Wiseman Massacre Monument – St. James, Nebraska - Atlas Obscura

Wiseman Massacre Monument

St. James, Nebraska

This simple stone monument honors a 19th-century tragedy. 


While the story of the Wiseman Massacre isn’t talked about much today, even by descendants still living in the area, it serves as a testament to a very difficult time in United States history.

In 1863 all five of Henson and Phoebe Wiseman’s children were murdered in their home. Both parents were away at the time. Although unproven, it was believed that the unprovoked attack was carried out by members of the Yankton and Santee tribes. After the killings, many locals vowed to avenge the deaths of the Wiseman children.

The tragedy happened at a time when tensions between the settlers and the native population were high. Historians have theorized that the attack may have been a retaliatory response to the mass execution of 38 Dakota Indians in Minnesota.

Know Before You Go

The monument is a small, gated plot on the site of where the Wiseman homestead was. It is not a cemetery, although it looks like one. The graves of the Wiseman family are buried in the Wynot Nebraska Public Cemetery. While the monument itself is worth the trip, those who have never seen what the Missouri River looks like as it meanders between Nebraska and South Dakota may be surprised at how beautiful and rugged it is. The roads between Hwy 12 (The Outlaw Trail) and the monument are dirt/gravel and can be a little sketchy after a hard rain.

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