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Chapter 5

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Ioway to Iowa

Irving Berdine Richman

published by
The State Historical Society of Iowa

The text is in the public domain.

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and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Chapter 7
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

 p85  Spain in Ioway

The Fur Trader
American Independence

 p87  The Fur Trader
Jonathan Carver — Peter Pond — Jean Baptiste Faribault
Thomas G. Anderson — Jean Baptiste Trudeau

By 1664 Radisson had sent east from the haunts of the Sioux and of other tribes beaver skins to the value of perhaps $300,000. By 1680 Du Lhut had followed in good suit. After 1686 what Perrot had been able to send as the result of contact with the Ioways we do not know.

The good start of the French in collecting furs was interrupted by the wars with the Foxes; so, quitting the Mississippi and the St. Peter's, they tried the Missouri and the Big Sioux. In short, having been excluded from Ioway at the front door, the French pressed for admission at the back. As early as 1696 or 1697 the Trading Company Rouen-La Rochelle was dealing with the Prairie Sioux (Mascoutins Nadoessioux, perhaps Ioways) along the lower Missouri,52 and by 1704‑1705 Frenchmen were on the Missouri higher up. Posts were established in the present Missouri and Nebraska, and by 1757 packages of skins of deer, bear, and beaver were being brought in.

Under Montcalm (he who with the ladies had rejoiced at the Ioways) the French in America suffered  p88 overthrow, and in 1762 Ioway passed by cession under the aegis of Spain. St. Louis was founded in 1764 and Ioway lay open to Spain's outstretched hand. But the British were already in Ioway. They had entered the land by the mouth of the St. Peter's and by the Des Moines. Later they were to enter it by the headwaters of these streams — the district of 'Fuzch', it was called.

All at once and for the first time Ioway had become a place of moment. By the Mississippi and Missouri (the Des Moines interlinking) it could exercise a strangle hold upon the fur trade.

Traders from the English district, complained the Spanish, were gaining entrance to the Hayuas (Ioways) and to the Sioux by the Muen (Des Moines) River. The Ioways have been 'corrupted by the British' and in turn have themselves 'corrupted the Otoes'. Still the British came. 'Nothing will stop them', wrote Governor Carondelet in 1794, 'but two forts' — one at the outlet of the St. Peter's and one at that of the Des Moines. Two such forts, he argued, would 'entirely cut off all communication of the English with the savage nations of the west bank of the Mississippi'.

Lured by British trade came British adventurers: Jonathan Carver in 1766; Peter Pond in 1773. Both were natives of Connecticut. Carver sought the wealth  p89 of China; Pond sought gains more immediate. I descended, says Pond, 'into the Masseippey and Cros that River [into Ioway] and Incampt'. Afterwards he went to the St. Peter's River, and there 'Bever, Otter, Dear, fox, Woolf, Raccone' and other peltries fell quite at his feet.

Peter Pond was not without a past. 'I went into trade first', he says, 'at Detroit. . . . It Hapend that a parson [person] who was in trade himself to Abuse me in a Shamefull manner Knowing that if I Resented he Could shake me in Peaces at same time supposing that I Dare not Sea him at the Pints [of pistols] or at Leas I would not But the Abuse was too Grate. We met the Next Morning Eairley & Discharged Pistels in which the Pore fellowe was unfortenat'.

Of the Indians of Iowaland the nation favored by the British were the Sioux. Yanktons ranged along the James and as far down the Des Moines as the present town of Fort Dodge. Tall, lithe, strong, intelligent, as were Sioux in general, the Yanktons, writes Hiram Martin Chittenden, were the least troublesome to the whites.

British traders on the Des Moines between 1777 and 1814 included two men of mark — Jean Baptiste Faribault and Thomas G. Anderson. Faribault in 1799 established a post (Redwood) 'two hundred miles' up  p90 stream;53 and prior to 1796 he, or others, established three or four posts down stream — 'forts' Crawford, Gillespie, and Lewis. Faribault, be it said, lived to be eighty-seven years old. Anderson died at the age of ninety-six. The father of the latter had lived to be ninety-seven; he had fought on the British side at Bunker Hill.

