AN INDIAN SCARE
The great "Indian Scare"
of southeastern Wisconsin occurred in early September of 1862. The news
of the terrible massacre at New Ulm, Minnesota, had filled the people with
horror and apprehension, while dismal news from the front at the darkest
period of the Civil War brought with it gloomy forebodings. Everything
was ripe for the sudden, mysterious panic among settlers at that time and
the unreasonable stampede that followed.
On the night of September 2 the early settlers of Manitowoc were awakened to the cry: "The Indians are coming." Messengers on horseback arrived from the Rapids, Branch, Kellnersville, and other localities as if by preconcerted signal announcing that the Indians were burning and murdering everything in their path. The ringing of fire bells and church bells gave warning to the frightened people. Crowds congregated at the courthouse and at Klinghol Hall where the women and children were placed for safety. The men organized into voluntary companies under the lead of experienced soldiers, armed with anything that they could lay their hands on. At the Leverenz blacksmith shop on Franklin Street, a number of men headed by William Bach and the gunsmith, Gustav Bloquelle, melted bullets, while the stouthearted women prepared boiling water and pitch to pour it down on the heads of the attacking Indians. A company of recruits of the Twenty-sixth Regiment, about to depart the next day, were attending church services when the news arrived, and these and others formed themselves into two companies, one going to the northern outskirts of the city and other to Rapids, but both returned without having seen any indications of danger.
During the next two days the roads were lined with terror-stricken people fleeing to Manitowoc and other centers. The ox carts were loaded with women and children and with their most valuable belongings, while the men not needed to drive the teams were in the rear with guns, axes, and pitchforks, anything with which to defend themselves.
True there were some who doubted and some who scouted, but the contagious fear spread even to these. When sober judgment succeeded many were the exciting, humorous incidents related, but even days after the excitement had subsided, many of the frightened farmers could not be persuaded to return home.
Manitowoc County Historical Society Newsletter (after 1982, pg. 26)