Farm Horizons, December 2012
Remembering the local events of the US-Dakota War of 1862
By Jennifer Kotila
The year 2012 marked the 150th anniversary of the US-Dakota war of 1862.
While early settlers in Meeker and McLeod counties were more closely tied to the action that took place during the war, those living in Wright and Carver counties also felt the panic and saw the aftermath of the atrocities which took place west of them. The following information can be found at www.usdakkotawarmncountybycounty.com.
Prior to 1862, both the Dakota and white settlers lived in Wright, Carver, McLeod, and Meeker counties. In fact, the Mdewakanton leader Medicine Bottle camped with his band along the North Fork of the Crow River during the winter as late as 1858 or 1859. Another source from Nov. 18, 1858 states, “In Watertown in Carver County 150 Sioux are camping who have caused much damage. They have shot down cows and let their horses graze in the fields.”
Prior to white settlers arriving in 1855, Meeker County had been Dakota hunting territory. Land to the north of the Meeker County border was claimed by the Chippewa. When Minnesota became a state in 1858, the Dakota were relegated to a small, 20-mile tract of land along the Minnesota River.
Settlers had taken over the land which the Dakota once freely roamed, and large game populations had declined severely due to overhunting, leaving the traditional Dakota lifestyle of farming, hunting, fishing, and gathering wild rice non-sustainable.
Payments promised to the Dakota by the federal government in exchange for land were slow in coming, and the Dakota were starving. The Dakota, growing frustrated due to the lack of payments and not being able to feed themselves, finally took their frustrations out on the settlers.
Not all of the Dakota took part in the hostile actions, and some protected white settlers. After the war broke out, Chief Little Crow was the main leader for the hostile Dakota, leading them into the major battles with the US Army.
The act considered the beginning of the US-Dakota War of 1862 occurred Aug. 17, 1862 in Meeker County when Robinson Jones, Ann Baker (Jones’ wife), Viranus Webster, Howard Baker, and Clara Wilson were killed by four Dakota warriors at Jones’ farm in Acton. The following day, settlers in the Manannah area began fleeing to Forest City.
The Yellow Medicine Agency was attacked Aug. 18, and John Otherday led a group of 62 refugees fleeing to Hutchinson. The refugees rested at Cedar City in Acoma Township at the home of Charley Peterson, where a trader from the Upper Sioux Agency, Stuart Garvie, died from the severe wounds suffered in the attack. His body was taken to Hutchinson.
When news of the attacks reached Wright County, residents began fleeing to Minneapolis. Rockford, being the only town with a bridge across the Crow River at the time, filled with refugees heading east.
Residents in Carver County also began fleeing east, and an article published in the Aug. 21 St. Paul Press stated, “Several loads of the panic-stricken people of Carver and Sibley arrived in town last evening. They were all Germans, and principally women and children. It is impossible to believe the terror existing among these people. They said St. Peter, Henderson, and Glencoe were burned, and 10,000 Indians were marching upon Carver and Chaska, and only six miles from those places. They had rode all night and day, and were nearly jaded out.”
The following day, after arriving by steamboat, Colonel Henry Sibley’s forces split into two groups, one heading through Glencoe to St. Peter, and the other going through Belle Plaine.
In Meeker County, Phillip Deck, Linus Howe, Joseph Page, and Wilmot Maybee returned to their homesteads in Manannah Aug. 26 to check on supplies and livestock, were attacked, and killed. After that, stockades were built throughout the area at Pipe Lake, Forest City, Kingston, Manannah, Hutchinson, Glencoe, Brownton, Rockford, Buffalo, Clearwater, Fair Haven, Greenwood, Maple Lake, Monticello, Medicine Lake, Beebe Lake, and possibly Watertown.
After being attacked at Acton Sept. 3, Captain Richard Stout and his men retreated to Hutchinson where the wounded were housed in the hotel. Settlers in the area flocked to the Hutchinson stockade, which had been completed Aug. 27.
The Forest City stockade, which housed hundreds of refugees, was completed Sept. 3 and protected the refugees when attacked Sept. 4. However, the attacking Dakota looted and burned most of Forest City the day the stockade was attacked.
That same day, the Hutchinson stockade was also attacked from the north, with Dakota burning outlying buildings as they approached from the north. Reinforcement troops arrived from Glencoe that evening, causing the Dakota to retreat.
On his way to check on crops and livestock, Caleb Sanborn was attacked and killed near Cedar Lake in southern Meeker County after leaving the Hutchinson stockade. Daniel Cross, Lieutenant Oliver Pierce, and Frank Jewett left the Hutchinson stockade Sept. 23 to look for Sanborn, were attacked, and Cross was killed. Sanborn’s and Cross’s bodies were found later.
