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Capt William J. Duley, Sr
Birth: Mar. 30, 1819
Ripley County
Indiana, USA
Death: Mar. 5, 1898
Washington, USA

An Indiana native and pioneer in the midwest, he was a noted figure in the US-Dakota War and served in the Minnesota Mounted Rangers during the Indian and Civil Wars.

In 1847, when he was 27 years of age, he bought land in Jackson County, Iowa. The following year, on April 27, 1848, he married Laura Terry. They settled in Jackson County until the mid-1850's. Of the four children born to them during this time, they lost two in tragic drowning accidents. Emily, an infant, drowned in the Mississippi River in 1850; only three years later, their firstborn child, Ellen, also drowned in the river.

William bought land in Winona County, Minn., and by 1856, the family moved there. He helped plat the land for the town of Beaver in Winona County. He represented the ninth Council District (Winona, Olmsted, and Wabasha Counties) as a delegate at the State Constitutional Convention in July 1857. On Aug. 29, 1857, he signed the Republican Version of the Constitution of the State of Minnesota. He operated a farm and sawmill, but eventually experienced dam failures and great financial loss.

By November of 1861, William and his family moved to a settlement at Lake Shetek with several other families. The village was named Cornwall City and boasted a population of 91 residents in the census. However, when they arrived, there was no village. The settlement was not legitimate, but one of the fictional settlements created to increase the number of votes cast for statehood.

The pioneer families who had come to Lake Shetek determined they would make the best of it and decided to stay. They made homes for themselves, building cabins, putting up fences, planting gardens and crops, and raising livestock.

William's first claim was on the Des Moines River, just below the present dam and just south of where Beaver Creek flows into the river. In early 1862, William Everett wanted to change locations at Lake Shetek in order to start a sawmill on Beaver Creek. In April, 1862, William Duley traded his Beaver Creek claim for William Everett's claim and became a silent partner in the sawmill venture.

Relations between the Dakota and US government in Minnesota had greatly deteriorated during the 1850's. Tensions rose as years of broken treaty agreements, corruption, and poor relations among some of the Indian agents, traders, and government officials took their toll. Settlement by the whites greatly reduced the availability of wild game and buffalo. By the winter of 1860-1861, crop failures and a brutal winter brought some of the Dakota to the point where they were beginning to starve on their reservation lands. The government annuities that were supposed to be paid to them in June never came, and still had not arrived in August.

On August 17, as a result of a foolish dare, some young Dakota men attacked and killed some settlers at a farm near Acton. They went back to their camp to tell Little Crow what they had done and a council was held. The issue of going to war was hotly debated among the leaders of the Dakota tribes. Most Dakota leaders and their people strongly opposed the war and would remain friendly to the whites. But before morning, Chief Little Crow agreed to lead the hostile warriors who refused to back down. The hostile warriors declared war. It was time to take their land back and to clear the land of all whites.

In the early morning hours of Aug. 18, 1862, hostile Dakota attacked the Lower Sioux Agency. During the next two days, they killed Agency employees, soldiers, and any white settlers they could find, including many women and children.

Two days after the war broke out, news of the attacks had not yet been received at the isolated settlement at Lake Shetek. On August 20, Dakota Chiefs Lean Bear and White Lodge approached the settlement with a band of 100 hostile warriors. During the attacks that followed, William's 10-year old son Willie and 4-year old daughter Isabella were killed. His pregnant wife and remaining children, Jefferson, Emma, and baby Francis, were taken captive by the Dakota. William had become separated from them during the fighting, when the settlers fled into the tall grass of a marsh that later became known as "Slaughter Slough". He survived the attack, but for four months, would not know the fate of the rest of his family.

His wife and children suffered greatly during their captivity. They were forced to walk across the Midwestern plains until they reached a place near Standing Rock, in what is now North Dakota. His son Jefferson was traded for a gold watch and a horse. His wife was sold or traded for goods four different times, and miscarried her baby due to repeated assaults by some of the Indian men.

