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The Village of Pahquahwong A book excerpt from John Dettloff's new book, Whispers of the Past, A History of the Chippewa Flowage

The following is the first of several book excerpts the LCO News will feature from local author, John Dettloff. The excerpts will be from his  new book.

Detloff has lived on the Chippewa Flowage, near New Post, for over 50 years.  His family has had a small resort just east of New Post for 56 seasons and for 40 years he has been writing historical articles about the flowage, tribal history (especially Old Post), old guides, old resorts, and fishing.

His new book called Whispers of the Past, A History of the Chippewa Flowage, released on November 1st, gives a comprehensive history of the flowage going back to the fur trade era. 

According to Detloff, the book profiles in great detail the people of the "Chippewa Basin" (the area that became flooded by the flowage) and talks about the 300 plus people who were affected by and displaced by the flowage.  There were probably 250 plus tribal members and nearly 100 non-tribal members that were affected. 

This pre 1831 “Schoolcraft map” shows the location of the village of Pahquahwong (as indicated by the arrow) to be east of Lac Couterville and at the northwest corner of Pa kwa a wag Lake. Keep in mind that this map is orientated upside down, with north at the bottom of the map and south at the top of the map.

From the Book:


It was likely during the 1770s – while continuing to press back the Santee Sioux (Dakota) – when the Ojibwe branched out from their village on Lac Courte Oreilles and established new settlements in the region at Chief Lake, Lake Chetek, Red Cedar, Long Lake, and – eventually – on the West Fork of the Chippewa River at the village of Pahquahwong.  The Dakota still loomed as a constant threat, so the Ojibwe had to remain vigilant as their foes could be hiding behind any rock or tree, waiting in ambush.  After establishing an encampment at Chief Lake, only four miles east of Lac Courte Oreilles, the Ojibwe pressed even further east – ten miles downstream on the Chief River – to where it met with the flowing waters of the West Fork of the Chippewa River.  There, on the northwest shores of a mile and a half long slack water stretch of the West Fork known as Pahquawong Lake, they established a village.  This was the original site of the village of Pahquahwong.

Being located at the confluence of the Chief River and the West Fork of the Chippewa River, Pahquahwong was uniquely situated at an important crossroads which served as a well-suited place of trading.  The name “Pahquahwong” has been spelled many ways: Poc-qua-yah-wan in an 1820 book, Pa-kwa-a-wa on Schoolcraft’s 1831 map, Pakweyowang on Nicollet’s 1839 map, Pukweyowang on an 1853 map, Puk-wa-wanuh by the Ojibwe historian William Warren, and Pa-Kwa-Wang on the 1912 government survey map.  In the Ojibwe language, Pahquahwong means “where the river is wide.”

To the west from Pahquahwong, a canoe could take its paddlers upstream on the Chief River, on a ten mile journey westward against the current – through many prime wild rice beds – to Chief Lake (known as Akwawaywaning Lake by the Ojibwe), a large natural lake which abounded with great fishing… especially large maashkinoozhe.   (The Ojibwe word for muskellunge is “maashkinoozhe,” which means “great fish.”)  


To the south from Pahquahwong, travelers could go downstream on the West Fork of the Chippewa River about six and a half miles before reaching the place where the East Fork of the Chippewa River joined with it and became one… as the Chippewa River.  There are two directions one could have taken from there.  Either veer to the left and go upstream on the East Fork to the northeast for another forty some miles and take a series of portages and waterways to reach the village of Lac Du Flambeau… or continue going downstream on the main body of the Chippewa River to the south for a hundred and sixty miles until it enters the Mississippi River.

If one decided to venture north from Pahquahwong, upstream on the majestic waters of the West Fork of the Chippewa River, it ultimately led to Lake Superior’s Chequamegon Bay and the island sanctuary long held sacred by the Ojibwe known as Mon-ing-wun-a-kaun-ing or Madeline Island.  In order to take this route (as indicated on an 1839 map that was drawn by J. H. Nicollet) one had to go upriver on the West Fork of the Chippewa River to Kayelikag Lake; from there take a connection of portages and lake crossings through Manitosawin Lake, Shishib Lake, Weyekwa Lake, and Namebin Lake; and – after having crossed over the Great Divide – they would have to portage to the Bad River.  Once on the Bad River, the traveler would have to go downstream some forty miles to where the river entered Lake Superior, where the last leg of the journey was a ten-mile canoe trip across Chequamegon Bay to the La Pointe settlement on Madeline Island.  This was the primary and quickest of two water routes that led to the Chippewa River for all traders, voyageurs, and Indians coming in from Madeline Island and Chequamegon Bay… a route which took travelers right through the newly established Ojibwe village of Pahquahwong. 

