Forest City Stockade

Forest City Stockade

The Forest City Stockade was built to defend the area settlers from Indian attacks. It became famous during the Dakota War of 1862. The following account is taken from Terry Tales 2, a book by Terry R. Shaw:

"It had been Jesse Branham, Sr.’s son Jesse, Jr.’s idea to build the stockade for protection against the Indians. The stockade had been begun before the uprising but it wasn’t quite finished when the Indians had begun attacking the settlers. The majority of the stockade went up in one day, on September 3rd. Luckily there were logs close by that were going to be used to build a church and a road. The settlers hurriedly put the stockade up with about 1200 logs. While his father rode to St. Paul, Jesse, Jr. rode around the county like Paul Revere alerting settlers that the Indians were attacking. Like his father, Jesse, Jr. didn’t look the part of a hero. Meek looking, he could pass for a scholarly professor or a banker. The following day, Jesse, Sr. arrived in St. Paul at 1am, and he delivered his message to Governor Ramsey. Ramsey gave Captain George C. Whitcomb the responsibility along with seventy-five muskets and ammunition. Thirty-one muskets were dropped off in Hutchinson on the 22nd, because the town pleaded for help. Whitcomb arrived in Forest City on the 23rd. He knew the Indians were preparing to ambush Captain Strout's troops, so on September 2nd, he asked for volunteer scouts to warn Strout. Three men, Jesse V. Branham, Jr., Thomas G. Holmes, and Albert H. Sperry, stepped forward. The volunteers encountered Indians the next day. A fight started. Jesse, Jr. stopped to reload his rifle and was shot in the chest. The bullet passed through his lungs, and came out his back. He never fell and he was able to walk instead to his team of horses and go for help. A doctor was summoned after Jesse collapsed at a farmhouse. “I can do nothing for this man,” the doctor said, after taking one look at Jesse. “Make him as comfortable as you can. He’ll be dead in three hours.” Obviously, he was wrong. Jesse, Jr. lived long enough to become Litchfield, Minnesota’s first mayor and also see his son, Hiram S. Branham, become the mayor of Litchfield in 1889.

On September 4th, in the darkness just after midnight and prior to their attack that day, the Sioux sneaked up on the Forest City stockade corral to take the horses so that the settlers would be trapped inside the fort. They had no problem accomplishing their task except for Peter Lund’s Indian pony, which shied away from the Indians and started making noise. Finally it bolted out of the corral and headed for the gate of the stockade where an aroused sentry let the horse inside. Thus, Lund’s pony was the only horse the settlers had during the attack until help later arrived. About two hundred Indians attacked around 3am and were driven off in a couple of hours. There were four dead braves and only two wounded whites in the stockade. They were Aslog Olson and William Branham. A state of siege existed at the stockade for ten days following. No one could come or go and the provisions inside were meek. A young man risked his life running through the Indian camp to return to his home for a sack of flour. Surprisingly, he made it back to the stockade. Finally, on September 15th, Company B of the 8th Minnesota Volunteer Regiment came and the Indians scattered.

On September 28th, the Battle of Wood Lake, the turning point of the war against the Indians, took place. From that point on, the Indians were the pursued, not the pursuers, and they were quickly overwhelmed by the Minnesota troops. Little Crow escaped to Winnipeg, Canada, where he tried to get the British to give him help.

Over time, the stockade disappeared from a combination of the elements and the desire for building logs or fire wood for surrounding settlers. On September 12, 1976, a restored Forest City stockade was dedicated in a grand ceremony and it is now open to the public. In the book Terry Tales, an account is told of how the ghosts of the Indians killed near the stockade still linger on their nearby sacred hunting ground, now called Indian Ghost Hill, where they will push your car, while it is in neutral, UP a hill and away from their land, having the last say on the matter of whose land it is." The following is a list of those who defended the Forest CityStockade in September 1862 who were mustered in on August 24,1862 (names noted w/*) and known as the 'Meeker County Volunteers' by August 28, 1862. G. C. Whitcomb claimed to be captain of thegroup by the captains commission issued by Colonel H. H. Sibley to send 75 Springfield muskets with him (31 were dropped off in
Hutchinson, who too were in dire need.)

*ATKINSON, J. B. - Sheriff & County Commissioner - Never left Forest City -Elected 1st Lieutenant
*BRANHAM, JESSIE V, JR - Idea to build stockade at Forest City - Scout with Captain Strout when shot and injured near Acton September 3rd
*BRANHAM, JESSIE V, SR - rode 100 miles to get military aidin Sioux uprising.
*BRANHAM, WILLIAM H/A - Elected 1st Sergeant - Guard watch the night of attack - Wounded during counterattack on Forest City
*CHAPIN, E A - County Commissioner
*COBB, JESSE F - Forage Detail
*DANIELSON, NELS - Injured in the attack - Secured north side during attack
*DART, CHANCEY - Guard watch the night of attack and gave warning shot
*GIBBONS, OLIVER - Forage Detail
*GORTON, MILTON - Never left Forest City
*GOULD, FREEMAN L/G - Elected Fourth Sergeant
*GRAYSON, THOMAS - Never left Forest City
*HARVEY, JAMES M - County Auditor - Never left Forest City - Elected 5th Sergeant - Quarter Master Commission on August 28th - hero during Indian outbreak
*HEATH, A F - Elected 1st Corporal
*HILL, H J - Elected 2nd Corporal
*HOWE, H S - Elected 2nd Sergeant
*HOYT, AZRO B/ALONZ B - Elected 8th Sergeant
*HUTCHINS, SAMUEL - Elected Fourth Corporal
*JEWETT, T C (Carlos/Charles) - Register of Deeds - Never Left Forest City - Elected Third Corporal
*MCGRAW, DANIEL - Elected Third Sergeant
*NELSON, ANDREW - Guard watch the night of attack
*OLSON, ASLOG - Secured north side of stockade during attack - wounded during counterattack
*RALSTON, R B - Elected 6th Corporal
*REEF, EMANUEL M - (Gottlip?) - Stock Guard
*SHOLES, GEORGE S, SR - Never left Forest City
*SKINNER, THOMAS H - Never left Forest City
*SMITH, ABNER COMSTOCK - Judge of Probate - Never left Forest City
*SMITH, HENRY L - Never Left Forest City - Guard watch the night of attack - Fired First Return shot at the Indians
*SMITH, LORY (Louis?)
*STANTON, JUDSON A - Clerk Of Court - Never Left Forest City - Forage Detail
*STEVENS, HAMLET - Never Left Forest City - Elected 2nd Lieutenant - Guard watch the night of attack and gave warning shot
*STEVENS, SYLVESTER - Never Left Forest City - Guard watch the night of attack
*TOWLER, WM - Never left Forest City - Stock Guard
*WHITCOMB, GEORGE C - Treasurer of Meeker Co 1862, rode from the Forest City Fort to Carver & took a boat to St Paul to sound the alarm of the attack Aug 22-3, before Jessie Branham did the same thing.
*WHITE, N H - Elected 7th Sergeant

