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1914 County History
1914
Indian Treaties and Wars

By the Treaty of Paris, concluded on April 30, 1803, France sold the entire Province of Louisiana, which included the present State of Iowa, to the United States. But France had no power to extinguish the Indian title to the lands, leaving that problem to be solved by the purchaser. Before the United States could come into complete and formal possession of the territory, it was therefore necessary that some agreement be made with the natives. In this connection it may not be amiss to notice briefly the policies of the several European nations claiming territory in America in dealing with the Indians.

As early as 1529, when Cortez was commissioned captain-general of New Spain, he received instructions from the Spanish authorities "to give special attention to the conversion of the Indians, and see that none are made slaves or servants." Theoretically, this was the policy of Spain, but when Bishop Ramirez, as acting governor, endeavored to carry out the instructions given to Cortez, he quickly discovered that he was not to be sustained. Spain took the lands of the Indians without compensation, leaving them what the Spanish officials considered enough for a dwelling place, and in numerous instances the Indians were enslaved and compelled to work in the mines or on the plantations.

It seems that France had no settled policy in dealing with the natives. The early French trader cared little for the land. When the French Government, in 171 2, granted Antoine Crozat a charter giving him a monopoly of the Louisiana trade, it was expressly provided that the Indians and negroes living in the province were to receive religious instruction, but no provision was made for extinguishing the claim of the Indians to the soil. In the establishment of the trading posts not much land was needed and the trader and his retinue lived with the Indians as "tenants in common." Sometimes a small tract was cleared near the trading post for the purpose of raising a few vegetables, but the forests were rarely disturbed, leaving the Indian in possession and his hunting grounds unmolested.

With England it was different. The English colonists wanted to establish permanent homes and cultivate the soil. Consequently title to the land was the first consideration. In the early land grants made by the English crown, Parkman says the Indian was "scorned and neglected." In Lord Baltimore's charter to Maryland was the provision giving the grantee authority "to collect troops and wage war on barbarians and other enemies who may make incursions into the settlements, and to pursue, even beyond the limits of their province, and, if God shall grant it, to vanquish and captivate them; and the captives to put to death, or, according to their discretion to save."

William Penn's charter to Pennsylvania contained a similar provision. After the settlement of the colonies reached a point where the local authorities were called upon to deal with the question, each colony adopted a policy of its own, but that of Pennsylvania was perhaps the only one based upon the principles of justice.

The people who founded the Government of the United States were either from England, or descendants for the most part of English immigrants, and naturally copied the English policy. Article 9 of the Articles of Confederation — the first organic law of the Federal Government — provided: "That Congress shall have the sole and exclusive right and power to regulate the trade with, and manage the affairs of the Indians."

Under this authority Congress, on September 22, 1783, issued a proclamation forbidding all persons to settle upon the Indian lands. Then came the Constitution, which superseded the Articles of Con- federation, and the new organic law also vested the power in Congress to deal with all matters arising out of the Government's relations with the Indians. By the act of March 1, 1793, Congress declared : "That no purchase or grant of lands, or any title or claim thereto, from any Indians, or nation or tribe of Indians, within 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 object of the founders of the Government in adopting this policy was twofold: First, to prevent adventurers from trespassing upon Indian lands, thereby causing conflicts with the natives; and, second, to establish a system by which titles to lands should be assured for all time to come. Soon after the Federal Constitution went into effect, the Government began making treaties with the Indians. At firsr these treaties were merely expressions of peace and friendship, but as the white population increased the Government negotiated treaties of cession for the acquisition of more land, and the Indian was gradually pushed farther and farther toward the setting sun.

When the Louisiana Purchase was made the white man was looking with longing eyes at the broad prairies of Illinois, and immediately after the ratification of the Treaty of Paris a clamor arose for the removal of certain Indian tribes, among whom were the Sacs and Foxes, to the new domain. Accordingly, on November 3, 1804, Gen. William H. Harrison, then governor of Indiana Territory, negotiated a treaty at St. Louis with the chiefs of the Sacs and Foxes, by which the confederated tribes ceded their lands east of the Mississippi River to the United States, retaining the privilege of dwelling there until the lands were sold to actual white settlers, after which they were to remove to the west side of the river.

