It is only known by two or three people
who are living today that there is a battle field ground within five or
six miles of Fairchild which ought to be recognized or located by some
kind of a mark or monument and a name given to it before the last man who
could locate it is dead. It took place in the fall of 1863, forty-five
years ago and I will here give my own personal knowledge and what was told
to me by those who were personally engaged in the fight.
When I was a boy I knew an old hunter by the name
of Moses Scott and when I was with the 20th Reg. of Wis. Vols stationed
at Springfield, Missouri, I got a letter from Mr. Scott stating that he
had moved to Jackson County, Wisconsin and had located on a little creek
in the north end of the county and the country was in every way equal to
the happy hunting ground where the Indians are all going to when they die.
He had named this creek Scott's Creek. There was a great wilderness
of pine timber reaching to Lake Michigan on the east and to Lake Superior
on the north, which was, totally uninhabited excepting by logging companies
on the large rivers.
To make a long story short, my wife and little daughter,
with a team and wagon and all necessary camp equipments for camping landed
at old Moses Scott's on the 21st day of July 1 863. The next morning
Old Moses took me down the creek about four miles to where Scott's Creek
and Flick's Creek come together, making what was called Koon Creek and
Flick's Creek come together, making what was called Koon Fork at that time.
Black Creek lost its name then when it reached Flick's Creek.
Well the next morning July 23rd., 1863, old Moses Scott
and his son, Aaron, and myself took our axes and commenced clearing out
a wagon route through to the forks of the creek. After eight days
work for each of us, we had a wagon route cut through the dark pine woods
to Koon Fork. Well then I hitched my team to the wagon, piled in
all my camp equipments and with my wife and little girl we drove down to
the fork of the creek and camped on the bank in the open air that night,
but the deer and bears tearing through the brush and the beavers pounding
their flat tails on the water, with the howl of the wolves and the continual
hoot of hundreds of owls, made it impossible to sleep so I stayed up and
kept a fire burning brightly all night.
Next day we put up a tent and then went to cutting pine
logs for a house and I soon had a comfortable log cabin which I made warm---size
12 x 16 feet which was a palace royal to me. I had peace, liberty
and happiness--what more could a man want? O, wealth--you say--well
my friends you are mistaken. I never kept myself awake at night studying
how to get rich. I got all the necessities of life by hunting trapping
and tanning skins which with the excitement of the chase and the exercise
necessary in that manner of life, I felt well and happy. Yes, they
were my happiest days but I can't call them back. Time once past
never returns; the moment which is lost is lost forever.
Well we got our little log cabin all finished up, warm
and comfortable, all ready for winter the last day of September and on
the morning of October 1st., I took my gun and after crossing the creek
on an old pine log, I started in a direction a little north of east and
kept in that direction about three miles when I came to what I afterwards
named The Upper Pond on Horse Creek.
When I reached the pond it was dark, cloudy and pouring
rain so I returned to camp and on my way to the pond and return I saw forty-five
deer and was only out about three hours. By that you can get some
idea how plentiful deer were at that time. I then went to work making
pole traps for catching mink so as to be ready when the trapping season
came on which was about the 20th of October so I spent my time hunting
and tanning skins until the trapping season so all was quiet for a couple
of weeks. Not the report of a gun heard in the woods excepting my
own gun so I had it all to myself until about the 20th of October.
Then one morning while my wife and I were eating breakfast we heard a number
of shots fired off toward the east and north east in my hunting ground.
They sounded like old U.S. muskets and I knew it was Indians but after
breakfast I went hunting as usual off toward Horse Creek.
I had gone about a mile when I heard four or five shots
near by and in a moment three deer came running toward me and stopped within
ten paces of me. I had my rifle ready and sent a ball through the
foremost one. It ran about fifty yards and fell dead so I walked
toward it but heard something crushing the dry leaves and in a moment an
Indian came out of the brush and walked up to my deer and laid his gun
on it. When I came up I told him that I had killed the deer and that
it was mine but he said "No, me kill 'em". I took hold of one of
its legs and started to drag it, then he gave a shrill whistle on a piece
of hollow buckhorn and in a moment I heard a half a dozen answering whistles
and a moment later six more big savage looking Indians--from every appearance
of the Sioux tribe--were there. One big fellow fully seven feet tall
motioned me with his hand and said "go back" but I did not start immediately
so he set his gun against the tree and drew a savage looking tomahawk out
of his belt with a handle two and half feet long and started for me.
