Andrew Pierce Van Matre
Andrew Pierce Van Matre is the son of Morgan and Mary (pierce) Van Matre.
Although not in the direct line I am following, Andrew Pierce Van Matre’s story is an interesting one and he influenced his brothers and sister to join him in what was then Michigan Territory and Illinois to mine lead. He went by the nickname A. P. Van Matre and that is what he is referred to in many biographies and stories.
Born: 25 Aug 1793 most likely in Ohio County, Virginia (now West Virginia), USA.
Died: 5 Jun 1834 at the age of 40 in Willow Springs Township, Lafayette County, Wisconsin.
Married: An Indian girl. (she returned to her tribe after his death)
Note: A.P. was the father of two little girls who died of led poisoning caused by drinking water from a sluice box used in washing lead.
Table of Contents
Michigan Territory / Illinois 1819-1834
In the summer of 1819, A. P. Van Matre located on the east side of the river [Mississippi], at La Pointe, Michigan Territory (now Wisconsin) an American Fur Company outpost. Although many stories claim he went there for the mining, I suspect he went there as a pioneer and frontiersman. He is said to have been an Indian Trader. The Lead Ore had not been discovered yet.
At some point early on, he connected with Jesse Shull, who was sent there by the Hudson’s Bay Company as a fur trader. Jesse Shull and A.P. Van Matre became friends with the Indians and they both married Indian girls. This afforded them some protection from the Indians.
The following is an excerpt from “A Story of a Van Matre Family” by Joseph Van Matre, 1985, about Jesse Shull finding the Lead Ore:1
Born in 1786 in Philadelphia and trained as a hatter, Shull was a fur trader for Hudson’s Bay Co. when he first saw the Indian country in 1818. HIs company wanted him to travel there, but he refused because several other traders had been murdered.
An Army colonel at Prairie du Chien called in Sac and Fox Indians and by threats and promises induced them not to harm Shull.
He became their friend and married a Fox woman, but when he went looking for mineral he got into territory claimed by the Winnebagoes, who were Indians of a different color. They drove him out.
Conflicting stories are told of Shull’s discovery of lead.
Indians were not supposed to reveal lead mines to white men, on pain of offending the great spirit, But, seeing profit in it, friendly Saukies took Shull to the top of Badger hill and told him there was mineral to be found an arrow’s shot away.
“The joker,” related Deetz, “is that they didn’t tell him which way to shoot.”
Shull used the arrow’s fall as a point on a circle. He then walked the circle and found ore. The town that sprang up at his diggings was Shullsburg.
It isn’t known whether he became wealthy, but after the Winnebago uprising of 1827 and the Black Hawk war in 1832, he preferred farming to mining and bought land in Green County.
Yet another source states it was A.P. who found the lead (or maybe looking for more lead?):2
Given the timeline of events, the discovery of lead by was in the early 1820’s, probably between 1822-1824, but before 1825. The first smelting operations, surveys and records began in April and May 1825. Also, in 1825 A.P. Van Matre’s brothers, John Johnson, Lewis Davis “L.D.”, and James joined him in Lead Mining. His sister Melissa (who was 14 at that time) joined them.
Jesse Sholls Indian wife had died previously of Smallpox. When Melissa turned 15, she married Jesse Scholl and they had a large family. You can find more of their story at my post Morgan Van Matre.
The following was published in the Galena Sentinel in 1843:3
“In the fall of the year 1819, our old friend, Capt. D. G. Bates, started from St. Louis, with a French crew, for Fever River, Upper Mississippi, lead mines [current Galina River]. His vessel was a ‘keel,’ the only means of conveyance then of heavy burthens on the Upper Mississippi; and the boatmen in those days were, some of them, ‘half-horse and half-alligator.’ But the merry French, after arriving off pilot Knob, commenced hunting for Fever river. After a search of three days they found the mouth, and, on the 13th of November, after pushing through the high grass and rice lakes, they arrived safely at where Galena now stands, where they were greeted by some of the natives, from the tall grass, as well as by our old acquaintances, J.W. Shull and A.P. Van Matre, who had taken to themselves wives from the daughters of the land, and were traders for their brethren. [A portion of the scrap is here gone. Others are evidently mentioned; Dr. Muir, for one] Capt. Bates, after disposing of or leaving his cargo in exchange for lead, etc., returned to St. Louis for another cargo.”
