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Our Iowa, Its Beginning and Growth

Herbert L. Moeller and Hugh C. Mueller

New York, Newsom and Company


Transcribed by Debbie Gerischer & Kaylee Bopp





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 the Indians.

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.


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.


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 years old.


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.


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.


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