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Iowa Historical Record Quarterly

Published Quarterly by the State Historical Society, Iowa City, Iowa


VOL. II. APRIL, 1886. No. 2.

 A Heroine of the Revolution: Nancy Ann Hunter

      THE "Scotch Irish " immigration to America of the first half of the eighteenth century, has furnished many strong men to the nation. Prominent among them in the State of Iowa, were Governor Grimes, who was descended from that which settled in New Hampshire, and the Honorable A. C. Dodge, who was descended on his paternal grandmother's side, from that which settled in Pennsylvania.
      "It looks," said the provincial Secretary of Pennsylvania, on one occasion, "as if Ireland is to send all her inhabitants. Last week not less than six ships arrived." Many of the immigrants took up lands in the Cumberland valley, about Carlisle. They are described as a "Christian people " of the "better sort." Prominent among them were families of Calhoun, Dickey, Hunter. Of the latter family was Joseph Hunter; Molly Homes was his wife. They had eight children; Nancy Ann was the youngest; she was born at Carlisle.
      About 1769, the family removed to the "back country," and bought a large body of land from an Indian chief named Catfish (Tin-gooc-qua), of the Kuskukee tribe, which occupied the hunting grounds between the Allegheny mountains and the Ohio river. The land was situated where the town of Washington, Washington county, now stands, twenty-five miles southwest of Pittsburg. It was known as Catfish Camp. Lying on one of the main routes to the west, it was a rendezvous for adventurers, traders and military expeditions.
      Two sons of the family, James and Joseph, Jr., served in the Revolutionary army, the former losing his life.
      Failing in business, Joseph Hunter made over his Catfish Camp land " to his Philadelphia merchant," and removed with his family to Kentucky. The capture of Kaskaskia and Vincennes had given a powerful stimulus to western emigration. Mr. Hunter fell in with the tide of hardy adventurers. Zealous for his country, he was persuaded by General George Rogers Clark to leave the Bear Grass settlement, near Louisville, in the spring of 1780, and join an expedition to establish a fort and a settlement upon the banks of the Mississippi, a few miles below the mouth of the Ohio. It was in pursuance of the policy of Thomas Jefferson, then Governor of Virginia, who deemed it a matter of vital moment to maintain a watch at that point and vindicate the authority of the Commonwealth upon her farthest border. It was the object of the settlement, which was called Clark's Colony, to raise supplies for the garrison and give strength and support to the. post.
      The adventure, however miscarried. The Chickasaw Indians, who claimed the country, and the neighboring Cherokees, proved hostile and treacherous. A stockade was built, but the cultivation of the land was hazardous, from assaults of the savages, either in stealthy attacks or with overwhelming numbers. Much of the time the fort was the only place of safety. From the difficulty of procuring supplies, the garrison and settlement were sometimes reduced to the verge of starvation. At one time, pumpkins with the blossom yet on them afforded their principal food. Many were sick with ague and fever. On the opposite side of the Mississippi, then Spanish territory, was a favorite resort of buffaloes upon a beautiful prairie twelve miles distant. Joseph Hunter, Jr., with other daring scouts, ventured over there, eluding the Indians, and returned with pack-loads of buffalo meat upon their backs. In the course of the summer (1780), John Dodge brought down some supplies from Kaskaskia.
      He was a native of Connecticut, and before the Revolution had been an Indian trader at Sandusky; few men were better acquainted with the Indians. Being in sympathy with the Revolution, he was taken prisoner as a "suspect" by the British, and after a long and cruel captivity at Detroit, was sent in irons to Quebec, whence he managed to escape within the American lines. Governor Jefferson had taken him into his confidence and appointed him an Indian agent, in which capacity he was now employed in efforts to sustain this post, under instructions received from Col. John Todd, at the Falls of the Ohio. In a communication to his Excellency, recently published among the State papers of Virginia, he reported that the few goods he had left after supplying the troops must go for the purchase of provisions to keep the settlement from breaking up, and that without further relief the post must be evacuated. He employed some friendly Kaskaskias to hunt; but the supply from that source proved very precarious.
