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Norwegians at the Indian Forts on the Missouri River During the Seventies
By Einar Haugen (Volume VI: Page 89)

 

The little chapter of history herewith presented casts some light on the part that Norwegian-Americans have played in the building of the United States. The subject, to the writer's knowledge, has never before had attention, and the narrative is fragmentary and incomplete, for it depends largely on oral narration and imperfect recollection. These very recollections, however, reveal the psychological effect of the frontier on the young Norwegian farmers who had immigrated. They came from the countryside and were looking for more and better farmlands; in the interval many of them were forced to become frontiersmen. Their work at the forts needs to be seen against the double perspective of their origin in Norway and of their eventual fate in America. It will be remembered that these men were contemporaries and near neighbors of the characters described by O. E. Rølvaag in Giants in the Earth.

SOUTH DAKOTA AND THE INDIAN FORTS

The first habitations built by white men in South Dakota were the fur-trading posts. Before 1800 fur traders had penetrated the region and, during the first half of the nineteenth century, they had carried on extensive operations.

Towards the middle of the century fur-bearing animals were fast disappearing, and in 1855 the American Fur Company was glad to sell Fort Pierre to the government at a high price. The war department wished to establish a strong fort at this point on the Missouri in order to protect Overland travelers to California against the Indians. In the autumn of 1855 General Harney arrived with an army of one thousand men. He found the fort utterly inadequate: his men suffered cruelly during the hard winter that followed. In the summer of 1856 Harney selected a new site, 213 miles farther down the river. The new post was named Fort Randall for Colonel Daniel Randall, paymaster of the United States army.

Meanwhile prospective settlers cast longing eyes on the rich soil of Dakota, which still belonged to the Indians and hence was closed to white men. After long negotiations with the Sioux tribes of Dakota, a treaty was signed at Washington on April 19, 1858, between Charles F. Mix, United States commissioner of Indian affairs, and a group of Yanktonai Sioux headed by the friendly chief Struck- by-the-Ree. In this treaty the Indians released all lands between the Big Sioux and the Missouri except a reservation of about four hundred thousand acres in Charles Mix County. The treaty was ratified by Congress early in 1859, but the Yanktons were not induced to agree to it until July 10, when the lands were finally opened. Immigration began even before the law permitted, and the signing of the treaty brought a large additional influx of settlers. In the years that followed many similar treaties were made, treaties in which the Indians signed away one piece of land after another in return for guarantees of reservations and promises by the government that they would be fed and clothed until they could support themselves. In 1861 Dakota Territory was created by Congress, and South Dakota was well on its way to statehood.

The Yanktonai Sioux were for the most part loyal to these agreements, but many of the tribes were dissatisfied and angered over the white encroachments. The first notable conflict, the Sioux War of 1862, took place in Minnesota. After this outbreak was suppressed, it was decided to remove the Sioux of Minnesota to the Missouri River. In 1863 Colonel Clark W. Thompson took charge of the removal, and for him a new fort on the Missouri River was named. In the same year General Alfred Sully built old Fort Sully near the present site of Pierre. Three years later, this fort was abandoned because of the unhealthfulness of its location, and new Fort Sully was built thirty miles farther up the river. This was perhaps the most famous of all the Missouri River forts in South Dakota; it was the headquarters of a regiment and played an important part in the subsequent Indian wars.

Six forts figure in the present story. Fort Randall was situated on the west side of the river, 110 miles from Yankton by water and 75 miles by land. Fort Hale, a small post on the west bank, 8 miles below Fort Thompson, was not erected until 1873. The Lower Brule agency, 217 miles from Yankton by water and 155 miles by land, was on the west bank, at the foot of the Big Bend. Fort Thompson was on the east bank, at the mouth of Crow Creek. Fort Sully was on the east bank, 351 miles from Yankton by water and 262 by land, 28 miles above the present Pierre. Finally, Fort Bennett (Cheyenne agency) was established in 1870 on the west bank, 7 miles above Fort Sully.

Fort Sully is the most important and interesting of all these forts. It was built on a high bluff commanding the Missouri, about three-fourths of a mile from the river, and about 160 feet above its waters. The enclosure was about 600 by 700 feet; along three of its sides were ranged the one-story frame buildings of cottonwood logs that served as quarters for four companies and the band. There were five barracks, each about 20 by 120 feet, six storehouses, a guardhouse and a prison, ten sets of laundress' quarters, an ice house, a root house, a gallery for rifle practice, a chapel, a library, and workshops. Within the enclosure were also nine buildings for officers' quarters, besides a bakery, stables, offices, and an ordnance magazine of brick. One year's subsistence was kept on hand; stores were obtained from Sioux City. Water was conveyed from the Missouri in wagons. Wood and hay were supplied by contract.

This, in bare outline, is the setting for the present study. Not all the inhabitants at the forts were soldiers, for there was much work to be done for the maintenance of the posts, as well as for the needs of the soldiers and the Indians dependent on the government.

THE IMMIGRANTS

Immigration to the United States had fallen off during the Civil War, but it increased rapidly during the late sixties. The Norwegian immigrants who filtered in with the new wave of immigration found that in Wisconsin and Iowa the best lands had been taken. The frontier with its broad acres of free land now lay beckoning settlers to the Northwest, to Minnesota and the newly-opened Dakotas. From all parts of Norway men went to seek homesteads on the prairie, where Indians and buffaloes still roamed.

The bulk of the information available concerning the immigrants who went to South Dakota deals with the many who emigrated from Opdal in Sør-Trøndelag. {1} Opdal is the southernmost of the Trønderbygder, nestling beneath the great Dovre mountain range. In the nineteenth century it was an exclusively agricultural community, with many prosperous farms and a farmer aristocracy that was definitely class conscious. Before 1865 emigration from this inland community had been negligible; when it did begin, late in the sixties, its objective was South Dakota, where most of the Opdalings and their descendants in this country still live. {2}

Until 1872 Sioux City, Iowa, was the terminus of the railroad, and hence was the base of operations for all settlers who were bound for the southeastern counties of South Dakota. The first large party from Opdal, said to consist of thirty-five persons, arrived in Sioux City on May 16, 1869. It is reported that on the following day they indulged in a convivial celebration in honor of Syttende Mai (The Seventeenth of May) and their fortunate arrival in America. In this group were many who will be mentioned in this account, among them Iver Furuness and Halvor Aune. A year later two parties of Norwegians, including a large number of emigrants from Opdal, arrived in Sioux City almost simultaneously, about thirty having shipped on the Anchor Line and sixty on the Allan.

