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July 2, 1921


  The next morning we started on our way and reached the head of Lake Pepin in the evening and began preparations for the tedious trip through it, using the same operations as in Lake St. Croix.  At what is now Red Wing, some five miles above the head of the lake, we passed a large Indian village of the Sioux tribe.  They were of a mean and treacherous nature and as they swarmed aboard the raft it required our constant watching to prevent their carrying off everything movable.  A man named Doe conducted a mission there and, like the majority of those self sacrificing men, he seemed to have an influence for good over the savages.

  In the morning w started dropping the anchor and pulling in the line with our two rafts coupled together.  We were compelled to stop at the first sand point as the up stream wind proved too much for us.  We lay under a high bluff the upper part of which was a perpendicular cliff, with an easy slope to the east of the cliff.  Some of the boys went up the slope and when they reached the rocks found some caves that proved to be the winter quarters of snakes that were evidently just coming out and before they realized they were almost surrounded by the reptiles of which they killed a great number, if we could believe their story.  We called the place Rattlesnake bluff, which name it still bears.  Next morning we started with what is known to river men as Point No Point as our objective.  This is as its name indicates, no point at all but a round headland on the right bank jutting out into the lake and looking at a distance like a sharp point. It did not seem so very far away, but as we followed the shore line, which is circular, it proved to be a long distance and when we reached it the wind compelled us to remain there two or three days.  At this place there lived an old soldier named Wells, who was a veteran in the regular arm and went there after his discharge at Ft. Snelling at the close of the Black Hawk war some years before.  He had an Indian wife and was living on what was set aside by the Government as a half breed reservation a tract some twenty-four miles square.  I went to his house and made his acquaintance, which was renewed in later years.  While here some of the crew went hunting and fishing with him and there I got my first taste of brook trout.

  Our next run was to Central Point, where Lake City is now located, having in the meantime to go well out into the lake to get around a low sandy point known as La sol.  With no further trouble or delay we reached the foot of Lake Pepin, separated our rafts and resumed our trip.  Below what is now Wabasha and between grand Encampment and the mouth of Beef slough the river is divided into several channels by so called Twin Islands.”  We took what we thought was the main channel, judging simply by the eye that the widest ought  to be the right one, but it proved to be wrong and we were soon in trouble.  The river was falling and this increased our difficulty.  The first raft got fast and as the other came by it pulled part of the first off in the remainder of the day in getting the balance of our first raft loose.  We succeeded without serious difficulty and next day reached what is now Winona, then Wabashaw prairie and a wilderness.  This was Chief Wabashaws’s village and again the Indians swarmed all over us threatening almost to carry away the raft itself.

  Next day we went along nicely until we stuck fast on Trempealeau island and when we got off and squared around it was too late to go further.  Next day we ran down to Coon slough, passing another Indian village on the location of the present city of La Crosse, Knowing there was a bad piece of river ahead we divided each raft into two parts and fortunately got through without any trouble and put our rafts together again after we got through Coon slough.  We ran Bad Axe bend with our whole rafts and at evening brought up at Crooked slough where we again divided into rafts.  This piece of river for four or five miles is much like Coon slough but the water is not so swift and a raft is much easier handled. 

  Getting ourselves together again, after running Crooked Slough, we found a nice river for some distance even down to the high bluffs on the Iowa shore.  These we followed a few miles, then drifted to the east and in a short time landed at Prairie du Chien.  Here we remained a short time and stocked up on supplies as this was the first place since we left the mill at St. Croix where we could get white man’s grub.  There were a number of trading posts en route but there was not much in them that we could use.  This was the place where we had in supplies last fall when starting on our long trip with the stock

  The day after leaving Prairie du Chien we ran to fifteen Mile Point, now known as Buena Vista, a very good day’s run.  The Wisconsin river was high which gave us a good stage of water in the Mississippi.  Next day we made a fine run and tied up at Nine Mile Island, below Dubuque.  The following day we ran to what is known as Dark slough, some six miles below the present village of Sabula, and the close of the next day found us safely landed at le Claire, Iowa, where we began preparation for the perilous trip over the upper Rapids.  Here I will mention that as we passed Albany I went ashore for a few moments to see the folks.  The first to see and recognize me was the old dog, he being on the bank as I jumped ashore.  I never received a more genuine and hearty welcome in my life.  He was overjoyed and jumped and capered and whined in the most extravagant fashion to express his doggish happiness at my return.

  Next morning which was the tenth one after leaving the foot of Lake Pepin, we engaged rapids pilot suitor and his son and split one of our rafts, putting both crews on the two piece and made the trip over safely in about a half a day.  We landed at Rock Island, crossed the river at Davenport ferry, walked back to Le Claire, eighteen miles, in the afternoon and took the second raft over safely the next forenoon and tied up at Moorehouse’s Landing that night, a place some ten miles below the present village of Buffalo, Iowa.  Next night we tied up a Point Louisa and the net day was the 4th of July as I distinctly remember that the day was being celebrated as we passed New Boston.  That night we landed about a mile and a half below Burlington, then a small village, with no hint of the present city.

  On the evening of July 5th we tied up at Montrose and prepared to make the run over the lower, or Des Moines as they are also called, rapids.  This piece of rapid water is twelve miles in length but the fall is not as great as at the upper rapids.  We took our rapids pilots next morning went over safely and landed for the night at Tulley’s landing a little above the present town of Canton, Mo.

  The next day Lone Tree bar, at Cottonwood island, about half way between La Grange and Quincy claimed our attention for a time, but the delay was not very long and that night we tied up at Saverton, some ten miles below Hannibal, next day’s run took us to about two miles above Hamburg at the mouth of Suy slough.  The next day’s journey brought us to the junction of the Illinois river with the Mississippi.  Next day we reached Hap Hollow, not over half a day’s run as at Eagle Island, in what is called the “S” The name being sufficient to indicate the crookedness of the channel, we stuck one raft and it took us a couple of days to get in shape again and as we were near Alton, get ready for the final run of the rafts in small pieces into St. Louis.  The next day after we had the rafts prepared for the final run we took one raft in two pieces, a full raft crew on each piece, into St. Louis will out mishap and the following day we delivered the other raft in the same manner, landing both rafts at the old market, just below Steamboat levee and the Wiggins ferry.


Collected and Transcribed by

Georgeann McClure


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