Anoka County, Minnesota

Genealogy Trails History Group
Genealogy and History
Volunteers Dedicated to Free Genealogy


Minnesota Historical Society Collections, Vol. 17, Minnesota State Historical Society, 1920]
Submitted by Brenda Wiesner

The name of this county, established May 23, 1857, was taken from the town of Anoka, which was first settled in 1851-52 and was named in 1853. It is a Dakota or Sioux word, meaning, as Prof. A. W. Williamson wrote, "on both sides; applied by founders to the city laid out on both sides of Rum river, and since applied to the county," of which this city is the county seat. Rev. Moses N. Adams, who came as a missionary to the Sioux in 1848 and learned their language, stated that, as a Sioux word, Anoka means "the other side, or both sides."

According to the late R. I. Holcombe and others, including Albert M. Goodrich, the historian of this county, the Ojibways also sometimes used a name of nearly the same sound for the Rum river and for the site of Anoka near its mouth, meaning "where they work," on account of the extensive early lumbering and log-driving on this stream. The Ojibway verb, "I work," is Anoki, as given in Baraga's Dictionary, with many inflected forms and compound words from this root, all referring to work in some way as their central thought.

But the selection of the name Anoka had reference only to its use by the Dakota or Sioux people, whose language is wholly unlike that of the Ojibways. A newspaper article on this subject, written in 1873 by L. M. Ford, is quoted by Goodrich, as follows: "The name for the new town was a topic of no little interest, and the writer had something to do in its selection. It was decided to give it an Indian name. The Dakota Lexicon, just published, and of which I was the owner of a copy, was not infrequently consulted and at length the euphonious name Anoka was decided upon. ... It was said to mean 'on both sides,' when rendered into less musical English, and to this day the name is by no means inappropriate, as the town is growing up and extending on either side of the beautiful but badly named river."

Townships and Villages

Information for this county has been gathered from the "History of the Upper Mississippi Valley," 1881, in which Anoka county and its civil divisions are treated in pages 222-293; from the "History of Anoka county and the Towns of Champlin and Dayton in Hennepin County," 320 pages, 1905, by Albert M. Goodrich; and from Charles W. Lenfest, county treasurer, Frank Hart, clerk of the court, and Clarence D. Green, real estate agent, during a visit to Anoka in October, 1916.

Anoka was founded by Orrin W. Rice, Neal D. Shaw, and others, by whom its name was adopted in May, 1853. The "City of Anoka" was incorporated by the state legislature July 29, 1858, and later the "Borough of Anoka," March 5, 1869, but both these acts failed of acceptance by the vote of the township. Finally, under a legislative act of March 2, 1878, this city was set off from the township of the same name, the first city election being held on March 12.

Bethel was first settled in 1856 by Quakers, and was organized the next year. Its name is from ancient Palestine, meaning "House of God," and was selected for this township by Moses Twitchell, who settled here as an immigrant from Bethel, Maine.

Blaine township, settled in 1862, was the east part of Anoka until 1877, when it was separately organized and was named in honor of James Gillespie Blaine, a prominent Republican statesman of Maine. He was born in Pennsylvania, Jan. 31, 1830, and died in Washington, D. C., Jan. 27, 1893; was a member of Congress from Maine, 1863-76, being the speaker in 1869-75; U. S. senator, 1876-81; and secretary of state, March to December, 1881, and 1889-92. In the presidential campaign of 1884 he was an unsuccessful candidate. He wrote "Twenty Years of Congress," published in 1884-86.

Burns township, settled in 1854 or earlier, was a part of St. Francis until 1869, being then organized and named, probably for the celebrated poet. This name was adopted on the suggestion of James Kelsey, who was elected the first township treasurer.

Centerville, settled in 1850-52, was organized in 1857. Its village of this name, thence given to the township, was platted in the spring of 1854, having a central situation between the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers. The settlers in the village and vicinity were mostly French, and this came to be known as the French settlement, while numerous German settlers in the western part of the township caused that to be called the German settlement.

The village of Columbia Heights, a suburb of Minneapolis, in the south edge of Fridley township, was platted and named by the late Thomas Lowry of that city.

Columbus township, settled in 1855 and organized in 1857, was named for Christopher Columbus.

Fridley, a fractional township comprising only about sixteen square miles, was established by legislative act as Manomin county (meaning Wild Rice), on the same date, May 23, 1857, with the establishment of Anoka county. "John Banfil settled in what is now Fridley in 1847, and kept a stopping place for the accommodation of travelers. Two years later Henry M. Rice acquired considerable land and built a country residence at Cold Springs, giving his name to the creek which flows through the town. ... A ferry across the Mississippi river was established about 1854." (Goodrich, pages 162-3). This very small county continued nearly thirteen years, until in 1869-70 it was united with Anoka county as Manomin township. The name was changed to Fridley in 1879.

Abram McCormick Fridley, in whose honor this township received its name, was born in Steuben county, N. Y., May 1, 1817; came to Long Prairie, Minn., in 1851 as agent for the Winnebago Indians; was afterward a farmer in this township, and in 1869 opened a large farm in Becker, Sherburne county; was a representative in the legislature in 1855, 1869-71, and 1879. He died in Fridley township, March, 1888.