The characteristics of these immigrants and their reasons for leaving Norway are of some interest. They were all country people, and although among them were included both the good and the bad, the high and the low, most of them came of the best stock of their native valleys. Some of the weaker individuals succumbed in the struggle and have since been forgotten, but it is evident from the eventual success of the majority that they were young men and women of sturdy stock, energetic and adventurous. All had been drawn to America in the hope of bettering their economic status: there were young married couples who believed it might be easier to start life in a new country, and younger sons with no prospect of inheritance. There were older sons who faced oppressive debts on their home farms, and there were others who had sold their good farms for no reason except that they were drawn by the glamour of the long journey and the pot of gold which glittered at the end of the American rainbow. These men were by no means eccentrics or misfits, the scourings of Norwegian society; they represented some of that surplus energy for which Norway could not then find employment.

Those who had enough money for their immediate needs proceeded at once to South Dakota and took homesteads in Union, Clay, Lincoln, and Yankton counties, where the present large and prosperous Norwegian settlements bear witness to the foresight and ambition of these pioneers. The rest had to start looking for work at once; and before the end of a year nearly all the immigrants found themselves in need of ready cash. It took five years to gain title to a homestead, and meanwhile one had to keep body and soul together on the inhospitable prairie. Hence, in the summers the young homesteader left his family, if he had one, in the dugout or sod hut on the prairie, while he struck out overland in search of work.

Sioux City was flooded with people looking for work, and jobs were very scarce. It was still a town in the making, a mere cluster of houses on the Missouri bottom near the mouth of Perry Creek, and it could hardly furnish employment for many people. Halvor Aune and his brother Ole Lee secured a job digging the foundations of a new hotel, the Hobart House. Others found work on the railroad in northern Iowa, near Hull and Le Mars. After a time the two brothers gave up their jobs at the Hobart House and found work in a brickyard near Sergeant Bluffs, where they lived in a cave dug into the side of a bluff. All these jobs were strenuous and paid little; according to Ingebrigt Sættrum railroad work was paid for at the rate of a dollar a day.

The only regular and large-scale employer in the entire region was Uncle Sam. At the forts and agencies on the Missouri, and on the steamboats hired by the government to transport ammunition and provisions to these forts, there were plenty of jobs for those who were willing to endure hardships and run the risks involved. Mechanics and artisans were doubly welcome because such workmen were scarce. Unskilled laborers could earn fair money at the agencies by chopping cordwood and cutting hay for the government contractors. The government agents did not themselves employ men for this work, but made contracts with private individuals. In addition to such transient jobs, the Norwegians held permanent positions at the forts, such as that of blacksmith. Occasionally they were put in charge of the warehouses or of the stables. Life at the forts was varied and exciting, full of zest and danger. The old survivors who tell of their experiences seldom fail to emphasize the fact that many Norwegians did not have the courage to try their luck at the forts. Some turned instead to the less dangerous but also less profitable living that they might make on the steamboats as deck hands. The Norwegian newcomer who had no money was faced with the prospect of trying one or the other of these occupations.

THE CARAVAN OF 1870

The passage of time and the failure of human memory make it difficult to determine who was the first Norwegian at the forts. The only one who, it is certain, worked there before 1870, is Iver Furuness, a man of more than usual ability and intelligence. He was born in 1834 in Opdal of a prominent family: his great-grandfather had been a top sergeant in the Danish army, his maternal uncle was a member of the Norwegian national assembly, and his father was a leader in the community. For two years Iver attended the agricultural school near Trondhjem, where he learned the trades of blacksmithing and wheel making. In 1869 he and his wife emigrated to Yankton County. As soon as Iver had filed his claim, he had to find work, and through a friend from Lærdal, Norway, he learned of an opportunity.

"There was an offer from some contractors that we could go to Fort Sully on the Missouri to chop cordwood. . . . The Indians were very restless at that time and tales were told daily of attacks and killings. . . . We had several loads of provisions and tools, and so we started off. Something happened on the road which may have had considerable influence on my future career. One day we were unlucky enough to break a wheel on one of the wagons. . . . There was a little grove nearby, and among the trees were some small ash trees. I said to the leader that I could make a new wheel and have it ready in twenty-four hours. He thought I had gone crazy -- make wheels without tools or materials! But we had a saw and a hammer, axes and an auger, and at length he allowed me to start. That was in the afternoon, and by midnight I had it ready. To heat the iron we used dry buffalo chips instead of coal. This gave me a kind of fame -- that I could make a wheel on the open prairie out of nothing with neither tools nor materials. We reached Fort Sully safely, finished our work, and returned home." {3}

The next spring Furuness received an offer from the agent at Fort Thompson of a position as blacksmith and wheel-maker at a salary of $1,000 per year, with a chance to earn some money on the side. {4} This position he accepted and held for several years; then he and his family wearied of the constant Indian menace and removed to Washington. There he died in 1923 on his farm, well known as a leader in the settlement.

Furuness' success at the forts spurred other Norwegians to follow his example. After his first trip, he wrote from Yankton to his friends in Sioux City, asking them whether they wished to accompany him to the forts the following summer. Halvor Aune and Ole Lee were working in Sergeant's Bluffs with Sivert and Kristoffer Haaker; they took a few companions along and started for Yankton. Others joined them there; altogether there were eighteen young Norwegians ready to brave the dangers of the prairie. Of these eighteen only three are known to be alive now: Ingebrigt Snetrum, and the brothers Halvor Aune and Ole Lee. From their accounts the trip must have been a memorable experience, full of strange sights and disconcerting happenings. Most of the newcomers were green and untried men.

One of the men, Ole Hjelle, from Sundalen, owned a yoke of oxen and a wagon. The company needed these to transport their provisions, but they did not have enough money among them to pay Hjelle the $180 which he demanded. At length Iver Furuness and two others agreed to guarantee Hjelle the sum he asked. The men then bought feed and provisions with what money they had and started out on foot over the prairie.

At Fort Randall Ole Hjelle and a few others decided that they did not care to continue and they left the company; the rest pressed on, until, about fifty miles above Fort Randall, they met a man riding in a spring wagon. He was a Frenchman named Prodeau. He asked them if they were looking for work, telling them that he had nine hundred cords of wood to cut for the government, and would pay them two dollars per cord. They agreed to take the work, but demanded that he buy the oxen and the wagon. After some haggling, he paid them $185, thus leaving them with a profit of five dollars on the deal. The profit was at once liquidated.

