History of Marion County, Iowa by Wright and Young (1915)

Chapter II: Aboriginal Inhabitants

The Mound Builders - Character and Probable Purpose of the Mounds - Districts in the United States -
Peculiarities of Each - Theories Regarding the Mound Builders - Mounds in Marion County - The Indians -
General Distribution at the Close of the Fifteenth Century - The Sacs and Foxes - The Iowas -
Character Sketches of Their Principal Chiefs - The Pottawatomi - The Winnebago

All over the central part of the United States have been found mounds, earthworks and other relics of a bygone race. A report of the United States Bureau of Ethnology says: “During a period beginning some time after the close of the Ice Age and ending with the coming of the white man - or only a few years before - the central part of North America was inhabited by a people who had emerged to some extent from the darkness of savagery, had acquired certain domestic arts, and practiced some well-defined lines of industry. The location and boundaries inhabited by them are fairly well marked by the mounds and earthworks they erected.”

Early in the seventeenth century the first white settlements were established along the Atlantic coast. Gradually civilization extended westward, but more than a century passed before the white men came in contact with the evidences that the interior of the continent had once been peopled by this peculiar race, to which archaeologists game the name of “Mound Builders.” Then arose the question: Who were the Mound Builders? It was soon discovered, however, that it was easier to ask the question than to answer it.

Most of the mounds discovered are of conical form and varying height, and when opened by the investigator have generally been found to contain human skeletons, hence they have been designated as burial mounds. Other mounds are in the form of truncated pyramids - that is, square or rectangular at the base and flattened on the top. The works of this class are usually higher than the burial mounds, which has given rise to the theory that they were used as lookouts or signal stations. In some sections of the country may still be seen well-defined lines of earthworks, sometimes in the form of a square, but more frequently of oval or circular shape, indicating that they were erected as a means of defense against an invading enemy. Still another class of works, less numerous but more interesting, consists of a large mound surrounded by an embankment, outside of which are a number of smaller mounds. As these smaller mounds are generally void of skeletons or other relics, antiquarians have advanced the theory that such places were the centers of sacrifice or religious ceremony of some character.

Shortly after the United States Bureau of Ethnology was established it undertook the work of making an exhaustive and scientific investigation of the relics left by this ancient people. Cyrus Thomas, of the bureau, has divided the region once inhabited by the Mound Builders into eight districts, each of which is distinguished by certain characteristics not common to the others.

Farthest east is the Huron-Iroquois District, which is comprised of the country once inhabited by the Huron and Iroquois tribes of Indians, viz.: southern Canada, the greater part of the State of New York, a belt some fifty miles wide across Northern Ohio, and the lower peninsula of Michigan. In this district a few fortifications have been noted near Sandusky and Toledo, Ohio, but by far the greater part of the mounds are the small burial tumuli and “hut rings,” or foundations of ancient dwellings.

Directly south of the Huron-Iroquois District is the Ohio District, which includes the central and southern parts of Ohio, the eastern half of Indiana and the southwestern part of West Virginia. Throughout this district both the fortifications and burial mounds are found in large numbers, the latter being larger than those found elsewhere, frequently having a diameter of one hundred feet or more and rising to a height of seventy or eighty feet. More than ten thousand mounds have been explored in the State of Ohio alone. The Grave Creek mound, in West Virginia, is one of the largest lookout or signal mounds so far discovered. Situated on a bluff in Adams County, Ohio, is the “Great Serpent,” a fortification in the form of a snake nearly fourteen hundred feet in length. It is one of the most perfect specimens of this class of mounds and the site has recently been purchased by the state with a view to its preservation. Near Anderson, Indiana, is a circular fortification connected by a subterranean passage with the White River, evidently for the purpose of obtaining a water supply in case of siege. Scattered over this district are a number of sacrificial mounds surrounded by embankments.

The Appalachian District includes the mountainous regions of Southwestern Virginia, Western North Carolina, Northern Georgia and Eastern Tennessee. Judging by the structure of the mounds and the character of the relics found in this district, the ancient inhabitants were different in many respects from those other portions of the country. Here stone graves are numerous, the mounds are of different construction, and among the relics found are a number of copper awls and knives and ornamental tobacco pipes made of clay and baked. A few pipes carved from a peculiar kind of stone have also been found.

Next to the above lies the Tennessee District, which includes Middle and Western Tennessee, the southern portion of Illinois, nearly all the State of Kentucky, a small district in Northern Alabama and the central portion of Georgia. In the mounds of this district have been found a number of stone images, believed to have been objects of worship, and many pieces of pottery, a long-necked jar being especially abundant. A distinguishing feature of the fortifications of this section is the covered or subterranean passage leading to a stream, indicating that such works were constructed with a view to withstanding a siege.

