April 25, 2020 by Pamela Nowak
Over the past few weeks, I’ve shared a bit about the families who lived at Lake Shetek, their histories, my research into them, and the characters I created. But, I’ve also left some holes in what I revealed. After all, I want to encourage you to read the book.
On August 20, 1862, there were nine families residing at the Lake Shetek settlement, stretched around a mile apart along the eastern shore. I highlighted five in NEVER LET GO but there were four other families as well as bachelors at the lake. My research into these settlers was not as detailed but I did learn a bit about them.
Prior to families settling at the lake, there were a number of bachelors, mostly trappers, who erected small shacks where they stayed temporarily when trapping there. Most came and went and little is know of them but their names and that they frequented the lake in the mid-1850s. Hoel (Joel, Noel) Parmlee (one of these bachelors) wrote to Dr. Workman that there had once been a government trading post at the lake but no other accounts confirm that. It may be that there clusters of trappers who gathered to trade or that the building was one built by the survey tam that came through the area. At any rate, there were buildings and native trails in the area that show up on hand drawn maps. Several of these were located near the Duley and Eastlick cabins.
My information on these early bachelors was taken from recollections in the Workman Papers. Jacques was said to be either an early trapper or an outlaw who (with his gang) used the lake as a hide-out (accounts vary). Some accounts say he was a known horse thief who his stolen horses on the island while others claimed he had a shack near where the Duleys settled and often lived with Dakota who had left the Redwood area. Workman reported there were two Jacques (Bill and John) and that John was hung by the American Anti-Horse thief Association in 1882 or 1883, after being caught near the Iowa line.
Macabee was an old trapper who had a little shanty and lived on the island. LaBousche was a half-breed trapper. Bennett also trapped at the lake. Few of the settlers recalled much about these men.
A family named Ingalls (not Laura Ingalls) consisting of a widowed man and his daughters lived in the Saratoga area and the Brown family once had a claim on the island but abandoned it prior to the other families arriving.
A few bachelors were still at the lake when the families began to settle. Parmlee came as a trapper but had taken a claim and built a cabin. He lived at the lake for a few years in the late 1850s. He left the lake in early 1862 and the Irelands took over his claim. Edgar Bentley boarded with the Myers family. Bill Jones came to the lake with the Hurds and planned to move west with them. He traveled to Dakota Territory with Phin Hurd in the spring of 1862. A.A. Rhodes came to the lake just prior to the attack and was staying with the Eastlicks.
E.G. Koch (no relation to Andreas and Christina) and Voigt came to Lake Shetek in 1861. They planned to open a trading post at the north end of the lake and had negotiated with Phin Hurd for the purchase of his place. E.G. Koch later settled in New Ulm. Voigt was very disliked by the local Dakota and was said to have fired at the feet of a Dakota woman. He was the first person killed during the attack.
The Lamb family (George and Laura and their children) lived briefly at the lake. Laura was Julia Wright’s sister and George was a trapper. They lived in the Wright cabin. By August 1862, the Lambs had moved to a settlement to the east. Olive Myers was boarding with them at the time of the attack.
The Myers family (Aaron and Mary and their children Louisa, Arthur, Olive—who was boarding with the Lambs in August 1862, Fred, and Abby lived at the north end of the lake. There is debate over exactly where their cabin was located. Aaron Myers was known for his herbal remedies and “doctored” many of the Dakota in the area. Thus he had a good relationship with most of them. Aaron Myers moved west from New York, and lived in Polk County, Wisconsin, along the St. Croix River. He indicated he read about the Dakota Land Company and moved west with eleven others to settle around Yankton in Dakota Territory. En route, the party met a group returning from that area with news that it was too unsettled and there were fears of the Sioux. Myers then chose to settle at a Dakota Land Company townsite on the Cottonwood River, called Saratoga. The family lived there for a few years during which the population (never large) dwindled, the decided to move to Lake Shetek. Myers indicated he traded with the local Dakota, treated their illnesses and injuries, and considered the settlement to have a good relationship with them.
