The Children of Mary Napesni and James W. Lynd

Lynd marker

Monument marking the grave of James W. Lynd, Sr. (1830-1862), near the Lower Sioux Agency Historic Site on the Lower Sioux Reservation near Morton, Minnesota. Lynd, an amateur ethnologist working as a trader’s clerk at the Lower Sioux Agency, had two Dakota wives.

In 1898, Warren Upham, the Secretary and Librarian of the Minnesota Historical Society, wrote a letter to Anna Lynd, whom he guessed was one of James W. Lynd’s daughters. That inquiry resulted in the letters below, collected in Upham’s correspondence in the Minnesota Historical Society Institutional Archives.

Bossko, Roberts Co. So. Dak. May 23, ’99

Mr. Warren Upham, Sec. the Minn. Historical Society

Dear Sir –In a  letter dated Nov. 8th, 1898, I wrote you making enquiries concerning Hon. James W. Lynd. Your kind favor in reply to above dated Nov. 15, 1898 has long been in my hands and it was my firm determination to reply at once as a fully as possible. But circumstances prevented me from writing at such length as I could desire. Allow me to thank you warmly for the length of your kind letter. It contains nearly all the important information we wish to gain. But I will proceed at once to tell you who I am. I am not one of Mr. Lynd’s daughters. Of these two I will recreate all that can be ascertained before closing this letter.

You make mention of a younger son of Mr. Lynd, who was baptized at Fort Snelling by name James Lynd in the winter of 1862-63, after the outbreak. This son was educated and is now the Rev. James W. Lynd, Pastor of Mayasan Presbyterian Church, one of the seven native Presbyterian churches on this reservation. He was ordained and has preached here for seven years. He is a man of great influence in the community, enjoying the full confidence of white people and Dakotas alike. His assistance is largely sought by people far and near in matters of business, etc. But I will leave it to him to write more fully of himself.

I am his wife, our marriage occurring on June 22, 1896. We have two children, Blossom and Delight. Can you give the name of any relative that we might write? Do you know of any photograph of Mr. Lynd?

Nora the older of the two daughters of Napayshne married a full-blood named Horace Greely and is long since dead leaving two daughters, I believe: Esther now married and Mabel about seventeen years of age still in school at Good Will Mission where they have been educated. They do fairly well in school but afterward live & marry in a disappointing way. I cannot now ascertain the name of the younger daughter. She married a man named Blue Cloud, also a full-blood, and has, I believe, two or three little girls. The eldest I met at Santee Mission school three years ago. She is far from being a prepossessing girl. I am not sure whether this Mr. Blue Cloud is still living or not.

These two daughters of Mary Napayshne were in school but showed no effects of improvement made, such I understand. I believe this is all I can tell you at present. Mr. Lynd promises to write fully of himself at an early opportunity and I will herewith close, again thanking you for much kind information given.

I am, Sir, with great respect,

(Mrs.) Anna Lynd


Bossko, S.D. Aug. 18th, 99

Warren Upham Esquire, Sec. and Librarian, St. Paul, Minn.

Dear Sir –I wish to thank you for the kind favor and the interest you’ve taken in me. I have received the books sent by you and take pleasure in reading them.

I do not remember my father. I was only two years of age at the time he was killed in the Massacre in 62. My mother use to tell about him which are the only things I learn of my father. I first went to school at a Mission school. Before this I went to a school taught only in Dakota language. I began school very early but there are many things hinder me in keeping and make use of what little I learned at those schools. Until a missionary named Dr. S. R. Riggs took me to his home at Beloit Wis. and went to Beloit College to school. Then when I got back to Sisseton Reservation I became very smart. I thought to myself I wanted to learn the Carpenter’s trade and went to work at it for three whole years then again wanted to go east to some school but the way is not open it seems for me to do so.

I went to a high school over to Nebraska (a Mission School) there. I learned a little and taught school some in that school and again came back to Sisseton and employed at the Agency as U.S. Interpreter for two years from that office became one of the teachers at a school called Indian Industrial School, Sisseton Reservation for a year. Then went to college of Peirrie University of East Peirre S.D. for nearly four years and when I got home to Sisseton Res. there was a Church called Mayasan where I was Indian Minister and Pastor of the same church where I am working at present time. The church members of my church were 62 when I first came and now increased to 77. There are some changes made since I came here: A new church, a new Grave yard and other things such as the church property bought and renewed &c.

Well, Mr. Upham I thanked God and you and the Society for the kind interest you have taken may and May God help us to  gain more knowledge of each other more and more and hope to see each other some day, which will be a happy day for me.

Very Respectfully,

James W. Lynd


Some sources commenting on this story:

“The Indian Students,” the Beloit College Archives

“History of the Dakotas: James W. Lynd’s Manuscripts” by Stephen R. Riggs, 1864 (biographical information on James W. Lynd, Sr. and discussion of the ethnographic manuscripts discovered after his death)

“Memoir of Jas. W. Lynd” by Stephen R. Riggs in Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, III

James W. Lynd [Lynde] Sr.’s monument: Sketches Historic and Descriptive of the Monuments and Tablets Erected by the Minnesota Valley Historical Society in Renville and Redwood Counties, Minnesota, by Return Ira Holcombe, 1902 (includes portraits of Lynd and Wakan Wasicun Heyidan, the Dakota man alleged to have killed him).

Photo credit: “James W. Lynde,”

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