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Title: The Spirit Lake Massacre

Author: Thomas Teakle

Release date: February 11, 2013 [eBook #42074]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by sp1nd, Matthew Wheaton and the Online
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The massacre of the white settlers in the region of Lake Okoboji and Spirit Lake in 1857 by a band of Indians under the leadership of Inkpaduta has come to be known as “The Spirit Lake Massacre”, although the tragedy was for the most part enacted on the borders of Lake Okoboji. There seems, however, to be no substantial reason for renaming the episode in the interest of geographical accuracy; and so in this volume the familiar designation of “The Spirit Lake Massacre” has been retained.

Benj. F. Shambaugh

Office of the Superintendent and Editor

The State Historical Society of Iowa

Iowa City Iowa


It is probable that no event in the history of northwestern Iowa has aroused more popular interest than that of the Spirit Lake Massacre of March, 1857. Not alone in northwestern Iowa but also in the adjacent sections of Minnesota and South Dakota is the story of its events and associated incidents well known.

The Spirit Lake Massacre came as the culminating episode in a long series of incidents intimately connected with the settlement of northern and western Iowa. For years previous to 1857 the Indians of the Siouan tribes had obstinately resisted white settlement and had succeeded in a marked degree in retarding the movement. It may be said with a reasonable degree of certainty that if the events of March, 1857, had not occurred the settlement of this region would have been postponed for some years: the Massacre not only aroused the authorities of the State of Iowa to the necessity of exerting the force of military pressure upon the Indians to discourage or end their forays, but it also enlisted the efforts of the Federal authorities in the same direction. This joint interest and protection could have only one result—the retirement of the Sioux to the region of the Missouri and the rapid influx of white settlers. The Massacre definitely settled the Indian question for Iowa: henceforth the red man ceased to play any important part in the history of this Commonwealth.

While the following pages are, as far as practicable, based upon primary materials, the writer acknowledges his obligation to many other sources in the notes and references which follow the text. Since no adequate history of the Spirit Lake Massacre can be written wholly from primary materials, considerable reliance upon secondary sources has been found necessary in this work. Furthermore, the writer is well aware that he has taken a number of new positions concerning causes and incidents of the Massacre; but in this he feels well sustained by the preponderance of authority.

Without the unflagging interest and the tireless enthusiasm and encouragement of Dr. Benj. F. Shambaugh the more than four years of research involved in this work would never have been undertaken or carried through to its close. To many others the author also feels himself obligated for invaluable assistance. Among these may be noted Curator E. R. Harlan, Librarian Alice Marple, Assistant Editor Ida M. Huntington, and Superintendent of Archives C. C. Stiles, all of the Historical Department of Iowa. Dr. Dan E. Clark, Associate Editor in The State Historical Society of Iowa, assisted in editing and verifying the manuscript; and to him the author is indebted for the index.

Thomas Teakle

The North High School

Des Moines Iowa


I. The Advancing Frontier 1
II. Indian Wrongs and Discontent 9
III. The Unprotected Frontier 17
IV. The Grindstone War and the Death of Sidominadota 26
V. The Frontier and the Winter of 1856-1857 37
VI. Okoboji and Springfield in March 1857 44
VII. The Journey East for Supplies 59
VIII. The Inkpaduta Band 63
IX. Inkpaduta Seeks Revenge 72
X. The Smithland Incident 78
XI. From Smithland to Okoboji 84
XII. The First Day of the Massacre 94
XIII. The Second Day of the Massacre 108
XIV. From Okoboji to Heron Lake 113
XV. News of Massacre Reaches Springfield and Fort Ridgely 122
XVI. Relief Sent from Fort Ridgely 128
XVII. Preparations for Defense at Springfield 132
XVIII. Inkpaduta Attacks Springfield 138
XIX. The Settlers Flee from Springfield 147
XX. Relief Arrives from Fort Ridgely 153
XXI. Organization of Relief at Fort Dodge and Webster City 159
XXII. The March from Fort Dodge to Medium Lake 170
XXIII. From Medium Lake to Granger’s Point 182
XXIV. The Burial Detail 192
XXV. Return of the Relief Expedition 206
XXVI. The Death of Mrs. Thatcher 215
XXVII. The Ransom of Mrs. Marble 225
XXVIII. The Death of Mrs. Noble and the Ransom of Abbie Gardner 232
XXIX. Pursuit and Punishment of Inkpaduta 245
XXX. The Memorial Tributes of Iowa 260
XXXI. Changes of Sixty Years 269
  Notes and References 277
  Index 321


Clothed in myth and legend and held in sacred awe by the Siouan Indian, Lake Okoboji and Spirit Lake had rested in seclusion for ages at the headwaters of the Little Sioux. To the red men these lakes had been a sort of Mecca, second only to the red pipestone quarry to the northwest, for the silent adoration and worship of the Spirit.[1] Although the region had been little disturbed by the whites the Sioux were becoming uneasy as the frontier continued its westward advance. By the middle of the nineteenth century the meeting and clashing of the two races became more frequent.

This rivalry of the races was engendered by the white man’s disregard of what the Indian held as sacred: it was embittered by the unstable policies of the government. Finally, in the early days of March, 1857, came one of those tragic events in the long series of misguided attempts to deal with the Indian and solve the problem of the frontier. In this terrible tragedy in the pioneer history of northwestern Iowa, the lives of more than forty white people were sacrificed. The Spirit Lake Massacre was the result of an Indian policy which has been characterized as “vacillating, full of inconsistencies[Pg 1]
[Pg 2]
and incongruities, of experiments and failures.”[2] For the Sioux this policy had been the cause of frequent humiliation.

It must be frankly admitted that in dealing with the Indian the whites too often lost sight of the fact that the red man was really a human being, seeking to have his person as well as his rights respected. To compel the respect which his proud spirit demanded, he frequently resorted to massacre. In fact, an Indian was open to insults and abuse from his fellow tribesmen until he had killed a foe.[3]

To some extent the Indian appreciated his own inferiority, and he was expectantly on the alert to prevent being over-reached and deceived by the whites. Suspicious by nature, he became doubly so when his activities brought him into relation with another race. Unhappily he was not always wrong in his suspicions of the white man’s deception, and many unpleasant border difficulties sprang from his attempts to match deception with deception. Physically superb, he too often had recourse to those physical means of redress that have marked the history of the frontier with tales of tragic revenge.[4]

Accustomed to the matching of intellects, the whites frequently resorted to the stilted verbiage of treaties in their efforts to push the Indian farther toward the setting sun. In these treaties the red man found much cause for complaint—not so much in the strict wording of the documents themselves as in the management of affairs they induced. This too often exasperated and provoked the Indian.[5] To[Pg 3] him the Iowa country was a paradise. Not only was it his home and hunting ground, but here centered much of the traditional lore of his tribe and race. Thus Iowa was doubly dear to him and worth his most determined effort to hold. As the wave of settlements advanced, the Indian was induced to sell—sometimes under circumstances provoking a strong suspicion of compulsion rather than voluntary agreement in the transfer. He felt instinctively that he had to retire, but in his racial pride he resented the necessity. He knew well the later traditions of his race, in the light of which he could foresee that in a very brief time force, which “comprises the elements of all Indian treaties”,[6] would be used to drive him from his domain.

As tract after tract was ceded, lands that the Indian did not want were given to him in exchange—lands devoid of good camping places and wanting in such game as was essential to his very existence. Moreover, the very lands the Indians prized most were the most sought for by the whites. The qualities causing them to be prized by the one made them desirable for the other. Thus the Indian’s subsistence became so precarious that often he was on the verge of starvation. Coupled with this deprivation of favorite pleasure and hunting grounds was the white man’s idealistic dream of civilizing the Indian by making him work at tilling the soil or at the various trades. This seemed to the haughty red man a real degradation. He could die fighting, if need be; but work he would not. His steadfast refusal to[Pg 4] work or become civilized could only end in banishment from the lands he valued so highly. In view of this policy of forcing him into an involuntary exile, one ceases to wonder that he grew discontented and rebelled rather than submit.[7] He could not have done otherwise and retain his pride of race.

Forcible dispossession of his ancestral hunting ranges, however, would not have provoked in him an overweening hatred for the white man if it had not been so often coupled with a show of military force. The sole purpose of such military campaigns seems to have been to frighten the Indian in order that he might learn to be peaceful and pliant through fear of punishment.

These campaigns—of which the one by General Harney against the Sioux ending in the affair of Ash Hollow on September 3, 1855, is the most cruel example—sometimes ended not in pacification but in massacre in which the ferocity of the white man vied with that of the Indian. Harney had been recalled from Europe and sent into the West against the Indians for no other purpose than that of terrifying them.[8] Such affairs as this were most unworthy of the American soldier. Nor did the Indian soon forget these atrocities: thereafter he seldom let an opportunity pass which offered revenge.

The military expeditions referred to were frequently followed by the making of treaties providing for land cessions and the consequent westward recession of the Indians. Moreover, these treaties, the making of which was stoutly resisted, were usually[Pg 5] acknowledged only by a tribal remnant; and so they were not deemed as binding by the widely scattered major portion of the tribe. Their provisions were not always observed, and often blood had to flow to secure a temporary obedience. Thus the story of the government’s relations with the Sioux became an alternation of treaties and Indian and white retaliatory measures. A treaty was only too often accepted by the Indians as a challenge for some shrewdly devised scheme of vengeful retaliation.

Through a series of treaties extending from 1825 to 1851 the Indian occupants of Iowa soil were slowly but surely dispossessed. They felt the westward push of white migration, and were fearful of being unable to stem it. Unluckily for themselves they fell to intertribal quarreling, and for the moment, being off their guard, they accepted white mediation. Thus, the two treaties of Prairie du Chien had attempted to settle the differences between the Sioux and their traditional enemies, the confederated Sacs and Foxes.[9] But they did not succeed, since the line established in the first of these two treaties was so indefinite that neither white man nor Indian could locate it to his own satisfaction. To the Sioux their claim to northern and western Iowa seemed assured, and they proceeded confidently to its occupation. The Sacs and Foxes believed the same concerning their rights in southeastern Iowa and jealously sought to exclude all others from it.

By the second treaty of Prairie du Chien there was established the Neutral Ground, which only aggravated[Pg 6] the difficulties already existing.[10] Then, by the treaty of September 15, 1832, the eastern portion of the Neutral Ground was designated as a reservation for the Winnebagoes.[11] The Wahpekuta Sioux never forgot this action, which they regarded as a violation of their proprietary rights in the district; and from that time on they became increasingly more difficult to deal with and more restive of restraint. Later the Winnebagoes by two successive treaties made an absolute cession of this land.[12] It was then opened to settlement, and the Sioux sulkily retired westward.

In 1832 Black Hawk, the able Sac and Fox leader, burning with revenge for past wrongs and fearful of his waning power as a tribal leader as well as of the steady advance of the westward moving frontier, declared war. The conflict was brief, resulting in the defeat of Black Hawk. By four successive treaties covering the period from 1832 to 1842 he or his people were compelled to accede to agreements which had for their purpose the removal of the Indians to lands west of the Missouri wholly unsuited to their needs.[13]

Likewise the Iowas were required to surrender all claims which the United States had recognized in former treaties as entitling them to occupy Iowa soil.[14] With the surrender of all right or interest which they held in the Iowa country they were in turn removed to a reservation beyond the Missouri. Southern Iowa had not as yet been cleared of its aboriginal inhabitants, for remnants of the Pottawattamies,[Pg 7] Chippewas, and Ottawas yet remained. By the treaty of June 5 and 17, 1846, however, these Indians agreed to withdraw to other reserves further west and south.[15]

The withdrawal of these tribes left only the Sioux who were striving to maintain a precarious foothold in northwestern Iowa. The steadily advancing frontier was menacing their peace of mind, as it now became increasingly evident that they in turn would be ejected. Two conditions, the urgent demands of alarmed and annoyed border settlers and the troublesome character of the Sioux themselves, determined the Indian authorities at Washington to remove the members of these tribes. When informed of the government’s intention to remove them, the Sioux begged to retain their lands. Notwithstanding Indian importunities representatives of the Sissetons and Wahpetons were cited to appear at Traverse des Sioux, Minnesota, to consider withdrawal. Here they gloomily gathered at the time appointed. Though outwardly ready to treat for withdrawal they did not conceal their displeasure. On July 23, 1851, however, the treaty of Traverse des Sioux was witnessed, by the terms of which these Indians were to definitely withdraw from northwestern Iowa to lands on the Minnesota River.[16]

At the close of the conference all seemed settled. But within a brief time the Sioux, who had not been parties to the treaty, positively refused to abide by its provisions. Later, at Mendota, Minnesota, on August 5, 1851, the Mdewakanton and Wahpekuta[Pg 8] tribes, in part, acceded to the Sisseton and Wahpeton cessions.[17] These cessions had not been accomplished without considerable opposition: strong tribal parties refused their consent outright and threatened trouble.[18] For the period of nearly a decade the frontier settlements of the northwest were not free from the alarms created by these discontented bands.

[Pg 9]


Unhappily the relinquishment of the Iowa country had not been free from a strong suspicion of wrongs done the Indians. The Indians had obstinately contested the giving up of these lands, and at no time was a treaty of relinquishment signed that may be said to have expressed the tribal will. These treaties of cession had instanced bad faith toward the natives, unwarranted interference on the part of the trader element, compulsion which at times approached intimidation in the securing of signatures, allotment of lands to the Indians as reserves that appeared worthless from the Indian viewpoint, undue urgency of prospective settlers anxious to “squat” upon the vacated lands, and the forceful effect of the presence of the military. All of these factors had operated to secure cessions at the doubtful price of irritating the Indian and arousing his resentment.

Officers in administrative charge of Indian affairs, far removed from actual contact with the Indians, too often failed to realize that Indian treaties should be regarded with some deference to their observance. Promises were made concerning the payment of annuities which were long delayed in their fulfillment[Pg 10] or never kept: to the Indian these promises seemed to be made only to be broken—as happened in the treaty of Traverse des Sioux. According to second chieftain Cloudman, the Indians for five years following the making of this treaty remained quietly upon their reserve. At the expiration of that time, not having heard of or received any of the money promised, they began raiding the adjacent frontiers in an effort to produce action.[19]

Lack of good faith in treaty matters often precipitated long periods of bad feeling, and occasionally blood was shed before the Indians could be convinced that faith was being kept or that agreements entered into were in turn to be kept by them. If treaties had been honestly and faithfully carried out in every instance it is not unlikely that the Sioux and other Indians might have been far readier to refrain from wrong-doing than was often the case. Altogether the conditions on the frontier tended to create disaffection among the Indians and a loss of respect for government promises.

Not infrequently, as has been noted, the Indians were allotted lands that were wholly inadequate to supply their needs. The Sioux had outlived “the means of subsistence of the hunter state”: they were unable longer to eke out an existence exclusively through the spoils of the chase.[20] The buffalo and larger game were rapidly disappearing. But what was still worse, the Sioux often found upon going to the specified reserves that their coming had been anticipated by other hunters and the game was gone,[Pg 11] if indeed any had ever been there. In the presence of such conditions it was useless to appeal to the garrison commanders—to whom such complaints seemed absurd. On the other hand, the killing of intruders was nearly always resorted to as a warning against marauders.[21] To live it was necessary to resist the encroachment of others not of their kind, for barbarism demands a wide range of untrammeled activity. Thus the Indians came to think that “if they would have game to kill, they must kill men too.”[22]

A great deal of Indian discontent is traceable in the final analysis to another cause: the presence upon the Indian reserve, as well as on the white frontier, of a large number of undesirables, both red and white. As forerunners of white settlement, many adventurous characters found their way to the frontier posts and systematically preyed upon the Indian. Undesirable as elements of civilization, they were equally troublesome on the frontier. In civilized communities it was possible to restrain them, but along the borderland this power was either lacking or not organized. Oftentimes when these adventurers pushed matters to an extremity, the outraged feelings of the Indian would demand a settlement or make one. Unhappily, post commanders were often only too willing to take up the needless quarrels of these frontier disturbers and exact a severe and not always just settlement in their behalf. Later when the more peaceably disposed settlers—the real pioneers—began to arrive the Indian refused to make[Pg 12] any distinction between them and their more turbulent predecessors.

Again, the National government when settling the Indians upon their reserves took no account of the fact that there were both good and bad Indians—that there were Indian criminals as well as Indians willing to abide by the rules of tribal law. Both good and bad were settled indiscriminately upon the same reserve. The seditiously disposed were constantly creating trouble, and the Indian people as a whole incurred the blame and displeasure arising from the misdeeds of a few. These matters irritated those Indians who were well disposed and created an ever-ready excuse for an attack.

Such, in the main, had been the attitude of the government toward the Sioux as the last of the Indian races inhabiting the Iowa country. It had not been an altogether enlightened policy; nor had it been one that was calculated to secure their good will. Instead, it had stirred the Indians to wreak vengeance at every convenient opportunity. However mistaken this policy toward the Indians had been, the attitude toward the frontier and its white inhabitants had been no wiser and at times scarcely as wise. Much Indian trouble and no few massacres resulted from the loose administration of frontier affairs—more specifically from the lack of control exercised over various commercial interests whose chief justification for existence seemed to have been that they might prey upon the near-by red inhabitants. The government failed to appreciate the need for an adequate defense of the frontier.

[Pg 13]

Venders of whiskey and other intoxicants frequented the frontiers and Indian villages—unmolested, oftentimes, in pushing their sales.[23] It is true that laws had been enacted by Congress with a view to putting an end to the liquor nuisance among the Indians; but the effective enforcement of these measures had scarcely been attempted. If a more than usually zealous Indian agent forbade dealers to carry on their nefarious business within reserved grounds, they would erect their cabins upon the ceded lands immediately adjoining the reserves—places to which the Indians were at all times free to go. To make matters yet worse the agent was in some cases powerless to act even though he desired to do so. The Chippewa agent, for example, complained that the treaty of 1855 deprived him of assistants or force through which to punish or apprehend violators of departmental rules and regulations.[24]

Thus was produced that state of affairs where the Indian was being robbed and debauched, while innocent settlers were threatened by Indian violence during the periods of his drunken orgies. Not infrequently the massacre of isolated settlers completed the tale of an Indian visitation to a near-by liquor dealer’s establishment. Fortunate it was that the Sioux, “the Iroquois of the West”, were slow to take up and make their own the vices of their white neighbors.[25]

To the activities of another type of frontiersman, the trader, Indian wars were sometimes due. In many instances the trader was an individual who[Pg 14] was unable to earn an honest living among his white neighbors further east: necessity had made of him an exile from civilization. These traders secured the confidence and good esteem of the Indians in various and devious ways, and the latter soon became indebted to them. In fact their deliberate aim in most cases was to secure upon the Indian a leverage of such a character as to render necessary the surrender of most of the Indian’s profits from the chase or treaties. Because of the Indian’s profligacy it was necessary that he should buy on credit if he bought at all. When government payments became due, traders were always on hand, and their books invariably showed Indian indebtedness enough to absorb a considerable portion if not all of the payment. The Indians kept no books as a matter of course; and not understanding those of the traders, they could not deny the debt. As a matter of fact, the Indians were always willing to anticipate the next payment in order to get credit. In the face of this situation “the poverty and misery of the Indian were continually growing”. Again, the Indian could not sue in the courts if he had so desired. Out of such conditions trouble or bad feeling inevitably arose.[26]

Owing to their long residence in the Indian country and their keen knowledge of Indian character, the traders had become “the power behind the throne”. This was especially true in treaty-making. The Indian commissioners grew to realize the power[Pg 15] of the traders in the securing of treaties and were not slow to request their services. It was to the financial interest of the traders that treaties should be made, for thus there was insured a steady supply of money with which the Indians could pay their debts. “The commissioners did not do much more than feed the Indians and indicate what they wanted; the traders did the rest.”[27] Due to their influence, the government habitually incorporated in treaties a clause providing for the compulsory payment of the Indian debts to the traders. These debts, in some cases, were in the aggregate equivalent to small fortunes. To prevent abuses, the traders were to be paid out of the first cash annuities.[28] It was not an uncommon thing to have these debts absorb even more than these first annuities. Hence, the Indian had to wait long for his first money. Concerning this plan the Indians were not always consulted, but the traders expressed their satisfaction.

In time matters grew so bad and the Indians became so rebellious that Congress, in March, 1843, stipulated by law that no payment of Indian debts to traders should henceforth be provided for in treaties. But the traders were ingenious and evaded the law.[29] Matters came to a crisis in 1853 when the Indians rebelled, claiming that by misrepresentation in the treaties of Traverse des Sioux and Mendota in 1851 they had signed away their annuities to the traders to the amount of two hundred thousand dollars. Investigation proved nothing.[30] As Superintendent[Pg 16] Cullen remarked upon this act of fraud, “it is equally important to protect the Indians from the whites as the whites from the Indians.” It is safe to say that if the traders had been curbed in their operations many a frontier horror might have been averted. It is no wonder that the Indian’s “untutored mind was, now and then, driven to the distraction of savage vengeance”.[31]

[Pg 17]


While failing to protect the Indians against the traders, the government also failed to protect the frontier in an adequate manner against the vengeance of the Indians who had a desire to even matters. Apparently the government failed to realize that as the frontier expanded to the west and northwest in Iowa there was also a growing need for protection. Many unfortunate incidents had occurred along the border before a government surveyor by the name of Marsh, from Dubuque, was attacked near the Des Moines River in 1849.[32] Upon the filing of Marsh’s complaint, soldiers, dispatched from Fort Snelling in Minnesota, established Fort Clarke (later renamed Fort Dodge) on August 23, 1850.[33] The inadequate garrison of this post, numbering two officers and sixty-six men, was at this time practically the only defense on the northwestern Iowa frontier.[34] Following the establishment of this fort the predatory Sioux bands generally retired westward ten or twenty miles.[35]

By 1851 the last remaining Sioux lands within the limits of Iowa had been ceded and opened to settlement. Trouble for a time seemed at an end. Until that time the only protection against the Indians[Pg 18] was the “watchfulness, courage and trusty arms” of the settlers themselves, with the nearest troops probably one hundred fifty miles away at Fort Randall on the Missouri and Fort Snelling in Minnesota near the mouth of the Minnesota River. Occasional rumors of Sioux activity still came from the outlying settlements. The most definite of these came from the valley of the Boyer more than fifty miles to the southwest of Fort Dodge. Here a family was attacked and some of its members carried away as prisoners. This was in October, 1852. A detachment was sent from Fort Dodge which took and held as hostages the Indian leaders, Inkpaduta and Umpashota. Upon the return of the prisoners, the Indians were liberated. Other Indian incursions reported from the north usually dissipated into mere rumors.[36]

The apparent quietness of the Indians in this section induced General Clarke, commanding the Sixth Military Division, to direct the abandonment of Fort Dodge. This order, which was issued on March 30, 1853, directed the removal of the garrison to Fort Ridgely.[37] With the abandonment of the post by Major Woods, there were left at Fort Dodge only Major Williams, his son James B. Williams, and two discharged soldiers. A more ill-advised order could scarcely have been issued; for following the actual abandonment of the post on June 2, 1853, the Indians “inaugurated a reign of terror among the settlers as far east as the Cedar river.”[38]

Many settlers in alarm began the abandonment of[Pg 19] their homes; but many others, having staked all in the development of their claims, decided to remain and appeal to both the State and National governments for protection. Appeal to the latter availed nothing. The Indian authorities at Washington were entirely out of touch with the situation: they were firm in the belief that the treaties of Traverse des Sioux and Mendota had definitely settled the question of Indian occupation in this section and that the Indians had withdrawn or had ceased being troublesome.

Parties of Indians frequently returned to their former hunting grounds, and nearly as frequently committed depredations more or less terrorizing to the widely scattered settlers along the Des Moines.[39] Weary of making unheeded appeals to National authorities, while the Indian depredations became more alarming, the settlers appealed to the State officials. Major William Williams,[40] who had accompanied the troops at the time of the founding of Fort Dodge and who had remained after its abandonment, was authorized by Governor Hempstead to organize a force, if necessary, to protect the frontier.[41] Little, however, could be done in the way of organizing an adequate force on account of the widely scattered character of the settlements.

In a letter to Governor Grimes in 1855 Major Williams again expressed his great anxiety for the safety of the frontier as the Indians had become increasingly bolder. His former commission was renewed and he was granted full power to act upon[Pg 20] any sign of hostility. Not only did Governor Grimes receive urgent letters from Major Williams, but from others as well: he was beset with petitions for protection. The Governor appears to have been wholly at a loss as to what course to pursue, since he believed he had no power to act. He appealed, therefore, to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs at Washington—although he believed that his only reward would be an acknowledgment of his letters with promise of action. Failing here, he appealed to the President, but received no response. Finally, in apparent despair, he wrote to Secretary of State George W. McCleary that he knew not “how much credit to give to any of” the letters he had received and in fact he had about made up his mind to disbelieve them all.[42] As a last appeal for action, the Governor addressed a letter to the Iowa delegation in Congress on January 3, 1855, in which he expressed the hope that they would coöperate with him in pressing the matter upon the attention of the proper Federal officials and in urging badly needed relief.[43]

Not only were the settlers near Fort Dodge alarmed, but those in Woodbury, Monona, and Harrison counties were even more disturbed, owing to the hostile attitude of large bands of Omahas and Otoes in that section. Near Sergeant Bluff 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,[Pg 21] 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.[44]

Because the Indians were becoming more threatening, appearing in larger numbers than heretofore, and extending their depredations over an increasingly wider territory, in the early winter of 1855 Governor Grimes was asked to call out the militia; but he declined since he believed he was “authorized to call out a military force only in case of an actual insurrection or hostile invasion.”[45] Nearly everyone now anticipated bloodshed. White men, illy disposed, were reaping large profits from the sale of whiskey; while the Indians were “becoming devils”. Hence, Governor Grimes on December 3, 1855, addressed a letter to President Pierce urging that the Indians be removed to their treaty reserves.

The Governor pointedly stated that the government owed protection to these settlers in the homes it had encouraged them to occupy. He further stated that a post in this section would curb the Indians and give quiet to northwestern Iowa.[46] To be sure these troubles had not reached any great magnitude, “yet there was a continuous succession of[Pg 22] annoying and suspicious occurrences which kept the frontier settlements in a state of perpetual dread and apprehension, and made life a burden”.[47] Even in the presence of this distressing condition of affairs the military authorities of the National government did nothing to relieve matters. No troops were sent to protect the settlers, nor were the letters of Governor Grimes even granted consideration. Thus there developed slowly but surely a situation where the Indians grew sufficiently emboldened to make a general attack.[48]

Such a policy, characterized by a disregard not only for Indian welfare but also for the well-being of the white frontiersmen, could only bring unhappy consequences. It became more and more apparent that the Indians were bent upon concerted action of some sort. Annoyances now occurred along the whole frontier, no part of which was free from alarm. War parties were in evidence in nearly every section, and the attitude of the Indians 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 effects of Indian enmity.[49]

The resentment of the Indians at this time arose partly from a feeling of jealousy toward the whites, partly from the fact that they were retrograding, and partly from the undue influence of the American Fur Company.

From the start the Indians, particularly the Sioux,[Pg 23] had been jealous and suspicious of the whites. As time passed and the Indian observed indications of a general and permanent occupation by the whites of the territory which he had known as home, his jealous fears increased. The land of his fathers, the home of his traditions, was about to pass into the hands of another people, to the intense sorrow of the Indian. It “was a trying ordeal” and “naturally awakened in his breast feelings of bitter regret and jealousy.”[50] His “distrust grew into open protest as claims were staked off, cabins built, and the ground prepared for cultivation.” It seemed that the Indians had resolved not to submit “until they had entered an armed protest against the justice of the claim which civilization makes to all the earth.”[51]

In addition to this feeling of jealousy and distrust of the whites, the Indians were gradually retrograding by taking unto themselves many of the vices of the white race. This was the inevitable result of a loose administration of the frontier which permitted it to be invaded in many places by refugees from civilization. Although this statement may seem to be somewhat sweeping, it is a well-known fact that among the first to appear on the frontier there were always some men of the reckless, rough-and-ready type whose contempt for the finer things of civilized life made a longer residence amid such surroundings undesirable and frequently impossible.

Foremost among the causes of the red man’s retrogression may be cited whiskey.[52] But there were[Pg 24] other causes, such as the treaty of 1855 with the Chippewas, which rendered the agent powerless to control the Indian or his seducers if he had so desired.[53] Then there were the errors committed by people who were brought to the frontier by the government as helpers in advancing the Indian’s welfare, but who had, through mistaken methods, produced opposite results. Again, the Indian had been mistakenly led downward “by many years of luxurious idleness and riotous living.... In this state of demoralization they were gathered up and thrown together on their little Reserve, where all the worst characters could act in concert, and where they found bloody work for their idle hands to do.”[54] The government had liberally supplied them with tobacco, and they had never lacked money with which to buy whiskey. Their wants had been looked after so paternally that they had little else to do but spend their time in idleness. Craving entertainment they soon learned to find it in a wrong way. They no longer cared to hunt for food, since they did not need to do so. Soon their expeditions became mere raids upon their protectors, accompanied by unrestrained destruction committed to gratify their craving for some form of entertainment. Thus, while the forces of retrogression were at work the Indian was daily becoming more of a menace to the well-disposed border settlers who viewed his changing attitude in helpless terror.

But most insidious of all in keeping the Indian inimical to his white neighbors was the influence of the fur traders—especially those of the American[Pg 25] Fur Company. The admitted purpose of this organization was to keep the Indian a savage hunter and at the same time to frighten the white settlers away from the frontier in order that the annual crop of cheaply obtained but valuable furs might not suffer diminution. To keep the Indian in such a condition it was necessary to prevent him from assuming too friendly an attitude toward the whites—in order that he might the better beat back or discourage their westward advance. There were strong suspicions that more than one attack upon border settlers by Indians occurred because the presence of these settlers threatened the fur-gathering preserves of the American Fur Company.

It would be wrong, however, to create the impression that the fur traders operated in secret. Practically everyone knew their purpose and methods: their purposes they openly admitted, and their methods consisted largely in dispensing “fire water” and in selling to the Indian on credit. The latter practice was useful, for it obligated the Indian to serve the Company in realizing its ends. Perhaps the most notable example of the Company’s interference with plans of Indian amelioration is to be found in the case of the Winnebagoes. Their agent, Joseph M. Street, one of the most enlightened Indian agents the Iowa country ever knew, had for some years been striving to improve the condition of the Winnebagoes, but without success. He had failed, not because his plan was impracticable, but because he came into direct conflict with the purposes and methods of the American Fur Company.[55]

[Pg 26]


The strained relations between the whites and the Indians resulted in unfortunate incidents which served to intensify the bad feeling already engendered. Of these, two may be noted as especially significant in the frontier history of northwestern Iowa. Thus, in 1854 and 1855, the so-called “Grindstone War” caused the whites to abandon the frontier for a time and spread alarm far and near. This incident might properly be said to have had its origin in intertribal hatred.

For some time a group of Winnebago families had been accustomed to camp near Clear Lake. In this they had been encouraged by an old Indian trader by the name of Hewett. At the same time there also encamped among these Winnebagoes some Sac and Fox Indians who for years, in the Iowa country, had been the greatest enemies of the Sioux. When the latter became aware of the presence of these Sacs and Foxes among the Winnebagoes they swooped down upon them and by mistake scalped a Winnebago. Greatly alarmed, Hewett and his Indian friends fled down the valley, telling their story, which appears to have suffered somewhat from repetition[Pg 27] as they proceeded. Within a brief time about one hundred armed settlers collected at Masonic Grove. According to some reports, about four hundred Sioux warriors fortified themselves some twelve miles distant.[56] Thus matters remained during 1854 with no action from either party.

As time passed the Sioux became bolder, until matters reached a climax in an incident which occurred near Lime Creek. A settler, James Dickerson by name, possessed an unusually fine rooster which was craved by a begging band of Indians. In chasing the rooster, a young brave upset and demolished a grindstone, and then made off with the largest piece in continued pursuit of the fowl. Dickerson pursued the Indian and, seizing a piece of the grindstone, knocked him to the ground, where he lay for a time insensible. The Indians, enraged at Dickerson’s act, demanded a settlement for the injury to the brave, making it plain that only Dickerson’s best horse or one hundred dollars in money would satisfy them. After no little parleying, in which Mrs. Dickerson acted as mediator, the Indians were pacified when Mrs. Dickerson had given them about six dollars in money, a number of quilts, and many other articles of household use.

This “grindstone incident” caused the settlers to become greatly alarmed: men from Clear Lake, the Mason City settlement, and vicinity organized and undertook to drive the Indians out of the country. After a chase of some miles, the band of over twenty-five white men came in sight of the rapidly fleeing[Pg 28] Indians, who, realizing that they would soon be surrounded and punished, signified a desire to settle matters. Following an interchange of protests, the peace pipe was smoked, after which the Indians resumed their way westward. This understanding, however, did not allay the fears of the settlers who fled panic-stricken to Nora Springs, abandoning for a time their claims in the vicinity of Lime Creek and Clear Lake.[57]

However ready the Indians may have seemed to make peace, the settlers feared for the future; and so along the line of settlements they spread the alarm that the Indians were on the warpath. Many appeals were made to Governor Hempstead for aid. But when he sent Major William Williams from Fort Dodge to investigate the charges, the Major reported that no danger from further attacks seemed to exist. Unable to secure State protection, the settlers armed themselves. Doubtless the “grindstone incident” soon ceased to impress the settlers with any permanent sense of impending danger, for it was not long before they began to return to their deserted claims.

But not far from the scene of this near tragedy there occurred another incident which displays the temper not alone of the Indian but also of the white borderer of the more troublesome type. It appears that this tragic event grew to undue proportions mainly through the vengeful hate of a frontiersman by the name of Lott. The incident, somewhat trivial in itself, has been given so much prominence as a reputed[Pg 29] chief cause of the massacre at Okoboji that it is deemed worthy of somewhat extended notice in this place.[58] Its connection with later events may well be a matter of conjecture, owing to the character of the Indians concerned.

For nearly a decade after the whites had begun to settle in northwestern Iowa the inhabitants of that region had been obliged to endure constant molestation from a roving band of Sisseton Sioux Indians.[59] Though at first composed of only about five lodges—mainly, it is said, of desperadoes and murderers—the band had grown by the gathering of like characters, fleeing from their avenging fellow-tribesmen, until it numbered at times nearly five hundred.[60] The band as a whole only assembled from time to time for the purpose of united warfare against others—particularly against isolated bands of the Sac and Fox Indians.[61] It was known and feared from the Des Moines westward to the Vermillion and northward to the Minnesota River on account of its peculiarly ferocious and quarrelsome character. It was, in short, a band of Indian outlaws. As such, it was hated and feared by red men and white men alike. In its forays it spared neither friend nor foe, but preyed upon both without discrimination. It claimed no home, but roamed at will wherever its fancy might lead.

Leadership of this band had been early acquired by one Sidominadota or “Two Fingers”. He had succeeded to the leadership of this loosely consolidated[Pg 30] band upon the death of Wamdisapa, an Indian of somewhat milder disposition than his successor. Sidominadota well maintained the savage character of the band and may be credited with the inspiration of many vengeful and frightful deeds committed during his brief leadership.[62] He was only nominally the head of the united group, while really the leader of a small band seldom numbering more than fifteen and frequently less. By all who had to deal with him, red or white, he was looked upon with distrust. His fellow leaders associated with him only in time of dire necessity, for they well knew that Sidominadota would go any lengths to accomplish an end. While he continued to make his refuge and headquarters along the Vermillion, as did his predecessors, his favorite haunts were the headwaters of the Des Moines and Little Sioux Rivers and the region of the Iowa lakes.[63]

About 1847 Sidominadota began to frequent that portion of the Des Moines Valley where Fort Dodge now stands. It was his band that in 1849 attacked a party of surveyors in charge of a man by the name of Marsh about three miles from the present site of Fort Dodge. Marsh and his party had been sent from Dubuque to run a correction line across the State. After crossing to the west side of the Des Moines River, they were notified by Sidominadota not to proceed with their work as this territory was Indian land. With the departure of the Indians, the surveyors continued to run their line. In a short time the Indians returned, destroyed the instruments[Pg 31] and landmarks of the surveyors, stole their horses, and drove the men back across the Des Moines.[64] About a year later some settlers, more adventurous than their fellows, located near the mouth of the Boone River. Sidominadota, becoming aware of the arrival of these settlers, paid them a visit and ended by destroying their cabins and driving the people out of the country. This sort of behavior was continued toward every white man who ventured into that territory until the founding of Fort Dodge in 1850.

“Among others who had received indignities from this band was one Henry Lott...who in 1846 settled near the mouth of Boone River in Webster County.”[65] Lott’s past had been a varied one and much of it was obscure. He boasted of New England origin, while his wife claimed to be a daughter of an early Governor of Ohio or Pennsylvania. If, however, we are to accept the judgment of their contemporaries the family had degenerated.[66] Lott is almost always described as being notoriously lawless, a horse thief, a vender of bad whiskey, a criminal, half-civilized, a desperado, an outlaw, and a murderer.[67] Up to the time he appeared in the valley of the Des Moines his whole life had been one of adventure.

His first appearance in Iowa, so far as known, was at Red Rock, Marion County, in 1845, where he essayed the role of Indian trader while dealing out bad whiskey to the Indians and surreptitiously stealing their ponies. It is said that his Red Rock neighbors[Pg 32] in 1846 requested him to leave the neighborhood—which he did by moving on to Pea’s Point. Here his stay seems to have been brief, for during the same year he is found located on the Des Moines River near the mouth of the Boone, where he erected a cabin and resumed his whiskey-selling and horse-stealing.[68]

Lott’s horse-stealing activities caused the Indians to grow suspicious; and finally they traced the loss of five ponies directly to him and his fellow marauders. This led to an Indian council which decided that Lott should be driven out of the country. Accordingly he was waited upon by Sidominadota and warned “that he was an intruder; that he had settled on the Sioux hunting grounds”; and that he was expected to get off at once. Lott contended that he was not an intruder and refused to go. The Indians then began the destruction of his property: his horses and cattle were shot, his bee-hives rifled, and his family threatened. Lott seems to have been something of a coward, for when the Indians began taking summary action he fled. While the Indians were destroying or stealing his property and abusing the helpless members of his family he, according to his own story, crossed the river and secreted himself in the brush. Later he and his stepson, leaving his wife and young children to the mercy of the Indians, fled down the Des Moines River to Pea’s Point, a short distance south of the present site of Boone.

Here Lott related his story to John Pea and others[Pg 33] of the settlement. Aroused by his tale, the settlers organized a relief party to return to his cabin and if possible to punish the Indians. An appeal for more help was sent to Elk Rapids, sixteen miles away. At this point lived Chemeuse or “Johnny Green”, a half-breed Pottawattamie and Musquakie chief, with many of his people who traditionally hated the Sioux. The chief with twenty-six of his men and seven settlers from Pea’s Point went to Lott’s assistance. It was past the middle of December, and the weather was intensely cold. After Lott’s flight from his cabin, his twelve-year-old son, Milton, had started in search of his father, but when about twenty miles from his home and three miles from Boonesboro had frozen to death.[69] The relief party, on December 18,1846, found the dead body of the boy a short distance below the village of Centerville. After burying the body on the spot where it was found, the party continued on its way to Lott’s cabin. When they arrived they found that the Indians had gone. The family was safe, though suffering and destitute as they had been robbed of everything. The wife, however, had been so mistreated and had suffered so extremely from exposure that she died a short time thereafter.[70]

Vowing vengeance, Lott moved south to the settlements and built a second cabin.[71] Here and at other points in the vicinity he remained a few years, according to all accounts, and bided his time in true frontier style. In the autumn of 1853 he and his stepson passed through Fort Dodge on their way to[Pg 34] settle at a new location. In early November he selected a site for his cabin about thirty miles north of Fort Dodge, in Humboldt County, at a point where a small creek joins the Des Moines River. This creek has since been named Lott’s Creek in honor of the first white settler in that vicinity.[72] With three barrels of bad whiskey, he re-opened trade with the Indians. And the trade was good; for at this time there was only one cabin, other than his own, north of Fort Dodge—the cabin of William Miller which was located six miles from Fort Dodge.

In January following Lott’s new settling, Sidominadota and his family—which was composed of his squaw, mother, four children, and two orphan children—came up the Des Moines and encamped on “Bloody Run”, a short distance below the mouth of Lott’s Creek. Aware of the coming of the old chief, Lott plotted his destruction. 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 since known as the “Big Bend”.[73] 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[Pg 35] themselves as Indians, returned to the lodge of the murdered Indian, raised a terrific 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.[74]

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.[75]

Something more than a week after the murder of Sidominadota and his family a band of Indians from a camp on the Lizard Creek, while hunting in the vicinity of the mouth of “Bloody Run”, discovered what had taken place. They reported the fact not only to Fort Ridgely but also to Major Williams at Fort Dodge, demanding an investigation and the righting of the wrong as far as possible. Major Williams at once raised a company of whites and Indians and set out in an attempt to locate the murderers, but to no avail. The Indians were firm in their conviction that Lott had committed the deed. A coroner’s jury under the direction of Coroner John Johns met at Homer, the county seat of Webster County, and placed the guilt upon Lott and his stepson. But no very great effort was or could be made by the authorities to secure the offenders, owing to the start of ten days which they had secured.[Pg 36] Later they were indicted by a grand jury sitting in Des Moines, which ended the attempt to find and punish them.[76] The Indians were highly incensed not only at the murder itself, but at the apparent inaction of the authorities in apprehending and punishing the murderers.

Many reports became current as to the final disposition of the dead chief’s body after it had been taken to Homer for the inquest. These reports only added to the embitterment of the Indians, who had expected much from the inquest, having been told that this would settle matters. That the inquest took somewhat the form of a farce was due to the attitude of the prosecuting attorney of Hamilton County, Granville Berkley, who humorously conducted the affair.

Fearing later unpleasant results, the whites attempted to pacify the Indians with many promises. But the Indians grew sullen and suspicious and behaved in such a manner as to create the impression that they might retaliate. It soon became evident that the authorities had no intention of keeping their promises. The Indians after some threatening seem to have disappeared.[77] One can understand how such incidents, coupled with past grievances, “real or only imaginary”, might in the end lead to desperate deeds.

[Pg 37]


With the Indians in a most unhappy and vengeful state of mind the Traverse des Sioux Treaty lands were thrown open for settlement in 1853. For several years people had settled along the border of this territory patiently awaiting the opening. Assurances were given the settlers that the Sioux were all established upon their reserve seventy miles north of Iowa’s northern boundary. With these assurances of safety, the settlers rapidly pushed to the westward of the Des Moines River which hitherto had been the farthest limit of their movement.

The line of frontier settlements by 1857 extended in a semi-circle from Sioux City to Fort Dodge as a center and thence to or near Springfield (now Jackson) in Minnesota.[78] Only a brief time served to destroy this line as the settlers moved westward in search of the choicest claims. Before discussing the events which were soon to transpire it will be well to note the outward movement of this frontier to the northwest. The effect upon the Indians of the sudden outward bulging of the line was little short of maddening, as they felt themselves being swept onward by a tide they could not stem. All of[Pg 38] their illy concealed hatred of the whites now bade fair to be loosed, while all past wrongs seemed about to be avenged.

Times were now “flush” and the tide of emigration “swept across the state with an impetus that carried everything before it.”[79] During the summer of 1855 “land-hunters, claim seekers and explorers” steadily flowed into northwestern Iowa. At this time little more was done by many of the settlers than to make temporary improvements, after which they returned eastward planning to take up permanent possession in the following summer.[80]

The main arteries for this westward movement were the Little Sioux and the Des Moines. From Fort Dodge the wave spread out in fan-shape to the furthermost limits of the frontier. The lines of the movement were in the main determined by two facts: Fort Dodge had been established as a United States land office for the territory west and north, and Lizard Creek made that region readily accessible to settlers. Up the Des Moines, settlers had pushed to the point where Jackson, Minnesota, now stands. Many had stopped at occasional points along the Des Moines and made permanent settlements. Near the present site of Algona, in 1854, two brothers, Asa C. Call and Ambrose A. Call, made “the first settlement on either branch of the Des Moines above the forks.”[81] To the west of Algona at Medium Lake was the “Irish Colony”—a group of five or six families of Irish extraction from Kane County, Illinois. This settlement has become the Emmetsburg of to-day.[82][Pg 39] George Granger had staked out and settled upon a claim in Emmet County just south of the State line, and beyond this was Springfield, Minnesota, with six families. Thus a line of isolated settlements extended up the Des Moines Valley from Fort Dodge to Springfield.

To the northwest of Fort Dodge the incoming settlers moved up the course of Lizard Creek, which they followed to its beginning. Thence they crossed to the Little Sioux and settled near Sioux Rapids and Peterson. Near the latter place in the midwinter of 1855-1856 had come J. A. Kirchner and Jacob Kirchner, in company with Ambrose S. Mead. They did nothing at this time but select claims and return to Cedar Falls, from whence they returned in the early spring. After putting in his crops J. A. Kirchner had returned to New York. About the time of his departure, James Bicknell with his family and two men by the name of Wilcox also arrived at the little settlement in Clay County. Up the Little Sioux to the north were about six families at what became known as Gillett’s Grove.[83] In the early spring of 1856 the Hon. William Freeborn of Red Wing, Minnesota, and others projected a settlement at Spirit Lake. Their first attempt had not met with much success, and they now awaited the coming of the spring of 1857 to renew the attempt.[84] In the late summer of 1856 about forty people had settled along the shores of Lake Okoboji and Spirit Lake.