The Sioux gave to Anderson a name, 'We-yo-te-huh' or 'Meridian Sun'; and they gave to him as playmate a little half-breed girl. She was welcome. 'No books', laments Anderson in 1811, 'no news from the outside world, no exchange of ideas with any fellow men, except an occasional visit from some old chief, engrossed with the 'dreams and vagaries of his forefathers'. Still the profits of a good season were worth having. 'I made a splendid return', says our trader relative to one season, 'three hundred and thirty buffalo robes, and ten packs of beaver and other furs and peltries. For the robes I was offered, by the commanding officer of the fort, ten dollars each'.

Monotony for the trader might be broken by excitement — 'the awful bellowing of ten thousand enraged bulls', for example. Sometimes the excitement was more intense. Anderson often wintered near the source of the St. Peter's. One day he refused credit to certain Indians already in his debt. That night Indians filled his lodge, smoking and telling stories. Covertly  p91 they plotted robbery. 'While the Indians were still smoking their pipes', says Anderson, 'and I stretched in a sleeping position, a bustle was heard at the door, and in popped a tall, good-looking Indian, painted, feathered, and armed in full war costume. My time has come, I thought. . . . But I was soon all right, for my war friend was asked by one of my smoking visitors what was up. . . . "I am come," he replied, "to die with the white people; if they must be killed, I must first be put out of the way. . . . Go to your lodges. . . . I am going to guard him". . . . This man', says Anderson, 'who had so opportunely come to my relief . . . was a half-breed'. 'I had never seen this man before. . . . I went to my shop, opened some packages, and gave him a present. . . . I never saw him again'.

In the winter of 1801‑1802 Anderson spent some time on the Des Moines with the Ioways. 'I ascended the Des Moines about fifty miles', he notes. There was in Ioway at the time a trader, a 'Monsieur Julien', and between him and Anderson a gentleman's agreement subsisted by which neither was to forestall the other with Ioway trappers from Missouri. Monsieur Julien meant to violate the agreement, but Anderson found him out. With six or seven men our trader set out from the Des Moines for the Missouri. It was springtime — springtime on the prairie. Even  p92 Anderson, matter-of‑fact Britisher that he was, was impressed. 'The little islands of wood, scattered over the boundless plains, were', he observes, 'swarming with wild turkeys'. At the end of six days he reached his destination. 'The Indians', he says, 'came in, [I] made a splendid seasons trade. . . . Mr. Julien found his trickery more costly than he anticipated'.

It was Anderson's opinion of the Ioways that they were 'vile'. He met the Potawatomi and found them 'mild'; he met the Winnebagoes and found them 'filthy' yet 'brave'. Upon the Foxes and Sauks he makes no comment. His favorites were the Sioux. They were 'cleanly'; they possessed 'the best tribal regulations'; they were fleetest of foot and 'the best bow-and‑arrow men'; and, though 'enormous eaters at feasts', they were most stoical in abstinence. In brief, the Sioux were 'his children'.54

More and more into Ioway came the British. They inundated it — not by their numbers, but by their wares.

In London in 1783 in the great counting house of Robert Hunter sits David McCrae of David McCrae & Co. David McCrae & Co. are dealers in furs at Mackinac. As David sits in Robert Hunter's counting house, word comes that there has just anchored in the Thames the ship Betsey from Montreal with a  p93 cargo of furs — beaver, otter, mink, muskrat, and the like. The 'packs' are discharged; the contents are inspected, 'trimmed, beaten, sorted'. For these furs Indian goods have been advanced by the Company to traders — guns (especially made), powder, shot, blankets, 'strouds', knives, gewgaws.

