Saturday, July 15, 2017

Before the Sac and Fox, the Buffalo

It has been almost twenty-eight years since I took this photo of a sign marking a Buffalo Wallow near Kellerton in Ringgold County. My son Preston was a freshman at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville and I was going down to see him for Parents Weekend.

The wallow was said to be about twenty feet deep and according to the sign "has never been dry". It also says: "Three miles west is the ancient buffalo immigration trail known as the Dragoon Trace."

You may have seen the Dragoon Trail markers and wondered what they were all about. The Dragoons were cavalry soldiers who scouted Iowa for fort locations in 1835 after the Black Hawk Purchase. The trail basically follows the Des Moines River.

The Dragoon Trace in Ringgold County follows a path originally made by migrating animals (deer, buffalo) and then by Native Americans. In 1843 a fort was built at the confluence of the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers just North of the present Iowa Cubs Principal Park in Des Moines.

Fort Des Moines was built to protect the Sac and Fox natives from other tribes. In 1845 Chief Keokuk led the Sac and Fox from Iowa along the Dragoon Trace to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The following year Iowa became a state and within ten years settlers were following the Trace into Ringgold County.

As interesting as the buffalo wallow was, there really wasn't too much to see there. Bud and I spent more time after we moved back to Southwest Iowa driving around Ringgold County trying to figure out just where "The Nation" was. I remembered reading a story many years earlier about it being where Bonnie and Clyde once hid out from the law. We did find the marker for the old town of Caledonia where the infamous couple stopped for supplies. And while we never pinpointed exactly where The Nation had been, we had a lot of enjoyment hunting for it.

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