Wapello was born in 1787 at Prairie du Chien, Northwest Territory, in what is now the state of Wisconsin. Short and stout in physical stature, with a kindly visage, Wapello entertained friendly relations with white settlers throughout his life. Under pressure to cede territory to the United States, he signed peace treaties with them at Fort Armstrong at Rock Island, Illinois, on 3 September 1822; at Prairie du Chien on 15 July 1830; at Fort Armstrong on 21 September 1832; at Dubuque, Iowa, on 28 September 1836; and at Washington, D.C., on 21 October 1837. During the Black Hawk War, Wapello supported chief Keokuk. In the 1840s, many Fox were forced west to Kansas.
Settling in Iowa
In 1829, he led his tribe to Muscatine Slough on the west bank of the Mississippi River and later settled in Iowa. The frontier town of Wapello later developed near here. In 1837, he accompanied the renowned chief Keokuk and United States Indian agent General Joseph M. Street on a tour of northeastern and mid-Atlantic states. During this trip, Wapello made an eloquent speech at Boston, Massachusetts, wherein he expressed friendly sentiments towards white settlers and reaffirmed his desire to continue harmonious relations with them.
Death and legacy
While on a hunting trip near the Skunk River east of Ottumwa, Iowa, Wapello died on 15 March 1842. He was later buried in accordance with his oft-expressed wish that he be laid to rest alongside his good friend General Street, at the site of the government agency in what is now a small park named Chief Wapello's Memorial Park located southeast of Agency, Iowa.
- Chief Wapello's portrait was painted by Charles Bird King and a lithograph included with the chief's biography in Thomas McKenney and James Hall's History of the Indian Tribes of North America (1836-1844, three volumes).
- In Iowa, the city of Wapello and Wapello County are named for him.
- The USS Wapello (YN-56), a United States Navy net tender in commission from 1941 to 1946, was named for him.
- A large, 450-pound, statue of Chief Wapello was installed in his honor atop the Wapello County, Iowa courthouse in Ottumwa for many decades. The statue and its mounting base received severe damage during a thunderstorm in June 2012, forcing temporary removal. After repair, restoration, and upgrade of the base with stainless steel, the statue was returned to the rooftop on March 13, 2014.
- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here. (Ship namesake paragraph)
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