Outline History of Iowa Part 1 of 3
From: Past and Present of Fayette County, Iowa
B. F. Bowen & Company
Indianapolis, Indiana 1910


We begin this article with an apology to the reader, for the reason that much apparently irrelevant matter must be here introduced in order to lead up to the beginning of Iowa history.

It is known to even the casual reader of our country's history, that the aggressions of white peoples in the East and Middle West gradually drove the aborigines from their habitations in those districts, and had a tendency to centralize them farther to the westward.

For a long series of years the Indian nations were dominated either by the French or the English, and, in remote instances, by the Spanish. At the beginning of the colonization period comparatively few of them were friendly to the colonists.

Beginning with the first shots fired by George Washington's men in the Pennsylvania wilderness in 1754, there was, practically, a continuous war for dominance in Europe and America for a period of sixty years. The contestants sought the overthrow of ancient dynasties, or the establishment of republican governments. After American independence was achieved, nominally at least, in 1783, the struggle was resumed in Europe, with France and England as the chief antagonists. Then the problem for America was to restrain her sympathies for each of these powers, keep out of the fight and strengthen her independence. Washington managed to hold down the French sympathizers, and Jefferson, though leaning toward France, adopted a policy of coquetry toward the hostile nations, using the opportunities of the situation to gain territory for the United States.

But when the rival powers attacked the great shipping interests of our country, with arbitrary edicts and confiscations, Jefferson, with all his ability, was compelled to declare an embargo on ocean trade in retaliation. This ruined the commerce all along the coast. Jefferson went out of office, leaving conditions which rendered war inevitable and his country crippled so as to make the war promise humiliation. Madison, a man of less ability, could not cope with the situation. The statesmen of his school rendered the country more unprepared for war by discontinuing the United States Bank. Meanwhile a group of young men, like Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun, came to the front, demanding war for American honor, to avenge the insults and outrages committed by the French and English upon American shipping and sailors. It was doubtful which country would be chosen as an antagonist, but the leanings of the party in power were toward France as an ally. Furthermore, the British were not only oppressive at sea, but were accused of again encouraging trouble among the Indians. When the American frigate "President" and the British sloop "Little Belt" turned their guns on each other in the Atlantic, and the Indians fell upon Harrison's camp in Indiana, the country could no longer resist the cry for war with England.

During many months preceding the declaration of war, the Indians of the West, under the leadership of the renowned chief, Tecumseh, and his brother, Ellskwatiwaw, the "Prophet," were organizing a confederation of all the tribes for one last effort to annihilate their white enemies. This Shawanee prophet enlisted many followers by his assumption that he possessed supernatural powers, representing himself to be the great "Magneto," or "second Adam," proclaiming himself the father of the English, the French, the Spaniards and the Indians, but asserting that Americans were children of the Evil Spirit. His voluble harangue had the desired effect among the Indians and an army of considerable strength was organized, among them the noted Black Hawk and his followers, as well as braves from most of the Iowa tribes of Indians.

The great Miami confederation, representing many tribes of the Algonquin, or primitive family, appear to have been the principal occupants of northwestern Indiana. The particular branch of the Miamis best known in that region were the Weans, or Ouitenons, though the Pottawattamics were next in strewth and importance to the Miami. This tribe, and the Kickapoos, occupied the west bank of the Wabash river at a place later known as "Prophet's Town." There were also various tribes of the Piankeshaws and Shawanees. In addition to these, there were representatives of numerous western tribes from Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. Prominent among these were the Sacs and Foxes, together with the noted chief among the former, Black Hawk. He had gained some notoriety among his people as a warrior against the Osages and other neighboring tribes, and was a valued ally of the British during the war of 1812, which soon followed the decisive battle of Tippecanoe. His pretext for bringing on the war which ended in his entire defeat and overthrow, in 1832, was the treaty of St. Louis, made in 1804, wherein certain chiefs of his tribe had ceded to the United States their lands on the east side of the Mississippi. But he was the victim of a narrow prejudice and ill will towards the Americans, which seems to have been engendered before he had any knowledge of them or their character, and this ill advised and hasty judgment seems to have been the ruling passion of his life.

