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Full text of "Early days at Red River Settlement, and Fort Snelling : reminiscences of Ann Adams, 1821-1829"

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EARLY DAYS AT RED RIVER SETTLEMENT^ 

AND FORT SNELL.ING. 



REMINISCENCES OF MRS. ANN ADAMS. 



1821-1829. 



PRELIMINARY NOTE. 

During the winter of 1836-87, I learned that Mrs. Adams, whose very interesting 
and valuable reminiscences of a long and eventful life, (a portion of it passed at 
Fort Snelling) is given below, was visiting one of her grand-children in West St. 
Paul, and I took advantage of this fact to call upon her, and secure her statement 
of events and occurrences in early days at Red River and Fort Snelling. The in- 
terviews consumed most of two days, and I wrote down, under her dictation, quite 
a lengthy narrative of her reminiscences of life on our frontier. I found Mrs. 
Adams to be a lady of much intelligence, with a tenacious memory of the events 
of seventy years ago, and narrating them with vivid interest, and in the most des- 
criptive and graphic language. Her story is a very entertaining one, and gives 
valuable data for our early history. In person, Mrs. Adams is a handsome woman, 
notwithstanding her age, and possessed of a vigorous and elastic physique, which 
has sustained her during all the hardships of her adventurous career on the fron- 
tier, as narrated in the following pages. 

J. FLETCHER WILLIAMS. 

I cheerfully consent to your request, to give you an 
account of the hardships and adventures of the party of 
Swiss emigrants, who, in 1821, went from their native 
land to Selkirk's Settlement, and many of whom eventually 
settled in Minnesota; of which party, by the will of Divine 
Providence, it was my fortune to have been a member. 

I was born in Switzerland, in the Canton of Berne, 
December 18, 1810, and am now in my 77th year. My 



i\ 



76 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS. 

parents and my grand parents were Huguenots. My full 
name is Barbara Ann Shadecker (since Adams). My 
father's name was Samuel Shadecker.* He spoke the Ger- 
man and French tongues, and had been educated for a 
physician. He married Ann Kertz, also a native of Berne. 
To this couple were born five children, two girls and 
three boys. My brothers' names were John, Samuel and 
Christopher. My sister's name was Marianne. She was 
older than I. 

LORD SELKIRK'S EMIGRATION SCHEME. 

• 

My father and mother were both Protestants in faith, 
and were devoted members of the Reformed Lutheran 
Church, in which belief they also raised their family. 
We always lived happily and contentedly in Berne until 
the year 1820, and supposed that the peaceful valleys of 
Switzerland were to be our home always. But this was 
not to be. In 1820, a person named Capt. Rudolph Mae, 
or Mai, came into that locality, and soon made himself 
known to the simple Swiss, by a flattering scheme which 
he proposed. Capt. Mae was a native of Berne, and 
had been some years in the military service of England, 
where he became acquainted with the Earl of Selkirk. 
Selkirk had been for some years engaged in a scheme 
of emigration, the object of which was to induce persons 
in Scotland and elsewhere, to remove to Rupert's Land 
in the center of North America, and form an agricul- 
tural colony there. This colony had been planted since 



*Mr8. Adams spelled it thus. But In the records of the colony at Red River, 
the name Is spelled Scheidegger, and Scheideeker. 



MRS. ADAMS' REMINISCENCES. 77 

1812, but the Scotch settlers from the Highlands and 
Orkneys whom he had induced to go there, were dis- 
satisfied and many had left. He now conceived the idea 
of securing Swiss immigrants. Capt. Mae was entrusted 
with the work, and was well fitted for it, being a native 
of Berne himself, and speaking the language of its peo- 
ple. The Earl of Selkirk prepared and caused to be 
published in the French and German languages, a 
pamphlet giving a full, but over-colored description of 
the new country, its climate, soil and productions, and 
offered to all heads of families, or those who were un- 
married and over twenty-one years of age, land free of 
cost, with seed, cattle and farming implements, all on a 
credit of three years. The route from Europe to the 
new colony, was to be via Hudson Bay, Nelson River, 
and Lake Winnipeg. The pamphlet alluded to, was 
freely distributed by Capt. Mae, and others of Lord Sel- 
kirk's agents, in the French-speaking cantons of Neu- 
chatel, Vaud and Geneva, and in the German-speaking 
canton of Berne. 

THE SWISS COLONISTS. 

The false, but tempting accounts of the country, and 
the inducements held out to colonists, soon did their 
work, and shortly over 150 persons agreed to enroll in 
the party being made up. About three-fourths of these 
were French-speaking persons. All were Protestants, 
and generally intelligent and well-to do persons, some 
of them possessed of considerable means. Among them 
were several persons quite prominent in their commu- 
nities, and who a,fterwards, in America, became citizens 
-4 



78 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS. 

of repute and wealth. At the same time, it should be 
remembered, that but few of these adventurers were 
fitted for such a life as they were about to embark in, 
But a small number of them were agriculturists, and in 
general they were watchmakers, or skilled in some 
other branch of artizanship, totally unsuited to the 
wilderness into which they were going. My parents 
were among those captivated and seduced by this 
agent's glowing accounts and his promises, and after 
daily consulting together about the project, they con- 
cluded to go with the party which was soon to leave 
their native mountains for the distant and unknown spot 
in the new world, that seemed bright with promise for 
the poor Switzers. I was then but eleven years old, 
and little realized the importance of the fateful step 
which my parents were about being enticed into. At 
this very time (the summer of 1820) the Earl of Sel- 
kirk, the originator and promoter of this scheme, was 
already dead, but we did not know it for, more than a 
year subsequently. 

Considerable preparations were made by the colon- 
ists for the life in their new home. All of them in- 
vested what they could in goods and merchandise, to 
trade with in the new world. My father's intention 
was to establish himself as a weaver in Red River. A 
tan yard was another industry which some of the party 
made preparations for.* 



*Abram Perret (or Perry), one of the earliest settlers of St. Paul, with 
his wife and four children, were among this party of Swiss immigrants.— J. F. W. 



MRS. ADAMS' REMINISCENCES. 79 

THE PARTY SETS OUT. . 

On May 3, 1821, the party of adventurers, not one of 
whom were ever to see their dear native mountains 
again, left Berne and other places near by, and assem- 
bled, to the number of 165 persons, at a small village on 
the Rhine near Basle. Why they did not assemble at 
Basle, which is a city of some commercial importance, 
seems a little strange. It was afterwards conjectured 
that the managers feared to take them to a large city, 
lest some unfavorable facts regarding the wild country 
to which the}^ were being taken, should be communi- 
cated to them by persons who might have suspected 
that they were victims of deception, and would point 
out to them the fallacy of the promises and hopes 
which had engaged them in the enterprise. However 
this may have been, two large flat boats or barges 
were provided for their use at the point of embarka- 
tion above named, and in these they floated down the 
Rhine, delighted with its picturesque scenery, and the 
m.any historic spots and points along its banks. Still 
their hearts were burdened with the responsibilities of 
the important step they were about engaging in, and 
perhaps oppressed with grief at leaving their beautiful 
homes among the vine-clad hills and lovely valleys of 
dear Switzerland, one of the most beautiful countries of 
Europe. And the Switzers are a people who are pro- 
verbially attached to their homes. Yet, with their 
cheerful disposition and their strong religious faith, they 
bravely and hopefully looked forward to their future 
life in the new world as a realization of the dreams 




80 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS. 

which all must have Indulged in, of fortune and hap- 
piness greater than could ever come to them in the 
humble chalets of Helvetia. 

THE OCEAN VOYAGE. 

