Life of a Legend – The Story of Jane Smith Williamson – Part XIII

Jane’s concern and sympathy for the Dakota, both those imprisoned in Mankato and those who were encamped at Fort Snelling remained strong over the course of the next few months. She was extremely distressed that Robert Hopkins Chaska and Peter Tapetatanka were both among those who had been found guilty and sentenced to death. According to her stories of  the night the family escaped from Pejutazee, Robert Hopkins Chaska was the first to bring them news of the outbreak of the war and Peter risked his own life to help them reach safety.

On November 13, 1862, Stephen Riggs, who went with the prisoners to Mankato, wrote to his wife Mary that “Aunt Jane wrote a very strong appeal to General Sibley on behalf of Robert Hopkins.”[1] Although no copy of this letter has been located, the following day Jane also wrote a letter of support regarding Peter Tapetatanka.

“Dear Sir,

 “Permit me to make a few statements respecting Tapaytatanka. The first evidence we had of the Indian outrage was this man and some others standing out before our door as guard while his sister and step mother were sent in. After telling us of the arrival of a messenger who brought sad tidings of murders committed below and that the perpetrators were on their way up, added with indescribable consternation. If it be known that we told this the bad Indians will surely kill us.

“About one o’clock Tuesday another messenger informed us that the marauders were robbing traders, and had shot Garvie.[2] This startling intelligence soon filled our room with Indian men who came to offer their services. Tapaytatanka with his father then left us to go to Yellow Medicine and, as I learned the next day, they both used all their influence to prevent an attack upon the people of  the Agency. The next morning he again presented himself and before we had time to ask, said, ‘The people of the agency have all started in safety.” Oh, how his countenance glowed when this was announced.

“After the warehouse was broken open he went with his band to get apart, leaving word that if he had an intimation that we were in danger he would hasten to our relief. On he afternoon of Tuesday, the rioters having found ardent spirits somewhere were howling around Tapaytatanka’s house like demons; and both his own and his father’s presence were required to restrain them from deed of violence, but they sent their women to see after us. These women told us that many of the lower Indians were in that drunken band who were expecting to be joined by a party from [unclear] and start out the next morning on a war party. They appeared very sorry it was so. The women would have remained with us during the night but there were others, and we told them we were not afraid so bidding us a very affectionate good night, they left. When they had returned two men from the band, doubtless sent by Tapaytatanka and his father to act as sentinels, came. These two men sat by our door with guns [unclear] with nothing (unless we requested some little service which was always performed with cheerfulness) until we were seated on the wagon when they gave a cordial pressure of the hand and closed our intercourse.

“At the Rapids we were again told of the war party and several invited us to hide with them till they had passed by the way we were to travel. I afterwards heard that when he could not restraint he war party, he went with them till they were off our trail and complaining of sore feet, returned home.

“I suppose none of us can fully realize the circumstances in which our friendly Indians were thus placed. Not wishing to participate in the deeds of Little Crow, many would gladly have fled to our Flag, and espoused our cause but how should they get way and how would they be received? Those were questions not easily disposed of. They feared that the white people, enraged at the crimes already committed, might not distinguish the innocent from the guilty. Some, dreading the fury of the Eagle, proposed flying to the Lion for protection, but how could they leave their comfortable houses and their fields promising so bountifully to repay the labor of their hands and by their way they must be exposed to their deadly enemies, the Chippewas.