Grow township, settled about 1853, was organized in 1857 with the name Round Lake, which in 1859 was changed to Grow, in honor of Galusha Aaron Grow, of Pennsylvania. He was born in 1823, and died in 1907; was a member of Congress, 1851-63, and again in 1894-1902; was the speaker of the House, 1861-3. "For ten years, at the beginning of each Congress, he introduced in the House a free homestead bill, until it became a law in 1862." This grand public service has caused him to be remembered gratefully by millions of homesteaders.

Ham Lake township, settled in 1857, was attached to Grow township till 1871, when it was separately organized. It had been previously called Glengarry, a name from Scotland, which its Swedish settlers found difficult to pronounce. The county commissioners therefore named the new township Ham Lake, from its lake in sections 16 and 17, which had acquired this name on account of its form.

Linwood township, first settled in 1855 and organized in 1871, received its name from Linwood lake, the largest and most attractive one in a series or chain of ten or more lakes extending from northeast to southwest through this township and onward to Ham lake. The name doubtless refers to the lin tree or linden. Our American species (Tilia Americana), usually called basswood, is abundant here, and is common or frequent through nearly all this state.

Oak Grove township, settled in 1855, was organized in 1857. "The name is derived from the profuse growth of oak trees, which are about equally distributed over the township." (Upper Mississippi Valley, page 285).

Ramsey, first permanently settled in 1850, was organized in 1857, being then named Watertown; but in November, 1858, this township was renamed in honor of Alexander Ramsey, the first governor of Minnesota Territory, 1849-53, and later the second governor of this state, 1860-63.

Itasca was the name given by Governor Ramsey and others to a townsite platted in 1852 on sections 19 and 30 in this township, near an Indian trading post; and the first post office of Anoka county was established there and named Itasca in May of that year. The name was copied from Lake Itasca, at the head of the Mississippi, which had been so named by Schoolcraft in 1832. It was later applied during many years, after the building of the Northern Pacific railroad through this county, to its station near the former Itasca village site. Both the village and the railway station have been abandoned, but a new station, named Dayton, for the village of Dayton at the opposite side of the Mississippi, has been established on the Northern Pacific and Great Northern railways about a mile southeast from the former Itasca station. This old village name, which became widely known sixty years ago, is now retained here only by the neighboring Lake Itasca, of small size, scarcely exceeding a half mile in diameter.

St. Francis township, settled in 1855 and organized in 1857, bears the name given by Hennepin in 1680 to the Rum river. It was transferred by Carver in 1766 to the Elk river, and now is borne by the chief northern tributary of that river. The name is in commemoration of St. Francis of Assisi, in Italy, who was born in 1181 or 1182 and died in 1226, founder of the Franciscan order, to which Hennepin belonged. [Minnesota Historical Society Collections, Vol. 17, Minnesota State Historical Society, 1920]

W. D. Washburn & Co
Source: History of Anoka County and the Towns of Champlin and Dayton in Hennepin County, Minnesota, by Albert M. Goodrich (1905) transcribed by Sheila Gruver

In any enumeration of those to whom the industrial interests of Anoka stand most largely indebted first place must be given to Hon. William D. Washburn of Minneapolis, and his business associate, Major William D. Hale of the same city. Under the firm name of W. D. Washburn & Co, they began the erection of a large and thoroughly equipped saw mill at Anoka in 1872. This mill had an annual capacity of sixteen million feet of lumber, and, with its complement of planning mills, dry kilns, etc., furnished employment to about 125 men. For seventeen years logs from the head waters of Rum river and its tributaries were floated down to this mill, and the product manufactured therefrom was shipped far and wide throughout the Northwest. About 1875 the company was organized as a corporation under the name of the Washburn Mill Company, with substantially the same ownership, and in 1880 the Lincoln Flour Mill was constructed, with a capacity of 600 to 700 barrels of flour per day. In the great fire of August 16, 1884, the Lincoln mill was destroyed, but owing to the elaborate precautions of F. L. Pinney, its superintendent, the saw mill and lumber yards were saved. A new Lincoln mill quickly rose from the ashes of the old mill, equipped with the latest improved machinery, which still continues to furnish employment to many residents of Anoka. The new mill has a capacity of 1600 barrels of flour per day.

Some First Things
Source: History of Anoka County and the Towns of Champlin and Dayton in Hennepin County, Minnesota, by Albert M. Goodrich (1905) transcribed by Sheila Gruver

1. First explorer – Louis Hennepin, 1680.

2. First mention of Rum river – By Jonathan Carver, who visited it in 1766.

3. First white residents – Joseph Belanger and associates, 1844.

4. First house – A trading post built by Joseph Belanger and associates for William Aitkin, 1844.

5. First road – The Red River trail, crossing Rum river at the Upper Ford.

6. First potato crop – Raised by Capt. S. P. Folsom, 1848.

7. First corn crop – Raised by William Noot near King’s island, 1848.

8. First breaking for permanent cultivation – Six acres in front of I. W. Patch’s house in the town of Ramsey. Broken by Cornelius Pitman, 1850.

