Thursday, December 29, 2005
This is a land patent, or grant, for a quarter section of land my great grandfather William A. Fitzgerald bought in 1890 near St. Vincent.
Some interesting additional information from the source website, about land records (or "patents") in general from this time period:
Before the homesteaders, soldiers, and other entrymen received their patents, some government paperwork had to be done. Those purchasing land from the United States had to be given receipts for payments, while those obtaining land through military bounty land warrants, preemption entries, or the Homestead Act of 1862, had to file applications, give proof about military service, residence on and improvements to the land, or proof of citizenship. The paperwork generated by those bureaucratic activities, compiled into land entry case files, is held by the National Archives and Records Administration.
The earliest land entry files, those dating from 1788 to the mid-1850's, generally contain little substantive genealogical information. They simply document a financial transaction or provide evidence of military service. Still, for some researchers just knowing that someone purchased land or received a bounty land warrant, that they were at a certain place at a certain time is often more information than they had before viewing the copies of the records.
No two land entry files are alike, nor is the evidence described above guaranteed to be in each case file. Each is an adventure because one never knows in advance what information and documentation it will contain.
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
1659-1660 - French fur traders Groseilliers and Radisson explore western end of Lake Superior and environs.
1673 - French explorers Marquette and Joliet discover the upper portion of the Mississippi River.
1679 - Frenchman Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Luth meets with Dakota Indians near Mille Lacs.
1683 - Catholic Missionary Father Louis Hennepin returns to France after exploring Minnesota and being held captive by the Dakota to write the first book about Minnesota, Description de la Louisiane.
1745 - The Ojibwe Indians defeat the Dakota Indians at the Kathio, driving the Dakota into southern and western Minnesota.
1763 - Spain receives Louisiana Territory (includes Minnesota west of the Mississippi River) from France in compensation for its loss of Florida during the Seven Years War. Great Britain wins claim to what is now eastern North America (east of the Mississippi River) and Canada.
1770-1804 - Grand Portage (Minnesota) evolves into the western fur-trading headquarters of the British Empire in North America. British troops stationed here act as only military force in Minnesota during the American Revolution. Fur trading continues to be the main source of commerce in Minnesota through the early 19th century.
1775-1783 - American Revolution
1783 - The newly formed republic of the United States of America wins the eastern portion of Minnesota (from the Mississippi river east) from Great Britain in the American Revolution.
1787 - Eastern Minnesota officially designated part of the American Northwest Territories of the United States of America. David Thompson, working for the North West Company (fur-trading) completes the first formal mapping of Minnesota.
1800 - France acquires Louisiana Territory from Spain.
1803 - The United States of America purchases Louisiana Territory from France, gaining ownership of the western portion of Minnesota. Boundary disputes with British Canada keep British fur companies in Minnesota until 1818.
1805 - Lieutenant Zebulon Montgomery Pike leads the first United States expedition through the Minnesota country.
1812-1814 - War of 1812 between the United States and Great Britain with their Dakota, Winnebago, and Ojibwe allies.
1815 - Peace treaty negotiated between the Dakota Indian nation and the United States government. First American fur traders enter Minnesota.
1818 - Northern boundary of Minnesota fixed at the forty-ninth parallel. Boundary negotiations with British Canada continue until 1931. Lawrence Taliaferro instated as first United States Indian agent at Fort Snelling.
1819 - Colonel Josiah Snelling begins construction of Fort St. Anthony on land purchased from the Dakota Indians for $2000 US.
1824 - Fort St. Anthony completed. Name changed to Fort Snelling in Honor of Colonel Josiah Snelling's work.
1832 - Henry Schoolcraft credited with finding the source of the Mississippi River at Lake Itasca, Minnesota with his Ojibwe guide Ozawindib.
1836 - Creation of Wisconsin Territory which encompassed Minnesota.
1837 - Land-cession treaties negotiated with the Dakota Indians and the Chippewa Indians for United States rights to a portion of land between the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers. This new land stimulates the lumber industry in Minnesota.
1841 - Chapel of Saint Paul built. Later it would serve to name the state capitol which sprang up around it.
1838-1848 - St. Paul, St. Anthony, and Stillwater (Minnesota's first towns*) founded.*NOTE: I take exception to this - St.Vincent, although not an 'official' town at this time, is part of the trading posts/forts around Red/Pembina Rivers and has been for many years before this time...most acknowledge that our area is one of the oldest settlements in the upper midwest...1848 - Wisconsin admitted into the union as a state, leaving residents of the area between the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers (current day eastern Minnesota) without a territorial government or legal system.
1849 - Minnesota Territory formed with present day eastern and southern boundaries set. The population amounts to less than 4000 people, not including persons of pure Native-American heritage. Law provides for free public schools to be open to all people between four and twenty-one years of age. Minnesota Historical Society formed to collect, publish, and educate people about Minnesota history. James Madison Goodhue begins publishing Minnesota's first newspaper, the Minnesota Pioneer.
1850 - Treaties concluded at Traverse des Sioux and Mendota with the Dakota Indians whereby the Dakota ceded their lands east of the Red River, Lake Traverse, and the Big Dakota River and south of a boundary line between the Dakota and Chippewa in 1825. In return the Dakota received $1,665,000 US, $1,360,000 of which was set into a trust fund, of which the interest would be distributed to chiefs partly in cash, partly in supplies, and partly in education and civilization funds. The vast majority ended up being used to pay off Indian debts to white traders. Wheat becomes a major crop in Minnesota.
1851 - Charter granted to the University of Minnesota, the first collegiate institution in the territory.
1853-1857- Population explosion occurs in Minnesota from 40,000 people in 1853 to approximately 150,000 people in 1857.
1854 - St. Paul becomes a city with a total area of four square miles.
1855 - Die Minnesota Deutsche Zeitung (The Minnesota German Newspaper), Minnesota's first non-English newspaper, rolls off the press for the first time in St. Paul.
1857 - The Dred Scott Decision is rendered by the United States Supreme Court, where a Missouri slave, Dred Scott, sued for his freedom based in part upon his residence in Minnesota. Amidst the sectional and racial animosity sweeping the nation, the court ruled Scott remained a slave. The residents of the Minnesota territory ratify the state constitution almost unanimously. The Panic of 1857 sends prices skyrocketing. Banks bust and businesses fail. Depression lingers until 1861.
1858 - Newspaper promotion of the Minnesota Territory prompts over one thousand steamboat arrivals in St. Paul, filled with settlers. On May 11 Minnesota becomes the thirty-second state admitted to the Union of the United States of America. State seal adopted by the Minnesota Legislature.
1858-1859 - Henry Sibley instated as first governor of Minnesota.
1859 - First Minnesota State Fair held.
1861 - Civil War of the United States begins. Minnesota volunteers one thousand men for service in the Union Army. Minnesota eventually provides 24,000 men for service in the Union Army for fighting in the Civil War or the Indian Outbreak.
1862 - The Dakota Conflict sweeps across Minnesota with a series of attacks motivated by hungry Dakota enraged by the failure of land treaties and unfair fiscal
practices of local traders. By the end of the conflict 486 white settlers would be dead. On December 26 thirty-eight Indians were hung at Mankato. Minnesota's first railroad is completed, connecting Minneapolis and Saint Paul.
1863 - At the Battle of Gettysburg the First Minnesota Regiment makes a heroic charges, losing 215 of 262 men.
1865 - Civil War of the United States ends.
1868 - Mankato receives a city charter. The Minnesota Legislature authorizes establishment of the 2nd State Normal School in Mankato (now known as Minnesota
State University, Mankato).
1873 -A three-day blizzard hits Minnesota in January, killing seventy Minnesotans.
1878 - 68.98% of tilled land in Minnesota devoted to wheat production, the high point for wheat farmers in Minnesota. After five consecutive summers of devastating infestations of Rocky Mountain Locusts (called the great Grasshopper Plague) which thrived on wheat, farmers decided to diversify, and wheat production was slowly replaced by other crops and dairy farming. A massive explosion in a Minneapolis flour mill kills 18.
1880 - Telephone communication begun between St. Paul and Minneapolis.
1881 - St. Paul is destroyed by fire.
1883 - Mayo Clinic founded by Dr. William Worrall Mayo in Rochester, Minnesota after a tornado sweeps through Rochester, killing 35. With his two sons, Dr. William
James Mayo and Dr. Charles Horace Mayo, he begins a clinic world-renowned for
its dedication to the latest advances in medicine and surgical procedures.
1884 - Minnesota iron ore begins to be exported heralding the dawn of iron mining in Minnesota. Over the next two decades mines spring up on the Mesabi, Cuyuna, and Vermilion iron ranges, spurring the rapid growth of mining cities such as Evelyth, Chisholm, Virginia, and Hibbing, Minnesota as well as the port cities of Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin.
1886 - Sauk Rapids is flattened by a tornado. Seventy-nine people die. St. Paul holds its first winter carnival.
1887 - St. Paul hosts the first ski tourney in the Midwest.
1888 - Western Minnesota receives a major blizzard on January 12 which takes 109 lives.
1890s - Electric streetcars become commonplace in large Minnesota cities.
1893 - The Minnesota state flag, designed by Amelia Hyde Center of Minneapolis, is accepted by the Minnesota Legislature. Virginia, Minnesota destroyed by fire.
1894 - A massive forest fire caused by clear-cut logging debris encompasses Hinckley, Minnesota and several other nearby communities. Over four hundred die.
