Ten Descendants of a Famous Chief Camp at Lake Koshkonong

Lake Koshkonong

Camped on Koshkonong Creek in Jefferson county recently was a party of 10 Indians, a pitiful remnant of the once powerful tribe of Winnebago. Living in three huts, made of canvas, boughs, tar paper and matting, this little colony had spent the inter near the site of its old home and scene of its former glories a few rods from Lake Koshkonong.

Less than a century ago, as late a 1832, their ancestors, under leadership of White Crow, possessed a village of 1,200 people on what is now Carcajou Point, Lake Koshkonong. Historians of the Black Hawk War tell of visits of White Crow to the white settlements and the guidance he gave and part he played in the last brave struggle of Black Hawk, at Wisconsin Heights, when his warriors were shot down, his squaws murdered and drowned and his children stabbed by the bayonets of the frontier soldiers.

This little band of Indians who returned to the scene of their former glories claim to be descendants of a daughter of White Crow and of a brother of Whirling Thunder, another famous Indian chief known as Wau-Kaun-Ween-Kaw. Their maternal ancestor was famed for her beauty and after the Indian treaty of 1828, visited Washington, where she was known as an Indian Princess. Old Jim War Club was the patriarch of the little colony, or Ma-Ma-She-Be in Winnebago tongue. He was nearly 70 and for some time had been confined to his wigwam, where he lived with his wife, a second one, his doctor, Jim Crow, or Za-Na-Zinka, Standing Water, a daughter of his wife, Mary War Club, by a former marriage, and a little girl, aged six or eight.

Men Well Educated

In another hut lived Tom Walker, Wa-Ken-Han-Kow (Snake Skin), married to another daughter of Mrs. War Club by a former marriage, and their little papoose, a bright little fellow of two. With Tom lived his old father, Wa-Kon-Hah-Kow, Sr.

Two younger Indians occupied a smaller similar tepee; both were well educated, and one, Albert Thunder, a nephew of old War Club, had been brought up in a white family attended the government Indian school in Kansas. He has studied several terms at Lawrence university. He is a veteran of the Spanish-American war and later served in the Philippines. He now draws a pension of $6 a month for disabilities received in service. He was a musician, playing with the Bussyville bands, and is an expert trapper and rifle shot.

His companion was a cousin named Long Marsh. He also was fairly well educated and the two engaged to work on an adjacent farm during the summer. During the winter and early spring they were successful in trapping and hunting and kept the camp supplied after Old War Club’s illness became severe.

Locates White Crow Village

Old Dr. Standing Water, or Jim Crow, is quite a character. He is a descendant of the old Menominee chieftain, Oshkosh, but on his mother’s side he is a Winnebago. He is rich in the lore of the Indian tribes. He knows much of the early history and in his talk with Halvor Skavlem, the archeologist, told many interesting facts, as well as establishing for a certainty the location of the old village of White Crow, which has been placed by some authorities on the shores of Lake Mendota and by others at Lake Koshkonong The village was at Koshkonong, on the same spot as the Carcajou club, and in its life was one of the most powerful Indian communities in southern Wisconsin.

Indian history tells that White Crow’s village was built of huts rather than tepees. In his community at the time of the Black Hawk War were Broken or Spotted Arm, an Indian chief so named for wound received at the English siege of Ft. Meigs during the war of 1812, Whirling Thunder and Little Priest. These three were the chiefs held as hostages by General Dodge to keep the Winnebagoes from joining the forces of Black Hawk.

Old White Crow appears to have been considerable of an Indian. He is descried by some as crafty and savage, drunken and treacherous and by others as the friend of the white man, a noted orator, not a warrior. He was beside Tecumseh when he fell in the battle of the Thames during the war of 1812. He signed the treaties for his tribe and in 1832 was known as the “Counselor.”

Only Small Bands Left

The Winnebagoes are not frequent visitors to this section of the state. By treaties and forcible removals they have been driven west from their old homes in Wisconsin. Once a powerful tribe, whose early history is closely identified-with Wisconsin, they have dwindled into small scattered bands similar to the ones which camped on Koshkonong Creek.

