Gen. George Wallace Jones and Sinsinawa Mound before Father Mazzuchelli

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Gen. George Wallace Jones and Sinsinawa Mound before Father Mazzuchelli

Sinsinawa Mound’s first white settler was a man with an illustrious role in the history of the young nation and young territories, General George Wallace Jones. Father Mazzuchelli was called upon by Jones and other civil leaders for various kinds of assistance, because of his learning and valuable experience, for instance in building. Father Mazzuchelli served as chaplain to the first Wisconsin Territorial Legislature in 1836. General Jones had proposed his lead mining plot Sinsinawa Mound as a potential site of Wisconsin’s new Capitol; this obviously did not come to pass, but Father Mazzuchelli had the opportunity in about 1944 to purchase the prominent hill as the site of a new college for Dominican friars, which he must have hoped would be a “capitol” of evangelization. In the text below, General Jones recounted the story of his role in American history, at the Organization and First Reunion of the Tri-State Old Settlers Association of Illinois, Missouri and Iowa, held Thursday, October 2nd, A.D. 1884 at Rand Park, Keokuk, Iowa, which included many leading men of the day.



Ladies and Gentlemen, I appear very unexpectedly before you to make a few remarks, admonished as I am, by the lateness of the hour and other circumstances, to be brief in what I may say.

I was born, as the President has said, at Vincennes in the then Territory of Indiana on the 12th day of April, 1804, at half past ten o’clock in the morning. I was born in a hurry, having been in a hurry ever since, and now in a hurry, and have no doubt but that I shall die in a hurry when my time comes. On one occasion when Mrs. Gov. Wm. H. Harrison and Mrs. Col. Hamtranick were on a visit to my mother, one of the ladies said: “Mrs Jones, don’t George know how to walk?” “No,” she replied, “for from the moment he was put upon his feet he ran off, and he never walks.” I can’t even now walk up or down stairs, but go at the rate of two or three steps at a time, you will therefore, I trust, excuse my hurry on the present occasion.

In the month of March 1827, I first saw the small village of Keokuk, when on my way as a passenger on the steamer Indiana bound for Galena, the capitol of the “Fever River Lead Mines.” I went there more in search of health than for any other purpose. I visited the most of the lead diggings and smelting establishments, and made my claim at Sinsinawa Mound, now in Grant county, Wisconsin, then in the Territory of Michigan, though only six miles east of my present residence, at Dubuque, in this State. I then determined to go into the smelting, mining, farming and mercantile business at Sinsinawa Mound.

In the fall of 1823, Gen. A. Jackson passed through Lexington Ky., on his way to the Senate of the United States. A magnificent reception was given to him, his wife, and niece. He came in his own carriage drawn by four blooded Pacolet horses, driven by a negro, who had by his side on the box a fellow servant, whilst a third negro man was mounted on horseback, as an “avaunt courier” and within that very large closed carriage sat Mrs. Gen. Jackson, by the side of the old hero, with her maid and niece Miss Donelson. The General would occasionally get out of the carriage and ride on the outrider’s horse. Such a horseman I never saw before, and the like of him I have never seen since, except perhaps, in the person of my old commander and friend Gen. Henry Dodge whose aide de campe I had the honor of being during the Black Hawk war of 1832. A splendid dinner and ball was given to the hero and his family at the Phcenix Hotel, in Lexington, at which I had the pleasure of being a manager on the part of the college students proper, there being managers also on the part of the city, and also of the medical and law departments of the university. I made several visits to Gen. Jackson and his party with my classmate and warm friend Stokely Donelson, an adopted son and protege of Gen. and Mrs. Jackson. I never met with the General after he left Lexington until about the last day in November, 1835, when I called to see him with my friend Doctor Lewis F. Linn, then a senator in congress from Missouri who introduced me to him as Col. Jones, the delegate elected to congress from the Territory of Michigan. The General at once said to me: “If you were from Missouri, I would say that I became acquainted with you at Lexington, Kentucky.” I replied I am the same man and Stokely’s classmate at college. The old chieftain never afterwards addressed me otherwise than as “my son,” a term of affection which I appreciated much more highly than if addressed as colonel or delegate to congress.

