Text excerpted from The Meeker REA Pioneer, October 1975.
Reprinted from the Tri-County News, Thursday, Sept. 18, 2003.
Forest City has a rich historical background. It was first visited by the white man in 1855. The beauty of the landscape along the Crow River enticed many of the early settlers to make Forest City and the surrounding area their new home.
As the new settlers arrived in 1856, they took up claims, erected log cabins, and began clearing the land.
There are a lot of “firsts” in Forest City town and township:
The first white child born in Meeker County was Sarah Jane Dougherty. She was born
July 15, 1856, in a covered wagon in the village of Forest City while her parents, Mr. and Mrs. James Dougherty were en route to Harvey Township.
The first steam power saw mill was built near the village of Forest City in 1858.
James B. Atkinson opened the first store and hotel in Meeker County in March 1856, which was located at Forest City.
J.A. Baird opened the first brick yard in Meeker County for a brief period in 1858. This also was located in Forest City.
The first post office in Meeker County was established at Forest City in 1856 with Walter C. Bacon as postmaster.
The first newspaper in Meeker County, The News, was published in Forest City in 1868 by Frank Belfy.
The Forest City Stockade and its surrounding buildings were located in the SE 1/4 of section 17, Forest City Township. The stockade furnished security and safety to hundreds of citizens of Meeker County during the Sioux Indian Uprising in 1862.
The Acton Massacre took place on Aug. 17, 1862, when five white people were killed by the Indians. They were: Robinson Jones, Ann Baker Jones, Howard Baker, Vironus Webster, and Clara D. Wilson.
The stockade was hurriedly constructed on Sept. 3, 1862. It was erected in one day by the entire force of Home Guards and citizens. It was 120 feet square, in the form of a parallelogram, and was made of a double row of logs on end, planted about three feet in the ground projecting upward about 10 feet. Bastions on the corners, firing steps, and numerous loop holes through the timbers afforded ample means for sweeping down its assailants and gave shelter to the marksmen from the bullets of the savages.
Between 2 and 3 a.m. that next morning, Sept. 4, 1862, a large band of Sioux warriors were seen approaching. Three men were on guard that night. These sentinels sounded the alarm by firing their guns in the air. The sentinels were pursued by the savages with blood-curdling war whoops and gunfire, but reached the stockade in safety, as did all the occupants of the hotel and surrounding houses. But in their hurry, they neglected to remove the horses that were quartered in the hotel stable and the bulk of the ammunition, which was stored in the Stanton store.
Much to the surprise of this horde of savages, the walls of the stockade loomed before them. They did not attack this well-armed barrier but contented themselves with the burning of five or more buildings and seizing and driving off 65 horses.
About 5 o’clock that same morning, the Indians departed, dividing into three groups, one going toward Manannah, another in the direction of Greenleaf by the south road, and the third group going the Darwin (then called Rice City) road.
Information gathered from the Indians after the Outbreak indicated that Little Crow, their military leader, had planned a campaign that he hoped would drive the whites east of the Mississippi River. Little Crow had acquired a supply of rifles and ammunition from unknown sources, and he called his lieutenants together for instruction and had planned to take allotments due the Indians under treaty to purchase supplies with the money, and then attack. Ordinarily, the allotments arrived early in July. But the allotments in 1862 had not arrived by August 17.
Many Indian hunting parties roamed over what is now Meeker County in search of food because these allotments had not come through. It is believed that it was such a group that got out of hand and killed the Jones and Baker families.
The Massacre at Acton upset Little Crow’s plans of waiting for the allotment and supply of food, and he proceeded to attack the settlements in the Minnesota Valley.
There was no movement in force to attack and drive out people in this area until Sept. 4, 1862, when the attack was made on Forest City by an undetermined number of Indians.
Forest City and its stockade became a garrison town for several months following the attack of September 4.
A number of troops stopped at Forest City from Sept. 9, 1862, to May 1863. They were all volunteer regiments that were being organized by the state, most of whom received their basic training at Fort Snelling.
On Sept. 9, 1862, a part of the 3rd Regiment of the Minnesota Volunteer Infantry spent a night in Forest City on the way to the Minnesota River to protect that area from the Indians.
Company B of the 8th Regiment arrived in Forest City on Sept. 15, 1862. They were joined by
Company C of the 6th Regiment on Sept. 22, 1862. Company C stayed until Feb. 26, 1863, and Company B remained until April 26, 1863.
Two days before they left,
April 24, 1863, a detachment of the 9th Regiment arrived and occupied the Stockade and remained until late summer.
By this time the Indians had ceased to be a menace to the growing community.
P.J. Casey wrote this bit in regard to the demise of the stockade: “Nothing definite is recorded as to the ultimate removal of the stockade, but we may speculate that time, the elements, and the desire for dry firewood accomplished that which the Indians were unable to accomplish.”Even though it has become only a part of the history of our county, it served the purpose for which it was built, and without doubt, its presence changed the entire history of the Indian Wars.”
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Monday, May 27, Memorial Day brings recollections of many of our hometown boys who fought for the freedom America enjoys. Their courage and honor will endure for all time. We are grateful for the opportunity this Memorial Day weekend offers to remember and appreciate the bravery of all our military then and now.
Two events are coming in June, so keep watching this column for details of interest.
Kimball’s Historical Society’s mission is to share the stories and the relevance of our area’s founding. We do this by working to connect with the people, events and objects of history.
One of our charter members presents the Kimball History to Kimball sixth-graders, Friday,
May 17, complete with historic Knaus jerky samples, prizes, and once-in-a-lifetime program we provide at the Kimball Elementary School.
Thanks to Mariella Arnold for her time, teaching skills and passion for youth and history. She’s been presenting these for
It’s not too late to join or renew memberships and for more information about this, or column contributions, or to the permanent society collection, any questions on all of the above, feel free to contact the Kimball Area Historical Society at Box 55, Kimball MN 55353, phone (320) 398-5250, or 5743, e-mailkimballhistory@
meltel.net. We look forward to hearing from you.
Village of Forest City and Stockade, 1862. 1) Robinson; 2) Hoyt; 3) Heath; 4) A.C. Smith’s Shop; 6) Mallory; 7) Taylor; 8) Blacksmith Shop; 9) Welles; 10) U.S. Land Office; 11) Shoemaker Shop; 12) Hotel Barn; 13) Atkinson Hotel; 14) Atkinson’s General Store; 15) Hamlet Stevens; 16) School House; 17) T.C. Jewett; 18) Stockade.