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A Standard History of Sauk County, Harry Ellsworth Cole, General Supervising Editor, The Lewis Publishing Co. Chicago and New York 1918 [pgs. 166-184]

Sauk County Indians


The Indians directly and identified with Sauk County were the Sacs (Sauks) and Foxes and the Winnebagoes. The two tribes first mentioned seemed to have been distinguished for their invariable and close association, and yet for the persistency with which they maintained their separate existence. Members of the dual nation were forced into what is now Eastern Sauk County, from the Green Bay Region shortly before the middle of the eighteenth century, left, after a residence there of some forty years, and never returned. The Winnebagoes drifted after them and had several villages in what is now Sauk County when the territory commenced to be settled by the whites. But there were many shiftings and changes among the tribes who occupied the Fox and Wisconsin valleys, which determined their more or less permanent occupancy in the periods of fragmentary history.




The first positive knowledge of the native tribes of this region which sifted into history came to Champlain who heard of a family of Indians living many leagues beyond Lake Huron called the Fire Nation, or Mascoutens. It is believed that their homes, at that time, were upon the Fox River; at least, they were visited by French missionaries and travelers a score of years later, and they claimed as their hunting grounds so much other territory to the south as probably to have included what is now Sauk County. Further south, well up Rock River, was the country of the Illinois. The latter, who lived in a region "where there was a quantity of buffaloes," were afterward driven beyond the Mississippi, but returned to the river which bears their name.


Meanwhile, there commenced an emigration of the mass of the Mascoutens, with their kindred, the Kickapoos and Miamis, toward the southern shores of Lake Michigan. They were replaced by the Foxes and Sauks, who later migrated to the west and southwest. For some time they had established the seat of their considerable power around the shores of Green Bay and some distance up the Fox River, and had become very autocratic in their dealings both with the whites and neighboring Indian tribes. The result was disastrous to them, one incident of their expulsion from the Green Bay and Lower Fox River Region being the founding of a village by them in Sauk County.

Augustin Grignon, the famous fur trader, Indian agent and land holder of Green Bay and of the Fox and Wisconsin valleys, gives the following account of that event as he heard it from his grandfather, Charles De Langlade, who actively participated in some of the occurrences narrated; "The Outagamies or Foxes were at this time (1746) located at the Little Butte des Morts, on the western bank of Fox river and some thirty-seven miles above Green Bay. Here they made it a point, whenever a trader's boat approached, to place a torch upon the bank as a signal for the traders to come ashore and pay the customary tribute, which they exacted from all. To refuse this tribute was sure to incur the displeasure of the Foxes, and robbery would be the mildest punishment inflicted. This haughty, imperious conduct of the Foxes was a source of no little annoyance to the traders, who made their complaints to the commandants of the western posts, and, in due time, these grievances reached the ears of the governor of Canada.

Captain De Velie was at this time commandant of the small garrison at Green Bay. He was relieved by the arrival of a new officer whose name I have forgotten, and the new commandant brought with him demands for the Sauks of the village opposite the fort, who had hitherto demeaned themselves well, to deliver up the few Foxes living among them in consequence of intermarriage, or otherwise. All were readily given up, except a Fox boy who had been adopted by a Sauk woman. De Velie and his successor were dining together and, becoming somewhat intoxicated by wine, some sharp words passed between them relative to the tardiness of the Sauks in dellvering the boy; when De Velie arose and, taking his gun and a negro servant, crossed the river to the Sauk village which was surrounded with palisades or pickets. He found the Sauks in council and was met by the Sauk chief, of whom he demanded the immediate surrender of the remaining Indian. The chief said he and his principal men had just been in council about the matter, and though the adopted mother of the youth was loath to part with him, yet they hoped to prevail upon her peaceably to do so. The chief proceeded to visit the old woman, who still remained obstinate, and De Velie, renewing his demands for immiediate compliance, again would the chief renew his efforts; and thus three times did he go to the sturdy old woman and endeavor to prevail upon her to give up the boy, and returning each time without success but assuring De Velie that if he would be a little patient he was certain the old squaw would yet comply with his demands, as she seemed to be relenting. But, in his warm blood, the Frenchman was in no mood to exercise patience and he at length drew up his gun and shot the chief dead. Some of the young Sauks were for taking instant revenge, but the older and wiser men present begged them to be cool, and refrain from inflicting injury on their French father, as they had provoked him to commit the act. By this time De Velie, whose anger was yet unappeased, had got his gun reloaded by his servant, and wantonly shot down another chief, and then a third one; when a young Sauk only twelve years of age, named Ma-kau-ta-pe-na-se, or the Black Bird, shot the enraged Frenchman dead.

