Another IAGenWeb Project
THE BURIAL—PREPARATIONS FOR THE RETURN—THE PARTY DIVIDES—THE STORM—ADVENTURES OF THE PARTY THAT REMAINED BEHIND.
THE PARTY camped that night at the Thatcher cabin. The old cook stove had been left standing in place undisturbed. This the boys utilized at once and fell to work cooking their supper. After going into camp, a small detachment of the party, including Thatcher, started out on a stroll and went as far as the Howe cabin, where in addition to the members of the Howe family, they found the bodies of the two children, Thatcher's and Noble's. They had probably been taken that far with their mothers, who, it will be remembered, the Indians had with them as prisoners. The boys brought the body of Thatcher's child back to the cabin and buried it that night near the head of the ravine, west of the cabin. The Noble child was left where it was found and buried next day with the Howe family. The night was passed in the Thatcher cabin. It could not have been over fourteen by twenty feet in size and no loft, and yet the twenty-three men managed to dispose of themselves so as to pass the night in comparative comfort. They were on the move early the next morning and, after dispatching their scanty breakfast, started for the Howe cabin, about a mile and a quarter west. Upon arriving there Captain Johnson divided his command into three parties. One was to remain and bury the bodies found there. This party was under the immediate command of Captain Johnson himself. The second, under command of Lieutenant Maxwell, was to proceed to the Mattock place and bury those found there, while the third, under the direction of R. U. Wheelock, was detailed to find, if possible, the wagon with supplies that Howe and Wheelock had abandoned on the prairie the night they reached there and discovered the massacre, on their former trip. The Captain's force commenced work at once. One spade and one shovel to each party were all the working tools that could be found. With these they dug a grave about six or seven feet square and about thirty inches deep. In this grave were buried the bodies of nine persons, as follows: Mrs. Millie Howe; Jonathan Howe, a grown-up son, and Sardis Howe, a grown-up daughter; five younger children of Mr. Howe, and the child of Mr. and Mrs. Noble, which, as has been before stated, had probably been brought that far with its mother before being killed by the Indians. There is a discrepancy between the actual facts and all accounts so far published relative to the number massacred at the Howe cabin. The number given by Mrs. Sharp in her book, as well as other published accounts, give it as "Mrs. Howe, a grown-up son, a grown-up daughter and four younger children." When the bodies were disinterred for reburial at the time of the erection of the monument, there were certainly nine bodies found in that grave, and they can only be accounted for as above stated. There were no children found at the Thatcher cabin, and Thatcher himself identified his child found at the Howe cabin, and the men with him assisted him in carrying it back to his own place, where it was buried as before stated, near the head of the ravine west of the house.
It was well towards noon when this work was completed. In the meantime the other burial party, under Maxwell, proceeded at once to the Mattock place. A short time before their arrival there they found the headless body of Joel Howe on the ice. Here is another discrepancy in which ascertained facts differ from the usually accepted accounts. Henry Dalley, of Webster City, who is the only member of that party whose whereabouts is now known, insists that when they found the body of Mr. Howe they carried it to the Mattock place and buried it in the same grave with the Mattock family and the others that were found there. He says the recollection of that circumstance is the most vivid and distinct of anything that transpired on the trip and that he cannot be mistaken about it. The usually accepted account is that Mr. Howe's body was taken to the shore by those who found it and buried on a bluff some distance southwest of his house.
It will be remembered the party had no provisions except the lunch they brought with them from their camp the morning before, and that was now exhausted. The party under Wheelock, consisting of five men, started at once in search of the abandoned wagon, which they found without difficulty among the sloughs that form the source of Spring Run, together with the supplies, all safe as they had left them three weeks before. They took what they could conveniently carry of flour, pork, coffee and sugar, and started back, joining the other parties at the Mattock place, reaching there just as they had finished digging the grave and were gathering up the bodies for burial. As has been stated, here was the only place that showed signs of any resistance having been made, and that has already been described. There were eleven bodies found here and buried. As identified by Thatcher and Wilson at the time, they were as follows: James Mattock, his wife and the three oldest children, Robert Madison, Doctor Harriott, Bert Snyder and Joseph Harshman. Right here comes in a discrepancy that has never been explained and probably never will. Mrs. Sharp maintains that the bodies of Luce and Clark were found later and buried near the outlet of East Okoboji, they having been waylaid in their attempt to warn the other settlers. All accounts agree that eleven bodies were buried here. The writer found one body, that of a twelve-year-old boy, about a month later and assisted in burying it, and if one perished in the flames this makes thirteen to be accounted for. Who were they? Seven of the Mattock family, Madison, Harriott, Snyder, Harshman and two others. Even on the theory that none perished in the burning cabin, there is one more than can be accounted for. Was there one or two strangers stopping at either the Mattock or Granger cabin of whom no account was ever given? It is not strange that an occasional discrepancy is found. The only wonder is that they are not far more numerous.
