Jerrot's Temperance Pledge — A Poem

by H. E. Underwood


The sun that shines so brightly down
This day, upon our pleasant town.
Some sixty years ago had seen
The first white settler on our green;
"Nachusa," as the Indians said,
Or, "man with white hair on his head,"
Then stood upon our river's banks,
First pioneer among the ranks
Of those who to Rock Valley came,
To make themselves a Western name.

Rock River courses in beauty there
Around its lovely Islands rare.
Although no bridge its breadth did span;
The daily sun in splendor died.
To rise again in all its pride,
But only shone on prairie land
Untilled by any white man's hand;
The Winnebago Indians stood
Possessed of Dixon's plains and woods,
Although this country had been sold
To Government for trade and gold.

Thus, scarcely had the white man come.
To find a cabin roof his home,
When an old Chief and part his band,
Around Nachusa's hearth did stand.
And queried, in the red man's way,
If he "had come to go or stay?"
Owanica, his Indian name;
Old Jarro, to our men, the same;
He, the Pottawatomie language knew,
And, as Nachusa spoke it too.
They talked, and Jarro's men stood still,
While he interpreted at will;
And for their questioning glances, sought
The whiskey which the white man brought.


Nachusa sternly shook his head,
"No whiskey had he brought," he said;
"And would not buy or keep it there?"
Old Jarro asked, wnile scowled his men,
"If he would get some they'd be glad,
It not 'twas bad 'twas very bad."

Nachusa saw and quickly then,
He took to Jarro and his men
Both flour and corn, and many things
Which only white to red man brings;
And as the lowering brows gave way,
He bade them call another day;
And this on every day was done,
Until old Jarro called alone;
With such good food, his appetite
Was scarce appeased from morn 'till night;

And always did the white man tell
Of whiskey, and its curse as well,
Persuading him each day and hour,
To free him from its evil power;
And so the Chief proclaimed that he
Was temperate, in Thirty-Three
Declaring that himself and men,
Should never be found drunk again;
And this a "Temperance Pledge" became.
Before this town was built or named.

Some time had passed when Jarro went
To make a grieved and sad lament;
"Two warriors at Galena bought
The whiskey which the Indians sought.
And on the island, near the dam,
Were many drinking, and he ran
To tell their names Nachusa must
Treat them with scorn and so be just."

Two days' and nights' carousal high.
And then the leading man drew nigh.
Holding his hand in friendly token,
As though no temperance pledge was broken,
Amazement in his face to trace
The anger in Nachusa's face,
As, with arms crossed upon his breast.
Nachusa stood in Quiet rest,
Or backward drew, as the red man
His questioning dialogue began.


"Why was he angry? it was not he
Who any wrong had done nor he";
"Stop" said Nachusa, do not lie,
I know the reasons all, and why";
And beckoning him away, told cause
Of all his anger bade him pause,
"He would not see nor speak to him
Without severest reckoning;
For he was mad was very mad
If red man drank would not be glad."

The warrior stopped and looking sad
Inquired "how long he would be mad?"
"Until next moon? that was too long;"
But fixedly was the white man strong,
And sternly bade him give it up,
The fatal, poisonous, whiskey cup,
"Or cling to drink and never more
Seek out his face or pass his door."
Rock River's waters, coldly blue,
Beheld the stormy interview.

Eleven days after, in the light
That shuts out day and takes in night.
Just as the full moon's silvery sheen
Was trailing o'er the prairies green.
The Indian in the gloaming stood,
With hands held out in gracious mood;
Nachusa to the erring ran
Made happy signs of friendly man,
And thus the second pledge was made,
Which lasted while old Jarro stayed.

Nachusa told inquirers then,
He lived before the "Old Wolfs Den."
Across the waters dark and blue,
For thus they all the country knew;
The Old Wolf's Den, on North Side bluff,
Where, though the climbing may be rough,
The earliest and sweetest flowers grow,
From which our stranger friends are shown;
The town and finest elm tree known.