The voyage down the Rhine occupied ten days, when 
the colonists reached a small village, Dort, or Dord- 
recht, near Rotterdam, where the party embarked on 
the vessel Lord Wellington, and on May 30, 1821, cleared 
for Fort York, Hudson's Bay. After setting sail, their 
course lay east and north of Great Britain and just south 
of Greenland, to Hudson Strait. Soon after leaving 
Holland, the unpleasant discovery was made that the 
provisions issued to them were of quality greatly infe 
rior to that stipulated before their departure. Complaint 
was duly made to the commander of the vessel about 
it — a stern, but kind hearted old seaman. The latter 
acknowledged that the complaint was just, but said that 
he was not responsible for it, which was doubtless true. 
The water was also bad, and issued in insufficient quan- 
tities. Arriving at Hudson Strait, latitude 62^ north, 
the Lord Wellington overtook two English ships bound 
for Fort York, or York Factory, situated at the mouth 
of the Nelson river, laden with Indian goods and sup- 
plies for the garrisons at Forts York and Douglas, and 
for employes of the Hudson's Bay Company. The strait 
was filled with floes and bergs of ice, and the ships 
were thereby detained over three weeks. One day, in 
August, as the Lord Wellington lay moored alongside an 
ice field, a number of the passengers got out and danced 
on it. One of the supply ships was seriously damaged 



MRS. ADAMS' REMINISCENCES. 81 

and nearly lost, by collision with an iceberg. Finally 
with much difficulty and no little peril, Hudson's Bay 
was entered, and after a long and tedious voyage of 
nearly four months, the wearied colonists were landed 
at Fort York, about Sept. 1st. Seven children had been 
born on the voyage out. As soon as " Mackinaw boats " 
could be procured, which took about a week, the party 
began the slow and toilsome ascent of the Nelson river. 

FURTHER HARDSHIPS OF THE COLONISTS. 

They had to propel their heavily laden boats, of which 
there was quite a fleet, by rowing, or poling, frequent- 
ly against a very strong current, and, of course, pro- 
ceeded slowly. Twenty days alone were occupied in the 
passage to Lake Winnipeg. Here they encountered fur- 
ther difficulties. The season was now quite advanced. 
The autumnal gales had set in, and their progress, 
skirting along the west shore of the lake, was slow 
and laborious. Head winds and high waves delayed 
them. They were frequently drenched with water, and 
chilled with cold. At night, hungry, fatigued, and be- 
numbed with cold, we would land on some sheltered 
spot, prepare a camp, build fires, and make ourselves 
as comfortable as possible. In addition to our other 
troubles, our store of provisions ran short, and we were 
compelled to resort to fishing to keep from starving, but 
soon the supply of these was scanty. While we were 
traversing Lake Winnipeg, my brother Samuel, a boy, 
died suddenly. We stopped on an island and buried him 
hastily, not having anything to make a coffin of, even. 

At the end of the third week, our party arrived, half 



82 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS. 

famished, at the mouth of Red River. Here more sad 
news awaited us. All the crops of the colonists in the 
settlement, had been completely destroyed by grasshop- 
pers, and the supply of breadstuffs which the colony 
had depended on for subsistence, thus destroyed. With 
heavy hearts, our party proceeded on up the Red River 
about thirty-five miles, to Fort Douglas, situated on the 
west bank of the river, below Fort Garry. This was- 
then the principal trading post and headquarters of the 
Hudson's Bay Company. Governor Alexander McDowell, 
and other prominent officers of the company, were there 
at the time. They received us with kind and encour- 
aging words, and what was of more importance to us 
just then, gave us a good supply of palatable food, and 
otherwise provided for our wants. 

THE NEW COMERS HEAR BAD NEWS. 

We here had an opportunity of conversing with some 
of the colonists and residents who had been here for some 
years, many, indeed, since 1813, when Selkirk's first col- 
ony had settled here. They did not give a very flattering 
account of life in the colony. They had all suffered great 
hardships. The climate was excessively severe, the win- 
ters long, and tho' the soil was rich, the shortness of the 
summers made it difficult to raise crops. Then there had 
been for several years past a cruel warfare between the 
two rival fur trading companies, the "Hudson Bay" and 
the "Northwest, " and considerable blood-shed. This, how- 
ever, they said, was now changed, by the consolidation of 
the two companies. 




MRS. ADAMS' REMINISCENCES. 

At this place, we heard another item of discouraging 
news, which, for some reason, had been concealed from 
us before. This was the death of Lord Selkirk, which 
had taken place, in fact, in April of the year preceding, 
in Europe. Still, as there was then only one mail per 
year to that distant point, brought by the annual expedi- 
tion via Hudson Bay, with supplies for the posts, it may 
be that the officers of the company had not heard the 
news of Selkirk's death, until the arrival of their mails by 
the company's ships, which arrived simultaneously with us 
at Fort York. But it tended to further discourage the 
colonists, and to fill them with gloomy forebodings. 

A SHARP COMPETITION FOR WIVES. 

We had hardly landed at Fort Douglas, when a new 
sensation awaited us, which, in some of its features, was 
quite amusing, and a decided surprise to the colonists. It 
seems that there was quite a large class of men in the 
colony who went by the name of the '*De Meurons." 
They had been recruited in Canada by Lord Selkirk, sev- 
eral years before, to act as soldiers in the hostilities men- 
tioned a moment ago, and were (if I remember correctly) 
called De Meurons because their commander had borne 
that name. After the hostilities were over, and the men 
discharged. Lord Selkirk induced many of them to settle 
on lands which he donated to them, around Fort Douglas. 
They all became well-to-do farmers, but were without 
wives, a very necessary help-meet to farmers, and were 
all anxious to obtain them, but that was out of the ques- 
tion in the colony. When they heard that a colony of 
Swiss settlers were coming, with a number of females, 



84 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS. 

they resolved to repair to the Fort on its arrival and en- 
deavor to secure partners. We had not been at this place 
more than 24 hours, before the De Meurons, notified of 
our arrival, began to flock in, each eager to get a wife. 
And some were very eager. They went at it without any 
hesitation or backwardness. On finding a maiden that 
suited their fancy, they would open negotiations at once, 
either with her or her parents, and would not take any 
refusal. I saw an amusing incident during this matrimo- 
nial fair. An eager De Meuron seized a woman by the 
hand, saying, "I want to marry you," but was much dis- 
appointed when she told him, "I have a husband." The 
result of this aggressive onset was, that not a few of the 
De Meurons did get wives among the families of the set- 
tlers, and generally both parties were suited. My sister 
was one who thus consented to share the lot of a Red 
River farmer. The weddings were celebrated with as 
much gaiety as was possible, considering the circum- 
stances of both the colonists and the settlers. 

The elders of our company (for we children did not 
understand much of these troubles), soon began to realize 
into what a predicament they had come, and there were 
heavy hearts and sad countenances. Governor McDowell 
plainly told the newly arrived emigrants that there were 
not provisions enough in the Colony to carry them all 
through the winter, and the problem seemed for a time 
to be a very serious one. After some consultation, it was 
deemed best to divide the party. He directed that about 
seventy-five of the youngest and strongest should proceed 
about sixty miles farther up the river, to a place called 
Pembina, on the United States side of the boundary line 



MRS. ADAMS' REMINISCENCES. 85 

(though then supposed to be north of that line), where it 
was believed that game, such as buffalo, elk, deer, fish, 
etc., were more abundant, and where a good supply of 
"pemmican" could be obtained from the Indians and half- 
breeds in that locality. 

THE COLONISTS PASS A HARD WINTER. 

This was consequently carried into effect. My father's 
family was one of those selected to go to Pembina, and 
we proceeded thither, arriving just at the beginning of 
winter. Here father secured a habitation, such as it 
was, but it at least gave us a shelter. But we were ab- 
solutely destitute of food, and winter was just commenc- 
ing with all the severity known in that climate. For- 
tunately, my father had money, and he at once hired two 
Indians to hunt buffaloes. We soon had an abundance 
of meat, and lived on that kind of food as long as we 
remained there. Sometimes his Indians had to bring it 
a long distance, but fortunately our supply did not fail 
us, most of the time, although at one period, when there 
had been very deep snows, we were three days without 
food. Another privation was, that we had no salt, and 
were compelled to eat our buffalo meat without it. 

