John Brassard Jr.

John Brassard Jr.

Observer Columnist

In 1832, the Blackhawk Treaty called for all members of the Sauk and Meskwaki Tribes to move west from their homes near the Mississippi River. While most did, there were still some of them who lingered behind, still enjoying the lands that they called home. 

Some of them went north from the Davenport bluffs and settled, for a time, in the Deep Creek area of Clinton County. For the most part, the lands on the Iowa side of the river were still sparsely settled by European settlers. This quickly began to change over the next few years. 

The Sauk and Meskwaki, despite what had happened a few years prior, mostly got along well with their new neighbors. They traded and interacted with them, and very seldom did any problems arise. Perhaps one of their most valued friends was Elijah Buell, who would go on to become one of the most prominent pioneers of the region. 

Buell settled on the river bank across from Fulton in 1835. He brought his wife, Caroline, and their young son with him. He had been a steamboat captain along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, and planned to open a ferry across the latter river from his homestead to Fulton. 

The Sauk and Meskwaki were among his first neighbors. Somewhere in his travels, Buell had learned how to speak their languages, and was able to converse with them. They liked him, and often came to visit him and his family. 

Life passed along well, until Caroline and their son got sick.

In the mid 1830s, the nearest doctor to the Buell homestead was nearly fifty miles away. Pioneers had to use what knowledge they had and what was available to them to treat what ailed them. Buell, being a resourceful man, had bought a medicine chest in St. Louis for just this kind of situation. 

The chest was filled with various powders and things, along with a sheet of paper. On the paper, a doctor had written a list of various ailments and how to mix the medicines for treating them. Buell diligently followed the instructions that the doctor had given him, mixing the cure for his family. Unfortunately, his son passed away. Together, he and his hired hand made a coffin to bury the little boy in. Then, they hand dug the grave and buried him. On 

the frontier, you had to do most things yourself.

Buell’s wife grew sicker by the day and soon she was close to dying. Not knowing who else to turn to, Buell turned to his Native American friends for help. Two women came, using their knowledge of herbal lore to make medicinal teas for Caroline. At first, they made it very weak, and then gradually stronger as she recovered.

Over the next few years, the remaining members of the Sauk and Meskwaki tribes would make their way out of the area, never to return. Buell would go on to become one of the leading men of the county, but would never forget his native friends who had saved his wife’s life.