THE HISTORY OF MINNESOTA AND TALES OF THE FRONTIER
The History of Minnesota AND Tales of the Frontier.
JUDGE CHARLES E. FLANDRAU
PUBLISHED BY E. W. PORTER, ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA. 1900.
'A MA PUISSANCE' THE PIONEER PRESS SAINT PAUL MDCCCXLIX
To the Old Settlers of Minnesota, who so wisely laid the foundation of our state upon the broad and enduring basis of freedom and toleration, and who have so gallantly defended and maintained it, this history is most gratefully and affectionately dedicated by the author.
Charles E. Flandrau.
The original design of this history was, that it should accompany and form part of a book called the "Encyclopedia of Biography of Minnesota." It was so published, and as that work was very large and expensive, it was confined almost exclusively to its subscribers, and did not reach the general public. Many requests were made to the author to present it to the public in a more popular and readable form, and he decided to publish it in a book of the usual library size, and dispose of it at a price which would place it within the reach of everyone desirous of reading it. As the history is written in the most compendious form consistent with a full presentation and discussion of all the facts concerning the creation and growth of the state, it was estimated that it would not occupy sufficient space in print to make a volume of the usual and proper size. The author therefore decided to accompany it with a series of "Frontier Stories," written by himself at different times during his long residence in the Northwest, which embrace historical events, personal adventures, and amusing incidents. He believes these stories will lend interest and pleasure to the volume.
Opening Statement 2
Legendary and Aboriginal Era 3
Fort Snelling 14
The Selkirk Settlement 20
George Catlin 25
Schoolcraft and the Source of Mississippi 26
Elevations in Minnesota 28
The Indians 36
Territorial Period 43
The First Territorial Government 52
First Territorial Legislature 58
The Panic of 1857 68
Land Titles 69
The First Newspaper 70
The Fur Trade 75
Transportation and Express 81
The First Railroad Actually Built 101
The Spirit Lake Massacre 102
The Constitutional Convention 109
Attempt to Remove the Capital 115
The Wright County War 122
The Civil War 123
The Third Regiment 128
The Indian War of 1862 and following years 135
The Attack on Fort Ridgely 148
Battle of New Ulm 150
Battle of Birch Coulie 159
Occurrences in Meeker County and Vicinity 161
Protection of the Southern Frontier 162
Colonel Sibley Moves upon the Enemy 166
The Battle of Wood Lake 169
Fort Abercrombie 171
Camp Release 174
Trial of the Indians 175
Execution of the Thirty-Eight Condemned Indians 180
The Campaign of 1863 182
Battle of Big Mound 184
Battle of Dead Buffalo Lake 185
Battle of Stony Lake 186
Campaign of 1864 187
A Long Period of Peace and Prosperity 193
Introduction of New Process of Milling Wheat 193
The Discovery of Iron 196
Commerce Through St. Mary's Falls Canal 199
The University of Minnesota and School of Agriculture 203
The Minnesota State Agricultural Society 205
The Minnesota Soldiers' Home 207
Other State Institutions 208
Minnesota Institute for Defectives 209
State School for Dependent and Neglected Children 210
The Minnesota State Training School 211
The Minnesota State Reformatory 212
The Minnesota State Prison 213
The Minnesota Historical Society 213
State Institutions Miscellaneous in Character 215
State Finances 217
The Monetary and Business Flurry of 1873 and Panic of 1893 218
Minor Happenings 221
The War with Spain 225
The Indian Battle of Leech Lake 229
The State Flag 236
The Official Flower of the State, and the Method of its Selection 237
Origin of the Name "Gopher State" 242
State Parks 245
Hunting Wolves in Bed 269
The Poisoned Whisky 275
Fun in a Blizzard 281
Law and Latin 288
Indian Strategy 291
The First Election Returns from Pembina 296
A Frontier Story, which contains a Robbery, Two Desertions, a Capture and a Suicide 303
The Pony Express 310
Kissing Day 316
A Political Ruse 320
The Hardships of Early Law Practice 324
Temperance at Traverse 329
Win-ne-muc-ca's Gold Mine 333
A Unique Political Career 340
La Crosse 345
Making a Post Office 350
The Courage of Conviction 354
How the Capital was Saved 358
An Editor Incog 365
The Ink-pa-du-ta War 370
Muscular Legislation 378
The Virgin Feast 383
The Aboriginal War Correspondent 387
Bred in the Bone 391
An Accomplished Rascal 396
An Advocate's Opinion of His Own Eloquence is Not Always Reliable 400
A Momentous Meeting 402
Primitive Justice 406
HISTORY OF MINNESOTA.
BY JUDGE CHARLES E. FLANDRAU.
It has been a little over fifty years since the organization of the Territory of Minnesota, which at its birth was a very small and unimportant creation, but which in its half century of growth has expanded into one of the most brilliant and promising stars upon the union of our flag; so that its history must cover every subject, moral, physical and social, that enters into the composition of a first-class progressive Western state, which presents a pretty extensive field; but there is also to be considered a period anterior to civilization, which may be called the aboriginal and legendary era, which abounds with interesting matter, and to the general reader is much more attractive than the prosy subjects of agriculture, finance and commerce.
Having lived in the state through nearly the whole period of Minnesota's political existence, and having taken part in most of the leading events in her history, both savage and civilized, I propose to treat the various subjects that compose her history in a narrative and colloquial manner that may not rise to the dignity of history, but which, I think, while giving facts, will not detract from the interest or pleasure of the reader. If I should in the course of my narrative so far forget myself as to indulge in a joke, or relate an illustrative anecdote, the reader must put up with it.
Nature has been lavishly generous with Minnesota,—more so, perhaps, than with any state in the Union. Its surface is beautifully diversified between rolling prairies and immense forests of valuable timber. Rivers and lakes abound, and the soil is marvelous in its productive fertility. Its climate, taken the year round, surpasses in all attractive features that of any part of the North American continent. There are more enjoyable days in the three hundred and sixty-five that compose the year than in any other country I have ever visited or resided in, and that embraces a good part of the world's surface. The salubrity of Minnesota is phenomenal. There are absolutely no diseases indigenous to the state. The universally accepted truth of this fact is found in a saying, which used to be general among the old settlers, "that there is no excuse for anyone dying in Minnesota, and that only two men ever did die there, one of whom was hanged for killing the other."
The resources of Minnesota principally consist of the products of the farm, the mine, the dairy, the quarry and the forest, and its industries of a vast variety of manufactures of all kinds and characters, both great and small, the leading ones being flour and lumber; to which, of course, must be added the enormous carrying trade which grows out of, and is necessary to the successful conduct of such resources and industries,—all of which subjects will be treated of in their appropriate places.
With these prefatory suggestions I will proceed to the history, beginning with the
LEGENDARY AND ABORIGINAL ERA.
Until a very few years ago it has been generally accepted as a fact that Louis Hennepin, a Franciscan priest of the Recollect Order, was the first white man who entered the present boundaries of Minnesota; but a recent discovery has developed the fact that there has reposed in the archives of the Bodleian Library and British Museum for more than two hundred years manuscript accounts of voyages made as far back as 1652 by two Frenchmen, named respectively Radison and Groselliers, proving that they traveled among the North American Indians from the last named date to the year 1684, during which time they visited what is now Minnesota. It is also a well authenticated fact that Du Luth anticipated Hennepin at least one year, and visited Mille Lacs in 1679, and there, on the southwest side of the lake, found a large Sioux town, called Kathio, from which point he wrote to Frontenac, on the second day of July, 1679, that he had caused his majesty's arms to be planted in Kathio, where no Frenchman had ever been. Hennepin did not arrive until 1680. But as the exploits of these earlier travelers left no trace that can in any important way influence the history of our state beyond challenging the claim of priority so long enjoyed by Hennepin, I will simply mention the fact of their advent without comment, referring the curious reader for the proof of these matters to the library of the Minnesota Historical Society, where the details can be found.
Hennepin was with La Salle at Fort Creve-Coeur, near Lake Peoria, in what is now Illinois, in 1680. La Salle was the superior of the exploring party of which young Hennepin was a member, and in February, 1680, he selected Hennepin and two traders for the arduous and dangerous undertaking of exploring the unknown regions of the Upper Mississippi. Hennepin was very ambitious to become a great explorer, and was filled with the idea that by following the water courses he would find a passage to the sea and Japan.
On the 29th of February, 1680, he, with two voyageurs, in a canoe, set out on his voyage of discovery. When he reached the junction of the Illinois river with the Mississippi in March, he was detained by floating ice until near the middle of that month. He then commenced to ascend the Mississippi, which was the first time it was ever attempted by a civilized man. On the 11th of April they were met by a large war party of Dakotas, which filled thirty-three canoes, who opened fire on them with arrows; but hostilities were soon stopped, and Hennepin and his party were taken prisoners, and made to return with their captors to their villages.
Hennepin, in his narrative, tells a long story of the difficulties he encountered in saying his prayers, as the Indians thought he was working some magic on them, and they followed him into the woods, and never let him out of their sight. Judging from many things that appear in his narrative, which have created great doubt about his veracity, it probably would not have been very much of a hardship if he had failed altogether in the performance of this pious duty. Many of the Indians, who had lost friends and relatives in their fights with the Miamis, were in favor of killing the white men, but better counsels prevailed, and they were spared. The hope of opening up a trade intercourse with the French largely entered into the decision.
