DAVENPORT PAST AND PRESENT
JAMES MACKINTOSH, ESQ.
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The subject of this memoir is a native of Dundee, Scotland. His name ("Son of the First,") denotes his origin from one of the oldest, and one of the most powerful Highland Clans, whose blood has been shed for Scotland in every battle field, from the invasion of the Romans to the battle of Culloden. Almost destroyed in their efforts for the restoration of the Stuarts, in 1715, they composed a large portion of the invading army in England, and were the last to abandon the cause - fighting the last battle.
In 1745, the Slogan again sounded, and one thousand warriors raised their banner for Stuart; they conquered in every field, until a difference of opinion amongst the leaders led to a retreat from England, and the defeat of Culloden followed, but had all fought with the devoted bravery of Clan Chatten, and had their allies proved true, Cumberland could not have laid waste their country for fifty miles around, sparing neither age nor sex.
John Mackintosh, the Grandfather of Mr. Mackintosh, being in possession of a portion of the family estates, of course was in arms, and was severely wounded Culloden. He escaped that night from a field where no quarter was given, from the horrors that followed - the burning of cottages, and slaughter helpless women and children. All was lost but honor, his estates being attainted as a follower of Stuart, the balance of his days were spent in obscurity and poverty.
The subject of this memoir remembers him well, and has often heard him describe the war of "45," and the charge of the Mackintosh divisions at Culloden, when Cumberland's ranks went down before them, from the centre of the line of battle, where they fought. They were victors - but not being supported by their left wing, defeat was the consequence. Five hundred of these warriors fell, as described by Campbell, Lochiel's Warning:
In the language of Ex-Governor Mackintosh, of Georgia, the legal feudal head of the race - "we are week and broken now, we are not what we once have been." The old veteran bore the mark of a sabre cut on his face, received in boarding an English vessel in the war of 1812, when a Lieutenant in the American Navy. The tear was in his eye as he spoke; before his vision passed the heroic deeds of his Ancestors, the war of 1715, when his great grandfather commanded, his death in exile, his grandfather, with the remains of his men, emigrating to Georgia, his brave defence of the Georgian frontiers against Spain, the breaking out of the Revolution, when his father, (General Laughlin Mackintosh,) and uncle, equipped a body of troops, and took the field for the Colonies; and well did they pay their oppressors for the wrongs they had done them. He thought of his brother, who fell leading the charge at Molina de la Rey, of the mountains and valleys of the Highlands. He heard the Slogan of Clan Chattan, when thousands of warriors would answer the call, and well might the old veteran exclaim, "we are not what we once have been," but the glory and fame of the Sons of the First will live forever.
When about eight years of age, the subject of this memoir lost his grandfather, the soldier of Culloden, and soon after, his mother, which, in some measure, broke up the family. It was then decided to emigrate to America, and his father, a carpenter, by unremitting industry for a number of years, accumulated enough for that purpose. His son James doing his part during this period, laboring in a flax factory from twelve to fifteen hours per day for five years, to attain the desired object. They arrived in Montreal in September, 1817. In the Spring following, Mr. Mackintosh selected the trade of a book-seller and book-binder, which was the first opportunity he had of acquiring an education. He had labored from early boyhood, having little time for study, in order to come to the United States, which had always been his great object. He traveled some years in the middle and Southern States. Came West in 1828, and carried on a book-bindery in Cincinnati in 1830, '31, but finding it unprofitable, sold out - went to Indianapolis, and bound the Code of Indiana for 1831. Romantic and adventurous, he then attached himself to the Oregon Expedition, then organizing in Boston, and, with Hall J. Kelly, and Captin Brown, formerly of the Greek service, endeavored to raise a company in Cincinnati to settle on the Columbia River. At one time there were nearly two thousand men ready to sail for Oregon, but it was thought necessary to introduce a bill in Congress for some encouragement and protection. This led to an inquiry as to what position the United States occupied with Great Britain regarding Oregon, which proved that neither power, by their treaty, could colonize, or take possession, without each giving to the other one year's notice. This was discouraging to the Expedition. A portion of it, however, went from Boston, taking the land route by St. Louis, under Captain Wythe, but were unfortunate, having some fighting on the route, but a portion got through; many, however, turned back. The same Spring, Mr. Mackintosh went to New Orleans, intending to go round Cape Horn, but finding no opportunity, returned to Louisville, Kentucky. Still exerting himself in the cause - having no other means of support, but what he earned at his trade; and there was not then, as there is now, such a desire to emigrate West.
