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Who Was Wapello? Part 2 January 12, 2010

Posted by Wapello Warbler in History, People.
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by Connie Street

We ended the first post about Chief Wapello in Boston in 1837. There he spoke of his tribal nation’s desire to live in harmony with white settlers.

Chief Wapello knew Gen. Joseph Street as an Indian agent at Prairie du Chien, Wis., and Rock Island, Ill. Through the years, they became very good friends. (Note – Street is no relation to the writer.)

In the fall of 1837, Street, accompanied by Maj. John Beach (who later became Street’s son-in-law), conducted a party of about 30 Indian chiefs to Washington, D.C. to see President Andrew Jackson.

Wapello, his wife and little son, and perhaps one or two more women were part of the entourage.

Beach, wrote prolifically about the Indians. He was present during the week when they visited Boston.

He wrote that they were “a novelty in the city, and were received and entertained with great attention and kindness.”

The party was received with all due ceremony, in old Faneuil Hall by the Mayor and city government, and on the succeeding day, Gov. Edward Everett, received them in the State House on behalf of the State. The military escorted the Indians about in carriages through throngs of people who filled the streets to see them.

According to Beach, a struggle ensued between Boston’s two theaters, both wanting to obtain the presence of the Indians in order to draw big crowds. It was finally decided that the Indians would enjoy a play that was based on action instead of tragedy, and all 30 Indians attended.

This is what happened according to the History of Wapello County: “the Indians gazed with eager and breathless anxiety” and when one actor “finally pierced through the breast with his adversary’s sword, fell dying, and as the other drew his bloody weapon from the body heaving in the convulsions of its expiring throes, the whole Indian company burst out with their fiercest war whoop.

“It was a frightful yell to strike suddenly on unaccustomed ears. And was instantly succeeded by screams of terror from among the more nervous of the women and children. For an instant, the audience seemed at a loss, but soon uttered a hearty round of applause – a just tribute to both actor and Indians.”

At the time when they went east, the Sac and Fox tribes still retained a large and valuable portion of the territory of Iowa. The last treaty in which the Sac and Fox tribes ceded their land in Iowa was negotiated and concluded on Oct. 21, 1837.

Street helped negotiate this final treaty. The principal sum of $200,000 for the land became a permanent fund to be held in trust by the United States. The interest only, at the rate of 5 percent, or $10,000, was to be paid annually to the Indians.

Click Here for Part 3

Connie Street is a retired journalist who contributes regularly to the Wapello Republican. She also staffs our local historical museum.

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1. Joyce Street - January 14, 2010

Interesting article. It would have been fun to be “a mouse in the corner” in that theatre when the war cry let loose!

2. DiAnna Petty - January 14, 2010

It would be great to have a pow wow at the location of the tribal council meeting (40th St and F Ave). Is there some way the historical society could inquire about the possibility? I live at that intersection. I don’t own the land, but I know who does. It would be a great attraction for Louisa County to have a pow wow. And the tribe would probably love having it at the exact location of that long ago meeting.

3. Joan Cross - January 17, 2010


Your article is very interesting. I had never heard of the trip to Washington and Boston. I would like to read your first installment if you would send it to me. Thanks for taking the time to record all this for us.

Joan Weaver Cross

Wapello Warbler - January 17, 2010

Joan, you’ll find the link to part one at the top and the bottom of this post. Since the bottom is closer, scroll up and click on “Who was Chief Wapello.” It will take you to the first post. Connie also wrote “Local Tribes Had Their Own Look.” It’s about the headdress and clothing styles preferred by the Meskwaki in Wapello’s day.

4. tim coker - January 14, 2011


Where did all the local Indians go? How many were there?

Wapello Warbler - January 14, 2011


I’m sorry to tell you that Connie died a few months ago.

While I can’t give you an estimate of how many of Wapello’s people were living in this area when it was a reservation, I can tell you that the nation moved first to the Ottumwa area and then farther west. Some later returned to Iowa and live on the reservation near Tama.

You’ll find a bit more in Connie’s “Who Was Wapello, Part 3” (link above).

5. Mat - May 16, 2011

I think Wapello’s group of people numbered near 150-350. The intersection of 40th Street and F Ave. is also the location of an old hotel/ferry landing across the Iowa. The building still stands today, its the red wooden structure that is fenced off if I remember correctly. Wapello’s group often camped near between that the river and the gentle hill across the road. If you look at old maps, some have “Indian Villaged” labled in that area.

Wapello Warbler - May 17, 2011

Thanks for the additional info, Mat.

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