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Boone County History

Henry Lott and the Spirit Lake Massacre

The Indian chief was also known as Old Chief Three Finger. The chief and six braves first to visit Lott were all painted and armed for the war-path. The chief warned Lott that he was an intruder and had settled on Sioux hunting grounds.

When the chief returned a second time he found that Lott still remained and commenced to destroying his property. They robbed the bee-hives, shot his horses, cattle and hogs full of arrows, threatened and abused his family and drove Lott and his stepson from the house more scared than hurt. Two small girls, daughters of Lott fled to the timber as Mrs. Lott covered a small child, the youngest of the family, under feather bed, and then after contending with the savages till her strength was exhausted, was compelled to submit to all the indignities which they choose to put upon her.

Although the Indians were in and out of the house the little boy under the feather bed never moved or uttered a cry. When Lott and his stepson reached the Boone River bluffs they looked back at the house and thought they saw the Indians tomahawking the family. They heard the screams of his wife and children.

Unarmed, they headed for Pea’s Point spreading this horrible story. John Pea proposed an immediate expedition to take vengeance but Lott was sent to Elk Rapids some 16 miles south to procure more men. When he reached the Rapids he found Chimisne Pottawattamie chief with who he was acquainted. He was better known to settlers as Johnny Greene where he was encamped with several hundred of his tribe. Upon hearing of Lott’s story he called a council of his braves and it was determined that the chief would accompany the white men with 26 of his warriors. After several pow wows they painted themselves in a hideous manner and mounted their horses and set off for Pea’s Point to join the expedition.

The settlers at Pea’s Point had settled at the house of John M. Crooks for safety and defense, and were on the lookout for Indians. Lott, with several white men and the Pottawattamies, was rapidly advancing across the prairie towards Crooks' house, the Indians in the front, yelling as was the custom when starting on a war path and not in the vicinity of danger. The settlers, thinking them Sioux, prepared for action, each singling out an Indian and were upon the point of firing when they recognized other white men, and were happily disappointed to find them all friends.

John Pea and six other white men accompanied Lott and the Pottawatamies to the mouth of the Boone River and found that the family had not been tomahawked as Lott had said, but one of his boys, 12 years old, in order to escape, had undertaken to reach the settlements by following down the river on the ice, and across the bottoms a distance of some 20 miles.

The Sioux had robbed the family of everything except for a barrel of whiskey, and the family was in pretty bad condition. After making an unsuccessful scout the Pottawattamies returned to camp with as much whiskey as they could carry. Lott was overcome to see the condition of his family. His wife died a short time after from the affects of the attack on her from the Sioux. The boy who started down the river, perished from the effects of the cold and his body was found in a hollow log on the ice. The two girls were found sometime afterward in a sorry sight, exhausted, cold and hungry. After burying his wife and boy, Lott secured homes for the other children among the settlers of this county. Lott turned his attention to, wreaking vengeance upon the Sioux who had destroyed his home, and the saddest part of the story remain to be told.

Lott, having determined on his plan didn’t loose anytime in carrying it out. He procured an ox team and drove to Des Moines. Upon arriving he purchased two barrels, one he filled with pork and the other whiskey. What other ingredients he mixed with the pork and whiskey can be imagined from the effects it had upon those who ate it.

With his stock of goods he set out from Des Moines to the hunting grounds of the Sioux. After driving around for sometime he learned that the old chief Sim-au-dotah with a hunting party, was encamped near the stream in the present bounds of Webster county. He proceeded into the timber near by and erected a nearby shelter where he stored his pork and whiskey. During the following night he arranged things for a quick get away. He left the area. The Sioux found it the next day. No one really knows what happened to the provisions but the fact did become public that during the following summer the Indians in that vicinity were greatly terrified by the ravages of a peculiar and unknown epidemic, with the skill of the medicine men were to no avail.

It is said that over 75 of the most robust and bravest of warrior perished in a short time and feeling of melancholy and sadness took possession of the whole tribe of savages. To Lott’s surprise Sim-au-e-dotah and his sons escaped and continued to prosper. Upon hearing the chief with his family still surviving, Lott determined a braver, as wee as a more manly, plan of revenge.

Having disguised himself so the old chief could not recognize him and armed with a trusty rifle. Lott mounted a horse and rode into the Sioux country. He found and entered the camp of Sim-au-e-dotah was encamped and sought an interview with the chief. After fooling the chief by the presentation of gifts and the utterance of the most expressive words of friendship. Lott informed the chief that on a certain prairie a game of elk. Having aroused the chief and his three sons to accompany him on a hunting excursion. When Lott and the Indians arrived at the place where the game was reported to be, it was decided that they surround the prairie.