The home of Black Hawk and his followers was near the present site of Rock Island, Illinois, at the time the Indians were called together by the Prophet for their final effort at Tippecanoe. The territory across the river was then in full possession of the Indians, but the expedition of Lieut. Zebulon M. Pike, a United States officer, led to the building of Fort Edwards, at the present site of Warsaw. Illinois, and Fort Madison, on the Iowa side, and now the location of the city bearing that name. This latter was considered by Black Hawk and his people to be a special violation of the terms of the treaty signed in 1804. While five chiefs of the Sac and Fox tribes had signed a treaty with the United States, transferring all their interests in a strip of territory east of the Mississippi and north of the Jefferon in Missouri, embracing an area of over fifty one millions of acres, for a consideration of two thousand, two hundred and thirty four dollars in goods then delivered, and a yearly annuity of one thousand dollars in goods, Black Hawk was greatly displeased and claimed that the chiefs acted without authority. It is claimed by good American authority that the building of Fort Madison was a violation of the terms of the treaty of 1804, article six, of that document, stating: "That if any citizen of the United States, or any other white persons should form a settlement upon their lands, such intruders should forthwith be removed." Probably the authorities of the United States did not regard the establishment of military posts as coming, strictly, within the meaning of the word "settlement," as used in the treaty. At all events, they erected Fort Madison within the territory reserved to the Indians, and this led to continuous trouble for many years.

Keokuk was another noted chief, but entirely different from Black Hawk in his attitude towards the Americans. He was disposed to sanction the treaty of 1804 and to cultivate the friendship and good will of the Americans. Like Black Hawk, he was descended from the Sac branch of the nation, and was born on Rock River in 1780. Keokuk's friendship divided the Sacs and Foxes into the "war party" and the "peace party," as they were known. He counseled peace on the grounds that it was useless to fight. His good sense and cool judgment enabled him to discern the future and to recognize the strength of the Americans before compelled to witness it on the battlefield. A portion of the Sacs and Foxes remained neutral, and were under command of Keokuk, while the belligerents, under Black Hawk, joined the British.

Most of the Indian tribes concerned in the great battle of Tippecanoe have already been mentioned; but there were warriors from the Illinois, the Sioux, the Winnebagoes, the Osages, all from the region west of the Mississippi river.


The battle of Tippecanoe was the culmination of the labors of Tecumseh and the Prophet, in inciting the Indians to a united warfare against the Americans. Much strategy was shown in effecting the organization and in the secrecy with which the work was done, and good generalship was shown in the conduct of the battle. This occurred on the 7th of November. 1811, with Gen. William H. Harrison as commander of the American forces. It resulted in the complete overthrow of the allied Indian forces and the opening of the gateway to the then little known Northwest. Up to this time, the hostile Indians in northwestern Indiana and in Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa had effectually blocked the way of even the most aggressive frontiersmen. The effect of this victory over the Indians was more far reaching in character, and gave greater impetus to the settlement of the country, than any of the many Indian battles which had preceded it. The battle was brought on prematurely, during the absence of Tecumseh in the South, otherwise the result of the contest might have been different: To emphasize the importance which the United States government and the state of Indiana attach to this final contest east of the Mississippi, it may be said, incidentally, that the battlefield has been dedicated to the use of a public park, ornamented with imposing structures and consecrated by the erection of tombstones over the graves of the fallen. As a final effort to establish its national importance, they caused to be erected, at equal expense to each, an imposing monument to Gen. William Henry Harrison and inscribed it with the names of all who fell on that field. Twenty five thousand dollars was appropriated for this purpose, the state and nation contributing equal amounts of this sum. The monument was dedicated in 1907, ninety six years after the date of the event which it commemorates. Representatives of the United States government and state of Indiana were present on that occasion; likewise many descendants of the men who fell there, the majority of whom were from the states of Indiana and Kentucky. Among the former was a great grandson of General Harrison.