While traveling up the river one of the white men shot a wild turkey with his gun, which produced a great sensation among the Indians, and was the first time a Dakota ever heard the discharge of firearms. They called the gun Maza wakan, or spirit iron.
The party camped at Lake Pepin, and on the nineteenth day of their captivity they arrived in the vicinity of where St. Paul now stands. From this point they proceeded by land to Mille Lacs, where they were taken by the Indians to their several villages, and were kindly treated. These Indians were part of the band of Dakotas, called M'day-wa-kon-ton-wans, or the Lake Villagers. I spell the Indian names as they are now known, and not as they are given in Hennepin's narrative, although it is quite remarkable how well he preserved them with sound as his only guide.
While at this village the Indians gave Hennepin some steam baths, which he says were very effective in removing all traces of soreness and fatigue, and in a short time made him feel as well and strong as he ever was. I have often witnessed this medical process among the Dakotas. They make a small lodge of poles covered with a buffalo skin, or something similar, and place in it several large boulders heated to a high degree. The patient then enters naked, and pours water over the stones, producing a dense steam, which envelopes him and nearly boils him. He stands it as long as he can, and then undergoes a thorough rubbing. The effect is to remove stiffness and soreness produced by long journeys on foot, or other serious labor.
Hennepin tells in a very agreeable way many things that occurred during his captivity: how astonished the Indians were at all the articles he had. A mariner's compass created much wonder, and an iron pot with feet like lions' paws they would not touch with the naked hand; but their astonishment knew no bounds when he told them that the whites only allowed a man one wife, and that his religious office did not permit him to have any.
I might say here that the Dakotas are polygamous, as savage people generally are, and that my experience proves to me that missionaries who go among these people make a great mistake in attacking this institution until after they have ingratiated themselves with them, and then, by attempting any reform beyond teaching monogamy in the future. Nothing will assure the enmity of a savage more than to ask him to discard any of his wives, and especially the mother of his children. While I would be the last man on earth to advocate polygamy, I can truthfully say that one of the happiest and most harmonious families I ever knew was that of the celebrated Little Crow (who, during all my official residence among the Dakotas, was my principal advisor and ambassador, and who led the massacre in 1862), who had four wives; but there was a point in his favor, as they were all sisters.
Hennepin passed the time he spent in Minnesota in baptizing Indian babies and picking up all the information he could find. His principal exploit was the naming of the Falls of St. Anthony, which he called after his patron saint, Saint Anthony of Padua.
That Hennepin was thoroughly convinced that there was a northern passage to the sea which could be reached by ships, is proven by the following extract from his work:
"For example, we may be transported into the Pacific sea by rivers, which are large and capable of carrying great vessels, and from thence it is very easy to go to China and Japan without crossing the equinoctial line, and in all probability Japan is on the same continent as America."
Our early visitor evidently had very confused ideas on matters of geography.
The first account of his adventures was published by him in 1683, and was quite trustworthy, and it is much to be regretted that he was afterwards induced to publish another edition in Utrecht, in 1689, which was filled with falsehoods and exaggerations, which brought upon him the censure of the king of France. He died in obscurity, unregretted. The county of Hennepin is named for him.
Other Frenchmen visited Minnesota shortly after Hennepin for the purpose of trade with the Indians and the extension of the territory of New France. In 1689 Nicholas Perot was established at Lake Pepin, with quite a large body of men, engaged in trade with the Indians. On the 8th of May, 1689, Perot issued a proclamation from his post on Lake Pepin, in which he formally took possession in the name of the king of all the countries inhabited by the Dakotas, "and of which they are proprietors."
This post was the first French establishment in Minnesota. It was called Fort Bon Secours, afterwards Fort Le Sueur, but on later maps Fort Perot.
In 1695 Le Sueur built the second post in Minnesota, between the head of Lake Pepin and the mouth of the St. Croix. In July of that year he took a party of Ojibways and one Dakota to Montreal, for the purpose of impressing upon them the importance and strength of France. Here large bodies of troops were maneuvered in their presence, and many speeches made by both the French and the Indians. Friendly and commercial relations were established.
Le Sueur, some time after, returned to Minnesota and explored St. Peter's river (now the Minnesota) as far as the mouth of the Blue Earth. Here he built a log fort, and called it L'Hullier, and made some excavations in search of copper ore. He sent several tons of a green substance which he found, and supposed to be copper, to France, but it was undoubtedly a colored clay that is found in that region, and is sometimes used as a rough paint. He is supposed to be the first man who supplied the Indians with guns. Le Sueur kept a journal in which he gave the best description of the Dakotas written in those early times, and was a very reliable man. Minnesota has a county and a city named for him.
Many other Frenchmen visited Minnesota in early days, among whom was Du Luth; but as they were simply traders, explorers and priests, among the Indians, it is hardly necessary in a work of this character to trace their exploits in detail. While they blazed the trail for others, they did not, to any great extent, influence the future of the country, except by supplying a convenient nomenclature with which to designate localities, which has largely been drawn upon. Many of them, however, were good and devoted men, and earnest in their endeavors to spread the gospel among the Indians. How well they succeeded, I will discuss when I speak of these savage men more particularly.
The next arrival of sufficient importance to particularize was Jonathan Carver. He was born in Connecticut in 1732. His father was a justice of the peace, which in those days was a more important position than it is now regarded. They tried to make a doctor of him, and he studied medicine just long enough to discover that the profession was uncongenial, and abandoned it. At the age of eighteen he purchased an ensign's commission in a Connecticut regiment, raised during the French war. He came very near losing his life at the massacre of Fort William Henry, but escaped, and after the declaration of peace between France and England, in 1763, he conceived the project of making an exploration of the Northwest.
It should be remembered that the French sovereignty over the Northwest ceased in 1763, when, by a treaty made in Versailles, between the French and the English, all the lands embraced in what is now Minnesota were ceded by the French to England, so Carver came as an Englishman into English territory.
Carver left Boston in the month of June, 1766, and proceeded to Mackinaw, then the most distant British post, where he arrived in the month of August. He then took the usual route to Green Bay. He proceeded by the way of the Fox and Wisconsin rivers to the Mississippi. He found a considerable town on the Mississippi, near the mouth of the Wisconsin, called by the French "La Prairie les Chiens," which is now Prairie du Chien, or the Dog Prairie, named after an Indian chief who went by the dignified name of "The Dog." He speaks of this town as one where a great central fur trade was carried on by the Indians. From this point he commenced his voyage up the Mississippi in a canoe, and when he reached Lake Pepin he claims to have discovered a system of earthworks, which he describes as of the most scientific military construction, and inferred that they had been at some time the intrenchments of a people well versed in the arts of war. It takes very little to excite an enthusiastic imagination into the belief that it has found what it has been looking for.
He found a cave in what is now known as Dayton's Bluff in St. Paul, and describes it as immense in extent, and covered with Indian hieroglyphics, and speaks of a burying place at a little distance from the cavern,—Indian Mound park evidently,—and made a short voyage up the Minnesota river, which he says the Indians called "Wadapaw Mennesotor." This probably is as near as he could catch the name by sound; it should be, Wak-pa Minnesota.
After his voyage to the falls and up the Minnesota, he returned to his cave, where he says there were assembled a great council of Indians, to which he was admitted, and witnessed the burial ceremonies, which he describes as follows:
"After the breath is departed, the body is dressed in the same attire it usually wore, his face is painted, and he is seated in an erect posture on a mat or skin, placed in the middle of the hut, with his weapons by his side. His relatives, seated around, each harangues the deceased; and if he has been a great warrior, recounts his heroic actions nearly to the following purport, which in the Indian language is extremely poetical and pleasing:
"'You still sit among us, brother; your person retains its usual resemblance, and continues similar to ours, without any visible deficiency except it has lost the power of action. But whither is that breath flown which a few hours ago sent up smoke to the Great Spirit? Why are those lips silent that lately delivered to us expressions and pleasing language? Why are those feet motionless that a short time ago were fleeter than the deer on yonder mountains? Why useless hang those arms that could climb the tallest tree or draw the toughest bow? Alas! Every part of that frame which we lately beheld with admiration and wonder is now become as inanimate as it was three hundred years ago! We will not, however, bemoan thee as if thou wast forever lost to us, or that thy name would be buried in oblivion. Thy soul yet lives in the great country of spirits with those of thy nation that have gone before thee, and though we are left behind to perpetuate thy fame, we shall one day join thee.
"'Actuated by the respect we bore thee whilst living, we now come to tender thee the last act of kindness in our power; that thy body might not lie neglected on the plain and become a prey to the beasts of the field and the birds of the air, we will take care to lay it with those of thy ancestors who have gone before thee, hoping at the same time that thy spirit will feed with their spirits, and be ready to receive ours when we shall also arrive at the great country of souls.'"
I have heard many speeches made by the descendants of these same Indians, and have many times addressed them on all manner of subjects, but I never heard anything quite so elegant as the oration put into their mouths by Carver. I have always discovered that a good interpreter makes a good speech. On one occasion, when a delegation of Pillager Chippewas was in Washington to settle some matters with the government, they wanted a certain concession which the Indian commissioner would not allow, and they appealed to the president, who was then Franklin Pierce. Old Flat-mouth, the chief, presented the case. Paul Beaulieu interpreted it so feelingly that the president surrendered without a contest. After informing him as to the disputed point, he added:
"Father, you are great and powerful. You live in a beautiful home where the bleak winds never penetrate. Your hunger is always appeased with the choicest foods. Your heart is kept warm by all these blessings, and would bleed at the sight of distress among your red children. Father, we are poor and weak. We live far away in the cheerless north, in bark lodges. We are often cold and hungry. Father, what we ask is to you as nothing, while to us it is comfort and happiness. Give it to us, and when you stand upon your grand portico some bright winter night, and see the northern lights dancing in the heavens, it will be the thanks of your red children ascending to the Great Spirit for your goodness to them."
