Effigy Mounds
Historic Resource Study
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Early American Presence

By the outbreak of the Revolutionary War in 1775, American traders had extended their activities into the Upper Mississippi Valley. The area remained hostile for traders, with the British, Spanish, and Americans aggressively competing to secure command of the fur trade. By the end of the war, America and Spain held control over the Upper Mississippi River.

Permanent settlement on the Prairie du Chien terrace was officially and legally established in the 1780s, when French-Canadians Giard, Ange, and Antaya built their homes. However, it is believed that Europeans resided permanently in the area as early as 1761. [48] In 1800, Spanish authorities granted Basil Giard one of the first Spanish grants to land on the west side of the Mississippi. The grant encompassed 5,760 acres located just south of the monument in modern Clayton County. [49]

When the first European and American settlers filtered into the mound regions, few believed that ancestors of the region's Indians had constructed the features. Throughout the nineteenth century the topic of mound origins proved a subject of considerable research by amateurs and antiquarians. The discipline of archaeology was in its infancy during this period, and few of these early researchers had any formal training as scientists.

While there were only scattered, vague references to mounds in northeastern Iowa prior to 1800, mounds in other areas of the country were documented and described in considerable detail. Reverend T.M. Harris of Massachusetts and Bishop Madison of Virginia, for example, examined mounds in the eastern United States. Harris argued that the mounds were built by a "super race" that disappeared at some distant time in the past, while Madison argued that they had been built by Indian ancestors. This debate over the identity of the mound builders would continue for nearly a century. [50] Early archeological surveys of mound complexes were conducted primarily with the intent of clarifying the debate over the origins of the mounds.

In 1803, when the Louisiana Purchase ceded the land west of the Mississippi River to the United States, the Sauk and Fox tribes claimed possession of the west bank of the Mississippi River south of the Upper Iowa River. They also occupied large villages near the Rock River in Illinois. The Winnebago lived along the east bank of the Mississippi River near Prairie du Chien, while the Dakota controlled the regions to the north.

An 1804 treaty between the United States and the local tribes initiated the process whereby the Indians lost their claims to land in the Upper Mississippi Valley. The treaty forced the tribes to relinquish rights to some 50 million acres; permitting the Indians to occupy the land until it was needed for settlement. The treaty also secured the government the right to establish a military post near the mouth of the Wisconsin River. [51]

In 1805, Lieutenant Zebulon M. Pike explored the headwaters of the Mississippi River, reporting on the Indians and environment of the region and searching for a suitable location for a military post. Pike arrived at Prairie du Chien in September and determined that a high bluff on the west side of the Mississippi offered the best site for a fort. In his journal, Pike wrote that he "made choice of a spot which I thought most eligible, being level on top, having a spring in the rear, and commanding a view of the country around." [52] He planted a flag on the bluff, known today as Pike's Peak, near the site of the modern town of McGregor, Iowa. No fort ever graced Pike's Peak, and Pike did not mention the presence of mounds. He did, however, note that the settlements of Giard, Dubuque, and Tesson represented "the only white people then in Iowa." [53]

In 1812, the northern portion of the Louisiana Territory, including lands that later became Iowa, were organized into the Territory of Missouri. The following year William Clark, governor of the new territory, left St. Louis for Prairie du Chien with the intention of establishing a fort at that location to "strike a blow at British control of the Upper Mississippi...." [54] Clark also wanted to mute hostilities among the Sioux, Winnebago, and other Indians in the area. When Clark headed back to St. Louis, he left behind others to erect a fort. Located on St. Feriole Island, along the east channel of the Mississippi River, Fort Shelby was completed in 1814. That same year, the British captured the post after a three-day siege and renamed it Fort McKay. The British occupied Fort McKay until 1815, when the terms of the Treaty of Ghent required them to abandon their posts in American territory. The British burned Fort McKay to the ground rather than hand it over to the Americans. [55]