But David is a Scot, and though first and foremost a trader, is yet a child of vision. Before him rises Montreal, and from Montreal there uncoils westward toward Mackinac the river Ottawa. Up the Ottawa canoes laden with the goods that David McRae & Co. have sent out are being laboriously poled and paddled. Then it is Mackinac itself that David sees. In the dawn he sees it. Indians are there, and traders, waiting for the oncoming canoes to be etched against the sunrise.

Farther than Mackinac, David perhaps does not permit his vision to lead him. The transfer of the guns, blankets, and trinkets to the traders who will carry them toward Ioway — to Prairie du Chien, to the St. Peter's, to the Blue Earth, to the Des Moines; to the Peter Ponds, to the Faribaults, to the Thomas G. Andersons — is David intrigued by this? He may be. It is part of the game, and the game is great. In 1779 Indian goods sent into the Northwest topped £41,300 and in 1783, £226,900.55

 p94  But the Don (the Spaniard) in Ioway, what meantime of him? Not so ill. His two establishments, one on the St. Peter's and the other on the Des Moines, he is never to get; but his hand over Ioway is not altogether impotent. He spreads aloft on the Des Moines the emblem of Charles V — flag of the Cross of Burgundy. The British he offsets by Frenchmen and Irishmen.

[image ALT: A flag with a thin saltire on a plain field, the whole framed by an equally solid border.]

The Cross of Burgundy

Emblem of Charles V displayed as the Spanish colors in Iowaland in 1797

In Kaskaskia dwells the French family Boucher de Montbrun, and at its head in 1781 is Jacques Timothe. In 1728‑1729 a Boucher had spent the winter in Iowa (saison insupportable!). And now there is to come to Ioway another of the family, a relative of Jacques Timothe, namely, the Montbrun Étienne Boucher. Étienne is accredited by Spain to the Foxes and the Sauks — the Sauks more especially. His post is 'the lower Sauk village', the present Montrose. 'Keep Mounsieur Boucher de Mombrun, with a detachment of forty militiamen, on the Misisipi among the Sac tribe forty leagues from that village [St. Louis] . . . in order to observe the movements of the enemy [the British] and to win the affection of the tribes' — so runs the order. Say the British in 1783: 'A Mr. Moumbourne Bouché, a Canadian [is] in the Mississippi with a Gang of Moroders, whomº annoy the Traders very much, by exacting Goods &c. He is Commissioned by the Spaniards'.56

 p95  Irishmen who serve Spain on the Mississippi in 1794‑1796 are Andrew Todd and Charles Howard. Todd awards Julien Dubuque occupancy of the Ioway lead mines; Howard plots the pillage of British trading canoes.

But the fur country cultivated by the Spanish is not so much that of the Mississippi, nor yet of the Des Moines, as of the high Missouri — terrain recently of the French themselves. Here the outstanding Spanish representative is Jean Baptiste Trudeau, a pedagogue forty-five years old. Prior to 1794 Trudeau traded with the Yankton Sioux on the Des Moines where his eye took jealous note of British pack trains treking to the river Platte. On the Des Moines the Yanktons tolerated pedagogue Trudeau, but on the high Missouri the Tetons tolerate him not. Timid, tentative, ratiocinative, he becomes to the latter a jest, a prey. 'I am in continual fear', he cries at the outset. Then: 'All these rascals [the Tetons] following along the river, just like a pack of wolves following a buck as he is about to land, in order to devour him'. And soon after: 'Here I am then in their hands . . . a ferocious people'.57

Of Trudeau, Spain somehow expected great things. His objective in 1794 was nothing less than the Western Sea. Go beyond the 'Rocky Chain' and there find if the Indians 'have any knowledge of the Sea of the  p96 West and if the waters of the rivers on the other side of the Rocky Chain flow westward'. Such was Spain's behest.58