Carver seems to have been a sagacious observer and a man of great foresight. In speaking of the advantages of the country, he says that the future population will be "able to convey their produce to the seaports with great facility, the current of the river from its source to its entrance into the Gulf of Mexico being extremely favorable for doing this in small craft. This might also in time be facilitated by canals, or short cuts, and a communication opened with New York by way of the Lakes."
He was also impressed with the idea that a route could be discovered by way of the Minnesota river, which "would open a passage for conveying intelligence to China and the English settlements in the East Indies."
The nearest to a realization of this theory that I have known was the sending of the stern-wheeled steamer "Freighter" on a voyage up the Minnesota to Winnipeg some time in the early fifties. She took freight and passengers for that destination, but never reached the Red River of the North.
After the death of Carver his heirs claimed that, while at the great cave on the 1st of May, 1767, the Indians made him a large grant of land, which would cover St. Paul and a large part of Wisconsin, and several attempts were made to have it ratified by both the British and American governments, but without success. Carver does not mention this grant in his book, nor has the original deed ever been found. A copy, however, was produced, and as it was the first real estate transaction ever had in Minnesota, I will set it out in full.
"To Jonathan Carver, a Chief under the Most Mighty and Potent George the Third, King of the English and other nations, the fame of whose warriors has reached our ears, and has been fully told us by our good brother Jonathan aforesaid, whom we all rejoice to have come among us and bring us good news from his country:
"WE, Chiefs of the Nandowessies, who have hereunto set our seals, do, by these presents, for ourselves and heirs forever, in return for the aid and good services done by the said Jonathan to ourselves and allies, give, grant and convey to him, the said Jonathan, and to his heirs and assigns forever, the whole of a certain Territory or tract of land, bounded as follows, viz.: From the Falls of St. Anthony, running on east bank of the Mississippi, nearly southeast as far as Lake Pepin, where the Chippewa joins the Mississippi, and from thence eastward five days' travel accounting twenty English miles per day, and from thence again to the Falls of St. Anthony on a direct straight line. We do for ourselves, heirs and assigns, forever give unto said Jonathan, his heirs and assigns, with all the trees, rocks and rivers therein, reserving the sole liberty of hunting and fishing on land not planted or improved by the said Jonathan, his heirs and assigns, to which we have affixed our respective seals.
"At the Great Cave, May 1st, 1767. (Signed) "HAWNOPAWJATIN, "OTOHTONGOONLISHEAW."
This alleged instrument bears upon its face many marks of suspicion, and was very properly rejected by General Leavenworth, who, in 1821, made a report of his investigations in regard to it to the commissioner of the general land office.
The war between the Chippewas and the Dakotas continued to rage with varied success, as it has since time immemorial. It was a bitter, cruel war, waged against the race and blood, and each successive slaughter only increased the hatred and heaped fuel upon the fire. As an Indian never forgives the killing of a relative, and as the particular murderer, as a general thing, was not known on either side, each death was charged up to the tribe. These wars, although constant, had very little influence on the standing or progress of the country, except so far as they may have proved detrimental or beneficial to the fur trade prosecuted by the whites. The first event after the appearance of Jonathan Carver that can be considered as materially affecting the history of Minnesota was the location and erection of Fort Snelling, of which event I will give a brief account.
In 1805 the government decided to procure a site on which to build a fort somewhere on the waters of the upper Mississippi, and sent Lieut. Zebulon Montgomery Pike of the army to explore the country, expel British traders who might be violating the laws of the United States, and to make treaties with the Indians.
On the 21st of September, 1805, he encamped on what is now known as Pike Island, at the junction of the Mississippi and Minnesota, then St. Peter's river. Two days later he obtained, by treaty with the Dakota nation, a tract of land for a military reservation, with the following boundaries, extending from "below the confluence of the Mississippi and St. Peter's, up the Mississippi, to include the Falls of St. Anthony, extending nine miles on each side of the river." The United States paid two thousand dollars for this land.
The reserve thus purchased was not used for military purposes until Feb. 10, 1819, at which time the government gave the following reasons for erecting a fort at this point: "To cause the power of the United States government to be fully acknowledged by the Indians and settlers of the Northwest, to prevent Lord Selkirk, the Hudson Bay Company and others from establishing trading posts on United States territory, to better the conditions of the Indians, and to develop the resources of the country." Part of the Fifth United States Infantry, commanded by Colonel Henry Leavenworth, was dispatched to select a site and erect a post. They arrived at the St. Peter's river in September, 1819, and camped on or near the spot where now stands Mendota. During the winter of 1819-20 the troops were terribly afflicted with scurvy. General Sibley, in an address before the Minnesota Historical Society, in speaking of it, says: "So sudden was the attack that soldiers apparently in good health when they retired at night were found dead in the morning. One man who was relieved from his tour of sentinel duty, and had stretched himself upon a bench; when he was called four hours later to resume his duties, he was found lifeless."
In May, 1820, the command left their cantonment, crossed the St. Peter's and went into summer camp at a spring near the old Baker trading house, and about two miles above the present site of Fort Snelling. This was called "Camp Coldwater."
During the summer the men were busy in procuring logs and other material necessary for the work. The first site selected was where the present military cemetery stands, and the post was called "Fort St. Anthony;" but in August, 1820, Colonel Joshua Snelling of the Fifth United States Infantry arrived, and, on taking command, changed the site to where Fort Snelling now stands. Work steadily progressed until Sept. 10, 1820, when the corner stone of Fort St. Anthony was laid with all due ceremony. The first measured distance that was given between this new post and the next one down the river, Fort Crawford, where Prairie du Chien now stands, was 204 miles. The work was steadily pushed forward. The buildings were made of logs, and were first occupied in October, 1822.
The first steamboat to arrive at the post was the "Virginia," in 1823.
The first saw-mill in Minnesota was constructed by the troops in 1822, and the first lumber sawed on Rum river was for use in building the post. The mill site is now included within the corporate limits of Minneapolis.
The post continued to be called Fort St. Anthony until 1824, when, upon the recommendation of General Scott, who inspected the fort, it was named Fort Snelling, in honor of its founder.
In 1830 stone buildings were erected for a four-company post; also, a stone hospital and a stone wall, nine feet high, surrounding the whole post; but these improvements were not actually completed until after the Mexican War.
The Indian title to the military reservation does not seem to have been effectually acquired, notwithstanding the treaty of Lieutenant Pike, made with the Indians in 1805, until the treaty with the Dakotas, in 1837, by which the Indian claim to all the lands east of the Mississippi, including the reservation, ceased.
In 1836, before the Indian title was finally acquired, quite a number of settlers located on the reservation on the left bank of the Mississippi.
On Oct. 21, 1839, the president issued an order for their removal, and on the sixth day of May, 1840, some of the settlers were forcibly removed.
In 1837 Mr. Alexander Faribault presented a claim for Pike Island, which was based upon a treaty made by him with the Dakotas in 1820. Whether his claim was allowed the records do not disclose, and it is unimportant.
On May 25, 1853, a military reservation for the fort was set off, by the president, of seven thousand acres, which in the following November was reduced to six thousand.
In 1857 the secretary of war, pursuant to the authority vested in him by act of congress, of March 3, 1857, sold the Fort Snelling reservation, excepting two small tracts, to Mr. Franklin Steele, who had long been sutler of the post, for the sum of ninety thousand dollars, which was to be paid in three installments. The first one of thirty thousand dollars was paid by Steele on July 25, 1857, and he took possession, the troops being withdrawn.
The fort was sold at private sale, and the price paid was, in my opinion, vastly more than it was worth; but Mr. Steele had great hopes for the future of that locality as a site for a town, and was willing to risk the payment. The sale was made by private contract by Secretary Floyd, who adopted this manner because other reservations had been sold at public auction, after full publication of notice to the world, and had brought only a few cents per acre. The whole transaction was in perfect good faith, but it was attacked in congress, and an investigation ordered, which resulted in suspending its consummation, and Mr. Steele did not pay the balance due. In 1860 the Civil War broke out, and the fort was taken possession of by the government for use in fitting out Minnesota troops, and was held until the war ended. In 1868 Mr. Steele presented a claim against the government for rent of the fort and other matters relating to it, which amounted to more than the price he agreed to pay for it.
An act of congress was passed on May 7, 1870, authorizing the secretary of war to settle the whole matter on principles of equity, keeping such reservation as was necessary for the fort. In pursuance of this act, a military board was appointed, and the whole controversy was arranged to the satisfaction of Mr. Steele and the government. The reservation was reduced to a little more than fifteen hundred acres. A grant of ten acres was made to the little Catholic church at Mendota, for a cemetery, and other small tracts were reserved about the Falls of Minnehaha and elsewhere, and all the balance was conveyed to Mr. Steele, he releasing the government from all claims and demands. The action of the secretary of war in carrying out this settlement was approved by the president in 1871.
