Saturday, January 05, 2013

Winters of the deep snow

I've posted the last of Thomas M. Dunshee's brief biographies of English Township pioneers this morning, but Blogger is balking again and won't allow photos --- so the tombstones will have to be added later.

There are a couple of other articles in the book, which I'll post in a day or two, the most interesting of which is the text of a letter from Allen Jacobs, son-in-law of John Ballard, Lucas County's first settler. Jacobs was living at Athol, Kansas, when he wrote the letter during September of 1904.

Ballard pre-empted land in Section 12 of what now is called English Township during the spring of 1846, built a shanty and broke 10 acres of prairie sod, then brought his family to the newly-opened county in September of that year. This was about a half mile east of English Creek, from which English Township takes its name.

There are several references to bands of Native Americans in material related to the county's earliest settlers. These would have been hunting parties of Prairie Band Potawatomi, who had been forced out of southwest Iowa and into Kansas during 1846, but returned to hunt across the south of Iowa until EuroAmerican settlement became dense.

Talking it appears about the winter of 1848-49, Jacobs wrote, "There were no Indians there (at the site of the Ballard claim), but there were about 75 in camp at the mouth of East English, where their camp had been the year before. They were there on a hunt in the fall of 1848 and got snowed under so they could not get away until the next spring. That was the winter of the deep snow."

This is the only reference to a specific Potawatomi camp site in Lucas County that I've seen, but it is a little enigmatic --- where exactly is the "mouth" of East English? I'm guessing at the moment that the reference is to a place in Section 11 of English Township where the main branch of English Creek (called East English sometimes) is joined by a smaller tributary flowing in from the southwest. Of course I could be wrong. I'll check this out a little further.

It also was interesting to see the winter of 1848-49 referred to as the "winter of deep snow." There are lots of references in Iowa's local histories to "the winter of deep snow," referring to a variety of places in a variety of years. We haven't been able to apply that designation anywhere lately. We need moisture. It would be kind of nice .... Just not on my driveway, please.

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