How Jarrot Got His Name

by William D. Barge

“Although he was a Winnebago chief, Jarro had a French name which he acquired in a rather peculiar manner. Nicholas Jarrot, a native of France, lived in Cahokia from 1794 to 1823, and traded with the Indians on an extensive scale.”1

“Not long before the war of 1812, with Great Britain, the traders excited the Indians against the American population, and the American traders. Altho’ Major Jarrot was a Frenchman, yet he was carrying on his commerce under the American flag. It was the custom of the Indian traders to make the village of Prairie du Chien their main depot of goods, and carry such articles out to the Indian hunting grounds as the red skins needed. Jarrot took two men and some goods out from the village, some distance, to a large Indian camp. The Indians expected him, and were frantic with rage against him, because he was an American. This was effected by the British traders. The Indians were determined to kill him, and take his merchandize. Jarrot and his men were only armed with shotguns, expecting no enmity from the Indians. The warriors, to a considerable number, armed themselves for murder, and proceeded out of the camps to meet Jarrot. The Indians raised the war whoop, and brandished their spears and tomahawks in the air. It was approaching an alarming crisis. Jarrot and men, seemed to be doomed to destruction. The furious savages would not permit a parley; but at last, when the warriors were so near Jarrot, that it might be fatal with him, one of his old friends, a Winnebago Indian, stepped before the crowd of warriors, and raised a terrific war whoop, such as the Indians use in a battle, where they are sure to be destroyed. It is a kind of death cry, so called by them. The Indian was armed with all the weapons used by the infuriated savages in mortal conflict. The warriors saw the danger they were in. One or more of them must be slain by the friend of Jarrot, if they persisted in the attempt to murder him and party. The bravery of the Winnebago made them reflect, and they desisted from the cowardly act, to assassinate the trader. Jarrot and men were saved by the noble daring of this wild savage. The Indians changed his former name to that of Jarrot; and he was always known by that name afterwards. I saw this Indian, who was called Jarrot, at Galena, [Illinois,] in 1829.2

R. K. Lawton
The Jarrot Mansion in Cahokia

Commentary. "a Winnebago chief" — Jipson says that Jarrot's clan name was "Little Elk," a well known orator and chief. However, he concedes that Jarrot and Little Elk separately signed the Treaty of 1829,3 but concludes that there were two chiefs named "Little Elk." Whether or not Jarrot was named "Little Elk," he was not identical with the famous chief of that name.

"Nicholas Jarrot" — Rueben Gold Thwaite gives us a sketch: "Nicolas Jarrot was a native of France, whence he emigrated N. America during the early part of the Revolution. Landing at Baltimore he visited various parts of the United Stairs, finally settling in 1794 at Cahokia. There he embarked in the fur-trade on the upper Mississippi, and had large dealings at Prairie du Chien, where Pike found him in 1806. During the War of 1812-15, Jarrot was pro-American and aided Boilvin in rallying the inhabitants for the United States; see Wis. Hist. Colls., xi, pp. 290, 295. He made his home in Cahokia, where he had a fine house and was magistrate for St. Clair County. He died there in 1823, leaving a large fortune."4

"where they are sure to be destroyed" — in Hocąk, such a person is called a hot’ų, "one who throws away [his life]." The word can generally mean, "warrior," but more specifically it denotes the Hocąk devotio or kamakazee, a warrior who pledges to give up his life by attacking the enemy in battle until they slay him.

Links: ...

Stories: about Chief Jarrot: Jerrot's Temperance Pledge — A Poem, Jarrot's Aborted Raid, Jarrot and His Friends Saved from Starvation; mentioning traders: Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store, Migistéga’s Magic, Soft Shelled Turtle Gets Married, Turtle and the Merchant, Brawl in Omro, The Chief Who Shot His Own Daughter, The Tavern Visit, Origin of the Hocąk Name for "Chicago"; about famous Hocąk warriors and warleaders: How Little Priest went out as a Soldier, Little Priest's Game, The Masaxe War (Hogimasąga), Wazųka, Great Walker's Warpath (Great Walker), Great Walker's Medicine (Great Walker, Smoke Walker, Dog Head, Small Snake), Šųgepaga (Dog Head), The Warbundle Maker (Dog Head), Black Otter's Warpath (Dog Head, Black Otter), The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hocągara (Smoke Walker, Dog Head, Small Snake), Big Thunder Teaches Cap’ósgaga the Warpath (Big Thunder, Cap’ósgaga), The Osage Massacre (Big Thunder, Cap’ósgaga), The Fox-Hocąk War (Cap’ósgaga), The Origin of Big Canoe's Name, White Thunder's Warpath, Four Legs, The Man who Fought against Forty (Mącosepka), Yellow Thunder and the Lore of Lost Canyon, The Hills of La Crosse (Yellow Thunder), The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, Fighting Retreat, Mitchell Red Cloud, jr. Wins the Medal of Honor (Mitchell Red Cloud, jr.), Jerrot's Temperance Pledge — A Poem, Jarrot's Aborted Raid, Jarrot and His Friends Saved from Starvation, They Owe a Bullet (Pawnee Shooter); mentioning the French: Introduction, The Fox-Hocąk War, First Contact, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hocągara, The Annihilation of the Hocągara I (v. 2), A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Gatschet's Hocank hit’e, The Cosmic Ages of the Hocągara, Turtle and the Merchant; mentioning Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin (Niucjeja): The Chief Who Shot His Own Daughter, Oto Origins, Run for Your Life, Yellow Thunder and the Lore of Lost Canyon, Gottschall: Debate and Discussion; occurring in Illinois: The Waterspirit of Rock River, Jerrot's Temperance Pledge — A Poem, Jarrot's Aborted Raid, Jarrot and His Friends Saved from Starvation, The Shrewd Winnebagoes of Dixon’s Crossing, Xųnųnį́ka, First Contact (v. 2), Witches.


1 William D. Barge, Early Lee County, Being Some Chapters in the History of the Early Days in Lee County, Illinois (Chicago: Barnard and Miller, Printers, 1918) 76-77.

2 John Reynolds, The Pioneer History of Illinois: Containing the Discovery, in 1673, and the History of the Country to the Year Eighteen Hundred and Eighteen, when the State Government was Organized (Belleville: N. A. Randall, 1852) 176-177.

3 Norton William Jipson, The Story of the Winnebagoes (Chicago: Chicago Historical Society [unpublished], 1924) 246. Nancy Oestreich Lurie, "A Check List of Treaty Signers by Clan Affiliation," Journal of the Wisconsin Indians Research Institute, 2, #1 (June, 1966): 50-73 [#19, p. 56 (Little Elk); #59, p. 63 (Jarrot)].

4 Rueben Gold Thwaites, Wisconsin Historical Collections, XIX (1910): 344-345, nt. 84.