Escaping the Indians

Few men had more difficulty in getting out of the prairie than our townsman Andrew Nelson the following is but one week of his life: Mr. N. a native of Sweden and but slightly acquainted in county at the time, was a single man and residing in Monongalia county.

On the 21st of August 1862 he was engaged at Foot’s place having, with several other parties. About 4 P. M. his brother-in-law. Swanson, passed Foot Lake and gave the first alarm-Nelson spent some time in assisting Swanson, who had a wife and three children to get under way-with but an ox-team-a load of hay had to be dumped and wagon body substituted for the hay rack Nelson took charge of some 40 head of cattle, has tily collected, which he intended to drive to a place of safety. In all this he was delayed till dark and he had hardly got off the premises when the Indians were on the ground. Two cow-bells-40 cattle and the darkness favored Nelson and preserved his scalp. The Indians were first discovered within ten paces and suppossing them to be white men, Nelson enquires “how goes it?” getting no answer, but hearing steps approaching he quietly slid into a corn-field close by. From the cornfield he ran into Mud Lake, where he found a desirable resting place for fifteen or twenty minutes, representing Moses in the bulrushes—thence he started for Diamond Lake, but soon got lost, and Nelson is ready to swear, that he, that evening, sounded every “sloo” in the vicinity.

In the morning he found himself on the bank of a creek-the outlet of Eagle Lake and but about 40 rods from the house of Oscar Erickson, in which were four families, and the house surrounded by Indians. It was here that Mr. and Mrs. Foot, Erickson, Swanson and Carlson defended themselves until the Indians raised the siege, after killing Carlson Nelson made a direct shoot for Diamond Lake, reaching there about 7 A. M. proceeding to the farm of J. H. Gates, where he found a number of Diamond Lake people who were preparing break fast, but in consequence of the close proximity of the Indians, they started for Forest City without stopping to eat. Nelson lost his boots on the road and his feet became so sore that he was compelled to ride part of the way-From Forest City he went to Kingston, where his feet were dressed up with rags, and moccasins by Mr. Davidson, the miller. On his return to Forest City, Swan Munson gave him one of his horses to ride and when almost half way back, met Atkinson with his squad, who ordered him to halt and sought to levy on his horse-Nelson responded that he could not have the horse unless he took him dead or alive said “come along” and Nelson joined the crowd and was subsequently out on every detail till the company was disbanded-at one time in Foot Lake region, Nelson lay by the side of a log in the dark, with the Indians passing on the side of it in the road. He lost all trace of Swanson and family, and did not see them again until he met them in SL Paul where they now reside. He did not, of course, succeed in getting any of the cattle.

Swanson and family were in the house with Foot and Erickson, and was several times lost on the prairie in getting to Paynesville with his family. We have said there were four families in Ericksons’ house-they were Erickson’s, Foot’s, Swanson and Carlson.

When the Indians first came to Erickson’s they asked for provisions, and young Carlson went with them into the potatoe patch to dig the potatoes it was here that young Carlson was shot, and when found he was dead, with the hoe in one hand and a couple of potatoes in the other.

While defending themselves in the house, Foot was shot through the breast and Erickson through the bowels-Foot killed an Indian after he was shot, standing on his knees.

The defence of Mr. and Mrs. Foot was so heroic that the Indians raised the siege and left. Subsequently Mrs. Foot came to Forest City and reported her husband in a dying condition, but strange to say, Foot was, two days later, brought into Forest City on a load of goods, where he was kindly cared for for a couple of days and sent to St. Cloud. Foot and Erickson still live.

Our fellow townsman N. A. Viren and family, were in close proximity to these tragical scenes-his legs and his oxen did him good service. Falling behind the crowd in consequence of the loss of an ox, he besought his company to wait for him a little while, which they refused to do-when he overtook them, they were all stuck fast in the mud in the outlet of the lake just East of Master’s place.

Viren sounded the bank of the lake and finding hard bottom he drove into the lake and around the Sloo, and started ahead the company called him to come to their assistance and haul them out, but he politely informed them that what “was sauce for goose was sauce for gander” and passed on and arrived at Forest City a day or two in advance of his company, who in consequence of the delay lost most of their cattle and goods, and two of their company, Lawrenson and Backland who were killed and mutilated. Viren “still lives,” a portly well fed gentleman, and Nelson says that while he repented of all his sins by the side of that log he gave no prefer ence to any particular sin!! and has no desire to live that week over again.

Meeker County

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