From Gillett's Grove the journey for the Indians had become easier inasmuch as they had procured horses and sleds. These must have been obtained by scouting parties while the main body was encamped at Lost Island Lake. Since the Indians had not learned how to hitch the horses to the sleds Abbie Gardner, Mrs. Noble, and Mrs. Thatcher now undertook the task of teaching them how to handle horses and sleds with the thought that travelling might be made easier. In this they were mistaken; for no sooner had the red men learned their lessons than the bucks took to riding while the squaws and captives were required to walk and carry the heavy packs for the whole party. The horses and sleds were for pleasure and not for the transportation of freight and workers.
So deliberate were the movements of the band that although the camp was broken up early in the morning of Wednesday, the eleventh, it was not pitched at the new place, which was only a few miles to the north of Marble's cabin, until late in the afternoon of the same day. As the Indians proceeded they made numerous side trips, partly for scouting purposes and partly for the pursuit of game. Frequently the squaws and captives found it necessary to pause in their march, in order that the bucks might make these side excursions. Under more favorable conditions this would have been most welcome as a relief from fatigue, but now each stop was anticipated as a period of intense suffering from cold and exposure.
As the sun approached the western horizon the Indians began to exert themselves in quest of a suitable camping place for the night. After no little inspection of their surroundings, they decided to camp north of the Marble grove. In reaching this spot they had so circled the Marble cabin that they were not seen by the Marbles; nor had the captives seen the cabin of their white neighbors. Although the captives could discern that a council was held that evening, they had no means of ascertaining its purpose.
Thursday, March twelfth, was a day of inactivity in the camp: the Indians spent the time in gorging themselves upon what food remained from their raids upon the larders and barnyards of the unfortunate white settlers. Nor is the statement fully substantiated that on Thursday a friendly Indian visited the Marbles and informed them that the settlers to the south had all been killed a day or two previously. Even though the suspicion of the Marbles had possibly been aroused, the depth of the snow would have made it difficult if not impossible for them to get out and attempt a verification of the Indian's statement. Moreover, it does not appear that the Marbles took precautions against possible surprise.
Upon the morning of Friday, the thirteenth, the Indians are said to have arisen early and with great care removed from their faces the paint which until now had indicated that they were on the warpath and which would have served as a warning to the Marbles whom they were now planning to visit.
Approaching the cabin they signalled protestations of friendship. Upon being invited to enter they set their guns down just without the door. This little procedure attracted the attention of Mrs. Marble, who had never before seen an Indian leave his gun outside the cabin. The Marbles had just risen from the breakfast table when the Indians were seen to emerge from the timber and approach the house. Having entered the cabin the guests asked for food ‐a request which Mrs. Marble at once set about to gratify. While she was doing so the Indians, noting Marble's gun, bantered him for a trade. Marble accepted the banter, and soon a deal was completed for one of the Indian guns. The outcome of the trade seemed to be a matter of no little elation for the Indians who hilariously turned to the food which had been placed before them.
After eating, the Indian with whom the trade had been made proposed that the relative worth of the guns should be determined by their actual use and indicated a desire for target practice. Although Mrs. Marble protested the advisability of such a contest her husband agreed to the proposal. When a suitable wooden slab had been secured and set up the practice shooting was begun. All went well, the Indians appearing to enjoy the sport immensely, until the impact of the shots caused the target to fall. The Indians indicated to Marble that he should replace the slab. Laying down his gun. Marble stepped out from the group. This guileless act on the part of Marble gave the Indians their opportunity for treachery. When the white men had gone but a short distance the Indians, as if by preconcerted action, raised their guns, took aim at Marble, and fired. Marble instantly fell dead.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Marble had been standing at the window watching the target work. When she saw her husband lay down his gun and start to replace the mark she divined that treachery would follow. And so she left the window and started forward to warn her husband when the volley was fired into his back. Fleeing from the cabin, Mrs. Marble started for the timber; but she was soon overtaken and dragged back to the scene of her husband's death and by signs told that she was to be held as a captive. Following the shooting the cabin was pillaged and Marble was stripped of a leather belt containing a thousand dollars in gold which he had planned to use in improving his claim at the earliest opportunity.
With Mrs. Marble the Indians quickly returned to camp. Again, as after the taking of Mrs. Noble and Mrs. Thatcher, the captives, now four in number, were permitted to meet in the same tepee, while the Indians busied themselves in the adjustment of other matters. The meeting was brief and once again the captives were completely isolated from each other. That evening the events of the day were celebrated by a dance.
