Author details lives of children orphaned by U.S.-Dakota War of 1862

NEW ULM – A Twin Cities chemical engineer described the setting in which the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 orphaned four children after their parents were killed by Indians in August 1862 near Redwood Falls.

Daniel C. Munson, a history buff, detailed events surrounding the event in his book “Malice Toward None.” He became interested in the Kochendorfer family after noticing a gravestone for Johan and Catherine Kochendorfer and their three-year-old daughter Sarah in Oakland Cemetery, just north of the State Capitol in St. Paul.

Munson’s presentation was the second in a series of lectures this week commemorating the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. The series is funded by a grant from the Traverse des Sioux Library Cooperative. Noon lectures continue today through Friday at the Annex of the Brown County Historical Society.

Munson said the Kochendorfers immigrated to Minnesota from Germany and lived in St. Paul for 4 1/2 years before starting a farm in Flora Township in Renville County, a few miles northeast of Redwood Falls.

The Kochendorfers lost their lives to a band of Indians and were buried where they fell, Munson said. “Four children, ages four, seven, nine and 11, ran into the woods and walked about 11 miles the first day. They eventually got to Fort Ridgely and helped make bandages used in two unsuccessful Indian attacks on the fort.” Johan Jr., Rosina, Catherine and Margaret not only survived the attack, but also thrived in later life.

Munson’s research led him to descendants of the Kochendorfers. They detailed family history and provided photos of the Kochendorfer orphans who later worked on farms near Minneapolis and St. Paul. The children were later adopted by members of a St. Paul church – the Feldhousers, Van Walds and Schmidts.

“Indian chiefs including Little Crow lost status and control of other Indians when they were placed on reservations following treaties they signed in 1851 and 1858,” Munson said. “It’s ironic to learn that a shipment of gold to be paid to the Indians was late in coming, but was on its way to Fort Ridgely when the Indian Uprising began.”

Darryl Sannes of the Brooklyn Historical Society will discuss the Battle of Acton, the site of the start of the U.S-Dakota War of 1862, using an intricate, restored map at noon today in the Brown County Historical Society Annex.

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at

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