Mary Schwandt.

The story of Mary Schwandt : her captivity during the Sioux outbreak, 1862 online

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Received r.cnJT* ,1900.

Accession No. 8 1 5 Q fo . Class No.

One of the Captives in the Sioux Outbreak of 1862.




I was born in the district of Brandenburg, near Berlin, Ger-
many, in March, 1848. My parents were John and Christina
Schwandt. In 1858, when I was ten years of age, our family
came to America and settled near Ripon, Wis. Here we lived
about four years. In the early spring of 1862 we came to Min-
nesota and journeyed up the beautiful valley of the Minnesota
river to above the mouth of Beaver creek and above where the
town of Beaver Falls now stands, and somewhere near a small
stream, which I think was called Honey creek, though it may
have been known as Sacred Heart, my father took up a claim,
built a house and settled. His land was, I think, all in the
Minnesota bottom or valley, extending from the bluff on the
north side to the river. Our family at this time consisted of
my father and mother; my sister Caroline, aged nineteen, and
her husband, John Waltz ; myself, aged fourteen ; my brothers,
August, Frederick and Christian, aged respectively ten, six and
four years, and a hired man named John Fross. We all lived
together. My brother-in-law, Mr. Waltz, had taken up a claim
and expected to remove to it as soon as he had made certain
necessary improvements. The greater part of the spring and
summer was spent by the men in breaking the raw prairie
and bottom lands so that the sod would be sufficiently rotted for
the next season's planting. My father brought with him from
Wisconsin some good horses and wagons and several head of
cattle and other stock. He also brought a sum of money, the
most of which was in gold. I remember that I have seen him

I remember Mary Schwandt at Camp Release, Sept. 26, 1862, when she, with
other captives, was surrendered after the battle of Wood lake. I was a member
of the military commission before whom were tried the 306 Sioux, convicted of
taking part in the outbreak (thirty-eight of whom were executed at Mankato,
the others kept prisoners at Rock Island until after the close of the civil war).
Mary Schwandt, then a girl of sixteen, testified against the prisoners, relating
the same facts substantially given in this narrative. W. R. M.


counting the gold, and I once testified that I thought he had at
least $400, but some of my relatives say that he had over f 2,000
when he came to Minnesota. He had brought some money
from Germany, and he added to it when in Wisconsin.

Our situation in our new home was comfortable, and my
father seemed well satisfied. It was a little lonely, for our
nearest white neighbors were some distance away. These
were some German families, who lived to the northward of us,
T believe, along the small stream which I remember was called
Honey creek. One of these families was named Lentz or
Lantz, and at this time I cannot remember the names of the
others. The country was wild, though it was very beautiful.
We had no schools or churches, and did not see many white
people, and we children were often lonesome and longed for

Just across the river, to the south of us, a few miles away,
was the Indian village of the chief of Shakopee. The Indians
visited us almost every day, but they were not company for us.
Their ways were so strange that they were disagreeable to me.
They were always begging, but otherwise were well behaved.
We treated them kindly, and tried the best we knew to keep
their good will. I remember well the first Indians we saw in
Minnesota. It was near Fort Ridgely, when we were on our
way into the country in our wagons. My sister, Mrs. W r altz,
was much frightened at them. She cried and sobbed in her
terror, and even hid herself in the wagon and would not look
at them, so distressed was she. I have often wondered
whether she did not then have a premonition of the dreadful
fate she was destined to suffer at their cruel and brutal hands.
In time I became accustomed to the Indians, and had no real
fear of them.

About the 1st of August a Mr. Le Grand Davis came to our
house in search of a girl to go to the house of Mr. J. B. Rey-
nolds, who lived on the south side of the river on the bluff, just
above the mouth of the Redwood, and assist Mrs. Reynolds in
the housework. Mr. Reynolds lived on the main road, between
the lower and Yellow Medicine agencies, and kept a sort of
stopping place for travelers. I was young, but rather well de-


