The following stories are from Compendium of History and Biography of Central and Northern Minnesota containing a History of the State of Minnesota. It was published in 1904 and contained "biographical sketches of hundreds of prominent old settlers and representative citizens of Central and Northern Minnesota."
(This sketch is about a brother of Jacob Ryf. Jacob was the first husband of Amelia Foerster/Foster. They were the parents of Minnie Ryf Fradenburg. I've put a few notes here and there and have made a few corrections.)
Gottlieb Ryf, a retired farmer of Kandiyohi county, resides in the village of Atwater, and is classed among the substantial and worthy citizens of his community.
Mr. Ryf was born in the Canton of Basil, Switzerland, December 25, 1830. His parents were Eusebius (pronounced: you say bee us) and Anna Maria (Heinemann) Ryf, to whom were born sixteen children. Eusebius Ryf was a prominent business man in Bern, Switzerland, owning and operating a sawmill, gristmill, and works for the manufacture of plaster of paris. He lost his wealth rapidly by becoming security for relatives and acquaintances.
To recover his fortune speedily he thought the United States of America offered the best opportunity and therefore, in 1845 (this record had incorrectly stated 1855), he started to New York, accompanied by his wife and twelve children, leaving four children buried in their native land. The wife died and was buried at sea and after a long and perilous passage on the sailing ship Hercules, the family landed at New York. They proceeded direct to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and the father settled down to farming.
Most of the children scattered and sought employment among the neighboring farmers, our subject, Gottlieb, working for eight dollars per month, clearing brush and driving an ox team. He was married in 1864 and a short time afterward, accompanied by his wife, he went to Meeker county, Minnesota, and there pre-empted one hundred and sixty acres of land near Forest City.
Soon afterward the Indian outbreak occurred in that locality and the farm for a time was deserted and all hands assisted in the erection of a stockade at Forest City, which protected them from the "redskins." Mr. Ryf assisted valiantly in the defense and had some narrow escapes, and has a fund of anecdotes bearing on the subject wherein he took an active part. Peace was at last secured by aid of soldiery.
Within three months Mr. Ryf sold the pre-emption right to his farm for one hundred dollars and moved to Kandiyohi county, where he bought one hundred and sixty acres of farming land on section 14, Harrison township, and fifteen acres of timber land on the border of Diamond Lake.
He and his wife lived contentedly and happily on their farm for more than thirty years and in 1896 disposed of the property for upwards of $6,000 and removed to the village of Atwater, where Mr. Ryf purchased a pleasantly located home.
Mrs. Ryf has been an invalid for some years and died soon after settling in their new home, her death occurring November 3, 1898. She was regarded as a good neighbor and a kind and loving wife. The marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Ryf occurred in Jefferson county, Wisconsin, in 1864. Mrs. Ryf bore the maiden name of Feronica Steckel. She was a native of Bavaria, and had emigrated, as did her husband, to America some years previous with her parents. She left no children at her death.
Mr. Ryf was married to Augusta Kuhn October 17, 1900. Mrs. Ryf is a daughter of Ulrich and Henrietta (Foster) Kuhn. Her father was a carpenter and a resident of Watertown, Wisconsin, in which city Mrs. Ryf was born. Mr. Ryf is an active, hearty man, despite his seventy years and over. He is a Republican in politics.
(This sketch is about a brother of Jacob Ryf. Jacob was the first husband of Amelia Foerster/Foster. They were the parents of Minnie Ryf Fradenburg.)
Emanuel Reyff, one of the early settlers and prosperous farmers of Harrison township, Kandiyohi county, lives on his well-tilled farm of one hundred and twenty acres, where he has spent the past thirty-four years of his career.
Mr. Reyff was born in Switzerland in 1841. At the time of his birth his father was an extensive mill owner and prosperous business man in the city of Bern, but unfortunate investments in city securities deprived him speedily of his wealth. In 1845, with his wife and family of ten children, he emigrated to America. The heart of the wife and mother was broken by the reverses from wealth to comparative poverty, and she died and was buried at sea. Our subject being the youngest one of the family, and but four years of age, was taken with his brothers and sisters to Jefferson county, Wisconsin. There the father rented land and proceeded to farm, a business which he followed during the remainder of his life. He died in Wisconsin, January 28, 1868.
Our subject had few advantages in the way of school education and he continue working on his father's farm until the age of sixteen years, and then found similar work in the neighborhood and later at New Ulm, Minnesota, until the outbreak of the Indian war. In August, 1862, he enlisted in Company K, Seventh Minnesota Infantry, serving under Gen. Sibley to assist in quelling the outbreak. Later his regiment was ordered south and he was actively engaged in the Mississippi valley until the close of the war of the Rebellion, participating in no less than thirty-two engagements. For these valiant services the government allows him a liberal pension. He was mustered out at Ft. Snelling, in 1865. These were trying times in Minnesota. During the Indian outbreak Mr. Reyff saw his brother's wife and two children massacred by the Indians on their farm in Renville county. Their oldest son and Mr. Reyff buried the dead bodies.
