Cordelia Comes West – The Story of Cordelia Eggleston Pond – Part II

Cordelia and Samuel joined Gideon and Sarah in their new cabin at Oak Grove in what is now Bloomington, Minnesota, in the summer of 1843. Little one-year-old Jennette fit right in with her four Pond cousins. Ruth was four years old, Edward was three, Sarah was 18 months and George was four months old.

It was in the Oak Grove cabin that Cordelia and Samuel welcomed their second child. Cordelia Rebecca Pond was born on October 10, 1844. She was called Rebecca throughout her life. Three years later their first son, Elnathan Judson Pond, arrived on October 17, 1847. By that time, Gideon and Sarah had two more daughters and although their oldest, Ruth, was living with relatives in Connecticut, it still meant that the four adults were sharing the small cabin with eight children under the age of seven.

Samuel and Gideon were both busy establishing the Oak Grove Mission and continuing to assist their old friends from Cloud Man’s village but in the winter of 1846 discussions began about establishing a new Dakota mission near Shakpé’s village. Samuel was called to meet with Colonel Bruce at Fort Snelling who had set up a meeting between Chief Shakpaydon and some of the principal men from the village.[1] The Colonel explained that his purpose was to relay the invitation to Samuel from the chief to set up a mission and school at his village with the promise that the Dakota would send their children to the school and assist in any way possible.

Samuel W. Pond, Jr. wrote of the meeting in Two Volunteer Missionaries:

“It will be remembered that the village named had refused Mr. Riggs permission to locate there, and Mr. Pond was well enough acquainted with the chief Shakpé and his people to have but little confidence in their professions and promises. Colonel Bruce, however, said that they had always been opposed to schools and missionaries, exerting a bad influence over the other Indians, and as they had now asked for a teacher of their own will he thought the opportunity should be improved.”[2]

Samuel didn’t give them an answer at the time but after a few weeks he visited Shakpé’s village and met with the band at Oliver Faribault’s house, who was the trader at the village. The Dakota continued to affirm that they were in need of a missionary and Faribault told Samuel that he himself had been the one to suggest it. Samuel Pond, Jr. wrote: “Although Mr. Pond suspected that all was not just as it appeared to be, he determined to accept the invitation and remove to Shakpé’s village.”[3]

Troubles and difficulty plagued Samuel over the course of the next several months as he found himself responsible for ordering the delivery of building materials in the form of heavy timbers which he had to haul on the ice to the new site. A mishap near Grey Cloud Island on the Mississippi nearly cost Samuel his life as the cattle hauling the wood slipped on the ice, fell into the water and nearly drowned, not to mention losing the provisions that they were hauling.

There is no indication in the historic record of what Cordelia felt about the move. Certainly the prospect of having her own home and leaving the crowded cottage at Oak Grove was appealing. Still, at Oak Grove, she had her sister-in-law Sarah for company as they shared the chores of housekeeping and childcare. She also was in the midst of a bustling community that was growing around the area with more and more white families moving in and bringing the prospect of establishing a real neighborhood. At Shakopee, as the village came to be called, she would be fourteen miles away from Sarah with no other missionaries or white families within 50 miles. Their only neighbor was the mixed blood French and Dakota trader Oliver Faribault and his family.[4]

In 1847 Cordelia and Samuel moved into their new mission house at what is today Shakopee, Minnesota. They were 14 miles from Gideon and Sarah at Oak Grove and 50 miles from their nearest non-Dakota neighbors.

In 1847 Cordelia and Samuel moved into their new mission house at what is today Shakopee, Minnesota. They were 14 miles from Gideon and Sarah at Oak Grove and 50 miles from their nearest non-Dakota neighbors.

The site was described by Samuel Pond, Jr.: “The mission house at Shakopee was pleasantly located on gently rising ground, about half a mile south of the Minnesota River. At a distance of twenty rods or so to the west was the house of Oliver Faribault. Between these two dwellings was a ravine through which ran a never failing spring of clear cold water…The village was south of the mission house and near by, and was called by the Dakotas ‘Tintonwan,’ signifying ‘The village on the prairie.’ Mr. Pond named the place Prairieville, by which name it was known until the arrival of white settlers, five years later…

The French fur trader Oliver Faribault built this cabin at his new trading post at Shakopee in 1844. The structure is currently displayed at Murphy's Landing historic site in Shakopee.

The French fur trader Oliver Faribault built this cabin at his new trading post at Shakopee in 1844. He and his wife Harriet had three little girls when the Ponds arrived to open the new mission. The Faribault cabin is currently displayed at Murphy’s Landing historic site in Shakopee.

