-- From the "History of Barron County Wisconsin, 1922" pages 10 - 30
The first residents of Barron County who have left definite evidence of their occupancy are the Mound Builders. The county contains about 250 mounds, more than the number occurring in any region of similar size in northwestern Wisconsin. The Lake Chetek region, especially, was a favorite resort of these Aborigines, as were the Prairie Lake and Rice Lake regions. The regions around all these lakes were formerly covered with a dense forest of pine and other timber. Fish and game were abundant and large fields of wild rice grew in all of them.
At one time it was believed that the Mound Builders were a separate race of people living here before the Indians. Scholars now believe that they were Indians, differing in no important ways save in their mound building propensities from the Indians whom the whites found inhabiting portions of Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Tradition would indicate that some time before the discovery of America by Columbus, the Siouan peoples, to which branch belong both the Winnebago and the Dakotas, were inhabiting the region about the sources of the Ohio River. Pressed upon by the neighboring Algonquin people they slowly progressed along the Ohio Valley, leaving great earthworks as they advanced. In the course of several centuries they reached the Ohio's mouth, and there divided, one branch passing northward along the Mississippi and gradually separating into many tribes, that located chiefly west of the great river. One branch penetrated to the Rock Valley in Wisconsin and gradually spread towards Green Bay, becoming the Winnebagoes. Another branch established itself at Mille Lacs in northern Minnesota, and became the Medewakaton branch of the Dakota, or as they are commonly called, the Sioux.
Along their way they built the mounds. There are many varieties of mounds, probably built in different periods. Some scholars believe that the Siouan peoples were in the upper Mississippi valley previous to their occupancy of the Ohio region, and that the migration from the Ohio region to the upper Mississippi region was merely a return to land formerly occupied. Thus far it has been impossible to separate the different type of mounds into different periods.
It is generally accepted among scholars that the mounds of Barron County were built by the immediate ancestors of the Dakota (Sioux) found in the upper Mississippi region by the early explorers, but thus far there is no definite proof. Indian tradition indicates that the Dakota once occupied the region south of western Lake Superior.
The best known mounds in Barron County are those in the Chetek region, the Rice Lake region and the Red Cedar region.
The first scientific examination of the mounds of Barron County was made in 1890 for Prof. Cyrus Thomas' report in the Twelfth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology. The portion of this survey in Barron County concerned the Rice Lake region.
The collection of archeological data in the Chetek region was begun by J. A. H. Johnson, former county sheriff, and now county surveyor, in 1912. In August of that year, Charles E. Brown, and Robert H. Becker of the Wisconsin Archeological Society, accompanied by H. A. Kirchner of Milwaukee visited Chetek, and with Mr. Johnson's assistance, undertook the making of plats and surveys of the mound groups located by him. A. T. Newman of Bloomer, also a member of the society, later joined the party and with him a visit was made to a pipestone quarry, located in section 3, Sumner Township.
On the shores of the Chetek Lakes, thirteen mound locations have been reported to the Wisconsin Archeological Society, containing 152 mounds.
Of these, the greater number, 122, were situated on the shore of Lake Chetek. Twenty-nine were found on the shores of Prairie Lake and a single mound on Lake Pokegema. In the two Chetek river groups there were 14 mounds.
The total number of such earthworks about Rice Lake (not including the two groups recorded by J. D. Middleton from section 21, and of which the Wisconsin Archeological Society has no count) is 67. The total number of mounds in the entire Chetek-Rice Lake region covered by the survey, 233, is probably greater than that of those occurring in any region of similar size in northwestern Wisconsin.
It will be noted that with few exceptions all of the Indian mounds of this region are conical or oval in form, the conical mound being the most numerous. Of these the largest and most prominent are the Pleasant Point group on the shore of Prairie Lake. Two short linear mounts and a tapering oval mound occur in the Chetek river group and at least one mound, which may be classed as linear in the Pleasant Point group. Much interest is attached to a pear shaped oval mound in the latter group and a double conical or dumb-bell shaped mound in the Rice Lake group.
Of the conical and oval mounds which have been explored, most have been found to contain burials, most of these bundled burials, or human remains which had been interred in temporary graves and afterwards buried in separate bundles or deposits in the mounds. Some of the burials disinterred from mounds at Rice Lake by J. D. Middleton, he decided were intrusive, that is, made long after the mound was built. Of the mounds explored in the entire region but a small number appear to contain implements or ornaments of any kind. The presence of charcoal and charred human bones in some of the mounds indicates that a fire ceremony accompanied the burials.
While it is very probable that the mounds of the Chetek and Rice Lake region were constructed by the Dakota, who were the earliest known Indian occupants of the region, this contention yet lacks of proof. Elsewhere in northern Wisconsin there are burial mounds, which, although they were not a mound building tribe, the Chippewa appear to have erected. Some of the intrusive burials found in the Rice Lake mounds are probably more or less recent Chippewa interments.
Indian garden beds in the county have attracted much attention. The arrangement of these Indian garden beds on the shore of Rice Lake (on the Nelson farm) differ from any which have been found (up to the fall of 1917) among the many plot of such planting grounds found in Wisconsin. Other Indian garden beds are reported to exist near old Indian campsites along the Red Cedar River between Cameron and Chetek.
The following report, based on the survey begun in 1912, was published in October 1917 (The Wisconsin Archeologist, Volume 16, Number 3). The edition was limited, and the salient features are here reproduced where they may be available to every citizen of the county:
1. Chetek Village Site. The west shore of Lake Chetek from the northern limits of Chetek to its outlet appears to have been in stone age times the site of one or a series of Indian camps. Evidence of Indian occupation occur in many of the gardens in the rear of the houses fronting Main Street, which runs parallel to the shore of the lake. On a vacant lot, recently under cultivation, adjoining the Yellow Lodge property on the south, numerous flakes of light brown and white quartzite, a few chert flakes, potshards and scattered, burned, and fractured stones from Indian fireplaces were found. In Early days of settlement the Chippewa Indians frequently camped on this shore of the lake. A considerable number of arrow points and other stone implement have been picked up on this site in the past years. There is said to have formerly been a few scattered mound here. Of these nothing is known except that they were burial mounds.
2. Chetek Mound Group. On several vacant lots fronting on a narrow street running parallel to the lake shore, and extending from the rear of the Pokegema Inn and the city boat landing to opposite the bridge at the outlet is a group of seven conical mounds. These have been long under cultivation and are now only from one to about two feet high at their centers. Four of these lay wholly or partly in gardens, tow having been cut in two by the street and one lies on a grass grown lot. One of the largest is said to have been at one time six or more feet high. It is not know whether any of these mounds have been excavated or whether the group formerly included additional mounds. In the gardens in which some of the mound are located the usual evidence of Indian quartzite chipping are scattered about. This site is about one-half block south of the Yellow Lodge hotel grounds.
3. Young Mounds. On the lawn of what is known as the Young property at the junction of Main and Tainter Streets, at the southern limits of Chetek, is a fine oval mound. This mound measure 30 by 40 feet in size and 4 a half feet high at the middle. Growing on its eastern edge is a oak tree having the diameter of one foot. Several other oaks grow around the mound. Another mound was formerly located at the front of this lot, it having been destroyed in improving the street. It was conical in form with a base of about 34 feet. No information concerning it contents could be obtained. This place is about two blocks southwest of the Chetek group of mounds.
4. Douglas Street Mound. According to J.A.H. Johnson, a conical mound was formerly located in front of the Catholic Church property, In Chetek. It was destroyed by the grading of Douglas Street. This is locality in a short distance from the railway track. William Cary, an old settler of Chetek, says that he believes there were at one time other mounds located between this place and the Olson and Young mounds.
5. Bailey's Pond Camp Site. Mr. Johnson has reported the presence of an Indian campsite on the shore of Bailey's Lake, a small lake or pond, located a short distance west of the Chetek railway depot. A single conical mount located on the east side of the pond is nearly obliterated by the cultivation of the land. A plot of Indian garden beds is also located here. The earthen ridges, he states, are about two feet wide and the distance between the rows, four feet.
