Early accounts of Tom White tells of his recollection of the Souix travels by there home.
The wagon trains sometimes stretched out for a mile or more. In spring and fall, the farmers along the trail would occasionally see as many as 50 wagons moving in single file across the prairie. They rolled along with haste, at a slow trot, passing by and then vanishing into the south or north. The travelers were the Sioux tribesmen moving between Fort Totten and the Standing Rock reservation. For many years, they used a trail that took them along the western edge of Foster County. Traces of their wagon tracks still remain in the untouched sod of the Hawksnest. The exact route of the trail is not remembered it paralleled the Wells-Foster county line coming south from New Rockford and then circled toward the Hawksnest, meandering between favorite camping spots on the Pipestem Creek. Farmers also used the trail. Portions of the Indians' route later were included in the Green Trail and still later, in the North Star Trail. Old timers will remember these as the first marked trails running through the area. They were dirt trails but also the first highways. To the farm children, the Indians in the wagon trains looked little different from the farmers. Usually, two Indian men sat in the front of the wagons. The women, wrapped in blankets, bounced along on the wagon floors, facing the back. They wore white man's clothing? everyday work clothes for the men, long dresses for the women. There was nothing fancy about what they wore or their equipment. Their horses were generally thin; their harnesses were of the simplest kind. "The things I remember more than anything else was the dogs there was always a bunch of dogs and four or five loose horses following along," My memories go back to around 1910, when I was a boy living along side the trail. The Indians passed by barely noticed by the farmers, we never paid any attention to them they were just travelers.
Farther down the trail to the south, Emil Smith lived, near a grassy meadow on the east bank of the Pipestem.
Our family called it Pleasant Valley. It is a sheltered spot and was a regular stopping place for the Indian Travelers. I have seen that plot of ground nearly covered with tents, at least 20, maybe more. My earliest memories are from the 1890s a time when the prairie was being transformed into farmland, with amazing speed. From the farmyard, about 40 rods from the meadow, I would watch them set up camp. I watched, but because I was just a young boy, I never visited camp. The Indians were not hard travelers. 20 miles a day is about what they averaged although miles probably did not much concern them. They moved in accordance with the sun. They made camp early, so they would be all settled in before sunset. And when I would get up in the early morning, they would be gone. Their tents were canvas.
Neither Tom White nor Emil Smith can recall ever seeing the Indians use the traditional teepees. However, Toady Zimmerman presents a considerably different picture. He grew up in the Hawksnest, just east aways, on what is now the Curt Klein farm.
Looking back to about 1910, I remember that a spring to the northeast of the Hawksnest was another favorite campground. The spring still flows, its approximate location is marked by a motel unit from the old Rainbow Gardens. This was apparently known as a spot for trading horses. The Indians usually stayed there four or five days, living in teepees, and many farmers would come to compare horseflesh and dicker on a trade. I remember, the men did wear the fringed leather clothing and beaded moccasins. The long hair was, however, no longer worn by the Indian men.
It was not shoulder length, as I can recall, if it had been our folks would have said something about it. Other than horse trading, it seems that there was very little personal contact between the Indians and the white settlers. There were older settlers who were apparently accustomed to receiving the Indians as friends. John "Black Jack" Middleton, Tom Crow and Joe Buell as men who were on familiar terms with the Indians.
MY grandfather, James Sweeney, had fought in the Indian Wars in Florida and Texas before eventually homesteading in Foster County. He had quite a little respect for Indians. Many Indians knew Jim Sweeney or knew of him If you happened to be along the road, they would stop and want to talk to the older people, my granddad was an old man then. My grandparents were not the least bit afraid when the Indians came.
The Indians were very quiet they didn't speak more than a few words of English. When they camped at Pleasant Valley, Indian women regularly walked to the farm to ask my grandmother for milk for their ailing infants. Me papoose sick, they would say. As there was no firewood on the prairie, they would also go to his grandfather for wood. The firewood was purchased in Carrington in cord lengths and stove lengths for the cook stove. Ties were also available from the railroad. There was no fuel oil in those days. My grandmother was always glad to give them milk, and some bread, too. It was sort of a courtesy on the part of the Indians because they knew it would be given in a courteous way. They were always friendly, just like anybody else, and thankful for the milk and bread and wood.
Not everyone, however, had a high regard for the Indians. I speculated that one reason that they avoided towns was the possibility of harassment. A mistrust and bitterness towards the Indians was still present at the time of settlement here although the Sioux had long since ceased hostilities. I think that maybe quite a few people had a little fear of the Indians, they just didn't know what they were going to do; however, nobody ever tried to antagonize them.
I have one fond memory of the Indians celebrating at Pleasant Valley. One evening they danced in the ravine with bells clanging. They kept on until midnight I thought the Indians were going on the warpath. I today laugh at my childish thought because in 1895, or thereabouts, there was no likelihood that they would ever attempt to fight the white men again.
At the time when the earliest childhood memories of Emil Smith, Tom White and Toady Zimmerman were formed, only the oldest Indians could look back to the time when these grasslands were their hunting grounds, thus, it is hardly surprising that the settlers took the Indians for granted. Like the grass and the hills, they had always been here. But the settlers attention was elsewhere. Focused on their own changing world. The wagon trains continued until horses were phased out by automobiles.