Commentary. "Koshkonong Creek" — the campsite is located at the mouth of Koshkonong Creek, which is roughly 42.881635, -88.981975.

"White Crow" — elsewhere his name given as Kau-kish-ka-ka,1 a fair approximation to the expected Kaǧískága, which means "White Crow." He was nicknamed "The Blind," or Le Borgne since he had lost an eye.2 He was chief of a village by Lake Koshkonong of about 1200 people who lived in white cedar bark lodges.3 White Crow was the father of "the Washington Woman," who married Yellow Thunder.4 At the beginning of the Sauk War he believed that the Sauks would vanquish the whites and tried to warn them.

The White Crow had told Capt. Beon Gratiot, that he was friendly towards him as his brother was the Winnebago Indian Agent; that he did not wish to see him killed, and that he had better leave Col. Dodge and go home; that the Sauks and Foxes would kill all the whites; that the whites could not fight, as they were a soft-shelled breed; that when the spear was put to them they would quack like ducks, as the whites had done at Stillman's Defeat; and he proceeded to mimic out, in full Indian style, the spearing and scalping in the Stillman affair; and that all the whites who persisted in marching against the Indians, might expect to be served in the same manner.5

He died in 1836 and is buried near the village of Cross Plains.6

The Koshkonong Region7
① Conch Shell Cache, 1842.
② Black Hawk's Camp, 1832.
③ Ogden Group.
Rock River Group and Village Site.
Tay-e-he-dah Group and Village Site.
⑥ Taylor House Group.
⑦ Fulton Group.
Koshkonong Group and Village Site.
⑨ John Son Group.
Noe Springs Group and Village Site.
⑪ North Group.
⑫ Rufus Bingham Group.
Le Sellier Group and Village Site.
⑭ Goldthorpe Burials.
⑮ Messmer Garden Beds.
⑯ Kumlien Group.
⑰ a-b-c. Koshonong Creek Mounds and Village Site.
⑱ Conch Shell Cache, 1867.
⑲ Draves Group.
      ⑳ Skavlem Group.
Carcajou Mounds and White Crow'sVillage.
㉒ Loge Bay Mounds and Garden Beds.
Altpeter Group and White Ox's Village.
Man Eater's Village.
㉔ & ㉕ General Atkinson Group.
㉖ Hoard Group and Kewaskum's Camp.
㉗ Fun Hunter's Point Mound and Cornfield.
㉘ Lockopt Group.
㉙ Haight's Creek Group.
㉚ Atkinson's Camp.
㉛ Indian Cornfields.
㉜ & ㉝ Ira Bingham Group and Village Site.
㉞ & ㉟ Thiebeau Point Village Site and Cornfields.
㊱ French Trader's Cabin Sites.
㊲ Camp Site and Cornfield.
㊳ Black Hawk Island Camp Site.

"Carcajou Point" — as can be seen from Skavlem's map, the point with its mounds is located at ㉑.

"Wisconsin Heights" — the author of this newspaper article has confounded the Battle of Wisconsin Heights with that of Bad Axe. Black Hawk artfully escaped across the Wisconsin River, but met with disaster at Bad Axe on the Mississippi.

"Whirling Thunder" — see Kinzie's Rolls for Turtle Creek Village, nt. 3.

"Jim War Club" — according to the censuses in which he occurs (1905, 1910, 1911, 1912, 1919), he was born in 1851, and was married to a widow, Sarah Longmarsh.

"Ma Ma She Be" — a name, somewhat less corrupted in the censuses as NaMaCheHeBeKah, is properly transliterated as Ną̄mą́cehįbíga, from ną̄mą́ce, "war club"; hįbí, "to lay something out temporarily, to put something somewhere temporarily, to set something somewhere temporarily"; -ga, a definite article suffix used in personal names. This name is best understood as, "He Displays the War Club".

"Za-Na-Zinka, Standing Water" — the name "Standing Water," should be Nįnąžį́ga. The initial "Za" in the corrupted form of the name is inscrutible.

