Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Me and the Hinmans


I didn't find him yesterday. I knew I  wouldn't, but somewhere on-line I'd read that the Rev. Samuel Hinman, missionary to the Dakota Sioux through most of the 19th century, was buried in the cemetery at St. Cornelia's Episcopal Church, Morton, Minnesota, right there at the Lower Sioux Agency, just a bit north of the casino. 

I knew I wouldn't find him, because he died already in 1890; but I wanted to stand there at his grave. Cemeteries only reluctantly give up their stories, but I looked and looked at St. Cornelia's and didn't find him or his stone, so in my soul at least the Reverend Samuel Hinman remains very much at large.

The hunt began years ago when I found his wife's grave so far out of the way hardly anyone other than locals ever see it, and probably few of them pay it any mind. It's a wonderful stone, and it stands in the cemetery of the Church of the Most Merciful Savior, a place the Santees call "our church," even though that little doesn't rock come Sunday morning. See it up top?--that's where Mary Hinman's stone stands in a tiny cemetery perfectly kept. (In fact, you can almost see the stone in that picture, a picture taken from the top of hill just outside of town. See that big tree right in the middle?--follow its second-tallest branch all the way to the top, and you'll see white speck relatively close to a place most people call, simply, the Santee Mission.

Here's her stone up close.


Just in case you can't read it, it bears a blessed tribute that goes like this: "A TOKEN OF THE AFFECTIONATE REMEMBRANCE OF THE SANTEE WOMEN OF MARY E. HINMAN, WIFE OF S. D. HINMAN--and then references her date of birth and death, as you see.

That stone begged me to look for husband's, a couple hundred miles away, north and east, on another reservation of a tribe very much related. Mary's sweet stone got me to wondering who this woman was--and who her husband was, and that's a tale that still holds mysteries which may well never be revealed. 

He's buried here reportedly, on the Lower Sioux Reservation, just outside of Redwood Falls, Minnesota, in the cemetery of old St. Cecelia's Episcopal Church. At least, that's what I was told.


But I couldn't find him. Someday soon, I've got to go back. I got to stand there.

Mary is in Nebraska because she died just a few hundred feet from the Missouri River in 1876. How did she die? No one knows for sure, but she had good reason. In 1870, the entire mission she and her husband and the Episcopalians had built--home, school, church--was wiped out by a tornado that came in over the hill where I was standing when I took that picture at the top of the page. She and her children had to be pulled from what remained. Some say she never really recovered. 

Some give other reasons. Some sources whisper she died of a "social disease" wreaked upon her by a husband who lost his own mission when he was accused of sexual misconduct with women of both races. Were those charges true? No one knows anymore, but eventually, after a New York City judge claimed him not guilty, he was given charge of yet another church: this one in rural Minnesota. A man known for his graciousness, Henry Whipple, Episcopal Bishop of Minnesota, always stood by Mary Hinman's husband, the Reverend Samuel. 

In 1863, a decade before Mary died and those charges were leveled, Hinman and a few other missionaries daily attended to the spiritual and physical needs of the hundreds of Dakota warriors arrested and locked up at Ft. Snelling after the bloody Dakota War. They ministered to them, prayed with them, sang with them, and argued their cause before political powers determined to get rid of every Indian in the state, even put a bounty on their heads, as if they were varmints. One night the Reverend Hinman, on his way home from Ft. Snelling, was beaten senseless by a crowd of thugs who claimed what Hinman and others were doing was no only treasonous but a despicable profanation of Jesus's holy words. The Dakota, they claimed, weren't good enough for the gospel.

When all those Dakota warriors were finally shipped down the Mississippi to a military fort just outside of Davenport, Iowa, Hinman stayed with them during the years they were imprisoned. When they were packed up again and sent up the Missouri to central South Dakota, he never left. At both places he did more funerals than most pastors his age, many more, hundreds more. 

When they were allowed to return to a place that seemed more like the the Minnesota River valley, their home before the war, a place near the confluence of the Missouri and the Niobrara, he stayed with them too. He preached there at the church you see at the top of the page, the place where Mary died.

Yesterday I didn't find him in the cemetery of the St. Cornelia's Church, the place Bishop Whipple assigned him after his wife was gone and the court ruled him innocent, a church named after the good Bishop's own wife.  

I'll have to go back because there's more to the story, much more, and I want to know it, at least as much as I can. 

1 comment:

Del VanDenBerg said...

Jim,
This story sounds like the one I chased for my Master's Degree in some ways. I set out to write a history, finish the story of the man who founded the Dutch settlement of Amsterdam/Churchill/Manhattan, MT- Rev. Andreas Wormser. His story is not well documented, but the pieces that I assembled show a fascinating story. He was the founder not only of a settlement and churches in MT, but places like Wisconsin and Washington. But where did he end up? I followed his trail literally all over with my family in tow during the summers, and finally ended up in Wenatchee , WA at his wife's grave- but no Wormser. After rattling enough cages in Wenatchee I finally got the County to let me look at the original plot records of the cemetery, and at the bottom of Wormser's wife's grave his name is penciled in. What happened is no one claimed his body when he died a pauper after years of financial gain and fame as an immigrant locator, and the County cremated him and in the practice of the cemetery placed his ashes at the foot of the grave of his wife. Apparently the cemetery has a rule you cannot bury two bodies in one grave, but you can put the ashes of a family member in the same. Interesting find to complete the story for his family that lost track of him; subsequently it also helped get my degree. In the end, I guess we all may be lost, but in time we will be found.