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Roster and Record of Iowa Troops In the Rebellion, Vol. 6
By Guy E. Logan
In the early days—while Iowa was still a Territory—there was more or less trouble
between the white settlers and the Indians, who were naturally jealous of the
encroachments being made upon their ancient hunting grounds. Finally, the Indians
determined to make one last desperate effort to drive back the invaders, and that notable
struggle the Black Hawk War -- ensued, resulting in the defeat of the Indians. That was
prior to the admission of Iowa into the Union as a State, and the history of the part taken
by Iowa men in that war is not germane to the work in hand, which is intended to cover
only the operations of Iowa troops participating, directly or indirectly, in the wars which
have occurred since Iowa became a State. The last notable struggle, prior to the War of
the Rebellion, in which Iowa soldiers were engaged in protecting the settlers on the
northern frontier of the State against the incursions of the savages, is described in Mr.
Reid's early history of the State. "The Spirit Lake Massacre and Relief Expedition" is
herewith reproduced in its entirety, together with the rosters of the soldiers engaged. The
subsequent conflicts with the same hostile tribes, which occurred after the breaking out of
the War of the Rebellion, are described in this work, in connection with the history of the
Iowa troops engaged in service on the northern frontier.
No other events in Iowa, since civilization began history within its limits, have
combined so much of human agony, of death in its cruelest, most harrowing forms, and
also of human bravery, fortitude, endurance and philanthropic sacrifice, as were
displayed in what has come to be known as the Spirit Lake Massacre, and in the relief
expedition which set out to aid or rescue the endangered settlers. Largely through the
efforts of the late Charles Aldrich, Curator of the Historical Department of Iowa, and a
member of the Soldiers' Roster Board as first organized, the story of that diabolical
massacre, and of the trials and labors of the relief expedition, has been as thoroughly told,
in its various phases, as perhaps any other prominent event of Iowa history.
The only narrative placed upon record, by an eye witness of the dastardly tragedy at
the lakes, is the History of the Spirit Lake Massacre and Captivity of Miss Abbie
Gardner, written, in 1885, by Mrs. Abbie Gardner-Sharp, and revised, with additions by
her, in 1902. In 1887, at the initiative and, to a great degree, through the efforts of
Charles Aldrich, the Board of Supervisors of Hamilton County ordered placed in the
Court House of that county a brass tablet, to commemorate the heroic endurance of
Company C, of the Spirit Lake Relief Expedition. At the unveiling of that tablet, papers
and addresses were given by seven participants in the expedition, telling their
recollections of the direful march and its attendant circumstances. These personal
histories (revised by their authors) and other reminiscences are printed in the Annals of
Iowa, Third Series. A paper by Sergeant Harris Hoover, another participant, is printed in
Volume IV of the Annals of Iowa, Third Series, reproduced from a publication in the
Hamilton County Freeman, Mr. Aldrich's paper, soon after the event.
A History of Dickinson County, Iowa, published in 1902, was written by Hon.
Roderick A. Smith, who was a member of the relief expedition, and who gives a very full
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and graphic account of the events leading up to the murders and subsequent
developments. Hon. B. F. Gue, in Volume I of his History of Iowa, presents a well
written and fully detailed account of the whole affair, derived mainly from the documents
secured by Mr. Aldrich, as before stated. An address by Hon. Charles E. Frandreau of
Minnesota, at the dedication of the monument erected under auspices of the State of
Iowa, at Lake Okoboji, presents many first-hand facts regarding the connection of that
gentleman and other Minnesota and United States officials with the rescue of the
unfortunate captives held by the Indians.
The State of South Dakota in 1904 published, for their Department of History, Doane
Robinson's History of the Dakota or Sioux Indians, in which he gives an account of the
massacre and rescue of the captives. Besides the sources already cited, he had the
advantage of personal interviews with an Indian and a half-breed having some knowledge
of the affair.
The present writer, while recognizing the obligation imposed by the Act of the
General Assembly of Iowa authorizing the publication of the present Roster Series, which
requires that the story of the . Spirit Lake Massacre be included in the military history of
the State, feels much diffidence in presenting a new :version of what has been so well
told by abler pens. This part of the work properly belonged to our lamented colaborer,
Hon. Charles Aldrich, whose diligent zeal had collected so much of the valuable material
which must go into it, and, no doubt, he would have undertaken it, as an officer of the
Roster Board, had not his failing health and lamented death prevented his taking up the
task. His collated material and his words will be used wherever practicable, in the hope
that the space occupied by the Spirit Lake Massacre in the Roster Series will be
recognized as another one of the bounteous contributions which have been made to the
history of his adopted State, by the genius and industry of Charles Aldrich.
The Relief Expedition, in its character as a military organization of Iowa Volunteer
soldiers, demands the fullest consideration in these pages, and in preparing its Roster we
have, so far as has been possible to secure the data, given each man a paragraph
containing enough of his personal history for positive identification.
The Dakota or Sioux Indians became known from the earliest explorations of the
West as one of the most warlike and intractable tribes with which the whites had to deal
Their earliest known habitat was in the wooded country of northern Minnesota,
Wisconsin and Michigan. During the early part of the Eighteenth Century they grew tired
of constant warfare with their inveterate enemies, the Algonquin, Chippeways and
Iroquois, and were attracted by the easily secured supplies of animal food which the
buffaloes of the prairies provided. So they gradually left the woods and spread
themselves over the boundless plains of the northern prairie regions. When white
settlements beyond the Great Lakes began, the Sioux, divided into seven great tribes,
appear to have possessed the valley of the Chippewa River, in Wisconsin, the southern
part of Minnesota, from a line running not far north of St. Anthony's Falls, North Dakota,
to a line bending northward to Devil's Lake, thence to the Big Horn Mountains as a
western boundary, with the North Platte River as a southern boundary to its junction with
the South Platte, where the line bent directly north to the Niobrara River, followed that
stream to its mouth, and then a direct line through northern Iowa to the Mississippi.
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The entire state of South Dakota is included within these limits, a large tract in
northeastern Wyoming, and one nearly as large in northwestern Nebraska. The line
through Iowa (or that portion of it from the Mississippi to the Des Moines River) was
recognized by the treaty of 1825, which established a boundary between the Sioux on the
north and the Sacs and Foxes on the south, and became, by the later treaty of 1830, the
center of the Neutral Ground tract, afterwards occupied by the Winnebagoes.
By a treaty, concluded July 15, 1830 with the Yankton and Santee bands of Sioux, the
Omahas, Otoes, Missouris, and Sacs and Foxes, all of western Iowa included in the
Missouri slope was ceded to the United States, and the Indians removed therefrom as a
place of permanent residence. On the 23rd of July, 1851, another treaty was signed with
the four bands of Sioux occupying that territory, by which they relinquished all their
lands in Iowa and Minnesota east of the Big Sioux River and a line from Lake Kampeska
to Lake Traverse and the Sioux Woods River. This included about half of the present
state of Minnesota. The Sioux retained as a reservation a strip ten miles in width on both
sides of the Minnesota River from its source to where Fort Ridgely was built.
The agency for the Wahpeton and Sisseton bands was established at the mouth of the
Yellow Medicine River, and was generally known as the Upper Agency. Another agency,
thirteen miles above Fort Ridgely, was known as the Lower Agency, and had charge of
the Wahpekutah and M'dewakautons bands. These four bands are sometimes collectively
called the Santees or Santee Sioux.
One prominent chief of the Wahpekutahs, named Wamdisappi, or Black Eagle, was
not present when the treaty was signed and took no part in it. He and his followers were
savages of such ferocity, and were so quarrelsome and revengeful, that they could not
live in peace even with their own tribe. They had, therefore, left the main body and, after
a sojourn on the east fork of the Des Moines,, around the present site of Algona, had
struck west across the Big Sioux and established themselves on the Vermillion River, in
what is now South Dakota. From here they roamed aver the country as far east as the Des
Moines and even to the Cedar. About 1848 Black Eagle died, and was succeeded, as
chief, by his son, Inkpadutah, or Scarlet Point, who was more treacherous, bloodthirsty
and adroit than his father.
A party of these outlaw Indians under Sidominadotah—an older brother of
Inkpadutah—made an attack, in 1848, on a surveying party working in the upper Des
Moines country, under a Mr. Marsh, destroyed their instruments, robbed them of their
supplies and compelled them to abandon the work. The report of Marsh to the
government, and complaints from settlers, brought an order to General N. G. Clarke,
commanding the Western District, to establish a military post for the protection of the
threatened region. Under this order Captain and Brevet Major Samuel Woods, with
Company E, of the Sixth U. S. infantry, marched from Fort Snelling and selected a site on
the Des Moines River at the mouth of Lizard Creek, for a fort, which eventually received
the name of Fort Dodge. The post remained in command of Major Woods as long as it
was occupied He will be remembered as one of the Majors of the Fifteenth Infantry in the
Mexican War, and thus a commander of Captain Guthrie's Iowa Company.
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The First Lieutenant in Company E, while at Fort Dodge, was Lewis Addison
Armistead, a Virginian, who had participated in Scott's campaign in Mexico, and
afterwards attained fame as a Confederate brigadier in the Civil War, and was killed at
the high-water mark of the Rebellion, in Pickett's charge, at Gettysburg. The Second
Lieutenant was John L. Tubbs a Tennessean, who had risen from the ranks of the Twelfth
Infantry in the Mexican War to a commission in the Sixth, but resigned May 6, 1851,
while at Fort Dodge, and returned to civil life. Lieutenant Tubbs was succeeded by
Second Lieutenant James Lawrence Corley, a South Carolina graduate of West Point,
class of 1850. He became Adjutant of the Sixth Infantry in 1855, served as such until
May, 1861, when he resigned to join the rebel army, in which he served as Colonel
Major Woods brought from Fort Snelling sixty-six enlisted men, and arrived at the
site of his new post on the 2nd of August, 1850. His route took him through the
southeastern part of Tama County, whither he had first gone to assist in removing the
lingering remnants of the Sac and Fox tribes to their reservation in the Indian Territory..
There, on the Iowa River, in Tama County, the command was joined by one who had
been appointed their sutler, or post trader. This was "Major" William Williams, who had
come to Muscatine during the previous year, from western Pennsylvania, where he had
been engaged as a merchant, a salt manufacturer, and as cashier in a bank. He had also
been an officer in the Pennsylvania State Militia, in which he had gained efficiency as a
commander and a taste for military matters.
In April, 1853, the War Department ordered the military post at Fort Dodge to be
abandoned, and a new fort to be established by Major Woods and his command on the St.
Peters or Minnesota River, as a support to the Indian agencies located on the reservations
provided for the Santee Sioux under the treaty of 1851. The site for the new post, which
received the name of Fort Ridgely, was selected in connection with the Lower Agency,
on the Minnesota River, near the mouth of the Little Rock. The military reservation and
buildings on the Des Moines were thrown open to sale as government land, and a large
part of them were purchased by Major Williams, who laid out on the reservation the town
of Fort Dodge in the spring of 1854. During that year a few venturesome settlers made
claims in the groves that bordered the streams of the region, and the summer of 1855
witnessed a strong influx of explorers and land seekers, new United States land offices
having been opened at Fort Dodge and Sioux City. Fort Dodge grew into a flourishing
frontier town, filled with the bold, hardy spirits that ever characterize the adventurous
American pioneer.
These early settlers were not without apprehensions that the frequent visits of roving
bands of Indians from beyond the Big Sioux and Missouri boded no good. Petitions and
letters were sent to Governor Grimes asking for protection. He had no authority to call
out a military force, but he wrote to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, and to the Indian
Superintendent at St. Louis, asking that those Indians be kept out of the State, and that a
military post be established for the protection of settlers. He wrote, under date of January
3, 1865, to the Iowa delegation in Congress, reciting the facts, and that his appeals to the
authorities had borne no fruits, and asked their co-operation in securing the desired relief.
Among other things, he said: "I have taken the responsibility to appoint Major William
Williams, of Fort Dodge, a kind of executive agent, to act for me in protecting both the
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settlers and the Indians, and particularly to preserve the peace. I had no legal authority to
make such appointment, but, as there was no government agent in that section of the
country, and I was so remote from the scene of trouble and felt that there should be some
one in the vicinity who would act prudently and who could act efficiently, I know no
better course than to appoint him, as I have indicated." The letter closes as follows: "I
trust, gentlemen, you will stimulate the department at Washington to take immediate
steps to remedy the evil complained of. We have just cause for complaint. The
government has undertaken to protect our frontiers from the Indians, with the assurance
that this stipulation would be fulfilled. That frontier is filled with peaceful citizens. But
the Indians are suffered to come among them—destroying their property and jeopardizing
their lives. I hope that no time will be lost in allaying the apprehensions that exist in some
parts of the State on this subject."'
No result came from these appeals and, on the approach of another winter, Governor
Grimes wrote a letter on December 3, 1855, direct to Franklin Pierce, President of the
United States, in which he recapitulated the complaints that had reached him the previous
year, and his appeals to the National authorities for relief, and stated:
"I am reliably informed that the same Indians, but in increased numbers, have again
pitched their tents within the State and are making preparations to remain during the
winter. The Secretary of this State, General George W. McCleary, writes me that he has
information that a large body of Sioux Indians have destroyed the settlements in Buena
Vista County, and forced the inhabitants to abandon their homes. He also writes me that
these Indians are manifestly making preparations for war, and have been and are now
making great efforts to induce all of 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. The pioneer settlers are abandoning their
homes and improvements, and are retiring to the more dense settlements in the interior of
the State. Almost everybody anticipates a bloody Indian war, and petitions are reaching
me every day, praying that an armed posse may be called out to expel the Indians by
"Although I do not agree with the greater part of the people in the northwestern
counties that there is danger of open and premeditated hostilities during the winter, I
should not be surprised if these Indians attacked the whites so soon as vegetation started
in the spring, so as to enable them to forage their horses. But whether they intend
hostilities or not, difficulties and perhaps war will be likely to result from their intrusion
upon the settlers. The frontier men have no great love for the Indians—they are suffering
loss by their pilfering—they dare not leave their families alone, and hence many of them
are compelled to remove their families to points in the State where they can be protected.
There are bad men enough to sell the Indians whisky, which converts them into devils
and prepares them for any atrocity. They retard the settlement and improvement of that
part of the State. All these consequences of their presence excite the settlers' minds, and
render an attack upon the Indians but little less imminent than an attack by them, events
in my view to be equally deplored. I beg leave to call your attention to the importance of
having the Indians removed from this State at the earliest possible day. I believe that the
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public safety demands it. The people of the State conceive that they have a right to ask it.
They have bought their homes of the government with the understanding that they were
to be protected in the possession. They are virtually denied it so long as the Indians are
permitted to harass them by their presence.
"A year ago the General Assembly of this State unanimously asked for the
establishment of a military post on the Sioux River near the northwest corner of the State.
I concur entirely in the propriety of that measure. I have no doubt that two companies of
dragoons or cavalry stationed there would effectually prevent the incursions of the
Indians, and give quiet to the whole of northwestern Iowa. Without such a post they may
be removed, but it does not occur to me how they may be permanently kept out."'
What reply was made to this appeal, if any, does not appear, but it is certain that no
action was taken by the national authorities, as desired. Hon. Charles Aldrich, in writing
upon the subject, well says:
"Governor James W. Grimes wrote letters to our United States Senators and to the
authorities at Washington some time before the outbreak of hostilities, asking that the
general government take immediate steps for the protection of our exposed frontiers.
Little or no attention was paid to his reiterated requests, and so, when the Indians resorted
to hostilities, our Iowa border was wholly without protection. Had the earnest appeals of
Governor Grimes been heeded, the Spirit Lake Massacre would not have occurred. What
made this neglect appear more stupidly and wickedly cruel was the fact that in those days
the catching of runaway negroes, under the infamous fugitive slave law, was rife in the
land, and detachments of the Federal Army, or vessels of the United States Navy, could
be secured to return a slave to his master."
The apprehensions expressed in the letter of Governor Grimes to President Pierce,
that attacks by settlers upon the Indians were not unlikely, had. unfortunate realization in
facts. One Henry Lott, an unscrupulous, criminal fellow, who had built a cabin at the
mouth of the Boone River as early as 1846 and sold whiskey to the Indians, had offended
one of the bands of Sioux by stealing their horses, and was driven out of his cabin by
them, his horses and cattle taken, and a young son frozen to death in the removal Lott
returned, in 1853, to a new location on the east branch of the Des Moines River, in
Humboldt County. In January, 1854, the Sioux chief of the outlaw band, Sidominadotah,
with his family, camped on the river near Lott's place. Since this chief had been the
leader of the band which had subjected Lott to indignities five years before, he
determined now to have the most ample revenge. By stealth and treachery, equal to the
worst savage manifestations, he and his son succeeded in killing the old chief, his mother,
wife and several children. One little girl hid in the grass and escaped, and a little boy,
terribly wounded and left for dead, recovered.. Lott immediately burned his own cabin,
and, with his stepson, loaded their portables into a wagon and made their way to the
California trail, in which country he was not long afterwards hung by a vigilance
committee for crimes committed there. The murdered chief was a brother of Inkpadutah,
who discovered the unburied bodies of his relatives a few days after their dastardly
slaughter, and there can be no doubt that the terrible occurrences at Spirit Lake, three
years later, were but an exemplification of the savage idea of retribution—that it might be
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inflicted upon any of the offending race, without regard to whether the guilty ones were
involved or not.
In the Dickinson County group of lakes, the more northern is Spirit Lake proper,
known to the Indians as Minnewaukon or Spirit Water. It is nearly circular in shape, and
covers about twelve miles in area. East Okoboji is separated from the foot of Spirit Lake
by a narrow neck, overflowed in very high water, and extends southeasterly about six
miles. Directly south, and connected by a narrow strait, lies West Okoboji—"the most
beautiful lake in Iowa." It is of a curved or horseshoe shape, trending at first
southwestward about five miles, then, in a graceful curve, an equal distance to the
Settlements in the lake region began in the summer of 1856, the first arrival being
Roland Gardner, in July. He was a native of Connecticut, born in 1815, who had settled
in early manhood and married in Seneca County, New York, between the beautiful lakes,
Seneca and Cayuga, and thus gained a passion for lake scenery. He had started, in 1853,
for a removal to the western frontier; sojourned for a time in Ohio and Indiana, continued
his journey in the fall of 1854, halted for a time on the Shell Rock River and at Clear
Lake, but made a final move, in 1856, which brought him to the southeastern shore of'
West Okoboji Lake, where a log house was built for the accommodation of his family,
and that of Harvey Luce, his son-in- law. With Mr. Gardner was his wife, daughters Eliza
and Abigail, young girls of sixteen and thirteen years respectively, and a boy of six. Mr.
and Mrs. Luce had two young children. Other settlers who arrived and made claims that
summer were as follows: James H. Mattock, wife and five children, came from Delaware
County, Iowa, and built a log cabin just south of the strait connecting the two Okobojis.
