Dickinson County
Genealogy and History

Tour of Iowa Counties.

From our Own Correspondent.
Date: May 04, 1869
Paper: Daily State Register

Transcribed by K. Torp

Dickinson is one of the north tier of counties, and the third east from the west line. It is bounded on the north by the State of Minnesota, east by Emmet county, south by Clay county, and west by Osceola county. It contains twelve congressional townships, the four adjoining the State line, containing but 30 sections each.

Streams - The North Fork of Little Sioux river receives several tributaries which rise in this county, and one which flows across it, having its source in Minnesota. This stream waters four townships in the west part of the county. Another considerable branch or tributary of the Little Sioux river rises in the east part, and flows south-west through two townships.

Lakes -This is the county of beautiful lakes, some fifty square miles of its area being occupied and embraced within various lakes, large and small. The most noted are Spirit Lake, Okoboji Lake, Silver Lake, and Swan Lake. The first named is situated in the north part of the county, and extends into Minnesota. It embraces some twelve square miles of township 100, range 38, and is the largest body of water of the kind in the State. It is deep, clear and beautiful, abounding in fish of many kinds. Just south of it is Okoboji Lake, nearly, if not quite as large, but of very irregular shape. It is about twelve miles in length and from a mile to a mile and a half in width, covering really more Iowa territory than even Spirit Lake, but as stated, a portion of the latter lies in Minnesota. An outlet from Okoboji Lake connects it with the Little Sioux river. These two lakes are skirted by considerable bodies of timber. West of Spirit Lake, and situated in the north-west township of the county, is Silver Lake, a placid and fine little body of water covering about two square miles. An arm or outlet leads from this, connecting it also with the waters of the Little Sioux, river. In the north-east comer township, nearly east of the lower end of Spirit Lake, is Swan Lake, about the same in size as Silver Lake. This has an outlet on the east side, connecting it with the waters of the Des Moines river. There are numerous other smaller bodies of water of the same kind, situated chiefly in the north and central portions of the county. Their location is on the grand "divide," or water-shed, which separates the waters flowing Into the Mississippi from those flowing into the Missouri, and the outlets from them, as will be seen, lead in either direction.

Dirt.-The soil of this county is not less fertile than that of any other portion of North-western Iowa. It is dry and susceptible of cultivation up to the very borders of the lakes, and its exceeding fertility, with the bodies or limber found here, attracted a considerable settlement as early as 1850. The county is sufficiently rolling for the purpose of drainage, but is nowhere too much broken for cultivation. The same deep, dark loam that prevails in all the counties in this part or the State, is also a characteristic of the soil of this county, and produces the most luxuriant crops of all kinds of grain and vegetables.

Scenery.-The scenery of this region is most delightful. The undulating prairies, covered during the summer months with their graceful mantles of grass and flowers, sweep away to the verge of the distant horizon in all directions. But the scene is diversified by the repose, here and there, of crystal lakelets, gleaming and sparkling in delightful contrast with the deep green slopes that border their margins. The larger lakes have groves of timber adjoining them, which may be seen for many miles, and form conspicuous landmarks to the tourist across the prairies. In the distance they appear as mere patches, but when approached
many of them expand to groves of considerable magnitude,encircling the quiet waters that have so long reposed in their placid beauty, guarded only by the sentinel trees which bend so lovingly over them. Various kinds of wild fruit-bearing trees, vices and plants, are found in, and around the edges of these groves, including the wild grape, whose vines and tendrils cling to the branches overhead; the plum, with its snow-white blossoms in spring, or its ripe red fruit in autumn, and the wild strawberry, whose rich ripe clusters there are few hands to gather. Vast numbers of water fowl may be seen in their favorite resorts around the margins or the lakes, or bathing their plumage in the waters, with little fear or danger from the intruding sportsman. Birds of various plumage warble among the branches in the groves, or in grassy nooks on the prairie. They are here in myriads, and of all sizes, from the chirping sparrow to the drumming pheasant. A thousand beautiful flowers annually bloom unseen, nourished by a soil that might sustain in comfort all who will come and till it. This delightful and fertile portion of Northwestern Iowa attracted the attention of settlers at an early day, and in the year 1838 a large number of families settled around the shores of Spirit and Okoboji lakes, and about the head-waters of Little Sioux river, in Dickinson and Clay counties. Roving bands of Sioux Indians still lingered in this region, occasionally committing petty depredations upon the property of settlers, and upon such hunters and trappers as ventured to come within their power. Finally, in 1857, occurred some of the most shocking outrages ever recorded in the annals of Indian barbarity. We will state briefly some or the circumstances connected with this affair, which is known in the history of our State as the

