fort dodge iowa


Fort Dodge, Iowa
Population: 25,206

“By the second marriage another son was born whose untimely death, and the facts that surround it, make up the chief theme of this story.  We first heard of Lott in Iowa, in the spring of 1843, at which time he was acting the role of an Indian trader at Red Rock, in what is now Alarion county, Iowa. At that place, it is said, he did a thriving business until the nth of October, 1845, at which date, according to the treaty of 1842, the Sac and Fox Indians bid adieu to Iowa, and moved beyond the Missouri river.

So well pleased was Lott with his success as an Indian trader that in the summer of 1846 he moved north from Red Rock, and located on the North bank of Boone river, near its mouth. Here he expected to carry on a thriving business in traffic with the Sioux Indians, but for some reason he did not get along so smoothly with them as he did with the Sacs and Foxes at Red Rock. There are no less than three reasons set forth as the origin of the trouble between Lott and Si-dom-i-na-do-tah and his band of Sioux Indians.The author of the Historic Atlas, in his sketch of Humboldt county, states that the Sioux chief informed Lott that he was an intruder; that he had settled on the Sioux hunting grounds, and that he gave Lott a certain time to get off. That his refusal to go by the time set brought on the raid upon his family and stock. The Union Historical company, in their sketch of the Indian chiefs of Iowa, make the same statement.If the Sioux chief made this statement to Lott, he either uttered a falsehood, or else he did not know what he was talking about. Lott may have been a bad man, but he was not an intruder, nor had he located upon the Sioux hunting grounds.

Ex-Lieutenant Governor B. F. Gue, in his “Historic Sketch of Iowa,” says that Lett’s cabin was the headquarters of a band of horse thieves, who stole horses from the settlers in the valley below the mouth of Boone river, and ponies from the Indians above it. and that they ran them across the state east to the Mississippi river, and sold them. Mr. Gue seems to think that it was this wrong- ful taking of the Indian ponies that brought the wrath of Si-dom-i-na-do-tah and his painted warriors upon the Lott family. There is still another traditional story to the effect that Lott had sold the Indians whiskey, upon which they became intoxicated and while in that state the destruction of the property and the death of two innocent members of the family was the result of their acts of cruelty.

Amid these conflicting statements it is next to impossible to get at the exact cause which brought about the trouble, but it is certain that the horrible attack was made, and that, too, by a band of Sioux Indians who were miles beyond the borders of their hunting grounds, and intruders upon territory already ceded to the United States by the Sac and Fox Indians, and open for settlement.”


It was a muggy, Saturday evening when I met local photographer Roger Feldhans outside of my hotel in Fort Dodge, Iowa.  What was planned to be a short conversation and photo-shoot turned into an in-depth interview really fast.  

Forgotten Iowa: What brought you to Iowa in the first place?

Roger: It would have been somewhere between 1972 and 1973.  My father was in the Air Force and was set to retire, about to be stationed at an Air Force base in Nebraska.  Him and my mom had been married here in Iowa, though, in Rockwell City, and we decided to return here instead.

Forgotten Iowa:  How old were you when this happened?

Roger: I would have been in the 7th grade.  So, 12?  13?  Some time around then.

Forgotten Iowa:  Where did you live before that?

Roger: Goose Bay, Labrador, up in Canada.

Forgotten Iowa: Wow, so you’ve been all around then.  What’s kept you in Iowa since that time?

Roger: It’s home.  It feels like home.  It felt more like home than any other place that we’d been because we already had so many connections here; family and whatnot.

Forgotten Iowa:  So can you tell me a little about yourself?  What do you do for a living?  What do you do for recreation?

Roger:  Well, I have a 9-5 type job as a custodian at a college here in town.  I’ve been there for about twenty years and absolutely love my job.  Been doing it ever since high-school.  My main passion in life, though, is art.  Everything from sculpture and painting to photography, I love it all.  Anything that I can get my hands on, you know?  I just love to explore.  That might be part of the reason why I love Iowa.  It feeds that desire.  There is just so much art here that you’d be surprised by if you looked.  Right now, my passion is photography.

