Pioneer History of Becker County by Mrs. Jessie W. West & Alvin H. Wilcox (1907)
HISTORY OF ATLANTA TOWNSHIP.
By Miss Mary A. Hanson (transcribed by Liz Dellinger
The town of Atlanta, situated in the northwestern part of Becker County was first settled June 16, 1871, by N. N. Viger and family, who drove from Fillmore County with an ox team and prairie schooner and settled on Section 32 of said township.
Martin Hanson, a single man, settled on the same section the same year and resided there until his death in 1905.
The next settler was O. J. Jahr and family who settled on Section 30 in 1872. For several years these three homes were the only ones in the township, but in 1876 several new families arrived from Wisconsin and Iowa, among which were O. O. Noben, L. H. Hauge, H. J. Larson and others. Gradually the level prairies were broken up and converted into fertile fields, and groves and houses dotted the lonesome plains.
January 25, 1879, the township was organized as the town of Martin, but the name was changed to Atlanta at the following meeting, March 18, 1879.
The first town officers were: Supervisors, O. O. Noben, M. J. Brekke and C. G. Engebregtson ; clerk, H. J. Larson, which position he held for fourteen consecutive years ; treasurer, C. G. Engebregtson ; justices of the peace, J. A. Bemis, M. J. Brekke ; constables, L. G. Engebregtson, H. A. Furuset ; poundmaster, M. Wahl.
The first birth recorded in the town is that of the eldest daughter of John and Ellen Gunderson.
The first school district, No. 29, was organized in the spring of 1880, and the first term of school was held in the home of John Larson and taught by Miss Carrie Larson, with an enrollment of twenty pupils.
Since that time three more school districts have been organized, viz. : Nos. 33, 43, and 68.
The growth of the population has been slow but steady, till at the present time most of the land has been taken up or bought by actual settlers.
But one tragedy has occurred in Atlanta in the twenty-five years of its existence, viz. : that of the murder of Timan Ristvedt, a middle aged, single man who resided on his farm on Section 10. On the evening of November 8, 1897, he was found lying dead near the barn which had been set afire by the murderer.
This was perhaps the most sensational murder case ever tried in Becker County. After a long trial the suspected murderer was acquitted for want of evidence and the case remains a mystery to this day.
On June 9, 1903, a cyclone passed over the central part of the town destroying nearly a dozen homes and the large Norwegian church which had just been completed. One person, Mrs. O. Berg, an old lady lost her life in the storm.
The earlier settlers of Atlanta were Scandinavians with the exception of two or three families, and during the first twenty years or more there were few changes excepting as new settlers were added from time to time, but toward the close of the nineties a number of transfers of real estate brought a considerable German
element into the township.
On the whole the history of the township while uneventful has been a prosperous one. The bleak prairies of twenty-five years ago now are fertile fields, and the sod shanty is replaced by the commodious farm buildings.
Atlanta was so named from the resemblance its undulating surface bears to the Atlantic Ocean.
Mary A. Hanson
HISTORY OF AUDUBON TOWNSHIP.
By Peter A. O. Peterson; transcribed by Liz Dellinger
The first settlers in Audubon Township, were Christen Anderson, John F. Beaver and Fred. Johnson. Beaver and Anderson were both married men and their wives came with them, and they were the first white women to settle in what is now Audubon Township. There was also an infant girl in the Anderson family when they came. Her name is Annie.
Neither the township or section lines had been run in this part of the county, so none of these settlers had any means of knowing what section they were living on for a whole year.
These three settlers came to this township on the 28th of June, 1869.
Christ. Anderson took what is now the west half of the west half of Section 6; John Beaver the east half of the southwest quarter and the west half of the southeast quarter of Section 6; Fred Johnson located on the southeast quarter of Section 7.
Soon after this time a man by the name of Talmage, a single man of eccentric character squatted on what is now Section 20, and after living there less than a year in a dugout, left the country.
On the 6th of September, 1869, Buckley B. Anderson came into the township with his wife and a family of eight children, five of whom were fully grown, and settled on what are now Sections 17 and 20. The oldest daughter of the Andersons, who is the wife of Jackson Burdick came with her husband and three children in the same party with the Andersons. Burdick took his land also on Sections 17 and 20.
B. B. Anderson opened up a store about the first of November, 1870, at his residence, which was the first store in what is now Audubon Township. Harvey Jones who came with the Anderson's located on the southeast quarter of Section 18. Jones soon afterwards sold his improvements to David Beverage who came sometime in the fall of 1869, and took another claim on Section 34, in Lake Park Township, about a year afterwards.
Dr. David Pyle took a claim which included a part of Sections i6 and 17 and brought his family in the spring of 1870.
M. L. Devereaux was in this township during the winter of 1869 and 1870 but took a homestead on Section 10 of Lake Park the next year. His land is now a part of the celebrated Canfield farm.
The following settlers came to Audubon Township in about the order in which they are named:
Elling Carlson, Section 6, June 20th, 1870; Gunder Carlson, Section 6, June 20th. 1870; Martinus Johnson, Section 9, June 23rd, 1870; Sevald Reep, Section 5, June 24th, 1870; Jens Simonson, Section 16, June 24th, 1870; Andrew Jensen, Section 17 June 24th, 1870; Simon Jensen, Section 16, June 24th, 1870: I. T. Knudson, Section 16, June 25th, 1870; Chris. Olson, Section 18, June 26th. 1870; Ole Peterson, Section 4, June 30th, 1870; Peter A. O. Peterson, Section 4, June 30th, 1870; John O. Johnson, Section 30. June 30th, 1870; Andrew Olson, Section 16, July 4th, 1870; Jacob Anderson, Section 13, July 6th, 1870; Erick P. Skeim, Section 15, July 6th, 1870; Louis Thompson, Section 14, July 6th, 1870; Martha M. Quigne, Section 14, July 6th, 1870; Brede Arneson, Section 14, July 15th, 1870; Ole Larson, Section 23, July, 1870; Gustave Erickson, Section 27, Aug. 28th, 1870; Lars Knudson, Section 34, Aug. 28th, 1870; Joseph R. Marshall, Section 30, Aug. 28th, 1870; William Robinson, Section 30, Aug., 1870; Walter R. Gregory, Section 20, Aug., 1870; Moody Cook, Section 1, 1870; A. M. Beaver, Section 6, Sept. 1st, 1870; John Gulbranson, Section 8, Sept. 1st, 1870; Henry J. Larson, Section 10, Oct. 8th, 1870; Paul C. Sletten, Section 24, 1870; Guy Goodrich, Section 24, March, 1871 ; John Cook, Section 22, April, 1871; F. K. Small, Section 16, April, 1871 ; L. C McKinstry, Section 12, April 25th, 1871 ; James G. McGrew, Section 10, May 1st, 1871 ; Rasmus Boyer, Section 6. May 1st. 1871 ; Hans H. Glinstad, Section 26, June, 1871 ; Gilbert Rosten, Section 26, June 15th, 1871 ; Jacob Fargerlie, Section 26, June 15th, 1871 ; Halver Grunt, Aug., 1871 ; Ole Danielson, Section 28; A. S. Danielson, Section 28; William McKinstry, Jr., Section 12, June, 1871 ; T. Longtine, Section 31, 1871 ; William P. McKinstry, Sr., Sept. 10, 1871 ; Sivert Reep, 1871 ; John Larson, Section 2, 1871 ; Carl Stave, Section 24, 1871 ; Ole Boardson, Section 12, 1871 : P. P. Wall, Section 12, May 1st, 1871; Willis Smith, Section 2, 1871 ; Malcolm McDonald, Section 2, 1871 ; Olof Erickson, Section 28, 1871 ; Nels N. Elton, Section 21, May 22nd, 1872; Michael Oschner, Sept., 1873.
Elling Carlson, who was one of the first to come into the township in the summer of 1870, selected his claim and returned to his former home, leaving his brother, Gunder Carlson in charge of both claims and remained away until the spring of 1871 when he returned to Section 6 of this township with his family.
Andrew Olson's family did not arrive until the spring of 1871.
Christen Anderson one of the first three settlers of this township was born in Norway, February 19th, 1835, came to America in 1865, and died about the 20th of November, 1906.
John Beaver was about the same age of Chris. Anderson, but came to America several years sooner and was a soldier in our Civil War. He was a member of the first board of county commissioners of Becker County, and was the first clerk of the district court elected by the people.
Mr. Beaver died of consumption May 17th, 1873.
Fred Johnson was born in Norway, and came to the United States when young. He is still living in the township.
Sevald Reep was born in Norway on the 13th day of February, 1835, came to America in 1866. He died May 4th, 1879.
The first child born in Audubon Township was Olaus Reep, son of Sevald Reep, who was born on the 29th day of July, 1870.
The first death in the township was that of Mrs, John F. Beaver, who died about the first of March, 1870.
The first marriage in the township was that of John Mason to Annie L. Larson, who were married at Oak Lake Cut on the 30th day of January, 1872, by James G. McGrew, justice of the peace. Mason was a saloon keeper and afterwards lived for several years at Lake Park.
The first school in the township was taught by Nancy M. Comstock in the fall of 1871 in a log building on the land of Henry Way on Section 20.
On the 30th of September, 1871, the board of county commissioners declared all of Township 139, Range 42, or what is now Audubon Township, established or created into one school district, to be known as School District No. 1. The legal voters of the district proceeded to organize by electing a board of school officers and hired a school teacher who began a term of school that fall, it being the first school taught in Becker County, outside the White Earth Reservation.
It was afterwards discovered that the creation of the school district was illegal, as there had been no petition presented to the board, and the creation of the district was annulled, and Detroit Township made District No. 1.
The township was organized on the 19th day of August. 1871, and the first township election was held at the house of John F. Beaver at that date.
Walter R. Gregory was chosen moderator, and John Cook and B. B. Anderson judges of election. They were sworn in by David Pyle, a Notary Public.
The following township officers were elected:
W. R. Gregory, chairman of board of supervisors : David Pyle, John Cook, supervisors ; Henry J. Larson, town clerk ; Buckley B. Anderson, assessor; Guy H. Goodrich, treasurer; Jacob Anderson, F. K. Small, constables ; James G. McGrew, Henry Way, justices of the peace.
The township was organized under the name of Windom ; in January, 1872, changed to Colfax; in September, 1872, changed to Oak Lake and on January 2d, 1881, changed to Audubon.
The Northern Pacific Railroad Company surveyed its line through the township in the fall of 1870 and towards the close of the year a camp and supply station were established at Oak Lake Cut, the former by Mr. Brackett the contractor and the latter by Fletcher and Bly, who had the contract to supply the grading crews. Hubbard and Raymond also put in a stock of goods in the spring of 1871. A hotel built of logs was also erected that same winter. During 1871 and also to some extent in 1872 while the railroad was being built, considerable business was transacted by different establishments in the different lines of trade, many of them being sheltered in tents.
After stations were established at Detroit and Audubon, business gradually fell awav and the place was discontinued soon afterwards.
Village of Audubon
The townsite of Audubon was surveyed out in the summer of 1872, at which time a railroad station was established and placed in charge of a man by the name of Rothplatz. Henry Larson built a hotel the same summer, the first in the village. The Northern Pacific Railroad Company opened up an office for the sale of their lands in this vicinity late in the year 1872 and placed it in charge of L. S. Cravath.
B. B. Anderson erected a building and laid in a small stock of goods early in the fall of 1872, it being the first store in the village. He was followed later in the fall by E. Newman and O. J. Johnson, who bought his stock of goods and added to it; he in turn sold it to Thomas W. Dunlap and Michael Gillespie and also added to the store building.
Frank Lacross established a general store in June, 1873, and he in turn sold it to Thomas W. Dunlap and Michael Gillespie in 1875.
The Audubon Journal was started in the fall of 1873, by P. P. and O. G. Wall.
The Congregational church was begun in the fall of 1872, and was dedicated in 1873.
The village of Audubon was incorporated by special law, approved Feb. 23d, 1881.
The first set of village officers were:
Michael Gillespie, president; R. B. White, recorder; Benjamin Hemstock, Walter Drew and Mike Oschner, trustees.
The Rev. Mr. Watleson conducted divine service in the house of John Beaver on November 6, 1870. This being the first divine service ever held in the township, preliminary steps were taken to organize a Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church at the time. Rev. B. Hagboe, who came in the summer of 1872 was the first resident preacher, but no church was built until the summer of 1874.
The State Bank of Audubon was organized earlv in Feb., 1907. The officers are S. A. Netland, president, and A. O. Netland, cashier.
P. A. O. Peterson.
Henry J. Larson, who preempted the principal part of the townsite of Audubon says : I located on the southwest quarter of Section 10 of what is now Audubon Township on the 30th of November, 1870, and sold to the Townsite Company. The survey of the townsite of Audubon was commenced in the first days of May, 1872, and a small house or box office was made ready for a telegraph office about the same time. The present passenger depot was made ready about the 20th of September of that same year.
How Audubon Received its Name.
About the middle of August, 1871, Mr. Thomas H. Canfield came through on a tour of inspection, and with him was quite a party of aristocratic looking people, and they camped where the Audubon depot now stands. The prairies were then covered with flowers and lilies, and there were several ladies in the party who were filled with admiration at the beauty of the surrounding country, and I remember that one lady asked Mr. Canfield if a railroad station could ever be established there that it be called Audubon. Another man took out a memorandum book and noted down this request.
I afterwards learned that the lady was a niece of John J. Audubon, the great American naturalist.
H. J. Lauson.
Oak Lake Village.
In 1871-72 there was a thriving village at the Old Oak Lake Cut on the northeast quarter of Section 24 of the present township of Audubon.
The village grew up simultaneously with the progress of the work of excavating the long deep cut on the Northern Pacific Railway at that place ; it being several hundred feet in length and twenty feet or more in depth, and was the heaviest job of excavating on the Northern Pacific Railway between Duluth and the Missouri River.
Work was begun in this cut about the beginning of the winter of 1870; the exact date I am unable to give. I was there on the 2ist of January, 1871, and George M. C. Bracket, the contractor, was there at work with about forty men, engaged in excavating the frozen ground at the east end of the cut. I was there again on the 10th of February and work was in progress at both ends of the cut, and there was quite a sprinkling of tents on the south side.
I was there again on the 20th of April, and the cluster of tents was assuming the appearance of a thriving village. Fletcher and Bly were running a big store, and were the general supply agents of the Northwestern Construction Company, and were doing a rushing business. This is the same "Uncle Loren" Fletcher who has represented the city of Minneapolis in the United States congress for several years past. In this store at that time were Guy Goodrich and Tim Chilton, who were working in the capacity of clerks, dealing out groceries, calico and tobacco to Indians, squaws, graders and tenderfeet alike.
In May, 1871, N. K. Hubbard and J. H. Raymond opened up another store, which did a flourishing business for the next two years, and soon afterwards R. H. Abraham opened up still another, which he moved to Lake Park later on.
By the first of August the south side of the cut had become a lively village of tents, and it was said there were 400 people living there at that date. The structures, however, were not altogether tents, as there had been some logs and considerable lumber used in their construction. There were now two hotels in operation ; one owned and operated by James M. Crummy and L. D. Burger and the other by S. M. Thompkins, and that same summer a boot and shoe store was started by a man by the name of Marshall, who afterwards moved his store to Bismarck, and towards the close of the year S. B. Pinney moved his store over from Sherman's, by the lake, which made four general stores running in the little village about the time the rails were laid to the cut.
There was also the usual accompaniment of saloons, gamblers, sports, toughs, confidence men and fast women, such as are usually found congregated together on the outskirts of civilization, wherever there is any unusually large gathering of men without families. One large tent was used for a dance hall, and various other "doings" of a mysterious character were said to be carried on in that tent, as a consequence of which it was shunned by all timid people.
Conspicuous among the gang of outlaws that infested the town were two superfine cut-throats of the first water. The name of one was Shang, a polished expert of the light fingered craft, who claimed to be a native of Dublin. Ireland, and the name of the other was Shumway. After the Northern Pacific Railway was completed to Moorhead in the fall of 1871 this pair of land pirates changed their quarters to that village much to the relief of the people of Oak Lake. On the 25th of April, 1872, Shang shot and mortally wounded Shumway, who after he was wounded attempted to shoot Shang, but instead shot and killed an innocent bystander, a barkeeper by the name of Thompson. Clay County had only just been organized and no county officers had yet been appointed. The newly appointed county commissioners met immediately and appointed James Blanchard sheriff of Clay County and his first official act was to arrest the murderer Shang. At a preliminary hearing after Shumway's death, Shang was released on a nominal bond and was never prosecuted, it being the general opinion that he had rendered Moorhead a good service in ridding it of Shumway, although Shang was if possible the worst villain of the two.
The first political meeting in Becker County was held about the 25th of October, 1871. Governor Austin made a speech at a Republican meeting at Oak Lake Cut, and during the progress of the meeting, a Norwegian by the name of I. T. Knudson, who lived on Section 16, Audubon, was badly injured for life by a blow on the head with a revolver in the hands of an Oak Lake gambler called Blinky Jack. Jack's dog had a fight with a dog belonging to Jacob Anderson and the owners of the dogs had a row over the dogs but were separated. Jack was not satisfied and afterwards started to hunt up Anderson and have it out. He came across Knudson and taking him for Anderson struck him on the head several times with his revolver. He was knocked senseless and thought to be dead for awhile, but was finally restored and is suffering from the hurt until this day.
Jack was tried at the November term of court and sentenced to pay $400 fine or a year in jail. As there was no jail in the countv, the sheriff, Charles E. Churchill, could do no better than to take him home with him, but after boarding with him for a couple of weeks Jack skipped out.
In the month of October, 1871, the work in the big cut was finished, and the small army of graders moved on to the West, but the little village continued to thrive. The place was easy of access, as there were good natural roads leading to it from all the principal points of the compass except the east.
It cost Detroit several thousand dollars to construct as good roads as those leading to the cut, which did not cost a dollar.
The officials of the Northern Pacific Railway Company from the start had anticipated the securing of a townsite at this place, and with it the construction of a permanent railway station. A part of this same plan was to locate the Detroit station on the shore of Detroit Lake, near where Mr. West's ice house now stands, and in accordance with the same plan there would be no station between Oak Lake and Lake Park.
In the summer of 1871 the officials of the Northern Pacific Company commenced negotiating with L. D. Burger, who had now become the sole proprietor of the land where the depot grounds were wanted, for the purpose of purchasing the whole or at least a half interest in the proposed townsite; but believing that the company would eventually be obliged to establish a permanent station at that point, Burger became exceedingly independent, and placed an extravagent price on his land. I have heard him say more than once that he had got the railroad company where the hair was short ; that they had got to come to his terms, and they had got to pay for it besides.
In the fall of 1871 a temporary station and telegraph office was established at the west end of the Oak Lake Cut, and another at Detroit, down in Tylertown, near the Pelican River, and as the Northern Pacific officials were anxious to establish a permanent station at Detroit as early as possible, and as they were somewhat discouraged in their efforts to secure a satisfactory location at Oak Lake, they decided to locate the Detroit depot one block west of where the depot buildings now stand after the original townsite was laid out by Col. Johnston in the winter of 1871 and ''72.
The people at Oak Lake, however, did not lose heart, but still believed that with its favorable location and its present flourishing condition, the village was destined to remain the metropolis of the Park Region.
The railroad officials still kept up negotiations with Burger during the whole of the year 1872, notwithstanding they had located a permanent station at Detroit, less than five miles away, but Burger was as stubborn and exacting as ever. "You have got to come to my terms and you know it" he would say whenever the subject was mentioned.
In the month of July the United States Land Office was opened up at Oak Lake, and the merchants, hotel keepers and saloon keepers still continued to do a thriving business, and these prosperous conditions served to make Burger the more exhorbitant in his bargaining with the railroad company and also tended to keep up the courage of the people generally who were doing business in the village.
Finally the railroad officials became tired of dallying any loner with a scheme that promised no satisfactory outcome, and in the spring of 1873 moved the temporary station from Oak Lake to Audubon, where a townsite had just been laid out by the Lake Superior and Puget Sound Townsite Company. This proved the final undoing of Oak Lake. Everybody moved away but Burger and his family; the land office was moved to Detroit that same year, and for many long years afterwards all that remained of the once prosperous village was the old log hotel and barn, and a big patch of Canada thistles, that were scattering their winged seeds of pestilence through the surrounding country.
Frank Palmer, a native of Vermont, was the telegraph operator at Oak Lake station.
W. J. Morrow, the present popular cashier of the Merchants National Bank of Detroit, came to Oak Lake Cut early in the spring of 1871, and after remaining there a year or two stayed in Audubon for awhile, and in 1876 took a homestead on Section 28, in Hamden Township, where he resided until he was elected clerk of court in 1879, when he removed to Detroit, where he has resided ever since.
MINOT, N. D., Jan. 5th, 1906.
A. H. Wilcox, Esq.,
Frazee City. Minnesota.
Dear Sir:—The Mr. S. B. Pinney that you refer to is unquestionably the Pinney that died here in Minot. He was an early settler down at Oak Lake, as I believe they called it in the early days when Tompkins kept his keg saloon. He certainly resided along the Northern Pacific Railroad between Oak Lake and Fargo, and then after a while, he moved up to Fargo and resided there until about five years ago, when he came up here to Minot. He had two sons and one daughter,—I believe that is all of the family. To all appearances, he never accumulated any property. He was not the owner of any real estate here, whatever, and very little household effects. He might have property somewhere else that I don't know of. He was a tall man—quite tall and slim. He died about the first of December, 1905.
History of Burlington Township
Source: A Pioneer History of Becker County Minnesota, by Mrs. Jessie W. West & Alvin H. Wilcox (1907); Chapter XX; transcribed by Vicki Bryan
In presenting the histories of the different townships of Becker County I have undertaken to arrange them in the order in which they were first settled, but in a few instances I have deviated from this rule to avoid too much skipping around over the county.
History of Burlington Township
On the 27th of May, 1857, the survey of a town site was made at the third crossing of the Otter Tail River, where the village of Frazee now stands, and the plat was recorded at St. Cloud, as Becker County was at that time attached to Stearns County for recording purposes.
It was claimed that the land covered by this town site was held by half-breed script, but the title was never perfected. The script was undoubtedly "lifted" some time afterward and other land taken with it, and this land reverted back to the U. S. government. The certificate of the plat is signed by N. P. Aspinwall, surveyor. He was an uncle to Wm. Aspinwall, who now operates a store at Pine Point.
I have a certified plat of the town site in my possession at the present time. The town site is bounded and described as follows: "Commencing at an oak tree at the southwest corner of said town site, and running thence north, crossing the Otter Tail River and Detroit Lake, five thousand two hundred and eighty feet, thence running east, crossing the Otter Tail River, two thousand nine hundred and fifty-eight feet, thence running south five thousand two hundred and eighty feet, thence west two thousand nine hundred and fifty-eight feet to the place of beginning."
The names of the proprietors were A. P. Aspinwall, F. Campbell, Donald McDonald, George McDougal and D. Shoff.
Frank M. Campbell, of White Earth, now a man over seventy years of age, informs me that he is the F. Campbell mentioned as one of the proprietors, and Donald McDonald the old Otter Tail Lake fur trader was another. The town site was one mile long north and south and three hundred and ten feet more than half a mile wide from east to west, and contained about three hundred and fifty-eight and one-half acres of land.
Judging from the topography as shown on the plat, the town site would very nearly fit the west half of Section 35 in the present township of Burlington, except that it was somewhat wider. The west line must have been near where the bridge across Town Lake now stands, and the east line very near the railroad bridge crossing the Otter Tail River, the north end near the Commonwealth Company sawmill, and the south end some distance south of the residence of Edward Briggs.
The plat shows one hundred and thirty-one blocks, with streets to correspond. Even the big marsh along the river south of Frazee between the railroad bridge and the outlet to Town Lake is mapped into blocks and lots with great precision.
In the written description Detroit is said to be located at "the southern end of a beautiful lake called Detroit Lake at the third crossing of the Otter Tail River, twenty-two miles northwest of Otter Tail City. This place is on the direct route between Lake Superior and Pembina. The face of the country to the west consists chiefly of beautiful prairies and lakes, while on the east there are large bodies of hard and pine wood timber. There are two water powers at this place capable of running a grist and sawmill." The narrow place on the Otter Tail River where the Commonwealth Lumber Company has built its bridge near its sawmill is marked on this plat as "Mill Property." The other mill site is marked below the outlet of Town Lake.
William G. Chilton built on the land now occupied by his heirs. His cabin stood on the west bank of the Otter Tail River close to his old bridge forty or fifty rods above where the planing mill now stands.
James G. Chilton built on Section 15 on the same land where he now resides. James was for several years a sailor on Lake Ontario in his younger days, and served a term in a military company in Canada and was on the Northern Pacific R. R. survey.
T. W. Chilton built on Section 27, near the upper end of Town Lake.
James Winram located and built on Section 14, down near the tamarack swamp, opposite where Tim Chilton's house now stands.
William Redpath built a house a little west of where the lumber platform of the big sawmill is now. He afterwards sold his claim to Charles M. Campbell, who proved up on the south tier of forties of Section 26 where the steam mill and lumber piles now stand. C. M. Campbell came to Becker County in May 1872.
The next settler after those mentioned by Quinlan who came into the township was John Graham, who came in October 1870, and selected the land where he now resides, and went back for his family and returned with them August 25th, 1871. Then came Patrick O'Neil who was then a beardless youth but seventeen years old; he came on the 4th day of December 1870.
Next came Luther Weymouth and Chris. Gardner on the tenth of December of the same year. Mrs. Weymouth came in March 1871.
Early in the spring of 1871 Weymouth and Gardner built and opened up a hotel on the south side of the river, near where the present Perham Road starts to come down the hill towards the river.
Johnson Wilson, late in the year of 1870, selected a place on the northwest quarter of Section 20, where David Graham now resides. He built his house the next summer in a fine spruce grove, but the trees have since all been destroyed by the winds and storms. There was a fine little prairie covering several acres of land, a little east of his house at that time.
In 1871 there was quite an influx of settlers into the township. August Trieglaff and Anthony Komansparger came about the first of June and located on Section 24. The Trieglaff boys now own both farms.
In the spring of this same year Robert McPhee and family located on the northwest quarter of Section 10, and, about the same time, James Maxwell settled on Section 28 with his family, where the Richmonds now reside.
William Hoffman came into Burlington Township in June 1871, from Fort Madison, Iowa, and the following spring took a homestead on the northeast quarter of Section 22. He is a veteran of the Civil War, and still resides in the vicinity.
I. J. Collins came to this county in 1871, but went back to New York and returned with his family on the 18th of May 1872, and located on the southeast quarter of Section 34.
Roscoe Dow located on Section 20 on the 25th of June 1871. E. L. Wright came from Vermont and located on the southwest quarter of Section 10, in May 1872.
Wm. Hehrhold and family came to Burlington about the 15th of October 1873, from Missouri and settled on Section 28, where they still reside.
In May 1871, William Austin located on Section 32, on what is now known as the John Brigg's farm. He usually went by the name of "Billy Chicken."
Mr. John Chilton moved into this township from Canada in the year 1873 and located on Section 14. He was accompanied by his wife, his son John R. Chilton, and three single daughters, one of whom afterwards married William Redpath. The other two daughters married Patrick O'Neil and James Scott, two prosperous farmers who still live in the neighborhood.
Another daughter, Mrs. C. W. Campbell and husband came into the township in 1872, and still another, Mrs. John Gummer, came with her husband from Canada in 1884.
John Chilton, Sr., was born in Vermont and died in Burlington Township on the 26th of November 1886, aged 75 years.
Mrs. James Chilton was the first white woman to settle in Burlington, arriving on the 4th day of December 1870, and her son, Guy Chilton, was the first white child born in the township. He first saw the light in James G. Chilton's log cabin, which stood on Section 15, on the 16th day of April 1872.
The first death in the township was that of Chris. Gardner, which occurred about the 10th of August 1871. Mr. Gardner was a member of the board of county commissioners at the time of his death.
The person who taught the first school in Burlington Township was Miss Nellie F. Brigham, of Richwood, now Mrs. C. H. Potter, of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. She says: "I think I may safely claim the honor of having taught the first school in Frazee. I began my school there about the 20th of May 1874. The school numbered seventeen pupils and I can recall them all by name now if necessary. The schoolhouse was a new structure. I boarded at the Thompkin's Hotel. It is a source of great pleasure that I am numbered with my two sisters among the earliest instructors of Becker County."
The first marriage in the township was that of T. W. Chilton and Amelia Rider on November 24th, 1873, by the Rev. J. E. Wood, of Detroit. The first bridge built across the Otter Tail River in this county was built in 1869 by Patrick Quinlan. It was built at the foot of the hill where the Perham road is now located, about ten rods south from where the new bridge across the Otter Tail River has since been built. The river then ran along the foot of the hill in what is now the old slough, all the way from the railroad to a point several rods west of the Perham road. After building this bridge he built a corduroy road along what was then the north side of the river to the long narrow ridge on the east side of the railroad lying between the railroad and the river. When the railroad was built a year or two afterwards, they changed the bed of the river to its present location.
The old Red River trail which had been the only thoroughfare through this part of the country for years, entered Becker County between the two lakes on Section 36, near where Herman Fisher now lives, passed by the Albertson place and crossed the Otter Tail River between where the lower dam and the bridge on the Silverleaf road have since been built. There had never been any bridge across the river and the crossing was frequently attended with considerable difficulty, especially at the beginning of winter when ice was forming, so Oilcan conceived the idea of building a cutoff road, bridging the river and charging toll for all travelers passing over his bridge. After he had finished the bridge, he opened up a new road from a point on the Red River trail, a little south of where Thomas Keys in Otter Tail County has since lived. The road ran on the west side of the oak grove in Edward Brigg's field south of his house, and came down to the river at the foot of the hill exactly where the road enters the marsh at the present time. The old road is still to be seen where it came down the hill over in the timber west of the present road.
This was about the time the Northern Pacific explorers and surveyors commenced traveling up and down the country, and while they were delighted at having a bridge to cross on there was a lot of kicking done when it came to paying toll. After having several quarrels and getting but little toll he dropped the whole business and never covered the bare poles on his corduroy west of the river. The place where this bridge was built has since been nearly filled with sand and gravel washed down from the hill, although there is a small bridge there at the present time.
When the railroad company changed the bed of the river they built a new wagon bridge a short distance below the railroad bridge and for many years all the travel from the south went around the horseshoe bend, along the foot of the railroad embankment. The road was changed to its present location in the winter of 1897 and 1898.
The bridge across Town Lake was built in 1883, by Luther Weymouth, with a state appropriation of $600.
The "Hodder" bridge across the Otter Tail, on Section 2, was built in 1886 by Rudolph Boll with money furnished by the town and county. The bridge across the Otter Tail below the lower dam was built in the summer of 1889 by R. L. Frazee with a state appropriation.
On the 9th day of August 1872, a petition was granted by the board of county commissioners to detach Township 138, Range 40, from the township of Lake Mew and organize the same into a new township to be called Burlington. The township was so named from the city of Burlington in the state of Vermont, by Mrs. E. L. Wright, a Vermonter, whose husband took a leading part in the organization of the township.
The first township election was held on the 26th day of August of that year at the house of Wm. G. Chilton.
The first set of township officers were: Chairman of board of supervisors, E. L. Wright; supervisors, Charles E. Churchill and Patrick Quinlan; clerk, James G. Chilton. Roscoe Dow was elected justice of the peace at this election, but did not qualify.
At the annual town meeting in March 1873, the supervisors elected were E. L. Wright, chairman; Charles E Churchill and I. J. Collins, supervisors; James Chilton, town clerk; James Maxwell, assessor.
HISTORY OF CARSONVILLE TOWNSHIP.
Source: A Pioneer History of Becker County Minnesota, by Mrs. Jessie W. West & Alvin H. Wilcox (1907) Chapter XXXIX; transcribed by Liz Dellinger
By Mrs. Mary E. Dezell.
A quarter of a century ago the tide of emigration reached a part of Minnesota which the pioneers had named Shell Prairie. The territory so named stretches from the junction of the Shell River with the Crow Wing, in a northwesterly direction, to Shell Lake, the source of the Shell River. There were three divisions of territory. The one reaching from the mouth of Shell River to Mantor, now Hubbard, was called First Prairie, being the first reached by the settlers coming from the South. From Mantor to Osage was called Second Prairie. From Osage to Shell Lake was Third Prairie. Third Prairie also took in the southeast corner of the Indian reservation. These names are seldom used now, save when speaking of pioneer days.
The writer of this brief history had long contemplated writing an account of the early settlement of Third Prairie, and now at the beginning realizes her inability to do justice to the subject; for surely this beautiful land is worthy of the finest of pen pictures; and what a glorious subject for the painter's brush is presented by the dark green forest which skirts the prairies and crowns the hills that encircle them! Here the poet may find many a theme for soul-inspiring verse, the writer of romance hear stories of love and friendship, joy and mirth, pain and sorrow, and hope and patient waiting—sometimes for things that never came. What abundant material for the "pen of a ready writer," to compile a book of pleasant stories. The pioneer spirit which impels people, especially of the West, to ever seek new countries and fortunes pervaded our community, and the members of our little band of '80-2 are scattered, some in California and Montana, others in Colorado, and a few in Alberta, Canada.
The "Reaper whose name is Death,"' has also gathered many sheaves from among us, and although the vacant places have been filled, and many new settlers have come for whom we have kind regard and high respect, yet we still miss the neighbors of "Auld Lang Syne."
To the eye of the first settler, the natural resources of the country were all that could be desired. Building material was abundant. There was no lack of wood for fuel. Cold, sparkling water was to be had twenty or thirty feet from the surface, which depth was not difficult to reach, and the soil was fertile and well adapted to diversified farming.
In the forest roamed innumerable wild beasts, many of which were valuable for food, namely, moose, deer, caribou and others. The fox, mink, lynx, wolf, muskrat and black bear were valuable for their fur.
There were many birds with flesh delicious enough to tempt the palate of an epicure, the numerous lakes teemed with "finny tribes," berries grew in abundance, the most prolific of which was the blueberry. There were hundreds and hundreds of acres of this delicious berry; the sale of them brought many dollars to the settlers. They are still an article of commerce, though they do not grow as abundantly as they did twenty years ago. Cranberries grow in the marshes and a considerable quantity is shipped south nearly every year. Wintergreen berries are also found here but not in sufificient quantities to make them an article of consequence.
Another source of revenue to the settler was the sale of Seneca snakeroot. In the early days this article commanded a high price; sixty to seventy cents per pound. The roots were much larger than now. They have deteriorated on account of constant digging, but the Indians still dig and sell a considerable quantity.
The bounteous hand of the Creator had also decorated the land with the most beautiful flowers; every glade and every glen were resplendent with native flowers which, grew in the wildest and richest profusion. In the spring came the crocus and buttercup, then the sweet-william and the violets, followed bv the fragrant wild rose, vying with the prairie lily in grace and beauty, the yellow lady's-slipper and dainty bluebells, and others too numerous to mention but just as lovely. In later summer and during the autumn months came the larkspur, the goldenrod, purple asters, and latest of all the beautiful blue-fringed gentian of which many poets have sung.
In the deep shade of the forest were found plants and flowers more lovely still, if possible, among which were the evergreen mosses and vines, stately ferns and the magnificent pink lady slipper (moccasin flower), emblem of our state.
Wild flowers still grow here, but not in such profusion as in days of yore. The hand of man has marred the beauty of the natural scenery.
Carsonville Township, including Town 140, Ranges 36 and 37, was organized September 20th, 1881. The first town election was held at Osage. The first officers were: C. E. Bullock, town clerk; supervisors, Dewitt Clason (chairman), J. M. Hawkins and William Bateman; assessor, Henry F. Witter; treasurer, E. J. Moore; justices, S. S. McKinley and George M. Carson.
Naming of the Town.
G. M. Carson took the petition asking for the organization of the town to Detroit and presented it to the county auditor, Mr. Cromb, who looked it over and remarked that there was no name for the new township. Mr. A. H. Wilcox, county treasurer, who was present, suggested that Mr. Carson put in his own name, which he did. The name was rejected by the secretary of state as there was already a town in the state by that name. Mr. Wilcox then suggested that the town be named "Carsonville," which name was accepted.
In the year of 1891, the towns were separated, the west half retaining the name Carsonville. The other town was called Osage. At the annual town meeting, March 10th, 1891, officers were elected, some of whom resided in the eastern half of the town, which became Osage after the separation, so Carsonville's list of officers was incomplete. A special town meeting was held May 16th to elect new officers. They were : Henry F. Witter, chairman, who had been elected at the annual meeting; supervisors, Jerome G. Farr, Zach. T. Lemon; clerk, J. A. Barnard; treasurer, J. G. Moore; assessor, D. E. Moore; justices, Alex. Cook and C. Greenlaw; constables, James Lemon and John Kells.
The first school district was organized November 28th, 1883. The meeting was held at the residence of Benj. F. Horr. The officers elected were: H. F. Witter, clerk; E. J. Moore, treasurer; Jas. Dezell, director.
A log schoolhouse was commenced that winter and was completed the next summer.
In 1888, two new schoolhouses were built, and in 1898, a third one was added. We have advanced from a log schoolhouse, built by donated work, to three good frame buildings well furnished with books and necessary apparatus. The districts are also supplied with libraries.
A Chapter of Fatal Accidents.
There is a reaper, whose name is Death,
And, with his sickle keen;
He reaps the bearded grain at a breath,
And the flowers that grow between. — Longfellow.
