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Anecdotes of Indian Chieftains
"The war of 1832 resulted in a treaty which left the Indians no further claim to any territory east of the Mississippi, and, with a later treaty in 1837, obtained for the United States the cession of the beautiful and fertile belt of Eastern Iowa, that extends, in our neighborhood, to within a mile or two of Batavia, and crosses the Des Moines River, at its boundary, at Iowaville. There was a reservation left for the Poweshiek band of Foxes on or near the Iowa River, the purchase of which was the object of a treaty held in the fall of 1836, on a spot now within the city of Davenport, but then belonging to the famous half-blood, Leclaire. Iowa was then attached, for Government purposes, to Wisconsin, and its Governer, the late Henry Dodge, was the Commissioner to negotiate the treaty, and the late Gov. Grimes, then a new settler, was the Secretary. This treaty is referred to for the sake of an incident which shows that, whether common or not to the 'Lo' family in general, the Sacs and Foxes, at least, possessed an honorable side to their character.
"The country around was already densely settled, and the Indians could easily have procured an unlimited supply of whisky. Gov. Dodge, in his opening speech at the preliminary council, impressed upon them the importance and necessity of strict sobriety during the negotiations, and expressed his hope that his advice would be heeded. Keokuk and the other chiefs, in reply, said their father's talk about the fire-water was good, and gave their word that none of it should be allowed among them during the proceedings. Immediately the council closed, they appointed a sufficient guard or police of the most reliable braves, to prevent the introduction or use of liquor, at whatever cost. In fact, the very bluest blood of the tribes was selected for the duty, and each one instructed to carry a designated badge of his authority.
"Before the conclusion of the treaty, a Sunday intervened, and nearly all the Indians came over to Rock Island to the trading-house. Meanwhile, a steamboat came along and tied up there at the bank. She was crowded with passengers, who were excited at the view of so many savages, and Black Hawk, who was conspicuous, was soon recognized and became the object of chief interest. A passenger came ashore, took him by the hand and led him on board, his wish being to invite him to a friendly glass at the bar. But Black Hawk, whether influenced by a sense of personal honor or the presence of the police, would not go there, and soon returned to the shore. Next, the boat began to push off, and Black Hawk's new friend, anxious not to be disappointed of his kind design, had already procured a bottle filled with liquor and stood reaching it out from the guards of the boat. At the last instant, one of the Indian police, with quiet and courteous dignity, took the bottle, and a smile of satisfaction diffused over the donor's face, which soon changed to a very different case of countenance, for instantly the young brave hurled the bottle upon the rock at his feet, and dashed it into countless atoms, and the poor fellow was glad to slink away in the rear of the stentorian shout that ascended and came echoing back from the opposite bluffs, and in which it was hard to distinguish whether the exulting whoop of the Indians or the less terrific, though no less hearty and derisive, shout of the steamer's company predominated.
"There was a somewhat singular coincidence in regard to names existing upon Rock Island for some time subsequent to the Black Hawk war, and the more so, as Davenport is not as common a patronymic as Jones or Smith. George Davenport, called Colonel, had been for many years the head of the trading establishment there. He was an Englishman by birth, had amassed an ample fortune, and lived hospitably and generously in his pleasant mansion, a short half-mile from the fort. It will be remembered by some who read this, that he was murdered in his house at high noon, one Fourth of July, by villains who had entered to rob him. Soon after the war, a new Agent was sent out to replace the one who had been killed by the Indians. His name was also Davenport, and he was called Colonel; and, a few months later, Col. William Davenport, of the First United States Infantry, was sent there to command the fort. These three gentlemen, each a head of one of the three departments pertaining to the Indians, were in no way related to each other.
"Some two or three years later, a change in the organization of the Indian Department transferred Gen. Street from the Agency of the Winnebagoes at Prairie du Chien, which he had filled for several years, to that of the Sacs and Foxes. Gen. Street was fully known for a most uncompromising Whig of the Henry Clay persuasion; yet he retained his office throughout the terms of Gen Jackson, and until he died in Mr. Van Buren's last year. In 1837, the Agency at Rock Island was abandoned, the fort having been evacuated and dismantled the year previous, though Gen. Street still paid and met the Indians there for some months later. But the inconvenience to the Indians of bringing them so far from their villages, and through the border settlements, now slowly extending, suggested the propriety of removing their Agency into their own country.
"In the fall of 1837, a party of about thirty of the chiefs and head men were take by Gen. Street, under orders, to Washington. Wapello had along his wife and little son, and perhaps one or two more women were of the party. The writer, then going to his native State on furlough, accompanied them from Rock Island to Wheeling, and afterward was present with the Indians during nearly the week they were visitors in Boston. They were a novelty in this city, and were received and entertained with great attention and kindness. The military were turned out to escort them about in their line of carriages and clear the streets of the throngs that filled them. Black Hawk and his two sons, splendid specimens of manly symmetry and beauty in form, were of the party, and naturally the most noticed by the multitude, their recent fame as warriors being yet fresh in the popular mind. The party was received with all due ceremony, in old Faneuil Hall by the Mayor and city government, and welcomed to the city; and on the succeeding day the Governor, the late Hon. Edward Everett, received them in the State House on behalf of the State. This ceremony was held in the spacious Hall of the Representatives, every inch of which was jammed with humanity. After the Governor had ended his eloquent and appropriate address of welcome, it devolved upon the chiefs to reply, and Appanoose, in his turn, as, at the conclusion of his 'talk,' he advanced to grasp the Governor's hand, said: 'It is a great day that the sun shines upon when two such great chiefs take each other by the hand!' The Governor, with a nod of approbation, controlled his facial muscles in a most courtly gravity. But the way the house came down 'was a caution' which Appanoose doubtless considered the Yankee fashion of applauding his speech.