This treaty was subsequently the cause of a great deal of trouble with the Sacs and Foxes. It was then the custom of these tribes to instruct their chiefs or delegates to a treaty council in advance as to what course to pursue, or afterward confirm their action by a vote. It was claimed by some of the Indians that the delegates to the St. Louis Council had no definite instructions to cede the lands east of the Mississippi, and a portion of the allied tribes, led by Chief Black Hawk, refused to confirm their action.

Probably the first council ever held on Iowa soil between a representative of the United States and the Indians was in the latter part of August, 1805. On August 9, 1805, Lieut. Zebulon M. Pike, with a sergeant, two corporals and seventeen privates, left St. Louis to explore the Mississippi to its head waters. At the head of the Des Moines Rapids of the Mississippi, where the Town of Montrose is now situated, he held a council with the Indians and addressed them as follows: "Your great father, the President of the United States, in his desire to become better acquainted with the conditions and wants of the different nations of red people in our newly acquired Territory of Louisiana, has ordered the general to send a number of warriors in various directions to take our red brothers by the hand and make such inquiries as will give your great father the information required."

No attempt was made to conclude a treaty, but at the close of the council Pike distributed among the Indians knives, tobacco and trinkets. Among the Indians who attended this council were some who signed the treaty at St. Louis the preceding November. Pike seems to have been the first American with whom Black Hawk ever came in close contact. Some years afterward the old chief gave the following account of the lieutenant's visit to Rock Island:

"A boat came up the river with a young chief and a small party of soldiers. We heard of them soon after they passed Salt River. Some of our young braves watched them every day, to see what sort of people were on board. The boat at last arrived at Rock River and the young chief came on shore with his interpreter, made a speech and gave us some presents. We in turn gave them meat and such other provisions as we could spare. We were well pleased with the young chief. He gave us good advice and said our American father would treat us well."

At the beginning of the War of 1812 part of the Sacs and Foxes allied themselves with the British. Those who remained loyal to the United States were induced to remove to the Missouri River and became known as the "Sacs and Foxes of the Missouri." Those who remained in Illinois and Eastern Iowa were called the "Sacs and Foxes of the Mississippi," and Black Hawk's band was called the "British Band of Rock River." Shortly after the conclusion of the war a number of treaties were made with the tribes or bands that had fought on the side of England.

On July 19, 1815, at a place called Portage des Sioux, William Clark and Ninian Edwards, commissioners on the part of the United States, concluded a treaty of peace and friendship with the Sioux of Minnesota and Upper Iowa.

At the same place, on September 13, 1815, the same commissioners negotiated a treaty with the Sacs and Foxes of the Missouri, in which the Indians reaffirmed the Treaty of St. Louis of November 3, 1804, and agreed to keep entirely separate from the Sacs of Rock Rivei. The next day the Foxes met the commissioners at Portage des Sioux and entered into a treaty reaffirming the Treaty of St. Louis. They also agreed to deliver the white prisoners in their hands to the commandant at Fort Clark, where Peoria, Illinois, now stands.

On September 16, 181 5, the chiefs and head men of the Iowa Indians held a council with the commissioners at Portage des Sioux and signed a treaty of "mutual peace and good will." All the above treaties were ratified by the national administration on December 16, 1 81 5, and the commissioners then undertook the work of negotiating a treaty with Black Hawk and his band. But it was not until the following spring that the chiefs and head men of the band could be persuaded to visit St. Louis for the purpose of holding a council. n May 13, 1816, twenty-two of the leaders of the Rock River Sacs entered into a treaty confirming that of November 3, 1804. One of those who signed, or "touched the goose quill," as the Indians expressed it, was Black Hawk himself, though subsequently he repudiated his action on that occasion.

The next treaty that has any direct bearing upon the history of Lee County was that of August 4, 1824, which was concluded at Washington, D. C, where some of the Sac and Fox chiefs had been taken at the expense of the Government. By this treaty the Sacs and Foxes relinquished all claim to their lands in the State of Missouri. One provision of this treaty was as follows: "It is understood, however, that the small tract of land lying between the rivers Des Moines and Mississippi and the section of the above line (the northern boundary of Missouri) between the Mississippi and Des Moines, 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."

The treaty was ratified on January 18, 1825, and it established the so-called "Half-Breed Tract," a history of which is given later in this chapter.

