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Belmont Massacre

by Deb Nelson Gourley

excerpt of column printed in the Fillmore County Journal November 12, 2001

The following account is taken from the History of Jackson County and Historie om Udvandringen fra Voss og Vossingerne i Amerika (History of Emigration from Voss):

The attack on the Norwegian settlement of Jackson County occurred on Sunday, August 24, 1862. At the Ole Førde home, on the northwest quarter of section 22, Belmont, several families had gathered . . .when the Indians were seen approaching, Mrs. Førde, Ingeborg Hjørnevik and Bryta Mestad Ekse with the eight small children went into the cellar. . . twelve year old Ole Olson Førde (son to Ole Førde) piled clothing, boxes and trunks over it . . .the others remained upstairs.

The Indians burst in the east door. All who were in the cabins, except the boy, were instantly killed . . .Lars Hjørnevik (my Great-Great-Great-Grandfather) was shot . . . Ole Olson Førde, the boy, who was standing guard at the west door, bolted out and ran down a trail that led to a spring. . . the bullet struck his right elbow . . . the boy made his way to the church and warned other settlers of the attack.

The fears of those in the cellar were made worse by the crying of the two-year-old baby of Ingeborg Hjørnevik (my Great-Great-Great-Grandmother).

"That lady, with heroism seldom equaled in the annals of Indian warfare . . . deliberately came out of the cellar. . . she said . . . Your children are smaller than mine and they keep quiet; if I stay here the Indians will find us. She came up from the cellar with the child and was killed, her body being horribly mutilated."

The Indians did not learn where Ingeborg Hjørnevik came from because they were busy with the whiskey they found. The child (Johannes, my Great-Great-Grandfather) was un-harmed, but soon began to cry. When the Indians were gone, Bryta Mestad Ekse came up from the cellar, found the child in his mother’s blood, and took him back into the cellar.

The two women and all the children then hid in the cornfield. They spent Sunday night in a blacksmith shop on the Slaabaken farm and then walked south to the fort on Spirit Lake.

In the Historical Data Project, the journey of the women and children is further described: Four of the children were not big enough to walk . . . a younger Førde brother, age 9, transported two of the children while the other two women each carried one. To carry these two children, he would take one in his arms, run ahead some 25 to 50 rods, put the child down, run back and get the other child.

In fear of the Indians, the women and children did not follow the Des Moines River bottom. They had neither water nor food as they continued their flight for three days and nights. To partly quench the children's thirst for water, Mrs. Førde in the early morning would repeatedly wipe her skirt over the dew-laden grass and then ring it out.

The group was discovered by a small detachment of the U.S. cavalry that was sent out to gather in survivors of the massacre. The boy, Ole, who had been given up for dead, joined the group a week after the massacre. After some time, they were hauled in army wagons back to Winneshiek County.

Read Gourley's complete article at http://www.fillmorecountyjournal.com/Main.asp?SectionID=9&SubSectionID=9&ArticleID=53


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