Fayette County IAGenWeb  
Join Our Team    


  The Tegarden Massacre  
The records of Dubuque County show that a trapper and Indian trader, named Henry T. Garden, or T. Garden, as the name appears of record in one instance, was living on Section 7, Township 89, Range 2, Dubuque County, a few miles southeast of Colesburg, in 1837-8. He was generally called T. Garden or Tegarden by the early settlers, and may have been a Kentuckian. In the records of Clayton County, the name is written indiscriminately Tegarden and Tegardner, and is written Tegardner in a marriage record in 1846.

He had a family, consisting of a wife and several children, at the time-- three sons, William, George and a younger one, and a little girl. About 1839 or '40, another child was added to the family.

Tegarden was in the habit of moving about on his trading expeditions with the Indians, and in the Winter of 1842-3, occupied a cabin that had been built by him or Atwood, or both (about a mile west of Beatty and Orrear's), with his wife and three younger children -- the boy about 9, the little girl about 7 and the "baby" about 3 years old; the two older boys, William and George. remaining in Dubuque County, probably on the homestead.

Authorities differ as to the precise date when Tegarden came from Dubuque County that Winter; some think that he came in the Fall of 1842. Judge Bailey, of Delaware County, who, as previously stated, was at Betty and Orrear's cabin several days early in January, 1843, says that Tegarden was not there then: and that the cabin west of Beatty's was unoccupied at that time."

Tegarden was in the habit of moving about on his trading expeditions with the Indians, and in the Winter of 1842-8, occupied a cabin that had been built by him or Atwood, or both (about a mile west of Beatty and Orrear's), with his wife and three younger children—the boy about 9, the little girl about 7 and the "baby" about 3 years old; the two older boys, William and George, remaining in Dubuque County, probably on the homestead.

Authorities differ as to the precise date when Tegarden came from Dubuque County that Winter; some think that he came in the Fall of 1842. Judge Bailey, of Delaware County, who, as previously stated, was at Beatty and Orrear's cabin several days early in January, 1843, says that Tegarden was not there then; that Atwood was stopping at Beatty's, keeping his stock of whisky there, and that the cabin west of Beatty's was unoccupied at that
time." Tegarden came soon after, occupied the cabin, and Atwood probably lived there with him, removing from Beatty's; and both engaged in supplying thirsty Winnebagoes with "fire water."

Since this account was written, the authors have succeeded in obtaining a copy of the indictment found by the grand jury of Clayton County, April 26, 1843, against three Indians for the murder of Moses Tegarden. Whether the name of Moses and Henry were applied to the same individual, or whether Henry and William were sons of Moses, are problems left to the reader to solve. Names were frequently confounded in early records, and in several instances in preparing this work, different names have been found of record applied to the same individual. It is probable that the name was erroneously written" "Moses in the indictment, and that the Dubuque County record is the best authority. Perhaps "Moses" was the handle of Atwood's name.

It is said that one of the Winnebagoe's, a member of Little Hill's band, pawned his gun to Tegarden* for rum. Tegarden sold it very soon after, and of course when the Indian called for his gun, he couldn't produce it, but compromised by serving his customer with a little more whisky, and the swindled brave went away apparently satisfied.

On the afternoon of March 25, this Indian, with two of his comrades, returned to Tegarden's. Two of them got uproariously drunk, and Tegarden and Atwood were drunk also. In the evening, Mrs. Tegarden, becoming frightened, went to Mr. Wilcox's, about a mile east. She wanted to take the children with her, but her husband refused to permit them to go. The details of the bloody tragedy that followed are given to the historian by A. J. Hensley, Esq., to whom they were related by Mr. Beatty as given to him by the little girl

After carousing until late' in the evening, they all went to sleep on the floor, except the little girl, who was in bed. Along in the night, the Indians awoke, and, moving about stealthily, securely bound Tegarden and Atwood with cords before their doomed victims awoke. The red fiends, maddened with whisky, commenced hacking Atwood with their tomahawks. He yelled lustily, but without avail; his cries gradually became weaker, and the little girl thought they were about half an hour in killing him. They then commenced "cutting her father, but he begged of them if they were bound to murder him, to shoot him at once, and not murder him by inches," whereupon one of them seized a gun and shot him through the head. They then killed the little "three-year-old," and badly wounded the oldest boy, leaving him for dead. One of them came to the bed where the little girl lay listening and shuddering

*From Atwood's character, and the fact that he had some difficulty with the Indian agent, it is more than probable that he and not Tegarden was the man who had played the dirty trick upon the Indians, and the impression is farther confirmed by the fact that Atwood was the first to be killed in the horrid tragedy that followed

as the murderous work went on, and struck her two or three times with a tomahawk, cutting her badly; one blow laid open one side of her face. The little heroine told Mr. Beatty that she supposed they would have killed her, too, only she had noticed, while they were pounding and cutting the others, that the more their victims writhed and screamed the more the Indians struck, and when they struck her she cried out once or twice and then lay perfectly still and quiet, so that they left her thinking she too was dead.

