Earliest natives of Sheboygan County were known as the Oneota

Echoes of our past
William & Joy- Wangemann for The Review

As long as 10,000 years ago native tribesmen occupied what is now known as Wisconsin and Sheboygan County.

These ancient peoples had no written records and are known only through the artifacts they left behind and the Indian burial mounds they left scattered across the state including Sheboygan County.

These very early people were known as the Oneota. Often the burial mounds were fashioned in the shape of animals such as deer, bear, and other forest creature’s that they were acquainted with. An example of Indian Mounds can be seen on Sheboygan’s far south side at Indian Mound Park.

Little is known about these early tribesmen, as stated earlier these tribesmen had no written language. What little we know about the Indians of Sheboygan County came down to us through their myths and legends and the few archeological remains that have been studied.

Accounts of explorers, missionaries and traders and early settlers tell us of the early lives of these native peoples. Many of these valuable mounds were destroyed when the white man began to acquire lands and to plow ad plant the soil little heed was paid to these historically valuable burial mounds when the early farmers plowed right in the middle of them.

The Indians of Sheboygan County were a mixed group of tribes composed of Potawatomie’s, Chippewa’s, Ottawa’s, Winnebago’s, and a scattering of Menominee’s.

Most of the time these tribes intermingled with each other in a peaceful fashion. According to an old Indian Legend many years before the arrival of the white man a fierce battle did take place between warring tribes. The war began on the east bank of Lake Winnebago.

It seems that the according to this account the Chippewa’s and the Menominee’s formed an alliance in an attempt to drive the fierce Winnebago’s from what was considered prime hunting land.

Even though the allied tribes outnumbered the Winnebago’s they were unable to prevail and were defeated. Now the Winnebago’s attacked and began to drive their attackers eastward, and did not stop until they had pushed the alliance all the way east to Lake Michigan on the south bank of the Sheboygan River (present site of the Blue Harbor Resort) where the fleeing warriors mounted a high bluff (High Ave. between the lake shore and S. 8th Street) where they built a fortification with the intent to hold off the attacking Winnebago’s.

The Winnebago Chief was in no mood to become involved in a stalemate. Several days later during a dark stormy night he and a group of his best braves swam the mouth of the Sheboygan River.

The attackers then waded in shallow water south just off the beach until they were sure they were behind the enemy. The braves then stealthily scaled the bluff and attacked the unsuspecting alliance warriors from the rear. Their victory was complete.

Those members of the Alliance that were not able flee were killed and scalped. The fleeing tribesmen still atop the bluff fled westward until they reached a point near the present University Wisconsin Sheboygan where they again threw up a palisade to protect the remaining member of their tribe. It did not take long before the survivors of the battle saw the hopelessness of their situation and began to sneak away by twos and threes and family groups, the war was over.

According to Judge Gustave Buchen Sheboygan County Historian this story could not be verified but does carry an aura of authenticity about it.

The French explorer Jean Nicollet, was said to be the first white man to enter what was to become northern Wisconsin.

There is no evidence that Nicolet ever got further south than Green Bay. Nicolet and other explorers did not return for over 20 years. For almost 120 years no settlement took place in this area. The only white men to be seen were fur trappers. Slowly in the 1830’s settlers began to arrive and clear the land and establish farms. Can you imagine the labor it took to clear even an acre of heavily forested land?

For the most part settler and the native population got along fairly well. Many farmers left their cabin doors unlocked at night so that the Indians could enter and sleep on the cabin floor, especially during bad weather.

As the county’s population grew the Native American population diminished the last known Indian to live in the county was old Solomon who for many years lived near the Sheboygan Marsh, he left the county in 1883. An era had passed.

Todays Tidbit: Many of our areas highways of today follow what at one time were Indian trails.

Questions or suggestions feel free to contact me at 920-458- 2974 or E-Mail me at wangemann @yahoo.com

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