Nicholas Boilvin (1761–1827)
Boilvin was a 19th century American frontiersman, fur trader and U.S. Indian Agent. He was the first appointed agent to the Winnebagos, as well as the Sauk and Fox, and one of the earliest pioneers to settle in present-day Prairie du Chien. His sons Nicholas Boilvin, Jr. and William C. Boilvin both became successful businessmen in Wisconsin during the mid-to-late 19th century. In a chance meeting while in St. Louis, he met with the American surgeon whom his father had befriended in Quebec. The surgeon was able to arrange for Boilvin to be appointed the principal Indian agent for the Prairie du Chien region on March 14, 1811. He resided here for several years, however, during the War of 1812, he and his family were forced to leave the village and evacuated onto an American gunboat during the attack on Prairie du Chien by Lieutenant Colonel William McKay on July 14, 1814. Prior to the attack, Boilvin had directed a local resident to drive up his cattle, wishing to kill one of the heifers for some fresh meat. When the man spotted the approaching British forces, he returned to warn Boilvin. Going out to see for himself, Boilvin returned to raise the alarm and assisted in the evacuation of the settlement. The officers stationed at the garrison had been preparing to go riding in the countryside and, had McKay's forces arrived an hour or two later, it is thought the garrison would have been without an officer during the subsequent battle. Boilvin studied the customs and culture of the Winnebago and provided the Department of War with a written vocabulary of the Winnebago language. During the summer of 1827, Boilvin drowned while traveling upriver on a keel boat to St. Louis and was later buried there.