There is another version of this affair, differing from the above only in minor details. P. P. Olmstead, of Monona, Clayton County, who was probably the only Justice west or north of Jacksonville (Elkader), states that he was. requested by Capt. E. V. Sumner to accompany him to a place then called  Wilcox Settlement, to take the depositions of the children— a boy, aged 13, and a girl, aged 11 years, who had been seriously wounded by the Indians. The murders were committed on the 25th of March. The children were badly wounded about their necks and shoulders, by blows from tomahawks. The Indians came to the house about 3 P. M.; appeared friendly, and asked the privilege of sleeping on the floor, which was granted them.  Mrs. Tegarden and the oldest son were absent.  The family retired about 9 o'clock.  About 11 o'clock, the two children were awakened and discovered the Indians murdering the other children. Tegarden and Atwood were dead on the floor. The Indians struck them (the witnesses), when they feigned death.

Completing their bloody work, as they thought, the Indians, after rummaging the cabin and gathering up some of the most attractive property about the house, went out to harness Tegarden's horse to his cutter. They were gone some time, and during their absence the little girl got out of her bed, and, finding the others were all dead, except her older brother, who was badly hurt, she helped him up, and, without waiting to dress, crept out into the brush. The night was cold, and the snow about fifteen inches deep. The poor children were none too soon, for the Indians, returning to the cabin, took out what they wanted, fired it, and drove off.

The two wounded, shivering children started for Beatty's cabin, a mile away. The boy was so badly wounded that the little girl had to help him along. What those two poor wounded, bleeding and freezing children suffered in that terrible night journey through the snow, no pen of ours can portray.  They reached the corner of Beatty's fence, probably about forty rods from his house, about daylight. They could go no further; climbed upon the fence and screamed for assistance. Luckily Mr. Beatty heard them, went out and brought them in. They were both badly frozen, as well as wounded ; but were tenderly cared for, and survived the horrors of that dreadful night. The little girl lost all her toes from the effects of the frost, and her face was badly scarred from the knife or tomahawk of the savages.

William Orrear went to Delaware County a few days after the affair, on the 1st day of April, and while there told the settlers that the next day after the murders were committed, himself, the Wilcox brothers and Beatty found the bones and charred remains of the burnt men and child, gathered them up together with the ashes, fragments of dishes and other debris, and covered them upon the site of the burned cabin, making a little mound that Mr. Hensley says he has "seen many a time."

The Indians who perpetrated these atrocious murders were soon afterward arrested at Fort Atkinson, by Capt. Sumner, and examined, before P. P. Olmstead, by whom they were committed to jail at Dubuque.
April 25, 1843, the Grand Jury of Clayton County returned a true bill, United States vs. Ho-gaw-hee-kaw, Wau-kow-chaw-neek-kaw and Haw-kaw-kaw, for the murder of Moses Tegarden. Patton McMillan was Foreman of the jury, and S. B. Lowry and David Lowry, witnesses. On motion of James Crawford, District Attorney, the Indians were brought into court to answer to the indictment; and, informing the court that they were poor, and unable to employ counsel to prepare their defense, the court appointed James Grant, Esq., an attorney of this court, counsel for said defendants, and the said defendants, in open court, announced themselves ready to be arraigned and to plead to said indictment; whereupon the said defendants were arraigned according to law, and, upon their said arraignment, pleaded not guilty to said indictment, whereupon, defendants, by their counsel, applied for change of venue to Dubuque County, on the ground that the minds of the inhabitants of Clayton County were prejudiced against them. The application was granted, and the prisoners removed to Dubuque County and confined in the old log jail to await trial.

An examination of the records of Dubuque County, by P. J. Quigley, Esq., Clerk of the Court, reveals the following facts:  The Indians were tried separately, by separate juries. Judge Thomas S. Wilson presided. Ho-gaw-hee-kaw was tried August 7.  Jury brought in a verdict of "guilty," on the 9th.  Waw-haw-chaw-neek-kaw was tried August 15; verdict, guilty, on the 16th.  The other one was tried August 16, and found guilty on the 17th. Motion for new trial was made in each case; but, on the 17th, these motions were overruled, and, on the 18th of August, 1843, the three Indians were sentenced to be hanged on Tuesday, the 12th day of September, 1843, between the hours of 10 o'clock A. M. and 3 o'clock P. M.  The cases were appealed to the United States Court and affirmed (see Morris, p. 437). The United States Court, however, seems not to have fixed a time for the execution, which probably gave rise to the report that the Sheriff of Dubuque, either through accident or design, allowed the time fixed for the execution to pass; but this is, doubtless, untrue. Why sentence was not executed, or what final disposition was made of the Indians, cannot be definitely ascertained. It is said that one of them was killed in jail by his companions. The others may have been sent to the penitentiary to await the decision of the United States Court, and subsequently released.