The fort was one of the best structures of the kind ever erected in the West. It was capable of accommodating five or six companies of infantry, was surrounded by a high stone wall, and protected at the only exposed approaches by stone bastions guarded by cannon and musketry. Its supply of water was obtained from a well in the parade ground, near the sutler's store, which was sunk below the surface of the river. It was perfectly impregnable to any savage enemy, and in consequence was never called upon to stand a siege.
Perched upon a prominent bluff at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers, it has witnessed the changes that have gone on around it for three-quarters of a century, and seen the most extraordinary transformations that have occurred in any similar period in the history of our country. When its corner stone was laid it formed the extreme frontier of the Northwest, with nothing but wild animals and wilder men within hundreds of miles in any direction. The frontier has receded to the westward until it has lost itself in the corresponding one being pushed from the Pacific to the east. The Indians have lost their splendid freedom as lords of a continent, and are prisoners, cribbed upon narrow reservations. The magnificent herds of buffalo that ranged from the British possessions to Texas have disappeared from the face of the earth, and nothing remains but the white man bearing his burden, which is constantly being made more irksome. To those who have played both parts in the moving drama, there is much food for thought.
I devote so much space to Fort Snelling because it has always sustained the position of a pivotal center to Minnesota. In the infancy of society, it radiated the refinement and elegance that leavened the country around. In hospitality its officers were never surpassed, and when danger threatened, its protecting arm assured safety. For many long years it was the first to welcome the incomer to the country, and will ever be remembered by the old settlers as a friend.
After the headquarters of the Department of Dakota was established at St. Paul, and when General Sherman was in command of the army, he thought that the offices should be at the fort, and removed them there. This caused the erection of the new administration building and the beautiful line of officers' quarters about a mile above the old walled structure, and led to its practical abandonment; but the change was soon found to be inconvenient in a business way, and the department headquarters were restored to the city, where they still remain.
Since the fort was built nearly every officer in the old army, and many of those who have followed them, has been stationed at Snelling, and it was beloved by them all.
The situation of the fort, now that the railroads have become the reliance of all transportation, both for speed and safety, is a most advantageous one from a military point of view. It is at the center of a railroad system that reaches all parts of the continent, and troops and munitions of war can be deposited at any point with the utmost dispatch. It is believed that it will not only be retained but enlarged.
THE SELKIRK SETTLEMENT.
Lord Selkirk, the checking of whose operations was among the reasons given for the erection of Fort Snelling, was a Scotch earl who was very wealthy and enthusiastic on the subject of founding colonies in the Northwestern British possessions. He was a kind hearted but visionary man, and had no practical knowledge whatever on the subject of colonization in uncivilized countries. About the beginning of the nineteenth century he wrote several pamphlets, urging the importance of colonizing British emigrants on British soil to prevent them settling in the United States. In 1811 he obtained a grant of land from the Hudson Bay Company in the region of Lake Winnipeg, the Red River of the North and the Assinaboine, in what is now Manitoba.
Previous to this time the inhabitants of this region, besides the Indians, were Canadians, who had intermingled with the savages, learning all their vices and none of their good traits. They were called "Gens Libre," free people, and were very proud of the title. Mr. Neill, in his history of Minnesota, in describing them, says they were fond of
"Vast and sudden deeds of violence, Adventures wild and wonders of the moment."
The offspring of their intercourse with the Indian women were numerous, and called "Bois Brules." They were a fine race of hunters, horsemen and boatmen, and possessed all the accomplishments of the voyageur. They spoke the language of both father and mother.
In 1812 a small advance party of colonists arrived at the Red River of the North, in about latitude fifty degrees north. They were, however, frightened away by a party of men of the Northwest Fur Company, dressed as Indians, and induced to take refuge at Pembina, in what is now Minnesota, where they spent the winter, suffering the greatest hardships. Many died, but the survivors returned in the spring to the colony, and made an effort to raise a crop; but it was a failure, and they again passed the winter at Pembina. This was the winter of 1813-14. They again returned to the colony, in a very distressed and dilapidated condition, in the spring.
By September, 1815, the colony, which then numbered about two hundred, was getting along quite prosperously, and its future seemed auspicious. It was called "Kildonan," after a parish in Scotland in which the colonists were born.
The employes of the Northwest Fur Company were, however, very restive under anything that looked like improvement, and regarded it as a ruse of their rival, the Hudson Bay Company, to break up the lucrative business they were enjoying in the Indian trade. They resorted to all kinds of measures to get rid of the colonists, even to attempting to incite the Indians against them, and on one occasion, by a trick, disarmed them of their brass field pieces and other small artillery. Many of the disaffected Selkirkers deserted to the quarters of the Northwest Company. These annoyances were carried to the extent of an attack on the house of the governor, where four of the inmates were wounded, one of whom died. They finally agreed to leave, and were escorted to Lake Winnipeg, where they embarked in boats. Their improvements were all destroyed by the Northwest people.
They were again induced to return to their colony lands by the Hudson Bay people, and did so in 1816, when they were reinforced by new colonists. Part of them wintered at Pembina in 1816, but returned to the Kildonan settlement in the spring.
Lord Selkirk, hearing of the distressed condition of his colonists, sailed for New York, where he arrived in the fall of 1815, and learned they had been compelled to leave the settlement. He proceeded to Montreal, where he found some of the settlers in the greatest poverty; but learning that some of them still remained in the colony, he sent an express to announce his arrival, and say that he would be with them in the spring. The news was sent by a colonist named Laquimonier, but he was waylaid, near Fond du Lac, and brutally beaten and robbed of his dispatches. Subsequent investigation proved that this was the work of the Northwest Company.
Selkirk tried to obtain military aid from the British authorities, but failed. He then engaged four officers and over one hundred privates who had served in the late War with the United States to accompany him to the Red river. He was to pay them, give them lands, and send them home if they wished to return.
When he reached Sault Ste. Marie he heard that his colony had again been destroyed.
War was raging between the Hudson Bay people and the Northwest Company, in which Governor Semple, chief governor of the factories and territories of the Hudson Bay Company was killed. Selkirk proceeded to Fort William, on Lake Superior, and finally reached his settlement on the Red river.
The colonists were compelled to pass the winter of 1817 in hunting in Minnesota, and had a hard time of it, but in the spring they once more found their way home, and planted crops, but they were destroyed by grasshoppers, which remained during the next year and ate up every growing thing, rendering it necessary that the colonists should again resort to the buffalo for subsistence.
During the winter of 1819-20 a deputation of these Scotchmen came all the way to Prairie du Chien on snowshoes for seed wheat, a distance of a thousand miles, and on the fifteenth day of April, 1820, left for the colony in three Mackinaw boats, carrying three hundred bushels of wheat, one hundred bushels of oats, and thirty bushels of peas. Being stopped by ice in Lake Pepin, they planted a May pole and celebrated May day on the ice. They reached home by way of the Minnesota river, with a short portage to Lake Traverse, the boats being moved on rollers, and thence down the Red River to Pembina, where they arrived in safety on the third day of June. This trip cost Lord Selkirk about six thousand dollars.
Nothing daunted by the terrible sufferings of his colonists, and the immense expense attendant upon his enterprise, in 1820 he engaged Capt. R. May, who was a citizen of Berne, in Switzerland, but in the British service, to visit Switzerland and get recruits for his colony. The captain made the most exaggerated representations of the advantages to be gained by emigrating to the colony, and induced many Swiss to leave their happy and peaceful homes to try their fortunes in the distant, dangerous and inhospitable regions of Lake Winnipeg. They knew nothing of the hardships in store for them, and were the least adapted to encounter them of any people in the world, as they were mechanics, whose business had been the delicate work of making watches and clocks. They arrived in 1821, and from year to year, after undergoing hardships that might have appalled the hardiest pioneer, their spirits drooped, they pined for home, and left for the south. At one time a party of two hundred and forty-three of them departed for the United States, and found homes at different points on the banks of the Mississippi.
Before the eastern wave of immigration had ascended above Prairie du Chien, many Swiss had opened farms at and near St. Paul, and became the first actual settlers of the country. Mr. Stevens, in an address on the early history of Hennepin county, says that they were driven from their homes in 1836 and 1837 by the military at Fort Snelling, and is very severe on the autocratic conduct of the officers of the fort, saying that the commanding officers were lords of the North, and the subordinates were princes. I have no doubt they did not underrate their authority, but I think Mr. Stevens must refer to the removals that were made of settlers on the military reservation of which I have before spoken.
The subject of the Selkirk colony cannot fail to interest the reader, as it was the first attempt to introduce into the great Northwest settlers for the purposes of peaceful agriculture, everybody else who had preceded them having been connected with the half-savage business of the Indian trade; and the reason I have dwelt so long upon the subject is, because these people, on their second emigration, furnished Minnesota with her first settlers, and curiously enough, they came from the north.
Abraham Perry was one of these Swiss refugees from the Selkirk settlement. With his wife and two children, he first settled at Fort Snelling, then at St. Paul, and finally at Lake Johanna. His son Charles, who came with him, has, while I am writing, on the twenty-ninth day of July, 1899, just celebrated his golden wedding at the old homestead, at Lake Johanna, where they have ever since lived. They were married by the Right Reverend A. Ravoux, who is still living in St. Paul. Charles Perry is the only survivor of that ill-fated band of Selkirkers.
In 1835 George Catlin, an artist of merit, visited Minnesota, and made many sketches and portraits of Indians. His published statements after his departure about his adventures elicited much adverse criticism from the old settlers.
