For thousands of years before the arrival of European settlers, the Winnebago people, now known as the Ho-Chunk, called Green Lake Daycholah. It was a sacred and mystical place that seemed to have no bottom, where they gathered to pay homage to “the spirit who dwells beneath the water.”
“Every Winnebago was expected to come to Green Lake at least once in a lifetime to worship the Water Spirit,” Robert W. and Emma B. Heiple wrote in their 1977 book A Heritage History of Beautiful Green Lake. Many made the spiritual pilgrimage, leaving behind earthen structures and burial mounds that once dotted the shores of Green Lake.
Chief Highknocker, whose nickname derived from the stovepipe hat he always wore, was born in 1820 on the east shore of the lake. When he died on August 12, 1911, he was the last Winnebago chief to rule the area. The Green Lake visitor’s guide says his death was due to a tragic swimming accident in the nearby Puchyan River. The Heiples wrote that he drowned while attempting to cross the Fox River without a canoe. Local legend claims it was on a drunken dare. Whatever the case, the old chief was buried along the river until the 1930s, when his son moved him to Dartford Cemetery to be near the lake he loved so much.
Highknocker’s grave is marked by a boulder taken from the lake, as well as an unusual gravestone carved with his image.