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Historic Diaries: Marsh, 1834

Arriving at (and Leaving) Keokuck's

Editor's Note:

On this day, Rev. Marsh finished his horseback ride across the prairie from modern Ottumwa to Wapello, and arrived at Keokuk's village on the Iowa River near the site of the latter place. But almost as soon as he got there, he heard that canoes were headed downriver to the white settlement at Yellow Banks (modern Oquawka, Ill.) and he took the opportunity to join them for a sojourn among white people again.

Here's a map showing these places in relation to one another.

On the way to Yellow Banks he met Black Hawk's band. Marsh will write more about the famous war chief, including notes on hitching a ride in his canoe and on two interviews with him, over the next few days.

Thurs [Aug.] 14th

Sometime before sun-rise we were again on our way. The weather had changed and a fine breeze from the North made it pleasant traveling. We were now in the midst of a vast prairie on our left; we could perceive the timber in the horizon. No living creature was to be seen except here and there a few birds, and nothing to break the deep silence except now and then a bird cheered us with a song.

About noon we arrived at the corn fields of Keokuck's Town and called at an old man's lodge, where I left my company. Some boiled corn and beans were set before me, which was very palatable after having ate but little during the day. There were two or three families and the old man, who appeared to be the head amongst them, soon came and received me very kindly. They were now harvesting their corn, shelling, drying and putting it up in sacks. Whilst the women were thus industriously employed, the men were lounging about apparently entirely indifferent to all that was passing.

After resting a few hours I took another horse, a young Indian accompanying me, and went to Keokuck's town about 2 miles distant. When I arrived, heard of a canoe that was just leaving for the Yellow Banks [on the Mississippi River] and went on board immediately and descended a few miles below the mouth and there met with Black Hawk's band, which had encamped for the night upon the bank of the Mississippi.

A little below the mouth of the river which is about 12 miles from the village, the Indians called at a white man's house, Mr. Jennison's, and unbeknownst to me bought whiskey, although I told the people not to let them have any. The old man, full of zeal to know who I was etc, made many inquiries, and when I told him my object in visiting the Indians he says, "They won't be christianized until they are moralized. Learn them to work and go to work with them and teach them how to farm, that is the way to do them good" etc.

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