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was a strong and truthful picture of the prospect before them, and was presented in such a forcible light that it caused them to abandon their rash undertaking.
Although the honor was frequently disputed by some of the original followers of Black Hawk, Keokuk was ever afterward recognized as the head of the Sac and Fox nation by the United States governinent. It is said that a bitter feud existed in the tribe during the time that Keokuk lived near Des Moines between Keokuk's band and the Black Hawk band. Their distrust and hatred were smothered in their common intercourse when sober, but when their blood was fired with whisky it sometimes assumed a tragic feature among the leaders of their respective bands. An instance of this character occurred on the lower part of the Des Moines River, on the return of a party making a visit to the "half-breeds," at the town of Keokuk, on the Mississippi. In a quarrel incited by whisky, Keokuk received a dangerous stab in the breast by a son of Black Hawk, and a certain one giving an account of the altercation says he saw him conveyed by his friends homeward lying in a canoe unable to rise.
In person, Keokuk was of commanding appearance. He was tall, straight as an arrow, and of very graceful mien. These personal characteristics, together with his native fervor and ready command of language, gave him great power over his people as a speaker. If as a man of energy and courage he gained the respect and obedience of his tribe, it was more especially as an orator that he was able to wield his people in the times of great excitement, and in a measure shape their policy in dealing with the white man. As an orator rather than as a warrior, has Keokuk's claim to greatness been founded.
Persons who had the good fortune to see him and hear him under favorable surroundings say that he was gifted by nature with the elements of an orator in an eminent degree. The greatest difficulty which he had to encounter was his inability to procure an interpreter who could to any degree convey the meaning of the speaker to the hearer. Of this serious hindrance Keokuk was well aware, and he retained Frank Labashure, who had received a rudimental education in the French and English languages, until the latter died broken down by exposure and dissipation; but during the meridian of his career among the white people he was compelled to submit his speeches for translation to uneducated men, whose range of thought fell below the flights of a gifted mind, and the fine imagery drawn from nature was beyond their power of reproduction. He had a sufficient knowledge of the English tongue to make him sensible of this bad rendering of his thoughts, and often a feeling of mortification at the bungling efforts was depicted upon his countenance while he was speaking. There are but few of the early Marion county settlers who remember Keokuk, and probably very few ever saw him, as he with his tribe moved westward before all the territory which now composes the county was thrown open for settlement. A few who settled in this county, east of the Red Rock line, remember well the distinguished savage.
Mr. James, of Sigourney, being present at the council, at Agency City, when the treaty of 1842 was made, says of Keokuk: "We heard him make a speech on the occasion, which, by those who understood his tongue, was said to be a sensible and eloquent effort. Judging from his voice and gestures, his former standing as an Indian orator and chieftain, we thought his reputation as a dignified yet gentlemanly aborigine had not been over
rated. During the Black Hawk War his voice was for peace with the white man, and his influence added much to the shortening of the war. As an honor to the chief our county bears his name."
The event in the life of Keokuk which more than any other gave him a national reputation was his trip to Washington City. He, in company with Black Hawk, Poweshiek, Kish-ke-kosh, and some fifteen other chiefs, under the escort of Gen. J. M. Street, visited Washington City and different parts of the East in 1837. The party descended the Mississippi to the mouth of the Ohio by steamer, and thence up the latter to Wheeling, where they took the stage across the mountains. When the party arrived in Washington, at the request of some of the government officials a council was held with some of the Sioux there present, as the Sacs and Foxes were waging a perpetual war with the Sioux nation. The council was held in the Hall of Representatives. To the great indignation of the Sioux, Kish-kekosh appeared dressed in a buffalo hide which he had taken in war from a Sioux chief, and took his position in one of the large windows, with the mane and horns of the buffalo as a sort of a head-dress, and the tail trailing on the floor. The Sioux complained to the officials, claiming that this was an insult to them, but they were informed that the Sacs and Foxes had a right to appear in any kind of costume they chose to wear. The first speech was made by a Sioux, who complained bitterly of the wrongs they had suffered, and how they had been driven from their homes by the Sacs and Foxes, their warriors killed and their villages burned. Then followed Keokuk, the great orator of his tribe, who replied at some length, an interpreter repeating the speech after him. There were those present who had heard Webster, Calhoun, Clay and Benton in the same hall, and they declared that for the manner of the delivery, for native eloquence, impassioned expression of countenance, the chief surpassed them all, and this while they could not understand his words, save as they were repeated by the interpreter. From Washington they went to New York, where they were shown no little attention, and Gen. Street attempting to show them the city on foot, the people in their anxiety to see Keokuk and Black Hawk crowded them beyond the point of endurance, and in order to avoid the throng, they were compelled to make their escape through a store building and reached their hotel through the back alleys and less frequented streets. At Boston they were met at the depot by a delegation of leading citizens and conveyed in carriages to the hotel. The next day they were taken in open carriages, and with a guard of honor on foot, they were shown the whole city. During their stay in Boston they were the guests of the great American orator, Edward Everett, who made a banquet for them. When the Indians returned and were asked about New York they only expressed their disgust. Boston was the only place in the United States, in their estimation, and their opinion has been shared in by many white people who since that time have made a pilgrimage from the West to the famous shrines of the East.