“Yours with Christian sympathy, Jane S. Williamson[3]

Jane’s efforts on behalf of Robert Hopkins Chaska and Peter Tapetantanka were successful. Stephen Riggs described the reason Robert had originally been charged and sentenced to death and then wrote, “He would have been executed, if his friends had not interested themselves in his  behalf. Indeed other efforts not succeeding, a letter written by Miss Jane Williamson to President Lincoln alone saved him. God, who makes no mistakes, had a work for him to do in the prison, as he for Joseph in the land of Egypt.”[4]

Peter Tapetantanka was also sentenced to death after his military trial. I don’t know if Stephen Riggs sent the letter Jane wrote about Peter to Lincoln himself or if Riggs used it to write his own request to Lincoln to pardon Tapetantanka. In any case, on April 7, 1864, Stephen Riggs wrote to General Sibley asking for a pardon. He explained to Sibley:

“This man stated before the commission that he had gone with a war party, on about the fourth day of the uprising for the purpose of preventing them from following the trail of the party of missionaries and other who were escaping. After he had passed our trail, and with some difficulty, prevented the part from following us, he returned home. His statement was discredited and he was condemned. But it since appears from independent testimony, that his statement was correct; and that under God, our whole party owe our lives to him. We cannot but desire earnestly that he may be immediately relieved from his condemnation.”`[5]

This is the list of the “friendlies” who were paid a reward following the war because they helped missionaries and white settlers escape to safety or who joined Sibley’s forces to pursue their Dakota kinsmen who had not turned themselves in in 1862. Sketches, Historical and Descriptive, of the Monuments and Tablets Erected by the Minnesota Valley Historical Society in Renville and Redwood Counties, Minnesota. Minnesota Valley Historical Society, Morton, Minnesota, 1902, p. 75.

Sibley endorsed the petition and Peter Tapetantanka was officially pardoned by President Lincoln on April 19, 1864. Both Robert Hopkins and Peter Tapetantanka were Christians and were leaders among the prisoners first at Mankato and then at Davenport, Iowa, in the years before they received their pardons. After the war, they were among those “friendly” Dakota who were each paid $100 as a reward  for helping whites escape.

Jane’s concern extended to all of those who were imprisoned at Mankato and she and Thomas brought paper and pencils and books to the men so they could write to the families being held at Fort Snelling.[6] Their efforts on behalf of the prisoners were not always appreciated. On November 25, 1862, Jane wrote to Mary Riggs, seeking her assistance.

Colonel William Crooks commanded the 6th Regiment under Henry Sibley that marched to Fort Ridgley in August 1862. He served on the military commission that conducted the trials of the Dakota in 1862 and suggested that they shave the heads of the Dakota who were found guilty and have them whipped. Sibley knew that such personal indignities would never be accepted by the Dakota and strongly opposed Crooks’ plan. The city of Crookston, Minnesota, is named after Crooks, who went on to serve in the Minnesota State Legislature. Minnesota Historical Society Collections.

“When Gen. Sybley [sic] was at South Bend I think the prisoners were permitted to write to their friends. Seeing some dirty scraps of paper written on all sides, I went to St. Peter, bought paper and pencils at my own expense and sent them up but Col. Crooks said writing materials could not be allowed them. Knowing the officers would be changed I sent again last Sat. But Col. Miller finding by inquiry that Col. Crooks had forbidden, did not feel at liberty to permit it. Could not Bro. Riggs get a permit from Gen. Sibley. Oh how many weary hours might those in bonds pass writing. It would be more profitable to them [than] looking at the card players.”[7]

Jane’s attempts to get permission to provide the prisoners with books, paper and pencils was ultimately granted and many of the men sent letters back to their wives and families at Fort Snelling. Thomas and Jane took the prisoners Bibles and Thomas continued to walk the twelve miles to Mankato several times a week, while also continuing to care for the wounded who were recovering in St. Peter.

During this time everyone, whites and Dakota, missionaries and settlers, military leaders and the troops, and, of course, the prisoners, awaited the decision of President Abraham Lincoln on what was to be done with the condemned. Over three hundred men had been sentenced to be hanged. Thomas Williamson and Stephen Riggs disagreed on what should happen with Williamson telling Riggs the trials had been totally corrupt and Riggs feeling that those who had participated in the war needed to be punished. Thomas thought that new trials should be scheduled in response to Riggs’ proposal that he seek a pardon only for members of the mission churches. Letters and newspaper articles abound from this period as people expressed their varied opinions.