The garrison was too weak to attempt the chastisement of the Sauks, but upon the arrival of a reinforcement joined by The French settlers, Charles De Langlade among them, the Sauks were attacked at their village, where a severe battle occurred in which several were killed on both sides and the Sauks finally driven away. In this Sauk battle, two of my father's uncles were among the slain on the part of the French.

The Sauks now retired to the Wisconsin river and located at Sauk Prairie, where they still resided and had a fine village, with comfortable houses, and were apparently doing something in mining lead, when Carver visited the country in 1766; but which appears to have been several years deserted when I first saw the place in 1795, as there were then only a few remains of fireplaces and posts to be seen. The brave young Sauk, Black Bird, became a distinguished chief among his people, and Mr. Laurent Fily, an old trader, told me many years since, that he knew Black Bird well at the Sauk village at the mouth of Rock river; that be lived to a good old age, and, Fily added, that he was the same person who in his youth had so fearlessly shot De Velie.

As the Sauks and Foxes were pressed toward the southwest, the Winnebagoes came down from the north in a strong current. From the head of Green Bay they gradually moved up the Fox River, having outlying villages on the shores of Winnebago Lake and in the valley of Rock River. They finally reached the Portage and pressed down the valley of the Wisconsin. They now became so powerful and occupied so much territory that the Government of the United States began to make treaties with them. The first of these was with the Wisconsin River Winnebagoes, who occupied the soil of Sauk County as a small portion of their great domain; it occurred at St. Louis June 3, 1816, and was a treaty of peace, not one of cession. They had served with the British in the war of 1812, and were considered the most treacherous and dangerous tribe opposed to American sovereignty east of the Mississippi. In 1820 they had five villages on Winnebago Lake and fourteen on the Rock River. The acknowledged southeast boundary of their territory stretched from the sources of that stream to within forty miles of its mouth in Illinois, where they had a large village. On the west it extended to the headwaters of the small streams flowing westwardly into the Mississippi, and to the northward as far as Black River and the Upper Wisconsin, or to the region occupied by the Chippewas. The Winnebago country, however, did not extend across the Fox River to the lands of the north side, although they contended for the whole of Winnebago Lake. In 1824, when a rough enumeration of the tribe was taken, the Winnebagoes were found to number about 6,000. At that time Sauk County was well within their domain.


The Chippewas and Winnebagoes often clashed on the borders of their territories, and in 1827 the Winnebago war was precipitated by the attack of a war party of Winnebagoes upon some Chippewas who were on their way to Fort Snelling. The commandant of the United States troops at the fort took four of the Winnebagoes prisoners and delivered them into the hands of the infuriated Chippewas, who immediately put them to death. This act was generally resented by the chief of the Winnebagoes, Red Bird, who harbored an additional grievance against the whites in the invasion of the Galena mining country, which was Winnebago territory. Red Bird first led a war party against the Chippewas, by whom he was defeated, and then turned against the United States. The result, which culminated at the mouth of the Bad Axe, is familiar history, and does not directly concern the progress of this history, only so far as it marks the decadence of the Winnebagoes as a nation claiming dominion over the present area of Sauk County.

By treaties held with the Winnebagoes in 1829 and 1832 all their territory south and east of the Wisconsin River was acquired by the general Government. West of the Wisconsin, including the present County of Sauk, the country was still Winnebago land, but on the first of November, 1837, they ceded to the United States all of their lands east of the Mississippi, which, of course, included the present County of Sauk.




The Black Hawk war of 1832 put as definite a period to the strength of the Sauks and Foxes, as the so-called Winnebago war had to the aggressiveness of the Winnebagoes. It is thought that the treacherous Winnebagoes even instigated the more serious campaigns led by the brave and able chief of the Sauks. The first campaign, in the spring of the year, resulted in the defeat of the white volunteers and the continued occupancy of the defiant lndians of the country which they claimed along Rock River.