Following the original movement up Lizard Creek and the Des Moines River, settlers had begun pushing[Pg 40] up the course of the Little Sioux from the Missouri River to a later junction with those coming by way of Lizard Creek to Sioux Rapids and beyond. This movement was marked by an initial settlement at the present site of Smithland, Woodbury County, in about 1851 by a group of three apostate Mormons from Kanesville.[85] In the spring of 1856 the Milford, Massachusetts, Emigration Company had founded a colony of about twelve families near Pilot Rock in Cherokee County.[86] The site chosen was a little north of the present city of Cherokee. Nearly ten miles above this point was a second settlement. To the northeast of these, in Buena Vista County, was the Weaver family at Barnes’s Grove. Above this in O’Brien County was H. H. Waterman, at Waterman, who could boast of being the only white man within the confines of that county. Further up the Little Sioux, in the southwestern corner of Clay County, were the families of Mead, Kirchner, and Taylor.[87]

This stretch of settlements outlined the extreme limits of the frontier. To the west there were no settlers; while to the north and northeast the nearest settlements were those on the Minnesota and Watonwan rivers.[88] Although on ceded ground, all of these settlements were in the heart of the Indian country, where the passing of Indian bands was not uncommon. All were separated from each other by vast stretches of prairie, and frequently the settlers of one place were wholly unaware of the presence[Pg 41] of any other white people in the region. Their complete isolation from each other and consequent helplessness in case of Indian attacks were probably best known by the Indians who not infrequently visited them. This isolation appears the more complete when it is recalled that the nearest railroad station in Iowa at that time was Iowa City—over two hundred miles away.

By 1857, therefore, the northwestern frontier may be described as “commencing at Sioux City and extending irregularly in a northeasterly direction, by way of Correctionville, Cherokee, Waterman, Peterson, Sioux Rapids, Gillett’s Grove and Okoboji, to Spirit Lake; thence turning abruptly to the east by way of Estherville and Emmet to the headwaters of the Des Moines and Blue Earth Rivers, where it extended into Minnesota, terminating at Mankato.”[89]

Thus was the meeting-ground of the Indians and the white settlers rather roughly demarked when the winter of 1856-1857 began. Although the fertility of its soil had not been doubted and its great natural beauty and attractiveness as a region of boundless prairies had never been disputed, the northwest had acquired a reputation of climatic extremes—of hot summers and cold winters. This partly accounted for the fact that many settlers delayed their permanent coming to the region until they were amply prepared for the vicissitudes of climate which they must endure in their new homes. Glowing reports had brought the region into general notice, and by[Pg 42] the fall of 1856 many people to the east were preparing to migrate to this wonderful country in the not distant future.

“The winter of 1856-7 set in with a fury, steadiness and severity, which make it a land-mark in the experience of every person”[90] who passed through it. The storms came early in November, and for weeks northwestern Iowa witnessed nothing but a succession of terrific blizzards, accompanied by the most intense cold. By December 1, 1856, the snow was three feet deep on the level and from fifteen to twenty in the ravines and other low places. Communication of settlement with settlement was well-nigh impossible. The scattered settlers were illy prepared for such a winter: their cabins were unfinished and generally without floors, as all lumber had to be hauled a distance of more than one hundred miles. Most of the settlers had planted no crops during the preceding growing season; hence provisions were scarce and could only be obtained by the use of snowshoes and hand sleds. Wild game was nowhere to be had, for it had either migrated before the oncoming storms or perished in the snow.

As the season progressed the intensity of the cold also increased; while heavy wind-driven snows continued to fall at frequent intervals. The prairies became bleak and barren snow-covered wastes, lashed by terrific winds and untenanted by man or beast. The closing of February and the opening of March witnessed no abatement in the severity of the winter. The snow which had been falling the whole[Pg 43] winter long yet remained on the ground. Indeed, the season was so prolonged that it is said spring came only in late April, while May and June were cold. In July great banks of snow were yet to be seen in some of the sheltered places.[91]

Although the white settlers suffered considerably from self-imposed denial of food and from unsuitable houses in which to shelter themselves, their privations could not compare with those of the Indians. In Dakota, which was their winter home, they suffered terribly. Their game was gone—where they did not know. Nor were they able to follow it if they had known. As the winds swept over the prairies of Dakota and sharply penetrated the thickets wherein they lodged, their desperation grew apace. At last, in the closing days of February, the intense suffering from cold and famine could be endured no longer and they sallied forth. The course of their march spread out to the east, the north, and the south, and took them to the white settlements along the Iowa and Minnesota frontiers where they sought and took both food and shelter.[92]

[Pg 44]


Of the settlements made or projected in northwestern Iowa previous to 1857, those having preeminent interest in this connection were along the shores of Lake Okoboji and Spirit Lake in Dickinson County. Although this lake region had been visited many times in the spring and summer of 1855, no settlements had been made at that time. The visitors had simply planned to return as soon as arrangements for permanent occupancy could be perfected. They had been attracted thither by the tales told by Indians and traders concerning the great natural beauty of the region.

For some time the lake region had been well-known to the traders and voyageurs of the upper Mississippi Valley, and their tales concerning it were all favorable. The French interpreter of the Lewis and Clark expedition wrote so clearly of the region as to leave no doubt as to his having been there. He it was who first wrote of the Lac D’Esprit, mentioning it for its great natural beauty of location and as being the chief seat of one of the Dakotan tribes. Hunters, traders, trappers, and adventurers visited the region frequently thereafter, but left only oral accounts as to its character and worth. The same[Pg 45] region was visited in the summer of 1838 by Nicollet and John C. Fremont, who made observations as to elevation, latitude, and longitude. It was following this official visit that white frontiersmen began to frequent the locality.

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

But in nearly all of 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 Indians 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 to-day. It is the first of these, Lake Okoboji, with which this[Pg 46] 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 lakes, lying closely together as a group, occupy a large portion of the townships of Spirit Lake, Center Grove, and Lakeville. The northernmost and somewhat the largest of the group is Spirit Lake, which is about ten square miles in area. The northern shore of this lake touches upon or extends into Minnesota along practically the whole of its course. To the south, not connected at this time, and extending in a narrowed, almost tortuous course, stretches East Okoboji for a distance of over six miles. At no point is East Okoboji much over three-quarters of a mile in width. West Okoboji lies to the west of its companion and is connected with it by a narrow strait a few yards in width. The west lake stretches to the west and north, circling in a segment of a circle nearly halfway back to the north and east to Spirit Lake. In length it is about the same as the east lake, although its width is over four times as great at one point. Issuing from the southernmost bay of East Okoboji is the outlet stream, which at a distance of six miles from its source effects a junction with the main stream of the Little Sioux.

The shores of the Okoboji lakes are in the main well wooded, while those of Spirit Lake have only occasional clumps of trees. Along the shores of the latter prairie and water usually meet without interruption by bands of timber. In some respects the Okobojis present a reasonably good reproduction of the smaller lakes of southern New York and New England. Thus easterners felt that here could be reproduced the familiar scenes of “back home”. Although the attractiveness of the place was widely known, no one had settled in the region before the middle of the century. The vanguard of the permanent settlers came on July 16, 1856, with the arrival of Rowland Gardner and his family.


Rowland Gardner was a native of Connecticut, having been born in New Haven in 1815. Here he spent his boyhood years and learned the trade of comb-maker. Growing tired of life in New Haven he migrated to Seneca, New York, where he resumed his trade. At the occupation of comb-maker he had been able to accumulate some three thousand dollars, which, for the time, was considered rather a comfortable little fortune.[93] On March 22, 1836, he married Frances M. Smith, and four children, Mary, Eliza, Abigail, and Rowland, were born while the family lived at Seneca. Abigail, the youngest daughter who is to figure so largely in the story of the Spirit Lake Massacre, was born in 1843. Later the father abandoned the trade of comb-maker and turned to that of sawyer. This change in occupation did not come, however, until the family had again moved—this time to Greenwood, New York. Again, in 1850, they removed to the near-by town of Rexville.

But Gardner had a love for roaming that could[Pg 47]
[Pg 48]
not be satisfied by short moves; and so it was not long before he left Rexville for Ohio. His first stop in that State was at Edyington, where he opened a boarding house. His next resolve was to go to the then Far West. Thus, in the spring of 1854 he made his way with his family to Shell Rock, Iowa.[94] Here the family spent their first winter in the West and suffered much from the change of climate. Shell Rock, however, was only a temporary stopping place, for Gardner had no thought of settling short of the farthest bounds of the frontier.

In the early spring of 1855 Gardner, in company with his son-in-law, Harvey Luce, made a rather extensive prospecting tour to the west and north. He seems to have decided to settle, for a time at least, at Clear Lake; for a little later we find him and Luce with their united families moving up the Shell Rock Valley to Nora Springs and thence across the prairie to Clear Lake. This journey consumed the greater portion of April and early May. Settling too late to plant crops that season, the families could not look forward to a very comfortable year.

Gardner and Luce decided upon Clear Lake for the same reason that later led them to settle at Lake Okoboji. To a New Englander accustomed to the lakes and streams of his native parts, Clear Lake with its waters and groves made a strong appeal—one that could not readily be resisted. Open prairies seemed to be “the abomination of desolation” itself. The Mason City settlement on Lime Creek was thought of, but the natural advantages of Clear Lake[Pg 49] outweighed any inclination in that direction. At this time Mason City was little more than a station on the westward trail: it consisted of only three or four houses on the open, wind-swept prairie.

It was while the Gardner family was living at Clear Lake that there occurred the so-called “Grindstone War”, in which indeed they were active participants. After the scare had spent its force, Gardner again grew uneasy; and, having heard of the attractiveness of the lake region farther to the west along the frontier, he became anxious to settle there. Thus, scarcely had they harvested a first crop when the Gardners were once more en route to the westward. The small returns from the sale of the claim at Clear Lake were invested in some oxen, cows, and young cattle.[95]

To the homeseeker the lake region was regarded as a “promised land”. This was largely due to its natural beauties as well as to the very great abundance of fish in the lake waters and the plenitude of wild game in the groves along its shores. Many claim seekers had visited the region previous to July, 1856, but no claims had been staked out. The Gardners found no settlers at the time of their arrival.[96] In fact no settlers had been seen by them since leaving the claim of the Call brothers near the present site of Algona.

The journey from Clear Lake had been an arduous one, having been made with ox teams hitched to heavy, cumbrous carts into which had been loaded not only the family but the household goods and the[Pg 50] farming implements as well as the food supply. Thus burdened the oxen could make only slow progress even under the most favorable conditions. Furthermore, it seems that the Iowa plains had suffered from an over-abundance of rain that summer: numberless quagmires were encountered; while many streams could hardly be forded on account of their swollen condition. Added to these conditions was the uncertainty of the route—due to lack of knowledge of the country. Many a time it was necessary to unload and carry articles of freight over difficult places. Enduring these trials with the fortitude of well-tried pioneers they steadily pushed on. Upon July 16th they came to the southeastern shores of West Okoboji; and here they rested, for they were at their journey’s end.

Since leaving New York the Gardner family had been augmented by a union with the family of Harvey Luce. The latter had planned from the first to unite his fortunes with those of the Gardners, but had been unable to do so at the time of their leaving New York. Luce had married Mary, the eldest of the Gardner girls; and at the time of their arrival at Lake Okoboji, the family numbered two children, Albert aged four and Amanda aged one.[97] The Gardner-Luce party was thus composed of nine persons at the time of its arrival.

Luce and Gardner did not settle at once: while the families tented, the men spent several days in a careful survey of the lake shores and the surrounding prairie region, the better to determine a suitable[Pg 51] site. Since the lake region was to be the place of their permanent settlement they desired to make a careful selection of lands.

In the end it was decided to build cabins upon the southeastern shore of the west lake. The location selected was several rods southeast of what is now Pillsbury’s Point upon the high, oak-wooded ridge which terminated in that point of land. The site was ideal. To the north and northwest the outlook presented a sweeping view of the lake; while to the south there was as fair a prospect of prairie land as any country could afford. No better selection for a home could have been made. The erection of a log cabin for the Gardners was begun at once. Fronting south, this cabin was for its time rather pretentious, since it was one and one-half stories high.

The season being far too advanced for the planting of crops little could be done besides preparing the land for the next year. This was accomplished by breaking some of the prairie sod. In addition hay was made as feed for the oxen and other cattle during the long winter season. The making of the hay was largely carried through by Mrs. Gardner and her children, including Mrs. Luce; while Gardner and Luce pushed ahead with the building of the cabins in order to afford protection for all as soon as possible. Shelter was also provided for the cattle. By the time this had been done, the season was so far advanced that, though the Luce cabin had been begun, its completion had to be postponed until the return of favorable weather in the coming year.[Pg 52] Thus it came about that the Luces took up their abode with the Gardners for the winter which was now upon them.[98]

While out prospecting for claim sites in the two or three days following their arrival, Luce and Gardner heard a report of fire-arms and upon tracing it to its source found that other settlers had just arrived in the vicinity. The camp of the new arrivals was in process of being pitched on the shore of the west lake near the strait connecting the two Okobojis. The party was composed of Carl and William Granger, Bertell E. Snyder, and Dr. Isaac H. Harriott. They had come to the lake region for the purpose of examining the country with a view to future settlement.[99] Having completed their reconnaissance, the members of the party were preparing to spend some time in the neighborhood hunting and fishing.

These newcomers came to be so well pleased with the advantages of the region that they finally resolved to spend the winter here and possibly make a permanent settlement. After reaching this conclusion they constructed a cabin on Smith’s Point north of the strait. These men, moreover, were members of a townsite company which had been founded in May, 1856, at Red Wing, Minnesota. As promoters it was their purpose to start a town on the border of some one of the lakes in this region. The Grangers as leading stockholders in the concern laid claim to the point upon which the cabin was built, as well as to all the land lying along the northern shore of the[Pg 53] east lake. After resolving upon permanent settlement all but William Granger decided to remain during the coming fall and winter and engage in preparing the townsite for prospective settlers. William Granger was the only married man of the group, and his purpose in returning to Red Wing was two-fold—that of advertising the townsite which had been selected and of bringing back his family in the spring of 1857.[100]

Although the Gardner and Luce families were the first to arrive at the lakes, they had not long to wait before other groups began to arrive, all of whom hurried preparations for the winter that was now not far removed. The sound of the saw and hammer was soon heard in a number of places along the lake shores, while signs of still greater activity in the future grew apace. All of the newcomers located within a radius of six miles of the Gardner cabin.[101] The nearest settlement was that at Springfield, Minnesota, about eighteen miles to the northeast; while to the south the nearest was at Gillett’s Grove, more than forty miles away.[102] Neither of these settlements had made any provision for its protection against a hostile party of any kind. So far as anyone knew no reason existed for their apparent feeling of assurance against danger.

So rapidly had emigration set in that by November 1, 1856, there were six separate groups of people prepared to spend the winter in this vicinity. The first family to arrive after the Gardners was that of James H. Mattock, who came with his wife and five[Pg 54] children directly from Delaware County, Iowa. They settled south of the strait, nearly opposite the site chosen by the party from Red Wing, and the place of their settlement has since become locally known as Mattock’s Grove. The site was about one mile from the Gardner-Luce cabin. With the Mattock family had also come a Robert Madison, who was about eighteen years of age. Robert Madison had preceded the other members of his family, who were still in Delaware County but were planning to move to the lake region when suitable accommodations had been provided for them by the son.[103]

From Hampton, Franklin County, Iowa, there came in the late fall the families of Joel Howe, Alvin Noble, and Joseph M. Thatcher. These people had been neighbors at Hampton and had come west as a group. They settled along the east shore of East Okoboji, some two or three miles from the Mattock cabin. The Howe family was large, consisting of Mr. and Mrs. Howe and six children. Jonathan, the eldest of the children and a young man of twenty-three, remained in Hampton, since it was planned that he should come out in the following spring or as soon as he could procure the supplies which would be needed by the three families in their work of pioneering. Alvin Noble, Howe’s son-in-law, brought with him his wife and one child—a two year old son. The Thatcher family was also small, consisting of Mr. and Mrs. Thatcher and a child about seven months of age. The Howe cabin was the first to be erected and was also the nearest to those on West[Pg 55] Okoboji. When it had been completed, all hands joined in the erection of a cabin about a mile beyond or northeast of Howe’s place which was to be jointly occupied by the Noble and Thatcher families until further arrangements could be made. Boarding with the latter families was Morris Markham—a sort of frontiersman from Hampton, Iowa.[104]

Late in September came Mr. and Mrs. William Marble from Linn County, Iowa. Having stopped temporarily on the Okoboji lakes, the Marbles after some prospecting decided to locate on the southwest shore of Spirit Lake—distant, in an air line, about six miles from the Gardners and perhaps a mile less from the Howes. Their cabin was the most isolated of all—which made it easily possible for events to transpire upon the shores of the Okobojis without the knowledge of the Marbles for days or even weeks.[105]

Such was the chain of settlements of those pioneers who were to pass the frightful winter of 1856-1857 on this isolated frontier. As winter closed in upon them they felt reasonably secure, since Indians had only very rarely been seen. With little or no experience of frontier life on an American prairie, they believed their supply of provisions to be ample for the closed season. No one anticipated an unusual winter. During February a trapper named Joseph Harshman came to the cabin of the Red Wing people. Being a man of genial disposition he was encouraged to spend the remaining portion of the winter with them. Whence he came no one[Pg 56] knew; nor did anyone inquire concerning his antecedents, since on the frontier such questions were regarded as discourteous to the stranger.

About eighteen miles to the northeast, on the Des Moines River in Minnesota, was the newly formed settlement of Springfield. Here were to be found by the winter of 1856-1857 about six or seven families. The town had been platted in the summer of 1856 by three brothers—William, George, and Charles Wood of Mankato, Minnesota. For many years these brothers had been widely known in Minnesota and the northwest as Indian traders. By the winter of 1856-1857 they had concentrated their trading interests in a store in Springfield, which made the little village the meeting and trading place of the Indians and whites for many miles around. Indeed, Springfield was the only settlement of note within a radius of fifty miles.[106]

Most of the settlers comprising the Springfield, or as it was sometimes called the “Des Moines City” settlement, had come from northeastern Iowa. The vanguard had appeared in August, 1856, and had located on the east side of the Des Moines River. The Wood brothers had come somewhat earlier and had established their post on the west side of the river, where they laid out the town which they planned to promote. As in the region of the lakes, the cabins were widely scattered up and down the river for seven or eight miles.[107] By the opening of winter the settlement had about seventeen able-bodied men and twelve adult women; but by March,[Pg 57] 1857, the number had somewhat increased so that the settlement had about forty-seven people in all, living in seven or eight family groups.

In general the cabins were centered about the home of J. B. Thomas, who had built in the edge of the timber near the river about one and a half miles from the Wood brothers’ store. In this family were Mr. and Mrs. Thomas and five children, the eldest of whom was a boy, Willie, of twelve or thirteen years. About two miles from the Thomas cabin upon the open prairie lived Joshua Stewart with his wife and three children; while the Wheeler cabin was about three-fourths of a mile and the John Bradshaw home nearly one and a half miles away. The Adam P. Shiegley cabin, where he and one son lived, was the most isolated, being far removed from all of the others. In addition, there were the homes of Strong, Skinner, Smith, Church, and Harshman.

In the family of Dr. E. B. N. Strong, the community surgeon, were Dr. and Mrs. Strong, two children, and Miss Eliza Gardner, the daughter of Rowland Gardner of the Okoboji settlement.[108] The Strongs had made the acquaintance of the Gardners after the latter had come to the lakes. As Mrs. Strong was not in good health Eliza Gardner had been prevailed upon to accompany the Strongs to their new home at Springfield. In the Church home were Mr. and Mrs. William L. Church, two children, and Miss Drusilla Swanger, a sister of Mrs. Church. The family of J. B. Skinner comprised, beside himself, his wife and two children; while in the Harshman[Pg 58] home there were also two children. Mr. and Mrs. William Nelson had one child; while Mr. and Mrs. Robert Smith and a second Harshman and wife were without children.[109] The unmarried men of the community were Joseph Cheffins, Henry Tretts, Jareb Palmer, David N. Carver, Nathaniel Frost, John Henderson, and John Bradshaw. As the result of being badly frozen during the winter of 1856-1857, it had been necessary for Dr. Strong to amputate both of Henderson’s legs and one of Smith’s. These operations had been performed shortly before the visit of the Indians in March, 1857.[110]

[Pg 59]


By February the unusual severity of the winter was occasioning some alarm at the lake settlements—particularly as the stock of provisions laid by for the winter was nearing exhaustion. In view of the deep snow and the intense cold it seemed more than foolish to think of attempting to make one’s way even to the nearest depot of supplies—which was Fort Dodge. The banks of snow were fifteen and often twenty feet high and offered an almost impassable obstruction to the use of teams. Add to this the intensity of the cold, and one can well imagine what courage or dire necessity it must have required to induce the traveller to set out for the purpose of making his way over an untrodden and in many respects an unknown waste of snow. But the food situation was such that it became increasingly evident that some effort must soon be made to relieve a condition which might become intolerable. Moreover, no one had had any experience in this section which would serve as an index to indicate how long the winter season might continue.

Finally, it was decided that Luce and Thatcher were to return to their former homes in the eastern section of the State in quest of the needed food.[Pg 60] With a sled and an ox team they set out in the early days of February. The journey proved to be one of almost incredible hardships: the cold was nearly unendurable, while the banks of snow so impeded their progress that not infrequently little advance was made as the result of a whole day’s effort. In the end, however, they made their way safely to Hampton, but only to suffer the disappointment of learning that the settlers here could do little or nothing for them. Compelled to go still farther, they pushed on to Shell Rock, Cedar Falls, and Waterloo before they were able to obtain sufficient supplies for all the people at the lakes.

Securing at last the needed supplies, they remained at Cedar Falls for a brief time to permit the recuperation of both their oxen and themselves. Finally, they began preparations for the return journey which would probably prove more trying than the one east, for now they would be compelled to face the cutting winds and hard driven snows of the open prairies. Although warning of the possible hardships of such a journey was given by Luce and Thatcher, the prospects did not deter four young men from accompanying the two settlers upon their return to the lakes. These men were Robert Clark, a young friend of Luce from Waterloo; Jonathan Howe, the son of Joel Howe already settled at Okoboji; Enoch Ryan from Hampton, a son-in-law of Joel Howe; and Asa Burtch, a brother of Mrs. Joseph M. Thatcher.

[Pg 61]

In spite of the difficulties encountered, all went well on the return until the party reached a point known as Shippey’s near the mouth of Cylinder Creek in Palo Alto County, about ten miles south of the “Irish Colony”. Here the overloaded and exhausted oxen were unable to proceed any further. After some deliberation it was decided that Burtch and Thatcher should remain at Shippey’s and care for the oxen until they had regained their strength sufficiently to allow them to proceed upon the journey. Meanwhile, Luce, Clark, Howe, and Ryan were to hasten onward to the lakes with the good word that succor was near at hand. They made the trip on foot and in two days, reaching the settlements on the evening of March 6th. Here they found all well with the settlers who rejoiced at the prospect of relief in the near future.[111]

By a careful husbanding of resources and a system of mutual exchange the settlers had been able to prevent much suffering which a lack of care might have entailed. But the time had not elapsed without the occasional appearance of Indians. Apparently a number of red men were wintering in the groves near by, as it seemed unlikely that they could have come from any great distance. They were always friendly in their attitude toward the whites, who from time to time took occasion to relieve their too evident suffering from cold and hunger. They had not only been invited within the cabins to share the comfortable firesides, but were also encouraged[Pg 62] to share in the settlers’ humble meals if they happened to arrive at meal time. They never left a settler’s cabin empty-handed at any time.

But as the time for the opening of spring neared it had been noted that the Indians grew more restless and less sociable: they seemed to avoid contact with the whites as much as possible. At the same time, the settlers, untrained in Indian ways, saw nothing singular in their later attitude and felt no occasion for alarm. Future developments, however, were to show that there had been more than one occasion for alarm. More than once the Indians had been observed to stalk each cabin and in other ways manifest an undue interest in the settlers. This, however, was accounted for at the time as untutored curiosity in things new and strange.

[Pg 63]


For a number of years preceding the killing of Sidominadota another Indian band, similar in character to that led by the murdered leader, had roamed the country and terrorized the people between the Des Moines and the Big Sioux rivers. Under the leadership of Inkpaduta or “Scarlet Point”, this band had frequented in particular the headwaters of the Des Moines: they resorted to the Big Sioux and beyond only when fleeing from punishment.[112] Their refuge beyond the Big Sioux was with the Yanktons, whose camps along the James or Dakota River were always an asylum for outlawed and disorderly Sioux bands. Here Inkpaduta was free to go at any time for shelter and defense. But with no other group was Inkpaduta able to maintain even the semblance of friendly relations.[113] The Inkpaduta band of Indians had become well-known either by the name of its leader or as the “Red Top” band, from the fact that it frequently carried pennons of red cloth attached to lance ends.[114]

Inkpaduta, the leader of the band, was a Wahpekuta Sioux of a villainous and unsavory reputation even among his own tribesmen, who feared or hated him. Due to his misdeeds he had been expelled from[Pg 64] membership in his own gens division of the Wahpekuta Sioux.[115] But this did not serve as a lesson in proper conduct; instead it seemed only to enrage him to the point of committing other and worse deeds—if such were possible. Owing to his lawless disposition a serious quarrel arose among the Wahpekutas. Originally this division seems to have arisen out of a very marked difference in opinion as to the proper attitude to assume toward their hereditary enemies, the Sac and Fox Indians. One section advised a cessation of hostilities which seemed to have resulted in the accomplishment of no purpose. Moreover, in several of the encounters the Wahpekutas had suffered severe losses which they had not been able to successfully recoup.

A second division of the tribe led by Wamdisapa, or “Black Eagle”, was so quarrelsome and revengeful that it stoutly opposed any consideration looking toward peace. Black Eagle is characterized as “a reckless, lawless fellow, always at war” with other tribes. After the treaties of Prairie du Chien in 1825 and 1830, he was “one of the first” of the Sioux to violate their provisions by making war upon the neighboring tribes. His conduct in this respect grew especially bad after the treaty of 1830, when his attitude won for him the “ill will of all his people”, who claimed that his conduct provoked their enemies to make many reprisals upon them. Refusing to alter his conduct, Wamdisapa and a small group of kindred spirits were virtually driven away from the tribe and no longer considered as its members.[116]

[Pg 65]

Striking out boldly across the prairies of Minnesota, the outlaws took a course which led them south and west: they were evidently headed for the lower James, the place of their future rendezvous. Their course led them to the present site of Algona, where they tarried for some time. Resuming their flight, they travelled westward, crossing the Big Sioux. Finally, they established themselves on the Jacques or James River in the vicinity of Spirit Lake, South Dakota.[117] After removing to this region they were not infrequently known as the “Santies” of the James. They seemed to have lost their identity with the Wahpekutas.

As this party of defection grew in numbers, differences of opinion arose among them. After suffering disruption the band reorganized under two leaders or chieftans—Wamdisapa and Tasagi (“His Cane”). Under this dual leadership, they seemed for a time to prosper as never before. But their misdeeds became so numerous that the neighboring Sioux requested them to leave the country.[118] The dual chieftanship was not continued beyond the lives of the original holders, since internal jealousies and ambitions rendered it not only undesirable but impossible. The quarrels were largely due to temperamental differences in the leaders. Tasagi was of a mild disposition; while Wamdisapa was noted for his quarrelsome, ferocious, and revengeful nature.

After signing the treaty of 1836, Wamdisapa shifted his band to the Blue Earth region. From here he conducted raids into the Iowa country against the Sacs and Foxes, who, in retaliating,[Pg 66] made no distinction between the Indians of Wamdisapa and those of Tasagi on the Cannon River. This caused much suffering among the Cannon River people; but Wamdisapa could not be prevailed upon to discontinue his raids. In the meantime Wamdisapa’s son, Inkpaduta, had grown to manhood and leadership. He seems to have inherited to the full the relentless cruelty of his father. More ambitious for leadership than his father, he planned to unite as speedily as possible the leadership which his father had been content to share with Tasagi.

When the consolidation of the leadership did not progress as rapidly as Inkpaduta wished, it is said that he hastened the event by securing the murder of Tasagi. This occurred probably in 1839.[119] As Inkpaduta had planned so it came to pass that upon Wamdisapa’s early death the two divisions accepted in the main Inkpaduta’s leadership. At the same time a strong faction refused his leadership. Becoming alarmed for his safety Inkpaduta fled further into the Blue Earth country, hoping thereby to gain time for the firmer union of his loyal followers.[120] Even so he could not tarry long since the Cannon River Wahpekutas were on his trail. With a still smaller number of followers he again fled—this time to northern Iowa—preferring to brave the hatred of the Sacs and Foxes to that of his fellow Wahpekutas.

It is thought that the incident of Tasagi’s murder and the later flights nearly broke up the band of Wamdisapa, so that it could scarcely be said to[Pg 67] exist. In a few years, however, through a prolonged series of intertribal quarrels conditions had become such that Inkpaduta was recognized as the undisputed master of the greater and more turbulent sections of both of the original bands. By the time of the successful realization of his plans—about 1848—Inkpaduta had made a reputation for relentless savagery that had spread throughout northwestern Iowa, Dakota, and Minnesota. Upon him rests the stigma of having planned the murder not only of Tasagi but also of his own father.[121] His band seemed to thrive upon its evil reputation: thus it is said that “from time to time some villainous Sioux committed a murder, or other gross crime upon some other member of the tribe, and fled for fear of vengeance to the outlawed band of Wahpakootas for protection.”[122]

The Inkpaduta band of Indians became, as it were, accursed. It could call no place its home—excepting perhaps the temporary winter rendezvous with the Spirit Lake Yanktons. Thus the members of this band became as “Ishmaelites whose hands were against all other men”.[123] The character of its members was that of its leader, who acted as a magnet to draw to him the worst types from the surrounding tribes. Even according to the Indian moral code they would be classed as toughs and criminals. Inkpaduta was universally reputed as the most blood-thirsty Indian leader in the Northwest. Whites and Indians upon whom his displeasure might fall feared him as death itself. The members[Pg 68] of his band became widely known as the renegades and outlaws of the frontier. Spending their lives as wanderers and marauders, they never remained long in any locality. “They went as far west as the Missouri, as far north as the Cheyenne, as far south and east as the Upper Des Moines, in Iowa.”[124] Their life of necessity was but an outgrowth of their villainous disposition. It has been said that their actions grew so unbearably bad that even Sidominadota—by many regarded as an arch fiend—left the band and went far down the course of the Des Moines the better to escape the wrath of its leader.[125] It was soon after this act that Sidominadota and Lott crossed paths with the result that the Indian’s life paid the forfeit.

Many of the unpleasant incidents in frontier life from 1836 to 1857 in Minnesota and Iowa were directly chargeable to these Bedouins of the prairies who tarried at a “trading house but a few minutes and in seeming fear and dread hurried away.” The first exploit officially credited to the band was the massacre of Wamundiyakapi, a Wahpekuta chief, along with seventeen warriors on the headwaters of the Des Moines in Murray County, Minnesota, in 1849. Prior to 1850 they had broken up, plundered, and driven away two parties of United States surveyors. The cabins of numerous settlers in the upper Des Moines country had also been wantonly destroyed and they had been driven from the country—in face of the fact that it was well known what band was at work and where its usual rendezvous was located.[126] Settlers along the Boyer River[Pg 69] had also suffered outrages at its hands as late as 1852. Major William Williams stated it as his opinion that a general attack upon the frontier was planned to occur about 1855; but the plans failed for some unknown reason. Inkpaduta seems to have been much displeased thereat and attempted to take upon himself the execution of the original plan.[127]

The unusually strenuous life which had been led by the band was having a telling effect upon its membership: by 1852 there were evidences of a near dispersion. It seems that even to a criminal Indian compulsory exile from his race was distasteful, and one by one the followers of Inkpaduta were slipping away. To stimulate an interest in his band, Inkpaduta appears to have settled upon a plan of making concerted attacks upon the northwestern frontier of settlements; and he was successful in creating in the minds of some the belief that he had general control of no less than five or six hundred warriors operating along the frontier in isolated bands of fifteen or twenty Indians each. It is now positively known that such was not the case and that at the time of its greatest prosperity the Inkpaduta band did not number more than fifty or sixty souls. By the autumn of 1856 the group had become so diminished in numbers that it was upon the eve of dispersion.

This rapid disintegration of the band could be accounted for by the character of its leader. His arrogance was rapidly rendering followers impossible. Inkpaduta, in 1856, was evidently between fifty and sixty years of age. He was born, probably[Pg 70] in 1800, on the Watonwan River in Minnesota. For a Wahpekuta Sioux he was large, being probably more than six feet tall and very strongly built. He was not a person of pleasing appearance; for, coupled with the immoral character of his life, smallpox had badly marked him. Indeed, he presented an unusually repulsive appearance. His features were coarse; his countenance was of brutal cast; and he was very near-sighted. His near-sightedness became total blindness in old age, so that at the time of the battle of the Little Big Horn he was carefully piloted about by his small grandsons who, managing to save him from the general slaughter, succeeded in having him safely carried into Canada in the party of Sitting Bull.[128]

Although his band as a whole was of bad repute, Inkpaduta stood out above his followers on account of his hatred for the whites, his revengeful disposition, and his nearly matchless success in war.[129] Mrs. Sharp speaks of him as “a savage monster in human shape, fitted only for the darkest corner in Hades.”[130] “Of all the base characters among his fellow outlaws, his nature seems to have been the vilest, and his heart the blackest.”[131] “It was only as a war chief that he won a place in the admiration of the Indians. In civil life they would have none of him. Except where bloodshedding was the business in hand, they knew by sore experience he was not to be trusted.... It is scarcely probable from all of his conduct that he was other than he seemed, a terrible monster.”[132]

[Pg 71]

His unusual disposition was coupled with an ambition to see his people and tribe restored once again to their wide and extensive hunting ranges. As he witnessed the frontier expanding westward he saw his great ambition vanish, and he was irritated beyond control. Unspeakably immoral himself, he nevertheless hated the vices of the whites that were slowly taking hold upon the members of his band and race.

He yearned to be a party to the treaties of the Wahpekutas as a chief and to share in the annuities which resulted therefrom. The annuities, with the exception of those of 1854 and 1856, he was permitted to enjoy. Upon the death of Wamdisapa it appears that Inkpaduta was definitely dropped from membership in the Wahpekutas; and so he was not consulted regarding the disposal of the Minnesota and northwestern Iowa lands. It was thought that he had forfeited his council rights; but when the first payment was made he was on hand and demanded his share—which was denied him by the agent. He then turned his attention to the treaty-making Indians and compelled them to pay him the share which he claimed in the annuities. Thereafter he appeared annually, and only twice was he definitely refused. This denial was an affront extremely hard for him to bear, for it was to him a denial of his rights in the name and birthright of the Wahpekuta Sioux.[133] Claiming the Yankton and Santee tribal rights he appears to have gained an acknowledgment of them by the year 1865.

[Pg 72]


Burning with hatred for Indians and white men alike, Inkpaduta and his band left the Fort Ridgely Agency of the Lower Sioux in the autumn of 1856. They appear to have gone westward to the Big Sioux, where they spent some time in hunting and fishing. Their next and final move, before entering camp for the winter, was to the Yankton camp near Spirit Lake, South Dakota. There Inkpaduta planned to spend the winter of 1856-1857 with his well-tried friends and protectors. Doubtless during the fearful ordeal of that unusual season when they suffered from cold and hunger they recalled past wrongs, which they now credited with causing their present condition, and planned revenge upon their persecutors.[134]

The question has frequently been raised as to where the Inkpaduta band of Indians really passed the winter season of 1856-1857. Some writers have held that they remained at Loon Lake, in Minnesota; while others have insisted that they camped among the Yanktons in Dakota. The latter seems the more probable. Indeed, it is highly improbable that any Indians, after having suffered, as all agree this band had suffered during the winter in the valleys of the[Pg 73] Des Moines and Little Sioux, would go down the valley of the one, as they are reputed to have done, and finding no food on the way down, as all taking this view agree was the case, until they arrived at Smithland, would then have doubled back upon a trail known to be barren. It is far more probable that the band wintered in Dakota, and with the approach of spring returned to their favorite hunting grounds. When they had been denied food at Smithland, they at once started up the Little Sioux and hastened to the hunting grounds of presumed plenty. One thing is certain: at the first breaking of winter they were on the move.[135]

It so happened that in February, 1857, there came a promise of spring, and with this promise Inkpaduta and his band of Indians left their winter camp. Verging upon starvation, they hastened on foot or on horseback toward the white settlements along the Iowa frontier; and it can truly be said of Inkpaduta that “wherever he appeared, murder and theft marked his trail”.[136] Reaching the Big Sioux, he and his followers passed down its course and across its waters to the beginning of the white settlements upon the Little Sioux in eastern Woodbury County.

At the time of arrival at these settlements the band was not large—having, presumably, been sadly depleted by desertion or by the severity of the winter. Apparently there were only about ten lodges in all, comprising men, women, and children. So far as known the warriors in February, 1857, included the following: Inkpaduta, the leader; Roaring[Pg 74] Cloud and Fire Cloud, the twin sons of Inkpaduta; Sacred Plume; Old Man; Putting on Walking; Rattling, son-in-law of Inkpaduta; Big Face; His Great Gun; Red Leg; Shifting Wind; and Tahtay-Shkope Kah-gah, whose name does not appear to be translatable. Nothing further need be said of the band’s personnel than that they had been well trained by Inkpaduta for the work in hand.[137]

As the settlements were neared it doubtless seemed to the Indians that they were approaching a land of plenty, for game which had hitherto been seen nowhere now began to make an occasional appearance. It must have seemed to their primitive minds that this region, their land of plenty, had been usurped by the whites. They were eager for revenge and prepared to carry arson, murder, and pillage the full length of Iowa’s western frontier.

It should be borne in mind, as events rapidly follow, that the deeds of these Indians were not by any means spontaneous or the result of any single or isolated incident or circumstance. As an explanation of what occurred in Iowa in the spring of 1857, there has been advanced the theory that Inkpaduta was merely seeking revenge for the murder of his brother, Sidominadota. This explanation has been advanced so frequently that it has been long accepted by most people as an undoubted fact. In all probability, however, such was not the motive of the Indians: on the contrary the real cause must be sought in the innate character of the band that committed[Pg 75] the tragic deed. In fact this unhappy incident in Iowa’s pioneer history was but one of many justly charged against this particular band of wild Bedouins of the prairies.

The murder of Sidominadota in all probability did not cause Inkpaduta much concern. Moreover, it should be said at the outset that Inkpaduta and Sidominadota were not brothers—as has so often been claimed—since Inkpaduta was a Lower Sioux, a Wahpekuta; while Sidominadota was an Upper Sioux, a Sisseton. Hence they could not have been brothers. It is true that in some phases of Indian relationship they might have been spoken of as brothers, but the conditions making such a reference even remotely possible were not present in the case of these two Indian leaders. Hence the theory of blood revenge can not be accepted. Furthermore, the term “brother” with the Sioux was not limited to blood relationship. “The tribe consists of a group of men calling one another brother, who are husbands to a group of women calling one another sister.” To call one another brother was a common practice and carried with it no idea of relationship as ordinarily interpreted.

Granting that the two were brothers, if Inkpaduta could not have avenged the death within a year he could not have done so thereafter according to the practice of blood revenge universally taught and practiced among the Sioux. In religious practice and ceremonial observance Inkpaduta was neither a[Pg 76] heretic nor an outcast. The Sioux have never been noted for retentive memories in matters of revenge, but rather for their laxity.

Inkpaduta was superior to Sidominadota in rank; hence he would not have succeeded him and could not have taken up blood revenge as his successor. Moreover, these two men had bitterly disagreed, and Sidominadota had severed all relation and connection with Inkpaduta or any of his band and had grown to be one of the bitterest and most vindictive of enemies. Inkpaduta knew this. It is likely that Inkpaduta would have rejoiced at the news of his enemy’s death: it is certain that the murder would not have caused him much if any concern. “With him it was every man for himself; he never had a sentiment so noble and dignified as that of revenge, and would not turn on his heel to retaliate for the slaughter of his nearest friend.”[138]

Again, according to Siouan practice each band is absolutely separate: one band must not concern itself with the affairs of another. War would inevitably have followed such conduct. Although Inkpaduta was lawless in many respects, no instance in which he broke over the strict letter of this custom has come to light.

Finally, the bands were so widely separated and so busily engaged in dodging each other that “it is doubtful whether Inkpadoota ever heard the particulars of All Over Red’s murder; it is certain that he would not have been concerned if he had.”

Thus it seems evident that Inkpaduta could not[Pg 77] have been on a mission of blood revenge: it seems more probable that his own character and that of the members of his group, coupled with an overemphasized conviction of wrongs suffered in years past, allied with the intense suffering of the moment, had produced an outburst of savage frenzy culminating in murder. This would seem to be more in keeping with the known character of the Indian and in line with his known conduct. The idea of blood revenge has made a strong appeal since it was advanced as an explanation by Major William Williams, but it can not be made to rest upon a foundation of known and recognized facts in connection with the Spirit Lake Massacre.[139]

[Pg 78]


The approach of Inkpaduta and his band to the white settlements was unobserved—due probably to the fact that the severity of the winter had driven into the settlement all the traders and trappers who were commonly the purveyors of such news along the frontier. Although the Indians appeared at Smithland on the Little Sioux in southeastern Woodbury County unannounced, no alarm was felt since they had been there before and seemed quite friendly. Even now they bore, outwardly at least, every indication of friendship for the whites. Quietly and inoffensively they begged from the settlers who, pitying their evident starving condition, gave as liberally as they could to satisfy their needs rather than their demands.[140]

It seems that the Indians had been at the settlement but a brief time when they discovered that the whites had not been able to complete the harvesting of the past season’s corn crop on account of the coming of the early and deep snows. Much of the corn had been buried, where the settlers had been content to leave it for husking in early spring. Upon making this discovery the Indians with a will set[Pg 79] about gathering corn from the fields. Very naturally the settlers objected and demanded that the Indians desist, which they did after some jangling and expressions of ill feeling. They did not, however, cease their demands for food.

The settlers now assumed a plainly unfriendly attitude toward the Indians, which in turn gave impetus to a change in the temper and attitude of the Indians toward the whites. They soon became sullen and insolent, with a manifest tendency to commit a variety of malicious acts—probably for the purpose of trying the temper of the settlers. Only acts of a trivial character, however, were actually committed; and so the wiser heads in Smithland were successful in warding off for some time any serious trouble.

Several days after the arrival of the Indians a large drove of elk appeared in the timber on the river bottom. This meant plenty to the nearly famished Indians, and they at once began preparations for the hunt in which all were to participate. When the hunt had gotten well under way an Indian was attacked by a settler’s dog which apparently had become over zealous in the chase. The Indian retaliated by killing the dog. Then the owner of the dog sought to even matters by administering a rather severe beating to the Indian, at the same time forcibly disarming him. To a young Indian brave such treatment was an insult calling for retaliation. When the other settlers learned of this reckless action[Pg 80] on the part of one of their number they grew alarmed, for they knew Indian character well enough to conclude that the incident was not a closed one by any means.

Meanwhile the petty pilfering and thieving by the Indians continued. Especially annoying were the squaws who, constantly haunting the cabins and other buildings of the settlement, would sometimes carry away grain and hay. Occasionally a settler catching a squaw in the act would give her a whipping—which only increased the tension of the situation. Finally, a settlers’ council was called, the result of which was an effort to disarm the Indians as an assurance of safety. Failing to realize the full purport of what was being done, the Indians offered little opposition. The guns were hidden, and for a while the settlers breathed easily. But in their alarm, they had really taken a very unwise course. They probably thought that the Indians would soon come forward and offer some reasonable and peaceful settlement of any wrongs that had been committed. In this, however, the settlers exhibited little appreciation of the character of the Sioux Indian.[141]

Not a little enraged, the Indians committed other depredations upon the settlers; and it was not long before the settlers awoke to a realization of the mistake they had made. But they soon committed a worse blunder in seeking to correct the first. A militia company of twenty-one men was organized among the men of Smithland and vicinity under the[Pg 81] leadership of Seth Smith, the founder of the settlement. Captain Smith was selected as leader of the organization not for his known military ability, but because he owned a “magnificent suit of regimentals, with its quivering epaulettes, gaily bedecked cocked hat and flashing sword.” Surely these would strike terror to the souls of the Indians.

The party was quickly and quietly prepared for a demonstration of military power, after which they marched to the Indian camp and there paraded before the Indians. When the demonstration was ended, Captain Smith demanded of the Indians that they leave at once. This seemed impossible to the Indians, who are said to have replied that the weather was so cold and the snows so deep up north that nothing to eat could be secured by them in that direction. They added, however, that they would like to go on down the river to the camps of the Omahas and treat with them. This the whites did not seem to think would be advisable: they evidently thought that the Indians would visit them again upon their return to the north. When denied the privilege of passing on to the Omahas the Indians flatly refused to leave at all—an action that may have been due in part to the fact that not all of the Indians were then in the camp.[142]

The settlers, finding themselves sufficiently strong after this demonstration of military preparedness, began a series of annoying acts directed toward the Indians, who seemed to submit stoically to these impositions.[Pg 82] Finally, one morning the settlers were not a little gratified to discover that the Indians had gone. But the joy was only temporary; for the Indians later reappeared with guns—possibly the very ones that had been taken from them by the settlers. How they secured these arms was not known; but it was evident that the reclamation of their property had a marked effect upon their conduct. They now became defiant and openly committed theft to satisfy their wants; for they knew that they were now better prepared for resistance than were the whites.

It was shortly before this time that General Harney had conducted his march through the Indian country in Kansas and Nebraska, thence westward into Wyoming, and back northeastward to or near Fort Pierre in Dakota. Every Sioux knew of him and held him in a sort of superstitious awe or dread. They thought of him as one guided and guarded by the Almighty in his work as an avenger. Aware of the regard with which the Sioux held Harney, it was proposed by the settlers to use him as a means of ridding themselves of their Indian guests. Accordingly a settler donned the soiled uniform of an army officer and at sunset appeared in the edge of the timber on the bank of the Little Sioux opposite the Indian camp. His appearance there was called to the attention of the Indians, along with the suggestion that the stranger was Harney, in all likelihood, in close pursuit of them. The ruse, it is said, was effective: that same night the Indians fled up the river from Smithland. As they fled it became increasingly[Pg 83] evident that they were thirsting for revenge. From suffering indignities themselves they now turned to the infliction of atrocities upon whomsoever chanced to cross their path. While the more level-headed settlers at Smithland regretted the tricks played upon the Indians, all congratulated themselves upon being rid of their unwelcome guests.[143]

[Pg 84]


After leaving Smithland the next place visited by Inkpaduta and his band seems to have been Correctionville—a place about twenty miles up the course of the Little Sioux. Here the Indians appear to have been friendly at first; but they were not long in the settlement before their begging and thieving led to opposition from the whites. Indeed, during the later portion of their stay they used their guise of friendship only for the purpose of securing an entrance to the cabins of the settlers, and having been admitted helped themselves to whatever was most convenient and best suited to their needs, such as food, guns, and ammunition.

