An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
May 3, 2003 - Issue 86
The Phantom of Phantom
From The Mukwonago Chief - January 11, 1906 By Rolland L. Porter
credits: submitted by Timm Severud (Ondamitag)
editor's note: Neil Smedema, who grew up in Mukwonago, tells us that Phantom Lake is in Waukesha County. Perhaps the county's boundaries were redrawn. (see below)
before the State Archeological Society, Milwaukee on December 18, 1905.
This Society, in addition to its labors of securing the preservation of
our antiquities is also interesting itself in collecting the legend and
information in regard to Indian life and customs during historic times.
It will feel indebted to any persons who may communicate to it such facts
as may be worth of publication. The society has recently published a bulletin
written by George A. West of Milwaukee, on Wisconsin Pipes, which is acknowledged
the finest ever published in the United States. It is of great importance
story was told to me by an old trapper who use to trap along the Fox River
near where I lived. I was a boy then and he was an old man so you can
see it dates back early in the last century.
is his story; perhaps a description of him and his surroundings would
not be out of place.
yourself plodding along in timberland so thickly covered with trees and
brush that you can scarcely see 10 rods, and suddenly coming out onto
a little shack, so well protected by its color, and the surrounding timber,
that you could scarcely find it again if you wondered off a short distance.
The south side of this hut is nearly covered with skins; the north side
has a small window and door, both of which are wide open. The old trapper
sits outside, skinning a muskrat, and pleased to see a visitor, as few
ever come his way. He is the wreck of a once well-built and good-looking
man: you can scarcely call him a wreck either; he is still powerful looking,
although his long gray hair and grizzly beard detract from the effect.
Enough of the trapper and his home. Under such circumstances I visited
him one day about the year 1855. He was glad to see me, and being in a
reminiscent mood, said, "I will tell you a story, which is not a
story. It is the history of a lake you are familiar with." He then
proceeded to relate the story, which I read you tonight. I will give it
in his words, without attempting however, to give you the dialect, and
may it lose none of it weirdness.
fifty years ago, when this country was the unmolested home of my truest
friends, the Indians, I was living with a tribe of Winnebagos. We had
come down one fall from the north to Mukwonago or Spirit Lake. We had
not been there long when a stray band of Sac came and camped near us.
They also had been starved out of their territory. As they were stronger
than we, we raised no objections. In about two weeks, however, another
tribe of Winnebago pitched their wigwams on the other side of the Sacs.
The two camps greatly outnumbered the Sacs and there would certainly have
been trouble if the Sacs had not realized this and carefully avoided us.
The Winnebagos would have nothing to do with the Sacs, with the exception
of Zicahota 'The Squirrel' of the former and Homaba 'The Wild Man' of
the latter tribe. These two had fallen in love with Iwoso 'Pouting Lips'
the daughter of the Sac chief Mattocincala. Zicahota was the favorite
of his tribe, and was richer in skins than any excepting his father, the
chief. He was ordinarily a very quiet fellow, but his infatuation for
Iwoso made him reckless to his rival, Homaba, who declared publicly that
he would win the Sac maiden, but Mattocincala, her father, favored Zicahota.
Zicahota wooed Mattocincala, but avoided the maiden. He told of his wealth,
and his aspirations for the seat of his father, the chief, and this won
the sachem. Homaba, meanwhile, avoided the chief and wooed the maiden.
He told of his prowess in war, his cunning in hunt and gained her love.
is needless to say that Iwoso told nobody of her preference, and Homaba
was seldom seen at the wigwam of Iwoso. Zicahota was warmly welcomed at
the lodge of Mattocincala, and was well treated by Iwoso. Homaba mysteriously
disappeared, nobody had seen him, and no one knew where he was. Some thought
he had been killed by Zicahota, but those that knew Zicahota ridiculed
the idea. The belief spread however when Homaba had been gone a week the
chief told Zicahota that unless he produced Homaba in four days he would
be punished for his crime. Of course this was wrong, but it was the mandate
of the chief, and had to be complied with. Hopeless as the case seemed,
Zicahota started out to find Homaba, and worked as zealously as though
it had been his own brother. He had been gone three days and did not succeed
in getting any trace of him. On the night of the fourth day the people
were sitting around the fire. They were all anxious about the mystery
of Homaba's disappearance that the small talk of the young braves interested
them very little, but they gave full attention when the old warrior started
to tell them the legend of Miniwakan Lake, where they were camped.
