Andreas Darling was a "rolling stone" and a larger-than-life adventurer until his murder by a gang of "bushwhackers" on a Missouri farm.
Andreas M. Darling, a larger-than-life figure who homesteaded on the shores of Lake Darling — which he named — from 1859 to 1864, became a prominent figure in Douglas County until his untimely murder by a vengeful son and his gang of "bushwhackers" on a Missouri farm.
With the help of the Douglas County Historical Society, the Echo Press decided to take a deeper look into the life and untimely death of a man whose name is associated with one of the county's most popular lakes.
A battle with a bear
Here's one tale about Darling: In 1859, on his way to tend to his cows and accompanied by his trusty K-9 companion, Darling came across three bear cubs. The dog chased the cubs up a tree. Knowing the mother would appear soon, Darling wielded a club, climbed up the tree after the cubs, and made one of them squeal.
The mother bear hurriedly came to her young one's rescue. "Take her!" Darling yelled at his dog and hustled down the tree to assist. Darling fell right into the middle of the scuffle but recovered quickly in his descent. With a raise his club, he delivered a swift blow. The blow was enough to send the protective mama running, at least for the time being. Darling began hollering for his neighbor, who arrived weaponless moments later with his "hired man."
Darling told his neighbor to keep the cubs trapped while he retrieved his trusty rifle, Biting Betty — a custom-made, 16-pound gun with a half-ounce ball of shot. When Darling returned, he set a cub to a cry again, drawing in the mother for another bout. This time, the man drew a bead on her and took her down with one shot.
Or so the story goes that was published under the "Old Settlers' Column" in the Alexandria Post in 1897, describing the alleged first bear kill in Douglas County.
Darling was a large and well-proportioned man, standing well over 6 feet. He became a prominent figure in the early days of Douglas County. Tales of him seem mythical. The book — "Manomin: Rhythmical Romance of Minnesota, The Great Rebellion and the Minnesota Massacres" written by Myron Coloney — states Darling could shoot a loon's eye out from over 200 yards.
After Darling's battle with the bear, he fostered one of the bear cubs and named him Ned, who became a neighborhood attraction. Eventually, Ned was sold to the Stearns House in St. Cloud and somehow ended up on a Mississippi steamer, never to be seen again.
Darling's early years
Darling was born somewhere in northern New York state. Eventually, earning a reputation as a "rolling stone," mirroring his father's persona.
His family migrated west to Ohio and eventually Michigan, where he met and married his wife, Antoinette. In a biography of Antoinette, she describes Darling as a "young adventurer."
As their family grew with children, they moved into Wisconsin, then eventually into Minnesota in 1958/59, laying claim on 12 acres of shoreline on a large lake Darling named "Lake Darling." He built a house and stable on his newfound homestead.
Myron Coloney and his wife, Josephine, arrived just days after the Darlings, on the shore of a lake the Coloney's dubbed "Lake Ida," after an old friend.
Myron befriended Darling and described him as a "most indefatigable hunter and trapper" in his book, dedicated to Darling.
Darling rises to local prominence
When Douglas County became officially organized under the act of the State Legislature in 1858. Darling became one of the first county commissioners, along with Samuel Cowdry and J. H. Vandyke.
In the fall of 1860, Darling grew in prominence by being voted in as a judge with Cowdry and Daniel Shotwell.
Things were well for the Darlings and the growing community. Then in the spring of 1862, the "uprising of the Sioux" during the Dakota War forced the Darlings and other residents of Alexandria to flee their homes for safety as many of the homes in the area were set ablaze by retaliating Sioux — described by Myron's granddaughter, Ruth Coloney Sorelle.
For decades, the Dakota saw their hunting lands dwindle, and provisions promised by the government rarely arrived. The treatment they received from the federal government, local traders and settlers was strained and eventually led to a breaking point.
In a letter to the editor published in the Alexandria Post News on July 29, 1897, reflecting on the uprising years later, the writer tells how the Darlings and other families took refuge in St. Cloud. Once safe, Darling addressed the group. The article reads, "Mr. Darling, stepping out from the crowd, said, 'Friends, all I have in the world is my home, and I am going to try to save it, and if there is a man among you who will stay with me, let him step out.' In response N.F. Barnes stepped out, and the two men clasped hands. There were some moist eyes among the men as two old neighbors turned and disappeared with their rifles on their shoulders. For six weeks, they worked with their guns on their backs, never sleeping twice in the same place, and saved much of their own stuff and some of their neighbors as well."
The people of Alexandria returned after Company B of the 25th Wisconsin Regiment was sent to protect the community.
Darling moves on and is 'bushwacked'
Darling and his family stayed in Alexandria until 1864, when Myron offered Darling a caretaker job on a farm in Rolla, Missouri. Myron acquired the farm after his home burned down during the Dakota War.
Life for the Darlings was peaceful for a while. Until September of 1864, Myron received a telegram from his wife while doing business in St. Louis, "We were bushwacked last night, and Mr. Darling was killed."
The farm, previously known as the Hamilton Lennox plantation, sat on one thousand acres. Myron re-named it "Union Farm" as it supplied hay and stock to the Union Army during the Civil War. According to an article from the Phelps County Focus, the land was previously owned by Hamilton Lennox and his family until Union soldiers seized it.
According to accounts in Myron's book, as well as in The War of the Rebellion: A compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies and an article titled Murder, Bankruptcy, Whiskey, and Revenuers: Myron Colony's Excellent Adventures by Lynn Morrow, a gang of more than 20 guerrillas ransacked the farm in the middle of the night.
Bill and Tom Lennox, sons of Hamilton, believed the farm belonged to their father, and that no other family should live on the land. They led a posse of confederate sympathizers to avenge their father by retaking the family farm.
Bill ordered the Darlings to leave during the ransacking, but they refused, and Darling suffered a bullet from Bill's gun. He crumbled to the ground and a pool of blood left the levee of his body, according to the accounts.
The Lennox brothers and the rest of their band of "bushwhacking guerillas" held their guns on Darling, determined to make sure he died. Seeing some signs of life in her father, his daughter tried to fetch water for him. One of the guerillas held her at gunpoint, preventing her from doing so, but being her father's daughter, she persisted. They allowed her to moisten Darling's lips until he took his final breath.
The gang emptied the house of valuables, including Darling's Biting Betty.
Buried in an unmarked grave
Once word spread of the incident, Union soldiers were sent after Bill's gang, and Darling was buried in an unmarked grave.
Shortly after, Antoinette and the rest of her family moved back to their "claim" on the shores of Lake Darling.
According to Brittany Johnson, director of the Douglas County Historical Society, Darling's son, Abner, became one of Douglas County’s earliest police officers; Johnson believes Darling's descendants still live in Douglas County today.
To this day, no one knows the whereabouts of Darling's gravesite or his trusty, Biting Betty.
"The final resting place of Andreas Darling may always be a mystery, but it’s obvious the Darling family left their mark on Douglas County," said Johnson. "For all his work as one of the first Douglas County commissioners, election judges, and farmers in Douglas County, and with his family buried in Alexandria and Long Prairie, it’s just strange to think of his final resting place being lonesome and lost somewhere in Missouri."
Multiple streets, a resort and even a spa carry Darling's name to this day.