First published in 1856, Mrs. Kinzie’s firsthand account of life in the Early Day of the upper Midwest remains captivating, thought-provoking, heart-rending, enlightening, amusing, and inspiring. It’s all here in Wau-Bun: Garrison life and native customs; everyday affairs and extraordinary frontier exploits; a rich and complex convergence of cultures; wars, privation, and struggles for survival; compassion, generosity, and sacrifice; beauty juxtaposed with danger in the wilderness; weighty issues and critical decisions that would reverberate for generations. …back when Chicago was a prairie…when indigenous tribes inhabited the lands of their fathers…when prominent figures in the annals of history had not yet risen above obscurity…when John H. Kinzie served as Indian sub-agent at Fort Winnebago in territorial Wisconsin.
Now, discover the rest of the story in the Historic Preservation Edition: the fate of the Winnebago (Ho-Chunk) Nation after their forced removal from their ancestral lands; the endeavors of the Kinzies after leaving Fort Winnebago in 1833; and the rescue of the Indian agency house—now a museum on the National Register of Historic Places. Produced by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Wisconsin, this edition also features an introduction and footnotes by renowned historian Louise Phelps Kellogg.
Proceeds from the sale of the Historic Preservation Edition of Wau-Bun will contribute to the continuing preservation of the Historic Indian Agency House—a nonprofit museum in its 90th season of operation (2021)—for the benefit of generations to come. Visitors from across the nation and around the world continue to converge at this nationally significant historic site to palpably experience the important lessons of history encapsulated in the 1832 home of John and Juliette Kinzie which so many have labored to preserve. The Historic Indian Agency House uniquely and powerfully provides the physical setting for the historical drama of Wau-Bun. Learn more about the story and the historic site at agencyhouse.org.
Juliette Kinzie was born September 11, 1806. Raised in Middletown, Connecticut, she began her formal education at a boarding school in the New Haven area. Unusual for her time, Juliette’s schooling did not end there. Beginning with tutelage by her uncle, Alexander Wolcott, she worked her way toward acceptance into the prestigious Emma Willard’s School in Troy, New York.
In 1830, Juliette married John Harris Kinzie and moved west with him to fulfill his appointment as an Indian sub-agent at Fort Winnebago. If Juliette had expectations of her role in a frontier Indian Agency upon her arrival, the next three years would present both challenges and times of discovery. Following adventure, war, famine, and the rigors of frontier fort life, opportunity in Chicago called the Kinzies away. While her stay in territorial Wisconsin was brief, the impact was lasting.
In Chicago, Juliette began writing and publishing works of fiction such as Walter Ogilby and Mark Logan the Bourgeois. She additionally wrote of early Chicago’s Fort Dearborn days, in which her husband’s family had played a considerable part. In 1856, her memories of the old Northwest resurfaced in the form of a memoir which was published under the title Wau-Bun: The “Early Days” in the Northwest. In this narrative, she relayed her experiences at Fort Winnebago’s Indian Agency. Her anecdotes about the Natives, the military, frontier travels, and her in-laws’ experiences in the wilderness are as significant to the scholar as they are vivid to the casual reader.
Louise Phelps Kellogg (1862-1942) was an accomplished senior research associate at the Wisconsin Historical Society in the early 20th century.
Eleanor Kinzie Gordon (1835-1917) was a daughter of John H. and Juliette Magill Kinzie, as well as the mother of Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts.
Thomas Forsyth, Esq. (1771-1833) was an Indian agent to the Sauk and Fox just prior to the Black Hawk War, known for his depth of understanding of the tribes of the upper Midwest.
Adam G. Novey is the executive director and curator of the Historic Indian Agency House in Portage, Wisconsin.