6. Olson Mounds. In a potato patch on the Steve Olson place, several hundred feet southeast of the mounds on the Young lot and in line with Main Street, is a single conical mound. It has been somewhat injured by cultivation and is now about 25 feet in diameter and about 2 feet high at its middle. In the field about it quartzite chips and fireplace stones are scattered about. The Chetek River dam lies a short distance east of this mound. A son of Mr. Olson has a small number quartzite and chert arrow points found on his father's place. These are stemmed forms similar to those found commonly in southern Wisconsin.
7. Chetek River Group. In a wooded pasture belonging to Steve Olson is a group of four linear and oval mounds. A linear mound, the largest mound in the group, extended at the time of our visit into an oat field. All these mounds have been dug into at their tops by persons of the relic hunting class but are only slightly mutilated. One has been somewhat damaged by the tracking across it of the cows pastured here. These mounds have the following dimensions: Number 1, 31x46 feet; 31/2 feet high. Number 2, 17 by 27 by 73 feet; 2 and a half feet high at its highest part, at its northern extremity. Number 3, 21 by 51 and a half feet; 1 foot high. Number 4, 24 by 88 feet; 3 feet high. East of the mounds the land slopes towards a small drain, which leads to the Chetek River, a short distance away. Two of the mounds lie within a few feet of the Chicago, St. Paul, Minnesota and Omaha Rail R. right-of-way fence and can be seen from the track entering Chetek. In grading the right-of-way in 1881 several other mounds belonging to this group were destroyed. These are the reported to have been conical in form. In the course of their destruction a large number of copper implements were found with the Indian burials disturbed. A.T. Newman, of Bloomer, states that a Mr. Ebener, an Eau Claire civil engineer, informed him that he secured 1,788 of these from the men engaged in the grading operations. If this statement is correct, the number exceeds by far the number of such implements ever recovered from any single aboriginal site in Wisconsin. Unfortunately both the collector and these implements have been lost track of. Others were said to have been dumped into a railroad fill with earth from the mounds.
8. South Shore Mounds and Camp Sites. Indian Mounds were formally scattered over the lands lying along the south shore of Lake Chetek from the river inlet to the Chautauqua Assembly Grounds a distance of two miles. There are said to have been a hundred or more located on what are now the F.W. Zeissner, J.C. Phillips and F.A Southworth farms, land originally owned by the Knapp, Stout and company lumber firm, and still known as the Knapp, Stout and Company farm. Doubtless these were arranged in several, or a number of distinct groups. In walking over portions of the cultivated lands of these farms with Mr. J.A.H. Johnson, the investigators were able to relocate many of these earthworks. All were conical or oval form. Some were formerly of quite large size. According to William Carey, an old settler, who assisted in their demolition, there was on the Zeissner place at the outlet of the lake a group of about seventy-five mounds. These earthworks were from a few feet high to six or more feet high. This place was originally covered with a forest of pine trees. Some of the trees were from 18 to 20 inches in diameter. Stumps of this size were on some of the mounds when he assisted in the year 1866 in removing the mounds to obtain earth for the construction of the Chetek River Dam, a few hundred feet below the outlet of Chetek Lake. Only the tops of some of these mounds were removed and the remains of these are still to be seen in the cultivated fields long the river. In the destruction of the mounds a large quantity of human bones were disturbed and some native copper and stone implements obtained. Some of them had been previously excavated by Prof. T.H. Lewis, formerly of St. Paul. Others were explored by W.M. Carter, a former resident of Chetek. On the adjoining Phillips' place the number of mounds were said to have been much smaller. Some of the mounds on the present Southworth place, adjoining the former place on the east, were destroyed in grading for the fair grounds, which were once located here. Elsewhere in the fields and along the road at this place, mounds reduced by cultivation and road making, are still seen.
Mound Park Group. On the Chautauqua Assembly Grounds, now divided into summer resort lots and known as Mound Park, is a fine group of twenty-eight mounds. Traces of two others, almost wholly removed, are on the same property, and traces of 5 others on the road. Some others are in the Southworth field across the road. Of the mounds in Mound Park, four are oval and the remainders are conical in form. The largest of the former measuring 55 by 30 feet, and the largest of the latter 42 feet in diameter. The highest of these mounts is about 3and a feet. A number of them have been excavated by the method common to the relic hunters of digging into their tops. The mounds are located in a grove of oak trees and are quite closely grouped. A few are very near the bank of the lake which here is from 18 to 20 feet high. They occupy a triangle of land whose greatest length is about 600 feet and whose base measures about 500 feet. Of this group a survey was made. It is highly desirable that a number of the finest of these earthworks be preserved.
Camp Sites. In the early days of settlement, the Chippewa Indians often camped in large numbers about and near the outlet of Lake Chetek.
In the cultivated fields of the Zeissner farm, on the east side of the outlet and the south shore of the lake, quartzite and a lesser number of chert and quartz flakes and fragments and fireplace stones are to be seen on the surface of the ground. These fields have been collected from for years and a large number of stone arrows and spear points, perforators, scrapers, celts, hammer stones, arrow shaft grinders and other materials, obtained. Camp and workshop sites are also indicated by scattered evidence on part of the Phillips and Southworth places. A country road leading from Chetek across the bridge at the outlet parallels the lakeshore and passes along the front of the several farms mentioned to Mound Park.
9. Leinenkugel Point Mounds and Camp Site. This point formerly extended into Lake Chetek for a greater distance than it does today. The raising of the lake by the construction of the dam at the outlet has submerged and caused the erosion of a considerable part of it. On the extremity of this point were formerly three conical mounds. A.T. Newman, of Bloomer, remembers seeing these mounds in the year 1889. At this time one was being slowly destroyed by the gradual erosion of the lake bank. Two others were then still in good condition. These mounds were 25 or 30 feet in diameter and 3 to 4 feet high. The point is now occupied by a summer resort cottage, known as the "Red Club House", and by several other cottages. William Carey states that in the late eighties the Chippewa Indians camped on Leinenkugel Point. At this time two hundred or more bark-covered wigwams were to be seen here. On the occasion some special ceremony, or council, when Indians came from other localities to be present, he has seen from 500 to 600 Indians on the lake in birch bark canoes. On the point and from the adjoining cultivated fields many stone implements have been collected. W.H. Smith, who formerly resided here, had a considerable collection of these. Mr. Newman also has a number of chert spear points and potsherds obtained here. According to information given to J.A.H. Johnson, by Daniel Beagle, one of the earliest settlers on the site of Chetek, an Indian trading post was in the years 1830-40, located on this point not far from the site of the present clubhouse. The trader was one Louis Montra, of whom nothing further is known. The trader's log cabin was still standing in 1865.
10. Johnson Mounds. On the property of H.M. Knudson on the north side of a small bay on the north shore of Lake Chetek, J.A.H. Johnson, in 1916, located a group of two conical and an oval or short linear mound. These are on Government lot 4, section 20, at a distance of 40 rods west of the site of the old trading post. The oval mound Mr. Johnson believes may be a turtle effigy, this, however, is most unlikely as its location is far distant from the most northern range of such earthworks in Wisconsin.
11. Camp Roskinson Cemetery. (Southwest. Quarter, Section 20). An Indian cemetery was formerly located on the east shore of Lake Chetek just south of its union with Lake Pokegema. The graves were in a dry marsh. J.A.H. Johnson remembers that there were some forty or fifty graves in the cemetery, which have now been destroyed by the rising waters of the lake. At times of low water many stone and copper implements have been collect from a sand bar along this shore by W.M. Carter, J.C. Phillips and others. The shore is now occupied by a number of cottages.
12. Flynn Camp Site. On the W.W. Flynn place on the east side of Lake Chetek, indications of an Indian camp and workshop site exist. Some quartzite points and other stone implements have been collected on this place. Fused and fire-cracked stones and potsherds were found in several places on the lake bank.
