Old Jenks and the Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) Indians (1855)

In 1848 the U.S. government removed the Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) from their reservation in the northeastern part of Iowa to Long Prairie in Minnesota Territory. The Ho-Chunk found the land at Long Prairie a poor choice to meet their needs as farmers. In 1855 they were moved again, this time to a reservation in southern Minnesota.

The Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) Indians stopped in Shakopee on May 31, 1855. They were removed from the Watab, on the upper Minnesota River, and forced to move to the Blue Earth reservation.

Ho-Chunk Leaders
Ho-Chunk Leaders, including Winneshiek II, second from left

The Winnebago Indians came down the Mississippi River, and then up the Minnesota River. The Braves, the woman, the children, their dogs, and the canoes all came, creating excitement wherever they stopped.

Several days’ delay occurred at Shakopee for some reason, and the fifteen hundred Winnebago Indians were camping along the Minnesota River near Shakopee. Some of the Winnebago came into downtown Shakopee, and several of them were getting drunk. The white people in Shakopee was afraid, as the number of Indians far exceeded the whites, and the whites were not close to Fort Snelling.

The white people in Shakopee noticed that some of the Indians were drunk, and they figured out that Old Jenks, a white man living in the town, was the one selling the whiskey to the Winnebago. After ascertaining that Old Jenks was dealing out the whiskey, nearly every white man in Shakopee joined in a procession that marched down to the amazing Old Jenks’s house at night and saw the liquor.

B. F. Davis, who headed the party with a hatchet, rolled out a barrel of whisky. He poured it out on the ground and set fire to it. Lots of other bottles and demijohns were broken. It was all destroyed.

After all of this, the nuisance effectually was abated.

(Some information from The Diary of Daniel M. Storer from 1849 to 1905: A Pioneer Builder and Merchant, p. 65; and History of the Minnesota Valley 1882 by Rev. Edward D. Neill, p. 294)

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