Stephen H. Long, of the U.S. Army's Topographical Engineers, explored and described the region in expeditions undertaken in 1817 and 1823. Long was one of the first to document the presence of mounds in the Upper Mississippi River Valley. On his first expedition, Long examined the Upper Mississippi and the Fox-Wisconsin portage, documenting the presence of various mounds. Long, like many adherents of the "vanished race" theory, thought the mounds were old military fortifications. On his second expedition, in 1823, Long sought to find the source of the Minnesota River and study the United States and Canadian boundary west of the Great Lakes. This expedition also passed through the mound region. By this date, Long had seen many earthen mounds along the Ohio and middle Mississippi River Valleys, and had come to support the theory that the mounds were remnant burial structures built by an ancient people of Asian ancestry. [56]

U.S.-Indian Relations

Military forts played a significant role in the settlement of northeastern Iowa. The forts were important, strategic means for controlling the region by fostering American trade and tribal relations, promoting exploration, and aiding early settlement in the region. In later years, forts and military presence helped implement the federal government's policy of removal of American Indians and symbolized American control and authority. [57]

On July 3, 1816, soldiers and workmen, supervised by Colonel William Southerland Hamilton, began construction of a new fort on the site of the former Fort Shelby/Fort McKay. Named Fort Crawford, after the U.S. Secretary of War, it was one of a series of forts along the Mississippi River. Sometime between 1816 and 1826, the Fort Crawford reservation was extended across the river into part of the land now occupied by the monument. Timber and stone for the new fort were secured from Prairie du Chien, approximately two miles away, and shipped to the site by boat. [58]

Fort Crawford was abandoned in 1826 because periodic flooding of the low-lying island upon which it was located had so damaged the post as to render it uninhabitable. Serious flooding occurred in 1822 and 1824, and the repeated inundation of the fort was among the reasons that the garrison was reassigned to Fort Snelling (Minnesota) in 1826. Troops returned to Fort Crawford when the Winnebago uprising broke out the following year. [59]

The federal government sought to reduce hostilities between the region's Indian tribes in order to make the area safer for traders and settlers. In 1825, the federal government called a great council of Indians in an effort to end warfare among the tribes. The government drew a boundary line separating the Sioux on the north from the Sauk and Fox on the south. This effort failed, and in 1827 the Army was forced to reopen Fort Crawford, where troops continued to experience unhealthy conditions as a result of periodic flooding.

In 1827 Major General Gaines, commander of the Western Department of the Army, inspected the fort and found it largely uninhabitable. Gaines concluded that the post should be moved to Pike's Peak, on the west side of the Mississippi River. Upon further consideration, this site was considered too far removed to offer effective protection for Prairie du Chien, and its position some 400 feet above the river represented a serious obstacle for transportation of goods and supplies to the site. As a result, it was decided, that new quarters would be established at Prairie du Chien, and construction of a new stone and timber fort began in 1829. [60]

In 1829 Captain T. F. Smith and soldiers from Fort Crawford built a water-powered sawmill on the Yellow River approximately 3.5 miles upstream from the stream's confluence with the Mississippi and approximately 6 to 8 miles from Prairie du Chien to produce lumber for construction of the new fort. Limestone for the fort, which was finally completed in 1834, came from the vicinity of modern Marquette, Iowa. [61]

In the summer of 1831 Lieutenant Jefferson Davis—later Secretary of War and President of the Confederate States of America—superintended work at the sawmill. Davis' subsequent fame has led the sawmill to be often referred to as the "Jeff Davis sawmill." In 1873 Davis described his assignment in a letter:

"[I] was ordered to Prairie Du Chien and subsequently up the Yellow river [sic], where we had a sawmill to cut lumber [for] Fort Crawford. Pine logs were obtained on the Chippewa and rafted to the mill on Yellow river; oak logs were cut around the mill and lumber of both kinds rafted and boated to the landing at Prairie du Chien." [62]