1898 - The Spanish-American War begins. Minnesota, the first state to volunteer, raises four regiments, one of which serves in the Philippines. Disease proves to be the biggest killer, with combat fatalities accounting for only four Minnesota soldier deaths. Farmer Olof Ohman finds a stone tablet with runic carvings on it in his field near Kensington, Minnesota. The runes indicate a party of Viking explorers passed through that area in 1362. Initially considered a hoax, it was accepted by the Smithsonian Institution in 1948. Opinions differ, but most academic sources today doubt its veracity.
1899 - Minnesota's lumber industry reaches its peak. By 1930 only 1/3 of the state would remain forested, with very little of that virgin growth.
1900 - Virginia, Minnesota destroyed by fire again.
1902 - Approximately twelve automobiles appear in Minneapolis. Tom Shevlin, son of a lumber magnate, gets arrested for violating the ten mile per hour city speed limit.
1905 - John A. Johnson, Minnesota's first native-born governor, elected to the first of his three terms. Lumber production peaks in Minnesota.
1906 - William Williams is hanged in the county jail in St. Paul on February 13, ending capital punishment in Minnesota.
1908 - Chisholm, Minnesota is virtually obliterated by a late summer forest fire.
1914 - World War I begins. Minneapolis becomes the home of the Federal Reserve Bank.
1917 - The United States of America enters World War I. 118,497 men from Minnesota serve in the war.
1918 - World War I ends with 1,432 Minnesotans in uniform giving their lives for their country. The new Farmer-Labor Party becomes the second largest political party in Minnesota and capitalizes on the rural depression which plagues Minnesota until 1824 to gain a broad base of support. Influenza spreads to Minnesota. Labeled a "pandemic of influenza", this disease managed to kill 7,521Minnesotans in 1918 and more than 4,200 over the course of the following two years. Cloquet and Moose Lake, Minnesota are destroyed when seventy mile an hour winds change minor forest fires into major conflagrations.
1919 - Minnesota ratifies the 19th amendment (women's suffrage) to the United States constitution. A tornado strikes Fergus Falls, Minnesota killing 59.
1920 - Minnesota authors receive international recognition. Main Street, written by Sinclair Lewis, earns national recognition as he takes a critical look at his hometown of Sauk Centre, Minnesota. By the end of the decade he had won the Nobel Prize for literature after a string of four more novels won international acclaim. St. Paul native F. Scott Fitzgerald receives much acclaim for his book This Side of Paradise. By 1925 he had published five more works, all focusing on the extravagance and despair of the 1920s in the United States.
1921 - WLB, the first Minnesota radio station, formed at the University of Minnesota.
1927 - Charles Lindbergh, a native of Little Falls, Minnesota, flies solo across the
Atlantic Ocean from New York to Paris.
1929 - Great Depression begins in the United States. The depression begins in Minnesota with the bankruptcy of key employers in Minneapolis and quickly spreads to the rest of the state.
1930-1935 - Over 1/2 of iron ore extracted from the earth originates in Minnesota mines.
1931 - Ancient remains of 20,000 year old skeleton dubbed "Minnesota Man" found in Otter Tail County, Minnesota.
1933 - "Browns Valley Man" remains, estimated to be 8,000 - 10,000 years old, discovered in Brown County, Minnesota.
1934 - Edward G. Bremer of St. Paul kidnapped by the Barker-Karpis gang. His ransom of $200,000 US is one of the largest ransoms in the United States up to that time. By 1936 the kidnappers had been caught and convicted. "Public Enemy Number 1" John Dillinger has a gun battle with FBI agents in St. Paul on March 11 and escapes.
1936 - Temperatures remain below zero for a record thirty-six days beginning on January 18. Later in the summer Moorhead, Minnesota ties a state record high official temperature of 114 degrees Fahrenheit, previously set in Beardsley, Minnesota in 1927.
1939 - A hockey game in the Duluth Amphitheater is interrupted when the ceiling collapses under the weight of snow. No deaths are reported.
1940 - The Armistice Day Blizzard strikes Minnesota leaving a 16.8 inches of snow in twenty four hours. Winds that day exceed thirty two miles per hour with gusts over sixty miles per hour. Forty-nine Minnesota residents die and over $1,500,000 US worth of property is damaged as a result of the storm.
1941 - First tax on taconite, a black magnetic iron-bearing ore, in effect in Minnesota. The United States enters World War II. Singer Bob Zimmerman
(Bob Dylan) born in Duluth.
1944 -The Democratic and Farmer Labor parties merge to form the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.
1945 - World War II ends with 6,255 American servicemen from Minnesota giving their lives for their country. The Minnesota state song, "Hail! Minnesota" is adopted by the Minnesota Legislature.
1948 - Minnesota's first television station, KSTP, goes on the air.
1950 - The Korean War begins. By the time of the armistice in 1953, 688 Minnesotans had died in the fighting.
1951 - Over 82% of iron ore extracted from United States mines during this year originates in Minnesota.
1954 - Coya Knutson becomes the first Minnesota woman elected to the Congress of the United States.
1958 - Prince Rogers Nelson (the artist formerly known as Prince) born in Minneapolis.
1959 - The opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway makes Duluth accessible to the Atlantic Ocean.
1963 - Last iron ore shipment leaves the Vermillion iron range.
1964 -Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey elected vice-president of the United
States as the running-mate of president Lyndon Johnson. Conventional American ground forces are introduced into Vietnam.
1968 - Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota begins his bid for the presidency by easily winning the New Hampshire presidential primary. Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey also runs for president that year, narrowly losing to Richard Nixon. The American Indian Movement (AIM) is founded in Minneapolis to combat racism.
1969 - Warren Burger, a native of St. Paul, named to the Supreme Court of the United States.
1970 - Minnesotan Harry Blackmun named to the Supreme Court of the United States. He would later write the majority opinion in the case of Roe v. Wade, which legalizes abortion.
1975 - The last American military personnel leave Vietnam with the evacuation of the United States embassy in Saigon, completely ending American involvement in Vietnam and the Vietnam War. 1,053 Minnesotans gave their lives over the course of the war.
1976 - Jimmy Carter becomes the 39th president of the United States with Minnesota Senator Walter Mondale as his vice-president. Mondale would later run for president in 1984, losing to Ronald Reagan.
1977 - Rosalie Wahl becomes the first woman justice in the Minnesota Supreme Court.
1980 - Last iron ore shipment leaves the Cuyuna iron range.
1982 - A total of 34.3 inches of snow falls on the Twin Cities on January 20 and 22. Taconite mining emerges as the future employment source for the iron range, with 12,000 workers. The subsequent depression and trend toward mechanization halve that number by 1995.
1984 - Last iron ore shipment leaves the Mesabi iron range, effectively ending Minnesota's direct iron ore industry and confirming a difficult depression on the iron range.
1987 -The Minnesota Twins win the World Series.
1988 - The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, passed to promote tribal economies, causes a boom in Indian casinos and gambling in Minnesota. By 1990 Minnesota ranks fourth in the nation in per capita gambling sales. Minnesota hit by a record setting drought.
1990 - Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev visits Minnesota.
1991 - Operation Desert Storm occurs with approximately 11,000 Minnesotans in uniform helping to defeat Iraq and liberate Kuwait. The Minnesota Twins win the World Series. A record-breaking snowstorm hits Minnesota on November 1 depositing twenty-four inches of snow in twenty-four hours.
1996 - Coldest official temperature ever recorded in Minnesota set at -60 degrees Fahrenheit on February 2 near Tower, MN.
1998 - Minnesota becomes home to largest ethnic Hmong population in America.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Did you know...?
"...which later became known as the Red River Cart, first made its appearance in 1801 at Pembina Post, at the confluence of the Red and Pembina Rivers, according to the journal of Alexander Henry, the younger, which is the earliest record of this cart. Pembina Post was within the old realm of Rupert's Land, the land grant of Charles II to the Hudson's Bay Co. in 1670."
- Manitoba Historical Society
In 1872, Lindsay Russell, later to be in charge of the Special Survey, in co-operation with the Chief Astronomer to the British members of the International Boundary Commission had established, by telegraphic signals, the difference in longitude between the astronomic station on the 49th parallel at Pembina and the Observatory at Chicago. The first work of the Survey in 1874 was to determine the longitude of the point of intersection of the Winnipeg Meridian with the International Boundary. Thus, with the known relative position of Chicago and Greenwich, and by reference to the Pembina station, the necessary connection of all subsequent surveys with Greenwich was established.
- Manitoba Historical Society
In 1908, if you wanted to go from St. Vincent to Pembina, you had to use the river ferry. When my grandfather was courting my grandmother, he was the town drayman, and was often working with the ferryman in transporting cargo to town businesses, as well as mail items to the postmaster for delivery...
Here we have a street scene in a residential area of 1910 Pembina. The 'street' is not much more than a track in the dirt. Tales of having to deal with muddy wheels fell on my young, deaf ears from my mother and grandmother. Now when I see the photos as an adult, it's beginning to sink in how primitive things were and what they had to deal with just to get around. We are SO spoiled today...
By the way, according to U.S. Census records, St. Vincent's population at the turn of the last century was 349 (at the last census in 2000, it was 170...)
