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Histories:  Trempealeau Co. Historical Accounts:

"History of Trempealeau County Wisconsin, 1917":

Chapter 6:


Perrot

-As transcribed from pages 54 - 55


The first white man to maintain a habitation beneath the shadows of Trempealeau Mountain was Nicolas Perrot, who for some twenty years was a trader and interpreter in the Northwest for the French.7  Perrot arrived at Green Bay, where he was already well known, in the late summer of the year 1685. He found the Indians restless and inclined to intertribal warfare, so that some time was spent in their pacification. It was later than he had planned, therefore, when he set out for the country of the Sioux, where he hoped to secure a great harvest of valuable furs. After crossing the Wisconsin portage, and proceeding down that river to its mouth, he turned his little fleet of canoes boldly upstream; but as the weather was growing cold and traveling difficult, they "found a place where there was timber, which served them for building a fort, and they took up their quarters at the foot of a mountain, behind which was a great prairie abounding in wild beasts."8  To one familiar with the topography of this section, the description of the site of Perrot's wintering quarters in 1685-86 is very clearly that of the Trempealeau bluffs, because these are the only bluffs near the river having a large prairie in their rear, and Trempealeau Mountain, moreover, is a well-known landmark on the upper Mississippi. 

In addition to this, ruins have been discovered which clearly prove the existence of a post at this point at an early period.9  To connect these ruins with Perrot's post, there is the well-known map of Jean Baptiste Louis Franquelin, published in 1688, and based undoubtedly on information obtained from Perrot himself.10  Franquelin, an engineer of repute and royal hydrographer, visited New France in 1683 and remained several years. His famous map of Louisiana in 1684, drawn to display La Salle's discoveries, has but few indications of upper Mississippi sites. That of 1688, however, records with much accuracy the upper Mississippi region, and since we know Perrot to have been in Quebec in the autumn of 1687, there is every reason to suppose that he furnished Franquelin with the data appearing thereon. Not far above the mouth of Riviere Noire -- the Black River of today -- there is written La Butte d' Hyvernement (the hill of the wintering place), which seems to be intended for Trempealeau Mountain, near where the commandant and his party wintered. Fort St. Nicolas, at the mouth of the Wisconsin, and Fort St. Antoine, above the Chippewa, both founded by Perrot, are likewise indicated.

Just when Perrot left his wintering place on the Mississippi and built Fort St. Antoine higher up the river is not certain, but it was probably during the summer of 1686. He was continuously in the upper Mississippi region until the spring of 1687, when he was ordered to proceed eastward with allies and join the French in a war against certain Indians of New York State. In the meantime he had amassed a stock of furs worth 40,000 livres. In his absence on the warpath these were left at the mission house at Green Bay, which was burned by hostile Indians, with the loss of all his peltry.11

In the autumn of 1687 he set out once more for the Northwest to retrieve his ruined fortunes. After the ice had begun to form on the Fox River he passed down the Wisconsin to the Mississippi and ascended the Mississippi to this region.12  Whether he then occupied the old wintering place at Trempealeau or Fort St. Antoine further up the river on the lake is not clear.13  At Fort St. Antoine, on May 8, 1689, he took possession of the Sioux country in the name of the King of France, annexing the Minnesota and St. Croix River districts and all headwaters of the Mississippi.14


Resources for the above information:

7 - Kellogg, Early Narratives of the Northwest, 69-92.

8 - E. H. Blair, Indian Tribes of the Upper Mississippi (Cleveland, 1911), I, 367.

9 - See: Eben D. Pierce, George H. Squier and Louise Phelps Kellogg, Remains of a French Post Near Trempealeau, Wis. Hist. Soc., Proceedings, 1915; 111-123.

10 - For a reproduction of Franquelin's great map of 1688, see: Kellogg, Early Narratives of the Northwest, 342; also read J. Franklin Jameson's note (p. xiv) in the same volume. Also see account of Franquelin's maps in: Parkman, LaSalle and the Discovery of the Northwest (Boston, 1891), 455-458. A partial reproduction of the map may be found: Neill, History of Minnesota (Minneapolis, 4th edition, 1882), frontispiece.

11 - Blair, Indian Tribes of the Upper Mississippi, II, 25.

12 - Neill (Wis. Hist. Colls., X, 299-300) says that Perrot returning from the New York raid reoccupied the post where he had spent the winter of 1685-86. After writing the article, however, Dr. Neill discovered that he had confused Ft. St. Antoine with Perrot's post at Trempealeau (Ibid., 371).

13 - See: Draper, Early French Forts, Ibid., 358-371.

14 - Thwaites, ed:, Important Western Papers, Perrot's Minutes of Taking Possession, Id., XI, 35-36 (reprinted from the New York Colonial Documents, IX, 418).

 


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