Landmarks in Iowa History: Spirit Lake Massacre

Landmarks in Iowa History: Spirit Lake Massacre

November 15, 2019 6 By William Hollis


it’s TV school woi TV and association
the Iowa State Teachers College presents another program the Iowa TV school time
series landmarks in Iowa history today instructors verb bake and Irving heart
our visiting the side of the spirit so we take you now to the Iowa Great
Lakes and okay well boys and girls it’s another
beautiful day to take pictures isn’t it and today we’re going to take some
pictures of this gardener Kevin you see it here in the background this is the
only cabin that is left after the Spirit Lake massacre and as the announcer said
we are in the Great Lakes region today in the Great Lakes region of Iowa all
right this is called the Spirit Lake Massacre but this particular cabin in
which the Gardner family lived is located on Pillsbury point on the West
Oakland body now you’ll say what does that have to do with spirit Lake spirit
lake is another lake well all of these lakes at one time were called the spirit
lakes because the Indians were very superstitious about these lakes they
thought the great spirits of the Indian people lived in these lakes and so this
was sacred ground remember in the first program in the landmark series I said
something about the Indians going to the Pipestone quarry in Pipestone Minnesota
to get the material for their peace pipes and they also thought the
Pipestone quarry was sacred ground the Indians had several places which
they considered to be sacred the five stone quarry in Pipestone Minnesota and
the Spirit Lake region in which you see this Gardner cabin a little bit later on
mr. Hart is going to tell you the story of the massacre and tell you about the
cabins that were involved in this Spirit Lake massacre in addition to the Gardner
cabin but right now I’d like to have you go with me as we look around this
particular cabin and see the monument which was put up for the people who were
massacred in the Spirit Lake massacre and I want you to see how this
particular cabin and the monument are all hemmed in by tourist cabins places
where they sell live bait motels things of that sort so that when you go up to
the Great Lakes region and to West Okoboji in particular you will be able
to find this particular cabin there are no signs anywhere the
where it is but if you look around in West Oakland bulgy you’ll find the cabin
and the monument so come up a little closer and look through this viewfinder
this one right here you know how we do that look over my shoulder and we’ll
take some pictures of the scene of the Spirit Lake massacre all right
here we go here is the cabin you see it has a sort of a shelter built around it
if you go up closer to it you’ll see if there’s a long cabin under it the
shelter was made so that it would be possible for the cabin to be preserved
now let’s move over a little bit toward the side and we’ll see the monument this
particular monument is very close to the Gardner cabin it was erected by order of
the 25th General Assembly of the state of Iowa in 1894 you see the monument
itself is made of alternate blocks of rough and polished Minnesota granite and
at the top it has an arrowhead shaped stone pointing skyward in memory of the
defenseless settlers who were killed in this particular Massacre the members of
the assembly the 25th General Assembly were in many cases members of the relief
party from Fort Dodge and Webster City that came to this region to try to
rescue the white settlers who were being menaced by the Indian see that sign in
the foreground that says Okoboji Protective Association people have
Okoboji have had to to take this land and see that it is protected they keep
it up this is not kept up by the state of Iowa it is kept up by the Okoboji
people themselves but all around it you can see these cabins that have fenced in
the cabin and the monument there are cabins for people who
to the lakes to fish places where they sell live bait places where they sell
hot dogs all kinds of places for the tourists and that’s why it makes it very
hard to find this particular cabin if you go up to the Great Lakes region here
is the place where the survivors of the massacre were buried here is where Abbie
Gardner and her two sons are buried and I’ll show you another picture of that a
little bit later on well I’ve gives you some kind of an idea
about the scene of the Spirit Lake massacre now as I say there is quite a
story about this Spirit Lake Massacre and I’d like to have mr. Hart tell you
that story because he’s a much better historian than I am we’ll get off this
easel again we use this last week you remember and somebody said how’s it
happened that you carry an easel around with you in the station wagon well of
course boys and girls you know why easels are use don’t you easels are used
by people who want to make sketches and many times when I go up to these
landmarks areas I like to make sketches of the places that I see and I keep this
easel in the back of the station wagon so that we can make sketches as we go
along but this morning we’re going to use it for maps so here you are mr. Hart
would you tell the boys and girls now the story of the Spirit Lake massacre
last week yeah we were at a Manor down here on the Iowa River and this week
we’ve got to make a long journey a long journey in time and in space we’re going
to go clear across the state to the northwest here to the very Minnesota
border where these spirit lakes are it was all now Spirit Lake and East and West
