Gateway to the Classics: Chief Black Hawk by Frank Lee beals
Chief Black Hawk by  Frank Lee beals


Davenport, American Trader

R OCK ISLAND in the Mississippi River was the garden and orchard of the Sauks. Almost a thousand acres of wild strawberries, raspberries, cherries, crab apples, and wild plums grew on this fertile island. But more important, the Sauks believed that the island was the home of their Good Spirit. According to their belief the Good Spirit lived in a cave under a rocky cliff. The Indians never went near the Good Spirit's cave because this was a holy place. When they were on the island they were very quiet. They did not want to frighten the Good Spirit. They believed that if the Good Spirit left the island, the Evil Spirit would take its place.

In 1816 the United States built a fort on Rock Island. The fort was on the rocky cliff over the cave of the Good Spirit. A half mile from the fort a trading post was being built. Near the post several log cabins had been completed. The largest cabin was for the American trader and the other cabins were for his helpers.

"The white soldiers should not be allowed to stay," said a Sauk brave. "We must drive them away. Their big guns will make our Good Spirit desert us."

"We cannot drive them away," answered Black Hawk. "But we will talk to the white war chief."

Twenty braves went with Black Hawk. The commander of the fort met them. "I am the white war chief of Fort Armstrong," he said. "You may come to my fort any time you wish."

"What are the other cabins for?" asked Black Hawk.

"The largest building is a trading post. One of my soldiers is to be the American trader," explained the officer. "The trader will live in a log cabin nearby. The smaller cabins are for his helpers."

Black Hawk said, "My braves remember the last American trader. He was neither fair nor honest with my people. They wonder, and so do I, if this new trader will be like him."

"I will let the trader answer for himself," replied the officer. "Here he comes!"

A man well over six feet tall and powerfully built walked toward them. He was dressed in the uniform of a colonel of the United States Army. He walked in long, easy strides. "Black Hawk!" he called as he neared the group. "The soldiers told me that you and your braves were here." He held out his hand.

Black Hawk hesitated. He looked into the clear, smiling eyes of the trader. Black Hawk said to himself, "He is different. He will be our friend." He clasped the trader's hand.

"I am Colonel George Davenport, your new trader. My trading post is not yet ready to open. But I could not let you and your braves come to the island without meeting you. We are going to be friends."

The braves looked at one another. "I can't believe it," said one of the braves. "But the white trader seems to speak the truth."

"Black Hawk," continued the trader, "as soon as my post is open I shall have gifts for the Sauks. Your people will be given credit for their supplies."

"You are our friend," was all that Black Hawk could say.

In a few weeks word was sent to the Indian villages that the trading post was open. At first the Indians cautiously bargained for goods. They did not believe that Colonel Davenport would give them credit. "In time they will trust me," said Davenport to himself. "It may take months but I will win their confidence."

Davenport won the complete trust and respect of all the Indians, not in month's, but in a very short time. Whenever the Indians came to the trading post he greeted them kindly and helped them.

"I am bringing my wife and young son here to live," he told the Indians.

"Our white friend is a fine brave, but I do not understand him," said Red Eagle. "How will he take care of his squaw and son this winter? It is too late for him to plant a garden. How will he get food for them?"

"We will get it for him," answered Black Hawk. "He is our friend. We must help him."

Late in September Mrs. Davenport and George, their young son, arrived. The Sauks were ready for their new friends.

The next morning at ten o'clock a brave came to Davenport's cabin. He carried a sack over his shoulder. He did not knock on the door, but walked into the middle of the big room. Mrs. Davenport, who was unpacking a large box of silver and china, held her breath. Holding a piece of china firmly in her hands she crossed the room to where the brave stood. "I am Mrs. Davenport," she said, "I am your friend, too." The Indian nodded but did not answer. He placed the sack on the floor at her feet and walked out of the cabin.

The sack was full of beans, squashes, corn, and crab apples. Every morning promptly at ten o'clock the same Indian brave came to the Davenport cabin. He never knocked at the door. He never spoke to Mrs. Davenport. But always he brought a sack of vegetables and fruits.