Robert Matheison made his home with Mattock, his family remaining in Delaware
County for the winter. A party from Red Wing, Minn., built on the north side of the strait.
They were William and Carl Granger, brothers, Dr. Isaac H. Harriott and Bertell A
Snyder, and they all made claims in the vicinity. At the time of the massacre a young man
named Joseph Harshman was stopping temporarily with them. There were no women
with this party. On the east side of Last Okoboji, Joseph M. Thatcher and Alvin Noble,
from Hampton, Franklin County, Iowa, formerly from Indiana, built a cabin together.
They each had a wife and one small child. Morris Markham, a former Hampton and
Indiana neighbor, boarded with them. Joel Howe, father of Mrs. Noble, built on the same
side of the lake, near the Thatcher and Noble home. He had a family consisting of his
wife and six children (besides Mrs. Noble). William Marble and his young wife, from
Linn County, came in September, and built a cabin in a grove on the west side of Spirit
Thus there were about forty people, men, women and children, who had prepared to
spend the winter of 1865-7, within a radius of about seven miles on the shores of the most
beautiful lakes in the West. There were no settlements to the west of them. Fort Dodge
was eighty miles southeast. About the same distance, southwest, on the Little Sioux
River, was a small settlement at' Smithland in the southern part of' Woodbury County, a
smaller one at Correctionville, and a few scattered settlers along the south line of Clay
County, near what are now Peterson, Linn Grove, Sioux Rapids and Gillett's Grove. The
Clay County settlements were about forty miles south of Okoboji Lakes. Their nearest
neighbors were six or seven families who located during the same summer eighteen miles
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north of the lakes, in Minnesota, at Springfield, now Jackson. This settlement was on the
Des Moines River. Farther south, near that river, George Granger had a cabin just over
the state line in Iowa. A few cabins were located at High Lake, in what is now the south
part of Emmet County. In the same year, an Irish colony from Kane County, Illinois,
settled on the Des Moines River, in Palo Alto County, near the present town of
Emmetsburg. From there to Fort Dodge were scattered settlements on the river, two to
five miles apart. Webster City, east of Fort Dodge, had become an important town and
the county seat of Hamilton County.
The winter of 1856 and 1857 was one of the most severe in the history of the West. A
heavy snow of about two feet in depth came early in December, which was followed by
others in quick succession, all accompanied by high winds in the nature of blizzards. In
February, an average of four feet of snow, with drifts interspersed of fifteen to twenty
feet in height, lay on the ground. The sloughs and ravines were filled and concealed, so
that communication between settlements was practically impossible. The poor settlers
were illy prepared for such a winter. Their cabins were unfinished and generally without
floors, since no lumber could be had at less than a hundred miles' hauling. No crops had
been raised, and provisions were very scarce, being obtained in the winter only by trips
on snow shoes, with hand sleds for the transportation.
Inkpadutah and his band of fifteen to twenty outlaw Indians, with their squaws and
papooses, had spent the fall of 1856 at Black Loon Lake, in Jackson County,
Minnesota,the county which adjoins Dickinson County, Iowa. Early in the winter they
had proceeded down the Little Sioux River as far south as Smithland. Their presence
there became disagreeable to the settlers, who complained that the Indians were killing
off all the elk and other game. A quarrel ensued, in which a party of Indians were
disarmed by the settlers and threatened into leaving the vicinity. They then followed up
the Little Sioux along the line of settlements, committing depredations that grew more
atrocious as they advanced. In Clay County they not only took arms and ammunition
from the whites, and killed and drove off cattle, but also captured two young women near
Peterson, kept them a day, and then allowed them to return. At Gillett's Grove, near the
present town of Spencer, all of a large herd of cattle were killed and everything in the
houses of the two Gillett brothers destroyed. A revelation, made by one of the Gillett's,
thirty-five years after the occurrences, that he had shot an Indian for an insult offered his
wife, and that the brothers immediately loaded their belongings and started for Fort
Dodge, would seem to account for an acceleration of the embittered feelings of the
lawless band of savages, and to have precipitated the fearful revenge they exacted upon
the innocent and helpless..
The raid up the Little Sioux valley occurred in February, 1857. After leaving Gillett's
Grove, the Indians camped for several days at Lost Island Lake, near the present site of
Ruthven, and, on the evening of the 7th of March, made their appearance in the
settlements at the Okoboji Lakes, erecting their tepees directly on the trail between the
Gardner and Mattock log cabins The presence of Indians at the lakes was not unusual or
unexpected, and their arrival excited no serious apprehensions on the part of the settlers.
Two or three weeks previous to this, Harvey Luce and J M. Thatcher had taken an ox
team and sled and started for the older settlements to the east, to procure a new supply of
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provisions. The trip was an arduous one, through the unbroken snow and tremendous
drifts' and in the face of high winds and extreme cold, but they extended their journey to
Hampton, Shell Rock, Cedar Falls and Waterloo. On their return, they were joined at
Waterloo by Robert Clark, a young friend of Mr. Luce, and at Hampton by Enoch Ryan
(a brother-in-law of Alvin Noble), Jonathan Howe, son of Joel Howe, and Asa Burtch, a
relative of Mr. Thatcher. The overloaded oxen were so nearly exhausted when they
reached Shippey's cabin, in Palo Alto County, on the Des Moines River, about ten miles
below the present site of Emmetsburg, that it became necessary to stop there and recruit
the animals. It was arranged that Thatcher and Burtch should remain with the team, while
Luce and the other three young men pursued their way on foot, reaching their destination
on the evening of the 6th of March. Howe and Ryan joined their relatives on the east side
of the east lake, and Clark accompanied his friend Luce to the Gardner home.
On the morning of the 8th of March, Mr. Gardner rose early to prepare for a trip to
Fort Dodge for needed supplies, which he had planned to make on Mr. Luce's return.
Preparations were interrupted by the entire band of Indians, with their squaws and
papooses, making a demand for breakfast. This was given from a scanty store, but, after
eating, the savages became ugly and insolent, demanding ammunition and other things.
Hostile demonstrations were interrupted by the arrival of Dr. Harriott and Mr. Snyder
from the Granger cabin, and the Indians withdrew. Though still unwilling to believe that
serious danger threatened, Mr. Gardner abandoned his trip and, when the Indians finally
departed to their camp about noon, driving his cattle with them and shooting some of
them, he sent Luce and Clark to warn the other settlers and advise that they all assemble
at the Gardner house, the largest in the settlement, for mutual support and defense.
About three o'clock shots were heard from the direction of the Mattock's house, and,
two hours later, just at sun down, nine savages were seen approaching Gardner's. Mrs.
Gardner, believing them still amenable to kindness, prevailed on her husband not to begin
hostilities. Mrs. Sharp says: "They entered the house and demanded more flour, and, as
father turned to get them what remained of our scanty store, they shot him through the
heart. He fell upon his right side and died without a struggle. When first the Indian raised
his gun to fire, mother or Mrs. Luce seized the gun and drew it down, but the other
Indians instantly turned upon them, seized them by their arms, and beat them over their
heads with the butts of their guns, then dragged them out of doors and killed them in the
most cruel and shocking manner. They next seized the children, tearing them from me
one by one, while they reached their little alms to me, crying piteously for the protection
that I was powerless to give. Heedless of their cries they dragged them out of doors and
beat them to death with sticks of stovewood. ""
They ransacked the house, broke open trunks, took some clothes and destroyed what
they could not use, and then went back to camp, dragging Abigail, nearly crazed with
horror, with them as a captive. At the Mattock house some resistance had been made, as
Dr. Harriott and Mr. Snyder (who had come across the strait to assist their neighbor) and
Mr. Mattock were killed with their rifles in their hands. At least one Indian was badly
wounded by a shot from Dr. Harriott's gun. Eleven dead bodies were found here. Besides
those named, Mrs. Mattock and five children, Robert Matheison and Joseph Harshman
were involved in the slaughter. At the Granger cabin, Carl Granger was shot and then his
head was split open with a broad axe. (William Granger was absent on a visit to his
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family at Red Wing.) Luce and Clark were overtaken and shot on the south shore of East
Okoboji, on their way to warn the Howe settlement. Thus twenty victims of savage hate
marked the sacrifices of the first day's fiendish work.
At night the Sioux warriors celebrated the butchery by the hideous revelry of a war
dance with blackened faces over the blood-stained snow, as they circled round and round
among the mutilated bodies of their victims. In the morning, a part of the force went
around East Okoboji to the Howe and Thatcher cabins four miles distant. Mr. Howe was
met on his way to Gardner's to borrow some flour. He was shot and his head severed
from his body and carried some distance. At his house, Mrs. Howe, her son Jonathan, just
arrived from Hampton, her grown daughter Sardis, and three younger children, were
murdered before they suspected danger, and then the savage fiends hurried on to the
Thatcher cabin. There they found Mr. Noble, his wife and one child, Mrs. Thatcher and
her babe, and Mr. Ryan, one of the Hampton visitors. The men, entirely ignorant of the
terrible events in progress, received them with the usual frontier hospitality, and were
thus decoyed out of, the cabin and shot simultaneously. The babies were snatched from
their mothers' arms, and killed by swinging their heads against an oak tree near the house.
The two young women were dragged away by the cruel monsters, as captives, and with a
refinement of cruelty were taken first to the house of Mr. Howe, where Mrs. Noble saw
the dead body of her mother under the bed, where the poor woman had crawled after her
head had been beaten to a pulp with a flatiron. Her brother Jacob, thirteen years old,
suffering, but conscious, sat in the yard. The Indians were busy slaughtering the cattle
and hogs, and Mrs. Noble tried to get him into the house with a hope of hiding him, but
an Indian discovered the effort and finished the dastardly work of murder before her eyes.
The three captives were brought together at the Indian camp, which was removed the
next day over the ice of West Okoboji, to a grove three miles beyond. Another move, on
the 11th, took the Indians to a grove on Spirit Lake beyond William Marble's cabin,
which they did not discover until the 13th. Then a party of the savages called upon
Marble with ostensible friendly intent, traded rifles with him, induced him to contest
shooting at a mark, and, when his rifle was empty, shot him to death. Mrs. Marble
attempted to flee, but was overtaken and forced to return to their camp, as the fourth of
the band of captive women. At night another war dance celebrated the day's bloody work,
and, before leaving Marble's grove, they peeled the bark from a white ash tree and
marked upon the exposed surface rude pictures representing six cabins, the larger one in
flames, and ten or a dozen human figures, some whites and some Indians. 'The
hieroglyphics would probably tell some part of the fell story to other savages, but had
little meaning to civilized eyes. From Marble's Grove the marauders moved
northwesterly, camping in groves on the small lakes of the region, never two nights in a
place, until, on the twenty-fourth or twenty-fifth of March, they made a halt on Heron
Lake, fifteen miles northwest of the little settlement of Springfield, Minn.
The massacre at the lakes was discovered before the Indians had left the scene of their
crime. A yoke of oxen, belonging to Morris Markham, a trapper who was boarding with
Mr. Thatcher, strayed away early in the winter. Mr. Luce on his return brought tidings of
them, which induced Markham to depart at once and secure them. Leaving them in good
care, he started back to the lakes on the 9th of March, the day of the tragedy in his home
at Thatcher's. Walking all day he lost his way at night, but about eleven o'clock
Page 11
succeeded in reaching Mr. Gardner's cabin. That seemed to be abandoned and everything
in confusion. He did not find the bodies, but felt sure that Indians had been making
trouble. He started down through the grove to the Mattock place, in the darkness of a
cloudy night, was startled by dogs barking in an unaccustomed place, and found himself
BO near the Indian camp that he could hear their voices in the tepees. Withdrawing
without detection, he made his way across East Okoboji to Mr. Howe's cabin, where the
dread story was told by the dead bodies on the snow, and it was confirmed by his visit to
the Thatcher place, which followed. Cold and exhausted by his long tramp without food,
he still dared not risk spending the night in the house, but repaired to a deep ravine and,
with frozen feet, awaited the dawn. Daylight confirmed the night's revelation, and
without further investigation,. he dragged his weary feet to the cabin of George Granger,
on the Des Moines River. Some trappers were met there, who carried the news to Fort
Dodge. Their frightened tales were so incoherent, however, and at second hand, that they
were not believed and little attention paid to them. Markham kept on his journey to
Spring" field, and roused the people of that little settlement to a keen sense of their own
peril One of the persons there was Miss Eliza Gardner, who had come in October to visit
the family of Dr. Strong, and the early snow and frequent storms had made travel so
impracticable that she had stayed all winter.
Just a week later the condition at the lakes was discovered by another party, and the
dread news carried to the southern settlements. In November, 1856, three brothers-in-law
from Newton, Jasper County, Iowa, Orlando C. Howe, B. F. Parmenter and R. U.
Wheelock, the two first named being lawyers, made a trip to the Spirit Lake region, with
a view of securing a location for a town site and county seat of one of the new counties in
that part of the State which had been named but were still unorganized. They were
charmed with the romantic scenery and other advantages of the lakes, and spent some
time hunting and fishing and making the acquaintance of' the few settlers then building
their homes there. They resolved to make that the locality of their proposed venture and
to return very early in the spring for a permanent settlement.
Accordingly, about the first of March, they loaded a wagon (drawn by oxen) with
spring and summer supplies and started for their contemplated metropolis. The deep
snow and drifts and the absence of roads or bridges made their progress slow. They
crossed the Des Moines at Fort Dodge and went up on the west side of that river, thus
missing the direful message of the trappers who came down on the east side. On the night
of March 16th, they camped about ten miles from the lakes, but their progress the next
day was impeded by a storm, and they finally left their wagon in a slough east of Gar
Lake, when night came on, and sought the settlements on foot. They reached Thatcher's
about midnight, found all confusion, but saw no dead bodies, and camped for the balance
of the night at Howe's place, but did not discover the actual state of facts until daylight
revealed that a bloody massacre had wiped out the entire settlement. They started
immediately for Fort Dodge, without attempting to take their wagon with them, and
arrived there on the evening of the 21 it of March. They were well known in Fort Dodge.
Their story confirmed what had been regarded as a wild rumor, and, on the next day,
which was sunday, a meeting was called in the brick school house and attended by a
throng of eager spirits who were ready to brave any danger and exposure to rescue and
avenge their imperiled fellow pioneers. Messengers were sent at the same time to
Page 12
Webster City, Homer and Border Plains, and aroused there the same interest and
determination, and it found vent in a public meeting Sunday evening at Webster City.
At the Fort Dodge meeting Major Williams presided and read his commission from
Governor Grimes, authorizing him in cases of emergency to take measures to protect the
frontier. He therefore called for volunteers to form military companies that could proceed
at once to the scene of peril About seventy men enrolled within a few minutes, and were
divided into two companies. One, called Company A, chose as Captain Charles B.
Richards, a lawyer of the village, who had acted as secretary of the meeting; the other, or
Company B, elected as Captain John F. Duncombe, another young lawyer. The
Lieutenant of Richards' company was Frank C. Stratton, who rose in the Civil War from
Captain to Colonel of the Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry. Major William Williams,
although past sixty years of age insisted upon sharing the hardships of the trip, and took
command of the detachment. George B. Sherman of Fort Dodge was detailed as
Quartermaster and Commissary, and Monday, the 23rd of March, was spent in providing
the necessary transportation, stores and commissariat. R. A. Smith, who was one of the
volunteers, says:
"The expedition was without tents and was but partially supplied with blankets, the
men being limited to one apiece. The means of transportation were very imperfect. There
was no grain in the country above Fort Dodge, and it was impossible to take any along, as
it was necessary to take provisions for the round trip. The snow was nearly four feet on
the level, and all of the ravines and low places were completely filled, and, when the
snow commenced melting, it was one continuous reach of water and' slush. The enlisted
men were no tenderfeet. They comprehended, to its fullest extent, the perils and
privations they would necessarily have to overcome before completing the task they had
undertaken, and, while they went at the work of preparation with that careless gaiety and
nonchalance which usually characterized the representative frontiersman, they well knew
that it was more than probable that some of their number would be left on that wild and
desolate prairie, their flesh to be torn and devoured by the beasts and birds of prey, and
their bones to bleach in sun and storm until they turned again to dust. Looking back and
recalling the events of that memorable expedition the only wonder is that the number of
victims was not materially larger. "
Late in the evening of that day, a company of about thirty men came in from Webster
City to join the detachment, having marched twenty miles since noon. This was the
outcome of a meeting in that little town Sunday evening. Many more were willing to
enlist, but it was concluded to select young men only. It became known as Company C,
and chose as Captain John C. Johnson. He lived on a claim at Bach Grove, but happened
to be in town when the meeting was in progress, caught the spirit of the hour, volunteered
and sent back word to his mother, who never saw him again. They were provided with
two yoke of oxen and a wagon loaded with such provisions and extra clothing as could be
gathered in the short time allowed. The expedition was armed with every kind of gun,
from double-barreled shotguns to the finest rifles, and moved out of Fort Dodge about
noon of the 24th of March. At McKnight's Point, in Humboldt County, on the third day
out, they found William L. Church, an Ohio veteran of the Mexican War, who was
returning from Webster City to his family at Springfield, Minn., but had heard of the
expedition, awaited their arrival and enrolled as a member of Company C. Jeremiah
Page 13
Evans, at the same place, joined Company B. Near the Irish colony they met Cyrus C.
Carpenter and Angus McBane, who were returning from a business trip to Algona, and
those gentlemen promptly resolved to share the perils of their neighbors and joined
Company C. Andrew Hood and William P. Pollock, settlers there, also enrolled in
Company A.
