Houston County, Minnesota

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Source: History of Houston County, Minnesota, by Charles S. Bryant, Minnesota Historical Co. (1882); transcribed by Susan Geist

This is the name of a town on the Mississippi River, and the second from the northern boundary of the county, having La Crescent on the north and Brownsville on the south, with Union and Mound Prairie on the west. Its topography is not materially unlike the other river towns; valleys, bluffs, and ridges prevail with great impartiality.

The name of the town, and the village which is located at the first eligible point up the stream, was the Indian name of Root River, and is said to have been also the name of a powerful Indian Chief whose village, before the disturbing elements of civilization appeared, was on the beautiful spot where now stands the village of Hokah.

This river, which was readily navigable before the mills were erected, runs the whole length of the town, dividing into two branches just outside its western line, and uniting in section twenty-eight, joins the Mississippi about two miles from the north line of the town.

The valley of Root River may be said to be on an average of two miles wide. The river is joined by other streams, the most important of which is Thompson’s Creek, which, on account of its being fed by springs, furnishes a remarkably reliable water power which can be utilized by a fall of about thirty-six feet; although now but about twenty-six feet, it serves every purpose.

To describe the physical features of the town in detail would be to cover ground already gone over in describing other townships.

Early Settlement

Edward Thompson is the pioneer colonist of Hokah. Coming here in the spring of 1851, he saw the value of the water power, which a comparatively small outlay would enable him to utilize. His resolution to secure it was prompt, and his action energetic. He made an impromptu preemption without formality, except, perhaps, to drive some corner stakes, as a warning to other land-lookers not to interfere with his unwritten, but inalienable rights. How he built his mill and raised his dam will be recorded in another place.

In October, 1851, Mr. Thompson brought his wife and family to this western wild, and she was the first and only white woman here for some time.

Several persons came with Mr. Thompson, to assist in building the mill, among them John H. Steward, a blacksmith. C. W. Thompson, a brother of Edward, soon came and took a very prominent part in developing the interests of the settlement. Albert Blackinton and wife were also along about that time. Hiram Griffin was another. David House was an early comer, and located in what is now Union. Fred Hammer, William Rielur, and Jerry Jenks, were also among the first arrivals.

Poor Jenks was taken sick, and Thompson started a man for La Crosse, to procure a doctor, he was directed to go to a certain point on the river, where a man lived of whom he could get a canoe to set himself across. On arriving there he found the house deserted, and a dead Indian in the yard, so he came back terror stricken without a doctor. A messenger was then sent to the Little Iowa River settlement, and at the end of the thirty-six hours he returned with a doctor, who proved to be a “hydropath,” which was fashionable treatment at that time, and he put the man in cold water pack, which promptly broke the fever, but the man died.

Butterfield valley, which comes up to the village from the south, was first settled about 1853, on section eight, on the present farm of G. A. Graf, by Hiram Butterfield, who came here from Illinois and remained until about 1874, when he went to Oregon where he has since died.

It is supposed that the first settler on the “Ridge” was John Densch, who arrived in the spring of 1854. His log cabin had a sail for a roof, which he brought from the East.

William James settled on section thirty-four, on what is now John Huffman’s estate, as early as 1852, and two years later removed to section five, where, a few years afterwards he died.

An enterprising logger, named Will Richmond put up a shanty on section thirty-four, on the Root River, about 1849. With him was John Kreels. They culled out the best timber and rafted it down to the Mississippi, but made no improvement except to make themselves comfortable while there. Richmond afterwards lived in Brownsville, where he kept a hotel.

When first occupied, the bottom land was heavily timbered with the finest specimens of black walnut, oak, maple, and other hard wood, which were cut in large quantities and rafted down the river, and later, were sawed up by local machinery.

Town Organization

The first town meeting was held on the 11th of May, 1858, the day on which many of the older towns in the county organized.

The meeting, which was at the Hokah House in the village, was called to order by Clark W. Thompson. J. G. Prentiss was called to the chair, and Mr. L. S. Keeler was chosen moderator in due form, with D. L. Clements as clerk. The result of the election was as follows: The whole number of ballots cast was seventy-two; Supervisors elected were C. W. Thompson, Chairman; R. S. Woolley, and David House; Clerk, D. L. Clements; Assessor, S. E. Sneider; Overseer of the Poor, A. H. Davison; Constables, Anthony Demo, Jr. and Henry Franklin; Collector, Anthony, Demo, Jr. Justices of the Peace, L. L. West and Lewis Pond.

It was voted that “all hogs found running at large after the 20th of May shall be liable to a fine of one dollar each.”

