The Black Hawk Trail
During the summer of 1832, the Sac warrior Black Hawk led a group of Sac and Fox across southwestern Wisconsin (then known as the Michigan Territory). What initially started as a decision to reclaim their ancestral homeland and corn fields in northwestern Illinois during the spring of 1832, ended in a massacre by U.S. soldiers and Illinois milita on the Mississippi River near the mouth of the Bad Axe River in Vernon County Wisconsin.
In the 1880's, Dr. Charles V. Porter, a Vernon County doctor, dairyman and local historian, was preparing a paper on the "Black Hawk Trail" to read at a DeSoto teacher's convention. He rode out to the hotel/home of Mrs. Nancy Wilder in Rising Sun, Crawford County. She had moved there in 1852 and, as Dr. Porter recounts, she was able to tell him exactly where the trail ran that Black Hawk had used in 1832. Mrs. Wilder was the first of many early pioneers he interviewed to establish the route of the trail from Rising Sun to the Mississippi River. In 1930, Dr. Porter, along with Don Arneson and Ray Spellem in association with the highway department and the local commissioner, Clarence Hoff, built and erected seven stone markers tracing Black Hawk's route. They also placed four other markers noting historic places or events in Vernon County.
The Vernon County Historical Society has created a brochure and map for people to follow along on this historic route. The images below link to printable versions of the brochure and map. Page one of the brochure "Black Hawk - The End of His Trail" has information on Dr. C.V. Porter and the other markers not specifically related to Black Hawk. Page two of the brochure "The Black Hawk Trail Markers" gives a description of each marker and more background information.
Driving map of trail markers. Click to download
You can also contact the Vernon County Museum for a printed brochure of the route - phone: (608) 637-7396 or email
This image is from the 1896 plat map of Vernon County. The towns pictured are Wheatland (left) and Sterling (right) with the route (highlighted in red) that C.V. Porter mapped out for Black Hawk and his band. Click the map for a larger image.