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A narrative on the removal of the Winnebago Indians from Fort Atkinson, Iowa, to Long Prairie, Minn.
Other information on David Olmsted and Samuel Baldwin Olmstead is also included.

Time: 1846 or thereabouts


This is on page 70 of The March of Morgan's Mounted Volunteers.

The scouts all came in and were everyone in favor of establishing the mission right there. But one of the traders who had come all the way with us had sent some men on ahead in the summer to explore the country and find what they thought would be the best place for the mission to be located, and to cut hay, saw lumber, and get ready to put up their building whenever the place should be finally settled. He thought his men were further down the river, and he persuaded them to go on till we should come to them; that they certainly had found a better place. His name was Olmstead. What authority he had, I do not know. He and Pratt were partners and kept the Sutler's Store, which is generally nothing but a swindle. Fletcher was the agent for the Winnebagoes. I don't know the name of the agent of the Chippewas or others. But General------seemed to have the ruling power over all, our captain and Company included. He had two aids or assistance, and their decision was the finale of all differences. So they concluded as we had only struck the river, we had better go a couple of days' journey further and then camp, so as to give us a better chance to return to camp while we were exploring the country. We started down Long Prairie and passed over Sandy Barrens, with here and there a pine tree and huckleberries by the million, and found men at work putting up hay and sawing lumber with whip saws. While we were exploring the country, the engineering corps erected some places to saw lumber with whip saws and went to work.

Page 71     As we had taken rations with us for only ten or twelve days, our provisions ran out and we had to borrow from the commission; but, as there was no meat to be had at St. Paul or elsewhere when we started, and they had but little flour, sugar, and coffee, we had to make out with that, with whatever game, fish, and huckleberries we could get. As we got but few fish and but little game, we had to make up on huckleberries, which were a god-send to us. We ate huckleberries and made huckleberry pies, saving the little hardtack we had for emergencies.

Sunday came. We had explored the country all over; but could find no place that equaled the head of Long Prairie. As Olmstead and Pratt's men were down where we were and had considerable hay put up, shanties built and other work done, of course that was the best place, and it would save the expense of hauling lumber away back up the river, etc.

On Sunday, the bugle called for Divine service. If I were to attempt to say what the text or discourse was, I would say the text was_huckleberries; the discourse was_ huckleberries, huckleberries, huckleberries.     On Monday, we all went to the river to wash our shirts. As none of us had brought a second shirt along, we took our clothers all off and got into the river to wash our shirts; and, little boy like, we got to pounding each others' heads. In the melee, Ho-pink-er lost his shirt, and it could nowhere be found. The river was thoroghly searched, but without success; so he

Page 72

was obliged to wear his jacket with holes in the elbows, without any shirt, which proved to be very disagreeable. A young Indian came down and said, "Big chief want you at big wigwam"; but I was not disposed to go; and, feeling inclined to be a little jokish, I told him to go back and tell big chief that Ho-pink-er had lost his shirt and could not come. So he went back; and shortly, Captain Morgan came out on the hill and hallooed for me to come up there. Of course, I had to go then, shirt or no shirt. So I went up, and they were debating the question where they should establish the mission. General----asked me to state my opinion on the matter. I told them that I considered that this was the last time the Winnebagoes would be moved, at least in my day; that it was so far north; that the whites would never want this land for settlement, and the hauling lumber from here to the head of Long Prairie would be nothing in comparison to hauling supplies from St. Paul so much further, for years to come. I dwelt at considerable length on the beauties of the surroundings, the chance for cultivation, etc., while here, there was nothing but huckleberries. (Laughter) The next morning, the wagons started back up the river, and we spent the forenoon gathering huckleberries to take with us. We all got back to located the mission where we first struck Long Prairie.

Page 73 Section VIII.

We staked out the ground. We had left some hands getting out lumber, and brought, some with us, who set to getting out poles for sheds to put the goods in which we had brought with us. The soldiers went hunting and fishing, and we finished the diagrams and specifications for the buildings. We had unloaded two wagons and sent them back for lumber as soon as it was sawed. When the teamster got back to the sawers' camp, the young Indian that was there told them, "We got big brave's shirt." They told him to get it and fetch it to them, and they would bring it to me, which they did. While we were waiting for them to come, we got to debating the question of our return. I told them I was confident that I could guide the wagons back from where we struck the timber and save at least three days' travel, and that I did not believe it would be more than eighty miles. We calculated we had traveled one hundred and fifty miles coming up. Olmstead said he knew it was not over forty miles to go straight through without going back to the prairie, and he and Oliver Bennier (a Frenchman) would start the next morning and would report to headquarters and have all things ready to load the wagons when we got there. So they took three days' rations and started for Sauk Rapids.

Page 79

When we got there, they had heard nothing of Olmstead and Bennier, so a posse with a light wagon was hastly despatched to hunt them. After a two day's search, they returned with them, nearly starved to death, and about as black as a pot, their eyes sunk in their heads, the very picture of depair. They had got into swamps and lost their horses. There being only two of them, they were not able to pull them out, and had taken their saddles off and hung them up in trees and had succeeded in getting to the trail, after traveling ninedays. They would never have reached camp alone. It was the most pitiful sight. I ever beheld although my eyes had beheld all kinds of suffing, and death, to see my fellow man haggard, the very picture of despair, worse than dead men, crying like children & begging for something to eat. "Courier New"'>The similarity of time frame, surname, and locale keeps linking Samuel Baldwin Olmstead to David Olmsted and his brother Phineas (Page) Olmstead. All were early explorers of MN. On page 10 of The March of Morgan's Mounted Volunteers there is a foot note: David Olmstead, of Clayton county, who had been 1st Lieut. of Parker's Dragoons. He became a prominent politician in Minnesota. Olmsted county, which Root river partly drains, was named for him.