A remarkable number of accidental deaths have occurred in the town. August 11th, I890, C. E. Bullock, town clerk, was stacking hay on his premises, using a spirited team, which became frightened and ran away. Mr. Bullock was thrown violently to the ground and death was instantaneous.
Consulting the record of deaths kept by the town clerk, we see that the next death was of Jerome G. Farr, chairman of the board of supervisors. He was riding on the running gears of a wagon with two or three other men. The wagon had on a large quantity of groceries. As they were going down a steep hill the wagon-reach broke, and Mr. Farr fell in such a way that the whole weight of the load was thrown upon him, causing injuries from which he died the following day, June 3rd, 1892.
On the farm of Mr. Siegford, just across the town line, occurred one of the most shocking and heart-rending accidents that people are called upon to witness. On Saturday afternoon, August 27th, 1898, A. A. Farr, familiarly known as "Al Farr" of this town, was assisting Mr. C. Greenlaw in running the threshing machine. Something went wrong with the separator. With his usual quickness of action, "Al" sprang upon the separator and in some strange manner tripped and fell, his head going into the cylinder. Death was instantaneous, his head being crushed to a shapeless mass.
On the afternoon of August 29th, 1902, the grim reaper without warning entered the home of Mr. and Mrs. M. E. Stephens, and took therefrom their little son, James William, aged three years. A gun was accidentally discharged, inflicting a wound from which he died a few hours later.
Early in the spring of 1880, B. F. Horr and Emmett Kelly left Verndale bound for Shell Prairies in Becker County. They brought two wagons, one loaded with household furniture, the other loaded with horse-feed, pork, flour and groceries.
There were no settlers on Third Prairie at that time, except the Indians; they were quite numerous but they had their homes on White Earth Reservation which lay in the immediate vicinity.
Before Mr. Horr left Verndale Mr. Georg'e Carson, who had been up to Third Prairie the previous summer, selected land and built a log- cabin thereon, kindly gave him permission to store his goods in the cabin. After selecting land, Mr. Horr taking the southeast quarter Section 11 township 140, Range 37, Mr. Kelly taking the southwest quarter of Section 11, this being railroad land, they erected the body of a log house, 12x14 feet.
They then returned to Verndale to get Mrs. Horr and her daughter Mamie, a child of eight years. Arriving at that place, they loaded the remainder of their household goods and all started on their journey to the new home in the wilderness, happy with the thought that they would be prosperous in the goodly land where they had chosen their future home. Tidings of the beautiful Shell Prairies had been borne to southern Minnesota, and northern Iowa, and many families were preparing to move to that favored spot. So it was evident that they would not be long without neighbors.
After traveling three days through marshes, snow and cold weather, they arrived at the end of their journey on the 23rd day of April, 1880, about 5 o'clock p. m.
During the day they had met a man at Mantor, an Indian trading post, kept by Jarvis Howard, which place is now Hubbard, Hubbard County, who had told them that the goods that they had stored in Mr. Carson's house had accidentally caught fire and burned. This was sad news indeed. Nevertheless, they kept bravely on determined to make the best of the situation.
Such pluck and perseverance as was displayed by this family was characteristic of the early settlers of Carsonville. Many were the hardships and deprivations they endured during the first few years of their residence here. As all their provisions had been destroyed by fire, it was necessary to go to Verndale to obtain another supply.
The house they had built had no cover, so to provide a shelter for Mrs. Horr and Mamie the sideboards of the wagon box were propped against the inside wall in such a way as to form a covering. Three or four inches of snow fell, but she managed to live through the trying ordeal and in due time relief came. They lived for a few days without a cover to the house, but finally a roof of "shakes" was put on. They lived all summer without a floor. The bedsteads were poles fastened in the walls.
Mrs. Horr was the first white woman in Carsonville. Mr. and Mrs. Horr conclude the narrative of their pioneer days with these words:
"We improved our home and made fast friends during our stay in that vicinity, and enjoyed many good dinners and social gatherings in that log house, as much as in any place we have ever been."
In 1888, Mr. Horr obtained a position as railway mail clerk. The family moved to Minneapolis. A few years later they removed to Pembina, N. D., where they still reside. Mr. Horr being still in the service of Uncle Sam as railway mail clerk.
Mr. Kelly lives in Minneapolis, having embarked on the sea of matrimony at that place.
J. G. Lewis, of Plymouth, Iowa, came to Third Prairie on a home-seeking expedition in May, 1880, and was the second actual settler. He took as a homestead the southwest quarter, Section 10. Owing to the delicate health of his wife, they were unable to reside on their claim. Her death occurred at Shell City, Wadena County, in August, 1883. Mr. Lewis now lives in Montana.
D. E. Moore, who arrived from Flora, Carroll County, Indiana, November, 1882, made homestead entry on the place in the summer of 1883. Mr. Moore still lives on the same place, and is postmaster of Linnell postoffice, which is located in his house.
C. E. Bullock.
About the first of June, 1879, C. E. Bullock and Arthur M. Sanderson started from Oakland, Freeborn County, Minnesota, on a home-seeking tour. On the 11th of June they arrived at Third Prairie. After "viewing the landscape o'er," Mr. Sanderson selected as homestead the southwest quarter of Section 20, now in Osage. He still resides there. Mr. Bullock decided to homestead the northeast quarter Section 24, Township 140, Range 37. Exactly a year after their first arrival they again appeared on Third Prairie. Mr. Bullock bringing his family with him, a member of which was the future Mrs. Arthur Sanderson.
Mr. Bullock was a prominent public man in the town, being town clerk from the date of organization until his death, a period of nearly ten years.
Moore and Overholser.
Early in the summer of the year 1880, Evan J. Moore and his brother-in-law, Levi Overholser arrived and selected land. They were both from Green, Butler County, Iowa.
Mr. Moore purchased railroad land, southwest quarter Section 13. Mr. Overholser made homestead entry on northeast quarter Section 14.
After clearing and plowing a few acres they returned to Iowa. Mr. Overholser moved his family to his claim in October, 1880. He soon made a comfortable home, where he still resides. J. A. Barnard, Mr. Overholser's son-in-law, contributes an interesting article, which tells their experience during the first winter among the pines.
Mr. Moore came with his family in June, 1881, improved his land and made a comfortable home, where he resided until his death which occurred September 20th, 1899. Mr. Moore was a prominent public man, a good neighbor, wise counselor and highly respected by the community.
October 14th, 1880, three men with their families arrived on Third Prairie from near Charles City, Floyd County, Iowa, a little band of homeseekers. They were John Snyder, Z. T. Lemon and Martin E. Stephens.
Two men who accompanied them, A. Goodrich and George Dibbs, slept in their blankets under the wagon. When they awoke in the morning they were literally "snowed under." During the night snow to the depth of sixteen inches had fallen. This was the remarkable storm of October 15th, 1880.
How their hearts must have sunk at the dreary outlook. They went to Mr. Bullock's hospitable house, where they had breakfast, and where the women and children stayed until the men looked around for a place of shelter for a few days, or until they could build houses for winter.
They found a log cabin near Straight Lake, in Osage Township, which had been built some time previous by John Gillian, a pioneer of Osage Township, but which was now vacant. The families were moved in, and the men went further west in search of land. They came to the beautiful Section 4, one quarter of which Mrs. Linnell had taken a few months before. There were three-quarters left, just enough to go around. Mr. Stephens took the northeast quarter, Mr. Lemon the northwest quarter and Mr. Snyder the southwest quarter.
They at once set to work and built houses into which they moved before winter set in in earnest. For the first winter's experiences of these pioneers, read "Reminiscences" on another page.
Messrs. Stephens and Lemon still live on their homesteads. Mr. Snyder sold his place, and now lives in Hubbard County. Mr. Snyder was a soldier in the civil war, serving in an Iowa regiment.
Some time during the summer of 1880, Mrs. A. M. Linnell, widow, of West Union, Iowa, came to Third Prairie to establish a home. She selected the southeast quarter, Section 4, and returned to Iowa for the winter. The following spring she returned to her claim, accompanied by her sons, Charles and Earl; Frank came a few months later.
Charles homesteaded the southeast quarter, Section 10. Mrs. Linnell, with the aid of her sons, made a valuable farm and comfortable home. They kept a store for a number of years.
The first post-office in Carsonville was established there in September, 1883. Mrs. Linnell was commissioned postmistress, hence the name, "Linnell Post Office."
About ten years later the Linnell family sold their farms and moved to California.
Purdy and Cole.
During the summer of I880, Daniel Purdy and Noble Cole came to find homes; Mrs. Cole was Mrs. Purdy's neice.
Mr. Purdy came from Mower County, Minnesota, Mr. Cole from Illinois. The former took as a homestead the southwest quarter, Section 12, the latter the southeast quarter of same section. They moved their families to their claims early in the following spring.
Mr. Purdy lived on his claim, which, with the aid of his sons, he converted into a valuable farm, for a number of years, then went to St. John's, N. D., to reside with his daugther, Mrs. Frank Ordway, where he died in the year 1897, at the advanced age of eighty-two years.
Mr. Cole also improved his place and lived on it until his death, which occurred May 19th. 1895. Mrs. Cole having preceded him to the grave but two weeks before.
Mr. Cole was a soldier in the civil war, serving in an Illinois regiment.
De Witt Clason.
In the spring of 1881, De Witt Clason of Osage, Iowa, moved his family to the claim that he had selected, the northeast quarter Section 12. He lived on the place, improving and cultivating it until he made final proof, after which he removed to Osage, kept a hotel there for some time, and removed to Park Rapids, where he lived until his death, which occurred in February, 1902. During his residence in Park Rapids, and for some time previous, he was employed by the Pine Tree Lumber Company to take care of their standing pine. He was a soldier in the civil war.
Taylor, Evans and Lehman.
In 1881, John Taylor of Meeker County, Minn., took the northwest quarter, Section 12 made final proof on same and sold it to Jerome G. Farr in 1887 and immigrated to Washington.
Edward Evans settled on Section 2, southeast quarter, in 1881. He lived there about ten years, when he removed to Montana, where he died the following summer.
Mr. Evans was soldier during the civil war, serving in a Minnesota regiment. He was engaged in quelling the Indian troubles in Minnesota.
Frank Lehmann from North Washington, Chickasaw County, Iowa, settled on the northwest quarter. Section 2 in 1882, lived there until the spring of 1896, when he sold the place to I. S. McKinley and moved to Iowa, where he died a few years later.
In the spring of 1880, D. M. Witter purchased the northwest quarter, Section 13, railway land. His brother, A. L. Witter, purchased the northeast quarter, Section 13. D. M. Witter at once built on his land, and, in the spring of 1881, moved his family upon it. Still he lives there, and has made it a valuable farm.
Henry F. Witter had taken a homestead on Section 10, but after he had made final proof moved to Park Rapids and engaged in business at that place.
A. J. Jones.
In 1881, A. J. Jones, of Greene, Butler County, Iowa, purchased the northeast quarter Section 13, railroad land. He improved it and lived upon it for nine years, then removed to near Bemidji, where he took a homestead and lived until his death, which occurred in 1896. Mr. Jones was in the confederate service in the civil war. He met with a painful accident in September, 1882. When out hunting one afternoon, he was passing through a fence on the premises of his son-in-law, D. M. Witter, when his gun was accidentally discharged, the contents shattering his foot and ankle. The accident nearly proved fatal, and he was critically ill all winter. The limb was amputated and blood poison caused the other limb to be worse than useless. He finally recovered his health, but was badly crippled.
William Gilbert and family came to Carsonville from Charles City, Iowa, in the summer of 1881. They settled on the northeast quarter. Section 2. George I. Pratt, Mrs. Gilbert's son, taking the place as a homestead.
Mr. Gilbert took the northeast quarter Section 6 in the year 1884 and proved up in 1889. He then went to Michigan, and died the following August, at the advanced age of eighty years. Mrs. Gilbert still lives at Carsonville.
John G. Moore.
In 1881, J. G. Moore, of Greene, Butler County, Iowa, purchased the northeast quarter of Section 11. He soon put a large portion of it under cultivation. In the spring of 1886 he moved his family to it and commenced to build. He continued to improve his farm, making it one of the most productive in the town. Mr. Moore lived in the place until last July, when he was stricken with apoplexy, July 5th, 1905, and died three days later. He was a soldier in the civil war, and served in an Indiana regiment.
James Dezell selected the southwest quarter of Section 2 for his future home, in the month of May, 1881. During the spring of 1891 he erected the first frame house built on Third Prairie and still resides on the place.
Mr. Dezell was postmaster at Linnell from June, 1888, until October, 1898. He has held the office of town clerk since March, 1893, until the present time, November, 1905. Crimes.
The great King of Kings
Hath in the table of his law commanded,
That thou shalt do no murder.
Take heed, for he holds vengeance in his hands.
To hurl upon their heads that break his law. — Shakespeare.
Jacob Bakki was cruelly murdered in a lonely spot near the southwest corner of the township.
On Tuesday morning, Nov. 18, 1898, he went to the woods for the purpose of gathering pine knots, from which by burning, to obtain tar.
He carried an axe and gun. He was never again seen alive, except by the assassin who shot him.
After killing him, the murderer made an inefifectual effort to conceal the body by dragging it a short distance and throwing a few branches over it. His belt, with cartridges, was found a few rods from the body. The gun was never found, and the possession of the gun was perhaps the motive for killing the poor man.
The body was not found until the following Sunday, the 6th, when it was discovered by his two brothers and a neighbor. An inquest was held and the verdict rendered was, briefly, murder.
A large reward was offered for the apprehension of the murderer, and efforts were made to ferret out the guilty man, but without success.
The First Death in Carsonville.
The first death in the township was that of old Mr. Burnham who was at the time living in what is now Green Valley.
He went hunting on Friday, Feb. 3, 1881, lost his way and when found on Sunday afternoon, both feet were badly frozen. He died a few days later at the house of Mr. Bullock, to which he had been taken to be cared for. He was eighty years old and was buried on Mr. Bullock's land, but few know the last resting place of him who was the first to die on the Third Prairie.
There he lies in an unmarked grave, but his rest is as complete as if his grave was marked by the most costly granite monument.
The first child born in Carsonville was a boy, son of Mrs. and Mr. J. A. Barnard, born on the 4th of August, 1881.
The first girl born was Frances J. Witter, daughter of Daniel W. Witter and wife, born September 2, 1881.
The first Carsonville people to get married were Mr. James Dezell and Miss Mary Esther Lewis who were married on the 17th of May, 1882.
THE FIRST SCHOOL.
The first summer we were here, and before the school district was organized, I held school in my own house. The parents of the children paid a tuition fee of one dollar a month. There were ten pupils and I had quite a nice little school.
Mrs. Mary E. Dezell
History of Cormorant Township
Source: A Pioneer History of Becker County Minnesota, by Mrs. Jessie W. West & Alvin H. Wilcox (1907) Chapter XXIV; transcribed by Mary Triplett
The town of Cormorant was first settled in 1870. Dugald Campbell was the first settler. He came and settled in Section 36, May i8th, 1870. Dugald Campbell was born in Glasgow, Scotland, August 1st, 1819, and emigrated to St. John's, New Brrunswick, in 1825 with his parents, where he lived until 1848, when he went to Massachusetts where he followed the sea for one year. In 1849 he came to Stillwater, Minnesota, where he followed the lumber woods in winter, and was a raft pilot on the Mississippi River in the summer for six years. In 1859 he left the river, and settled on a farm in the town of Florence, Goodhue County, Minnesota, where he lived until April 22nd, 1870, when he took his team and came to Becker County. Mr. Campbell was married to Julia Furman, March 24th, 1861, at Red Wing, Minnesota, and of this union one son was born, Hubert B. Campbell, on May 20th, 1862. Mr. Campbell lived on his farm until his death which occurred March 13th, 1891.
The next settler was Sandore Olson, who came to the town of Cormorant about June 1st, 1870, and settled on the farm now owned by Murdock Pattison. Mr. Olson owned a farm at Evansville, Minnesota, at the time; he stayed here until after the town was organized in 1872, and then sold out to Mr. Pattison and moved back to Evansville.
The next three settlers were Nels Erickson, Knut Matson and Mats Xelson, who came here together June 8th, 1870. Nels Erickson and wife Eliza moved here from Carver County by ox team. They have a family of five children, Mary, Eliza, Carrie, Erick and Daniel, their son Erick being the first male white child born in the town. He was born December 25th, 1870. Their daughter Carrie was nearly killed at or near the place where S. D. Riders farm is now in the town of Scambler, Otter Tail County. As they were unyoking the oxen one night they had one ox freed when the other turned quickly, swinging the yoke which struck Carrie, knocking her down, and for a while they thought her dead, but she recovered, and afterwards married Ole Erickson, and is the mother of four boys and six girls. Ole Erickson is one of the early settlers; he came here in 1871. Mr. Nels Erickson gives us some hard luck stories of his early days in this town and of the hardships endured by some of the early settlers, himself being among the number. He is one of the foremost farmers in the town.
Knut Matson is also one of the prosperous farmers. He and his wife, Anna, also came here from Carver County. They have a family of eleven children, Mary, Mats, Julia, Ole, Erick, Carrie, Emma, Clara, Mina, and two died when babies. Julia Knutson was the first white girl born in the town, December 8th, 1870.
Mats Nelson settled on a farm on the south shore of Cormorant Lake on which he lived until his death, January 29th, 1884.
Severt Olson, Peter A. Severtson, William Thompson, and Ole and Jonas Hoveland settled here on June 12th, 1870.
Severt Olson moved by oxen and wagon from Wisconsin. He was married to his present wife by the Rev. Mr. Hagebo, November 24th, 1873, this being the second marriage in the town. They have two children, Oscar and Clara. Oscar S. Olson was born May i8th, 1875.
Peter A. Severtson was married to Gunheld Severtson on Nov. 15th, 1871, by Minister E. A. Berg, who lived about 15 miles southeast of Fergus Falls ; this was the first marriage ceremony in the town. They had a family of five children, Isaac, Zachariah, Josephine, Sena and Gena, of which all are living except Gena.
Ole Hoveland was the first to die in the town, also the first one buried in the Lutheran graveyard. He was drowned in Lake Ida. May 31st, 1874.
This seemed to be a very unlucky day, as there were nine persons drowned the same day at about the same hour:
Two at a little lake was of Hawley.
One in Buffalo River, four miles west of Lake Park.
Two at Lorentz Olson's.
Ole Hoveland in Lake Ida.
One at Norwegian Grove.
Two at Elizabeth.
Severt Hokland settled here July 1st, 1870. Ole Erickson and Nels Estenson about September 1st, 1870. Gabriel Hanson, Lorenz Olson and Andrew Erickson in the spring of 1871. Peter Anders in the summer of 1872. Tom Olson in 1875. Ole E. Olson is also one of the old settlers. He came here April 1st, 1871. They had a family of six children, Isabel, Edward, Simon, Henry, Olaus and Sarah. Their daughter Isabel was the second girl born in the town. Mr. Olson left Norway and went to Australia and worked in the gold mines as day laborer until he had accumulated $1,800, which he invested in a mine of his own, from which he realized nothing. When he had lost all, he began to work by the day until he had raised money enough to take him to California, where he worked a while and became sick and his sickness cost him all he had before he was able to work again. He then came to Minnesota, got married and settled in Cormorant. Of his children, Edward and Olaus are both dead. Mr. Sherbrook married Isabel Olson.
The first town election was held February, 26th, 1872. The first township officers were as follows: Chairman, Dugald Campbell; supervisors, Samuel C. P. Brandt and Ole E. Olson; clerk, David Merry; assessor, Severt Hokland ; treasurer, Sandore Olson; justices, Dugald Campbell and David Merry; constables, Charles T. Hanson and Patrick Liddy.
Severt Olson, Peter A. Severtson and Ole Hoveland had the first sawmill in the town, which consisted of an old fashioned whipsaw which they bought at Alexandria. They sold the lumber for the floors of some of the first buildings that were built in Detroit, for which they received $30 per thousand.
At first there was but very little land under cultivation, and so all the unmarried men would go south for having and harvest and would work on their farms here in the winter and early spring. It was often a hard matter to make both ends meet. The first crop that Severt Olson raised he worked nearly all summer for the seed and had to haul it from the southern part of the state. He did not get his grain threshed, but he had it stacked and ready, and had sent for the threshing machine when a prairie fire came along and burned up all his grain and his hay. He had worked on the Northern Pacific Railroad and had spent what money he made for a yoke of oxen, so he had to cut down a crooked tree, and make himself a pair of bob-sleds. He worked in the woods northeast of Detroit all winter, and the next year when his train got to be about a foot high the grasshoppers came and took every bit of it. The next year he got part of a crop and the grasshoppers took the rest of it. He had just enough to live on and had to buy seed for the next year again. He thought it strange that he should have such a small crop when his neighbors all around him had more per acre than he did, so he asked Peter Severtson why this should be, and Peter told him that if he had been a married man and had a family he would have needed more and would have got more, but as he was single he did not need it, and so did not get it. Severt got married the next year, and his crop was good accordingly.
To show the scarcity of money we will relate a story of Peter A. Severtson, who took grist to mill at Alexandria in the fall after snow began to fall. Of course, it took quite a while to make the trip with the oxen, and he had to camp out at night. One night his coat caught fire and there was a big hole burned in the back when he awoke. He had no money to get it repaired and none to buy a new coat with, so he had to get along the best he could the rest of the way to town and home again.
Along about the year 1877, Charley Squires, Murdock Pattison and W. W. McLeod built a dam and erected a mill at Cormorant village. The name of the firm was Murdock, Pattison & Co. This property changed hands until W. W. McLeod became a sole owner eventually. He ran it several years by waterpower, and after that failed he went in a steam plant and removed the old burrs and put in a complete set of rollers which worked well for several years. It afterwards changed hands several times, each party taking what they could out of it, but most of them sinking some money, until lately it was purchased by Berthold Kroll, who was a man of experience, and he has so far given satisfaction and has secured a good trade.
The first store was started about the time that the mill was built. The firm name was McLeod & Davis. They sold out to S. A. Halgren, October 11th, 1880.
The nearest post-office when the first settlers came was Fort Pomme de Terre. After the Northern Pacific Railroad was built, then Audubon was the nearest, then one was started at Pelican Lake. The citizens of this village wanted a post-office at Cormorant, and sent in several petitions but they seemed to do no good, the neighboring villages working against it and it seemed impossible to do anything further. During the time that W. D. Washburn was stumping" the district for congress some of the patrons thought that it was an opportunity that they ought not to lose, so W. W. McLeod wrote to W. D. Washburn, stating" that there were a number of voters here that would like to support him in his campaign, but they were of the opinion that the favors should not be all on one side as we were in need of a post office. If he would use his influence in our behalf we would do what we could for him. In just nine days the commission came for John A. Davis as postmaster.
Miss Jane Bardsley taught the first school in Cormorant. She afterwards became Mrs. John A. Davis.
C. M. Halgren.
History Of Cuba Township.
Source: A Pioneer History of Becker County Minnesota, by Mrs. Jessie W. West & Alvin H. Wilcox (1907) Chapter XXIX; transcribed by Sandra Stutzman
By B. O. Bergerson
The town of Cuba was mostly settled during the years of 1871 and 1872. A few came in 1870, but they were only three or four. Their names were Martin Olsen, B. O. Bergerson, Halvor M. Beaver and Ole Kittelson. Nearly every government quarter section was settled on during the years 1871 and 1872.
Martin Olson was the first to arrive in the township, although the land was not surveyed at that time, so that this locality did not possess a name. Next after him came the writer, Bernt O. Bergerson. I was born in Norway, July 23, 1847, and with my parents came to America in the year 1852, and settled in Winnishiek County, Iowa, in the village of Decorah, where my father worked for a man named Painter, who was building a canal and mill, which was the first mill in that county. In the year 1863, we moved to the town of Bancroft, Freeborn County, Minnesota, where my father opened up a new farm, and after working on that farm until the year 1870, I started west to find a farm for myself. After traveling with an ox team for twenty-one days, I finally arrived at my present homestead, the southwest quarter of Section 36. The land was not surveyed yet. If it had been, I could not have taken it as a homestead, for it would have become school land when surveyed, it being on Section 36. I was not married then, so I had to "bach" it that summer; but late in the fall of that year I hitched my oxen to the wagon and turned their heads towards Albert Lea and went over the road once more that year. I slept out of doors every night and late in the fall the ground was frozen hard nearly every night. I arrived safe at my father's farm in Freeborn County, none the worse for the trip both ways with a pair of oxen, which is not the fastest way to get over the country roads. That winter I visited with my folks till in the early spring when I got married to Ingeborg Grasdalen, a daughter of a neighbor of my parents. Immediately after we were married we started for Becker County in company with several others who wanted to go and get land for themselves. The parties who came with me that spring were my brother-in-law, Lars P. Laite and Erick Quam. They are still living in the county. On arriving at my claim that spring, I found everything as I had left it. The previous summer I had built a house which came handy now when I brought my wife home with me. We lived through that summer mostly on what we had brought with us. Then in the winter, I had to go to work in the woods hauling ties and cutting cord-wood for the railway company in order to get flour and pork; besides, we had three cows which were a great help to us. In 1871, the year the railroad was built through here, we sold milk and butter in the railroad camps near our home for a good price. They mostly paid us in groceries, but they paid us well, I thought. The first years we tried to farm, we did not have any success, the grasshoppers and blackbirds got in their work so that we were left without anything, not even seed. I had to buy seed wheat three times. The first I bought cost $1.90 a bushel, the second lot cost $1.50, and the third lot cost $1.25. In order to get that last seed I had to sell a cow, which was a great loss, because the cows were our main support then as now. I stay by the cows yet, and this is thirty-five years after, and I will always stay by them as long as I stay on the farm. A good many of the settlers went to Dakota to do breaking, and also some of them did breaking for a Mr. Paul Van Vlissingen, who opened a farm near where Hitterdal now is, in Clay County; and in 1872 a man by the name of M. E. d’Engelbroner, opened a large farm in the western part of Cuba.
This township was organized in the winter of 1871-72. We held our first election at the claim shack of Halvor Beaver. There were quite a few of the early settlers present at that election; so far as I can remember the following settlers were there: Charles W. Smith, Alonzo E. Chase, Thomas Torgerson, H. M. Beaver, Thorville Hanson, Amund Baarstad, H. Salveson, Lars P. Laite, Ole Kittelson, Barney Olson, Torger Matson, Ole Asleson, Andrew Pederson and B. O. Bergerson. At that meeting it was decided to name the town McPherson, after a famous general in the civil war, but it was discovered that we could not get that name, as there was another town by that name in the state. At a later meeting it was finally named Cuba by Charles W. Smith, in honor of the village of Cuba, Allegany County, New York, the native place of Mr. Smith. Smith was appointed town clerk to act until we held a regular town election. At the regular town election Theodore Holton was elected town clerk, he being the first town clerk elected in the town of Cuba. As there is no record of the first town meeting I am unable to say positively who were the first board of supervisors, but I do remember that two of them were Ole Kittelson and Thomas Torgerson, the last being chairman. Charles W. Smith was the first assessor, and B. O. Bergerson was first justice of the peace. Theodore Holton was town clerk for three years; after him was Thomas Torgerson, who held the office for four years; then after him, B. O. Bergerson was elected and he has held the office ever since.
This town was settled principally by Norwegians and Swedes, about all of them coming in the years 1870-71-72. Being near the railroad, even numbered sections were opened for homestead entry. If every section could have been settled, all the land would have been taken those three years. Besides the Norwegians and Swedes there were a few Irish settlers in town those early days, but some are dead and some have gone away. There is only one family now, Hugh Sullivan's, who reside on Section 30. Besides the Irish we had some American families, but those of the early settlers have gone away. We have some that came later.
In the winter of 1872-73, we had to look to something else besides our crops for a living, as they gave us nothing for the winter except a few potatoes, so some of us went cutting cordwood and others went hauling ties to the railroad. I hauled ties which was both trying on man and oxen. The snow was deep and the cold was intense. We got $2.00 a day for man and team, and we had to make two trips each day with from 22 to 24 ties each load. In order to do that we had to be out in the woods before daylight, and never got back to camp until after dark. We who hauled by the day had to load our own loads which was very hard work when we had to work in snow from two to three feet deep in the woods. When loading we got wet from snow, and when we got out of the woods on the prairies where the wind blew hard with the mercury at forty below zero, and the roads drifted full of snow, we would chill to the bones, but we did not mind it much, for when we got back to the camp in the evening and got our oxen stabled and our supper over we had forgotten all our hardships suffered during the day.
The next winter I was cutting cordwood. We got eighty cents per cord, and we had to pay fifteen cents a pound for salt pork and $8.00 per barrel for flour. Money we hardly ever saw. What paid best was trapping. Fur was high those days and this helped us quite a bit. I can remember that I got as high as thirty cents for muskrats. One Christmas eve in 1873, we had nothing for Christmas, and no money to get anything with, but having a few muskrat pelts I went to Lake Park and traded them for groceries. I was allowed twenty-eight cents for the rats so we had a merry Christmas after all.
In July, 1871, a swarm of grasshoppers settled over this country, and as there were but few grain fields they did not do much damage that year, but most of the new settlers had broken a few acres of new land, and while the grasshoppers staved there they put in their time laying eggs in the new breaking, and all the bare spots they could find. After they had finished laying, they arose one windy day and left us for that year. The next year, 1872, the eggs hatched out in the early summer, and the grasshoppers began their work of destruction. That year they ate everything that was sowed or planted, so that there was nothing left for us to harvest. I remember that the piece of land that I had sowed that spring was eaten close down to the earth, so that I could not have believed there had been any wheat there, if I had not sown it myself, and had seen the grain coming up in the spring. They stayed here that summer until they were full grown, then they took to their wings and left us for where I do not know.
Miss Lottie Rossman, of Detroit, taught the first school in Cuba Township, beginning in 1877 and completing her second term in the summer of 1878.
Martin Olson was born near Trondhjem, Norway, in October, 1839. After he had grown to manhood he followed the occupation of sailor until the year 1866, when he came to America. He first settled in Alamakee County, Iowa, where he remained four years. In 1869 he was married to Christine Osberg. In the spring of 1870 they started for Becker County, with an ox team and on the 11th day of June located on what is now the southeast quarter of Section 35 in the town of Cuba. The land was not surveyed at that time, so he could not know what land he was on until the next October.
On the 7th day of May, 1871, a baby boy was born to them, and he was the first white boy born in the township.
Mr. Olson remained on his farm, where he had erected good substantial buildings, until his health failed, when he sold his farm for a good price and moved to the village of Lake Park, which adjoins his farm. He still has two other farms which are rented out.
In addition to the settlers who came here in 1871, already mentioned, there was Theodore Holton who located on Section 18. Otto Peterson and Andrew Thorson on Section 8, M. Carlson on Section 18, two John Sullivans on Section 20, Thomas Torgerson on Section 28, Alonzo Chase and Hugh Sullivan, Sr., on Section 30; John Teg on Section 32, and Iver Larson on Section 34.
The following are also among the early settlers of Cuba, Torger Matson (now dead), Magnes Lindstrom, Andrew Hedlund, John Sandgren, Tom Olson (now dead), Nels Peterson, John Peterson, Andrew Peterson, Charles M. Smith and Ole I. Olson.
HISTORY OF DETROIT TOWNSHIP
Source: A Pioneer History of Becker County Minnesota, by Mrs. Jessie W. West & Alvin H. Wilcox (1907) Chapter XX; transcribed by Vicki Bryan
BY MRS. JESSIE C. WEST
The following interesting account of the first settlement of Detroit Township is from the pen of Henry Way, now of Osage, who was one of the pioneer party:
In 1865 a colony composed of sixteen families left Iowa and arrived in Otter Tail County, July 31, 1865. There were no white settlements in that county at that time. We settled at Battle Lake, remaining there three years. From Otter Tail Lake to Dayton, over that vast expanse of country now covered with cities and towns and past where Fergus Falls now stands, there was neither a white settler nor a house. As I was a farmer by occupation I desired to find a good range for stock where there was an abundance of grass, good water and some timber. Having been informed by the Indians and half-breeds of the immense cattle range north, five of us started out in search of it. We came past what became Otter Tail City, then occupied by some mixed bloods. We forded the Otter Tail River three times, which brought us to the present location of Frazee City, where we found a man named Butler, who claimed that the land was all taken by script, and who told us it was still fourteen miles to the "land of promise."
We camped there that night, he promising to go with us the next day and show us the land, rich with strawberries, and only waiting for the cows to come to have them with cream. We reached Oak Lake, June 28, 1868, and were so well pleased with the country that we took our claims without getting out of the wagon. L. D. Sperry, A. W. Sherman and myself each took a claim at Oak Lake, Mr. Sherman taking the one which was since the county poor farm. We at once commenced improvements – that is, we started foundations for our houses and left them for the buzzards to roost on and hold our claims until we returned. We then returned to our families in Otter Tail County. Mr. Sherman came back and built a house and put up hay; I also built my house and the next spring came with my family. When we were at Battle Lake we had to go to Cold Springs, nine miles this side of St. Cloud, for our flour, and to Sauk Center for our groceries and all things used by farmers. This was 108 miles, and took us from eight to ten days to make a trip. After we arrived in Becker County we did all our trading and milling at Alexandria, distant 100 miles. My friends, think of it; what would you think of starting out with an ox team, 100 miles, for a box of matches or a pound of tea? Why, I think you would say, "Give me the Northern Pacific Railroad to make the trip with."
Mr. Sherman was on his farm during the winter of '68, and during my absence they got out of provisions; Paul Beaulieu of White Earth, called, and, learning their situation and sympathizing with them, promised them a sack of flour before the setting of another sun; and he was as good as his word. All traffic was carried on then with dog sleds, and our mail (what we had), was sent from Otter Tail City by the hand of some Indian.
In the spring of 1869 a party of men in the employ of the Northern Pacific Railroad Company came through from St. Cloud. They came with supplies, and made my place their headquarters. At that time it seemed almost impossible for a railroad to be built through a country without inhabitants. During the summer of 1870 we were surprised to see the emigration that was coming in. In the year of 1869 we were surprised to see a train of buggies and wagons coming into our neighborhood. There were fifteen of them and they called at my place and wanted to buy a sheep. We sold them one, and one of the men informed me they were looking for a place to locate a railroad. This man was Mr. Eugene Wilson, of Minneapolis. There was also Rev. Mr. Lord, of New York City, who invited us to come to their camp at 10 o'clock a. m., as he would hold a meeting. We went, and listened to a good sermon. Then we had dinner with them, it being Sunday they did not travel. Gov. Smith, of Vermont, was then president of the company; there were senators and ex-senators from other states, and physicians for soul and body, and also Carleton Coffin, the great newspaper correspondent, who justly entitled this the Park Region.
The place that Mr. Way selected for his homestead was at the north end of Oak Lake, on the southeast quarter of Section 7. In 1870 he sold his improvements to Mrs. Barbara Stillman, after which he located on Section 20 in what is now Audubon Township. L. D. Sperry lived there much of the time during the early seventies, and Elias Nason lived there in 1885. It now belongs to J. Isaacson.
Almon W. Sherman located on the west shore of Oak Lake, on the place that afterwards became the poor farm, and is now (1905), the residence of L. O. Ramsted.
L. D. Sperry selected for his homestead, a place on the west shore of the lake in the northwest quarter of Section 7. After living there for a year or two he rented his house to a man by the name of Sterling, and the first store ever opened up in Becker County, to trade with white people was begun in this house, Sperry having in the meantime on his mother-in-law's place (Mrs. Stillman's), at Oak Lake.
The old White Earth and Red River trail passed close to both these houses. Byron Wheeler since owned this place, and lived there for several years, in the same house where the store was kept.
About the middle of December 1870, Jedediah Anderson started a small store in a vacant house belonging to Mrs. Sherman on Section 18, close to the west shore of Oak Lake, in Detroit Township, and two or three days later another store was opened up by S. B. Pinney, with Ole A. Boe for clerk, in another vacant house belonging to Mrs. Sherman, so by the beginning of the year 1871 there were three full fledged stores running full blast, in what is now Detroit Township.
C. A. Sherman or Alma Sherman as he was usually called, took for his claim the east half of the northwest quarter, and the west half of the northeast quarter of Section 19.
Samuel J. Fox located on Section 15 where John O. French now resides, but the time of his location is uncertain. French says that he was living there when the Northern Pacific Railroad surveyors camped at Floyd Lake in August 1869, but he is not sure whether he had a house or not. He also says that he saw Max Vannose and Leon Vannose there at Floyd Lake also, but saw no houses. As all three of these men were living with Chippewa women, the probability is that they were all living in wigwams, prior to the summer of 1870. At any rate, Henry Way is confident that none of them wintered there during the winter of 1869 and 1870. All three of them, however, had good log houses in the summer of 1870. The Vannoses both built their houses near the southwest corner of Floyd Lake, on Section Sixteen.
In the meantime John O. French settled upon and commenced a residence on the farm at Floyd Lake, in the summer of 1870 where he has lived ever since.
Melvin M. Tyler located on the northwest quarter of the northwest quarter of Section 34 on the 28th day of July, 1870, and built the first section of what was afterwards enlarged and became the Tyler Hotel, that stood for so many years on the north side of the railroad, near the Pelican River.
About the first of September Archibald McArthur took a claim on the north shore of Detroit Lake, on Section 35, where the little prairie comes down to the lake a little east of the Pelican River.
The next settler was Deacon Samuel P. Childs, who came from Alexandria and selected the southwest quarter of Section 28, on the 30th day of September 1870. Mrs. Childs and the rest of the family came on the 22nd of May 1871.
