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Dakota County Minnesota 
Genealogy and History

Marshan Township Dakota County, Minnesota

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NOTE: The following history is from an 1882 publication, the term "town" is sometimes used when referring to the township.


Marshan is bounded on the north by Nininger, Hastings and Ravenna, on the east by Ravenna, on the south by Douglass, and on the west by Vermillion. The soil of the township, excepting a portion of sections 28 and 29, is of a sandy nature, with a sandy sub-soil. On the two sections mentioned the soil is heavier and the sub-soil of clay. About six or seven sections are entirely unimproved, the soil being too light for cultivation. These are covered with scrub timber and brush.

Vermillion river enters the township by the north-west quarter of section 7 and leaves by the north-east quarter of section 6. Smith's lake, a pure, clear pond, fed by springs, is situated on land owned by Mrs. B. Gergen, on section 27. Its area covers but four or five acres of land. This pond and the river are the only two bodies of living water in the township. Formerly two small ponds nearly similar in appearance and size were situated on section 22. They were separated by a narrow neck of land but four rods wide. The ponds, bearing the name of Twin lakes, were remarkable for their beauty and clearness, and seemed to be provided with an inexhaustible supply of water. A few years since they simultaneously disappeared without any perceptible cause.


In 1853, Edmond Doyle, of Point Douglas in Washington county, staked the west half of the east half of section 28, township 114, range 17. The next year he built a log cabin and broke some of the land for cultivation. Soon after his removal to the farm, he dug a twelve-foot well, which has supplied a permanent and ample supply of water. Thinking he could as readily procure water nearer the house, began excavating, after digging twenty feet, he came to a stratum of solid rock through which he blasted twenty feet, then drilling forty feet more before reaching water. This soon failed, and he sank the well thirty feet deeper, making it one hundred and ten feet deep. He has thus secured a permanent supply of good cool water. Doyle's first crop of wheat raised on this place was threshed with an old cylinder thresher without a separator, compelling them to fan the grain by a mill, as fast as threshed.

August 12th, 1853, Christopher Cheney arrived at Point Douglas, but after a brief stay there, proceeded to Marshall and made his claim on the west half of the west half of section 27. While looking for land on the first visit to his future home, he found lying in the bushes, about a mile and a half from his claim a full skeleton of a man, whether white or Indian, he was unable to determine. During the spring following, he built the second cabin erected in the township. Here his daughter Sarah Etta was born, the first in the township. After living on this place about three years, Mr. Cheney sold out and removed to High Island, in this state.

In the spring of 1854, Joseph Bell, brother of John M. and Stephen D. Bell, early settlers of Hampton, came to this township, and took 160 acres on the north-west quarter of section 31. After securing this piece of land, he returned to his home in Branch county, Michigan, and brought his family out here to live. He then proceeded to erect his house, which was not completed until the following January, the family meanwhile living in a tent, suffering considerably from a severe attack of fever and ague. Mr. Bell remained on this farm about twenty years, then removed to McLeod county, where he died. In April, 1854, Chauncey Johnson, came to this county and staked out a claim within the boundaries of Vermillion township. While absent for his family, which he had left in Illinois, some one "jumped" the tract, made improvements, and before Johnson's return, had made a record of his claim, thus compelling Johnson to seek a new place. In August of the same year, Johnson filed his declaratory statement, entering the west half of the east half of section 6; a part of this he still owns.

James Fahey, who had resided for some time at Freeport, Illinois, came here in the spring of 1854, and secured the north-west quarter of section 21, and the following fall moved his family on it, making it his residence for about ten years. This was afterwards used as the county poor farm.

The same year, Charles Durnin, also came to Marshan, and took a claim on the east half of the west half of section 27. After holding it for two years, the place was jumped by a German.


At a session of the board of county commissioners, held April 6th, 1858, the town of Marshan was created, as follows: All of township 114, range 17, and sections 19, 20, 21, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32 and 33, in township 114, range 16. At a meeting of the board of commissioners, held June 5th, 1860, sections 1, 2,3, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15, were separated from Marshan and attached to Hastings.