Due regard to the connection of events requires us to go back to the year 1810, when a man named Henry Lott took up his abode at the mouth of Boone river, in what is now Webster county. Having a small stock of goods and a barrel of whisky, his design was to trade with the Indians, but his presence here, it seems, was not agreeable to those whom he expected to be his customers. An Indian named Si-dom-i-na-do-tah, was the Chief, or leader, of a band of Sioux who occupied the country. This Indian, with six of his braves, made Lott a visit and notified him that he was regarded as an intruder, giving him a certain time to leave their hunting grounds. But Lott did not see proper to leave, and at the expiration of the lime limited, the Indians returned, and destroyed his property. This was about the 18th of December, 1840, and the weather was very cold, with snow on the ground. When the Indians came for the purpose of fulfilling their threat, Lott and his step-son made their escape with the intention of reaching the settlement some forty miles distant, down the Des Moines river. The Indians did no personal harm to the members of Lott's family who were left behind; but his son, Milton Lott, a lad about twelve years of age, attempted to follow his father, and on his way, after proceeding down the river about twenty miles, perished with the cold. In a few days Lott returned to find his family in a very destitute condition, and his son missing. Search was made, and the body found frozen, as above stated.

Lott and his family subsequently became residents of Humboldt county, where he engaged in the same business of trading with the Indians, and selling them whisky. In the winter of 1853-4, the Chief, Si-dom-i-na-do-tah, and his family, encamped near Lou's residence. Although pretending to be friendly, he still, it seemed, harbored revenge toward the Indian for the old offense. Lott and his step-son murdered the chief and most of his family, including his wife and two children, and also an old Indian woman and two other children that she had in charge-seven persons in all. Only two of the chiefs family made their escape, a girl ten years of age, and a boy about twelve, and they were wounded and left for dead. They survived, however, and according to their report, Lott and his son, when they committed the murders, were disguised as Indians. Lott and his son immediately burnt their cabin, left the country, and were soon on their way to California. The skeletons of the murdered Indians were found some time afterward, when a sort of investigation was had, fixing the guilt upon Lott and his step-son. From this time the Indians became troublesome, and manifested a hostile bearing toward the white settlers.Si-dom-i-na-do-tah, the murdered chief, was a brother, or near relative, of the notorious Ink-pa-du-dah,who subsequently became the leader in the Spirit Lake Massacre, and this dreadful affair was doubtless the result of the events which we have related.

The winter of 1850-7 was exceedingly severe, with heavy snow, rendering it almost impossible for the few isolated settlements in this part of the State to communicate with each other: Fort Dodge was then a point of considerable, trade and importance. On the Little Sioux river were a few scattering settlements, including that at Smithland in Woodbury county. Here a party of Indians manifested some hostility toward the settlers, and were driven away. They passed up the Little Sioux, plundering the settlers and making threats against them. Finally on the 8th or 9th of March, 1857, they commenced at Spirit and Okoboji Lakes the horrible murders and outrages, which annihilated in two days all the settlements in that region. They made an indiscriminate slaughter of men, women and children, the victims numbering some 53 persons. The following were among the victims at the Lakes:

Mr. Gardner, his wife and son, all killed, and the daughter, a young lady of 15, taken captive.
Mr. Luce, a son-in-law of Mr. Gardner, his wife, and two children, all killed.
Mr. Mattocks, his wife, and five children, all killed: also a Mr. Matteson, who lived with the family.
Messrs. Granger, Snyder, Harriott and Harshman, all killed.
Mr. Howe and four children, all killed; also Mr. Noble, who lived in the family.
Mrs. Howe and a Mrs. Thatcher of this family were taken captives, and subsequently killed by the Indians on their flight
Mr. Marble killed, and his wife taken captive. She was some mouths after, along with Miss Gardner, purchased from Ink-pa-
du-tah, by the efforts of Gov. Medarie of Minnesota, and the Indian agent at Laqua Parle, through some friendly Indians.
All the above persons, and others whose bodies were afterward found murdered in the vicinity of the Lakes, in the 8th or 9th of March, after which the Indians went to a place then called Springfield, on the Des Moines river, about eight miles south of the Slate line. The people here were better prepared for them, having heard of the slaughter at the Lakes.