We have seen that Inkpadutah's band had made a halt at Heron Lake, eighteen miles
northeast of the Springfield settlement, and that Morris Markham had gone to the same
settlement with news of the tragedy at the hideous war paint, and let their captives know,
by signs and jargon, that they intended to continue their work of murder and rapine in
Springfield. Leaving the white women in charge of one warrior and the squaws, they
departed on their bloody mission, in which it is supposed that they had the aid of a band
of Agency Sioux, which was also encamped in the neighborhood. Charles Aldrich has
well told the story of the scenes which ensued, in his tribute to the heroine of the day,
Mrs. Louisa J. Church, delivered at the unveiling of the Memorial Tablet in Webster City,
in August, 1887, which we give in full, as published in Annals of Iowa, Third Series, Vol.
III, pp. 546 to 549:
"We have placed conspicuously upon this beautiful Memorial Tablet the names of
Mrs. William L. Church and her sister, Miss Drusilla Swanger, with a high tribute to
those heroines. Why we have done this I will briefly explain. Not many months before
the massacre, the Churches had settled at Springfield (now Jackson), Minn., some fifteen
miles from Spirit Lake, and about eight miles north of the Iowa line. They resided there
when Inkpadutah's band so terribly raided the little settlement at Spirit and Okoboji
Lakes. At that time, in the absence of Mr. Church in Hamilton County, his wife was
living in their log house with her two little boys and her sister.
"When the news came to this settlement of four or live families, of the murders at
Spirit Lake, the people assembled at the home of J. B. Thomas, one of the settlers, and
prepared to defend themselves. This was what is called a double log house—quite a large
building for that locality at that day—and standing in the margin of the oak grove, not far
from the west branch of the Des Moines River. There were in the party Mr. Thomas, his
wife and five children; Mrs. Church and two children; Miss Eliza Gardner, Jareb Palmer,
David Carver and John Bradshaw." John Bradshaw had first settled about a mile and a
half northwest of where I now stand. (Hamilton County Court House, Webster City.) His
house stood there vacant sometime after I came here, in 1857. Old settlers will all
remember the 'Bradshaw House.' But he had removed to the Spirit Lake country.
"Just after they had assembled, two young men (Charles Tretts and Henry Chiffen)
volunteered to go on foot to Fort Ridgely, seventy-five miles away, and appeal to the
commandant for aid. Those who were left were well armed, reasonably provisioned, stout
of heart, and determined to make the best defense in their power if they should be
assailed. A week had nearly passed when little Willie Thomas, aged nine, came running
in, exclaiming that the boys were coming, who had gone for the soldiers. This was good
news and the people rushed to the door forming a little group outside. True enough, two
men were seen coming dressed like whites, but they were Indians, dressed in the clothing
of men killed at Spirit Lake. Just then the main party of the Indians, who were
approaching from another direction, fired a volley from a dozen pieces into the group of
men, women and children near the door. Willie Thomas was shot through the head and
Page 14
fell to the ground; Miss Swanger was shot through the shoulder, receiving a severe flesh
wound; Thomas was shot through the left arm (wrist), which was broken and bled
profusely; Carver was shot through the body and, for a time, suffered the severest pain.
All except the wounded boy rushed into the house, and speedily barricaded the doors and
windows. In fact, the poor boy would seem to have been forgotten for the instant. But it
mattered little in the result. The firing on both sides now become hot and frequent, and
continued so for two or three hours. Port-holes were made on the four sides of the house
by removing the chinking from between the logs. Through these the besieged could
plainly see the Indians without exposing themselves. Whenever an Indian showed himself
he was fired upon, and so they were held at bay. Several times, however, the red devils
made a rush towards the house, which they wished to set on fire, but each time discretion
proved the better part of valor and they fell back.
"During this time the condition of things in this remote little fortress can scarcely be
imagined or described. Miss Swanger and Mr. Thomas were bleeding profusely from
their wounds, while the little wounded boy lay shrieking and groaning outside. The little
fellow lived about two hours, when death mercifully ended his suffering. At one time the
poor mother feared her husband would bleed to death in spite of everything she could do,
while the shrieks and groans of the dying boy, just outside the door, could be distinctly
heard. Miss Swanger at first bled very freely, but Mrs. Church stuffed her handkerchief
under her sister's dress and so stopped the flow of blood, while Mrs. Thomas bound up
her husband's arm and stopped the bleeding, which otherwise would have ended his life.
Mrs. Church and Miss Gardner loaded the guns and kept watch at some of the port-holes.
At one time it was thought their bullets would be exhausted, and Misses Swanger and
Gardner cast some from an old spoon.
"The fight went on until the dusk of evening. It then happened that Mrs. Church and
Miss Gardner were in one of the rooms watching, while the men were in the other. They
now saw an Indian dodge behind a large oak tree. While there he kept peering out toward
the house. No man was handy to 'draw a bead' upon him, and Mrs. Church picked up a
shotgun heavily charged with buckshot and, encouraged by Miss Gardner, leveled it in
that direction. Presently the Indian stuck out his head again farther than before. Mrs.
Church says: 'I plainly saw a large, dark object by the side of the tree which I knew to be
the head of an Indian, and at this I discharged the gun. I was terribly excited and fell
back, and cannot tell you whether I hit him or not. I certainly wanted to kill him. Miss
Gardner, who was watching the Indian, averred that she plainly saw him fall In the
account written at my instance for the Hamilton Freeman, by Jareb Palmer, who was one
of the besieged, he stated it as a fact that Mrs. Church killed the Indian.
"A year or more later the body of an Indian was found upon a rude platform in a tree
top, tree burial being the custom of the tribe. The body had been wrapped in a buffalo
robe, and some white woman's feather pillow was under his head. What was left of this
dusky brave was tumbled down upon the ground by the men of Captain H. B. Martin's
command from our county. The skull was brought to me, and I sent it to the
Phrenological Collection of Fowler and Wells, New York City. I saw it there, some time
later, with a notice which had appeared in the Freeman pasted across the forehead. Upon
the return of some of the men to the locality, a few months later, the tree was examined
and part of the charge of buckshot was still imbedded in it near the spot where Mrs.
Page 15
Church had aimed, and the other part had plainly passed on. It would thus seem to be
settled, as nearly as any such event can be proved, that she killed one of the assailants.
Immediately after this event the Indians ceased firing, and left the place.
"One of the settlers, Joshua Stewart, had been stopping with his wife and three
children at the Thomas house—'Fort Thomas' it really deserves to be called henceforth—
but the poor wife and mother became insane through her fear of the Indians, and being in
such a crowd of people added to her discomfort and mental trouble. Her husband finally
concluded to return to their own house, a mile or two distant, believing the danger had
passed away. But the same band which had infested the Thomas house came to Stewart's.
They called him to the door, and shot him the instant he appeared. The fiends then
murdered the insane mother and her two little girls. The boy, Johnny, who was about
eight years old, managed to hide behind a log. The Indians plundered the cabin and soon
left. The boy then fled to the double log-house where he was recognized and taken in at
one of the. windows.
"The home of the Churches was also pillaged and everything movable carried away
or destroyed. The other houses in the settlement shared the same fate. A span of horses
was in the barn at the Thomas place, but the Indians took them away when they left.
When darkness came at last, the besieged determined to start south toward the nearest
settlement, with an ox team and sled, which was the only means left them. The oxen were
yoked and hitched to the sled upon which were placed the wounded and the little children
and such provisions and clothing as could be carried. The forlorn little party, with this
poor means of locomotion, probably started near the middle of the night, traveling very
slowly, as the ground was covered with snow. Mrs. Church or her sister each led or
carried one of her little boys. The march was kept up until the oxen tired out, when there
was a short rest. Progress was very slow and most wearisome for some two days. Finally,
on the third day, they saw several men approaching from the south, whom they mistook
for Indians. This was a trying time for the poor refugees. The men, who were rapidly
advancing upon them, wore shawls, which made them look like Indians with blankets,
and it was evident that they were well armed. Some of the women and children were wild
with affright and gave utterance to shrieks and lamentations. Two of the men were
helpless from wounds and another was not naturally an Indian fighter, though doubtless
brave enough. John Bradshaw thought his time had come, but, far from flinching, he took
their eight loaded guns and stacked them some rods in advance. He asked the other well
men to stay with the women and children and wounded, and keep them from
embarrassing him, and he would sell his life as dearly as possible. Thus the dauntless
hero stood until he saw a signal from the advancing party and knew they were friends.
When the latter came up his face was pale as ashes, but no one doubted that he would
have fought while life lasted. We can well imagine that men can be brave when
surrounded by other brave men, whatever the odds. But what a grand figure was that of
our Hamilton County Bradshaw, going out alone to yield up his life, as he supposed, in so
hopeless a fight with merciless savages. It seems to me that was a scene for a painter or
sculptor, and that sometime it will be placed upon canvas, or in imperishable marble for
the adornment of our magnificent Capitol Where did you ever read of anything more
grandly heroic?
Page 16
"The terrible alarm was turned in an instant into an abandonment of equally wild
rejoicing, for the comers were a detachment from the expedition under Major Williams,
and Mr. Church was with them. Mrs. Church and her young sister had worn their dresses
off to the knees in walking through the crusted snow, and their shoes were nearly gone.
They were almost exhausted from the toilsome march, lack of food, exposure to the
inclement weather, and the terrible anxiety of the previous week.
"The Churches returned to this (Hamilton) county, where they resided until the spring
of the present year (1887), when they removed to Washington Territory, whither two of
their children and Miss Swanger (now Mrs. W. J. Gillespie) had preceded them. Mr.
Church was also a soldier in the Union army, as well as a veteran of the Mexican War.
All who have known them will agree with me that the permanent record which our
county has here made of their actions and sufferings, and the heroism of these matchless
women in our pioneer days has been well deserved."
In addition to the victims named in Mr. Aldrich's address, the Indians killed the
brothers, George and William Wood, who kept the store of the settlement, and had had
such frequent dealings with the natives that they relied upon the friendship often evinced,
and did not abandon their trading cabin. Mrs. Sharp, in her book, relates that another
party of settlers assembled at the cabin of Mr. Wheeler (but neither Wheeler nor any of
his family are mentioned as among the fugitives nor in any way). They were Mr.
Henderson, who was lying helpless from having had both feet amputated as a result of
their having been frozen; Mr. Smith, who had lost one foot from the same cause, the
amputation in both cases being recent and unhealed; Mr. Smith's wife; J. B. Skinner and
wife; Mrs. William Nelson and a young child;A. P. Shiegley and his little son. Dr. E. B.
N. Strong, whose family, Including Eliza Gardner, his guest, were at the Thomas house,
visited his patients, Henderson and Smith, at the Wheeler house that morning, was
detained by knowledge of the attack being made on "Fort Thomas" (as Mr. Aldrich has
dubbed it), and finally, in a panic, fled alone from the scene and made his escape. The
Indians made no attack upon the Wheeler cabin, except to fire one volley, some of the
bullets of which passed through the door. After a night of apprehension and terror, Mrs.
Smith in the morning ventured over to the Thomas cabin, to find it deserted and the body
of Willie Thomas Lying in the yard. Realizing now that they were alone in and believing
that the Indians hovered near, the inmates who could travel made a hasty exit on foot,
hoping to reach those who could succor the helpless cripples they were obliged to leave
behind. They overtook the other fleeing fugitives, and shared with them the rapture of
meeting the brave men of Major Williams' command.
Returning to the story of the heroic trials and privations of that impromptu military
force which was hurrying forward on its mission of help, we will give it first as told by
William K. Laughlin, of Webster City, a member of Company C, in his narrative
presented at the dedication of the memorial tablet, in Hamilton County Court House,
August 12, 1887. This narration is chosen as presenting more details of the whole trip
than any other.
"By noon of Monday, March 24th, we were all on the move up the Des Moines, but
our progress was very slow and we did not reach Dakota, in Humboldt County, until
about sunset Tuesday. From Dakota our line of march was on the east side of the west
Page 17
fork of the Des Moines River. Here we were soon on a trackless prairie, with snow from
two to three feet on a level, to five to ten in drifts and low depressions. Our best men
were placed in front ranks to open the way, being relieved at intervals by others. Through
the deepest drifts and ravines we had to attach cable ropes to the wagons, and the whole
command Join, if necessary, to pull them through. I well remember at one deep cut so
many were at the ropes that a pair of oxen attached to one of the wagons was nearly
suspended by their yoke swinging on the cable. The afternoon of that day was cloudy and
a storm threatening, and we failed to reach McKnight's Point as expected, and had to
camp on the prairie without fire or shelter, where we took our cold supper and snow beds
without a complaint. Next day about noon we reached McKnight's Point. Here we found
deserted houses, and Company C, soldier-like, took possession of one. We spent the rest
of the day here and had warm meals.... From here to Shippey's next day we found better
"Sunday, the 29th, was a beautiful, clear day; snow melted until long stretches of bare
ground could be found, and we made the longest march of any day since leaving Fort
Dodge, reaching the Irish Colony, sixteen miles from Shippey's. Here all the settlers for
many miles above and below on the river had collected for company during the long,
tedious winter. They knew nothing of the massacre at Spirit Lake until after the news was
received at Fort Dodge, although they were only about thirty-five miles away. They were
living in little log cabins and dug-outs, and seemed very destitute. Most of them had only
been there since the summer and fall before, . and had raised nothing.
"The Monday following we moved up near Big Island Grove. Tuesday, Major
Williams sent out scouting parties to reconnoiter among the many small lakes there, and
discovered the first signs of the Indians where they had been cutting holes in the ice and
taking out fish, but, judging from the decomposed state of the fish, it had been several
days since they had been there. Late that afternoon we met that heroic band of refugees
from Springfield, Minn., where they had made a gallant defense, driven the savages back
and were fleeing from their homes, destitute, having left everything but the clothes they
had on. Their only conveyance was a sled drawn by a pair of oxen, and they were nearly
starved. Here we camped and did all we could to make them comfortable."
Here let us interrupt Mr. Laughlin, and let Lieutenant Frank R. Mason (Company C)
tell the experiences of that scouting and of their meeting the refugees
"The morning after arriving at the Irish Colony, Major Williams selected ten of the
strongest men from the company to scout the country, north, northeast and northwest, for
Indians and Indian signs. Our stock of provisions consisted of about forty pounds of
coarse corn meal and twenty pounds of flour. I was one of the ten men selected.
Lieutenant [J. N.] Maxwell, [W. L.] Church, J. M.] Thatcher and [A. N.] Hathaway were
also of the company. I do not recollect the names of the other five. [C. C. Carpenter, in
his address at the same occasion, names as others William Defore, of Boone County,
Albert H. Johnson, of Webster County, William K. Laughlin, and himself. R. A. Smith,
in History of Dickinson County, p. 82, gives incidents showing that he was one of them.
This makes up the list of ten.] Major Williams ordered corn bread prepared for us. Each
man was allotted a piece about the size of a common skimmer and not much thicker. This
was to be his ration for three days. Being very hungry, when my portion was given me, I
Page 18
resolved that the easiest and most convenient way of carrying It would be to eat it, which
I did with a relish. We took our departure from the command about six o'clock in the
morning, and a beautiful morning it was.
"The snow at that time was more than two feet deep. We took a northeasterly
direction, and traveled about twelve miles that forenoon, when we reached a hill, and
Lieutenant Maxwell ordered us to halt. We scraped the snow from the hilltop, and there
the boys dined. Lieutenant Maxwell, with his usual tact, suggested that I act as sentry,
while the others ate; accordingly I stationed myself a few rods from the men. Looking
directly north I discerned an object in the distance which at that time appeared a mere
black spot on the horizon. After observing it closely for several minutes I became
satisfied that it was a moving object, and called Maxwell's attention to it. We put our
ramrods in line with it and sighted. We soon concluded that it must be a band of Indians.
A consultation was held immediately, and it was decided that we should meet them as
quickly as possible.
"The band of Indians (as we then supposed the object to be) must have been about
two miles away. About half way between us and them there was a small creek bordered
with willows, which we wished to reach before they did, as we did not want to give them
the advantage of ambush. Therefore it was a race, long legs coming into active service.
Church and Hathaway, being short and somewhat stocky, did more rolling than walking.
We succeeded in passing the bushes, and, as we ascended a knoll, we beheld what
appeared to be redskins. After a hasty examination of our arms and ammunition, we made
ready for a fight. Presently the band opposite halted and prepared to defend themselves.
We remained in this position a few moments awaiting Lieutenant Maxwell's order to fire.
Every man was eager for the fray, some of the boys expressing their surprise that our
worthy commander did not give the order at once. We were ordered to advance until
within twenty rods of the party and then halt.
"Suddenly Mr. Church (whose station was next to me) sprang forward and exclaimed,
'My God, there's my wife and babies!' We then discovered our mistake. The supposed
redskins were white refugees. Such a heartrending scene as was then presented I never
witnessed. The relatives and friends of those refugees had supposed they were dead, and
the unexpected meeting was one never to be forgotten. It was at this time that Mr.
Thatcher was told of the probable fate of his wife and child. A number of the party were
wounded and in terrible condition. Mr. Thomas was traveling with his hand dangling by
the cords of his arm, having been shot through the wrist. It now began to rain.
"Lieutenant Maxwell ordered me to return to the main body as quickly as I could, and
inform Major Williams of our discovery. I ran every step of the way, about eight miles,
and was seen by the company when two miles from them. Captains Duncombe and
Richards came to meet me. Major Williams soon came up and I told him my story; a brief
consultation followed, and the Major ordered me to return to the refugees, in company
with Captains Duncombe and Richards and the Surgeon. [Dr. G. R. Bissell] It was now
about four o'clock. We made a quick march, arriving at the camp about nine P. M. The
remainder of the company came up at twelve o'clock. When we reached camp it was
storming furiously, and the scene that greeted us was terrible to behold. Men, women and
children, some wounded, and all in a starving condition, with no fire, no covering except
Page 19
wet blankets, and, worse than all, no food. We were a sad company. Every man was as
silent as the grave. Many of us were then feeling the effects of exposure and hunger."
Mr. Laughlin's narrative continues:
"The fight at Springfield was on the Thursday previous, and Major Williams was sure
we could overtake the Indians, so the next day we went on to Granger's, and there learned
that the U. S. Regulars, from Fort Ridgely, had given them a short chase and let them get
away. Here our supplies were almost gone, and all streams were at their highest stage, so
Major Williams decided it was useless to go farther. He called for a voluntary detail to go
over to Okoboji settlement to bury the dead, as the U. S. troops had failed to do this. Our
detail comprised twenty-three men, under Captain Johnson and Lieutenant Maxwell
Captain Richards started with us, but his horse could not get over the river. [R. A. Smith
gives the names Or this detail as follows: Captain John C. Johnson, Lieutenant John N.