William W. Rossman located on the east half of the northwest quarter of Section 34, which afterwards became the Holmes Addition to Detroit, sometime in October 1870. He had been living for several months in Lake Eunice, being one of the three first settlers in that township. This land is now right in the midst of the village, and takes in the Holmes school building.
Many of the early settlers will probably remember Michael Dalton, who lived for several years on what was since the C. P. Bailey farm; the northeast quarter of Section 32. Dalton located on this place in October 1870, and Clarence McCarthy settled on the southeast quarter of Section 32 at the same time. Late in the fall of this year, Samuel J. Fox took the west half of the southeast quarter and the west half of the northeast quarter of Section 34, and built a house on what is since known as the Fox Hill. A large part of the village of Detroit is now built on the old Fox property, including the Frazee and Holmes Addition and the Holmes Second Addition, taking in the Hotel Minnesota and the courthouse.
In November 1870, I selected the northwest quarter of Section 6 for a homestead, but did not make any improvements until late in January 1871, at which time I built a log house, and Andrew Tong built a house on the northeast quarter of Section 6 that same winter.
Josiah Richardson took the northwest quarter of Section 22, some time in the summer or fall of 1870.
Charles Tyler I think located on the south tier of forties of Section 26, since known as the Brook's farm, in the fall of 1870.
These were about all the settlers in Detroit Township before the advent of the New England Colony in the spring of 1871.
HISTORY OF THE NEW ENGLAND COLONY
Mr. Thomas J. Martin of Lake Eunice gives the following account of the origin of the New England Colony:
At the close of the Civil War, Congress passed a law giving to every soldier, sailor and marine 160 acres of land, which could be taken under the homestead act. In 1870 the Northern Pacific Railroad Company commenced to build its road through Minnesota, and in the winter of 1870 and '71 Charles Carleton Coffin, war correspondent and reporter for the Boston Journal, who in 1869 had accompanied a party of Northern Pacific officials and engineers over the proposed route in northwestern Minnesota, gave a series of lectures in Boston, which were listened to by large audiences and were published by all the prominent newspapers of the day. The result of the land grant and these lectures was the holding of a large meeting in Boston in the spring of 1871 and an association was formed, known as the Gale Association of Ex-Soldiers and Sailors.
Mr. Coffin was present at these meetings, and vividly pictured out the possibilities of the Northwest. Committees were appointed to visit the different states where government lands could be obtained, and Frank B. Chapin, Calvin K. Day, William H. H. Howe, Thomas J. Martin and ____ Sanderson were appointed a committee to visit Minnesota.
Sanderson, Day and Chapin came to St. Cloud and there purchased a lumber wagon and came the rest of the way with their team. Mr. Day was accompanied by his wife and daughter. The other two members of the committee, Howe and Martin, were accompanied by Millard Howe and Frank Barnes, L. C. Averill and wife, two young men, Tucker and Kimball, and the wife and two children of T. J. Martin. They came by way of the lakes to Duluth, then a town of 300 inhabitants, then to Crow Wing on the cars, remaining there the guests of James Campbell, late of Richwood, who kept a hotel at that place, until they could procure wagons to transport them to Detroit. They arrived in Detroit May 22, 1871, where they met Mr. Chapin and Mr. Day, who were staying at Tyler's Hotel, it being the only house near the line of the railroad.
On our way through Otter Tail City we formed the acquaintance of Mr. and Mrs. E. G. Holmes, who have done so much for the prosperity of Detroit.
We found the following ex-soldiers living near Detroit, viz.: William W. Rossman, Josiah Richardson, Derrick Huck and John O. French. The colony was soon increased by the arrival of Charles H. Sturtevant and Martin H. Garry.
The first store in the village was built by E. G. Holmes and John H. Phinney in Tyler Town in August of 1871.
In the fall of 1871 Capt. William F. Roberts came as an agent for the New England Colony, which had purchased all the railroad land in the township of Detroit, and proceeded to put up a building known as the New England House, which has since been enlarged to the present Waldorf Hotel. In the spring of 1872 a large number of ex-soldiers came to Detroit. Among them were George Wilson, Col. George H. Johnston, Edgar M. Johnston, L. D. Phillips, James T. Bestick, Robert Carson, George A. Learman, Milo S. Converse, George L. Brackett, George W. Grant and others.
On the back of this certificate is printed the articles of incorporation, which are too lengthy to publish in full, but the preamble reads as follows:
Whereas, It is proposed to form an association under the foregoing title for the purpose of promoting and aiding emigration of persons who served in the late war, and others, and the settlement of families on the present uncultivated land of the West (and more especially at present, on lands in the neighborhood of the town of Detroit Lake, Becker County, Minnesota) in such manner as to induce considerable companies to go and settle in the neighborhood of each other, and thus create a community for mutual protection and encouragement, and the early establishment of schools, churches, and other needful institutions of society:
And Whereas, It has been determined that the most convenient method of managing the matters aforesaid will be to put all the lands, moneys, and property of every description which shall be contributed, or may be acquired in the promotion of the matters aforesaid, in the hands of one person, to be held by him in trust, and managed for the promotion of the business:
And Whereas, Colonel George H. Johnston, of Boston, Massachusetts, has been chosen to act as such trustee for the present, and until his successor shall be chosen:
Now, Therefore, I, the said George H. Johnston, in consideration of the premises and one dollar in hand paid, do by these presents accept said Trust, etc., etc. Then follows eleven articles for the government of the Trustee and the Association.
In Witness Whereof, I, the said George H. Johnston, have hereunto set my hand and seal, this fourteenth day of June A. D. 1871.
GEORGE H. JOHNSTON. (L. S.)
This association was separate from, and independent of the Gale or New England Colony, mentioned by T. J. Martin in a preceding article.
They acquired all the odd numbered sections of land in Detroit Township, and laid out the original town site of Detroit on the south half of Section 27. Colonel Johnston served in the capacity of trustee for several years at the end of which time for some unknown reason the whole of this valuable acquisition came into his hands, and in 1883 a large part of it went into the hands of Henry S. Jenkins.
During the spring and early summer of 1871 the following settlers located on land in Detroit Township:
Frank B. Chapin, Calvin K. Day and William H. H. Howe, on Section 26, J. O. Crummet on the east half of the southeast quarter of Section 34.
Isaac N. Thomas on the southeast quarter of Section 28, James Hickey on the northeast quarter of Section 28 and Dewit C. Heald on the northwest quarter of Section 28.
Swan Anderson on the southwest quarter of Section 22, and Charles E. Herbert on the northeast quarter of Section 22.
Millard F. Howe and Frank Barnes and Henry Miller on Section 14.
Frank A. Johnson on the southwest quarter of Section 6, and Gus Turnwall on the southeast quarter of Section 6.
Nelson Heath on the southwest quarter of Section 2.
Mellville H. Davis on the southwest quarter of Section 8, and James Blanchard on the west half of the east half of Section 8, and a settler on the east half of the east half of Section 8, whose name I have forgotten.
On Section 10 George Vose and John Anderson.
C. P. Wilcox on the southeast quarter of Section 18, and Cyrus A. Rollins on the west half of the south quarter of Section 18.
Charles O. Quincey on the southeast quarter of Section 24 and Charles W. Rand on the southwest quarter of Section 24.
Israel James Hanson on the southeast quarter of Section 30, Alfred Staigg on the northeast quarter of Section 30, and John Lethenstrom on the northwest quarter of Section 30.
Hannah Collins was living on the southwest quarter of Section 36.
There was also a settler on Section 20, whose name I have forgotten, perhaps two.
In December 1871, Lester C. McKinstry, William P. McKinstry and Hosmer H. Wilcox took claims on Section 4.
E. G. Holmes sent his store to Detroit in August 1871, it being the first store opened in the village, and in the fall of 1872 located there permanently.
The following from the Detroit Record, May 25th, 1872.
A pioneer association has been organized at Detroit, a meeting of which was held at Tyler's Hotel on Thursday of this week. (The association has for its object the mutual benefit of its members.)
A large majority of these settlers were members of the New England Colony and many others located in the village belonging to that colony. In the spring and summer of 1872 another stream of emigrants poured into Detroit from Boston and other parts of New England, and in 1873 the influx of settlers was kept up, although there was quite a falling off as compared with the two previous years. The newcomers, however, were not all from New England, probably one-fourth of the whole population coming from other parts of the country.
Among the New Englanders who came in 1871 were Robert Buchanan, Thomas Louden, Alexander Louden, W. C. Roberts, George E. Jepson, Millard F. Howe, Frank Barnes, L. D. Phillips and many more whose names I have forgotten and have not space to mention if I could remember them all. Many more came in 1872, and in the spring of 1873 the following came to the village: Charles W. Dix, A. S. McAlister, and from other parts of the country came J. H. Sutherland, S. N. Horneck, A. J. Clark, Carlton Curry, Jasper B. Hillyer and Charles Cochran or "Scotty" as he is familiarly called.
Col. George H. Johnston came to Detroit in the fall of 1871 but went back to Boston, returning in the spring of 1872 to remain permanently. Robert Carson came with him as private secretary and remained with him for several years.
John A. Teague first came to Detroit about the 20th of May, 1872, but after remaining there a day or two went on to Glyndon where a village was just started. About the first of May he took a preemption on a quarter section of land on Section 14, in Hawley, in Clay County, where he lived until 1874 when he came to Detroit and engaged in the drug business, in which he remained until 1906 when he became a full-fledged dry goods merchant. Mr. Teague has made a success in business affairs since he came to Becker County.
W. J. Wood came to Detroit with his parents July 1872. He was then budding into manhood, and went by the name of the big Wood boy.
Some of the members of this colony were lacking in staying qualities, for in the year 1873 they began to scatter away and their numbers have continued to dwindle down by removal and death until of the three hundred or more who came at different times, there is now but a handful left.
The colony may be said to have undergone a severe and thorough sifting process, and those who remain represent the No. 1 Hard kernels of wheat, a fair illustration of the "survival of the fittest."
Many of the worthy colonists have fallen by the wayside, and their bones are now mingling with the soil of Becker County, others have made Detroit a way station on their journey to other regions, but a majority of them returned at an early date to their old homes in New England from whence they migrated.
M. V. B. Davis came to Becker County with Mrs. Davis about the middle of the seventies and located on a farm in Lake Eunice, but finding a rural life too dull for his energetic temperament he finally located in the village of Detroit and engaged in the boot and shoe business in which he has been eminently successful.
A. E. Bowling, another gentleman who has made a small fortune as a boot and shoe merchant, came to Detroit from Michigan April 15, 1879, with his young wife and his circumstances now indicate what industry and frugality will accomplish.
Horace Bowman came here first in 1874 but remained but a short time. He came again in 1879 with Mrs. Bowman, after the death of his father-in-law and engaged in business with his brother-in-law, S. N. Horneck.
Among the pioneer women of Detroit who are still living here are Mrs. F. B. Chapin, Mrs. C. K. Day, Mrs. C. O. Quincy, Mrs. J. E. Wood, Mrs. E. G. Holmes, Mrs. W. C. Roberts, Mrs. S. N. Horneck, Mrs. Charles Craigie, .Mrs. S. B. Childs, Mrs. C. H. Sturtevant, Mrs. K. Rumery, Mrs. Geo. Wilson and Mrs. J. E. Bestick. All these came in the early seventies.
Mrs. S. N. Horneck died in February 1907, since the above was written.
ORGANIZATION OF DETROIT TOWNSHIP
Detroit Township was organized on the 29th day of July 1871, and the first township election was held at Tyler's Hotel on that date.
The township officers elected that day were:
W. S. Woodruff, chairman of supervisors; C. A. Sherman, supervisor; S. J. Fox, supervisor; Archibald McArthur, town clerk; S. B. Childs, treasurer; William W. Rossman, justice of peace; John O. French, constable; Z. Sutherland, constable.
When the township was first organized it took in all of what is now the townships of Detroit, Lake View, Burlington, Erie, Height of Land, Silver Leaf, Evergreen, Toad Lake, Spruce Grove, Wolf Lake, Green Valley and Runeburg. When Lake View was organized the next spring, all of the south tier of townships were detached from Detroit and attached to Lake View, and when Burlington was organized later on, everything east of Burlington became a part of that township, and everything east of Detroit still remained a part of Detroit, and when Richwood was organized, everything east of that township became a part of Richwood.
There was considerable non-resident pine land scattered over these eastern townships, and they came in for their share of township taxation, which in many cases was enormous, and which finally led to a lawsuit in 1876 with the result that these unorganized townships were cut loose from the organized towns and all farther taxation discontinued except for state and county purposes.
FIRST GENERAL ELECTION IN DETROIT
The first general election in Detroit Township was held at Tyler's Hotel on the 6th day of November, 1871. Millard Howe, who was one of the judges of that election says: "The first election in Detroit was held at Tyler's Hotel in November 1871. The election board were: Judges: Frank Barnes, Millard Howe and either Isaiah Delemater or William G. Woodworth, I do not remember which, and the clerks were Charles Doell and either Delemater or Woodworth. We played a game of seven-up to see who should carry the election returns out to Dr. Pyle's house who then lived two miles west of where the village of Audubon is now. Pyle was then county auditor, appointed by the county commissioners. I got beat, so the next morning I started out for his place on foot by the way of the Oak Lake Cut. A little west of the cut I came across Dennis Stack who showed me where Pyle lived.
MILLARD F. HOWE
Following close upon the heels of the New England Colony was another colony coming from Buffalo, New York and from Dunville, Canada. In the summer of 1872 a man by the name of Whitson C. Darling, hailing from the last named town arrived at Detroit and after looking the county over returned to the East and began the organization of a colony with which to people the vacant land in the vicinity of Detroit. Our friend Alfred Meilie in his history of Erie Township gives us further light on the inside workings of Darling and his colony.
On the 29th of March, the first installment of this colony arrived from Buffalo, and consisted of Mrs. Caroline Trimlett and her son William, now one of the merchants of Detroit, then a beardless boy; Mr. George Neuner and wife and two striplings of boys, John Neuner, now of Frazee, and Frank Neuner of Erie Township. But few more came for the next two or three years and the flood of emigration did not fairly set in until the spring of 1876, when it began in earnest, and for the next three or four years bid fair to rival the New England Colony of 1871, '72 and '73, in the number of emigrants it sent to Detroit and the surrounding country. They came to the number of about three hundred from Buffalo and Canada in about equal numbers, those coming from Buffalo being mostly Germans, while those coming from Dunville, Canada, were mostly native born Canadians of English or Irish descent. Some of the Germans located in Detroit but a majority of them took homesteads in Erie Township. The Canadians mostly settled on land in Lake View, Detroit and Burlington. They were nearly all honest and industrious and possessed of excellent staying qualities, as they and their children now constitute a large part of the population of Erie and Lake View, with a good sprinkling of them in Detroit and Burlington.
The first white child born in Detroit Township was a daughter of Henry and Jane Way, who was born on the north shore of Oak Lake in July 1870. This child died in infancy.
The first white boy born in Detroit must have a notice. He was born Wednesday, the 24th of July, 1872, and his mother was Mrs. J. O. Crummett. This is Frank Crummett.
The first death in Detroit Township and in Becker County was Almon W. Sherman, who died on the west shore of Oak Lake on the 30th day of December 1869.
The first people married in Detroit Township were John Anderson to Mary St. Clair, by Squire Rossman on the 15th of February 1872. They were married at the home of Samuel J. Fox, who was then living on Fox Hill, now in the heart of the village of Detroit. Miss St. Clair was of mixed blood.
Clayton Gould and Dee Sherman were the first couple married in the township where both parties were fully of white blood. They were married at the home of her mother, Mrs. Almon Sherman, at Oak Lake on the 10th of September 1872.
After W. F. Ball, A. J. Clark, George H. Johnston, L. Ed. Davidson, Arthur Linn and George D. Hamilton have successively published the Record. Mr. Hamilton bought the Record in the fall of 1878 and since that time has made it one of the best and most prosperous county papers in the State of Minnesota.
Friend Wilcox – The old store that you refer to that was moved from Otter Tail City in 1871 was built into a dwelling house and has been owned for the last eight or ten years by the late M. S. Converse.
I started the first bank in Detroit in the spring of 1872, and Mr. R. L. Frazee was associated with me. Bowman and myself started the bank of Detroit on July 1st, 1875, and the Hotel Minnesota was built in 1883 and opened on July 1st, 1884.
E. G. HOLMES
BECKER COUNTY AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY
On the 13th of August 1872, the Becker County Agricultural Society was organized at a meeting held at McKenzie's Hall, with the following named persons as members, viz.: George H. Johnston, J. E. Wood, James B. Chapman, Wm. C. Roberts, Robert B. Carson, N. M. McFadden, Giles Peake, Geo. Martin, M. M. Bradley, Wm. F. Ball, W. W. Rossman, F. L. Woods, A. J. Farnsworth, F. B. Chapin, A. J. Underwood, C. P. Bailey, Geo. E. Wheeler. D. Eldridge, L. S. Cravath, W. H. H. Howe, James McKenzie, Isaiah Delemater, Thomas Louden, Alexander Louden, John Watson, Edgar M. Johnston, George A. Norcross, C. K. Day, Charles E. Brown, L. D. Philipps, James T. Bestick, H. N. Gates, M. M. Tyler, Charles W. Rand. Wm. W. Hemsley, David Pyle, J. Van Gordon, L. G. Stevenson, Charles H. Sturtevant, T. J. Martin, Oliver Taylor and George B. Hibbard.
The following were elected the first officers of the society:
President, F. B. Chapin; Secretary, W. F. Ball.
The first Becker County Fair was held at Detroit on the 5th day of October 1872. – Detroit Record
Charlie Sturtevant says there was a grove of young poplar trees growing in the street in front of McKenzie's store (now Horneck and Bowman's), in 1872.
HOW DETROIT WAS NAMED
Archie McArthur informed me many years ago that Detroit Lake received its name in the following way: A Catholic priest, who was a Frenchman, and whose name was then familiar but now forgotten, in traveling through the country camped for the night on the north shore of what is now Detroit Lake, in plain sight of where the long bar stretches across the lake. The water in the lake was low, and the dim outline of the bar as it stretched across the lake was glimmering in the light of the setting sun, when our reverend father exclaimed to some of the attendants, "See what a beautiful Detroit"; Detroit, so I am informed by French scholars, is the name in their language of a narrow place in a lake, but in this instance referred to the bar reaching across the lake.
When the people of Detroit began to build up their village they discovered that they were nearly surrounded by lakes and impassable swamps.
The old Red River trail passed around the east side of the village, and by tortuous windings afforded a tedious outlet to the northwest and the southeast. In order to get to White Earth, or Oak Lake, or Audubon, you were obliged to go around by F. B. Chapin's, and thence around by the house that A. I. Smart afterwards built, thence by where John O. French now lives, and thence by the north end of Oak Lake. To go east or southeast to Frazee or Erie, you would be obliged to go to the north shore of Detroit Lake and cross the Pelican River where it flows into the lake and travel in places beyond there on the gravelly beach of the lake. To the west or southwest there was only one outlet, and that was around by the southeast shore of Lake St. Clair, crossing the outlet where it leaves the lake. You could go south by passing around the west end of Detroit Lake after the outlet was bridged, but before that the crossing was
The people of Detroit, however, went at the road problem with commendable energy. Their first move was to vote a large issue of bonds, and the money was expended with equal liberality outside the township as well as at home. They built at a heavy expense, and unassisted as far as I know, the entire road from Detroit to White Earth via the village of Richwood. These roads while expensive were the making of the town. From their construction it received an impetus that it has kept up to the present day.
Detroit boasts that it had the first grain warehouse built on the Northern Pacific Railroad west of Duluth. It was built by J. H. Sutherland, for thirteen years judge of probate in our county. He completed it ready for business in August 1873. It was the forerunner of the elevator system in northern Minnesota. The first load of wheat was bought from Mr. Peabody of Pelican Lake, September 4th, 1873. Wheat was brought to this warehouse from points at a long distance. From Fergus Falls, Elizabeth, Norwegian Grove and Pelican Rapids. During the fall Mr. Sutherland shipped over 25,000 bushels. The building was occupied by C. M. Campbell in 1893 as a grocery store, and is now Pelican saloon, in front of the depot.
FIRST VILLAGE ELECTION IN DETROIT
The first election in the Village of Detroit was held March 3, 1881, and the officers elected were A. Brooks, president; George H. Johnston, E. G. Holmes, and James Hickey, trustees; Robert B. Carson, recorder; W. J. Wood, treasurer; C. P. Wilcox, assessor; C. K. Day and W. W. Rossman, justice of the peace and Carlton Curry, constable. The village at that time included the whole township.
The city charter was adopted February 23, 1903; election was held March 31, 1903, and the officers elected were as follows: Mayor. E. W. Davis; clerk, C. G. Sturtevant; treasurer, W. J. Morrow; assessor, W. C. Trimlett; justices, W. W. Rossman and George W. Taylor; aldermen, 1st Ward, James Hickey, J. T. Reed and O. P. Morton; aldermen, 2nd Ward, Casper Wackman, A. Skeoch, Jr., and R. W. Moore; aldermen 3rd Ward, C. F. Snell. Frank Johnson and L. J. Norby.
CHAS. G. STURTEVANT. RECORDER
DETROIT TOWNSHIP AND VILLAGE SEPARATION
A petition of the majority of the legal voters of the township of Detroit having been filed with the board of county commissioners asking that a special election for said township be called for the purpose of voting upon the question of detaching all of said township except Sections 27 and 34 from the village of Detroit, the said board called said election accordingly, setting the same for Feb, 15th, 1902. The election was held on said day, and it was voted to detach said territory. This left the 34 sections unorganized territory and they were organized in the usual manner by the board of county commissioners, and April 5th, 1902, designated for the holding of the first township election. At that election J. W. Coughlin was elected chairman of supervisors, and Byron Wheeler and Fred Riebhofif, supervisors; James Casey, town clerk; E. Swick, treasurer; John Isaacson, assessor; A. M. Hoghaug and Carl Weiss, justices of the peace; John Brink and C. Kraft, constables.
HISTORY OF ERIE TOWNSHIP
Source: A Pioneer History of Becker County Minnesota, by Mrs. Jessie W. West & Alvin H. Wilcox (1907) Chapter XXVI; transcribed by Vicki Bryan
The township of Erie was named by settlers from Buffalo, Erie County, New York, in honor of that same county of Erie.
Erie is, or rather was, a heavily timbered township. In the east half there was considerable pine, some of it the best I ever saw. The other part was timbered with hard and soft wood. Talk about pine! A little west of where the Otter Tail River bridge is at present, a person could not see the sun in the daytime, the trees were so large and tall. Some of the remaining stumps can give you an idea of what the trees were.
Erie corners on the southwest near the Northern Pacific Railroad, on the northeast not far from the beautiful Height of Land Lake, is joined on the north by Holmesville and two miles from Rock Lake, and on the south by Burlington; the Otter Tail River leaving the town in Section 36.
1871 to 1877
The first squatter was evidently a trapper by the name of McKenzie, on Section 20. The first actual settler, or at least the first one to build a house, was Miles Hanna who settled on the southwest quarter of Section 30 in the summer of 1872. In May 1873, he and his son worked on the Clearwater drive where he was accidentally poisoned by eating the root of the wild parsnip or poison hemlock. He was a soldier of the civil war, and one of the jurymen who tried Bobolink for the murder of the Cook family.
That same fall C. E. Brown built a small log house on the southwest quarter of Section 18. The next year 1873, the following settlers took claims in Erie and built houses on them: James T. Bestick on the northwest quarter of Section 30, Richard Huck on the northeast quarter of Section 30, Kimball Hayden on the northwest quarter of Section 18, A. J. Farnsworth on Section 20 where James Norris afterwards lived and George Neuner took the southwest quarter of Section 30 formerly occupied by Miles Hanna. These were about all the settlers in Erie until 1876 or '77 when the Buffalo people came in and took up all of the western part of the township.
After the Centennial Exposition, in 1876, there were hard times in the East. Common laborers wages were only seventy-five cents a day, and only three-quarter time at that; also a great scarcity of employment.
A man by the name of Whitson C. Darling, (by the way the biggest rascal unhung) a Canadian, who had been to Detroit, Minnesota, came to Buffalo, and hired a German saloon-keeper, Fred Disse. Darling made speeches in English and Disse in the German language. He told us there were car shops at Detroit, four or five big hotels, and lots of work at two dollars a day, also nice farms for sale very cheap. This last was true enough. In some of his lectures he said that the snow fall in Becker County was not more than six inches, and that stock grazed in the open fields until away along in January or February. Well, he caught a good many suckers; he would take their property in Buffalo in exchange for improved farms. Then he was careful to get the Buffalo property safely deeded over but some of the parties are waiting for their farms yet.
We left Buffalo, about twenty-two families, on the 5th of May 1877, by steamboat, for Duluth. We were laid up a week in Cleveland on account of the ice. At last we struck Duluth on the 22nd of May, a forsaken and deserted looking place. A few thousand dollars at that time would have bought a good slice of Duluth.
We arrived at Frazee on the 25th of May 1877. R. L. Frazee was all kindness to us. He gave us the use of a stove and a large frame building for shelter. The next day the most of our men went a fishing by the sawmill. Well, it was a wonder the fish they all brought in. I am certain that two or three frying pans were kept constantly in action. On the 26th I walked to Detroit to see the great city. Well, I found on the north side of the railroad track a little town, one saloon and two small hotels, and on the south side eight or nine houses, a little bank and a store, also a drug and whisky store combined, also the Northern Pacific Hotel, where I found some beds made on the floor with straw, and two men from Buffalo that came on a boat that left ten days after we did. I returned to Frazee that evening and reported. The next day a lot of us left for Detroit. Some of them got into the empty hotel and other empty houses. I rented the Archie McArthur place near Col. Johnston's flour mill at the mouth of the Pelican River. I then looked around for some land and finally got stranded on the northwest quarter of Section 6 in the town of Erie. 1 will tell of my farming some other time. The grasshoppers had been in the country in 1876, and everything was scarce. Many of the old settlers wanted to sell out, but the most of the newcomers had none or but little money to buy with. Flour was five dollars a barrel, potatoes 50 to 90 cents a bushel and hard to get at that.
The actual settlers then living in the town of Erie were Kimball Hayden on Section 18. Eli Hodder on Section 30. John Bertram on Section 30. Mike Soldner on Section 30, Jerome Farr and O. Sims on Section 34.
Ten or twelve families got disgusted; the women and children were sent back on the Northern Pacific Railroad, the men started on foot for Duluth, and I don't know what ever became of them.
In October 1877, the following newcomers were settled in Erie: Mrs. Schraska and four children; Mr. A. Stackelhouse, wife and children; A. Schnitzer, wife and three children; A. Matzdorf, wife and eight children. In the spring of 1878 there came the following: Jacob Krick, wife and daughter Barbary; Fred Disse, wife and two children; Bartholomew Leithiser, wife and two children; Baptiste Graff and wife; Julien Zeck, wife and two children; James Norris, wife and three children; John Winkler, wife and three children; John Eides; Peter Fisher, wife and six children; M. Smith, wife and five children; John Behuke. wife and one child, and B. Fisher. These were about all the settlers in the town, before it was organized.
As I mentioned before, I located on the northwest quarter of Section 6. A. Matzdorf and myself went out into the town east of Detroit, now Erie, where we found Mr. Kimball Hayden living on Section 18, and he went with us, a mile and a half north to Section 6, where I took my land, and Matzdorf also took the southwest quarter of Section 6. In a few days Matzdorf moved into the "Betty Brown" house on Section 18 until he could build a house of his own. I hired Jake Schafer to help me and built myself a log house. Just before that I cut out a road from the southwest corner of Section 6 to my place.
Erie was first organized into one school district, which took in the entire township. The first officers of the district were: Bartholomew Leithiser, director; James Norris, clerk; and Alfred Meili, treasurer, and he has held the office of treasurer ever since. Miss May Chapin, now Mrs. John Whittemore, taught the first school in the schoolhouse on Section 29, and Miss Cad Dix, now Mrs. Arthur Blanding, taught the first school in the schoolhouse on Section 18.
Accidents in the town of Erie have been few. Once in a while a settler would fall out of his wagon going home from Detroit, which I suppose was owing to the bad condition of the roads.
The first man hurt otherwise was M. Higgins who broke his leg by the fall of a tree while working for Eli Hodder.
The first death was that of Miles Hanna but he died away from home. The first person to die within the limits of the township was George Neuner who died at his home on Section 30 on the 9th day of January 1875. He was the father of John and Frank Neuner. The Neuner family came to Becker County on the 29th day of March 1873, with Mrs. Trimlet and her son William, and they were the first installment of the Buffalo colony.
The first woman that died was Mrs. Louisa Stackelhouse, on the 19th of May, 1878.
In 1880 Louisa Furcht was married to William Fischer. They have today a married daughter and two grandchildren. The first white girl born in Erie was Lizzie Schultz, now Mrs. William Lindner. The first white boy born was William Bertram.
A. H. Wilcox built the first bridge across the Otter Tail River in 1873, out of a state appropriation of about $800, the bridge itself costing $340.
Game was plentiful in those days; bears, deer and wild cats. Grouse were as plentiful then as common chickens are now. A person could hear them drumming around every day. Deer I was certain to meet in the fall of the year whenever I went to get my cattle home, and I could see them most any day around my fifteen acre lake.
Here is a bear story and a true one. In the spring of 1884 a big bear went into my pig pen to get some pork. I had two hog's of about two hundred pounds weight apiece. My wife with the lantern and myself with a Remington rifle chased Mr. Bear off but he had one hog killed or so badly hurt that it was dead when we went to take a look in the morning. The bear also made his appearance in the yard. I was going to help Charles Schnitzer break some land, so I put the pig under cover until night. Toward evening Schnitzer and I took the pig and fastened it with a heavy log chain to a small tree, across the road west of the house. We then went in the house to get our shooting sticks, and when we came out Mr. Bear was in full view and by good luck we shot him dead on the spot. He measured about six feet in length, but, holy Ceasar ! His meat was just like mush: hardly fit to eat. He was old and had probably just come out of his winter's sleep. I sold the hide to W. Hayden for sixteen dollars, but never got but two dollars.
There have been no great crimes committed in Erie so far as I know. Chris Weiks while out hunting about eight years ago, found the well kept skeleton of a man, near the southwest corner of Section 19, about twenty-five rods east of the Erie road. There was never any identification, or any case made out of it, but it is my opinion that as the place was a general camping ground for people going to and from Dakota that the man may have been killed in a quarrel, or for his money.
I will tell a little story that happened in 1886, showing the way we used to vote. The Australian system was not then in use. On the morning of the second Tuesday in November, Mr. Jerome Farr came early to vote. He had three sons who were voters and a hired man. These four men had to go away on some urgent campaign business, so Farr took the four tickets, all of the same kind and put them in an envelope, sealed it in the presence of the judges and put it into the ballot box. In the evening these ballots were counted the same as the others.
The township of Erie was organized on the 18th day of August 1878, and the first town election was held on that date at the house of Fred. Disse. The first township officers were: Chairman of board of supervisors, Alfred Meilie; supervisors, Fred. Disse, and James Norris; clerk, Kimball Hayden.
About eight years ago Julius Weirach was accidentally drowned in Long Lake.
The logging dam on the southwest quarter of Section 12 known as the Hubbell dam was built by R. L. Frazee, early in the summer of 1876. He cut several hundred thousand feet of pine logs on Section 5 and 6, in the town of Height of Land, and floated them down the river that same summer.
The expenses of the town of Erie for one year, 1880 and 1881 were $74.88. In another year, 1903 and 1904 they were $650.34.
The Township of Evergreen
Source: A Pioneer History of Becker County Minnesota, by Mrs. Jessie W. West & Alvin H. Wilcox (1907) transcribed by Jean Hadley
By Chas. S. Palmer
Township 138, Range 38, was heavily timbered with pine, spruce, oak, tamarack, elm, poplar, white birch and other woods. In 1880 there were about five million feet of standing white pine. Al. Pelton during the year 1882 built a logging camp on Section 36, employing about forty men, and on Section 34 Aaron Scribner located a camp of about twenty men. These camp crews logged on Sections 34, 35, and 36, and during that winter cut and hauled about two million feet, and a similar quantity the following winter. These logs were hauled on heavy sleds to Section 19, and there unloaded on the bank of Toad River, being afterward floated down the Toad, Otter Tail and Red Rivers to Winnipeg, the drive requiring about 115 days. Prior to the year 1882 there was heavy logging on Sections 19, 20 and 29 by Clark and McClure of Saint Cloud, the logs being sawed at their mill one mile east of Perham. Later there were small portable sawmills brought to the township which manufactured a large portion of the remaining timber.
Twenty-five years ago there was considerable large game consisting of bears, big timber wolves and lynx. There were also a few moose, and deer were very plentiful.
The first actual settler was Charles Scribner who settled on Section 18 in the year 1882. On Thanksgiving Day, 1884, he was married to Rosy Allen of Corliss Township, Otter Tail County, who died the following autumn. In 1877, Mr. Scribner removed to the Mouse River country in North Dakota, where he now resides.
Ewald Bohne and his wife, Jennie, came from Hastings, Minnesota, in February, 1883, and located a homestead on Section 20. There they lived until the year 1898, when they moved to Section 19, where they now reside. Their son Fred was born in January, 1885, being the second white child born in the township.
Frank Omans and his wife arrived from Michigan in October, 1883, and settled on Section 32, where they still live. Their son Earl, born in August, 1884, is the first white child born in the township.
Mr. and Mrs. C. H. Clifford moved from Perham during the winter of 1884-5, and settled on Section 34. Their daughter Bonibelle Altha, born March 23, 1886, is the first girl born in Evergreen. In 1887 Mr. Clifford moved to Spruce Grove where they now live, Mrs. Clifford being postmistress of Clifford post-office.
During the years 1886 and 1887 about twenty families settled in the township. On January 4, 1888, the board of county commissioners organized the township, naming it Evergreen because of the number of evergreen trees in it. The first town meeting was held at the home of Emil Materne on Section 20, March 13, 1888. W. R. Morton was chosen moderator; Emil Materne, clerk; W. R. Morton, John Pick and Chas. Howard were elected supervisors; W. A. Kennedy, clerk; J. W. Southard, assessor; John Miller, constable; and Sargent Palmer, justice of the peace.
Those present and voting at the first annual town meeting, in line as they voted, were: John Rick, W. R. Morton, Nick Leyendecker, Antony Sagenschneider, Joe Pope, E. Materne, C. Pope, C. Limpensel, Ewald Bohne, John Hauser, Hans Hauser, J. W. Southard, Jr., A. W. Furber, Garry Omans, H. A. Barron, J. W. Southard, Sr., Sargent Palmer, Charles S. Palmer, Charles Rick, Sam. McKibben, C. H. King, Wm. A. Kennedy, Frank Omans, John Miller, Ed. Southard.
One day in the summer of 1888, an ox team which Mrs. Materne was driving along the road became frightened by a bear and ran away, throwing her from the wagon and breaking her leg. The fracture was quickly and properly set by Dr. W. R. Morton.
In the fall of 1887 Arnold Kohler and John Adams, settlers living on Section 18, became involved in a quarrel in Mr. Kohler’s house. Kohler became enraged and seizing a gun struck at Adams, who dodged behind the stove. The gun struck the stove chimney and was discharged, killing Kohler. Adams was arrested, and taken to the county jail at Detroit, but was later discharged from custody after a trial.
In February, 1895, M. Burfield, of Star Lake, Otter Tail County, set a portable sawmill on Section 34. While hauling a large load of logs from Section 2 the clevis holding the short tongue of the hind sled became loose, allowing the tongue to drop down and stick in the frozen snow of the road. The team hauled the load over the short tongue and when it reached a vertical position the load tipped over. Mr. Burfield being an old man and heavily wrapped in blankets, could not jump clear of the load, but fell beside the sled and was instantly crushed to death under the falling logs.
In April, 1898, Charles H. Lamphier and L. Jeswin, living on Section 34, became engaged in a quarrel over Mrs. Jeswin crossing a field, which Lamphier was seeding, and the wives of both men took an active part in the scrimmage. Lamphier’s boy brought out a gun to his father, Jeswin’s son then took a hand in the melee, and things because generally mixed. How it happened will probably never be clearly known, but the gun was discharged, killing Jeswin instantly. Lamphier was arrested, and court being then in session he was sentenced to the state penitentiary for life. Just two weeks from the day of the killing he was on his way to Stillwater to serve his sentence. Through numerous petitions secured by his wife, his sentence was afterwards commuted to six years, and the4 end of four years he was released on parole. Having lived out his parole as a good citizen he is now a free man. Jeswin was a good citizen.
In 1901, Woodland post-office was moved from Corliss Township in Otter Tail County to Section 28 in Evergreen, and two years later a German Lutheran church was built on Section 17. In the township there are now a post-office, a church and four schoolhouses. Hattie Howard was the first school teacher in Evergreen, teaching in a log schoolhouse on Section 14, which was burned at the time of the big Hinckley fire. During this fire the whole township burned over, clearing whole areas. Settlers took advantage of the easy clearing and moved in freely, and now there are about eighty voters in the township. While much damage resulted from the fire in the burning of timber, the benefit in clearing the land largely compensated for the loss.
Source: A Pioneer History of Becker County Minnesota, by Mrs. Jessie W. West & Alvin H. Wilcox (1907) transcribed by Sandra Stutzman
For nearly three years after the Northern Pacific Railroad was built, the nearest station was at Hobert, a long mile on the other side by the Otter Tail River.
