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

Chapter III: The Period of Preparation

Early Explorations in America - Conflicting Claims of England, France and Spain -
First Settlements in the New World - Jesuit Missionaries - Marquette and Joliet - La Salle -
Province of Louisiana - French and Indian War - Fur Companies - Clark’s Conquest of the Northwest -
The Louisiana Purchase - Iowa Under Various Jurisdictions - Acquisition of Indian Lands -
Policies in Dealing with the Indians - The Black Hawk War - Treaty of 1832 - Treaty of 1842 -
Its Principal Provisions - Removal of the Indians From Iowa

Marion County, like all other political subdivisions, is the product of a series of events running back for many years. Long before the county was even dreamed of, the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus started this chain of events, which has led to the establishment of the Republic of the United States and the division of the interior of North America into states and counties. Probably many of the residents of the county never gave this subject a serious thought, but, in order that the reader may be able to form some idea of the evolution of the State of Iowa and Marion County, it is deemed appropriate to give a brief account of the events led up to their establishment.

Immediately after the first voyage of Columbus, in 1492, three great European nations - Spain, England and France - began the work of exploring and laying claim to territory in the New World. In 1493 the pope granted to the King and Queen of Spain “all countries inhabited by infidels” that might be discovered under their patronage. At that time the extent of the country discovered by Columbus was not known, but this papal grant included in a vague way the present State of Iowa.

Three years after the pope had made this grant to the Spanish rulers, Henry VII of England gave to John Cabot and his sons a patent of discovery and possession and the right to trade with the natives of “all lands they may discover and lay claim to in the name of the English crown.” Between that time and the close of the century the Cabot’s made explorations along the Atlantic coast, and upon their discoveries England laid claim to all the central part of North America.

A few years later Jacques Cartier, a French explorer, ascended the St. Lawrence River and through his discoveries France laid claim to the Valley of the St. Lawrence and the region about the Great Lakes.

Each of these three nations, following the usage of that period, claimed title to certain territory “by right of discovery,” and it is not surprising that in time a controversy arose among them as to which was really the rightful possessor of the soil. Spain strengthened her claims in 1540-42 by the expedition of Hernando de Soto into the interior and the discovery of the Mississippi River. De Soto died in the wilds and his body was buried in the great river, but upon the report of the expedition made by the few survivors Spain laid claim to all the land bordering upon the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico.

With true British aggressiveness, the English crown persisted in claiming a large part of the continent and proceeded to parcel out the lands to royal favorites. The charter of the Plymouth Company, in 1620, embraced “all the lands between the fortieth and forty-eighth parallels of north latitude from sea to sea.” Eight years later the Massachusetts Bay Company received from the English authorities a charter that included a strip about one hundred miles in width through the central part of Iowa. The northern boundary of this grant crossed the Mississippi River not far from the present city of Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. Hence, Iowa, or at least a large part of it, was claimed by both Spain and England “by right of discovery,” but no effort was made by either nation to extend colonization into the interior. The English were apparently content with the colonies established at Jamestown, Virginia, and in New England, while the Spaniards were so busily engaged in searching for the rumored gold and silver mines that they paid but little attention to the establishment of permanent settlements.

Quebec was founded by Samuel Champlain in 1608, only a year after the English colony was planted at Jamestown, and in 1616 a French explorer named LeCaron visited the country inhabited by the Iroquois and Huron Indians on the shores of the Great Lakes. Jesuit missionaries had been in the lake region some five years before LeCaron, and in 1634 Jean Nicollet pushed still farther westward and reached the Fox River country in what is now the State of Wisconsin. Among the Jesuit Fathers was Claude Allouez, who in the fall of 1665 held a council with representatives of several of the most powerful Indian tribes of the West at the Chippewa village on the southern shore of Lake Superior. Chiefs of the Sioux, Sacs, Foxes, Pottawatomi, Illini and Chippewa tribes were present at this council. To them and their people Allouez promised the protection of the great French father, thus opening the way for a profitable trade with the Indians. Some of the Sioux and Illini chiefs told Allouez of a great river farther to the westward, “called by them the Me-sa-sip-pi, which, not knowing of the De Soto Expedition, they said no white man had yet seen, and along which fur bearing animals abounded.