1. Omaha Crossing Camp Sites (East half, Section 31). On cultivated ground on the Kelly, W.G. Malcolm and Bernard Moe farms located along the east bank of the Chetek River, south of the Omaha Railroad crossing, the usual scattering of former camp and chipping sites were found in a number of places. The land along the river is low and marshy and these sites are on the high ground beyond. As usual, the scattered flakes and chips were almost entirely of light color quartzite. Only a very few chert flakes were found. In a potato field on the Moe place, just at the edge of a farm road and within about 50 feet of the riverbank has been found indications of a small shell refuse heap. Numerous broken and partly decomposed valves of river clams were scatter over the surface of a piece of ground about 15 feet long. Investigation made with a trowel revealed further clusters of closely packed shells. All of them, however, were within a few inches of the surface and no traces of a refuse pit were revealed. The clam shells collected here were identified by Dr. Frank C. Baker, director of the Chicago Academy of Science, as specimens of Lampsilis ligamentina, Lampsilis luteola, Lampsilis anodontiodes, and Lampsilis alata, all of which species of Unio occur here. J.A.H. Johnson, who has collected here, has a fine flint blank found on the Malcolm place. A few quartzite arrow points, blanks and a sandstone arrow shaft grinder have been found by others.
2. Chetek River Site Number 2. (Southwest Quarter, Section 31). On the west bank of the Chetek River, on the J. Walsal place, in a cultivated field above the country road, scattered indications of a campsite were found by the author and Mr. Kirchner. Several large quartzite blanks, and arrow shaft grinder, a chert scraper and a number of arrow points have been found here. From this place the investigators followed the course of the river southward for several miles but found no indications of camp or workshop sites in any of the numerous cultivated fields along its course.
3. Mortenson Mounds (Northeast Quarter. Southwest Quarter. Section 1. Dovre township). Mr. Johnson reported the presence of two conical mounds on the Chris Mortenson place in the woods near the west bank of the Chetek River. These, because of the dense woods and underbrush, we were unable to find.
4. Junction Mounds (Southeast Quarter. Section 10. Dovre Township). On the Norman Williamson (Ole Hanson) place, at the junction of the Chetek and Red Cedar Rivers, are two groups of mounds. One consists of seven conical and oval mounds and is located in a tract of land bordering on the Red Cedar River and thickly overgrown with trees and brush. The largest of the oval mounds measures 21 by 45 feet. The single conical mound is 20 feet in diameter. All of these earthworks are low, the highest being only 3 and a half feet high at its middle. A few hundred feet northwest of these mounds on the riverbank are two conical mounds. In a cultivated field adjoining the woodland on the east is a group of three conical mounds. These mounds are separated from one another by a short distance. The are 40, 48 and 60 feet in diameter respectively, and from 3 to 31/2 feet high. They are said to have been originally 5 to 6 feet high. Several hundred feet north of these mounds are scattered indications of an Indian camp and workshop site. J.A.H. Johnson that a large number of stone and other implements have been collected from these fields. One collection of these was sent to Norway. On the bank of the Chetek River, at a distance of 130 rods east of the second mound group, a Chippewa camp was located in 1840-45. At this point the natives forded the river. Another camp was located at a distance of about 85 rods southeast of the mounds, at the junction of the two streams. On the Peter Knappen place, on the east bank of the Chetek River, is evidence of another camp and workshop site.
1. Gregerson Cache (Southwest Quarter, Section 18, Chetek township). On the Thomas Gregerson farm, on the east shore of Prairie Lake, a cache of 27 quartzite blades was recently found in a cultivated field. It was disturbed by the finder in digging a post-hole. The blades lay in a small heap at a depth of two feet below the surface of the soil. They were made of light brown quartzite and were 2 to 3 inches long. In this field are scattered indications of an Indian camp and workshop site. Many stones and some copper implements have been found by Mr. Gregerson and his boys. Between this field and the lake is a fine track of pine woods in which is a winding Indian trail leading west to the water's edge. It is not very deep and was probably in use for only a short time. Where this trail reaches the shore was the Indian portage across the Prairie Lake. The campsite on this place extends over on to the Christ Brunson farm adjoining it on the south. On this site fireplace stones were found in several places along the lake bank on the Gregerson place. According to Indian tradition several fights between the Chippewa and Dakota (Sioux) took place in an early day on the shores of Prairie Lake.
2. Olson Mound and Camp Site (South half, Northwest Quarter, Section 18). A single oval mound is located in the farm of Thorsten Olson. It is 43 by 51 feet in size and about two feet high. It is said to have been originally six or seven feet high, its height having been greatly reduced by cultivation. It lay in the middle of a clover field at the time of our visit. The mound lays about 60 rods back from the east shore of Prairie Lake from which it is separated by strip of woodland. In the cultivated fields about the mound are the usual indications of an Indian campsite. In one place a short distance north of the mound J.A.H. Johnson has collected numerous fragments of pottery vessels. Several grooved stone hammers, a number of chert implements and two rusty bayonets have also been collected in this field.
3. Pleasant Plain Group (North half, Northwest quarter, Section 19). On the Christ Olson place, which adjoins the Thorsten Olson farm on the north, is a fine group of twenty-seven conical and oval mounds. Fifteen of these are of conical and twelve of oval form. The largest of the conical mounds is fifty feet and the smallest twenty feet in diameter. The largest of the oval earthworks measures 94 by 46 and the smallest 20 by 15 feet. The lowest mound in the group is only 1and a half feet and the highest 10 feet high at its highest part. Thirteen of the mounds are shape form, being slightly constricted near its northern extremity. These mounds are quite compactly grouped, being separated from one another by only short distances. As may be seen by a minute examination, they appear to be arranged in four more or less irregular lines or series. They are located in a fine tract of pinewoods. At the time of the investigation the southwest corner of the woods had recently been cleared, the brush heaps lying among the nine mounds in the clearing. West and south of the mounds are cultivated fields and north of them a pretty wooded ravine. In this ravine, near it's opening into Prairie Lake, is a fine spring. The portion of this woodland along the lakeshore has recently been subdivided into summer resort lots and is now known as Pleasant Plain. Nearly all of the mounds in group have been rifled by relic hunters. Deep and ugly holes have been dug into their tops and sides and no effort has been made by the diggers to again return the earth thrown out in course of their destructive operations the mounds today resemble miniature volcanoes. As all of this digging has been done by persons having no archeological knowledge or experience and by methods generally disapproved it is hardly to be expected that nay data of value to archeological science of the results of their operations could be obtained. Some of these destructive explorations are reported to have been conducted by a Chicago doctor, and W.M. Carter, a former Chetek collector, with the assistance of several men whom they employed. They secured a number of copper and stone implements. During the summer of 1911, Leroy Colbert of Chetek and others dug into one of the mounds and is said to have obtained a pottery vessel. This group of mounds despite its mutilation is still the finest remaining about the Chetek Lakes. In none of the other groups are there earthworks which can be compared with these is size. By the expenditure of a small amount of money most of the injured mounds can be restored to their former beauty. Citizens of Chetek should see to it that these mounds are secured and preserved to posterity in a public park. Thus preserved they are certain to become one of the most interesting attractions of this favored region.
4. Museus Mound. J.A.H. Johnson reported the existence of a single oval mound on the Martin Bruson place, formerly owned by Charles Museus. The place is about one mile north of the Pleasant Point group. The mound is in field and has long been under cultivation. It is about 20 by 30 feet in size and 3 feet high.
