Looking over Voayager Shoulder

Still Room for more.

Chief Black Hawk and Dr. Beaumont

Emma Big Bear and Victorian Lady

Aunt Marianne Labuche will be the next bronze sculpture. She was Prairie Du Chien's first Physician. She rescued and nursed her granddaughter, baby Louise Gagnier who had been scalped and left for dead. Photo is small replica.


Dedicated in 2013, the Mississippi River Sculpture Park Shelter will provide families and friends to gather, share a meal, and imagine the possibilities.

Erdenberger House

old cabin 2The two story log cabin, standing at 113 Villa Louis Road on St, Feriole Island, in Prairie du Chien WI, is known as the Charles and Minnie Erdenberger home and then known as William and Esther Obmascher home.(1) It is believed to be constructed by Chas Erdenberger in 1859.

Erdenberger left his wife, Wilhelmina Fritsche,  for Caroline Schultz (who was married at the time to William Snyder). Chas went back to Pennsylvania, where he changed his last name to Morganroth. (2)

When the houses were cleared from St. Feiole Island, the original house looked like the photo on the right. 10351908_10202827744283427_1158072999495428051_n The house picture is from the 4th ward relocation in the late 1960s.

A Fall Visit to the The Mississippi River Sculpture Park – *

All over the world the Mississippi River is introduced to countless school children as one of the most important features of our continent. How better can we learn than to actually see and touch these bronze people from out of the pages of our history?
It is an experience not to be forgotten to stand by the great warrior Black Hawk or lie down beside the resting Voyageur.
Dr. Beaumont and his son Israel will not be forgotten by children who touch the frog in his hands. Victoria Victorious adds her poetry to the statue of the Victorian Lady, and Emma Big Bear will always remind us of times past merging with times present.
As each new figure is introduced into the park people will return to have their pictures taken with these characters from our past. Families will remember their heritage as they stroll among the statues. Stories will be written about the lives of these bronze people and teach others about them.
Visitors may learn about the making of bronze sculpture and gain appreciation for the expression of fine art.(1)
Fascinating history and towering rugged bluffs make this Prairie du Chien and St Feriole Island a memorable visit. Prairie du Chien, located four hours south of Minneapolis and two hours west of Madison, is nestled in a pristine landscape of rural hills and valleys.
The driftless area boasts scores of rocky bluffs and winding trails. Prairie du Chien lies at the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers.
Anytime a a great time to visit Prairie du Chien, and The Mississippi River Sculpture Park. Fall is a spectacular time. Make the Mississippi River Sculpture Park one of your places as a “Must See”.
--(1)*Florence Bird

The Black Hawk Tree*

220px-Black_Hawk_TreeThe Black Hawk Tree, or Black Hawk's Tree, was a cottonwood tree located in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, United States. Local legend held that Sauk leader Black Hawk used it to elude his pursuers, though there are differing details and versions of the story.  (Photo - Left - 1915 postcard of the Black Hawk Tree)
In one version of the tale, the tree was said to have been used by Black Hawk during the 1790s to evade capture from troops stationed at Fort Crawford.Black Hawk would later became famous for his role in leading a band of Sauk and Fox, known as the British Band, back into Illinois in violation of several disputed treaties. The event triggered the Black Hawk War of 1832.
Another version of the story held that one day, after his capture following the Black Hawk War, he was being escorted by Lieutenant Jefferson Davis and managed to escape. While eluding his pursuers, it is said, Black Hawk hid himself among the branches of the tree. This version of the story appeared in the LaCrosse Tribune in 1922; even then, the story noted, there were those who pronounced the tale a "myth."
In reality, the local legend is probably untrue. Most historians believe that while Black Hawk was in Prairie du Chien once, it was not until after the decisive battle of the Black Hawk War at the mouth of the Bad Axe River. By this time, in August 1832, Black Hawk had surrendered to the custody of the Ho-Chunk and could not have hidden in the tree.
Regardless of the veracity of the tale, the tree was unique in a settled area that had few trees and a large population utilizing wood for various purposes. A 1906 article in the Prairie du Chien Union debunked the popular tale, outlining the ownership of the property, the writer's interviews with the subjects, and their assertion that the tree was not planted until at least the 1840s. The same article went on to assert the tree had a right to "importance and honorable mention" because of its namesake and the injustices he faced during the 1832 "war of extermination."
Newspaper accounts stated that visitors purposely passed the tree in automobiles and many stopped to view the tree. By 1922, the once two-trunked tree was reduced to one trunk and was in decline.  During a windstorm in the 1920s, the Black Hawk Tree was destroyed, but even after its death the site continued to be marked. The Black Hawk Tree is, without question, the most well-known tree in the Prairie du Chien area and part of local lore. The Black Hawk Tree, like other trees in Wisconsin such as the Hanerville Oak, was so revered that the road was detoured around it to save it from being cut down.
Even after the tree's destruction, and certainty that the tale is not true, the legend persists. When the tree came down, the road it grew from was renamed from Bluff Street to Black Hawk Avenue.A piece of wood, purportedly from the Black Hawk Tree, hangs in the museum at Fort Crawford in Prairie du Chien.