President Abraham Lincoln played a crucial role in the U.S. Dakota War despite the fact that he was in the midst of the Civil War that was ripping the nation in two. The story of how he determined which of the 303 condemned Dakota were guilty of crimes that demanded execution and his foresight and mercy in granting pardons to those in prison after the execution is one of the most fascinating stories in American history.

Then, on December 6, 1862, President Lincoln issued the order that thirty-nine of the condemned men were to be hanged and directed Sibley to proceed with plans for the execution. I try to imagine Jane’s reaction to this news. I’m sure that she and the Williamsons were relieved that the number was only thirty-nine and not over three hundred, but still the thought of these people whom they felt had been tried unfairly, were to lose their lives in such a travesty of justice must have been a heavy blow.

Jane and Thomas Williamson, upon seeing the list, immediately set to work to get Tatemina removed from the list of those to be hanged. Tatemina, whose English name was translated as Round Wind, was reportedly seventy years old in 1862. He was a brother of Mrs. John Renville and had known the Williamsons at the Lac qui Parle Mission in the 1830s and 1840s. A note by Jeff Williamson in the Williamson Family Tree says that Tatemina was pardoned because of a letter that Jane wrote to President Lincoln. Although no letter has been found, historian Walt Bachman wrote the following to historian Carrie Zeman on January 28, 2011:

“Dr. Williamson and his sister, Jane Williamson, procured the only reprieve granted by President Lincoln to one of the 39 men named on Lincoln’s hanging list, Tatemina. Thomas Williamson gathered evidence that Tatemina had been miles away helping white folks to escape at the time of the alleged murder and his efforts led to a last-minute reprieve telegraphed by Lincoln just a day or two before the hangings. Had it not been for Thomas’ and Jane’s efforts the number hanged would have been 39, not 38.”[8]

The reprieve apparently quite literally did not arrive until a matter of hours before the execution was scheduled. Stephen Riggs wrote to his wife Mary on December 22, 1862:

“He is among the 39 to be hanged. He was baptized this morning by Dr. W. He wished to do it before it was known to him that he was to be executed. I didn’t feel he was a Christian but as the doctor had large hope, I consented. He claims he is innocent and was condemned by two German boys.”[9]

The Mankato Ledger reported, “Two or three hours before the execution, this man was brought out and taken to be with the other prisoners that his case might be reconsidered.”[10] Tatemina did go to prison with the others whose sentences had been changed from death to imprisonment but he was fully pardoned by President Lincoln on August 27, 1864.

On December 24, 1862, the prisoners at Mankato were allowed to have two or three relatives visit them to bid farewell. Thomas Williamson baptized 15 as Christians and Father Ravoux baptized another 21 as Catholics. Only two of those to be hanged refused baptism. The condemned were removed from the other prisoners and Thomas Williamson, Stephen Riggs and Father Ravoux remained with them.

As Christmas Day, 1862, drew to a close, Jane sat down and wrote to Mary Riggs in what is one of the most poignant of Jane’s letters I have ever found.

“Dear Sister Riggs

“Accept my thanks for your favor of the 18 and permit me to say that I feel still more grateful for the Word for the poor despised Dakota which I doubt not was from your pen. I am not flattering when I say we were very much pleased with that article. It would too be more likely to bring Frenier to a right spirit than contradiction or hard sayings. [11]  Oh that we could see Antoine meekly sitting at the feet of the Savior. I too would like to know of his manifesting some sympathy for his younger brother. Oh how I blame myself for not warning Chaskedan and Tapetatanka of the temptations with which they might be associated. I thought of the dangers to which they would be exposed more than the temptations as it respected Caske and I had not an opportunity of speaking to Tapetatanka alone after knowing Little Crow was at the heart of the rebellion. But after walking to Ehnamane’s village, I felt that we could not remain there long without being in danger of having to share the spoils of the traders or warehouse, and this with feeling that our staying would increase the danger of the friendly Indians, induced me to exert my influence to Bro and Sister to leave.[12

