St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Indians Uprising St Croix Valley?

EARLY HISTORY OF THE FRIENDLY VALLEY  by Maggie Orr O’Neil      (1930s booklet)

John Moses, Chippewa Indian and Civil War veteran, lived in St. Croix bottoms, above the mouth of Trade River, hunted and trapped for a living.  My father had gone to the camp for the winter.  A knock at the door, was opened on a broadly grinning John Moses, who wanted above all things, to borrow our ax.  Mother dared not refuse, and into the big swamp north of the mouth of Wolf Creek went John.  An hour passed, a knock at the door, and there stood John vastly pleased, returning the ax.  To me, a small boy, a half dozen dead coons on John's shoulders were the most interesting things on earth.  John had found them in a hollow tree in the swamp.  John was all friendliness, but in spite of this, mother feared Indians as much as ever.        (this must be from Maggie's brother)       

On a summer afternoon on the sand barrens north of Wolf Creek, young T. W. Monty, (--Treflan F Monty) who had recently come from Illinois via covered wagon, had found the best blueberry patch yet. The earth was literally blue and he had apparently settled there for the remainder of the day.  Suddenly, to everything except blueberries, it seemed to him that the earth had fallen on him.  He was blotted out. A minute of this, the pressure was removed to disclose a big young Indian, laughing at the joke he had played on the young immigrant who was trying to adjust himself to calling it a big joke.  The young brave, big and unusually dark, was known as Snow Ball.  He lived here and there in Burnett and adjacent counties for many years.  A friend recently told me he was still alive in northern Wisconsin.  

"The Indian Scare" As Remember It       

About the year 1878 or '79 in the late spring, our family was living on the homestead in the town of Sterling, at the Orr Meadow, about six or seven miles above Wolf Creek.  My father had gone with the horses and wagons to break land near Harris, Minn.     

At our home were my mother, my two brothers, Tom and Jim, about ten and twelve years of age, respectively; and I, a girl of six or seven. My brother-in-law and sister, Mary, Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Doty, were with us at the time also.  On a beautiful sunny day, a horse covered with foam, with a very frightened and excited rider, came tearing down the hill, shouting, "The Indians are coming.  They are having a war dance. Some of them are already on the way", and away he rode toward Wolf Creek. 

In a moment oil was confusion. Mr. Doty harnessed his team, hitched them to the wagon, and such things that seemed absolutely necessary (including mother's feather bed) were loaded.  The cellar doors were locked or nailed outside and inside, for as mother said, "If it was only a score, nothing need be destroyed."  We were joined by another sister and family who lived about a mile north of us, the George Emery family, and all hastily drove toward St. Croix Falls.  On reaching Wolf Creek we found that quite a few settlers had gathered there.  After our elders talked the thing over, the Emerys, and it seems to me, my brother Tom went back home.             

Our team, however, drove on to the Falls.  Here was pandemonium. The "green" as it was called, the flat on the east side of Washington street north, about where the Palmer, Thompson and Wall homes are built, and a block or two north, were covered with wagons, buckboards, horses, oxen, household goods, men, women and children from the whole upper country.              

Another sister of mine, Mrs. H. H. Worth, and children, lived with her husband and his mother somewhere about where the Palmer home stands.  Mrs. Worth, the elder, who knew no fear of Indians, and who is mentioned elsewhere in old history, went alone up to "Mindy's", on Ind- ian village about a mile north of town.  The Indians there knew nothing about the coming of their northern brothers.  Mrs. Worth returned, assured there was no uprising, and did much to calm the fears of the white people.  Toward night, no further news or sight of warriors came.  The settlers decided it was a false alarm and all returned home.    

By diverse means, whites and Indians learned that neither had any hostile designs on the other.  Some of the people from the Long Lake settlement, determined on remaining to care for their homes and property, sent their children to stay at Brosnahan's (east of Osceola) where they were cared for that night.     

The story is, that about 250 Minnesota Chippewas had come to visit those at Big Wood Lake in Burnett County, and they were celebrating as usual by drinking, dancing and making big noises with many drums, etc. As soon as they heard about the whites' scare, they ceased all celebrating and the Minnesota band quickly and quietly went home. 

This scare wasn't as harmless as it sounds, for many frightened settlers turned their stock into their fields of corn and other grain, left houses open and foods to spoil, etc.  It is also true that two bedridden men in Burnett County were carried out into the woods with bedding, food and drink left beside them, and with summer flies and mosquitoes causing extra suffering until the return of their people.

 Another instance was of a young girl being left alone to herd the cattle and feed the small stock and told to hide in the woods if she saw or heard the Indians coming.  She lost her reason, and died soon afterward, hopelessly insane.  Needless to say, this "Indian scare" put an end to the celebration of Indian dancing in this country for many years.    

 By Maggie O'Neill herself.