Maxwell Privates—Henry Carse, William E. Burkholder, William Ford, H. E. Dalley, O.
C. Howe, George P. Smith, O. S. Spencer, C. Stebbins, Silas Vancleave, R. U. Wheelock,
R. A. Smith, William C. Defore, and B. F Parmenter, of Company A; Jesse Addington,
Robert McCormick, J. M. Thatcher, William R. Wilson, Jonas Murray, and A Burtch, of
Company B; William K. Laughlin, and E. D. Kellogg, of Company C.]
"The rest were to go back as far as the Irish Colony and wait until we returned. We
separated from the main column, with rations for two days, on the morning of April 2nd,
and reached Mr. Thatcher's house on East Okoboji about 2 P. M. We found the door shut
and only cook stoves and bedsteads inside, feathers were strewn all over the prairie, that
had been emptied from beds as a useless luxury; behind the house we found the dead
bodies of Noble and Ryan, full of bullet holes; we buried them by a large oak tree near
the house. Some of our men went to the Howe house, and there found seven dead bodies
in a promiscuous heap inside. Among them was Mrs. Thatcher's little babe. Mr. Thatcher
was with us; he was away after provisions at the time of the massacre, and had joined us,
to find his home destroyed, his young wife missing and, if not dead, probably sharing a
worse fate than death, and nothing left but the mangled remains of that baby. We spent
the night at the Thatcher house. Next morning we found another dead body (a boy twelve
or thirteen years old) at Howe's, near a fallen tree not far from the house, with an ax by
his side. He had evidently been cutting wood and was killed at the same time as those in
the house, none of them suspecting their danger. The oldest son had a horrible cut
diagonally across the face from the corner of the mouth on one side to the temple on the
other. Here we buried nine."
"We then went to Mattock's, across the lake; found the dead scattered all around in
the woods and on the lake shore, and the house burned. Here was evidence of a desperate
struggle. Dr. Harriott lay behind a large tree, grasping his broken rifle; Mrs. Mattock and
her little daughter lay near each other by the lake. The little girl's brains had been dashed
out and lay in the snow beside the body, a most sickening and heartrending sight. We
collected and buried eleven bodies in one grave. Carl Granger's body we found near his
house and, close by, his faithful dog; he was horribly cut about his head and face; we
buried him where we found him.
Page 20
"Finally we reached Gardner's and found six, some outside and some inside, and we
buried them all together. By this time it was late in the afternoon; we had finished our sad
task; our rations were about gone. Mr. Wilson, of our detachment, who had been at Mr.
Gardner's during the winter, knew they had some potatoes buried under the cook stove
(the only floor their cabins had was the ground); the stove was in its place unharmed, and
we found about a bushel of potatoes, and had them for supper and breakfast, thus helping
out our slender rations.
"In the ashes where the Mattock's house was burned were some charred bones, but we
could not possibly identify them as human bones, and I did not think they were. From the
history of the massacre I believe all persons known to have been there have been
accounted for. We buried twenty-nine, and Robert Clark, Harvey Luce, and old Mr.
Howe were found afterwards.. But the Indians made thorough work; not one was allowed
to escape alive. It was a remarkable thing that none were scalped. The wretches must
have been ashamed of their bloody work.
"Saturday morning, April 4th, we started for the Irish Colony, leaving Messrs. Howe
and Wheelock, who had left a load of goods some distance out on the prairie at the time
they made the discovery of the massacre, also Mr. Thatcher and Mr. Wilson, who had
interests to look after in that vicinity. "
R. A. Smith, in the History of Dickinson County (page 90), explains that the company
were divided in opinion as to whether a start to return had better be made that morning, In
the face of a storm that seemed to be threatening, and by a route straight across the prairie
towards the Irish Colony, or whether they had not better rest another day and then return
by the route over which they came, and were familiar with, and thus avoid the risk of
finding their way over the bleak and trackless prairie. The question was settled by
forming a line, and those in favor of starting at once and by the shortest route stepped out
three paces. They numbered sixteen, leaving seven who remained until Monday morning,
secured the provisions from Howe and Wheelock's wagon, were sheltered from the
terrible storm which raged Saturday afternoon and Sunday, and then made their way back
down the Des Moines River route without especial discomfort, except in crossing the
flooded valley of Cylinder Creek. Besides the four named by Mr. Laughlin, the party
included B. F. Parmenter, Asa Burtch and R. A. Smith.
Mr. Laughlin continues:
"Our course lay over a trackless prairie in a drizzling rain. Jonas Murray, of our party,
had been at the lakes the year before and pretended to know the way, but he proved to be
a poor guide. By this time the snow was nearly gone and every stream was a raging
torrent, and ponds were overflowing. About noon we came to a large stream [Mud Creek
in Floyd Township], and had to follow up and down some time before finding a crossing.
Two of our men—Robert McCormick and Owen Spencer—went far above and crossed
and separated from us, but succeeded in getting. through to the Colony in safety.... Late
in the afternoon we came to some small lakes with some scattering trees on the opposite
side. By this time the wind changed suddenly and began to grow colder. The lake was
apparently between us and the course we ought to take, and we followed close around the
shore. Off to the west lay a large marsh covered with tall grass. Those in advance passed
Page 21
between marsh and lake and succeeded in getting around, when we discovered that
Captain Johnson, Burkholder, Addington, George Smith and Jonas Murray, five men in
all, had dropped off in our rear and were going around the marsh. We expected they
would return to us when they got around, but, as it was growing dark, and we could see
them on high ground beyond, we thought best to try to go to them, as Major Williams'
parting advice was, 'Stick together, boys'; but they soon passed out of our sight in the
darkness. We then retraced our steps, passed the south end of the lake, and traveled
directly east. The moon was full and would gleam out through the rifts in the clouds
occasionally. We traveled until about nine o'clock, when we halted, finding we were
making but little headway, having to meander ponds and wade streams that were fast
freezing, and decided to go no further until morning. Soon the most of us were tumbled
down in a promiscuous heap, Lying close to keep one another warm on the naked, burned
prairie. Our pants were a sheet of ice. Some had blankets but many only their wet clothes.
"Lieutenant Maxwell and myself did not lie down during that terrible night, but kept
tramping around and occasionally rousing the sleepers and making them stir around to
keep from freezing. I expected we would all be frozen before morning. I had taken off my
socks the day before and wrung them out and carried them in my pocket, and as soon as
we halted, I pulled off my boots, replaced my socks, and put on my boots again. I thus
saved my feet and I got through without freezing any part. The following morning the sun
was clear and we were in sight of timber directly east, eight or ten miles away. I was
among the last to leave our camping ground. I remember picking up one empty provision
sack and following on. I soon overtook Henry Carse, the oldest and best clad man in our
party, having double mackinaw blankets and a fur overcoat. He was on the sunny side of
a gopher hill trying to put on his boots, which he had pulled off at night. I passed him
without a thought that they were frozen and that he could not get them on. The ponds and
also the streams where there was not much current were frozen, so they bore our weight.
Most of the men made a bee line, wading streams running slush ice, but I was more
fortunate, being long and light, by seeking places that were iced over, and, crawling at
full length, I got over without getting wet. Elias Kellogg and myself were first getting to
the timber; he had waded every stream and his clothes were a coat of ice. I immediately
went about starting a fire. I had no matches and neither had the others. My gun was
empty and my powder dry, so I put a charge of powder in my gun, and loaded with some
cotton from out of my vest lining. I discharged it into some rotten wood which caught
and, by pouring on more powder and with vigorous blowing, I succeeded in starting a
"Lieutenant Maxwell was among the first to get to the timber and by the time we got
our fire well going most of the boys had straggled in. Mr. Carse came in last, led by
Henry Dalley, a mere boy, poorly clad, whom Mr. Carse had befriended by taking him
under his double blankets that night. Carse had his boots in his hands, and was ill and
delirious. The soles of his feet were worn out walking on the frozen ground. Kellogg was
the next object of attention. He had seated himself by a tree and was almost helpless and
unconscious of his misery. We had to arouse him and cut his frozen overalls away. Had
he been left alone, he would probably never have arisen from his condition. With a good
fire we were soon warmed. . . . The river had to be crossed. It was high and full of
floating ice, but we got some long poles and, with this help, crossed from one cake of ice
to another and reached the other side. . . . No sooner was the advance party over than the
Page 22
others all followed, and when we gained the open ground on the other side we could see
the Colony as conjectured, and, foot sore and weary as we were, we soon made the
"We found Major Williams and part of the men there waiting for us with much
anxiety. The Major had made preparations for us; fresh beef from the poor settlers' poorer
oxen was cooked and ready. This was the first and only meal since noon of the day
before, and to us who had fasted over thirty hours was a luxurious feast. Major Williams
dispatched runners down the river at once to look for Captain Johnson and those with
him. They returned that evening without result. The next morning Smith, Addington and
Murray came in. They had been to another cabin further on and, finding some provisions,
had staid all night. They stated that they had separated from Captain Johnson and
Burkholder early the previous morning; that those men had taken their boots oft at night
and they were frozen so they could not get them on, and, while they were cutting up their
blankets and tying them onto their feet, they had disagreed as to the course to be taken.
Pulling off their boots was a fatal mistake. To reach the place where their bones were
found, eleven years afterwards, they must have traveled all that day and part of the next
night, and have lain down together in that sleep that knows no waking. Thus perished two
brave and true young men in the very flush of their early manhood.... Here [at the Irish
Colony] the command broke up into squads and detachments, the wagons carrying those
unable to walk, while those able to help themselves had to get home as best they could,
and, in most eases, did so in three or four days."
It will be remembered that the Spirit Lake detail, whose fortunes Mr. Laughlin has
related separated from the main body at George Granger's, near the Minnesota state line,
on the 2nd day of April, and that Major Williams had directed the detachment to leave
the further pursuit of the Indians to the Fort Ridgely Regulars, and to retrace their march
to Fort Dodge. We select from the address of Captain C. B. Richards his account of' the
experiences of the command through the fierce blizzard whose force and fury took the
lives of Johnson and Burkholder, and came so near ending the existence of their
comrades. Captain Richards had been selected to command the Spirit Lake burial detail,
and intended to take his Indian pony to carry their surplus bedding and provisions, but, on
arriving at the bank of the Des Moines River, it was found that the high water had opened
a channel through the ice that the men could cross on a log, but which it was impossible
to get the pony over. Captain Richards says:
"I turned over the command to Captain Johnson, divided the load on the pony among
the men, gave to William E. Burkholder of my company, and one of my intimate personal
friends my rations and a veil to protect his face and eyes and a small shawl, and bade him
good-bye, little thinking it would be forever. Mr. Burkholder was a young man of rare
promise; educated, brave, generous, unselfish. He volunteered for this expedition,
knowing that it would be at great personal sacrifice, having been nominated by the
Republicans of his county as their candidate for treasurer and recorder [the functions of
two offices were then discharged by one officer], and knowing that his absence during
the election might, and probably would, result in his defeat; but he never gave it a
regretful thought. His patriotism and his manhood called him, and he went to lay down
his young life that he might protect his fellow citizens and their frontier homes from the
merciless savages.
Page 23
"Being unable to get the pony across the river, and the entire command having been
some two hours on the return march, there was no one to take the pony back and I was
obliged to follow on and overtake the main body before night, which I did before they
left their mid-day camp. We camped for the night at a small trapper's cabin at Mud
Lakes, where the men found the frozen carcasses of some beavers which they tried to
cook to piece out their scanty rations. The excitement and hope of accomplishing some
good having ceased, all were anxious to get where they could find food and rest. Many
were foot sore, and several had entirely worn out their boots, and all were nearly used up
by the constant exposure, poor food and hard marching through the melting snow and
"While the rapid melting of the snow made It much easier for both men and teams
most of the way, the waterways and creeks were rendered nearly impassable and so much
time was consumed in crossing that we could only make about the same distance per day
as when the snow was deepest. The Irish Colony was reached in the evening. Here the
officers were called together to consult as to ways and means to get food to keep the men
together until we could reach Fort Dodge. [An effort to procure a steer for beef, on
promise of payment by the State, was refused, and attempts to butcher it were resisted by
the whole population with pitchfork and clubs until guns were loaded and the desired
beef ration taken by military force. The animal was soon dressed and distributed to the
men, and for the first time in ten days they had a full meal]
"Here we had hoped the detachment sent to the Lakes might overtake us, but, as they
did not come, we left what meat had not been used for the men and resumed our march.
The day was warm until about noon, when a cold rain began making it dreary and dismal
We found several small creeks and all the ravines full of water, but crossed all without
much detention until we arrived at Cylinder Creek, about twelve or fifteen miles from the
Colony and two from Shippey's, where we expected to camp for the night. This point we
reached about three P. M., when we found the bottom on the west side one vast sheet of
water fully half a mile wide. We had become accustomed to overcoming obstructions and
at once sent two men with poles to wade out as far as possible and ascertain the depth of
the water. Their report was that the men could wade for nearly half a mile in water from
two to five feet deep, when they would reach the channel proper of the creek which was
from sixty to eighty feet wide and very deep with a swift current.
"We determined to make a boat from our wagon box, by calking the cracks with
cotton taken from our comforters, and with this (first stretching a rope across the deep
water) we could wade the men out to that point and run them across in the wagon box.
Captain Duncombe selected Guernsey Smith, a man of great strength and endurance, and
I selected Solon Mason from my company, a man of equal strength and courage. They
waded, one on each side of the improvised boat, while Captain Duncombe and myself
bailed the water which found its way in nearly as fast as we could dip it out. When we
arrived at the bank of the creek proper, within eighty or one hundred feet of the farther
shore, we took Smith and Mason in We stationed two men—who had waded out for the
purpose—near the bank where they found a place with not more than four feet of water,
to hold one end of our long rope while we pushed across, uncoiling the rope as we went.
When we struck the swift current we were carried rapidly down stream, but by using all
Page 24
our poles, we managed to get across. As we struck the farther shore, where the bank was
steep and a lot of ice piled up, our boat shut up like a jack-knife, there being no braces at
the corners. Every man jumped for shore and, by getting hold of some willows, all got
out, Mason losing his overcoat and hat, and all getting wet. When the boat, which went
under in the collapse, came up, it was only separate boards floating down the rapid
stream, and the rope was gone. The men who had come out to hold one end could not
stand the cold water longer and had waded back to the main body. We had hoped to
stretch this rope across the deep water and ferry over the men.
"About this time the wind suddenly changed to the northwest and was blowing
fiercely and very cold, so that our wet clothes began to freeze and stiffen. Captain
Duncombe and myself at once concluded to send Smith and Mason to Shippey's for an ox
team and a load of poles with which to construct a raft on which to cross the men, in the
meantime going up and down the banks of the creek to see if there were any better place
to cross. By the time they returned the wind was blowing a gale, with the air full of snow
and the cold becoming intense. Mr. Mason was without overcoat or hat, only a
handkerchief around his head. The Shippey boys at once loaded a wagon with poles, and
with these, on their arrival, we tried to construct a raft, but, in the face of that blizzard, for
such it had become, we could do nothing. By this time it had grown so dark that nothing
could be seen of the other shore, neither—on account of the noise of the wind—could we
get any reply to our frequent calls.
"We were utterly incapable of further exertion. The howling wind and drifting snow
was fast obliterating the track. Our only safety lay in getting to Shippey's before the
darkness and drifting snow made it impossible. It was a terrible walk, with our frozen
clothes, and it was nine o'clock in the evening when we reached the cabin. Here we
passed a night which no lapse of time will ever obliterate from my memory, so small was
the cabin and so cold, and we had only our wet clothes. We warmed ourselves by the
open fire, had some bacon and bread and a cup of coffee. We had no blankets, but
borrowed what the Shippeys could spare from their scanty store, and spent the night,
some trying to sleep, some drying their clothes by turning first one side to the fire then
the other, all anxious and making frequent visits to the door, hoping the storm would
abate, but each time only to find the wind and cold increasing.....I remember that it
seemed as if the light of day would never come..
"The image of each man In the command out in this terrible night, with neither food,
fire nor even the protection of a tent, was constantly before me. And what they would do
to save themselves was ever in my thoughts; but I had great faith in their ability and
judgment. I had seen them for the last twelve days tried as few men ever are, with no
shrinking and no fear, and full of expedients to meet every demand on their courage,
bravery and endurance, and believed they would be equal to this trying occasion, but still
I had fears. So terrible was the wind and cold and so penetrating the drifting snow that the
terrible thought would come that we might find them huddled together in one frozen
mass—or, realizing that they could not live where they were, they would try to get back
to the Irish Colony, and that we would find them scattered on the prairie, each where
exhausted nature had succumbed to the fierce wind, the biting cold and blinding snow.
But then came as a relief the thought that Carpenter, Stratton, Stevens and others were
fully capable of saving the party by their coolness, experience and good judgment.
Page 25
"With early dawn Captain Duncombe, Smith, Mason and myself started for the creek,
the blizzard at its height, if not increasing. [Mason's clothes were still wet, he became
chilled and was taken back to the cabin.] On reaching the creek we were unable to see
across, or much more than across the channel The ice had formed and would bear us near
the shore, but it was very thin farther out and would not bear our weight. We found two
of the boards from the wagon box we had used as a boat the previous night. With these,
one lying flat on the center of the board, the other holding the end of a rope fastened
about him we tried for an hour to cross the thin ice, but the wind was against us and we
were so cold and benumbed that it was impossible, and were obliged, in order to prevent
freezing, to return to Shippey's. I froze my cheeks so that the scar still remains, while
lying on a board trying to make my way across.
"We spent the time until afternoon watching the weather and the thermometer which
marked twenty-eight degrees below zero that morning and in drying our clothes
preparatory to making another effort to reach our men towards night, when we thought
the ice would be thick enough to bear our weight. We made the trip again about three P.
M. and worked until dark with no better success, and wended our way back to Shippey's
all hope of ever finding the party alive having nearly departed, as the storm if anything,
has been constantly increasing all day, and the mercury showed that it was getting colder.
But, soon after we had returned, Sergeant Harris Hoover and two of the men came in.