About this time some of the tribes in Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin got into a violent dispute as to the limits of their respective hunting grounds and the United States undertook the work of a mediator. William Clark and Lewis Cass were appointed commissioners to hold a council and, if possible, establish a line that would settle the controversy. Accordingly, a general council was held at Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, on August 19, 1825, in which the Sacs and Foxes, Chippewas, Sioux, Winnebagoes, Ottawas, Pottawatomies and some other tribes participated. The treaty agreed upon fixed a line as follows:

"Beginning at the mouth of the Upper Iowa River, on the west bank of the Mississippi, and ascending said Iowa River to its west fork; thence up the said fork to its source; thence crossing the fork of the Red Cedar River in a direct line to the second or upper fork of the Des Moines River; thence in a direct line to the lower fork of the Calumet River, and down that stream to its junction with the Missouri River."

South of this line was to be the country of the Sacs and Foxes and north of it the other tribes were to have undisputed possession.

It was also provided that the Iowa tribe should be permitted to occupy the territory south of the line until some provision could be made for them, which the Government was slow to do, and the Iowas became dissatisfied and went to Southwestern Iowa, some of them crossing the Missouri River.

It soon became manifest that the imaginary line established by the treaty of August 19, 1825, was insufficient to keep the tribes from trespassing on each other's domain. Representatives of the tribes that had taken part in the formation of the treaty were therefore summoned to another council on July 15, 1830, at which the Sacs and Foxes and Iowas ceded to the United States a strip twenty miles in width south of the line and extending from the Mississippi to the Des Moines, and the northern tribes ceded a strip twenty miles wide between the same rivers. The tract forty miles wide thus formed was established as a sort of buffer between the tribes and was known as the "Neutral Ground." It remained so until 1841, when it was given to the Winnebagoes for a reservation.

At the same time and place the Sacs and Foxes, Iowas, Missouris, one band of the Sioux, and the Omahas relinquished to the United States all claim to the land south of the Clark and Cass line of 1825 and west of a line "drawn from the forks of the Des Moines River, extending along the ridge separating the Valley of the Des Moines from the Valley of the Missouri, to the Missouri state line." This was the first cession of land in Iowa to the United States. The tract ceded was not to be settled by white men, however, but was "to be assigned or allotted, under the direction of the President of the United States, to the tribes then living thereon, or to such other tribes as the President might locate thereon for hunting and other purposes."

In the meantime the State of Illinois had been rapidly settling up and the lands of the Sacs and Foxes in that state were demanded for actual settlers, according to the provisions of the treaty of 1804. In 1828 President Adams issued a proclamation declaring the lands opened to settlers and demanding that the Indians remove to the west side of the Mississippi as stipulated in the treaty. As a matter of fact, Keokuk and his followers had removed to the west side of the river, about two years before the proclamation was issued, and established a village on the Iowa River, the exact location being somewhat uncertain. Black Hawk refused to vacate until the Government sold the section of land upon which his village was situated. He and his band crossed the river in 1830 and located on the Iowa River, about two and a half miles from its mouth. The removal was made "under protest" and the old chief was far from being reconciled to the situation. In the spring of 1831, with a number of his braves and their families, he recrossed the river and took possession of their old cabins and cornfields. The white settlers appealed to Governor Reynolds, of Illinois, who sent General Gaines to Rock Island with a military force large enough to compel the return of the Indians to Iowa.

The Black Hawk War

During the winter the Indians were compelled to undergo severe hardships in their new homes. Their houses were poorly built and provisions were scarce, so that they suffered both from cold and hunger. In this emergency Black Hawk fell under the influence of Wa-bo-kie-shiek, "a bad medicine man," who advised him to recross the river, ostensibly to visit the Winnebagoes, and secure the cooperation of that tribe and the Pottawatomies in an uprising against the whites. The suggestion was accepted and on April 6, 1832, he again crossed over to the east side of the river within plain view of the garrison at Fort Armstrong, giving out the information that he was • g om g t0 visit the Winnebagoes and join with them in raising a crop of corn. His act was construed as a hostile invasion, however, by the military authorities, who feared that he would attempt to recover his village on the Rock River. There is no evidence that he made or intended to make any such attempt and some of the settlers, knowing that the Indians never took the war path accompanied by their squaws, old men and children, expressed that Black Hawk was on a peaceful mission.

