Mines of Spain Recreation Area
There is evidence of prehistoric Native American cultures, some dating back as many as 8,000 years. Mounds, village sites, rock shelters, trading post sites, and campsites dot the landscape of this region. The Mesquakie (Sac & Fox) were the earliest known historic inhabitants of the Mines of Spain. The "Red Earth" people are believed to have originated on the east coast and are Algonquian by language. They were later forced out of the Great Lakes region by the French and finally settled in this area. Their village was located at the mouth of Catfish Creek. From this site, the Mesquakie carried on a fur trade with French voyagers. They also worked the lead mines for may decades before the Revolutionary War.
10,000 BC - 8,000 BC The Paleo-Indian Period. The first humans arrive in the Upper Mississippi Valley
8,000 BC - 500 BC The Archaic Period. Hunters and gatherers
500 BC - 1,000 AD The Woodland Period. Mound Builders and pottery makers
1,000 AD - 1,500 AD Oneota Culture. Farming villages established along the Upper Mississippi Valley
1700's The Sauk and Mesquakie arrive in the Dubuque area
1764 Beginning of Mesquakie lead mining and log furnace smelting at the Mines of Spain
1780's Mesquakie "Kettle Chief" village established at or near the mouth of Catfish Creek
1788 Mesquakie give permission to Julien Dubuque to begin mining leadon the Mines of Spain
1830 - 1832 Maequakie abandon village on Catfish Creek, but return periodically to mine lead and hunt
1832 - 1833 Black Hawk War in progress
1833 Black Hawk Treaty opens Mines of Spain to "official" white settlement as the Mesquakie are forced out
1842 The Mesquakie and Sauk sell their Iowa land to the United States government and are re-settled in Kansas and Oklahoma
1856 Many of the Mesquakie return to Iowa and settle in Tama County where today they operate a successful casino
Fox called themselves the Mesquakie meaning "red earth" people. Early French explorers mistook a clan name (Wagosh meaning fox) for that of the entire tribe and began referring to them as the "Renard" (French for Fox), and the English and Americans continued to error in their own language.
A 19th Century version of a Native American "wickiup".
Photo contributed by Center of Dubuque History, Loras College