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1876 Centennial History

of Webster County,

its TOWNS AND TOWNSHIPS,

also the City of Fort Dodge


SPIRIT LAKE MASSACRE.

IN the month of February, 1857, a strolling band of Sioux Indians, numbering about seventy, Including from twenty-five to thirty warriors, invaded the settlements on the Little Sioux river in Buena Vista and Clay counties, destroyed the cattle, horses and provisions of the settlers, and drove them from their homes at midnight to seek shelter with neighbors who were miles away. After destroying all the property they could and, and committing outrages too horrible to relate, they passed on up the Little Sioux to Lake Okoboji and Spirit Lake, In Dickinson county. Here on or about the 18th of March they first killed Mr. GARDNER, his wife and son and took with them as a captive a daughter about fifteen years of age. They then attacked the dwelling of Mr. LUCE, a son-in-law of Mr. GARDNER, killing him, his wife and two children. They next attacked Mr. MATTOCK, about one mile from GARDNER'S, and killed MATTOCK, his wife and five children. Across the outlet of the lake from MATTOCK'S was the house of Messrs. GRANGER, SNYDER and HENRIOTT, together with JOSEPH HARSHMAN, a visitor from Emmett City. Here the Indians had some fighting to do, and from appearances a severe conflict must have taken place, and the four young men had probably gone to the relief of Mr. MATTOCK and his family. Signs of Indians having been killed or wounded were seen, and Mr. HARRIOTT was found in a sitting position in a snow hank, his Sharp's rifle broken and lying near him, and a Colt's revolver in his hand, only one barrel having been fired, the Indians next killed Mr. HOWE and Mr. NOBLE and four children, taking Mrs. THATCHER and Mrs. HOWE prisoners. Mr. MARBLE, living two miles north of HOWE'S, they killed, and took Mrs. MARBLE prisoner. Near the lake shore the bodies of Messrs. CLARK and LIEU, of Waterloo, were found. Several others were found afterwards near the lakes. After the Indians had killed all the people in the vicinity of Spirit Lake, they crossed over the State line to Springfield, in Minnesota, and attacked the settlement there. The people were not taken unaware, having heard of the slaughter at the lakes. Here they first attacked the house ot Mr. STEWART, killing him, his wife and two children. The citizens, on bearing the firing at Mr. STEWART'S, rushed into the house of WM. L. CHURCH, now of Webster City, where they defended themselves bravely. Miss L. SWARCER, a sister to Mrs. CHURCH, ran bullets while Mrs CHURCH loaded the gun and fired at the Indians, one of whom as lie came from the stable with the harness on his arm, suddenly dropped his load and uttering a cry of pain disappeared. It is believed that he shortly after passed to "the happy hunting ground" of the Indians. The news of the massacre at the lakes was brought to Fort Dodge by Mr. ABNER BELL and Mr. WILLIAMS, of Little Sioux river. Messengers were at once sent to Webster City and Homer for arms, ammunition and men to march to the relief of citizens on the frontier. The two places furnished forty men and Fort Dodge eighty, which were divided into three companies of forty men each and officers elected as follows: CHAS. B. RICHARDS, Captain of company A.; JOHN F. DUNCOMBR, Captain of company 15., and J. C. JOHNSON, Captain of company C, while Major WILLIAM WILLIAMS had command of the battalllon.

A young Indian by the name of JOSH, who had lived with a Mr. CARTER, of Emmett county, during the year 185, came to him and divulged the plan of operation of the Indians, which was to come down the Des Moines river to the forks in Humboldt county, and kill and destroy everything on their march. He urged Mr. CARTER to flee with his family. Josh was the boy left by LOTT for dead when be killed old SIDOMINADOTA. The volunteers, learning this, set out the morning of the 24th of March, and after a hard day's work through snow-drifts facing a keen northwest wind camped the first night on Badger creek. From there on to GRANGER'S claim in Emmet county the troops traveled on foot, at times hauling the baggage wagons with ropes through ravines filled with snow, and at others making a raft to float across the men and accoutrements and swimming their horses, sleeping at night on the snow covered ground witli their clothes frozen stiff. On Monday, the 30th, they met a party of fleeing settlers from Springfield, many of whom had been residents of this county, and upon learning that the soldiers from Fort Ridgely had scared the Indians away, they at once turned their attention to the relief of the sick and wounded, sharing with them their provisions and blankets and sending them with an escort to the nearest settlement In Falo Alto county.

This done, a company of twenty-three volunteered from the main body to go to the lakes and bury the dead. They went and buried twenty-nine and started across the prairie for the Irish settlement in Palo Alto county, as it was then called. The snow having melted the prairie was covered with water. Coming to a large slough the company separated, some deciding to go one way and some another, and late, at night all but two arrived at the settlement, a few with their limbs badly frozen. Two of the company, Captain  J. C. JOHNSON, of Webster City, and WM. BURKHOLDER, of Fort Dodge, were lost upon the prairie. When last seen they were tearing up their blankets and binding them upon their feet, their boots frozen so hard that they could not get them on. Days, weeks and months were spent by their surviving friends in searching for them, and It was not until August, 1868, that their bones and their guns were found lying side by side, and within sight of the settlement. These relics were gathered up and brought to Fort Dodge, when one of the largest funerals ever held in the city attested the love and respect of the people.


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