The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 23, July 1919 - April, 1920

John H. Fonda's Explorations in the Southwest

JOHN H. FONDA'S EXPLORATIONS IN THE SOUTH-
WEST
CARDINAL GOODWIN
The purpose of this paper is to make known a practically over-
looked explorer and trader in the Southwest. John H. Fonda's
"Reminiscences of Early Wisconsin" were dictated by him to the
editor of the Prairie du Chien Courier, and appeared in that
paper between February and May, 1858. In 1867 the editor of
the Wisconsin Historical Society republished the narrative in vol-
ume five of the Society's Collections.' The document is divided
into twelve numbers. Number one, covering practically the first
seven pages, contains the data relating to explorations and trade
in the Southwest. The other numbers in the series deal with
events pertaining to Wisconsin in particular with occasional ref-
erences to incidents relating to the history of the Northwest. The
purpose of the present writer is to call attention to the first num-
ber in the series.
It must be admitted that the account is not altogether satis-
factory. It is taken from the reminiscences of an old man who
drew largely upon his memory for the information set down in
the document. It is a narrative, too, which he evidently found
great pleasure in relating on many occasions during the declin-
ing years of a long life. The part of the document summarized
ASee the Wisconsin Historical Society, Collections, V, 205-284. The
following note is placed at the head of the document by the editor, and
is self-explanatory:
"The following series of historical papers were written by the editor
of the Prairie du Chien Courier, as dictated by the aged pioneer, whose
name they bear, and appeared in that paper, commencing with the num-
ber of February 15, 1858, and extending into May following. 'We would
advise all,' says the editor, 'to read the Early Reminiscences, as they are
extremely interesting, and contain many historical facts, that will pay
for the time spent in perusal. The subject of these sketches has been in
the West for over forty years, and thirty years a resident of Prairie du
Chien. He has lived to see most of the early pioneers carried to the
grave. His life -has been an eventful one, abounding in incidents of
travel, camp and field, that will' prove interesting to our readers. They
are as correct and truthful as memory can make them.
"Mr. Fonda was born in Watervliet, Albany county, N. Y., and is still
residing in Prairie du Ohien. We have the high authority of the vener-
able Rev. Alfred Brunson, of Prairie du Chien, for assuring the reader
that 'Mr. Fonda's narrative is as reliable as anything of the kind given
from memory".'

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 23, July 1919 - April, 1920. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101075/. Accessed December 22, 2014.