In June of the same year (1832) a new force was raised and placed in command of General Henry Atkinson, of the regular army, who commenced his march up Rock River. Before the campaign reopened a number of settlers and miners in the lead reion of Southwestern Wisconsin And Northwestern Illinois had been killed by the lndians. Squads of volunteers had encountered the red men on several occasions, and at Pecatonica, Lafayette County, Wisconsin. an entire baud of seventeen Sauks and Foxes had been exterminated. Atkinson's march up Rock River was attended by some skirmishing: when, being informed that Black Hawk and his force were at Lake Koshkonong, in the southwest corner of what is now Jefferson County. the American commander moved thither with a portion of his little army, where the entire force was ordered to concentrate. But the Sauk chief with his warriors had disappeared. Cols. Henry Dodge and James D. Henry, with the troops under them, discovered the trail of the Indians leading toward the Wisconsin River. It was evident that the retreating force was large, and that it had but recently passed. The pursuing troops hastened their march.




On the twenty-first of July, 1832, the American troops arrived at the hills which skirt the banks of that stream in what is now Roxbury Township, Dane County. At that locality Black Hawk's entire camp, including women and children, the aged and the infirm, were frantically hastening to escape across the Wisconsin. That this might be effected, it became necessary for the chief to make a firm stand in order to cover the retreat. The Indians were in the botom lands when the pursuing whites made their appearance on the heights in their rear. Colonel Dodge held the advance and sustained the first attack of the Indians. He was soon joined by Colonel Henry, with his force, the combined party obtaining a complete victory. The action commenced about 5 o'clock in the afternoon and ended at sunset. The Indians, numbering not less than 500, sustained a loss of about 60 killed and a large number wounded. The loss of the Americans was one killed and eight wounded. This conflict has since been known as the battle of Wisconsin Heights.




During the night of the battle Black Hawk sent the women and children, with other helpless members of the tribe, down the Wisconsin in canoes, while he himself with a band of chosen warriors crossed the river, and landed near the present site of the Village of Prairie du Sac. It is believed that the war party under the noted chief then crossed the northeast corner of what is now Prairie du Sac Township to the Wisconsin River Trail, followed up Honey Creek Valley to its head, leaving the valley at that point and striking toward the west. The Indians were pursued in their flight and were not brought to a stand until they had reached The Mississippi, near the mouth of the Bad Axe, on the western boundary of what is now Vernon County, Wisconsin. About two o'clock on the morning of the second of August, 1832, the line of march began to the scene of the last conflict in the Black Hawk war. Dodge's volunteers, Taylor's regulars and a military force which attacked from a steamboat which had moved up the Mississippi, made the battle of the Bad Axe the complete overthrow of Black Hawk and his power. The Sauk chief temporarily escaped, but was captured and brought under the sovereignty of the general Government.

But the Sauks and Foxes had long since relinquished claim upon the soil of Sauk County, and, as stated, the Winnebagoes ceased to hold any title in it by their treaty of 1837. Surveys of the lands in Sauk County were at once made. In the following year successful settlements were made on the present site of Sauk City, and in 1839 the regular sales commenced for the two land districts, the land office of the Wisconsin District (in which Sauk County was situated) being at Mineral Point and that of the Green Bay District being at the town by that name.




While the Winnebagoes were negotiating with the general Government, in 1837, their venerable and beloved chief, Yellow Thunder, went to Washington, accompanied by two young hereditary chiefs, to see the President. He then resided in Columbia County and was universally honored by the Winnebagoes and the white settlers. As the last war chief of his tribe he received many marks of attention, but history has reached the verdict that he and his people were deceived and induced wrongfully to make over their lands to the Government of the United States.



Among those who knew Yellow Thunder best during his residence in Columbia County Mrs. Lydia A. Flanders, of Portage, who in her 'Personal Recollections' speaks of him thus: "More than fifty years ago, when a child of nine years. I wandered one October day, a short distance from my home, then a settler's cabin. Glancing along the trail, I saw an Indian approaching. Terrorized and unable to move, I stared, but did not utter a sound. He approached nearer and held out his hand and in the most pleasant of voices said, 'How? How?' I still felt unconvinced of my safety, even if the face before me was not at all formidable, and the expression one of extreme good nature, and murmuring something that I suppose was meant as a farewell, he passed on. That was my introduction to Chief Yellow Thunder, and the beginning of a friendship which lasted many years, in fact, to the time of his death.

On a stream of water flowing through my father's farm and near the point made memorable by Mrs. Kinzie in that most delightful book, 'Wau-Bun,' is an old-time camping ground of the Indians. On the outside curve of this stream, on a slight elevation thickly covered with trees is where, on their journeys to and from Madison, where they went for their annuity, they camped sometimes for days and often for weeks, hunting, fishing, and some of the tribes begging, in which last-mentioned pastime, however, our chief did not in the slightest degree participate. Combined with the dignity of his bearing, was an air of self-respect, which enveloped him as a mantle. He was tall and well proportioned, with a hand that was shapely and slender, and a voice deep and clear, devoid of the gutturals which are characteristic of the voices of many of these people.