In the summer of 1872 a company consisting of Absalom Campbell, Charles M. Campbell, William G. Chilton and T. W. Chilton built a dam and sawmill on Section 26, near where the Nichols, Chisholm Lumber Company's sawmill is now located. After operating their mill for a few months they sold the property to R. L. Frazee. As soon as Frazee had secured this valuable mill site he made a purchase of all the laud on Section 35, lying west and north of the river, and proceeded to lay out a townsite on the north side of the railroad, including a part of Sections 26 and 35. The survey of this townsite was made in the summer of 1873 by V. C. Darling. He next began to negotiate with the railroad company for the removal of the depot from Hobart, and as an inducement in that direction, he gave them half the lots in his new townsite. The removal was gradually accomplished, the depot building not being brought over until some time after a temporary station had been established at the new townsite. Finally, on the 25th day of October, 1874, the depot building was loaded on two flat cars and brought across the river and dumped off at the new station on the north side of the track. Thomas Murphy, now of Sanborn, North Dakota, claims the honor of being in charge of the removal. In the spring of 1873 Mr. Frazee enlarged the Chilton sawmill and in the fall of the same year built a flour mill adjoining his sawmill, and both mills did a flourishing business for many years. In the spring of 1874 an ugly hole was cut in his mill dam by the high water in the river and it was with considerable difficulty that it was finally repaired. A lot of his saw-logs floated off down the river and were sold to parties below.
In 1881 he built the big, new dam at the east end of Front Street and moved both mills down to the new dam that same fall. The flour mill, however, was considerably enlarged and when completed was the finest flour mill in northern Minnesota. These mills both burned down on the 14th day of October, 1889. The cost of these mills, dam included, was about $60,000, and were insured for $15,000.
In the spring of 1890 he sold all his mill property to A. H. Wilcox, who repaired the dam and rebuilt the sawmill on the old foundations that same year. He carried on the manufacture of lumber until January, 1897, when he sold out to the Commonwealth Lumber Company, who built a new steam sawmill on an extensive scale near where the Campbell mill was built in 1872. This mill, however, is outside the village but close up to the line.
The first house in the village of Frazee was built by James G. Chilton on the rear of what are now lots 11 and 12, block 14, where Chris. Johnson had a laundry a few years ago. This house was built in the summer of 1872 of lumber sawed at the Campbell sawmill.
In the fall of 1873 S. M. Thompkins came down from Oak Lake and built what is now known as the Frazee Hotel or Briggs' House. This hotel was opened up for business about the first of December, 1873. The next October Luther Weymouth moved his hotel over from Hobert and set it up on the south side of the railroad a little east of where the passenger depot now stands. Some of the passenger trains stopped regularly at the Weymouth House for meals. Mrs. Weymouth was a very popular landlady in those days. Her meals were the subject of much flattering comment far and wide. The box-elder and the willow trees growing there at the present time were planted in the rear of the new hotel by Mrs. Weymouth herself. This new hotel hurt the business of the Thompkins' house to a serious extent. As an inducement to draw railroad passengers to his house Thompkins built a broad, high walk from the depot in a straight line to his hotel, over the big hole where Baer's block and the Windsor Hotel now stand. One of the first buildings erected—as I remember, was the one now owned by Dr. S. S. Jones and used by him as a drug store. It was built by a little Jew whose name I have forgotten, in 1873, for a dry goods store.
The Gummer flour mill was brought up from New York Mills on the 9th of August, 1898, and rebuilt at the lower dam, where it did service until the 3rd of June, 1903, when it was totally wrecked by the washing away of the west end of the dam.
In the summer of 1904 the Stelzner flour mill was built by Mr. C. J. Stelzner, who soon afterwards sold a half interest to James Scott. Leonard Ashley was the first station agent at Frazee.
In the fall of the year 1898 the railroad company moved the passenger depot from the north side of the track, in the rear of Baer's brick block, to the south side near where it now stands, and since that time have used the old side track on the south side of the main line of the railroad for the main line. The building was moved by Charles Wagner, of Detroit.
It should ever be born in mind, however, that much of the real estate in Frazee is bounded, and the descriptions start from the center of the main line of the railroad, and that the original main line is the third track north from the passenger depot since the double track was laid, or the track that runs next to the freight depot, being the most northerly of the three tracks between the two depots.
Incorporation of the Village of Frazee.
On the sixth day of January, 1891, the board of county commissioners of Becker County adopted the following resolution:
Resolved: on receiving and reading the petition of A. H. Wilcox and thirty-four others, residents upon the lands and premises in said petition described, praying that a time and place be appointed when and where the electors actually resident upon said described premises, may vote for or against the incorporation of said premises. and said petition being in due form, it is further resolved, that the electors, resident on said premises shall meet at the Briggs Hotel on said premises on the 10th day of February, A. D. 1891, at 10 o'clock, a. m., and that Edward Gummer, George Combs, and W. Baer are hereby appointed to act as inspectors at said meeting, and that copies of said petition and notices of said meeting be posted as provided by law.
The proposition to incorporate the village received nearly a unanimous vote and the first election of officers was held at Baer's store on the 10th of March, 1891, when the following officers were elected: President, A. H. Wilcox; trustees, William Baer, Clement Mayer and Robert Alexander; village recorder, John Briggs; treasurer, John S. Comstock; justices of the peace, John Neuner and Lewis D. Hendry; constables, John D. Clary and Arnold Kohnen.
The incorporation took in the following territory: The south half of the southwest quarter of Section 26 and all of Section 35, Township 138. Range 40, except the south tier of forties and the west tier of forties.
The First Newspaper in Frazee.
The first newspaper in Frazee was printed on the 23rd day of December, 1896. The name of the paper at that time was the Park Region, and the editor was A. Delacy Wood.
I here insert a part of his salutatory opening, and also a few items from the first number of the paper:
To The Public.
We shall dispense with the customary lengthy salutatory and make a brief, plain statement of the mission and platform of the Frazee Park Region. This journal has been established as a purely legitimate business enterprise, the material having been bought by the proprietor for that purpose, there being no obligation, mortgage or political debt to meet. We have faith in the future of Frazee, and this rich region of northern Minnesota, with its sparkling lakes, musical streams and great natural advantages, and shall do all in our power to aid in the work of progress and development. The Park Region has not been started as a boom sheet or political journal but is here to zealously advocate and defend the best interests of our village and county.
In politics the Park Region will be independent, free front bias, not bigoted or narrow-minded—and will, at all times, evince a spirit of respect and consideration for those friends and contemporaries who may honestly differ with us on the great national issues of the day. Local and county matters, however, will receive special attention at our hands. Suffice it to say, the Park Region will endeavor to be a journal of local advocacy and general news, and we ask for the hearty co-operation of all our citizens, irrespective of political affiliations. The Park Region will always endeavor to stand loyally for justice and right.
A. De Lacy Wood
Our Thriving Village.
Frazee is now assuming proportions that justify the claim of its original founder, Hon. R. L. Frazee, that it is destined to be one of leading towns in northern Minnesota. This thriving village contains a population of about 400, and is pleasantly situated on the Otter Tail River and on the main line of the Northern Pacific Railroad, 200 miles from St. Paul and 55 miles from Fargo, and is located in the midst of the famous picturesque Park Region of Minnesota which has brought forth glowing words of praise from the leading descriptive writers of the country.
Fifteen beautiful lakes are situated within five miles of this place, all abounding with fish, consisting of bass, pickerel, pike and rock bass. With the sparkling waves and healthful breezes of these fine lakes, with the primeval forest rising grandly in proximity, there is scarcely a prettier or more romantic region in the North Star State,—a region, greatly favored by the generous hand of nature, that would beggar description from the most graphic pen. This point is bound to become a popular summer resort just as soon as its advantages are known abroad.
This place has been incorporated about six years and Mr. A. H. Wilcox has been president of the council since that time with the exception of one term, which official preferment is certainly a handsome recognition of his sterling worth as a citizen, business man and neighbor. A number of public improvements are contemplated the coming year.
Many lumbermen do not seem to realize the great pine forests tributary to Frazee that can be easily floated down the Otter Tail River.
Those who have thoroughly investigated this district are loud in their praises of the quality and quantity of the timber that is standing, waiting to be cut and floated down from the White Earth region to the big mill that will soon be located at Frazee. It is roughly estimated that there is over 200,000,000 feet of choice pine directly tributary to this rising young city.
Frazee is surrounded by a rich farming section, which is thickly settled by a thrifty class of farmers, most of whom do their trading here.
In all probability a large flouring mill will be erected here, while electric lights, water works and factories are among the possibilities of this flourishing section of the justly famous Park Region of the Golden Northwest. May the brightest hopes of our citizens be fully realized.
It is rumored that Baer Bros., our enterprising merchants, intend to erect a large brick store building next spring on their fine corner lot.
A. H. Wilcox has leased his sawmill here for one year to Minneapolis parties with privilege of buying.
The Northern Pacific Railway completed its many improvements in the vicinity of Frazee for 1806 by constructing a three-span iron bridge across the Otter Tail River here. The bridge was placed in position Monday.
State Bank of Frazee—Organized July 1st, 1897.
First officers: Charles W. Higley, president; A. H. Wilcox, vice president: L. W. Oberhauser, cashier.
Converted into the First National Bank of Frazee on Nov. 2, 1903. A. H. Wilcox, president; T. R. Daniel, vice president; L. W. Oberhauser, cashier [sic]
Baer Brothers brick block was built in the summer of 1898, and L. D. Hendry's block was built the same year.
History of Green Valley
By F. M. Shepard
Source: A Pioneer History of Becker County Minnesota, by Mrs. Jessie W. West & Alvin H. Wilcox (1907) Chapter XLVIII; transcribed by: Richard Ramos
The author of the history of Green Valley reached Detroit one cold day in November, 1883, stayed over night and the next morning, bright and early, in company with Geo. Harrington, started for Osage with a pack weighing fifty pounds, a forty five-ninety Winchester rifle, five hundred cartridges, a compass, a knife and everything that makes a complete hunter’s outfit, my intention being to kill a car-load of deer, ship them to St. Paul and return to my native home in Michigan. We arrived in Osage about 9:30 p. m., somewhat the worse for wear, as I had sprained my ankle trying to escape some of the many stumps along the crooked trail from Height of Land to Shell Lake. After eating supper I lay down on my weary cot and closed my eyes, only to see deer jumping over and around me, some even had wings and were sailing through the air. And I with my forty-five-ninety blazing away until my five hundred cartridges were nearly exhausted. At last I awoke, jumping out of bed, only to find I could stand on but one foot, my ankle being swollen so that it was impossible for me to get on my shoe. However, after eating breakfast I made a trip out into the country by the aid of an ox team, to Fred Harrington’s, having met him, together with his brother George, M. S. Leavitt, Hugh Alexander and Jacob Baumgardner in the Dakota harvest fields.
After a few days of careful nursing and hot applications of wormwood and vinegar I was able to take my rifle and start out on my long anticipated hunt. After hunting six days and seeing several dozen deer, shooting at them all (and I think until this day I wounded one). While I didn’t find any blood, it ran like a deer that had been hit somewhere. Meeting with this success as a hunter and not having money enough to return home, I naturally turned my mind in another direction. About this time the first threshing machine was hauled into Osage and I was employed as one of the crew. We moved onto a thirty acre field of wheat, this being one of the largest fields west of Osage. We threshed from the thirty acres nine hundred bushels of No. 1 wheat. This turned my mind in still another direction and I commenced to investigate the soil, as before this I had a very poor opinion of the country as far as the productive qualities of the soil was concerned. I dug up some of the soil and thawed it out, yet I was not satisfied, but thought that there must be some-thing that I could not see in it, as it looked very sandy to me. But by this time, being determined to have a home and share my lot with the rest of the poor yet warm-hearted people whom I found here, by the aid of M. S. Leavitt, who told me of the northwest quarter of Section 12, Township 139, Range 36 (now in the town of Green Valley) being vacant, I cruised it over and being satisfied it was all right I turned my footsteps toward Detroit (the county seat), arriving there in time for supper, making the trip from Osage to Detroit on foot over the rough and crooked trail in fourteen hours, and filed on the above named quarter. This brings me to my settling in Green Valley.
I found settled there at that time; J. J. Brewer, on northwest quarter of Section 4; Chas. Alexander, on northeast quarter of Section 4; Hugh Alexander, on southeast quarter of Section 4; Joe Palmer, on southwest quarter of Section 4; Lee Cole, on northwest quarter of Section 2; Lou Cole, on southwest quarter of Section 2; D. Adams on northeast quarter of Section 1; M. S. Leavitt, on northeast quarter of Section 14; R. A. Hopkins, on southeast quarter of Section 14; Sam. Cole, on northeast quarter of Section 10; C. R. Burch, on southeast quarter of Section 10.
There were also a few families of Finlanders in the southern part of the town.
Mr. J. J. Brewer, who was born in Germany in 1849, was the first settler in Green Valley, locating there June 15, 1882.
The first Green Valley people to get married were Joseph J. Brewer and Angeline Kinney, who were married on the 9th of November, 1882, to whom three children were born.
A little later Mr. and Mrs. Sam Cole arrived. Miss Blanche Leavitt was the first girl born in Green Valley. She graduated in the class of 1902 from the Park Rapids High School and afterwards gradated from the St. Cloud State Normal. She is now teaching her third year in the Park Rapids High School. Edward Cole was the first boy born in the township and he now resides in the state of Washington. The first death on record was that of Mary Hellamer, daughter of Henry and Katarena Mattila, who died on the 17th day of September, 1886. Mr. Truman Thompson, father of Mrs. Sam Cole, was the first adult person to die in Green Valley. He was born in Wisconsin. He was a blacksmith and shoemaker by trade, had homesteaded near Red Wing and when the Indians broke out he and his family returned to Wisconsin. In 1885 he settled in Green Valley and died there May 31, 1888, at the age of 61.
The first schoolhouse was built of logs, on the southeast corner of Section 3, without any expense to the district, in fact it was built before the district was organized. The material and labor all being donated by the settlers. Miss Flora McKinley of Osage, daughter of S. S. McKinley was the first teacher. She taught two terms in succession. She was followed by Miss Eugenia Price of Osage, who also taught two terms. I might say right here, she is still teaching the author of this article and three children, as we were married on the 15th of September, 1897.
As I am writing my mind runs back to many very pleasant as well as some unpleasant and peculiar experiences while holding down my claim. One was shortly after moving into my cabin.
It was on a dark, foggy morning that I took my gun and started for a lake about three-quarters of a mile distant, thinking I might get a wild goose for dinner, as I had heard some there the day before. After traveling about what I supposed to be the required distance, I saw an opening in the brush which I took to be the lake, but when coming out to the opening I was somewhat surprised to find a clearing of a few acres and a log cabin. Thinking I had found a new settler whom I had not heard of, I walked boldly up to the door, set my gun down and was about to rap, when I spied a familiar looking lock and further observations brought me to my senses, and I found myself standing at my own cabin door. I never started out after that without the sun or a compass to guide me. I might also relate my experience with a lynx. One evening when coming home from Osage with a sack of flour and a week’s provisions on my back, when within half a mile of my cabin, I heard an unmerciful yell which made the woods ring. It also made my hat raise so I could scarcely keep it on my head. I quickened my footsteps as much as possible under the circum-stances, which was not very slow, until I reached my own door, which was never more welcome. I laid down my burden and Mr. Howard, an old gentleman that stayed with me, asked what was the matter. When I related to him the circumstance, we listened and we both thought we heard something outside the door. By this time my heart had got down out of my throat and had commenced its normal beating. I took down my Winchester and stepped outside, when not ten feet from me I could see two balls of fire and a hissing noise. I drew up my gun and fired. I then went back into the house took a light and went out to find I had made a very lucky shot, as there lay the monster dead. It was one of the largest lynx I have ever seen. These animals were very numerous at that time. There were also some wolves, and bear and deer were very plentiful.
This township when fully developed will be one of the leading townships of the county, as it is particularly adapted to stock-raising. The firm of Vanderpoel and Shepard have a farm of five hundred and twenty acres on Section 11 that they are stocking with cattle and sheep. Many other fine farms are to be found there.
The author of this article was born in Bainbridge, near Benton Harbor, Mich., July 16, 1860. He came to Minnesota in 1883, and resided in Green Valley until 1894, when he moved to Park Rapids and went into the real estate, loan and insurance business with F. A. Vanderpoel, under the firm name of Vanderpoel & Shepard. He was elected judge of probate of Hubbard County in 1900, which office he has held ever since and was reelected in November, 1906.
The township was organized on the 3rd of May, 1886, at a township election held at the house of Samuel Cole. The name of the town at first was Hope, but afterwards changed to Green Valley. The first set of township officers were: Chairman of board of supervisors, Frank M. Shepard; supervisors, Henry Mattila, John Johnson; township clerk, Joseph J. Brewer; treasurer, C. R. Burch; assessor, Peter Vosen; justices of the peace, Joseph J. Brewer and John Mansikka; constables, Samuel Cole and August Jacobson.
When the petition was first filed with the county auditor it included all of what is now Green Valley and Runeberg townships. Ruenberg was then fairly well settled, but there was not an acre of taxable land in the township, while what is now Wolf Lake Township contained several large tracts of taxable land, chiefly pine. Mr. Wilcox, the county auditor, advised them to change what is now Runeberg for what is now Wolf Lake Township, which had many acres of land which could be taxed and did not have a person living within its borders. The petition was taken back and the change made accordingly. The township as first organized included what is now Green Valley and Wolf Lake.
Frank M. Shepard
Source: A Pioneer History of Becker County, Minnesota by Mrs. Jessie W. West & Alvin H. Wilcox (1907) Chapter XXVII; transcribed by Janice Brazil
By L .O. RAMSTAD
L. O. Ramstad, March 12th, 1894 said: “During the fall of 1870, a large party of forty or fifty carriages camped on section 5 of Audubon. They kept up firing all night, which startled the settlers as they did not see them come in and did not know what to make of it. They proved to be a party of railroad people who had come from Red River. They had not seen them go out. Late the same fall, 1870, on Section 6, in Audubon, Gunder Carlson was shot by Indians, he being upon his claim with a son nine or ten years old. They had gone to bed when Mr. Carlson, noticing a bright light, stepped to the door and out into the yard, when he saw it was from his haystacks. The Indian, who had come from plunder, had set the stacks on fire, and standing behind Carlson and the haystacks fired Carlson called to his boy who came to him when he was shot, and they went around to the stable to turn out the stock. Carlson and the boy went that night to Christ. Anderson’s. Next morning the neighbors heard of it and those who cared and could be mustered went to the relief. Ramstad, Gregory, Henry Way and Doctor Pyle were there. Carlson lived several years after this but finally died of his wounds. The first graveyard in Audubon was on Way’s farm, and Gunder Carlson was buried there. Carlson’s son in 1894 was living on Ole Boe’s place in Section 29. Hamden Township. One hundred and seven signed a petition to Governor Austin begging protection from the In-dians, the result being that after this and the Cook murder the Indians had to have a pass when they were off the reservation, which they would hold up above their heads whenever they came within range of a settler. Indians would lie about and watch Ramstad at work, but he would pay no attention to them. In the winter of 1870-71, Ramstad Sukkestad and three others lived together for protection. They killed a steer and had game in abundance. Ramstad was a cook and would put the pot on with water heating, and go out with his gun and get prairie chickens for breakfast without trouble. He went to Alexandria in the fall of 1870. It took him thirteen days to make the trip with an ox team. He got flour, $1 worth of sugar and coffee. Sukkestad went to Otter Tail City in the winter for flour. They gathered from their hay some kind of grass from which they made the tea they drank that winter, and thus the five men spent the winter. In 1870 kerosene oil was 80 cents a gallon at B. Anderson’s store, grain sacks 50 cents each, calico 18 cents a yard, matches 40 cents a box with about 500 in a box, unbleached sheeting 19 cents a yard, potatoes 80 cents a bushel, one quarter pound of common tea was fifty cents, box of pills 75 cents, one half gallon of molasses 80 cents, scythe $2.00, snath $1.50, whetstone 40 cents, stove pipe 40 cents a length. Hay sold for ten dollars a ton in the spring of 1871. In 1870 lard oil for greasing boots was 45 cents a quart, one half barrel of salt was $3.25, and in September linseed oil was 25 cents a pint. In the summer of 1870 the mosquitoes were very bad; one of the men would sit up all night to keep a smudge. They brought dogs with them to help protect themselves and the stock, taking turns to do this. All slept in their wagons from June to October, 1870, and found the mosquitoes quite annoying.
In the winter of 1871 flour was $5.00 a sack, beans 7 cents a pound, pork only a shilling; brown sugar, 15 cents; axes, $1.75; wooden pail, 40 cents; smoking saw Mrs. tobacco, 25 cents a quarter pound; breaking land was $5.00 an acre. In 1872, yellow sugar was 17 cents a pound. In the winter of 1871-72, they were paid $1.00 a cord for chopping wood, and wagon grease was 25 cents a box. Hamden was at first called Belmont. Another town in Minnesota had the same name and it was changed. Settlers had to pay a carrier who went to Oak Lake to Otter Tail City five cents for a letter besides the postage. In the fall of 1872 was the first reaping that Ramstad knew of. B. B, Hemstock cut grain with a reaper, and Thomas Pierce raked after him with a hand rake. Ramstad worked on the railroad in the fall of 1871, and on the gravel train in 1872. There were no buildings but tents in Fargo; the Headquarter’s Hotel was building then. He bought pine lumber at Richwood of McLeod in 1872, before Frazee had started. He says that the grasshoppers appeared in the summer of 1871 in June, and in 1872. In 1873 it was a wet season and they did not bother much, but were back in 1874 and hatched out in 1875, and they came back in 1876, but left for good in 1877. It seemed as if they were swept off. In 1877 they seemed to destroy the whole plant of wheat, eating head straw and all. Governor Pillsbury appointed a day of prayer for the abolition of this scourge and the people well attended the church services. The first mowing with machine brought $5.00 per day and $3.00 for machine raking.
I saw Mr. L. S. Cravath early in the spring of 1871, before the snow went off. He and two other men had been over to Section 34, where he had taken a claim the fall be-fore. He and his family were then stopping at Dr. Pyle’s house, about four miles south-west from his claim. He moved onto his claim soon afterwards and if Mrs. Cravath went with him since she was the first white woman in the township. Hans Ebeltoft’s family did not come until May of June.
W. A. Wilkins told me the name of the township had been changed from Belmont to Hamden because there was another Belmont in the state, but he could not tell why it was called Hamden, and I never knew.
Late in the fall of 11871 several of us were working on the railroad grade, hauling dirt with our oxen from a cut to a dump a little west of Muskoda in Clay County. In our party were Andrew Jenson, Simon Jenson, J.O. Sukkestad, Chris Olson, now a Lake Park banker, Thorville Hanson, Ammund Borstad, P. A. O. Peterson and Chris E. Bjorge, another banker. Chris Olson’s oxen ran home one night, but Olson was on hand with the oxen the next morning all the same after a chase of nearly thirty miles. One time I went home after a load of supplies for the camp. I started from home at four in the morning and all went well until I came near to where Winnipeg Junction is now when I saw smoke coming up from the southwest with a strong wind. I kept on the bluffs along the border of the valley, but in a short time I found that the situation was a grave one, and my only hope was to get across to the north side of the railroad grade at the Buffalo River crossing. I drove on and urged the oxen faster with the fire close be-hind and with our oxen nearly exhausted we crossed the grade with the fire close to our heels, but we were where we were save and gave the oxen a much needed rest. I arrived at the camp nearly midnight.
Game was very plentiful. I once shot two sand-bill cranes at one shot, and wild geese were nesting in the small lakes nearly all summer.
I would here like to mention one useful person. Mrs. Hannah Ebeltoft, mother of Hans and Peter Ebeltoft. She was born in Sweden and married to Peter Ebeltoft, Sr., who died in Freeborn County before the Ebeltofts came to Becker County. She was the mother of twelve children and adopted three more who lived with her until maturity. She followed the calling of midwife until the time of her death, when she was over ninety years old, and the number of her patients ran into the thousands. She was a blessing to the people of this county during its early settlement when we had no doctors, going wherever called, whether in Becker, Otter Tail, Clay, or Norman counties, in heavy snowstorms, dark, rainy nights, in some cases being ferried across rivers in wagon boxes too deep to be crossed with a team, and in many instances she was the saver of lives after they had been given up by skillful physicians.
Supplementary History of Hamden
As L. O. Ramstad and Mrs. West have made a good beginning of the history of Hamden, and bought it up close of the year 1870. I will begin where they left off.
In November, 1870, Thomas Reese and Ole J. Weston took claims on Section 12. John Bill took a claim on Section 28, and Belmont Clark and L. S. Cravath took claims on Section 34, also Ward Bill.
In the spring of 1871 there was quite an influx of emigration, and nearly all the government land was taken up during the year.
C. A. Arvidson, Daniel Amos, and Nels Nelson settled on Section 2 that spring. Ellef N. Jellum and Anders Nelson took claims on the east half of Section 4, and Erick Overgaard on Section 6.
Christian Larson located on the southwest quarter of Section 8. He was the father of Sivert Larson and Ole C. Larson, the present sheriff, neither of these boys being old enough to hold a homestead at the time. The remainder of Section 8 was taken about the same time by Nels Olson, Nicoli Overgaard, and a man by the name of Ingebretson.
Nels Anderson took a homestead on Section 12.
Samuel H. Dahlen settled on Section 14, as did also Louis Peterson and Carl Blyberg.
John O. Herfindal, John Johnson and Peter Wilson settled on Section 18, Rolf Amundson, Tosten Olson, Sylfest Branser, Peter Ellingson and L. L. Ramstad all located on Section 20.
John S. Davis, Dan Lodin and Gutorm Garness settled on Section 24. On Section 26, Thomas Pierce and Ole K. Black.
John F. Crowl and Joseph McKnight settled on Section 28: Stengrem N. Jellum, C. W. Mickelson, Lars A. Larson and John A. Herfindal located on Section 30.
In 1872 W. W. Wilkins and Ole Davis settled on Section on Section 32, and Aaron Cravath and Benjamin Hemstock located on Section 12, northeast quarter, and W. S. Mois on Section 26, and A. K. Murray bought the John Bill place on Section 28.
The town was organized in September, 1871, and the first town election was held at the house of John Bill on Section 28, the 19th day of September, 1871, and the following officers were elected: W. A. Wilkins, chairman; Lars O. Ramstad and Isaac Farmer, supervisors; L. S. Cravath, town clerk; Benjamin Hemstock, treasurer; Lars Larson, justice of peace and Ole Davis, constable.
The first white child born in Hamden township was Ingebor Dahlen, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel H. Dahlen, who was born on the tenth of November, 1871. She is now the wife of Edward Mobraaten, and they live in Wendall, Minn.
The first recorded birth of a boy in the township is that of Ingebret Olson, born December 14th, 1872. He was the son of Tosten and Ana Olson, and is now dead. First death recorded, Gunil Herfindal, died March 18th, 1873.
The town was first named Belmont, but later changed to Hamden. The first marriage was Ole A. Boe to Julia Ebeltoft, Dec. 8th, 1872, ceremony performed by Rev. Hagebo, Lutheran minister.
The old soldiers were W. A. Wilkins, L. A. Larson, E. N. Jellum, O. A. Boe, Nels Anderson, C. W. Seebold and W. W. Wilkins.
Lucretia Parsons was the first school teacher in the township.
In the fall of 1871 I was living with my brother on Section 32 in the town of Hamden. Game was very plentiful, especially ducks, geese, and prairie chickens. It was no trouble to keep our families in meat, as all we had to do was to look out on the lake in the morning and see where the ducks were, which would be located according to the wind, and with a double-barreled shot gun we could usually kill enough to last the whole day. We had a small boat in the lake that was just large enough to carry one man which we used in our hunting excursions. It was a small affair and at first we had to be very careful. After a while we got used to it and shoot from the boat without any fear of upsetting. One day, however, I was out chasing a wounded duck with out success, and I finally concluded I would go down so the other end of the lake and let her die, and pick her up when I came back, but I had hardly turned around when my boat was swamped and the first thing I knew, I was out of the in the lake. I caught my gun with one hand and the edge of the boat with the other, so I had something to hang onto, but I was in a bad fix, eighty rods from shore and unable to swim a stroke. The bottom of the lake was so soft that I could not stand, the boat was full of water and I could get no foothold to empty it and there was not another boat anywhere in the vicinity. After being in the lake for more than two hours the boat drifted ashore on the side of the lake opposite to my home and I had lost all confidence in myself, as a sailor, but rather than walk for miles around the lake, I finally decided to take my chances in the boat, which took me back across the lake in safety.
Soon after the Cook family murder all our neighbors, except one family, gathered together in the stockade at Lake Park. This one family was that of Ole Davis, and together with my brother’s house, as we were well armed and had a good dog that would not let any one come near without making a great fuss, so we all slept soundly every night until the scare was over.
In July, 1871 the grasshoppers came down in multitudes, but we had nothing for them to eat that year but they laid immense quantities of eggs which hatched out in the spring of 1872, and ate up everything that we had sown, and had it not been that musk-rats were plentiful, and bought a high price, many of the settlers would have suffered for the necessaries of life.
W. W. Wilkins
Hamden Township is famous for its artesian wells, and some of the finest springs in Becker County are to be found on the line between Sections 35 and 36. There is also a spring of strong, pure, sulphur water near the quarter section corner between Sections 25 and 36. This spring is supposed to possess superior medicinal properties when drank fresh from the spring, but the water loses its mineral properties after standing for a few hours ever when corked up tight in an earthen jug.
Of Height Of Land Township.
By Jostrm H. Abbey.
Source: A Pioneer History of Becker County Minnesota, by Mrs. Jessie W. West & Alvin H. Wilcox (1907) Chapter XLII; transcribed by Sandra Stutzman
I came to Height of Land in March, 1883, and took a soldier's homestead on Section 18 in the said township on the south half of the north half of said section. I filed my declaratory statement, built a cabin, cleared several acres that summer, and cut about forty tons of hay. In the winter I cut logs and built a house, brought my family here from Frazee the 2d day of April, 1884, and have resided here and on the quarter section north of it ever since. Mr. Shink settled on the quarter section where I now live with his wife and two children in October, 1883, lived there a year then sold out to D. W. Whaples and moved away. Mr. Whaples lived here about six years and sold out to Mr. Albrickson of Detroit. I bought the place twelve years ago this spring. When we came here the woods were full of deer, bear and moose, and all kinds of small game. One morning, about 1892, two large moose came within four rods of our door and stood and looked at us and the cattle for several minutes, then turned and ran away. We had a good Winchester rifle, but not a cartridge in the house.
A petition to organize the township was granted by the board of county commissioners on the 6th day of January, 1886, and the first township election was ordered to be held at the house of Joseph Abbey in Section 18, on the 26th of January, 1886. I circulated the petition, traveled all over the township, got the proper signers and saw to it that the petition went before the commissioners. At this election the following township officers were elected to serve until the second Tuesday in March following:
Chairman of board of supervisors, D. O. Jarvis; supervisors, Mathias Daubenspeck, Ludwig Bartz; town clerk, E. E. Lange.
All the settlers but two or three in the township were homesteaders. We had no roads and very little money to build roads with. A. H. Wilcox, with other help, had laid out a county road from Detroit to Shell Lake and the county had opened it. It ran from southwest to northeast through the township. This was all the road we had, with the exception of an old lumber trail that followed up the river from Frazee to the outlet of Height of Land Lake. These were all the roads we had, and we had no money to make more, being unable to levy taxes, only on what little improvements we had in the township, and our personal property taxes were small. I was elected clerk of the township in 1887, and every year for seven years afterwards, and justice of peace for ten years. John Guethling, was chairman of supervisors in 1888, John Sperling second, and William Rosenow third supervisor. We worked things as carefully as possible. Every man worked a poll tax of from two to three days, and we opened out some roads to the county road, which gave us an outlet to Detroit and Frazee. After a few years we began to prove up on our homesteads and then began to realize more taxes. Then we began to lay out roads convenient to every settler. We have now good roads for a timbered township, as good as roads on the prairie. We never issued any bonds and we are out of debt, and have several hundred dollars in the treasury, and are in as good circumstances as any township in this county. This shows what economy with industry will do. A majority of the railroad land has been bought and settled, and we have a township as well off as any other township. We have a number of well-to-do farmers, and some are getting wealthy. They are out of debt and they possess everything necessary. Mr. A. H. Wilcox was a great benefit to this township in its early struggles. In his lumber business, it was just like him to employ every man that needed work who had a family, which was a great help to the people. Many of them kindly remember it, and often speak of it. Taking everything into consideration this is a grand, good township. The soil is mostly a gray loam with clay enough to make it very fertile and has a clay subsoil. Nearly all over the township there has been some heavy grain grown. In 1895, Mr. Wentz raised forty-seven bushels of wheat to the acre. I raised that same year, on twelve acres, thirty-five bushels per acre, and many more in this township did equally as well. We have an abundance of hay land to supply the entire township and some to spare. It is of excellent quality. I do not know of a more contented people than we have here, and not one has got the Canada fever as they have in other places. I consider that every man who has made money farming in Becker County ought to be called a hero.
The first settler was Robert Soper from Kansas. He settled on the northwest quarter of Section 2, overlooking the shores of Height of Land Lake about the 26th of September, 1882. He afterwards cleared thirty acres, built a house, lived there several years, sold out, moved to Wadena, afterwards went to Dakota and now resides in Canada. He also raised cattle and made farming a general business. Mrs. Robert Soper was the first white woman in the township.
The next settler in this township was John Davis from near Oshkosh, Wisconsin. He settled on the southwest quarter of Section 6 about the 25th of October, 1882, and made it a continual residence until after he proved up on his claim. He afterwards bought one hundred and fifty acres on Section 5, which Mr. M. E. Wilcox from Iowa has since purchased. John Davis cleared about ten acres and built a comfortable house. His industry, while a resident here, was raising sheep and cattle.
The same year, 1882, the third settler, D. O. Jarvis settled on the southwest quarter of Section 2, fronting on Height of Land Lake, about the 5th of October, built a house, cleared about ten acres, made farming and trapping game his business. Bear, deer, and other game were then in abundance. He lived there five years or more and sold out and went to Superior, Wisconsin.
Two of his children remained here some years. They afterwards moved to Park Rapids where they now reside. That same fall, two men from Kansas, John Soper and Benjamin Oron took claims on Section 8. Oron afterwards went to Colorado and died there.
About this time A. H. Wilcox with another man, was cruising up through this country, and when traveling over Section 8 he came across a big black bear just putting his head out of his den. Mr. Wilcox having a small shotgun loaded with fine shot, walked up as close as convenient and put the charge into bruin's head, putting an end to his career. So much for the plucky pioneer. John Soper built a house and settled on his claim, some of which was brush prairie. He soon broke up about twenty acres. Soper resided here on the northwest quarter of Section 8 until about 1898, then sold out and went to Wisconsin. He afterwards moved to Bemidji, where he now resides. While here he made his business farming in summer and lumbering in winter for A. H. Wilcox. He built a good frame house and outbuildings necessary for the place. Mr. Pinney Austin now resides on and owns the place. He keeps a store. There is an Advent church, also a cemetery on the place.
In June, 1883, the following men came, making the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth settlers. Carl Sperling, Sr.; Carl Sperling Jr., and John Sperling, sons of Carl Sperling, Sr.; also Frederick Fechner, son-in-law of Carl Sperling, Sr.; all four settled on Section 20, each getting one hundred and sixty acres. They arrived at the same time. They have made for themselves comfortable homes. John Sperling has two hundred and forty acres of land, with good improvements, a fine house and barn with outbuildings, a good stock of cattle and horses with all kinds of machinery to work with that is necessary on a farm.
Carl Sperling, Jr., owns two hundred and forty acres with a good comfortable house and barn with outbuilding-s, also a stock of cattle and horses and machinery to carry on a farm. Mr. Carl Sperling, Sr., lives with Carl Sperling, Jr. He is now about seventy-seven years of age, having divided his farm between his sons.
Mr. Fred Fechner lives on the southeast quarter, Section 20, which was his homestead. Has a comfortable house, barn and outbuildings. He has also bought 280 acres of land, and now owns four hundred and forty acres, some of the finest timber in the country, has a large stock of cattle and horses, and all kinds of machinery for a farm. When he came to Height of Land in 1883 he had no team, and a very few dollars in money. Continued industry has made him comfortable. He has also raised a large family of children. We state this to show what economy and industry will do even in a timbered country.
Mr. John Fichtner settled on the southeast quarter of Section 30 in the spring of 1884, and has made it his continuous residence. His boys have opened a good farm, built comfortable frame buildings, and are in good condition.
Ludwig Bartz settled on Section 30, southwest quarter, in 1885, and has opened a good farm, has comfortable buildings, and has been town clerk, also justice of the peace.
August Mews settled on Section 32 about 1885, on the northwest quarter. He owns land on Section 29 and several other places in the county; he is well-to-do, we might say rich for a farmer.
Rosenow settled on Section 32, northeast quarter. He owns land in Section 29, and has opened a good farm, and is in comfortable circumstances.
In the year 1884, April 11th, John Chapman settled on the north half of Section 18, having been here before and built a house, He lived here continuously until three years ago when his wife died. Since that time his son, Grant Chapman, has made the home his residence.
H. G. McCart, of Detroit in 1883 filed on the south half of Section 18, built a cabin, brought his family there from time to time, in the year 1887 sold out his interests to Charles Sheldon, who has made it his continual residence ever since. He has a well located farm, a good meadow, and other things convenient.