"There were two theaters then in Boston, and a struggle ensued between them to obtain the presence of the Indians, in order to 'draw houses.' At the Tremont, the aristocratic and fashionable one, the famous tragedian, Forrest, was filling an engagement. His great play, in which he acted the part of a gladiator, and always drew his largest audiences, had not yet come off, and the manager was disinclined to bring it out while the Indians were there, as their presence always insured a full house. Gen. Street, being a strict Presbyterian, was not much in the theatrical line, and hence the writer, who had recently become his son-in-law, took these matters off his hands; and, as he knew this particular play would suit the Indians far better than those simple, declamatory tragedies, in which, as they could not understand a word, there was no action to keep them interested, he finally prevailed upon Mr. Barry, the manager, to bring it out, promising that all the Indians should come.
"In the exciting scene, where the gladiators engage in deadly combat, the Indians gazed with eager, breathless anxiety; and as Forrest, finally pierced through the breast with his adversary's sword, fell dying, and as the other drew his bloody weapon from the body, heaving in the convulsions of its expiring throes, while the curtain falls, the whole Indian company burst out with their fiercest war-whoop. It was a frightful yell to strike suddenly upon unaccustomed ears, and was instantly succeeded by screams of terror from among the more nervous of the ladies and children. For an instant the audience seemed at a loss, but soon uttered a hearty round of applause -- a just tribute to both actor and Indians.
"Afte ceding the belt of country upon the Iowa side of the Mississippi, as heretofore mentioned, and having considerably increased the width of this belt by an additional cession in the treaty of 1837, the Sacs and Foxes still retained a large and most valuable portion of our State. This last treaty was negotiated with the party whose visit to Washington and other Eastern cities we have just mentioned, and was concluded on the 21st day of October. This was the first treaty ever made with the Sacs and Foxes in which the principle was incorporated that had just then begnn (sic - begun) to be adopted, of making the sum allowed the Indians for their land a permanent fund, to be held in trust by the United States, upon which interest only, at the rate of 5 per cent, would be annually paid to them. Hitherto it had been the custom to provide that the gross sum granted for a cession should be paid in yearly installments. For instance, $10,000 in regular payments of $1,000, over a term of ten years would have left the Indians, at the end of that time, destitute of all further benefit from that cession. But now the more humane policy had come to be followed -- of saving for them, in perpetuity, the principal sum. For their cession of 1837, they were allowed $200,000, upon which the interest annually paid is $10,000; and the treaty of October 11, 1842, that finally dispossessed them of their land in Iowa, pays them $40,000, as the interest, upon $800,000, which, together with the payment by the United States of a large amount of claims, and some minor stipulations of a cash character, was the consideration for which that cession was obtained. Under a very old treaty, they were also receiving an unlimited annuity of $1,000, so that now there is the yearly sum of $51,000 payable to the Sacs and Foxes, so long as any of their people live to claim and receive it.
"This treaty of 1837 also stipulated for the erection of mills and support of millers; the breaking-up and fencing of fields; the establishment of a model farm, and other schemes of the pestilent brood of so-called philanthropists who were then beginning to devise their various plans for plundering the savages, and fastening upon them their hosts of vampires and leeches, schemes, causing the outlay of many thousands of dollars of the money granted to these Indians for their lands, from which, it is safe to say, they never derived the slightest benefit.
"Appanoose persuaded Gen. Street that Sugar Creek, between Ottumwa and Agency, was fifty miles long, and the General had a mill erected on it. A freshet occurred within the next twelve months or so, sufficient in size and force to wash it away; but the writer doubts if ever a bushel of grain was ground in it, nor, had it stood to this day, and had the Indians remained to this day, does he believe they could have been prevailed upon to have raised a bushel of corn to carry to it. Another mill was put up on Soap Creek, and when the writer took charge of the Agency, in June, 1840, that, also, was destroyed; but as that was a better stream, and he was fortunate enough to secure the services of Mr. Peter Wood, a man who fully understood his business and was honestly disposed to attend to it, a second mill that was erected fared better, but the Indians took no interest in it whatever.
"A large field, cornering where the creek, just below the depot at Ottumwa, debouches from the bluff, was made and cultivated for one of the villages then located opposite. The field extended in this direction toward the river. Another was made on the opposite bank, near to the villages, and still a third in the same neighborhood, giving one to each of the three villages located opposite and below Ottumwa. A splended wheat crop, harvested by the hands employed on the Pattern Farm, was stacked, and a very high fence built around until it could be threshed; but, in a very little time, the young men, too lazy to hunt up their ponies if turned out to graze, and having no squaws of whom to exact the duty, tore down the fences and turned their ponies upon the grain.
"Their farm, which embraced the land now occupied by Mr. Van Zant and David Staubine's farm, as also part of Mrs. Bradley's and some other tracts, was capable of being conducted in a way to secure to them somewhat more benefit than any of their other so-called improvements. Yet it was utterly impossible, and, doubtless, would have been even to the present day, to fulfill with it the chief designs contemplated by the humane simpletons -- estimable gentlemen in countless ways, as they surely are -- who were then, and still are, busy in devising projects to ameliorate the condition of the Indians. Sad, irretrievable, irremediable necessity may compel a savage to many an act or course that no other pressure could persuade him to attempt; and the patient exercise of sensible direction and judgment can sometimes effect what it were otherwise folly to undertake. Now, here was a tribe, with hardly an element of its character as yet in the least subdued or toned down from its aboriginal purity. Work, hard manual labor, it was part of their nature to look upon as degrading and contemptible, even apart from the indolence that in itself would disincline them to it. The disdainful scorn of their demeanor toward certain half-civilized tribes, in whose vicinity they settled in Kansas, was characteristic. The hybrid styles of dress, neither Indian nor white man, that these fellows had been civilized up to the point of glorying in, were a source of never-ending amusement to the Sacs and Foxes.