Well of course as you all know I could have shot him but some of the others
would have shot me so under the circumstances just at that time I felt
like the Irishman who said he would rather be a living coward than a dead
hero, so I turned around and started for home feeling like the underdog
in a fight.
I had gone about half a mile or three quarters when a deer
came running by which I shot and killed. I dragged the deer a couple
of hundred yards, got it behind some old pine roots and as the deer was
heavy to drag on the naked ground, I hung it up, being too tired to take
it to camp that night. I left it hanging there with the intention
of bringing it into camp next morning. In the morning as soon as
it was daylight I started out after my deer, thinking to get there before
the Indians found it but when I got to where I hung the deer, I found the
legs and head lying on a log but the deer was gone. Well I cannot
here express my feelings; to say that I was mad would be a very tame word.
At that moment I would have fought the seven savages with a will, single-handed.
Just then I looked up on the side of a hill to the north
of where I stood and saw a dark object move behind a big pine tree, then
I saw the muzzle of a gun poking toward me. Involuntarily I sprang
to the right just in time to feel the wind from a passing ball on the side
of my face and heard it crash into a tree close to my head. I whirled
my gun in a position for defense but when I looked toward the tree I saw
no sign of the Indian so I thought he was behind the tree loading his gun
and I had no time to fool away. I ran up to the tree that he had
fired from but no Indian was there, then I knew that he had kept a big
pine tree between him and me until he got over the hill so I ran to the
top of the hill just in time to see him jump over a big pine log and drop
down out of sight. I ran to a pine tree about seventy-five yards
from the log that he was behind, then I saw him peek over the log just
as I reached the pine tree.
Nearby was a large pine tree that had been blown down by
some large windstorm. The roots of the old tree were sticking up
making a good hiding place. In a moment I saw his ramrod come up
above the log and I knew that he was pushing a ball into his gun.
Taking advantage of that moment, I sprang up behind the old tree roots
above spoken of and very soon I saw him poke the muzzle of his gun up on
to the log, then his head came in sight so I could see his black eyes.
He was watching the tree that he saw me stop at, waiting for me to poke
my head out from behind the tree. While he was thus engaged I was
taking deliberate aim at his ugly head. Then two reports of rifles--two
puffs of smoke and a dead Indian. His sudden exit to the happy hunting
ground caused his gun to fire almost at the same time that mine did.
Knowing that his gun was empty I threw another cartridge into my Spencer
rifle and keeping an eye out for other Indians that might be prowling around,
I walked down the hill to the old log and there lay the same old fury that
had drawn his tomahawk on me. He was as dead as a last year's snake
skin. I took his gun and hid it under a log about twenty rods away
and then started for home and as I went along I said to myself "Old boy,
you have gotten your foot in it. Those other seven devils will be
after you so you will have to get out of the woods."
"When I got near home I saw a horse tied to a tree near
the house and when I got to the house I found old Moses Scott there.
He said he had met Jack Wrand who had told him that a Winnebago Indian
and two white men had just located a band of seven Sioux Indians and a
renegade white man who had murdered a number of families--women and children--and
taken their scalps and two of the white men and the Winnebago Indian who
had had their families murdered had been on the trail since Minnesota of
the murderers for two weeks and had just located them on Dry Run only one
mile and half from my camp and that old Jack Rand and Tom Hunt and Jacob
Flick, David Powell, all noted hunters and Indian fighters, were to meet
at my house that night also the two white men and the Indians whose families
had been murdered by the band--making eight men, not counting Old Moses
Scott who had been a great hunter in his time but was sixty-five years
old then. When Mr. Scott told me what was coming my wife and I filled
a couple of kettles with venison and put them over the fire in order to
prepare supper for the giants when they came.
