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Dakota County Minnesota 
Genealogy and History

Vermillion 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.


This township is located near the center of Dakota county, and is bounded on the north, by the towns of Rosemount and Nininger, on the east, by Marshan, on the south, by Hampton, and on the west, by Empire. Congressional township 114, north, of range 18, west of the fifth principal meridian, was designated as Vermillion at the meeting of the first board of county commissioners on April 6th, 1858. The name was given it from the Vermillion river, which flows diagonally from the west side of the township to the north-east corner. A branch called the Little Vermillion flows from the town of Castle Rock and forms a junction with the main stream in the southern part of section 20, Vermillion township.

This, like the adjoining towns, has no lakes, but the river flowing through so large a portion, drains the town sufficiently. This is pre-eminently a prairie town, there being no natural timber, with the exception of some small groves in the south part, within its limits. Enterprising farmers, have, however, set out groves around their homes, which relieves the monotonous look of prairie land, and gives the landscape a varied appearance.

The surface is gently rolling or undulating. The soil is good, the best land being on or near the knolls; along the river it is sandy. The township contains thirty-six sect ions, and as there are no meandered lakes, there are 23,040 acres of land within its limits.


The first settlers in this township came in the spring of 1851. At that time, Moses Cole, his wife and three children, two of whom, Cooper A. and Mary, were born in Yorkshire, England, and John, in Detroit, Michigan, settled on the north-west quarter of section 12. With Cole were his two brothers, John and William, who together took the south half of section 11. John Cole pre-empted his 160 acres, but William sold his in the spring of 1855, for $700, ten acres being broken. The three Coles, Moses, John and William, each had a yoke of oxen, but to gain time put the oxen together in one team, and broke ten acres on each of the claims, in the summer of 1854.

Samuel Brown, Robert J. Smith and Alex. McKay, settled in the eastern part of the town in 1854, and were the first settlers in that portion. Andrew Warsop came in the fall of 1854, and staked out a claim of 160 acres on section 11, then returned to Detroit, Michigan, for his family, the neighbors watching his claim in the meantime to prevent it being jumped. In the spring of 1855, he returned with his wife and three children and pre-empted his claim. He was the first settler of 1855. He had a house of one and one-half stories nearly completed, when, on June 7th, it was swept away by a hurricane, together with twenty other houses in the track of the storm. This is remembered by the "old settlers" as the most severe storm that ever passed over this region, during its occupancy by white men.

The first houses built in the town were those of the Cole brothers, located on the banks of the Vermillion river, in 1854. Moses Cole built a frame house 13x24 feet, and one and one-half stories high. William built a house of the same dimensions as that of his brother Moses, while John built a log house 16x20. The hurricane of June 7th unroofed the latter structure, took the roof and two tiers of the logs, which were fastened together, and carried it some rods, leaving the astonished inmates at the mercy of the wind, rain and flying timbers.

Joseph Barker, son of John Barker, pre-empted one hundred and sixty acres, the south-west quarter of section 15, in 1855, and built a log house 16x2O. J. H. Roway settled on the northwest quarter of section 10, and built a house soon after. William Greig pre-empted the north-east quarter of section 14, and George Ball the northwest quarter of the same section. Robert Barrington selected the south-east quarter of section 25. John Hetherly pre-empted the south-east quarter of section 10.

The first birth in the town was a daughter, Harriet, to Moses Cole and wife, in the fall of 1854. The child had very fair complexion and fiery red hair. She was the cause of great wonder among the Indians, who could not understand why her hair should be red. They brought the Indian women and papooses to view the white maiden and to feel of its hair, which they sometimes washed with soap and water to see if it was painted. At the age of four years Harriet was drowned in the Vermillion river.

The first death that occurred in the town was a daughter of J. D. Searles, who died in 1857, at the age of sixteen years. This death caused a general feeling of regret throughout the whole of the small community.

On January 11th, 1859, the first marriage in the town was celebrated. The contracting parties were Martin Ennis and a daughter of Robert Barrington. They are now living in Nebraska.