He was not in the least affected by his visit to Washington, which was made about the year 1828. Such was not the case, however, with his wife, who was greatly set up by her traveled experience. Apparently with him it was a natural event, of which he talked freely; with her it was greatness achieved; with him, a part of the expected; with her, one more feather in her head band, and ever after she demanded the greatest deference from her people, as well as the title 'Madam Washington.'

Whenever any of the tribe partook too freely of firewater the old chief ordered them tied and a guard set, but when this disgrace came to his own dwelling, in the person of his wife, he took himself off, no one knew whence or whither, until quiet and order were again restored to his household.

I never saw him in paint or feathers. A small braid of hair near the crown, into which a small black ribbon was woven, was all his head ornament. Otherwise he wore his hair as did the white man, parted on the left side and brushed to the right. His garments were very similar to the white man's in fashion though not in texture, except that his blanket was always a part of his apparel. He was a firm believer in noble lineage, and repudiated any and all of the so-called 'chiefs' who found their way to back doors, or, in fact, to any doors, to beg, and in an apologetic manner told my father that his wife was a tribes-woman, meaning not his equal, though always appearing kind and courteous to her. Incidentally she was the hewer of wood, and the drawer of water, as well as the doer of all other menial tasks. His affair was to furnish the game, hers to see that it was prepared, either for cooking or, if peltries, stretched and dried.

Few there are living today who can tell of good deeds and courtesies extended to them by this son of the wilderness, but many there were who could during our long acquaintance with him. Many times he cheered and sheltered lost and belated settlers, and when wishing to return the value of some favor it was sent by the hand of his wife, who I grieve to say, often tried to bargain his generosity by the gain of something for herself. Once he engaged a settler to carry himself, wife, and belongings to their home near Delton. The conveyance was a wagon into which their outfit was piled, and among these she, of Washington fame, calmly seated herself. Not so the Chief. He sat beside the driver erect and dignified, and appeared not to see how unprincesslike was the position she had assumed.

Always on approaching my father's house he gave some signal, perhaps a few light taps on the porch or door, and never did he enter without permission and a word of welcome, something he was sure of from all its inmates.

His instincts were gentle and had fortune placed him among the 'fittest' he would readily have been recorded as one of nature's noblemen, a title, knowing him as I did, I cheerfully accord him.

As years came on apace, his visits to the old camping ground became more rare and finally ceased altogether, followed in February, 1874, by the tidings of his death, sincerely mourned by many of the early settlers as well as by his own people. I am glad to chronicle the fact that a portrait of Yellow Thunder, done in oil, by the distinguished artist, S. D. Coates, hangs in the gallery of the Wisconsin Historical Society, with many others, whose names are prominently connected with the history of Wisconsin.




This was the second visit of Yellow Thunder to the National Capital. With the daughter of White Crow, at the time a beautiful Indian girl of eighteen, he had formed one of the delegation of Winnebago chiefs which visited Washington in the fall of 1828, to look over the seat of Government and some of the chief cities of the East, inspect the navy yards and other evidences of the white man's civilization, following the signing of a treaty with the United States at Green Bay in the preceding August, as an aftermath of the Winnebago war. Yellow Thunder and the beautiful princess received many marks of attention. The venerable chief is said to have been unaffected by them and retained his old simplicity of manner and friendly bearing when he returned to his own people and the small unspoiled communities of his white neighbors.




It is said that Yellow Thunder made the acquaintance of the princess during the Washington trip and married her soon afterward. Mrs. Kinzie, in her book, 'Wau-bun', draws the following character sketch of the wife of Wau-kaun-zee-kah (Yellow Thunder): "Among the women with whom I early made acquaintance was the wife of Thunder. She had accompanied her husband who was one of the deputation to visit the President and from that time forth she had been known as the 'Washington Woman.'

She had a pleasant, old-acquaintance, sort of air in greeting me, as much as to say, 'You and I have seen something of the world.'

No expression of admiration or surprise escaped her lips as her companions, with childlike laughing simplicity exclaimed and clapped their hands at the different wonderful objects I showed them. Her deportment said plainly, 'Yes, yes, my children, I have seen all these
things before.'