9. First ferry across Rum river, 1851.

10. First ferry across the Mississippi river – At Rice creek about 1854.

11. First ferry across the Mississippi at Anoka – Launched Sept. 11, 1855.

12. First bridge across Rum river – Built by Orin W. Rice, 1853.

13. First bridge across the Mississippi – Built by Horace Horton, 1884.

14. First sermon – Preached at the funeral of Mrs. Penuel Shumway, Jr., in July, 1851.

15. First resident clergyman – Rev. Royal Twitchell, who held services in the old trading post where he lived in 1852.

16. First religious organization – A Methodist class organized December 10, 1854.

17. First church –Built by the Congregational Society in 1857. It stood on the present site of St. Stephen’s church.

18. First school – Taught by Miss Julia Woodman in the “Old” Company Boarding House, winter 1853-4.

19. First school house – The “Third Avenue School House,” built just south of the present Library Building, fall of 1855.

20. First dam on Rum river – Begun about August 1, 1853.

21. The first saw mill – Began running in August, 1854. The power was supplied by the Anoka dam. The same year Charles Peltier build a saw mill in Centreville.

22. First flour mill – Begun about June 1, 1854; completed in January, 1855: burned Feb. 24, 1855.

23. First store – That of Edward P. Shaw, built in the spring of 1854. Mr. Shaw sold goods to some extent, however, at his father’s house in the fall of 1853.

24. First advertisement of a business concern – That of Edward P. Shaw’s store, printed in the St. Anthony Express, June 17, 1854.

25. First singing school – Taught by Josiah F. Clark in the winter of 1855-6.

26. First Cornet Band – Organized in 1861. Included in the membership were James Miller, W.W. Waterman, Harvey F. Blodgett, J. F. Clark, C. H. Houston, L. H. Hubbard, Elias Pratt, N.W. Curial and W. J. Miller.

27. First Library Association – Organized about May, 1859.

28. First newspaper – Anoka Republican, published by A. C. and E. A. Squire. The first issue appeared August 25, 1860.

29. First white child born in the county – Fernando Shumway, born March 22, 1851. Died March 25, 1900.

30. First postoffice – Established at Itaska in May, 1852.

31. First postoffice at Anoka – Established in the winter of 1853.

32. First wedding – Harvey Richards and Laura Nichols, in the winter of 1855-6.

Permanent Settlement
Source: History of Anoka County and the Towns of Champlin and Dayton in Hennepin County, Minnesota, by Albert M. Goodrich (1905) transcribed by Hugh O’Rourke

In 1849 an energetic young man named George W. Branch found his way to Rum river, coming thither from New Brunswick. He and another man explored Rum river to its source, poling a boat up the river to Mille Lacs. The next year he returned to New Brunswick and induced his brother-in-law, Horace W. Taylor, to come to Minnesota. Taylor made a claim and built a house on the Rum river north of the present railroad tracks on what was afterward known as the McCann farm, upon a part of which the driving park is now located. This was in July, 1850. When the land was surveyed Mr. Taylor found himself on a school section and moved to a point directly across Rum river, upon land now occupied by the state insane asylum, where he continued to reside until the time of his death in 1893. Taylor located at this point which was the fording place of the old Red river trail, thinking that a town would grow up there.

In the fall of1850 three Chippeways took passage on Antoine Robert’s row boat ferry on Rum river. They had imbibed somewhat freely of fire water and declined to pay the fare. A quarrel arose in consequence, and one of the Indians stood up in the boat, threatening Robert’s life. Robert struck him a heavy blow on the head with a paddle, breaking his neck. The two other Indians sprang overboard and swam ashore. A large band of Indians were encamped not far away. Robert took the body ashore and buried it in the sand, and then hastily made his way on horseback to the home of Pierre Bottineau at St. Anthony. Several years later the skeleton of the Indian was disinterred by Dr. A. W. Giddings, who had it preserved for the purpose of anatomical study.

Robert’s brother, Louis Robert of St. Paul, took possession of the trading post, put in a swing ferry on Rum river large enough to carry loaded teams and hired a well behaved and inoffensive half breed named Logan to run it. This boat was probably put in service in the spring of 1851, but from its appearance it had evidently been in use elsewhere previous to that time. At all events it was quite an old looking boat in the fall of 1851. Logan’s wife was a Menomonee squaw.

In May, 1851, Richard M. Lowell landed in St. Anthony, and in company with Simon Bean started in a batteau with supplies for the Rum river log drivers. He was frequently at Rum river and Elm creek thereafter, but did not make is home in this section until several years later.

In the first days of November, 1851, George W. Branch went to St. Anthony to meet a party of relatives who had come from the East. They were his sister, Mrs. Thompson, and her three children, his father, Samuel Branch, and Matthew F. Taylor, then a lad of fourteen, who had never seen anything of frontier life. The party got into a batteau, which the men proceeded to pole up the Mississippi. They had to break the ice near the head of Nicollet island in order to make a start. At Coon Rapids they were joined by Horace Taylor. It was quite dark when they reached the mouth of Rum river, and a band of Winnebagoes were holding a pow wow around their camp fires near Elm creek and sending out whoops that were anything but reassuring to the new comers.