When I got my bill, creating Wisconsin Territory, through both houses of congress, my two colleagues, as the delegates then termed each other) Sevier, of Arkansas, afterwards senator in congress from that State and Minister to Mexico, and White, of Florida, a very distinguished lawyer, both told me that I need not expect to see any one of my constituents appointed to either of the twelve or thirteen offices created by that law, as neither of them had ever had any such favor conferred on them or any one of their constituents. I was shocked at such a disclosure and so upon the spot I sat down and wrote a letter to the President, (Gen. Jackson,) claiming the right to have those offices given to my own constituents of the then newly created Territory of Wisconsin, protesting against the appointment of any other than my fellow citizens of the New Territory proper, of Wisconsin, for whose especial benefit those offices were created. I contended that my constituents of Wisconsin, then embracing all of what constitutes the States of Iowa, Minnesota, and all of the country west of Lake Michigan, north of the State of Missouri, and all the intermediate territory to the Pacific Ocean, including Oregon and excluding Michigan which had adopted a State Government, elected her two senators Lyon and Norvell, and her representative Isaac E. Crary who went to Washington as such when I did, but whose State was not admitted and they allowed to take their seats until December, first Monday) 1826, when I took my seat in congress as the delegate elected from Wisconsin.

Col. Donelson, the President’s adopted son, and his private secretary came to me the next day after I had sent my letter to the President, and said: Col. Jones, the General wants to see you.”

I immediately jumped into a hack (there were no street cars there then) and was driven to the White House, which I entered with fear, trembling like an aspen leaf. I was soon ashered into the Old President’s presence, whom I found sitting with his two feet on the table and smoking his corn cob pipe with his cane stem of about five feet in length. His back was towards me, and as I entered he said: “Walk in, my son–take a seat, my son.”  “I read your letter, my son, with interest. It does honor to your head and heart. But my son, it has been the unvarying custom ever since the establishment of the First Territorial Government by Congress to fill the offices therein, by appointments from the States, and not by selecting them from amongst the citizens of the newly created Territory. There is a Governor to be appointed for this New Territory, who is to be Commander in Chief of the Militia of the Territory, will be ex-officio superintendent of Indian affairs. Have you, my son, any man in your New Territory who is qualified to fill this great trio in urium office? Yes! Mr. President, I replied; I have the best man in the U.S. to fill this office–General Henry Dodge. “I don t know any General Dodge,” the President replied, looking up to the ceiling of the room. I said I served with him as his aide de camp through the Black Hawk war, which he put an end to. He is now in the Rocky Mountains as the Colonel commanding the first regiment of cavalry–the dragoons, with his confidential friend Jefferson Davis as his adjutant. “Is that the man that you want me to appoint,” he replied. “Yes, sir, he is the man that my constituents want as their chief magistrate and commander in case of another Indian war.” “You shall have him my son, I care not what my cabinet may say, or what the practice of the government has been. Bring me, my son, a list of the offices created by this act establishing Wisconsin Territory, with the salaries attached to them, and I will give you some of them.”

When my old friend General Charles Gratiot informed me that General Jackson was about to veto the bill, making an appropriation of $75,000 for the removal of the obstructions to the navigation of the Mississippi river, at the Des Moines rapids, I lost not a moment’s time in appearing before the Chief Magistrate to prevent, if possible, such actions. I informed the President that that appropriation was made in pursuance of a resolution which I as the delegate in Congress introduced for that purpose.

A day or two after my interview with the President, when I walked into the Senate Chamber I was stopped by Mr. Buchanan, then a Senator from Pennsylvania, who called out Messrs. Dr. Linn Walker, of Mississippi, and Clayton, then the chairman of the judiciary committee of that body, afterwards in 1849, made Secretary of State by President Taylor. Mr. Buchanan said let me tell you gentlemen what has happened to me this morning. I called upon my old friend General Jackson to obtain from him the appointment of my friend Wm. Frazer, of Lancaster, to one of the judgships in this New Territory of Wisconsin, which this young gentleman, Col. Jones, has forced us to establish before Michigan is admitted as a State. What do you suppose General Jackson’s reply to my application was? He said, Mr. Buchanan, you must go to the delegate from that Territory. If he will recommend your friend to me I will appoint him and not without. I, to whom General Jackson tendered the appointment as his Secretary of State on his accession to the Presidency on the 4th of March, 1829; who have served some twenty years in Congress have got to appeal to this young gent eman for such a favor. Now, Clayton, continued Mr. Buchanan, say a good word to Col. Jones in behalf of my friend and yours, Mr. Frazer. Senator Clayton said, Colonel Jones I have nothing to do with these d–d locofocos (the term then usually applied to the democrats), but I can assure you that Mr. Frazer, with whom I have practiced law in Delaware and Pennsylvania, is one of the best lawyers that I have ever met with. Mr. Buchanan wrote to Mr Frazer immediately, and in two or three days he brought his friend to see me at my boarding house, at Dawson’s on Capitol Hill. Mr. Frazer dined with me that day. Mr Frazer, before and at the dinner, declined to taste a drop of any liquor, or even claret or champagne wine, saying he had not tasted any kind of spirits for twenty years. This delighted me as did his conversation. I the next day wrote a note to President Jackson and Mr. Frazer was nominated and unanimously confirmed by the Senate as one of the Justices of the Supreme Court for the Territory of Wisconsin. On his way out to Wisconsin he stopped at Mrs. McArthur’s tavern, and being unwell, she prepared a hot brandy sling for him, which he, not knowing its contents, drank as advised to do by Mrs. McArthur, and never after that day breathed another sober breath, but at once got drunk and continued to drink hard until he finally killed himself by hard drink.