There was a post of the Hudson's Bay Company near 
there, and when our food gave out, my father applied 
there to purchase some. The agent was absent, and his 
wife absolutely refused to sell him any. But during the 
argument, she espied a handsome gold watch which my 
mother carried, and demanded that in return for the food 
needed. Although its intrinsic value was considerable, 
it was prized more on account of its associations, and my 



86 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS. 

parents were reluctant to give it up. But they at length 
yielded to necessity, and gave the watch for the food, it 
being many fold greater in value than what we received 
for it. 

After some time of enduring these hardships, my father 
heard of a place down the river some ways, where we 
would doubtless fare better, and had us taken there in 
dog sleds. We were two days in going there, and had 
to camp out at night, in the snow, with nothing to eat 
but buffalo broth. The place to which we went, was a 
trading post. There was a house there, where the owner 
rented us one room, in which we lived the balance of 
the winter. We had nothing to sleep on but buffalo 
robes, but we had abundance of food, and thus got along 
very well. The cold now began to be intense. It was 
said to be the severest winter known for years. At 
night the trees would crack, with the fierce cold, like the 
reports of guns. But we passed the rest of the winter 
without any serious discomfort. 

THE SEASON OF 1822. 

In the spring of the next year (1822), the two sec- 
tions of the colony were again united, and land having 
been apportioned to them, under the original agreement 
made by Selkirk's agents, they all commenced to make 
settlements, near Fort Garry, and erect houses. The lo- 
cation chosen by my father was about three miles above 
Fort Garry, on the Red River, where he had a log 
house built for him. He was engaged in partnership in 
his farm enterprise with a Mr. Fletcher, an English- 
man. I may here remark that not one of us could, at 



MRS. ADAMS' REMINISCENCES. 87 

that time, speak a word of English, and we experi- 
enced considerable difficulty on that account. The agri- 
culture carried on by the Swiss settlers that season was 
of a very limited and rude sort. Not one of them had 
any plow cattle, and what little they raised was done 
by digging the ground merely. But we lived more com- 
fortably than before, and now had hopes that our rash 
move in coming to that region would not prove so dis- 
astrous to our fortunes and happiness as we had, at 
first arrival, supposed. We all entered somewhat into 
the life of the settlement. I soon learned to paddle a 
canoe, to fish, and to swim. On June 10, 1822, my sis- 
ter, Marianna, was married (as I before mentioned) to a 
Mr. Mathias Schmidt, by the Rev. John West, an Eng- 
lish Episcopal clergyman, well known in the settlement. 

THE DISCONTENT OF THE SWISS SETTLERS. 

The poor Swiss colonists, who had been beguiled into 
making their homes in that region, were not long in get- 
ting their eyes opened to the fact that their credulity had 
made them the dupes of the agents of Lord Selkirk. 
Though some of them were poor in their former homes, 
they had at least comfortable dwellings, and occupations 
which would give them bread. Here they had nothing to 
look forward to but destitution, trouble and toil. My 
father kept up a brave heart through it all, although his 
scanty means were being gradually consumed. His strong 
religious faith was one thing which sustained him. Every 
night he would gather his family together, and after 
reading the Sacred Scriptures, pray with great fervor to 
our heavenly Father for help and guidance. He never 



88 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS. 

lost faith in a kind and over-ruling Providence, in the 
darkest hours we experienced, while living in the Red 
River settlements. 

The winter passed by the Swiss colonists at Pembina, 
had been one of great hardship. It was a winter of 
unusual severity, and the snow much deeper than had 
been known for years. This latter fact sometimes almost 
cut off their supplies of meat. They were compelled to 
fish through holes in the ice, and even Indian dogs were 
bought and eaten! Several settlers were maimed for life 
by the freezing of their hands and feet. 

Several families, disheartened at their privations, and 
finding that the supplies of cattle, etc., promised them, 
were not forthcoming, resolved to leave the Red River 
region at all hazards. Five families got away in the fall 
of 1821, and reached Fort Snelling in safety, where they 
were permitted to settle on the military reservation. A 
general discontent prevailed among all the Swiss. There 
were only a very few who, by some fortunate chance, had 
got a good location, and felt encouraged enough to remain 
and "stick it out." Even most of these left after a few 
years, and went to Minnesota. Among them was Abram 
Perret and family, Joseph Rondo, Benj. and Pierre Ger- 
vais, Louis Massie, and others, who left after the great 
flood of 1826, and subsequently settled at St. Paul. My 
father's means, which he had brought with him, were 
gradually becoming exhausted, and destitution would soon 
have stared us in the face. The summer of 1822 was 
another year of crop failure, owing to the grasshopper 
scourge, and it seemed that the cup of our aflictions was 
full. My father, during this winter, resolved to leave at 



MRS. ADAMS REMINISCENCES. 09 

all hazards, for Fort Snelling the next spring, and others 
had also made the same resolve. 

THEY RESOLVE TO ABANDON RED RIVER. 

Consequently, in the spring of 1823, as soon as the grass 
was grown sufficiently, father and his family, with twelve 
other Swiss families, started for Fort Snelling. There 
were twelve men and a boy in the party, who were gen- 
erally well armed; all the rest were women and children, 
one or two of the latter being infants in arms. We had 
hired several "Red River Carts," drawn by oxen, which 
carried our provisions etc., and of course every body had 
to walk, except, perhaps, some of the younger children, 
who rode occasionally, and one or two men, who had horses. 

Two or three of the women carried babes in their arms, 
walking thus twenty miles per day. We followed the trail 
on the west side of the Red River, over the prairie. Two 
mounted guides accompanied us (the drivers of the carts), 
who could speak the Sioux language, in case we met any 
Indians, and act as hunters, to supply us with food. They 
killed several buffalo on the way. Our habit was to camp 
out at night, and we always had a guard carefully patrol 
our camp during these bivouacs. Very often the women 
would thus stand guard, in order to allow the men to rest. 
Several times we met parties of Indians, whose good will 
we had to conciliate by giving them presents of food, 
ammunition, or trinkets, a small supply of which we had 
brought for that purpose. They did not seem to desire 
to injure us in any way, but when we reached Fort Snell- 
ing, a few weeks subsequently, we learned that, on the 
very road we had traversed, they had just killed part of 



90 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS. 

a family who, like ourselves, had been on their way from 
Pembina to Fort Snelling. 

THE TULLY FAMILY. 

This was a family named Tully. Mr. Tully was a 
Scotchman, and a blacksmith by occupation, who, like many 
others, had been living at the Red River settlement, and 
had got starved out. He had started a few weeks before 
our party, to go to Fort Snelling, and very unwisely went 
alone. He was met near what is now Grand Forks, by 
some Sioux, who demanded of him to give up his provi- 
sions. Of course, to do this, would be to leave his family 
to perish, so he refused. The Indians then killed him, and 
his wife, and also a little baby. John and Andrew Tully, 
two boys, attempted to escape, but were pursued and 
caught, when one of the Indians partially scalped John, 
but the rest interfered and they took both prisoners. Col. 
Snelling, hearing of it, sent persons to rescue them, and 
the boys were taken to Fort Snelling, where they were 
when we arrived. They were cared for by Col. Snelling 
in his family. John Tully soon after died, but the other, 
(Andrew) grew up as an inmate of Col. Snelling' s family, 
and is now living in an eastern city. 

TROUBLE FROM THE INDIANS. 

