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Something of the Pettijohn (Pettyjohn) Family

 




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ELI  PETTIJOHN


(25)


ELI PETTIJOHN, son of Abraham (13) and Jane (Sloan) Pettijohn, and brother of our Father, Dyer Burgess Pettijohn (37), was born in the beech woods of Brown County, Ohio, January 28, 1819. He accompanied his parents on their migration to Illinois in 1840, when they settled at Huntsville, some forty miles from Quincy. Eli's sister, Lydia (14), had married Alexander G. Huggins before the family left Brown County, Ohio, and with her husband had gone to Minnesota as Presbyterian missionaries to the Sioux Indians who were then carrying on intermittent warfare with the Whites.

Always of an adventurous nature, Eli, then twenty-two years of age, struck out for himself, turned his face westward and, perhaps because his sister, Lydia, and her husband were in Minnesota, crossed the plains to what was then an outpost of civilization near the present site of the city of Minneapolis. Minnesota was at that time a part of the territory of Wisconsin and eight years were to elapse before it could be organized as a territory, and seventeen years before it became a state. It is almost impossible to realize it now, but at the time Eli went into the territory, Minneapolis was known as St. Anthony Falls and was a struggling village of a few half-breeds, Sioux Indians and white traders, while St. Paul was a settlement of but four houses. The country abounded with fur-bearing animals and a profitable business was carried on by the white traders with the Indians, who exchanged their furs for such supplies as the Indians needed, and some, such as "fire water," which they had better been without.

On the morning of August 18, 1862, the terrible Sioux massacre burst upon the country with all its horrors. The people of the town of New Ulm, most of whom were German immigrants, seemed to have incurred the displeasure of the Indians to a greater extent than any other place in the whole country, and more than four hundred people were killed during the outbreak. Lydia's son, Rufus (21), died as the result of wounds received at New Ulm, and her son, Amos (16), was shot and instantly killed on Tuesday, August 19, 1862, the second day of the outbreak. Amos' wife Sophia, and her two small children, Eletta Huggins, and Charles Loyal Huggins, secreted themselves under the floor of a building, where they remained hidden, and thus escaped immediate massacre. They were finally discovered by the Indian Chief of the village where Amos had been teaching and to him they owed their lives as he took them under his special care and protection. For six long weeks the old chief kept Sophia and her small children so completely hidden from the other Indians that they escaped without receiving insult or injury from any one.

Upon his arrival in Minnesota the first employment which Eli had was in assisting his sister, Lydia, and her husband, Alexander G. Huggins, and other missionaries in their dealings with the Indians. He was employed in the Commissary Department of the Government in furnishing supplies, building houses and in trying to teach the wild and war-like Indians how to farm after the fashion of the white man. It was while he was at Lacquiparle and Traversedessioux that he negotiated many treaties with the Indians that were of advantage to the settlers and at times he acted as intermediary between the hostile Chippewas and the Sioux, who were almost constantly at war with each other. The Indians had complete confidence in the representations made to them by Uncle Eli, for they had found him to be a man of his word. In later years he often said that the outbreak and massacre of 1862, in which many innocent women and children perished, could have been avoided but for the dishonesty and corruption of some of the Agents who were sent out by the Government to deal with the Indians.

During his service with the Government, Eli was stationed at Fort Snelling and it was while he was there that his prophetic vision gave him a preview of things to come. He foresaw the upbuilding of a great city near that place. He purchased large tracts of land from Franklin Steele who was acting under what he maintained was a "Grant from the Government." Eli erected a commodious residence, and numerous barns for his thoroughbred horses, and improved the property. With prospects bright as far as this world's goods were concerned, he married Lucy Prescott in 1850 at Fort Snelling and moved into the fine residence which he had built. Lucy Prescott was the daughter of Philander Prescott, who in turn was the nephew of William Prescott, the great historian. The young couple had great plans for the future, but they were not to be fulfilled. The Civil War came on and the property around Fort Snelling, including that occupied by Uncle Eli was taken over for government purposes. No compensation was made, the government claim being that the property had never been legally surrendered to Franklin Steele, the man from whom Eli had bought it. Then for more than fifty years ensued the battle which Uncle Eli waged in the courts and in congress to the end of his life in an attempt to right what he considered a grievous wrong done him by the government. In 1906 a bill allowing his claim, and providing for its payment, passed the lower house of Congress but was killed in the Senate. It was brought before every succeeding Congress, as long as Uncle Eli lived, but never became a law. Eli was a real pioneer of Minnesota and served on the first grand jury which was summoned in Hennepin County, of which Minneapolis was the county seat.

In 1854 Eli built a flour mill on Minnehaha Creek, which was for many years known as "The Richfield Mills." His experience as a flour miller led him to conceive the idea of a breakfast food of which he was the originator, and which made his name a household word throughout the civilized world. Prior to that time no breakfast food had ever been processed or packaged. He personally selected the very best grains it was possible to obtain and took great pride in the excellence of his product. In 1870 Eli went to San Francisco to be nearer to the source of supply of what he considered the best wheat available for his purpose. There he manufactured and put on the market the original "Pettijohn's Breakfast Food." making it according to a process he invented himself. He later returned to Minneapolis, organized a stock company, and with his sons, for some years, carried on the business. He finally sold out to a company which still uses "Pettijohn's Breakfast Food" as a trade name.

At the time of his death Uncle Eli was one of the very small surviving band of Minnesota pioneers. For over seventy years he had been a part of the life of the state. House by house, farm by farm, he had watched it grow into an independent territory and then into one of the most prosperous and progressive states of the Union. In his later years he was wont to refer to it pridefully as a child that he had helped to nurse and rear. There are few whose careers were coincident with such a span in the history of a great community. His enterprising and progressive nature was manifested best, perhaps, by the buildings he constructed and the improvements he made on the land he purchased from Franklin Steele which adjoined Fort Snelling. He built his home on that land and the dwelling was the talk of all that part of Minnesota in that early day. The house was built on a stone foundation, two and one-half stories high, had a square brick chimney, with two large fireplaces, and contained twelve large rooms. Eli built a large barn, and although good horses were scarce, he had some of the best. All of the buildings were painted white and a white picket fence encircled the home and garden plot. The material for the house, barn and a warehouse he built at the old steamboat landing on the Mississippi River, he sawed in his own saw mill. It was said that in 1857 Eli set out the first shade trees in the territory when he planted those about his residence there near Fort Snelling. During the court proceedings which he instituted in an attempt to recover from the Government the value of his home and property, he said that he had kept out the "law" all his life but felt that he had a just claim. His house was taken over by the Government and used as officer's quarters. They stripped the place of horses, cattle, everything. Is it any wonder that as long as he lived, until his ninety-ninth year, he continued to wage a battle for the property he thought legally belonged to him? He was of strong physique and when nearly eighty years of age supervised the installing of the machinery in big flour mills at Minneapolis. At the age of ninety he was principal speaker at the Annual Meeting of the Minnesota Territorial Pioneers. He was active in mind and body up to the end of his long eventful life, a typical pioneer, self reliant, resourceful, with a vitality in keeping with the swift moving events of his time. For genealogical data reference is made to family No. 25.


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