The cottonwood which they were to cut was on an island near the Lower Brule agency. Prodeau sent them a Negro cook, who prepared such poor food that they all fell sick. They complained to the boss repeatedly, and often he would come and give the cook "the dickens," but it did not help a particle. Ole Lee says that Sivert Haaker, a big, strapping fellow, had to walk with a cane when he left the island

On the day when Prodeau came to inspect their work, he was drunk and started shooting at the men. He did not intend to harm anyone; he simply found this game amusing Fortunately no one was injured. That night the men slept at Prodeau's ranch, on the side of the partition opposite his saloon. One of the men, Thomas Berg, wept like a child over their dismal prospects, and clung to the other men for protection, saying, "They should have seen us in Norway now, the kind of people we've fallen among!" Halvor Aune had a revolver; Ingebrigt Snetrum had an old-fashioned Norwegian muzzleloader, which he leaned against the door

Prodeau had two wives, one an Indian and one a Negro About midnight the men heard a fearful racket from the other side of the cabin; they looked out of the door just in time to see Prodeau seize his squaw firmly by her scalp and her seat and toss her out of the house; in a moment a little half-breed girl followed in the same fashion. At this poor Thomas Berg fell to weeping again. Later in the night a sharp crash awakened the men; this time Prodeau's clerk was the victim. Prodeau came rushing into the room where the Norwegians slept, seized Snetrum's rifle and started in pursuit of the clerk. There was only one shot in the rifle and it struck the clerk in the tendon of the heel; it was a veritable Achilles shot. In the morning Prodeau was sober again, and paid the men all that was due them.

Dr. H. F. Livingston was then agent at Fort Thompson Several of the men got work there at that time or soon afterward, and ventured no farther up the river. Among them were Sivert and Kristoffer Haaker, Ingebrigt Meslo, Ole Solem, Anders Kregnes, Ingebrigt Snetrum, and Lars Høiland. The rest decided to leave Thompson, partly because of Livingston's reputation for harshness and unfair dealing. Halvor Aune, Ole Lee, Sivert Mjøen, Ingebrigt Mjøen, Jon Sliper, and Thomas Berg hired a half-breed to show them the way to Fort Sully. The only reason that Thomas Berg was included was that he was afraid to return to Yankton alone. At Fort Sully there had been a bloody battle between a musician and a soldier on the day before they arrived. The musician had found a butcher knife and had slashed the soldier from one ear to the other. Halvor Aune says the hotel looked like a slaughter-house when they arrived; no one had taken the trouble to wash away the blood.

General Sully told them that there was no work to be had, but that he needed two men in the band. If they would enlist for five years, he would give them good jobs as musicians. But the two brothers valued their freedom and refused the offer. They sent Thomas Berg down to Fort Thompson with the half-breed guide; they were glad to be rid of him. The story is told that on the stage from Fort Thompson to Yankton, a passenger began talking with the driver about the late murders up the river. Thomas Berg did not understand much English, but he heard them mention "killing" and thought they were plotting to put an end to him. At Springfield another passenger entered, and there was more talk of killing. At length Thomas lost his wits entirely, jumped from the stagecoach, and ran all the way to Yankton, a distance of twenty-five miles, "and," concludes the narrator, "he had paid for his ticket, too!"

After some days Ole Lee and Halvor Aune got work; the former piled wood and the latter drove the horses. This gave them profitable employment all winter. Again the cook was a Negro, but this one was a first-class chef, formerly of California, who fed them like princes. In the spring of 1871 there was no more work, and the two men returned to Yankton, but they soon received a letter from the agent saying that they were wanted again. This time they decided to walk the whole distance, nearly three hundred [100a] miles, to save money. Their shoes were poor, and one evening they came to a ranch, so footsore that they could hardly walk. The ranch was owned by a Frenchman, who had a squaw and a saloon, apparently a common combination. The Frenchman told them to wash their feet well with soap and water, and then brought them a two-gallon wash bowl full of whisky. "Soak your feet in this," he said. The brothers looked at each other, thinking that this would be a pretty expensive foot bath, for whisky cost twenty-five cents a glass. But they followed his advice, and washed their feet; in the morning their feet were healed and they were ready to start once more. When they asked the Frenchmen how much they owed him, he charged them only for room and meals -- $1.50 -- nothing at all for the whisky! The men strongly suspected, however, that he poured the whisky back into the bottles and later sold it to some unsuspecting soul. "But," says Halvor Aune, "I've always had a warm feeling for that Frenchman!"

When they reached Fort Sully the contract had not yet arrived, and, rather than wait for it, they continued to the Cheyenne agency. There they earned $100 and board for three months' work. In addition to their usual work, they were here drawn into various employments; they helped to build the stable, took care of the horses and their feed, and taught the Indians how to plow. Halvor Aune tells very vividly of a tour to Sioux City in the middle of winter as driver for the doctor, the clerk, and three officers. Ole Lee herded cattle, and tells of shots from Indian rifles which nearly put an end to his herding. Halvor Aune stayed at the forts until 1874, Ole Lee until 1875; when they left they took homesteads in Yankton County. These two men have had curiously unlike fates: Halvor Aune is the more volatile, restless one, has been unable to accumulate treasures, and is comparatively destitute, while his brother owns 960 acres of rich South Dakota farm land, and is a well-to-do man. Halvor Aune is the saga-teller par excellence; if he had lived eight centuries earlier, he would have told tales of Gunnar and Grettir, of Olaf the Saint and Egil Skallagrimsson; he has a keen sense for situation and for effective narrative, and an excellent memory -- best of all, he has fortællerglæde, the story-teller's joy in his story.

THE AGENTS OF THE GOVERNMENT

Each fort had its agent; he was a mighty man. He represented "Uncle Sam" in person; and in his dealings with both workmen and Indians he was invested with all the power and majesty of the government. He received the supplies which were sent for the Indians and supervised their distribution. He "hired and fired" the workmen needed at the agency and issued contracts for the cutting of cordwood and fodder. His personality gave the agency its character of good or evil; and it was of considerable importance to his workmen whether or not he misused the great power which was allotted to him. Hence the agent figures prominently in the accounts of those Norwegians who were at some time regularly employed at the forts. Ingebrigt Mjøen (Sivertsen) speaks of working for eight different agents, the last of whom were Dr. Livingston and Dr. Fred Treon. Stengrim Detli mentions one Gasmann as a particularly good man with whom to have dealings. {5}

A strong impression was made on the Norwegians by the many practices which certain agents invented for defrauding the government or their employees. Ole Lee relates that at Fort Sully, where, with Halvor Aune, he was employed the first winter, he was directed to pile the wood in rows of twenty-five cords each, four feet high; he was to make the passages between the rows so narrow that the government inspectors would fail to notice the poor wood which was laid at the bottom. Halvor Aune tells of a practice used at Cheyenne of putting sand in the hay loads to increase their weight.

T. M. Koues was the agent at Cheyenne; there is a long tale of his misdoings and eventual misfortune. {6} Aune describes him as "one of those high-tone fellows, a regular dumskolt."

