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Harney, Richard J. / History of Winnebago County, Wisconsin, and early history of the Northwest

Harney, Richard J.
Early history of the Northwest,   pp. [9]-94 PDF (49.5 MB)

Page 10

[page 10]
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 These were superseded by the Ameri-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
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
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-

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