The Half-Way Tree

The Legend

As I shared in yesterday's Coexist post, Brodhead had a respectful relationship with Native Americans, and coexisted peacefully, while honoring important Native American landmarks.

Brodhead was not inhabited by Winnebagos, however, it was part of the migratory path, boasting the Sugar river for camping, as well as The Half-Way Tree which marks the middle point between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River.

The History

The following is an excerpt from a 2006 local article written by Bonnie Wolter:

"We do have some famous and historic trees in the book titled "EVERY ROOT AN ANCHOR" by R. Bruce Allison, copyright 2005. The book tells about the Indian Half-Way Tree, which marked a point halfway between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River. This big old bur oak is on the farm located on old Hwy 81 just past the Brodhead airport in Green County. In the 1800s, every spring, according to the old timers, the Indians ... passed north along the Sugar River. The Half-Way Tree naturally was a favorite camping spot for the Indians and became one for the early settlers as well. C. M. Warner, who lived on the farm then, remembered that one year the Indians had a 100 year old woman with them.

The Indians made their last trip in the spring of 1878 and there were only two of them, a father and a son. One of the times, about ten years after Warners were there, an Indian chief came to the farm-door and pointed toward that tree. He made them understand that that big bur oak should never be cut. That tree is still standing nice and tall this year of 2006. It has weathered some hacking over the many years by tomahawks, and droughts have dried it up some summers, but it comes back again each year.

You can read the marker placed by the road. It reads: 

"This bur oak marks the half way point between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River, paced off by Indian runners and confirmed by a U S. survey in 1832."

According to present-day experts, the tree is off by about six miles, But there is disagreement about the methods of measurement. Anyway, the old half-way tree still stands protected through the years by various owners and still marks the half-way point, or close enough to it, along the ancient Indian trail."

Paul Zietz & The Half-Way Tree