The massacre of Marble was the last act in the Indian attacks upon the white settlements at the lakes. Only four individuals had survived to tell the story of the frightful deeds committed since the morning of Sunday, March eighth. Of the four, only two were destined to return to the homes of friends or relatives and relate their tales of suffering and Indian cruelties.
When the work of destruction of the settlements along the shores of East Okoboji, West Okoboji, and Spirit Lake was completed with the shooting of Marble, the total number of human lives taken reached thirty-two. The list comprised the following persons: Eobert Clark, Rowland Gardner, Francis M. Gardner, Rowland Gardner, Jr., Carl Granger, Joseph Harshman, Isaac H. Harriott, Joel Howe, Millie Howe, Jonathan Howe, Sardis Howe, Alfred Howe, Jacob Howe, Philetus Howe, Harvey Luce, Mary M. Luce, Albert Luce, Amanda Luce, William Marble, James H. Mattock, Mary M. Mattock, Alice Mattock, Daniel Mattock, Agnes Mattock, Jacob M. Mattock, Jackson A. Mattock, Robert Madison, Alvin Noble, John Noble, Enoch Ryan, Bertell E. Snyder, and Dora Thatcher.
The tale is told that, before leaving the region of the lakes, the Indians left a record of their deeds. They are reputed to have stripped the bark from the trunk of a large tree in the Marble grove and upon the white surface recorded in black paint a detailed description of their exploits. The number of cabins they had visited was shown as six, while the largest, presumably the Mattock cabin, was represented as in flames. The number of persons whose lives had paid the forfeit of their visit was also to be seen— each individual being so drawn as to show the position in which he had been left by his murderers. An attempt was even made to distinguish white men from red men—the white people being shown as pierced by arrows. This pictographic reproduction of the massacre is said to have remained clearly visible for many years after the massacre and was frequently visited by interested or curious persons who came to the region.
Upon leaving the Marble grove, Inkpadnta and his band moved leisurely in a northwestward direction. From the time of their departure from this point, the lot of the captives grew steadily more difficult to bear. The snows of winter melted under the influence of the spring sun on occasional days and caused the prairie trails to become two or three feet deep in slush, except on the exposed knolls which the winds had swept free from snow. In such places an opportunity was afforded the burden bearers to stand on reasonably solid footing. Not infrequently they would be compelled to flounder through gullies and ravines ten or twelve feet deep in soft, yielding snow; while an occasional stream must be waded waist deep in icily cold water. This made the plight of the unfortunate white women doubly hard.
Mrs. Thatcher, who had not been in good health at the beginning of her captivity, found the bearing of the burdens imposed upon her and the long, wearisome marches under such conditions nearly unendurable, but she sustained her strength with the hope that relief would come in time. The sublimity of her faith in rescue was of great inspiration to her companion sufferers who otherwise would soon have lost all hope. But, despite their faith and hope, the captives daily noted that their journey was leading them steadily farther away from the bounds of civi1lization. No stop longer than over night was made by the Indians at any point in their march for nearly two weeks, when they arrived at Heron Lake, Minnesota, about thirty miles northwest of Spirit Lake and seventeen miles in the same direction from Springfield, Minnesota.
The encampments of the Indians from the time of leaving Spirit Lake had been of the most temporary character, but upon reaching Heron Lake preparations were made for a camp of many days duration. After completing the camp, Inkpaduta's band at once prepared for a raid upon the white settlements in the vicinity. The warrior members of the band bedaubed their faces with paint, while the squaws hastened their departure by putting the weapons in condition and aiding in various minor ways. When all preparations had been completed, each warrior "with rifle in hand and scalping knife in belt" sallied forth to the taking of more human lives. The squaws and papooses were left at the camp to guard the captives, and upon the departure of the war party the women took every possible means of acquainting the captives with the fact that the expedition was one against the whites. It soon developed, from the direction taken by the party, that Springfield was their objective point."
The food which the Indians had taken from the cabins of the massacred settlers was now nearly exhausted. Hence, upon the departure of the warriors there was rejoicing among the squaws who saw in the expedition the possibility of more feasting. But what of the feelings of the captives? Who can picture the condition of the mind of Abbie Gardner when she realized that the Indians were bound for Springfield? There in the home of Dr. Strong was her sister, Eliza, who except for herself, was the only surviving member of the family that had come into the West. In all probability Eliza was doomed to the same fate as Abbie had seen meted out to her father, mother, relatives, and friends. The possibility was too horrible for contemplation. The mental anguish of the young girl became almost more than could be endured; but the hope of some saving miracle working for the life of her sister sustained her for the days of waiting that were to elapse before the return of the war party.