IAGenWeb Project

 Iowa History

       An IAGenWeb Special Project


Join the IAGenWeb Team



River Men


An Indian Epic

Part I


~ Research and transcribed by Sue Rekkas


The Davenport Democrat and Leader--New Home Edition, July 17, 1924, page 15.




Most Powerful of Indian Chiefs of His Day Made War on United States

-- Became Warrior at 16 Years

-- Ruled Nation at Twenty



(Black Hawk)



An Indian statesman intimately  connected with the early history of Davenport; illustrious chief of the Sacs at a time when our pioneers were raising the landmarks of civilization; a warrior better known than Tecumseh, or Philip of New England--such is the famous Black hawk, 'whose name is a synonym for romance with every school child of the city.


Black Hawk's Indian name was a euphonious verbal  agglomeration: Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak.  He was the most celebrated brave of his nation.  He had been in the service of England in 1813; had been an intimate friend of Tecumseh; was ranked among the braves at the early age of 16, and at the age of 20 succeeded his father as chief, the father having been killed in a bloody battle with the Cherokees.


Farmer Indians.


The Indians that the first white settles of Davenport found on the site of their "dream city" were farmers, who down to the time of the Black Hawk War, had approximately 1,000 acres in cultivation in this vicinity.  They made annual hunting trips and journeys to secure sugar and lead, but for the greater part of the year they resided in this choice spot upon the Father of the Waters where they found life so pleasant.


In 1804 the Sauks, Sankees or Sacs and Musquakees or Foxes ceded to the United States, thru General Harrison. all their lands lying on Rock River, and much elsewhere.  The principle Sac village was at the point of land between the junction of the Mississippi and Rock Rivers--a point just below the present site of Davenport , on the Illinois side.


There, according to tradition, had been a village for 150 years.  The entire country belonging to the tribes, bordered on the Mississippi and extended about 700 miles down the river from the mouth of the Wisconsin, reaching very nearly to the Missouri River.  In 1820, they numbered about 2,000 persons in all, of whom, perhaps, 600 were warriors.


Headed Sac Village.

Black Hawk was the "mayor" of the Sac Village.  The Musquakees or Foxes liver farther north and had, near the lead mines, their principal village.  Notwithstanding the separation of the Sacs and Foxes, they were in reality but one tribe, since they hunted together, had similar customs, and so far as unity of purpose was concerned in their enmity to the Sioux, and to other hostile nations, they were indissoluble.


The most interesting biography of Black Hawk was that dictated by the chief himself to Antoine LeClaire, the founder of Davenport.  During the latter years of Mr. LeClaire's life, large parties of Indians were wont to come to Davenport and camp near his handsome home, which crowned the central bluff and commanded the finest panoramic view in all Davenport.  Here they would stay and make him a visit somewhat longer than would be sanctioned by prevailing notions of etiquette, but never too long for this best and most hospitable friend of the red man.  When the news of the murder of Col. Davenport reached the Sacs and the Foxes in their Western home, these Indians, alarmed for the safety of Mr. LeClaire, sent a large party to Davenport, and these friends, encamping near, guarded the LeClarie home day and night with deep solicitude and unremitting care, that no evil might befall this family so much beloved by them.


"Our village was situated on the north side of Rock River, at the foot of the rapids, on the point of land between Rock River and the Mississippi.  In front, a prairie extended to the Mississippi, and in the rear a continued bluff gently ascended from the prairie," says Black Hawk in referring to his life before the coming of the whites.


The Watch Tower.


  "On its highest peak our watch tower was situated, from which we had a fine view for many miles up and down Rock River, and in every direction."  On the side of this bluff we had our corn fields, extending about two miles up parallel with the larger river, where they adjoined those of the Foxes, whose village was on the same stream, opposite the lower end of Rock Island, and three miles distant from ours.  We had 500 acres in cultivation, including what we held on the islands in Rock River.


In 1837 the small settlement of Davenport received news of an impending descent by a war party of hostile Sioux.  It was at a time when a party of the Sacs and Foxes had gathered here to receive an annuity from the government.  When the Sacs and foxes, learned that their enemies, the Sioux, were camped in the timber where Oakdale Cemetery is now located, war paint was hastily streaked upon enraged countenances and every warrior saddled his pony and started after Sioux scalps.  But alas for those Davenporters, who followed hurriedly to enjoy a bit if genuine frontier warfare the Sioux had taken alarm and had departed with their scalps, still serving to enhance their own peculiar beauty.


Black Hawk's chief objection to Fort Armstrong, built on Rock Island in 1816, was the fact that the noise of the guns would frighten away the presiding spirit of the place.


"We did not object to building the fort on the island, " are Black Hawk's own words, "but we were very sorry,, as this was the best island on the Mississippi and had long been the resort of our young people during the summer.  It was our garden.  It supplied us with strawberries, blackberries, plums, apples and nuts of various kinds; and its' waters yielded us pure fish, being situated in the rapids of the river.  In my early life, I spent many happy days on this island.  A good spirit had care of it, who lived in a cave in the rocks immediately under the place, where the fort now stands, and has often been seen by our people.  He was white, with large wings like a swan's, but ten times larger.  We were particular not to make much noise in that part of the island that he inhabited for fear of disturbing him.  But the noise of the fort has since driven him away, and no doubt a bad spirit has taken his place.


