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Lincoln County, Minnesota 
Genealogy and History

County History

Early Pioneer Experiences
Source: Early History of Lincoln County; Compiled by A. E. Tasker; Lake Benton News Print (1936) Transcribed by Gary M. Wysocki

The following article written by B. M. Smith, published in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and re-published in the Lake Benton Times, October 10, 1879, chronicles early incidents in the history of the vicinity of Lake Benton, that is known to but very few people now living. The period of which the narrative relates was the year of 1887, when Lincoln County was a prairie wilderness.

“Judge Flandreau’s reply to Mr. Ely of Winona, Minnesota, relative to the early history of Flandreau, on the Big Suit, in Dakota, calls to mind many incidents of the early settlement of the Sioux Valley, which it added to the parse the judge has already stated may interest many of your readers and especially those of them who are now settled in that beautiful valley, very few of them, doubtless, new or realized that 20 years ago this last summer. The first settlements were made at nearly all of the towns now on the Big Sioux River, and for the reason that, with one exception. Only, there is not a man now at any of these towns who was with the original parties locating them, and not a single man is left accompanying the party of 30 alluded to by the Judge, who left St. Paul by the steamer Wave in the spring of 1857 with six months’ supply of provisions, tools, etc., teams going by land to take the goods from the boat to the then Lower Sioux Agency, near the junction of the Redwood with the Minnesota River.

“So that all these occupying these beautiful towns are deprived of the credit of being one of the first settlers, save, John McLallen, of Sioux Falls, the exceptional case above referred to, who is still owner and occupant of the claim he took as his homestead, and his first settlement at Sioux Falls dates from the first or second day of June, 1857, he and company with Mills, Jared, and other person whose name was passed from memory, panic come there all the way across the then comparatively unsettled state of Iowa from Dubuque. Their arrival at Sioux Falls was the day after Mr. Lynd, who afterwards became one of the prominent men in this state, and his colored companion, familiarly known as Isaiah, reached their – some days before they expected, from the fact that Mr. Lynd and Isaiah, when they found that the Dubuque parties were on the same mission of locating in the town at Sioux Falls, left to intercept the main party, who were making for Medary as their intended initial point on the Big Sioux River, and when they met on June 3rd near the head of Lake Benton at what was then called the Hole in the Mountain for Mountain Pass, it being an opening in the Coteau de Prairies through which a branch of Medary Creek passes. This being the spring of the Inkpaduta Indian massacre in Iowa about Spirit Lake, and Jackson, on the Des Moines in Minnesota, there was naturally a little feeling that their Indian friends might be encountered. On the day previous when passing Acorn Planting, an Indian village, a few of them were seen among the groups of other Indians, and when the fact was made known a halt of the train was called, and a vote of the party taken on the question of returning and arresting them, or proceeding on as contemplated, which resulted in the order to go forward. Mean Bear (Warack-sica), the chief the village, and several of his men, accompanied the party as far as the Found Pass in a friendly way, and from whence they return to their village again.

“Up to this time, Scott Campbell had acted as interpreter and Iron Lightning (Wakundimaxa), a very worthy Indian, acted as guide, but from here they too returned to the agency with several teams that were sent back for additional supplies, and refused to go further for the reason, as they said, Indians, this, the Yanktons and Yanktonnais, west were opposed to the settlement of the Big Sioux, as they claim the land and had never seated it to the government, hence if they went further, they would be blamed. The treaty of 1853 at Travers de Sioux ceded lands west to the Sioux River, but they did not recognize it, consequently, the disputed ownership of the territory to be occupied.

“The Judges allusion to the division of the state calls up another little circumstance of interest. On this trip and election was held on the question and the votes cast were unanimous in favor of a north and south line. Two young men of the party were “too nice” to vote, as they thought, on this questionable occasion, and refused to do so, but their votes were forwarded all the same. The election turned out to be “bias,” as affecting the interests of the state, as it so happened that the count of the vote made it so nearly evenly divided for and against a north and south line, that the election held out there on the Prairie and returned as from Brown County, determined the present boundary of Minnesota at eastern line of Dakota. So much for Young America’s enterprise and invention.”

Lake Benton Times, same date.

“We publish this week in article by B. M. Smith of Minneapolis, which will be of interest to the people of this section. It will be noticed that the boat taken near the present site of Lake Benton decided the present boundary of the state. The Indian village, Acorn Planting, of which he speaks, was located near Moore’s Lake (or supposedly, Indian Grove between Lake Benton and Tyler). Mr. Smith has made a mistake in stating that Medary Creek rises in the Hole in the Mountain, for such is not the case as Flandreau (Creek) takes his source of that quarter. The letters of Mr. Smith will be of much interest to the settlers of Western Minnesota and Eastern Dakota.”

Frank Stay relates thrilling escape from Indians in Lincoln County in 1858 to 1862

In a letter to Mr. G. J. Larson, under date of December 1, 1904, Mr. Frank Stay, formerly an Indian scout and fur trapper, relates his experiences in eluding hostile Indians in the early days of what is now Lincoln County. Mr. Stay, being uneducated and unable to read or write, dictated the letter to his wife, who transcribes same as nearly as possible, in his own language. Mr. Stay was of French-Canadian stock and his descriptions are somewhat vague at times, but his meaning, and most part is readily understood.

In one respect his meaning is not entirely clear, miss much as he mentions only Lake Benton as the location of one of his harrowing experiences. This experience is supposed to have happened on the west shore of what is known as “the Island” and Lake Stay where there is a fringe of trees and brush. This discrepancy is doubtless due to the fact that the ownership of Lake Stay and Lake were then unnamed. It is the common understanding that both receive their names from Mr. Stay’s experience thereabouts. Mr. Stay’s narrative follows:

“I think it was in the spring of 1858, perhaps fall of the same year that Andre La Roque (Rock), and I went to Lake Benton with goods to trade with the India hunters for their furs. I was working for the interest of Francois Patoile, a trader at Yellow Medicine Agency, called the Upper Sioux Agency also, to distinguish it from the Lower Sioux Agency. There were no settlers. Our route was to strike Red Wood River and follow it up to Marshall (now, it was called Lynd then), thence to the hills. There we came to an Indian village, Mean Bear, named after its chief, who lived there up to or within the year of the Outbreak. He died before the Great Massacre; anyhow, he had nothing to do with the Outbreak. It was a large village was 70 or 100 teepees.

“Peter Castagne, a Canadian Frenchman, with his Sioux wife lived there about eight years. Another man, Clukey, or Jean De L’ource, he was a cripple, on account of a peculiar bear-shaped foot; he was nicknamed “John the Bear”. He was working for Major William Forbes’ store. These traders had stores at Lower Sioux Agency and at the Upper or for Yellow Medicine Agency, also at Big Stone Lake. Maj. J. R. Brown had a store at this village (supposedly Lean Bear), too, in care of his brothers, Fletcher and “Than” or Nathaniel Brown.

“I made a trip in the spring, one in the fall of each year, trading for furs, spending a month each trip. We went to Water Town or Kampeska Lake, to Sioux Falls (no town then), always following the Big Sioux River. It was a great for country, all kinds of game abounded, Buffalo, antelope and the different small animals. In the old times frontiersmen followed the Indian trails, which invariably led along rivers, lakes and timber. It gave them water, fuel, and game to subsist on, in winter gave them. Also, shelter from storms. Indians never put up a, for their ponies lived on weeds, buds, or bark off trees.

