A Brief History of John DuBay
This history is of one of the long forgotten, but most picturesque characters to move across the Minnesota-Wisconsin-Michigan Territorial scene, John Baptiste DuBay. More literally, perhaps, than that of any other frontier figure, his story reflects the vigor, the strength, the ruggedness, and the profound tragedy which frequently colored the daily lives of those rugged individualists whom we have come to regard as the frontiersmen of old.
As a fur trader and frontiersman, and later as a pioneer in central
Wisconsin, and as the “son-in-law of Oshkosh, the head chief of the Menominee
was as widely known as any non-political, non-military figure of his time in
Wisconsin. Indeed, while he was in no wise a great man, he was a beloved
character. Although a mixed blood, French and Indian, he commanded the esteem
and attention of white men in all walks of life. From the shores of Lake
Michigan to the Mississippi; from Milwaukee to the Superior beaches; from
Prairie du Chien to Sault Ste. Marie and Michillimackinac; indeed, from Detroit
to the Selkirk Settlement in the Red River valley, his name was a household
word. A legendary figure of the old Pinery lumbering region before Paul Bunyan’s
fabled exploits were heard of there, DuBay was as characteristically Wisconsin
as the Wisconsin river itself, whose long reaches and great breadth he had
traveled as a trader and voyageur from a decade beyond recall. For his position
as trader and central Wisconsin agent for John Jacob Astor’s American Fur
Company was a position to be conjured with in those days.
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