Fort Harriman (Fort Skedaddle)
Presentation to the Annandale History Club
April 3, 2006
Compiled by Lucille Nelson as part of the Annandale historical research done by Wright County Historical Society with the assistance of Betty Dircks, archivist.
It seems difficult to picture people hiding from the Indians in the area of Annandale which is now covered with beautiful lake homes. To visualize the story of Fort Harriman, we must first realize the panic in the souls of early settlers who lived on the shores of Clearwater and Pleasant Lakes. We must think of their panic as they heard tales of the Indians in nearby settlements who were coming their direction. Every rifle shot, every dog bark, every head bobbing in deep grass brought one thing to their minds, Indians. Early settlers in Wright County feared the blood thirsty Sioux every minute of the day.
The settlers in Delhi, as it was then called, heard of the Indian problems at Fair Haven. Delhi is now Corinna Township located between Fair Haven and Clearwater Lake.1 They had also heard of the man killed at Lake Sylvia.
A Mr. Ferguson of Silver Creek had missed several head of stock and his neighbors were hunting for them and Indians at the same time. One of the searchers was named Hart. He had arrived at Swartout Lake at the point where the creek enters the lake on what was then the Bartholomew place. He was sitting down to rest when an Indian rose out of the grass, as if looking for him. Hart drew a bead on him and the Indian fled. He feared there were more Indians so he ran to his companions only to find out they were all killed. He kept up the fight by trying to chase the Indian and firing as he rode. The Indian caught on and poured powder in the barrel of his gun without wads. He capped the gun and fired, wounding Hart slightly. The courageous Hart then used a saber to kill the Indian2 The Indians seemed to be going out about 20 miles from Fair Haven.
These settlers took their cattle, families, provisions, and belongings and gathered at the home of Rev. M. S. Harriman that was located in the present Section 18 Corinna Township.3 This happened in 1862. They spent all night sharpening knives, repairing guns, and making other warlike preparations. They would leave to go back to their homes at the first streak of dawn with a wagon drawn by oxen in which the women and children rode and a sled also drawn by oxen. The sled carried a few trunks and a small assortment of luggage. They drove their cattle before them. They were prepared for Indian War, but they needed to care for their land and possessions.
They returned to the Harriman home again in the fall of 1862. Their numbers had increased with the addition of several new families. They made further plans for assistance in case of Indian attack.
In the spring of 1863, the grass would furnish food for Indian ponies. This free grazing of animals caused considerable uneasiness among the settlers who felt that the massacre in various places in the previous year would be repeated.
William Longworth (Camp Friendship area) saw an Indian near his home and three other Indians who seemed to be watching for "Elder" Robinson's ponies. Martin Ransom, M. S. Harriman, and one other tracked them for several days.
Frank K. Harriman and Gustavus Ziegler were hunting their cows when they became separated. Harriman saw a form moving in the undergrowth and called. He thought it was his friend Gustavus. Instead a bullet drilled into a tree near him.4
They dreaded leaving their homes again as they had suffered some loss the previous year in cattle and crops and now had more to lose. They consulted among themselves and decided to fortify a small peninsula on the south side of Pleasant Lake. The lake would surround them in front and the very wet marshes would be at the sides and rear.
Sunday services at the small house built by John Doble became a service of decision. The house was on the main road, which was then only two narrow paths made by the feet of oxen and the wheels of wagons going between Clearwater Lake and Fair Haven. It is noted that John Doble lived across the road from the place of worship. Rev. M. S. Harriman was the pastor of the small congregation as well as a farmer.
The following morning, the settlers gathered on the peninsula, going around the lake by wagon and crossing by boats. They had loaded household utensils, bedding, food, and small children into these wagons and boats. They were prepared to stay for a time. The belongings were piled in heaps, the location being chosen to suit the fancy of the owner. The meals were cooked in the open.
The families involved were John and Elijah Doble, Nicolas Ziegler, _______ Geatz, James Pratt, his father and mother, and Rev. M. S. Harriman and family. They were later joined by the Levi Dakin family.5 Also present were Lorenz and Thomas Doble, and Martin Ransom families.6 All of these families had originally come from Maine.7
The men began to dig a trench around the small body of land forty rods east of what is now Ridgway Point. This land is at the north end of North Pleasant Avenue, in the present city of Annandale. The building was sixty feet by sixty feet. Logs they cut from the forest were placed upright, side by side, on end to form the bullet proof stockade. It was bullet proof in the light of ammunition used in that time. A bastion or tower was constructed on the southeast corner (toward Dr. Holmberg's office). This would give the riflemen a chance to cover the whole space about the fort. In the center was a cellar like hole for the storage of ammunition.8 Some of them cut poles with a fork at one end. They drove these into the ground and poles were laid in the forks at the top to form the foundation for the roof. This made the building into a sort of covered tent. This was enclosed with bedding. The women and children slept here packed tightly together.
Later, they took down a new log house that had not been chinked. It had been built by John Doble in the townsite of Corinna. The logs were floated up the lake and rebuilt. In this building the women and children slept upstairs and the men slept downstairs.
As it grew dark each night, two women were chosen to stand guard at the narrow necks of land that joined their island/peninsula to the main land, the men taking their places later and keeping guard all night. Various excursions were made to the little clearings to see that all was well and to get food. The men always went together in small parties.
The Doble Boys
Blood was almost shed at the Fort when John Doble's sons went to the marsh to gather grass for the calves at the fort. James Pratt saw the bobbing heads and thought there were Indians that were hiding in the grass. He had rifle in hand ready to shoot when the boys' mother ran to stop him.
The Firing at Clearwater
The story is told that one night all had settled down to rest. The sentinels heard the report of a distant gun. then another and another, in rapid succession. Considering how paranoid the settlers were, they were all roused and as the firing went on, their alarm increased. The settlers thought the Indians were coming from Fair Haven. Every gun was put in order. Both men and women had fire arms ready. (Those pioneer women were liberated.)
After an hour or two, the firing stopped and the suspense ceased. No harm had come to the stockade. Curiosity and fear still was working on them. Finally, little Elijah Doble volunteered to go to Clearwater to see what news he could get. On his return to the fort, he told that the firing was for the celebration of the Union victory in the South. Doble, however, fanned himself with his hand and told everyone that the hole in the crown of his hat was made by an Indian's arrow.
By this time the Levi Dakin family had joined the others at the stockade.
The people stayed on for some time, but the work was laborious and slow. With all the inconvenience and friction coming from the close, unhandy quarters, the discontent increased until the families began to return to their homes. In a very short time "Fort Skedadddle" as it was later called, was empty.
1 Winchell, Prof. H. H., Rev. Edward D. Neill, and Charles Bryant. HISTORY OF WRIGHT COUNTY, MN., 1881, reprinted from HISTORY OF THE UPPER MISSISSIPPI VALLEY. Minnesota History Company. 1881.
2 "The Historic Fort Harriman," Annandale Advocate Post, August 16, 1900.
3 Wright County Plat Book, 1879.
4 "Fort Ske-daddle," Annandale Advocate, January 11, 1906.
5 "Fort Ske-daddle," Annandale Advocate, January 11, 1906.
6 "The Historic Fort Harriman," Annandale Advocate Post, August 16, 1900.
7 Professor N. H. Winchell, et al.
8 "The Historic Fort Harriman"
NOTE: Emma Harriman, the daughter of Rev. Harriman, originally wrote this information. She was known as a author of children's literature.