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Iowa History Daily: December 18 - Milton Lott on the Iowa Frontier

Iowa History Daily: On December 18, 1846, Milton Lott died rushing to Boone to find his father while the Dakota burned the family homestead near where the Boone River empties into the Des Moines River. The event, often cited as the start of violence leading to Inkpaduta’s attack on Spirit Lake twelve years later, stands as one of the most difficult to discern and significant sagas in Iowa’s frontier history.

Henry Lott, described by many as “a no good horse-thief” arrived on Dakota lands north of Boone after his shady dealings forced him away from settlements further downriver. According to variable accounts, Lott either stole the horses or short-changed the Dakota leader Sintominduta in a trade. In the aftermath, Sintominduta plotted revenge before arriving to extract frontier justice at Lott’s homestead during early December. Finding his horses hidden in woods near the cabin, Sintominduta and his men killed Lott’s cattle and set the cabin ablaze.

The historical record stands incredibly murky as to what exactly occurred next. Accounts seem to agree Lott fled toward Pea’s Point to get help while his wife and children stayed behind at the cabin site. Soon after, the Dakota told Lott’s son Milton to round up the stolen horses. Instead, Milton fled down the frozen Des Moines River toward Boone. Henry Lott did get help and eventually arrived back at the cabin site only to find his wife delirious from the trauma, the stolen horses taken, his cattle killed, and Milton missing.

Tracking Milton downriver, Lott eventually came across the frozen body of the boy. Placing Milton’s remains in a hollowed out log, Lott returned home. A month later, Lott returned to bury the boy alongside the Des Moines River at a spot marked the Madrid Historical Society during 1905. In the aftermath, Lott’s wife died and he plotted his own revenge. In 1852, Lott killed Sintominduta after luring the Dakota leader on a hunting expedition in an event which further strained Dakota-American relations along the rapidly developing northwestern Iowa frontier. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar

For much more on the Dakota in Iowa, including a more nuanced interpretation of the Lott saga, please see the doctoral dissertation of “Notes on Iowa” creator Kevin Mason at: 


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