"At the time that the Sacs and Foxes were prevailed upon to consent to the expenditure of a portion of the proceeds of their lands, with a view to the introduction among them of all this new machinery of mills, farms and the like, they had not the slightest ground for apprehending that so much of their subsistence depended upon their favorite occupation of the chase could diminish in a long time to come; and their annual cash receipts from the United States were large in their eyes. Under such conditions, not the least motive existed to induce them to labor; while the design of the farm was to serve as a model, an exemplar, where they could come and look on, and learn to work by observation, by such practice as they might be willing to attempt, and by the instructions of the skilled farmer and hands employed. The expense of maintaining, as well as of the original establishment of the farm, were taken from their annuities, from the consideration allowed them for the lands they had sold. And the chief benefit that ever accrued to them was, that parties coming in from a distance to get work done by their black and gun smith could sometimes, in bad weather, depend on it for shelter while detained, as well as for provisions. And, even here, the farmer was always liable to be imposed upon by the worthless vagabonds of the tribes, who would make it a pretext for indulging their laziness; and it was also the source of jealousy and discord among the bands if the slightest charge could be established that one had received the least benefit more than the other, requiring constant caution and delicate management to prevent.
"Indeed, the writer never considered these schemes to be anything in fact, although not in intent, but barefaced plunder of the Indians. Since that time, they have doubtless increased in number and in kind, so as to embrace every object out of which a 'job' can be got; and the only chance of justice to the Indians is in their utter expulsion, and the restoration of the entire Indian service to the War Department, where alone it properly and reasonably belongs, where for years it was conducted to the general welfare and contentment of the Indians, and where, if restored to it, remedies could soon be devised to abate the countless perfidies and iniquities against the savages, to which its first removal paved the way. The powerful interests that have already once or twice defeated measures undertaken in Congress for this object, and rendered of no avail the most convincing arguments in its favor of those least liable to suspicion of personal interest, are proof enough that the simple welfare of the Indian is not the sole incentive, and also justify the apprehension that venality may not be an unwelcome guest in the patriotic breast of a Congressman.
"The treaty of 1837 having been ratified by the Senate, Gen. Street took early measures, in 1838, to establish the agency within the boundaries, and as conveniently as possible to the village of the Sacs and Foxes, and at once entered into contract with a gentleman, whose name the writer has forgotten, but who lived not far below Clarksville, in Missouri, to put up the requisite buildings for his family residence and office, the smith's shops, etc. The great length of Gen. Street's service in the Indian Department, and the high consideration, both officially and personally, in which he was held, caused the Department to be more liberal toward him in the sums allowed for these objects than perhaps otherwise it would have been; for, besides consenting to a house quite substantial and of convenient size, they allowed him, also, a sum sufficient to pay for the breaking-up and inclosing of a large field, with quite convenient stables and other buildings attached to the domicile. The contractor was a responsible person, of considerable means, and when he undertook business was disposed to push it through without delay or vexatious annoyances; and so, starting from his home with teams, some of his negroes and an ample force of hired mechanics and laborers, he soon had a large company at work upon the ground.
"The writer came out for a couple of days in August, 1838. The old Council House, intended for a place wherein to hold talks with the Indians, was already completed, being the first building put up, with a view to using it as a shelter for the provisions and other perishable stores. Many of the timbers for the Agency House were upon the ground, and being continually hauled there, ready hewn. Two heavy breaking teams were at work upon the future field, and wagons hauling on the rails, and the ring of the blacksmith's hammer being quite steadily maintained, quite a business air was imparted to the new settlement. As the party of four, of whom the writer was one, rode in, about 11 o'clock, hot and tired with the saddle, from beyond Birmingham, without an intervening house, the hospitable-looking camp of tents and board sheds, close to the Council House, the blazing fire, over which two or three female Africans were busy at the steaming coffee, bacon, biscuits and divers vegetables of the season, excited in his mind an impression of the new agency, the satisfactory contentment of which has never to this day worn off.
"Mr. Richard Kerr was one of this party. He had just been appointed Farmer to the Indians, and arranging with Gen. Street to meet in Burlington, the object of the trip out was to select a suitable location for the Pattern Farm, and to receive his preliminary instructions for commencing operations. The place was selected, and Mr. Kerr set about employing laborers, who were paid, as well as himself, out of the appropriation set apart for agricultural purposes. Mr. Kerr's pay was $50 per month, and his wife received $20 per month as Matron, which, with the free use of whatever was raised, made it a very comfortable position. Their house, the one now occupied by Mr. Van Zant, was not long in making its appearance. Mr. Kerr understood the art of farming in all its minutiŠ, and the Pattern, once under way, was always kept in the best of order and made productive.
"At the Agency, bricks, lime and whatever could be manufactured on the premises, were ready by the time needed, and by winter the contract was about completed and the buildings ready for occupancy. In April, 1839, Gen. Street moved down his family from Prairie du Chien, and took possession. Erelong his health began to fail, and the result was a combination of obstinate maladies under which he succumbed early in May of the next year. For several months, he had been totally incapable of attending to his duties, and the Department had consented that any of his sons or sons-in-law, of age, might discharge them for him -- of course his being being held responsible. He had been out to ride with his brother-in-law, Dr. Posey, of Shawneetown, Ill., who had been professionally caring for him during several weeks. Alighting from the carriage, he had stepped quite firmly across the stile and yard and seated himself within the door and bade a servant to bring a glass of cold water. As they boy stood presenting it, he sat motionless in his chair. Mrs. Street was there in an instant from an adjoining room, and called to her brother, the Doctor, who had passed up stairs. It was the delay of hardly a minute, but no flow of blood responded to the Doctor's lancet. He had died in his chair.
"The Indians were greatly attached to their 'Father,' as they usually term their Agent, and the word of the General's sudden demise reaching the villages opposite Ottumwa, numbers of them came immediately to the Agency. Wapello and his band, especially, were so demonstrative in their grief as to augment the distress of Mrs. Street and the writer's wife -- who had been some weeks in attendance upon her father -- and younger members of the family to that extent that it became necessary to have the interpreter kindly explain it to them, and beg them to give expression to their sorrow at some point more remote from the house.
