Chief Wave Bars Explorers

Version 1

by Willard Barrows

Willard Barrows

(132) "The return of Chas-chun-ka [Cašcąga], about the first of November, was speedily heralded through the Indian camps, and I was notified by my friendly and faithful little mission boy, who, by this time, knew all my desires and plans.

"The chief was, like the most of his race, vain and conceited, puffed up with self-importance, but susceptible of flattery, and fond of presents. He was not an hereditary chief, but a Fox by birth, and having joined the Winnebagoes at an early age, he had risen to his present position by the force of native talent. He was worth some property in horses and presents, given him by the agents and officers of the government. He had two wives, and was about to take a third; but as the winter was near, and provisions scarce, he had concluded to wait till spring.

"He was duly notified of my presence in the country, and my wish to hold a conference with him at my tent whenever his chieftainship would please to signify his willingness. Early one morning, a few days after his return, a cavalcade was seen coming across the prairie towards my camp. In due time, and in long Indian file, they drew up around my cabin. I remained inside to receive the distinguished guests, while his officials motioned to the Indians, as they dismounted, to enter the council.

"There were twelve or more under-chiefs and braves who accompanied Chas-chun-ka. He entered first, bowing and shaking hands with me. This salutation was repeated by the whole troop. They then seated (133) themselves around the cabin, on the ground, but their chief on a bench. The appearance of the chief was very surprising to me, for I had expected to see a profusion of paint and feathers, and wampum of costly texture. Instead of that, he was clothed in a buffalo overcoat, a stove-pipe hat, and wore a pair of green spectacles. His belt was probably the gift of a soldier, as it bore the U. S. in front. His outfit had all probably been given to him by some traders at the fort.

"I addressed him politely as he entered, but I did not at first regard him as the chief. On pronouncing his name, he bowed, and, as I supposed by his dress that he must be a half-breed, and could speak English, I addressed him in that tongue, but he would make no response. Still believing that it was only Indian policy and custom not to know English, I pressed the point in broken Indian; but a persistent protest of silence in Chas-chun-ka compelled me to send for my little teacher and mission boy, Wabessa-wawa (White Goose). He came trembling and abashed before the sachem and his warriors, and, as he passed the chief, the latter patted him on the head, and said some approving words that caused the boy to smile.

"The council was opened as usual with the pipe and the shaking of hands. Then all were seated again, and looked to me to make known my business. I arose, and after telling them of my long residence at Assinni-Manness, with their friends, the Sacs and Foxes, and of my labors for their Great Father, the President in surveying the lands he bought of them, I told them I had come to see their country by the request of their Father. Then I showed them the passport given me (134) by General Chambers, and told the chief that I wanted to go across his country and make a picture of it for the president. After hearing me and examining my maps and sketches taken on the way up, some of which he corrected for the Indian is a topographical draughtsman by nature — he handed the papers back and shook his head. Looking around on his warriors with an air of kingly importance, he directed the interpreter to tell me that he could not let me go over his lands for any such purpose. He said he well knew the object of his Great Father in sending me there to make a picture of his country; that if it was good for the white he would buy it, but if not the Indian could keep it. No, I could not go. After many entreaties and presents to induce him to yield, I found it of no use, and the council broke up. This was a difficulty that I had not anticipated, and all my plans seemed liable to fail.

"The next day I visited him with one of my men in his lodge at the village. He was affable and polite, but rather cool, and when the subject of explorations was introduced he became silent and morose. I therefore left him, determined to visit Fort Atkinson and see the Winnebago agent.

"It had now become late in the season, and there was great danger in traversing an unknown country at such an inclement season without a guide or trail. Moreover, I should be subject to the watchful eye of the Indians, and if the chief found I had left, he would send his warriors and bring me back. But I was not to be baffled in my plans, and give up my project without a struggle. I was not afraid of the Indian, for I knew (135) that I was regarded as an agent of the government, and so no harm must come to me in his territory. ...

"While here I visited the Mission School of Mr. Lowry. (136) It contained about sixty scholars of both sexes, many of whom had made good advances in reading and writing English. There was a farm of twelve hundred acres, broken up and fenced, with suitable buildings, all belonging to the agency, and intended to teach the Indians agriculture and the arts of civilized life. But they could not be made to work. Government paid for the labor of eight men; but few Indians would go into the fields to work.

