Nebraska August 17, 2020
The Little-Known Wiseman Massacre Monument Remembers A Terrible Day In Nebraska History
There are so many tales of triumph and perseverance in Nebraska’s history, but we have our share of hardship and heartbreak stories, as well. In 1863, a tragedy took place on the Wiseman homestead near the town of St. James. Many have forgotten the story, but there is a small stone memorial keeping the memory alive.
The saga began on July 21, 1863. Henson and Phoebe Wiseman and their children, Arthur (16), Hannah (14), Andrew (9), William "Henry" (8), and Loren (4), lived in a home about five miles from the town of St. James in what is now Cedar County.
Henson was away on military duty and Phoebe was preparing a journey to Yankton, South Dakota to buy supplies she couldn't find locally. The trip was a long one, filled with miles of walking, hours on bumpy stagecoaches, and a rainstorm-related delay. Phoebe would not return until July 24th.
When she did, she came across a horrific scene. Her 8-year-old son Henry was lying in the front yard and there had obviously been some sort of struggle in the home. Phoebe feared that the attackers might still be inside, so she ran back to St. James for help.
The men in St. James agreed to go investigate the scene at the Wiseman home, but not until the following morning. When they reached the home, they found three of the Wiseman children dead and the other two gravely injured. The attack had taken place the previous morning, not long before Phoebe returned home. The two survivors soon followed their siblings.
Although no one ever took responsibility or faced punishment for the crime, it was believed at the time that the perpetrators were four Native American outlaws. Historians believe that the murders may have been in retaliation for white settlers executing natives. Henson, upon being informed of the nightmare unfolding at home, returned to Nebraska immediately. Heartbroken, he vowed to kill every Native American he saw for the rest of his life.
Today, the massacre isn't one of the commonly heard stories about Nebraska's history. But you can still see a tribute to the Wiseman children and their ordeal just outside of the town of St. James. Head to the intersection of 891 Road and 573 Ave.; there you'll see a stone monument inside a tiny metal fence. It sits on the corner of what was once the Wiseman homestead.
The memorial remembers the Wiseman children and their horrific fates at the hands of invaders. It is on private property, but visitors are allowed to get up close to the monument. Taking in the sight of the memorial while standing on the very ground where the attack happened is a humbling experience.
If you want to pay your respects at the actual graves of the Wisemans, you can find them in the Wynot Nebraska Public Cemetery.
Did you know the story of the Wiseman Massacre? Have you ever visited the Wiseman Memorial? Share your thoughts in the comments!
If you’re going to be in the area, check to see if the
charming little market in St. James is open. It’s 100% worth a stop! Address: 573 Ave & 891 Rd, Nebraska 68792, USA