Nachusa smoked the pipe of peace
Though not from Indian theft released;
So, with the tribe, when payment came
For these same lands, he went to claim
The specie for a missing cow


And horse that wandered (none knew how)
To Winnebago Fort, where Captain Lowe
With kindly inquiries pressed him so,
Nachusa told of Jarro's weal.
And of his temperance work and zeal.

The Captain laughed, sarcastic peals
Which tells the hearer what one feels;
Recalling all the friendly aid
To ragged, drinking Jarro made,
Declared that "he knew Indians well,
And so could for a surety tell,
That Jarro, if a chance he got.
Would prove the most degraded sot;"

And turning to the sutler's store;
Beckoned the chief within the door,
And in a pleasant, friendly way
Asked him some questions as he stayed;
The while he filled a large tin cup.
And said the Chief should take a sup.

Old Jarro thanked him kindly then,
But said he "feared the great white man,
And so would take the whiskey out
And watch his chance, for thereabouts,
(The Captain he would understand)
Nachusa stood with threatening hand."

The Captain for the Fort had left.
When Jarro to Nachusa crept.
And telling all the doubtful story.
With Indian haughtiness and glory,
Led him some distance in the wood,
When the tin cup as well filled stood
As he could bear it in his hand,
The proudest chief in all the land,
To prove the tempter was mistaken;
The chieftan's pledge was not forsaken.

Old Jarro raised himself upright
And poised the cup in Dixon's sight,
Then turning on; his heel, half 'round,
He poured the contents on the ground,
And with the noble thought and deed.
The red man of the forest said,
"Owanica had promised well!
And you, Nachusa, now can tell
That not a drop of cursed fire
Has passed his lips he was no liar."


For Winnebago lives in name;
The Winnebagoes who can tell
If any feel the temperance spell?
Rock River, bridged by many a span.
And subject to the works of man,
Still sees Nachusa's snow white head,
And flows beneath his measured tread,
And hears, with many an old time tale,
Of the Temperance Pledge that did not fail.



"full moon" — The full moon was the Indians time of reckoning.

"Old Wolfs Den" — When the Central railroad was built in Dixon they cut away the old wolf's den for the north end of the railroad bridge. It used to be a large cave, and beyond the portion you could enter, a narrow passage led to the den the resort for many wolves.

Juliette Kinzie
Ft. Winnebago

"Winnebago Fort" — Winnebago Fort was on the peninsula between the Fox and Wisconsin rivers and about a mile from either.

John Dixon (Nącúsą)

Commentary. "Nachusa" — the Hocąk is Nącú-są, "Pale Hair." Whitney's note nicely sums up his life:

John Dixon (1784-1876) came to the Sangamon country in 1820 from New York in the hope that the climate of the West would restore his health. Not only did he recover from the "pulmonary disease" that had seemed imminent when he gave up his clothing business in New York, but he outlived all of his twelve children as well. From Sangamon County, Dixon and his family moved on to Peoria in 1825. There he held numerous county positions — recorder of deeds, circuit clerk, clerk of the county commissioners' court, and justice of the peace. Three years later he moved still farther north to Boyd's Grove in Bureau County, and from Bureau County he went to Ogee's Ferry in 1830. A post office had been established at that place in 1829, and Dixon obtained the position as postmaster soon after his arrival. During his residence in Bureau County, Dixon subcontracted for portions of mail routes and was proprietor of the Galena-Springfield mail stage. In the BHW [Black Hawk War], Dixon served as an assistant to Q. M. [Quartermaster] Enoch C. March and accompanied the 3d Army through part of its expedition across Wisconsin to the Mississippi. After the war he expanded his trading operations and was active in the development of Dixon, which was named in his honor. In 1838 he was elected by the legislature to the state board of public works. Largely through his influence, the U.S. Land Office was moved to Dixon from Galena in 1840. Dixon retired from business some thirty years before his death, but he remained active in civic affairs throughout his life.2

John Dixon died in 1876 at the age of 92, an age seldom attained by anyone of his historical period.

"Owanica" — Jarro's Hocąk name, here given as Owanico, is probably Howánika, "He Seizes," from howáni, "to take." 

