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Historic Diaries: Marsh, 1834

Encounter with the Ho-Chunk

Editor's Note:

Puckaway Lake: "another expansion of the Neenah [Fox] river, about seven miles long and two broad, and about forty miles, by the course of the river, below the portage. The village of Marquette is laid out on the south side." - Increase Lapham's 1844 Geographical and Topographical Description of Wisconsin (map).

The entire upper Fox region was home to bands of the Ho-Chunk Indians. A 1924 article in the Waupun News, written by a resident who had known local Ho-chunk elders, located a village southeast of Green Lake on what was known as Buffalo Prairie.

Under a treaty signed Sept. 15, 1832, a few weeks after the Bad Axe massacre and less than two years before Marsh came through here, the Ho-Chunk had ceded all of Wisconsin south of the Fox River to the U.S. and agreed to move West of the Mississippi. The land alotted them, however, was directly between the Sauk and the Sioux, who had been enemies for decades and took every opportunity to attack one another, and the Ho-Chunk were not eager to put themselves in the middle. Many, therefore, disregarded the treaties and remained in Wisconsin, where they were common visitors to the homes of the first white settlers.

Elizabeth Baird (1810-1890) passed through this same area four years before Marsh, in the spring of 1830. She wrote, "The Indians, at this time, were not altogether to be trusted. In some of the various villages that we passed, there were evident signs of hostility. In some instances, as soon as our canoe appeared, they would flock around us in their small canoes, placing themselves ahead of us and on all sides, so we could not pass them. This we would not have attempted, had they permitted us to do so, for that would have given them a chance to shoot into our canoe. They always asked us for whisky and bread. We gave them bread and flour in each case, and that satisfied them. We were then safe to pursue our journey."

18th [June 1834]
Started from a place where had been a Winnebago [Ho-Chunk] village. In the course of a few miles we entered Lake Opukw-wa or Rush Lake [Puckaway Lake], and found it indeed rightly named for it was more than half covered with rushes, and very shallow. Upon the south side is the residence of an Indian trader, Mr. Gleeson, but it presented nothing inviting...

Towards the upper end we encountered a strong head wind and we put over to the far shore. Here we found a small Winnebago village and as soon as we came near the shore found them in very considerable numbers collecting where we were going to land. We again put off and run up 2 or 3 miles and went ashore but in a few minutes they again came up in large numbers as before, and a girl offered fish for sale. Again we put off and ran up among the rushes where we were permitted to stop unmolested and take refreshment,

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