Spirit Lake Massacre

Spirit Lake Massacre

6/12/2006 • Wild West

In the spring of 1857, the renegade Wahpekute Dakota Chief Inkpaduta and his band of warriors descended on the homesteads near Spirit Lake in northwestern Iowa and committed murder and mayhem. The causes of the massacre are still debated. One reason can be traced to an 1854 episode when a whiskey trader and horse thief, Henry Lott, and his son killed, among others, Inkpaduta’s blood brother Sintomniduta and Sintomniduta’s wife and five children. Inkpaduta (meaning ‘Scarlet Point’ or ‘Red Cap’) appealed to the military to punish Henry Lott, but the killer fled and was indicted in absentia. The prosecuting attorney, Granville Berkley, took Sintomniduta’s head and skewered it on a pole over his house in a gross act of contempt. Lott was never found, and justice was never served.

During an elk hunt in Woodbury County in the winter of 1856, a Wahpekute hunter shot a dog that bit him, and the enraged owner, a white man, beat the Indian senseless. This Indian, whose name is apparently lost to history, then claimed to have conversed with the Great Spirit and been told that the white people who were responsible for all the Indians’ suffering must be destroyed. When other Wahpekutes stole the cattle, hay and corn of nearby settlers, 20 armed whites led by Captain Seth Smith rode into Inkpaduta’s camp and demanded the Indians surrender all their firearms. Inkpaduta stated that his people could not survive the winter without guns for hunting. Unmoved by Inkpaduta’s plea, Smith confiscated the weapons. The whites planned to come back the next day to escort Inkpaduta and his band from the area and give them back their guns, but the plan failed. When they returned the next day, the Indians were gone.

Seeking revenge, Inkpaduta took to raiding in northern Iowa in February 1857. At Lost Island Lake, one of Inkpaduta’s warriors approached the Gillett cabin, trying to steal food, weapons and livestock. The settler shot and decapitated the raider. On the Little Sioux River in Clay County, Inkpaduta’s band attacked Ambrose S. Mead’s home, killed his cattle, knocked down his wife and attempted to capture his 10-year-old daughter, Emma. When she resisted, the chief beat her with a stick and carried off 17-year-old Hattie instead. Inkpaduta knocked down Mr. E. Taylor, threw his son into the fireplace, badly burning his leg, and carried off his wife. Hattie Mead and Mrs. Taylor were released after one night in the Indian camp.

On March 7, the Indians arrived at Okoboji and Spirit lakes. The Dakotas considered Spirit Lake a sacred dwelling place for the gods. The Indians were not permitted to fish from those lakes or even place a canoe in the waters. The sight of the log cabins and fences incensed them, according to one account, to ‘bloodlust and butchery,’ for this was viewed as an invasion of their sacred shores.

A number of white settlers were unluckily caught in this proverbial powder keg at the wrong place and time. They had arrived at the lakes’ pristine shores in July 1856 and had selected them as the ideal place to live. The region, beautiful and teeming with fish and wildlife, was previously unknown to the civilized world. Roland Gardner built his home on the south side of West Okoboji Lake. He and his wife, Frances, shared the house with their three youngest children — Eliza Matilda (16), Abigail (13), Roland Jr. (6) — and their married eldest daughter, Mary, and her family. Mary and Harvey Luce had two children, Albert (4) and Amanda (1). Six other families and several single men were also drawn to this area, which became known as the Spirit Lake settlement. Residents Lydia Noble (21), Elizabeth Thatcher (19) and Margaret Marble (20) were all soon to share a common fate. Alvin and Lydia Noble, with their 2-year-old child, and Joseph and Elizabeth Thatcher with their 7-month-old child, lived in one cabin on the east side of East Okoboji Lake. Lydia and Elizabeth were cousins. William and Margaret Marble lived in Marble Grove on the west shore of Spirit Lake.

On Sunday morning, March 8, 1857, Inkpaduta and his warriors barged into the Gardner cabin and demanded breakfast. While Frances Gardner fed them, a warrior grabbed Roland’s gun and removed the firing mechanism. Roaring Cloud, one of Inkpaduta’s twin sons, demanded more food, but none remained. He pointed his gun at Harvey Luce, who grabbed the barrel and prevented the Indian from firing. After a few tense moments, the Indians left the cabin. About 9 a.m., bachelors Dr. Isaac H. Harriott and Bertell A. Snyder came by, knowing that Roland was about to leave for Fort Dodge for provisions. They wanted him to mail their letters, but Roland was worried about the Indians and refused to leave. Harriott and Snyder departed with their letters.

About midday the Indians took Gardner’s cattle, killed them and headed for the Mattock cabin. James Mattock, his wife and five children had built their home south of the strait between East Okoboji Lake and West Okoboji Lake. Living with Mattock was Mr. Madison and his 18-year-old son, Robert. Dr. Harriott, Bert Snyder and the Granger brothers, William and Carl, lived together in one cabin, between the two Okoboji lakes. The Indians attacked the cabins, killing everyone and burning the dwellings. They found Carl Granger near his cabin, shot him and chopped off the top of his head with a broad-ax. Only William Granger survived, because he was visiting relatives in Red Wing, Minnesota Territory.

Back at the Gardner cabin, the settlers were discussing their options. At 2 in the afternoon, Harvey Luce and a visitor, Robert Clark, went to warn their neighbors about possible Indian trouble. Two hours later, when Roland Gardner stepped out of the cabin, he saw nine Indians fast approaching. He called out, ‘We are all doomed to die!’ Although he did not want to give up without a fight, his wife took an opposing view. ‘If we have to die, let us die innocent of shedding blood,’ Frances Gardner said.

