Sunday, February 19, 2012

Mary Ann Menard, Medicine Woman

Before the first  Fort Crawford army surgeon came to Prairie du Chien, the local healer was Mary Ann  Menard, who also served as a midwife.  Here is a bit about this remarkable woman:

One of the persons she attended was her own granddaughter, Louisa Gagnier, a toddler scalped by a Winnebago named Waniga in her family's cabin and left for dead.  Her father and another man were murdered during this incident.  But little Louisa was one tough baby:

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Cal Peters' Mural

This is one of the murals painted at Prairie du Chien by Cal Peters.  Click on it for a larger view. This image of it is from an old postcard in my possession.  The caption on the back says:  "Museum, Villa Louis, Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin.  This mural portrays the history of Prairie du Chien from 1673 to 1900, presenting the men and events of major importance during that period.  The fugures were painted from prints and daguerreotypes."  I don't recognize many of the figures--Father Lucien Galtier to the far right, of course, next to the voyageurs and somewhat below him, Father Samuel Mazzuchelli.   Hercules Dousman is above the rifles in the foreground, and Joseph Rolette on the other side of the Native American.  I think Col. Zachary Taylor, commander of Fort Crawford and later US President is at the far left.

In about 1938, Cal Peters became the curator of the Prairie du Chien Museum, housed in what used to be a stable building on the grounds of the Villa Louis, the grand Victorian mansion built on St. Feriole Island by the son of Hercules and Jane Dousman--usually known as H. Louis.  The house was constructed on an old Indian mound so as to avoid being flooded by the Mississippi during the spring thaw.  In 1935, its upkeep proved too much for the Dousman family and the mansion was deeded to the city of Prairie du Chien.  The building and grounds are available for touring. Peters became a muralist of considerable note.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

St. Feriole Island

Here's an informative article with some great, high-res photos of flooding on St. Feriole Island, separated by a slough from the rest of Prairie du Chien.

Here's another site with more great pix, including satellite

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Why Did He Do It?

In 1849 Theophilus [Theophile in French] LaChapelle was a handsome man thought to have a brilliant mind. He was a lawyer and had served in the Wisconsin Territorial Legislature, representing Crawford County. Theophilus was born in 1813, probably at Prairie du Chien. His father was Antoine LaChapelle and his mother, Pelagie, was a daughter of Pierre LaPointe, a valuable Indian interpreter from Canada and a Dakota woman, whose father was the first of the chiefs called Wabasha. The attorney had a number of brothers and sisters. One of these last, Therese, married Bernard W. Brisbois, son of Prairie du Chien fur trader, Michel Brisbois, and Madeleine Gautier de Verville.   Another half sister, [father being an Englishman named Crawford] Sophia Mitchell, was a celebrated beauty whose death at a young age affected Theophilius badly.
Suddenly—or so it seemed—Theophilus LaChapelle lost his reason. A good many people were shocked to find out that the learned young man was accused of murdering Louis Menard and burning down his house. A newspaper reported that the lawyer had set fire to the upper story and, as Menard ascended a ladder to put it out, LaChapelle fired two shots into his head.  He also attempted to prevent others from going to the aid of the mortally wounded man with his weapon but was overcome.  Theophilus was tried and acquitted by reason of insanity. Some believed his mind had become unbalanced from too much studying—or perhaps that was an excuse thought up by his lawyer. LaChapelle became a ward of his brother-in-law, B. W. Brisbois, and when the Mendota State Hospital opened in Madison in 1860, the man who had destroyed his own life in addition to that of a perceived enemy, was transferred there and remained for the rest of his days. Where LaChapelle had spent the preceeding ten years I do not know, nor do I know what he had against Louis Menard [spelled "Maynard" in some reports]. 

Article In Courier Press

There was an article about my book, "Lucien Galtier-Pioneer Priest" in the February 1 edition of Prairie du Chien's newspaper, the Courier Priess:

The photo of the river on the front page of this blog was taken at Prairie du Chien.