It was resolved “that a fence four and a half feet high, and with not less than four rails, not over eighteen inches from the ground, shall be a legal fence.”

On the 29th of May, at a meeting of the board, the following gentlemen were appointed overseers of the several road districts from one to six respectively: J. G. Prentiss, H. W. Hunsell, Lorenzo Hafner, Edwin Butterfield, R. D. Davis, and Frederick Hammer.

At a meeting on the 5th of April, 1864, it was voted, twenty-nine to twenty-three, that the town should pay a bounty of $100 to each of those who might enlist in the army before the first of September.

Town Officers for 1881

Supervisors, George A. Graf, Chairman, Chris. Hammer, and John Tshumper; Treasurer, Jacob Becker; Assessor, Jacob Dabold; Timothy Reilly, Clerk. No other officers were elected.

Hokah Village

This is the head and the heart of the town, and its history, of course, will make up the foreground of this sketch, while the town, as it exists as the surrounding country, will make up the background, and of necessity, the lines of demarcation may be so obscure that it will be difficult to see where the one leaves off and the other begins.

The village is most charmingly situated on a ridge, in a crescentic form, reached by a not very abrupt incline from the northeast. The principal business street is along this ridge, with a slope to the north and on to the Root River valley, and to the south into Lake Como, which, although it may not be “margined by fruits of gold and whispering myrtles,” nevertheless, reflects “skies as cloudless save with rare and roseate shadows” as its patronymic counterpart in the old world.

While the village overlooks the scenery all around, there is, in not a remote distance, a series of peaks on peaks on every side, arising with almost Alpine sharpness of outline, and only wanting in altitude the character of mountain scenery; and to one who has never been beyond the confines of a prairie country, a sudden transition to this spot would be a realizing of the poet’s and the artist’s picture.

Village Organization

Hokah was constituted an independent village by an act of the legislature of the State, approved on the 2d of March, 1871.

The first election was in May following. S. J. Prentiss and E. H. Keeler were the election judges. The first offices chosen were: Trustees, H. H. Bowdish, John F. Russell, and William Wightman. Mr. Bowdish was president of the board. Justice of the Peace, David House; Treasurer, W. W. Weber; Constables, Oliver P. Sprague and H. L. Dunham.

A corporate seal was procured, and the village set up for itself as an independent municipality. Affairs have been carefully managed up to the present time.

The officers elected in the spring of 1881, were: Trustees, W. F. Weber, Chris. Brown, and Henry Brown; Recorder, J. C. Snure; Treasurer, J. G. Groat; Assessor, J. Gregory; Justice of the Peace, Mark Hargreaves; and Constable, J. J. Hohl. The leading citizens and business men have always filled the village offices.

Hokah, as a village has had more than an ordinary share of vicissitudes; at times its business has been inadequate for the demands upon it, and again, some fortuitous circumstances, against which ordinary prudence seemed incapable of providing, the supply would exceed the demand, and that hope, which is supposed to “spring eternal in the human breast,” would leave its citizens on the verge of despair.

The taking away of the railway shops was a serious blow to its prosperity, from which it has been slow to recover, but neither its location, its scenery, nor its magnificent water power, can be taken from it, and it requires but little of the spirit of prophecy to foretell that its future must be of a steady, growing character, without remittent or intermittent periods of depression, beyond those common to the whole country. While there is plenty of fuel in a community, the value of water power is not fully realized, and when the land shall have been completely denuded of the primeval timber, the water power will be appreciated, and Hokah will assume its true position, and confirm the genius of Thompson in securing this site.

The original plat of Hokah village included Main Street with lots on either side, with an expansion near the west end and three or four blocks south, besides a dozen or so on the north of Main Street.

There have been several additions platted since that time. Thompson, Jones & Padelford’s on tht northwest; Babcock & Thompson’s, on the east of the village, across the foot of the lake; Thompson & Wilkinson’s, on the northeast; James’ addition across Lake Como, on the south; J. M. Thompson’s, near the railroad station; Weber’s addition and sub-addition, on the west, with several others in the lower part of the town. A public square was reserved in the original plat, and a cemetery is on the western border.

From a peak which rises near here, on the western border of the town, a beautiful view of La Crosse can be had through the gap to the northeast.

Lake Como is of an irregular outline, not many rods wide, but about one miles in length, hugging the southern edge of the original village, and is a lovely sheet of water.