In 1828, by the advice of the agent at Fort Armstrong, the larger portion of the Sac and Fox headed by Keokuk, removed across the Mississippi.   That portion of the Sac, which, under the leadership of Black Hawk, had by their fidelity to the British in 1812, gained the appellation "British Band" steadily refused to vacate the Sac village at Rock River.


It has been It has been ascribed to a spirit of rivalry--this difference between Keokuk and Black Hawk which prevented the later from adopting the expedient operation of the former by moving across the Mississippi.


By the terms of the treaty with the United States, the Indians were to retain possession of their land until they were sold to actual settlers.  Some white families, however, considered an Indian's title to life and property as merely minimal, moved on to the Sac village.  Not content with actually stealing the land, they took advantage of Black Hawk's absence on a hunting expedition not only to fence in the Indian's corn fields, but to take possession of Black Hawk's lodge.


The Davenport Democrat and Leader--New Home Edition, July 17, 1924, page 15.

The Life History of the King of the Sac Tribe

One of Most Romantic in Border Wars Between Redskins and White;

Summer Home on Rock Island.



These whites had established themselves in direct violation of the treaty of 1804.  They  continued their aggressions, destroyed the Indians' corn, killed their domestic animals, and whipped their wives and children.  Much against the wishes of Black Hawk, they introduced a traffic in liquor, and made drunkenness and debauchery common.  The remonstrates of Black Hawk and other chiefs were unavailing.


None of the lands upon Rock River were brought into market until1829, and consequently the Indians, prior to this time, had as much right to them as if they held them in fee simple.  At this time, the lands purchased in the treaty of 1804 were not offered for sale within 60 miles of this point; yet, for the purpose of getting rid of the Indians on Rock River, the lands upon which the Sac village stood were thrown into market.


Notified to Vacate.

In the spring of 1830, when Black Hawk and party returned from their winter's hunt, and commenced preparations for planting, they were notified that the land was sold, and that they must remove west of the Mississippi.  Unwilling, however, to remove, Black Hawk visited Maiden to consult his "British Father" and returned by way of Detroit to see General Cass.  Both advised him if he has not sold his land to remain quietly upon it, and he could not be disturbed.  He returned late in the fall, and found his band absent upon their winter hunt.  Keokuk exerted himself strongly this winter to induce Black Hawk's followers to desert him, and to remove across the Mississippi.  It was in vain.  Their attachment to their village was stronger than any threat of danger, and accordingly, in the spring of 1831, they all returned.  The agent at Rock Island immediately notified them to remove, to troops would be sent to drive them off.


In the meantime, the squaws had commenced planting their corn, which the whites plowed up.  This enraged Black Hawk; and he threatened to remove he whites by force if they persisted in such proceedings.  The whites became alarmed, a starting memorial was drawn up, concluding, after  enumerating a long list of outrages, with the astounding outrage of the "Indians going to a house, rolling out a barrel of whiskey, and knocking in its head!"  Terrifying rumors were circulated of border depredations committed by "General Black Hawk."  The executive of Illinois, promptly ordered out 700 militia to meet this "invasion."  A treaty was finally concluded, wherein Black Hawk agreed not to cross the river without permission.


"Stillman's Run."

In the spring of 1832, Black Hawk received information that only the British, but several tribes of Indians would assist him in recovering his lands.  After vainly endeavoring to persuade Keokuk to join him, he started in April' for his rendezvous--in Fort Madison, and proceeded to ascend the Tock River.


This was in violation of the treaty, and precipitated the famous battle of "Stillman's Run" and the bloody frontier war which ensued.


Black Hawk was captured and was delivered to General Street at Prairie Du Chein.  He was sent in a few days to Rock Island, where a new treaty was concluded between the whites and the Indians.


It was at this treaty that Keokuk made a reserve of a section of land which was made over to the wife of Antoine LeClaire, on the single condition that the latter should build his house upon the spot of ground occupied by the marquee of General Scott during the treaty.  The result of the treaty was that the United States acquired from the Sacs and Foxes six millions of acres lying west of the Mississippi, which acquisition was known as the "Black Hawk Purchase' and subsequently as the "Iowa District."


Black Hawk was taken by his captors to Washington in 1833, and when presented to General Jackson, he stood unmoved before the president, remarking, "I am a man, you are only another."  He then addressed the president as follows:

Talks to President.


"We did not expect to conquer the whites.  They had too many men.  I took up the hatchet to avenge injuries my people could no longer endure.  Had I borne them longer without striking my people would have said Black Hawk is a squaw; he is too old to be our chief; he is no Sac.  These reflections caused me to raise the war whoop.  The result is known to you.  I say no more."



The prisoners were taken to Fortress Monroe, where they were kept until June 4, when they were released by order of the president.  They were then conducted thru several of the large cities to have impressed upon them the great power of the nation.  Crowds of people gathered to see the famous Sac.


(Note:  Here the article repeats several paragraphs from the above article which will not be repeated here as it appears it might have been a mistake.  The rest of this article can't be found.)






back to History Index