Old Times on the Upper Mississippi: Recollections of a Steamboat Pilot from 1854-1863

By George Byron Merrick | Go to book overview

Chapter II
Indians, Dugouts, and Wolves

In that early day when my acquaintance with the Mississippi began, Indians were numerous. Their dugouts lay at the levee by the dozen, the hunters retailing the ducks and geese, or venison and bear meat, which had fallen to their guns, while the squaws peddled catfish and pickerel that had been ensnared on the hooks and lines of the women and children of the party.

Situated as Prescott was at the junction of the St. Croix with the Mississippi, its citizens were favored with visits both from the Chippewa, who hunted and fished along the former stream and its tributaries in Wisconsin, and the Sioux, who made the bottom lands on the Minnesota side of the river, between Hastings and Red Wing, their home and hunting ground. This was the boundary line which had existed for a hundred years or more; although the Sioux (or Dakota) laid claim to many thousand square miles of hunting grounds in Wisconsin, for which they actually received a million and a half dollars when they quitclaimed it to the United States. Their claim to any lands on the east side of the river had been disputed by the Chippewa from time out of mind; and these rival claims had occasionally been, as we have seen, referred to the only court of arbitration which the Indians recognized—that of the tomahawk and scalping knife.

As a boy I have spent many an hour searching in the sands at the foot of the bluffs below Prescott, for arrowheads, rusted remnants of knives and hatchets, and for the well-preserved brass nails with which the stocks and butts of old-time trade muskets were plentifully ornamented. Just how many years ago that battle had been fought, does not appear to be a matter of historical record. That it was fiercely contested, is abundantly proven by the great amount of wreckage of the fight which the white lads

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