Disclaimer: This story contains graphic and/or offensive language that may not be suitable for children.
- Excerpt from Wilhelmine Pauline Urban’s obituary, 1825
In 1862 they moved to Minnesota and settled down near New Ulm across the Minnesota River. Not very long after the Indian Massacre broke out and many settlers were unmercifully slaughtered. Mrs. Urban with her children, her husband not being at home, tried to escape, but was captured by the Indians and had a narrow escape from death. They were kept captive for a long time. After peace was declared, the family was re-united in St. Paul.
- Oral traditions from the George Albert Urban family line
Interesting oral traditions about Wilhelmine Pauline have come down to us through the descendants of George Albert that are not found in any written account to date.
It is said that while the four older children were allowed to wander through the Native camp on their own, Wilhelmine Pauline was cared for in the tepee of the wife of Chief Big Eagle. In his first-person account Chief Big Eagle says he was responsible for saving only the life of a Mr. Spence and a “half-breed” family. He was also a reluctant participant of many of the battles and so not in camp very much.
Since little Louise was only 8-9 months old it could well be that Wilhelmine Pauline was still occasionally nursing her. Tradition relates that she was made to nurse a native baby as well.
Finally, there is an oral story that the U.S. government took them back to their former home in Wisconsin.
And from Kathryn Skelton, a distant Urban cousin: Albert Vandrey was [George] Albert and Johanna's oldest grandson. Some years ago (must have been about 1987-88) my cousin Larry Urban auctioned off his farm and equipment. It was the place that Albert and Johanna lived on that her father won playing cards, and, of course, all my aunts, uncles, their cousins, etc. were there. That was the summer vacation my husband and I spent a week or so tracking down everything we could find on the Urbans and the uprising, including spending time in the Minnesota Historical Society, the Chippewa County Historical Society (where Camp Release was), New Ulm and Brown County, and tracing out where the attack on the Sacred Heart party must have been. Anyway, I was talking to Albert and telling him about going to Camp Release. He told us that when he got his first car, must have been about 1921, Grandpa Urban asked him to take him on a trip. They headed generally north, staying with friends of his grandfather until they got to Montevideo and Camp Release. He said tears ran down Albert's face at the Camp and Albert said, those poor Indians, they were treated so badly.
- Incidents of Indian Days published in 1912 in the Mankato Daily Review newspaper
[George] Albert Urban, one of the prominent farmers of Pleasant Mound Township while in the city Wednesday with election returns from that part of the County, incidentally and in a laughing manner made the remark to the Daily Review man that he was branded as a pioneer of this state. The reporter becoming interested, asked Mr. Urban what he meant by that.
In answer to the question Mr. Urban shoved back his hat from his forehead and displayed a livid scar over the left eye. “This” said Mr. Urban “is a keepsake I carry from the Indian outbreak of 1862, when our home near Fort Ridgley was attacked by Little Crow, while father was at work in New Ulm in a wagon shop. My mother and three sisters and myself were captured, but my oldest brother managed to get away. My mother had to carry one three-year-old girl on her back and my 11-month-old sister in her arms as the Indians forced us along when they went farther west.
“The three-year-old girl I speak of is Mr. Gus Blum [Rose Urban Blumberg] of St. Peter and the eleven-months-old child is now grown to womanhood and is the wife of Gotfried Neumann [Louise Urban Neumann] of Lake Crystal and mother of Al Neumann, marshall of that village. The other sister is Mrs. Charles Miller [Ernestine Urban Mueller Burke] of Montana.
“My mother was not ill treated, strange as tho it may sound, and now when I look back thru the years I can realize this was owing to the fact that we were driven from place to place in custody of the Indians for over six weeks as they ran to dodge the soldiers, we did not fare as badly as we might have, when one takes into consideration, that we were captured by savages.
“Oh, the story of the scar on my forehead, did you say? Well, at that time I was a boy but six years of age but tho I am now a man going on 56 years, I can shut my eyes and see the whole terrible ordeal as plainly as if it were yesterday. After being in captivity for several days I was stripped as naked as the day I was born and ran naked with the Indian children and other white children in captivity.
“Whether the Indians were testing my nerve with the view of adopting me in their tribe or not I am unable to tell, but they took it into their heads that is, the best bow and arrow shots in the tribe, to place pieces of bark on my head and shoot the same off. Being then but a mere child, I was terribly frightened and several times one day my knees nearly wilted under me, and I would have fallen had not some of the Indians prodded me with their knives to make me understand that I had to stand up straight and still.
“It may be that I stirred, and now I don’t wonder that I did, or it may be the archer aiming his arrow at the piece of bark on the top of my head shot low. However this may be it was then that I received the ‘stamp of Minnesota’ which I will bear to my grave. The point of the arrow struck me on the forehead and knocked me out, and I stayed that way for three days, but you see,” said Mr. Urban with a smile, “I came out of it all right or I would not be telling you how I came to be bearing this mark.”