In 1885 quite a number of settlers came to this township. Mr. John Guethling from Carver County, Minnesota, settled on Section 21, northeast quarter. He has opened a fine farm, erected good buildings. The soil on his farm is very fertile.
Mr. Ludwig Golke settled on the northwest quarter of Section 22 in 1884, and opened a rich farm which sold last year for about $3,000. He went back to Carver County, Minnesota, in 1905.
Michael Graboritz settled on the northeast quarter of Section 22 in 1885. He sold out and moved to Arkansas, afterwards he moved back and is now a resident of this township.
A. Wothe settled and opened up a farm on Section 16, sold out and went to Arkansas, but afterwards returned.
August Schafer lives on the southwest quarter Section 32. He settled there about 1887 and has a fine farm.
Joseph Frick settled on Section 32, southeast quarter in 1887, and died there several years ago. Mr. Ernst married his widow, a daughter of Mr. Trieglaff of Burlington Township.
Wilhelm Sunram settled on Section 28 the southwest quarter in 1885, and opened a choice farm. He died there in the spring of 1904 and left a widow in good circumstances with a family.
Gerhard Wettels settled on Section 16 in 1889 and lived there about one year. Afterwards settled on Section 30, northwest quarter, and bought eighty acres across the line in the township of Erie, and cleared up a good farm. He has everything to make a farmer comfortable.
Mathias Daubenspeck settled on Section 28 in 1885, and has made a respectable home on the southeast quarter, and is comfortably situated.
Jacob Wefers settled on the northeast quarter of Section 28 about 1885. He has a choice farm, and looks as if he had plenty of this world's goods.
William Daubenspeck settled on Section 28 in 1885, the northeast quarter, and has fine buildings and improvements, and everything indicates prosperity.
August Daubenspeck settled on Section 21 and has made a choice home and surroundings.
Mr. Blauert lives on Section 21 and has a splendid farm. He has grubbed the timber all out by the roots, and has a large clearing and raises over one thousand bushels of wheat per year, and other grains in equal proportions.
August Wentz lives on Section 21, northwest quarter, and has things very comfortable. He came from Missouri.
Henry Oelfke settled on the southeast quarter of Section 26 in 1886. He was the father of Fred and Carl Oelfke. Mr. Oelfke died on the 13th of Nov. 1892. Carl Oelfke came with his father and located with him on the southeast quarter of Section 26 in 1886 and still resides on the same land. He is a hunter and a farmer, and has a farm with some very fine butternut trees at the back of his house. He told me last summer that they were eighteen years old. They were full of nuts and were quite as thrifty as those I have seen in Olmstead County. He is chairman of the supervisors of this township.
Mr. Carl Oelfke is a veteran hunter, and has undoubtedly killed more "big game than any other man in Becker County. He says he has killed in the vicinity of his home, in the last twenty years, 247 deer, 52 wolves, 35 lynx, 5 bears besides a great many wildcats, foxes, minks, rabbits and other small game.
Fred Oelfke settled on the northeast quarter of Section 34 in 1886 and is now the possessor of 320 acres of fine land and is a well-to-do farmer, with fine buildings and large, well cultivated fields. He has been township clerk for years. Fred has also been something of a hunter himself, having killed about twenty deer and two bears during his residence in the township.
Mr. Brinkman is an old settler and lives on Section 34. He is well fixed and has good buildings and large improvements.
Edward Lange came to this township in 1885, took his homestead on Section 14 and has a good farm. He is a prosperous farmer.
Jacob Lange lives on Section 10. He came in 1885.
Joseph S. Milton settled on Section 8 in 1885, coming from Kentucky. He sold out and went to Louisiana.
Harris Eastman settled in the southwest quarter of Section 8, proved up and went to live with his son Willard Eastman in township of Grand Park.
These and other settlers in the township too numerous to mention are all in fair circumstances. We are all working men in this township. We have no use for any other kind of settlers, and we do not solicit any other kind.
William Winter located on the north part of Section 26 in August, 1885, and after living there about fifteen years moved to Section 35, Grand Park Township.
Julius B. Galbrecht located on the southeast quarter of Section 26 not long afterwards where he opened up a good farm.
Carl Winter has a good farm on Section 23.
The first school in Height of Land Township was taught by Jessie Herrick (now Mrs. Jessie Greenlaw) who commenced on the 11th day of February, 1889, in District No. 49. The district then included all of the east half of Height of Land Township, and the schoolhouse stood on Section 10.
The first birth in the township was that of Adelena Graboritz, who was born on the 20th of September, 1885, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Graboritz.
The first white boy born in the township was Frederick Herman Fichner, born December 26th, 1885, son of Frederick and Wilhelmine Fichner. Elizabeth Daubenspeck, four years of age, was the first person to die in the township, her death occurring on the 11th of May, 1888. The first people married in the township were Benjamin W. Oren and Maggie A. Wilson, who were married on the 22d of October, 1883, by George W. Taylor, J. P.
Joseph H. Abbey.
of Holmesville Township
Source: A Pioneer History of Becker County Minnesota, by Mrs. Jesse W. West & Alvin H. Wilcox (1907) transcribed by Jean Hadley
The first settler in what is now the township of Holmesville was Swan Olund who settled on the southwest quarter of Section 6 on the 9th day of January, 1871, and is still living on the same land.
I do not think any one settled in Holmesville after him until in the fall of 1873, when J. B. Phillips settled on the northwest quarter of Section 32, William Pollard settled on the northwest quarter of Section 30, H. A. Poor on the northwest quarter of Section 30, and a man by the name of Heath on the southeast quarter of Section 30. Early in the spring of 1874, C. H. Whipple located on the southwest quarter of Section 30, Lewis Benson on southwest quarter of Section 18, and A. H. Wentworth on the southwest quarter of Section 18. Wentworth died in July, 1874, and George Yourex took his land the same fall, and in the spring of 1875 sold it to Robert Miller, and Miller sold it to Henry Owen after he had made final proof. Owen came in June 1875.
George Dorman settled on the southeast quarter of Section 28, in 1875, and Jo. Machner on the northeast quarter of Section 32, in 1882, and E. E. Johnson settled on the northwest quarter of Section 34, in August of the same year, and W. J. Clyde about 1878 settled on Section 20. The remainder of the township has since been settled up, principally with Swedes and Norwegians and Germans, among whom are Charles E. Magney, Sivert Johnson, E. A. Wagner.
Swan Olund, the first settler, and Louis Benson are the only ones who came into the township in the seventies who still remain so far as I know, and C. H. Whipple and Mrs. Angeline Miller, formerly Mrs. Henry Owen, both now living in Detroit, are the only others of the old settlers now remaining in the country.
On the 19th day of March, 1889, the township of East Richwood was organized, but the name was soon afterwards changed to Holmesville in honor of Hon. E. G. Holmes.
The first township election was held at the house of George Dorman on the southeast quarter of Section 28, on the date above mentioned. The following set of township officers were elected at that time:
Chairman of board of supervisors, C. L. Bostwick; supervisors, George Dorman, Amund A. Momb; township clerk, Barney Meischner; treasurer, Ernest Wagner; assessor, William Pollard, justices of the peace, John P. Momb, Elizer Schisco, John Nelson; constable, William Hilbrand.
William Pollard left the country before the time for making the assessment arrived and Ernest Wagner was appointed assessor in his place.
The first people to get married in Holmesville were Swan Olund and Emma Anderson, who were married on the 10th of May, 1878, by the Rev. John P. Nelson.
The first child born in the township was William Pollard, son of William and Sarah Pollard, who was born on the 16th day of January, 1874.
The first death in the township was that of A. H. Wentworth, who located on Section 28, southwest quarter, in March, 1874, and died on the 24th of July 1874.
Thirty-six years ago the Buffalo River and its connecting lakes through the township of Holmesville was a picturesque stretch of water. Before the Richwood dam was built there was at least seven feet fall between Buffalo Lake and Tamarack Lake where it is now nearly all dead water. At that time Buffalo Lake was half a mile shorter, twenty rods narrower and seven feet shallower than at the present time.
Between Buffalo Lake and the lake on Sections 8 and 17 there was a fine stream of water 40 rods long, 30 feet wide, and two feet deep, with stony bed and beautiful banks timbered with oak, rock elm, maple and basswood. There was a good fording place then where the long high bridge now stands over eight or ten feet of water.
The outlet to Rock Lake was not more than four rods long and two rods wide and three feet deep, with low, well wooded banks and was one of the loveliest spots in all this region of country. Rock Lake was smaller by at least a hundred acres than at the present time.
Notwithstanding the large amount of water held back by the Richwood dam, and the large amount of land overflowed, it is doubtful if the back water ever reached Tamarack Lake, for that lake is a foot lower than it was thirty-six years ago. At that there was no outlet of open water to the lake, as a floating bog 100 rods wide, and covering an area of more than 100 acres, obstructed the outlet. In walking over this bog at that time you would sink in the water and bog above your ankles at every step. Now it is good hard meadow land.
A ditch was cut through this bog by James Campbell of the Richwood sawmill for the purpose of floating out saw logs in 1882.
Thomas Jones who had charge of this work says:
We began work on the Tamarack Lake ditch about the 10th of May, 1882. We began at the commencement of the open water in the Buffalo River a little south of the corner to Sections 23, 24, 25, and 26 and cut across the bog to the open water in Tamarack Lake a distance of more than a quarter of a mile. There were seven of us, and we cut the ditch ten feet wide and four feet deep, which was the depth of the bog.
It only lowered the water two or three inches at the time.
The water, however, continued slowly and steadily to fall for a long time, but never quite getting down the level of the Richwood mill-dam.
I am indebted to Mr. E. Rumery, formerly of Richwood, but now of Detroit, for much of the information in this article with reference to the early settlers.
Settlement of Lake Eunice
By Simeon S. Buck.
Source: A Pioneer History of Becker County Minnesota, by Mrs. Jessie W. West & Alvin H. Wilcox (1907) Chapter XXV; transcribed by Sandra Stutzman
In the spring of 1870, W. W. Rossman with myself and my brother William left McLeod County for Becker County. We came with teams as there were no railroads at that time. We made the trip in about two weeks, and arrived at Cormorant Lake the 1st of June and took claims on Section 29. The second day we went fishing and caught as fine a string of bass as you would wish to see. Rossman and I were cooks; he would make the slap-jacks, and I would fry the fish and make the coffee; we built a log cabin and covered it with bark and sod and the floor was made of earth. This we thought was a good house, but the mosquitoes were awful that summer, and I expect we used some cuss words about them. Our nearest place to buy anything was at Alexandria, about 100 miles away, but we brought enough stuff to eat so that we got along with catching fish and shooting game until fall. Then we went back to McLeod County to get the families. We made the trip without any mishaps. John McClelland came back with us. He located at Lake Eunice. In the fall of 1871 Sidney Buck was born, the first boy born in Lake Eunice. At that time we started the city at Buck's mills, and it has been starting ever since.
I was born in Orange County, Vermont, in 1833, and came to Minnesota in 1851. I went to California in; 1858, and was in New York City at the time of the completion of the Atlantic cable. There was a great blowout at that time. I came back to Minnesota in 1860 and was here during the Minnesota massacre in 1862. In McLeod County I saw a whole family that had been killed by-the Sioux Indians, and all had their heads cut off.
I came to Becker County and took a claim in what is now Lake Eunice Township on the 30th day of May, 1870.
In the year 1871 my brother William Buck and myself moved to Section 31, in Lake View Township, where we built a sawmill the succeeding year.
S. S. B.
Lake Eunice Township.
By John McClelland.
All history except that of wars is usually made up of little things, incidents, waifs floating on the stream of time, seemingly of no account as they pass, hardly worthy of record, and yet in the fitful passage of a century, the historian looks back for those little incidents with the interest that would surprise us could we realize a tithe of their importance in the estimation of those who shall come after us.
Lake Eunice was named by the United States surveyors in honor of Eunice McClelland, who was the first white woman to settle near the lake. She was the wife of John McClelland.
The names of the first settlers were Simeon S. Buck, William Buck, William W. Rossman, John McClelland, Archibald B. McDonell, Duncan McDonell, John A. B. McDonell, William McDonell, Finlay McDonell, Donald J. McDonell, Anton Glaum, Jacob Gessel, John Turten, Eugene Early, J. Peter Johnson, L. G. Stevenson, John Holstad, George W. Britt, William Wagner, John Nelson, John Germer, John Peterson, Nels Peterson, Ostra Olson, Ole Munson, John King and Thomas McDonough, all of whom I think came in 1870.
Among those who came in 1871 were Thomas Bardsley, Alonzo Fogg, John Dispennet, Thomas J. Martin, Conrad Gianni, Peter Glaum, Conrad Gianni, Jr., Jacob Shaffer, Warren Horton, R. A. Horton. Myla Converse came in the spring of 1872, and George W. Grant, Andrew Rydell, John O. Nelson, Wm. Blake and James Blake came in the spring of 1873.
George W. Grant was a veteran of the Civil War and the hero of many battles. In later years he has held many important positions in the Grand Army of the Republic.
The lands in this town are much diversified, affording every facility for farming that the husbandman can desire. The western and northern parts are generally timbered with oak, maple, linden, poplar, etc. The balance of the land is prairie with groves of timber skirting the lakes. The surface is gently undulating, and the soil a rich black loam.
The first child born in the township was Sidney Buck, in October, 1871, son of William Buck, and is still a resident of Becker County. The first marriage was that of Alonzo Fogg to Miss Orlora Britt, by W. W. Rossman, justice of the peace, of Detroit. They now live in Washington. The first "husking bee" was at Mr. Britt's, where the boys got their pay for husking by kissing the girls every time they found a red ear of corn.
The first death in the township was that of Jane McClelland, mother of John McClelland and Mrs. W. W. Rossman of Detroit.
The first school in the town was a three months subscription school taught by Miss Orlora Britt.
The first town meeting was held September 3rd, 1872, and the following officers were elected: Justices of peace, A. B. McDonell and R. A. Horton; supervisors, William Buck, John Dispennet and John Turten; town clerk, John McClelland treasurer, John Bardsley; assessor, Duncan B. McDonell; constables, J. W. Horton and Charles R. Clockler.
The first settlers of this township went through all the hardships incident to the settlement of a new country. Goods of all kinds were high and money scarce. Everything had to be hauled by wagons from Alexandria, about ninety miles, the first summer. In the winter of 1871, Fletcher Bly, of Minneapolis, opened a store at the Big Cut, three or four miles west of Detroit on the Northern Pacific Railroad, after which goods could be obtained at a more reasonable price. At this time lumber was out of the question. The houses were all built of logs with sod roofs. Some had glass windows, and others had none. The more enterprising settlers had logs split and hewed on one side, which they laid down for their floors. Others spread hay on the ground, which had to be taken up every few days to prevent the fleas and mosquitoes from becoming too plenty. The fleas and mosquitoes will be long remembered by the early settlers of this township.
Some time in April, 1872, while Mrs. John McClelland was out in the dooryard raking chips, two Indians suddenly appeared before her, and asked in Chippewa where her husband was. Although taken by surprise she did not answer, but kept right on raking chips. Finally the other Indian asked in good English where her man was, and she told him he went to "Oak Lake." Almost before the words were out of her mouth the Indian said "Good.” This so frightened her that she was almost ready to run to one of the neighbors, but remembering the three children, she kept on with the rake, and showed as little fear as possible [sic] The Indians after conversing awhile in their native language, started in the direction of Oak Lake. This event took place shortly after the Cook family murder, about five miles north of here. It required a great deal of nerve to pass through such an ordeal at a time when it was thought a general uprising of the Indians might take place any day.
A half crazy Dutchman by the name of Jacob Schaffer came into the township in 1871. Jake was naturally of a thieving disposition and would steal everything he could lay his hands on. He would steal from one neighbor and give to another, anything from an ox yoke to a load of lumber. On one occasion he was known to steal a load of lumber in Detroit and give it away before he got home. The last we heard of poor Jake he was dangling from the limb of a tree in Montana for stealing horses.
L. G. Stevenson was another queer specimen of humanity, who came here in 1870. "Steve," as he was called, was as cute as a fox, a first-rate neighbor, and a clever fellow all around. The first civil case tried in the township Steve was employed as counsel for the defendant and John McClelland for the plaintiff. As the justice of peace before whom the case was tried was not very well posted in Blackstone, he was at a loss to know how to open the court. Steve told him to repeat after him what he should say. "Proceed sir," said the justice of peace. "Hear ye, hear ye," said the justice of peace, "the justice court of Lake Eunice is now open, all persons having business in this court must appear and be heard. God save the Queen." "God save the Queen, be d---d if I'll do it," said the justice of peace, "there is something not right about that. We don't have a Queen in this country." After a sharp skirmish by the attorneys it was decided to call off the Queen and the case went on trial.
The plaintiff won the case, and as Steve did not tell the justice of peace how to close the court, the probability is, it is still open. Steve was for a long time the political Moses of this part of the country, and when the Republican party wanted to concentrate public sentiment and obtain full delegations from Decker County in the district conventions, they had but to call Steve, and the thing was fixed. Steve was a singular genius; the world would not have been complete without him.
Besides the characters in Lake Eunice mentioned by Mr. McClelland as noted for their peculiarities, there were others.
A man by the name of Thomas McDonough took a claim on Section 22 in 1870, and afterwards sold his right to Alonzo Fogg. Tom had no fingers or thumbs on either of his hands, having lost them by hard freezing. He, however, could do almost any kind of work, was an expert horse teamster, and could handle the lines as skillfully as a man with a full set of fingers.
A man by the name of Frank Yergens bought the northwest quarter of Section 23 from John King, who had pre-empted the place after a close contest with the Northern Pacific Railroad Company. The same place is now owned and occupied by Alfred Nunn. Yergens, or Dutch Frank, as he was usually called, was a peculiar specimen of the genus homo. Knickerbocker's description of Wouter Van Twiller, the first Dutch Governor of New York, would apply equally as well to Dutch Frank. He was a man specially noted for the symmetry of his physical proportions, being exactly five feet six inches in height and six feet five inches in circumference. He was one of nature's noblemen, a man with a noble head—an immense head, a head that no ordinary neck could support, so nature came to his relief by placing his head on top of his backbone, squarely between his shoulders without any neck at all.
One dark, rainy night he took old Uncle James Blake, who was making his way home on foot from Detroit carrying a brass clock that he was taking home to repair, into his wagon to ride but afterwards made him get out and walk the rest of the way through the mud because he could not play him a tune on the clock.
To Mrs. Jessie West
Dear Madam: At your request I give you these few items of the early history of Becker County. I left Boston, Mass., on the 9th day of May, 1871, going by the cars to Newport, then by boat to New York, then via the Erie Railroad to Buffalo, where we took the boat J. R. Coburn for Duluth. We were in the first boat that left for Duluth that spring and were nine days in the passage, carrying a large amount of freight as well as passengers. It was a very pleasant trip. We stopped in all of the principal ports, and at last reached Duluth, where we found a new town. The principal street ran north and south, the buildings were all one style facing the street with square fronts. There were two elevators and the railroad station was one mile from the lake. There were no regular trains, the railroad being in the hands of the construction company. We remained at Duluth one week. Here we made the acquaintance of the Rev. Mr. Gilfillan, who was a resident minister. We found the railroad in a bad condition. There were numerous trestle works which were dangerous. They did not dare to trust the engines over some of them, and so the cars were detached from the engines and pushed across the trestle and another engine took them on the other side. We reached Thompson the first day and had to remain there over night. Here my connection with the Grand Army of the Republic was of benefit to us, for I found some comrades among the railroad men, and they gave us material aid. Thompson was a hard place; being the beginning of the Northern Pacific Railroad, it was filled with railroad employes [sic] and that class of people that follow a railway crew [sic] Nearly every other building was a saloon or dance hall. Gambling was openly carried on, and the town could boast of its houses of prostitution. In the evening, one would think bedlam was let loose.
With profanity, screaming, ribald songs, and shooting, we passed a sleepless night. The next day, Sunday, we loaded our goods on a flatcar and started for Brainerd. The day was warm and the sun was hot. The engine burnt wood, the sparks came and fell on us in showers, sometimes setting our clothing on fire. At last we reached a place called Aitkin. Here we had to leave the train and all of our heavy goods, for there was a sink-hole in the track, and the train could not cross it, so we got our trunks on a handcar, and women and children, and in addition to our company, we were met here by Superintendent Hobart and some other officials of the company. We primped that handcar for about eight miles over a road bed that resembled a snake both in its wanderings up and down pitchings as well as its curvings. At last we reached the sink. Here the earth had entirely disappeared, the track held together, and we had a suspension bridge about half of a mile in length. I should think it was about ten feet to the water, and the rails hung down to within a foot of the water at the center. When we got there we walked around, and they let the car go. It was carried by its own momentum down the incline and half way up the other side, where it was seized by men stationed there and pushed up the remainder of the way. Here we for the first time in our lives saw mosquitoes. I had previously met a few, hut without any exception there were more to the square inch going round that sink-hole than I ever saw before, and this was our experience to be followed up by day and night, till cold weather put an end to them. After getting around the sink we entered a passenger train and in about one hour reached Brainerd. Brainerd was headquarters for the Northern Pacific Railroad, and the description of Thompson answers for Brainerd. Mr. Hobart directed us to go to the Pine Restaurant, and we found a most excellent family, but there were no beds and we had to lay on the floor; of course, the mosquitoes and the eye watering smudge were there. Three days in Brainerd, and then we took a train to Crow Wing River, that being as far as the iron rails were laid. We stopped two days with James Campbell, now a resident of Richwood, who kept a tent hotel at this place. Here we hired teams, and after three days of travel we reached Detroit Lake, camping where the small stream empties into the lake near the club house. The next morning we drove into Tylerville. We remained here a few days, and June 15th, I selected my present homestead. It hardly seems necessary to mention the struggles and hardships, loss of crops by hail and grasshoppers, as well as the makeshifts to get along. These experiences are common to all new communities, yet we experience pleasure in speaking of them.
July 9th, 1871.—The following named persons met in the grove, where the Maple Grove schoolhouse now stands. Mr. and Mrs. David Mix, Annis Mix, Charles Mix, Capitola Mix, Frank Mix, Lillie Mix, Louise Mix, Mr. and Mrs. L. C. Averill, Mr. and Mrs. S. Woodworth, Mrs. Sylvester Moore, Flora Moore, Henry Moore, Lecela Moore, William McDonough, Edward McDonough, Mr. and Mrs. T. J. Martin, Pennell Martin and Charles W. Martin for the purpose of organizing a Sunday-school. David Mix was chosen superintendent, T. J. Martin assistant. Teachers, bible class, T. J. Martin; young ladies, Mrs. Moore; young men, S. Woodworth; infant class, Mrs. Mix. Sunday, July 23rd, we received a visit from Mr. Mason, Sunday-school missionary. He said this was the first organized school he had found in the county and gave us five dollars towards a library. Whether Mr. Mason organized any other school earlier than this date, I do not know, but think we can take the credit of being the first. The name was the Maple Grove Sunday-school [sic]
Religious services were held at different places in the county by the Rev. "Father” Gurley. I think at that time he was a Methodist, but he became later on connected with the Episcopalians. The first religious service held in Maple Grove was in the fall by the Rev. Mr. Wood, of Detroit, who reorganized the Sunday-school on that day, and also united James Hanson and Annis Mix in marriage. November 8th, winter set in, the snow never disappearing entirely till May 3rd, 1872. On April 9th we gathered maple sap and made maple syrup, the first run of the season. On April 13th, 1872, Marion Martin was born.
The Becker County Veteran Association.− The Grand Army Of The Republic.
Through some neglect on the part of the department officers, the Grand Army of the Republic lost its position in the National Encampment and all G. A. R. work was at an end, as there was no department we could not work. So the members of the G. A. R., and old soldiers formed themselves into the Becker County Veteran's Association.
In May, 1872, Mr. Norcross, uncle of William A. Norcross, of Detroit, started a brick-yard near where the Detroit House stands. Those pond holes near there are where he dug his clay. He made good brick earlier in the same season near Mud Lake, where another yard was started, Giles Peak furnishing the supplies for carrying on the work. In 1873 W. Norcross burned a kiln in the yard. His uncle started and also made brick east of the Pelican River on the Rand place. In 1875, a yard was started by Shaw and Kindred. In July of that year Kindred sold out to T. J. Martin. The first attempts were failures, but later they succeeded in making good brick. In 1880 Martin sold his interest to Shaw, who carried it on for two years more and then burned out.
Thomas J. Martin.
Source: A Pioneer History of Becker County Minnesota, by Mrs. Jessie W. West & Alvin H. Wilcox (1907) transcribed by Susan Geist
The first settlers in Lake Park Township were George Osborne and Daniel McKay, who came into the township in April, 1870. They located on Section 36, and what has since been called the Jonas Errickson farm was one of their claims. They were both single men and left the country soon after they had proved up on their land.
The next settler was John Cromb, who came into the township on the 20th of May, 1870, and took up land on Sections 26, 34 and 35. The same farm is now the home of John O’Day.
Mrs. John Cromb came with him, and was the first white woman who settled in the township.
Mrs. F. M. Higley, now of Spokane Falls, Wash., who came to Lake Park Township early in June, 1870, says:
We came to Becker County on the 10th day of June, 1870. We had four children. There were ten others in the party: Harry Chamberlain, wife and one child; John Higley, wife and three children; James N. Chamberlain and Charlie Morgan. Abner and John Chamberlain did not come at that time.
I think Wash. Dixon came a little later than we. He was not with our party. We came a few days after John Cromb, George Osborne and Dan McKay.
We left St. Charles, Minn., on the 10th day of May, with ox teams and covered wagons, arriving in what is now Lake Park Township just one month from the time we started, the 10th of June. The weather was very rainy, and as we had to cook by camp-fires it was rather unpleasant at times, but on the whole we had rather an enjoyable time. Flora Moore taught the first school in Lake Park Township.
Mrs. Frank M. Higley.
History of Lake Park Township
By Christen E. Bjorge
Christen E. Bjorge is one of the old settlers of this county. He is a native of Norway, and was born in Ringibu, Gudbransdalen, on the 6th day of October, 1850. He is the son of Erick and Mary Bjorge. Mr. Bjorge, the subject of this sketch, remained in his native land attending school until 1867, and at the age of seventeen he emigrated to the United States and settled in Vernon County, Wisconsin, where he remained for three years. To get a somewhat connected idea for Mr. Bjorge’s history, I will in his own words give the following taken from the Becker County Journal:
“To get a somewhat connected idea of what I am about to relate it will be better to begin at the time I left Coon Prairie, Wisconsin, and started on my romantic search for land. The day dawned on which I decided to start; the second day of May, 1870. Many friends were present to bid us good-by and wish us good luck on our journey. It was hard to bid these friends good-by, but our decision could not be changed; we must look for a home but where we knew not. Still we would follow Greeley’s advice and “Go West.” The oxen bought for the occasion were hitched up and off we started sometimes at a gallop, sometimes in the road and sometimes out as they were unbroken and would mind nothing. Thus we journeyed until about to ascend a steep hill which leads from Coon Prairie to what was known as the Dutch Ridge. Before we reached the top, the oxen lost all patience and made a maneuver which overturned the wagon and broke the tongue and finally they got loose. We lashed the broken tongue and continued our journey, arriving at La Crosse late that night, tired and discouraged by our first day’s trip. We partook of a meager supper, crept into our wagon, and soon fell into a refreshing sleep.
The next day we left La Crosse, crossing the Mississippi on a ferry. On the Minnesota side of the bank of the river was very steep and we came near having an accident. Our untrained oxen again showed their contrariness by backing up instead of going forward and another step backward would have plunged the whole outfit into the Mississippi, which here the majestic strength and splendor rushes by on its way to the gulf, ready to swallow and carry along whatever came in its way. But good fortune assisted us. The wagon was stopped by a projecting rock. We unhitched the oxen in a hurry, and drove them to the top of the hill. We had to unload and carry everything up the hill by hand. A passer-by with a team of horses pulled the wagon up for us, and we again proceeded on our journey. We cast a last look back to bid our dear Wisconsin good-by. La Crosse lay calmly smiling in the rays of the rising sun, but a treacherous enemy, the Mississippi, stretched out between us.
This early in the spring the pasturage for our oxen was poor, and consequently we had to proceed very slowly the first week so as not to tire our animals. To mention all the daily occurrences would take up too much space. But I thought it would interest both old and young to hear something about the “redskins” at this time when they were a constant menace to those breaking up the prairie or clearing the forest to get a home for themselves and their families. The young people of to-day can hardly imagine what the pioneers had to experience, suffer and overcome.
We moved slowly onward and arrived at Otter Tail City about the middle of June, and met several land seekers who I will mention individually.
Martin Olson was just back from a trip to Becker County, where he had found a home and was to return with his family. Mr. Olson described the country with brightest colors, and all the company agreed to go and look it over. From Otter Tail City (at that time an insignificant Indian village) to Becker County, there were no roads, only Indian trails. To go over these roads with heavy loads was next to impossible in many places. In the southern part of Becker County we had to cross a swamp which caused us much trouble and hardship; but cross it we must as we could discover no way around it. Consequently we had to bridge the swamp which took both time and strength, as the necessary materials had to be carried in. At last the bridge was finished, but it was not the best. Then seven or eight yoke of oxen were hitched to each wagon, and off we started across the swamp. Here is was necessary to hurry along the rear teams, and when these fell through the leaders were hurried on to pull out those which fell through the bridge. In this way we finally got everything across.
The caravan proceeded slowly until we arrived at Detroit Lake. Here we drove along the beach until we came to a place where a stream flowed into the lake. To cross this stream was next to impossible. In the first place it was very deep and there were high banks on the other side which we could not climb. In order to cross we would either have to build a bridge or drive into the lake around the mouth of the stream. We decided to do the latter. We raised the wagon boxes so as to save our provisions if possible. The water, however, was deeper then we had anticipated, and several got their baggage soaked. When in the stream, a yoke of our oxen lost all patience and seemingly thought it better to end their miserable existence by committing suicide. Where the water was deepest and only the oxen’s horns were visible, they lay down and disappeared from sight. At this time good advice was appreciated. Chains were brought in a hurry, and with the aid of two yoke of cattle we saved both the oxen and the wagon. The poor animals that again saw daylight against their wills made a few grimaces, but otherwise seemed no worse off for their plunge bath.
June 24th, 1870, we passed the site on which Detroit, our county seat, now stands; the plains looked lonely and desolate. Who would at that time have though that this would have been our county metropolis, and from its county hall justice would be dealt out to our people. We proceeded steadily though slowly further and further west, nearer and nearer our goal. Four or five miles west of Detroit the county became more open, being mostly prairie with groves here and there, with lakes, full of fish, scattered in all directions.
We soon arrived at the place where Lake Park is now situated. We halted and pitched camp, were satisfied with our surroundings and the beautiful Goshen we had taken possession of. Not least did the women enjoy the assurance that now their trials and sufferings were at an end, and they could view the future with hopeful eyes. The trip had lasted nearly two months, and you need not wonder that we felt the need of a rest, a chance for a general cleaning up. The next morning we were all early on our feet, driven by the blood-thirsty, long-legged mosquitoes which seemed to have no pity for the pale-faces who now made their conquest here. The day dawned clear and bright, and when the sun’s rays caressed the tops of the trees, the numerous birds struck up a beautiful morning song, expressing their happiness and satisfaction at being able to live and built their homes in this part of nature’s domain. The land seekers breakfasted, and were soon ready to strike out for the choice of a home. Each started in his own direction, while the cattle were left at the camp to be cared for by the women and children. By nightfall most of the land seekers were back, and had found what they had sought, a home for themselves and theirs.
All took up land near the timber. The party, among the first settlers of this township, scattered as one after the other got ready and moved his family and belongings to the place chosen for their future home. We arrived at the place in Section 8 which became our home on June 28th, 1870.
The first thing we did was to build a claim shanty, its size was ten by twelve feet, seven feet high at the ridge. I had half a window facing the south. The roof was composed of poplar poles and hay, with clay on top. It soon showed that we were not master builders, as all the rain that fell on the roof streamed through into what we called a bed. The bed was made from a couple of oak logs three feet long, laid six feet apart and covered with poles. There was no floor in the cabin, and when it rained there was little comfort within. Table we had none, but used a box which we had brought with us. We made stools out of oak logs, leaving a part of a limb on for a handle. There was little said about the necessary housefurnishing, as lumber and the necessary tools were not to be had. All we had was an old ax, and with such a tool it was hard to manufacture the furniture. In the summer of 1870 we broke a few acres which were seeded in 1870, but the grasshoppers came and took it all; the same happened in 1872. In 1873, we had no grasshoppers but then we had a very small area seeded. The reason for this was that so many were of the opinion that we would again be visited by the grasshoppers, and also that so many were too poor to buy seed wheat. In 1874-5, the grasshoppers again ravaged the country so that there was nothing left for bread for the poor farmers. When I say that the grasshoppers were so numerous that they stopped railroad trains you will perhaps doubt it, but it is a fact that the insects would alight on the rails in such a number that the rails would become slippery, and the train could not move.
These continuous failures, together with other obstacles and disappointments, caused many to lose heart. This must be said of the Norwegian; he is tough and determined to hold out; at least that was the case here. During these years of privation few moved away to other localities, but most of the first settlers remained. Many will perhaps wonder how so many could hold out for such a length of time without getting any crops. It must be said that the railroad, the Northern Pacific, which runs through here was built to Lake Park in the fall of 1871, and this gave the farmers a chance to earn a little, both by their own work and the work of their ox teams. If the Northern Pacific had not been built at that time I dare say everybody would have been starved out of Becker County.
Even when we first settled here we lived in constant fear of the many Indians we had to mingle with. They had their homes on the White Earth Reservation, in Becker County. It soon became apparent that the Indians were not friendly to the whites, who were overrunning their hunting grounds.
In the fall of 1870 the Indians set fire to a stack of hay belonging to a farmer named Gunder Carlson, and when he went out to investigate he was shot from behind by an Indian. Mr. Carlson received six buckshot in the back and died two years later from the effects of the wounds. In the fall of 1871 a family by the name of Johnson were killed by the Indians, and in the spring of 1872 another family consisting of five persons were killed. These atrocities put fear and unrest in our minds, and made the situation very grave.
In May, 1872, a message was sent out that the Indians were gathered on the White Earth Reservation for a council. Their war spirit gathered strength as their meeting progressed. The Indians had even donned their war paint, and were dancing the war dance. There was at that time a minister on the reservation, who sent the settlers word about the doings of the Indians. When war-like rumors came out, the settlers of Lake Park Township gathered at Lake Park to discuss what had best be done. The most careful were chosen as leaders, and it was decided to build a fort on a little hill south of where our peaceful little village, Lake Park, now stands, with extensions on each corner so that firing could be done along the sides of the fort from the inside, railroad ties were set upright in these ditches, and the dirt tramped in again. Port-holes were arranged here and there around the fort. Women and children were brought inside the stockade. Some of the men were placed as sentinels while others were stationed at the port-holes to receive the expected enemy. The settlers remained here for several days. Meanwhile there was nobody at home to care for the stock, so these animals were obliged to shift for themselves as best they could. The warlike Indians did not come. The reason was that the above mentioned minister had brought his influence to bear upon them. Their minister was a steadfast friend of the white settler and he, next to God, must be thanked for our deliverance. When the settlers received the good news that all danger was over for the time being, each one proceeded to his own home. In 1876 there was another fear of Indian uprising, but then, as before, it was frustrated by the peaceful ones who were more friendly to the whites.
Thirty-five years ago nobody would have thought that at this time Becker County would become such an important county in the state. It is not only one of the handsomest counties in the state, but the farmers and the inhabitants are as a whole well-to-do, not to say rich. Especially in the western part we see on every hand well cultivated farms and substantial buildings.
Large herds of cattle are now grazing where not many years ago herds of buffalo were found.
C. E. Bjorge.
Mr. C. E. Bjorge was united in marriage to Miss Dina Hamre on the 28th day of October, 1875. Miss Hamre was born in Goodhue County, Minnesota, and was the daughter of John and Emily Hamre, both natives of Norway. Mr. and Mrs. Bjorge have been blessed with six children, Edwin, Julia, Annie, Oscar, Rhoda and Leona.
Mr. Bjorge was appointed postmaster at Lake Park under Cleveland’s first administration. He conducted the office with credit and satisfaction both to himself and all concerned. He was president of the village for a few years, then assessor of the township, and was census enumerator in 1880 and 1890, and clerk and member of the board of education.
Mr. Bjorge is a man of good business abilities and qualifications, and has been successful in whatever business he has been engaged.
George Goodrich came here in the summer of 1870 and settled on Section 14.
Mr. Jens P. Foss, of whom I have no history, came here in the spring of 1872, and settled on the southwest quarter of Section 16 (school land).
O. I. Berg came here in the spring of 1872.
The first township election was held at the house of M. L. Devereaux on Section 10, September 19th, 1871. John Cromb was elected moderator, M. L. Devereaux, clerk; and Martin Olson, and Louis Johnson, judges of election. At this meeting the organization of the township was affected and it was named the township of Liberty. The following named persons were elected as the first officials of the new township. Supervisors, Jonas Erickson, chairman; W. H. Chamberlain and G. F. Johnson. M. L. Devereaux was elected town clerk; Charles Smith treasurer; John Cromb and Jonas Erickson, justice of the peace and Frank Higley and Louis Johnson, constables.
At a meeting held on the 21st day of October, 1871, the township was organized into a school district called No. 2, with the following officers; M. L. Devereaux, clerk; John Cromb, director and Jonas Erickson, treasurer. This district was set aside as illegally established.