"One meal we got fried pork and black coffee, and the next meal we got black coffee and fried pork. The bread was so hard that one could kill an ox with it, but we had good teeth. The sugar was crude brown sugar and was weighed out to us as to the Indians; we never got enough and we had to keep it in cigar boxes. . . . A large stable was built, but then the agent forgot to issue contracts for hay; and when winter came, he had no fodder for the many mules, oxen, and horses. He nearly went crazy trying to secure some hay, but of course there was none to be bought. Then General Cowl (at the fort) said to me, "Perhaps you, who are Norwegian, can give some advice on how to keep these animals from starving to death." Then I said, "Let him cut some of the dead grass around the fort and mix it with corn meal, for we have plenty of corn." They followed my suggestion, and Ole Lee and I were given the job of cutting up the grass and of mixing the feed. The feed had to be watched night and day, but there was no place in the stable. . ."

After much argument with the agent, a little room, with a window and a stove, was boxed off in the stable for the two men. They made their own floor out of old gunny sacks.

"Now there was much dissatisfaction among the workmen because the agent wouldn't give them enough sugar. But there was plenty of it in the warehouse, and I had been given keys to the warehouse to obtain feed whenever necessary. Then I said, "Boys, I have the keys, you shall have all the sugar you want. We are working for Uncle Sam, and he is a generous fellow. When you need sugar, bring your boxes, and I'll fill them."

Then an old gold digger said, "How about some tobacco, too?"

"All right," I replied, "Help yourself." The plugs were about a foot long, and cost a dollar apiece at government price. This happening gave me considerable popularity with the cowboys and the workmen. . . .

The following summer the steamboats started bringing immense loads of provisions for the Indians. We filled the warehouse with pork and flour, sugar and coffee, until we had to start piling flour sacks on the ground outside. We piled as high as we could throw the sacks, and then we spread canvas over. But those cowboys and gold diggers were careless fellows: they would tear down sacks which lay high up in the tiers, and then a dozen sacks would tumble down at once. Many of them burst open and spilled flour on the ground. Then I said to Koues, "You had better start cleaning up around here." We were then wading in several inches of flour.

It ought to be done," he replied, "but I haven't got time today; tomorrow we'll clean up and throw it in the river."

The next day a steamboat arrived with a load of pork for us. A well-dressed man got off the boat; I could see he was an officer. He walked about and said nothing. Then he came to me and asked where the agent was. I told him; he entered the warehouse and said to the agent, "Is this the way you handle things around here? . . . You might as well pack your grip, for beginning next month you're through here. I haven't any more use for you.

"Who are you?" said Koues.

"I'm sent from Washington as inspector here," he replied. And that was the end of Koues. After him we got H. Bingham as agent; he was a splendid man. We got good food and were well treated. I was permitted to send for my wife, got my own house at the fort to live in, and we started to board ourselves. My wife worked as cook for the government for three months and earned $100. I got food at government prices; wood was chopped up for me and brought in, and we had ice in summer. In those days living was cheap, we had plenty of money, and we lived well." {7}

Halvor Aune says that Koues' chief trouble was not his dishonesty, but his inability to cover his tracks. He tells a sad but illuminating story of the fate of one Norwegian who was caught by an unscrupulous agent who was also clever. This story is corroborated by the brother-in-law of the victim, Ingebrigt Snetrum, who is still living. Dr. Livingston, the agent at Fort Thompson, had a reputation as a large-scale swindler. The agents themselves were not permitted by the government to take over the contracts for wood and hay; they were to issue the contracts to private individuals, who in turn hired the workmen. But as Livingston was desirous of putting the contractor's profit in his own pocket, he picked out from among these Norwegians one of the least quick-witted to act as his contractor. His victim was one Sivert Haaker, a large, rather slow, but altogether kindly fellow, who knew practically no English. Livingston actually held the contract himself and only used Sivert Haaker's name as a dummy to take the contractor's place in the documents. In this way he milked two cows at once and took the profit from both government and workmen. Sivert Haaker was unsuspicious, and willingly signed the documents which Livingston laid before him.

After a time some wind of this practice must have reached the officials, for a detective was dispatched to look into the affair. Then it was revealed that Haaker was only a workman, paid by the month, not a contractor. Sivert was unable to explain his position, but he denied having anything to do with the contract. The detective pressed him, and said to him threateningly, "You better confess everything; if you don't, I'll put you in the penitentiary." Sivert was quite innocent, but he was frightened by the detective's threats; he went to his room and put a bullet through his head. On the frontier, however, a life was of no great consequence, especially not the life of an ignorant laborer; and nothing was done about Haaker's death. Livingston was acquitted by the courts; soon afterward, he had to leave the agency, but it is not known whether he was removed for his part in this affair. {8}

LIFE AT THE FORTS

Various impressions of daily life at these outposts of civilization have already been recounted. Now and then the monotony of the workman's life was broken by some colorful episode that still calls forth animation in the faded countenances of those who recall it. The cowboys were occasional guests; they were feared almost as much as the Indians. Aune tells how once, on the way to Fort Sully, he passed one of the many saloons operated by Frenchmen. There was a mob of Indians gathered nearby, dancing about, yelling and beating a drum. On the ground lay a corpse on some rails, with a sheet thrown over it. They learned from one of the Indians that the night before some cowboys had come across the river, and had become drunk and hilarious. The more intoxicated they became, the more frequently they forgot to pay for their drinks. The proprietor said to one of the cowboys, "You better pay your debt!" The cowboy at once retorted, "You bet, I'll pay you cash right away!" and shot the Frenchman through the head.

Many minor episodes are told of the rough and ready life in that country. Aune tells of a big half-breed at Cheyenne who was called "Commodore." He would swear at the Norwegians and call them foul names. He and Halvor used to get into arguments about a pony that the half-breed wanted fed from the government feed boxes. At length there were blows between them, and Halvor is probably telling the truth when he says that he nearly killed the Frenchman in that fight and was never again molested by him. At Sully one Long-George got into an argument with the black chef, seized him and tossed him headfirst into the flour barrel. To the great amusement of the others, when the Negro crawled out, he was white as snow.

It is obvious that intellectual or religious life would not thrive in such an atmosphere. In 1876 Mjøen acted as driver for the well-known Episcopal Bishop Hare of Sioux Falls, who was visiting Montana for the first time. When Mjøen first came to Fort Thompson, there was neither church nor school. At length a little mission school was begun by the Episcopalians, and missionaries were sent out there. This school is also mentioned in Stengrim Detli's biography. {9} Four of Detli's children were baptized and received their religious instruction at this school. Bishop Hare made occasional visits. Pastor P. J. Reinertson of the old Augustana Synod, who at this time lived in Pukwana, South Dakota, also made some visits to the fort, but it is not known whether he held any church services. Iver Furuness relates that his son John went to school with the Indian children and got good instruction; among other things he learned the Indian language. {10}

THE INDIANS

Year by year the red man was being forced back from his lands by the overwhelming wave of white settlement. He did not willingly or gladly yield possession to the European invader, but his opposition was ineffectual and at its worst was scarcely more than a series of unorganized forays against the settlements of the frontier. The government was placed in the difficult position of being forced to aid and abet the white invasion with the one hand and to try with the other to make some show of protecting the rights of the Indians. The result was a series of treaties that were more or less forced upon the Indians, in which the latter gave up their lands in return for the guarantee from the government of reservations and food.