Monday, December 19, 2005
At that time, there was no established international boundary between what would become the United States, and Canada. In fact, what would later become the province of Manitoba, and the states of North Dakota and Minnesota, as well as the cities of Winnipeg, Grand Forks, and the towns of Pembina and St. Vincent - while marked on the map - are all still territories, forts, settlements, and trading posts.
The fur trade companies each had a fort of sorts at the junction of the Red and Pembina rivers, the Hudson's Bay on the east bank of the Red, the Northwesters on the north bank of the Pembina. The above sketch (after Peter Rindisbacher - 1822) shows the Nor'Westers' Pembina Post (r) and Fort Daer (l) where the second party of settlers stayed during the winter of 1812-13. - Manitoba Historical Society
Saturday, December 10, 2005
Location No. FM6.67 p1
Negative No. 24996
Title: Monument 833 near Emerson, Manitoba (looking west), Red River in background
Here are a few more of a new batch of photos I uploaded to my St. Vincent Memories FLICKR group today. You can access the full collection via the link on the sidebar to the right on this page...
This is a stereograph of Pembina & St. Vincent in the 1870's, taken by Flaten & Skrivseth, the "...official Photographers of the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba R.R." (precursor to the Great Northern Railroad...) Pembina is seen in the background at the fork of the Pembina River, a tributary, and the Red River of the North. In the foreground is edge of what will be St. Vincent; there are a few brave souls there already, and the Northern Pacific railroad has already made itself known. Close to this area is where the first bridges were built later in the century. For now, people had to use private boats to cross - canoes and such - and later there was a ferry. My grandfather helped with the ferry, and was also the local drayman for a period of time...
An early scene of barges on the Red River...
Sunday, December 04, 2005
From MINNESOTA IN 1871:
It is, indeed, the intention of the Northern Pacific Road to construct from the point of junction of the St. Paul and Duluth arms, on the Red River, a branch road, northward to Pembina, and it cannot be long ere it will be continued to Hudson's Bay.
From CANADA, CHRONICLE OF OUR DOMINION:
Other waves of voluntary immigration followed--Ulster Presbyterians, driven out by the attempt of England to crush the Irish woolen manufacture, and, still later, Highlanders, Roman Catholic and Presbyterian, who soon made Gaelic the prevailing tongue of the easternmost counties. By 1767 the colony of Nova Scotia, which then included all Acadia, north and east of Maine, had a prosperous population of some seven thousand Americans, two thousand Irish, two thousand Germans, barely a thousand English, and well over a thousand surviving Acadian French. In short, this northernmost of the Atlantic colonies appeared to be fast on the way to become a part of New England. It was chiefly New Englanders who had peopled it, and it was with New England that for many a year its whole social and commercial intercourse was carried on. It was no accident that Nova Scotia later produced the first Yankee humorist, "Sam Slick."
From COLLECTION OF MN HISTORICAL SOCIETY:
It is interesting to note the rapid growth of population and wealth that has taken place in the Red River valley within thirty years. In that time many cities, villages, and hamlets, have been established and builded, some of which have grown until they may fairly be denominated as magnificent and metropolitan. It is hardly needed to name Fargo and Moorhead (one city in a commercial and social sense, although situated in different states); Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, similarly situated; and likewise Wahpeton and Breckenridge. Pembina and St. Vincent also are somewhat similarly situated, though more distant from each other. Besides there are Crookston, on the Red Lake river, Hallock, Warren, Ada, and Barnesville, in Minnesota, Grafton and Hillsboro, in North Dakota, and many others of less note in both states.
In 1870 the population of the twelve counties was about 1,000. In 1880 it was 56,000. In 1890 it was 166,000. In 1900 it is estimated to be 350,000. The valuation of property in the valley in 1870 was zero. At this date it is estimated at not less than $100,000,000; and I am speaking of assessed valuation, which is, as a matter of course, far short of actual valuation.
On May 20, the Council went into committee of the whole for the further consideration of this bill, and after some time spent therein reported an amendment, striking out all after the enacting clause, and inserting an omnibus railroad bill vesting the land grant in four corporations. The amendment was agreed to and the title changed to correspond. The next day the message of the Council announcing its concurrence in the House bill to encourage the destruction of gophers and blackbirds, with an amendment, was received by the House. A ruling of Speaker Furber that the so-called amendment was not truly such, but was entire new matter, was appealed from effectively, by a vote of 28 to 8. There were but three negative votes on concurrence. The act thus passed and promptly approved, forms chapter I of the Session Laws of 1857, entitled "An Act to execute the trust created by an Act of Congress; and granting certain Lands to Railroad Companies therein named."
The division into three sub-chapters indicates the make-up of the act by simple assemblage. The first of them incorporates the Minnesota and Pacific Railroad Company, and empowers it to build from Stillwater via St. Paul and St. Anthony to Breckenridge on the Sioux Wood river, with a branch from St. Anthony via Anoka, St. Cloud and Crow Wing to St. Vincent, near the mouth of the Pembina river.
From FIRST YEARS OF MINNESOTA:
The editor of the St. Anthony Express gives an incident in his experience, while passing this town, of which we are reminded, and which we quote:
"While sitting upon the deck," he says, "enjoying the delightful breeze and the flavor of a mild Havana, we were accosted by a young man of most genteel address, and faultless moustache, in blandest terms, requesting the favor of lighting his cigar by our own. Assuring him that it afforded us great pleasure to grant him the favor, he drew up a vacant chair on our left—conversation once opened, was not difficult of a continuance, under such circumstances, with so well-informed a person our as new acquaintance seemed to be; especially in regard to Minnesota affairs; for, to believe his own account, he had traveled over nearly every part of the territory, from Iowa to Pembina, from Superior to the Rocky Mountains. He had slain buffalo on the plains, elk on the Red River of the North; dug ores on Superior, trapped with Kit Carson, and sold peltries to the Fur Company in St. Paul...
INHABITANTS OF PEMBINA
Still further up, and extending to the British lines, is Pembina, the most northern county, where one finds a busy, scattered population, of English, French and half-breeds. The latter are mostly living in the manner of their red ancestors, without fixed habitations, abiding for a time in lodges, and in character and habits evincing little of their Anglo-Saxon extraction.
The majority of the half-breeds of this region subsist chiefly by the avails of the hunt. A company of hunters are usually absent from their homes from one to three months, and three or four days are consumed in reaching the heart of their hunting grounds. Their women always accompany them to take charge of the spoils, prepare the food, and perform any other service required by their husbands.
The white traders have mostly married in the Indian country, and their children have few of the benefits of civilization; hence the mixed, uncultivated race that flood the land. Some of these men, however, to their honor be it said, are devoting great care to the education and improvement of their offspring, thus supplying, as far as possible, the want of cultivation and intelligence in their Indian mothers.
They are, as a race, brave and hardy; fine horsemen and skillful marksmen, and might be valuable citizens did they not, as a whole, repudiate civilization. In religion they are Romanists, and strongly attached to its forms and ceremonies.
Efforts have been made to introduce evangelical religion amongst them, and not wholly without success. The Baptist Home Mission Board appointed Rev. James Tanner, a half-breed Chippewa, as their missionary, who made long and fatiguing journeys…
From MINNESOTA AND DACOTAH, DESCRIPTIVE LETTERS (1856):
There is a settlement at Pembina, where the dividing line between British America and the United States crosses the Red River of the North. It didn't extend there from our frontier, sure enough. If it extended from anywhere it must have been from the north, or along the confines of that mystic region called Rainy Lake. Pembina is said to have about 600 inhabitants. It is situated on the Pembina River. It is an Indian-French word meaning cranberry. Men live there who were born there, and it is in fact an old settlement. It was founded by British subjects, who thought they had located on British soil. The greater part of its inhabitants are half-breeds, who earn a comfortable livelihood in fur hunting and in farming. It sends two representatives and a councillor to the territorial legislature. It is 460 miles north-west of St. Paul, and 330 miles distant from this town. Notwithstanding the distance, there is considerable communication between the places. West of Pembina, about thirty miles, is a settlement called St. Joseph, situated near a large mythological body of water called Miniwakan, or Devil's Lake; and is one of the points where Col. Smith's expedition was intending to stop. This expedition to which I refer, started out from Fort Snelling in the summer, to explore the country on both sides of the Red River of the North as far as Pembina, and to report to the war department the best points for the establishment of a new military post. It is expected that Col. Smith will return by the first of next month; and it is probable he will advise the erection of a post at Pembina. When that is done, if it is done, its effect will be to draw emigrants from the Red River settlement into Minnesota.
Now let me say a word about this Red River of the North, for it is beginning to be a great feature in this upper country. It runs north, and empties into Lake Winnipeg, which connects with Hudson's Bay by Nelson River. It is a muddy and sluggish stream, navigable to the mouth of Sioux Wood River for vessels of three feet draught for four months in the year. So that the extent of its navigation within the territory alone (between Pembina and the mouth of Sioux Wood River) is 417 miles. Buffaloes still feed on its western banks. Its tributaries are numerous and copious, abounding with the choicest kinds of game, and skirted with a various and beautiful foliage. It cannot be many years before this magnificent valley shall pour its products into our markets, and be the theatre of a busy and genial life.