“I am grieved that any of them touched the plunder but is it not more to be regretted than wondered at. Respecting the battles, I cannot feel that going into them was murder though it would have been better to have trusted God and stood alone but surely they were in trying circumstances. The buildings at our place I understood were set on fire by boys but the captives told me that those at Hazlewood were burned to keep friendly Indians from using them as forts. Even then if they had identified themselves with the hostile band their dwelling houses would not have been burned. Winonaze and Mrs. Quin [sic] who made their escape just before the battle of Lakewood, said they knew they were running a great risk but Little Crow had said that he would not only kill the white captives but half breeds and friendly Indians if all did not go with him to battle.[13]

While the troops who were on the way to Mankato to oversee the execution of the condemned Dakota, they passed through St. Peter and Jane heard them singing the abolitionist hymn, John Brown’s Body. Once again the great causes of her life – stopping slavery and saving the Dakota had come together in one tragic moment in history.

“It made me sad today when I saw the cavalry pass on their way to Mankato. A company of Infantry have just passed by tonight singing Jno Brown [“John Brown’s Body”]. Well, I suppose soldiers must become accustomed to sad sights but it will be a painful scene to Mr. Riggs and brother. Mr. Riggs was with us Friday night. He was so tired and hoarse that I knew I ought not to tease him and yet I could not keep from talking and asking questions. I need not say that we feel it a great privilege to have him with us a night.

“Mrs. Greenleaf of Shakopee sent a barrel of part worn clothing…. I was not in favor of taking much from the barrel lest they might need it more. But sister taking up a little bundle read “Will Miss Williamson accept this old shawl for the love she bears the Indians.” The shawl though not new it is very pretty. But it was not the value that made me weep like a child, it was feeling that there was still some sympathy for the Indian even among those (copy cut off)…

“Sister says you could not have made a better answer to Mr. Murwin for bedding and under clothes are what we need most though I do think Brother is needing a coat or cloak very much. He lost his cloth cloak and I cannot help feeling badly when he wears the old plaid. Still I do not feel free in urging him to get another at present. He was going to wear it up yesterday but I told him Mr. Riggs would be ashamed of him so he took his overcoat and if it does turn cold I hope will not suffer. For a little while after we came here Brother assisted in the hospital but we do not know that he will receive any compensation. There are more than doctors enough here and neither Sister nor I are willing to have him take license.

“He is far advanced in his 63 year and having to get up at night and go in the cold would probably lay him aside earlier than [unclear].

“Sister is just retiring but she says I must not forget to thank you for the spectacles. They suit her very well and I sometimes borrow them when I wish to see better than usual. With regard to your kind inquiry about our supply of bedding for the winter Mrs. J. Daniels lent us two pair of colored blankets which I think she will not probably call for this winter. Were it not for this we would have to buy or suffer one and although we have tried to economize, our store bill has been large. We bought calico for two comforts but batting was [so] high that we made them too light to be warm. Mrs. G. H. Pond gave sister a good comfort and some other things. In the box from the Constitution were a blanket for Lizzie Hunter, [Elizabeth Williamson Hunter] a quilt for sister, and a coverlet for me though not new.

“We have not as yet seen an opening for Nannie to teach.[14] It is a great comfort to have her with us. Brother rather wished me to try to get a school but I did not think I should succeed and I did so wish to have this winter to rest in quiet seclusion. You know my health was very poor last winter. It is good this. Were there anything I could do for the Indians I would love to do it. Have you seen Betsy or heard from Smiley when at the camp? [15]The last I heard from him was through Mrs. Huggins. Betsy wanted to come with Mr. Hunter when he was down but he could not bring her conveniently. Bro and sister have consented that she should come and I feel anxious to have her near but it would cost considerably to go for her by stage.

