February 23, 1826: Agent reports on whiskey stores at Fond du Lac

On this date in 1826, Bureau of Indian Affairs agent Lawrence Taliaferro reported to Colonel Josiah Snelling that “There may be some whisky at Sandy Lake, but no large quantity nearer than the post of the American Fur Company, at Fond du Lac, Lake Superior, which would be too far for troops to march at this advanced season of the winter.” At the time Snelling was serving as the first commander of the garrison named in his honor, Fort Snelling, built at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers. Taliaferro wasn’t trying to get whisky for Snelling’s troops, he was trying to regulate trade with local Ojibwe at Lake Winnebegosh, Cass Lake, Leech Lake, Mille Lacs, Pembina, and Snake River. One historian suggested that at Fond du Lac, “there was whisky there for about 5,000 and many a jugful over.” Further, Taliaferro reported, two buildings in Fond du Lac constructed as shelters for U.S. soldiers gathering timber the previous winter had been commandeered by the American Fur Company, which was “no doubt unlawfully engaged in the Indian Trade.” The American Fur Post was built at Fond du Lac ca. 1917 by fur trader and opium smuggler John Jacob Astor, the world’s first millionaire. The fur traders indeed worked with local Ojibwe in the fur trade. The Ojibwe had encampments on islands across from the fur post and the two groups intermarried. The site of the fur post is marked today by Historical Park. Read a history of the American Fur Post at Fond du Lac here.

John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Post at Fond du Lac, as seen from the St. Louis River, painted in 1826 by James Otto Lewis. (Image: Zenith City Press)