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Histories:  Trempealeau Co. Historical Accounts:

"Trempealeau County" by Clarence J. Gamroth: 

Volume 1A:

Communities:  Decorah Prairie

Decorah Prairie, 1948

Three miles east of Galesville is Decorah Prairie.  The five square miles of fertile prairie land are guarded in the west by two high hills named Decorah Mound and historic Decorah Peak.  A chain of low rolling hills extend from west to east forming northern and easter boundaries.  The Black River forms the southern boundary.

The Indians occupying the land at this time (1877) were under the leadership of Chief Red Bird.  It is believed that the village was located on Black River.  He had winning character, determined mind, together with grace, dignity, mildness and mercy.  When he heard some white officers tormenting his warriors, he turned to a fierce enemy.  With two companions, he went to Prairie du Chien, where he killed and scalped 3 white men besides capturing two boats on the Mississippi where he killed a great number of men.  Later he gave himself up and remained in prison until he died at the age of 39.

Another great Winnebago chief prominent in the history of Decorah Prairie was One-Eyed Decorah.  Once while fighting their deadly enemies the Chippewas, Decorah was standing on a peak named after him, seeing his followers being defeated, he sought shelter in a near-by cave until morning.  The next day, Chippewa warriors surrounded Decorah so he retreated to the top of the peak where he laid flat to escape the deadly arrows.  There are many tales as to what happened to him.  Some say he jumped to his death.  Others say he broke his leg when he jumped off the peak but managed to reach the Black River where he took a canoe and followed the river to his brother's place near La Crosse where he stayed, while others claim he died of infection from the broken leg and never reached his brother.  It is certain that he was never captured by the enemy.

Many stories are told about Indians.  Settlers and Indians exchanged visits.

When the first white settler came to the Prairie, there was no timber but an abundance of brush and grass.  Small patches of land were cultivated by the Indians for maize (corn).  Indians annually burned the land to improve hunting.  Deer were so plentiful they had to be herded off the fields.  Wolves could be heard howling and bear were often shot.  Prairie chicken wer plentiful.

The early settlers made their own soap, wove cloth, knit stockings, churned butter, baked bread, canned and dried fruit, smoked meat, made cheese, and raised large families.  Their nearest market was Trempealeau and often they walked the distance.

The Decorah Prairie was first called Scotch Prairie because of a large number of Scotts settling there.  The first settled there in 1853.  They brought with them customs and traditions from Scotland.

The first school was rudely constructed from logs and the floor of rough planks.  Later a frame school was erected.  Teachers did not spare the rod when it came to disciplining the boys.


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