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Community Histories

FIFTY YEARS IN THE NORTHWEST

by W. H. C. Folsom

Edited by E. E. Edwards

Published by
Pioneer Press Company.
1888

PREFACE

At the age of nineteen years, I landed on the banks of the Upper Mississippi, pitching my tent at Prairie du Chien, then (1836) a military post known as Fort Crawford.  I kept memoranda of my various changes, and of many of the events transpiring.  Subsequently, not, however, with any intention of publishing them in book form until 1876, when, reflecting that fifty years spent amidst the early and first white settlements, and continuing till the period of civilization and prosperity, itemized by an observer and participant in the stirring scenes and incidents depicted, might furnish material for an interesting volume, valuable to those who should come after me, I concluded to gather up the items and compile them in a convenient form.

As a matter of interest to personal friends, and as also tending to throw additional light upon my relation to the events here narrated.  I have prefixed an account of my own early life for the nineteen years preceding my removal to the West, thus giving to the work a somewhat autobiographical form.  It may be claimed that a work thus written in the form of a life history of a single individual, with observations from his own personal standpoint, will be more connected, clear and systematic in its narration of events than if it were written impersonally.

The period included in these sketches is one of remarkable transitions, and reaching backward, in the liberty accorded to the historian, to the time of the first explorations by the Jesuits, the first English, French and American traders, is a period of transformation and progress that has been paralleled only on the shores of the New World.  We have the transition from barbarism to civilization; we have the subjugation of the wilderness by the first settlers; the organization of territorial and state governments; an era of progress from the rude habits of the pioneer and trapper, to the culture and refinement of civilized states; from the wilderness, yet unmapped, and traversed only by the hardy pioneer in birch barks or dog sledges, to the cultivated fields, cobwebbed by railways and streams furrowed by steamers.  It is something to have witnessed a part, even, of this wonderful transformation, and it is a privilege and a pleasure to record, even in part, its history.

I have quoted from the most correct histories within my reach, but the greater part of my work, or of that pertaining to the fifty years just passed, has been written from personal observation and from information obtained directly by interview with, or by written communications from, persons identified in some way with the history of the country.  To those persons who have so freely and generously assisted me in the collection of material for this work, I hereby express my thanks. I have relied sparingly on traditions, and, where I have used them, have referred to them as such.


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