“Dec. 26. Ten o’clock is past. The bodies of those 39 men are probably lifeless. But “where are the breathless spirits gone that just have left their clay. Through what vast _____ to us unknown, “now urge their backless way.” There will be a strong effort to have all who were condemned by the commission hung now. I feel very anxious respecting our friends but I know nothing more that I can do only to commit the matter to our Heavenly Father for more faith.[16]

“I took your advice and petitioned the President to pardon Caskedon. Thus I wrote a petition and enclosed Marion’s letter to Mr. Cullen requesting to present it or not as he thought but he wrote me a very kind letter in return saying he would present it the next day.[17] He seems to feel deeply interested in the Indians. There were so few here at the time that I put no name to it but my own. I regretted this but feared to wait less it should be too late. It was poorly done and probably will not accomplish anything. I felt at the time as though it was presumption but wished to do what I could…

“Yours truly, Jane S. Williamson”[18]

Jane Williamson did not attend the mass execution at Mankato on December 26, 1862, but Thomas Williamson and Stephen Riggs were there. Images, memoirs and stories about the mass execution are part of both Dakota and white history in Minnesota in painful ways.

Jane was correct. By the time she finished writing this letter to Mary on December 26, the 38 Dakota men who had been condemned to death had been hanged in the largest mass execution ever held in America. Jane and the rest of the family had apparently not celebrated Christmas that year, not only because Thomas was in Mankato, but because they were struggling financially. Jane and Margaret Williamson were concerned that Thomas was receiving no income from his work with patients at the hospital nor for the missionary work he carried on with the prisoners. They were relying on gifts of used clothing, blankets, and supplies from supporters in Ohio and Nancy Jane had not found a teaching position. Thomas was encouraging Jane to open a school but she expressed her concerns to Mary that she really felt she was not up to taking on that responsibility.

Sarah Totidutawin had known Jane her whole life and she wrote her in 1862 to express how much she misses her and how she and her mother are grieving what had happened to the Dakota people.

Of course, Jane was also in constant prayer for the Dakota families who were living in captivity at Fort Snelling as well as for those men still in prison at Mankato. One quite amazing letter to Jane survives from this time. Robert Hopkins Chaska’s wife, Sarah Totidutawin, wrote to Jane early in 1863. I found the letter several years ago in the Riggs Family Papers at the Minnesota Historical Society even though it has nothing to do with the Riggs family. It has now been re-catalogued and is in the Williamson collection. It is written to Jane and captures the grief and anxiety that were rampant in the Dakota community during this time as well.


“My Sister – Today I write you a letter to tell you how I am. By reason of the terrible deeds which the Dakota nation have committed in these latter times, I am now with my children in a suffering condition and so I am always thinking of you. Because of my sadness I am not strong and seem as if I would be sick. I am continually wondering what will become of me. I have two brothers, but they are constantly doing things which I do not like and thus heed me not. So I have no one on earth to whom I can turn for support and am miserable; but I always remember you and because I know you love me, I always remember you. My mother and I are sad together. I know it is what God wills that will come to pass. Though I have no one on earth upon whom I can rely, yet I trust the One God watches over me; and so as I am able I offer prayers, and when you pray I wish you to remember me…

“I have heard that Mrs. Hunter was about to die soon and it makes my heart very sad. I feel just the same as if one of my own relations were about to die, and so I am sad, and think – could I only see her. If God has mercy upon me I shall see her among the heavenly hosts.

“Now about my husband I want you to tell me whatever you hear as to his condition. His father and two brothers have none of them done anything, but now I hear that they are once again going to hang soon and I am troubled.

“Dowandutawin, your nieces and nephew, I am with you all. That’s all I shall say, 

“I am Wanyahiyawin


“My Brother

“I write you a line to speak of one matter. I am very glad to hear you always visit those in prison.

“My brother – I am now very bad off so I trust in you. What is to become of my husband. I want you to tell me. I want you to let me know whatever you hear as to his fate.