The immense supplies of food shipped to the agencies and the careless treatment which these supplies frequently received there have been mentioned. According to Ingebrigt Mjøen, meat was brought from Texas "on the hoof." Long-horned steers were driven from Texas in herds of five thousand head at a time.

"They were imposing animals, with a distance of three feet or more between the tips of the horns, rather thin, athletically built, and angry enough to gore one to death if there were a chance. They were then slaughtered at the rate of twenty to fifty a week, for the Indians were very fond of meat. They were chased into an enclosure, then shot down. The butchering was taken care of by the Indians, chiefly by their women, who enjoyed the affair as a great festival. They had an especial fondness for the entrails; they would cut out a piece of intestine, squeeze out the contents, and chew the rest. The cattle could not be kept over the winter, for they were not accustomed to the severe cold. Therefore the remainder had to be slaughtered in the fall, often by the hundreds." {11}

Ole Bjerke says that at Brule agency eighteen hundred Indians came every Saturday for their rations. According to I. Snetrum, herds of swine were driven up from Iowa by the farmers themselves and bought by the contractors.

Curious customs caught the attention of those Norwegians who came into friendly contact with the Indians. Halvor Aune tells of a meal in an Indian camp near old Fort Sully:

"We found a Frenchman there who had a squaw. She set the table for us in this surprising fashion: she spread a blanket on the ground and placed some tin cups on it for dishes. While she put the food on the dishes, she walked about among the cups, and her long skirts brushed them pretty often. Iver Furuness said he would have given a dollar for a picture of her as she waltzed back and forth on the "table." We sat down and ate of the meat she gave us. It was taken from a kettle which boiled when we came, boiled while we were there, and was still boiling when we left. We wondered what kind of meat we were eating; it tasted fine. Iver Furuness said it was antelope. We paid fifty cents apiece and had no ill effects from the food. But six months later we learned that it was dog meat we had eaten."

Aune reports observing a squaw leading a pony around slowly while her husband followed with a gun over his shoulder. Two long poles were tied on each side of the saddle and the loose ends trailed on the ground. Between the poles behind the pony was tied a little basket. In that basket lay a dying child. When it died, the Norwegians were told, the Indian would shoot the pony, so that the baby could have both a gun and a pony when it reached the happy hunting grounds. "But I," adds Halvor Aune, "thought it was mean of them to be dragging a sick child around like that." He tells also of a visit to an Indian camp, where it happened that a certain young man shot himself through the chest from grief over his mother's death. The medicine man cut into the young Indian's back and took out the bullet. Then he opened a little flannel bag which he carried in the end of his pigtail. It contained a powder made from some herb; he put a little of it in his palm, spit on it, and smeared the mixture into the wound. He applied this powder to both chest and back, and the Indian recovered.

The government supervised the Indians in various ways. The sale of liquor to the Indians was severely punished. The party of eighteen Norwegians who traveled from Yankton in 1870 were accused, when they were working at Lower Brule agency, of selling whisky to a group of drunken Indians. A detachment of soldiers was stationed near by to watch them; but an old squaw told the officers that the Indians had bought the liquor from one of the French ranch-men, and the Norwegians were exonerated. Another paternal measure of "Uncle Sam's" was an attempt to teach the Indians plowing. Aune was sent to a place thirty-five miles from Cheyenne agency to show the Indians how to hold the plow. Apparently the Indians did not take readily to the new learning, for while Aune was plowing around a field, a young Indian who had been skulking in the brush let fly a bullet that missed Anne by only a few inches. Aune seized his revolver and replied, whereupon the Indian threw down his rifle and surrendered. He was a young buck about sixteen years old, with a new Winchester rifle; he had no more bullets left.

The hostility of the Indians, which is exemplified by this story, was one of the most hazardous elements of life at the forts. Iver Furuness says, "Being so close to the scene of Sitting Bull's attacks, we never felt quite safe. The Indians at the fort, it is true, were friendly, but we could easily guess which side they would have taken had there been an attack. I always lay with a loaded rifle by my bed and two loaded revolvers under my pillow." {12} While Ole Lee was out herding, he, too, was shot at by an Indian who had hidden among some bushes. The Indian was later taken to the fort, and this is what he said, "Last night my father died of a wound he had received from a white man, and I promised that the first white man I met should suffer for his death." There is no doubt that the Indians had plenty of occasion for their hostility; gold had been found in the Black Hills, which were still Indian territory, and many people were streaming in. One cause of irritation that is mentioned in several accounts is the wanton destruction of buffaloes by "sportsmen" who traveled up the river on the steamboats and amused themselves by picking off the beasts with their high-powered rifles.

The most memorable event in the struggle with the Indians was of course the massacre of General Custer by the Indians on the Little Big Horn River in Montana in 1876. Several Norwegians had experiences relating to this tragedy. Iver Furuness says:

"I was perhaps the first white man who had any suspicion of the destruction of General Custer and his troops by the Indians. One day an Indian named Running Bear came into the fort with a carbine rifle, which I at once recognized was of the type used by the cavalry in the army. I knew that Custer was not far away with his division of cavalry, and I suspected that something was amiss. Nothing could be learned from the Indian of where he had gotten it. I reported it to the agent at the fort; he, too, said it looked rather suspicious, but that it might have been lost by someone. I could not, however, get rid of the sinister suspicion, and a day or two later came a telegram from Fort Sully that Custer and his whole army had been destroyed." {13}

Some of the Norwegians who were working on the steamboats came even closer to the scene of the massacre. This is true of O. P. Soelberg and Jens Hoxeng, who worked on the "Far West." These two have given me the following account. The boat left Yankton in June, 1876, under the command of Captain Grant Marsh; it was carrying provisions and ammunition for the soldiers. {14} At Fort Randall they had seen General Custer for the first time. Soelberg describes him as "the finest-looking fellow I have ever seen. He was blond, wore buckskin clothes, had long boots with spurs, a Winchester rifle, and a wide-brimmed hat." At Fort Beaufort, near the present Williston, North Dakota, the boat turned into the Yellowstone River and proceeded to the mouth of the Big Horn. Thirty miles up the Big Horn, they reached a creek called the Little Big Horn; fourteen miles away was the battlefield. While they lay there on the river day after day, Custer marched to his fate. But, in Jens Hoxeng's words, "We knew nothing about it until one day there came an Indian who waved a flag to us from a near-by bluff. He couldn't speak any English, but he managed to make us understand something had happened to General Custer." The steamboat men were pressed into service to transport the few wounded survivors from the battlefield to the steamboat. {15} There were no ambulances, and rude stretchers had to be improvised. Horses were skinned, and each hide stretched across two poles. This "bed" was then carried by two horses, one in front of the patient, the other behind. On the boat they laid the injured men in rows on the open deck. Many of them were severely wounded; three died on the trip down the river. The river was unusually high, and men say that such speed was never before made by any river boat. The captain drove them night and day until they reached Fort Abraham Lincoln below Bismarck, where medical attention could be given the wounded soldiers.

