(At left is a photo of Sarah. It must have been taken before the War, because during captivity her hair turned completely white. As you can see, she was pretty stout. The Dakota called her “Tonka-Winohiuca waste,” or “large woman." During the six-week War she lost 40 pounds.)
Sarah Brown was born to working-class parents in Rhode Island in 1829. But according to public records, she didn’t stay there. In 1854 she turns up living in Minnesota, which wouldn’t become a state for two more years. Soon she was married to a fellow New England transplant, Dr. John Wakefield. Their relationship seems to have been rocky from the start, and it wasn’t helped when the doctor chose in 1861 to move with Sarah and their two very young children to the remote Dakota Indian reservation in southwestern Minnesota. There he would serve as the Upper Agency physician. It was a fateful decision.