Various Events of Local Interest

The first saw-mill put up by Thompson was a portable affair, called an endless chain mill, and, although it was a creditable concern, but of course in comparison with the “gangs” and “rotaries” now used, was moderation itself, and so the stories as to its performance had to be told. One old settler says that the sawyer used to start the saw on a twelve foot log, and then go to breakfast, and when he returned the saw would be nearly through the cut, and ready to be “gigged” back for the next board.

Edward Thompson was the first Justice of the Peace, and if a wedding was on the tapis, it would be sure to attract an improvised calithumpian crowd, and the Justice used to exercise considerable genius, to circumvent the motley assembly, to save the newly wedded pair from the annoyance. At one time a German woman, whose sons had put the notion in her head, to secure some pecuniary advantage, applied for a divorce, and Thompson, in the interest of peace and domestic morality, summoned the parties before him, and securing an interpreter, proceeded to investigate the case, and learning wherein each party had been to blame, decided that the grounds for separation were not sufficient, that they must return and live together, and neither was in future to give any cause for offense, under pain of severe penalties. So they returned and never had any more trouble.

In July, 1859, a bathing house was erected near the stone dam; free for ladies in the forenoon and gentlemen in the afternoon.

Among the best remembered steamers to run up the Root River about the years 1857 and ’58, were the “Transit,” which piled between La Crosse and Hokah; it was 100 feet long and twenty-five feet beam, and the “Little Frank,” which run up as far as Rushford and finally sunk below the ferry at Houston.

Before Thompson’s grist-mill was put up, the people had to go fifty miles to mill.

The Root River was very high in 1854, and again in July, 1859. At this time a portion of the machine shop had two feet of water on the floor, and Lynch’s Hotel had a like amount. Bridges were swept away and much damage done.

In the fall of 1860, there was considerable talk about bridging the Mississippi at La Crosse.

On the 17th of February, 1860, the store of Clements & Ames, together with the Masonic Hall, were totally destroyed by fire. Some of the goods were saved, but in the hall everything went.

On Tuesday, the 10th of July, 1860, Jacob Reider made a deadly assault upon his wife’s father’s family, terribly cutting up and killing Mrs. Anna S. Hanks and her daughter Pauline. He was apprehended.

In August of the same year, a little child of Mr. and Mrs. Sara was lost, and not found until ten days afterwards, when it had been dead some days.

The ferry across the Mississippi was always a great source of trouble, the views of the proprietors and the patrons did not coincide as to fares, maximum prices were demanded on the one side and minimum on the other. In the spring of 1861, the ferry war was particularly fierce. The McRoberts was one of the boats then.

In 1862, a bridge across the Root River at Hokah was built, to take the place of a ferry boat.

In December, 1861, Herbert A. Twitchell was drowned by breaking through the ice.

On the 1st and 2d of September, 1862, was the time of the Indian scare, few, if any, left here on that occasion, but the town was full of fugitives.

In September, 1862, a new ferry boat was put on at La Crosse, to the infinite satisfaction of all parties.

Town Hall

This is a fine public building, of brick, used for town and village business. The hall is large and well adapted to public meetings. In the basement are offices for police court business, committees, and other purposes, and also the lock-up. It was built in 1878, at a cost of $3,600. Its location is on the south side of Main Street, near the business center of the town.


In 1859, a bank was located in Hokah, it was called the La Crosse and La Crescent Bank, and stood well while it remained in existence.

Hokah Water Power

The Hokah water-power is the greatest on the river, and, except Lanesboro, the most expensive. Work was commenced on it in 1866. The railroad company made a division of Root River at this place, to save the construction of two bridges, and Mr. Thompson placed his head gates in the old channel at the upper crossing, using the old bed between the two railroad crossings. From thence he excavated a canal six feet deep, fifty feet wide, and 1,500 to 1,800 feet long, through the bottoms to the mouth of Thompson’s Creek, which is used as a tail race to the mills. In the construction of the dam there was used 1,500 cords of timber, and 500 cords of stone for the foundation, after giving sufficient time for settling. Mr. Thompson put the dam on the top, consisting of crib work planked with three inch pine plank. In order to do this he built coffer dams around the north half o the dam, thus enabling him to work without being troubled with the current forcing the surplus water over the other half, and when that was finished, doing the other half in the same manner, using 100 cords of stone and three car loads of plank. The completion of the dam was hailed with delight by a large portion of the neighbors as it afforded a good crossing of Root River. After making the dam tight he covered the whole with stone, making a crossing from twenty to fifty feet wide.