1. Meadow Island Camp Site. This island is located near the northern part of Lake Pokegema. It is only a few acres in extent and is thickly overgrown with trees and brush. On its southern side the lake bank is quite high and steep. The northern shore is low and marshy. This island was in the early days of settlement of this region was one of the favorite camping places of the Chippewa Indians. The high bank on the south shore of the island is now being rapidly worn away by the combined forces of wind, rain and waves and thus evidences of aboriginal occupation is being everywhere exposed. When on August 9, 1912, investigators visited the island with Mr. J.A.H. Johnson and Mr. A. Newman we found the burn and broken stone of a number of Indian fireplaces scattered over the slope. With these were numerous pieces of charcoal, pottery fragments and pieces of human and animal bones. Other fireplaces were partially exposed at the top of the bank below the sod covering. In October 1911, Mr. Johnson found at the foot of this bank a number of human bones, which had apparently been washed out from a grave at the top. Locating this grave he proceeded to explore it and found a human skull over which a small copper trade kettle had been inverted, or which by some accident had been overturned on the skull. In this kettle were a number of thimbles, rings with stone sets, bangles, glass beads and a bone implement, these articles plainly indicating that the burial was a recent one. On the top of the island and at a short distance back from the edge of the bank we located a series of shallow circular excavations. Some of the largest of these were five and six feet in diameter and six inches to a foot in depth, being filled with leaves and soil. Some of these pits were investigated. They appear to have been originally from three to three and a half feet in depth. Mix with the soil, which we removed from them, were numerous fireplace stones and quantities of charcoal. It is quite probable that whey were provision caches, being used for the storage of food.
The Chippewa also formerly camped on the west shore of Lake Pokegema on a point just to the southwest of Meadow Island.
2. Ellis Mound (East half, Northeast quarter, Section 17). In a potato field on the Elizabeth Ellis' property, on the east shore of Lake Pokegema, a single oval mound was located. The mound measured 16 by 25 feet in size. It was rather inconspicuous, its greatest elevation being only about 2 feet and it could only be detected a short distance away by the greater height of the potato plants growing on its top and sides over those on the level about it. It is about 400 feet from the bank of Lake Pokegema. Along the shore of the lake, on the Ellis place, a narrow strip of pine and other forest trees has been permitted to remain. The lake bank is quite steep, from 25 to 30 or more feet in places. In the rear of this strip of woodlands and between it and the potato field in which the mound is situated is a strip of recently cleared land upon which at the time of our visit furrows had been turned for the first time. Here a few quartzite fakes and fireplace stones were found. Doubtless another plowing will reveal more abundant indications of a camp and workshop site. In another potato patch, on higher ground several hundred feet southeast of the mound, and separated from it by a buckwheat field, are found indications of a camp and workshop site. On a small knoll, several hundred feet northeast of the mound and in the same potato field, were found scattered about on the surface of the ground numerous fragments of the dark brown sandstone which the aborigines of this region employed for the making of arrow shaft grinders, and grindstones and which even today occasionally sought by the Indians for similar or other uses. On this knoll this material lies close to the surface and is encountered and broken up by the plow in cultivating the land. If the cultivated fields on the Ellis place could be examined at the time of the removal of the crops further indications of camp and chipping sites would doubtless be found. In examining the lake bank in the front of the Samuel Calhoun place, which adjoins the Ellis property on the south, we found an Indian fireplace, the stones on the outer edge of which were just beginning to slip down the bank.
A large number of Indian rice threshing pits are located on Indian rice threshing pits are located on Indian Point, on the A.D. Johnson place, on the east shore of Prairie Lake on a slough that connecting this lake with Mud Lake. Mud Lake was a favorite field for the gathering of wild rice.
1. Nelson Garden Beds (Northwest quarter, Section 16, Rice Lake township). On the H.C. Nelson place on the west shore of Rice Lake, are a series of Indian garden beds. They are located in a pasture having it a few scattered oak trees. The lake bank in front of this property is from 8 to 18 feet high and distance back from the top to the water's edge from 20 to 22 feet. It is overgrown with young trees and shrubs. The garden beds lie from 7 to 10 feet back from the top of the bank. Mr. Nelson, who operates and extensive ginseng nursery at this place, accompanied the investigators and Rex Hamilton of Rice Lake in examination of this Indian planting ground on August 12, 1912. There appear to be two distinct plots of beds. One plot was found to measure about 114 feet in length and to contain 15 beds or rows, these being 24 to 27 feet in length. A distance of about 50 feet separates this plot of beds from the second plot. The other plot measure about 200 feet in length. The beds are from 15 to 36 feet long. The investigators counted 38 beds, , or rows, in this plot which extents to within about 80 feet of the north boundary fence of the pasture. The general direction of the beds is northwest. Although rather low they are quite distinct, much more in some places than in others. They are from 3 to 3 feet wide and from 4 to 6 inches high. The paths separating from 1 foot to 14 inches wide. At the northern end of the second plot there were three shallow circular depressions measuring from 5 to 6 inches across and 6 to 8 inches deep. A single similar pit was located at the southern extremity of the other plot. These pits were found to originally been 18 inches to 2 and a half feet in depth. Nothing was found in any of them and the investigators reached the conclusion that they were probably threshing pits and employed by the Indians in the hulling of wild rice, once growing abundantly in the lake. This was accomplished by placing the rice in a blanket or deerskin spread across the hole and treading out the grain with the feet. G.C. Soper says that in the early days of settlement the Indians frequently secured pork barrels which they sunk in the ground and employed as threshing pits, sometimes using sticks to beat out the grain instead of the feet. It is impossible to determine whether the garden beds and threshing pits were made and used at the same time, but they probably were. In Mr. Nelson's ginseng nursery, which adjoins this pasture on the south, numerous fireplace stones and occasional quartzite chips were exposed on newly turned ground.
2. Howard Camp Site. The M.T. Howard place, also known as Howard's Point, was a camping ground of the Chippewa in 1879 and 1880. Here, according to G.C. Soper, they also had in early days a dancing ground where medicine and other dances were held and in which considerable numbers of Indians took part, the ground over a small area being cleared of brush and beaten down for this purpose. One hundred or more Indians sometimes camped here. This place fronts on Rice Lake on the east and on a slough to the south.
3. Rice Lake Group (Section 16, Stanford township). A description of this group of Indian mounds is given by Prof. Cyrus Thomas in the Twelfth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology. The explorations were made by J. D. Middleton, an employee of the survey, in about the year 1890."This group, a plat of which has been published, is situated at Rice Lake city, on Section 16, Track 35 North, Range 11 West, about half a mile above the Red Cedar River. The land at this point is somewhat broken, and the area occupied by the group is cut by a small ravine that runs northeast to the lake. Some of the mounds are on gravelly knolls, a few in the ravine, some on the slope up to the level which runs back to a ridge a quarter of a mile distant and some on this level. The location was well chosen for hunting, fishing, and procuring a supply of food, as game and fish are still abundant and wild rice formerly grew in the lake.The extension of the northern limits of the City of Rice Lake since the time of Professor Thomas' survey has caused the destruction of a large number of the mounds in this group. Sever others (Numbers 9 and 10) have been obliterated by the leveling of the fair grounds. On August 11 a survey of the portion of the group which is still in existence. It will be noted that one of the cluster of mounds in the M.T. Howard woods is of the rather unusual double conical or 'dumb-bell' shape. Its length is 53 feet and the round extremities each 18 feet in diameter. The width at its middle is 15 feet.
"The group consists of fifty-one mounds, chiefly of the ordinary conical form. There are no effigies or long slender embankments in it. The construction varies so little that few only will be described as samples of the rest. Number 1 for instance, as representing Numbers 24, 26, 35, 39, 45, and 46. This stands in the bottom of a ravine about 10 feet above the water level and about 500 feet from the shore of the lake; diameter, 28 feet, height, 4 feet. The construction, as shown by examination, was as follows, commencing at the top: First, a layer of dark vegetable mould 2 inches thick had formed since the mound was abandoned: next, a layer of sandy loam with a slight mixture of clay: third, the core forming the center and remaining portion of the structure and resting on the original surface of the gully. This consisted of clay mixed with sand and was very hard. It appears to be composed small rounded masses about 16 to 18 inches in diameter and 6 to 10 inches thick doubtlessly representing the loads deposited by the builders. Lying on the original surface of the ground underneath the core, were two skeletons bundled, as was the case with nearly all found in this group. The bundling was done by placing the long bones together as closely as possible around the ribs, the vertebal bones being placed together here and there so as to render the bundle as compact as possible. Close to these were the charred remains of another pressed into a layer scarcely exceeding an inch in thickness, but, as there were no signs of fire, ashes, or coals on the surface beneath, burning must have taken place before burial. As all the skeletons were under the core, and as the small masses heretofore mentioned showed no signs of disturbance they must have been buried at one time.