George Branch bought land on the west side of Rum river running from what is now Fremont street northward to Division street. Samuel Branch took the claim immediately north of Horace Taylor’s claim, afterward owned by John Broadbent and now included in the insane asylum grounds. As soon as he was of age Matthew F. Taylor took up the farm in the town of Dayton where he still lives.

The first white child born within the limits of Anoka county, so far as known, was Fernando Shumway, a son of Penuel Shumway, Jr., who was born March 22, 1851. His mother died July 9, 1951, and Rev. Charles Secomb from St. Anthony preached her funeral sermon. This was the first sermon in the county.

Land on the west side of Rum river had been purchased by Henry M. Rice. His brother Orin Rice broke the land for a crop and in 1852 built a substantial house of hewn logs on what is now the southwest corner of Ferry and Fremont streets (lot 7, block 45). This was the second house built within the present city limits of Anoka. Many years later it was moved to another lot near by and covered with modern siding. A few years ago it was torn down. The third house was begun shortly after by George W. Branch. It stood on the north side of Main street about half way between Ferry street and the bridge, about where C.J. Edgarton’s grocery now stands. This building developed into a hotel of considerable dimensions. Branch sold it while still unfinished, and it was kept as a hotel by Silas Farnham in 1854 and later years, and known as the Farnham House. Still later it was known as the St. Lawrence Hotel and finally as the Kimball House. It was destroyed by fire Aug. 23, 1870.

Another hotel, also known as Kimball House, was soon after erected near the same site on the corner of Ferry and Main streets. This second Kimball House was also burned some years later.

In the spring of 1852 Logan wanted to move away, and made arrangements with George Branch to take the ferry off his hands. During that summer the ferry was run during the day by Samuel Branch and during the night by Matthew Taylor. Most of the traffic consisted of the supply trains of Borup and Oakes. The drivers never paid anything, the ferriage being charged up to the company. When they came back with empty wagons they usually, forded the river in order to save the ferry charge.

In the fall of 1852 came Jacob Strout and took up the farm so long owned by Aranda Giddings in the town of Anoka. He lived in some sort of a shanty during the winter, meanwhile hauling lumber for a more substantial dwelling, which he erected the following spring. About the middle of October, 1852, came Rev. Royal Twitchell with his wife, and a son and daughter, Humphrey B. and Lois C. They moved into the old trading post. The same autumn Jacob Milliman arrived and took a claim on the east bank of Rum river above that of Samuel Branch. Fifty Indians camped that fall among the burr oaks standing between the site of the State Bank and the river.

During this year a settlement was made in what is now Centreville. The Centreville lakes had long been a paradise for hunters and trappers, but no permanent dwelling had been erected until the arrival of F.W. Traves in 1850. In the spring of 1852 came Francis Lamott, and in the fall Charles Peltier, Peter Cardinal and F.X. Lavallee. These four settled in section 23. Joseph Houle lived there during the same year, but did not make a claim until some years later. During the winter Oliver Dupre arrived and the next year came Paul and Oliver Peltier.

In 1852, also, Charles Miles settled on the present site of Champlin.

The First House
History of Anoka County and the Towns of Champlin and Dayton in Hennepin County, Minnesota, by Albert M. Goodrich (1905) Chapter III; transcribed by Sheila Gruver

Early residents of Anoka remember a log house which stood on the east side of Rum river near its mouth. Several cellars are still visible near the spot where it stood. This was the first house built in Anoka county. It was built in the fall of 1844 for an Indian trading post, by direction of William Aitkin, who had been for many years a trader of the upper Mississippi and who at that time had his headquarters at Sandy lake. The building was constructed by a French trader named Joseph Belanger, assisted by George Cournoyer, Pierre Crevier, Joseph Brunet and Maxime Maxwell. The men cut the logs on the point between the two rivers and carried them on their shoulders to the place where the house was to be built. The house was divided by a partition, one room being designed for a living room and the other to be used as a store room for the goods. In October Mr. Aitkin came to inspect the new post, and left his clerk, Mr. Crebassa in charge of the stock of goods, which had been procured from H.H. Sibley’s trading post at Mendota.

Neighbors were few and far between in those days. The nearest house on the north was probably Allan Morrison’s trading post at Crow Wing. Back from the Mississippi the country had not yet been explored. Aside from the Indian traders and the soldiers at Fort Snelling, there were very few white people within the present limits of Minnesota in 1844. There were a few white settlers in the valley of the St. Croix river, and a few around Mendota and the fort. There were two claim shanties on the east side of St. Anthony falls and no other building near except the ruin of the old government mill on the west side. On the present site of St. Paul were two or three log shanties, whose occupants were principally engaged in selling whiskey to the Indians.

