The Indian War formed a tragic episode in the history of Meeker County ‘About 11 o’clock A. M., of Sunday, the 17th of August, 1862, the first deliberate massacre of the brutal Sioux outbreak, took place 13 miles west of Forest City in the town of Acton. Six Indians came first to the house of Robinson Jones, and thence to that of of Mr. Howard Baker, where they deliberately shot five persons, viz: Robinson Jones, Howard Baker, Mrs. Ann Baker, Viranus Webster and Miss Clara D. Wilson, (the last named, at Jones’ house). This was the commencement of that terrible Indian scourge, which resulted in the massacre of about nine hundred whites, on the frontier of Minnesota in the fall of 1862.
The preliminary tragedy at Acton, was not the result of a drunken riot-but was the commence ment of a premeditated design to exterminate the whites from this region of country, although prob ably this early commencement, by an insignificant band, was not a part of the program of Little Crow and other leaders. I allude to this, to correct errors which appear to have already been manu factured into departmental history. The Secreta ry of War reported to Congress, and all the pre-tended histories yet written, . CRAW FISH to the fur traders, and allege a drunken broil as the commence ment of the affair, and also make statements credited to the reports of a child afterwards found in Jones’ house on the eve of the 17th, about 8 o’clock. Mr. John Blackwell, a reliable citizen, now de ceased, found a little grand child of Mrs. Ann Baker, 18 months old, on the floor in Jones’ house (the only one left or found in the house) and took it away-this child was too young to talk and was totally unconscious of its tragic surroundings. It was lying upon the floor where it appeared to have cried itself to sleep. Whether the Indians considered the child too in significant to kill, or did not see it at all, cannot be known, the latter supposition is probably correct.
One writer says that the child lay on the bed and witnessed the scalping of his sister, but this is a mistake. The bed had not been tumbled and no other act done indicating that the Indians ever went into the house, and the girl had not been scalped or mutilated in any way but lay partly up on her back in a pool of blood just where she fell. After Baker and Webster ceased to breathe, their wife’s started for the house of Mr. John Blackwell, their nearest neighbor, Mrs. Baker carrying in her arms an infant child preserved from the massacre. When they reached Blackwell’s they found no one at home, and proceeded on to the next neighbor, named Olson, a blacksmith; whom the Indians af terwards killed.
Late in the afternoon Blackwell, on horseback, came riding leisurely home, and learned from Ole H. Ness, Esq., whom he met on the prairie, the terrible news, which he at first-could not believe, but Mr, Ness advised him to go to the house of Olson where the’ women then were and learn the particulars from them which he did, and learned from them that their husbands were dead before they left the house, and that two other persons, Robinson Jones and Mrs. Baker (mother of Howard Baker) were both shot, were both in great agony and evidently dying; that Mrs. Baker was lying in the house and Jones in the yard near the house; that the latter came there from his own house but a short time before where he had left the said niece and child. The fate of those children was then problematical, fearing the worst, the Indians having gone in that direction, Blackwell concluded at once, that to find out what had become of them was an im perative duty, and immediately rode back to where he had left Ole H. Ness and found him with Hen ry Hulverson, A. Nelson Fosen and several others who had assembled and were discussing the matter.
The men were all in favor of going at once to the scene of the tragedy and securing, if alive, the girl and child. It was after dark when they arrived at Jones house and the child was found alive the remainder of the story has been told, and needs not to be re peated. The child was brought to Forest City and kept some months by Mr. and Mrs. Jewett and subse quently placed in charge of Mr. Charles H. Ellis of Otsego, Wright county, since which time we have lost track of him. Jones gave the Indians no liquor, and while there was liquor in Jones’ house, up to the time of the inquest on Monday afternoon, there was no appearance of its having been molested. At the time of the inquest all the liquor in the house was poured on the ground.
To show the evident design of these Indians to commit the tragedy at this point, we give the testimony of the wife of Mr Howard Baker at the coroner’s inquest conducted by A. C. Smith, then Judge of Probate and acting County Attorney. Her testimony was as follows:
“About 11 o’clock A. M. four Indians came into our house, staid about 15 minutes, got up and looked out, had the men take down their guns and shoot them off at a mark, then bantered for a trade with Jones. About 12 o’clock two more Indians came and got some water; our guns were not reloaded; the Indians loaded their guns in the dooryard; I went back into the house, did not suspect anything at the time; supposed they were going away; next I knew I heard the report of a gun and saw Webster fall; he stood and fell near the door; another Indian came to the door and aimed at Howard Baker and shot; did not kill him at that time; he shot the other barrel of his gun at Howard and he fell.
“My mother walked to the door and another Indian shot her; she turned to run and fell into the buttery; they shot at her twice as she fell.
I tried to get out of the window, but fell down cellar; saw Mrs. Webster pulling her husband into the house, don’t know where she was prior to this: Indians immediately left the house; while I was in the cellar I heard firing out of doors. Jones said they were Sioux Indians and that he was well acquainted with them. Two of the Indians had on white men’s coats; one quite tall, one quite small, one thick and chubby and all middle aged Indians, one had two feathers in his cap and one had three. Jones said “they asked me for whisky but I would not give them any.”
This testimony shows a deliberate intention to massacre Tones’ family. The facts are, that Robinson Jones kept a sort of frontier public house and kept various articles of groceries, &c., with which he used to traffic with the Indians, with whom he was well acquainted, and obtained their furs and other proceeds of their hunting expeditions, and they had by some means got into his debt 40 or 50 dollars. which sum Jones had made arrangements to have paid out of their annuities.
Certain Indian traders claimed the monopoly of the fur trade, and had for some years been in the habit of making advances to the Indians with the understanding that the Indians were to return to the traders the proceeds of the chase-the balance it any to be jerked (in a manner only known to Indian traders) out of the next succeeding annuities. Jones little traffic was interfering quite mater ially with those traders, and was setting a bad pre cedent, and this may, perhaps, furnish a better clue than whisky, to the destruction of Jones’ family, and which in its ‘results, produced far more than the traders bargained for. The Indians were dissatisfied with all the traders, and Jones with the rest.
Any one who understands the Indian trading system, as sanctioned by the Indian Department at Washington, can fill up the balance of the picture those who do not, will never know any more about the origin of the ‘Indian massacre than they do now.