Harney, Richard J. / History of Winnebago County, Wisconsin, and early history of the Northwest
Harney, Richard J.
Early history of the Northwest, pp. -94 PDF (49.5 MB)
[page 10] EARLY HISTORY OF THE NORTHWEST. West is found in the history of his explorations and habitations in the Valley of the Fox; and that record, too, comprises some of the very earliest pages of American history. The Fox and Wisconsin Rivers and Lake Winnebago formed important links in that line of communication which, with Montreal and Quebec for a base, extended through the St. Lawrence, the Great Lakes, the Fox and Wis- consin, the Mississippi and the Ohio, whose upper waters almost completed the circuit to Lake Erie. The way-stations on this long line of travel were: Three Rivers, Detroit, Old Michilmackinac, Green Bay, Prairie du Chien, Kaskaskia and Fort du Quesne. From 1639 to 1820 this route was almost the exclusive line of Western trade and traffic, and all the white settlements were confined to the immediate borders of these great water courses. The fur trade developed into large proportions. Organ- ized companies were formed in Montreal and Quebec. These were superseded by the Ameri- can Fur Company, which frequently sent up the Fox River flotillas which numbered from fifty to one hundred bateaux and canoes. This, too, was the line on which moved the armed expeditions in Western warfare for over a cen- tury and a half of the white man's history in the Valley of the Mississippi. Here, also, was. the line of travel of the public functionaries and representatives of the three governments which respectively ruled the country during that period. It will be seen, therefore, that our beautiful Fox River Valley is the location of the oldest Western settlement-and intimately associated with the earlier pages of Ameiican history. The advent of civilized man in this region is nearly contemporaneous with the founding of Jamestown and New York; for it was in i6o6 that King James gave the charter for the Colonies of Virginia, and in 1609 that Henry Hudson discovered the Bay of New York and the North River. In 1621 the Dutch West India Company purchased Manhattan Island from the Indians for twenty-five dollars; and aú late as 1620 the first permanent settle- ment was made in New England; while in 1639 (and it is now claimed to have bqen as early as 1634) Nicollet, interpreter at Three Rivers, commissioned by the Government of New France, traversed the Fox Rivers and Lake of the Winnebagoes, for the purpose of discovery and of making treaties with the Indians. At the time of his voyage, it was believed that our Great Lakes and the Western water courses afforded a passage to the East Indies; and as the Winnebagoes were a race distinct from the Algonquins and Dacota4s, and speak- ing a language so different from the other Indian dialects that no other Indians ever speak it or understand it, the Algonquins regarded them as foreigners, and claimed that they had intercourse with some distant people. Indian imagination so pictured these strangers who, it was alleged, visited the Winnebagoes, that Nicollet thought it probable that the Great River afforded a water communication with China. After ascending the Lower Fox to Lake Winnebago, and just before reaching the chief town of the Winnebagoes, he put on a robe of Chinese damask, richly embroidered with birds and flowers, as if anticipating a meeting with the Celestials; and when he was ushered into the presence of the Indians, dressed in this rich habit, and with a pistol in each hand, which he discharged, they regarded him as a Manitou armed with thunder and lightning. His presence was so imposing that they lavished on him every expression of Indian respect and admiration, and made him the recipient of a most bountiful hospitality, over a hundred beavers being consumed at one feast. At the council which was held at the foot of the lake he made the first treaty ever entered into between the Indians of the West and Europeans, and this at so early a time that the Puritans had only, a few years before, landed at Plymouth Rock, and had not as yet penetrated the country fifty miles inland. This was the first preparatory measure toward that French colonization of the North- west which has left its historic land-marks of the early progress of civilization in the Missis- sippi Valley. When it is remembered that a Mission was established near the mouth of the Lower Fox as early as i668, and a trading post a few years later, it will be seen how intimately the Fox Valley is associated with the great historical events of the earliest civilized occupancy of the continent; and that the early history of the Northwest is so interwoven with the very beginnings of American civilization that it cannot be intelligently discussed without considering the initial points of its progress. The writer will, therefore, endeavor to briefly trace the chief events which led to the present occupancy of this region by the mixed Euro- pean races which now inhabit it: The French occupancy of the country orig- inated in the second voyage of Jaques Cartier to America in 1535. He ascended the St. Lawrence and came to anchor opposite that grand promontory known as the Gibralter of America-the site of Quebec. It was known by the Indian name of Stadicone. The mag- [1634.
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