“I would like to say many things to you but am in haste and so shall close.”[19]

Sarah mentioned in her latter to Jane that she had heard that Lizzie Hunter was about to die. That news was true. Lizzie never fully recovered from the trauma and physical conditions she had experienced during their escape; she had lost her little son when John Knox Hunter died in October 1862, and now Lizzie herself passed away on March 11, 1863 at the age of thirty years.

Jane shared the news of her death with Mary Riggs on March 17, 1863.

“You will probably ere this reaches you have learned that the gentle spirit of our loved E. Hunter has dropped its clay tabernacle and we trust she is even now uniting with holy happy spirits in the song of Redeeming Love. Were not brother going down I would give some particulars but you can hear what you wish from him as she approached the river. The prospect beyond was so bright that she longed to be there and prayed for patience to wait till she was called. At one time she said, ‘I know that I am going to My Father’s House but the way seems long.’ I observed to her though you should continue long and suffer much shall I trust you will be enabled to say the will of the Lord be done. ‘Oh yes,’ she said, ‘Our Heavenly Father knows best.’

“She prayed much for her husband and child and our sister. I trust you will pray for them too. Mr. Hunter closed her eyes with his own fingers. When living he loved to do what he could for her and even though she was gone he seemed to feel it a privilege. His little home must look very desolate to him now when he is there alone. He stayed with us Sat. night and was here yesterday and went out in the afternoon to help Henry chop wood when Nannie reminded him he would make himself late getting home. He replied it is pleasanter here than there…

“O, it was so pleasant to have her with us so long and have the means of rendering her so comfortable. She seemed all the time to feel that her cup of blessing was full…Eliza Huggins came the Sat. before and remained till the funeral. Elizabeth was delighted with her singing till she was almost gone. Surely we have reason to thank and praise the Lord for his tender mercy and loving kindness manifested in this bereavement. Pray that we may grow wiser and better thereby.

“The pretty quilt you so kindly gave us lay on her bed. She admired its beauty and we could not have had her bed look so clean and comfortable without it. She spoke of your kindness several times when looking at it. I wish the good people that sent the box from Oxford knew. I feel like praising God all the time. He is giving me all that I could desire now and I can trust him for all that is to come. I asked her if she had no doubt of her acceptance. ‘Oh, no, why should I when Jesus was so kind to all that came to him on earth? He casts off none that come to him. Shall I like to hear his promises read often.’ Again she remarked that praising the Lord for his Redeeming love would be the sweetest joy in heaven.”[20]

As usual, Jane expressed her joy and gratitude for God’s care even when she was in the midst of loss and grief. As we’ve seen throughout her letters in recent posts, she also sees death as a joyous reunion with Jesus Christ in heaven, at least for Christians. Her faith sustains her through the most difficult of times and now the family faces yet another period of transition as all of the Dakota people were exiled from the State of Minnesota by Congress in March of 1863.[21]

[1] Stephen Riggs to Mary Riggs, November 13, 1862. Stephen R. Riggs Family Papers, 1837-1988, Minnesota Historical Society Manuscript Collection, Call #144.G.7.1B.

[2] The transcriber of the letter uses the name “Gorry” but I believe the person Jane mentions is Stuart B. Garvie who was working in Andrew Myrick’s store at the Lower Agency when he was wounded during the initial attack of the agency on the morning of August 18, 1862. Garvie escaped on foot with a group led by John Otherday, but he did not survive and died on August 21, 1862. Thirteen people were killed in that initial attack and there is no indication why Jane mentioned him in particular but it could be that she knew him or his wife personally. He was married to a Dakota woman.

[3] Jane S. Williamson to S.R. Riggs, November 14, 1862, Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; transcribed and annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois.

[4] Riggs, Steven, Tah-koo Wahkan; the Gospel Among the Dakotas. Boston: Congregational Sabbath-School and Publishing Society, 1869, pp.346-349. I have not found Jane’s letter in the Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Riggs had said earlier that Jane had written to General Sibley to seek Robert’s pardon but he now indicates that her letter actually was addressed to President Lincoln.

