Catholics Planned Siege Of Protestants in Clay County?
My great-grandfather, August Peterson, emigrated from Norway to Clay County, South Dakota in 1888. For most of his life he was a house painter by trade, but was fascinated by the stories of his fellow Clay County Scandinavians (mostly Swedes). You might say interest in other people's stories has a long history in our family.
What began as a hobby in researching and the gathering of facts regarding his own ancestry, eventually gave him the impetus to the writing of innumerable biographies of neighbors and friends. In 1947, the fascination in such work led to the publication of the book The Swedes Who Settled in Clay County, South Dakota.
You may never heard of the plan of the Union County Catholics to siege the Clay County Protestants, but in 1892 many of the Scandinavians were sure more than rosary beads were coming over the hill.
John Norberg and his brother Peter Norberg were the sons of Christine Norberg, an original Clay County Swedish immigrant. They attended school in Dalesburg (a small village in Clay County) for a short time. They later went to Omaha and according to August Peterson, that's where this story begins.
About the year 1892 or thereabout, the two Norberg brothers came up here to Dalesburg for a visit one fall during haying time. They were imbued with the "A.P.A." or what was known as the "American Protective Association," similar to the "Ku Klux Klan." They were both members of it, and while here instilled into the people in the community that the Catholics (from adjacent Union County) were planning an uprising against the Protestants, and every Catholic church was an armory for the storage of arms and ammunition (sounds like Weapons of Mass Destruction). When at a given signal they, the Catholics, would rise up and kill their Protestant neighbors wherever found.
A meeting was called at the Dalesburg school house to discuss the situation. One of those who was particularly excited about the situation was Andrew J. Cole, who testified he had seen a black, enclosed wagon, hauling ammunition from Garryowen to Beresford (nearby communities with large Catholic populations) and back, with a cross marked behind. The people were thoroughly aroused, and a committee was elected to make definite and further investigation, and to provide ways and means to having everyone protect themselves and their families.
The consensus of opinion was, among those who attended the meeting referred to, that anybody who believed there was danger, buy themselves a rifle and have it loaded in their homes, ready for the momentous day when the Catholics came. The hardware merchants in the adjoining towns made a thriving business in selling every shooting iron they had in stock, and many homes in the community were armed for the coming eventful day. As a matter of fact, nothing happened, and the people finally cooled down on the idea, until at last those who had taken the most prominent stand in the excitement, felt rather cheap and ashamed when the matter was discussed, and thus another hallucination died a natural death.
In 1892, news traveled much slower than it does today giving cooler heads, and most likely good sense, time to prevail. I suspect before any had a chance to do something stupid they realized the Catholics were probably moving communion hosts and holy water rather than guns and ammo.
Just imagine if those Clay County Swedes had access to the instantaneous nature of communication and online technology we have today. Would it have helped or fueled the situation.