At this time there was no railway, and the nearest market place was over one hundred miles away. This was a long distance to drive with oxen over poor roads to obtain the necessities of life. In the summer of 1871, however, work was commenced on the construction of the Northern Pacific Railroad. A railroad station was established in the northern part of the township, and the name give to it was Lakeside. The building of the railroad put new life into the country. The settlers were given employment, money was put into circulation, stations were built, markets were opened, and they were enabled to sell their products to obtain the necessities of life and to procure the machinery so essential to successful cultivation and subjugation of the soil. The early years were full of hardships, the grasshoppers destroyed the crops and the settlers were in constant dread of the Indians.
By reason of this many became discouraged, abandoned their homesteads and returned to older settlements. But neither the ravages of the grasshoppers nor the danger of being exterminated by the Indians could scare away the majority of the early and sturdy pioneers, who had crossed untrodden prairies, and unbridged streams, and penetrated wild forests for the purpose of providing homes for themselves and their families.
In 1876, at the suggestion of the Rev. Dr. Hawley, the post office known as Loring, the railway station, and the township were all merged into one name to be known as Lake Park. This was indeed a most fitting name, for to one who in summer time beholds the striking landscape consisting of undulating prairies, green groves, blossoming fields and picturesque lakes, it presents the scenic beauty of a park. In fertility of soil this township is not surpassed by any in Becker County, nor perhaps in the entire Northwest. The land is now only adapted to the growing of grain such as wheat, oaks, barley, and flax, but during recent years, clover and corn have been raised with success. The country is therefore adapted to diversified farming; stock-raising and dairying have in recent years become important industries. In the village of Lake Park are two creameries that are running with full capacity the year around.
The stock farm of Thomas Canfield which is situated near the village of Lake Park is one of the finest and most up-to-date stock farms in the Northwest. On this farm Mr. Canfield has bred up from imported and domestic stock a fine herd of Shorthorns that have captured many prizes at many fairs where they have been exhibited. On the farm may be seen also the finest Yorkshire hogs in America, if not in the world. His Yorkshires took the championship at the World’s Exposition at St. Louis, and at every other place where they have been exhibited they have carried off the highest honors.
Many of the farmers in the vicinity have availed themselves of the opportunity of improving their stock by purchasing full-blooded sires at the Canfield farm. Lake Park is noted for its fine stock, and for this the farmers are indebted, to a large extent, to the energy and untiring efforts of Mr. Canfield, who has made it possible for them to obtain full-blooded sires of the highest bred type.
An orphan home has also been built in the northwestern part of the township where dependent children can be cared for and educated.
The village of Lake Park, with a population of 800, is a thrifty and prosperous town, and as an evidence of its thrift and prosperity may be cited the fact that there is not a single shanty in the village.
Already some of the early pioneers have been laid to rest, and the time is not far distant when all of them will have ceased to count their homes among the living. They have done their duty and have done it well; they have been faithful and true. For their unswerving loyalty to those by whom they are survived, and devotion to country, the rising generation is deeply indebted. They strove to make us and our country what we are and their efforts have not been in vain. The substantial roads, the fine school houses, and the towering churches bear the strongest testimony to their industry, their undying devotion to family, and their loyalty to country and to God.
Henry O. Bjorge.
The first child born in Lake Park Township was Henry O. Bjorge, who was born on the 7th day of March, 1871. He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Ole Bjorge.
The first people to get married in Lake Park Township were Ole L. Berland and Betsy Olson, who were married on the 3rd of January, 1872, by L. G. Stevenson, justice of the peace.
A child, Jens K. Sorenson, died in this township, September 13th, 1871. This was the first death in the township.
John Delaney died May 22d, 1872. Mons Johnson died November 15th, 1872.
With reference to the early deaths in the township John Cromb has this to say:
I think that old John Delaney, who lived on what is now the John Horan farm was one of the first to die. He died of strangulated hernia. I remember his death well, being with him when it occurred, and afterwards made his coffin, as we had no undertakers in those days. We had funeral services at the house, however, Father Gurley officiating. We buried the old man in a grove facing the lake on my farm, where the body still remains.
R. H. Abraham was appointed postmaster in the spring of 1872.
Chris. E. Bjorge.
Miss Flora Moore, now Mrs. Cyrus Curtiss, of Des Moines, Iowa, taught the first school in the township. Mrs. Sylvester Moore, her mother, writing from the home of Mrs. Curtiss, Nov. 7th, 1906, says:
I saw Flora to-day and she gave me some data with reference to her school in Lake Park Township.
She says she commenced her school in June, 1872, the same year the first school was taught in Detroit. Frank Higley engaged her to teach the school. The school was taught in the house at the stockade on the Frank Higley farm. She taught three months, boarded at Mr. Higley’s, had fifteen scholars and received her pay from Mr. Higley.
History of Lake Park Village
By O. I. Berg
In January, 1872, Ole J. Weston, who was then section foreman built the first shanty in Lake Park for his section crew. The next building was R. H. Abraham’s basswood store building which he hauled up from Oak Lake with oxen in February, 1872. This was the first store in the village.
Elling Carlson and Peter Ebeltoft erected a building and started a store in the spring. This was the second store in the village.
S. B. Pinney and Charles B. Plummer built a store in the summer of 1872 which was the third one in the village.
The first framed residence building was built by O. I. Berg in the fall of 1872. The place was then called Hay Siding.
Hans Hanson started the first blacksmith shop, in the spring of 1873. Charles B. Plummer opened a hotel in 1874. Eight blocks of the original townsite were surveyed in 1873 by Joseph E. Turner by order of L. P. White, agent for the Townsite Company. The remainder of the village was surveyed by A. H. Wilcox in May, 1882, by order of Thomas H. Canfield, proprietor.
R. H. Abraham was the first postmaster.
The village was incorporated in March, 1881. The judges of the first election was appointed by the Secretary of State, Fred Von Bombach, and were, O. I. Berg, R. H. Abraham and Dr. J. O. Froshaug. The first election was held March 15th, 1881. Thirty-five votes were cast and the following village officers were elected: President, Thomas C. Hawley; trustees, O. I. Berg, M. Mark, J. E. Chase; recorder, A. C. Dean; constable, L. E. Norby; justice, J. A. Bemis.
The first railroad ticket agent was ----- Thompson.
The first small church was built by the Lutheran Conference in 1879. The Synod church was built in 1884.
The first schoolhouse was built in 1875. The first school teacher in the village was Miss Delia Hawley.
LAKE PARK TIMES (Thursday, August 17, 1882)
Source: A Pioneer History of Becker County Minnesota, by Mrs. Jessie W. West & Alvin H. Wilcox (1907) transcribed by Susan Geist
“According to the eternal fitness of things” every booming town in this most booming country has its advantages sounded through the medium of its newspaper. We have looked over the ground and have decided that it is time for Lake Park to show its hand, as it were, and take its place among other towns of its size, able and ready to support its own newspaper. We do not take this step hastily, for we have watched the steady and solid growth of the village for four years and know, therefore, what we do. Possessing the finest agricultural district in the state, already thickly settled by thrifty farmers, it is destined to advance by a rapid and substantial growth.
It has been intimated that the Times has been established as a campaign paper in the present fight in progress in the fifth district. This assertion we wish to contradict at the outset and assure our patrons that we have come to stay and mean business. We may have out personal preferences on the subject, but the Times will take no part in the matter. It will always be in the interest of the growth and prosperity of, first the village of Lake Park; second the country surrounding. In short, the Times is to be a local paper in the full sense of the word. It is not owned or controlled by any political party or faction and all fears on this point may be put to rest at the outset.
Lake Park, situated in the western part of Becker County, has the finest country tributary to it of any town in northwestern Minnesota. To the north the country is thickly settled for twenty miles and it includes the garden spot of Becker County. The family Wild Rice Region, twenty miles northwest of Lake Park, finds its outlet here. No town in this part of the state has so large an area to depend upon for support and the quantity of grain which finds a market here is enormous and fully half of what Becker County produces. We have a gently rolling prairie with just enough timber to supply the farmers for years to come. Splendidly watered by the Buffalo River and its tributaries, which furnish the pure water free from alkali, the Buffalo valley, in point of excellence far surpasses the Red and James River valleys. And that the town is alive to all these facts is shown in the marked improvements which are going on in every direction. Buildings are going up in every direction and it is safe to say that Lake Park is destined to become, in the near future, one of the largest and most flourishing cities in northwestern Minnesota. This year there will be harvested one of the finest crops ever secured in the county and the fact of Becker being the champion wheat growing county in the state will no doubt be demonstrated, as has heretofore been the case.
H. P. Hamilton, Editor
Lake View Township
Source: A Pioneer History of Becker County Minnesota, by Mrs. Jesse W. West & Alvin H. Wilcox (1907), Chapter XXVI; transcribed by Mary Saggio
This township was organized in March. 1872, and the first township election was held on the 12th day of that month at the log cabin of A. B. Simmons on Section 10 of that township.
The first set of township officers were:
Chairman of board of supervisors, J. W. Brown; supervisors, W. J. Martin, Eugene Holyoke; township clerk, Stephen Woodworth; treasurer, Joseph H. Abbey; assessor; C. H. Sturtevant;
The first settlers were:
Edward McDonough, on southwest quarter Section 18, in June 1st, 1870; William McDonough, on northwest quarter Section 18, in Sept. 5th, 1870; Lars Eckland, on northwest quarter Section 30, in Sept., 1870; David Mix, on southwest quarter Section 6, in October, 1870.
O. V. Mix, on Section 6, in Oct., 1870; S. B. Dexter, on northwest quarter Section 6, in May 30th, 1871; Sylvester Moore, on Section 6, in June 14th, 1871; Steven Woodworth, on northwest quarter Section 18, in June 14th, 1871; Joseph Abbey, on southwest quarter Section 14, in July 1st, 1871; Charles H. Sturtevant, on southwest quarter Section 4, in August 5th, 1871; Marshall J. Lewis, on southeast quarter Section 10, in August 29th, 1871; J. B. Simmons, on northeast quarter, Section 10, in September 10th, 1871; James W. Brown, on northeast quarter, Section 4, in 1871; John Rutterman, on northeast quarter, Section 14, in 1871; George Martin, in 1871; John Whalen, on Section 14, in 1871; Anthony Miller, on southeast quarter, Section 12, in 1871; Martin H. Gerry, on northwest quarter, Section 4, in 1871; John McGilvery, on Section 22, in 1871; Harvey Judd, on northeast quarter, Section 8, in 1871; Charles Harvey, in 1871; Thomas Corbett. on northeast quarter, Section 20, in September, 1871; Eugene Holyoke, in 1871; Daniel Webster, on northeast quarter, Section 12, in 1871; James Dupue, Section 22, in 1871; Nels Munson, on southeast quarter, Section 6, in 1871; Thomas Glenn, on Section 22, in 1871; W. H. Martin, on Section 22, in 1871.
The township was first named Lakeville at the suggestion of Mrs. C. H. Sturtevant, but there being another township by that name in the state, Mrs. Sturtevant suggested Lakeview and that name was chosen, as there were so many lakes in the township and so many pretty views from them.
The first white woman to settle in Lakeview Township was Mrs. David Mix, who came into the township the 15th of May, 1871.
The first white child born in Lakeview Township was Nellie Mix, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. David Mix, who was born on the 24th day of August, 1871.
The first Lakeview people to get married were James Hanson and Miss Annis Mix, who were married by the Rev. J. E. Wood on the 22d of October, 1871. This was also the first marriage of white people in Becker County.
The first people who died in the township were Mr. and Mrs. John Rutterman, an account of which is here given in an extract from the Detroit Record of June 29th, 1872:
Mr. and Mrs. Rutterman, who lived alone on the south side of Detroit Lake came to Detroit in a "dugout" canoe on the 25th and left Archie McArthur's on their return Thursday evening at 7 o'clock the distance home being about three miles. Mr. McArthur's family saw the boat well on the way across the lake, then saw some indications of a storm and the wind blew so hard that they closed their door. They were seen still later by a family at the engineer's headquarters on the lake shore. When the storm became severe, they closed their door and they saw the frail boat nearly across the lake by the south shore and in line from that point with Mr. Miller's house. Mr. and Mrs. Rutteman were accompanied by a small dog, and later in the evening some of the Miller family saw the dog pass on its way home. The storm causing this accident, hung in the north and the northwest for some time, and then suddenly approached with a strong wind and grew dark. It is believed the Ruttermans had almost reached the shore by Miller's house when their frail boat capsized, and both were drowned, the dog alone reaching the shore. Next morning Mr. Miller found the canoe upset and Mrs. Rutterman's hat and basket on the shore near his house. This was the first suspicion of the fatal occurrence. Mr. Miller came directly to Detroit and a posse was organized to search for the missing. The lake was dragged with hooks on Wednesday and Thursday night aided by torches, but to no avail. Some parts of the lake were over eighty feet deep. Mr. Rutterman has resided here for about one year, and his wife since last November, and both were highly esteemed. Mr. Rutterman was about 42 and his wife 32. Both were born in Germany, coming to this state from Missouri.
Mrs. Rutterman's body was found the first day of July and on the 9th, Messrs. Noble Sanders and another gentleman of Detroit found the body of John Rutterman floating in the lake not far from where Mrs. Rutterman's body was found. Coroner Brown assisted by Charles Doell took the bodies in charge and gave them burial on the eastern shore of the lake. Captain Doell's efforts and sympathy for the orphan children will not soon be forgotten by citizens and friends of the deceased.
EARLY SETTLEMENT OF LAKEVIEW.
By Capt. Joseph Abbey.
I came to Becker County July 1st, 1871, and took a pre-emption on the southwest quarter of Section 14, of Lakeview Township. built a good log house and cleared about twenty acres, the land being mostly covered with oak timber. In March, 1872, I went back to Michigan and got married, and brought my wife home to Becker County. We arrived in Detroit on the 11th of April, a town then mostly of tents. When we got off the cars they were in a snow cut from eight to ten feet high on either side, with side cuts to get through into the city. My wife gave a sigh and asked if we had not about come to the jumping off place. We went straight home to Lakeview where we resided until November, 1873, being one of the pioneer families.
We had pleasant times, being surrounded soon afterwards by other families, among which were those of Eugene Holyoke, M. J. Lewis, J. B. Simmons and Thomas Glenn, the steam shovel man, also a man by the name of George Martin and another by the name of James Depue on the northwest quarter of Section 15. The woods abounded with deer and other game such as bear, lynx, a few elk, and wolves were very numerous. I have seen dozens of them in packs on Detroit Lake, when I have been crossing on the ice to Detroit village. Prairie chickens, partridges and grouse were plentiful, and wild ducks too numerous to mention. I have seen them by the thousand on the lake called by my name, adjoining my old place, and when they would rise to fly they would make a noise like a train of cars. I sold my place to a man by the name of Dor, and he soon afterwards sold it to Arthur Beach. I was out of the state until the fall of 1882 when I came back to Becker County.
Captain Abbey was a member of the 4th Michigan Cavalry, commanded by Col. Pritchard, the regiment that captured Jeff. Davis.
The First School.
The first school in Lakeview Township, was taught by Miss Nellie Childs of Detroit. She says:
I taught the first school in Lakeview, and it was my first term as well. I began June 1st, 1874. The school was held in a log building that Mr. David Mix had put up for a granary, but afterwards used for a dwelling. It stood in Maple Grove, near Mr. O. V. Mix's present home.
When I reached the place on Monday morning the building was there, but not a single article of furniture. Mr. Martin and Mr. Mix were making benches. I brought my own chair from home, and a little home-made pine table was brought from Mr. Mix's. The benches were finished so we had a short forenoon session. We had neither maps, blackboard nor globe during the term. There were sixteen pupils, and I think there were never sixteen more obedient, studious, respectful children gathered under one roof.
I do not think a single new book was bought. Each brought such school books as there were in their various houses; books that had been used by elder brothers and sisters or fathers and mothers; some were from Nova Scotia, some from Rhode Island, some from Massachusetts and some from Wisconsin and Minnesota.
With but one exception these sixteen are all still alive, although well scattered from Minnesota to the Pacific coast. Within the last three years a daughter of one of them has been one of my pupils.
To me this is a very interesting subject, and once fairly started. I find it hard to stop.
July 6th, 1906.
PELICAN VALLEY NAVIGATION CO.
In all the world there cannot be found a more beautiful chain of lakes than that of which Detroit Lake is the northern link and which stretches away southwest to Pelican Rapids in Otter Tail County, a distance of nearly forty miles. The lakes in the chain differ widely in size and form. All have beautifully timbered shores, fine sandy beaches and are liberally bestrewn with beauty spots — ideal places for summer homes. The journey through them is one of constant variety and never ending interest; streches of lake, all too short to admit of monotony, alternate with little stretches of river winding through the timbered hills, meadows and fields of the beautiful Pelican valley. It is no wonder that in the very earliest days of pioneerdom there were schemes for opening these lakes to navigation by putting in locks and enlarging the channels connecting them so that boats might pass from lake to lake.
A company was organized in 1876, at Detroit, with John A. Bowman, president; F. W. Dunton, of New York, vice president; C. P. Wilcox, secretary; and A. H. Wilcox, treasurer and chief engineer, but nothing seems to have ever been done by this company.
Articles of incorporation of the "Detroit Lake and Pelican River Slack Water Navigation Company" were published in the Detroit Record during the summer of 1882. Under these articles it was proposed to construct and operate a water route with all necessary appurtenances from some point on Detroit Lake in the County of Becker to Breckenridge in the County of Wilkin, via the Pelican and Otter Tail rivers. Lake Lida was also included in the scheme. Detroit was named as the principal place for the transaction of business. The capital stock was placed at two hundred and fifty thousand dollars and the list of incorporators were as follows: John A. Bowman, Detroit, Minn.; Homer E. Sargent and Nathan Corwith, Chicago, Ill.; Randolph L. Frazee, Frazee, Minn.; William A. Kindred, Fargo, D. T.; E. G. Holmes and A. H. Wilcox, Detroit, Minnesota. Nothing was done by this corporation in the way of improving the channels connecting the chain of lakes in question, nor were any further steps taken to construct such water-way for a number of years. During the summer of 1888 a new corporation was organized with George D. Hamilton, Jeff. H. Irish, and John K. West as incorporators. The work of building the water-way commenced under this company on the 1st day of Sept., 1888, with Thomas Richmond as foreman. A small dam was built at the outlet of Detroit Lake, which stopped the flow of the stream and permitted the lowering of the channel to Muskrat Lake. At this time there was a difference in level of four feet, eleven inches between Muskrat and Detroit Lakes and of twelve inches between Muskrat and Lake Sallie, making the total fall from Detroit Lake to Lake Sallie, five feet eleven inches. The Pelican River was a shallow, crooked, brook-like stream through which it was very difficult to move a small row boat. A dam was placed across this stream below the outlet of Muskrat Lake and a cut made through the bank into Lake Sallie in which a lock was built. Work was continued until stopped by cold weather. In the following spring the dam at outlet of Detroit Lake was removed and a channel dredged out into the lake, the channel between Lakes Sallie and Melissa deepened and made navigable. This was accomplished by means of temporary dams which held the water in the lakes and permitted the pumping out of the channels so that the dredging could be done with scrapers, shovel and wheelbarrows. Permission was obtained from the town of Lakeview to raise the bridges so as to permit the passing of boats and the channel was continued to Buck's dam, south of Lake Melissa.
Late in the summer of 1889 the twin screw steamer, "Lady of the Lakes," was put in service and towed a quantity of wood from the banks of Muskrat Lake to the railroad siding on the shore of Detroit Lake two miles east of Detroit, and now known as the "Ice Track." This wood was loaded on scows and the steamer used as a tug boat. During the following summer the steamer "Lady of the Lakes" made regular daily trips from Detroit to Lake Melissa, and the cottage settlement in the vicinity received a considerable start. After the cottage season was over the steamer was used to tow cordwood from Buck's dam to the railroad until winter stopped the work. For a number of years this same thing continued. Each season the towing of wood and logs was carried on until the price of timber at Buck's dam became so high as to leave no profit in the undertaking. No towing has been done since 1899, but the boats have run regularly throughout the summer season carrying passengers to and from the cottage settlements on the lower lakes, making three trips daily and carrying a large number of passengers. It has been and is now the intention of the Navigation Company to extend the improvements of the channels connecting the other lakes in the chain until all are made navigable. This will be done as fast as business will warrant.
By J. F. Siegford
Source: A Pioneer History of Becker County Minnesota, by Mrs. Jessie W. West & Alvin H. Wilcox (1907) Chapter XXXVIII; transcribed by Vicki Bryan
Just as Moses of old led the Israelites toward the Promised Land, just so did J. F. Siegford lead an exodus from Northern Iowa and Southern Minnesota toward the Third Prairie. But he did better than Moses, for he not only entered the promised land, but made proof and has continued to reside on said land ever since.
On the tenth day of June 1879, with my son G. F. Siegford, George M. Carson, C. E. Bullock and A. W. Sanderson, with Joe Sombs as cruiser, I started northward from Verndale, headed for the Shell Prairies. The advance guard on the line of civilization at that time was one Alex. Cook, whose home was only ten miles north of Verndale. After leaving his place, we proceeded northward sixty miles through an unbroken forest, and across the first and second Shell Prairies, and so well pleased were we with the beautiful surroundings and the fertility of the soil of the Third Prairie that we at once decided that here was our Eldorado, and here we would make our homes and await the coming of civilization, which we felt sure would not be far in the future, when the richness and the beauty of this region became known.
Carson, G. F. Siegford and myself, took homesteads on Section 18, Sanderson on section 20, while Bullock located in the town west. Our next move was to come to Detroit to make our filings, and in order to reach the land office we tramped over an Indian road through the forest to White Earth Agency, thence
south twenty-two miles to Detroit. Returning to our claims later in the summer, we erected the regulation "claim shanties" and made such preparations as we could for the arrival of our families in the spring, and in May of the following year we were all back in Verndale, Geo. M. Carson, wife and three children, my son Geo. F. Siegford, wife and three children, and myself and wife. I had purchased a mule team, paying $415 for the same, and as we started upon our journey, one wagon loaded with provisions, such furniture as we had, clothing, etc., etc., to say nothing of the six children, three women and three men, the appearance of our outfit can be better imagined, perhaps than described. We were obliged to cut a road through the woods from Cook's, and were five days in reaching the prairie. We went to work at once, my son using the mules in breaking and in hauling the necessary material from Verndale, making fourteen trips during the summer. I returned to Verndale, where I worked at my trade, carpentering as a means of support to our families, who were, of course, unable to derive a dollar in revenue from the farms. Mr. Carson remained upon the prairie during the summer, and in the fall devoted his attention to locating other settlers who had now begun to come in considerable numbers. The first and second prairies also settled up rapidly, and during the next winter, that of 1880-81, there were about eighty families there. Immigration was stopped early in the fall, however, by the memorable snow-storm of October 16th, when there was a snowfall of fully two feet on the level in the timber, and this was followed only two weeks later by another storm of equal severity. Right here began the real hardship of those who had cast their lot upon the Shell Prairies; supplies of provisions were very limited, and with the great depth of snow it was next to impossible to replenish them, and when on January 27th another great snowfall occurred, this little band was practically shut out from the rest of the world. My son and myself were in Verndale when this January snow-storm came, and were detained there two weeks before we dared venture to return to our families, who, though well supplied with provisions, were feared to be suffering for want of fuel. After two weeks of anxious waiting, however, Frank ventured to make the trip, making it on snowshoes. When within a half mile of home, so nearly exhausted had he become that he was unable to proceed farther and was obliged to spend the night there; finally reaching home in safety, he found that two friendly Indians had come along on snowshoes and had kindly replenished the supply of fuel. In reaching home he had traveled twenty miles on a logging road, then for fifty miles he was obliged to force his way through an unbroken blanket of snow four feet in depth. Until this time our wives had been in mortal fear of the red men, but in that time of anxiety and dire necessity they had no thought of fear of their visitors, who were supplied with food and in return supplied an abundance of fuel and attended to the out-of-door work. There was much actual suffering upon the prairies during that long, cold winter; provisions were short, and the mystery has always been how some of the settlers managed to live. A number owe their lives to the fact that Frank Horr, who had come upon the prairies in the fall, had brought a load of ordinary and rather a poor grade of wheat bran; when the snow became so deep that an attempt to obtain supplies at Verndale, the nearest railroad station, was not to be thought of, the bran was used by the settlers, who converted it into bread, gruel, cakes, etc., and were thereby enabled to sustain life. Since that time there have been years of hardship, but there has been no such genuine suffering.
The first white man who saw this country was the early trapper. Every creek gives evidence of the industrious beaver that raised the water level and made nearly all the meadowlands here. But these ambitious little meadow makers are all extinct, like the men who caused their destruction.
The township of Osage is slightly rolling. Three-fourths of is does not vary twenty feet in altitude. It verges into hills on the northeast, and the Straight and Shell Rivers in the south and southwest.
Before the removal of the pine, Straight Lake, the head of Straight River was very beautiful. It was noted for its beautiful fringe of pine, spruce, balsam and birch. It is a body of water about three miles long, and one hundred and twenty rods wide. During the spring of 1881 a dam was put across the river about a mile below the outlet, which raised the lake twelve feet, thereby killing all the standing pine near the water and so its beauty was lost.
The water in this lake is pure and deep. Pike, bass, crappies, pickerel, channel cat and sunfish are always to be found.
The outlet of this once lovely lake runs nearly due east, hence its name. Straight River, and it is remarkable for its swiftness; during the winter its course can be noted by the steam rising from the running water which changes the temperature several degrees. Springs also break out all along its course.
Nearly all of these carry iron in solution, which forms iron oxide when it comes in contact with the air. The water level varies with the lake. All ponds, bogs and wells in the vicinity maintain the same level, and the quality of pure, clear, cool water with just a trace of iron and lime is not surpassed in the United States.
The timber of Osage Township upon the hilly land was mostly Norway and white pine, but the level portion, except the prairie, was covered with jack pine, which was thought in an early day to be worthless, but now ranks first in lath and shingles, and nearly all kinds of lumber is made from it. The price of jack pine logs is low, but when one buys lumber, he buys a mixture of it and other timber.
These woods in an early time were filled with game. Moose and deer were plentiful, and venison formed the menu of the early settler's bill of fare. As late as 1895 Mr. G. K. Siegford killed a bull moose in his barnyard.
The whole township is overrun with the white rabbit or northern hare, which forms the diet of both timber wolves and coyotes. Bear were found in the hilly land, as they seek the hardwood timber of the clay land, while the raccoon also shared their company.
The bobcat or wildcat still inhabits these woods. Mink, otter, weasel and muskrat finish the list of fur bearers, and the striped and gray gopher, together with the chipmunk, make things lively for the farmer in early spring.
In the priority of settlement there was none, as J. F. Siegford, G. F. Siegford, G. M. Carson and A. W. Sanderson fixed their location in June 1879, and as soon as they found the proper officers, filed homestead entries or declaratory statements.
The settlement was nearly likewise. The two Messrs. Siegfords and Carson moved upon their land the same day, April 9th, 1880.
The following is the list of those who settled during the summer of 1880 and 1881:
In 1880 – April 9th, J. F. Siegford, G. F. Siegford, G. M. Carson; June 10th, A. W. Sanderson; later, Nat Lechman, John Hauser, Edelbert S. Frazier, Peter Sartin, Christ Minke, August Retzloff, Wm. Grant, Frank George, Frank Tooley, Wm. Bateman and Mat Gerry.
In 1881 – Edward Peets, Mrs. P. B. Sackett, Mr. Minert, John Gillian, S. S. McKinley, Warner McKinley, J. D. Pratt, Ambrose Mann, Ambrose Mann, Jr., J. W. Hawkins and Peter Mclntyre.
During the fall of 1880 Edward Evans squatted upon the southwest quarter of Section 19. Here upon the banks of Shell River the first white child was born, a girl, Lulu Evans, who now resides in the state of Washington.
When A. W. Sanderson moved upon his homestead June 1880, he was a single man, but had chosen his fiancée, Miss Mary A. Bullock, before his removal here.
Early in December they planned a wedding, but the location of an authorized person to tie the knot was hard to settle. December 12th they made an unsuccessful trip to Shell City, but failed to find any one, though a friend promised to furnish one the following Sabbath, so they returned with the knot untied. One week later, December 19th, 1880, Miss Mary A. Bullock became Mrs. A. W. Sanderson, at Shell City; they returned to Osage the same evening.
The oldest child Edas was born August 29th, 1881. He therefore is the first male child born in Osage.
The first white woman in the township was Mrs. George M. Carson.
During the summer of 1880 Mr. E. S. Frazier had located upon the southeast quarter of Section 22. He was an old soldier and could not stand the hardships of pioneer life. Early in October 1881, he passed away and was buried on his homestead. For over one year the people lived without any form of government. August 15th, 1881, the citizens of the two unorganized towns, Township 140, Ranges 36 and 37, met at the residence of G. M. Carson and proceeded to organize a township government.
The following were elected: Town board, Dewit Clason, chairman; J. M. Hawkins and W. B. Bateman, supervisors; treasurer, E. J. Moore; clerk, C. E. Bullock; justices of the peace, G. M. Carson and H. F. Witter.
For a term of ten years the two townships were together. Owing to some dissatisfaction, May 4th, 1891, the eastern township pulled out of the organization and elected as follows: Town board, Luther Phelps, chairman; John Schuman and Andrew Allen, trustees; clerk, F. E. Moss; treasurer, Steener Pederson; justices of the peace, G. M. Carson, A. J. Woodin; constables, G. L. Bullock and T. W. Sartin.
Osage, the name chosen, was taken from Osage, Iowa, which was conjured from O. Sage, a wealthy New Yorker, who afterwards gave his namesake a valuable library, and we are sorry that he did not serve us likewise.
During the spring of 1881 S. S. McKinley began the construction of a dam across Straight River on the southeast quarter of Section 20. He finished it during the summer and built the first sawmill. He also platted a portion of this quarter section west of the river, and secured the Carsonville post office, carrying the mail from Detroit with Carson Brothers as carriers, three trips per week.
It was on the 10th of October 1881, that the legal voters gathered at the residence of G. M. Carson and organized school district No. 31, and ordered a schoolhouse built "within forty rods of the dam."
Six weeks later, H. F. Witter, a second grade teacher, began the first school in a private house owned by K. C. Allen, March 1st. His term closed and he received an order for $66, with which he laid the foundation of his present fortune.
The following summer a schoolhouse was built near the present site.
Osage had quite a boom in 1881-2 but it practically stood still for ten years. Then prospects of a railroad appeared upon the horizon only to vanish in the early nineties. Then it began to retrograde for another decade, but in 1901 McKinley's store was consumed by fire, together with nearly all the buildings on the north side of the street. Osage had to rebuild and since that time has had a steady growth. In 1904 Henry Way built a fine residence and Mr. Burlingame also completed another modern building.
''Necessity is the mother of invention," but Osage dates its stable growth from the year 1901.
It was in the month of May that T. M. Sharp moved to Osage. He had previously leased the milling site for a term of years. He and Henry Way straightway began the improvement of the sawmill, and commenced getting out the lumber for a gristmill. The mill was begun in the summer of 1902 and finished the next season. Now Osage can boast of having one of the best equipped seventy-five barrel mills this side of Minneapolis. A set of five double rollers, together with patent cockle extractor and smutter, and the improved machinery in line of bolters.
Three grades of flour are made, first patent, Straight (meaning the lake of course) and export. It is not uncommon to see men who live twenty-five miles away come here with a grist.
Under the same roof is a feed mill, which is at work nearly all the time making chop-feed for the farmers at the low price of five cents a sack.
When Osage Township was first settled there was a road running north by west through the tract. It was an old government trail between Leech Lake and White Earth. This road crossed the Straight at the outlet. Now we have at least fifty miles of road in pretty good repair, generally on section lines. The judicial road crosses the township from north to south, two miles from the west line.
The second bridge is now being constructed across the Shell River, and five bridges cross the Straight.
During the winter of 1903, while the Legislature was in session, E. D. Sylvester requested Senator Peterson for an appropriation of $600 for a bridge at Osage. Senator Peterson and representative Hawley took the matter in hand but when the Legislature cut the appropriation bill in two, the allowance became $300. Now we have a substantial bridge of stone abutments.
In the fall of 1889, J. F. and G. F. Siegford, Ed. Haight, G. M. Carson, Emmett Kelly and Frank Horr went on a hunting trip, as was their custom many seasons before and since, about the first of November.
After picking out their ground and making the necessary hunter's shack, they began to study the surrounding country. The ground was bare for several days, but one morning they awoke and found about four inches of snow had fallen. All were ready at six o'clock for the chase. J. F. Siegford, who had been cook for a few days, had noticed two deer near the camp, and when they started they always ran in the same direction. The plan was to start a drive from camp. Mr. Siegford made a detour of half a mile and located on the runway where it crossed the brow of a hill. He gave the signal and the boys started on a drive of about eighty rods. Soon Mr. Siegford saw the deer coming. Just as they were passing he dropped the one in the lead by a neck shot. The doe turned and ran the back track. Ere long she met Ed. Haight face to face. Ed., forgetting his double-barreled buckshot loaded gun, threw his "ready cap in the air'' and stood admiring the symmetry and agility of the doe carrying the white flag. She stopped still, forcibly threw out her breath, and trotted slowly back down the runway. J. F. noticed her coming, took good aim
and soon she lay within a rod of the buck.
When they asked Ed. why he didn't shoot he said, "Isn't it against the rules of war to fire on a flag of truce?"
The finish of the first drive was near the west bank of the lake, which was two miles long. Just above the first ledge on a rise of the ground was a second runway. Frank Siegford and George Carson were left to watch this runway, while J. F. Siegford remained where he was. The rest of the company went up the lake on the ice to make a drive. The men on the runway waited patiently for half an hour. Not seeing any deer or hearing any of the boys, they met and made a fire. Presently they heard a shot. Soon Frank and Ed. came down the lake on their back track whistling. They said "Awful big woods up there." "But where is Emmett?" they were asked. Neither had seen him for an hour and a half. All started to find the lost boy.
Just as they arrived at the north end of the lake, Emmett came in sight. When asked why he did not make the drive he said, "Why, you see after I had been in the woods a long time I came to a man's track and concluded to follow it. I traveled half an hour and came to a place where another man had taken the same track. I determined to catch him and hurried as fast as I could. I was about out of breath when I saw a porcupine on a tree just ahead and I shot him. Again I started after the man, sometimes nearly on a run. What do you think? What do you think? Why, soon I ran right into that _____ porcupine. I took my back track and came to the lake."
Here on the bank they ate lunch and held council. It was agreed to send Kelly down the west bank of the lake to watch a runway at the outlet of the lake. This creek had high banks and was about forty rods long, running into a second lake.
The rest were to drive the eastern shore of the lake. Giving Kelly twenty minutes the start, they all lined up in the woods on the east bank with an interval of twenty rods between each.
Hardly had their systematic drive began till they heard shots down near the outlet. Bang, bang, bang, went the Winchester. The drivers kept making plenty of noise. About a hundred shots had been fired when they reached the outlet. They looked for Kelly and the venison. Only one small fawn was in sight. "How many were there?" they asked. "Over twenty, but I was too far off," said Kelly. Mr. Horr went to the runway and paced toward Kelly. At twenty-five paces he began to pick up shells, and ere he had reached thirty near the foot of a balsam tree, he had picked up twenty-five empties. "Well," said Mr. Horr, "Kelly's got the ague; let's take the fawn and go to camp." It so happened that both hind legs and one front leg of the fawn were broken. Kelly declared that it was done at one shot.
But all days were not like this one, for when they started home twenty-seven saddles were strung up near their camp. Still this was a poor year for hunting.
History of Richwood Township
By Hans Hanson
Source: A Pioneer History of Becker County Minnesota, by Mrs. Jessie W. West & Alvin H. Wilcox (1907) transcribed by Susan Geist
On the 27th of May, 1870, Hans Hanson and Iver Christenson and families left the town of Spring Grove, Houston County, Minnesota, with the intention of going northwest where they could take up land under the homestead laws. Now knowing where to go they determined to continue their journey until they found land that suited them. On July 1st they crossed the boundary line between Otter Tail County and Becker County, and camped at night upon a high elevation of land near the west shore of Otter Tail River, where the thrifty town of Frazee was afterwards located. There were no buildings in sight, and the whole place looked like a wilderness. On the 2nd of July, about 8:30 a.m. we broke camp and started on as we had been told that the land around Oak Lake was very rich and well adapted for farming. This was on the old Red River trail, and we were striving to reach that place, which we thought would be the termination of our journey. After we had traveled until about one o’clock we reached the east shore of Detroit Lake, which is about seven miles from where we started in the morning. On account of very poor roads our oxen were pretty tired when we came to the lake. We unyoked our oxen to give them a little rest while we ate dinner. At 2:30 p.m. we hitched up and were going on farther, but there was no road. The only chance to get on farther was to go right into the lake. We had to follow around the lake shore, but always came out in the water. In the evening about five o’clock, we came to dry land again on the northerly side of the lake, about twenty rods west of where the Pelican River enters Detroit Lake. Here we had to rest the oxen again as they were tired with driving through the lake as the bottom was principally sand. We then got on to the Red River trail, and that evening went across the prairie to where the village of Detroit was afterwards located. On this prairie there was not a single shanty nor a human being to be seen. That night we camped about two and a half miles northwest of where Detroit is now located. In the morning of July 3rd, we started out again and went as far as Floyd Lake, where we found Samuel J. Fox. He was a blacksmith by trade, and had a small blacksmith shop near his birch bark tepee. Mr. Fox was a white man, a native of Scotland, but his wife was a Chippewa woman. This was the first white settled we found in Becker County. He was a nice gentleman and gave us quite a few hints in regard to the surrounding country. About noon, we reached the much-talked-of Oak Lake. At this place we found a family by the name of Sperry who had been there for two years. They were nice people, too, and told us all about the country. They said that the soil was fertile, and that nearly everything would grow abundantly. After eating our dinner we started out to pick out our claims, leaving our families in the covered wagon which he had occupied for nearly a month. After getting west for about five miles we found a man by the name of Iver T. Knudson, a Norwegian, who had moved from Houston County, Minnesota, and had settled on a claim on the south side of the lake where the village of Audubon is now located. This man told us that it was useless to look for claims any father west as the land hunters were already quarreling among themselves over their claims. We then walked back to where we had left our families, and made up our minds to go back to Detroit Lake and pick our claims on that prairie. We went back over the same road by which we came and reached Detroit Lake about eleven o’clock, July 3rd. We unyoked our oxen so as to give them a chance to free themselves from the mosquitoes, which were plentiful.
