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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 21

he was an interpreter in making the treaty spoken of. I think he spelled his name
Joseph Thebalt, but he was called Tebo, or Thiebeau.
We learn from a statement of George W. Ogden, in Guernsey's History of Rock County (see
Draper 1908:423) that Theibault lived near Lake Koshkonong with his family. They included
two American Indian wives, and three or four children. According to the same source, Thibault
remained at Lake Koshkonong until the winter of 1837-38, when he was supposedly murdered
by his son Francis and Francis' mother. The incident allegedly resulted from a family quarrel in
which Thibault wished to remain at the lake and cultivate the land while his wives and their
children wished to follow the local tribal groups across the Mississippi.
Another trader on the upper Rock River was Stephen Mack. Gregory (1932:612) describes
Mack's presence as follows:
Mack apparently came from New England to the neighborhood of the present city of
Beloit early in the 1820s. In this region he traded with the Indians and took as his
wife the daughter of a Winnebago chieftain of the vicinity. From his trading post,
located several miles east of the site of the present village of Rockton, Illinois, he
made occasional journeys to the settlement at Chicago (Fort Dearborn). Here he traded
his furs for merchandise with such early factors as John Kinzie and Solomon Juneau.
Other traders were active along the Rock River in the early 1820s. A letter, translated from
French, appears in the Wisconsin Historical Collections (Thwaites 1911-217). This letter was
written at Green Bay and mentions a trader being sent to the river La Roche (Rock River) with
three pieces of assorted cloth for trade. While at Michilimackinac, John Lawe wrote a letter
to his uncle Jacob Franks (Thwaites 1911.278). Lawe's letter mentions a very well-equipped
trading house at Milwaukee that furnishes the Rock River.
In 1822, the American Fur Company persuaded the American Congress to do away with the
government factory system, thus strengthening the company's control over trade. While furs
and goods continued to pass through Macinac, much of the fur trade traffic went down the
Mississippi to St. Louis. Also, a lively renewal of increased trading at Prairie du Chien began
in the 1820s. After the Black Hawk War in 1832, the fur trade began to wane as settlement
picked up. As traders began to close out their interests in the diminishing fur trade some turned
to lumbering, banking, general merchandising, and other business ventures. For the American
Indians of Wisconsin, the demise of the fur trade was devastating. Few furs were being
recovered and these could not offset the price of the goods and food that the were essential for
survival. Many American Indians who depended on the trade for their entire livelihood faced
poverty and starvation (Gilman 1974:18). By 1850, the fur trade system as it had been
conducted for more than two centuries in Wisconsin came to an end due to American Indian land
cessions, dwindling fur supplies, and the forced removal of tribal groups to reservations in
Wisconsin and west of the Mississippi.
Potential Associated Site Types
Despite the plethora of original French, British, and American documents, fur trade-related
American Indian cultural resources in Wisconsin have seen few investigations. While traders
were probably in the Janesville area during the period of French and British influence, none
have been documented. Several known traders were active around Janesville in the 1820s (the
period of American influence), including Joseph Thibault and Stephen Mack. While no sites
associated with these traders have been documented, they may exist within or in the vicinity
of Janesville. If present, these sites would probably be located along or close to the bank of the
Prehistoric and Historic Native American Occupation
21


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