They had traveled a mile or more up the creek and had found a place where they crossed,
but not without breaking through the ice and getting wet. From them we learned that the
men were all living, and, haying improvised a windbreak by stretching a wagon sheet and
blankets over the wheels of the wagon, had crawled in so close together that the animal
heat had kept them alive, although suffering much from hunger and their cramped
position. This news was like a stimulus to us, and we ate our bacon and bread with a
relish, and obtained some much needed sleep during the night, although still anxious for
our Spirit Lake detachment, but believing they must have arrived at the Colony before the
storm. We had many fears for. our teamster, J. W. Dawson, an old man then seventy
years of age, who from the start had never spared himself or flinched from his severe
duties, and for Major Williams, then sixty-two years old. When there was no probability
of crossing Cylinder Creek, they had started back in the face of the storm, with one team,
for the Colony, on the skeleton of the wagon, we having used the box as a boat
"At early dawn Monday morning (thirty-four degrees below zero), we went to the
creek and saw the men on the other side getting ready to cross. We found the ice, even
over the current, strong enough to bear a team and our loaded wagon, which we assisted
across. I found my pony alive, though he had been exposed to the storm with nothing to
break the wind, and with no food or water for two days and nights. The men all reached
Shippey's by eight o'clock, and there had the first food they had eaten since Saturday
noon. How they lived through those two terrible nights, wet, cold and hungry as they
were, has always been a wonder to me, and still is. As soon as the men had eaten their
breakfast they started again on the homeward march, leaving all they could not carry for
the teams to bring when they followed. We spent the first night at McKnight's Point,
where Major Williams and our teams overtook us. From this point there was but little to
do but get to the nearest settlement where food and shelter could be had and many left the
main body and made for the nearest cabins at Dakota and on the west fork, a sufficient
Page 26
number remaining to assist in bad places and thus we arrived at Fort Dodge, and, for the
first time in several days, I removed my overcoat and had a night's rest.
"To Major William Williams, an old man with wonderful powers of endurance and
nerves of steel, all were attached. He endured all the hardships of the march and all the
exposure and want, the same as any private, with no word of complaint. George B
Sherman, of Company A, was chosen Commissary of the Expedition, and a more
thankless task or one requiring more hard work no one had. To keep a hundred men from
eating up all the stores for a two weeks' trip in three days was almost impossible, but
he did his duty, and tried to piece out our scanty rations and give each man just share. For
the entire Expedition I have ever had a warm and brotherly fooling. . . . These men,
whose tinselfish, generous, energetic. hard-working, toiling days and sleepless nights
were spent in assisting entire strangers, could not be otherwise than good citizens, most
valuable to the State and community in which they lived."
The experiences of those who remained on the west side of Cylinder Creek (which
there flowed south), during the blizzard, cannot better be told than in the words of Ex-
Governor C. C. Carpenter, who was one of the party. Mr. Carpenter says:
"On arriving at Cylinder Creek we found the channel not only full but the water
covering the entire bottom bordering the creek to a depth of from three to four feet. When
we found that it would be impossible to cross at the point where the road intersected the
creek, we resolved to send a party up the stream to see if a better crossing could not be
found. But, in less time than I have occupied in telling this story, the wind began to blow
from the north, the rain turned into snow, and as every thread of clothing in the entire
command was saturated with water, our clothing began to freeze upon our limbs. . . .
With one or two others I followed down the creek a mile or more, until we came to the
bluffs overlooking the bottoms bordering the Des Moines River. I had hoped that we
might discover some elevated ridge through the bottom, over which we could pass and
reach the timber that fringed the river. But, on reaching the bluffs and looking out over
the bottom lands which fell back from the river one or two miles on either side to their
base, it was one wide waste of water. So we concluded our only hope was to remain right
where we were until the storm abated.
"On getting back to the road we found our comrades improvising a cover, by taking
the wagon sheet and one or two tents which we had along, and stretching them over the
wagon wheels and staking them down as best they could to the frozen ground, leaving a
small opening on the south side for a doorway, This done, we moved the animals to the
south side of our tent on ground sloping to the south, in order to afford them all the
protection possible. Then we put all our blankets together, made a common bed upon the
ground and all crawled into it, without removing our clothes—every thread of which was
wet—and most of which were frozen as stiff as boards. There we lay through that long
Saturday night, all the succeeding Sunday, and the following Sunday night. The air
outside was full of fine snow. At different times during the night three or four of us crept
out of our nests, and went around our tent, banking it with snow on the north, east and
west sides; and when the fierce winds would blow the banking away, so as to open a new
air hole, we would repeat the operation. To add to the horrors of the situation, during this
more than thirty-six hours of absolute imprisonment, we were without food.
Page 27
"By daylight on Monday morning we were on the move; and, to our joy, found the ice
which had formed over Cylinder Creek the day before would bear us up. The severity of
the weather cannot be better attested than by stating the fact that all the men, our wagon,
loaded with the little baggage of the camp, and the few horses belonging to the command,
were crossed upon the bridge of ice with perfect ease and safety. Since that experience on
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. These campaigns were made under southern suns
and in the cold rains and not infrequent snow storms of southern winters. The marches
were sometimes continued without intermission three or four days and nights in
succession, with only an occasional halt to give the weary, foot-sore soldier a chance to
boil a cup of coffee. But I never in all those weary years experienced a conflict with the
elements that could be compared with the two nights and one day on Cylinder Creek.
"After crossing the creek on Monday morning, we went to the Shippey house, some
two miles south, where we cooked our breakfast. From this time forward no order of
march was observed, but each man found his way home to suit himself. . . . I have
frequently thought in later years of the good discipline preserved in a command where
there was absolutely no legal power to enforce authority. This fact is really the highest
compliment that could be paid the officers. Had they not possessed the characteristics
which gained and maintained the respect of these men, no shadow of discipline could
have been enforced. On the contrary, during those trying days, on the march and in the
bivouac, there was complete order. of the three captains, two are living—C. B. Richards
and John F. Duncombe. Their subsequent careers in civil life have been but a fulfillment
of the prophecy of the men who followed them through the snow banks of northwestern
Iowa in 1867. With Captain J. C. Johnson I was but little acquainted, but I watched him
with interest and with admiration during the few days of our march. He was a man of fine
physique, was deliberate, quiet almost to reticence, with a handsome face and manly eye.
In short, from what I saw of him, I may say that the marble and brass, which we have
come today to unveil in commemoration of him and his company's virtues and heroism.
are not of a more solid and enduring character than were the noble and generous traits of
his nature. His cruel death, and that of his no less noble and promising comrade, William
E. Burkholder, was the one circumstance which veiled the results of the Expedition in a
lasting sorrow.
"The First Lieutenant of Company A, Franklin A. Stratton, was perhaps more fully
endowed with all the qualities which constitute a soldier than any other man of the
company or perhaps of the command. He was quiet, prompt, uncomplaining, methodical,
and, in the line of his duty, exacting. Remembering my comradeship with him on the
Spirit Lake Expedition when he went into the War of the Rebellion I prophesied for him a
successful career. He rose to be the Colonel of his regiment, and died a few years ago, a
Captain in the Regular Army.
"But time fails me to name all who deserve honorable mention. I cannot close,
however, without paying a few words of tribute to Major William Williams, who
commanded the Expedition. Having been the Sutler of the battalion of Regulars which
Page 28
was stationed at Fort Dodge, he knew something of the movement and sustenance of
troops. He had the ability to make that knowledge available, and on the Expedition
illustrated his competency to command. There was a quiet, competent air in his
deportment that commanded respect, and he moved those undisciplined men as quietly
and as orderly as would have been possible by an experienced soldier. I have never
thought that full justice had been done to the man who led this Expedition, and who in
many ways proved his interest and
faith in the pioneers of Northwestern Iowa; so I have turned aside, here and now, to say a
tardy word in recognition of his many noble qualities.
"He was born in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, December 6, 1796, and died at
Fort Dodge, February 26, 1874, and at the date of these events was in the sixty-second
year of his age. He was reared a banker, and for years was Cashier of the branch of the
Exchange Bank of Pittsburg, located at Hollidaysburg. But he had been an open-handed,
generous giver, and had no innate love of gain; so he lost money instead of making
accumulations, and sought the great West to rebuild his broken fortunes. Now he was a
man well advanced in years, but, true to his impulses, where there was a blow to be
struck to protect the weak, he found his place at the front. Though small of stature and
not physically strong, during this entire campaign he was seldom seen on horseback. It
was not easy for younger men to complain of the hardships of the march when, day by
day, they saw him resolutely pushing forward. I met him and talked with him many times
during the campaign, frequently advised him to favor himself, but he always answered,
with a twinkle in his eye, that he had none of the infirmities of age."
We have seen that when Morris Markham came to the Springfield settlement with
news of the disaster at the Lakes, two young men of that settlement, Charles Tretts and
Henry Chiffen, volunteered to go on snow shoes to Fort Ridgely, seventy-five miles to
the northward, and appeal for aid to the United States troops quartered there. Markham
arrived at Springfield on the 9th or 10th of March, and the two messengers started upon
their arduous trip within a day or two later. The country over which they traveled was
absolutely without settlements, and no roads or trails existed, so their progress was slow
and very difficult, and they did not reach the military post and agency until the 18th of
The post at Fort Ridgely was then commanded by Colonel Edmund Burke Alexander,
of the Tenth United States Infantry, a new regiment organized in 1865, the former one of
that number having disbanded after the Mexican War. The garrison consisted of five
companies of the Tenth Infantry. The United States Agent for the Sioux of the
Mississippi, at the Redwood and Yellow Medicine Agencies, was Charles E. Flandreau,
afterwards a Judge in Minnesota. Judge Flandreau was present at Fort Ridgely when the
messengers from Springfield arrived there, and, as the highest civil officer of the United
States Government available, took active part in directing operations for the relief of the
settlers. He has left upon record an account of the measures taken by the government
authorities there which we give in his words:
"The people at Springfield sent two young men to my Agency with the news of the
massacre. They brought with them a statement of the facts, as related by Mr. Markham,
signed by some persons with whom I was acquainted. They came on foot and arrived at
Page 29
the Agency on the 18th of March. The snow was very deep and was beginning to thaw,
which made the traveling extremely difficult. When these young men arrived, they were
so badly affected with snow blindness that they could scarcely see at all, and were
completely wearied out. I was fully satisfied of the truth of the report that murders had
been committed, although the details, of course, were very meager. I at once held a
consultation with Colonel Alexander, commanding the . Tenth United States Infantry,
five or six companies of which were at Fort Ridgely. The Colonel, with commendable
promptness, ordered Captain Barnard E. Bee, with his company, to proceed at once to the
scene of the massacre, and do all he could—either in the way of protecting the settlers or
punishing the enemy.
"The country between the Minnesota River and Spirit Lake was at that day an utter
wilderness without an inhabitant. In fact, none of us knew where Spirit Lake was except
that it lay about due south of the fort, at a distance of from one hundred to one hundred
twenty-five miles. We procured two guides of experience from among our Sioux halfbreeds,
Joseph Coursall (more generally known as Joe Gaboo) and Joseph La Framboise.
These men took a pony and a light train to carry the blankets and provisions, put on their
snow shoes and were ready to go anywhere; while the poor troops, with their leather
shoes and their back loads, accompanied by a ponderous army wagon on wheels, drawn
by six mules, were about as fit for such a march as an elephant is for a ball room. But it
was the best the government had, and they entered upon the arduous duty bravely and
cheerfully. I had a light sleigh and a fine team with my outfit aboard, with a French-
Canadian voyageur for a driver and old Mr. Prescott for my interpreter, being well
outfitted for the occasion, as I always tools care to be while on Indian duty in the winter
"We started on March 19th at about one o'clock P. M., at first intending to go directly
across the country, but we soon decided that course to be utterly impossible, as the mules
could not draw the wagon through the deep snow. It became apparent that our only hope
of reaching the lake was to follow the road down by the way of New Ulm to Mankato,
and trust to luck for a road up the Watonwan in the direction of the lake, we having
learned that some teams had recently started for that point with supplies. The first days of
the march were appalling. The men were wet nearly up to their waists with the deep and
melting snow, and utterly weary before they had gone ten miles. Captain Bee was a South
Carolinian and, though a veteran, had seen most of his service in Mexico and the South.
Mr. Murry, his Lieutenant," was a gallant young fellow, but had not seen much service.
Neither of them had ever made a snow camp before; and, when we had dug out a place
for our first camp, and were making futile efforts to dry our clothes before turning in for
the night, I felt that the trip was hopeless. So much time had elapsed since the murders
were committed, and so much more would be necessarily consumed before the troops
could possibly reach the Lake, that I felt assured that no good would result from going
on. So I told Captain Bee that, if he wanted to return, I would furnish him. with a written
opinion of two of the most experienced voyageurs on the frontier that the march was
impossible of accomplishment with the inappropriate outfit with which the troops were
furnished. It was then that the stern sense of duty which animates the true soldier
exhibited itself in these officers. The Captain agreed with me that the chances of
accomplishing any good by going on were very small, but he read his orders and said:
'My orders are to go to Spirit Lake and do what I can. It is not for me to interpret my
Page 30
orders but to obey them. I shall go on until it becomes physically impossible for me to
proceed further. It will then be time to turn back.' And go on he did.
"We followed the trail up the Watonwan until we found the teams which had made it,
stuck in a snow drift, and, for the remaining forty or fifty miles, the troops marched ahead
of the mules and broke a road for them, relieving the front rank every fifteen or twenty
minutes. When the Lake was reached the Indians were gone. A careful examination was
made of their camp and fires by the guides, who pronounced them three or four days old.
Their trail led to the west. A pursuit was made by a portion of the command, partly
mounted on the mules and partly on foot, but it was soon abandoned on the declaration of
the guides that the Indians were, by the signs, several days in advance. The dead were
buried, a guard was established under Lieutenant Murry with twenty-four men, and
Captain Bee with the balance returned to the fort. I learned afterwards from Mrs. Marble,
one of the rescued women, that the troops in pursuit came so near that the Indians saw
them, and made an ambush for them, and, had they not turned back, the prisoners would
all have been murdered. The guides may have been mistaken in their judgment of the age
of the camps and fires, or may have deceived the troops. I knew the young men so well
that I have never accused them of a betrayal of their trust, but it was probably best as it
was, in either case, because, had the troops overtaken the Indians, the women would
certainly have been butchered and some of the soldiers killed. The satisfaction of having
killed some of the Indians would not have compensated for the result."
The narrative of Mrs. Sharp also states that the detachment under Lieutenant Murry
came so near overtaking the Indians as to reach, at three P. M., the site of the camp which
they had left in the morning. The savages had then halted in a hollow near a small stream
and were well hidden, but from a near-by hill could see the movements of the soldiers.
An Indian ascended a tree as a lookout, a guard was placed over the captives with the
purpose of shooting them if an attack was made, the rest of the band prepared for battle,
and the squaws tore down the tepees and skulked off among the willows. After an hour of
suspense the soldiers were seen to turn back, when the Indians made haste to decamp,
traveling two days and nights with scarcely a halt.
The soldiers had arrived at Springfield on the evening of the 27th of March, scarcely
twenty-four hours after the killing of the settlers there, and on the same day that the
refugees had taken their departure. A day was spent there in burying the dead and
viewing the situation. Inkpadutah and his band left Heron Lake, fifteen or twenty miles
west of Springfield, on the morning of the 28th. The troops started in pursuit on the
morning of the 29th. They were in no condition, after the hardships and sufferings of
their march, to undertake an effective campaign, and doubtless were not animated by as
earnest a purpose as were Major Williams' volunteers, and perhaps were too easily duped
by their half-breed guides.
Major Williams, in an official report made to the Governor, under date of April 12th,
immediately after his return to Fort Dodge, passes strictures upon the company of
Regulars that are hardly justified by the facts, as they became known later. He says:
"By forced marches we reached the state line near Springfield and encamped about
sundown on the margin of a grove; detailed sixty men, armed with rifles and six-shooters,
with orders to cook their suppers and supply themselves with cold rations, and be ready
Page 31
to march all night, in two divisions of thirty men each, and surprise the Indians before
daylight the next morning; furnished them with guides, as the information we had just
received was that the Indians were embodied at or near the trading house of a half-breed
by the name of Gaboo. We proceeded with great hopes of overtaking and giving a good
account of them; but to our great mortification we found that they had all fled at the
approach of fifty Regulars from Fort Ridgely. . . : . Had they not sent to Fort Ridgely for
troops, we would most certainly have overtaken them.
"The conduct of the troops from Fort Ridgely is hard to be accounted for. on
Thursday, the 26th of March, the Indians attacked Springfield and neighborhood. The
citizens defended themselves as well as they could. The battle lasted until nightfall, when
the Indians withdrew. On Friday, in the afternoon, the troops from Fort Ridgely arrived,
all well mounted on mules. [A mistake. They made the march on foot. Six men were
mounted on mules belonging to their army wagon when the pursuit of the Indians was
made. See Flandreau's narrative.] Those troops lay at Springfield all day Saturday and
assisted in burying the dead.....Their officers lay over from Friday evening until Sunday
morning without pursuing or making any effort to overtake the Indians, who, they must
have known, had taken off four white women as prisoners.
"On Sunday morning he, the commanding officer, set out on their trail and followed
them half the day, finding their camp fires, overtaking three or four straggling squaws, let
them go, and finding all sorts of goods thrown and strewn along their trail to lighten their
load and expedite their flight. [It is clear from the statements of Judge Flandreau, Mrs.
Sharp and all later sources, that no squaws were overtaken.] When he could not have
been over half a day's march from them he stopped, and returned the same evening
(Sunday) to Springfield. On Monday he set out for Spirit Lake to bury the dead, etc. He
went to the first house, that of Mr. Marble, found one dead body, buried it and returned to
While there are other errors also in Major Williams' report, it is very remarkable that
he should have obtained such accurate information as he gives so soon after the event.