The account here given reminds us that those who were not attracted by the forts, had the alternative of working on the steamboats. These boats were owned by private companies, which were given contracts by the government to transport ammunition and provisions to the forts along the river. In addition, they carried cordwood and hay between the agencies, and down the river to Yankton. The work was less steady than the work at the forts, and it was so hard and paid so little that most of the men abandoned it as quickly as possible. The writer's principal informants are the above-named Jens Hoxeng and O. P. Soelberg, both of Volin, South Dakota. They usually started from Yankton and traveled various distances, according to the destination of their cargo. They carried goods as far up the river as possible, to Fort Benton in Montana, a trip that took six weeks from Yankton. They had great difficulty with sandbars, and at times the boat was stuck fast for a whole day before they could get it afloat. To free it they used an arrangement with block and tackle.

The men were paid twenty-five dollars a month and slept on the open deck, using their shoes for pillows. At times it was so cold that they nearly froze to death. It is a general complaint that the food was poor; in Even Fossum's biography it is said that they were treated to "rotten pork and raw beans." {16} A Norwegian, one Ole Larsen (Kongsvik) was cook for a time; according to Hoxeng the bread he made was so raw that it could be rolled into balls of dough that would stick on the wall if they were thrown. There was no drinking on the boat, but many of the young men spent their winters in Sioux City or in Yankton, rather freely wasting their substance.

CONCLUSION

The Norwegians on the Missouri in the seventies were looking for work, and they found it; in addition they found a life of stirring adventure. At the same time that these men were experiencing the zest and variety of existence on the frontier, they were taking a not insignificant part in the "building of the new kingdom," to borrow a phrase from 0. E. Rølvaag. By their work as hewers of wood and drawers of water they helped supply the basic needs of these frontier communities. Their strong arms aided in keeping the means of communication moving on the Missouri River. Their mechanical skill as carpenters and blacksmiths helped to create and preserve, even in the wilderness, the implements of civilization. They acted as assistants and managers for the government agents, and as their intermediaries with the Indians; their wives kept boarding houses and gave to the wilderness a touch of home. These experiences were only an episode in the lives of most of them; as the facts from their earlier and later careers show, they merely sought a means of support while they were waiting for income from their farms. Their sound, respectable origin from the upper farming class in Norway, the return of most of them to this means of livelihood in America, and their eventual economic security have been indicated. The writer has also sketched brief pictures of their character and personality, to show the variety of individuals who were driven by economic necessity to brave the dangers of the "wild west." Few of them are now alive, and for historical accuracy and completeness it is unfortunate that this study was not undertaken ten years ago. Even so, it is of interest for history to learn the saga of these men. The government records tell of the forts, their founding, their purpose, and their duration. But only from the lips of the men who lived and struggled there is it possible to know the life that went on at the forts and the thoughts and feelings which that life awakened in the Norwegian pioneers.

SUPPLEMENT

The writer has been unable to find official records of the laborers employed at the government forts, but the names of laborers at the Indian agencies, together with their birthplaces and salaries, are reported in the biennial United States Official Register. The carelessness with which such reports were made by the local agents is shown both by their incompleteness and by the corrupt spelling in which Norwegian names appear. In the Register of 1869, and earlier, there are no Norwegians whatever. In 1871 there were four at the Cheyenne agency (listed as "born in Germany"), paid $33.33 1/3 per month, and three at the Upper Missouri agency (later divided into Lower Brule and Crow Creek, also referred to as "Fort Thompson"), paid $720 a year. Of these the writer has not identified two: O. Olsen and Gibbert Gudmanden. In 1873 there were fourteen Norwegians at the Upper Missouri agency, but none at Cheyenne. Of these, four are unknown: Ole Hanson and Ole Erekson, herders; Hans Hanson and Peter Larson, laborers. In that year blacksmiths were paid $1000, herders $900, laborers $720. In 1875 there were still three Norwegians at Crow Creek, but the salaries had fallen to $720 for the blacksmith, and $600 for laborers. In 1877 there were five Norwegians at Crow Creek, one at Lower Brule, and one at Cheyenne. One of these, George Kudson ("Kurdson"), is unidentified; another, Edward Richards, is probably not Norwegian. In 1879 there were three Norwegians at Crow Creek and one at Lower Brule.

Eighteen men took part in the expedition of 1870 described above. Of these it has been possible to recover the names of all except three. Two of the three were brothers from Voss; one was called Lars, the other Joseph. The latter was unlucky enough to cut his foot with an axe, so that he had to spend most of the summer in a hospital. The following brief summaries will give sketches of the rest:

1. Halvor Aune has been discussed above; as he is not reported by either Koues or Bingham as a laborer at the agency in 1871 or 1873, he must have been employed at the near-by fort.
2. Thomas Berg fell from a haystack in Yankton County some years later and broke his neck.
3. Iver Furuness is discussed in the body of the article.
4 and 5. Christopher Haaker took a homestead west of Hull, Iowa, which he later sold; he removed to Canton, South Dakota, where he died in 1915. His name is found in the Register at Crow Creek in 1873. His brother Sivert became involved in an affair, related above, with Dr. Livingston, the agent, and committed suicide at Fort Thompson. His name ("Sever" and "Severt" Haakker) is found in the Register at Lower Brule in 1873 and 1877.
6. Ole Hjelle was separated from both wife and land in Yankton County; later he worked as carpenter in Yankton.
7. Lars Høiland (Thompson) from Voss settled near Gayville, South Dakota.
8. Anders Kregnes, from Meihus [?], did not like the work in the woods and returned to Sioux City.
9. Ole Lee is mentioned in the body of the article; he is Halvor Aune's brother, three years younger than Halvor, who is eighty-five.
10. Ingebrigt Meslo, from Rennebu, worked for a while at Fort Thompson, and then returned to Yankton, where he worked for a milling company. Later he opened a coal and lumber yard and grew prosperous. According to the Register he worked as a laborer at Crow Creek agency in 1873, 1875, and 1877. He is listed as Albert Meslo (also Melso).
11. and 12. Sivert and Ingebrigt Sivertsen (Mjøen), from Opdal, worked at Fort Thompson (i.e., at Lower Brule agency) for several years, Ingebrigt as stable boss, Sivert outside. Ingebrigt (the name is pronounced "Emret") is listed in 1871 as "Emery Swertsen," in 1877 as "Emrit Severtson," and in 1879 as "Emert Sivertsen." Sivert is listed only once, 1873, as "Sever Severtsen." According to Ingebrigt's biography he took over a contract to chop cordwood at Fort Hale, but at what time is not clear. It took three weeks to reach Fort Hale by steamer. He, too, mentions the scarcity of work in Sioux City. In 1891 he took a homestead north of Fort Thompson.
13. John Sliper, also from Opdal, returned after some years to Norway, where he died. He was said to be over-fond of drinking. Later immigrants say that he was one of the first to return to Opdal from America and spread the "glad tidings" of American wealth and opportunity. He had some ability as a physician. When the above-named Joseph split his foot while chopping wood, Sliper succeeded in splicing it together and making it grow. This art he claimed to have learned from a Finn (i.e., a Lapp)
14. Ole Solem, from Høilandet, Sør Trøndelag, chopped wood at Fort Thompson, then filed a claim in Yankton County. It is said that when he was breaking prairie, he did not have time to lie down in a bed, and slept standing up, leaning against a haystack.
15. Ingebrigt Sætrum, from Opdal, worked at Fort Thompson one summer; later married Christopher Haaker's sister and took over her brother Sivert's claim near Hull, Iowa. He is now (1931) living in Canton, South Dakota, eighty-eight years old.

