Carroll County IAGenWeb


A Record of Settlement, Organization, Progress and Achievement



Transcribed and donated by Marilyn Setzler.


Carroll County Courthouse



There was small resistance to the conquest of Iowa by the whites from the Indian tenants, and the movement was
attended by little of the cruelty and war which followed the advent of the European invaders in other portions of

Three hundred years of sturdy but unavailing opposition to the advance had exhausted the original fierce and unyielding courage of the Indians and impressed them with the gloomy conviction that further resistance was useless. Nation after nation of their ancestors had been vanquished in the unequal contest. Step by step they had been dispossessed of their homes and hunting grounds and the most powerful of their tribes save those of the western plains had been engulfed and disappeared in the warfare. Their original lands had long been peopled by the Caucasian pioneer and woodsman, who forced them on by a slow but fatal pressure across the Mississippi, where their home was a fleeting one in their journey to the still further west.

At the time of the Louisiana purchase, in April, 1703, the Sacs and Foxes occupied the upper territory along the Mississippi river. The aboriginal home of the Foxes was in the state of Rhode Island. As they were forced west by the pressure of civilization they formed permanent relations with the Sac Indians of Wisconsin, and at the time of their emigration to Iowa the two nations had become one. The southeastern portion of the state was occupied by the Iowas. This nation has been traced through many migrations. In 1690 the Iowas were found in the vicinity of the Great Lakes, whence they were led across the Mississippi by their chief Manhawgaw, occupying the country about the lower valley of the Iowa river. Lewis and. Clark in the journal of their explorations in 1804 refer to this tribe of Indians as the Ayouways, a name signifying, "This is the place." The tribe was almost exterminated by the Sacs and Foxes in 1824 at Iowaville, where they had assembled in large numbers to witness a horse race and where they were surprised and men, women and children put to death in the most horrible massacre of which the soil of Iowa has ever been the witness. The butchery was planned by Mahaska to avenge the death of his father, which he laid upon the unfortunate tribe. Young Black Hawk was in command of a division of the Indians and had a part in the plundering and burning which followed the sur­render of the small remnant of braves who escaped the furious onslaught. The surviving wives and children of the Iowas were made captive by their conquerors, and from this time, so complete was the ruin, the tribe ceased to have an independent existence. A portion of southern Iowa was occupied by the Algonquin Indians, who were early known in the lake region of northern New York. Central and northwestern Iowa were at this time the home of the Dacotas or Sioux. These were the great nations of Iowa in the early part of the last century, but they were split up into numerous tribes which assumed a degree of independence and were recognized by tribal names. The power of the Sacs and Foxes in eastern Iowa was broken with the Black Hawk war. Later they sold a strip of land from their territory sixty miles west from the Mississippi along the whole course of the river in Iowa, from which limits the nation gradually receded under pressure of white settlement until in the forties and fifties their reservation impinged on that of the Sioux and Pottawottamies in northwestern Iowa.

But once in the early settlement of western Iowa was there any breach in the friendly relations between the settlers and the Indians.

Lesueur, an early explorer in the region about Blue Earth, Minn., and the Minnesota river, found one of the Sioux nations occupying all of that region, together with a large portion of the lake territory of northern Iowa. In their superstitions a special reverence was given to Spirit Lake, to which they had given the name of Ninne-Waukon, or "Mysterious Medicine," and it was to this beautiful body of water that they repaired for their religious festivals at the harvest season of the year. Very jealously did the Sioux watch the approach of the white advance toward their favorite hunting and camping grounds. Very deeply did their councils consider whether they should not resist the coming encroachment with open war. They were too wise, however, not to know the power that would provoke; and so, having given up the hope that their territory would not be molested and having despaired of their ability to resist by force, they entered into the treaty of 1851 by which they surrendered their lands in exchange for a new territory and a liberal grant of money. While such an end was certain the Sioux and their chief Sidominadota did not look forward to it with satisfaction. They did not welcome the whites among them and their attitude toward those who came near was sullen and inclined to be threatening. In 1848, Marsh, a government surveyor, who was running a correction line near Ft. Dodge, was encountered by a party of Sioux, with Sidominadota at their head, and ordered to turn back and leave the country. The surveyors were disposed to pay no heed to the injunction. The Indians destroyed their wagons, instruments and other property, seized their horses and forced them to leave the country. In 1849 some adventurers settled on the Des Moines river, near the mouth of the Boone. The Indians soon discovered them, destroyed their cabins and sent them flying with orders never to return. Settlers at other points were warned out of the country. These disturbances led to the establishment of a garrison at Ft. Dodge in 1850.