“At the time of the Outbreak I lived at the head of Yellow Medicine River. An old Read River half-breed had helped me stack hay on Monday and we left alone standing by the stack. In case of rain, the top off with. So in the morning of Tuesday we unloaded it before breakfast, when Red Dog, a friendly Indian, came and warned me of the Outbreak. He would not give me time to eat breakfast, but shook my hand and urge me to be quick; he was not fooling, but in earnest, that I should save my life, so I had to go. My gun. I had let a little Indian have to go hunting that morning. I made for my friend and neighbor, Jim Lindsay’s house, but he lay in his blood, dying. Just then I heard a shot. The Indians were coming, when my Indian friend came on a gallop, on horseback this time, and none too soon. He asked me, why did you mind? and showed me the underbrush, which I did not take long to plunge into, crossing the river. With narrow escapes, I reached for it, richly on Friday about 9 o’clock in the forenoon, not having eaten a mouthful since Monday’s supper, until Mrs. Dr. Mueller made me a chicken rice soup, which I had no room for (probably meaning he had no time to eat same). We fought the Indians from 1:00 PM until 5 PM when I ate the soup. I have never filled up since, I am hungry all the time.

“In 1865 when the government had scouting parties strung along the frontier the scouts depended not alone on rashes dealt out to them, but trapped and hunted game. Along the way, which was better than the rashes alone.
“My partner, Francis (Frank Giard), and I went to Lake Ben alone. We had a black mare hitched to a Democrat wagon about the size of a platform buggy, carried a tent, cooking and trapping utensils, and closing provisions. I had a dream the night before, which meant meeting enemies. I felt that we must change our plans if we were to escape danger, but my partner laughed at me for believing in dreams like an old woman. So we followed our plans as first mapped out. I told Frank Giard to drive on and set up the tent while I set for traps and shot ducks for supper. When I got to, Giard was sitting on the edge of the wagon, and had not done the thing toward setting up the tent. “Why didn’t you set up the tent?” I asked. He said, “Come and see”. We went to the spot where lay a dying horse, and one dead, which look like somebody had left in a hurry. “Well”, I said, “you ain’t an old woman, put up the tent”. That was enough. He was brave, but was not given to precaution as I was. I knew we were in for it, having seen with the spyglass, the enemy lying on the side of a knoll, which my partner would have thought were rocks – where I had never seen any before.

“Frank put up the tent in a hurry, never saying a word. I dressed my ducks in many cattle of soup. All at once the dog (Chasseur) growled. Grab your gun, I said, and poured water on the fire, putting it out. It was so dark. We could just see the dog cold forward, then back, sometimes standing up straight. We took it for a person and killed our noble dog, Chasseur (hunter). At the very first volley. I got a shot in my right shoulder, carrying the ball today. We fought for our lives. They parlayed with us, asking our guns and ammunition, or we would not see sunrise. I told him we were not fools. We knew well if we gave you up, all our lives were not worth much, and told them so, that we were ready for them. Then we heard them say,’ We’ll get them before sunrise’. So we, or rather Giard, dug a trench while I watched with my gun ready. When he asked to change off, I had to tell him I was wounded and cannot dig. He kept at it until we had a hole to get into. All we had was that left in the cattle to drink for three days’ siege. We saw smoke now and then rise toward Blue Earth, through the woods. Then we thought they had left us, that being signed to the enemy the direction they were taking.

Frank Giard then went for water while I stood partway, so I could defend our camp and watch any attempt on his life, but there was nothing to fear. He (Giard) washed and dressed my wound. We were again startled by little jingling bells which stopped in front of our camp. It was Michael and Daniel Renville, looking in with big, light, wondering eyes. It was him that left the rig and dead horses, taking his family away, and come back for his outfit. My horse was taken by the enemy, my dog killed and our furs all cut up, so Renville gave me a horse to ride, while he took the rig. He was in a hurry to get back to his family, not knowing. But what the enemy had been after them also. My sore shoulder did not allow fast riding, so I urged him to reach his family and I took my time, going after him.

“The Indians (probably meaning the friendly Indians) were so glad that we had come out with our lives, that Old Round Wind made a speech, praising us for our bravery and telling them (probably his tribesmen) to do as we had done, if ever, in the same position. They sent us to bed to rest while they watch the camp.

“The Lake Benton siege was in the latter part of April, 1865 (probably 1862). I could not say more exact. I entered Fort richly the 22nd of August, 1862, at about 9 PM and fought from 1 ‘til 5 PM. And again I was in the Birch Coulie siege, 2nd September, 1862. I was a scout in 1863-4-5. I was a Renville Ranger from 20th of August, 1862, until just before Christmas, 1862. – Frank Stay, S.R., by wife, Celia M. Stay.”

Note: the compiler of this history taught school in the Frank Stay district, Lac qui Parle County, in the summer of 1889, and had the privilege of teaching several of Mr. Stay’s children, and knew him personally. He was at the time a member of the school board and not being able to read or write, his wife did his bookwork and carried on his correspondence for him. It was our privilege, also, to hear Mr. Stay personally relate the above experiences. Years later, we visited his home in the Minnesota River Valley, Lac qui Parle County, and in conversation with him mentioned the above related experience. Replying, Mr. Stay remarked in reference to the experience at Lake Stay, “By gor! I is no thief, but I did steal a hoe once from the Indians, and, by gor! that hoe saved my life”, stating the trench or hole referred to in the narrative, was dug with the hoe. We mention this incident as an added link in Mr. Stay’s historical narrative.

By Colonel Samuel McPhail
The following description of the Battle of Birch Coulee is given as related by Col. Samuel McPhail, who was in command of a detachment of non-descript soldiers, and took an active part in that important battle with the Sioux Indians. The battle was fought on September 2, 1862, at Birch Coulee, a few miles northeast of the village of Morton, in Renville County. Col. McPhail afterwards homesteaded in the Township of AltaVista and became an important figure in the public affairs of Lincoln County:

“I received orders from General Sibley to take what mounted men. I had and move immediately in the direction of Lower Sioux Agency, the general saying, ‘I will send three companies of infantry and some artillery with you. You will ascertain the whereabouts of Major Brown’s command and relieve him if he be in trouble. You will move cautiously; keep an eye on the Prairie as much as possible, and avoid every possibility of an ambush’.

“I immediately mounted what men I had, the number being just seventy-two. These were citizen volunteers; many of them are boys, but of the best of mettle. They were principally armed with shotguns brought from home. Not one half of this number had saddles. With this command I moved out about 3 miles and halted until the detachment of infantry and to mounted howitzers came up, under the command of Maj. McLaren, of the Sixth Regiment, Minnesota Infantry. This was perhaps a halt of half an hour. My command, then moved on, the mountain. Many front, until we reached the forks of the road, about eight miles from Fort Ridgely. Here we made a short halt to determine which road to take, as we were all in a strange land. While here we heard two or three shots, but were undetermined as to the direction they came from. We finally took the right-hand road, as the left led us directly into the woods and deep ravines. We moved on, until arriving at the East branch of Birch Coulee Creek, a deep ravine, with some underbrush. Here, one of the companies of the Six Regiments, was deployed and skirmished the deep ravine, the column following closely. We then moved forward about half a mile and discovered men to our left in front. At first they appear to be walking as if in search of something. They spread out and moved to our left and rear, in the direction of the red being we had just crossed. Some of the boy shouted, “they are Brown’s men’, and started to meet them. When about 400 yards from the command the Indians raise out of the grass and fired on them, wounding one horse. We were then insight of what proved to be Maj. Brown’s camp, which was on the west side of the West branch of Birch Coulee Creek, and only the tops of a few Sibley tents were visible. Thirty or forty Indians had been in sight.