The ugliness of their real character for the first time appeared in their treatment of a settler by the name of Robert Hammond. It seems that Hammond resisted their thieving after he had admitted them to his cabin, with the result that he was badly beaten. This episode appears to have started the Indians upon their fiendish career. Having left Hammond helpless in his cabin, they turned, when some distance away, and literally shot the cabin door off its hinges. This was done, presumably, as a warning of what was likely to happen if they were further[Pg 85] interfered with. They then left the settlement and continued their journey northward.

As he proceeded up the course of the Little Sioux, Inkpaduta followed the policy of sending out scouting and foraging parties into the surrounding country. At nearly every cabin found by these parties everything in the line of guns, food, and ammunition was either carried off or destroyed. Not infrequently the stock of the settler—hogs, cattle, or horses—was killed and left untouched: the Indians seemed now to be seeking to destroy rather than to take for their own use.

The next settlement reached by the band was Pilot Rock in Cherokee County. While pausing here for a brief time scouts were sent out in all directions through the surrounding country. Very little transpired at Pilot Rock other than the taking of food and arms. Here the Indians found no opposition upon the part of the settlers; and when they had satisfied themselves they left the community.

Another settlement visited was that of the Milford Colony, which was located a little north of the present town of Cherokee. Cattle and hogs were shot, doors torn from their hinges, and furniture ruined. Bedding was torn into shreds, and feather ticks were ripped open and the contents scattered upon the prairie. Here the Indians remained for three days; and while the settlers suffered only from fright and the destruction of property, they were only too happy to note the red men’s preparations for leaving.

The Indians had tarried at Milford Colony evidently[Pg 86] for rest and recuperation, finding here more supplies than they had encountered elsewhere. This was doubtless due to the fact that the settlers, having but lately come west from Milford, Massachusetts, were well provided against possible future needs. For three days the Indians feasted and appeared to deliberate. Upon the evening of the third day two of the Milford pioneers returned from a business trip to Sac City. The arrival of Parkhurst and Lebourveau seemed to arouse the Indians’ suspicion. They demanded to be told from whence the settlers had come. Not having received the desired information they probably concluded they were being pursued and that night left the settlement. After the departure of the Indians, the Milford pioneers deserted the colony and sought refuge at various places—at Ashland, at Onawa, and at Smithland.

As they came to isolated cabins north of this settlement the Indians resorted to various modes of terrorizing the pioneers. At the cabin of Lemuel Parkhurst they amused themselves for an hour or more by striking their tomahawks into the floor and logs of the cabin, while flourishing scalping knives about the heads of the affrighted occupants. Mrs. Parkhurst finally pacified them by preparing a meal which she set before them. Having consumed this meal, they proffered the peace pipe, shook hands, and departed.

At the cabin of James A. Brown they seemed to be seeking entertainment rather than food. After compelling Brown to mount a hay stack, two Indians climbed up—one armed with a rifle, the other with[Pg 87] a pitchfork. They amused themselves by testing the steadiness of Brown’s nerve. He was alternately lunged at by the possessor of the fork and levelled at by the holder of the gun. After thus amusing themselves for ten or fifteen minutes, the Indians allowed him to get down and go to his cabin. They then went to the stable, killed an ox, and attempted to steal a horse; but the animal was so vicious that they finally gave up the attempt and left. These are but incidents illustrative of the behavior of the Indians as they passed to the north of Cherokee and up the Little Sioux.[144]

Arriving in the northwestern corner of Buena Vista County, their conduct became, if possible, still more vicious. Wherever they appeared they were sullen, as contrasted with their tendency to talk and seek entertainment at points further down the river. Waste, violence, and cruelty now characterized their actions. At the home of a Mr. Weaver they not only wantonly shot all his hogs and cattle, but also roughly handled him and the members of his family. Satisfied with this, they moved off to the northwest.

They were next heard of at the home of H. H. Waterman in O’Brien County. The visit to the Waterman cabin, however, seems to have been from a scouting detachment rather than from the band as a whole. In Waterman’s own words “Seven big strapping Sioux bucks stopped at my house; they were so tall I had to look up at them”. They told him of the Smithland affair. Although they seemed much excited, Waterman paid little attention to their story for he recognized them as the same Indians[Pg 88] that had called upon him more than once before. He did, however, become alarmed when they began stealing his property—to which he finally objected. But they took everything they could lay hands on; and ended by beating Waterman in the back and stringing him up by the thumbs. Apparently satisfied, they committed no further mischief, but departed in the direction from which they had come.[145]

After the episode at the Waterman cabin the band concentrated at the site of the present town of Peterson in southwestern Clay County, where they found white settlers—at which they were apparently much surprised. Peterson was only a short distance away from the cabins of Weaver in Buena Vista County and Waterman in O’Brien. Here it would seem they began in earnest the campaign of terror which was to end in massacre at the lakes and in the attack upon Springfield. They were no longer satisfied with thieving and pillaging; but the torturing of people and the taking of human life now seemed to be the pronounced bent and purpose of their raid. The mere presence of white people seemed to infuriate them to frenzied acts, and the wonder is that the general massacre of the settlers did not begin at Peterson rather than at Okoboji.

As already noted there were at Peterson by February, 1857, the families of James Bicknell, Jacob Kirchner, and Ambrose S. Mead. Although the news of Indian depredations had reached these families before the coming of the Indians themselves, conditions were such that no steps could be taken to[Pg 89] offer resistance. The Bicknell cabin, being located the furthest to the south and west, was reached first. This probability had been anticipated, for by the time the Indians arrived the inmates had fled to the shelter of the Kirchner home across the river. At the Bicknell home everything was either taken or destroyed. Early on the following morning the Indians crossed the river and appeared at the Kirchner home, where were huddled closely together for mutual protection the families of Bicknell and Jacob Kirchner. Here the Indians repeated their atrocities, leaving only the cabin and the lives of the settlers.

Although the Meads have been spoken of as a part of the Peterson settlement, they were not properly so since they were located some little distance up the course of the stream and were nearer the open prairie. It seems that they had not been warned of the coming of the Indians. Mr. Mead was absent at Cedar Falls; but before going he had arranged with a family by the name of Taylor to jointly occupy the Mead cabin with Mrs. Mead and the children. When the Indians appeared Mr. E. Taylor resisted their meddling in matters about the cabin. This enraged them and they threatened to kill him unless he desisted from objecting to their pillaging. Fearing that they might carry out the threat, Taylor managed to elude the watchfulness of the Indians and started south with a view to procuring help. Mrs. Mead meanwhile had been knocked down and otherwise abused for resisting.

The whole affair at the Mead cabin ended by the[Pg 90] Indians attempting to carry off the women and children as prisoners. They succeeded in carrying away Hattie, the eldest of the Mead children, but when they attempted to take Emma Mead, who was about ten years of age, she resisted so strongly that they contented themselves with beating her all the way back to her cabin home and then letting her go. The Taylor child was kicked into the fireplace where he was fearfully burned; while his mother and Mrs. Mead were carried away to camp. On the following morning the prisoners were allowed to return to their home. The Indians evidently feared pursuit or did not care to be burdened with prisoners at this time.[146]

Mr. Taylor made good his escape and started across the country to the Sac City settlement for aid. After some privation, he was successful in reaching the settlement. A relief party consisting of a company of men under Enoch Ross as captain made the march up the Raccoon River to Storm Lake and across country to the Mead home on the Little Sioux. Of course the Indians were gone by this time, but the company started up the river in pursuit. It is written by someone that a member of the party when out on a reconnaissance, discovered the Indians, and at once hurried back to report his discovery. Upon reaching the main party he found an active quarrel going on among the members; and when he reported his news the company at once disbanded and hurried home. Other accounts have related that the Indians were pursued to within a few miles of Spencer, when the company was stopped by a terrific blizzard and[Pg 91] compelled to turn back without having accomplished its purpose of punishing the Indians.[147]

While the Sac County relief party was forming and on its way across the country, the Indians had moved up the river to the little group of cabins where Sioux Rapids now stands. No damage was done at this settlement, the band seeming to be content with asking and receiving. Before the relief party arrived, the Indians had reached Gillett’s Grove where again they seemed disposed to create trouble.

In the summer and fall of 1856 the Gillett brothers had settled in what was perhaps the finest body of timber along the whole course of the Little Sioux. Through this grove, dividing it nearly equally, flows the Little Sioux. Each of the two brothers had built a cabin upon his claim, one on either bank of the stream. In preparing for the winter they thought in the main only of their need of food and shelter: they troubled themselves little concerning an Indian visitation, reasoning that such an event was quite unlikely as Indians had not been seen since their arrival. Moreover, fishing in that region was poor and game was extremely scarce.

Great therefore was the surprise of the Gillett brothers when in the late winter they learned of the arrival of an Indian party. Although the cabins were well placed for purposes of shelter, the Indians readily located them and at once paid them a visit. The red men were well received and their wants attended to by the settlers. Seeming well pleased they left with protestations of friendship. A few days later a second and different group appeared,[Pg 92] led by the same Indian as the first. As the days passed this red man’s visits became unpleasantly frequent, but thus far no offensive attitude had been assumed by the Indians. When, however, he began paying unwelcome attentions to Mrs. Gillett it was decided to put an end to his coming.

One day, after the Indian had been peculiarly annoying, Gillett followed him and at some distance from the cabin shot him. The next morning the brothers visited the spot where the Indian had fallen, and finding the body beheaded it. Having committed this outrage they became frightened and decided upon flight to save themselves from Indian vengeance. Accordingly, they hastily packed a few belongings and started across the country toward Fort Dodge. It was later learned that when the Indians discovered the body of the murdered man they destroyed as much of the Gillett property as they could lay hands upon. The influence of this murder in provoking the terrible deeds committed by the Indians a few days later when they reached the lakes can not be definitely determined.[148]

When the Gilletts fled from their homes they knew not whence they were going except that they were seeking to escape from Indian retribution. They finally decided to make an attempt to reach Fort Dodge, although they realized that this would be an exceedingly difficult task since they knew only in a general way the direction in which that station lay. In their wanderings they finally reached the little settlement at Sioux Rapids, where after some counselling it was decided to send couriers to Fort Dodge[Pg 93] for relief. Abner Bell, E. Weaver, and one of the Wilcox brothers were chosen to make the journey.

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. At first their story was not believed; but as other reports of Indian depredations in this region continued to come in the people of Fort Dodge came to the conclusion that there must be some truth in what they had been told by the men from Sioux Rapids. Then they became alarmed as they saw evidence of some great plan of Indian revenge against the whole of the exposed frontier. Later the story of Bell and his fellow couriers was confirmed by reports from the Gilletts themselves, from Christian Kirchner, and from Ambrose S. Mead.

An attempt was made to organize a relief party at Fort Dodge, but the effort was soon abandoned by its promoters. The distance was greater than seventy miles, the snow was deep, the cold intense, and the treeless prairies were being constantly visited by terrific storms, all of which combined to make the success of such an expedition seem like the last thing that could be expected. Doubt was strong that such a party would ever be able to reach its destination or offer succor to the settlers on the frontier even though it should be fortunate enough to reach them. It was finally decided that any attempt at relief would probably end in a needless sacrifice of human lives. In the light of future events it may be said that this decision was indeed a wise one.[149]

[Pg 94]


Nothing is known of the Inkpaduta band from the time of the episode at Gillett’s Grove until its appearance at the lakes on the evening of Saturday, March 7, 1857. From events that followed, it is inferred that they were in a fiendish temper at the time of their arrival and that this temper developed in intensity during their stay upon the Okoboji shores. The Indians celebrated their arrival by holding a war dance. Mrs. Sharp refers to this ceremony as a scalp dance; but such it could not have been, since with the Sioux as with other Indians such a dance is held only when scalps have been taken. It is known positively that none had been taken up to the time of their arrival at the lakes.

What must have been the feelings of the settlers when the Indians, arriving near sundown, began the celebration of the war dance of the Sioux! As the hideous painted forms of the red men in a half squat position, in short, quick jumps kept time to the weird accompaniment of the dance, lifting both feet from the ground at once, the settlers must have felt that something unusual was brewing. And when the cadence of the dance was momentarily stopped and the sharp cutting notes of the war whoop rent the[Pg 95] frosty air one can scarcely imagine that they could have remained wholly ignorant of its purpose. And yet it is said that the settlers slept that night as they had slept before the appearance of the band; and on the ensuing morning they went quietly and calmly about the duties of their homes wondering, perhaps, when the Indians would leave.[150]

The people at the lakes had received no inkling of the events that had been transpiring to the south, for they were isolated from all other white settlements. They had come to this region so late and under such circumstances that none of the settlers to the south knew they were there. Then, too, the character of the season and the difficulties of transportation were such that no one would think of making a journey in that direction. To the people who had settled along the Little Sioux relief lay in the direction from which they had come—which was also the direction of their source of supplies. Thus it happened that no warning of impending danger from Indian attacks was given to these advanced settlements. Having no information concerning the conduct of red men in the valley to the south, the settlers at the lakes did not anticipate any unfriendly acts upon the part of the Indians who were now in their midst.

The Indians selected as a site for their camp a spot directly across the trail which led from the Gardner cabin to the Mattock cabin and from thence became the highway of communication between all of the cabins of the settlement. Thus its location was[Pg 96] strategic in an attack upon the settlers. For purposes of conducting their war dance it was necessary that the tepees should be so pitched as to surround a hollow square. It was directly across this square that the trail ran. Thus the Gardners were cut off from the remainder of the settlement. That there was design in so placing the camp can not positively be asserted; but its location did have the effect of isolating the Gardners.

The day before the arrival of the Indians, Luce and his three companions had come in from Shippey’s, where Thatcher and Burtch had been left with the exhausted oxen. The evening of their arrival had witnessed a slight moderation in the temperature which was still felt on the morning of the seventh. Everyone had begun to feel that possibly spring might not be far distant.

During the absence of Luce and Thatcher it had been decided by the people of the settlement that Gardner should undertake a trip to Fort Dodge upon their return. Wants had arisen during their absence which it was believed could be satisfied by going to Fort Dodge as the nearest outpost for supplies. It was also deemed desirable to make the trip before the breaking of winter should render the roads impassable. Thus, when Luce and Thatcher returned with the news that relief was near, Gardner at once began preparations to start upon his trip two days later or on the morning of Sunday, March eighth. The purpose of the trip was not only to secure food,[Pg 97] but also to purchase implements which would be needed in the spring’s agricultural activities.[151]

The morning of March eighth dawned cold but clear and bright, forecasting for Gardner the likelihood of a pleasant first day’s journey. Having learned from the accounts of Luce something of the condition of the prairie, Gardner arose early in order that as much as possible of his journey might be accomplished during the first day. Not only did Gardner himself arise early, but every member of his family did likewise in order that each might contribute something toward speeding him upon his journey.

Breakfast having been prepared and placed upon the table by Mrs. Gardner and her daughter Mrs. Luce, the members of the family were gathering about the table when the latch of the door was lifted and a tall Indian stepped within the cabin with protestations of hunger and friendship. Mrs. Gardner at once prepared an additional place at the table which the Indian was invited to occupy. The Indian accepted this hospitality and seated himself with the family; and all were soon engaged in partaking of the morning’s meal.

It soon developed that this Indian visitor was but a forerunner of more who were to follow. Before the meal had been finished the door was again opened and fourteen Indian warriors, besides women and children, crowded into the cabin. All demanded food, the while protesting friendship as[Pg 98] the first comer had done. The Gardners at once set about the satisfaction of this demand as far as possible from their limited store. At first the Indians seemed concerned solely with the gratification of their appetites. But when their hunger had been appeased a member of the party suddenly became insolent. Then others in a sullen overbearing manner demanded various things other than food.

The Indian who had been the first to enter the cabin now demanded that he be given ammunition. Another demanded gun-caps; and yet another asked for powder. Mr. Gardner, willing to appease the Indians if possible and rid himself and family of the intruders, secured his box of gun-caps and prepared to distribute them to all. This did not prove to be satisfactory to one of the number who snatched the box from his hand, appropriating all the caps for himself. Upon the wall hung the powder-horn which another buck attempted to secure, but was prevented from doing so by Mr. Luce who at this moment interfered. This interference angered the Indian who drew up and leveled his gun as if intending to shoot. But Luce was too alert for the Indian and struck the weapon from his hand. The Indians did not seem inclined to carry matters further and withdrew from the cabin—but in a very bad frame of mind.[152]

As they were slowly and sullenly withdrawing from the Gardner cabin, Bertell E. Snyder and Dr. Harriott, from the cabin across the strait, appeared with letters which they wished to send with Gardner[Pg 99] to Fort Dodge. They had been unaware of the presence of the Indian camp until they had come to it that morning. Gardner expressed his fears of future trouble to these men who only ridiculed the thought, refusing to believe that there was any possibility of danger. Nevertheless, Gardner advised that a warning be sent to the settlers urging them to concentrate at the Gardner cabin should trouble arise. To Harriott and Snyder this did not seem necessary: they left for home, protesting that there was no occasion for uneasiness. Gardner, however, told them that under the conditions then developing he did not plan to go to Fort Dodge.

In the meantime the Indians had not returned to their camp, but were seen to be prowling about in the vicinity of the Gardner cabin. On their way home Harriott and Snyder met and did some trading with a group of the red men by whom they had been intercepted. So sure were the two men that the Indians were friendly that they did not consider the fact of their presence worth mentioning as they passed the Mattock cabin. As a further indication of their confidence in the friendly character of the red men, it is noted that in a letter written by Dr. Harriott, presumably after his return from the Gardner cabin, he states that Indians had camped near by but they were very friendly and had occasioned no uneasiness among the settlers.

At the same time the fears of the Gardners were increased by the sight of Indians in the near-by timber and by occasional calls at the cabin where[Pg 100] new demands were made, many of which could not be met. Although the Indians seemed to maintain a certain gravity of demeanor and apparently were only seeking to gratify their physical wants, Gardner remained firm in his conviction that trouble was brewing and that the remaining settlers should be warned of the impending danger. After much counselling it was decided that Luce and Clark should go at once by a roundabout path along the lake shore to warn the other settlers and to advise that they gather in the Mattock cabin as the one best adapted for defense.

Luce and Clark set out upon their mission about two o’clock in the afternoon. They were to make their way first of all to the Mattock cabin, since it was nearer the Indian camp. Plans decided upon by Gardner, Luce, and Clark were also to be told to the Mattock people so that they might have ample opportunity to prepare for the proposed concentration of the settlers. After this they were to go as far and as rapidly as possible on their work of warning the settlers on the east lake before nightfall would of necessity end their mission.[153]

The fears of the people at the Gardner cabin had been considerably increased by the attitude of the Indians when they took their leave shortly after noon. During the whole of the forenoon they had done no damage to property, and their only overt act had been their behavior within the cabin in the early morning. But they seem now to have suffered a change of mind, for as they moved away[Pg 101] toward their camp they drove before them the Gardner-Luce cattle—about six in number—shooting them as they proceeded. Apparently there was no motive in doing this—unless, perhaps, it was the fiendish satisfaction in the taking of life. They did not seem to want the cattle as food, since they left them untouched.

About mid-afternoon a number of shots were heard in the direction of the Mattock cabin. As the afternoon wore away there came no evidence as to the meaning of the firing. The suspense became fearful as all manner of suggestions were offered in explanation of the shooting. Gardner reasoned that it could not have concerned Luce and Clark since they had had plenty of time to be further on their journey than the cabin of Mattock. Mrs. Luce became frantic, for she had believed from the first that her husband would never return. If the Indians should kill any one it would surely be Luce on account of his foiling the savages in their purpose in the morning; and in this intuition she was right. Luce and Clark had not gone far on their mission when they were intercepted and shot by the Indians. This fact, however, did not develop until weeks later when their dead bodies were found along the lake shore not a great distance from Luce’s home. Thus no warning of peril reached the Mattock family.

For two hours time dragged on slowly and fearfully at the Gardner home: all eyes watched either for Indians or for the return of the messengers.[Pg 102] Neither came. When the sun had sunk to the horizon Gardner stepped outside to look about. Suddenly he came running back calling that the Indians were coming. Upon entering the cabin he began barring the door, determined after the experience of the morning not to allow the red men to enter. Mrs. Gardner objected that they should have faith in the good intentions of the Indians and that it was better for one not to shed the blood of another. Yielding to her importunities, Gardner desisted from barricading the door. The family now awaited in terror the second coming of the Indians.

Looking through the windows they observed nine warriors hurrying toward them from the direction of the camp. With no more formality than during their morning visit they again entered the cabin. One glance sufficed to tell the frightened family that the anticipated trouble was upon them. The first demand of the Indians was for flour—not only for a part of what the Gardners had but for all. The scarcity of flour had been one of the reasons for the planned trip to Fort Dodge; and yet, at the risk of causing his family to suffer privation, Gardner turned to the flour barrel to gratify the demands of the Indians. As he turned a buck raised his gun to shoot. It seems that either Mrs. Gardner or Mrs. Luce made a move to stay the act of the Indian, but failed. Gardner fell to the floor, the third victim of the Indian massacre at Okoboji. Having made a beginning, the Indians no longer restrained the impulses of their savage nature.[Pg 103] After the killing of Gardner their stay at Okoboji became a carnival of murder.

As soon as Gardner fell, the quest for flour was lost sight of and the Indians turned upon the two women who had attempted to protect the object of their rage. Mrs. Luce and Mrs. Gardner were seized and held by several Indians while others beat them into insensibility and death with the butts of their guns. This was but the work of a moment. Indeed, so quickly had it been done that Abbie Gardner did not see the act herself; in her later relations of the affair she relied wholly upon stories related to her frequently by the Indians in their flight following the massacre. Without pause Mr. and Mrs. Gardner and Mrs. Luce were scalped—an act of savagery which the children were compelled to witness. When the Indians entered the cabin, Abbie was striving to quiet the younger child of her sister, while the other Luce child clung to one side of her chair and at the other side crouched Abbie’s brother, Rowland Gardner, Jr.

Having destroyed the parents, the Indians now turned to the destruction of the children. Rowland Gardner and the two Luce children were torn away from Abbie and beaten to death against the posts of the door and the trunks of trees in the yard. Dropping the dead bodies upon the ground, the Indians appeared to counsel concerning the further disposition of the house and its only living inmate. At the close of their deliberation Abbie was seized by one of the Indians and, much to her surprise,[Pg 104] was not killed but led away in the direction of the Indian camp. Her last sight of her family showed them strewn lifeless and bleeding about the doorstep of her home.[154]

Before the Gardner cabin was deserted by the Indians it was completely ransacked. Chests were broken open and their contents scattered about the house and yard. All available food stores and clothing were carried away to the camp. Abbie had abundant opportunity to learn this when later about their evening camp fires bucks and squaws alike, arrayed in the clothing of the murdered people, wildly recounted the incidents of the day. Although she had been carried away from her home without any provision for clothing against the winter’s cold, she was not allowed to share in the wearing of the stolen goods. Shivering from cold and fright, she witnessed the fiendish joy with which the events of that memorable day were told and retold by the Indians.

As the evening wore on preparations for the scalp dance began. Soon the rhythmic cadence of the hideous dance song started, and the scalps of the day, elevated on the ends of long poles, could be seen swaying back and forth marking time with the movements of the women who bore them. At every shriek of the dancing women, the captive girl doubtless thought her time had come. In the darkness, lighted occasionally by the flaring of a firebrand, the distorted and hideously painted faces of the savages swinging alternately backward and[Pg 105] forward in the dance must have seemed to the prisoner a veritable dance of demons. The dance lasted far into the night, with no sleep for the child who was momentarily expecting to fall a victim of savage fury. Toward morning the dance ended and the savages sought a brief respite in sleep to strengthen them for the work of the succeeding day. At the breaking of the early dawn the Indians were again astir, making preparations for a continuation of their bloody work.[155]

While the inmates of the Gardner cabin were being massacred similar events were transpiring at the home of the Mattocks. What actually happened at this cabin is not known, since no living witnesses, other than red men, survived to tell the tale. From the position of the bodies when found, it is inferred that the Mattocks must have sensed the situation; but thinking that their own home was lacking in security had started for the cabin of Harriott, Snyder, and Granger across the strait. Mrs. Sharp states that when the Indians brought her to their camp, which had been moved during the day and pitched near the Mattock home, the cabin was in flames and shrieks of human beings were issuing from it.[156] But this could hardly have been true unless there were persons staying at the Mattock cabin unknown to others in the settlement, since all the people were later accounted for in the bodies found.

Snyder, Harriott, and Harshman apparently discovered what was happening across the strait, and[Pg 106] with rifles in hand came to the rescue. This is inferred from the fact that their bodies were found in company with those of the Mattocks. Resistance had evidently been made by the men: it is not unlikely that they were attempting to cover the retreat of Mrs. Mattock and her children, since they were in advance, while Mattock, Snyder, Madison, Harshman, and Harriott were in the rear with the gun in each case lying by the side of the dead owner. Harriott’s gun had its stock broken as if it had been used for a club after other means of defense had been exhausted. Further evidence that resistance was offered to the Indians is to be found in the fact that one young Indian was badly injured, possibly by Dr. Harriott. No one, however, was spared in the attack by the Indians at that point: the dead bodies of eleven persons were found on the path between the two cabins. These were later identified as Mr. and Mrs. Mattock, their five children, Dr. Harriott, Bertell Snyder, Robert Madison, and Joseph Harshman.[157] To make the destruction more complete, fire was set to the Mattock cabin which was soon in ruins.

It is said that, leaving the Gardner cabin shortly after noon, the Indians had gone to Mattock’s cabin where they wished to get some hay with which to feed their ponies. While they were in the act of taking the hay objection was raised. A parley over the matter seems to have been carried on for some time before the Indians arrived at the killing point. Mattock sent to the Red Wing cabin for help, and[Pg 107] Harriott, Snyder, and Harshman responded. Meanwhile the Indians appeared to withdraw, and it was probably decided by Mattock, as a measure of added safety, to take the members of his family to the Red Wing cabin. They were in the act of doing so, Mrs. Mattock and the children ahead and the men in the rear guarding the retreat, when they were fired upon by the Indians from ambush. All were killed outright except Harriott, who resisted and before being disposed of had badly wounded at least one Indian.[158] In their relation of the event the Indians spoke of all having left the cabin before it was destroyed by fire.

Across the strait at the Red Wing or Granger cabin, Carl Granger, who for some reason remained at his cabin when the others crossed to the Mattock home, was brutally slain and scalped. The Indians killed him by splitting his head open with an ax which had evidently been taken from the wood pile near by.[159]

Thus the close of the first day of the massacre witnessed a toll of twenty lives. Three groups of settlers had been wholly wiped out—with the exception of one child who was carried away into captivity.

[Pg 108]


Although the scalp dance had continued far into the small hours of the previous night, the Indians were astir early on the morning of the ninth of March. They were determined upon completing the fiendish work which they had so well begun on the previous day. No council was held so far as the only white inmate of their tepees could discern. At the same time every Indian seemed to know where to go and what was to be done. There was no confusion of plans or hitch in their execution at any point.

It was on the morning of March ninth that a portion of the Inkpaduta band started for the Howe and Thatcher cabins which were nearly three miles from the Indian encampment. As already noted, the settlers about the lakes had established a sort of mutual exchange system among themselves for the purpose of husbanding their food supplies during the absence of Luce and Thatcher on the expedition to Waterloo and other points in eastern Iowa. This morning Mrs. Howe discovered that the supply of meal was so nearly exhausted that it would be necessary to procure an additional supply from one of the neighbors. Thus it was that on this Monday[Pg 109] morning Howe started on what proved to be a fateful trip to the home of either Gardner or Mattock. With his sack thrown over his shoulder he took the path along the south shore of the east lake. He was wholly ignorant of the recent arrival of the Indians.

As Howe walked briskly along he may have been revolving in his mind possible plans for his work in the coming season; or he may have been speculating as to when his neighbor Thatcher would return from the trip back east. Possibly he was cherishing the hope that the privations of the winter might have ample compensation in an abundant harvest. Whatever his thoughts may have been as he walked along the lake, they were soon brought to an end by the Indians, who in all probability quickly disposed of their victim. The details of the murder are not known; but the badly mutilated body was later found and given burial by the Fort Dodge relief party.

After murdering Howe the Indians stealthily hastened on to his cabin. Here the wife and children were as unprepared for the Indians as was the husband and father. Mrs. Howe was no doubt busy in the performance of her Monday morning duties. Engrossed with these activities she, in all likelihood, did not discover the approach of the red men until they were upon her. After killing Mrs. Howe the Indians proceeded to dispatch the remaining members of the family—a grown son and daughter, and three younger children. It seemed[Pg 110] obvious to the members of the relief party, from the conditions which they found at the Howe cabin, that there had been no resistance offered to the Indians. No scalping was done here or at any other place after the red men had left the Mattock cabin. Nor did the savages stop to plunder or destroy after taking the lives of this family, but hurried on to the next stage in their work—which consisted of dealing death to the members of the Noble and Thatcher families.

Arriving at the cabin of Noble and Thatcher the Indians secured admission by professing friendship. Here they made demands which could not be granted; and then, as at the Gardner home, they resorted to insult. Their insolence was resisted by Noble and one Ryan—a son-in-law of Howe who had but lately come from Hampton and was staying with the Nobles. This was evidently what the Indians desired, for without further provocation they shot both Ryan and Noble. The former was killed instantly; but Noble was able to walk to the door, where he fell dead after exclaiming “Oh, I am killed!” The two children were then torn from their mothers and dragged by the feet out of the house where they were dashed to death against the oak trees of the door yard. This seems to have satisfied the Indians’ desire for human blood, for they desisted from killing Mrs. Noble and Mrs. Thatcher. For some time the Indians busied themselves in destroying hogs and cattle and in chasing the poultry. Finally, they returned to the cabin[Pg 111] where they ransacked its contents, destroying what they did not happen to want. In the end Mrs. Noble and Mrs. Thatcher were seized and led away as prisoners.

Obviously the horrible work at the Howe cabin had not been completed to the satisfaction of the Indians, since upon their return trip they stopped and resumed the destruction of what life was still in evidence. Here a fearful sight met the eyes of the two captive women. Scattered about the door yard they saw the mutilated bodies of the members of the Howe family; while Mrs. Noble found the dead body of her mother under a bed where she had evidently crawled for the purpose of shielding herself from further attacks after she had been terribly beaten with a flatiron. In the yard Mrs. Noble found her thirteen year old brother Jacob, sitting propped up against a tree. He had been horribly beaten and evidently left for dead; but having managed to crawl to a tree he had raised himself to a sitting posture. Although conscious, he was unable to speak. Mrs. Noble urged him to make his way into the house and conceal himself in the clothing of a bed and there await rescue. The boy made the effort, but was discovered by the Indians and killed.[160]

Having completed their destructive work at the Howe cabin, the Indians hastened to their own camp. When Mrs. Noble and Mrs. Thatcher were brought into the camp, Abbie Gardner was permitted to visit them in the tepee set aside for the latest captives.[Pg 112] For about an hour the three captives were permitted to talk over their experiences, after which they were separated. Thenceforth each captive was required to remain in a tepee wholly separated and isolated from the others.

The captives were now subjected to training through which the Indians evidently hoped to re-make them into real pale-faced squaws. From the beginning they were required to paint their faces and dress their hair as Indians. They were frequently subjected to torturing ordeals which seemed to have no purpose other than that of noting what the reaction would be. At times they were, as far as the captives could discern, made ready for death so that the red men might see how they would behave under such trying conditions. Guns and revolvers would be loaded and with drawn triggers pointed at them as with intent to shoot, but no shooting occurred. These feints at shooting furnished the Indians a great deal of what appeared to be real amusement. For days they would recite again and again the details of the massacre at the lakes. But this treatment was only a foretaste of what was in store for the captives. For weeks, until they were released by death or ransom, they were to be subjected to nearly every annoyance that the ingenuity of the Indians might invent.[161]

[Pg 113]


Following the massacre little was done by the Indians except to search the vicinity of the lakes for the homes of other settlers. And so for a brief time scouting parties were at work; but obviously no other cabins were found, since the parties returned empty-handed. On the morning of Tuesday, March tenth, the camp was broken, West Okoboji was crossed on the ice, and after a move of three miles to the northwest, camp was again pitched in what was known as the Madison Grove. The Indians seemed inclined to move very deliberately. This may be accounted for by the fact that they knew they were not pursued. At the Madison Grove they remained 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.

From Gillett’s Grove the journey for the Indians had become easier inasmuch as they had procured horses and sleds. These must have been obtained by scouting parties while the main body was encamped at Lost Island Lake. Since the Indians had not learned how to hitch the horses to the sleds Abbie Gardner, Mrs. Noble, and Mrs. Thatcher now[Pg 114] undertook the task of teaching them how to handle horses and sleds with the thought that travelling might be made easier. In this they were mistaken; for no sooner had the red men learned their lessons than the bucks took to riding while the squaws and captives were required to walk and carry the heavy packs for the whole party. The horses and sleds were for pleasure and not for the transportation of freight and workers.

So deliberate were the movements of the band that although the camp was broken up early in the morning of Wednesday, the eleventh, it was not pitched at the new place, which was only a few miles to the north of Marble’s cabin, until late in the afternoon of the same day. As the Indians proceeded they made numerous side trips, partly for scouting purposes and partly for the pursuit of game. Frequently the squaws and captives found it necessary to pause in their march in order that the bucks might make these side excursions. Under more favorable conditions this would have been most welcome as a relief from fatigue, but now each stop was anticipated as a period of intense suffering from cold and exposure.

As the sun approached the western horizon the Indians began to exert themselves in quest of a suitable camping place for the night. After no little inspection of their surroundings, they decided to camp north of the Marble grove. In reaching this spot they had so circled the Marble cabin that they were not seen by the Marbles; nor had the captives[Pg 115] seen the cabin of their white neighbors. Although the captives could discern that a council was held that evening, they had no means of ascertaining its purpose.

Thursday, March twelfth, was a day of inactivity in the camp: the Indians spent the time in gorging themselves upon what food remained from their raids upon the larders and barnyards of the unfortunate white settlers. Nor is the statement fully substantiated that on Thursday a friendly Indian visited the Marbles and informed them that the settlers to the south had all been killed a day or two previously. Even though the suspicion of the Marbles had possibly been aroused, the depth of the snow would have made it difficult if not impossible for them to get out and attempt a verification of the Indian’s statement. Moreover, it does not appear that the Marbles took precautions against possible surprise.[162]

Upon the morning of Friday, the thirteenth, the Indians are said to have arisen early and with great care removed from their faces the paint which until now had indicated that they were on the warpath and which would have served as a warning to the Marbles whom they were now planning to visit.[163] Approaching the cabin they signalled protestations of friendship. Upon being invited to enter they set their guns down just without the door. This little procedure attracted the attention of Mrs. Marble, who had never before seen an Indian leave his gun outside the cabin. The Marbles had just risen from[Pg 116] the breakfast table when the Indians were seen to emerge from the timber and approach the house. Having entered the cabin the guests asked for food—a request which Mrs. Marble at once set about to gratify. While she was doing so the Indians, noting Marble’s gun, bantered him for a trade. Marble accepted the banter, and soon a deal was completed for one of the Indian guns. The outcome of the trade seemed to be a matter of no little elation for the Indians who hilariously turned to the food which had been placed before them.

After eating, the Indian with whom the trade had been made proposed that the relative worth of the guns should be determined by their actual use and indicated a desire for target practice. Although Mrs. Marble protested the advisability of such a contest her husband agreed to the proposal. When a suitable wooden slab had been secured and set up the practice shooting was begun. All went well, the Indians appearing to enjoy the sport immensely, until the impact of the shots caused the target to fall. The Indians indicated to Marble that he should replace the slab. Laying down his gun, Marble stepped out from the group. This guileless act on the part of Marble gave the Indians their opportunity for treachery. When the white men had gone but a short distance the Indians, as if by preconcerted action, raised their guns, took aim at Marble, and fired. Marble instantly fell dead.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Marble had been standing at the window watching the target work. When she saw[Pg 117] her husband lay down his gun and start to replace the mark she divined that treachery would follow. And so she left the window and started forward to warn her husband when the volley was fired into his back. Fleeing from the cabin, Mrs. Marble started for the timber; but she was soon overtaken and dragged back to the scene of her husband’s death and by signs told that she was to be held as a captive. Following the shooting the cabin was pillaged and Marble was stripped of a leather belt containing a thousand dollars in gold which he had planned to use in improving his claim at the earliest opportunity.[164]

With Mrs. Marble the Indians quickly returned to camp. Again, as after the taking of Mrs. Noble and Mrs. Thatcher, the captives, now four in number, were permitted to meet in the same tepee, while the Indians busied themselves in the adjustment of other matters. The meeting was brief and once again the captives were completely isolated from each other. That evening the events of the day were celebrated by a dance.

The massacre of Marble was the last act in the Indian attacks upon the white settlements at the lakes. Only four individuals had survived to tell the story of the frightful deeds committed since the morning of Sunday, March eighth. Of the four, only two were destined to return to the homes of friends or relatives and relate their tales of suffering and Indian cruelties.

When the work of destruction of the settlements[Pg 118] along the shores of East Okoboji, West Okoboji, and Spirit Lake was completed with the shooting of Marble, the total number of human lives taken reached thirty-two. The list comprised the following persons: Robert Clark, Rowland Gardner, Francis M. Gardner, Rowland Gardner, Jr., Carl Granger, Joseph Harshman, Isaac H. Harriott, Joel Howe, Millie Howe, Jonathan Howe, Sardis Howe, Alfred Howe, Jacob Howe, Philetus Howe, Harvey Luce, Mary M. Luce, Albert Luce, Amanda Luce, William Marble, James H. Mattock, Mary M. Mattock, Alice Mattock, Daniel Mattock, Agnes Mattock, Jacob M. Mattock, Jackson A. Mattock, Robert Madison, Alvin Noble, John Noble, Enoch Ryan, Bertell E. Snyder, and Dora Thatcher.[165]

The tale is told that, before leaving the region of the lakes, the Indians left a record of their deeds. They are reputed to have stripped the bark from the trunk of a large tree in the Marble grove and upon the white surface recorded in black paint a detailed description of their exploits. The number of cabins they had visited was shown as six, while the largest, presumably the Mattock cabin, was represented as in flames. The number of persons whose lives had paid the forfeit of their visit was also to be seen—each individual being so drawn as to show the position in which he had been left by his murderers. An attempt was even made to distinquish white men from red men—the white people being shown as pierced by arrows. This pictographic reproduction of the massacre is said to have remained clearly[Pg 119] visible for many years after the massacre and was frequently visited by interested or curious persons who came to the region.[166]

Upon leaving the Marble grove, Inkpaduta and his band moved leisurely in a northwestward direction. From the time of their departure from this point, the lot of the captives grew steadily more difficult to bear. The snows of winter melted under the influence of the spring sun on occasional days and caused the prairie trails to become two or three feet deep in slush, except on the exposed knolls which the winds had swept free from snow. In such places an opportunity was afforded the burden bearers to stand on reasonably solid footing. Not infrequently they would be compelled to flounder through gullies and ravines ten or twelve feet deep in soft, yielding snow; while an occasional stream must be waded waist deep in icily cold water. This made the plight of the unfortunate white women doubly hard.

Mrs. Thatcher, who had not been in good health at the beginning of her captivity, found the bearing of the burdens imposed upon her and the long, wearisome marches under such conditions nearly unendurable, but she sustained her strength with the hope that relief would come in time. The sublimity of her faith in rescue was of great inspiration to her companion sufferers who otherwise would soon have lost all hope. But, despite their faith and hope, the captives daily noted that their journey was leading them steadily farther away from the bounds of civilization.[Pg 120] No stop longer than over night was made by the Indians at any point in their march for nearly two weeks, when they arrived at Heron Lake, Minnesota, about thirty miles northwest of Spirit Lake and seventeen miles in the same direction from Springfield, Minnesota.

The encampments of the Indians from the time of leaving Spirit Lake had been of the most temporary character, but upon reaching Heron Lake preparations were made for a camp of many days duration. After completing the camp, Inkpaduta’s band at once prepared for a raid upon the white settlements in the vicinity. The warrior members of the band bedaubed their faces with paint, while the squaws hastened their departure by putting the weapons in condition and aiding in various minor ways. When all preparations had been completed, each warrior “with rifle in hand and scalping knife in belt” sallied forth to the taking of more human lives. The squaws and papooses were left at the camp to guard the captives, and upon the departure of the war party the women took every possible means of acquainting the captives with the fact that the expedition was one against the whites. It soon developed, from the direction taken by the party, that Springfield was their objective point.[167]

The food which the Indians had taken from the cabins of the massacred settlers was now nearly exhausted. Hence, upon the departure of the warriors there was rejoicing among the squaws who saw in the expedition the possibility of more feasting.[Pg 121] But what of the feelings of the captives? Who can picture the condition of the mind of Abbie Gardner when she realized that the Indians were bound for Springfield? There in the home of Dr. Strong was her sister, Eliza, who except for herself, was the only surviving member of the family that had come into the West. In all probability Eliza was doomed to the same fate as Abbie had seen meted out to her father, mother, relatives, and friends. The possibility was too horrible for contemplation. The mental anguish of the young girl became almost more than could be endured; but the hope of some saving miracle working for the life of her sister sustained her for the days of waiting that were to elapse before the return of the war party.

[Pg 122]


Morris Markham, who had followed the Okoboji settlers to the lake region, spent the winter in trapping along the lakes and in the marshes of the Upper Des Moines. He had brought with him a yoke of oxen which, during the early days of the winter, had strayed away and were thought to be somewhere in the valley of the Des Moines. But they could not be located; and finally the effort to trace them was abandoned. No information concerning their whereabouts had been received until the sixth of March, when Luce brought word that the oxen were to be found at Big Island Grove in Emmet County. On the following morning Markham left for Big Island Grove where he discovered and identified his property. After spending a few hours in visiting the settlers he started upon the return trip to the cabin of Noble and Thatcher. Owing to the state of the weather and the conditions of travel, he did not attempt to bring the oxen back at this time, but returned alone and on foot.

Owing to his imperfect knowledge of the country and to the darkness that had settled down before he had come within known territory, Markham missed[Pg 123] the cabin he was seeking and found himself instead at the Gardner home. As he approached the cabin he was surprised to find it deserted. No light could be seen nor was any sound to be heard. Looking more closely he saw the mutilated bodies of the Gardners scattered about the yard; and upon entering the open door of the cabin he beheld the badly pillaged condition of the once happy home.

It was nearly eleven o’clock on the Monday night following the attack upon the Gardners when Markham reached the scene of desolation and horror. Since he had been walking from early morning and had traveled more than thirty miles he felt the need of rest and food, and so without delay set out for the Mattock cabin. He had not gone far when he was startled by the barking of a dog in the low brush just ahead. Stopping and peering through the shrubs he saw directly across his path the camp in which the Indians were then sitting in solemn council over the events of the day. The barking of the dog for some unexplainable reason passed wholly unheeded by the Indians who continued in consultation over their fiendish deeds. Markham slipped by them and hastened as rapidly as he could across the ice of the east lake to the place he called home.

Upon his arrival at the Howe cabin the same scene of violence, confusion, and desolation greeted him. Sickened at the horrible sight, cold, hungry, and exhausted he pushed on to the home of Noble and Thatcher, hoping that there all would be well. Instead, he found only an empty cabin and murdered[Pg 124] friends. Afraid to pass the remainder of the night in a cabin which had been so fearfully visited, he dragged himself to a near-by timbered ravine where he remained until dawn. Fearful that if he lay down he would fall asleep and freeze to death—for the night was bitterly cold—he kept moving through a limited section of the ravine.[168]

With the coming of daylight Markham set out for the nearest settlement, which was Granger’s Point on the Des Moines River. With feet already badly bruised and frozen he journeyed on to spread the tidings of what he had discovered. Famished and half frozen, he struggled for eighteen miles through obstacles that would have deterred all but the most heroic. Completely exhausted from continuous exposure for thirty-six hours, he finally reached the home of George Granger, where he related the story of what he had seen.

Two trappers who happened to be staying temporarily at the Granger home started at once down the Des Moines Valley for Fort Dodge. Upon arriving at Fort Dodge they told the tale of the terrible massacre at the lakes, but their story was so confusing and incoherent that they were not believed. Those who had authority refused to act upon this recital of events; and thus it came about that the first warning of trouble along the frontier went unheeded.[169]

Resting for only a brief time at the Granger home, Markham accompanied by George Granger started north to Springfield to warn that group of settlers[Pg 125] against the Indians who had stricken Okoboji. It had occurred to them that the red men might also visit the Minnesota settlement; and they hoped to reach the place before the Indians appeared and thus prevent a repetition of the affair at the lakes.

At Springfield these bearers of bad tidings had a wholly different reception than that accorded the men who carried the news to Fort Dodge. No sooner did the people at this place become aware of the outbreak than they took measures looking toward protection from a similar attack. The coming of Markham and Granger was indeed fortunate, for if the information had not reached them when it did it is not unlikely that the settlers of Springfield would have met a fate similar to that of the people at Okoboji.

While some of the settlers fled at once upon receipt of the news, others remained; and a few gave their lives as the price of refusal to believe that danger was imminent. Among these was the Indian trader and settlement storekeeper, William Wood, who steadfastly refused to believe that a massacre would be attempted at Springfield. His refusal to believe that the community was in danger was doubtless due to the fact that he had traded with the Indians for years and did not note, in his recent dealings with them, any cause for alarm.[170]

The thought uppermost in the minds of most members of the settlement was to send a relief party to the lakes at once. After some deliberation this was deemed unwise: soberer second thought convinced[Pg 126] them that it would be better to take measures for their own protection. At the time there were fifteen able-bodied men and about twelve adult women in the village.[171] This number, it was argued, would make a reasonably efficient fighting force in case of attack—although they realized that they would be able to resist for only a brief time, since they were in no condition for a prolonged defense. And so it was decided to send messengers to the United States military authorities at Fort Ridgely for aid.

