In 1862 and 1863, the families of Silas Foot and his brother Solomon were deeply effected by The Dakota Conflict, Sioux Indian Uprisings in the area of Minnesota where they lived. Reparations were paid by the federal government to relieve damages the settlers incurred. More than 2500 claims were filed, probably some exaggerated. The State Atlas of November 1863 noted, "By a mathematic demonstration it has been shown that if all the ‘Rutas’ (Rutabagas) thus said to have been destroyed were evenly spread over the entire state, the whole surface would be covered the depth of one foot." (Note: Silas claimed the loss of one acre of rutabagas – draw your own conclusions.)
Much can be learned from legal testimonies given by Silas and his wife Julia Ann, their neighbor William Kouts, and Solomon and his wife Adeline. There were two separate incidences described in these testimonies: the first occurring in August, 1862 and the second occurring on May 3, 1863.
Tuesday, August 19th
Vague news reached the Silas Foot family about the "Acton Massacre". Silas and family lived on the west side of Green Lake, adjoining the village of Columbia since September 15, 1858.
Wednesday, August 20th
The Acton Massacre was confirmed and the settlement assembled for a meeting.
Solomon lived, and had lived for several years, at the Northeastern edge of Lake Foot in Kandiyohi County, Minnesota, about 8 or 9 miles from Silas. The first report of the murders at Acton and Yellow Medicine reached Solomon about 5 p.m. but he "discredited the report on account of the frequency of such rumors in past years which proved to be unfounded". At suppertime, however, the rumor was confirmed by Swen Swansen. Solomon, his wife, and his two youngest children (ages 6 years and 18 months) left with Swansen to go to the house of Oscar Erickson, one mile away. There were four families at the Ericksons: Solomon Foot’s, Swen Swanson’s, Oscar Erickson’s, and Carl Carlson’s.
It was just about dark when Indians approached the house and said they were hunting deer, but as Adeline notes she was skeptical about this because they had no dogs with them. They blamed the Acton murders on "bad Indians". They asked to come into the house but were refused. The Indians huddled under trees for the night. It rained. About 2 hours after dark Carl Carlson came over from his house passing through the Indians who asked him to stay with them outside. He declined and went in the house. The Swedes were convinced the Indians intended no harm. Solomon, the women and children, however, kept a strict watch all night.
Thursday, August 21st
At Silas’ location, the whole settlement started sporadically towards Forest City. Silas Foot’s family traveled with the Burdicks, Thomas’, Adams’ and one unmarried man, William Kouts. Solomon’s three oldest children were with Silas’ family at this time. About 9 miles from home and 13 miles from Forest City, on the open prairie, 7 Indians mounted on 5 ponies rapidly approached. Foot’s party called for a halt and prepared for defense. When the Indians got within shooting range they killed two Swedes, Anderson and Backland, who were in the rear driving cattle. Silas and William Kouts tried to go back to the downed men and get their whip but could not. The Indians kept up a rapid fire. The settlers had little ammunition with which to return fire. They drew their wagons up in a circle for protection. The Indians continued to attack for 60 to 90 minutes. One Indian was wounded, and they finally withdrew, taking 60 cattle with them. The party settled for the night.
At Solomon’s Location: At daylight 15 Indians were still there. The Swedes proposed to go out and talk with them to which Solomon finally assented and suggested that some one of them should go. Each one declined, so Solomon himself went. It was still raining. The Indians complained of cold and asked for an axe and kindling, which they received and used to build a fire. They asked for potatoes. Against Solomon’s advice, Carl Carlsen went to dig potatoes. At about 8 a.m., Solomon was conversing with the Indians, some of whom he knew, when suddenly they fired guns at him. Buckshot entered his side and back and dropped him to one knee. He recovered quickly and ran for the house. About the same time, Carl Carlsen was shot dead in the potato fields and was found later with 2 potatoes in one hand and a hoe grasped in the other. The Indians continued to beleaguer the house until 2 or 3 p.m.
Solomon was quite wounded but kept shooting, killing one or two Indians. Adeline frequently fired a gun as Swansen was too terrified to load or shoot any gun. About 2 hours into the battle Solomon was shot through his breast just below the shoulder which angled down near his lung and came out his kidney. Ericksen fought bravely but was also shot and wounded. "He yelled, raved around the room, seized an axe and tried to kill himself, plunged his head in a pail of water and writhed in extreme agonies." With Foot and Ericksen too disabled to fight, the weight was on Adeline. In an effort to see and shoot better, she went upstairs. Adeline received a flesh wound from a bullet in the breast and under part of her arm. This did not disable her from action. There was more shots fired and the house caught on fire. Adeline put the fire out with water from the tea kettle. In his despair, Swansen proposed to open the door and beg for mercy. Solomon and his wife told him they would shoot him dead if he attempted to do so. They could hear guns in the distance, which proved to be the killing of Carl’s father.