In addition to this group, there were many Norwegians who found work at the forts and agencies during the seven ties. The list here given is compiled partly from oral information and partly from the printed biographies elsewhere cited. The list is far from complete, and the information available about some of the men is very scanty.

After 1880 living conditions had grown better, so that it was no longer necessary that the men seek work away from the farm. The lower forts were gradually being surrounded by settlements and had lost their earlier importance. In Peder Engen's biography is mentioned a company of neighbors, consisting of Halvor Hinseth, Sivert Nysether, Stengrim Hinseth, Lars Aaen, and others whom Engen joined in a sixty-mile trip to Fort Randall on foot. They got jobs sawing cordwood during the summer, and late in the fall they returned home. According to I. Fagerhaug's biography he, too, went on this trip, as well as Esten Dørrum, Johs. Marindahl, and Jens Eggen. Several of these men must have made other trips to the forts, for we find them mentioned in other accounts. Thus H. Aune says that Peder Engen and his wife Ingeborg were at Fort Randall in 1872 when he came down from Cheyenne. Iver Furuness mentions several for whom he obtained work at Fort Thompson: Sivert and Ingebrigt Sivertsen (Mjøen) Esten Dørrum, Christopher Haaker, Ole Fossem, Ole and Iver Bjerke.

1. Lars Aaen, from Opdal, emigrated in 1870, and settled in Yankton County. He appears to have been of more than average intelligence, and he gained among his neighbors a certain reputation for cynicism and craftiness.
2. and 3. Iver Bjerke, born in Opdal, was descended from one of the most distinguished families in the valley, a family which had contributed many of the 1ensmenn (sheriffs) of the community. Iver is listed in the Register as a laborer at Lower Brule and Crow Creek agencies in 1871; his name is spelled "Joer Joersen Bjecke." His brother Ole, born in 1840, emigrated in 1869, and took a homestead in Yankton County. About 1874 he and his family traveled first to Fort Thompson, then to Brule Indian agency. Here he got a position; while they lived there, his wife managed a boarding house. Their son, Iver, played with the Indian children and learned their language; he was confirmed by the Episcopal Bishop Hare. After a time they returned to the homestead. In 1902 they moved to Volin, and in 1901 to Irene. Bjerke became a leader in the religious affairs of the community.
4. Ole Brunsvik, from Meldalen, is said by Jens Hoxeng to have been with Iver Furuness and Lars Aaen at the forts. This is confirmed by the Register, in which the name "Bunswicg" is given at Lower Brule agency in 1878 and "Ole Bruncing" at Crow Creek in 1875.
5. Stengrim Detli, from Opdal, the son of a well-known lay preacher, was one of the earliest emigrants from Opdal, having emigrated in 1866. At home he had worked as black smith and wagon-maker, and, after he had farmed for a while, he began to look about for some more suitable and profitable work. When Iver Furuness left Fort Thompson, about 1876, he secured Detli as his successor. This is confirmed by the Register where "Detli Stengrien" appears as blacksmith at Crow Creek agency in 1877; in 1879 the name has become "Stengrime Dethe." At both times the salary is nine hundred dollars. In addition to working as blacksmith, he was to teach the Indians such things as how to repair their harnesses. He held a position of some responsibility at the agency; he tells of being visited once by four senators from Washington. One of them was John A. Logan of Illinois; he said to Detli, "You have a fine lot of workmen there, Mr. Detli. Be good to them. Don't sell them bones and charge them for meat." In 1886 Detli ended his work for the government and moved with his family to Sioux Falls, where he bought a blacksmith and wagon shop.
6. Esten Dørrum, who emigrated from Opdal in 1869, worked both at Fort Thompson and at the Cheyenne agency. He is found in the Register of 1871 as "E. Doneni" at the Cheyenne agency; two years later he was at Crow Creek his name now spelled "Elsen Darum."
7. Jens Eggen, from Melhus, was a herder at Crow Creek and Lower Brule agencies in 1873; he is listed in the Register as "John Eggen." He filed a claim in Turkey Creek, Yank-ton County.
8. Peder Engen, who was born in 1840, had come from Opdal in 1867 and settled west of Viborg, South Dakota, as a farmer.
9. Ingebrigt Fagerhaug, who was born in 1844, was also from Opdal. He emigrated in 1870, settled in Yankton County, and was known for his industry and for his devout Personality.
10. Jørgen Fleskerud, said to be from Gudbrandsdalen, is mentioned by Halvor Aune as working with Jon Sliper at Fort Sully.
11. Ole Fossem, who was born in Opdal in 1849, emigrated in 1870, and took a homestead south of Canton, in Lincoln County. In the Register of 1873 he is listed as "Ole Fosem," laborer at Lower Brule agency. He is now a retired farmer, living in Canton.
12. Haldor Hevle was born in Opdal in 1845, of a gifted family. He emigrated in 1869, and took a homestead in Yankton County. After trying railroad work, he traveled up the river with other Opdalings and chopped cordwood at Forts Randall, Thompson, and Sully. It is possible that he was a member of the expedition of 1870, previously described; it is probably he who is found in the Register of 1871 at Cheyenne as "W. Hevly." Like the other Norwegians who worked for Koues, he is listed as born in Germany. Two years later he was at Crow Creek, now more correctly listed as "Haldo Huely." In 1879 he sold his farm and moved to Stanwood, Washington, where he cleared a new farm in the forest.
13. Halvor Hinseth was born in Opdal in 1849. He emigrated in 1870, and settled in Yankton County. He was a jovial, leisurely person, well beloved in his community.
14. Stengrim Hinseth (not related to Halvor), was born in 1842, and came to America from Opdal in 1870. He took a homestead in Yankton County and became a well-to-do farmer and one of the religious leaders of the settlement.
15. Eric H. Loe, who was born in Opdal in 1856, emigrated in 1879. He was co-worker with Detli at the Crow Creek agency (Fort Thompson) and is listed in the Register of 1879 ("Erick Loe"). His ancestors had been among the most gifted men of Opdal. After working for a while as carpenter, he worked his way through Red Wing Seminary. He taught school for some time, then attended the University of Minnesota, where he graduated as a mechanical engineer in 1888. He achieved some reputation as an architect in Minneapolis, and was known as a leader in Norwegian social and literary activities. In 1911 he moved to Seattle; there he was the moving spirit in organizing Opdalalaget, a society of people from Opdal, and ably edited the first three issues of its yearbook. He was a man of more than average intellectual caliber, able in his profession, and broad in his interests.
16. Johs. Marindahl, said to have come from Gudbrandsdalen, traveled as far as the Cheyenne River agency in 1873 or 1874, stayed about six months, and then returned. He took a claim near Center Point in Turner County, and is said to be still living (1931).
17. Sivert Nysether emigrated from Opdal in 1868 and died in Yankton in 1878.
18. Louis Pederson, whose origin is unknown, worked with Lars Aaen. Jens Hoxeng describes him as a large, powerful man; Louis and Lars were going to lay the beam of a house in the forest; Louis carried the heavy end of the beam without difficulty, while Lars was crushed by the weight of the light end.
19. Simon Pederson, from Hedemarken, worked at Fort Sully.

