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Historic Diaries: Marsh, 1834

The Heritage of the Fox Nation

Editor's Note:

Wapello: this Fox chief was born at Prairie du Chien in 1787, and 30 years later headed a village on the east bank of the Mississippi where the town of Rock Island, Ill., would later be founded. Under pressure from white settlers, he relocated in 1829 to the west shore of the river opposite Muscatine Island. During the Black Hawk War he supported Keokuk and the peace party, and did not follow Black Hawk into Illinois and Wisconsin. He ultimately moved his village 125 miles up the Des Moines to the same location as Appanoose.

His portrait was included by McKenney and Hall in their History of the Indian Tribes of North Americain 1842, which the University of Washington has put online.

Wapello died in 1842.

[July 10. Marsh had probably reached Appanoose's village by this day but did not write in his diary, so we give another excerpt from the manuscript notes of U.S. Indian agent Morrill Marston. These paragraphs summarize what the Fox told him about their origins and how they came to settle in the Upper Mississippi Valley. The original handwritten manuscript from the Draper Collection is presented online in our American Journeys collection].

… I have since been informed by some of the old men of the two nations that the Sauk & Fox nations emigrated from a great distance below Detroit & established themselves at a place called Saganaw in Michigan Territory, that they have since built Villages & lived on the Fox River of the Illinois, at Mil-wah-kee [Milwaukee] near Lake Michigan, on the Fox River of Green Bay, & on the Ouesconsen [Wisconsin]; that about fifty years since they removed to this vicinity where they lived for some time, & then went down to the Iowa River, & built large Villages; that the principal part of both nations remained on this River until about sixteen years ago, when they returned to their present situation. This is all the information I have been able to collect from themselves relating to the rise & progress of their two nations.

At present their Villages are situated on a point of land formed by the junction of the Rock & Mississippi Rivers, which they call Sen-i-se-poo Ke-be-sau--kee (Rock River Peninsula); this land as well as all they ever claimed on the east side of the Mississippi was sold by them to our government in 1804. The agents of government have been very desirous for some time to effect their removal, but they appear unwilling to leave it.

I recently spoke of one of the principal Fox chiefs upon this subject & he replied that their people were not willing to leave Ke-be-sau-kee in consequence of a great number of their chiefs & friends being buryed there, but that he wished them to remove, as they would do much better to be farther from the Mississippi where they would have less intercourse with the whites. They claim a large tract of country on the west of the Mississippi: it commences at the mouth of the upper Iowa River, which is above Prairie du Chien & follows the Mississippi down as far as Des Moin River & extending back towards the Missouri as far as the dividing ridge, & some of them say quite to that River -- a large proportion of this tract is said to be high prairie; that part of it which lies in the vicinity of the Iowa & Des Moin Rivers is said to be valuable; their hunting grounds are on the head waters of these rivers, & are considered the best in any part of the Mississippi country. I have not been able to ascertain the extent of Territory claimed by any other nations…

The principal chief of the Fox nation is Wah-bal-lo [Wapello]; he appears to be about thirty. He is a man of considerable capacity & very independent in his feelings, but rather unambitious & indolent.

The second chief of this nation is Ty-ii-ma, (Strawberry), he is about forty. This man seems to be more intelligent than any other to be found either among the Foxes or Sauks, but he is extremely unwilling to communicate any thing relative to the history, manners & customs of his people. He has a variety of maps of different parts of the world & appears to be desirous of gaining geographical information; but is greatly attached to the Savage State.

I have frequently endeavored to draw from him his opinion with regard to a change of their condition from the Savage to the civilised State. He one day informed me when conversing upon this Subject, that the Great Spirit had put Indians on the earth to hunt & gain a living in the wilderness; that he always found that when any of their people departed from this mode of life, by attempting to learn to read, write & live as white people do, the Great Spirit was displeased, & they soon died; he concluded by observing that when the Great Spirit made them he gave them their medicine bag & they intended to keep it.

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