     On one occasion, when the savages that had beleaguered the settlement seemed to have gone away and it looked safe and quiet all around, a favorite cow was permitted, with her calf, to stroll outside the gate. But shortly, Indians were seen prowling among the thickets. In this emergency, as the men were parleying what to do, hesitating to expose themselves, Nancy Ann Hunter ran out into the open space, and taking up the calf brought it within the enclosure, the cow following, while the arrows of the savages whistled by and cut her clothing, herself unharmed. The next year (June 8, 1781), the position was abandoned.
      The Hunter family returned, some of them to the neighborhood of Louisville; others went to Kaskaskia. Meanwhile Israel, a son of John Dodge, married Miss Hunter. Israel Dodge was born in Connecticut, September 3, 1760. His mother was Lydia Rogers. Inheriting his father's spirit of adventure and patriotism, he joined the Revolutionary army, and served as second lieutenant at the battle of Brandywine, September 11, 1777. In a hand to hand fight, knocking off the bayonet of his assailant with his sword, he received a wound in the chest. It was on the same field where Lafayette began his military career at the age of twenty, and was shot through the leg. Joining in the western emigration of the period, Israel Dodge fell in with the Hunter family. In the record book of Col. John Todd, county lieutenant of Illinois, by appointment of Governor Patrick Henry, which is in possession of the Chicago Historical Society, the name of Israel Dodge appears as acting under the military authority of his father, John Dodge, at Kaskaskia, under date of April 29, 1782. In the fall of that year while upon a journey from this place to her parents in Kentucky, Mrs. Israel Dodge stopped over for rest and refreshment at "Post Vincennes," where Henry Dodge was born, October 12, 1782, under the hospitable roof of Moses and Ann Henry; the first American child born in what now constitutes the state of Indiana. The earlier white inhabitants were Canadian French.
      Moses Henry was of the Henry family of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which still retains its reputation of more than a century for the manufacture of arms. He was at Detroit at the time of John Dodge's captivity. After Vincennes came under the American flag, in July, 1778, he was one of the little force left in charge of that post, which capitulated to the British under Hamilton, the "Hair-Buyer," in the following December. And he was present at the recapture of the post by General Clark, February 24, 1779. He was now acting as gunsmith for the Indians.
      A few days after the birth of the child, a Piankeshaw chief came in, and said that it could not be allowed to live in their country, and he would dash out its brains. The mother plead for the life of her first born. Moses Henry explained that it was the "papoose " of a friend of his, whose "squaw " was sojourning in his house—that the child was born out of due time while the young mother was on her way to her people, and that they would soon go on their journey. These expostulations prevailed, the chief at the same time remarking, `"nits make lice; this little nit may grow to be a big louse and bite us;" a prophecy which came true. In gratitude to her benefactor, Mrs. Dodge gave his full name to the child, which he retained until he was grown, when he adopted the single name, Henry.
      Subsequently, the family established their home at Spring Station, near Louisville; afterwards at Bardstown.
      Kentucky was then "the dark and bloody ground." The savages waged a merciless warfare upon the settlements. A block-house, built of logs, surrounded by a palisade or picketwork, was the chief protection against sudden attacks. Every dwelling was a fortress. Every man carried arms. The mother and a sister of our heroine were killed and scalped by the Indians, upon a Sunday,- evening in May, while viewing their flax patch; a brother at the same time barely escaped by his fleetness on foot, his shirt being powder-burnt from their guns. Subsequently, while at work in the fence row of the same field, he was killed by the Indians. Then a young child, Henry Dodge was taken captive by the Indians, but returned unharmed. Five of his uncles on the paternal and maternal sides fell under the Indian hatchet. It was among the incidents of his earliest recollection to have seen the dead and bleeding body of one of those uncles borne in the arms of another on horseback to the stockade in which they lived.
      At Bardstown, Israel Dodge built the first stone house, which was used as a tavern. Here his second child was born, named Nancy for her mother. She became the wife of Joseph Coon, of Cincinnati, and, after his death, of the Rev. John Sefton, of St. Louis. The venerable Mrs. Rebecca W. Sire, of St. Louis, is a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Sefton. Henry Dodge received the rudiments of education in a log school house at Bardstown. Among his schoolmates were Felix Grundy, John Pope, John Rowan, who with himself came to honor in the public service.
      Israel Dodge was a man of restless enterprise, eager for the chances that fortune threw in his way. About 1790, he left his family and removed to upper Louisiana, attracted by the liberal policy of Spain in offering lands to settlers. He located at New Bourbon, just below St. Genevieve.
