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Freeborn County, Minnesota

 


County History


Sod house
This cabin was "rolled up" by Ole Gulbrandson and his wife Astri in 1853. One of the first homes built by a settler in Freeborn County, it was located on the southwest quarter of Section 33, Shell Rock Township. In 1856 Gulbrandson sold his claim to William Beighley who in the next few years, raised the house several logs higher, put in floor boards and windows, and replaced the sod roof with cut oak shingles.


HISTORY OF FREEBORN COUNTY
Albert Lea Tribune
Sunday, July 18, 1976, Pg. 6
Submitted by Michael Nelson


An Ohio man who never actually settled in the Albert Lea area but who was one of Minnesota's earliest pioneers now is remembered in the name of Freeborn County.

The county was named after William Freeborn who was born in Ohio and moved to St. Paul in 1848.

While in St. Paul he was a member of the Council-or the Upper House-in the first Minnesota territorial legislature. With a small band of hearty pioneers, Freeborn first settled and developed the town of Red Wing on the Mississippi River in 1853.

Historians tell that Freeborn was an energetic man with progressively bold ideas and the ability to interest other persons in his many enterprises.

A short time after he and his party settled Red Wing, the outpost became an important outlet for this section of the new coun­try being carved out of prairie and wilderness. A stage line soon was started between Red Wing and Albert Lea, which had been settled at about the same time by George Ruble, a close friend of Freeborn’s.

Not only did Ruble play an instrumental role in naming the city of Albert Lea after the colonel by that name, he also took it upon himself to see that the county surrounding "his town” took on the name of his friend Freeborn.

Historian’s record that Ruble used his friendship with Freeborn in the early territorial legislature to get Freeborn County created by legislative act. At the time Freeborn served as district 3 representative for Goodhue, Dodge, and Freeborn Counties.

The man from Ohio was one of the founders of Hamline University in St. Paul.

There is no record of William Freeborn ever having been a resident of Albert Lea, thought be is recorded to have owned property in the area. His name appeared on the first tax roll in District 3 as published in the Southern Minnesota Star on Sept. 12, 1857, a few months af­ter the new Freeborn County was organized officially at a meeting at the home of George Ruble.

At the 7th Territorial Legislature in 1856, William Sherwood Freeborn represented the 4th District, as he did in 1857 when the Territorial Legislature passed an act authorizing the organization of Freeborn County. The first meeting of the Board of County Commissioners, appointed by Governor Gorman, was held at the home of George S. Ruble in the village of Albert Lea, 3 March 1857. It was at this meeting that the county was given the name of Freeborn in honor of William S. Freeborn. (It is interesting to note that he never lived in the county! He came to St. Paul in 1848, moved to Goodhue County in 1852, and then moved out West in 1864. He died in California in 1900.

Though Freeborn County is recorded by historians as having been "created" Feb. 20, 1855 no actual governmental recognition of such a creation occurred until the spring of 1857. At that time the territorial legislature passed an act authorizing the organization of Freeborn County. Accompanying the legislative act was a list of appointments from the governor for the filling of the various county govern­ment positions.

Appointed, as commissioners were William Andrews, E.C. Stacy, and S. N. Frisbie, Samuel M. Thompson, register of deeds; and Thomas C. Thorne, treasurer.

The commissioners were directed by Governor Gorman to meet, appoint officers, name a temporary county seat, and transact other government business.

Seven-hour meetings by the present Freeborn County Board of Commissioners may seem long and drawn out to today's spectator. However, such a meeting schedule appears slight when compared to the sessions conducted by the first board, which have been recorded to have lasted in some instances, for three days or more.

In October 1857, the first general election in the county was held and 642 votes were cast. Elected were com­missioners S. N. Frisbie, Joseph Rickard, and Peter Clausen; register of deeds William Morin; treasurer Henry King; sheriff J. W. Heath; probate judge A. W. White; clerk of court E. P. Skinner; surveyor H. D. Brown; and coroner A. M. Burnham.

Albert Lea was selected as county seat.

The first elected board of commissioners assembled Jan. 4. 1858 and served until June of the same year. Frisbie served as chairman of the board.

The early county boards created road, school and assessors districts named towns and transacted much of the foundation legislation, which the county still stands.

With the year of 1885 dawned a new and short-lived system of county government. Following Minnesota's being provided with a state constitution that year, the state legislature devised by the passing of a law the system of county government by a board of supervisors.

Each county was to have a board of supervisors comprised of the chairmen of the county's different townships and representatives from the unincorporated settlements.

The first board of supervisors in Freeborn county-sometimes referred to as the “court” or the “legislature”-assembled in Albert Lea in June 1858.

The authorized members of the board included William An­drews, Shell Rock; Theodore Lowry, Moscow; E.C. Stacy, Geneva; Isaac Baker, Riceland; E. J. Boardman, Hartland; C. D. Giddings, Freeborn; A. C. Wedge, Albert Lea; A. W. White, Pickerel Lake; Mathias Anderson, Manchester; Patrick Fitzsimmons, Nunda; H. W. Allen, Stanton (now Carlston); and J. Q. Fitzgerald, Asher (now London).

The Board of Supervisors system existed for just slightly more than 18 months before it was decided at the state level to return to the Board of Commissioners form of county government. The counties of Minnesota have yet to stray again from that system. In organizing the rebirth of the " Board of Commissioners in Freeborn County, the county was divided into three districts.

The townships of Hartland, Porter (Bath), Geneva, Newry, Moscow and Riceland made up the first district, Albert Lea Hayward, Oakland, Lindon (London), and Shell Rock the second district; and Freeborn, Carlston, Manchester, Bancroft, Pickerel Lake, Nunda, Mansfield, and Alden the third district.