“My command was then formed into a hollow square, mounted men in front, the infantry holding both flanks in rear, the wagons in the square. One howitzer was to the front, the other to the rear. We moved in his plan some 300 yards and halted to see if I could make out what the camp was. Lieut. Sheehan and myself could not make out whether they were simply cancel or Indian tepees. I called a half breed, Quinn, by name, and he was undetermined in the matter. But it is time fully 200 Indians were in sight, moving slowly to our left and rear. Feeling that it would be madness to attack the Indians in the ravines and brush with the command I had, Lieut. Sheehan bravely offered his services to carry dispatches to Gen. Sibley. My command was then on the open prairie between the East and West branches of Birch Coulee Creek. Lieut. Sheehan left on his perilous journey. I watched with anxiety to see him raise the hill on the east side of the creek, but failing to see him, I became concerned for his safety, having heard shots fired in the direction of the crossing. Then, William Wilkins, a lad from Rice County, offered to go. I made some objections as to his age, but he had the mettle, and I requested one of the boys to let him have a saddle, he having none, when the brave little fellow mounted, and away he went, crossing the revealing half a mile above the road, came out safely, and, as far as I can see him, he was sailing in the air in the direction of Fort Ridgely.

“I then held a consultation with Maj. McLaren. I told him I had decided to withdraw to the east side of the creek and go into camp. The Major first objected. Then explained to him that it was not our safety that concern me, but that reinforcements would have to cross the Coulee, perhaps in the night to reach us. I gave the order and the command withdrew to the east side of the Coulee, went into camp and awaited the arrival of Gen. Sibley, who arrived about midnight.

“At about 4:30 AM on the morning of September 2nd, the Indians made an attack on the detachment of troops which was encamped on the west side of the West branch of Birch Coulee. This command had taken the usual precautions, although no immediate fears were entertained. The first warning was a shower of bullets pouring into the encampments, and a fearful and terrible battle ensued, which, for numbers engaged, was one of the most bloody in which our forces were engaged during the war. The loss of men in proportion to those engaged was extremely large; 23 were killed outright, or mortally wounded, and 45 were so severely wounded as to require surgical aid; while scarcely a man remained whose clothing had not been pierced by the enemies bullets. The advance of Col. Sibley’s forces from the east side of Birch Coulee soon relieved the command.”

In a letter written from Centrale you, Washington, under date of September 10th, 1905, addressed to Mr. Gilbert I. Larson, Mr. C. H. Briffett - an early date, Lincoln County, prominent citizen, who resided on the brow of the hill west of town just a few rods south of the new highway will, where today is seen a clump of trees in an old seller, all that remains of a former log house – describes the Major Brown’s Trading Post, which is located but a few rods southeast of the log, residence above mentioned, as follows:

“A man by the name of Brown had a trading post at Lake Benton, prior to the Indian Outbreak of 1862. Edgar Bentley, who came to Lake Benton with me in 1869, and who lived there five or six years (or until he sold out to, J. G. Bryan), was living at Lake Shetek at the time of the Outbreak. He was one of the few who got away, and arrived at Mankato after many hard nights travel. There he met a man by the name of Brown, who told him that he, Brown, was running a trading post at Lake Benton before the Indian Outbreak, and telling the experience Mr. Brown told how he happened to get away. He said his trading post was about ˝ mile from the Trail which ran on the other side of the valley, but the Indians always came over to the store, in fact, there were always some camping there. This bothered him so he went up on the hill where he could see the trail and the other side of the valley, and while there he saw a band of Indians going east along the trail. There were 20 or 30 of them. Then he knew there was something wrong, so he got his pony and that night he rode north to the Lac qui Parle River, where he knew there was a man who had a mule team and wagon. He got the man in team, and as soon as possible he loaded up his goods and started for Mankato, where he arrived a day or two before the Outbreak.”

“Now in regard to the site of Major Brown’s Trading Post, I will say that Maj. Brown in talking to Edgar Bentley about the timber at Lake Benton (which he called Acorn Planting), said that near his trading post, there was an oak tree that two men could not reach around. This being a very large tree for that country. We were naturally anxious to find it, which we did, and although Edgar Bentley was six feet tall and long armed, like myself, we together lacked two feet a reaching around it five feet from the ground. Nearby, this large tree and on a little higher ground there were seven oak tree standing almost in the line with each other. This, we concluded, was what caused Maj. Brown to call it Acorn Panting. About 50 feet from the big tree there was a part of a log house, about 16 x 20 feet. This was one log high on three sides into logs high on the other side. There was also a log line lengthwise through the center of the house as if they intended to lay a puncheon floor. I do not think this house was ever finished, as it did not show any signs of a large fire, although it was burned some. It was grown over with brush and vines. This was in the spring of 1869. We thought his first house or wigwam, or whatever he had, was burned up, and this was one he was building at the time of the Outbreak.-- C. H. Briffett.

Note: The big oak tree mentioned was evidently cut later, as Mr. Fred Briffett, a nephew of Mr. C. H. Briffett, informs us that he remembers the stump of the tree which remained for years afterward.

Mr. Briffett accompanied his description with a pencil sketch of the location of Major Brown’s trading post, in which he locates several objects that are traceable at this time, thus corroborating his description. His own residence is indicated as where the clump of trees is, just over the brow of the hill, as hereto for described. About 80 rods southeast of same is indicated the trading post and a few feet to the southeast of same is the big tree. About 100 rods directly south of the trading post is indicated the residence of William Taylor, one of the first permanent residences in Lincoln County. Almost directly east of the trading post, approximately 200 rods, is indicated the residence of Edgar Bentley, a short distance east of same is the Bryan residence. About 80 rods southeast of the trading post is the John Snyder, residence, now known as the K. Anderson farm residence.

From Lake Benton News, August 12, 1927

Through information furnished us by Mr. Thomas Hanson, who lives about 5 miles south of Lake Benton, we learn of a battleground located about 4 miles south of Lake Benton and about ˝ mile west of the schoolhouse in district number 69, known as the Iversen district. The battleground is located on the farm known as the Charles Iris in place, now occupied by H. H. Lichtsinn.
According to Mr. Hanson’s statement he was well acquainted with the country between Pipestone and Lake Benton in an early day when he was engaged in driving a livery over the different sections of southwestern Minnesota. Some 30 or more years ago, subsequent to the time he was in the livery business, he was employed in a cooper shop in Kansas City, Missouri, and there became acquainted with a fellow workman who claim to have been enlisted in the national army in an early day, and was stationed at Fort Des Moines.

According to the latter’s statement, his company was sent north about the time of the Sioux outbreak to assist in subduing the Indians who are committing depredations in his territory. He states his attachment was marching from the present site of Pipestone city north, when about 17 miles out, they encountered the Indians of the brow of a high hill overlooking the valley below (known as the Hole in the Mountain), where they had thrown up fortifications. So firmly were they entrenched that it was with considerable difficulty and a hard battle that they were routed.