In closing his narrative Mr. Urban said, “My mother is still living and makes her home with my brother Fred who lives near Lewisville. I wish you could meet her, for she remembers many interesting incidents of those trying times.”
- George Albert Urban Obituary Excerpt from Mankato Free Press, 28 January 1931
The obituary includes the same story from the Mankato Daily Review above with the following addition:
When they were taking them to their camp they came to a place where they had to ford the Minnesota River. The Indians stripped him naked, threw him into the river and told him to go ahead and cross. Albert could not swim and never been in a lake of river before. Luckily for him, however, the Indians were driving a herd of cattle across the river. He caught hold of the tail of a cow and was dragged ashore.
- August Urban story published June 1932 in the Truman Tribune by John Wood Bussman
This is a true story about a little boy that was captured by the Indians. In the years 1881 August Urban, a boy of eight years, moved with his parents from Wisconsin to Renville County, Minnesota. The Indians seemed quiet and friendly then and they made the trip in safety.
The Indians in this part of Minnesota were not very friendly to the whites and several times shot and killed a few of the whites. One time just after this boy came to Minnesota he saw an Indian shoot a little girl’s hand off. The girl was hugging her mother and the shot that tore off her hand killed her mother.
One day two men were cutting hay for the soldiers and found the bodies of a number of white people. They ran at once and told the rest of the people what they had found and all of them thought it best to start for Fort Ridgley. So at night they hitched the oxen to the wagons and put the women and children in the wagons and started for the Fort. They could not travel very fast in those days and met the Indians before they reached the Fort. Those Indians seemed friendly and told the white people that they would take care of them. They took the women and children to their tents.
The white men were made to walk beside the wagons and at a whistle from one Indian each Indian shot a white man. The Indian squaws were jealous of the white women and used to cover them with rags or anything they could when ever the Indian men came near. The Indians let the white people have their pick of the food they cooked. They cooked chickens and ducks, feathers and all, and just heated the potatoes through in the coals.
The white women promised the Indian men that if they were paired they would not be their squaws. The Indians thought that the children should be shot. They shot at August Urban, who was stunned and fell. Another boy fell partly over him killed. The Indians thought August was dead too but by night he and three other children and one woman got away and started for the Fort. For sixteen and a half days they wandered around on the prairie. They had no food except grass, bark of trees and roots. One day they found melon rinds on the road and ate every bit of them, skin and all. Water was scarce and they had to drink water they found in sink holes or any place. Once or twice they met friendly Indians who gave them a few crusts of bread. Most of the time they travelled by night and hid in the woods or swamps by day for fear of meeting unfriendly Indians.
When they did reach the Fort they were nearly starved and begged for food and water. The soldiers gave them just a little food and water at first for fear they might eat too much and die.
The rest of the white people stayed with the Indians for six weeks. Then some soldiers went and got them away from the Indians.
August’s mother was one of the white women who was kept by the Indians all this time.
August Urban still has a lump on his head where the bullet hit him when he was a boy of nine years.
Notes on this article: From Albert’s account and other sources listed in the bibliography it is clear there are some inconsistencies in this article either because August was not clear in his recounting or the reporter misunderstood August as he gave his account of the uprising.
- Urbans and the Dakota Uprising of 1862 compiled by Marba Pogue (copyright 2009)
Monday, 18 August 1862 started out to be another routine day at the Urban homestead near Sacred Heart creek in Flora Township, Renville County, Minnesota. Johann was away at New Ulm where he worked in a wagon wheel shop and helped in the fields. His wife, Pauline, was at home with their children, August 9 years, Ernestina 7 years, Albert 4 years 11 months, Rose 6 days shy of her third birthday and little 1 year old Louise.
Pauline and the children were beginning to relax after another hard day of chores when Emeal Grundman and August Fross drove excitedly up to the house. Each man prodded an ox team with a pitch fork to hurry the oxen along. They informed Pauline that the Indians were killing the white settlers. She was instructed to gather the children together and meet at the home of Paul Kitzman where they would decide what course of action should be taken.
During the discussion that ensued with the entire community assembled at the Kitzman home some people said it was difficult to believe the Indians were on the warpath since they had lived together peacefully up to this time. Paul Kitzman was one who held this belief and so sent two men to the John Schwandt house to investigate. The men returned with a coat belonging to Schwandt's hired man, John Fross. It was blood stained and had a bullet hole in it. They had found most of the family murdered.
Everyone was now convinced the Indians were indeed on the warpath. The ox teams were hitched to wagons and at 8:00 P.M. 13 families with 11 ox-drawn wagons left for Fort Ridgley. They started traveling on the fort road but soon veered off to the northeast toward Renville hoping to avoid the war parties by taking a more indirect route. At 2 or 3 A.M. they again changed course toward Beaver Creek, heading around that stream toward the fort.