Claude Dablon, another zealous Jesuit missionary, founded the mission of St. Mary in 1668. This was the first white settlement within the present State of Michigan. The accounts carried back by Nicollet and the missionaries induced the French authorities at Quebec to send Nicholas Perrot as the accredited agent of the French Government to arrange for a grand council with the Indian tribes that inhabited the country about the Great Lakes. The council was held at St. Mary’s in May, 1671, and before the close of that year Father Jacques Marquette founded the mission of Point St. Ignace, where the city of Mackinaw now stands, for the benefit of the Huron Indians. This mission was for many years considered as the key to the great unexplored West.

Shortly after the council of May, 1671, Father Marquette, who had heard the reports of the great river, determined to make an effort to discover it. The council established friendly relations between the French and Indians and as soon as the mission at Point St. Ignace was on a sure footing he asked and received permission from the Canadian officials to conduct a small expedition to the westward in hope of finding the Mississippi. While he was making his preparations at Point St. Ignace in the spring of 1673, the friendly Indians there tried to dissuade him from the attempt by circulating reports that the Indians along the river were savage and vindictive; that in the forests along the stream were dangerous wild beasts, and that the river itself was the abode of frightful monsters that could swallow both canoes and men.

Unmoved by these stories, Marquette hurried forward his preparations and on May 13, 1673, accompanied by Louis Joliet, an explorer and trader, and five voyageurs, in two large canoes, the little expedition left the mission. They passed up Green Bay to the mouth of the Fox River, ascended that stream to the portage between it and the Wisconsin River, crossed over to the latter stream and floated down it until June 17, 1673, when the two canoes shot out upon the broad bosom of the Mississippi. Here they turned their canoes southward and descended the great Father of Waters, carefully noting the landmarks as they passed along. On June 25th they landed on the west bank “sixty leagues below the mouth of the Wisconsin River.” Sixty leagues from the mouth of the Wisconsin would throw this landing somewhere near the present town of Montrose, about half way between Fort Madison and Keokuk. This is the earliest account of any white men upon Iowa soil.

Noticing footprints in the soft earth, Marquette and Joliet left the five voyageurs to guard the canoes and supplies and set out to follow a trail that led back into the forest. After traveling several miles they came to an Indian village and noticed two other villages in the vicinity. The Indians informed Marquette and Joliet that they belonged to the Illini tribe, and that the name of their village and the river upon which it was situated was “Moingona.” After a visit of several days the white men were accompanied back to their canoes by the chiefs and a large party of warriors. One of the chiefs addressed Marquette as follows:

“I thank the black-gown chief for taking so much pains to come and visit us. Never before has the earth been so beautiful nor the sun so bright. Never has the river been so calm and free from rocks, which your canoe has removed. Never has the tobacco had so fine a flavor, nor our corn appeared so beautiful as we behold it today. Ask the Great Spirit to give us life and health, and be you pleased to come and dwell among us.”

On behalf of the band, one of the chiefs then presented Marquette with a finely decorated calumet, or peace pipe, as a token of the tribe’s good wishes, and the two Frenchmen continued their voyage down the Mississippi until they came to a tribe of Indians whose language they could not understand, when they returned to Canada.

Five years after the discovery of the Mississippi by Marquette and Joliet, Louis XIV, then King of France, granted to Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle, authority to explore the western part of New France. La Salle’s ambition was to trace the course of the Mississippi from its source to its mouth. In his expedition of 1680 he directed Father Louis Hennepin to lead an expedition from the mouth of the Illinois River to the headwaters of the Mississippi, and in April of that year Father Hennepin reached the Falls of St. Anthony. After several failures, La Salle finally succeeded in reaching the mouth of the river, where on April 9, 1682, he took possession of all the territory drained by the Mississippi and its tributaries in the name of France, to which territory he gave the name of Louisiana, in honor of the French king - Louis XIV.

Although both Spain and England had laid claim to the interior, it remained for the French to make the first actual explorations in the Mississippi Valley. The claim of La Salle was acknowledged by other European nations and what is now the State of Iowas became thereby a part of the French possessions in North America. At the close of the seventeenth century the English settlements occupied the Atlantic coast from New England to Georgia; Spain was in possession of Florida and that part of the Gulf coast not included in Louisiana, and France held the Valley of the St. Lawrence, the Great Lake Basin and the Valley of the Mississippi.