Notwithstanding the fact that the settlers felt no special alarm, Governor Reynolds called out the militia to aid the garrison at Fort Armstrong in driving out the invader and sent 2,000 men under General Whiteside to that post. Major Stillman was sent out with 275 mounted men to turn Black Hawk back. This force came upon the chief and about forty of his warriors some distance from where the main body of the Indians were encamped. Black Hawk sent forward five messengers with a flag of truce, to ask for a parley, but Stillman's men opened fire and two of the messengers were killed. The few warriors then took up the fight Indian fashion, by concealing themselves behind rocks and trees and picking off the white troops. As Stillman's men were mounted they fought at a disadvantage and in a little while were utterly routed, abandoning their provisions, etc., in their hasty flight.

Up to this time no depredations nor hostile acts had been committed by the Indians. The killing of the two warriors bearing the flag of truce was the beginning of active hostilities. This occurred on May 12, 1832, and during the next month some raids were made by the Indians upon the unprotected settlers. But not all the atrocities were committed by the members of Black Hawk's band. A number of Winnebagoes and Pottawatomies took advantage of the situation to kill and plunder, though they declined to join Black Hawk and "fight like men."

Immediately after Stillman's defeat volunteers were called for and on June 15th there were three brigades in camp at Dixon's Ferry, commanded by Gens. Alexander Posey, Milton R. Alexander and James D. Henry. In addition to these brigades, there were the regular troops of Fort Armstrong, commanded by General Atkinson, and the militia under General Whiteside. And all this military array was deemed necessary to overcome a little, half-starved band of Sacs and Foxes, who had committed no more serious offense than crossing the Mississippi River to visit their old friends, the Winnebagoes, in order to raise corn for food, for it is questionable whether or not Black Hawk's intentions were really hostile. Capt. W. B. Green,, who served in the mounted rangers, afterward maintained that Black Hawk told the truth, when he said that he was on a friendly visit to the Indians farther up the Rock River, and that the war was instigated by trader to whom the band was in debt, in the hope of forcing the negotiation of another treaty so that he could get his pay.

After the Stillman affair, General Atkinson being between Black Hawk and the Mississippi, the chief started for the Wisconsin River, intending to descend that stream and recross the Mississippi. Early in June Maj. Henry Dodge, with the Galena Battalion, joined the forces at Dixon's Ferry. When it was learned that Black Hawk was making for the Wisconsin River, General Henry and Major Dodge started in pursuit. On July 21, 1832, the troops came up with the Indians at the Wisconsin, about fifty miles above its mouth, and Black Hawk was forced to make a stand until the women, children and old men could retreat across the river. With his few warriors he held the soldiers at bay until the squaws constructed light rafts for the goods and little children. These rafts they pushed across the stream, at the same time leading the ponies. When the noncombatants were out of danger on the other side, Black Hawk sent half his fighting force over. From the opposite shore these braves opened fire to cover the retreat of the chief and the remainder of his little army, who then swam across to safety. This feat was accomplished with fewer than one hundred warriors in the face of two brigades, with a loss of only six men. Jefferson Davis, then with Major Dodge's Battalion, afterward said:

"This was the most brilliant exhibition of military tactics that I ever witnessed; a feat of most consummate management and bravery in the face of an enemy of greatly superior numbers. I never read of anything that could be compared with it. Had it been performed by white men it would have been immortalized as one of the most wonderful achievements in military history."

The last battle of the war was fought at the mouth of the Bad Axe on August 2, 1832. Here all the white troops were concentrated against Black Hawk. A steamboat had been sent up the river from Fort Crawford to prevent the Indians from crossing the Mississippi. The force on this boat opened fire on the red men in front, while from all sides the band was assailed by the land forces. Notwithstanding the inequality in the strength of the two armies, Black Hawk held out against the great odds for about two hours, hoping vainly for some fortunate turn in the battle that would permit at least part of his people to make their escape. Some even attempted to swim the Mississippi, but the steamboat ran in among them, capturing a few and drowning many more.

A soldier named Townsend, who took part in the engagement, afterward described the action as follows: "For eight miles we skirmished with their rear-guard and numbers of women and children were killed. One squaw had fallen with a child strapped to her back, as Indian women always carry their children. The ball that found the mother's life had hit and broken the child's arm, and when the mother fell the child was fastened between her dead body and the ground. When the soldiers went to secure the child it was making no moan, but was gnawing ravenously at a horse bone from which the flesh had nearly all been eaten away; nor did the child make any moan while the surgeon was amputating its shattered limb. It sat and ate a hard cracker, with as much indifference as if the arm had been made of wood or stone."