Featherstonehaugh, an Englishman, about the same time, under the direction of the United States government, made a slight geological survey of the Minnesota valley, and on his return to England he wrote a book which reflected unjustly upon the gentlemen he met in Minnesota; but not much was thought of it, because until recently such has been the English custom.
SCHOOLCRAFT AND THE SOURCE OF THE MISSISSIPPI.
In 1832 the United States sent an embassy, composed of thirty men, under Henry R. Schoolcraft, then Indian Agent at Sault Ste. Marie, to visit the Indians of the Northwest, and, when advisable, to make treaties with them. They had a guard of soldiers, a physician, an interpreter, and the Rev. William T. Boutwell, a missionary at Leech Lake. They were supplied with a large outfit of provisions, tobacco and trinkets, which were conveyed in a bateau. They travelled in several large bark canoes. They went to Fond du Lac, thence up the St. Louis river, portaged round the falls, thence to the nearest point to Sandy lake, thence up the Mississippi to Leech lake. While there, they learned from the Indians that Cass lake, which for some time had been reputed to be the source of the Mississippi, was not the real source, and they determined to solve the problem of where the real source was to be found, and what it was.
I may say here that, in 1819, Gen. Lewis Cass, then governor of the Territory of Michigan, had led an exploring party to the upper waters of the Mississippi, somewhat similar to the one I am now speaking of, Mr. Henry R. Schoolcraft being one of them. When they reached what is now Cass lake, in the Mississippi river, they decided that it was the source of the great river, and it was named Cass lake, in honor of the governor, and was believed to be such source until the arrival of Schoolcraft's party in 1832.
After a search, an inlet was found into Cass lake, flowing from the west, and they pursued it until the lake now called "Itasca" was reached. Five of the party, Lieutenant Allen, Schoolcraft, Dr. Houghton, Interpreter Johnson and Mr. Boutwell, explored the lake thoroughly, and finding no inlet, decided it must be the true source of the river. Mr. Schoolcraft, being desirous of giving the lake a name that would indicate its position as the true head of the river, and at the same time be euphonious in sound, endeavored to produce one, but being unable to satisfy himself, turned it over to Mr. Boutwell, who, being a good Latin scholar, wrote down two Latin words, "veritas," truth, and "caput," head, and suggested that a word might be coined out of the combination that would answer the purpose. He then cut off the last two syllables of veritas, making "Itas," and the first syllable of caput, making "ca," and, putting them together, he gave the word "Itasca," which, in my judgment, is a sufficiently skillful and beautiful literary feat to immortalize the inventor. Mr. Boutwell died within a few years at Stillwater, in Minnesota.
Presumptuous attempts have been made to deprive Schoolcraft of the honor of having discovered the true source of the river, but their transparent absurdity has prevented their having obtained any credence, and to put a quietus on such unscrupulous pretenses, Mr. J. V. Brower, a scientific surveyor, under the auspices of the Minnesota Historical Society, has recently made exhaustive researches, surveys and maps of the region, and established beyond doubt or cavil the entire authenticity of Schoolcraft's discovery. Gen. James H. Baker, once surveyor general of the State of Minnesota, and a distinguished member of the same society, under its appointment, prepared an elaborate paper on the subject, in which is collected and presented all the facts, history and knowledge that exists relating to the discovery, and conclusively destroys all efforts to deprive Schoolcraft of his laurels.
ELEVATIONS IN MINNESOTA.
While on the subject of the source of the Mississippi river, I may as well speak of the elevations of the state above the level of the sea. It can be truthfully said that Minnesota occupies the summit of the North American continent. In its most northern third rises the Mississippi, which, in its general course, flows due south to the Gulf of Mexico. In about its center division, from north to south, rises the Red River of the North, and takes a general northerly direction until it empties into Lake Winnipeg, while the St. Louis and other rivers take their rise in the same region and flow eastwardly into Lake Superior, which is the real source of the St. Lawrence, which empties into the Atlantic.
The elevation at the source of the Mississippi is 1,600 feet, and at the point where it leaves the southern boundary of the state, 620 feet. The elevation at the source of the Red River of the North is the same as that of the Mississippi, 1,600 feet, and where it leaves the state at its northern boundary 767 feet. The average elevation of the state is given at 1,275 feet, its highest elevation, in the Mesaba range, 2,200 feet, and its lowest, at Duluth, 602 feet.
In 1836 a French savant, M. Jean N. Nicollet, visited Minnesota for the purpose of exploration. He was an astronomer of note, and had received a decoration of the Legion of Honor, and had also been attached as professor to the Royal College of "Louis Le Grande." He arrived in Minnesota on July 26, 1836, bearing letters of introduction, and visited Fort Snelling, whence he left with a French trader, named Fronchet, to explore the sources of the Mississippi. He entered the Crow Wing river, and by the way of Gull river and Gull lake he entered Leech lake. The Indians were disappointed when they found he had no presents for them and spent most of his time looking at the heavens through a tube, and they became unruly and troublesome. The Rev. Mr. Boutwell, whose mission house was on the lake, learning of the difficulty, came to the rescue, and a very warm friendship sprang up between the men. No educated man who has not experienced the desolation of having been shut up among savages and rough, unlettered voyageurs for a long time can appreciate the pleasure of meeting a cultured and refined gentleman so unexpectedly as Mr. Boutwell encountered Nicollet, and especially when he was able to render him valuable aid.
From Leech lake Nicollet went to Lake Itasca with guides and packers. He pitched his tent on Schoolcraft island in the lake, where he occupied himself for some time in making astronomical observations. He continued his explorations beyond those of Schoolcraft and Lieutenant Allen, and followed up the rivulets that entered the lake, thoroughly exploring its basin or watershed.
He returned to Fort Snelling in October, and remained there for some time, studying Dakota. He became the guest of Mr. Henry H. Sibley at his home in Mendota for the winter. General Sibley, in speaking of him, says:
"A portion of the winter following was spent by him at my house, and it is hardly necessary to state that I found in him a most instructive companion. His devotion to his studies was intense and unremitting, and I frequently expostulated with him upon his imprudence in thus overtasking the strength of his delicate frame, but without effect."
Nicollet went to Washington after his tour of 1836-37, and was honored with a commission from the United States government to make further explorations, and John C. Fremont was detailed as his assistant.
Under his new appointment, Nicollet and his assistant went up the Missouri in a steamboat to Fort Pierre; thence he traveled through the interior of Minnesota, visiting the Red Pipestone quarry, Devil's lake, and other important localities. On this tour he made a map of the country, which was the first reliable and accurate one made, which, together with his astronomical observations, were invaluable to the country. His name has been perpetuated by giving it to one of Minnesota's principal counties.
The missionary period is one full of interest in the history of the State of Minnesota. The devoted people who sacrifice all the pleasures and luxuries of life to spread the gospel of Christianity among the Indians are deserving of all praise, no matter whether success or failure attends their efforts. The Dakotas and Chippewas were not neglected in this respect. The Catholics were among them at a very early day, and strove to convert them to Christianity. These worthy men were generally French priests and daring explorers, but for some reason, whether it was want of permanent support or an individual desire to rove, I am unable to say, they did not succeed in founding any missions of a lasting character among the Dakotas before the advent of white settlement. The devout Romanist, Shea, in his interesting history of Catholic missions, speaking of the Dakotas, remarks that "Father Menard had projected a Sioux mission, Marquette, Allouez, Druillettes, all entertained hopes of realizing it, and had some intercourse with that nation, but none of them ever succeeded in establishing a mission." Their work, however, was only postponed, for at a later date they gained and maintained a lasting foothold.
The Protestants, however, in and after 1820, made permanent and successful ventures in this direction. After the formation of the American Fur Company, Mackinaw became the chief point of that organization. In June, 1820, the Rev. Mr. Morse, father of the inventor of the telegraph, came to Mackinaw, and preached the first sermon that was delivered in the Northwest. He made a report of his visit to the Presbyterian Missionary Society in New York, which sent out parties to explore the field. The Rev. W. M. Terry, with his wife, commenced a school at Mackinaw in 1823, and had great success. There were sometimes as many as two hundred pupils at the school, representing many tribes of Indians. There are descendants of the children who were educated at this school now in Minnesota, who are citizens of high standing, who are indebted to this institution for their education and position.
In the year 1830 a Mr. Warren, who was then living at La Pointe, visited Mackinaw to obtain a missionary for his place, and not being able to secure an ordained minister, he took back with him Mr. Frederick Ayre, a teacher, who, being pleased with the place and prospect, returned to Mackinaw, and in 1831, with the Rev. Sherman Hall and wife, started for La Pointe, where they arrived on August 30th, and established themselves as missionaries, with a school.
The next year Mr. Ayre went to Sandy lake, and opened another school for the children of voyageurs and Indians. In 1832 Mr. Boutwell, after his tour with Schoolcraft, took charge of the school at La Pointe, and in 1833 he removed to Leech lake, and there established the first mission in Minnesota west of the Mississippi.
From his Leech lake mission he writes a letter in which he gives such a realistic account of his school and mission that one can see everything that is taking place, as if a panorama was passing before his eyes. He takes a cheerful view of his prospects, and gives a comprehensive statement of the resources of the country in their natural state. If space allowed, I would like to copy the whole letter; but as he speaks of the wild rice in referring to the food supply, I will say a word about it, as I deem it one of Minnesota's most important natural resources.