During the next fifty years the frontier of civilization was pushed gradually westward. In 1712 the French Government granted to Antoine Crozat, a wealthy merchant, a charter giving him exclusive control of the trade of Louisiana under certain conditions. When his agents came to America to carry out his orders they found the Spanish ports on the Gulf coast closed to his vessels, for Spain, although recognizing the claim of France to Louisiana, was jealous of French ambitions. After five years Crozat surrendered his charter and was succeeded by John Law, who organized the Mississippi Company as a branch of the Bank of France. In 1718 he sent some eight hundred colonists to Louisiana and the next year Philipe Renault went up the Mississippi, to the Illinois country, with about two hundred colonists, intending to establish posts and open up a trade with the Indians. Scarcely had these steps been taken when Law’s whole scheme collapsed and so dismal was the failure that his project is known in history as the “Mississippi Bubble.” On April 10, 1732, he surrendered his charter and Louisiana again became a crown province of France.


In the meantime the English traders had been extending their operations into French territory. As early as 1667 the Hudson’s Bay Company had been organized and its trappers and traders pushed their way into all parts of the interior, in spite of French claims and oblivious to French protests. In 1712 some of the British trader incited the Fox Indians to hostilities against the French. The first open rupture between the two nations did not come, however, until 1753, when the French began the construction of a line of forts from the Great Lakes to the Ohio River for the purpose of preventing the English from extending their settlements west of the Allegheny Mountains. Some of these forts were located upon territory claimed by Virginia, and Governor Dinwiddie of that colony sent George Washington, then just turned twenty-one, to demand of the French commandant an explanation of this invasion of English domain while the nations were at peace. The reply was insolent and the next year Washington, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel, was sent with a detachment of troops into the disputed territory.

A company called the Ohio Company had been granted a charter by the British authorities to a large tract of land and the right to trade on the Great Miami River, and in 1750 this company established a trading post near the site now occupied by the City of Piqua, Ohio. This post was broken up by a party of French soldiers and their Indian allies in 1752 and the company began a new post at the head of the Ohio River, where the City of Pittsburgh now stands. Part of Washington’s instructions in 1754 was “to complete the fort already commenced by the Ohio Company at the forks of the Ohio, and to capture, kill or drive out all who attempted to interfere with the English posts.” This arouse the indignation of France, and in May, 1756, that nation formally declared war against England. The conflict that followed, known in history as the “French and Indian war,” kept the American colonies and Indian tribes in a state of unrest for several years.

The war was concluded by the preliminary Treaty of Fontainebleau on November 3, 1762, by which France ceded that part of Louisiana lying east of the Mississippi - except the City and Island of New Orleans - to Great Britain. The preliminary treaty was fully ratified by the Treaty of Paris, February 10, 1763, and on the same day it was announced that, by an agreement previously made in secret, all that part of Louisiana west of the Mississippi was ceded to Spain. By this treaty the jurisdiction of France in America was brought to an end and Iowa became a Spanish possession. Many of the French inhabitant remained in the province, however, as Spanish subjects, and took an active part in business affairs.

About the time the transfer was made to Spain, a fur company was organized at New Orleans for the purpose of trading with the Indians between the Upper Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains, and it was not long until its representatives were operating in what is now Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota. Independent English traders and trappers also came into the upper valley about 1766, and some writers think they traded with the Indians of Iowa. At first they operated without the sanction and support of the English colonial authorities, but were later organized as the Northwest Fur Company, which contested with the French traders of the New Orleans Company for the Indian trade of the Northwest. Pierre Laclede, one of the projectors of the New Orleans Company, laid out the City of St. Louis, which quickly came into prominence as a trading center.


Thus matters stood until the Revolutionary war, which again changed the map of Central North America. At the close of the French and Indian war, many of the French subjects living east of the Mississippi refused to acknowledge allegiance to Great Britain and removed to the Spanish province west of the river, where they remained until the beginning of the Revolution, when a large number of them recrossed the river and joined the colonists in the struggle for independence. The British had established several posts in the territory acquired from France at the close of the French and Indian war, the most important of which were those at Detroit, Vincennes, Kaskaskia and Cahokia. At the beginning of the Revolution, Detroit had about two hundred houses; Vincennes and Kaskaskia about eighty, and Cahokia about fifty. There were also a few families at Prairie du Rocher, where the City of East St. Louis is now situated. Virginia then claimed a large tract of land extending westward and including the posts in Indiana and Illinois. In 1778 the legislature of that colony, upon the recommendation of Gov. Patrick Henry, authorized an expedition under Gen. George Rogers Clark for the reduction of these posts. Clark was successful and by his conquest of the Northwest the western boundary of the United States was fixed at the Mississippi River by the treaty of 1783, which ended the Revolutionary war, instead of the new republic including only the thirteen colonies that had rebelled against the mother country.

