Anna Mary Rieke Story, a Defender of Fort Ridgely

Share your story submitted by: D. Busch | Fairfax, MN

Great Grandpa, George Rieke, had a sister whose given name was Anna Mary but was usually called Mary.  She was born on March 8, 1847, so was 15 years old at the time of the Uprising. Along with other family members, Mary had gone to Fort Ridgely for safety.
Mary was considered a defender of the Fort, along with her brothers, Adam, Victor, George, August, and Heinrich. Her name appears on the Defenders Monument at the Fort because of a role she played on August 19, 1862. She had been ordered to watch the women and children, making sure none of them raised their heads above the window sills on the second floor of the stone barracks where they took refuge along with several Indian women. Mary overheard one of these Indian women say to another that this would be a good time to attack the Fort since most of the soldiers were away.  This woman started to leave, Mary tried to stop her, but couldn't, so she ran down the stairs to find a soldier. Finding one, she told him what she had heard, he went after the Indian and brought her back upstairs.  He told Mary to guard her with her life (drawing his sword to add emphasis) as she was a spy who would have warned the attacking Indians about the weakness of the Fort's defenses. Mary truly helped save the Fort and no doubt changed the progress of the uprising because the Indians held off until August 20th, by which time the group of defenders had increased in numbers. Mary received a pension from the State of Minnesota as long as she lived.  She died on March 9, 1942, attaining the age of 95! 

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