Column: Missing The Big One, 109 years ago
Editor's note: Former longtime Daily Globe Editor Ray Crippen died Dec. 27, 2015. We will continue to publish previously run “Isn’t That Something” columns on Saturdays, until further notice, as a tribute to Crippen and his knowledge of local and regional history. The following column first appeared Sept. 22, 2007.
WORTHINGTON — What’s the difference between reporting for a newspaper and going fishing?
If you go fishing, if you toss in your line from the Lake Okabena grade and if you miss The Big One — if a two-pound crappie turns up his nose at your minnow and simply swims past you on his way to Stony Point — you don’t even know about it.
If you are reporting for the Daily Globe and the Danish Royal Air Force launches a surprise bombing attack on Chautauqua Park and you don’t even know about it, if you go to press without The Big Story, you are in trouble. You never get out of that trouble.
There were some stirrings lately that indicate a Worthington newspaper missed a big story 109 years ago. You see what I mean; the embarrassment never fades.
We have talked before of the American author Hamlin Garland. Many residents of our region read one short story or another by Hamlin Garland while they studied American literature in high school. One of Garland’s short stories is based on a visit to pioneer Worthington.
The link between Hamlin Garland and Worthington is the illustrious Daniel Shell, who established the stage coach line between Worthington and Sioux Falls and who built the Worthington Hotel on 10th Street, at the intersection with Third Avenue.
Daniel Shell’s wife, Samantha, was the sister of Hamlin Garland’s mother, Isabel. Garland came to Worthington every now and again to visit his aunt and uncle, who lived in a large house on the site of what today is the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints.
The year 1898 was a big year for the Shell/Garland families. That was the year Dan Shell was elected to the Minnesota Senate to represent Nobles and Murray counties. It also was the year Hamlin Garland talked with Two Moon along the Rosebud River of Montana and got the clearest story any Indian ever told of the battle at the Little Big Horn and the last hour of Gen. Custer and his 7th Regiment. Perhaps even more than being a writer, Garland brought together a record of American Indian life and culture. If only a Globe reporter had stopped by the Shell house to talk with Hamlin …
Many history writers say the story of Indian losses and Indian deaths in the Custer battle are not known. Here is what Two Moon, a Cheyenne chief, told Garland:
“Next day (after the battle) four Sioux chiefs and two Cheyennes and I, Two Moon, went upon the battlefield to count the dead. One man carried a little bundle of sticks.
“When we came to dead men, we took a little stick and gave it to another man, so we counted the dead. There were 388. There were thirty-nine Sioux and seven Cheyennes killed, and about a hundred wounded.”
What happened at the battle? This is what Two Moon said:
“Indians keep swirling round and round, and the soldiers killed only a few. Many soldiers fell. At last all horses killed but five.
“Once in a while some man would break out and run toward the river, but he would fall. At last about a hundred men and five horsemen stood on the hill all bunched together. All along the bugler kept blowing his commands. He was very brave too. Then a chief was killed. I hear it was Long Hair (Custer), I don’t know; and then five horsemen and the bunch of men, maybe 40, started toward the river.
“The man on the sorrel horse led them, shouting all the time. He wore a buckskin shirt, and had long black hair and mustache. He fought hard with a big knife. His men were all covered with white dust. I couldn’t tell whether they were officers or not.
“One man all alone ran far down toward the river, then round up over the hill. I thought he was going to escape, but a Sioux fired and hit him in the head. He was the last man. He wore braid on his arms (sergeant) …”
This is what Hamlin Garland was telling Uncle Dan and Aunt Samantha. Oh, I wish I had been there. That’s a big story.