When the braves went hunting they brought the choicest cuts of meat to the Davenports. Many strings of fresh fish were left without a word. Bowls of maple sugar and popcorn to be popped were sent by the squaws. In a few short months the Sauks had forgotten the white trader who had not trusted them.

The Davenports gave friendship and understanding to a people who distrusted the white man.

A few weeks after the Davenports were settled in their new home the chiefs of the Sauk nation and the chiefs of the Iowa Indians met in secret council. The meeting lasted far into the night. Outside the council house sentinels stood guard.

In the village square the braves waited to hear the news.

"The council is over!" shouted a brave.

Keokuk, walking in front of the chiefs, entered the square. The braves waited quietly as the chiefs made their way to the place of honor. The Sauk chiefs formed a line on one side of Keokuk. Black Hawk, one of the lesser chiefs now, was fourth in line. The chiefs of the Iowa tribes and their war chief stood opposite the Sauk chiefs.

Keokuk raised his hand and called, "Braves of the Sauk nation, we, your chiefs, have been in secret council all day. For many years our people and the Iowa Indians have not been friendly. Tonight we made a treaty of friendship."

The Sauk braves cheered. Keokuk waited for a few minutes. "From now on the Sauk and the Iowa nations are to be friends. If the treaty is broken by any brave," he shouted, "that brave must die! If a Sauk brave breaks the treaty we have agreed to take him to the Iowa village. The Iowa chiefs have agreed that if one of their braves breaks the treaty they will bring him to us."

"If one of our braves kills an Iowa brave in self-defense does that break the treaty?" asked one of the Sauk braves.

"If, for any reason, the treaty is broken the brave who breaks it must die," answered Keokuk. "Now go to your lodges."

The next night the braves held a dance to celebrate the signing of the treaty.

Black Hawk and Red Eagle attended the dance, but before the celebration was over they left the square. They walked down a quiet street of Saukenuk.

On the way they passed many lodges where the squaws were busy packing for the annual trip to the winter hunting grounds. Squaw torches made of thin rolls of birchbark blazed brightly nearby. Now and then the cry of a papoose and the mother's gentle voice as she sang an Indian lullaby were heard.

"Has your white son Osaukee ever tried to escape?" asked Red Eagle as they walked along.

"No, he has not," answered Black Hawk. "He has lived with us for three years and he is happy. At first I ordered Loud Thunder to watch him constantly. Now they are very good friends. Osaukee, Loud Thunder, and Nasomsee left yesterday on a hunting trip."

"Look! Black Hawk! Blood!" called Red Eagle.

A piece of white doeskin stained with blood lay on the ground. A torch nearby sputtered and then the flame burned brightly. Black Hawk leaned over and picked up the piece of doeskin. His keen eyes searched for footprints.

"This way!" he said as he straightened up.

"The steps are close together and sometimes they drag along the ground," said Black Hawk. "The brave who made these footprints has been badly wounded. The trail shows that it is all that he can do to carry himself along. There are two other pairs of footprints."

Suddenly Black Hawk stopped. The trail had led him to his own lodge. He dashed inside. There, lying on a mat, was Nasomsee. Kneeling beside him was Singing Bird. When Black Hawk entered she arose. She held a bloody jacket in her hands.


In three long steps Black Hawk was beside his son. Carefully and gently he dressed the wound in Nasomsee's chest.

Red Eagle, Loud Thunder, and Singing Bird watched him. The children stayed on the far side of the lodge.

After the wound was dressed Black Hawk asked quietly, "Who shot you, Nasomsee?"

"An Iowa brave."

Black Hawk stiffened. His voice was low but calm as he asked, "How did it happen, my son?"

"Osaukee told us today that he was going tc go back to his people. I ran after him. I saw are Iowa brave aim his gun at Osaukee." Nasomsee's voice was weak. Black Hawk leaned forward so that he could hear more clearly. "I called to the brave not to shoot our white brother. The Iowlbrave turned and fired at me."

"What happened to the Iowa brave, Nasomsee?"

"The brave shot me. As I fell, I fired at him I killed the Iowa brave."

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