We had several bad frights from Indians, however. One 
evening we were camped on the Bois de Sioux River, 
shortly below its exit from Lake Traverse, when I 
stepped down to the edge with a pail to get some water. 
I heard noise on the opposite bank, and limbs crackle; a 
dog also barked. I was certain it was* Indians, and slip- 



MRS. ADAMS' REMINISCENCES. 91 

ping back quietly to the camp, I told the men what I 
had heard. They carefully scouted in the direction 
named, but saw nothing. But they suspected some am- 
buscade, and resolved on a plan to baffle the red skins. 
They built a large fire, and stuffing some men's clothes 
with grass, to resemble human forms, laid them by the 
fire, so that if the savages really were lying in wait to 
attack us, they would fire into these supposed bodies, and 
thus get baffled. They did not, however, attack us, and 
it is probable were only endeavoring to steal some of our 
horses. 

Near Fort Traverse, a trading post on the Lake of that 
name, some Indians overtook us on a prairie. They were 
on horseback. We had just crossed the river by ford- 
ing. They were angry with us for killing buffalo. The 
Indians rode along with us a little distance, and just 
then some one noticed that one of them had disappeared. 
We feared some treachery, and kept a close lookout. 
We saw that we were approaching an Indian village, 
still some distance off. Apparently some signal had been 
given, for a number of mounted Indians came riding 
towards us, firing guns, not at us, but in the air. They 
got to us, and at once mounted the carts, and threw 
everything out. A young Indian caught hold of me, 
and being alarmed, I started and ran. He pursued me 
some distance, I do not know why, when a chief, as I 
presumed him to be, rode up, and probably ordered him 
to desist, as he stopped. This same chief harangued 
the warriors, and doubtless commanded them to desist, 
as they ceased any further demonstrations against us. 
The same Indians followed us to Fort Traverse. We 



92 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS. 

were compelled to give them a considerable ransom. 
Father gave them one horse. They did not molest us 
any farther, and even sent two Indians with us for some 
distance, to notify other bands we might meet, not to 
harm us. While we were with them they showed us an 
old battle field where some of their tribe had been 
killed. One of our carts ran over a bare place on this 
spot, which seemed to enrage them. It had some sig- 
nificance which we could not understand. We camped 
near this spot, and the Indians howled all night. 

THEY DESCEND THE ST. PETER'S RIVER. 

It now began to be late in the fall. The families who 
were with us, the Moniers, the Chetlains, Schirmers, 
Langets, and others, being anxious to reach Fort Snel- 
ling before navigation should close, so that they could 
go on down the river, hurried on ahead, leaving father 
and his family to finish the rest of the voyage alone. 
Our destination was Fort Snelling. We at once made 
for a trading house on the Minnesota River, where father 
and my oldest brother built, after some delay and hard 
labor, for they could not get the proper tools, a big 
dug-out, of a Cottonwood log. Into this we embarked 
all that we had left, provisions, clothing, etc. The carts, 
and their drivers, who had brought us so far, now left 
us, and returned to the Red River settlement, and we 
pushed off, in our rude pirogue, down the Minnesota 
River, then called "the St. Peter's." The river was 
quite low, and we experienced considerable trouble in 
getting over, or around, sand bars, or shoals. Such was 
the slowness of our progress that it was quite late in 



MRS. ADAMS' REMINISCENCES. 93 

the season when we reached Fort Snelling. In fact, ice 
was already floating in the river before we concluded our 
trip. 

The other party of refugees, had, after a brief stay 
at Fort Snelling, been provided by Col. Snelling with 
provisions and boats, in which they started off as soon 
as possible, down the Mississippi. (Steamboats had 
reached Fort Snelling for the first time that yea;-, but 
their trips were few and far between.) The colonists 
mostly went to St. Louis and made their homes there, 
though some went as far as Vevay, Ind. In a couple 
of years, most of those at St. Louis went to the newly 
opened lead regions at and near Galena, and became 
prosperous citizens. My father and mother joined the 
party at that place subsequently. Descendants of this 
party are scattered all over the west, many of them 
having attained distinction. General A. L. Chetlain, of 
Galena, who was associated with Gen. Grant in the war, 
was the son of Louis Chetlain, one of this party of 
refugees. 

THE ARRIVAL AT FORT SNELLING. 

We landed at the Fort with a feeling of joy and grat- 
itude. Our journey through the great wilderness which 
stretched between Fort Garry and Fort Snelling, was 
one of fatigue, danger and privation; it had consumed 
nearly five months. We now felt that we had gotten 
into a land where we could live with comfort, and in 
the hope of a happy future, a condition we could not look 
forward to in the Selkirk settlement. The trials, hard- 
ships and anxieties through which we had passed the past 
two or three years had told visibly on my dear parents. 
-6 



M MINNESOTA HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS. 

Both of them had aged rapidly, and it had sowed in the 
constitutions of both the seeds of premature decay, which 
shortened their lives . 



FORT SNELLING IN 1823. 

Col. Snelling, to whom my father applied for permis- 
sion to remain on the Military Reservation, very kindly 
acceded to our request, and expressed much sympathy 
for us, ordering that provisions should be issued to us, 
although there was a scarcity in the garrison at that 
time, for some cause, (a miscalculation on the part of 
the commander as to what amount was necessary, I be- 
lieve, ) and the troops were actually on half rations. A 
part of the old barracks at " Coldwater," as it was 
called, was assigned for our occupancy, and we installed 
ourselves there, and made ourselves as comfortable as 
possible, under the circumstances. Father got some em- 
ployment on the reservation, and Mrs. Snelling, a kind 
and benevolent lady, gave me a home in her family, 
where I aided her in the care of her little children, a 
task for which I was well fitted, as I was now 13 years 
of age, and very strong and active. Thus, again, for- 
tune smiled on us, and we began to take fresh hope, 
after all our trials and losses. I had a comfortable and 
pleasant home in Mrs. Snelling's family. Both she and 
the Colonel treated me with the greatest kindness, and 
the children soon became greatly attached to me, so 
that my position in the Snelling family was a really en- 
viable one. I think of those days as among the happiest 
of my life, and feel thankful for my good fortune. 



MRS. ADAMS' REMINISCENCES. 95 

Fort Snelling was not, at that time, completely finished, 
but was occupied. Col. Snelling had sowed some wheat 
that season, and had it ground at a mill which the gov- 
ernment had built at the falls, but the wheat had be- 
come mouldy, or sprouted, and made wretched, black, 
bitter tastmg bread. This was issued to the troops, who 
got mad because they could not eat it, and brought it 
to the parade ground and threw it down there. Col. 
Snelling came out and remonstrated with them. There 
was much inconvenience that winter (1823-24) about the 
scarcity of provisions. Some of the soldiers had the 
scurvy, and I believe some died. Whiskey rations were 
issued to the troops regularly, however, and sometimes 
it seemed that about all they had was whiskey. These 
troops were a part of the Fifth Infantry. Adjt. Green's 
little boy died at the fort while I was there, and was 
buried in the cemetery attached to the fort. Several 
soldiers were also buried there, during the period I 
lived in the fort, and a regular military funeral was 
given each of them, the band playing a dirge, and their 
company firing volleys over their graves. 

THE SNELLING FAMILY. 

The names of the Snelling children living then were 
Henry, James, Josiah and Marian. They had lost some 
others prior to the time I had lived with them, but the 
above grew up to adult age. James became a captain in 
the U. S. Army and died in 1855; Josiah is, or was some 
time ago, a physician in Illinois; Marian married a Mr. 
Hazard and lives in Newport, Ky. ; Henry Hunt Snelling 
was quite an able writer and poet. 



