Josephine’s Experience Becomes a Story

Obituary clipping: Josephine Marsh Huggins Hanthorne c. 1927. Thomas Hughes Papers, Mankato State University, Mankato, MN. Newspaper not identified.


Eliza Huggins’s letters, which I transcribed in the previous post in this series about  Josephine Huggins’s 1862 captivity story, told us something new: Even though Josephine Huggins has gone down in history as the sole author of her text, it seems she had some assistance from her sister-in-law Eliza Huggins, her friend Stephen Riggs and his daughter Isabella Riggs, and, maybe, the editor of the St. Paul Press.

Who did what to Josephine’s story? How much of the story is written in her voice? Which elements (if any) reflect the intervention of others?

Establishing a publication history for a story by placing the known evidence in chronological order, allows us to detect when (if at all) the story changed. Finding a change should make us ask: Why?

This is what we know about the publication of Josephine Huggins’s story.

Letter “A” Jane Sloan Huggins Holtsclaw to Stephen Riggs September 17, 1862, Riggs Papers, MHS

  • Josephine is still captive; Jane worries about how to rescue her

Letter “B” Eliza Huggins to Stephen Riggs January 16, 1863, Riggs Papers, MHS

  • Riggs previously asked for a letter from Josephine about her captivity
  • Eliza says Josephine does not like to write
  • Eliza promises to help Josephine write the letter soon

Holograph Manuscript (Missing)

  • Presume from Eliza’s intent in Letter “B” the content of Letter “C” that Josephine and/or Eliza wrote Riggs a letter including the story of Josephine’s experience in 1862.
  • Because we have examples of Eliza’s handwriting (Letters “B” and “C”) and of Josephine’s handwriting (Letters “D” and “E”) we could assess who wrote the holograph original even if it is unsigned.
  • However, the holograph is not extant.

Published Form #1: St. Paul Press (Daily) February 3-5, 1863 (three installments?)

  • according to note in Woolworth file on Josephine Huggins
  • needs verification from microfilm

Published Form #2: St. Paul Press (Weekly) February 12, 1863

  • See digital image of clipping in the Alexander G. Huggins Papers at MHS.
  • See modern transcription by Lois Glewwe.
  • Stephen Riggs is, at this time, a correspondent for the St. Paul Press

Letter “C” Eliza Huggins to Stephen Riggs February 18, 1863, Riggs Papers, MHS

  • Eliza demurs “we” did not write the story for the public eye. (This is a common disclaimer on captivity narratives; with the holograph missing it is hard to judge the author’s intended audience.)
  • Eliza thanks Stephen Riggs and Isabelle Riggs for “the trouble” they have taken with Josephine’s story (implied: Preparing the story for publication)
  • Eliza asks for additional copies of the newspaper containing the story (implied: They accept the changes and want to preserve and share the story as published despite the revisions.)

Published Form #3: Newburyport, MA Daily Herald March 13-14, 1863

  • according to Minnesota Historical News No 266 March 1944; copy in Woolworth file
  • needs verification via microfilm
  • what is the family’s tie-in to Newburyport, MA?
  • Did the Herald reprint the St. Paul Press story?

Letter “D” Josephine Huggins to Stephen Riggs December 14, 1863, Riggs Papers MHS

  • requests Riggs send her a copy of “Mr. Heard’s book” as an 1862 war story; does not mention if she is aware her story is in the book
  • apologizes that her eyes are too weak to write well

Published Form #4: Isaac Heard, History of the Sioux War… (1864; copyright 1863) (1865 reprint p. 209-228)

  • Heard harvested much of the material in his book from the St. Paul Press

Letter “E” Josephine Huggins to Stephen Riggs February 9, 1864, Riggs Papers MHS

  • thanks Riggs for “the book that you sent me;” does not say if it is Heard’s
  • apologizes that she tends to procrastinate answering letters; mentions sickness as one reason why

Published Form#5: “The Minnesota Captive” in Edward S. Ellis, editor, Beadles Dime Tales, Traditions, and Romances of the Border and Revolutionary Times No. 7 (late 1863-early 1864)

  • What form did Beadle & Adams publish? A reprint or a fictional re-invention?

Published Form #6: “Mrs. Huggins, the Minnesota Captive” in Boy’s Books of Romance and Adventure No. 10 p. 5-17 (Beadle & Adams dime novel series began March 20, 1874). Cites: WorldCat; and J. Randolph Cox, The Dime Novel Companion: A Source Book Greenwood Press: 2000 p. 301.

  • Said to be a republication of Form #5 above
  • Is it an exact copy or did Ellis rework it for currency?

Published Form #7: Mrs. Huggins, the Minnesota Captive vol. 86 in the Garland Library of North American Indian Captivities, 1978.

  • Is the Beadle & Adams story the source for the Garland Library version?


We need to let Josephine’s story percolate awhile. While I have information indicating there were at least seven published forms of Josephine’s story, I only have two of them (#2 & #4) on file.

I had to laugh standing at the information desk at my local library yesterday afternoon, WorldCat print-out in hand, requesting a copy of volume 86 in the Garland Library from one of the six libraries that owns it in the United States.

“Isn’t it weird,” the librarian observed, searching for a library who would loan it for free, “that with a title like The Minnesota Captive, nobody owns it in Minnesota? It’s this woman’s biography, right?”

(WorldCat states the genre is  “biography.”)

“That’s the million dollar question,” I said. “See how WorldCat also says she was a captive during the “Ojibwa Wars 1862-65”? There were no Ojibwe wars in Minnesota between 1862 and 1865. The supposed author was a real person. But she was captive during the Dakota War of 1862. That’s why I need to see this book. This ‘biography’ may actually be a piece of fiction.”

Updated 10/13/12 to add 1863/64 dime novelization.

This entry was posted in Doing Historical Research, Josephine Huggins, Primary Sources. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Josephine’s Experience Becomes a Story

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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s