Wallace and Wallace — part 4(c)

Brohough map.jpg

Gustav O. Brohough’s map of the Half Breed Tract, showing Washaba and Goodhue counties’ portions

As already noted, the scrip handed out to mixed-blood Sioux was exchangeable for land claims both inside the Sioux Half Breed Tract – which land reverted to the public domain with the July 17, 1854 act – or elsewhere in Minnesota and the United States.

As it happened, during the two dozen years between 1830, when the 4th Treaty of Prairie du Chien was inked, and 1854, when the scrip act passed into law, more than a few white settlers had taken lands and made their residence in the Half Breed Tract’s rich farmlands. Then, in 1857 and thereafter, Sioux half-breed scrip filtered into the hands of land speculators who in turn sold it to prospective settlers wishing to secure lands for themselves.  Some of these prospective settlers sought land claims within the Half Breed Tract.  Thus did conflicts arise between these prospective settlers and the actual settlers already there.   Continue reading

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Wallace and Wallace — part 4(b)


Minnesota historian William Watt Folwell

The federal act exchanging the Half Breed Tract for grants of scrip to eligible mixed-blood Sioux passed into law on July 17, 1854.  Yet, many months would pass before actual scrip certificates were distributed to eligible recipients.  A survey had to be undertaken of both the Half Breed Tract’s land area and the list of potential mixed-blood eligibles.   “A year passed while the survey was in progress,” wrote Folwell (1922, p. 483), “and nearly another while the commissioners appointed for the purpose were making up a roll of the half-breeds entitled to participate in the distribution of the scrip.”

According to Folwell’s account, these surveys determined that the Tract covered 32,819.48 acres and 640 mixed-bloods made up the pool of eligibles.  Based on these figures, it was decided to allot each elibigle 480 acres, this sum divided into five separate scrip certificates, A through E.   A was exchangeable for 40 acres; B, for 40 acres; C, for 80 acres; D, for 160 acres; and E, for 160 acres.  Each scrip certificate entitled the bearer – and, it may be noted, only the bearer – to “locate” to an equivalent-area land grant on unclaimed federal land, whether surveyed or not surveyed.   (As we will see in due course, this division of each eligible’s grant into five pieces of scrip would play a not insignificant part in the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion regarding the proper uses of such scrip down the road, in 1902.)

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Wallace and Wallace — part 4(a)

I started this little research endeavor when I asked myself the following:  “What the heck is Sioux half-breed scrip?”  Well, this isn’t a bad moment to take up that question more directly.   

Lake Pepin map -- big

The Mississippi River defines the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin from the little town of Prescott, Wisconsin, at the north end of this border-defining stretch, to Minnesota’s southern boundary with Iowa, at the south end.  That stretch runs about 135 miles from end to end.

Roughly 25 miles southeast of Prescott commences a natural widening in the River called Lake Pepin.  This ersatz lake is roughly 20 miles long and averages 1.7 miles wide.

On the Minnesota side of Lake Pepin, in 1830, the 4th Treaty of Prairie du Chien assigned a roughly rectangular area of land to the mixed-blood relatives of a number of Sioux tribes.

The treaty provided that full-blooded Sioux and full-blooded members of other tribes involved would receive, as tribal units, certain “considerations” for ceding their traditional lands to the United States government.  These considerations came in the form of money or goods and technical assistance, not land.  Article 4 of the treaty specified that tribes would be paid either two thousand or three thousand dollars per annum for ten years (the amount depended on the specific tribe named) “…in money, merchandise, or domestic animals, at their option.”  The Sioux tribes would also receive “one Blacksmith at the expense of the United States, and the necessary tools; also instruments for agricultural purposes, and iron and steel” to the amount of either seven hundred or four hundred dollars (once again, depending on the tribe).  (The treaty’s full text is available here.)  (These sums, it may be noted, represented much larger amounts in the 1830s than they would in today’s dollars.)      Continue reading

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Wallace and Wallace — part 3


Secretary of the Interior, John Willock Noble

Col. William R. Wallace pushed forward with appeals to the General Land Office in Washington, D.C. in the aftermath of the land-jumping outbreak of February 19th, 1889.  His first GLO appeal was dated March 13th, 1889 — or three weeks after the upheaval.  He’d offered a preview of his appeal’s basis in his March 1st letter to the Murray Sun.  “I can prove by the American Consul at Winnipeg, B. N. A.,” Wallace wrote, “that the scrip was located by the original owner, Walter Bourke and wife; that he made oath, and still lives to verify the same; that he had never parted with the original and never gave any one power to use his name in any other location…” Wallace’s assertion “that the scrip was located by the original owner, Walter Bourke and his wife” meant, in effect, that his (Wallace’s) claim to his North Idaho townsite had been genuinely lodged on behalf of the original scripee or scripees, Walter Bourke and his wife.  Wallace’s chief contention was that Bourke’s putative requests, through attorney Henry T. Welles, for replacement scrip and use of that replacement to locate land in Dakota had been fraudulent.  Therefore, his (Wallace’s) scrip and his land claim were the rightful ones, in North Idaho.

