The elimination finally left three volunteers— Paul Ma-za-ku-ta-ma-ni (sometimes called Little Paul) one of the staunchest native followers of Rev. Riggs, An-pe-tu-tok-cha (John Other Day), and Che-tan-maza. Equipped with the following outfit these Indians were told to use it to the best advantage in securing the release of the two remaining captives: Wagon and double harness $110.00 Four horses 600.00 Twelve three-point blankets, four blue and eight white 56.00 Twenty-two yards of blue squaw cloth 44.00 Thirty-seven and a half yards of calico 5.37 Twenty pounds of tobacco 10.00 One sack of shot 4.00 One dozen shirts 13.00 Ribbon 4.75 Fifty pounds of powder 25.00 Corn 4.00 Flour 10.00 Coffee 1.50 Sugar 1.50 This bill of goods totalling $889.12, was purchased by Agent Flandrau of the traders at the Yellow Medicine Agency on credit, as he could not from his own private funds make cash payment to that amount. Thus equipped the Indians left the Yellow Medicine Agency on May twenty-third bound southwestward in an effort to locate Inkpaduta and negotiate with him for the release of his captives.
As soon as Mrs. Marble and her purchasers left the camp on Lake Madison it was evident to Inkpaduta that it would not he long until soldiers would again be on his trail. He felt sure that the captive's return to civilization would result in redoubled energies to apprehend him. Hence, as soon as his two envoys to the hunting camp on the Big Sioux returned, he was once more on the move. He went first to Lake Herman, which was only a short distance from Lake Madison. From Lake Herman his course led northwestward and then up the valley of the James or Dakota River.
About two weeks after the breaking of camp at Lake Madison they fell in with a band of Yanktons. In this band was a one-legged fellow, Wanduskaihanke (End of the Snake) by name, who, having an eye for business and having heard of the ransom of Mrs. Marble, decided to buy the remaining captives, take them to the Missouri River forts, and there offer them for sale. A bargain was soon struck with Inkpaduta, who now seemed anxious to rid himself of his charges, and the transfer of property at once took place. But for some reason not clear the Yankton instead of continuing with his band remained with Inkpaduta 's party, which now moved directly north, headed for the Earth Lodges of the Yanktons. Apparently the Indians under Inkpaduta paid no further heed to the captives.
Thus matters had stood for some days when one evening, as Mrs. Noble and Miss Gardner were preparing for the night's rest. Roaring Cloud, a son of Inkpaduta, entered. The captives suspected that trouble was at hand and anxiously waited to see what form it might take. Roaring Cloud had no sooner entered than he ordered Mrs. Noble out of the tent. She refused to comply. Enraged, he grasped her by one arm and with his other hand seized a stick of wood which happened to be close by. Dragging her out of the tepee, he struck her three or four heavy blows on the head, thus ending her life. On the following morning, as the squaws were breaking camp, the warriors gathered about the dead body and amused themselves by shooting arrows into it.
That the Indians with their remaining captive now journeyed well into the range of the buffalo is evidenced by the testimony of Mrs. Sharp who said that they "crossed one prairie so vast and so perfectly devoid of timber, that for days not even a hazelbrush, or a sprout large enough for a riding whip could be found." As they "attained the more elevated points the scene was really sublime. Look in any direction, and the grassy plain was bounded only by the horizon. . . . The only things to be seen, except grass, were wild fowls, birds, buffalo, and antelope. The supply of buffalo seemed almost as limitless as the grass. This was their own realm, and they showed no inclination to surrender it, not even to the Sioux.
Within two days after the killing of Mrs. Noble the Indians crossed the James somewhere near the mouth of Snake Creek and encamped a short distance to the south of the site of the present town of Ashton. Not far removed was a permanent camp of about one hundred and ninety lodges of Yankton Sioux. , The arrival of the white captive created a stir in the Yankton camp. Their great curiosity was probably due to the fact that she was the first white person that many of them had ever seen. Her hair and skin were examined with intense admiration. "No sooner was one company out of the teepe (sic) than others came; and so they kept it up from morning until night, day after day". The excitement over the white captive had scarcely died away when it was renewed by the arrival of the three Indian emissaries from the Yellow Medicine, who came garbed in civilized attire, "coats and white shirts, with starched bosoms." They had taken up Inkpaduta's trail at Lake Madison and had closely followed it all the way without overtaking the band.
Considerable time was spent in parleying for the captive, but the Yankton owner remained firm in his refusal of the terms offered. At the close of the second day he stated that he would have to submit the question of sale to a tribal vote, since he lacked the power to negotiate it himself. This brought to light the fact that there were two parties in the tribe‐ one favoring immediate sale, the other maintaining that it would be better to take the captive to the Missouri River country.