From here the party went to the Granger cabin and found the dead body of Carl Granger, which was buried east of the cabin, near the bank of the lake. From there the whole force went to Gardner's, where were found six bodies, as follows: Mr. and Mrs. Gardner, Mrs. Luce, the young son of Mr. Gardner and the two children of Mr. and Mrs. Luce. These were buried in one grave a short distance southeast of the house. This finished the work of burial. There was no lumber here with which to make coffins, and no time to do it if there had been, and all that could be done was to dig at each place one grave wide enough to contain the bodies found there, put them in as they were found, cover them with prairie hay and then with dirt. One singular fact which was particularly noted at the time was that no scalps had been taken. Many of the accounts that have been published state that a part of the victims were scalped. This is a mistake. The matter was thoroughly investigated and fully talked over that night in camp, and Messrs. Howe, Wheelock and Maxwell and others unite in the statement that no scalps were taken.
After finishing their work the tired .and hungry men camped for the night. Some of the party had seen Mr. Gardner bury a few potatoes in a box under the stove the fall before. These were found and roasted by a campfire. These, with the small amount of provisions which had been brought from the wagon on the prairie, constituted their stock of supplies. The next morning, which was the fourth of April, was foggy and misty, and the indications portended a coming storm. While the boys were preparing breakfast, the question of the return trip was discussed. A majority were in favor of striking right out in a southeasterly direction, in as straight a line as possible, for the Irish Colony, while the others .argued that the distance was too great and the route too uncertain to do it with safety, and insisted on going back by the same route they came, which was by Estherville and Emmet. And more, they argued the weather was so threatening that if a storm came up the party was liable to be divided and possibly some might be lost on the prairie.
After breakfast the two parties were as far apart as ever, when Captain Johnson, seeing no prospect of coming to an agreement, gave the word to form a line. After the men had fallen in he gave the further order, "All who favor starting at once across the prairie, step three paces .to the front; the rest stand fast." Sixteen advanced to the front, including Captain Johnson, Lieutenant Maxwell, Mr. Burkholder and thirteen others. Seven remained in their places. The names of these seven were: O. C. Howe, R. U. Wheelock, B. F. Parmenter, William R. Wilson, Joseph M. Thatcher, Asa Burtch and R. A. Smith. What little provision was left in camp was speedily packed and the party made ready to depart at once. Just as the main party were starting away, Captain Johnson and Mr. Burkholder turned back to where Messrs. Howe, Wheelock and R. A. Smith were standing and urged that they change their minds and go with them. They insisted that there was no evidence that the Indians had left the vicinity of the lakes, and that so small a party were taking their lives in their hands by staying there alone. On the other hand, Howe and Wheelock endeavored to convince Captain Johnson that the danger in going was far greater than in staving; that there was more to be feared from the coming storm than from the Indians. The seven who remained behind offered to go with the others if they would change their route and go back by way of Estherville and the Des Moines River, but they absolutely refused to strike out across the prairie. Seeing that their arguments were of no avail and that the smaller party were determined to stay, they shook hands with them, bade them goodbye and started on the run to join their companions, who by this time were some distance away. It was their last goodbye.