Proceeding westward, the Illinois District embraces the central and northern portions of Illinois, the western half of Indiana, Northeastern Missouri, and middle and eastern portions of Iowa. Several mounds of the truncated pyramid variety have been found in this district, the great mound near Cahokia, Illinois, being one of the finest and best preserved specimens of this class known. Burial mounds are numerous and a few fortifications have been discovered, but they are greatly inferior, both in size and structure, to those of the Tennessee and Ohio districts. West of the Mississippi River the burial mounds grow smaller toward the south. Agents of the Ethnological Bureau opened several of these mounds in Southeastern Iowa, but found nothing except some decayed human bones, stone chips and fragments of pottery.

The Arkansas District includes the state from which it takes it name, part of Southeastern Missouri, and a strip across the northern part of Louisiana. Here the burial mounds are small and few in number. Those examined failed to yield up any relics of historic importance. Pottery, which has been found in abundance, is the principal product of investigation so far, though numerous hut rings and a few village sites have been noted.

Along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico lies the Gulf District, including Southern Louisiana, Mississippi, and the southern portions of Alabama and Georgia. The entire district abounds in pottery, ornaments and weapons of polished stone and obsidian, etc. Skeletons have been found in caves and others have been found buried in bark coffins. Here are also a number of fine truncated pyramids, some of which are constructed in terraces.

In the northwestern part of the great central region lies the Dakota District, which includes North and South Dakota, Minnesota, and northeastern corner of Iowa and the State of Wisconsin. In some places in this district are mounds having an outline of stone, which is filled with earth. As a rule the burial mounds here are comparatively small, but what they lack in interest is more than made up by the beautiful effigy mounds, which are constructed in the form of some bird or animal. Near Prairieville, Wisconsin, there is a mound resembling a turtle, fifty-six feet in length, and not far from Blue Mounds, in the same state, is a mound 120 feet in length in the form of a man lying on his back. Some Archaeologists are of the opinion that these effigies were made to represent the totem of some tribe, while other think they are images of some living creature that was an object of veneration.

Long before the Bureau of Ethnology was established, individuals interested in American archaeology explored a number of mounds in various parts of the country and published their theories concerning the builders. some of these early writers on the subject took the view that the Mound Builders first established their civilization in the Ohio Valley, from which region they gradually moved southward into Mexico and Central America, where the white man found their descendants in the Aztec Indians. Others contended, with arguments equally as plausible and logical, that the people who left these interesting relics originated in the South and gradually worked their way northward to the country about the Great Lakes, where their further progress was checked by hostile tribes. Upon one phase of the subject, however, nearly all the early writers were agreed, and that was that the Mound Builders belonged to a very ancient and extinct race. This view was sustained by the fact that the Indians with whom the first white men came in contact had no traditions concerning the mounds or the people who built them, and the theory of great antiquity was supported by the great trees, several feet in diameter, growing upon many of the mounds and earthworks.

Among the earliest authors were Squier and Davis, who about 1850 published a work entitled “Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley.” Between the years 1845 and 1848 these two investigators, working together, explored over two hundred mounds and earthworks, the description of which was published by the Smithsonian Institution. Following Squier and Davis came Baldwin, McLean, and a number of other writers on archaeology, all of whom advocated the theory that the early inhabitants of the interior were of a separate and distinct race, in no way related to the Indians found here by the first white settlers.

That this theory is erroneous, to some extent at least, is seen when it becomes known that the first French and Spanish explorers in the southern part of what is now the United States found that among the Natchez Indians the house of the chief was always built upon an artificial mound. As eminent an authority as Pierre Margry says: “When a chief dies they demolish his cabin and then raise a new mound, on which they build the cabin of the chief who is to replace the one deceased in this dignity, for the chief never lodges in the house of his predecessor.”

It has also been learned that the Yamasee Indians of Georgia built mounds over those killed in battle, and Charlevoix found among the Canadian tribes earthwork resembling those described by Thomas as once existing in the Huron-Iroquois District above mentioned. How long the custom of the Natchez and Yamasee tribes had prevailed no one knows, but it might be the reason for a large number of the small artificial mounds in the country once inhabited by these Indians and their ancestors.

Early investigators found in many small mounds charcoal and burnt or baked clay, for which they were at a loss to account. Brinton advances the hypothesis that among certain tribes, especially those of the lower Mississippi country, the family hut was frequently built upon an artificial mound. The house was constructed of poles and plastered with mud. When the head of the family died, the body was buried under the center of the hut, which was then burned. This custom, which might have been followed for many generations, would account for the large number of small mounds, each containing a single human skeleton, the bones of which have sometimes been found charred.

