Early Settlers of Woodbury County, Iowa

In May 1849, Theophile Brughier, a native of Canada, but of French descent, settled at the mouth of the Big Sioux River, about two miles above where Sioux City now stands. Three years before he had visited the spot and made selection of the location. In 1835, at the age of twenty, Brughier left Canada and went to St. Louis, where he had an uncle who was a member of the American Fur Company. Under the advice of his uncle he engaged in the service of the company, but remained in their employ only a short time, when he joined the Yankton Sioux Indians and married a daughter of the somewhat distinguished chief. Hu-yan-e-ka, (War Eagle). He became a prominent man in the tribe, and had acquired great influence with them. After remaining with the Indians, and sharing the fortunes of the tribe for some ten years, he concluded to change his manner of life, and notified the tribe of his intentions. Accordingly, with his faithful Indian wife and children, he left the post of the American Fur Company and came down the river and settled, as above stated, at the mouth of Big Sioux River. War Eagle, the Indian chief father-in-law of Brughier, died in his house in the fall of 1851, aged about sixty-five years. He was a noted warrior among the Sioux, but always a friend of the whites. He was first recognized as a Chief of the Yankton Sioux by Major Pilcher, the Indian agent. About the year 1830 he was for some time employed as a pilot on the Upper Mississippi. His remains, with those of his two daughters, one of the deceased wife of Mr. Brughier, now repose on the summit of a lofty bluff on the Iowa side of the Big Sioux River, just above the its mouth. Here are also the graves of several other Indians, as well as whites-eight or ten in all. From this romantic spot may be seen for many miles the broad winding Missouri, with its noble valley, the far off Blackbird Hills in Nebraska, with the intervening plains, islands and groves, and a portion of the rich bottomlands of Dakota, stretching as far as the eye can reach between the two rivers toward the northwest.

In the fall of 1849, Robert Perry, a man of somewhat eccentric character, but of fine education, removed from Washington D.C., and settled on the small creek which meanders through Sioux City, where he remained two years, and then removed elsewhere. The creek now bears his name. The next year Paul Pacquette located at the crossing of Big Sioux River, about two miles above the mouth.

In the spring of 1852, Mr. Brughier sold a portion of his cultivated land, including what is now a part of Sioux City, to a Frenchman named Joseph Lionais, for one thousand dollars. About this time some difficulty occurred with the Indians at Fort Vermillion, and a small number of French descended the river and made a temporary settlement in the same vicinity. After this no further permanent improvement was made until the spring of 1854, when Doctor John K. Cook, who had a government contract for surveying, arrived with his party. Being impressed with the eligibility of the place for the location of a town, and the romantic beauty of its surroundings, he and his party immediately located claims. Among those who selected and located claims at an early day in the vicinity of Sioux City, was the brave General Lyon, who fell at Wilson Creek.

At the mouth of the Floyd River, Dr. Cook found encamped the red men of the forest, with Smutty Bear, their Chief, who ordered him to desist from his work under penalty of being driven from the place by his warriors, whom Smutty Bear would summon from the upper country. The belligerent Doctor boldly replied, through the interpreter, that he would go at once, if necessary, for a sufficient force to exterminate Smutty Bear and his band. Dr. Cook plainly told him that he had come there to make a survey, and he meant to complete his undertaking. The savages, impressed with the determination evince by Dr. Cook, and intimidated by his well-timed threatening, struck their tepees, and departed, leaving him there to complete his labors uninterrupted.

Source: Woodbury County Iowa, History of Western Iowa, 1882

1 thought on “Early Settlers of Woodbury County, Iowa”

  1. This isn’t altogether true. You can not see the Black Hills from the Sioux City area. There is no mention of the Missouri River and that the Big Sioux River enters the Missouri River at Sioux City. War Eagles grave was placed on the Bluffs above the point where the Big Sioux and the Missouri rivers meet. There are no other indian graves by War Eagles grave.

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