Representing the three districts in the reformed county board were commissioners George W. Skinner, Asa Walker, and William N. Goslee, the later being named chairman.

In the year 1867, the county was declared by the state to be entitled to five commissioners. Subsequently, the board of White, Jones and Devereaux reapportioned the districts.

The townships of Geneva, Bath, Hartland and Freeborn comprised the new first district; Newry, Moscow, Oakland and London the second new district; Riceland, Bancroft, Manchester and Carlston the third district; Pickerel Lake, Albert Lea, Hayward and Shell Rock the fourth district; and Alden, Mansfield, Nunda and Freeman the new fifth district.

By an act of the legislature of 1885, the terms of all county commissioners expired on the last day of December 1886.

In the fall of 1886, the people of Freeborn County elected five commissioners who took office Jan. 1, 1887. Those from the first, third and fifth districts were to serve two years and those from the second and fourth districts were to serve four years.

Under this plan, which is still in use today, the makeup of the county board changes once in every two years except in cases of death, resignation or removal.

Since 1887 to date each commissioner is elected to a four-year term.

County Had Early Money Troubles
Albert Lea Tribune
Sunday, July 18, 1976, pg 6


Freeborn County was without funds for some time after its beginning in 1857. No system for the collection of public money had yet been implemented.

The first board of county commissioners - William Andrews, E. C. Stacy, and S.N. Frisbie ­ saw the immediate need and so ap­pointed assessors who would begin to collect taxes to give the county some money to work with.

But, in the meantime, there were certain things, which had to be done by the county’s first leaders - money, or not.

To make this possible, the county issued “orders” which were to be cashed in when the county financial situation became solvent.

An estimated 140 county orders were issued by the Board of Commissioners in 1857, for a total amount of $2,511.03.

The largest number of orders, according to county records, were 35 such cash statements distributed for the October elec­tion in 1857, and for the compensation of judges and county workers.

Close behind were the 34 orders given out for those men who worked in the building of the first county roads.

Twelve orders were issued for witnesses in court and a like dozen for the services for the county’s road reviewers.

Other orders issued during the county’s infant year included payment to county officers, for platting of the county, to a doc­tor, in payment of part of a town site, and to the editor of the Bancroft newspaper for supplies and publication.

Some of the figures listed in the county’s first year records include $7.70 to Commissioner Peter Claussen (elected in Oc­tober, 1857), $6 to A.D. Black for making ballot boxes for the county’s first election, $10.70 to Commissioner S.N. Frisbee, and $8 to D.H. Cheeney for tran­sporting the election returns to be recorded in Dakota County.

In addition, James Andrews, brother to one of the county’s initial commissioners William Andrews, was allowed an order for the use of his team in building county roads.

Insufficient in quantity to of­fset the $2,511.03 spent by orders by the county in 1857, was the $465.52 collected by the various appointed assessors in the county that year.

In 1858 the county orders were cancelled. The county paid the territory of Minnesota $212 and dispersed amounts ranging from $4.75 to $24.75 to the various county school districts.

1858 saw $1,960.14 collected from the 12 townships in Freeborn County in taxes. From that sum, $20 was paid by the county commissioners for the removal of the poor from the county, while a like $20 was paid to the sheriff for the transporting of a prisoner from the county.


History of Freeborn County

Freeborn County lies among the rolling, oak covered hills of southern Minnesota. The county borders the state of Iowa to the south, and its northern border is approximately 85 miles from Minneapolis - St. Paul. A culturally diverse county, it was settled mainly by Norwegians, Germans, Danish, Irish and Czech with a significant number of settlers from the eastern United States. They were attracted by the combination of fertile soil and the natural beauty of the area. Today, Freeborn County continues to be culturally diverse; it includes the 2nd largest Latino population in Minnesota.

Minnesota was organized as a territory in 1849 and by 1852, the population was estimated at 20,000. Freeborn County was established 20 February 1855 at the 6th Territorial Legislature. Goodhue, Dodge, and Freeborn Counties constituted the 4th District.

At the 7th Territorial Legislature in 1856, William Sherwood Freeborn represented the 4th District, as he did in 1857 when the Territorial Legislature passed an act authorizing the organization of Freeborn County. The first meeting of the Board of County Commissioners, appointed by Governor Gorman, was held at the home of George S. Ruble in the village of Albert Lea, 3 March 1857. It was at this meeting that the county was given the name of Freeborn in honor of William S. Freeborn. (It is interesting to note that he never lived in the county! He came to St. Paul in 1848, moved to Goodhue County in 1852, and then moved out West in 1864. He died in California in 1900)

The county is made up of 20 townships with an area of 722 square miles The townships are Albert Lea, Alden, Bancroft, Bath, Carlston, Freeborn, Freeman, Geneva, Hartland, Hayward, London, Manchester, Mansfield, Moscow, Newry, Nunda, Oakland, Pickerel Lake, Riceland, and Shell Rock.

The site of the city was originally mapped on an expedition by Lieutenant Albert M. Lea of the United States Dragoons in 1835. In appreciation for the quality of the maps, the explorer Nicollet renamed Lea's Fox Lake to Lake Albert Lea, for which the settlement and city were subsequently named. The city was platted in 1856.

Neighboring Minnesota counties include: Waseca and Steele counties to the north; Mower county to the east; and Faribault county to the west. The Iowa counties of Winnebago and Worth are at its southern border.

[Submitted by Michael Nelson - source unknown, though probably from wikipedia.org]


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