Two young men, Joseph B. Cheffins who had come thither with the trader William Wood, and a young German, Henry Tretts, were selected to bear the message for help to the Lower Agency of the Sioux.[172] These men carried with them a written statement of facts which was signed by individuals at Springfield who personally knew the agent of the Lower Sioux at Red Wood.[173] Cheffins and Tretts left Springfield at once, but they were not able to reach the Lower Agency until the eighteenth.

The trip was one of unusual privation. Owing to the exigencies of the situation, the men had left hastily and without making adequate preparation for the hardships of such a journey. The direct distance between the two points was not greater than seventy miles, but owing to difficulties encountered they had been obliged to detour and thus the distance traveled was more than one hundred miles. Under the most favorable conditions they made but little better than fifteen miles per day. The trip was undertaken on foot through deep snow and for most[Pg 127] of the way under the disabling effects of a dazzling sun. When the Lower Agency was reached they could scarcely see—so severely were they suffering from snow blindness. They were also physically exhausted, for they had traveled almost continuously with but very little rest. After their arrival they were forced to remain in bed for two days before they were able to begin the return journey to Springfield.[174]

[Pg 128]


Charles E. Flandrau was at this time the agent for the Lower Sioux, and as soon as he was informed of the situation to the south he proceeded at once to Fort Ridgely, which was located on the Minnesota River fourteen miles southeast of the agency. Here he immediately had an interview with Colonel E. B. Alexander of the Tenth Infantry who was then in command of the post. As the result of this conference, Colonel Alexander, on the morning of the nineteenth, ordered Company D of the Tenth Infantry, under the command of Captain Barnard E. Bee[175] and Lieutenant Alexander Murry, to prepare for an expedition to Springfield and if need be to Spirit Lake. So expeditiously did the military authorities operate that at half past twelve, less than three hours and a half after the order was issued, Captain Bee with a company of forty-eight men was on the march to the scene of reported trouble.[176]

Realizing that if they wished to make any considerable progress the company must travel by some other means than on foot, the expedition started in sleds drawn by mules. The original intention was to strike directly across the country in order to reach the afflicted people as soon as possible. But this[Pg 129] route had to be abandoned, for it was soon found to be impracticable owing to the depth of the snow. Captain Bee in reporting upon the march stated that he took, “by advice of experienced guides, a long and circuitous route down the valley of the Minnesota, as far as South Bend, for the purpose of following, as long as possible, a beaten track.”

Concerning the difficulties encountered on the trip Captain Bee reported that “the season was unpropitious for military operations; the snow lay in heavy masses on the track which I was following, but these masses were thawing and could not bear the weight of the men, much less that of the heavy sleds with which I was compelled to travel.

“The narrative of a single day’s march is the history of the whole: wading through deep drifts; cutting through them with the spade and shovel; extricating mules and sleighs from sloughs, or dragging the latter up steep hills or over bare spaces of prairie; the men wet from morning till night, and sleeping on the snow. Such were the obstacles I encountered while still on the beaten track, the terminus of which was a farm belonging to a man by the name of Slocum. From this point to the Des Moines was an unbroken waste of snow.”[177]

The route mentioned by Captain Bee would have taken him down the valley of the Minnesota for forty-five miles to Mankato—every mile of which would have carried him east of his objective point, Springfield. From Mankato, it must have been necessary to double back for twenty-five miles following[Pg 130] the course of the Watonwan to Madelia, a few miles southwest of which was the farm of Isaac Slocum. This was as far as any road could be followed, since the region beyond was a wilderness. Indeed Slocum’s was the westernmost white settlement in that section of the country. Captain Bee was still nearly fifty miles to the northeast of Springfield.

At the mouth of the Little Rock River, only a few miles below Fort Ridgely, Captain Bee secured a young half-breed guide, Joseph La Framboise, who was reputed to know the country well. But under the conditions then existing no guide could be expected to be infallible. The difficulties encountered only attested too well what could be looked forward to in the future. Agent Flandrau and his interpreter Philander Prescott, a French Canadian voyageur, also accompanied the party.

According to Flandrau “the first day’s march was appalling.” Indeed, at the close of this first day’s struggling he was willing to call the whole undertaking hopeless, because so “much time had elapsed since the murders were committed, and so much more would necessarily be consumed before the troops could possibly reach the lake, that I felt assured that no good could result from going on”.[178] On the following day Flandrau and Prescott, with “a light sleigh and a fine team”, forged ahead to Slocum’s farm in the hope of learning more details of what had taken place at the lakes. Finding the road beyond this point impassable they turned back. At[Pg 131] South Bend, on March twenty-second, they met Captain Bee’s expeditionary force. Feeling the absolute impossibility of pushing beyond Slocum’s, they advised him to turn back.[179] Although Captain Bee admitted the apparent hopelessness of the task, his military training prompted him to reply: “My orders are to go to Spirit Lake, and to do what I can. It is not for me to interpret my orders, but to obey them. I shall go on until it becomes physically impossible to proceed further. It will then be time to turn back”.[180] And so he pressed on.

On the morning of March twenty-sixth Captain Bee and his company of men left Slocum’s for Springfield.[181] Thus it happened that on the same morning that Inkpaduta and his party left Heron Lake, taking the direction of Springfield, the Fort Ridgely relief party left Slocum’s, pushing toward the same point. But mark the difference in their relative rate of progress. While Captain Bee, encumbered with the ponderous army equipment, found progress nearly impossible, Inkpaduta, unimpeded by equipment of any kind save rifles and scalping knives, easily covered the distance from Heron Lake to Springfield in one day.

[Pg 132]


Springfield had been located and platted by the Indian traders, George and William Wood, who built their post on the west side of the Des Moines; while the settlers who came later, mostly from Iowa, selected claims and built cabins on the east side of the river. The cabins of the settlers were not closely grouped, but were scattered up and down the river valley for seven or eight miles. Owing to this isolation the settlers could not be of much service to each other in the matter of defense. Moreover, the difficulty of successful individual defense was appreciated; and so at the conference which followed the arrival of Markham and Granger, it was decided to concentrate so far as possible.

In this conference the Wood brothers did not participate, as they scouted even the possibility of trouble—so confident were they of the friendliness of the Indians and of their own ability to keep them from hostile acts. According to Jareb Palmer, the Woods believed that only two houses had been robbed at the lakes, that the robbery had been laid to the Indians for no good reason whatever, and that in all likelihood it “had been done by the whites,[Pg 133] as there had been some difficulty at the Lake in regard to claims.”[182]

Having decided to concentrate, the Springfield settlers selected the cabins of James B. Thomas and William T. Wheeler as the points of defense. The Thomas cabin was distant about one and a half miles from the Wood brothers’ store, and the Wheeler cabin about three-quarters of a mile beyond that of Thomas. Various reasons led to the selection of these cabins, the principal of which were their size and the great strength with which they had been built. In the end it appears that not all of the settlers were gathered in these two cabins. The Joshua Stewart family, consisting of Mr. Stewart, Mrs. Stewart, and three children, were originally at the Thomas cabin; but owing to the physical condition of Mrs. Stewart, who had been overwrought by the fear of Indian attack, and the too crowded condition at the Thomas home, it was necessary for the family to return to their own home. This they did after a stay of two or three days at the Thomas cabin.[183] The Stewart cabin was located about one-half mile from that of Thomas.

At the Thomas cabin there remained nineteen individuals—the major portion of the settlement. These included Mr. and Mrs. James B. Thomas and six children, the oldest of whom was about thirteen; Mrs. E. B. N. Strong and two children; Mrs. William L. Church, two small children, and a sister, Miss Drusilla Swanger; Miss Eliza Gardner, a daughter of Rowland Gardner who was massacred[Pg 134] at Okoboji; John Bradshaw, Morris Markham, and David N. Carver.[184] At the Wheeler cabin were collected Mr. and Mrs. J. B. Skinner and two children; Mr. and Mrs. William Nelson and one child; Mr. and Mrs. Robert Smith; John Henderson; and the little son of Adam P. Shiegley.[185] Meanwhile a number of people had fled from the settlement as soon as the news of the massacre at the lakes had arrived. Thus, collected in two or three groups the Springfield settlers continued to live for several days without any sign of the approach of hostile Indians. In time their vigil relaxed, and at intervals a settler would leave the cabin to secure some much needed article. At no time for many days was anyone able to note any real cause for alarm in what was seen or heard.

The Thomas cabin, about which most of the events centered, was located in the edge of the timber which bordered the river. The design of the dwelling was that of the double type, each section being about sixteen feet square and joined by what was known in pioneer phraseology as a “dog trot”—a narrow and somewhat open connecting passageway. One part was used as a kitchen and a general livingroom; while the other part was reserved as a sitting room, which on occasion served as a spare bed-room. The one room faced the prairie; while the other looked out upon the timber of the river. The windows had been so placed that through them a view in all cardinal directions might be secured—which in addition to the port-holes was deemed a wise precaution. About ten rods from the cabin, and in the[Pg 135] edge of the timber, was the stable, near which were a hay rack and some stacks of hay. Beyond these was a ravine which descended rapidly to the river.[186] Out upon the open prairie, nearly three-fourths of a mile away, was the cabin of Adam Shiegley.

On the tenth day of March—before the arrival of Granger and Markham—Jareb Palmer and Nathaniel Frost had gone to the Slocum farm for the purpose of bringing home some supplies which had been abandoned some time previously in the drifts a few miles from the farm house. After an absence of nine days they returned on March nineteenth. The first house of the settlement reached by them was the store of the Wood brothers. Upon entering they found two strange Indians, “each of whom had a double barrelled gun, a tommyhawk and knife; one of them a very tall Indian was painted black; they were very busy trading and did not seem inclined to talk much, but said they were from Spirit Lake and that there were twenty lodges of them, all of whom would be at Springfield in two days. They purchased a keg of powder, some shot, lead, blankets, beads and other trinkets.”[187] When they had completed their varied purchasing, which amounted in all to more than eighty dollars, they paid for them in gold, which act aroused the curiosity of Frost and Palmer, as gold was an almost unknown form of money in that region.[188]

Before these Indians had completed their trading and departed, two friendly Indians, Umpashota, or Smoky Moccasin, and Black Buffalo, entered and[Pg 136] greeted them in a cordial manner. The two groups were soon engaged in conversation which grew excited and ended in the abrupt departure of the strangers. On the same day, Smoky Moccasin, for some reason that did not appear clear, moved his tepees to Coursalle’s trading post.[189] On the following day when he was interrogated by George Wood as to what he knew of the visiting Indians, Smoky Moccasin admitted that he had been told that “they had raided the Spirit Lake settlements, and killed all the inmates, except four young women prisoners without having one of their number injured in any manner.” When questioned further he “said he feared they were lingering somewhere in the neighborhood and intended more mischief. ‘At any rate’ said the Moccasin, ‘I am going to remain close to my camp for awhile.’”[190]

In spite of this evidence of Indian activity and the promise of a visitation the Wood brothers remained unconvinced that danger lurked near, and ridiculed the fears of the settlers on the east side of the river. But they were not the only ones who were now doubting Markham’s story: the failure of the Indian attack to develop had caused several of the settlers to ask why they had grown so alarmed. Among them gradually developed a feeling that they would like to hear a version of the story from one of their own number. Thus it transpired that Jareb Palmer volunteered to go to the lakes if some other man would accompany him. Markham, anxious to prove the correctness of what he had told, expressed his[Pg 137] willingness to make the return trip. On Saturday morning, March twenty-first, the pair set out, carrying supplies for a journey of two days. They planned to go first to the Marble cabin, and if all was well there they would go on down to the lower settlements on Okoboji. They had been instructed by the Springfield people to return at once if they found that the Marble cabin had been plundered and that the evidence of Indian attack was plain.

Having no definite route which they could follow with assurance, the men struck out boldly to the southwest across the trackless prairie in the general direction of the lakes. Without incident or loss of way they reached Spirit Lake and made their way to the Marble cabin, which was found deserted. A closer examination revealed the fact that trunks had been broken open and the contents of the house scattered everywhere. The body of Mr. Marble, however, was nowhere to be seen. Signs about the cabin seemed to suggest that the place had been visited some five days before the arrival of the men from Springfield, although there were fresh moccasin tracks along the lake shore which appeared to be only one day old. After examining the situation carefully the men decided to return at once, as enough had been seen to convince them that Indians had been there. Palmer was firmly convinced that Markham’s story was only too true. The return trip was made during the afternoon and the early evening of the same day without incident.[191]

[Pg 138]


The morning of March twenty-sixth dawned bright at Springfield; and the settlers at the Thomas cabin were astir early making preparations for the expected attack. The messengers from Spirit Lake had returned and no one longer doubted the strong possibility that Springfield would be visited by the Indians. While the supply of food, fire-arms, and ammunition which they had procured was sufficient for a resistance of some days, there was a shortage of wood. And so, on the morning of the twenty-sixth a number of the settlers were out chopping and hauling wood. As they carried on their preparations they hoped that the soldiers from Fort Ridgely would soon appear bringing the needed relief and protection. Cheffins and Tretts had been gone nearly two weeks; surely relief could now be expected any day or hour. Happy in the expectation that relief must be near the settlers slackened still more the vigil which they had been keeping and became somewhat careless. The forenoon wore away without incident, and a generous supply of wood was accumulated which would last for several days.

While preparations were thus going forward,[Pg 139] Inkpaduta and his band of red men were hastening from Heron Lake toward Springfield. The wily Inkpaduta did not wish to make a precipitate attack, for his spies sent out on the nineteenth had probably informed him of how the settlers were preparing for opposition. As his party stole into the timber along the Des Moines near the Thomas cabin, he sent scouts forward to reconnoiter. Thus while the unsuspecting settlers were at work the spies of Inkpaduta were stealthily lurking in the near-by timber stalking their white brothers as they would some wild beast of the forest.

The settlers were unable to complete the task which they had undertaken by noon, and as everything seemed so very favorable it was thought advisable to continue the work without interruption. Accordingly, they did not pause to eat the mid-day meal that had been prepared for them, but continued working until about two o’clock in the afternoon. They then withdrew into the cabin to eat their long deferred dinner. While thus engaged they were startled by a cry from Willie Thomas, who was outside at play and who now thought that Henry Tretts was coming.[192]

Immediately the people in the cabin rushed out hoping that the report was true and that the messengers sent to Fort Ridgely were in fact returning. In the distance a man was observed to be approaching. He was clad in civilian dress and to all outward appearances bore a close resemblance to one of the messengers. In fact, so close was the resemblance[Pg 140] that David Carver exclaimed, “Yes, it’s Henry Tretts!” But the words had scarcely been uttered before a volley of shots came from hitherto unseen guns in the direction of the timber. As near as could be determined fully a dozen guns had been discharged from the underbrush near the stable and hay stacks. The supposed white man was only a decoy Indian dressed in white men’s clothing and sent out for the sole purpose of drawing the settlers from the cabin. While he was slowly approaching the cabin, Inkpaduta and his men had crept up the ravine to the rear of the stable and posted themselves for action when the ruse worked out as planned.

In confusion the surprised settlers—men, women, and children—scrambled back into the cabin. Doors and windows were closed and barricaded, while women screamed. Bradshaw and Markham, as soon as the doors had been secured, seized their rifles and stood ready to shoot any Indian who might have the hardihood to show himself. The window shutters had been fastened open on the outside thus making it necessary to use the table to close one window; while puncheons were torn from the floor to cover other windows and aid in rendering the cabin bullet proof.

Meanwhile, the Indians kept up a constant fire; but Bradshaw and Markham kept them well in hiding by shooting at any who happened to show themselves. While the men were busy reloading, an Indian was seen to emerge from the brush near[Pg 141] the stable and start for the house. Mrs. Church hastily seized a loaded gun and, thrusting it through a porthole, fired. After the firing the Indian was nowhere to be seen and it was concluded that he had either been badly wounded or killed by the shot. Three or four Indians next appeared from a hazel thicket, but the emptying of the contents of a number of guns into their midst caused them to disappear. All of this had taken place in four or five minutes after the first volley fired by the Indians. In that brief time the Indian attack had been repelled, windows shuttered from within by temporary means, and all doors barricaded securely against a rush attack.

During the attack no one had had time or thought for anything except the necessity of repelling the Indians. When a lull came it was found that several persons had been wounded. Mr. Thomas was bleeding profusely from a wound in his left arm where a bullet had broken a bone. Later this wound, owing to lack of attention, became so irritated and infected that amputation was necessary. David Carver was suffering greatly, for a bullet or buckshot had passed through the fleshy part of his right arm, penetrated his side, and affected his lung; while Miss Swanger, who had been hit on the shoulder, was suffering considerably from pain and was very weak from the loss of blood. It was she who has been alluded to as saying that she was too weak to fight but could pray, and so fell “upon her knees, fervently petitioning the God of Battles[Pg 142] to help until the fight closed.”[193] Willie Thomas, who had given the alarm, was missing and no one seemed able to account for him until his older brother stated that after the door had been closed he heard groaning from the doorstep. It was presumed that the boy had been killed. At all events no one felt that it would be wise to open the door at this juncture. It later developed that he had been shot through the head and had probably died in a brief time.

There were now left in the cabin only three able-bodied men who could be counted upon for effective defense. These men were Jareb Palmer, John Bradshaw, and Morris Markham. Dr. Strong had gone to the Wheeler cabin that forenoon to dress the wounds of Smith and Henderson and had not returned at the time of the attack.[194]

The heavy firing by the Indians did not continue for more than seven or eight minutes when it became desultory in character. Occasionally an Indian would be seen skulking through the edge of the timber, but not one allowed himself to come within range of the cabin. It is presumed that they had counted upon a complete surprise as at Okoboji and were not supplied with the ammunition necessary to conduct a continuous attack. The firing, however, continued until sunset. It was later discovered that the Indians had withdrawn at this time, although this fact was not known to the inmates of the cabin. The desultory nature of the Indian fire had allowed the settlers to prepare, and[Pg 143] soon six guns were projecting from as many port-holes and covering as many possible lines of approach. This evidence of readiness in the cabin may have led the Indians to defer or abandon their attack.[195]

Meanwhile, the Wood brothers were paying dearly for their misplaced confidence in the peaceful intentions of the red men. It was reported—but the statement has never been confirmed—that when the firing upon the Thomas cabin began William Wood, thinking no harm would come to him, started to cross the river with a view to investigating the cause. When he reached the west bank of the stream, he ran into a group of Indians who at once riddled him with bullets. It is further asserted that a pile of brush was then collected, his lifeless body thrown upon it, and the whole set on fire. This conclusion is drawn from the fact that in a pile of wood ashes, not far from the river’s edge, a group of the Fort Ridgely soldiers later found charred human bones and with them a twenty dollar gold piece.[196] The body of George Wood was found, while that of William Wood was never discovered—unless the charred bones indicated his fate. Since the Wood brothers were the only persons in the settlement who had gold coin it was thought that the remains in the ashes were those of William Wood.

George Wood, who had remained at the store in his brother’s absence, possibly witnessed his brother’s fate and attempted to forestall a similar[Pg 144] one for himself by striving to reach the settlers’ cabins. But he was too late. He succeeded in reaching the river and in crossing it, but while trying to secrete himself in the underbrush he was seen by the Indians and shot. His body was subjected to no further violence.[197]

It would seem that during the afternoon, while the attack was being made upon the Thomas cabin, Inkpaduta selected three of his band to raid the remaining cabins or at least to investigate them for plunder in case they should be found abandoned. It was probably this trio of Indians who attacked and killed George and William Wood.

The first cabin visited by the three Indians was that of Joshua Stewart. Mr. Stewart was called to the door by one of the number and requested to sell a hog. Some gold coins were displayed by the Indian as evidence that the hog would be paid for when purchased. Mr. Stewart being willing to sell, stepped back into the house to secure his cap and coat. When he reappeared and stepped out into the yard, he was instantly shot by the two Indians who had not appeared to be concerned in the deal. Upon hearing the shots, Mrs. Stewart and the children ran out of the cabin. They, too, were instantly shot down by the Indians and their bodies horribly mutilated with knives.

According to Captain Bee, it was here that “the savages revelled in blood. When I visited the spot, the father lay dead on his threshold, the mother, with one arm encircling her murdered infant, lay[Pg 145] outside the door, and by her side was stretched the lifeless body of a little girl of three summers”.[198] But Johnny, a lad of perhaps ten years, eluded the Indians and made his escape. In his own relation to the people at the Thomas cabin he stated that he hid behind a log in the yard while the savages did their work of murder and plunder. After they left he ran to the cabin of Robert Smith, but was frightened away; from there he made his way to the Thomas cabin where he arrived at dusk and was taken in by the inmates—who, however, came near shooting him for an Indian prowler.[199]

After completing their ghastly work at the Stewart home, the Indians returned in the direction of the Wood store, which they probably planned to pillage. When passing the Wheeler home, they attempted no further molestation than to shoot an ox and empty the contents of their guns into the cabin. One of the charges narrowly missed Mr. Henderson who was lying helpless as the result of his recent amputations. For some reason the Indians did not take the trouble to determine whether any people were really occupying the house.[200] From here the Indians appear to have gone directly to the Wood store, where they finished their work and then departed for Heron Lake. At the time, however, the departure of the Indians was not known to the terrified inhabitants of the settlement.

At the Wood store on the west side of the river guns, powder, shot, and lead were found in reasonably large quantities and appropriated. But this[Pg 146] was not all; food and dry goods were also found and taken. It is said that when they returned to Heron Lake “they had twelve horses, heavily laden with dry goods, groceries, powder, lead, bed-quilts, wearing apparel, provisions, etc.... Among this plunder were several bolts of calico and red flannel. Of these, especially the flannel, they were exceedingly proud; decorating themselves with it in fantastic fashion. Red leggings, red shirts, red blankets, and red in every conceivable way, was the style there, as long as it lasted.”[201]

[Pg 147]


When quiet had reigned for some little time and darkness had fallen, there being no signs that the Indians would reopen their attack, the inmates of the Thomas cabin began to discuss the best course to pursue. It was the general belief that they would again be attacked if they remained: in fact they reasoned that to remain would be to invite an attack. But would not the soldiers from Fort Ridgely soon bring relief? And yet they had no means of knowing whether their messengers had ever reached that post. Having reached the fort, might not their story have been received in the same manner in which the people of Springfield had greeted the tale of Markham? No idea had been gained as to the numerical strength of the Indians: although they seemed to be about twelve in number, there was a possibility that they might be ten or twenty times as many, and well prepared to carry the attack through to a conclusive end.

Some suggested flight; but there seemed to be many obstacles to such a course. Nothing was known of the whereabouts of the Indians: they might be lurking near the cabin awaiting the appearance of its inmates for the purpose of picking[Pg 148] them off as they came out. Again, they were more than fifty miles from any adequate place of refuge; while the nearest settlement was no less than fifteen miles away. But worst of all the snow was deep and there was not even a known trail upon the wintry wastes that could be followed with certainty. Moreover, there were among them three badly wounded people whose suffering would only be intensified by the cold and exposure incident to such a flight. And there were children in the party: would they be able to endure such a journey as flight would compel them to undergo? From the hardships encountered by Markham in his trip from the lakes it was known that a journey of fifty miles under the existing conditions of weather would be a hard trial of endurance, even for the strongest and most rugged person.

In the course of the discussion someone called attention to the fact that the Indians had driven away the Thomas horses. How were they to move Carver who was unable to walk and Thomas who was so weak that at best it was believed he could live but a short time? Carver was willing to be left behind if by so doing the safety of the others could be assured; but none of his companions were willing to consider such a proposition. When the thought of flight was about to be abandoned someone recalled that the Indians had not taken the Thomas oxen. If they had not been killed, they must be safe in the stable. Markham, who had twice before volunteered to risk his life, offered to go to the[Pg 149] stable, and if the oxen were there hitch them to the sled and drive to the door.[202] Meanwhile, in the cabin preparations were to be made for flight.

When Markham returned to the cabin he reported that every thing seemed to indicate that the Indians had given up the attack and left the vicinity. He had been gone nearly half an hour, which led the people in the cabin to fear that he too had fallen a victim of Indian lust. And so they were overjoyed when he finally appeared at the door with the ox-drawn sled. Feather ticks were first taken to the sled and upon them the wounded Thomas, Carver, and Miss Swanger were placed. Around them were packed such articles as were deemed necessary upon the journey.

The night sky was obscured by clouds and the darkness was intense, which would make it possible for the fleeing settlers to elude the watchfulness of the Indians if any happened to be lurking in the vicinity of the cabin. About nine o’clock the nineteen frightened and wretchedly equipped refugees left the Thomas cabin.[203] Ahead of the oxen walked Markham, Bradshaw, and Palmer, with rifles in their hands, ready to protect the women, children, and wounded from possible attack. Then came the ox-drawn sled piled with feather beds, the wounded, blankets, bed-quilts, and provisions. Upon either side and behind the sled walked the women, carrying or leading the children.

Progress was slow since no distinct trail could be discerned in the darkness. Frequently they[Pg 150] would stop and by signs and consultation assure themselves that they were moving in the proper direction. Often they missed the way and were compelled to alter their course. At two o’clock in the morning, having made an advance of only five miles, they concluded to halt and await the dawn.[204] Where they were they did not know. Blankets and bed-quilts were spread upon the snow; and upon these the women, children, and wounded lay down, while the men stood guard. With the coming of day the refugees again pushed forward, but found that they could make little headway because of the deep snow drifts through which the men had to break a way for the oxen and sled.

In less than an hour the party, finding further progress well-nigh impossible, decided to halt. After some deliberation it was decided to send Palmer ahead about ten miles to Granger’s Point for help. Palmer, having succeeded in making his way to the Point without incident, returned with George Granger, who very willingly brought his ox team to the rescue of the stranded settlers. A Mr. Addington also accompanied Palmer upon the return trip. When about a mile to the north of Granger’s place a man was observed on the open prairie. Addington jumped off the sled and started toward him. The man turned and ran, but was soon overtaken. He was found to be Dr. Strong of Springfield who had fled from the Wheeler cabin that same morning, supposing that his wife and children had been killed in the attack upon the Thomas cabin.

[Pg 151]

In the meantime the stranded settlers, thinking they saw Indians in pursuit, had left their wounded companions in the sled and taken to the open prairie in flight—an effort which greatly exhausted the women. Returning to the sled the march onward to Granger’s Point was resumed. After remaining here for two days to recuperate they continued their journey southward toward Fort Dodge.[205]

It will be recalled that the Wheeler cabin had received but one volley from a group of three Indians who passed without stopping. The inmates had doubtless heard the continuous firing in the direction of the Thomas cabin during the afternoon and had surmised that something serious must have happened. As all was quiet at the cabin on the following morning, the anxiety of Mrs. Robert Smith to know what had really transpired at the Thomas cabin overcame her fears. With the fortitude characteristic of pioneer women, she determined to visit the cabin as early as possible. When she arrived at the cabin she found the body of Willie Thomas lying at the side of the doorstep. Greatly alarmed she investigated no further, but returned at once to the Wheeler cabin. Her hasty conclusion was that all the inmates of the Thomas cabin had been murdered by the Indians. Thus Dr. Strong, having heard the report of Mrs. Smith, concluded that his family had been murdered and that his own safety was all that was left for him to consider; and so he fled toward the settlements in Iowa.

[Pg 152]

The flight of Dr. Strong left Mr. Skinner as the only able-bodied man at the Wheeler house. He and the three women—Mrs. Skinner, Mrs. Nelson, Mrs. Smith—decided to escape if possible before receiving a second visit from the Indians. Mrs. Smith strongly protested against the plan of leaving her husband, but he bade her go and save her own life.[206] The problem of escape with these people was a vastly more difficult one than with the party at the Thomas cabin, since they had no team or other means of transportation. From the first it was evident that the disabled men must be abandoned—a plan in which the men themselves willingly acquiesced.

After providing for the comfort of those who were to be left behind, Mr. Skinner and the three women set out. Smith attempted to follow, but was compelled to return to the cabin after again overcoming the objections of his wife at going without him. The only individual, other than Smith and Henderson, who could not be taken was the little son of Adam P. Shiegley. After the departure of the grownups this boy made his way to the home of a settler who had not been disturbed and was there well taken care of until found by his father who later came in search of his son. Two days later, on Sunday, March twenty-ninth, the Wheeler party arrived at Granger’s Point where they joined the people from the Thomas cabin.[207]

[Pg 153]


On the morning of March twenty-sixth the relief expedition from Fort Ridgely was laboriously seeking to make its way through nearly impassable drifts of snow. Captain Bee had scarcely struck camp that morning when two white men from the Des Moines River—probably Nelson and Frost from Springfield—came in for supplies. They reported that the Indians, to the number of thirty lodges, were encamped at Coursalle’s Grove about eight or nine miles to the north of Springfield. Coursalle, known as “Gaboo” among the borderers and settlers, was a half-blood Sisseton who was well-known throughout the surrounding country as a trapper, trader, and intermediary between the whites and the Indians. With this information Captain Bee pushed forward with renewed energy, hoping to reach Coursalle’s before the Indians should leave.

After encountering and overcoming nearly insurmountable obstacles of roads and weather Captain Bee finally reached the trader’s post. The grove and its vicinity were thoroughly reconnoitered with no success other than the rounding up of Coursalle and his family. Coursalle grudgingly[Pg 154] gave the information that Inkpaduta’s band had in truth wiped out not only the settlements at the southern lakes, but also those at Springfield. From Springfield the Indians had gone to Heron Lake, twenty-five miles to the west, and were headed for the Yankton country on the Missouri. Further knowledge concerning their whereabouts Coursalle said he did not have.

Coursalle seemed so confident that the Indians were still at Heron Lake that Captain Bee decided to pursue and punish them before going to Springfield with his command. Having been told that only the dead were to be found at either Spirit Lake or Springfield, he concluded that little could be gained and perhaps everything lost if he should hasten to the scenes of the massacres and allow the perpetrators of the horrible deeds to escape without punishment. Hence “at retreat” that evening he called for no less than twenty volunteers to go on an expedition early the next morning for the purpose of punishing the Indians. The response from the men was unanimous, and when early morning came Captain Bee and Lieutenant Murry with the guides, Coursalle and La Framboise, together with all the men of the command, started out. It was expected that upon the approach of the soldiers the Indians would probably attempt flight. To prevent their succeeding in this, the teamsters were taken along to lead the mules, numbering thirteen in all, to be used as mounts in the pursuit of the fleeing Indians.[208]

[Pg 155]

The road taken under the guidance of Coursalle led them in a direct line across the open prairie from the trading post to the lake. This open route was taken because it shortened the distance to fifteen miles between the two points. The approach to the lake proved easy, and by ten o’clock the lake had been reached and wholly surrounded by Captain Bee’s men so that it would have been difficult for any one to have escaped unnoticed. The instructions were that when the camp and Indians were found a single shot should be fired as a signal for the ingathering of the troops. In about a half hour after the deploying of the men a shot was heard in the direction taken by La Framboise. He had found the place of their camp, but the Indians themselves had gone. The camp gave every evidence of the destruction of the settlements “with all its traces of plunder and rapine; books, scissors, articles of female apparel, furs, and traps, were scattered on the ground”.[209] The guides, after examining the ashes of the camp fire and other signs, pronounced the camp to be about three or four days old. If such were the truth, it was plain that further pursuit would be useless.

There was, however, one more hope which was eagerly seized by Captain Bee. Coursalle suggested that possibly the band had moved to another lake about four miles to the northwestward. This lake being much larger and its borders more heavily timbered the Indians might have gone on to it for better concealment. Such a possibility appealed[Pg 156] to Captain Bee, who was not long in detailing Lieutenant Murry with ten men and Coursalle as guide to make a dash to that point by means of mule mounts. If signs there should prove as old as at the first lake the members of the party were instructed to lose no time in returning, since further pursuit would be useless. The dash was made as planned; and signs in abundance were found, but Coursalle pronounced them to be at least twenty-four hours old. Such being the case Lieutenant Murry returned to the main command.

It has been charged that Coursalle lacked good faith in that he purposely declared the signs many hours older than they were in order to assure the escape of the Inkpaduta band.[210] Captain Bee, however, stated in a public letter that “Gaboo was in front of my men” and “his whole demeanor convinced me that he had come out to fight”, for his life had been threatened by the band.[211] It was also further charged that Mrs. Coursalle was observed wearing Mrs. Church’s shawl; but this was discredited by several competent observers. The fact remains, however, that Captain Bee’s men approached much nearer the band than they knew—which gives color to the view that Coursalle either practiced deception or was not wise in wood and camp lore.

How near the troops came to the Indian band is disclosed in the testimony of both Mrs. Sharp and Mrs. Marble who were with the Indians as captives. They both state that at three o’clock in the[Pg 157] afternoon Lieutenant Murry’s men reached the same place that the Indians had left at about nine in the morning. Furthermore, the Indians were even then within reach, being encamped on a low stretch of ground bordering a small stream just over a slight rise of ground west of the lake. They were so located that while the Indian lookout was able from the treetops to see for miles around, the camp itself could not easily be seen.

Mrs. Sharp relates that as soon as the lookout reported the approach of the soldiers of Lieutenant Murry, “the squaws at once extinguished the fires by pouring on water, that the smoke might not be seen; tore down the tents; packed their plunder; and ... one Indian was detailed to stand guard over us, and to kill us if there was an attack. The rest of the warriors prepared for battle.... The excitement manifested by the Indians was for a little while intense; and although less manifested ours was fully as great, as we were well aware that the Indians meant all they said when they told us we were to be shot, in case of an attack. We therefore knew that an attack would be certain death to us, whatever the results might be in other respects. After an hour and a half of this exciting suspense ... a sudden change came to us. The soldiers, it seems, just here decided to turn back.”[212]

Upon Lieutenant Murry’s return, it was decided to give up the pursuit. This decision was based in part upon the report made by Lieutenant Murry[Pg 158] and Coursalle and also on the fact that the supplies were nearly exhausted. From this point Captain Bee’s command went to Springfield. Here Smith and Henderson were found in the Wheeler cabin where they had been left two days previously. They were in good spirits despite their desolation. They had been visited by Mr. Shiegley who was in search of his boy. These men related to Captain Bee the story of events so far as they knew it, telling of the flight of their companions in the direction of Granger’s. Captain Bee at once sent a man in search of the fugitives who were to be invited to return. They were to be assured that the Indians were gone and that a guard of soldiers would be stationed at Springfield for their protection. The messenger, however, failed to overtake the refugees and in a few days returned. Meanwhile, Captain Bee sent a detail of twenty men under Lieutenant Murry to Spirit Lake to bury the dead. Murry went no farther than the Marble cabin where he found and buried Marble’s body and then returned to Springfield.

In a final adjustment of matters, Captain Bee left a detail of twenty-eight non-commissioned officers and privates at Springfield under Lieutenant Murry. This detail, while only temporary, remained until April twentieth when it was relieved by a second detail which, under Lieutenant John McNab, remained until late in the fall of 1857. Captain Bee reported at Fort Ridgely on April eighth, after an absence of about three weeks.[213]

[Pg 159]


When the citizens of Fort Dodge and Webster City were convinced by repeated tales of Indian horrors that assistance was needed they organized a relief party to fend off the savage forays of the Sioux. The trials and sufferings of this little volunteer band have few if any parallels in the pioneer history of the Mississippi Valley. Unprepared for such a venture as the journey proved to be, they nevertheless met its ordeals with a courage that attests the hardihood of the pioneers who chose the task of advancing the frontier.

Early in November, 1856, Orlando C. Howe (a lawyer and later a professor of law at the State University of Iowa), R. U. Wheelock, and B. F. Parmenter, guided by a well-known and widely experienced western trapper, Wiltfong, came from Newton, Jasper County, Iowa, to the lake region on a land-hunting tour. They were particularly attracted by the natural beauty of the region and before leaving staked out claims to the southeast of Marble’s place on what is now the site of the town of Spirit Lake. Like many other prospective settlers at that time they did not plan to remain during[Pg 160] the winter season; and so, after visiting for some days among the settlers on the south and east shores of the Okobojis, they returned to Jasper County. The route homeward led them to Loon Lake, where they are said to have found Inkpaduta’s band encamped. The band seems to have been peaceful enough at the time of the visit; indeed, they made a rather favorable impression upon these prospective settlers.

Although the season had been severe Howe, Wheelock, and Parmenter expected the usual breaking of winter during the closing week of March, when they anticipated that travel across the prairies would be difficult if not impossible owing to the overabundance of snow. It was to forestall delays caused by the melting snows that they started about the first of March for the lake region with ox wagons heavily laden with seed, food supplies, and agricultural implements. From the very start they made but indifferent progress owing to the deep snows and continued intensity of the cold. Tarrying but a short time at Fort Dodge to replenish their supplies and renew former acquaintances, they proceeded up the west side of the Des Moines Valley to their destination. Following the trail up this side of the valley, they missed the two trappers who came down from Granger’s Point carrying the news of the massacre to Fort Dodge. When within two or three miles of their destination, and somewhere to the southeast of Gar Lake, on the evening of March fifteenth their oxen became too exhausted to[Pg 161] proceed further. Temporarily abandoning the load and the oxen, the men went forward on foot to the settlements along the East Okoboji Lake.

About midnight, after spending several hours in groping their way through the timber along the lake, they came to the Noble and Thatcher cabin. Failing to receive a response after repeated rapping upon the door they pushed the door open and entered only to find everything in confusion. Hesitating to remain for the night amid such evidences of violence, they left at once and made their way along the trail in the direction of the cabin of Joel Howe. At this cabin likewise on account of the darkness they did not discover that there were dead bodies lying in the yard. Entering they found the cabin deserted; but the hour was so late that they decided to remain and make further investigations on the morrow.

The following morning they soon discovered the dead bodies in the yard and other evidences of an Indian visit. From here they crossed the east lake to the Mattock cabin, which they found in ashes; while the clearing around the cabin was strewn with the bodies of the slaughtered members of the family. They now had all the evidence necessary to convince them that an Indian war party had visited the settlement and wiped out the white population. Without further delay they started for the settlements to the southeast along the Des Moines. So anxious were they to spread the news as speedily as possible that Parmenter remained behind to follow[Pg 162] more slowly with the oxen, while the other two men rushed on ahead on foot. On Saturday evening, March twenty-first, they arrived at Fort Dodge with the news of the Indian massacre at the lakes. So well-known was Howe in that vicinity that no one hesitated to believe the information which he brought of the Indian raid on the frontier.[214]

When Howe and Wheelock had recited the story of conditions as they found them at the lakes, it coincided so nearly with information already brought to the community that no one could doubt the urgent need for immediate action. And so it was resolved to hold a meeting for the purpose of determining the course to be followed. This meeting was called for the next afternoon (which was Sunday) in the schoolhouse of the village. When the meeting convened practically every able-bodied man in Fort Dodge and vicinity was present. Major William Williams presided as chairman, and Charles B. Richards acted as secretary.[215] Howe and Wheelock were called upon to relate their tale of horrors at the lakes. The recital gave rise to great excitement: the people realized their own proximity to danger.

It was the unanimous sentiment of the meeting that immediate and resolute action should be taken to deal with the situation. The chairman, Major Williams, read a commission held by him from Governor Grimes empowering him in any emergency that might arise to take such action as seemed best in the light of existing circumstances.[216][Pg 163] It was thereupon resolved that at least two companies of volunteers should be called for and sent to the lakes to rescue the living, bury the dead, and if possible overtake and punish the perpetrators of the massacre. Nearly eighty men volunteered at once to join the proposed expedition.

Before the meeting adjourned a messenger, in the person of a Mr. White,[217] was named to carry the news of the massacre to Homer, Border Plains, and Webster City, and to ask the coöperation of these communities in the recruiting of members for the expedition. To make the plea for assistance as effective as possible, Howe was requested to accompany the messenger to these places. The response at Webster City was as spontaneous as at Fort Dodge. Upon the arrival of the messengers a meeting was called in the village schoolhouse, so that all might hear the story of the Indian outrages. Volunteers were called for, and by nine o’clock on the morning of the twenty-third a company of twenty-eight men had been selected to undertake the expedition. Only young men were encouraged to volunteer, since it was thought that the older men would not be able to undergo the trials of the trip to and from the lakes. But when both young and old insisted upon going a sort of selective draft was resorted to. On Monday morning, March twenty-third, all who had volunteered were ranged in a row and J. D. Maxwell, the county judge, was called upon to make the selection, which he did to the satisfaction of all.[218]

[Pg 164]

But there were problems other than the securing of volunteers to be met and solved—such as the procuring of tents, provisions, wagons or sleds, and teams, without which the expedition would have little hope of success. By contributions the company was provided with a varied collection of fire-arms, a wagon, two or three yoke of oxen, food, and some extra clothing and blankets. Among those who gave liberally were “W. C. and S. Willson, A. Moon, the Brewers, Charles T. Fenton, S. B. Rosenkrans, the Funks, E. W. Saulsbury and B. S. Mason.”[219] At this time the village of Webster City could boast of but few people who were able to provide much assistance; but each did his best and in the end the volunteers were reasonably well outfitted for the journey.

Departure from Webster City was delayed until one o’clock in the afternoon of the twenty-third, owing to the difficulty of securing the necessary equipment for the men. Even then they were not adequately equipped. Indeed, it was impossible to foresee and prepare for the trials to be faced on the expedition. Moreover, not one of these people had had any experience in contending with the elements under such conditions as then prevailed.

The Webster City company arrived at Fort Dodge about nine o’clock in the evening of the same day and was given a rousing welcome. No better testimonial to the spirit and determination of the men, untrained as they were, can be given than to say that they made the march of more than twenty[Pg 165] miles in eight hours over nearly impassable roads. The snow had thawed just enough to cause it to yield readily under the tread of the men—making the march one continuous flounder from Webster City to Fort Dodge.[220]

In the evening, immediately following the arrival at Fort Dodge, officers for the company were chosen by ballot. The company as then organized was designated as Company C and was officered as follows: John C. Johnson, Captain; John N. Maxwell, First Lieutenant; Frank B. Mason, Second Lieutenant; Harris Hoover, Sergeant; and A. Newton Hathaway, Corporal. The privates were William K. Laughlin and Michael Sweeney of the Webster City settlement; and Thomas Anderson, Thomas B. Bonebright, James Brainard, Sherman Cassady, Patrick Conlan, Henry E. Dalley, John Erie, Emery W. Gates, John Gates, Josiah Griffith, James Hickey, Humphrey C. Hillock, M. W. Howland, Elias D. Kellogg, A. S. Leonard, F. R. Moody, John Nolan (or Nowland), J. C. Pemberton, Alonzo Richardson, Patrick Stafford, and A. K. Tullis of the country immediately adjacent to Webster City.[221]

Captain Johnson was not a Webster City man but came from Bach Grove. In view of the later incidents of the trip his enlistment was somewhat pathetic. He arrived in town, after the beginning of the meeting, which he attended with a friend. He was so impressed by the spirit of the occasion that he volunteered, being one of the first who expressed a willingness to go. He at once sent word to his[Pg 166] mother concerning the mission upon which he was going, saying that he probably would not see her for some time—not thinking that it might be his lot never to return.[222]

While news of the massacre was being carried to Homer, Webster City, and Border Plains, the citizens of Fort Dodge and vicinity were hard at work organizing their groups of volunteers, so that by the time the Webster City unit had arrived they were ready for some form of united action. Here too it was thought best to select only the younger men, since the inclemency of the weather as well as the marching conditions at this time would be a severe drain upon the physical endurance of the strongest. In addition it was recognized that the young men would not have in many instances the care of dependent families. Fully eighty men had stepped forward in response to the call for volunteers, and from these two companies were organized.

Early on Monday morning each of the two companies selected officers. Charles B. Richards, who had acted as secretary of the first general meeting, was selected as Captain of Company A; while John F. Duncombe was chosen to head Company B. Captain Richards at once selected Franklin A. Stratton as First Lieutenant, L. K. Wright as Sergeant, and Solon Mason as Corporal; while Captain Duncombe named James Linn as First Lieutenant, Smith E. Stevens, Second Lieutenant, William N. Koons, Sergeant, and Thomas Callagan as Corporal of Company B.[223]

[Pg 167]

The Roster of Company A at the time of its organization on March 23rd comprised the following privates: George W. Brizee, William E. Burkholder, Henry Carse, —— Chatterton, Julius Conrad, L. D. Crawford, J. W. Dawson, William De Fore or William A. De Foe, John Farney, William N. Ford, John Gales, William McCauley, E. Mahan, Michael Maher, B. F. Parmenter, W. F. Porter, L. B. Ridgeway, George P. Smith, Roderick A. Smith, Winton Smith, Owen S. Spencer, C. Stebbins, Silas Van Cleave, D. Westerfield, and R. U. Wheelock.

In Company B were enrolled the following: Jesse Addington, D. H. Baker, Hiram Benjamin, Orlando Bice, R. F. Carter, Richard Carter, Michael Cavanaugh, A. E. Crouse, John Hefley, Orlando C. Howe, D. F. Howell, Albert S. Johnson, Michael McCarty, G. F. McClure, Robert McCormick, John N. McFarland, A. S. Malcolm, Daniel Morrissey, Jonas Murray, Daniel Okeson, John O’Laughlin, W. Searles, Guernsey Smith, Reuben Whetstone, John White, Washington Williams, and William R. Wilson.[224]

These companies when organized were equipped in the same manner as at Webster City—that is, by contributions from those older men who, finding age a bar to joining the expedition, contributed whatever they found possible “near the end of a severe winter in a frontier town one hundred and fifty miles from any source of supply.”[225] Scarcely was there a man or woman in the little hamlet or in the surrounding country who did not offer something—guns,[Pg 168] ammunition, food, gloves, wearing apparel, blankets, or other articles that might prove useful on the journey. The equipment of arms varied from the worst conditioned shotgun to some of the finest type of Sharps rifle to be found on the frontier.[226] All of Monday, after the muster in, was spent in collecting the equipment for the expedition. After some little effort two or three ox teams and wagons were secured to haul the food supplies, bedding, and camp equipment. A team and wagon was allotted to each company, so that all supplies for each organization might be kept separate and distinct. The imperfect means of transportation permitted the taking of only limited supplies; and no grain or forage could be taken upon which the oxen might subsist. It was thought, strangely enough, that the cattle might be able to forage for themselves at the various camping or stopping places along the route.