So minutely did the narrator described the country passed over by the soldier that Mr. Hanson, knowing the country so well, was firmly convinced that he was telling the truth. Some 27 years ago, Mr. Hanson moved back to Minnesota and settled on the farm south of town where he now resides. To satisfy his curiosity regarding the story told him by his fellow workman, he made a personal investigation, at which time the prairie was in its virgin state. He had no difficulty in locating the spot and found the marks of the fortifications plainly visible. Besides there being embankments thrown up. There were also many holes dug in the earth roundabout which had the appearance of being rifle pits. These fortifications has since been obliterated by cultivation and on visiting the spot recently in company with Mr. Hanson, the editor, found no trace of same.

However, about 50 rods east of the supposed location of the above-mentioned fortifications, on the very tip of a high point, which affords a splendid view of the ravines and valley below, are what appeared to be the remains of an Indian lookout and signal post. These remains were evidently at one time fortifications composed of a rock wall in the form of a semicircle. Many of the rocks still remain, and we are informed that a great many have been removed to construct underpinnings for farm buildings and the schoolhouse nearby.

In addition to the above, we might mention that there were several Indian mounds located on the hills east, north and west of the village of Lake Benton. In the exact center of the cemetery east of town is a mound, which originally was somewhat larger than it is at present. Also on the highest point west of town adjacent to (old) Highway No. 7, is a mound that has been reduced in size by cultivation. (Near this mound is the faint outline of a second mound that has been practically leveled off by cultivation.) This mound, so we have been informed, is the highest point in southwestern Minnesota, which according to the State Geological Survey, is 1970 feet above sea level. Some of these mounds have been excavated, but aside from a few human bones, nothing of interest has been discovered. This fact has led to the conclusion that they are simply Indian burial grounds.

It has also been as related to us that at some point on the top of the high hill in the south part of town are located to soldier graves. According to the information afforded us the soldiers were wounded in a battle with Indians and died on the arrival of the company at this point. However, as to the authenticity of the statement we are not fully assured.

Pioneer Days in Lincoln County
Contributed by Sarah Jane Ross-Albers
Source: Early History of Lincoln County; Compiled by A. E. Tasker; Lake Benton News Print (1936) transcribed by Mary Triplett for Genealogical Trails

Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Ross, with their three children, left Hallville, Ontario, Canada in the month of March, 1880, traveling by train to Tyler, Lincoln county. William Elliott met them at Tyler with a team and sleigh by which means they made the remainder of their trip across the prairie to the home of their father-in-law in Ash Lake township. It was snowing when they arrived at Tyler and the storm became worse as the day advanced, the wind rising, and they soon found themselves enveloped in the midst of a blizzard. Mr. Elliott finally determined he did not know just where they were. However, they kept on traveling until they reached an unoccupied claim shanty, where they decided to remain until the storm subsided.

The storm had passed by morning and they found, to their surprise, they were only about a mile from their destination. They later learned that the shack where they spent the night belonged to Amos Smith. Thus were they welcomed to Lincoln county, Minn. After remaining in Ash Lake for a time they moved onto their homestead about three miles northwest of what is now the village of Ivanhoe. The nearest town at that time was Lake Benton, a distance of seventeen miles. Canby was about twenty miles distant. They lived in a sod shanty for awhile, after which they built a one-room shack. Here they resided until they moved to Diamond Lake township and settled on a farm in section 4. Later they moved to Estevan, Saskatchewan, Canada.

There was quite a settlement of pioneers in the community at the time, some of them having settled there a year or so before the Ross family arrived. The neighbors at that time were a mile and a half or more apart. The Ryans, Lanes, Alexanders, Tainters, Hutchinsons, Duchenes, and others resided in the settlement. The pioneers were all poor when they came here. There were no school houses, but it did not take long before there was a school house built in the settlement. It was small, unplastered, and the seats and benches were home made. The term of school was short, three months in the fall and two or three in the spring.

The writer can remember hearing her parents telling how wild and desolate the country was at that time; no trees excepting around the lakes and along the creeks and rivers. It was just a wide expanse of prairie and did not look much like it does today. There were no birds to speak of, excepting blackbirds and plovers, the latter with its plaintive call which engendered a feeling of sadness to the listener. There were plenty of prairie chickens, ducks and geese, and fish abounded in all the lakes, streams and even in the sloughs, in consequence of which the pioneers hunted and fished a great deal, and a great deal of their meat supply was obtained by this means. Cattle and hogs were exceedingly scarce at that time.

Grass was plentiful and the settlers put up considerable hay, not so much to feed to livestock, for they possessed but very little of the latter at first, but as a means of providing fuel for cooking and heating their houses. The hay was twisted into short rope-like lengths and burned in the cook stoves. The pioneers had no heating stoves to begin with and but very little wood to burn. Some one invented a sort of boilerlike drum which was filled with hay and then turned upside down on the cook stove, which proved a very effective heater and also eliminated considerable work in twisting the hay. The stables in those days were either dugouts or straw sheds. The early settlers had very few horses and depended mostly upon oxen for farm work and travel. It is due in large part to the faithful oxen and hard work and perseverance of the pioneers that this country was developed from a wilderness to the modern commonwealth of today. Gradually the ox team was replaced by the horse team, the lumber wagon by the buggy as a means of travel, and eventually the automobile with splendid highways in place of the prairie trails. In the early days all was quiet and peaceful upon the prairie, whereas today it is comparatively noisy, with the sound of the tractor in the fields, the truck and automobile upon the highways and the hum of the threshing machine in the fall, and lastly, the airplane overhead. What would our young people of today think if they were compelled to travel by ox team and lumber wagon?

In those days the settler was compelled to take his wheat to the flour mill many miles distant to grind into flour and if by chance he failed to provide enough flour by this means in the fall to supply his needs for the winter, as sometimes was the case, either he was compelled to grind wheat into flour by means of a coffee mill or walk several miles to town to procure a sack of flour which he would carry home upon his back, when the snow was too deep for the ox team. It also seems as though the climate has changed considerably from what it was then. There seemed to be more snow in those days and it also seemed much colder. One never knew when a blizzard would strike. It might be mild and bright in the morning when all at once a raging blizzard would

envelope the whole landscape. Then the settlers had but very little or no money with which to purchase kerosene and even if he did have he had no lamp in which to burn it, and thus he was forced to resort to the means of burning a rag wick in a dish of grease to provide light at night.

Life to the pioneer was exceedingly dreary and practically the only thrill he experienced was when the fires swept across the prairie, consuming everything in its path. And woe unto the settler that had not provided fire breaks around his few buildings and hay stacks. Many is the time the pioneers were forced to fight the prairie fire with might and main in order to save their property from being swept away by this deadly menace. Some of the women in the settlement conceived the idea of braiding wheat straw into hats. The straw was tall and straight and after soaking it in water it was readily braided into ribbon which was then sewn together in the shape of a hat. The hats were rather heavy, but lasted quite a while. Some of the women made hats to sell. Some of them also made slippers for the children, using leather from the men's worn out boots for soles and cloth for the tops of the slippers. The men wore high-top boots in those days. Very few of the women had sewing machines and had to do all their sewing by hand.

At first there were no churches and the parents, believing it essential that their children should have religious instruction, established a Sunday school in the school house and maintained it themselves without the aid of a minister or missionary for sometime.

Quite often the pioneers from different settlements would gather at Lake Shaokatan, then called Shakotapee, and enjoy a picnic, or perhaps at some other lake not far distant. These social gatherings afforded the hardy settlers much pleasure.