While these negotiations were in progress groups of Yanktons visited Abbie Gardner. With great gusto they dwelt upon the situation that existed in the council from time to time. Each group had its own version as to her future disposition. "One would say that I would be taken to the river and drowned .... Another would tell me that I would be bound to a stake and burned, showing the manner in which I would writhe and struggle in the flames. Another declared that I was to be cut to pieces by inches; taking his knife and beginning at my toes, or fingers, he would show how piece after piece was to be cut off". Finally the captive was relieved by a Yankton squaw who told her that there was no truth in these explanations, since the council had decided that she was to be freed by sale to the stranger Indians who would take her back to the whites. Thus on the fifth day of the council the party for immediate sale won, and the tribal vote expressed a willingness to close the bargain as soon as possible.
The price paid for the ransom of Abbie Gardner was probably "two horses, twelve blankets, two kegs of powder, twenty pounds of tobacco, thirty two yards of blue squaw cloth, thirty-seven and a half yards of calico and ribbon, and other small articles." Although there is no little disagreement as to how much was actually paid for her ransom, it is certain that none of the many articles with which the Indians were provided to secure the release of Mrs. Noble and Miss Gardner were ever turned back or accounted for by the three Indians. From this it may fairly be presumed that all were used in bringing about the ransom.
After the purchase price had been paid and the captive turned over to her new caretakers, they were all urged by the Yanktons to remain and attend a feast to be give in their honor. Abbie Gardner, however, was anxious to make her return to civilization as speedily as possible. She had also observed in the preparations which were being made that roast dog was to be served at the feast, and so declined to attend, urging upon her guides an immediate departure. In spite of her failure to appreciate the honor of a dog feast, the Yankton chief, Ma-to-wa-ken, ordered that the wagon be piled high with buffalo skins and meat. So well filled was the wagon that only Miss Gardner could be accommodated in addition to the load." As a further assurance of good will the chief sent two of his best men along as a guard. They were to accompany the group to the Wahpeton Agency before turning back. Evidently this was a safeguard against attack from Inkpaduta's men, for it appears that a number of his party followed for four days before turning back to the camp on Snake Creek.
The return trip of Abbie Gardner was strikingly different from her forced flight, since now she was the only member of the party who rode while all the others walked. The first adventure of the journey which proved to her the good intentions of the Indians was at the crossing of the James River. When the party arrived at the stream, the girl was placed in a frail little boat not more than five or six feet in length‐just large enough for herself. In her fright she recalled the Yankton's tales of her early killing by her purchasers. But she was soon happily assured of their good intentions. Having placed her in the frail boat, they attached a strong rawhide thong cable to one end. When these preparations for crossing were completed, the Indians divested themselves of most of their clothing, plunged into the stream, and led or guided the canoe and its occupant safely across to the opposite bank.
From this time on the girl's confidence in her guides grew with every evidence of their good will toward her. The return journey was without any unusual incident. After a week of uninterrupted traveling, they came to a region thickly populated with Indians, and to the great joy of Abbie Gardner there were a large number of log houses in addition to the primitive and loathsome tepees. She thought these were inhabited by white people when she first sighted them, but later she discovered that such was not the case: they were all inhabited by Indians. After two more days of travel, she reached the home of a half-breed family who could talk English. It was here that she learned that her guides had been sent out by the authorities to bring her in. While they tarried here for a day and a half Abbie made a suit for herself out of cloth furnished by the half-breed girls at whose home she lodged. The next stop was at the Yellow Medicine mission on the confines of civilization. Here the girl was given into the temporary care of the missionaries, Dr. and Mrs. Thomas S. Williamson. The date of her arrival at this point was on or about the tenth day of June. Her joy was altogether unbounded when she found herself once more lodged in the home of a person of her own race; for she now fully realized that her deliverance was actual and not a fanciful dream.
While this expedition was being successfully carried out, Agent Flandrau had gone to St. Paul with Mrs. Marble, whom he tells us he took thither in his own wagon. As soon as they arrived Mrs. Marble was turned over to a Mrs. Long, the wife of Steve Long, proprietor of the Fuller House then located at the northeast corner of Jackson and Seventh Streets. Mrs. Long was instructed to outfit her in the most becoming and "effective widow's weeds obtainable in the market.". When this had been satisfactorily accomplished, Mrs. Marble was presented to the people at a public meeting or reception in the hotel. Before the reception came to a close over one thousand dollars had been contributed toward her future support. This was turned over to Governor Medary to be used in whatever manner the Governor thought best. Mrs. Marble was detained in St. Paul for only a brief time, due to her great desire to return to her friends and relatives in the East. At the time of her leaving, Govenor Medary gave her two hundred and fifty dollars of the money contributed and placed the remainder in a St. Paul bank. Later the bank failed and nothing could be realized on the deposit.