old man told them that the Manawaukan, or Water-Spirit dwelt in this lake,
and claims for his brides the fairest maiden among the tribes. In vain
did the people try to keep the young maidens from the lake; some irresistible
influence drew her there, and she was seen no more. Sometimes she went
for water, sometimes she went out in a canoe, and sometime she was sitting
on the bank. It made no difference the Manawaukan had never been deprived
of his bride. Some belied this story of the old man, others did not -
not that they thought it impossible, for they simply thought it improbable,
since they had never heard it before. They were discussing the subject
when Zicahota came into camp. He had not found Homaba, but he would show
him to them before the moon was an hour high. Zicahota went into his wigwam
and staid until moonrise, when he went quietly down to the lake. He had
told the people to go to the shore without making any noise, and his wish
was complied with, as they were all eagerness to see the outcome of his
stepped quietly into his canoe, pushed it gently from the shore and kneeled
with his paddle-uplifted waiting. There he remained for nearly an hour.
The people were getting uneasy but followed his instructions and kept
quiet. He had but moments left of his time allotted, when suddenly a canoe
darted out from under the bank near the Sac camp and started down the
lake. Zicahota waited until it was nearly opposite, then paddled out swiftly
to intercept it. There were two figures in the canoe, but in the dim and
uncertain light, they could not be recognized from the shore. The people
believed however that it contained Homaba and Iwoso.
with a wild cry of exultation, leaped from his canoe to that of his rival,
with his 'mila' or hunting knife, in his hand and grappled with the foremost
figure. A quick thrust with the keen mila, a death cry, and the two figures
together but the fatal clutch of death fell over the side and disappeared.
The figure in the stern never moved throughout this terrible scene, but
sat as motionless as if carved out of stone. The people on the bank had
barely caught their breath after this first great tragedy, when a form
rose out of the water behind the canoe, took the young girl in its arms
and dragged her shrieking beneath the surface. The ripples died away,
and nothing was seen but the two empty canoes. The spellbound watchers
gazed for a while stupefied, and then went back to camp muttering, 'the
Miniwakan has received his bride.' Those who had been skeptics became
next morning the Indians struck camp, and there has never been an Indian
encampment on this lake since that fatal night. I alone stayed, but soon
moved from there to this quiet spot on the Fox River."
ended the trapper's story.
half-past eleven on the night of September 2, of every year, a faint ghostly
light comes over the lake, and the same tragedy is reenacted. If any of
you ever happen to be in the vicinity on this date, go to the lake and
see for yourselves the fatal dual. Hear the splash and witness the disappearance
of the rival lovers. See the Miniwakan, the Water Spirit claim the bride,
and hear the shriek of the Princess Iwoso and judge for yourselves whether
or not the little lake is rightly called Nagi, or Phantom Lake.
I have seen all this and know whereof I speak. Rolland L. Porter
Neil Smedema writes ...
Since you have put me on the front page as questioning the boundaries I decided to find out. And here is the info I was told by the state of Wisconsin:
Apr. 28, 1846 Waukesha County was created in the Wisconsin territory from Milwaukee County.
May 29, 1848 State of Wisconsin was created from the Wisconsin territory.
So if the story takes place before 1846 indeed it was Milwaukee County if not then it was Waukesha County.
I was hoping from my email you guys would investigate to see if it was Waukesha or Milwaukee. Also to note that Phantom Lake is in Waukesha county now if anyone would like to visit Mukwonago or Phantom Lake. This way they would not be looking in Milwaukee County for either.
thanks, Neil ... ed.
|Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.|
Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.
The "Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America" web site and its design is the
Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 of Paul C. Barry.
All Rights Reserved.