Honoring his wife’s wish, Roland did not resist as the Indians entered his home and demanded flour. As he went to the flour barrel they shot him in the heart. The Indians then grabbed Frances Gardner and Mary Luce and held their arms tight, while others took rifles and bashed in their heads. They were dragged outside and finished off. Abigail Gardner sat in a chair in a state of shock. The Indians tore her sister’s baby from her arms, dragged Roland Jr. and Mary’s toddler outside, beat them with stove wood and left them for dead. Seeing her family dead or dying around her, Abbie begged the Indians to kill her too. They grabbed the 13-year-old by the arm and indicated she would not be killed, but would be taken prisoner. ‘All the terrible tortures and indignities I had ever read or heard of being inflicted upon their captives now arose in horrid vividness before me,’ she recalled in an 1885 narrative, History of the Spirit Lake Massacre and the Captivity of Miss Abbie Gardner.

The Dakotas scalped the dead, plundered the house and took Abbie to their camp about a mile away, near the Mattock place. She saw the cabin in flames and heard the screams of two people as they burned to death. Around the house were the bodies of five men, two women and four children. Robert Clark and Harvey Luce were shot on the southern shore of East Okoboji, bringing the day’s death total to 20 whites.

Abbie Gardner spent her first night of captivity at the Indians’ camp near the ruins of the Mattock cabin, while the Indians celebrated by singing, dancing and drumming until early morning. Having whetted their appetites for murder, Inkpaduta’s cohorts searched for more prey. They found Joel Howe on the trail, shot him down and hacked off his head. A Mr. Ring discovered the skull two years later on the south beach of East Okoboji. Warriors entered Howe’s home, killed his wife, Rheumilla Ashley Howe, sons Jonathan (25), Alphred (16), Jacob M. (14), William P. (12), Levi (9), daughter Sardis (18), a young woman and old Mrs. Noble.

Next stop was the Noble and Thatcher cabin. Lydia Howe Noble was the daughter of Joel and Rheumilla Howe. She was born in Ohio in 1836. When she married Alvin Noble, they moved to the east shore of East Okoboji Lake. The Indians burst into the cabin and shot Alvin and visitor Enoch Ryan. They then took a 2-year-old child from Lydia Noble and a 7-month-old infant from Elizabeth Thatcher, and bashed their brains out on a nearby oak tree. The raiders killed all the livestock, plundered the house and took Lydia Noble and Elizabeth Thatcher prisoner. Retracing their path to Howe’s cabin, they stopped to gather more treasures. Lydia discovered her mother, Rheumilla, under the bed with her skull crushed by a flat iron and her red eyes peering out of their sockets ‘like balls of fire.’ The Indians found Jacob Howe sitting in the yard, still alive; they quickly killed him, and then continued on to their camp. They placed the three female captives in one tepee for a short time, allowing them to compare experiences. Abbie, Lydia and Elizabeth were then put in separate tepees and ordered to braid their hair and grease their faces so they took on an Indian appearance.

On March 9, Morris Markham, who was living at the Noble-Thatcher household for the winter, passed by the Gardner home after having been gone two days rounding up livestock. After discovering the bodies, he continued to Howe’s home and found more corpses; the same ghastly scene greeted him at the Noble-Thatcher home. Realizing this had been the work of marauding Indians, Markham thought it best to alert the settlement of Springfield (now Jackson, Minn.), about 18 miles north. There, he found Eliza Gardner, who had been visiting in Springfield with Dr. and Mrs. Strong, and reported that her entire family had been murdered except possibly for Abbie, whose body he did not find.

The next day, Inkpaduta moved the encampment three miles west. Abbie was enlisted to drive one of the sleds pulled by a team of stolen horses. On March 11, they moved to Marble’s Grove on the west side of Spirit Lake. On the 13th, the Indians stumbled upon the Marble homestead. William Marble was unaware that marauding Indians had been in the area for several days. The Marbles welcomed the braves into their home and fed them. Then the native visitors traded for Mr. Marble’s rifle and challenged him to a target shoot. After several shots, the target fell over. As William Marble turned to replace it, warriors shot him in the back and stole his money belt containing $1,000 in gold. Margaret Ann Marble viewed the contest from the cabin. She saw her husband murdered and attempted to escape, but the Indians nabbed her and had her join the other captives — Lydia Noble, Elizabeth Thatcher and Abbie Gardner. The warriors concluded another bloody day with a festive war dance.

On March 26, 1857, Inkpaduta’s band was camped at Heron Lake, about 15 miles from Springfield. Abbie Gardner noted that the warriors were all regaled for battle, with scalping knives in their belts and rifles loaded; they told the captives they were headed for Springfield. Abbie was in agony over what might happen to her sister. She figured Eliza ‘would either be killed, or share with me what I felt to be a worse fate — that of a captive.’ Had it not been for Morris Markham’s warning, the entire town might have been destroyed. As it was, the warriors still achieved a partial surprise. They stole 12 horses, various dry goods, food, powder, lead, clothing and quilts; then they killed Willie Thomas (8), William Wood, George Wood, Mr. Stewart, his wife and two small children.

The Indians packed up their camp the next morning and headed northwest. Abbie Gardner and Lydia Noble carried packs that weighed about 70 pounds. Margaret Marble toted a pack and a pudgy Indian baby about 2 years old. The child was cumbersome, so at every opportunity Marble would reach around, poke him in the face and make him cry. The Indian women decided that the child disliked the white woman for some unknown reason, so they took him away from her. The Indians had snowshoes to make their trek easier, but the captives had none. Elizabeth Thatcher was in great physical distress, suffering from phlebitis, what Abbie called a ‘broken breast,’ and a combination of other maladies. She had to trudge through deep snow, cross frigid rivers, chop and carry firewood, cut poles for tents and perform other drudgery, yet she displayed great perseverance throughout her suffering. The medicine man did find a way to relieve her pain for a short time.

The provisions the warriors stole from the whites lasted about a month. ‘The Indians have no equal as gormandizers,’ Abbie Gardner said. ‘They are perfectly devoid of anything like delicacy of appetite, or taste, or decency in that matter.’ They ate rotting animals, she said, and picked vermin off their babies’ heads and chewed them with great relish. They stuffed themselves at every chance and then, according to Abbie, ‘lie down and grunt and puff, like cattle gorged with grass in the springtime; or like overfed swine.’ The captives got the leftovers.

