IAGenWeb Project

 Iowa History

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For several years prior to 1492, Christopher Columbus sought aid from various sources to fit out an expedition to sail westward, insisting that it was possible to reach the eastern shores of Asia by circumnavigating the globe. After his first voyage European explorers in the New World, believing the country they visited to be India, gave to the inhabitants the name of “Indians.” Subsequently it was learned that Columbus had rally discovered a hitherto unknown continent. The error in geography was corrected, but the name given to the copper colored natives still remain.


About one hundred and fifty years after the first white settlements were founded along the Atlantic coast, relics were


found which led to the belief that the interior of the continent had once been occupied by a peculiar race of people. The relics referred to consisted of mounds, earthworks, stone weapons and implements, fragments of pottery and occasionally a copper tool or ornament. A report issued by the United States Bureau of Ethnology says:


“During a period beginning some time after the close of the ice age and ending with the coming of the white man - or only a few years before - the central part of North America was inhabited by a people who had emerged to some extent from the darkness of savagery, had acquired certain domestic arts, and practiced some well defined lines of industry. The location and boundaries inhabited by them are fairly well marked by the mounds and earthworks they erected.”

Beginning in 1845 two archaeologists named Squier and Davis undertook a systematic examination of the peculiar relics. During the next three years they explored over two hundred mounds, mostly in the lower Ohio Valley, where the center of this ancient civilization - if such it may be called - appears to have been located. The result of their investigations was published in 1850 by the Smithsonian Institution under the title of “Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley.” Following Squier and Davis came a number of other writers, nearly every one of whom had his own pet theory as to the origin of the Mound Builders. About the only phases of the subject upon which they agreed were that the Mound Builders constituted a separate and distinct race, and that many of the relics were of great antiquity.

Soon after the United States bureau of Ethnology was established it began a scientific and exhaustive investigation of the relics left by this ancient race. Cyrus Thomas, of the bureau, divides the region one inhabited by the Mound Builders into eight districts. In making this classification Mr. Thomas ignored all the proposed theories as to the origin or first location of the Mound Builders, as he begins in the northwestern part of the country and proceeds toward the east and south, to-wit:

1. The Dakota District, which includes the two Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin and the northwestern part of Iowa.


2. The Huron-Iroquois District, embracing the lower peninsula of Michigan, the southern part of Canada, a strip across Northern Ohio and the greater part of the State of New York.
3. The Illinois District, which includes the middle and eastern parts of Iowa, Northeastern Missouri, Northern Illinois and the western half of Indiana.
4. The Ohio District, which embraces all the State of Ohio, except the strip across the northern part already mentioned, the eastern half of Indiana and the southwestern part of West Virginia.
5. The Appalachian District, including the mountainous regions of Southwestern Virginia, Western North Carolina, Eastern Tennessee and Northern Georgia.
6. The Tennessee District, which adjoins the above and includes Middle and Western Tennessee, the southern portion of Illinois, practically all the State of Kentucky, a small part of Northern Alabama and the central part of Georgia.
7. The Arkansas District, which contains the state from which it takes its name, Southeastern Missouri and a strip across the northern part of Louisiana.
8. The Gulf of Mexico. In each of these districts the relics are marked by certain features not common to the other districts.

Those who have made a careful study of the mounds in connection with the work of the Bureau of Ethnology are inclined to doubt the theory of great antiquity or that the Mound Builders belonged to a race now extinct. In the course of their investigations they learned that some of the southern tribes of Indians built mounds over their warriors slain in battle, or constructed an artificial mound upon which was built the house of the chief. Charlevoix found certain Canadian tribes engaged in building earthworks very similar to those in some parts of the United States. It was also discovered that the pottery made by some of the modern southwestern tribes closely resembles in texture and design that found in the oldest of the mounds. These discoveries, with other corroborative evidences, have led to the conclusion that the Mound Builder was nothing more than the ancestor, more or less remote, of the North American Indian found here by the white man.



Iowa may be regarded as the western frontier of the region once occupied by the Mound Builders, as no relics of consequence have been found west of the Missouri River. Along the Mississippi from Dubuque southward a number of mounds have been opened by explorers. Nearly all were found to contain human skeletons, pottery, stone utensils and ornaments. In a mound near Davenport were found two stone pipes, each carved in the image of a bird, one having eyes of pearl and the other eyes of copper.

The mounds are almost always found upon a bluff near a stream of water, or upon a highland. This may account for the fact that they are absent in most of the level prairie counties of the state. A few miles above the City of Des Moines, on a bluff overlooking the Des Moines River, are several acres covered with mounds. Around Marysville, Marion County, have been found hundreds of arrow and spear heads, stone axes, celts and other utensils. Among the relics found here is a copper spear head about five inches in length. A large oval mound in Boone County - 90 by 110 feet at the base - was opened in 1908. It was found to contain about 4,000 pieces of pottery, some of them indicating that they were vessels three feet in diameter, a few human skulls and a large quantity of charcoal and ashes. Near Lehigh, Webster County, are traces of an elaborate system of earthworks. Along the Little Sioux River a number of mounds, most of them in O'Brien, Cherokee and Woodbury counties, have been opened, but they contained very few relics of archaeological interest. Near Marathon, Buena Vista County, a large mound rises to the height of about 100 feet in the midst of a level plain. It is called the “Green Mound” and is believed by some to be of artificial origin, though geologist look upon it as a natural formation.


In his early contact with the Indians the white man regarded them as being all of one family and speaking the same language. Later it was learned that they were really divided


into several groups of tribal confederacies, each of which differed from the others in certain physical and linguistic characteristics. The Algonquian family, the most numerous and powerful of all the Indian groups, occupied a large triangle roughly bounded by the Atlantic coast from Labrador to Cape Hatteras and lines drawn from these points on the coast to the western end of Lake Superior. The best known tribes of this group were the Delaware, Miami, Ottawa, Sac, Fox, and Pottawatomi.

Along the shores of Lake Ontario, in the very heart of the Algonquian domain, lived the Iroquoian tribes - the Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga and Seneca. Among the early settlers of New York these tribes were known as the “Five Nations.” Some years later the Tuscarora tribe was added to the confederacy, which then took the name of the “Six Nations.”

South of the Algonquian country lived the Muskhogean group, the best known tribes of which were the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Creek. In the Northwest, about the sources of the Mississippi River and extending westward to the Missouri, was the territory occupied by the Siouan family generally referred to as the Sioux - a group composed of a number of tribes noted for their warlike disposition and physical prowess. South and west of this the great plains and the foothills of the Rocky Mountain were inhabited by the bold, vindictive Apache, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Comanche, Pawnee and other tribes, while scattered over the country, here and there were isolated tribes that claimed kinship with none of the great families.
Many volumes have been written about the North American Indians, their legends, traditions and customs, and the subject has not yet been exhausted. In a history such as this it is not the design to give an extended account of the entire Indian race, but to notice only those tribes whose history is intimately connected with the territory now comprising the State of Iowa, and especially the northwestern part. The most important of these tribes were the Sac and Fox, the Iowa, the Winnebago, the Pottawatomi and some of the Sioux bands.



Although the Iowa tribe was not the most numerous or of the greatest importance historically, it is first mentioned here because it gave name to the Hawkeye State, and they were among the first Indians to establish themselves in the territory included in this history. According to their traditions, they became allied with the Winnebago at an early date and lived with that tribe in the country north of the Great Lakes. They are first mentioned in history in 1690, when they occupied a district on the shores of Lake Michigan, under a chief named Man-han-gaw. here they separated from the Winnebago and with the Omaha, Otoe and Ponca tribes moved toward the Southwest. At the time of this separation the Iowa received the name of “Pa-ho-ja,” or “Gray Snow Indians.” This name is said to have originated because they encountered a snow storm in which dust was mixed with the snow, giving them the appearance of being covered with ashes. They were also known as the “Sleepy Ones.”