Okoboji are located here the Gardner family located in 1856 the father and
mother a grown daughter and her husband and little boy and a daughter Abby 14
years old and a younger boy of the family as they came out here in the
summer of 1856 and located that claim on as mr. Hager told us on the shores of
West Okoboji open down here on the south the very south side it was rather late
in the summer but they had time mr. Gardner and his son-in-law loose to
build a log cabin the one you see in the background here and before winter came
they had four walls and a good big fireplace plenty of fuel and enough food
to carry them through the winter although there was no surplus of that
the winter of 1856 and 57 is a very hard winter it was bitterly cold and there
was lots of snow but this the settlers in the Gardner cabinet or the cabins
around the lake lived with fair degree of comfort but that was not true of the
Indians the civil Indians who lived in up here in northwest Iowa and over in
the borders of Minnesota and Dakota had suffered terribly during that winter
they came to be very hungry Indians and somebody had said that hungry Indians
are likely to be bad Indians well I don’t know that that is always true but
certainly it was true with regard to some of these Sioux Indians in this case
a little band of fifteen or twenty warriors under the leadership of a big
ugly looking India named Inkpaduta decided that they were going to come
down to in the Iowa and get some food for themselves and their families they
came down at the end of the winter of 1856 and 57 and early in March they
showed up here in the vicinity of the Spirit Lake Michigan mr. Gardner had
been planning to go down to Fort Dodge to bring back some additional supplies
to carry them through until they could raise their crops but on the morning of
March 7th the very day he was going to leave a bunch of Indians showed up the
graduates were at breakfast and they want an Indian opened the door and
walked in and said he wanted some breakfast they told him to sit down with
them started to serve Him when the door opened again and a bunch of six or eight
other big Indian warriors came in the immediate again demanding more and more
food and one of them said they wanted powder and shop and caps
mr. Gardner reach for a box of caps and they’re opening it to give them some
caps when one of the Indians grabbed the whole box took it away from him there
was a pretty serious situation developing there but finally Gardner
managed to get the Indians out of the the cabin and barred the door and the
Indians disappeared they talked it over and the gardener son-in-law Mr. Loose
said he thought he ought to go and warn some of the settlers other settlers so
he started out just a few minutes after he left till they heard some the sound
of some guns being shot off and of course his young wife and his mother
were very much worried that mr. Loose and her mother mrs. Gardner but
mr. Gardner said he didn’t think of anything serious could have happened and
they waited there during the day become of course mr. Gardner gave up his plans
are going to Fort does short evening the Indians came back pushed their way into
the cabin and again demanded food and Mr. Gardner turned to go to the flower
Belle to scrape the very bottom of the flower Belle and share what little they
had with them one of the Indians raided musket and shot him dead and there and
then there began just a ruthless massacre mrs. Gardner and mrs. Lewis
were dragged out from the cabin were killed and scalped the two little boys
the little loose child and the little gardener boy were both killed and a day
the fourteen-year-old daughter alone was saved
she was taken captive and carried the dragged with the Indians to their camp
in the meantime the same kind of thing had been happening over here at the
Maddox and as a fetcher cabins and they appear at the Granger cabin the at that
and when the night came of this first day of this terrible Massacre
twenty people men women and children had been killed an avid gardener this
fourteen-year-old girl and two other three other women who had been captured
and this is Thatcher a mrs. marble and a mrs. noble all these ponies four women
sat there bound in the Indian teepees and heard the sound of the terrible
scalp dance outside mr. Hyde how long were these women in captivity how long
were they held by the Indians they were captured on the 7th of March and they
refer to of the women mrs. Noble and mrs. Thatcher were killed
on the March with the Indians back up to their homes in South Dakota what is now
South Dakota mrs. marble was ransom in early June and every gardener later in
June and was allowed eventually to return to her friends here in Iowa all
right now boys and girls you may think that Abby Gardner when she was ransom
and came back to Iowa immediately went back to this particular
cabin where the massacre occurred this this cabin the Gardner cabin was not
burned many of the other cabins were burned to the ground
but this one was not why would you say why didn’t she go back to that cabin
because in the meantime some other people have taken over the cabin and it
taught themselves well here’s the ready-made cabin for us to live in
we’ll just take over so when Abby Gardner came back to the cabin she found
it occupied by other people who said that they were living there now and that
they said Abby couldn’t have her cabin back so for a while Abby Gardner lived
with friends in Hampton Iowa and it was here in 1857 that she met a man named
Sharpe who she married so for a while the Sharpe family and they had two boys
