Thursday, October 31, 2019

John Armstrong Haunting in Carlisle Iowa

Every night at just after sunset the residents of Carlisle. Iowa grew accustomed to seeing Mr. and Mrs. John Armstrong sitting in their armchairs. The only thing that bothered people a bit was the couple had been dead for two years. 

In July 1903 their grandson, C. C. Sumter sent a man to fix up the home so he could rent it out. The man came back, wild-eyed, screaming that he’d “seen the ghosts of two old folks, as real as life.”

Sumter had his doubts and asked Mayor Atkins to investigate. 

The mayor wrote back: Decorator right. Ghosts of John Armstrong and wife seen nightly at their old home. Entire town perplexed and witnessing the spectacle.

Sumter thought they were crazy but came to see for himself.

Sure enough his grandparents materialized in their chairs at daybreak and faded out come nighttime. Just like in real life, his deaf grandmother tapped on the floor with her cane to get the old man’s attention. The couple appear to talk. Their lips move, but no sounds are heard.

Upon further investigation, it developed that ghosts only appeared on bright, sunshiny days. Apparently, John Armstrong didn’t like dark, gloomy days. He’d close the blinds and hide away in his house. 

Years later, a small boy solved the mystery. The stained glass window in the Christian Church across the street had an image of an old couple. When the sun shone it cast their reflections into the Armstrong’s living room. On dark days, there was nothing.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch. August 23, 1903.

A Haunted House on Dry Creek in Fort Madison

There’s a haunted house in the west end of Fort Madison that sits on the bank of a ravine called Dry Creek. 

James Dixon, a section hand on the Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad lived there with his family for a few weeks in 1898. 

One night they heard footsteps outside their door. The sounds came up almost to the door. There was a loud stomp, and then nothing. The family supposed it was a neighbor playing tricks on them.

The old haunted house sat in a ravine off Dry Creek in the West end of Fort Madison.
(from The St. Louis Globe-Democrat. January 16, 1898.) 
It happened again night after night. The footsteps came right up to the door and stopped. When James opened the door there was nothing, just open space.

The next time he heard the sounds James was ready—he had a gun. When the footsteps stopped, he fired two shots through the door. Still nothing, except two holes in his door.

Another time, the steps didn’t stop at the front door. They walked around the house and then came up the basement stairs. A few days later Mrs. Dixon went to get a drink of water and she saw the shape of an old man with gray hair near the basement stairs. 

The next time the old man appeared, the family heard strange noises, and found pools of a liquid that looked like blood on the floor. 

That was all they could take. Mr. Dixon packed up his family and moved away. After that, hundreds of people flocked to the house hoping to solve the mystery.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Davenport, Iowa Girl Murdered By H. H. Holmes

“Yes, I was born with the devil in me,” wrote H. H. Holmes. “I could not help the fact I was a murderer any more than a poet can help the inspiration to song... I was born with the evil one standing as my sponsor...”

“I killed twenty-seven.” He would have murdered six more had circumstances, not intervened.[1]

The murderer’s real name was Herman Webster Mudgett—a New Hampshire farm boy, and the son of devout Methodist parents. Mudgett worked on his parent’s farm at Gilmanton until he graduated from high school, then taught school. The next year he married Clara Lovering, his high school sweetheart.

Teaching was good, but medicine was Mudgett’s ruling passion. In 1879, he enrolled in the medical program at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. He studied anatomy under Professor Herdman, and dissection under the direction of Dr. Nahum Wight.

That led to digging up bodies at local cemeteries — some that he experimented on, and others that he sold to medical students for the cadaver lab. Soon, Mudgett moved on to bigger crimes.

He purchased a $15,000 insurance policy on his life, then passed a cadaver off as himself to collect on the policy. It was a deception he would repeatedly pull from then on.

Mudgett graduated from the Ann Arbor, medical school in 1884. He left his wife in 1887 and moved to Chicago where he became a clerk at a drugstore at No. 700 Sixty-third Street. Several months later, he owned the property and began construction on what would become known as his murder castle.

You know what they say? A new city, a new start.

