By W. L. Clark.

This chapter will seek to briefly show what Indian tribes once held this territory as their own, and as to how the white race came into possession of it.
Of what is termed the pre-historic race that inhabited this section of the Northwest, there is but little known, the only history of this extinct people being the mounds and the contents of the same. These mounds are found in many parts of Iowa, a goodly number having in recent years been discovered and excavated in Cherokee county, just to the south of O'Brien county. Just who these "Mound Builders" were is an unsettled question and probably will so remain, but it is certain that they dwelt here centuries ago and were in all probability a distinct race from the North American Indian, as now understood. Those best versed in such matters claim that they were from the far-off Orient, coming here either as shipwrecked sailors, or possibly by true immigration from Asia, crossing at Bering Strait. This people were doubtless well up in arts and science for the day in which they existed. Copper was mined and worked in a fashion now unknown to the most skilled of present artisans. They made implements of war and had elaborate houses, practiced domestic economy and were probably the race just preceding the Indians, the first comers from Europe found here. (See also the article on like mounds in O'Brien county.)
For more than a century after Marquette and Joliet trod the soil of Iowa and admired its fertile plains, not a single settlement was made or even attempted; not even a trading post was established. During this time the Illinois Indians, once so powerful, gave up the entire possession of this "beautiful land," as the name "Iowa" really implies, to the Sacs and Foxes. In 1903, when Louisiana was purchased by the United States, these two tribes, with the Iowas, possessed the entire domain now within the state of Iowa. The Sacs and Foxes occupied almost all of the state of Illinois. The four most important towns of the Sacs were along the Mississippi, two on the east side, one near the mouth of the Upper Iowa and one at the head of


the Des Moines rapids, near the present town of Montrose. Those of the Foxes were, one on the west side of the Mississippi, just above Davenport, one about twelve miles from the river, back of the Dubuque lead mines, and one on Turkey river. The principal village of the Iowas was on the Des Moines river, in Van Buren county, where Iowaville now stands. Here the last great battle between the Sacs and Foxes and the Iowas was fought, in which Black Hawk, then a voting man, commanded the attacking forces.
The Sioux had the northern portion of this state and southern Minnesota. They were a fierce and warlike nation, who often disputed possession with their rivals in savage and bloody warfare; but finally a boundary line was established between them by the government of the United States. This was by the treaty at Prairie du Chien, in 1825. This, however, became the source of an increased number of quarrels between the tribes, as each trespassed, or was thought to trespass, upon the rights of the other side. In 1830, therefore, the government created a forty-mile strip of neutral ground between them, which policy proved to be more successful in the interests of peace.
Soon after the United States acquired Louisiana, the government adopted measures for the exploration of the new territory, having in view the conciliation of the numerous tribes of Indians It whom it was possessed and also the selection of proper sites for military posts and trading stations. This was accordingly accomplished. But before the country could be opened up for settlement by the whites it was necessary that the Indian titles should be extinguished and that people removed. When the government assumed control of the country by virtue of the Louisiana Purchase nearly all Iowa was in possession of the Sacs and Foxes, at whose head stood the rising, daring, intellectual Black Hawk. On November 3, 1804, a treaty was concluded with these tribes by which they ceded to the United States the Illinois side of the Mississippi in consideration of two thousand three hundred and thirty-four dollars worth of goods then delivered and an annuity of one thousand dollars to be paid in goods at cost; but old Black Hawk always maintained that the chiefs who entered into that compact acted without authority and that therefore the treaty was not binding. The first fort on Iowa soil was built at Fort Madison. A short time before a military post was fixed at Warsaw, Illinois, and named Fort Edwards. These enterprises caused mistrust among the Indian tribes. Indeed Fort Madison was located in violation of the treaty of 1804. The Indians sent delegations to the whites at these forts to learn what they were doing and what they intended. On being "informed" that those structures were merely trading posts they


were incredulous and became more and more suspicious. Black Hawk, therefore, led a party to the vicinity of Fort Madison and attempted its destruction, but a premature attack by him caused his failure.
In 1812, when war was declared between this country and England, Black Hawk and his band allied themselves with the British, partly because they were dazzled by their promises, but mostly, perhaps, because they had been deceived by the Americans. Black Hawk said plainly that the latter fact was the cause. A portion of the Sacs and Foxes, however, headed by Keokuk ("Watchful Fox"), could not be persuaded into hostilities against the United States, they being disposed to stand by the treaty of 1804. The Indians were therefore divided into the "war" and "peace" parties. On Black Hawk's return from the British army he says he was introduced to Keokuk as the war chief of the braves then in that village. On inquiry as to how he became chief, there were given him the particulars of his having killed a Sioux in battle, which fact placed him among the warriors, and of his having headed an expedition in defense of their village at Peoria. In person, Keokuk was tall and of stately bearing and in speech he was a genuine, though uneducated, orator. He never mastered the English language, hence his biographers have never been able to do his character justice. He was a friend of the United States government and ever tried to persuade the Indians that it was useless to try to attack a nation so powerful as that of the United States.
The treaty of 1804 was renewed in 1816, which Black Hawk himself signed; but he afterwards held that he was deceived and that the treaty was not even yet binding. But there was no further serious trouble with the Indians until the noted Black Hawk war of 1832, all of which took place in Wisconsin and Illinois, with the expected result, the defeat and capture of old Black Hawk and the final repulsion of all the hostile Indians west of the Mississippi river. Black Hawk died in 1838 at his home in this state, and was buried there, but his remains were afterward placed in a museum of the Historical Society, where they were accidentally destroyed by fire.
More or less affecting the territory now included within the state of Iowa, fifteen treaties have been made and an outline is here given: In 1804, when the whites agreed not to settle west of the Mississippi on Indian lands; in 1815, with the Sioux, ratifying peace with Great Britain and the United States; with the Sacs a treaty of similar nature and also ratifying that of 1804, the Indians agreeing not to join their brethren who under Black Hawk had aided the British; with the Foxes, ratifying the treaty of 1804, the Indians agreeing to deliver up all prisoners; and with the low as a