Iowa land titles (certain of them) hark back to Spain. The grant to Dubuque failed, but a grant in Clayton County to Basil Giard (1796‑1800) was confirmed by the United States in 1844; and a grant in Lee County to Louis Tesson Honoré in 1799,a confirmed in part (640 acres) by the United States in 1839, is the oldest land title in Iowa. And the basis of these grants (Dubuque's excepted) was peltries. 'Mr. Louis Honoré', so runs the Lee County grant, 'is permitted to settle at the head of the rapids of the River Des Moines [Montrose] . . . he will write to the Governor General to obtain the concession of a suitable area . . . and at the same time to make him useful in the trade in peltries in that country, to watch the savages and to keep them in the fealty which they owe His Majesty'.59

Until recent years the Montrose grant bore upon its apple trees (the 'Old Orchard') planted, it may be, by Tesson. The grant of Giard forms to‑day part of the town of McGregor — a site which in 1673 Father Marquette extolled as 'a chain of very high mountains'.

 p97  American Independence

'At a certain village in La Mancha, of which I cannot remember the name, there lived not long ago one of those old fashioned gentlemen who are never without a lance upon the rack, an old target, a lean horse, and a greyhound'.

Does the foregoing remind one of Iowa? Presumably not. But such was the favorite reading of a Missouri River fur trader, Manuel Lisa; and Lisa was a Spaniard. He spoke little English, but had as a friend a young American, Henry Marie Brackenridge, companion of him on the Missouri in 1811; and Brackenridge read and spoke Spanish. Of Lisa, Brackenridge writes that he was 'a man of a bold and daring character, with an energy and spirit of enterprise like that of Cortez or Pizarro'. I had the precaution, says Brackenridge, 'to provide myself with some well selected books; among the rest, Don Quixotte in Spanish; and as Lisa who was a Spaniard by birth, and passionately fond of this work, took pleasure in reading, and hearing it read, I availed myself of the opportunity of improving my knowledge of a language, which will one day be important to a citizen of the United States'.

Don Quixote and Manuel Lisa on the Missouri!  p98 Never for an instant prior to 1803 was Iowaland anything by heritage but Spanish — Spanish or French. It was the Spanish connection, indeed, that gave to Iowa a part not negligible in the first war of the United States — that of the American Revolution.

With the winning of America from France by Great Britain (trans-Allegheny America to the Mississippi) there had come word that the British were to segregate the region and make of it a huge park or game preserve for the sake of the furs60 — furs to enrich men like David McCrae of David McCrae & Co. America was roused. What Americans coveted was not primarily furs, but land — land for homes, land for exploitation.61 When, therefore, there dawned for America the day of '76, the day of revolution, the situation in the West was this. At Niagara, at Detroit, at Kaskaskia there were British soldiery to guard the game preserve;62 while on the 'Western Waters' (the Ohio and even the Mississippi) there were American seekers after land.

Among the latter was a young Virginian, George Rogers Clark — tall, dark-eyed, and with red hair. He was a surveyor. A British 'game preserve', Clark early foresaw, would limit American growth; and so the War of Revolution when it broke forth spurred him to act. Detroit was the chief fulcrum of the British  p99 in the West; and toward Detroit, Clark in 1778 began to look and to maneuver.63

Since 1733‑1735 Ioway had been occupied by the Fox Indians. These Indians (including the Sauks), now protégés of Spain, disliked the British, and their tendency was to become almost as pro-American as were the Spanish themselves. The Hayuas (Ioways), wrote in 1777 Don Francisco Cruzat, Spanish Lieutenant Governor at St. Louis, hunt on the 'Muen River . . . but no benefit to [our] trade results therefrom, for the reason that the fur-trade is carried on continually with the traders who are entering that river from the English district'.64 And in like terms he writes of the Sioux. But writing of the Foxes and the Sauks his words are different. These two tribes, he says, are well 'affected to this district, and it has never been experienced, according to our information, that they have caused any harm to it, and we can, at any time, put our trust in them, under any circumstances'.65

What the men of the 'Western Waters' (1777‑1779) required against the British was powder and ball. New Orleans, Spain's American financial center, furnished the powder. The Ioway lead mines, controlled by the Foxes, set flowing a stream of lead. With gaze upon Detroit, George Rogers Clark (man of the Western Waters par excellence) seized Kaskaskia and Vincennes.66 At Vincennes his success was dazzling. He  p100 captured there the British commander of the entire Northwest — Henry Hamilton.