veloped for a girl of fourteen and a half years, and I could do
most kinds of housework as well as many a young woman older
than I, and I was so lonesome that I begged my mother to let
me go and take the place. She and all the rest of the family
were opposed to my going, but I insisted, and at last they let
me have my way. I do not think the wages I was to receive
were any consideration ; indeed, I do not know what they were.
Mr. Davis said there were tw r o other girls at the Reynolds
house, and that the family was very nice, and these induce-
ments influenced me. So I packed a few of my things together
and was soon ready. My mother and sister seemed to feel
badly about my going, but I was light-hearted, and said to
them: <r Why is it as if I were going back to the old country,
or somewhere else a long way off, that you act so, when it is not
very far and I shall come back soon, and it is best for me,
since I am of little help to you .here." So, at last we bade one
another good-bye, and I went away down the beautiful valley,
never to see my good father nor my precious mother nor my
lovely sister nor my two dear little brothers any more any
more in this life. How little did I think, as I rode away from
home, that I should not see it again, and that in less than a
month of all that peaceful and happy household but one of its
members my dear, brave brother August should be left to
me. Many years afterward my husband and I visited the re-
gion of my former home, and I tried hard to locate its site.
But the times had changed, and the country had changed.
There were new faces, new scenes and new features, and so
many of them, and such a flood of sorrowful recollections came
over me, that I was bewildered, and could recognize but few
of the old landmarks, and I came away unable to determine
where our house stood, or even which had been my father's

When I came to Mr. Reynolds' house I was welcomed and
made at home. The inmates of the house at the time, besides
Mr. Reynolds, were his wife, Mrs. Valencia Reynolds, and their
two children; Mr. Davis, who was staying here temporarily;
William Landmeier, a hired man; Miss Mattie Williams of
Painesville, Ohio, a niece of Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds; Mary An-


derson, a Swedish girl, whose father had been a blacksmith in
the employ of the government at one of the agencies,' and my-
self. In a narrative, published by Mrs. Reynolds (now dead),
which I have seen, she mentions a boy that lived with them,
but somehow I cannot remember him. I do not now recall any-
thing of special importance that occurred during my stay
here until the dreadful morning of the outbreak. Mr. and Mrs.
Reynolds had been in charge of the government school for the
Indians which had been established at Shakopee's village, only
a mile away. Travelers frequently stopped at the house, Mat-
tie and Mary were very companionable, and I was not lone-
some, and the time passed pleasantly. I- was so young and
girlish then that I took little notice of anything that did not
concern me, but I know that there was no thought of the ter-
rible things about to happen nor of any sort of danger.

The morning of Aug. 18 came. It was just such a morning
as is often seen here in that month. The great red sun came
up in the eastern sky, tinging all the clouds with crimson,
and sending long, scarlet shafts of light up the green river val-
ley and upon the golden bluffs on either side. It was a "red
morning," and, as I think of it now, the words of ap old Ger-
man soldier's song that I had learned in my girlhood come to
my mind and fitly describe it:

"O, Morgen-roth! O, Morgen-roth!
Leuchtet rnir zum fruehen todt," etc.

(O, morning red! O, morning red!

You shine upon my early death!)

It was Monday, and I think Mary Anderson and I were pre-
paring for the week's washing. A wagon drove up from the
west, in which were a Mr. Patoile, a trader, and another
Frenchman from the Yellow Medicine agency, where Mr.
Patoile's store was. They stopped for breakfast. While they
were eating, a half-breed, named Antoine La Blaugh, who was
living with John Mooer, another half-breed, not far away, came
to the house and told Mr. Reynolds that Mr. Mooer had sent
him to tell us that the Indians had broken out and had gone
down to the lower agency, ten miles below, and across the river
to the Beaver creek settlements to murder all the whites! A
lot of squaws and an Indian man were already at the house.