During this period, the U.S. government committed to constructing a school and farm for the Winnebago, who were being moved out of Wisconsin. The site selected for the Yellow River Mission School was in Iowa on the north side of the Yellow River, approximately six miles upstream from the Mississippi River and ten miles from Fort Crawford. Wood for the school was provided by the "Davis sawmill," which was located three miles south of the school. After the school's establishment in 1834, attempts were made to teach Indians certain techniques of farming, reading, writing, and sewing. [63] The school was discontinued in 1840 and demolished about 1900. [64]

Following completion of the Yellow River Mission School, Lieutenant Colonel Zachary Taylor, commander of Fort Campbell and later president of the United States, order the machinery removed from the sawmill. The mill burned about 1839 and the government subsequently sold the property to Thomas C. Linton. Ellison Orr, a local archaeologist, visited the site twice in 1929, observing log ends near the water's edge. In 1976, R. Clark Mallam investigated the sawmill site as part of his study of the Ferguson Tract. Mallam noted four upright oak pilings and two shoring timbers, but little else. Rogers and Vogel visited the site in 1989, but were unable to locate Orr's log ends and conceded that they may be underwater. While the site is fairly well known, no systematic archeological testing has been conducted to determine if physical remains exist. In 1840, Jesse Danley built a new sawmill on the Yellow River approximately one and a half miles upstream from the Davis sawmill site and one mile south of the school mission, but floods destroyed the mill dam, and this mill was abandoned. [65]

In 1840, the U.S. Army began work on Fort Atkinson, located forty miles west of the Mississippi River in modern Winneshiek County, Iowa. The new post was established in part to protect the Winnebago from their traditional enemies, the Sioux, as well as from American traders, who were prohibited by treaty from entering the area. To facilitate the construction of Fort Atkinson, soldiers built a military road that eventually extended approximately fifty miles, connecting Fort Atkinson with Fort Crawford. The road—which passed through the monument's South Unit—proved a vital communication link between the two forts. It was also one of the first government-authorized roads within what would become the State of Iowa. In the late 1830s the Wisconsin and Iowa Territorial Assemblies authorized military roads extending from Dubuque to the Missouri border, from Keokuk to Iowa City, and from the Des Moines River to Burlington. Military records associated with the road make no mention of any mounds. [66]

In 1849, following the removal of the Winnebago from the region the previous year, Fort Atkinson and Fort Crawford were decommissioned and abandoned. The troops garrisoned at Fort Crawford were reassigned to Fort Snelling and Fort Leavenworth, and the last U.S. soldiers left Fort Crawford on June 9, 1856. However, the military road continued to be used until the early 1860s by the steadily increasing numbers of American settlers moving into the region. [67] A section of the military road runs along the monument's Marching Bear Trail in the South Unit. [68] In 1996 the National Park Service submitted a Determination of Eligibility for the military road to the Iowa State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). On June 7, 1996 the SHPO concurred with the NPS, and determined that the road was individually eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. [69]

Changing Perceptions Regarding the Mounds

Throughout the nineteenth century, while many people continued to refuse to believe that American Indians had built the mounds, a growing number of scholars came to accept this notion. Albert Gallatin, founder of the American Ethnological Society of New York, and Wisconsin naturalist Increase A. Lapham both adopted this unpopular position. Lapham's Antiquities of Wisconsin (1836) is perhaps the earliest published account of effigy mounds. Joining Lapham and Gallatin was Dr. James H. McColloh, who argued in an 1829 paper that American Indian ancestors built the mounds. [70]

Caleb Atwater, an Ohio postmaster, published Description of the Antiquities in the State of Ohio and other Western States in 1820, advancing the idea that the mounds were built by a culture much more advanced than the American Indians. He believed the ancient mound builders had been pushed out of the Ohio Valley and forced to migrate to Mexico a thousand years earlier. In 1829, General William Clark, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, named Atwater as a treaty commissioner dealing with the Winnebago. During his stay in the Prairie du Chien area, Atwater failed to note the presence of mounds along the Upper Mississippi. [71]

