Rebuilding the Forest City Stockade, one log at a time

It will be 150 years in 2012 since the Sioux Uprising in 1862 and the Forest City Stockade is being refurbished to honor the occasion. The Forest City Stockade, located six miles northeast of Litchfield on Highway 24, was constructed within 24 hours by the Home Guard and Meeker County citizens on Sept. 3, 1862, during the Sioux Uprising. It was restored in the Bicentennial year of 1976 as a Meeker County project for a memorial to the 240 brave pioneers who lived in the Stockade. Now, the Stockade is in the process of being rebuilt one log-at-a-time, in time for the 150th anniversary in 2012, according to committee member Bob Hermann. Hermann and his wife, Betty, started volunteering with the Forest City Stockade committee in 1978. At his first meeting Bob asked questions about the future plans for the stockade and that led to 33 years of involvement. “I love this place,” Bob said as he talked about its history and future. The first Stockade measured 120 feet square with 1,200 logs that were 10 feet high on the outer walls. The logs that were intended for building a church in Forest City were used to build the Stockade. It was built in Forest City because Forest City was the closest city and the County Seat for Meeker County at the time. The Home Guard, that helped build the Stockade, was organized by Meeker County treasurer George Whitcomb who was commissioned a captain. At 3 a.m., on Sept. 4, 1862, two-hundred Sioux warriors surrounded the Stockade but were surprised by the security the Stockade provided. The Sioux fought for two hours and left after burning six homes and a barn and stole livestock outside the Stockade. Three Sioux were killed and one settler was wounded. No further attacks occurred at the Forest City Stockade after Sept. 4. The Indians were driven off but a state of siege existed for ten days before the people were relieved by Company B of the 8th Minnesota Volunteer Regiment. The Stockade was rebuilt in 1976 and stands near its original site on land purchased from Carl Jensen. Funds were raised by selling logs at the price of $6.40 per log. Besides the cabin inside the original Stockade, 12 other buildings have been added which include a general store, church, school, woodwork shop, gunsmith shop, blacksmith shop, pottery and candle-making shop, a doctor’s office and a newspaper office. After 35 years, the logs of the Stockade are deteriorating, making it unsafe for visitors. The walkway, on the inside of the 10-foot log walls, is in desperate repair and has been restricted for the past five years. “The cost to rebuild the 120-foot-long walls and walkway is about $35,000”, Hermann said. “We are half ways there with $17,000 contributed.” People can help with this fund-raising effort by donating $25 to buy one log. That’s how they built the Stockade in 1976. Donors will be recorded on a list at the Stockade. To donate you can go to the website at www.forestcitystockade or send check to Bob Hermann, Forest City Stockade, 66608 MN Highway 24, Litchfield, MN 55355. Center Bank matched the first $3,000. The goal is to finish rebuilding the wall and walkway in time for the 150th Anniversary in August of 2012. How did this Sioux uprising happen? * According to one report, the Sioux uprising started over a nest of eggs on a farm in Acton. Acton is located in Meeker County about 12 miles southwest of Forest City. In reality, it was the late payments by the U.S. to the Sioux for land purchases that led to the deadly battle. The U.S. signed the Treaty of Traverse for lands in southwestern portions of the Minnesota Territory for $1.665 million in July of 1851. Then one month later, in August of 1851, signed the Treaty of Mendota for land in southeastern portions of the Minnesota Territory for $1.41 million in cash and annuities. Before these treaties the Sioux and settlers lived in relative peace. Because the annuity payments were late in August of 1862, the Dakota demanded future annuity payments be made directly to them, rather than through traders. The traders refused to sell goods on credit. Andrew Myrick, a spokesman for the traders, unfairly stated: “So far as I am concerned, if they are hungry, let them eat grass.” It was on Sunday, Aug. 17, 1862, four young Dakota Sioux were out hunting in the Big Woods when they came upon a hen’s nest with eggs in it on the Robinson Jones farm in Acton. One of them