Soon after the independence of the united States was established the new nation became involved in a controversy with the Spanish authorities of Louisiana, the final settlement of which had a direct and important influence upon the region now comprising the State of Iowa. That controversy related to the free navigation of the Mississippi River. The Spanish officials of Louisiana authorized the establishment of posts along the river, and every boat descending the stream was forced to land at these posts and submit to arbitrary revenue exactions. The great river constituted a natural outlet for the commerce of a large part of the United States. It was therefore not only humiliating to the American trader to see this great natural channel of transportation under the control of a foreign power, but the system of revenue duties inaugurated by the Spanish authorities also materially decreased the profits of his trade. After much discussion and correspondence, the question was finally settled, for a time at least, by the Treaty of Madrid (October 20, 1795), which provided that “the Mississippi River, from its source to the gulf, for its entire width, shall be free to American trade and commerce, and the people of the United States shall be permitted, for three years, to use the port of New Orleans as a port of deposit without payment of duty.”

This treaty provision afforded a temporary relief and during the three years it was in force the commerce of the states adjacent to the river showed a marked increase in volume. But at the expiration of the three years Spain showed a disposition to return to the old policy and the free navigation of the Mississippi again became a subject of vital interest to the people of the United States. While it was under discussion a secret treaty was negotiated between France and Spain, at San Ildefonso, in the fall of 1800, by which Spain agreed to cede Louisiana back to France, under certain conditions. The secret agreement was ratified and made public by the Treaty of Madrid, which was concluded on March 21, 1801. Soon after that date, Rufus King, the United States minister to England, sent a copy of the treaty to President Jefferson. This changed the entire situation, inasmuch as the United States must now enter into negotiations with France for the free navigation of the river.

Little was accomplished during the next two years toward an adjustment of the matter, and on January 7, 1803, the lower house of the United States Congress adopted a resolution setting forth “That it is the unalterable determination of the United States to maintain the boundaries and the rights of navigation and commerce through the Mississippi River, as established by existing treaties.”


A few days after the adoption of this resolution, President Jefferson, with the consent and sanction of Congress, dispatched Robert R. Livingston and James Monroe as special envoys to Paris, with instructions to negotiate a treaty that would secure to the United States the free navigation of the Mississippi, “not as a favor, but as a right.” The envoys extraordinary were also instructed to secure, if possible, the cession of the City of New Orleans and its island to the United States, which would give this nation full control of the mouth of the river. At the first favorable opportunity Livingston and Monroe presented this subject to M. Talleyrand, the French prime minister, who suggested that it might be possible for the United States to acquire the entire Province of Louisiana. A little later Livingston had an interview with Napoleon, who offered to cede the entire province to the United States for a consideration of $25,000,000. This consideration was subsequently reduced to $15,000,000 which was accepted by the American envoys, notwithstanding their instructions did not contemplate the acquisition of the whole territory. But, as it offered a complete solution to the navigation problem by giving the United States control, not only of the mouth but also the entire river, it was considered the best thing to do. The treaty was accordingly concluded on April 30, 1803, by which Iowa was made a part of the territory of the United States.

Had Livingston and Monroe adhered strictly to their instructions and acquired only the City and Island of New Orleans, leaving all west of the Mississippi in the hands of France, what the history of Iowa might have been can only be conjectured. But the desire of Napoleon to dispose of the entire province, and the fact that the envoys exceeded their instructions - their action afterward being ratified and approved by the Federal Government - placed Iowa in territory afterward divided into states of the American Union. The treaty was ratified by Congress and on December 20, 1803, Gov. William Claiborne, of Mississippi, and Gen. James Wilkinson, as commissioners of the United States, took formal possession of Louisiana and raised the Stars and Stripes at New Orleans. Thus the territory of the United States was extended westward to the summit of the Rocky Mountains and northward from the Gulf of Mexico to the British possessions.

