‘Don’t Let Go’

Pam (Gieser) Nowak, a 1981 Tracy graduate who now lives in Denver, gave a presentation at the Wheels Across the Prairie Museum this spring.

Tracy grad works on new 1862 Shetek novel

By Seth Schmidt

Lake Shetek’s searing 1862 tragedy of two clashing cultures is well known.
On the fateful day of August 20, 1862, 14 white settlers died in attacks by Dakota Indians in and around Lake Shetek.  At least one Dakota Indian also died. Most of the dead fell in a marsh today known as Slaughter Slough.  Some of the Shetek survivors would be taken prisoner; others would endure harrowing escapes.
Seventeen decades later, the bones of the pioneer victims lie beneath a granite obelisk on the shores of Lake Shetek, and historians continue to discuss the causes and aftermath of the bloody U.S.-Dakota War, which resulted in the deaths of an estimated 600 white settlers, and an unknown numbers of Dakota.
The story still fascinates.  Frederick Manfred’s “Scarlet Plume” and Aaron Smith’s “Crimson Runs the Prairie” are among the fictional accounts of Shetek’s tragedy.
Pam (Gieser) Nowak is the latest writer to tackle the compelling saga.
The 1981 Tracy High School graduate, who is the author of four historical romance novels, is doing the research for a novel about the 1862 Shetek cataclysm from the viewpoint of five women survivors:  Lavina Eastlick, Julia Wright, Laura Duley, Christina Koch, and Alomina Hurd.
“It is going to be a story of survival.  What individual strengths did each woman have to get through her ordeal?  Nowak relates.
Each of the five women lived through a horrifying experience.
Eastlick’s husband and two of her five sons were killed at Slaughter Slough.  Left for dead after being shot in the hip and clubbed over the head, Lavina crawled from the slough and made her way on foot to safety.
Christina Koch survived Slaughter Slough, and was taken captive by the Dakota.  She escaped after 10 days.
Alomina Hurd fled her Shetek cabin with her two young sons, ages three and 18 months, after Indians killed their hired man near their cabin. She and the children were later overtaken on the trail to New Ulm by other survivors and made it safely to New Ulm.

For more on this article, see this week’s Headlight-Herald.