Miami County history and people never cease to amaze me. So many events took place here, and people from Miami County, native or not, influenced our area, state, or even the country in some way that ties our home to portions of history.
Another aspect I enjoy is how many people from the county or formerly from the county have taken part in important events in U.S. history. Congressmen, astronauts, inventors, and so on from Miami County making a difference.
A few months ago, I shared the story of a young man who took part in the Mexican War and its impact on the country. Recently, I came across another young man from here that took part in a very different part of history.
General Marion Reese (his full name) was born the 22 January 1844 in either Fairfield County or Miami County, but his earliest memories were of Miami County. His family lived in Concord Township for several years as the young man, who interchangeably went by General M., G.M. or Marion, learned farming from his father. He was one of the younger children of a large family.
By all indications, his family lived a quiet farm life in the county until they removed to Jefferson, Iowa sometime prior to 1860. There was a large migration of people from the Ohio Valley in the middle 1850’s because of a cholera outbreak in the middle states, as well as a severe drought in the whole valley. These, plus the call of cheaper land, could have caused a family to migrate.
Jefferson, Iowa, situated northwest of Des Moines, was near Dakota Territory, where still roamed many Native Americans, as settlers and tribes occupied land close to one another. Tensions could always be high.
As the Civil War commenced back east, states and territories of the west began to organize regiments in case the conflict extended westward. Washington’s eyes were focused on the eastern conflict, while many tribes, especially the Sioux, who had been neglected for years with broken promises, reached a breaking point. In August 1862, the Sioux, starving, neglected and restricted, began to attack the Minnesota frontier, and the 1st Battalion of the Dakota Cavalry was called up to deal with the “uprising.” After six weeks, over 500 settlers and 150 warriors had been killed. Most of the fighting against the Native Americans was carried out by what was later classified as Company A. Although over 300 death sentences were commuted by President Lincoln, 38 Native Americans were hung for their part in the uprising.
Still concerns were not abated regarding other hostile Native Americans on the frontier, so the territorial government took a partial regiment (not large enough for a complete unit) and about 150 volunteers, of which one was our young friend General M. Reese, 18, and created Co. B of the 1st Battalion Dakota Cavalry, later referred to as the “Dakota Rangers” by the settlers.
Marion served for almost three years in the company, and most of their time was spent defending communities from attacks, while the larger unit went into Minnesota, Iowa, and Nebraska seeking other hostile Native Americans. A small portion (24 men) took part in what became known as Sully’s Expedition and the Battle at Killdeer Mountain (Tahkahokuty).
It is not known if anger over the killing of settlers motivated Marion, or if a sense of duty called him, but the young man from Miami County took part in one of the western country’s major conflicts between the U.S. and the Sioux Nation.
For a time following his service, Marion stayed in the Dakota Territory, near Elk Point, but for most of the next 30 years, Marion Reese seemed to live a quiet life of a single farmer in northern Oklahoma. Whether he finally met the right girl, or decided he needed a family, in 1895 at the age of 50, Marion Reese married 28-year-old Eliza J. Morris, a Kentucky native.
Over the next 20 years, they continued to farm in rural Oklahoma and raised six children together, all of whom grew to maturity and married. No small feat at the time.
Marion’s life came to an end on Dec. 31, 1914, and he was buried by his family in the Square Cedar Cemetery in Cleo Springs, Okla. Eliza lived until 1943. Marion’s last child died in 1981 — almost 140 years after her father’s birth.
Patrick D. Kennedy is archivist at the Troy-Miami County Public Library’s Local History Library, 100 W. Main St., Troy. He may be contacted by calling (937) 335-4082 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.