University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The State of Wisconsin Collection

Page View

Randall, Geo. A. / Illustrated atlas of Winnebago County, Wisconsin : containing outline map of the county, map of each township in the county, with village and city plats. Also maps of the world, United States and state of Wisconsin, together with other valuable information

Brief history of Winnebago County, Wisconsin,   pp. [13]-15 PDF (4.9 MB)

Page [13]

TO GIVE in detail a history of Winnebago county and the valley of
 the Fox river is not within the province of a work of this character. 
The purpose of this brief outline is to enumerate only the
 most important facts relative to the Indian occupation, the white
 explorations, the settlement, growth and progress of the county,
 leaving to works of more historic pretensions to give in detail, what can
 here only be generalized. In the preparation of this sketch the writer has,
 by permission, drawn largely from Harney's excellent history of Winne-
 bago, and other published accounts.
   There is, perhaps, no portion of the entire northwest that is so intimately
 connected with early settlement and civilization as the valley of the Fox
 rivers. It was within what is now Winnebago county that Nicollet with a
 commission from the government of New France visited the Winnebago
 Indians for the purpose of making treaties and further exploring the re-
 gion. This visit occurred within but a little more than a quarter of a
 century after the first permanent English settlement was made in America.
 Here on the shore of Lake Winnebago was negotiated the first treaty ever
 made by Europeans with the Indians of the west, which was the initial
 step leading to the French colonization of the north-west. The valley of
 the Fox rivers as well as the greater part of the state of Wisconsin was
 originally inhabited by the Dacotahs or Sioux. It is probable that they
 were undisturbed in their possession until the early part of the seventeenth
 century, when their territory was invaded by the tribes of the Algonquin
 race. The Chippewas, one of the most powerful nations of the Algonquin
 family, were, perhaps, the first invaders. After numerous struggles be-
 tween the two powerful races, in which the Fox valley was the scene of
 much carnage, the Sioux were driven beyond the Mississippi, and the
 close of the century found the Chippewas in full possession of the northern
 part of the state.
   At the time of the advent of the French missionaries and traders, this
 region was inhabited by the Chippewas, Pottawattamies, Sauks, Foxes,
 Menominees and Winnebagoes. And a little later the tribes of this vicinity
 are said by another historian, to have been located as follows: Mascoutins,
 on the upper Fox; their village occupying the site of Buttes des Morts;
 the Winnebagoes occupying a tract south of the upper Fox, and also what
 is now Doty's Island and the site of Menasha and vicinity; the Outagamies,
 or Foxes, at the foot of lake Winnebago on the lower Fox, their principal
 village on the western shore of Little Buttes des Morts, near the site of
 Neenah; the Sauks, at the mouth of the lower Fox, and the Menominees,
 occupying a tract to the Menominee river.
 About the year 1668, soon after the establishment of a mission on the
 present site of Depere, Father Allouez, accompanied by Dablon, ascended
 the Fox, visited the present site of the city of Oshkosh, after which they
 ascended the upper Fox for the purpose of visiting the town of the 
 Mascoutins and Miamis, the two tribes numbering about 3,000 souls living
 together in a village of which Buttes-des-Morts is the present site. This
 village however, soon came into possession of the Sauks and Foxes, and
 was found well fortified by the French in the expedition against the tribes
 in 1716. Says the historian Charlevoix: The Sauks and Foxes notwith-
 standing the blow which the Foxes had received at Detroit, collected their
 scattered bands in 1716 and committed all kinds of depredations, murdering
 and robbing travelers, etc. This hostile action induced the governor gen-
 eral of Canada to propose a union of the friendly tribes with the French
 an expedition under M. De Louvigny against them at their village on Lake
 Buttes des Morts --the present site of the village of the same name. They
 had fortified themselves with three ranges of oak palisades, with a deep
 ditch in the rear. But says Louvigny: " After three days of open trenches
 sustained bv a continuous fire of fusileers, with two pieces of cannon,
 a grenade mortar, they were forced to ask for peace notwithstanding
 they had 500 warriors in the fort, and 3,000 women. But the prompti-
 tude of the men who were in the action pushed forward the trenches that
 I had opened at only seventy yards from their fort, made the enemy fear
 the third night that they would be taken. I did not listen to their first
 proposition, but they having made the second one I submitted it to my
 allies who consented on the following terms: That the Foxes and their
 allies make peace with all friendly Indians with whom the French are
 engaged in trade and commerce; and that they would return to me all
 French prisoners."
    Notwithstanding these assurances of peace, they continued to commit
 many depredations; an expedition was therefore sent against them under
 the command of M. De Lignery, in 1828, composed of 1,000 Indians and
 450 French. The expedition proceeded up the Fox river, but found the vil-
 lages of the Foxes and the Winnebagos, who were then in alliance, deserted.
