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TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE: These articles were written in 1918 when the language and terminology did not reflect what is accepted as politically correct in 2009. These articles provide insight into the views and opinions of politicians, the governors, newspaper editors, and Iowa's settlers of the time.

1850 - 1865

There are two distinct phases or periods in the history of frontier defense in Iowa. First there was the period ending about 1848 when military measures were taken largely for the purpose of protecting the Indians against the encroachments of white settlers on their lands, against exploitation by traders and whiskey-sellers, or against attacks by other hostile Indian tribes. With the exception of Fort Madison, all the early military posts in Iowa were established primarily for these reasons. 1

Eastern Iowa was settled very rapidly with settlers coming in such large numbers each year that even the Indians could see the folly of hostility when the odds were so overwhelmingly against them. Treaty followed treaty in rapid succession and within a few years the Sac and Fox Indians ceded all their claims to land in Iowa. Whatever may be said of the influences which led to the making of these treaties with the Sacs and Foxes, it is evident that the government endeavored to carry out its promises in good faith. Until the Indians were removed entirely from the State they remained in close proximity to the settlements, where they needed protection far more than did the settlers.

The defense of the frontier against the Sioux Indians during the period from 1850 to about 1865, however, had an entirely different aspect. The Sioux were the most warlike of the tribes living in the region of the Iowa country. For years they had waged war against neighboring tribes; and they stubbornly opposed the advance of the white people. Into the country that had previously been their hunting-grounds the settlers came at first in small numbers, with inadequate protection. For many years along this frontier the Sioux were numerically equal or superior to the white settlers, and they had little cause to fear punishment for any depredations they might commit.

It must be admitted that as time went on the Sioux had ample provocation for resentment and hostility toward the whites. The story of official and private dealings with the Sioux Indians is one which no American can read with pride. But the fact remains, so far as Iowa is concerned, that in 1851 representatives of these Indians ceded a tract of land which included all the remaining territory to which they laid claim in this State. After that time they had no rights in Iowa, while the settlers had every reason to expect protection against annoyance or molestation by the redskins. The Sioux, however, continued to visit their old haunts, and some of the more lawless bands committed depredations upon the settlers of varying degrees of seriousness. The problem of frontier defense in Iowa from 1850 to 1865, therefore, had to do with the protection of the lives and property of the white settlers, rather than with safeguarding the rights of the Indians.


In the summer of 1849 while James M. MARSH was engaged in surveying a correction line westward toward the Missouri River, he and his party were met near the site of the present city of Fort Dodge by "a band of eleven Sioux warriors completely armed." Although the Indians at first rushed upon the surveyors with every evidence of hostile intentions, they quickly changed their attitude, manifested friendship, and soon departed. MARSH continued with his surveying. Within a short time, however, the Indians again appeared. With warlike demonstrations they ordered MARSH to stop work, unharness his teams, and go into camp.

MARSH's party "consisted of seven men, unarmed: resistance was out of the question. After camping, he explained to the chief of the band the character of his survey; that it was by authority of the government, and that he was upon United States land; of all of which the chief seemed aware, for he expressed credence in all that was said and seemed perfectly friendly. The Indians stayed overnight in his tent, ate supper and breakfast with him, and received presents of provisions and clothing." The chief left the camp after breakfast; but no sooner had he gone than the other Indians became insolent and appropriated "to their own use everything upon which they could lay their hands," including MARSH's tent, which they cut to pieces. "They then emptied his wagons, selected his best blankets and such other articles as they could pack, and left him. The ensuing night, however, they returned and openly stole all [9] his horses, and were sitting upon them near his camp the next morning." The loss occasioned by this unprovoked attack, which was immediately reported to Federal authorities, was estimated at not less than fifteen hundred dollars. 2

Settlers in the Boone valley and at other points along the frontier were annoyed and robbed by small bands of Sioux Indians during this period. 3

In 1849 C. H. BOOTH, the Surveyor General of Iowa and Wisconsin, in his official report called attention to these depredations, and to the defenseless condition of this section of the frontier. "In view of these facts," he said, "I respectfully suggest the importance of occupying Fort Atkinson with a force of dragoons, to awe, and, if necessary, chastise these Indians." 4

About the same time the Indian Agent at St. Peters reported that the "injuries already committed on the whites .... call for some redress, and would fully justify the march of a sufficient dragoon force to the Iowa frontier to drive them [the Sioux] from that country." In February, 1850, petitions from the people of Boone County, Iowa, were presented in Congress, asking for the establishment of a military post at the Lizard Forks of the Des Moines River. 5, 6


The need of defensive measures against the aggressions of the Sioux Indians was thus forcibly brought to the attention of the War Department, and prompt action was taken. "For the protection of the frontier settlements of Iowa," reads an order which was issued from the Adjutant General's office on May 31, 1850, "a new post will be established under the direction of the Commander of the 6th Department, on the east bank of the Des Moines, opposite the mouth of Lizzard Fork; or preferably, if an equally eligible site can be found, at some point twenty-five or thirty miles higher up the Des Moines. The post will be established by a company of the 6th Infantry to be drawn from Fort Snelling, which will for the present constitute its garrison." 7

Several weeks elapsed before this order reached Brevet Brigadier General Newman S. CLARKE, Colonel of the Sixth Infantry and commander of the Sixth Military Department with headquarters at St. Louis. But on July 14th he in turn issued an order directing Brevet Major Samuel WOODS to proceed to the Lizard Fork with Company E of the Sixth Infantry for the purpose of constructing and garrisoning the military post to be established at that point. 8 Major WOODS was at that time in Iowa with two companies of infantry and one company of dragoons. Several hundred Sac and Fox, Pottawattamie, and other Indians had returned to Iowa in violation of their treaty obligations and were annoying the settlers along the Iowa River, especially in the vicinity of Marengo. The three companies under Major WOODS were therefore detailed to remove these Indians to their reservations beyond the Missouri River. 9

In January, 1849, the General Assembly of Iowa adopted a memorial to Congress asking that the need of defense on the western frontier of this State be taken into consideration in connection with the proposed line of military posts for the protection of the route to Oregon and California.

It was on the last day of July that Major Woods with Company E left "Camp Buckner" on the Iowa River for the new post, accompanied by William WILLIAMS pictured at right, who had received the appointment as sutler for the garrison. The men had no very pleasant anticipations concerning their new duties, for such information as they had received led them to believe that the upper Des Moines valley was a region of lakes and swamps — much like Florida, where many of the men had served during the Indian wars. Marching was slow and tedious. There were unbridged streams to be crossed and sloughs to be avoided, while it was difficult to maintain a store of supplies when passing through country that was practically uninhabited. It was not until August 23rd that the command reached the spot where it was proposed to erect the new military post. In spite of their earlier misgivings the men found the location highly pleasing. 10


The troops were at once put to work cutting timber and preparing the necessary materials for buildings; and a steam sawmill was procured and put into operation. So well did the work progress that by the middle of November the barracks and other buildings were so nearly completed that the troops could fold up their tents and occupy their new quarters. No detailed description of this military post is available, but from a rough drawing made by William WILLIAMS it is evident that it consisted of rude barracks and officers' quarters arranged in a row, with stables and other buildings in the rear. Apparently it was not anticipated that the Indians would become so bold as to attack the post, for there was neither blockhouse nor stockade. The fort was first named Fort Clarke in honor of Colonel Newman S. CLARKE of the Sixth Infantry. 11

The new post soon became the subject of great interest on the part of the people of Dubuque. They fully appreciated the difficulty of transporting supplies for the fort the whole length of the Des Moines Valley from Keokuk; and they were certain that a military road from Dubuque would be of great benefit to the garrison. Accordingly a petition containing about thirty-five signatures was sent to the members of the Iowa delegation in Congress, asking them to use their influence to secure the establishment of such a road. Several individuals also wrote to Senator George W. JONES, whose home was at Dubuque, in support of the proposition. They pointed out the fact that such a road would materially lessen the expense of supplying the fort; while it would be of much benefit to the people of northern Iowa. "The trade of the upper Des Moines," added one of these writers, "is of more importance to Dubuque than a score of railroads to Keokuk, in my opinion." 12

Memorials, asking for the establishment of military roads to Fort Clarke from Dubuque and Muscatine, were adopted by the General Assembly of Iowa on January 14 and February 4, 1851. — Laws of Iowa, 1850-1851, pp. 261, 265-66. Senator JONES introduced a resolution in the Senate, in accordance with which the Secretary of War directed that an investigation of the proposal be made by Colonel J. J. ABERT of the Topographical Engineers. On January 7, 1851, Colonel ABERT made a report pointing out the advantages of a road from Dubuque and recommending that an appropriation be made for building such a road. 13 No action was taken, however, and throughout its existence the fort was apparently supplied with provisions transported up the Des Moines valley.

On June 25th a general order was issued from army headquarters changing the name of the post to Fort Dodge, in honor of Henry DODGE (1782-1867) and his son, Augustus Caesar DODGE (1812-1883), who were then United States Senators from Wisconsin and Iowa, respectively, and who had both been conspicuous for their service on the frontier. The principal reason for the change of name was the fact that another Fort Clarke had recently been established at a point farther west by troops belonging to the Sixth Infantry. 14


There is nothing in the history of Fort Dodge that is unique or dramatic. The garrison, including the soldiers, civilian assistants, women, and children, numbered about one hundred and twenty persons. Their life was that of the typical frontier post. Expeditions were occasionally made into the surrounding country. The troops broke up ground and raised crops of grain and vegetables. Thirty mounted men were always kept in readiness to pursue hostile Indians or march to any point of threatened danger.

Senator JONES again brought up this matter at the next session of Congress, but with like results. — Journal of the Senate, 1st Session, 32nd Congress, pp. 87, 115, 318; Senate Executive Documents, 1st Session, 32nd Congress, Vol. IV, No. 14.


The Indians fled from the immediate vicinity of the fort upon the arrival of the troops, and several months elapsed before they ventured near. As time went on, however, they did not hesitate to trouble settlers and hunters, and the troops were often sent out to overawe the redskins. "In the spring of 1852," says one writer, "they robbed an old man by the name of GREEN and his party who had ventured some distance up the Coon River to hunt. . . .In October of [the] same year, 1852, they attacked four families who had settled on Boyer River, about sixty miles southwest of the fort, robbed them of all they had, and took with them as prisoners a young man and young woman. On that occasion we pursued them until we caught two of their principal leaders, Ink-pa-do-tah and Umpa-sho-tah, and held them accountable for the return of the persons and property. About ten days after [ward] they were brought to Fort Dodge." 15

Fort Dodge was never intended as a permanent post. It was established as a measure of frontier defense, with the expectation that it would soon be abandoned. By 1853 there seemed no further danger of Indian attack in the region adjoining the fort. Settlers, encouraged by the protection afforded by the fort, had come to the vicinity in numbers large enough to defend themselves against Indian depredations. Further to the north and northwest, however, the Indians still presented a formidable barrier to settlements; and a military post in that region was deemed more necessary and advantageous. Consequently, in March an order was issued for the abandonment of Fort Dodge and the establishment of a new post on the Minnesota River which soon came to be known as Fort Ridgely. 16

Major WOODS and the larger part of the garrison of Fort Dodge took up the line of march to the new post on April 18, 1853. A lieutenant and twenty men were left behind to dispose of the property of the fort. Most of the buildings were purchased at public sale by William WILLIAMS, who had been the sutler and postmaster at the fort. On June 2nd the flag was lowered from the staff, and the last troops departed. That day marked the end of Fort Dodge as a military post; and William WILLIAMS with only a few other people remained on the site. Settlers soon took the places of the soldiers, however, and there grew up a flourishing village retaining the name of the post. 17


The abandonment of Fort Dodge as a military post left the Iowa frontier without protection. The wandering bands of Sioux Indians were bold and venturesome. They were good horsemen, and apparently they gave but little thought to the troops stationed at the new post far to the northward on the Minnesota River. Scarcely had the soldiers left Fort Dodge when the Indians pitched their tepees in the vicinity of the deserted post. 18 From that time forward for nearly ten years they were periodically a menace to the settlers in northwestern Iowa.

Depredations became especially numerous during the summer of 1854. It must be admitted, however, that the redskins did not at this time equal in barbarity an outrage committed by a white settler in January of that year. Henry LOTT, who has been described as "a rough, unscrupulous border character whose legitimate sphere was outside the pale of civilization," first came in contact with the Sioux Indians in 1846, when he built a cabin and undertook to conduct illegal trading operations with them near the mouth of the Boone River in Webster County. The Indians under the leadership of Sidominadota ordered him to leave, and when he did not comply they robbed him, shot his horses and cattle, threatened his family, and drove him and his stepson from home.