The next thing on the program was to light a smudge to drive away the mosquitoes, but as soon as we lit the match and tried to start a fire those native inhabitants put out our fire three times before we could get it fairly started. The next morning, which was the Fourth of July, we made up our minds not to work on the national holiday. There was no brass band and not even a white person or a shanty to be seen anywhere, but we were happy anyway as we liked the place and had decided to settle there.
On July 5th, we commenced to break along the foot of the hill afterwards called Fox’s Hill, which is just back of where Hotel Minnesota now stands. After making a few rounds we came to places where the ground was rather sandy. Mr. Christenson said the ground was not good for much. I agreed with him, but said that if ever the railroad should come through there we would be almost sure to get a small town on that prairie. To my remark Mr. Christenson said that he was not looking for a township but for land that would make a good farm. We then drove our oxen with the breaking plough back to the wagons where our families were and told our wives that we had to pick up our things again and leave. This, of course, did not suit the women, as they thought they had been camping long enough, but this ended our settlement at Detroit Lake. On the 6th day of July we started out again and went west as far as Oak Lake, where we left our families. We then went north on the White Earth trail. Another man by the name of Iver Everson had then joined us. When we went north about five miles for Oak Lake we found some nice oak groves and good prairie land right up to the timber and this suited us. The land was so rich that the grass reached nearly up to our arms on the highest parts on the prairie. We all picked our adjoining claims that day. The country was not surveyed at that time, so that we did not know what town, range or section our claims were in. Anyway we located our claims and came back to our families and wagons that same day, and were glad that we had found land that suited us.
On July 7th we started our again with our outfits and came to our claims about noon. We made settlements on our claims that day, and were the first settlers in the whole township which was afterwards named Richwood.
Mr. Christenson and I concluded to live together for a time in the same house, as we had only one stove for the two families. I went over to my claim the same day that we came out and commenced to break so as to show that the land had been taken. Then we peeled some birch bark and made a shanty. This served as kitchen and dining room. We used the wagons for bedrooms. Everything went on nicely until we had lived this way more than one week, when on evening we were visited by two men, who said they were from White Earth. One of them looked like a white man, and the other like an Indian or half-breed. They informed us that all the land alongside the timber had already been claimed by people from White Earth, and about seventy of them had organized into a combination to drive away any person or persons that should try to take their claims, and that they were coming down to drive us away. I at first thought it might be so, as at the place where Mr. Christenson picked his claim there were a few furrows broken and a sign tacked to a tree. But this sign showed that there had been no one there to make any improvements for more than one year, so they had no more right to the land than we had. After the two men had been talking with us for a long time, telling us what the consequences would be if these White Earth people should have to drive us off, I finally told them that we had come there to stay and make a home, and if they thought fit to kill us they certainly had a chance to do so. We were not going to leave until we had to, and that our lives were no dearer than theirs. After this conversation the two men departed. I then loaded all our things into the wagon, hitched up the oxen, and myself, wife and child went over to protect our home, as we expected this crowd from the White Earth would call that night. After getting over to the place where we had intended to build our house we unyoked our oxen, but they bellowed and ran back to Mr. Christenson’s place on account of the mosquitoes, where we had kept a smudge every night.
I managed to start a fire, then I cut some green grass and laid it on top of the fire so as to get a good smudge to protect us from the mosquitoes. That was one of the worst nights I have ever one through. I and my wife and child were alone, and I was laboring under the impression that the gang from White Earth was coming to kill us. I had two guns which were carefully loaded that night, and were kept under the mattress in the wagon where I was supposed to sleep. No one, however, came near us that night, which was very fortunate, as their lives would have been in danger. The next morning we left our wagon and goods and all went back to Mr. Christenson’s. We had talked the matter over as to what we had better do whether to leave and go somewhere else or to try and stay where we were. Our stock had gone over towards the White Earth reservation and we had to go after them and get them back. Coming over into the White Earth road a man came along on horseback, and when he saw that we were white people, he commenced to talk and seemed to be a gentleman in all respects. His name was Dr. Pyle, and he was hired by the government as a doctor for the Indians on the White Earth reservation. We told him that we had settled there a few days ago, but had been warned to leave our claims and were told that there were a lot of men from the reservation who were coming to drive us away. He told us to stick to our claims, and not to be afraid, that he was going to White Earth and tell those people that there were some settlers who had taken claims along the groves and that they had better keep away and not bother them. This gave us encouragement and we made up our minds to stay, and as we did not hear any more from those parties, this scare was soon over. After we had been on our claims about two weeks, a man by the name of Gabriel Halverson, a Norwegian from Freeborn County, Minnesota, settled a little to the north of us so that this claim and mine joined. About the first improvement we had to make was to do a little breaking to get a little to live on the next fall. We broke about two and a half acres on each place, that is on mine, Iver Christenson’s and Iver Evenson’s. Then we had to cut hay for our stock for the coming winter. We found plenty of grass, but it was very hard to stay out and cut it for the mosquitoes were so bad that we had to keep our jackets on even in the middle of the hottest days. After we had cut and stacked our hay, we commenced to cut house logs for our shanties. The size of our buildings were to be thirteen by fifteen feet, and about seven feet high. It was now about the 20th of August, and we had some bad weather which lasted one week. It was so cold that we had to wear overcoats to keep ourselves warm even if we were in the timber cutting house logs. After this cold spell was over, we had just as nice weather as any one could wish for. About the last day of August, a swarm of grasshoppers came. They were very thick, so that they covered the ground in many places and especially on our new breaking, but as we had had no experience with these insects, we never thought of the consequences and the trouble which they afterwards caused us. Sometime in the middle of August a party of surveyors surveyed the town and range lines, and when those lines were run we found out that our claims were in Town 140 North, Range 41 West, but we could not tell what sections we were on. It was not until the early part of November that Alvin H. Wilcox and his crew of men subdivided the town into sections. In the months of October, Ole Qualey and Nery Augunson came from Freeborn County and took claims, Qualey on Section 20, and Augunson on Section 8. My claim was on Section 20, Iver Christenson’s on Sections 29 and 30, and Iver Evenson’s on Sections 32 and 29. In November, Andrew Anderson and John Anderson, both Swedes from of Carver County, came and settled, Andrew on the southeast quarter of Section 20 and John on the northwest quarter of Section 8. In July, a man by the name of W. W. Harding settled on the southeast quarter of Section 29. He was a native of New Brunswick. Hugh Campbell, a native of Canada, settled on Section 28. They had both been employes on the government reservation at Leech Lake. Harding as a farmer and Campbell as a blacksmith; both were unmarried as far as we could find out from them. In the same year came Daniel Swanson, who settled on Section 18, and John Rydeen, who also took his claim on Section 18. They were both Swedes. Lars P. Smith, Immanuel Jongren, John P. Engberg, Olaf Johnson and Andrew Olund settled on Section 12, except L. P. Smith, who settled on Section 24. That same fall a man by the name of Sampson, a Norwegian, settled on Section 4. Henry Johnson, a Dane, on Section 4, August Stallman, a German, on Section 6, Swan Swanson, a Swede, on Section 6. About the same time, Gust. Lunden settled on Section 32. On Section 2, there was a man by the name of A. J. Haney, an American, who had picked a claim and commenced to build a dam across the Buffalo River, just a little way from where the river empties our of Buffalo Lake. The dam was completed that fall, and the frame raised for a sawmill which commenced operations. I must say that these few persons that had settled in the town were all nice people, and every one of us respected each other as near relatives and we got along well together. Provisions were remarkably high that fall and winter of 1870 and 1871. A barrel of flour cost $12, pork twenty-five cents a pound, 5 pounds of brown sugar for $1, butter thirty-five cents a pound, and it had about as many colors as the rainbow, and yet I cannot remember that I heard a single person who complained or suffered for want of food.
In the month of April, 1871, came Colbjorn and Engebret Vold, Norwegians; they came from Stearns County and settled, Colbjorn on Section 10, Engebret on Section 4. Iver Larson, a Norwegian, came from Houston County, Minnesota, in April, and settled on Section 30. N. G. Roen and his brother Knut, also came from Houston County and settled on Section 30; that same spring Bent Johnson came from Carver County and settled on Section 30. I must here relate a trip we made down south to Otter Tail County, Iver Christenson, Iver Evenson and Gabriel Halverson and I started on the 9th day of Jan., 1871, to go to St. Olaf in Otter Tail County to buy wheat and have it ground into flour at Balmoral Mill, as we could get a little more for our money that way than when we bought the flour from dealers. The first day we got as far as Detroit Lake. Here we made a good fire and camped out all night, as there were no settlers. The weather was rather cold and about six inches of snow on the ground. We had loaded hay on our sleds before we left home so as to have hay for our oxen both coming and going. The oxen, of course, were eating from the hay load whenever we stopped to give them a rest. The next day we got as far as what we called the second crossing of the Otter Tail River, about four miles south of where Frazee is now. Here we found a man who told us that a team of horses had broken into the river that forenoon, so the ice was not safe for our oxen to cross. We then came to the conclusion to unyoke the oxen and lead one across at a time, and then pulled the sleds across by hand. Before we commenced this task we found out where the ice was the strongest; with a stick in one hand I went on the ice, but before I had gone very far I broke through and went into the water up to my arms. It was a pretty cold bath. The sun was just going down, it was cold weather, and there was no settler for about five miles ahead. This was a German family that had settled on the prairie in 1870. My clothes were frozen stiff on my body and were almost like birch bark, and they would have stood alone if I had crawled out of them. We got to the place where the Germans lived, sometime in the night, tied our oxen to the hay loads and went in to get thawed out. We went inside and warmed up some, and then went out again, but did not reach Balmoral Mill until the next evening. It was rather a small mill, run by water power, and located near Otter Tail Lake about five miles south of Otter Tail City, on a small stream of water which empties into the lake. This was the only grist-mill for a long distance in any direction, so that there were generally a lot of people waiting until their turn to have their grist ground. This was the case at this time, and we soon learned that nearly all of them were short of hay for their oxen. We made up our minds to stay out and watch our hay all night, and dug ourselves into the hay as well as we could, for it was rather too cold to stay out. All went along nicely until towards morning, when it commenced to snow, and the wind began to blow so hard that we had to leave our hay loads. We then went a little way from our loads and built a fire. Here we lay down, warmed ourselves on one side and froze on the other until daylight, when we started again on our journey. After we had gone a little way I found that the bottom of my moccasin was gone, so that I was walking on the snow in my stocking feet. I finally got hold of a piece of rope, with which I tied by moccasins, so as to keep them on my feet. The reason why they came off was because I had been too close to the fire trying to keep my feet warm. There were no stores on the way, so that I could not buy a new pair, and I had to use my old moccasins the best way I could for the next few days until I reached Otter Tail City on my way home. That same morning after we had camped about our hay loads at Balmoral Mills, we asked the proprietor of the mill, whose name was Craigie, if we could leave some of our hay with him so as to have hay there when we came back again to get our grist ground. He said we could leave it in his care until we came back; we then started off south to buy wheat, leaving most of our hay at the mill. After we had left, some of those men who were out of hay went to Mr. Craigie and told him we had stolen some of their bow pins out of the ox bows, and in place of them claimed our hay, which they appropriated to their own use, so that he had not a spear left. We of course had not stolen or even seen their bow pins, but lost our hay just the same, so that we had very little reward for camping out in the snow-storm at Balmoral Mills.
Some time in the latter part of April, 1871, we sowed our patches of breaking into wheat, and had the satisfaction of seeing it come up and it looked very fine. To our surprise it never got any farther. In examining into these matters we found that there were millions of young grasshoppers destroying it as fast as it grew up. The swarm of grasshoppers that had visited us in 1870 had deposited their eggs in the ground, and were being hatched out by the sun in the spring. These young grasshoppers were so thick that they entirely covered the ground, and especially on our breaking where we had done a little planting. They destroyed nearly everything that came before them, even our clothes, if they could get at them. They stayed with us for about seven years, and destroyed almost everything that we planted every year. Potatoes and vegetables were nearly all destroyed. It looked rather blue those years. On account of their depredations, not many people came into our town to take claims during those years, and some got discouraged and left. In regard to the Indians which were around us, they seemed to be very friendly, and we were seldom bothered by them. I will, however, give an account of a little controversy that I had with some of them. This was in June, 1871. I started to go down to the railroad camp, near Oak Lake Cut one morning to the stores, and my wife decided to go also, as there was not a white person to be seen very often. We started out with our oxen, and coming down past Mr. Christenson’s, Mrs. Christenson decided that she wanted to go, too. She had a baby with her, and so had my wife. Those two women of ours went out for a pleasure trip, but it ended in the opposite direction. Everything went well until we were on our way back, about a mile or so from our homes, when we had to pass some Indians who were near the road, and some of them were drunk. There were two Indians and two squaws, and one of the squaws was so intoxicated that could not stand up. One of the Indians and one of the squaws came up to our wagon, and asked us for “Scuttawabo,” which meant whiskey.
We did not have any, and tried to make her understand that we had none. The Indians began to search all over our wagon, and in among our packages, and after they had satisfied themselves that there was no whiskey there, they began ransacking every pocket on my clothes, and not finding what they were after, gave up the search. I started up the oxen with the thought that the scare was all over. When the wagon started to move, the squaw took hold of the wagon wheel and tried to hold us, but her hand slipped from one spoke to another and finally she dropped down at the side of the wagon and we went on. After we had gone about ten rods, one of the Indians came running after us. I was then walking ahead in the road driving the oxen, and when this Indian was about a rod back of the wagon my wife called to me, saying that there was no hope any longer as she heard him cock his gun. I then stopped the oxen, and when I looked back this Indian was again searching among our things in our wagon, and he held his right finger on the trigger of his gun. The first thing I did was to grab hold of the gun, and to turn the muzzle away from the wagon. After this we had a squabble over the gun, and in an instant I had the gun in my possession. Then the Indian thought that I was going to shoot him, and made motions that I should fire the gun into the air and there we stood. He was looking at me and I was looking at him. I then fired the gun, as the only things I had to do was to pull the trigger, and off it went. It was then getting dusk and it gave a nice light for an instant. It was an old flint-lock gun and heavily loaded, so that the report was something like that from a small cannon. After I had fired the gun it struck me that I had better smash it over the wagon wheel, but having heard that the Indians were very revengeful, I gave up this idea and handed him the gun back again. He then commenced to shake his powder horn and was going to reload. I stood right by him and prevented him from doing so, and when he found that he could not reload, he ran back as fast as he could towards his companions. I then picked up my little stick which I drove my oxen with, and we went on and did not see any more of them that night. It was very lucky, as the women were almost scared out of their senses.
Richwood Township Organized
On June 23rd, 1871, the town of Richwood was organized, and the first town meeting was held in Haney’s sawmill, on the 29th of September, 1871. The first town clerk elected was Hans Hanson, but as the records have been destroyed I cannot remember who the rest of the town officers were. School districts number 4 and 7 were organized August 9th, 1872. These were the first school districts in the town.
Ole Qualey says the first set of town officers of Richwood was as follows:
Chairman of board of supervisors, W. W. McLeod; supervisors, Ole Qualey and Sivert Sampson; township clerk, Hans Hanson; treasurer, Gabriel Halverson; justices of the peace, Iver Christenson, John Anderson.
Peter Iverson and Hans Dierhoe, both Danes, came in May, 1871, and settled on Section 6.
Mr. Ezra Rumery settled on the northeast quarter of Section 34 in the spring of 1872. Mr. Rumery was one of the jurors in the trial of Bobolink for the Cook family murder. He was town clerk of Richwood for many years. A little later in the same spring Luke Collins and Sidney Brigham, both Americans from the state of Massachusetts, settled on the west half of Section 34. Our first school was taught by Miss Hattie Brigham, in the fore part of the summer 1873. We had no schoolhouse, but hired the shanty which Iver Larson had erected on his claim on Section 30 for the purpose. In winding up this little history of the early settlement of the town of Richwood, I will have to mention another trip that we made in September, 1871. The weather was nice, and Iver Christenson and I with our families started for Detroit Lake. We camped on the shore of the lake, where we had camped on the 2nd of July the year before when we were moving into the country. We went along the lake shore when Mr. Christenson notices a piece of colored paper floating on the water close to the land. We then picked it up, and after examining it came to the conclusion that it was a part of a ten dollar greenback. After looking for some more, we found several other pieces which belonged to the same bill. These pieces were carefully preserved and sent to the bank in St. Paul, which sent us by return $9.30, so this pleasure trip turned out better than the one to Oak Lake when the Indians tackled us.
The first birth in the township of Richwood was that of Tolof Christenson, son of Mr. and Mrs. Iver Christenson, who was born on the 19th of November, 1870. This same little boy died on the 8th of October, 1871, and his death was the first to occur in the township. The first people to get married in the township were Swan Lundin and Emma Johnson, who were married on the 27th of April, 1872, by L. G. Stevenson, justice of the peace.
W. G. Hazelton and William Long settled near Richwood Village in the spring of 1872. Mr. Hazelton has resided there ever since, and has been the leading spirit and the principal standby in that part of the township for many years.
Ole Qualey is the only one of the settlers who came in 1870 who is now living in Richwood.
History of Richwood Village
In the fall of 1870 I sold my homestead in West Union, Todd County, Minn., and fixed up a good covered wagon and with a span of stout mules, took my neighbor, E. E. Abbott and started for the Northern Pacific Railroad. We camped for dinner at Old Oak Lake, and while I was after a pail of water, a man by the name of Andrew J. Haney came along and was talking very earnestly with Mr. Abbott when I came back. He finally persuaded us to go home with him instead of going to where Lake Park is now as we had intended. Haney wanted to sell us a share in his saw-mill, and after buying a lot of eatables at Sterling’s store, at Oak Lake we started north and after traveling about ten miles came to his mill dam where the village of Richwood now stands. We looked over his property, which looked quite favorable, and finally made a bargain for a third interest, although it was all on government land. I was the only one who had any ready money, as Abbott depended on Alexander Moore of Sauk Centre to give him a lift, which he did the next spring.
The next spring we shipped a new sawmill to Benson, which was then the terminus of the nearest railroad and hauled it by team from there to the present village of Richwood, a distance of 160 miles. In the month of May, 1871, I moved my family to the new mill and about the 20th of June the sawing commenced, with a low head of water, as it was a very dry summer and the streams were low. Our sawing proceeded slowly in consequence, but we secured a good price for all the lumber we sawed.
That summer J. E. Van Gorden came to our place from Oak Lake Cut, where he had been clerking, and did a few jobs of carpenter work, and during his stay he traded his farm to Haney for his interest in his claim, mill and saw logs. Soon after that time I bought Abbott’s interest, and then took one-third of Van Gorden’s interest, which made us equal owners. The next spring we received $1,000 in advance on lumber, but it went, and in the spring of 1874 the dam went out and I went out afterwards, and Knowles and A. S. Blowers went in and put a flour mill in operation which was sold and resold until it was lastly bought by the present owner, Henry Reinhardt, who is a credit to all concerned.
The first store was brought from Fergus Falls by two brothers by the name of Miles. They put a part of their goods in a large tent and a part of them in my house, and there they remained all summer, but were taken away in the fall 1871. The parties lived in Wisconsin.
Richwood was so named from Richwood, Ontario, Canada, my native town.
W. W. McLeod.
By Eber Hought
Source: A Pioneer History of Becker County Minnesota, By Mrs. Jessie W. West & Alvin H. Wilcox (1907) Chapter XLVII; transcribed by Patricia Roma Stout
The township of Runeberg received its name in honor of, and in memory of the great Scandinavian author and poet John Runeberg.
Runeberg Township was first settled by white men in the year 1882. A few Finlanders, Norwegians and Swedes, were the first settlers. Jacob Greus, John Maunu, John Johnson, and a few more filed claims in the fall of 1881 and moved onto their land in the spring of 1882.
Paul Kuha erected the first house or shanty in Runeberg, on Section 34 in the spring of 1882, and in the spring and summer of that same year Paul Anderson, Siffert Karjala, Wilhelm Grangruth, Michael Marjama, John Lalle, Thomas Johnson, Ole Salmonson, John Kynsijarvi, Jacob Sarkiaho and a few others settled in the township.
The first settlers were obliged to get their groceries and provisions from New York Mills, that being the nearest railroad station for several years, but after the Great Northern Railroad was built and a station established at Menahga, the most of their trading was done at that place. The settlers, however, were in no danger of starving as the woods were full of game, such as deer, partridges, prairie chickens, rabbits and a few bears and moose. There were also lots of wolves and a panther was seen and killed.
In the fall of 1882, a panther attacked an Indian, and if he had been a white man death would have been the result, but it seems the panther did not like the smell of the Indian, so he stopped within two feet of him. The Indian drew his rifle on the panther, who seized the barrel in his mouth, and when the Indian had forced it into his mouth far enough and turned it in the right direction, he fired, killing the panther on the spot. The dead body was seen by many of the white settlers.
John Maunu had settled on Section 22 and on the 20th day of November 1882, he saw two deer pass by his house, and after getting his gun he started in pursuit of the deer. He followed them straight north, but he got lost in the woods and did not know where he was. He wandered around until eleven o’clock at night, when he came to an Indian tepee, up in what is now the town of Green Valley. As he came to the tepee an Indian came out with his gun in his hands. Mr. Maunu could speak neither English nor Indian, but laid down his gun and shook himself, signifying that he was cold. The Indian beckoned to him to come in. When once inside Mr. Maunu took off his coat and boots and moved up to the fire, as he was cold and wet through. He then motioned to the Indian that he was hungry by putting his fingers in his mouth and chewing on them. The Indian understood this and spoke to his squaw, who soon brought a piece of venison which she roasted on the fire, and she also prepared a cup of tea for him. After Mr. Maunu had satisfied his hunger he was surprised to see six or eight Indians come in. They had a conversation with the friendly Indian, and began talking louder and louder, and seemed to be very angry, and crowed up nearer and nearer to Mr. Maunu. It made the hair stand up straight up on his head, as he was sure the Indians intended to kill him. At last the friendly Indian rushed up between the Indians and Mr. Maunu and kept the savage fellows back, and in a little while they all departed, but the friendly Indian sat up all night and watched over him with his rifle across his lap. The next morning the Indian beckoned to Mr. Maunu to follow him, and to his delight, about ten o’clock they arrived at John Lalle’s shanty on Section 10 in the town of Runeberg. There they rested for a short time and had a little lunch, but the Indian understood it was not the home of Mr. Maunu and would not leave him, but accompanied him to his own home where they were met by Mrs. Maunu and the children and a few of the neighbors, who had been out looking for Mr. Maunu. The Indian was backward about going into the house, but the wife had a feast prepared for her husband and the Indian was beckoned to help himself and partake of everything. All the victuals seemed to taste good to the Indian, as he ate more than Mrs. Maunu and the neighbors had ever seen a man eat before or since at one time, and when through he looked up towards heaven, saying something in a few words not understood by the Finlanders, but who thought he gave thanks to the Great Spirit. He then made a sign that he was satisfied and well paid for all his trouble. Before he started for home Mr. and Mrs. Maunu loaded him down with food to take home with him. If it had not been for this friendly Indian Mr. Maunu would have died, either from cold, hunger or exhaustion. After that day the white settlers had no trouble with the Indians. They came frequently to the white men’s houses and visited for hours, but never begged or disturbed anything. They were quite helpful and instructed the settlers in many new things. Some of the Indians could speak a little English and so could some of the settlers, and they became quite friendly.
The township of Runeberg was organized, and the first township election was held at the house of August Peterson, on Section 28, on the 24th day of May, 1887. The following township officers were elected: Chairman of supervisors, Olof Leamatta; supervisors, John Lalle and Thomas Ollila; treasurer, A.J. Sarkiaho; clerk, August S. Peterson; assessor, Michael Marjama; justices of the peace, Paul Kuha, and John M. Olson; constables, Frederick Sarvi and August Errickson; road overseer, Wilhelm Grangruth.
The first white children born in Runeberg were twins: John and August Kuha, children of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Kuha, born on the third day of February, 1882. They are now good, strong, healthy boys, and still live in the township with their parents.
The first death among the white settlers, so far as known, occurred in 1995, and was that of Johan Peter, infant son of Mr. and Mrs. Chris Jacobson. The second death was that of Anna Stina, wife of Siffert Karjala on Dec. 21st, 1885.
The first marriage occurred in the year 1889, when Wilhelm Grangruth and Annie Kynsijarvi were united. They are still living on Section 24, and are industrious and well-to-do farmers blessed with a large family had have won the respect of their neighbors, and given proof of what industry, economy and good management will do towards becoming independent.
On the 20th day of February, 1898, the post office in Runeberg was consumed by fire. The post office was located on the northwest corner of Section 26. Olof Kortuna the postmaster, a man fifty-six years old and a native of Finland, was burned to death at the same time, together with his dog. Rumors were about that somebody murdered the postmaster and his dog, and then set fire to the building to cover up the crime, but nothing could be proven and the incident is now among the almost forgotten things of the past.
The town of Runeberg at the present time, (1906), has a population of 410 and casts a popular vote of 100. Has one church, one cemetery, four school districts and four schoolhouses; and two sawmills were running all the past winter. It has four road districts and fifty-five miles of roads more or less graded.
The population are of nearly all nationalities, but the majority are Finlanders.
The present town officers are as follows: Supervisors, Peter Army, John Kastren and Andrew Karjala; town clerk, A.P. Danielson; treasurer, Carl J. Johnson; assessor, Olof Junes; constables, Gaston Jacob and T.E. Peterson; justices of the peace, A.P. Danielson and Isaac Keksi; overseer of roads, Aug. Parviainen, Erick Koivuniemi, T.E. Peterson and Oscar Anderson.
The township is out of debt and is improving the roads every year; more land is being brought under cultivation, and every effort is being made to induce new settlers to come in and help improve the country and make Runeberg their home.
The soil in Runeberg is deep clay. Wheat, oats, barley, flax, potatoes, clover and timothy are raised to good advantage, consequently stock-raising is a profitable industry.
The village of Menahga is only four miles east of Runeberg where there is a good market for all kinds of farm produce, including cord-wood and ties. A majority of the farmers are now the owners of cream separators, and are either selling their cream in Menahga or shipping it to the larger cities.
Land in Runeberg is now selling for from eight to thirty dollars per acre, according to improvements.
Eber Hought, the historian of Runeberg, was born in Norway in the year 1858, came to the United States in 1878, lived in Otter Tail County four years, then removed to Richwood in Becker County where he was married to Caroline Errickson in 1882. In January, 1883, they went to New York Mills to live, and in 1887 moved to Runeberg, where they have resided ever since. Mr. Hought came to Runeberg the same year the township was organized and has always taken a helping hand in the affairs of the town, both political and religious, has held several offices of trust, and is the present postmaster of Runeberg. Mr. Hought assisted in organizing the first school district in Runeberg, in the year 1889.
Andrew White was the first school director, Eber Hought, the first clerk, Paul Kuha, the first treasurer.
The first school teacher in Runeberg was Frank Reeves, who taught a term of five months.
By Penn. W. Martin
Source: A Pioneer History of Becker County Minnesota, by Mrs. Jessie W. West & Alvin H. Wilcox (1907) Chapter LII; transcribed by Bobby Dobbins Title
As a political organization, Town 142, Range 36, began to breathe conjointly with Town 141 of the same range, on the 20th day of September, 1898. The whole was called Two Inlets, on account of the fine lake within its boundaries having two inlets.
In the spring of 1901, A. T. Brennig, George Schmit, Fred Imhoff, C. E. Smith, P. W. Martin, Henry Kalthoff, Mike Dirkes, Peter Dirkes, Andrew Gangl, Herman Schubert, Joseph Kruse, George Lang, M. J. Smith, W. F. Kelsey, George Kelsey, A. C. Burlingame, Peter Moos, Frank Pfeifer, Edward Pfetse, August Dickmann, Chas. Bollenbaugh, E. N. Youmans and M. D. McNulty prepared a petition, which, after some alterations and corrections was presented to the board of county commissioners requesting that the Siamese arrangement of Towns 141 and 142 be discontinued, and that Town 142, Range 36 be detached and set up in business for itself.
On September 26th, 1901, the commissioners took final action upon the petition making of the congressional Town 142, Range 36, the organized town of Savannah and ordered notices posted calling for the first election of "said town to be held upon the 12th day of the succeeding October at the residence of Peter Dirkes."
The first officers were: Chairman of supervisors, Peter Dirkes; supervisors, C. E. Smith and Willard Worden; clerk, Henry Kalthoff; treasurer, Mike Dirkes: justices of the peace, C. E. Smith and P. W. Martin; constables Henry Schubert and Lon. Burlingame.
On March 22nd, 1902, School District No. 91 was organized, comprising the whole town, and a few months later school began in a frame schoolhouse with Town Clerk Henry Kalthoff as teacher. Mr. Kalthoff came to this town with the Stearns County contingent. He had taught in that county some time and is now in Canada where he and two sons own land. Two more schoolhouses have been built and a fourth will be required in a short time.
Long before all this, however, residences were established here by John Dines and one McIntyre. They came from Canada and each located on a fine pine claim, proving up in six months or so and very soon thereafter returning to their native lands. At least so tradition runs. Not one of the present settlers ever saw them, and as a settled community they made no impression upon the town.
Ten years later came Diekmann, the first bona fide settler in the town. John August Diekmann was born in Aldenburg, Germany, soon after the middle of the 19th century, and has not yet forgotten the German tongue. He lived for a time in Stearns County, Minnesota, and in the fall of 1895 he came to Park Rapids and from there to Mr. Bittman's in Two Inlets. He took a great fancy to this section of country because of the fine hunting and fishing, and finally concluded to buy some tracts of meadow land and make a home here. During the summer of '96 two families settled in the woods at the south angle of Boot Lake and began the erection of homes. Herman Lashwoski and Louis Strouve worked hard and skillfully, but gave up the struggle and with their families and some chattels moved away in the fall or winter succeeding. Mr. Diekmann bought the improvements of these gentlemen on Section 32, and somewhat later filed on one of the claims and established a very pleasant home there. Bachelor that he is, he has no notion of abandoning his "Cottage by Boot Lake."
Between the advent of "August," as Mr. Diekmann is commonly called, and the arrival of Lashwoski, came the writer with a crew of men, and a claim shanty was erected on a homestead adjoining Mr. Diekmann's tracts, which also consisted mostly of meadow land, made in an early day by the backwater from the dams of the beavers. There are still other meadows on Beaver creek and elsewhere in the town, and it was these beautifully grassy reaches that furnished the suggestion for a name for the town which should have been spelled "Savanna" instead of like the city in Georgia.
It must not be inferred from the foregoing that this is a low country, mostly meadow and swamp. There are numerous swamps of spruce and tamarack, but there are also some long ridges and high hills and poplar flats.
Almost every species of wood or shrub known to the Minnesota flora is found here, including the three cranberries, blueberry, trailing myrtle and arbutus, on up through the various deciduous trees to the stately white pin and beautiful yellow Norway.
Leaving out of account the millions of "Jack" or black pine there were perhaps originally in the town, five or ten millions of white pine and twenty or thirty millions of Norway pine. Nearly four million feet were cut last winter. The timber being a fair indication of the soil, you will see that we have a great variety.
The timber attracted some young men to the neighborhood and at irregular intervals during the nineties, claims were located and built upon by John O'Neil, Frank Pfeifer, A. T. Brennig, Messrs. Mansfield, Youmans, Lievi, Johnson and others. At the dawn of the twentieth century the town received an infusion of new blood. The Iowa colony in 1894 with C. E. Smith as patriarch, took possession of a large amount of land in the Boot Lake region. The Gaylords settled among them in 1901. The center of the town was settled by a number of German Americans from Stearns County, and the Wisconsin group settled to the east with Mr. Worden from South Dakota.
A few parcels of land had been bought outright, but without exception the settlers are living upon government homesteads.
Three forces operated to lead trails to this direction at a very early period – the late seventies – the cranberries, the fish and game and the timber. The very earliest paths seemed to have been located by Indians. During the early eighties hunters from Osage and Linnell, worked roads in here from the south and west. The Moores, Witters and Stevens called it the Boot Lake country. Still others Long Lake. Roads were pushed further in during the early nineties by settlers from the south looking for hay privileges. It was while cruising for hay with C. W. Martin of Arago, Hubbard County, in 1895, that the writer's present homestead was discovered. Ten years have witnessed a change from a desolate wilderness to a fairly populous township, having two post-offices. Mrs. C. E. Smith was our first postmistress and she opened the Savannah post-office to the public at her home on the west shore of Book Lake, September, 1902. In 1904 a post-office was established in the north central part of the town, John Schmit being postmaster. He also has a stock of groceries and settlers' supplies.
Stories of adventure do not come readily to my pen. A buffalo head was found in the creek by Mr. Schubert this spring. Some years ago Mr. Deikmann shot a swan. Moose and the like are not so plentiful now as formerly, but we believe we are the only folk who boast of beaver, and this involves a technicality; there are some beaver on the Itasca State Park, and four sections of the Park are within the boundaries of our township. We have bears too. One Sunday morning a youth went out into the woods to avoid distraction until he could con his catechism lesson. For comfort he climbed a tree, and sat in the fork thereof. While thus engaged he was startled by a peculiar noise at the foot of the tree. It was nothing but a bear standing on his rear pins trying to make out what the boy was reading. Finally Bruin gave up, but the boy showed fight. At any rate the boy's hair bristled up. A picture is inserted to take the place of our hunting story. Also our best fishing story will have to be told by P. O. Stevens as he got the nets.
Topographically we are if anything higher than Height of Land, being a part of the thirteenth or Itasca Moraine, and nearly 1,600 feet above sea level.
C. E. Smith was born in Washington County, New York, May 18th, 1843. When twelve years of age he with his parents moved to Kankakee, Ill. On June 11th, 1861, he enlisted in the 42nd Illinois Volunteers and served during the war. He was for five months in Andersonville prison where he was cruelly treated. He came to Savannah in 1889.
There is something that the word sadness does not express, but that rather borders on the tragic, in settling up a new country.
Come to stern and rock-bound New England with our forefathers, where at Plymouth, one-half of them were buried the first winger.
Come to Ohio and find Ridpath dedicating his universal history "to my father and mother, who upon the rough borders of civilization toiled."
Come to Savannah with the Stearns County Germans, and weep with them over the remains of their children, who were carried off by diphtheria the first summer.
We cannot begin to tell the hardships the people endured. Fortunately we are now too busy to repine over these things, and the prospects before are bright – even cheery.
The Lost Children
It was the 4th of June, 1904, in the afternoon, that Annie Haider, nine years old, and her aunt, Lena Haider, aged thirteen, started for the cows. The girls with their folks lived on Section 10 in a very sparsely settled portion of the town. At no great distance on either side are dense swamps of tamarack, balsam and spruce.
By the time they found the cows they were turned half way round by the compass. The cows were not turned round, and refused to go in the direction the girls were trying to drive them.
At last they gave up and set out for home as they thought. At four o'clock Annie's father heard of the errand the girls had gone on and set out at once to find the girls and the cows. He found the cows. Becoming alarmed, he and six near neighbors began a search which they kept up past midnight, when they returned to the home of Andrew Haider, Lena's father.
Annie's mother had but a few weeks before been laid in the grave and now she and her aunt were expected to have been devoured by wolves in the mid-swamp. And thus were the relatives tortured till the morrow.
Early next morning twenty men renewed the search. After beating along up the west side of the park, the teacher, Mr. Gaylord, went to the West Savannah settlement and recruited ten more volunteers for the hunt; all the men he saw – each man providing himself with a rifle, lantern and lunch. Just as the recruits arrived at the place to begin the search the children had been found.
Now to follow the children: Being afraid of Indians and Philistines they carefully avoided old shacks and even trails and struck for the deepest part of the forest. Fortunately, they had a hatchet with them and they thoughtfully marked a tree here and there, to be noticed later by the rescuers.
They also agreed to answer no calls except their own names. Shortly before nightfall a cold rain set in, which did not stop until daybreak. About this time the fugitives selected a large spruce with spreading branches and climbed up several branches and made themselves as comfortable as possible and remained till the Sabbath dawned. Their guardian angel sent two night-birds to the old spruce and their songs somewhat softened the dreariness of those hours.