   The next and perhaps the most important engagement between the two
 races was the battle of Little Butte des Morts. The village on the Fox near
 the present site of Neenah and Menasha was the most populous of the val-
 ley. The Indians of the village became very piratical, exacting tribute
 from all trading boats that passed that point, and in one instance killed
 several of the crew and plundered the boat. This so exasperated Capt.
 Morand, an officer in the French-Indian department, that he at once organ-
 ized an expedition composed of French half-breeds and Menominees, and
 proceeded up the Fox to the beligerent village.
   "The morning sun shone pleasantly on the bark and mat wigwams of
the Little Butte des Morts. The inhabitants reposed in fancied security
the squaws moved about in the performance of their usual duties; the
dogs quarreled over their bones and refuse; the papooses played at their
juvenile games, and the warriors lolled about dreamily, comfortably con-
emplating their next foray on the boats of the voyagers, which should
furnish them a generous supply of the white man's delicacies, and es-
pecially tobacco, and their favorite skootay waubo. They had not long to
wait for their expected opportunity. Morand's fleet was rapidly nearing
their village. It was comped of baxeaux and canoes, covered with oil
cloths such as the traders used to protect their goods from the weather.
Under the oil cloths were concealed armed men. When the expedition
approached to within a mile of the village, a large detachment of the
French and the Menominees was sent from that point to take a position in
the rear, and cut off the retreat of the Foxes. Morand's fleet then pro-
ceeded up the river.  As soon as it hove in sight of the village, the dogs
barked, the squaws screamed with delight, and the warriors proceedd in
a body to the shore, eagerly expectant of the rich booty.
  "When the foremost boats came opposite to the Indians congregated
the shore, the later commenced to violently gesticulate and demand their
stoppage; which, not being complied wiht, a number of balls were fired
across their bows -- a peremptory demand for them to heave to. The row-
ers immediately stopped their further progress, when Morand asked what
they required? Skootay waubo was yelled by hundreds of voices. 'To
shore with the boats!' ordered Morand; and they were immediately along
side the river banks, the swarming savages rushing forward impetuously
to board them.  Back! Back! Don't touch the boats,' warned Morand;
but on they came. 'Ready!' shouted the commander. In an instant the
oil cloths were thrown off, and a hundred men, with guns at their shoul-
ders arose, as if by magic. 'Fire!' shouted Morand. A hundred mus
kets were simultaneously discharged, and scores of dark forms dropped on
the river bank, and writhed in the agonies of death. The suddenness of the
unexpected attack sent the Indians howling and panic stricken from the
shore. They hastily retreated towards their wigwams. Here a more ter-
rible foe approached them. They were now greeted with the war-whoop
of the Menominees, with tomahawk and scalping knife in hand, and the
appalling sight of their blazing 'wigwams and their fleeing squaws and
papooses; for the Menominees who had come up in the read had industriously
applied the torch. Then came a desperate hand to hand conflict;
the Foxes fighting bravely, but compelled at last to retreat to the woods.
Here the unfortunate wretches were met by the detachment of French
that formerly landed, and a discharge of musketry checked their flight.
The pursuing Menominees again came upon them, and tomahawk and
bayonet completed the bloody work. Morand endeavored to stop the 
terrible carnage; but 'no quarter' was the revengeful war-cry; and they
perished, man, woman and child --almost the entire village, which had
contained the most numerous bands of the Fox tribe. A few escaped and
fled to the upper Fox."
  " The populous village that, an hour before, reposed in the enjoyment
of peace, was in that short time transformed into a scene of utter desola-
tion. There was nothing left but the dead bodies of the slain. The storm
of war had swept over the Petite Buttes des Morts like a besom of de-
struction, and annihilated the greater portion of a tribe. Such is the his-
tory of the memorable battle of the Little Buttes des Morts (the hills of
dead); a spot commemorative of the overthrow of the supremacy of the
Fox Indians in valley of the Foxes."
  " The few Foxes who had escaped during the battle, joined other bands
of the tribe, and congregated at a point on the south side of the river,
about three or four miles above Big Lake Buttes des Morts, near the pres-
ent site of Winneconne, where they were again attacked by Morand, and
defeated with great loss."
The title of the various Indian tribes above named were extinguished by
numerous treaties and the land finally put on the market. So rapidly
did settlement by the whites follow that in 1842 the county of Winnebago
was organized as a separate political body.