"The writer, who was then living in Dubuque, hastened to Washington as soon as the sad news reached him, the hope being to save the family their home, in which they were now comfortably established, and of which the succession of a stranger to the office would have deprived them. When he arrived there -- by a then unusually quick journey of twelve days -- he found his nomination already awaiting the action of the Senate, and in a day or two more, obtaining his commission, he came direct to the Agency. At the time of his arrival, about June 1, 1840, the Agency, with its dependencies was about as follows: In the Agency House ws Mrs. Street and the nine youngest of her children, of whom William B. Street, of Oskaloosa, was the senior. Just over the branch, in rear of the Agency, was Mr. Josiah Smart, the interpreter, one of God's noblemen, who combined in his character every brave, honest and generous sentiment that can adorn a man; and within a few steps of his residence was that of the blacksmith, Charles H. Withington. There was also Harvey Sturdevant, the gunsmith; but, being unmarried, he boarded with Withington, until, a year or so later, he put himself up a cabin, where the writer now lives, August, 1874, and dug that famous old well. As distance (from the rest of us) did not lend enchantment to the view of his bachelorhood, he soon switched on to the matrimonial track. Then there was the household of the Pattern Farm, some half-dozen in number, except in extra times, such as harvesting. This was the actual Agency settlement. On the Des Moines, a mile or so below the County Farm, where the bluff approaches nearest to the bank, was the trading-post of P. Chouteau, Sr., & Co., but later more familiarly known as the 'Old Garrison.' This was usually superintended by Capt. William Phelps. And just above the mouth of Sugar Creek, on the creek bank, at the old road crossing, lived the miller, Jeremiah Smith, Jr., with his family. This embraced all the whites lawfully living in the country at the time.
"Through some unfortunate misunderstanding in regard to the boundary line, several persons had instruded upon the Indian land upon the Iowaville bottom and the ridges in the rear, as well as upon the south side of the river; and as the Indians made complaint to the Government, it had no alternative but to remove them. This duty fell upon the writer to execute, and was a very unwelcome one, if only for the reason that several of the intruders were persons who would not willingly have violated any law. Among them was that fine old specimen of West Virginia hospitality, Van Caldwell; but by reason of his location, and his readiness by any reasonable arrangement to escape the terrors of fire and sword, the writer obtained permission from the Department that he should remain, upon the condition of his maintaining a ferry for access to Soap Creek Mills during high water.
"At the time of Gen. Street's decease, the Indians were occupying their country with their permanent or spring and summer villages, located as follows: Upon the bank of the Des Moines, opposite the mouth of Sugar Creek, where there is quite a spacious bottom extending for a mile or more below, where the bluff closes in pretty closely upon the bank, and for a much longer distance in the up-river direction toward and past Ottumwa, was the village of Keokuk; and, still above, were those of Wapello, Foxes, and Appanoose, a Sac chief. According to the writer's present memory, that of Wapello was the intermediate one. Keokuk himself, had selected a pleasant, commanding and picturesque point for his own summer wigwam, some half-way up the side of the bluff, in the rear of his village, where, with his own little field of corn and beans, despite the large field of Uncle Sam just beneath him, he enjoyed the otium cum dignitate of his authority and rank during the hot weather.
"His wigwam was a very comspicuous object to a traveler along the road that crests the bluff and winds down the long hill to Sugar Creek on this side. From his elevated position, where, like another Robinson Crusoe in the boys' story-books, he could contemplate himself as 'monarch of all he surveyed,' he had a find view of the three villages spread beneath him, as well as of the bluffs and bottoms for a considerable distance up and down the river on this side. Several of the lodges in every town had their own small patches of cultivated ground in the neighborhood of their villages; but the hillside, now covered by Ottumwa, seemed to offer them more attractive spots for this purpose, probably because the soil was more easily worked, and situated more favorably for the influence of the sun than upon their side of the river. A light, easily-turned soil was, of course, an object to the poor squaws, upon whom devolved the duty of working it with their hoes, and of inserting the rickety posts that, with light poles bound to them, made the fence, not exceeding four feet in height, but, in general, very respectfully treated by the ponies, the only animal liable to intrude injuriously upon their fields.
"The whole hillside, on its lower slope (for they seldom cultivated it more than half-way up), was occupied in this way by the Indians, for some distance below the depot fully up to or above the Court House; often the writer, on the receipt of some instructions requiring a 'talk' with the leading men, in order to save time, and to the Indians the trouble of a ride to Agency, has appointed some shady spot in one of these patches.
"The Indians seldom occupied their permanent villages, except during the time of planting or securing their crop, after which they would start out on a short hunt, if the annuity -- which was generally paid within the six weeks from the 1st of September -- had not yet been received. Immediately ater payment, it was their chosen custom to leave the village for the winter, hunting through this season by families and small parties, leading the regular nomad life, changing their location from time to time, as the supply of game and the need -- so essential to their comfort -- of seeking places near to timbered streams best protected from the rigors of weather, would require.
"Hardfish's band of Sacs was composed mainly of those who had been the leading parties in the Black Hawk war, and who had been, by degrees, freeing themselves from the restraint imposed upon them by the treaty, demanding their dispersion among the friendly villages. But, as all unfriendly feeling had now subsided, and they were now disposed to conduct themselves with the utmost good-will in all their intercourse with the Government; and as, moreover, the Department, with a view to an early effort to acquire possession of their remaining lands in Iowa, deemed it most conducive to success in that object to pursue toward them a policy apparently oblivious of former strife, the writer was instructed, so long as there was no reason to apprehend unfriendly designs, to ignore these requirements of the treaty, and to avoid all cause for re-awakening former strife.
"For some years previously to the writer's appointment as Agent, Messrs. P. Chouteau, Jr., & Co., of St. Louis, had been the only traders among the Sacs and Foxes, and the magnitude of their interests was enough to excite any rivalry. Col. George Davenport, of Rock Island, had been admitted as partner to their trade with that particular tribe, and he was looked to to reside among them and carry it on. S. S. Phelps, Esq., of Oquawka, in connection with his brother, Capt. William Phelps, of jovial memory, had been gaining a foot-hold on trade for two, three, and perhaps, four years before the treaties of 1836 and 1837, and after the removal of the Agency from the island, and its consequent effect of rendering a change in the location of the chief trading-post inevitable, Col. Davenport, who had already acquired a comfortable fortune, continued to withdraw. Mr. S. S. Phelps fell into the position thus made vacant in the company, although he relied upon his brother to reside in the Indian country, and maintain personal oversight of the company's affairs. A new trader now appeared in the field, with at least means enough to prevent the old company from being its monopolists. Of course rivalry of feeling and interest would now spring up, and every occasion be employed by each rival to gain and secure what advantage he could. The writer is not intimating any idea of his own that any unfair or dishonorable appliances would be used by the gentlemen heads respectively of the rival establishments; but the employes or others, hoping advantage to themselves in the success of either party, might be less scrupulous.