The dreadful intelligence soon reached us girls, and we at once
made preparations to fly. Mr. Patoile agreed to help us. Mr.
Reynolds had a horse and buggy, and he began to harness his
horse, haying sent La Blaugh to tell Mr. Mooer to come over.
Mr. Mooer came and told Mr. Keynolds to ha sten his flight, and
directed him what course to take. I was much excited, and
it has been so long ago that I cannot remember the incidents
of this time very clearly. I remember that Mr. and Mrs. Rey-
nolds and the two children got into the buggy, and that we
three girls got into Mr. Patoile's wagon with him and Mr.
Davis and followed. We did not take many things with us.
In our wagon was a feather bed and at least one trunk, be-
longing to Miss Williams. Mrs. Reynolds' statement says that
the boy started with an ox team and was killed near Little
Crow's village, but I cannot now remember about this. It is
singular that I cannot well remember the Frenchman who was
with Mr. Patoile, when, in my statement before the commission
the following year, I gave full particulars regarding him,
stating that he was on horseback, and how he was killed, etc.
I cannot account for this discrepancy, except that I have often
honestly and earnestly tried hard to forget all about that
dreadful time, and only those recollections that I cannot put
away, or that are not painful in their nature, remain in my
memory. The hired man, Landnieier, would not leave with us.
He went down the river by himself and reached Fort Ridgely
in safety that night. Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds also reached Fort
Ridgely, taking with them two children of a Mr. Nairn that
they picked up on the road.

Mr. Patoile was advised by Mr. Mooer to follow close after
Mr. Reynolds in the buggy and not follow the road. But Mr.
Patoile thought best to keep the road until we crossed the
Redwood river. He then left the road and turned up Red-
wood some distance, and then struck out southeast across the
great wide prairie. It seems to me now that we followed some
sort of road across this prairie. When we had got about eight
miles from the Redwood a mounted Indian overtook us and
told us to turn back and go up to Big Stone lake, and that he
would come up the next day and tell us what to do. I do not



know his name, but he seemed very friendly and to mean well;
yet I do not think it would have been better had we done as he
directed. At any rate, Mr. Patoile refused to return, and con-
tinued on, keeping to the right or south of the lower agency.
At one time we were within two miles of the agency and could
see the buildings very plainly. We now hoped that it was all a
false alarm. It seemed that the agency had not been at-
tacked, at least the buildings had not been burned, and our
spirits returned somewhat. But soon after we saw a smoke
in the direction of the agency, and then we were fearful and
depressed again. And yet we thought w r e could escape if the
horses could hold out, for they were getting tired, as Mr.
Patoile had driven them pretty hard. We were trying to
reach New Ulm, where we thought we would be entirely safe.

About the middle of the afternoon some Indians appeared
to the left or north of us. They were mounted and at once
began shooting arrows at us. Some of the arrows came into
the wagon.We succeeded in dodging them, and we girls picked
them up. Miss Williams secured some and asked Mary and
me for ours, saying she meant to take them back to Ohio and
show them to her friends as mementoes of her perilous ex-
perience. (In the record of my testimony before the claims
commission of 1863 I am made to say that only one Indian
shot these arrows, and that he took the Frenchman's horse,
but it is impossible for me now to remember the incident in
this way.) When we arrived opposite Fort Ridgely which
stood about half a mile from the north bank of the Minnesota
Mr. Patoile supposed we could not cross the river, as there
was no ferry there, and we continued down on the road to
New Ulm. The horses were now very tired, and we frequently
got out and walked.

When we were within about eight miles of New Ulm and
thought all serious danger was over, we met about fifty In-
dians coming from the direction of the town. They were
mounted, and had wagons loaded with flour and all sorts of
provisions and goods taken from the houses of the settlers.
They were nearly naked, painted all over their bodies, and all
of them seemed to be drunk, shouting and yelling and acting
very riotously in every way. Two of them dashed forward to