During the succeeding years, although he moved from place to place, LOTT seems not to have lost his desire for revenge upon the Indians. In the fall of 1853 he moved up into Humboldt County and built a cabin on a small tributary of the Des Moines River which later was called Lott's Creek. Not far away was the lodge wherein lived Sidominadota and his family. In January, 1854, LOTT and his stepson treacherously assassinated Sidominadota, and on the same night they went to his lodge and murdered six members of his family. LOTT and his stepson then burned their own cabin and fled from the State. When the tragedy was discovered the county authorities of Webster County conducted a more or less farcical investigation. Although there was no doubt as to the perpetrators of the massacre, they were too far away to be captured and the crime went unpunished. 19

This event naturally aroused great indignation among the Indians; and the settlers were apprehensive lest they would seek reprisals. The few settlers daily expected an attack. "We had to be constantly on the lookout for them, and dare not venture out without being well armed," writes Major WILLIAMS. The Indians became very sullen and hostile, and soon after LOTT's massacre "they drove Wm. R. MILLER and family to the fort for shelter." In March and April several new settlers came to the village, while "Robert SCOTT and John SCOTT, who had settled some distance below the fort, abandoned their claims and fled to the fort from fear of the Indians." By the latter part of April, it is said, Fort Dodge could muster a force of about fifteen well armed men, and the little settlement felt confident of its ability to withstand any probable Indian attack. 20

Many writers take the view that Inkpaduta and Sidominadota were brothers; and that the Spirit Lake Massacre was in large part a result of Inkpaduta's desire to secure revenge for the murder of his brother. Other writers, including Mr. TEAKLE, do not accept this view. 19

The scattered settlers living to the northward, however, were not so fortunate. Perhaps the fears of the settlers were unduly aroused, for it is true that no very serious harm was done by the Indians. But there was good reason for uneasiness, especially about the middle of the summer, when a considerable number of Sioux came into north-central Iowa in the hope of securing the scalps of some Sacs and Winnebagoes who, they believed, were in that region. Near Clear Lake, in the course of an altercation, a settler knocked an Indian down with a piece of a broken grindstone. By means of gifts the settler's wife succeeded in pacifying the Indians temporarily. When the news reached Clear Lake and Mason City a party of about twenty-five armed men set out with the intention of driving the Indians from the vicinity. Contrary to expectations they found the red men peaceably inclined: they returned the gifts which they had received from the settler's wife and soon left the neighborhood. Nevertheless, it is said that "terror seized the settlers and a general retreat occurred to the Shell Rock River, near where Nora Springs is located, and a fortified camp was established." 21

The situation on the frontier was sufficiently alarming to convince Governor Stephen HEMPSTEAD (1850-1854) pictured at right, that defensive measures were necessary. "In July last," he said in his biennial message to the legislature on December 8, 1854, "I received information from the counties of Cerro Gordo, Floyd, Bremer, Chickasaw, Franklin and others, that a large body of Indians well armed and equipped, had made demonstrations of hostilities by fortifying themselves in various places, killing stock, and plundering houses, and that many of the inhabitants had entirely forsaken their homes and left a large portion of their property at the mercy of the enemy; praying that a military force might be sent to protect them and their settlements. Upon the reception of this information, an order was immediately issued to Gen. John G. SHIELDS, directing him to call out the City Guards of Dubuque, and such other force as might be necessary, not exceeding two companies, to remove the Indians from the state. This order was promptly obeyed, and the company were ready for service, when information was received that the Indians had dispersed — that the citizens were returning to their homes, and quiet had been restored."

The following is a letter to Governor HEMPSTEAD, dated "Head Quarters Army of Relief, Masonic Grove, Cerro Gordo County," July 6, 1854:

"The Citizens of Cerro Gordo, Floyd and adjoining Counties are Greatly alarmed by the appearance of a party of Sioux Indians, which have made their appearance at or near the Settlement at Clear Lake. . . .There is now Encamped at Masonic Grove about 100 men watching the movements of the Indians. . . .We have no means of ascertaining the precise number of Indians which have encamped there, but there have been seen 400 warriors which have fortified themselves about 12 miles from the camp of the whites." — Correspondence, Miscellaneous, G II, 731, in the Public Archives, Des Moines.

Governor HEMPSTEAD also told the legislature that he had given Major William WILLIAMS of Fort Dodge authority to raise a volunteer company for frontier defense in case of need. WILLIAMS had made an investigation and in September reported that "he had not found it necessary to raise any military force, as there did not then exist any cause for alarm." The Governor, however, recommended that the General Assembly should make some provision to the end that a military force might be available on the frontier in case of emergency. 22

Scarcely had these words been written when the apprehensions of the settlers were again raised by the visits of Indians, who gave evidence of their intention to spend the winter in the vicinity of the settlements — doubtless for the purpose of obtaining food. On January 3, 1855, Governor James W. GRIMES (1854-1858), pictured at right, wrote a long letter to the members of the Iowa delegation in Congress, asking their cooperation in securing protection for the frontier. 22

"There are at this time large bands of the Yankton and Sisseton Sioux in the neighborhood of Fort Dodge, in Webster county in this State," wrote the Governor. "I am reliably informed that there are not less than five hundred warriors of that tribe in that vicinity. They manifest no real hostile intention, but they are accused of stealing hogs, cattle, etc. Certain it is, they have occasioned a great deal of alarm among the settlers. The people have become impatient for their removal, and many of the most discreet men of that region of country are anticipating trouble." 22

Governor GRIMES called attention to the fact that he had no adequate authority to adopt measures for the protection of the settlers. He could call out the militia of the State only in case of insurrection or hostile invasion, and thus far the Indians could not be said to have displayed hostile intentions. "I have taken the responsibility," said the Governor, "to appoint Major William WILLIAMS of Fort Dodge, a kind of executive agent to act for me in protecting both the settlers and the Indians, and particularly to preserve the peace." But there were no funds which could be used to defray any expenses which might be incurred in carrying out these objects. He therefore suggested that Major WILLIAMS should be appointed as a special Indian agent. "It is greatly feared," continued GRIMES, "that when the proposed military expedition shall march towards the Plains to chastise the Sioux for their hostilities near Fort Laramie and along the emigrant route to Oregon and California, they will attempt to seek shelter within the limits of our State. In that event, the presence of such an agent will be highly serviceable, if not, indeed, absolutely necessary." 22

The settlers in Woodbury, Monona, and Harrison counties were also asking for protection against the Omaha and Oto Indians who were then east of the Missouri River. "The chief trouble apprehended by the Missouri river citizens, however," wrote GRIMES, "is from a band of the Sioux in the vicinity of Sargent's Bluffs. These Indians pretend that they have never parted with their title to several of the north-western counties of our State and avow their intention to plant corn within the State in the coming spring." 22

In view of all these circumstances the Governor urged the Iowa Senators and Representatives to use all their influence to secure a remedy of the existing evils. "We have just cause for complaint," he said. "The government has undertaken to protect our frontiers from the Indians with the assurance that this stipulation would be fulfilled. That frontier is filled with peaceful citizens. But the Indians are suffered to come among them — destroying their property and jeopardizing their lives." 23

About three weeks later Governor GRIMES sent the following special message to the General Assembly:

"I have received reliable information that large bands of the Sioux Indians are now within the limits of this State, and that an increase of their number is shortly expected. The frontier settlements are daily liable to molestation and apprehensions are felt in many quarters for the safety of our citizens.

"It is known that the General Government is about to dispatch a body of troops to the Territories west of Iowa, for the purpose of chastising or intimidating this tribe of Indians, or some of their confederates, for depredations and hostilities committed in the neighborhood of Fort Loramier and along the emigrant route to California and Oregon. It is feared that when this expedition shall reach the Indian country, they will attempt to find shelter in the north west portion of the State and thus the whole confederated tribes of the Sioux be precipitated upon our frontier settlements.

"There is no military organization in the State. The Executive of the State has no authority under the law, to use either persuasive or coercive measures, except in cases of insurrection or actual hostile invasion.

"I submit to the General Assembly the facts as they have reached me, and shall be happy to concur in such measures for safety, as their judgment may dictate." 24

Although this message received corroboration in petitions presented to the legislature, it failed to bring forth any action on the part of the General Assembly, in the direction of organizing the militia of the State for frontier defense. 20 On the day before Governor GRIMES wrote his appeal, however, there was approved the following memorial to Congress:

"There is no available data to indicate what response the members of the Iowa delegation made to this urgent letter. At any rate they do not seem to have been able to impress anyone in Washington with the need for frontier defense in Iowa.

"Your memorialists, the General Assembly of the State of Iowa, respectfully represent that a garrison is much need[ed] at or near the mouth of the Big Sioux river, in Iowa.

"Your memorialists further represent that the country round the mouth of said river has but recently been purchased from the Indians, and that since the purchase of the same, two hostile tribes, by a treaty among themselves, have partitioned out the country into separate hunting grounds for each tribe, in order to save their own hunting grounds; that the same is occupied every fall for hunting by bands of the different tribes, and that said tribes have since engaged in a war with each other, whereby said tract of country has become the theatre of several sanguinary and bloody battles, to the great discomfort and annoyance of the few settlers who have pioneered the way for settlement and civilization of that fertile and interesting part of our young and growing State, who are entitled to the protection of government.

"Your memorialists further represent that the mouth of Big Sioux river is contiguous to a large scope of country owned and occupied by the Sioux, Omahas, Otoes, and other tribes of Indians, as Indian lands; that from said Indian country marauding bands of Indians will come into the settlements in Iowa to hunt, steal, and commit many other depredations which their lawless and unrestrained passions and habits may lead them to, which will keep the frontier settlements in constant alarm and dread, besides the great loss of property in these excursions, and the im[m]inent danger of human life arising from the intoxication, the malice, caprice or revenge of these unrestrained savages.

"Your memorialists further represent that said garrison would be on the route to Fort Larimie and the garrison[s] established by the different trading posts on the Missouri and Yellow Stone rivers. That being situated on the Missouri river, it would be accessible by steamboats and would be a suitable and proper depot for supplies, ammunitions, etc., for the garrisons and forts on our western frontiers.

"Therefore Resolved, That our Senators in Congress be instructed, and our Representatives requested, to use their utmost exertions to secure the establishment of a garrison at or near the mouth of the Big Sioux river, in Iowa, at as early a day as practicable." 20

Neither the Governor's letters nor this memorial of the General Assembly met with any response from Congress or from the War Department. Bills to provide a military staff for the Governor, and to organize the militia to repel invasions were introduced during this session, but they failed to pass. Consequently, throughout the year 1855 the Indians continued to rob and annoy the settlers in northern Iowa with impunity. Fortunately that summer witnessed the beginning of the great tide of immigration into the upper Des Moines valley. Even Major WILLIAMS, who was not inclined to be unduly alarmed, expressed his opinion that had it not been for this augmentation of the strength of the white settlements in 1855 the Indians would have attacked Fort Dodge. 24

At any rate as winter approached the situation again became so threatening that Governor GRIMES made another attempt to secure action on the part of the Federal authorities. On December 3rd he wrote a long letter to President PIERCE. "During the past two years," he said, "the northern and western counties of the State have been greatly disturbed by the intrusion of wandering bands of Winnebagoes, Sioux, Pottawattamies, Omahas and Sacs and Foxes. During the summer the greater part of these Indians leave the State, though a band of the Pottawattamies remained in Ringgold county until the latter part of last August, when, having stolen a large quantity of stock and provisions and murdered a white citizen, I directed them to be removed beyond the Missouri river by the sheriff of that county."22

The Governor then called attention to the troubles during the previous year and to his ineffectual efforts to secure means of defense. "I am reliably informed," he continued, "that the same Indians, but in increased numbers, have again pitched their tents within the State and are making preparations to remain during the winter. The Secretary of this State, Gen. Geo. W. McCLEARY, writes me that he has information that a large band of Sioux Indians have destroyed the settlements in Buena Vista county and forced the inhabitants to abandon their homes. He also writes me that these Indians are manifestly making preparations for war, and have been and are ncrw making great efforts to induce all of the Mississippi River Sioux to unite with them in hostilities upon the whites. I hear from various sources that several runners have been sent by the Sioux west of the Missouri river, to those in this State, and in Minnesota, with war belts, urging the latter to make common cause with them."

