Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Keokuk

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KEOKUK (The Watchful Fox), chief of the united Sacs and Foxes, b. on Rock river, Ill., about 1780; d. in Kansas in June, 1848. He was by birth a Sac, and, although not an hereditary chief, rose to that post by force of talent. He was admitted to the councils of his nation during the period of the war of 1812 with Great Britain because of the exercise of remarkable bravery and eloquence, as shown in numerous barbaric adventures of which he was the hero, and ever afterward he was regarded as in many respects the foremost brave in the confederacy. His particular privilege, from an early age, as the result of one of his enterprises, was always to appear on horseback in times of tribal ceremony, whether or not his companions were mounted. He was stout, graceful, and commanding in figure, had fine features, and an intelligent expression, and excelled in athletic sports. His power of oratory was of a high order, and remarkable stories are told of his capacity to sway the sentiments of a council. On several occasions he carried with him the votes of a considerable assemblage of his tribe, when every member but himself before his speech had been firmly determined to the contrary. At one time, in May, 1832, he broke in upon a war-dance that his band was holding preparatory to uniting with Black Hawk against the whites, and convinced the warriors in the heat of their fury that the act would be suicidal and must not be undertaken. Keokuk always enacted, for policy's sake, the part of an ardent friend of the whites. In 1832, when Black Hawk (q. v.) took up arms against the Americans, and solicited general co-operation, the energy of Keokuk alone succeeded in keeping the majority of the band on the side of peace, and he lost no opportunity to induce Black Hawk to withdraw from his position before it was too late. When, in August, 1833, Black Hawk returned from his visit as a captive to Washington and the east, he was formally delivered by the U. S. authorities to the custody of Keokuk, who, by the Rock Island treaty of September, 1832, had been officially recognized as the principal chief of the Sacs and Foxes. In 1837 Keokuk, with several village chiefs of his nation, visited Washington, where a peace was arranged between his people and their old-time adversaries, the Sioux. They also made visits to New York, Boston, and Cincinnati, where Keokuk attracted much attention by his uniformly excellent speeches. Black Hawk was with the party, as Keokuk feared to leave the scheming old man at home during his own absence. Keokuk's town during the Black Hawk war was at the foot of the rapids, near the mouth of Des Moines river, the site of the present city of Keokuk, which was named in his honor. The treaty of 1832 gave him a reservation of forty miles square on Iowa river, to which he soon afterward removed. In 1845 he made his final move to Kansas, where three years later he fell a victim to poison, administered by a member of the Black Hawk band. Between this band and his own there had existed a deadly feud.