"Mound 24 measured but 22 feet in diameter and 3 in height. It differed from Number 1 only consisting four skeletons, none of them charred.
"Mound 26, but 25 feet in diameter and 4 feet high, containing four skeletons of the original burial and three of intrusive burial, as did also Number 35.
"In Number 46 there had been seven original burials at the base of the core, as usual one of a child - no intrusive burials.
"Number 8, oval in outline, 36 feet long, 26 feet wide, and 5 feet high, differed from the others, as it lacked the core and layer of sandy loam. With the exception of the top layer of vegetable mold it consists of yellow clay mixed with sand, probably then from the immediately surrounding vicinity. Six skeletons were found in it; the first 3 feet south of the apex and at a depth of 2 feet, Number 2 a foot and a half south of the first. These two appear to have been buried at the same time, or nearly so, and most likely were intrusive burials. Number 3 was at the bottom, on the original surface, under number 1; Number 4 a foot northeast of 3; Number 5 two feet east of the last; and number 6 a foot north of number 5. The last 4 skeletons appear to have been buried about the same time from the fact that they were bundled, the bones cleaned and white, although so soft as to fall to pieces when exposed to the atmosphere.
"Mound Number 11, standing east of number 8, is also oblong, 35 feet long, and 23 feet wide the construction the same as the preceding. There have been five original and five intrusive burials, the latter at the center at a depth of 3 feet, the others at the bottom of the mound, in the north end. All of skeletons were bundled, those near the surface being in a better state of preservation that those in the bottom. A large pine stump was standing over the latter, the roots of which had broken them up to a considerable extent.
"Mound 42, standing in the ravine, measured 27 feet in diameter and four feet high. The construction was found to be similar to that of number 1; first the thing layer of vegetable mold; then sandy loam and clay core; but here was a pit in the original soil, rectangular in form, 3 feet long, 2 feet wide and one foot in depth, the sides and ends flaring. In this mound there had been three intrusive burials and two original burials. Two skeletons of the former were in the southwest part, at the depth of 2 feet; the third in the center at a depth of 4 feet, a cut having been made in the top of the core to receive it. The material of the layer over it had a disturbed appearance, indicating that these were intrusive burials.
"Two other skeletons were found at the bottom of the pit, bundled as usual. The bones of these two are larger than those of the other skeletons in the group. Mounds numbered, 41, 47, and 48 were so similar I every respect to 42 as to need no further notice.
"Mound 49 stands on the lower margin of the gravelly ridge south of the gully, 20 or 25 feet above the water level of the lake; the diameter being 26 feet and the height 5 feet. It was found to consist, except the top layer, of an unstratified mass of dark brown loam with a considerable mixture of sand and gravel, having the same the same appearance as the soil on the ridge on which it stands; an occasional lump of clay, similar to the load masses heretofore spoken of was observed. Under this main layer or body of the mound, near the center, was an oval pit, diameter 2 and 2 and a half feet, and 1 foot in depth. The original burials were two adults in the pit; these, as also the skeletons of the intrusive burials, being bundled, and an indication that the two people buried here belonged to the same race. Mounds 28 and 36 were similar throughout to Number 49."
All but one of these mounds have been explored by the very unsatisfactory method of digging into their tops. In several instances the excavation has been continued through one side of the mound. The tops of two have been cut away leveling them quite low and level. This was done to obtain soil for some purpose.
William Dietz, of Rice Lake, who with a Mr. Monteith, explored some of the mounds in this group in about the year 1887, states that in some as many as a dozen skeletons were found. These he believed to have been interred in a sitting posture. He believed that the bundle burials were skeletons, which had collapsed from the sitting position, a very natural conclusion. No implements occupied these burials. Other mounds, we were informed, had been by a Dr. Farness of the results of whose diggings nothing is known. K.E. Rasmussen of Rice Lake also dug into several of the mounds. He found not more than two burials in any of these. With them were a few chert arrow points.
G.C. Soper, who formerly owned the property now belonging to C.F. Stout, leveled several of these mounds, which stood near the lakeshore on this place. These may be the mounds which we were informed were once located west of the Stout residence. He states that several others stood on the lakeshore opposite what is now known as Soper's Island. These were destroyed by the rising waters of the lake by the construction of the dam at its foot. These mounds had disappeared at the time of the making of the Thomas survey and are not included on his plat.
A private road, an extension of Main Street today divides the remaining mounds of this group. Five of them are on the property of C.F. Stout, east of the road. One mound in this tract is the curious dumb-bell shaped earthwork. It has a uniform height of about 4 and a half feet.
These are the last mounds now remaining on the west side of the lake; Rice Lake citizens should take advantage of the present opportunity to permanently preserve some of them. This place is a portion of what is known as Howard's Point. It is well located for a city park.
4. Middleton Mounds. Every trace of two groups of linear mounds which J.D. Middleton reported as located south of the then village of Rice Lake, in Section 21, has now disappeared. These were located west of Main Street on the city blocks now occupied by the library and other buildings. The growth of the city caused their destruction. No one who we could find appeared to know much, if anything, concerning these earthworks.
5. Red Cedar River Camp Site. In a patch of cultivated ground on the north bank of the Red Cedar River, near the Omaha railroad bridge, evidence of an Indian camp and workshop site were found. This field is about 50 feet wide and extends about 120 feet along the river. In its rear is elevated ground which is being slowly cut away by the Rice Lake Stone Company, which is operating a gravel pit here. In this field, which at the time of the visit was being used to grow potatoes, were found numerous fireplace stones and scattered quartzite chips and flakes. Some chert and quartzite implements have been found here by boys of the city. The field is rather level and is elevated about 5 or 6 feet above the river. This site formerly extended further east along the river as far as Main Street or nearly as far over a tract now occupied by the back yards of a number of cottages.
6. Cyrus Thomas Group (Section 10). These mounds are also described by Professor Thomas. We were unable to visit the location. It is proper that the group should be named in his honor."These mounds, which are on the opposite side of the lake from the preceding, are all of the round or conical type and are located on a point of land some 25 feet above and overlooking the lake and the other village jus described. No. 8, one of the largest of the group, measured 45 feet in diameter and about 5 feet high, commencing at the top, the first 3 feet was a layer of sandy loam; the remainder was a core of hard clay mixed with sand, made up of small masses, like those hereto described. The latter rested on a layer about an inch thick of what seemed to be decayed vegetable material of the original surface of the ground. A skeleton was discovered southeast of the center, only 3 inches below the surface, bundled. Fragments of a skull were found near the center at a depth of 2 feet. Here there was evidence that a grave had been dug in the mound after it had been completed, and a body buried in bark wrappings, but all save the fragments of the skull had completely decayed. A third was at the same depth. Four feet east of the center was another at the depth of 3 feet, but the skull in this case was wanting from the bundle. In the apex of the central core, in which a cut had been made for its reception was a fifth at the depth of 3 and a half feet from the top and 6 inches in the core. No skeletons were found in the lower part of the mound, south of the center, was the only relic obtained, a copper drill or spindle, similar to that shown in Fig. 34: this is 7 and a half inches long, a little over one-forth of an inch square, and pointed at each end. When found it was upright.
"Mound 12, situated west of No.8, in a thicket, measured 32 feet in diameter and 3 and a half in height. The upper layer consisted of loose sandy loam like the surrounding surface. The remainder, of sand and clay, very hard, rested on the original surface of the ground. Under this was a pit, length 7 feet, width at one end 4 feet, at the other 5 and a half, depth 2 feet, its wall perpendicular and bottom flat. Three bundled bodies skeletons, only ones found in the mound, were in the pit. With one were a few copper beads.