Hope inspired the pioneers to leave their comfortable homes in eastern parts and migrate to the wild wilderness where they trusted to obtain free government farms whereon to establish new homes. Many of them realized their ambition, although it was at the cost of enduring many privations and hardships. The younger generations of today and of time to come, owe these hardy, honest empire builders an inestimable debt of gratitude for paving the way for future comfort and happiness.

Marshfield Township Vacated
(Lake Benton News, May 15, 1895, J. H. Manchester, Editor)

The old village of Marshfield has for years existed only in a few official records and the memories of the past. The official records will soon be a thing of the past also, for a petition has been filed by Carl A. Hansen and Knute T. Lund to have the town site vacated, which will probably be done by Judge Weber at the July term of court.

In the very early 70's Charlie Marsh came to Lincoln county and selected a quarter section of land on section 30, township 110, range 44, on the east end of Lake Benton. He soon had a portion of it platted for a town site and got the county seat located there. In spite of grasshoppers and hard times generally, the village grew until at one time there were two hotels, three stores, three blacksmith shops, a newspaper, etc., and it seemed destined to be quite a place. But in '79 the C. & N. W. railway was built west from Tracy and left the thriving little village a few miles to one side, and, of course, its fate was then apparent. In two years nearly all the buildings were moved away, some going to Tyler and some to Lake Benton, since which time, as before stated, the once thriving and enterprising village of Marshfield has existed only in the memories of the past and in official records.

At some future time we may publish a series of articles descriptive of the early scenes witnessed by us in Lincoln county, dwelling somewhat upon the hardships and privations of pioneer life in the county, and also the brighter side of pioneer life, for there were streaks of bright sunshine to gleam across the pathway of the pioneer as well as those of darker shade. The proposed vacation of the town site will awaken in the minds of many an old settler a flood of almost forgotten incidents and ancient history upon which they will linger with longing remembrance.

Note: There is an added pathos in the above last sentence when we stop to consider that there are only a comparative few of those noble old settlers left to linger over the memories of the early days of Lincoln county. It is also regrettable to consider that Mr. Manchester never realized his ambition to write the early history of Lincoln county He often expressed the desire to the compiler of this history, to do so, but on account of poor health he was prevented, and posterity has lost much thereby.

The Hardships of Pioneer Life
By Estella Gronlund-Stork
Source: Early History of Lincoln County; Compiled by A. E. Tasker; Lake Benton News Print (1936) transcribed by Gladys Lavender & Patricia Roma Stout

The winter of 1872-73 goes down in history as one of the most severe ever experienced in the Northwest. A terrible blizzard visited the country in November and the few pioneers who had the courage to brave the hardships were given a real test of endurance. The morning of this particular day was calm and beautiful, but towards the latter part of the afternoon the northwest began to darken. The few settlers who had already spent a winter or two on the great prairie heeded the warning and made what preparations they could. The gale struck with such terrific force that the humble huts seemed scarcely able to withstand it. The fine, powdery snow fell to a great depth and, aided by the furious wind, in almost no time had gathered into drifts twenty feet or more in depth in places. The merciless winter was on in earnest. A lull of a day or two would occur, but even then it was bitterly cold. The entire winter was punctuated with these dreadful storms.

The food and fuel outlook was serious. With this amount of snow, and weather so uncertain, it was almost impossible and extremely dangerous to venture out in quest of anything. It virtually meant a loss of life to start out, for the storms would rise with scarcely any warning, covering all marks of a trail and causing one to lose all sense of direction. Mails were not received for weeks at a time.

Another violent storm and perhaps, a more disastrous one, visited the country in January, 1873. For three days the storm raged. The mercury hovered around thirty degrees below during the entire time. One may have prided himself in having a weather-proof home, sod shanty, rude frame structure, or whatever it may have been, but this storm proved them otherwise. The fine snow sifted through every crack and nail hole. The only assurance of safety whatsoever in passing from the house to the barn was by means of a wire or rope stretched in line between the two as an aid to direction. It is told that one man in attempting to recover his hat, which had blown off while he was on his way to the barn, lost all sense of direction and was found the next morning in a straw stack with both limbs frozen. Many settlers lost their cattle. The straw barns were great snow catchers and it was only through the owner’s efforts in keeping a space open to allow air to enter, that saved the cattle from suffocating.

The experience and effort of one pioneer is told. A rope was placed about his waist before leaving the house. The members of the household were to retain the end of the rope and when the signal was given by a sharp pull they were to draw it towards the house, thereby bringing him back to safety. After bravely fighting the wind for a time he finally reached the roof of the barn, the snow having almost completely covered it, and gained entrance by digging through the straw roof and dropping himself in. Having performed the usual round of chores and believing the cattle safely provided for the night, he gave the signal. The family, not realizing his mode of entrance to the barn, pulled with little result. More force and strength was applied to the rope, thus raising him midway in the air. When he was within a fraction of an inch of reaching the opening, more breath was evidently needed by the helpers, for the rope slackened and he reached the floor with a thud. After a series of trips from the floor to the roof he finally reached the opening and was pulled to safety.

Hardships and misfortunes doubtless came to every pioneer’s life, but circumstances seemingly caused some to suffer more than others. Not only those who were caught out in the storms or attempted to travel in the midst of same were imperiled, but those at home also suffered hardships through those perilous winters. The shanties at their best and under the most favorable conditions were far from comfortable. Usually they obtained light from only one or two very small windows. Ventilation in these homes was the best, shall we say due to good or poor architecture. Most of the homes had no floors other than the solid earth with a covering of prairie grass, which was raked off when dry and broken and replenished with a fresh supply. The houses were roofed with straw or earth, but the shake roof seemed the most common. This shake roof was made from flat, clumsy pieces of wood, most any size, cut usually, from two to three feet long, smoothed with an ax and laid overlapping, much in the style of the present-day shingle. This roof was not a good protection. Flies and mosquitoes had free access to both indoors and outdoors.

Some settlers had frame structures which withstood the storms better. Imagine these low huts almost completely covered with snow drifts, blown up by the strong winds. Floors and furniture were fancifully covered with snow, puffed through the crevices and holes in the huts. Every precaution was taken and preparations made during the good weather, to be ready for the storms. The straw shelters or barns for the cattle were usually placed near the homes to make it easier to reach in time of storms.

(Lake Benton Times, September 12, 1879)

Since the first settlement in this section the peculiar shaped mounds about Lake Benton have attracted considerable attention. It is generally supposed by those who have given the subject but little study that they were constructed by the Indians. Such, however, is not the case, as has been shown by careful research and investigation, the fact being that they were built by a class of people knows as the Mound Builders, the remains of their work being found in various portions of the west, particularly in Ohio. Concerning the early history of this race but little can be said with certainty. That they had attained a higher state of civilization than the Indians is evident from the works of art and implements which have been excavated from mounds in different sections.

It is asserted by some historians that the present race of Indians, being of a warlike nature, came down from the north and waged war upon the Mound Builders, and succeeded in exterminating them. Still other writers hold that, being driven south, advancing in civilization, they were known as the Pueblo Indians. For several years past some scientific men have made the Mound Builders a subject of careful study, spending much time in the excavation of these mounds, and have succeeded in obtaining numerous and rare specimens of different kinds. An investigation of the Utah mounds was recently made and a large number of relics obtained.

