From Mineral Point to Ste Genevieve and Back – 2010
Mineral Point, Wisconsin, is known as a Cornish town, and the Cornish did leave their mark — we love our Cornish-built stone buildings and our pasty — but the Cornish weren’t the first ones here. The first non-Native Americans in the Lead Region, the founders of the town, were Yankees from the east coast, Southerners from Kentucky and Tennessee, “suckers” from Illinois, and lead miners from Missouri.
Mineral Point, when it began, was a wild and wooly frontier town, attracting dirt-poor hard scrabble diggers, educated second sons, land speculators, lawyers, and lawless desperadoes. All of them had one thing in common — they were looking to get rich, quick. Or, failing that, at least hoping to find adventure.
A few of them got rich, a lot of them died trying, many of them eventually moved on to the gold fields of California. But some of them stayed, settled in, and formed a community, and then a state – Wisconsin.
One of those who stayed and influenced the course of our history was Henry Dodge. He was a hero of the Red Bird Uprising (Winnebago War) in 1827 and the Blackhawk War in 1832. He was sworn in as the first Governor of the newly formed Wisconsin Territory on July 4, 1836, on what was then the courthouse square (now Library Park) in Mineral Point.
Most of us know that the city of Dodgeville and Governor Dodge State Park, both in Iowa County, are named for him, and that’s generally about all we know about him.
But he was a real person. He was 45 years old when he came up the Mississippi with his wife, Christiana, their nine children, their slaves (yes, slaves) and who knows how many miners, friends, and shirt-tail relatives. Like his father, Israel, he was a prominent person in the Ste Genevieve, Missouri, area for many years and had already had enough adventures to last a lifetime. Yet, he pulled up stakes and moved up the River to a new life in a new Territory. Why?
In September, 2010, my husband, Peter, and I travelled to Missouri to see if we could find some clues about Henry and his relatives and their life before they moved north. This is a loose collection of some of the research we did before we left, the photos we took and some of the things we found when we were there.