On March 26, 1804, President Jefferson approved an act of Congress dividing the newly-acquired territory. By the provisions of this act on and after October 1, 1804, all that part of the purchase lying south of the thirty-third parallel of north latitude was to be designated as the Territory of Orleans, and that part north of the same parallel as the District of Louisiana, in which was included the present State of Iowa. The District of Louisiana was placed under the jurisdiction of the territory of Indiana, of which Gen. William H. Harrison was governor, where it remained until July 4, 1805, when it was organized as a separate territory with a government of its own. The Territory of Orleans was admitted into the Union in 1812 as the State of Louisiana and the name of the District of Louisiana was then changed to the Territory of Missouri.

When the State of Missouri was admitted into the Union in March, 1821, the northern part of the Louisiana Purchase, which included Iowa, was left without any form of civil government. This condition of affairs was of little moment, however, as the only white people in the region were a few hunters, trappers and agents of the fur companies. The Black Hawk Purchase was negotiated by the treaty of September 21, 1832, by which the United States Government obtained from the Sacs and Foxes the first cession of Indian lands in the present State of Iowa. Preparations for settling the Black Hawk Purchase soon commenced, and it then became necessary to establish some form of government over the country that had so long lain neglected. On June 28, 1834, President Jackson approved the act of Congress erecting the Territory of Michigan, which included all the territory from Lake Huron westward to the Missouri River.

Iowa thus became a part of Michigan, where it remained until the establishment of Wisconsin Territory. President Van Buren approved the act organizing the Territory of Wisconsin on April 20, 1836, but it did not take effect until the 4th of July following. Gen. Henry Dodge was appointed governor of the new territory, which included all the country west of the Mississippi River, and on the first Monday in October, 1836, pursuant to a proclamation issued by Governor Dodge, the first election was held in what is now the State of Iowa for members of the territorial legislature.

Early in the fall of 1837 a movement was started among the people living west of the Mississippi for the establishment of a separate territory. This movement found definite expression in a convention held at Burlington on the first Monday in November, which adopted a memorial to Congress asking that a new territory be formed west of the river. In response to this expression of popular sentiment, Congress passed an act which provided for the division of Wisconsin and the erection of the Territory of Iowa. President Van Buren approved the act on June 12, 1838, “to take effect and be in force from and after July 3, 1838,” and appointed Robert Lucas, of Ohio, as the first territorial governor. William B. Conway of Pennsylvania, was appointed secretary; Charles Mason, of Burlington, as chief justice; Thomas S. Wilson, of Dubuque, and Joseph Williams, of Pennsylvania, associate judges.

As first created, the Territory of Iowa included “all that part of the Territory of Wisconsin which lies west of the Mississippi River and west of a line drawn due north from the headwater or sources of the Mississippi to the northern boundary of the territory of the United States.”

On February 12, 1844, the Iowa Legislature, with the election of delegates to a constitutional convention as a preparatory step for admission into the Union as a state. Marion County had not then been organized, but the people voted with those of Mahaska County for delegates. The choice fell on Van B. Delashmutt and Stephen B. Shelledy. The convention met at Iowa City on October 7, 1844, and completed its work on the first day of November. The constitution framed by this convention was rejected by the people at the election on August 4, 1845, by a vote of 7,656 to 7,235.

A second constitutional convention assembled at Iowa City on May 4, 1846, and remained in session until the 18th, when it completed its labors and adjourned. In this convention the counties of Marion, Iowa, Polk and Jasper constituted a delegate district and was represented by John Conrey, of Marion. The constitution was ratified by the people at an election held on August 3, 1846, by a vote of 9,492 to 9,036, and on December 28, 1846, President Polk approved the act admitting Iowa into the Union as a state. Under the operations of this act, Marion County became an authorized political subdivision of one of the sovereign commonwealths of the American Union.


So far, this chapter has dealt with the work of the European nations in discovering and laying claim to territory in America, the subsequent changes in ownership, the war for independence and the establishment of the United States Government. By the Treaty of Paris (April 30, 1803) France sold the Province of Louisiana to the United States. But France had no power to extinguish the Indian title to the lands. That problem was left to be solved by the purchaser. Before the United States could come into full and formal possession of the vast domain, it was necessary that some agreement should be made with the natives. In order that the reader may understand the origin of Indian treaties of cession, it may not be amiss to notice briefly in this connection the policies of the several European nations claiming territory in America in dealing with the Indians.

