Minnesota Genealogy Trails

Goodhue County, Minnesota

County History

Transcribed by Janice Rice


 Minneola, originally a part of Zumbrota township, but organized separately in June, I860, comprises township 110, range 16, and is bounded on the north by Belle Creek, on the east by Zumbrota, on the south by Koscoe and on the west by Wanamingo. It is crossed, east to west, by the north branch of the Zumbro, which is augmented along its winding course by springs and rivulets which supply the township with plenty of water, making the farms well adapted for agriculture and stock raising. The surface has great changes of level. The highest land is in the northwestern part of the town and the lowest is in the valley near the village of Zumbrota in the southeastern part. The changes, however, except in the immediate descents into the Zunibro valley, are gradual, making in general an undulating surface. The soil is rich, deep and fertile. In several portions are a few natural groves of forest trees, and shade trees surround many of the houses, adding beauty and sheltering houses and barns from storms. The first claim in the township was made by Christian Peterson on section 26 in May, 1855. Mr. Peterson erected a rude hut of brush, banked with sod, which did service during the summer while he was breaking the land and planting the first crop. In the fall he improved this habitation with the addition of some boards. In June of the same year John Mabee and A. C. Erstad arrived, and shared with Mr. Peterson the rigors of that first winter in what was practically an unbroken wilderness. Mabee located his claim on section 35, where he lived until the spring of 1856, when he returned to Norway. Erstad made his claim on section 26, and in 1856 occupied the deserted claim of Mabee, which he continued to make his home and where he later erected a beautiful residence, In 1856 there came a number of other settlers, among whom were Daniel Eames, the Swenson brothers and Julius Peck, and probably, according to an ancient authority, Andrew Christopherson as well. Mr. Peck had the distinction of having brought into the township the first pair of horses. Previous to this time oxen had been the only beasts of burden in the township, being used for plowing, for draught purposes, and even for conveying the pioneers from place to place. Daniel Eames died in 1859, his being the first death in the township. The first birth in the township was that of Eddie Crowell in 1857. Another early birth was that of a child to Albra Twombley also in 1857. Church service was held by the Rev. Charles Shedd early in 1856, soon after his arrival. The first marriage was that of George Rees and Harriet Wightman, June, 1858. The first school was taught by Charles Locke in the home of Julius Peck. This school was supported by private subscription, there being at that time no regularly organized school district. A public school was taught by Mrs. Daniel Eames in her own house. A tragedy of the early days occurred in July, 1862. A violent thunder storm arose, during which time a bolt of lightning fell upon the house of A. J. Grover, striking the roof and parting, a portion of the electricity passing down the roof and the other portion to the person of Mrs. Grover, who was in a chamber, killing her instantly. The other persons in the house were not so seriously injured, though severely shocked. The house was also set on fire, but prompt assistance saved it from destruction. In 1856 a flouring mill was built by the .Messrs. Nichols and Ford in the southeastern part of the town, on the Zumbro. Another mill was erected, probably by the Messrs. Nelson and Olson, about six miles above the first mill, located on the ljne between Minneola and Wanamingo. In 1867 the Norwegian Lutherans erected the first frame church, in the southeast corner of the township, at a cost of $3,500, with a seating capacity of about 500 people. The first minister was the Rev. B. A. Mums. The same denomination later built another large church in the northern part of the town. The Methodists organized a society in 1868. Later German Lutheran and German Methodist churches were organized. Rev. Mr. Walton preached an early sermon in the home of Daniel Eames. Mary Dickey was an early school teacher. In 1871 a schoolhouse was erected on section 23, and was first taught in by John Aldrieh. A company composed of Ezra Wilder, H. H. Palmer, T. P. Kellett and others built, in the early days, a large cheese factory on section 26, within the limits of this township. The township was first united with Zumbrota under one organization. The first supervisors were I. C Stearns, T. D. Rowell and George Sanderson. In December, 1859, a notice was posted in several places, requesting the voters living in township 110, range 16. to meet on the fifteenth of that month at the residence  of Daniel Eames to take into consideration the expediency of a separate organization, choose a name for the town, and if deemed best, to elect the necessary officers for doing town business. At the meeting held in accord with the order, N. Mulliken was called to the chair and J. B. Locke chosen secretary. The names of Paris and Minneola were presented for consideration. The latter was finally agreed upon as the name for the new organization. Minneola is an Indian term, signifying "much water." There were thirty-two voters present, and it was decided to elect town officers. This election resulted in the following officers: Supervisors, J. B. Locke (chairman), Brant Thompson. J. Clark: clerk, R. Person; assessor. Henry E. Shedd; justices. A. J. Grover and N. Mulliken ; constables, W. B. Williams and E. L. Kingsbury. A. J. Grover and J. B. Locke were appointed a committee to present this action to the county board. They did so, but the matter was deferred by that board until both townships could act on the matter. The township of Zumbrota. at its annual meeting in the spring of 1860, approved of the separation. The organization was perfected by a meeting held at the home of J. B. Locke June 18, 1860.