As a result there was great alarm along the frontier. Settlers were abandoning their homes and retiring to the more densely populated portions of the State. Petitions for assistance were being received by the Governor almost daily, indicating that there was general apprehension of a bloody Indian war. Governor GRIMES did not believe that the Indians premeditated open hostilities during the winter, although he did not discount the danger of attack in the spring.

"But whether they intend hostilities or not," was the Governor's further comment, "difficulties and perhaps war will be likely to result from their intrusion upon the settlers. The frontier men have no great love for Indians — they are suffering loss by their pilfering — they dare not leave their families alone, and, hence, many of them are compelled to remove their families to points in the State where they can be protected. There are bad men enough to sell the Indians whiskey, which converts them into devils and prepares them for any atrocity. They retard the settlement and improvement of that portion of the State. All these consequences of their presence excite the settlers' minds and render an attack upon the Indians but little less imminent than an attack by them, events in my view to be equally deplored. I beg leave to call your attention to the importance of having the Indians removed from this State at the earliest possible day. . . .The people of the State conceive that they have a right to ask it. They have bought their homes of the government with the understanding that they were to be protected in the possession."

"A year ago," said the Governor in conclusion, "the General Assembly of this State unanimously asked for the establishment of a military post on the Sioux river near the northwest corner of the State. I concur entirely in the propriety of that measure. I have no doubt that two companies of dragoons or cavalry stationed there, would effectually prevent the incursions of the Indians, and give quiet to the whole northwestern Iowa. Without such a Post they may be removed, but it does not occur to me how they may be permanently kept out." 25

"I have written as strong a letter to the President as I know how to write, in relation to the Indians," wrote GRIMES to George W. McCLEARY on December 5, 1855. "It will probably be acknowledged by the Comr. of Indian Affairs and that will be the end of it." — Executive Journal, 1855-1858

The last sentence may explain why Governor GRIMES did not make more use of the slender means at his disposal to remove the Indians from the State. He felt that the problem could only be solved by an adequate garrison in continuous occupation of some well-located post. Such sporadic measures as the State might be able to take would be only temporary in effect and they might arouse the Indians to greater hostility. As a matter of fact the Governor could hope for little assistance from the legislature in his desire to provide some effective military organization for the State. During this period the attitude of most of the members of the General Assembly towards military affairs seems to have been one of indifference, if not of contempt. Consequently it is perhaps not a cause for wonder that the Federal authorities, far removed from the frontier, failed to respond to the Governor's appeals for protection.

During 1856 there was a continuation of the rush of immigration which began during the previous summer. While bands of Indians occasionally caused annoyance they were not so troublesome as during the preceding two years. The frontier settlements along the Des Moines River were strengthened by many newcomers, while on the Missouri slope settlers pushed further to the northward and up the valley of the Little Sioux River. Webster County, which reported a population of about nine hundred in 1854, had over three thousand in 1856. Kossuth County was not enumerated in the census of 1854, but in 1856 it had a population of nearly four hundred. The population of Woodbury County, during the same period, increased from one hundred and seventy to nine hundred and fifty. The people of these counties were therefore reasonably secure from anything but a general Indian attack. But to the north and west there were scattered settlers who were badly in need of more protection than they could themselves provide — as events soon proved.

So not only did the General Assembly fail to pass any effective military legislation, but both during the special session of 1856 and during the regular session of 1856-1857 the committee on military affairs in the House of Representatives made exceedingly flippant reports.


Although the Spirit Lake Massacre of 1857 was probably the saddest event in the whole of Iowa history, it was also an incident in the development of a what was then a frontier state. A few bold, prehaps foolish or unreasonable, men had dared to settle far beyond the bounds of populated settlement, taking their families with them. Such was the case of of the Rowland GARDNER and Harvey LUCE families, soon joined by Dr. Isaac H. HERRIOTT family, Alvin M. NOBLE family, J. M. THATCHER family, and the William MARBLE family who built their cabins on the shores of Lake Okoboji and Spirit Lake.

26 The nearest settlement was at Springfield [now Jackson], Minnesota, about eighteen miles to the northeast. To the southward there was no settlement nearer than Gillett's Grove in Clay County, fully forty miles away. The nearest point at which supplies could be purchased in any considerable quantities was at Fort Dodge, far away to the southeast.

In spite of their isolated situation these settlers apparently had little fear of the Indians, for aside from the rifles which were always a part of the pioneers' equipment they seem to have made no provision for defense in case of attack. The building of the cabins and the making of prairie hay occupied their time until late in the fall.

Then began the long and terrible winter of 1856-1857 and they were shut off almost completely from communication with the rest of the world. Snow-storms began early in November, 1856, and at frequent intervals during the ensuing four months the prairies were swept by fierce blizzards. All through the winter the snow lay fully three feet deep on the level ground, while the ravines and other low places were filled to a depth of fifteen or twenty feet. Week by week the weather became colder and colder until it was almost suicidal to venture out upon the open prairie.

The very fact that the families were able to endure the long hard winter of 1856-57 with the deep snow and bitter cold is a tributle to the settlers' fortitude, stamina, and faith. One more thing must be remembered - the same snow and bitter cold along with the same lack of provisions hurt the Indians of the area as much as the white settlers.

Even as late as the first week of March, 1857, there were no definite signs of the coming of spring. Thus it was that the settlers at the lakes received no warning of the approach of a band of hostilely disposed Indians from the southwest.

Among the Sioux Indians there was a band of Wahpeton outlaws who were detested or feared even by their red brothers. At the head of this band was Inkpaduta or "Scarlet Point." The son of Chief Wamdesapa, Inkpaduta survived smallpox which had killed several of his relatives and family member, but he was left badly scarred for life. When Wamdisapa was murdered during a tribal dispute [some historians proclaim that Inkpaduta had killed his father], the band moved near present-day Fort Dodge in Iowa. Inkpaduta's older brother, the new chief, and nine members of his family were axed to death in 1854 by a drunken whiskey trader, Henry LOTT. Inkpaduta informed the Militia of the massacre. To his anger, the local prosecuting attorney nailed the murdered chief's head to a pole over his house and very little was done to bring LOTT to justice.

Inkpaduta and his many evil deeds fueled by revenge earned him the reputation among both red men and whites of being the most villainous and bloodthirsty Indian in the northwest. His followers were warriors of lesser fame, but of similar dispositions.

It was this band which suddenly made its appearance in February, 1857, at the small village of Smithland in southeastern Woodbury County. Here they stole corn and other provisions belonging to the settlers, but departed within a few days. Journeying slowly up the valley of the Little Sioux they became each day more insolent and vicious. Such property as suited their fancy was openly stolen from the settlers; horses, cattle, and hogs were wantonly killed; cabin doors were torn from their hinges; furniture was destroyed and bedding torn to shreds; and settlers were terrorized and tortured in a spirit of pure deviltry. When the Indians arrived at the lakes on the evening of Saturday, March 7th, they were in a fiendish state of mind, and they celebrated their arrival at the ancient Mecca of the Sioux by holding a war dance.

Inkpaduta and his band swooped down on the white settlers at Spirit Lake, demanding food. As Roland GARDNER and his family were dividing their meager store of food with them, Inkpaduta's band began killing the family. One killing led to another. Thirty-four* white settlers - men, women, and children had been massacred which totally annihilated the little settlement on the lakes.

The dead were Roland GARDNER and his wife Frances, Eliza Matilda GARDNER (16), Roland GARDNER Jr. (6), the GARDNER's toddler daughter, Mary (GARDNER) LUCE and her husband Harvey LUCE, their children Albert LUCE (4) and Amanda LUCE (1); Alvin NOBLE and his two-year-old son, Jospeh THATCHER and his seven-month-old child, William MARBLE, Dr. Isaac H. HERRIOT (HARRIOTT), Bertell A. SNYDER, Mr. and Mrs. MATTOCK and their five children, Mr. MADISON and his eighteen-year-old son Robert, William and Carl GRANGER, Robert CLARK, Joel and Rheumilla Ashley HOWE and their sons Jonathan (25), Alphred (16), Jacob M. (14), William P. (12, Levi (9), Sardis (18) and the elderly Mrs. NOBLE, Enoch RYAN.


Of the white settlers, fourteen-year-old Abigail GARDNER, Mrs. Lydia (HOWE) NOBLE (21), Mrs. Elizabeth THATCHER (19), and Mrs. Margaret Ann MARBLE (20) were spared in the initial attack and taken captive. Inkpaduta's band slowly moved on to the northwest, taking the four women with them. Inkpaduta and his men wore snowshoes which made their passage somewhat easy over the snow covered land. Their captives, however, did not have snowshoes and were forced to bear heavy packs, making their progress wearisome and difficult.

Near Heron Lake, Inkpaduta's bank killed Willie THOMAS (8), William WOOD, George WOOD, Mr. and Mrs. STEWART and their two small children. Later, Mrs. THATCHER was pushed into the water and beaten until she drowned. Persistenly disobediant to her captors, Mrs. NOBLE was ultimately beaten to death. Abigail GARDNER and Mrs. MARBLE were later ransomed. Abigail GARDNER married Casville SHARP, a cousin of Elizabeth THATCHER. She later wrote a book about her experience and operated a shop where she sold the book along with mementoes of life on the frontier. Abigail (GARDNER) SHARP died on January 26, 1921, at Colfax, Iowa.

Some historians have claimed that the Spirit Lake massacre was the outgrowth of bad feelings between the Sioux and the white settlers, which began with the Treaties of 1851 when the Sioux were induced to sell their land.

* Most historians say that thirty-eight settlers were killed in the Spirit Lake Massacre.


It should not be imagined that the settlers along the Little Sioux calmly permitted the Indians to continue their depredations without efforts to spread the alarm or to halt the redskins in their course. At Smithland the inhabitants put up a show of military force which may have hastened the Indians' departure from that settlement. Later, when Inkpaduta and his followers barely stopped short of massacre near the site of the present town of Peterson in southwestern Clay County, a man by the name of TAYLOR made his escape and carried the news to Sac City. A company of men was quickly raised, and led by Captain Enoch ROSS in pursuit of the Indians. But either because the redskins had too great a start, or because of a blizzard, or for some other reason the company finally turned back without accomplishing its purpose. 27 Indefinite news of Indian depredations also reached Fort Dodge, but the seriousness of the situation was not impressed on the people of that village until after it was too late for them to be of any real service. The severity of the weather and the great depth of the snow made the organization of an expedition in a sparsely settled country virtually impossible.

Inkpaduta and his followers therefore perpetrated the massacre at Lake Okoboji without fear of immediate pursuit or punishment. They had not left the scene of the massacre, however, before their crime was discovered by a trapper by the name of Morris MARKHAM. He at once set out for the home of George GRANGER, the nearest settler on the Des Moines River. At length after great suffering he reached his destination, half dead from hunger, exposure to the cold, and physical weariness. Resting only a short time, he and George GRANGER pushed on to Springfield.

The warning of danger thus given saved the Minnesota settlement from a fate similar to that of the settlers at the lakes to the southward. News of the massacre was dispatched immediately to Fort Ridgely, nearly seventy miles away, and the settlers prepared to defend themselves in case of attack. Although Inkpaduta's band later appeared at Springfield and killed several of the settlers, the remaining inhabitants put up such a stout resistance that the Indians were prevented from perpetrating a general massacre. 28

Meanwhile the tragedy at the lakes was discovered by three other men who lost no time in carrying the news to Fort Dodge, where they arrived on March 21st. There was great excitement in the frontier town. Plans for an expedition to the lake region were at once put under way; and messengers were sent to Webster City and other towns to the eastward urging cooperation in the enterprise. The response was enthusiastic. Within a short time a battalion of three small companies — containing in all about ninety officers and enlisted men — was organized. Poorly equipped even for an expedition under far more favorable circumstances, realizing something of the perils and hardships they were facing, the men set out from Fort Dodge on March 24th for the purpose of burying the victims of the massacre, rescuing the living if any were left, and visiting punishment, if possible, upon the perpetrators of the terrible deed.

The story of this expedition is one of great hardship endured with a heroism typical of the pioneers. Not only did the deep snow make traveling very difficult, but the intense cold entailed severe suffering upon the men. Occasionally, at some settlement, they received welcome food and rest; and from time to time new recruits were added to the battalion, until it contained one hundred and twenty-five men. On the last day of March they had the good fortune to rescue the terrified fugitives who were fleeing from Springfield, Minnesota, unaware of the fact that the Indians, discouraged by the resistance encountered, had abandoned the attack. At night on the following day the expedition reached Granger's Point, in the Des Moines valley east of the lakes.