This left the township in the shape of an "L." The town remained in this shape until 1876,when the legislature passed an act separating nine sections, formerly attached to Ravenna by the county board, which were again attached to Marshan, and sections 19, 20, 21, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32 and 33 of township 114, range 16, were separated from Marshan and attached to Ravenna. This left the township its present shape, containing all of township 114, range 17. Before the town was organized, it was known as Bellwood, given to it by Curtiss and Company. The present name was given in honor of Michael Marsh, an early settler, owner of the town site of Marshan city.

A meeting to complete the organization of the township was held at the house of Michael Marsh, May 11th, 1858. At this meeting forty-two votes were cast, and the following officers elected: L. L. Ferry, John Collins, Nicholas McGree, supervisors; William H. Cox, clerk; Matthew Nowlan, assessor; W. H. Cox, collector; John Burke, overseer of poor; Richard Cox, George Egbert, justices of the peace; Joseph Harlen, M. Orman, constables; Edward Doyle, John Grady, overseers of roads. At this meeting the township was divided into two road districts.

The following is a list of the chairmen of the board of supervisors and clerks: Chairmen, '59, George Egbert; '60, Richard Cox; '61- 2, N. McGree; '63, G. North; '64, John L. Redding; '65, F. K. Gibbon; '66, N. McGree; '67-8, William Kingston; '69-'70, L. C. Simmons; '71-2, C. B. McVay; '73, William O'Connell; '76-7, W. F. Martin; '78, W. R. Todd; '79-'80, W. F. Martin; '81, John McNamara. Clerks, '59, Alonzo Mather; '60, William Cox; '61, J. J. McVay; '62, George Egbert; '63, Adrian Egbert; '64 to '73 inclusive, M. D. Phelan; '74 to '81 inclusive, William R. Martin.

The smallest vote cast in the town was at a town meeting held April 7th, 1863, at which there were but nineteen votes cast. The largest was March 12th, 1878; one hundred were cast.

At a special town meeting held February 24th, 1864, it was decided to issue bonds by which to raise money to pay bounty to all who should enlist and were accepted to fill the quota of the town. Pursuant to this action of the citizens, bonds to the amount of $3,125, to become due in one year and bearing interest at the rate of ten per cent were issued March 11th, and $750 in June following. These were sold at par. During the month of August following, other bonds for the same purpose were issued, to the amount of $8,944, to bear interest at the rate of twelve per cent per annum, and due one year after date. On this series the town was enabled to raise $6,500. Three thousand and eight hundred dollars were issued in January, 1865, realizing but $2,500. They were to become due April 1st, 1867. The last issue, February 16th, 1865, due April 1st, 1867, was $1,200 but realized $900.

Although the town only realized $13,466 for these bonds, yet to redeem them with the accumulated interest, $29,156 were paid in the following installments: 1864, $4,060; '65, $8,650; '66, $8,000; '67, $1,000; '69, $2,500; '71, $1,000; '72, $1,000; '73, $2,000; '74, $1,000. A special meeting was held in the spring of 1865, to investigate the condition of the accounts of John L. Redding, chairman of the town board in 1864, in his management of the war bonds. Many of the citizens believing that there was still some money due the township. A committee was appointed to investigate the condition of affairs, and made their report at a subsequent meeting held October 16th, following. This committee reported that Mr. Redding would settle with the township, paying $500 for a full release from all claims which existed against him in favor of the town, and recommended that the offer be accepted, which was done and Mr. Redding gave his check for that amount.

The first assessment of property in the township was made by Joseph Harlen, and the total valuation of the same was $1,534.45; in 1860 it was $72,425; in 1870, $118,112; in 1880, $260,842. In 1880 the population of the township was 256.


Marshall City was located on the east half of the north-east quarter of section 27 and the west half of the north-west quarter of section 26, on land owned by Michael Marsh, from whom it derived its name. He had it surveyed and platted and the plat recorded August 26th, 1856. Soon after this he erected a store, and sold a number of lots to other parties. Eight of these lots are still owned by the purchasers. This plat has since been abandoned.

