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Historic Diaries: Marsh, 1834

At Prairie du Chien

Editor's Note:

Prairie du Chien: According to John W. Hunt's 1853 Wisconsin Gazetteer, the town was "situated on section 6, town 6 N., of range 6 W., upon an elevated prairie, averaging one mile in width, and is about 8 miles in length, extending from the mouth of the Wisconsin river, northward, along the bank of the Mississippi. It has one of the best landings on the river, is very healthy; and all who have visited the place concur in the opinion that its location gives it a commanding commercial importance." (map).

Judge Lockwood: James H. Lockwood (1793-1857), one of the first English-speaking residents of Prairie du Chien. A short biography of him is here in our online Dictionary of Wisconsin History, and his memoir of territorial Prairie du Chien is here.

Fort Crawford: Marsh was describing the second Fort Crawford (1829-1856), shown here. It was built of stone and placed on higher ground than the first, which had been on Feriole Island, where Villa Louis would be built, until floods prompted the Army to relocate it on the mainland. It was situated at the foot of the bluffs, along modern Beaumont Road, where its foundations were recently uncovered. Excavations by the Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center have helped reconstruct the lives of the soldiers once stationed there. View more information on our Archaeology pages.

Sioux Indians: Artist James O. Lewis painted these portraits of several Sioux chiefs about the time that Marsh met the ones described here.

25th [June 1834]

Arrived at Prairie du Chien in the A.M... Called upon Judge Lockwood and conversed with him respecting the Sioux, but he gave little encouragement respecting the establishment of missions amongst them. Prairie du C. is delightfully situated upon the Miss. R., consisting of two settlements, one upon the Eastern bank of the river and the [other] on an Island nearly opposite [St. Feriole I.]. The whole no. of inhabitants about six hundred. The fort [Fort Crawford] is situated upon an eminence up some distance from the river and has a commanding view of the river and the beautiful and extensive prairie below...

Just as I left, a party of Sioux came down and had commenced an Indian dance about their houses etc. These were fine looking Indians, and abundantly daubed with vermilion, and their heads finely adorned with feathers. They were young men and their countenances indicated intelligence and activity. But alas they are sunk down in gross darkness and wretchedness. Late in the P.M. we again put out and went down the river 15 miles and camped near a French house.

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