  • DASHBOARD JESUS, Photo by Roger Feldhans

Forgotten Iowa:  Have you always lived in Iowa since that time or did you ever venture off to other states?

Roger: I have not lived anywhere outside of Iowa since coming here with my parents in the ‘70′s.  I like it here because it’s just so open, both the fields and the people.  You can pick and choose how you want to be here.  If you want to be in the city, we have that.  If you want to be a farmer, we definitely have that.  If you can’t decide, we have places right in between.  I’m not necessarily a member of Webster county, but I am definitely part of the art community here.  They accept me as I am, just make me feel so welcomed.  I spend a whole lot of time here in Fort Dodge.

I can’t think of anywhere else I’d want to move to.  Honestly, it doesn’t even enter my mind.  I mean, think about it.  I can get in my car, get on a gravel road and just drive.  Get lost.  And I see things all the time.  The places I go, the people I meet, there’s just so many stories.  Iowa is the only place where I don’t feel confined, feel like I’m in a box, usually when I’m out there just exploring.  I love that you can look out and just see for miles.  It’s nice for a photographer, as I’m sure you know, because you can see the very tip-top of an old building and zig-zag around the gravel until you get up close.  And, you know, most of the time there are people there.

  • ROGER, photo by Cody Weber

Roger: It feels like I’ve driven down every gravel road in Iowa sometimes.  I was putting a little over 3,000 miles per month on my car.  Just on these gravel roads taking pictures, seeing what I could find.  I would stop in a town to get gas and people would see my license plate and say, “You aren’t from around here, huh?”  I’d explain what I was doing and these people would end up buying me food, filling up my gas tank, just overwhelming kindness all around.  Where else are you going to experience that?  You get the impression here that people really want you to keep going.  And they help you, you know, because the barns and things are disappearing.  They still are at an alarming rate.  So part of my passion is going out there and getting them while they still exist.

Forgotten Iowa:  That’s kind of my central purpose for this Forgotten Iowa project that we’re doing.  At least a very similar mission statement.  And you’re right.  It’s always an adventure because you never know what exactly you’re going to come across.

Roger:  I’ve found cemetery plots in the middle of a bean field!  I was out wandering around one day and the farmer there saw me with my big 600mm telephoto lens.  He stopped me in my tracks and just said, “You know, you can get closer.” I don’t trespass, so I was content just getting what I could, but there’s that Iowan kindness again.  This guy gave me the whole story of that little graveyard in the bean field, at least since they’d been there.  They’d fixed the headstones, put up a fence, and it was just so amazing to get up close like that.  But, you know, I have a question for you.

Forgotten Iowa:  What’s that?

Roger:  Have you ever went and photographed something and returned to find it gone?

Forgotten Iowa: Oh yeah, it’s happened several times actually.  It’s always sad when that happens, to see that part of history just wiped off the map.  You know, one thing I remember specifically.  There was a music store called The Green Tambourine in the town of Keokuk.  My dad used to take me there all the time as a kid.  We’d go to pick up guitar strings, drum sticks, browse the endless wall of expensive guitars and amplifiers.  Head upstairs to look at the drums that always seemed to be covered in a thick haze of dust.  I really enjoyed that place and enjoyed my memories of it even well after their point of closing.  

Anyway, one day I was driving to work and it looked like the building was moving side to side, almost like it was the only building on the block being affected by some slow-moving earthquake.  I didn’t get four blocks away before I heard a rumbling and when I looked behind me, the building was reduced to rubble.  Just gone, wiped off the map.  I mention this because I get that same hollow feeling in my gut when this happens as I did the first time I drove back by and didn’t see that building there.  I imagine that’s why most of these structures stay up until nature reclaims it.  We’re just too attached to them.