"Mound 14, standing 120 feet from the lake shore, measured but 26 feet in diameter and a little over 3 feet in height. The construction was somewhat similar to number 8; first a layer of sandy loam, 1 foot thick, then core, 2 feet thick; but in this case there was immediately below the second layer, a stratum of charcoal 4 inches thick and covering the same area. Underneath this, on the original surface, were the remains of three bundled skeletons partially burned. The remains of two logs, which had been nearly consumed by fire, could be traced in the layer of the burned earth. They must have been about 6 feet long and 4 or 5 inches in diameter. They were parallel, within about a foot of each other, and had evidently been laid on the earth covering the skeletons, but there was no indication of a wooden vault. The evidence seems conclusive that the fire had been kindled here after skeletons and log were in place. The first skeleton was in the center under the two burned logs, and the indications were that it had been wrapped in birch bark, parts of which, although both wrappings and bones were charred, were obtained. The other two skeletons were north and east of this central one, and one of them showed little effects of the fire, while the other was nearly consumed.
"Southward, outside of the burned area, but under the core or layer, were two other skeletons, which seemed to have been buried at the same time as the other 3."
7. Hiawatha Park Camp Site (W.1/2, N.W.1/4, Section 15). On the east shore of Rice Lake and the north side of the Red Cedar River which here enters the lake, abundant evidence (fireplace stones and quartzite chips) were found in a potato patch. The larger portion of this beautiful point is still occupied by a woodland of deciduous trees and it was therefore impossible to determine how large an area this camp site may have covered. In the cultivated fields along this stream beyond this site arrow points and a few stone celts had been found. This property has been subdivided into summer resort lots and is known as Hiawatha Park.
8. Draak Mounds (S. 1/2, S.W. 1/4, Section 15). On the property of Herman Draak, on the east shore of Rice Lake, are located two conical mounds. These were within a short distance of the lake bank. The larger of the two was 32 feet in diameter and about 2 feet high and the smaller 24 feet in diameter and 1 and half feet high. The mounds were in a grove of mixed woods. This property was in former days a Chippewa camping site and a few box-covered graves were located here. Campers have dug into numerous tree falls on this property believing them to be Indian burial places.
9. Narrows Cemetery. A Chippewa cemetery was formerly located at the north end of the railroad bridge, at the narrows between Rice Lake and Lower Rice Lake. The graves were covered with the customary wooden shelters. They were destroyed in grading the approach to the bridge. Several cottages now stand near the lake bank, near this place. Between the wagon road and railroad tracks, which cross the river within a short distance of each other, is a pond. Geo. C. Spore, Geo Colon and others well remember these graves.
10. Colons Point Camp Site (N.E. 1/4, Section 27). On this point in Lower Rice Lake, the well know Chippewa chief, Chenini, had his camp until removal of all the Indians to the Lac Courte Oreilles reservation in 1883. Mr. Geo. Colon, the former owner of this point, states that several hundred Indians encamped here at different times, frequently having festivals and ceremonies of various kinds. There were several Indian graves here also. One of these, the grave of a niece of the old chief, was disturbed by local summer resorters several years ago. A small amount of cheap jewelry, metal forks and other articles were found in the grave. The extreme end of this beautiful wooded point is now occupied by a number of summer resort cabins.
11. French Trading Post (S.W. 1/4, S.E. 1/4, Section 27). The Wisconsin Atlas of 1878 locates a French Trading post at the narrows or Rice Lake. According to George Colon, this post was really located on J.J. Silesky's place at the foot of Lower Rice Lake. The investigators in 1912 visited this place and found several slight linear depressions said by local residents to be the ditch which formerly surrounded the trader's cabin, and in which a palisade of upright logs is said to have stood. The longest depression was about 15 feet long. Mr. Colon states that stones from the trader's chimney formerly lay on the ground. These evidently have been removed as no trace of them could be seen. This site is in a level place at the foot of a small slope in the woods a short distance in the rear of Silesky summer cottage. A short distance to the south of it is a small swamp. The site is opposite the portage (now occupied by a country road) between Lower Rice and Mountain Lakes.
Wild rice still grows abundantly in the latter very shallow lake.
There are also mounds about Bear Lake in the northern part of the county, and about the outlet of the Red Cedar Lake into the Red Cedar River in the northeastern part of the county.
A survey of the mounds of the western part of the county is found in the appendix of this work.
The student of Barron County antiquities will find valuable information concerning its Indian remains in several other reports published by the Wisconsin Archeological Society. These are "A Record of Wisconsin Antiquities" (1906), "Pipestone Quarries in Barron County" (1910), "Aboriginal Evidence in Northwestern Wisconsin" (1914), and "The Chetek and Rice Lakes" (1917). The various publications of the Wisconsin Historical Society especially the "Collections" and the "Proceedings" also teem with information regarding this region.
At some period, the mound builders of this region ceased their building. If indeed, as it is believed, they were the Dakota, or as they are properly called the Sioux, then their descendants mingled with the Siouan people of the south and west.
With the passing of time, the Superior region was occupied by the Chippewa or Ojibway as they are sometimes called. The Chippewa belong to the great Algonquian family, and probably originally worked their way from the St. Lawrence River region until they occupied the area south and southwest of Lake Superior, including Barron County.
The Chippewa were not a mound building tribe, though there are buried mounds in northern Wisconsin, which some investigators believe the Chippewa erected. In most places where the Chippewa are found buried in mounds, however, it is fairly evident that the burials were comparatively recent and that the mounds had been built long before they were used for Chippewa burial places.
The woods and streams supplied the Aborigines their simple needs of food, clothing and shelter. From the skins of animals they fashioned their garments, by hunting and harvesting wild rice they gained their food. Their lodges were built of slender trees, covered with bark and mats formed of plaited reeds. Gradually they learned a crude form of agriculture, by cultivating the ground with hoes of bone and plows of wood, corn and pumpkins were added to their food supply. They had no domestic animals except dogs, which also served as an addition to their food supply, Their tools and implements of warfare and of chase were made of stone, flint, chipped to a point tipped their arrows, axes and hatchets were of edged stone, war clubs swung a heavy stone head. The only metals known were lead and copper. The former mined in a crude fashion was mainly used for ornament. Copper secured by intertribal trade from Lake Superior, was beaten by hand into ornamental shapes, and occasionally used to tip weapons and domestic implements.
The change of seasons brought to Wisconsin Indians changed modes of living. During the winter they left their permanent villages and in small groups scattered through the forest, subsisting as best they might on the product of the chase. They built temporary wigwams of pelts thrown over the poles, within which fires were kindled that kept them from freezing. Upon the return of spring they sought their villages and cornfields. The summer was the time for religious rites, for counsel and for warfare. Raids upon neighboring enemy groups were a normal part of an Indian's life. In every village a counsel house was built where questions of war and alliance were discussed by the chiefs and elders. The religious rites clustered about a unit resembling a clan; the effigy mounds were the symbols of the clan totems. Near to these totems burial mounds were placed. The sacred mysteries of the tribe and clans were there celebrated.
Aside from warfare, intercourse was maintained with other tribes by means of trade. The extent and volume of intertribal trade was considerable. Seashells found in Wisconsin mounds prove that they had passed from hand to hand among all the tribes between its inhabitants and the Atlantic coast. Shells, bits of metal, articles of dress and ornament, constituted the bulk of the exchange. Shells pierced and strung wrought into belts were both the medium of exchange and the binding symbol of intertribal treaties and agreements. While the fate of captives taken in war was horrible, envoys were scared, and the treaties were observed inviolate.