picked up the eggs and was going to eat them because he was hungry. Another told him to not take the eggs because it belonged to the white man. That irritated the one holding the eggs and he threw the eggs and smashed them to the ground saying, “You are a coward. You are afraid of the white man and I will tell everybody so.” The other replied, “I am not a coward. I am not afraid of the white man, and to show you that I am not I will go to the house and shoot him. Are you brave enough to go with me?” The one who called him a coward said: “Yes, I will go with you, and we will see who is the braver of us two.” All four went to the Jones’ house and contacted Robinson Jones. Jones was alarmed when the four confronted him and invited them to a target-shooting contest with his neighbor, Howard Baker. They set up a target in a tree and began shooting at the target. When it was the Dakota Sioux’s turn to shoot they pointed their weapons at Jones and Baker and shot them. They then went into the Baker house killed a Mr. Webster and Mrs. Webster. As they were leaving the farm they saw a girl of 14 looking out the door and they shot and killed her too. That was the beginning of a conflict, led by Chief Little Crow, that lasted for 37 days and took the lives of 500 Americans and 60 Dakota warriors. Once Little Crow and others declared war, the Dakota attacked the Redwood Agency and then New Ulm and Fort Ridgely near Fairfax. The Dakota surrendered on Sept. 28 to Col. Henry Sibley after a defeat at the Battle of Wood Lake. A court trial was set up by Col. Sibley for 393 Dakota. 323 were convicted, of whom 303 were sentenced to be hanged. President Lincoln, on Dec. 6, 1862, ordered only 39 of the executions to go forward. The execution of one additional condemned man was suspended. The execution took place in Mankato when 38 Dakota Sioux were hung the day after Christmas, Dec. 26, 1862. Minnesota currently does not have a death penalty yet it holds the record for the largest mass execution in American history. The demise of Chief Little Crow After a year of fighting, Little Crow fled north to Fort Garry in Winnipeg, Canada. After he undertook secret negotiations, Little Crow planned to go back to St. Paul to surrender and hoped he would be protected for past favors. He also was good friends with Minnesota Governor Ramsey. He left Canada with a few trusted friends and his youngest and favorite son, Wowinape, who was 15 years old. Along the way, about 12 miles north of Hutchinson or four miles south of Darwin, he became hungry and stopped to pick and eat raspberries. He was seen by a wood-chopper named Nathan Lamson and his son, Chauncey. They did not know who he was. They only knew he was an Indian and that was enough for him, so he lifted his rifle to his shoulder and fired, hitting Litle Crow in the leg. The four engaged in a brief firefight in which Little Crow fired twice, wounding the elder Lampson. Lampson and his son both shot and mortally wounded Little Crow on July 3, 1863. The chief told his son to flee. Lampson’s son ran for nearly 12 miles to Hutchinson to gather a search-and-recovery party. The Hutchinson townspeople quickly departed to find a wounded Lampson and a dead and unidentified Dakota man. When they discovered the latter was Little Crow, with two broken arms, they mutilated and displayed the body. Nathan Lampson and his son received a standard bounty for the scalp of a Dakota, plus an additional $500 bounty when it was discovered the remains were that of Little Crow. Little Crow’s body was transported back to Hutchinson where it was again mutilated by the citizens. The Minnesota Historical Society received his scalp in 1868, and his skull in 1896. Other bones were collected at other times. In 1971, Little Crow’s remains were returned to his grandson Jesse Wakeman (son of Wowinapa) for burial. A small stone tablet sits at the roadside of Meeker County Road 18, near the field where Little Crow was killed. In 1937, the city of Hutchinson erected a large bronze statue of Little Crow in a spot overlooking the Crow River near the Main Street bridge access to the downtown business district. In 1982, the artist of the original statue, Les Kouba, created an updated statue; the original statue is now at the McLeod County Historical Society and the new statue still overlooks the Crow River. *Minnesota Historical Society

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