An incident of a serious nature occurred to Moses and John Cole, who each lost by prairie fire, ten acres of wheat. This in those early days was a loss of some magnitude and one they could scarcely afford to bear.

Settlers came in slowly after 1855, for several years, then the influx was greater and Vermillion was rapidly settled. The more desirable farms were soon taken and improvements of a substantial character were seen on every hand. This town now ranks among the most prosperous of this county. The population, by the census of 1880, is 819. In 1860 the assessed valuation of property in the town was $89,266; in 1870, $182,194; in 1880, $343,040. This shows an increase in proportion to the population rarely if ever equaled.


The first meeting for the organization of the town and the election of officers was held at John Cole's cabin, on April 5th, 1858. The officers elected were: A. H. Norris, Moses Cole and Samuel Brown, supervisors; Andrew Warsop, clerk; R. C. Dawson, assessor; Daniel Cadwell and William Greig, justices of the peace; W. E. Jones, constable. About thirteen votes were cast.

The chairmen of the board of supervisors and the years in which they served: A. H. Norris, 1858; A. Warsop, 1859; R. C. Dawson, 1860-1; H. Pettibone, 1862; R. Densmore, 1863; O. H. Chamberlain, 1864; George Barbaras, 1865-6-7; John Mills, 1868; James Bennett, 1869; John Callaghan, 1870-1-2-7; M. Siebender, 1873-4-5-6; Louis Niedere, 1878-9-80-1. The number of legal voters in the town in 1881 was about 210.

At a meeting of the town board of supervisors 1859, three road districts were formed. At a meeting held at the town clerk's July 5th, 1859, the board voted a tax of ten cents on each one hundred dollars worth of taxable real estate, for roads.

June 22d, 1858, the Vermillion board met the supervisors of Hampton for the purpose of laying out a road, running east and west on the line between the towns. The next road was laid out in 1860, and ran east and west between Vermillion and Nininger. In 1861, the road running east and west through the town, known as the Barker and Warsop road, was legalized. Some trouble was experienced in getting this road through, as it divided Barker's farm, leaving eighty acres on each side of the road. Everything moved smoothly until the road came to Barker's place, and he opposed it so violently that he would allow none to cross his land. In retaliation, the road builders put up a fence across the road, as it then stood, so that Barker could not get to Hastings, this being the only road. Barker and Alex McKay broke down the barricade and were met by the party breaking the road. During the struggle ensuing, one man was knocked down with a hammer and another cut severely on the face with a spade. But to use the expression of an old settler, "the road was put through all the same." In the summer of 1859, a bridge was built across the Vermillion river at the crossing of the road in section 11. It was a wooden truss, built by the people living in that locality, under the supervision of Mr. Warsop. Material for the bridge was furnished by the neighbors. This was the first bridge built in the town, and previous to its construction, people were obliged to ford the river at the most convenient place, which was difficult at times, on account of high water. This was known for a number of years as Warsop's bridge. The next bridge was built in 1860, over the Vermillion, and was known as Dean's bridge.


The first school held in the town of Vermillion, was in John Cole's log cabin, in 1856 or '57. The teacher was William Chapman, a native of New York. The officers of the district, known at that time as number 14, were: Moses Cole, William Greig and James Osterout, trustees: Andrew Warsop, clerk.

The first school-house was built in 1861, on the south-west corner of section 11. The plan was designed by Andrew Warsop. The building was a frame structure 20x30 feet, and was in use for a number of years, as a house of worship by the Episcopalians. Rev. T. Wilcoxson came out occasionally in the early times, and preached to the citizens. The school-house is still used for church services. District number 14 was changed to number 35, and the old school-house sold. In 1869, a new building was erected in the northeast quarter of section 10. This was a frame structure, 20x30 feet. The teacher was George A. Powell. In 1869, the district was divided and a new one, number 89, was formed, as the people on the south side of the Vermillion river had difficulty in getting their children over the river at certain seasons of the year.