The Indians were eager to see Clark. A meeting took place at Cahokia. Present were Ojibways, Ottawa, Potawatomi, Winnebagoes, Menomonees, Miami, Osages, and Ioways (pro-British to a man), and Foxes and Sauks (not pro-British — yet). Offering peace or war, as the savages might elect, Clark insisted that in any event two young braves (Mascoutins) who had plotted ill to him should be tomahawked. Then, with the offending braves seated before him, he magnanimously granted mercy and peace. Great was the effect.

The British sought to avert triumph on the part of the Americans by enlisting the aid of the Sioux and by an attack on St. Louis in 1780.67 The attack proved a failure, and the counterstroke was Clark's. In pursuit of the British he sent a force under Colonel John Montgomery.68 Montgomery advanced up the Illinois River toward 'Chicagou'. Then leaving his boats he crossed westward to Rock Island and, taking Fox and Sauk hostility for granted, burned the Sauk village, the great center of the nation.

In 1779 Spain declared formal war against Great Britain, and George Rogers Clark found it expedient to cultivate relations with the Spanish Lieutenant Governor  p101 at St. Louis — Don Fernando de Leyba. 'As I was never before in company with any Spanish gentleman', writes Clark, 'I was much surprised in my expectations, for instead of finding that reserve thought peculiar to that nation, I here saw not the least symptoms of it; freedom, almost to excess, gave the greatest pleasure'.

St. Louis, the scene of the personal interchange between Clark and De Leyba (frontiersman and Don), was at this period completely unknown to eastern America. On one occasion the Acting Governor of Virginia wrote to Patrick Henry: 'We are at a loss to know where St. Louis is, as much as you can be [Henry had placed it cautiously as somewhere on the Mississippi], but suppose it to be where you mention'.

Meanwhile the eminent Spaniard, Don Bernardo de Gálvez, moved against the British in triumph upon triumph. It was at this period (1780‑81) that Ioway received at the Sauk town where now stands Montrose its earliest Spanish official, Étienne Boucher de Montbrun. 'I believe it is excellent for Your Grace', wrote the Royal Intendant in Cuba to the Governor at St. Louis, 'to have distinguished the zeal and affection of the Sac tribe who have so generously lent to our district'.69

The Author's Notes:

52 Benjamin Sulte's Découverte du Mississippi en 1659 in the Royal Society of Canada, Proceedings and Transactions, Series 2, Vol. IX, Sec. 1; Agnes C. Laut's Pathfinders of the West, Appendix E, p365.

[decorative delimiter]

53 Pike's pocket map of the Mississippi and Des Moines rivers showing 'Redwood' in Zebulon M. Pike's Expeditions to the Headwaters (p418)of the Mississippi River (Elliott Coues's edition); Van der Zee's Episodes in the Early History of the Des Moines Valley in The Iowa Journal of History and Politics, Vol. XIV, pp311 et seq.

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54 Personal Narrative of Capt. Thomas G. Anderson in the Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. IX, pp137‑206. Anderson's narrative was written when he was ninety-one years old and is in parts somewhat imaginative.

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55 Wayne E. Stevens's The Organization of the British Fur Trade, 1760‑1800 in The Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Vol. III, pp172‑202; Steven's Northwest Fur Trade, p77 and notes.

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56 Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. XVIII, pp419, 422; Vol. XII, p66.

