Remembering the Belmont Massacre
Wednesday, May 01, 2013 3:48 PM
O.S. Johnson, Spring Grove's first historian, wrote the book called "Nybyggerhistorie fra Spring Grove og omegn, Minnesota" (Pioneer History from Spring Grove and around, Minnesota).
In this book, he tells about Ole Hendrickson, who was living here at that time, and how he felt a whiplash of the Indian scare, where people scattered in complete confusion when the rumor came that the Indians were murdering and burning buildings a few miles to the west.
Henrick Tangen, who was married to Ole's sister, came pounding on Ole's door, saying that the Indians were only a few miles away.
The message traveled from one neighbor to the next, and soon they all headed to the Stone Church for protection.
The next day at noon, news reached them that the Indians were many, many miles away, so it was a false alarm.
A few days ago, Dorothy Ellestad Karlsbroten came to the Ballard House and gave me copies of two interviews that were written up in two newspapers about two brothers who were the survivors of the Indian attacks that happened in 1862 near Jackson, Minn. These articles are about the Mestad/Exe families and others that had gone to that area to settle and make their homes.
Because of the length of these newspaper articles, there is not room to include the whole account here.
Brytteva Jonsdatter Mestad, born March 3, 1826, in Voss, Hordaland, Norway married Niels Knudsen Ekse around 1851 in Voss. Niels was born the April 23, 1831, also in Voss. On April 24, 1856, they decided to immigrate to America with their three children, Brita born 1851, Knut born 1853 and "Storre" Nels born 1855. They arrived in Koshkonong, Rock County, Wisconsin, and there another son, John N. Mestad, was born the Dec. 21, 1858.
In 1861, they were living in Canoe Township, Winneshiek County, Iowa, where "Vesle" Nels N. Mestad was born on the May 17. Niels Knudsen Ekse, the husband of Brytteva, and father of the above children, died there that same year.
Brytteva then married Niels' younger brother, Johannes Knudsen Ekse, shortly before they left for Jackson County, Minn., with a number of other people from the Highlandville area.
They couldn't have lived there long before the Indians began their pillaging and killing of settlers.
While the stepfather, Johannes Knudsen Ekse, was being killed outside by Indians, Brytteva and her five youngsters hid in the cellar and thus survived. But when the baby of another woman who was in the basement started crying, she bravely took her child and went upstairs, knowing she would be killed - yet the baby survived.
After the Indians had left, Brytteva and her five children took off for the cornfields where they were hidden.
They did not dare go near the creeks and risk being discovered, so she dragged a piece of cloth through the dew-laden grass to get a few drops of water for her children. It was a very frightening and tough journey.
For three days and nights they continued the flight from their plundered homes. On Wednesday morning, they encountered a small detachment of U.S. Cavalry sent out to gather in survivors of the massacre.
In due time, they were placed in army wagons and taken overland, at government expense, back to their former homes in Winneshiek County, Iowa.
It was a long, long trip thru central Minnesota and across the prairies of Iowa, but the soldiers were kind and fed them well on their coarse fare of beans, brown bread and milk.
Brytteva was paid $400 by the federal government to reimburse her for improvements on the abandoned homestead.
Uncle Sam was kind and just to the protégés in frontier times, and they were thankful for his protecting care, writes Nels N. Mestad.
Even though their father's name was Ekse, all the children took their mother's maiden name, Mestad.
This is Georgia Rosendahl's last history column as she is taking the summer off. Look for her columns again this fall. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additions and corrections to these columns are welcome.
At the Giants of the Earth Heritage Center, Inc, in downtown Spring Grove, we maintain an Internet-based "Collaborative Tree" for families with connections in this area.
There is also a library on the second floor of the Ballard House (at 163 W. Main St.) with printed materials relevant to genealogy and local history that is open to the public.
Stop by our library, and we will be glad to print pedigree or group sheets from our holdings for a small fee.
We also provide more extensive research services, connecting local families to their Norwegian ancestors.
Also check our website at www.sgheritage.org for our open hours or call ahead if you would be coming from some distance - (507) 498-5070.