This article was submitted by the Rev. Richard Jacobsen of Oakwood United Methodist Church.
Two ministers who lost their lives during the U.S. Dakota War of 1862 were remembered Tuesday.
The Rev. Richard Jacobsen, of Oakwood United Methodist Church in New Ulm, officiated at the memorial for Rev. Christian Louis Seder. Immediately following that service, the group drove to Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Cemetery outside of Nicollet for a remembrance service for Rev. August Nierens.
Rev. Christian Louis Seder
Seder was a young minister of the Evangelical Association, a forerunner of the United Methodist denomination.
Born in Hanover Germany, Seder immigrated to Wisconsin, where he and friend August Nierens attended services at the Fischer farm. Both men experienced a strong conversion to Christ. They returned to their home towns and became class leaders in their churches. In Methodist circles the pastors covered two to four parishes. On the Sundays when the pastor was not present, a lay class leader led with Scripture teaching and worship.
In 1857 Seder met and married Ursula Saxer. Two sons were born to them while living in Wisconsin, and Seder became more involved in church ministry. After his ordination, he was appointed by the Bishop of the Iowa Conference to minister among German-speaking people in the Minnesota Territory.
In 1861 he and Ursula moved to their new appointment in New Ulm. On Nov. 29, 1861, their daughter Sarah was born. Seder served congregations in New Ulm, rural Brown County, and two beginning congregations in Flora Township, Renville County. Although Flora was some 40 miles from New Ulm, Seder held services in Renville County at least once a month. His friend, August Nierens served growing congregations in Courtland and Nicollet. He lived five miles east of New Ulm.
On Aug. 17, 1862, Seder preached to two groups gathered at farm homes. They did not know that on that very day five were killed in Acton and war had broken out.
In Flora Township he spoke to a group of 100 adults and at least 20 children. There was anxious discussion before and after worship about rising tensions with the Dakota who frequently visited their farms. Some friendly Dakota had warned of an impending danger. Flora was directly across the river from the reservation and vulnerable in the face of that danger.
The next morning Seder called on a few families, bringing them words of encouragement. Many had decided to take refuge at Fort Ridgley.
He turned his horse and buggy towards home. One quarter mile south of the present day Middlecreek United Methodist Church in Flora Township, he was attacked and mortally wounded. A Dakota warrior jumped into his buggy, pushed him to the ground, and fled with his rig.
Church records for both Middle Creek and Oakwood United Methodist churches report that 73 of those who attended services where Seder spoke that weekend died either in attacks the next day, during captivity, or during their time as refugees.
Rev. August Nierens
Fourteen days after Seder's death, his good friend and fellow minister, August Nierens was killed by Dakota in rural Courtland.
Nierens took his family to New Ulm not long after the outbreak of the war. Because he had been a soldier in Prussia, he was deeply involved in the defense of New Ulm.
After the city was evacuated, it was a general belief that the Dakota were no longer in the immediate vicinity. Nierens moved his family back to their farm on Sept. 1, 1862. The next morning as the family was having breakfast he heard a scream from a neighbor's child. While he stood in his doorway, he was mortally wounded. Three Dakota stole his horse, and killed two neighbors, but they did not harm Nieren's family. Temporarily buried near his home, within a few weeks his remains were buried at the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Cemetery near Nicollet.
At Tuesday's remembrance service, Jacobsen reminded those who attended that residents of Brown and Renville counties inherit a great legacy of faith from those who came to farm the prairies in the 1860s. The settlers brought more than farm implements and determination. They came with a deep faith in God that they wanted to live out in a vibrant faith and transmit to their families and neighbors. Rev. Seder and Rev. Nierens left a legacy of United Methodist churches in Renville, Brown, and Nicollet counties.