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. Their retreat saved the captives’ lives, for they were going to be killed had the soldiers attacked. Inkpaduta then had his group clear out of the area. After a two-day march, Abbie Gardner could no longer walk and refused to move. A female Indian swung a hoe over her head, but Abbie just bowed her head and was ready to die. Instead, the woman dropped her pack, grabbed Abbie’s arm, hauled her up and pushed her forward. Finally they stopped to camp for the night.

The Indians crossed icy rivers, and the captives nearly froze at night. Two or three days passed between meals and the captives were glad to eat the camp offal. When the horses died, the Indians feasted on their remains. As a result, the captives got a little more food but were then required to carry larger packs. They camped at the red pipestone quarries (where natives have quarried the red stone, catlinite, for centuries to make ceremonial pipes) in Minnesota Territory, and then moved into land that would become Dakota Territory in 1861. They had been on the go for six weeks.

On the Big Sioux River in the vicinity of Flandreau (a town that sprouted in 1857 in what would become South Dakota), a 16-year-old Indian removed Elizabeth Thatcher’s pack from her back as she approached a fallen tree bridge. Elizabeth had a premonition of death. ‘If you are so fortunate as to escape,’ she called to Abbie, ‘tell my dear husband and parents that I desired to live and escape for their sakes.’

When Thatcher reached mid-stream, the teenage warrior shoved her into the frigid water. Elizabeth swam to the shore and grabbed a tree root. More Indians took clubs and poles and beat her back into the river. Desperately she swam to the other shore, and once again the warriors clubbed her back in. As she floated downstream, the Indians followed along as if it was a grand game, clubbing and stoning her whenever she neared shore. When they tired of the sport, they shot and killed the 19-year-old. Abbie Gardner called Elizabeth’s death ‘an act of wanton barbarity.’ Lydia Noble was so devastated by the murder of her cousin that she gave up hope of rescue or escape, and implored Abbie to go to the river with her ‘and drown ourselves.’ Abbie drew deep within her Christian upbringing, found the will to survive, and declined the suggestion. Lydia did not have the strength to act alone.

On May 6, 30 miles west of the Big Sioux River near Skunk Lake, two Sioux brothers, Ma-kpe-ya-ha-ho-ton and Se-ha-ho-ta, from Minnesota Territory’s Yellow Medicine Reservation paid a visit to Inkpaduta. They spent the night listening to Inkpaduta’s exploits and offered to trade for Abbie Gardner, but she was not for sale. Instead, they traded for Margaret Marble. Before they took her, Margaret spoke to Abbie and said she thought the Indians might trade her to the whites, and as soon as she could she would send someone to rescue her and Lydia. They left in a hurry, before Inkpaduta changed his mind. Two of his warriors accompanied them to collect the rest of the ransom. They traveled east to the Big Sioux River, where they came to an Indian camp. A Frenchman approached them and greeted the brothers. They went to his tent, and his Indian wife prepared potatoes, pumpkin and hot tea.

‘Surely, I thought this a feast fit for the gods!’ Margaret said. ‘A great contrast from my former experience with Inkpaduta, where we subsisted mostly on digging roots, and roasting bones and feathers, to keep soul and body together.’ Inkpaduta’s men were paid off and left. Margaret was taken to Yellow Medicine Reservation, where the parents of the brothers who rescued her became her caregivers. In a few weeks, Stephen R. Riggs and Dr. Thomas S. Williamson, missionaries from Hazelwood, came to claim her. Minnesota (which became a state in 1858) paid $500 to each of the brothers who rescued her. Major Charles E. Flandrau, Indian agent for the Upper and Lower Minnesota Sioux, took Margaret to St. Paul.

About one month after Marble’s rescue, Inkpaduta joined forces with a Yankton band. One of the Yanktons, End of the Snake, hoped to get a reward by returning the remaining captives, so he purchased them from Inkpaduta. He continued to work the women as before. A few nights later, Roaring Cloud burst into End of the Snake’s tepee and demanded Lydia Noble go with him. She was the only captive to be consistently disobedient to her captors. Lydia refused to leave with Roaring Cloud, but the enraged warrior forced her out of the tepee. He picked up a piece of firewood that Lydia had just cut and beat her with it, then left to wash his bloodstained hands. Abbie was not allowed to go to her. She heard Lydia moaning for a half hour before she died.

The next morning, the Indians forced Abbie to watch as they abused Lydia’s corpse by using her as a target, scalping her and tying her hair to the end of a stick. They then broke camp. While they marched, a young Indian walked next to Abbie, repeatedly whipping her in the face with the bloody scalp. ‘Such was the sympathy a lonely, broken-hearted girl got at the hands of the `noble red man,” she said later.

While Abbie Gardner was wondering if she would ever be rescued, Margaret Marble was in St. Paul meeting William Granger, whose brother had been killed on the first day of the massacre. He offered her a home with his family in Michigan. Three months after Marble moved to Michigan, she filed for damages with the commissioner of Indian Affairs. According to the Sioux City Eagle of August 22, 1857, she claimed the Indians destroyed or stole property worth $2,229, plus $200 for her husband’s preemption rights under the 1834 law. She was finally granted $1,994, but it did her little good — she gave power of attorney to Granger, and he collected the claim. When he was asked if he was going to pay her, he said that he learned from the investigation that Margaret’s husband was alive and had another wife and therefore she was due no payment.

Margaret might never have learned of Granger’s duplicity, for she made no mention of it in a letter she later wrote to Abbie Gardner. She continued to stay with his family.

