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Calumet County, Wisconsin Genealogy & History

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Chilton Times April 23, 1892

A Pioneers History

Early Days In This County

An Interesting Article Taken From The Manitowoc Pilot to Mr. White, A Pioneer Settler-It will perhaps not be uninteresting to the reader of The Pilot, and it certainly will not be to the old residents, to read the biography of George White's family the oldest white resident of Calumet Co.

In October 1834 my father who was a Methodist preacher stationed some where near Utica, New York was set by the Methodist Conference to Green Bay as a missionary to the Indians. I remember vividly the scene at buffalo just previous to our departure, although I was then only eight years of age. The church members at Buffalo for miles around gathered on the pier to bid us good bye. Father delivered a short sermon and then the whole congregation joined in a well know missionary hymn. The Black Hawk war with all its attendant horrors had been fought only a few years before and the idea that we were going to Green Bay which was then an out-post in the center of the great north-west, and beyond humanity's reach, where we were liable to be devoured by the wild animals of the forest or scalped by the Indians, affected many of the congregation to tears.

Our family, consisting of father, mother and four children took passage on the Lady of the Lake, a small schooner then plying between Buffalo and Green Bay. I remember but few of the incidents of the passage until we arrived at Deaths Door and stopped at one of the uninhabited islands. We all went on shore and remained there the greater part of the day picking berries and wandering around in the woods. In a few days we landed in Green Bay. I think Nov. 4th 1834.

Green Bay was at this time a village of from ten to fifteen hundred being the only place of any account east of Prarie du Chien and northwest of Buffalo, comprising mostly adventures of all nationalities. The Indians, half breeds and French Canadians being in a large majority. There were but few Americans.

The officers and one or two companies of soldiers at Fort Howard, Daniel Whitley, George Johnson, Post Sutler Ebenezer Childs, A. G. Ellis, Henry S. Baril, Judge Doty, John P. Arndt, Morgan s. Martin and Wm. Bruce were the principal Americans at this time. In 1825 the first frame house was erected at Green Bay, by James Duane Doty who was afterwards Governor of this territory. There was not at that time in Brown County which then covered all of the territory now organized as Milwaukee, Manitowoc, Sheboygan, Fond du Lac, Portage, Marquette, Calumet, Washington, Ozaukee, Dodge, Outagamie, Door, Waupaca, Kewaunee and Shawano counties, a single township organized except the town of Green Bay. No government surveys had yet been made. The present State of Wisconsin then contained about eight thousand inhabitants at least on half of whom were Canadians and half breeds. The village was often full of Menominees, Potowatqmies, Winnebagos and Chippewas, who either came there to trade or moving from place to place, made the village their objective point. At such times you could see their campfires scattered up and down Fox river a hundred canoes either moored at the shore, or paddling noiselessly up and down and across the river. One could hardly pass through the main street without having a drunken Indian hideous in war paint and feathers, stagger against him. When night came the music began. You could hear at one camp the monotonous gong and drum of the dances at another the war whoop and yelling of half drunken Indians and at another the snarling of drunken Indians having a regular fist fight. One not accustomed to such sights and sounds would think that all the fiends of Hades had broken loose. It was seldom that any one was killed although black eyes and broken heads were common, noses and ears bitten off, hair pulled out by the handful, for they fought with clubs, teeth and nails, and made a rule to give up their knives, hatchets and guns tot he squaws before they commenced their sprees.

At one of these drunken fights one Indian had killed another (now according to the laws of their the tribe the next of kin had the right to take the life of the murderer at any time and place but if the murderer remained at the spot where the deed was done uninterruptedly for ten days and no avenger appeared it was an evidence that the offense had been forgiven.) The Indian remained upon the spot with his blanket over his head droning his death song during ten days and nights. The people in the village went to visit him and took him victuals and water. He never noticed or spoke to them. The victuals were deposited on the ground near him. One could see that he every moment expected the death dealing blow but none came and he was then a free man. Then sitting on the log he took out his looking glass which every Indian carries, rubbed the black from his face and painted himself in a fanciful style and strutted away a free man as proud as a peacock.

It was a wild frontier life, but little attention was paid to the law, each one taking that into his own hands and dealing out justice in his own way and time. If life was taken vengeance followed. If a blow was struck it was answered by a blow with the knife or tomahawk. Men were dare devils inured to hardships and suffering, and courted life accompanied with excitement of some kind. In the spring after the trapping season was over and the rivers were open, the Indians, trappers and dealers began to pour into the village. The Indian in his bark canoe packed high with pelts and the trappers of the chase with his squaw and papooses packed away in the bottom comes merrily down the river whooping and yelling for pleasure at the prospect of having a good drunk. The traders in their bateaus loaded down with perhaps thousands of dollars worth pelts & c. the profits of the long months trade in the back woods came merrily down the river keeping with oars to the Canadian boat song. The excitement ran high, every Indian trader shop was supplied with whiskey, and that was dealt out in generous quantities, free to their customers until the poor Indian was in a proper spirit to be fleeced. The trapper and trader from the woods were supplied with whisky, and cards and in every dealer's store you could see crowds of the hardy fellows risking their hard earned property upon the throw of the dice or return of the cards.

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