Early Life Among the Indians
Copyright 1891 B.G. Armstrong & T.P. Wentworth, Ashland, WI.
1892 Press of A.W. Bowron, Ashland, Wis.


Chapter XVI.

Early Settlers in the Chippewa Valley - The First Lumberman at Hudson, Wisconsin - West Superior's Earliest Settlers - Sailor Jack and His Partner - an Early Execution


Of my first acquaintances in the Chippewa Valley, in 1840, I wish to mention James Page, a man much noted for his feminine voice. He was the first lumberman on the Willow River at Hudson, Wisconsin. James Perrington was another of the first. Blake & Greely also came there about the same time. Asa Parker, of the Marine Mill Company, was another early settler. Taylor and Furber were there early. Joshua Taylor, of this firm is still living, and the winter of 1890 and 91 he spent with his niece, Mrs. D.G. Sampson, at Ashland, Wisconsin. He is now seventy-five years old. Elam Greely, of the firm Blake and Greely, continued in the lumber business until his death about two years ago at Stillwater, Minnesota. Moore & Loomis were there also, the firm consisting of Martin Moore and Burton Loomis, the former from the state of Maine and the later from Alton, Illinois. I was personally acquainted with Mr. Moore and his three brothers and his sister, who is now Mrs. R.W. French of Ashland, Wisconsin. The names of the brothers were Horace, William, and John. The former of these two I found the summer of 1844, sick in a hay meadow on the Snake River, suffering from cholera or cholera morbus. I did what I could for him and started to take him below, but he died before we reached Stillwater. Captain William Moore, another of the brothers died in Bayfield. I was acquainted with him and it was at Bayfield that I first met his sister, now Mrs. R.W. French. Martin Moore, after severing his connections with the firm of Moore & Lormis, built what was known as the Arcola Mill, about six miles down the river from the Marine Mill. He operated it until his death, and was also heavily interested in the boom company. He lived to be fully seventy years old and was unmarried. He left a fortune of about $100,000. John Moore died about six or eight years ago in Stillwater, Minnesota, leaving a wife and four or five children. Mrs. R.W. French is not the only living member of that family that I know of. William Colby was an early settler. He came to St. Croix in 1840 or 1841 and as remained there ever since. He married a daughter of Mr. DeAtley, and I had the pleasure of attending his wedding, one occurrence at which I will mention: "A serenading party undertook to force their way into the house during the ceremony and Mr. Colby hurled a table at the leader which broke his arm and otherwise injured him, but it put a stop to their further uninvited ceremonies. The company that built the Osceola mills in 1844 at Osceola, Wisconsin, was composed of William Kent and William Mahoney, under the firm name Kent and Mahoney. They also had a silent partner by the name of Walker, who was a brother of Orange Walker, of the mill firm of Walker, Berklow, Parker & Berkey. A Mr. Hungerford was the first settler and rightfully owned the property know as St. Croix Falls, on the Wisconsin side but as I understand was since beaten out of it by Caleb Cushing of Boston. Mr. James Perrington was drowned in what is now called Apple River Falls. He had formerly been the agent at the St. Croix Falls Company, but was relieved of his duty by the appointment of a man named Perkins, who was also drowned while engaged in repairing the dam at St. Croix Falls. The McCusick's were also early settlers, coming in about 1840 or 41. John, Jonathan, William and Jott, who perhaps my now all be living except Jott. Jessie Taylor was an early settler and located at a place now known as Taylor's Falls, where he began the foundation for a mill at the head of the dells, but abandoned it and the property went into the hands of Joshua Taylor, who is still living at that place. A man by the name of Tuttle settled early at the first falls above the big falls on the St. Croix River, and the village there derived its name from his getting upset in a boat in an eddy below the falls where he came near being drowned. William Vincent, was also a pioneer in that country and married a daughter of a Mr. North. Mr. Patridge was an early bird and the village of Quailville was named after him, It is near Tuttle's Falls and it was called by that name rather than call it