"Jarro" — the proper form of his name is Jarrot, having acquired this nickname in an unusual way (see "Jarrot Gets His Name."). The name Jarrot would be transliterated in Hocąk as Žaro[ga]. Whitney's note on Jarrot sums up much of what is known about him:

Jarrot was a Winnebago Indian, perhaps a minor chief, whose village was on the Rock River north of Dixon (Gratiot Journal, April 22, 23, 1832). His Indian name was Owanico, but he was usually called Jarrot or one of its variants — Jahro, Jarot, Jarro, Jerro, Sharro, Zharro. He was given this name for preventing the murder of trader Nicholas Jarrot by a group of unfriendly Indians at a camp near Prairie du Chien just before the outbreak of the War of 1812. The Winnebago Jarrot signed the 1829 treaty.3

Captain Gideon Lowe

"Captain Lowe" — a Captain in the 5th Infantry Regiment whose Company D garrisoned Ft. Winnebago beginning in 1838.4 "Capt. Gideon Lowe left the army in 1839, and settled on the Portage, where he kept a public house a number of years."5

"fire" — a reference to the fact that most Indians referred to whiskey as "fire water," as in the Hocąk pejᵋnį, from pec, "fire"; and , "water."

Links: ...

Stories: about Chief Jarrot: Jarrot's Aborted Raid, Jarrot and His Friends Saved from Starvation, How Jarrot Got His Name; mentioning drunkeness: The Drunkard's Self-Reflections, Chief Wave and the Big Drunk, Soft Shelled Turtle Gets Married, Chief Wave Tries to Take the Whiskey, The Brawl in Omro, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hocągara, Version 1, Little Fox and the Ghost, Version 1, Migistéga's Death, Version 1, The Spanish Fight, Snowshoe Strings; 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.), How Jarrot Got His Name, Jarrot's Aborted Raid, Jarrot and His Friends Saved from Starvation, They Owe a Bullet (Pawnee Shooter); occurring in Illinois: The Waterspirit of Rock River, Jarrot's Aborted Raid, Jarrot and His Friends Saved from Starvation, The Shrewd Winnebagoes of Dixon’s Crossing, Xųnųnį́ka, First Contact (v. 2), How Jarrot Got His Name, Witches; set at Rock River: The Waterspirit of Rock River, Xųnųnį́ka, The Shrewd Winnebagoes of Dixon’s Crossing, Witches.


1 Recollections of the Pioneers of Lee County (Dixon, IL: Inez A. Kennedy, 1893) 263.
2 The Black Hawk War, 1831-1832: v. II, Letters and Papers; Part I, April 30, 1831-June 23, 1832. Ed. Ellen M. Whitney (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library, 1973) 60-61 note. Whitney also cites the following: 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), passim; History of Lee County, Dr. Cochran (Chicago: H. H. Hill, 1881), 150-158; Lee County (1914), I: 237-60; Newton Bateman, Paul Selby, Ezra Morton Prince, John H. Burnham, Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois (Chicago: Munsell Pub. Co., 1908) I:134.
3 The Black Hawk War, 1831-1832: Vol. II, Letters and Papers; Part I, April 30, 1831-June 23, 1832. Ed. Ellen M. Whitney (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library, 1973) 60-61 note. Whitney also cites the following: 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) 73, 74, 76-77; History of Lee County, Dr. Cochran (Chicago: H. H. Hill, 1881) 154; Recollections of the Pioneers of Lee County (Dixon, IL: Inez A. Kennedy, 1893) 262-267; Nehemiah Matson, Memories of Shaubena. Incidents Relating to the Early Settlement of the West (Chicago: D. B. Cook and Co., 1878) 235-237; Nehemiah Matson, Reminiscences of Bureau County (Princeton, IL: Republican Book and Job Office, 1872) 308-9; Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties, Vol. II, Treaties. Compiled and edited by Charles J. Kappler (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1904) 302.
4 George Croghan, Army Life on the Western Frontier: Selections from the Official Reports Made Between 1826 and 1845 (Noman: University of Oklahoma Press, Apr 14, 2014) 25.
5 Satterlee Clark, "Early Times at Fort Winnebago," Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, VIII (1879): 309-321 [320].