The first settlers of Iowa who still remain remember the Mormons who first located across the Mississippi River, and then in the western part of Iowa, and created such an excitement among the scattered settlements of Iowa. Several of the most worthy of the early settlers of Polk county be came converts to that faith and went West with the "saints." It is not generally known, however, that a special effort was made for the conversion of Keokuk.
While residing at Ottumwah-nac, Keokuk received a message from the Mormon prophet, Joseph Smith, in which the latter invited Keokuk, as king of the Sacs and Foxes, to a royal conference at his palace at Nauvoo, on matters of the highest importance to their respective people. The invitation was accepted, and at the appointed time the king of the Sacs and Foxes, accompanied by a stately escort on ponies, wended his way to the appointed interview with the great apostle of the Latter Day Saints. Keokuk, as before remarked, was a man of good judgment and keen insight into the human character. He was not easily led by sophistry, nor beguiled by flattery. The account of this interview with Smith, as given by a writer in the Annals of Iowa so well illustrates these traits of his character that we give it in full:
"Notice had been circulated through the country of this diplomatic interview, and quite a number of spectators attended to witness the denoument. The audience was given publicly in the great Mormon temple, and the respective chiefs were attended by their suites, the prophet by the dignitaries of the Mormon Church, and the Indian potentate by the high civil and military functionaries of his tribe, and the Gentiles were comfortably seated as auditors.
"The prophet opened the conference in a set speech of some length, giv ing Keokuk a brief history of the Children of Israel, as detailed in the Bible, and dwelt forcibly upon the history of the lost tribes, and that he, the prophet of God, held a divine commission to gather them together and lead them to a land flowing with milk and honey.' After the prophet closed his harangue, Keokuk waited for the words of his pale-faced brother to sink deep into his mind.' and in making his reply, assumed the gravest attitude and most dignified demeanor. He would not controvert anything his brother had said about the lost and scattered condition of his race and people, and if his brother was commissioned by the Great Spirit to collect them together and lead them to a new country it was his duty to do so But he wished to inquire about some particulars his brother had not named that were of the highest importance to him and his people. The red man was not much used to milk, and he thought they would prefer streams of water; and in the country they now were there was a good supply of honey. The points they wished to inquire into were, whether the new government would pay large annuities, and whether there was plenty of whisky. Joe Smith saw at once that he had met his match and that Keokuk was not the proper material with which to increase his army of dupes, and closed the interview in as amiable and pleasant a manner as possible.'
After the removal of this tribe west of the Mississippi, Keokuk resided until 1836 on a reservation of four hundred square miles situated on the Iowa River, and his headquarters were at a village located on the right bank of the stream, and which bore his name. According to the stipulation of the treaty of 1836, in which the Indians ceded to the United States Keokuk's Reserve, the illustrious chief removed farther west and his headquarters for a time were in Wapello county.
The agency for the Indians was located at a point where is now located Agency City. At this time an effort was made to civilize the red man. Farms were opened up, and two mills were erected, one on Soap Creek and one on Sugar Creek. A salaried agent was employed to superintend these farming operations. Keokuk, Wapello and Appanoose, each had a large field improved and cultivated. Keokuk's farin was located upon what is
yet known as Keokuk's Prairie, in what is now Wapelle county. The Indians did not make much progress in these farming operations, and in the absence of their natural and wonted excitements, became idle and careless. Many of them plunged into dissipation. Keokuk himself became badly dissipated in the latter years of his life. Pathetic as was the condition of these savages at this time, it was but the legitimate result of the treatment which they had received. They were confined to a fixed location, and provided with annuities by the government, sufficient to meet their wants from year to year. They were prevented in this manner from making those extensive excursions, and embarking in those warlike pursuits, which from time immemorial had formed the chief avenues for the employment of those activities which for centuries had claimed the attention of the savage mind; and the sure and regular means of subsistence furnished by the government, took away from them the incentives for the employment of these activities, even had the means still existed. In addition to this the Indian beheld his lands taken from him, and his tribe growing smaller year by year.