One of the first things which drew my attention to this river was a sight of several teams travelling towards this vicinity from a north-westerly direction. I observed that the complexion of those in the caravan was a little darker than that of pure white Minnesotians, and that the carts were a novelty. "Who are those people? and where are they from?" I inquired of a friend. "They are Red River people, just arrived—they have come down to trade." Their carts are made to be drawn by one animal, either an ox or a horse, and are put together without the use of a particle of iron. They are excellently adapted to prairie travelling. How strange it seems! Here are people who have been from twenty to thirty days on their journey to the nearest civilized community. This is their nearest market. Their average rate of travelling is about fifteen miles a day, and they generally secure game enough on the way for their living. I have had highly interesting accounts of the Red River settlement since I have been here, both from Mr. Ross and Mr. Marion, gentlemen recently from there. The settlement is seventy miles north of Pembina, and lies on both sides of the river. Its population is estimated at 10,000. It owes its origin and growth to the enterprise and success of the Hudson's Bay Company. Many of the settlers came from Scotland, but the most were from Canada. They speak English and Canadian French.
… I think the facts which I have herein hastily set down will dispel any apprehension as to the successful cultivation of the soil in the northern part of the territory. It has a health-giving climate which before long, I predict, will nourish as patriotic a race of men as gave immortality to the noble plains of Helvetia. There is one thing I would mention which seems to auspicate the speedy development of the valley of the North Red River. Next year Minnesota will probably be admitted as a state; and a new territory organized out of the broad region embracing the valley aforesaid and the head waters of the Mississippi. Or else it will be divided by a line north and south, including the western valley of that river, and extending as far to the west as the Missouri River. I understand it will be called Dacotah, though I at first thought it would be called Pembina.
What will it be called? If the practice hitherto followed of applying to territories the names which they have been called by their aboriginal inhabitants is still adhered to, this new territory will have the name of Dacotah. It is the correct or Indian the name of those tribes whom we call the Sioux; the latter being an unmeaning Indian-French word. Dacotah means "united people," and is the word which the Indians apply to seven of their band.1
1 The following description of the Dacotah is based on observations made in 1823. "The Dacotahs are a large and powerful nation of Indians, distinct in their manners, language, habits, and opinions, from the Chippewas, Sauks, Foxes, and Naheawak or Killsteno, as well as from all nations of the Algonquia stock. They are likewise unlike the Pawnoes and the Minnetaroes or Gros Ventres. They inhabit a large district of country which may be comprised within the following limits—From Prairie de Chien, on the Mississippi, by a curved line extending east of north and made to include all the eastern tributaries of the Mississippi, to the first branch of Chippewa River; the head waters of that stream being claimed by the Chippewa Indians; thence by a line running west of north to the head of Spirit Lake; thence by a westerly line to the Riviere de Corbeau; thence up that river to its head; near Otter Tail Lake; thence by a westerly line to Red River, and down that river to Pembina; thence by a south-westerly line to the east bank of the Missouri near the Mandan villages; thence down the Missouri to a point probably not far from Soldier's River; thence by a line running east of north to Prairie du Chien.This immense extent of country is inhabited by a nation calling themselves, in their internal relations, the Dacotah, which means the Allied; but who, in their external relations, style themselves the Ochente Shakoan, which signifies the nation of seven (council) fires. This refers to the following division which formerly prevailed among them, viz.:—1. Mende-Wahkan-toan, or people of the Spirit Lake.2. Wahkpa-toan, or people of the leaves.3. Sisi-toan, or Miakechakesa.4. Yank-toan-an, or Fern leaves.5. Yank-toan, or descended from the Forn leaves.6. Ti-toan, or Braggers.7. Wahkpako-toan, or the people that shoot at leaves.—Long's Expedition to Sources of St. Peter's River, vol. 1, pp. 376, 378.
From MINNESOTA PIONEER SKETCHES:
There was a time, many years ago, when I believed the sun to rise just beyond the eastern border line of the State of Maine. After I had come to Minnesota in 1855, I was fully convinced of the fact that the self same sun set somewhere in the vicinity of Sauk Rapids, that being as far up the Mississippi as the steamers could run, before they must turn around and paddle back, assisted greatly on their homeward trip by the swiftly running current.
Later on, the arrival of a caravan of Red River carts, loaded with furs from Pembina, brought the intelligence that there were people and plains and sunsets far beyond the afore-mentioned "Rapids." This statement, however, was so in excess of anything I had even dreamed of that I could not bring myself to place any credence in the report, and so held to the belief of carlier life. But as the years multiplied my ideas began to expand, and I had about made up my mind to accept the theory of a wonderful country far to the north and west of Minneapolis. According to report, it seemed that it would be necessary to make a good long "hop, skip and jump" over a desert vast in extent and irredeemable in character, before that country could be reached. As is usually the case with wide awake people, there were found those, who, guided by a "Fisk" or "Bottineau," were ready to venture and explore this region, and they were numbered by the hundreds. For the prospect of an abundance of "filthy luere" they were willing to risk their lives in crossing plains, fraught with unknown dangers to the Black Hills, the land of gold. This was in 1865 and 1866.
From SETTLER’S GUIDE FOR THE U.S.A. & CANADA, 1862:
For all the great Northern staples—wheat, corn, oats, barley, potatoes, sheep, and cattle—the range and duration of the summer heats form the decisive condition, and as they have been given, prove conclusively the climatic adaptation of the great valley of the Red River, in the northern part of the State, to grain culture, for a distance of 380 miles, and the great valley of the Saskatchawan, whose mighty volume rolls for 1,400 miles from the base of the Rocky Mountains and through Nelson River, discharging itself into Hudson Bay.
Red Lake, and Sioux and Wood rivers in Minnesota, and Shayenne and Pembina in the new Territory of Dacotah, are the principal tributaries of the Red River; and Lake Winnipeg, 264 miles long and averaging 35 miles wide, is the common reservoir of these confluent streams. Throughout nearly the whole slope which forms the undulating prairies of the Winnipeg, is found a rich growth of grasses and herbage, on which countless herds of buffaloes find their favorite ranges in winter. The luxuriant summer climate and exuberant verdure of this secluded basin (the Winnipeg basin), with its sharply defined hills or mountains on the east and north, 5,000 feet above the sea, repeat on a magnificent scale along its borders the abrupt climatic contrasts of the Swiss valleys, whose green summers are girdled by the icy summits of the Alps.
The Red River valley winter season is thus described by a sojourner for several years in that region: "But though the winter of this region is a period of intense cold, during which the mercury sometimes freezes, its effects upon the physical system are mitigated by a clear, dry atmosphere, such as makes the winters of this part of northern Minnesota the season of much enjoyment, sleighing, etc."
The buffalo winter here in myriads on the nutritious grasses of its prairies. The half–breeds and Indians camp out in the open plain during the whole winter, with no shelter but a buffalo–skin tent, and abundance of buffalo–robes to sleep on. The horses. of the settlers run at large in the winter, and keep in good order on the long, dry grasses they find in the woods and bottoms. This country, or the part of Minnesota I have just now described, is in about latitude 50° north, or 10° north of the latitude of New York city; it is not, however, much resorted to by settlers at present, as the more warm and open valleys and prairies of the southern part of the State are only partially and thinly settled yet, and have millions of acres of fine oak openings and prairie land yet unsold.
From WOMAN ON THE AMERICAN FRONTIER:
Minnesota well deserves the name of the pioneer's paradise. Occupying as it does that high table-land out of which gush into the pure bracing air, the thousand fountains of the Father of waters and of the majestic Red river; studded with lakes that glisten like molten silver in the sunshine; shadowed by primeval forests; now stretching out in prairies which lose themselves in the horizon; now undulating with hills and dales dotted with groves and copses, nature here, like some bounteous and imperial mother, seems to have prepared with lavish hand a royal park within which her roving sons and daughters may find a permanent abode.
The country through which the Red river flows from Otter Tail lake towards Richville, is unsurpassed for rural beauty. Trending northward it then passes along towards Pembina, a border town on our northern boundary, through a plain of vast extent, dotted with groves of oak planted as if by hand. Voyaging down this noble river in midsummer, between its banks
embowered with wild roses we breathe an air loaded with perfume and view a scene of wild but enchanting loveliness. Here summer celebrates her brief but splendid reign, then lingering for a while in the lap of dreamy, balmy autumn, flies at length into southern exile, abdicating her throne to winter, which stalks from the frozen zone and rules the region with undisputed and rigorous sway.
In the month of March, 1863, a party of four hunters set out from Pembina, where they had passed the winter, and undertook to reach Shyenne, a small trading post on the west bank of the Red river, in the territory of Dakota. A partial thaw, followed by a cold snap, had coated the river in many places with ice, and by the alternate aid of skates and snow-shoes, they reached on the third evening after their departure, Red Lake river in Minnesota, some eighty miles distant from Pembina. Clearing away the snow in a copse, they scooped a shallow trench in the frozen soil with their hatchets, and kindling a fire so as to cover the length and breadth of the excavation, they prepared their frugal repast of hunters' fare. Then removing the fire to the foot of the trench and piling logs upon it, they lay down side by side on the warmed soil, and wrapping their blankets around them slept soundly through the still cold night, until the sun's edge showed itself above the rim of the vast plain that stretched to the east. As the hunters rose from their earthy couch and stretched their cramped limbs, casting their eyes hither and thither over the boundless expanse, they descried upon the edge of a copse some quarter of a mile to the south a bright-red object, apparently a living thing, crouched upon the snow as if sunning itself. Rising simultaneously and with awakened curiosity they approached the spot. Before they had taken many steps the object disappeared suddenly. Fixing their eyes steadily on the point of its last appearance, they slowly advanced with cocked rifles until they reached a large tree with arching roots, around which were the traces of small shoeless feet. An orifice barely large enough to admit a man showed them beneath the tree a cave. One of the hunters, peering through the aperture, spied within, a girl of ten years crouched in the farthest corner of the recess, covered with a thick red flannel cloak, and shivering with cold and terror. Speaking kind words to the little stranger they succeeded at length in reassuring her. She came out from her hiding-place, and the hunters with rugged kindness wrapped her feet and limbs in their coats and bore her to the fire. The first words she uttered were, "mother! go for mother!" She had gone away to shoot game the night before, the little girl said, and had not returned.