[5] Stephen Riggs to General Henry Hastings Sibley, April 7, 1864, cited in The Dakota Trials, Including the Complete Transcripts and Explanatory Notes on the Military Commission Trials in Minnesota, 1862-1864 by John Isch, Brown County Historical Society, 2012, p. 136.

[6] Creswell, Rev. R.J., Among the Sioux: A Story of the The Twin Cities and The Two Dakotas, The University Press, Minneapolis, MN 1906, p 76

[7] Jane Williamson to Mary Riggs, November 25, 1862, Stephen R. Riggs Family Papers, 1837-1988, Minnesota Historical Society Manuscript Collection, Call #144.G.7.1B.

[8] Walt Bachman to Carrie Zeman, email January 28, 2011. Author’s private collection.

[9] Stephen Riggs to Mary Riggs, December 22, 1862. Stephen R. Riggs Family Papers, 1837-1988, Minnesota Historical Society Manuscript Collection, Call #144.G.7.1B.

[10] Mankato Ledger, March 22, 1916, citing the report of Father Antoine Ravoux from December 29, 1862.

[11] Antoine Frenier had a white father and a Dakota mother and raised at Lac qui Parle. He was one of the interpreters at the military commission trials of the Dakota in 1862. Jane and Mary have obviously communicated about him previously and are grieving that he has reportedly abandoned his Christian faith and is drinking.

[12] Ehnamane was known as Artemas Ehnamani/Walking Along. He was born in Red Wing’s village in 1826 but was living in his own village near Pejutazee when word of the outbreak of war reached the Williamson’s. Jane had gone to that village to see if she could learn more about what was happening and, according to this letter, became convinced that she and Thomas and Margaret should follow the others and attempt to escape. Ehanmani became a Christian in prison at Mankato and eventually was an ordained minister in the Dakota Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church.

[13] Winonaze, also known as Elizabeth or Betsy Jeffries, was married to Joseph Jeffries. Mrs. Quinn is Angelique Jeffries Quinn, their daughter. She was married to William Quinn who was a clerk at the Forbes store at the Upper Agency in 1862.

[14] Nannie is the nickname for Nancy Jane Williamson, Thomas and Margaret Williamson’s second oldest daughter. She was with them at Pejutazee at the time the war began and lived with them in St. Peter. She had been to seminary and was looking for a place to teach school in the area.

[15] Betsy, who is also known as Bessie, was a Dakota child who was taken in by the Williamson’s when her mother died in 1859. Jane named her Bessie Means, in honor of Jane’s cousin Elizabeth Williamson Means, the “Dear Cousin” of so many of Jane’s letters. Betsy was then was about five years old. She had been very ill but under Jane’s care she recovered her health and in Jane’s school report of June 30, 1862, she reported that Betsy was now able to read the Bible in English and Dakota. As Jane writes in December 1862 to Mary Riggs, she is trying desperately to find out where Betsy might be. It is clear from subsequent letters that Betsy did join the Williamson’s in St. Peter by 1863 but then died by January 4, 1867 of an unknown cause. Smiley was Smiley Shepherd, a Dakota boy who had been taken in my the Williamson’s in 1859, along with Betsy. In Jane’s school report of March 31, 1862, she said he was in fine health, loved music and “appears to have good talents,” Smiley’s father was killed at the Battle of Wood Lake in September 1862, and Jane eventually located him and had him brought to St. Peter where he remained with the family until he was a young man.

[16] I have tried to find the source of Jane’s quotation here, and assume it must be a Bible verse, but can’t find it any concordances that I’ve checked.