us, one on each side of the wagon, and ordered us to halt. Mr.
Patoile turned the wagon to one side of the road, and all of
us jumped out except him. As we, leaped out Mr. Davis said,
"We are lost!" The rest of the Indians came up and shot Mr.
Patoile, four balls entering his body, and he fell dead from the
wagon. I have a faint recollection of seeing him fall. He
was a large man, as I remember him, and he fell heavily. Mr.
Davis and we girls ran toward a slough where there was some
high grass. The Indians began firing at us. Mr. Davis was
killed. The Frenchman ran in another direction, but ^as
shot and killed. Mary Anderson was shot in the back, the
ball lodging near the surface of the groin or abdomen. Some
shots passed through my dress, but I was not hit. Miss Will-
iams, too, was unhurt. I was running as fast as I could
towards the slough, when two Indians caught me, one by each
of my arms, and stopped me. An Indian caught Mattie Will-
iams and tore off part of her "shaker" bonnet. Then another
^ame, and the two led her back to the wagon. I was led back
also. Mary Anderson was probably carried back. Mattie
was put in a wagon with Mary, and I was placed in one driven
l)y the negro Godfrey. It was nearly 4 o'clock, as I remember
from a certain circumstance. The black wretch Godfrey had
been with the Indians murdering and plundering, and about
his waist were strung quite a number of watches. I learn
that this old villain is now at Santee Agency, Neb. He
gave evidence against the Indians who were hanged at Man-
kato, and so escaped their deserved fate. The Indians shouted
and were very joyful over the great victory, and soon we were
started off. The wagon with Mattie and Mary went toward
the lower agency, and the one I was in went off into the
prairie. I asked Godfrey what they were going to do with
me, and he said he did not know. He said they had chased
Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds, and he believed had killed them. He
said : "W T e are going out this way to look for our women, who
are here somewhere." About three miles out we came to these
squaws, who were sitting behind a little mound or hill on the
prairie. They set up a joyful and noisy chattering as we ap-
proached, and when w 7 e stopped they ran to the wagons and
took out bread and other articles. Here we remained about


an hour, and the Indians dressed their hair, fixing it up with
ribbons. When we came up to these Indians I asked Godfrey
the time, and, looking at one of the watches, he replied, "It is
4 o'clock."

About 5 o'clock we started in the direction of the lower
agency. Three hours later we arrived at the house of the
chief, Wacouta, in his village, half a mile or so below the
agency. Here I found Mrs. De Camp (now Mrs. Sweet), whose
story was published in the Pioneer Press of July 15. As she
has so well described the incidents of that dreadful night and
the four following dreadful days, it seems unnecessary that
I should repeat them; and, indeed, it is a relief to avoid the
subject. Since it pleased God that we should all suffer as we
did at this time, I pray him of his mercy to grant that all my
memories of this period of my captivity may soon and forever
pass away. At about 11 o'clock in the night I arrived at
Wacouta's house. Mattie and Mary were brought in. The
ball was yet in Mary's body, and Wacouta tried to take it out,
but I am sure that Mrs. Sweet is mistaken when she sa^s he
succeeded. He tried to, in all kindness, but it seemed to me
that he was unwilling to cause her any more pain. At any
rate, he gave up the attempt, and I remember well that the
brave girl then took his knife from his hand, made an incision
over the lump where the ball lay, took out first the wadding,
which was of a green color and looked like grass, and then re-
moved the ball. I think after this Wacouta dressed the
wound she had made by applying to it some wet cloths.

On the fourth day we were taken from Wacouta's, up to Lit-
tle Crow's village, two miles above the agency. Mary Ander-
son died at 4 o'clock the following morning. I can never forget
the incidents of her death. When we came we were given some
cooked chicken. Mary ate of the meat and drank of the broth.
Mattie and I were both with her, and watched her by turns.
It rained hard that night, and the water ran under the tepee
where we were, and Mary was wet and had no bedclothing or
anything else to keep her dry and warm. When at Wacouta's
she asked for a change of clothing, as her own were very
bloody from her wounds. Wacouta gave her a black silk dress
and a shawl, which some of his men had taken from some


other white woman. Mary was a rather large girl, and I re-
member that the waist of this dress was too small for her and
would not meet or fasten. It was in this dress she died. She
was very thirsty, and called often for water, but otherwise
made no complaint and said but little. Before she died she
prayed in Swedish. She had a plain gold ring on one of her
fingers, and she asked us to give it to her mother, but after
her death her finger was so swollen we could not remove the
ring, and it was buried with her. I was awake when she died,
and she passed away so gently that T did not know she was
dead until Mattie began to prepare the face cloths. She was
the first person whose death I had ever witnessed. The next
morning she was buried. Joseph Campbell, a half-breed pris-
oner, assisted us in the burial. Her poor body was wrapped
in a piece of tablecloth, and the Indians carried it to the
grave, which was dug near Little Crow's house. The body
was afterward disinterred and reburied at the lower agency.
A likeness of a young man to whom she was to have been mar-
ried we kept, and it was returned to him. Her own we gave
to Mrs. Reynolds.