It was not until I put to her ear some tropical shells, of which I had a little cabinet, and she heard it roaring in her ear, that she laid aside her apathy of manner. She poked her fingers into the opening to get at the animal within, shook it violently, then put it to her ear again, and finally burst into a hearty laugh and laid it down, acknowledging by her looks that this was beyond her comprehension.

I had one shell of peculiar beauty- my favorite in the whole collection- a small conch shell covered with rich, dark veins. Each of the visitors successively took up this shell and by words and gestures expressed her admiration, evidently showing that she had an eye for beauty. This was on the occasion of the parting visit of my red daughters.

Shortly after the payment bad been made and the Indians had left, I discovered that my valued shell was missing from the collection. Could it be that one of the squaws had stolen it? It was possible- they would occasionally, though rarely, do such things under the influence of strong temptation.

I tried to recollect which among the party looked most likely to have been the culprit. It could not have been the 'Washington Woman' -she was partly civilized and knew better.

A few weeks afterwards Mrs. Yellow Thunder again made her appearance and carefully unfolding a gay colored chintz shawl, which she carried rolled up in her hand, she produced the shell and laid it on the table before me.

I did not know whether to show by my countenance displeasure at the trick she had played me, or joy at recovering my treasure; but at length decided that it was the best policy to manifest no emotion whatever. She prolonged her visit until my husband returned, and he then questioned her about the matter.

She had taken the shell to her village to show to some of her people who did not come to make the payment.

Why had she not asked her 'mother's' leave before taking it away?

Because she saw that her 'mother' liked the shell and she was afraid she would say 'No.'

This was not the first time that 'Madame Washington' had displayed the shrewdness which was a predominant trait in her character.

During the visit of the Indians to the eastern cities they were taken to various exhibitions, museums, menageries, the theater, etc. It did not escape their observation that some silver was always paid before the entrance and they inquired the reason. It was explained to them. The woman brightened up as if struck with an idea.

'How much do you pay for each one?'

'How do you say that in English ?'

'Two shillings.'

'Two shinnin-humph' (good).

The next day, when, as usual, visitors began to flock into the rooms where the Indians were quartered the woman and a young Indian, her confederate, took their station by the door, which they kept closed. When anyone knocked, the door was cautiously opened and the woman extending her hand exclaimed, 'Two shinnin.' This was readily paid in each instance and the game went on until she had accumulated a considerable sum.

But this did not satisfy her. At the first attempt of a visitor to leave the room the door was held close and the hand extended and 'Two shinnin' again met his ear. He tried to explain that having paid for his entrance he must now go out free. With an inexorable shake of the head, 'Two shinnin' was all the English she could understand. The agent who heard the dialogue and sat laughing behind his newspaper, now came forward and interfered, and the guests were permitted to go forth without a further contribution.

The good woman was moreover admonished that it was far from the custom of white people to tax their friends and visitors in this manner nd that the practice must be laid aside in the future."



When the Winnebagoes disposed of their lands in 1837, they stipulated that within eight months they would move west of the Mississippi River; it is said that they understood they were to leave in eight years. About 900 of them were forced from the Fort Winnebago Region soon after the signing of the treaty, while about 300 remained in the swamps, inaccessible to the two regiments of United States troops looking for them. Some of them, more versatile in staving off the evil day, delayed their departure under various pretenses. After a few years of unavailing efforts to effect a removal of the Winnebagoes en masse the Government decided to adopt stringent military measures.

Living at the Portage at this time was John T. De La Ronde, an educated Frenchman, at different periods of his life connected with the Northwest, Hudson Bay and American Fur companies. Afterward he became an independent trader and a farmer and an Indian interpreter for the Government. 'In 1840,' says De La Ronde, "the troops came to Portage to remove the Winnebago Indians- a part of the Eighth Regiment of Infantry under command of Colonel Worth and a part of the Fifth Regiment under General Brooke, with General Atkinson as commander-in-chief. There were three interpreters employed by the Government- Antoine Grignon, Pierre Meneg and myself. Meneg was sent after Yellow Thunder and Black Wolf s son, inviting them to Portage to get provisions; but instead of that as soon as they arrived they were put into the guardhouse with ball and chain, which hurt the feelings of the Indians very much, as they had done no barm to the Government. The general had understood that thev were going to revolt, refusing to emigrate according to treaty stipulations but as soon as Governor Dodge came here they were released. They all promised faithfully to be at Portage, ready for removal in three days. and they were all there the second day.