The decisive battle of the Thames, on the 6th of October, 1813, effectually closed hostilities in the Northwest, although peace was not fully restored until July 22, 1814. On that date a treaty was signed at Greenville, between General Harrison, as representative of the United States, and the various Indian tribes who could be diverted from their allegiance to the British. The treaty of Ghent, on the 24th of December, following, brought peace between the United States and Great Britain, and this was followed the next year by various treaties with Indian tribes throughout the West and Northwest, and comparative quiet was again restored.

But we should not overlook the atrocious massacre at Fort Dearborn, as occurring about midway between the dates of the two principal battles on the western borders of civilization by about five hundred warriors of the Pottawattamies and Winnebagoes, acting under direction of the British General Proctor. The garrison, comprising fifty four soldiers, twelve civilians and a number of women and children, were attacked by five hundred bloodthirsty warriors, who were enthused by the British promise of a bounty for every American scalp which they would bring to headquarters at Malden. It is stated on good authority that this bounty was paid. Twenty eight of the little party were taken prisoners, all the others, including the wounded, having been slaughtered. Captain Heald was the commander of the garrison, while the Indians were led by Blackbird, a Pottawattamie chief. This massacre occurred on the 16th of August, 1812.


To render our narrative consecutive, in its treatment of near by Indian history, we must again refer to Black Hawk. It will be remembered that this chieftain refused to recognize the treaty of St. Louis in 1804, and did not recognize its validity until 1815, when the Indian tribes west of the Mississippi were first informed that peace had been declared between the United States and Great Britain. From the time Black Hawk signed the treaty in 1816 until the beginning of the Black Hawk war in 1832, he and his followers passed their time in the ordinary pursuits of Indian life. Ten years before the commencement of this war, the Sac and Fox Indians were urged to unite with the lowas and occupy the west bank of the Mississippi. All consented to do this except the remnant of the "British Band," of which Black Hawk was the leader. He vigorously protested against the removal, and this, and various actions on the part of the white settlers, provoked Black Hawk and his band, until they attempted to recapture his native village, then in possession of the whites. The war followed. Black Hawk was undoubtedly misunderstood, and had his wishes been considered at the beginning of this struggle much bloodshed would have been prevented and equally as favorable results attained. But the beauty and fertility of the Indian lands incited lawless aggressions upon the part of the whites. Returning to his native village on Rock River, to find his wigwams occupied by white families, and his women and children homeless and shelterless on the banks of the river, was sufficient provocation to incite them to war, especially as it was understood that the Indians were occupying those lands with the consent of the United States government. It may be well to remark here that it was expressly stipulated in the treaty of 1804, to which the Indians attributed all their troubles, that the Indians should not be obliged to leave their lands until they were sold by the United States, and it does not appear that they occupied any lands other than those owned by the government. If this was true, the Indians had good cause for indignation and complaint. But the whites, driven out in turn by the returning Indians, became so clamorous against what they termed encroachments of the natives, that Governor Reynolds, of Illinois, ordered General Gaines to Rock Island with a military force to drive the Indians from their homes to the west side of the Mississippi.

It is generally believed by old settlers in that locality, and is so recorded by some historians, that the Indian traders incited Black Hawk to a violation of the terms of the treaty because the Indians were indebted to them, and the traders took this method of getting their pay. It is well known that an Indian debt outlawed within one year, and Black Hawk's people had been unfortunate in hunting; hence they had incurred heavy debts with their favorite trader at Fort Armstrong (Rock Island). The wily trader knew that by encouraging the Indians to assume a hostile attitude and recross the river in violation of the terms of the treaty, another treaty would soon follow and he would be enabled to get the money due him.

After much parleying upon both sides of the controversy, and at least two efforts upon the part of Black Hawk to bring about peace relations, the Black Hawk war was precipitated, and eventually the Indians were driven into Wisconsin and practically annihilated. Black Hawk was captured by three Winnebago Indians and taken as a prisoner to Prairie du Chien, thence to Jefferson Barracks and finally to Fortress Monroe. He was liberated on the 4th of June, 1833, and, by order of the President, returned to his people in Iowa. His death occurred at the Des Moines reservation, October 3, 1838.