Shortly before this time a desperado by the name of Henry Lott built a cabin, which became a rendezvous for horse thieves and outlaws, also near the junction of the Boone river. Horses were stolen from the settlement below and from the Indians, secreted on Lott's premises and from there taken to the eastern part of the state and sold. In 1848 Lott's maurauders [sic] stole a number of ponies from the Sioux Indians, who were hunting along the river. Sidominadota tracked the party and ponies to Lott's settlement. They found them concealed in the woods and recovered them and ordered Lott to leave the country. This he refused to do and the Sioux chief directed his men to burn the cabin and kill the cattle. Lott, now alarmed, fled down the river with one of his sons, abandoning his wife and the smaller children, and upon reaching the settlements spread the report that his family had been massacred. Here an expedition was organized to pursue and punish the Sioux. When they reached the Lott claim the Indians had gone. The wife and children were found safe but had suffered severely and were without shelter or food. A son twelve years old had attempted to follow Lott when he fled. His body was found where the child had perished from cold and hunger. Lott remained on his claim, but a year later his wife died, as he said from exposure and abuse from the Indians, and he swore vengeance against the Sioux. But he was in no hurry to execute his revenge.

In the fall of 1853 he and his son passed through Ft. Dodge with an ox team and a wagon loaded with provisions, goods and three barrels of whiskey. Some months later he learned that Sidominadota and his family were camped on a stream, now called Bloody creek, in Humboldt county, not far from where he had built a cabin and established a small trading post. Taking his son one day Lott went to the camp of the Sioux chief, where, finding that he was not recognized, he made warm professions of friendship for the Indians. He told the chief that there was a large herd of elk on the river bottom and induced him to set out to find them. Lott and his son started toward their own cabin, but as soon as the Indian was out of sight they skulked back, hiding in the tall grass. As the chief returned from the hunt they shot him dead as he rode by on his pony. They then disguised themselves as Indians and waited until night, when, returning to the tepees, they gave the war whoop and as the women and children came out in alarm, butchered them one by one. Among them was the aged mother, wife and children of the chief.

Inkpadutah, a brother of the murdered chief, was encamped with another band of Sioux a few miles from the scene of the massacre. When a few days later he discovered the dead and mangled bodies of his kin he, too, swore vengeance. It would have been just indeed if his revenge had fallen upon the miscreant Lott. The latter escaped to be hanged by vig­ilantes in California. The Spirit Lake massacre of the spring of 1857 was the consequence of his crimes.

During the summer of 1856, two years after the massacre of the old chief and his people and the vow of his brother to avenge the foul injury done his family, the large body of the Sioux had moved further into the northwest. A few straggling parties occasionally, however, found their way back to the old haunts to hunt and fish about the lakes of Dickinson county. Inkpadutah accompanied these expeditions frequently. He brooded sullenly over the murder of his mother and brother and assumed to believe that some of the whites were parties to the massacre and had aided Lott and his son to escape. He looked upon them all as treacherous enemies. Inkpadutah was frequently about the lakes in the summer of 1856. He made a show of friendship for the settlers, the number of whom, at Spirit Lake and Okoboji, had by this time increased to about fifty persons. Their cabins were scattered and destitute of means for defense in case of sudden attack. The winter following was one of unusual severity. Frequent storms of snow had swept over the prairies, covering them to a depth that made travel very difficult. They continued late in March, filling the ravines with drifts so deep that communication between the scattered settlements was almost impossible for weeks and months. In February, 1857, the Sioux chief selected about thirty of his warriors, and, accompanied by their squaws to allay suspicion, started up the Little Sioux valley. As they went along detached parties were sent out to take from the settlers their arms, ammunition and provisions, and drive away their cattle. As they advanced toward the lakes their depredations began to assume a more savage character. At Gillett's Grove ten armed warriors forced an entrance into a house occupied by two families, seized the women and girls and subjected them to shameless outrages. From this point on the recklessness of the Indians increased. Word had been carried to Ft. Dodge by the settlers of the Little Sioux, but the depth of the snow was so great that an expedition was regarded as impossible and it was thought the couriers were alarmed beyond reason. The work of murder and rapine began on the 6th of March at the cabin of Rowland Gardner on the southeast shore of West Okoboji, near the rocky projection now known as Pillsbury point. The Indians were led by Inkpadutah in person. The work of butchery was systematically but without hurry prosecuted from cabin to cabin and marked by the most revolting deeds of brutality. When the work was completed not a living soul remained but Abbie Gardner, the fifteen year old daughter of Rowland Gardner, whose family was among the first to be slaughtered, and three other young women, the wives of settlers, who were saved for a worse fate at the hands of their savage captors. Before the appearance of the Indians, one of the settlers, Morris Markham, who lived with the Noble family at Okoboji, had started for the Des Moines river in search of cattle that had strayed away. Returning on the evening of the 9th, cold and hungry, he reached the Gardner cabin near midnight. The door of the house was open. The bodies of the family were scattered about the rooms. Other bodies he found in the yard. He turned to the Mattock's cabin and found it smouldering [sic] in ruins, and here a similar sight greeted his eyes. The ghastly bodies of women and children met him again at the Howe cabin. Markham had walked more than thirty miles since morning without food. He was completely exhausted and his feet were frozen. How he passed the night he does not know. In the morning at daybreak he started for the nearest settlement, Springfield, Minnesota, eighteen miles away. He reached that place more dead than alive late in the afternoon and spread the news of the fate of the Okoboji colony. His timely appearance saved Springfield from a like fate. The Indians arrived the next day, but having been warned the settlers were prepared to offer such a resistance that though the Indians threatened they did not dare to strike. At other points in Minnesota the outrages were continued for a time, but help was soon at hand. Inkpadutah and his blood-stained bandits retreated into the northwest, where heroic efforts were made to follow and capture them. But they were never found.

