1492- Claimed by Spain by Right of Columbus discovery and Desoto’s expedition

1763- Ceded by France to Spain in treaty of Paris.

1800- Claims of Spain ceded to France due to the Napoleonic conquests.

1803- Obtained from France by the U S in the Louisiana Purchase.

1804- In the District of Louisiana under the territorial government of Indiana

1805- In the Territory of Louisiana        

1812- Part of the Territory of Missouri

1834- Territory of Michigan                   

1837- Territory of Wisconsin

1838- Began the organization of the Iowa Territory

1842- Title was obtained from Sac & Fox Indians by the treaty & payment of tribes debts together with the granting of an annuity.

1843- Land was opened to Homesteaders who laid claims for settlement.

1844- County of Wapello was organized.         

1846- Iowa admitted to Union as a State.

     The history of Wapello County begins with its organization as a civil district. History of the Sauk & Fox Indians is a part of how we came to be. Prior to the opening of Wapello County for settlement the area was inhabited by the tribes who are spoken of by some as blood-thirsty savages. The Sac & Fox did not live in Iowa much before the 1800s. After the treaty in 1837, the Indians agreed to move farther West & General Joseph M Street was transferred from the Agency at Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, to the new Agency of the Sacs and Foxes on the Des Moines river.

     General Street was appointed the agent for the Winnebago’s in 1828 during which time he and Wapello had become friends. Thus, it was perhaps one of the factors which helped to determine the location of the agency at a site near which is Agency City. At the time when General Street, accompanied by Poweshiek and a party of Indians were occupying this country with their permanent or spring/summer villages located as follows; Upon the bank of the Des Moines, opposite the mouth of Sugar Creek, where there is bottom extending a mile or so below where the bluff closes in on the bank, and for a much longer distance in the upriver direction toward and past Ottumwa was the village of Keokuk; still further above was that of Wapello of the Foxes and Appanoose, a Sac Chief. It is believed that Wapello’s was the intermediate one.

Keokuk had a very conspicuous wigwam along the road that crest the bluff with a fine view of 3 villages spread beneath. The Indians seldom occupied their permanent villages, except during the time of planting or securing their crops, after which they would start out on a short hunt if the annuity paid by the government had not yet been received. After the payment arrived, it was their custom to leave the village for the winter, hunting through the season by small parties, changing their location from time to time, as the supply of game and the need to be near timbered streams best protected from the winter weather.

The village of Hard Fish or Wishecomaque as it is in the Indian tongue, was located where the present city of Eddyville is now located.  Somewhere north from Kirkville was another village of not more than 20 lodges presided over by Kishkekosh, an influential individual, not a chief. The only other permanent settlement of the tribes was that of Poweshiek, a Fox chief of equal rank with Wapello. This village was on the bank of the Iowa River and doesn’t configure into the history here.

     The site chosen by General Street for the agency was a desirable location since it could serve the three principal villages. At the completion of the necessary buildings which included a residence for his family, an office, a blacksmith shop and stables, General Street moved his family to the agency in April of 1839. His health however, had been declining and on May 5, 1840; he died at his home at the agency. Major John Beach, son-in-law of General Street, was named to succeed him.

     The governor of the Iowa territory was being pressed to acquire the land still remaining in the hands of the Indians. In the autumn of 1841, a council was called for this purpose. Due to opposition from Chief Wapello, the council failed and another was called for in the autumn of 1842.

     The Indians could not comprehend the business or trade of buying or selling land. So when Chief Wapello died in the spring of 1842, himself a stumbling block to the Governors objective of acquiring the remaining land held by the Sac & Fox, was removed.

     The first meeting of the council in 1842 was presided over by the Governor of the Iowa Territory whom was dressed in his finest as was the Indians. In their head dress was Chief Keokuk, Poweshiek, Appanoose and Kishkekosh.

Note that Wapello County had no first settler, as scores of pioneers were impatiently waiting for the day, they could legally cross into the lands beyond the Indian boundary line. Many had come prior to the areas and suffered hardships while remaining and waiting. All men present fully prepared to rush, at the stroke of a bell, upon new territories. The treaty allowed entrance for settlers unto this new area, May 1, 1843.

     As the midnight hour ushered in May first, many a man and an army of 2000 pressed along the imaginary line. As the settlers entered from both the southern line and the northern line, into Wapello County, no one knew who came first. Imagine driving a stake, to make the claim lawful, choosing the land to belong to.

Very rapidly the settlement of Wapello County made just cause to organize that county. The organizing act was approved on February 13th, 1844, and the County of Wapello was official on March 1, 1844.

     The Appanoose Rapids Company was owners of land known as Ottumwa. In anticipation of the surrounding territory becoming a county and wishing to have the county seat on the company property, steps were taken to bring such about.

     The company bound itself to erect a Courthouse. The Indian name Ottumwa was retained by the Appanoose Rapids Company for a time, and in 1844, the new village was called Louisville, soon to be discarded and the original name resumed. Mr Smart, and Indian interpreter for the Agency, recorded that Ottumwanoc (swift water) was the name applied by the Indians to the rapids in the Des Moines river at this place.

Prepared by~ Wapello County Historical Society

Presented by~ Ottumwa Chamber of Commerce

Transcribed by~ Deb Barker