Another evidence that there is some relationship between the ancient Mound Builder and the modern Indian has been found in the pottery made by some of the southwestern tribe, which is very similar to that found in dome of the mounds. In the light of these recent discoveries, it is not surprising that archaeologists are discarding the theory of a separate race and great antiquity, and laying claim to one of a vastly different nature, viz., that the Mound Builder was nothing more than the ancestor, more or less remote, of the North American Indian. Says Thomas: “The hope of ultimately solving the great problems is perhaps as lively today as in former years. But with the vast increase of knowledge in recent years, a modification of the hope entertained has taken place.”


While much of the above general history and theory concerning the Mound Builders is not directly applicable to Marion County, it is hoped that the reader will not find it uninteresting, as it throws some light upon the people who once inhabited this part of the country and enables one to understand better the character and probable origin of the mounds found in the Des Moines Valley.

A number of interesting mounds have been found in the county. In a “Summary of the Archaeology of Iowa,” prepared by Frederick Starr and reprinted from the Proceedings of the Davenport Academy of Natural Sciences, occurs the following: “Kimberling examined the mounds at Knoxville. they occur in groups of 5 to 10 in a straight line or a circle and always on bluffs or highland; in one case there was a raised way some 20 rods long, 8 to 10 feet wide, and 1 foot high, leading to an abrupt bluff. The mound structure is described thus: ‘Two feet of soil; 16 inches of hard baked clay, ashes and charcoal; 5 feet below the clay layer, a hearth, 2 feet by 4 feet and 10 inches deep, full of ashes and charcoal; the wall of the furnace were glazed by heat; the arch is 12 feet in diameter and its height was such that a tall man might stand under it. In the center of the mound was a piece of cement with a crushed human skull below it.’”

The mounds thus described are not really at Knoxville, but in the southeast corner of section 15, township 76, range 19, in Polk Township. The explorations mentioned - which were the last excavations made at that point by scientists - were made about 1885 or 1886, though the plowed grounds in the vicinity are still littered with fragments of the old “furnace,” giving the surface the appearance of a deserted brick yard. From one-fourth to one-half mile south of the above described mound, in the northeast corner of section 22, along the margin of a bluff are two chains of small mounds, some ten or fifteen in number, arranged in the form of a “Y” or the wishbone of a fowl.

Mounds varying in size from mere hummocks to larger ones from six to eight feet high and twenty to sixty feet in diameter have been noted in all the river townships of the county, and along the breaks of Cedar Creek in Indiana and Liberty townships. Near Marysville, on Cedar Creek, in Liberty Township, is a great collecting ground for archaeologists. Hundreds of arrow and spear heads, stone axes and celts - implements of stone for dressing skins - have been found within a radius of two miles of the town. The territory now comprising Red Rock Township was once the habitat of the Mound Builder, or the prehistoric Indian, and many stone implements and utensils similar to those found about Marysville have been collected in that township. Another famous field for those seeking stone relics is on the bluffs of the Skunk River, in the northeastern part of the county.

The mounds nearest Knoxville are situated on English Creek, in the southeast corner of section 9, township 75, range 19, about two and a half miles east of the city. Here some ten or fifteen low mounds were formerly plainly to be seen. When first discovered they were in a dense woods, but the land has since been brought under cultivation and the plow has done its deadly work. The mounds are almost obliterated. In this locality have been found a great number of stone implements and large quantities of fragmentary pottery. These mounds are situated on what is called “second bottom,” the land shelving off to the margins of an old time pond of considerable dimensions. About half a mile south, in the northeast corner of section 16, on the top of a high ridge, is another group of mounds, having the appearance of being walled up around the edges with rough, unequal pieces of limestone and sandstone. These mounds have never been explored.

On the bluffs bordering on the Des Moines River, northeast of the town of Swan, is another group of mounds. In this vicinity a great many arrow heads and other stone relics have been found, as well as a large quantity of broken pottery. Very few pieces of unbroken prehistoric pottery have ever been found in the county. One of these, and perhaps the best specimen, was plowed up by William Coolley on his farm in section 16, township 75, range 19, near the mounds on English Creek already described. It was a vessel of the round-bottom variety, with flaring mouths and two lungs or handles for suspending it in the air. It was found several years ago. In one of the mounds in Marion County was found a copper spear head about five inches in length, but, so far as known, this is the only metal relic found in the county.