The myth of a vanished race dominated popular and scientific discussions of the origins of the mounds throughout the mid-nineteenth century. In his popular Antiquities and Discoveries in the West, published in 1833, Josiah Priest argued that the Ohio and Mississippi River mounds were built by the Lost Tribes of Israel, wandering Egyptians, Greeks, and other groups unassociated with the ancestors of American Indians. William Pidgeon's Traditions of De- Coo-Dah (1858), added to the mythology surrounding the mounds. According to Pidgeon, De-Coo-Dah told him of an ancient race of mound building people who were much more numerous than the present Indians. Though some of Pidgeon's descriptions of the mounds contain a hint of scientific evidence, most of his observations appear to have been invented. [72]

Perhaps the first accurate descriptions and illustrations of effigy mounds were published by Richard C. Taylor in the April 1838 issue of the American Journal of Science and Arts. [73] Taylor, unlike many of his contemporaries, believed that ancestors of American Indians built the mounds. In his paper, he mapped out a group of six effigy mounds that he believed were made in the shape of buffalo. During this period, Professor John Locke and another Taylor—Stephen—continued mapping effigy mounds in the region. [74]

Between 1845 and 1848, E.G. Squier and E.H. Davis used the Taylor and Locke reports to map more than one hundred mounds, enclosures, and artifacts throughout the Midwest, including northeastern Iowa. The American Ethnological Society chose Squier, a newspaper editor, and Davis, a physician, to resolve the question regarding the origins of the mounds. The Smithsonian Institution published Squier and Davis' findings in 1848—the first volume in a series called Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge. Their book, Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley, was the most comprehensive and reliable source of research on mounds published to that date. The report provided detailed maps of existing effigy and non-effigy mounds in the Upper Mississippi Valley and was the first to delineate the extent of the effigies, which "extended from Prairie du Chien on the Mississippi, by way of the Wisconsin and Rock rivers, eastward toward Fond du Lac on Lake Winnebago, and Milwaukee on Lake Michigan." Squier and Davis make only a cursory reference to Iowa's effigy mounds, noting:

In the region bordering the upper lakes, to a certain extent in Michigan, Iowa, and Missouri, but particularly in Wisconsin, we find a succession of remains, entirely singular in their form, and presenting but slight analogy to any other of which we have an account, in any portion of the globe. The larger proportion of these are structures of earth, and bearing the forms of beasts, birds, reptiles, and even of men; they are frequently of gigantic dimensions, constituting huge bassorelievos upon the face of the country. [75]

Between 1858 and 1860, the Bureau of American Ethnology examined prehistoric artifacts from Ohio to Missouri, but failed to describe effigy mounds. The Bureau's 1876-1877 report, however, described Wisconsin mounds, including some effigyshaped "symbolic earthworks." The first known map of an Iowan effigy mound was included in an 1878 article in the American Journal of Science by W.J. McGee. [76]

Alfred J. Hill and Theodore H. Lewis offered the first solid framework for understanding and documenting Iowa's mound culture. In 1880, Lewis, who had developed an interest in the mounds of his home state of Ohio, headed north to explore the mounds of the Upper Mississippi Valley. There he met Hill, an engineer from St. Paul. Concerned by the rapid destruction of mounds along the Mississippi River near St. Paul, Hill joined the Minnesota Historical Society and organized the Committee on Archeology to map the mounds before they were destroyed. When the committee disbanded, he continued to map the mounds in Minnesota and adjacent areas. Appreciating the urgency of this endeavor, Hill recognized that to complete the mapping work he needed someone who could conduct field studies throughout the Midwest he found that person in Lewis.

In 1880, Hill and Lewis formed the Northwestern Archeological Survey for the purpose of surveying mounds in the Upper Mississippi Valley. Field studies began in 1880 and continued until Hill's death in 1895. Lewis spent eleven field seasons in Iowa, principally in the northeast, and was the first to map mounds in the present Effigy Mounds National Monument. He eventually published some 35 articles on various mound complexes, though only three refer to Iowa. Although never completed (Lewis did not compile all of his field data, and the bulk of his research remains unpublished), Hill and Lewis' work in Iowa was the first attempt to seriously survey and study the mounds. Lewis' work was compiled in 40 notebooks and contained plats of 31 Iowa effigy mound complexes, many of which were destroyed soon after being recorded. Lewis reported the Harper's Ferry Great Group, for example, which contained 895 mounds of all varieties. Ellison Orr visited the site in 1930 and found fewer than 20 mounds intact—860 had been completely obliterated. Thus Lewis' record of the Harpers Ferry Great Group in Allamakee County survives as the only documentation of this complex. [77]

southern portion of Sny Magill Mounds
Aerial View of Southern Portion of the Sny Magill Mounds.
Courtesy of National Park Service

