Iowa News from across the Country
- 1819 -

St. Louis, Missouri
January 19, 1820

An extract from a gentleman attached to the Yelllowstone Expedition to his friend in this place, dated Fort Missouri, Council Bluffs, Nov. 16:
"Dear _____: I am at last favored with an opportunity of giving you a shorrt description of the vast tract of wilderness country by which I am surrounded. "This Fort is situated 800 miles above the mouth of the Missouri, and one mile above the place called THE COUNCIL BLUFFS--the place where Lewis and Clark
held a general council with all the Indians in this quarter of the world. It is a bluff about 100 feet higher than the surface of the water and perpendicular on the side adjoining the river, which flows at its base. But it gradually descends to the distance of 3/4 of a mile on all other sides.

"The country is a prairie for the distance of several hundred miles back, but timbered above and below, which renders it the most beautiful spot I have ever seen for a Fort. The scarcity of wood only prevents it from being the first place in the western country. The Fort that is now built is only temporary, but
next year there will be one built of brick on top of the bluff.

"This country is entirely prairie except a small grove on the bank of the river. But after you get two or three miles back, it is all prairie until you arrive near some water course. I have traveled for some 20 or 30 miles without finding a bush of wood or drop of water.

"I have visited several nations of Indians in this neighborhood and remained with them for some time. I will mention some of their most singular manners from which you can draw some idea of their character. When I arrived at the Maha village, it was about 3 o'clock in the evening. I was carried to the chief's lodge where they soon prepared something to eat which I was very glad to see for I had not eat for two days. But when it was set before me, it proved to be the flesh of a dog, at the first sight of which I was disgusted, but seeing the
interpreter eat of it, I was induced to taste it, and found it so palatable that I eat a hearty supper. During this evening I eat 17 times, and the next day 23, for every chief gives you a feast, and nothing will be considered so great an affront as to refuse.

"We have arrived at a very cold climate. It is the 42nd degree of north latitude and the immense body of open land makes it three degrees colder. I expect to ascend the Missouri next year several hundred miles higher, but I do not think the troops will ever reach the Yellowstone. All the Indians have become quite submissive and friendly."

[transcribed by W.F., July 2006]


Franklin, Missouri Territory
November 4, 1820

The establishment at The Council Bluffs have this year made great improvements in their barracks; have raised about 13,000 bushel of corn, 10,000 bushels of potatoes and turnips, and their gardens furnish them the comforts of the husbandsman.

Under the superintendence of Gen. Atkinson, a road has been completed from The Council Bluffs to Chariton, a distance of 257.75 miles, the course south 58.5 degrees with very little variation from a straight line. Lt. Gabriel Fields was chosen to mark this road last fall. He was again selected to complete it. On the 2nd of September, he left The Council Bluffs with 30 men and a wagon drawn by six horses and carrying from 4 to 5000 pounds, and in 47 days the whole company reached Chariton in good health.

It is worthy of remark that all the streams, about 60 in number, were bridged except the Platte, the Nodaway, the Nishnabotana and the Grand River, and that the enterprise and industry of Lt. Fields in this short time has completed this road equal if not superior to any of the same length in the Union.

Lt. Fields represents the country as rich and beautifully diversified with timber and prairie, well supplied with springs of running water, and in a few years more, will be beautified with farms and cottages of American citizens. And those plains which now give their wild luxuriance to the deer, elk, and the buffalo, will yield a still richer harvest to the industrious farmer.

Lt. Fields takes with him about 70, making the whole number about 120 milch cows, and 700 stock hogs. These in a short time Gen. Atkinson will be able to subsist his command, and should a philosopher visit The Council Bluffs, he will find an army of husbandman, who, should they ever be brought to act against the slaves of a despot or a king, will prove that the arts of peace do not weaken the strong arm of the American soldier.

[transcribed by W.F., July 2006]

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