Bellwood, on the east half of the north-east quarter and east half of the south-east quarter of section 28, was surveyed and platted by T. Blakely, and was owned by land speculators, of whom F. B. Curtiss was agent. This company erected the first hotel built in the township, in 1857. This was burned, and rebuilt by M. Marsh, and again burned in 1874. The Bellwood Catholic church was built on land donated by the townsite company. The site, for want of encouragement, soon was abandoned. The following extract is taken from the Hastings Independent, dated July 25th, 1857:

"This town is beautifully located at the junction of the Hastings, Cannon Falls and Faribault road with the road from Red Wing to Lakeville and the Minnesota river.

"It is laid off on the borders of a lake in a fine oak grove, and commands a fine view of Chimney rock and the undulating prairie stretching away to the south. The distance between Hastings and Cannon Falls is shortened about five miles, and the town being about half way between the two places must build up a fine hotel business, and its natural attractions must lead many of our citizens to seek it as a pleasure resort.

The surrounding country is a rich, fertile prairie, here and there dotted with small but luxuriant groves. There is no portion of Minnesota where are more or better farms than in the vicinity of Bellwood. We predict for our young neighbor a rapid and healthy growth."


The Collins brothers donated the land occupied by the Bellwood cemetery to Bishop T. L. Grace of St. Paul, for the use of Bellwood Catholic church as a cemetery. A survey was made at the time, but the plat never recorded. A second survey was made by C. B. Lowell, in 1874, and the plat recorded in July. It contains five acres in the north-west quarter of section 22, and is divided into thirty-five blocks. The lots are not of uniform size owing to insufficient care before the survey was made. There are now in the enclosure, four hundred and forty-five graves. The first one made was that of Stephen Collins.


The church of the Immaculate Conception was organized and the house built in 1862. The first subscription was taken January 7th, and the corner stone laid April following, and a few months later was entirely completed, having confessional, tabernacle, belfry and crucifix, all painted and ready by August 10th, 1862. The cost of the edifice was five hundred dollars, and the work was projected by Edmond Doyle, Nicholas McGree and M. D. Phalen.

The first mass was offered by Father Hurth, pastor of Hastings and Bellwood, October 12th, 1862. At the time of the organization about sixty families comprised the parish. This number has increased to one hundred and fifty families. In 1864, a Sunday-school having an attendance of ten or fifteen scholars, was organized, with M. D. Phalen, superintendent. This has been kept up for six months in the year since.

The Father Matthew Total Abstinence society of Bellwood was organized at the Catholic church October 29th, 1876, with fifteen members, and the following officers: John Molamphy, president; Dennis Ryan, vice-president; John Driscoll, secretary; James Molamphy, treasurer; these officers to hold their term of office one year, the annual election being held the last Sunday of each October. The society joined the Total Abstinence Union of America, June 26th, 1879, at a convention of that order held at St. Paul. In 1878, the society had a membership of thirty-four, which at present has fallen to twenty-four. The present officers are: John Molamphy, president; John Davany, vice-president; John Driscoll, secretary; Thomas Moroney, treasurer; Dennis Molamphy, marshal.


A school was taught in a small log house by William A. Gray, in the winter of 1857-8. This house was on the north-east quarter of the southeast quarter of section 21. The winter following Mr. Gray taught in the same house. In 1859-60, Michael Mallany taught in a house on the western part of section 27. Early in the spring of 1864, a small house costing $150 was built on the north-east corner of the north-east quarter of section 28. The succeeding summer M. D. Phalen taught a three months' school, and continued to teach six to eight months each year for the next eleven years. During the year 1877, the district, which is numbered 31, built a new and larger house, which cost $387.