Kenyon lies in the southeast corner of Goodhue county, and comprises township 112, range 18. It is the highest township in the county, and has an undulating surface which was originally almost wholly prairie. The north branch of the Zumbro flows through the northwestern part, and along this stream there are several groves of young trees. There are occasional small sloughs, with turf-peat, in the uplands, but in the summer seasons they are dry and furnish a coarse hay. Deep, fertile soil prevails generally throughout the township. As the early settlement was all in the northern and north- western part, the early history of the township and village is practically identical. In 1855 came a number of settlers, among them being L. A. Felt. Chris and Sever Halvorson, L. N. Bye, N. Hollenbeck and a man named Native. These were soon followed by J. H. Day, Addison and E. B. Hilton. James Browley, S. A. Baker, Stephen Bullis, 0. S. Gunhus, 0. E. Erickson and AY. B. Burnham. Successive crops of untouched prairie grass had hardened the sward, and the early settlers had much difficulty in breaking the glebe. But they set to work' with courage, and soon the wilderness was fruitful with the crops which the rich soil yielded. In May, 1856, James H. Day and James M. LeDue claimed the land on which the village now stands, and subsequently  women named Howe and Hilton became part owners of the land. By these four men, the village was laid out and plaited. James H. Day erected the first residence in June, 1856. and a store building was erected the same year. This was occupied by Crowley & Baker as a general store. Stephen Bullis built the first hotel in March, 1857, and during the same year a steam saw mill was constructed. Town and village are named from one of  Early settlers. The first death occurred in the summer of 1857, Lydia Gross being unable to withstand the rigors of pioneer life. The first birth was that of George, son of W. B. Burnham, born in the spring of 1857. The first marriage was that of Freeman Collamore and Mary Bullis, in January, 1858. The first school was taught in the winter of 1857 by W. S. Bill, who also conducted the first religious services. Four churches supplied the religious demands of the people in the early days. In 1870, the Norwegian Lutherans erected on section 5, a stone church capable of seating 600 people. It was one of the congregations of the Rev. B. J. Minis. On section 7, another Norwegian Lutheran church, a stone building with a seating capacity of 400 people, was erected in 1872. The first Baptist church was organized May 4, 1867, with seven members. In 1873 the Rev. Mr. Dubois of the Episcopal church held service at the village and in 1875 an organization was perfected, with the following officers: Wardens, Dr. A. W. Hewitt and E. R. Marshall; vestrymen, S. A. Bullis, B. D. Bullis. William Elcock and William Turner. A church capable of holding 200 people was erected in 1875 and dedicated July 25, 1876. Originally the population of the township was largely Norwegian, and that of the village American, but at the present time Americans of Norwegian descent or birth predominate throughout both town and village. Aside from the village of Kenyon, there are two stations in the township, both on the line of the Chicago and Great Western. They are Bakko and Skyberg. Kenyon Village lies thirty- five miles southwest of Red Wing on the Zumbro river and the C. G. W. and C. M. & St. Paul railways. It is incorporated and has a population of 1,300. It has three hotels, two banks, a creamery, a flour mill, three grain    elevators, a canning factory, an electric light plant, water works, an opera house, a well equipped fire department, a good graded school. The churches are: The Episcopal, Baptist, Methodist, German Methodist, German Lutheran and Norwegian Lutheran. There are two weekly papers published, the Leader and the News. There are two telegraph companies, one express company, the Wells, Fargo & Co., and one telephone company.