Here it was learned that Inkpaduta and his band had long ago left the vicinity of the massacre, that they were now so far away that it would be impossible to overtake them, and that United States troops had been upon their trail. Pursuit of the Indians was therefore abandoned, but twenty-five members of the battalion were sent to the lakes to bury the victims of the massacre. On their return most of these men were caught in a terrific blizzard and two of them were frozen to death. The main command likewise passed through this two-day blizzard on the open prairie with no food nor fire. After intense suffering the men finally reached their homes, though it was a long while before some of them recovered from the ill effects of exposure. 29

While the Iowa pioneers were toiling through the drifts in the direction of the lake, a body of United States troops from Fort Eidgely was in pursuit of the Indians. Upon the arrival of the messengers from Springfield an order was issued on the morning of March 19th to Captain Barnard E. BEE to proceed to Spirit Lake with Company D of the Tenth Infantry. "At 12 p. m. my company," reads Captain BEE's report, "numbering forty-eight, rank and file, was enroute for its destination, taking, by advice of experienced guides, a long and circuitous route, down the valley of the Minnesota, as far as South Bend, for the purpose of following, as long as possible, a beaten path."

Even on the road over which there had been some travel progress was very slow; and beyond the end of the road was a waste of snow-drifts which made speed impossible. After about ten days the expedition reached a grove where it was evident the Indians had camped not long before. Following the trail, the troops were on March 29th within striking distance of Inkpaduta's band without being aware of that fact. The guides, either ignorantly or purposely, declared that the camping-places which were discovered were two days old, and so the chase was abandoned as hopeless. "I was in a country destitute of provisions; behind me, and separating me from the few supplies I had, was the Des Moines river, rising rapidly," wrote Captain BEE in justification of his failure to give further pursuit to the Indians. "These considerations, joined to the fact that my men were jaded and foot-sore from a march of one hundred and forty miles, the difficulties of which I have but feebly portrayed; that I had no saddles for my mules, and that only thirteen of them could be ridden, all these things induced me to return, mortified and disappointed, to my camp."

A detail was sent to Spirit Lake, where the body of one of the murdered settlers was found and buried; while the main command proceeded to Springfield. After a few days Captain BEE returned to Fort Ridgely leaving three officers and twenty men at Springfield. "While expressing my regret and disappointment that the object of my expedition was not attained, viz: the punishment of the Indians," said Captain BEE in concluding his report, "I would be doing injustice to the officers and men of my company were I not to bring to the notice of the commanding officer the cheerfulness and patience with which they encountered the fatigues of a no ordinary march; and perhaps I would be doing injustice to myself did I not assert that I used the best energies of my nature to carry out the instructions which I received." 30

Several other efforts to chastise Inkpaduta and his followers were made during the summer of 1857, but without any result except for the killing of one, and possibly both, of the twin sons of Inkpaduta. [NOTE: Inkpaduta has two sets of twin sons.] Colonel E. B. ALEXANDER, commanding at Fort Ridgely, was very earnest in his desire to punish the Indians, and had he remained at that post results might have been entirely different. But just as a formidable expedition was about to be sent into the Indian country to surround Inkpaduta and give him no chance for escape, Colonel ALEXANDER was ordered to take a large part of the garrison and join the expedition to Utah. His successor gave little evidence of interest in the matter. 31

Charles E. FLANDRAU, agent for the Sioux of the Mississippi, was also very energetic. He realized that the massacre was the work of a small band of Indian outlaws, and should not be charged to the whole Sioux nation. He initiated plans for the ransom of the captives, and cooperated with Colonel ALEXANDER in measures for the punishment of Inkpaduta. But after the latter's removal from Fort Eidgely he was virtually powerless to accomplish anything. An order from Washington "to investigate and report the facts in the case, and the measures which in my judgment were best calculated to redress the grievances and prevent their recurrence in the future," gave him an opportunity to express his views.

"I had become so thoroughly convinced," said Agent FLANDRAU later in commenting on the situation, "of the imbecility of a military administration, which clothed and equipped its troops exactly in the same manner for duty in the tropical climate of Florida, and the frigid region of Minnesota, that I took advantage of the invitation, to lay before the authorities some of my notions as to what was the proper thing to do." He insisted that a force of not less than four hundred mounted men should be kept in the field during the summer and stationed at well selected points on the frontier during the winter. "All troops in this country should be drilled to travel on snowshoes, because during the entire winter, it is next to impossible to travel without them, where there are no roads, which will generally be the case where Indians will lead soldiers in a chase. The Indians all have snow-shoes and know how to use them, and will make twenty miles, where a man with shoes or boots on, will become exhausted and fail in five."

He pointed out the difficulty of transporting army supplies in the winter time by means of mule teams and heavy sleds; and suggested the superiority of dog trains. "A party with an outfit of this kind," he said, "with provision to correspond, would be efficient in the winter, where the present United States soldier of any arm, with the usual outfit and transportation, would accomplish nothing. Let men be placed here, then, who will at all times and under all circumstances, be superior to the enemy they have to contend with, and I would have no fear of a recurrence of the difficulties of last spring." 32

According to historians, Inkpaduta resumed his attacks upon the white settlers in 1862. Brigadier General Henry Hastings SIBLEY, pictured at left, led a regiment which defeated Inkapaduta in several battles. Inkpaduta again fled westward into the plains. He became friends with Sitting Bull and was at the encampment along the Little Bighorn, participating in that battle.

According to White Bull, the Santee who took General George Armstrong CUSTER's horse at the conclusion of the battle was Inkapaduta's son, Noisy Walking (a.k.a. Noisy Walker a.k.a. Sound the Ground as He Walks). According to Sioux legend, he rode CUSTER's horse "Vic" for the next twenty years. [White historians dispute this, saying that due to "Vic's" age, he wouldn't have lived another twenty years.] Noisy Walking's twin brother Tracking White Earth was wounded during the battle and later died of his wounds in Canada. After the Battle at Little Bighorn, Inkpaduta remained with Sitting Bull's People, removing with them into Canada in Inkpaduta, born in the Dakota Territory in 1815, died in 1881 in Manitoba, never making peace with the white people.

TRANSCRIBER's NOTE: There is a photograph which some proclaim is of Inkpaduta, taken in 1857. However, given the technology of photography during that time period and Inkpaduta's opinion of white people, it is highly doubtful that the man in the photograph is Inkpaduta.

Modern-day historians have been kinder in their statements about Inkpaduta. The Sioux honor his as an elderly patriot, "on of the greatest resistance fighters that the Dakota Nation ever produced." Abbie (GARDNER) SHARP remember him as "a savage monster in human shape, fitted only for the darkest corner of Hades."


Captain BEE in his report declared that "a great check has been given to settlement and civilization by this massacre. Settlers and pioneers would be most unwise to risk their lives and those of their families in a region which, from its facilities for hunting and fishing, and (should the settlement extend) for plunder and violence, may be termed the Indian paradise." 33 Naturally there was great excitement and consternation in northwestern Iowa. A writer who was well acquainted with the situation states that "frontier settlements were abandoned and in some instances the excitement and alarm extended far into the interior. Indeed, in many cases where there was no possibility of danger the alarm was wildest. Military companies were formed, home guards were organized and other measures taken for defense hundreds of miles from where any Indians had been seen for years. . . .The wildest accounts of the number and force of the savages was given currency and credence. Had all of the Indians of the Northwest been united in one band they would not have formed a force so formidable as was supposed to exist at that time along the western border of Iowa and Minnesota." 34

An illustration of the manner in which the alarm spread to points far distant from the scene of disturbance is to be found in the following account: "Last Sabbath our good citizens were seriously startled by the announcement, that the Indians were collecting in the vicinity of Fort Dodge, and were engaged in scenes of hostility. Several teams found their way to Des Moines in precipitate haste; and upon inquiry we ascertained that a general apprehension North of us, exists with reference to the Indian invasion. Whole families are hurrying away from their homes, and a general feeling of consternation seems to pervade the communities North of Des Moines." The Iowa Weekly Citizen, Des Moines, Polk County, Iowa, April 29, 1857.

It does not appear that the massacre greatly delayed the settlement of that portion of the State. If the first settlers in that region left their homes they soon returned or their places were taken by others, even during the spring and summer of 1857. In fact, just as the Black Hawk War drew attention to Wisconsin and eastern Iowa and really attracted settlers, so the Spirit Lake Massacre brought the lake region into more general notice as a desirable locality for claim-seekers. 35

The massacre seems to have made very little impression on the Federal military authorities. Captain BEE recommended the establishment of a post on the Des Moines River. "A sure retreat is offered to any band of savages which may be tempted to become hostile," he said. "The Missouri offers a refuge; the vast country lying between the Minnesota and Missouri, with its numerous lakes and groves, affords countless places of concealment; and, although Fort Ridgely lies within a few days' march, yet, as is shown by my expedition, an outrage may occur at a season of the year which would render it impossible for troops to reach the scene of distress under several days." 36 But this recommendation was not adopted, and aside from the fact that troops remained at Springfield all summer, the lesson of the massacre failed to bring any more adequate protection of the Iowa frontier by United States troops.

Another example of a military company raised during the Indian scare following the Spirit Lake Massacre is one which had a short existence at Lamotte in the northern part of Jackson County. — Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers Vol. VI. Pp. 941-42.

Governor GRIMES wrote an urgent letter to President BUCHANAN on April 8, 1857, asking that measures be taken to protect the frontier. — Executive Journal 1855-1858, in the Public Archives, Des Moines, p. 245.

A Democratic editor in northern Iowa denounced the administration for its "imbecility and criminal indifference" in not punishing Inkpaduta and his band. The bitter comment of a Republican editor was to the effect that if a runaway slave was wanted the government could act quickly enough. 37

The effect of the tragedy upon the attitude of the General Assembly of Iowa was different. In his biennial message of January 12, 1858, Governor GRIMES recounted the facts concerning the massacre and the relief expedition, and suggested that Congress be memorialized to compensate the members of the expedition for their services. "I do not anticipate any further trouble from the Indians," he said in closing. "The rumors put afloat in regard to future difficulty can generally be traced to interested persons who seek by their circulation to accomplish some ulterior purpose. To be prepared for any such emergency, however, I have established a depot for arms and ammunition at Fort Dodge, and have procured a cannon, muskets and ammunition for another depot in Dickinson county." 38

Even the Governor's optimistic view of the situation failed to allay the apprehensions of the General Assembly, at last fully aroused as to the need of defensive measures. On February 9, 1858, there was approved a somewhat lengthy statute "authorizing the Governor to raise, arm and equip, a Company of mounted men for the defence and protection of our frontier." The company was to consist of not less than thirty nor more than one hundred men. The officers were to be a captain, first and second lieutenants, a surgeon, four sergeants, and four corporals. All these officers except the surgeon were to be elected by the company, and the captain and lieutenants were to be commissioned by the Governor.

"The Governor," it was declared, "shall in no case call out said company of volunteers, unless in his judgment, founded upon reliable information, it is absolutely necessary to protect the lives or property of the citizens of the State, and such force shall always be subject to the order of the Governor, and in no case shall the Governor keep such body of men in service after the General Government shall have taken measures effectually to protect the said frontier, and said company shall be discharged and disbanded at any time, by an order from the Governor." 39

The law specified that the company should be "raised and recruited as near the theatre of operations as practicable," and J. PALMER of Spirit Lake was designated as "Agent" to raise the company and preside over the election of officers. The men enlisting in the company were required to furnish their own horses, and "all of their own clothing and rations of subsistence for both horse and man for such time as they may be in the service of the State of Iowa." Arms, ammunition, and equipment were to be furnished by the State. The compensation, to be paid out of the State treasury, was to vary from forty-five dollars a month for a private when on actual duty to seventy dollars a month for the captain. There were other details concerning the organization and discipline of the company. 39


During the summer of 1857 there were occasional rumors of Indian invasion, but they seem to have had little or no foundation. Late in July a settler from Spirit Lake wrote that "there are various rumors afloat in regard to contemplated hostilities, but nothing of a positive nature is yet known. A few faint hearts have left, but there is a bold set of fellows here now, who would not leave if they knew that 500 of the murderous dogs were about to descend upon them. They are building a fort which will be completed very soon, and then they can bid defiance to almost any number of these red devils. But I do not anticipate any trouble." 40

The following is a description of the "fort" built at Spirit Lake during the summer of 1857 and of other defensive measures taken by the settlers:

"It was a log building about 24x30 feet with a shake roof and puncheon floor and doors. Not a foot of lumber was used in its construction. Around the outside of the building, at a distance of from six to ten feet, a stockade was erected, which was formed of logs cut ten feet long and about eight inches in thickness. These were set on end in a trench from two and a half to three feet deep. A well was dug inside of the stockade. This building was erected in June and July, 1857, and stood there about two years. . .