During the past season the mills have had plenty of water through the lowest stage of water ever known to Root River, and there has been enough running over the dam to drive at least 200 horse power, thus affording a good chance for some enterprising man to come here and start some good business. It will not be leased for milling as there are already mills enough here. Agricultural works, paper-mills, woolen or cotton factory, or any other good business would be appreciated and assisted by the citizens.


The Southern Minnesota division of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul railroad runs west through this town, giving direct communication with La Crosse on the east and Dakota on the west. The Chicago, Clinton and Dubuque division of the same road runs north and south, one or two miles from the river, so that the railroad communication leaves nothing to be desired in this regard. Mr. F. F. Powers is station agent at Hokah, and J. E. Turner, night operator. From Mr. Powers the following statistics are gathered: Freight received annually, about 4,000,000 pounds; freight forwarded 3,750,000 pounds; passenger fare, about $150 per month. The Telegraph and American Express offices are also at the station.


The Post-office is in the hardware store of Weber & Snure. The sale of stamps and stamped envelopes, with postal cards, amounts to about $200 each quarter.

The Post-office was established two years or so after the first settlement, and Edward Thompson was appointed Postmaster, J. Gregory was the deputy.

R. S. Woolley was the next Postmaster, and finally W. F. Weber was appointed, who still retains the place. It will thus be seen that there have been but three different Postmasters in Hokah.

Early Mills and Manufacturing

Mr. Thompson and other were attracted to this locality on account, primarily, or the superb water power, and also, on account of the heavy timber, the productive character of the soil, and its being on a navigable stream, so convenient to the Mississippi.

Such a place would, naturally invite attention, and it is proposed to briefly sketch the most important of the various mechanical enterprises that were instituted here at various times.

As already intimated, Mr. E. Thompson was the first to put up a saw-mill, in 1852. The dam, as first constructed, secured the enormous fall of thirty six feet, the pressure of which was too great for it to stand the urgent appeal to “move on,” and just as the mill was ready to start, the dam being a “little lame” concluded to start first, and so it stole away. But such a little thing as that was not to suppress the dauntless energy of Thompson, although it was a hard blow. He modified his plans and reconstructed the dam with a head of twenty-five feet, and in due time had his mill in motion.

In 1853, his brother, C. W. Thompson, came into the concern and put up a grist mill. These mills were near the site of the present stone mill. The saw-mill had a Muley saw, and could cut 5,000 feet of hardware lumber in a day. At first it was a portable mill, but soon two run of stones were put in, and it is not unlikely that this was the first mill west of the Mississippi in Minnesota.

C. W. Thompson afterwards started a furniture factory, which for a time did a good business.

A. M. Thompson and S. J. Prentiss started a plow factory; the plow manufactured was of steel, and a very good implement, but it was finally sold, and one of the flouring mills afterwards resulted.

The manufacture of brick has been carried on in the western part of the town by W. F. Weber, and some were also burned near the railroad shops.

In 1869, Wm. M. Wykoff started a foundry, which did mostly railroad work.

Hard Times

Previous to the panic of 1857, which was precipitated upon the country by the failure of the Ohio Loan and Trust Company, of New York, Hokah was flourishing and building up with great rapidity.

But the crisis came, and like a sirocco, everything withered before it; hope was supplanted by despair, prosperity was transformed into impecuniosity, and all the balloons, which had been so industriously blown up, were collapsed. The little frontier town of Hokah felt the recoil, and did not recover until ever after the war.

Better Times

In 1866, the Southern Minnesota railroad began operations. The next year the splendid railroad shops were built, Mr. Edward Thompson being the master mechanic, and the hopes which, having been so long deferred, had saddened so many hearts, again returned, the village began to revive, business reappeared on the streets, new mills were put up and old ones remodeled, and everything seemed to conduce to the permanent growth and prosperity of the place, and thus it went on until June, 1880, when the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Company got possession of the railroad, the car shops were broken up, and the workmen scattered. While this was a serious blow to the village, and required a readjustment of affairs by reducing the business, it was very far from destroying it. We look around and what do we see? Two of the best water powers in Southern Minnesota, a group of permanent stone shops, with the water power intact ready for any manufacturing business, we see four first-class flouring mills, with their elevators and cooper shops, giving employment to scores of men; we see the business houses still here, and finally, we see the munificent location, with its charming scenery, and the means of transportation east and west, north and south. Hokah can certainly never be subjected to influences that will destroy the advantages it now possesses, and its future will of necessity be in contract with the depressing circumstances of the last few years.

