Chief Wapello's Memorial Park in Agency honors an important friendship

August 30, 2018

Southeast of Ottumwa a few miles is the quaint community of Agency. Roughly 180 years ago, before Iowa was admitted to the union, an Indian Agency of the of the United States Government was set up here. Indian Agents were individuals authorized by the United States Government to interact on it's behalf with the Native American Tribes.

 

The name "Agency" stuck and today, it is home to a few more than 600 residents. It is also home to a park that, in 1975, was added to the National Register of Historic Places. That park is Chief Wapello's Memorial Park.

 

Chief Wapello was a Meskwaki Chief and an ally of Chief Keokuk. According to numerous sources I found in research online, he established friendly relations with the white settlers that were making their way west and even signed a number of peace treaties with them. He established a particularly close relationship with Indian Agent Joseph Street and his family.

 

This park, which is located on the southeast corner of town, honors the legacies of both of those men. General Street died in 1840 and was buried at the Indian Agency. A few years later, when Chief Wapello passed away, his request to be buried next to his friend was honored. 

 

When you visit Chief Wapello's Memorial Park, you'll learn a great deal about what Chief Wapello and General Street accomplished but you'll also have the opportunity to pay your respects at their grave sites.

 

 

The graves of Chief Wapello and General Street as well as members of his family are covered with a roof and located within a chain link fence. There are signs with information about the monuments. However, you can read some of the information directly off the stones.

 

 

 

 

 

There's a small three-walled shed that does a nice job, in great detail, explaining the significance of Chief Wapello, General Street, and the Indian Agency. 

 

 

There is also a couple of large stones with plaques and another obelisk monument on the grounds. You can read more about some of the markers on the local DAR chapter's website.

 

 

It's a peaceful area surrounded by crop fields, some railroad tracks, and across from a large agricultural supplier across the road.

 

 

Without the friendship of these two important men, the Iowa we know and love today might have ended with different borders. I would encourage you to do your own research and make plans to visit the site to learn more. It's not too far off of Highway 163 and so it would be a good place to stretch your legs between Ottumwa and Fairfield.

 

There's a lot to see and do in Ottumwa, including stopping to see the grave of Curtis King, the oldest man to serve in the American Civil War. It's also a few miles from Eldon where you can enjoy the American Gothic House, made famous Grant Wood. I've only scratched the surface of exploring Wapello County.

 

As always, I welcome your suggestions of places to visit and profile whether in Wapello County or any of the other 98 counties in Iowa. If you have a good idea or would like to host the Iowa Adventurer, please drop me a note through my website.

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