Schoolcraft says this tribe migrated no fewer than fifteen times. After leaving the Winnebago they took up their abode on the Rock River, in what is now the State of Illinois, where they were temporarily allied with the Sac and Fox Indians. From there they removed to the valley of the Iowa River. In 1848 an Iowa Indian prepared a map showing the movements of the tribe from the time they left the Winnebago. Connected with this map was a tradition giving the following account of their first appearance in the Iowa Valley: “After living on the Rock River for several years, the tribe wandered off westward in search of a new home. Crossing the Mississippi, they turned southward and reached a high bluff near the mouth of the Iowa River. Looking of over the beautiful valley spread out before them, they halted, exclaiming, ‘Ioway! Ioway’ which in their language means ‘this is the place!’”
After this the tribe lived successively in the Des Moines Valley, on the Missouri River, then in what is now South Dakota and Northwestern Iowa, about Spirit Lake and on the headwaters of the Des Moines and Big Sioux rivers. A Sioux tradition says that when they first came to the country


about the Falls of St. Anthony they found the Iowa Indians there and drove them out. This tradition is supported by the report of Le Sueur of his expedition up the Mississippi in 1700. He says he found some of them on the upper Mississippi and supplied them with firearms, though their principal villages were “at the headwaters of the River de Moyen.”

In 1707 William de l’Isle prepared a map of the northwestern part of Louisiana, on which he showed a traders’ trail marked “Chemin des Voyageurs,” running all the way across Northern Iowa from the Mississippi River near Prairie du Chien to the Big Sioux River. On the shore of a small lake, the identity of which is uncertain, he marks a “Village des Aiaouez,” and on the Big Sioux River are two more “Villages des Aiaouez,” one on either side of the river. Jacob Vander Zee, in his “Reminiscences of the Northwest Fur Trade,” mentions this trail. It is also referred to by Chittenden in his “American Fur Trade.” Its existence, as well as Le Sueur’s report, makes it practically certain that the Iowa Indians once occupied a considerable tract in what is now Northwestern Iowa. They remained in the state until 1825, when they ceded all their interest in Iowa lands to the United States.


These two tribes at one time inhabited the greater part of Iowa. They are generally referred to as one people, though they were two separate and distinct tribes of the Algonquian group. The (also called Sauk or Saukie) were known as the “People of the Outlet.” Their earliest known habitat was in the lower peninsula of Michigan, where they lived with the Pottawatomi. The mane Saginaw as applied to a bay and city in Michigan means “the place of the Sac” and indicates the region where they once dwelt. They are first mentioned as a separate tribe in the Jesuit Relations for 1640, though they were then associated with the Pottawatomi, Fox, Miami, Winnebago and some other tribes.

Sac traditions tell how they were driven from the shores of Lake Huron by the Iroquois and their allies in the early part of the seventeenth century. About the middle of that century they found a new abode along the shores of Green


Bay, Wisconsin. Father Dablon, in the Jesuit Relations for 1671, says: “The Sacs, Pottawatomi and neighboring tribes, being driven from their own countries, which are the lands southward from Michilimackinac, have taken refuge at the head of this bay, beyond which one can see the Nation of Fire, with one of the Illinois tribes called Oumiami, and the Foxes.”

In the same year that this was written the Huron and Ottawa Indians started out to invade the country of the Sioux. On the way they persuaded the Sac and Pottawatomi warriors to join the expedition. they were defeated by the Sioux with heavy losses. the survivors returned tot he shores of the Green Bay, where it seems they were content to remain quiet for several years.

The Indian name of the Fox tribe was Mesh-kwa-ke-hug (usually written Musquakie), signifying “People of the Red Earth.” Their original dwelling place is somewhat uncertain. One of their traditions says that at a very early date they lived on the Atlantic coast, in the vicinity of the present State of Rhode Island. Later a portion of the tribe occupied the country along the southern shore of Lake Superior until driven out by the Chippewa. In the early part of the seventeenth century Nicollet found some of these Indians living on the Fox River, not far from the Green Bay, in Wisconsin. In his relations for 1676 Father Allouez speaks of “a Musquakie village with a population of about five thousand” on the Wolf River, in Wisconsin.

The name “Fox” originated with the French, who called these Indians “Reynors” or :Renards.” They were the deadly enemies of the French and planned the attack on the post at Detroit in 1712. The timely arrival of reinforcements saved the post and defeated the assailants. Those who took part in this assault then went tot he village mentioned by Father Allouez on the Wolf River. About 1730 the English and Dutch traders about the Great Lakes incited the Fox chiefs to make war on the French, hoping thereby to get rid of French competition. With the aid of friendly tribes the French were victorious. The Fox chiefs then led their defeated warriors to the neighborhood of the Green Bay, where they found shelter in the Sac villages. The governor of Can-


ada sent Lieutenant Colonel De Villiers with a detachment of French troops and Indian allies to demand the surrender of the fugitives. The demand was refused, whereupon De Villiers ordered an attack upon the village. in the hard-fought battle which followed, De Villiers, his son and a number of his men were killed. This was in 1733 and resulted in an alliance between the Sac and Fox and since that time they have been generally regarded as one people. The alliance, however, was more in the nature of a confederacy, each tribe retaining its identity, while one chief ruled over both.

The Sac Village of Sau-ke-nuk, on the Rock River in Illinois, was founded in 1731. After the expedition of De Villiers the Sac and Fox living in Wisconsin were driven out by the Chippewa and Ottawa Indians, allies of the French, and joined those at Sau-ke-nuk. About 1780, or perhaps a few years earlier, some of these Indians crossed the Mississippi and established themselves about where the City of Dubuque now stands. In September, 1788, these Indians granted to Julien Dubuque a concession to work the lead mines and sold him part of the lands claimed by them. Before the close of that year Dubuque established the first white settlement within the limits of the present State of Iowa.

In many respects the Sac and Fox tribes resembled each other. Their dialect was so similar that it was easy for a member of one tribe to learn the other’s language. Their religion was rich in myth and fable. There were fourteen Sac and twelve Fox clans. Those common to both were the Bass, Bear, Big Lynx, Eagle, Fox, Sea (or Lake), Sturgeon, Thunder and Wolf.

Two of most noted chiefs in Indian history belonged to these allied tribes. They were Black Hawk and Keokuk, both born of Sac parents, but recognized as chiefs by both tribes. The former was a warrior and the latter was a politician. Black Hawk was born on the Rock River in 1767 and Keokuk was born near Rock Island, Illinois, in 1788. In the War of 1812 Black Hawk and some of his warriors fought on the side of the British and he was with the Shawnee chief, Tecumseh, when the latter was killed in the battle of the Thames. After the close of the war a large part of the allied tribes entered into a treaty of peace with the United


States and agreed to remove to the west side of the Mississippi River. Black Hawk and a few of his immediate followers opposed this policy and their obstinacy finally culminated in the Black Hawk war in 1832.

One of Keokuk’s biographers says: “He was ambitious and while always involved in intrigue never openly exposed himself to his enemies, but cunningly played one faction against the other for his personal advantage.” An instance of this is seen in his course at the time of the Black Hawk war. While not openly opposing the war party he built up a strong peace sentiment, which prevented many warriors from joining Black Hawk. In the negotiations which followed that war the United States representatives ignored Black Hawk and recognized Keokuk as the leading chief of the Sac and Fox confederacy.

Being thus unceremoniously deposed as chief, Black Hawk retired to his new village on the Des Moines River, near Iowaville, where he passed his last years in peace. he died there on October 3, 1838. By the treat of 1832 Keokuk was granted a reservation of 400 square miles on the Iowa River. Four years later he sold this tract to the United States and removed to what is now Wapello County. After the treaty of October 11, 1942, he was given a new village about five miles southeast of Fort Des Moines. In 1845 he went with his people to Kansas, where he died in April, 1848. His remains were brought to Iowa in 1883 and interred in Rand Park at Keokuk, upon a high bluff overlooking the Mississippi. Thirty years later a monument was erected over his grave by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Black Hawk County and the City of Keokuk bear the names of these two great chiefs. Other Sac and Fox chiefs for whom Iowa counties have been named were Appanoose, Poweshiek and
Wapello, each of whom was the leader of a considerable band and stood high in the tribal councils.

Matanequa, the last war chief of the Sac and Fox confederacy, deserves more than passing mention. He was born at Dubuque in 1810 and is said to have been a typical Indian, both physically and intellectually. He was not a member of the ruling clan, but, like Keokuk, won his chieftainship through his bravery and diplomacy. His high order of ex-


ecutive ability was recognized in July, 1857, when he was selected as one of the five men to determine a new place of residence in Iowa for his band. He and his four associates purchased eighty acres of land in Tama County. Other purchases were made from time to time until the band owned about 3,000 acres. Matanequa was the last survivor of the five who selected the location. He died on October 4, 1897, and so great was the esteem in which he was held by the white people that many of the citizens of Tama County closed their places of business to attend his funeral. He was called “The Warwick of the Musquakies” - a man who elevated others to positions of power but was never king himself.


