Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Rosalie and Hyacinthe Couturier

 Rosalie & Hyacinthe Couturier

A story from Alec DeMerce – later known as “Racky” who left his home in Canada early in the nineteenth century to become a wanderer in the western wilds.

Alec found the Dakota in this area (Sleepy Eye area) to be friendly and never returned neither to his home nor to civilization.  He spent his time trapping and hunting and who probably was the first white man to know Chief Sleepy Eye. Alec DeMerce had several Indian wives at different times and raised a number of children.  Alec ended up marring Chief Sleepy Eye’s 1st sister (2nd sibling) “Tate” or her English name Louisa.  They had six children together; Rosalia, Madeline, Jeanetle, Francis, Alexis, John. Alec DeMerce however had two other children from his previous wives; Dennis and Frank.

One of Alec’s daughters, Rosalie married a man by the name of Hyacinth Coutourier or “French Cap”, as he was commonly known, was another French Canadian.  A trading post was located near the lake in about the year 1829 and different traders kept it up more or less constantly until the Indian Uprising of 1862.  We have been often times told about a large Sisseton-Dakota Indian village as having a long time existed at what we are familiar with existed at what is now called “Sleepy Eye Lake”.  It was still thriving at the time of the Coutourier settled here in 1856 or 1857.

The lake was called by the Indians, “Bedatasche”, meaning as interpreted by some, “Big Wood Tree” and by others, “Pretty Water With Big Trees.”

It was about this time that the lake went dry, after a long series of very dry years.  It soon filled again, dried up once more, in recent years filled again and has since held its level.  Ish-Tak-Ha-Ba was chief of the Sisseton’s for many years.  He took part in negotiations for the treaty at Traverse de Sioux in 1851.  So far as is known he never counseled the breaking of that treaty, nor did anything to prevent the carrying into effect of its terms, though he doubtless regretted the necessity of making it as much as any of his contemporaries.  He, with many others, looked upon the whites as a force irresistible and as a power with which the wisest course was to make the best terms possible.

 Chief Sleepy Eye died in 1860, before the uprising of 1862 the village site was not long occupied by Chief Sleepy Eye’s people, but Hyacinthe Coutourier had not changed his location.  Hyacinthe and Rosalie Coutourier lived on the shore of Sleepy Eye Lake east near the tribe’s camp.     Their home was located east of the farm buildings on the Todnem farm.  The Todnem farm was directly across the street from where the St. Mary’s Cemetery is presently.  The home of the Couturier’s consisted of 3 rooms downstairs and two bedrooms upstairs.

A trader named Ross lived in a small clearing in the grove on the east side of what has since been classed Ross Lake – a small lake nearly a mile southeast of Sleepy Eye Lake.  Mrs. Coutourier was Dakota halfblood – Chief Sleepy Eye’s niece – and he was a French Canadian was had for years lived with these Indians; yet on hearing of the intended uprising – friendly squaw had informed them – they got to New Ulm, the nearest settlement, as quickly as they could, knowing that the Indians in their excitement and lust for blood would make no exceptions.  Ross took his family across the Cottonwood River which was heavily fringed with timber and underbrush on both sides.  Hiding in daylight and traveling only at night, they worked their way eastward arriving at Mankato without having seen any Indians.  A child was born to Mrs. Ross while on route.  Their house was burned, probably by the Indians.  The burning, however, did not take place during the first raid of the Indians, because soldiers who came through the area shortly after found it intact with guns and ammunition in the house where Mr. Ross had left them.

When the Coutouriers returned they also found their house undisturbed, but “French Cap” found three dead Indians, bound in bark and tied to the limbs of a large oak a few rods southwest of his house.  Thirty-eight Indians implicated in the uprising were hanged at Mankato on December 26th, 1862.