The Indians, after being assured of safety by their hurried flight, moved very leisurely
to the westward. They made a halt for a short time at the Red Pipestone Quarry, and
replenished their supply of pipes. The young women captives were compelled to carry
packs equal to those borne by the squaws who were inured to such labor, and to wade
through snow and slush and overflowed creeks. Mrs. Thatcher, whose nursing babe had
been killed before her eyes, was in a particularly sad plight. With inflamed and broken
breasts, with one limb swollen until it burst, she carried her burdens and underwent the
hardships with heroic endurance, until the Big Sioux River was reached, at what is now
Flandreau, South Dakota, about the 1st of May. The crossing was made over the river
here upon a tree which had fallen across the channel and collected a raft of driftwood,
forming a practicable though treacherous bridge. As Mrs. Thatcher stepped upon the
bridge, a young Indian, who had all along exhibited a particularly malignant spirit, took
the pack from her shoulders, and put it on his own, and when they reached the middle of
the stream, pushed her into the rapid, ice-cold current. With more than human strength
she breasted the torrent, reached the shore, but was clubbed back by the savages. She
swam across the stream, but was intercepted by the fiends on that side, floated down until
Page 32
she touched another brush bridge on which a part of the band was crossing, and there her
miseries were ended by a bullet from one of those inhuman wretches.
At Lake Herman, near what is now Madison, South Dakota, where the band camped
for some time, they were visited by two Christian Indians, sons of Spirit Walker, Chief of
the village of Lac-qui-Parle, Minnesota. These friendly Indians heard, while hunting on
the Sioux, that white women were held by the outlaw band at Lake Herman, and
determined to try to rescue the captives. After arguments lasting more than a day,
Inkpadutah agreed to give up one of the captives. Finding that they could secure no more,
the Christians consented, and were told to select the one they desired. The women were
under a shelter tent near by, baking fish. Seahota stepped to the tent and looked in. Abbie
Gardner was so young that he concluded they would be relatively kind to her, so she was
passed. Mrs. Marble looked young and not unhappy, so they concluded to take Mrs.
Noble, who was older and looked distressed. They motioned to her to follow them, but
she mistook their motive and turned from them in anger. They then motioned to Mrs.
Marble, who followed them good naturedly." Mrs. Marble was taken at once to Lac-qui-
Parle, where she was supplied with a civilized garb by Chief Spirit Walker, and sent to
the Upper Santee Agency, where Judge Flandreau, the Indian Agent, paid the generous
rescuers one thousand dollars as compensation for their services. On the arrival of Judge
Flandreau and Mrs. Marble at St. Paul, where they at once repaired, the Territorial
Legislature, then in session appropriated ten thousand dollars (or so much of it as might
be necessary; out of an empty treasury, to be applied to the rescue of the remaining
captives. Before this action was taken, however, Major Flandreau, Rev. Dr. S. R. Riggs
and Rev. Dr. Thomas S. Williams (the two latter missionaries to the Sioux) secured, at
their own expense, the services of three Christian Indians to go and buy the two white
women from their captors.
On the arrival of these friendly emissaries at the camp of Inkpadutah. which had been
removed to a large village of Yanktons, on the James River, near what is now Ashton,
South Dakota, they found that Mrs. Noble had been clubbed to death, a few days before,
by Roaring Cloud, a son of the Sioux Chief, when she refused to accede to his infamous
demands. The young girl, Abbie Gardner, was purchased after a good deal of dickering,
and speedily restored to Judge Flandreau, who conducted her to her friends.
A well-laid plan, by Colonel Alexander, to follow Inkpadutah with four or five
companies of the Tenth Infantry, and effect the capture of the band, was frustrated by a
peremptory order for the entire command to start at once to join the expedition which was
about to move to Utah under General Albert Sidney Johnston, and bring under subjection
the unruly Mormons. In July it became known at Fort Ridgely that a portion of
Inkpadutah's band was in camp on the Yellow Medicine River, near the Upper Agency.
Lieutenant Murry, with about twenty Regulars and a few volunteers, was sent to capture
or destroy them if possible. They made the march in the night, guided by John Other Day,
(the friendly Indian who had led Abbie Gardner's rescuers,) and at daylight approached
the camp. An Indian, recognized by the guide as Roaring Cloud, the murderer of Mrs.
Noble, attempted to run away, but was killed by the soldiers in a running fight.
The Agency Sioux were notified that their annuities would be withheld until they
delivered Inkpadutah and his band to the authorities for punishment. A force of about one
Page 33
hundred warriors, made up of squads from the different bands under Little Crow,
(afterwards notorious for his part in the New Ulm massacres,) made a campaign into the
Indian country for about two weeks, when they returned and reported that they had killed
three of his band, wounded one and taken one squaw and one papoose prisoners. The
fight was at Lake Thompson, in the center of Kingsbury County. The Santees claimed
that they had done all they could; that the guilty Indians did not belong to their bands, and
that they should not be punished for the deeds of others. After some consideration and
delay the payment of annuities was resumed, and no further effort made to apprehend the
Evidence collected from Sioux Indians by Doane Robinson, Secretary of the State
Historical Society of South Dakota, goes to show that Inkpadutah joined with Little Crow
in the New Ulm massacres; that he was intrusted with high commands in the Indian
defense during the campaigns made by Sibley and Sully against the Indians, and
exhibited high qualities of military skill; that he afterwards joined with Red Cloud, Crazy
Horse and Sitting Bull, and, in the Custer massacre on the Little Big Horn, had command
of one of the villages, and that it was his band which repulsed Major Reno and prevented
him from joining Custer. He was among those driven into Canada, and died there about
1879, aged about sixty-four years. Mr. Robinson says:
"It was only as a war chief that he won 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. During all of the time that he was in
command of the Indian forces, the white men did not realize that he was even present,
and, in all of the writing, there is not a line that gives him credit for any part in those
battles. Everything considered, he must be accorded a high place as a military leader.
There is little of record, and little which the living Indians know of him which indicates
much of his mental endowments. He appears never to have resorted to diplomacy to carry
a point, but invariably depended upon brutal force. If there is one exception to this, it was
in the negotiation for the release of Mrs. Marble. Greyfoot, the rescuer, relates that he
craftily argued that the taking back of one captive would be sufficient to convince the
white men that the annuity Indians had acted in good faith. It is scarcely probable from
all of his conduct that he was other than he seemed—a terrible monster."
The heroic quality of American manhood, which has ever attained its highest
expression among the pioneers of the frontier, was never better exemplified than it was in
the daring and endurance of the little band of volunteers from Fort Dodge and Webster
City, the hardships and peril of whose short campaign we have presented from their own
words. In proper recognition of what they did and dared, and in honor of the murdered
dead, the Twenty-fifth General Assembly of the State of Iowa passed an act, which was
approved by Governor Frank D. Jackson, on March 30, 1894, providing for the erection
of a monument commemorative of the massacre of pioneers at Okoboji and Spirit Lakes,
near the scene of the tragic event, and for reinterment of those killed. The act provided
for the appointment of five commissioners to carry out its purposes, and the Governor
appointed as such commission: Ex-Governor Cyrus C. Carpenter of Fort Dodge, Hon.
John F. Duncombe of Fort Dodge, Hon. Charles Aldrich of Des Moines, Hon. R. A.
Smith of Okoboji, and Mrs. Abbie Gardner Sharp of Okoboji.
Page 34
The Commission secured as a site a lot adjoining the one on which stood the log
cabin in which the Gardner family was murdered by the Indians. On this was erected a
shaft fifty-five feet high above the foundation, in alternate blocks of rough and polished
Minnesota granite, with a die six by six feet, upon which is placed four bronze tablets
with inscriptions. Reinterment was, made on the same grounds of the remains of sixteen
of the victims, being all that could be found. These were Mrs. Joel Howe and five
children James H. Mattock, wife and five children, Robert Matheison, Isaac H. Harriott,
and Bertell E. Snyder. The Gardner and Luce families of six had been buried on a lot
closely adjoining and were not disturbed. The inscriptions on the four large bronze tablets
are as follows:
(Iowa Coat of Arms)
Erected by Order of
The Twentyfifth General Assembly
of the State of Iowa
The Pioneer Settlers named below were Massacred by Sioux Indians, March 8-13, 1857.
The Barbarous Work was Commenced Near this Spot, and Continued to a Spot North of
Spirit Lake.
Robert Clark James H. Mattock
Rowland Gardner Mary M. Mattock
Francis M. Gardner Alice Mattock
Rowland Gardner, Jr. Daniel Mattock
Carl Granger Agnes Mattock
Joseph Harshman Jacob M. Mattock
Isaac H. Harriott Jackson A. Mattock
Joel Howe Robert Matheison
Millie Howe Lydia Noble
Jonathan Howe Alvin Noble
Sardis Howe John Noble
Alfred Howe Enoch Ryan
Jacob Howe Bertell E. Snyder
Philetus Howe Joshua Stewart
Harvey Luce wife and two children
Mary M. Luce Elizabeth Thatcher
Albert Luce Dora Thatcher
Amanda Luce William Wood
William Marble George Wood
Mrs. Margaret Ann Marble, Mrs. Lydia Noble, Mrs. Elizabeth Thatcher and Miss Abbie
Gardner were carried into captivity. Mrs. Marble was rescued May 21st, and Miss
Page 35
Gardner June 27, 1857, through the efforts of Gov. Sam. Medary and Hon. Charles E.
Flandreau of Minnesota.
Captain J. C. Johnson of Webster City, and William E. Burkholder of Fort Dodge, were
frozen to death on the return march in Palo Alto County, April 4, 1857.
Persons Who Fled from the Attack on Springfield, Minn., and were Rescued by the
Relief Expedition:
John Bradshaw, David Carver, Mrs. S. J. Church and two children, Eliza Gardner,
George Granger, Mrs. Harshman and children, Mr. Harshman (son of preceding) and
wife, Morris Markham, Mrs. William Nelson and child, Jareb Palmer, A. B. Shiegley, J.
B. Skinner and wife, Mr. Smith and wife, Dr. E. B. N. Strong, wife and two children,
John Stewart, Drusilla Swanger, J. B. Thomas, wife and five children.
[Roster of the Relief Expedition, which is given in paragraph form in succeeding pages. ]
The names of victims recorded on the East Tablet number thirty-eight. The name of
Willie Thomas, one of those killed at Springfield, seems to have been inadvertently
omitted. He, with the two volunteers frozen to death, make up the number to forty-one,
which is that given by several writers.
The monument was dedicated and turned over to the State on the 25th of July, 1895, at a
public meeting, at which were present all of the commissioners, except John F.
Duncombe, absent in Europe; Hon. Charles E. Flandreau, of Minnesota, the Indian Agent
who. organized the rescue of two of the women captives; Mrs. Irene C. Thomas, a
survivor of the Springfield massacre, Chetanmaza, one of the Dakota braves who
negotiated Miss Gardner's release, Col. Warren S. Dungan, Lieutenant Governor of the
State; Hon. W. S. Richards, private secretary to Governor F. D. Jackson, and representing
that officer, and a large concourse of people from many miles around. Addresses were
made by Hon. R. A. Smith, president of the day, Ex-Governor Carpenter, Hon. C. E.
Flandreau and others, and the monument was formally accepted for the State by Mr.
Richards, in behalf of the Governor. Its conspicuous place, in a locality thronged with
summer visitors from all parts of the world, has made it one of the best known cenotaphs
in the West.
William Williams. Residence Fort Dodge, Webster County, Iowa. Appointed by
Governor James W. Grimes in the fall of 1865, as Executive Agent at Fort Dodge, to take
such measures as might be deemed necessary to protect settlers from the Indians and to
preserve the peace. He already, at that time, bore the title of Major, from service in the
Page 36
Pennsylvania Militia. When trustworthy information came to him of the massacre of
settlers at the Dickinson County Lakes, he at once, under authority of his appointment
from the Governor, called for volunteers, organized them into three military companies,
of which he appointed the officers, and led them on the expedition to rescue the imperiled
settlers, and punish the savage marauders. The termination of his authority as Executive
Agent, which indeed was, in a sense, extralegal, does not appear of record, so far as has
been ascertained. It would at least cease with the expiration of the term of office of
Governor Grimes. Major Williams was born at Huntington, Westmoreland County,
Pennsylvania, Dec. 6, 1796. He engaged in business pursuits in that state until 1849 when
he came to Muscatine, Iowa, where lived his brother, the old pioneer Judge Joseph
Williams. He received at this time an appointment as sutler, or post trader, to the garrison
about to establish the military post of Fort Dodge, on the upper Des Moines River. On the
evacuation of the post, in 1853 he remained there, and purchased the site as government
land and laid out the city of Fort Dodge. When it was organized as a city, he was elected
its first-Mayor. He died at Fort Dodge, Feb. 26, 1874.
George B. Sherman. Residence Fort Dodge. Appointed Commissary of the Expedition.
No biographical sketch obtained.
George R. Bissell, M. D. Residence Fort Dodge. Appointed Surgeon of the Expedition.
Rendered efficient service in treating the wounded of the Springfield refugees when they
were met near Emmetsburg. No biographical sketch obtained.
Charles B. Richards Residence Fort Dodge. Enrolled March 23, 1857, and chosen as
Captain of Company A. Born at Warrensburg, Warren County, New York, Aug. 13,
1833. Educated at the Kinderhook and Glenis Falls Academy and the Polytechnic
Institute, Troy, New York. Studied law at Utica, and was admitted to the bar there, after
which he came to Iowa, and located at Fort Dodge, in 1855. Held the position of Register
of the United States Land Office there from 1861 to 1869. He
was one of the founders of the First National Bank of Fort Dodge, and also became a
large coal operator. He was subsequently very fortunate in mining operations in the
Rocky Mountains and removed to San Diego, Cal. (Charles Aldrich, in Annals of Iowa,
Third Series, Vol. III p. 509.)
Franklin Asa Stratton. Residence Fort Dodge. Chosen First Lieutenant of Company A,
March 23, 1857. Born in Massachusetts about 1832 (twenty-nine years old in 1861).
Raised a company of cavalry in Fort Dodge and vicinity in August, 1861, for Colonel
Josiah Harlan's "Independent Cavalry," to serve in the Army of the Potomac. The policy
of accepting independent cavalry commands having been abandoned by the Government,
and the regiment being composed largely of volunteers from Pennsylvania, the regiment
was given the name of Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry, in which Captain Stratton's
Company was mustered as Company A, on Oct. 29, 1861. Stratton was thus recognized
as ranking Captain, which led to his promotion as Major Sept. 1, 1862, Lieutenant
Colonel Oct. 1, 1864, and Colonel of the regiment May 25, 1865. He received a brevet as
Brigadier General of Volunteers March 13, 1865, and was mustered out on the 13th of
August, 1865. The service of the regiment was principally in the vicinity of Suffolk,
Page 37
Virginia, and in North Carolina, under General John J. Peck, and later in Kautz's
Division, Eighteenth and Twenty-fifth Army Corps. Colonel Harlan was succeeded by
Colonel Samuel P. Spear, who was soon placed in command of a brigade, and Major
Stratton exercised an independent command of a detachment of the regiment from soon
after his promotion until the close of his service. He was frequently commended in
reports and correspondence of his superiors. Governor Carpenter states that he received a
commission in the regular service, after the war, but we do not find the statement
confirmed in Heitman's Historical Register. He died July 17, 1879. (Report, Adjutant
General of Iowa, 1863; Heitman's Historical Register, U. S. Army; Rebellion Records,
Union and Confederate Armies.)
L.K. Wright. Residence Fort Dodge. Appointed Sergeant of Company A, March 23,
1857. No biographical sketch obtained.
Solon Mason. Residence Fort Dodge. Appointed Corporal of Company A, March 23,
1857. No biographical sketch obtained.
George W. Brizee. Residence Fort Dodge. Occupation lawyer. Enrolled as private in
Company A, March 23, 1857. No biographical sketch obtained.
William E. Burkholder. Residence Fort Dodge. Enrolled as private in Company A,
March 23, 1857. Accompanied the command to Granger's Point. near the Minnesota State
line, where he volunteered on April 2, 1857, as one of a detachment under Captain J. C.
Johnson, to go to the Dickinson County lakes, to bury the dead. On the march of the
detachment to rejoin the main body on the Des Moines River, Burkholder and Captain
Johnson, endeavoring to escape the fury of the storm which had overtaken them,
wandered away from their comrades and were frozen to death on the 5th or 6th of April,
in Palo Alto County, on the west side of the West Fork of the Des Moines River. Their
bones were not discovered until 1868, when they were identified by their guns and
powder flasks. Mr. Burkholder's remains were interred at Fort Dodge, where the funeral
ceremonies were conducted, in part, by Major Williams The place and date of birth of
Mr. Burkholder was not ascertained. He was, at the time of the Expedition, an intimate
friend of C. C. Carpenter afterwards Governor of Iowa, who, in 1864, married Susan
Burkholder his sister. He was nominated by the Republican party for the office of
Recorder and Treasurer of Webster County, but his death occurred before election.
(Narratives of Carpenter, Maxwell and others, and editorial remarks of Charles Aldrich,
in Annals of Iowa, Third Series Vol. III. )
Cyrus Clay Carpenter. Residence Fort Dodge. Occupation teacher and land surveyor.
Met the Relief Expedition in Palo Alto County, near present site of Emmetsburg, on the
26th of March, 1857, and joined it as a private in Company C. Born in Susquehanna
County, Pa., Nov. 24, 1829. Attended Academy at Hartford, and engaged in teaching at
eighteen, following that vocation and farm work in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Came to
Iowa in 1854, and settled in Fort Dodge in June of that year Found employment as land
surveyor, and was upon a trip in that capacity when he met the Relief Expedition, Was
elected Representative in Iowa general Assembly in the fall of 1857. Received
commission from President Lincoln, as Captain and Commissary of Subsistence, March
24, 1862, and was assigned to duty with General Rosecrans, but transferred, at a later
Page 38
date, to the Left Wing, Sixteenth Army Corps, under General G. M. Dodge. Promoted
Lieutenant Colonel Sept. 26, 1864, and became Chief Commissary of the Fifteenth Army
Corps, under Major General John C. Logan. Brevetted Colonel of Volunteers July 12,
1865, for efficient and meritorious service. Mustered out July 14 1865. Register Iowa
State Land Office, 1867 to 1871 Elected Governor of Iowa, and inaugurated Jan. 11,
1872. Re-elected for the term 1874-1876. Second Comptroller United States Treasury
1876-1877. State Railroad Commissioner March to August, 1876, Member of Congress
two terms 1879-1883. Representative Iowa general Assembly 1884. Died on his farm
near Fort Dodge May 29, 1898. (Gue's History of Iowa, Vol. IV; Heitman's Historical
Register U. S. Army.)