After being mustered out of the service Mr. Reyff returned to Wisconsin and assisted on the home farm until his father's death. After the settlement of his father's affairs, in 1868, he went to Kandiyohi county and took a homestead claim of eighty acres near where his home now stands. He later added forty acres to his farm and thereon built his present resident. He now owns one hundred and twenty acres of good land, all of which is under cultivation. Mr. Reyff experienced some of the hardships incident to pioneer life. From 1874 to 1876 the grasshoppers devastated the fields of grain and for a time he almost gave up hope of making farming a success and removed to St. Paul, where he found other work during the winter and farmed during the summer.
Mr. Reyff was married May 26, 1872, to Margaretta Wolfmeyer, a daughter of Leonard and Annie C. (Horn) Wolfmeyer. Mrs. Reyff was the second in a family of five children and her father was a farmer of Wisconsin. To Mr. and Mrs. Reyff two children have been born, daughters, who are as follows: Minnie H., now the wife of Peter L. Frogner; and Emma M., who is unmarried. Both daughters make their home at present on their father's farm. Mr. Reyff is a member of Frank Taggart Post, G.A.R., at Litchfield. He and his family are highly respected in the community in which they live, and their home is one of pleasant cheer and generous hospitality.
Eusebius Reyff Helped Execute
31 Indians Who Killed
Members of His Family
Saturday, May 2, 1925
(Special to the Crescent-News)
Sherwood, May 2. - Escape from an Indian massacre that took the lives of his father and mother, a sister and a brother; joining a military regiment to seek revenge, and finally being assigned as executioner for thirty-one Indians convicted of murder was the tragic experience of Eusebius Reyff, civil War veteran who died here Friday at the age of 80.
Mr. Reyff had lived in Sherwood many years, coming here from Defiance. He was a carpenter and for a time years ago had a sawmill here. For some time he was a rural mail carrier but during the past few years his health has been poor and he has lived a retired life. The last time he was down town was on Grand Army Day April 6, when the G.A.R. presented their flag and other possessions to the W.R.C.
He was born in Basil, Switzerland, and came to this country when nine years old. They lived in New York for a time then went to Wisconsin and later to Minnesota where they took up a homestead on the bank of the Minnesota across the river from a Sioux Indian reservation. His father, mother, a sister and a brother were all massacred by the Indians in the great uprising August 18, 1862. He was the oldest son and was working on a farm about 40 miles away.
Two sisters also escaped. They were working in a hotel ten miles from home. As the Indians came in the front door, the sisters, with the landlord, and his family, escaped through the back door and went to the river, reaching it just as a ferry was crossing. The Indians fired at them but did not hit them.
When they reached the opposite side they started toward Ft. Ridgley about ten miles from here. Passing a farm from which the people had fled, they found a team and wagon which they took and were able to reach the fort in safety. Here about a hundred others had gathered and the lives of all were saved, as the Indians did not attack the fort.
They later learned a few of the grim details of the death of their family. Some one in hiding (this was Emanuel Reyff) saw the attack on the father and son, a boy about fourteen. They, with a neighbor, were loading hay with an ox team. Some Indians came, but as they had been friendly before, there was no fear, when suddenly without a word of warning the Indians, armed with bows and arrows, killed and father and the hired man. The boy started to run and they fired at him with rifles and killed him. The mother and little girl about eight were at the house, which was burned.
The son, when he learned of the death of his people, enlisted in the 8th Minnesota regiment which was a part of the army stationed in that part of the country to defend against the Indians. They were sent through the territory where the great massacre had taken place and ten months after that time he went to the place that had been his home.
Evidently the Indians had rifled the home before setting fire to it for he found a few things scattered around which he carried away with him.
In all the years since then he had kept in his possession a Bible which he found and which had on it the print of an Indian moccasin where it had been stepped upon. In the ruins of the home he found the bones of the mother and sister. He made a box with pieces of boards found lying around, in which he placed the bones and buried them beside the garden fence and left the home never to return. In the hay field he found a grave which contained the bones of two men and a boy. These he supposed were his father and brother and the hired man.
The soldiers rounded up the Indians and one hundred were brought to trial charged with murder. Thirty-eight of these were found guilty and sentenced to hang. The duties connected with the execution were given into the hands of soldiers who had lost members of their families in the massacre. Mr. Reyff being one.