Flouring Mills

Crescent Roller Mill – This mill was erected in 1872, by C. A. & E. V. White. The latter soon retired and S. C. White assumed his place. It was built in a substantial way 38X46 feet, and three stories with a basement, it contained six run of stones and one purifier. The power was that of the Root River, with an available fall of six feet, and five or six turbine wheels were used to run the mill, which had a capacity of 175 barrels a day. In 1874, it became necessary to attach an elevator 30X38 feet.

Various improvements were made up to 1880, when it was remodeled and transformed into a roller mill. It now has twelve sets of rolls and two run of stones, nine purifiers and all the modern requirements for a first-class mill, with a daily capacity of from 200 to 250 barrels.

In 1881, the property was purchased by W. W. Cargill & Bro., who still own and operate the establishment.

Grampian Mill—This flouring mill with the Scotch name is the result of a transformation act on the part of Edward Thompson, in the year 1874. At first it was a three run mill; it had a peculiar, irregular form, and did merchant work exclusively. There was a single turbine wheel under a seven foot head. After awhile an elevator was erected adjoining the mill, with a capacity of 20,000 bushels, and at various times considerable sums were spent in improvements. In 1878, it was sold to S. C. White & Co., and in 1879, it passed into the possession of Brooks, Nash & Co., who managed it for one year. In 1880, the mill was leased to the firm of Hyde & Brooks, who improved the machinery and its capacity. It now has ten sets of rolls, five purifiers, and other auxiliaries requisite to a first-class merchant mill, with a capacity of 160 to 175 barrels a day. The elevator has been enlarged to a capacity of 30,000 bushels.

The elevator part of the business was at one time operated by outside parties, but since 1880, it has been leased to Hodges & Hyde. The mill is still run by water.

Pembina Flouring Mill—This building was put up and at first used as a plow factory, where diamond, or silver steel plows were manufactured. In the year 1877, it was metamorphosed into a flouring mill by White & Edwards. The following year the property was bought by S. C. White & Co., who kept its stones and rolls revolving until 1881, when it was secured by S. P. & E. V. White, the former having it in charge. At first it had three run of stones and five sets of rolls, propelled by two wheels under a head of six or eight feet, and could run through 100 barrels a day. Late in 1881, it had a reformation, and became exclusively a Hungarian process mill, with six sets of rolls, six purifiers, ten silk and five wire reels, two bran dusters, and other adjuncts for the production of 135 barrels, a large per cent of which is high grade flour.

These descriptions include the three merchant flouring mills of Hokah, which have a capacity of absorbing not only all the grain raised in the vicinity, but large amounts coming from the west by rail.

City Flouring Mill—This mill uses the power first brought into requisition by Mr. Thompson, and is near where he placed the original mill. The spot has seen many changes. At one time there was a furniture factory here, erected to utilize the hard woods abounding near.

The present structure is of stone, 50X60 feet, and was put up by Carl Fisher, about 1873. It is two stories high, and at first had two run of stones which were taken from Thompson’s old mill, but it has since been improved and its capacity increased. It does custom work almost exclusively, and is operated by an overshot wheel with 21 feet fall. Mr. L. Fisher, a son of the former owner, now owns and operates the mill.

Cooper Shops

Closely connected with the flouring interest is the manufacture of barrels, although a large amount of flour is shipped in bags of various kinds.

Contiguous to each of the three principal mills, is a cooper shop, in which Doud, Son & Co., of Winona, make barrels. The earliest shop put up was in 1872, for the Crescent mill, and this shop now turns out about 125 barrels a day. All the shops together put up from 400 to 500 a day, and employ about 30 hands. The business is under the care of Archie Muir.


The Root River Brewery is located on section twenty-eight. It was erected in1867, by Joseph Pfeffer, Jr., at a cost of about $10,000, and it has a capacity of thirty gallons a day, of the amber colored liquid. It early began to do a very good business. In a few months it fell into the hands of Burkhart & Laugen, and seven years later it was purchased by J. G. Striegal, who has since managed it. The property, just now, is the subject of litigation.

Bee Culture

This industry has received considerable care in and about Hokah. William Lossing is the “King Bee” man in this section. He commenced a few years ago, and last year secured about 4,000 pounds of honey, and with a good season will raise from 10,000 to 15,000 pounds next year. His bees are now almost exclusively Italian. He has the latest improved hives, managing and handling his colonies in the modern and scientific way, thus obtaining the best results by utilizing the labor of the working bees. The old methods of natural swarming, and of destroying the bees to take up the honey, and leaving them out through the winter, is entirely abandoned. A knowledge of the habits, instincts, and requirements of these industrious and intelligent little insects, has revolutionized their treatment, and now they are comfortably housed in winter, protected from their enemies, and for this they return a rich reward. Joseph Jaques, J. Baden, Andrew Quist and others also keep bees. It is a most fascinating industry.