On Sept. 10, 1862, William entered the service to fight against the hostile Dakota. He enlisted as a Private in Company B of the 7th Minnesota Infantry. This regiment was organized in August 1862. They were defeated by the Dakota at the Battle of Wood Lake on Sept. 23, 1862. The regiment then served on the Indian expedition of 1863. They were ordered to St. Louis on Oct. 7, 1863. From there, the regiment went to serve in the Civil War. However, by this time, William Duley was serving as Captain and Chief of Scouts. He apparently remained assigned to duties on the frontier associated with the Indian wars.

During the Indian attacks in August and September, another large group of women, children, and Dakota of mixed descent had been taken prisoner by hostile Dakota. In September, this group of 269 captives was camped near Montevideo, Minn. On September 26, they were freed by the Dakota and released to US troops at Camp Release. None of William's family members were found among the captives. Hundreds of Dakota, including those who had not fought in the war and those who had been friendly and saved the lives of whites, were taken into custody by US troops.

In October, William and Laura's baby, Francis, died in captivity in North Dakota.

In November, Charles Galpin, a trader, and his Lakota wife, Matilda, became aware of the captives when they were on a boating expedition on the Missouri River. As soon as they docked at Fort LaFramboise, they reported what they had seen. A rescue party of 10 Lakota men, led by Martin Charger, was organized. These "Fool Soldiers", at risk to their own lives, successfully negotiated with White Lodge, trading their own horses and guns for the release of the captives. On Nov. 20, 1862, the captives were released to the Fool Soldiers. They safely guided them to Fort LaFramboise. From there, they went to Fort Randall, where they remained for three weeks.

Of the 404 Dakota men taken into custody at Camp Release, 303 were tried by a military commission in a kangaroo court for allegedly committing war crimes or atrocities (brutal killings of civilians) when they participated in the war. President Lincoln reviewed the cases and pardoned 265 of the 303 condemned men. Thirty-eight of the Dakota men were sentenced to be hanged on Dec. 26, 1862.

William Duley, believed to have lost his entire family during the war, helped build the gallows. He also was the man chosen to cut the rope when the 38 men would be hanged simultaneously. December 26 was a bitterly cold winter day at Mankato, Minn. Thousands attended the event, but with the help of a liquor ban within 15 miles of the site, the US Army maintained strict order. The 38 Dakota men who had been tried and found guilty in a kangaroo court were executed. In later years, it would be determined that some of them were innocent of the charges against them. Most of the hostile Dakota who had tortured and killed civilians during the war had fled before US soldiers arrived at Camp Release.

On New Year's Eve, after a journey of several days, the small group of women and children rescued by the Fool Soldiers arrived at the Yankton Agency. Laura and William, with their surviving children, were eventually reunited.

William Duley returned to Lake Shetek on Oct. 31, 1863 with a military burial detail to move the remains of victims from their temporary grave and rebury them at the present site of the Lake Shetek monument. During this expedition, Duley found and identified the body of his daughter Isabella, who had survived the attack at the slough but was later killed near the Wright cabin.

On Feb. 10, 1865, William Duley, Captain of Scouts, was discharged from his military service due to close of the war.

By the summer of 1865, William was working as a farmer. He and his family were living near Mankato in Blue Earth County, Minn. They remained there until the mid 1870's, when they moved to Colbert in Saints County, Ala. At this time, William was a millwright.

In 1890, he and his wife moved to Tacoma, Wash., where their son Jefferson lived and worked as Chief of Police. In 1891 and 1892, William was working as a machinist and a carpenter. He and his wife spent their remaining years in Tacoma.

He preceded his wife in death in 1898. 
Family links: 
  Laura Terry Duley (1828 - 1900)*
  William J. Duley (1852 - 1862)*
  Jefferson M Duley (1856 - 1937)*
  Isabella Duley (1858 - 1862)*
*Calculated relationship
W. J. D.
Artondale Cemetery
Gig Harbor
Pierce County
Washington, USA
Created by: Cindy K. Coffin
Record added: Oct 11, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 59962077
Capt William J. Duley, Sr
Added by: George Bacon
Capt William J. Duley, Sr
Added by: Cindy K. Coffin
Capt William J. Duley, Sr
Added by: Cindy K. Coffin
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- George Bacon
 Added: Nov. 2, 2015

- Tom Mauer
 Added: Nov. 2, 2015

- Debra Jean
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This page is sponsored by: Cindy K. Coffin

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