Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick



James Franklin Ward, an early resident of Keosauqua who became a tinsmith and opened hardware stores all across Iowa, presents a fascinating account of the Indian treaty made in 1839.

He accompanied several young men to the land agency, and on the way they stopped to see Black Hawk’s grave. It contained a pole in the center about 25 feet high with a red line running around it like a barber pole, and the American flag flew atop the pole. One of his comrades had been at the burial and said that a hole had been dug five or six feet deep. Poles were laid across it and covered with grass, then dirt. A slanting road was dug down into the hole and old Black Hawk was tied on his pony with provisions to last him until he arrived at the “happy hunting grounds,” and then the grave was filled and graded up.

I believe that he is describing the grave at Iowaville Cemetery, the second Black Hawk grave site. He is said to have first been buried on the James Jordan farm in a sitting position under a tree.

About 2,200 Indians were at the village near Agency, along with a company of Dragoons and 500 papooses with whooping cough. Ward ran into a tent and covered himself with a blanket until the next day, missing a big war dance where 500 warriors participated. But he didn’t catch the dreaded disease!

An interpreter lived in a large log house and the Governor and 12 assistants boarded with him. The house had a nice lawn in front. There was a Council House with a platform in front, with benches for the Governor and the 12 men. They made a speech every day during the Council, which lasted a week.

Old Keokuk and 12 braves marched down to the village four abreast and Keokuk wore a panther skin that fit on his head with the tail brushing the ground. Quills stuck out with bells rattling on them with each step. The Governor and his men wore uniforms.

While at the Council, Ward went to visit his old friend Captain Phelps. Here he listened to men talk about making fortunes from trading with the Sioux Indians. It was the last time he ever saw Captain Phelps.

When the treaty was finished, two big wagons drove up to the agency driven by four mules, each containing 70 boxes of silver. Each box had $1,000 in half dollars that was paid to the Indians. The Indians then bought up all the horses in Van Buren County, including the horse that Ward had ridden to attend the Council.

This experience was before young James returned to Indiana to learn the trade that would make him a good living on various frontiers in Iowa.

(from an article by Carolyn Saul Logan, Humboldt Independent, contributed by Rich Lowe)

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