Granger later moved them all to Sioux City, Iowa. There, Margaret met and married a Mr. Oldham, who was working for Granger. Oldham was suspicious of Granger’s story and inquired to the Department of Indian Affairs about any payoffs made to him. He discovered that Granger had totally misrepresented the amount the government allowed her. An official confronted Granger with demands for restitution, but he disappeared into Dakota Territory.

Little is known about the rest of Margaret’s life. Mr. Oldham disappeared from the scene sometime after 1857. In 1868 Margaret was living in Napa County, Calif. At some time she married a man named Silbaugh, for in 1885, she corresponded with Abigail Gardner Sharp and signed the letter M.A. Silbaugh. She lived in California for 43 years, dying on October 20, 1911, at age 74. She is buried in the St. Helena Cemetery.

Abbie Gardner finally was rescued. Inkpaduta and his band moved northwest to a large village on the James River in present-day Spink County, S.D. On May 30, 1857, three Wahpetons appeared in the encampment and began a three-day bargaining session for Abbie. An expensive deal was struck: For two horses, 12 blankets, two powder kegs, 20 pounds of tobacco, 32 yards of blue cloth and 37 yards of calico, the captive had new owners. Mazakutemani (Man Who Shoots Metal As He Walks, or John Other Day), Hotonhowashta (Beautiful Voice) and Chetanmaza (Iron Hawk) were from Yellow Medicine Reservation and acting under orders of Major Flandrau, who aided in Margaret Marble’s rescue and supplied the goods for Abbie’s purchase. About 10 days’ travel in early April brought them to the Yellow Medicine Agency and to the mission of Dr. Thomas S. Williamson.

At the agency, Abbie was presented, in the name of Dakota Chief Matowaken, with a beautiful Indian ‘war cap’ that had been secretly transported from the village on the James River.

Each feather represented an enemy that the chief had killed in battle, and it symbolized Abbie’s bravery during her captivity. While she retained the cap, it was supposed to place her under the protection of the Dakotas.

Abbie was escorted by a wagon driver, an interpreter and her three Indian rescuers down the Minnesota River to Fort Ridgely, where Captain Barnard Elliot Bee Jr. and his wife prepared dinner for them. Mrs. Bee gave Abbie several gold dollars, and Lieutenant Alexander Murray bought her a shawl and material for a dress. At the head of navigation at Traverse, they boarded a steamboat for the trip to St. Paul, where they docked on June 22, 1857. The following morning, the Indians officially delivered her to Governor Samuel Medary with much pomp and circumstance. The people of St. Paul presented her with $500, which she deposited in a St. Paul bank.

From St. Paul, Abbie, Governor Medary and his entourage took a steamboat for Dubuque, Iowa, where she debarked and traveled overland to Fort Dodge. There she waited to be picked up by her newlywed sister Eliza’s husband, William Wilson, of Hampton, Iowa. She reached her sister’s home on July 5. In Hampton, Abbie delivered to Elizabeth Thatcher’s parents the final message Elizabeth had entrusted to Abbie just moments before her death. Things happened quickly for Abbie, mature beyond her actual 13 years. On August 16, 1857, she married 19-year-old Casville Sharp, a cousin of Elizabeth Thatcher.

About a year and a half later, Abbie returned to the house where her family was massacred and discovered that J.S. Prescott occupied the cabin. He reimbursed her only a small percentage of what the property was worth. In 1859 Abbie and Casville had a baby boy, Albert, and in 1862, a second son, Allen. In 1871 daughter Minnie was born, but she died at age 19 months. The Sharps moved to several locations in Iowa, Missouri and Kansas. Twice, house fires destroyed the family’s possessions, and one of them consumed an early version of Abbie’s Spirit Lake manuscript. In the late 1870s, the Sharps’ marriage failed. In 1883 Abbie returned to the area of the Okoboji lakes and made money by soliciting speaking engagements, telling about her captivity. She finished her narrative of the Spirit Lake Massacre in 1885, and in 1891 she used the profits to purchase her family’s cabin. She restored it as a historical site and opened it to the public, charging admission — 25 cents for adults and 10 cents for children. During the winter of 1893-94, Abbie lobbied the Iowa Legislature for money to construct a monument to the victims (about 40 people were killed) of the Spirit Lake Massacre. On July 26, 1895, about 5,000 people attended the dedication of a 55-foot granite obelisk that was erected near the Gardner cabin. Abbie’s scars ran deep. ‘Never have I recovered from the injuries inflicted upon me while captive among the Indians,’ she said. ‘Instead of outgrowing them, as I hoped to, they have grown upon me as the years went by, and utterly undermined my health.’ Abigail Gardner Sharp died at Colfax, Iowa, on January 26, 1921.

After 1857 Inkpaduta was reportedly seen still lurking about the Spirit Lake area. His depredations led to the withholding of Dakota annuities until the guilty parties were turned over to authorities. Scarce supplies led to unrest among the innocent bands, which contributed to the start of the Sioux Uprising (also called the Minnesota Uprising) in August 1862; more than 600 white settlers were killed at New Ulm and elsewhere in southern Minnesota, and about 300 were captured. Inkpaduta again was involved in some of the atrocities. Once more, he escaped punishment and fled. He, according to Lakota holy man Black Elk, was present at the June 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn, where he reportedly led the Santees (another name for the Wahpekute and Mdewakanton Dakotas) against the 7th Cavalry. In 1877 he took refuge in Canada with Sitting Bull’s band. Inkpaduta never returned to U.S. territory; he evaded capture and died in 1881 in Manitoba. Today, some New Western historians and others view Inkpaduta in a kinder, gentler light. He has been described as ‘trustworthy,’ ‘a very humble man who tried to avoid trouble,’ ‘a figure of heroic caliber’ and ‘one of the greatest resistance fighters that the Dakota Nation ever produced.’ But Abbie Gardner expressed the views of most Americans who survived those earlier days. ‘By the whites,’ she said, ‘Inkpaduta will ever be remembered as a savage monster in human shape, fitted only for the darkest corner of Hades.’