“Between the mission house and the Minnesota River lay a beautiful and fertile tract of ‘bottom land’……On one side of the tract ran a clear sparkling stream of water…on the other side by the Minnesota, sweeping in a beautiful curve around its border. This piece of land was cultivated by the Indians and when not covered by water, tadpoles, and fishes, in the months of June and July, was rich with waving corn.”[5]

It was in November that Cordelia and the children moved into their new home at the mission. Jeanette was five years old; Rebecca was three and baby Elnathan was scarcely a month old. The house is described as follows:

“….sufficiently commodious, carefully and comfortably built, although inexpensive in all its appointments. The walls were carefully filled with moistened clay, making them probably bullet-proof and rendering the house very warm.”[6]

Samuel Pond Jr. wrote that Chief Shakpe was a man of marked ability in council and one of the ablest and most effective orators in the Dakota Nation. There are many stories about his encounters with the Ponds at Shakopee. The chief, the last one of the name, escaped to Canada after the 1862 war but was captured and executed at Fort Snelling in November 1865.

Samuel Pond, Jr. wrote that Chief Shakpe was a man of marked ability in council and one of the ablest and most effective orators in the Dakota Nation. There are many stories about his encounters with the Ponds at Shakopee. The chief, the last one of the name, escaped to Canada after the 1862 war but was captured and executed at Fort Snelling in November 1865.

Approximately 600 Dakota lived in Shakpé’s village in the 1840s. Samuel Pond Sr. described it as a very busy place and felt the need to surround the mission house and front garden with a fence of tall stakes to prevent the Indians from claiming a portion of the crops for themselves. Samuel Pond Sr., quoted in Two Volunteer Missionaries, provides a clue as to what Cordelia’s life was like during this time:

“…though we have endeavored to have as little property exposed as possible we are obliged to be continually on the watch. My wife has been only a mile from home in three years, and when the Indians are here I seldom go out of sight of the house unless I am obliged to do so.”[7]

Cordelia’s focus was necessarily on caring for her children, keeping house and feeding the family. Two Volunteer Missionaries describes her situation as follows:

“For the retiring wife, who was often compelled to remain for days alone, during the necessary absence of the missionary, surrounded as she was by the noisy revelry of six hundred Indians, life’s burdens were often heavy; but she was one of those who can ‘suffer and be still,’ and she never murmured at the hardships of her lot.”[8]

Samuel also describes how little Rebecca, who is described as “always frail,” became ill and the Dakota women would come in and gaze at her face, mumbling in their own language that she would die. Samuel dryly commented that “We did not find the oft-repeated remark very consoling.”[9] Cordelia had nursed daughter Jennette when she almost died during their years at Oak Grove and she now turned her prayers and care to Rebecca. Both girls survived and April 20, 1850, Cordelia gave birth to their first son, Samuel W. Pond, Jr.

It is that same Samuel who describes the rest of Cordelia’s story:

“…the young mother, never very strong, gradually failed in health from that time. The oldest girl, now eight years of age, was a great comfort and help to her mother, whom she was said to resemble closely in both character and person. She was morbidly conscientious and must have been rather precious, since she had finished reading the Bible through by course before she was six years of age. The younger daughter was a frail little girl from her birth and her parents had little expectation that she would live to grow up.

“It is not surprising that the many cares, domestic and otherwise, incident to her lot among the Dakotas should have undermined Mrs. Pond’s constitution already predisposed to hereditary disease. The support received by the missionaries to the Dakotas which in the case of this particular station never exceeded $300 per annum, provided for little save bare subsistence, since provisions and clothing were expensive in this section at that time, as all supplies had to be brought from the states during the comparatively short period of summer navigation. Mrs. Pond performed all the work of her house with her own hands besides the daily ministry to the wants of the Indian which her position made necessary.

“In the fall of 1851, Mr. Pond obtained from the Board a year’s leave of absence, and prepared to visit New England. The journey was a fatiguing one, as much of it was by stage. A few days were spent in Michigan, where brothers of Mrs. Pond were then living. Somewhere in Ohio a railroad was reached, and the party finally arrived in Washington, Connecticut, late in the fall, where it received a warm welcome.

“Kind friends took charge of the four children, for their mother was rapidly failing, and by the first of February it was evident that the end was near. On the evening of the fifth, the dying mother expressed a desire to see all her children once more, knowing that it would be the last time in this world. To the older ones she gave words of counsel which were carefully heeded and diligently followed. Jennette Clarissa never forgot her mother’s parting words. Mr. Edward Pond went over the icy hill and brought Elnathan Judson from his aunt Jennette’s, to receive his mother’s last kiss and listen to her dying words. She told him to be a good boy and love God. To the youngest she said, ‘Poor boy! He will not remember his mother!’ and kissed him farewell. She expressed perfect resignation to His will who doeth all things well, and so completed her work. Before the dawn of the morning of the sixth she had entered into rest. Her years were but thirty-six and fourteen of these had been spent in continuous service among the Dakotas.”[10]

Cordelia and the family were visiting relatives in Connecticut when Cordelia passed away at the age of 36 years. She is buried there. Samuel remarried an old school friend in Connecticut before returning to the mission at Shakopee.