District No. 32 is a joint district, and embraces eight and one-half sections in Marshall and two in Nininger, which were attached in 1867. The same year one section in Hastings was added, and one in 1878. The district was organized at a school meeting held at the house of W. H. Montgomery, December 8th, 1858. A. J. Poor, E. G. Freeman and Leonard Boise were elected trustees at this meeting, and W. H. Montgomery, clerk and treasurer. It was voted to erect a school-house on the north-west corner of the north-east quarter of section 6, on land owned by C. Johnson, though this was not accomplished at that time. School was conducted in private houses until early in 1865, when the district purchased for one hundred dollars, a house at Vermillion Falls, and moved it on the south-east quarter of section 6, where it remained until January, 1868, then was removed to the north-east quarter of the same section, and there remains. When first organized this district was No. 46, but in 1862 that was changed to its present number. Susan Lyon taught the first school in the district, in the house of C. B. Poor.

District No. 33 was created in 1860, and called No. 2. A school-house was built the same year on the north-west corner of the south-west quarter of section 29, on land belonging to John Redding, and now owned by M. Cole. The first term of school taught in the district was of three months duration, and was conducted by W. S. Green, now a resident of Hampton. School has been taught in this district each winter since its organization.

District No. 30 School was first taught in this district in 1862, by Michael Mallany, in the house of M. Marsh. Before it was organized, John Judge, P. Dempsey, John and Thomas Burke, furnished lumber for a school-house. A "bee" was made, and a house erected on the north-east quarter of the south-east quarter of section 27. Catherine Ryan taught the first school in the house. After using this structure until 1879, a new house costing $400 was erected on the south-east corner of section 26, on land owned by P. Dempsey.

District number 95, was organized March 31st, 1874, at a school meeting held at the house of W. H. Mather. At this meeting, it was voted to raise $400 to build a school-house to be located on the south-east quarter of section 7, but it was finally located on the north-east quarter of section 8, on land owned by Peter Huneicker. The first trustees of the district were elected at this meeting, and were as follows: James H. Satterfield, director; L. D. Massey, clerk; William R. Mather, treasurer, Ella Gilkey taught the first term of school lasting four months, in the winter of 1875-6. The attendance of scholars being about twenty-seven.

District number 101, was formed by a special act of the legislature in 1879, separating parts of districts numbers 27 and 28, of Ravenna township and creating this new district. The first meeting for completing the organization was held September 6th, 1879, at the Cook house, owned by John Estergreen, which the district had leased and used for a three month's term of school in the summer of that year. At this meeting it was voted to raise $500 for building a house, and $300 for teacher's salary and incidental expenses. This building situated on the north-west quarter of the south-west quarter of section 12, was completed in the fall of 1879.

The boundaries of district number 65, extend into this township on section 36, the school-house being in the town of Douglass.

About four o'clock in the afternoon of January 14th, 1858, Barney Judge, in company with a hired man started from Hastings to go to his home, a distance of seven miles. Snow had been falling for three days, and in consequence, traveling on foot was extremely difficult. The two men pushed forward until about one and one-half miles from home, when they became bewildered and stopped to rest. B. Judge soon became insensible from fatigue and cold. The young man became alarmed at the situation and instead of proceeding, turned and went back to Hastings. The next morning in company with some friends, the man proceeded back to the spot and found Mr. Judge, dead.

During the famous storm of January, 1873, a German by the name of August Leindecker, became lost while attempting to go home from Hastings. His body was not found until the disappearance of the snow the next spring.

During the summer of 1863, as Hugh McKay and his wife were on their way home from Hastings, they were struck by lightning, Mrs. McKay and the team instantly killed, and Mr. McKay severely injured from this he has never recovered.

Chimney Rock is situated on the eastern part of the north-east quarter of section 31, on land owned by Nicholas McGree. Its shape, resembling a chimney, has given it its name. Standing on a base of sandstone rock, it measures about eighty feet in circumference at the base. At a height of twenty feet from the ground, the circumference is thirty-five feet. From this point, it again enlarges, resembling the cap of a chimney, and reaches a circumference of about fifty feet. It has two large seams, one extending from nearly the top to the base, and the other about half way down. The height of the rock is about forty feet.
[History of Dakota County and the City of Hastings, by Edward D. Neill, North Star Publishing Co. Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1882, transcribed by Mary Kay Krogman] Return to top of page

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