Business Directory

C. E. Joys—General merchandise. Opened the store in 1875, with a stock of $7,500, which was soon increased to $10,000. He has carried a stock as high as $13,000.

Weber & Snure—Hardware, general farm machinery and implements, country produce and grain. Has a stock of about $5,000, and perhaps $2,000 in farm machinery.

M. H. Baily—General merchandise. Has a stock of about $5,000.

J. J. Hohl—Insurance agent and collector. Sewing machines, tobacco, confectionery, etc.

F. Sobek—Merchant Tailor and dealer in dry goods. Carries a stock of about $4,000.

House & Callihan—Drugs, medicines, and groceries.

L. T. Lyon—General merchandise, dry goods, groceries, crockery, etc.

O. C. Bellrood—Custom and ready made boots and shoes.

J. G. Groat—Drugs, medicines, notions, and show-case goods.

Joseph Stelzig—Blacksmithing and general repairing.

Joseph Jaques—Wheelwright.

L. L. Keeler—Blacksmith.

C. L. Guenther—Blacksmith.

Hayes & Snure—Saloon.

Franklin Hurley—Saloon.

Julius Burkart—Saloon

Frank Dueke—Harness maker.


Dr. H. B. Train—An old and successful practitioner.

Dr. W. W. Holden—Physician and Surgeon, Main Street.

Dr. S. C. White—Not now in active practice.

The first doctor here was Charles Jenks, who began in 1856, while yet a student, and practised between his medical courses in college.

Fraternal Orders

Hokah Lodge, No, 17, A. F. & A. M.—Instituted on the 17th of January, 1857, in accordance with instructions given by the Grand Lodge on the 8th of January the same year. The number of this lodge should have been nine, as that would be its consecutive number according to priority of institution, but the delegate did not reach St. Paul until the last day of the session of the Grand Lodge.

The charter members of the lodge were: C. W. Thompson, Samuel McPhail, Ole Knudson, Oreb Parker, Wm. F. Dunbar, Edward Thompson, Wm. F. Ross, and Wm. B. Burfield.

On the 17th of February, 1860, the Masonic Hall was burned, with the charter, records, jewels, and fixtures. After this it met for a time at Mr. E. Thompson’s and other private houses, until a hall was improvised in the Hokah House. The lodge now has a good hall over the Post-office, erected in 1870.

The past masters of the lodge are: Wm. Hunter, C. W. Thompson, Edward Thompson, B. F. Pidge, D. L. Clements, S. J. Prentiss, L. T. Lyon, A. J. Snure, P. F. Flusher, B. J. Knapp, H. H. Covert, and Wm. Lawson.

Hokah Chapter, R. A. Masons—The first meeting was held on the 27th of February, 1868. The first officers were S. J. Prentiss, H. P.; E. H. Kennedy, K.; J. B. Le Blond, S.; H. A. Billings, Sec.

The present officers are: E. Thompson, H. P.; H. Ealy, K.; J. P. Schaller, S.; A. J. Snure, Sec. The meetings are in the regular Masonic hall, and there is a good membership.

Odd Fellows

Lake Como Lodge, No. 49—Instituted on the 11th of March, 1875. The charter members were: Frank Seastrum, Geo. Francisco, L. E. Bump, James O’Brien, Henry Curran, and N. Anderson.

The past Noble Grands are: N. Anderson, Wm. McClane, George Francisco, Godfrey Bader, Joseph Stelzig.

A Lodge of the A. O. U. W. was instituted on the 21st of October, 1876, with the following charter members: Mark Hargreaves, L. D. Towne, Smith A. Demo, and others. The meetings were held in Masonic Hall.

There have been other fraternal societies, particularly in the interest of the temperance cause, when the town was on the flood-tide of prosperity, but they have gone into a decline, and can now only be remembered for the presumptive good they have done.

Hokah Brass Band

In the fall of 1879, John McCormick started a subscription to secure means to help procure a set of instruments for a band. The assistance thus rendered enabled the members, after a few dives into their own pockets, to purchase a good set. The first members of the bank were: J. J. Hohl, Wm. Blake, Jacob Dibble, Harry Mellon, Hiram Callihan, Wm. Lossing, L. M. Addleman, John Lyon, J. W. Ball, Oscar Mellon.

F. E. Wood was employed as instructor, and the band was soon able to render martial and other music for festive occasions.