Cordelia and the family were visiting relatives in Connecticut when Cordelia passed away at the age of 36 years. She is buried there. Samuel remarried an old school friend in Connecticut before returning to the mission at Shakopee.

Cordelia was buried in an old cemetery with the following sentiment inscribed on her tombstone:

“Be ye also ready, for at such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh.”

Samuel Pond, Jr. ended the story of his mother’s death with the following poem:

Yes; as he journeyed Rachel died,

And ever to this day,

Our well-beloved Rachels we

Must bury by the way.

Their graves are strewn along the paths

Trod by the sons of men;

Like Jacob, we remember where

We buried them, and when.”[11]

Samuel, now widowed at the age of 43 years, was left with four young children. Jennette was ten; Rebecca was seven; Elnathan was four and Samuel was 22-months old. Recognizing that it would be impossible for him to maintain his work at the mission and care for his family without a wife, Samuel married Rebecca “Susan” Smith in Connecticut less than two months after Cordelia’s death.[12] Susan and Samuel had no children together and Samuel and his brother Gideon both resigned from the Dakota Mission after the Treaties of 1851 removed all of the Dakota people to the Upper and Lower Sioux Agency reservations in western Minnesota.

Samuel became the founding pastor of the first Presbyterian Church in the rapidly growing city of Shakopee, Minnesota. He served as pastor for thirteen years. Susan died on July 9, 1891 and Samuel joined her in death on December 12, 1891, at the age of 83.

Cordelia's second child, Rebecca, was the only one of the siblings to have her own children. She married William Dean and raised a son and daughter in Minneapolis.

Cordelia’s second child, Rebecca, was the only one of the siblings to have her own children. She married William Dean and raised a son and daughter in Minneapolis.

As for Cordelia and Samuel’s children, Jennette never married and died at the young age of 25 years on April 4, 1867. Rebecca married William Johnston Dean on Christmas Eve, 1867. They had a daughter, Jennette Cordelia Dean, born in 1868 and a son, Arthur Judson Dean, born in 1871. Rebecca, the little girl who was not expected to survive childhood, was 68 years old when she died in Minneapolis. Elnathan married Minnie Markus and died at Shakopee in 1943 at the age of 96. Samuel Pond, Jr. married a widow, Irene Boyden, and was 66 years old when he died in 1916.


[1] Today’s Minnesotans know the name of the Dakota chief as Shakopee and the City of Shakopee, Minnesota, is named after him. There were a series of hereditary chiefs in the band and Samuel Pond here identifies the village as being that of Shakpé, while he calls the specific chief Shakpaydon. The word Shakpé means “six” in Dakota and adding the suffix dan, misspelled here as don,  means “little.” The English name for the chief was thus Little Six. He was, however, also known as Red Middle Voice in yet another iteration of his name. My thanks to Carrie Zeman for her assistance with this clarification.

[2] Pond, Samuel W. , Jr., Two Volunteer Missionaries Among the Dakotas or The Story of the Labors of Samuel W. and Gideon H. Pond, Congregational Sunday School and Publishing Society, 1893, pp. 18-181

[3] Ibid. p. 181

[4] Oliver Faribault was in his mid-thirties in 1847 when he encouraged Samuel Pond to open the mission at Shakopee. He and his wife Harriet had three daughters when Cordelia and Samuel arrived. Josephine was five years old, Pelagie was three and Sarah was just a baby. Their fourth daughter, Harriet, was born in 1848. Oliver Faribault died in 1851 when the girls were still very young. Harriet remained at the home and raised the girls. She passed away in 1880.

[5] Ibid., p. 185

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid., p. 190

[8] Ibid., p. 192

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid., p. 200-201

[11] Ibid., p. 202

[12] Samuel’s second wife’s name appears in various ways in census records. She is sometimes listed as Susan R., sometimes as Rebecca. It may be that Samuel and the children called her Susan since they already had a Rebecca in the family. Her birthdate is also unconfirmed. It is listed as May 13, 1809 and March 4, 1805 in family genealogies and as 1809 in the 1860 U.S. Census and in Samuel Pond Jr.’s story.

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This entry was posted in Cordelia Eggleston Pond, Dakota Mission, Rebecca Susan Smith Pond, Women in Minnesota. Bookmark the permalink.

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