Local veterans of the 1862 Dakota War
Glimpses of Yesteryear
Wednesday, March 28, 2012 5:31 AM
The commemoration of the 1862 Dakota War is going on this year, a reminder of a tragic segment of our state history. It has been fascinating to pour over the bios that appeared in Spring Valley's Centennial papers in the 1950s, looking for veterans of that conflict. Following are stories of two of those gentlemen, gleaned from error-prone newspaper printings.
Vital and Sarah Ann (Lilly) LeFevere, as pictured in the History of Fillmore County, 1912, Volume I. No photo was available for Julius Viall.
Coming from France in 1841, Vital LeFevere was aboard a ship that landed in New Orleans. He traveled up the Mississippi River to St. Louis, Mo., where he lived for a time before returning to France for a year. He then emmigrated to America in 1846, this time to the Milwaukee area of Wisconsin.
He and a friend, Patrick Lilly, were bitten by the 'gold bug' and joined the seekers who migrated to California during the Gold Rush of 1849. However, he and a brother, Leon, came to Minnesota in 1855 and settled near Wykoff. They farmed and ran a general store for several years; then moved to a farm six miles southeast of Spring Valley.
In 1859 he married Sarah Ann Lilly, and they built a log house where they lived for several years. When sawed lumber became available, they built a frame house, and still later built a frame house where the Harold Lentz family lived for many years.
During the "Indian Uprising" near New Ulm and Fort Ridgely in 1862, Governor Sibley called for volunteers. LeFevere answered the call and reported to Ft. Snelling. By 1863 it was reported a treaty had been signed; he was mustered out, and returned to his farming operation.
The LeFeveres had five children: Sabina (Mrs. Henry Haslam), Armie, Leon, Amelia, and Mary (Mrs. Will Seeley). LeFevere was considered one of the outstanding farmers of his era. Wheat was usually the main crop in those years, but he practiced diversity, also raising cattle, hogs, sheep and chickens. When wheat failures came along, he was in a better position, and proved a very helpful neighbor to those less fortunate. He died in 1895; Mrs. LeFevere in 1899.
Julius Viall was born in New York in 1847, but his family moved west when he was but a child, and settled in the Preston, then Spring Valley area. His mother died young, and Viall spent early boyhood with his uncles, Milton Viall and William Wilkins.
As a young man he carried mail on horseback between Preston and Austin, traveling the Old Territorial Road, still a main thoroughfare in Spring Valley. When the Civil War broke out, he lied about his age at enlistment. Stationed at Ft. Snelling, he, too, saw duty during the Indian Uprising, but no other active duty.
He was soon mustered out and returned to Preston where he married Florence Butler. Viall then worked briefly for a bank in Austin, soon coming to Spring Valley where he opened a boot and shoe store in 1878. A few years later, he moved across the street to a larger brick building on the west side of upper Broadway. He became known as "Viall the Shoe Man" and continued in business until his death in 1915.
Their two sons were Roy and Fay, both notables in Spring Valley history. Roy graduated in 1889, and served as Captain in the National Guard, leading Company F in the Spanish-American War of 1898. He saw no 'action' except suffering in a camp in Georgia; the company returning in the fall of that year to a welcome home celebration. Roy was in several businesses, and a Spring Valley postmaster for fourteen years; he married Emma Lobdill, one of the Twins you've read about earlier.
Fay graduated in 1893, went to Northwestern University for a pharmacist course; later joined his father in the shoe business. Fay loved music and at one time formed the Mandolin Club; he also continued his keen interest in many sports including golf. He married Mabel Chapman and they later moved to California.
Julius Viall was the first manager of the municipal electric light plant, a position he held for several years. His wife taught school in Spring Valley, and was always interested in educational affairs until her death in 1936. Known as "Burke" to his friends, Viall was an avid fisherman and an expert at fly-casting, spending countless hours at the Masonic Park area and on the branches of the Root River, all known for good trout fishing.
You may expect more stories on Civil War veterans who made sacrifices for all of us.