Rev. Samuel William Pond

April 10, 1808 – Dec. 12, 1891
In Prairieville/Sha K’Pay/Shakopee 1847-1909
by David R. Schleper

Rev. Samuel W. Pond, Jr.Samuel Pond and his brother, Gideon, arrived in 1834 in the area later called Minnesota. He was a missionary, language translator, agricultural instructor, carpenter, farmer, and ongoing advocate for fair treatment of American Indians.

As Samuel got off the steamboat, he asked someone how to say, “What is this?” in Dakota.[1] As he wrote this down, he walked over to a Dakota and asked, “Ka taku he,” pointing to a horse that was near the steamboat landing.[2] (This would sound like “gay-dah-koo-hey.”)

“Hé šúŋkawakȟaŋ héčha,” the man responded.

And Samuel Pond quickly wrote down the word for horse, šúŋkawakȟaŋ. And Samuel continued, doing this for years, eventually creating the Pond-Dakota alphabet, which is still used today.

Shortly after, Samuel and his brother began teaching Euro-American farming to Dakota people near Bde Maka Ska (Be-DAY Mah-Kah Ska) in present-day Minneapolis.[3] The brothers continued to work on the Dakota dictionary. Samuel noted, “The language was a game I went to hunt, and I was as eager in the pursuit of that as the Indians were in pursuit of the deer.”

After a brief engagement, Samuel W. Pond married Cordelia Eggleston on Nov. 22, 1838.

In 1847, after accepting the invitation from Ŝakpe II to locate in Tiŋta-otoŋwe, Rev. Samuel W. Pond began preparing for the building on the mission house. Materials were purchased at Point Douglas in Wisconsin. The timbers were framed and the materials were prepared at Fort Snelling, and then, as the ice melted, the timbers were loaded on a barge and brought up the St. Peter’s (Minnesota) River to the location at Tiŋta-otoŋwe, which Samuel W. Pond called Prairieville.

The Mission House was built in the middle of Ŝakpe II’s village of Tiŋta-otoŋwe, where approximately 600 Dakota lived in tipi tanka (or bark lodges). It was a busy place, and Pond decided to surround the Mission House and front garden with a fence of tall stakes to prevent the Dakota from claiming a portion of the crops that Pond’s family planted.

In November of 1847, after working on the Mission House during the spring and summer, Samuel, Cordelia, and their three children moved into their new home. Jeanette was five years old; Rebecca was three, and baby Elnathan was scarcely a month old when they moved in. (Samuel, Jr. was born a few years later.) Elnathan remembered in 1925, “There were no white children excepting my brother, my two sisters, and myself….I recall that white men were a rare sight, and our childish eyes grew round with wonder when we saw one!”

Samuel W. Pond described the site: “The mission house at Shakopee was pleasantly located on gently rising ground, 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 failing spring of clear cold water…” Tiŋta-otoŋwe, the village of the Dakotas, was south of the mission house and was nearby. The Mission House was “…sufficiently commodious, carefully and comfortable built, although inexpensive in all its appointments. The walls were carefully filled with moistened clay, making them probably bullet-proof and rendering the house very warm.”

Samuel and his brother Gideon both resigned from the Dakota Mission after the Treaties of 1851 removed all of the Dakota people to the Upper and Lower Sioux Agency reservations in western Minnesota.

Samuel became the founding pastor of the first Presbyterian Church in the rapidly growing city of Shakopee, Minnesota. He served as pastor for thirteen years. Samuel died on Dec. 12, 1891, at the age of 83.

The wood frame Pond Mission House was razed in 1907. The foundation is still there, across the road from Memorial Park in East Shakopee. A historic marker tells about the Mission House and Reverend Samuel W. Pond.

[1] This is an imaginary response, based on the true story of Samuel W. Pond in Pond, Samuel William (1893). Two volunteer missionaries among the Dakotas: or, The story of the labors of Samuel W. and Gideon H. Pond. Boston, MA: Congregational Sunday-School and Publishing Society.

[2] The he is a question mark. The Dakota do not have periods and marks like in English. So any time someone ends a sentence in he, the person are either being asked a question or someone is be asking a question.

[3] Bde Maka Ska (Be-DAY Mah-Kah Ska) used to be called Lake Calhoun, after John C. Calhoun, a proponent of slavery. He was infamously known for calling slavery “a positive good.” The name of the lake was changed back to the Dakota name of Bde Maka Ska in 2017.

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