District number 89 was organized with the following officers: William Dickinson, director; W. F. Martin, clerk; G. E. Denis, treasurer. The land for the school-house was donated, on the south-west quarter of section 12, January, 1870. The school-house was built soon after. In the spring of 1879, this house was destroyed by fire, supposed to have originated from a spark from a passing locomotive. In the fall of that year, the district built a brick school-house on the southwest quarter of section 14. The board of officers for the present year are: C. P. Adams, director; John Cockbairn, treasurer; H. Potter, clerk.

District number 94, was organized in October, 1873, by the election of John Bruer, director; Thomas Redican, clerk; Nicholas Reiter, treasurer. In the fall of that year, the district erected a school-house 24x30 feet on the southwest quarter of section 16. Miss M. McNamara taught the first term. The number of pupils average about fifty. Present board of officers: John Therres, director; Thomas Redican, clerk; Nicholas Reiter, treasurer.

In 1858, a district was organized jointly by the people of Vermillion and Marshall. The officers were: Joseph Bell, director; William Cox, clerk; Robert Barrington, treasurer. Proceedings were instituted for procuring the material for a school-house, but the people living on the Vermillion side, decided to have a district of their own, and accordingly in 1859, called a special meeting organizing district number 34, with John Kuhn, clerk; O. H. Chamberlain, director; Robert Barrington, treasurer. They built a school-house on the south-east quarter of section 25, which was soon after moved to the south-west quarter of the same section. In 1874, this building was sold for $40, and a new one erected the same year. The present officers of the district are: P. Gretten, director; John Reuter, clerk; John N. Girgen, treasurer.

School district number 36, was organized in the spring of 1863, by the election of E. R. Ackley, director; John Finican, clerk; Edward Bennett, treasurer. The first school was held at the house of E. R. Ackley, and afterwards at other private houses in the district, with Miss Conner as teacher, until 1869, when they decided to build a schoolhouse. It was located on the north-west quarter of section 9, and was a frame building. In December, 1880, the building was moved to the south-east quarter of section 5, where it is now located. Mary Casserly and Ellen Murnane, teachers.

School district number 37 was organized in 1863, with J. J. Brown, director; H. H. Barbour, clerk; George Barbaras, treasurer. School was held in a granary belonging to George Barbaras. It was a frame building, and covered with hay; a board was taken out, the aperture serving as a window. At the start there were but three or four scholars, with Mary Hawkins as teacher the first summer. They soon after built a temporary shanty on George Hampton's farm in section 33. In 1865 the frame school-house was built on the south-west quarter of section 27, which has since been in use. The officers of the district at present are A. Longfield, director; John Zein, clerk; and Henry Dries, treasurer.

School district number 38 was organized among the first in the township, in 1858. Mr. Humes was director, Randall Densmore, clerk, and Joseph Felton, treasurer. The first school occupied a log cabin owned by Mr. Morrison; Sarah Hawkins was teacher. In 1860 they built a small house on section 31, which was in use ten years, when the district built the school-house on the north-west quarter of section 31. The man on whose land the old building stood, claimed it, and as the deed was lost, nothing could be done but let him take it. The present officers of the district are: C. Klotz, director; C. Becker, clerk; Hans Gasman, treasurer.


The first religious services were held in John Cole's log cabin, in 1856, by a local preacher. These services were a source of great satisfaction to the early settlers, as they had been deprived of church privileges for some time. The first school-house was also used as a house of worship, the Rev. T. Wilcoxson, of Hastings, holding services for the Episcopals there. School-house in district No. 35 is now used by this society.

Catholic services were first held in Vermillion in 1869, the Rev. Father Halton officiating priest. The congregation met in a school-house, but as it rapidly increased in numbers, they determined to build a church, and in accordance with this plan, a meeting was held in the schoolhouse in 1872, at which $2,000 was raised for the prosecution of the work. In 1873, they secured two acres of land on the north-east quarter of section 8, and the contract for the building was let to James Sutliff for $2,800. As this left a deficit of $800 the society held a picnic in July 1873, at which the whole of the sum required was raised, and the work was soon after pushed to completion. Six months after the parish decided to build, the church was completed, and one year later was entirely free from debt. The church is a Gothic structure, 24x56, with a height of sixteen feet inside. February 5th, 1871, the church was dedicated and placed under the patronage of St. Agatha, as on that day the feast of that saint was solemnized. Father Halton had charge of the church until 1879, since which time Rev. J. H. Hermon, of Inver Grove, has had charge.