      When a lad of fourteen, passing through a Kentucky village, Henry Dodge saw a brawny savage bending over the prostrate form of a woman with one hand in her tresses, the other brandishing a butcher knife, as if to take her scalp. As she screamed for help he seized a stone and felled the Indian to the ground, apparently dead. He at once informed his people of what he had done. His mother, apprehending that the Indians would seek revenge, told him that he must flee for his life. He spent the night in a graveyard, the next day joined a company of pioneers going west, and reached St. Genevieve in safety.      Meanwhile his mother had married again. Her second husband was Asael Linn, son of the brave William Linn, who performed an adventurous trip to New Orleans at the opening of the Revolutionary war and brought up a supply of gunpowder for the defense of the frontier; afterwards served with Col. Clark at the capture of Kaskaskia, in 1778, and lost his life in a conflict with Indians, near Louisville; in 1781. When a boy of twelve, Asael was carried off a captive with three other lads by Shawnee Indians, and escaped by killing or maiming two old Indians who had been left as their guard while the young Indians of the band were gone away on a hunt. The children of Mr. and Mrs. Asael Linn were Mary Ann, born Nov. 24, 1793, and Lewis Fields, born Nov. 5, I 795. They were early deprived of both their parents, and in the vicissitudes of after years clung to their half-brother, Henry Dodge, as their counselor and guide, having joined him at St. Genevieve. Their mother proves to have been the only woman in the land to whose name attaches the distinction of having two of her sons become senators of the United States; Lewis F. Linn having been senator from Missouri, 1833- 1843; Henry Dodge, senator from Wisconsin, 1848-1857. Her grandson, Augustus C. Dodge, was a senator from Iowa, 1848-1855, at the same time that his father was a senator from Wisconsin; the only instance in American history of a father and son sitting together as senators in Congress. At one period, 184I-1843, all three of these descendants of Nancy Ann Hunter sat together in the capitol; Henry Dodge as delegate from the territory of Wisconsin, A. C. Dodge as delegate from- the territory of Iowa, and L. F. Linn, senator from Missouri. Their lives and public services were honorably connected with the settlement of the west and the growth of the nation, and belong to the history of the country. They were men with force of character, of scrupulous integrity, models of private virtue. Lewis F. Linn was honored as the "Model Senator." Such was his devotion to the interest of the people of Iowa Territory, that he was called the " Iowa Senator." To him more than to any other public man of his day the settlement of Oregon by American emigration is due. One of the counties of Iowa perpetuates his name. Henry Dodge was governor of the original Territory of Wisconsin, 1836-1838, which included what is now the State of Iowa, in common with the whole country north of the States of Illinois and Missouri lying between Lake Michigan and the Missouri river to the British line. His son, A. C. Dodge, was born at St. Genevieve, January 12, 18I2, then Louisiana Territory. He was the first person born west of the Mississippi river to become a senator of the United States. These three senators were sprung of the "heroic blood which Nancy Ann Hunter had in her veins," as Senator Benton said of her in the eloquent eulogium which he pronounced in the senate upon Senator Linn, December 12,1843. As the  " Census of Iowa," of 1885, page 400, repeats an error in relation to the boundaries of the Louisiana purchase of 1802, that appeared in the "Census" of 1867, page 147, it seems proper to enter a correction, that the error may be avoided in any further publication issued by the State. The error is in the statement that the Louisiana purchase included "all that part of our national possessions west of the Mississippi river, excepting Texas and the territory since obtained from Mexico and from Russia."
     The facts are that the summit of the Rocky Mountains was the western boundary of the "Purchase." The title of the United States to Oregon rests on an earlier transaction, the discovery of the Columbia river by Captain Robert Gray, of the ship "Columbia," of Boston, May 7, 1792. Marbois, the French plenipotentiary who negotiated the cession, says, in his history of Louisiana: "The first article of the treaty meant to convey nothing beyond the sources of the Missouri. The shores of the western ocean were certainly not included in the cession."
      A clear and full explanation of this matter is given in the
Wisconsin Journal of Education, May, 1880, and in the Pacific School Journal, July, 1884, by Albert Salisbury, of the Normal School, Whitewater, Wisconsin. See, also, Bryant's Popular History of United States, Vol. IV, page 146. W. S.