The three young Indians sent off in different directions. Lott soon dispatched the unsuspecting old chief, he then started on the track of the three Indians , he killed all three of them. It is further reported that after the killing the old Indian and three sons Lott dragged their dead bodies together, on an elevation near the Des Moines river, built a log heap ontop of them, set it on fire and returned to Boone County.

In the course of time reports of Lott’s doing began to be whispered abroad, and this case came up for investigation before a grand jury in Des Moines, among the members of the jury was a gentleman residing at Boonesboro. Lott’s case was the last one disposed of and in the evening just before the jury was discharged a true bill was found against Lott. He was indicted for murder in the 1st degree. It is not positively known when the Boonesboro juror left Des Moines nor when he arrived at the former place, all that is known is the fact that his horse was in the stable at Des Moines at dark on the evening of the day that the indictment was found and that the same horse was in the stable at Boonesboro the following morning.

It is also known that Lott left the area the same night, and the sheriff who came up from Des Moines to arrest him the next day failed to find him. Lott was never seen in the area again. It was rumored at one time that he made his way to the Pacific slope and after having been engaged in barter and mining for a number of years was finally lynched for some alleged misdemeanor.

Whatever or not such was the tragic end of his eventful life is not positively known, but the incidents as about related bearing upon his career in Boone and Webster Counties are voucher for by some of the earlier settlers. The failure of the sheriff from Polk county to find Lott ended the matter as legal proceedings were concerned but not as far as the savages were concerned. There were greatly exasperated when they found that their chief and his sons had been slain.

After Lott escaped it finally became whispered about among the savages that Lott was not only responsible for the death of their chief and his sons but also the pork and whiskey had something to do with the epidemic which previously had killed some 75 of the braves. They nursed their grievances and their desire of revenge until it finally found them in the Spirit Lake Massacre, which created so great a sensation at the time and which did so much to stop emigration to this area. The details of the massacre was intimately connected with the history this county.

Another Account of the Story

In the winter of 1846-1847, Henry Lott had taken a residence at the mouth of the Boone River, in what is now Webster County, within the range of Si-dom-I-na-do-tah’s band (of the Sioux or Dacotah tribe called Sisiton Sioux). Lott had provided himself with some goods and barrel of whiskey, wanting to trade with the Indians and obtain their furs and robes. Lott was warned by the chief and six braves that he was an intruder and he needed to leave within a certain time.

With this time having expired, and Lott still remaining, the Indians destroyed his property, shooting his stock and robbing his bee-hives. Lott and his stepson made their way to the nearest settlement at Pea’s Point some 16 miles south, and reported that his family had been murdered by the Indians, as so he thought they would be after he left.

John Pea and half a dozen other white men, along with some friendly Indians from another tribe, who were in the area, set out with Lott for the mouth of the Boone River. When they arrived they had found that the family had not been tomahawked as reported. One little boy, about 12 years of age had attempted to follow his father by going down the river on the ice. This little boy hearing the Indians close by and fearing for his life hid in a hollow log on the river, thinly clad, this little boy (Milton Lott) froze to death after traveling on the ice about 20 miles and his body was subsequently found.

The sequel show that Lott was determined on revenge. In November 1853, Lott ventured 30 miles north of Fort Dodge where he pretended to make a claim, in what is now Humbolt county. He took with him several barrels of whiskey and some goods, he and his step-son built a cabin near what is now known as Lott’s Creek in that county. In January 1854, Lott and his step-son went to the cabin of the old chief and told him they had seen a drove of elk feeding on the bottom lands and convinced the old man to ride his horse, gun in hand, to pursue the elk.

Lott and his stepson followed, some distance to the elk with the old man, they shot and killed Si-dom-i-na-do-tah. That same night they attacked and killed six of the chief’s family a boy of 12, and a girl of 10 escaped by hiding themselves. Some days later, the Indians reported the murders at Fort Dodge, thinking at first that the slaughter had been perpetrated by some of their Indian enemies.

It was soon revealed that Lott and his step-son had committed the deed. Their cabin was found burned down and a slight snow on the ground showed the track of their wagon on a route headed southward, avoiding Fort Dodge. They had been reported in several places were they had been trying to sell furs and other articles, with the murdered chief’s horse as one of their possessions. Having several days head start, they made their way across the Missouri and took the plains for California, where it was learned Lott was killed in a quarrel.

It is believed by many of the old settlers of Northern Iowa that this outrage of Henry Lott was the cause of that other tragedy or rather series of tragedies in the history of Northern Iowa, know as the Spirit Lake Massacre.
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