The two remaining names have been found in the Register, as "Ole Liabo" (Cheyenne, 1871) and "Haloor Bjerke (Cheyenne, 1877), and have been later identified as the following individuals:

20. Halvor Bjerke, brother of Iver and Ole Bjerke, named above. He was married to a Kari Sletvold; he died in Gene see, Idaho, and left several children.
21. Ole Olsen Liabø was born in Opdal and emigrated in 1869. He became the first county assessor in Yankton County. In 1875 he settled in the state of Washington He became lumber inspector with the Port Madison Lumber Company. Later he was justice of the peace for a time, notary public, and clerk of the school board. He is said to have been one of the most capable and best educated of the immigrants from Opdal at that time. He lived in Port Madison until his death, some time after 1915.

Notes

<1> For the Norwegian side of the story the writer has had much aid from the oral narratives of Halvor Aune, whose help was particularly valuable, of Ole Lee, of Ingebrigt Sætrum, of Jens Hoxeng, and of 0 P. Soelberg. Unless a printed source is cited, all direct quotations are translated from the oral narratives of these men. Printed biographies or autobiographical statements are to be found in various issues of Opdalslagets Aarbok between 1921 and 1928. The writer has obtained valuable information, especially as to personal details, from the historical collections of his mother, Mrs. Kristine Haugen, the present editor of Opdalslagets Aarbok. The following books and articles are recommended to those desiring further information about the forts and allied topics: Doane Robinson, Encyclopedia of South Dakota (Pierre, South Dakota, 1925); Robinson, A Brief History of South Dakota (New York, 1905); Major Frederick T. Wilson, "Old Fort Pierre and Its Neighbors," with editorial notes by Charles E. Deland, in South Dakota Historical Collections, 1:259-379 (1902); "Dakota Military Posts," ibid., 8:77-99 (1916); and G. Bie Ravndal, "Scandinavian Pioneers," ibid., 12:297-330 (1924).

<2> In 1929, 46.7 per cent of the members of Opdalslaget, an organization of emigrants from Opdal and their descendants, lived in South Dakota. This calculation was made by the author from their membership list.

<3> Opdalslagets Aarbok, 1921-22, p. 87.

<4> According to Iver's own account, this occurred in 1870, but he is not listed in the United States Official Register for 1871. His name appears for the first time in the next biennial register, that of 1873, as "Iver Furrnnass." In 1875 his name has become "Iver Fumonase," and the salary has fallen from $1000 to $720. Two years later Stengrim Detli (listed as "Detli Stengrien") has taken his place.

<5> Opdalslagets Aarbok 1926, p.57. John G. Gasmann is listed as the agent at the Yankton agency in the Registers of 1875, 1875, and 1877. His birthplace is given as Norway.]

<6> Cf. Official Register for 1871, p. 185.

<7> For accounts by Koues and his successor, H. W. Bingham, of conditions at Cheyenne Agency, see Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs made to the Secretary of the Interior for the Year 1869 (Washington, 1870), and the same reports for 1870 and for 1873.]

<8> Sivert Haaker's name is found twice in the United States Official Register, 1873 (at Lower Brule agency) and 1877 (Crow Creek agency), with H. F. Livingston as agent in both places. According to the Register for 1879 an army officer, Captain Theo. Schwan, had become "acting agent" at Crow Creek; Haaker's name is gone.]

<9> Opdalslagets Aarbok, 1926, p. 57.

<10> Opdalslagets Aarbok, 1921-22, p. 81

<11> Opdalslagets Aarbok, 1925, p. 33-37.

<12> Opdalslagets Aarbok, 1921-22, p. 81-87.

<13> Opdalslagets Aarbok, 1921-22, p. 81-87.

<14> This particular trip of the "Far West" is mentioned in General (then Second Lieutenant) Charles F. Roe, Custer's Last Battle, 3 (New York 1927). The entire eastern column under General Terry had marched from Fort Abraham Lincoln (near the present Bismark, North Dakota), but General Terry, General Custer, and their staff had traveled part of the way on the "Far West." The statement in the present account that Custer appeared at Fort Randall must be an error, unless it refers to a previous occasion.

<15> It seems to have been the impression of my informants that these were survivors of the so-called "Custer massacre." It is, however, well established that there were no such survivors. There were many survivors, both well and wounded, however, of the various engagements immediately preceding and following Custer's ill-fated encounter. Custer had divided his regiment into three battalions, assigning two of them to respectively Major Reno and Captain Benteen. Reno's battalion met the Indians first, was overwhelmed and routed by them, and later reinforced by Benteen. The most scholarly recent account is found in Lieutenant Colonel W. A. Graham, The Story of the Little Big Horn (New York, 1926). For the activities of Reno and Benteen see especially pages 26, 37A9, and 69-74. According to the previously cited account by General Roe, page 12, the wounded (about fifty in number) were removed by some four hundred soldiers from General Gibbon's detachment, under Roe's direction. His story agrees well with that of my informants; it appears that the first five miles were traversed on foot, and that thereafter mules were pressed into service to carry the wounded in the fashion described. The skins were taken from Custer's dead horses. The steamboat accomplished the seven-hundred-mile journey to Bismarck in seventy hours.

<16> Opdalslagets Aarbok, 1926, p. 45.

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