As soon as the children had sufficiently recovered from their wounds and freezing, they, with their mother, returned to Dubuque County, where William and George, or Henry, lived.

In 1845, says Andrew J. Hensley, who was then living in the vicinity, William Tegarden built another cabin about two or three rods northeast of the spot where his father was murdered, and engaged in selling whisky to the Indians. This cabin was occupied by Harrison Augur and his family in 1849.  Prior to that time, it had been occupied, temporarily by Asa Parks.  In 1852, it was known as the "Clark" house, and was occupied for a few months by Col. Aaron Brown, and some of its timber is now (1878) a part of Mr. Currier's fence.

In 1846, Mrs. Tegarden married Zophar Perkins, then living in Township 92, Range 7, and "Bill" married Perkins' eldest daughter,  Asenath, about the same time.

June 14, 1847, William Tegarden was indicted in Clayton County, found guilty and fined $100 for selling liquor to Indians.  April 17, 1848, Daniel Tegarden was indicted for the same offense, and, at the same time, "Bill" was indicted for assault with intent to commit great bodily injury. Soon after this, these characters disappeared. It is said they went to California, and, while on the way, one of them wantonly shot an Indian squaw, and was captured by the Indians and murdered by inches. Mrs. Asenath Tegarden, it is said, died of consumption near Taylorsville in 1852.

The exact location of the cabin near the Tegarden spring, a spot historic from the bloody tragedy enacted there thirty-five years ago, has been a matter of some dispute; by some it has been located on the northwest quarter of the southwest quarter of Section 31, Township 93, Range 8, very near the old military road, where there was a chimney, once belonging to a cabin, standing for years after the removal of the Indians. This was near a slough or sink-hole but no trader would ever locate at such a spot unless he drank nothing but whisky, and the elder Hensley, just before his death, stated to Col. Brown that that cabin was built by an unknown man, and abandoned on account of lack of water in the vicinity, after the first cabin near the spring, a half mile or so southeast of it, was burned, and the evidence is conclusive that there was no cabin there in January, 1843.
Andrew J. Hensley says that the cabin was almost exactly west of Beatty 's, but little over a mile distant, on the northeast quarter of the northeast quarter of the northwest quarter of Section 6, Township 92, Range 8; that it was near a little grove and spring, and that a little mound marked the spot. The elder Hensley, just previous to his death, gave the same location to Col. Aaron Brown, and stated that "the neighbors gathered the bones, ashes and all into a little heap, and left them so."

June 4, 1878, one of our historians first visited the location as given by the Hensleys.  About half-way up the slope rising westward from Brown's Brook, where the timber skirts the road, turning to the left into the field and following a foot path to a bit of breaking just done, the visitors reached a large spring perhaps twenty rods from the grove, which empties its waters into the brook.  There are evidences that the spring was once walled up with stone for convenience. Two rods northeast of this spring, the breaking plow had exposed a heap of ashes, lumps of charcoal, broken crockery scaled by fire, fragments of human bones and bits of black bottles. A little way south of east, perhaps ten feet, another and smaller pile of ashes, and then a few rods further northeast, the site of Bill Tegarden's cabin is still plainly visible. The precise location of the ghastly murder was thus clearly determined.

After this visit, Col. Aaron Brown and Mr. Metzgar, a neighbor, made further examination, and by digging on the spot where the ashes, etc., were uncovered by the plow, have established the fact that the bones, ashes and other debris were scraped into an excavation that was probably under the cabin, a sort of cellar in which Tegarden stored his liquors. It was perhaps 3x5 feet and about two feet deep. The impression that it was a hole used as a cellar, with perhaps a trap door or some loose puncheons in the floor of the cabin over it, is strengthened by the fact, says Col. Brown, "that we found as we approached the bottom considerable broken glass, the remains of glass bottles and the fragments of a demijohn; also a large glass vessel in which was some red paint. On the bottom or floor of the cellar, was found a leaden bullet, and above the fragments of glass many fragments of human bones charred and broken; one, a piece of the right femur, about six inches long. Col. Aaron Brown says, indicates a man of more than the average stature. *One of the teeth and the fragment of a finger bone of a child 3 or 4 years old, was also found in this strange mausoleum. These bones have been carefully preserved by Col. Brown and when, all are collected, will be enclosed with other relics in a glass jar and deposited;
* Atwood was only a medium sized man, but Tegarden is remembered as an unusually tall man some say six feet three inches.
in the ground on the spot where they have been found. Some sort of a memorial stone, with a suitable inscription should be placed over them to mark the locality. 