There were two large boats in which to take down such of the Indians as had no canoes. Antoine Grignon and Pierre Meneg went down with the boats. I was kept here by the order of General Atkinson at the suggestion of General Brady. to assist the dragoons commanded by Captain (Edwin V.) Sumner and Lieutenants McCrate and Steele. We went down to Rock River to look for Mas-i-ma-ni-ka-ka; from there we went to Madison and thence to Fox River. We picked up 250 Indians, men, women and children, and took them down to Prairie du Chien. Before we got there, at the head of Kickapoo River, we came to three Indian wigwams. The captain directed me to order the Indians to break up their camp and come along with him. Two old women, sisters of Black Wolf, and another one came up, throwing themselves on their knees, crying and beseeching Captain Sumner to kill them; that they were old, and would rather die and be buried with their fathers, mothers and children, than be taken away, and that they were ready to receive their deathblows. The captain directed me to go with them and watch them, and we found them on their knees, kissing the ground and crying very loud, where their relatives were buried. This touched the captain's feelings and he exclaimed 'Good God! What harm could those poor Indians do among the rocks?'

It might interest the reader to know that the Captain Sumner, whose good heart did him such credit, not only served with credit as a commander of dragoons in the Black Hawk war and elsewhere, but distinguished himelf for his bravery and ability as a cavalry officer in the Mexican war and in many Indian campaigns in the Southwest. At one time he was military governor of New Mexico, and during the Civil war, after being three or four times wounded and reaching the rank of major general, through personal bravery and military genius, became so shattered in body that he went to his Syracuse home to die.




The attempt of the Government to include Yellow Thunder and the royal daughter of White Crow in the enforced hegira of the Winnebagoes to their homes beyond the Mississippi was a rank failure; for they eluded their captors, walked back several hundred miles and the head of the tribe and family entered the Forty in Sauk County which remained his and the refuge of the few Winnebagoes who haunted their old hunting grounds and homes for more than thirty years.

When the memorial tablet was unveiled which marked the final resting place of Yellow Thunder's remains, as well as the grave of his honored consort, the following connected account of his life was presented in the address made at the time (August 27, 1909) by James H. Hill, then clerk of the Circuit Court: "During the closing years of the eighteenth century, a Winnebago lad roamed with his tribe, through the beautiful country lying between Lake Winnebago and Green Bay, and extending southward to the Rock River.

A Winnebago, called by the Sioux O-ton-kah the large, strong people, tall and lithe and active was he; skilful with bow and spear. A thoughtful youth, too, and observant.

Occasionally white explorers and traders visited the tribe, and their stories of the encroachments of the pale faces filled the hearts of the Indians with fear and dread. So, when one day in 1812, an emissary from the British invited them to help destroy a common enemy, many of the braves went with those of other tribes to Detroit. But the campaign was a failure, and after losing many by disease and hunger, the remnant made their way back home.

A peaceable tribe were they, but little is recorded of them until fifteen years later, when we find our young brave with a name, Yellow Thunder, wedded to a daughter of the neighboring tribe of Algonquins: the head of a village not very far from Portage, and promoted to the rank of war chief.

This title was not hereditary, and was never bestowed on account of birth, but any brave who had done valorous service in war, was recognized as a war chief. His followers were volunteers who, while not exactly obeying him, looked to him for directions and council.




The white people were covetous of the land occupied by the Winne bagoes, and conspired to take it from them. Yellow Thunder and two young hereditary chieftains, War Eagle and the Elder Dandy, were enticed into going to Washincton, ostensibly to see the President, but really to wrest from them, by treaty, their domain. When the subject of a treaty was brought up, Yellow Thunder and the young chieftains declared they had no legal authority to act; that a treaty signed by them would not be legal, but their arguments were of no avail, and they were finally prevailed upon to sign a treaty, giving away hundreds of thousands of acres of land, and agreeing to a removal of the tribe to Iowa. They were assured that they would be allowed eight years in which to move, when, in fact, the treaty, which the chiefs were unable to read, stipulated that they should go within that many months.



Three years later in 1840, troops arrived in Portage, forcibly to remove the Indians. Interpreters were sent to the different villages, inviting their head men to go to Portage to receive provisions When they arrived, they were locked in a guard house, and fastened by ball and chain. Yellow Thunder was one of the numbers so shamefully treated. It is said he felt the disgrace so keenly he wept. They were released after a few days, upon promising faithfully that they would return within three days, bringing their bands with them. Yellow Thunder returned the second day.

Then followed a scene that, for pathos, equaled that other 'removal,' so graphically described by Longfellow in Evangeline. Like the Arcadians, they were put into boats, to be taken far from their homes, into strange lands and among strangers away from everything dear to them and never to return.