lived elsewhere in Iowa until in 1891 Abby Gardner Sharpe was able to buy the
old homestead again she had written in the meantime a book about this spirit
lake Massacre and the profits that she made from the sale of that book enabled
her to buy the old homestead back again so from 1891 until 1921 when she died
she lived in this original home of the Gardner’s and there are many people in
Iowa today who remember meeting happy gardeners sharp in the cabin and
listening to her tell the story of the massacre and showing the
souvenirs of her captivity and when I was up there this summer I took some
pictures of the inside of the Gardiner cabin
I thought perhaps you’d like to see those here they are this is one wall of
the inside of the Gardner cabinet here you see a fence post of course that
wasn’t kept in the cabin originally but this is one of the fence posts that was
made by Abby Gardner’s father this was the kind used for rail fences you see
these holes in here the rails would go through those particular holes they made
a very good fence here are some snowshoes that were used up in that
region so the people could get around in the deep snow here is an oil painting
which is in pretty bad condition now paint is scaling off but it shows one of
the cabins being burned to the ground by Inkpaduta and his warriors these
teepees in the foreground here were the temporary homes I think the do they and
his men here is another inside view of the cabin this glass case here contains
many things that were used by Abby Gardner during the time that she lived
in the cabin after she returned from captivity this little case here contains
some baby shoes that were found in front of the cabin after the massacre and
there are other things in here and here’s the family Bible and there are
things that arranged on the shelves here is a thing that has Bible verses on it
the gardener family was very religious and these Bible verses were kept hanging
on the wall to remind the members of the family of their religion
here is another corner of the Gardner cabin showing many of the things that
Abby gardener brought back with her you can’t see this very well but this is the
spoon that was used by Abby Gardner during the time she was a captive and
the Indians gave her this and she used that to eat her food there’s a
there are various types of Indian implements lying around the moccasins
that were worn by a happy gardener there is a Hickory broom but a bee garden are
used in the cabin and other mementos of her life in the Spirit Lake region this
is the bed upstairs in the cabin it’s a two-story cabin of course this is little
more than an attic but this is the bed that I’d be guarding are used after she
bought the cabin back again and lived in it for the last thirty years of her life
this is quite a dark room and you can see the rough logs here
and in the rough plaster on the inside and here is that burial plot that you
saw a moment ago and we were making the movie this pyramid of stones on one side
is a marker for six of the survivors are not six survivors but six of the people
who were killed in the massacre six members of the Gardner loose family this
is the headstone for Abby Gardner sharp this is the stone of one of her son’s
this is the stone for another son and here is a bench back here and there’s an
inscription on the back of the bench an inscription which says Abby Gale Gardner
Sharpe orphaned and enslaved by the hostile Sioux she lived to embrace in
Christian benevolence the American Indian and all mankind now I think it is
interesting to note that in later years Abby Gardner became the friend of the
Indians and some of the people who participated in the raid became
Christians and she became their friend and they came to see her notice back
here one of the cabins this one is called Pleasant View which seemed like
an odd name to give a cabin that looks over a burial plot like this makes you
wonder about the sense of humor that some people have well that gives you
some idea about the about the area in the neighborhood of
the cat now boys and girls since this is the last program that we’re going to
have about Indians I thought perhaps it might be
interesting for you to know where the Indians lived in Iowa that is the Sioux
Indians were the ones who were responsible for this massacre and a
little bit earlier in the series we talked about the Sacs and the Fox
Indians about the friendly Indians who met Marquette and Jolliet as they came
down the Mississippi River so in this last program concerned with Indians I’d
like to ask mr. Hart to tell you something about where the various Indian
tribes lived in Iowa this map here of the Indian populations the Indian market
and Shirley gate came in contact down here near the mouth of the Iowa River
were probably Iowa’s who moved westward after that and settled and lived for
many years in the Des Moines Valley this is the Des Moines River by the way is
that our Coon then the Saxon foxes moved in and when the white men came to settle
Iowa they they found this area to the west of the Mississippi River occupied
by the Saxons foxy the kettle chief whom we talked about in that story of the
Julien Dubuque was a member of the Fox tribe to the north of that area there
came to be what was called a neutral ground which was set aside by the United
States government to keep the the warring Saxon Foxes on the one side and
the Sioux on the other from coming into conflict into this neutral ground here
later a Wisconsin Trident net called the
Winnebagos were moved they stayed there only a compared to the short time
