Fort Pomme de Terre

photo of model of Fort Pomme de TerreOn a quiet hill in Pelican Lake Township there is a grave site honoring two soldiers killed while stationed at Fort Pomme de Terre.  In the beginning, this hilltop was the site of a stagecoach relay station which was a busy place during the 1850s.  It was an important stop for land speculators, government surveying groups, and fur traders traveling from Pembina on the Canadian border to Fort Snelling. In 1859 the US government contracted to have a “road” built to accommodate increasing traffic heading west.  However, events were taking place in other parts of our country as well as in Minnesota. Many Minnesota men enlisted to fight in the Civil War and there was unrest in southern Minnesota among Native American nations. 
In February, 1863, a directive was sent to commanding officers that defensive stockades were to be constructed as a result of the attacks by the Dakota against early settlers. Most of the hastily constructed fortresses lacked four walls or had no walls at all. The regulations instructed that the walls should be 9 feet high, located near a water supply, away from timber or underbrush or commanded by rising ground.This hill top was a perfect location. The approximate dimensions of Fort Pomme de Terre were 200-300 feet wide (east to west), 500-600 feet long (north to south). 
In 1863, troops of the 8th Regiment, Company D of the Minnesota Volunteer Infantry under Captain Samuel McLarty established a post and named it after the nearby river and lake. Some of the soldiers had been part of a prisoner exchange out of Civil War regiments and were from Chatfield, MN. There was a blockhouse, commissary, arsenal, stables and barracks for enlisted men, one barrack for married men accompanied by wives (twelve) and children as well as an officers’ house. Five hundred men could be accommodated. Entrances were on the east and south sides.
Photo of Soldier Grave at Fort Pomme de Terre
Letters belonging to Mrs. Arnold, sister-in-law of Pvt. Hair are part of the museum archives and we can get a picture of life at the fort during these years. 
On May 2, 1863, Pvt. Adam Hair and Cpl. Zenas Blackman set out in search of goose eggs and were ambushed by Indians. They were buried in an unmarked grave just outside the fort walls under a wagon box turned upside down where they rested until 1929 when members from local American Legions decided to track down the stories they had heard years before. A granite marker was placed by the Elbow Lake American Legion in 1932.
Replicas of the fort, artifacts collected from the site as well as extensive articles, are available at the Museum.
By Merilyn Schaeffer Mau 3.17.22
Photos of model by Tom Grout
Photo of tombstone by Merilyn Mau
PLEASE NOTE: The site of Fort Pomme de Terre is not accessible to the public as it is enclosed by private land
SOURCES of materials available at the Grant County Historical Society
Larson, Constance. Douglas and Grant Counties Minnesota Volume I 1916
Goetzinger, William M. A Frontier Outpost in Grant County June 1962
HDQRS Dist. Of Minn., Dept of the Northwest  Saint Paul,MN 1864
Newspaper articles:
St. Cloud Democrat, May 7, 1863
Saint Paul Press, May, 13, 1863 “ Murders Near Pomme de Terre”
Preston Republican (from St. Paul Press) May 22, 1863
Chatfield Democrat, May 3 1863
Vertical Files at GCHS
Family files: Memories of C.H. Phinney ca 1935                                                                         
Family files:   Memories and hand drawn map Rose Burns Johnson
The Eighth Regiment, Roster of Company D.
Company C. Hatch’s Battalion roster
MHSC:  hand drawn maps of exterior of fort by artist Jonathan Burnett Salisbury 1863
Collection of private letters written by Adam Hair to his wife, Frankie.
Memories of Mrs. Arnold about life at the fort 1862-1864.
Other Independent research reports