Although nothing of like character has been taken from the mounds in this vicinity, still some fine specimens have been found about Benton. The writer hereof, two years ago, made a partial excavation of one of the mounds on the bluff overlooking the lake. A portion of a skeleton was obtained, yet no weapons or pottery were found. The specimens found about Benton, of which there were a large number, were nearly all picked up from the surface, and consist of flint arrow heads, stone mauls and axes, and fragments of pottery. A few copper specimens have been found. While the depot grounds were being prepared some arrow points and stone axes were unearthed. A thorough exploration of the Lake Benton mounds has not yet been made and should there be a careful excavation made of these, which will probably be the case, some valuable specimens may be secured. Excavations were made later with the result that nothing of importance, other than fragments of human bones, were obtained.

Note: The mounds referred to about Lake Benton are located upon the bluffs on the west, north and east of the village. One mound, which has been considerably diminished in size by excavation about its base, is located in the exact centre of the cemetery, east of the village.


The Benton Bar Association, the first association of its kind in Lincoln county, was organized sometime previous to March 21st, 1882. According to Lake Benton News of that date, a meeting was held at which were present Charles Butts, G. I. Larson, C. W. Stites, A.G. Chapman, J. L. Cass, C. W. Andrews, W. E. Dean and Clerk of Court A. C. Matthews. G. I. Larson was chosen chairman and J. L. Cass, secretary. At this meeting the association was given the temporary name of Benton Bar Association, which was later changed to the Lincoln County Bar Association. A committee consisting of C. W. Stites, Chas Butts and W. E. Dean, was appointed to draft a set of by-laws and a constitution, to report to at a meeting on June 12th, the same year.


An item in the Lake Benton News of October 18, 1893, records the passing of one of the original old landmarks, an old log house located west of town, which was being taken down by Len Gibbs. This was one of the oldest houses in Lincoln county at that time. It was built by Wm. Taylor, grandfather of Fred and John Briffett, in June 1868, at a time when buffalo roamed the prairie in countless herds. Mr. Taylor was afterwards frozen to death, but his family remained in the old homestead “until a few years ago, since which time it has stood, sentinel-like, on top of the hill and has served as a reminder to many an old settler of the hardships and privations of pioneer days.


Capt. J. T. Jacobsen, owner of the steamboat John Davidson, and John A. Olson, a nephew of Jacobsen and engineer on the steamer, were drowned in Lake Benton lake late in the eighties, not far from shore, off what was known as “Ice House Point” in the west end of the lake, and not far from the depot. Capt. Jacobsen and Olson had been sailing in a small yacht, the Nora, and just how the accident happened was never known. The yacht was discovered overturned in the water and search instituted at once for the bodies. Not long after the body of Olson was found near shore, but search was continued for at least two days before the body of Jacobsen was discovered.

Capt. J. T. Jacobsen first came to Lake Benton in the spring of 1884, at which time he was planning to place a steamer on some western lake. This point appealed to him and he returned to Chicago, built the steamer John Davidson and launched it on the lake in June. (The writer has been aboard the John Davidson when there were one hundred passengers on deck, and sailed the full length of the lake to the island in the eastern extremity, a distance of about eight miles. The water in the lake at the time was sufficiently deep to float the craft with its full load without danger.

The captain was a man of about sixty years of age. He had been a sailor all his life. He saw service in the Crimean war and the Civil war and his experiences were quite remarkably (sic). He had sailed for years on the Great Lakes and was one of the best known sailing masters. He was a native of Norway and had been married, his wife having died a few years pervious at Chicago. He had placed a fleet of rowboats upon the lake and had converted two of the boats into sailing craft. His nephew “Johnny” as he was familiarly known, was a faithful, quiet young man of about twenty-two years, and was held in high esteem. It is said that he was a young man of excellent habits.

The drowning attracted wide attention and a great deal of sorrow was expressed by the citizens of Lake Benton and vicinity. The funeral was held under the auspices of Old Abe Post, G.A.R., Lake Benton.

(Lake Benton News, September 6, 1903)

“Doc” Seals, one of the oldest pioneers of Lincoln county, was here last week as a delegate to the I.O.G.T Convention. “Doc” came here in the early 70’s and built a store and the building is still in existence, being back of J. P. Peterson’s harness shop. He also built the pioneer store at Marshfield, and this building was taken down and removed to Lake Benton in ’81 by S. Manchester and was used by him for a barn.


Mr. Henry Potter came to Lake Benton a short time before the completion of the railroad in 1879. Regarding his early observations, he wrote in the Lake Benton News of December 16, 1903, as follows:

The buildings then completed in the village were Brown & Morse’s store building, Wm. Bloomquist’s tailor shop, the Benton House, operated by Frank Hoppin, now part of the large barn owned by S. M. Land Company, and A. W. Morse’s residence, now knows as Mr. Zimmerman’s. All these were built prior to the projection of the railroad.

The saloon of Swan Peterson, a portion of the Commercial Hotel, was partially built and occupied as a saloon by Louis LaVoke. Another saloon was run in a shack on the alley on the rear of the lot now owned by C.C. Cooley, grocer. This place was some times run by the patrons, instead of the proprietor and the night of my arrival the patrons took possession and the proprietor sought safety in flight and did not return until morning, when he found his entire stock consumed. Mr. Bush was hauling flour and feed from Marshall and selling it in a shanty near the Benton House, which was also used as a barber shop by a Mr. Henry. Mr. Allen was feeding people in a temporary building located on or near the rear of the lot now occupied by J.P. Peterson.

Mr. Allen built the store building and opened a grocery store soon after the completion of the railroad.

The other business places that were established during the fall of 1879 were stores of H. Potter, Skartum & Mork in the building owned by the Odd Fellows and occupied by Jacob Kaufman’s bowling alley; Woodford & Gile in the building now occupied by B. B. Marti; R. L. Anderson in the building now occupied by Mr. Tasker, but then located on the site of Nordmeyer’s store; Wm. R. Elliott opened a livery and feed stable on the lot now occupied by the old drug store building. A Mr. Smith also engaged in the harness business. C. M. Morse established the Lake Benton Times and used as an office one of the rooms over the Brown & Morse store.

Tom Cheardown located here in the practice of medicine, and was the first M.D. to locate in the village. Prior to the advent of the railroad, however, Dr. S.S. Prudins had taken a claim or purchased a place about two miles east of the village and had practiced his profession to a limited extent. Dr. Prudins was afterwards committed to the hospital for the insane at St. Peter and was burned to death in the hospital fire.

J. R. Taylor came with a crew of men to build Skartum & Mork’s store. He also built Woodford & Gile’s store and other buildings that fall and winter. James Kimball and son, E. J. Kimball, were engaged at stone work and plastering, a business also followed by Geo. Winters. Hodson & Jolitz were the village blacksmiths, their shop being on the alley back of the McArthur building. Herman Sass was associated with them as a wagon maker.

O. W. Eckel established the lumber yard of Laird, Norton & Co., Mr. Moore the yard of Youman Bros. and Hodgins, and O. H. Jackson, a yard for Horton & Hamilton. Mr. Jackson also managed the first grain warehouse for G. W. VanDusen & Co., and purchased grain as far as from the vicinity of Brookings.

