Fifty years in the Northwest: a machine-readable transcription.


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This page is borrowed from an AMERICAN MEMORY page in the LIBRARY of CONGRESS To view the page in its entirety, links and all, please go HERE.

James W. Mullen, of Taylor's Falls, spent much of his early and middle life on the river, and cherishes many pleasant recollections of the early days. We have been favored with a few of these, which will give the reader a vivid idea of the scenes depicted:

"A. D. 1846 found me a cabin boy on the War Eagle at the St. Louis levee, with sign board up for Stillwater and Fort Snelling. The levee was a wonder to behold. It was thronged with teams, policemen keeping them in rank. Piles of freight were awaiting shipment. Steamboats for three-quarters of a mile along the levee were discharging and receiving freight; passengers were rushing frantically to and fro; bells were ringing, and boats leaving for the Cumberland, Tennessee, Missouri and Illinois rivers; and New Orleans, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Keokuk, Galena, Stillwater, and Fort Snelling.

"It was a delightful June day on which we pulled out from this busy scene and commenced our voyage to the far off north land, then known as Wisconsin Territory. Capt. Smith Harris gave the last tap of the bell; the lines were loosened; the wheels of the War Eagle revolved slowly at first, and we were soon on the broad bosom of the Mississippi, heading northward in the wake and black smoke of the steamers Ocean Wave, Tobacco Plant and Western Belle. The Luella, the Alton packet, followed us closely, racing with us. All was enjoyment. We pass the steamers Osprey and Di Vernon. At Nauvoo we note the magnificent Mormon temple on the high ground, and also long files of Mormons going westward. We pass many fine firms, much beautiful scenery, and many growing towns, among them Rock Island and Davenport, the latter the home of Antoine Le Clair, a half-breed Indian trader and heavy weight, tipping the beam at three hundred and fifty pounds avoirdupois. He lives there in sumptuous splendor from his profits made in trade. The villages, or tepees, of Sac and Fox Indians are seen along the shores; their bark canoes glide silently over the waters. Further on we ascend for seven miles the sluggish and narrow channel of Fever river, and find ourselves at Galena, the home of the Harrises, river captains.

"We find at the levee here the steamers Falcon and St. Croix, laden with lead for St. Louis. Back through Fever river to the Mississippi and past Dubuque, an active, rising town; past Cassville, the expected but disappointed capital city of Wisconsin Territory, a lovely location, its castellated hills frowning above it and its fine three story brick hotel and other buildings; past Prairie du Chien and Fort Crawford, with soldiers drilling on the green. Here Amable Moreau, a French Upper Mississippi pilot, came on board. Squads of Indians were hanging around begging for whisky and tobacco. Resuming our way, stemming the current of the river we pass other scenes, other birch canoes gliding over the waves, other tepees and Indian villages along the shore. At La Crosse we find a few whites and lots of Indians on an unimproved prairie, with a background of high bluffs. We pass Trempeleau and then Winona prairie, on which we find an old Indian village, dating back to unknown time. Opposite the mouth of the Chippewa river we pass Nelson's Landing with its two log warehouses and mackinaw boats loading for the Chippewa river. We pass into lovely Lake Pepin, Maiden's Rock or Lover's Leap rising into a battlement on the right, and the famous Point-no-Point on the left. Out of the beautiful lake again into the river, between low, forest covered islands, till we pass Barn Bluff or Mount La Grange, a bold, abrupt and isolated hill just below Red Wing. We passed more Indian tepees, villages and burying grounds,--not that, for the dead bodies of the Indians were not buried but fastened upon scaffolds and the limbs of trees, according to Sioux custom. At the mouth of St. Croix river we pass Prescott Landing, where lives the old pioneer trader Philander Prescott. Across the St. Croix, opposite Prescott Landing, is Point Douglas. Some miles above Point Douglas we pass Little Crow village, a missionary station, where young Indian boys ran down to the landing and greeted us with such yells as have not rung through these wilds, perhaps, for ages past.

"We find St. Paul to be a small village. There are few houses on a high, almost perpendicular bluff, overlooking the river. At the base of the bluff on the river shore stands a warehouse with a sign 'Choteau & Valle.' We are soon at Mendota and Fort Snelling. A squad of soldiers guard the freight over night. We have ample time in the morning to visit the post before starting down the river, and the following morning finds the prow of the War Eagle resting against the Stillwater landing. Here Capt. Harris greets his friends and is warmly welcomed. So far, Stillwater seemed the most active and enterprising village on the whole route. Joe Brown's town, Dakota, lies a short distance above at the head of the lake. Capt. Harris on his return towed a raft comprising ten acres of logs. Big Joe was one of the pilots on the raft."



This page is borrowed from an AMERICAN MEMORY page in the LIBRARY of CONGRESS To view the page in its entirety, links and all, please go HERE.

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