Photo from 1911 Crawford County History
Fort Purdy was really not a fort as we think of the term today. Instead it was a four room house that was built by John Purdy in 1856. As far as the historians can tell Fort Purdy was located on Broadway Street near Courthouse Square in Denison and identifies a neighborhood in Denison.
With the population of Crawford County growing steadily in the 1850s, there were as yet no banks in the county. So John Purdy was paid $1.75 for storing the county books and records at his home.
The home was built on a high piece of ground from which Mr. Purdy could see both Boyer Valleys and be alerted to any Indian attacks. Other settlers, even those as far away as, Mason's Grove, recognized this place as well located for defense and by the peoples agreement they joined there for protection, should it become necessary.
Indian scares were prevalent in the 1850s and the residents in the area were fearful of any encounters with the native Indians.
In the spring of 1857 reports reached Judge Morehead of Ida Grove in Ida County, that a band of Indians had burned Smithland on the Little Sioux River in what is now southern Woodbury County.
The report indicated that the Indians had driven off the inhabitants of Smithfield, some of whom they tomahawked, taken captive some of the women and children, and were moving on to Mapleton in Monona County and would soon reach Ida Grove.
Judge Morehead and others hastily loaded their families into wagons and started in the night for Mason's Grove, arriving before daylight at Benjamin Dobson's residence on April 29, 1857.
An excited council of citizens was called to deliberate and it was finally decided to post pickets out west and north to prevent a surprise. The evening of April 29 quite a number of neighbors "forted up" at the residences of Benjamin Dobson and John Purdy.
The Indians did not appear that night nor anywhere in the vicinity, as the people discovered later upon scouting the way back to Ida Grove. They encountered a Mr. Wagoner who was carrying mail, traveling on foot, from Smithland or Mapleton to Sac City. He indicated that there had been some slight difficulty between some of the citizens of Smithland and the Indians. The threats made during the difficulties were falsely exaggerated into actual deeds of attacks by the Indians on the citizens of Smithfield.
Source: The account of the 1857 Indian scare was included in the "Reminiscences of Thomas Dobson" in History of Crawford County, Iowa, Vol. I., 1911. S. J. Clarke Publishing, Chicago.