"'Mr. Lowry gave me a passport to go over the lands of the Winnebagoes: and he also wrote a letter to Chas-chun-ka, telling him what a great and good chief he was, and that he had always been friendly to the white man, and that now he must permit me to cross his lands whenever I pleased, and that by so doing this would not only please him, but his Great Father.

"I returned, and, taking Wabessa-wawa to read the letter, I rode over to the lodge of the chief and presented him the papers given me by the agent. When the letter was read, it flattered his vanity so much that he sent for the chiefs and braves, and had the same read to them. When it spoke of his greatness and goodness he would look around on his men with a proud and haughty air, as if to say, 'Behold your chief; and hear what the white man says of him.' His whole being seemed at once changed, and he told me that I might go all about over his country, and that he would send men with me.

"The next day he came over to see me, and of course to get some presents. He wanted me to wait for him two weeks or so, when he would go with me. I did so, but seeing no preparation by him for such a trip, (137) started without him. My route lay up the Wabessapinecon to its head and down the Cedar. ...

"After recruiting myself and horses, I again started towards the head-waters of the Des Moines. I had not passed the Neutral Grounds, when one day we came on an encampment of Winnebagoes, who seemed boisterous and much disposed to plunder, pulling the packs from the horses, and demanding bread and meat. Their rudeness was observed by the old men of tile tribe, but they said nothing, till I went to one of them, and, addressing him in his own tongue, I told him I was the friend of Chas-chun-ka, and the agent of the government, and that I had a pass from Mr. Lowry, and that they must not allow their young braves to do such things. In a moment he spoke to the rude fellows, telling them who I was, when they left the stores, but with evident reluctance and disappointment. On making inquiry for the trail that led to an old trading post on the river, four or five young Indians stepped forward and offered to show me the way. We took their lead, and pursued it for more than a mile, when, on looking back, I saw an Indian boy coming up in great haste. The party came to a halt, and the boy came up, wrapped in his blanket, his face half averted, but with his keen eye fixed on me.

"Speaking in a low tone, he said, 'You are on the wrong trail. The Indians who sent you here are bad (138) Indians, and they mean to follow and rob you.' I pulled the blanket aside, and discovered the pretty face of my Wabessa-wawa. He seemed in much excitement and haste. Requesting me to follow him, he struck off through the woods at a rapid rate, and where there was no path; and after travelling about a mile, he came out into a beaten track. 'This,' said he, 'is your path. I heard you ask for the trail to the old trading house, and saw those bad Indians put you in the wrong way, and I came to tell you.' He would not allow me time to inquire where his lodge was, or where I should see him, if ever, again, nor hardly to untie the pack and give him some biscuit and pork. I did, however, add in some pieces of silver coin. Shaking the little fellow by the hand, I let go of him, and in a few moments he was lost in the thick wood, on his way to the lodge.1

Version 2

by Franc Wilkie

Franc B. Wilkie

(187) Up to this date, nothing definite was known of the Territory lying between the waters of the Mississippi and Missouri. The title to the lands bordering upon the Mississippi were being extinguished slowly, and in small parcels. The Winnebagoes occupied a strip running from the Mississippi River, at Prairie du Chien, to the Des Moines River, forty miles in width, called "Neutral Grounds." The Pottowattomies had removed from Rock River, Illinois, to the Western side of this State, bordering on the Missouri. But few, if any but Indians, had ever crossed this Territory to the Missouri. Trappers and hunters told many highly colored tales of the beauty of the country, of its glassy lakes, with peb[b]led shores, the abode of vast herds of buffalo, elk, and deer; of feathered game, and of the finney tribe. The spirit of enterprise, the love of research, and of Nature's grand solitude, again prompted Mr. Barrows to shoulder his rifle and start upon the trail of the red man. He wrote to Gov. Lucas, the Secretary of State, the Surveyor General, and others, proposing to explore the country lying between the two rivers, sketch its topography, and project a map of all the country lying between these rivers, as far North as the forty-third parallel. This was accomplished in three successive years. On his first tour he experienced many hindrances and difficulties from the Winnebago Indians. He had ascended the Wabisipinica River to the boundary line of the Neutral Grounds, early in September; built him a cabin for a winter depot, but could get no communication with the Chief of that nation, until the return of the Indians from their annual payment at Prairie du Chien, which was not until the first of November.

