Another IAGenWeb Project





THE disastrous effects of the panic of 1857 upon emigration and settlement were felt with increasing severity. As has before been stated, emigration almost entirely ceased and the few that did come during the year and a half preceding the breaking out of the war seemed to be of that class who came to the frontier because they could find nothing else to do. They lacked the intelligence, energy and enterprise that characterized the first settlers. The population was now shifting, as many of the first who had come here yielded to the discouragements and difficulties by which they were surrounded, or had become disgusted at seeing those who had assumed to be leaders in the different enterprises which had been projected spent their means and energy in futile attempts to crush each other, rather than in the legitimate business of building up and carrying forward the enterprises they had in hand. The result was that many left who had previously thought favorably of making their permanent residence here, while those who remained were more or less discouraged and disheartened.


The spring and summer of 1860 were uneventful. Apprehensions of difficulties with the Indians were continually felt by the more timid, and as the sequel proved, two years later, these apprehensions were well founded. Governor Kirkwood had always manifested a lively interest in the growth and prosperity of the frontier settlements, and no man realized better than he the clangors to which they were exposed or the necessity of more adequate protection for them.


This question of frontier defense was a serious one for the state authorities. While the soldiers were at their posts and on duty, but very few Indians were to be seen, and the few that were met, with were profuse iii their protestations of friendship. No outrages were committed and no indignities suffered to the settlers, thus seeming to justify the criticisms so often made on the state authorities for such an extravagant use of the public funds as keeping an armed force on the frontier simply to gratify the vanity of a few favorites who were ambitious to wear soldier straps. But no sooner were the forces withdrawn than the annoyances began again. For about a year after Captain Martin's command was withdrawn the frontier was left without any pretense of protection by the state whatever.


In March, 1860, at the regular session of the Eighth General Assembly, the following bill was passed:


"Section 1. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Iowa, That for the purpose of protecting the citizens of the northwestern portion of the state and enabling them to defend themselves against the threatened depredations of marauding bands of hostile Indians, the Governor he and is hereby authorized to furnish to said settlers such arms and ammunition as he may deem necessary for the purposes aforesaid.


"Sec. 2. That the Governor he and hereby is authorized to cause to be enrolled a company of minute-men in number not. exceeding twelve, at the Governor's discretion, who shall at all times, hold themselves in readiness to meet any threatened invasion of hostile Indians as aforesaid. The said minute-men only to be paid for the time actually employed in the services herein contemplated.


"Sec. 3. That the said minute-men, under the orders of the Governor at his discretion, and under such regulations as he may prescribe, a number of not exceeding four may be employed as an active police for such time and to perform such services as may be demanded of them, who shall be paid only for the period during which they shall be actively employed as aforesaid.


"Sec. 4. There is hereby appropriated from the state treasury the sum of five hundred dollars, or so much thereof as may be necessary, for carrying into effect the provisions of this act."


This act was approved March 9th, 1860.


Thus we see that the state of Iowa was put on a war footing of four men inactive service and a reserve of eight to fall back on in ease of an emergency, and the whole hacked by an appropriation of five hundred dollars, and this, too, for the defense of two hundred miles of exposed frontier.


The minute-men were enlisted and stationed on the frontier, with headquarters at Cherokee. Prominent among them were two brothers from Alden, in Hardin County in this state, by the name of Purcell. Sam, the older of the two, was appointed leader. At that time they were well known along the border for their skill and courage as trappers and frontiersmen. Another member who was well known to the people here was George W. Lebaurvoux, of Cherokee. Whether there is any record in existence giving the names of the parties iii full, how long they were kept in service, what they were paid, when they were discharged or any other facts in relation to them, is not now known.


