Cordelia Eggleston Pond

Nov. 22, 1815-Feb. 1852
In Prairieville November 1847 to Fall 1851
By David Schleper

It was the beginning of November, 1847. Cordelia Eggleston Pond, along with her husband, Samuel W. Pond and their children, Jeanette, age 5, Rebecca, who was age 3, and baby Elnathan, who was just a month old, arrived at Tiŋta-otoŋwe, which Samuel called Prairieville.

They moved into the mission house, which had been built on a gently rising ground, about a half mile south of the Rivière Saint-Pierre (St. Peter’s River)[1] over the last few months. According to Samuel Pond, Jr., the mission house was “about half a mile south of the Minnesota River. At a distance of twenty rods or so to the west was the house of Oliver Faribault. Between these two dwellings was a ravine through which ran a never falling spring of clear cold water…The village was south of the mission house and near by, and was called by the Dakotas ‘Tintowan,’[2] signifying ‘The village on the prairie.’ Mr. Pond named the place Prairieville, by which name it was known until the arrival of white settlers, five years later….”[3]

What did Cordelia think as she looked at the Faribault Trading Post, the Dakota village of 600 people, and the mission house, right in the middle of it all? There were no white families except for Hazen P. Mooers, except for the missionaries who lived 14 miles away at Oak Grove. Around her were 600 men, women, and children of the Eastern Dakota Mdewakaŋtoŋwaŋ, or the Spirit Lake People. As a missionary, Cordelia focused on caring for her children, keeping house, and feeding the family, along with ministering to the Dakota.

Cordelia was born on Nov. 22, 1815, in the small community of Stafford, just outside of Batavia, New York. Cordelia’s father, Esquire Ebenezer Eggleston, died eight weeks earlier. Her mother was Anna Kingsley Eggleston, who was left a widow with eight children.[4] When Cordelia left home in 1837, she unlikely saw her mother again, as she died in 1843.

Cordelia’s older sister, Julia, married Reverend Jedediah Stevens, and eventually their mission station was a Lake Harriet Mission.[5] Cordelia decided to join them there.

According to Samuel Pond, Jr., “…a sister of Mrs. Stevens, Miss Cordelia Eggleston, then a young lady of twenty-two, had joined the Lake Harriet Mission in the capacity of teacher. She was a great favorite with her sister, Mrs. Stevens, who had long and diligently laid her plan to have her younger sister associated with her at her work in the Indian country, and was much elated with her success.”[6] Besides Julia and Reverend Jedediah Stevens, their two boys, Jedediah’s sister, Lucy Cornelia Stevens, age 18, and Julia and Jedediah’s foster daughter, Jane DeBow.[7]

“The lady commended herself to all by her amiable character, modest demeanor, and personal attractions….During the spring and summer following Mr. Pond’s turn to Lake Harriet, he saw much of this young teacher and the acquaintance resulted in a marriage engagement after a brief courtship in the beautiful groves bordering the lovely lake,” said Samuel Pond, Jr.[8]

On Nov. 22, 1838, Samuel W. Pond married Cordelia Eggleston near the Mission Boarding School near Bde Maka Ska. It was attended by anyone of importance in the territory, including U.S. Army doctor, John Emerson, owner of Dred Scott (who was living at Fort Snelling), political, civil, and military and groomsman, Henry H. Sibley, and Reverend J.D. Stevens, whose wife was a sister of the bride.[9]

Samuel W. Pond wrote to a friend a few days later, saying that he and Gideon (his brother) had “such wives as missionaries ought to have.”[10]

Cordelia and Samuel began their married life together in a small upper room over the school room at the mission house. Cordelia continued at the boarding school, teaching Jane Lamont, Mary Taliaferro, Elizabeth Williams, and Nancy Eastman, daughters of sisters whose father was Mahpiya Wicasta (or Cloud Man), a Mdewankanton Dakota chief.[11] Samuel worked as a farmer with the Mahpiya Wicasta band. While others left to work at new posts, Cordelia’s brother-in-law Gideon Hollister Pond and his wife, Sarah Poage Pond lived with them at the mission for five years.[12]

Cordelia and Samuel had their first child, Jennette Clarissa Pond, on May 6, 1842. Engaging a flatboat, Cordelia and Samuel, along with their three-week-old baby headed to Lac qui Parle mission, even though the doctor at the fort warned Samuel that the baby would not survive the journey. “Always prepared, Samuel put a little box on the boat which he could use for a coffin should baby Jennette die and need to be buried along their 130-mile journey.”[13]

According to Samuel Pond Jr, “That journey was one of peculiar anxiety to the young mother, whose little babe faded day by day before her eyes. Only those who have passed through a like experience which rested upon her in her inexperience and extremity. She could do little for the child but pray.”[14]

Luckily, Jennette was just alive when they reached Lac qui Parle, but speedily recovered and became a healthy, active child and a great comfort to her mother.