"As would be natural under the circumstances, the settlers scattered around the lakes in different localities and had two or three places as their general rendezvous, or headquarters. The largest number gathered at Spirit Lake, and several small cabins were built in the immediate vicinity of the old fort. It was the intention, in case of an outbreak or attack by the Indians, for all parties to gather at the fort and make such defense as they were able. A second party, including W. B. BROWN, C. F. HILL, William LAMONT and one or two others, had their headquarters in Center Grove. A third, consisting of PRESCOTT and his hired men, was at Okoboji, at the old "GARDNER Place." 41

As winter approached, however, it is apparent that there was again real cause for fear in the region which had been so terribly visited in March. Letters from the frontier told of Indian depredations in Clay County. A cabin was burned, property was stolen, and settlers were annoyed in other ways. A small party of settlers pursued the Indians, but being poorly armed and greatly outnumbered they were forced to retire without giving the Indians the punishment they deserved. "The difficulties that have transpired in Clay, Dickinson and other counties in the North," wrote Editor John TEESDALE, "indicate a purpose upon the part of the Indians to give the infant settlements on the frontier still farther trouble. . . . A letter, dated January llth, at Spirit Lake, and written by Orlando C. HOWE to Hon. C. C. CARPENTER, informs us that the indications of a general invasion from the savages, are numerous. The settlers for forty miles around are anxiously marking the course pursued by the residents at Spirit Lake; and in the event that the settlers near the lake move away to the more secure neighborhoods South of them, a general stampede will take place in the northwestern counties. Homes will be deserted, and a vast amount of valuable property will be left to the tender mercy of Indian pillage and hostility."

A little later Samuel R. CURTIS wrote to the editor of a Des Moines paper that he had heard that Fort Kearney on the Platte River was to be abandoned. He considered it very "unfortunate that the posts nearest the Sioux should be thus reduced in number and force." It appears, however, that if the troops were removed from Fort Kearney it was only for a short time, for there was a garrison at that post in 1859. Fort Randall on the Missouri River also had a garrison throughout this period.

This situation no doubt freshened the memory of the Spirit Lake Massacre in the minds of the legislators, and was an influence in securing the enactment of the law providing for a frontier company which has already been mentioned. Petitions for protection were presented; and in addition to the law which was passed there were several unsuccessful bills dealing with the subject, including proposed memorials to Congress asking for the establishment of military posts at Fort Dodge, Sioux City, Council Bluffs, and other points in the northwest.

On January 2, 1857, George COONLEY, captain of the "Little Sioux Guards," wrote as follows to Governor GRIMES:

"The continued depredations of the Indians upon the inhabitants of Little Sioux Valley have made it necessary to arm in self defense. We have organized an independent military Company comprising the inhabitants of Cherokee, Buenna Vista & Clay Counties. We have the men but lack the guns. Last Winter the Indians passing through found the settlers unprepared & took nearly every gun in the above mentioned Counties. They are upon us again this winter burning Houses, carrying off & destroying property. With 11 men we attacked 18 indians but several of our guns being useless were compelled to retreat. . . .During the month of December they have burned several houses & destroyed a large amount of the property of settlers." — Correspondence, Militia, 1859-1873, G II, 640, in Public Archives, Des Moines.

Even before the Governor's signature had been attached to the law he apparently authorized the raising of the company which soon came to be known as the "Frontier Guards." A Webster City paper dated February 11, 1858, reported that Jareb PALMER was busy recruiting men for the company in Hamilton and Webster counties.49 A week later it was announced that a company had been organized and that the following officers had been elected: captain, Henry B. MARTIN of Webster City; first lieutenant, William CHURCH of Homer; and second lieutenant, D. S. JEWETT of Boonsboro; while among the sergeants and corporals were several men who had been members of the Spirit Lake Relief Expedition. 42

The company started from Webster City on Monday, March 1st. Shortly before that date a ball was given at the Willson House in honor of the men, and they were presented with a flag made by the ladies of the town. "The Company, numbering 31 men, left Fort Dodge about noon, on Tuesday," wrote Charles ALDRICH, "as fully equipped and as comfortably provided for as the circumstances would permit. They go out well armed and well provisioned. The Company will be divided into three detachments, one of which will be stationed at Spirit Lake (headquarters) under Capt. MARTIN, one at Gillett's Grove, on the Little Sioux, under Lieut. CHURCH, and the other, at Granger's Point, on the Des Moines, under Lieut. JEWETT."43

One writer says that Lieutenant CHURCH and his squad were located at Peterson, and Lieutenant JEWETT and his squad at "Emmett." — Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers Vol. VI. p. 939.

Some time during this winter there had been organized at Boonsboro a company knowns as the "Boonsboro Frontier Guards," with Samuel B. McCALL as captain. Many of the members of this company doubtless enlisted later in the company recruited by Jareb PALMER.

On January 30, 1858, Grenville M. DODGE, pictured at right, wrote to Governor Ralph P. LOWE (1858-1860), tendering the services of the "Council Bluffs Guards" for frontier service. He described this organization as an "organized and uniformed volunteer Company which has been under drill some two years — composed mostly of Frontier men who have been in service in an Indian country nearly all their lives, and are acquainted with our whole frontier line." — Correspondence, Miscellaneous, G II, 731, in the Public Archives, Des Moines.

Governor Ralph P. LOWE, pictured at right, was forced to decline this offer, however, because of the terms of the law providing for the organization of the frontier company. — Executive Journal, 1858-1863, p. 22.

No detailed account of the march of the Frontier Guards to the lake region or of their activities during the next few months is available. Late in March two "soldiers in the 'Army of Occupation,'" at Spirit Lake returned to Webster City for provisions. "They report the 'boys' all in good health and fine spirits," wrote Editor ALDRICH. "They have scouted over the whole country and have discovered indications and evidence which prove conclusively that Inkpaduta's band has been prowling about the neighborhood during the winter. As soon as the grass starts, they will make an effort to hunt out and punish the savage old ruffian."

It appears that ten additional men were enrolled after the company reached the lakes. — Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers Vol. VI. p. 938. The roster of the company as here given indicates that the men were mustered into service in November and December, 1858. Doubtless this refers to the beginning of the company's second period of service — that is, during the winter of 1858- 1859. The men were doubtless first mustered into service in February or March, 1857.

A letter from Spirit Lake, dated February 25th, urged that the Frontier Guards proceed at once to the lakes, for the reason that Inkpaduta and his band were prowling about the settlements. — Hamilton FREEMAN, Webster City, March 4, 1858. See also The Iowa Weekly Citizen, Des Moines, March 10, 1858. There is much correspondence relative to the Frontier Guards in the Public Archives, Des Moines.

If this effort was made it was not successful. The Frontier Guards remained on duty for four months, and then on July 1st they were disbanded by order of the Governor. The organization was not dissolved, however, and hence the men were subject to call at any time when conditions again demanded their presence on the frontier. "They saw no hostile Indians, but they performed a very important work in restoring the confidence of the settlers, and thereby increasing emigration: and it is more than probable that the Indians left that section of the State in consequence of the preparation for their reception." At the Fourth of July celebration at Webster City the following toast was proposed: "The Frontier Guard — the Ladies of Webster City would tender them their thanks for their gallantry in leaving their homes to defend ours, and for returning with a name and fame untarnished." 44

The Indians gave no trouble during the summer and early fall of 1858. But in November there again came rumors of threatened hostilities. It was stated on good authority that a large number of Indians were encamped near Spirit Lake and had subjected the settlers to petty annoyances. Messengers had been dispatched to Des Moines with petitions asking Governor LOWE to call out the Frontier Guards. Provisions were very scarce that winter, and it was predicted that on this account the Indians would be especially inclined to plunder. "Prompt action now," it was declared, "will keep our frontiersmen quiet and secure, and doubtless preserve many valuable lives."

Apparently Governor LOWE lost no time in calling out the Frontier Guards. On November 22nd Captain MARTIN and his company left Webster City for the lake region. He was under instructions to refrain from any offensive action against the Sioux in general. But he was to order the Indians to leave the State and drive them out if necessary; and especially was he to make every effort to capture Inkpaduta. It was said that members of Inkpaduta's band were prowling about Spirit Lake and had been recognized by Mrs. Abbie GARDNER SHARP. Fearing an attack, the settlers were standing on guard day and night until the arrival of the Frontier Guards. 45

A decided difference of opinion now arose as to the necessity of maintaining a military company in northwestern Iowa. "Dr. E. S. PRESCOTT, who has resided at Spirit Lake since April, 1857, and whose wife and children are there," said a Des Moines editor early in December, "informs the Jasper Free Press, that there is no authority for the rumors of an Indian invasion at Spirit Lake; that the Indians who perpetrated the outrages a year since, are 800 miles off; and that the few Indians who have been seen at Spirit Lake, are a few who had an agent's pass for passing between Fort Ridgely and Cotton River. Dr. P. STRONGLY insinuates that sinister motives prompted the message sent to Gov. LOWE." On the other hand, Orlando C. HOWE, who had recently been in Des Moines, declared that military protection was urgently needed, and his statement was amply corroborated by numerous petitions and official requests from Clay and Dickinson counties. "It is impossible to reconcile the statements of Dr. PRESCOTT, with those made to the Governor," said the editor. "There is falsehood somewhere."

An account of the march of the Frontier Guards to Spirit Lake, written by D. JEWETT, may be found in the Boone County News (Boonsboro), December 17, 1858.

Politics soon entered into the discussion and helped to prolong the controversy which continued throughout the winter. Democratic editors seemed only too glad to seize upon any pretext to accuse Governor LOWE and the Republican party with waste and extravagance in the expenditure of State funds. "At the time the 'Frontier Guards,' early last winter, were called into the field by the Governor, we asked a few questions relative to the necessity existing for such a call," declared a Democratic editor at Des Moines late in March, 1859. "A thorough investigation convinced us that the Governor had been deceived, and we wrote it. . . .The Governor knows it — his Deputies know it — the citizens of Spirit Lake — in fact all know that this Spirit Lake affair is one of the most brazen humbugs ever perpetrated in the State of Iowa. All the abuse, the apologies, and the lying statements of bitter partizans and interested parties, will not cover up this fraud and blunder."

In the same paper there was published a letter from G. H. BUSH of Spirit Lake telling in a rather sarcastic manner of how two Indians, with their women and children, were captured after they had openly come into town. "The soldiers under Capt. MARTIN have proved their generosity on two or three occasions as they would their bravery, doubtless, should opportunity offer," said the writer, "but the fact is we do not need them. There is no danger of Indian depredations being committed here, and a great many of the states' tiers feel that the State is uselessly burdened by the stationing of troops at this point." The Iowa Weekly Citizen, Des Moines, Polk County, Iowa, December 8, 1858. State Journal, Des Moines, Polk County, Iowa, March 26, 1859.

Editor John F. BUNCOMBE of Fort Dodge did not doubt that the Governor was actuated by good motives in calling out the frontier company. "But," he asked, "is it not a little cruel that men who spent hundreds of dollars in the expedition of 1857, who took their last bread and meat to feed the hungry soldiers, that killed their last ox for the same purpose, and who were frozen, and to this day have not recovered from the injuries received on that expedition, should be utterly neglected, when money is now paid out so lavishly? Capt. MARTIN has men in his own company who know these facts." It was further asserted that much of the news concerning Indian troubles was manufactured at Des Moines and in the southern part of the State.

Republican editors did not allow these assertions to go unchallenged. Among those who were most outspoken in defense of the Governor's action was Charles ALDRICH of Webster City, who had every opportunity to know the real facts in the case. Early in December he gave expression to his views in the following unmistakable language:

"The ordering of the Frontier Guard to our Northwestern frontier has awakened the slumbering liars of the Democratic press to something of the activity which they displayed before the late election. . . .The source of this nonsensical clamor is the State Journal, at Des Moines. . . .That paper is a regular Thug, to which fairness, candor, honesty and truth, are the most entire strangers. . . . The Journal ridicules the idea of Indian troubles, without knowing the true condition or caring a drink of whiskey for the interests of our exposed settlements on the frontier." - Fort Dodge Sentinel, April 30, 1859.