Jack Wrand was six feet four inches tall and properly proportioned,
Tom Hunt was the same height and weighed two hundred pounds, Jacob Flick
and David Powell were both six feet and each weighed about one hundred
and eighty pounds and all were extremely strong and active. Any of
them would handle a deer with about the same ease that I would handle a
rabbit. Old Mr. Scott was six feet tall and weighed two hundred and
twenty-five pounds. Gishconia, the Winnebago Indian trailer who tracked
the band of murderers to earth, was a small man but cunning as the old
devil himself, also the two white men who accompanied him were both slender
built men. Well just as it began to grow dark they all came--supper
was ready so they were soon all seated around the table which was a large
pine log which was lying near the door.
After supper we changed our table into a seat for
the crowd, then they filled their pipes and listened to old Mr. Scott and
Jack Wrand telling blood curdling and hair raising stories of wild adventure
until nine o'clock. Then they all started, the Indian trailer taking
the lead. My wife and I stayed up until 11 o'clock and all being
quiet we laid down to rest. I must have gone to sleep immediately,
the next thing I knew my wife gave me a push with her hand and said, "listen".
I raised up on my elbow and just then I heard a regular fusillade of shots
fired in quick succession--forty or fifty shots fired in less than a minute,
then all was quiet as death--not a sound of any kind--even the owls were
so frightened at the report of the guns that they ceased to hoot, then
we got up and started a fire and began getting breakfast ready for the
men when they returned.
About sunrise we saw old Moses Scott, Jack Wrand, Tom Hunt, Jacob
Flick, David Powell coming. The Indian trailer, Gishconia, the two
white men whose families had been murdered were not in sight so I asked
Mr. Scott if they had been killed in the fight and he said worse than that,
they have got the scalps of their wives and children and the two white
men who are Norwegians, are just crying their eyes out over the horrible
and heart breaking sight. I told him to say nothing about the scalps
so my wife could hear it, then I walked down the creek and met the bereaved
party coming slowly along with tears running down their faces--perfectly
heart broken. I told them to compose themselves as well as they could
and say nothing about the scalps as it would frighten my wife. "Oh,
my God, my God" one of them said, just to think that we came clear from
Norway to get us homes and now oh merciful Heaven, what will home be to
us now!" The abomination of desolation! The poor and then let
them rest until that great day when they would meet again where cruel death
could not part them.
After breakfast I asked Jack Wrand if they had killed
all the Indians and he said no that one of the Indians had got away.
Gishconia said there were seven Indians and one white man and they only
found six Indians and the white devil that was with them. The Indian
who made his escape had taken Gishconia's gun that he had left in the wigwam
when they murdered his family so I said nothing until they all got through
smoking their pipes, then I asked Gishconia to describe his gun to me.
I said I had found a gun the day before which was the 26th day of October.
When he gave me the description of his gun, I knew at once that I could
produce his lost gun. Another thing he said the escaped Indian had
with him was a strip of red flannel about four inches wide that they had
taken from his squaw which was the very thing that Gishconia tracked them
by. Every place they stopped to get something to eat people noticed
that one of the Indians had a strip of red flannel tied around his waist
so that strip of red flannel and the white man's boot heel were the main
clues for running them to earth.
After they all rested about an hour and got through smoking,
I told Gishconia that I saw a gun that filled the description of his gun
lying by a dead Indian the day before and if he would go with me I would
show it to him. When the men heard that they all wanted to go so
they got their guns in readiness and we started. Four of them had
twelve shot Henry rifles and the others had double barrelled rifles (the
Winchester improvement was not made until three years later). It
is an improvement on the Henry rifle and was first patented in 1866.
Well in less than an hour we came to the log where I hid the gun and sure
enough it was the gun that the murderers had taken from Gishconia's wigwam.
Then they all wanted to see the dead Indian and we went on to where the
dead Indian lay and sure enough he had the strip of red flannel tied around
his waist, so the last of the band of murderers was wiped out of existence.