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57 Trudeau's Journal in the South Dakota Historical Collections, Vol. VII, pp403 et seq.; Journal of Jean Baptiste Trudeau on the Upper Missouri, 'Première Partie', June 7, 1794–March 26, 1795 in The American Historical Review, Vol. XIX, pp299‑333; Journal of Jean Baptiste Trudeau among the Arikara Indians in 1795, translated into English in the Missouri Historical Collections, Vol. IV, pp9‑48; Louis Houck's The Spanish Régime in Missouri, Vol. II, pp136, 191.

[decorative delimiter]

58 Annie Heloise Abel's Trudeau's Description of the Upper Missouri in The Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Vol. VIII, p169, note 68.

[decorative delimiter]

59 Jacob Van der Zee's Fur Trade Operations in the Eastern Iowa Country under the Spanish Régime in The Iowa Journal of History and Politics, Vol. XII, p369; Van der Zee's The Oldest Land Titles in the State of Iowa in The Iowa Journal of History and politics, Vol. XIII, pp238 et seq.

[decorative delimiter]

60 Clarence W. Alvord's The Genesis of the Proclamation of 1763 in the Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collections, Vol. XXXVI, pp20‑39; Bulletin of the University of Wisconsin, History and Political Science Series, 1895.

[decorative delimiter]

61 Alvord's Virginia and the West; an Interpretation in The Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Vol. III, pp19‑38; Alvord's The Mississippi Valley in British Politics, Vol. I, p77 et seq.

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(p419) 62 Proclamation of King George, Oct. 7, 1763 in the Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. XI, pp51, 52; Alvord's The Mississippi Valley in British Politics, Vol. I, p183, Vol. II, pp33, 61, 209.

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63 James A. James's The Life of George Rogers Clark, pp169‑172, 252.

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64 Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. XVIII, pp363‑364.

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65 Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. XVIII, p365.

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66 Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. XI, p113; James's The Life of George Rogers Clark, pp119, 136.

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67 Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. XI, pp155‑163; James's The Significance of the Attack upon St. Louis, 1780 in the Proceedings of the Mississippi Valley Historical Association, Vol. II, pp199 et seq.

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68 Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. XVIII, p411, and note.

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69 Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. XVIII, p410, and note, p419.

The forty militiamen at the Sauk village (Montrose) under Montbrun in 1780‑1781 (or their successors) would seem to have still held this point as late as 1796‑1797. In 1797 Louis Honoré Tesson was 'commissioned' to the Sauks and Foxes and wrote complaining that the British traders 'M. Glaspé [Gillespie] and M. Clafford [Crawford]' had shown disrespect to the troops on the Des Moines (here called 'Ayouwas River'?) by pulling down the Spanish flag ('Cross of Burgundy') displayed in the 'Saqui villages'.

'I intend', wrote Howard to Governor Carondelet, 'to send up the galliot Activa mounted with four-pound cannon, four swivel-guns, and six small guns. There should go a corporal and six or eight picked soldiers and also the said Honoré, the latter with a view to persuading the Saquias and the Renards to attack by land, and the galliot by water, some twenty men whom I am informed the said Englishmen [Gillespie and Crawford] have paid to protect their commerce on the Moingona River'. It is of interest to note that Tesson on returning to St. Louis in June, 1797, said that he had left 'Julien Mombruc [Dubuque?] to whom a section of land had but recently (p420)been granted and who lived opposite Prairie du Chien, charged with the mission of watching and sending word to St. Louis of the slightest move made by the English or the Indians.' — MS. in the Spanish Archives in the Bancroft Collection at the University of California.

See also Abraham P. Nasatir's Anglo-Spanish Rivalry in the Iowa Country 1797‑1798 in The Iowa Journal of History and Politics, Vol. XXVIII, pp337 et seq.

Thayer's Note:

a For the details, see the note in the chapter of this book titled Lawyer-Statesmen.

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