Thursday, August 27, 2015

Margaret Steel-living through the Dakota Wars in Minnesota

I have not joined Weeks 33 or 34 Challenge for two reason: I have been behind due to vacation and I haven’t figured out any ancestors to write about with the two given topics, which were “Defective, Dependent & Delinquent” and “Non-Population”.  I have spent my time researching more about William Kerrott, my great-great-great-grandmother’s brother.  I have been researching him and his family quite a bit this year.  After reading The Night Birds by Thomas Maltman for book group, I realized that William Kerrott and his family moved to Minnesota (from Canada) somewhere near the time of the Indian Uprising that was occurring in Minnesota.  And that the family settled only about forty miles away from where the trouble was going on.  This totally changed my take on William and led me to more research. 
Actually, this led me to think more about William’s wife Margaret Steel.  She was born in about 1824 in Ireland. She was about fourteen years younger than her husband.  They married in 1839 in Canada and had eight children there.  One of their sons, James Kerrott, died in Canada when he was about five years old (in 1854). Margaret was about thirty-two years old when she and William and their children moved to Minnesota in 1856.

What I have learned is that the Dakota Indians lost their rights to their land after signing a treaty in 1851 and the Indians were moved to reservations.  The land they lost included Erin township, Rice County, Minnesota, which is where William and Catherine and their family settled in April of 1856. Erin Township was formed in 1856 by Irish immigrants (thus the name Erin).   

In October of 1859, William left his family and traveled to New Orleans. His wife Margaret was left with their seven children.  She was listed in the 1860 Faribault, Erin, Minnesota Census with the seven children.  Margaret was listed as a seamstress.  William was in Lake Bolivar Mississippi in 1860 working on the levees.  By 1861, William was in Memphis, Tennessee.  Also in 1861 William and Margaret’s oldest son, John Kerrott, joined the service to fight in the Civil War, and their oldest daughter, Rosanna, married. In 1862, the next son, Edward, joined the service. 

Meanwhile in Minnesota more than one million Dakota Indians were struggling to survive on the reservations and were starving. Six weeks of war broke out in August of 1862, when four Dakota Hunters killed five white settlers in Acton Township, about one hundred miles northwest of Erin. By December of 1862 thirty-eight Dakota Indians were hanged in Mankato and most of the remaining Dakotas were forced to leave Minnesota.  Many people, both whites and Indians had been killed or left Minnesota.  Meanwhile, where was William Kerrott? Still working in Memphis. And Margaret was still in Minnesota with the four children still living with her.

William Kerrott did not return to Erin, Minnesota until 1868.  By that time, Margaret had had enough and in 1865 she had moved to Chicago Illinois with the children.

She was listed in the Chicago City Directory in 1865. In the 1870 Chicago Illinois Census Margaret was listed with her sons William and Charles.  The 1880 Chicago Census showed her living there with her son Charles and daughter Mary.  Charles was a bookkeeper and Mary was a seamstress.
Sadly, Margaret Steel Kerrott died in January of 1881 at the age of fifty-seven.

I can’t even fathom what it must have been like for Margaret to be left in the wild frontier of Minnesota from 1859 to 1865 (when she moved to Chicago) with her small children trying to survive Indian Wars, winters, hardships, etc.

No comments:

Post a Comment