After the companies had been organized as separate units and the Webster City contingent had arrived, a closer coördination of the forces was effected. A general meeting of the three organizations was called and the matter of coördination discussed. In the end it was decided to organize as a battalion. Major William Williams, the only person who had had military experience and who had been empowered by Governor Grimes to act in such an emergency, was chosen to command the battalion thus created. This was a recognition of the undoubted ability and vigor of the first postmaster,[Pg 169] first mayor, and first citizen of Fort Dodge—especially since his age of sixty years was far beyond that considered desirable for members of the expedition.[227] The future proved the wisdom of the selection, for his command of the situation had much to do with shaping the later developments more fortunately than otherwise might have been the case. George B. Sherman was selected as quartermaster and commissary; and in order to enable him to better perform his duties he was detached from Company A into which he had already been mustered. Dr. George R. Bissell of Fort Dodge was selected as surgeon, and he proved a most worthy and helpful member of the expedition. Thus organized, the battalion numbered at the time of leaving Fort Dodge a total of ninety-one officers and enlisted men.

[Pg 170]


Though somewhat delayed by inability to secure transportation, the relief battalion from Fort Dodge and Webster City got under way about noon on Tuesday, March twenty-fourth, within four days after receiving the news of the massacre.[228] The first day’s march did not record much progress, as the men had advanced only about six or seven miles when they encamped at the mouth of Beaver Creek. By this time they had begun to realize that they were no more than raw recruits with no knowledge or appreciation of active service. With snow nearly four feet deep on the level, and with ravines, gulches, and low places completely filled, they encountered from the beginning almost endless difficulties in marching and in the transportation of supplies. Not a man was intimately acquainted with the surrounding country. Frequently they found themselves plunged into snow-filled creek beds where with the oxen they floundered vainly for some time in more than fifteen or twenty feet of drifted snow before they gained the lesser depth beyond. The difficulties were greatly increased by the lack of sufficient transportation facilities.

[Pg 171]

Having halted for the night each company built a monster camp fire around which the men gathered, each endeavoring to prepare his own supper since neither company was provided with a cook. “It was quite amusing to see ‘the boys’ mix up meal, bake ‘slap jacks’, fry meat, wash dishes and act the ‘housewife’ generally, but ’tis said ‘practice makes perfect’ and the truth of the adage was substantiated in the case under consideration for before our return some of the boys became quite expert in the handicraft above mentioned.

“One of our Lieutenants—a jolly good fellow, by the way—averred that he could throw a ‘griddle-cake’ out of the roof of a log cabin, which he temporarily occupied, and while it performed divers circumgyrations in mid-air, could run out and catch it ‘t’other side up’ on the spider.”[229] Emery W. Gates of Company C is said to have successfully demonstrated his ability to perform this feat while the expedition was in camp at McKnight’s Point.[230] He was later appointed cook of his company, in which capacity he rendered most acceptable service.

After finishing their first meal the men made ready for the night. Each man had been provided with one blanket, and in this he rolled himself for sleep that came to but few. Many found the pillowing of the head upon the ground or snow not conducive to slumber, while a few were prevented from sleeping by the heavy slumber of others. “My first night on this expedition”, says Captain Duncombe, “will never pass from my memory. It is as vivid[Pg 172] now as it was at the time. I, too, slept on a snowbank and had as my next neighbor one of those horrible snorers who could make a danger signal louder than a locomotive whistle and more musical than a calliope in the procession of a circus.”[231]

The morning of the twenty-fifth saw the men awake and astir early in the preparation of a breakfast that failed to satisfy. On this second day the line of march led them up the course of the Des Moines—the plan being to travel upon the ice of the river in order to avoid the dangerous pitfalls of the land. The point which they hoped to reach was Dakota City just above the junction of the east and west forks of the Des Moines. In attempting to use the ice as a roadway, the men were compelled to cross and recross the river no less than fifteen or twenty times. In the end this plan of march proved impracticable since the ice in places was not strong enough to sustain the weight of the men; whenever a weak place was reached it was necessary to leave the river and struggle along over the ravines which broke the banks of the river.

Matters became much worse as the day developed into one of considerable warmth. The water running down from the hillsides collected in the depressions and turned the snow of the ravines into slush. With dazzling brilliancy the sun shone upon the white snow, and many of the men suffered so severely from snow-blindness as to become practically helpless. The rays reflected from the snow also burned the hands and faces of the men.[232] By night[Pg 173] the battalion had covered no more than the ten miles to Dakota City. Here they camped as best they could. Some were able to secure places in stables, and a few were taken into the homes; but by far the greater number were compelled to sleep in their blankets on the open prairie. By this time some of the men were showing evidence of exhaustion, while others were suffering a very marked decline in spirits.

On the march north from Dakota City the real difficulties of the expedition developed. Beyond this point the snow was piled so high that frequently the groves and timber along the river could not be reached. When such conditions were encountered the command was compelled to keep to the open prairie. This was not, however, practicable for any considerable time on account of the cutting wind that swept across the snow fields. Having to choose between two evils, they elected what appeared to be the lesser and kept within the shelter of the timber regardless of the difficulties.

To overcome the difficulties on the third day out from Fort Dodge and the first day north of Dakota City, it was found necessary to send the men ahead in double files to break a road for the ox teams and wagons which followed. By marching and counter-marching the snow was beaten down so that it was made possible for the oxen to drag the wagons through the deep drifts. This did not, however, always solve the transportation problem, for even with such help the oxen were frequently unable to[Pg 174] move the wagons. When the oxen became stalled in a snow bank a long rope was attached to the wagon so that all hands could take hold and pull together with the oxen. By almost herculean efforts the wagons were thus dragged through the drifts of snow. Often the snow would accumulate in great piles in front of the wagons, which caused many pauses in the march. The marching and counter-marching, the dragging of wagons by man power, and the clearing away of snow continued during the two days out from Dakota City. Under such conditions the advance of the command was painfully slow.

But the drifts were not the worst obstacle. When ravines or stream heads were encountered in the line of march the oxen could do little but flounder in the snow which was then four or five times as deep as on the level ground of the prairie. They could scarcely secure a footing, for here the soft snow had usually been converted into almost bottomless slush. At such times the men would “wade through, stack arms, return and unhitch the teams, and attach ropes to them and draw them through”; this done, they “performed a similar operation on the wagons”.[233] It was necessary to resort to this method of advance every mile or two.

In the face of such conditions, it became very evident that the timber at McKnight’s Point could not be reached on scheduled time.[234] When the companies came to appreciate more fully the difficulties before them, Captain Duncombe, Lieutenant[Pg 175] Maxwell, and R. U. Wheelock were sent ahead as scouts to pick out a better road and if possible secure a camping place near timber and water.[235] To guide the advancing column, beacon fires were built; but these were of little or no use to the men in the rear. The main body of marchers, wet, hungry, and suffering acutely from the cold, toiled on until darkness made further progress seem an impossibility. Major Williams therefore called a halt and “put it to a vote whether we should camp where we were, or still persist in getting to the Point. A majority voted to camp where we were, although several preferred to keep on, fearing we would freeze to death anyway, and that it was as well to keep moving. We were on the bleak prairie.... We had no tents to shelter us; so, to many the outlook was extremely forbidding, but all acquiesced in the will of the majority.”[236]

The place selected for the camp was a high ridge from which the snow had been blown by the winter’s winds. Each company went into its own camp. The tarpaulin covers for the wagons were removed and stretched around the wagons so as to form a shelter from the wind. Upon the ground under the wagons the men placed their oil-skin coats to serve as a floor upon which to pile the bedding. Wet boots were used for pillows. Then, huddled closely together under the wagons so that when one turned all had to do likewise, the weary volunteers “turned in” for the night. Being some distance from the timber they could obtain no wood with which to kindle fires[Pg 176]—without which the men were unable to warm themselves, dry their clothing, or cook their food. For supper they had nothing to eat save crackers and uncooked ham; and the same diet made up the breakfast on the following morning.[237]

Early Friday morning the companies continued the march toward McKnight’s Point, where they arrived about noon. Here they found Duncombe, Wheelock, and Maxwell awaiting them. In nearly two days the battalion had covered a distance of something over twelve miles from Dakota City to McKnight’s Point. Even at this slow rate of progress they arrived in a thoroughly exhausted condition.

Captain Duncombe had reached the Point the evening before in a very benumbed condition and nearly unconscious from the exposure and suffering occasioned by the intensity of the cold. In explaining his condition, however, a story was later told by a member of the expedition to the effect that as the Point was neared by the three scouts Duncombe became exhausted and appeared to be unable to proceed. Wheelock had with him what was thought to be a cordial, some of which he offered to the Captain. The “cordial” proved to be laudanum, which so affected Duncombe that had it not been for Wheelock and Maxwell, who kept him awake and moving, he would have been overcome. When within two miles of the Point, Maxwell started for help. Too exhausted to walk, he lay down on the snow and rolled himself over and over till he reached the grove;[Pg 177] while Wheelock remained with Duncombe to keep him awake and moving. At the grove Maxwell found a cabin in which were Jeremiah Evans and William L. Church. Hearing Maxwell’s story, they at once set out to rescue Duncombe and Wheelock. In rolling over and over in the snow Maxwell had made a trail which the rescuers had no trouble in following to the suffering men. After being dragged to the cabin, Duncombe fell asleep and could not be aroused. But by the time the expedition arrived on the following day he had awakened and appeared to be little or none the worse for his unusual experience.[238]

By Saturday a number of the men were ill from exposure, but uncomplainingly continued the trying march. Major Williams, although the oldest man of the expeditionary force, bore his privations extremely well, giving no evidence of exhaustion. If anything the trials of the march had aroused in him a still stronger and sterner fighting spirit. Some of the force, apparently bearing the trials well, were reported as complaining. One of these men is said to have been a veteran of the Mexican War and often made the boast that he had been the third soldier to enter the Mexican fortress of Churubusco when it was stormed and taken by the American forces. But now he declared the continuance of the march “would result in the destruction of the entire command”.[239]

Calling a meeting of the battalion, Major Williams addressed the men upon the duties and obligations[Pg 178] of the expedition, and he ended by declaring: “You now understand this is not to be a holiday campaign, and every man in the battalion who feels that he has gone far enough is at liberty to return.”[240] No one was willing to accept the offer. It appears, however, that Daniel Okeson and John O’Laughlin, who had been accepted under protest on account of their age, were now discharged from Company B on account of disabilities incident to their years. Under protest they accepted discharge and returned to Fort Dodge.

The battalion’s ranks, however, were not depleted by these dismissals, as Jeremiah Evans and William L. Church at once enlisted—the former in Company B and the latter in Company C.[241] Evans had been a settler at McKnight’s Point for some time, and it was at his cabin that the advance scouts were received and cared for. Church, whose home was at Springfield, Minnesota, had been on a trip to Fort Dodge for supplies and had stopped at the Evans cabin on his return up the river on the Fort Ridgely trail. Upon his arrival he had been told of the massacre at the lakes and also that a relief expedition was being organized at Fort Dodge to rescue the whites who might have escaped and to punish the Indians who had done the deed. Upon hearing this he had resolved to await the coming of the expedition and enlist for service.

At McKnight’s Point a halt of a half-day on Friday afternoon was taken for purposes of recuperation. Here a number of deserted cabins furnished[Pg 179] shelter for the men. It was at this halt that Company C selected Emery W. Gates as cook. Following his appointment it is said that Gates prepared for the men one of the best meals they had ever eaten; and they agreed that their stay here was one “grand, good time”.[242]

Company A also celebrated, but in an entirely different manner. To divert the minds of those who were suffering from the hardships of the march, Captain Richards decided to hold a mock court-martial. The victim, a man by the name of Brizee, was of course unaware of the fake character of the affair and took the proceeding with great seriousness. It seems that the tar box of Company A’s wagon had been lost, and for this Brizee was held responsible. The formal trial procedure—the organization of the court, the summoning of witnesses, the taking of testimony, and the rendering of a formal decision—was carried through and Brizee was declared guilty. In all solemnity he was sentenced to be shot. It is said that he was very much frightened and most earnestly implored a pardon which was finally granted.[243]

On the morning of Saturday, the twenty-eighth, the three companies bade goodbye to McKnight’s Point and started for Shippey’s Point, which was located on the west fork of Cylinder Creek about two miles above the junction of the main stream with the Des Moines. Since leaving Dakota City the expedition had followed as nearly as possible the Fort Ridgely road up the Des Moines Valley—a route[Pg 180] which it was planned to continue as far as practicable. At McCormick’s place about two miles below Shippey’s, they met Angus McBane, Cyrus C. Carpenter, William P. Pollock, and Andrew Hood, who had heard of the massacre at the Irish Colony and were hastening south to Fort Dodge to report.[244] These men at once joined Company A.

It was at Shippey’s Point that J. M. Thatcher and Asa Burtch were found anxiously awaiting the coming of the battalion. Thatcher was nearly frantic over the reported fate of his family, but had been induced by Burtch to await the coming of the relief party—in Company B of which the two men now enlisted.[245] The load of supplies—mostly flour, which Luce and Thatcher had been taking to the lakes from the eastern part of the state—was confiscated for the use of the battalion as the supplies of the party were growing uncomfortably low and Sherman, the commissary, was becoming nervous.

On Sunday morning the onward march was resumed with the Irish settlement on Medium Lake as the objective point for the day. As the expedition moved further to the north, the difficulties of the march became greater because the snow increased in depth. From Shippey’s Point the march followed the Dragoon Trail, although no team had been able to make its way over this road for weeks. To the tired men the drifts seemed mountain high, while the depth of the snow in the low places seemed fathomless. The “colony” was finally reached without incident.

[Pg 181]

The settlement at Medium Lake comprised about twelve or fifteen Irish families who had come from Illinois in the fall of 1856. They had selected claims along the Des Moines River, but had made no permanent improvements. Instead, they had built temporary cabins in a grove at the southwest corner of Medium Lake where they planned to spend the winter.[246] In time this temporary settlement developed into the town of Emmetsburg, which to the present day has retained a large percentage of people of Irish nativity. Here also were many people who had fled from the perils of an Indian attack and had come together for the winter. They were found living in rudely constructed cabin shelters or in dugouts.[247] Destitute of provisions, they were as far as possible being supported from the slender stores of their Irish neighbors upon whose pity they had thrown themselves.

While here the expeditionary force was augmented by new recruits: thereafter it comprised one hundred and twenty-five men. Since most of these persons did not formally enlist their names do not appear upon the official muster roll of the battalion. Not only did the companies receive recruits at Medium Lake, but it was here that they were able to exchange their worn out oxen for fresh teams. They were also able to replenish somewhat their commissary department, for the new members brought with them as much food as the settlement was able to spare.

[Pg 182]


On Monday morning the expedition set out very much refreshed; for the men had not only feasted the evening before but that morning they “butchered a cow that had been wintered on prairie hay. The beef was not exactly porterhouse steak, but it was food for hungry men.”[248] The day’s march was a hard one, and when Big Island Grove near the Mud Lakes was reached the men were so exhausted that they threw themselves on the ground, rolled up in their blankets, and went to sleep without supper.

Ex-Governor Carpenter, in relating his experiences as a member of the expedition, says that there was after the lapse of forty-one years a picture before him “of Capt. Charles B. Richards and Lieutenant F. A. Stratton ... with two or three of the men, cutting wood, punching the fire, and baking pancakes, until long after midnight; and as they would get enough baked for a meal they would waken some tired and hungry man and give him his supper: and the exercises in Company A were but a sample of what was in progress in each of the companies.”[249] Thus the greater portion of the night was spent by the solicitous officers in caring for their men.

[Pg 183]

After leaving Medium Lake evidences of the presence of Indians were observed from time to time. What appeared to be moccasin tracks were frequently seen. Cattle had been killed in such a manner as to leave no doubt that the work had been done by Indians. At Big Island Grove many signs of Indians were found. On an island in the middle of the lake the Indians had constructed a look-out in the tree-tops from which they were able to see the country for miles around. Better evidence still of the fact that their visits were recent was the report that the campfires were still glowing, and that fishing holes were found in the ice.[250]

Many members of the expedition believed that the Indians, after raiding the settlements at the lake, would cross over to the Des Moines and proceed south on a war of extermination; and the signs at Big Island Grove were very readily accepted as a substantiation of this belief. It is probable, however, that this was a mistaken conclusion. Sleepy-Eye had frequently rendezvoused at Big Island Grove, and the arrival of the expedition may have followed closely his departure on the spring hunting trip. It is not probable that Inkpaduta’s men went east of the lakes or south of Springfield.

On the evening of the arrival of the expedition at Big Island Grove, Major Williams decided that since they were evidently in the Indian country the march should thereafter be made with more caution. Accordingly, he called for volunteers for an advance scouting party of ten men whose work would be to[Pg 184] precede the main expeditionary force and keep a sharp look-out for the near approach of Indians and to observe, interpret, and report any signs that might be discovered. They were to maintain an advance of perhaps three miles over the main column. Major Williams selected as the commander of this advance guard William L. Church, who of all the members of the expedition was the most familiar with the country in which they were now moving, since he had passed through it a number of times after settling at Springfield. Those who had volunteered as his companions were Lieutenant Maxwell, Thatcher, Hathaway, F. R. Mason, Laughlin, A. S. Johnson, De Foe, Carpenter, and another man whose identity seems to have been forgotten shortly after the return of the expedition to Fort Dodge.[251]

The members of the advance guard were astir early Tuesday morning; and while they breakfasted, rations for three days were made ready for each man. These rations when totalled amounted to forty pounds of corn meal and twenty pounds of wheat flour. In addition the men were allowed each a piece of corn bread about six inches square, which was supposed to be divided among the meals of the succeeding three days; but a number of the men, deciding that the easiest way to carry the bread was to eat it, immediately set about doing that very thing. The scouting party left the main body of the expedition about six o’clock on a beautiful winter’s morning—although it was in fact the closing day of March. Orders were given to the men to scout[Pg 185] north, northwest, and northeast of the route to be followed by the main body. Lieutenant Maxwell and Laughlin, being true plainsmen, took the lead, while the remaining eight were soon envying “the ease and celerity with which” they “with their long legs and wiry frames, pulled through the snow and across the snow-drifts”.[252]

The advance had made about twelve miles when the men paused on the bare ridge of the Des Moines water-shed for the mid-day meal. Mason was stationed as sentry, while the others ate in the sheltered lea of the ridge. At some distance from the other members of the party, Mason had been at his post only a short time when he saw far to the northwest a black spot come into view. It soon became evident that the spot was moving. The attention of the other members of the party was called to the discovery. After sighting with their ramrods for some minutes, they too concluded that the object was really on the move. Furthermore it was agreed that the moving object must be a party of Indians; and so an attack was planned.

The squad advanced on the run to meet the party, which was probably two miles away. But no sooner had the whites started toward the “Indians” than the latter were observed to hold a hurried consultation. Between the two parties was a willow-bordered creek toward which each started for the apparent purpose of ambushing the other. The advance guard, having reached and passed the creek first, scaled the knoll or ridge of ground just beyond.[Pg 186] Having reached the crest of the swell, the expeditionists prepared to fight. The opposing force halted and likewise seemed to prepare for defense. Before beginning the attack, however, the arrival of Church and a second man was awaited. When these men had come up, breathless but ready for the fray, the order to advance was given. Suddenly Church gave a shout and sprang forward exclaiming: “My God, there’s my wife and babies!” The “Indians” turned out to be none other than the refugees from Springfield, Minnesota. The meeting was both dramatic and pathetic. For days relatives and friends of the refugees had believed them dead—victims of Indian barbarities. Now some were reunited with their loved ones, while others received word that their kin were lying in the snows of the lake region or had been carried away in captivity by the Indians.[253]

A pathetic sight, indeed, were these terrified fugitives. “In the haste of their flight they had taken but few provisions and scanty clothing. The women had worn out their shoes; their dresses were worn into fringe about the ankles; the children were crying with hunger and cold; the wounded were in a deplorable condition for want of surgical aid. Their food was entirely exhausted; they had no means of making fire; their blankets and clothing were wet and frozen.... The refugees were so overcome ... that they sank down in the snow, crying and laughing alternately, as their deliverers gathered around them.”[254] The wounded were in[Pg 187] a terrible condition. “Mr. Thomas was traveling with his hand dangling by the cords of his arm, having been shot through the wrist.”[255] They were “almost exhausted from the toilsome march, lack of food, exposure to the inclement weather, and the terrible anxiety of the previous week.”[256]

From the story of the refugees it seems that while painfully making their way southward, and almost ready to perish from cold, starvation, and physical exhaustion, they saw appear upon the summit of a ridge far to the southeastward a group of men whom they, too, supposed to be Indians. It happened that the men of the advance guard were wearing shawls as a protection from the cold, and so they really did have the appearance of blanket-clad Indians. The refugees were wild with terror for they felt that their end had certainly come. There was only one man in the party who really had the courage and was able to fight. Loading the eight rifles which were in the possession of the party, John Bradshaw prepared to meet the enemy single-handed, ready to sacrifice his life if necessary in the defense of the helpless members of the party. It is said that he stood rifle in hand until Church, breaking from the ranks of the advance guard, ran forward shouting for his wife and children. Not until then was it evident to the refugees that friends rather than enemies were approaching.[257]

Mason and Smith were chosen to carry the news back to the main body of the expedition, which at this time was nearly eight miles to the rear. Mason[Pg 188] declares that he was so excited that notwithstanding his fatigue he ran the whole distance. When the messengers were within two miles of the expedition their coming was observed by Captains Duncombe and Richards who rode out to meet them. Major Williams was sent for and a consultation held. Mason, Duncombe, Richards, and Dr. Bissell were ordered by Major Williams to push forward as rapidly as possible to the aid of the refugees. At four o’clock in the afternoon the start was made, and so well did the men make the return trip that the fugitives from Springfield were reached about nine o’clock. The advance guard and the fugitives were found in the shelter of the creek willows over a mile from where they had been left. Camp had been pitched—if such it could be called. Meanwhile, a storm had come up and it was raining furiously, which only increased the sad plight of the starving and ragged refugees who were without adequate shelter.[258]

When the main expeditionary body arrived about midnight strenuous efforts were made to provide some sort of comfort for the distressed and starving fugitives. The only semblance to a tent in the expedition’s equipment—one made of blankets patched together—was provided them, and their wounds were dressed by Dr. Bissell. Being so near the scene of the massacre, it was feared that even then Indians might be in the vicinity of the camp. And so guards were placed to prevent a surprise attack. Since the men were greatly exhausted by[Pg 189] the day’s efforts, they were relieved of guard duty each hour. Thus little rest came to any of the men that night. In the morning the refugees were again fed and provided with blankets by the expeditionary force from its already slender store. Being thus outfitted, they were given a guard and sent on to the Irish Colony. Mr. Church left the expedition at this point to accompany his wife and children to Fort Dodge and Webster City.

Learning from the fugitives the facts concerning the presence of the Indians at Springfield, Major Williams decided to push toward that point as rapidly as possible. When the march was resumed on the morning following the meeting with the refugees from Springfield, the expedition moved in the direction of Granger’s Point. John Bradshaw, Morris Markham, and Jareb Palmer did not continue with the refugees, but enlisted as members of the expeditionary force, each hoping for a chance to even up matters with the red men.

The march to the Granger settlement was enlivened by a little incident that aided much in detracting from the trying ordeal of the march. In the morning additional precautions were taken to guard against a surprise by Indians: a small group of men were selected by Major Williams to scout just ahead of the main body and ascertain if Indians might chance to be in the timber along the streams and about the lakes. The scouts were given orders to fire their guns only in case they found Indians. The advance had continued about three miles when[Pg 190] the crack of a gun was heard, followed by a number of reports in quick succession from the timber just ahead. Immediately two men emerged from the timber on the run. Captain Duncombe who was about a mile in advance of his command thought the runners to be Indians, and he at once gave chase hoping to head them off before they could enter another grove a short distance beyond and for which they were evidently making. Being mounted, Duncombe soon approached near enough to recognize two of the expedition scouts.

It was soon learned that while passing through the timber two old hunter members of the squad chanced to see some beavers sunning themselves on the ice. Unable to resist the first impulse, they emptied the contents of their guns at the unsuspecting animals. The men seen running out of the timber were only chasing some of the animals that had not been killed by the initial volley. Meanwhile, the whole expeditionary force had been halted, and with loaded guns put in readiness for the attack. Some members, unable to control themselves, did not wait for the command, but broke ranks and ran toward the imagined Indians with guns ready for firing. After some little time the expedition was again restored to a state of order and the march resumed.

Upon reaching Granger’s Point that evening, they were very inhospitably received by a man and boy who were occupying the cabin. Little information and absolutely no assistance could be secured from[Pg 191] them. They reported that they had no food, withdrew into the cabin, and barred the door. Within a brief time, however, a horseman arrived, who proved to be a United States regular from Captain Bee’s command which had but lately arrived at Springfield. He brought the information of Bee’s arrival, of the flight of the Indians westward, and of Bee’s sending a detail to Spirit Lake to bury the dead. He said, however, that the detail had visited only one cabin on Spirit Lake and had there found one body which they buried. They had made no attempt to reach the lower lakes on account of bad weather and roads and the shortage of provisions.

That night Major Williams called a council, and upon a review of the facts it was decided to abandon the chase. But since the bodies of the massacred were yet unburied, it was thought that a detail of volunteers should proceed to the lakes on that mission.[259]

[Pg 192]


When morning came the conclusions of the council were reported to the command, and volunteers, not over twenty-five in number, were called for to serve on the burial detail. The report met with a most cordial response and the full quota of volunteers was obtained at once. Those who signified their willingness to serve were: Captain J. C. Johnson and Captain Charles B. Richards, Lieutenant John N. Maxwell, and privates Henry Carse, William E. Burkholder, William Ford, H. E. Dalley, Orlando C. Howe, George P. Smith, Owen S. Spencer, Carl Stebbins, Silas Van Cleave, R. U. Wheelock, R. A. Smith, William A. De Foe, B. F. Parmenter, Jesse Addington, R. McCormick, J. M. Thatcher, William R. Wilson, William K. Laughlin, Elias D. Kellogg, and another whose name is not known.[260]

These men were placed by Major Williams under the immediate command of Captain Johnson of Company C; and on the morning of April second the detail, supplied with two days’ rations, took up its march for the lakes. From the outset their undertaking was precarious; with limited rations the men had no assurance that they would be able to secure any more supplies. Nevertheless, they courageously[Pg 193] undertook the humanitarian task with the hope that somehow the future would care for itself.

The burial detail was to proceed to the lakes, perform the sad task of burying the dead, and rejoin the main command at the Irish settlement on Medium Lake. Accompanied by two mounted men—Captain Richards and another whose name is now lost—the detail set out upon its journey; but at the crossing of the Des Moines, the first stream reached, the horsemen were unable to force a passage. The men crossed safely on a log; but the horses could not be forced to swim the channel, and after an hour’s work Captain Richards, and his companion gave up the effort and returned to the main command.[261]

Without incident the members of the party reached the southeastern shore of the east lake about two o’clock in the afternoon. Making their way to the Noble and Thatcher cabin, they found the bodies of Enoch Ryan and Alvin Noble at the rear of the house. Each body had been riddled with bullets. The yard and adjacent prairie were thickly sprinkled with feathers which had come from the destroyed feather ticks for which the Indians had had no use. The bodies were buried at the foot of a large oak tree near the house. While some of the party were interring the dead at this cabin, others walked on to the Howe cabin where seven bodies were found lying about the cabin doorstep. Among the mangled remains found in the yard Thatcher identified his infant child. The burials at the Howe cabin were[Pg 194] completed late in the afternoon; but darkness prevented the men from proceeding to the other cabins. Returning to the Thatcher cabin they there planned to pass the night. The body of the Thatcher child was interred near the head of a ravine not far from the Thatcher cabin. This was in keeping with the desire of the father that his child should be buried upon his own property. Returning to the Howe cabin the following morning, they found the body of a boy of about thirteen years of age lying at the side of a fallen tree in the dooryard. This apparently was Jacob, the brother of Mrs. Noble, whom she vainly tried to get into the house. The burial detail reported the interment of eight bodies at the Howe cabin.

From Howe’s cabin they proceeded to the settlements on the west lake. At this juncture the party was divided, and one section under Captain Johnson took the lake shore trail, while a second under Lieutenant Maxwell crossed the lake directly in line with the Mattock cabin. The Johnson party is said to have found the body of Joel Howe near the trail and to have buried it near the spot where it was found—a place which was lost sight of until its alleged discovery in August, 1914, by a young man, Lee Goodenough of Knoxville, Iowa, while attending a Young Men’s Christian Association camp.[262] At the Mattock cabin the dead were found widely scattered through the clearing and along the trail toward the Granger home across the strait. Every[Pg 195] evidence of a desperate resistance was noted. Dr. Harriott was found with his broken rifle still grasped in his hand. Eleven bodies were collected and buried at this place.

Across the strait at the Granger cabin they found the body of Carl Granger horribly mutilated, as by cutting or slashing with some sharp instrument about the face. Near him lay his dog which had evidently remained faithfully by him to the last. The dog’s body was also terribly mangled.

The Gardner home was the last place to be visited. Here six bodies were found and buried about fifty yards to the southeast of the cabin on a spot said to have been designated by Eliza Gardner when she met the rescue party. As yet the bodies of Luce and Clark had not been found; indeed they were not found until the following June when they were discovered near the outlet of the east lake. Their burial place is not known.[263]

By the time the work of interment was completed at the Gardner cabin, it was late in the afternoon. The rations of the party were all but gone; but the night was coming on, and so the party decided to remain and camp to the north of the Gardner cabin. Fortunately Wilson’s memory came to the rescue of the party in their stress for food: he now recalled that in the fall when a visitor at the Gardner cabin he had seen Gardner bury a box of potatoes beneath the stove to insure them against being frozen during the winter. Upon investigation there was discovered[Pg 196] nearly a bushel of the potatoes which satisfied the hunger of the men that evening and on the following morning.

After this potato breakfast on the morning of April fourth, sixteen of the twenty-three men composing the detail began the return trip; while seven of the party having interests to look after at the lakes, decided to remain a few days longer. Those who decided to remain were R. A. Smith, Orlando C. Howe, R. U. Wheelock, B. F. Parmenter, Asa Burtch, J. M. Thatcher, and William R. Wilson. Howe and Wheelock remained to make sure of their load of supplies which Parmenter had been compelled to abandon when his two companions started ahead of him to Fort Dodge with the news of the massacre.[264]

It appears, however, that the split in the party is to be attributed to something besides business demands. There was a disagreement over the best route to be taken on the return trip. While breakfasting that morning the discussion had arisen. The majority favored as direct a route as possible across the open prairie to the Irish Colony. Others of the party did not consider such a route to be safe, arguing that it would be better to retrace the route by which they had come—which route would lead them to Granger’s Point and thence to the Irish Colony. Meanwhile, a storm was gathering which seemed to add force to the arguments of those in favor of a known road.

The matter could not be settled by argument; and[Pg 197] so, after breakfast Captain Johnson, gave the command to fall in. “After the men had fallen in he gave the further order, ‘All who favor starting at once across the prairie, step three paces to the front; the rest stand fast’.... What little provision was left in camp was speedily packed and the party made ready to depart at once.”[265] Captain Johnson and Burkholder urged united action upon the seven who stood fast; but the appeal was unavailing, for the seven men remained steadfast in their conviction that the course as planned was wrong. They offered to join the party if they would take the Granger route; but Johnson and Burkholder stood as firmly against that proposition as the seven were opposed to their plans. Thus the two groups parted company—good friends but each firmly convinced that the other was in the wrong. The members of the party that left took all the food, and were allowed to do so because those who remained behind counted upon securing their store from the wagonload of supplies which had been left somewhere out on the prairie.

The men who remained set out at once to locate the wagon and bring in the needed food. It appears that there was no difficulty in finding the wagon with its cargo of supplies. When each man had loaded himself with a supply, they returned as rapidly as possible for the gathering storm had broken and snow was falling heavily. In a short time, it became a blinding, driving whirlwind of snow. Reaching the cabin, they laid in a supply of fuel. Being[Pg 198] well armed, they felt no alarm at the prospect of an Indian attack. All that could be done while the storm raged was to await patiently its abatement. Only after two days did the fury of the storm abate sufficiently to permit the men to leave the cabin in safety.

The morning of the second day after the beginning of the blizzard dawned clear and intensely cold, although the weather had moderated somewhat since the previous evening. The snow was frozen with a hard crust and upon it the party from the Gardner cabin made their way rapidly in the direction of Granger’s Point. When they arrived at the Des Moines they found the river completely frozen, which made the crossing easy. Thus with little trouble they were again at Granger’s Point where they had left the main body five days previously. They now procured a team and wagon, loaded their baggage, and, after resting a day, started for the Irish settlement. At this point they found some of the wounded from the Springfield settlement who had not been able to proceed with the main command. Here also was Henry Carse who, as will be seen, suffered so terribly on the night out from the Gardner cabin. Resting a day at the Irish settlement, they resumed their journey to Fort Dodge. What had been a small party on leaving the Gardner cabin had more than doubled in number when the Irish colonists were bidden goodbye.

When Cylinder Creek was reached the party succeeded through great effort in effecting a crossing.[Pg 199] The undertaking required the whole of an afternoon, but by nightfall the men succeeded in reaching Shippey’s Point two miles beyond. “From here the party proceeded on their way to Fort Dodge, which they reached without further adventures than such as are incident to swimming swollen streams and living on short rations, which, in some instances, consisted of a handful of flour and a little salt, which they mixed up with water and baked over a campfire. A few of the party shot, dressed and broiled some muskrats and tried to make the rest believe they considered them good eating, but that diet did not become popular.”[266]

The early part of the day upon which Captain Johnson and party left the Gardner cabin, after the disagreement of the morning, was quite warm, and the rapidly melting snow added greatly to the difficulties of traveling. Being forced to wade through sloughs several feet deep in slush the men were soon wet to the shoulders. But they plodded on cheerfully for they were on the way home after the completion of an arduous duty. While they were in this cheery frame of mind, the blizzard broke upon them in all its fury about four in the afternoon. With the storm came a rapid fall in temperature, and it was not long before the clothes of the members of the party were frozen stiff from feet to shoulders—rendering progress next to impossible.

With the oncoming of the storm began the first disagreement among the men after leaving the Gardner[Pg 200] cabin in the morning. Again, it was a matter of the best route to be taken. Jonas Murray, a trapper who had volunteered as guide, claimed to be thoroughly familiar with the country. Not all, however, were willing to accept his guidance. Spencer and McCormick were the first to break away from his leadership. This they did when Mud Creek was reached only about eight or nine miles from the point of starting. Crossing far to the north of where Murray maintained was the proper place, these men struck directly east for the settlement which they reached within a short time after the storm broke upon them.[267]

The other members of the party lost much valuable time in wandering southward along the course of Mud Creek. Finally a crossing was effected, but much farther to the south than several thought it should have been. Against the protests of a number, Murray continued to lead the party still farther south. Near sunset Maxwell and Laughlin found a township corner pit, at which they proposed to camp for the night since they feared the loss of direction in the oncoming darkness. But Murray, Johnson, and Burkholder, thought it best to continue and so the party pressed on.[268] Ahead of them was a lake to the east of which was a great stretch of uncommonly high grass which seemed to afford good shelter. Maxwell, Laughlin, and seven others started to walk around this lake to the east; but Johnson, Burkholder, Addington, G. P. Smith, and Murray went around in the opposite direction. Finding a[Pg 201] shelter Laughlin called to Johnson’s party which could then only be dimly seen through the sedge. Apparently he was not heard, for the men struck out toward the southeast and were not again seen before the Irish settlement was reached. Laughlin’s party decided to remain where it was rather than attempt to follow.

As soon as the halt was made the men tumbled down in a shivering heap and huddled closely together to keep from freezing. In crossing sloughs several men had removed their boots to keep them dry, while others had cut holes in the leather in order to let the water out. Carse had removed his boots, but found it impossible to replace them for they were frozen stiff. He then tore his blanket into pieces and wrapped his feet as well as he could, but even then he suffered fearfully from the cold. Maxwell and Laughlin, realizing the danger of freezing to death, did not permit themselves to sleep the whole night through: they kept constantly on the move and compelled the others to do the same. Whenever any man fell asleep the others would pick him up, arouse him, and force him to remain awake and on the move regardless of his objections. Some of the men begged that they be allowed to sleep, protesting that moving about in their ice stiffened garments was worse punishment than they could bear. Thus all night long the awful vigil was kept. It was largely due to the tireless watching of Maxwell and Laughlin that no one froze to death, although the temperature that night was said to have been thirty-four[Pg 202] degrees below zero at points in Iowa much farther south.[269]

The next day opened clear and cold. About eight miles to the east was seen a grove of timber. Every man expressed himself as willing and able to travel; and so without breakfast (for they had no food) the party started in that direction, believing that the timber bordered the Des Moines. Maxwell was the last to leave camp, and when about three miles from the timber he found Carse sitting on the sunny side of a small mound trying to pull on his frozen boots. The blanket wrappings of his feet had already become so worn in traveling over the ice and snow that he could go no further. Maxwell endeavored to take Carse along with him, but every time he tried to guide him toward the timber Carse obstinately insisted on taking the opposite direction. It soon became evident that the man had grown delirious and that nothing could be done with him on the open prairie. Henry E. Dalley, seeing the difficulty, came to Maxwell’s assistance. The two were able to get Carse to the timber, by which time he was unconscious and blood was streaming from his mouth.[270]

Laughlin and Kellogg, who had reached the timber first, had set about the building of a fire when it was discovered that not a member of the party had matches. Laughlin’s ingenuity, however, came to the rescue. He had a gun and powder, and was wearing a vest with a heavy, quilted cotton lining. Removing some of the cotton from his vest he loaded the gun with a powder charge and rammed it down[Pg 203] tight with cotton. He then discharged the gun into a piece of rotten wood which, after some attention, began blazing. Dalley soon arrived with the helpless Carse. When the blanket wrappings were removed from Carse’s feet the skin of the soles came with them. Dalley finally succeeded in stopping the bleeding and in reviving him. It was only a few nights before that Carse had befriended Dalley by taking him under his own blanket. The boy—for such he was, being less than twenty years of age—was poorly clad and had suffered much from the trials of the expedition. His youthful strength and courage, however, carried him safely through to the end. Meanwhile, Kellogg had seated himself at the base of a tree and before anyone had observed his need for attention he too had become unconscious from exposure. Before he could be revived it was necessary to cut his icy clothing away from his body as the only practicable means of removing it. When this had been done he gradually regained consciousness and seemed but little the worse for his experience.[271]

Laughlin and Maxwell, having attended those who were needing help and noting that all were as comfortable as conditions would permit, started out to cross the river with a view to locating the Irish settlement. They found the river frozen thick enough to support them, with the exception of a few spots over which they improvised a bridge of poles. Making their way to the margin of the timber, they saw the settlement in plain sight not over three miles[Pg 204] away. Help was at once secured which enabled them to get the disabled members of the party across the river and to safety in the homes of the settlement. Here they found Major Williams awaiting their coming.

Without delay Major Williams sent men down the Des Moines to look for Johnson and his companions. They remained out during the whole of the day; and when they returned near dark reported that they had discovered no trace of the men, but had found a cabin in which a good fire was burning. The Major concluded that the men had been at the cabin and had then gone southward, following the course of the river. Three of the five men in the party—Smith, Addington, and Murray—came to the settlement the following morning but could give little information concerning Johnson and Burkholder. Smith had been the last to see them; and his story left no doubt in the minds of most of his hearers that the two men had perished somewhere to the west of the Des Moines River.

The two unfortunate men having become completely exhausted by wading streams and sloughs had finally sat down declaring that they were unable to go any farther. They were sheeted with ice from head to feet. Their feet were badly frozen and, unable to walk, they insisted, against Smith’s advice, upon removing their boots. Realizing that they could not replace the boots they cut their blankets in strips with which to wrap their feet. At this time they were in sight of the timber along the[Pg 205] Des Moines River, which they were urged to exert every effort to reach. But they were unable to rise from the ground. “After vainly trying for a long time to get them to make another effort to reach the timber, Smith at last realized that to save his own life he must leave them. After going some distance he looked back and saw them still on their knees in the snow, apparently unable to rise. It is not likely they ever left the spot where Smith left them, but, overcome with cold, they finally sank down and perished side by side.”[272] Nearly eleven years later two skeletons were found near the place where Smith said he left his companions. By the guns and powder flasks lying near them the skeletons were identified as being those of Johnson and Burkholder.[273]

[Pg 206]


From Granger’s Point the return of the main body of the command was uneventful until the Irish settlement was reached and passed. It will be recalled that when the burial detail was outfitted nearly all of the scanty rations then remaining were turned over to them because of the probable hardships which would be encountered in venturing into the hostile lake region. Thus the main command was hard pressed in the matter of providing itself with adequate supplies. By the end of the first day the command had reached the cabin of an old trapper near the shore of Mud Lake. The experiences of the first night out are illustrative of the extremity to which members of the expedition were driven upon their homeward journey.

At the trapper’s cabin were found the frozen carcasses of some beaver, which it was thought could be utilized as food. But frozen beaver even when roasted failed to satisfy the hunger of the men. Captain Richards tells of one member of his company, George W. Brizee, who, as a result of exposure was suffering from a severe case of toothache and very sore feet. Finally, the pain in his feet grew easier. But “his tooth reminded him that it needed[Pg 207] his attention; and after lying down and trying to sleep, frequently reiterating that he knew he should die, he got up and went out and returned with a hind-quarter of beaver and began to roast it over the coals; and in a half-reclining position he spent the entire night roasting and trying to eat the tough, leathery meat, first consigning his feet to a warmer climate, and then as his toothache for a time attracted most of his attention, giving us a lecture on dentistry; when his tooth was relieved for a short time he would, with both hands holding on to the partially roasted quarter of beaver, get hold with his teeth and try to tear off a piece! The picture by the weird light of the fire was a striking one”.[274]

The party did not tarry long at the Irish settlement, which was reached on the evening of the next day, since it was evident that the settlers had barely sufficient food to keep themselves alive and would surely suffer if the command remained for any length of time.[275] The day of leaving Medium Lake was a cloudy one and rather warm—just such a day as is sure to start the water running from rapidly melting snow. Only a short distance had been traveled when rain began falling—first as a drizzle, but by the time Cylinder Creek was reached it was a downpour. The prairies were flooded, while Cylinder Creek was about half a mile wide, completely covering its rather narrow bottom, which was under from two to five feet of water, while the main channel had a depth of fifteen to twenty feet and was from sixty to eighty feet wide. Obviously the[Pg 208] problem of crossing would be a serious one. Arriving at the border of the valley about two o’clock in the afternoon the command vainly sought a passage. Then suddenly the wind veered sharply to the northwest and became a gale—the rain changing into a blinding fall of snow. This was the fearful blizzard of April fourth that overtook the Johnson party on its return from the Gardner cabin.

Captains Richards and Duncombe, not despairing of being able to effect a crossing of the main channel, undertook to improvise a boat out of a nearly new wagon box. With very little effort this wagon box was caulked water tight with bedquilt cotton. Solon Mason and Guernsey Smith were the men chosen to assist in getting the boat across the channel. But the wind blew so hard that, although Richards and Duncombe bailed water as rapidly as they could, the party scarcely reached the opposite side of the channel before the make-believe boat sank—the men barely saving themselves from drowning. Thus the attempt to take all across in that manner failed.[276] Having no blankets and unable to assist their comrades on the opposite side, there was nothing to do but hasten on to Shippey’s Point which was two or three miles distant.[277] This point they reached about nine o’clock at night. Here they were liberally fed, and by sitting around the fire all night were able to dry their clothes by exposing first one side and then the other to the fire.

When morning came the storm had abated somewhat, and so it was decided to return to the creek[Pg 209] in an effort to locate the command. Mason had not gone far when he succumbed to the cold and had to be taken back. It seems that in crossing the Cylinder he had lost both overcoat and cap. Upon their arrival at the east side of the bottom the men could see nothing on the other side to indicate the presence of their comrades. After spending some time in trying to accomplish a crossing, they gave up the attempt and returned to Shippey’s. There they remained until about the middle of the afternoon when they again returned to the creek. This time they were no more successful than before. Resigned to the thought that the remainder of the command had either perished or returned to Medium Lake, they wandered back to Shippey’s. Shortly after their return, Hoover and Howland came in and reported that when they left the command all were safe on the west side, though suffering considerably while waiting for the channel to freeze.

Early on Monday morning, while the blizzard was yet raging and the cold was still intense, the little group at Shippey’s once more started for the creek in an effort to locate their companions. Reaching the creek, the little group saw the men on the opposite side making preparations to cross—the storm by this time having abated so that a crossing might be attempted. The creek was now solidly frozen so that the task of crossing was easy. The way to Shippey’s was soon made. Here they told the story of how they had saved themselves from the terrors of the awful storm.

[Pg 210]

From this story it appears that no thought of returning to the Irish settlement had been entertained by those who had been left behind. Major Williams and two or three others had, indeed, returned, hoping that they would there find the burial detail and guide them to the Cylinder Creek camp. Those at the latter place resolved to remain and await the dying down of the storm before making any further attempt at crossing; and they set to work to improvise a shelter. Again the tarpaulin wagon covers were brought into use and supplemented with blankets, which when fastened together were stretched around and over the wagon frames and then staked down to the frozen ground. This improvised shelter was completely closed excepting a small flap opening on the south or lea side which served the purpose of a door. Then with blankets and other covers a common bed was made; and into this the party crowded, wet from head to feet. Here they remained from Saturday night until Monday morning when a few ventured out to examine the state of the weather.[278] Finding conditions satisfactory they began the crossing after having tarried “over forty hours, without food or fire, on the open prairie, with the mercury at 32° below zero.”[279]

It is little wonder that when they started to make the crossing the men had scarcely “strength enough to reach the opposite shore.... Every man’s mouth was open wide, his tongue hanging out, and in some instances blood running from nose or mouth.”[280] Governor Carpenter, in commenting[Pg 211] upon this terrific test of endurance notes that “since that experience upon Cylinder Creek, I have marched with armies engaged in actual war. During three and a half years’ service, the army with which I was connected, marched from Cairo to Chattanooga, from Chattanooga to Atlanta, from Atlanta to the Sea, and from the Sea through the Carolinas to Richmond.... But I never in those weary years experienced a conflict with the elements that could be compared with the two nights and one day on Cylinder Creek.”[281]

After refreshing themselves at Shippey’s the men held a consultation and reached the decision that henceforth the command should break up into small details—a plan that seemed necessary on account of the increasing difficulty of securing food. Each group was to find its way home in the best manner it might be able to devise. Every man was ordered to rid himself of all surplus baggage, retaining only his blanket. Thus the expedition really came to an end with the crossing of Cylinder Creek. But the hardships of the men were not ended; before a number of the squads reached home they endured trials almost as severe as those encountered before crossing the Cylinder.