During his field seasons, Lewis recorded many mounds within the boundaries of the present monument. In May 1885, he surveyed 95 mounds on the Mississippi floodplain south of McGregor, including bird and bear effigies, as well as linear and conical mounds. These mounds, the Sny Magill group, are now included within the boundaries of the monument. Also in May of 1885, Lewis mapped the Marching Bear Group, consisting of ten bear mounds, three bird effigies, and two linear mounds. In addition, Lewis mapped the Fire Point Mound Group and the mounds on Nezekaw Terrace. Fire Point is located in the monument's North Unit, and the visitor center is located on Nezekaw Terrace. Lewis' map, dated May 7, 1892, shows 63 mounds, including three bears on the Terrace. Today only eight mounds survive from this group. [78]

Near the end of the nineteenth century, several researchers from the University of Iowa and the State Historical Society studied Iowa mounds, without legislative support. In 1881, the federal government began a study of the mounds with a $25,000 Congressional appropriation for a Division of Mound Exploration within the established Bureau of Ethnology—a branch of the Smithsonian Institution. The purpose of this Bureau was to "investigate the language, arts, institutions, and mythologies of extant tribes rather than prehistoric antiquities." Led by Cyrus Thomas, the Division implemented a series of surveys and excavations, dividing eastern North America into eight geographical districts.

northern portion of Sny Magill Mounds
Aerial View of Northern Portion of the Sny Magill Mounds.
Courtesy of National Park Service

The Division aimed to resolve the question of the origin of the mounds and their builders, and Thomas' staff conducted surveys to accurately record data regarding the mound sites, excavations, and artifacts. In Iowa, Thomas' field crews centered their excavation work on sites along the Upper Iowa River. Across the Mississippi, in Wisconsin, Thomas' crews surveyed and mapped 35 conical and other mounds in the Courtois Group (just east of Grenmore Lake), some of which contained burials. Through the study of sites like these, it became clear that people buried in the mounds were the ancestors of American Indians who practiced some of the same burial rituals. In the 1880s, the Division examined earthworks in Allamakee and Clayton counties, and in reports issued in 1891 and 1894, effigy mounds were specifically mentioned:

This small belt is directly opposite that portion of Wisconsin which seems to have been the chief home of the effigy mound builders, where, as well as in this small portion of Iowa, they have left enduring evidences of a dense population or long occupancy, as the bluffs, the terraces, and even higher bottoms of the river subject to occasional overflow are alike dotted over with effigies and the usual accompanying small circular mounds and lines of earthworks. [79]

In 1894, Thomas released his overall findings, "Report on the Mound Explorations of the Bureau of Ethnology" in the Twelfth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology. [80] While Thomas had initially leaned toward vanished race theories, his report "methodically destroyed" the mound builder myth, demonstrating that the ancestors of American Indians were indeed the creators of the mounds. "Mound builders," the report stated, "consisted of a number of tribes of peoples bearing about the same traditions and relations to one another and occupying about the same culture and status as Indian tribes found on the continent at the time of European contact." [81] Thomas' research indicated that the period of mound building was not discrete, but spanned a long period of time and involved multiple prehistoric cultures. Thomas' study, however, perpetuated the other major roadblock to proper archeological investigations—the view that Iowa was simply an extension of Wisconsin's effigy center. The study failed to provide substantive data specifically on Iowa's effigies. [82]