The State Auditor's report indicates that up to November 6, 1859, there was paid out of the State treasury the sum of $19,800.79 for "Military expenses— Frontier Army." — "Report of the Auditor of State" 1859, p. 8, in Iowa Legislative Documents 1859-1860.

On December 14, 1858, William WILLIAMS of Fort Dodge wrote to Governor LOWE urging the need of frontier protection. He declared that if the War Department would place him in charge and give him one hundred men, he would "undertake to defend the whole frontier — for the time to come." — Correspondence, Miscellaneous G II, 731, in Public Archives, Des Moines.

That Gov. LOWE is fully justified in the action he has taken, no man at all conversant with the condition of our Northwestern frontier can for a moment doubt. The dread inspired by the barbarous massacre of 1857, and the slight notice taken of it by the General Government, have driven hundreds of settlers from the State, and hundreds more would follow them but for the assurance of some sort of protection. It is a settled conviction on the part of a majority of [the] community, that a general Indian war is impending in the Northwest. It is but a few months since it required all the address of the officers connected with Indian Affairs, to prevent a general and a bloody outbreak in Western Minnesota. One of the first results of such a calamity, would be a savage incursion into our own State. When such a catastrophe may occur is beyond any human power to foretell. We are denied the protection due us from the General Government, and a spark may kindle a flame that will only be quenched by the blood of hundreds of our settlers. The State of Iowa had far better maintain a force upon her frontiers, adequate for their protection, for the next fifty years, than suffer a repetition of the barbarities of 1857. Such is the feeling on the frontier, and whether predicated upon probabilities or possibilities, the State owes it to herself to protect these pioneer settlements, and give them the assurance of safety.

Statements like these were backed up by letters from men of good standing who were living in the region threatened by the Indians. Charles SMELTER, county judge of Clay County, wrote to Governor LOWE that he had visited Spirit Lake and found the settlers in a state of great excitement. He had seen Indians and had discovered evidences of many more. "Now I have given you the facts," wrote Judge SMELTER, "and beg of you to take some measures to protect us both in life and property. Laws will not do it, and we, as citizens of the great State of Iowa, claim protection, and if it is not rendered, we shall be under the necessity of killing every Indian we see, whether friendly or hostile; and by the 'eternal' we will do it, and take the consequences. For not being able to converse with them, we know not their motives, and everything argues that they are after plunder."

At an indignation meeting held at Spirit Lake on December 20, 1858, a series of resolutions was adopted, declaring that "the citizens of Dickinson, Clay and Buena Vista counties acted prudently and wisely in petitioning the Governor as they did to exercise the power vested in him for the protection of our frontiers." They also condemned "the manner and matter, spirit and tenor of the articles which lately appeared in the public prints, over the signatures of J. S. PRESCOTT and Wm. B. ZERBY, and we pronounce the same as gross libels on the citizens of Northwestern Iowa, and that the same were dictated by a spirit of personal revenge and mercenary motives on the part of J. S. PRESCOTT and paid poltroonery on the part of Wm. B. ZERBY." A committee was appointed to wait upon J. S. PRESCOTT when he returned to the settlement and demand of him his reasons for publishing the "scandalous falsehoods" attributed to him. At about the same time, in a lengthy statement signed by more than forty settlers at the lakes, J. S. PRESCOTT was branded as a "reverend land shark" and as "a speculating divine, who prostitutes his professed calling to base and mercenary ends, thereby deceiving the honest and unsuspecting." - The Iowa Weekly Citizen, Des Moines, Polk County, Iowa, December 22, 1858.

"Certain individuals," wrote Charles ALDRICH, "who did not dare to stay at Spirit Lake this winter, through fear of the Indians — showing infinitely less courage than many of the pioneer mothers and daughters who have remained at Spirit Lake — have gone up and down the State, deprecating the folly of keeping an armed force on the frontier. Had all the settlers followed their example, there certainly would have been reason and pertinence in their suggestions." — Hamilton FREEMAN, Webster City, February 25, 1859.

The evidence indicates that the Frontier Guards served a useful purpose during the winter of 1858-1859. They came in contact several times with Indians who had no right in Iowa, and drove them across the State line. Several Indians were also held in captivity for a time. The settlers as a whole apparently appreciated the presence of the company. Certainly if this meager military protection gave the settlers a feeling of security and kept the Indians from depredations, to say nothing of more serious hostility, it was well worth all it cost to the State — less than twenty thousand dollars for protection afforded during two winters. The Frontier Guards returned to their homes early in the spring of 1859.

The question of frontier defense in Iowa ceased to demand much attention until after the outbreak of the Civil War. Governor LOWE, in his biennial message of January 9, 1860, related to the General Assembly the main facts concerning the activities of the company. A week later, in response to a request, Governor Samuel J. KIRKWOOD (1860-1864; 1876-1877), pictured at right, informed the House that the company had not been called into service for the third time. Nor had he received any information indicating a necessity for its services during that winter. Late in February, however, Governor KIRKWOOD sent a special message to the legislature saying that he had just received communications from settlers living in Clay, Cherokee, and Woodbury counties, telling of Indian depredations. He pointed out the difficulty and expense of moving a military force from Fort Dodge to the threatened region at that time of the year. Consequently he recommended "that the services of persons in the valley of the Little Sioux River be invited and accepted, and that arms and ammunition, particularly the latter, be furnished them." As the law then stood Governor KIRKWOOD was of the opinion that he had no authority to employ any other force than the Frontier Guards, the members of which lived far distant from the scene of disturbance. A week later the Governor informed the Senate that he had received additional reports concerning Indian troubles in Cherokee County. 46

In response to the Governor's suggestion the General Assembly passed a law which was published under the heading of "Army of Protection." The Governor was authorized to furnish settlers with arms and ammunition with which to defend themselves against "the threatened depredations of marauding bands of hostile Indians." The Governor might also "cause to be enrolled a company of minute men, in number not exceeding twelve, at the Governor's discretion, who shall at all times hold themselves in readiness to meet any threatened invasion of hostile Indians as aforesaid — the said minute men only to be paid for the time actually employed in the service herein contemplated." Four of these "minute men" might be employed "as an active police for such time, and to perform such services as may be demanded of them." The sum of five hundred dollars was made available for use in the manner contemplated in this act. 46

Either the fears of the settlers were largely without foundation at this time, or the Indians soon withdrew. Newspapers, even along the frontier, paid very little attention to the scare. Furthermore, the services of the "minute men," if such a company was organized, must have been of very short duration, for the State Auditor's report for the biennium ending on November 3, 1861, reveals the sum of only $34.75 paid to the "Army of protection for North West Iowa." - Report of the Auditor of State, 1861, p. 10. Iowa Legislative Documents 1861-1862.


It was not until the following winter that the likelihood of Indian invasion again caused anxiety in Iowa. But as the inevitability of civil strife became each day more certain, there came warnings of uneasiness among the Sioux. "I learn that the present unfortunate condition of public affairs has rendered necessary the transfer of the U.S. troops from Fort Kearny and other points in the West to the sea-board," wrote Governor KIRKWOOD to the Secretary of War on January 25, 1861. "It is now rumored here that large bands of Indians are gathering near Fort Kearny with hostile intentions. The northwestern border of this State has for several years last past been subject to Indian depredations, the evidence of which is on file in your Department." In view of the fact that the State was almost without means of defense, the Governor asked that an extra supply of arms be stored either at Des Moines or Fort Dodge, in charge of a United States officer. This request, however, went ungratified.

In a long letter on March 5, 1860, Governor KIRKWOOD authorized George W. LEBOURVEAU to organize the "minute men" provided for in the act of the legislature, and instructed him relative to the enlistment, equipment, and duties of the men so organized. — Executive Journal, 1858-1865 Pp. 281-83, Public Archives, Des Moines.

The outbreak of the Civil War naturally created quite a stir among the Sioux tribesmen. While as a whole they had maintained reasonably friendly relations with the whites, it is evident that for years they had been nursing their wrath in silence. It must be admitted that they had ample cause for resentment. They had been forced to accede to treaties made against their will and under circumstances which strongly aroiised their suspicions; and too often even these unsatisfactory agreements were not faithfully observed by the government. They had also been exploited and plundered by traders, whiskey-sellers, and other disreputable frontiersmen. Furthermore, the failure of the military authorities to capture and punish Inkpaduta confirmed their growing belief that their Great Father was not so powerful as he claimed to be. It is not strange, therefore, that the Sioux saw hope of securing revenge when the meager frontier garrisons were weakened or withdrawn, and when they observed the whites preparing for a struggle between themselves.

"When the Great Father had no cavalry to chase Inkpaduta. but was obliged to hire Indians to make that fruitless pursuit, the Sioux inferred that while he had a great multitude of people he could not make soldiers of them. A veteran missionary recorded the opinion that the failure of the government to pursue and capture Inkpaduta was the 'primary cause' of the uprising which came five years later." — FOLWELL's Minnesota: The North Star State p. 193.

Immediately after the outbreak of war Governor KIRKWOOD renewed his request for arms with which to defend the Indian frontier. "If you could place 500 long-range rifles at Council Bluffs and the same number at Sioux City, in store," he said, "to be used by me in case of necessity, I will furnish the men." This request was supplemented on the following day by another letter enclosing a communication on the same subject, written by Justice Caleb BALDWIN, whose home was at Council Bluffs. 47

Ten days later the Governor had not received any response, and so he made another appeal to Secretary CAMERON. "I am daily receiving letters from our northwestern frontier expressing alarm on account of the Indians," he wrote. "Our people there are very uneasy, and have in my judgment good cause for fear. I don't ask for anything but arms, accouterments, and ammunition. We have plenty of men willing to use them in their own defense and that of the Government. If no arrangement has yet been made for arms for this State, do, for God's sake, send us some." 47

Shortly afterward there came a reply to the Governor's earlier letter, saying that it was not the intention of the War Department to order the State troops from the West for some time, and they would be on hand to meet any emergency. "A glance at the map of Iowa," was KIRKWOOD's reply, "will show you that the troops raised in this State will at Keokuk be at least 300 miles from the nearest point [Council Bluffs], and 400 miles from the point [Sioux City] most exposed to Indian depredations. This will not afford any protection to the northwestern frontier. All I ask is arms and ammunition; not any men." 47

Again Secretary CAMERON wrote that the most he could say was that "the Chief of Ordnance advises that 1,000 stand of arms ought to be forwarded to Keokuk, to be there taken in charge by Colonel CURTIS or some other responsible person, to be used in case of an emergency." With patience nearly exhausted the Governor replied that "if by this it is intended that the arms shall remain in Keokuk until an attack is actually made by Indians, and then be used to repel such attack, such arrangement will not be of practical benefit. . . .Between Keokuk and either of these points [Council Bluffs and Sioux City] there are only about 80 miles of railroad, and the balance of the way arms, etc., must be carried by wagon. The Indians might invade our State, do incalculable injury, and be gone beyond our reach long before an express could reach Keokuk and the arms taken to the point of attack. The arms to be available to us must be near the points exposed. Please consult Colonel CURTIS on these matters. He is familiar with the geography of our State, and can give you important and reliable information." 47

Governor KIRKWOOD now turned his attention to the General Assembly which he had called to meet in special session on May 15th. In his message of the following day among other things he discussed the situation with respect to the Sioux Indians. "The known facts," he said, "that the troops have been wholly or in part withdrawn from the Forts in the Territories west of us, and the restraint of their presence thus removed from the Indian tribes on our border, that the Indians have received, probably, highly colored statements in regard to the War now upon us; and that since the massacre at Spirit Lake in our State some years since, which went wholly unpunished, they have shown an aggressive disposition, coupled with the probability that they may be tampered with by bad men, render it in my judgment, a matter of imperative necessity that proper measures be taken to guard against danger from that quarter." 47

On May 6th Governor KIRKWOOD wrote to General John E. WOOL that he had information to the effect that Sioux Indians were already in the State in small bands stealing horses. — The War of the Rebellion: Official Records Ser. III. Vol. I. p. 163.

"The western counties are waking up to the importance of organizing home guards. The Indians may become troublesome on the frontier — and it is a good thing to be in readiness to receive them. We hardly think it prudent for Iowans on the Southern or Western frontiers to enlist in the U. S. army. They may be needed at home, to protect their own hearthstones from ruthless invasion." — The Iowa State Register, Des Moines, May 8, 1861.