The experience of the little group which Frank R. Mason undertook to guide is perhaps typical of the hardships of the journey south from Shippey’s. Mason had frequently been north of Fort Dodge hunting in the timber along Lott’s Creek, and for that reason he was selected by a Webster City group[Pg 212] to pilot them home. With his party he struck out boldly across the prairie in a line which he thought would lead to a clearing in the timber where he knew they would receive a hearty welcome. As darkness came on the men began to show exhaustion; but the looked-for timber along Lott’s Creek did not appear. One of the men, Hathaway by name, became wholly exhausted and had to be carried. Within a short time he became delirious; and then the united efforts of three of the party were needed to keep him under control, with only indifferent success. Finally passing into a stupor he was more easily managed.

When Mason and his companions reached the timber at about eleven o’clock the expected cabin could not be found. The men grew impatient and at times were inclined to criticize Mason as an incompetent guide. Having reached a slight elevation or ridge, and despairing of locating the cabin, they prepared to spend the night. Snow was cleared away until the bare ground was reached and upon this they threw themselves. They had had no food since the start; indeed they had not brought any with them, for they had expected to reach the cabin before nightfall. When they had lain sleepless for nearly an hour, voices were heard and out of the darkness appeared human forms.[282] The newcomers were Mr. and Mrs. Elwood Collins who were returning from an evening spent at a neighbor’s home.

The finding of the men is thus described by Mrs. Collins. “Husband and I, after having stayed later[Pg 213] than usual at a neighbor’s, started for home.... All at once the outline of dark objects appeared before us.... I at first thought we might be upon a company of Indians! We were too near to retreat.... I then heard groans of distress, and I thought sobs.... We had a lantern, and as the light shone upon the place my pity was truly stirred. There, with the snow crushed beneath them, were eight men; some sitting, some reclining, and others lying flat upon their backs!”[283]

Having been piloted to the clearing the men slept that night in the cabin loft. In the morning they breakfasted hastily and resumed their journey to Webster City. Hathaway and Gates had to be left at the cabin as they were not able to proceed. This day’s experience was but a repetition of the previous one. As darkness fell the men were again exhausted, but by crawling on hands and knees they managed to reach the cabin of a Mr. Corsau where they were taken in for the night. On the following day they were taken by Corsau to Webster City. Thus ended, for this Webster City group, the fearful experience of attempting to relieve the settlers of the lake region from Indian attacks.

For the Fort Dodge men the task of making their way home was easier, as it did not necessitate the crossing of as many streams—which at this time were in flood condition. At the same time their trip was not lacking in incidents of trial. They arranged the march from cabin to cabin so that they might have no difficulty in procuring food, for they,[Pg 214] too, made no attempt to carry supplies. More than once the men experienced trials similar to those encountered by the Mason party, and like them they too found the place searched for before hope was gone. Within three or four days after leaving Cylinder Creek, all parties had straggled in—weary, worn, and wasted. They were met with a hearty welcome from friends who had thought them in all probability lost on the northwestern prairies. All who had volunteered in the expedition returned home in safety, except Johnson and Burkholder who perished in the snow.

[Pg 215]


From March twenty-sixth to April tenth, while the relief expedition from Fort Dodge and Webster City was making its way painfully to and from the scene of the massacre at the lakes, Inkpaduta and his band continued their flight. When Lieutenant Murry’s men had been sighted by the look-out, warning of their approach was communicated through the Indian camp. The warriors crouched among the willows along the creek ready to spring out upon their pursuers, while the squaws and children made hurried preparations for a hasty retreat if need be. Meanwhile, a warrior stood guard over the helpless white captives with orders to shoot them the moment the soldiers should attack. But Coursalle and La Framboise, who were guiding Murry’s men, declared that the signs were so old that pursuit would be hopeless; and so the soldiers returned to the main command. No sooner had they started on their return than Inkpaduta fled from his temporary camp and began the long journey to the Big Sioux, the James, and the region beyond.

The Indians were now thoroughly alarmed at the nearness of danger, and for two days and nights they kept up a continuous flight. No stops were[Pg 216] made to prepare food: if they ate at all it was while they were on the move. Such a sustained flight would have been arduous enough for untrained marchers under the most favorable conditions, but for the women captives it was terrible. Not only were they compelled to wade through snow and slush but they were burdened with loads which might well have been regarded as too heavy for men to bear.

Mrs. Marble states that upon leaving Heron Lake she and her associates “were forced to carry heavy packs, and perform the degrading and menial services in the camp ... that the pack ... consisted of two bags of shot, each weighing twenty-five pounds, and a lot of camp furniture, increasing the weight of the pack to 100 pounds. On top of this heavy load ... was placed the additional weight of an Indian urchin of some three or four years of age.”[284] The papoose which she was supposed to carry seemed to consider that it was entitled to as many liberties and as much attention when carried by her as it would have enjoyed if in the care of its mother. Mrs. Marble objected to making friends with the baby, and watching her opportunity would scratch it in the face until the Indians, hearing its cries, finally concluded it didn’t like her and took it away.

Abbie Gardner, though but a girl, was also burdened with a pack—though its weight was somewhat less than that carried by Mrs. Marble. It was made up of “eight bars of lead, one pint of lead[Pg 217]balls, one tepee cover made of the heaviest, thickest cloth, one blanket, one bed-comforter, one iron bar, three feet long and half an inch thick ... one gun, and one piece of wood several inches wide and four feet long, to keep the pack in shape.”[285]

This burdening of the captives was the more objectionable to them since the Indian men were encumbered with nothing but a gun. As a matter of course the squaws carried packs, but they were accustomed to such burden-bearing and knew how to save themselves from its ill effects. Moreover, the squaws were frequently equipped with a sort of crude snowshoe which greatly aided them in walking. The white captives sank deep into the snow at every step. They dared not stop to rest, for whenever they slackened their pace the Indians would level guns at them and resort to various other devices to keep them moving.

The food which the Indians had secured at Okoboji and Springfield supplied them for about four weeks. Following this they made little or no effort to secure food by hunting. If game crossed their path they would kill it—if they could do so without much effort. But there was no organization of hunting parties. After the confiscated supplies were exhausted, they contented themselves with muskrat and skunk; and as a luxury, Mrs. Sharp relates, they indulged in dog. As spring opened they were able to secure a few ducks and geese, which seemed very plentiful, but of which the Indians obtained[Pg 218] only a few. Such delicacies, however, were never shared with the captives: they were not even allowed to assist in their preparation.

The treatment of the horses secured at Okoboji and Springfield was still worse. There was neither hay nor grass—little or nothing upon which the horses might feed. Even so they were given but slight opportunity to feed. Before the Big Sioux had been reached nearly all of the horses taken in the raids at the lakes had died of starvation.[286]

Continued pursuit and ultimate capture by the soldiers seem to have soon lost their terrors for the Indians. Although they kept constantly on the move, progress was not very rapid—largely owing to the huge drifts of snow over and through which they were compelled to travel. Their first stopping-place, after nearly two weeks of uninterrupted marching, was at the great red pipestone quarry in southwestern Minnesota. This was but little more than one hundred miles northwest of Heron Lake. Here they remained for a day quarrying pipestone and fashioning pipes. A further cause for delay was the fact that the snow was rapidly melting and travel, even for the Indians, was very difficult.

The Indians were now in a sacred region to which all the Sioux were wont to make frequent journeys—a region closely associated with the superstitions of their race. Here the footprints made by the Great Spirit when he alighted upon the earth could be seen. It was while he stood here that a stream of[Pg 219] water burst forth from beneath his feet and flowed away to nourish the plain. Here it was that the Great Spirit fashioned a pipe and smoked: huge volumes of smoke issued forth serving as a signal for all the tribes to assemble from far and near. When so assembled, the Great Spirit, blowing the smoke over all, bade them meet here always in peace even though they might be at war elsewhere. Moreover, if they wished to receive his favor, the calumet must be fashioned from the rock upon which he stood. Having thus enjoined his people, the Great Spirit disappeared in a cloud. It is said that ever afterward when the Indians met at the pipestone quarry, they met in peace though elsewhere they might be at war.[287]

After leaving the pipestone region so much time was consumed by the Indians in camping that it might be said they camped more than they marched. This is explained by the fact that they felt themselves now wholly free from the danger of pursuit. Spring was rapidly approaching and the smaller game was becoming more plentiful; and so they did not feel the need of hastening to the buffalo ranges in Dakota.

The burdens of the captives grew increasingly more difficult. Although snow no longer impeded their march, the rains were frequent and the rivers and creeks were flowing wide over the valleys. When it rained they were without shelter. The streams were crossed by the Indians on the backs of[Pg 220] the few ponies that yet survived. But the captives had to wade at the risk of losing their lives: they could not swim.

Notwithstanding the hardships through which they were compelled to pass, all but Mrs. Thatcher were faring much better than might have been expected. Mrs. Marble, Mrs. Noble, and Abbie Gardner were willing to appear resigned to their lot and did all that was requested of them: they even appeared ready and willing to perform the many menial duties which fell to their lot. With Mrs. Thatcher, however, it was different. She had from the first rebelled at the service imposed by her Indian captors; nor did she hesitate to show them very plainly her frame of mind. This attitude on her part proved to be most unfortunate.

From the beginning of her captivity Mrs. Thatcher had been ill with phlebitis, which before the end of two weeks had developed into virulent blood poisoning.[288] Indeed, so serious was her condition that for a large portion of the march she had been relieved of much of her pack. At the pipestone quarry and on the march after leaving that region the medicine man of the band had undertaken to treat her—and the treatment seemed to help her. To such an extent had she been relieved that the Indians considered her again able to bear a pack. Thus it happened that when they arrived at the crossing of the Big Sioux near the present village of Flandrau, Mrs. Thatcher was laden as heavily as were the other three captives.

[Pg 221]

This crossing had been for generations the fording place of the red peoples in their pilgrimages to the pipestone quarry. Normally the river at this point is wide but shallow. But “the vast amount of snow which covered the ground that memorable winter had nearly gone, by reason of the rapid thawing during the last few weeks, causing the river to rise beyond all ordinary bounds, and assume majestic proportions.”[289] Throughout the greater portion of the upper course of the Big Sioux it flows between perpendicular and continuous cliffs of red jasper rocks peculiar to the region, but at or near this traditional crossing place the stone cliffs were neither high nor continuous. Moreover, at this particular time so many tree trunks had become lodged by the spring freshets that at one point a bridge crossing was formed. Upon this the Indians proposed to cross, instead of attempting the more dangerous method of fording. At the prospect of crossing the swollen stream, the captives were terrified, believing that they would again be compelled to wade. They despaired of being able to get across. The situation seemed quite hopeless.

As soon as the determination to cross had been reached, an Indian warrior—the one who had seized the box of caps from Gardner—removed the pack from Mrs. Thatcher’s back and transferred it to his own.[290] This in itself was ominous, and Mrs. Thatcher was not slow to perceive that some unusual disposition was to be made of her. As she was ordered forward to the driftwood bridge she spoke[Pg 222] to her companions, bidding them goodbye and saying as she did so: “If any of you escape, tell my dear husband that I wanted to live for his sake.”[291] When she had made the middle of the stream, the Indian carrying her pack suddenly tripped her into the river. Retaining her presence of mind she was able by desperate efforts to keep herself afloat. A number of times she succeeded in making her way to the banks of the stream where, grasping the roots of trees, she strove to pull herself out of the water. But each time she was met by an Indian who clubbed her loose and with a long pole pushed her into the main current. Finally, as she came to shore and grasped the roots of a tree for what proved to be the last time, an Indian who had always been peculiarly brutal in his treatment of the captive raised his gun and shot her through the head, killing her instantly.[292]

Mrs. Marble relates that the death of Mrs. Thatcher “was hailed by the Indian women with loud shouts of joy and exultation.—The feelings of the surviving prisoners at this horrid murder, cannot be imagined. They beheld in Mrs. Thatcher’s death, the fate reserved for them, when overpowered by fatigue, they would be unable to proceed.”[293]

The death of Mrs. Thatcher was a sad blow to the remaining captives: it was particularly distressing to Mrs. Noble. These two women had been lifelong friends and had married cousins. The families had come to the frontier together, had lived in the same[Pg 223] cabin, and had planned to build homes as nearly together as possible. Mrs. Noble was so depressed and so bereft of any hope that in the evening she proposed to the other captives that they steal away to the Big Sioux and drown themselves. Mrs Marble, however, succeeded in convincing her that such an act would be useless. But from this time Mrs. Noble seemed to be wholly indifferent as to her treatment or possible fate at the hands of her captors. The captives were now made to realize as never before the heartlessness of their captors: they lived in the expectation that any day might see for them the end of life.

Before them lay many days of the most wearisome travel. It is true that walking had become easier, for spring had really come and the trails were much improved. With spring had come also the blossoming of the prairies; but in this there was neither charm nor beauty for the captives as they wearily plodded on knowing not whither they were bound. After crossing the Big Sioux the journey was continued in a nearly direct line westward. Other bands of Sioux or Yanktons were now frequently seen; and notwithstanding the reputation of Inkpaduta, he and his band were usually very cordially met by other Indians. Indeed, they were more than cordially greeted from time to time at these chance meetings. The fact that they seemed to be known by all bands they chanced to meet suggests that they were not strangers to the region. The story of how[Pg 224] they obtained their captives, which was always told, seemed to be received with every sign of approbation.

By May fifth Inkpaduta and his band had reached Lake M’da Chan-Pta-Ya Tonka (Lake with a Grove of Big Trees). This body of water lies to the east of the present town of Madison, South Dakota, at the headwaters of Skunk Creek, and for that reason it has sometimes been called Skunk Lake.[294] Situated about thirty miles west of Flandrau, South Dakota, it is now known as Lake Madison. At the time it was visited by Inkpaduta it was on the margin of the buffalo range. Hunting was now quite the order of the day, and food became plentiful. The dressing and preparing of skins occupied the time of the squaws.

[Pg 225]


In view of the events which followed the camping of the Indians at Skunk Lake, it may be well to take note of the attempts made by the Indian agent and by the Territory of Minnesota to rescue the captives and punish the Indians. When the news of the massacre reached St. Paul and other Minnesota towns it created no little excitement. The Sioux were blamed as a nation, and this gave rise to a demand for their punishment without just regard for the identification of the actual perpetrators of the deed.

Charles E. Flandrau, the agent of the Mississippi Sioux who was then located at the agency on the Yellow Medicine, solved the problem of the identity of the murderers to his own satisfaction, and late in April began the publication of articles in a number of the most widely circulated newspapers in Minnesota in which he explained to the people of the Territory the real identity of the Indians concerned. While doing this he was also conferring with Colonel E. B. Alexander, commander of the Tenth United States Infantry then stationed at Fort Ridgely, Minnesota, concerning the best course to be pursued in the attempt to rescue the captives and apprehend the Indians. It was very clear to both that only such[Pg 226] a course could be adopted and followed as would be reasonably sure to guarantee the safety of the white women who presumably were still held in captivity by Inkpaduta’s band. It was felt by both Agent Flandrau and Colonel Alexander that the release of the captives must be secured by resort to some means other than force; but neither of these men was able to devise the proper means. While they were seeking a solution of the difficulty, news was brought of the ransoming of Mrs. Marble.

It seems that two Indian brothers from the Yellow Medicine Agency, who had been Christianized by the Rev. Stephen R. Riggs, had gone into the district beyond the Big Sioux to take part in the spring hunt along with other members of their tribe. While in the vicinity of Skunk Lake, the brothers, Ma-kpe-ya-ka-ho-ton (Sounding Heavens) and Se-ha-ho-ta (Gray foot) by name, sons of Spirit Walker, Chief of the Lac qui Parle Wahpetons, heard that Inkpaduta had lately passed through the region.[295] They were also told that his band held as captives three white women who had been taken in a raid which they had but lately made upon the settlements at the lakes. The first feeling of the brothers was one of pity for the captives, since they well knew the ferocious character of the Inkpaduta band. Discussing the matter between themselves, they decided to visit the camp of Inkpaduta for the purpose of securing the release of the captives. The plan met with disapproval when it was submitted to their companions who feared the consequences. But the brothers[Pg 227] were so strongly convinced that they could secure the release of at least one of the prisoners, and possibly of all, that they refused the advice of their fellows and set out on the trail of Inkpaduta.

Anticipating that the release of the captives might only be secured through ransom, the brothers had collected from their companions as much in the way of personal belongings as could be spared. Adding this to their own supply they thought they had sufficient property to accomplish their purpose. Being Indians themselves, and therefore well acquainted with the Indian attitude of mind, they did not take their possessions with them when they went to Inkpaduta’s camp to negotiate. Instead they concealed the property in the brush on the lake shore not far distant. At first they were not received with any show of cordiality, for they were known to be Christian Indians: Inkpaduta suspected them as spies, and they were constantly watched, since they were supposed to be in direct communication with United States soldiers. Frequently, as they would move about the camp, an alarm would be raised that soldiers were coming.[296]

The first night spent by the brothers in the camp was wholly taken up with the recital of the well-worn tale of the massacre. At daybreak the brothers broached the reason for their coming. All forenoon the proposition was argued. Grayfoot, acting in the capacity of spokesman of the brothers, did not hesitate to tell Inkpaduta the enormity of the crime he had committed.[297] But Inkpaduta remained unimpressed;[Pg 228] and not until mid-afternoon did he give any sign of wavering. Finally he proposed that the brothers take only one of the captives. This, he added, would show his good faith in the matter. It was also quite evident that this proposition was made for the purpose of getting rid of his unwelcome and tenacious visitors as soon as possible. The price demanded for the release of even one of the captives was so high that there was nothing to do but accept the offer—especially since it was clear that a longer parley was useless. The price for the one was to be “one gun, a lot of blankets, a keg of powder, and a small supply of Indian trinkets.”[298]

It appears that Inkpaduta did not value any one of the captives more highly than the other, and so he was willing that the brothers should exercise the privilege of choice. In a tepee only a short distance away the white women were engaged in some of the menial tasks of the afternoon. Grayfoot walked over to the tent and looked in. At first he decided upon Mrs. Noble, being touched by her appearance of unhappiness. But when he beckoned her to follow him from the tent, she became angry and refused to comply. This apparently did not discourage Grayfoot, for he turned to Mrs. Marble and repeated the signal. Mrs. Marble, having resolved upon ready compliance with the demands of the Indians, at once followed him from the tepee. It should be said that there was little thought of selecting Miss Gardner for she was regarded as relatively safe from harsh treatment by her captors on account of[Pg 229] her youth.[299] With Mrs. Marble, Grayfoot and Sounding Heavens, accompanied by two of Inkpaduta’s Indians, returned to the camp upon the Big Sioux.

Upon reaching this camp Mrs. Marble was informed by a Frenchman, who happened to be in the camp, of the real purpose of the Indian brothers. The brothers now hastened to the tepee of Spirit Walker at Lac qui Parle where they arrived on May twentieth, the journey having occupied ten days. Here Mrs. Marble was given clothing and as good care as the means of Spirit Walker and his squaw would permit. Word was taken in a few days to the missionaries, Riggs and Williamson, at the upper agency that one of the Spirit Lake captives was at the tepee of Spirit Walker. They at once hastened to the chief’s lodge where they found Mrs. Marble happily situated and somewhat reluctant to leave her new-found and kind friends. Upon leaving the lodge she was placed in the care of Agent Flandrau who started with her at once for St. Paul where they arrived on May thirtieth.

In writing of Mrs. Marble’s arrival in St. Paul the St. Paul Pioneer describes her as being “about twenty-five years of age; of medium size, and very pleasant looking. She is a native of Darke county, Ohio, and moved to Michigan about ten years ago. She has been twice married. Her first husband’s name was Phips. After his death, she married Mr. Marble, with whom she removed to Linn county, Iowa, and ultimately to Spirit Lake in Dick[in]son[Pg 230] county. Mrs. M. is in a very destitute condition,—her husband has been murdered and as to whether her parents are alive or not, she is ignorant. We trust those who are blessed with a supply of this world’s goods will contribute liberally in aid of this unfortunate woman. The privations she has undergone, and her present destitute condition commend her to the consideration of the benevolent.”[300]

The Indian brothers in notifying Agent Flandrau of their ransom of Mrs. Marble took occasion to remind him that they deemed the act worthy of a somewhat liberal reward, for, quoting the language of their letter, “it was perilous business, which we think should be liberally rewarded. We claim for our services $500 each. We do not want it in horses, they would be killed by jealous young men. We do not wish it in ammunition and goods, these we should be obliged to divide with others. The laborer is worthy of his own reward. We want it in money, which we can make more serviceable to ourselves than it could be in any other form. This is what we have to say.”[301]

To the agent this claim presented a problem difficult to handle, since he could see no way in which to secure the amount demanded. At the same time he did not for a moment consider the demand unjust—indeed he was surprised at its reasonableness. Having no public money at his disposal, if he met the demand it would necessarily be from private funds of his own or from the generosity of others. His own private funds amounted to but little more than[Pg 231] five hundred dollars; and so an equal amount had to be secured from other sources.[302] But where should he go to solicit funds? When his own ingenuity failed to solve the problem he called missionary Riggs into conference. They decided upon a bold stroke of finance, which was nothing less than the issuance of a Territorial bond for the amount required. This proved a happy solution of the difficulty, and although they acted without legal authority they issued the paper in good faith.[303]

[Pg 232]


From Mrs. Marble was obtained the information as to the whereabouts of the other captives. Without delay Agent Flandrau and the Rev. Stephen H. Riggs began to lay plans for their rescue. A dominant motive in Agent Flandrau’s desire to reward the brothers was to stimulate interest in the rescue of those who remained in the hands of the Indians. In this he was successful; for at once a number of whites and Indians proffered their services. It was not, however, deemed desirable that the rescue should be undertaken by any but red men. Accordingly all whites who applied were at once rejected.

The elimination finally left three volunteers—Paul Ma-za-ku-ta-ma-ni (sometimes called Little Paul) one of the staunchest native followers of Rev. Riggs,[304] An-pe-tu-tok-cha (John Other Day),[305] and Che-tan-maza. Equipped with the following outfit these Indians were told to use it to the best advantage in securing the release of the two remaining captives:

[Pg 233]

Wagon and double harness $110.00
Four horses 600.00
Twelve three-point blankets, four blue and eight white 56.00
Twenty-two yards of blue squaw cloth 44.00
Thirty-seven and a half yards of calico 5.37
Twenty pounds of tobacco 10.00
One sack of shot 4.00
One dozen shirts 13.00
Ribbon 4.75
Fifty pounds of powder 25.00
Corn 4.00
Flour 10.00
Coffee 1.50
Sugar 1.50

This bill of goods totalling $889.12, was purchased by Agent Flandrau of the traders at the Yellow Medicine Agency on credit, as he could not from his own private funds make cash payment to that amount. Thus equipped the Indians left the Yellow Medicine Agency on May twenty-third bound southwestward in an effort to locate Inkpaduta and negotiate with him for the release of his captives.[306]

As soon as Mrs. Marble and her purchasers left the camp on Lake Madison it was evident to Inkpaduta that it would not be long until soldiers would again be on his trail. He felt sure that the captive’s return to civilization would result in redoubled energies to apprehend him. Hence, as soon as his two envoys to the hunting camp on the Big Sioux returned, he was once more on the move. He went first to Lake Herman, which was only a short distance from Lake Madison. From Lake Herman his[Pg 234] course led northwestward and then up the valley of the James or Dakota River.

About two weeks after the breaking of camp at Lake Madison they fell in with a band of Yanktons. In this band was a one-legged fellow, Wanduskaihanke (End of the Snake) by name, who, having an eye for business and having heard of the ransom of Mrs. Marble, decided to buy the remaining captives, take them to the Missouri River forts, and there offer them for sale. A bargain was soon struck with Inkpaduta, who now seemed anxious to rid himself of his charges, and the transfer of property at once took place. But for some reason not clear the Yankton instead of continuing with his band remained with Inkpaduta’s party, which now moved directly north, headed for the Earth Lodges of the Yanktons. Apparently the Indians under Inkpaduta paid no further heed to the captives.

Thus matters had stood for some days when one evening, as Mrs. Noble and Miss Gardner were preparing for the night’s rest, Roaring Cloud, a son of Inkpaduta, entered. The captives suspected that trouble was at hand and anxiously waited to see what form it might take. Roaring Cloud had no sooner entered than he ordered Mrs. Noble out of the tent. She refused to comply. Enraged, he grasped her by one arm and with his other hand seized a stick of wood which happened to be close by. Dragging her out of the tepee, he struck her three or four heavy blows on the head, thus ending her life. On the following morning, as the squaws[Pg 235] were breaking camp, the warriors gathered about the dead body and amused themselves by shooting arrows into it.

That the Indians with their remaining captive now journeyed well into the range of the buffalo is evidenced by the testimony of Mrs. Sharp who said that they “crossed one prairie so vast and so perfectly devoid of timber, that for days not even a hazel-brush, or a sprout large enough for a riding-whip could be found.” As they “attained the more elevated points the scene was really sublime. Look in any direction, and the grassy plain was bounded only by the horizon.... The only things to be seen, except grass, were wild fowls, birds, buffalo, and antelope. The supply of buffalo seemed almost as limitless as the grass. This was their own realm, and they showed no inclination to surrender it, not even to the Sioux.”[307]

Within two days after the killing of Mrs. Noble the Indians crossed the James somewhere near the mouth of Snake Creek and encamped a short distance to the south of the site of the present town of Ashton. Not far removed was a permanent camp of about one hundred and ninety lodges of Yankton Sioux.

The arrival of the white captive created a stir in the Yankton camp. Their great curiosity was probably due to the fact that she was the first white person that many of them had ever seen. Her hair and skin were examined with intense admiration. “No sooner was one company out of the teepe (sic) than others came; and so they kept it up from morning[Pg 236] until night, day after day”.[308] The excitement over the white captive had scarcely died away when it was renewed by the arrival of the three Indian emissaries from the Yellow Medicine, who came garbed in civilized attire, “coats and white shirts, with starched bosoms.”[309] They had taken up Inkpaduta’s trail at Lake Madison and had closely followed it all the way without overtaking the band.

Considerable time was spent in parleying for the captive, but the Yankton owner remained firm in his refusal of the terms offered. At the close of the second day he stated that he would have to submit the question of sale to a tribal vote, since he lacked the power to negotiate it himself. This brought to light the fact that there were two parties in the tribe—one favoring immediate sale, the other maintaining that it would be better to take the captive to the Missouri River country.

While these negotiations were in progress groups of Yanktons visited Abbie Gardner. With great gusto they dwelt upon the situation that existed in the council from time to time. Each group had its own version as to her future disposition. “One would say that I would be taken to the river and drowned.... Another would tell me that I would be bound to a stake and burned, showing the manner in which I would writhe and struggle in the flames. Another declared that I was to be cut to pieces by inches; taking his knife and beginning at my toes, or fingers, he would show how piece after piece was to be cut off”.[310] Finally the captive was[Pg 237] relieved by a Yankton squaw who told her that there was no truth in these explanations, since the council had decided that she was to be freed by sale to the stranger Indians who would take her back to the whites. Thus on the fifth day of the council the party for immediate sale won, and the tribal vote expressed a willingness to close the bargain as soon as possible.

The price paid for the ransom of Abbie Gardner was probably “two horses, twelve blankets, two kegs of powder, twenty pounds of tobacco, thirty-two yards of blue squaw cloth, thirty-seven and a half yards of calico and ribbon, and other small articles”.[311] Although there is no little disagreement as to how much was actually paid for her ransom, it is certain that none of the many articles with which the Indians were provided to secure the release of Mrs. Noble and Miss Gardner were ever turned back or accounted for by the three Indians. From this it may fairly be presumed that all were used in bringing about the ransom.

After the purchase price had been paid and the captive turned over to her new care-takers, they were all urged by the Yanktons to remain and attend a feast to be given in their honor. Abbie Gardner, however, was anxious to make her return to civilization as speedily as possible. She had also observed in the preparations which were being made that roast dog was to be served at the feast, and so declined to attend, urging upon her guides an immediate departure. In spite of her failure to appreciate[Pg 238] the honor of a dog feast, the Yankton chief, Ma-to-wa-ken, ordered that the wagon be piled high with buffalo skins and meat. So well filled was the wagon that only Miss Gardner could be accommodated in addition to the load.[312] As a further assurance of good will the chief sent two of his best men along as a guard. They were to accompany the group to the Wahpeton Agency before turning back. Evidently this was a safeguard against attack from Inkpaduta’s men, for it appears that a number of his party followed for four days before turning back to the camp on Snake Creek.[313]

The return trip of Abbie Gardner was strikingly different from her forced flight, since now she was the only member of the party who rode while all the others walked. The first adventure of the journey which proved to her the good intentions of the Indians was at the crossing of the James River. When the party arrived at the stream, the girl was placed in a frail little boat not more than five or six feet in length—just large enough for herself. In her fright she recalled the Yankton’s tales of her early killing by her purchasers. But she was soon happily assured of their good intentions. Having placed her in the frail boat, they attached a strong rawhide thong cable to one end. When these preparations for crossing were completed, the Indians divested themselves of most of their clothing, plunged into the stream, and led or guided the canoe and its occupant safely across to the opposite bank. From[Pg 239] this time on the girl’s confidence in her guides grew with every evidence of their good will toward her.

The return journey was without any unusual incident. After a week of uninterrupted traveling, they came to a region thickly populated with Indians, and to the great joy of Abbie Gardner there were a large number of log houses in addition to the primitive and loathsome tepees. She thought these were inhabited by white people when she first sighted them, but later she discovered that such was not the case: they were all inhabited by Indians. After two more days of travel, she reached the home of a half-breed family who could talk English. It was here that she learned that her guides had been sent out by the authorities to bring her in. While they tarried here for a day and a half Abbie made a suit for herself out of cloth furnished by the half-breed girls at whose home she lodged.[314] The next stop was at the Yellow Medicine mission on the confines of civilization. Here the girl was given into the temporary care of the missionaries, Dr. and Mrs. Thomas S. Williamson. The date of her arrival at this point was on or about the tenth day of June. Her joy was altogether unbounded when she found herself once more lodged in the home of a person of her own race; for she now fully realized that her deliverance was actual and not a fanciful dream.

While this expedition was being successfully carried out, Agent Flandrau had gone to St. Paul with[Pg 240] Mrs. Marble, whom he tells us he took thither in his own wagon. As soon as they arrived Mrs. Marble was turned over to a Mrs. Long, the wife of Steve Long, proprietor of the Fuller House then located at the northeast corner of Jackson and Seventh Streets. Mrs. Long was instructed to outfit her in the most becoming and “effective widow’s weeds obtainable in the market”.[315] When this had been satisfactorily accomplished, Mrs. Marble was presented to the people at a public meeting or reception in the hotel. Before the reception came to a close over one thousand dollars had been contributed toward her future support. This was turned over to Governor Medary to be used in whatever manner the Governor thought best. Mrs. Marble was detained in St. Paul for only a brief time, due to her great desire to return to her friends and relatives in the East. At the time of her leaving, Governor Medary gave her two hundred and fifty dollars of the money contributed and placed the remainder in a St. Paul bank. Later the bank failed and nothing could be realized on the deposit.[316]

At the time of Abbie Gardner’s arrival at the Yellow Medicine station, the annuity Indians were in revolt because of the non-payment of annuities then due. These annuities were being held up until the Indians would agree to coöperate in apprehending Inkpaduta and his band. A massacre seemed imminent at any moment; but within two days after her arrival the Indians tentatively agreed[Pg 241] to coöperate and all became peaceful. The return of quiet among the Indians enabled a certain Mr. Robinson to join in the trip to St. Paul. The journey was by means of a team and a cumbersome lumber wagon which, owing to the almost unbroken roads, did not permit of either rapid or comfortable travel. Sunday, or the day following their start, was spent at Redwood, Lower Agency, just above Fort Ridgely. Word was carried in advance to Captain Bee, who at this time was in command at the post. Upon the receipt of the news the Captain at once sent his horse and buggy with the urgent request that the girl return with his orderly to spend Sunday at the post with his family. But her Indian rescuers were suspicious of an attempt to deprive them of their reward and would not consent to her going unless they accompanied her. Of course such an arrangement could not be made, and so the acceptance of Captain Bee’s kind invitation was impossible.

Since Abbie Gardner could not spend Sunday at the fort, the officers, Captain Bee and Lieutenant Murry, resolved to express their admiration for the girl’s fortitude and courage in another way. Previous to her arrival at the post on the following day, these officers solicited from the soldiers a purse containing several dollars in gold, which with a gold ring were presented to her upon her arrival. The presentation was made by Mrs. Bee on behalf of the contributors to the fund. Lieutenant Murry presented her, as a personal testimonial of his regard[Pg 242] for her wonderful bravery, an elegant shawl and a dress pattern of the finest cloth that could be obtained at the post trader’s store.[317]

From Fort Ridgely the rescue party followed the cross country trail to Traverse des Sioux, then the head of navigation on the Minnesota River. Here they embarked on a steamer; and on June 22nd they reached Shakopee where a large crowd awaited their coming. Again Abbie Gardner was presented with a purse of money amounting to some thirty dollars. The news of her coming had preceded her down the river to St. Paul, and when she arrived there on the evening of the same day she was again met by a large number of people. Accompanied by her rescuers and the Yankton messenger, she was hurried to a carriage and taken to the Fuller House. The landlady, the same who had cared for Mrs. Marble, immediately took her in charge with the same purpose in view as on the previous occasion—that of making her presentable for a public reception.

Previous to her arrival it had been arranged that Abbie Gardner should be formally and publicly turned over to the Governor by her rescuers. Thus, at ten o’clock on the morning of Tuesday, June twenty-third, in the public receiving room of the Fuller House the ceremony took place in the presence of a large number of ladies and gentlemen who were specially invited to be present. There was much speechmaking, in which Governor Medary, Agent Flandrau, Ma-za-ku-ta-ma-ni, and An-pe-tu-tok-cha[Pg 243] took the prominent parts. Ma-za-ku-ta-ma-ni reminded Governor Medary of the great regard in which his people held the whites and how on account of their desire to manifest this respect he and his companions had been willing to undertake the perilous mission—which they really believed at the outset might prove to be a fatal undertaking. An-pe-tu-tok-cha followed his companion with a relation of the salient features of the journey to and from the Yankton camp and with a description of the difficulties met and overcome in the council while the negotiation for the captive’s ransom was pending.

Governor Medary in reply cautioned the Indians against fraternizing or holding any form of communication with the lawless elements of the plains Indians; and he assured them that the great service they had rendered would be rewarded in a proper manner, and that an account of their mission would be sent to the Great Father at Washington as soon as possible.[318]

At the close of the ceremony Agent Flandrau presented Abbie Gardner with a magnificent Indian war bonnet—the gift of the Yankton chief, Ma-to-wa-ken, from whom she had been purchased. The bonnet had been entrusted to the keeping of Ma-za-ku-ta-ma-ni with instructions to have it presented to the girl when she should be safely delivered to their White Father, the Governor. Following these formalities an elaborate state dinner was served in honor of the released captive and her rescuers.

[Pg 244]

On the following day, which was June twenty-fourth, Abbie Gardner, under the escort of Governor Medary and accompanied by a certain L. P. Lee, embarked on the steamer “Galena” for Iowa, for the purpose of finding her sister Eliza, who had been so fortunate as to escape the massacres at Okoboji and Springfield. Governor Medary accompanied her as far as Dubuque. In case the sister could not be located, he proposed to take Abbie to Columbus, Ohio, and adopt her into his own family.[319] From Dubuque Mr. Lee conducted Miss Gardner to Fort Dodge where she was left in the care of Major William Williams, who promised to have her taken as soon as possible to the home of her sister. It seems that Eliza Gardner had married William R. Wilson of Company B of the Fort Dodge relief expedition and was then living at Hampton, Iowa.

At Hampton anxiously awaiting the captive’s return was not only her sister, but also Mr. Thatcher who was hoping that he might yet hear something favorable concerning Mrs. Thatcher. To Abbie Gardner fell the sad duty of conveying to him the last words spoken by Mrs. Thatcher as she started to cross what turned out to be a river of death.[320]

[Pg 245]


Immediately after the departure of Abbie Gardner, Agent Flandrau and her rescuers returned to the Yellow Medicine Agency. Here Agent Flandrau proceeded to make a settlement with the Indians who had so well demonstrated their good faith. Without difficulty the matter was adjusted upon the basis of a four hundred dollar cash payment to each or a total of twelve hundred dollars.[321] The legislature of Minnesota Territory had acted in the matter while these Indians were on their mission; and the payment was now made on behalf of Governor Medary.

By the first of May sentiment had begun to crystallize in favor of some form of action by the Territorial legislature looking toward the rescue of the captives. Before such action could be taken, Mrs. Marble was brought in. This only increased the interest in the welfare of those yet remaining in the hands of the Indians somewhere on the Dakota plains. An insistent popular demand arose for immediate action; and this demand was met by an appropriation of ten thousand dollars.[322] But the news of this action had not reached Agent Flandrau at the time he sent his Indians to the rescue. The Territory willingly honored all obligations contracted[Pg 246] by him for the purpose of the ransom, even paying the principal and interest upon the ingeniously contrived but extra-legal bond. In securing the release of Abbie Gardner and Mrs. Marble somewhat more than three thousand dollars were expended out of the ten thousand appropriated.[323]

As soon as Agent Flandrau had outfitted his Indians and had seen them off on their journey for the rescue of Mrs. Noble and Abbie Gardner, he went to Fort Ridgely to confer with Colonel Alexander as to the best plan of operating against Inkpaduta. In any event the plan was to be put in operation only on receipt of word that the captives were safe from further harm. Colonel Alexander was very enthusiastic over the suggested punishment of Inkpaduta’s band, and he signified his willingness to detail no less than five companies to proceed to the Skunk Lake region and close in upon the Indian outlaws from as many directions. This plan it was believed would, destroy all possibility of escape. But before arrangements had been fully matured, Colonel Alexander was ordered by the War Department to get his forces under way immediately and unite with those under General Albert Sidney Johnston who was marching west to quell the Mormon disturbances in Utah. Unfortunately the successor to Colonel Alexander had but little interest in the matter, and Agent Flandrau’s scheme had to be given up, at least for a time.

Following quickly upon the order received by Colonel Alexander was one sent by the Secretary of[Pg 247] the Interior to Agent Flandrau “to investigate and report the facts in the case, and the measures”[324] which in his judgment would be most effective in ferreting out and punishing the marauders. This order somewhat irritated the agent as he had already reported fully upon the facts and had suggested the best measures to be taken in dealing with the outlaws. In commenting upon this incident the agent wrote some years later that he “had become so thoroughly convinced of the imbecility of a military administration, which clothed and equipped its troops exactly in the same manner for duty in the tropical climate of Florida, and the frigid region of Minnesota, that I took advantage of the invitation, to lay before the authorities some of my notions as to what was the proper thing to do”.[325]

Agent Flandrau does not appear to have considered the request for a report as being urgent, since he sent no reply until August twenty-seventh, nearly two months later. In the report he took occasion to suggest a remedy for the causes of the failure of Captain Bee’s detail to capture Inkpaduta’s band before it made the attack on Springfield. As has already been stated the slow progress of the detail was not alone due to the depth of the snow, but also to the unwieldly character of the men’s equipment. Concerning this situation the agent observed that “the ordinary means of transportation in the army is, as you well know, by heavy wagons drawn by mules. In the winter these wagons are placed upon sleds, and where there are roads for them to go upon,[Pg 248] they can do well enough. But, as I have before said, it will be very seldom if ever, that troops will be called upon to act in a country where there are roads of any kind made in the snow, consequently these sleds and mules are useless.” In lieu of this sort of equipment, he recommended that troops, to be effective in winter, should be equipped with snowshoes. In concluding he asked that men be placed on the frontier “who will at all times and under all circumstances, be superior to the enemy they have to contend with, and I would have no fear of a recurrence of the difficulties of last spring”.[326]

The annuities due the Sioux Indians in accordance with the treaties of Traverse des Sioux and Mendota were customarily paid them at the upper and lower agencies during the closing week in June of each year. Upon such occasions the Indians flocked to these points by the thousands from Minnesota and Dakota. They came prepared to celebrate; and this they commonly did for several days both before and after the payment was made. It was not alone the annuity Indians who assembled, but the undesirable whites of the frontier also came to pick up whatever money might be obtainable. At this particular time—late in June, 1857—in addition to about six thousand annuity Indians, many such desperate characters had gathered at the agencies and may be considered responsible for much that happened.

When all had gathered in at the two agencies, the Superintendent of Indian Affairs, W. J. Cullen, called a conference at the Upper Agency. This council,[Pg 249] attended by representatives from all bands of the Upper Sioux and a few from the lower tribes, was addressed by Superintendent Cullen. He told them plainly that they would be held responsible for the conduct of the lawless characters of their nation, and that in view of this responsibility they should without delay devise some means of apprehending Inkpaduta. Leaving them to deliberate and report later, he proceeded to the Lower Agency, where he called a like council of the Mdewakanton and Wahpekuta bands to meet on July twelfth. At this meeting he made the same demands as at the Upper Agency and with like result.

Within a brief time Cullen received deputations from both branches of the Sioux informing him that they neither could nor would comply with his demands unless United States soldiers were sent with them. He communicated the demand to Major Sherman, then commanding at Fort Ridgely, who replied that soldiers could not be furnished for such an undertaking since there was not a sufficient number then at the post to make it advisable to spare any; and “the policy of sending soldiers to co-operate with Indians ... would only expose troops to treachery on the part of the Indians.” Then, too, “a body of Indians on an expedition of that kind would rely on troops to do the work of capturing and killing ... in case they should have an engagement with the party they were seeking”.[327]

Admitting the soundness of this answer Superintendent[Pg 250] Cullen informed the Indian envoys that United States troops could not be furnished for such a purpose, and he stated that unless the Indians decided to undertake such an expedition alone and unaided, other measures than those already taken would be resorted to from necessity. No further action coming from the Indians, Superintendent Cullen determined to withhold the annuities.[328]

On the thirteenth the Indians again declined to go in pursuit of Inkpaduta without the aid of United States troops. On the fourteenth they began consolidating their bands and it became evident to all that trouble was afoot. Matters were growing more critical every day. The whites became alarmed and began to leave their farms. Many fled to the post or left the country altogether. The situation reached a climax on the evening of the fifteenth when a Sisseton, without provocation, stabbed a soldier of Major Sherman’s command. The Indian escaped and fled to the Sisseton camp where he was received and protected. This incident evidenced the determination of these Indians to protect rather than punish law-breakers.[329]

The crisis was made more acute by the demand for the release of the Indian to the military authorities. Major Sherman made the demand and was refused. The officer sent by him was received “with two hundred of their guns pointed towards him”. Delivery of the culprit was, however, promised for the next morning. At that time “they came down from their lodges, numbering about twenty-five hundred[Pg 251] warriors, all armed and painted, evidently prepared for fight. Many surrounded and came into the camp; they asked a council”.[330] They were told that their request could not be granted until they surrendered the culprit and laid their guns aside. By deceit they then sought to draw out the Indian agents and army officers one by one to talk, with the intention of killing them when they had been drawn into a council. In this plan they were frustrated, and on the following day they surrendered the culprit. The Indians were probably emboldened by the panic which then existed throughout the whole of southern and western Minnesota. They construed the situation as “an open confession of cowardice, fear and weakness” upon the part of the Indian and military authorities, and they were ready to flout both at any opportunity.[331]

At this time Little Crow appeared and tendered his best offices in quieting the disturbance and expelling the malcontents. While these rebellious proceedings were taking place at the Upper Agency, he had been at the Redwood Agency. Owing to his intercession and influence, the Indians at the Lower Agency sent word within a day or two that they were willing to undertake the pursuit and punishment of Inkpaduta. In this resolve they were also joined by the Sissetons. Because of Little Crow’s undoubted influence in bringing his tribesmen to terms, it was decided to place him in command of the expedition if such an appointment was acceptable to its members—which proved to be the case. But[Pg 252] the Indians were in no condition to embark on such an expedition, since they were without food or supplies of any kind. Upon their assurance of good faith in the prosecution of the expedition they were promised the needed supplies.

Thus equipped the Indian expedition started in pursuit of Inkpaduta on the nineteenth day of July. To hold them to the faithful performance of their promise, Superintendent Cullen sent his interpreter, Joseph Campbell, and six half-breeds along to report upon operations. One hundred and six warriors under Little Crow made up the personnel of the company, in addition to Campbell and the half-breeds.[332] The membership came from the whole Sioux nation represented at the agencies, being recruited from the seventeen bands of the Upper Sioux and the eight bands of the Lower Sioux.