Shortly after he moved to Chicago, Mudgett changed his name to H. H. Holmes.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Death of Colonel George Davenport at Rock Island

Colonel George Davenport was murdered on Friday, July 4th, 1845.
Colonel Davenport being tortured by his captors. 
(From The Banditti of the Prairie by Edward Bonney. 1855)

The rest of the family had gone to the Fourth of July festivities in Rock Island. The Colonel stayed home to keep watch over his property because he had seen several suspicious characters lurking around the island the day before.[1]

The gang—Robert Birch, William Fox, John Long, and Aaron Long—concocted their final plan at Grant Reddin’s house on Devil Creek. They traveled to Fort Madison, then on the steamboat Osprey to Albany, Illinois. Most likely, they fine-tuned their plan along the way.[2]

The robbery of Colonel Davenport was a “favorite scheme” of the gang. Everyone knew the Colonel was wealthy. The band expected to find at least $30,000 in cash and specie at his home on Rock Island. Instead, their take was closer to $600.

They camped in the woods about ten miles outside of Albany. That gave them time to work another scheme along the way. The story was there was a man named Miller nearby who kept a lot of money on his property. Fox decided to test him first before they made their move. He asked Miller to cash a ten-dollar banknote. When Miller couldn't cash the bill, they gave that idea up.[3]

The men walked back to Albany that night, stole a boat, and made their way downriver to Davenport’s island in the middle of the Mississippi. The gang bided their time waiting for the perfect moment. Aaron Long bought food and other supplies at Rock Island. John Long made a whiskey run on July 3rd.[4]

Later that day, the boys met with John Baxter, another gang member who lived in Rock Island.[5] They met behind J. W. Spencer’s place to hash out the final details.[6]

Baxter watched the Davenport house on the Fourth. When he was sure everyone had left except the Colonel, he let the band know it was time.[7]

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

John Looney W. W. Wilmerton Street Duel Rock Island, Illinois 1909

1922 reward poster for John Looney.
(Public Domain image sourced from Wikimedia Commons,)
Two local newspapermen exchanged bullets and bad words on the streets of Rock Island, Illinois on the afternoon of February 22, 1909.

The trouble had been brewing for nearly a year and stemmed from when W. W. Wilmerton purchased a controlling interest in the Rock Island News from John Looney. Just hours after the deal closed a dynamite bomb tore through the Looney building, destroying the paper’s press. That same year, three mysterious fires ravaged the same building. 

Wilmerton didn’t let any of that stop him. He renamed the paper the Tri-City Morning Journal and moved its operations to a different location.

Three weeks before the current troubles began, Looney reestablished The Rock Island News and began printing crazy tirades about Wilmerton and his family. Wilmerton took most of the allegations in stride. What he couldn’t overlook was an article Looney published saying he had breaking news that would land Wilmerton in prison. 

Monday, November 5, 2018

Fight Between Sauk and Sioux Indians in 1824

Here is an interesting note from the Indian agent at Fort Armstrong (Rock Island), detailing the results of a Sauk war party that attacked a band of Sioux. They got the best of them at first, but their fortune soon changed and the Sauk warriors barely made it away with their lives. (From The Wilmingtonian and Delaware Register. October 21, 1824.)

“A war party of Sauk Indians returned to their village in this vicinity, on the 8th, instant, from an expedition against the Sioux. They were all mounted and had been absent about thirty days. They report that they discovered on the 27th of August a large party of Sioux Indians, which they followed two days; that on the evening of the second day, they passed several large pits which had been dug by these Indians for defense; that on proceeding further, they found a great number of cattle which had been killed with arrows, and also one horse, and they soon after heard the sound of drums which apprised them of being in the neighborhood of their enemies; that the drums ceased beating about 12 o’clock at night, and that the party, which consisted of forty-five young men attacked the Sioux camp an hour or two before daybreak, and killed fifteen of their number; and took one prisoner, a girl of ten or twelve year of  age, and then retreated without the loss of a man; but they had not proceeded far, before they found themselves surrounded by a numerous party of the Sioux, and having no other alternative, they fought their way through them, and, in doing this lost their prisoner, and had eight of their number and two wounded. The wounded have returned with the party, but the dead were left in possession of the enemy.

They were so closely pursued by the Sioux that they lost several of their horses, and most of their blankets, and returned nearly naked, and in a state of starvation. The Sauks sup
pose that the Sioux belong to the Sussitong or Sussitoah band and that the cattle which they found dead, are the same that crossed Des Moines, about six days since; several of the war party who saw them at the time they crossed the river, say, that the drove consisted of nearly one hundred head, and that it was in charge of five Americans and that they had along with them, ten horses and mules, and that they presumed they were bound to St. Peter’s. They further say, that they saw a horse and a mule that belonged to the drovers in the possession of the Sioux, on the morning of the action, and that it is their opinion that the drovers have been massacred by them.

