Mankato, Minnesota: 1859. Envelope or Cover. This four-page letter is datelined “Mankato May 24th/59”. It is enclosed in its original mailing envelope with postmarked with a scarce, but blurred, strike of circular “PAID” Mankato handstamp; see ASCC, p. 188. The letter is in nice shape, the envelope is soiled. Very good. Item #009484
In this letter to a friend back east, Boynton explains that it is likely that additional Winnebago lands will soon be made available to homesteaders:
“Business is rather dull here now as the war news (probably the First Sioux War) has created an excitement in the rise of Provisions of all kinds . . . but after all this is a fine country and there are fine prospects here. . .. This is one of the finest farming sections in the State and there has been a Treaty made with the Winnebago Indians which are located about 8 miles East of here. The Indians have a tract of land which covers the entire space of 9 Townships of the best farming lands in the County. It is expected that all of their land except about two Townships will be sold to the highest bidder as it is valuable to be open to preemption. The rest will be divided for the Indians to settle on. Those that have families will have 80 acres and those that have no families will have 40 aces. Then the money that is received for these land by Government which is sold to the highest bidder will in the first place be used to pay off the debts that the Indians owe to different Traders that have trusted them from time to time after those debts are paid then the rest of the money is to be used to improve the farms of the Indians. This Treaty has not been ratified by Congress and will not be until the next session."
"The people here of course advocated for the removal of the Indians but that was an impossibility but I think that if they can get them confined to two Townships that they will soon want to sell and then if their farms are cultivated it will be all the better for the settler though he has to pay more for the land he will have something commence on. If they get those Indians off and settle up that Reservation it will make this Town a fine point for trade. . .. Mankato must be the second town in the State in ten years from now (St. Paul being the first) from its location. . .. All of the trade South and East must come here. This must be the junction of two R. roads one from Winona on the Mississippi River and the other from St. Paul to Sioux City in Iowa. I hope to see all you out here investing as soon as these changes take place or as much before as you can.”
With the signing of a federal treaty in 1855, the Ho-Chunk people traded 900,000 of dense forest land near Long Prairie to the U. S. government for 200,000 acres of exceptionally fertile land—by some accounts the finest crop land in the entire territory—along the Blue Earth River, forcing recently arrived white settlers to move elsewhere. Most of the Ho-Chunk quickly assimilated, adopting white customs and clothing, cutting their hair, building houses and schools, etc. While not exactly harmonious, relations between them and the area’s white homesteader were far from hostile. By 1859, old treaty annuities from the federal government had ended, and members of the tribe, needing money to pay off debts, improve their farms, and purchase new equipment and livestock became interested in revising the 1855 treaty as described in this letter. In exchange for additional lucrative cash payments, the Ho-Chunk would trade more of their land to the federal government for white settlement. However, before the treaty was ratified by the Senate, it was overtaken by regional events, and the “impossibility” of the Winnebago’s “permanent removal” mentioned in this letter was solved in 1863 when, after committing horrendous depredations against white settlers, the Sioux were defeated federal troops and local militia and forced entirely from the state. Although the Ho-Chunk remained neutral throughout the Sioux War, they too were forced to move to South Dakota in the war’s aftermath.