Sergeant William Edwards was shot and scalped at Kingston Sept. 11, and Anders Olson Bakkedok was shot while going to his farm Sept. 22. Samuel and Laura White, who lived near Brownton, along with their children, Susan and Otis, were also attacked and killed Sept. 22. Their bodies were taken to Hutchinson by a group of 12 soldiers who had also captured a wagon of stolen items from the Dakota.
Settlers in Meeker, McLeod, Carver, and Wright counties were set at ease when surrender came Sept. 26 at Camp Release in Lac Qui Parle County. Those held captive by the Native Americans were released. About 1,200 Native Americans surrendered at the time, and nearly 2,000 would eventually turn themselves in. Those who did not, fled west to Dakota Territory.
Trials began at Camp Release, and continued at the Lower Sioux Agency, and 303 Dakota were convicted, sentenced to hang, and taken to prison in Mankato. President Abraham Lincoln approved death sentences for 39 of the 303 condemned Dakota prisoners, and 38 were hung in Mankato Dec. 26, 1862. The rest of the prisoners were deported April 22, 1863.
In November 1862, settlers in Carver County saw about 1,800 Dakota women and children, along with mixed-blood people from Camp Release, walk in a four-mile long procession through Carver County on their way to Fort Snelling. The following spring, the Dakota were exiled west to the Dakota Territory.
Throughout the following year, small bands of Dakota warriors continued to roam throughout central Minnesota, and most of the deaths in Wright County can be attributed to skirmishes in June and July 1863. The Dustin family was killed east of Smith Lake June 29. A traveler, James A. McGannon, was killed north of Lake Union July 1.
It is believed these attacks were made by Chief Little Crow and a small band of Dakota. When he was finally killed while camping a few miles north of Hutchinson, he was wearing McGannon’s jacket.
Of the refugees who fled to Minneapolis from Wright County, only about one-third ever returned to their homesteads.
Historic monuments of local events
Throughout Wright, Meeker, and McLeod counties are markers dedicated to the events which took place in 1862 and 1863.
McLeod County markers:
• Hutchinson Stockade marker located at the corner of Washington Avenue East and Hassan Street Southeast in Hutchinson.
• A marker for the White family is located near Brownton.
• The McLeod County Historical Society, located in Hutchinson at the corner of Minnesota Highway 7 and School Road Northwest has a book listing several more historic markers related to the US-Dakota War of 1862 and where they are located.
Meeker County markers:
• The Acton massacre gravesite monument located at Ness Lutheran Church. Take Meeker County Road 1 six miles southwest of Litchfield, turn right onto Meeker County Road 23, and after one mile, turn right on 580th Avenue, where Ness Church is located after one-half mile.
• Anders Olson monument located six miles southwest of Litchfield on Meeker County Road 23.
• Battle of Acton marker located 2.5 miles south of Grove City on Minnesota State Highway 4; turn left on 255th Street, following it until it connects to Meeker County Road 23.
• Acton Monument located three miles south of Grove City on Minnesota State Hwy. 4; turn right on 248th Street.
• Manannah Ambush Monument located seven miles north from Grove City on Minnesota State Highway 4; turn right on Meeker County Road 3.
• Forest City Stockade located seven miles north of Litchfield on Minnesota State Highway 24.
• Death of Little Crow monument located one-half mile west of Minnesota State Highway 15 on Meeker County Road 18.
• Daniel Cross monument located three miles west of Minnesota State Highway 15 on Meeker County Road 18.
• Caleb Sanborn monument located four miles west of Minnesota State Highway 15 on County Road 18.
Wright County markers:
• Dustin family marker located on US Highway 12 about 2.5 miles east of Howard Lake.
Cemeteries with gravestones of participants in the US-Dakota War of 1862
Throughout Meeker, McLeod, and Wright counties are cemeteries where participants of the US-Dakota War of 1862 were buried.
McLeod County cemeteries:
• Oakland Cemetery in Hutchinson Stuart Garvie and Daniel A. Cross.
• Mount Auborn Cemetery in Glencoe Eilphalet W. Richardson, a Glencoe resident who was killed; Samuel, Laura, Susan, and Otis White.
Meeker County cemeteries:
• Union Grove Community Cemetery in Manannah Phillip Deck, Linus Howe, Joseph Page (all buried in the grave for Deck); Wilmot Maybee.
• Ness Lutheran Church cemetery Robinson James, Clara Wilson, Ann Baker Jones, Viranus Webster, Howard Baker, and Anders Bakkedok.
Wright County cemetery:
• Mission Cemetery in Waverly Dustin family.
More information about the US-Dakota War
More information about the above events, and events that took place throughout the state pertaining to the US-Dakota War of 1862, can be found on the county by county website, listed above. There is a list of resources used, as well as a chronology of what happened.
Local information can be found by visiting local historical societies or their websites. The Minnesota Historical Society and Fort Snelling have created comprehensive websites, www.usdakotawar.org and www.historicfortsnelling.org/history/us-dakota-war.