The uprising in which his people lost their lives was one of the worst in history. By a concerted move on the part of the Indians for many miles around people were attacked on farms and villages all at the same time with the most brutal savagery. Mr. Reyff seldom spoke of that part of the history of his life and tried to forget it as nearly as possible.
Civil War Veteran Passes
Last taps were sounded last Friday morning at 6:10 and the soul of Eusebius Reyff, Civil War Veteran passed over the Portal to the Great Beyond after an illness of only a few days.
Stricken with apoplexy on Tuesday afternoon he only rallied once during his brief illness. For several years his health has been failing brought on by frequent attacks of illness. In the winter he suffered a stroke of apoplexy from which he never fully recovered, although able to be up and around the home and coming up town when brought in a machine. He was born in Basil, Switzerland August 11, 1844 and was aged 80 years, 8 months and 20 days.
Surviving are his wife, Mrs. Elizabeth Reyff; three sons: Henry of Bowling Green, Ohio; August W. of Pontiac, Michigan; Glenn A. of Sherwood and one daughter, Mrs. Lester (Belle) Shirley, of Sherwood; one sister, Mrs. Mary Compton of Fort Wayne, Indiana; ten grandchildren and a host of other relatives and friends.
Funeral services were held Sunday afternoon at 2 o'clock at the home, conducted by Rev. D.E. Martz, pastor of the Reformed church of which the deceased was a member before transferring his membership to the Church of Christ. Music was furnished by Mrs. Mayme Holzer, Mrs. Pauline Noffsinger, Rev. E.L. Arthur, Walter Miller, accompanied by Mrs. E.L. Arthur. The only two remaining members of Hancock Post, Grand Army of the Republic, J.M. Johnson and J.H. Haver, assisted the Woman's Relief Corps in the memorial service of the organization. Pallbearers were the three sons, Henry, August and Glenn, his two sons-in-law, Dr. H.C. Lindersmith, Lester Shirley and a grandson, Edward Bloir. Burial was in Sherwood cemetery. S.A. Noffsinger giving taps after the casket was lowered in the grave.
Those from a distance attending the funeral were: Mr. and Mrs. Henry Reyff and sons Howard and Royce and daughter Helen of Bowling Green; Mr. and Mrs. A.W. Reyff and daughter Velma of Pontiac, Michigan; Harry and Davis Rock of Chicago, Ill.; Mrs. Mary Compton, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Compton, Minor Compton, Miss Clara Weibke, Miss Bertha Heller, Dale Worthington and Grover Blair of Ft. Wayne, Ind.; Mrs. Ed Kirby and daughter Ethel of Tipton, Ind.; Mr. and Mrs. Al Johnson and daughter Kathleen of Auburn, Ind.; Emerson Johnson, Willard O., Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Pitts of Oak Harbor; Mr. and Mrs. Grover Weist, Mr. and Mrs. Faulkner Haver, Clay Haver, Mr. and Mrs. Horace Alderman, Mr. and Mrs. Eltor of Sailor, Iona May White of Toledo; Mr. and Mrs. Roy Rock and son Jack of Hamler; Mrs. Ella Hoot of Lima; Mr. and Mrs. F.L. Etchie and sons Perry and Robert of Republic; Mr. and Mrs. Harry Johnson of Defiance; Mr. and Mrs. Levon Elder, Mrs. Ivy Worthington of Mar Center; Mr. and Mrs. J.L. Bloir and son Charles and daughter Mildred of Bryan.
HARRY E. REYFF
IS TAKEN HERE
Harry E. Reyff, 71, well-known Bowling Green window display artist at A. Froney and Co., for more than 40 years, died at his home, 217 S. Grove Street, yesterday following a stroke of paralysis suffered several weeks ago.
Ill health had forced Mr. Reyff to retire from the Froney Company in January of this year after 41 years of faithful service.
He began work under A. Froney and then was with the late Bert Froney. He received many prizes for window displays and his artistry and appreciation of beauty was known among all mercantile display experts. His individuality stood out in his work and decorators for many nationally known firms copied his ideas often displayed in the trade magazines. He was born at Defiance July 21, 1869 and died at the age of 71 years and four months. He spent his youth with two aunts, Edith and Agnes Biederstadt after his mother passed away when he was but 8 years old. He was a member of the Methodist Church here and Rev. Ray L. Cross will officiate at funeral services at Young's Funeral Home here Friday afternoon at 3:00. Burial will be at Oak Grove Cemetery. Friends may pay respects at Young's late this afternoon and evening.
Surviving are his wife, Martha; sons, Royce R. and Howard Reyff, and daughter Helen; aunts, Edith and Agnes Bierderstadt; brother, A.W. Reyff, Pontiac, Michigan; half-brother, Glen Reyff, Sherwood, Ohio; half-sister, Belle Shirley, Hicksville; grandchildren, Howard Reyff, Jr.; Richard Lee Reyff, Stanley Reyff and Helen Louise Reyff.
