The History of Keokuk County, Iowa

Origin of the Name

   There is nothing in the whole realm of knowledge more important than the history of words, and the science of etymology affords nothing more interesting than the origin of proper names. In naming localities, and streams of water the discoverers and first settlers of America originated the plan of adopting Indian names. As new streams of water were discovered, new territories formed, and new towns laid out this plan was adhered to. The precedent thus formed by the fathers, grew into an established custom, the wisdom of which has become more and more apparent as by use the ear becomes accustomed to the sound and the eye familiar with the sight of them. By following this custom our language becomes greatly enriched, and each successive generation is reminded of a people once numerous and powerful, but now so weak and abject as to be virtually eliminated from the family of nations. These names have invariably a pleasing sound when the ear becomes accustomed to them, and their adoption is a most befitting tribute to a nation which, although savage, possessed certain characteristics that make the story of their misfortunes the most remarkable to be found on the pages of history, and the most pathetic that has been wrought by the stern vicissitudes of time.

   Among the Aboriginies [sic] whose swift feet roamed these western prairies, and whose facile canoes were borne toward the great Father of Waters, long before the white man claimed this goodly heritage, was a young Indian whose early life gave much promise of future greatness. At an early age he was elevated to the dignity of chief. He was a man of great personal courage, capable of more than ordinary physical endurance, and by reason of his eloquence held the first place in the council of his nation. Moreover he was the friend of our ancestors. His voice was always for peace, and his hand ever ready to defend the life and property of the white man when menaced by his savage followers, prompted by feelings of vengeance or cupidity; and this, too, when his judgment told him that the destiny of his own race was sealed by the coming of the pale face. He was the principal chief at the treaty which guaranteed to the white man a home within the limits of the county, the history of which we are about to narrate. During the Black Hawk difficulty his voice was for peace with the white man, and his influence contributed much to shorten the war. His name was Keokuk and as an honor to this chief the county bears his name.

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