David G. Bates and A.P. Van Matre worked a vein of mineral on Apple River, near Elizabeth (Georgetown), but smelted their ore at Fever River.(current Galena River.)4
The first recorded survey of mineral land was dated 28 May 1825. According to the regulations, all disputes between the miners were settled by the U.S. Agent. There were no lawyers to complicate matters. The earliest account of these was adjudicated by Lieut. Thomas.
June 11, 1825. —Hardy and Jackson are running an ash furnace; Meeker is smelting in his log furnace; Van Matre’s ash furnace will be in operation to-day. Perfect harmony exists among the diggers. The regulations appear to give universal satisfaction. Every man appreciates the protection which they afford, and the security they give to their operations presents a stimulus to enterprise, and prevents encroachments upon the rights of others. The difficulty of borrowing or hiring a horse when wanted, has rendered necessary the purchase of one. I have accordingly bought one, old, to be sure, but serviceable—the price, $20. He will be worth as much, probably, a year hence.5
The first recorded return of lead mineral received and on hand at the furnace of M. Meeker and Bates & Van Matre, the only licensed smelters at that date, from April 3 to May 31, 1825, shows that Meeker received from sundry persons 30,342 pounds, and Bates & Van Matre, 25, 601 pounds.6
Up to the year 1825, the country east of the Mississippi, lying between the Rock and Wisconsin Rivers, and extending north to Lake Winnebago, was claimed conjointly by the Ottawas, Chippewas, Winnebagoes and Pottawatomies of the Illinois. The Winnebagoes, it will be remembered, were not parties to the treaty of 1816, at Fort Howard, and they were the actual occupants of the land around Fever River, and who resisted the landing of Col. Johnson. Previous to his arrival, Van Matre, Shull and others, who were licensed as Indian traders, also mined and smelted in the country. They were tolerated in this because they were married to Indian women, not because they had any recognized right to do so, conferred by the Government. But, after the arrival of Johnson, all who were smelting in the country were compelled to take out licenses and pay rent to the Government.7
In 1823-1824 The first marriage contract between white people was between William Hurnes and Maria Rutherford. A.P. Van Matre received a commission as justice of the peace from Governor Cass. He performed their marriage ceremony.8
Sometime prior to 1831, A.P. moved to the town of Willow Springs in the Michigan Territory (later in Lafayette County, Wisconsin).
During the winter of 1831-1832, the Indians became more aggressive, and reports of their contemplated action, when marching became possible, were frequent and authentic. These reports imported but one conclusion, an invasion by the Sacs and Foxes in the near future. As spring advanced, these rumors took shape and promises crystallized into acts. In May 1832, information was received that the Indians had crossed the Mississippi and were pointing in the direction of Michigan Territory with the object of forming a coalition with the Potawatomie’s and letting lose the dogs of war to the extermination of the entire white race.
Fully aroused by the news which reached them, miners and farmers assembled at various points in La Fayette County [would have been Iowa County the time], and began active preparations for the impending conflict. In May 1832, a meeting was convened at Willow Springs, made up of the settlers in that and adjoining townships, and discussed the outlook for hostilities. Robert C. Hoard presided, and there were present, among the rest Col. D. M. Parkinson, S.M. Fretwell, Gen. Charles Bracken, Peter Parkinson, Jr., Jameson Hamilton, Jefferson Higgenbottom, John Henry, Col. John Moore, A.P. Van Matre, John Clark, the Gratiots, Gabriel, Joseph and James Bailley, James Guiard, Benjamin Funk and many others.9
In 1830, George Bailey and his brother built a furnace on what is now called the old Bracken place. In 1831 and 1832, this furnace was purchased by Charles Bracken and John Van Matre* [should be A.P Van Matre, see note* below], of Fayette. Van Matre died in 1834, and subsequently the furnace was in operation by Mr. Bracken until it was abandoned.’’
