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.