by John LaBatte
My Great Grandfather, Philip LaBatte, was born in 1858 in Ramsey County, MN. Philip's father was Francois LaBathe,
a French half breed fur trader. Francois's mother was said to be a sister of Chief Wapasha II. Francois had 3 wives
and fathered at least 16 children. At least 8 of these children were living when Philip was born. Philip's mother
was Hapistina (Mary Iron Shields) a full-blooded Mdewakanton woman. Missionary Stephen Riggs said that Francois
was one of the few traders who after marrying Dakota women, considered the marriage permanent.
In 1862, Philip's father owned a store at the Lower Sioux Agency across the river from Morton, MN. Philip and his
family lived in the store. Samuel Pond, a missionary wrote, "The trader's children were the aristocracy of
the land. They considered it beneath them to engage in the pursuits of the Indians or in the employment of common
laborers. Their position seems to render it fit that they live in better style than the Indians and voyageurs.
As a class, they were placed in circumstances very unfavorable to the cultivation of frugal and industrious habits."
As will be seen later, this wasn't true of Philip.
The summer of 1862 was very hot. It was the 2nd year in a row that the Indian's crops had failed. The winter had
been harsh, the snow deep and the Indians couldn't travel to where the game was. They were starving. Their babies
were dying. The annuity payment was late and was expected any day. The trader's warehouses were full of food, but
they refused to give any to the Indians on credit. Francois's boss, ordered him not to give the Indians any food.
If he did he would be fined.
On the morning of August 18, 1862, an old Indian by the name of Iron Shields went about warning the whites to flee.
He may have been Philip's grandfather. Francois and his family heard the warning and maybe didn't believe it. A
few minutes later Francois was shot in his store. Philip may have seen his father killed. Philip's mother said,
"After he (Francois) was killed and I dragged my children out from the store and run away amongst the Indians.
They took everything out and set the store on fire so everything is lost."
The conflict continued for 6 weeks. After the surrender of the hostile and friendly Indians all the men were taken
in chains back to the Lower Agency along with the women and children. The trials were held there. Those found guilty
were taken to Mankato. The others, including Philip's family, were taken to Fort Snelling. It was a terrible time
of harassment and hardship.
In May of 1863, Philip saw about 1300 Indians leave the enclosure at Fort Snelling to board a steamboat to be transported
to the Crow Creek reservation in Dakota Territory far from their homes. Conditions on the steamboats were so bad,
that about 300 died before reaching Crow Creek.
About 137 men, women, and children remained behind at Fort Snelling. These were the military scouts and their families.
They had opposed the conflict and had saved many lives. Philip's Uncle Joseph Iron shields was a scout for General
Henry Sibley. Bishop Henry Whipple, Alexander Faribault and Henry Sibley successfully argued that some of these
Indians (including Mary and Philip) should be moved to Faribault, MN. to live on Alexander Faribault's land.
The years at Faribault were hard for the Indians. The whites in town did not want them there and would not employ
them. Bishop Whipple and Faribault furnished most of their support and continued to seek government aid for them.
In June 1866 Shubael Adams wrote about the Faribault Indians. "On the whole it is quite apparent that these
people are now living upon and must continue to depend on the charity of Mr. Faribault (who can not afford such
liberality) or the benevolence of others, unless the government assists them. The neat and tidy appearance of their
lodges, their attempts with their scanty means to keep up the show of civilized life in their deep poverty are
evidence that they have seen better days. They are a civilized Christian people."
But in 1867 the Faribault Indians were still living in their teepees and hadn't received new clothing or blankets.
Philip probably received a good education from the Episcopal schools that Bishop Whipple established there.
In 1867 some of the families chose to go the new Santee reservation at Niobrara, Nebraska. Mary and Philip stayed
behind with about 35 others. Sometime in the 1870s the ones who remained obtained title to small farming lots.
Philip took care of horses and drove a team for Alexander Faribault's oldest son Oliver. Philip probably learned
much about horses: picking good horses, caring for them and racing them.
About 1880, Philip met Susan Quinn, (Mazaotawin), she was from the Sisseton reservation. They were married at the
Mayasan Church about 15 miles northwest of Sisseton, SD. They had two children: Tom and John. They lived for a
time in Faribault and then on the Sisseton Reservation.
In 1884 Philip and Susan divorced and Philip married Sarah Renville, a daughter of Gabriel and Mary Renville. They
were married at St. Mary's Episcopal Church. Philip could speak French, Dakota and English. He spoke mostly English
at home to his children. Sarah spoke some English but mainly Dakota. Philip and Sarah had 7 children: Solon, Agnes,
Maude, Sidney, Sophia, Cornella and Walter. Maude was an adopted daughter, raised as their own when her mother
died in childbirth.
In 1897 Philip was a deputy sheriff of Roberts County."Thomas Mani (Philip's son) and Deputy Sheriff Philip
LaBatte, from Sisseton SD, and W.A. Maserve, of Creighton, Neb. Were here yesterday to obtain depositions from
some of the Sioux families concerning lands in South Dakota." (Hastings Gazette, Feb. 12, 1904)
Philip was good at making money. Everything he touched turned to money. He was a horseman. He went to Kentucky
and bought racehorses. He brought them back to Sisseton, trained and raced them. Sometimes he would win $300--$400
a race. The dirt road around the present Pow-Wow grounds was once a race track where Philip raced his horses. He
was gone much of the time while Sarah and their sons ran the farm.
About this time Philip and Sarah built a grand house with horse stables about 4 miles south and east of the Sisseton
Agency. It was the first house of its kind in that area. It had a water collection system that brought the water
into the basement where it was heated and the steam used to heat the house. It was destroyed by fire in the middle
In June of 1906, Philip's first son, Thomas Mani, graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School. His classmates,
aware of his Indian background gave him a standing ovation when he received his diploma. Philip had helped to pay
In 1908 Philip was running his saloon Philip's Place, in Peever. Philip's wife Sarah said Philip had 120 acres
of farm land, a large house and lot in Peever, his liquor store and stock in Peever. He had the liquor monopoly
in central and north Roberts County and he made of net profit of $15,000 per year. "Philip LaBatte threshed
21 ½ bushels to the acre on his farm near the Agency". (Stories About Our Town of Peever.)
By late 1928, Philip was losing his sight and went to Nebraska for surgery. He was released on March 21, 1929 from
the Nebraska Methodist Episcopal Hospital and Deaconess home following his recovery.
In later life Philip frequently visited Fred Pearsall in Granite falls. Fred was an anthropologist. Philip read
many books and could converse well on any subject
On July 26, 1931, Philip died at the age of 72 of organic heart disease. He lies at rest beside his wife Sarah
at St. Mary's Episcopal Cemetery, Old Agency.