"It was probably through some such strategy that Gov. Lucas became impressed with the most sincere conviction that the Chouteau Company supplied whisky, with their other merchandise, to the Indians, and a conviction once fixed with the Governor was pretty apt to stay. So persuaded was he of the truth of his belief, that he was never disposed to the least reticence upon the subject; and it was generally believed in Burlington that if the Trading Company could be caught, flagrante delicto, it would prove a pretty good haul for the catcher -- certainly not less than the transfer to his own pocket of the half value of a large stock of goods.
"As the writer soon saw that any effort of his own, however reasonable, to lead the Governor to a different opinion was opening the way to suspicions against himself of some personal interest in the company's affairs, prudence naturally admonished him to desist. One morning, Mr. S. S. Phelps, to whom the Governor's belief -- and propensity to express it -- was no secret, being in Burlington, stepped into a place where the Governor happened at that moment to be engaged in his favorite pastime of denouncing Mr. Chouteau's establishment, etc., and the Governor, totally unacquainted with Mr. Phelps, still kept up in his presence his conversation on the subject.
"Now, if there was anything Capt. Billy Phelps loved better than another, it was to play off a trick; or it anything he knew better than another, it was how to plan and play it. The company bad (sic - had?) on its license a man named Simpson Vassar, who was better known at the Agency at its various dependencies under the sobriquet of 'Suggs.' When a deviltry lurked in Capt. Billy's mind, 'Capt. Suggs' was his most reliable assistant in getting rid of it. So a scheme was planned. Suggs was sent over on pretext of some message to Phelps, at Oquawka, with instructions not to leave Burlington until he had executed his part of the programme.
"A person, who was either the City Marshal, or attached to his official retinue, soon heard of Suggs in Burlington, and became so ambitious of his acquaintance as to introduce himself without delay. He learned from Suggs that the latter lived out in the Agency neighborhood; that he knew the Trading Company -- in fact, sometimes worked for them when an extra force was neeeded; clever people; good paymasters, with the cash always in hand; knew nothing of their dealing in whisky; had never seen them supply it to the Indians; and, even if he had, as he had heard they were accused of it, a dollar, when needed, was not so easily made out there that a man could afford to make enemies out of good-paying employers! After several interviews, Suggs embarked upon the ferry-boat. But his newly-made friend was not long in joining him, and during the crossing Suggs yielded to the potent arguments and promises that had already shaken his sense of personal honor and interest. He admitted that he had seen a large lot of kegs, and these not empty, landed by night at the trading-house from a boat not long before, and immediately buried upon the bank, where most of them were; and if he could be guaranteed against suspicion as the informer, and terms arranged to suit -- as he expected to remain about the place some time after his return -- he would put his friend upon the right track. The boat having landed them, and all details being adjusted, each party went on his way rejoicing -- Suggs' way being to Oquawka, and at once back to the trading-post to report to Capt. Phelps.
"Not many days later, an hour or so before dinner-time, Col. Jesse Williams -- later of Henn, Williams & Co., of Fairfield, but then Private Secretary to Gov. Lucas -- rode up to the Agency. Being, doubtless, himself disposed (as indeed the Agency hospitality would suggest) to consider that an expedition which would demand a three-miles ride and several hours of time could be more satisfactorily completed as a post-prandial duty, he made no mention of his business. But as soon as the meal was over, he handed to the Agent a package from the Governor, containing a deposition in full form, taken before Judge Mason, of the Territorial Supreme Court, by Suggs' Burlington friend, to the effect that so many kegs of whisky, etc., etc., and were then secreted, etc., etc., in violation of the statue, etc., by the said P. Chouteau Jr.'s Company, traders, etc., as aforesaid. And there was also a line to the Agent that, in the execution of so delicate a duty, which must involve judicial process, he had deemed it best to send out Col. Williams to assist the Agent. Whatever the motive may have been, it is certain that, until both were in their saddles, Col. Williams proved himself able to watch the Agent with untiring eye.
"Reaching the trading-house, the person who took the deposition and a companion were found there waiting, they having 'forked-off' by another trail so as not to be seen. Suggs was on hand, having taken the opportunity to post the Burlingtonians about the locality. And also Capt. Billy Phelps, called by the Indians Che-che-pe-qua, or the 'Winking Eyes,' was there, those visuals fairly geaming with joy over the anticipated fun.
"The Agent proceeded at once to business, expressing to Capt. Phelps his regret that so unpleasant a duty should have devolved upon him; his hope that it would prove that so serious a complaint had originated in some error, but suggesting that, if true, admission of the fact and production of the contraband article would be more apt to temper subsequent proceedings with leniency than efforts to conceal it would so. The Captain vehemently denied the impeachment, stating that it would require a much wiser man than himself to discover where such an article then was, or ever had been, kept upon their premises. The complainant was now appealed to, who led the party a short distance to a spot where, with a triumphant air, he pointed to an X that the edge of Suggs' boot sole had made in the sandy bank.
"They began digging, and soon reached some matting that was removed, and thus uncovered a lot of hard kegs, too greasy to suggest a thought of any other being contained within them. The immediate 'sold, by thunder!' of one of the moiety gentlemen came in accents too lugubrious to be listened to without exciting a sense of sadness. Suggs, meanwhile, had come up missing, and the 'Winking Eyes' walked off with a most disdainful air, leaving the Agent and his party on the spot, whence they soon returned to the Agency, where the Agent made his report that the informer had pointed out a place where, by digging, a large quantity of lard in kegs was found that had been buried to avoid loss by heat, and in the night to conceal the fact from vagabond whites and Indians. The disappointed informer and his companion hastened homeward, but Col. Williams remained until next morning, and then returned bearing the Agent's report.