The Chief's village was some five miles from his cabin. Mr. Barrows had furnished himself with a native youth from the Mission School at Fort Atkinson for interpreter. The arrival of the Chief, Chos-chun-ca, (Big Wave,) was at last announced, Mr. Barrows invitation presented in due form for the Chief to visit him in his cabin, which was not upon his grounds. At the time appointed, the Chief made his appearance, with some twelve of his warriors. "He was clothed," says Mr. Barrows, "in a buffalo over-coat, a stove-pipe hat, and a pair of green spectacles. These had recently been presented by some (188) officers and friends at the Fort. I exhibited my passport from Gov. Chambers, and told him I wished to go across his country, to make a picture of it, to show his great father, the President.

After hearing me, and examining, with much minuteness, my maps and sketches, some of which he corrected, he refused, with much earnestness, my passage into his country for any such purpose. He said that he very well knew the object his great father had in sending me there, and that he had no great respect for the "Big Captain at Washington," if he took such a course to find out the value of his land — that if I found it good and pleasant for the white man to live upon, it would be well, and his father would purchase it, but if I found it bad, he would give him but little money for it, and, therefore, I should not go."

After many entreaties and presents, Mr. Barrows, found it of no use, and, leaving part of his men at the depot, he set out, with but one man, across the country, to Fort Atkinson, one hundred and twenty-five miles, on Turkey River, without any map or trail, and with full expectation of being overtaken by the Indians, and brought back. But on the first day out, a dense fog covered the prairie, and it rained in torrents for twenty-four hours, overflowing the banks of all the streams, which made it necessary to swim it themselves and horses. On the second day, near night, they came back to the first night's camp, in a small grove, having been lost in the fog and rain the whole time, and traveling at good rates. It cleared up after a snow storm, and he reached the Fort on the fifth day. The Rev. Mr. Lowry, who had charge of the Mission School, at that place, gave him a passport across the country, and wrote a letter to the Chief, which, being interpreted to him, he was allowed to proceed. Not, however, until he had made him presents of corn, pipes and tobacco.

"Barrows' New Map of Iowa, with Notes," was published in 1854, by Doolittle & Munson, Cincinnati; and was a work, at that day, of much importance.2

Commentary. "two wives" — in the old Hocąk culture, the taking of two wives, while occasionally done, was considered to be greedy.

"Assinni-Manness" — Rock Island. Cf. Ojibwe, asinīwi, "being of rock"; and minis, "island."

Gov. John Chambers

"General Chambers" — John Chambers was born in 1780 in Lexington, Kentucky.  In 1800 he was admitted to the bar. During the War of 1812 he was Gen. William Henry Harrison's aide-de-camp. At various times from 1812 to 1831, he was a Representative in the Kentucky House, and in 1825 he sat on the Kentucky Court of Appeals, after which he was a Representative to the U. S. Congress, up to 1839. He was made Governor of Iowa Territory from 1841-1845. In 1842, he negotiated a treaty in which the Sauk and Fox ceded their lands in Iowa. He died in 1852.3

"the President" — if we assume that these events took place after the 1840 election, the president at the time will most likely have been John Tyler, who succeeded William Henry Harrison who died one month into office on 4 April 1841. The previous president, Martin Van Buren, was defeated for reelection.