Before 1900, the home owned by Mrs. W.Y. Quarton, eight or ten miles southwest of Carrington was known as the "Half Way House''
Mrs. W.Y. Quarton
Our home has always had a cheery welcome, where chilled and hungry travelers can stop on their way over the snow covered prairies for a dinner or a night's rest. Halfway between the town of Carrington and the Hawksnest Hills we welcomed the use our home as an overnight stop by the Hawksnest farmers on their three day trips into Carrington. Making the trip with horses and a sled, you can spend the night at the Half Way House, starting out early in the morning on the second lap of your trip into Carrington, returning late at night for a second stop before starting on the long drive back home. In the summer the round trip across 40 miles of prairie could be made in a single day, your welcome to stop for a drink at our well.
I remember the last group Indians travelers, four young fellows who stopped for water while driving a bunch of horses north to Fort Totten. That was in 1925.
I can't say they were happy, but they were gentle people, there was a dignity about them. I discerned a special feeling in the Indian while they were free to travel and camp on the still open prairie. The remnants of their joy, I called it.
The Foster County Indpendent reports on July 16, 1925, the Aurora Lodge No. 56 Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Carrington, celebrated the 25th anniversary of the founding of their lodge with a picnic at the Hawksnest, and a feast for the brethren. At sundown, Worshipful Master C. B. Craven convened the lodge on the highest peak of the Hawksnest butte , and in the evening twilight, with the aid of the brethren, rasied a lone candidate to the sublime degree of a Master Mason in due and ancient form. Masonic degrees are very seldom conferred outside the lodge room and this event will long remain noteworthy with the fraternitty.
Many citizens of the surrounding area felt that Hawksnest was worthy of being set aside as a state park or memorial area. In 1925 an intensified effort was made to make the hawksnest a state park.
The Foster Co. Independent, January 5, 1928 The first Boy Scout Troop was organized by the Congregational Church with 12 boys and the Methodist Church with 16. Membership was open to all boys that were interested. There were plans for hikes to the Hawksnest area and Arrowwood Lake during the summers. They learned the scout laws and instruction in the easier phases of camping life, woodcraft and other related arts.
Spring, 1935 Hawksnest Eagle Preys on Lamb: An eagle, believed making its headquarters in the Hawksnest Hills, is causing considerable losses among the sheep flocks in that neighborhood. During the past few weeks the eagle killed 14 lambs at the William Biloff farm and six at the Adolph Huff farm. It is said that the sheep, being accustomed to barnyard fowls at home, do not become frightened by the eagle and scatter and run as they do when attacked by dogs or coyotes. The killer has an easy time of it striking down one lamb after another, picking out their eyes, eating a small part of the flesh, and seemingly killing just for the sport of it. The eagle had been seen several times but never close enough to use a shotgun. The bird is small. One farmer, who saw it sitting on a fence thought it was a turkey until it flew away. Eagles have been seen off and on, for several years at the Hawksnest. One Longview farmer reports that he has lost at least $100 worth of lambs from this one over a period of years.
Summer 1936: "Several young daring men from Longview joined in the search for the lion that was causing so much worry all over the state. They beat the brush through Hawksnest, didn't see the beast, but bagged about 15 jackrabbits that would have come in handy to throw out to the enemy in case they had met him."
To the people who lived in the surounding area the hawksnest was a favorte spot to have groupgatherngs and picnics. One of the most remembered gatherings, was a dedication ceremony held June 26, 1946. Mrs Evrett Calderwood and Miss Mary Baker heirs of Tom Baker (well know horse and cattle buyer) deeded to the Carrington Kiwanis 104 acres of land for the purpose of establishing a public recreation area and a scout camp ground. The Kiwanis Hawksnest committe has sponsored the building of a new entrance road by Company A of the National Guard and have developed and curbed up a spring. There are many natural spring's in the Hawksnest area.
In the late 50's and 60' the Hawksnest Hills became a prime location of radio communication towers. Also during this time the Hawks and Eagles would perch on top of the telephone and power poles. This made them an easy target for the senseless people who would like to call themselves hunters.
The Carrington Boy Scout Troop 172 in 1965? with help from Carrington Kiwanis built a cabin in the center northern valley just south of the water dug out. The cabin was a victim just like the Indian before and "Uncle Buffalo". Intruders, raiders and vandels of modern day conquests, destroyed the cabin most every year. The scouts would rebuild and the enemy would return and destroy. The cabin had a short life of approximately 10 yrs.
In the early 80's a group called the Hawksnest Ridge Committee attempted to establish a commercial type historic stop. During one of the committee's public meetings retired local excavator Eldo Lee reminesced. "When we were digging the tower footings for the local electrical coop we came across a burial site. We carefully replaced the remains and established a new spot for the footing." In attendence with much embarassment representives of the local coop and Dakota Souix tribe. This bit of history never been publicly known. Soon after a ceremonial rite for the disturbed remains was done by the Spirit Lake Souix Tribe Spirtial Leaders and Elders.
Today the Hawksnest remains a favorite campground and a natural preserve. This being the natural home for the birds and animals. The vegetatio of bur oak, boxelder, green ash, hawthorn, quaking aspen, buck brush, wild plum, wooodbine, burning nettle , poison ivy, juneberry, gooseberry, silverberry, and raspberry, chokecherry, western wild rose hip, over hunded varieities of weed species and 30 varities of grasses and sedges. Standing on the top of the Hawksnest Hills one can only admire the vast beauty of the plains of the dakota prairie. Just imagine the day to day life and struggle of peoples who crossed this path before us. With it's many names He-cha-ote-a, Huya-waya-pa-a-hdi, Great Coteau, Chief Hill, Pilot Knob. Today the Hawksnest emerging out of the prairie to be explored for it natral beauty again today.
Boy Scout, Troop 172
We welcome our District Troops and all others in attendence to The Hawksnest Camporee October 4th, 5th, and 6th, 2002. This weekend camp will join the many other camps and stories, to be part of the history of the Hawksnest Hills.
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