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Historic Diaries: Marsh, 1834

Canoe Repairs and Fever River

Editor's Note:

Canoe repair was an on-going task. A craft that might hold four people and three tons of goods was fashioned from fragile birch bark and small pieces of hardwood. The seams were sewn together and sealed with gum from trees. Under pressure from waves and current, banged on rocks and dragged on sand, perhaps no canoe was ever completely finished -- every one required constant maintenance. To see how a birch bark canoe was constructed, see this illustrated article at Northwest Journal.


Running: "To sail with the wind; in canoeing, to hoist a jury sail and let the wind sweep the craft along." Glossary of Canoe Terminology at www.paddling.net


Fever River: An obsolete name for the Galena River, which was the entrance to the Lead Region. Theodore Rodolf, a Swiss imigrant who arrived the same year that Marsh passed through, wrote of this stream, "The Fever is a large creek rather than a river, and is not navigable above Galena, and there only during high water in the Mississippi, which causes the slack water to overflow all low lands. During low water it was a most arduous and slow undertaking to bring boats up to the city, and often quite impossible. An old Canadian voyageur informed me that the name of the stream was "Rivière aux Fèves," or "Bean river," owing to the large amount of wild beans growing along its banks, from which it was corrupted to Fever River. This name is calculated to do injury to the climate of the country, for I never heard that fevers were prevalent along the stream, and Galena has always been considered a healthy place."


The mouth of the Galena River was about 10 miles downriver from modern Dubuque, Iowa, on the opposite bank.




26th [June 1834]


About 8 o'clock, after repairing the canoe, we again set out and had a fine day for running, and at night camped near the mouth of Fever [Galena] River. Rainy during the night.




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