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Historic Diaries: Marsh, 1834

Fort Winnebago and the Portage

Editor's Note:

The serpentine nature of the last stretches of the Fox were commented on by many travellers. Elizabeth Baird wrote of it, "The Fox River is a very crooked stream, but the scenery along the way is beautiful. We traveled many miles to get through a short space of country. At one time we traveled all day, and at night could see the smoke of the fire which we had left in the morning. This might have passed unnoted by us had not my husband, who had previously made the journey, been aware of the fact and attracted our attention to it. We reached Fort winnebago on the fifth morning, but until near noon could not reach Pierre Paquette's, where we were to breakfast. We were set ashore to walk across to the residence of Paquette, while the canoe was taken on by the men, who had to follow in the winding stream of the river until they reached the portage."


Buffalo Lake: "an expansion of the Neenah [Fox] river, at the northwest angle of the county, commencing nineteen miles below the portage, and extending eleven and one-fourth miles. It is narrow, and the water is shallow, being mostly filled with wild rice." - Increase Lapham's 1844 Geographical and Topographical Description of Wisconsin. Montello is at its east end, Endeavor at its west (map).


Fort Winnebago: this military post was built in 1828 at the portage between the Fox and Wisconsin rivers, and was occupied until 1845. Several contemporary maps and pictures of it are here, in our Wisconsin Historical Images online collection.


Enos Cutler (1781-1860) was born in Massachusetts and studied law before he entered the Army in 1808. He became a captain in 1810 and served through the War of 1812, becoming a major in 1814. He served under Gen. Andrew Jackson in the Creek War and on the Seminole campaign and became a lieutenant colonel in 1826. He was commander at Fort Mackinac from 1829 to 1831 and then commanded at Fort Winnebago until October 1835, when he was ordered to New York. He became a colonel in 1836, resigning from the Army in 1839.


[June 19th, 1834]

At night we encamped at the foot of Lake De Buff, or Buffalo Lake, a fine beautiful body of water about 15 miles long. At the head of this is Mud Lake, or more properly a continuation of the same, although it seemed but a vast swamp half covered with water.


In the P.M. about half-past five we came in sight of Fort W.[Winnebago], on the 8th day after our departure, and a little after sunset. Arrived after following the Fox R. thro' the meandering of a vast prairie where we seemed to go time and again almost every point of the compass. Here we were kindly received by the Officers of the Fort, and Col. E. Cutler invited me to take up lodging at his quarters. There I passed the night very agreeably and in the morn. found myself much refreshed.



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