In 1857 I visited the source of the Mississippi with the then Indian agent for the Chippewas, and traveled hundreds of miles in the upper river. We passed through endless fields of wild rice, and witnessed its harvest by the Chippewas, which is a most interesting and picturesque scene. They tie it in sheaves with a straw before it is ripe enough to gather to prevent the wind from shaking out the grains, and when it has matured, they thresh it with sticks into their canoes. We estimated that there were about 1,000 families of the Chippewas, and that they gathered about twenty-five bushels for each family, and we saw that in so doing they did not make any impression whatever on the crop, leaving thousands of acres of the rice to the geese and ducks. Our calculations then were that more rice grew in Minnesota each year, without any cultivation, than was produced in South Carolina as one of the principal products of that state, and I may add that it is much more palatable and nutritious as a food than the white rice of the Orient or the South. There is no doubt that at some future time it will be utilized to the great advantage of the state.
Mr. Boutwell's Leech lake mission was in all things a success.
In 1834 the Rev. Samuel W. Pond and his brother, Gideon H. Pond, full of missionary enthusiasm, arrived at Fort Snelling, in the month of May. They consulted with the Indian agent, Major Taliaferro, about the best place to establish a mission, and decided upon Lake Calhoun, where dwelt small bands of Dakotas, and with their own hands erected a house and located.
About the same time came the Rev. T. H. Williamson, M. D., under appointment from the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions, to visit the Dakotas, to ascertain what could be done to introduce Christian instruction among them. He was reinforced by Rev. J. D. Stevens, missionary, Alexander Huggins, farmer, and their wives, and Miss Sarah Poage and Miss Lucy Stevens, teachers. They arrived at Fort Snelling in May, 1835, and were hospitably received by the officers of the garrison, the Indian agent, and Mr. Sibley, then a young man who had recently taken charge of the trading post at Mendota.
From this point Rev. Mr. Stevens and family proceeded to Lake Harriet, in Hennepin county, and built a suitable house, and Dr. Williamson and wife, Mr. Huggins and wife, and Miss Poage, went to Lac qui Parle, where they were welcomed by Mr. Renville, a trader at that point, after whom the county of Renville is named.
The Rev. J. D. Stevens acted as chaplain of Fort Snelling, in the absence of a regularly appointed officer in that position.
In 1837 the mission was strengthened by the arrival of the Rev. Stephen R. Riggs, a graduate of Jefferson College, Pennsylvania, and his wife. After remaining a short time at Lake Harriet, Mr. and Mrs. Riggs went to Lac qui Parle.
In 1837 missionaries sent out by the Evangelical Society of Lausanne, Switzerland, arrived, and located at Red Wing and Wapashaw's villages, on the Mississippi, and about the same time a Methodist mission was commenced at Kaposia, but they were of brief duration and soon abandoned.
In 1836 a mission was established at Pokegama, among the Chippewas, which was quite successful, and afterwards, in 1842 or 1843, missions were opened at Red Lake, Shakopee, and other places in Minnesota. During the summer of 1843 Mr. Riggs commenced a mission station at Traverse des Sioux, which attained considerable proportions, and remained until overtaken by white settlement, about 1854.
Mr. Riggs and Dr. Williamson also established a Mission at the Yellow Medicine Agency of the Sioux, in the year 1852, which was about the best equipped of any of them. It consisted of a good house for the missionaries, a large boarding and school house for Indian pupils, a neat little church, with a steeple and a bell, and all the other buildings necessary to a complete mission outfit.
These good men adopted a new scheme of education and civilization, which promised to be very successful. They organized a government among the Indians, which they called the Hazelwood Republic. To become a member of this civic body, it was necessary that the applicant should cut off his long hair, and put on white men's clothes, and it was also expected that he should become a member of the church. The republic had a written constitution, a president and other officers. It was in 1856 when I first became acquainted with this institution, and I afterwards used its members to great advantage, in the rescue of captive women and the punishment of one of the leaders of the Spirit Lake massacre, which occurred in the northwestern portion of Iowa, in the year 1857, the particulars of which I will relate hereafter. The name of the president was Paul Ma-za-cu-ta-ma-ni, or "The man who shoots metal as he walks," and one of its prominent members was John Otherday, called in Sioux, An-pay-tu-tok-a-cha, both of whom were the best friends the whites had in the hour of their great danger in the outbreak of 1862. It was these two men who informed the missionaries and other whites at the Yellow Medicine Agency of the impending massacre, and assisted sixty-two of them to escape before the fatal blow was struck.
What I have said proves that much good attended the work of the missionaries in the way of civilizing some of the Indians, but it has always been open to question in my mind if any Sioux Indian ever fully comprehended the basic doctrines of Christianity. I will give an example which had great weight in forming my judgment. There were among the pillars of the mission church at the Yellow Medicine Agency (or as it was called in Sioux, Pajutazee) an Indian named Ana-wang-mani, to which the missionaries had prefixed the name of Simon. He was an exceptionally good man, and prominent in all church matters. He prayed and exhorted, and was looked upon by all interested as a fulfillment of the success of both the church and the republic. Imagine the consternation of the worthy missionaries when one day he announced that a man who had killed his cousin some eight years ago had returned from the Missouri, and was then in a neighboring camp, and that it was his duty to kill him to avenge his cousin. The missionaries argued with him, quoted the Bible to him, prayed with him,—in fact, exhausted every possible means to prevent him carrying out his purpose; but all to no effect. He would admit all they said, assured them that he believed everything they contended for, but he would always end with the assertion that, "He killed my cousin, and I must kill him." This savage instinct was too deeply imbedded in his nature to be overcome by any teaching of the white man, and the result was that he got a double-barreled shotgun and carried out his purpose, the consequence of which was to nearly destroy the church and the republic. He was, however, true to the whites all through the outbreak of 1862.
When the Indians rebelled, the entire mission outfit at Pajutazee was destroyed, which practically put an end to missionary effort in Minnesota, but did not in the least lessen the ardor of the missionaries. I remember meeting Dr. Williamson soon after the Sioux were driven out of the state, and supposing, of course, that he had given up all hope of Christianizing them, I asked him where he would settle, and what he would do. He did not hesitate a moment, and said that he would hunt up the remnant of his people and attend to their spiritual wants.
Having given a general idea of the missionary efforts that were made in Minnesota, I will say a word about
The Dakotas (or as they were afterwards called, the Sioux) and the Chippewas were splendid races of aboriginal men. The Sioux that occupied Minnesota were about eight thousand strong,—men, women and children. They were divided into four principal bands, known as the M'day-wa-kon-tons, or Spirit Lake Villagers; the Wak-pay-ku-tays, or Leaf Shooters, from their living in the timber; the Si-si-tons, and Wak-pay-tons. There was also a considerable band, known as the Upper Si-si-tons, who occupied the extreme upper waters of the Minnesota river. The Chippewas numbered about 7,800, divided as follows: At Lake Superior, whose agency was at La Pointe, Wis., about 1,600; on the Upper Mississippi, on the east side, about 3,450; of Pillagers, 1,550; and at Red lake, 1,130. The Sioux and Chippewas had been deadly enemies as far back as anything was known of them, and kept up continual warfare. The Winnebagoes, numbering about 1,500, were removed from the neutral ground, in Iowa, to Long Prairie, in Minnesota, in 1848, and in 1854 were again removed to Blue Earth county, near the present site of Mankato. While Minnesota was a territory its western boundary extended to the Missouri river, and on that river, both east and west of it, were numerous wild and warlike bands of Sioux, numbering many thousands, although no accurate census of them had ever been taken. They were the Tetons, Yanktons, Cut-heads, Yanktonais, and others. These Missouri Indians frequently visited Minnesota.
The proper name of these Indians is Dakota, and they know themselves only by that name, but the Chippewas of Lake Superior, in speaking of them, always called them, "Nadowessioux," which in their language signifies "enemy." The traders had a habit, when speaking of any tribe in the presence of another, and especially of an enemy, to designate them by some name that would not be understood by the listeners, as they were very suspicious. When speaking of the Dakotas, they used the last syllable of Nadowessioux,—"Sioux," until the name attached itself to them, and they have always since been so called.
Charlevoix, who visited Minnesota in 1721, in his history of New France, says: "The name 'Sioux,' that we give these Indians, is entirely of our own making; or, rather, it is the last two syllables of the name of 'Nadowessioux,' as many nations call them."
The Sioux live in tepees, or circular conical tents, supported by poles, so arranged as to leave an opening in the top for ventilation and for the escape of smoke. These were, before the advent of the whites, covered with dressed buffalo skins, but more recently with a coarse cotton tent cloth, which is preferable on account of its being much lighter to transport from place to place, as they are almost constantly on the move, the tents being carried by the squaws. There is no more comfortable habitation than the Sioux tepee to be found among the dwellers in tents anywhere. A fire is made in the center for either warmth or cooking purposes. The camp kettle is suspended over it, making cooking easy and cleanly. In the winter, when the Indian family settles down to remain any considerable time, they select a river bottom where there is timber or chaparral, and set up the tepee; then they cut the long grass or bottom cane, and stand it up against the outside of the lodge to the thickness of about twenty inches, and you have a very warm and cozy habitation.
