August 18, 2012, marked 150 years since the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, a tragic time in Minnesota's history. The war, its causes and its aftermath had a profound impact in shaping Minnesota and Brown County, as we know it today.
On Saturday, members of the Sleepy Eye and New Ulm Historical Societies, along with the general public, dedicated two markers and commemorated two cemeteries that played important roles in the conflict.
The first marker unveiled was the reservation boundary marker located southwest of Sleepy Eye. Randy Krzmarzick spoke about the significance of this marker.
"All the while I was growing up, my dad, Sylvester, would refer to the south boundary of our fields as the 'Indian line fence,'" Krzmarzick explained. "Like kids do, I didn't think much about that; I just figured everybody had an Indian line fence."
Krzmarzick said it wasn't until he was in his 20s and visited the Lower Sioux Agency Museum by Morton that he saw a map showing the reservation line that was created by the Traverse des Sioux Treaty in 1851, showing 10 miles south of the river going southeast to northwest.
"That was our 'Indian line fence,'" Krzmarzick added.
Krzmarzick told the group of about two dozen in closing that everyone should walk reverently into this commemoration with quiet souls and listening ears.
"Stepping into this commemoration is like stepping into a holy place," Krzmarzick explained. "Be still and know that blood and deep emotions were shed here...150 years may have passed, but the ghosts are all around us and they deserve our respect."
The Dakota Reservation and Leavenworth Road marker was made possible with funds from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Legacy program in cooperation with the Sleepy Eye Historical Society and Leavenworth Township.
This was the last grant that Mary Ann Trebesch wrote before her passing on Aug. 11.
"It will take a special person to fill the huge shoes of Mary Ann," Sleepy Eye Historical Society Director Deb Joramo said. "It was nice to see the amount of people here and the interest level. It shows support for our community and for the historical society."
The second marker dedication is located one mile west of Leavenworth on County Road 24. This marker was placed in commemoration of the attack on the Brown Family. According to historical accounts, the Joseph Brown family with son, Jonathan, and daughter, Oratia, were early settlers on a farm five miles west of the Shetek Trail. The family fed and over-nighted guests, operating their home as a traveler's inn.
Upon hearing news of Dakota Indian unrest during August 1862, they hitched their oxen and fled eastward along the Shetek Trail seeking safety in New Ulm.
Page 2 of 2 - Upon reaching the location of this marker, five miles from their home, they were overtaken and killed by Dakota Indians in August, 1862.
This marker was donated by the Richard and Mary Lou Mathiowetz family and supported by the Township of Leavenworth.
The third stop on the tour was the Iberia Cemetery seven miles south of Sleepy Eye. Discussion was held on the importance of the Iberia area during the 1860s, its involvement during the Dakota War and some of these buried in the cemetery.
Paul Hillesheim conducted a flag raising in commemoration of his father, Roman, who was instrumental in preserving the cemetery.
The final stop of the tour was the Sigel Cemetery located eight miles southwest of New Ulm.
This commemoration was to memorialize the Sigel Township settlers killed or injured during the outbreak as well as the "Sigel Company" which was involved in the defense of New Ulm.
Director of the New Ulm Historical Society, Bob Burgess, said he was pleased with the turn-out.
"This is important because these are visitors we normally don't see–hardworking farm families that were working here before there was a contract," Burgess said.
According to the Minnesota Historical Society website, the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, followed years of broken treaties and promises to the Dakota people, combined with a burgeoning white population in the state. In August 1862, when late annuity payments and the refusal by agents and traders to release provisions found some Dakota facing starvation, factions attacked white settlements, the Lower Sioux Agency and Fort Ridgely in south central and southwestern Minnesota. A significant number of Dakota were against the war and did not participate.
The fighting lasted six weeks. Between four and six hundred white civilians and soldiers were killed. The number of Dakota killed in battle is not known. Troops under the command of former Gov. Henry Sibley were sent to support Fort Ridgely and the settlers, ultimately defeating the Dakota forces and bringing the war to a close by the end of September 1862.
After a trial by military tribunal, 38 Dakota men were hanged in Mankato on Dec. 26, 1862. It remains the largest mass execution in U.S. history. More than 300 Dakota men had initially been condemned to death, but President Abraham Lincoln commuted all but 39 of the sentences.