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Cartwright, Carol Lohry; Shaffer, Scott; Waller, Randal / City on the Rock River : chapters in Janesville's history
(1998)

1. Prehistoric and historic Native American occupation,   pp. 1-42


Page 11

northward to include Rock County and other portions of southern Wisconsin. Eventually the
Illinois moved across the Mississippi River. At about the same time, there commenced a
migration of groups southward from Green Bay. The Mascoutens, Kickapoos, Winnebago,
Potawatomi, and Miamis moved to the vicinity of the south end of Lake Michigan. It is
probable that one or more of these groups had their homes in the Rock River valley, most
likely after the migration of the Illinois across the Mississippi. Following the groups that
moved south were the Fox and Sac, who moved to the southwest of Green Bay following the
Wisconsin River. Because there were many different tribal groups moving around southern
Wisconsin, there were many claims to the lands surrounding the Rock River valley. The
numerous claimed ownerships are exemplified by later treaties made with the government.
For example, the Winnebago, the Sac and Fox, and the Potawatomi each claimed ownership of
the Rock River country. The area now known as Rock County was especially claimed by the
Winnebago and the Potawatomi.
Europeans first encountered the Sauk in the Green Bay area between 1640 and 1660. The Sauk
were living with, or in close proximity to, the Potawatomi and the Menominee (Gussow
1955:127). After 1680, the Sauk became increasingly involved with the Fox and their trouble
with the French. The Sauk cooperated with the French at times but usually fought on the side
of the Fox. In 1704, the Sauk moved to the French post at Detroit, along with the Illinois,
Potawatomi, Menominee, Ottawa, and others (Gussow 1955:130). In 1725, a Sauk village was
located in the Lake Butte des Mortes area and in 1734 at least some of the Fox were in the
Mississippi Valley two to three days' journey below the mouth of the Wisconsin River (Gussow
1955:130). By 1746, the Sauk were back in the Green Bay area, where they gave comfort to a
group of Fox Indians sought by the French. Captain De Vilie, commandant of the Green Bay
garrison, arrived at the fortified Sauk village and demanded that the Fox be turned over.
Several Sauk warriors who refused were shot. Captain De Vilie was then killed in
retaliation, and this led to an assault on the Sauk village. The Sauk fled west down the
Wisconsin River (Grignon 1908:205-206).
They stopped at what was to become the Sauk Prairie in present Sauk County and set up a
village in what is now Sauk City. In 1750, Sauk and Potawatomi were reported on the St.
Joseph River (Gussow 1955:140). The Sauk Prairie village was visited by Jonathon Carver on
October 10, 1766 (Durrie 1908:225). This village, which included over 300 warriors, was under
the control of Pysea, father of Black Sparrow Hawk (Derleth 1948:7). The village consisted of
90 houses with bark-covered, hewn-plank frame construction. How long the Sauk remained at
the Sauk Prairie site is unclear. Pond visited the village in 1773-1775, and Charles Gautier
mentions it in 1778 (Titus 1926:334). Derleth (1948:7), however, places its abandonment earlier,
around 1768. Grignon (1908:206) claims to have visited the remains of the recently abandoned
village in 1795. The village was likely abandoned as a major occupation site in the 1770s, but
the Sauk prQbably continued to visit the area into the 1790s. Wisconsin became less important
to the Sauk after 1800, as they moved west to the Mississippi Valley and beyond. Their land in
Wisconsin was formally ceded to the American government in 1804 (Gussow 1955:147), although
small groups continued to frequent parts of the state. The final episode in the Sauk occupation
of Wisconsin related to Black Hawk's uprising and flight across the southern part of the state
in 1832. Discussion of the known and potential sites associated with Black Hawk's uprising
will be given in the "Newly Developed Themes" portion of this chapter.
The Fox were probably in the Green Bay area at the time of French explorer Jean Nicolet's first
visit; by 1665-1666, they were in Waupaca County on the Little Wolf River (Gussow 1955:127).
Gussow (1955:127) suggests that by 1680 they were on the Fox River, and in 1684 the Fox had a
village on Lake Butte des Mortes. This began a long period of Fox control over the Fox-
Wisconsin waterway. The resulting period of conflict with the French was interspersed with
intervals of unsteady peace until the 1740s. From 1689 to 1698, the Fox were aided in their
Prehistoric and Historic Native American Occupation


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