Mr. Belanger and his four assistants made the Rum river post their headquarters during the winter. The work was very hard. The men carried the goods out on their backs in great packs held in place by a strap passing around the forehead. A man was expected to carry two “pieces” (240 pounds), and his load must be at an appointed spot before daylight the next morning. Some “pieces” were more difficult to carry than others. For instance, a keg of powder in a “piece” would be likely to render it very unwieldy. If a man found it impossible to carry more than one “piece,” he would have to make another trip during the night with the second one, in order to be ready for the next day’s journey in the morning. Two men always traveled together for safety, and the fifth man stayed with the clerk at the post. In this way a large section of country was covered, the men trading sometimes as far away as Mille Lacs. The boundary line between the Sioux and Chippeways had been fixed by treaty at “Choking creek,” (wherever that may be), one day’s march north of the mouth of Rum river, running thence westward to the Mississippi at the mouth of the Watab river a few miles above Sauk Rapids, and eastward to the St. Croix and thence to the Chippewa river in Wisconsin. But the Indians paid no attention whatever to these boundary lines. For all practical purposes Anoka county was then Chippeway country, later becoming a sort of neutral ground, in which members of neither tribe dared remain for any length of time unless on the war path.

Consequently wild game congregated within its limits, and the earliest white settlers found it an unexcelled hunting ground. Sioux territory could hardly be said to extend farther north than the Minnesota valley, and Sioux seldom crossed Crow river. The trading was, therefore, almost entirely with Chippeways. If the traders came to a teepee whose owner was absent, this fact was not necessarily permitted to interfere with commercial operations. The scale of exchange was pretty well established – so much powder and shot and lead for so many furs of a certain kind – and the owner on his return would be perfectly satisfied to find his pelts gone and the proper proportion of ammunition left in their stead. The trading post itself was often surrounded by tepees, numbering from half a dozen to twenty or more, whose owners had come in to trade.

In the spring the trading post was abandoned for the time being, but during the next winter was again occupied by Mr. Belanger and his associates, trading as before in the interest of Mr. Aitkin. The second winter a shanty was erected on the bank of Rum river near the place where the railroad bridges now cross it. This was used by the men as a temporary stopping place on long excursions. No goods were ever stored here. After the second winter Mr. Aitkin gave up his Rum river enterprise, and the men repaired to Mendota in the spring, where they were paid off and discharged.

Joseph Belanger, who built the first house in Anoka county, and who may in a certain sense be called its first settler, was born at St. Michel d’Yamaska, Province of Quebec, June 10th, 1813. In 1836 he joined a party of ninety-three men, who were going west in the service of the American Fur Co. Norman W. Kittson, then fifteen or sixteen years of age, also formed one of the party.

The means of transportation were but little improved since the time of the expeditions of La Salle and Hennepin, and the party made the journey to the Mississippi in canoes over the route which Father Hennepin had taken on his return trip. The canoes crept along the shores of Lake Ontario to the Niagara river, and a portage was made around the falls. Having entered Lake Erie, persistent paddling day after day brought the voyageurs to the Detroit river, through which they passed to Lake St. Clair, and through the St. Clair river and Lake Huron to Mackinaw strait. At this point three men deserted. The others kept on down Lake Michigan, though Green Bay and up the Fox river to Fort Winnebago, where another portage was made to the Wisconsin river, after which the canoes floated without much effort on the part of their occupants down to the Mississippi.

At Prairie du Chien the traders drew lots for stations and Mr. Belanger drew a station on Lake Superior. One of the men who had drawn a ticket for the Yellowstone river was greatly disheartened at the idea of being sent into that remote and almost unexplored region, and when the young and venturesome Belanger offered to trade tickets with him, he gladly consented to turn over the two suits of clothes allowed him by the company as a partial consideration for the exchange. After two years in the wilderness of the far West Mr. Belanger returned to the Mississippi river. In 1842, when the American Fur Company failed he was in Prairie du Chien. The traders who had lost their hard-earned wages wanted to kill Joseph Rolette, who was then the company’s agent at that point, and Rolette concealed himself for more than two months on an island in the river, where Mr. Belanger occasionally took food to him secretly. After his engagement with Mr. Aitkin at the Rum river trading post Mr. Belanger crossed into what is now Wisconsin and built the first house in Chippewa Falls. Later he engaged in rafting lumber from Stillwater to St. Louis, and then acted as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi river for some twelve years. Mr. Belanger was a continuous resident of Minnesota from 1856 until the time of his death. He was a man without education, except such as comes from contact with the frontier. The portrait shown in this volume is from a photograph taken in 1900, at the age of eighty-seven. When seen by the writer in that year his eyesight had begun to fail. It seemed pathetic that the intrepid trader who had found his way through trackless wilds swarming with hostile Indians to the Yellowstone valley in 1837, should be unable to find his way about the streets of St. Paul without a guide.

In 1846 Peter and Francis Patoille repaired the old trading post at Rum river and began trading with the Indians. Just how long they remained is uncertain.