At one time the Pottawatomi was one of the powerful tribes of the Algonquian family. French missionaries and traders first came in contact with these Indians near the foot of Lake Michigan, where they were known as the “Nation of Fire.” Nicollet met with some of them in Wisconsin as early as 1664. They were closely allied with the Sac and Fox, with whom a portion of the tribe once dwelt. Many of the early Sac and Fox treaties were ratified or approved by the Pottawatomi before they became effective.

About the close of the Revolutionary war a part of the tribe moved eastward and in the early years of the nineteenth century occupied practically all that part of Indiana north of the Wabash River. By a treaty concluded on August 24, 1816, the tribe ceded to the United states the greater portion of its lands along the shores of Lake Michigan, including the site of the present day City of Chicago, and received therefore some of the Sac and Fox lands in Western Illinois. In September, 1833, at a council held in Chicago, the Pottawatomi relinquished all their lands in Indiana and Illinois and were granted a tract of 5,000,000 acres in Southwestern Iowa, to which they removed in 1835. Peter A. Sarpy established a trading post among them soon after they came to Iowa, and in 1838 Davis Hardin built a mill and opened a farm for them near Council Bluffs, which city is the county seat of a county bearing the tribal name, though their agency was located in Mills County.


At the time of their removal to Iowa, the Pottawatomi tribe numbered about three thousand. In 1846 they relinquished their lands in Iowa for a reservation thirty miles square in Kansas. At that time a considerable number of Mormons were gathered in the vicinity of Council Bluffs and on May 8, 1846, one of the Mormon elders wrote: “No game or wild animal of any description is to be seen around here, having been thinned out by a tribe of Indians called the Pottawatomi, whose trails and old camping grounds are to be seen in every direction.”

By the latter part of the year 1847 all the Pottawatomi were removed to Kansas, except a small band which insisted on remaining to hunt about the headwaters of the Des Moines River. After the removal to Kansas a few members of the tribe grew homesick for their old hunting grounds and, under the leadership of a minor chief known as “Johnnie Green,” wandered back to Iowa. For several years they hunted, fished and roamed about, unmolested by the white people. During that time many of them died and the few survivors found a home with the Musquakies near Tama City. A remnant of the tribe still lives in Kansas.


Ethnologically, the Winnebago belonged to the Siouan family, though at some period far back in the past they became allied with the Algonquian tribes living about the Great Lakes, where they were found by Jesuit missionaries and French traders as early as 1669. through their association with the Sac and Fox and other Algonquian tribes, many historians have classified them as belonging to that group. In the Revolutionary war many Winnebago warriors fought on the side of the British. A portion of the tribe was in the battle of Fallen Timbers in the summer of 1794, where the Indians were so signally defeated by Gen. Anthony Wayne, and Winnebago braves fought against General Harrison in the battle of Tippecanoe in November, 1811. the following year some of them joined the Pottawatomi in the assault on Fort Dearborn (now Chicago). A large majority of the tribe was friendly to Black Hawk at the time of his uprising in 1832, though it was a Winnebago chief (De-co-


rah) who delivered Black Hawk a prisoner to the Indian agent at Prairie du Chien.

The connection of the Winnebago tribe with Iowa history began in September, 8132, when they ceded their lands east of the Mississippi to the United States and were given the Neutral Ground for a reservation. here they served as a sort of a buffer between the Sioux on the north and the Sac and the Fox on the south, until 1864, when they were given a reservation near Mankato, Minnesota. One of the northeastern counties of Iowa bears the name of Winneshiek and its county seat the name of Decorah - two of the most prominent of the Winnebago chiefs. Three of the other counties of Northeastern Iowa are stamped with the musical nomenclature of their tongue - Winnebago itself, Allamakee and Chickasaw.

In 1859, the Winnebagos ceded the western portion of their Minnesota reserve; in 1863 were moved to a reservation in Dakota adjoining that of the Sioux of the Mississippi, and two years later occupied their permanent home which had been ceded to them by the Omahas.


The principal branch of the Sioux or Dacotah nation, at least the one which figured most prominently in early Iowa history, was the Santee or I-san-yan-ti Sioux, which consisted of the Mdewakanton, Sisseton, Wahpekute and Wahpeton bands. French explorers and missionaries first came in contact with them in 1640, when they occupied a territory in what is now Central Minnesota. When Father Louis Hennepin ascended the Mississippi River in 1680, he found the region now comprising Minnesota and Northern Iowa occupied by the Sioux and estimated their numbers at “about forty thousand.”

T. S. Williamson, who spent several years among these Indians, studying their language, customs and traditions, says: “Their original habitat was along the shores of the Lake of the Woods and the country north of the Great Lakes. From what was written on this subject by Hennepin, La Hontan, Le Sueur and Charlevoix, and from maps published under the superintendence of these authors, it is sufficiently


clear that in the latter part of the Seventeenth Century the principal residence of the Isanyanti Sioux was about the headwaters of the Rum River, whence they extended their hunts to the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers and down the latter nearly or quite tot he mouth of the Wisconsin.”

The Mdewakanton - This band claimed to be the parent stock, from which all other Sioux tribes originated. The name was derived from three Sioux words, to wit: Mde (lake), Wakon (sacred mystery), and Otonwe (village). They were therefore known as “The people of Mystery Lake Village.” Maj. Stephen H. Long described them as “good-looking, straight, not overly tall and remarkable for symmetry of form.” This band did not figure so prominently in the events of Northwestern Iowa as some of the others.

The Sisseton - Some writers credit the Sisseton with being one of the original seven Sioux tribes. In 1680 Hennepin found some of them near Mille Lacs (Minnesota), where their hunting grounds adjoined those of the Mdewakanton. When Lewis and Clark went up the Missouri River in 1804 they met some of the Sisseton chiefs in what is now the southeastern part of South Dakota. These explorers estimated the number of warriors belonging to the band at about two hundred. Neill says that in 1850 there were twenty-five hundred fighting men in the band. At that time they occupied Western Minnesota and Southeastern South Dakota. In their hunting expeditions they came into Northwestern Iowa, but there is no evidence that they ever claimed a permanent residence within the limits of the state.

The Wahpekute - In the Sioux language the name of this band meant “Shooters in the leaves,” indicating that they lived by hunting in the forests. One of their early chiefs was White Owl, the Chippewa name of whom was “Wa-pa-cut,” and some writers assert that the tribal name was derived from this similarity. They had no fixed villages, but lived in portable skin lodges, easily moved from one place to another. Carver met them on the Minnesota River in 1766. Forty years later Lieutenant Pike motions them as “the smallest band of Sioux, residing generally between the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and hunting commonly at the head of the Des Moines.”


When Maj. Stephen H. Long explored the Minnesota River in 1824 he met some of the Wahpekute, of whom he says in his report: “This tribe has a very bad name, being considered to be a lawless set of men. They have a regular chief, Wiahuga (the Raven), who is acknowledged as such by the Indian agent, but who, disgusted by their misbehavior, withdrew from them and resides at Wapasha’s.”

In the early years of the Nineteenth Century they occupied the region now comprising Northwestern Iowa and Southwestern Minnesota. Between the years 1830 and 1851 they entered into several treaties with the United States. Six years after the last named treaty some ten or fifteen lodges, under the disreputable chief, Ink-pa-du-tah, committed the Spirit Lake massacre, a full account of which will be found elsewhere in this volume.

The Wahpeton - Students of Indian history and tradition are almost unanimous in asserting that the Wahpeton was one of the seven primary tribes of the great Sioux nation. In 1680 their headquarters were near Mille Lacs, in what is now Central Minnesota, where they were encountered by Hennepin and Du Luth. Form there they moved down to the lower Minnesota Valley, where they were visited by Major Long in 1824. He says:

“They wore small looking-glasses suspended from their garments. Others had papers of pins, purchased from the traders, as ornaments. WE observed one, who appeared to be a man of some note among them, had a live sparrow-hawk on his head by way of distinction; this man wore also a buffalo robe on which eight bear tracks were painted. The squaws we saw had no ornament of value. The dress of the women consisted of a long wrapper, with short sleeves, of dark calico. Others wore a calico garment which covered them from the shoulders to the waist; a piece of broadcloth, wound around the waist, its end tucked in, extended to the knee. They also wore leggings of blue or scarlet cloth. Hampered by such a costume, their movements were not graceful.”

