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The second lumbering exploit is attributed to the Yellow River, whither Davis was sent in 1831 to superintend the building of a sawmill to be used in getting out timber for the further work of construction at Fort Crawford. He built a “rough little fort,” and conciliated the neighboring red men to such an extent that he was adopted into their tribe and given the name of Little Chief. The winter was extremely cold, and Davis was often wet to the skin for hours. The exposure brought on pneumonia, and for months he lay at this isolated place, directing the work as best he might, while emaciated by disease to such an extent that Pemberton, his negro slave, would carry him like a child from the bed to the window.
Such, briefly summarized is Mrs. Davis' account of her husband's career as a lumberman in the Northwest. It has been accepted without question by Dodd, who in certain respects has ventured to elaborate upon it.21 Despite these respectable authorities, however, it may be confidently stated that Davis' actual lumbering career bore but slight resemblance to the one described by them. It is to be observed that Mrs. Davis describes two distinct experiences, one on the Red Cedar River in 1829, the other on Yellow River in 1831. Davis himself, in his letter to George W. Jones in 1872, has likewise described two lumbering experiences. The first of these on the Wisconsin River in 1829, getting out logs from Fort Winnebago-we have already noted. Of the second experience he says; "after the treaty of that year (1831) (I) was ordered to Prairie du Chien and subsequently up the Yellow River, where we (the government) had a sawmill to cut lumber at (for) Fort Crawford. Pine logs were obtained on the Chippewa and rafted to the mill on Yellow River; oak logs were cut around the mill and the lumber of both kinds rafted and boated to the landing at Prairie du Chien. To this extent was I a "lumberman" in Wisconsin, being then in the U. S. army, and stationed so far beyond the populous regions; the soldiers were the operators, and as an officer my duties were to direct their labor and exercise the other functions belonging to our relation to each other.”
21 Others have not hesitated to claim far more. In an address before the National Wholesale Lumber Dealers' Association in Chicago in 1902, R. L. McCormick, a lumberman and president of the Wisconsin Historical Society, described Davis as “the first lumberman on the Mississippi."
This recital is sufficiently clear-cut except for one somewhat puzzling detail. The designation Yellow, as applied by the pioneers to a river, is not very distinctive. Wisconsin boasts no less than three streams of this name, while a fourth enters the Mississippi from the west a few miles above Prairie du Chien. On what Yellow River did Davis pursue the lumberman's calling? Of the three Wisconsin streams, one flows into the Wisconsin about fifty miles above Portage; one into the Chippewa a considerable distance above the Red Cedar; and one into the St. Croix, far into the Northwest. With the last of these Davis has never been associated by any one, and it may therefore be eliminated from our problem. Mrs. Davis' ignorance of the geography of the region spared her the trouble of identifying the stream her husband made famous, and she merely speaks of it as “Yellow River;" while Dodd, drawing from her narrative a fairly obvious inference, identifies it as the tributary of the Chippewa. A. G. Turner, the historian of Fort Winnebago, on the other hand, identifies is as the tributary of the Wisconsin. More recently than any of these, Mr. C. E. Freeman, a careful local historian of Menominee, comes forward with the assertion that it was neither Chippewa nor Wisconsin tributary, but the Iowa stream near Prairie du Chien 22
The implications from Freeman's conclusion (which to me seems convincing) are fairly obvious. Davis was never on the Chippewa, nor its tributary, the Red Cedar. Mythical therefore become the many statements concerning the ardousness and dangers of his logging exploits in this region. The adoption into the tribe, the danger of massacre, the pulmonary attack and the nursing of faithful Pemberton, if not equally mythical, must all alike be ascribed to some other time and place than the Yellow River, for Davis was here but a scant half dozen miles away from the sheltering walls of Fort Crawford. If these things were ever in fact related by Davis to his wife, she has failed to state correctly the place and occasion of their occurence.
The lumbering detail on Yellow River in the autumn and winter of 1832-33 was, so far as our present knowledge goes,
22 See his careful study, "Two Local Questions,” in the Menominee Dunn County News, October 14, 1909.
Davis' last assignment at Fort Crawford. On March 2, 1833, Congress passed a bill which provided for the organization of a dragoon regiment for service on the western frontier: two days later Davis was commissioned a captain in the new regiment and he shortly set out for Kentucky to recruit a company. On the completion of this mission he repaired to Jefferson Barracks, the appointed rendezvous of the regiment, whose headquarters were presently established at Fort Gibson in modern Muskogee County, Oklahoma. The colonel of the regiment, it is of interest to note, was Henry Dodge of Wisconsin, one of the popular heroes of the Black Hawk War. By him Davis was appointed to the responsible post of adjutant of the regiment. After a year and a half of service, nominally at Fort Gibson but much of the time in the field,23 Davis resigned his commission to marry and take up the life of a planter in Mississippi. His intended bride was Sarah, the second daughter of Colonel Taylor, whose heart he had won while stationed at Fort Crawford.
Over this courtship and marriage the tongue of gossip has hardly yet ceased to wag. Although Davis would seem from every point of view to have been an eligible suitor for Miss Taylor's hand, her father, for some reason now unknown, sternly opposed their union.24 The lovers persisted in their intentions, however, and when in June, 1835, Davis left the service he journeyed to Louisville, where Miss Taylor was visiting, and there at the home of her aunt, Colonel Taylor's sister, the two lovers were married.
The sequel of the union proved tragic enough. The young couple journeyed to Mississippi where on land adjoining his older brother's estate Davis had planned to make his home. Both were soon seized with fever, however, and on September 15, while the husband lay desperately ill, the bride passed
28 The history of the Dragoon Regiment is told by Louis Pelzer, Marches of the Dragoons in the Mississippi Valley (Iowa City, 1917).
24 Various explanations of this attitude have been advanced, none of them adequate. A more plausible surmise, as it seems to me, is that some now forgotten garrison intrigue was responsible for it. Such discords between the officers of the frontier posts were painfully common; Davis, himself, though honored by Dodge with the appointment to the post of adjutant of the Dragoon Regiment, was soon on such terms with his colonel that the latter was eager to fight a duel with him. Letter to George W. Jones quoted by Pelzer, Marches of the Dragoons, 28.