After an absence of sixteen days the Little Crow expeditionary force returned to the Upper Agency on the fourth of August. They reported that on July twenty-eighth, on arriving at Skunk Lake, they found six lodges of Inkpaduta’s people. These were divided into two encampments of three lodges each, about three miles apart. Prior to the arrival of the expedition the lodges were deserted by their occupants who fled to the Big Drift Wood Lake, twenty miles away. They had evidently fled to this lake for the better protection it would afford, owing to the rank growth of reeds in its shallow waters. When the pursuers came up with the fleeing Indians fighting began at once, but it had continued only a[Pg 253] half hour when darkness put an end to the conflict. In the morning three prisoners were taken, two squaws and a boy, and three men were found killed and one wounded. Of those killed one was identified as Mak-pi-a-pe-ta or Fire Cloud, a twin son of Inkpaduta. It was also learned from the captives that a defection had arisen in Inkpaduta’s band, as a result of which Inkpaduta and a few followers had broken away and gone to the Snake Creek camp of the Yanktons. Not feeling strong enough to make demands upon a camp of over a thousand Yankton friends of Inkpaduta the expedition had returned to report.[333]

But Superintendent Cullen was not satisfied with what had been done and he plainly spoke his mind. His insistence irritated not only Little Crow, but other leaders of the Sioux at both agencies. Cullen, however, was determined and he called a council of the Sissetons and Wahpetons at the Upper Agency on August tenth. The Indian representatives were sullen and Superintendent Cullen was tactless, with the result that many sharp replies were exchanged to the disadvantage of both parties. Wahpuja Wicasta accused the Superintendent of being dissatisfied because they, the Indians, had failed to bring back a piece of Inkpaduta that he, Superintendent Cullen, might taste of it and thus pronounce upon its genuineness and prove their good faith in the pursuit of the outlaw.[334] Ma-za-ku-ta-ma-ni, representing the soldier lodge which had been formed, spoke bitterly concerning the wrongs done[Pg 254] the Indians and accused Superintendent Cullen of breaking faith in his relations with the soldiers and in his failure to reward the efforts which they had honestly put forth.[335] Superintendent Cullen failed to accomplish his purpose and in the end had to admit the need for action upon the part of the military arm of the government. Such action he now recommended, as well as the payment of the annuities long overdue. It is a reflection upon the effectiveness of the military to note that no further action was taken to punish the outlaw and his band.

For a few years Inkpaduta was lost sight of. Apparently he had ceased his activities along the frontier. For five years he remained in seclusion. In the summer of 1862 a portion of the band appeared at the Yellow Medicine Agency, hoping to share in the annuities of that year. Agent Galbraith, hearing of their presence, sent Lieutenant T. J. Sheehan with a few soldiers to drive them away from the agency. But their friends had warned them; and when the detail surrounded the camp to the south of Lake Benton the Indians were gone. The trail was followed for some distance, but it suddenly ended leaving not a trace of its continuance.

It must not be supposed, however, that Inkpaduta contented himself with a life of complete inactivity. He is presumed to have joined with Little Crow in a plan for the expulsion of all whites from the Dakota country which was to culminate in the massacres of 1862. During the progress of this revolt his[Pg 255] presence was several times reported, and toward its close he is said to have gone westward and united with the Santees of the Missouri. In a few years he succeeded in uniting this tribe with the Yanktons and then secured the leadership.

But he had now grown too old to be aggressive, and so his leadership was more nominal than real. According to Holcombe “Inkpadoota’s last appearance in an historical scene was at the Custer massacre, in the Little Big Horn, in Eastern Montana, in June, 1876. On the morning of the day that General Custer made his ill-fated ride upon the Indian camp, Inkpadoota, then seventy-five years old, and stone blind, was sitting on the banks of the Little Big Horn ... with two of his grandsons, and the three were fishing in the stream. The little boys were the first to see Major Reno’s command as it came riding up the valley to hold the Indians on the south, while Custer should come upon them from the north. They ran as fast as they could encumbered with their blind and decrepit grandsire, and gave the alarm in time for Gall and Grass to come down and drive back Reno, and then hasten back and exterminate Custer and his force. At this time, and for ten years before, Inkpadoota had been blind, and no longer regarded as a leader of any body, for he could not walk without a guide. He and his two surviving sons fled with Sitting Bull to Canada, finally locating at the Canadian Red Pipestone Quarry, in Southwestern Manitoba. Here, in 1894, Dr. Charles Eastman, the well-known Indian authority,[Pg 256] found the descendants of Inkpadoota.... However, the bloody-minded old savage himself had died miserably some years before”.[336] Thus ended the life of an implacable foe of the white race, who for nearly forty years had terrorized the northwestern frontier from the Mississippi River in Iowa to the far away Rockies of Canada.

Of the original band but little more remains to be said. While the excitement was at its highest in the closing days of June, 1857, incident to the non-payment of the annuities, Agent Flandrau, then at the Lower Agency, received a note from Sam Brown, a trader on the Yellow Medicine. The note brought the information that Inkpaduta and several of his band were then at the Upper Agency. The agent immediately sent a messenger to Fort Ridgely requesting help. He was given a detachment of fifteen men under Lieutenant Murry. While these troops were on the way from Fort Ridgely to the Redwood Agency, Agent Flandrau recruited a volunteer force of perhaps twenty-five men to assist in the operations against Inkpaduta. Among these volunteers was the well-known scout and interpreter, Joseph Campbell, who was almost an indispensable adjunct of any such expedition. When these preparations had been completed, the Indian messenger was sent back to the Upper Agency with the request that a guide be sent out to meet and lead them to the outlaw’s camp.

At dusk the united forces started for the Yellow Medicine. About midway between the two agencies[Pg 257] there was a high mound or butte which overlooked the whole of the surrounding country for miles. The trail being followed was that of the Sioux and according to their custom it passed over the summit of the elevation. When the party had reached the summit they found An-pe-tu-tok-cha or Other Day who had been sent by Brown to guide them to the camp. When found he was quietly sitting by the side of the trail, engaged in his favorite pastime of smoking. Upon being accosted he gave not the slightest evidence of recognition or interest. When he finally replied to questions put to him he admitted that a few of Inkpaduta’s Indians were near the Yellow Medicine, up the river about five miles, and numbered perhaps six lodges. Further than this he either did not have, or did not care to give, information. When questioned as to methods of attack he declared the best plan would be to “charge down on the camp, and when they see the soldiers, they will know who they are after, and any of Ink-pa-du-ta’s people that are there, will run or show fight, the rest will remain passive.”[337] This plan, after being confirmed by Campbell as best, was adopted.

With Other Day as guide, the march was resumed. The party reached the river, about one mile below the camp, just at dawn. The camp was pitched on a plateau or open prairie about a quarter of a mile from the river. To reach the shelter of the river it would be necessary for one fleeing from the camp to pass across the open space and go down a precipitous descent of about fifty feet. When within a[Pg 258] half mile of the camp, a charge was ordered by Lieutenant Murry. Nearly simultaneously with this command an Indian, leading a squaw, ran from one of the lodges toward the river. Other Day at once called out that there was the man, and rifles instantly cracked. Obviously the fugitive was not hit, for he safely made the shelter of the brush along the river in the face of a continued fire.

In his hurried flight the Indian was not unarmed, for he carried a double-barreled shot-gun. This fact made it extremely dangerous to go into the brush after him or even to attempt a reconnaissance. That he intended to defend himself was evident, for as soon as he reached the shelter of the brush he began firing on the attacking party. Each shot from him was greeted with a volley from the soldiers, which soon put an end to his firing. When found the body of the man was riddled with bullets. Upon investigation the individual proved to be none other than Roaring Cloud, son of Inkpaduta, the Indian who had so atrociously attacked and murdered Mrs. Noble.

The squaw whom he led at the beginning of his dash for the river was taken prisoner in the hope that she might assist in identifying the Indian who had been killed, as well as give information about other inhabitants of the camp. Taking her prisoner, however, proved most unfortunate, for it produced a great commotion at the Upper Agency which only added fuel to the excitement over the deferred annuities. On the return it was necessary to pass[Pg 259] through the camps of over seven thousand Indians. According to Agent Flandrau “the excitement among them was terrible. The squaw kept up a howling such as a squaw in distress only can make. The Indians swarmed about us, guns in hand, and scowled upon us in the most threatening manner.... I then began to realize the desperate temerity of the enterprise. Our salvation was simply the moral force of the government that was behind us. We reached the Agency buildings in safety, and took possession of a log house, where we remained several days in a state of sleepless anxiety, until relieved by Major Sherman with the famous old Buena Vista battery.... We felt ... like the man who was chased by a bear, and finally seized his paws around a tree; he wanted somebody to help him let go.”[338] With the coming of the battery the Indians became quiet.

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From what has preceded one might conclude that Minnesota Territory alone was sufficiently interested in the welfare of the captives and the punishment of the marauders to take official action relative thereto. Although such was not the case, it is true that Minnesota Territory through its legislative body was the first to take official notice of the situation and attempt a remedy. To be sure the Governors of Iowa had for several years been insistent in making demands upon the Federal government for the protection of the northwestern frontier; but nothing was accomplished. Both the Iowa legislature and Congress remained obdurate.

The delay on the part of Iowa was in large part due to the belief that the frontier troubles demanded action by the Federal authorities rather than by the State.[339] After the presentation of numerous petitions and following considerable debate, the Thirty-fifth Congress enacted a relief measure on June 14, 1858, by which the sum of twenty thousand dollars was appropriated “for defraying the expenses of the several expeditions against Ink-pa-du-tah’s band, and in the search, ransom, and recovery of the female captives taken by said band in[Pg 261] eighteen hundred and fifty-seven”.[340] This fund was to be expended under the direction of the Secretary of the Interior, who in turn designated the Superintendent of Indian Affairs, W. J. Cullen of St. Paul, Minnesota, as the disbursing agent of the Department.

Under the provisions of this act claims aggregating $7180.36 were presented by Iowans to Superintendent Cullen.[341] Upon the submission of required proof and the auditing of claims submitted, Superintendent Cullen recommended a payment of $3156.36 to apply on supplies furnished the Iowa relief expedition, and $1657.00 for services rendered by individual members of the expedition, making a total of $4813.36.[342] These claims were duly certified to the Secretary of the Interior, and the auditors of the Department, after eight months of examination of proof, advised the payment of $3628.43—a cut of $1184.93 from the Superintendent’s recommendations.[343]

The act of the Thirty-fifth Congress was later supplemented by a second and a third act by the Thirty-sixth Congress under dates of June 19 and 21, 1860—the first[344] of which set aside $16,679.90, and the second[345] $18,988.84 for the further reimbursement of the State. These measures were further supplemented during the same Congress by an act, under date of March 2, 1861, indemnifying the “citizens of Iowa and Minnesota for the destruction of property at or near Spirit Lake by Ink-pa-du-tah’s band of Sioux Indians”, to the[Pg 262] amount of $9,640.74.[346] By these acts the Federal government had set aside a total of $65,308.48 to indemnify the citizens of Iowa and Minnesota for lives lost, property destroyed, and expenses incurred in connection with the rescue of the captives and the punishment of the outlaws. Further than this Congress refused to act, the consensus of opinion in Congress being that the States concerned should supply any further needed relief.

Almost two years after Congress had officially recognized the need of the State for assistance in handling the Indian frontier problem, the Iowa legislature took action. On March 12, 1860, a bill was enacted into law whereby “the sum of three thousand dollars, or so much thereof as shall be necessary” was appropriated for the aid of those members of the relief expedition who had drawn largely upon their private means to finance the undertaking, but who had not been afforded the expected relief by the Federal government.

Under the provisions of this act the Governor was made the auditor of all claims presented in accordance with its provisions. He was directed to secure copies of all claims filed with the Federal government and, when satisfied by the evidence submitted that such as were yet unpaid were just, he might issue an order upon the Treasurer of State to pay the claims.[347] This law was supplemented on March twenty-second by a second act looking toward the relief of persons specifically named in the law,[348] although no additional funds for such purpose were[Pg 263] provided. Under the provisions of these acts there was disbursed under order of the Governor a total of $1126.02, which was distributed among eighty-two claimants.[349]

Before the matter had been finally closed the strife between North and South eliminated from the public mind an interest in all things save the momentous struggle then in progress. Thus it happened that the Spirit Lake Massacre and the relief expeditions were lost from view for more than a generation. But there was one individual with an abiding interest who for thirty years cherished the hope of commemorating in some way the heroic struggles of that little group of men who went from Webster City in March, 1857, to relieve the settlers at the lakes. In the summer of 1887 Charles Aldrich, long a resident of Webster City, proposed placing a brass tablet in some suitable place in that city in memory of Company C of the relief expedition. The decision was quickly reached to place the memorial in the Hamilton County court house and to ask the board of supervisors to appropriate three hundred dollars to meet the expense. A petition was circulated in the city and throughout the county requesting such action. Owing to the good will and work of Charles T. Fenton, president of the board, the petition was granted and a committee was appointed to secure and place the memorial.[350]

August twelfth was the date set for the unveiling and dedication of the tablet. Mr. Aldrich planned an elaborate program which was to be given in the[Pg 264] court room of the newly erected building; but more than two thousand people attended the ceremony, and so the exercises were held on the lawn in front of the court house. Brief addresses were made by Governor William Larrabee, ex-Governor C. C. Carpenter, Mayor McMurray, Captains Richards and Duncombe, Lieutenant John N. Maxwell, Privates William Laughlin and Michael Sweeney, and Mr. Charles Aldrich. The speeches were so planned as to offer a complete review of the attempt to carry relief to the settlers at Spirit Lake and Lake Okoboji. The tablet consisted of “a slab of Champlain marble, upon which is artistically mounted a plate of polished brass containing the names of the Hamilton county members of the expedition and a number of other suitable inscriptions.”[351] Thus did Hamilton County place “in a position of honor in the Hamilton County court house a lasting attestation to the patriotic spirit of appreciation which animates her citizens.”[352]

Encouraged by the response in his home county, Mr. Aldrich set about the stimulation of sentiment in the State at large favoring the erection by the State of some fitting memorial to those pioneers whose lives were sacrificed in March, 1857. This proved a long drawn out and arduous task. The public had all but forgotten the incident; memories had to be refreshed, and a desire for commemoration aroused. This proved too great an undertaking for one person, and so Mr. Aldrich turned to the legislative body of the State. Here he obtained only[Pg 265] an indifferent response. But with the awakening in Hamilton County the interest in the project spread; and when the Twenty-fifth General Assembly convened in January, 1894, it became evident that favorable action might be hoped for.

By far the most active and efficient work was done by Mrs. Abbie Gardner Sharp, who came to Des Moines at the very beginning of the session and remained until near its close. In her efforts to secure action she was most ably seconded by Senator A. B. Funk of Spirit Lake. On January twenty-ninth a bill was simultaneously introduced in the Senate and House of Representatives, providing for the proper interment of the remains of the victims of the massacre and the erection of a suitable commemorative monument.[353] The bill carried an appropriation of five thousand dollars which was to be expended under the supervision of a commission of five persons appointed by the Governor. Suitable grounds were to be selected near the scene of the massacre. These grounds were to “be purchased, reinterments made and monument erected before the 4th day of July, 1895.”[354] So well had the matter been canvassed among the members of the legislature that there were but few negative votes on the measure. The bill was approved by the Governor on March 30th, and went into effect on April 4, 1894.

On April tenth Governor Frank D. Jackson appointed as members of the commission Hon. J. F. Duncombe and ex-Governor C. C. Carpenter of Fort Dodge, Mrs. Abbie Gardner Sharp of Okoboji, Hon.[Pg 266] R. A. Smith of Spirit Lake, and Charles Aldrich of Des Moines. Within a short time the commission met at Fort Dodge and later at the Gardner cabin on Lake Okoboji. The commission effected an organization by selecting ex-Governor Carpenter as chairman and Mrs. Sharp as secretary. They quickly decided on the selection of the lot adjacent to and south of the Gardner cabin. This site was immediately presented to the State by its owners, the Okoboji South Beach Company. On June 20, 1894, the P. N. Peterson Granite Company of St. Paul, Minnesota, was awarded the contract for the erection of the memorial. The specifications provided that the monument should be “a shaft 55 feet high above the foundation, in alternate blocks of rough and polished Minnesota granite, with a die 6 × 6 feet, upon which should be placed four bronze tablets—for the sum of $4,500. The inscriptions placed upon the tablets may be described as follows: On the east, the list of murdered settlers; on the west, a complete roster of the relief expedition commanded by Major William Williams; on the south, historical memoranda relating to the loss of Capt. J. C. Johnson and Private W. E. Burkholder, the list of settlers who escaped from Springfield (now Jackson), Minn., etc.; and on the north, the coat of arms of Iowa, with these words: ‘Erected by order of the 25th General Assembly of the State of Iowa.’”[355]

So diligently did the contracting company apply itself in the erection of the memorial that early in March, 1895, four months before the expiration of[Pg 267] its contract, the monument was ready for inspection. On March 14, 1895, the commission met at Okoboji and inspected and accepted the work. Upon July twenty-eighth over five thousand people came by wagon and excursion train, from a radius of over fifty miles, to witness the formal dedication of the memorial and its presentation to the State. The gathering was significant in that it marked the opening of a new era in the appropriate marking of historic sites not only in Iowa but in the Middle West. In the words of the Hon. R. A. Smith, it was “meet and fitting that to the pioneer the same as the soldier should be accorded the meed of praise and recognition ... a just, though long delayed, tribute to the memory of the brave and hardy, though unpretentious and unpretending, band of settlers who sacrificed their lives in their attempts to build them homes on this then far away northwestern frontier.”[356]

Upon the platform were seated ex-Governor C. C. Carpenter and Hon. R. A. Smith, members of the relief expedition; Mrs. I. A. Thomas, Rev. Valentine C. Thomas, and Jareb Palmer, who fortunately escaped the massacre at Springfield; Judge Charles E. Flandrau, the Indian agent who made possible the project to rescue Abbie Gardner, and Chetanmaza, the Siouan Indian whose intrepidity secured her release; Mrs. Abbie Gardner Sharp a survivor of the massacre at Okoboji; and various State officials. The memorial was presented to the State by ex-Governor C. C. Carpenter upon behalf of the commission[Pg 268] under whose direction it had been erected, and was accepted for the State by Lieutenant Governor Warren S. Dungan and Hon. W. S. Richards.

Thus the people of Iowa, through their law-making body, paid a fitting though somewhat tardy tribute to the memory of the pioneers who, imbued with the true American spirit of progress, were willing to brave the hardships of the frontier that those who came later might share the blessings of a richer civilization. In the words of one of the speakers of the occasion, “Let us hope that this awakening is not ephemeral or temporary.... The story told by this memorial shaft is but a faint expression of the toils endured, the dangers braved and the sacrifices made by the unfortunate victims whose remains lie buried here”.[357] The memorial “not only commemorates the great tragedy which crimsoned the waters of these lakes, but it will keep alive the memory of a species of American character which will soon become extinct. As we look away to the west, we are impressed that there is no longer an American frontier; and when the frontier shall have faded away, the pioneer will live only in history, and in the monuments which will preserve his memory.”[358]

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When one looks back over the sixty years that have elapsed since Ma-za-ku-ta-ma-ni delivered his bitter invective against white infidelity at the Upper Agency on the Yellow Medicine, one can only wonder at the transformation which has been wrought in what was popularly known east of the Alleghenies as the Great American Desert. In sixty years the frontier has moved steadily westward until to-day it is gone not alone from the Mississippi Valley but from the American continent. What was a vast expanse of prairie in 1857 has become a country of prosperous homes.

Where then not a town was to be found to-day may be seen numerous large cities throbbing with industrial life, while towns and villages dot the landscape everywhere. Loneliness and desolation have given way to that condition where man’s habitation is found at every turn. In sixty years this area has changed from the frontier of civilization to the very center of its arts and industries. In a country where Indians were met with by the thousands in 1857, one may now travel for days across the plains without catching a glimpse of a red man. The Indian[Pg 270] has all but gone from a land where he once roamed free and uncontrolled.

Similarly time has dealt with the people of a different race who played major or minor parts in the tragedy at Spirit Lake and Springfield in 1857. Indeed, time has not always dealt kindly with them, and in more than one instance they have suffered much from its ravages. No one who survived the terrible experience of March, 1857, on the borders of the northwestern lakes was able to regain title to the claims of murdered relatives. The Gardner, Thatcher, and Marble claims were all preëmpted by the settlers of 1858 without regard to their former holders. Those preëmpting were perhaps acting within their legal rights; but the first comers, under the customs of the frontier, were entitled to the claims which they had staked out.

So widely have the survivors of the events of 1857 scattered that to-day but one individual, Mrs. Abbie Gardner Sharp, remains at or near the scene of the massacre. While living with her sister Eliza at Hampton, Iowa, Miss Abbie Gardner became acquainted with Casville Sharp, a young relative of the Noble and Thatcher families. On August 16, 1857, they were married. About a year after the marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Sharp visited the scene of the tragedy at Okoboji in the hope of securing some settlement for the Gardner claim. Although a small amount was paid Mrs. Sharp by J. S. Prescott who had preëmpted the claim, the sum was only nominal[Pg 271] and in no sense an adequate compensation for the property lost.

Mrs. Sharp continued to live in Iowa; but not until 1891 did she regain the site of her childhood home at Okoboji. At that time a company interested in the promotion of the Okobojis as a pleasure resort acquired title to some thirteen acres of land at Pillsbury’s Point, West Okoboji. This area included the Gardner cabin. The syndicate at once plotted the land for sale as sites for summer cottages. Out of the proceeds derived from the sale of her history of the massacre, Mrs. Sharp acquired the lot upon which stands the original log cabin home—the scene of the massacre.[359] The summer tourist at Okoboji may yet (in 1918) enter the original log cabin and learn from Mrs. Sharp the story of her captivity and rescue.

Mrs. Marble, the only other survivor of the massacre at Lake Okoboji and Spirit Lake, likewise found her husband’s claim preëmpted upon her return. Less fortunate than Mrs. Sharp, she was unable to secure any compensation. For some years she was lost to the knowledge of her Iowa and Minnesota friends. At length, in the early eighties, she was located at Sidell, Napa County, California. Meanwhile, she had married a Mr. Silbaugh. Since then little information has been obtained concerning her, other than that of her death a number of years ago.[360] Thus Mrs. Sharp is now the sole survivor of the massacre at the lakes.

[Pg 272]

With the survivors of the Springfield massacre it has been different. All who survived were able to regain their claims, since they returned within a brief time to the scene of the massacre and before their holdings had been preëmpted by settlers in the rush of 1857-1858. In 1913 occurred the death of Mrs. Irene A. Thomas whose cabin was made the rendezvous of the settlers at Springfield, and whose son Willie was the first known victim of the Indian attack. Her husband, it will be recalled, had one arm so badly shattered as to necessitate amputation upon reaching Fort Dodge. A remaining son, Valentine C. Thomas, who was a young boy at the time of the massacre, later served as a minister in Marshalltown, Iowa, where he died in August, 1915. Mrs. Eliza Gardner McGowan was at that time still living in Fort Wayne, Indiana. It will be recalled that following the return of the relief expedition to Fort Dodge she married William R. Wilson, a member of the expedition. For many years Mr. and Mrs. Wilson lived at Hampton and Mason City, Iowa. Some time after Mr. Wilson’s death, Mrs. Wilson married a Mr. McGowan and removed to Fort Wayne.

It may be remembered that Johnnie Stewart escaped by hiding in the dooryard of his home while the members of his family were being ruthlessly slaughtered by the Indians. After the Indians left he crawled to the Thomas cabin, which he reached at dusk, was recognized and taken in. In 1915 he was living at Byron, Minnesota; and, from the latest information obtained he is still living at that place.[Pg 273] There also survives a Mrs. Gillespie of Blaine, Washington, who at the time of the Springfield attack was Miss Drusilla Swanger, sister of Mrs. William L. Church.

As we of another generation seek recreation at Okoboji, let us pause in retrospection. Let us, “when we contemplate the dangers braved, the hardships and privations endured, and the final suffering and sacrifice which fell to the lot of the victims whose dust and ashes have been gathered together and interred in this historic spot”, be conscious that we are paying “a deserved tribute to courage and self-denial, endurance and self-sacrifice”.[361]

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[1] See Richman’s John Brown Among the Quakers, and Other Sketches, p. 203.

[2] Senate Documents, 1st Session, 32nd Congress, Vol. III, Doc. No. 1, p. 411.

[3] Flandrau’s State-Building in the West in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. VIII, pp. 483, 484.

[4] Judge Charles E. Flandrau’s State-Building in the West in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. VIII, p. 483.

[5] Rev. Moses N. Adams’s The Sioux Outbreak in the Year 1862 in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. IX, p. 432.

[6] “The inferior power knows perfectly well that, if it does not accept the terms, it will ultimately be forced out of its domains, and it accepts. This comprises the elements of all Indian treaties.”—Flandrau’s State-Building in the West in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. VIII, p. 483.

[7] Flandrau’s State-Building in the West in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. VIII, pp. 483, 484.

[8] The massacre at Ash Hollow, often mentioned as a cause of the massacre at Okoboji, was the culmination of a campaign of terror planned by Gen. Harney against the Oglala and Brulé Sioux. The line of march was Fort Leavenworth, Fort Kearney, Fort Laramie, and Fort Pierre. At Ash Hollow near the Blue River and about four miles from the left bank of the North Platte he found Little Thunder’s band of the Brulé Sioux. When his cavalry had surrounded the Indians, he planned an advance with his infantry. Little Thunder desired a council. Gen. Harney refused, saying that he had come to fight. As Harney advanced, he motioned the Indians to run. They did so and ran directly into Harney’s cavalry. Find[Pg 278]ing themselves trapped, they fought savagely to the end. “The battle of Ash Hollow was little more than a massacre of the Brulés.... Though hailed as a great victory ... the battle of Ash Hollow was a ... disgrace to the officer who planned and executed it. The Indians were trapped and knew it ... and the massacre which ensued was as needless and as barbarous as any which the Dakotas have at any time visited upon the white people.”—Robinson’s History of the Dakota or Sioux Indians in the South Dakota Historical Collections, Vol. II, pp. 224, 225. See also General Harney in the South Dakota Historical Collections, Vol. I, pp. 107, 108; Beam’s Reminiscences of Early Days in Nebraska in the Transactions and Reports of the Nebraska State Historical Society, Vol. III, pp. 301, 302; House Executive Documents, 1st Session, 34th Congress, Vol. I, Pt. II, Doc. No. 1, pp. 49-51.

[9] Royce’s Indian Land Cessions in the United States in the Eighteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, Part II, pp. 710-712, 726; Kappler’s Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties, Vol. II, pp. 250-255, 305-310.

[10] See references in note 9 above.

[11] Royce’s Indian Land Cessions, p. 736; Kappler’s Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties, Vol. II, p. 346.

[12] Royce’s Indian Land Cessions, p. 737.

[13] Royce’s Indian Land Cessions, pp. 736, 737, 762, 763, 766-768, 778, 779; Kappler’s Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties, Vol. II, pp. 349, 474-477, 495, 546-549.

[14] Royce’s Indian Land Cessions, pp. 768, 772; Kappler’s Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties, Vol. II, pp. 500, 518.

[15] Royce’s Indian Land Cessions, p. 778; Kappler’s Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties, Vol. II, pp. 557-560.

[16] In exchange for all lands claimed by the Sioux in northwestern Iowa and southwestern Minnesota they were granted a reservation as follows: “all that tract of country on either side of the Minnesota River, from the western boundary of the lands herein ceded, east, to the Tchay-tam-bay River on the north, and to Yellow Medicine River on the south side, to extend, on each side, a distance of not less than 10 miles from the general course of said river; the boundaries of said tract to be marked out by as straight lines as practica[Pg 279]ble”.—Kappler’s Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties, Vol. II, p. 590; Hughes’s The Treaty of Traverse des Sioux in 1851 in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. X, Pt. I, pp. 112, 113.

[17] Royce’s Indian Land Cessions, p. 784; Kappler’s Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties, Vol. II, pp. 591-593.

[18] “It was with great reluctance that the Sioux Indians consented to surrender this favorite hunting and camping ground to the whites, as they did by the treaty of 1851.”—Gue’s History of Iowa, Vol. I, p. 288.


[19] The Indian Chief Jagmani said of this treaty: “The Indians sold their lands at Traverse des Sioux. I say what we were told. For fifty years they were to be paid $50,000 per annum. We were also promised $300,000 that we have not seen.”—Bryant and Murch’s A History of the Great Massacre by the Sioux Indians, in Minnesota, pp. 34, 35. See House Executive Documents, 1st Session, 35th Congress, Vol. II, Pt. I, p. 401.

[20] Senate Documents, 1st Session, 32nd Congress, Vol. III, Doc. No. 1, p. 414.

[21] Pond’s The Dakotas or Sioux in Minnesota as They Were in 1834 in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. XII, p. 377.

[22] Pond’s The Dakotas or Sioux in Minnesota as They Were in 1834 in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. XII, p. 376.

[23] “At Crow-wing [Minnesota] there are no less than five whiskey shops, and [they] are only five miles from this agency. Five whiskey shops and not half a dozen habitations beside!”—Senate Documents, 1st Session, 35th Congress, Vol. II, Pt. I, pp. 339, 340, 342. See the Letter of Governor Grimes to President Pierce in the Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. VI, p. 890; Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 136.

[24] This treaty “did away with all the employés ... whereas, before, the agent had a force to assist him in finding, destroying, and preventing the introduction of whiskey; now, he is entirely[Pg 280] alone.”—Senate Documents, 1st Session, 35th Congress, Vol. II, Pt. I, p. 342.

[25] Senate Documents, 1st Session, 35th Congress, Vol. II, Pt. I, p. 338.

[26] Hughes’s The Treaty of Traverse des Sioux in 1851 in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. X, Pt. I, pp. 106, 107.

[27] Murray’s Recollections of Early Territorial Days and Legislation in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. XII, p. 120.

[28] Hughes’s The Treaty of Traverse des Sioux in 1851 in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. X, Pt. I, p. 107.

[29] Robinson’s History of the Dakota or Sioux Indians in the South Dakota Historical Collections, Vol. II, p. 210.

[30] Thomas Hughes, in his article on The Treaty of Traverse des Sioux in 1851, says concerning this: “The Indians, however, repudiated this agreement, and asserted that it was a base fraud, that, as they were told and believed at the time, the paper they signed was represented to be only another copy of the treaty, and that they did not discover its real import, and the trick played upon them, until long afterward.”—Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. X, Pt. I, p. 114.

[31] Address of Greenleaf Clark on The Life and Influence of Judge Flandrau in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. X, Pt. II, p. 774; Daniels’s Reminiscences of Little Crow in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. XII, p. 519.


[32] C. C. Carpenter’s Major William Williams in Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. II, p. 150; Senate Executive Documents, 1st Session, 31st Congress, Vol. II, pp. 235, 242, 243.

[33] This fort was established by Brevet Major Samuel Woods, Sixth Infantry, with Company E of the same, from Ft. Snelling, Minnesota. It was established by General Orders No. 19, War Department, Adjutant General’s Office, of May 31, 1850. Major Woods and men[Pg 281] were detailed by Orders No. 22, 6th Military District, St. Louis, Missouri, July 14, 1850. Major Woods and men arrived on the site August 23, 1850. See Fort Dodge, Iowa, in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. IV, pp. 534, 535; Jacob Van der Zee’s Forts in the Iowa Country in The Iowa Journal of History and Politics, Vol. XII, pp. 197-199.

[34] Fort Dodge, Iowa, in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. IV, p. 535.

[35] Flickinger’s Pioneer History of Pocahontas County, Iowa, p. 27; Fulton’s Red Men of Iowa, p. 288.

[36] Samuel J. Albright’s First Organized Government of Dakota in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. VIII, p. 139; Fulton’s Red Men of Iowa, p. 288.

[37] Fort Clarke, by General Orders No. 34, Army Headquarters, on June 25, 1851, had been changed in name to Fort Dodge. By Order No. 9, Sixth Military Department Headquarters, St. Louis, Missouri, on March 30, 1853, the abandonment of Fort Dodge was ordered. By the same order, Major Woods was directed to establish the new post.—See Fort Dodge, Iowa, in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. IV, pp. 536, 537; Carpenter’s Major William Williams in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. II, pp. 148, 149; Van der Zee’s Forts in the Iowa Country in The Iowa Journal of History and Politics, Vol. XII, p. 199.

[38] Flickinger’s Pioneer History of Pocahontas County, Iowa, p. 26.

[39] Carpenter’s Major William Williams in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. II, p. 151.

[40] While Major Woods’ detail was on its way from Fort Snelling en route to the future site of Fort Dodge it was joined on the Iowa River by Major Williams who became later the post sutler and was destined to play a large part in the history of northwestern Iowa. This was in 1850.—Carpenter’s Major William Williams in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. II, p. 147.

[41] Carpenter’s Major William Williams in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. II, p. 151; letter from William Williams to Governor Hempstead, September 1, 1854, in the Public Archives, Des Moines, Iowa.

[42] Letters from Governor Grimes to Secretary of State, George[Pg 282] W. McCleary, February 14, November 5, and December 1, 1855, and to Congressman S. R. Curtis, February 28, 1855, in the Public Archives, Des Moines, Iowa.

[43] Letter from Governor Grimes to the Iowa Congressional Delegation, January 3, 1855, in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. II, pp. 627-630.

[44] Letter from Governor Grimes to the Iowa Congressional Delegation, January 3, 1855, in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. II, p. 629.

[45] Letter of Governor Grimes to Congressman S. R. Curtis, February 28, 1855, in the Public Archives, Des Moines, Iowa.

[46] Letter of Governor Grimes to President Pierce, December 3, 1855, in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, pp. 135-137; Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. VI, pp. 889, 890.

[47] Smith’s The Iowa Frontier During the War of the Rebellion in the Proceedings of the Pioneer Lawmakers’ Association of Iowa for 1898, p. 59.

[48] “He [Secretary of State in Iowa, Geo. W. McCleary] also writes me that these Indians are manifestly making preparations for war, and have been and are now making great efforts to induce all the Mississippi River Sioux to unite with them in hostilities upon the whites. I hear from various sources that several runners have been sent by the Sioux west of the Missouri river, to those in this State, and in Minnesota, with war belts, urging the latter to make common cause with them. The result of all this is a great state of alarm along the whole frontier.”—Letter of Governor Grimes to President Pierce, December 3, 1855, in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 136. Charles Aldrich in an editorial in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 566, remarked that “Had the earnest appeals of Gov. Grimes been heeded, the Spirit Lake Massacre would not have occurred.”

[49] The notable depredations charged to Indian outlawry at this time were in Buena Vista County where whole settlements were routed; at Dakota City in Humboldt County; near Algona and Bancroft in Kossuth County. In fact both the spring and summer of 1855 and 1856 were never free from depredations somewhere. For further information consult The Spirit Lake Massacre and Relief Expedition in the Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. VI, pp. 889, 890;[Pg 283] Ingham’s Ink-pa-du-tah’s Revenge in the Midland Monthly, Vol. IV, p. 272.

[50] Hughes’s The Treaty of Traverse des Sioux in 1851 in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. X, Pt. I, p. 117.

[51] Albright’s The First Organized Government of Dakota in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. VIII, p. 138.

[52] “It is a matter of history that whiskey is, and has been since the advent of white men in this country, the ‘bane of the Indians,’ and that there is scarcely a tribe or an individual Indian but that would at times give all his possessions for whiskey. When under its influence he knows not what he does. All of the depredations committed by them upon the whites; all murders among themselves; or personal injuries inflicted by them upon each other, are perpetrated while under the influence of that destructive bane, or to revenge acts done while laboring under intoxication ... men will wonder why the agent will let whiskey go into the Indian country, as has been heretofore reported, ‘without let or hindrance.’ The same men, being in the Indian country ostensibly, solely for the good of the ‘poor Indian,’ will pass an Indian with a five or ten gallon keg on his back, and not attempt to destroy it; knowing at the same time that he has an equal authority for so doing as the agent, and just as much money furnished for expenses of prosecutions.”—Report of D. B. Herriman, Chippewa Agent, September 15, 1857, in Senate Documents, 1st Session, 35th Congress, Vol. II, Pt. I, pp. 341, 342.

[53] See note 29 above, and Senate Documents, 1st Session, 35th Congress, Vol. II, Pt. I, p. 342.

[54] Pond’s The Dakotas or Sioux in Minnesota as They Were in 1834 in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. XII, pp. 378, 379.

[55] Ida M. Street’s A Chapter of Indian History in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, pp. 601, 602.


[56] Petition of R. B. Clark, et al, to Governor Hempstead, July 6, 1854, in the Public Archives, Des Moines, Iowa; Report of Major William Williams to Governor Hempstead, September 1, 1854, in the Public Archives, Des Moines, Iowa.

[Pg 284]

[57] Mrs. Abbie Gardner-Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1885 edition), pp. 24-31; Flickinger’s Pioneer History of Pocahontas County, Iowa, pp. 28, 29.

[58] Fulton’s Red Men of Iowa, p. 298; Gue’s History of Iowa, Vol. I, p. 292; Ingham’s Ink-pa-du-tah’s Revenge in the Midland Monthly, Vol. IV, p. 272; Hughes’s Causes and Results of the Inkpaduta Massacre in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. XII, p. 268.

[59] Fulton’s Red Men of Iowa, p. 281.

[60] Fulton’s Red Men of Iowa, pp. 281, 282; N. H. Winchell’s Aborigines of Minnesota, p. 551.

[61] Other Indian chieftains who were leaders of the consolidated bands and who were to play a prominent part in later Indian history were Titonka, Ishtahabah or Young Sleepy Eyes, Umpashotah, Wahkonsa, and Kasominee.

The great battles of Iowa’s inter-tribal Indian history were fought during the period of the supremacy of these leaders. These battles were mostly fought along the Des Moines, Skunk, Iowa, and Cedar rivers. The most notable were: Mud Lake, southeast of the present site of Webster City, against the Musquakies; a terrific contest with the Sac and Fox near Adel; a second contest quite as sanguinary with the same Indians about six miles north of the present city of Algona in 1852; a second battle with the Musquakies in April, 1852, near Clear Lake; and one on the banks of the Lizard, in which the Sioux, victorious, ended their long contest with the Sac and Fox. It was in the Algona battle that the “lingering remnants of two great nations who had for more than two hundred years waged unrelenting warfare against each other had their last and final struggle.”—Smith’s History of Dickinson County, Iowa, p. 25. Also Fulton’s Red Men of Iowa, pp. 282-287; Gue’s History of Iowa, Vol. I, pp. 288, 289.

[62] Smith’s History of Dickinson County, Iowa, p. 29; Hoover’s Tragedy of Okoboji in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. V, p. 15; Richman’s The Tragedy at Minnewaukon in John Brown among the Quakers, p. 208.

[63] Smith’s History of Dickinson County, Iowa, p. 29.

[64] See note 32 above.

[Pg 285]

[65] Smith’s History of Dickinson County, Iowa, p. 29. The date of settlement here is frequently stated as 1847.

[66] Hughes’s Causes and Results of the Inkpaduta Massacre in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. XII, p. 264.

[67] For statements concerning the character of Henry Lott see Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, p. 222; Lucas’s The Milton Lott Tragedy, pp. 1-10; Hughes’s Causes and Results of the Inkpaduta Massacre in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. XII, pp. 264-268; The Spirit Lake Massacre and Relief Expedition in the Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. VI, p. 890; Gue’s History of Iowa, Vol. I, p. 289; etc.

[68] Flickinger’s Pioneer History of Pocahontas County, Iowa, p. 28.

[69] The Madrid (Iowa) Historical Society, on December 18, 1905, the fifty-ninth anniversary of the boy’s death, placed an iron marker upon his grave which had but lately been identified.—Lucas’s The Milton Lott Tragedy, p. 8.

[70] The death of Mrs. Lott is said to have been the first white death in what is now Webster County.—Fulton’s Red Men of Iowa, p. 296.

[71] This cabin was in Dallas County, about five miles southwest of Madrid. Here Lott lived until the autumn of 1847.—Lucas’s The Milton Lott Tragedy, p. 5.

[72] To be definite, the cabin of Lott was in Section 16, Township 93, Range 28 West, very near the west line of the section.—Fulton’s Red Men of Iowa, p. 297.

[73] Stories as to the ruse used differ, but all now quite generally accept the elk incident. At the same time the assertion has been made that the incident never happened, but that Lott found at the lodge of Sidominadota silverware stolen from him in 1847, and committed murder forthwith.

[74] Some writers concerning this incident aver that both the girl and boy escaped unharmed while others more romantically mention the boy as left for dead, while the girl escaping unharmed in the darkness later returned to the rescue of her brother. The boy, whose name was Joshpaduta, was later taken charge of by a white family named Carter who gave him a home. The boy would often leave[Pg 286] and be gone for many days when he would again return. He is said, just before the Spirit Lake Massacre, to have warned these people of the impending trouble and then to have disappeared. He never returned, and the presumption is that he became a member of that band or was killed by them for telling.—Flickinger’s Pioneer History of Pocahontas County, Iowa, p. 28; Gue ’s History of Iowa, Vol. I, p. 291; Smith’s History of Dickinson County, Iowa, p. 30.

[75] See Fulton’s Red Men of Iowa, pp. 293-299; Flickinger’s Pioneer History of Pocahontas County, Iowa, p. 28; Ingham’s Ink-pa-du-tah’s Revenge in the Midland Monthly, Vol. IV, p. 271; Smith’s History of Dickinson County, Iowa, pp. 29, 31; Gue’s History of Iowa, Vol. I, pp. 289-292.

[76] Fulton’s Red Men of Iowa, pp. 298, 299; Flickinger’s Pioneer History of Pocahontas County, Iowa, p. 28; Lucas’s The Milton Lott Tragedy, p. 7; Hughes’s Causes and Results of the Inkpaduta Massacre in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. XII, p. 268.

[77] Another report declared that the prosecuting attorney of Hamilton County had nailed the head above the entrance to his home in Homer. Note what is said in Flickinger’s Pioneer History of Pocahontas County, Iowa, p. 28; Ingham’s Ink-pa-du-tah’s Revenge in the Midland Monthly, Vol. IV, p. 271; Hughes’s Causes and Results of the Inkpaduta Massacre in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. XII, pp. 268, 269.


[78] Smith’s The Iowa Frontier During the War of the Rebellion in the Proceedings of the Pioneer Lawmakers’ Association of Iowa for 1898, p. 56.

[79] Smith’s The Iowa Frontier During the War of the Rebellion in the Proceedings of the Pioneer Lawmakers’ Association of Iowa for 1898, p. 56.

[80] Carpenter’s Major William Williams in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. II, p. 151.

[81] Ingham’s Ink-pa-du-tah’s Revenge in the Midland Monthly, Vol. IV, p. 272.

[Pg 287]

[82] The Spirit Lake Massacre and Relief Expedition in the Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. VI, p. 892.

[83] Gue’s History of Iowa, Vol. I, p. 292; Fulton’s Red Men of Iowa, pp. 300, 301; The Spirit Lake Massacre and Relief Expedition in the Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. VI, p. 892; Gillespie and Steele’s History of Clay County, Iowa, pp. 55, 56.

[84] See note 83 above and also Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), p. 43; House Executive Documents, 1st Session, 35th Congress, Vol. II, Pt. I, p. 357.

[85] A. Warner and Company’s History of the Counties of Woodbury and Plymouth, Iowa, p. 295.

[86] W. S. Dunbar and Company’s Biographical History of Cherokee County, Iowa, pp. 233-238.

[87] Wegerslev and Walpole’s Past and Present of Buena Vista County, Iowa, pp. 37, 38; Perkins’s History of O’Brien County, Iowa, pp. 10, 11.

[88] Flandrau’s The Ink-pa-du-ta Massacre of 1857 in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. III, p. 388.

[89] Smith’s The Iowa Frontier During the War of the Rebellion in the Proceedings of the Pioneer Lawmakers’ Association of Iowa for 1898, p. 56.

[90] Carpenter’s Major William Williams in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. II, p. 152.

[91] Hughes’s Causes and Results of the Inkpaduta Massacre in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. XII, p. 270.

[92] For further reading concerning the character of the winter of 1856-1857 see Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, p. 223; Richman’s The Tragedy at Minnewaukon in John Brown among the Quakers, pp. 210-212; J. F. Duncombe’s The Spirit Lake Relief Expedition of 1857 in the Proceedings of the Pioneer Lawmakers’ Association of Iowa for 1898, p. 38; The Spirit Lake Massacre and Relief Expedition in the Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. VI, p. 892; Carpenter’s Major William Williams in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. II, p. 152; Hughes’s Causes and Results of the Inkpaduta Massacre in the Collections of[Pg 288] the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. XII, p. 270; Carpenter’s The Spirit Lake Massacre in the Midland Monthly, Vol. IV, pp. 19, 20.


[93] Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), p. 7; Lee’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre, p. 7.

[94] Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 8-14; Lee’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre, pp. 7, 8.

[95] Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 14-35.

[96] Lee’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre, p. 11; Carpenter’s The Spirit Lake Massacre in the Midland Monthly, Vol. IV, p. 17; Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), p. 36.

[97] Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 36-38.

[98] Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 43, 44; The Spirit Lake Massacre and Relief Expedition in the Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. VI, p. 891.

[99] Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 42, 43.

[100] Hughes’s Causes and Results of the Inkpaduta Massacre in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. XII, p. 271; Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 42-45; Carpenter’s The Spirit Lake Massacre in the Midland Monthly, Vol. IV, p. 19; The Spirit Lake Massacre and Relief Expedition in the Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. VI, p. 891.

[101] Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), p. 44; The Spirit Lake Massacre and Relief Expedition in the Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. VI, pp. 891, 892.

[102] Neill’s The History of Minnesota, p. 621; Mrs. Abigail Gardner Sharp in the Midland Monthly, Vol. IV, p. 32.

[103] Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 44, 45; Carpenter’s The Spirit Lake Massacre in the Midland Monthly, Vol. IV, p. 17; The Spirit Lake Massacre and Relief[Pg 289] Expedition in the Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. VI, p. 891; Hughes’s Causes and Results of the Inkpaduta Massacre in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. XII, p. 270.

[104] Lee’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre, p. 11; Carpenter’s The Spirit Lake Massacre in the Midland Monthly, Vol. IV, pp. 17, 18; The Spirit Lake Massacre and Relief Expedition in the Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. VI, p. 891; Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 45, 46.

[105] Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), p. 46.

[106] Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), p. 48.

[107] Jareb Palmer’s Incidents of the Late Indian Outrages in the Hamilton Freeman, July 23, 1857; Hughes’s Causes and Results of the Inkpaduta Massacre in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. XII, pp. 272, 273.

[108] Dr. Strong had gone from Fort Dodge to Okoboji with the thought of locating there, but had finally decided upon Springfield. Eliza Gardner had been induced to spend the winter with the Strong family at Springfield.

[109] Jareb Palmer’s Incidents of the Late Indian Outrages in the Hamilton Freeman (Webster City), July 23, 1857; Hoover’s Tragedy of Okoboji in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. V, pp. 19, 20.