The news of the massacre at the lakes was carried to Ft. Dodge by 0. C. Howe, R. U. Wheelock and B. F. Parmenter, who had taken claims the fall before at Spirit Lake. They started for the lakes early in March and reached the Thatcher cabin at midnight on the 15th. The garrison at Ft. Dodge now realized that the settlements at the lakes had been wiped out. Major William Williams issued a call for volunteers which was responded to by a hundred men. The expedition was poorly equipped and met with incredible hardships owing to the cold and the depth of snow through which it had to travel. The rescuers reached the lakes on the morning of April 2d. Not a living soul of the entire colony was found. They sadly and solemnly buried the bodies of the victims.

Three of the four women stolen by the Indians were recovered. Mrs. Abbie Gardner Sharp still lives at Okoboji and has written a story of the massacre from which is derived practically all that is known concerning its horrors.

The part played by Carroll county in the Indian establishment of western Iowa is not important, though the presence of red men here is attested by such signs as flint arrow heads and stone hatchets, which are occasionally unearthed even at this late day.

A large part of the future Carroll county was contained in the five million acre reservation of the Pottawottamies, ceded to them in 1833 by the government in exchange for the land on the west shore of Lake Michigan, including the present site of Chicago, which they had occupied since 1803. To the east were the Sacs and Foxes. The Sioux of northwestern Iowa were also not distant neighbors. At the time of the arrival in Carroll county of the first permanent white settler the Pottawottamies had for a number of years (treaty of 1846) exchanged their Iowa lands for a reservation in Kansas. Earlier than this, by the treaty of 1842, the Sacs and Foxes had given up their Iowa possessions and had emigrated to the Indian territory, and by 1845 their exodus was complete. The Sioux were also trespassers upon the soil of Iowa long before the organization of Carroll county. It may therefore be said that at the time of the first settlement there were no Indians to interfere with the new occupants, nor are they reported to have been present in any other way than as travelers passing from point to point or as stragglers following up the streams in search of fur or game.

However, the story has been handed down that in the early days of settlement an Indian trail extended through the county from north to south, traversing the eastern tier of townships. This trail, the tradition says, was as straight as the flight of an arrow, and was worn deep into the prairie sod, like a furrow, by the constant passage of the Indians back and forth. It is averred that the trail described the line of boundary between the Pottawottamies on the west and the Sacs and Foxes on the east, and that, as one veracious chronicler declares, "for the Indians of either tribe to cross this path to hunt or trespass upon the lands of the other was an offense whose punishment was death." Taking into account the transitory residence of both these tribes and the generally friendly relations which existed between them the conclusion may be drawn that the traditional but to an extent imaginery [sic] lust of the Indian for the blood of his fellows was in the mind of the pioneer who was responsible for the legend rather than in a knowledge of any of the existing facts.

Perhaps this story of the War Path and its lethal reputation, or indeed of is existence at all, is of a part with the sanguinary tales with which the greater portion of Indian history is replete. These, however, are matters of opinion.