In the Spring of 1833, H.J. Kelly came West, the remains of the original Expedition having sailed from New York, and again the enterprise bid fair to succeed; Mr. Mackintosh went to New Orleans. The Company had passports from Gen. Jackson, President of the U.S., and letters to Santa Anna, President of Mexico, requesting that power to give such friendly aid as either nation, by their treaty, would accord to the other, in passing through that territory. The route was by Vera Cruz, and the City of Mexico, to Accapulco, where vessels were to convey them to Oregon. So far, all had gone well, but a scheme had been laid by a portion of the men to seize the Indian goods belonging to the Company, and go to Texas, which they attempted to carry out. This led to their arrest, and confinement in the calaboose. Vexatious law suits followed, which totally broke up the Expedition. H.J. Kelly went alone through Mexico to Oregon. Mr. Mackintosh having spent his last dollar in the cause, was, for the second time, left in the midst of cholera and yellow fever. He next worked for means to move West, to St. Louis, to join the hunters, and in that way yet meet Kelly in Oregon, but it was too late. The last party had gone. Then, with two of the Company that remained with him, he crossed, on foot, the States of Illinois and Indiana, to the Ohio River. After being some months in Cincinnati, and anxious to raise means to reach Oregon, he went to Nashville, where he was profitably employed for several years. When he was traveling through Illinois and Indiana in 1833, he saw some of that region determining to locate on the frontier somewhere. He left Nashville in the Fall of '35, and after spending some months in St. Louis, started on horseback to examine the country. At that day, and at that time of the year, this was a trip of some interest. He traveled in company with two others as far as Warsaw, Illinois. There was nothing on the journey of particular interest; but at this point the journey had to be prosecuted alone. The promised land was in sight, but it seemed like parting with civilization. He crossed the Mississippi in the night to Keokuk, carrying his saddle and portmanteau on his back, and leaving his horse on an Island, which was brought over by some Canadians in the course of the night. On entering the only building there, a curious sight presented itself. A ball was going on, of an assemblage of half breeds, French traders, Indians, Americans, &c. There was not much chance to rest here, besides running considerable risk of losing what he had. Having, when coming through Illinois, met with Lieutenant Lee, of Fort Armstrong, who had been with the party surveying the boundary line of the Territory, he received a description of the route to Rock Island, and letters of introduction to the officers of Fort DesMoines and Fort Armstrong. Our traveler, after spending the night with this motley party, proceeded to Fort DesMoines, now Montrose, the occupied by several companies of Dragoons, and presented his letters; was introduced to the son of Black Hawk, and his sister. The young Chief had lately received a fine sword from the officers, and was very proud of it. Both he and his sister were good looking, and dressed in good taste. He then proceeded with Col. Knapp to Fort Madison, and some time after dark, stopped a short time with Black Hawk's band of Indians, who were preparing to make sugar, and reached Fort Madison about midnight. The only house there was the Colonel's, the proprietor of the town. On coming to Skunk River, it was thought impossible to cross, but our traveler was persevering, and so he attempted it. He crossed on foot, the ice cracking under his feet, with his saddle and saddle bags on his back. His horse followed, breaking the ice before him; and he arrived at Burlington that evening. Here a town was commenced, and there were eight or ten houses. Next morning, he had to swim Flint Hill Creek, through the floating ice, as there were no ferries or bridges. He stopped that night near the Iowa River, and spent some time the next morning in Black Hawk's village, where Wapello now is. He visited the old Chief's tent; the Indians were out on a hunt. He crossed the Iowa River at some risk - stopped that night at Thornton, but found no food for man or beast, and left at day-break next morning for the trading house, now Muscatine. Some miles below, a family were encamped, and they having plenty of corn, the traveler's horse was fed, and the saddle-bags filled in case of need. The family were faring sumptuously on honey, from a bee tree they had cut. An invitation was given, and gladly accepted. That was an interesting group, sitting around the stump of that tree, with chips for plates, and nothing but honey for breakfast. The next station was the trading house, and our traveler, who intended reaching Pine Creek that night, unfortunately took the wrong trail, and found himself on Cedar River, near Poweshiek village. The weather turned suddenly cold, and being wet, having waded a creek full of floating ice, the only hope left was to get to the village. But that proved impossible. The river was open, and being unacquainted with the ford, to attempt it would have been madness, and to go back was equally difficult, as the creek was to cross, the bottom wide, and the trail two feet deep in water. There was no alternative but to camp, without fire or food. Matches were not common in those days - the fire-works had been lost, and the grass too wet to strike fire with the pistol. He made a bed of leaves and grass, wound himself in his blanket, and lay down at the foot of a stump, to which he tied his horse, who fared the best, as his supper was in the saddle bags. That was a night to "try men's souls" - the howling of the storm, and the still louder howling of the wolves, made the night terrific. Sleep was out of the question.