…As an evidence of commerical enterprise, it may be stated, that, before the war, Larence & Bailey disposed of their furnace to Charles and A. P. Van Matre, by whom it was operated for many years.10
*Note: Many believe this to be our John Johnson Van Matre, as he did settle in Fayette when he returned in about 1835. He could have purchased a furnace in 1830 before he left to return to his family in Ohio, but it does not make sense that he would do so, if he was planning to leave the area (if not already gone). Also, he did not die in 1834. As noted in the second paragraph, the article says that Lawrence & Bailey disposed of their furnace to Charles Bracken and A.P. Van Matre, by whom it was operated for many years. It is my opinion that it was A.P. Van Matre who purchased the furnace with Charles Bracken. A.P. did die in 1834. I believe the John Van Matre reference was made in error. Also note that in the U.S. General Land Office certificate No. 5864, is for the purchase of 40 Acres of land at Mineral Point to A.P. Van Matre and Charles Bracken date 27 April 1840 and signed by the then president of the United States of America, Martin Van Buren. A.P.’s name has been lined through on the document, so perhaps the purchase (or grant?) took place sometime before his death, but was not recorded or official until several years later, after his death. This also shows there was a business relationship between A.P. Van Matre and Charles Bracken.
Galena, Illinois about 1834 - 1837
A. P. Van Matre owned land in the city of Galena, Illinois, near his brother Joseph. He died at an early age, forty years old, and was buried under a white oak tree, west of the Mineral Point – Darlington highway, a short distance south of the present location of the Willow Springs church. After his death, his wife returned to her tribe.11
His brothers returned to their homes and families in Ohio about 1830 most likely due to the Indian Wars. The final battle with the Indians in Michigan Territory was in August 1832. A.P.’s brothers returned and settled their families in Michigan Territory (now Lafayette County, Wisconsin) about 1835. See my post John Johnson Van Matre for his story.
Citations and Attributes:
- Van Matre, Joseph, "A Story of a Van Matre Family" Pages 28-29, 1985.
- Van Matre, Joseph M., "A Story of a Van Matre Family", 1985.
- History of LaFayette County, Wisconsin, Chicago: Western Historical Company. 1881, p. 400.
- History of LaFayette County, Wisconsin, Chicago: Western Historical Company. 1881, p. 403.
- History of LaFayette County, Wisconsin, Chicago: Western Historical Company. 1881, p. 411.
- History of LaFayette County, Wisconsin, Chicago: Western Historical Company. 1881, p. 413.
- History of LaFayette County, Wisconsin, Chicago: Western Historical Company. 1881, p. 422.
- Joseph Schafer, The Wisconsin Lead Region, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1872, 1932.
- History of LaFayette County, Wisconsin, Chicago: Western Historical Company. 1881, p. 471.
- History of LaFayette County, Wisconsin, Chicago: Western Historical Company. 1881, p. 627.
- Van Matre, Joseph M. "A Story of a Van Matre Family", 1985.
- Michigan Territory 1825. By Orange Risdon. Engraved by Rawdon, Clark & Co. – https://www. lib.msu.edu/branches/map/MiJPEGS/843-c-A-1825/, Public Domain, https://commons.wi- kimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52116538, overlayed US States Map. By Gigillo83, original of 220.127.116.11 – w:en:Wikipedia talk:Images for upload/svg/USA-states-blank-XMLcom- ments-SVGnameIDs-CSSfillCLASSes.svg, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/ index.php?curid=11099373