Inkpaduta's bloody path in 1856 went through quarries
by Mark Fode, The Pipestone County Star, 10 April 1997
It was this time of year warming temperatures and slow but steady melting of heavy snow cover back in 1857 when the leader of the Red Top band, Inkpaduta, came through the pipestone quarries with four kidnapped white women.
The memoirs of one of the kidnapped women, Miss Abbie Gardner, seems to indicate that she and other women taken from the Okoboji area by hostile Indians were in the area for a day, but Dick Bryan of Pipestone says it is written the party was in Pipestone for "some days," which to him hints at a three or four day stay.
The women were taken from Lake Okoboji area during a murderous rampage by Inkpaduta and a dozen warriors. What set off the incident, in which the group attacked the cabins of settlers in the area killing men, women and children? Bryan says it was likely the murder of Inkpaduta's brother, Sintomniduta, by two white men who were his elk hunting companions. An eyewitness to the crime, Bryan says, claims that Sintomniduta stood to shoot the first elk, and when he did, the two white men shot him. They then decapitated the body, Bryan says.
When Inkpaduta heard of the crime, he was infuriated, even though authorities promised that they would hastily round up and punish the murderers, or even turn them over to the Indian people for punishment. Had this assurance not been given, it is likely that the massacre, which resulted in the deaths of 44 settlers, would have begun earlier in earnest.
Unfortunately, the Minnesota Historical Society notes, the resulting investigation was "turned into a farce and a joke." It is said that prosecuting attorney of Hamilton County in Iowa, Granville Berkley, not only didn't return Sintomniduta's remains to the Indians, but instead nailed the slain man's skull to a pole over his house.
No further attempt was made to apprehend the murderers. By 1856, it was apparent to Inkpaduta that the promises to investigate would not be followed through, and that in fact, the whites never intended to apprehend the murderers. A massacre of white settlers was discussed, the Historical Society notes, in the fall and winter of 1856, and war dances were held to "work up the courage to the proper pitch."
White settlers had hints something bad was going to happen. Joshpatuda, the orphan son of Sintomniduta, had been brought up by a white family since the murder of his parents, and made frequent visits to see Inkpaduta. During one of these visits, he learned of the "murderous intent" of his uncle and tried to warn his white benefactors. "The whites however, paid no heed to reports of peril the Indian youth brought them," the Minnesota Historical Society says. Eventually, this boy, fearing retribution from his own people, fled and was never heard from again.
Inkpaduta's band began its reign of plunder on Feb. 21, 1857, at the home of Almer Bell, where they killed some cattle and plundered the home of provisions. At another nearby residence, they knocked down the wife of A.S. Mead and kidnapped two women. They later released these women.
Immediate cries of protest and fear from white settlers went unheeded by the government. The Historical Society adds that the winter of 1856-57 was "almost the longest hardest ever experienced" in this area. The cold and hunger caused by the huge amounts of snow only tended to heighten the danger for white settlers, it turned out, because Indian people were looking for provisions. The attacks began during these hunts for provisions. Inkpaduta, however, was clearly intent on working his band to a killing point. The small isolated settlement near Lake Okoboji was the best opportunity to begin their massacre. The group first went to Rowland Gardner's home, demanding breakfast. This was given, but the Indians became "ugly and insolent" when the Indian people shot some of Gardner's cattle. Then the band of Indians attacked a group of eight settlers, killing them all. Rowland Gardner was later shot, and his daughter, Abbie, was taken prisoner. Three other women, Mrs. Noble, Mrs. Marble and Abbie Gardner were eventually freed. "Having glutted their vengeance on this little settlement, Inkpaduta and his band repaired to Heron Lake, dragging with them the four women prisoners," the Minnesota Historical Society reports.
The awful tragedy was soon discovered, and the settlers immediately banded together for their own protection. The settlers also dispatched people to Fort Ridgely for help. The messengers left on March 18, and 48 men were dispatched to find Inkpaduta's band, and began the search. In the area of Springfield (now Jackson), two members of Inkpaduta's band appeared at a store, purchasing ammunition. They later killed the store's proprietors, and murdered another family of four people . A battle ensued at a log cabin in the area, and the only Indian death was there reported, when Mrs. Church fired on one of the Indians. Inkpaduta and his band journeyed westward. Part of this escape was through the Pipestone quarries, Abbie Gardner reports in a book: "our journey led through the famous pipestone quarry, in Pipestone county," Miss Gardner wrote. "It is situated on a small tributary of the Big Sioux, called Pipestone creek. The surface of the country is broken and picturesque, abounding in bluffs and cliffs. But its principal attraction, of course, is a layer of peculiar and beautiful rock, highly prized by the Indians and no doubt valuable to the whites."
Miss Gardner's account includes a more detailed eyewitness account of the quarry grounds, 140 years prior to today. Her account describes the rock and the connection of the quarries to Longfellow's "Song of Hiawatha" poem. By Gardner's account the stay there was for "about one lost day, in which time (Indian captors) were engaged in the delightful task of gathering the pipestone and shaping it into pipes, which were formed in the manner foretold ages ago." >From pipestone, the group moved along the Big Sioux. It was here that the Indians murdered Mrs. Thatcher as she crossed the river.