It was on the morning of March ninth that a portion of the Inkpaduta band started for the Howe and Thatcher cabins which were nearly three miles from the Indian encampment. As already noted, the settlers about the lakes had established a sort of mutual exchange system among themselves for the purpose of husbanding their food supplies during the absence of Luce and Thatcher on the expedition to Waterloo and other points in eastern Iowa. This morning Mrs. Howe discovered that the supply of meal was so nearly exhausted that it would be necessary to procure an additional supply from one of the neighbors. Thus it was that on this Monday morning Howe started on what proved to be a fateful trip to the home of either Gardner or Mattock. With his sack thrown over his shoulder he took the path along the south shore of the east lake. He was wholly ignorant of the recent arrival of the Indians.
As Howe walked briskly along he may have been revolving in his mind possible plans for his work in the coming season; or he may have been speculating as to when his neighbor Thatcher would return from the trip back east. Possibly he was cherishing the hope that the privations of the winter might have ample compensation in an abundant harvest. Whatever his thoughts may have been as he walked along the lake, they were soon brought to an end by the Indians, who in all probability quickly disposed of their victim. The details of the murder are not known; but the badly mutilated body was later found and given burial by the Fort Dodge relief party.
After murdering Howe the Indians stealthily hastened on to his cabin. Here the wife and children were as unprepared for the Indians as was the husband and father. Mrs. Howe was no doubt busy in the performance of her Monday morning duties. Engrossed with these activities she, in all likelihood, did not discover the approach of the red men until they were upon her. After killing Mrs. Howe the Indians proceeded to dispatch the remaining members of the family‐a grown son and daughter, and three younger children. It seemed obvious to the members of the relief party, from the conditions which they found at the Howe cabin, that there had been no resistance offered to the Indians. No scalping was done here or at any other place after the red men had left the Mattock cabin. Nor did the savages stop to plunder or destroy after taking the lives of this family, but hurried on to the next stage in their work‐which consisted of dealing death to the members of the Noble and Thatcher families.
Arriving at the cabin of Noble and Thatcher the Indians secured admission by professing friendship. Here they made demands which could not be granted; and then, as at the Gardner home, they resorted to insult. Their insolence was resisted by Noble and one Ryan‐a son-in-law of Howe who had but lately come from Hampton and was staydng with the Nobles. This was evidently what the Indians desired, for without further provocation they shot both Ryan and Noble. The former was killed instantly; but Noble was able to walk to the door, where he fell dead after exclaiming "Oh, I am killed!" The two children were then torn from their mothers and dragged by the feet out of the house where they were dashed to death against the oak trees of the door yard. This seems to have satisfied the Indians' desire for human blood, for they desisted from killing Mrs. Noble and Mrs. Thatcher. For some time the Indians busied themselves in destroying hogs and cattle and in chasing the poultry. Finally, they returned to the cabin where they ransacked its contents, destroying what they did not happen to want. In the end Mrs. Noble and Mrs. Thatcher were seized and led away as prisoners.
Obviously the horrible work at the Howe cabin had not been completed to the satisfaction of the Indians, since upon their return trip they stopped and resumed the destruction of what life was still in evidence. Here a fearful sight met the eyes of the two captive women. Scattered about the door yard they saw the mutilated bodies of the members of the Howe family; while Mrs. Noble found the dead body of her mother under a bed where she had evidently crawled for the purpose of shielding herself from further attacks after she had been terribly beaten with a flatiron. In the yard Mrs. Noble found her thirteen year old brother Jacob, sitting propped up against a tree. He had been horribly beaten and evidently left for dead; but having managed to crawl to a tree he had raised himself to a sitting posture. Although conscious, he was unable to speak. Mrs. Noble urged him to make his way into the house and conceal himself in the clothing of a bed and there await rescue. The boy made the effort, but was discovered by the Indians and killed.
Having completed their destructive work at the Howe cabin, the Indians hastened to their own camp. When Mrs. Noble and Mrs. Thatcher were brought into the camp, Abbie Gardner was permitted to visit them in the tepee set aside for the latest captives. For about an hour the three captives were permitted to talk over their experiences, after which they were separated. Thenceforth each captive was required to remain in a tepee wholly separated and isolated from the others.
The captives were now subjected to training through which the Indians evidently hoped to re-make them into real pale-faced squaws. From the beginning they were required to paint their faces and dress their hair as Indians. They were frequently subjected to torturing ordeals which seemed to have no purpose other than that of noting what the reaction would be. At times they were, as far as the captives could discern, made ready for death so that the red men might see how they would behave under such trying conditions. Guns and revolvers would be loaded and with drawn triggers pointed at them as with intent to shoot, but no shooting occurred. These feints at shooting furnished the Indians a great deal of what appeared to be real amusement. For days they would recite again and again the details of the massacre at the lakes. But this treatment was only a foretaste of what was in store for the captives. For weeks, until they were released by death or ransom, they were to be subjected to nearly every annoyance that the ingenuity of the Indians might invent.