Dustin Massacre 1863



Another notable event that did affect the area of Lake Charlotte and had far reaching effect throughout the State was the Dustin Family massacre in 1863.  The Dustin’s were settlers in Marysville Township of Wright County.  Jeanette Dustin a widow lived with her young adult family. They were moving from their original settlement to Moore’s Prairie near Stockholm to a new claim.  Jeanette Dustin, her oldest son Amos age 31 and his wife Kate Miller Dustin with their three children Almeda age 6, Robert 4 and Leon 2, were traveling by oxen team and wagon.  On June 29th at a location east of Smith Lake about 2 ½ miles east of Howard Lake they were attacked by a group of renegade Indians.  Amos was killed with an arrow, Jeanette was killed and horrible mutilated.  Four year old Robert was also killed and two year old Leon was tossed into a bush. Kate was shot with an arrow that went completely through her body.  Although she was also badly beaten she survived.  She pulled her six year old daughter from under the body of her dead husband and found her two year old son in the bushes. Carrying the youngest and leading the other she started back down the trail looking for help.  They were found the next day by Charles Cochran and his father who took them to the James Cochran home.  Mr. Cochran drew the arrow from her back. Kate Dustin died on July 3rd at the Cochran home. The two children survived.


 When this news spread in Wright County again panic set in. Since the Souix uprising in the previous year rumors of Indian raids had abounded throughout the area, now it was a reality.  On can only imagine the frightening influence this had on those early settlers.  They were living far from their nearest neighbors, secluded in rather dense woods.  With danger lurking behind every tree and bush it was unsafe to venture out to care for their meager crops or to look after their precious livestock. Even the strongest must have contemplated giving up their claim and moving to a more populated place.  Many had done just that after the previous uprising.  Settlers hurried for immediate protection.  Those in South Rockford Township went to a stockade that was hastily built in Rockford.  The pioneers in the North and Frankfort Township again went to the island on Beebe Lake.  This time they took axes and saws and built a stockade on the island.  They named it Fort Steele probably after Thomas Steele an early settler.  Steele also sounded more fortress like and impregnable.  The history indicates that indeed some people from the Lake Charlotte and Martha area did go to the Beebe Lake Island.


About 150 persons took refuge on the four acre heavily timbered island. After gathering on the island they formed a regular military organization with Thomas Walker as commander, Thomas Steele and Amos Denney as second officers.  Disciplinary rules and regulations were rigidly enforced.  Each man was assigned picket duty at night to keep watch and guard the camp.  It was Thomas Walker’s duty make the rounds of the guards at night.  On one occasion he found two of the pickets, a father and his son had deserted their posts and were asleep in their tent. The next day the two men were court martialed  and sentenced to be shot. However, this was never carried out, the officers postponing it under one pretext or another until they were disbanded.  John Walker wrote that never the less the incident had a salutary effect on the discipline of the rest of the men for the duration of the encampment.  They stayed about two weeks on the island with the men sneaking bake to their cabins at night to get food and supplies.  When they heard that Chief Little Crow had been killed by a farmer they felt it was safe to return to their cabins.


The remains of the Dustin Family are buried in common grave in the Mission Cemetery at Waverly.  There is a Historical Plaque relating the incident on Highway 12 west of Howard Lake.  There is also a stone that was used to mark the original burial place of family.  The marker is about one third of a mile from the actual site of the Massacre.