The personnel of the Band at present is as follows: William Lossing, J. J. Hohl, Martin Deim, Hiram Callihan, Charles Thompson, J. W. Ball, A. Smarc, E. Bonworth, John Lyon, Fred Yeskee, and W. H. Blake.

These young men are entitled to great credit for their devotion to music in this amateur way, which has placed the Band not far behind professionals.


Presbyterian—In 1858, the Rev. D. C. Lyon, Synodical missionary for Wisconsin, visited Hokah, and was requested by Benjamin F. Pidge to procure and sent them a minister. In July, 1859, Mr. Lyon met the Rev. Sheldon Jackson, of the Presbytery of Albany, who was looking for a field of labor. He was informed of the circumstances, and came at once. Mr. J. G. Prentiss started a subscription paper to secure a support for the new minister, and Hokah and La Crescent were joined together for this purpose.

On Tuesday, the 20th of September, 1859, an organization was effected. The Rev. Mr. Lyon and Judge Day were the active committee, and it was joined to the Presbytery of Winnebago. The list of members is here presented: Benjamin F. Pidge and Agnes his wife, J. G. Prentiss and Pauline N. his wife, Mrs. Mary Y. Jackson, and W. F. Weber. Messrs. Pidge, Prentiss, and Weber were chosen as elders.

In 1860, many of the original congregation having moved away, the weekly meetings were changed to once in two weeks.

In 1859, a delegate was sent to Eau Claire, Wisconsin, to attend the Chippewa Presbytery.

A church was begun in 1866, under the ministry of Rev. James Marr, and it was completed and dedicated on the 19th of May, 1867, the Rev. James Frothingham preaching the sermon. Some time after this, on account of many of the members removing from the town, the church was virtually transferred to La Crescent, but subsequently, under the ministration of Rev. J. H. Carpenter, was reorganized at Hokah with seven members. Services were afterwards held by Mr. Carpenter and Rev. J. J. Smith and Rev. Leonard Radcliffe, who laid the foundation for a parsonage in 1874 or ’75.

Mr. Carpenter returned in 1877, and remained until 1881. There is at present no settled pastor. The records show that thirty-one members have been received since its first organization.

Methodist Episcopal Church—This is in the Winona District, and in the Hokah and Brownsville circuit. At Brownsville the church was built in 1866. The meetings in Hokah, at first, were in the schoolhouse; of late, however, they have met in the Presbyterian Church.

The first minister to preach here was the Rev. Benjamin Crist, as early as 1854. He was followed by John Hooper, and Rev. Elijah Tate was also sent here, but after his first sermon, was taken sick and did not return. Rev. Ellenwood was also here. Rev. William McKinley, now a leading member of the conference, at one time had this charge. J. C. Braden, who has since left the ministry, preached here. C. J. Hays remained two years. J. G. Tetter was another, who is still in the conference. Then came James Door, who remained three years, and after he left, A. Stephenson, James Hilton, and J. W. Stebbins were stationed here. The latter remained two years and was then at La Crescent two years, still supplying the place. Rev. J. H. Golborne, was in Hokah one year, followed by E. S. Bunce and J. Hall, the latter being the last regular pastor.

This society never had a church building, but met in private houses, in the schoolhouse, the Masonic Hall, and other places. Deaths and removals have depleted the number until there are now but three active members remaining, and this remnant of the flock has united with the Greman Methodist Church.

German Methodist Episcopal Church—The Hokah Circuit was organized on the 2d of May, 1858, by Rev. Charles Leibrandt, with eighteen members; their names being: John Lottes, G. Koehle, J. Koehle, Eliza Knecht, Dina Koethe, Emilie Brenner, Barbara Heidel, Andrew Hartmann, M. Bertch, Anna Lottes, O. Koethe, Catherine Koehle, Christine Hammer, and J. Diedemeyer. At first meetings were held in the old schoolhouse, but the church was built in 1859. The following named ministers have had successive charge: Charles Leibrandt, Henry Kolbe, Aug. Lambrecht, John G. Spechmann, John Brauer, E. E. Schuette, John Hansen, H. Eberhardt, Charles Schoenheider, F. Hogrefe, W. H. Meyer, and the present pastor, Rev. F. W. Buckholz. There are at present seventy-five members and twenty probationers.

The appointments of this circuit are Hokah, Pine Creek, Caledonia Ridge, and Crooked Creek. There is a church building and a parsonage at each of these places. In Hokah the Presbyterian Church is used for worship.

