IOWA'S INDIAN MASSACRE
The sad part about this bloody spot in Iowa history is that the
attack was not made by a group of Indians who were defending their
homes or fighting for their hunting grounds. It was made by a band
of outlaw Indians who had been driven out of their own tribe.
A group of Sioux, because of their troublesome deeds, had been
disowned by their tribe. The leader of this outlaw group of
Indians, at one time, was chief named Sidominadota. He drove many
white men away from the land in northwest Iowa that was claimed by
Among these white men was a trader named Henry Lott who sold
Whiskey to the Indians and then stole their horses. When Lott was
driven out by the Indians he swore that he would get even. He and
his stepson returned two years later. They killed Sidominadota and
murdered his family. The Indians never forgot that act. Later it
was given as one of the main reasons for the spirit Lake Massacre.
In the summer of 1856, Mr. and Mrs. Rowland Gardner and their
family of five children moved to the shore of West Okoboji Lake.
Their eldest daughter was married and her husband, Harvey Luce,
went with them. This was the first White family to settle in that
vicinity. Others soon followed. By the time winter set in a number
of cabins were scattered along the lake shore.
The winter of 1856-57 was very severe. It began early with
extreme cold and deep snow. The settlers' supplies ran low, and
game was scarce. Settlements were few and far apart. The settlers
at the lakes had to send an ox team all the way to Waterloo to get
supplies. The supplies arrived just before the massacre took place.
Early in the spring of 1857, the outlaw band of Sioux, with
Inkpaduta as chief, came to the region around the lakes. Inkapaduta
was a cruel and bloodthirsty leader. He was feared by both the
Whites and his own tribe. At settlements away from the lakes, the
Indians caused trouble for the White people. They killed the cattle
and hogs, broke up the furniture in the cabins, and quarreled with
the White settlers. They did not, however, kill any of the people
at that time.
TWO MEN KILLED FIRST
Inkpaduta and his desperate band camped near the Gardner cabin on
the seventh of march, 1857. The Indians held a war dance, and the
Gardner's could hear their whoops. Mr. Gardner had planned to go to
Ft. Dodge the next day, but when the Indians came to his cabin that
morning, he gave up his plans. The Gardner's tried to be kind to the
Indians. They gave them something to eat and a part of the few
provisions which they had. Then the Indians left.
Mr. Gardner believed that the Indians meant to make trouble, and
he thought the other settlers should be warned. Two young men went
to warn the settlers, but the Indians shot both of them before they
could get to anyone.
THE INDIAN ATTACK
Later that day, The Indians came back to the Gardner cabin. Mr.
Gardner wanted to fight them, but his wife begged him not to do it.
She said she thought the Indians would soon go away without hurting
anyone. The Indians asked for flour. As Mr. Gardner went to get
it the Indians shot him. Then they cruelly killed everyone there
except Abbie Gardner, the youngest child, who was about fourteen
Mrs. Thatcher Mrs. Thatcher was later shoved into the river by
the Indians and drowned because she had become ill and was too weak
to carry a pack. Mrs. Noble was shot by Roaring Cloud, a son of
Ikapaduta, because she disobeyed him. Abbie Gardner and Mrs. Marble
were later ransomed by friendly Indians with money which white
people had furnished them.
Morris Markham, a White trader, arrived at the Gardner cabin on
the night of March 8. He intended to visit the settlers at the
lakes. He saw only dead bodies. He knew what had happened, and
that the other settlers must be warned. It was so cold that night
that Markham could not sleep. He stayed near by the ravine. In the
morning he started for Springfield, Minnesota, the nearest
settlement, which was 18 miles away. Markham had been without
anything to eat for days. The snow was deep, but he got to
Springfield in time to warn the settlers.
INDIANS MAKE ESCAPE
The Indians attacked Springfield and killed a few white people.
Then they fled to the northwest. Relief expeditions were sent out
from Ft. Dodge and Webster City, and soldiers tried to catch the
Indians. Because of the heavy snow they escaped. They were never
punished. Roaring Cloud was shot by some soldiers who were sent
after him, but Inkapaduta died years later in Canada, where he had
fled for safety.
Many years afterward, Abbie Gardner, then Mrs. Sharp, wrote a
book about her experiences. She bought the old Gardner cabin.
Monuments have been put up by the state for those who were killed
in the massacre.