St Peter Sep 17/62
Rev S. R. Riggs
I am continually thinking of ways to get Sister Josephine out of her present danger we have no team that would be of any use in a flying trip across the prairie and if we had I do not know that there would be a mounted company raised for a guard, now it seems like a presumption for me to make any suggestion to you but my great anxiety must plead my excuse. Could not a mounted company reach Lacquiparle unseen by any body of Indians by keeping entirely back from the Minnesota river as there are no settlements, nothing to tempt the Indians either by getting plunder or killing whites is very likely that they will watch that prairie very closely, if it were possible to send and get her away we would be very thankful. I cannot give up the Idea of having her rescued but we seem to be so hampered with sickness we could do nothing if anything could be done. My husband has been quite unwell ever since you were here. Perry is on the sick list now. Rufus is doing as well as could be expected. I am mending slowly but am not really able to write so please excuse the appearance of this. I know you can do nothing more than bring this subject up before the military commanders and perhaps they may see some way for a rescue. I will not ask you to write to us as I know your time must be much occupied.
I remain yours truly
Jane S. Holtsclaw
Recently Lois Glewwe posted a biographical sketch of Sophia Josephine Marsh Huggins along with a PDF transcription of her 1862 captivity story on Dakota Soul Sisters. In Fargo last week, Lois and I talked about research leads on Huggins’s story. But I had forgotten about a file I’d created on her containing gleanings from the Riggs Papers at MHS.
Besides the letter above, written while Josephine was still captive, I flagged four other letters written in 1863-64: two written by Josephine’s sister-in-law, Eliza Huggins and two written by Josephine commenting on the circumstances under which Huggins’s story was composed.
It’s unusual to find period documentation illuminating the composition process, which in this case appears to have been a collaboration between Josephine and her sister-in-law, Eliza, with quite possibly, invisible editorial assistance from Stephen Riggs. As Zabelle argued in The War in Words, collaboration and mediation are common in 18th and 19th century stories. Unusually, in Huggins’s case, we have new evidence of those elements at work in the process of bringing Huggins’s story to press.
It is also unusual in the Dakota War literature to find an eyewitness account that does not indiscriminately vilify Dakota people. Huggins’s story is one; Mary Butler Renville’s is the other. So this week I want to give you a chance to do real history: consider the primary texts (the letters), which I’ll transcribe here, and the secondary versions of Huggins’s story linked on my Sources tab here.
What do you notice? What do you think? What else do you know about this family and their story? Comments are welcome!