"Mary" — in the 1905 Indian census, Sarah's daughter Mary (b. 1892) was living in War Club's household with Clay (b. 1889), John (b. 1894), and Suzie Longmarsh (b. 1898), "Longmarsh" being Sarah's former married surname.

"Tom Walker" — in the 1905 Indian census, Tom Walker (b. 1880) was living two doors down from War Club's family. He was not using the name Wakąhaka, however, but was called Hųwąsucka, "Red Elk." His father's name was a nickname derived from his practice of wearing a rattlesnake band on his head. His wife was named "Francis", but she cannot be found as a child of Sarah Longmarsh, nor can a two year old boy be found in the 1920 census for this family.

Charles van Schaick
Sarah Longmarsh War Club

"Mrs. War Club" — this is Sarah Nį̄žuxōcgewį́ga (Drizzling Rain Woman), formerly Longmarsh. She was born ca. 1855 and appears to have died in 1928.

"Albert Thunder" — a chief and notable person in the tribe. Since War Club and (Yellow) Thunder belong to opposite moieties, they are not related through the male side. Therefore, as a nephew to War Club, Albert's mother must have been War Club's sister.

"Bussyville" — properly spelled "Busseyville," it is only 1.25 miles from the Koshkonong Creek campsite at 42.898981, -88.987359.

"Long Marsh" — in 1912 and 1916, next door to War Club was Susie Longmarsh, age 18, listed as the daughter of War Club's wife, Sarah. Living in her lodge was her two year old daughter from a previous marriage, Susie Cloud. Next door to them was her brother John Longmarsh, age 22 (b. 1894). In 1910 and 1911, they had all been living under War Club's roof.

H. L. Skavlem

"Halvor L. Skavlem" — the son of a pioneer Norwegian immigrant farmer, when a young man he became county sherrif and moved to Janesville, Wisconsin. He was a progressive Republican and supported the Granger movement. He was on the county board, then became county highway commissioner. Skavlem was very active in establishing libraries and sat on the board of at least one. He pursued ornithology as his primary interest, but is also noted for papers on Wisconsin archaeology. Tragically, his talented daughter, Hannah Luella Skavlem died in her teenage years in 1898. For her work in this collection, see "The Last Camp on Lake Koshkonong."

"Broken or Spotted Arm" — these are really two different people. For Broken Arm, see Kinzie's Rolls, nt. 9; and for Spotted Arm, see Kinzie's Rolls for Four Lakes, No. 3 (Waubesa), nt. 2.

"Little Priest" — this is the elder Little Priest. The younger Little Priest was the last War Chief of the Hocągara, and Little Priest College is named after him. For the elder Little Priest see Kinzie's Rolls for Koshkonong Village, nt. 2.

Notes to the Commentary

1 de la Ronde, "Personal Narrative," VII.350.
2 Daniel M. Parkinson, "Pioneer Life in Wisconsin, Wisconsin Historical Collections, II (1903 [1856]): 326-364 [338-340]; Charles Bracken, "Further Strictures on Ford's Black Hawk War," Wisconsin Historical Collections, II (1903 [1856]): 402-414 [404-410].
3 Charles E. Brown, "The White Crow Memorial Pilgrimage," Jefferson County Union (Oct. 20, 1918) 1-10 [8].
4 Brown, "The White Crow Memorial Pilgrimage," 3.
5 Col. Daniel M. Parkison, "Pioneer Life in Wisconsin," Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, I-II (1855): 326-[339].
6 Brown, "The White Crow Memorial Pilgrimage," 7. "Additions and Corrections," Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, X (1888): 496 (to II, 354).
7 H. L. Skavlem, "The Archaeology of the Lake Koshkonong Region. II. The Village Sites," Wisconsin Archeologist, 7, #2 (April-June, 1908): 74-102 [75-77]. The map is from Skavlem, "The Archaeology of the Lake Koshkonong Region. II. The Village Sites," frontispiece.


"Ten Descendants of Famous Chief Camp at Lake Koshkonong. Band of Jim War Club, Remnant of Once Powerful Winnebago Tribe, Definitely Establishes Old Location of White Crow’s Village," The Wisconsin State Journal, Sunday, May 9, 1920, p. 4.