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Historic Diaries: Marsh, 1834

Up the Fox River

Editor's Note:

In this entry, Marsh describes an early attempt at the policy of "assimilation", which several decades later would lead to government-sponsored boarding schools and vocational training for Indian children.


Grand Chute: Ascending the Fox River against the current was difficult because various rapids required travelers to get out and walk, while their canoes or boats were carried up and around the falls. One such place was Grand Chute (an early name for Appleton, meaning "Great Falls"). In "Pioneer Life in Wisconsin" Henry Merrell, [pages 369-370 of Wisconsin Historical Collections, vol. VII] described a trip over them in the spring of 1834, a few weeks before Marsh:


"There they had to unload and carry the goods up a hill and down the other side above the chute which was a perpendicular fall of three or four feet. The Indians would wade in, as many as could stand around the boat, and lift it over, while others had a long cordelle with a turn around a tree above taking up the slack and pulling as much as they could. When the boats were over they were re-loaded..."


"Governor P.": This was Michigan Territorial George Bryan Porter (1791-1834) who died later that year in a cholera epidemic at Detroit.


The outlet of the lake was at modern Neenah-Menasha, and they hugged the western shore of Lake Winnebago heading for modern Oshkosh, which they reached the following afternoon.


June 13, 1834

About 9 o'clock we parted with our little company, J. W. Quinney, Andrew M. and Austin Q., Mr. Metoxen having left early in the morn. Two helped us up over the Grand Chute...


When we arrived at the outlet of the Lake we heard the sound of revelry and as we approached found that it proceeded from a Menominee village situated near the place where the Govt. are erecting mills etc. They were hold[ing] a grand medicine dance and the latter establishment furnished them with a plenty of their favorite beverage...


Here Gov. P. intends to build an establishment for civilizing the Menominees in wh. they are to be taught knowledge of the arts, the men and boys to farm by farmers appointed for that purpose, and the women a knowledge of domestic concerns by females from the white people. After they have learned these thgs. then he would have them taught to read and write in schools. But he does not consider the Gospel as necessary in order to civilize a nation of Indians!! As well might he expect to make the thick forest a fruitful field by lopping off some of [the] highest branches.


We went onward a few miles, after we got into the Lake [Lake Winnebago], but a head wind obliged us to stop and encamp. The night was not cold and we passed very comfortably under the tent.


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