Between the various Sioux bands and the Sac and Fox Indians there was a deadly enmity. Several vain attempts were made by the United States to establish a boundary between them to keep them from being at constant war. R. A.


Smith, in his History of Dickinson County, says the last hostile meeting between these two tribes was in Kossuth County, Iowa, in April, 1852, “between two straggling bands, both of whom at that time were trespassers and had no legal right on Iowa soil. The number engaged was about seventy on each side and the result was a complete Sac and Fox victory.”


By the treaty of September 3, 1783, which ended the Revolutionary war, the western boundary of the United States was fixed at the Mississippi River. The Louisiana Purchase treaty (April 30, 1803), extended the boundary to the summit of the Rocky Mountains. Neither of these treaties, however, extinguished the Indian title to the lands. That problem was left to the United States Government for solution.

Under the authority conferred by the Articles of Confederation - the first organic law of the American Republic - Congress issued the order of September 22, 1783, forbidding all persons to settle upon the Indian domain. After the adoption of the constitution, congress passed the act of March 1, 1793, which provided: “That no purchase or grant of lands, or any claim or title thereto, from any Indians, or any nation or tribe of Indians, with the bounds of the United States, shall be of any validity, in law or equity, unless the same be made by a treaty or convention entered into pursuant to the Constitution.”

The first treaties between the United States and the Indian tribes were merely agreements of peace and friendship, but as the white population increased more land became necessary and treaties of cession were negotiated. The continuation of this policy gradually crowded the red man farther and farther toward the setting sun as the pale-face civilization advanced.


The Nineteenth Century was in its infancy when the white man began looking with longing eyes upon the broad prairies of Illinois, where lived the Sac and Fox and some other tribes. Immediately after the Louisiana Purchase was made in 1803, a clamor arose for the removal of all Indians


to the new domain west of the Mississippi. On November 4, 1804, Gen. William H. Harrison, then governor of Indiana Territory, met with some of the Sac and Fox chiefs at St. Louis and concluded a treaty by which the allied tribes ceded to the United States their lands east of the Mississippi, but retained the privilege of remaining thereon until the lands were actually sold to white settlers, when they were to remove to the west side of the river.
One faction, under the leadership of Black Hawk, claimed that the chiefs who entered into this treaty acted without the instructions required by the custom of the confederation and refused to confirm the agreement. The opposition to the St. Louis treaty was largely responsible for the alliance of Black Hawk and his band with the British in the War of 1812. At the conclusion of that war treaties of peace were made with several of the tribes who had fought against the United States. Black Hawk and his followers were among the last to enter into such a treaty.

On May 13, 1816, at St. Louis, a number of Sac and Fox chiefs and head men were induced to sign a treaty confirming that of 1804. One of the twenty-two chiefs who then “touched the goose quill” was Black Hawk himself. He never denied signing the treaty, though he afterward undertook to repudiate it.

In the treaty of 1804, in addition to relinquishing the title to all their lands in Illinois, Missouri and Wisconsin, the Indian signers also agreed to permit the United States to occupy “a tract two miles square for the establishment of a military reservation, either on the upper side of the Ouisconsing or on the right bank of the Mississippi River.” Under this agreement Fort Madison was established on the site where the city of that name now stands.


On August 4, 1824, at Washington, D.C., a treaty was concluded with the leading Sac and Fox chiefs, by which the confederated tribes relinquished claim to all lands in the State of Missouri. At the same time the “tract of land lying between the rivers Demoine and Mississippi rivers, * * * is intended for the use of the half-breeds belonging to the


Sac and Fox nations, they holding it, however, by the same title and in the same manner that other Indian titles are held.”

This half-breed tract included the triangle between the Des Moines and Mississippi, in the extreme southeast corner of the State of Iowa, and extended northward only as far as an east and west line corresponding to the boundary line between Missouri and Iowa.


Continued conflicts between the Sac and Fox tribes on the south and the Sioux on the north, over the limits of their respective hunting grounds, led the Government to undertake a settlement of the controversy. William Clark and Lewis Cass were appointed commissioners for that purpose. A great council was called at Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, attended by chiefs of the Sac and Fox, Sioux, Pottawatomi, Chippewa, Ottawa, Winnebago and some minor tribes. On August 19, 1825, a treaty was concluded, which confirmed the treaties of 1804 and 1816, and defined a boundary line between the Sac and Fox and Sioux nations as follows:

“Beginning at the mouth of the Upper Iowa River, on the west bank of the Mississippi and ascending the said Iowa River to its left fork; thence up said fork to its source; thence crossing the fork of the Red Cedar River in a direct line to the lower fork of the Calumet (Big Sioux) River, and down that stream to its junction with the Missouri River.”


It soon became apparent that the line established by the above mentioned treaty was not sufficient to prevent the contending tribes from trespassing upon each other’s territory. Accordingly another council was called to meet at Prairie du Chien, where on July 15, 1830, an agreement was reached by which the Sioux ceded to the united States a strip twenty miles wide immediately north of the line of 1825, and the Sac and Fox ceded a strip immediately south of the line, also twenty miles wide. This tract forty miles wide, extending from the Mississippi to the Des Moines River, was intended


to act as a sort of buffer between the warring tribes and was known as the “Neutral Ground.” It remained neutral until the treaty of Fort Armstrong with the Winnebago tribe on September 15, 1832, when the Neutral Ground was given to that nation in exchange for their lands east of the Mississippi.
The council of Prairie du Chien of July 15, 1830, resulted in the negotiation of another treaty with the Sac and Fox, Sioux, Omaha Oto, Iowa and Missouri tribes, in which those Indians ceded to the United States a tract of land bounded as follows:

“Beginning at the upper fork of the Demoine River and passing the sources of the Little Sioux and Floyd’s rivers to the fork of the first creek (Rock River) which falls into the Big Sioux or Calumet River on the east side; thence down said creek and the Calumet River to the Missouri state line above the Kansas River; thence to the highlands between the waters falling into the Missouri and Demoine rivers, passing to said highlands along the dividing ridge between the forks of the Grand River; thence along said highlands or ridge separating the waters of the Missouri from those of the Demoine to a point opposite the source of the Boyer River, and thence in a direct line to the upper fork of the Demoine, the place of beginning.”

Thus the Indian title was extinguished to all that part of Iowa between the Des Moines watershed and the Missouri River, south of the mouth of the Rock River. But the lands so ceded were not opened to white settlement. The treaty expressly provided that “The lands ceded and relinquished by this treaty are to be assigned and allotted under the direction of the President of the United States to the tribes now living thereon, or to such other tribes as the president may locate thereon for hunting and other purposes.”


In 1831 the Sac and Fox Indians in Illinois were ordered to remove to the reservation set apart for them west of the Mississippi, in accordance with the treaties of 1804 and 1816. Black Hawk stubbornly refused to obey the order and General Gaines was sent with a force of troops to compel


obedience and the removal was made under protest. The following spring (1832), Black Hawk decided to return to his beloved Rock River country. With his own band and a number of Pottawatomi and Winnebago warriors - about eight hundred in all - he crossed the Mississippi, raised the British flag and brought on the Black Hawk war. Again troops were sent against the offender and the war ended in the defeat of the Indians in the battle of Bad Axe, August 2, 1832.

On September 21, 1832, Gen. Winfield Scott and Governor Reynolds, of Illinois, as United States commissioners, held a council with the Sac and Fox chiefs and head men at Davenport. Says, Johnson Brigham: “Holding them responsible for not restraining Black Hawk from re-crossing the Mississippi, the white men ungenerously demanded, as indemnity for the cost of the ensuing war, that they cede to the United States a portion of their superfluous territory.” Under the heavy pressure brought to bear, those attending the council, under the leadership of Keokuk, finally agreed to cede to the United States a tract of land in Eastern Iowa, bounded as follows:

“Beginning on the Mississippi River at the point where the Sac and Fox northern boundary line, as established by article 2 of the treaty of July 15, 1830, strikes said river; thence up said boundary line to a point fifty miles from the Mississippi, measured on said line; thence in a right line to the nearest point on the Red Cedar of Ioway, forty miles from the Mississippi; thence in a right line to a point in the northern boundary line of the State of Missouri fifty miles, measured on said line, from the Mississippi River; thence by the last mentioned boundary to the Mississippi River, and by the western shore of said river to the place of beginning.”