This article was written by Susan J. Michno and originally appeared in the February 2006 issue of Wild West magazine.

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45 Responses to Spirit Lake Massacre

  1. Penny Bumpus says:

    I have a pamphlet that may be of interest to someone in the Spirit Lake or Okobojois area. This pamphlet appears to be over 100 years old and speaks of the cottages in the area and about the New Inn that would open in 1903. At the time of this book or pamphlet’s publishing, Abbie was still alive and receiving visitors. per the book, she would tell an absorbingly interesting story of her life among the savages and experiences.
    Even as old as this appears to be, it has still compelled me to someday visit your fine area.
    If you would like to discuss this book, please feel free to contact me at the email address supplied.

  2. Judith J. Mandernack says:

    HistoryNetStaff, I greatly enjoyed your article about the Spirit Lake Massacre. The facts of this incident have long been among our “family stories”. However, my research only uncovered one mention of my great great Grandma, Emma Mead Hushaw and her sister, Hattie. I’m glad to see someone has fully researched the incident and reported all the facts. I can add two more: Emma was told she was taken to show the indians how to make “white man’s bread” (?) and she was released because she hollered and carried on so much. Keep up the good work. Sincerely yours, Judith Mandernack

  3. Kat Pettycrew says:

    Hi Penny,

    I hope someone took you up on this, but if not, I’d love to buy it from you. I’m going back home to Iowa in October and can donate it to the Iowa State Historical Society or the county chapter inyour name.

    Kat in NJ

  4. Brad from Iowa says:

    Kat –

    The cabin and a small historical interpretive center are still on Abie Gardner’s cabin site. I am sure they would have a great intrest in the brochure / book. Contact info is below..

    Mike Koppert
    Box 74,
    Arnolds Park, IA 51331.
    Telephone: 712- 332-7248
    Email: gardner@iowaone.net

  5. Niels Jurgensen says:

    I do not really understand the term “renegade” assigned by the HISTORYNET.com assign to Inkpaduta.

    Does this mean that you will assign the same term on the brave patriots in European countries – among these my own – who fought bravely against the German invaders during the Second World War?

    Inkpaduta was a great patriot and freedomfighter who saw no other way than to kill so many of the intruders as possible. Intruders who had stolen the land of his people and broken up their way of life.

    Niels Jurgensen

    • Beth Ostlund says:

      Actually, Nils, Inkpaduta was not a great patriot and freedom fighter, although the Sioux in that area and in that time had a great deal to be angry about. Inkpaduta was an outcast and led a group of outcasts that had been thrown out of their own tribes. He was no more admirable than any other psychopath. It is the fact that from his own motivations he accidentally contributed to an admirable effort by Native Americans to defend and keep their heritage that he is sometimes wrongly considered to be a hero. He was a criminal. There are notable men and women to whom your words could be aptly applied. Unfortunately, historical record, that of white settlers and recordings of the natives, both indicate that Inkpaduta’s band was composed of “half-breeds” (who were outcasts from both societies) and those who could not live cooperatively with their own people and had been rejected from their native societies.

  6. Kevin Black says:

    I’ve lived in Okoboji all my life 40 years and now that the big Corporations have moved in buying up all the property around the lakes and taking over all our local governments and law enforcement. OMG this place is now a hell hole of prudeism and bureaucracy pushing for a new world order & one world government. The level of corruption is unprecedented. I can fully sympathize with the Indian uprising.
    Good news is the crimanals tyrony is being exposed and they are on their way out. Google search “The act of 1871” & “AMERICA The Corporaton”.

  7. B Hicks says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this article. Thank you for exposing the atrocities committed by both sides. I fully agree that the Native American’s had their contentions, but we are now faced with revisionist history that paints (no pun intended) the Native Americans as peace loving nature lovers. How far is this from the truth! The disregard for human life and the brutality displayed to captives is not that of a peaceful people. The “white man” is not responsible for all the ills in the world; quite to the contrary, without Europeans coming to the New World this land would be in the sad shape that faces Mexico and many other Third World countries. We need to keep up on our history, but not rewrite it for guilt ridden liberals who want to appease those who seek to destroy us.

    • lynn von holtum says:

      right on,i have read many acounts of indian savagery,such as smashing babys heads on rocks because they would not stop crying,we learned scalping from them.i admire all native american cultures but want to see the truth written not reinvented.

      • JdSchooley says:

        Lynn; White men invented scalping, BTW. You will discover through investigation that a bounty was paid for the scalps of Native Americans by European settlers, males brought the most, children the least. Almost all fees collected were for males. Natives picked it up from whites.

  8. Kenneth Mark Hoover says:

    For B Hicks:

    Your white approbation is showing. Not that you would understand if your rhetoric is any judge.

    You are quick to point out that Native Americans weren’t “nature lovers”. Fine. And yet you are loathe to even admit White Americans were known for any atrocities whatsoever. The fact you even gloss over this is telling. Either you are ignorant and don’t understand your own nation’s history and the involvement of your own race, or you do understand and want to pretend it didn’t happen. Either way is unconscionable.

    Instead, you live in your own little half-baked conservative worldview where “this land would be in sad shape” if weren’t for the White Man.

    YOU are the one who is engaged in revisionist history. Just like most narrow minded and racially intolerant conservatives you let your own racial prejudices cloud your judgment.

    Let me put it in simple terms so you can understand: You are entitled to your own opinion. You are NOT entitled to your own facts.

    Yeah. Deal with it.

    • Terry Beyer says:

      There is one thing we all forget when looking back at historic events. The people that lived these events where not 21st century people like we are.Life was much harder,most people had little if any education,and death was a constant reality.Unfortunally these realities probably made life somewhat cheaper than we consider it today. I’m just trying to remind everyone, that we can’t look at history through the politically correct lens that we have to endure in modern times.