The first settler on the North Raccoon, being the second settler in the county, was Enos Butrick. Coming over from the settlements in Greene county in the early fifties Butrick built for himself the first cabin in Jasper township at the place called Jasper Hills, now a part of Glidden township, where he lived alone with his hunting and trapping gear, and where there were no neighbors for miles around to interfere with his freedom. Butrick creek, in Greene county, took its name from him. Butrick was a famous hunter, and it was reputed in later years that he could if he would have told of exciting adventures with the Indians. Opportunities for enterprises of this kind were limited when Mr. Butrick came to Carroll county, however, on account of the scarcity of Indians.

It was in the second fall after his arrival that one day in following an elk he met some boys who had been trapping on Hardin creek and whose traps had been stolen by a party of Indians who had passed by not long before. He told the boys to go down the creek about a mile, where there were some other trappers, and get them to follow, and he would go on the trail. The boys found the trappers Butrick had mentioned and they all started to follow him, but while on the way they soon met him returning a short distance south of Purgatory creek. He told them that he had followed the trail until it ran out and that the Indians had gone toward Big Grove. He cautioned them that they would probably hide there and pick off the trappers as they came up and advised them to give up the chase. He had pushed the Indians so closely that they had let drop some of the furs and a part of the traps which they had stolen, and these he had with him and modestly returned them to their owners. The Indians were pursued no further, and no further thought was given to them at the time.

  Several years later a man in breaking his farm on the west side of Purgatory, where Butrick said he had lost the trail, found several skeletons—Indian skeletons—and several traps, the latter having on them the names of the boys whose traps had been stolen by the Indians on Hardin creek. The modesty of Butrick in having made no claims for the implied slaughter is in keeping with the unostentatious character of the times.

    To Mr. Butrick belongs the credit of having killed the last buffalo in the county, and probably in the state. The animal was shot at Butrick's ford, now called Kendall's bridge. In telling to a neighbor in later years the story of this encounter, Mr. Butrick said that after he had shot the buffalo and inflicted a mortal wound the animal still had life enough left in him to butt him (Butrick) into a fork between two trees which was too narrow for the buffalo to go through. In this predicament the noble beast breathed his last. The horns of this last American bison to be slain in all of this section of Iowa have been preserved and are now the property of the Old Settlers' Association of Calhoun county, and the bellow which the venerable bull let out of him when he bit the dust is still to be heard echoing in the surrounding wood in the stillness of the summer evenings!

    The settlers in the central part of the county found along the east bank of Crescent Lake (later called Swan Lake, now extinct) many signs to indicate that it must have been at one time the scene of a bloody and disastrous Indian battle. Human skulls and bones could be picked up at an early day, and the prairie around was strewn with implements of Indian warfare. Among these were several rusty muskets of a primitive type and thousands of flint darts and other weapons common among the redskins. There were, however, no signs to tell anything of the battle or the combatants, but this debris indicated that it could not have taken place a great many years before: Several ingenious theories have been advanced by way of accounting for a battle to fit the field and circumstances. It is probable, however, that the shore of Crescent Lake was the scene of a reckoning between the Sacs and Foxes and the Sioux.

    In 1841 a party of Sioux surprised a hunting camp of twenty-four
Delawares on the Raccoon river, not far from the present site of Des Moines, killing all of them but one. The Delawares, led by their chief, Neowage, made a heroic fight against overwhelming numbers, killing twenty-six of their enemies, four of whom fell beneath the blows of their leader. But one escaped to carry the tidings to their Sac and Fox friends, who were camped on the east bank of the Des Moines river, where the state house now stands. Pashepao, their chief, who was then eighty years of age, mounted his pony and selecting five hundred warriors started in pursuit of the Sioux. He followed the trail from where the bodies of the Delawares lay unburied for more than a hundred miles up the valley of the Raccoon river, where the Sioux were overtaken. The battle was one of the bloodiest ever fought in Iowa. The combatants were mortal enemies. Hand to hand the savages fought with a desperation never surpassed in Indian warfare. The conflict lasted many hours and the defeat of the Sioux was overwhelming. More than three hundred of their dead were left on the field of battle. The Sacs and Foxes had but seven of their warriors killed.

    The accounts of this battle do not locate it, but so far as is known there were but three savage Indian collisions in western Iowa. A terrible battle was fought near Twin Lakes, in Calhoun county, between the Pottawottamies and the Sioux. The same foes again met on the South Lizard in Webster county, where the event was also a tragic one and where the Sioux were the victors as they were also at Twin Lakes. These are the same Sioux who perpetrated the massacres at Spirit Lake and Okoboji fifteen or twenty years later. The relics of the battle at Crescent Lake were so numerous and important as to indicate beyond probable doubt that that was the scene of the third of the three great Indian battles of western Iowa.

South Coon on an "Outing" Carroll

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Return to 1912 History Table of Contents