The Cla(u)sen Story

Share your story submitted by: J. Klein | Casa Grande, AZ

My great-great grandparents, Charles Henry and Carolina Cla(u)sen, came to Minnesota in 1856 with their son, Frederick.  In 1860, they were living in Milford, Brown, MN on Section 36.  Frederick, aka Fritz, married Martha McConnell in April of that year, and the four of them were enumerated on the 1860 census in Milford.  Living next door to them was the Carl Heuer family, wife Hanna, and sons, Carl, John and Joachim.  Carl was Henry’s half-brother and Hanna was Carolina’ sister.  On August 18, 1862, Charles and Fritz were killed about one-half mile south of the Birch Coulee battlefield in Renville County.  His wife, Caroline and other son, John, escaped to Fort Ridgely.  Also killed was Thomas Brooks, a nephew of Fritz.  Fritz’ wife Martha and 2 infants were taken captive.  It is thought Charles and Carolina were visiting their son and daughter-in-law in the Birch Coulie settlement when they were attacked while trying to escape in their wagon.  Martha witnessed the killing of her husband and father-in-law.  Charles and Fritz were probably buried where they fell by a burying party weeks later. 

Son John volunteered to serve in the militia after the outbreak and was paid for his work as a teamster. Carolina received monies for working as a cook at the fort.  Martha and her two children were released at Camp Release six weeks later.  John eventually served in Civil War. Carolina probably lived with her daughter-in-law Martha while her son served in the military until 1865. 

Tehedonecha, or One Who Forbids His House, was found guilty by the Military Commission on September 28, 1862 of killing Fred Clausen, Fred’s father, Charles, and Fred’s nephew Thomas Brooks. He was among the 38 Dakota who was hanged at Mankato on December 26, 186.  Among the witnesses testifying against him for this charge was Fred’s wife, Martha. 

That same day, August 18, Charles’ half-brother, Carl Heuer, his wife and three sons were killed at Milford.  Because there were no surviving members of the Heuer family in America, Carl’s probate was settled with John Clasen (son of deceased Charles and brother to deceased Frederick) and minors, Ellen and Mary Clasen (daughters of deceased Frederick and his wife Martha McConnell Clasen) named as heirs.  They received the monies due them from the depredation claim for damages from the outbreak and the homestead in Milford Township.  Carolina lived there with her son John until another son Carl immigrated from Germany in 1876 to help with her care.  She died in 1895 at the age of 91 years. 

I am certain my great-great grandmother’s remaining life was in turmoil after what she endured in her lifetime.  She lost her husband, her son, and her sister’s entire family.  Her son’s wife and her two granddaughters were taken hostage for 6 weeks. I can also imagine the horror when the remaining Clasen family in Germany heard the news of the violence against their now-American family. 

My great-grandfather, Carl Clasen eventually purchased the Milford property and it was there that my grandfather, Henry was born. 

Viewpoints: All viewpoints expressed on this website are those of the contributors, and are not representative of the Minnesota Historical Society.