Novel explains unexpected story of the prominent Jane Fisher Rolette Dousman*

Local author Marilyn Leys felt it was a peculiar story that must be told. The life of Jane Fisher Rolette Dousman, the first woman in Wisconsin Territory to file for a divorce, intrigued Leys initially almost three decades ago—many years before she herself would move to Jane’s hometown of Prairie du Chien. Finally, in December of 2013, Leys’ novel, “Madame Jane,” was published.

Just after the War of 1812, 14-year-old Jane married Joseph Rolette, the most powerful, ruthless fur trader in Prairie du Chien, the western outpost of the American Fur Company. After she was separated and widowed by Rolette, Jane married a second wealthy fur trader, Hercules Louis Dousman, who built a mansion that preceded the Villa Louis.

Jane, Rolette, Dousman—nearly all of the characters in Leys’ book actually lived in or visited the Prairie du Chien area, leaving paper trails she would come across nearly 200 years later while researching letters and legal documents for her hardcover.

“[My husband, Ron, and I were] living in Milwaukee and had a vacation cabin in Crawford County. We were here one time looking for things to do and we toured the Villa Louis,” Leys said. “About eight years later, we toured it again. Though the scripts were similar, I remembered what the interpreter told me during our first tour and I knew she had missed some important details.”

Leys’ theory is that the elements left out of the first script were omitted because Jane’s granddaughter, who wrote it, was embarrassed by a certain aspect of her grandmother’s life. Leys also discovered upon her second tour of the mansion a disparity regarding the end of Jane’s marriage to Rolette. A separation was mentioned the second time, and not a divorce.

At the time of her second tour, Leys had taught journalism and creative writing for 16 years. She was also looking for a project to pursue in order to qualify for a sabbatical leave from Milwaukee Public Schools. Thus, work on her novel commenced.

She didn’t do a lot of writing in the beginning, mostly research. She uncovered all the Dousman papers and other family papers and letters that helped tell portions of the stories of Jane’s life. She also got her hands on some European travelogues from the 1820s and 1830s, in which Jane was mentioned; the history of the American Fur Company, which of course provided occupational perspective; and a book owned by a friend whose day job was sewing accurate period costumes.

“After I wrote my first rough draft, I gave it to a friend who was a history teacher to read for historical accuracy,” Leys said. “When I went back to it a second time, I noticed there were portions written from several points of view, so I fixed that in my second draft. Then I put it aside again to interview people.”

Leys interviewed her 15-year-old granddaughter, Meagan, who later died of cancer. (“Madame Jane” is written in her memory.) When Leys told Meagan it was not unusual for girls her age to be married back in Jane’s days, Meagan wondered if Jane would have had a good friend to confide in with her thoughts and secrets. That is how Jane’s friend, Marie, got into the book. She happens to be one of the only fictional characters in the novel.