Annie, by putting her head in Aunt Lena's arms, slept a while, but poor Lena kept sleepless vigil till morning. They again began wandering around in quest of home. At noon they were heard by John Gangl, Michael Gartner and Jerry Breitback. They were on the west shore of Lake Itasca, eight miles from home. The children were bewildered and afraid, but when they recognized their neighbors, you can imagine their relief. And how they made away with that lunch. Then a tramp of six miles to the nearest house. Here a rest and refreshment gave strength to finish the journey, and at four o'clock, tired and wet and almost divested of clothing, they were folded to the hearts of relatives and playmates who had gathered to receive them. A volley from the rifles brought in the rest of the party, who as they came trooping out of the woods, presented the appearance of a small army, and it was an army of friends.
Penn. W. Martin.
Shell Lake Township
Source: A Pioneer History of Becker County Minnesota by Mrs. Jessie W. West & Alvin H. Wilcox (1907) Chapter XL; transcribed by Richard Ramos
The first white man to set foot on the soil of Shell Lake Township so far as we know was William Morrison. Among several letters written by Mr. Morrison on this subject, is one given in full, and just as written and signed by himself, and addressed to his brother, Allan Morrison.
Following are extracts from this letter:
Berthier, Canada, Jan. 16, 1856.
My Dear Brother:
Your letter of the 26th ultimo is at hand. I note what you say about the source of the Mississippi River. You wish to know who was the first person that went to its source. For the information of the Historical Society, I will state to you all about what came to my knowledge.
I left Grand Portage, on the north shore of Lake Superior, now the boundary line between the United States and the British possessions in July, 1802, and arrived at Leech Lake in September the same year. In October I went and wintered on the headwaters of one of the branches of the Crow Wing River (Shell Lake). Our Indians were Pillagers. In the winter of 1803 and 1804, I went and wintered at Wild Rice Lake. I passed by Red Cedar Lake (Lake Bemidji) now called Cass Lake, followed up the Mississippi to Cross Lake, and then up the Mississippi again to Elk Lake, now called Itasca Lake, the source of the great Mississippi River. A short distance this side I made a portage to get to Rice River. I discovered no trace of any white man before me when I visited Lake Itasca in 1804. No white man can claim the discovery of the source of the Mississippi river before me, for I was the first that saw and examined its shores.
From Brower’s History of Itasca State Park:
Shell Lake was an ideal place for a trading post, there being a beautiful location on Section 11, which was undoubtedly the place where Morrison’s trading post was located, in October, 1862.
See biography of Wm. Morrison, by Geo. A. Morison.
The first settlers in the town of Shell Lake in recent years were the families of Tyree Doran and Henry Smith, who came into the township on the 12th of May, 1881. Doran took a homestead and built a house on the southeast quarter of Section 2, and Smith located on the Southwest quarter of the same section.
A young woman whose name was Angeline Kinney, settled on the northeast quarter of Section 2 a few months afterwards, but after her marriage to Joseph Brewer in 1872, she went to live with her husband in Green Valley Township. This place was then taken by Frank Wilson who came into the township in the fall of 1881.
These were all the people living in Shell Lake for three years. Their nearest neighbors were living on Section 4, in Carsonville, four miles to the east, while to the north, the west and the south, there were no white people living within fifteen miles.
At that time the Indians claimed all the land in that vicinity as far south as Shell Lake, and looked upon the Doran and Smith families as trespassers, and made several demands for their removal.
During their first summer there were about thirty lodges camped on Section 11, by Shell Lake, only about half a mile form where they were living and some of the young braves threatened to kill both families if they did not move away. When the Dorans were building their log house a crowd of Indians gathered and threw knives at the men and made several other threatening demonstrations. In the process of building they rolled up some of the upper house logs with a horse and a long rope, and whenever the log would get nearly up to the top of the structure some Indian would call out “whoa;” when of course the horse would stop and the log probably roll back to its starting place. This interference finally led to a quarrel with the Indians which came near proving serious, and was the cause of much bad blood for several years afterwards. After awhile, however, they became reconciled and these same Indians became their best friends.
The next settlers who came into the township were Thomas Richmond, Robert Richmond, John Abeline and Andrew Abeline who located on Section 3 in May, 1884, and John Conklin settled on Section 11 some time afterwards.
Ole Eckman came into the township in the spring of 1894.
Leonard Hambly took a homestead on the southwest quarter of Section 30 in the spring of 1886 and resided there for several years.
There were no other settlers east or south of Shell Lake for seven or eight years, but during the last twelve years nearly all the government land has been taken up, principally by Swedes
George Brager now owns a store and runs a post-office on the southeast quarter of Section 20.
The first people to get married in Shell Lake Township were Frank Wilson and Mattie Doran who were united on the first day of January, 1885.
The first boy born in the township was Fred Smith, son of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Smith, who was born in 1882.
The first girl born in the township was Mary Richmond, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Richmond, who was born on the 10th of January, 1886.
The first death was that of Mary Jeffrey who died May 27th, 1887; aged about two years.
The first school teacher in Shell Lake Township was Jennie Smith who began her school in April, 1890. She taught in an old farmhouse. The first schoolhouse was built on Section 2 in 1891.
Organization of Shell Lake Township
The first election, at which Shell Lake Township was organized, was held on the 7th day of December, 1897, at the schoolhouse in district No. 45.
The first annual township election was held on the 8th day of March, 1898, and the following officers were elected; Chairman of the board of supervisors, Clarence Kimball; supervisors, George Davis and John M. Olson; clerk, Ole N. Eckman; treasurer, John Westerlund.
Alexander Ahern was elected assessor but declined to serve and Frank Wilson was appointed in his place.
The first justice of the peace was John N. Ellis, and John M. Olson was first constable.
Shell Prairie Road
Source: A Pioneer History of Becker County Minnesota, by Mrs. Jessie W. West & Alvin H. Wilcox (1907) transcribed by Sandi King
In June, 1880, I was sent in charge of a party of surveyors to examine and appraise several townships of land for the Northern Pacific Railroad Company in the Shell Prairie region. C. G. Sturtevant was with me on that trip, it being his first experience in that line of business. Jake Sheffer, of early date notoriety, went along as cook and teamster. At that time there were only two roads leading to that section of country, one from Wadena and the other from Detroit, north by way of the White Earth Agency, and the old Leech Lake government road. As it was impossible to cross Leaf River north of Wadena, at that time on account of high water, we were obliged to go by way of White Earth. The roads were muddy and rough, and it took three days of hard travel to make the trip. The first settlers we found there were George M. Carson and family, and J. F. Siegford and Frank Siegford, father and son, who had just taken homesteads on Section 18, town of Osage. The Siegfords still reside on the same land. These men were among the first settlers on the Shell Prairies in Becker County.
I was authorized to take the census of what few settlers were in that part of the county, and I found just forty-three people, young and old, in what are now Osage and Carsonville Townships, and they were all the white inhabitants there were at that time in the whole east half of Becker County. This, however, has nothing to do with the road.
When we returned to Detroit later in the season we went by way of Wadena, which was more than eighty miles by the road from the nearest point on the Shell Prairies, in Becker County. The next winter we were sent back by the railroad company on the same business, and worked in the country in and around the Shell Prairies all winter and were still obliged to go and come by Wadena, two long days ride with a team from where Osage is now. I saw at a glance that the settlement on these prairies was going to be a very important one, and that connection with Detroit and Frazee was a matter of the utmost importance to all concerned, and that a direct road was a matter of prime necessity.
In November, 1881, Dewit Clason brought the election returns of the first election ever held in Carsonville to Detroit, and on his arrival his clothes were wet through and torn where he had waded swamps and gone through the bush on the way over.
In the fall of 1881, I was elected county auditor, and at the first meeting of the board of county commissioners, I urged upon them the importance of making an appropriation for a road to Shell Prairie. Three of them, however, lived in the western part of the county, and could not see the propriety of expending money through a country totally unihabited, and which, as one of them declared, would never be settled, and nothing was done at that time. As soon as the board adjourned, I hired C. G. Sturtevant and C. J. Shaw upon my own responsibility, and paid them out of my own pocket to look up a route for a road. I was quite familiar with the country from Detroit, to the east line of Height of Land Township, and knew a good road could be made that far; so I instructed them to begin at the quarter section corner on the west side of Section 6 in the town of Toad Lake and run an air line through to where the village of Osage now stands, and to examine the country on both sides of their line for a considerable distance. They took their blankets and provisions on their backs, slept out in the snow at night, running the lines with a small compass, and counting their footsteps by way of measurements.
They found the country south of Shell Lake too hilly and rough for a good road. It is so hilly and cut up with swamps that nearly all the travel from the Shell Prairies goes around on the north side of Shell Lake to this day, although it is a good many miles further. The present Shell Prairie road follows a natural ridge much of the way. Between Shell Lake and Height of Land Lake it follows along near the natural divide, between the waters of the Mississippi and Red River for a considerable distance.
When Sturtevant and Shaw came back to Detroit, they brought a small army of eighteen or twenty men with them. They had come by both land and water, or rather by land and by ice. They followed the old Leech Lake road back to the prairie north of Shell Lake, then across the lake to its west end, thence in a south-westerly direction to the southeast corner of Height of Land Lake, taking in as many ponds and marshes as possible, cutting just enough brush and timber to get through from one marsh or pond to another. They crossed an arm of Height of Land Lake on the ice, and then followed Frazee's logging and tote roads to Pat.O'Neils place in the town of Burlington, then by the present wagon road to Detroit.
The merchants and business men of Detroit received this crowd of men with open arms, and were so well pleased to learn that they had cut a road through from Shell Prairie, and were so prepossessed with their good looks and winning ways that they loaded them down with dry goods and groceries and provisions and they all went home rejoicing. As nearly every man in the party had a team with him, the amount of plunder they took home was considerable.
The general route selected by Sturtevant and Shaw on this trip was a good one, the best in existence and much of the work done at that time was so exactly in the right place that a considerable extent of the road has never been changed, but as soon as the ice melted in the swamps and ponds in the spring, the road was impassable for a considerable distance, and travel to and from Shell Prairie was impossible, except by foot.
At the meeting of the county commissioners, the next July, a more liberal view of the matter was taken and the sum of $300 was appropriated to be expended under my directions. I started out from Detroit one day late in September to look over the road, straighten it out, and locate it on dry land,—where it crossed the ponds and swamps—and let contracts for improvements as far as the $300 would permit. There was no road east of Detroit at that time, beyond Section 20 in the town of Erie, where James Norris then lived. John Shoenberger and Charles E. Molen were living on the Otter Tail River in the town of Erie, and there were a few settlers, including the Soper family, west of Height of Land Lake, but they had all gone in from the direction of Frazee, following my old survey road of 1870 up the Otter Tail River. Robert Soper had, however, taken a homestead on Section 2 in the town of Height of Land east of the lake by that name, but had made no improvements. He had sent me word, a few days before, that on a certain day he was going to move his family across the lake, and I could stay with them when I came over to look out the road. I reached the east side of Height of Land Lake just as it was getting dark, but found no sign of the Soper family. I had traveled fifteen miles that afternoon through the woods and was tired and hungry and wet. I walked north along the shore for a mile or more in the dark looking for the boat that had brought the family over. I then went up the creek that runs into the lake on the township line, traveling through the water and tall grass thinking perhaps they had taken their boat up to their homestead by that route. I then tramped nearly all over Section 2, shouting occasionally until eleven o'clock at night, when I gave up and went to bed without supper, blankets or fire. A couple of hoot owls in trees near by kept me company and a pack of wolves kept up a serenade for several hours, but they kept at a respectable distance. The next morning I was up bright and early; I was cold and hungry and the morning was frosty, and I was obliged to walk five miles to breakfast going around the north end of Height of Land Lake through the brush and tamarack swamps, wading the Otter Tail River, where Charley Mitchell now lives and around to Section 28 in the present town of Grand Park, where Charles Soper was then living in a tent. After breakfast from there I started back east through the woods following an Indian trail north of Island Lake and reached the residence of Tyree Doran on Section 2, town of Shell Lake at noon. That afternoon and the next day, I marked the road back to Height of Land Lake, and let contracts for the opening of the whole line back to Otter Tail River. The next winter, 1882 and 1883, I took a few men from Detroit, who had volunteered a day's work each, and cut a road from James Norris' place to the Otter Tail River, and from there on east to the east line of the township. The next day I took a team and cutter and drove over the new road to its intersection with the Frazee road and put up a signboard, which read: "This is the way to Detroit." Mrs. Wilcox went with me on this trip, and she was the first woman who ever went over the Shell Prairie road, beyond the Otter Tail River. We tipped over going home.
About the first of February I made a trip over the entire road for the purpose of inspecting the work which had been done, and Mrs. Wilcox went with me on this trip. On our return we stayed over night at Tyree Doran's on the Shell Lake Prairie, and the next morning started on our way home. The morning was bitterly cold, 30 or 40 below zero, the roads were rough and the snow deep, but not deep enough to keep the sleigh from striking the stumps and rocks that were thick along the road. There had been but few teams over the road, so the traveling was slow and hard. All went well, however, until we had passed Shell Lake, when going down a steep hill on a fast trot, we struck a big rock which upset the sleigh and pitched us both out into the snow. I clung to the lines, but the horses began to run and I was dragged some distance, when I was caught in a stump, which broke my hold and the horses ran off with the cutter, which was dragging on its side. I made a fire for Mrs. Wilcox as best I could, but there was no dry wood near by, and it did not last long. The snow was two feet deep and the cold was intense, but there was no other way to do but to get the team back or else Mrs. Wilcox would soon freeze to death. There were no settlers in that direction nearer than Otter Tail River, twelve miles distant, but Frazee had a lumber camp about six miles ahead, and I did not expect to find the team until I reached the camp and perhaps not then: but as good luck would have it, the cutter had dragged all the way on its side, so that the horses became tired and in about three miles they had stopped. When I returned, Mrs. Wilcox had frozen her feet, hands and face. We proceeded as far as the long corduroy, a little north of where the schoolhouse now stands on Section 29, when we came to an Indian camp. The Indians, who built the camp had just abandoned it, and there was a little fire still burning, and a small quantity of dry wood, all ready to kindle the fire. We got well warmed up, but suffered severly before we reached home on account of the intense cold. Mrs. Wilcox's hands and feet never fully recovered from the effects of the terrible ride.
In the fall of 1882, T. K. Torgerson, of the township of Cuba, was elected to the legislature, receiving every vote in Erie and Carsonville, the only towns then organized on the line of this road, and he secured an appropriation of $800 for the road from the state of Minnesota. With this money the bridge across the Otter Tail River on Section 23, in Erie, was built, also the bridge across the inlet to Shell Lake and a number of other bridges of smaller size. The county commissioners were also generous, and made liberal apportionments for several years afterwards.
Some time during the summer of 1883, the honorable board of county commissioners conceived it to be their duty to make a personal examination of this road, so they appointed themselves a committee of the whole for that purpose, and, being in an economical frame of mind about that time, they decided to go on foot. The board at that time consisted of T. W. Chilton, Hans Ebeltoft, F. B. Chapin, T. W. Dunlap and Olaf Bjornstad.
of Silver Leaf Township
Source: A Pioneer History of Becker County Minnesota, by Mrs. Jessie W. West & Alvin H. Wilcox (1907) Chapter XLIV; transcribed by Liz Dellinger
The first settler in Silver Leaf Township was Frank Gebo. He built a house on Section 30 about twenty rods east of where the Adam Schueller house now stands late in the fall or early in the winter of 1882 and 1883. He and his son Samuel Gebo claimed a joint ownership in the house and some time in the winter they gave the use of it to a soldier of the civil war, whose name I have forgotten. He moved his wife into the house and sometime that winter a child was born there, which was the first white child born in Silver Leaf Township.
About the first of February Samuel Gebo went to Detroit and filed a homestead on the land where this house was built, but before the papers were sent to the Crookston Land Ofilice William Redpath took a train and went to Crookston, and filed a homestead on a part of the same land, which took precedence over Gebo's filing. Redpath built a shanty a few rods north of where the Schueller house now stands, and had a large amount of wood cut that winter, over which there was no end of trouble. Andy Kenan took this place in 1887, and lived there for several years, and made final proof.
In the spring of 1883 Samuel Gebo took another claim on Section 20, but did not remain there long.
In the month of September, 1883, William and Charles Rabanus, both single men, took claims on Section 26 and resided there for several years; they were the first permanent settlers in the township.
Charles Rabanus and Betsy Ebberson were married on the 17th of October, 1885, and were the first people married in Silver Leaf Township.
George Buel came to Silver Leaf Township on the 5th of November, 1883, and settled on the east half of the east half of Section 30, and built a house that same fall.
Silver Leaf Township was so named from the silvery appearance of the leaves of the poplar with which this township abounds.
Mrs. Buel was the first white woman to settle permanently in the township. She came with her husband in November, 1883.
In the spring of 1884, Wm. Evans and Ludwig Bunse settled on Section 24 and John Zeler came in the spring of 1885 and settled on the same section.
In the spring of 1884, George Schwoboda settled on the east tier of forties on Section 18, and Anthony Schwoboda located on Section 8 not long afterwards.
Rudolph Boll says: "I settled on the northeast quarter of Section 6 in the town of Silver Leaf in the fall of 1885. I built my house and moved into it on the 27th of October of that year, and E. E. Phelps settled at the same time on the same section."
In June, 1885, Harry and Lambert Stokes settled on Section 4, and Adolph Ernst located on the northwest quarter of Section 6 in 1887, and after that time settlers came in fast.
In 1877 Gerhard Schrammen located on Section 4, and William Trieglaff settled on the northeast quarter of Section 8 the next year.
The other settlers, who came during the 80's, were Wm. Seek, on Section 24, Mike Warter on Section 18, the Illgs on Section 2, George Cork on Section 8, George Manning on Section 20, Charles Lord on Section 30, S. H. Tripp on Section 22, Ernest Schmidt on Section 28, and Louis Koenig on Section 21.
The other early settlers were August Trieglaff on Section 17, John Schueller on Section 20, Gus. Reibe on Section 24, Herman Galbrecht on Section 21, F. Galbrecht on Section 8, F. Plackner on Section 9, and Dedrick Williamson on Section 2.
Silver Leaf Township was organized on the 3rd day of March, 1888, and the first township election was held on that day at the house of Harry Stokes on Section 4.
The first set of township officers were : Chairman of board of supervisors, Charles Lord ; supervisors, S. H. Tripp, Ford Green ; township clerk, George Buel ; assessor, Reuben Prouty ; justices of the peace, John L. Stokes, Louis Koenig ; constables, Charles Rabanus, George Manning; treasurer, Rudolph Boll.
Margaret Graham taught the first school in Silver Leaf Township in the spring of 1893.
R. L. Frazee had a logging camp on Section 5 in the winter of 1882 and 1883, which was run by Samuel Pearce.
There was another small lumber camp on Section 23 that same winter.
The first death in the township was that of a small child of Wm. Seck's, who died on Section 24, in the year 1885.
of Spruce Grove Township
By Mrs. Delia A. Clifford
Source: A Pioneer History of Becker County Minnesota; by Mrs. Jessie W. West & Alvin H. Wilcox (1907) Chapter XLVI; transcribed by Glenda Stevens
August 4th, 1895.
I wish very much to assist you in your work concerning the county, and hope the enclosed will help a little.
In 1885, Sylvanus Hall came from Irving, Iowa to Butler, Otter Tail County, Minnesota to visit his son Jonah and family. He in company with his son and neighbors were hunting on December 26, his son being in advance he heard a cry and on looking around saw his father standing on a log who said, “Jonah, I am shot.” His son reached him in time to catch him as he fell. He only lived a short time. He was 71 years old. The body was taken to his old home in Irving, Iowa to be buried. The hunting and accident were in Spruce Grove, Becker County.
In 1884, Paul Troppman moved his family from Sanborn, Iowa, to Spruce Grove, and put up a sawmill on the Red Eye River. The next summer while running the saw he slipped, his foot striking the saw nearly severing the foot from the leg. The neatest surgeon was at Perham, twenty miles distant, amputation was necessary, which with loss of blood and the shock of the injury proved too much for him. He died about sundown of the same day. He was fifty years of age and was buried at Devil’s Lake near Perham, Minn.
The following winter the mill passed into the hands of creditors, one of whom sent a family named Tubbs to occupy the house and run the mill. They had in their employ a Mr. Thomas Cassady, a nephew of Mrs. Peter Schram, all of Spruce Grove, he having a homestead in said town and being a young married man of twenty-four years. His bride came from Canada to Perham, where they were married in February. He was sawing shingles, the blocks were icy, one slipped from his hands, struck the saw, flew back striking him squarely in the face, knocking him down; with help he walked to the house a few rods away. A physician was sent for from Perham, who dressed his wounds, and giving directions as to the treatment. He left telling the young wife her husband would surely live. At midnight he insisted on changing his clothes and did so alone. In an hour he was a corpse, and his bride of two weeks a widow. His remains were buried in the cemetery at Perham.
From 1884, the year we moved to Becker County, until 1888 there were no mail facilities in this country at all. The nearest post-office was Perham or Frazee, each eighteen miles. Our mail was brought by whoever went to Perham, bringing for every family for miles around; therefore it was handled by any number of hands before it reached us in all conditions, if at all. Often it was mislaid of lost entirely. On going to town one time, mail was found scattered along the road for a distance of three miles, lost out of a man’s overcoat pocket. C. H. Clifford sent a petition to Washington asking for a post-office and mail route. The post-office was granted immediately and named Clifford with C. H. Clifford as postmaster. The mail was carried the first year by his eldest son, Alfred H., without any specified conveyance or salary. He generally went out and back once a week, mostly with an ox team, taking him two days for a trip. Sometimes he would strap the mail on his back and go out and back on foot in one day. At the end of the year he was appointed mail carrier by the department for two years with a small salary, making two trip a week. At the end of his term, Charles A. Rick was appointed for a term of four years and performed his duties faithfully, losing but two trips in four years. J. B. Miller succeeded him making three trips a week. March 2nd, 1896, C. H. Clifford resigned, but his wife Delia I. Clifford being appointed postmistress in his place. During that time Spruce Grove, where Clifford post-office was located, was organized, also three school districts, schoolhouses built, roads laid out, bridges built, and in the spring of 1896 there were scarcely forty acres either homestead or railroad land to be had in the town.
MRS. DELIA A. CLIFFORD
TO MRS. WEST.
This township was organized in 1889. The first town election being held Januaury 19th, 1889, at the home of Alfred Blanchard. The first town board consisted of: Chairman, Henry Shafer; treasurer, Charles Maehler and clerk, Perry Vincent.
As the predominant timber in the town was evergreens, it was called Spruce Grove. The township was heavily timbered with pine – five million feet. Spruce, balsam, oak, poplar, birch, elm, basswood, ironwood, and tamarack with less quantities of other varieties. It is noted for its wild fruits consisting of plums, cherries, currants, strawberries, raspberries, cranberries, gooseberries and June-berries.
It has lakes and rivers abounding in fish, pike, bass, pickerel, sunfish, red-horse and suckers.
Game is plentiful, among which are moose, deer, bear, wolves, lynx wild cats, skunks, mink, muskrat, etc., partridges, chickens and ducks. There is abundance of wild hay.
School District N. 52 was organized September 10th, 1887. The school board was: C. H. Clifford, director; treasurer, Charles Maehler; and clerk, Henry Shafer. The first school was held in the fall of 1887 in the private house of Fred Bonan with Miss Addie Coombs, of Detroit, Minn., as teacher. The schoolhouse was built in 1888 with logs.
The first settlers were Jorgen Dornbush and his wife, whose maiden name was Casina Freie; both were born in Germany, and they were married in Houston County, Minn. They moved from there in January, 1880. Five children were born to them. Mrs. Dornbush died in April, 1884, and was buried at Perham, Minn. In August of the same year Mr. Dornbush married Miss Mary Altman, of Gormantown; ten children blessed their union. After a residence of twenty-two years and two months in Spruce Grove they moved with their children and grandchildren to Alberta, Canada.
Settlers following Mr. Dornbush the first two years were Fred and Charles Maehler and families, John Husen, Aug. Beckman and wife, Fred Voight. Henry Shafer and family and then several families of Finns. The first couple married was Fred Voight of Spruce Grove and Mrs. Elizabeth Meyers (widow) of Gormantown. The Rev. Krattchmer officiating.
The first birth was twins born to Mr. and Mrs. August Beckman, a boy and a girl.
The first death, Turgen Christoff Dornbusch, father of Jorgen Dornbusch, aged 73 of old age. He was born in Germany, and buried in Perham, December, 1881.
A young Finn, aged thirteen, whose gun discharged while getting through a fence, was killed, the ball lodging in his neck. He lived six days.
In the early days hunting parties came from Moorhead and Fargo and east from Chicago and other cities, after deer and other game. The Chippewa Indians were allowed to hunt here, securing immense quantities of venison.
Edward L. Schram, son of Peter and Jane Schram, early settlers, shot and killed the first moose. George Shafer, eldest son of Henry and Sophia Shafer, had a novel experience. He shot a deer as it was lying down, and ran to cut its throat, when it jumped up, and catching its horns in his coat, carried him a long distance, before he was extricated by his coat giving away.
DELIA A. CLIFFORD
By William Lass.
Source: A Pioneer History of Becker County Minnesota, by Mrs. Jessie W. West & Alvin H. Wilcox (1907) transcribed by Jean Hadley
The first settler in Toad Lake Township was Herman Griffnow, who first came into the township on the 30th day of October, 1887, and took a homestead on the northwest quarter of Section 28. He built a house on this land that fall, which was the first built in the township. Five more settlers came into the township that same fall and took homesteads: John Neske on Section 26, Edward Reitz on Section 26, Chris. Reitz on Section 22, Antoine Pretz and William Worst on Section 28.
In the spring of 1888 John Detrich Glander, Sr., and Detrich Glander, Jr., took homesteads on Section 18, and Henry Glander settled on Section 8 and is now living on Section 20. About the same time, August Anderson took a homestead on Section 28. Anderson is a son-in-law of J. D. Glander, Sr., and Mrs. Anderson and her mother, Mrs. Glander, were the first two white women in the Toad Lake township. In the fall of 1888 Wm. Lass took a homestead on Section 20 and Charles Hartkop took a homestead near by, and Henry Drewes took a homestead on the northeast quarter of Section 32. About all the government land in the township was taken up during the next few years. The early settlers of Toad Lake Township were nearly all foreigners, a few of them being Swedes, Norwegians and Finlanders, but a large majority of them were Germans. There have never been many incidents of an exciting character, such as murders, desperate encounters with wild animals or terrible accidents to record, and as the township has only been settled a few years, and the settlers being of a quiet and peaceable disposition, the history of the township will consequently be brief.
Jacob Bakki, who was murdered on Section 19 in the township of Carsonville in the fall of 1898, once owned some land on Section 15 of Toad Lake Township, and lived there for awhile.
Toad Lake Township takes its name from Toad Lake, a fine body of water in the northwestern part of the township, but how the lake came by the name I am unable to say. Toad Mountain, a magnificent elevation on Section 8 on the west side of Toad Lake, is undoubtedly the highest hill in Becker County. There is no other place in the county where so extensive a view of the surrounding country can be obtained as from the summit of Toad Mountain.
Toad Lake Township was organized in the month of January, 1892. The first special election was held at the house of Fred Myers on the 5th day of January, 1892. A list of township officers was made out to be voted for at the annual election, March 8th, when the following officers were elected, being the first to hold office in the township: Chairman of the board of supervisors, Henry Drewes; supervisors, Henry Glander and Frank Oldrig; township clerk, Hiram Harding; treasurer, Herman Griffnow; Hiram Harding justice of the peace and Detrich Glander constable.
The first people married in Toad Lake Township were Wm. Lass and Frida Schroder, who were married on the 9th day of December, 1891. The first birth was that of Anna Lass, daughter of Wm. and Frida Lass, born on the 13th day of October, 1892. The first boy born was John Anderson, son of August Anderson. The first death was that of Frank Oldrig. The first school taught in the township was by Millie Sandborn of Detroit.
August Czernetski located on the southwest quarter of Section 26 in October, 1894. Among the early settlers were Carl Albricht on the northwest quarter of Section 32, Michael Tessman on the southwest quarter of Section 32 and Ole Salmonson on Section 13.
By Albert E Higbie
Source: A Pioneer History of Becker County Minnesota, by Mrs. Jessie W. West & Alvin H. Wilcox (1907) Chapter XXXV; transcribed by Liz Dellinger
Being one of the first settlers in the town of Walworth, I will relate some of my early day and pioneer experiences. In the fall of 1878, I, with my wife and one son six months old, left the home of my childhood in Jefferson County, Wisconsin, and started west in search of homestead land. We landed in Audubon and during the winter of 1878-79 kept the Audubon Hotel, and in March, 1879, filed on the northeast quarter of Section 22, Township 142, Range 43 and on the first of June we moved on for actual settlement. The nearest neighbor was eight miles away. O. O. Noben in Atlanta. At that time Walworth and Atlanta were organized into one township and called Atlanta. In the fall and winter of 1879, three families consisting of my two brothers and myself built a shanty on the south branch of the Wild Rice River and spent our first winter of pioneering. That winter was very cold and the snow deep. We hauled our wood from the Wild Rice River, a distance of fifteen miles and without any such roads as we have now. There was only a stage road going from the Wild Rice River to Lake Park. In the spring several settlers moved on claims they had taken. Among the first was Anthony Johnson on Section 8, and the Morks. There were several of the Mork brothers and sisters, and their families still reside on Section 34. Their father died in an early day, and their mother died in 1904, having lived a very useful and helpful life, always ready to lend a helping hand to the sick, which was very needful in an early day for many times a doctor could not be had within twenty-five miles. All the old settlers called for Grandma Mork in time of sickness.
Our town meetings were at first held jointly with Atlanta, and the first one we attended was at O. O. Noben's house a distance of eight miles. The heavy growth of grass afforded a good hiding place for the mosquitoes which made travel nearly impossible without a smudge.
In the year 1882, it became necessary to divide the two townships, and the petition being completed it was handed to me to be sent in. I suggested if no objection were raised that it be named Walworth, after a beautiful prairie county in Wisconsin. In an early day every little slough was filled with water and wild ducks and geese were numerous. The sand-hill crane was a common bird, and occasionally a deer or moose would be seen grazing with the stock on the open prairie.
Our town being new, it was noted for its hunting grounds, and hunters came from many different states, and put up with what poor accommodations could be had for the sake of the hunting. I remember well a large white crane that was shot by W. E. Reid, of Detroit. The bird was mounted and is now on exhibition in a hotel office at Wadena. One morning as I went to my sod barn, directly back of it sat a flock of about seventy-five geese in the tall grass. The only gun I owned was an old army muzzle loading musket. I loaded that to the brim, and let drive at them and the result was that five large geese fell but I was the loser of one front tooth as it was nearly as dangerous to be behind it as in front, for it would kick like a mule. We encountered many hardships and numerous persons became discouraged and left, but what still remain are well-to-do farmers.
The prairie lands of Walworth as they appeared twenty-seven years ago seemed little fit for habitation, but their present thriving condition has been accomplished by hard work and good judgment. The settlers that have lived through it are now happy and that much wiser for the experience they have had.
In the year 1882, a log schoolhouse was built on Section 21. This answered the purpose for school, town hall and church. Miss Christina Johnson was the first teacher to wield the rod. Miss Lizzie Hunt the second, and Fred L. Day of Audubon succeeded her. The attendance was very small on account of the distance to walk and poor roads, and many days there was not a scholar in attendance.
On such an occasion Mr. Day would frequently go to his boarding house and play checkers. On one of those occasions, Mr. Chapin, county superintendent, happened to visit the school, but all old timers know that checkers was Mr. Chapin's favorite game, and he soon took a hand in with him. In those days we only had four or five months school in tlie year, only just what the law required to get state aid, but now we have four good school buildings in the township, each of which has school from eight to ten months in the year.
After a heavy growth of grass in the summer months, the following fall the prairie fires would sweep along at the rate of forty miles an hour and with only now and then a little patch of breaking to check its speed.
For many years the nearest post-office and market was Lake Park, a distance of fifteen miles, but now we are blessed with a railroad station, rural free delivery and a nearby market. All the old settlers came with very little money, but lots of courage and energy for which they have reaped the benefit, for now it has the name of being one of the finest towns in the county. A fine prairie country covered with beautiful groves planted twenty-five years ago with our own hands and land valued at $30 per acre, and fine buildings and windmills and everything that helps to make farm life a pleasure. We think all have been amply repaid and have no complaints to offer.
The first town meeting held in Walworth after being set off from the town of Atlanta was at the school house on Section 21, on the third day of April, 1883. Anthony Johnson was elected town clerk ; Simon Jenson, A. E. Higbie and L. Johnson, supervisors ; N. A. Narum, justice of the peace and O. Benson, constable. The town was bonded for $150 to improve the highways. The first death in the town was Frederick Alork, infant son of Anna and Frederick Mork.
Albert E. Higbie.
Wolf Lake Township
Source: A Pioneer History of Becker County Minnesota, by Mrs. Jessie W. West & Alvin H. Wilcox (1907) transcribed by Jean Hadley
The first settler in this town was John Wirkkanen. He arrived in this town on the 15th of May, 1888, from Champion, Michigan. He came with his wife Minnie, and his two sons, Carl and David, came with him. He came to New York Mills by railroad and then he took an ox team and started north, and it took him six weeks to reach the place where he now resides. He had to cut a road through the woods a large part of the way. The distance was thirty-five miles, and the road had been opened up only a small part of the distance. He had to fight pretty hard in those first years to make his living. He is always thankful to the government. He says the government presented him with a good piece of land that he filed a homestead, and that is the place he says he does not want to sell no matter how much money he is going to get for it. His farm is on Section 32. He was born in Finland in 1850. He says there is not much to say about his early life, that he always had to work and suffer pretty hard to make his living, because he was very poor in those earliest days, but that everybody should be happy to own the property he now has, and I guess there is not much more to say about him in this history.
But there comes another fellow: his name is Abel Kinunen. He came from Houghton, Michigan, in the year 1888, a little after Wirkkanen came, and he came with his wife, Kerttu, and he too had his two sons with him. The name of one was Gabriel and the name of the other boy was Charley. He too first came over to New York Mills, and there took an ox team and made his way up here, where he filed a homestead on Section 30, of one hundred and sixty acres, on the same place where he still lives. He too is a native of Finland, born and raised over in the western part of that country. He says he had to work hard in those days to get a living for himself and his family, but he too is a pretty prosperous farmer in our days.
In 1889 came a fellow by the name of Matt. Henrickson. I cannot tell just sure what way or how he came, but I think he came from somewhere in Michigan, and the next newcomer was Jeremias Soronen, and from what I have heard he was living in Duluth before he came over here.
The fellow who I tell you about now is by name Jacob Bakki. He was born in Finland, too. He was a young man, not over twenty years old when he left the country where he was born and went to Sweden, where he worked in a coal mine, but as he wanted to see more of the world he came over to this side of the Atlantic and landed at Brainerd, because he had some friends there, but he did not like to stay there, so he made up his mind to come over to this town. Here he took up a homestead, but the poor living and hardships and hard work upset his mind, and he became insane, and in 1891 or sometime like that had to be sent to the insane asylum at Fergus Falls. He was there a little over two years, or a little under, I forget which, when he got over his trouble, and ran away and came back to see his homestead, and he is the same fellow got murdered about the first of November, 1898, on Section 19 in the town of Carsonville, and that is the end of his life.
The next person who came was Henry Henning, who arrived with his family some time in 1891.
The first boy was born on the 1st day of August, 1894, to Mr. and Mrs. John Wirkkanen, His first name is Ivar.
The first girl was born on the 20th day of July, 1893, to Mr. and Mrs.Henning, and her name was Ida Aliina Henning. The name of the first person who died in our township was a son of Herman Larson. His name was Charlie and he died on the 2nd of September, 1895. The first wedding was that of Mr. and Mrs. Matt. Henrickson, who were married on the 18th of January, 1896. I do not know her maiden name. The first school teacher was Miss Mabell Newpolt, of Park Rapids.
Mrs. Minnie Wirkkanen was the first white woman in the township.
The first township election was held on the 4th day of April, 1896. The first township officers were: Chairman of the board of supervisors, William Isola; supervisors, John Kangas and Henry Henning; clerk, Jacob Aho; assessor, Erick Sullivan; constable, Leander Suomela; overseer of roads, Carl Wirkkanen; justices of the peace, Henry Henrickson and Carl Komulainen. The first election was held at the schoolhouse on Section 20. Gabriel Kinunen was the lucky fellow who killed the first wolf in the township and Henry Larson helped him, and the men who killed the first bear were Charlie Salmela and John Koskela, in the winter of 1893. These animals were killed on Sections 2 and 3 in Wolf Lake Township. Twelve or thirteen wolves have been killed since in our town; it is hard to remember the exact number. There are a few hunters who killed a good may deer in those early days. One of them was Gabriel Kinunen.
The first wedding of our town people was that of Matt. Henrickson and his wife, but they were married in Menahga, over in Wadena County. The first marriage that actually took place in Wolf Lake Township was that of David Wirkkanen and Miss Ida Baso, who were married at the house of John Wirkkanen on December 3rd, 1896.
The post-office of Lonnrot was first opened in the spring of 1898, and Wm. Isola was the first postmaster. The first church was built by the Apostolic Lutherans in the summer of 1898, and another church was built by the Evangelical Lutherans two years afterwards. All the people in our township are Finns.
I was born at Washingland, Finland, on the 30th day of October, 1869, and came to America in 1888. I came to Wolf Lake township on the 6th day of March, 1896, and took a homestead on Section 18, where I still reside.
Now I think I have told you all there is worth telling of our township history. Many good wishes to all who may read this history in the future.