"But the unkindest cut of all was six months later, when, about the last of February, Capt. Phelps addressed a letter to Gov. Lucas in the most respectful and official form, saying, that having heard he had declared his determination not to continue in office under such an old Tory As Gen. Harrison, and fearful that whoever his successor would be, he might not feel so friendly toward the company as he had proved in the matter of exhuming their lard, and as they would soon be much in need of some, and the ground was then very hard frozen, the company would be under great obligations if he would at once send some one out to dig up the rest of it.
"The village of Hardfish -- or Wishecomaque, as it is in the Indian tongue -- which was quite as respectable in size as any of the old villages, was located in what is now the heart of Eddyville, named for J. P. Eddy, a trader, who was licensed in the summer of 1840, by the writer, to establish his trading-post at that place. He continued to trade there until the treaty of final cession in 1842, and was the most fortunate of any of the large traders in finding his schedule of claims against the Indians very little reduced by the Commissioners, whose part it was, at that treaty, to adjust all outstanding claims against the Sacs and Foxes.
"The writer cannot locate the place exactly, according to our state maps, although he has often visited it in Indian times; but somewhere out north from Kirkville, and probably not over twelve miles distant, on the bank of Skunk River, not far above the 'Forks of Skunk,' was a small village of not over fifteen or twenty lodges, presided over by a man of considerable influence, though he was not a chief, named Kishkekosh. The village was on the direct trail -- in fact, it was the converging point of two trails -- from the Hardfish village, and the three villages across the river below Ottumwa, to the only other permanent settlement of the trives, which the village of Poweshiek, a Fox chief of equal rank with Wapello, situated on the bank of the Iowa River.
"About the time that Eddy moved out his stock of goods from Burlington to his licensed point at the Hardfish village, P. Chouteau, Jr., & Company also obtained an addition to their license for a post at the same place, and put up a small establishment some fourth of a mile below Eddy, on the river-bank. In the same winter, of 1840-41, Messrs. W. G. & G. W. Ewing, of Indiana, who had already acquired large wealth in the Indian trade, but never yet had dealt with the Sacs and Foxes, obtained a license and had their point assigned them just at the mouth of Sugar Creek, on the Ottumwa side, where they soon got up a large establishment, filled with a full and valuable stock. This post was started, and, for a year or so, conducted by a Mr. Hunt, a gentleman of far more education, refinement and culture than is often found among the resident Indian traders.
"Previous to the treaty of 1842, some few changes were made in their location, both by the Indians and among the whites. The house at the 'Old Garrison' was broken up, and one established in its stead up in the Red Rock region, near the mouth of White Breast; and Keokuk, also, moved his village into the same neighborhood. A second blacksmith was appointed, named Baker, son-in-law of Col. Ingraham, one of the pioneers of Des Moines County, and a person of considerable character and influence in his county. Baker died at Fort Des Moines, still in the service of the Indians; but when appointed, he built his residence some half a mile east of the Agency, not far from the claim taken by the late William Newell, father of L. F. Newell, by whom the property was subsequently purchased and added to his farm.
"The Sacs and Foxes were quite friendly and manageable; in fact, were very pleasant and agreeable people to live among, and all public and personal intercourse with them rolled smoothly along the well-worn track, without much of incident or marvel, until the final sale of their remaining Iowa domain. Sometimes, incidents would occur, possessing excitement or amusement enough to encroach for a little upon the monotony that otherwise might have become tedious, of which the writer will endeavor to recover the memory of one or two that may amuse the reader.
"The Sacs and Foxes, like all other Indians, were a very religious people, in their way, always maintaining the observance of a good many rites, ceremonies and feasts in their worship of the Kitche Mulito, or Great Spirit. Fasts did not seem to be prescribed in any of their missals, however, because, perhaps, forced ones, under a scarcity of game or other edibles, were not of impossible occurrence among people whose creed plainly was to let to-morrow take care of the things of itself. Some of these ceremonies bore such resemblance to some of those laid down in the books of Moses as to have justified the impression among biblical students that the lost tribes of Israel might have found their way to this continent.
"The writer was a witness, one delightful forenoon in May, 1841, of a ceremony that seemed full of mystery, even to these of the Indians who took no part in celebrating it. A large lodge had been set up for the occasion on the level green, near Keokuk's village, and its sides left so entirely open that vision of the proceedings conducted within was entirely free. Close around was a circle of guards or sentinels, evidently 'in the secret,' as they were close enough to hear, but at a distance far enough to prevent eavesdrippong of the low tones used within the sacred precincts. Inside of these guards was another and much larger circle of sentinels, who restrained all outsiders (of whom the writer had to content himself with being one) from crossing within their line. Keokuk seemed to be the chief personage among the performers, and the performance to be designed for the exclusive benefit of one old fellow of some importance in the tribe, who was mainly distinguished from those about him by being clad in a much scantier pattern of raiment. Sometimes they would place him on his feet, and sometimes on his seat, as they powwowed and gesticulated about him. Finally, while in a sedentary position, with a large pile of blankets behind him, Keokuk approached in front, pistol in hand, apparently aimed at his forehead.
"There was an explosion, quite audible to us outsiders, and no small puff of smoke, and the old savage went over on his back in quick time, where he was covered up and left among the blankets, while a good many 'long talks' were held around and over him, until at length, Keokuk, taking his hand, brought him to the sitting posture, and soon after to his feet, apparently none the worse for having been used as a target. The outside multitude of Indians gazed with marked awe throughout the entire performance, and maintained, withal, the deepest silence.