The alternative water route to get to the Chippewa River from Madeline Island and Chequamegon Bay was to go upstream on the Bad River to the White River and follow the White River west, until reaching the portage to the Namekagen River.  Once on the Namekagen River, travelers had to follow it southwest (downriver) until reaching the portage that led to Bass Lake and onto Lac Courte Oreilles.  Once making it across the waters of Lac Courte Oreilles, they would take an Indian trail eastward to Chief Lake.  At the north end of Chief Lake, at its outlet, travelers would take the Chief River downstream until reaching the waters of the West Fork of the Chippewa River. 

In either case, both above-mentioned water routes that led to the Chippewa River from Madeline Island and Chequamegon Bay took the traveler right through the village of Pahquahwong… a route that Michel Cadotte would become very familiar with.

Michel Cadotte was born on July 22, 1764, in Sault Ste. Marie to John Baptiste Cadotte Sr. and his Ojibwe mother Athanasie Equawaice, a member of the Owaazsii (Bullhead) clan and close relative of the Ojibwe Chief Madjeckewiss.  After being educated in French Catholic schools in Montreal, Michel and his brother John Jr. learned every aspect of the trading business from their father, which included fur trading interests all over the Lake Superior region.  By the early 1780s, both young men had traveled west with their father and became involved with the North West Fur Company after it was formed in 1784.  By 1787, their father had largely retired from the fur trade and left operations to his able sons.  John Jr. took over trade operations at the Upper St. Croix and northeastern Minnesota, and his brother Michel built a trading empire throughout northern Wisconsin. 

Michel fortified his own strategic alliance with the Ojibwe when he married Equawasay, the daughter of the head of the White Crane clan.  Equawasay’s Christian name after she was baptized was Madeline.  She is the namesake of Madeline Island.  John B. Cadotte Sr. and his two sons were so well respected by their Ojibwe "family" that they were consider "white chiefs" by the Tribe.

In 1784, Michel Cadotte established a winter trading post on the Namekagon River – located about four miles southwest of the present-day site of Hayward – just below the portage that came from Lac Courte Oreilles.  From this location, Cadotte was able to conduct trade with people of two different water sheds, the St. Croix and the Chippewa Rivers.  After acquiring trade goods from the British at Michilimackinac to supply his post, Cadotte’s winter trading had yielded him forty bundles of beaver skins to sell at LaPointe come spring. Over the next fifteen years, Cadotte was to establish a succession of other trading posts at locations like Lake Chetek, Long Lake, Rice Lake, the Lac Courte Oreilles village, and in multiple locations on the Chippewa River. 

Around 1787, Michel Cadotte established a winter hunting camp and trading house on the Chippewa River at a spot known to the Ojibways as “Puk-a-wah-on-aun,” located a short distance above the mouth of the Man-e-to-wish River (today known as the Flambeau River).  Not to be confused with the village of Pahquahwong which was thirty-five miles further upriver, this location had pierced more deeply into Dakota territory to have access to better winter hunting and trapping opportunities.  Beaver, elk, deer, and bear were found in great numbers here, and although the large band of Ojibwa hunters who accompanied Cadotte down the Chippewa River were fearful, the security that Cadotte had provided, combined with the large contingent of Lac Du Flambeau who came down the Man-e-to-wish to join with them, created an unbreachable camp at Puk-a-wah-on-aun. 

The following winter season, Michel Cadotte pushed even further south down the Chippewa River and set up his winter hunting camp and trading post on the Yellow River, a couple of miles upstream from where it joins the Chippewa (near the present-day location of Cadott).  This time he was joined by a large band of Lac Du Flambeau Ojibwa, whose chief was his wife’s uncle.  The next winter, Cadotte – along with his usual large following of Ojibwe hunters – had penetrated even further down the Chippewa, beyond the Upper Falls, where they had an accident and two of his “coureurs du bois” died.  This area was in such dangerous Dakota territory that Cadotte and his Ojibwe hunters erected a log stockade around each of their camps as a precaution.  The Dakota did approach and when it looked like battle was unavoidable, Michel Cadotte used his diplomatic skills to secure a winter truce by negotiating with the Dakota’s trader, a man named LaRoque.  This pragmatic action insured everyone’s survival, and oddly enough, the opposing tribes actually feasted and hunted together for the balance of the winter.

The truce was temporary though, and come summer, the two tribes were again bitter enemies trying to destroy each other.  Amazingly, the winter truce was reinstated each year for the next several years between these two warring factions.

To order a copy of John Dettloff's new book, send a check or money order for $29.95, plus $5 shipping and 5 1/2% sales tax, made out to Trails End Publishing and send it to: Trails End Publishing, 7431 N Flowage Rd., Couderay, Wi 54828.



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