They were on duty from a year to a year and a half and they did splendid service. They were vigilant, active and alert, and attended strictly to their business, which was to carry dispatches from one point to another, to investigate and get at the truth of all reports regarding the movements of the Indians, and, in short, to make themselves generally useful. They did it faithfully and well. It is much to be regretted that no official record of their existence has been preserved. They were in all probability the only legally authorized company of minute-men ever raised in the state of Iowa, and it would be interesting to know more of them. It may be interesting to note here as a historical incident that the last hostile Indian killed in Iowa was by these scouts. The circumstances, as related by the men themselves and afterwards written up by Mr. Jareb Palmer for the Spirit Lake Beacon, and published in February, 1833, were substantially as follows:


“About the first of September, 1861, they were out scouting near the headwaters of Mill Creek and did not return until quite late at night. At this time they were making their headquarters at Cherokee and boarding with Lieutenant Lebaurvoux. Not caring to disturb Lebaurvaux and his family, who had already retired, they put their horses in the stable, which was simply a frame of crotches and poles covered with hay. After caring for their horses, they clambered upon the top of the stable, wrapped themselves in their blankets and were soon sleeping the sleep of the weary. But ere long the alert ear of one of the scouts detected an unusual noise in the stable below. Quietly waking his brother, they listened and became convinced that Indians were attempting to steal their horses.


“The night was moonless but starlight. How many savages were in the stable, they did not know, yet fearlessly grasping their rifles, they prepared to kill each his red man. Soon two of them appeared, each leading a horse, one of which belonged to the Lieutenant and the other one to the scouts. Each selected his Indian and fired, when the one leading the horse belonging to the Lieutenant fell dead in his tracks. The other one, though badly wounded, succeeded in making his escape. A party followed the trail next day and ascertained that the horse had dragged the Indian several miles before he was able to mount. It was afterwards learned that this Indian, though badly wounded, succeeded in reaching the agency, that he finally recovered, and what is more, he kept the stolen horse.”


Politically, the first settlers of this county were republicans, and for years there was not a democratic vote cast. At the first organization of the county, there were no township organizations effected and no township officers elected. This state of affairs remained in force until 1859, when the county was divided into two civil townships, Spirit Lake and Okoboji. The bridge at the narrows between East and West Okoboji Lakes was the division line. The next gear, or in 1860, a change was made and the town of East Okoboji was organized. The name of this town was subsequently changed to Tusculum. This arrangement for the civil township remained in force for several years, or until 1866, when a new deal was made by the .addition of Center Grove and Lakeville. A new adjustment of boundaries was also made at this time.


This arrangement remained in force until 1872, when the congressional townships were all organized as civil townships with the exceptions of Westport and Excelsior, which were together as one township until 1875.


The reader will bear in mind that at the time of the organization of this county, the county judge system was in force and remained in force until 1860. The older residents of the state will remember that tinder the old county judge system of government, the judges had almost absolute control of all matters connected with county government, and the system proved good or bad just as good or bad men were placed in the position. There is no question but that one man can transact more business and do it better and cheaper than any deliberative body, if he possesses the requisite integrity and ability for his position; while on the contrary, if the power is placed in incompetent or dishonest, hands, an amount of injury can be done that is almost incalculable.


The abuse of the county judge system had come to be a serious evil in this state and all portions were clamorous for its repeal. The system was finally abolished in 1860, and the supervisor system adopted in its stead.


When first adopted, the supervisor system provided for a supervisor from each organized township, being modeled after the New York system. This proved so cumbersome that it was afterward changed to the present system. The office of county judge was retained until 1868, but its duties were merely nominal, being simply judge of probate in their respective counties. Leonidas Congleton was county judge when the county business was transferred from that office to the Board of Supervisors.


The first Board of Supervisors were J. S. Prescott for Okoboji, Rosalvo Kingman for Spirit Lake, and William Barkman for East Okoboji, or Tusculum, as it was afterwards called: John Smith, clerk of the district court, acting as clerk. At that time the clerk of the district court was ex officio clerk of the Board of Supervisors, the office of county auditor not having been established until 1868. One of the first acts of this Board of Supervisors was the giving of quit-claim deeds to large quantities of swamp land to the contractors for the public building, upon their giving bonds that the contemplated improvements should' be completed according to agreement.


