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Early Life Among the Indians

Early Life Among the Indians
From the Life Of
Benj. G. Armstrong
1835, 1837, 1842
Habits and Customs of the Red Men of the Forest
Incidents, Biographical Sketches,
Battles & c.
Dictated to and written by
Thomas P. Wentworth,
Ashland, Wisconsin
Press of A.W. Bowron
Ashland, Wis.

Note from Timm Severud -- This massacre took place very near the border between Barron & Dunn County -- near Prairie Farm -- the copyright to this book is no longer current and this is a RARE book.



While writing about chiefs and their character it may not be amiss to give the reader a short story of a chief's daughter in battle, where she proved as good a warrior as many of the sterner sex.  In the 1850's there lived in the vicinity of Rice Lake, Wisconsin, a band of Indians numbering about 200.  They were headed by a chief named Na-nong-ga-bee.  This chief, with about seventy of his people came to La Pointe to attend the treaty of 1854.  After the treaty was concluded he started home with his people, the route being through heavy forests and the trail one which was little used.  When they had reached a spot a few miles south of the Namekagon River and near a place called Beck-qua-ah-wong they were surprised by a band of Sioux who were on the warpath and then in ambush, where a few Chippewas were killed, including the old chief and his oldest son, the trail being a narrow one only one could pass at a time, true Indian file.  This made their line quite long as they were not trying to keep bunched, not expecting or having any thought of being attacked by their life long enemy.  The chief, his son and daughter were in the lead and the old man and his son were the first to fall, as the Sioux had of course picked them out for slaughter and they were killed before they dropped their packs or were ready for war. The old chief had just brought the gun to his face to shoot when a ball struck him square in the forehead.  As he fell, his daughter fell beside him and feigned death.  At the firing Na-nong-ga-bee's Band swung out of the trail to strike the flanks of the Sioux and get behind them to cut off their retreat, should they press forward or make a retreat, but that was not the Sioux intention.  There was not a great number of them and their tactic was to surprise the band, get as many scalps as they could and get out of the way, knowing that it would be but the work of a few moments, when they would be encircled by the Chippewas.  The girl lay motionless until she perceived that the Sioux would not come down on them en-masse, when she raised her father's loaded gun and killed a warrior who was running to get her father's scalp, thus knowing she had killed the slayer of her father, as no Indian would come for a scalp he had not earned himself.  The Sioux were now on the retreat and their flank and rear were being threatened, the girl picked up her father's ammunition pouch, loaded the rifle, and started in pursuit.  Stopping at the body of her dead Sioux she lifted the scalp and tucked it under her belt.  She continued the chase with the men of her band, and it was two days before they returned to the women and children, whom they had left on the trail, and when the brave little heroine returned she had added two scalps to the one she started with.  She is now living, or was, but a few years ago, near Rice Lake, Wisconsin, the wife of Edward Dingley, who served in the war of rebellion from the time of the first draft of soldiers to the end of the war.  She became his wife in 1857, and lived with him until he went into the service, and at this time had one child, a boy.  A short time after he went to the war news came that all the party that had left Bayfield at the time he did as substitutes had been killed in battle, and a year or so after, his wife, hearing nothing from him, and believing him dead, married again.

At the end of the war Dingley came back and I saw him at Bayfield and told him everyone had supposed him dead and that his wife had married another man.  He was very sorry to hear this news and said he would go and see her, and if she preferred the second man she could stay with him, but that he should take the boy.  A few years ago I had occasion to stop over night with them. And had a long talk over the two marriages.  She told me the circumstances that had let her to the second marriage.  She thought Dingley dead, and her father and brother being dead, she had no one to look after her support, or otherwise she would not have done so.  She related the related the pursuit of the Sioux at the time of her father's death with much tribal pride, and the satisfaction she felt at revenging herself upon the murder of her father and kinsmen.  She gave me the particulars of getting the last two scalps that she secured in the eventful chase.  The first she raised only a short distance from her place of starting; a warrior she espied skulking behind a tree presumably watching for some one other of her friends that was approaching.  The other she did not get until the second day out when she discovered a Sioux crossing a river.  She said: "The good luck that had followed me since I raised my father's rifle did not now desert me," for her shot had proved a good one and she soon had his dripping scalp at her belt although she had to wade the river after it. 


Transcription by: Timm Severud, Winter, Wisconsin


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This page last updated: 07 May 2003 02:50 PM -0400