This shortcoming, however, was partially remedied when Dr. Frederick Starr of the Davenport Academy of Natural Sciences published the first comprehensive report of archeological surveys and studies in the state. The "Summary of the Archaeology of Iowa" described the Marching Bear Group as 10 bear effigies, three bird effigies, and two embankments. Starr also included 92 mounds at Sny Magill, described in Lewis' surveys. [83]

Indian Conflict and U.S. Treaties

You ask me, Brother, where the Indians are gone who crossed the Mississippi a few years ago. You know and we know where they are gone. They are gone to the country where the white man can no more interfere with them. Wait, Brother, but a few years longer, and this little remnant will be gone too—gone to the Indian's home beyond the clouds, and then you can have our country without buying it. [84]

Lands Ceded by Indian Tribes.
Zimmerman (2001:47)

Effigy Mounds National Monument is located in territory that was hotly contested by individual Indian tribes and the American government. Initially, the federal government's presence in the region was closely tied to establishing white settlement. Later, resource extraction—particularly lumber—became a primary interest. In an attempt to secure control over the area and ease tensions between tribes in the Upper Mississippi River Valley, the government utilized new political approaches to dealing with American Indians, involving the establishment of reservations or outright removal.

At the time of initial European contact, the Winnebago and Ioway were the most prominent American Indian groups in the Upper Mississippi region. However, by the end of the 1700s, the Ioways were supplanted throughout the eastern portion of their territory by other tribes, and eventually were forced beyond the Missouri River. The Sauk and Fox tribes (historically known as the Sac), originally two separate tribes of the Algonquin family, were united and forced to move to portions of Illinois and the eastern part of Iowa, south of the Upper Iowa River, where they were continually at war with the Sioux. [85] Here they supplanted the Ioway and Illini, soon occupying the entire eastern portion of the state up to the Upper Iowa River. Of the various tribes that occupied the Allamakee County region, the Santee Sioux, or Dakotas, became the dominant tribe. Various branches of this powerful tribe existed over a broad territory. By 1817, the Sioux, Sauk and Fox, and Winnebago tribes occupied the upper portion of Iowa. [86]

The conglomeration of tribes, along with the increasing presence of Euroamericans, produced a long-standing period of conflict within the region. By 1825, friction had become so intense that the U.S. government convened a "Great Council" in an attempt to resolve the tensions, especially those between the Sioux and the united Sauk and Fox. The 1825 treaty negotiated at Prairie du Chien resulted in creation of a boundary line that separated the Sioux, to the north, from the Sauk and Fox, to the south, along the Upper Iowa River to the Mississippi River and west to the Des Moines River. Hostilities continued unabated, culminating in the Winnebago uprising of 1827, led by the Prophet White Cloud and War Chief Red Bird, which resulted in the deaths of three Euroamericans near Prairie du Chien. Because of such hostilities, the United States government called for a second council at Fort Crawford in 1830. [87]

The second council created a neutral ground in northern Iowa from the Mississippi River to the upper valley of the Des Moines River between the Sioux and the Sauk and Fox tribes that extended for twenty miles on each side of the 1825 boundary line. The Sioux, Sauk, and Fox were all permitted to hunt freely within this forty-mile wide strip, which included portions of what is now Allamakee County, known as the Neutral Ground. However, the Neutral Ground proved to be no more effective at securing peace in the region than earlier efforts. [88]

Starting in 1829, the Winnebago were forced to cede much of their territory, beginning with the lead-mining region south of the Wisconsin River. In 1832, the Winnebago lands east of Rock River were ceded, and, in 1837, all the land north of the Wisconsin River was sold to the United States. [89]

In 1832, Sauk and Fox Indians under the leadership of Black Hawk left the Iowa territory and returned to their homes across the Mississippi River in northern Illinois. These Indians had lost their Illinois lands in a disputed treaty signed in St. Louis in 1805. Their return to northern Illinois sparked widespread panic among white settlers, and Illinois Governor Reynolds quickly called up the militia, which included a young Abraham Lincoln. [90]

Both the militia and regular army troops proved unable to locate the elusive Indians at first, but by July they had begun to pursue Black Hawk's band across northern Illinois and southwestern Wisconsin, engaging them in a major conflict at Wisconsin Heights before finally routing the Indians at Bad Axe on the Mississippi River.