Thomas A. Holmes was the next trader to try his fortune at the mouth of Rum river. He came there in the spring of 1847. It is possible that the old Belanger house had been destroyed by this time and that Holmes erected a new log house on the same site, but it is more likely that he repaired and enlarged the building which was already there, erecting a wing on each side, which gave him quite a commodious residence. Late in the summer Aaron Betts and wife lived in the house with Holmes. The same year John Banfil made a claim on Rice creek and kept a tavern for the accommodation of travelers. William Noot located just below King’s island (known then as the “big island”) during the summer of 1847, and living with him was a German count who had fled from the old country for political reasons. During this year also Franklin Steele, who had acquired the water power on the east side of St. Anthony falls partly by preemption and partly by purchase decided to build a dam and saw mill at that point. Caleb D. Dorr, who was then one of the half dozen residents of St. Anthony village, went up the Mississippi to procure timber to be used in constructing the dam, and on the first day of September Daniel Stanchfield started with a crew of men from St. Anthony to go up Rum river for a like purpose. While exploring for a suitable road up Rum river, Mr. Stanchfield came upon the Indian battle field of 1839, as already stated. He cut the logs in what is now Isanti county about a mile above the mouth of the stream which has since been known as Stanchfield brook. Mr. Stanchfield got his logs to the mouth of Rum river the first week in November. Mr. Dorr cut his timber on the Mississippi about three miles below Little Falls, and got back to Rum river on the same day that Mr. Stanchfield arrived there. William A. Cheever also stopped at the Rum river post that night. Anchor ice had begun to run in the Mississippi, and during the night snow began to fall. Suddenly the whole party were roused by the breaking of Stanchfield’s boom, and rushed out in time to see the logs whirling and grinding against each other in a mad race for the open Mississippi.
Mr. Dorr was more fortunate with his timber, most of which he saved and delivered safely at the St. Anthony dam the next spring.

In the winter Holmes sold the Rum river post to Patrick Caine; and Captain Simeon P. Folsom, who was then living in St. Paul, purchased half of Caine’s interest and moved to the place with his wife about the middle of February, 1848. Provisions were scarce and high. Captain Folsom paid $4 for a barrel of potatoes at Fort Snelling in the spring of 1848. He pared them carefully so as to preserve the eyes, and after eating the potatoes planted the parings near his home at Rum river. On a small patch of ground, half the size of a city lot he raised forty bushels of potatoes, which grew from these parings. Mr. Noot also raised some very good corn and a few beans at King’s island. These were the first crops raised in Anoka county. In the spring of 1847, the count heard of an uprising in his native country, and left in haste for Europe, leaving a valuable horse and some other property with the Noots.

In 1840 the Winnebago Indians had been removed from their ancient home in what is now Wisconsin beyond the Mississippi to land since included in the state of Iowa. But white men were now casting longing eyes upon this land also, and after much persuasion and negotiation the Chippeways had been induced to grant land in the vicinity of Long Prairie in what is now Minnesota for the use of the Winnebagoes, and the latter had agreed to remove thither in 1848. But when the time came for the removal the Indians were very reluctant to go. Edmund Rice had undertaken the task of transferring them to their new home. Mr. Rice succeeded in getting most of them as far as the Sioux village presided over by Chief Wabasha, by steamboat. The old Dakota chief sympathized with the new comers and finally sold them the site of the present city of Winona. Here the Winnebagoes camped and refused to move another rod. Troops were hastily summoned from Fort Snelling, and after a considerable show of force those of the Indians who had not run away were bundled into steamboats and taken to St. Paul. From this point the Winnebagoes and their military escort marched up the Mississippi on foot. The Indians had heard of Rum river and believed that intoxicants must be plentiful there. Consequently, those who were provided with ponies pushed on ahead, and reached the river before the main body had got much beyond St. Anthony falls. Captain Folsom understood the Winnebago language and recognized a number of the Indians, whom he had known in 1840 at the time of their former migration. But he had no whiskey for them. At the “big island” they had better success. Noot had two barrels of whiskey; but as soon as the Indians found he had it they proceeded to help themselves without ceremony. They locked Noot in the barn and his wife and child in the house, and then proceeded to get riotously drunk.

Noot had a yoke of oxen, and had agreed to haul some hay for Captain Folsom. The latter went up toward the island in the morning to see about hauling the hay and met Indians in all stages of intoxication. They had whiskey in all sorts of receptacles. One had a pan half full before him on his horse, and every few minutes bent his head down and took a drink. Another had filled up an empty powder can. One had two cans tied at the ends of a rope thrown across his horse’s neck, and these clanked together at every step.

It took considerable courage to face a mob of drunken savages, but Captain Folsom was determined to ascertain what had become of the Noots. When he came in sight of the cabin he heard Noot and his wife calling for help. Just then there came up a chief named Whistling Thunder, whom Captain Folsom had known in Wisconsin, and Folsom said to him: “What is going on here?” “You mustn’t go down there,” said the chief. “See here, chief,” said Captain Folsom in the Winnebago tongue, “no brave man will ever lock up a woman.” “We-chook-a-nig-era says no brave man will lock up a woman,” repeated the chief to his followers. This appeal to the Indians to save their reputation for courage proved effectual, and the cabin door was immediately unfastened. Mrs. Noot came out with her child, and ran off into the brush.