     LITTLE is known at the present day of the hardships and privations endured by the primitive settlers in a new country, nor can the life of a frontiersman be fully appreciated until one has experienced some of the many hardships, disadvantages and perplexities incident to frontier life. Want often confronts the pioneer with its grim look, and schools him to the most rigid economy. Everything must conform to his limited circumstances, while exposure to biting frosts, pelting storms, scanty food and clothing, toilsome journeys over almost trackless roads, and swelling streams, are but few of the many difficulties incident to frontier life and pioneering the way for civilization. The American pioneer is only happy when he fully realizes these difficulties to a greater or less degree. But when the golden light of civilization dawns upon him, and the shrill voice of the iron horse supersedes that of the shrieking wild tenants of the forest, he shoulders his faithful rifle, followed by his still more faithful wife and ruddy children, and pushes westward beyond the pales of civilization to re-enact former scenes of his life, and open the way for civilization that follows in his track.
      Though he has accomplished much for the world, pioneered the way for the spread of science, literature and the spread of the gospel, yet how soon he fades away in the memories of those that come after him and begin where he has left off, and carve out roads, build school houses, churches, lovely palaces, adorn and embellish the country and make it an Eden. Those who follow undergo for awhile similar disadvantages and hardships to a greater or less extent. About the first of May, 1856, the writer, in company with John Barber, left Toledo, Tama county, for Sioux City, in the northwestern part of the state, on a prospecting tour. Much rain had fallen; the roads were exceedingly bad; the streams much swollen. No bridges; no ferry boats; no nothing in the way of public accommodations. One making a trip at that time such a distance found it necessary to go prepared for every emergency. Anticipating what lay before us, we equipped ourselves with all the necessary requisites for such a trip. A good span of horses and wagon, well covered, bedding, provisions, ropes, chains, tools, etc.; graded roads and bridges were heard of, but seldom seen. During our trip frequent rains kept the roads in a precarious condition, and our progress was very slow. Some days the entire day's travel did not exceed five or six miles, and at night, when we crawled into our wagon to seek a night's rest, we somewhat resembled mud-turtles crawling under their shells, the day having been spent in floundering through sloughs, bottomless roads and swimming streams, as our jaded team and tired limbs fully attested. It was not an un-frequent occurrence to take our dinner on the opposite side of a slough, where we had breakfasted, the time having been spent in crossing or heading the slough. It was not unusual for the wagon to mire down midway in a wide slough when the load would have to be packed out upon our backs through water knee deep; then a rope was attached to the end of the tongue, and the horses on firm ground, the wagon was rolled out and repacked. The oft repetitions of these trials gave room for web-footers and take to water like some aquatic fowls. Dry feet were a rarity. Some days a house was not visible. When one was reached, we were most cordially received and a characteristic of frontier life.
      Webster City was finally reached; just beginning to assume a business attitude. Two stores, a hotel and blacksmith shop constituted its business houses. There were not, I think, to exceed a dozen houses in the place. It was the business center for some miles around. Its citizens were go-a-head, energetic people, anticipating much for their youthful city in the near future, which they have since fully realized, as it now boasts of its thousands and a large annual increase of business and population. Our wanderings from Webster City to Ft. Dodge were exceedingly wearisome and monotonous. There were no bridges right where the bridges ought to be. Many miles of travel were necessary to get a short distance. Arriving at Ft. Dodge we found the river considerably swollen from recent rains, and rather unsafe to ford for those unacquainted with the stream. Fortunately for us, we here met Father Tracy, a Catholic priest, with an Irish colony from Dubuque, on their way to St. Johns, Nebraska. They had crossed the river and camped at the ford. On driving up to the ford Father Tracy made his appearance on the opposite bank and shouted to us which way to drive in crossing, that we might avoid deep water and some large boulders. Fearing that we might not follow his directions, he mounted one of his men on a horse and sent him over to pilot us across. Sticks were placed across the top of our wagon box and our goods upon them, in order to keep dry. Our pilot was very careful in leading the way, frequently looking back and giving us a word of caution, while Father Tracy, quite solicitous for our safe arrival, occasionally gave directions and words of encouragement. We were soon on dry land, right side up in a warm-hearted Irish camp, giving Father Tracy a hearty tourniquet shake for his kindness in our behalf. Tents were pitched, fires burning brightly, the ladies were preparing the evening meal, while their liege lords were enjoying their pipes and a social chat, and a score or more of young paddies were making the woods reverberate with their childish sports. The day not yet spent, we took leave of the kind father and his flock and reached the banks of the Lizard river and camped for the night. Our next point was Twin Lakes. One family lived there who kept the stage station. There are two small lakes at this place of nearly the same size, and connected by a small channel of water. Fish appeared to be plenty, and