  To the French belong the credit of the first settlement in Winnebago
county. In 1818, Augustin Grignon and James Porlier, the former from
Kaukauna, the latter from Green Bay, established a trading post near the
present site of the village of Butte des Morts. Robert Grignon, who had
for a time been in charge of Butte des Morts, located and established a
trading post at Algoma. Mr. Porlier remained at the first named place for
many years, doing a very extensive business. Peter Powell came next,
and built a place on the lake shore in 1832. His son, Capt. William Powell,
became a very conspicuous figure in the early history of the county. The
next settlement was made near the mouth of the upper Fox, not far from
where the Algoma bridge now spans the river. George Johnson, the father
of William Johnson, the well known Indian interpreter, built two small
log cabins in 1835, in one of which he kept tavern. Johnson sold to Robert
Grigon and  William Powell, who, in a short time, were succeeded by
James Knaggs a halfbreed.  He opened up a trading post with a large
 tock  of goods and was the first to embark in the mercantile business
within what is now the city of Oshkosh. 
  In 1839, Charles Grignon with his family, settled at what is known as
Jackson's Point and with a band of Menominee Indians who joined him, a
village soon sprang up. A treaty was concluded with the Menominee Indians
in 1831, which provided that the government should pay them an annuity 
of $5,000 for four years and $6,000 for twelve years. The treaty fur-
ther provided that an agency should be established at some convenient
point, a mill should be built and a considerable sum expended each year to
teach them how to cultivate the soil. Neenah, or what was then known
as Winnebao Rapids, was selected as the site for the agency, and in the
same year, Nathaniel Perry, who was appointed as one of its farmers, came
and erected a house. For other work connected with the agency, William
Dickeson and Whitney, in 1835. The mill was built near where the
Winnebago paper mills now stand, and near the same was a residence in
which Col. David Johnson, the miller, lived. The others who followed and
settled near the rapids were Messrs. Jourdan and Hunter, blacksmiths,
Clark Dickenson, Robert Irwin, Ira Baird, Richard Prichett and Archibald
  Webster Stanley is generally credited with being the first permanent set-
tler. He was employed by the government in the Ccnstruction of buildings
at Fort Winnebago, but being so favorably impressed with the country
near the mouth of the upper Fox, with the assistance of his son Henry
and the crew of the boat in which he shipped, the first shanty or hut was
erected on the present site of Oshkosh, north of the river. This was in the
year 1836, and the same year that the treaty with the Menominee Indians
was concluded at Cedar Rapids. By the terms of this treaty about
4,000,000 acres lying north of the Fox and including the present site of
Oshkosh, was ceded to the United States. In the fall of 1836, Chester Gallup
came and joined Mr. Stanley. They bought from the government 170 acres
of land each. Mr. Gallup's tract embracing the point formed by the mouth
of the river and the lake, while Mr. Stanley entered the tract lying west.
Stanleys and the Gallups were thereby the first to occupy the land on
which Oshkosh is now built. In the winter of the following year George
Wright, sr.,and David and Thomas Evans came and settled on the land ad-
joinng the  Stanleys and Gallups and  the four families deserve much
credit for opening up the way to such civilization.
  The next settlers in the county were Chester Ford and his son Milan,
who arrived in the fall of 1837. Mr. Ford soon assumed prominence in
public affairs, and was a leading member of the board of supervisors, and
one of the chief business men of Oshkosh.
   The next settlers in this county were Jason Wilkins, who arrived in the
fall of 1837, and took up a claim on the lake shore, north of Miller's point,
and Ira Aiken, who settled on the lake shore, near the site of the asylum.
   Joseph Jackson moved to Oshkosh in 1839, and built a log house on the
present site of Kahler's brewery. In 1844 lie built the first frame house
Oshkosh; it occupied the present site of the Beckwith.
   Mr. C. J. Coon arrived in 1839, and purchased land from Robert Grignon.
It is the site of the Sawyer and Paine property. He built his house
 near the site of the Paine mill.
    Joseph L. Schooley made a claim the same year in what is now the
 town of Oshkosh. He worked, at times, as a printer on the Green Bay
 Intelligencer, the first newspaper printed in Wisconsin.
    Stephen Brooks and family came in 1839, and took up land near the
 site of the asylum.
   Samuel Brooks came in 1812, and subsequently settled at what is now
 called Brooks' Corners. He was a surveyor, and run out the first roads
 which were opened in the country, and was the first county surveyor.
   W. C. Isbell came next, and took a very prominent part in public 
affairs, and was a member of the first board of supervisors, the members
 which were Chester Ford, W. C. Isbell and L. B. Porlier.
 William A. Boyd, son-in-law of Chester Ford, settled on what is now
 the Roe farm, in June, 1810. He brought with him twenty-one sheep, the
 first ever brought into this county. He also brought in the first stock
 leather, and manufactured the first boots and shoes ever made in this
 county, and was one of the first mail carriers.