Henry Carse. Residence probably Fort Dodge. Enrolled as private in Company A,
March 23, 1857. Volunteered at Granger's Point, near Minnesota line, April 2nd, as one
of burial detachment to go to the Lakes. Suffered severely in the storm on their return, he
having his feet badly frozen, and was taken into camp in a delirious condition. Was
recently from Princeton, Ill, but no other biographical data obtained. ( Narratives of
Maxwell and Laughlin, Annals of Iowa, Third Series, Vol. III.)
Chatterton. Residence probably Fort Dodge. Enrolled as private in Company A,
March 23, 1857. No biographical sketch obtained None of the lists of the company give
his name in full, which seems to imply that he was a stranger to most of the company,
and that he removed from the vicinity of Fort Dodge soon after the event.
Julius Conrad. Residence probably Fort-Dodge. Enrolled as private in Company A,
March 23, 1857. No biographical sketch obtained.
L. D. Crawford. Residence probably Fort Dodge. Enrolled as private in Company A,
March 23, 1857. No biographical sketch obtained.
J. W. Dawson. Residence probably Fort Dodge. Enrolled as private In Company A,
March 23, 1857. Assigned to duty as teamster for the company. Was then about seventy
years of age. No other biographical data obtained. (Narrative of Richards, Annals of
Iowa, Third Series, p. 522.)
William Defore, or William A. DeFoe. (The latter name given by R. A. Smith, in
History of Dickinson County, p. 84.) Residence Boone County, Iowa. Enrolled as private
in Company A, at Fort Dodge, March 23, 1857. One of advance guard when Springfield
refugees were met. Volunteered at Granger's Point, April 2nd, as one of burial
detachment to go to the Lakes. No biographical sketch obtained. [Smith's History of
Dickinson County, Iowa, p. 84. Governor Carpenter's Narrative, Annals of Iowa, Third
Series, p. 482. Captain Richards does not give his name as one of the burial party (Annals
of Iowa, Third Series, p. 514), but Smith says his presence is well established as one of
the twenty-three. ]
John Farney. Residence probably Fort Dodge. Enrolled as private in Company A, March
23, 1857. No biographical sketch obtained.
Page 39
William N. Ford. Residence probably Fort Dodge. Enrolled as private in Company A,
March 23, 1857. Volunteered April 2nd, as one of burial detachment to go to the Lakes.
No biographical sketch obtained.
John Gales. Residence probably Fort Dodge. Enrolled as private in Company A, March
23, 1857. No biographical sketch obtained.
Andrew Hood. Residence Fort Dodge. Enrolled as private in Company A, on meeting
the Expedition at Shippey's claim, in Palo Alto County, near present site of Emmetsburg,
March 28, 1857. Mr. Hood was a native of Scotland. No other biographical data obtained.
Angus McBane. Residence Fort Dodge. Enrolled as private in Company A, March 28,
1857, at Shippey's claim in Palo Alto County, near present site of Emmetsburg. Was
returning from a trip to Algona with C. C. Carpenter, and joined the Expedition, when it
was met, on learning its destination and object. Mr. McBane was a Scotchman, a man of
means, who had become the owner of several tracts of land throughout that region, and
was afterwards President of the Merchants' National Bank of Fort Dodge. (Narrative of
C. C. Carpenter, Annals of Iowa, Third Series, Vol. III pp. 481, 2).
William McCauley. Residence probably Fort Dodge. Enrolled as private in Company A,
March 23, 1857. No biographical sketch obtained.
E. Mahan. Residence probably Fort Dodge. Enrolled as private in Company A, March
23, 1857. No biographical sketch obtained.
Michael Maher. Residence probably Fort Dodge. Enrolled as private in Company A,
March 23, 1857. Lived in later years at or near Estherville, Iowa. No other biographical
data obtained. (R. A. Smith, Okoboji, Iowa. )
B.F. Parmenter. Residence Jasper County, Iowa. Enrolled as private in Company A, at
Fort Dodge, March 23, 1857. Mr. Parmenter was one of the party who visited the
Okoboji Lakes on the 16th and 17th of March, and discovered the dead bodies and other
evidences of a massacre. They reached Fort Dodge with the news on March 21st and
immediate]y enrolled with the Relief Expedition. Parmenter was born in Vermont in
1827, soon afterwards became a resident of Erie County New York, and removed to
Jasper County, Iowa, in 1855. In the summer of 1857, he became one of the first
proprietors of the town site of Spirit Lake. He died in the early seventies. (R. A Smith,
Okoboji Iowa. )
William P. Pollock. Residence probably Fort Dodge. Enrolled as private in Company A,
on meeting the Expedition at Shippey's claim, in Palo Alto County, near present site of
Emmetsburg, March 28, 1857. No biographical sketch obtained.
W. F. Porter. Residence probably Fort Dodge. Enrolled as private in Company A, March
23 1857. No biographical sketch obtained.
L.B. Ridgeway. Residence probably Fort Dodge. Enrolled as private in Company A,
March 23, 1857. No biographical sketch obtained.
Page 40
George P. Smith. Residence Border Plains, Webster County, Iowa. Enrolled as private in
Company A, at Fort Dodge, March 23, 1857. Volunteered at Granger's Point, April 2nd,
as one of burial detachment to go to the Lakes. On their return, was one of five, including
Captain J. C. Johnson and W. E. Burkholder, to separate from their companions, by a
detour around a marsh, with the result that Johnson and Burkholder were frozen to death.
No biographical sketch obtained.
Roderick C. Smith. Residence Fort Dodge. Enrolled as private in Company A, March
23, 1857. Was one of the advance guard of ten when Springfield refugees were met on
March 30th. Volunteered at Granger's Point, April 2nd, as one of burial detachment to go
to the Lakes Remained at the Gardner cabin with six others until April 6th, thus escaping
the worst of the blizzard. This party retraced their steps by way of Granger's Point, where
a team and wagon had been left for them; took on, at the Irish Colony, the women,
children and wounded men of the Springfield refugees, and Henry Carse, disabled with
frozen feet; crossed Cylinder Creek channel by improvising a raft, and drawing it back
and forth with ropes, and finally reached Fort Dodge about April 15th, nearly famished
from their supply of food being exhausted throughout the entire return trip. Mr. Smith
was born in Wyoming County, New York, in 1829. He came to Webster County, Iowa, in
1856. Two weeks after the return of the Relief Expedition to Fort Dodge, he went back
with a party of settlers to the Dickinson County Lakes, and has made his home there ever
since. He was elected first Clerk of the District Court in Dickinson County, and also
Justice of the Peace, in 1857. He again served as Clerk of the District Court, 1863 to
1865. He was County Surveyor, 1878 to 1894, except three terms; County Superintendent
of Schools, 1880 to 1886; member House of Representatives, Twelfth General Assembly,
1868, and County Supervisor 1872 to 1874. He has been prominent in the organization
and activities of the Iowa Pioneer Lawmakers' Association. In 1902, he wrote and
published a History of Dickinson County, Iowa, which has been a valuable aid in this
present compilation. He is living (1910) at Okoboji, Iowa.
Winton Smith. Residence probably Fort Dodge. Enrolled as private in Company A,
March 23, 1857. A native of Vermont, who came to Iowa in 1865. No other biographical
data obtained. (R. A. Smith, Okoboji, Iowa. )
Owen S. Spencer. Residence probably Fort Dodge. Enrolled as private in Company A,
March 23, 1857. Volunteered at Granger's Point April 2nd, as one of burial detachment to
go to the Lakes. On returning, he and Robert McCormick separated from the rest of the
party at Mud Creek, crossed that stream nearer its source, and reached the Irish Colony
with less difficulty than the others. No biographical sketch obtained.
C. Stebbins. Residence probably Fort Dodge. Enrolled as private in Company A, March
23, 1857. Volunteered at Granger's Point April 2nd, as one of burial detachment to go to
the Lakes. No biographical sketch obtained.
Silas VanCleave. Residence Fort Dodge. Enrolled as private in Company A, March 23,
1857. Volunteered at Granger's Point, April 2nd, as one of burial detachment to go to the
Lakes. Enlisted at Fort Dodge August 22, 1862, in Company L Thirty-second Iowa
Infantry, and was mustered out with the regiment at the expiration of its three years'
Page 41
service. Born in Indiana and was twenty-seven years old when enlisted. No other
biographical data obtained.
D. Westerfleld. Residence probably Fort Dodge. Enrolled as private in Company A,
March 23, 1857. No biographical sketch obtained.
R. U. Wheelock. Residence Newton, Jasper County. Enrolled as private in Company A,
at Fort Dodge, March 23, 1867. Had visited Lake Okoboji, with O. C. Howe and B. F.
Parmenter, a few days before, and discovered the dead bodies. Volunteered at Granger's
Point, April 2nd, as one of burial detachment to go to the Lakes. Remained at the Gardner
cabin with R. A. Smith and others until April 6th. (See Smith biography.) Born in Erie
County, New York, in 1822. Came to Jasper County, Iowa, in 1855. Settled at Spirit
Lake, Dickinson County, May, 1857. Built the first frame house on the town site of Spirit
Lake. Postmaster of Spirit Lake, 1858 to 1863. Removed to Boonesborough, Iowa, 1863.
No other biographical data obtained. (R. A. Smith's History of Dickinson County, Iowa. )
John F. Duncombe. Residence Fort Dodge. Lawyer and editor. Enrolled March 23,
1857, and chosen as Captain of Company B. Born in Erie County, Pa., Oct. 22, 1831, and
educated at Alleghany College, Meadville, in that State. Settled in Fort Dodge, in 1855,
and was the pioneer lawyer in that town. Established the Fort Dodge Sentinel, the first
journal in the county, in company with A. S. White. Was elected to the State Senate in
1859, and served in two war sessions of 1860 and 1862. Was also member of the Lower
House in 1872 and in 1880, and was for eighteen years one of the regents of the State
University. Aside from his continuous work as a lawyer, he was a large operator in coal
and gypsum. He died at Fort Dodge, Aug. 2, 1902. (Charles Aldrich, in Annals of Iowa,
Third Series, Vol. III p. 491.)
James Linn. Residence Fort Dodge. Enrolled March 23, 1857, and chosen First
Lieutenant of Company B. No biographical sketch obtained.
Smith E. Stevens. (Name given as S. C. Stevens in roster on monument tablet.)
Residence Fort Dodge. Enrolled March 23, 1857, and chosen Second Lieutenant of
Company B. No biographical sketch obtained.
William N. Koons. Residence Fort Dodge. Enrolled March 23, 1857, and appointed
Sergeant of Company B. No biographical sketch obtained.
Thomas Callagan. Residence Fort Dodge. Enrolled March 23, 1857, and appointed
Corporal of Company B. "Thomas Calligan, a powerful, big-hearted Irishman, of my
company, whenever we reached a stream would throw me on his shoulders as easily as if
I had been a child, and carry me over in spite of my protests against his doing so."
(Captain J. F. Duncombe, Annals of Iowa, Third Series, Vol. III p. 507.) No biographical
sketch obtained.
Jesse Addington. (James on monument tablet.) Residence probably Fort Dodge.
Enrolled March 23, 1857, as private in Company B. Volunteered at Granger's Point, April
Page 42
2nd, as one of burial detachment to go to the Lakes. On their return he was one of those
who accompanied Captain J. C. Johnson and W. E. Burkholder in a detour away from the
main body of the detachment. Addington, Smith and Murray found their way to the Irish.
Colony, but Johnson and Burkholder were frozen to death. No biographical sketch
D. H. Baker. Residence probably Fort Dodge. Enrolled March 23, 1857, as private in
Company B. No biographical sketch obtained.
Hiram Benjamin. Residence probably Fort Dodge. Enrolled March 23, 1857, as private
in Company B. No biographical sketch obtained.
Orlando Bice. Residence probably Fort Dodge. Enrolled March 23, 1857, as private in
Company B. No biographical sketch obtained.
Asa E. Burtch. Residence Hampton, Franklin County, Iowa. Enrolled at Fort Dodge,
March 23, 1857, or at Shippey's March 28th, as private in Company B. Volunteered at
Granger's Point, April 2nd, as one of burial detachment to go to the Lakes. Remained in
Gardner's cabin with Parmenter, Wheelock and others, April 4th to 6th, and thus escaped
worst dangers of the blizzard. Burtch was a native of Lawrenceburg, Ind., born June 20
1833, a relative of Joel Howe, or J. M. Thatcher, or both, who had come to Iowa with
them, from Kokomo. Howard County, in October, 1865. When Harvey Luce and
Thatcher went to Waterloo for supplies, Burtch, with Enoch Ryan, Robert Clark and
Jonathan Howe, returned to the Lakes with them. Thatcher and Burtch stopped at
Shippey's with the exhausted oxen. Luce, Ryan and Clark kept on their journey and met
their fate at the hands of the Indians. Burtch remained at Fort Dodge until May, 1857,
then returned to Hampton, but removed to Cedar Falls in the fall of that year Removed to
Des Moines in the fall of 1861, and enlisted there in Company C, Twenty-second Iowa
Infantry. Mustered out July 26, 1865, since which time has made his home at Indianola,
Iowa. (Letter from C. E. Burtch to writer, January, 1910. )
R. F. Carter. (F. R. Carter, in Harris Hoover's list.) Residence probably Fort Dodge.
Enrolled March 23, 1857, as private in Company B. No biographical sketch obtained.
Richard Carter. Residence probably Fort Dodge. Enrolled March 23, 1857, as private in
Company B. No biographical sketch obtained.
Michael Cavanaugh Residence probably Fort Dodge. Enrolled March 23, 1857, as
private in Company B. No biographical sketch obtained.
A. E. Crouse. Residence probably Fort Dodge. Enrolled March 23. 1857, as private in
Company B. No biographical sketch obtained.
Jeremiah Evans. Settler at McKnight's Point, on West Fork, Des Moines River, in
Humboldt County, Iowa, and joined the Expedition when it arrived there, being enrolled
in Company B, March 27, 1857. No biographical sketch obtained.
Page 43
John Hefley. Residence probably Fort Dodge. Enrolled March 23, 1857, as private in
Company B. No biographical sketch obtained.
Orlando C. Howe. Residence Newton, Jasper County, Iowa. Enrolled at Fort Dodge
March 23, 1857, as private in Company B. Had visited the Okoboji Lakes, a few days
before, with Parmenter and Wheelock, discovered the fact of the massacre, returned to
Fort Dodge with the news, which induced the assembling of the Relief Expedition. He
volunteered at Granger's Point, April 2nd, as one of the burial detachment to go to the
Lakes. Remained there at Gardner's cabin during the blizzard of April 4th to 6th, and thus
escaped the worst of its fury. Born at Williamstown, Vt., Dec. 19, 1824, educated at
Aurora (N. Y.) Academy; studied law in Buffalo, N. Y., and admitted to the bar there.
Removed to Jasper County, Iowa, in 1855. Settled at Spirit Lake, Dickinson County, in
The summer of 1857, and was elected first County Judge of the County. At the election, in the fall of 1858 (the first under the new constitution), he was elected District Attorney of the Fourth Judicial District, comprising nearly one-fourth of the State. In 1862 he
returned to Newton and was soon afterward commissioned Captain of Company L, Ninth
Iowa Cavalry, in which he served until the end of the war. From 1878 to 1880 he was
professor in the Law School of the State University of Iowa. He then removed to Barber
County, Kansas, where he became District Judge. He was afflicted with insanity in the
summer of 1899, and died, at Topeka, Kan., August 31, 1899. (R. A. Smith's History of
Dickinson County, Iowa; B. F. Gue's History of Iowa, Vol. IV.)
D.F. Howell Residence probably Fort Dodge. Enrolled March 23, 1857, as private in
Company B. No biographical sketch obtained.
Albert S. Johnson. (Name given by C. C. Carpenter, as Albert H. Johnson --Annals of
Iowa, Third Series, Vol. III p. 483.) Residence Webster County, Iowa. Enrolled March
23, 1857, as private in Company B. Was one of advance guard, on March 31st, that first
met the Springfield refugees. No biographical sketch obtained.
Michael McCarty. Residence probably Fort Dodge. Enrolled March 23, 1857, as private
in Company B. No biographical sketch obtained.
G. F. McClure. Residence probably Fort Dodge. Enrolled March 23, 1857 as private in
Company B. No biographical sketch obtained.
Robert McCormick. Residence Fort Dodge. Enrolled March 23, 1857, as private in
Company B. Volunteered at Granger's Point, April 2nd, as one of burial party to go to the
Lakes. Separated from the party with O. S. Spencer at Mud Creek, on their return, April
4th, and arrived at the Irish Colony with less suffering from the blizzard than the others.
Born in Ireland. Came to Webster County, Iowa, in 1855. Was killed in a claim quarrel,
in 1858, by W. Shippey. (Letter from R. A. Smith Okoboji, Iowa. )
John N. McFarland. (John McFarlee, in Harris Hoover's list—Abbie Gardner's History
Spirit Lake Massacre, p. 134.) Residence probably Fort Dodge. Enrolled March 23, 1857,
as private in Company B. No biographical sketch obtained.
Page 44
A. S. Malcome. Residence probably Fort Dodge. Enrolled March 23, 1857 as private in
Company B. Born, in ------, about 1832. (Was twenty-nine years old in 1861.) Enlisted
Aug. 20, 1861, from Jamestown, Howard County, Iowa, in Captain Frank A. Stratton's
Company, which became Company A, Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry. Was appointed
Fourth Corporal of the Company and served out his term of enlistment. No other
biographical data obtained. (Letter from R. A. Smith, Okoboji, Iowa; Iowa Adjutant
General's Reports, war period.)
Daniel Morrissey. Residence probably Fort Dodge. Enrolled March 23, 1857 as private
in Company B. No biographical sketch obtained.
Jonas Murray. Residence probably Fort Dodge. Enrolled March 23, 1857, as private in
Company B. Volunteered at Granger's Point, April 2nd, as one of burial detachment to go
to the Lakes. Had made previous visits to the Lakes as a trapper, and undertook to guide
the portion of the detachment who started on their return, April 4th. He thus led Captain
Johnson, Burkholder, Addington and Smith on the detour around a marsh, away from
their comrades, which resulted in the death of Johnson and Burkholder by freezing. No
biographical sketch obtained.