Dr. Hoseley erected the building now occupied and used by Henry Enke as a wood shed, and opened the well known Hoseley House. J.B. Russell was the station agent. J. L. Cap was the first lawyer to locate here in the fall of 1879. Charles Butts came early in 1880 and A.G. Chapman somewhat later and practiced law for several years.

The first church service attended by the writer was held in the log school house at the foot of the hill west of the village and was conducted by the Rev. Wilson, who filled the pulpit of the Congregational church for several years. Services were afterwards held at the depot, until the new school house, now St. John’s Chapel, was built. The Rev. Mr. Snell preached for the M.E. society.

There were others that have passed from my memory. But few of those who came in 1879 are now residing here. Fewer still are the real pioneers, the then old settlers.

(Lake Benton Times, Sept. 12, 1879)

The irons on the Chicago & Dakota railroad are now within two miles of us and the first train will probably run into Lake Benton Sunday evening. About two hundred men and five engines are at work, sixty men laying track, forty building bridges, forty surfacers (those who follow and level the track), twenty tie-men and twenty men employed on the pile drivers. There are two pile drivers, each manned by a force of ten men. One gang is in charge of Mr. McCormick, and the other of Mr. Reynolds.

We understand that the headquarters of the company for future operations will be here, at least for the present. The track layers will be delayed here about two days with building the side tracks. The great trouble of the track layers has been the inability of the bridge builders to keep out of their way, but after leaving the lake there will be no further trouble on that score. The railroad buildings will be immediately erected. We understand from good authority that lumber will be brot (sic) here at once so that people who have heretofore been delayed in their building purposes on account of “no lumber” will have no excuse now, and will doubtless commence work at once. Aurora is the next station west, it being nine miles east of the Sioux.

(Lake Benton Times, September 19, 1879)

The long looked for, anxiously expected cars have at last reached Lake Benton. The progress of the track layers on Monday was slow, owing to the numerous curves on which they had to work, and that day they approached within a quarter mile of the village. Tuesday morning the work was again pushed and by noon the track had been laid to this place and the first train had run into Lake Benton (Sept. 16, 1879). A crowd of enthusiastic and happy citizens assembled to witness the most important event in the history of Lake Benton, and some took places of the “spikers” for a few moments so that they might have the pleasure of “helping build the first railroad to Lake Benton”. The “oldest inhabitants”, men who had resided here for the past eight years, left their work and came to Benton to see the arrival of the cars, an event which they had anxiously looked forward to for many months.

Tuesday the track was laid across the town site of Benton and a portion of the side tracks laid. Wednesday the force continued on the main track and several miles have been laid west of town. A portion of the gang remained here to finish laying the side tracks, which work they have nearly completed. It was the expectation of the company that the road would be completed to Lake Benton on Saturday last, so that the line from this point to Tracy could have been opened for business on the following Monday. It is now thought but a few days will elapse before the company will be able to transport freight over the line and regular trains will be running over the Chicago and Dakota. A few weeks will make a marked change in the appearance of our village. Business men have all been awaiting the completion of the road so they might obtain lumber at cheaper rates, and get their goods transported at a less cost. As material can soon be obtained, building will doubtless commence at once, and Lake Benton will contain at least seventy-five buildings before the snow flies. It is reported that the company will commence work on the depot next week and will push it along to a rapid completion.

We know of no town in western Minnesota that has a brighter prospect for future growth and prosperity than our own village. Now that we are connected with the outside world by means of rail we will soon enjoy all the advantages and conveniences of railroad towns. The inducements that Lake Benton offers to men with capital cannot fail to bring to our village a class of energetic and enterprising business men. The natural advantages of Lake Benton are far superior to any town in Lincoln county or any portion of the state. Surrounded by a scope of country of unsurpassed richness for farming purposes; with an abundant supply of wood near at hand; with one of the most handsome lakes in the state, adjacent to the town site, there seems to be no drawback for the upbuilding of a village at this point of no mean importance.

Note: The railroads had not at that time reached Pipestone.

transcribed by Patricia Roma Stout

The Encampment has been held and we take a moment to give an account of it. The grounds were located west of the village on what is known as Snyder's flat, and were surveyed and laid out so as to have a large plaza or drill and promenade inside of a double row of tents which encircled it. On the west and north were hills and the beautiful timber, on the south the "Hole in the Mountain, while to the east "Old Lookout" raised his lofty peak to the skies. In this natural amphitheater was the camp ground. The tents, 75 in number, including a large one toward the east end of the grounds, were all placed in position and ready for the immense throng which began to pour in early Tuesday morning. They came by team, on horseback and on foot and by night nearly two thousands of the sons of freedom were in the village and on the grounds. Wednesday was the great day and but for the wind which blew like all get out, would have been par excellence.

The village and camp grounds were crowded with an eager, expectant throng. It was Governor’s Day. The train which bore the governor was several hours late, but the people were bent on seeing him and stood in the dust and dirt which came down Center Street thick and fast, until he arrived. He was immediately taken to the grounds where he delivered a well-received speech. He took the evening train for St. Paul.

Many speakers who were expected did not put in an appearance, thereby disappointing Commander Pumpelly and everyone.

There were fully five thousand people here that day. Every one enjoyed themselves and all had a good time. The column was formed on the grounds and marched along Benton and Center Streets. The old soldiers kept well in line like heroes from the field of battle. Their commander rode at the head of the column on a sorrel charger and to all appearances looked like Napoleon in his palmy days. The Lake Benton Cornet Band was present and discoursed sweet music to the happy throng, and many were the encomiums which they justly received. In their beautiful uniforms, marching at the head of this grand body, they made a fine and imposing appearance. The citizens of Lake Benton may justly feel proud of their boys. Our little drum corps was uniformed and did their part well during the Encampment.

Thursday was a repetition of other days so far as the program of wind was concerned. There were not so many people present but there was something to interest everyone. A game of baseball between Tracy and Benton was played and resulted in a tie. The competitive drill for the $75 silk flag was non est, but the Windom Post which now holds it, gave an exhibition drill on the campus which was witnessed by a large and appreciative assemblage.

The ladies Relief Corps headquarters were next that of the commander's and these heroic women were ever ready and always willing to help those who came to swell the vast throng. The sofa pillow which they disposed of to good advantage was the work of their own hands and the receipts from its sale will materially aid their depleted treasury. These noble women deserve all the credit they get and generally more.

The silk Rag referred to was a gift from the generous and whole souled women of Worthington, we understand it was a beauty. The design of the star in the national emblem was the work of women. Could it be approved upon? Not a bit. It is perfect.


The first effective band association was organized August 16, 1882 when a meeting was held at Lake Benton. The organization effected at this meeting was called the Minnesota-Dakota Central Band Association. The meeting was called to order by Mr. Morse of the Lake Benton Coronet Band. J. B. Russell of the same organization acted as temporary chairman and O. C. Johnson of the Brookings Cornet Band acted as temporary secretary.

The following Band organizations were represented: Lake Benton Cornet Band, by twelve members; Tyler Brass Band by George Andrews; Aurora Brass Band of Aurora, Dakota by H. S. Murphy; the Brookings Cornet Band by fourteen band members; Volga Helicon Band of Volga, Dakota, by N. W. Ellefson.