    Dr. Christian Linde, now a resident of the city of Oskosh, emigrated
 from Denmark to this country in 1842.  He was accompanied by his
 brother Carl, and, on the seventeenth of July they purchased from Col.
 Tullar 280 acres of land, now occupied by the Northern Insane Asylum, on
 which they built a log house, very nearly where the asylum now stands,
 into which they immediately moved. In 1843 the doctor married a daugh-
 ter of Clark Dickinson.
    Mr. Jefferson Eaton migrated to Wisconsin in 1843. Arriving at the
 Fond du Lac settlement, he left his family at that place, and took the trail
 for Oshkosh, where he duly arrived. In the fall he moved his family on to
 the tract of land, in the town of Oshkosh, where he has since resided.
    Mr. George H. Mansur and family settled at Neenah in 1843--the first
 white family permanently settled at that place. Harrison Reed, in 1844.
 purchased from the government the 562 44/100 acres of land, which constituted
 the agency ground at Winnebago Rapids, with the buildings on the same,
 tools and implements, moved his family there that year, and commenced
 laying the foundations of the future city of Neenah.
    Gov. Doty, in 1845, buit his log house on the island, and took up his
 residence in the same. Gov. Doty was a man who acted a very con spicuous
 part in the history of Wisconsin. In 1820, he was secretary to
 the expedition of Gov. Cass, and with him traveled through the great
 lakes, the Fox and Wisconsin, and ascended to the sources of the Mississippi
 in birch bark canoes. In 1823 he was appointed United States district
 judge for the northern district of Michigan, which included the northern
 part of the prevent state of Michigan, all of Wisconsin, Iowa and Minne-
 sota. This year he was married, and moved with his wife, to Prairie du
 Chien, traveling from Green Bay to that place in a birch bark canoe. The
 next year he moved to Green Bay. In 1836 he donated the land for the
 site of a state capitol. In 1811 he was appointed governor of the territory
 of Wisconsin, which position he held three years.
    Curtis Reed, associated with Gov. Doty in the ownership of the
 water power at Menasha and of the adjoining land, went to that place in
 June, 1848, for the purpose of improving the water power and starting the
 future city of Menasha. He built a log house at the head of the canal
 which was used as a tavern and boarding house. At this time the site of
 the present city of Menasha was a wilderness, untouched by the hand of
 man. He next erected another log building which he occupied as a store,
 and then commenced the construction of the present dam. Before the
 close of the year some eight or ten families had settled at Menasha, so
 called by Mrs. Governor Doty.
    L. M. Parsons, still a resident of the town of Rushford. made the first
 settlement in that town March 7th, 1846, erecting at that time a house ten
 by twelve, in which he afterward accommodated the traveling public to
 the extent of its capacity.
    The same year J. R. and Uriah Hall, the Stones, Deyoes, John Johnson,
 J. Mallory and the Palfreys settled in the vicinity. Mr. Parsons erected
 saw-mill the same fall, and in 185O completed a grist-mill which was very
 popular in its day. The present fine mill of Bean & Palfrey, celebrated
 for the superiority of its flour, now occupies the site.
   The first settlers in the town of Winneconne, after the old French set-
 tlers, were Samuel Champion and his son John, Samuel Lobb and George
 Bell and family, who located here in the spring of 1816.
    Mrs. Bell was the first white woman in the town.
  About a month after the advent of the Bells, Mr. Greenbury Wright,
 accompanied by Dr. A. B. Wright, located on the present site of Butte des
 Morts, and now enjoys the distinction of being the oldest resident family
 in town.
   In that year the settlement received accessions in the arrival of George
 Cross, J. Ashby, L. McConifer, Stephen Allen, William Calkins, Edwin
 Boulden and George Snider.
    Mr. George Cross was engaged at a very early day in western explora-
 tions, having visited Wisconsin in 1835, and was engaged in running the
 line of the fourth principal meridian; he also accompanied Gov. Doty in
    Joseph H. Osborn and John Smith built houses on their present farms in
 the now town of Algoma, in 1846. Mr. Osborn took a prominent part in
 the early affairs of the county.
   C. L. Rich migrated to this county in 1845, and in that year he selected
 his present fine farm in the town of Oshkosh.
    The town of Utica had its first settler in the person of Erwin Heath,
afterward postmaster of the city of Oshkosh.
  In February, 1846, Mr. Heath selected a claim in the now town of Utica,
and built a log house on the same.
  E. B. Fisk was the next settler in Utica, locating on the beautiful place
now known as Fisk's Corners, where he dispensed a bountiful hospitality
in the early day.
  Armine Pickett and David H. Nash arrived in May, 1846, with their
families, and settled on places which they had selected the previous fall.
[page 14]

Go up to Top of Page