The noble hero of the hermitage, President Jackson, permitted me to name every one of the officers appointed for Wisconsin Territory in 1836, but one, and that was Judge David Irvin, of Virginia, who has filled the office of “additional judge” for Michigan Territory, west of the Lake, through the influence of his and General Jackson’s friend, Wmm. C. Rivers, of Virginia.

In 1820 my father sent me to Lexington, Ky., to college, traveling all the way from St. Louis on horse back through Southern Illinois, the Green river country of Kentucky, and by Frankfort to Lexington, where I was placed under the protection and college guardianship of Henry Clay, with whom I afterwards served in the Congress as Iowa’s first Senator elect, the noble and ever to be lamented General Augustus C. Dodge being my colleague. The legislature at its first session, 1847, failed to elect, although Judge Thos. S. Wilson came within one vote of being elected by the joint meeting of the two houses. I was not then a candidate, but was made one at the next session, when I was nominated in the caucus on the third ballot and elected the next day in the joint meeting of the two houses. When elected I was the Surveyor General at Dubuque, for Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, and the balance of the Territory east of the Pacific Ocean. There was no opposition or competition whatever to the election of General Dodge as Iowa’s first Senator. When he and I entered the Senate, at my suggestion, we walked around to the rear of Col. Benton when he seized with his two a hand of each of us and exclaimed, ‘This is too good, too good, to have two of the sons of two ot my oldest and best Missouri friends and constituents to be sent here to serve with me as brother Senators, both of whom I have known from their childhood and both of whom I served whilst they were delegates in Congress. He elevated his voice to such a pitch as to put a stop to the proceedings, the Senate being then in solemn session. My colleague and I were then sworn in, he drawing the short term and I the long. He was, however, again elected by our legislature for a long term, the same legislature being still in session which had elected us on the 7th of December. President Polk on the same day, gave us a precisely similar greeting, at the White House, when we called to see him and saying that there were no two men whom he would rather see come to the Senate than us. We had served in the House with him whilst we were delegates.

When the Black Hawk war commenced, I was engaged in my farming, mining, smelting, and merchandising, at Sinsinawa Mound. I erected a block house or fort there at my own expense, armed and provisioned it as I did when I settled there. I am the first man who brought corn meal into the Territory in the shape of two hundred barrels of kiln dried.

Josephine Gregoine, my wife, with whom I fell in love at first sigh,t on the 29th of September 1825, at Carmelite Bopier’s birth night ball. Josephine being then just thirteen years, seven months and twenty-two days old. I married her on her seventeenth birthday, and love her, ladies and gentlemen, this day better than I did then, so help me God. This splendid gold watch and chain, which you now see, being one amongst many rich, beautiful and valuable tokens of affection with which our friends presented to us on the thrice happy occasion of our golden wedding.

I settled at Sinsinawa Mound in the early spring of 1828, built my log cabin in two days from the stump and slept in it on the second night.

I have never used tobacco in any way, have always been very temperate in my habits, have never been drunk once in my life, and have not been confined to my bed or room by sickness or other cause for upwards of forty years.

My old friend and partner in mining and mercantile business, Hon. Thomas McKnight sent an express to me, at Sinsinawa Mound, announcing the sad news, which had that night came into Galena, that my brother-in-law, Felix de St. Vrain, then US Agent of the Sac and Fox Indians, at Rock Island, had either been taken prisoner or killed by a war party of some forty Sac, Foxes and Winnebagoes, some twenty or twenty-five miles west of Dixon, Illinois.

I immediately mounted my horse, the “General,” and was soon in Galena, but too late, by several hours, to join Capt. Stephenson’s horse company, which had put out in all possible speed, in pursuit of the murderous and blood thirsty Indians. I however, notwithstanding, the entreaties of Capt. James May, whom many of you know well and of other friends, not to go off alone, pushed on and overtook the volunteers from Dodgeville, under the valiant Gen. Henry Dodge, and Capt. Stephenson’s company some fifteen or twenty miles east of Galena.

We found the remains of three or four of the murdered party and I recognized that of Mr St. Vrain by his clothes, pocket-book, papers and jet black hair, albeit his head, hands and feet were taken off as was also much of the flesh from his body, as food for the Cannibals, who were almost in a starving condition. His heart, as I was afterwards informed by the Interpretress, Mrs. May Otte, a French women, was also taken out, and when they reached their encampment, where their families were congregated, they cut the heart into small pieces and gave them to their boys to swallow, he to be adjudged the bravest, who would swallow the biggest piece.