Fort Armstrong - Sept. 9.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Black Hawk and Keokuk Meet Artist George Catlin in New York City - 1837

George Catlin as painted by William Fisk
(public domain image taken from Wikimedia Commons.
In public domain because artist died over 100 years ago)
During their whirlwind tour of the East Coast following the Black Hawk War, Black Hawk and Keokuk visited one of George Catlin’s presentations at the Stuyvesant Institute in New York. It’s an interesting look at one of Catlin’s shows and what the Indians thought of his paintings. This account is from the (New York) Morning Herald, October 26, 1837.

Keokuk, Black Hawk, and their chiefs? Their appearance at the Stuyvesant Institute.

A considerable excitement was created yesterday in our city, by the arrival of the Sacs and Foxes, lowas, and other Indians at this city from Washington.

The National Hotel and the City Hotel where they are staying was at an early hour besieged by immense numbers of the curious, who were anxious to get a peep at the renowned red man.

The place most thronged was the Stuyvesant Institute, where it was understood that they would appear at a lecture given by Mr. Catlin, upon themselves and brethren.

They took their departure from the lower part of the city in an omnibus, and their wild cry as it resounded along Broadway, must have astonished many of the peaceful citizens, who were not aware what sort of a freight the vehicle carried.

The Stuyvesant Institute was densely crowded in every part, a few minutes after the opening of the doors, and numbers must have doubtless gone away—unable to obtain admittance for love or money. Among the audience, was a large number of the fair sex. The Sacs and Foxes sat at the left of the lecturer, the lowas at the right.

Black Hawk's Account of Tecumseh's Death at the Battle of Thames

Here’s another look at the death of Tecumseh as told by Black Hawk to an old settler from Illinois. It was first published in the Baltimore American. This version is from the Liberty (Mississippi) Advocate, December 20, 1838.

Chief Black Hawk ( from The
History of Clinton County, Iowa. 1879)
Hearing; of the death of the Sauk Chieftain Black Hawk, I am induced to make you the following communication, which may be interesting to some of your readers.

During a residence of several years in what is now the territory of loway, I had
many opportunities of seeing and conversing with the noted warrior, and often look back with feelings of great pleasure to the many tokens of goodwill and friendship that he has frequently bestowed upon me. His lodge was always open to the stranger, and he was ever ready to share that with him which he might most want, either his furs and blankets for a couch or his corn and venison for a repast. He always spoke in terms of high regard of the whites, saying that in war he" fought like a brave man, but in peace, he wished to forget that his hand had ever been raised against them. His career as a warrior commenced at a very early age; when he was but fourteen years old, his father, Pawheese, led a war party against the Osages in which expedition he accompanied him; they succeeded in reaching the village of the Osages, which they attacked, and after a very severe encounter, they routed their enemies and burnt their town. In this battle, Black Hawk's father was killed, but he revenged his death by killing and scalping the Osage who had slain him. He was fond of recounting his early exploits, and often boasted of his being at the right hand of Tecumseh when the latter was killed at the battle of the Thames. His account of the death of this distinguished warrior was related to me by himself, during an evening that I spent in his lodge some winters ago. In the course of our talk, I asked him if he was with Tecumseh when he was killed.

He replied: “I was, and I will now tell you all a
bout it. Tecumseh, Shaubinne and Caldwell, two Pottawattamie chiefs, and myself were seated on a log near our campfire, filling our pipes for a smoke, on the morning of the battle, when word came from the British general that he wished to speak to Tecumseh. He went immediately, and after staying some time rejoined us, taking his seat without saying a word, when Caldwell, who was one of his favorites, observed, my father, what are we to do? shall we fight the Americans? Yes. my son," replied Tecumseh. "We shall go into their very smoke, but you are now wanted by the general. Go, my son, I never expect to see you again."

Establishing a Fire Department in Burlington Iowa

The city of Burlington, Iowa established its fire department on January 5th, 1841. By today's standards the ordinance sounds more like a dress code, and a list of penalties for not obeying orders, but in its day, it established a set of ground rules to ensure fires were extinguished in a timely manner.