The wealth of the Sioux consists very largely in his horses, and his subsistence is the game of the forest and plains and the fish and wild rice of the lakes. Minnesota was an Indian paradise. It abounded in buffalo, elk, moose, deer, beaver, wolves, and, in fact, nearly all wild animals found in North America. It held upon its surface eight thousand beautiful lakes, alive with the finest of edible fish. It was dotted over with beautiful groves of the sugar maple, yielding quantities of delicious sugar, and wild rice swamps were abundant. An inhabitant of this region, with absolute liberty, and nothing to do but defend it against the encroachments of enemies, certainly had very little more to ask of his Creator. But he was not allowed to enjoy it in peace. A stronger race was on his trail, and there was nothing left for him but to surrender his country on the best terms he could make. Such has ever been the case from the beginning of recorded events, and judging from current operations, there has been no cessation of the movement. Why was not the world made big enough for homes for all kinds and colors of men, and all characters of civilization?
As the white man progressed towards the West, and came in contact with the Indians, it became necessary to define the territories of the different tribes to avoid collision between them and the newcomers as much as possible. To accomplish this end, Governor Clark of Missouri and Governor Cass of Michigan, on the nineteenth day of August, 1825, convened, at Prairie du Chien, a grand congress of Indians, representing the Dakotas, Chippewas (then called Ojibways), Sauks, Foxes, Menomonies, Iowas, Winnebagoes, Pottaiwatomies and Ottawas, and it was determined by treaties among them where the dividing lines between their countries should be. This partition gave the Chippewas a large part of what is now Wisconsin and Minnesota, and the Dakotas lands to the west of them; but it soon became apparent that these boundary lines between the Dakotas and the Chippewas would not be adhered to, and Governor Cass and Mr. T. L. McKenney were appointed commissioners to again convene the Chippewas, but this time at Fond du Lac, and there, on the fifth day of August, 1826, another treaty was entered into, which, with the exception of the Fort Snelling treaty, was the first one ever made on the soil of Minnesota. By this treaty the Chippewas, among other things, renounced all allegiance to or connection with Great Britain, and acknowledged the authority of the United States. These treaties were, however, rather of a preliminary character, being intended more for the purpose of arranging matters between the tribes than making concessions to the whites, although the whites were permitted to mine and carry away metals and ores from the Chippewa country by the treaty of Fond du Lac.
The first important treaty made with the Sioux, by which the white men began to obtain concessions of lands from them, was on Aug. 29, 1837. This treaty was made at Washington, through Joel R. Poinsette, and to give an idea of how little time and few words were spent in accomplishing important ends, I will quote the first article of this treaty:
"Article I.—The chiefs and braves representing the parties having an interest therein cede to the United States all their land east of the Mississippi river, and all their islands in said river."
The rest of the treaty is confined to the consideration to be paid, and matters of that nature.
This treaty extinguished all the Dakota title in lands east of the Mississippi river, in Minnesota, and opened the way for immigration on all that side of the Mississippi; and immigration was not long in accepting the invitation, for between the making of the treaty, in 1837, and the admission of the State of Wisconsin into the Union, in 1848, there had sprung into existence in that state, west of the St. Croix, the towns of Stillwater, St. Anthony, St. Paul, Marine, Arcola, and other lesser settlements, which were all left in Minnesota when Wisconsin adopted the St. Croix as its western boundary.
Most important, however, of all the treaties that opened up the lands of Minnesota to settlement were those of 1851, made at Traverse des Sioux and Mendota, by which the Sioux ceded to the United States all their lands in Minnesota and Iowa, except a small reservation for their habitation, situated on the upper waters of the Minnesota river.
The Territory of Minnesota was organized in 1849, and immediately presented to the world a very attractive field for immigration. The most desirable lands in the new territory were on the west side of the Mississippi, but the title to them was still in the Indians. The whites could not wait until this was extinguished, but at once began to settle on the land lying on the west bank of the Mississippi, north of the north line of Iowa, and in the new territory. These settlements extended up the Mississippi river as far as St. Cloud, in what is now Stearns county, and extended up the Minnesota river as far as the mouth of the Blue Earth river, in the neighborhood of Mankato. These settlers were all trespassers on the lands of the Indians, but a little thing like that never deterred a white American from pushing his fortunes towards the setting sun. It soon became apparent that the Indians must yield to the approaching tidal wave of settlement, and measures were taken to acquire their lands by the United States. In 1851, Luke Lea, then commissioner of Indian affairs, and Alexander Ramsey, then governor of the Territory of Minnesota and ex-officio superintendent of Indian affairs, were appointed commissioners to treat with the Indians at Traverse des Sioux, and, after much feasting and talking, a treaty was completed and signed, on the twenty-third day of July, 1851, between the United States and the Sisseton and Wahpeton bands of Sioux, whereby these bands ceded to the United States a vast tract of land lying in Minnesota and Iowa, and reserved for their future occupation a strip of land on the upper Minnesota, ten miles wide on each side of the center line of the river. For this cession they were to be paid $1,665,000, which was to be paid, a part in cash to liquidate debts, etc., and five per cent per annum on the balance for fifty years, the interest to be paid annually, partly in cash and partly in funds for agriculture, civilization, education, and in goods of various kinds; which payments, when completed, were to satisfy both principal and interest, the policy and expectation of the government being that at the end of fifty years the Indians would be civilized and self-sustaining.
Amendments were made to this treaty in the senate, and it was not fully completed and proclaimed until Feb. 24, 1853.
Almost instantly after the execution of this treaty, and on Aug. 5, 1851, another treaty was negotiated by the same commissioners with two other bands of Sioux in Minnesota, the M'day-wa-kon-tons and Wak-pay-koo-tays. By this treaty these bands ceded to the United States all their lands in the Territory of Minnesota or State of Iowa, for which they were to be paid $1,410,000, very much in the same way that was provided in the last-named treaty with the Si-si-tons and Wak-pay-tons. This treaty, also, was amended by the senate, and not fully perfected until Feb. 24, 1853.
Both of these treaties contained the provision that "The laws of the United States, prohibiting the introduction and sale of spirituous liquors in the Indian country, shall be in full force and effect throughout the territory hereby ceded and lying in Minnesota until otherwise directed by congress or the president of the United States." I mention this feature of the treaty because it gave rise to much litigation as to whether the treaty making power had authority to legislate for settlers on the ceded lands of the United States. The power was sustained. These treaties practically obliterated the Indian title from the lands composing Minnesota, and its extinction brings us to the
It must be kept in mind that, during the period which we have been attempting to review, the people who inhabited what is now Minnesota were subject to a great many different governmental jurisdictions. This, however, did not in any way concern them, as they did not, as a general thing, know or care anything about such matters; but as it may be interesting to the retrospective explorer to be informed on the subject, I will briefly present it. Minnesota has two sources of parentage. The part of it lying west of the Mississippi was part of the Louisiana purchase, made by President Jefferson from Napoleon Bonaparte in 1803, and the part east of that river was part of the Northwest Territory, ceded by Virginia, in 1784, to the United States. I will give the successive changes of political jurisdiction, beginning on the west side of the river.
First, it was part of New Spain, and Spanish. It was then purchased from Spain by France, and became French. On June 30, 1803, it became American, by purchase from France, and was part of the Province of Louisiana, and so remained until March 26, 1804, when an act was passed by congress, creating the Territory of Orleans, which included all of the Louisiana purchase south of the thirty-third degree of north latitude. This act gave the Territory of Louisiana a government, and called all the country north of it the District of Louisiana, which was to be governed by the Territory of Indiana, which had been created in 1800 out of the Northwest Territory, and had its seat of government at Vincennes, on the Wabash.
On June 4, 1812, the District of Louisiana was erected into the Territory of Missouri, where we remained until June 28, 1834, when all the public lands of the United States lying west of the Mississippi, north of the State of Missouri, and south of the British line, were, by act of congress, attached to the Territory of Michigan, under whose jurisdiction we remained until April 10, 1836, when the Territory of Wisconsin was created. This law went into effect July 3, 1836, and Wisconsin took in our territory lying west of the Mississippi, and there it remained until June 12, 1838, when the Territory of Iowa was created, taking us in and holding us until the State of Iowa was admitted into the Union, on March 3, 1845, which left us without any government west of the Mississippi.
The part of Minnesota lying east of the Mississippi was originally part of the Northwest Territory. On May 7, 1800, it became part of the Indiana Territory, and remained so until April 26, 1836, when it became part of the Wisconsin Territory; and so continued until May 29, 1848, when Wisconsin entered the Union as a state, with the St. Croix river for its western boundary. By this arrangement of the western boundary of Wisconsin all the territory west of the St. Croix and east of the Mississippi, like that west of the river, was left without any government at all.
One of the curious results of the many governmental changes which the western part of Minnesota underwent is illustrated in the residence of Gen. Henry H. Sibley, at Mendota. In 1834, at the age of twenty-two, Mr. Sibley commenced his residence at Mendota, as the agent of the American Fur Company's establishment. At this point Mr. Sibley built the first private residence that was erected in Minnesota. It was a large, comfortable dwelling, constructed of the blue limestone found in the vicinity, with commodious porticos on the river front. The house was built in 1835-36, and was then in the Territory of Michigan. Mr. Sibley lived in it successively in Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and the Territory and State of Minnesota. He removed to St. Paul in the year 1862. Every distinguished visitor who came to Minnesota in the early days was entertained by Mr. Sibley in this hospitable old mansion, and, together with its genial, generous and refined proprietor, it contributed much towards planting the seeds of those aesthetic amenities of social life that have so generally flourished in the later days of Minnesota's history and given it its deserved prominence among the states of the West. The house still stands, and has been occupied at different times since its founder abandoned it as a Catholic institution of some kind and an artists' summer school. The word Mendota is Sioux, and means "The meeting of the waters."
