Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick


Joseph M. Street was one of the best white friends that the Indians encountered. In 1827 he was appointed Indian Agent and was stationed at Fort Armstrong (between Davenport and Rock Island) and later at Prairie du Chien. In 1838 he was given charge of the new Indian agency for the Sac and Fox tribes, located a few miles east of Ottumwa.

Street took a deep interest in the welfare of the Indians. He advised the US government to teach them farming and home economics. Through his encouragement and efforts, a school was opened at Yellow River in Allamakee County in April, 1835.

From the six students attending on opening day, 79 were enrolled by 1839. However, the school was closed due to the unwillingness of the US government to pay the cost of maintaining the school.

Street selected the site of his new agency and had several buildings constructed: a dwelling place for himself and his family, a business office, a blacksmith shop and stables. In 1839, 160 acres were broken, fenced and planted.

Agent Street spent part of his time at the school, at Fort Crawford, and at Fort Armstrong. He was greatly admired, respected, and even loved by the Indians.

In 1837, old Chief Black Hawk took up residence near Iowaville along the Des Moines River not far from the headquarters of the Indian Agency. Here he spent his last days. When the rest of the tribe moved to Agency, he remained in Iowaville. When he died on October 3, 1838 he was buried in the back yard of the Indian Agency premises. James Jordan had his home as well as his office in the two-story frame building.

Before he left, Agent Street supplied Mr. and Mrs. Black Hawk with a cow, and taught Singing Bird to milk the animal. Black Hawk traveled to Agency to visit his friend, Joseph Street.

Joseph Street fell sick and died on May 5, 1840. Chief Wapello asked to be buried beside the agent. Graves of Mr. And Mrs. Wapello and Joseph Street can still be seen in Agency.

To show their love and appreciation, the Indians gave Mrs. Street a full section of land (640 acres) and each of the children a half section. Street originated the idea of teaching the Indians to help themselves. Since that time, education has become the chief means of making civilized people out of wild aborigines.

(The Hawkeye State: A History for Home and School. Dr. T. P. Christensen. Iowa City: 1956.)

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick