Written by Juliette Kinzie
Wau-Bun: The Early Day in the Northwest is a riveting memoir detailing the Kinzie family's experiences in early territorial Wisconsin and Illinois. First published in 1856, it has been reprinted many times as the fascinating story continues to resonate with readers generation after generation.
Garrison life at forts Winnebago, Howard, and Dearborn; the functions of an Indian Agency; dangerous journeys on the frontier; customs of Wisconsin's indigenous people; and a first-hand account of the famous Fort Dearborn massacre are all vividly relayed by Mrs. Kinzie in Wau-Bun. Among familiar characters who come into the story are Governor James D. Doty, Jefferson Davis, John Lawe, Col. William S. Hamilton (son of Alexander Hamilton), Eleazar Williams, Augustin Grignon, Jacques Porlier, Chief Four Legs, and many others.
The illustrations in the book are reproductions of sketches made by the author on the ground at the time (early 1830s) and are the only existing pictures of the particular scenes. They are artistic as well as accurate.
The Indian Agency House at Portage, Wisconsin, built in the wilderness in 1832, was the home of the author. The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Wisconsin (NSCDA-WI) purchased and restored the house in 1931 and opened it as a museum in 1932. The NSCDA-WI published this 1989 edition of Wau-Bun—a hardcover version with introduction and notes by accomplished historian Louise Phelps Kellogg. Proceeds from the sale of the book are used to help in the historic house's preservation and operation as visitors from across the nation and around the world continue to converge here at the portage to visit the house and experience the story.
"Mrs. Kinzie's account of the early day in Wisconsin is delightful; it sparkles with humor and with the pleasure of youth in new and strange adventures. The spirit of happiness pervades it and the author's affectionate sympathy for her husband's Indian 'children' shines on every page. Her description of travel and its vicissitudes in Wisconsin of the early day is full of fun and jollity. She was what we would call today a 'good sport,' taking everything with philosophy and good will. The feast of good things is spread for the reader; all that remains is enjoyment of the narration."
—Louise Phelps Kellogg, 1930