“I invented her because of things that could’ve happened in the plot,” Leys explained. “I’ve also included some of my own experiences, but that’s the great thing about fiction.”

Another memorable interview Leys landed was with a professor who studied 19th Century American church at Marquette University, Father William Leahy. From their conversations, she learned what a traveling priest would have carried in the post-War of 1812 era. More importantly, he put a finger on why Jane might have backed off on a divorce and settled for a separation.

“I gave him the dates and he asked if they were prominent people in the community at the time,” Leys recalled. “His immediate answer was that those were the days when Father Samuel Mazzuchelli would have been in Prairie du Chien.” Knowing the Rolettes’ wealth connected them to Fr. Mazzuchelli, that seemed to be some of the reason behind the separation settlement.

Expertise gleaned from Prairie du Chien historian  Mary Antoine and additional tours of the properties steered Leys research. In addition, she referenced sketches, photographs and paintings of the main “characters” as well as details from certain letters to create and describe individuals such as Jane, Rolette and Dousman in the book.

“One of the biggest hints I got was in a letter to Hercules Dousman, from his toupee maker. It said, ‘Because you sweat heavily, we’ve dyed your toupee a little darker,’” Leys commented, laughing.
Overall, the research and writing of “Madame Jane” took Leys about 27 years to complete.

During the early drafts of the book, the Leyses moved from Milwaukee to a farm in northeast Crawford County. Twenty years later, they moved into the city of Prairie du Chien, where Marilyn originally found Jane’s unexpected story that propelled her vocation to write the novel.

“To me, it was an isolated story. Who would’ve known I’d end up living here,” Leys said of her inspiration. “There’s a lot of history in this town. It’s one of the reasons I like living here.”

For the full, impressive story of Jane’s life, copies of “Madame Jane” may be purchased at the Fort Crawford Museum in Prairie du Chien, Paper Moon in McGregor, Barnes and Noble and Amazon.


* Permission granted by Correne Martin, Courier Press, 9/11/14. http://www.claytoncountyregister.com/articles/2014/09/10/novel-explains-unexpected-story-prominent-jane-fisher-rolette-dousman

What’s in a Name?

name-tagSpelling Complicates Search for Descendants*

            Searching for descendants of Marianne Labuche has gotten me into the most complicated spelling puzzle of my life.  The grandmother who saved her granddaughter's life was French, but by 1830, the officials who were writing down names were English speakers, so they recorded names the way they thought they were hearing them.  The biggest change I know of, so far anyway, was a family named Gauthier then, now known as Gokey.  But the Gokeys aren't anywhere on the Labuche family tree, so that spelling isn't my problem.
            Depending on where a descendant discovered the name of the grandmother, she would be listed in the records as Mary Ann or Marianne, La Buche or La Bouche.  She was listed as Marianne Labuche when local historian Mary Antoine found the name in the records for her children's baptisms and her marriage to Charles Menard, her third husband.
The grandmother had 13 children, and one of those was Registe Gagnier or Francois Regis. The first spelling showed up in a document about that branch of the family tree provided by Alice DuCharme Kirschbaum, a descendant who lives in Prairie du Chien. This ancestor was the father of Louise, the name used on her baptism and her marriage to her first husband, Amable Moreaux, or Louisa, as some other records list her.
The Mississippi River Sculpture Park Board has decided to rely on the spelling as it shows up on the list provided by Mary Antoine as the most accurate. Here are the names of the 13 children of the first generation, plus the 13 children the injured baby brought into the world with her two husbands after she healed and grew up.
Children of Marianne Labuche
1. Married Duchouquette
Francois Duchouquette
Charles Duchouquette
2. Married Claude Gagnier
Helen born circa 1795
Francois Regis born circa 1796
Claude born circa 1798
Melanie born circa 1800
Adelaide born circa 1800
3. Married Charles Menard 12 May 1817
Julie born 6 April 1805
Margueritte Born 6 April 1805
Charles born 22 February 1807
Louis born 1814
Pascal born about 1815
Children of Marie Louise Gagnier
1. Married Amable Moreaux 5 August 1843
Isadore born 1844
Aurelie born 1846
Caroline born 1847 (Dead by 1855)
Lillian born 1848 (Dead by 1855)
David born 1852
Virginia born 1 September 1853*
Sophia born 1856*
Emilie born 1857
Rosana born 1858*
Esther born 1859*
2. Married Combe Cherrier 1 March 1863
Madeline born 1863
Felix Combe born 1865
Louise born 1869
*In 1870 Federal Census listed with the last name Cherrier
In addition to Francois Regis, we've heard recently from a descendant of his brother Basil. And from the branch that starts with the granddaughter, we've also heard from a descendant of Isadore. If you see a name that sounds familiar, even if the spelling isn't, please let us know at marl@centurytel.net.
--Marilyn Leys