removed out shortly after Iowa became a state done in the southwestern part of
the state a group of Indians lived who were called the Potawatomi and they have
given their name to an Iowa County the county in which Council Bluffs is at the
present time but the greater part of all of this western Iowa and all of this
northwestern part had been Sioux hunting ground
and although the sewers had by treaty given up their claims to this land in
Iowa the last treaty was made in 1851 they continued to come back to hunt and
fish there and it was a band of sewers as we have said which came down into
northwestern Iowa in 1857 the winter of 56 in 57 and perpetrated that terrible
massacre at Spirit Lake Iowa mr. Hart where are they located
there’s a little band of Indians because the Meskwaki Indians who are of the fox
tribe and they’re located down on the Iowa River just west of the city of
payment it’s called the Taylor reservation or the Meskwaki reservation
the Meskwaki is the name of a small group of the the parks Indians they were
moved out of Iowa to Kansas in the middle forties 1840s but they didn’t
like it down there and a few of them struggled back and found a place here on
the Iowa River and they where there are their old home had had been they found
urban 80 acres there for sale they tried to buy it and then they found that they
couldn’t buy land because they were considered by the governmental be
just like children so a group of them went down to Iowa City with
then still the capital of Iowa and that governor Grimes to buy the land for them
and so they settled there and they now have some 3,200 acres all right Thank
You mr. Hart no time left and I’d like to show the boys and girls after I get
this easel moved out of the way I’d like to show the boys and girls some of the
things used by the Indians at about the time of the Spirit Lake massacre here is
a flintlock gun this is called a flintlock because a piece of Flint is
attached to the hammer and it strikes a spark on the steel here and the spark
flies into this powder pan right here and that sets off the the charge now if
you look very closely you may be able to see a spark from this hammer as I pull
the trigger see if you can see the spark watch
closely now this park will be right along in here somewhere
did you see a spark I could barely see it from where I was standing but
sometimes it sparks good this is the type of spark or the type of flintlock
gun used by the Indians in their time of enlightenment earlier in the 19th
century here is a typical War Club you see there’s a stolen up here held in
place by a thong and the the stone itself could inflict quite a quite a
blow upon the head and could crush the skull this has a springy sort of a
handle I have to be very careful about swinging this so that I don’t crush my
own skull here is another type of war club see the stone in this case is
encased in a rawhide sleeve or pocket and then it swings like this and notice
on the bottom here there is some horses hair Inkpaduta I suppose use human hair
on his but you see you can get quite a quite a swing with this particular war
club like that almost missing all on hand at night very
the typical tomahawk this is made of iron this is the kind that was used by
the Indians as a result of their trading with the white men and of course the
Indians uses on the white men in their turn used by the Indians for grinding
their food so you can see that there are some things which the Indians still use
which went all the way back to the early days now there is just a little time
left boys and girls so I’d like to tell you about the kind of homes in which the
Indians live this – we lived in a in a house like this this is what is known as
a teepee there was a place here for a smoke hole and then there was a hole
here in the front through which people could call to get inside the teepee and
this was held in place with wooden pins that’s a teepee not to be confused with
a toupee a toupee is something else boys and girls a toupee is something that has
put on the head as a kind of a covering one way you can remember this is by
remembering that story that Bennett Cerf tells about the man who set fire to his
toupee so he could keep his wigwam you see that’s the way you can remember
these things now let me show you the kind of home used by the other Indians
this is the kind used by the Sioux so they could travel quickly they could
take this down very quickly the other Indians the people who settled
permanently in a certain area use what is called a wickiup the better sapling
around this way and then they used elm bark or something like that to cover
the the semicircular shape of the hut and that is known as a wickiup or a
wigwam that is a wigwam a teepee is one of the other kind well boys and girls I
wanted to shade that a little more but I see our time is just about up and I want
to tell you about where we’re going next week next week we are going to visit the
little brown church in the Vale you’ve heard about that many times I’m sure and
next week we’re going to visit that famous church so I hope you’ll all be
back next week when mr. Hart and I go to Nashua or to the old village of Bradford
and see and visit and hear the old song which made the church famous the little
brown Church in the Vale next week until then goodbye be with us again next Monday when
instructors Merv take and Irving Park will visit the little brown church
landmarks in Iowa history is brought to you as a part of Iowa TV school time by
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