After the Battle of Bad Axe, Black Hawk escaped to the Winnebago Village at Prairie la Crosse. Through the treachery of two Winnebagoes, he was delivered as a prisoner to General Street, the Indian agent at Prairie du Chien. His two sons were also captured and held as prisoners of war. They were held in confinement at Fortress Monroe, Virginia, until June 4, 1833, when President Jackson ordered their release and placed them in charge of Major Garland, to be taken on a tour of the country, in order that they might see the greatness of the United States and the futility of further war- fare against the white men. When taken before the President, Black Hawk said:

"I am a man ; you are only another. We did not expect to conquer the whites. They had too many men. I took up the hatchet to avenge injuries my people could no longer endure. Had I borne them longer without striking my people would have said Black Hawk is a squaw; he is too old to be chief; he is no Sac. These reflections caused me to raise the war whoop. The result is known to you. I say no more."

President Jackson presented Black Hawk with a sword, "a gift from one warrior to another." A short time before his death Black Hawk gave the sword to James A. Jordan and it was afterward used by the tilers of Masonic lodges at Iowaville and Keosauqua until the Masonic Hall at the latter place was destroyed by fire in 1871 or 1872.

The monetary cost of the Black Hawk war to the Federal Government and the State of Illinois was about two million dollars. The aggregate loss of life of both whites and Indians was not far from twelve hundred. The history of the war is of interest to the people of Lee County because as its immediate result the treaty of September 21, 1832, was negotiated. By this treaty the Sacs and Foxes ceded to the United States "all lands to which the said tribe have title or claim included within the following boundaries, to wit:

"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 River; 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."

The territory included within these boundaries includes the present counties of Dubuque, Delaware, Jackson, Jones, Clinton, Cedar, Scott, Muscatine, Louisa, Henry, Des Moines and Lee, and portions of Clayton, Fayette, Buchanan, Linn, Johnson, Washington, Jefferson and Van Buren. It embraces about six million acres of Eastern Iowa and was known as the "Black Hawk Purchase." It was taken by the United States as an indemnity for the expenses of the Black Hawk war.

This treaty was concluded on the west bank of the Mississippi, opposite Fort Armstrong, where the City of Davenport, Iowa, now stands. Gen. Winfield Scott and Governor Reynolds, of Illinois, were the commissioners on the part of the United States and the Sacs and Foxes were represented by the chiefs of the Keokuk faction, Black Hawk and his two sons being at the time prisoners of war. The treaty was ratified on February 13, 1833, and on the first day of June following the title was fully vested in the United States and the lands opened to settlement.

One article of the treaty provided for a reservation of 400 square miles, "to be laid off under the direction of the President of the United States, from the boundary line crossing the Iowa River, in such manner that nearly an equal portion of the reservation may be on both sides of said river, and extending downwards so as to include Keo Kuck's principal village on its right bank, which village is about twelve miles from the Mississippi River."

The cession and reservation were surveyed by Charles de Ward in October, 1835, and by the treaty of September 21, 1836, the reservation was ceded to the United States for $30,000 and an annuity of $10,000 for ten successive years.

By the treaty of October 21, 1837, the Sacs and Foxes ceded to the United States 1,250,000 acres directly west of the Black Hawk Purchase. This treaty was ratified on February 21, 1838. The last treaty with the Sacs and Foxes of Iowa was negotiated on October 11, 1842, at the Sac and Fox agency, by John Chambers, commissioner on behalf of the United States. By the terms of this treaty the allied tribes surrendered title to all their lands in the State of Iowa and agreed to be removed from the country at the expiration of three years. Part of them removed to Kansas in the fall of 1845 and the remainder followed in the spring of 1846.

The Half-Breed Tract

Mention has already been made of this tract, which was set apart by the treaty of August 4, 1824, for the half-breeds belonging to the Sacs and Foxes. It contained 1 19,000 acres, "lying between the Des Moines and Mississippi rivers, and south of a line drawn from a point one mile below Farmington east to the Mississippi River, near the site of old Fort Madison, and including all the lands lying between said line and the junction of the said rivers."