The ordinance was originally published in The Hawkeye and Iowa Patriot on January 14, 1841.

An ordinance establishing a Fire Department in the city of Burlington [Iowa].

Sec. 1. Be it ordained by the Mayor and aldermen of the city of Burlington, that there shall be appointed by the common council of said city, one chief, and two assistant engineers whose duty it shall be in case of fire to go the place of the fire, and give such orders for the purpose of extinguishing the fire, as they shall deem most fit and proper, the chief engineer always taking command when present.

Sec. 2. The Chief Engineer shall at all times when on duty wear a white frock or hunting coat, a white leather coat with the word “Chief Engineer” painted upon the front of the same, and shall provide himself with a white speaking trumpet, with the words “Chief Engineer” painted upon the same.

Sec. 3. The first and second engineers, shall provide themselves with, and always wear on duty, a brown frock or hunting coat, a black leather hat with their titles painted upon the same, a black speaking trumpet with their respective titles painted upon the same.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Hanging Patrick Hand at Lyons, Iowa

Three men knocked on the door of William Barlow's Whisky Hollow saloon early in the morning on May 8, 1876.

Barlow stumbled to the door in his night clothes, assuming the men wanted a quick drink or smoke. Unfortunately, the men had something more sinister on their minds. They pushed Barlow around and demanded that he give them all his money.

Barlow recognized one of the men as Patrick Hand, “a notorious vagrant, profligate and desperado, who has lived in and about Lyons for many years and is known to every saloonkeeper and police officer within a radius of many miles.”[1]

When Barlow refused to give them any money, the intruders threw him to the ground and began to kick and beat him. One of the men rifled Barlow’s pockets and took $7.00.

When Barlow’s wife tried to stop them, someone took a shot at her. She escaped and returned with help. By then, the bandits had disappeared, carrying away most of Barlow’s liquor, cigars, and money. 

Barlow survived the attack but was insensible when found. At first, he was not expected to survive.

Hand was arrested about six o’clock that afternoon in nearby Clinton, Iowa by Lyons police officers Patrick Rowen and John Holmes.[2] They locked him in an engine house, where they clamped a ball and chain to his legs to prevent his escape.

Officer Rowen stood watch through the night. He checked on Hand at two o’clock and “saw the prisoner still asleep in a drunken slumber.”[3] Assuming Hand would sleep through the night Rowen did not check on him again until four o’clock in the morning.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Iowa and Illinois Frontier Before 1832

"Rock River was a beautiful country. I liked my town, my cornfields, and the home of my people. I fought for them." Black Hawk

Before the Black Hawk War, the territory along the east bank of the Mississippi River was an unbroken wilderness of alter­nating prairies, oak groves, rivers, and marshes. The United States government had not surveyed any portion of it.  Few explorers, other than Lewis and Clark and Zebulon Pike, had explored the lands. Settlers were few and far between. The Indians themselves rarely ventured off their regular trails. A few trading posts served the small mining settle­ments in the lead regions at Galena and Mineral Point.

Galena and Fort Armstrong were connected by an Indian trail that ran along the east bank of the Mississippi. Galena, Peoria, and the settlements in southern and eastern Illinois were linked by a coach road known as Kellogg’s Trail.

This was the only wagon road north of the Illinois River. A daily mail coach traveled this road and was often crowded with people going to and from the lead mines. Very few people lived in this barren wilderness, the few who did serve the travelers, providing meals and keeping stage teams. Among them were “Old Man" Kellogg, at Kellogg's Grove; Mr. Winter, on Apple River; John Dixon, at Dixon's ferry, on Rock River; "Dad Joe," at Dad Joe's Grove; Henry Thomas, on West Bureau Creek; and Charles S. Boyd, at Boyd's Grove.

Indian trails connected the villages with their hunting and fishing grounds. Both Indians and whites traveled on these wilderness roads.

One of these connected Galena with Chicago, by way of Big Foot's Pottawatomie vil­lage, at the head of the body of water now known as Lake Geneva. There was a lesser used road be­tween Dixon's Ferry and Chicago. Two well-traveled roads led to Fort Winnebago, at the portage of the Fox and Wisconsin rivers, and to Fort Howard, on the lower Fox.

