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Curtiss-Wedge, F.; Jones, Geo. O. (ed.) / History of Dunn County, Wisconsin

Chapter III: The Jefferson Davis myth,   pp. 20-26

Page 21

this county. It is believed that these men originated the tradition of Jefferson
Davis and the Red Cedar, and the facts and circumstances that can be marshalled,
which by inference only, go t6 support it.
It is to be regretted that no definite and specific statement, made by any of these
four men, can be given in support of the story that Davis was on the Menomonie
and cut timber from its banks. Local writers on early times in Wisconsin have
followed this traditionary story regarding Davis, and in some instances have cited
Brown's supposed statements as authority. Reviewers of the ante-war service of
Davis and one of the biographers, also, seem to have adopted these local statements
made by the narrators of early events.
In a little book written by Thomas E. Randall, of Eau Claire, entitled "The
History of the Chippewa Valley" on page 11, he, after referring to the establishment
of the mills of Lockwood on Wilson and Gilbert Creeks, tributaries of the Red
Cedar River, says: "It is to these mills that young Lieutenant Jefferson Davis is
said to have been despatched for lumber to rebuild Fort Crawford. An amusing
incident is related by several of the old soldiers who were with Davis and some offi-
cers on one of these trips for lumber. The order had been filled at the mill (Lock-
wood's), the lumber rafted down the Red Cedar in strings to the Chippewa,
all safely coupled up, and an old voyageur shipped as pilot. The officers and all
leaped on board, and all went well until they neared the head of Beef Slough.
"To de right, hard," said the old Frenchman. "What's that, you villain?" cried
the West Pointer, "You're going to run this raft right to hell. I tell you to pull to
the left where the main river is." It was done and the lumber lost in Beef Slough,
as the channel was effectually blocked with drift wood.
In the "History of Northern Wisconsin," a large quarto volume, published by
"The Western Historical Company, in 1881, at Chicago, mention is made of the
early cutting of timber on the Red Cedar River for Fort Crawford, and of the prob-
able connection of Davis with such cutting, and it is stated; "The story as told by
the old settlers is, that this was the redoubtable Jeff Davis, which is probably true,
as Davis was located at the fort." This is on page 274.
In a "History of the Chippewa Valley," also a quarto volume, published at
Chicago, in 1891, reference is made to the story of Davis' being on the Red Cedar
River and especial mention is made of the story as given by Elisha Brown. On
page 141, we find it stated that Jeff Davis "went in 1830 with about thirty men,
Brown being one of the number, up the Chippewa River to fell timber and make it
into rafts."
A comparison of the general trend of the traditions as to the time when, the
place where, and the purpose for which, Davis was hereabouts, with well authenti-
cated statements of traders and residents on and along the Fox-Wisconsin route
from Green Bay to Prairie du Chien: with records concerning the army; and with
Davis' own statements, seems to lead to the conclusion that there is no trust-worthy
basis for this traditional story and that as a matter of fact Davis was never in
charge of the cutting of timber on this river for Fort Crawford and was never here
in person.
The tradition or traditions are associated with many personal incidents, such
as the great peril of Davis while here from hostile Indians; his mistake in running a
raft into Beef Slough, and his elopement with General Taylor's daughter. The
peril and the mistake of others, and the elopement, it is believed, is aside from the
questions under discussion.
Brown is cited as authority, by the Editor of " History of the Chippewa Valley"
for the story that Davis ran a raft into Beef Slough, and is credited with being one
of the soldiers who manned Gen. Taylor's boat when, it is said, he pursued Davis and
his eloping daughter.
In a book of some wider circulation than the local works referred to, "Dodd's
Jefferson Davis," the various versions of Davis' expedition to this river have become
crystallized in this form: "Davis was stationed at Fort Crawford in 1828 and 1829
and in the early months of 1829 was detailed to superintend the cutting of timber
on the banks of the Red Cedar River, a tributary of the Chippewa. The party

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