  9. Matthew Max says:

    According to local newspapers of the time Inkpaduta was in Dakota Territory during the Minnesota killings. Little Crow was considered the chief leader.In Minnesota, if Inkpaduta had been there Little Crow would have deferred to the first great Sioux hero. Inkpaduta was the chief leader in the later Dakota Territory battles against Sibley and Sully. And Inkpaduta was at the Little Big Horn and was said to be 79 plus years old and blind (birth date 1797-Little Big Horn 1876 look it up on the net) so it is very unlikely Inkpaduta led any warriors that day. Old newspapers, records & books of the day continue to be the best source of information…so look things up yourself for answers too.

    • lynn von holtum says:

      i guess abbie gardner did not know who held her captive,too bad you were not around to tell her,those peace loving civilized red men must have been mistaken,i bet they thought they were being attacked,what else could they be expected to do except dash out babys brains,slaughter cattle and burn cabins,and not to confuse anyone they went to every other cabin and did the same thing,its perfectly clear to me now,thanks for your liberal insite!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Tamas says:

        Try to look up this issue. Don’t only believe what have been told to you. I can never agree with violence, but It is very important to know what exactly happened. Off course the information is very limited, but try to read from many different sources and don’t only rely on a grossly exaggerated story from Abbie Gardner. A good book to read on this topic is ” North Country the making of Minnesota” by Mary Lethert Wingerd.

        I think the problems start when we start labeling other human beings with “Liberal” or ” Conservative”. What is that? Isn’t it only a label? You can’t put everybody in a box labeled with a name. That’s my opinion.

        Good Day

    • Beth Ostlund says:

      The Minnesota killings took place after the Spirit Lake events. Inkpaduta may have been in Dakota Territory by then, after all, that is where they took Abbie. However, remember that the northwest part of Iowa, the southwest part of Minnesota and the southeast corner of South Dakota were all just one big area. The false sense of distance that is created when we talk about being in one state as opposed to the other makes it sound like there were great distances involved. It was a few miles. Traveling bands of indians could move from one territory to another at will. AND, these places weren’t even states at the time, pretty sure. Iowa became a state about ten years after these events, for instance. These bands of Sioux roamed a vast area and went freely from one “state” to the other. Also, newspapers relied on rumors and sightings by settlers and hunters who “thought” they saw such and such a band camping here, or such and such a band moving north from one place, etc. The area was VERY sparsely populated by white people at this time, so no one had a really clear sense of where anyone was at any given time. It was absolutely Inkapaduta that was involved in the Spirit Lake massacre, according to their own traditions. Whether it was his specific band that later moved on to Minnesota or not is hard to tell. There were a couple of different attacks on the settlers in southern Minnesota, New Ulm, etc, and Inkapadutah’s band split at different times, too, depending on hunting, weather, all kinds of things. It cracks me up when someone finds one little morsel of information that contradicts all the other records, personal accounts, journals, books, etc and then tries to rewrite history based on that one little vague mention.

  10. Carolyn Van Doren says:

    Please spare me of the bleeding hearts for noble red men and accusations of opportunistic white men.

    The majority of people wanted to get along with day to day living regardless of the skin or customs. Every race has its vicious and its kind people. Once racial savage hatred begins, it starts roaring like an out of control fire that destroys everything in its path. The Spirit Lake events started out as tit for tat on both sides that brutally escalated. Unfortunately the victims (red and white) were not the people who began the retaliations in the Spirit Lake Settlement. Nothing was noble about the red or white men who had blood on their hands and revenge in their hearts.

    Lets keep events in perspective.

  11. Matthew Max says:

    Well put Carolyn. It is the innocents that usually suffer…as was the case there too!

  12. Rudy Stumpthumpr says:

    I find I appaling that the whites acted in the way they did to start this situation, but that does not excuse the murdering and plundering of the indians that did this.

    Under no circumstances is the treatment of people in this fashion on either side excusable.

    The human race is better overall with the removal of anyone with the merciless bloodlust demonstrated by both races in this situation…

    War is always bad, but even war can be fought with a level of respect.

    This story shows humanity at the lower level and is disgusting but it is awesome to know the facts and to what level people can go to survive.

    Thanks for the facts.

  13. Brian Mc says:

    To relate Inkpaduta of the Whakpekuti band of the Dakotah Tribe of the Sioux Nation, a man who liked to brag that he could crush a baby’s head with his bare hands, with the French Underground of WWII is folly. Furthermore, to maintain that the settlers of the Spririt Lake Region were akin to the Nazi invaders is a stretch of dementedness. I don’t believe the Wermacht brought their families with them in order to hack out a claim in the wilderness of the Ukraine.

    By the way…Henry Lott was caught cheating at cards in none other than Tombstone, caught a bullet in his brain and was unceremoniously dragged from the saloon and dumped in the street. A fitting end to a life that had brought only misery and suffering to those who came into contact with him.

    • Beth Ostlund says:


      I am very interested in your information that Henry Lott was caught cheating at cards and killed in Tombstone. I grew up in Webster City Iowa and many of my friends and family are connected to the Spirit Lake Massacre, either descendants of Abigail G., or descendents of Minnesotans who fled after the massacre and resettled here, etc etc. Webster City is one of the two towns that sent citizens on the rescue party to the lakes after the massacre to bury the bodies. I have been fascinated with this history since I was a child, and obsessed with it since reading our native Webster Citians Pulitzer-prize winning book, Spirit Lake, as a high school student back in the late 60s. I have tried to track down what happened to Henry Lott and have never found anything definitive. One theory is that he went to Kansas and used his connections to Indians who had been re-located from here to that area to obtain the position of Post Master in a town there. Another, from an original settler here who was a contemporary of Henry Lott, was that he went to California…oddly, this one hints that he was indeed killed when caught cheating (at cards?)….SO, all this to say I would dearly love to know your source for the statement about Lott in Tombstone….if you can remember it. Would you contact me at mbowc@hotmail.com and let me know if you have it? I would be SO appreciative.