When Cortez was commissioned captain-general of New Spain in 1529, he received instructions from the Spanish authorities “to give special attention to the conversion of the Indians, and see that none are made slaves or servants.” Theoretically, this was the Spanish policy, but when Bishop Ramirez, as acting governor, undertook to carry it into effect, he soon discovered that he was not to be sustained. Spain took the lands of the Indians without compensation, leaving them what the Spanish officials considered enough for a dwelling place, little attention was given to their conversion or education, and in numerous instances the natives were enslaved and compelled to work in the mines or upon the plantations.

France, it seems, had no settled policy in dealing with the red men. The early French trader cared little for land. In the establishment of the trading posts not much land was needed and the trader and his retinue lived with the Indians as “tenants in common.” Sometimes a small tract was cleared near the trading post for the purpose of raising a few vegetables, but both the trader and his Indian customer were interested in the preservation of the hunting grounds, from which came the supply of furs that he handled at a large profit. Even when the French Government, in 1712, granted Antoine Crozat a charter giving him a monopoly of the Louisiana trade, and stipulating that the Indians and Negroes living in the province were to receive religious instruction, no provision was made for extinguishing the Indian title or claim to the soil.

With England it was different. Parkman say that in the early land grants made by the English crown “the Indian was scorned and neglected.” This is not surprising when one stops to consider that the great aim of the English colonists was to establish a permanent home - to cultivate the soil - and naturally under those condition the title to the land was the first and greatest consideration.

In the charter of Lord Baltimore to Maryland was a provision giving the grantee authority “to collect troops, wage war on barbarians and other enemies who may make incursions into the settlements, to pursue, even beyond the limits of the province, and, if God shall grant it, to vanquish and captivate them; and the captives to put to death, or, according to their discretion, to save.”

Other colonial charters contained similar provisions, and, as the people who founded the United States were descendants for the most part of the original English colonists, they naturally copied the English policy. Article 9 of the Articles of Confederation - the first organic law of the Federal Government - Provided: “That Congress shall have the sole and exclusive right and power to regulate the trade with, and manage the affairs of the Indians.”

Under this authority, Congress, on September 22, 1783, issued a proclamation forbidding all persons to settle upon the Indian lands. The Articles of Confederation were superseded by the Constitution, which also vested in Congress the sole power to deal with all matters arising out of the government’s relations with the Indians. By the act of March 1, 1793, Congress declared: “That no purchase or grant of lands, or any title or claim thereto, from any Indians, or nation or tribe of Indians, within the bounds of the United States, shall be of any validity, in law or equity, unless the same be made by a treaty or convention entered into pursuant to the Constitution.”

The objects designed to be accomplished by this law were: First, to prevent irresponsible persons from trespassing upon the Indian lands, thereby arousing the natives to hostility; and, second, to acquire the lands in such a manner that the Government could assure a valid title for all time to come. The first treaties made between the United States and the Indian tribes were merely agreements of peace and friendship. But as the white population increased the Government began to negotiate treaties for the acquisition of more land and the red man was gradually crowded farther and farther toward the setting sun.

Soon after the Louisiana Purchase was made the white man began to clamor for the removal of the Indians from the broad and fertile prairies of Illinois to the new territory west of the Mississippi River. Among the tribes whose removal was thus desired were the Sacs and Foxes. On November 4, 1804, Gen. William H. Harrison, then governor of the Indiana Territory, negotiated a treaty at St. Louis with the chiefs of the Sacs and Foxes, by which those tribes agreed to surrender their lands east of the Mississippi to the United States, retaining the privilege of dwelling there until the lands were actually sold to white settlers, when they were to remove to the west side of the river. This treaty was afterward the cause of much trouble between the whites and the Indians. At the time it was the custom of the Sacs and Foxes to give instructions to their chiefs or delegates to a treaty convention as to what course should be pursued, or, in the absence of such instructions, afterward confirm their action by a vote. Some of the Indians claimed that the delegates to the St. Louis council had no definite instructions to sell the lands east of the Mississippi, and a portion of the allied tribes, under the leadership of Chief Black Hawk, refused to confirm their action. This opposition finally culminated in the conflict known to history as the “Black Hawk war.”