Although the Indians were virtually forced into surrendering this tract of land, the commissioners agreed to pay them $20,000 annually for a period of thirty years. The cession was nearly two hundred miles long, from forty to fifty miles wide, and contained about six million acres. It included the present counties of Cedar, Clinton, Delaware, Des Moines, Dubuque, Henry, Jackson, Jones, Lee, Louisa, Muscaitne and Scott, and portions of Buchanan, Clayton, Fayette, Jefferson,


Johnson, Linn, Van Buren and Washington. This Black Hawk Purchase was the first land in Iowa opened to white settlement.


On September 26, 1833, the chiefs of the Chippewa, Ottawa, and Pottawatomi tribes met with United States commissioners at Chicago. After “much talk” these chiefs agreed to cede their lands west of Lake Michigan, in Illinois and Wisconsin, and accept reservations elsewhere. The Pottawatomi received five million acres in Western Iowa. The grant included the greater part of the cession of July 15, 1830, the eastern boundary being the dividing ridge between the Des Moines and Missouri Rivers, and the western boundary was fixed at the Little Sioux River.

By the treaties of June 5 and 17, 1846, this tract was retro-ceded to the United States and during the next eighteen months all the Indians in that part of the state were removed to reservations in Kansas.


The Black Hawk Purchase was thrown open to occupation and entry on June 1, 1833, and within a few months the most desirable lands had all been taken by actual settlers. The irregular western boundary of the purchase soon led to disputes between the settlers and the Indians. To avoid these disputes the Government decided to purchase additional land on the west, sufficient to straighten the boundary to a due north and south line. Accordingly the principal Sac and Fox chiefs were invited to visit the Great Father at Washington , where on October 21, 1837, the chiefs agreed to cede 1,250,000 acres immediately west of the purchase of 1832. For this land they received about twenty cents an acre.
When the survey was made it was discovered that the cession was not large enough to straighten the boundary as intended. It was therefore not long until the Indians were again accusing the whites of encroaching upon their lands. Theses conditions led to the



John Chambers, then governor of Iowa Territory, was appointed commissioner on behalf of the United States to negotiate a new treaty which would straighten the boundary and end the disputes. Some of the leading chiefs, notably Keokuk, Poweshiek and Wapello, saw that it was only a question of time until the Indians would have to relinquish all their Iowa lands to the white men. In this they were encouraged by Governor Chambers. Early in October, 1842, a council met at the Sac and Fox agency, where Agency City, Wapello County, now stands.

On one side of the large tent was a platform, upon which sat Governor Chambers, dressed in the uniform of an army officer; Captain Allen and Lieutenant Ruff, of the First United States Dragoons; Antoine Le Claire and Josiah Swart, interpreters; and the Indian agent. The chiefs ranged themselves around the tent, leaving an open space in the center. This was occupied in turn by the Indian orators, and nearly every chief present had something to say. On the 11th a treaty was concluded by which the allied tribes agreed to cede all their remaining lands in Iowa to the United States. This cession embraced approximately one-third of the state. It extended from the Black Hawk Purchase on the east to the watershed between the Des Moines and Missouri rivers on the west, and from the southern boundary of the state to an irregular east and west line not far from Fort Dodge.

The chiefs who signed the treaty reserved the right to occupy for three years “all that part of the land above ceded which lies west of a line running due north and south from the Painted or Red Rocks on the White Breast fork of the Des Moines River, which rocks will be found about eight miles in a straight line from the junction of the White Breast and Des Moines.”

The red sandstone cliffs, called by the Indians the painted Rocks, are situated on the Des Moines River in the northern part of Marion County. The line described in the treaty forms the boundary between Appanoose and Wayne counties, on the southern border of the state, and extends due north to the northern limits of the grant. East of this line the lands


were opened for settlement on May 1, 1843, and west of it on October 11, 1845. Soon after the latter date all the members of the Sac and Fox confederacy were removed to Kansas.


By the treaties concluded at the Indian agency on the Missouri River on June 5 and 17, 1846, the Pottawatomi, Chippewa and Ottawa tribes relinquished their claims to “all lands to which they have claim of any kind whatsoever, and especially the tracts or parcels of land ceded to them by the treaty of Chicago and subsequent thereto, and now in whole or in part possessed by their people, lying and being north and east of the Missouri River and embraced in the limits of the Territory of Iowa.”

With the conclusion of those two treaties all that part of Iowa south of the country claimed by the Sioux became the property of the white man. It was not many years, however, until the Government extinguished the Sioux title, giving the paleface full possession. On July 23, 1851, at Traverse des Sioux, Minnesota, the Sisseton and Wahpeton bands ceded to the United States “All their lands in the State of Iowa, and also all their lands in the Territory of Minnesota east of the following line, to wit: Beginning at the junction of the Buffalo River with the Red River of the North; thence along the western bank of the said Red River of the North to the mouth of the Sioux Wood River; thence along the western bank of the said Sioux Wood River to Lake Traverse; thence along the western shore of said lake to the southern extremity thereof; thence in a direct line to the junction of Kampesa Lake with the Tchan-kas-an-da-ta or Sioux River; thence along the western bank of said river to its point of intersection with the northern line of the State of Iowa, including all the islands in said rivers and lake.”

The treaty of Traverse des Sioux was agreed to by the Mdewakanton and Wahpekuta bands in a council held at Mendota, Minnesota, August 5, 1851. That portion of the territory ceded in the State of Iowa includes the present counties of Lyon and Osceola. In exchange for all lands claimed by the Sioux in Northwestern Iowa and Southwestern Minnesota, the Indians were granted a reservation described as


follows: “All that tract of land on either side of the Minnesota River from the western boundary of the lands herein ceded, east tot he Tchay-tam-bay River on the north and to Yellow Medicine on the south side, to extend on each side a distance of not less than ten miles from the general course of said river; the boundaries of said tract to be marked out by as straight lines as practicable.”


But these treaties, these cessions of lands by the Sioux and the granting of a reservation by the Government along the Minnesota River, by no means settled the Indian problem for the people of Iowa. Renegade bands of Sioux and the Sac and Fox, traditional, historical and inveterate enemies, were still quarrelling and fighting after the treaty of Traverse des Sioux was made, and the pioneer settlers of Northwestern Iowa were to have a terrible experience with the fierce Sioux before the Indian were finally expelled from the soil of the State. This last conflict between the white men and the red men within the limits of Iowa was precipitated by unprincipled characters of both races, and, as usual, the innocent were those who suffered most.


By the treaty held at what in now Agency City, Wapello county, in 1842, the Sac and Fox as an Indian nation ceded the last of their lands in Iowa, and a few years later the remaining tribes who had claimed the soil submitted tot he inevitable and were placed on Kansas reservations. The Sioux as a tribe were the last to depart, and from all accounts their greatest regret was to leave the beautiful lake region of Northwestern Iowa, and not a few of their band refused to vacate permanently. Those who admitted that they were parties to the treaty of 1851 found that their reservation had already been cleared of game for their sustenance. Liquor was sold to them, often they became drunk and violent, and attacked settlers, not infrequently killing them. The Indians also found that they had unwittingly signed


away their annuities. They were robbed by traders, and often the Indian agents were powerless to right these wrongs.


The establishment of Fort Dodge on the Des Moines River, in what is now Central Webster County, was brought about in May, 1850, by a detachment from Fort Snelling, near the mouth of the Minnesota River and was undoubtedly a great relief to the settlers of Northwestern Iowa. In June preceding the treaty of Traverse des Sioux the name of the fort was changed to Dodge. There were a few Indian disturbances in the valley of the Boyer, fifty miles to the southwest of Fort Dodge, in the fall of 1852, but, on the whole, the region of Western Iowa seemed so quiet since the capture and liberation of those “bad Indians,” Inkpaduta and Umpashota, that the military authorities took a step which has since been much criticized. They ordered the abandonment of Fort Dodge and the removal of the garrison to Fort Ridgely.


