Spirit Lake Fort

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Spirit Lake Fort (1862-1865) - A U.S. Civil War era Fort established in response to the 1862 Sioux uprising. Located near Spirit Lake, Dickinson County, Iowa. Named Spirit Lake Fort after location. Abandoned in 1865.

Spirit Lake Fort Marker.


This fort and five others were established as a result of the 1862 Sioux Indian uprising and the slaughtered of some 800 settlers by raiding Sioux warriors in August 1862. This line of forts provided large stockades to hold local settlers during times of Indian alarm. Each of the forts was manned by a detachment of troops of the Northern Iowa Border Brigade, who were organized by the Iowa governor to deal with the crisis.

At Spirit Lake, a timber stockade had been built around the newly constructed Dickinson County courthouse. The building initially sheltered several families under difficult conditions until a militia detachment under Lt. James A. Sawyers arrived to complete the works. Lt. Sawyers had some forty men of Capt. Millard's company, Sioux City Cavalry in the United States service. The court house was constructed of brick but had not yet been completed inside. Lt. Sawyers' detachment completed necessary work and the fort became the brigade's regional headquarters until July 1865.

Mr. S. J. Ingham was initially given charge of the Brigade on 29 Aug 1862 but soon after Lt. James A. Sawyers was elected and took command of the forces as a Lt. Colonel on 7 Nov 1862. He was mustered out Sept. 19, 1863

The courthouse was later completed in 1868 but was burned down in 1871. The second (1872) and third (1890) courthouses were also built on this site. The fourth courthouse was built on the site in 2006.

Current Status

Spirit Lake Marker Text.

Location: Spirit Lake, Dickinson County, Iowa.

Maps & Images

Lat: 43.42245 Long: -95.10250

  • Multi Maps from ACME
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  • Elevation: 1,475'

GPS Locations:

See Also:


  • Whittaker, William E., Ed., Frontier Forts of Iowa: Indians Traders and Soldiers, 1682-1862, University of Iowa Press, Iowa City, 2009, ISBN 978-1-58729-831-8, 287 pages.
  • Ingham, William H., The Iowa Northern Border Brigade of 1862-3, The Annals of Iowa 5, 1902, Pdf, pages 496-497,503
  • McKusick, Marshall, The Iowa Northern Border Brigade, 1973, Office of the State Archaeologist, University of Iowa, Iowa City, 74-20374, 172 pages, page 67, 99-100.


Visited: 29 Jul 2020

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