Patridgeville. John and Orin Weymouth were there also. B.T. Otice died here, as did also William Holmes, Thomas Bishop and Doane Porter. Some of relatives of the latter I met afterwards in Quincy, Illinois. Joseph Bowron was an early settler at St. Croix Fall, and an acquaintance of mine, and was a man of high esteem for his many good qualities. I recall no more who were among the settlers prior to 1845, those coming after that were not called early or old settlers. From 1840 to 1844 my time was spent more or less roving around the country from St. Croix Falls to Lake Superior and beyond, to the source of the Mississippi and was located in Minnesota when Ramsey was elected governor. At West Superior Captain Holcomb and the Newton's and Washington Ashton were among the first. Mr. Ashton edited the first newspaper published there. Captain Markland, of Kentucky and George Perry were also located early in West Superior. One fall when I was trading at Nimakagon a messenger came to me from St. Croix Falls and said I was wanted to interpret and ferret out a murder that had taken place on the trail between St. Croix Falls and Balsam Lake. When I arrived there I was told that Sailor Jack and his partner, two traders, had been murdered but whether by white men or Indians was the question to be solved. Blood had been found in their yard and upon their doorstep and the bodies subsequently found in a lake not far from the cabin. These two men were known by the names given here and no other and had established themselves as traders. The man acting as justice of the peace at St. Croix Falls at this time, whose name I cannot recall, desired me to look up the Indian side of the question as I could talk their language. I told him I would try it as far as the Indians might be concerned in the matter, but if it should appear that white men had done the deed it belonged to the white officers to look up. The justice directed me to a trader who had some dealings with these two men and I found that he had sold to Sailor Jack a pair of pants with his own name on the waist band; that these men used a gun quite different from any other then known in that vicinity. I began my search in the Indian camp near by and worked back without any success until I had reached Balsam Lake. Here was located about twenty wigwams around the trading house of Fred Miller. I pretended to be buying furs and skins thus got easy access to the lodges. My first discovery was the breech of a gun sticking out from under some bedding, which, upon examination, proved to be the one I was looking for, and I had the good luck to find the pants, with the trader's name still on the waistband, in the same lodge. This was evidence enough and I went to the chief and inquired if he knew who killed Sailor Jack and his partner. He hesitated but finally said the man did not properly belong to his band. If he did he would give him up; that he had come to him from the Hudson Bay country. I told him I was there in the interest of the Indians and as their custom had always been to give up murderers I thought it was best for his people to give this man up also. All this he acknowledged, knowing who the man was, and said I had better get help before trying to take him as he was a desperate man. His name was Belcore. He said the Indians should not interfere in either way, although this man's squaw was one of their people. I went back to St. Croix Falls and got assistance. George Aikens and Walter Carrier went back to Balsam Lake, and that night walked into Belcore's lodge and found our man rolled up in his blanket. I pounced upon him, telling the two other men to look out for the squaw, as she was likely to use her club or knife upon us. She fought hard for her man but we succeeded in tying him with cords and stayed in camp until daylight. We charged him with murder and told him what we were going to do with him, and asked him what he had to say. He denied it all. I then asked where he had got the gun and pants and he said he had bought them. He frequently told his wife to get the Indians to come and liberate him but no Indians came. We would not allow the squaw to leave the lodge during the night, not for fear she would get help, but for fear that she might arm herself and make an attempt to liberate the man. We started with the prisoner at daylight for the falls, followed by Indians. At time he would refuse to walk and we would drag him until he was glad to walk.