Roman Catholic—In 1859, a small church was built on the land of Mr. J. Pfeffer, near the town line, on section twenty nine. It is a small building, that will seat perhaps fifty persons. It was at the time a mere outlying mission from La Crosse. Since the establishment of the convent, no mass has been said in this little chapel. The first priest to visit here was Rev. Henry Tappert, and the Father Essing.

The Convent—The name of this institution is the Academy of the Sisters of Notre Dame. Its erection was commenced in 1866, and so far completed in September, 1867, that the sisters came and occupied it. There were at first three of them, with one candidate. Now there are eleven sisters and three candidates. There are accommodations for boarders as well as day scholars, and at times there have been as many as forty regular boarding pupils, though at present there are but about a dozen.

The establishment must have cost from $6,000 to $8,000. The first priest in attendance was Rev. Father Neubrandt, and Father Mathew, as he was called, was also here. The Rev. Father C. Walker is the present priest.

Services are held in an audience room in the convent and from seventy to eighty families procure spiritual consolation here.

The academy has 200 acres of land in the northeast corner of section twenty-eight. The building is a large one of stone, three stories in height, with a basement and an annex as a residence for the priest and the chapel. The church is known as St. Mary’s, and superceeded St. Joseph’s above alluded to. There is a small burial place for the sisters and the priests, and the remains of a single priest and two sisters, lie mouldering beneath the sod.

Another cemetery was consecrated about the year 1873, in which about twenty graves have been made, the first being for the wife of J. G. Streigel.

A New Catholic Church—In the spring of 1881, a church was built on Main Street, in the village of Hokah. The building is a neat structure, and is occupied, when meetings are held by Father Peter Bernard, of Lrescent. The church has not yet been dedicated.

Baptist—The first Baptist church of Hokah was organized in 1856, by Elder Griffiths. The first pastor was Rev. William Card, who was followed by Elder Carr. After and interval Elder Clark officiated, and then came Elder D. M. Smith. Elder J. H. Bowker preached here some five months after this, but since that time there has not been stated preaching, the members attending the services of other denominations.

German Lutheran Evangelical—This denomination assumed form in 1874, under the fostering care of Rev. Mr. Warner, and afterwards, Rev. Mr. Jahn. The church was built in the year above mentioned, and is a part of a regular circuit embracing Hokah, Portland Prairie, Caledonia Ridge, Brownsville and other places.


There is a union cemetery on section ten, which is divided by an imaginary line into two equal parts, one-half of which belongs to the Roman Catholics, and the other half to the German Lutherans and the German Methodists, who hold the north part, which is on the farm of Jacob Semerling, and the other is on the farm of F. Glassert. This arrangement was made about 1870. The first burial, however, was in 1859, a son of Fred. Glassert, who was about twelve years of age.

Hokah Library

This is one of the institutions of the village to which the citizens point with more or less pride.

Just after the middle of the last decade, the idea of having a public library was started, and public entertainments were projected and carried into execution, and other means were employed to raise the requisite funds, which were successful, and a goodly number of books were procured. A small fee is charged for the use of the books, which are extensively read.


Village School—In the winter of 1855 and ’56, a school was started in Masonic Hall, the rod of authority being wielded by Miss Emily Pond. The next winter the scepter was in the hands of Mrs. D. L. Clements. In 1857, a house and lot was purchased and converted into a schoolhouse, which served the purpose up to 1867, when the present house was built, which has, however, since received an addition.

District No. 13—In 1857 or ’58, a small log schoolhouse was put up on what is called “the Ridge,” in section ten, by the German Catholics who had settled in that vicinity. This was on the farm of V. Bierden. It was a subscription school, and was taught one season by a Catholic priest. It was generally known as the “convent.” It is now used as a granary by Mr. F. Glassert. Afterwards a log house was laid up near by, as a public school building, and the school was opened by Jacob Schonhard. This was on the land of John Ahrens, and was used up to the year 1876, when the present frame building was erected on the same section. This building cost about $400.

District No. 73—This was a joint district, a part of it being in Brownsville. It came into existence in about 1866, the initial school being in an old log structure belonging to Ira Butterfield, and was presided over by Miss Helen Butterfield. About the same time a schoolhouse was built, at a total outlay of $100. The settlers turned out, and bringing material, put up the building, which is on section eight, and there are about twenty pupils.

District No. 91—A German subscription school was first taught by Miss Hafner, at her brother’s house on section twenty-nine. This must have been about 1861. After this, perhaps about 1865, Rev. Father F. X. Neubrandt had a school a single winter. The district itself was organized the latter part of the last decade, and a frame house was put up for school purposes at a cost of about $400. It is not a large school, there being not over fifteen pupils in attendance.

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