Armed with these deeds, which were eventually declared worthless, they sent Mr. Prescott to northern Illinois and Mr. Arthur to Wisconsin where they succeeded in disposing of quite a large quantity of them, but at a mere nominal price. Mr. Prescott also succeeded in inducing quite an emigration from Winnebago County, Illinois, during the spring and summer of 1861. Prominent among those who came that season were Daniel Bennett, Henry Meeker, William Close, J. W. O. Farrel, Samuel Phippin, E. V. Osborn, James Evans, C. H. and Samuel Evans, John Brown, H. W. Davis, Samuel Rogers, George Kellogg and several others. These all brought their families with them and for a short time the discouraged settlers began to hope that emigration had revived and that new life and vitality were to be injected into the frontier settlements. But this hope was of short duration.


The breaking out of the Civil War in the spring of 1861 put a stop to emigration altogether. Just as circumstances began to look a little more prosperous and settlers began to look with a little more hope to the future, then came the startling news that Sumpter had been attacked and that hostilities had commenced.


Then came the call for troops, and as a result the restless and adventurous element, which under ordinary circumstances strikes for the frontier, now went into the army, and as the season advanced and the preparations for war began to assume such gigantic proportions, emigration ceased entirely. In addition to this, as soon as it became evident that the rebellion was not going to be easily crushed, but that the contest would be sanguinary and hitter, the great majority of those who were liable to military duty went into the army.


Nor was this all. Along the sparsely settled region of the frontier, the proportion going into the army was greater than anywhere else. In no part of the country did the call for troops meet with a more ready response than in this county. A majority of those liable to military duty enlisted in the summer of 1861. The first enlistments were for an independent cavalry company that was being raised at Fort Dodge, which after being sent to the Army of the Potomac, was finally, through some sort of hocuspocus, transferred to the Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry instead of an Iowa regiment. Through the efforts of General N. B. Baker, this company was afterward credited to Iowa's quota of troops, but served in the Army of the Potomac to the close of the war.


The names of those from this county who served in that company were as follows: F. A. Blake, E. P. Ring, Samuel Rogers, Seth Emery, Charles Matthews, Albert Hodge, Charles Turner and George Daniels. E. P. Ring rose to the rank of major before his discharge. While he was captain of the company, it won a reputation for reckless daring equalled by few and excelled by none. The next company to receive recruits from this county was known as the Sioux City Cavalry, afterwards as Company I, Seventh Iowa Cavalry. The recruits from this county were as follows: A. Kingman, Henry Sehuneman, George Rogers, N. J. Smith, Thomas Doughty, Frank Doughty, H. D. Arthur, John Francis, Peter Ladu, Ethel Ellis, Gunder Mattheson, Norton Warner, Jareb Palmer, Robert Henderson, Norton Crosby, James Shackleford, H. C. Owen, Frank Mead and David Maxwell. O. C. Howe was given a captain's commission in the Ninth Iowa Cavalry. Daniel Bennett enlisted in an Illinois regiment. These are all of the enlistments from this county during 1861.


Subsequent to that time the enlistments from this county were as follows: H. J. Bennett, G. D. Rogers, Henry O. Farrell, William Prescott, L. F. Ring, John Jenkins, Eber Palmer, George Kellogg, William G. Jenkins, George Cooper and Newton Farmer. There were drafted from this county: C. H. Evans, James Evans, L. A. Stimpson and Samuel Phippin. Of these the two Evans went into the army and served to the close of the war, Phippin was rejected on examination on account of physical disability and Stimpson secured a substitute.


There were others also who left here before enlisting and so were credited to other localities, until at one time there were not more than a half dozen men in the county liable to enrollment for military duty.


During the period now under consideration but little occurred worth recording, except it was in some way related to the military operations of the country. Nearly every family was in some way represented in the army, and little else was thought of or talked of than the prospective success or failure of the forces in the field.