September is Women in Medicine Month

Prairie du Chien is Wisconsin’s second oldest city. But, did you know that Prairie du Chien had the very first woman physician in Wisconsin?
Each September, as part of Women in Medicine Month, the AMA honors influential women physician leaders. This year's theme, "Women in medicine: Innovators and leaders changing health care," reaffirms our commitment to increasing the influence of women physicians and advocating for women's health issues.
Marianne Labuche was, indeed an innovator. She used a flattened silver coin to cover a scalp wound.  What, you never heard or read that account in the latest medical journal?
During September the AMA Women's Physician Section (WPS) also honors physicians who have offered their time, wisdom and support to advance women in medicine.
Marianne Labuche, known to her patients as “Aunt Marianne” either treated most of her patients in her own home or spent days in the patient’s home. “Aunt Marianne’s daughter, Adelaide,  followed in her footsteps as a medical practitioner. She treated and cured a Prairie du Chien logger who was stabbed during a fight the punctured his lungs.  “Aunt Marianne's” Great grandson provided care for the early Gold Rush in California.  That’s inspirational.
“Aunt Marianne”was also noted as a “person of consequence” according to an 1856 pioneer writer who knew her in the nineteenth century(1).  Marianne Labuche was the first non-indigenous medical doctor to practice in Wisconsin (2).  Marianne was born before 1774 in “one of the villages below”(2), possibly in a village across the Mississippi River from St. Louis.  It is likely that the village’s name was Cahokia. Prior to 1720’2 slaves were brought to this village.  Given Mary Ann’s surname it seems that her father, Pierre LaBuche(3), was a French creole from Canada and her mother, Marianne, a slave, from whom she gained her knowledge of the healing art(2).
She had thirteen children by three husbands. And, she was the first person that was sent for by the sick and attended to each one regularly as their physician. Even after the U.S. Army provided a physician at Fort Crawford, civilians preferred “Aunt Marianne” as their doctor.
She also charged her patients for her services for giving them “device and yarb to drink”. Reports indicate that she was not modest at all about her charges. She took her pay in the produce of the area.
Marianne’s talents and her use of “Yarbs and drinks” were put to the test on June 26, 1827, when her baby granddaughter was scalped during an Indian attack. She covered her granddaughter's exposed brain with a silver plate hammered out of a silver coin.  In time, the skin covered the plate. She lived to be eighty years old.(4)
It is our pleasure to share details about an inspirational, person who mentored others to pursue medicine.

Randall Paske, President of the Mississippi River Sculpture Garden

(1) Great Lakes Creoles: A French-Indian Community on the Northern Borderlands, Lucy Murhpy
(2) French Canadians, Furs, and Indigenous Women in the Making of the Pacific Northwest, Jean Barman
(3) http://boards.ancestry.com/thread.html?mv=flat&m=71&p=surnames.gagnier
(4) Odd Wisconsin: Amusing, Perplexing, and Unlikely Stories from Wisconsin’s Past, Erika Janik