Springfield had been located and platted by the Indian traders, George and William Wood, who built their post on the west side of the Des Moines; while the settlers who came later, mostly from Iowa, selected claims and built cabins on the east side of the river. The cabins of the settlers were not closely grouped, but were scattered up and down the river valley for seven or eight miles. Owing to this isolation the settlers could not be of much service to each other in the matter of defense. Moreover, the difficulty of successful individual defense was appreciated; and so at the conference which followed the arrival of Markham and Granger, it was decided to concentrate so far as possible.

In this conference the Wood brothers did not participate, as they scouted even the possibility of trouble‐so confident were they of the friendliness of the Indians and of their own ability to keep them from hostile acts. According to Jareb Palmer, the Woods believed that only two houses had been robbed at the lakes, that the robbery had been laid to the Indians for no good reason whatever, and that in all likelihood it "had been done by the whites, as there had been some difficulty at the Lake in regard to claims.

Having decided to concentrate, the Springfield settlers selected the cabins of James B. Thomas and William T. Wheeler as the points of defense. The Thomas cabin was distant about one and a half miles from the Wood brothers' store, and the Wheeler cabin about three-quarters of a mile beyond that of Thomas. Various reasons led to the selection of these cabins, the principal of which were their size and the great strength with which they had been built. In the end it appears that not all of the settlers were gathered in these two cabins.

The Joshua Stewart family, consisting of Mr. Stewart, Mrs. Stewart, and three children, were originally at the Thomas cabin; but owing to the physical condition of Mrs. Stewart, who had been overwrought by the fear of Indian attack, and the too crowded condition at the Thomas home, it was necessary for the family to return to their own home. This they did after a stay of two or three days at the Thomas cabin. The Stewart cabin was located about one-half mile from that of Thomas.

At the Thomas cabin there remained nineteen individuals‐ the major portion of the settlement. These included Mr. and Mrs. James B. Thomas and six children, the oldest of whom was about thirteen; Mrs. E. B. N. Strong and two children; Mrs. William L. Church, two small children, and a sister, Miss Drusilla Swanger; Miss Eliza Gardner, a daughter of Rowland Gardner who was massacred at Okoboji; John Bradshaw, Morris Markham, and David N. Carver. At the Wheeler cabin were collected Mr. and Mrs. J. B. Skinner and two children; Mr. and Mrs. William Nelson and one child; Mr. and Mrs. Robert Smith; John Henderson ; and the little son of Adam P. Shiegley.

Meanwhile a number of people had fled from the settlement as soon as the news of the massacre at the lakes had arrived. Thus, collected in two or three groups the Springfield settlers continued to live for several days without any sign of the approach of hostile Indians. In time their vigil relaxed, and at intervals a settler would leave the cabin to secure some much needed article. At no time for many days was anyone able to note any real cause for alarm in what was seen or heard. The Thomas cabin, about which most of the events centered, was located in the edge of the timber which bordered the river. The design of the dwelling was that of the double type, each section being about sixteen feet square and joined by what was known in pioneer phraseology as a "dog trot"‐a narrow and somewhat open connecting passageway. One part was used as a kitchen and a general living room; while the other part was reserved as a sitting room, which on occasion served as a spare bedroom. The one room faced the prairie; while the other looked out upon the timber of the river. The windows had been so placed that through them a view in all cardinal directions might be secured‐which in addition to the port-holes was deemed a wise precaution.

About ten rods from the cabin, and in the edge of the timber, was the stable, near which were a hay rack and some stacks of hay. Beyond these was a ravine which descended rapidly to the river. Out upon the open prairie, nearly three-fourths of a mile away, was the cabin of Adam Shiegley. On the tenth day of March‐before the arrival of Granger and Markham‐Jareb Palmer and Nathaniel Frost had gone to the Slocum farm for the purpose of bringing home some supplies which had been abandoned some time previously in the drifts a few miles from the farm house.

After an absence of nine days they returned on March nineteenth. The first house of the settlement readied by them was the store of the Wood brothers. Upon entering they found two strange Indians, each of whom had a double barrelled gun, a tommyhawk and knife; one of them a very tall Indian was painted black; they were very busy trading and did not seem inclined to talk much, but said they were from Spirit Lake and that there were twenty lodges of them, all of whom would be at Springfield in two days. They purchased a keg of powder, some shot, lead, blankets, beads and other trinkets. When they had completed their varied purchasing, which amounted in all to more than eighty dollars, they paid for them in gold, which act aroused the curiosity of Frost and Palmer, as gold was an almost unknown form of money in that region.

Before these Indians had completed their trading and departed, two friendly Indians, Umpashota, or Smoky Moccasin, and Black Buffalo, entered and greeted them in a cordial manner. The two groups were soon engaged in conversation which grew excited and ended in the abrupt departure of the strangers. On the same day, Smoky Moccasin, for some reason that did not appear clear, moved his tepees to Coursalle's trading post.

On the following day when he was interrogated by George Wood as to what he knew of the visiting Indians, Smoky Moccasin admitted that he had been told that "they had raided the Spirit Lake settlements, and killed all the inmates, except four young women prisoners without having one of their number injured in any manner." When questioned further he "said he feared they were lingering somewhere in the neighborhood and intended more mischief. 'At any rate' said the Moccasin, 'I am going to remain close to my camp for awhile.

In spite of this evidence of Indian activity and the promise of a visitation the Wood brothers remained unconvinced that danger lurked near, and ridiculed the fears of the settlers on the east side of the river. But they were not the only ones who were now doubting Markham's story: the failure of the Indian attack to develop had caused several of the settlers to ask why they had grown so alarmed. Among them gradually developed a feeling that they would like to hear a version of the story from one of their own number. Thus it transpired that Jareb Palmer volunteered to go to the lakes if some other man would accompany him. Markham, anxious to prove the correctness of what he had told, expressed his willingness to make the return trip. On Saturday morning, March twenty first, the pair set out, carrying supplies for a journey of two days. They planned to go first to the Marble cabin, and if all was well there they would go on down to the lower settlements on Okoboji. They had been instructed by the Springfield people to return at once if they found that the Marble cabin had been plundered and that the evidence of Indian attack was plain.

Having no definite route which they could follow with assurance, the men struck out boldly to the southwest across the trackless prairie in the general direction of the lakes. Without incident or loss of way they reached Spirit Lake and made their way to the Marble cabin, which was found deserted. A closer examination revealed the fact that trunks had been broken open and the contents of the house scattered everywhere. The body of Mr. Marble, however, was nowhere to be seen. Signs about the cabin seemed to suggest that the place had been visited some five days before the arrival of the men from Springfield, although there were fresh moccasin tracks along the lake shore which appeared to be only one day old. After examining the situation carefully the men decided to return at once, as enough had been seen to convince them that Indians had been there. Palmer was firmly convinced that Markham's story was only too true. The return trip was made during the afternoon and the early evening of the same day without incident.

Dickinson County Iowa Genealogy - The IAGenWeb Project