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"History of Eau Claire County Wisconsin, 1914, Past and Present"


Chapter  22

Reign of Terror in Eau Claire

(-as transcribed from pages 379 - 380 )


Early in August, 1862, bands of the Sioux Indians fell upon New Ulm and other towns in Minnesota, murdering men, women and children, and sending terror into every settlement. Stories of these deeds were widely spread and magnified until the atmosphere was laden with terror and tidings of danger sent abroad without reason. In the early morning of the last Sunday of this month a dense fog rested upon the Chippewa Valley, and many whose nerves were shaken with vague fears fancied that they saw savages lurking in the woods. The whole country became panic stricken, the wildest tales were believed, "a thousand of the fiends lurked in the big swamp and on the Chippewa bottoms," in short, all through the valley. The farmers around the town gathered here, bringing additional stories of savages in ambush, smoke rising from burning houses, etc. The churches were quickly emptied, a committee of safety was appointed, and women and children assembled in Marston's Hall, which was chosen as a fort of defense on the east side, while the home of O. H. Ingram served the same purpose on the west side of the river. W. P. Bartlett bore the rank of major, having received his commission from the governor previously, but he agreed with the citizens in the choice of a tried soldier as leader. This proved to be E. R. Hantzsch, a gallant follower of walker in his expedition against Nicaragua in 1855. He organized and drilled his forces, armed them with rifles, pitchforks, scythes and spades, sent out patrols to guard the streets and scouting parties to watch for the foe, and did all that valor, experience and zeal could put forth against the real and imminent danger.

The few hotels as well as the improvised forts were filled with women and children who had thronged in from the country for miles around. The day passed, citizens and refugees alike were forcibly alive to sounds which might mean attack from the dreaded Indians. At nightfall mothers hushed their children to sleep and longed for daybreak. Valorous citizens of every rank, profession or trade, were at their stations of defense, with pike pole, axe and shotgun listening for the stealthy tread of the wily Sioux. But at sunrise the cheerful mien of the brave defenders proved that the foe had existed only in the imaginations of excited minds, refugees returned to their deserted homes, village housewives replenished their pantry shelves, which had been freely emptied to feed the invading hosts, and returned to customary duties with thankful heart - the valley settled down to its wanted calm - and "the Indian scare" became an idle tale to furnish amusement in days to come.

Mr. Thomas McBean has to say in regard to an article published in a neighboring newspapers wherein Mr. Warren L. Bradshaw, of Durand, mentioned an incident which occurred in the lower Chippewa Valley, in which the Chippewa and Sioux Indians met in conflict near Chippewa Falls and three Chippewas were scalped. "It calls to my mind," says Mr. McBean, "that when I came to Chippewa in 1856 the talk was still fresh of a fight between the Chippewas and the Sioux on the bluff across from the Chippewa river from the Blue Mills (no Lake Hallie) that occurred in the fall of 1855. At that time and for years before the big woods over on the Menomonie was the dividing line between the hostile Chippewas and the Sioux. 'Thus far thou shalt come but no farther,' was the war cry, although they fought wherever they met. On this occasion a band of Sioux crossed the 'dead line' and were met by a band of Chippewas on the Chippewa Bluff, and an all day fight in the woods and brush took place. Who were victorious it was hard to tell, for as night came on the Sioux decamped for a 'Happier hunting ground.' The Chippewas came to the Falls with the mangled remains of their Sioux left on the field of battle, and as the braves marched back, around their necks hung the trophies of war; some had a head, some an arm, others a leg and different parts of the anatomy decorated the valiant warriors. That night a big war dance was held over by the big mill, bonfires were lit, the tom-toms brought into play, and the night was spent in a grand pow-wow. This, it is said, was the last fight that took place between the Chippewas and the Sioux on Wisconsin soil."

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