I recollect follow-citizens of this Tri-Union how we were told as we came upon the Steamer Indiana, by the wise-acres, that although the shores and the land, particularly on the west side, was beautiful to the eye that it extended back but for a very few miles of that character, and that all beyond, clear to the Missouri river and beyond, was a barren sandy desert, fit only for the sand hill cranes and the wolves and other wild beasts of the forest. The Indians inculcated this idea, and strange to say, even the Government authorities at Washington City believed their stories, and hence the early settlers in the lead mine regions were not permitted to make farms under “stringent rules and regulations” sent out from the War Department to the Superintendent of the Lead Mines.

My old friend, the God-like Daniel Webster, called me out of the Senate Chamber one day and said to me ‘Mr Fillmore has appointed me Secretary of State, and has requested me to make up his cabinet. You and I differ in politics, but I ask you as a personal friend to give me your opinion as to the selection of a proper person to select from the North-west, as one of Mr. Fillmore’s Cabinet.” I replied that I would first suggest the name of Henry S. Geyer, of St Louis; my next choice would be Edward Bates, also of St. Louis; and the third man would be his old friend and brother Congressman, Honorable John Scott, of Ste. Genevieve, Missouri. He left me, going directly to the office and telegraphed to Mr. Geyer, the tender of the appointment, as a member of Mr. Fillmore’s Cabinet. Mr. Geyer immediately declined the honor, and then Mr. Webster tendered the appointment by telegraphic dispatch to Hon. Edward Bates, who came to Washington and entered upon the duties of the office. He was in 1861 made Attorney-General of President Lincoln.

That session of Congress proved to be my last as delegate, and solely because of my service as the second of the Hon. Johnathan Cilley in the fatal duel between him and the Hon. W.J. Graves, of Louisville, Kentucky. I made strenuous efforts to put a stop to it after the first and second fires. Although defeated for a re-election by the people I carried all of my bills before Congress, the members of Congress all knowing how I resented a connection with the duel and its unhappy result.

You, Mr. President, will recollect, as doubtless do our many friends, the Rev. Doctor Salter, as must also, our excellent friend and learned, jurist, Hon. John H. Craig, how on the 3rd of last June, in Burlington, my friend, Gen. A.C. Dodge seized me by my hand with his left and slapping me on the breast, with my hand elevated, he said:”here is the man, this is the hand, these are the fingers that drew the law that divided the Territory of Michigan and established the Territory of Wisconsin, which then embraced Iowa, Minnesota, and all of the country north of the State of Missouri, clear to the Pacific Ocean, including all of Oregon and Washington Territories, and the vast intermediate country.” Here is the man (again slapping me on my breast,) this is the hand, and these are the fingers that drew the law which made this, our beautiful and glori ous Iowa a separate government on the 4th day of July, after Wisconsin had been created as a district Territory. Here is the man, this is the hand, and these are the fingers which drew the law setting apart six hundred and forty acres of land upon which this, our beautiful City stands, and as were likewise provided for the five other towns of Fort Madison, Bellevue, Dubuque, Peru, Iowa, and Mineral Point, in Wisconsin. Here is the man, this is the hand, these are the fingers that drew the law making the first appropriation of money by Congress for the removal of the obstructions to the navigation of the Mississippi river at the Des Moines and Rock River Rapids. Here is the man, this is the hand, these are the fingers that drew the law making appropriations of money by the general government for the purchase of the lands of the Indian tribes which owned the soil of Iowa, and the lands of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, embracing amongst others the vast pine regions of these States.’ I could and would go on to innumerate other beneficiaries obtained for us by this my old colleague and life-long friend, but that he begs me to desist, and that I have to introduce others who will follow him in addresses.

I allude to this scene because of the honor which that noble conferred upon me on that memorable occasion, and because of the profound regret which I, and the people not only of Iowa, and indeed of the whole union of the States feel, because of his absence from amongst us, albeit his pure soul is now in the enjoyment of eternal felicity at the hand of the throne of Almighty God.

But ladies and gentlemen I must cease to weary you with any further remarks, knowing as I do that others are to follow me who will afford you much more gratification than I can, and especially as I cannot, with truth say, as Col. Thomas H. Benton did to me, when in my presence he was told that his opponents said that he was vain and egotistical. ‘Damn them George, I have something to be vain and egotistical of, know more than all of them put together.” That was in 1852 when we were fellow-passengers going down the Mississippi river on a steamboat. I thank you Mr. President, and ladies and gentlemen, for the patient hearing you have given me, on this the most delightful occasion of the kind that I have ever participated in a lifetime of upwards of eighty years. God bless and prosper you all, I pray.