"During the three years that the writer had charge of the Agency, before its removal from this place, there were two, and he thinks even three, occasions on which he had to remove persons who had 'squatted' for good on the Sac and Fox lands. One of these has already been spoken of, the mishap having grown out of some erroneous belief about the boundary. Another originated in some opinions of a former head of the St. Louis Superintendency of Indian Affairs, drawn from him in correspondence and published in the papers. They were erroneous, and believed to have been in order to embarrass the then Government, to which he was politically unfriendly. If correct, they would have opened to settlement a valuable tract of the Sac and Fox land bordering on Missouri, including their Soap Creek Mill. Gov. Chambers coinciding with the Agent's opinion, which was immediately reported to him, as intruders had begun to move in, issued a proclamation warning all persons from crossing the boundary line as then established; and the affair, in due course, reaching the head of the Indian service, the Secretary of War, under the law of that time. That official, Hon. William L. Marcy, promptly sustained the subordinate proceedings, and orders were issued to remove by military force all trespassers who, having received reasonable notice, had not retired by a specified day. Notices were printed and distributed by a special messenger among the new trespassers, and, as some had failed to go by the specified date, a company of United States Cavalry was ordered to the Agency to enforce the laws and treaties. This duty seemed more imperative, just at that time, as the Department was intending to treat, in a few months, with the Sacs and Foxes for the purchase of that very land.
"Such military expeditions would, of course, abound with incidents, sometimes amusing, sometimes exciting, and sometimes disagreeable and embarrassing. We would generally find the men gone, leaving the premises in charge of the women and children, under the vain belief that they would, in some way, get over the trouble. Excuses would be various, mostly of wagons broken in the very act of starting, or of oxen strayed and horses lost or stolen just a day or so too soon; sometimes of sickness, though we failed of observing signs of it. On one occasion, a soldier overheard a well-known girl tell a frightened junior not to cry for 'Pap' was just away down the branch, and would come back as soon as the soldiers were gone. And, sure enough, when the smoke of the burning cabin curled above his hiding-place, convincing him that his plan had proved abortive, 'Pap' came rushing around a point of the grove, apparently out of breath, with a long story of his strayed horses that he had hunted till the last day, and then gone to some kindred six or seven miles off beyond the Iowa State line, who were then on the road with their wagons; and that he having heard the bugle, had left them in order, by short cuts across the timber and hollows, to get home in time to save his 'plunder.' Well, the Lieutenant told him, there it was all safe, the soldiers had set it out carefully without giving his family any trouble to help them; and if only he had time, he would be glad to wait till his Missouri friends arrived, and help him load up. The mansion now being burned beyond salvation, the bugle sounded to mount, and the troop resumed its march.
"The next amusing incident was in our encounter, soon after the troop had resumed its march, with an old fellow whom we met coming up the somewhat dim road just along the edge of the timber, on this side of the river. The troop was of between thirty and forty men, with a Lieutenant, the Captain having stayed at the Agency, with the rest of his company, to take care of his supplies in camp. The Lieutenant and writer were comfortably walking their nags along the said road, the troops some distance in the rear, following the same easy gait, with their two six-mule wagons behind, when we espied a wagon coming round a point of the road not far ahead of us. The team soon showed itself to be a span of fat, sleek horses, and the entire outfit indicated that the old chap in charge of it was not as hard up as his personal look would have led one to believe. He was for giving us the entire right of way, but as we turned off to face him, as if we intended to collide, bow on to him, he reined up.
"According to his own story, he ws out for just a pastime drive up the ridge, without much motive or object of any kind; but he had a scythe to cut grass, a good lot of oats and shelled corn in sacks, an extra wagon sheet that would have improvised a comfortable tent in short order, a plentiful supply of 'grub' for himself and a boy he had with him, thirteen or fourteen years old, and a forty-gallon empty barrel, all suggestive of a contemplated raid upon the bee-trees. After some parley, the Lieutenant turned him over to the Sergeant, who had in the mean time come up with his men, who, in turn, placed him with a file of troopers, as a guard of honor, between the two baggage-wagons. The old fellows soon got the hang of what was up from the soldiers, and, as misery loves company, he shortly seemed to lose site of his own disgust in contemplating that of the inmates of the two squatters' cabins we had yet to visit. We soon reached the nearest one and found it abandoned, though very recently, as all signs proved. Stopping long enough to burn the cabin, we then kept on our way to the only remaining trespasser, who had put up his cabin in a grove on the Des Moines River side of the ridge we had been all day descending. As we turned off to cross the ridge, our former captive, whom we now released, seemed, for a while, as if disposed to relieve himself from the enjoyment of our society as soon as possible. But, in a short time, he changed his mind; for long before he had traveled the half-mile across the ridge, we saw that he had also turned off and was in pursuit of us. He reached the house almost as soon as did the troops, and in full time to say to the Lieutenant and myself what could not have been less than an unpleasant feeling of personal sympathy for the family we were about to dislodge. As in several previous instances, the man had gone off, leaving the woman to give reasons and offer excuses for his absence. It was very near night, and not less than five miles to the nearest house in the direction the woman wished to go; she had several children of whom not the largest, even, was yet of an age to be other than an incumbrance at such a time; nor was there a team, wagon or other means of transportation to be seen. While she was bitterly complaining of her cruel fate in thus being turned out of her house to see it consumed, with herself, children and chattels all night under the open heavens, our lately-made acquantance came to a halt among us, the expression of his features indicating a much more enjoyable expectation of witnessing the scene ahead than was ever felt by any among us, whose duty it was to bring it into action.
"We accordingly concluded to press him into the service, soothing, by that proposal, much of the distress of the matter familias, who appeared to be a person rather superior to the ordinary grade of squatters. The soldiers set about removing her property from the house, and loading into the old fellow's wagon such portions of it as she was least disposed to abandon for the night, and, comfortably stowing herself and children upon the load, we started him off as soon as she was ready to leave, after having placed the rest of her effects in as secure a condition as we could. To guard against any possible treachery on the part of the old bee-hunter, as well as in view of any break-down before he could strike the smoother road, the Lieutenant took precaution to detach a Corpral with a half-dozen men, to act as escort over the three miles or so to the Indian boundary, beyond which our jurisdiction ceased.