By the time we reached the spot where the execution was to take place, a full three hundred Indians were on hand, but all remained peaceable until the rope was put around his neck, then they objected to his being hung; they wanted him shot as he had shot the men. But the headstrong leader of our party, a man named Anson Northrop, declared that Belcore should be hang and the Indians made no further objection. When the culprit found that he must hang he made a full confession and said he had shot the men, one in the yard and the other on the doorstep, and said that Fred Miller had offered him ten gallons of whiskey to do the job. Fred Miller was then brought before the mob and sentenced to receive thirty-nine lashes on the bare back. Twelve black birch sprouts were brought for the whipping and Pat Collins was appointed to do the business and was told by the party that any blow that he failed to give full force would be given to himself by the mob, and you can judge the whipping the man got. After the whipping he was cut loose and given twelve hours to put as much territory as he could between himself and St. Croix Falls, and he made good use of his time, you can rest assured. The Indian was given five minutes to talk after witnessing the whipping from the barrel on which he was placed. He gave his people some good advice, after which the barrel was kicked out from under him and he was soon strangled to death. The Indians quietly dispersed and never made any complaint except as to the mode of the execution. While I lived near Pocagemah Lake, Pat Collins, whose name appears as the whipper at the execution of Belcore, established a whiskey shop in a lumber camp once occupied by Elam Greeley. It was situated about two miles above Pocagemah Lake, on the Snake River. At this particular time he had on hand three full barrels of whiskey besides the one he had on tap, which had been made from alcohol. This supply he expected to sell during the up coming winter. About the first of November Collins left the shanty in charge of his Indians wife and a boy about fifteen years old, named Ira Slayton. He had been gone from the place a few hours when three Indians appeared and demanded whiskey of the boy, which he refused to give them. They went away saying they would get them guns and kill him if he did not comply. As soon as they were gone they boy closed the door and pulled the latchstring. The Indians returned shortly and began firing through the door, one bullet clipping a lock of hair from the head of Mrs. Collins. The woman and the boy now got close to the log walls to escape the balls, the boy getting close to the side of the door, and provided with the gun belonging to Collins, stood ready, should the door open, to sell himself as dearly as possible. Soon a bullet struck the latch and knocked it off and as the door came open the boy fired, sending the top of one Indians head to the happy hunting grounds. The other two ran for assistance and the boy skipped and got safely back to St. Croix Falls. The Indians went back to the shanty in large numbers. Surrounding it the broke in the heads of the barrels and soon were beastly drunk. They came to my place about midnight and demanded the boy, supposing he would come to me for protection. I was ignorant at the time of what had taken place and did not know what they had come for until they asked for the boy. I then faced about 100 drunken Indians, yelling and whooping with all the vigor of their nature. I put on a bold front and demanded to know what the row was about. "I never sold any whiskey to any of you, no will I harbor anyone who will, and I know nothing of this boy." Nevertheless they asked, yes, demanded the right to search, when I selected two whom I told might look around as much as they liked. They did so and reported to the mob that the boy could not be found. They then searched the barn where I kept horses for lumbermen and concluded they were on the wrong track, and gradually went back to the whiskey shop, where they remained until the runners they had sent out for the boy had returned. That night they had a number of ugly fights among them and animosities engendered there resulted in many fights and kills years afterwards. When they received the news that the boy had escaped by way of St. Croix Falls they gave up the hunt, but always claimed the whites ought to surrender the boy to them. This was the first and only time while among the Indians that I was frightened and had they been sober I should have had no fear on this occasion. The Indian the boy killed was a nephew of Chief Bi-a-jek, and after the excitement had cooled down somewhat the old chief came to me in person and asked if I would make a rude coffin and go with him to bury the boy, which I did. The funeral was held between Pocagemah and Cross Lakes. Gun, pipe and all trinkets were buried with him, not because he would want them in the happy hunting grounds but because they were his own and no one had the right to use them after him.

 

Contributed and used with permission on this site by Timm Severud. The Lac Courte Oreilles Historical Preservation Office created this reproduction.Timm Severud manually typed it in and some minor changes to text have been made from the original, to correct spelling mistakes, and slight grammar mistakes. There is no copyright on this book or this reproduction. Feel free to use and share with others. Enjoy what I consider the best historical biography I have ever read. T.L.S.

 

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