Soon after the step was actually taken, in June, 1853, the Indians inaugurated a reign of terror among the settlers as far east as the Cedar River. Not only were the lawless bands abroad, but parties of Indians frequently returned to their former hunting grounds, coming thither from their depleted reservation on the Minnesota River. war parties were in evidence in nearly every section, and the attitude of the Indian became one of defiance. Not only in Woodbury, Monona and Harrison counties, but in Buena Vista and what are now Humboldt, Webster, Kossuth, Palo Alto and Sac counties, the settlers were feeling the effect of Indian enmity. Not only was the military post of Fort Dodge abandoned, but the lands relinquished by the Sioux in 1851 were being thrown open to settlement, and settlers were rapidly pushing west of the Des Moines River, having been assured by the War Department that the Indian were established upon their reservation seventy miles north of Iowa’s northern
boundary. On the contrary, as stated by Thomas Teakle, in his “Spirit


Lake Massacre,” they were invading Western Iowa in force. His words are: “Near Sergeant Bluff (Woodbury County) large bands of Sioux had gathered and expressed their determination to remain, while nearly five hundred Sioux were encamped in the vicinity of Fort Dodge. These Indians amused themselves by stealing hogs, cattle and other property of the settlers. Fears for the safety of the settlers were increased in view of the fact that the National Government was now preparing to chastise the Sioux near Fort Laramie for their manifold crimes committed along the California and Oregon trail in Nebraska and Wyoming. It was thought this action would cause the Sioux to seek refuge east of the Missouri and , as a matter of revenge, carry death and destruction with them as they fled toward the Mississippi Valley frontier.” Under the threatening circumstances, the settlers appealed to Governor Grimes for protection.


It often happens that far-reaching events originate not in sweeping causes, but in petty personal affairs leading often to bloodshed and individual vengeance. No sweeping causes led to the series of murders and the massacres which culminated in the Sioux horrors at lakes Okoboji. The crimes and murders of a bad white man, whose victims were members of a roving band of Sisseton Sioux, forged the chain which finally was the means of sweeping the last of the Indians from Iowa soil. Nothing but evil was ever known of Henry Lott, who first appeared in Iowa as an Indian trader, a whiskey vender and a horse thief in 1845. In the following year he settled near the mouth of Boone River in Webster County. At that time, Sidominadota, a fierce and vindictive leader of the Sisseton band of Sioux, who had collected a force of several hundred kindred spirits, was frequenting that portion of the Des Moines Valley where Fort Doge now stands. These red outlaws ranged a great expanse of country from the Des Moines westward beyond the Missouri and northward to the Minnesota River, although their favorite haunts were the headwaters of the Des Moines and the Little Sioux rivers and the region of the Iowa lakes. Lott’s depredations among the Indians reached the ear of their leader,


and Sidominadota bore to the bad white man the decision of the Sioux council that he should leave the country. At first Lott refused to go, but when the Indians commenced to retaliate by stealing his property and abusing his family he fled with a stepson and left his wife and young children behind. His twelve-year-old son was frozen to death while in search of the cowardly father and husband, and his wife soon afterward died as a result of her mistreatment by the Indians and her cruel exposure.

Lott first settled farther down the Des Moines River, but in the autumn of 1853 he and his stepson passed through Fort Dodge on their way to settle at a new location. In November he selected his next cabin site, about thirty miles north of Fort Dodge, in Humboldt County, where a small creek (Lott’s) joins the Des Moines River. There he reverted to the whiskey trade with the Indians, and business with his first three barrels of spirits was brisk, for at that time his was the only cabin of a white man in Iowa north of Fort dodge with one exception - that of William Miller located about six miles from t he abandoned military post.

In January following Lott’s new settling (January, 1854) Sidominadota and his family - which comprised his squaw, mother, four children, and two orphan children - came up the Des Moines and encamped a short distance below the mouth of Lott’s Creek. Being advised of the coming of the old chief through whose influence Lott had been driven southward, his home pillaged and his son and wife died of exposure, the revengeful white criminal laid his bloody plans. How well he succeeded is thus narrated in the Teakle history; “Going to the lodge of Sidominadota, where he perceived that he was not recognized, Lott reported the presence of a large drove of elk feeding on the Des Moines bottom at a point known as the Big Bend. The chief’s family being in sore need of food, the Indian was easily trapped by the ruse. Sidominadota, having been liberally treated to whiskey, mounted his pony and set out for the hunt; while Lott and his stepson followed. When a safe distance away from the Indian camp and beyond earshot, Lott and his stepson fired upon the Indian, killing him outright. Secreting themselves during the day, the murderers, at the coming of darkness,



disguised themselves as Indians, returned to the lodge of the murdered chief, raised a terrible war-cry for purposes of deception, and then surprised and killed all the members of the family except a boy of twelve and a girl of ten years who escaped under cover of darkness. Completing the work of destruction, Lott returned to his own cabin, burned it to make the whole affair appear the work of Indians and, in the company of his stepson, fled down the Des Moines valley. Some years later, a report came back to Iowa that he had made his way to California and had there been lynched by a vigilance committee.”


Then came a lull in the clashing of the whites and the roving Indians along the Des Moines River, but, with the opening of the Sioux lands to settlement and the establishment of a land office at Fort Dodge, the invasion of the alien race commenced to move up the Des Moines and Little Sioux rivers. They passed up both branches of the Des Moines into what are now Kossuth and Palo Alto counties, and an Irish colony from Illinois settled south of Medium Lake on the site of the Emmetsburg of today. Up the Little Sioux came Yankees and others into what are now Cherokee, Buena Vista, O’Brien and Clay counties, the two migratory currents flowing toward the lake region of Northern Iowa, which had hereto fore been the beloved and mysterious country of the Sioux. It had long been known to traders and voyageurs.

Again borrowing from “The Spirit Lake Massacre” by Thomas Teakle: “All reports of the region indicated it was the favored home of the Wahpekuta Yankton Sioux. Spirit Lake especially was believed by this tribe to be the scene of various myths and legends intimately connected with the origin and life of the tribe. It was reputed to be always under the watchful care of the Great Spirit whose presence therein was clearly evidenced by the lake’s turbulent waters which were never at rest. It was this suggestion of the supernatural - a sort of mystic veil surrounding the region - that led many people to visit it. Some came only to view the lake and, having done so, departed to add perhaps one more legendary tale to the volume of its romance. Practi-


cally every visitor enlarged upon the great charms of the groves of natural timber bordering its shores.

“But in nearly all the accounts and tales of the region there was persistent confusion with regard to the several bodies of water. The Indians had always plainly distinguished at least three lakes; while reports by white men as persistently spoke of only one. The Indian knew of Okoboji, ‘the place of rest,’ of Minnetonka, ‘the great water,’ and of Minnewaukon, ‘the lake of demons or spirits,’ or Lac D’Esprit or Spirit Lake as it is known today. It is the first of these, Lake Okoboji, with which this narrative is primarily concerned. Upon its borders the first permanent white settlers built their cabins and staked their claims; and here was perpetrated the awful tragedy which has come to be known as the Spirit Lake Massacre.”


The vanguard of the permanent settlers to invade the traditional home lands of the Sioux in the lake region arrived in July , 1856, and represented the families of Rowland Gardner and his son-in-law, Harvey Luce. They were natives of Connecticut, transplanted tot he charming lake region in the vicinity of Seneca, New York, and spent about a year investigating this new country of the West in their endeavor to duplicate, in a measure, their eastern surroundings. At one time they had temporarily located at Clear Lake, in what is now Cerro Gordo County, but frightened away by a threatened uprising of the Indians, has transported their household goods in their huge ox carts to the country farther to the west, rumored to be a beautiful region of several lakes like their own home land in New York. Although many had visited the region before them, their claims on the southeastern shore of West Lake Okoboji were the first to be staked out. The location selected was several rods southeast of what is now Pillsbury’s Point, and Gardner and Luce proceeded to build not only their own rather large and pretentious house, but smaller cabins for the accommodation of new arrivals. Before the coming of winter, quite a settlement had formed within the radius of six miles of the Gardner homestead. The nearest concentrated settlement was that at Springfield, Min-


nesota, about eighteen miles to the northeast, and but recently established by people from Des Moines. To the south the nearest settlement to the lake region was Gillett’s Grove, now in Clay County, more than forty miles away.

