Dr John Luman Wakefield

Photo added by Eldon Stuart

Dr John Luman Wakefield

  • Birth 25 Apr 1823 Winsted, Litchfield County, Connecticut, USA
  • Death 17 Feb 1874 Shakopee, Scott County, Minnesota, USA
  • Burial Shakopee, Scott County, Minnesota, USA
  • Memorial ID 47677356

Survivor of Dakota War; he was a physician at the Upper Sioux Agency and the husband of Sarah Wakefield.

He graduated from Yale Medical School at New Haven, Connecticut, in 1847. He first practiced medicine in Winstead, Connecticut, then moved to the California goldfields in 1849. He treated patients there until 1854, when he became ill with cholera and returned to Winstead. His younger brother James had graduated from Trinity College by then and became a lawyer. He and his brother decided to go west to Minnesota and settled in Shakopee in April, 1854. James became a successful land speculator, a state and then a federal legislator. John set up a medical practice there and was the town's second physician.

He married Sarah Brown F. Butts in Jordan, Scott County, Minn. on Sept. 27, 1856. He was listed as 33 years of age and she was 28. Their first child, James Orin, was born in 1858, the year Minnesota became a state. In June 1858, after a battle between the Dakota and the Ojibwes, he provided medical treatment to the Dakota who were wounded in the battle. In 1860, their second child, Lucy Elizabeth, also called "Nellie," was born. The family's house at the Upper Agency was located next to the agent's quarters and warehouse building.

The Dakota War broke out on the morning of August 18, 1862 at the Lower Agency. News of the events traveled to the Upper Agency, and white settlers, Agency employees, and friendly Indians, fearing for their safety, began to make their way to Fort Ridgely, the closest military fort in the area. Dr. Wakefield arranged for his wife and children to leave that afternoon with George Gleason, an Upper Agency clerk. They left at about 2 p.m. and traveled using Wakefield's horse and open wagon. On their way to Fort Ridgely, Gleason was killed and Sarah and her two children were captured by hostile Dakota.

The following day, a friendly Dakota who had converted to Christianity, John Other Day, led Dr. Wakefield and 61 other refugees from the Upper Agency across the Minnesota prairie, to Hutchinson. They arrived there safely.

Over the next six weeks, battles and skirmishes between the hostile Dakota and Minnesota military regiments, citizen soldiers, and white settlers who tried to defend themselves took place. On Sept. 26, about 2,000 Dakota surrendered to Henry Sibley's military troops at Camp Release. They released about 260 white and mixed-descent captives, mostly women and children, including Sarah and her two children.

After the war, they had two more children, Julie E. in 1866 and John R. in 1868.

Author Kathryn Zabellet Derounian-Stodola described him as a drinker, smoker, and bon vivant who died with outstanding debts that took up $4,500 of an estate valued at $5,073.

There was speculation that he may have committed suicide when he died suddenly from an overdose of opiates in February, 1874. He died at his home in Shakopee. (bio by: Cindy Coffin)


Derounian, Stodola, Kathryn Zabelle. "The War in Words: Reading the Dakota Conflict Through the Captivity Literature," page 75.

Namias, June. "White Captives: Gender and Ethnicity on the American Frontier." page 205.

Family Members


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  • Maintained by: Eldon Stuart
  • Originally Created by: Cindy K. Coffin
  • Added: 6 Feb 2010
  • Find A Grave Memorial 47677356
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Dr John Luman Wakefield (25 Apr 1823–17 Feb 1874), Find A Grave Memorial no. 47677356, citing Valley Cemetery, Shakopee, Scott County, Minnesota, USA ; Maintained by Eldon Stuart (contributor 47111874) .