Two of the hunters hastened back and succeeded in tracing the mother's course a mile up the river to a thicket; there, covered thinly with leaves and with her rifle in her stiffened hand, they found the hapless wanderer, but alas! cold in death. Her set and calm features, her pinched and wasted face, her scantily robed form, mutely but eloquently told a tale of fearful suffering borne with unflinching fortitude. Weak and weary, the deadly cold had stolen upon her in the darkness and with its icy grip had stilled for ever the beating of her brave true heart. Excavating a grave in the snow they decently straightened her limbs, and piling logs and brush upon her remains to keep them from the beasts of prey, silently and sorrowfully left the scene.
Who were these lonely wanderers in that wild and wintry waste! The presence of the rifle and of the large high boots which she wore, together with other circumstances, were evidences which enabled the shrewd hunters to guess a part of their story. It appeared that the family must have consisted originally of three persons, a man and wife, with the child now the sole survivor of the party. Voyaging down the Red river during the preceding summer and autumn; lured onward by the fatal beauty of the region, and deluded by the ease with which their wants could be supplied, they had evidently neglected to provide against the winter, which at length burst upon them all unprepared to encounter its rigors.
From MANITOBA, DESCRIPTION OF TRAVELS (1877-1879):
I have already mentioned Red River and its many windings, which it is needless to allude to here. We passed Grand Forks at midnight on Saturday, and, leaving an order for stages to be sent on in the morning to overtake us, got off the steamer at ten o'clock on Sunday, saving more than a day on the river by driving to Fisher's Landing. The farm, where we went ashore, is owned by an Ontario emigrant. The house is situated in the midst of a beautiful grove of oak and birch, among which grassy avenues, with huge branches meeting overhead, formed roads to the neat farmyards and granaries. A big bell hung on cross poles at the entrance to one of the avenues leading to what was once the rolling prairie, now fields of grain--six hundred acres, without a fence, stump, or ditch to mar the effect. The clear line of the horizon was broken only by another farmhouse, owned by a brother-in-law, whose farm lay beyond. The man told us he had emigrated six years before to Manitoba, and had gone as far as Emerson, where the mud frightened him; and, turning back, he had taken up this land, paying a dollar and a quarter an acre for it, and had succeeded so well, that at the end of the second year it had paid all expenses. Since then he had built a good house and barns, and bought extra stock, and he was putting money in the bank. The only trouble he had was the difficulty of getting men at harvest-time, the farms being too scattered to be able to follow the Ontario plan of "Bees;" [Footnote: "Bees" are gatherings from all the neighbouring farmhouses to assist at any special work, such as a "threshing bee," a "raising" or "building bee." When ready to build, the farmer apprises all his neighbours of the date fixed, and they come to his assistance with all their teams and men, expecting the same help from him when they require it. They have "bees" for everything, the men for outdoor work, and the women for indoor; each as quilting or paring apples for drying, when they often pare, cut, and string several barrels in one afternoon. When the young men join them, they finish the evening with high tea, games, and a dance.] and he often had to work eighteen or twenty hours running, the late and early daylight, as well as the bright, clear moonlight, helping him.
The Yankee emigration agents have a powerful assistant in the Pembina mud, in persuading Canadian emigrants to remain in Dakota or Minnesota. But if these emigrants were less impatient, or less easily persuaded, they would find quite as good, if not better land, in Manitoba than on the American side of the line, besides being under our own Queen and laws.
The stage was so long in coming, that some of our party took advantage of the farmer's offer to drive them to Fisher's Landing for seventy five cents a head. We were not long in following them, and after jolting for an hour and a half over a rough road, most of it through farms, we reached Fisher's. How changed the place was since we stopped there on our way up! We found a uniform row of painted wooden houses, shops, offices, ware rooms, and boarding houses, besides several saloons and billiard rooms. Up the slight hill to the south, where had been rude board
shanties, mud, and chaos, one or two pretty cottages had been built, having green blinds, and neatly arranged gardens and lawns. A medium sized wharf and gravelled banks had arisen where was only a dismal swamp, while away over the prairie lay the iron rails of the St. Vincent and St. Paul extension line, soon to be running in connexion with the Pembina branch of the Canada Pacific at the boundary, when the tedious trip upon Red River can be avoided. The side tracks were full of loaded freight, and cars waiting to tranship at the wharf, the steamer which left Winnipeg two days before we did having only just arrived.
Monday, November 28, 2005
The Fenian "Invasion" of 1871by Roy P. Johnson
The invasion of Manitoba in 1871 was one of the most fabulous episodes in the history of our Canadian and American frontier. It seems impossible that it could have happened at all ... yet it did. It is only when you know what the frontier was like, how its people thought and acted, that you realize it was possible.
Yet, even when you have learned a good deal about the frontier and the people on it, you know that it could not have happened but for two strange men. Those men were W. B. O'Donoghue and John J. O'Neill. They barked at the moon, and almost got away with it. There were not many like them. I might well have called my paper "Wild Scenes on Red River". I would like to explain that I might have borrowed the latter title from the newspapers of frontier times.
On any occasion when a disturbance broke out in those days, it was the usual thing for the editor to set up a row of headline type, reading "Wild Scenes" at such and such a place.
He would then insert it in a spot where it would attract most attention. It was a great circulation builder. There was something electrifying about those two words. They could be used to advantage for almost anything, but especially for rebellions, invasions, floods and boiler explosions.
It cannot he said that in all cases the article that appeared under the headline justified the dramatic introduction. But it made readers sit up and take notice. It probably induced them to suspect that the editor undoubtedly had more exciting details, which might be revealed in the next edition.
Probably this was the beginning of the exaggeration that marked some of the stories that were told, as well as written, in pioneer times. Certainly we know through our research that some of those tales do not stand the test of careful scrutiny. Of course, the blow-hard spirit is not gone. But modern communication facilities and competition tend to restrain it.
In addition to discussing O'Donoghue and O'Neill, I would like to try to throw a little additional light on the attitude of people south of the border to the invasion, to outline in some detail what happened in the United States courts when the leaders of the raid were brought before the bench.
I think it can be said with some degree of truth that the Manitoba raid, the counterparts of the Riel rebellions and similar disturbances, were common to the North American frontier ever since the time settlers started moving out from the eastern seaboard, in fact, even before.
The independent individualism of the frontier has always been rebellious when confronted with the first manifestations of organized government. Men of the frontier preferred to be asked to do ... not to be ordered.
The surveyor, the tax collector, the law enforcement officer and the court, all were viewed as representatives of oppression. There was a scorn of older society, impatience with its restraints and its ideas, and an indifference to its lessons everywhere in the advanced settlements.
Let me give you an example of a "wild scene" on the American side of the border. The year was 1861. Dakota Territory had been created and its officers appointed by President Lincoln. The first territorial legislature was in session at Yankton.
The speaker of the house turned out to be an officious gentleman. The members of the house, who took an instant dislike to him, asked the sergeant at arms, who was a noted desperado, to throw him out of a window of the legislative building. The speaker sought help from the territorial governor. The governor posted a company of armed militia in the building. Both the council which included Enos Stutsman of Pembina, and the house, revolted at this affront. They refused to proceed with their work until the militia was withdrawn. A day or two later the sergeant at arms was able to throw the speaker out of a window after all. He tossed him out of the window of a saloon, along with the window frame.
During the same session, the governor and the receiver of the United States land office engaged in a hair-pulling, choking and fisticuffs exhibition in a Yankton hotel. The governor was William Jayne, who had been Abraham Lincoln's family physician. Governor Jayne was militantly pushing a bill in the legislature to extend citizenship to halfbreeds who could read and write. Like Lincoln, he had a sympathy for downtrodden races. The land office man did not agree. The governor won in the hotel fight but lost in the legislature. No one on the frontier wanted to be told what to do.
No one can deny that the Dominion and provincial governments and the thinking people of Manitoba had reason to be tremendously disturbed when they learned in September of 1871 that an army was being assembled in the United States to invade the province. Manitoba was still writhing from the aftereffects of the violent rebellion of the previous year. Fenians had already made attempts to invade Canada at several other places.
Mr. John P. Pritchett in an article in the Canadian Historical Review in 1929 and Hon. Gilbert McMicken in a paper presented to this Society in 1888-89 have made contributions to the history of the raid that probably cannot be matched in this paper. I can only attempt to supplement their fine work.
At this point I would like to say that I heartily endorse Mr. Pritchett's view that the invasion was born as a result of the rift between Louis Riel and W. B. O'Donoghue. I would like to explore that point a bit deeper as I go on.
Somehow I believe we shall learn more about the causes and circumstances of the Manitoba invasion in a study of the lives of the two major leaders than in anything else. Perhaps we shall be able to reach a conclusion as to why this almost unbelievable episode happened at all.