But Yellow Thunder was determined not to leave the land he loved so well. With his wife, and a few of his band, he at once returned to Portage, walking nearly 500 miles, and arrived before the troops had taken them away.

Yellow Thunder foresaw that the whites would soon occupy this country, and that he might have the right to remain here, he resolved to become a land owner. With an interpreter, he went to the land office at Mineral Point, and entered a 40-acre homestead 'on the west side of the Wisconsin River about sixteen miles above Portage.' There he lived for over thirty years, with his faithful wife, his death occurring in February, 1874.

Yellow Thunder lived to see his land pass from barbarism to civilization; his own race disappear, and another take its place; 'the dugout give way to floating palaces; Indian trails become railways burdened with commerce,' and proud cities where once he saw his own villages.




Personally, Yellow Thunder is described as having been a tall, stately man of much dignity, respected by all, a zealous Catholic, and a generous friend. We know he was brave, because he had earned the title of war-chief; he was honest and conscientious, because he so long refused to sign that infamous treaty in 1837; faithful to his promises, even to his own injury. Brave, honest, faithful, though unlettered, he was one of Nature's noblemen."




Edmund Calvert, who knew the Yellow Thunder family spoke concerning the burial of Yellow Thunder, said: "Members of the Sauk County Historical Society and Twentieth Century Club: Concerning the burial of Yellow Thunder and his squaw, recalls the winter of 1868, in which occurred the death of Yellow Thunder's squaw, in a wigwam at their home. Isaac Flinn, former sheriff Seneca Corbin and William Calvert assisted in her burial. The grave was dug according to custom, 4 feet long and 2 feet wide, the west half 4 feet deep and the east half, 2 feet deep. She was removed from the tent on a sled and laid beside the grave in her blanket. She was then placed in the grave in a sitting posture, with her blanket wrapped around her and her face to the west. Then the Indians danced around the grave chanting their death song according to custom.



After the death of his squaw Yellow Thunder lived but little in his log house, which was about three-fourtHs of a mile northeast of this pillar erected in memory of them. A short time before his sickness and death, late in the fall of 1874, he located his tent one-half mile north of his home close to the Wisconsin River , where his white neighbors brought him something good to eat, for which he Was very grateful. His death was caused from an injury to his knee, followed by blood poison. He realized he had but a short time to live, and requested to be buried in a wooden box. He asked to be first taken back to his home and allowed to remain there three days, the first day to visit another tribe; the second, I cannot recall for what, and the third, to go to the Happy Hunting Grounds. The same formality was used as in the burial of his squaw. The ceremony was performed by the Indians and the career of the redman and squaw, who often ate with their white friends, was ended.

I wish to extend congratulations to the societies who have so successfully located and erected this pillar to the Memory of Chief Yellow Thunder and his squaw.




The pillar is erected where two roads cross at the northeast corner of the C. C. Allen Farm in Fairfield. It stands under some old oak trees on the main road from Baraboo to Kilbourn, passing the Asa Shults Farm. The pillar is five miles from Baraboo. It was first decided to build the pillar where Yellow Thunder was buried in 1874. After considering the matter, it was thought best to remove the remains of the departed chief and his wife from the forty acres owned by George Harrison to the public road. The Indians were buried almost a half mile from the main road just east of the home of Q. A. Loveland, and it was necessary to cross private property in order to reach the place. The present owners of the land were very kind about people going upon the property, but fearing that there might be difficulty in future years it was thought best to make the change.




During the year of the Great fair at Chicago, 1893, William Calvert came from the west and found the bones of the Indian chief and his wife on the ground. They had been thrown to the surface by some curious persons hunting for relies and were not replaced. Mr. Calvert put them back as best he could, and there they remained until removed. There was some question about the correct location of the graves, but both William and Edmund Calvert were present with the members of the society when an investigation was made and it was established beyond a doubt that the graves were correctly located. On Tuesday, August 17, 1909, Joseph Johnson, chairman of the curator committee of the historical society, and H. E. Cole, the president, exhumed the remains of the chief and his wife. Some of the smaller bones had either disappeared, or were lost, when first thrown out by the relic hunters. Most of the bones were there, however, and they were taken out to be placed in the pillar. There was abundant evidence that Yellow Thunder had been buried in a box.