[17] Marion is Marion Robertson Hunter, who has been described in an earlier note. Mr. Cullen is Major William J. Cullen, who formed the Cullen Frontier Guards in Shakopee on August 22, 1862 and marched with Sibley’s troops to Fort Ridgley. This Cullen was not exactly “deeply interested in the Indians,” as Jane says. Instead, he often boasted of how he’d personally cut the hair of over 70 Dakota men when he became Superintendent of Indian Affairs at the Upper Agency in 1957. Jane may be referring to Mr. Thomas Cullen, William’s brother who was at the Lower Sioux Agency by 1860. John Williamson boarded with his family there and Thomas Williamson described him as the Superintendent of Indian Farming who was an active and energetic Methodist who would welcome a missionary there, according to a letter that Thomas wrote to Selah B. Treat on April 30, 1860 in the ABCFM Correspondence files at the Minnesota Historical Society.

[18] Jane Williamson to Mary Riggs, December 25, 1862. Stephen R. Riggs Family Papers, 1837-1988, Minnesota Historical Society Manuscript Collection, Call #144.G.7.1B

[19] Sarah Totidutawin to Jane Williamson, Minnesota Historical Society,Williamson Family Papers, P726, Box 1. Sarah and her mother Catherine and her children were in the encampment at Fort Snelling in early 1863. Sarah wrote as Wanyhiyawin. She is usually identified as Robert Hopkins Chaska’s wife Sarah, daughter of Catherine Totidutawin of the Dakota mission. She addresses Jane by her Dakota name, Dowandutawin, which means Red Song Woman, so called because of Jane’s beautiful singing voice and her translation of many Presbyterian hymns into the Dakota language. The two brothers that Sarah mentions are Lorenzo Lawrence and Joseph Kawanke, both of who were associated with the mission at Lac qui Parle and were well-known to the Williamson’s. Lorenzo Lawrence was eventually paid $500 by the government following the war for his role in saving Jannette DeCamp and her children when the war began. Joseph Kawanke was accepted as a Scout by Henry Sibley when Sibley headed west to find and arrest those Dakota who had fled rather than turn themselves in. Kawanke is listed as dying in 1867, but I have not been able to find out what happened to him. Sarah’s husband, of course, is Robert Hopkins Chaska who was in prison in Mankato at this time and was then sent to Davenport, Iowa, where he is often referred to as the spiritual leader of the Dakota prisoners. Sarah and Robert Hopkins Chaska had three children, Samuel, Eliza and Andrew by 1862, although I’m not sure that Eliza lived beyond infancy. She was baptized by Stephen Riggs at Hazlewood in October 1859. Andrew was baptized the following year. Samuel was born in 1854 and was ordained a minister in the Presbyterian Church in 1889.

[20] Jane Williamson to Mary Riggs, March 17, 1863.. Stephen R. Riggs Family Papers, 1837-1988, Minnesota Historical Society Manuscript Collection, Call #144.G.7.1B.

[21] An Act for the Removal of the Sisseton, Wahpaton, Medawakanton, March 3,1863. and Walhpakoota Bands of Sioux or Dakota Indians, and for the Disposition of their. Lands in Minnesota and Dakota. SESS. III. CH. 119, 120. 1863

This entry was posted in Andrew Hunter, Eliza Huggins Holtzclaw, Elizabeth Williamson Hunter, Jane Smith Williamson, Mary Ann Clark Longley Riggs, Nancy Jane Williamson, Ohio, Peter Tapaytatanka, Robert Hopkins Chaska, Sarah Hopkins Chaska, Wawiyohiyawin/Sarah Hopkins, William Crooks, Women in Minnesota. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Life of a Legend – The Story of Jane Smith Williamson – Part XIII

  1. Dinesen, Terri (DNR) says:

    Thank you ☺

    Terri Dinesen
    Park Manager | Division of Parks and Trails
    Lac qui ParleState Park
    Big Stone Lake State Park
    Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
    Lac qui Parle State Park
    14047 20th Street NW
    Watson, MN 56295
    Phone: 320-734-4450 ext 229
    Personal Cell: 320-894-2692
    Fax: 320-734-4452

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