For reasons readily understandable they seem to have left behind no completely believable answer to the question, why did you do it? So the best method to follow in seeking the answer, it seems to me, is to study these two men, to determine what characteristics and traits motivated their acts.
J. J. Donnelly and Thomas Curley, the other two leaders played such insignificant roles they seem hardly worthy of any mention at all.
I have examined the Pritchett and McMicken papers. My other sources are the files of the court of Pembina, some of the messages and letters of Presidents Andrew Johnson and U. S. Grant, frontier newspapers, minutes of the "Red River Congress" and an unpublished manuscript written by Gordon J. Keeney, a Fargo attorney who practised in the courts of Pembina.
Let us first take a look at O'Donoghue. I consider him one of the most amazing characters ever seen on the frontier. He is first met as a supporter and apparently a close friend of Louis Riel. He was an eloquent speaker and undoubtedly spoke both English and French. He was an able organizer. He was fiery-tempered, proud and egotistical. He probably was not a member of the Fenian Brotherhood, but he apparently was attracted to its principles. He was thoroughly sympathetic with the Métis of Rupert's Land and had won a following among them.
Riel liked him, at least for a time, and he became treasurer of the provisional government and a member of Riel's cabinet.
I think it is important to re-emphasize at this point a serious break that had occurred between O'Donoghue and Riel at the Fort Garry gate, April 20, 1870. You will recall that Riel at that time held the fort and that a violent dispute took place when Riel ordered the provisional government flag with its shamrocks and fleur-de-lis lowered and replaced by the Union Jack. You will recall that Riel assigned a man to guard the Union Jack, with orders to shoot.
In a sense that probably was the germ from which the Manitoba invasion began.
The smouldering resentment that developed in O'Donoghue at this affront later was fanned into flame in the two violent disputes between the two men at the St. Norbert conference.
O'Donoghue was no little man. He was the man who was to carry a petition from the Métis to President Grant asking for aid. He knew big men in the United States senators, politicians, prominent newspaper editors. He conferred with many of them and he managed to hit the front pages. He liked that. He even had a personal interview with President Grant, and Grant treated him courteously, even though he rejected his plea.
Was O'Donoghue discouraged? Not a bit of it. He appeared before the Fenian Brotherhood council, in New York City, repeatedly seeking aid. Time and again he was turned down. But he didn't give up. After a trip west he tackled the council again, and they turned him down again.
But now O'Donoghue got a good break. General John J. O'Neill, a member of the council, was swung by his eloquence. He resigned from the brotherhood and stepped to O'Donoghue's side.
Let us now take a look at O'Neill. He was thirty-seven years old at the time of the Manitoba Invasion. Within the span of those thirty-seven years he had already lived a most colourful life. He had seen glory as well as defeat, but his unconquerable spirit had never been broken. He had become instead, a Don Quixote out of Cervantes, seeking a new world to conquer.
He was born in Ireland, after his father had died, and he had come to Elizabeth, N.J., a clever, resourceful, energetic boy of fourteen. He had no education beyond his fifteenth year and he became in succession, a shop clerk, a travelling book agent and a proprietor of a Catholic book store in Richmond, Va., by the time he was twenty-two.
He must eventually have found civil life dull because in 1857 he joined the Second U.S. Dragoons for the Mormon war. While he was with the Dragoons he exhibited one of his outstanding traits ... an unwillingness to submit to discipline. He deserted and made his way to California where he joined the 1st U.S. Cavalry.
By the time of the War of the Rebellion, O'Neill had become a sergeant. He soon found himself in the Peninsular campaign, where his leadership and courage advanced him in December, 1862, to the rank of second lieutenant in the 5th Indiana Cavalry. He quickly won a reputation as an unusually active and daring officer and four months later was a first lieutenant. Thereafter he distinguished himself notably near Glasgow, Ky., and at Buffington Bar during Morgan's Ohio raid, and on December 2, 1863, was severely wounded at Walker's Ford.
At about this time we find another manifestation of his nature ... his extreme egotism and his temper, which made it hard for him to work with others. In 1864, because he had received no further promotion in rank he resigned from his regiment. He next appeared as a captain with the 17th U.S. coloured infantry. Even then he was not content and left the service in November, nearly six months before the war was over. In all this one can see the symptoms of instability and rebellion.
After the war he became a claims agent for the government in Tennessee. Now the Fenian organization came into being and he heard with interest the plans for an invasion of Canada proposed by the faction headed by W. R. Roberts. He became a Fenian organizer in his district.
With characteristic energy he led a detachment north from Nashville, Tenn., in May, 1866, to take part in the attack.
He now demonstrated his unfortunate propensity for impulsive action. Finding himself in command of a raiding party of 600 men at Buffalo, N.Y., he crossed the Niagara river and occupied the Canadian village of Fort Erie. When he and his men fled in the face of British troops he received his first acquaintance with the United States courts.
One could well ask, would it have made any difference if the courts had sent him to prison then; would that have averted the Manitoba invasion. The answer probably is that it would not. Only four years later, O'Neill was sent to prison, and from there, little more than a year later, he marched on Manitoba.
The raid on Fort Erie led to his appointment as "inspector general of the Irish Republican Army", and it is evident that he was more or less of a hero; almost a martyr to some of the Fenians. By the end of the next year he had replaced Roberts as president of the Roberts branch of the Brotherhood. It is almost possible to visualize his conceit at this stage of his career. Soon he began preparing for another attack on Canada and his bold attitude caused no little alarm in the Dominion.
Now we have another glance at a manifestation of his inability to get along with others.
He affiliated himself with a firm of land speculators in a programme of founding Irish settlements in Nebraska. The first was at O'Neill. Others were at Atkinson, Neb., and in Greeley county, Nebraska.
It was not a particularly attractive country about the village of O'Neill - vast stretches of semiarid soil, valuable chiefly as hay lands. But O'Neill apparently had some success in inducing his countrymen to come there. It was while he was engaged in this enterprise that he died in Omaha, Jan. 7, 1878.
The town of O'Neill somehow reflects the rebellious philosophy and independence of its founder even today. While most Nebraska prairie cities keep their stores open Saturday night, those in O'Neill are closed. By custom they open at 6.30 Sunday morning so people from the surrounding country who come to early mass may trade. The spirit of John O'Neill lives on.
The next year he quarrelled with his "senate" and when, on May 25, he attempted a raid at Eccles Hill on the Vermont border, only a fraction of the Fenian organization supported him. His men fled when the Canadians opened fire. Now he was arrested for the second time, by a United States marshal.
One can imagine how his soul rebelled as he sat in prison beginning his two year sentence, and his jubilation when, after three months, President Grant released him by presidential pardon. This was typical of Grant, who could not ignore the pleas of men who had fought with him. O'Neill, in a rapturous moment on the day of his release, declared he never again would trouble Canada ... this virtually on the eve of his Manitoba excursion.
The picture of O'Neill is not quite complete without pointing out that there is no record that he himself ever killed a Canadian in his pursuit of glory. But while he said he was a devout Catholic he was also a devout Fenian, and Fenianism was condemned by his church.
Later on I should like to sketch briefly O'Neill's life after the Manitoba raid and tell why it is that his name is spoken, written and printed every day in a certain city in the United States and probably always will be.
In the year 1871, we find these urbane gentlemen making plans for the invasion. What probably motivated them? Certainly they both were glory hunters. Was O'Neill really interested in the foolish Fenian scheme of winning independence for Ireland by harassing Canada? It is highly doubtful. Did he see in the new raid an opportunity to regain lost prestige, that he might lord it over other Fenian leaders who had laughed at him in recent months? Was he still looking for high office, or a fortune in a new land?
How about O'Donoghue? Was he really eager to help the Métis, or was he, too, seeking to regain prestige? Or was he trying to revenge himself on Riel by stealing his visionary Métis empire away?
Were they both fanatical crusaders for a people they likened to the unhappy natives of their homeland?
Two presidents of the United States had issued proclamations against any invasion of Canada. They had said that any American arrested in Canada could expect no aid from them. They had ordered law enforcement officers to be on the alert.
To all this was added the prospect that the province might send an armed force against them, and that national troops might march west from Ottawa.
Furthermore, the United States and Canada had entered into an agreement permitting American troops to seize the invaders on Canadian soil.
O'Donoghue and O'Neill apparently did not know that, nor that the boundary line at Pembina was in dispute. Nor did they seem to reckon with the importance of the animosity of the Catholic clergy to the Fenian movement and their influence in dissuading the Métis from joining in O'Donoghue's scheme.
Whatever the motives of the two men they had decided now on one of the most incredible adventures of their times, an invasion of a Canadian province with a handful of men. The sheer bravado of it challenges the imagination, even when it is realized they probably expected to be joined by a Métis horde on the Canadian side.
Let us now turn our attention to Pembina, which that year had acquired a federal court. Lawyers and litigants had become weary of the long journey to Yankton, deep in the southern part of the territory.
So distant and inaccessible was this southern court, litigants without considerable means were virtually denied justice. The first officials of the court reached Pembina by travelling virtually the same route as the Manitoba invaders, except that they used either stagecoaches or river steamboats from Fort Abercrombie north.
There were sessions of this court in May and September, each marked by grand jury deliberations. The chief legal body was the territorial supreme court, consisting of three men, one of whom was designated chief justice. These three took turns at circuit-riding and when not sitting as the supreme court. presided over the several district courts which had been established.