Before any white settlements were made within the limits of the present State of Iowa, white trappers, traders and adventurers visited the Indian country along the Upper Mississippi and its tributaries, many of whom married Indian women and dwelt with the tribes to which their wives belonged. The American Fur Company established posts along the great river and a majority of its agents had Indian wives. Julien Dubuque, the founder of the city of that name, had an Indian wife. Chevalier Marais, who is credited with being the second white settler in Iowa, married the daughter of an Iowa chief. Antoine Le Claire, one of the founders of the City of Davenport; the trader Lemoliese, who settled near Sandusky, Andre Santamont, another French trader, and many others became "squaw men." Some- times a soldier or officer of one of the frontier garrisons would marry an Indian girl. A notable instance of this kind was the marriage of Dr. Samuel C. Muir, an army surgeon at Fort Edwards, to a Fox maiden. A few of the children of these marriages were given the advantages of the white man's education and civilization, but the great majority of them were reared among the Indians and adopted Indian customs. It was for the benefit of such that the Half-Breed Tract was established.

The territory once comprising the tract is all in Lee County and includes the present townships of Jackson, Montrose, Des Moines and Jefferson, practically all of the townships of Charleston and Van Buren and that portion of Madison Township lying south of Divi- sion Street and its extension, Santa Fe Avenue, in the City of Fort Madison. It may therefore be interesting to the Lee County reader to know something of the traditions of this tract of land, as well as its history, particularly the accounts of how it came to be established. It is claimed by some writers that a half-breed named Morgan made such an eloquent appeal before the Government commissioners in the treaty council of August 4, 1824, for the rights of the half-breeds, that the provision above mentioned was incorporated in the treaty. Another story gives the credit to Maurice Blondeau, a French trader, who for years prior to the treaty had been a sort of mediator for the Sacs and Foxes. Frank Labiseur, a stepson of Andre Santamont, acted as interpreter at the council, and afterward stated that his stepfather was largely instrumental in securing the establishment of the Half-Breed Tract. Still others are inclined to the opinion that the provision was incorporated in the treaty upon the recommendation of Dr. Samuel C. Muir. Probably there is some truth in all these stories, and the men named cooperated to secure the southern portion of the present county of Lee for the half-breeds.

Under the original grant, the half-breeds had the right to occupy the land as Indians occupied the lands of other reservations. They had no right to sell or convey it, the United States holding a reversionary right. In the fall of 1833 a meeting of half-breeds was held at Farnum's Trading Post, within the present limits of the City of Keokuk, and a petition to Congress, asking for the passage of an act giving the occupants the right to sell the land, was prepared and signed by a large number of those present. Other signatures were subsequently obtained and in response to the petition Congress passed an act, approved by President Jackson on January 30, 1834, relinquishing the Government's reversionary interest and giving the lands to the half-breeds in fee simple.

The passage of this act was the signal for the land shark and real estate speculator to "get busy." Lee County quickly became one of the most active real estate markets in the country and the founda- tion was laid for a vast amount of litigation. Says a writer of that period: "A horde of speculators rushed in to buy land of the half- breed owners, and, in many instances, a gun, a blanket, a pony or a few quarts of whisky was sufficient for the purchase of large estates. There was a deal of sharp practice on both sides. Indians would often claim ownership of land by virtue of being half-breeds and had no difficulty in proving their mixed blood by the Indians, and would then cheat the speculators by selling land to which they had no rightful title. On the other hand, speculators often claimed land to which they had no right. It was diamond cut diamond, until at last things became badly mixed. There were no authorized surveys, no boundary lines to claims, and, as a natural result, numerous quarrels ensued."

One question the courts were called upon to decide was who the half-breeds were who were entitled to the land. The popular opinion as to what constituted a Sac and Fox half-breed was that he was "a person half Indian, but who did not wear a blanket." The act of January 30, 1834, was not very specific as to the manner in which the land should be divided and sold and the liberal interpretation placed upon its provisions led to the organization of several companies to deal in the half-breed lands. The most important of these were the New York Land Company and the St. Louis Land Company, which were merged after a short separate existence. Henry S. Austin, an attorney of the New York Company, located at Montrose, with Dr. Isaac Galland as the company's agent.

