Eliza Huggins: “We thank you for the trouble you… have had with Josephine’s narrative.”

“Adventures Among the Indians: Narrative of the Captivity and Rescue of Mrs. Sophia Josephine Huggins,” as reprinted in the St. Paul Weekly Press February 12, 1863, page 3. 

In Rescuing Josephine Huggins, I opened the story of a new collection of primary sources commenting on the 1862 captivity story of Sophia Josephine Huggins, who was recently profiled by historian Lois Glewwe.

Two of the new letters, both written by Josephine’s sister-in-law, Eliza Huggins, and found in the Stephen R. Riggs Papers at the Minnesota Historical Society, are transcribed below. Lois’s profile is so thorough that it provides the annotations I would otherwise supply on these letters.

The short version of Josephine’s story is that she was living at Lac qui Parle in western Minnesota 1862. Josephine’s husband, Amos (Eliza Huggins’s brother), was killed and Josephine and their children taken “captive” –in this case, sheltered by Spirit Walker and his family in an Upper Dakota camp west of the theater of war.

The new letters raise new questions. Lois and I have hypotheses I’ll supply here in case you have information commenting on them.

Where is “Shady Nook?”

My first hunch was that it was the name of Josephine Huggins’s family home outside Abingdon, Illinois. Based on Huggins family memoirs, we have believed that Josephine’s father, Thomas Marsh, came to MN and took Josephine and her children home to IL immediately following her release from captivity. But based on Eliza Huggins’s letters below, it seems that Josephine perhaps did not go to IL until the early spring of 1863, but spent the winter of 1862-63 at “Shady Nook.” Shady Nook may be the Traverse des Sioux/St. Peter-area home of Jane Huggins Holtsclaw (who worried about rescuing “Sister Josephine” in my previous post). Alexander Huggins’s home at Traverse (Alexander was Eliza’s father) was called “Hickory Hill.”

Who is “Isabella” in the first letter?

I immediately thought of Isabella Riggs, daughter of Stephen Riggs, who is most likely the Isabella mentioned in the second letter. But I was bothered by the implication that Isabella #1 missed the worst of the Dakota War because she was with the Huggins in Traverse/St. Peter, east of the theater of action, while we have never had any reason to doubt that Isabella #2, Isabella Riggs, was at home at Hazlewood on the Upper Reservation when the war broke out and escaped with her family in the so-called Riggs Missionary Party.

Lois pointed out that Isabella Riggs was not entitled to any annuity money (as the letter references for Isabella #1) and speculated Isabella #1 might be a Dakota girl who was boarding in the Huggins family while attending school.

I think Lois is right. The best candidate for Isabella #1 may be Isabelle Martin Renville, “Belle” in A Thrilling Narrative, the adopted daughter of John and Mary Butler Renville. Mary much later recalled that Belle was not with them in captivity during the war because she was in St. Anthony, MN, attending school. But what if Mary’s “St. Anthony” (where the Renvilles resettled for a few years after the war) was a mental slip and Belle was actually in St. Peter when the war broke out? Isabella #1, Eliza wrote, left the Huggins family on October 15, 1862, the right timing for John and Mary Renville to have picked her up on their way downriver from Camp Release.

So with that introduction, here are Eliza Huggins’s letters. How many people does she name as having had a hand in writing Josephine Huggins’s story as it appeared in the St. Paul Weekly Press in 1863?


Letter “B”

Shady Nook

Jan 12 –1863

Mr. Riggs, Dear friend,

Isabella came here the 24th of May and left the 15th of October making the number of weeks that she was here to be twenty and a few days over.

Before we started down, Mrs. Riggs gave me five dollars to pay Isabella’s passage but as we came by land her expenses were only seventy five cents. The rest of the five dollars we used and is that much paid to us.

This with the fifteen dollars we have received from Mr. Ketchum makes $19.25. This lacks, I suppose, but about half a dollar being the amount due.

When Mrs. Riggs and I talked about it we calculated on Isabella’s annuity money but of course that cannot be had now.

When you write Amos’ obituary will you please have some notice of Rufus’ death in the same papers either in the same piece that you write of Amos or in a separate notice which you think best.

If you will be so kind as to have them sent, we would like to have a few perhaps a half dozen of the papers.

I send you what I wrote up for the St. Peter Tribune. The editor added the last clause, We do not like it. Rufus was so forgiving to all who had injured him he seemed to be so free from harboring revenge we were sorry that this thought came in here. It does not seem to be the right place to call the attention of the world to the Indians wickedness.

We are all in tolerable health. I have been sick for a week past but am better now.

Charlie seems to be getting well very fast.

Josephine does not like to write and has not yet commenced her letter to you about her captivity. I have promised to help her as soon as I can, that is when I am a little stronger than I am now. I guess the letter will be forthcoming before a great while. I do not try this winter to do much to benefit any one except to be patient and cheerful and thus help others to be so. I am hoping to be able for something again next summer but what or where, I do not know.

Give my regards to Mrs. Riggs and love to Isabella and Martha.

Your humble friend

Eliza W. Huggins

P.S. Uncle Jonas’ family are well


Letter “C”

February 18 –1863

Mr. Riggs, Dear friend,

I received your letter yesterday. I thank you for your kindness in writing. We also thank you and Isabella for the trouble you have had with Josephine’s narrative. If we had been trying to write her story for the public eye, we would have written differently but perhaps it would not have been really any better.

Some of the defects of this would have been remedied, but there might have been other deficiencies as bad, or worse than these. If you can get them for us conveniently we would like to have half a dollar’s worth of the Press that contains the narrative. If it is not convenient to get so many, half as many copies will do us very well.

I wrote to you something more than a month ago and told you of our having received $15 from Mr. Ketchum. You did not say that you had received the letter, but I suppose you did receive it.

I cannot say that we are all quite well though more of us are really sick. Father keeps well. He is very busy this winter. This is his birthday. He is sixty one years old. None of us had thought of it until he spoke of it in family worship this morning.

Perry Holtsclaw is here now, quite an invalid, lungs affected.

We hear from Eli almost every week. His health is generally good.

Yours affectionately

Eliza Huggins


The publication history of Huggins’s 1862 captivity story follows in the next post, along with transcriptions of Josephine’s own letters to Riggs.

Photo credit: Minnesota Historical Society.

This entry was posted in Belle Martin Renville, Captivity, Josephine Huggins, Primary Sources. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Eliza Huggins: “We thank you for the trouble you… have had with Josephine’s narrative.”

  1. Pingback: Josephine’s Experience Becomes a Story | A Thrilling Narrative of Indian Captivity: Dispatches from the Dakota War of 1862

  2. Pingback: The Remarkable Story of Edward S. Ellis | A Thrilling Narrative of Indian Captivity: Dispatches from the Dakota War of 1862

  3. Pingback: Many Hands, Many Voices: Writing, Editing, and Publishing Indian Captivity Narratives Part II | A Thrilling Narrative of Indian Captivity: Dispatches from the Dakota War of 1862

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