The lawyers of that day were for the most part well trained and by any criterion might be described as clever. They were adepts at finding loopholes in the laws and were quick in taking advantage of technicalities.
Counsel for the government had to be resourceful. The judge had to be shrewd. There were instances when the judge proved to be not as brilliant as the bar, and there were times when the lawyers did not look like lawyers and when the courts did not resemble courts at all.
The Manitoba raiders arrived in the vicinity of Pembina while the court was in session. Judge French, then chief justice, was on the bench. The clerk of the court was George I. Foster, whose son, Charles S. Foster, still lives in Fargo.
George Foster had a dual position. He was clerk as well as court commissioner. In addition, he was correspondent for the newspaper, the Yankton Press. He wrote two dispatches describing the invasion. The first was dated at Pembina, Oct. 5, 1871, on the very day it occurred.
Here is what it said:
"The 'last sensation' in this country is taking place even now while I am writing. Perhaps a few words from one 'on the spot' will not be objected to.
For some days past, vague rumors of Fenians have been in circulation hereabouts among others that General O'Neill and other gentlemen of Fenian note were already in the vicinity of Pembina.
But most people apparently considered the new Fenian excitement rather a good joke until this morning when the news was brought to town that General O'Neill and party had taken possession of the Hudson's Bay Company trading post at North Pembina, some 21 miles north of this place on the Red River, and that Mr. Watt, the trader, was a prisoner in their hands.
And now nearly everyone in town, especially the 'new importations,' worked themselves up to a respectable degree of excitement. A few of the old settlers appeared to treat the whole affair in a matter of fact manner, and remained all day at their posts, working as though nothing was about to happen.
About 11 o'clock a.m., Captain Wheaton, Commander at Fort Pembina, with a portion of his forces, including surgeon, ambulance and hospital steward with his bag of lint, passed through town on their way to recapture the 'fallen citadel' and liberate the restrained trader.
This trading post is situated on disputed ground, the international boundary line having never been located west from the Lake of the Woods to the Rocky mountains.
A survey made by Major Long and party in 1823 planted their 'post' about one-fourth of a mile this side of the Hudson's Bay trading post, and a later survey by General Sikes and Captain Heap of the U.S. Engineers Corps, in May, 1870, set their stake some three-fourths of a mile north of the trading post.
This latter stake, I am informed, is recognized by the Department of Dakota for military purposes-at least it will be seen by the sequel that it has been by Captain Wheaton today.
When within about half a mile of the scene of action, the captain's forces, about 30 in number, alighted from their wagons, deployed and started on the double quick.
About this time the newly established occupants of the post, doubtless thinking that the 'business' looked a little 'unfavorable' commenced to 'evacuate the premises' and were seen emerging from each gateway and taking up their line of march in rather a confused manner towards the North Pole.
And now the scene presented to eye-witnesses must have been grand and novel-an epitomized third Bull Run retreat.
But as we were not an eye-witness of these 'beauties,' we will return with our imagination to the place where we really are and have been most of the day, sitting in our office in Colonel Stutsman's building at Pembina.
About 3 o'clock p.m., Captain Wheaton and party passed through the town on their return to Fort Pembina, having in charge 'Generals' John O'Neill, Thomas Curley and J. J. Donnelly and ten of the rank and file of the routed party. It is reported that there were some forty men in the party at the trading post.
It is now, at 7 o'clock p.m., reported that W. B. O'Donoghue of Red River 'unpleasantness' fame, was, during the afternoon, taken prisoner by halfbreeds and sent to Fort Pembina.
The Hudson's Bay post is comprised of a store, warehouse, dwelling and a few outbuildings, all built of hewn logs, and the whole being surrounded by a stockade some eight or ten feet high, with bastions at each of the four corners, and gateways or entrances on the east and north sides.
It was built several years since, and constructed with a view to protecting the occupants - consisting usually of a trader, clerk and domestics - from Indians."
Since the arrested men were soon to come before Mr. Foster in his capacity as court commissioner, it may be well to cite briefly the provision of the Neutrality Law under which they were to be prosecuted.
The law was passed by congress in 1818 when a number of Americans participated in an expedition which attempted to join revolutionary forces planning to take over the Spanish colonies in Florida.
Generally, it seems to have been rather ambiguous and difficult to apply to the cases in hand. The authorities chose provision No. 6 of the act, which made it a crime "to retain another person to go beyond the limits of the United States with the intention to be enlisted into the service of either belligerent."
This made it necessary to prove not only one man's act but another's intention. Everybody concerned made a bad job of it. They did the best they could with an inadequate law.
Just what happened was related by Mr. Foster in his next dispatch to the Yankton Press, dated Pembina, Oct. 16, 1871. Here is what he said:
"In my communication of the 5th instant, I left the leaders of the so-called Fenian movement under guard at Fort Pembina. On the 6th, Captain Wheaton filed a complaint with the United States commissioner, and warrants were issued for their apprehension and placed in the hands of Deputy (Judson) LaMoure, who immediately relieved the captain of the responsibility of further entertaining his distinguished guests. The complaint embraced Section 6 of the Neutrality Laws of the United States.
On the morning of the 7th, the examination before the commissioner commenced, Captain Wheaton appearing for the United States and Colonel Enos Stutsman and George F. Potter, Esq., for the defendants.
The prosecution was conducted as one case and occupied all day Saturday and until 7 o'clock p.m. on Monday, and resulted in the discharge of the prisoners, two of whom, Generals O'Neill and Curley, left on the Wednesday morning stage for St. Paul. Colonel Donnelly and Mr. O'Donoghue are still in town.
The ten 'followers' captured, together with the 'stragglers' of the vanquished party, in all about twenty, have taken up their line of march toward the rising sun and Pembina has again settled into its usual quietude.
Governor Archibald, in his proclamation to the citizens of Manitoba published in the Manitoban of the 14th instant, delivers himself of the following: 'I regret to have to inform you that on the same day, the United States civil authorities at Pembina, to whom Colonel Wheaton was obliged to hand over his prisoners, discharged these marauders for reasons which I am unable to comprehend.'
It may be an easy matter for Governor Archibald, sitting in his easy chair at the Government House in Fort Garry to sit in judgment upon and condemn men whom he has never seen and of which he knows nothing. But it is no easy matter for the United States commissioner at Pembina, sworn to faithfully perform the duties of his office, to hold for trial men against whom no traces of any crime having been committed by the prisoners against the laws of the United States or any other authority no person can deny who heard the testimony given on the examination."
Upon his arrival in St. Paul, October 16, O'Neill was re-arrested and again a court commissioner released him for lack of evidence. The day after his arrest a reporter of the Pioneer interviewed him.
"But really, the people of Pembina have exhibited no excitement over the little 'unpleasantness' except on the day of the capture by Captain (Lloyd) Wheaton.
But from Manitoba papers and from information received from other sources, these twenty so-called Fenians, together with a less number of French halfbreeds, created alarm and confusion throughout the whole province of Manitoba, causing Lieut.-Governor Archibald to issue a proclamation for the people en masse to organize and arm themselves preparatory to a brave defense of their country, and from the best authority we hear there were about 1,000 men in the province armed and 'spoiling' for a fight with the Fenians.
But the citizens of Manitoba were too slow to he able to figure at all in the capture of the reputed invading party, Captain Wheaton quietly stepping in and crowning himself with all the glory of 'bagging' in one sweep the leaders and many of the followers of this small but brave band.
The result of the captain's 'voice' upon the party was to entirely disorganize and disband the party, if they ever had an organization or were banded together, neither of which facts were shown on the examination before the commissioner."
The story was published in the Pioneer of October 17, 1871, and in it was O'Neill's denial that it was a Fenian movement and a statement to the effect that he had a thorough dislike for the British government and that he was always sympathetic with and willing to help people struggling for independence.
"The General looks to be in splendid condition physically, and so far as recent events are concerned, they do not seem to wear very greatly upon his elastic and hopeful mind," the reporter wrote.
Here are some of O'Neill's statements:
"I desire to state that if I had not been interfered with by the United States authorities, I would have had fully one thousand men with me. They would have been subject to my command for whatever I chose to do.
I had enough men to resist Colonel Wheaton had I desired to fight United States soldiers. I had fought too long under the Stars and Stripes to want to fight United States troops, whether they had crossed the line legally or illegally.
I desire to state the intimation has been thrown out that the men were arrested without a show of resistance. The three men myself, General and Colonel Donnelly have as good a record for bravery as Colonel Wheaton.
We had made as good a record as Colonel Wheaton in the late war for all that constitutes soldiers.
Instead of wearing the United States uniform, Wheaton would act with more propriety if he should wear the British uniform. As a prosecuting attorney, though, he made a perfect ass of himself, and showed a complete ignorance of the law.
I believe the action of Colonel Wheaton to be entirely unauthorized, in crossing into British territory and arresting anyone. Nor do I believe his conduct will be sanctioned either by the department commander, or at Washington.
He went upon British territory and ordered his men to fire, and they did fire several volleys. It is surprising that someone was not killed. It was no fault of his that there was no one killed. Had there been any killed, I have no doubt he would have been guilty of murder.
I do not fear any arrest. I have fought and bled for the United States government. I am not aware that I have violated any law of the United States."