"The house, with its combustible appendages, having been set on fire, we continued our march to a point a mile or two within the civilized part of Iowa Territory, where a well-fixed, thrifty settler supplied our commissariat, as well as our forage department, with sundry items that a three-days expedition through the brush had made acceptable, if not actually needful. Night had fairly set in. The Corporal had rejoined the command, and reported the bee-hunter and his cargo to be making satisfactory and apparently friendly progress at the point he was ordered to leave them. Our camp-fires were soon blazing, and the tents pitched, and, in a short time, a good supper increased the contentment which the Lieutenant and Agent could not fail to enjoy over the final conclusion of a most unpleasant duty. An early reveille, and the next mid-day found us at the Agency.
"At the accession of Gen. Harrison to the Presidency, in March, 1840, Mr. John Chambers, ex-Congressman of Kentucky, was appointed to replace Gov. Lucas as Governor of our then Territory, which office included within its commission that of Superintendent over the Indians and their Agencies. For several months previous, some feelings of antagonism had existed between the old Black Hawk party, whose chief was Hardfish, and the other bands, which was excited mostly and kept up by the traders, influenced by their rival interests, and the characteristic obstinancy of Gov. Lucas, who leaned to the Hardfish band. Upon the arrival of Gov. Chambers at Burlington, it was, of course, an object with Keokuk to gain his favor, or at least to have him committed to a strictly impartial course; while the Hardfish effort would be to induce him to follow in the track of his predecessor. Keokuk at once requested the Agent to obtain the Governor's consent for him and his chief men to visit him at Burlington. It was the wish, however, of the Indian Department to discountenance and prevent such pilgrimages of the Indians through the settlements, and the Agent promised Keokuk that he would inform the new Governor of his desire, and that, perhaps, he would prefer to make his acquaintance and receive his congratulations here at the Agency. The Hardfish band -- or rather their instigators, Eddy and his satellites -- less patient, and ignoring their proper channel of communication through the Agent with the Superintendency, hastened to Burlington in a large body, and having encamped a short way from town, sent in a written notice of their arrival and its purpose, with a request that the Governor would cause the needed supplies of food, etc., to be provided for them. Under the late Lucas regime, an order on Eddy's Burlington store would have soon satisfied this want. But Gov. Chambers sent them word that when he sent for any of them to come and see him, he would, of course, be prepared to have them fed; that he had no intention of converting his executive headquarters in Burlington into a council-ground for his red children, and that it was his purpose to visit them in their own country at a very early day. Hardfish came home with a large flea in his ear; and the Agent received a communication from the Governor informing him of the facts, and instructing him to use all means in his power to prevent the intrusion of his charge upon the settlements, and that he should visit the Agency in a very short time, notice of which should be seasonably served.
"The Governor at length set his time, the bands were all informed, the Governor arrived, and on the next day, at a specified hour, a grand council would be opened. Meanwhile, all the Indians, except the Iowa River Foxes, indisposed to come so far, had been gathering, and were encamped about the Agency, the Keokuk side covering the ground along the branch behind the mills, which was then fill of plum, hazel and crab-apple thickets; while the Hardfishes were along the edge of the river timber south of the Agency, and where the writer now lives (August, 1874). Long before the appointed hour, the Hardfish party, arrayed in full toggery, had all arrived, themselves and their ponies caparisoned in their richest styles of ornament; and, having gone through the equestrian performances usual on such occasions, had dismounted, secured their ponies, and, forming on foot, had marched into the Agency yard, where the Governor was to receive them, and where was quite a gathering of whites, and Hardfish with some of his leading men, having taken the Governor's hand and said a few words of courtesy, had sat down upon the grass.
"Now, it was a sacred duty with the Governor to cherish the memory of his dear and lately dead friend, Gen. Harrison. He had been Aide-de-camp to the General in the war of 1812, and rumor told that their mutual sentiments were more those of father and son than of simple friends. Keokuk had been apprised of this, and, as it proved, knew how to 'make it tell.' The appointed hour had been a long time passed, but as yet he made no sign of putting in an appearance, and at last the Governor began to grow impatient and to use some expressions approbatory of the Hardfish promptitude.
"At length the first faint sounds of Keokuk's music came floating through the thickets, which grew more audible as it neared, but never swelled up to the full tone of their more joyous notes; and as the front of their procession wound slowly into view, their lances and staves, instead of being decked in gaudy ribbons and feathers to flutter in the breeze, were wrapped round with wilted grass. No sounds of bells responded to the tramp of their ponies; and their own persons, instead of being painted in vermilion and dressed in bright colors, bore the usual funeral substitutes of clay and somber hues. In fact, all the paraphernalia of woe betokened some sad affliction. The agent, after a hurried word with the interpreter, told the Governor that this was a funeral march, and that some of their leading men must have died in the night, and lay probably yet unburied in the camp. The Hardfishes seemed as much at a loss as anybody, wondering who could have died without their knowing it.
"The solemn dirge ceased, and, dismounting, the several hundred savages, forming on foot, with Keokuk leading, marched into the yard and toward the Governor, who advanced a step or two to meet him, when Keokuk, ordering a halt, signed the interpreter and said: 'Say to our new Father that before I take his hand I will explain to him what all this means. We were told not long ago that our Great Father was dead. We have heard of him as a great war-chief, who had passed much of his life among the red men and knew their wants, and we believed we would always have friendship and justice at his hands. His death has made us very sad, and, as this is our first opportunity, we thought it would be wrong if we did not use it to show that the hearts of his red children, as well as his white, know how to mourn over their great loss, and we have had to keep our father waiting while we performed that part of our mourning that we must always attend to before we leave our lodges with our dead.'
"Then, amid the murmur of approbation from his people, he stepped forward and extended his hand. The hearty grasp with which the Governor seized and clung to it, showed he had touched the right spot, and the Hardfishes must be content, thereafter, to take a back seat. When, years after, the writer was enjoying a day of the Governor's hospitality at Maysville, Ky., and the incident coming up in conversation, the Governor was told that he must not credit Keokuk with the paternity of the entire 'plot,' but that his ingenuity was put into requisition only to manage the details, the kind old gentleman seemed greatly amused."
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