treaty of friendship; in 1816, with the Sacs of Rock River, ratifying the treaty of 1804; in 1824, with the Sacs and Foxes, the latter relinquishing all their lands in Missouri and that portion of the southeast corner of Iowa known as the "Half-breed Tract" was set off to the half-breeds; in 1825, placing a boundary line between the Sacs and Foxes on the south and the Sioux on the north; in 1830, when the line was widened to forty miles; also in the same year with the several tribes, who ceded a large portion of their possessions in the western part of the state; in 1832, with the Winnebagoes, exchanging lands with them and providing a school, etc., for them; also in the same year, the "Black Hawk Purchase" was made, of about six million acres, also along the west side of the Mississippi from the southern line of Iowa to the mouth of the Iowa river; in 1836, with the Sacs and Foxes, ceding Keokuk's Reserve to the United States; in 1837, with the same, when another slice of territory comprising 1,250,000 acres adjoining west of the foregoing tract, was obtained; also in the same year, when these Indians gave up all their lands allowed them under former treaties; and finally, in 1842, when they relinquished their title to all their lands west of the Mississippi river.
Thus it has been shown how the white men came into possession of that portion of Iowa in which O'Brien county is situated. The Indians were all gone before the first settlement was effected here, hence the pioneer here did not have other trouble than a little scare and some cruel depredations committed by the blood-thirsty Sioux when on the warpath from Smithland and Cherokee to the scene of the awful massacre at Spirit Lake in April, 1857, and all of which took place in Waterman township. This is mentioned elsewhere in this work.
On reading of the horror of the Spirit Lake, or rather the West Okoboji, massacre in 1857, the year following the coming of Hannibal Waterman, or of the still worse deeds that followed at New Ulm in Minnesota, and when we recall that those same Indians were at Mr. Waterman's but a few days before, we may well wonder whether, had our county been but a few years farther along in settlement, would not O'Brien county have perhaps been the scene of like tragedies. It must be remembered that these same Indians had, the fall before, in 1856, passed down from Minnesota past Spirit Lake, through the neighboring Clay county, through Peterson, with stops at Mr. Waterman's, thence on to Smithland, as likewise several detachments of them even down as far as Sac and other counties. It seems now generallv conceded that on the road down they were friendly, but that the citizens of Smithland acted unwisely in killing the game of the Indians,


which they had so laboriously corralled and expected to kill for their winter's supply, and then when this was done, and the Smithland people became frightened and took away their guns, the Indians passed through that terrible winter of 1856, with their savage idea of holding all white people individually responsible, it is scarce to lbe wondered at that the innocent victims at Spirit Lake suffered.
One incident occurred in Peterson which perhaps contributed, though probably no one was to blame. It seems that on the road down from Minnesota, one of the squaws got very sick at Peterson. Her company left her at the home of old Father Bicknell. She was there a month and got well. The winter was dreadfully severe. Food supplies had to be hauled from Fort Dodge or Sac City. The question was serious. Even an addition of one person in a family was serious. This squaw was told she must move on and join her people. She started to do so across the country. This, however, was no more than was often done by the Indian women. The snow that winter was unusually deep. Her bones or remains were found by the Indians in the spring on their road back to Minnesota. This enraged them. One Indian was killed in Clay county. This did not tend to preserve their peace. Other items happened, as Mr. Waterman states in his narrative. The Indians were not wholly in the wrong. Luckily for the peace of O'Brien county, Mr. Waterman was the only citizen and, though roughly used by them, escaped, lucky even that he could "buy his own gun back." Thus it is that the specific Indian incidents directly relating to this county are meager, from the one fact that there was but one citizen here. (See also the narrative of Mr. Waterman, and also the article on Prehistoric Fortifications and Indian Burial Mounds in the county.) The Spirit Lake massacre excited the people to that extent that Mr, Waterman was urged to move his family to Peterson as a better protection not only to his family, but also as an aid to the Peterson people.

O'Brien County Iowa Genealogy - The IAGenWeb Project