Among the victims at Springfield, were the following:
Mr. Stewart, his wife and two children, killed.
Mr. Thomas, wounded, and his son killed.
Mr. Carver, and a young lady, severely wounded, at the house of Mr. Church,
Mr. Woods, a trader and his brother, both killed, the Indians robbing the store.
At the Lakes and at Springfield, 41 persons were killed instantly, 3 wounded, and 4 women captured, as stated above. Twelve other persons were missing, and the remains of several afterward found. Some or the bodies were burned in the houses fired by the Indians. They killed all the cattle and destroyed the household goods of the settlers, burning also many of the houses. There lived in Emmet county, a family by the name of Carter, and a young Indian known by the name of Josh, had been an inmate of Mr. Carter's family. Prompted by a feeling of friendship, Josh disclosed to Mr. Carter the plan that the Indians had determined upon for murdering all the settlers on both branches or the Des Moines river, down to the junction, only 13 miles above Fort Dodge. But the news of the massacre at the Lakes had been carried to Fort Dodge by two men from Little Sioux river, named Williams and Bell. A force of 110 men was immediately organized under the command of Major Willliam Williams, to march against the Indians. The battalion was divided into three companies, commanded respectively, by Captains Charles B. Richards, John F. Duncombe and J. C. Johnston. On the morning of the 25th of March they left Fort Dodge, and made their way through snow-banks, suffering almost incredible hardships, to the scene of the revolting atrocities committed by the savages. The Indians became alarmed and fled before completing all the fiendish work which they had intended. The troops found at Springfield the three wounded persons mentioned, and over twenty women and children, who had escaped from the savages by concealing themselves in snow-banks. All were in a wretched condition, many with frozen limbs and without sufficient clothing. They were supplied with provisions and such clothing as the men could furnish them. An escort accompanied them to the nearest settlement, while the other men of Major Williams' command proceeded to gather up and bury the dead, both at Springfield and at the lakes. Twenty-nine bodies were found and buried, and the charred bones of others were found where the cabins had been burned. Two valuable men were lost in the expedition by freezing to death on their return from the lakes, to-wit: Capt. J. C. Johnston of Webster City, and William Burkholder of Fort Dodge. Eighteen other men were badly frozen, and many of them did not recover from the effects for a long time. Major Williams, the commander of the battalion, is spoken of in the highest terms for his generous and intrepid hearing throughout the expedition, and especially for his humane and timely relief to the surviving sufferers, and his care for the remains of the unfortunate victims. He has himself contributed to the press a pretty full account of the massacre, and of the expedition under his command. To his report we are indebted for many of, the facts above stated.

The effects of this dreadful massacre were long felt, not only in Dickinson county, but throughout all this portion of Iowa, and doubtless retarded its settlement for years. For a long time the settlements about Spirit Lake and the head-waters of the Little Sioux were almost abandoned. But the Indians never again attempted to expel the whites from this part of the State. The treacherous Dakotas (Sioux) now occupy other hunting grounds far up the Missouri, leaving the whites to hold undisputed and undisturbed possession of this beautiful region, consecrated civilization by the blood of its first settlers.

Dickinson county now has a population or some six or seven hundred, with eight school districts and some three hundred pupils. Four or five good school-houses have been erected, and her people look hopefully forward to a prosperous future.
Spirit Lake, the County Seat, is a small village situated between Spirit and Okoboji lakes, and is the resort of many who visit this part of the Slate during the summer season on pleasure excursions. The following are its present county officers: - Samuel Pillsbury, County Auditor; Walter B. Brown, Clerk of the District and Circuit Courts,and also Superintendent; Milton J. Smith, Treasurer and Recorder, and W. S. Beers, Sheriff.

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