months of 1829 as 24,295,942 pounds, and estimated the number of inhabitants as having increased from 200 in 1825 to 10,000 in 1828, 'of whom", he wrote, "about 1/20 are females and 100 are free blacks."
Concerning the mines, Chandler wrote:
'They are worked by private individuals who pay the government for such a privilege a tenth of all the lead manufactured. . . . A lot of 200 yards is allowed to every two miners and one in addition for every two hands employed. The occupants have the exclusive benefit of their own discoveries, but are restricted in the sale of their mineral to a licensed smelter, who is obliged to give bond in a penalty of $10,000, to pay the Government a tenth of all the lead he manufactures. Leases of half a section for three years may be obtained on bonds of $5000 with a like condition. Miners are entitled to a free use of timber for building and fuel. Smelters are allowed sufficient to carry on their works. Lessees can only use (timber) for smelting on their half sections, but if there should be no timber,
(PAGE 16 ) (picture) Section of Chandler's Map of 1829)
they must sell their mineral to a smelter. The same person may either mine, lease, or smelt, or all together."
Chandier's notes supply a bird's-eye view of the situation that existed as a result of the government's policy of retaining possession of the land. The policy had been implemented with three purposes in view; first, to collect revenues for the government; second, to prevent individual monopoly of supply of vital war material; and third, to encourage settlement. Some of the miners felt that a certain amount of regulation was fair and necessary. They felt that they needed protection from the government against the Indians as well as protection against the claims of other miners. For this protection there were those who were willing to pay a reasonable rent. But as time passed, nearly all began to regard the government's policy as a most unfair one. Up until 1829, only a five league square of mineral land had by treaty with the Indians been reserved by the government, beyond the boundaries of which the whites were not supposed to dig. Yet by 1827, any number of miners had raised lead beyond the boundaries of the five league square. If the land belonged to the Indians, the miners then asked, why should rent be paid to the government? If, as some smelters claimed, they had paid the Winnebagoes for mining rights and privileges, why should they then pay rent to the government, and why, in turn, should the miners whose ore they smelted pay 10% lead rent to them? Why should the miners and smelters within the government's five league square boundary lines pay rent if those beyond the boundary lines, digging on land belonging to the Indians, refused to do so? And since all miners had been obliged to protect their own diggings, why should they not regard as their own what they had been obliged to protect? These were some of the questions that were making life miserable for the government's agent at Galena in the late 1820's.
'There is a great itching for privilege, and a superabundant measure of independence," wrote the agent to his supervisor in St. Louis in 1829. "Complaints about the right of ground and this, that and the other right accumulate daily, both from the diggers and the smelters, and God knows what and when will be the end of all things." (2)
A group of miners petitioned Congress, asking that all lands be put up for sale. 'It is unfair," they said, "that we are forced to pay a tax more enormous than any imposed by the United States elsewhere on the public domain." But their petitions were
of no avail. The government persisted in its regulatory policies.
Meanwhile, many of the settlers along the Fever didn't know, in 1829, whether they were living in the State of Illinois or the Territory of Michigan. The matter of the boundary line between the state and territory was to be for some years to come a matter of dispute. Settlers farther north met at Mineral Point on the fourth of July of that year. Mineral Point, or "Shakerag' as it was more commonly called, being centrally located in the rapidly expanding mining area, was looked upon by the end of the decade as a probable location for a future land office. Those who met that year in Mineral Point to celebrate the Fourth knew that by an act of legislature at Detroit, a new county had been established in Michigan Territory. It was to be called Iowa County and was comprised of the present Iowa, Grant and Lafayette counties.
Henry Dodge presided at the Mineral Point Independence Day celebration. Dodge was the miners' hero. After establishing his diggings near the present city of Dodgeville in 1826, he had dared the Winnebago or anyone else to try to move him. Tall, broad-shouldered, "well-set-up", the hard living, devil-may care Dodge had lived in Kentucky and Missouri before coming to the mines. In far-from-silent admiration, his fellow frontiersmen watched his every move and followed where he led. He had succeeded in his stand against the Winnebago. In a treaty at Prairie du Chien in this year of '29, the land south of the Wisconsin had been transferred from the Indians to the government. The miners were now at liberty to dig where they pleased. They looked to Dodge to spearhead their efforts to get other things they wanted, - better roads and waterways, access to the Dubuque mines across the Mississippi, and adjustment of prevailing regulations concerning the use of mineral lands, while they waited for the government to survey, establish a land office and make the land available for purchase.
There were plenty of things to talk about on that fourth-of July day as the more than a thousand miners gathered around Dodge. "The orations and ceremonies were as fine, as well timed, and as happily adapted to the occasion as any I have since witnessed in the country," wrote Daniel Parkinson, who mingled with the crowd. The miners were ready once again to sign petitions asking Congress to establish a new Territory west of Lake Michigan. They wanted their own governing body, centrally located. Because they resented having to look to far away Detroit as their seat of government, they applauded James Doty's attempts to get action in Congress on this issue. Doty, judge in Michigan Territory's westernmost court in Prairie du Chien
since 1823, had for some years been circulating petitions and memorializing Congress to establish a territory west of Lake Michigan . (4) The miners, although as a group disliking and distrusting the polished Doty, nevertheless read with interest and approval his essays in a Galena paper. The southern boundary line for the new territory, he said, should run from the tip of Lake Michigan to the head of Rock Island. The miners agreed. They approved also of the name 'Wiskonsan' for the territory, a name which a writer in a St. Louis newspaper had suggested as 'a pertinent and sensible one, a. . . . name which will answer the appropriate purpose of leading the mind to the placeintended to the Upper Mississippi -- to the Ouisconsin River. (5) Knowing themselves to constitute in 1829 the greater part of the voting population in the hoped-for Territory, the miners waited with some impatience for Congress to take decisive action in the matter. But they still had some years to wait.
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