Lt. A. W. Renolds
Ft. Atkinson, 1842

"Fort Atkinson" — Hexom gives a good account of the history of Ft. Atkinson:

In 1840 the Winnebago Indians were removed to their new home on the Neutral Ground. In order to protect them from the incursions of their neighbors, among whom were the Sauk and Fox tribes, as well as from intrusions of the whites, and in turn to prevent them from trespassing beyond the limits of the reservation, soldiers were stationed among them. A detachment of the 5th Infantry (Company F) under command of Captain Isaac Lynde left Fort Crawford, with a complement of eighty-two officers and enlisted men, and went into camp, May 31, 1840, in the neighborhood of Spring creek (now known as Goddard's creek) on the Turkey river. The camp was named "Camp Atkinson" in honor of Brigadier General Henry Atkinson, U. S. Army, the Department Commander who was so prominent in military operations in the upper Mississippi valley. Barracks and quarters sufficient to accommodate one company were erected, and in March, 1841, the Secretary of War ordered that the station be known as Fort Atkinson.
    The fort was situated in the northwestern part of Washington township (on the old military road constructed from Fort Snelling to Fort Gibson) and stood on a rock-ribbed hill overlooking the site of the town which now bears its name. This hill is about eighty-four feet above the Turkey river. ... The top of the stockade consisted of spikes driven into the sharpened ends of the logs. Portholes were cut at about every four feet. ... In two corners of the stockade were located cannon-houses; and in the other two corners, the Quartermasters' store house (adjoined by the sutler's store) and the magazine, or powder-house.
    Concerning the Indian agency which was established in connection with the fort, Mr. Kingsley relates that,"The Winnebagoes were given food, clothing, gold, and silver. In money they received $46.00 per head, twice a year. ...
    February 24, 1849, the Post was finally abandoned. It was turned over to the Secretary of the Interior for disposition January 10, 1851. At the present time all that is still standing of the fort is the cannon-house of the southwest corner. ... The fort became useless as government property, and was sold at public auction to one J. M. Flowers for $3, 521. The reservation is described as containing 1,920 acres. This land was finally disposed of under the provisions of the acts of Congress of July 30, 1856, and June 7, 1860.4

Gen. Joseph Street

"the Winnebago agent" — at the time, this will have been General Street. General Joseph Montfort Street (October 18, 1782 – May 5, 1840), was a frontiersman in the old Northwest Territory, and a friend of Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, and Zachary Taylor. After a stormy career as a newspaper owner in Kentucky, he established himself in Shawneetown, Illinois, in 1812. He was made general of the local militia. In 1827 he became the Indian agent to the Hocągara. He attempted to keep white settlers out of the lands reserved for the tribe, but it proved a hopeless task, so he came to believe that Indian removal was the only answer. In 1832, he was able to keep most of the Hocągara neutral in the Black Hawk War. In 1834, the Fox and Sauk were added as his charges. This diffusion of his labors caused the abortion of his school for the Hocągara at Prairie du Chien, which closed the year that he died.5

Negative #6 (O-772), Effigy Mounds NM
The Winnebago Yellow River Mission School and Farm

"the Mission School" — Mahan relates the history of this school which was the brain child of Gen. Street, the Winnebago Indian Agent:

(207) When Street returned to Prairie du Chien late in 1834 he turned his attention to the task of starting the Winnebago school and farm. It was too late in the season for active operations on the new farm, but the school was begun as soon as the building, a good, plain, stone structure of permanent and useful character, was ready. In the meantime Reverend David Lowry, a Presbyterian minister, who had been appointed by President Jackson as a teacher for the Winnebago, had arrived at Prairie du Chien. Early in 1835, he opened the school, with his wife, Mary Ann Lowry, acting as his assistant. Street employed hands for the farm and set them to work on the experimental plot near the school. Through a friend in Illinois he procured four yoke of oxen and two horses ... At first few pupils came to the new school, but when Street inspected the institution on April 30, 1835, he found six pupils attending regularly, and Indians were visiting the place daily, showing a lively interest in both the school work and the adjoining farm. In May three new pupils enrolled. "Everything now", said Street, "bids fair for the entire success of these interesting experiments". ... (214) With the return of Street to Prairie du Chien in 1837, however, he exerted himself in coöperation with Reverend Lowry, the superintendent, to put the school in full operation. By December, 1837, the enrollment had increased to forty‑one pupils — fifteen boys and twenty‑six girls. Eleven of these boarded and lodged at the school while the remainder lived in the teepees of their parents to which they returned at the close of the school day taking with them rations of pork, salt, and meal which they added to the potatoes and corn of the family larder. The institution furnished clothing to all the pupils, supplying each boy and girl with new garments whenever they were needed. ... (216) The year 1839 marked the peak of attainment for the school on Yellow River. A report in December showed an enrollment of seventy-nine pupils — forty-three boys and thirty‑six girls. ... (217) A visit to the school in August, 1840, by J. H. Lockwood and B. W. Brisbois, prominent citizens of Prairie du Chien, caused them to exclaim in surprise that they had never seen a more orderly or ambitious school even of white children. They were astonished at the progress made by the children in the three years interval since their previous visit. But the days of the Indian school on Yellow River were numbered. On October 1, 1840, the teachers were notified that their services would be needed no longer. Sub‑agent Lowry had received orders to sell the buildings preparatory to reëstablishing the agency and school at a new location farther west in Iowa, somewhere on Turkey River in the Neutral Ground.6