For the particulars of that return trip the reader is referred to Lieutenant Maxwell's account, which will be found further on. The party that remained now turned their attention to their own comfort and safety. Their first requirement was provisions. As soon as the other detachment had left, they made their preparations to once more visit the wagon on the prairie, which they found without trouble, and after loading themselves with such supplies as they could carry, returned to camp. Before reaching camp they were overtaken by the blinding storm, which proved so disastrous to the other parties, but fortunately they were so far along on their return trip that they succeeded in reaching camp without accident, with three or four days' provisions. Up to this time the party had been camped out can the north side of the cabin. They now moved inside, and as the storm was increasing in violence, their next care was to lay in fuel enough to last until it was over. This they had no trouble in doing, and now it will be readily .seen that they were far more comfortably situated than the main body, who were having their terrible experience on the banks of the Cylinder, so vividly described by Governor Carpenter, or the party who had left that morning for the Irish Colony, and were having such a bitter experience, as told by Lieutenant Maxwell. There was nothing now for the party to do but to take care of themselves the best they could until the storm was over. They were in a comfortable cabin, with plenty of fuel and provisions for the present. Of course, they were at any moment liable to an attack by the Indians, provided the Indians had not all left. After securing their fuel, they barricaded the door and window as well as they could, and then, removing some of the chinking, they made portholes on each side of the cabin; being fairly well armed, they considered themselves comparatively safe.
Sunday night the storm abated and Monday morning it was clear and cold. That Sunday night was the coldest April night known in the history of Iowa. On Monday morning the party started for home. The ground was frozen where it was bare and where it was not the strong crust on the snow was capable of bearing up any ordinary load, so that the walking was good. On reaching the Des Moines, they found it frozen over so hard that they crossed it without difficulty and reached Granger's place, where they had left the main body five days before. It will be remembered that on coming up no teams could cross the river, consequently they all turned back with the main body of troops except the one owned by Howe and Wheelock. That was left here, and Markham and another person were left here to take care of it until they should return. The party decided to rest here another day. That night they were joined also by Jareb Palmer, who, instead of going clown with the main body, had been up to Springfield again. Wednesday morning the whole party started down the river. They now had a team to carry their baggage and the walking was comparatively good. The weather remaining cold all of this time, the water had run down so that the small streams were crossed without much difficulty, and it was only such streams as Jack Creek and the Cylinder that offered any serious obstacles. The party rested another day at the Irish Colony, where they had overtaken a portion of the Springfield refugees making their way clown the river; also Henry Carse, one of Maxwell's men, who had frozen his feet the night they lay on the prairie after leaving the Gardner cabin.
Saturday morning they made another start and .arrived at Cylinder ('reek a little after noon. The creek had fallen some but was still out of its banks, being nearly a quarter of a mile, aide. The water was from one to two feet deep over the bottom, which was very level. The crossing of this stream was the most serious problem that the party had to solve on their way down. One man went ahead on horseback to try the route, then followed the teams with the wounded men and the women and children. The ground was a little higher .at the bank of the stream than it was farther back, and at one place it was bare. On this knoll they all gathered to contrive some way to cross the river. An old wooden sled was found and a few pieces of driftwood. These were fastened together and the box taken off from one of the wagons and fastened to the raft. Two long ropes were then rigged, one to each side of the raft. The man on horseback then took one end of one of the ropes and swam his horse across the channel to the opposite bank, which was quite steep and comparatively high. (The course of the channel was distinguished by willows growing on its banks.) He then dismounted, holding fast to the rope. Three or four men now took their places on the raft and the man that had ridden over slowly and carefully pulled them across, the men on the other side holding the raft by the other rope to keep it from floating down stream. Communication now being established, and there being men enough on each side to handle the raft without delay, the women, children and wounded men were soon taken over. The teams were then swam over, ropes rigged to the ends of the wagon tongues and the wagons hauled over. Then came the baggage and last of all the balance of the men.
This crossing took the entire .afternoon and the party reached Shippey's, two miles away, about sundown, wet, cold and almost exhausted. Here they learned for the first time the terrible experience their comrades had at the same place nearly a week before them. From here the party proceeded on their way to Fort Dodge, which they reached without further adventures than such as are incident to swimming swollen streams and living on short rations, which, in some instances, consisted of a handful of flour and a little salt, which they mixed up with water and baked over a campfire. A few of the party shot, dressed and broiled some muskrats and tried to make the rest believe they considered them good eating, but that diet did not become popular.
In the foregoing account the writer has been confined mostly to what passed under his own personal observation for more extended particulars the reader is referred to the official report of Major Williams, and to the accounts written by Lieutenant Maxwell and Governor Carpenter. These two papers have been selected from others equally readable and reliable for the reason that Maxwell, being in charge and taking notes at the time, would be supposed to have a clearer recollection of events than would otherwise be possible, while Governor Carpenter's account of the return trip of the main body will be taken at its face value.
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