Seven families and a few individual men had settled near the narrows of Lake Okoboji, Iowa in the fall of 1856. Another on the west shore of Spirit Lake. Forty to forty-five people in all. The winter was hard and long. Supplies were running out by the middle of February. Three of the men hitched up a team and proceeded to Waterloo, Iowa to obtain food. In the meantime, a group of Indians under the leadership of Chief Inkpaduta had started up the Little Sioux River. When they reached the lakes area, they left the river and went to the settlements on the narrows. They massacred all there except three women, one a young girl named Abigail Gardner.

They proceeded north coming across the other cabin on Spirit Lake. They killed the husband and took his wife with them. On into Minnesota, near Jackson where they proceeded to raid and kill a few more.  They escaped west heading for a large encampment near Madison, South Dakota. When they came to the Big Sioux River, they drowned one of the captives who had become ill.

Mr. Markham returned to the cabins with the lost oxen to find the carnage that had taken place in his absence. He immediately went to Jackson relating what he had found. There he learned the Indians had proceeded him and had inflicted death and destruction.  Those remaining left for Fort Dodge, IA to relay the story and seek refuge.  A group of volunteers were assembled and started after the fleeing Indians. Too much time had elapsed and catching up to them was impossible. Two men were to die from a blizzard on return to Fort Dodge.

The Indians killed two of their captives  and sold another fairly soon after reaching the Dakotas. Abigail Gardner was eventually sold and made her way back to St. Paul and eventually to her cabin on Okoboji. That cabin and a monument to the men who tried to save her can be found on Pillsbury Point, West Lake Okoboji, in northwest Iowa.

See "Spirit Lake Massacre" by Miss Abigail Gardener

"The Palmpsest" Vol. XLIII, No 10, Pub. By The State Historical Society of Iowa, Oct. 1962.