The most traveled Indian road in Illinois was the great Sac trail, extending across the state from Black Hawk's village to the south shore of Lake Michigan and from there to Malden. This was the path Black Hawk and the British Band traveled to visit the British agency.

The largest settlement between Galena and the Illinois River was on Bureau Creek. Close to thirty families lived there. Smaller settlements were scattered around Peru, La Salle, Ottawa, Newark, Holder-man's Grove, and on Indian Creek. The lead-mining district in Michigan Territory (now Wisconsin) was clustered around Mineral Point and Dodgeville. Chicago was still a minor village, consisting of two or three hundred homes protected by Fort Dearborn.

The settlers were for the most part backwoodsmen from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. Most of them were dirt poor, owning little more than their cabins, the clothes they wore, a few rough tools, teams of "scrub" horses or yokes of cattle, and some barnyard stock. They were bold, fearless, skilled marksmen, accustomed to ex­posure, privations, and danger. 

Black Hawk War - Part I

The Black Hawk War was a mix-up of frontier madness, mayhem, and murder. Illinois Governor John Reynolds called out the militia and raised thousands of volunteer troops. General Winfield Scott marched his regulars half way across the country to Fort Armstrong at Rock Island. Lieutenant Colonel Zachary Taylor led a group of infantrymen in the fighting.

Every yokel and backwoods frontiersmen with a grudge against the Indians joined the fray. A slew of future Presidents, Congressman, Senators, and military leaders built their careers off of the Indian’s misfortune.

Abraham Lincoln served as a frontier ranger and spy. Two years later he began his political career as an Illinois Congressman. Zachary Taylor served in the heat of several battles. Later he was a hero of the Mexican War, and soon after that President of the United States. Winfield Scott was already distinguished for his service in the War of 1812. After the Black Hawk War, he negotiated treaties with several Indian tribes that ceded over sixty million acres of land to the United States. He earned more fame in the Mexican War, and in 1852 he ran unsuccessfully for President on the Whig ticket. Jefferson Davis was on furlough for most of the war but returned in time to escort the prisoner Black Hawk down the river to Jefferson Barracks at St. Louis. During the Civil War, he served as President of the Confederacy.

Four future Illinois Governors served in the war: John Wood, Thomas Ford, Thomas Carlin, and Joseph Duncan. Colonel Henry Dodge was later appointed Governor of the Wisconsin Territory.

There were several points where bloodshed could have been avoided altogether. Instead, the opportunities were bungled.

The first chance to end the campaign peacefully had come before a single shot was fired. Had Stillman’s men respected the flag of truce carried by Black Hawk’s braves, the war would have ended right there. Instead, they brutally killed one of the flag bearers and precipitated the first battle of the war.

Another opportunity to end the war presented itself just before the battle of Bad Axe when Black Hawk’s braves attempted to hail Captain Throckmorton onboard the steamboat Warrior. American troops disregarded the Indian’s flag of truce and fired upon them. What followed over the next few days was the massacre of nearly seven hundred men, women, and children of the Sac tribe.

What’s remarkable about the Black Hawk War is that it set the tone for future conflicts between the whites and the Indians in the opening of the American West. The land was set aside exclusively, by treaty, for the use of the Indians. As pioneers moved further westward, they encroached upon the Indian lands, building homes, fencing in their lands. When the Indians complained to authorities, their concerns went unanswered.

In the troubles that followed the settlers beat or killed some of the Indians who got in their way. When the Indians retaliated, the frontier was thrown into a panic, and troops were called in to save the day. Frontier troopers attacked and pushed the Indians further westward when by treaty, they were bound to protect the Indian lands from the white settlers who were squatting upon them.

Black Hawk War - An Introduction

Imagine if you would a band of fifteen hundred men, women, children, and elderly, with no more than five hundred warriors terrorizing an entire frontier. That’s what happened after the battle of Stillman’s run.

Common sense should have given politicians, and military leaders pause to think. Instead, Illinois Governor John Reynolds called out twenty-five hundred Illinois militia to serve beside the one thousand regular troops already in the field.

The entire frontier was spooked by the bugaboo of an Indian uprising, but they didn’t stop to think what they were faced with.

Black Hawk never had over five hundred braves in the field, most often it was half of that number or less. They were weighed down with their camp followers of women, children, and elderly.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Bishop Mathias Loras Among the Indians

by Johnson Brigham.