96 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS 

Mrs. Snelling was a very fond and indulgent mother, 
and spared no pains or sacrifices to make her children 
happy. As there were no schools at the Fort, she taught 
them herself, as well as she could. I taught them the 
prayers which my parents had taught to me. Col. Snelling 
also had a son, by a first wife, who lived with us a part 
of the time. He was then (1823) about twenty years old. 
His name was William Joseph, or Wm. Josiah Snelling; 
they called him "Jo" usually. Mrs. Snelling did not 
seem to have any great fondness or respect for him, and 
perhaps with good reasons; but the Colonel was greatly 
attached to him, and would do anything for him. Jo. led 
rather an ungoverned life for some years. He had been 
at one time appointed a Cadet at West Point, and a son 
of Maj. Hamilton, of Fort Snelling, was there at the same 
time. These lads committed some breach of discipline 
while at the military academy, and were sent home. Mrs. 
Hamilton was much distressed at this, and wept profusely. 
Jo. Snelling married, while quite young, a French girl 
from Prairie du Chien, very handsome, but uneducated. 
They lived in a sort of hovel for awhile, and, owing to 
cold and privation during the ensuing winter, the poor 
girl took sick and died. After this,, he returned to Fort 
Snelling, and thence went to lake Traverse, where he 
was engaged in the Indian trade. He subsequently went 
to Boston, married again there, and died a few years 
later. Jo. somewhat resembled the Colonel in person, 
but his hair was darker. The Colonel's hair was quite 
red. He was also slightly bald. From this peculiarity 
the soldiers nick-named him, among themselves, the 
"prairie-hen." Once Jo. told his father of this. The 
Colonel laughed at it as a good joke. 



MRS. ADAMS' REMINISCENCES. 97 

GARRISON LIFE DESCRIBED. 

Intemperance, among both officers and men, at that 
time, was an almost universal thing, and produced de- 
plorable effects. I regret to say that the commandant 
was no exception to this rule. Usually kind and pleasant, 
when one of his convivial spells occurred, he would act 
furious, sometimes getting up in the night and making 
a scene. He was severe in his treatment of the men 
who committed a like indiscretion. He would take them 
to his room, and compel them to strip, when he would 
flog them unmercifully. I have heard them beg him to 
spare them, ' ' for God's sake. " Col. S . was quite improv- 
ident in his habits, and usually in debt. One time, old 
Mr. Spalding, who had been employed in the Commis- 
sary service for some years, and had saved several hun- 
dred dollars, mostly in silver, brought it to Col. Snelling, 
and asked him to take care of it for him. Col. S. said 
he would. After Col. Snelling's death, Mr. Spalding used 
to declare that it had never been returned to him. 

SOCIETY AT THE PORT. 

During my sojourn at Fort Snelling, of six years, I had 
opportunity to become acquainted with nearly all the 
officers of the Fifth Infantry stationed there during 
that period (1823-29). Among those whose names I 
can now remember, were Col. Josiah Snelling, Surgeon 
J. P. C. McMahon, Maj. Joseph C. Plympton, Maj. 
Thomas Hamilton, Maj. Nathan Clark, Captains Watkins, 
Wm. E. Cruger, St. Clair Denny, De Lafayette Wilcox, 
and Lieutenants Robert A. McCabe, David Hunker, J. B. 
F. Russell, Joseph M. Bayley, Melancthon Smith, Wm. E. 



98 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS. 

Cruger, Piatt R. Green, Louis T Jamison, etc. I believe 
that not a single one of the above are living now. Many 
of these officers were men of the highest ability, most of 
them having been graduates of West Point. Several of 
them, unfortunately, contracted social habits in the army 
which ultimately clouded the honor which they would 
otherwise have won from their meritorious military 
careers, and more than one of them closed his days even 
in disgrace and poverty. Army life was not favorable to 
saving money; no officer that I ever knew made any 
money while in the army. There was less blame to be 
attached to their error in the way of conviviality, than 
there would have been to men in other occupations. Gar- 
rison life at Ft. Snelling and other frontier posts, those 
days, was a very monotonous round of existence. The 
routine duties of the day consumed but very little 
time, ordinarily, and the rest of the time must have hung 
very heavy on their hands. In summer they could amuse 
themselves with hunting, as game was always abundant. 
But during the long and rigorous winters it was a great 
problem, "how to kill time." Card playing and drinking 
thus came into an unfortunate prominence. This some 
times resulted in disputes and quarrels, which, in several 
cases, led to duels between officers. Two or three of 
these meetings occurred while I was there. I do not now 
remember the names of those who took part in them, 
but I can recall that they made considerable talk aod 
excitement at the time. 

Nearly every officer I have named was married, and in 
almost every case to ladies of the best families, and who 
were endowed with beauty and many accomplishments. 



MRS. ADAMS' REMINISCENCES. 99 

Thus the society at the Fort at that period was of the 
most select and aristocratic. Many of these ladies would 
have shone in any circle. Their households in the garri- 
son were attractive places, and showed evidences of 
wealth and good taste. I remember that Mrs. Maj. 
Plymp ton brought the first piano to Fort Snelling, which 
was brought to' Minnesota. I knew Mrs. Maj. Clarke 
well. She was the mother of Mrs. Van Cleve, and was 
an amiable and lovely woman. I remember the latter 
(Charlotte Clarke) when she was "a little tot," three or 
four years old, playing near the door of her father's 
quarters. She used to play with the Snelling children, 
who were in my care. When Gen. Scott visited the Fort 
in 1826 there was a great striving to do him honor. The 
resources of the larder were limited, at Fort Snelling, 
those days, but everything possible was done that in- 
genuity suggested. He was a guest of Col. Snelling, and 
the spread was a creditable one. All the officers and 
their wives were present at his reception in full dress. 
Many of the ladies wore blazing diamonds. But the dress- 
maker was an institution not at hand in those days. Op- 
portunities for frequent renewals of wardrobe were scanty. 
The arrivals 'of steamboats, which brought supplies from 
the states, were few and far between, even in the sum- 
mer time. Of course there were weeks in the winter time 
when there was not even a mail. The latter were brought 
by "dog- train" from Prairie du Chien, or in some such 
way, at rare intervals. 

My parents had lived at Fort Snelling some two years 
when they concluded to remove to the Galena lead mines, 
where most of the other Swiss colonists had settled, and 



100 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS. 

were doing well. Father soon after died there, and mother 
returned to the Fort to live with me. My brothers grew 
up, and lived in Wisconsin. John, the eldest, died at 
Fort Howard, Green Bay, where he was a trader. Chris. , 
the younger, died in the army during the rebellion. 

VARIOUS INCIDENTS OF FORT LIFE. 

The Indians used to bring buffalo meat to the Fort, 
and sell it to the soldiers, and others, who relished it 
greatly, as the meat issued to them for rations, was 
always salt. Once an ox got drowned in the river near 
the Fort, and the Indians got its body, and cutting it 
up, sold it to the soldiers as buffalo meat. When the 
soldiers found out how they had been hoaxed, they 
were furiously mad. 

A Mr. Camp was once stopping at Col. Snelling's 
house, was taken sick and died there. He had either 
been an officer, or perhaps connected with the sutler's 
store. He was buried in the cemetery near the Fort, 
and the band played at his funeral. 

Two men of Capt. McCabe's company once quarreled, 
and one stabbed the other with a butcher's knife, so 
that he died. The murdered man was an' Englishman. 
I understood that no punishment was ever meted to 
the one who killed him — why, I never learned. 

A man named Angell came to the Fort from Red 
River while I was there and had in his possession a 
considerable quantity of gold, which he buried, for 
safety. He was, not long after, taken sick, and died. 
He tried to tell those who were with him, where it 
was, but could not. So his gold slept in the ground 



MRS. ADAMS' REMINISCENCES. 101 

for over fifty years, and was discovered not long ago 
by some laborers digging for foundations of the new 
buildings for the post. Burying money was common 
those days, as there were no banks, or even safes to 
keep it in securely. 

Once a soldier and his wife, both young people, were 
found to be making and circulating bogus money. He 
was drummed out of the service and both sent adrift 
from the fort in a canoe. I have often wondered at the 
fate of those persons. There was not a human habi- 
tation between Fort Snelling and Prairie du Chien, and 
I have thought they may have perished from hunger 
and exposure. 

