The Spirit Lake Massacre: Bloodshed Between Iowa Settlers and Natives
Iowa's history includes many tales of natives inhabiting the land. Being that I'm from western Iowa, I remember hearing much about the Sioux Natives living on the land before American settlers began to expand U.S. boundaries west.
Just as every piece of human history indicates, the land being taken by one people from another never goes without conflict. That trend continued within the Hawkeye State's borders in the 1800s.
Near Okoboji and Spirit Lake, five cabins were erected and occupied by settlers in the mid-1840s and 50s, following their decision to leave Fort Dodge and no longer live in an area where the military occupied. They were out on their own.
While the cause of the initial incident is still debated, iowanationalguard.com says the following:
In December 1846, a band of Wapekutah (Sioux), led by Sidominadotah (Two Fingers), traced some stolen horses to the cabin of Henry Lott, who was living on Indian land, at the confluence of the Des Moines and Boone rivers. Mr. Lott was known to steal Indian horses. At the time of the raid, Henry Lott and his stepson were on the other side of the Boone River and observed the Indian activity.
Lott directed his 12-year-old son to gather the ponies from the farm while the natives attempted to take back their horses. Spooked and not dressed for the winter conditions, the boy panicked and turned around to try to find his father. He froze to death without reaching him.
The site continues regarding an incident between Lott and his stepson and the natives in 1854:
Finding Sidominadotah and his band camped on the Des Moines River about 30 miles north of Fort Dodge, Lott and his stepson attacked the camp, killing the chief, his mother, his wife, and their four children.Inkpadutah, Sidominadotah’s younger brother, became the new leader of the band and vowed revenge. Lott and his stepson left Iowa for California.
Following the death of their comrade, Inkpadutah's anger swelled all the more. He gathered a band of his people and ravaged a multitude of cabins in northwest Iowa, including up to Springfield, Minnesota.
The National Guard site says how the bloodshed spread:
Thirty-eight settlers were slain, including James and Mary Mattock and their five children. A relief expedition from Fort Dodge, led by Major William Williams, buried the victims and made a futile attempt to track down the perpetrators of the massacre. Williams found enough bloody clothing and other evidence to conclude that 15 to 20 Indians had probably been either killed or wounded.
Four women were carried off from their cabins at Spirit Lake. Lydia Noble was beaten to death, and Elizabeth Thatcher was drowned. Margaret Noble was bought from Inkpadutah’s band for $1,000, and Abbie Gardner was purchased by a $1,200 ransom appropriated by the Minnesota legislature.
What happened to the band of native warriors you may ask? According to historynet.com, they escaped without a trace:
Two days after the Springfield encounter, there was a great commotion when soldiers were seen approaching the raiders’ camp. The Indian women were sent away while the warriors placed a guard over the captives and readied for battle. The soldiers, a 24-man detachment under Lieutenant Alexander Murray sent from Fort Ridgely, searched the area for more than an hour, but apparently could not find the Indian camp and turned back.