Mar-pi-ya-ro-to-win II (Grey Cloud Woman) | Margaret Aird Anderson Mooers

1793-July 20, 1849
In Tiŋta-otoŋwe and Prairieville 1846-1849
by David R. Schleper

Mar-pi-ya-ro-to-win II was born in 1793 at Prairie du Chien on the Mississippi River. Her father was James Aird, a prominent fur trader. James was a Scotchman, born in Ayrshire, and was a cousin of Robert Burns, the poet. He came to America in 1783, landing at Quebec and then heading to Wabasha’s village as a trader in the employ of the Hudson Bay Company.[1] Mar-pi-ya-ro-to-win II’s mother, also known as Mar-pi-ya-ro-to-win I, which means Grey Cloud Woman, was a member of the Dakota tribe. She was born at her father’s village where the city of Winona now stands.

Mar-pi-ya-ro-to-win II was of noble lineage. She was the daughter of Chief Wabasha I and sister of Wabasha II, both powerful Dakota chieftains. Mar-pi-ya-ro-to-win II’s grandfather was Chief Wah-pa-ha-shaw (Red Cap) who was born in 1720 and died in 1806.[2] Because of her unique family position, Mar-pi-ya-ro-to-win II became a major facilitator in trading between tribal members and white traders, even at a very young age.[3] Mar-pi-ya-ro-to-win II was “a beautiful and attractive half-breed girl, not without schooling, and it is not surprising that she should have found favor among the few white men employed about the trading post.”[4]

In 1818, Mar-pi-ya-ro-to-win II married her second husband, Hazen P. Mooers, an American who was sent to Minnesota to work with the American Fur Company in 1816. He was born near Plattsburgh, New York on Aug. 3, 1789, the son of Moses Hazen Mooers and Jemima Jackson.

After years of traveling throughout the state to various trading posts, in approximately 1838, the family moved to Spirit Wood Island, which is now called Grey Cloud Island. Grey Cloud Island, about five miles long and one to two miles wide, is situated in the south end of Washington County, Minnesota, between St. Paul and Hastings.[5] Historical accounts surmise the move was made in order for Mar-pi-ya-ro-to-win II to be closer to relatives in a large Black Dog Village, directly across the river, while Hazen could establish a trade center. Thanks to the strong influence of his wife, he was able to traffic with three bands of the Dakota Indians.

In the fall of 1846, Hazen and Mar-pi-ya-ro-to-win II moved to Tiŋta-otoŋwe and lived there among the tipi tanka (or bark lodges) and a few tioti or two until the spring of 1849. The house was built in the fall of 1846, and located just as you arrived on Highway 101 into downtown Shakopee. It was located on the right side as you head west, close to the duck pond. The location is also located about 10 rods, or 55 feet, north of Reverend Samuel W. Pond and Cordelia Eggleston Pond’s house (which would be built the next year). The family moved here because Hazen was appointed as an Indian farmer, and this also provided land to farm.

Hazen and Mar-pi-ya-ro-to-win II moved out in the spring of 1849.

Mar-pi-ya-ro-to-win II, known as Grey Cloud Woman, and also known as Margaret Aird Anderson Mooers died on July 20, 1849, appropriately enough, at Black Dog Village, a village of her Dakota relatives. Family traditions state that she was buried near the village and the burial site of her mother in what is now Eagan, Minnesota.

There is no picture of Mar-pi-ya-ro-to-win II, although she was described in a historical memoir as “by no means inattractive.” Perhaps the most interesting and most telling bit of research to describe the prominence of Mar-pi-ya-ro-to-win II was a story told in 1858 by Thomas Anderson Robertson, a grandson of Grey Cloud Woman.

Thomas and his father had accompanied a treaty agent who tried to bully some Yankton tribal members into a deal they did not want to make. The Yankton men showed their displeasure by taking the group’s horses. Thomas had the task of trying to get them back. After giving the men each a knife and some tobacco, Thomas shared with them his lineage including the name of his grandmother, Mar-pi-ya-ro-to-win II.

They knew her right away and said, “she had fed many of them the winter of the great famine when so many of them starved to death getting back from their winter hunt.” With that, the horses were immediately returned to Thomas and his party.[6]

Even with the limited amount of specific data regarding her life, it is apparent that Mar-pi-ya-ro-to-win II was an important part of local heritage, and a highly regarded citizen in the early history of Tiŋta-otoŋwe, on the land later called Shakopee.

[1] Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Volume XV, page 371.

[2] From Find A Grave Memorial #83017978 by James and Sharon Cissell, Jan. 5, 2012.

[3] Grey Cloud Elementary School, Cottage Grove, Minnesota at gces.sowashco.org/about-us/grey-cloud-namesake

[4] From Find a Grave Memorial # 82925771 by James and Sharon Cissell.

[5] Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Volume XV, page 371.

[6] Information about Grey Cloud Woman at gces.sowashco.org/about-us/grey-cloud-namesake.

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