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

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

Chapter II: Early lumbering operations,   pp. 7-19

Page 8

the Indian country. The parties being pretty well convinced of the fact, and that
Col. Snelling had malice enough to carry out his threat, if for nothing else but to
punish Mr. Rolette, with whom he had some difficulty, concluded not to rebuild,
until they could be authorized by some better authority, supposing then that the
Secretary of War had that power; and Mr. Rolette and myself made up our minds
to pocket the loss, and let Perkins off with the loss of the few articles he had fur-
nished and his services, which amounted to about fifteen hundred dollars. It
proved a bad speculation to all parties. The annuity we agreed to pay the Indians
for the privilege of building the mill and cutting timber, being stopped during the
time there was no work on the mill, the Indians insisted upon its payment, and
inquired the reason we did not go on with the work. We were obliged to tell them
that their Great Father would not allow us to do so. They said they had given us
permission, and that the country was theirs, and the Great Father had no right to
say anything about it."
Mr. Lockwood continues the narrative as follows:
"In the fall of 1829, returning from St. Louis, I met at Galena Major John
Biddle of Detroit, who had then been electel our d,:1,cgate to Congress from Mich-
igan, and inquired what he could do for me, or the people of Prairie du Chien at
Washington. I then related to him the situation in which I and Mr. Rolette were
placed with regard to the mill and annuities to the Indians. He told me that when
I got home, if I would address him at Washington, stating our case, that he would
attend to it. I wrote to him a full statement of the case and difficulties, and Major
Biddle obtained for us from the Secretary of War, permission to erect mills, etc.,
provided we contracted with the Indians through the Indian agent at Prairie du
"We renewed our contract with the Indians, through their agents, and in May,
1830, sent a mill-wright who was also a partner, a superintendent, carpenter and
blacksmith, with laborers, provisions, teams, and tools, to erect a mill on the
Chippewa River or its tributaries. The mill-wright selected the site of the old
dam of Perkins for his dam, and built the mill on the Menomonee River, and dug
a canal across a point of land from the small stream to the mill. The hands we
were obliged to employ were mostly Canadians, and we engaged the wife of one of
them, a Menomonee half breed, as cook for the hands. Few Americans can manage
the Canadian voyageurs to advantage. They suppose that they must be treated
with the same familiarity as American laborers, and reason them into doing their
duty; but this is not the proper treatment. The voyageur has been so long ac-
customed to look upon his employer, as his superior and to be treated by him as
his inferior, that so soon as he is treated as American hands expect to be treated by
their employer, they at once conceive a contempt for him, and become mutinous.
Such was the case with our superintendent, and he proved not to be qualified to
superintend any kind of men or business, and all the hands looked upon him with
"Three or four Chippewascai,. tothen and the Menomonee half breedwoman,-
she being the only one that understood the Chippewa language,-and told them
that if they did not leave there, they would kill them all. This was about nightfall,
and the superintendent was so much alarmed that at dark he got into a canoe with
one man, as much frightened as himself, and went down in the night over the rapids,
that were difficult to navigate even in the day time, leaving orders with the men to
load the provisions, tools, etc., into the boat, and to start in the morning down the
Chippewa River near to its mouth, which they did, driving the oxen by land. The
superintendent, whose name was Armstrong, arrived at the Prairie evidently much
alarmed, and gave me a terrible account of his escape; and not until he had been
at the Prairie some considerable time did he inform me that he had ordered all the
men to leave the mill, and that they were probably on their way down. I was then
satisfied that my presence was required there, unless I intended to abandon the mill;
and it being in the hot weather of August, I did not feel much inclined to make a
voyage in a canoe exposed to the sun, but from the materials we had to deal with,
I saw at once that it was necessary.

Go up to Top of Page