 Wanamingto comprises township 110, range 17, and has remained unchanged in area since the township organization act of 1858. It is bounded on the north by Leon, on the east by Minneola, on the west by Holden and on the south by Cherry Grove. Wanamingo is crossed east and west by the north branch of the Zumbro in the southern part, but the valley is broad and has gentle slopes. In the northwestern part there is a bran eh of the Cannon. The surface is largely prairie, gently rolling, with very fertile soil, well watered by many springs and running streams. Where these are not at hand, water is found by digging a few feet below the surface. The natural groves of timber in various sections add variety to the landscape. No other township in the county . it is said affords superior advantages to the farmer. The story of the early settlement of Wanamingo has been told as follows: "The first settlers came here in 1851, and were natives of Norway. Early in that year Henry Nelson (Talla) came to Dodgeville, Wis., from California, where he had been staying a few years and where he had accumulated a snug little sum of money. About the same time his older brother, Toge Nelson (Talla). then a widower, came back to the same place from Australia, where he also had earned some money. The two brothers then agreed to go to the Northwest together and search for a home. Purchasing a team, they started, and after being on the way as far as Root river, they heard that the territory of Minnesota contained good farming land, with wood and water. They then purchased a number of cattle and such implements as they would need for beginning farming operations. They were now joined by Thosten Anderson, another of their countrymen, who was also in the same pursuit. As both the Nelsons were determined to stay in farming for all there was in it. they each hired a man to help them. Henry hired William Williamson (Runningen) and Toge hired Nils Gulbrandson. Both these hired men were carpenters by trade. .Mr. Colhrand son left his family in Wisconsin, expecting to return for them in the fall, providing he liked the new country. The prairie schooners were ready and the little company started for the unknown land May 21, the party consisting of those already mentioned and Henry Nelson and family, Thosten Anderson and family, and two sisters of the Nelsons, Mrs. Jens Ottun, whose husband had not yet arrived from the old country, and Mrs. Nels K. Fenne, whose husband was then in California. After rambling over the new territory of Minnesota for three weeks they came, June 12, to the place now called Wanamingo. They had for many days seen no white persons but themselves. At about. 11 o'clock on the day named above they crossed the north fork of the Zumbro. Toge Nelson stopped his team and,, looking around, saw there was a fine park with beautiful land adjacent. He exclaimed: 'Here will I live and die.' His words were fulfilled, for he died in 1889, having lived in that place thirty-five years. The whole company found it to be desirable country for settlement, and so began their improvements. Knowing nothing as to how much land one man could hold as a claim, they marked off large portions, for they expected others of their countrymen to join them in making the town a Norse settlement. They began by making dugouts and sod shanties for living and sleeping apartments. They broke up the prairie for field culture and planted some corn, sowed buckwheat and rutabagas. They also planted a few potatoes that season. "Four weeks after this party had made their stand, two young men. Hans Ovaldson and Andrias Hesjelden, came to the place, having followed their tracks. These young men belonged to a larger party of immigrants, whom they had left some thirty- five or forty miles behind. They were so much pleased with the location that they started back immediately for their comrades. They found them and induced nearly all the party to come to Wanamingo. This last party consisted of Andres Barnbus, John Stroemme, Guncler Hestemyr, Ole 0. Oakland, Haldor Johnson, and their families. About the first of August another train of Norwegian immigrants came on from Wisconsin, but finding the township of Wanamingo already claimed, they went further west into Holden and Kenyon, some even beyond the county line west, to make claims. "In the latter part of July this town was visited by two men from Red Wing, this being the first intimation the new settlers had of the existence of such a place. These men informed them that Red Wing was on the Mississippi river, about thirty miles distant, in a northeasterly direction. This information was a great benefit, as they knew of no market town nearer than Decorah, Iowa. In August Nils Gulbrandson went to Wisconsin for his family, and it was agreed that he should there meet -lens Ottun. who had arrived from Norway, and accompany him to Red Wing- on the steamboat. Three weeks later Toge and Henry Nelson set out from Red Wing to meet them. After wandering about for two days they found the place. In the meantime the party had arrived, but both men had taken the cholera while on the steamboat. Mr. Gulbrandson died in one hour after landing. Mr. Ottun survived. They were left on the shore by the boat hands. Mrs. Gulbrandson took charge of her dying husband and grown-up daughter. The latter