While these adventurous settlers were locating around the lakes of what is Dickinson County, the terrific winter of 1856-57 descended upon them, as well as upon the less protected savages. The cold was intense, the wind blew a hurricane, and in many places the snow had been piled into drifts fifteen or twenty feet high. The settlements at Okoboji were short of provisions - in fact, in February, 1857, they were nearly exhausted, as both white settlers and famished Indians had been drawing upon the stock. With starvation threatening all, Harvey Luce and Joseph M. Thatcher started for Waterloo, on the Cedar River, in what is now Black Hawk County and far to the southeast. The sled destined for supplies was drawn by an ox team. The journey of trackless plains and through immense drifts of snow was an epic of endurance and self-sacrifice. When the men reached a cabin ten miles below the Irish settlement (Emmetsburg) on Medium Lake, the oxen gave out completely, and while Thatcher remained for several days at this point Luce went on to join the Gardners and his own family. He reached the Gardner cabin on the evening of March 6, 1857, and on the second day of his arrival the weather had greatly moderated.


At this time there was advancing up the valley of the Little Sioux the leader of a band of Wahpekuta Sioux, Inkpaduta, who had been one of the agents by which the murder of the Sisseton chief, Sidominadota, with various members of his family, had been traced to Lott, a representative of the race so hated by the Sioux, irrespective of minor bands. As Inkpaduta was a Lower Sioux and Sidominadota, and Upper Sioux, they could not have been blood brothers, as has been often claimed; but brothers only in the sense that they were red men and bound to avenge the death of any member of their race at the hands of their white enemy. Where Inkpa-


duta’s band as an organization passed the first part of the winter of 1856-57 is in doubt, but it is known that in February when the season was at the height of its severity, but about to break, the blood-thirsty warrior, with about thirty of his men, accompanied by their squaws, started up the little Sioux Valley. The chief sent detached parties to the settlers’ cabins to seize their arms, ammunition, provisions and cattle, and leave them defenseless and destitute. As the savage advanced, their depredation s became bolder and their outrages more cruel. At Gillett’s Grove, Clay County, ten armed warriors forced an entrance at a cabin occupied by two families, seized the women and girls and subjected them to horrible outrages. They destroyed the furniture and beds, killed the cattle and hogs and robbed the terrified families of every article they wanted. Near midnight the settlers fled through the deep snow wandering or thirty-six hours, thinly clad, until they reached the little settlement at Sioux Rapids, Northern Buena Vista County. Meanwhile the fiends of Inkpaduta’s band went from cabin to cabin repeating and even intensifying the outrages perpetrated at Gillett’s Grove. Up to this time, however, no one had been killed. As soon as the Indians moved on up the Little Sioux Valley, several of the settlers of Sioux Rapids made their way through the deep snow to Fort Dodge, seventy miles distant. Their story of the Indian outrages created great excitement and indignation, but no one knew where the Sioux had gone, and the snow was still so deep and the weather so bitter cold, that had the destination of the savages been known an organized force could not have been fitted out to pursue them. It was near the first of march when the men from Sioux Rapids reached Fort Dodge with the intelligence of the Indian depredations along the Little Sioux.


The morning of the seventh of March dawned with a decided moderation of the temperature, and as Luce had brought the news of the temporary delay of relief occasioned by the breaking down of the ox team, it was decided that Gardner should under take a trip to Fort Dodge, not only to procure provisions but to purchase agricultural implements


for the spring activities. On the evening of the same day, Inkpaduta’s band appeared and encamped across the trail which led from the Gardner cabin to all other houses of the settlement. The Indians pitched their tepees around a square and at once held one of their horrible war dances as an index of their disposition. Quite ignorant of the outrages which these savages had perpetrated to the south, the settlers of the lake region slept peaceably through the night of the seventh of March.

The following morning was clear and bright, with a wintry tingle in the air, and the various members of the Gardner and Luce families were stirring early that they might speed Gardner on his way to Fort Dodge. As the household sat down to breakfast, served by Mrs. Gardner and Mrs. Luce, the cabin door was thrown open and fourteen fierce looking Sioux Indians, led by Inkpaduta, and accompanied by their squaws and children , soon crowded the cabin and asked for food, but when their hunger had been satisfied the warriors demanded gun caps and powder. Mr. Gardner gave them some caps, but an attempt of one of the bucks to snatch the powder horn from the wall was prevented by Mr. Luce and an outbreak then and there narrowly averted. The Indians then sullenly withdrew from the Gardner cabin and Bertell E. Snyder and Dr. Isaac H. Harriott appeared with letters they wished to send with Gardner. The latter expressed his fears of Indian treachery, told his friends that he had abandoned his plan to go to Fort Dodge and urged them to warn the settlers that they should concentrate at his cabin should trouble arise; but Snyder and Harriott on their way to their cabin across the strait which connected the Okoboji lakes met a number of Indians and traded with the savages in a friendly fashion, so that their growing suspicions were allayed and they did not even stop at the cabin of James H. Mattock, which was on the main trail along the shores of West Lake Okoboji from the Gardner cabin to the strait joining the two lakes. It was the keynote to the safety of the settlers around East Okoboji, and early in the afternoon of the fateful day Luce and Robert Clark, the latter a young friend of Luce’s from Waterloo, started for the Mattock cabin, which was nearer the Indian camp than that of Gardner. An hour or



First physician to locate in Dickinson County, July, 1856. Killed in Spirit Lake Massacre, March 8, 1857.



two afterward those anxiously gathered in the Gardner cabin heard a number of shots in the direction Luce and Clark had taken. But no one knows what occurred in and around the Mattock cabin. Not long afterward eleven dead bodies were found in the path between the Mattock and the Snyder-Harriott cabins. They were identified as Mr. and Mrs. Mattock, their five children, Doctor Harriott, Bertell Snyder, Robert Madison and Joseph Harshman. Madison was a youth who had come into the country with the Mattocks; Harshman, a trapper. Fire had also been set to the Mattock cabin and it was soon in ruins. North of the strait was the cabin of Carl Granger, who had failed to cross to the Mattock home. But the Indians had found him, split his head open with an axe, killed and scalped him. The bodies of Luce and Clark were not found until June, at the outlet to the east lake. At sunset of the first day of the massacre, the Sioux took another fearful toll of life at the Gardner cabin.

At his wife’s request, Mrs. Gardner forbore to bar the cabin door, and as the day wore on the Indians committed no overt act other than to drive away the Gardner-Luce cattle, six in number, shoot them and leave the animals by the roadside. But, with sundown, nine of the Sioux braves rushed into the cabin, its “latch-string out,” and demanded all the flour in the house. As Gardner turned to the flour barrel to satisfy this demand, a buck shot him in the back and killed him instantly. The Indians then turned upon Mrs. Luce and Mrs. Gardner, who had attempted to stay the hand of the murderer, and the women were beaten to death with the butts of their guns; and all three were quickly scalped before the eyes of Abbie Gardner, the fourteen-year-old daughter of the Gardners, her younger brother and two of the Luce children. All the children, with the exception of Abbie, were beaten to death against the posts of the cabin and the trunks of trees in the yard. Abbie Gardner was spared by the Sioux warriors to give such an account of their outrages as was possible from the observations and impressions of a suffering and terrified girl.

Inkpaduta’s band was now equipped to indulge in the horrible ceremonials of the scalp dance which continued far into the night of the eighth of March. Early in the morning of the following day the Indians were astir, intent upon adding


to their savage warfare. Their first move was to start for the cabins of Joel Howe and Joseph m. Thatcher, about three miles from their encampment, on the southern shores of East Okoboji Lake. Ignorant of the terrible happenings of the day before, Mr. Howe started out on this Monday morning for either the Mattock or the Gardner cabin, with a sack over his shoulder to be filled with necessary provisions. He never reached his destination, but his badly mutilated body was found shortly afterward by a Fort Dodge relief party. Mrs. Howe, a grown son and daughter and three children, were also killed; and from this time the Indians did not stop to plunder and destroy, but lusted chiefly for blood, evidently fearing pursuit when their ravage should come to the knowledge of the people of Fort Dodge or other centers capable of organizing relief parties.

Arriving at the cabin of Joseph M. Thatcher and Alvin Noble, who were friends at Hampton, Franklin county, and had settled in this locality with their families, the Indians commenced to insult the various members of the household, including one Enoch Ryan, a son-in-law of the murdered Howe and who was then staying with the Nobles. The quarrel resulted in the slaying of both Ryan and Noble, and the killing of the children in the usual way, by dashing them to death against trees in the dooryard. Mrs. Noble and Mrs. Thatcher were then seized as prisoners, Mr. Thatcher, it will be remembered, being still absent with the marooned oxen and provisions south of the lakes. The Indians then dragged the captured women back to the Howe cabin, where still lay the mutilated bodies of the Howe and Luce families. As they had left for dead the thirteen-year-old brother of Mrs. Noble and had only terribly maimed the boy, the Indian completed their work by killing him. When the Sioux returned to camp, Abbie Gardner and the two new captives were permitted to occupy the same tepee.

