Saturday, December 15, 2012

Black Hawk War Era Fort Stands at Sinsinawa Mound


You usually don’t associate the word “fort” with the American Midwest, let alone the upper Midwest. Sure they exist, even in Iowa; places like Fort Madison, Fort Atkinson and Fort Dodge. These fortified structures provided a place of safety, collection of a garrison and exerted regional control over the expanding territory as the United States pushed over the continent.

We learn about the major events in our country’s history in school but rarely does the material detail the Midwest’s fortified history. How many of us are better versed in forts associated with the American Colonies and Old West? Even here in Iowa the historical subject matter of westward expansion rarely mentions local forts (in school books) and their importance to the area.

So it’s little wonder that while traveling just outside of Iowa near Sinsinawa, Wisconsin (an unincorporated community just a few miles east of Dubuque, Iowa) that this structure sticks out oddly as does the mound it rests upon.

Extreme southwest Wisconsin consists of rolling prairie hills. Prominent at Sinsinawa is a conical hill that dramatically rises off the landscape and is topped off by a crown of trees.

Early settlers farmed and raised livestock in the area – much like the practices today. Lead was mined and smelted on the mound. When Sac (Sauk) and Fox factions threatened the well being of settlers a fort was constructed. Local resident, later one of the first two Iowa Senators, George Wallace Jones built this structure.

A display sign at the fort reads, “In the spring of 1832, at the outbreak of the Black Hawk War, I built a log fort or block house for the protection of my family…and neighbors.”

While I have not fully investigated the stone structure, it is obvious that the building was recently preserved with concrete flooring and column supports. The interior displays old lead mining equipment.

I have marked this as a subject to more fully explore. To make it even more fascinating is the fort’s assimilation with the buildings of the Sinsinawa Dominican Congregation of the Most Holy Rosary. The site is motherhouse for 600 sisters who conduct educational training and spiritual relationships – just steps outside the fort.