As a means of gaining the good will of the redskins Captain Folsom set before them the remainder of the whiskey in the barrel which they had seized. One of the Indians, who was in an advanced state of intoxication was recklessly firing his gun, to the imminent danger of everybody within range. Captain Folsom succeeded in convincing the others that this ought not to be permitted, and so the offender was tied up in such a manner as to put a stop to this form of hilarity.
Folsom next visited the barn, where Noot was making piteous appeals to be released.

“That door has got to be opened,” said he firmly. Finding that Folsom was thoroughly in earnest, the Indians went away, and the captain unfastened the door of the barn where Noot was confined. He then procured an ax and stove in the head of the remaining barrel of whiskey. Noot was disposed to bemoan the loss of his liquor, but Folsom said to him: “You are very foolish to begrudge an old barrel of whiskey. Don’t you know that your life is at stake here?”

Noot ran over on the island calling to his wife, but Captain Folsom finally found her at the mouth of Rum river, whither she had fled with the heavy child in her arms. The only boat Folsom had was a leaky birch bark canoe, and before he could get Mrs. Noot and the child into it the Indians appeared. They were firing their guns in drunken glee. Some of them tried to enter the canoe, but the captain ordered them away, pushing one back forcibly, and finally succeeded in getting his canoe launched.

Having safely landed Mrs. Noot and the child near his own house he heard Noot calling from the shore he had just left: “Meester Folsom! Meester Folsom!”

There was nothing to be done but to make another trip, and try to save the man from the reckless savages. When the captain got back to the west shore he found that Whistling Thunder had also arrived. Again a half drunken Indian attempted to enter the boat. But the rebuke of his chief was forcible and effective. Whistling Thunder gave the bending figure of the savage a sound kick under the chin, which sent him sprawling on his back, and Folsom sped away with his passenger to the east side.

Then Whistling Thunder himself decided that it would be very much safer to put the river between himself and his unruly followers until they had had an opportunity to sleep off their debauch, and begged Folsom to come and get him. The captain was not all averse to the presence of so stalwart an ally, and again braving the river in his crazy craft, he brought the chief over in safety, and the whole party slept that night in Captain Folsom’s house, exhausted with their exertions, but feeling tolerably safe from the intrusion of the drunken crew who were making night hideous on the farther shore.

Noot’s experience with the Winnebagoes seems to have dampened his enthusiasm for frontier life. He afterward went to St. Paul, where he became possessed of eighty acres of land. This having risen in value on account of the growth of the city, he became quite well off. Some time later he served a term in the legislature.

Captain Folsom cut a great deal of hay in the summer of 1848, which he sold at a profit of some $6.000. All the supplies for the Winnebagoes had to be hauled to Long Prairie. A considerable amount of these supplies had been stored at Banfil’s, on Rice creek. The teams had to be fed. Captain Folsom had the best hay on the upper Mississippi and the most of it, and could command a good price. In the fall of 1848 he removed to Elk river.

Captain Folsom and Caleb D. Dorr were both present at the Anoka street fair in 1904, and regaled the citizens with many anecdotes of pre-territorial days.

The settlement of the Winnebagoes at Long Prairie greatly increased the amount of travel up and down the river, and there sprang up along the route between that point and St. Paul a series of taverns and trading posts, many of them with farms attached. Bloodgood settled on Coon creek. Joseph Brown located at Big lake, and Burgess at Big Meadow, eight or ten miles north of Big lake. There was also a settler at Clear lake still farther north, and there were a number of settlers at or near Sauk Rapids. Allan Morrison was still at Crow Wing, where he had had a trading post for some twenty years.
The Winnebagoes were very much dissatisfied with their home at Long Prairie. They complained bitterly of the scarcity of game, and often large bands of the tribe would descend the Mississippi to Crow river for the purpose of hunting and fishing on the neutral lands between the Chippeways and Sioux. In order to keep the Indians under some sort of restraint, the government decided to establish a fort on the upper Mississippi, and in 1848 Gen. George M. Brooks located the new fort between Sauk Rapids and Crow Wing. It was known as Fort Marcy, but later as Fort Gaines, and finally as Fort Ripley.
A considerable band of Winnebagoes established themselves at and near the mouth of Crow river, from which place they roamed through the adjacent country in search of sustenance. One of their trails ran through the northern part of what is now the town of Ramsey, crossing Rum river about a mile and a quarter above Trott brook and below the mouth of Cedar creek, and running thence to Lake George, where the fishing was excellent, and where deer came to feed in great numbers. Some parts of this trail were afterward used as a road by the early settlers, and it was visible for many years.

Source: History of Anoka and the Towns of Champlin and Dayton in Hennepin County, Minnesota, by Albert M. Goodrich; transcribed by Vicki Bryan

As early as August 1853 Edward P. Shaw began to deal in merchandise in a small way at his father's house (the Orin Rice house) in Anoka, among his sales nails for J. C. Varney's house. Although the incipient village was bustling with activity, few of the men had brought families with them, and only four children played among the oak trees that stood in the square where the fountain now is, or hid in the hazel brush which ran along Main Street where McCauley's grocery now stands. These were Eliza Randolph, Frank Randolph, Nancy Fairbanks and Alice Frost (Mrs. W. E. Cundy.)