Bishop Mathias Loras
In July1837, a year prior to the birth of Iowa Territory, Very Rev. Mathias Loras, of Mobile, was made bishop of Dubuque, his diocese including the region west of the Mississippi now covered by Iowa, Minnesota, and part of the Dakotas. At that time this entire region included but one church and one priest. He first visited Rome to ask the Pope for priests and to solicit funds for his vast missionary field. In April, 1838, he arrived in Dubuque, where a year later, he was inaugurated in the new St. Raphael's Cathedral. He brought with him from France two priests and four students. These, besides the resident priest, con­stituted the force with which he was expected to Christianize the natives, and, with the aid of a few pioneers, to establish churches. Bishop Loras was then in his forty-fifth year and had been twenty years in the ministry. He was robust, in vigorous health, zealous and eloquent. Son of a French patriot, he inherited the spirit which fitted him for his herculean task.

The foundation for the work of the bishop was well laid by Father Mazzuchelli, a Dominican, the "one priest" referred to, who in 1833 had founded at Dubuque the first church on Iowa soil. The corner-stone of the pioneer church edifice, St. Raphael's, was laid in 1835. Father Mazzuchelli, after obtaining a foothold in Dubuque, anticipated the coming of the bishop by founding the chapel of St. James in Lee County, the combination school, dwelling and chapel named St. Anthony at Davenport, and two chapels on the east side of the Mississippi.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Chief Keokuk The Watchful Fox

Keokuk as painted by George Catlin

By Benjamin Drake.

Keokuk is a native of the Sac nation of Indians and was born near or upon Rock River in the northwestern part of what now constitutes the state of Illinois, about the year 1780. He is not a hereditary chief and consequently has risen to his present ele­vation by the force of talent and of enterprise. He began to manifest these qualities at a very early period of his life. While but a youth he performed an act, which placed him, as it were by brevet, in the ranks of manhood. In the first battle in which he engaged, he encountered and killed a Sioux warrior, with his spear, while on horseback; and as the Sioux are distinguished for their horseman­ship, this was looked upon as so great an achieve­ment, that a public feast was made in commemora­tion of it, by his tribe; and the youthful Keokuk, was forthwith admitted to all the rights and privi­leges of a Brave. It was further allowed, that ever afterward, on all public occasions, he might appear on horseback, even if the rest of the chiefs and braves were not mounted.

During the late war between the United States and Great Britain, and before Keokuk was entitled to take his seat in the councils of his nation, an ex­pedition was sent by our government, to destroy the Indian village at Peoria, on the Illinois river. A rumor reached the Sac village, in which he resided, that this expedition was also to attack the Sacs, and the whole tribe was thrown into consternation. The Indians were panic-stricken, and the council hastily determined to abandon their village. Keo­kuk happened to be standing near the council-lodge when this decision was made. It was no sooner announced than he boldly advanced to the door and requested admission. It was granted. He asked leave to speak, and permission was given him. He commenced by saying he had heard with deep regret, the decision of the council—that he himself was wholly opposed to flight, before an en­emy still distant, and whose strength was entirely unknown. He called the attention of the council to the importance of meeting the enemy in their approach—of harassing their progress—cutting them off in detail—of driving them back, or of nobly dying in defense of their country and their homes.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Orphans' Home Association Davenport, Iowa Orphans' Home

by Annie Wittmeyer.

Annie Wittenmeyer
Sanitary Agent of the State of Iowa during Civil War
IN October 1863, I came up from the hospitals in the front, to attend a sanitary convention at Muscatine, Iowa.

As I was legally commissioned the sanitary agent of the State by Governor Samuel J. Kirkwood, having been elected to that position by the Legis­lature of Iowa, my presence was greatly desired by the workers.

The convention was large and representative. But my own heart was greatly burdened with touching messages from dying soldiers to their wives and children. In the midst of the conven­tion, I boldly announced my purpose to try to es­tablish a home for soldiers' orphan children. The proposition was received with the wildest enthu­siasm; and the convention took action at once, not only endorsing the movement but pledging financial support.
There was no precedent to follow, as there was no institution of the kind in all the world.

I was elected president of "The Orphans' Home Association," but declined, and Governor Stone, the newly elected governor of the State, was chosen. The ablest men and women of the State were brought into the organization, and the Home was duly opened in a rented house.