Brief note of events: August 18th, 1862 - news of the Acton Massacre reached Forest City and within the hour, A. C. Smith, J. B Atkinson, Milton Gorton, and a few others headed for Acton, held an inquest, and upon return to Forest City appeared that 'the whole community was in a panic'.

August 19th, 1862 - news of the outbreak on the Minnesota River arrives and A. C. Smith prepares a dispatch to the Governor, asking for good guns and ammunition.

August 20th, 1862 - At 6am, sends his message to Governor Ramsey with Jesse V. Branham Sr, the only volunteer of 600 people assembled to deliver the message.

August 21st, 1862 - At 1am, the message is delivered to Governor Ramsey, who then found George Whitcomb in Saint Paul and gave him the responsibility with 75 muskets and ammunition. Between the 18th and nightfall, 98 teams, mostly double, have left Forest City east to Clearwater, most teams having between five and twelve people with as much goods as they could pack in a moments haste.

August 22nd, 1862 - 72 more teams left Forest City.

August 23rd, 1862 - At 11am, Whitcomb arrives in Forest City by way of Hutchinson and finds almost everyone had deserted Forest City, and decision was made by the ones who 'Never left Forest City' to stay and save what was worth saving.

August 24th, 1862 - a military organization was started, with people coming back after placing family with loved ones elsewhere.The first mission was to go to Kingston on this day and round up horses to use, which they rounded up 33.

August 25th, 1862 - 27 men set out west for Monongalia County (northern Kandiyohi County) in pursuit of Indians, but buried sevenpeople, and passed by ruins of three dwellings and a number of mutilated cattle. This expediation returned August 27th, 1862.

August 27th, 1862 - 11 men left west to the Manannah-Union Grove area to obtain stoves, bedding, provisions and stock, stoppedat Wilmot Maybee's home and had dinner, then to Carlos Caswells,where plans were made to spend the night so they left a yoke of cattle, and proceeded to Silas Caswell's house and put bedding and provisions into the Maybee two horse wagon. At this time, David Hoar, Chancey Wilson, Moody Caswell, Thomas Ryckman, James Nelson, N.C. Caswell, and R.D.C. Cressy set out to recover all the stock they could. Wilmot Maybee and Joseph Page, in Maybee's team, and Phillip Deck and Linus Howe, in Deck's one-horse team, approached the Carlos Caswell residence again, but approximately 15 Indians were waiting, hidden behind a pile of lumber, and shot Page out of the wagon, Deck and Howe were shot at and killed within 350 feet, and Maybee, who ran his team 700 feet before getting cut off, left the team and ran for 500 feet before he was killed. Wilson and Ryckman were close at hand but could not render assistance as their weapons were in the wagons. The party returned to Forest City via Main Prairie, thinking it a safer route, that evening.

August 28th, 1862 - 24 men under Lieutenant Atkinson went to the Manannah Massacre scene to bury the dead (three of the four - Maybee was not found until the following spring).

August 30th, 1862 - 24 men started for Hutchinson for the 31 guns left there by Whitcomb, but seeing they still needed them, came back August 31st without them.

September 1st, 1862 - 17 men and some citizens started for Green Lake on the word there was a family on an island (Green Lake has no islands) but turned back at Swede Grove after a skirmish with the Indians, which two Indians were reportedly killed and soldier Sam Hutchins hit in thigh with a musket ball.

September 2nd, 1862 - 20 soldiers and 20 citizens set out onthe same mission as the day before, when again they retreated at thesite of approximately three dozen Indians. During the flight back,O. B. Todd was injured as someone's gun accidentally discharged.

September 3rd, 1862 - The Forest City Stockade was built by planting a double row of logs on end, three feet into the ground andten feet protruding out, approximately 120 feet square.

September 4th, 1862 - 250 Indians appeared at 3am, and findingthe stockade, resorted to burning, random shooting and stealing horses which had not been secured yet. Ten to Twelve Indians were reportedly killed, and one soldier injured, one barn and six houses belonging to Wm Richardson, Milton Gorton, James P. Howlett, Dudley Taylor, A. B. Hoyt, William Richards, and A. C Smith burned.September 15th, 1862 - Captain Pettit's Company B 8th Regiment arrived as the first military organization to help in Meeker County.

October 15th, 1862 - The Volunteers disbanded by Governor Ramsey.

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