At the beginning of the War of 1812, Black Hawk and a number of the Sacs and Foxes allied themselves with the British. The Indians of the confederated tribes who remained loyal to the United States were persuaded to remove to the Missouri, to be away from Black Hawk’s influence, and were afterward known as the “Sacs and Foxes of the Missouri;” those who remained in Illinois and Eastern Iowa, but refused to assist the British, were called the “Sacs and Foxes of the Mississippi,” and those who followed Black Hawk into the war became known as the “British Band of Rock River.”

After the war treaties of peace and friendship were made with several of the western tribes that had aided and abetted the British. Black Hawk and his band were the last to “come into the fold.” On May 13, 1816, a number of chiefs and head men of the Rock River band were induced to sign a treaty at St. Louis confirming the treaty of 1804, which ceded the lands in Illinois to the United States. One of the twenty-two Indians who signed this treaty, or “touched the goose quill,” as they expressed it, was Black Hawk himself, though he afterward repudiated his action.

After considerable argument, Black Hawk and his band removed to the west side of the Mississippi “under protest” in 1820. The following spring he recrossed the river with a number of his braves and their families and took possession of his old village and cornfields. This time a force of soldiers under General Gaines was sent to expel them, and the old chief was solemnly warned not to cross the river again.

Notwithstanding this warning, Black Hawk, influence by Wa-bo-kie-shiek, “a bad medicine man,” again crossed over into Illinois and his disobedience brought on the Black Hawk war, which culminated in the stinging defeat of the Indians at the battle of Bad Axe, August 2, 1832. The monetary cost of the war to the Federal Government was about two million dollars and the loss of life of both whites and Indians was not far from twelve hundred men. Black Hawk and his two sons were captured and held for some time as prisoners. While they were confined at Fortress Monroe, Virginia, the Federal authorities negotiated the treaty of September 21, 1832, with the Sac and Fox chiefs under the leadership Keokuk. By this treaty the Sacs and Foxes ceded to the United States “all lands to which the said tribes have any title or claim included within the following boundaries, to-wit:

“Beginning on the Mississippi River at the point where the Sac and Fox northern boundary line, as established by article 2 of the treaty of July 15, 1830, strikes said river; thence up said boundary line to a point fifty miles from the Mississippi, measured on said line; thence in a right line to the nearest point on the Red Cedar of Ioway, forty miles from the Mississippi; thence in a right line to a point in the northern boundary line of the State of Missouri fifty miles, measured on said line, to the Mississippi River; thence by the last mentioned boundary to the Mississippi River, and by the western shore of sad river to the place of beginning.”

The territory included within the above described boundaries embraces about six million acres and was taken by the United States as an indemnity for the expenses of the Black Hawk war. This “Black Hawk Purchase,” as it was commonly called in early days, included the present counties of Dubuque, Delaware, Jackson, Jones, Clinton, Cedar, Muscatine, Scott, Louisa, Henry, Des Moines and Lee and portions of Clayton, Fayette, Buchanan, Linn, Johnson, Washington, Jefferson and Van Buren. It was the first Iowa land obtained from the Indians for purposes of settlement.


The western boundary of the Black Hawk Purchase was rather irregular and it was not long after actual settlement commenced until disputes arose between the settlers and the Indians as to its exact location. To settle these difficulties some of the Sac and Fox chiefs were taken to Washington, D. C., where they entered into a treaty on October 21, 1837, to cede tot he United States a tract of 1,250,000 acres lying west of and adjoining the former cession. The object of this cession was to straighten the boundary line, but upon survey it was found that the number of acres ceded was not sufficient to make a straight line, and in a short time the Indians again accursed the whites of encroaching upon their domain. Some of the wiser chiefs of the Sacs and Foxes saw that it was only a question of time when the tribes would have to give up all their lands in Iowa. Keokuk, Wapello and Poweshiek advised a treaty peaceably ceding the lands to the United States, rather than to wait until they should be taken by force. These chiefs asked for a council, which was called to meet at the Sac and Fox Agency (now Agency City) in what is now Wapello County.

John Chambers, then governor of Iowa Territory, was appointed commissioner on the part of the United States to negotiate the treaty. A large tent was set up near the agency. On one side of the tent was a platform, upon which sat Governor Chambers, John Beach, the Indian agent, Lieut. C. F. Ruff, of the First United States Dragoons, and the interpreters, Antoine Le Claire and Josiah Swart. Around the tent the Indians were arranged, leaving an open space in the center.