At various times members of the families of officers 
at the fort died there and were buried in the military 
cemetery. Adjt. Green lost a child thus, and also Lt. 
Meiancthon Smith. Mrs. Snelling buried at least one 
there, and the cemetery there in time contained quite a 
group of graves. Headstones were erected to most of 
them, but after the families would move away to other 
parts, the graves were generally neglected. 

I remember also seeing Count Beltrami, the Italian, 
who came to Fort Snelling in 1823. He had been up 
to Red River, and on his return stopped at the fort 
some time. He could not speak English, but could 
speak French. He was at Mrs. Snelling's a great deal, 
and Mrs. Snelling could converse with him in French: 
she had been studying it under the tuition of an old 
soldier belonging to the garrison. 

Major Taliaferro, the Indian agent, was another of the 
characters well known at the fort. Hardly a day passed 



102 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS. 

without delegates of Indians of some tribe or other vis- 
iting him and having a grand palaver with him. Thus 
parties of them^^were encamped almost constantly near 
the fort. Sometimes these were of hostile tribes, and 
fights very frequently took place between them. 

A PERILOUS JOURNEY IN EARLY DAYS. 

In the summer of 1825, Col. and Mrs. Snelling with 
their children, and the TuUy boys made a trip to Detroit 
to pay a visit to her relatives, the Hunts and Mcln- 
toshes, at that place.* I accompanied them on that 
journey, and it had some features which are worth 
relating. Our mode of conveyance to Prairie du Chien, 
was in Mackinaw boats, with soldiers for crew. We 
had to camp every night, which was not very pleasant 
at all times, as it rained frequently, and the mosquitos 
were excessively troublesome. Adjt. Green accompanied 
us. One day he lost his military hat, in the river, and 
could not recover it. I loaned him a sun bonnet which 
I had, and rather than go bare-headed to Prairie du 
Chien, the nearest place where he could buy another 
hat, he wore it during the whole river trip. But there 
was no one to make fun of him, for we saw not a soul, 
white men or women, that is, on the whole route. In 
gratitude for this favor, when we reached Mackinaw, he 
purchased me a handsome bonnet. 

When we reached Prairie du Chien, we put up at 
Fort Crawford, and tarried there a day or two, to rest. 



*Mrs. Ellet in her memoir of Mrs. Snelling, in " Pioneer Women of the 
West," p. 330, gives a somewhat fanciful account of this trip. Mrs. Adams' 
account is far more minute, and undoubtedly more correct. W. 



MRS. ADAMS' REMINISCENCES. ' 103 

The Snellings were guests of Col. and Mrs. Zachary 
Taylor, who were stationed there then. It was a daugh- 
ter of this couple which Jefferson Davis married, while 
a lieutenant in the army. I fell sick here, and wanted 
to return home, i. e., to the Fort. There was really 
nothing the matter with me but home-sickness. I had 
never been separated from my parents before. Mrs. 
Snelling was alarmed, as she did not know what to do 
unless I accompanied her on the journey, to care for 
the children. She talked about it with Mrs. Taylor. 
That lady came to see me. She was a fat, motherly 
looking woman. She told Mrs. Snelling the best way 
was to divert me and I would soon forget my ailment. 
This was done, and the cure succeeded. 

We soon resumed our voyage, this time up the Wis- 
consin river, still in our Mackinaw boats. But it was 
more tedious now, as it was up stream. The soldiers 
rowed and poled, and had very fatiguing work to get 
us along, and it was very slow, at times. Mrs. Snell- 
ing stood the fatigues of the trip well. We had the 
best cooks along, who prepared our meals in good style. 
We passed over the portage between the Wisconsin and 
Fox rivers, and then down the latter, to Green Bay, 
where we embarked on a schooner for Detroit, which 
we reached safely. 

We spent several weeks with the Hunts, at Detroit, 
and late in the fall started on our homeward trip, and 
retraced the same route we came. From Prairie du 
Chien, we ascended the river in keel boats. The one 
in which the Col, and his family were, had a very com 
fortable cabin. There was a crew of eight or ten men 



104 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS. 

"We took in at Prairie du Chien the Colonel's son, Jo, 
and also an Indian trader, going to the Sioux river. 
He was attacked with the ague. Mrs. Snelling nursed 
and doctored him as well as she was able, but there was 
really nothing on board that could be given him — not 
even whiskey. 

Our progress up stream was very slow, although the crew 
toiled hard. The weather began to get cold and stormy, 
and it seemed that winter was approaching fast. Our sup- 
ply of provisions began to look ominously small; we act- 
ually were reduced to corn. Above Lake Pepin the ice 
stopped us once, and during a gale of wind, the boat was 
driven fast among some trees. The Col. said, "it looks 
as if we would have to stay here for good." The men 
pulled hard. Even Mrs. Snelling and I helped at the ropes. 
Night came on cold and tempestuous. Finally, the men 
went ashore and built a fire, and prepared to pass the 
night as best they could. The women and children re- 
mained in the cabin. At night the boat sprung a leak, 
having been injured by the ice, and the water poured in, 
frightening us badly, as we expected the boat was about 
to sink. The wind was still roaring and the waves beat- 
ing against us noisily. It- was at this place, or very near 
here where it had been reported that the Indians, a few 
days before had killed two white men, and chopped them 
to pieces. Col. Snelling uncautiously mentioned this, and 
that again increased our terror. 

Early next morning the Colonel dispatched his son Jo. 
and a soldier named Butter field afoot to the Fort for help. 
They both knew the country well, and were used to bush- 
whacking. Some parched corn was all the provisions our 



MRS. ADAMS' REMINISCENCES. 105 

cook could supply them with, so reduced our stores had 
become. Each had an ax and a blanket, nothing more. 

The Col. now rallied the men and bailed the boat out, 
when we got it loosened from the trees, and crossed the 
river, where we were in a sheltered place. Here the boat 
sank. Fortunately, the water was shallow, and we got out 
all the contents and carried them ashore. The men now 
made a rude hut or tent of poles, etc., and we (the women 
and children) made the most of this uncomfortable bivouac. 
Among the stores that was left was a barrel of cider. 
The Col. had hoped to take this home to the fort, where 
it would have been a welcome treat to his fellow officers, 
but unperceived by him, some of the men slyly tapped it, 
and were commencing to show signs of intoxication, when 
he detected the joke, and to avoid any further trouble, 
stove in the barrel with an ax. Amid all our trials, the 
Col. was merry and light-hearted and was continually crack- 
ing jokes at our expense. 

Jo. Snelling and Butterfield, as it subsequently turned 
out, were unable to pursue their journey far. They came 
to a river (the St. Croix?) which they could not cross, 
although they made some attempt to construct a raft. Not 
long after they had left us, the Colonel started two more 
men for the Fort, on the other side of the river, so as to 
double our chances of securing help speedily. These scouts 
arrived at the Fort safely, and two mackinaw boats were 
Sbt once started off to our relief, with provisions, etc. 
Unfortunately, the ice had gorged at a narrow place in the 
river, (perhaps above Hastings,) and the boats were thu& 
blockaded there. One or two of this crew then started 
off to meet us, carrying sacks of bread and meat. 



J06 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS. 

All this had taken some time, and we were still in 
our wretched tent, hungry and shivering. It seemed the 
best way to go on and meet the expected relief, so as 
to hasten the time when we would receive it. Our men 
carried the tent and what other necessaries we had to 
have, and we started off on our painful and slow journey 
up the river. When night came we had not made much 
advance, and again camped by the river, where a huge 
fire helped to warm and cheer us. That night was as 
near an experience of being homeless and foodless as any 
of us ever wanted to realize. The long night wore away, 
and when the dull, cold morning dawned, we ate what 
scanty food we had, and again started on our weary 
tramp. All that sustained us in this painful march was 
the thought that it was a matter of life or death for us; 
that if we did not soon meet the expected relief we 
would perish of cold and hunger. 

