Tricounty News

Snapshots from the fort



copyright; 2012, Duane Stanley

What I wouldn't give for a few true photo snapshots of the fort! But, of course, none exist. We can only create a few mental snapshots from the descriptions of various writers who recalled their experiences.

"The first Saturday, Reverend or Elder Brooks came riding to the fort on a very tired-looking pony. Elder Brooks was the Methodist circuit rider for that upper country with his home in St. Anthony. He was very much disturbed when he reached us, as he had found not one in the homes for many miles around and he feared the whole settlement had been killed.... He was very thankful when he found we were all safe in the fort. He stayed with us that night taking a place with the guards under the eaves. The next forenoon, all being quiet he held service. That was a service never to be forgotten. The weirdness of the situation and intense excitement and the horrible fear the people were passing through made a very impressive scene. Elder Brooks stood at one side of the fort with his gun and Bible lying side by side on a box in front of him. The Bible, his weapon for those inside; and his gun cocked and ready for the foe outside should the place be attacked. Men, women and children were grouped around him, sitting on boxes trunks or on the floor. The men with their guns ready for action while above them at the four corners, stood the guards, with guns, watching and ready to give us warning should the Indians be seen coming." (Mary Greely Street)

"While [the fort] was being constructed, Brother Joe was stopping at a neighbor's each night. One time he was awakened by the noise of horses' hoofs coming up to the log house where he was staying. He got up and leaned out of the window and saw some ponies with packs on their backs but no riders in evidence. It was afterward decided that the 'packs' were Indians lying flat on their saddles scouting to learn if the white settlers were preparing to resist them." (Julia Frost)

"One day as [Richard Vandervoort] was returning from Elk River, driving through a grove of popples, he heard a strange noise, and looking up to the spot from which the sound proceeded, he saw a black bear cub, aged about six months. To Dick's surprise he found the cub was dragging a chain which was fastened around his neck and had become entangled and wrapped around the trunk of a tree, so the runaway was securely fastened. Dick released the captive and found he was at least partially tame, so he put him under the buggy seat and drove on. When he reached our house, he drove up in front and announced that he had found a 'b'ar'.... When the fort was built Dick and his bear were two of the first occupants. The latter was growing fatter and elder all the time, and alas, crosser, too. He used to chase the children in the fort out to the length of his chain. When he one day tore Rosamond's little dress they thought it was time to do away with Dick's 'b'ar,' and so he was slaughtered and his meat was sold to the refugees in the fort-a fine, tender treat." (Julia Frost)

When the walls and roof were finished, "each family was allotted a sleeping space. The dividing partition between families consisted often of only a chalk mark upon the floor. These slender and inadequate partitions occasionally led to ludicrous and sometimes serious blunders. A weary guard who had been relieved of picket-duty at midnight, would quietly enter the fort and relying upon his knowledge of the locations of his own family's allotted space upon the second floor, would undertake to find it in the dark. The next morning's light might find him located two or three blocks away from his own, and in the vicinity of some other man's wife. It sometimes took a long time to satisfactorialy explain to his wife and the woman's husband." (E.H. Atwood)

"Little shanties to cook in were erected 40 to 60 rods from the fort and were occupied by one, two of more families during the day." (E.H. Atwood) When the settlers went to the fort at Maine Prairie, grandmother [Mary Ann Stanley] wouldn't live inside where the families were separated only by blankets etc. so they built her a house outside-she was the only woman that would go out with the men to harvest the crop. She cooked for the men. (Don Petty Stanley)

"A young Swede girl, whose father, mother, brother and sister had been butchered before her eyes and who had been kept by the Indians and brutally outraged before she made her escape, came to the fort and was kindly cared for by the Maine Prairie mothers, being afterwards sent to Clear-water where she had friends. It is not surprising that, with such experiences as these, many people came to believe that 'the only good Indian was a dead Indian.'" (Wm. Mitchell)

"A man calling himself 'Captain' came to the fort, and confiscated some horses, grain and provisions, in the name of the State or some other authority. They might have been of great help to the people, but their undisciplined actions and wild behavior made them obnoxious. They were called the 'Water Melon Brigade,' on account of their many raids upon the water melon patches." (E.H. Atwood) "Our folks told us of the raw recruits, called the militia [assigned by the military to help provide security to the settlements], sent out to guard the fort, but the boys called them instead 'watermelon thieves' because of their unbounded appetite for melons and the fact that the most they did was to rob the melon patches of the settlers." (Julia Frost)

"There were many occasions of merriment; many laughable incidents, many pleasant hours, and, among the younger lads and lassies, many a tender look and action that were the first seeds that soon ripened into a closer union of soul to soul. No doubt, the peril that surrounded them made many a young man vow to sell his life dearly, should it ever be necessary, in defense of the young lady walking by his side; and the proud bearing and brave demeanor of her young escort would tend to soften the heart of the most obdurate maiden. Oh, there is nothing like a common danger, and a common cause to bring the hearts of brave men and women to beat in unison." (E.H. Atwood)

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1913 "News of the day, orphan children arrive in

Stearns County," was the theme of renowned speaker Bill Morgan Tuesday, Sept. 25. If you were there, Dr. Morgan lived up to his historian/author/column writer/teaching reputation with enough detail to reach us all. Decendents of orphan train riders were in the audience and added a special touch to this wonderful evening. Thank you for coming. We are so proud to present such gifted story tellers. Whenever you hear Bill Morgan is coming to town, be sure to come join us again.

Next, we proudly present Duane Stanley with "Moccasins on Maine Prairie" and his new, fresh version about the very Kimball area whose history we treasure. Whether you've studied Kimball area history or not, you will not regret Duane Stanley's unique true story on the earliest pioneers, who just happened to be his ancestors. It's at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 23, Kimball's historic City Hall. It's also the special annual meeting.

Last 2012 Board of Directors Meeting is at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 6, in Kimball City Hall.

Watch for even more events coming in October and November. Still hearing and appreciating the All School Reunion comments this society hosted. Truly a 2012 event of the year, all of you made happen by attending. Well worth a year of planning involved. For new or renewed membership, adding your story, photos, information for our permanent collection, let us know. The Kimball Area Historical Society contact is Box 55, Kimball MN 55353, or phone (320) 398-5250, (320) 398-5743, or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . And you can also find us on Facebook.

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Reunions: Great Memories of Rich Conversations