Marion Sacia (1852-1893)

Marion Sacia (1852-1893)

By Larry L. Borchert

October 21, 1997


Marion Sacia was born near Stevenstown, Wisconsin in 1852. He was the third son of Harmon Van Slyck Sacia and Cordelia Packard Sacia. Shortly after he was born the Sacia family moved a few miles north to the settlement of Stevenstown to build and manage the Fountain House, an inn on the La Crosse to Black River Falls stage line.

Marion was eight years old when the Civil war erupted and his father went off with Company I of the 8th Regiment of Wisconsin Volunteers, the "Old Abe" Regiment. He was still too young to go along three years later when his brother, Frank, also joined the 8th. But on September 19, 1876, when he was 24 years old, Marion joined Company M of the 7th Regiment of the U.S. Cavalry. This was the Cavalry regiment made famous by Captain George Armstrong Custer.

As a boy, Marion learned to ride horseback and frequently rode while helping his mother tend the inn during the War. So it was natural for him to join the cavalry and especially the 7th Regiment which desperately needed recruits to fill the 225 vacancies created three months earlier when most of the regiment was destroyed in a battle at the Little Bighorn River in Montana Territory.

Marion rode with Captain Thomas R. French and the 7th for five years in Dakota Territory. Their job was to protect fearful miners and settlers from attacks by small bands of Indians angered by the encroaching White Man.

He developed a hernia while attempting to free a wagon stuck in the mud at the Old Bismarck Stage Crossing on the Black Hill's Belle Fourche River in the Winter of 1877. In a plea for a government disability pension in 1891, Marion wrote: "I have fought Indians, broke my teeth on hardtack, lived on choke cherries for 8 days on the Mussel Shell River and other hardships too numerous to mention. Besides I had a partial sunstroke which left me such a pain in the head, severe dizziness and acute neuralgia that I could not work only off and on in my harvest so part of my grain was lost from shelling on the ground..."

He was not able to convince them to give him the pension.

Private Sacia, at the age of 29, was discharged at Fort Meade, Dakota Territory, on September 18, 1881 after what must have been five years of hard riding and much danger.

On September 15, 1884, three years after his discharge, he married Lena Pfaff, a German girl from the Burr Oak area of northeastern La Crosse County. They farmed, reportedly not very well, near Centerville in Trempealeau County. After six years of marriage they had their only child, a daughter, Mildred, born February 5, 1890.

In a March 10, 1891 hand written letter to Mr. Green B. Raum, U.S. Commissioner of Pensions, Marion Sacia pleads for help:

Dear Sir,

I beg to call your attention to case to claim 869106 Co. M of Regt. 7 US Cav.

I have a wife & child to support on a little farm and am without means to improve it. Nothing but an old plow and drag to work it with. Nothing but a straw shed for my cow and a poor one at that. Besides, on account of dyspepsia, acute neuralgia, loss of hair and teeth, & inflammatory rheumatism, I am unable to earn a living.

These last disabilities were not mentioned in my application for pension. In fact, my dear sir, to make a long story short, I am in destitute means and I ask as a favor that you will interest yourself in my case and call the attention of the government to it.

I am too proud to beg and too honest to steal and would not go on the Town if I starve...

I was unable to buy rubbers this winter and my toes were frozen wearing an old pair of last years shoes. A pretty hard fix you must admit. The government surely cannot expect me to share after serving faithfully for five years and received a discharge of Character Very Good.

My wife says if I do not get a pension in a short time so we can get our bread she will have to take her baby and work to get her own bread.

Please be so kind as to attend to this case at once and oblige me and mine.

Please answer as soon as __.

Your respectfully

Marion Sacia

Postscript. I can prove all this by my friends.

Marion was 5 feet 7 inches tall. He had a dark complexion with black hair and hazel eyes. According to a physician that examined him on behalf of the pension board, somewhere out in the wild west, he picked up a case of syphilis. This disease was probably the cause of Marion's chronic health problems, although he believed his problems came from eating greasy food in the Army. He could never convince a pension board of that. Marion spent his last two years, in his neighbors words: "not fit to do any work".

He died November 11, 1893 at the age of 41 of cancer of the stomach. He left behind his wife, Lena and three year old daughter, Millie. He is buried in the family cemetery near the site of Sacia's inn. His gravestone says he was a Private in Company M of the 7th Regiment of the U.S. Cavalry and fought in the Indian Wars.

Lena tried, as a widow, to get some pension relief and was continually rejected. Neighbors, as late as April 14, 1895, testified: "I hope the claim will be allowed soon as she is in very needy circumstances". The pension never came and Lena never remarried.

Mildred married Oscar Newholm, they had no children.



Sacia, Marion. 1852-1893 Military Records, National Archives, Washington, D.C.. Photocopies in possession of Larry Borchert.

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