Black Hawk surrendered at Fort Crawford a month later. In the same year, the U.S. government forced the Sauk and Fox to cede land south of the Neutral Ground along the Mississippi River, which included the lands of the present Effigy Mounds National Monument. [91]

At the close of the Black Hawk War, a treaty forced the Winnebago to surrender their lands in Wisconsin and move into the eastern portion of the Neutral Ground. The government hoped their relocation would act as a buffer zone between the feuding Sioux and Sauk and Fox. Each tribe was to remain twenty miles to the north or south of the line drawn along the river. Meanwhile, the government purchased the fiftymile wide area extending from the Missouri state border to the Neutral Ground, forcing the Sauk and Fox tribes to move further westward. This "Black Hawk Purchase" became the core of the state of Iowa. [92]

Hoping to ease tribal hostilities, the government established the 800,000-acre Long Prairie Winnebago reserve along the Crow Wing River in Minnesota. This proved unsuccessful, as poor soil and a short growing season hampered the Winnebago's efforts to farm. Ultimately another treaty forced the Winnebago Indians to cede most of their lands east of the Mississippi River and relinquish their right to occupy, except for hunting, the eastern twenty miles of the Neutral Ground. [93] Within eight months, the Winnebago were removed farther west. In 1842 the Sauk and Fox ceded the remainder of their lands in Iowa and moved to Kansas. [94] In 1847 the Winnebago ceded all rights to the Neutral Ground. In this treaty, the United States agreed to give the Winnebago $190,000, of which $85,000 was retained in trust. In June 1848, the Winnebago were removed to the upper Mississippi, north of the Minnesota River. [95]

Euroamerican Settlement in Northeast Iowa

Except for the land granted to Giard and Fort Crawford, the area that became Iowa belonged entirely to various Indian tribes until 1832, and was not surveyed until 1848. As early as 1836, however, the future states of Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota were separated from Michigan and organized as the Wisconsin Territory. In 1838 all of Iowa and parts of Minnesota and the Dakotas, an area roughly twice the size of the present state of Iowa, were organized into the Territory of Iowa. [96]

Just as it shaped the lives and cultures of Indian residents, the natural environment profoundly influenced Euroamerican settlement patterns in the region. Early settlers bypassed the rugged topography and poor soils of northeastern Iowa for more immediately suitable prairie lands further to the west. Before 1850, farming in the area was virtually nonexistent. By the end of the nineteenth century, however, farms, fields, and homesteads dotted the landscape. In terms of the size and location of their farms and the types of crops they produced, settlers in northeastern Iowa followed patterns typical of the rest of the state. Nineteenth century farms were generally forty to one hundred acres in size. Early settlers tended to select sites on the edge of forests, which offered some protection from the natural elements, as well as providing wood for building materials and fuel. [97] Most of the first wave of settlers came from the eastern United States, although foreign-born settlement—in particular Germans and Norwegians—dramatically increased following the Civil War.

In December 1846, Iowa was admitted as the 29th state of the United States, and in 1849 the state legislature established the county of Allamakee. By the end of 1849, however, there were only three dwelling houses in the valley of the Yellow River: the Old Mission, then known as the Linton House; John S. Clark's house in Section 14, in Franklin Township; and Reuben Smith's house in Section 11, in Post Township. Nevertheless, northeastern Iowa's many rivers, diverse prairies and woods, and abundant wildlife slowly attracted settlers, and by the mid- 1850s, when Nathan H. Parker passed through Allamakee County, he described the landscape as "...checkered with prairies and groves; and on every side the smoke from the humble dwelling of the settler, marking the spots where the wanderers from almost every state, and every country in Europe, are making new homes...." [98]