It would be safe to say that mounds, earthworks and stone relics have been found in every township of the county, with the possible exception of Franklin and Washington. Even in these two townships arrow heads, etc., have been turned up by the plow, but if any mounds ever existed in that part of the county they have been overlooked by archaeologists.


After the Mound Builders came the Indian. About the beginning of the sixteenth century, when the first European explorers came to the Western Hemisphere, the continent of North America was inhabited by a race of copper colored people, to whom the white men gave the name of Indians. This race was divided into several groups, or families, each of which was distinguished from the others by the dialect spoken, as well as certain physical characteristics.

In the far North the country abut the Arctic Circle was inhabited by the Eskimo, a tribe that has never played any important part in history, except as guides to polar expeditions. The Algonquian family, the largest and most powerful of all the Indian groups, occupied a large triangle, which may be roughly bounded by the Atlantic coast from Labrador to Cape Hatteras, and lines drawn form these points to the western end of Lake Superior. In the very heart of the Algonquian territory, along the shores of Lake Ontario, was the country of the Iroquoian tribes, viz.: The Oneidas, Onondagas, Senecas, Cayugas and Mohawks. These tribes became known by the early colonists as the “Five Nations.” some years later the Tuscaroras were added to the alliance, which then took the name of the “Six Nations.” South of the Algonquian tribes was a large tract of country occupied by the Muskhogean group the leading tribes of which were the Creek, Cherokee, Choctaw and Chickasaw. In the Northwest, about the sources of the Mississippi River and extending westward tot he Missouri River, was the country of the Siouan group, noted for their physical prowess and warlike tendencies. South and west of the Siouan country were bold, vindictive Comanche, Apache and other tribes, closely allied to the Sioux in appearance, language and customs.

Volumes have been written on the North American Indian and the subject has not yet been exhausted. In a work of this nature it is not the design to give an account of the race as a whole, but to mention only those tribes whose history was connected with the region now comprising the State of Iowa. Chief among these were the Sacs and Foxes, the Iowas, the Sioux, the Pottawatomi and Winnebagoes.

The Sacs - also called Sauks or Saukies - were an Algonquian tribe known as “the people of the outlet.” Some writers also refer to them as “people of the yellow earth.” Their earliest known habitat was in the lower peninsula of Michigan, where they lived with the Pottawatomi. The name Saginaw, as applied to a bay and city in Michigan, means “the place of the Sac,” and marks the place where they once dwelt. Here they were allied not only with the Pottawatomi, but also with the Mascoutens, Foxes and Kickapoos, before they became an independent tribe. They are first mentioned as a separate tribe in the Jesuit Relation of 1640, though even then they were confederated with the tribes above mentioned and also the Miamis and Winnebagoes. Father Allouez, the Jesuit missionary, writing of these Indians in 1667, says: “They are more savage than all the other peoples I have met; they are a populous tribe, although they have no fixed dwelling place, being wanderers and vagabonds in the forests.”

According to their traditions, they were driven from the western shores of Lake Huron by the Iroquois and Neuters in the early part of the seventeenth century. Retiring by was of Mackinaw, about the middle of that century they found a new abode along the shores of Green Bay, Wisconsin. This tradition is first narrated by Father Dablon in the Jesuit Relations for 1671. Says he: “The Sacs, Pottawatomies and neighboring tribes, being driven from thier own countries, which are the lands southward from Missilimakinac, have taken refuge at the head of this bay, beyond which one can see inland the Nation of Fire, with one of the Illinois tribes called Oumiami, and the Foxes.”

In the same year this was written the Hurons and Ottowas invaded the Sioux country and on the way persuaded the Sacs and Pottawatomi to join the expedition. The allied tribes were defeated by the Sioux and the surviving Sacs returned to Green Bay, where they were content to live for several years without making any more warlike demonstrations.

Dorsey divides the Sac tribe into fourteen gentes or clans, viz.: Trout, Sturgeon, Bass, Great Lynx or Fire Dragon, Sea, Fox, Wolf, Bear, Bear-Potato, Elk, Swan, Grouse, Eagle and Thunder. Marriages were usually made between men and women of different gentes. Polygamy was practiced to some extent, though in this respect the Sacs were not so bad as some of the other Algonquian tribes. Their religion consisted of a belief in numerous “Manitous” and was rich in myth and fable.

The Foxes were an Algonquian tribe, resembling in many particulars the Sacs. they were also called Musquakies, or “red earth people,” and were sometimes designated as “the people of the other shore,” by which they were known to the Chippewa Indians. Their original habitat is not definitely known. At an early date some of the tribe occupied the country along the southern shore of Lake Superior, from which region they were driven out by the Chippewas. Prior to that at least a portion of the tribe inhabited the Atlantic coast in the vicinity of Rhode Island. The name Fox originated with the French, who gave them the name of Reynors. In 1676 Father Allouez found some of the Foxes on the Wolf River, in what is now the State of Wisconsin. In his writings of that time he speaks of a “Musquakie village with a population of about five thousand.”