More or less apprehension had been felt from the start of Indian depredations. As a rule the Indians avoided the lake regions in their periodical excursions through the country. Occasionally a small party would stray through here, pretending to be friendly, but they were always shy and uncommunicative. As the settlement grew in strength these apprehensions grew less, .and families were beginning to feel a sense of security which was quite a relief from the feeling of ever-present danger which had prevailed up to this time.


The breaking out of the war, and the enlistment of nearly all of the able bodied men in the army, brought back the old feeling of danger and insecurity with all of its old time vividness. It will be noticed that a majority of those enlisting from this county had gone into Company I, of the Seventh Iowa Cavalry, or as it was then called, the Sioux City Cavalry. This company was not assigned to any regiment for more than a year after its first organization, but was detailed for scouting and frontier service.


During the winter of 1861 and 1862, they were divided up and scattered along the frontier from Sioux City to Estherville. Their headquarters were in Sioux City, and they had to go in every month to muster and draw their pay. The balance of the time they spent in scouting and carrying dispatches from post to post. These posts had been established along the frontier at points about fifteen miles apart. This plan was kept up during the winter of 1861 and 1862. Every day dispatches went sent over the line and reports made to headquarters. While the danger to which these troops serving on the frontier were exposed was not supposed to be as great as that of those who had gone to the front, their exposures, hardships and privations were much greater.


No person realized the importance of maintaining the frontier along its then existing lines more than Governor Kirkwood. Hostilities had no sooner commenced at the South than he realized the fact that the probabilities of trouble along the frontier were largely increased. As early as the twenty-fifth of April, or only a few days after the fall of Sumpter, he wrote a letter to his friend, Judge Baldwin of Council Bluffs, recommending the forming of volunteer companies. He says:


"I authorize you to make any such arrangements as you may think the safety of the border requires in the way of organizing companies and perfecting a system of communication with each other in case of need. I leave the whole matter to your discretion, confident that you will in all respects act with clue regard to the safety of the frontier and the public interest."


Judge Baldwin appointed General G. M. Dodge his adjutant, and on the sixth of May they together issued a circular or open letter to the inhabitants of the frontier counties embodying Governor Kirkwood's ideas and explaining the details of their organizations. These communications are interesting, as reflecting the state of public feeling at that time, but are too long to be produced here. There was no company organized in this county under the foregoing arrangement. The preliminaries for one were arranged at one time and the organization partly effected, but before it could be completed most of the boys volunteered and went into the service of the United States, and the "Home Guard" never materialized.


The following example is given as showing the nature of the danger to which the frontier settlements were at this time exposed. The fact that this event occurred within three miles of Sioux City only served to show up in stronger light the nature of the danger.


On the ninth day of July, 1861, two men were murdered by hostile Indians within three miles of Sioux City under the following circumstances: These men's names were Thomas Roberts and Henry Cordua. They had left town that morning for the purpose of working in a patch of potatoes three miles away, and not returning at night their families began to fear that some misfortune had befallen them, so a small party of men started out in the night for the purpose of ascertaining the cause of their detention. Upon arriving at the place where the men had been at work, their wagon was found overturned, the harness lying on the ground and the horses gone.


After a brief search the bodies of the men were found near where they had been working. Appearances indicated that the murdered men had stopped work about noon to eat their lunch and feed their horses. After tying their horses to the wagon and feeding them, the men had gone to a stream in a ravine near by to procure water. Upon returning and when within a short distance of the plowed field, they had been fired upon by the Indians in ambush. Mr. Roberts was shot in the back, the ball passing through the breast and lodging in his right hand, which was resting upon his breast with his thumb in the armhole of the vest. From this it is evident that he was unconscious of danger when the fatal shot was fired. The pail in which he had procured water remained in his hand, still holding about a quart of water. The ball fired at Cordua took effect in the left side and passed out of the right breast.