Governor KIRKWOOD refused to accept Grenville M. DODGES's "Council Bluffs Guards" for Federal service at the outbreak of the war, for the reason that the company was badly needed on the frontier.48


The legislature took due cognizance of the situation and passed several laws reorganizing or relating to the militia. In one of these laws it was declared that "for the better protection of the exposed borders of this State, to resist marauding parties of Indians and other hostile persons, to repel invasion, and to render prompt and efficient assistance to the United States," the Governor was authorized "to organize two Regiments of Infantry, one Battalion of not less than three Companies of Artillery, and one Squadron of not less than five Companies of Cavalry, and one Regiment of Mounted Riflemen for the service of the State." The companies of mounted riflemen, which were to be raised in the counties most exposed to danger, were to consist of not less than forty nor more than one hundred men. It was the understanding that these men would not be ordered into service outside the border counties.49

Meanwhile, defensive measures were already under way. Because of the distance and the lack of facilities for communication Governor KIRKWOOD appointed Caleb BALDWIN of Council Bluffs and A. W. HUBBARD of Sioux City as aids to take charge of the plans for the protection of the frontier against the Sioux Indians. Late in April the Governor wrote to Caleb BALDWIN authorizing him to direct the organization of military companies in the counties in the vicinity of Council Bluffs. "There are not now any arms to send there," he said, "except about 50 muskets, that will be sent at once. The people should organize as minute men, and arm themselves with private arms as well as they can. . . .If they are called on to act against Indians, they had better act as mounted men." 50

Shortly after the receipt of this letter Judge BALDWIN issued an appeal to the people of western Iowa to organize at least one military company in each county; and he was heartily seconded by the editor of a Council Bluffs paper. 51

At Sioux City, which was the largest town in the region most exposed to Indian raids, there was much interest in plans for defense. About the middle of May it was reported that "Gen. TRIPP's 'Frontier Guards'" was rapidly filling up: it then had more than fifty members. It was also said that the Governor had forwarded five hundred stand of arms to Sioux City and they might be expected within a few days. Apparently both a mounted company and an infantry company were organized at Sioux City; and on May 18th the "Frontier Rangers" elected officers — choosing James S. MORTON as captain.

On May 21st Governor KIRKWOOD informed the House of Representatives that several companies had been organized under these instructions. "I have forwarded to Council Bluffs," he said, "140 stand of arms, and have ordered one 8 Ib. field piece, and 40 revolvers with the necessary equipments and ammunition transported thither without delay, incurring for express charges, freight, etc., an expense now known as $359.95. The force necessary to protect the North and Western frontier should be had by organizing in each county one company of mounted rangers who should meet for drill and company exercise as often as their patriotism and interest might induce them to do, and the expense attending such force consists in furnishing each member of a company with a rifle and sword bayonet, valued at from 23 to 50 dollars, and a Colt's revolver valued at 22 to 25 dollars." 52

As summer advanced reports of a threatened Indian invasion grew more and more exaggerated as they spread farther from the frontier. "The Davenport Gazette," said a Sioux City editor about the middle of June, "learns from Des Moines that three thousand Indians, apparently with hostile intent, were within fifty miles of Sioux City, and that the whole Northwestern part of the State was in great alarm from the apprehended attack." The editor emphatically denied the truth of any such assertion. "There are no Indians, 'with hostile intent' encamped within 50 or more than 50 miles of Sioux City," he declared. "The depredations upon the property of citizens of this part of Iowa, have been committed by a roving band of four or five Indians, and thus far their operations have been confined to horse-stealing — not to scalp taking." The Sioux City Register, May 18, 1861

Nevertheless, each week witnessed new cases of horse-stealing by Indians in Woodbury and Plymouth counties. The rangers from Sioux City, and settlers from Correctionville and other points several times went in pursuit of the redskins. In one case at least the pursuers caught up with the robbers and engaged in a small skirmish; but with the possible exception of a few wounds the Indians in each instance escaped unscathed. The Sioux City Register, May 25, 1861; The Sioux City Register, June 15, 1861.

A week later it was stated that the arms of the frontier company were "stored in the Post Office for safety, as well as in case of any emergency." — The Sioux City Register, May 25, 1861.

A more serious episode, however, occurred on Tuesday, June 9th, about three miles from Sioux City. On the morning of that day Thomas ROBERTS and Henry CORDUA went out from town to plow a patch of potatoes. About noon they were shot in ambush by some Indians, who afterward made off with their horses — the murder apparently having been committed for the purpose of accomplishing the theft. When the crime was discovered late that night the news was at once taken to Sioux City and Captain Tripp and twenty mounted riflemen started in pursuit of the criminals. - The Sioux City Register, June 15/22, 1861.

"Capt. TRIPP and his men followed the trail of the Indians some 50 miles," according to the account in a Sioux City paper, "when, owing to their having left in great haste, without taking time to prepare rations, they were compelled from exhaustion to abandon the chase and return home. Capt. MORTON, with a detachment of mounted Rangers, being provided with provisions continued the pursuit, but as we go to press we learn that he has returned to Melbourne without having succeeded in overtaking the Indians. We are also informed that another detachment of Capt. TRIPP's company are making arrangements to start in pursuit of the Indians, and that they will not return until they will have chastised the Indians, or exhausted all hope of finding them."83 Apparently the latter result was accomplished rather than the former, for there is no record that the culprits were captured or even overtaken. - The Sioux City Register, June 22, 1861.

"The troubles with the Indians on our Western borders are thickening. Since the 1st of April, according to the evidence of the Boyer Valley Record, more than 30 horses have been stolen at Smithland, Correctionville, Ida Grove and other points." — The Iowa State Register, Des Moines, July 10, 1861.

About this time the Mills County Mounted Minute Men proceeded to the vicinity of Sioux City to help in quieting the apprehensions of the settlers. — Council Bluffs Nonpareil, July 13, 1861; The Sioux City Register, July 13, 1861. The latter paper contains a roster of the company.

This episode naturally caused alarm in the northwestern counties, and again rumors of a general Indian war spread to distant points. At Des Moines a mounted company, commanded by John MOTCHELL, was quickly raised. It proceeded at once to Sioux City, where it arrived on July 23rd, and remained in northwestern Iowa for several weeks. - The Sioux City Register, July 27, 1861

The editor of the Sioux City Register did not believe there was danger of an attack by Sioux Indians in large numbers. But at the same time it was necessary that the settlers should be on the alert and prepared to meet any emergency. "The tribe or tribes," he said, "to which these murderers and thieves belong should be required to apprehend and deliver them up for punishment. If they refuse to do this, then duty, safety and honor demand that the settlers should raise a sufficient force, invade their country and give them such treatment as murderers and their abettors merit. The time has arrived when the tribes to which these marauders belong, must receive bullets from Federal muskets instead of dollars from the Federal treasury." The agents for these tribes should see that their wards should not be allowed to leave the reservations under any pretext. "It is difficult," he continued, "to distinguish the difference between a friendly and a hostile Indian; and in the present state of feeling which exists in some sections upon the frontier, an Indian — be he friend or foe — holds his life by a very precarious tenure when within the range of a settler's rifle." - The Sioux City Register, July 13, 1861.

Captain MORTON made a detailed statement one week later explaining why the pursuit had been unfruitful, and recommending that the volunteer, half civilian and half military companies which were expected to protect the frontier should be replaced by a regular organization, well equipped, whose sole duty it should be to guard the frontier, and even to proceed into the Indian country. — The Sioux City Register, July 20, 1861.

Indian horse-thieves continued to infest northwestern Iowa during the remainder of the summer and fall of 1861, and travelers on the roads leading to Sioux City were on several occasions attacked by small bands of Sioux outlaws, well mounted and armed. Both the Sioux City riflemen and John MITCHELL's company from Des Moines were kept on the frontier all summer to check the depredations as far as possible and give the settlers a feeling of security.

About the middle of August the Governor received authority from the War Department to raise a company of cavalry for the defense of the northwestern frontier in Iowa. The men in this company were to be mustered into United States service for a period of three years. The company, which was known as the Sioux City Cavalry Company, was recruited to the required strength by October and the election of officers occurred on the twelfth of that month: Andrew J. MILLARD was chosen captain; James A. SAWYERS, first lieutenant; and Jacob T. COPLAN, second lieutenant. On November 14th the men were mustered into United States service by Lieutenant George S. HOLLISTER. - The Sioux City Register, November 16, 1861.

For the roster of this company, which contains over one hundred names and in addition several which were rejected by the mustering officer, [ Report of the Adjutant General (Iowa), 1863, Vol. II. Pp. 648-51; Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers Vol. IV. Pp. 1773-80.] While the largest number of the members resided in Sioux City, practically every settlement in northwestern Iowa was represented. A brief history of the company, in which there are some errors, is to be found in the Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. IV. Pp. 1771-72. The company became Company I of the Seventh Iowa Cavalry on July 14, 1863. During the fall and winter detachments of the company were stationed at Spirit Lake, Cherokee, and Correctionville, to protect the exposed settlements in that region, but there is no record of their activities.

In his biennial message of January, 1862, Governor KIRKWOOD was able to report that tranquillity on the frontier had been preserved, and he expressed the hope that the cavalry company would prove "sufficient for the protection of that portion of our State."


The spring and early summer of 1862 passed without any recurrence of Indian alarm. In May, to be sure, a temporary flurry of excitement was caused in Sioux City and the surrounding region by the report that Captain MILLARD's company had captured thirteen Indians. The news spread rapidly and with each re-telling it grew in importance, until finally there was a general belief that a large band of Indians, led by Inkpaduta, was about to attack the settlements, when it was met by Captain MILLARD's company; and that in the ensuing conflict the Indians were defeated and Inkpaduta and twelve of his braves captured. The excitement quickly subsided when it was learned that the captives were an old Indian and his wife and eleven children, who were soon given safe escort to the borders of the State. - The Sioux City Register, November 23, December 7, 1861. Late in January, 1862, the company gave a ball in Sioux City to celebrate the arrival of their uniforms. — The Sioux City Register, January 11, February 1, 1862.

Three months later, like a thunderbolt out of a clear sky, came the news of the Indian outbreak in Minnesota. The summer of 1862 found many bands of the Sioux almost on the verge of starvation. Moreover, they were consumed with rage because their annuities, which should have been paid when the grass grew green in the spring, had not yet been distributed to them. Thus it was that the murder of five settlers on August 17th by a wandering party of Sioux hunters was the spark which kindled a great conflagration. Under the leadership of Little Crow the redskins took up the hatchet along the entire Minnesota frontier. At New Ulm and at other points not far above the northern boundary of Iowa in the next few days they perpetrated the bloodiest massacre in American history. The estimates of the number of white victims vary from five hundred to fifteen hundred, but the most careful count places the number at more than six hundred and fifty. 53

The news of this massacre naturally spread terror throughout the frontier settlements. The extreme northwestern corner of Iowa — roughly speaking, that portion cut off by a line drawn diagonally from Sioux City to Estherville — was the section of this State most exposed to danger because of the weakness of the settlements. But even as far into the interior as Fort Dodge and Webster City there was great alarm until reports of the defensive measures taken by Federal authorities and by Minnesota and Iowa gave assurance of a barrier against the southward movement of the Indians. 53

Sioux City was perhaps the point in Iowa where the effects of the widespread alarm were most fully manifested. It was the largest town in that region, and its location made it the natural place of refuge for settlers not only from the adjoining counties in Iowa, but also from Dakota Territory and southwestern Minnesota. "Saturday evening, night and Sunday forenoon there was a continuous train of wagons from Dakota into Sioux City," runs a newspaper account early in September. "In many cases the women and children were bare headed, bare footed, poorly clad, and almost destitute of provisions, showing the extreme hurry in which they left. Many did not stop here but kept on their way South. All had the most alarming stories to relate of Indians which they had seen — burning houses, towns destroyed, etc. Saturday evening a messenger arrived here bringing the seemingly reliable intelligence that the Yanktons had risen and great danger was imminent. It is easier to imagine than describe the excitement that such a state of things would necessarily produce on the exposed frontier. Happily the immediate danger was more imaginary than real, and many of the exciting rumors were without any sufficient foundation. Still all the settlers upon the frontier have become intensely excited and alarmed. They have left their homes, and property, and crops unharvested. Nor will they return in very many cases unless they are assured of safety from marauding Indians." 53

As Lieutenant Colonel H. C. NUTT hastened northward from Council Bluffs he found the road south of Sioux City "lined with families leaving, and in such terror as to preclude getting any reliable information. They were all bound to get away from the Indians." He endeavored to dissuade these fugitives from abandoning their homes, but generally without success. At Sioux City he found so many people that he concluded that practically all the settlers of northwestern Iowa had fled to that place for safety or had already gone farther south. 53

Preparations for defense were made all along the frontier as soon as the seriousness of the situation was fully realized. Volunteer companies were organized at Sioux City, Spirit Lake, Estherville, Algona, Fort Dodge, Webster City, and other points; and Captain Millard took his cavalry company to Spirit Lake, where he found the settlers preparing to defend themselves in the courthouse in case of attack.96 At Sioux City a fortification three hundred feet square was erected. 53

On August 29th Governor KIRKWOOD instructed Schuyler R. Ingham of Des Moines to proceed at once to Fort Dodge and other points in the northwest and to take such steps as he deemed necessary to protect the inhabitants of the frontier. "Arms and powder will be sent to you at Fort Dodge," he said. "Lead and caps will be sent with you. I hand you an order on the Auditor of State for one thousand dollars." The Sioux City Register, August 30, 1862

Because of the lack of facilities for communication the news of the massacre was slow in reaching the settlements in Iowa; and at first little heed was paid to the stories on account of the fact that everyone was engrossed in the events of the war in the South. — See INGHAM's "The Iowa Northern Border Brigade" The Annals of Iowa Third Series, Vol. V. Pp. 481-523.