Col. Wallace, in the same Murray Sun letter, buttressed his case with a lengthy quotation of consultant Luther Harrison’s commentary on the case.  One notable aspect of Harrison’s commentary was its date — November 28th, 1888.  This date implies, of course, that Col. Wallace was seeking to overturn the GLO’s decision and regularize his ownership of the Wallace townsite even before the land rush of February 19th of the following year.  Perhaps he’d come to the conclusion that his awkward and shady arrangement with Robert McFarland, at the GLO facility in Coeur d’Alene City, probably wasn’t going to last forever.  Or perhaps his simmering frustration over what he regarded as the injustice of the GLO’s rejection motivated him to enlist Harrison.  Or maybe Wallace was just exploring his options.  Whatever the reasons, Harrison’s commentary on the case surely helped frame Col. Wallace’s post-land-rush appeal to the GLO.     Continue reading

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Gisela “Doris” Roizen

Gisela-hsGone 11 years ago, today.

And my sorrow for her continues in a palpable, if attenuated, way — although it’s taken a different shape more recently.

In my still relatively new experience with a more solitary life — since Maggie’s passing — I think about Mom a lot.

She quite simply was not the kind of person who should have been obliged, by circumstance, to live alone.

Heidi, for many years, did the best she could to give Mom a family life — and even a work life. I remember at one point she had business cards printed up for Mom with the title “Mother of the President.”

My own humble existence — buoyed up as it is by the internet, by various historical and work-related pursuits, by family, friends, and neighbors, and even by little Meistie’s semi-friendly relationship with me — seems a far cry from the isolation I know she felt. Even language posed, I came to learn, a considerable barrier for her.  She didn’t understand more words than most of us in the family ever realized.

A truth — an unfortunate truth I will be buried with one day — is that if I had it to do over again, I’d have given her more of my time.

The moral of this anniversary reflection, then, is simply this:  If you have a mother or father, or another loved one, who is struggling with the isolation of advancing age and lessening agency, then do more for that person now, while it’s still possible to make a difference.

Trite and syrupy advice, I know.  But — in my case, at least — a hard-won lesson.

Sorry, Mom!




Heidi, Mom, me, Peter, and Millie — c. 1963

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Wallace and Wallace — part 2

Note:  Important safety tip:  You might want to fasten your seatbelt and hold on to your hat in reading this part!

Wallace obit pic.jpg

Col. W.R. Wallace — image borrowed from his obituary in the Los Angeles Times, Nov. 19th, 1901

I’m guessing that some readers of Col. Wallace’s account of his past dealings with the General Land Office in Coeur d’Alene City respecting his claim to the Wallace townsite reacted with slack jaws, wonderment, and shock.

Wallace description of that history showed (1) that he’d engaged in under-the-table dealings with a GLO representative, (2) that he’d quite possibly bribed said official, and (3) that he’d continued selling lots in Wallace on the basis of an illicit assurance from the same GLO representative.  Said representative, Robert McFarland, claimed Wallace, had assured him that the scrip-nullifying letter received from Washington, D.C. by the Coeur d’Alene City office would be deep-sixed and forgotten.

It was an account that — in some eyes, at least — might have further discredited the beleaguered Colonel.  It was also an account that bespoke volumes about the shady practices and corrupted personnel that plagued the contemporary U.S. General Land Office, according to historian Harold H. Dunham (1937), especially between the years of 1875 and 1890.  Permit me to lift a single brief paragraph from Dunham’s revelatory article on the history of the GLO’s operations and practices over this period.      Continue reading

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Wallace and Wallace — part 1

Note:  This is the first post in a series on this remarkable episode in Wallace, Idaho’s early history.


Wallace, Idaho, in photo dated 1887

Recently, I’ve been trying to gain a better understanding of the tumultuous events in the little frontier mining town of Wallace in 1889.  I even drove down to Moscow and spent some time at the microfilm machine in the University’s library down there.  It’s a complicated story, with ties to still older history and to events taking place far away from North Idaho’s Coeur d’Alene Mining District.

The event that caught the nation’s eye and that threw Wallace’s citizens into confusion and doubt occurred on the night of Tuesday, February 19th, 1889.  Here’s the two-paragraph news item that appeared in the New York Times on March 1st of that year:

NYT - Wallace upheaval - 030189

The day after the great land rush, cooler heads assembled at city hall for a meeting to assess the young town’s true land-ownership situation.  A committee of five men was appointed to investigate the status of Wallace’s townsite’s patent.  The committee, in turn, selected three of its members — J.F. Cameron, P.J. Holohan, and Alfred J. Dunn — to travel to the General Land Office in Coeur d’Alene City to get to the bottom of the matter. The delegation left the next’s morning train and returned on Friday, February 22nd.  The news they brought back doubtless sent another shock wave through Wallace’s population.    Continue reading

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