An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
May 17, 2003 - Issue 87
The Dead Lake Sioux Band - Mrs. Jennie Fleming's Story
From the book 'History, Traditions and Adventures in the Chippewa Valley'
By William W. Bartlett
(Chapter 1 - The Sioux-Chippewa Feud - pages 59-61)
(The following reminiscences were secured from an old lady still living (in 1929) at Arkansas, Wisconsin.)
credits: submitted by Timm Severud (Ondamitag)
father, Jake McCourtie, moved up on the Chippewa River from Savannah,
Illinois, in the fall of 1854. In addition to my father and mother there
were five of us children, three boys and two girls. I was one of the girls
and was three years of age at the time. Our conveyances were a horse and
buggy and an oxen team with covered wagon. At what is now the city of
Eau Claire there was a small sawmill owned by Reed & Gage and at Eau
Galle, another owned by Carson & Rand. We crossed the Eau Galle River
near the mill.
was father's intention to go on to Reed's Landing and engage in the mercantile
business there. When he reached the lower end of Dead Lake Prairie he
found a Mr. Grant Smith and family there, the only white family in the
region. Father continued on about three miles to the upper end of the
prairie. Finding no road farther, only an Indian trail, he stopped there.
Two white men from the East were hunting and trapping there, and near
the shore of the lake had built a cabin, covered on the outside with the
skins of the animals they had killed. Small were the accommodations they
invited my father and our family to share it with them and soon after
left for the East, turning the cabin over to us.
stayed on there and the next spring father had his household goods brought
up from Savannah in a keelboat. Two years later he started a store at
Dead Lake and his stock of supplies was brought up in the same way. A
man by the name of Wash Sawyer, also from Savannah, made the staved shingles
for the store, and also for a dwelling house several years later. I well
remember seeing Sawyer make the shingles, shaving them with a drawshave.
Another man by the name of Henry Barber boarded at the McCourtie home
while he was putting in his crops and building a shack to live in. On
the completion of the shack he went east to his old home in New York and
came back with a bride.
this time another child had been born, my sister Elvira, now Mrs. Martin
of Arkansas. She was the first white child born on the Dead Lake Prairie.
Father was the second white settler there; Grant Stevens, already mentioned
being the first.
the completion of the house, our large family, with the addition of two
hired men, ten in all, lived in the small hunter's shack. At night the
beds were made on the floor, and in the morning the bedding was rolled
up and put away for the day. In spite of the crowded condition, my mother
kept everything scrupulously clean.
shack had been built close to the lake, and all the children, except the
youngest, were entirely at home in the water, swimming, diving or paddling
some years after father's arrival at Dead Lake there was a band of about
five hundred Sioux Indians living on the other end of the lake, who came
across in their canoes, to hunt the game, which was plentiful back among
the hills on our side of the lake. Unlike the Chippewas and some other
tribes who used birchbark canoes, those made by the Sioux were hallowed
out of a single log and were called 'dug outs.' After the Sioux hunter
had killed their game they would go home and the squaws would come over
and bring it in. The Sioux children would come over and they were our
principle playmates in those days.
one time a young Sioux Indian, about twenty-two years of age, was very
sick, and father went across the lake every day to take him some dainties
to eat, and once he took him some comfortable bedding. He was so grateful
that the tears rolled down his cheeks. His relatives, to show their gratitude,
presented father and mother each with a pair of finely beaded moccasins.
The disease had taken such hold of the young Indian that he died the following
winter. His body was taken on a hand sled to Wabasha, near where the principle
band of the Sioux was located. They went on the ice, all of the band from
Dead Lake following on foot. Such a wail they made! I shall never forget
the terror of it.
business consisted of the sale of general merchandise suited to that region
and also dealing in furs brought from the Indians. Some came from as far
away as Eau Claire to trade. The Indians were a rough and quarrelsome
lot but father had no trouble with them. In common with all trading places
in those days, whiskey was one of the articles sold. The Indians were
very fond of firewater, but knowing their failing, before beginning to
drink they would have to turn all their guns and other weapons over to
father to keep until they got sobered up after their spree.
chief, Saubermausher, by name, was a tall, heavyset man with a big mouth
and thick lips. I remember just how he looked, as I turned the grindstone
many times for the old chief to sharpen his tomahawk. He would take me
by the arm and lead me out to the grindstone. I would sometimes get very
tired but did not dare to stop until the grinding was done. He could see
that I was tired and would only laugh at me.
father had an experience that gave him a great scare. All the Indians,
several hundred of them, came to the store, picked out a large dry goods
box and set it in the open some distance from the building. They then
carried father out and set him on the box, after which all the male Indians
formed a circle around him. The chief then filled a long stemmed pipe,
lighted it, took a few puffs, passed it on to the next until all had smoked,
after which they passed it to father, and the pipe was later presented
to him. The ceremony was to show their friendliness to father but the
peace pipe ceremony was something new to him. The Indians only wished
to show their good will.
parties from the band would frequently go off to attack their old enemies
the Chippewa. Most of the fighting occurred up the Chippewa River, but
there were also encounters at Wabasha and below on the Mississippi. If
the war party won a victory, they would come back yelling and waving the
scalp taken, and with the finger nails of the slain Chippewas stung as
a necklace around their necks. If, on the other hand the Sioux were beaten,
they would come in so quietly that one would not know they arrived.
more white settlers came in and many of these did not like our Sioux neighbors.
One morning the Sioux found tacked up on a tree a rude picture of an Indian
with two bullet holes through the body. This was accepted by the Sioux
as a forcible reminder that they were not wanted, and very soon the entire
band left Dead Lake.
Saubermausher disappeared from the Chippewa and Mississippi region and
for some time we did not know what had become of him. We later heard that
he and many of his Band had taken part in the New Ulm Massacre that the
old Chief was hung and a number of his following either hanged or shot
by the militia.
addition to the head chief there was in the Dead Lake Band an under or
sub-chief known and Indian John. He was a much more pleasing character
than the head chief, Saubermausher. When the band left Dead Lake, Indian
John went to Maiden Rock on Lake Pepin, where he lived to over the age
was his custom every year, riding his spotted pony, to visit the old Sioux-Chippewa
battlegrounds on the Chippewa River. When I was about thirty years of
age, and married, Indian Joe called at my home on Dead Lake on his way
to Chippewa Falls. He knew me immediately and placed his hand on my head.
(My hair was red, a novelty to Indians.) He then pointed across the lake
to the site of their old camp.
Father's store building burned many years ago but the old residence building is still standing and is now occupied by Frank Latow.
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