When the time came to open the council, Governor Chambers, attired in the uniform of an army officer, made a short speech, stating the purpose for which they were assembled. At the close of his remarks, Keokuk, clad in all his native finery and wearing all his ornaments and trinkets, stepped into the open space in the center of the tent and replied. After that there was “much talk,” as nearly every chief present had something to say. The result of the council was that on October 11, 1842, the Indians agreed to cede all their lands west of the Mississippi River to the United States, but reserved the right to occupy for three years from the date of signing the treaty “all that part of the land above ceded which lies west of a line running due north and south from the Painted or Red Rocks on the White Breast fork of the Des Moines River, which rocks will be found about eight miles in a straight line from the junction of the White Breast and Des Moines.”

The tract of land ceded by this treaty includes practically all of Central Iowa, extending southward to the Missouri line. The line passing through the Painted or Red Rocks runs near the center of the cession, and the northern boundary line was not far from the present towns of Waterloo, Eldora and Stratford. The United States agreed to pay for the land thus ceded the interest at five per cent upon $800,000 annually, to assume the payment of certain debts owed by the Indians to licensed traders, and to “assign a tract of land suitable and convenient for Indian purposes to the Sacs and Foxes for a permanent home for them and their descendants, which tract shall be upon the Missouri River or some of its waters.”

Governor Chambers appointed Alfred Hebard and Arthur Bridgman to audit the claims of the traders and see that they were not unjust or exorbitant. Claims to the amount of $312,366.24 were filed with the two auditors, the largest accounts being presented by Pierre Chouteau & Company and W. G. & G. W. Ewing. The account of the former firm, amounting to 112,109.47, was allowed, but the account of the Ewing’s was reduced about twenty-five per cent, the amount allowed them being $66,371.83. The total amount of indebtedness allowed by the auditors was $258,566.34.

By the various treaties made with the Sacs and Foxes, the Government paid them $80,000 annually. In the treaty of October 11, 1842, it was stipulated that $30,000 should be retained at each annual payment “in the hands of the agent appointed by the President for their tribe, to be expended by the chiefs, with the approbation of their agent, for national and charitable purposes among their people; such as the support of their poor, burying their dead, employing physicians for the sick, procuring provisions for their people in cases of necessity, and such other purposes of general utility as the chiefs may think proper and the agent approve.”

Chief Wapello, who had assisted in the beginning of the negotiations, did not live to see the treaty concluded. He died on March 15, 1842, and was buried by the side of his white friend, Gen. Joseph M. Street, former Indian agent, at the Sac and Fox Agency. At the request of the Indians the sum of $100 was set apart to purchase a tombstone for his grave. Likewise, at their request, a section of land, including the two graves and the agency buildings, was given to Mrs. Eliza M. Street, widow of the general.

The Indians agreed to vacate that part of the cession east of the Red Rock line by May 1, 1843, and the United States agreed to remove the blacksmith and gunsmith tools at the agency west of the said line and establish two shops for the accommodation of the Indians until their removal to the new lands assigned them “upon the water of the Missouri.” The treaty was signed by forty-four of the chiefs and head men of the Sacs and Foxes, among whom were Keokuk and his son, Appanoose, Pashepaho, Kishkekosh, Poweshiek, Kaponeka, Chekawque and a number of others whose names are still remembered in Iowa. In the fall of 1845 most of the Indians removed from the country and the rest departed in the spring of 1846.

With the exit of the red man the territory now comprising the great State of Iowa became the undisputed possession of the paleface. The period of preparation for a civilized people was completed with the treaty of 1842, and what were once the hunting grounds of the Sacs and Foxes are now the cultivated fields of the white man. Where was once the Indian trail is now the railroad or the improved highway. The shriek of the factory whistle is heard instead of the howl of the wolf or the war-whoop of the savage. The modern residence has been built upon the site of the Indian tepee, the halls of legislation have supplanted the tribal council. Indian villages have disappeared and in their stead have come cities with paved streets, electric lights, magnificent school buildings, street railways, libraries and all the evidences of modern progress. The primeval forest has practically disappeared and the great trees have been manufactured into lumber to build dwellings for civilized man, or turned into furniture for his comfort and convenience. About all that is left of the native race are the names from their language that have been conferred upon some of the towns or streams in the country they once inhabited. And all this change has come within the memory of persons yet living. To tell the story of these years of progress and development is the province of the subsequent chapters of this work.

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