Rev. David Lowery  

"Mr. Lowry" — Rev. David Lowery was born on January 20, 1796 in Kentucky. Within two years he was orphaned. He was taken in by a family that some have described as "reckless and intemperate," but on turning 18, he attended a Presbyterian revival meeting, and became a passionate convert to that denomination. Not long after he was ordained, he did work in frontier Indiana. Back in Kentucky in late 1830, he initiated the newspaper, the Religious and Literary Intelligencer, the first of his denomination. Having moved to Tennessee, where he became a friend of Andrew Jackson, he published the Cumberland Presbyterian. In 1832, Jackson appointed him to be a teacher for the Winnebago tribe. In 1833, he held a powwow with the Winnebago chiefs to discuss his plan, and although Wakan Decorah spoke against the idea of his mission, the remainder of the attendees at least found it acceptable. After several moves by the Hocągara, he was able to establish a mission school on the Yellow River in Iowa. When the tribe was exiled to Nebraska, Rev. Lowery moved to St. Cloud, Minnesota. He eventually moved back to Iowa where he died of what the pseudo-science of the time called "paralysis of the brain."7

Willard Barrows
The Neutral Ground

"Neutral Grounds" — as a result of the agreement reached at Prairie du Chien, August 19, 1825, the Sioux agreed to cede certain lands in Iowa to the Sauk and Fox, who agreed to move west of the Mississippi. To separate further these traditional enemies, it was agreed in 1830 that a 40 mile wide strip of land would separate the warring tribes and serve as a neutral zone between them. In 1837, the Hocągara were made to sign a treaty that removed them to this strip of land, an arrangement that left no one satisfied, since the Hocągara were traditional enemies to both their neighbors. They were not happy to move, and considered that the treaty had been negotiated with Hocąk leaders who were not authorized to engage in such talks. So suggestions that their new lands be carefully examined could hardly be greeted with approbation.

Prairie du Chien in 1830 by Henry Lewis

"Prairie du Chien" — its French name means, "Prairie of the Dog," and denotes a plain about 9 miles north of the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers. On an elevation near the Turkey River, the Fox tribe had a large village at the base of which the Dog Band resided. It is from this Dog Band that the whole prairie took its name. The site of the present town was "the principal trading post on the Mississippi; the depot of the fur traders; the ancient meeting-place of the Indians tribes."8 The area was gradually settled by French farmers, and once it fell under the sovereignty of the British Crown, many new British settlers as well. During the War of 1812,

The peculiar position which Prairie du Chien occupied in the Indian country at once pointed it out as a most important place — of the value of which both the hostile Powers were fully cognizant — from the fact that whichever army took possession of it could command that immense territory inhabited by the warlike tribes of the West ... which lay along the west frontier of the United States ...9

The expedition of Zebulon Pike passed through the area and he noted the strategic character of this site and recommended to the War Department that they build a fort there, which was done in 1816 with the erection of Ft. Crawford. It was the frequent site of Indian gatherings for treaties with the United States government, and by 1823, Prairie du Chien was a major steamboat port, although in just a couple of decades, it was eclipsed by Minneapolis.10

"Mr. Barrows" — Benjamin Gue has a nice summary of his life:

