Finding Ancestors wherever their trails led with Genealogy Trails History Group

Dakota County Minnesota 
Genealogy and History

Ravenna Township Dakota County, Minnesota

Return Home

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


This portion of Dakota county is bounded on the north, by the Mississippi river, on the east and south, by Goodhue county, and on the west, by Marshan and Hastings.


The whole surface of the town is quite rolling. The eastern portion of the town is characterized by considerable roughness, some of its hills rising to a height of about a hundred feet. This portion lying nearest the Mississippi river, is also timbered. The Vermillion river traverses it in a south-easterly direction, and is connected with the Mississippi river by two sloughs, one of them in Hastings and the other in Ravenna. The latter is known as the Tradell slough. It divides the island formed by the Vermillion slough and the Vermillion and Mississippi rivers into two parts known as the Upper and Lower islands.

These islands are about fifteen miles in length, six miles of their extent being in Ravenna. They contain in the town, three thousand four hundred and seventy-five acres of uncultivated land, a part of which is covered with timber, principally elm, bass-wood and soft-maple. During high water, this portion of the town overflows to a depth of from eight to fifteen feet. There are several small lakes in these islands, three in sections 4 and 9, called Mud Hen lakes, one, two, three, and three in the Upper island not named.

A lake some ten or twelve acres in extent is situated on the farm of E. Du Shane. It is called Moshier lake, in honor of the first claimant of the adjoining land.

The western portion of the town is prairie, the soil being sandy in its nature, and rather light. The people here have no water privileges, except as they dig wells. Owing to the height of the land above the river bed, some of these wells have been excavated to a depth of one hundred and seventy feet.

The surface of the town generally, by reason of its roughness and the great abundance of water, is much better adapted to stock raising than to the production of grains.


In March, 1852, while what is now Ravenna belonged to the Sioux, it was visited by two brothers, Hugh and Owen Sherry. They were natives of Ireland, and for the past three years had been living at Point Douglas. They were accompanied by M. McDermott.

The whole trio were attracted by the appearance of the land which they had come to spy out, and accordingly made claims in sections 6, 31 and 36.

The first house in the town was built on the land now owned by Owen Sherry, in the southwest quarter of section 31, township 115, range 17, it was built of logs, and has since been destroyed.

Early in 1853, Joseph Moshier came into the town from Prescott, Wisconsin. He made a claim of 160 acres, in the south-west quarter of section 5, township 114, range 16 west, but after some years removed to Dakota territory, where he died. But little is known of him, but he is probably the Joseph Moshier, who first came into the country in 1821, and had quite an acquaintance with the early traders.

After the ratification, in 1853, of the Indian treaty negotiated in 1852, other settlers came into the town. H. C. Lovejoy was a settler of 1853, and made a claim of 160 acres, in section 8. Mr. Lovejoy came to the town from Wisconsin, and still resides on his original claim.

P. W. Elliott and Thomas Ellis were among the earliest to make claims in the town, after the ratification of the treaty. Mr. Ellis purchased some lumber at Prescott, of which lie made a raft, floating it down the river, as near as possible to his chosen place of residence. He then carried it by hand, and fashioned it into a board house, 16x18 feet in dimensions. The roof of this dwelling was constructed of elm bark.

The Indians, in these early days, though friendly were numerous and annoying. On one occasion, a party of them stalked into the house of Owen Sherry, and without uttering a word, proceeded to appropriate twelve or fifteen pounds of pork. They further relieved the family of what bread they had, with the exception of one small piece, which Mr. Sherry concealed.

In 1856, the Sioux held a scalp dance in the town of two weeks' duration. They had been on an expedition against the Wisconsin Chippewas, and had returned with three scalps. One of these is described as a "full-faced" scalp, and as having its luxuriant raven hair, fully two feet in length, adorned with war feathers.

The first birth in the town was that of Felix Sherry, March 4th, 1854. He was the son of Hugh and Mary Sherry, and died February 21st, 1880.

