Jacob Fahlstrom (Oza-windib or "Yellow Hair"):
(1793 - 1859)
Jacob was born near Stockholm, Sweden on 25
jul.1793. He married Marguerite Bonga (m.1823 Fond
du Lac, Mn.), who was the daughter of Pierre Bonga (a trader of African-Ojibwe
ancestry) & an Ojibwe women. Their children were: John (b.abt.1823,
Sandy L.) (m.Marguerite Reul), Nancy (b.abt.1823, Lake Superior
area), Sarah (b.abt.1827, Gull L.or Mille Lacs) (m.Jean Bte.Fournier),
Jane (b.abt.1829) (m.Joseph McKnight), Cecilla (b.abt.1835)
(m.Charles Villendre), James (b.abt.1837), Sally & George
(b.abt.1844) (m.Catherine Simondet).
Jacob arrived in North America, at Hudson
Bay as a former cabin boy, landing in 1807 at the mouth of the York River.
While on a hunting party he became separated, wandering until found by
the Ojibwe and adopted by a woman of that tribe. By 1809 he was under the
employ of the American Fur Co., in its Fond du Lac Department. While in
that Dept. he worked for Chief Agent's Hugh McGillis,
James Grant, William Morrison
& William Aitken. In 1812 he was listed as
living at Playgren Lake in Manitoba and was probably a resident of the
Selkirk colony for some time.
In 1827, he and his family moved to the "Cold
Spring" area of the Ft.Snelling Reservation but were driven off by the
U.S. Army along with other "squatters", most of who were from the Red River
Colony. He then (1838) settled on a farm in what later became, Valley City
(above Valley Creek), Afton Township, Washington Co., Minnesota. and before
he died he became a Methodist missionary (he had carried with him a pocket
bible written in Swedish which was a gift from his mother) at the Kaposia
village & the St.Croix Valley. The following is an account by Rev.Chauncey
Hobart of his conversion to the Methodist Church: "This Bro.Fahlstrom was
the first fruit of our mission among the Indians and converted on this
wise: Residing within a mile of Fort Snelling, at 'Cold Spring', he had
been employed occasionally by the Presbyterian missionaries and had been
told by them that 'the Methodists were coming'. Anxious to know who these
might be, he was informed that they were a kind of religious people, who
were very noisy and demonstrative; that they shouted and hallooed and stamped;
that they would often strike the Bible when they preached; and sometimes
would knock the pulpit down they were so earnest. This account greatly
interested 'Jacobs', as he was called in the expected missionaries, and
on the arrival, not long after, of Bro.Alfred Brunson, accompanied by Bro.David
King as missionary, Jacobs was on the alert to hear and see all that might
be sid or done by them...Looking, listening, watching, alive with interest,
he only waited until Bro.King came down towards the door; when going to
him, and taking his hand in both of his, he exclaimed, "My name is Jacobs;
I want to join you!"
In 1841, he moved to Lakeland, Washington
County, Minnesota and in 1847 took a claim near Afton, Minnesota where
he died on 29 jul.1859 and was buried atop a hill cemetery, on the Fahlstrom's
Valley Creek farm.
I received the following e-mail from Keith Nelson (Keith_Nelson@gs.moore.com)
- Thanks Keith -
Your summary of Jacob's life was rather cursory, and I wanted to add
a few details.
Jacob is mentioned as being in the region
of the mouth of the Minnesota (then St. Peters) river by 1819, when the
army arrived to build the military Fort there. He occasionally worked as
a "Striker" in the blacksmith shop at Fort Snelling and the associated
Indian Agency, and his home is recorded as a blacksmith shop on a map of
the area made in 1832.
After the floods of 1826, many refugees from
the Red River colony passed through on their way to St. Louis. A few stayed
on the military land, providing produce for the US Army. The Mississippi
river makes an 'S' curve where it meets the Minnesota, going from south
to east, northeast, and finally southeast. Though the fort buildings were
on the west and north of the place where the rivers meet, the land claimed
by the fort extended none miles both up and down river, including the half
circle enclosed by the southern loop of the river.
It was technically illegal for civilians to
settle on military land, but they were allowed to stay because they were
useful. However, when the treaty of Mendota was signed in 1839, opening
the land east of the river to settlement, the civilians were asked to leave.
They resisted and were forcibly evicted. They moved across the river, unaware
that they were still on fort land, and were evicted again. They crossed
the loop of the river and settled, and were evicted yet again. Fed up with
this, Fahlstrom is said to have determined to walk east until the sun set,
sure that then he would be well and truly away from the army. This is supposedly
why he named his farm "Afton" ('afternoon' or 'evening' in Swedish).
Fahlstrom's conversion was not TO Christianity, but from the Lutheran
to the Methodist church.
There is a memorial to Jacob Fahlstrom at
the intersection of Robert and Kellog lst streets in downtown St. Paul,
If I can get an address, I will send you a photocopy of an article
about Jacob that appeared several years ago in the La Compagnie Journal,
the magazine of a voyageur reenactment group based at Fort Snelling
Thank's for the opportunity to contribute
some additional information about Jacob Fahlstrom. James Mittun
(Descendent of Jacob) email@example.com
As stated above the Fahlstrom Story
begins in Sweden. When still a youth, Fahlstrom Shipped to England.
On his way the ship sank, but the young Swedes life was spared. From
England he left for the new world with an expedition under the leadership
of Lord Selkirk. the ships made their way to the Hudson Bay area,
and it was while the ships were at anchor that the young Fahlstrom in his
teens, explored the countryside. A severe thunderstorm arose while
he was on shore. In his effort
to return to the ship he wandered away. Lost! He subsisted
on dead fish cast on shore, berries, roots, bark, and small animals.
Making his way southward he wandered into a band of Chippewa Indians and
was adopted by an Indian woman who continued to be his foster mother for
many years. Jacob learned their language, manner of hunting, cooking,
camp rituals and form of worship. He wore their clothes and in all
things, except his Swedish blood, Jacob was an Indian. He was
Called Yellow Hair.
As time passed. Fahlstrom married a
young Indian maiden, Margaret Bungo. Fahlstrom continued to live
an adventurous life. He came as far south as Fort Snelling. General
H. H. Sibley who arrived in 1832, remarked that Fahlstrom was here long
before him. Fahlstrom traded with the lndians, worked for the Hudson
Bay Company and the American Fur Company. He carried mail from Fort
Snelling to Prairie du Chien and later became post rider between Prairie
du Chien and St. Croix Falls.
Reputedly always a religious man, he is said
to have carried a small pocket Bible with him from Sweden. About
1837 he was converted to the Methodist faith and because of his knowledge
of the Indian language and life, he became an invaluable missionary to
In July, 1984, Emery Johnson wrote an article
in the Swedish-American Historical Quarterly titled " Was Oza-Windib
a Swede?" He suggests that Jacob Fahlstrom, known as Yellow Hair,
was actually the Indian guide that took Henry Schoolcraft to the sources
of the Mississippi.
If Jacob Fahlstrom was the Oza Windib
mentioned in Schoolcraft's book, Expedition to Lake Itasca:
The Discovery of the Source of the Mississippi. We may have missed
one of the most significant events of his life.
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