WILLARD BARROWS was one of the first Government surveyors of the public lands of Iowa. He was born at Munson, Massachusetts, in 1806 and received a good education. In 1832 he was employed in surveying the lands of the Choctaw Purchase and later the swamp lands of the Yazoo River. In 1837 he came to Iowa and was employed in the first surveys of the “Black Hawk Purchase,” along the Wapsipinicon River. In 1838 he located with his family at the new town of Rockingham on the Iowa side of the Mississippi River, five miles below Rock Island. In 1840 he surveyed the islands in the Mississippi between the Rock River and Quincy. In 1853 he made a careful examination of northern Iowa and published an excellent map of the State, with descriptive notes. It was by far the best map of Iowa that had been made and was adopted as the official map of the State, when published in 1854. Mr. Barrows was an extensive traveler over the American continent and an accomplished writer. He was the author of the first history of Scott County, which was published in the old Annals of Iowa.11

Gov. Robert Lucas

"Gov. Lucas" — Robert Lucas was born in 1781 in Shepherdstown, Virginia. In his youth he was a surveyor, and pursued that occupation when his family moved to what is now Ohio. Having joined the Ohio State Militia, when the War of 1812 broke out, he was given the rank of Brigadier General. He saw some action in Hull's incursion into Canada. Between 1814 and 1832, he served in both the Ohio House of Representatives and in its Senate. As a Jacksonian Democrat, he was elected Governor in 1832, then reelected in 1834. President Martin Van Buren appointed Lucas as the first Territorial Governor of Iowa in 1838. He served until 1841, when he was replaced by the Whig, John Chambers. Dissatisfied with the Democrat's stance on slavery, he became a Whig himself in 1852. He died in 1853.12

"Chos-chun-ca, (Big Wave,)" — in the orthography used here, this is Cašcąga. To get "Big Wave" from this, one would have to suppose it to be analyzed as Caš-cąk-ka, where cąk means something like "big," as in Ho-cąk, "Big Voice." However, the word for wave is cašcą, with -ga appended to indicate a personal name. The name, therefore, is simply "Wave." This is ordinarily a clan name given not long after birth in the Waterspirit Clan, as one might expect. Wave, as it happens, was appointed chief by the government (above), which ignored the usual requirement that the chief be drawn from the Thunderbird Clan.

Links: ...

Stories: mentioning Chief Wave (Cašcąga): Chief Wave Tries to Take the Whiskey, Chief Wave and the Big Drunk; occurring in Iowa: Chief Wave Tries to Take the Whiskey, The Duel, Chief Wave and the Big Drunk, Sodom and Gomorrah.

Themes: ...


1 Willard Barrows, The General ; or, Twelve Nights in the Hunters' Camp: a Narrative of Real Life (Boston, Mass.: Lee and Shepard, 1869) 132-138.
2 Franc B. Wilkie, Davenport, Past and Present; Including the Early History (Davenport: Luse, Lane & Co., 1858) 187-188.
3 John C. Parish, John Chambers (Iowa City, Iowa: The State Historical Society of Iowa, 1909).
4 Charles Philip Hexom, Indian History of Winneshiek County (Decorah, Iowa: A. K. Bailey and Son, Inc., 1913) 53-60.
5 Reuben Gold Thwaites, Notes to Wau-Bun, Caxton Club Edition (1901), 404 nt. 49.
6 Bruce E. Mahan, Old Fort Crawford and the Frontier (Iowa City, Iowa: The State Historical Society of Iowa, 1926) 207-217.
7 The Cumberland Presbyterian, April 12, 1877, page 2.
8 Alfred Edward Bulger, "Events at Prairie du Chien Previous to American Occupation, 1814," Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 13 (1895): 1-9 [1-2].
9 Bulger, "Events at Prairie du Chien Previous to American Occupation, 1814," 2.
10 Mary Elise Antoine, Prairie Du Chien (Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2011) 7.
11 Benjamin T. Gue, History of Iowa from the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century (New York: The Century History Co., 1903) 14.
12 John C. Parish, "Iowa in the Days of Lucas," Palimpsest 29 (1948): 13–18. William J. Petersen, "Robert Lucas," Palimpsest 29 (1948): 1–12.