Among other articles found in this old cellar, are knives, forks, spoons, a bullet mould, a pocket knife in a fair state of preservation, a small top-thimble that evidently belonged to the little girl, part of an old iron spectacle case, etc. This substantiates the statements of Orrear and the Hensleys, father and son, and here, undoubtedly, is the spot where, thirty-five years ago, the cabin was burned over the dead bodies of Atwood, Tegarden and his child.

June 16, 1878, the historian, accompanied by Judge Jacob W. Rogers, of West Union, and Col. Aaron Brown, again visited this locality. In the rude  sepulcher, in addition to articles previous enumerated, have been found numerous fragments of the bones of the child and the adults, buttons, suspender-buckles, pipe-bowls, pieces of buffing stones used by the Indians for dressing deer skins, an axe which may have been used to kill the unfortunate men, an Indian tomahawk (while the ashes are still full of fragments of bones, broken crockery, bits of glass bottles, etc.), buttons, a file, boot soles, piece of a padlock, etc. A closer examination of the upturned sod reveals traces of the walls of the cabin, which was, probably, about 16x20 feet. The smaller heap of ashes about ten feet from the cellar, is apparently where the chimney or the cupboard or both stood, while the door of the cabin was probably near the southwest corner, next the spring, less than two rods distant.

Since that date, still further and closer investigation by Mr. A. B. Metzgar, has discovered a silver half-dollar, of the coinage of 1819, not much worn but blistered by fire, much blackened by its long burial among the ashes.* Over one hundred different articles have thus far been found here and the identification of the spot has created a lively interest in the county.

Col. Brown states that in 1852, when he first came to this county, there wore in the grove adjacent to the spring, on the north, the remnants of several Indian wigwams or camps, where the Indians had encamped but a few years before, as in some of them, the poles were still standing. The red-skins encamped there, presumably, to be near the coveted supply of fire-water at Tegarden's.

Henry Tegarden or Henry or Moses Tegarden, his innocent child and Atwood were the first known deaths of white people in this county.

The massacre created a feeling of terror and uneasiness among the settlers, in the neighboring counties of Clayton and Delaware, and some families moved away in consequence, but the "scare" was only temporary, although the Winnebagoes were always insolent and troublesome.

It is said that ______  Wilcox, Frank's father, with his family, came to Fayette as early as 1843, and lived near his son, if not in the same house with him. His given name has been lost, unless it was Frederick or Ellas D.  If the former, then he must have been here when Tegarden was murdered, for Feb. 17, 1848, Frederick Wilcox was chosen a grand juror. Possibly, however, Franklin was recorded Frederick. Be that as it may, the elder Wilcox did not remain here long, but settled between the Mission and Fort Atkinson, where he carried on blacksmithing. Franklin Wilcox moved there in 1844, probably, and carried on a dairy.

William Van Dorn, Mrs. Frank Wilcox's brother, came in 1843, and M. C. Sperry located a claim near Mumford's, about that time.

A Mr. Oatman, an elderly man, who had been a hotel keeper at La Harpe, Ill., located on the prairie near the little stream called Brush Creek, in Township 92, Range 7, and laid up the walls of a log house about 24 feet square,
*This coin is in the possession of the historian.
 on the high ground. The roof was never put on, for Oatman, becoming disgusted with the country, or thinking that the prospects for a hotel at that place were not remarkably flattering, soon left the country. The building he commenced was called die " Light House," by the early settlers. Mr. Oatman's son Lorenzo, a cousin of M. C. Sperry, of Fayette, was killed by the Apaches while on the way to California, in 1850. Another son and two daughters escaped massacre. One of the ladies has written a book narrating her experiences while a captive among the Indians, several copies of which are owned in Fayette.

April 4, 1843, James Tapper was appointed Supervisor of the road from Lowry's farm to the military road, from the Indian line to the hill near Wanzer's, thence southward to Indian line

~ source: History of Fayette County, Iowa, A history of the County, its Cities, Towns Etc., Illustrated.; Western Historical Company,

Successors to H. F. Kett & Co., 1878; page 322-328

~ transcribed by CC

      back to Fayette History      

back to Fayette Home