The house, although large, was soon crowded to overflowing, and we could get no larger building that would accommodate the hundreds who were applying for admission.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Short History of the Sac & Fox Indians

By Benjamin F. Gue.
Chief Keokuk

There is evidence to show that early in the seventeenth century the Foxes occupied the country along the Atlantic coast now embraced in the State of Rhode Island. Later they moved to the valley of the St. Lawrence River and thence to the vicinity of Green Bay, where they were found by Jean Nicolet in 1634. In 1667 Claude Allouez, a French Jesuit, found on the Wolf River in Wisconsin, a village of Musquakies, which contained a thousand warriors, and nearly five thousand persons. The Musquakies seemed to realize that the invasion of the west by French trappers and missionaries threatened the eventual occupation of their lands by the whites, and from the first, they waged war against the French intruders and were nearly the only tribe with whom the French could not live in peace. The English and Dutch were seeking to gain possession of the far west, and they bribed some of the Indian tribes to assist them. They succeeded in forming an alliance with the Musqukies and other tribes, for the purpose of exterminating the French. The French, on the other hand, formed an alliance embracing the Hurons, Ottawas, Pottawattamies, Sacs, Illinois, Ojibwas and other tribes who greatly outnumbered the Musquakies and their allies and a long war followed.

In 1712 the Foxes joined the Iroquois in an attack upon the French fort at Detroit but were defeated with heavy losses. They were driven by the French out of that part of the country and settled on Fox River in the vicinity of Green Bay. They continued their war on the fur traders and explorers, but met with a disastrous defeat on a battlefield which was given the name of “Hill of the Dead.” The Foxes lost hundreds of their bravest warriors at this place and the remnant of them retreated to the valley of the Wisconsin River.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Annie Wittenmeyer

Annie Wittenmeyer
ANNIE TURNER WITTENMYER, an Iowa woman who won the enduring gratitude of hundreds of soldiers during the Civil War, was born at Sandy Springs, Adams County, Ohio, on the 26th of August, 1827. She developed remarkable gifts for writing, before she was thirteen years of age. Her poetry at that time attracted attention and she became a regular contributor some years later to various publications. She was married in 1847, and three years later came with her husband to Iowa, locating in Keokuk. There were no public schools in the village at that time and Mrs. Wittenmyer opened a free school for children of the poor. With the help of other women this school was maintained for many years, accomplishing great good. When the War of the Rebellion began, she was one of the first to assist in organizing Soldiers' Aid Societies which did so much in relieving the wants of soldiers in the field and hospitals. She visited the army in the field early in 1861 and began to collect and distribute supplies for camps and hospitals. She wrote letters from the army to the newspapers telling the needs of the soldiers and soon had her entire time occupied in receiving and distributing the contributions of the generous people of the State. A record of her work during the war would fill a volume. She was appointed one of the State Sanitary Agents for Iowa and during her administration collected and distributed more than $160,000 worth of sanitary supplies. She was active in securing furloughs for sick soldiers in hospitals, thus saving many lives. When she found armies camped in unhealthy localities she managed in numerous cases to exert influence to get the camp removed to a healthier location. She was one of the originators of the Soldiers' Orphans' Home established in Iowa at Davenport for the care and education of dependent children. She projected the Special Diet Kitchens which were established at hospitals, where such special food was prepared for the sick as was recommended by the surgeons in charge. This was the beginning of a great and much needed reform in providing suitable food for sick and wounded soldiers, in the hospitals. The entire supervision of these kitchens was placed under the control of Mrs. Wittenmyer. The reform was warmly indorsed by General Grant and there is no doubt that hundreds, perhaps thousands of lives of suffering soldiers were saved by this salutary change in food. When this reform was fully organized, more than a million of rations were issued through it each month. In 1892 Mrs. Wittenmyer spent a large portion of the winter in Washington working with Congress to secure pensions for army nurses. For more than twenty years these worthy workers for the relief of suffering soldiers had applied in vain for any recognition by the Government for their invaluable services. But Mrs. Wittenmyer knew so much of their unselfish devotion in war times and told it so earnestly that a pension of twelve dollars a month was granted the nurses. Mrs. Wittenmyer was largely instrumental in securing the purchase and preservation of the grounds embraced in the Andersonville prison pen. Eighty-five acres have been secured under the control of the Woman's Relief Corps, including the "Providential Spring," and the grounds enclosed in the deadly stockade. After a long life almost entirely devoted to good works of a public nature, this noble woman died at her home on the 2d of February, 1900.