we scooped a good supply out of the channel with our hands as they were passing from one lake to the other. They were quite an accession to our table, as our stock of provisions was getting low. Twenty miles more and we were in Sac City, the county town of Sac county. About four houses, and big hopes for the future, constituted the city. I am glad to know, at this time, their hopes have been fully realized. Our meanderings next led us to Ida Grove, in Ida county. Here we found one of the inevitable Smith family and wife, sole occupants of the grove. The exterior of their little cabin bristled with buck horns and coon skins, the interior with skins of wild animals, and other trophies of the chase common to the country. Home-made furniture of the most economical character furnished the room, while real estate scooped from the bosom of mother earth furnished roof and floor. The surroundings had the appearance of the abode of a formidable Nimrod. Night was preparing to unroll her sable curtains, and we halted for needed rest. Our host gave us a cordial invitation to share his cabin with him, which we accepted. When the time for retiring arrived, we were pointed to some clapboards (or shakes) lying on some poles in one corner of the room, and were told to sleep there. We spread our blankets on the rustic bedstead and turned in for the night. Barber having been used to old-fashioned Pennsylvania feather-beds, complained in the night of the boards being hard on bones. Our host, who slept near by, being awake, roared out, `"Turn the boards and try the other side." Barber feared the other side might be a fraud, and declined the advice.
      "Night, like a wounded snake,
      Drew its slow length along."
      When gray-eyed morn peeped through the openings in the cabin walls, we had lost all desire for a little more sleep and a little more slumber, but acquired a very ardent propensity for early rising. We were soon up and stretching our aching limbs. Breakfast over, we moved forward toward our place of destination.
      On arriving at the west fork of Little Sioux river, we found it on a high and slopping over, and impassable to ford. We were not prepared for pontooning, but cross over we were determined. Near by was an Indian canoe tied to a tree. We soon held it by right of possession, and the work of crossing commenced. Soon everything but horses and wagon were on the opposite side. Horses were next, and swim over they must. One of them being. higher than the other, we concluded to send the smaller one first. A long rope was tied around his neck, the other end carried over in the canoe by Barber. I forced the animal into the water, while Barber pulled on the rope, so as to guide him to good landing. It was a complete success. The same method was used in crossing the larger horse, but not with so much success, for when he attempted to rise on the opposite bank where the first horse had passed out, his forefeet sank in the soft earth so that he was unable to get out of the water. After repeated exertions to get upon shore, he yielded to discouragement and turned upon his side in the water. After a short rest he was given his liberty, when he swam to the shore from whence he came. A brief rest and he was again urged into the water. When about midway the rope became untied. The animal, finding that he had his liberty, started up stream, making slow progress against the strong current, which was very exhausting to him, and we all felt that he must drown, when Ira Price, of Smithland, came up, and at a glance took in the situation. Disrobing, he plunged into the hissing stream, and swimming up to the horse, grasped the halter and swam for the ford, pulling the horse after him. Another effort was made to get him ashore, but with no better success. The horse becoming completely exhausted, turned upon his side as if disposed to make a side issue, and refused any further efforts, as much as to say, "I give it up." I concluded to make one more effort to save him from a watery grave. Taking a long rope, I threw it around my shoulder and plunged into the stream. Swimming up to his side, I secured the rope around his body close to his forelegs, then climbing out, I hastily harnessed the other horse, and hitching him to the rope, directed Barber to pull on the halter. I started my horse, when, to our surprise, out came the horse onto dry land as slick as Jonah from the whale's belly. He was soon on his feet nipping grass, as if nothing unusual had occurred. The wagon was next to get over. Crossing over we tied our rope to the end of the tongue and the box to the wagon, then rowing back, all hands took hold of the rope and pulled the wagon over to the bank of the stream, when the horses were hitched onto the end of the tongue and drew it out. Loading up preparatory to a start was now in order. While thus engaged, Thomas Macon, of Oskaloosa, and a Mr. Greer, of Mt. Vernon, Iowa, drove up, on their way home from Sioux City. We assisted them in crossing Macon over safely. Greer, in floating his buggy across, had tied his lines to the end of the tongue. They gave way when the vehicle was in mid stream, and the last seen of the buggy was one corner of the top as it rolled in the turbid water. Mr. Greer was left with horses, trunk and other baggage, and several miles from a house. After some deliberation he requested me to take his baggage to Sioux City and forward it to him by stage, which I did. Greer rode to a settler's house on the Maple that evening. Next morning he returned in search of his buggy, which he found some distance below the ford caught in the top of a tree that projected out into the stream. He got it out, found it but slightly damaged, hitched on and went his way rejoicing.
      We arrived next day in Sioux City with team much jaded and ourselves worn out, having fully realized the disadvantages, or some of them at least, incident to pioneer life.