      Thanks in advance,
      Beth Ostlund

    • Beth Ostlund says:

      P.S. I just re-read your post and thought I’d point out that the Nazi guards at the concentration camps often, frequently even, lived WITH THEIR families on site. Too often those that do evil don’t believe, or care, that they are doing evil so have no compunctions whatsoever about bringing the family along, if possible. Sadly, the entire history of this nation is interlaced with examples large and small of white settlers invading the lands of other peoples and taking ownership, often using weapons of war, soldiers, starvation, imprisonment, separation of families, etc as their means and methodologies. Sounds quite a bit like the invasion of Poland, Czechoslovakia, and France, to me…..

  14. Betty says:

    hi, I need more stuff cuz its a stupid website!!!!11

  15. Art Taschner says:

    I understand that Abbie was taken as for into So. Dak. as Redfield and obtained back in the trade near Lake Herman , near Madison So. Dak. , Does any one have any information on this? I don’t know why so many want to rewrite history, Read Abbie;’s book.

  16. Perry says:

    Just started to read the book , I am a woodturning artist from N.W. Iowa and just got a piece of the Luce cabin that was going to be digarded and have plans to turn some pieces of it to preserve some and have on display somewhere . but I whanted to know more back story before I start just to feel some other aspect of what i will be creating .The woods badley weatherd so some voids I plan on filling with red to represent the blood that was spilled by all back then . wildwoodturning.com

  17. James says:

    The Lakota Sioux were empire builders as the Europeans were. Like whites, they were relative newcomers to the region . The Black Hills were their sacred ground because they took it from other Indians. Motivations of both peoples were similar. Whites took their lands through guile and force in the same way land exchanges have been conducted since the beginning of time. The Sioux Nation would have done the same to us if they had been able.

    The cold winter of 1856-7 may have played a small role in the uprising. White settlers and Indians were on the brink of starvation as they competed for the last deer herds and contents of graineries. According to local legend, Inkapaduta headed south toward our ancestorial home town, but he changed his mind and marched north.

    Nels Jurgonsen comments make me wonder how he feels about his northern Scandinavian neighbors who treated some of my cousins, the Sami as we treated the Indians. The Swedes and others tried to destroy the culture and sent children to boarding schools to educate the old ways from them as the United States did to Indian children.

  18. […] of Events Related to the Spirit Lake Massacre History Net Iowa Historical Markers jQuery(document).ready(function(){ function initialize() { var […]

  19. […] remembered as a savage monster in human shape, fitted only for the darkest corner of Hades.’ Source: HistoryNet On: September 4, 2012By: adminIn: Historical MarkersNo […]

  20. Jd Schooley says:

    The information on this page is riddled with misinformation about the participants in this piece of Iowa history.
    I am well researched on the events and am finishing a book about the new information that has come to me. If you or any others wish to know more about what is questionable and what is known, I am happy to show my sources and discuss the speculative aspects too.

    Thanks, Jd

    • Beth O. says:

      I would be very interested in your new information, Jd Schooley. I have read every contemporary source I could find, and understand that Clark Mollenhoff, who wrote Spirit Lake, spent a great deal of time researching with the Sioux before writing his most excellent book. As I stated in an earlier posting, I am fascinated with this topic and have been for 45 years or more, so would welcome your input to my knowlege. Please reply to mbowc@hotmail.com if you like.

  21. Frann Brothers says:

    My Grandfather was born in Spirit Lake and his father was listed as a drayman in the first census,. This was very informative and well done. Thank you.

  22. Billie Booth says:

    I visited the site of the Spirit Lake massacre when I was a child, early to mid 1960’s. There was a woman at the site who told the story to us. Can anyone tell me who that person was? Was she an descendent of Abbie Gardner? Thanks for any information.

  23. Beth Ostlund says:

    Whoa Nellie! The white invaders did most assuredly slaughter the native peoples, steal their land, deprive them of their children, their culture, their way of life. There is no doubt about that. And to say that they should somehow be GRATEFUL for all this because otherwise they would have ended up like Third World Countries like Mexico is wrong on so many levels I hardly know where to begin. In the first place, MEXICO is the way it is because of invaders from Spain who destroyed the existing civilizations and imposed white folks’ God on people who were perfectly content with their own. Your absurd final statement pretty much says it all: another white egocentric viewpoint incapable of analyzing history impartially and objectively. It’s all about YOU. I said that Inkapaduta was no hero. He just happened to be an iffy character, but I have no problem whatsoever with hundreds of other native leaders who tried to defend their homes and people from marauders and murderers like the ones who came here from Europe. Good God. \guilt ridden liberals\???? How about \fact-based analysis\??? Like most right wing fools, you don’t bother yourself with facts, it would seem.

  24. Barbara says:

    My great great grandparents were Dr. & Mary E. Strong, who survived the Spirit Lake massacre. She wrote a first hand account as part of her memoir \Her Mission\. It is a quick read, in poetic form, and was written later as part of a tribute after the death of her daughter Grace Strong. Grace Strong was an active suffragette, and the author of a novel, THE GREATEST FOE ( still available on Amazon). Mary Strong was referred to in her later years as. \The Blind Poetess\. I don’t find that her account has been published anywhere. Is anyone interested in reading her account? Should it be published? If so, how? I believe it would definitely contribute to the
    body of knowledge. Thank you, Barbara

    • Jd Schooley says:

      I am most interested in anything that contributes to the facts or personal accounts of the massacre in the Iowa lakes region of 1857. Please send me what ever you can about these people, so I can give credit to those people and the times of early Iowa in a new book that holds fresh unread accounts from other survivors of the tragedy.

