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Historic Diaries: Marsh, 1834

A Week on the Road

Editor's Note:

Marsh and Williamson went further down the Mississippi to the mouth of the Des Moines, which is the boundary between modern Missouri and Iowa (map). They then traveled by horseback in the rain to Appenoose's village, midway between modern Des Moines and the Mississippi, on the site of today's city of Ottumwa, Iowa (map).


Williamson’s departure: Williamson, like Marsh, had been asked that spring to see if western tribes would appreciate having a missionary. He ascended the Mississippi to modern St. Paul (then the highest white settlement), and visited Prairie du Chien and Rock Island to collected information about the Sioux. He headed back to Ripley on July 2nd 1834, was ordained a minister in September, and later became a missionary in what is now Minnesota, where he died in 1879.


Phelps: we will meet this trader next week, when Marsh writes detailed accounts of his reactions to the rough and tumble frontier life at a trading post. His post was probably in the vicinity of modern Montrose or Keokuk, Iowa (map).


[July 5, 1834: Here begins the only significant gap in the diary. The report Marsh submitted to the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions the next year contains a summary of this week:]

My connexion with Dr. Williamson was short. After we met upon the Mississippi we concluded to descend the river about 60 miles, to the mouth of the Des Moines, and go up and visit Appenoose's village, 125 miles from the mouth of it.


We did so and procuring a guide and horses went up by land, hoping to find Appenoose at his village, as it was thought he might be there. This occupied some days and the tour, on account of the warm weather and some rain also, was quite severe. On my return I was attacked with the dysentery just after Dr. W. had left to return to his friends in Ohio.


I should have remained at the village when there until he [Appanoose] returned, but there was no interpreter and it was doubtful whether the one who had been there but was then absent would return. In addition we had a scanty supply of provision for our journey back and none could be obtained of any kind at the village.


I therefore concluded to return to the trader's house who had at this time a small establishment at the village and a clerk there, about one hundred miles down the river, and there remain until he [Appenoose] should return, as I had heard that he was somewhat disposed or desirous to have his people instructed…


At the trader's house (a Mr. William Phelps) I was sick one week. It was here also that Dr W and myself agreed to separate as he wished to return to his friends and thought that it would not be of much use for him to remain. In this opinion we were unanimous and parted bidding each other god speed.” [Wisconsin Historical Collections 15: 153-154]



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