It froze hard enough by morning to cross the creek, or the river. he arrived at the trading house by noon, nothing the worse of his cold lodging, with a good appetite for dinner, having eaten nothing but the honey for three days and two nights. Resting there that night, he proceeded next day to Pine Creek, where the accommodation was good for that period, and the next day he arrived at Frank's claim, below Rockingham, which he purchased. Starting the next morning before breakfast, he came in sight of Fort Armstrong. At sunrise, the flag went up, the morning gun fired, and the drums beat; the air was cold and bracing, and the beautiful panoramic view that opened on the traveler's sight, was exciting. He had traveled in various climes, and seen many fair lands, but never so enraptured as on that morning; although in mid winter, it never looked so well as then. He exclaimed - "this is the place I have looked for, here I will set my stake!" He partook of an excellent breakfast with Antoine LeClaire, who accompanied him over to the Fort, and introduced him to Keokuk, and other Indian Chiefs, who all gave him a warm invitation to their village. But time pressed, and there was still a lonesome journey to perform in Michigan, and after spending a week or two with his brother, and making arrangements for both to locate at Davenport, he returned to his future home. Business calling him to Nashville, the favorite horse that had so nobly carried him through so many scenes, was sold to Mr. LeClaire.
He returned in September, and in October brought on a general stock of goods, amounting to some five thousand dollars, and done a fair business during the following winter. Provisions were scarce, and he made several trips to Illinois to obtain a supply. On one occasion, it nearly cost him his life. In crossing a fifteen mile prairie, one of those sudden changes took place which often occur in this climate, in which several persons were frozen to death in differnt parts of the country, and some lost hands and feet. He came through with hands and face badly frozen, and was incapable of doing much business the balance of the winter. The following year the great financial crisis was severely felt here, and but little business could be done. He was actively engaged in every enterprise beneficial to the town. That Summer he had the first road surveyed, and a furrow plowed twenty-six miles on the road to Dubuque, at his own expense; laying out one night in the prairie, in a storm of thunder and rain, the horses got away, and he was obliged to pack the saddles; the nearest grove being then unsettled, was called Saddle Grove, now Long Grove. The county seat question being the all absorbing topic of the day at this time, took a large portion of his time. He was the most active of the Davenport party, until that contest was decided in 1840.
The first purchase from the Sacs and Foxes was forty miles wide, from Rock Island. The second was made in the fall of '37, and was twenty-six miles wide, running due west from the forty-mile post. In May, '88, General Street organized a party to examine the new purchase, and select a village site and agency for the Indians, west of the new boundary. The Sacs and Foxes were then at war with the Sioux. The party were composed of General Street, Indian Agent, George L. Davenport, Mr. Mackintosh, Louis Hebert, then an employee of the Government, H. Sturdevant, Indian Blacksmith, and W. Russel, Surveyor, and from thirty to forty Chiefs and braves, commanded by Poweshick, mounted on good horses, with a tent, and well armed with rifles, cutlasses, and pistols.
General Street rode in his carriage. The Indians that accompanied them from Davenport were dressed as whites, to deceive the Sioux. The party started on a bee line for the forty-mile post - encamped the first night at a small grove, south of Posten's grove - pitched the tent - spanceled the horses, fared sumptuously on venison, and retired for the night; but their sleep was short. About midnight a storm of thunder and lightning disturbed their slumbers. The rain descended in torrents, the creek overflowed its banks, and the sleepers were roused form their watery bed. The wind had blown the tent from its fastenings, and was, for some time, held by Mackintosh and Davenport, lying on their backs in the water. The balance of that dark stormy night was spent exposed to the storm, with their blankets around them, until day dawned. After breakfast, they renewed their march, trusting to the sun to dry their clothes. All the streams were up, which they had to swim.