On Thursday, August 19th, the pillar was erected by City Engineer H. E. French, Edmund Calvert, Charles Goette and H. E. Cole. Field stones were used and they were supplied by Mr. Calvert. A hole two feet deep was dug for the base and the whole laid up with cement. The remains of Yellow Thunder and his squaw were placed in an earthen receptacle and closed. This was placed in the structure and became a portion of the pillar. It stands about 4 1/2 feet high and is 3 feet square. A framework was made and the pillar laid up inside of that; afterwards the boards were removed. Cement,and lumber were kindly furnished by Frank M. Stewart of the Stewart, Lumber Company.



Two name plates appear on the monument. On the east side is:

Chief of
Born 1774--Died 1874

And His Squaw
Died l868

On the north side is:

Erected by
The Sauk County
Historical Society
and the
Twentieth Century Club
of Baraboo





The last days of Yellow Thunder were doubtless saddened by the final forcible expulsion of his people from Wisconsin. Gradually, while he Iingered on the Forty in Delton Township, the soil of the state had been swept of Winnobagoes and the Indians, in detachments, collected on their western reservations. In 1846 a treaty had been effected by which they were to be moved about 500 miles north of their allotted lands in Iowa. Some 1,300 did so in the summer of 1848. 400 lingering in Wisconisin and Iowa. In February, 1850, quite a band of them located between the Bad Axe and Black rivers and became threatening and insolent; but they yielded to cautious councils. Other removals followed.

The last of these enforced departures occurred two days before the Christmas of 1873, about two months before the death of Yellow Thunder. Early in the morning of that day Capt. S. A. Hunt and ex-Sheriff Pool crossed the old Wisconsin River bridge at Portage, heading a detachment of United States troops. The little expedition was bound for the Baraboo River, where, near the Crawford Bridge, a considerable number of Winnebagoes had gathered for a feast and an annual meeting.

Almost every lodge for forty miles around had its delegate. The Winnebagoes (Bagoes, they were called) had pooled their wigwams, their feathers, their paint, their wampum, and were having a hilarious time, when their powwow was interrupted by the appearance of the uninvited boys in blue. The greatest consternation imniediately prevailed, for the Indians knew that they must follow the bulk of their tribe to the reservation in Nebraska. A parley followed and, as the Bagoes refused to be persuaded by mildness, they were surrounded by Captain Hunt's men and made prisoners to the number of nearly one hundred.

With as little delay as possible, the captives were arranged in marching order and just before noon, with their families and all their festive paraphernalia, sullenly wound over the hill near the Catholic Church escorted by the United States troops. They were marched to the depot, safely lodged in the cars, and a full supply of rations dealt out to them. After they had been housed, Captain Hunt set about to inform himself whether any of his captives had become real estate owners, or had done anything else to show that they had abandoned their tribal relations and were entitled to remain as citizens. In that connection, inquiry was made for Yellow Thunder, Good Village, War Club, Snake Swallow, McWima and Pretty Man, but it was found that only two of them were among the captives and they were allowed to depart as American citizens. John Little John and High Snake were taken with the more common Winnebagoes. Although not legally entitled to remain, as their characters were quite warmly endorsed by a number of respectable citizens, they were informed that they could return to Columbia County later, if they so desired. The ponies and all the other belongings of the Indians were then collected and loaded into the baggage cars, and at 6 o'clock the train was under way for Sparta, Monroe County, which was to be the rendezvous for all the Winnebagoes gathered by Captain Hunt, who was the official Government agent for the removal of the remnant of the tribe from Southern Wisconsin.

Sunday and Monday were busy days and nights for ex-Sheriff Pool, his specialty being the collection of the squaws and families of the Winnebago braves who had not accompanied their lords to the Baraboo celebration. A writer of that time and event puts the matter thus: "As an Indian dance is very like a white man's frolic in some of its characteristics, it was not a matter of surprise to learn that a number of braves were alone at this dance, while the squaws were doing the menial work of housekeeping at home and attending to the papooses. Now Big Jim was just one of that kind, and several others might be named, but out of respect for their families we will not put their names in print. The circumstances, however, made it necessary for Captain Hunt to dispatchMr. Pool and other messengers for their families, which were at Briggsville (Marquette County, just above the Columbia line) and other places. By Monday evening Mr. Pool had two or three dozen of them congregated here, and on Tuesday evening they were forwarded to Sparta. " It would thus appear that the Christmas festivities of the Winnebagoes were rather rudely disturbed in 1873. As we have seen, their beloved and venerable chief, Yellow Thunder, remained in Sauk County and died shortly after the last forcible removal of his people from the State of Wisconsin.