The first marriage occurred the third day of June, 1856. At that date, Owen Sherry and Miss Ellen McKenna were united in wedlock by Rev. Father McMahon. The ceremony was performed at the house of Hugh Sherry, on section 31.

The first death in the town was that of George Hazelton, who died in the fall of 1852.


Ravenna was originally a part of Hastings. Before the towns were formed it was embraced in the Ellis precinct, and the first election within the limits of the town was held at the house of Thomas Ellis, in November, 1857, to vote on the adoption of the state constitution.

The next election was the special election of April 15th, 1858, for the purpose of voting on the great railroad bond act, which is still troubling both the officers and the people of the state. Sixteen votes were cast against the act, and but seven in its favor. This election was held at what was known as the "Henry house," situated on section 8.

Since it was thought expedient to separate the government of the rural population from that of the city of Hastings, Ravenna was formed June 5th, 1860. It contained sections 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 16, 17 and 18, in township 114, of range 16 west, and sections 1, 2, 3, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15, in township 114, of range 17 west, all of township 115, range 16 west, in the county, and sections 25 and 36 in township 115, range 17 west. It was named Ravenna by A. P. Norton, in honor of a town in New York state.

February 29th, 1876, the state legislature, by a special act, took from Ravenna, and gave to Marshan, the sections 1, 2, 3, 10, 11, 12, 13,14 and 15, now embraced in the limits of the latter town; as a return, taking out of the territory of Marshan, the nine southern sections embraced at present in the limits of Ravenna. This was not in accordance with any wish of the people of Ravenna. The nine sections of land returned to them were inferior in quality to those taken away, beside changing the shape of the town by their situation so as to make it much less convenient.

For some years, as regarded the administration of its affairs, Ravenna was called the model town of the county. There was always money in its treasury, and during the war the town raised $1,800 for soldier’s bounties.

At the organization of the town in 1860, the following officers were elected: Thomas Ellis, chairman of town board; William A. Gray and Patrick Murray, associates; H. C. Lovejoy, town clerk.

The following gentlemen have been chairman of the town board since the first town election, and in the order named: A. P. Giles, Thomas Ellis, H. C. Lovejoy, Thomas Ellis, H. C. Lovejoy, A. W. Etter, E. Harrison, A. W. Etter, H. C. Lovejoy, present incumbent.

The following is a list of the town clerks in the order which they served: H. C. Lovejoy, J. C. Egbert, J. H. Day, J. C. Egbert, J. H. Day, James Sherry, N. J. Olson, present incumbent.


The population of the town in 1870, was 235. In 1880, the census was taken with that of Marshan. A careful estimate places the population of the town at 285. The valuation in 1860, was $56,902. In 1870, $72,224. In 1880, $138,285.


In 1856, the educational needs of the town began to be apparent to its inhabitants, as they perceived children multiplying in their midst, and no privileges of the kind for them to enjoy. The first step towards the organization of a school district, was the employing of Miss Maggie G. Ellis to teach a three months' school, paying her three dollars per week. They rented for the purpose what was then known as the Henry house, on section 8, which was used until 1862.

At a school meeting, held in 1867, a vote was taken to raise the sum of $550 for the purpose of building a school-house, to be located on the south-east comer of section 8, on land owned by Thomas Ellis, who was to give two acres for the school ground, if the district would pay the expense of recording the deed. The latter, however, failed in their part of the agreement, and the money was not forthcoming. At the same meeting, in 1857, a school district was organized as district No. 26, which number was changed to 28 in 1863. At a meeting held February 11th, 1860, it was voted to raise $150 to build a log school-house to be situated on the site before designated. Votes, however, did not produce the money, and the old Henry house must continue to be used as before. Still, nothing daunted, at the next annual meeting a vote was taken to levy a tax of $300 for the purpose of building a school-house. This vote, however, shared the same fate as the others, and two public-spirited citizens, H. C. Lovejoy and G. M. Blake, tired of this fruitless voting, built a schoolhouse at a cost of about $300. The district, afterwards, took the building paying them for it.

