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Historic Diaries: Marsh, 1834

Neenah to Omro

Editor's Note:

They had spent the night on the Lake Winnebago shore somewhere between Neenah and Oshkosh, where they entered the Fox again in mid-afternoon.

Butte des Mort (usually found in the plural as Butte des Morts) translates into English as "Hill of the Dead." Marsh here confuses the two places called by this name. The tradition he mentioned applies to a conspicuously visible mound across the Fox River from modern Neenah, which gave its name to Little Butte des Morts Lake. This was formed by the mass grave of Sauk and Fox Indians -- the ancestors of the very people whom Marsh was traveling to meet -- massacred in a sneak attack by French troops about 1730.

On June 14th Marsh was actually passing a second mound of the same name a few miles southwest near modern Winneconne. It was on the Wolf River expansion we now simply call Lake Butte des Morts. This mound, in fact, was not the scene of a massacre but rather a natural mound which was traditionally used as a burial ground by the Sauk, Fox and Menominee before the start of the 19th century. In 1827 an important treaty had been signed there between the U.S. and the Menominee. Details about both locations are in our online Dictionary of Wisconsin History.

Grignon's: The Grignons were one of the oldest and most prominent fur trading families in the Fox Valley. Powell is unidentified.

They presumably lost their way temporarily by going past the mouth of the Fox, behind a penninsula on the west bank of Lake Butte des Morts, and northwest up the Wolf toward Winneconne (map).

Sat. 14th [June, 1834]

About 2 or 3 o'clock we again entered the Fox River and having rigged our canoe with oars ascended the river rapidly, finding the current not near so strong as it had been between the Gr C[hute] & Lake, and went up in a short time six miles to the Butte des Mort or Hill of Death, where tradition says that about one hundred years ago a French comm[ander] from Quebec with a small force aided by some Menominees, cut off a Sac village, sparing neither men, women nor children...

Leaving this place with a cursory view, which has nothing inviting about [it,] there being only two houses between Powels and Grignons, about 2 miles apart, and a few wigwams. All seemed to wear the appearance of dilatoriness and want of good husbandry.

Some two or three miles beyond, the Wolf River empties into it and we passed out it a short distance, not knowing where Fox River was. But a couple of Indian women came along and directed us aright. After finding it we went up 2 or 3 miles and encamped for the night, and the Sabbath also.

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