In the opening pages of this article, William H. INGHAM of Algona, who was captain of Company A of the Northern Border Brigade, tells of the early preparations for defense and of a trip which he and a companion made into Minnesota for the purpose of investigating the condition of affairs.

Mr. INGHAM immediately proceeded to carry out these instructions. He visited Webster, Humboldt, Kossuth, Palo Alto, Emmet, and Dickinson counties, and found the settlers greatly excited. Many of them were leaving their homes and moving to the more thickly settled portions of the State. "This feeling, however," he wrote in his report, "seemed to be more intense and to run higher in the more inland and remote counties from the border, than in the border counties themselves." In Emmet and Kossuth counties he called meetings of the settlers for the purpose of agreeing on measures to be taken. "They expressed themselves freely and were very temperate in their demands." All they considered necessary was a small force of mounted men to act in connection with the Sioux City Cavalry then stationed at Spirit Lake. But they insisted that this force "must be made up of men, such as they could choose from amongst themselves, who were familiar with the country and had been engaged in hunting and trapping for years, and were more or less familiar with the habits and customs of the Indians, one of which men would be worth half a dozen such as the State had sent up there on one or two former occasions."

The raising of a company in Emmet, Palo Alto, Kossuth, and Humboldt counties was therefore authorized. "Within five days forty men were enlisted; held an election for officers, were mustered in, furnished with arms and ammunition, and placed on duty." Twenty men were stationed at Chain Lakes and twenty at Estherville. At Spirit Lake Mr. IMGHAM found forty members of Captain MILLARD's company, and aside from furnishing the settlers with arms, he considered further protection at this point unnecessary. At Fort Dodge he had obtained nearly two hundred "Austrian rifles," forty-three "Springfield muskets," and a considerable quantity of ammunition. About one-third of the rifles and all of the muskets were placed where it was thought they were needed and would be of the most service." 54

Sioux City was amply defended. In addition to a portion of Captain MILLARD's cavalry and the volunteers who prepared to resist any possible Indian attack, the garrison of the town for a time included a squad of artillery from Council Bluffs and three companies of infantry from Council Bluffs and Harrison County. These latter companies had been raised for Federal service, but had not yet been mustered in; and consequently they had been ordered to Sioux City upon the receipt of the news of the Indian uprising. "Altogether Sioux City has a military look," declared Editor Patrick ROBB. "The 350 soldiers here are much of the time engaged in drill, and the shrill sound of the fife, the roll of drums, and notes of the bugle, are becoming quite familiar." These troops gave the people the needed feeling of security and soon restored their confidence. But Lieutenant Colonel NUTT believed that if he had taken them away immediately, he would also have taken with them "every woman and child at least, and most of the men." 55

It should be said in this connection that Governor KIRKWOOD also commissioned George L. DAVENPORT of Davenport to examine into and report upon the danger of an Indian attack upon the Iowa frontier. Mr. DAVENPORT visited Minnesota, Nebraska Territory, Dakota Territory, and the Indians in Tama County, and made three reports in September and October. 56


1 For a discussion of the establishment and history of the early forts see Vander ZEE's Forts in the Iowa Country, The Iowa Journal Of History And Politics, Vol. XII, pp. 163-204.

2 Senate Executive Documents, 1st Session, 31st Congress, Vol. II, pp. 235, 242, 243. Most writers have stated that the attack on MARSH was made in 1848, but the report of the Surveyor General describing the event proves conclusively that it occurred in 1849.

3 William WILLIAM's "History of Webster County, Iowa" The Annals of Iowa, Vol. VII, p. 284.

4 Senate Executive Documents, 1st Session, 31st Congress, Vol. II, p. 235.

5 Senate Executive Documents, 1st Session, 31st Congress, Vol. II, p. 1051.

6 The Annals of Iowa, Third Series, Vol. IV, p. 534.

7 The Annals of Iowa, Third Series, Vol IV, Pp. 534-35.

8 Laws of Iowa, 1848-1849, p. 203.

9 Journal of the Senate, 1st Session, 31st Congress, p. 164; Journal of the House of Representatives, 1st Session, 31st Congress, p. 510.

10 WILLIAMS's "History of Webster County, Iowa" The Annals of Iowa Vol. VII, p. 285; CARPENTER's "Major William WILLIAMS" The Annals of Iowa Third Series, Vol. II, Pp. 147-48.

11 HANSEN's Old Fort Snelling 1819-1838 Pp. 41-45; WILLIAMS' "History of Webster County, Iowa" The Annals of Iowa Vol. VII, Pp. 285, 289. The drawing referred to is reproduced in PRATT's History of Fort Dodge and Webster County, Iowa p. 72.

12 These letters and the petition from Dubuque are to be found in Senate Executive Documents, 2nd Session, 31st Congress, Vol. III, No. 15.

13 The Annals of Iowa Third Series, Vol. IV, p. 536.

14 Journal of the Senate, 2nd Session, 31st Congress, pp. 82, 91, 104; Senate Executive Documents, 2nd Session, 31st Congress, Vol. III, No. 15.

15 WILLIAMS' "History of Webster County, Iowa" The Annals of Iowa Vol. VII, Pp. 290, 334-35. See also The Annals of Iowa Third Series, Vol. TV, Pp. 535-36, for data compiled from materials in the archives at Washington.

16 The Annals of Iowa Third Series, Vol. IV, Pp. 536, 537.

17 WILLIAMS' "History of Webster County, Iowa" The Annals of Iowa Vol. VII, p. 335.

18 The Annals of Iowa Third Series. Vol. IV, Pp. 537-38.

19 This account of the murder of Sidominadota is taken largely from TEAKLE's The Spirit Lake Massacre Ch. IV.

20 WILLIAMS'"History of Webster County, Iowa" The Annals of Iowa Vol. VII. Pp. 291-92, 335-36.

21 Harvey INGHAM's "Ink-pa-du-tah: A Revenge" The Midland Monthly Vol. IV, Pp. 271-72. There are many versions and accounts of this episode which has been called the "Grindstone War."

22 SHAMBAUGH's Messages and Proclamations of the Governors of Iowa Vol. I, Pp. 93-94.

23 This letter is printed in full in The Annals of Iowa Third Series. Vol. II. Pp. 627-30.

24 Journal of the House of Representatives 1854-1855, p. 413.

25 This letter is printed in full in The Annals of Iowa Third Series. Vol. III, Pp. 135-37. The original is in the Executive Journal, 1855-1858, Pp. 188-190, in the Public Archives, Des Moines.

26 The data for the brief account of the tragedy, which in reality occurred chiefly on the shores of Lake Okoboji, was taken from TEAKLE's The Spirit Lake Massacre, a volume of over three hundred pages published by The State Historical Society of Iowa.

27 HARTS's History of Sac County, Iowa p. 38; GILLESPIE and STEELE's History of Clay County, Iowa p. 57.

28 For an account of the attack on Springfield, Minnesota, see TEAKLE's The Spirit Lake Massacre Chs. XVII-XIX.

29 A full account of the "Spirit Lake Belief Expedition" is to be found in TEAKLE's The Spirit Lake Massacre Chs. XXI-XXV.

30 Captain BEE's report in House Executive Documents 1st Session, 35th Congress, Vol. II, Pt. I, Pp. 350-55.

31 A detailed account of the efforts to punish Inkpaduta may be found in TEAKLE's The Spirit Lake Massacre Ch. XXIX.

32 FLANDRAU's "The Ink-pa-du-ta Massacre of 1857" in the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society Vol. III. Pp. 401-02.

33 House Executive Documents 1st Session, 35th Congress, Vol. II. Pt. I, p. 354.

34 SMITH's A History of Dickinson County, Iowa p. 147.

35 See SMITH's A History of Dickinson County, Iowa Ch. XII.

36 House Executive Documents, 1st Session, 35th Congress, Vol. II. Pt. I, p. 354.

37 Hamilton FREEMAN (Webster City), July 13, 1857. The complaint of the Democratic editor is here quoted from the Fort Dodge Sentinel.

38 SHAMBAUGH's Messages and Proclamations of the Governors of Iowa Vol. II. Pp. 57-59.

39 Laws of Iowa, 1858 Pp. 10-14. "Standing Army" was the high-sounding heading given to this law.

40 Hamilton FREEMAN, Webster City, August 6, 1857.

41 SMITH's A History of Dickinson County, Iowa Pp. 160-61.

42 Journal of the House of Representatives, 1858, Pp. 72-3, 76, 88, 98-9. The bill providing for the military company was adopted unanimously in the House. p. 129.

43 Hamilton FREEMAN, Webster City, February 11, 1858. The law was not approved until February 9th.

44 Hamilton FREEMAN, Webster City, March 25, 1858; July 8, 1858.

45 Hamilton FREEMAN, Webster City, November 12, 1858; November 26, 1858.

46 SHAMBAUGH's Messages and Proclamations of the Governors of Iowa Vol. II. Pp. 376-77, 380.

47 The War of the Rebellion: Official Records Ser. III, Vol. I. Pp. 57, 86, 89, 127-28, 158, 162, 185-86.

48 The Annals of Iowa Third Series. Vol. IV. p. 579; Vol. V. p. 243.

49 SHAMBAUGH's Messages and Proclamations of the Governors of Iowa Vol. II. p. 260.; Laws of Iowa, 1861 Extra Session. Pp. 27-30.

50 SHAMBAUGH's Messages and Proclamations of the Governors of Iowa Vol. II. p. 410. See also the Council Bluffs Nonpareil, May 11, 1861.

51 Council Bluffs Nonpareil May 11, 1861.

52 SHAMBAUGH's Messages and Proclamations of the Governors of Iowa Vol. II. Pp. 410-11.

53 FOLWELL's Minnesota: The North Star State p. 211. Chapters XI, XII, and XIII in Professor FOLWELL's volume contain an excellent account of the Sioux outbreak and of subsequent military operations. This is a subject upon which an immense amount has been written.

54 S. R. INGHAM's report to Governor KIRKWOOD, Report of the Adjutant General (Iowa), 1863, Vol. II. Pp. 861-63.

55 The Sioux City Register, September 13, 20, 27, October 4, 11, 1862; The War of the Rebellion: Official Records Ser. I. Vol. XIII. p. 639.

56 Report of the Adjutant General (Iowa), 1863, Vol. II. Pp. 867-69.

SAGE, Leland L. "The Spirit Lake Massacre" A History of Iowa Chapter Six, "Development of a Frontier State" Pp. 107-08. Iowa State University Press. Ames. 1974.

For information concerning the activities of the Frontier Guards see Hamilton FREEMAN, Webster City, January 7, March 11, April 16, May 21, 1859; Boone County News (Boonsboro), January 7, 1859; The Iowa Citizen, Des Moines, March 16, 1859; Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers Vol. VI. p. 939; SHAMBAUGH's Messages and Proclamations of the Governors of Iowa Vol. II. Pp. 171-73.

SHAMBAUGH, Benjamin F., professor of political science University of Iowa. The Iowa Journal of History and Politics Vol. XVI. Pp. 314-75. Historical Society of Iowa. Iowa City. 1918

Portraits courtesy Library of Congress
Fort Dodge photograph by Sharon R. Becker

Transcriptions and compilation by Sharon R. Becker, June of 2009


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