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Sheboygan County, Wisconsin Genealogy & History

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This article was contributed by Kay Reitberger

The Manitowoc Herald - February 14, 1923

Memories Of Pioneer Days Recalled By Story Of Indian Scare Of '62

Sheboygan County Woman Writes Interesting Account of Exciting Events Here

By Mrs. Myrta Williams-Stannard

One fall, two or three years before the Civil war, the people of Eastern Wisconsin and especially Sheboygan and Manitowoc counties, were much frightened by a supposed raid by the Indians, A man near the center of Sheboygan county, had a large field of wheat harvested and shocked, One day he noticed smoke coming from the field. His field of wheat was on fire and as Indians were not uncommon he thought the Indians had set the fire and would burn up everything. He rushed to the house, warned his wife and told her to go to the nearest town for safety.

He then started on horseback to tell his neighbors. He galloped along, shouting to everyone, "Fly, the Indians are coming, burning everything," then on again. Many of those whom he warned started off on foot or horseback spreading the alarm. Before night the people for miles around were all astir. The alarm spread over much of the state this way.

When the people heard that the Indians were about the began picking up their valuables and hurrying away to the towns and some to the woods. They were all so frightened that they hardly knew what they were about. One woman ran out to the field where her husband was at work and told him of the Indians. He did not believe a word of it, but said she might pick up such things as she wanted most to save, so they would be ready if the Indians did come. The poor woman rushed back to the house and picked up two silver table spoons and hid them in her dress. Another woman was seen carrying a very old and very large clock; she wasn't going to leave that for the Indians. One family had a small dog which they couldn't take with them and didn't want the Indians to find, so they hid it under a barrel, when they returned home they were reminded of the dog's presence by his barking. Some walked many miles carrying their children and what they wished to save to find a place of safety. Others piled their valuables into ox-carts; curious indeed was the collection - barrels, boxes, chicken coops and other things that they would least want should their home be destroyed.

In some of the towns the trains were not allowed to go farther, but must wait to carry the people to a place of safety should the Indians come. One old farmer who lived near a small lake took his family to the nearest town so that they might take the train, then returned to his home, took a boat, put in some blankets and provisions, went to the middle of the lake and anchored there for the night. He wasn't afraid of the Indians.

Some doubted the report and so set off on horseback in the direction to see if there were any Indians. After going two miles one of these parties of scouts came to the top of a high hill and from this point they could see for some distance in all directions. All at once they saw dense clouds of smoke arise and what they supposed to be Indians running about. This satisfied them that the Indians were really coming and burning everything; they turned and galloped homeward shouting, "The Indians are coming not two miles away, we saw them."

The people ran faster than before. One family who had not believed the report before now packed up their things and put them into the ox-cart and started for town. In passing through the woods where the road was very rough, one of the wheels came off. The father called to his son, "Jump out, John and heave it in, heave it in for we must go along." And they finished their journey upon three wheels.

As night came on the people who had not gone to the villages or woods gathered together at some house where they thought they would be safe. At one house, a plaster and stone one, which was very strong, six or seven families gathered; the men brought their guns, pitchforks or anything to defend themselves. The men guarded the house and the women and children took turns sleeping in the beds and upon the floor.

In a few days the excitement began to abate for there were many cross reports. Some said the Indians were coming from the north and others from the south, and the wiser ones shook their heads and said they didn't believe they were coming at all. In a few days the truth of the matter became known. The wild pigeons were very thick that fall and especially in the grainfields and a large flock had gathered in the farmer's wheat field. Some boys were out shooting pigeons and while shooting in this man's field set fire to some of the grain and as it was quite dry it burned rapidly with the results given.

The men who had set out as scouts were much frightened and imagined more than they saw, so when they stopped upon the hill and saw something that looked like smoke in their minds it was smoke, but in reality it was the dust coming from a threshing machine and the Indians were the men at work.

Ask any old settler of this part of the state about the Indian scare and he will laugh and tell you how foolish his neighbors were, how they ran and hid and will end by saying, "Of course, I didn't believe such trash, I knew it was only a scare and wouldn't amount to anything, but then it's always best to be on the safe side."

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