Column: Monument's dedication brought excitement in '25WORTHINGTON — January. Minnesota. Cold. Indoors. It is a time for playing games. I have a guessing game.
By: Ray Crippen, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — January. Minnesota. Cold. Indoors.
It is a time for playing games.
I have a guessing game. Guess what event stirred this excitement in southwest Minnesota in the summer of 1925?
“As nearly as could be estimated by people accustomed to such events, over 15,000 people gathered Sunday … prominent in the ceremonies were Gov. Theodore Christianson and Congressman Frank B. Clague. …
“Music for the occasion was furnished by (two area community bands).
“Over 5,000 automobiles were parked in the vicinity … the large pasture to the south being a veritable sea of motor tops, while every available nook and cranny not restricted to growing crops within a mile and a half was jammed to capacity and the narrow road from the … highway was lined for its entire length.
“It must have been hours before the last machine to leave the grounds reached the gravel road, as the earliest cars to depart were a full forty minutes in making a distance of less than two miles, so great was the jam. …”
What are your guesses? You think Charlie Chaplin was paying a visit to — oh, Luverne? You think President Coolidge stopped at Jackson on his way to a Black Hills vacation? You think Mae West was doing a show at Adrian?
Not even close. The focus of this fender-to-fender, cheek-to-cheek crowd was the dedication of the Lake Shetek monument, a stone pillar northeast of Currie which (perhaps) most southwest Minnesota residents have rolled past at one time or another and which commemorates the Minnesota/Dakota War of 1862. As focus on the 150th anniversary of the U.S. Civil War continues, it is a fitting time to recall this area’s three monuments to events from that era.
The Lake Shetek pillar actually marks a gravesite. In October 1862, the bones of 15 white settlers who were killed in August — six adults and nine children — were buried in a grave 10 feet long, four feet wide and four feet deep. One of the remains, a boy of 12 (or 13) years, is unknown.
We have to wonder if a Sunday afternoon ceremony dedicating a granite pillar would attract a similar crowd in our time. The dedication of a monument at Mankato last month, which commemorates the hanging of 38 Dakota men, did not attract nearly as great a throng. Well, people in the 1925 crowd were closer to the event. Sixty-three years distant. Some in the crush might still have remembered reports from that frightening time.
One of the great stories from what is remembered as the Lake Shetek Massacre is the story of John and Lavina Eastlick and their five boys, Merton, 11; Freddy, 4; Frank; Giles; and Johnny, 15 months. John, the father, Freddy, Frank and Giles all were killed during the Dakota attack. The mother led her two living sons cross-country 50 miles to New Ulm — Merton carried his brother Johnny the entire distance.
The Ashley Park monument at Jackson was dedicated 16 years before the Lake Shetek monument. The stone shaft at Jackson (which began as Springfield) commemorates two attacks on settlers, the 1857 attack on the Springfield site and the 1862 attack in Belmont Township. It pillar cost $2,000 and was paid for by the State of Minnesota.
The 1857 attack was led by Inkpaduta, the favorite villain of southwest Minnesota and northwest Iowa. Histories tend to neglect that the thing that launched Inkpaduta on a life-long pursuit of vengeance was the murder of his older brother, Sidominadotah, and six other members of the family, by Henry Lott, a horse thief. The prosecuting attorney hung Sidominadotah’s head on a pole above his house.
Inkpaduta led his band in battles several times, including the battle with George Custer at the Little Bighorn.
The 55-foot stone obelisk at Arnolds Park, built by the State of Iowa in 1895, is a monument to the settlers killed in that region in 1857. Thirty-eight died. The monument is also a grave marker for some of these victims.
Best known of the survivors is Abigail Gardner ,who was carried off as a hostage/slave and who wrote a book about her experiences. The Abbie Gardner cabin is toured by visitors almost daily during the Arnolds Park summer season.
Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.