At Oak Grove a year later, in what is now Bloomington, Cordelia and Samuel joined Gideon and Sarah at their new cabin in the summer of 1843. Their second child, Cordelia Rebecca Pond, was born on Oct. 10, 1844, and three years later their third child, a son, Elnathan Judson Pond, arrived on Oct. 17, 1847.

In 1846, Chief Ŝakpe II began discussion of establishing a new Dakota mission near Tiŋta-otoŋwe, in what was later called East Shakopee. Chief Ŝakpe II invited Samuel and Cordelia to set up a mission and school at his village, with the promise of the Dakota sending their children to the school and to assist in any way possible.[15]

After waiting a few weeks, Samuel visited Chief Ŝakpe II’s village of Tiŋta-otoŋwe, and met at Oliver Faribault and Wanke Yanke’s Trading Post with the chief, and after that, the Ponds decided to move to Little Six village.

Samuel W. Pond described Prairieville as a very busy place and he felt the need to surround the mission house and front garden with a fence of tall stakes to prevent the Indians from claiming a portion of the crops for themselves.

According to Samuel, “…though we have endeavored to have as little property exposed as possible we are obliged to be continually on the watch. My wife had been only a mile from home in three years, and when the Indians are here, I seldom go out of sight of the house unless I am obliged to do so.”[16]

Cordelia, according to Samuel, “was often compelled to remain for days alone, during the necessary absence of the missionary, surrounded as she was by the noisy revelry of six hundred Indians, life’s burdens were often heavy; but she was one of those who can ‘suffer and be still,’ and she never murmured at the hardships of her lot.”[17]

Rebecca, Samuel and Cordelia’s daughter was described as “always frail.” When she became ill, the Dakota women would come in, gaze at her face, and mumbled in the Dakota language that she would die. Cordelia’s prayers helped Rebecca survive, and on April 20, 1850, Cordelia gave birth to their first son, Samuel W. Pond, Jr.[18]

According to Samuel, “…the young mother (Cordelia), never very strong, gradually failed in health from that time. The oldest girl, now eight years of age, was a great comfort and help to her mother, whom she was said to resemble closely in both character and person. She was morbidly conscientious and must have been rather precious, since she had finished reading the Bible through by course before she was six years of age.”[19]

In the fall of 1851, Samuel Pond obtained from the Board a year’s leave of absence, and prepared to visit New England. The journey was a fatiguing one, as much of it was by stage. In Connecticut, kind friends “took charge of the four children, for their mother was rapidly failing, and by the first of February it was evident that the end was near.” The dying mother, Cordelia, expressed a desire to see all her children once more, knowing that it would be the last time in this world. “To the older ones she gave words of counsel which were carefully heeded and diligently followed. Jennette Clarissa never forgot her mother’s parting words. Mr. Edward Pond went over the icy hill and brought Elnathan Judson from his aunt Jennette’s, to receive his mother’s last kiss and listen to her dying words. She told him to be a good boy and love God. To the youngest, she said, ‘Poor boy! He will not remember his mother!’ and kissed him farewell.”[20]

Before the dawn of the sixth day, Cordelia passed away at the age of 36 years, fourteen of them spent in continuous service of the Dakotas.

The tombstone of Cordelia Eggleston Pond is at the Old Judea Cemetery, Washington, Litchfield County, Connecticut. A marker, called a cenotaph, of Cordelia Eggleston Pond is at the Valley Cemetery in Shakopee.

[1] The Rivière Saint-Pierre (St. Peter’s River) became Minnesota River on June 19, 1852.

[2] The correct name of the summer planting village was Tiŋta-otoŋwe.

[3] Pond, Samuel W., Jr. (1893). Two Volunteer Missionaries Among the Dakotas or The Story of the Labors of Samuel W. and Gideon H. Pond. Boston: Congregational Sunday School and Publishing Society, p. 185.

[4] Glewwe, Lois A. (2013). Cordelia Comes West: The Story of Cordelia Eggleston Pond, Part I by Dakota Soul Sisters: Stories of the Women of the Dakota Mission at https://dakotasoulsisters.com/2013/05/03/cordelia-comes-west-the-story-of-cordelia-eggleston-pond-part-i/.

[5] Lake Harriet was first named Bde Maka Ska (Be-DAY Mah-Kah Ska). Bde means lake. Maka means earth. Ska means white. Over several years, the lake was called Lake Calhoun after John C. Calhoun, a South Carolina statesman, former vice president, senator, secretary of state and proponent of slavery. He is infamously known for calling slavery ‘a positive good’ in the 1800s. Starting in 2016, the name has returned to its original name, Bde Maka Ska.

[6] Pond, Samuel W., Jr. (1893). Two Volunteer Missionaries Among the Dakotas or The Story of the Labors of Samuel W. and Gideon H. Pond. Boston: Congregational Sunday School and Publishing Society, p. 126.