Around 6:00 a.m. on the day of the attack, Myers noticed a group of Dakota riding through his fields. He’d been up most of the night tending his ill wife. When he reminded the group that he’d always been a friend to them, they left. The Myers family was not further bothered and did not know of the attack on the settlement until the oldest boy, Arthur, went to borrow bread from the Kochs and found Andreas dead and the house ransacked. The family packed up goods in the wagon, loaded Mrs. Myers, and departed to the east. The family successfully escaped though Mrs. Myers died of pneumonia. Aaron Myers remained responsive to interviews with Workman and newspaper reporters throughout his life. His account was especially useful in that he referenced the time, which confirmed the “around sunrise” time cited by Charlie Hatch for the launch of events. Via online sites, one can now look up the time of sunrise on historical dates.
There is little information on Henry Watson (Wat) Smith and his wife Sophia. They were among the earliest settlers at the lake (Wat always claimed they were the first), choosing a spot near Beauty (now Smith) Lake toward the south end around 1855. The side room was said to have been a shack built by one of the transient trappers who had frequented the lake prior to the settlement. Wat was 42 at the time of the attack, Sophia was 37. Wat survived, deserting his wife to run eastward as the attack in the slough began; Sophia did not survive. Most of the other survivors reported a low opinion of Wat.
In 1863, Wat married Lavina Eastlick but the couple was married only a short while before seeking a divorce. Divorce records stated Wat claimed Lavina was interested only in traveling to promote her book while she claimed he would not support her.
The Irelands came to Lake Shetek with the Eastlicks in November of 1861. Thomas Ireland (Uncle Tommy) was born in 1812 and moved to Pennsylvania soon after his birth. As a teen, he ran away to Indiana where he married Sarah Harrison and had seven children together. After being widowed, he moved to Illinois where he married Sophia Waters and had a second family: Roseanne, Ellen (Nellie), Sarah, and Julianne. It was there that they met the Eastlicks. Together, the families moved to Olmstead County, Minnesota and then to Lake Shetek.
Tommy Ireland was known for his robust health and his survival, after walking 75 miles, despite his multiple injuries was considered miraculous. Ellen and Roseanne were among the captives; the remaining family died in the slough. Ellen married Albert Hotaling and died in Mankato in 1946. Rose died in 1936 in Missoula, Montana as Mrs. Van Alstine. Tommy Ireland married Sally Haddock after the attack. He later married Sarah Underwood Ridgeway. Tommy died in Mankato in 1897.
The Everetts lived at the south end of the lake. William Everett was partnering with Duley in a mill near the outlet to the Des Moines River; he was 31. His wife, Almira, was born in Ohio and was 29. They had three children at the time of the attack: Ablillian (Lillie), age 6; Willie, age 5, and Charlie, age 2. William Everett was left for dead but survived; Lillie was among the captives. They were reunited in Fort Dodge, Iowa. William died in Oakland, California in 1992; Lillie died there in 1923.
Charlie Hatch was Almira’s 25-year-old brother who arrived at the lake the same day Phin Hurd and Bill Jones departed for Dakota Territory. He was born in Ohio, raised in Wisconsin, and planned to stake his own claim near the lake. On the day of the attack, Charlie was en route to borrow oxen from the Hurd homestead to help erect the mill when he saw the cabin had been attacked and sounded the alarm to the other settlers. Charlie survived being wounded four times, enlisted in the Union Army and served until the Civil War ended. He them moved to Wisconsin, married Hattie Briggs. The couple later farmed near Huntly, Minnesota. A few years before his death in 1907, Charlie moved to Tappan, North Dakota. He actively shared the story of the Lake Shetek events via interviews throughout his life.
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As I count down to my July 2020 release of NEVER LET GO, I’ll be posting weekly blogs about the history of Lake Shetek, the Dakota Conflict or the people and cultures involved. Or, I may touch on the writing process or interesting tidbits included in the novel.
For more details on the novel, please visit my HOME page.