St. Agatha cemetery. In 1875, one and one-half acres of the church property was laid out for a cemetery, by Andrew Keegan, county surveyor. It is designed for a Catholic cemetery, and there have been about twenty-five interments.

For a history of the village of Vermillion use this link.

The Auburn elevator is located on the northwest quarter of section 30, near the town line, where the railroad has a platform. It is about four and one-half miles west of the Vermillion elevator, and was built by D. S. Balch in 1873. It is 20x40 feet, two stories high, with a capacity of 10,000 bushels. In the spring of 1879, it was sold to William Thompson, who still owns it, although at present it is not running.


In 1880 the county commissioners decided to locate the county poor farm in the town of Vermillion, and accordingly purchased of William Thompson, of Hastings, a farm of eighty acres, for which the sum of $3,377.50 was paid. This farm is in the north-west quarter of section 30, and has a substantial two-story frame building to which an addition has been made at an expense of $600. The original building contained five rooms on the ground floor and the same number above. The addition has three rooms below and two above. When first occupied there were but three inmates; there are now thirteen, among them an old English woman, Maria Nightingale, who has reached the age of 105 and is still able to be about.


This mill was built in 1877, by John Becker, and is situated on the east bank of the Vermillion river, in the south-west quarter of section 29 The fine water-power is here used to advantage by Mr. Becker, who built a dam of wood and stone, eighty-five feet long and twelve feet high. The water set back by the dam forms a small lake about a mile in length, with an average depth of thirteen feet. The mill is a frame structure, three stories high on a basement of stone, and is in size 24x40 feet. The power is furnished by a Leffel wheel under a head of thirteen feet. In the basement is the cleaning and separating apparatus. On the first floor is a flour chest with a capacity of ten barrels, and two run of stone, one three and the other three and one-half feet in diameter. There is also a small run of buhrs, sixteen inches in diameter. The second floor contains a bolting chest, capable of bolting from eight to ten barrels an hour, and a middlings purifier with a capacity of 200 barrels. The third floor is used for storage and has room for 3,000 bushels of grain. This mill has an extensive patronage from the farmers of the surrounding country and gives general satisfaction.


On the evening of Saturday, August 26th, 1876, occurred a most atrocious crime, one that startled the people of Vermillion. This was the murder of Thomas Callaghan, a well known citizen and prosperous farmer. The crime was committed on the line between Vermillion and Rosemount, on what is known as the Hastings and Crystal lake road. Callaghan was engaged in running a thresher, and had in his employ two brothers, John and Joseph Bird; wishing to reduce his force of workmen he discharged these two. In settlement with them he displayed a considerable sum of money, which he carried on his person, and thus aroused their cupidity. They resolved to possess the money and accordingly lay in wait for him as he was going to his home in the evening. His workmen, with the horses, excepting the team he drove, preceded him some time. His family were not much concerned at his not reaching home, as they supposed he had gone to Rosemount, as he frequently did. As he did not come, a search was instituted and he was found in the road, about one and one-half miles from his home, near the residence of his brother, John Callaghan, with a bullet hole in his forehead and other marks of violence. They carried him to his brother's house, where he died in the afternoon, remaining unconscious from the time he was discovered.

An inquest was held, and the jury returned a verdict that the deceased came to his death at the hands of parties unknown. He was buried in Inver Grove cemetery the following day, his funeral cortege being the largest ever known in the county. Search was at once commenced for the perpetrators of the crime, and the Bird brothers were arrested in Minneapolis and taken to Hastings, where one of them confessed the deed. The elder brother died in jail before the trial, and the other, pleading guilty, escaped the gallows, and was sentenced to the penitentiary for life, where he is now serving a just punishment for the atrocious crime.
[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 Vermillion Township. (Published Earlier)

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