The following year the four leaders were indicted at Pembina, but O'Neill was not found. The other three escaped punishment by some common technicalities. The indictments charged the men with violation of Section 11 of the Neutrality Law-beginning and setting afoot a military expedition against the province of Manitoba.
Double jeopardy and doubts as to the residence qualifications of four grand jurors were some of the stumbling blocks thrown in the way of the government. Some of the grand jurors in question seem to have disappeared; things like that happened on the frontier. The district attorney gave it up.
It might be expected that John O'Neill would never say die ... he didn't. He lived to see his name perpetuated forever.
If you find time some day you can see it for yourself. Get in your automobile, cross the boundary near Killarney, Manitoba, and drive directly south about 525 miles on U.S. Highway No. 281. When you have come 525 miles you will be in Nebraska and as you enter a little town of about 2,500 people you will see a sign reading "Welcome to O'Neill".
John O'Neill founded that town, May 12, 1874, and it was named in his honour. After he left the scenes of his last military expedition he promoted his last grandiose scheme.
* Mr. Roy P. Johnson was a member of the editorial staff of The Fargo Forum; a specialist in the history of the Red River Valley, the State of Minnesota and the frontier movements of population west of the Mississippi River.
Due to managerial judgement calls made my railroad men in smoke-filled back rooms somewhere in St. Paul, the St. Vincent Round House would fade into history...
Round House Of St. Vincent
by Bobbi Jo Schulte
[A historical essay by an area student]
Mr. Ed Krues, a resident of St. Vincent, would walk to work every day. What was this man's job and what made it so significant?
Perhaps this man's job began with the starting of railroads, or you could say, it started with a man's dream. A man's dream of railroads in the north which developed, and they called this railroad line, The Great Northern.
In was James J. Hill's dream. His dream was to put railroads through and through they came. Through to St. Vincent, through to Emerson, and right into Winnipeg the Flyer would go.
The Great Northern owners had big dreams for the railroad. When the road reached St. Vincent, they planned to build over the Red River coming from the West. The Northern Pacific was to meet them on the North Dakota side. Together, these railroads would build a bridge over the Red River.
Among the great plans for the railroad was the inclusion of a round house, to be located at St. Vincent, Minnesota, where the engines could be repaired.
The men who built this round house made it of wood and iron beams. This was done so that the building wouldn't burn. Fortunately, there were no fires that happened while the railroad operated the round house. A turning table was included in the round house which was used to turn the trains around.
Mr. Krues's job would begin when the trains would come in. The trains come in from the east so that the engines would face west. The engine of the train would be left here.
In order to keep the trains running, an employee of the railroad was stationed at the round house. Mr. Krues was this man who had to keep these engines going. He and the other man, Bill Buckly, would feed the engines with coal during the night so that the fires wouldn't die out during this time.
Mr. Bill Gooselaw can remember when he was a child, that he and some other children would ride on the "cow catcher" to the round house. There they would get off and walk back home. They weren't supposed to be doing it, but it sure was fun.
In front of the trains there is a piece of iron that is shaped in a "r" It got its name from the purpose it was to serve, the cow catcher. If the cows were on the track, it would shoo them off. In the process of shooing them off, it would usually break the cows leg or injure it in some way.
The Great Northern trains would usually come north from Crookston and stop at the round house in St. Vincent for a new crew and a new engine. The men of this crew would stay in St. Vincent at different homes that would take them in.
Before this time, there was a Great Northern Hotel in St. Vincent. But by the time that the round house was built, this hotel had been torn down all except the kitchen. The residents of St. Vincent called this kitchen the "Great Kitchen" because of its size. A few of the men, however, would stay there in this kitchen.
The Flyer would go to Winnipeg and then get another fresh crew and come back to St. Vincent. Here the crew that they left would go on and the "Canadian" crew that was on it would stay at St. Vincent. They also traded engines again.
The engines in the round house would be turned around until it faced the east. In front of the St. Vincent elevator at this time there was a "y" track. After the engines were faced to the east, they would be driven on the "y" track and then would go north up to Winnipeg or south to Crookston.
Unfortunately, the Great Northern plans didn't work out as had been planned. The Central Pacific and Great Northern never joined together to build this line over the Red River. Because of this, there was no more need for the round house. In the year of 1902, the round house of St. Vincent was torn down. What could have been a great railroad round house is no more, and now the Great Northern train goes through St. Vincent [ed. note: actually the edge of town, by the 'junction'; and it's the Burlington Northern now...] without even a stop until it reaches Winnipeg.
Bibliography: Gooselaw, Eli - Interview, January 23, 1971
Another historical essay by a Humboldt-St. Vincent student, written in the 1960's, tells of a significant fixture in the village of St. Vincent - the St. Vincent firehall. The firehall was still there when I was growing up, but was eventually torn down after the last flood before the dike went up, sometime after 1966.
The firehall tower bell was donated to an area museum, but I'm unsure if it was the Pembina Museum or the Kittson County Museum...
St. Vincent FirehallAnother essay, with other details including descriptions of some of the more famous fires fought by the St. Vincent Firehall volunteers, can be read here...
by Richard Clow
As you drive through St. Vincent, Minnesota there is a building that catches your eye. It is an old firehall of the past. It is one of the few remaining old buildings of a once large town.
The St. Vincent Firehall was built in 1903 by Edward Cameron, a carpenter, and his sons. It was built on a corner lot on Main Street, four blocks east of the Red River bridge. Originally the forty-two by twenty foot firehall faced Main Street and was painted red. When the building faced north, there was a big wooden bridge across the ditch. In the winter a snow bank blocked the doorway so the building was moved to face the east side street as it does now. It has a single and a double door in the front. Two windows are on each side. A large square steeple was built around the southeast corner, with heavy beams across the middle of it to hang up the wet fire hoses, to dry after a fire.
In the top of the steeple is the belfry with the fire bell inside. The chimney was built on the west side for the stove which was used to heat the building. A fire was kept burning constantly in it during cold weather to prevent the water from freezing in a ten thousand gallon cistern that was underneath the firehall. This cistern held enough water to take care of most of the local fires. It was filled from the river by the engine on the firewagon. Whenever there was a big fire near enough to the river for the hoses to reach, the firemen pulled the firewagon to the river by hand and pumped the water from there to the fire. The business district of St. Vincent was located mainly between the firehall and the river so most of the water for the fires was supplied from either the cistern under the firehall or the river. But to take care of the dwelling places firewells were dug at several locations throughout the town. This kept the insurance rate down on these buildings because of easier access to water.
The first firewagon was a wagon with four big wheels that was pulled by a team of horses. The driver sat up front behind a kind of buckboard. The wagon had a firebell on it that was rung by a foot pedal. The fire chief would ring it while driving his team of horses to the fire. A large centrifical gasoline motor was mounted on the back of the wagon to pump the water. The pressure was great enough to send the water eighty feet in the air. A separate cart was used to haul the two thousand feet of hose. This cart was pulled by hand to the fire. Later they got another fire engine which was an old Chevy motor mounted on a four wheel trailer. Finally they bought a regular fire engine that was pulled by a truck or tractor. This last fire engine and cart with the hoses is still in the firehall.
Wallace Cameron, the town Marshal, was janitor of the firehall and kept the fire going in the winter. He also ran the firebell at 9:00 every night as curfew. Phil Ahles, who was fire chief, kept the fire equipment in working order. The firemen were volunteers and that was almost any man in town that was available. A few of these were R. H. Lapp, R. E. Bennett, N. E. Green & J. A. Monroe. There were also young volunteers to bring the cart with the four ladders to the fires if needed. The firebell whose rope hung almost to the floor was rung by whoever saw the fire first.
One of the largest fires they had to fight, was the one that burned down the Lynch Saloon and living quarters. Mr. Lynch went to sleep while smoking a pipe and ashes fell out and burned the place and himself. His wife got out but died shortly after. Later the Lynch barn burned down in about the same way. A man crawled into the barn to take shelter for the night and went to sleep while smoking and the hay caught on fire. Besides himself, a good team of horses was lost, the firemen arrived too late to save either of these places, but they did save the surrounding buildings.
One night the firebell rang to herald the fact that the Rube Smith Restaurant was on fire. The fire spread rapidly to the implement building nearby and destroyed both buildings. This time the fire engines were used to spray water onto the Lapp Store nearby and save his tin covered building from too much damage. Only the wood around the windows was burned. The last time the fire engines were used was to put out the fire at the Harold Easton barn which was located one block south of the firehall. They managed to save most of the barn and Mr. Easton remodeled it. The firehall closed down about 30 years ago and St. Vincent arranged with the Pembina Fire Department to take care of the fires. It was cheaper to pay them than to hire men and keep the building and equipment up.
At one time the firehall housed the village light plant. It was run by a hydro, but in 1916 the Pembina Light and Power Plant supplied power to St. Vincent. Later Otter Tail Power came in and extended their line to St. Vincent.
The Firehall was also used for a morgue in the olden days. A man who drowned in the Red River, the man who died in the Lynch barn fire, and others, such as some who died in jail, were brought into the Firehall Morgue.
The firebell in the "Old St. Vincent Firehall" may never ring again to summon firemen to a fire, but if the St. Vincent Historical Society have their way, this building will be preserved along with the few remaining other historical landmarks of this old historical town of St. Vincent, Minnesota.
Interviews: William Ahles; Eli Gooselaw; Mr. and Mrs. Richard Lapp