302 EMMET AND DICKINSON COUNTIES
on his way to some other settler's home for meal or flour. He was
dispatched immediately by the Indians and his head severed from his body.
The head was discovered some time after this on the shore of the lake.
They then went to the house of Mr. Howe, where they brutally killed
Mrs. Howe, a daughter and son, and five younger children, also a child
of Mrs. Noble.
MURDERS AT THE THATCHER HOME
From Howe's the band proceeded to the Thatcher cabin. In this
abode were: Mr. Noble, his wife and one child, Mrs. Thatcher and a
child, and Enoch Ryan. All were murdered except Mrs. Noble and Mrs.
Thatcher, who were taken prisoner and taken back to the camp. On
the return trip the party again halted at the Howe cabin, and here Mrs.
Noble found the dead body of her mother lying under the bed and her
brother, Jacob, thirteen years old, sitting up in the yard, so seriously
wounded that he could not speak. She cautioned him to wait until the
savages had gone and then to crawl into the house to wait until help
came, but such could not be ‐ the savages found that he was still living
and then completed their work, before Mrs. Noble's eyes. The Indians,
with their captives, returned to the camp near the Mattock cabin. This
was the night of the 9th.
WILLIAM MARBLE'S DEATH
The next morning they rolled their teepees and crossed the ice of
West Okoboji Lake to Madison Grove, where they spent one night. The
following day, the 11th, they traveled north to Marble Grove, on the
west side of Spirit Lake, where they again encamped to the north of
William Marble and wife, newly married, had come to Spirit Lake
from Linn County in the fall of 1856. Mrs. Marble afterward became
Mrs. S. M. Silbaugh, of California, dying in that state October 19, 1911.
In February, 1885, she described the tragedy at their home in a letter to
Mrs. Abbie Gardner Sharp, a part of which is quoted as being the best
description available of the murder of her husband. "It was just after
breakfast, and my husband and I had partaken of our cheerful meal in
our sunny little cabin. Little did we dream of danger, or that the stealthy
and murderous savages were then nearing our happy home. But, being
attracted by noise outside, we looked through the window and saw, with
fearful forebodings, a band of painted warriors nearing the door. Knowing
nothing of the massacre, though the outbreak had commenced five
days before, my husband stepped to the door, spoke to the leader of the
band, and welcomed them to the house. A number came and one of them
perceived my husband's rifle, a handsome one. The Indian immediately
EMMET AND DICKINSON COUNTIES 303
offered to trade; the trade was made on his own terms. My husband
gave him $2.50 extra. The Indian then proposed to shoot at a mark and
signaled to my husband to put up the target. It was then that the fearful
work began, for while putting up the target, the fiendish savage leveled
his gun and shot my noble husband through the heart. With a scream
I rushed for the door to go to him, but two brawny savages barred my
passage and held fast the door. But love and agony were stronger than
brute force and with frantic energy I burst the door open and was soon
kneeling by the side of him who a few minutes before was my loving and
beloved husband. But before I reached him a merciful God had released
his spirit from mortal agony."
THE INDIANS LEAVE A RECORD
So the Indians completed their murderous work in what is now
Dickinson County. Mrs. Marble was held captive with Mrs. Noble, Mrs.
Thatcher and Abbie Gardner. Another war dance was held that night
in celebration of their day's work. Before leaving the Indians tore the
bark from the side of an ash tree and on that space drew signs and
characters to represent the number of people they had killed and the
location of the cabins. The tree was first discovered by 0. C. Howe,
R. U. Wheelock and R. A. Smith, who were the first to visit the west side
of Spirit Lake after the massacre. Mr. Smith writes as follows in regard
to this record: "The tree was first noticed by Mr. Howe and he called
the attention of the rest of the party to it. It was a white ash standing
a little way to the southeast of the door of the Marble cabin. It was
about eight inches in diameter, not over ten at the most. The rough
outside bark had been hewed off for a distance of some twelve or fifteen
inches up and down the tree. Upon the smoothed surface made were
the representations. The number of cabins (six) was correctly given,
the largest of which was represented as being in flames. There were
also representations of human figures and with the help of the imagination
it was possible to distinguish which were meant for the whites and
which the Indians. There were not over ten or a dozen all told, and except
for the hint contained in the cabins, the largest one being in flames,
we could not figure any meaning out of it. This talk of the victims
being pierced with arrows and their number and position given, is all
nonsense. Mr. Howe and the writer spent some time studying it, and
while they came to the conclusion that it would convey a definite
meaning to those understanding it, they could not make much out of it."
After the Indians had packed up their belongings, they left the
vicinity of the Marble home, and traveled slowly to the northwest,
taking their four captives with them. About the 25th of March they
arrived at Heron Lake, thirty-five miles northwest of Spirit Lake.