1846 and earlier, Indian Territory

Prepared by Martin E. Nass

This area was occupied by four different Indian tribes. The Ioway tribe, for whom Albert Lea named our territory, occupied mostly the banks of the Des Moines River to the south. The Sioux tribe was located to the north, the Sac and Fox tribes living in the southern part of our county. The Sioux were very warlike and constantly fought with the Sac and Fox. To effect a peace in the area, the government drew a line that ran to the north of our counties. It was called the "Neutral Line." The Sioux were to stay north of the line, the Sac and Fox to the south. This line was drawn in 1825. In 1830 two more lines were drawn, one 20 miles north of the Neutral line, the other 20 miles south of the line. This area was called the "Neutral Strip." The Indians were paid 3 cents per acre for this land.

In 1835 Major Kearney and a company of Dragoons were sent to the area to scout, map, and try to get the Indians to live in peace. As they traveled up the Des Moines River, they took an unnamed fork along a tributary to the east. This was named the Boone River to honor Capt. Nathan Boone, the 10th child of Daniel Boone, and a member of the expedition. Lt. Albert Lea, another member of the party was the first to label and call this area Ioway.

We became a state in 1846 and as yet our county lines had not been drawn. Boone County was created as the settlers moved north. In 1850, the legislature decided to create two adjacent counties, just to the north of Boone County. The west county was called Yell, the east county called Risley. Both were named to honor captains of the Mexican War. The two counties had no settlement yet. Only about 12 families lived here.

Of note, one family was the Henry Lott family. Lott came upriver in 1847 and built a cabin at what became known as Boone Forks, on the north side of the the junction of the Des Moines and Boone Rivers.. He had come from the Red Rock area where he had a history of having problems with the Indians. He came trading firearms, whiskey, and other things with the Indians for furs. He also managed to steal horses and move them down river, keeping them in caves along the banks, to sell to settlers as far south as Missouri. One time, when Henry and his older son were across the Boone River, the Sioux came to his cabin looking for their horses. Mrs. Lott started screaming and when she stopped, Henry decided that she must be dead so he headed south with his son for Pea's Point in Boone County to seek help from his nearest neighbors. After the Sioux party had taken property from the cabin, they left. Mrs. Lott sent her young son, Milton, aged 12, to find his father. Milton ran 22 miles south along the west side of the Des Moines River in December without a coat. He fell exhausted and froze to death.

When Lott returned with the rescue party, he found Mrs. Lott delirious in the cabin. She told him to go find Milton. They found his body, but since it was winter they could not bury him so they placed him in a hollow log and covered the opening with rocks, returning in the spring to bury him where he was found. Mrs. Lott lingered until January, 1848 when she too died. She was the first white woman to die in this area. In 1911 a monument was constructed in Vegors Cemetery, but her body was never located. It is assumed that she was buried beside their cabin.

Lott and his older son left the area for several years. They returned in 1852 and tracked down the Sioux chief, Sidominadotah, and moved to be near him. One day they went to the chief and invited him to join them to track a huge herd of elk. After they went some distance from the campsite, Lott hung back and shot the chief in the back. Then he cut off the chief's head and hid the body and head in different places. Then after dark, dressed like Indians, they went to the chief's campsite and slaughtered the chief's mother, wife, and four of his children. One young girl ran away and hid. When the murders were discovered ,the Indians went to Major Williams in Fort Dodge for help. Williams declared that Lott had committed the murders. By this time Lott and his son were on their way to California, never to be found again.

Sioux Indian Chief Sidominadotah pictured here was murdered in 1855 by Henry Lott, which percipitated the Spirit Lake Massacre in 1857.

A hearing was held at Homer, conducted by the only lawyer in the area, Granville Burkley. He claimed to understand the Sioux language, but he didn't. No judgment was made, so the Indians left with the body, but Burkley kept the head as evidence. This he hung from a tree in Homer until the wind blew it down. Then Burkley nailed the skull above the door of his cabin, where it stayed for nearly a year. The Indians came back for the skull so it could be buried with the chief. The Indians discussed a retaliation raid on Homer but did not follow through. Sidominadotah had a nephew, a renegade Sioux, named Inkpadutah (sometimes spelled Inkpaduta) who decided to revenge his uncle's death - such act became the Spirit Lake Massacre of 1857.