Page 10 spells the name last Umstead ( I believe that the spelling Umstead was David and the spelling Olmstead was for Samuel Baldwin Olmstead)

But before we struck the trail, we saw the Indians camped across the river, the brush not being so thick that we could not catch a glimps of them once in a while. We went as noiselessly as we could. We could not see where the trail struck the river, but we could see where they had come out, and we saw an Indian hiding behind a clump of bushes just in the act of shooting something. He fired, and Umstead, a trader that was along, went back across the river on his horse at full speed, halloing at the top of his voice. We supposed he was shot and jumped our horses into the river, crossed over and caught the Indian before he got to camp, he having about half a mile to run. He declared that he did not shoot at Umstead, and that he did not see him when he shot. He sent for Umstead and when he came up with the train, presented him with a quarter of venison to make believe it was a kind of accident.

We found out afterwards that the Indian was sent there to shoot the first white man who crossed the river, which was to be the signal for a general onslaught.The warriors were all there ready, but they did not expect the advance guard to come that way.They expected us to cross at the ford. So their designs were again frustrated.

The 1882 history of Clayton County says about David Olmsted: "In 1846 he, with E. H. Williams and   others, raised a company of volunteers and tendered their services for the Mexican War; were mustered into service and sent to Fort Atkinson, to relieve the regular troops, under Captain Sumner, who were ordered to Mexico. David, who had been commissioned Lieutenant, remained at Fort Atkinson with his company in charge of the Winnebago Indians about two years, and in June 1848, removed the Indians to Long Prairie, Minnesota." David Olmstead was a 1st Lieut. of Parker's Dragoons. The Dragoons took the Winnebago's to MN.

Taken from the Illustrated Historical Atlas, State of Minnesota.

Biographical Sketches Hon David Olmsted.

In the fall of 1847, Mr. Olmsted, in company with H.C. Rhodes, purchased the interest of the Ewings in the Winnebago trade, and in the Summer of 1848, when the Indians were removing to Long Prarie, Minn., he accompanied them.

On arriving at Long Prairie, Mr Olmsted, with his partner, established a trading post, which was continued for several years.

A story that is very close to the story told in The March of Morgan's Mounted Volunteers is related, leaving one to think the Olmsted in this account of the removal of the Winnebago Indians to MN. was David Olmsted.

Page 79

When we got there, they had heard nothing of Olmstead and Bennier, so a posse with a light wagon was hastly despatched to hunt them. After a two day's search, they returned with them, nearly starved to death, and about as black as a pot, their eyes sunk in their heads, the very picture of depair. They had got into swamps and lost their horses. There being only two of them, they were not able to pull them out, and had taken their saddles off and hung them up in trees and had succeeded in getting to the trail, after traveling ninedays. They would never have reached camp alone. It was the most pitiful sight. I ever beheld although my eyes had beheld all kinds of suffing, and death, to see my fellow man haggard, the very picture of despair, worse than dead men, crying like children & begging for something to eat.

A couple of differences in the two stories the Biographical Sketch of Hon David Olmsted says It happened after he settled in MN.

Soon after settling here, Mr. Olmsted met with an adventure which well illustrates the dangers and casualties to which the pioneers of a new county are exposed.

In this account   the Frenchman's name is Dechoquette not Bennier and it happened after Olmsted arrived in MN not during the march from Wi. His partner was Rhodes not Pratt.

Believing that the road, or trail, from Long Prairie to Sauk Rapids (Which was very circuitous) could be shortened by a new route, he started on horseback in company with an old Frenchman named Dehoqutte to survey and mark out a new route. At that time, the region was a perfect wilderness; no surveys had been made, and Nicollet's map was the only one they made. This was really of no use to them; and after proceeding some distance they became involved in a labyrinth of tamarac aswamps, marshes, sloughs and jungles, until, at the end of the second day, they were utterly lost, and had not the faintest idea of where they were, or how to retrace their way. They now turned their horses loose, and endeavored to pick their way out, but without success. They floundered about in the swamps for seven days longer, wet, torn by briers until they were almost naked, and suffering the pangs of hunger. During this time all the food they had was a morsel of meat, and two sunfish caught in a stream. They finally reached Saul River, where a friend who had gone in search of them providentally found them, more dead then alive. During the last two days of their wanderings, Dechoquette's sufferings had driven him partially insane, and when they were found, neither could walk. Mr. Olmsted's naturally strong constitution was very seriously impaired by the sufferings and hardships of this adventure. It was some time before his strength was measurably restored, and there is no doubt that it was the main cause of his early death at the age of 39, when he should of been in the prime of life.

The March of Morgan's Mounted Volunteers was a day to day diary the last story was related years later after being past from one person to the next.

Submitted by:
Carol Powell

CarolPowell3478@myfamily.com


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