At the time of Abbie Gardner's arrival at the Yellow Medicine station, the annuity Indians were in revolt because of the non‐payment of annuities then due. These annuities were being held up until the Indians would agree to cooperate in apprehending Inkpaduta and his band. A massacre seemed imminent at any moment; but within two days after her arrival the Indians tentatively agreed to cooperate and all became peaceful. The return of quiet among the Indians enabled a certain Mr. Robinson to join in the trip to St. Paul. The journey was by means of a team and a cumbersome lumber wagon which, owing to the almost unbroken roads, did not permit of either rapid or comfortable travel. Sunday, or the day following their start, was spent at Redwood, Lower Agency, just above Fort Ridgely. Word was carried in advance to Captain Bee, who at this time was in command at the post. Upon the receipt of the news the Captain at once sent his horse and buggy with the urgent request that the girl return with his orderly to spend Sunday at the post with his family. But her Indian rescuers were suspicious of an attempt to deprive them of their reward and would not consent to her going unless they accompanied her. Of course such an arrangement could not be made, and so the acceptance of Captain Bee's kind invitation was impossible.
Since Abbie Gardner could not spend Sunday at the fort, the officers. Captain Bee and Lieutenant Murry, resolved to express their admiration for the girl's fortitude and courage in another way. Previous to her arrival at the post on the following day, these officers solicited from the soldiers a purse containing several dollars in gold, which with a gold ring were presented to her upon her arrival. The presentation was made by Mrs. Bee on behalf of the contributors to the fund. Lieutenant Murry presented her, as a personal testimonial of his regard for her wonderful bravery, an elegant shawl and a dress pattern of the finest cloth that could be obtained at the post trader's store.
From Fort Ridgely the rescue party followed the cross country trail to Traverse des Sioux, then the head of navigation on the Minnesota River. Here they embarked on a steamer; and on June 22nd they reached Shakopee where a large crowd awaited their coming. Again Abbie Gardner was presented with a purse of money amounting to some thirty dollars. The news of her coming had preceded her down the river to St. Paul, and when she arrived there on the evening of the same day she was again met by a large number of people. Accompanied by her rescuers and the Yankton messenger, she was hurried to a carriage and taken to the Fuller House.
The landlady, the same who had cared for Mrs. Marble, immediately took her in charge with the same purpose in view as on the previous occasion‐ that of making her presentable for a public reception. Previous to her arrival it had been arranged that Abbie Gardner should be formally and publicly turned over to the Governor by her rescuers. Thus, at ten o'clock on the morning of Tuesday, June twenty-third, in the public receiving room of the Fuller House the ceremony took place in the presence of a large number of ladies and gentlemen who were specially invited to be present. There was much speechmaking, in which Governor Medary, Agent Flandrau, Ma-za-ku-ta-ma-ni, and An-pe-tu tok-clia took the prominent parts. Ma-za-ku-tama- ni reminded Governor Medary of the great regard in which his people held the whites and how on account of their desire to manifest this respect he and his companions had been willing to undertake the perilous mission‐which they really believed at the outset might prove to be a fatal undertaking. An-pe-tu-tok-cha followed his companion with a relation of the salient features of the journey to and from the Yankton camp and with a description of the difficulties met and overcome in the council while the negotiation for the captive's ransom was pending.
Governor Medary in reply cautioned the Indians against fraternizing or holding any form of communication with the lawless elements of the plains Indians; and he assured them that the great service they had rendered would be rewarded in a proper manner, and that an account of their mission would be sent to the Great Father at Washington as soon as possible.
At the close of the ceremony Agent Flandrau presented Abbie Gardner with a magnificent Indian war bonnet‐the gift of the Yankton chief, Ma-to-wa-ken, from whom she had been purchased. The bonnet had been entrusted to the keeping of Ma-za-ku-tama- ni with instructions to have it presented to the girl when she should be safely delivered to their White Father, the Governor. Following these formalities an elaborate state dinner was served in honor of the released captive and her rescuers.
On the following day, which was June twenty fourth, Abbie Gardner, under the escort of Governor Medary and accompanied by a certain L. P. Lee, embarked on the steamer "Galena" for Iowa, for the purpose of finding her sister Eliza, who had been so fortunate as to escape the massacres at Okoboji and Springfield. Governor Medary accompanied her as far as Dubuque. In case the sister could not be located, he proposed to take Abbie to Columbus, Ohio, and adopt her into his own family. From Dubuque Mr. Lee conducted Miss Gardner to Fort Dodge where she was left in the care of Major William Williams, who promised to have her taken as soon as possible to the home of her sister. It seems that Eliza Gardner had married William R. Wilson of Company B of the Fort Dodge relief expedition and was then living at Hampton, Iowa.
At Hampton anxiously awaiting the captive's return was not only her sister, but also Mr. Thatcher who was hoping that he might yet hear something favorable concerning Mrs. Thatcher. To Abbie Gardner fell the sad duty of conveying to him the last words spoken by Mrs. Thatcher as she started to cross what turned out to be a river of death.