At the close of the Black Hawk war, in 1832, a treaty was made at a council held on the present site of Davenport, on the 21st of September, 1832. Gen. Winfield Scott was there as the representative of the United States and Governor Reynolds appeared for the state of Illinois. Keokuk and some thirty other chiefs and warriors of the Sac and Fox nation appeared for their people. By the terms of this treaty, the Sacs and Foxes ceded to the United States a strip of territory on the eastern. border of Iowa, fifty miles wide, from the northern boundary of Missouri to the mouth of the Upper Iowa river, and containing about six million acres. The eastern line of the purchase was parallel with the Mississippi. The government stipulated to pay annually to the confederated tribes, for thirty consecutive years, the sum of twenty thousand dollars in specie, and to pay the debts of the Indians at Rock Island, these having been accumulating for seventeen years, and then amounted to fifty thousand dollars, due to Davenport & Farnham, Indian traders. But the government generously remembered the women and children of the braves who had fallen in the Black Hawk war, and distributed among them thirty five beef cattle, twelve bushels of salt, thirty barrels of pork, fifty barrels of flour and six thousand bushels of corn.

This territory is known as the "Black Hawk Purchase," and though it was not the first territory ceded to the United States by the Sacs and Foxes, it was the first opened to actual settlement. As soon as the Indian title was extinguished, a resistless tide of emigration flowed across the Mississippi to occupy "the Beautiful Land."

By the terms of the Black Hawk •purchase, there was reserved for the Sac and Fox Indians four hundred square miles of land, situated on the Iowa river and including within its limits Keokuk's village, on the right bank of that river. This tract was known as "Keokuk's Reserve," and was occupied by the Indians until September, 1836, when by the terms of a treaty between them and Governor Dodge, of Wisconsin Territory, it was ceded to the United States. Besides the Keokuk Reserve, the government rewarded Antoine Le Claire, interpreter, with two sections of land, one opposite Rock Island and the other at the head of the first rapids above the island on the Iowa side. This was the first land title granted by the United States to an individual in Iowa.

Soon after the removal of the Sacs and Foxes to their new reservation on the Des Moines river, Gen. Joseph M. Street was transferred from the agency of the Vinnebagoes at Prairie du Chien and established an agency among the Sacs and Foxes at a place now known as Agency City. There it was sought to "civilize" the Indians by teaching them the customs of the white man. A farm was opened up at government expense, buildings erected and the farming implements of that day provided. A salaried agent was employed to superintend the farm and dispose of the products. Two mills were erected, one of which was soon swept away by a freshet, but the other was maintained and did good service for many years. Three of the Indian chiefs, Keokuk, Wapello and Appanoose, had each a large field improved, the latter on the present site of the city of Ottumwa. But the Indians became idle and listless in their new avocations, and many of them resorted to dissipation to supply the excitements of former days. A similar effort was made on the borders of our own county, and with like results, as will appear in another part of this work.

There were some fifteen treaties made with the different tribes of Indians occupying Iowa soil, in whole or in part, before the Indian titles or claims were fully extinguished. Besides the Sacs and Foxes, whose history has been given more fully than any others, there were many of the aborigines with whom the government, and, later, the pioneer settlers, had to deal. The Sioux were the hereditary enemies of the Sacs and Foxes, as were also the Osages. Constant Warfare was maintained between these tribes for many generations. The general government established a "neutral strip" twenty miles north of the recognized boundary line between these nations and twenty miles south of it, thus separating them by forty miles of neutral territory upon which they were permitted to hunt, but should not occupy for warlike purposes. But neither of the parties was very zealous in observing this imaginary line. This neutral ground extended from the mouth of the Upper Iowa river, on the west bank of the Mississippi, ascending the Upper Iowa to its west fork; thence up that fork to its source; thence crossing the fork of Red Cedar river in a direct line to the second or upper fork of the Des Moines river; thence in a direct line to the lower fork of the Calumet river, and down that river to its junction with the Missouri river. Included in this provision were also the Chippewas, Menomonees, Winnebagoes and a portion of the Ottawas and Pottawattamies. This "neutral strip" subsequently became a Winnebago reservation, and part of the Winnebagoes were removed to it in 1841. By the terms of a treaty agreed to on July 15, 1830, this territory was ceded back to the government and was thus acquired as a reservation for the Winnebagoes. On the same date and at the same time, the Sacs and Foxes, Western Sioux, Omahas, Iowas and Missouris ceded to the government a large tract of land, including the western slope of Iowa, and for which the various Indian tribes interested were to receive liberal annuities for ten consecutive years, as follows: To the Sacs, three thousand dollars; to the Foxes, three thousand dollars; to the Sioux, two thousand dollars; to the Yankton and Santie bands of Sioux, three thousand dollars; to the Omahas, two thousand five hundred dollars; to the Ottawas and Missouris, two thousand five hundred dollars. In addition to these annuities, the government agreed to furnish some of the tribes with mechanics and agricultural implements, to the amount of two hundred dollars, and to set apart three thousand dollars annually, for the education of children of these tribes. This was the second effort of the government towards educating and Christianizing the Indians.