Neighboring tribes regarded the Foxes as “avaricious, thieving, passionate and quarrelsome.” They hated the French and planned the attack on the French post at Detroit in 1712. The timely arrival of reinforcements saved the post and the Indians were overwhelmingly defeated. Those who took part in this movement then joined the Foxes spoken of by Father Allouez on the Wolf River.

About 1730 the English and Dutch traders operating in Michigan and Wisconsin, knowing the dislike of the Foxes for the French, entered into an alliance with them to drive out the French traders. The French formed a defensive alliance with the Ottawa, Huron, Pottawatomi and some minor tribes, and in the war which followed the Musquakies were defeated. They then found a refuge among the Sacs in the neighborhood of Green Bay. De Villiers, a French officer, with a force of French soldiers and Indian allies, marched tot he Sac village and demanded the surrender of the refugees. His demand was refused by the Sac chiefs and a battle ensued, which lasted for several hours and resulted in the defeat of the Sacs, though the Foxes were not surrendered. This occurred in 1833. This led to an alliance of the Sacs and Foxes, and since that time the two tribes have been nearly always spoken of as one people.

The gentes of the Foxes, or Musquakies, as given by Dorsey, are very similar to those of the Sacs. They were twelve in number, to-wit: Bear, Fox, Wolf, Big Lynx, Buffalo, Swan, Pheasant, Eagle, Sea, Sturgeon, Bass and Thunder. Their principal deities were Wisaka and Kiyapata, brothers, the former ruling the day and the latter the night. Animal fable and mythology were the principal features of their religion and they had many ceremonial observances. They practiced agriculture in a crude way, raising corn, beans, squashes, tobacco and some other vegetables. In a limited number of instances a warrior or big chief was permitted to have more than one squaw, but the custom of polygamous marriages was not general.

Of all the Indian tribes the Foxes were perhaps the only one that had what might be termed a coat of arms. It consisted of an oblique mark, representing a river, with the figure of a fox on opposite sides and at each end. After winning a victory in war this emblem was painted on rocks and trees to tell the story of their valor, and at the same time serve as a warning to their enemies.

About 1731 some of the Sacs established the village of Sau-ke-nuk on the Rock River, in Illinois, and at the beginning of the nineteenth century there were some eight thousand Sacs and Foxes living in that locality. They had been driven from Wisconsin by the Ottawa and Chippewas Indians, who were allies of the French. About 1780 part of the tribes crossed the Mississippi River near Prairie du Chien and took up their abode in Iowa, in the vicinity of the present city of Dubuque. In 1788 these Indians granted a concession to Julien Dubuque to work the lead mines, selling him part of the lands claimed by them, and in that year Dubuque established the first white settlement in the present State of Iowa. When Lieut. Zebulon M. Pike went up the Mississippi in 1805, he visited the Sac and Fox villages at the mouth of the Rock River and near Dubuque.

Although the Sacs and Foxes are commonly regarded by historians as one people, their alliance was more in the nature of a confederation. Each tribe retained its identity, though often one chief ruled over both. Two of the greatest chiefs in the history of the North American Indians belonged to these allied tribes. They were Black Hawk and Keokuk, both born of Sac parents yet recognized as chiefs by the Foxes. Black Hawk was a warrior and Keokuk a politician.

Black Hawk, whose Indian name was Ma-ka-ta-wi-mesha-ka-ka, was a member of the Thunder clan and was born at the Rock River village in 1767. He was a son of Py-e-sa, a direct descendant of Nan-a-ma-kee (Thunder), to whom the great medicine bag of the Sac nation was given by the Great Spirit. About 1786 Py-e-sa was mortally wounded in a fight with the Cherokees and upon his death Black Hawk became the custodian of the medicine bag, which represented the soul of the Sac nation and had never been disgraced. To prepare himself for the duty of keeping it unsullied the youth - Black Hawk was then about nineteen years of age - took no part in the military operations of his tribe for five years, though he had been trained in the arts of war by his father and had already distinguished himself in battle. The five years were spent in praying to the Great Spirit for strength and wisdom to perform his duty. During that period he would frequently go to the promontory near his home on the Rock River, where he would spend hours at a time smoking and meditating. This headland is still known as “Black Hawk’s Watch Tower.”