      HON. J. W. WOOD, known throughout Iowa since its earliest history as ``Old Timber," died at Sully, Jasper County, Iowa, March 25th, aged eighty-six years. He was the first attorney-general of Iowa. He settled at Burlington at an early day, where he had three children born in the same house, but in three different Territories—the first having been born in the Territory of Michigan, the second in the Territory of Wisconsin, and the third in the Territory of Iowa. We hope to be able to publish in an early number of the RECORD a biographical sketch of this honored pioneer.

      BENJAMIN SWISHER, one of the earliest settlers of Johnson County, died July 18th, 1885, at Minneapolis, Kansas, where he was temporarily residing, aged 68 years. He was born in Ohio, and in 1841 came to Johnson County, Iowa, settling in Jefferson Township, where his energy did much to improve and beautify the country, and where the purity of his life has left an enduring impress upon the community he called neighbors.

      ELIJAH HALL, one of the pioneers of Pottawattamie County, died recently at Crescent in that County, aged eighty-three years. He came to Iowa in 1846, and first settled in Decatur County, but removed to Pottawattamie County in 1860, and since that time till his death has resided at Crescent.

      CORNELIUS CADLE, Sr., a native of New York City, and a pioneer resident of Muscatine since 1843, died March 11, 1886, on his seventy-seventh birthday, at the home of his son, Col. Cornelius Cadle, Jr., Blocton, Alabama He was active in religious work, and during the war lent an energetic and effective hand in raising, equipping and caring for the Union Volunteers in his county, giving the services of two of his sons to the patriotic cause.

      EDWARD LANNING, born in New Jersey in 1810, died in Montana Territory, March 15, 1886. He came to Iowa in 1838, and settled in Johnson county, which has since been his home, till a few years ago, when he removed to Montana. He was active and laborious in the early development of the resources of Johnson county, where he was highly esteemed. .      


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