It was the admission of Wisconsin into the Union in 1848 that brought about the organization of the Territory of Minnesota. The peculiar situation in which all the people residing west of the St. Croix found themselves set them to devising ways and means to obtain some kind of government to live under. It was a debatable question whether the remnant of Wisconsin which was left over when the state was admitted carried with it the territorial government, or whether it was a "no man's land," and different views were entertained on the subject. The question was somewhat embarrassed by the fact that the territorial governor, Governor Dodge, had been elected to the senate of the United States from the new state, and the territorial secretary, Mr. John Catlin, who would have become governor ex-officio when a vacancy occurred in the office of governor, resided in Madison, and the delegate to congress, Mr. John H. Tweedy, had resigned; so, even if the territorial government had, in law, survived, there seemed to be no one to represent and administer it.
There was no lack of ability among the inhabitants of the abandoned remnant of Wisconsin. In St. Paul dwelt Henry M. Rice, Louis Roberts, J. W. Simpson, A. L. Larpenteur, David Lambert, Henry Jackson, Vetal Guerin, David Herbert, Oliver Rosseau, Andre Godfrey, Joseph Rondo, James R. Clewell, Edward Phalen, William G. Carter, and many others. In Stillwater and on the St. Croix were Morton S. Wilkinson, Henry L. Moss, John McKusick, Joseph R. Brown, etc. In Mendota resided Henry H. Sibley. In St. Anthony, William R. Marshall; at Fort Snelling, Franklin Steele. I could name many others, but the above is a representative list. It will be observed that many of them were French.
An initial meeting was held in St. Paul, in July of 1848, at Henry Jackson's trading house, to consider the matter, which was undoubtedly the first public meeting ever held in Minnesota. On the fifth day of August, in the same year, a similar meeting was held in Stillwater, and out of these meetings grew a call for a convention, to be held at Stillwater, on August 26th, which was held accordingly. There were present about sixty delegates.
At this meeting a letter from Hon. John Catlin, the secretary of Wisconsin Territory, was read, giving it as his opinion that the territorial government of Wisconsin still existed, and that if a delegate to congress was elected he would be admitted to a seat.
A memorial to congress was prepared, setting forth the peculiar situation in which the people of the remnant found themselves, and praying relief in the organization of a territorial government.
During the session of this convention there was a verbal agreement entered into between the members, to the effect that when the new territory was organized the capital should be at St. Paul, the penitentiary at Stillwater, the university at St. Anthony, and the delegate to congress should be taken from Mendota. I have had reason to assert publicly this fact on former occasions, and so far as it relates to the university and the penitentiary, my statement was questioned by Minnesota's greatest historian, Rev. Edward D. Neill, in a published article, signed "Iconoclast;" but I sustained my position by letters from surviving members of the convention, which I published, and to which no answer was ever made. The same statement can be found in Williams' "History of St. Paul," published in 1876, at page 182.
The result of this convention was the selection of Henry H. Sibley as its agent or delegate, to proceed to Washington and present the memorial and resolutions to the United States authorities. It was curiously enough stipulated that the delegate should pay his own expenses.
Shortly after this event the Hon. John H. Tweedy, who was the regularly elected delegate to congress from the Territory of Wisconsin, no doubt supposing his official career was terminated, resigned his position, and Mr. John Catlin, claiming to be the governor of the territory, came to Stillwater, and issued a proclamation on Oct. 9, 1848, ordering a special election to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Delegate Tweedy. The election was held on the thirtieth day of October. Mr. Henry H. Sibley and Mr. Henry M. Rice became candidates, neither caring very much about the result, and Mr. Sibley was elected. There was much doubt entertained as to the delegate being allowed to take his seat, but in November he proceeded to Washington, and was admitted, after considerable discussion.
On the 3d of March, 1849, the delegate succeeded in passing an act organizing the Territory of Minnesota, the boundaries of which embraced all the territory between the western boundary of Wisconsin and the Mississippi river, and also all that was left unappropriated on the admission of the State of Iowa, which carried our western boundary to the Missouri river, and included within our limits a large part of what is now North and South Dakota.
The passage of this act was the first step in the creation of Minnesota. No part of the country had ever before borne that name. The word is composed of two Sioux words, "Minne," which means water, and "Sota," which means the condition of the sky when fleecy white clouds are seen floating slowly and quietly over it. It has been translated, "sky tinted," giving to the word Minnesota the meaning of sky-tinted water. The name originated in the fact that, in the early days, the river now called Minnesota used to rise very rapidly in the spring, and there was constantly a caving in of the banks, which disturbed its otherwise pellucid waters, and gave them the appearance of the sky when covered with the light clouds I have mentioned. The similarity was heightened by the current keeping the disturbing element constantly in motion. There is a town just above St. Peter, called Kasota, which means "cloudy sky;" not stormy or threatening, but a sky dotted with fleecy white clouds. The best conception of this word can be found by pouring a few drops of milk into a glass of clear water, and observing the cloudy disturbance.
The principal river in the territory was then called the St. Peters river, but the name was changed to the Minnesota.
An act organizing a territory simply creates a government for its inhabitants, limiting and regulating its powers, executive, legislative and judicial, and in our country they generally resemble each other in all essential features. But the organic act of Minnesota contained one provision never before found in any that preceded it. It had been customary to donate to the territory and future state, one section of land in each surveyed township for school purposes, and section 16 had been selected as the one, but in the Minnesota act, the donation was doubled, and sections 16 and 36 in each township were reserved for the schools, which amounted to one-eighteenth of all the lands in the territory; and when it is understood that the state as now constituted contains 84,287 square miles, or about 53,943,379 acres of land, it will be seen that the grant was princely in extent and incalculable in value. No other state in the Union has been endowed with such a magnificent educational foundation. I may except Texas, which came into the Union, not as a part of the United States' public domain, but as an independent republic, owning all its lands, amounting to 237,504 square miles, or 152,002,560 acres, a vast empire in itself. I remember hearing a distinguished senator, in the course of the debate on its admission into the Union, describe its immensity by saying, "A pigeon could not fly across it in a week."
It affords every citizen of Minnesota great pride to know that, under all phases and conditions of our territory and state, whether in prosperity or adversity, the school fund has always been held sacred, and neither extravagance, neglect nor peculation has ever assailed it, but it has been husbanded with jealous care from time to time since the first dollar was realized from it until the present, and has accumulated until the principal is estimated at $20,000,000. The state auditor, in his last report of it, says:
"The extent of the school land grant should ultimately be about three million acres, and as the average price of this land heretofore sold is $5.96 per acre, the amount of principal alone should yield the school fund not less than $17,000,000. To this must be added the amount received from sales of timber, and for lease and royalty of mineral lands, which will not be less than $3,000,000 more. It is not probable that the average sale price of this land will be reduced in the future, but it may increase, especially in view of the improved method of sale inaugurated by the new land law."
The general method of administering the school fund is to invest the proceeds arising from the sale of the lands, and distribute the interest among the counties of the state according to the number of children attending school; the principal always to remain untouched and inviolate.
Generous grants of land have also been made for a state university, amounting to 92,558 acres; also, for an agricultural college to the extent of one hundred thousand acres, which two funds have been consolidated, and together they have accumulated to the sum of $1,159,790.73, all of which is securely invested.
The state has also been endowed with five hundred thousand acres of land for internal improvements, and all its lands falling within the designation of swamp lands. An act of congress, of Feb. 26, 1857, also gave it ten sections of land for the purpose of completing public buildings at the seat of government, and all the salt springs, not to exceed twelve, in the state, with six sections of land to each spring, in all seventy-two sections. The twelve salt springs have all been discovered and located, and the lands selected. The salt spring lands have been transferred to the regents of the university, to be held in trust to pay the cost of a geological and natural history survey of the state. It is estimated that the salt spring lands will produce, on the same valuation as the school lands, the sum of $300,000. Large sums will also be gained by the state from the sale of timber stumpage, and the products of its mineral lands. Some idea of the magnitude of the fund to be derived from the mineral lands of the state may be learned from the report of the state auditor for the year 1896, in which he says that during the years 1895-96 there was received from and under all mineral leases, contracts and royalties, $170,128.83.
It will be seen from this statement that the educational interests of Minnesota are largely provided for without resort to direct taxation, although up to the present time that means of revenue has to some extent been utilized to meet the expenses of the grand system prevailing throughout the state.
THE FIRST TERRITORIAL GOVERNMENT.
The organization of the territory was completed by the appointment of Alexander Ramsey of Pennsylvania as governor, Aaron Goodrich as chief justice, and David Cooper and Bradley B. Meeker as associate justices, C. K. Smith as secretary, Joshua L. Taylor as marshal, and Henry L. Moss as district attorney.
On the 27th of May, 1849, the governor and his family arrived in St. Paul; but there being no suitable accommodations for them, they became the guests of Hon. Henry H. Sibley, at Mendota, whose hospitality, as usual, was never failing, and for several weeks there resided the four men who have been perhaps more prominent in the development of the state than any others,—Henry H. Sibley, Alexander Ramsey, Henry M. Rice and Franklin Steele, all of whom have been honored by having important counties named after them and by being chosen to fill high places of honor and trust.