When General Harrison persuaded the Sacs and Foxes to cede their lands east of the Mississippi to the United States, by the treaty of 1804, Black Hawk was much displeased. A few years later, with a number of his followers, he allied himself with the British in the War of 1812. After the war a large part of the tribe entered into a treaty of peace and removed to the west side of the Mississippi. Black Hawk and his adherents remained obstinate and finally their obstinacy culminated in the “Black Hawk war,” a more extended account of which is given in another chapter. In the negotiations that followed this war the Federal Government recognized Keokuk as the principal chief of the Sacs and Foxes and ignored Black Hawk. It is said that when the announcement of Keokuk’s recognition was made in the council Black Hawk was so incensed that he jerked off his loin cloth and slapped Keokuk in the face with it. One of the reports of the United States Bureau of Ethnology says: “The act of creating Keokuk chief of the Sacs has always been regarded with ridicule by both the Sacs and the Foxes, for the reason that he was not of the ruling clan.”

After being deposed as chief, Black Hawk retired to his village on the Des Moines River, near Iowaville, where he passed his declining years in peace. His death occurred on October 3, 1838. About a year after his death it was discovered that his remains had been removed from the grave, but they were recovered through the efforts of Governor Lucas and sent to St. Louis where they were cleaned and the skeleton wired together. The articulated skeleton was returned to Governor Lucas and the sons of the old chief were content to allow it to remain in the governor’s custody. It was afterward given to the Burlington Geological and Historical Society and was among the relics destroyed by fire in 1855. Chief Black Hawk was never directly connected with the history of Marion County, but it was through the treaty of 1832, that followed the Black Hawk war, that the first land in Iowa was opened to white settlement.

Keokuk (the Watchful Fox) was born near Rock Island, Illinois, in 1788, and was therefore nearly twenty years younger than Black Hawk. It is said that his mother was a French half-breed. Consequently he was not a chief by heredity, but arose to that prominence through his power of intrigue. One of his biographer says: “He was ambitious and while always involved in intrigue never exposed himself to his enemies, but cunningly played one faction against the other for his personal advantage.”

While Black Hawk and a number of the Sac and Fox warriors were fighting with the British in the War of 1812, Keokuk adopted the policy that made him a leader among his people. News was received at the village on the Rock River that United States troops were coming and the Indians began making preparations to cross the Mississippi. Keokuk called them together and addressed them as follows: “I have heard with sorrow that you have determined to leave our village and cross the Mississippi, merely because you have been told that the Americans are coming in this direction. Would you leave our village, desert our homes and fly before an enemy approaches? Give me charge of your warriors and I will defend the village while you sleep.”

This speech made him a great man and at the time of the Black Hawk war his influence was sufficient to prevent a large number of warriors from joining the hostile party. It was chiefly for this course that the United States officials recognized him as the leading chief in subsequent dealings with the Sacs and Foxes. While the war was in progress some of Keokuk’s supporters grew dissatisfied and urged him to join Black Hawk in the effort to recover the Rock River country once inhabited by the two tribes. They even went so far as to hold a war dance and commence their preparations for taking the field. At the conclusion of the dance a council was held, at which Keokuk spoke as follows:

“Warriors: I am your chief. It is my duty to lead you to battle if you are determined to go.” (Here a murmur of approval ran through the council, after which Keokuk continued.) “But, remember, the United States is a great nation. Unless we conquer them we must perish. I will lead you to war against the white men on one condition. That is we shall first put our old men, our women and children to death, to save them from a lingering death by starvation, and then resolve that when we cross the Mississippi we will never retreat, but perish among the graves of our fathers, rather than yield to the white men.”

This speech had the effect that the wily author of it intended. The warlike sentiment was checked and the expedition was abandoned. It was characteristic of Keokuk’s methods in dealing with problems of this nature.

After the treaty of September 21, 1832, Keokuk lived on a reservation of 400 square miles on the Iowa River, his village being on the right bank of the stream. In 1836 the reservation was ceded to the United States and Keokuk removed to what is now Wapello County. After the treaty of October 11, 1842, the establishment of Fort Des Moines the next year, the headquarters of the Sacs and Foxes were removed from Agency City to Fort Des Moines. Keokuk then established a new village about five miles southeast of the fort, where he continued to reside until the removal of the tribe to Kansas in 1845. He died in what is now Franklin County, Kansas, in April, 1848, and there is a rumor that he was poisoned by one of the tribe who believed that he was appropriating the money received from the Government for Indian annuities to his own use. In 1883 his remains were brought to the City of Keokuk and buried in Rand Park, on a high bluff overlooking the Mississippi. In 1913 a monument was erected over his grave there by the Keokuk Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution.