The red man's life was by no means as idyllic as children of nature have been supposed to lead. Famine and disease stalked his footsteps; war and wild animals carried away his young; struggle and hardship made up his lot in life. Nonetheless it is open to question whether the contact with the white man did not make the condition of the Indian worse. He soon became dependent upon the farmer's products for clothing, implements and weapons. He forgot the art of his primitive economy. Urged on by the greed of traders he rapidly killed off the wild game or drove it further into the wilderness, which he had to penetrate in order to secure the store of furs with which to purchase his necessities. Thus, hunting became more and more important to his existence and with increased efforts and superior weapons brought very diminishing returns. The red man became dependent upon the trader for the very means of life. After the French and Indian War, when all traders of the French race were withdrawn from Wisconsin, the English traders, who, after a lapse of two years went to Lake Superior and found naked and starving savages, who in less than one hundred years had ceased to be self-sufficing and could live only by means of relations with white man. Thus arose the fur trade, which was not only a commercial or an economic regime, but a system of government, a form of social life, a means of exploitation and a stage in the development of the American frontier.
At the close of the seventeenth century, Wisconsin was swarming with Indians. In the last quarter of that century the Miami, Mascouten and Kickapoo moved to the Illinois River valley, out of the state. The Potawatomi moved south along the shore of Lake Michigan. The Foxes ventured from Wolf River to the river now called by their name. The Menomonie surrounded Green Bay, the Sauk and Fox controlled the Fox-Wisconsin waterway, the Winnebago occupied the upper Rock River. The Huron and Ottawa, who for a time had occupied the headwaters of the Chippewa, left Northern Wisconsin for homes on the straights of Mackinaw. The southern shore of Lake Superior was practically abandoned to the Chippewa, although the Sioux still bitterly contested their occupancy.
It was in this Lake Superior region that the early explorers found the Chippewa. At the time the hereditary enemies of the Chippewa, Sioux (Dakota), had their headquarters in the Mille Lac region in northern Minnesota, and ranged the St. Croix and upper Mississippi and the region to the westward as well as the region towards Lake Superior.
The Chippewa continued to press onward and having obtained firearms from the whites, they took possession of the Mille Lac region, and forced the Sioux down the Mississippi where they established a number of villages, the most southern of which was at Winona.
Warren (Minn. Hist. Colls. V. 164) says the Chippewa had a village at Rice Lake as early as the year 1700.
War between the Chippewa and Sioux continued, and the Sioux still continued to make raids into the Lake Superior regions. Barron County especially was a hotly disputed territory. In fact is it believed by investigators that the main cause of the wars fought by the Aborigines in this region was due to a desire to possess the rich rice fields. The desire to obtain pipestone was probably another factor.
"Almost every bend of the Red Cedar River," it has been said, "has been the scene of an Indian battle." Others took place on the shore of Prairie Lake, the story of which is still preserved in Indian tradition.
By the Treaty of 1825 various tribes agreed upon the boundaries of their respective territories. The line between the Chippewa and the Sioux in this region fell a little south of Barron County and is described as follows: "From a point on the Chippewa River, half a day's march (10 miles) from Chippewa Falls to the Red Cedar (Menomonie) River, just below the falls (the city of Menomonie), thence to the St. Croix River, at a place called 'Standing Cedar' about a days paddle in a canoe above Lake St. Croix."
Benjamin G. Armstrong says (Early Life Among the Indians 199-201) that in the fifties the Rice Lake band numbered about 200, their chief being one Na-nong-ga-bee. "This chief with 70 of his people came to La Point to attend the treaty of 1854. After the treaty was concluded he started home with his people, the route being through heavy forests and the trail one which was but little used. When they had reached a point a few miles south of the Namekagon River and near a place called Beck-qua-ah-wong they were surprised by a band of Sioux who were on the warpath and hen in ambush, where a few of the Chippewa were killed including the old chief and his eldest son."The trail being a narrow one, only one could pass at a time true Indian file. This made their line quite long, as they were not trying to keep bunched, not expecting or having thought of being attacked by the enemy. The chief, his son and daughter were in the lead and the old man and his son were the first to fall as the Sioux had, of course, picked them out for slaughter, and they were killed before they dropped their packs or were ready for war. The chief had just brought his gun to his face to shoot when a ball struck him square in the forehead. As he fell his daughter fell beside him and feigned death. At the firing Na-nong-ga-bee's band swung out of the trail to strike the flanks of the Sioux and to get behind them to cut off their retreat, should they press forward or make a retreat, but that was not the Sioux intention. There were not a great many of them and their tactics were to surprise the band, get as many scalps as they could, and get out of the way, knowing that it would be the work of a few moments, when they would be encircled by the Chippewas."
"The girl lay motionless until she perceived that the Sioux would not come down on them en-masse, when she raised her father's loaded gun and killed the warrior who was running to get her father's scalp, thus knowing that she had killed the slayer of her father, as no Indian would come for a scalp he had not earned himself.""The Sioux were now in retreat and their flank and rear were being threatened, the girl picked up her father's ammunition pouch, loaded the rifle and started in pursuit. Stopping at the body of her dead Sioux she lifted his scalp and tucked it under her belt. She continued the chase with the men of her band and it was two days before they returned to their women and children, which they had left on the trail, and when the little brave heroine returned she had added two scalps to the one she started with."
Henry Schoolcraft gives the name of the Chippewa chief of the village at Lake Chetek as Kedug-e-be-shew (The Spotted Lynx), his village being locate here during the later part of the 18th century. There is some question, however, as to whether the Lake Chetek, of Schoolcraft, was the Lake Chetek in Barron County.
Many Indian trails traversed Barron County. Some of the most important were along the Chetek Lake, Menomonie River, Rice Lake, and Cedar Lake regions. Some of these trails have been traced by J.A.H. Johnson of Chetek, with the aid of early settlers and others.
Of these, which he had named the "Bayfield Trail," came from vicinity of the west side of Cedar Lake and crossed the country to Rice Lake, passing down the west side. According to G.C. Soper, an old settler, who came to Rice Lake in 1876, the Bayfield Trail came from Howard's Point on the shore of Rice Lake, passed through the mounds located here and followed in a southwesterly direction along a rise of ground, now graded away, to the southeast corner of Knapp and Main Streets. It continued on from this point, passing a pond then located near the present corner of Stout and Main Streets, and preceded down Main Street to the corner of Main and Humbird. Here it forked, one branch continuing down the Red Cedar (Menomonie) River at the foot of the city, and the other taking a northwestwardly direction to the site of the present First Ward School and thence across the country to Bear Creek. The branch down the Red Cedar continued on the west side of the river to the vicinity of the present Village of Cameron, near which place it crossed to the east side of that stream and pursued a southeasterly direction to the shore of Prairie Lake and down its shore and that of Chetek Lake to the present site of Chetek.
The Superior Trail coming from the west through the present site of Barron united with the Bayfield trail near the present shore of Prairie Lake.
The so-called Flambeau Trail coming from the banks of the Chippewa River passed between Lake Pokegema and Prairie and Chetek Lakes, meeting the Bayfield Trail near the present site of Chetek.
The Chippewa Trail left the site of Chetek, crossed the Chetek River and ran in a southeasterly direction towards the Chippewa River.
The Sioux Trail, also from Chetek, ran west to the Red Cedar River which it crossed and then followed the western side of the Hay River.
To-go-ne-ge-shik and forty other chiefs and braves of the Chippewa executed a treaty at La Point, on Chequamegon Bay, Lake Superior, Oct. 4, 1842, ceding all Chippewa lands in Wisconsin to the United States. A reservation was set-aside for the Chippewa above Sand Lake in Minnesota.
But several bands of the Chippewa were much dissatisfied with the agreement and especially with the reservation. Therefore, the government returned to them a considerable tract on Lac Court d'Oreilles (Couderay Lake) and the branches of the upper Chippewa.
>From the Couderay Reservation the Chippewa continued to range Barron County. Wild game was plentiful in the heavy forests and along the watercourses. The lakes abounded in fish and wild fowl. Beaver sported in the brooks and supplied pelts, which were readily sold and traded.
Rice Lake and the Chetek Lakes were favorite resorts of the Indians every fall. They gathered their winter's supply of wild rice. When the dam was built at Rice Lake in the late sixties, raising water and flooding of rice fields, the Indians were much incensed, and for a while danger was threatened, but the excitement in time died down.