For more information about the Uprising of 1862;

Sleepy Eye

Sleepy Eye In 1890

1. Home of Attorney L. G. Davis
2. Episcopal Church
3. Empty at the moment - 110 Main St. E
4. Known as the Lake House; owned by Chris Emmerich, father of Mrs. Welcome
5. A small building used as a Barber Shop
6. Known as the White Hotel
7. First National Bank now
8. Known as the Schwieger Butcher Shop now Creative Hair Design
9. Formerly Mrs. Feierer home on Walnut Street
10. The Jailhouse
11. The Wagon Shop
12. Liesenfeld's Livery Barn
13. The Mill Elevator
14. The Original Mill - Called the Roller Mill
15. Was the home of Mr. Callanan, grandfather of John Callanan
16. Home of Gus Remmele, now remodeled and occupied by Art Schmidt
17. Office of the  John Hanson Lumber company, later became the Lampert Lumber company.  The   building was moved to the north of the old Smally hotel on North Fifth and is now used as a machine shop by the Harris Manufacturing company.
18.  Was a Gieseke home
19.  The Hanson lumber shed
20.  Home of Ole Johnson
21.  Was a Dombrowski home, now replaced by a modern new home.
22.  Was the Barr and Fenske store, then the Scharckel's store
23. Was the Koehne Liquor Store, the the Guldager Food Store
24.  Was the Bertrand Leather Goods Store

The Sloughs of Sleepy Eye

The Sloughs of Sleepy Eye

 (Ross Lake 1910)

The word “Sisseton” means “swamp dwellers” and the people of Chief Sleepy Eye spent their lives in or near sloughy places.  This could be probably one of many reasons why Chief Sleepy Eye chose our town to live after he and his band was told to move from Swan Lake in 1857. Few sloughs are left in Brown County, today due to the eagerness for drainage. Nowadays, we have to learn to remake sloughs when and where are needed.

The railroad tracks in Sleepy Eye had to be laid on the highest ridge of land.  This sloped northward to Sleepy Eye Lake and its widely twisting surroundings.  A slough lay along Fifth Street (now First Avenue) between the tracks and St. Mary’s Church.  A large arm of Sleepy Eye Lake spread behind the low hill at the end of Fifth Street (First Avenue) and was known as Geschwind’s Slough.

The main part of Sleepy Eye Lake has been dry twice in known history.  The first reported time was in the 1802.  The second time was in the early 1930s, and there are pictures showing this.  Then the lake bed was so dry that several persons planted gardens in it.  One man missed his small dog and found it barking for help from a crack into which it had fallen.

Moving toward the south part of town, the land sloped into innumerable sloughs, some of which became arms of what was known as Ross Lake during the rainy seasons.  Ross Lake was located for those who are unfamiliar, at the southeast edge of town.  People on Ross Lake tied boats to their steps as the only way to get in and out of their homes.

Ross Lake took its name from a trader who had had a cabin near it.  Warned of the Uprising in 1862, the Ross family fled eastward toward Mankato, following the Cottonwood River.  Along the way, Mrs. Ross gave birth to a child.  This was one of the few families which did not return after the region was pacified.  The Ross Lake was always small, brushy and weedy, and it was made smaller and smaller by being filled in until final drainage and filling removed it entirely, but not before it flooded several blocks in 1965.

Hotel owner Carl Berg, who came to Sleepy Eye in 1873 to build the second hotel in Sleepy Eye, chose a site at the southeast corner of Main Street and Sixth (now Second Avenue S.W.).  He was accustomed to shooting wild fowl from the hotel’s back door.  As late as 1890 the Berg children skated from the back of the hotel southeastward for two blocks.

Ice boating was an occasional winter sport on Sleepy Eye Lake.  In summer many rowboats could be seen, and a boathouse stood below the park.  Ice skating was popular on Sleepy Eye Lake, the Geschwind Slough, Ross Lake, the Dumke Slough south of Ross Lake (about the place on which the Orchid Inn stands), and even occasionally on the Hilleschiem Slough which was in the southwest part of town and is now a portion of the Hilleshiem Addition.  Often times, Main Street would even be considered a mass of mud.