Other Sac and Fox chiefs of prominence were Appanoose, Poweshiek and Wapello, each of whom presided over a band. The name Appanoose, in the language of his tribe, means, “A chief when a child,” indicating that his position was inherited. He was a Sac and belongs to the peace party at the time of the Black Hawk war. At one time his band was located near the present City of Ottumwa. Poweshiek, a chief of the same rank, escorted General Street through the purchase made by the treaty of 1837 and after the removal of the Indians west of the Red Rock line in 1843 located on the Skunk River, near the present city of Colfax. After the Indians removed to Kansas a portion of his band took up their residence in Tama County, Iowa. Wapello was born at Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, in 1787 and died near the forks of the Skunk River on March 15, 1842, before the treaty which forced his people to give up their hunting grounds in Iowa and remove to a strange land. He was a warm personal friend of Gen. Joseph M. Street, agent of the Sacs and Foxes, and was buried by his side at the Sac and Fox agency (now Agency City). All three of those chiefs were with the party that visited Washington, D. C., in 1837, and the people of Iowa have named counties in their honor.

There was one chief of the Sacs and Foxes that deserves more than passing notice. That was Matanequa, the last war chief of the allied tribes. He was born at Dubuque in 1810 and was a typical Indian, both physically and intellectually. He was not a chief by heredity, but won that distinction by his bravery in war and his skill in controlling men. His executive ability was of high order and was recognized by his people in July, 1857, when he was made one of the five men to select a new place of residence in Iowa for his band. Matanequa and his four associates in this undertaking purchased eighty acres of land in Tama County, to which they removed the members of their band. Other purchases were made from time to time until they owned about three thousand acres. Matanequa was the last survivor of the five who selected the location. He died on October 4, 1897, and he was held in such high esteem by the white people of Tama County that many men closed their places of business to attend his funeral. He was known as the “Warwick of the Musquakies,” from the fact that while he elevated others to chieftainships he was never king himself.

Of the Sac and Fox chiefs who lived in or visited Marion County, the best known were Kishkekosh and Pasishamone. The former presided over a village on the Skunk River, in the western part of Mahaska County, but made frequent trips to Fort Des Moines and the trading post at Red Rock. On one occasion the chief, with a party of several persons, dressed in their best attire, went to the house of John H. Mikesell for dinner. With true Indian characteristics every member of the party ate heartily of what was placed on the table before them. After having gorged himself to repletion, “Kish,” as he was commonly called, stopped eating. Mr. Mikesell, apparently desirous of playing the part of a hospitable hose, urged him to eat more, when Kish shook his head, drew his finger across his throat immediately under his chin to indicate that he could hold no more, and to emphasize the fact that he was satisfied he thrust his finger down his throat almost as far as he could, as much as to say he could almost touch the food he had eaten.

When the Indians removed west of the Red Rock line in 1843, Mr. Mikesell assisted in removing Kishkekosh and his effects to a new location on the Skunk River, in Jasper County. Kishkekosh had accompanied Black Hawk on the tour through the East, when the latter was a prisoner of war, and was fond of relating his experience in the various cities visited.

Pasishamone, with a band of about three hundred men, women and children, encamped near Mr. Mikesell’s when the tribe removed west of the Red Rock line. Being in need of provisions for his band he went to Mr. Mikesell to purchase the needed supplies, taking with him a communication from Major Beach, the Indian agent at Fort Des Moines, stating that the chief was an honorable man and would be likely to pay for what he got. This was hardly satisfactory to Mr. Mikesell, who told the chief to bring an order from the agent. Whether Pasishamone misunderstood the request or not is not certain, but he brought another recommendation similar to the former one instead of an order. Mr. Mikesell, however, concluded to close the contract. Pasishamone and thirty of his leading men signed the contract by making their mark after their respective names, and immediately the squaws began carrying away the potatoes, turnips, etc., using about twenty-five ponies to transport the produce to the camp. After the 300 bushels of potatoes contracted for, the squaws went into Mr. Mikesell’s store that he had put away for his own use and took several bushel more before the theft was discovered. Mr. Mikesell and his sons, watching their opportunity, caught several squaws with their blankets filled with potatoes and took not only the potatoes, but also the blankets. This brought on a crisis. The squaws went to the camp and returned with Pasishamone, who, when he learned what had taken place, rebuked the squaws for their conduct in stealing from a man who had treated them with so much kindness and consideration. Included in the provisions sold to Pasishamone under this contract were five fat hogs, already dressed. The value of all was about five hundred dollars, but when Mr. Mikesell presented his contract at Fort Des Moines on annuity day it was pronounced worthless and he never received a cent.