Writing of the rice gathering Indians in 1820, James D. Doty (Wisconsin Historical Collections, VII) says:"The Indians in the month of September repair to Rice Lake to gather their rice. In no other place does it grow in such large quantities as there. The water is not over five feet deep and its surface is almost entirely covered with rice. It is only in morasses or muddy bottoms that this grain is found.
"It was formerly the practice of the Indians when the grain was in milk to pass around in canoes and gather up the tops in large shocks or branches and fasten them to render the collecting of the grain much easier after it was ripened. By this means they obtained it in much larger quantities that at present.
"This work of harvesting is performed by the females. It is now gathered by two of them, passing around in a canoe, one sitting in the stern and pushing it around, while the other with her back to the bow, and with two small pointed sticks about three feet long, one in each hand, collects it by running one of the sticks into the rice and bending it over onto the edge of the canoe, while with the other she strikes the heads suddenly and rattles the grain into it. This she does on both sides of the canoe alternately and while the canoe is moving. About a gill is generally struck off at each blow.
"It is not ripe when harvested. It falls covered with a husk, and has a beard about two inches long.
"One method of curing the rice, and that which makes it the most palatable, is by putting it in a kettle in small quantities and hanging it over the fire until it becomes parched. A small hole is dug in the ground one and a half feet deep and three feet in circumference, into which a moose skin is usually put. Into this hole the parched grain is then poured, where it is trod by an Indian until it is completely hulled. This is very laborious work and always devolves upon the men. The grain is then taken out and cleaned in a fan made of birch bark, shaped something like those used by early farmers. This is the most expeditious method of curing it.
"The other method differs from this only in drying. In the drying process a scaffold made of small poles about three feet from the ground, and covered with cedar slabs. On this the rice is spread and under the scaffold a small slow fire is kindled, which is kept up until the grain becomes entirely dry. It takes nearly a day to dry the quantity contained on one of the scaffolds. The grain cured in this way is more nutritious and keeps much longer than the other. Parching in the kettle seems to destroy some of the substance.
"The rice when cured is put into sack containing about a bushel. A sack is valued at two skins, about $4. A fathom of shroud or a blanket will buy two sacks.
"One family ordinarily makes about five sacks although those who are industrious sometimes make twenty-five. The last, however, is very rare. A few provident Indians save a little for the spring of the year to eat with their sugar, manufactured from the sap of the maple trees, though generally by the time they have done curing it, the whole is disposed of for trinkets, ornaments and whiskey."
Even to the present day the Indians resort to Mud Lake, in Chetek Township to gather rice.
Another of the features, which attracted the Mound Builders and the more modern Indians to Barron County, was the ridge of pipestone in Sections 27 and 34 of Doyle Township and Section 3 of Sumner Township. This formation, called by geologists "catlinite," is mentioned in the chapter in this volume on geology. It is a dark red clay, easily worked into a shape with a knife, which hardens upon exposure to the air. The Aborigines came here, secured blocks of soft clay, and fashioned it into pipes, beads and other ornaments, which rapidly hardened into a substance which takes a high red polish.
G.A. West made an investigation of the pipestone quarries in Barron County in 1910. He writes (The Wisconsin Archeologist, Volume 9, p.p. 32-33):"The quarry in the southeast quarter of the southeast quarter of Section 27, Town 35, Range 10 (Doyle), was long worked by the Indians and excavation formerly existed over and area of about 25 feet square and 3 feet in depth. This seems small and unimportant but as the material was used almost exclusively for pipes the amount of waste material being small, and there being other ancient quarries in the neighborhood, it seem safe to conclude that enough catlinite was mined in this district to supply the demand of the Wisconsin Indians for several centuries.
"Because of the swampy land surrounding it, this quarry is almost inaccessible during the summer months, but in the winter when the swamps are frozen, for several years past farmers have drawn upon it for building stone, thus almost completely destroying all evidences of aboriginal work.
"Along the highway leading from Rice Lake in the direction of the quarry may be seen outcrops of shaly rock, much resembling pipestone, but coarser in texture.
"On the northeast quarter of Section 34, Town 35, Range 10, (Doyle) are other primitive workings. This outcrop fall back from near the bed of the creek in a successions of terraces up the slope of a hill, thirty feet above the stream. The side of this hill contains a dozen or more pits, ranging from 4 to 10 feet across, and about 4 feet in depth. Some of these excavations have been defaced by white men and by modern Indians, who annually make pilgrimages from the Couderay Reservation several miles to the north, to this location for pipestone. Large quantities of reject rock lay scattered about the excavation. The entire stone face of the cliffs, and the undisturbed portions of others, showed much weathering, and upon the dumps were several large trees.
"In cleaning out one of these pits, the writer found two oblong boulders weighing about thirty pounds each, which were properly used for breaking the rock, a slight abrasion at their ends would appear to indicate. The portion of this outcrop near the surface or overcapping is a very dark red, siliceous rock, somewhat harder than pipestone, and quarries into slabs often four feet in length and from one to six inches in thickness. Its surface is often beautifully rippled and marked. Bands of light colored quartzite often traverse it. Scales of mica are somewhat dispersed throughout these bands. Examples taken from below the water line, or even from the damp ground, were found to be much softer and more readily cut and whittled with a knife. A nearby settler showed a paper knife about twelve inches long made by him from a stone, he using an ordinary pocket knife in its manufacture. In experiment, the writer found that this rock is easily wrought when fresh from the damp earth, but hardens rapidly when exposed to the air.
"Continuing the search, other primitive workings were discovered about a mile down the same stream to the south (Section 3, Township 34, Range 10 [Sumner]). The rock here was found to be of the same texture and color as the last described. There are several small pits on the sloping bank of the creek, but the principle excavation is in the bed of the stream.
"That this quarry is still occasionally worked by the Indians for pipestone is asserted by an old settler of the neighborhood."
Descriptions of the other two quarries will be found in the appendix of this work.
With the establishment of each lumber camp in Barron County, Indians belonging to the Couderay Reservation camped near by and were insistent in their begging. It is said that in the sixties when Mrs. Isaac Sprague was cooking for the lumberjacks at Prairie Farm it was necessary to detail two husky lumberjacks to keep the begging and pilfering Indians at a respectful distance.
One of the largest Indian villages in lumbering days and one of the last to vanish was that near Almena where the Indian burial ground is still pointed out.
For many years after the opening of Barron County the presence of these Indians was tolerated. Some of them being related to the lumbermen by marriage, for such prominent leaders as Capt. Andrew Tainter and John Quaderer, and others took brides of Indian blood.
But as the farms increased in number and acreage and there were more and more little isolated cabins in which women and children were left alone during the long winter months while the men folk were away working in the lumber camps, many of the whites considered it wise that the Indians be expelled.
The Indians were receiving annuity payments from the Government and were supposed to be civilized. But some were rapidly reverting to the most primitive conditions. The disregarded the game laws, and were rapidly ridding the country of the best game by fire hunting for deer in the summer time. These deer the Indians wantonly wasted, using only a little of the meat for food, but bartering the skins for whiskey, which, according to observers, was "drank by nearly all, regardless of age or sex." With the whiskey thus obtained the Indians held drunken orgies, during which several brutal murders of their own number took place. At these times they became bolder and threatened the whites.
As the result of such conditions, on Jan. 1, 1878, the county board memorialized Hon. Carl Schurz, Secretary of the Interior, asking that the Indians be removed to their reservation, both for their own benefit and to the advantage of Barron County. At that time there were but three voting Indians in the county and two being homesteaders and the other a freeholder.
This memorial to the Interior Department provoked a spirited controversy between the county board and I.L. Mahan, Indian Agent at Bayfield. The agent blamed the local authorities for not enforcing the liquor laws, and officially declared that "almost every man in Barron County is either a candidate for office or expects to be before he dies."
In time however, the bands were duly removed to the reservation, and as the heavy timbers were cut off the Indians disappeared, and their old hunting grounds, now converted into rich farms, know them no more.
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