      Thanks, ever-so Jd Schooley

  25. Beth Ostlund says:

    Barbara, YES!!!!!! I would be EXTREMELY interested in reading this account. This information about your family is fascinating and exciting. There are different options to you to publish, if you want to actually produce a book. Or, I would volunteer to transcribe the account onto any online site you choose, or into any self-publishing format you choose, in exchange for just being able to read it!!! (I am a former typesetter/proofreader and am now a writer working on the Spirit Lake story, which has fascinated me since I was a young girl. I know there are other people, and other writers, who follow this thread who would be really really interested, as well. (Jd Schooley, for starters….) Please let me know if I can help you make this wonderful new source of information available to those of us who are so fascinated by the subject matter. My personal email is mbowc@hotmail.com.

    • Beth Ostlund says:

      I’ve been giving this some thought and depending on the length of the account that you have (you mention it is a quick read, so probably not terribly long….) you might actually contact the magazine the account above was published in, Wild West magazine, or Iowa historical magazines such as Palimpset. You could also contact the Iowa Historical Association and ask them for suggestions. It is probably too short to become a book, or to need a transcriptionist or typist (which I volunteered to do) but it surely would be of interest to a regional publication of some sort. Whatever you decide and whichever way you go, I do hope you will get it out there for history buffs to read and enjoy!

  26. Barbara says:

    Thank you so much Beth for the information. I’ll try to scan and email the book to you. I’ll also send some of the pages of the Strong family genealogy. It was compiled by my grandmother’s half brother Sidney Strong (from a later marriage of James Strong after the death of his first wife). In it, Sidney includes a narrative by his father James Strong, of his recollections of family lore re: the massacre. He was apparently the last living survivor of the massacre. The details given by Mary Strong and James Strong give a better, more detailed explanation of Dr. Strong’s activities and whereabouts during the days surrounding the massacre than does the account in Abbie Gardner’s book. In Mr. Teakle’s book, he footnotes an article that also more fully explains Dr. Strong’s actions at this time.
    The genealogy also says that The Strong’s daughter Grace was the first white child ever born in the area.
    Thank you again, and I’ll definitely be in touch, Barbara

    • Beth Ostlund says:

      I am so excited! I am such a history nerd in general and about this story specifically.The addition of the genealogy pages would be such a bonus….I can’t wait to read them. Thanks so much……Have you decided what you want to do with the information? I’ll be watching my email!

  27. Barbara says:

    Hi Beth,
    I’ve sent you the scans, and hope they came through o.k. We’re not very tech savvy! Let me know what you think.

    • Beth Ostlund says:

      ARgh! I don’t see them anywhere—not even an email from you…..Could you try again??? I JUST scanned through my “junk” folder and erased everything in there, so maybe it went there and I missed it….Try again, okay?

  28. Scott Andersen says:

    I tend to agree with you Beth! This was a very interesting article, followed up by some ill informed commentary in an effort to put some kind of a political spin on history. Liberal, conservative, right wing, left wing are terms that don’t have a place here. I, like you, could be considered a history nerd and I’ve done a fair amount of study regarding the history of the Indian wars, particularly in the Dakotas. Thanks for setting the record straight regarding Mexico, although I don’t really agree that Mexico’s current issues are due to the conquistadors, there is no doubt that people of European decent have been running the show there since the 1600’s. So you can’t blame their current problems on the aboriginal population. As far as scalping, I’ve read conflicting accounts about the origins of scalping, but I have my doubts that it was learned from natives, and in fact may have originated from Europeans who wanted proof before they would pay the bounty offered for dead natives. Atrocities were committed by both parties in abundance, but one has to look at things in the context of the times they took place in. It was a struggle for survival by both parties, along with a clash of cultures. It is hard to read about babies having there heads bashed in, and easy to say those bad Indians. But how many babies have been killed by Caucasians, Asians, Africans, etc. in the wars of the last century and continuing on into our present time. No culture is innocent, and you have good and bad on both sides of the conflict discussed in this article.
    The article is full of information regarding the Spirit Lake massacre and the abduction of Abbie Gardner, but kind of leaves off with that. Whether you hate them, or not, the story of Inkpaduta and his band of Wahpekutes after leaving Minnesota is also of some historical significance. Not a lot of people are aware of it, but he was involved in a number of battles with the US Army following his departure from Iowa and Minnesota involving thousands of US troops and different bands of the Dakota and Lakota. These include; The battle of Whitestone hill, the battle of Big Mound, The battle of dead buffalo lake, the battle of Stoney lake, the battle of Killdeer mountain, the battle of the badlands, and the battle of the Little Big horn. Some of these battles were little more than skirmishes, but the battles of Whitestone hill and Killdeer mountain can be considered significant battles, and everyone knows about the Little Big horn. The official US army reports of these battles as submitted by Generals Sibley and Sulley are available, and they place Inkaputa and his band in the Dakotas and on the run at the time of the Minnesota massacre. While it is true that Inkpaduta himself was very old at the time of the Little big horn and wouldn’t have taken part in the fighting, there are reports from various Indian participants that two of his sons, Tracking White Earth, and Sounds the Ground As He Walks, were heavily involved in the fighting at the Little big horn. This was a very militant band of Indians that never surrendered and managed to elude or evade the US army for nearly 20 years while managing to survive in the badlands and prairies of North Dakota and Montana until seeking refuge in Canada where many of them stayed even after Sitting Bull returned to surrender at fort Buford in North Dakota.
    Another interesting item from this article is the mention of Captain Barnard Elliott Bee who gave assistance to Abbie Gardner at fort Ridgely. I wonder how many know that Captain Barnard Bee became Confederate General Barnard Bee. The same man who gave general Thomas Jackson the name Stonewall before he was mortally wounded at the first battle of Bull Run

  29. […] any of you read about the massacre at Spirit Lake? Yes, the same place where these bikes are made. Spirit Lake Massacre Spirit Lake Massacre – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Big Spirit Lake – Wikipedia, the free […]

  30. Thanks for one’s marvelous posting! I truly enjoyed reading it, you happen to be a great author.I will always bookmark your blog and may come back at some point. I want to encourage that you continue your great posts, have a nice afternoon!

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