To rectify the omission of Congress, the Wisconsin Legislature,, by an act approved on January 16, 1838, required all persons claiming land by purchase under the act of 1834, to file claims with the clerk of the District Court of Lee County within one year, showing how title was obtained. Edward Johnstone, David T. Brigham and Thomas S. Wilson were named in the act as commissioners to take testimony regarding said titles. Any tract of land, the title to which was not passed on favorably by the commissioners, was to be sold and the proceeds divided among the half-breeds entitled to receive the same. Two of the commissioners — Johnstone and Wilson — qualified soon after their appointment and spent the greater part of the next two years in the work of unraveling the tangled skein.

In the meantime the Territory of Iowa was erected by an act of Congress, and at the first session of the territorial legislature the act of January 16, 1838, under which the commissioners were operating, was repealed. This complicated matters somewhat, as many whose titles had received the indorsement of the commission, found that the work of the commissioners was invalidated by the repealing act. The new law also prohibited the commissioners from drawing any remuneration from the public funds for what they had done, but provided that they might institute suits against the land for their services. Suits were accordingly filed in the territorial courts and the entire tract of 1 19,000 acres was sold to Hugh T. Reid, an attorney of Keokuk, for $5,773.32. Reid received a deed executed by the sheriff of Lee County and thereby became the largest land owner in Iowa. He sold several small tracts to individuals, but in time his title was questioned and he became involved in litigation.

The subject again came before the territorial legislature at the second session, when an act was passed providing that settlers, before being dispossessed under the sheriff's deed to Mr. Reid, should be paid in full for any improvements they might have made. Another act provided for the partition of the tract and on April [4, 1841, the suit of Joseph Spaulding et al. vs. Euphrosine Antaya et al. was filed in the United States District Court for the Territory of Iowa, asking for the partition of the entire tract. Spaulding and his associates were represented by Edward Johnstone and Hugh T. Reid, then law partners, and it is said that the petition filed by the plaintiffs was drawn by Francis Scott Key, author of "The Star Spangled Banner," who was the attorney for the New York Land Company. The court was then presided over by Judge Charles Mason, of Burlington, who on May 8, 1841, issued a decree for the partition and appointed S. B. Ayres, Harmon Booth and James Webster commissioners to divide the 119,000 acres into 101 tracts or shares, as nearly equal in value as possible. Their report was received and confirmed by the court on October 7, 1841, and it constitutes the basis of title to all the lands in the Half-Breed Tract.

The judgment of partition was sustained in a number of appeals to the Iowa Supreme Court, but the sheriff's sale to Hugh T. Reid still formed a cloud on the title. This question was settled by the case of "Joseph Webster, plaintiff in error, vs. Hugh T. Reid, defendant in error," which was filed in January, 1846, in the District Court of Iowa. The case was heard by Judges Charles Mason, Joseph Williams and Thomas S. Wilson, who decided that Hugh T. Reid was the owner in fee simple of the land. An appeal was taken to the United States Supreme Court and at the December term in 1850 that tribunal handed down an opinion reversing the decisions of the territorial and state courts. This set aside the sheriff's sale to Reid and the judgment of partition was sustained by the highest legal authority in the country. Attorneys for the various land companies and purchasers under the sheriff's deed then quit-claimed for small considerations and the question was settled for all time to come.

With the treaties of 1832, 1837 and 1842, the removal of the Indians to Kansas in 1845-46, and the adjustment of the title question in the Half-Breed Tract, the lands of Lee County became the prop- erty of the white man. What were once the hunting grounds of the Sacs and Foxes are now cultivated fields. The whistle of the steam-boat on the great Father of Waters has supplanted the war-whoop of the savage. Indian villages have disappeared and in their stead have come cities with paved streets, electric lights, street railways, libraries and all the evidences of modern progress. Where was once the old Indian trail is now the railroad. The tepee has given way to the schoolhouse, and the halls of legislation have taken the place of the tribal council. The primeval forest has disappeared and the giant trees have been manufactured into lumber to build dwellings for civilized man, or turned into furniture for his comfort. And all this has been accomplished within the memory of persons yet living. To tell the story of this progress is the province of the subsequent chapters of this history.


Source:  History of Lee County, Iowa, by Dr. S. W. Moorhead and Nelson C. Roberts, 1914

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