Daniel Okeson. Residence probably Fort Dodge. Enrolled March 23, 1857, as private in
Company B. Honorably discharged March 26th at McKnight's Point, Humboldt County,
for inability to withstand the hardships of the march. No biographical sketch obtained.
John O'Laughlin. Residence probably Fort Dodge. Enrolled March 23, 1857, as private
in Company B. Honorably discharged March 26th, at McKnight's Point, Humbolt
County, for inability to withstand the hardships of the march. No biographical sketch
W. Searles. Residence probably Fort Dodge. Enrolled March 23, 1857, as private in
Company B. No biographical sketch obtained.
Guernsey Smith Residence probably Fort Dodge. Enrolled March 23, 1857, as private in
Company B. When the attempt was made to cross the overflowed Cylinder Creek, on the
return of the Expedition, April Ith, "Captain Duncombe selected Guernsey Smith, a man
of great strength and endurance," and Captain Richards selected his Corporal, Solon
Mason, to make, with those officers, an effort to cross in their wagon box, as an
improvised boat, but the box was swamped and all were thrown into the stream and
suffered greatly from the extreme cold. Mr. Smith lived in Floyd County later in life. No
other biographical data obtained. (R. A. Smith, Okoboji, Iowa.)
Joseph MIilton Thatcher. Residence Tusculum Grove, on east side of East Okoboji
Lake, Dickinson County, Iowa. Enrolled at Fort Dodge, March 23, 1857, or at Shippey's,
in Palo Alto County, March 28th, as private in Company B. Volunteered at Granger's
Point April 2nd, as one of burial detachment to go to the Lakes. Remained in Gardner's
cabin, with six others, until April 6th, and then returned by way of Granger's Point. (See
R. A. Smith, Company A.) Mr. Thatcher was born in Howard County, Ind., about 1832.
He was married at LaMotte, Jackson County, Iowa, in January, 1855, to Elizabeth,
daughter of James Wetherspoon and Adeline (Hodges) Blake, who were also natives of
Howard County, Ind., and had removed to Jackson County, Iowa' in 1854. Thatcher and
his wife removed to Hampton, Franklin County, Iowa, during the spring after their
marriage, and, in the fall of 1856, in company with Joel Howe and Alvin Noble (son-in-law of Howe), and their families, all former neighbors in Indiana, again removed to the
Dickinson County Lakes. A few weeks before the massacre, Mr. Thatcher and Harvey
Luce went to Waterloo for supplies. On their return, Thatcher and Asa Burtch were left at
Shippey's with their exhausted cattle, and thus escaped the attack of the Indians, in which
Mrs. Thatcher was taken captive and their little child murdered. Thatcher returned to
Hampton, and afterwards removed to Vandalia, Jasper County, from which place he
enlisted, July 25, 1862, in Company C, Twenty-second Iowa Infantry; was wounded
slightly in the hand May 22, 1863, at Vicksburg. Discharged for disability June 23, 1864,
at Baton Rouge, La. He married again, and removed to Galena, Kan., in the eighties;
married a third wife, in 1907, and soon after removed to New Mexico, where he is living
in 1910. Efforts to learn his postoffice address there have not been successful (Mrs. Sarah
J. (Blake) Rhea, Maquoketa, Iowa, sister of Mrs. Elizabeth Thatcher, Spirit Lake victim.)
Reuben Whetstone. Residence probably Fort Dodge. Enrolled March 23, 1857, as
private in Company B. No biographical sketch obtained.
John White. Residence probably Fort Dodge. Enrolled March 23, 1857 as private in
Company B. No biographical sketch obtained.
Washington Williams. Residence probably Fort Dodge. Enrolled March 23, 1857, as
private in Company B. No biographical sketch obtained.
William R. Wilson Residence not ascertained. at Fort Dodge, as private in Company B.
Enrolled March 23, 1857, Volunteered at Granger's Point April 2nd, as one of the burial
detachment to go to the Lakes. Remained at Gardner's cabin, with six others, until April
6th and then returned, by route they had come. (See R. A. Smith, Company A.) Wilson
had visited at Gardner's cabin during the winter, and thus became acquainted with the
family. Immediately after the return of the Expedition to Fort Dodge, he and Eliza
Gardner, who was one of the rescued Springfield refugees, were married, and took up
their residence in Hampton, Franklin County, Iowa, where they were found by Abbie
Gardner, after her return to civilization. He enlisted at Janesville, Iowa, August 16, 1862,
in Company B, Thirty-eighth Iowa Infantry, and was discharged for disability at New
Madrid, Mo., May 4, 1863. He was born in Indiana, and was forty-seven years old at the
time of enlistment. He died at Mason City, Iowa, date not ascertained, but it was prior to
the publication of Abbie Gardner Sharp's book in 1885. ( R. CA Smith's History of
Dickinson County, Iowa., and his letter, December, 1909; Abbie Gardner Sharp's History
of the Spirit Lake Massacre. )
John C Johnson. Residence Hamilton County, Iowa, near Webster City Enrolled at
Webster City, March 23, 1857, and chosen Captain of Company C. Volunteered at
Granger's Point, April 2d, as one of burial detachment of twenty-three to go to the Lakes.
captain Richards, being unable to get his horse over the river, gave up command of the
detachment, which then devolved on Captain Johnson. On the morning of April 4th,
Johnson, with fifteen others of the detachment, resolved to return in a straight
southeasterly direction towards the Irish Colony, on the Des Moines. In the afternoon of
that day, the blizzard came on, during which Johnson, Burkholder, Murray, Addington
and Smith detached themselves from the main party, to make a detour around a marsh,
spent the night within sight of their comrades, but, in the morning, took a southeast
direction, while the larger party kept due east. Johnson and Burkholder took off their wet
boots in the night, which were so frozen that they could not be pulled on in the morning.
Their three companions moved on, while the young men were cutting up blankets to
cover their feet, and this separation was for the last time on earth. Johnson and
Burkholder proceeded on a course parallel with the Des Moines River, probably traveled
all that day and the greater part of the next night. Their bones were found eleven years
afterwards, on an open prairie in Palo Alto County. They were given a funeral at Fort
Dodge, conducted, in part, by Major Williams; those of Captain Johnson were taken in
charge by Angus McBane, who sent them to Pennsylvania, to his mother, for burial at the
old home. John C. Johnson was born in Westmoreland County, Pa., southeast of and near
the city of Pittsburgh, which county was also the birthplace of Major Williams. The date
of his birth has not been ascertained, but he is spoken of as a young man and unmarried.
He removed first to Illinois, and subsequently to Hamilton County, Iowa, near Webster
City, where he had not lived long enough to form many acquaintances, but where his
gentlemanly manners and generous, frank disposition won such esteem and confidence
that he was unanimously elected by his comrades as Captain of the Company. "He was a
man of fine physique, was deliberate, quiet almost to reticence, with a handsome face and
manly eye." (Carpenter.) (Gleaned from the printed addresses and papers collected by
Charles Aldrich, before cited.)
John N. Maxwell Residence Webster City, Iowa. Enrolled March 23, 1857; and chosen
First Lieutenant of Company C. On March 3] it was one of ten scouts, or advance guard,
which first met the Springfield refugees. Volunteered at Grangers's Point April 2d, as one
of the burial detachment to go to the Lakes. During the terrible night of April 4th, spent
on the open prairie on their return, his endurance and watchful care doubtless saved his
entire party from freezing to death. Lieutenant Maxwell was born near Paris, Ill, April 20,
1835. He removed to Iowa in 1854, settling, three years later, on his farm a few miles
southeast on Webster City, where he still resides (in 1910). He enlisted August 11, 1862,
in Company A, Thirty-second Iowa Infantry, and served the full term of three years,
attaining the rank of First Sergeant of the Company.
Frank R. Mason. Residence Webster City, Iowa. Enrolled March 23, 1857, and was
chosen Second Lieutenant of Company C. Was one of the ten scouts, or advance guards,
who, on March 31st, met the Springfield refugees. Captain Johnson and Lieutenant
Maxwell, having gone with the burial detachment, he took command of Company C, on
the homeward trip, and has told a graphic story of its perils in his paper prepared for the
"Tablet Day" exercises. Lieutenant Mason was born in Cammington, Hampshire County,
Mass., March 27, 1836. He removed to Webster City (then Newcastle), Iowa, in
November, 1855.
Harrison Hoover. (Called also Harris and Harry.) Residence Webster City, Iowa.
Enrolled March 23, 1857, and appointed Sergeant of Company C. During the terrible
Page 47
night of April 4th he, with a companion, crossed Cylinder Creek, by proceeding up
stream about a mile, where a passable bridge of snow drifts was made use of, and they
assisted Captains Richards and Duncombe the next day in efforts to help the main body.
He wrote the first account of the Expedition, it being published in the Hamilton
Freeman (Charles Aldrich's paper), Aug. 20, 1857. Mr. Hoover was a Pennsylvanian by
birth, and returned to his native state in later years, being a resident of Pittsburg in 1887,
at the time of the "Tablet Day" exercises. He served four years in the army during the
Civil War, but the regiment has not been ascertained. No biographical data obtained.
A. Newton Hathaway. Residence Webster City, Iowa. Enrolled March 23, 1857, and
was appointed Corporal of Company C. Was one of the ten scouts, or advance guard,
who met the Springfield refugees on March 318t. He became delirious from the suffering
of the night of April 4th and the succeeding cold days, and had to be left with Mr.
Collins, on the East Fork of the Des Moines in Humboldt County, for several days to
recuperate. Mr. Hathaway was born in Windsor, Mass., in 1834. He removed to Webster
City in 1855 or 1856. He visited his native state in the winter of 1860-61 and, while there,
enlisted in Company I Fifteenth Massachusetts Infantry, to serve for three years. He was
in many severe battles in the Army of the Potomac, and gave his life for his country,—
being killed at the battle of Gettysburg.
Thomas Anderson. Residence Hamilton County, Iowa. Enrolled at Webster City, March
23, 1857, as private in Company C. No biographical sketch obtained.
Thomas B. Bonebright. Residence probably Webster City, Iowa. Enrolled March 23,
1857, as private in Company C. No biographical sketch obtained.
James Brainard. Residence in Hamilton County, Iowa. Enrolled at Webster City March
23, 1857, as private in Company C. No biographical sketch obtained.
Sherman Cassady. Residence in Hamilton County, Iowa. Enrolled at Webster City,
March 23, 1857, as private in Company C. No biographical sketch obtained.
William L. Church. Residence Springfield, Jackson County, Minn. Had visited Webster
City for supplies, and, reaching McKnight's Point, Humboldt County, on his return, had
heard of the presence of hostile Indians at the Lakes, and at his home, and of a Relief
Expedition being formed. He awaited there the arrival of the Expedition and, on March
27, 1857, enrolled himself as private in Company C. On March 31st, he was placed in
charge of an advance guard of ten men, which met a party, at first supposed to be Indians,
but which proved to be refugees from Springfield, among whom were the wife and two
small children of Mr. Church. He accompanied the fugitives on their journey towards
civilization, spent the days of the blizzard at the Irish Colony, and arrived in due time at
Webster City, where he afterwards made his home. William L. Church was born in Ohio,
in 1827. He enlisted in an Ohio regiment, in the Mexican War, and, among other service,
took part in an attack upon one of the fortifications at Churubusco. He removed to
Webster County, Iowa, in 1855, but, the following year, settled at Springfield, Minn.
After the Indian raid he returned to the vicinity of Webster City. In the spring of 1858, he
joined a company organized for the defense of the northwestern frontier, under Captain
H. B. Martin, of Webster City, and was elected its First Lieutenant. The company was
discharged in the spring of 1859. Aug. 1, 1861, he enlisted in Company F, Second Iowa
Cavalry and was commissioned First Lieutenant of the company Sept. 9, 1861. He
resigned Nov. 23, 1861. In 1887 he removed to Port Angeles, Washington, where he died
several years ago. (Charles Aldrich, Annals of Iowa, Third Series, Vol. III p. 546; Col. G.
W. Crosley, letter Dec. 29, 1909. John N. Maxwell, letter January, 1910. )
Patrick Conlan. Residence in Hamilton County, Iowa. Enrolled at Webster City, March
23,.1857, as private in Company C. No biographical sketch obtained.
Henry E. Dalley. Residence in Hamilton County, Iowa. Enrolled at Webster City, March
23, 1857, as private in Company C. Volunteered at Granger's Point April 2nd, as one of
burial detachment to go to the Lakes. Mentioned as leading into camp Henry Carse, who
had his feet badly frozen and was delirious. Said to have been a young boy. No
biographical sketch obtained.
John Erie. Residence in Hamilton County, Iowa. Enrolled at Webster City March 23,
1857, as private in Company C. No biographical sketch obtained.
Emery W. Gates Residence in Hamilton County, Iowa. Enrolled in Webster City March
23, 1857, as private in Company C. Acted as Cook for the detachment. The story was told
of him that he could throw a griddle cake out of a hole in the roof of the cabin, run out
and catch it the other side up on the griddle. He gave out on the return trip and, with
Corporal Hathaway, was left at Collins, in Humboldt County, to recuperate. No
biographical sketch obtained.
John Gates. Residence in Hamilton County, Iowa. Enrolled at Webster City March 23,
1857, as private in Company C. Mentioned by Frank R. Mason as a "tower of strength
and manliness," who came to the aid to Hathaway when delirious and refusing to move.
No biographical sketch obtained.
Josiah Griffith. Residence in Hamilton County, Iowa. Enrolled at Webster City, March
23, 1857, as private in Company C. No biographical sketch obtained,
James Hickey. Residence in Hamilton County, Iowa, Enrolled at Webster City, March
23, 1857, as private in Company C. No biographical sketch obtained.
Humphrey C. Hillock. Residence Hamilton County, Iowa. Enrolled at Webster City
March 23, 1857, as private in Company C. No biographical sketch obtained.
M. W. Howland. Residence in Hamilton County, Iowa. Enrolled at Webster City, March
23, 1857, as private in Company C. Mentioned as one of the first to cross Cylinder Creek
with Frank R. Mason, on the morning of April 6th. No biographical sketch obtained.
Elias D. Kellogg Residence in Hamilton County, Iowa. Enrolled at Webster City March
23, 1857, as private in Company C. Volunteered at Granger's Point April 2nd, as one of
burial detachment to go to the Lakes. Was one of the worst sufferers on the prairie during
the night of April 4th, and the next day, being badly frostbitten. He was a native of New
York State, born in 1838. He enlisted Aug. 9, 1861, from Kossuth County, as First
Corporal in Company F, Second Iowa Cavalry, and served until Jan. 27, 1862. Enlisted
again at Fort Dodge Aug. 22, 1862, in Company L Thirty-second Iowa Infantry,
promoted through the several grades to Fourth Corporal; Mustered out May 10 1865,
from Hospital, Keokuk, Iowa, where he had been sent with gunshot wound, but records
do not state where or when wound was received (T. L. Stephens, Record Clerk, A. G. O.,
Des Moines.) No other biographical data obtained.
William K. Laughlin. Residence Webster City, Iowa. Enrolled March 23, 1857, as
private in Company C. Was one of the ten scouts, or advance guard, who met the
Springfield refugees March 31st. Volunteered at Granger's Point, April 2nd, as one of
burial detachment to go to the Lakes. Mentioned as giving valuable assistance to
Lieutenant Maxwell in keeping their comrades alive on the prairie during the terrible
night of April 4th. He wrote for "Tablet Day" an excellent paper describing the
experiences of the Expedition. It gives dates clearly and has been largely quoted in our
text. Mr. Laughlin was born near Paris, Ill, Dec. 25, 1831. He settled in Newcastle
(afterwards Webster City), Iowa, in November, 1855. Enlisted Aug. 11, 1862, in
Company A, Thirty-second Iowa Infantry, and was discharged Feb. 17, 1865. He was
appointed Fourth Corporal on organization of the company and promoted to higher noncommissioned rank. On his return from the army he settled near Fort Dodge, but
removed, in 1894, to Thayer, Mo. Date of death not ascertained. (Charles Aldrich in
Annals of Iowa, Third Series, Vol. III p. 541.)
A. S. Leonard. Residence in Hamilton County, Iowa. Enrolled at Webster City, March
23, 1857, as private in Company C. No biographical sketch obtained.
F. R. Moody. Residence in Hamilton County, Iowa. Enrolled at Webster City March 23,
1857, as private in Company C. No biographical sketch obtained.
John Nowland (John Nolan, in Harris Hoover's list.) Residence in Hamilton County,
Iowa. Enrolled at Webster City, March 23, 1857, as private in Company C. No
biographical sketch obtained.
J. C. Pemberton Residence in Hamilton County, Iowa. Enrolled at Webster City, March
23, 1857, as private in Company C. No biographical sketch obtained.
Alonzo Richardson. Residence in Hamilton County, Iowa. Enrolled March 23, 1857, at
Webster City, as private in Company C. No biographical sketch obtained.
Patrick Stafford. Residence in Hamilton County, Iowa. Enrolled at Webster City, March
23, 1857, as private in Company C. No biographical sketch obtained.
Michael Sweeney. Residence Webster City, Iowa. Enrolled March 23, 1857, as private in
Company C. He wrote a short but excellent account of the experiences of the Expedition
to be read on "Tablet Day." He was born near the town of Rathkeale, Ireland, in 1828. At
the time of the Tablet Day celebration he was temporarily residing in Colorado, and had
acquired a handsome fortune. He had filled the offices of treasurer and sheriff of
Page 50
Hamilton County, Iowa. He died suddenly, in Fremont township, two miles from Webster
City, May 12, 1888. (Charles Aldrich, Annals of Iowa, Third Series, Vol. III. p. 537.)
A. K. Tullis. Residence in Hamilton County, Iowa. Enrolled at Webster City March 23,
1857, as private in Company C. No biographical sketch obtained.
Sergeant Hoover, in his list, published Aug. 20, 1857, four months after the event,
includes, as members of Company C, the uninjured men of the Springfield refugees, John
Bradshaw and Morris Markham. They are not thus recognized, however, on the roster
inscribed on the Spirit Lake Monument.
The roster, printed on p. 71, of Vol. II, Annals of Iowa, Third Series, contains, as a
member of Company C, the name of a man afterwards conspicuous in Iowa military and
official life, but the name does not appear on the monument, nor on Hoover's list, and R.
A. Smith assures the writer that he was not a member of the Expedition.