[7] Jane DeBow Gibbs (Zitkadan Usawin) was taken at age six or seven from the neighbor’s home near Batavia, New York, where she was living due to her mother’s severe illness. Jedediah Stevens and Julia Eggleston Stevens took Jane in 1833 as a replacement for the daughter, their oldest, whom they had lost to illness. The Stevens family were assigned by the American Board of Missionaries to bring Christianity to the Dakota people living near Bde Maka Ska (Lake Harriet) in what is now Minneapolis, Minnesota. They arrived at Fort Snelling in May 1835 when Jane was nine years old. Once the mission was built on the shores of Lake Harriet about a mile from the village of Cloud Man, Jane attended the missionary school with the part Dakota children of the soldiers stationed at Fort Snelling and traders and learned to speak their language. She developed a close relationship with the Dakota and was given the name “Zitkadan Usawin” (Little Crow that was Caught). This information from the Gibbs Museum of Pioneer and Dakota Life at http://www.rchs.com/gibbs-farm/.

[8] Pond, Samuel W., Jr. (1893). Two Volunteer Missionaries Among the Dakotas or The Story of the Labors of Samuel W. and Gideon H. Pond. Boston: Congregational Sunday School and Publishing Society, p. 126.

[9] Glewwe, Lois A. (2013). Cordelia Comes West: The Story of Cordelia Eggleston Pond, Part I by Dakota Soul Sisters: Stories of the Women of the Dakota Mission at https://dakotasoulsisters.com/2013/05/03/cordelia-comes-west-the-story-of-cordelia-eggleston-pond-part-i/.

[10] Letter from Samuel W. Pond to Samuel Leavitt, Nov. 29, 1838.

[11] Carroll, Jane Lamm (2005). Who Was Jane Lamont?: Anglo-Dakota Daughters in Early Minnesota. Minnesota History, Spring, p. 184-196. The Anglo-American fathers married their mothers according to Dakota customs, also called a la facon du pays. Such marriages were common by French, British, Métis (French-Indian) and other men of mixed heritage since eighteenth century. The unions were economically and social beneficial to some, but the customs and legal practices clashed with the cultural traditions of the Dakota.

[12] Glewwe, Lois A. (2013). Cordelia Comes West: The Story of Cordelia Eggleston Pond, Part I by Dakota Soul Sisters: Stories of the Women of the Dakota Mission at https://dakotasoulsisters.com/2013/05/03/cordelia-comes-west-the-story-of-cordelia-eggleston-pond-part-i/.

[13] Glewwe, Lois A. (2013). Cordelia Comes West: The Story of Cordelia Eggleston Pond, Part I by Dakota Soul Sisters: Stories of the Women of the Dakota Mission at https://dakotasoulsisters.com/2013/05/03/cordelia-comes-west-the-story-of-cordelia-eggleston-pond-part-i/.

[14] Pond, Samuel W., Jr. (1893). Two Volunteer Missionaries Among the Dakotas or The Story of the Labors of Samuel W. and Gideon H. Pond. Boston: Congregational Sunday School and Publishing Society, p. 159-160.

[15] Glewwe, Lois A. (2013). Cordelia Comes West: The Story of Cordelia Eggleston Pond, Part II by Dakota Soul Sisters: Stories of the Women of the Dakota Mission at https://dakotasoulsisters.com/2013/05/16/cordelia-comes-west-the-story-of-cordelia-eggleston-pond-part-ii/

[16] Pond, Samuel W., Jr. (1893). Two Volunteer Missionaries Among the Dakotas or The Story of the Labors of Samuel W. and Gideon H. Pond. Boston: Congregational Sunday School and Publishing Society, p. 190.

[17] Pond, Samuel W., Jr. (1893). Two Volunteer Missionaries Among the Dakotas or The Story of the Labors of Samuel W. and Gideon H. Pond. Boston: Congregational Sunday School and Publishing Society, p. 192.

[18] Glewwe, Lois A. (2013). Cordelia Comes West: The Story of Cordelia Eggleston Pond, Part II by Dakota Soul Sisters: Stories of the Women of the Dakota Mission at https://dakotasoulsisters.com/2013/05/16/cordelia-comes-west-the-story-of-cordelia-eggleston-pond-part-ii/

[19] Pond, Samuel W., Jr. (1893). Two Volunteer Missionaries Among the Dakotas or The Story of the Labors of Samuel W. and Gideon H. Pond. Boston: Congregational Sunday School and Publishing Society, p. 200-201.

[20] Pond, Samuel W., Jr. (1893). Two Volunteer Missionaries Among the Dakotas or The Story of the Labors of Samuel W. and Gideon H. Pond. Boston: Congregational Sunday School and Publishing Society, p. 200-201.

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