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A View From The Attic

Week of September 20, 2010


Fremont County Historical Society

INDIAN BURIAL GROUNDS

BY EVELYN BIRKBY

We know that prehistoric Indians, Woodlands and Plains Indians roamed Southwest Iowa during various periods in history. The oldest burial ground located so far in Fremont County is just west of Interstate 29 near the town of Bartlett. The site was held sacred by the Indians who lived in the county as late as the 1850s. A number of pioneer graves are also reported to be in this area. The land is now owned by the state with the condition that the graves not be disturbed.

Chief Waubonsie, along with the other Pottawattamie Indians, lived for a time in what became Mills and Fremont County. He completed his life in "Waubonsie Village," just north of the Fremont County line and west of the present town of Tabor. He died in 1848 at the age of 92. His body was covered with a blanket and bark and laid in a box made of hewn logs which was placed in the fork of a tree. Various of his possessions were also put in the box. Later, the body was buried in a grave which is now marked with a red granite boulder presented in 1972 by the Shenandoah Chapter of the D.A.R.

Sub-Chief Shawtee, was head of a Pottawattamie settlement located in the Lacy Grove area six miles south of Tabor.(Just west of where Charlie Polk once lived). When he died, his body was buried in the soil of Waubonsie State Park. Later, during highway construction, the grave was threatened, so Shawtee's body was moved to a safer, permanent gravesite away from the edge of the highway.

Another known Indian burial ground is high up on the bluffs near the old Pumpkin Center section of Fremont County. A descendant of one of the early pioneers took members of a local Boy Scout troop on a hike into that section of the bluffs. He pointed out the valley where the Indians wintered and the burial grounds on the bluff above the valley. He told the boys that the men were buried on higher ground than the women "so braves could watch over them."

Undoubtedly, other Indian burials were made in the county, including some in the French Cemetery east of Hamburg. Lack of records and descendants have made this part of the history sadly sketchy.

(Evelyn wrote this for the Cemetery Record Book which is still available for purchase in the research section of the Fremont County Historical Museum. )

The following came from a 1934 Hamburg Reporter: As late as the 1880s groups of Indians camped near the burying ground on the bluff southwest of Hamburg and again other groups camped "around the bluffs" north and east of Hamburg where Waubonsie Park is now located,