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Histories:  Trempealeau Co. Historical Accounts:

"History of Trempealeau County Wisconsin, 1917":

Chapter 1

Sub-chapter - 
The Red Men and the Fur Trade

Missionaries and Traders

-As transcribed from pages 9 - 11

Before the dispersion of tribes incident to the Iroquois wars the Huron and their neighbors had learned the value of the white man's goods, and had ventured as far as Three Rivers and Montreal, there to exchange their skins and robes for the weapons, clothing and trinkets that the white men had taught them to covet. Immediately there sprang up an intertribal trade that extended so far westward that tribes which had never seen a white man became familiar with his wares. The Ottawa Indians were especially skillful in trade, and so long acted as middlemen for the western tribes that all the region of the Upper Lakes was called by the French the Ottawa Country.

The Iroquois wars of the middle of the seventeenth century interrupted the northwest trade, and both the colony of New France and the interior tribes suffered from the break in the intercourse. Of the two the French suffered the more, because the Indians l1ad not yet forgotten their wilderness lore and were yet able to be self-sufficing. The lack of the annual harvest of furs from the Northwest had almost ruined the little French colony along the St. Lawrence, when suddenly it was gladdened by the arrival of a caravan of Indians at Three Rivers that came to exchange its hoarded treasure of peltry over northern streams and portages, uninfested by the dreaded Iroquois. Prosperity once more promised for Canada, the Indian visitors were royally treated, and when they embarked for their return voyage two young Canadians accompanied them and wandered for two years or more among the tribes of the Northwest, learning their customs and languages and teaching them the white man's arts.

The explorations of Radisson and Grosseilliers during the latter half of the sixth decade of the seventeenth century were not known to historians until the journals of Radisson were discovered late in the nineteenth century in the Bodleian library at Oxford. They were written in English by one unfamiliar with that language and their descriptions are so vague that it yet remains an open question where these explorers went and whether or not they were the first white men to view the Mississippi.

Radisson and Grossilliers made a second voyage to the Ottawa Country two or three years after their first adventure. Upon this occasion they explored Lake Superior and the headwaters of the Mississippi and passed a desolate and famishing winter, probably on the Wisconsin shore of Chequamegon Bay.

Meanwhile the first white missionary to Wisconsin had lost his life in her northern forests. Father Rene Menard in 1660 came to the Northwest with a returning party of trading Indians. They abandoned him on the shore of Keweenaw Bay and after a wretched winter he started with one companion to visit the Huron fugitives, formerly members of the Ontario mission, then thought to be in hiding on the headwaters of Black River. While descending the Wisconsin in a tiny craft, the reverend father stepped aside at some one of its upper portages and was lost in the forest. Whether he was slain by beast or Indian or perished from starvation is not known; no trace of his fate was ever found.

In 1665 the colony of New France was re-enforced by a regiment of soldiers, the Iroquois enemies were punished and concluded a reluctant peace. Thereafter the wilderness waterways became safer and traders and missionaries sought the tribesmen in Wisconsin forests.

Notable among the traders was Nicholas Perrot, who, in 1665, began a career of discovery and exploration in Wisconsin that lasted over thirty years. Among the missionaries Father Claude Allouez was a pioneer. His first mission in 1665 was on the shores of the Chequamegon Bay, where for two years he instructed large bands of Indians from all the Wisconsin region. Even the Illinois visited the good father in his northern home and listened for the first time to the gospel message. In 1669 Allouez transferred his ministrations to the neighborhood of Green Bay where, among the Menominee, Potawatomi and Sauk of the bay shore, the Foxes on the Wolf, and the Miami, Mascouten and Kickapoo of the upper Fox Valley, he founded missions and worked with unflagging zeal for the conversion of their souls. The first permanent mission in Wisconsin was the mission of St. Francis Xavier, established in 1671 at the De Pere rapids of Fox River by Allouez and his fellow workers. The following decade was the most flourishing in the Jesuit missionary history of Wisconsin. After 1682 their influence and success began to wane, and by the close of the century was almost extinct.

In the meantime the King of France had, in 1671, staged a pageant on the far shore of Sault Ste. Marie, wherein his representative, Simon Francois Daumont Sieur de St. Lusson took possession of all the western country for the French sovereignty. Nicholas Perrot was sent in advance to notify the Wisconsin tribesmen and persuade them to send chiefs as representatives on this great occasion. With wondering awe the simple savages watched the impressive ceremony werein priests and warriors chanted the praise, both of God and of the great King Louis XIV and declared the latter's benevolence in annexing the Indians' country to his own domain. All unwillingly they assented to an acknowledgment that made them thenceforth subjects of a foreign monarch. Some years afterward Perrot was sent as governor general of the new French territory west of Lake Michigan. He built therein a number of French posts, most of them upon the Mississippi. At Fort St. Antoine upon Lake Pepin in 1689 Perrot took possession for France of the Sioux territory lying along the upper waters of America's greatest river. He likewise was the first white man to explore the lead mines of southern Wisconsin. So long as he ruled in the West the French trade and influence was supreme and the Indians of Wisconsin were his docile instruments.

Wisconsin's great waterway to the Mississippi River was first traversed in 1673 by Louis Jolliet and Father Jacques Marquette. Seven years later Daniel Greysolon Duluth, who had previously threaded the upper portage from Lake Superior to the Mississippi, came eastward by the Fox-Wisconsin route from the Sioux country. By these two voyages connection was established between Wisconsin's portage route and both the lower and the upper Mississippi.

Rapid changes in the Indian geography of Wisconsin occurred during the last twenty years of the seventeenth century. The population that had massed along the Fox-Wisconsin waterway was pressing upon the food supply. Moreover, in 1680 Robert Cavelier de La Salle took possession of the Illinois River Valley and invited the Wisconsin Indians to remove thither for a permanent home. The Miami, Mascouten and Kickapoo acceded to his request; the Potawatomi likewise moved south along the shore of Lake Michigan; the Foxes ventured from Wolf River to the river now called by their name. The Menominee surrounded Green Bay, the Sauk and Foxes controlled the Fox-Wisconsin waterway, the Winnebago occupied the upper Rock River. The Huron and Ottawa left northern Wisconsin for homes on the straits of Mackinac, and all the southern shore of Lake Superior was abandoned to the Chippewa, who at intervals continued their hereditary wars upon the Sioux of the St. Croix and upper Mississippi valleys.  

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