Chief Oshkosh

Biography of Chief Oshkosh

Chief Oshkosh
Chief Oshkosh

The Indian boy claimed as the lost child of the Partridges was a Menomonee. The speech made by Oshkosh, head chief in 1855, to the editor of the Milwaukee Sentinel and interpreted by Mr. Robert Gringos and Mr. William Johnson, was as follows: “It was at the payment at Lake Pouwaygan, made by Colonel Jones, that this boy was born. I then lived on the Wisconsin river and was notified to come to the payment with my tribe. The roll had all been made up, and the payment was to be made the next day. During the night this boy was born. I was told of it in the morning, and asked Colonel Jones to put his name on the roll. The colonel said it could not be, but if the chiefs were all willing the child should have his share. They were all willing. The boy’s share was given to me, and I gave it to his mother. It is the truth I am telling.”

The Partridges lived in Vinland. They lost the boy. Having discovered this boy among the Menomonee they claimed it, and a trial was had before Commissioner Buttrick in Oshkosh who decided in favor of the Indian mother Sabah Kom, but the child was taken from the sheriff by Partridge friends and after two years was recovered by the Indian agent down in Indiana and brought to Milwaukee, where before proper legal steps could be had, the Partridges smuggled the child out of jail and he grew up among the whites.

The boy might resemble his white neighbors, as the Menomonee are a fine appearing people. Cadillac says. of them many years ago, that “the men are very white, and the women also rather pretty and more gentle than those of other tribes.”

“There is no nation in which the men are so well built, or have so good figures as this one.” It was Charlevoix, who said of them, they are “fine looking men, among the most shapely in Canada and taller than the Pottawattamie.”

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The Menomonee Indians have resided since first discovered by white men, and still reside between the Wolf river and Green Bay or Fox river. Nicolet, Allouez, Andre and Marquette all met them on the western shore of Green Bay. They advised Marquette not to visit the southern tribes as they were ferocious and would kill strangers and there were demons that would devour him. Before this they had promised to furnish him with a canoe for the voyage. They are reported to have four women to every man, to be good natured, not keen of intellect, selfish and avaricious, but brave warriors, and do not steal or lie. They were great canoe men and fished sturgeon with a spear. Their language was Ojibwa, but they had a secret language of their own besides.

Their war parties traveled far. They aided the French at the battle of Detroit against the Fox and Mascoutins; joined Charles De Langlade in his journey to Fort Du Quesne, where they ambushed and killed Braddock on the Monongahela; and were with Langlade fighting under the banner of France when Montcalm fell before the plains of Abraham. And they fought under the “Bravest of the brave,” in Burgoyne’s invasion and at Bennington. They refused to join Pontiac’s conspiracy, but Old Carron, the head chief, guarded and conducted the English garrison safely away from the post at Green. Bay, for which service he had a medal.

Two centuries ago they were said to number but eighty warriors, or 400 people, and since have grown to upwards of 4,000 people. In 1820 when the New York Indians, under Eleazer Williams’ guidance, made a visit to Green Bay to treat with the Menomonee for lands, that tribe claimed to possess a good portion of northern Wisconsin, which they could not have made good as against the Winnebago and Chippewa. But they pretended to sell the New York Indians a joint right to a five mile strip of many miles in length, which, however, was never occupied by them, nor conceded by the government.

The Menomonee and Fox and Sacs were friends on Green Bay and the lower Fox river, but about seventy-five years ago or earlier some Menomonee joined the Prairie du Chien and killed their chief, Kettle. Soon after, the ‘Menomonee being all very drunk in their camp on an island in the river near Prairie du Chien, the Foxes fell on them and killed great numbers before being driven away.

After the Americans maintained an army post at Prairie du Chien, which was after the war of 1812, the Menomonee often visited there and frequently wintered on the Mississippi river.

In 1836 such a band was visiting there, when in a drunken fray a Menomonee had killed a Winnebago. By the savage law he must either be given up or his life must be taken by his own tribe. A council was held and instead of the Menomonee the chief of the tribe offered them whiskey. The Winnebago could not resist the temptation and ten gallons of whiskey was produced which was drank by all the parties over the grave. The first Menomonee chief mentioned was Kioulouskoio, in 1695, since which time numerous celebrated names have sprung up in the tribe, eight or ten holding sway at the same time.

The old king bore up for nearly a hundred years, the name of Clia Kau Cho Ka ma. He was the grandfather of Oshkosh “the brave,” and Osh Ka He Now Niew his brother, called “the young man,” who was born in 1806.

Lawson, Publius V. Story of Oshkosh, his tribe and fellow chiefs. Self Published.

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