Following the massacre covering two days and which yielded a toll of thirty-one lives, the Indians rested from their bloody work for a time, but on the morning of Tuesday, March 10th, they broke camp, West Okoboji was crossed on the ice and after moving three miles to the northwest again halted at Madison Grove. They remained here but one night,


and at early dawn of the eleventh they moved north to a grove beyond the cabin of William Marble, on the southwest shore of Spirit Lake. When the Marbles, who were from Linn county, came to the lake country in September, 1856, they decided to locate on Spirit Lake rather than on either of the Okobojis, and their cabin was therefore built five or six miles from the Gardners and the Howes. The home of the Marbles was therefore particularly isolated.

On the eleventh of March, at sunset, the Indians pitched their camp just north of the Marble Grove, out of sight of the unsuspecting victims of the lone cabin on Spirit Lake. The Indians gorged themselves with stolen provisions and poultry on the following day, removed the war paint from their faces, and on Friday, the thirteenth of March, 1857 - early in the morning - a delegation of them visited the Marbles, set their guns just outside the door and entered with every outward appearance of friendship. They were fed, Mr. Marble was induced to trade his gun for one owned by an Indian, and finally the savages prevailed upon the head of the house to join them outside and indulge in target practice. When the wooden slab which served as a target was thrown over by the impact of the shots, Mr. Marble was induce to leave the group of marksmen to replace it and was shot dead. Mrs. Marble, who had watched the proceedings from a window fled from the cabin toward the timber, but was captured. The Indians not only took with them their prisoner, but $1,000 in gold which they had taken from a leather belt worn by the murdered man.

The murder of Marble was the last act in the Indian attacks upon the white settlements at the lakes, and it was the only one which occurred on the shores of Spirit Lake. But as the Lake of the Spirits or demons was long considered the main body of a nameless chain of minor waters the horrors fixed upon this lake region of Northwestern Iowa persist in history under the name of the Spirit Lake Massacre. At the death of Marble, on that unfortunate Friday, March 13, 1857, only four individuals in all that region had survived to tell the story - one girl and three women captives, and of these only two were destined to return to their friends or relatives and relate their tales of suffering and Indian cruelties.


From Spirit Lake, Inkpaduta and his fierce band moved toward Heron Lake and Springfield, Southwestern Minnesota, but before they reached their objective news of the massacre around the Okoboji lakes had reached Fort Ridgely, Minnesota, and Fort Dodge and Webster City, Iowa. Morris Markham, a trapper on the upper Des Moines in a search for some stray oxen, came across the shambles into which the Indians had turned the Gardner, Howe and Thatcher cabins and brought the awful tidings back to Fort Dodge. He with George Granger then went north to Springfield and warned the settlers of that little place, who sent to Fort Ridgely for help and prepared to place themselves in a position of defense should the Indians attack them. On March 26th, before relief could reach them, they were attacked, and although many were wounded and several killed, including the Wood brothers, leading traders of the region, they beat off their foes until a small detachment of soldiers arrived to protect them. In the meantime, also, relief expeditions of civilians had been organized at Fort Dodge and Webster City, under the general command of Major William Williams (who held his authority from Governor James W. Grimes), and a march was commenced up the Des Moines valley to the scenes of the Sioux ravages and murders. The first important stop was at the Irish settlement on the shores of Medium Lake, at which point many had already gathered in fear of an Indian attack. Here the expedition received recruits of men and fresh oxen and proceeded northward. On the 2nd of April, the detail organized to seek and bury the bodies of the dead in the lake region commenced their gruesome work and the slain and mutilated were finally identified and giving tender interment, except the remains of Luce and Clark which were found at a later date.


The Sioux were now on their long march toward the Big Sioux and the James, or Dakota, of what is now South Dakota. The four women captives and the red squaws plodded along beside the sledges, staggering under heavy burdens of goods and children, while the noble warriors with their guns


rode in comparative comfort. For a month the food captured at Okoboji and Springfield, with the muskrats, skunks and other small game which they killed on the way, sufficed to keep the men, women and children alive, although many of the horses starved to death. At length the Sioux reached the Red Pipestone Quarry, in Southwestern Minnesota, and rested for a time to draw from its precious deposits and fashion the sacred pipes of peace. At length the band reached the Big Sioux River, swollen with the spring melting s and rains, but near the crossing at Flandrau temporarily bridged by fallen tree trunks. Mrs. Thatcher had been sick for a number of weeks and had rebelled at the heavy leads which she had been forced to bear. As she was about to pass over the bridge, her pack was removed and one of the Indians threw her into the river. When she attempted to regain her footing, others pushed her into the middle of the stream and finally one of the savages raised his gun and shot her.

On the 5th of May, the Sioux reached Lake Madison, at the head of Skunk Creek, South Dakota, twenty miles west of Flandrau. As they were now in the border of the buffalo range, a stop was made at this point while the men killed as many of the animals as they could and the squaws dressed the skins. While thus engaged, Inkpaduta received two Christian Sioux who had been delegated by Charles E. Flandrau, the agent of the Mississippi Sioux, to offer ransoms for the delivery of the white captives into the hands of their friends. For the consideration of one gun, a lot of blankets, a keg of powder and some Indian trinkets, he allowed Mrs. Marble to depart under the protection of the two Christians of the tribe and on May 30th she reached St. Paul in safety. Her two protectors were paid $500 for their trouble.

Then came three other Sioux agents to treat for the release of Mrs. Noble and Abbie Gardner, and Inkpaduta consented to turn them over to another delegation of his tribe, who agreed to convoy them to the east in consideration of horses, goods, tobacco and provisions, valued by the Yellow Medicine Agency at $889.12. But the Yankton Sioux to whom Inkpaduta entrusted his captives abandoned their charges and left them under the sole protection of the three Indian who had


been sent to ransom them by Flandrau. One night, while Mrs. Noble and Abbie Gardner were preparing to retire their tepee was entered by Roaring Cloud, a son of Inkpaduta, who ordered the white women away. Mrs. Noble refused to leave, and, after a struggle with the Indian, she was dragged from the tepee and beaten to death with a stick of wood. On the following morning as the squaws were breaking camp, the warriors gathered about the dead body and amused themselves by shooting arrows into it.

Strange to say, the girl was treated with the greatest deference on the journey eastward toward Southern Minnesota. Finally her body guard reached Traverse des Sioux, the headwaters of the Minnesota River, and thence journeyed with her to St. Paul. There she arrived on June 23, 1857, and in the following August was married to Casville Sharp, who was related to both the Noble and Thatcher families. Mrs. Abbie Gardner Sharp resided in Iowa for many years thereafter and from her invaluable “History of the Spirit Lake Massacre” many details of its horrors may be obtained which are not elsewhere found. Mrs. Marble in after years moved to California.


Of Inkpaduta, the arch fiend of the massacre, it is reported that for five years he remained in seclusion with his tribe. In 1862, he was an associate of Little Crow in the uprising of the Sioux to clear the country of the whites in what is now South Dakota. The next picture in which he figures is as a blind old man, seventy-five years of age, led by his little grandsons in June, 1876, and hovering around the scene of the Custer massacre at the Little Big Horn. Afterward he fled to Canada with Sitting Bull, and it is said that his last days were spent in the country of the Red Pipestone Quarry, where perchance he repented of his cruelties or imagined that he was rewarded by the Great Spirit of his race for the sorrows he had inflicted on the hated whites. At all events, the so-called Spirit Lake Massacre, which he directed, put an end forever to the sway of the dreaded Sioux in the State of Iowa.



At first, the Sisseton and Wahpeton bands were allowed to retain their reservation south of the Minnesota River, but the Sioux uprising s beyond the Missouri in 1862 induced Congress to pass an act in the following year moving all the bands “beyond the limits of any State.” Then commenced the concentration of the tribe, as a whole, in Dakota Territory.


~ transcribed and submitted by Mary E. Boyer for Iowa History Project, August 2008

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