THE STORY OF EMANUEL REYFF
We moved from Helenville, Jefferson county, Wis., in the spring of 1862 and settled at Middle Creek, Minn. We filed on our claim and went to breaking up the sod. We had settled at Forest City, Minn. [this is near Atwater where he is buried], two years previous.
Monday, August 18,  I was working on the Minnesota river, driving rafting logs down to New Ulm for the sawmill. The boss said the river was too low so we could not go down. So he paid us off and I started to go to my brother, Eusebius, with whom I then lived. A friend of mine named Bill Laur went with me. We went together as far as the hill at Beaver Creek and then parted. He went to New Ulm, where his folks lived and I went to my brother's.
Just as I was coming to the cow yard the Indians were coming from the opposite direction to the house. My brother and his son Ben, a boy about 10 years of age, were stacking hay near the house. One of the Indians shot at my brother with an arrow. It struck him under the jaw bone near the ear. As he fell from the load the Indians grabbed him, cut off both his hands and scalped him before he was dead.
Ben jumped off the stack and tried to escape, but there were about forty Indians and poor little Ben had no show. One of the Indians grabbed him by the hair and held him while the other Indian dumped off the hay rack, which was nearly empty, turned up the wagon tongue and tied Ben's feet together with a rope and hung him to the wagon tongue by his heels. Then they cut his pants off with a butcher knife and slashed up his body as only an Indian knows how. Then they poured powder over his body and set it on fire. He died quickly. I thanked God when he was dead. They scalped him, also. He was such a fat little fellow and they seemed to like the job.
My sister-in-law came out of the house and begged on her knees for her life. An Indian rudely seized her by the hair and held her while the other Indians drove four stakes into the ground and then tied her to them; then they mutilated her body with butcher knives. After she was dead they scalped her, too.
Little Annie rushed out of the house screaming with fright. Two squaws grabbed her by the arms and cut her to pieces with butcher knives on the door step.
When the first shooting commenced I climbed a tree that was covered with a grape vine near the cow yard. From my hiding place I could see all that was passing, but dared not move. Twice I drew my revolver to shoot. Once when they tied my sister-in-law to the stake, and when they cut up little Ben. But it was only one against forty Indians, and it would have given them another victim if I had revealed my hiding place.
As soon as the killing was all done the Indians passed right under the tree I was hiding in and went to the Kochendurfer place, our next neighbor's. I climbed out of the tree and ran as fast as I could to the Smith place. Here I saw one of the most horrible sights I ever witnessed in my life. Mrs. Smith's head was lying on the table with a knife and fork stuck in it. They had cut off one of her breasts and laid it on the table beside the head and put her baby nursing the other breast. The child was still alive. The dog they had killed on the doorstep.
I ran out of the house as quick as I ran into it and ran down to the Minnesota river, right below Smith's house, for there were a whole lot of Indians coming over the bluff and they had not discovered me yet. I swam the river and started for Fort Ridgely, but there were so many Indians around the fort I changed my course and went to New Ulm and got there just before it was attacked by the Indians and helped to defend the town during the siege.
My nephew, Eusebius, was working near New Ulm and my nieces, Mary and Emma, were both away at work. I found all and told them all the sad story of their parents' and Annie's death. My nephew and I both enlisted in Company K, the Seventh Minnesota. We were sent out to help bury the dead. We commenced near New Ulm and it took us three weeks before we got to my brother's place. We found the bones of the four bodies and buried them in one grave near the garden. Our lieutenant was with us.
Afterwards we were detailed to guard the thirty-eight Indians at the hanging at Mankato. There were nine names called to place the ropes around the Indians's necks. My name was among them and I performed the task with pleasure. Afterwards we were sent south and I helped fight thirty-two battles including the Indian war.
[The following part was written by Minnie Buce Carrigan as told by Emanuel Reyff.]
The Reyff family lived about one mile and a half from our home. They had not lived there very long. we used to meet at Sunday School. She Sunday before the outbreak we met at Sunday School and walked part way home together. When we parted that day we did not know that that day was the last time we would ever meet; that the next day three of us six would be killed, and that my sister, Ben and Annie would be the victims. While I was a prisoner with the Indians and they were moving, I saw a little girl riding on a wagon with Annie Reyff's dress on. I followed her all the afternoon, thinking it was my little friend Annie. When I caught up with her I found it was a quarter blood Indian girl with Annie's dress on. I knew then that Annie must be dead or they would no have her dress. I felt so sorry and disappointed I sat down and cried.
Last modified on Tuesday, September 06, 2016