Next in importance to the Sacs and Foxes were the Iowas (Sleepy Ones), from which tribe the state takes its name. They were one of the southern tribes of the Siouan group, but, according to their traditions, they once formed part of the Winnebago nation and lived with them north of the Great Lakes. They were first noticed by white men in 1690, when they occupied a country on the shores of Lake Michigan under a chief called Man-han-gaw. Here they separated from the Winnebago and, for some reason not made plain, received the name of “Gray Snow Indians.” The first abode of the tribe after separating from the Winnebago was on the Rock River, in Illinois, a short distance from its mouth, where they became affiliated with the Sacs and Foxes. Schoolcraft says this tribe changed its place of residence no less than fifteen times. Le Sueur found some of them near the present town of Red Earth, Minnesota, in 1700, engaged in tilling the soil, and three-quarters of a century later a few lived near Peoria, Illinois. In 1848 an Iowa Indian prepared a map showing the movements of the tribe from the time the separation from the Winnebagoes occurred. Accompanying this map was a tradition which says: “After living on the Rock River for several years, the tribe left the Sacs and Foxes and wandered off westward in search of a new home. Crossing the Mississippi River, they turned southward and reached a high bluff near the mouth of the Iowa River. Looking off over the beautiful valley spread out before them, they halted, exclaiming, ‘Ioway! Ioway!’ signifying in their language ‘This is the place!’”

The tribe then for some time occupied a large tract of country in southeastern Iowa, but later removed to what is now Mahaska County, which was named in honor of a leading Iowa chief. Lewis and Clark met some of this tribe while on their expedition up the Missouri River in 1804 and refer to them in the journal of the expedition as the “Ayouways,” though the name is generally written “Ioway” or “Iowa” by historians. The tribe has long since disappeared, but the name remains as the appellation of one of the great states of the Mississippi valley.

Mahaska (White Cloud), one of the most noted of the Iowa chiefs, claimed to be a descendant of the great chief, Man-han-gaw. It is said that he led his braves in eighteen battles with the Sioux on the north and the Osages on the south, and always came off victorious. In 1824, accompanied by his wife, Rant-che-wai-me, he visited Washington with a party of chiefs. Upon their return to the tribe Rant-che-wai-me warned the Indian woman against the vices and follies of their white sisters as she saw them during the tour. Mahaska was killed by an enemy in 1834, and his son, also called Mahaska, became chief of the Iowas.

The Pottawatomi, mentioned in the early part of this chapter, while never an important factor in Iowa history, were closely allied with the Sacs and Foxes for many years. They belonged to the Algonquian group and were found in Wisconsin as early as 1634 by Nicollet. Bacqueville de la Potherie says: “In 1665 or 1666 the Pottawatomi took the southern and the Sac the northern shores of Green Bay, and the Winnebago, who were not fishermen, went back into the forests to live on venison and bear meat.” The “Nation of Fire” mentioned by Father Dablon in 1671 were the Pottawatomi Indians. Many of the early treaties made with the Sacs and Foxes were approved or ratified by the Pottawatomi before they became effective. A county in Iowa bears the tribal name. Shortly after the Revolutionary war a part of the tribe moved eastward and in the early years of the nineteenth century occupied practically all of northern Indiana, whence they removed to Kansas.

The Winnebago, another Algonquian tribe, was also in close relationship with the Sacs and Foxes. When Black Hawk crossed over to the east side of the Mississippi in the spring of 1832 and started the Black Hawk war, he expected to receive the aid and support of the Winnebago nation, but was disappointed. Instead, it was through the treachery of some of this tribe that Black Hawk was captured. For some time the Winnebago occupied the “Neutral Ground,” in northeastern Iowa, as a reservation. Some of the Winnebagoes intermarried with the Sacs and Foxes and paid occasional visits to their friends in what is now Marion County.

In this chapter the aim has been to give in brief the history of the original inhabitants of Iowa - the Mound Builders - so far as it is known and of the principal Indian tribes that once dwelt in the eastern and southern portions of the state. In the succeeding chapter may be found an account of how the white man gained possession of the land. There is a sort of grim pathos in the story of how the Indian was driven, step by step, toward the setting sun by advancing civilization. Less than a century ago the Sac, the Fox, the Iowa and the Winnebago roamed at will over the broad prairies or through the forests of Iowa. Then came the white man with his superior intelligence, and, it might be said, in harmony with the law of “the survival of the fittest”:

The pale-face rears his wigwam where
The Indian hunters roved;
His hatchet fells the forest fair
The Indian maidens loved.

Transcribed by Mary E. Boyer, December 2006, reformatted by Al Hibbard 11 Oct 2013