  • TRUCK, photo by Roger Feldhans

Roger: That kind of thing is exactly why I enjoy doing this kind of stuff so much.  I went through a little spell here recently where people saw me and said, “Hey!  I’ve been waiting for you!  Let me show you this over here!”  There was one lady somewhere up in northwest Iowa, 92 years old; she got in my car and rode along with me.  She showed me where stuff was, where she grew up, the skeletons of buildings and stuff like that.  Oh, and the stories about when she was little!  She could just go on and on and I truly enjoyed every minute of that.  It’s that Iowa friendly, that Iowa nice, and she must have loved that day just as much as I did.  Her daughter sent me a note thanking me for taking her around like that, just letting her talk about that stuff to somebody that hadn’t already heard the story a thousand times.  I was really glad that I took the time to do that.  It meant a lot to me, too.   I think the most important thing I asked her to show me that day was the stuff that wasn’t there anymore.  Show me what you remember!  Her face lit up and she showed me all these places that used to exist.  That’s so important.  It’s so important to hear these stories and capture what still remains.  

Forgotten Iowa:  Where would you take the readers of this interview if you could?  What advice would you give them?

Roger: I would tell them to get off the interstate.  Take the county roads.  Take the two-lane highways.  There is such a diverse range of things here from border-to-border, but the interstate is going to take you right through that.  By design, too.  The interstates might be the smoothest transition through a place, but you miss so much on them.  People are always in such a rush to get somewhere.  You want to know something?  It takes me four of five hours just to get to Des Moines!  People don’t want to ride with me anymore.  I tend to wander.  I’m a wanderer.  But what can I say?  There’s a whole lot out there to see.

Cardiff Giant is a 10-foot (3.0 m) tall purported “petrified man” uncovered on October 16, 1869, by workers digging a well behind the barn of William C. “Stub” Newell in Cardiff, New York. However, it was realized that it was just a hoax created by New York tobacconist named George Hull. Hull, an atheist, decided to create the giant after an argument with a fundamentalist minister named Mr. Turk about a passage in Genesis that stated that there were giants who once lived on Earth. The idea of a petrified man did not originate with Hull, however. In 1858 the newspaper Alta California had published a bogus letter claiming that a prospector had been petrified when he drank a liquid within a geode. Some other newspapers also had published stories of supposedly petrified people.

Hull had hired men to carve out a 10-foot-long, 4.5 inch block of gypsum in Fort Dodge, Iowa, telling them it was intended for a monument of Abraham Lincoln in New York. He shipped the block to Chicago, where he hired a German stonecutter to carve it into the likeness of a man and swore him to secrecy. Various stains and acids were used to make the giant appear to be old and weather beaten, and the giant’s surface was beaten with steel knitting needles embedded in a board to simulate pores. When the giant had been buried for a year, Newell hired two men, Gideon Emmons and Henry Nichols, ostensibly to dig a well. When they found the Giant, one of them has been attributed to saying: “I declare, some old Indian has been buried here!”.


Dayton, Iowa
Population: 837

“In January of 1894, a New Year’s dance was being held.  Just before supper there was a commotion coming from the north end of Burnquist’s Hall.  A. Winters had got to talking loud about a HAT.  John Gustafson tried to quiet him but the talking was sign to a bunch of hoodlums from Boone to clear out the hall.  In a moment chairs were flying and women were screaming.  Gustafson tried his best to fight these hoodlums at one point he had two down until the third hit him with a chair.  After getting possession of the hall the miscreants proceeded to make a complete wreck of the hall . After they were through destroying the hall they went to supper.  The citizens of Dayton were aroused by this time and came upon the scene to help the Marshal Larson.  Marshal Larson was trying to arrest the ring leader in the restaurant.  Frank Dowd was one of the hero’s that night.  He came to aide Marshal Larson.  As things happened, at the end of the fight Marshal Larson was shot in the right hip by his own gun in the hands of Paris Winters.  Marshal Larson passed away that Wednesday at 1 o'clock in the morning.  They ended up sending the whole gang of rioters to Fort Dodge for trial. “


(via Vintage Chicago Central & Pacific Fort Dodge Iowa )