Fort Atkinson was erected by the United States authorities in 1840-1, and soon afterwards a large farm was opened in the interest of a portion of the Winnebago nation who had not been sent to the reservation farther south. Fort Atkinson and its environments had been established as a means of protection from the aggressions of rival tribes, as well as for the purposes previously mentioned. But like their brethren on the Des Moines reservation, they did not take kindly to the new life, and after the expenditure of much money and labor in their behalf, the fort and mission were both abandoned in 1848 and the Indians removed.

The last treaty made with the Sacs and Foxes was ratified on the 28th of March, 1843, at Agency City, by John Chambers, commissioner on behalf of the United States. By the terms of this treaty these tribes relinquished all claims to their lands west of the Mississippi, and provided for their removal to Kansas within three years, and all who remained after the time limit were to move at their own expense. Part of them removed in the fall of 1845, and the remainder in the spring following.

Provision was also made by the government for a class of men who had intermarried with the Indians and whose interests seemed to be identical with theirs. The Sacs and Foxes, having by the terms of a treaty ratified on the 4th of August, 1824, relinquished their title to all their claims in Missouri, received as part recompense a large tract of land in the southeast corner of Iowa, which was known as the "Half Breed Tract." This reservation was designed for the exclusive use of the half breeds of the Sacs and Foxes, and was held by them on the same terms as the Indians. This territory subsequently became the source of much litigation and controversy, due to the efforts of the white settlers to possess it, without, in all cases, rendering proper equivalent. It contained one hundred and nineteen thousand acres in what is now Lee county.

The "neutral ground," to which reference has been made, was ceded to the Winnebagoes under provisions of a treaty made in 1832, in exchange for "all their land lying east of the Mississippi." It was also stipulated at the same time that they (the Winnebagoes) should receive an annuity of ten thousand dollars annually for twenty seven years, and that the government should provide them with twelve yoke of oxen and the necessary farming implements; establish a school among them, with a farm and six capable farmers to superintend the same, and that these provisions should continue, with an annual expenditure not exceeding three thousand dollars, for a period of twenty seven years.

It seems that the government was somewhat tardy in complying with all the conditions imposed in the treaty above mentioned, since Fort Atkinson, and the mission, a few miles south of it, were not established until 1840-1. This reservation held a considerable portion of the present counties of Winneshiek, Clayton and Fayette. No white man was allowed to settle on it, though there is good evidence that these conditions were violated, in at least one instance.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Return to [ Iowa History ] [ History at Rays Place ] [ Rays Place ] [ Iowa Biographies ]

Iowa Counties at this web site Audubon County - Buchanan County - Dickinson County - Fayette County - Hancock County - Iowa County - Madison County - Marion County - Plymouth County - Sac County - Wapello County - Winnebago County - Woodbury County

Also see the local histories for [ CT ] [ IA ] [ IL ] [ IN ] [ KS ] [ ME ] [ MO ] [ MI ] [ NE ] [ NJ ] [ NY ] [ PA ] [ OH ] [ PA ] [ WI ]

All pages copyright 2003-2013. All items on this site are copyrighted by their author(s). These pages may be linked to but not used on another web site. Anyone may copy and use the information provided here freely for personal use only. Privacy Policy