Excerpt, chapter 3, from:Jared Waldo Daniels
the “REMINISCENCES” of
the “REMINISCENCES” of
Transcribed from the families copy of the original document
& Edited by Dr. Daniels’ great, great grandson,
S. T. Casebeer
In 1858 this place was an Indian Agency where the Sisseton and Wahpeton received their annuities at such times in the year as the government saw fit to send them to the Agent, regardless of the time specified in the treaty. It consisted of three log buildings, one for the farmer and a boarding house, one for the blacksmith, and one for the blacksmith shop. Three buildings were located on the banks of the Yellow Medicine River, about two miles from its junction with the Minnesota. A horseshoe shaped piece of bottomland surrounded by high bluffs formed the background for this picturesque place. Ten acres was the extent of the enclosure, which was not quite large enough for the camping ground of Northern Indians. On the opposite side of the river was located the trading posts which consisted of three log buildings on a plot of land backed by high bluffs covered with timber.
To this beautiful valley I was introduced by farmer Robertson, on the first day of May, 1855. It was a beautiful sight at the time as the groves of plumb trees that skirted the timber on either side of the road passing down the bluff, were in full blossom, and the trees just putting on their Spring attire. I was taken to the blacksmiths’ house and told that this was to be my quarters. The house was 12 by 18 feet, log, and as neat and tidy on the inside as woman’s hands could make it. I was to board with the family, which consisted of man and wife with a child about three years of age, and sleep in the attic. Here I spent most of my time for a year, and I cannot say that any part of the time passed unpleasantly, for Mr. Ford and his good wife were well informed, and had had much experience with the Indians. Mrs. Ford could speak the Dakota language as well as a native. This was the only white family at the Agency. The farmer had a mixed blood for a wife who was educated in Canada. She was a pleasant woman, and very interesting in giving her reminiscences of life among the Dakotas. The farmer boarded the men employed, twelve at this time, and his wife, assisted by an Indian woman, did the cooking.
A mile and a half from the Agency was a mission of the Presbyterian Church, presided over by Rev. Dr. Williamson, and a mile beyond, another in the charge of Rev. S. R. Riggs. At one of these places all the employees, except for a couple of French Canadians, would attend church every Sunday that the weather would permit.
Mr. Robertson, the farmer, was a Scotchman educated at Oxford, and had traveled in many countries. He spoke French and Spanish fluently. He was a large, broad shouldered man, six feet two inches in height, and a weight of two hundred and thirty-five pounds. He was kind and generous with the urbanity of deportment, and conversation that fitted him for the most polished society. His life closed at the Lower Agency in the Spring of 1858, with the mystery that always seemed to surround him.
August and part of September I spent among the Indians at Big Stone Lake and Lac Travers, looking after those people professionally, the plowing being done by the government, as the Agent did not think it quite safe for him to perform that duty. The fact was, the Agent was an honest, upright man, not amenable to the machinations of Indian traders, and the influences were against him with all who could not use him.
The last of September, all the Indians from the North came to the Agency to receive their annuities, but they did not get them until the last of October, owing to the money not being sent to the Agent. If it had been sent from Washington, he had not been informed. It was paid the Indians as soon as he received it. Had it not been for the large quantity of dried buffalo meat that the Indians brought with them they would have had to return without their annuities or starve. During their stay at the Agency they were being trusted by the traders to the extent of the amount of money they were to receive, so that when they were paid they had very little, if any, to take home. When the number of Indians was taken, they were all seated in a circle on the prairie and four men counted them three times. Men, women and children, the youngest to the oldest, sick and bedridden, all were there. A few less than five thousand, about 4700 Indians were present. The Cut-Head band were not all there.
The Agent made an application for troops to be present at the pay table to keep the traders a proper distance away and to protect the Indians. Thirty soldiers were sent him, under the command of Lt. Ruggles, a young officer just from West Point, and this was his first detached duty, which seemed somewhat severe, as he was not mounted and with his men had made a march of fifty miles over a burnt prairie during a bad windstorm.
Everything passed off pleasantly at the payment; the Indians paid their debts, and went home pleased with their Agent. Though according to the treaty of 1851, they should have had their annuities in July, they forgave the wrong.
One evening in July, a crazy man made his appearance at the Agency, and disappeared as quietly as he came. The reason that we had to consider him of unsound mind was, that he would answer no questions, and was repeatedly making this remark, “Sixty-nine will surely come when no man can hold his own.” About ten days after this, two Indians came to the Agency with this man, having found him on the prairie, fifty miles west of this place. They were on their way home from an Indian camp on Jim River. When they found him he had nothing on but a shirt, he was foot sore, and unable to travel. They put on him leggings, moccasins, and a piece of cloth on his head, then they lifted him onto one of the horses they had been riding and one of them walked by his side and held him on. The first water they came to he was provided with something to eat, as they had plenty of dried buffalo meat. The following day he was much refreshed, but they had to support him all the way here, which took the greater part of three days. The farmer sent him below where he could be taken care of.
There are people, for I have met them, who are so prejudiced against the Indians, that they will say it was a mercenary motive that prompted these Indians to perform the part of the “Good Samaritan.” Such persons have very little, if any knowledge of Indian character, or are incapable of appreciating the motive because of the evil within themselves. There was no other motive but that which civilization teaches us is the foundation of all goodness, “Do unto others as you would like others to do unto you.”