Local interest in the mounds surfaced around this time, but continued to rest heavily on the vanished race theory. Reverend Alfred Brunson from Wisconsin surveyed and excavated Wisconsin and Iowa effigy mounds on the bluffs along the Mississippi River in the early 1850s. During this same period, the American Antiquarian Society hired Increase A. Lapham to survey mounds in Wisconsin and report on mounds that were being destroyed. [99]

Farmers in the region concentrated their tilling along the tops of bluffs and river terraces, plowing under many of the low relief mound groups. The main crops included corn and potatoes, with wheat produced as a cash crop. By 1851, a gristmill operated along the Yellow River. [100]

Within a few years of initial settlement, a variety of water-powered mills were constructed to meet the needs local residents. The Yellow River offered considerable waterpower to millwrights, with portions of the river west of the monument boundaries falling as much as 27 feet per mile. Indeed, by 1859 seven mills were operating in Franklin Township, in Allamakee County, west of the monument. The Davis sawmill, described above, appears to have been the only mill located within the present boundaries of the National Monument. By 1878, Allamakee County boasted approximately twenty-five to thirty mills. However, in the last quarter of the nineteenth century local wheat farmers found themselves unable to compete with farmers in other regions of the country and local millers likewise could not compete with cheaper flour produced by efficient centralized mills and brought to the region by railroad. The number of grist mills declined sharply, as did the number of sawmills, which shut down as the region was logged over. By the end of the century only two mills still operated along the Yellow River. [101]


Steamboats were a vital component of the emerging economy of northeastern Iowa. Communities prospered because of this new, efficient method of transportation. West bank stops for steamboats were established in the area as early as 1837, at the village of Johnsons Port. York's Landing, located one mile north of the confluence of the Yellow River and the Mississippi, served as a steamboat landing for a number of years and by the 1890s had become an important fishing and clamming center. Mussels from the Mississippi were collected for the pearl button industry, which thrived along the river during this period. Observers reported that the clammers from York's Landing threw all shells back, with the exception of the highly sought after ebony shell. According to Dennis Lenzendorf, clam boats were supposedly so numerous during this period that a person could cross the river by stepping from one boat to another. Another important steamboat site in the region was Red House Landing, located about three miles north of Marquette, Iowa and about one-half mile north of the confluence of the Yellow and Mississippi rivers. [102] This small settlement was a clamming town before the turn of the century. In 1853, a ferry license was issued to W.C. Thompson at Red House Landing. To supply firewood for the steamboats at York's Landing and Red House Landing, settlers cut down trees on the ridgetops overlooking the river. [103] The wood was sent down chutes to the riverbank below. [104]

The emergence of a regional rail system reduced settlers' reliance on the river and signaled the end of the steamboat era. The Milwaukee Road Railroad arrived in Prairie du Chien on April 15, 1857. Shortly thereafter, the Prairie du Chien & Mankato Railroad Company was organized to extend rail service on the Iowa side of the Mississippi, with depots at Johnsons Port and Allamakee between the mouths of the Yellow River and Paint Creek. In 1872, the Chicago, Dubuque & Minnesota Railway opened the section of main line track between McGregor and Harpers Ferry that eventually connected to St. Paul, Minnesota. Construction and improvement of the main line, which lies along the river at the eastern edge of Effigy Mounds National Monument, required fill excavated from borrow pits along the right-of-way. These pits destroyed mounds located on the Nazekaw Terrace, where a large Woodland village site once existed. [105]

In December 1856, in anticipation of a rumored railroad, speculators platted the town of Nazekaw (also spelled Nezekaw) at the south side of the mouth of the Yellow River. On the north side of the Yellow River, the town of Lockwood was platted in 1857. The railroad failed to materialize, and historical records are mixed as to whether the town of Nezekaw ever existed. Multiple sources claim that between 1858- 1862, a post office, stockyard, and a steam gristmill were built at the site. Others, however, argue that this "mythical" town existed only on paper. [106]

Jerome E. Petsche, "The Steamboat Bertrand: History, Excavation, and Architecture." Publications in Archeology 11, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, 1974.
Courtesy of National Park Service

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Last Updated: 08-Oct-2003