Two hours after dawn they had travelled about 14 miles - half the distance to the fort. At that time the settlers spotted a band of eight Sioux (Dakota) on a hill to the west. The Dakota were all armed as they approached the settlers who had only two guns and no ammunition.
One Indian who knew Paul Kitzman dismounted, came forward to inquire of him where they were going. Kitzman answered that the Indians were killing all the white people so they were leaving. The Dakota man replied that it was the Chippewa (Ojibway) who were killing the white people therefore the settlers were to return to their homes under Dakota protection. Much goodwill and handshaking followed and the guns were put away. The Indians also asked for something to eat because they were hungry. The settlers collected some bread and gave it to the Indians who sat in a circle with their guns behind them.
The Dakota began to escort the settlers back to their homes at times riding ahead of the wagons, other times riding behind. Sometimes the Dakota were even out of sight but they were always watching.
When the group of settlers was within sight of their homes, they came upon the bodies of two men and a dog. At that time, the Indians were ahead and out of sight. Mr. T. Kraus became upset at the sight. He bolted the horse he was riding and rode out of sight over the hills toward Fort Ridgley for help. Mr. Kraus' wife was screaming and there was a great deal of confusion as the Indians approached once again from the west.
The Indians inquired as to the where-abouts of Mr. Kraus but no one answered. The Indians went ahead of the wagons a short distance, dismounted and returned to the wagons, four on each side, and opened fire. Confusion reigned; everyone was screaming, some jumped from the wagons and threw themselves on the ground. All but three of the men were killed in the first round of shooting. Some women and children were beaten, shot or tomahawked to death.
Mrs. Guess was caught in the trace chains of an ox team that ran into the brush. After being dragged for a distance, she freed herself and eventually made her way to Fort Ridgley.
August Urban received a glance shot on the forehead. He was stunned and fell unconscious. Another boy who was mortally wounded fell on top of him. The Indians left them both for dead.
It was almost dark and 25 people lay dead and more were injured.
Another group of Indians had appeared on a hill overlooking the scene and watched the entire massacre. The new band of Indians joined the original group and took the survivors captive. Among the survivors were Pauline Urban and her four other children - Ernestine, Albert, Rose and Louise.
After the Indians left the scene under cover of darkness, settlers who were wounded or assumed dead began to stir. Minnie Krieger, 6 years old, Caroline Krieger 11 years, Lizzie Krieger 10 years, Tillie Krieger 13 years old, Mrs. Anna Zable , who was wounded in the hip and August Urban carried 18 wounded children to the Krieger home nearby.
Caroline and Tillie Krieger took water back to the dying men and women in the field. The others in the little group became alarmed because Caroline and Tillie were gone so long. Lizzie Krieger and Mrs. Zable went to look for them while August Urban and Minnie Krieger stayed with her 6-month old sister and the other wounded children. Mrs. Zable and the Krieger sisters finally returned near dawn the next day, 20 August.
Mrs. Zable thought it would be dangerous to stay at the house because the Indians might return and kill them. The Krieger girls, August Urban and Mrs. Zable washed in the brook and went to Mr. Tillie's house looking for food. All they found was some flour which they mixed with water and ate.
The little group decided to try to reach Fort Ridgley but they were unable to carry baby Kieger any further. As the rest wandered that day, they came upon what they supposed was the body of Mrs. Krieger. As it turned out, the girls' mother was only wounded and was later rescued and taken to Fort Ridgley. That night the Krieger girls, August Urban and Anna Zable once again reached the Krieger home to find the Dakota had indeed returned, burned the house with the dead and dying children still inside.
The morning of 21 August they started again on their way to the fort. At first the group traveled by day but discontinued that when they came near to being captured. They slept during the day and traveled at night. They had nothing to eat so were forced to eat grass, tree bark and roots and drank water from sink holes. One day, they found red onions in an abandoned house and ate those with delight. Another day they found melon rinds and devoured those.
One evening at dusk, they came upon approximately 15 bodes of men, women and children. At this location, the small band of refugees again was almost caught by Indians. The Dakota were on foot and walked close to the group. However, they remained undetected by hiding perfectly still in the brush until the Indians passed.
Another evening, about 15 days since the first attack, the Krieger girls, Anna Zable and August Urban were five miles from Fort Ridgley when they spotted another band of Indians on the road ahead of them. They quickly dove into the tall grass beside the road hiding until the Indians passed. That was the end of their travel that night! In the morning the group almost ran into an Indian camp. The Indians didn't see them so the group ran back to the woods to hide.
The last day Minnie Krieger was exhausted and could go no farther. Mrs. Anna Zable urged them to leave her behind. Lizzie Krieger and the other children would not hear of it and dragged Minnie to a creek, put water on her head and rested awhile. They were then able to continue together. At last the fort appeared in the distance. They were overjoyed and sat down to rest. It was enough for them to just look at it. When soldiers in the fort saw them a wagon was sent to pick them up. The children and Mrs. Zable had been on the road 12 days after eventually leaving the settlement.