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

Chapter I: Prairie du Chien and the Red Cedar,   pp. 1-6

Page 2

2                     HISTORY OF DUNN COUNTY
doubtless became the semi-yearly rendezvous of fur traders and in 1781 the per-
manent abode of settlers.
The immense profit in the sale of furs in European markets was one of the in-
centives for private exploration in the unknown lands of the West. In the fur
trade Mackinaw became an important point between Quebec and all that region
of country draining into the upper great lakes. As soon as the divide between the
waters tributary to lake Michigan and those tributary to the Mississippi river was
crossed and the Fox-Wisconsin route was established, a large business in furs on
the head streams of the Mississippi opened for the adventurous trader. Mackinaw
was a long way off and the site of Prairie du Chien, a prairie on the eastern bank of
the Mississippi about three miles above the mouth of the Wisconsin, was the natural
topographical place and the geographic point for a center of distribution of supplies
for this trade and for the collection of the pelts of the fur-bearing animals of numer-
ous kinds to be found along the newly discovered river courses.
Old world and new world treaties also played a part in fixing this point of future
settlement. At first the whole of the western country was under the domination
of France, but in 1763 she ceded to Spain all her lands on the west of the Mississippi
River, and to England all those to the east of the river. A portion of the last by
treaty with Great Britain in 1783, passed to the United States, which country later
still acquired the lands formerly ceded by France to Spain lying on the west of the
During this time of the separate holdings of the country divided by the Mis-
sissippi, Prairie du Chien by reason of its location at the western entrance of the
principal water way across the eastern half of the continent, assumed a position of
national, even of international importance, and there was a demand for stockades,
forts and barracks to be built and defended at national cost and with national
troops. A military occupation drew to it a more or less permanent population.
After the place became useless as an international outpost, the military structures
and a military force were continued to protect the settlers and fur traders from the
hostile Indians.
That Prairie du Chien was early considered a point of vantage, appears from a
letter of La Salle's dated August 22, 1682. He, after setting forth the enterprise of
Du Luth in securing beaver and other furs above the head of lake Superior and on
the headquarters of the St. Croix River, and complaining of the action of the govern-
ment in permitting Du Luth to bring his furs by way of the Wisconsin and Fox
Rivers, says: "But if they go by Wisconsin, where buffaloes are hunted in the
summer and where I have begun an establishment, they will ruin the trade on which
alone I rely, owing to the great number of buffaloes killed every year, which is
greater than one can believe." Reference is made in this letter to the Chippewa
River, as though thus early blazing the way from Prairie du Chien to Menomonie.
He says: "One comes to the Riviere des Boeufs (Buffalo River) which is as wide
at its mouth as that of the Illinois."
This account is doubtless founded on a report of Father Louis Hennepin, a
priest of the order of the Recollects of St. Francis. He and his two companions.,
Antoine du Gay Auguel, known from his birthplace as "le Picard" and Michael
Accault were sent out by La Salle, from Fort Crevecour, near Lake Peoria, Illinois,
on February 28, 1680. They were on their way up the Mississippi when they
were captured by a band of Sioux warriors on the warpath against the Illinois and
Miami nations. These Sioux took the white men to the Mille Lacs region in north-
ern Minnesota. He mentions the Buffalo River, which he calls "R. de Boeufs,"
which he said was full of turtles and which he ascended for several leagues. It is
believed that he ascended Beef Slough, which at that time was possibly the main
channel of the Chippewa River. He does not mention any other river that would
correspond with the Chippewa River of the present day. After spending some time
in the Mille Lacs region in Minnesota, Hennepin and Auguel, leaving Accault as
hostage, were taken down the river by the Indians after supplies which La Salle
had promised to send to the mouth of the Wisconsin. On this trip they hunted
in the region between the Chippewa and the Wisconsin, and possibly saw Dunn

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