Taken from - History of Iowa From Earliest Times, 1903

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Seventh Iowa Infantry - Battle of Belmont

General Ulysses S. Grant in 1865

The ten companies composing this regiment were raised largely in the counties of Muscatine, Washington, Chickasaw, Floyd, Cerro Gordo, Mahaska, Lee, Wapello, Henry, Iowa, Des Moines, Jefferson, in Iowa, and Hancock and Henderson counties, in Illinois. A majority of them were mustered into service at Burlington soon after the Battle of Bull Run, in July 1861. The regiment numbered nine hundred and two men, and so urgent was the need of troops at this time that the Seventh was sent to St. Louis before its organization was complete, and before clothing arms or equipment were furnished. Hurried into the field at Pilot Knob as soon as armed, it took the first lessons in drill and manual of arms at Ironton, Missouri. From here the regiment marched with General Prentiss’s army to Cape Girardeau and was transported by steamer from there to Cairo. Jacob G. Lauman had been appointed colonel, and Augustus Wentz now joined the regiment as lieutenant-colonel; Elliott W. Rice, a sergeant of Company C, was promoted to major; D. F. Bowler, a lieutenant of Company D, was promoted to adjutant; Dr. Amos Witter[1] was appointed surgeon; I. H. Clark, chaplain, and Lieutenant S. E. Forska, of Company D, quartermaster. The regiment had now become well instructed in military drill and duties and presented a soldierly appearance. 

The Black Hawk War

By Benjamin F. Gue.

Black Hawk Sac Indian Chief
The followers of Black Hawk always repudiated the treaty of 1804, feeling that they had been wronged; but the white settlers who were swarming around them, fearing hostilities, demanded their removal. Collisions took place and, in 1830, when Black Hawk and his tribe returned from their annual hunting excursion, they found their lands had been surveyed and sold to white settlers. Their cabins had been seized and occupied and their own women and children were shelterless on the banks of the river. Black Hawk drove the white intruders out of the village and restored the wigwams to their owners. The whites called upon Governor Reynolds of Illinois for assistance and he called upon General Gaines to bring an army strong enough to expel the Indians.
On the 25th of June, 1831, General Gaines with sixteen hundred mounted soldiers took possession of the Sac village, driving the Indians from their homes to the west side of the Mississippi River. On the 30th Governor Reynolds and General Gaines, at the point of the bayonet, dictated terms with the Sac chiefs by which the Indians were prohibited from returning to the east side of the river without permission of the United States authorities. It was now too late to plant corn again and autumn found the Indians without food for winter.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Colonel George Davenport

By Franc B. Wilkie.

Colonel George Davenport
(from An Illustrated History of the State of
Iowa, by Charles Richard Tuttle. 1876) 
In the Spring of 1816, the Eighth Regiment, and a Company of Riflemen, under the command of Col. Lawrence, (the very same officer and friend with whom Mr. Davenport had enlisted ten years before,) embarked on boats and started up the river.  They arrived at the mouth of Rock River and examined the country for a site for a Fort, and the result was the selecting of the lower end of Rock Island as the most suitable point.  They landed on Rock Island on the tenth of May, 1816.  As soon as they had completed their encampment, he employed the soldiers to cut logs, and built storehouses for the provisions, and had a bakehouse and oven put up.  This was the first building ever erected on this Island.  The soldiers now set to work to build the Fort, which was named "Fort Armstrong."  At this time, there lived a large body of Indians in the vicinity, numbering some ten thousand, divided in three villages, one of the East side of the River, near the foot of the Island, called, "Wapello Village," and about three miles South, on the bank of Rock River, stood the famous village of "Black Hawk," and on the West side of the River stood a small village named after an old Brave, "Oshkosh."  Upon the first arrival of the troops on the Island, the Indians were very much dissatisfied, but the officers took great pains to gain their friendship by making them many presents, and they soon became reconciled and were most excellent neighbors.  During the first summer they would frequently bring over supplies of sweet corn, beans, pumpkins, and such other vegetables as they raised, and present them to Mr. Davenport, and the officers, with the remark, that they had raised none, and that they themselves had plenty, invariably refusing to take any pay.