As night approached, Swansen and his family and the Carlsen family left the house seeking refuge about 2 miles away on a peninsula by Foot Lake.
Friday, August 22nd
The Silas Foot party reached Forest City the next day about noontime.
At the Ericksen household, Adeline went out for desparately needed water at about 9 a.m. Soon after that, a party consisting of 3 ox teams proceeded by a man on horseback wearing black clothes approached the house. The besieged believed that this party was there to help them, but it was not to be. They fired at the house and were observed to be naked and covered with war paint.
Their ammunition was almost gone. Things looked hopeless and there was not opportunity for escape. The Indians burnt their haystack. After more shooting the Indians retired and joined their wagons in the stable. At 11 a.m., the besieged sent Adeline and Mrs. Ericksen with three children out to fetch help, first setting out bread and water for their wounded husbands. Swansen returned to get food for his family in hiding and soon departed.
Saturday, August 23rd
Silas and family and other refugees, about 150 teams in all, proceeded 12 miles away to Kingston.
Adeline and Mrs. Ericksen were on there way to Diamond Lake for help. Seeing Indians "whooping and hollering" all along the way they changed course and reached Burdick’s house one mile from Green Lake. They went on to Amdo’s house which was burnt up. They proceeded to Silas Foot’s house all dragged with mud and soaking wet above the waists and nearly famished. They broke into Silas’ house and ate. They met up with a Masters family. The prairies were alive with Indians and they came upon 2 dead bodies, I presume this to be the two Swedes killed in Silas Foot’s party.
Sunday, August 24th
Silas Foot’s party started for Clear Water.
Re: Solomon: Mrs. Enderson, Mrs. Ericksen’s mother, came to the rescue. Her husband and oldest son had been killed, a younger one wounded and her daughters taken prisoner. Mrs. Endersen and her son loaded up Foot and Ericksen and headed for Green Lake. Maggots had already gathered in Solomon’s wounds. About a ½ mile from Silas Foot’s house, the Francis Amdo house was in ashes, the burning ember still glowing. They then went 6 miles farther to Diamond Lake, found no one there and proceeded to Forest City. Between Green Lake and Forest City, they too, saw the mutilated dead bodies of the two men killed in Silas Foot’s party, along with 10-15 head of dead cattle.
Re: Adeline: Adeline and Mrs. Ericksen reached Forest City about 4 a.m. Adeline was much relieved to hear of her oldest children’s safety. They had been with Silas’ family when the outbreak occurred and she had heard nothing of them until arriving in Forest City.
Monday, August 25th
Silas returned to Forest City to aid his brother Solomon.
Near the end of October, Silas returned on foot to his house. It did not appear to be entered, but there was no means of taking any property with him.
Silas returned with another man and his house had been entered into but not pillaged. Foot said his violin and his monkey wrench were missing. (Apparently, the violin was later recovered.) They loaded the wagon, but had to leave behind some furniture and other items.
Silas testifies against the Sioux in his depredation claim. Claims property left included ½ acre of assorted vegetables, 1 acre of potatoes, 1 acre of rutabagas, some furniture, and farming implements. Damages totaled $205. 25. William Kouts also testifies at this time.
April 21, 1863
Silas, his wife, and six kids now reside in Stearns County. He received reparation of $205.25.
May 3, 1863
Silas and a soldier who was driving cattle for a contractor to Fort Abercrombie were found dead on May 3, 1863. They appeared to have been recently killed and to have been surprised. Their cattle were still there tied up for feeding as they had left them at night.
August 11-13, 1863
Julia Ann Foot, William Kouts, Soloman and Adeline Foot testify against the Sioux for damages and are awarded $200 direct damages on behalf of Silas Foot on November 5, 1863. Claim #2117
Originally, the northern half of today’s Kandiyohi County was Monongalia County and the Southern half was Kandiyohi County. The two consolidated in 1870 to become Kandiyohi (Where-The-Buffalo-Fish-Come). This Kandiyohi County website talks about Mrs. Enderson and also Erickson’s cabin – located west of Willmar off US Highway 71.
The Minnesota Genealogical Journal of March 21, 1999 talks about the Sioux Conflict Depredation claims and was used as a source for this summary.
I have a copy of the original Claim #2117 filed by Silas and his family, also used as a source. Contact me if you would like to see it. Warning: It’s very difficult to read.