General Street's carriage was an incumbrance, but on one occasion helped him over the stream. It got fastened on the steep bank of the channel, the tongue resting on the opposite side, but the current was so rapid it could not stay there long. To enable the General to cross without falling in, Mr. Mackintosh and Hebert took, the water shoulder deep, each a carriage wheel, to hold against the current, and steady the steps of the timid General. Hebert, fond of a joke, several times whispered to his colleague to let go the wheel, that he might have the fun of seeing the General flounder in the stream; but he got safely over. However, Hebert had his laugh to his heart's content before night. There were more streams to swim that day, and it had to be done Indian fashion. It required considerable tact to get the provisions and arms over dry, and they frequently tied their clothes on their horses necks for that purpose. On several occasions, some of the party swimming on horseback, and the banks being steep, went over the horses heads, and had to swim down the rapid current before they could get out. On one occasion, after getting over the provisions, it was discovered that a bag of sugar was forgotten. All had crossed but Mr. Mackintosh, when Hebert proposed that he would wade into the deep water, and Mr. Mackintosh do the same, then pitch the bag to Hebert. In doing this, it did not occur, that in making the necessary effort, a reaction would follow. Hebert caught the sugar, but Mackintosh went into ten feet of water, head foremost. The current was rapid, the banks steep, and he had to swim some sixty rods before he got out. The yell of the Indians, and laugh of the whites, were general. They encamped that night at Rock Creek, and next day discovered the forty mile post. They reached Cedar River, where the General's carriage was left; the horses swam the river, and the men got over in a canoe. Then the Indians appeared in their war costume, as the white man's territory was behind - The Rubicon was crossed, and the language of "Rob Roy" came to mind - "Dinna mister or Campbell me, my foot is on my native heath, and my name if McGregor!" So felt the Indians after crossing their boundary. The surveys commenced. One of the chain carriers getting lame, it was necessary to get an Indian to take his place. The party were then entering the big woods. The Indians fearing an ambush, insisted on an advance guard, before consenting that one of their men should carry the chain. Messrs. Mackintosh and Davenport volunteered to fill the post, and the company went on in military order. They camped that night in heavt timber, the Indians carefully selecting the ground - a creek in a bend, of horse-shoe shape, high rocky banks on one side, and level ground, covered with logs and heavy standing timber, on the other. That night the Indians were unusually gloomy, and seemed to fear a surprise, and after supper, "Old Crow" told Mr. Davenport that he believed the Sioux were on their trail, that the fire must be put out, the tent struck, and they must lay on their arms all night. The fire was put out, but as four of the whites were asleep, it was thought best not to disturb them. Messrs. Mackintosh and Davenport stood guard till day-break. That night was one of interest; it was still clear and starry. The Indians were scattered behind logs, but could not be seen or heard. The two sentinels kept watch by the tent, going occasionally, into the heavy timber, and attentively listening to discover an attempt to surprise, frequently being disturbed by the scream of some animal, that seemed more like an imitation than the natural sound.
Near day-break, the guard being fatigued, lay down at the opening of the tent, not intending to sleep; but were getting into a doze, when the yell of the Indians, and the firing of their rifles, aroused them. They thought that the Sioux were upon them; they were soon up, and ready for the combat, but lo, they were friends. The night being past, the danger was over, and they commenced shouting their war song of victory.
The tents were struck, and the survey continued. At night, the Indians carefully selected the camp in the slough of the Iowa River, but their alarm still continued, and they feared the Sioux would attack their village. The General called a council of war, and through Mr. Davenport, as Interpreter, told them that the risks he had run, the exposure of his person, the undignified appearance he had often presented, when crossing the streams, leaving his comfortable quarters at Rock Island, were all for their benefit. But they were still gloomy, and fearful of the massacre of their women and children, and only four of them volunteered to remain. In the night, while fatigue over-powered the whites with sleep, they made canoes from the bark of the linn tree, and crossed the Iowa, and not a vestige of them remained at day-break, save the four volunteers.
A village site was selected that day, which was occupied by them until the next treaty, but not being satisfactory to the General, they turned their course northward, with the intention of going to Cedar Rapids, where a town of some importance has since sprung up. Through the course of the day, the reluctance of the Indians to proceed, proved they could not long be relied upon. Towards the evening, they came in sight of a grove, and imagining they saw the smoke of a Sioux camp, refused to proceed. Mr. Mackintosh rode on in advance of the party, and found no cause for alarm, but there was evidence of a large party of Indians having encamped there lately. Buffalo and war trails radiated in every direction - Deer River was also in sight, where a battle had been fought the year previous. They encamped there that night, and the next morning found their volunteer Indians had gone, and for the first time the dragoon spancels had got loose from their horses, which occupied them an hour or two in finding.
The provisions were nearly out, and although some of the party desired to proceed a day or two longer, General Street ordered a return to the settlement, having only partially effected the object of the Expedition. On returning to Davenport, Mr. Mackintosh again took part in the election for county seat, having to proceed to Dubuque and Burlington, and again canvas the county. In 1840 he was one of the Commissioners appointed by act of Legislature to lay out a road to Dubuque. During that year the most important matters that effected the welfare of the county were settled - the county seat question, the laying of roads, and the public lands coming into market; in all of which he took an active part. For years after this, financial affairs were still in a bad condition, he suffering like many others, after getting his farm in some degree of improvement. He was for some years Territorial and State Binder for Iowa, the first Public Binder for Minnesota, and established the first Book Bindery in Davenport. For the last four or five years his whole time has been occupied in developing his property.
He has expended more money in opening streets than all the other proprietors put together. He has been over thirty years in the north-west and south-west, twenty-two years of which has been in Iowa and Minnesota. He is now fifty-four years of age, with robust health, and bids fair to enjoy his hard arnings to a period of life not far behind some of his ancestors. He is very social - fond of good anecdote, which he tells or listens to with hearty good humour - is extremely liberal,and is one of Davenport's most valued citizens.