Hour after hour passed by, and it must have been 
after noon when we were electrified by a cry of ' 'they're 
coming, they're coming." The help had come, and we 
were saved. The bags of meat and bread were quickly 
attacked, and we soon satisfied our hunger. Mrs. Snel- 
ling and I cried for joy. Johnny >Tully said, "what fools 
you are to cry now. Why didn't you cry when we w^ere 
in danger of starving?" 

Encouraged and strengthened, we soon reached where 
boats were awaiting us, and started in them, with hearts 
sensibly lighter, up the stream. It was still many miles to 
the Fort, and night came on us sooner than we expected. 
We were again compelled to camp out as best we could, 
but this was not esteemed such a hardship, as we knew 



MRS. ADAMS* REMINISCENCES. 107 

we were so near home. That night there was a violent 
storm of snow and wind, and our tent was once blown down. 
The next morning the snow was quite deep. Just then two 
sleighs met us, which had been sent from the fort to hasten 
our arrival. The Colonel and his family and I mounted 
in these, and we started off. There were no roads, however, 
and our progress was very slow. We upset four times, and 
did not arrive at the Fort until after dark. Mr. and 
Mrs. Clarke had a good, warm supper ready for us when 
we arrived. The garrison fired a cannon salute when the 
Colonel drove in the gate, and there was great rejoicing 
at our safety. 

His first act was to inquire about Jo. and Butterfield, 
who had not arrived. The Col. was very uneasy, and 
dispatched scouts in search of them, with directions to 
fire shots every few minutes. They were found in due 
time, almost famished, and brought in safely. 

The Col. was much impressed by our escape from the 
dangers encountered, and said he recognized the hand of 
Providence in it. He became quite religious, and had 
prayers in his family for some time, but little by little 
the conviviality and worldliness of garrison life effaced 
these impressions, and we saw no more of them. 

INDIAN HOSTILITIES AND ITS RESULT. 

The year 1827 witnessed some exciting events. I men- 
tioned before, that parties of the Ojibwas and Dakotas, 
two intensely hostile tribes, used to encamp at the same 
time near the Fort, and that collisions occuisred between 
them from that cause. In May, that year, a disturbance 
of this kind happened, that was of more than usual im- 



108 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS. 

portance and note. A considerable party of O jib was, and 
several Dakotas, were encamped near the Fort, and the 
Dakotas treacherously sent proposals of peace and friend- 
ship to the Ojibwas. The latter accepted them, and sev- 
eral of the Dakotas, armed, visited the wigwam of their 
chief, and were there hospitably entertained and feasted. 
They withdrew after a time, but on getting outside the 
lodge, turned and fired a volley into it and wounded 
eight of the Ojibwa inmates, of whom a part died of 
their wounds. Col. Snelling and Maj. Taliaferro, the 
Indian agent, had before strongly charged on these savages 
that no hostilities would be permitted within the area 
around the Fort, that it would be an insult to the United 
States flag. When this last cowardly act occurred, he at 
once notified them that they must make ample reparation. 
Several were put under arrest, and held as hostages until 
the real murderers, who had fled, should be delivered 
up. Runners were at once sent out to the villages, and 
in a day or two, four of the Dakota culprits were in the 
guard house awaiting their fate, and were identified as 
the guilty persons. Col. Snelling, after consulting with 
the other ofiicers, as to what way he could make an ex- 
ample of them, agreed to leave it to the Ojibwas. The 
latter proposed that the Sioux murderers be made to ' ' run 
the gauntlet ;" that is the Ojibwas should be stationed on 
the prairie, with loaded guns, and the Dakotas placed a 
few yards off, and told to run. If they could escape un- 
harmed, well land well, but the Ojibwas would do their 
best to kill them. This was all carried out, as planned. 
The place chosen was just outside the Fort, on the 
level prairie, but the Colonel would not permit any of 



109 

the garrison to go out and witness it. He said it was 
an Indian trouble entirely — the whites had nothing to 
do with it. Mrs. Snelling and I got up on the roof of 
their house, and thus had a clear view of it all. It was 
a lovely warm bright May morning. I remember the 
whole scene as if it had been yesterday. 

The Ojibwas tied the arms of the three Dakota mur- 
derers, and led them out 30 yards. When the signal 
was given, the Dakotas bounded off like deer. The guns 
cracked, and soon all three of the culprits leaped into 
the air and fell, either dead, or dying. One of these was 
a great coward, and showed signs of the most mortal 
terror. The other two had been brave and defiant, and 
sang a war song when the Ojibwas were tying them. 
They also upbraided the cowardly one. 

When the victims fell, the Ojibwas gave their scalp cry, 
rushed up to the two brave dead ones, scalped them, and 
dipping their fingers in the gushing blood from their 
wounds, licked and sucked them. Some caught the blood 
in the hollow of their hand and drank it. This made 
their faces look bloody and horrible, and they looked wild 
and savage like demons. The body of the cowardly one 
was not noticed, nor did they drink his blood. Colonel 
Snelling then went out and told the Ojibwas they must 
not leave the bodies lying there, and they must drag 
them away. They took the corpses by the heels and 
dragging them to the steep bank of the river above the 
fort, threw them over into the water. It chanced that 
there was a large tree on the bank, blown over into the 
water. They took the Indian that had not been scalped 
and tied his hair to one of the limbs of this tree, in 
-6 

V^ B R A /Ty* 

or ftiu. 

UNIVERSITY 



110 MINNESOTA. HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS. 

the water. For several days it rocked up and down by 
the motion of the waves, exposing the ghastly face of 
the dead to sight every moment or two. I saw it sev- 
eral times as I was going along the bank to visit my 
sister, and it horrified me. I spoke to Mrs. Snelling 
about it, and she got the Colonel to have some one dis- 
lodge the body and let it float off.* 

THE MILITARY EXPEDITION TO PRAIRIE DU CHIEN. 

In July, 1827, some murders committed by drunken Win- 
nebagoes on settlers near Prairie du Chien, created a great 
panic in that region, and the whites rushed into old Port 
Crawford, to take refuge and protect themselves. I should 
have observed, before, that in the fall of the previous year, 
Fort Crawford had been measurably abandoned, and the 
two or three companies of the Fifth U. S. Infantry which 
it contained, had been sent to Fort Snelling, making that 
garrison very full. There was, really, no danger that the 
Winnebagoes would attack the people entrenched in Fort 
Crawford, because their spree was already over, and every- 
thing had got quieted down, but all the whites were so 
panic-stricken and alarmed, that an express was sent to 
Col. Snelling, imploring him to send down relief at once. 
Of course. Col. Snelling could not refuse this appeal. He 
at once hurried off with four companies, in keel-boats, and 
several days afterward, several more companies followed. 



*A very interesting account of this incident, undoubtedly written by Wm. 
J. Snelling, will be found in the collections of this society, vol. 1, p. 439. Anoth- 
er account, written by Mrs. C. O. Van Cleve, is given in vol. 3, p. 76. The 
account given by Mrs. Adams is very similar to the two foregoing. Beyond 
doubt, Mrs. Van Cleve and Mrs. Adams, are the only two persons now living, 
who witnessed the interesting event. W. 



MRS. ADAMS' REMINISCENCES. Ill 

under one of the other regimental officers, leaving Fort 
Snelling almost deserted. 

Mrs. Snelling and the children went with the Colonel, 
and I accompanied them. The upshot of the whole expedi- 
tion was, that not a hostile Indian was seen on the whole 
trip, and not a shot was fired. The troops simply 
"marched down the hill," and then "marched back again." 
Two of the Winnebagoes, called Red Bird and Wee-Kau, 
were apprehended and imprisoned on charge of murder, 
and if I remember aright, were sentenced to be hung, but 
it was, I think, never done, for fear of arousing an out- 
break of the tribe. [Mrs. Adams was misinformed. The 
Indians were executed.] 