[110] Jareb Palmer’s Incidents of the Late Indian Outrages in the Hamilton Freeman (Webster City), July 23, 1857.


[111] Some authors give only three, Robert Clark, Enoch Ryan, and Jonathan Howe, as accompanying them upon their return. There seems good evidence to support the claim that Asa Burtch also made the return trip. See The Spirit Lake Massacre and Relief Expedition in the Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. VI, p. 893; Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), p. 51; Smith’s A History of Dickinson County, Iowa, p. 64; Carpenter’s The Spirit Lake Massacre in the Midland Monthly, Vol. IV, p. 19.


[112] In spite of their villainous character the Sioux pitied the ap[Pg 290]parent misfortunes of the Inkpaduta band and explained their unhappy lot as follows: “Long ago some chiefs and principal men of the Iowas returned from Canada to Prairie du Chien in the winter, and attempted to pass through the Dakota territory to their own country. They were kindly received and hospitably entertained by the Wabashaw band, who sent messengers to the Wahpekutas, then encamped at Dry Wood, requesting them to receive the Iowas in a friendly manner and to aid them in their journey. The Wahpekutas returned a favorable answer and prepared a feast for the Iowas, but killed them all while they were eating it.” Thereafter, these Wahpekutas were very unfortunate, many were killed, and the band nearly perished. Their wickedness on this particular occasion was held to account for all their calamities of the future. In this connection read Pond’s The Dakotas or Sioux in Minnesota as They Were in 1834 in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. XII, p. 425.

[113] Lee’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre, p. 14.

[114] Hughes’s Causes and Results of the Inkpaduta Massacre in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. XII, p. 264.

[115] The term gens, as here used, implies descent in the male line. It is also well in this connection to recall the fact that the Sioux were in no sense a nation but acted as bands, each band being entirely separate, distinct, and independent from any other.—See Dorsey’s Siouan Sociology in the Fifteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, p. 213 ff.

[116] Richman’s The Tragedy at Minnewaukon in John Brown among the Quakers, pp. 207, 208; Hodge’s Handbook of the American Indians, Pt. II, pp. 891, 902; Robinson’s A History of the Dakota or Sioux Indians in the South Dakota Historical Collections, Vol. II, pp. 215, 216; House Executive Documents, 1st Session, 35th Congress, Vol. II, Pt. I, p. 359.

[117] House Executive Documents, 1st Session, 35th Congress, Vol. II, Pt. I, p. 359; The Spirit Lake Massacre and Relief Expedition in the Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. VI, p. 887.

[118] Robinson’s History of the Dakota or Sioux Indians in the South Dakota Historical Collections, Vol. II, pp. 204, 216.

[119] Executive Documents, 1st Session, 35th Congress, Vol. II, Pt.[Pg 291] I, p. 389; Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. II, p. 220.

[120] Following the murder of Tasagi, Inkpaduta either through choice or fear became an exile from the band of Tasagi. His flight to the band of his father had automatically made him one. Doane Robinson in his Sioux Indian Courts in the South Dakota Historical Collections, Vol. V, pp. 404, 405, thus describes how a Wahpekuta became an exile:

“If the offense was peculiarly repellent to the better sentiment of the camp the court might insist upon the summary infliction of the sentence imposed. This might be the death penalty, exile or whipping; or it might be the destruction of the tepee and other property of the convict.... For some offenses a convict was exiled from the camp, given an old tepee and a blanket, but no arms, and was allowed to make a living if he could. Sometimes he would go off and join some other band, but such conduct was not considered good form and he usually set up his establishment on some small hill near the home camp and made the best of the situation. If he conducted himself properly he was usually soon forgiven and restored to his rights in the community. If he went off to another people he lost all standing among the Sioux and was thereafter treated as an outlaw and a renegade. The entire band of Inkpaduta, once the terror of the Dakota frontier, was composed of these outlaws.” It was Inkpaduta’s flight to his father’s band at this time that lost, for him, all standing with the followers of Tasagi. See also Robinson’s A History of the Dakota or Sioux Indians in the South Dakota Historical Collections, Vol. II, pp. 343, 344.

[121] Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, p. 220.

[122] Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, p. 221.

[123] Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, p. 217.

[124] Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, p. 220.

[125] Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, pp. 217-222.

[Pg 292]

[126] Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, pp. 221, 222; Robinson’s A History of the Dakota or Sioux Indians in the South Dakota Historical Collections, Vol. II, p. 209.

[127] Ingham’s Ink-pa-du-tah’s Revenge in the Midland Monthly, Vol. IV, p. 272.

[128] Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, pp. 267, 268; South Dakota Historical Collections, Vol. VI, p. 226.

[129] Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 56, 57.

[130] Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), p. 57. It is to be regretted that much of Mrs. Sharp’s characterization of the Sioux evidences an animus and a tendency to emphasize the bad rather than the good traits. The following from page 57 of her book is evidently unfair: “No other tribe of aborigines has ever exhibited more savage ferocity or so appalled and sickened the soul of humanity by wholesale slaughtering of the white race as has the Sioux”.

[131] Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, p. 223.

[132] Robinson’s History of the Dakota or Sioux Indians in the South Dakota Historical Collections, Vol. II, pp. 346, 347.

[133] Hodge’s Hand Book of the American Indians, Pt. II, pp. 891, 902; South Dakota Historical Collections, Vol. I, pp. 110, 111; House Executive Documents, 1st Session, 35th Congress, Vol. II, Pt. I, pp. 359, 389; Mrs. Sharp’s Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 54-56.


[134] Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, p. 223.

[135] Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. VI, p. 892; Fulton’s Red Men of Iowa, p. 301; Smith’s History of Dickinson County, Iowa, p. 53; Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, p. 223.

[136] Robinson’s History of the Dakota or Sioux Indians in the South Dakota Historical Collections, Vol. II, p. 344.

[Pg 293]

[137] The strength of the band was not great. Originally it is said to have numbered one hundred fifty lodges, but this estimate appears to be too high. At the time it started up the Little Sioux from Smithland it probably numbered not more than fifteen lodges at the highest estimate. Its depletion was due to dissatisfaction in the band and to the fact that the band did not draw annuities which caused many to drop out and return to the Agency in order to secure them. See Mrs. Sharp’s Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), p. 56; Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, p. 248; House Executive Documents, 1st Session, 35th Congress, Vol. II, Pt. I, p. 359; Hodge’s Handbook of American Indians, Pt. II, p. 891.

[138] Powell’s On Kinship and the Tribe in the Third Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, p. xxxviii; Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, p. 223.

[139] Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, p. 223.

For further support of the view that Sidominadota’s death was not a cause as here set forth see J. W. Powell’s Kinship and the Tribe in the preface to the Third Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, pp. xxxviii-xl; Senate Documents, 1st Session, 32nd Congress, Vol. III, Doc. No. 1, p. 280; Pond’s The Dakotas or Sioux in Minnesota as They Were in 1834 in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. XII, p. 389; Dorsey’s Siouan Sociology in the Fifteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, pp. 213-218.


[140] Smith’s A History of Dickinson County, Iowa, p. 53; Flickinger’s Pioneer History of Pocahontas County, Iowa, p. 29.

[141] Flandrau’s Inkpaduta Massacre of 1857 in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. III, p. 388; Mrs. Sharp’s Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), p. 60; House Executive Documents, 1st Session, 35th Congress, Vol. II, Pt. I, pp. 358, 389; Senate Documents, 1st Session, 35th Congress, Vol. III, p. 146; The Spirit Lake Massacre and Relief Expedition in the Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. VI, p. 892.

[142] A. Warner and Company’s History of the Counties of Woodbury and Plymouth, Iowa, pp. 305, 306.

[Pg 294]

[143] Smith’s A History of Dickinson County, Iowa, p. 55; Fulton’s Red Men of Iowa, p. 303.


[144] W. S. Dunbar and Company’s Biographical History of Cherokee County, Iowa, p. 242; Fulton’s The Red Men of Iowa, p. 303.

[145] Peck and Montzheimer’s Past and Present of O’Brien and Osceola Counties, Iowa, Vol. I, p. 38.

[146] Gillespie and Steele’s History of Clay County, Iowa, pp. 56, 57; Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), p. 61; Smith’s History of Dickinson County, Iowa, p. 56.

[147] William H. Hart’s History of Sac County, Iowa, p. 38; Gillespie and Steele’s History of Clay County, Iowa, p. 57.

[148] The Spirit Lake Massacre and Relief Expedition in the Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. VI, p. 892; Smith’s History of Dickinson County, Iowa, pp. 58-61.

[149] John F. Duncombe’s Spirit Lake Relief Expedition of 1857 in the Proceedings of the Pioneer Lawmakers’ Association of Iowa for 1898, p. 38; Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, pp. 493, 494.


[150] Pond’s The Dakotas or Sioux in Minnesota as They Were in 1834 in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. XII, pp. 436, 437.

[151] The Spirit Lake Massacre and Relief Expedition in the Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. VI, p. 893; Mrs. Sharp’s Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 63, 64; Smith’s History of Dickinson County, Iowa, p. 65.

[152] Concerning the events at the Gardner cabin we must, of necessity, rely upon the statements of Mrs. Abbie Gardner Sharp who remained the only living witness of the scene. See Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 63-65.

[153] Smith’s History of Dickinson County, Iowa, pp. 65, 66; Carpenter’s The Spirit Lake Massacre in the Midland Monthly, Vol. IV, p. 21; Gue’s History of Iowa, Vol. I, pp. 297, 298; Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 65-67.

[Pg 295]

[154] Richman’s The Tragedy at Minnewaukon in John Brown among the Quakers, pp. 214-216; Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 67-71; Carpenter’s The Spirit Lake Massacre in the Midland Monthly, Vol. IV, p. 21.

[155] Pond’s The Dakotas or Sioux in Minnesota as They were in 1834 in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. XII, pp. 437, 438.

[156] Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), p. 73.

[157] See Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), p. 73, where the statement is made that five men, two women, and four children were killed at the Mattock cabin.

[158] Hughes’s Causes and Results of the Inkpaduta Massacre in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. XII, pp. 271, 272.

But there is a third view as to the outcome of the conflict at the Mattock cabin. This version is sponsored by Major William Williams who was a member of the relief expedition sent from Fort Dodge. Major Williams believed that the Indians purposely concealed their losses. In his report to Governor Grimes, made upon his return to Fort Dodge under date of April 12th, he stated that “the number of Indians killed or wounded must be from fifteen to twenty.”—(Gue’s History of Iowa, Vol. I, p. 299.) This estimate would seem to be entirely too high. Only under exceptionally favorable conditions would it have been possible for five men, suffering every possible handicap, to have killed or wounded so many concealed enemies. Again, there were in all probability not more than fifteen or twenty warriors in the party of the red men. The loss or crippling of such a number would have meant practical annihilation. Later when the party was encountered in its flight from the scene of the massacre, various individuals who had the opportunity of recognizing the individual members of the band reported them to be the same in membership as at the beginning of the raid at Smithland. Thus the statement of Major Williams could not have been accurate. Mrs. Sharp speaks of only one Indian as being injured and of no deaths—which is more probable.

[159] Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), p. 74.

[Pg 296]


[160] The Spirit Lake Massacre and Relief Expedition in the Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. VI, p. 894; Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 76-78; Smith’s History of Dickinson County, Iowa, pp. 68, 69; Gue’s History of Iowa, Vol. I, pp. 300, 301

Mrs. Noble and Mrs. Thatcher in later relations of the massacre spoke of their children as having been killed at their own cabin. If such were the facts then their dead bodies must have been carried to the Howe home; for there they were found by the members of the rescue party rather than at the place of death. This fact has led to the statement that five small Howe children were killed in addition to Sardis and Jonathan. There were, however, only three smaller children in the Howe family—Alfred, Jacob, and Philetus.

[161] Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 78-80; Neill’s History of Minnesota, pp. 622, 623.


[162] Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 81, 82.

[163] Agnes C. Laut’s Heroines of Spirit Lake in Outing Magazine, Vol. LI, p. 692.

[164] Gue in his History of Iowa, Vol. I, pp. 301, 302, says that Marble fired first at the target, and when he went out to see what had been the result of his shot the Indians fired on him; while Carpenter in his article on The Spirit Lake Massacre in the Midland Monthly, Vol. IV, p. 22, states that when Marble’s gun became empty and he was defenseless he was shot.

[165] This is the list as it appears on the east tablet of the State Memorial near the Gardner cabin with the exception of the omission of the names of those not killed at the lakes but who were massacred in the vicinity of Springfield, Minnesota.—The Spirit Lake Massacre and Relief Expedition in the Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. VI, p. 920.

[166] Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 83, 84; The Spirit Lake Massacre and Relief Expedition in the Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. VI, p. 895.

[Pg 297]

R. A. Smith, in his History of Dickinson County, appears skeptical concerning the real character or meaning of this attempt at Indian pictographic writing, and in commenting upon it notes that “many of the writers who have mentioned this incident have made more of it than the facts would warrant. The three or four published accounts which have been given to the public agree in stating that the picture record gave the position and number of victims correctly, and also represented those killed as being pierced with arrows. Now this is mainly fiction. The first discovery of the tree on which the hieroglyphics were delineated was by a party consisting of O. C. Howe, R. U. Wheelock and the writer sometime in May.... It was a white ash tree standing a little way to the southeast of the door of the Marble cabin.... The rough outside bark had been hewed off for a distance of some twelve or fifteen inches up and down the tree. Upon the smoothed surface thus made were the representations. The number of cabins (six) was correctly given, the largest of which was represented as being in flames. There were also representations of human figures and with the help of the imagination it was possible to distinguish which were meant for the whites and which the Indians. There were not over ten or a dozen all told, and except for the hint contained in the cabins, the largest one being in flames, we could not have figured any meaning out of it. This talk of the victims being pierced with arrows and their number and position given, is all nonsense. Mr. Howe and the writer spent some time studying it, and, while they came to the conclusion that it would convey a definite meaning to those understanding it, they could not make much out of it.”

[167] Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), p. 93; Hamilton Freeman, July 13, 1857; The Spirit Lake Massacre and Relief Expedition in the Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. VI, p. 895.


[168] Carpenter’s The Spirit Lake Massacre in the Midland Monthly, Vol. IV, p. 23; Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 85-87; The Spirit Lake Massacre and Relief Expedition in the Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. VI, p. 895; Smith’s History of Dickinson County, Iowa, pp. 72, 73.

[Pg 298]

[169] The Spirit Lake Massacre and Relief Expedition in the Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. VI, p. 895; Smith’s History of Dickinson County, Iowa, pp. 73, 74.

[170] The Spirit Lake Massacre and Relief Expedition in the Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. VI, p. 895; Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, p. 225; Hughes’s Causes and Results of the Inkpaduta Massacre in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. XII, p. 272; Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 85-89; Carpenter’s The Spirit Lake Massacre in the Midland Monthly, Vol. IV, p. 23.

[171] Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, p. 225.

[172] Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, p. 226.

[173] Flandrau’s The Ink-pa-du-ta Massacre of 1857 in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. III, pp. 389, 390.

[174] Daniels’s Reminiscences of Little Crow in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. XII, p. 519; Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, p. 237; Flandrau’s The Ink-pa-du-ta Massacre of 1857 in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. III, p. 390.


[175] This was the Barnard E. Bee who was later to win fame as a general of the South during the Civil War. During that conflict, he it was who fastened the sobriquet of “Stonewall” upon the Confederate General Thomas E. Jackson in his now famous charge to his men—“For God’s sake stand, men. Stand like Jackson’s brigade, on your right, there they stand like a stone wall.” Bee was killed in an attempt to hold his brigade in line of battle against a murderous fire in the first battle of Bull Run, July 21, 1861.—Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, p. 238; Heitman’s Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, Vol. I, p. 205.

[176] Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, p. 237; Flandrau’s The Ink-pa-du-ta Massacre of 1857 in the[Pg 299] Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. III, p. 390; report of Captain Barnard E. Bee in House Executive Documents, 1st Session, 35th Congress, Vol. II, Pt. I, p. 350.

[177] Report of Captain Barnard E. Bee in House Executive Documents, 1st Session, 35th Congress, Vol. II, Pt. I, No. 2, p. 350.

[178] Flandrau’s The Ink-pa-du-ta Massacre of 1857 in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. III, pp. 390, 391.

[179] Hughes’s Causes and Results of the Inkpaduta Massacre in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. XII, p. 273; House Executive Documents, 1st Session, 35th Congress, Vol. II, Pt. I, p. 358.

[180] Flandrau’s The Ink-pa-du-ta Massacre of 1857 in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. III, p. 391.

[181] Report of Captain Barnard E. Bee in House Executive Documents, 1st Session, 35th Congress, Vol. II, Pt. I, p. 351.


[182] Palmer’s Incidents of the Late Indian Outrages in the Hamilton Freeman (Webster City), July 23, 1857.

[183] Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, pp. 226, 230; Palmer’s Incidents of the Late Indian Outrages in the Hamilton Freeman (Webster City), July 23, 1857.

[184] Hoover’s The Tragedy of Okoboji in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. V, pp. 19, 20; Palmer’s Incidents of the Late Indian Outrages in the Hamilton Freeman (Webster City), July 23, 1857.

[185] Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, p. 234; Palmer’s Incidents of the Late Indian Outrages in the Hamilton Freeman (Webster City), July 23, 1857.

[186] Palmer’s Incidents of the Late Indian Outrages in the Hamilton Freeman (Webster City), July 23, 1857.

[187] Palmer’s Incidents of the Late Indian Outrages in the Hamilton Freeman (Webster City), July 23, 1857.

[188] The gold with which they paid for their purchases was presumably a portion of that which was taken from Marble’s body.—[Pg 300]See Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, p. 227.

[189] The Moccasin’s camp had been about six miles up the river to the north of Springfield, while the trading post here referred to was nine miles distant. Coursalle, or “Joe Gaboo”, was a well-known half-blood Sisseton Sioux. At all times Indians in small numbers were grouped about him; they were always friendly.—Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, p. 226.

[190] Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, pp. 227, 228.

[191] Palmer’s Incidents of the Late Indian Outrages in the Hamilton Freeman (Webster City), July 23, 1857; Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, p. 228.


[192] Carpenter’s The Spirit Lake Massacre in the Midland Monthly, Vol. IV, p. 23; Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 94, 95; Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, p. 229. See also a different version in Palmer’s Incidents of the Late Indian Outrages in the Hamilton Freeman (Webster City), July 30, 1857.

[193] Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, pp. 229, 230; Laut’s Heroines of Spirit Lake in the Outing Magazine, Vol. LI, p. 692; Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 94-99.

[194] Dr. Strong has been considerably maligned as one who upon the first alarm had become so terrified that he summarily fled south, leaving his wife and children to the mercies of an Indian attack. For a more charitable view see Palmer’s Incidents of the Late Indian Outrages in the Hamilton Freeman (Webster City), July 30, 1857.

[195] For somewhat varying accounts of the attack upon the Thomas cabin see Palmer’s Incidents of the Late Indian Outrages in the Hamilton Freeman (Webster City), July 30, 1857; Carpenter’s The Spirit Lake Massacre in the Midland Monthly, Vol. IV, pp. 23-25; Gue’s History of Iowa, Vol. I, pp. 304, 305; Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 94-99; Hughes’s[Pg 301] Causes and Results of the Inkpaduta Massacre in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. XII, pp. 275, 276; Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, pp. 229, 230; The Spirit Lake Massacre and Relief Expedition in the Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. VI, pp. 898, 899.

[196] Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, p. 230.

[197] For the attack upon the Wood brothers see Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, p. 230; Hughes’s Causes and Results of the Inkpaduta Massacre in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. XII, p. 275; Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 99, 100.

[198] Report of Captain Barnard E. Bee in House Executive Documents, 1st Session, 35th Congress, Vol. II, Pt. II, p. 147.

[199] All of the particulars of the events which happened at the Stewart home we owe to the relation of Johnny. He was later adopted into the home of Major William Williams at Fort Dodge and in 1915 was living in Byron, Minnesota, and at that time was one of the four living survivors of the raid. Read accounts in Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, pp. 230, 231; Palmer’s Incidents of the Late Indian Outrages in the Hamilton Freeman (Webster City), July 30, 1857; Gue’s History of Iowa, Vol. I, p. 305; Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 100, 101.

[200] Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, p. 232; Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), p. 107.

[201] Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 148, 149. For Mrs. Marble’s impressions see an article from the St. Paul Pioneer, May 31, 1857, republished in the Hamilton Freeman (Webster City), July 13, 1857.


[202] Palmer’s Incidents of the Late Indian Outrages in the Hamilton Freeman (Webster City), July 30, 1857; Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 102-104.

[203] Charles Aldrich in an address at the unveiling of a commemo[Pg 302]rative tablet in the Hamilton County Court House in Webster City, Iowa, on August 12, 1887, states that they started about midnight. It does not seem, however, that such a late hour could have been possible under the circumstances.—See the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 548.

[204] Palmer’s Incidents of the Late Indian Outrages in the Hamilton Freeman (Webster City), July 30, 1857.

[205] Palmer’s Incidents of the Late Indian Outrages in the Hamilton Freeman (Webster City), July 30, 1857; Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, p. 233. For a wholly different view of Dr. Strong see Gue’s History of Iowa, Vol. I, pp. 307, 308.

[206] One version of the flight of these refugees tells us that Smith and Henderson were not, at first, left behind but were taken for some distance on hand sleds. This proved impracticable and the men were abandoned. Miss Agnes C. Laut has this plainly in mind when she refers to Mrs. Smith as the “one dame, who abandoned an injured husband on a hand sleigh” and hence does not need to “be preserved as a heroine of the West.” This, however, is unfair to Mrs. Smith.—See Miss Laut’s Heroines of Spirit Lake in the Outing Magazine, Vol. LI, p. 692.

[207] For varied versions of the flight of the Wheeler refugees see Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 109, 110; Gue’s History of Iowa, Vol. I, pp. 307, 308; Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, p. 234.


[208] Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, p. 239.

[209] Report of Captain Barnard E. Bee in House Executive Documents, 1st Session, 35th Congress, Vol. II, Pt. II, Doc. No. 2, p. 146.

[210] Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 160-162.

[211] Quoted from the St. Paul Pioneer and Democrat for May 16, 1857, in Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, p. 240.

[212] Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 158-160.

[Pg 303]

[213] Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, pp. 241, 242.


[214] For information concerning the journey and findings of Howe, Wheelock, and Parmenter see The Spirit Lake Massacre and Relief Expedition in the Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. VI, pp. 895, 896; Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 125, 126; Smith’s History of Dickinson County, Iowa, pp. 49, 74, 75; Carpenter’s The Spirit Lake Massacre in the Midland Monthly, Vol. IV, p. 26; Flickinger’s Pioneer History of Pocahontas County, Iowa, p. 35; Gue’s History of Iowa, Vol. I, p. 311.

[215] Address of Capt. Charles B. Richards, at the placing of a memorial tablet in the Hamilton County Court House, in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 509.

[216] Carpenter’s The Spirit Lake Massacre in the Midland Monthly, Vol. IV, p. 26; Address of John N. Maxwell in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 525; Smith’s History of Dickinson County, Iowa, p. 75.

[217] Letter from Sergt. Harris Hoover in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 551; Hoover’s The Tragedy of Okoboji in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. V, p. 16.

[218] Hoover’s The Tragedy of Okoboji in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. V, p. 16.

[219] Address of John N. Maxwell in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 526.

[220] The Narrative of W. K. Laughlin in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 542.

[221] The Spirit Lake Massacre and Relief Expedition in the Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. VI, pp. 932-937; Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. II, p. 71. See also the west tablet on the State Memorial Monument near the Gardner cabin, Arnold’s Park, Okoboji, Iowa.

[222] Address of John N. Maxwell in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, pp. 525, 526; The Spirit Lake Massacre and Relief Expedition in the Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. VI, p. 897.

[Pg 304]

[223] Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. VI, pp. 922, 923, 928; Duncombe’s Spirit Lake Expedition in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 495.

[224] The roster as here given is that found in the Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. VI, pp. 922-932, and is also to be found on the west tablet of the Memorial Monument at Arnold’s Park, Okoboji, Iowa. Harris Hoover in his Expedition to Spirit Lake in the Hamilton Freeman (Webster City), August 20, 1857, differs somewhat.

[225] Address of Capt. Charles B. Richards in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 510.

[226] Mr. Duncombe’s Address in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 495.

[227] Hoover in his Expedition to Spirit Lake in the Hamilton Freeman (Webster City), August 20, 1857, speaks of Major Williams as “afflicted with rheumatism, and the frost of 70 winters whitening his brow” as resolutely setting “forward at our head.” This Major Williams resented and took occasion to reply in the succeeding issue of the Freeman that “I can’t agree to be made so old. I was 60 last December [1856], and never have I been afflicted with rheumatism in my life.... I don’t wish to be considered so old.”


[228] Address of John N. Maxwell in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 526.

[229] Hoover’s Expedition to Spirit Lake in the Hamilton Freeman (Webster City), August 20, 1857; Address of Capt. Charles B. Richards in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, pp. 510, 511.

[230] A Paper by Michael Sweeney in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 539; The Narrative of W. K. Laughlin in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 542; Hoover’s Expedition to Spirit Lake in the Hamilton Freeman (Webster City), August 20, 1857.

[231] Duncombe’s Spirit Lake Expedition in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 496.

[232] Address of Capt. Charles B. Richards in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 510.

[Pg 305]

[233] Hoover’s Expedition to Spirit Lake in the Hamilton Freeman (Webster City), August 20, 1857. See also Duncombe’s Spirit Lake Expedition in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 496; Address of John N. Maxwell in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 527; A Paper by Michael Sweeney in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 538.

[234] McKnight’s Point was on the West Fork of the Des Moines, on the Fort Ridgely road, about two miles to the southeast of the mouth of Bridge Creek.—See map in Parker’s Iowa As It Is, 1857.

[235] Hoover’s The Tragedy of Okoboji in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. V, p. 17; Duncombe’s Spirit Lake Expedition in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 497.

[236] A Paper by Michael Sweeney in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 539.

[237] A Paper by Michael Sweeney in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 539.

[238] For this incident see Duncombe’s Spirit Lake Expedition in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, pp. 498, 499; Hoover’s The Tragedy of Okoboji in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. V, pp. 17, 18.

[239] Duncombe’s Spirit Lake Expedition in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 499.

[240] Carpenter’s The Spirit Lake Massacre in the Midland Monthly, Vol. IV, p. 27.

[241] Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. VI, pp. 929, 934.

[242] The Narrative of W. K. Laughlin in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 542.

[243] Duncombe’s Spirit Lake Expedition in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 500.

[244] For the enlistments of these individuals see the Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. VI, pp. 924, 925, 926.

[245] In the Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. VI, pp. 929 and 931, it is stated that Thatcher and Burtch enlisted either at Fort Dodge on March twenty-third or at Shippey’s on March twenty-eighth. The latter place and date seem far more probable than do the former.

[Pg 306]

[246] A Paper by Michael Sweeney in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 539; The Narrative of W. K. Laughlin in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 542.

[247] The Narrative of W. K. Laughlin in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 542.


[248] Address of John N. Maxwell in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 527.

[249] Carpenter’s The Spirit Lake Expedition in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 483.

[250] Carpenter’s The Spirit Lake Expedition in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 500; Address of John N. Maxwell in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 527; The Narrative of W. K. Laughlin in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 542.

[251] There seems to have been some disagreement as to who had charge of the advance guard. For the view taken by the present writer see Smith’s History of Dickinson County, Iowa, p. 80.

[252] Frank R. Mason’s Recollections in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, pp. 532, 533; Carpenter’s Spirit Lake Expedition in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 484.

[253] For an account of the discovery of the Springfield fugitives see that of Frank R. Mason’s Recollections in Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, pp. 532, 533.

[254] A quotation from Carpenter in Gue’s History of Iowa, Vol. I, p. 314.

[255] Frank R. Mason’s Recollections in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 533; Smith’s A History of Dickinson County, Iowa, p. 82.

[256] A Paper by Charles Aldrich in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 548.

[257] A Paper by Charles Aldrich in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 548.

[258] Frank R. Mason’s Recollections in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 533.

[Pg 307]

[259] Address of Capt. Charles B. Richards in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 513; Address of John N. Maxwell in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 528; Duncombe’s Spirit Lake Expedition in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, pp. 502-504.


[260] Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. VI, pp. 922-937; Smith’s History of Dickinson County, Iowa, p. 84.

[261] Address of Captain Charles B. Richards in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 515; Smith’s History of Dickinson County, Iowa, p. 84.

[262] The reputed finding of the body of Joel Howe may well be questioned. The evidence presented tends to show that the headless skeleton found by Mr. Goodenough could not have been that of Howe. Of the party that took the trail route to the Mattock cabin from Howe’s, H. E. Dalley is the only one who in late years has survived, and in fact he was about the only one of the Johnson party who survived the fearful storm of the fourth and was able to give a coherent tale of what they had done. The leader of the party and its second most active member both were lost in the storm. Mr. Dalley in relating the facts of the burial of Howe has always maintained that Howe’s body, complete and not headless, was found but not buried at the same spot. Instead the party carried the body to the Mattock place where it was interred. He has ever sturdily maintained that this act of the party is the most vivid recollection of the whole experience. Lieutenant Maxwell has also maintained that the body was not headless when found. There is a discrepancy between the number of bodies disinterred in the vicinity of the Mattock cabin and the number of people reported to have been killed there.

The place and conditions under which the skeleton was found also lend an air of controversy. The skeleton is said to have been found about eighteen inches deep under a cow-path and at the head of a small ravine worn back about thirty feet from the lake shore. In soil conditions as they exist at the lakes, such a ravine would not have been the result of years of work, as is implied, but would have been the work of a freshet. That the wearing back was the result of the work of years is implied in the statement that “Turning at the head of this recession is a cattle path.” Here the inference is plain that the cattle for years had turned to avoid the ravine. Once[Pg 308] started, the spring freshets and summer rains would have rapidly worn the ravine back to a greater distance than thirty feet. All those stating that the body was buried where found say it was buried upon the summit of a bluff. The conclusion is evident that a thirty foot backward recession of a ravine would hardly have occurred in the face of a bluff. By its finders the body is said to have been buried only about eighteen inches deep. With the eroding effects of a cattle path would it have been still that depth below the surface after a lapse of nearly a half century? One would think that such could hardly be. For discovery and interment of the remains of Joel Howe, see Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. XI, pp. 551-553.

[263] There will probably always be more or less controversy as to the number of bodies found and buried. The present writer has sought to be conservative in accepting evidence. See Smith’s A History of Dickinson County, Iowa, pp. 88, 89; Address of John N. Maxwell in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, pp. 539, 540; The Narrative of W. K. Laughlin in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 543; Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), p. 74.

[264] Smith’s A History of Dickinson County, Iowa, p. 90; Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. VI, pp. 922-937.

[265] Smith’s A History of Dickinson County, Iowa, p. 90.

[266] Smith’s A History of Dickinson County, Iowa, pp. 91-94.

[267] The Narrative of W. K. Laughlin in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 544.

[268] Smith’s A History of Dickinson County, Iowa, pp. 98, 99; Address of John N. Maxwell in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 530; The Narrative of W. K. Laughlin in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 544.

[269] The Spirit Lake Massacre and Relief Expedition in the Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. VI, pp. 995, 996; Narrative of W. L. Laughlin in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 544; Address of John N. Maxwell in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 531.

[270] Address of John N. Maxwell in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 531; The Narrative of W. K. Laughlin in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 544.

[Pg 309]

[271] The Narrative of W. K. Laughlin in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, pp. 544, 545.

[272] Address of John N. Maxwell in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, pp. 531, 532; The Narrative of W. K. Laughlin in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, pp. 544, 545; Gue’s History of Iowa, Vol. I, p. 317.

[273] Captain Johnson had come to Bach Grove on the Boone River Troy Township, Wright County, from Pennsylvania. Mention has been made of the manner of his enlistment. Upon his failure to return, his mother disposed of the claim and returned to Pennsylvania. When the bodies were found, Angus McBane of Fort Dodge took charge of the remains and sent them to his mother for burial. The remains of Burkholder were taken charge of by his brother-in-law, Governor C. C. Carpenter. They were given a military funeral at Fort Dodge, conducted by Major Williams. All the members of Company C that could be brought together at that time attended.—A Paper by Michael Sweeney in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), III, p. 541.


[274] Address of Capt. Charles B. Richardsin the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 516.

[275] Captain Richards speaks of their attempt to secure supplies at the settlement upon their return as follows: “The settlers at the Colony were on short rations and could spare nothing. We decided to buy a steer and kill for the party, but we had no money and the owner refused to sell without pay. We offered to give the personal obligation of all the officers, and assured him the State would pay a good price; but this was not satisfactory. We therefore decided to take one vi et armis, and detailed several men to kill and dress the steer. They were met by men, women and children, armed with pitchforks to resist the sacrifice, and not being able to convince them either of the necessity of the case or that they would get pay for the steer, I ordered Lieut. Stratton and a squad of men with loaded guns to go and take the steer; when ... the hostile party retired.”—Address of Capt. Charles B. Richards in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 517.

[276] Duncombe’s Spirit Lake Expedition in the Proceedings of the Pioneer Lawmakers’ Association of Iowa for 1898[Pg 310] , p. 45; Address of Capt. Charles B. Richards in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, pp. 518, 519.

[277] Captain Richards is quoted as follows in Gue’s History of Iowa, Vol. I, p. 318, concerning the attempt to cross at this point:—“The wind was now blowing a terrific gale and the cold was intense, so that our wet clothing was frozen stiff upon us.... When help and material for a raft came, so strong and cold was the wind, and so swift the current, filled with floating ice, that all of our efforts to build a raft failed. It was now dark and still growing colder, and the roar of the blinding storm so great that we could no longer hold communication with our companions on the other side. We were benumbed with cold, utterly exhausted, and three miles from the nearest cabin. We were powerless to aid our comrades, and could only try to save ourselves. It was a terrible walk in the face of the terrific blizzard, our clothes frozen, our feet freezing, and our strength gone.”

[278] Address of Ex-Governor Carpenter in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, pp. 486, 487.

[279] Hoover’s The Tragedy of Okoboji in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. V, p. 24.

[280] Frank R. Mason’s Recollections in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 535.

[281] Address of Ex-Governor Carpenter in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 487.

[282] Frank R. Mason’s Recollections in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, pp. 535, 536.

[283] Letter from Mrs. Collins in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 549.


[284] Republished article from the St. Paul Pioneer of May 31, 1857, in the Hamilton Freeman (Webster City), July 13, 1857.

[285] Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), p. 150.

[286] Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 151-156, 168.

[Pg 311]

[287] Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 168-171. This stone is more familiarly known in mineralogy as catlinite—being so named from George Catlin, the noted traveler, who first studied it. See Hodge’s Handbook of American Indians, Vol. I, pp. 217-219.

[288] Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 152, 153.

[289] Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), p. 172.

[290] Robinson’s A History of the Dakota or Sioux Indians in the South Dakota Historical Collections, Vol. II, p. 237.

[291] Gue’s History of Iowa, Vol. I, p. 322; Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), p. 175.

[292] Gue’s History of Iowa, Vol. I, p. 323; Robinson’s A History of the Dakota or Sioux Indians in the South Dakota Historical Collections, Vol. II, p. 237; Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 175, 176.

[293] Republished article from the St. Paul Pioneer, of May 31, 1857, in the Hamilton Freeman (Webster City), July 13, 1857.

[294] B. M. Smith and A. J. Hill’s Map of the Ceded Part of Dakota Territory, 1861.


[295] The Ink-pa-du-ta Massacre of 1857 in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. III, pp. 392-394; Robinson’s A History of the Dakota or Sioux Indians in the South Dakota Historical Collections, Vol. II, p. 238.

[296] Robinson’s A History of the Dakota or Sioux Indians in the South Dakota Historical Collections, Vol. II, p. 238.

[297] Robinson’s A History of the Dakota or Sioux Indians in the South Dakota Historical Collections, Vol. II, p. 238.

[298] Republished article from St. Paul Pioneer, of May 31, 1857, in the Hamilton Freeman (Webster City), July 13, 1857.

[299] Robinson’s A History of the Dakota or Sioux Indians in the South Dakota Historical Collections, Vol. II, pp. 238, 239.

[Pg 312]

[300] Republished article from St. Paul Pioneer, of May 31, 1857, in the Hamilton Freeman (Webster City), July 13, 1857.

[301] Flandrau’s The Ink-pa-du-ta Massacre of 1857 in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. III, p. 394.

[302] Flandrau’s The Ink-pa-du-ta Massacre of 1857 in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. III, p. 395.

[303] The text of this bond appears in Flandrau’s Ink-pa-du-ta Massacre of 1857 in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. III, pp. 395, 396.


[304] Ma-za-ku-ta-ma-ni was at this time the President of the Rev. Riggs’ Hazelwood Republic. This Republic was a rather unique attempt at self-government upon the part of Christianized Indians of the Yellow Medicine Agency under the guidance of the Rev. Mr. Riggs. It was “a respectable community of young men who had cut off their hair and exchanged the dress of the Dakotas for that of the white man.... They elected their president and other officers for two years, and were recognized by the Indian agent as a separate band of the Sioux.”—Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. II, pp. 254-257.

[305] John Other Day won his title to fame in the annals of Minnesota by the part he took in the terrible Sioux Massacre of 1862. Certainly nothing else is needed to prove the worth of a Christian Indian than this act of his. The whites and Christian Indian refugees were in deadly peril of massacre at the Yellow Medicine Agency when to “John Other Day ... was entrusted the agency people and the refugees ... sixty-two souls in all, and as the ... revelry still came up from the stores on the bottom ... he moved off to the east with his white friends, crossed the Minnesota and skillfully covering the trail bore them away to safety ... without rest or delay he hurried back to the scene of the massacre to save more lives and assist in bringing the miscreants to justice.”—Robinson’s A History of the Dakota or Sioux Indians in the South Dakota Historical Collections, Vol. II, pp. 278, 279.

[306] Flandrau’s The Ink-pa-du-ta Massacre of 1857 in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. III, p. 396.

[Pg 313]

[307] Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 216-221, 224, 225. Mrs. Noble seems to have been killed in the southeastern corner of what is now Spink County, South Dakota.

[308] Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 231, 232.

[309] Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), p. 236.

[310] Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 238, 239.

[311] Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), p. 241. See also Flandrau’s The Ink-pa-du-ta Massacre of 1857 in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. III, p. 398.

[312] Lee’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre, p. 35.

[313] Lee’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre, p. 36.

[314] Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), p. 249.

Concerning this costume Mrs. Sharp has since remarked that “the style and fit might not have been approved by Worth, but it was worth everything to me.”

[315] Flandrau’s The Ink-pa-du-ta Massacre of 1857 in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. III, p. 399.

[316] Flandrau’s The Ink-pa-du-ta Massacre of 1857 in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. III, p. 399.

[317] Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), p. 257.

[318] For these speeches see Lee’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre, pp. 37-41; Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 260-265.

[319] Lee’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre, p. 43.

[320] Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), p. 268, 269; Lee’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre, p. 44.

[Pg 314]


[321] Flandrau’s The Ink-pa-du-ta Massacre of 1857 in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. III, p. 400.

[322] Flandrau’s The Ink-pa-du-ta Massacre of 1857 in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. III, p. 397.

[323] Lee’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre, p. 42.

[324] Flandrau’s The Ink-pa-du-ta Massacre of 1857 in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. III, p. 401.

[325] Flandrau’s The Ink-pa-du-ta Massacre of 1857 in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. III, p. 401.

[326] Flandrau’s The Ink-pa-du-ta Massacre of 1857 in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. III, pp. 401, 402.

[327] House Executive Documents, 1st Session, 35th Congress, Vol. II, Pt. I, p. 367.

[328] House Executive Documents, 1st Session, 35th Congress, Vol. II, Pt. I, pp. 362, 363.

[329] House Executive Documents, 1st Session, 35th Congress, Vol. II, Pt. I, p. 368.

[330] House Executive Documents, 1st Session, 35th Congress, Vol. II, Pt. I, p. 368.

[331] Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, p. 254.

[332] House Executive Documents, 1st Session, 35th Congress, Vol. II, Pt. I, pp. 369, 370, 375.

[333] House Executive Documents, 1st Session, 35th Congress, Vol. II, Pt. I, pp. 373, 374, 375-379.

[334] House Executive Documents, 1st Session, 35th Congress, Vol. II, Pt. I, p. 398.

[335] This speech is one of the very few well-known oratorical efforts of a Siouan leader and as such it is here appended: “The soldiers have appointed me to speak for them. The man who killed white people did not belong to us, and we did not expect to be called to account for the people of another band. We have always tried to do as our Great Father tells us. One of our young men brought in[Pg 315] a captive woman. I went out and brought the other. The soldiers came up here, and our young men assisted to kill one of Ink-pa-du-tah’s sons at this place. Then you (Superintendent Cullen) spoke about our soldiers going after the rest. Wakea Ska (White Lodge) said he would go, and the rest of us followed. The lower Indians did not get up the war party for you; it was our Indians, the Wahpeton and Sisiton. The soldiers here say that they were told by you that a thousand dollars would be paid for killing each of the murderers. Their Great Father does not expect to do these things without money, and I suppose that it is for that that the special agent is come up. We wish the men who went out paid for what they have done. Three men are killed as we know. I am not a chief among the Indians. The white people have declared me a chief, and I suppose I am able to do something. We have nothing to eat, and our families are hungry. If we go out again we must have some money before we go. This is what the soldiers have wished me to say.... All of us want our money now very much. We have never seen our Great Father, but have heard a great deal from him, and have always tried to do as he has told us. A man of another band has done wrong, and we are to suffer for it. Our old women and children are hungry for this. I have seen ten thousand dollars sent to pay for our going out. I wish the soldiers were paid for it. I suppose our Great Father has more money than this.”—House Executive Documents, 1st Session, 35th Congress, Vol. II, Pt. I, p. 399.

[336] Hubbard and Holcombe’s Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. III, pp. 267, 268; South Dakota Historical Collections, Vol. II, pp. 344, 345, Vol. VI, p. 226.

[337] Flandrau’s The Ink-pa-du-ta Massacre of 1857 in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. III, pp. 402-404.

[338] Flandrau’s The Ink-pa-du-ta Massacre of 1857 in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. III, pp. 404-406.


[339] Letter of Governor James W. Grimes to the Iowa Delegation in Congress, January 3, 1855, in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. II, pp. 627-630; Letter of Governor James W. Grimes to President Franklin Pierce in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, pp. 135-137.

[Pg 316]

[340] United States Statutes at Large, Vol. II, Ch. 163, p. 363, 1st Session, 35th Congress, June 14, 1858.

[341] Copies of Claims Submitted in Auditor’s office, in the Public Archives, Des Moines, Iowa; Statement from the Office of the Northern Superintendent of Indian Affairs, St. Paul, Minnesota, in the Public Archives, Des Moines, Iowa.

[342] Statement from Office of Northern Superintendent of Indian Affairs, St. Paul, Minnesota, in the Public Archives, Des Moines, Iowa.

[343] Letter to Governor Lowe from Superintendent W. J. Cullen, August 12, 1859, in the Public Archives, Des Moines, Iowa.

[344] United States Statutes at Large, Vol. 12, Ch. 157, p. 58, 1st Session, 36th Congress, June 19, 1860.

[345] United States Statutes at Large, Vol. 12, Ch. 163, p. 68, 1st Session, 36th Congress, June 21, 1860.

[346] United States Statutes at Large, Vol. 12, Ch. 72, p. 203, 2nd Session, 36th Congress, March 2, 1861.

[347] Laws of Iowa, 1860, pp. 26, 27.

[348] Laws of Iowa, 1860, pp. 36, 37.

[349] Claims and Vouchers Filed with Governor of Iowa in Auditor’s Office, in the Public Archives, Des Moines, Iowa.

As late as January, 1870, in his first biennial message to the legislature, Governor Merrill stated that the State had recently received from the Federal government the “sum of $18,117 to reimburse outlay for the defense of the northern border of the State, subsequent to the massacre at Spirit Lake in 1857.”—Shambaugh’s Messages and Proclamations of the Governors of Iowa, Vol. III, p. 263.

[350] Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, p. 481.

[351] A Worthy Tribute in the Fort Dodge Messenger, Vol. 23, No. 39, August 18, 1887.

[352] A Worthy Tribute in the Fort Dodge Messenger, Vol. 23, No. 39, August, 18, 1887.

[353] S. F. 115 was introduced by Senator A. B. Funk of Spirit Lake, and H. F. 230 by Representative J. G. Myerly of Estherville. Senator Funk’s measure was later substituted in the House for the[Pg 317] House measure, upon motion of Representative Myerly.—Senate Journal, 1894, pp. 85, 178, 335, 585, 697; House Journal, 1894, pp. 124, 504, 577, 765.

[354] Laws of Iowa, 1894, pp. 116, 117.

[355] Report of the Okoboji and Spirit Lake Monument Commission in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, pp. 552, 553.

[356] Smith’s A History of Dickinson County, Iowa, pp. 572, 574, 575.

[357] Smith’s A History of Dickinson County, Iowa, p. 576.

[358] Smith’s A History of Dickinson County, Iowa, p. 579.

It should also be noted that on April 9, 1913, there was approved a law which declared that “on and after the passage of this act, the survivors of the Spirit Lake Relief Expedition of 1857 ... shall receive a monthly pension of $20.00 per month, during the lifetime of each such survivor”.—Laws of Iowa, 1913, p. 362.

Under the provisions of this law there was paid out of the State treasury the sum of $2,189.33 for the biennial period ending June 30, 1914, and $4,677.33 for the biennial period ending June 30, 1916.—Report of the Treasurer of State, 1914, p. 21, 1916, p. 21.


[359] Mrs. Sharp’s History of the Spirit Lake Massacre (1902 edition), pp. 274-282, 340.

[360] Judge Charles E. Flandrau in The Ink-pa-du-ta Massacre of 1857 in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. III, p. 399, has this to say of Mrs. Marble after leaving St. Paul, Minnesota: “The bank [where her money had been placed] failed, and that was the end of Mrs. Marble so far as I know, except that I heard that she exhibited herself at the East, in the role of the rescued captive, and the very last information I had of her, was, that she went up in a balloon at New Orleans. I leave to future historians the solution of the problem, whether she ever came down again?”

[361] Smith’s A History of Dickinson County, Iowa, p. 576.


Transcriber’s Note:

Archaic and inconsistent spelling and punctuation retained.