In the summer of 1860, Miss Eliza Quintin taught a school of about fifteen scholars, in a house owned by Joseph Ennis, situated on what is now section 1, in the town of Marshan. This school was taught preparatory to the formation of a district. In the following fall, at a school meeting held at the house of James Sherry, on the south-west quarter of section 36, a district was organized and designated as No. 27, and a vote was also taken to raise $600 to build a schoolhouse, but like district No. 28, it was easier to vote a tax than to raise the money, and it was 1865 before the house was built. The first school taught in the new building was in the following winter, by Timothy Mitchell.

In 1865, the people living in a portion of district No. 28, felt the need of a school-house nearer, so they erected a brick building on the south-east quarter of section 29, and here their first school was taught by Augusta Lyons. This house was used until 1873, when they sold it, and built a frame house at Etter station, eighteen by twenty-five feet, at a cost of $180, which they have used since, holding two school terms every year. The brick building was bought by C. L. Barnum, and used as a dwelling house.

The boundaries of school district No. 65, extend into this town on section 31, the school-house being situated in the town of Douglass. School district No. 90, of Goodhue county, extends into this township, embracing the south-east quarter of section 31, township 114, range 16.


The first religious service held in the town, was in July, 1853, at the house of Thomas Ellis, conducted by Edward Cressey, a Baptist minister from Prescott, Wis.

In the spring of 1853, a Bible class was formed at the house of Mrs. Thomas Ellis, who conducted it, and continued it through the summer. The first Methodist class was formed in December, 1866, by Rev. G. W. Richardson, of Douglass township, with fifteen members, and was assigned to Red Wing circuit, under the name of Ravenna class. It continued in existence four years, when it was discontinued.


The only cemetery in the town is situated on what is called Elliott’s Hill, in section 16. The land being in the school section is to belong to school district No. 28 as soon as the deed can be procured, therefore it can never be owned as cemetery property. The first interments made in this ground were the infant twins, Mary and Martha, of Mr. and Mrs. P. W. Elliott, who were buried August 18th, 1855. The next burial was that of Corbin Speakes.


In 1856, the road known as the Ellis and Hastings road was surveyed through this town, commencing in section 33, at the St. Paul and La Crosse road, extending nearly north about two miles, then in a north-westerly direction to the city of Hastings. This road was laid out under the supervision of Thos. Ellis, whence its name. Its length in the town is about eight miles.


Long before the Ellis and Hastings road was laid out there was a road called the military road, extending from La Crosse to St. Paul. Over this road, as early as 1852 and '53, there was a stage line in operation every winter after navigation closed, until the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul railway commenced operations in 1871. This route crosses the southern part of this town, entering it in the south-west quarter of section 33, touches sections 19, 29, 32 and 33, and leaves the town in the south-west quarter of section 18.

The Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul railway has about seven miles of road through this town, entering in section 28, extending in a north-westerly direction along the bank of the Vermillion river, and leaving the town in section 37, township 115, range 16.


This station is located in this town, in section 21, range 16. It was built in 1871, and named in honor of A. W. Etter, who owned the land on which it was situated. A post-office was established there at the same time, and Mr. Etter appointed postmaster, which office he held until the appointment of N. J. Olsen in January, 1881. In 1873, Mr. Etter opened a stock of general merchandise, which he kept about three years. In 1871 or '72, a blacksmith shop was opened by August Behrmann, which has been in operation most of the time since, and is the only one in the town.

In 1873, Mr. Etter built a warehouse, for the purpose of buying wheat. It is at present owned by him, but is not in use.
[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

Read another history of Ravenna Township. (Published Earlier)

Genealogy Trails History Group

Copyright ©Genealogy Trails