Keokuk, as already intimated, was possessed of a highly imaginative intellect and he doubtless forecast the future far enough to be thoroughly impressed with the thought that in a few years all these lands would pass into the possession of the white man, while his tribe and his name would be swept away by the flood which was ready to sweep in from the East. Keokuk saw all of this, and seeing it had neither the power nor inclination to prevent it. Take the best representative of the Anglo-Saxon race, and place him in similar circumstances, and he would do no better. Shut in by restraint from all sides, relieved from all the anxieties comprehended in that practical question, what shall we eat, and wherewithal shall we be clothed and deprived of all those incentives springing from, and inspired by a lofty ambition, and the best of us, with all our culture and habits of industry, would fall into idleness and dissipation and our fall would be as great, if not as low, as was the fall of that unhappy people who formerly inhabited this country, and whose disappearance and gradual extinction we shall now be called upon to contemplate.
Wapello, the cotemporary of Keokuk and the inferior chief, after whom a neighboring county and county seat were named, died before the Indians were removed from the State, and thus escaped the humiliation of the scene. He, like his superior chief, was a fast friend of the whites and wielded an immense influence among the individuals of his tribe. As is mentioned in a former chapter, he presided over three tribes in the vicinity of Fort Armstrong during the time that frontier post was being erected. In 1829 he removed his village to Muscatine Swamp, and then to a place near where is now located the town bearing his name. Many of the early settlers of the country remember him well, as the southern part of this county was a favorite resort for him and many members of his tribe. was in the limits of Keokuk county that this illustrious chief died. Although he willingly united in the treaty ceding it to the whites, it was done with the clear conviction that the country would be shortly overrun and his hunting-ground ruined by the advance of pale-faces. He chose to sell rather than be robbed, and then quietly receded with his band.
Wapello, in common with Keokuk, Poweshiek and all other distinguished Indians as far as known, was very fond of whisky, and especially in times of unexpected good fortune, or in days of gloom and misfortune was
he accustomed to become deeply intoxicated. Mr. Searcy, who yet resides in Keokuk county and who was intimately accquainted with Wapello, relates the following:
"Between the Sioux and the Sacs and Foxes a bitter and deadly hatred existed. This enmity was carried to such a bitter extent that it caused the establishment, by the government, of the neutral ground, in the north part of the Territory, which was a strip of country about thirty miles in width, over which the tribes were not allowed to pass in order to slay each other. The love for revenge was so strongly marked in the Indian character that it was not to be suppressed by imaginary geographical lines, and consequently it was not a rare occurrence for a Sac or Fox Indian, or a Sioux, to bite the dust, as an atonement for real or imaginary wrongs. In this manner one of the sons of Wapello was cruelly cut down from an ambush, in the year 1836. When the chief heard of the sad calamity he was on Skunk. River, opposite the mouth of Crooked Creek. He immediately plunged in and swam across. Upon arriving at a trading-post near by, he gave the best pony he had for a barrel of whisky, and setting it out invited his people to partake, a very unwise practice which he doubtless borrowed from the white people who availed themselves of this medium in which to drown their sorrows.'
Wapello died in Keokuk county in March, 1844. As provided in the terms of the treaty he had retired beyond the Red Rock line early in 1843, and at the time of his death he was visiting some of the most favorite places in the country which but a year before he had relinquished. A Mr. Romig, who for sometime lived near the place where Wapello died delivered an address before a historical society in which he gives the following pathetic account of the last days and death of the illustrious chief:
"As the swallow returns to the place where last she had built her nest, cruelly destroyed by the ruthless hands of some rude boy, or as a mother would return to the empty crib where once had reposed her innocent babe in the sweet embrace of sleep, and weep for the treasure she had once possessed, so Wapello mourned for the hunting-grounds he had been forced to leave behind, and longed to roam over the broad expanse again. It was in the month of March; heavy winter had begun to shed her mantle of snow; the sun peeped forth through the fleeting clouds; the woodchuck emerged from his subterranean retreat to greet the morning breeze, and all nature seemed to rejoice at the prospect of returning spring. The old chief felt the exhilarating influence of reviving nature, and longed again for the sports of his youth. He accordingly assembled a party and started on a hunting excursion to the scenes of his former exploits. But alas! the poor old man was not long destined to mourn over his misfortunes! While traveling over the beautiful prairies, or encamped in the picturesque groves that he was once wont to call his own, disease fastened upon his vitals and the chief lay prostrate in his lodge. How long the burning fever raged and racked in his brain, or who it was that applied the cooling draught to his parched lips, tradition fails to inform us; but this we may fairly presume: that his trusty followers were deeply distressed at the sufferings of their chief whom they loved, and administered all the comforts in their power to alleviate his sufferings, but all would not avail. Grim Death had crossed his path, touched an icy finger on his brow, and marked Him for his own. Human efforts to save could avail nothing. Time passed, and with it the life of Wapello. The last word was spoken, the last wish expressed, the last breath