After viewing the monstrous savage awhile, we all
went back to my little log cabin and talked, rested, smoked and ate venison
until next morning, then Gishconia went to Old White Deer's camp and the
two poor broken hearted Norwegians started for the wrecked homes on the
west side of St. Croix river in Minnesota. Moses Scott and Jacob
Flick requested all the men to say nothing about the battle with the Indians
as it would frighten the women and children so that a man would not dare
leave them along while he went out hunting and the early settlers who had
no money had to get a large part of their living by hunting the wild game
so the only thing I ever told to anyone about it was that I found a couple
of dead Indians that the eagles and ravens had made skeletons of.
As all danger of frightening women and children has
long since gone by, I will write the story, giving all the particulars
truthfully just as it took place. Myself and perhaps Gishconia are
the only ones who knew anything about it who are living now. Old
Moses Scott dies about the last of the 60s and was buried on his own land,
later called the MacClaren farm lying just south of Fairchild. Jacob
Flick was shot and killed by a young man mistaking him for a deer.
David Powell went to Texas and died on his way back to Wisconsin.
Jack Wrand went to the Black Hills and got into a fight with grizzly bears
and bears and was badly hurt and died soon afterwards, so I heard.
John Flick who is the son of Jacob Flick told me
that old Tom Hunt was also dead, leaving only myself unless Gishconia is
living yet who knew anything about the above described fight with the Indians.
A great many bands of Sioux Indians after they had made a raid on the white
settlers in Minnesota would cross the St. Croix River and hide in the Wisconsin
pinery and pass for Winnebagoes or Chippewas in order to escape the vengeance
of the infuriated white men whose families had been so brutally murdered
and scalped by them. History shows that nine hundred families were
murdered and scalped by the Sioux Indians between 1857 and 1877.
The next fall there was a great forest fire killing a great deal of pine
timber. After the fire I visited the battle ground but found nothing
but a couple of Indians skulls almost eaten up by the squirrels.
I suppose that it is only known by old hunters that the squirrels eat all
the bones and deer's horns that they find in the woods. Make a hole
in a buck's horn and nail it fast to an old log this fall and next fall
you will find that it has been eaten by the squirrels. The male deer
all shed their horns every winter but you hardly ever find any of them
because the squirrels have eaten them.
In the fall of 1864 Andrew Mechem took a homestead
and built a log house just across the street west of where the Charles
Foster house now stands and James Hobart and myself are the only living
men that I know of that helped to build the first house that ever was erected
in Fairchild. All was quiet and I continued hunting and trapping
until the fall of 1870, then the railroad was built through to Augusta
and Fairchild was made from the dust of the earth. and the wilderness began
to bloom as the rose, but there were thorns on that blooming rose for every
rose has a thorn.
Saw mills soon made their appearance and the lofty pines and the wild
deer began to disappear and everything was changed in a short time.
I gave up my wild career and now at the age of seventy-six years, I am
living peacefully in a home of my own in the little city of Fairchild,
Wis. and my daughter is keeping house for me. My father and mother
are sleeping side by side in their last earthly resting place. My
faithful wife and I lived together fifty-two years. then at the age of
seventy-two she passed to the great beyond and with her death all the brightness
finally faded from my sight and I feel like General Jackson did on his
deathbed. The attending minister asked him if he was prepared for
Heaven and his answer was, "I am prepared to go wherever my wife is.
If I go to Heaven and she is not there, it will be hell to me, and if I
go to hell and she is there, it will be Heaven to me." So his last
and strongest earthly desire was to meet his wife beyond the grave.
My wife never got over the fright caused by the Missouri mob.
Well my dear readers you want to know what became
of Old Mage--well he lived until he was ninety years old, then he died.
Old Jack Crea (Buckskin Jack) is living yet, but is 88 years old but he
can bring a squirrel from the top of a tall tree with a rifle yet.
Now my dear readers I will bid you good-bye and step
down and out. Hoping to meet you all on the other shore.
JOHN H. SMITH
An old soldier of Company B 20th Reg Wis. Vol. Considerable
time has passed since this was written. I am now in my 88th year
and live in the little city of Lynden, Washington, September 23, 1919.
John H. Smith