also took the disease, and died shortly after the father. William Freeborn, seeing Mr. Ottun lying on the levee with none seemingly to care for him, offered five dollars to the man who would take him to some house and care for him over night. A few days after this the Nelsons arrived in Red Wing and found Ottun so far recovered as to be walking about, and he, in company with Mrs. Gulbrandson and her son, returned with the Nelsons to the new settlement. The next year, Toge Nelson (Talla) and Mrs. Gulbrandson were married. In October, 1854, the Nelsons went again to Red Wing, for winter supplies. Nils J. Ottun, son of Jens Ottun, related years afterward to a historian that his father was sent by the party for flour and some other necessities. Having only ten dollars, his wife sent a gold nugget worth ten dollars more. They bought two barrels of flour. Jens Ottun worked for Toge Nelson that winter, splitting rails, leading his son Nils and the mother to keep house alone. The mother used to measure off the slice of bread for each to be eaten at every meal, the same size, and this, with a little butter and something they called coffee for drink, constituted their everyday diet through the winter. In the latter part of March the people who had settled in the northern part of the town came to them for flour. They were entirely out, and the snow was so deep they could not get to Red Wing. Only one barrel was then left in the settlement. That was one of the two that Jens Ottun had bought, and it was equally divided among all and was made to last until the road to Red Wing became passable. The first death among the settlers was that of the youngest child of Thorsten Anderson, named Berith. Mrs. Jens Ottun was requested to select a suitable place for a burial ground, and a farm for a preacher. This she did at the time of the burial of this child, in July, 1854. The first white child born in this town was Knute N. Fenne, in September of the same year. The first marriage was a double wedding in June, 1855. Toge Nelson (Talla) and .Mrs. Gulbrandson, already mentioned, and John J. Marifjern and Soeneva Johnson were united in marriage at the same time, by Rev. Nils Brant of Oconomoe, Wis. The first public service was held the same month by the same clergyman. The land selected for the preacher was for many years occupied by the Rev. B. J. Mums, who came in 1859 and for about forty-five years remained the pastor of several churches in that locality. "A few American families came to this town in 1855 and made claims in the southern portion, on the Zumbro river. One of the settlers. James Brown, platted and laid into lots forty acres of land for village purposes and called the place Wanamingo, the name of a heroine of a novel popular in those days. A store was built by J. T. Wright in this village. "The first settlers had some difficulty the first year in adjusting the boundaries of their several claims. Not knowing how many acres one person could hold and pre-empt, their farms were unusually Large. Everyone wanted timber, prairie land and running water. This was in the latter part of 1855, before they found that each could hold but 160 acres, in adjoining 40-acre lots. In some cases their first buildings would be a mile away from their breaking, as the late comers were obliged to claim a patch here and a patch there to satisfy all needs. So there were troubles to meet and overcome when they went to the land office  purchase their lands from the United Slates government after it came into the market. Many had hard struggles to encounter in that settlement during the first two years. They had not the means to pay their passage over the sea and were obliged to devote t heir earnings to that outlay. But for the fact that a few had money and could furnish work for others who had none, there would have been much suffering. The people from Norway seemed to be well fitted for pioneers in a new country. As farmers they have proved themselves to  be mere successful than any other nationality, perhaps, who have come into the county. With no other means than a willingness to work at any labor to be done, with stout arms and faith in God and their fellow men. many of them are now reckoned among the wealthiest of our citizens in every branch of business now carried on. The farms and farm buildings in the town of Wanamingo at the present day show a degree of thrift and industry equal to the best in this county. The first wheat crop was raised here in the year 1856. There being no flouring mills near, it was all kept and used for seed. This town has the honor of being the first to build up and sustain the Norwegian Lutheran church, which has become the most numerous of the Christian churches in the county." James Brown is said to have taught the first school in the township. The first store was probably opened on section 4. by Elans .M. Sande and Knui Sanden, in the spring of 1857. They stocked it with goods and carried it on for about a year, when Mr. Sanden was married and his attention turned in other directions. Mr. Sande also concluded that  he could make more money farming, so the mercantile business was abandoned. Both of these gentlemen soon became well-to-do farmers of the town- ship. "Another early storekeeper was Paulus Miller.

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