TRADING POSTS AND INDIAN AGENCIES
Long before the country west
As soon as the
The search for furs led hardy and adventurous men to bury themselves in the wilderness. They became acquainted with the savages, learned the chorography of the country, and were important factors in opening up new territory. As civilization pushed farther and farther west, the further west, the fur hunters and traders kept in advance of it.
The earliest agents for the fur companies were French Canadians, or of French-Indian blood. In many a wild locality, where men of white lineage never before had trod, these traders established camps, forming a connecting link between savage and the semi-culture of the frontier.
Most of the fur traders who
established themselves in
It is safe to say the
Many a time have the woods lining the Mississippi on the Iowa side echoed to the careless, happy choruses of these voyageurs, as they were termed, who, although brown and wiry as Indians, sang the songs of France.
At first the bold traders
merely made trips up the
When settlers arrived the posts proved stores at which supplies would be purchased.
Among the fur trading
companies which extended their business into
Pierre Chouteau, Sr.,
established a trading post where now stands the city of
Where Eddyville is, formerly was a trading post under the management of J. P. Eddy. This post was called "Hardfisher," because it was in the village of Chief Hard Fish.
Two men named Ewing conducted a trading post at the mouth of Sugar Creek, near Ottumwa; and at Iowaville, Muscatine and Keokuk were other establishments. In 1843 the Ewings and the two Phelps accompanied the Sac and Fox agency to Des Moines.
When the Sacs and Foxes lived on the Iowa River, just after the Black Hawk Purchase, John Gilbert, representing the Green Bay Fur Company, was in charge of a trading post in what is now Pleasant Valley township, Johnson County. He died here and was buried near the point. He was probably the first white man to enter Johnson County. It is said his true name was John W. Prentice. His life carried a certain mystery which never has been cleared up.
In the early days Sioux City and Council Bluffs were well known trading points. As far back as 1824 a Frenchman named Hart had a trading post on the bluffs within the limits of the present city of Council Bluffs. At this time the American Fur Company was sending parties of traders up the Missouri, and soon established a station not far from Hart's. The bluff here was called Hart's Bluff. The American Fur Company also had an important station at Sioux City, and maintained a line of steamboats. Competing firms attempting to ascend beyond the mouth of the Big Sioux were turned back, if possible, and some rough encounters occurred.
The general stores kept by the traders were curious affairs. When the tide of immigration crossed the Mississippi, and began to press forward up the Missouri, these general stores supplied the wants of the settlers, as well as those of the Indians. as late as 1851 the house of Charles P. Booge, with headquarters at St. Louis, advertises at Sioux City "molasses, hams, corn, Rio coffee, codfish, tobacco, soap, candles, whisky, brandy, gin, beer, wine, powder, shot, caps, gun wadding, indigo, glass and nails."
This was a varied stock of goods, was it not?
Indian customers of the trading stores purchased an odd assortment. But they were good patrons, because they were honest, and paid their debts more promptly than did the whites. When an Indian made out his note, acknowledging his indebtedness to a trader, he reversed the usual procedure and kept the note instead of handing it over to the store keeper. The Indian gravely said he did this so it would remind him when he must pay. He stuck the note in a corner of his blanket, or laid it in his cabin, and when the time was up - which would be the date on which the government money was due, or when the hunting season supplied skins - he would appear at the store and cancel his obligation. Then he gave the note to the trader. Possession by the trader, said the Indian, was a sign that the note had been paid.
Here are some extracts from the trading books of Mr. Eddy, who had a post where Eddyville now is:
"Kish-ke-kosh: Broadcloth, eight yards of ribbon, pair of stockings, one coffin, more ribbons, saddle, bridle, lard, pins, pen knife, looking glass, sugar, coffee, parasol."
Evidently Kish-ke-kosh purchased for his squaw, too, although even the braves did not disdain to carry around a gay parasol. We wonder for whom was the coffin.
"An-a-mo-sah: Handkerchief, broadcloth, leggins, parasol, shroud, calico."
An-a-mo-sah, too, must have been thinking of death, for he purchased a shroud. It is safe to say the broadcloth and the ribbons bought by Kish-ke-kosh and An-a-mo-sah were of the best quality. The Indians paid particular attention to these and to their blankets.
Mam-me-peo seems to have been going on the war path, for some of his purchases are of a bloodthirsty nature. There are charged to him "tow hoes, paper of needles, coffee pot, box of vermillion (to paint his face), silk thread and two scalping knives."
Neo-pope had a bad daughter. An item about him reads:
"Powder ($7), one bolt ribbon (stolen by his daughter). Credit of 11 coon skins, five deer skins, one bear skin."
While trading posts preceded Indian agencies, the two institutions soon became intimately connected, and we may consider them together. When the government began to exercise supervision over the tribes agents were appointed to live in the midst of the savages, to represent the United States and to watch over and advise the Red Man. Among the first agencies in the vicinity of Iowa were those on Rock Island, for the Sacs and Foxes, and at Prairie du Chien for the Winnebagoes.
In 1838 the agency for the Sacs and Foxes was located at the point in Wapello County now called Agency City. General Joseph M. Street, who had been agent for the Winnebagoes, was placed over the Sacs and Foxes. Chief Poweshiek himself aided in selecting the spot to which the quarters should be changed from Rock Island. A blacksmith shop and other buildings were erected. The most important structure was the council house, where the agent and the Indians met to talk over matters.
In 1840 General Street died. The Indians mourned him deeply. They termed him their "father." Chief Wapello requested to be buried beside the agent. The graves are not far from the old agency buildings. When Chief Wapello died he was interred beside General Street, whom he loved so dearly.
Major John Beach, a
Jonathan Emerson Fletcher
was agent for the Winnebagoes while they were in
The agency for the
Pottawattamies was at Traders' Point, near the east bank of the
These Indian agencies
Most of the old trading posts and agency buildings have disappeared. Only occasionally are the ruins to be pointed out as relics of the beginning of town and city.