The expedition to Prairie du Chien had quite an impor- 
tant turn for myself, because, while there, I was united in 
marriage to Joseph Adams, who was an officer in the Ord- 
nance department at Fort Snelling, and accompanied the 
troops on their expedition. Mr. Adams was a native of 
Derbyshire, Eng. , and was a true model of a manly soldier 
in every respect. I had known him at Fort Snelling, and 
highly respected him for his fine qualities. Our married 
life was an extremely happy one. We returned to Fort 
Snelling in a few days after our marriage, and lived there 
over two years. 

THE FIFTH REGIMENT GOES TO ST. LOUIS. 

In the fall of this year (1827) the Fifth Regiment was 
ordered to Jefferson Barracks, at Saint Louis. Colonel 
Snelling proceeded to Washington in August, to attend to 
some business there, and while in that city, was seized 
with inflammation of the brain, and died suddenly, on 



112 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS. 

Aug. 28. His death was a terrible blow to Mrs. Snelling, 
and a source of grief to all of us who knew him. I had 
been an inmate of his family for four years, and his 
kindness to me had made me greatly attached to him. 
I parted with his sorrowing family, soon after, feeling 
that I had lost my best friends. 

SAULT STE MARIE, AND NOTABLES THERE. 

My husband and I went to Jefferson Barracks with the 
Fifth Regiment in 1827, and not long after reaching there 
my mother died. From this post, we were transferred 
to Detroit, and then to Fort Brady, at Sault Ste Marie, 
where we remained some time. At this place there were 
a few quite notable characters, that interested me very 
much. Henry R. Schoolcraft was Indian agent there at 
that time. I became well acquainted with him and his 
wife, and his wife's sister, Mrs. Hurlbut. These two 
ladies were half-breeds, but very finely educated and 
accomplished ladies. They spoke Ojibwa, French and 
English. 

JOHN TANNER, THE INDIAN CAPTIVE. 

Another noted character there, that I knew well, was 
John Tanner, the U. S. interpreter. Tanner was a white 
man, who was stolen by the O jib was. while a child, 
some time in the latter part of the last century, near 
Cincinnati, O., and taken to the Manitoba region, where 
he lived some years, becoming a thorough Indian in man- 
ners and ideas. At the time I knew him in 1830, or '32, 
he was about 45 years of age. He had totally forgotten 
his native tongue while in captivity, but afterwards re- 



MRS. ADAMS' REMINISCENCES. 113 

gained its use, and was interpreter at the Indian agency 
when I saw him, at Sault Ste Marie. He had again 
adopted the dress and life of a white man, and had been 
married to a squaw, by whom he had three dii'ty, black 
half-breed children. His squaw had died, or else he got 
rid of her in some way, because while we were at Sault 
Ste Marie, he conceived the idea that if he could get a 
white wife, it would raise him in the social scale consid- 
erably. He therefore secured a new outfit of clothing, 
and went to Detroit, where, by false representations of 
his position and means at Sault Ste Marie, which he 
pretended were respectable, he succeeded in deceiving a 
young woman into marrying him. She was a poor girl, 
but respectable and well thought of, and a member of 
a Baptist church in Detroit. When she got back with 
him to Sault Ste Marie, and was taken to his hovel, and 
found his coarse and ignorant half-breed children there, 
she was terribly heart-broken. There was no help for it 
then, however, and she had to live with him, and make 
the best of it. We all pitied her sincerely and did all 
we could to help and encourage her. But her life for a 
few months must have been wretched. Tanner even 
abused her, as though she was a common squaw. In the 
meantime, a babe was born to her. She now saw that 
she must escape from him at all hazards. Some friends 
managed to get Tanner sent out of the way one day 
while a steamer was in port, bound for Detroit, and she 
slipped on the^ vessel, and thus got away. One of Tan- 
ner's sons became a Unitarian clergyman afterwards, but 
I have heard very disparaging statements regarding his 
unclerical conduct. While we were at Sault Ste Marie, 



114 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS. 

there was a doctor, Edwin James, an army surgeon at 
Fort Brady, who was a fine scholar. He got Tanner to 
tell him all his story of captivity among the Indians, and 
all about their daily life and customs, and wrote quite 
a book from his statements. Tanner finally came to a 
wretched end, though that was after we had left there. 
It was about 1846, I think, Mr. Schoolcraft, the Indian 
agent, had a brother living there, whom Tanner believed 
to have had improper relations with one of his daugh- 
ters. Watching an opportunity, he shot Schoolcraft and 
killed him. Tanner at once fled at full speed to the 
forest, and was never seen again, alive. It was supposed 
that he had gone back to the Red River Indians with 
whom he had formerly lived. But years after that some 
hunters found, in a swamp a few miles from the Sault, 
the skeleton of a man with a gun lying by it. On ex- 
amining the latter, it was recognized as Tanner's. It is 
thought that the violence of his exertions in escaping 
had burst a blood vessel.* 

There were two or three good missionaries at Sault 
Ste Marie, among whom was Rev. Jeremiah Porter, a 
Presbyterian, who labored hard to convert the Indians 



*The account of Schoolcraft's murder, and of Tanner's connection with it, 
was the story believed for many years by every body at Sault Ste Marie. 
But recently, (I am informed by Capt. Dwight H. Kelton, U. S. A.) that cir- 
cumstances were developed during a few years past, which exonerate Tanner 
from the crime of murder, and seem to prove that both Schoolcraft and Tanner 
were victims of a third party. The really guilty party, says Capt. K., was an 
officer of the U. S. army, stationed at Fort Brady, at that time (1846) who, for 
motives which are explained by some old settlers who claim to know the facts, 
felt it necessary to get rid of Schoolcraft, and throw the suspicion of the crime 
on Tanner. He, therefore, (so they assert positively) killed Schoolcraft, and also 
Tanner, burning the body of the latter In his house, so that all evidence of the 
latter crime was. for a time at least, destroyed, and ic was given out that Tanner 
had fled, after killing Schoolcraft. The officer now believed guilty of this double 
crime, subsequently went to Mexico, where he was cashiered for some offence, 
and died a few years subsequently, in an interior town of New York. W. 



MRS. ADAMS' REMINISCENCES. 115 

and held prayer meetings among them, but I do not 
believe that very many were changed much in that way. 
Some good was done in the temperance line, however. 
The Indians had been a wretchedly drunken set, but the 
missionaries persuaded many of them to sign the pledge. 
Even the squaws signed it. Some of the white men and 
soldiers were converted, however. 

THE ADAMSES GO TO CHICAGO. 

In 1833, Capt. Adams was transferred to Fort Dear- 
born, Chicago. We lived there a number of years, and 
were among the earliest settlers of what afterwards be- 
came the great city. I attend the annual re-unions of 
the old settlers now, with great pleasure. Hardly any 
one of the period of 1833, but myself, now remains. 
The wonderful changes I have seen, seem like a dream. 
Everything was primitive those days. We can hardly 
realize it- now. I remember the trouble we had some- 
times to light a fire. Capt. Adams would gather a hand- 
ful of dry stuff, and fire a gun loaded with powder into 
it. Then we had to gather up the combustibles, and 
blow it, until it ignited into a flame. Others used a 
flint and steel, with tinder. 

When the Florida war broke out in 1835, Capt. Adams 
was opposed to going. He had had enough of army 
life. So he left it, and we went to farming. Our sub- 
sequent life was quiet and happy. Capt. Adams lived 
to the age of 90 years, and enjoyed excellent health and 
activity up to that time. We have been blessed with ten 
children, and I have now some 25 or 30 grand- children, 
and several great-grand-children. 



'' ^^Q^ 



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