THE EARLIEST LAND OWNERS
Once there was an island in the river Warren. The Warren river filled the entire Minnesota river valley brimful between the tops of the valley bluffs. This river had a detour from Lac qui Parle lake that flowed north of Watson and covered the site of the business street in Montevideo. This was a prehistoric river, if we believe the geologists, a river that drained Lake Agazzis that covered the entire Red River valley when the glaciers during the ice age had gradually melfted and receded towards the north.
The Warren river too receded contemporaneously with the dwindling away of the mammoth Lake Agazzis to the north through the Red River. In the bed vacated by the Warren river reposes today the Minnesota river which is nothing more than a crooked stream when compared to its mighty predecessor. Abutting the Minnesota river to the east remains still the prehistoric island and two and one half miles northeast of the river nestless the vi1lage of Watson on a northeast projection of the island and right west of the Chippewa river.
Historians and geologists have so far been unable to record exactly what species of human beings roamed about in the territory now in the Watson community previous to the era when it was first inhabited by Indian tribes. There are however evidences that aboriginal earth mound builders lived once in this community. Many such evidences have now been entirely obliterated by constant plowing and other yearly agricultural processes but there used to be one such earth mound, not built by Indians, on the Hans Halvorson farm in section II in Tunsberg township, and there are some southeast of Lac qui Parle village.
The first settlers recorded by history in what is now the Watson community were the Dacotah Indians. They were sort of nomads, it is true, but they were our earliest settlers and land owners just the same. Geologists and historians state that the Mill Lacs Minnesota territory was the center of the land they inhabited. Abundant evidences of their war and hunting operations around Lake Superior have also been found. One tribe that belongs to the Dacotah family of tribes is the Winnebagoes. When Nicollet who was employed by Champlain visited Green Bay Wisconsin about the year 1635 he recorded that he saw the Winnebagoes, a people called that because they claim to have come from a distant sea and he stated, “They claim to have come from the shores of a far distant sea, towards the north, whose waters are salt, they therefore call themselves ‘De L’eau Puants’, the people from the Putrid or the bad waters.”
Yes, they are the Sioux Indians, but their true name is the Dacotahs. The name Sioux is the last two syllables of an Ojibway or Chippewa Indian word meaning enemies. The Dacotahs and Chippewas were always fighting so it it is exhibit “A” in illustrating how a nickname may cling and get to be a dictionary word. They were already well known by their nickname Sioux, when the Minnesota territory was organized in 1849 and that year 1500 Indians known as the War-pay-twans called the Indian village at the south end of Lac qui Parle lake their head village. War-pay-twans means, People of the Leaf.
From the documents of Le Sueur, explorer of the Minnesota river between the years 1692 and 1701, we learn from a summary of names of bands of Sioux Indians from the west that he mentions Quapetons, meaning Village of the Leaf, as the name of a band of western Sioux Indians. Le Sueur who called the Minnesota river St. Pierre river explored the Minnesota river at least as far west as Mankato, if not farther, and it is very probable that Lac qui Parle Indian village was in existence 400 years ago as well as in the year 1849. Le Sueur also recorded an interesting paragraph about the Sioux of the west that he claims was stated by a member of a band of Sioux Indians east of the Mississippi river, as follows:
“The Sioux of the west have more than a thousand lodges. They do not use canoes, nor cultivate the earth, nor gather wild rice. They remain generally on the prairies which are between the upper Mississippi and Missouri rivers, and live entirely by the chase. The Sioux generally say that they have three souls, and that after death that which has done well goes to the warm country, that which has done evil to the cold regions, and that the third soul guards the body. Polygamy is common among them. They are very jealous and sometimes fight in duels for their wives. They manage the bow and arrow admirably and have been seen several times to kill ducks on the wing. They make their lodges of a number of buffalo skins interlaced and sewed, and carry them wherever they go. They are all great smokers, but their manner of smoking differs from that of other Indians. There are some Sioux who swallow all the smoke of the tobacco and there are others who after having kept it for some time in their mouths cause it to issue from their noses. In each lodge there are usually two or three men with their families.”
After Le Sueur’s exploration of the Minnesota river the number of trappers and traders increased very rapidly. Fine furs became more and more popular and in demand and here in Minnesota they could he bought from the Indians and other trappers for practically nothing. Beavers and Muskrats were then very abundant in the Chippewa and Minnesota rivers. Enormous herds of Buffalo grazed on these prairies in summers and Lac qui Parle lake and all rivers and all creeks teemed with schools of fish. Huge flocks of game birds were here to be hunted the year around, and then we read about the first merchant or trader stepping on the Watson community soil. He was J. H. Lockwood who came to the Lac qui Parle Indian village to trade with the Indians in the Year 1816.