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Histories:  Trempealeau Co. Historical Accounts:

"History of Trempealeau County Wisconsin, 1917":

Chapter 6:

Featherstonhaugh, Mather, Catlin, Kearney, Lea

-As transcribed from page 62

The period of exploration really ends in 1835, when this region was visited by George William Featherstonhaugh and William Williams Mather, by George Catlin, and by a military expedition under Lieutenant-Colonel Stephen W. Kearney, the topographer of the expedition being Albert Miller Lea.

Featherstonhaugh, in his reconnaissance, mentions Trempealeau Mountain, and while narrating the geological history of the landmark, describes the view from its summit. Wabasha's brother related to him that "the Indians called it Minnay Chonkaha, or bluff in the water, and that they resorted to it at the beginning of the wild-geese season, to make offerings to Wakon, or the deity, for success in hunting."47

The military expedition reached Winona overland from Iowa, entering the state southwest from what is now the city of Albert Lea. In July, 1835, the soldiers camped on the west bank of the Mississippi, within sight of what Lea called La Montaigne qui trempe a l'eau.48

Catlin, the famous Indian painter, was forced to winter his boat near Richmond,49 not far from Trempealeau Mountain, by reason of obstructing ice, late in 1835. On Catlin's Rocks, in Richmond Township, Winona County, he painted his name in great red letters, and the marks were to be plainly seen for many years thereafter.50

Thus Trempealeau Mountain, which had watched the first white man penetrate these solitudes, was now known to the world, and the activities of civilization were soon to be throbbing at its feet. Frenchmen, Englishmen and Americans had examined her wonderful formations, the whistle and chug of the steamboat had become familiar, the rich land over which for so many centuries it had stood guard awaited the axe of the pioneer, the plow of the husbandman.  

Resources for the above information:

47 - G. W. Featherstonhaugh, Geological Reconnaissance (Washington, 1836), 130.

48 - Letter written from Corsicana, Texas, July 7, 1890, by Albert Miller Lee to H. W. Lathrop, librarian of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and published (October, 1890) under the title of Early Exploration in Iowa, Iowa Historical Record, vi, No.4, 548.

49 - Richmond was originally called Catlin in honor of the painter. Later, the name was changed to Forest City and still later to Richmond. It is situated a little below Trempealeau on the Minnesota side of the Mississippi.

50 - Bunnell, Winona and Its Environs, 183.


Portions of the introductory paragraphs have been copied from: Eben Douglas Pierce, Early Days of Trempealeau, Wis. Hist. Society, Proceedings, 1906; 246-255.

The original sources from which Dr. Thwaites obtained his material for Vol. XVII of the Wis. Hist. Collections, appear with the various documents therein printed, and no attempt has been made to repeat them here. By consulting that volume the inquiring student will find citations of the original sources.


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