James C. Frost brought the first cow to the settlement, and sent a little of the first milking to all the neighbors.

In the spring of 1854 building operations at Anoka were vigorously resumed, and the foundation for a flouring mill laid. Edward P. Shaw built the first store. It stood on Main Street near the corner of Ferry Street, where it still stands. It was afterward enlarged and became known as the "Shuler building." That part of it next to the Baptist Church is the original store. After its enlargement it was used as a court house, and it was in this building that the first enlistments for the Civil War were made.

In the latter part of May 1854, water worked its way under the dam, and in a few hours the whole river was pouring through the opening. The river bed was gullied out to the depth of thirty feet or more, and into this chasm the longest logs plunged and reappeared below. Hundreds of logs were left stranded in the dry bed of the mill pond.

James C. Frost and A. P. Lane (who arrived in May) took the contract of repairing the dam. The timbers were cut away over the opening, and great loads of brush and timbers weighted with stones were gradually lowered into the seething water until at last the hole was filled and the entrance plugged up with bags of sand.

In August the saw mill began running, with one up-and-down saw and the demand for lumber was so great that the proprietors did not succeed in getting the roof boards of the mill itself in place until some time in October. Nobody waited for lumber to dry, and the man who could get green boards or slabs enough to build a shanty before cold weather set in counted himself lucky. One of the most substantial houses erected at this time was that of Frank B. Dunn, built on the corner of Park and Branch Streets. It now forms a part of the residence of F. L. Pinney.

A school was started in the old company boarding house. The teacher was Miss Julia Woodman (Mrs. Hamm). This was the first school in Anoka County.

The new company boarding house was turned into a hotel, which was kept by W. B. Fairbanks. In August came Robert H. Miller, and the following month D. W. McLaughlin, both of whom settled later near Elm creek.

October 31, 1854, Dr. A. W. Giddings, at that time fresh from a medical college, arrived from Ohio and began his half century of practice in the new town. A week later he wrote his impressions of the place to his brother Aranda, who was then at Williamsfield, Ohio. An extract from the letter reads as follows:

"The city was owned and laid out by a company from Maine – energetic men who have laid out $40,000 erecting saw and grist mills, planing machine, lath factory, &c., &c. Now we have two public houses, one larger and furnished as well as any in Williamsfield [The Farnham House]. The other accommodates fifteen boarders and two families of six each. The landlady is a half breed. One boarding house, sixteen dwelling houses, one stable, all in the short space of three months. There are about three families in each house. This is pioneering – move the family onto the ground and build the house around them as lumber can be procured. But for my own part I am as pleasantly situated as I could wish. I am boarding at Mr. Shaw's – very kind New Englanders. The old gent is a very refined, inquisitive old Yankee. His son and wife, two men and one maid servant compose the family. The house is made of logs hewed, two storys high, with a dining room and kitchen back, parlor in front. All the rooms except the kitchen are papered and carpeted. There is a nice piano in the parlor; indeed the house is as richly furnished as any in your own town. But a very different state of things exists from what one might suppose. All are getting rich. People make nothing of doubling their property once in five or six months. Everything is very high here – enough to frighten one at first; but I have become accustomed to the charges, which are equal to those in any of our eastern cities. One dollar per day for board at the hotel – horse three dollars per week."

October 18th, 1854, brought James W. Groat, who found employment on Farnham's hotel, which was not yet finished.

About this time (1854) another battle between the Sioux and Chippeway tribes took place. The Mille Lacs Chippeways planned a formidable expedition against the Sioux. Kegwadosia, a Mille Lacs chief, said there were 300 canoes that came down Rum River. After making due allowance for Indian exaggeration, there is no doubt that there was a large body of warriors. They expected to strike the Sioux at their encampments beyond the Mississippi. But by some means their enemies were warned of the approaching danger, and took measures to avert it. The Sioux cautiously assembled a determined band in what is now the northern part of Oak Grove and threw up earthworks on the river bank upon what is now the farm of H. E. Seelye. The position was admirably chosen. Rapids in the river would prevent their enemies from turning back when once within range, while the steep bank made the place safe from assault from that direction. The Chippeways were routed with great slaughter. Less than a dozen Sioux skeletons were found on the top of the hill by the white settlers who came there the next summer.

The victorious Sioux passed down to Rice Creek, where they obtained food at the hotel kept by Isaac Kimball, afterward proprietor of the Kimball House at Anoka. John Goodspeed was in charge of a ferry at this point, and the Indians crowded upon the boat in such numbers that it began to sink and the ferryman ordered them ashore. They obeyed without protest, taking up
their march to St. Anthony. Each warrior was decked with a rosette of cotton batting on the top of his head, and they carried a banner upon which was fastened a fresh Chippeway scalp.

Although there was such enmity between the Indian tribes, that any chance meeting between Sioux and Chippeways meant a battle to the death, they were not disposed to pick any quarrel with white people, and rarely did them any harm except to steal from them. Chickens and pigs and any article of food they seemed to consider lawful plunder, to be begged or bartered for if convenient, but otherwise to be taken without leave.

Anoka County Home Page

Genealogy Trails

Copyright © Genealogy Trails