While in Little Crow's village I saw some of my father's cat-
tle and many of our household goods in the hands of the In-
dians. I now knew that my family had been plundered, and 1
believed murdered. I was very, very wretched, and cared not
how soon I too was killed. Mrs. Huggan, the half-breed woman
whose experience as a prisoner has been printed in this paper,
says she remembers me at this time, and that my eyes were
always red and sw r ollen from constant weeping. I presume
this is true. But soon there came a time when I did not weep.
I could not. The dreadful scenes I had witnessed, the suffer-
ings that I had undergone, the almost certainty that my family
had all been killed, and that I was alone in the world, and the
belief that I was destined to witness other things as horrible
as those I had seen, and that my career of suffering and misery
had only begun, all came to my comprehension, and when I
realized my utterly wretched, helpless and hopeless situation,
for I did not think I would ever be released, I became as one
paralyzed, and could hardly speak. Others of my fellow cap-
tives say they often spoke to me, but that I said but little, and
went about like a sleep-walker.


I shall always remember Little Crow from an incident that
happened while I was in his village. One day I was sitting
quietly and shrinkingly by a tepee when he came along dressed
in full chief's costume and looking very grand. Suddenly he
jerked his tomahawk from his belt and sprang toward me
with the weapon uplifted as if he meant to cleave my head in
two. I remember, as well as if it were only an hour ago that
he glared down upon me so savagely, that I thought he really
would kill me; but I looked up at him, without .any fear or
care about my fate, and gazed quietly into his face without
so much as winking my tear-swollen eyes. He brandished hi&
tomahawk over me a few times, then laughed, put it back in
his belt and walked away, still laughing and saying something
in Indian, which, of course, I could not understand. Of course
he only meant to frighten me, but I do not think he was at all
excusable for his conduct. He was a great chief, and some
people say he had many noble traits of character, but I have
another opinion of any man, savage or civilized, who will take
for a subject of sport a poor, weak, defenseless, broken-hearted
girl, a prisoner in his hands, who feels as if she could never
smile again. A few days since I saw Little Crow's scalp
among the relics of the Historical society, and may I be for-
given for the sin of feeling a satisfaction at the sight.

But now it pleased Providence to consider that my measure
of suffering was nearly full. An old Indian woman called
Wam-nu-ka-win (meaning a peculiarly shaped bead called bar-
ley corn, sometimes used to produce the sound in Indian
rattles) took compassion on me and bought me of the Indian
who claimed me, giving a pony for me. She gave me to her
daughter, whose Indian name was Snana (ringing sound), but
the whites called her Maggie, and who was the wife of Wa-
kin-yan Weste, or Good Thunder. Maggie was one of the
handsomest Indian women I ever saw, and one of the best.
She had been educated and was a Christian. She could speak
English fluently (but never liked to), and she could read and
write. She had an Episcopal prayer book, and often read it,
so that Mrs. Sweet is mistaken in her belief that Mrs. Hunter
had the only prayer book in the camp. Maggie and her mother
were both very kind to me, and Maggie could not have treated
me more tenderly if I had been her daughter. Often and often



she preserved me from danger, and sometimes, I think, she
saved my life. Many a time, when the savage and brutal In-
dians were threatening to kill all the prisoners, and it was
feared they would, she and her mother hid me, piling blankets
and buffalo robes upon me until I would be nearly smothered,
and then they would tell everybody that I had left them. Late
one night, when we were all asleep, Maggie in one corner of
the tent, her mother in another, and I in another, some
drunken young hoodlums came in. Maggie sprang up as
swiftly as a tigress defending her young, and almost as fierce,
and ordered them out. A hot quarrel resulted. They seemed
determined to take me aw T ay or kill me, but Maggie was just
as determined to protect me. I lay in my little couch, tremb-
ling in fear' and praying for help, and at last good, brave
Maggie drove the villains away. Mr. Good Thunder was not
there that night, but I do not know where he was. I have
not much to say about him. He often took his gun, mounted
his horse, and rode away, and would be absent for some time,
but I never saw him with his face painted or with a war party.
He is living at Birch Coulie agency now, but Maggie is not
his present wife. I learn that she is somewhere in Nebraska,


Online LibraryMary SchwandtThe story of Mary Schwandt : her captivity during the Sioux outbreak, 1862 → online text (page 1 of 2)