J. B. Russell of the Lake Benton Cornet Band was elected president of the association; H. S. Murphy of the Aurora Brass Band, vice president; O. C. Johnson, Brookings Cornet Band, secretary; P. P. Cady, of Volga Helicon Band, treasurer; L. A. Matthews, Lake Benton; Charles Taft, Brookings; G. P. Helm, Huron Concert Band and N. W. Ellefson of Volga, directors. A committee of five, consisting of C. W. Stites, Lake Benton; C. E. Kendall, Brookings; George Andrews, Tyler; H. S. Murphy, Aurora and O. C. Johnson, Brookings, was appointed to draft a set of by-laws and a constitution.

A motion was carried to the effect that a musical director be chosen, he to furnish each band in the association a list of music to be played in unison at the annual tournament under his direction. C. E. Kendall of Brookings was chosen such director. Brookings was selected as the place for the next meeting of the association.


Water works carried Monday by the handsome majority of 78, the vote being 89 for and 11 against. When the project was brought prominently before the people it developed considerable opposition and some of those favoring it were apprehensive of the result. Time, however, and a thorough and fair discussion served to bring the merits into more prominent view, and when it was seen that the maximum amount of protection and benefit would be secured with the minimum outlay, public opinion gradually changed until the result was as stated. The change was so gradual and quiet that everyone was surprised at the almost unanimity of sentiment as expressed by the vote.

Lake Benton can now be assured of a first-class system of water works, second to none in the state, at a very small cost as compared with other surrounding towns. In fact, no other towns can or have secured as full, complete and perfect a system for double the money. Every residence in town, this side of the lake can be reached with 500 feet of hose and everything will be completed about the first of October.

This will be an added inducement for the investment of capital, for capital is timid and requires a great degree of safety before it will espouse the cause of any project. No town amounts to a great deal without adequate protection against conflagrations. With fire protection and other improvements contemplated, Lake Benton will take a new start in the industrial race.

The Lake Benton water works system was completed in July, 1894.


One of the oldest and original business buildings erected in an early day in Lake Benton, was moved out onto the Jens Dahl farm in Diamond Lake township the past week, to be converted into a granary. This building was erected in 1876 by A. W. Morse as a store building. After several years use as such Mr. Morse effected a partnership with W. H. Roberts and the structure now known as the Mork building was erected and occupied. The former building was then moved to the sight which it occupied for so many years and was long used as an office building by the Standard Lumber Co. After erection of the present new office building it was converted into a store room and has been occupied as such until recently.

Although the building has long been an eyesore and the spot where it stood has since its removal, been beautified by being leveled down and cleaned up, the passing of the old landmark is in a much lesser degree, like the passing of an old pioneer citizen. It will be missed for a time by those associated with it for years, but Old Father Time, that old obliterator of familiar events and scenes, will eventually blot its memory from the minds of men.

However, though it has passed from the scenes of Lake Benton, there are still left two buildings within the confines of our village that are still older. The first building in the village, so we are told on good authority, was erected by "Doc” Seals and still stands on the rear end of the lot occupied by the old Peterson harness shop, now owned by Ed. Schardin and unoccupied. The old building was long since converted into a barn but is still intact and was once the center of a busy commercial mart. The second oldest building erected in our village still stands, although it has long since been remodeled and added to. It is no less than the east and west upright portion of the Whipple hatchery.


The Tyler Hospital is one of the great little institutions of our great little county. It is new, established October 20, 1920. The building has three stories with full basement, is 36 by 58 feet in base area. It has eighteen beds, steam heat, electrical sterilizer and sterilizing room, fine equipment that is thoroughly modern. Employs two trained graduate nurses, two non-graduate nurses, four others for general work in the basement kitchen, dining room, laundry room, and boiler room. It is equipped for hospital service and for pleasant surroundings for convalescent, with all the modern mechanical appliances clean, neat, and healthful. – Farm Bureau Edition, Ivanhoe Times.


Andrew Kempter, one of the old settlers of Lincoln county, and living about one half mile west of Lake Benton, nearly lost his life in the storm of Friday night, March 6th, 1903. Sometime about 8 o'clock in the evening, and, before retiring for the night, Mr. Kempter went to the barn to finish doing his chores. The barn was located about three hundred yards east of the house. Mr. Kempter succeeded in reaching the barn safely but when he started to return to the house be missed his way and became lost. The storm was furious and the wind blew so terrificly that it was impossible for him to find his way to the house. He wandered around over the prairie all night and dawn found him several miles from home. Going to the nearest farm house, it was found that he had escaped without being badly frozen, his face being frostbitten a little and the fur coat he wore was a load of snow and ice. Mr. Kempter 's presence of mind was all that saved him, for if he had sat down or laid down it would have been all over with him.

Another case was reported to us, that of David Ryan. Mr. Ryan was on his way home from Tyler and was overtaken by the storm a short way out of Ivanhoe. It became impossible for him to find his way and he unhitched and unharnessed his horses and started out on foot, and in this way he managed to keep from freezing, but he wandered around until morning, experiencing all the horrors of a man lost in a Minnesota blizzard. When he at last found shelter it was with a farmer living near Arcola, and his sleigh was found just outside the village limits east of town. Mr. Ryan escaped without any injuries.


We are indebted to Messrs. Thomas and Peter Kelley, who came to Lincoln county in the early seventies, for the facts upon which this narrative is based. The well-known integrity of these two old pioneers is sufficient evidence of the truthfulness of the incident. It’s a well-known historical fact that members of the notorious James and Younger gangsters entered Minnesota sometime in the month of August, 1876, in different groups and from different points.

According to information related to us by the Kelley brothers, a group of this robber gang, supposedly headed by Cole Younger, passed through Lake Benton sometime during the month of August, 1876, and passed onto the groups to the east some three weeks or thereabouts, previous to the Northfield bank robbery. The Kelley brothers were then boys in their teens and together with their older sisters attended school in the old log school house at the foot of the west hill in Lake Benton. One afternoon after school had been dismissed the two brothers, together with their sisters, were on their way home and had not gone far up the west hill when they met a group of rough looking men, each mounted on a fine horse and leading another horse otherwise equally as fine. The group of men halted their horses and one of the group acted as spokesman and who, the brothers afterwards decided, must have been Cole Younger from his appearance coinciding with published descriptions of him.

He was very courteous and kindly spoken, which also answers to other published descriptions of his conversations with children. The brothers relate that this man asked numerous questions of them and even put several scholastic questions. This incident made a profound impression upon the young people and seemed to be authenticated by the incidents surrounding the Northfield bank robbery which occurred some three weeks afterwards.

It is related by sources other than the above that the group of men rode on to the home of Hans Gran, who then resided on the place now known as the Nordmeyer farmstead, and there received food, and evidently proceeded to the Lemon home on the south side of the lake about four miles northeast of Lake Benton, where they again procured refreshments. We are informed of this latter fact by Mr. John Lemon, son of Mr. Thomas Lemon, who homesteaded the place.

We are inspired to relate the above narrative as an incident in the history of Lincoln county that is worthy of consideration.

By E. Dudley Parsons

We often hear old settlers say that Minnesota winters are warmer than they used to be. A glance at the weather reports, however, will convince the oldest settler, and the most confident, that this is not true. The weather chart of the last thirty years presents the same appearance as the weather chart of any one year a wavy line sometimes shooting up to a mountain peak of warmth as when the farmers plowed in February sometimes shooting down below the median line to an alarming depth as in the winter of 1880, the time of "the big snow''.

In that year on an October day the snow came down in a heavy blanket that forbade removal. A fierce wind blew it into all the weird shapes that the imagination can conceive. In some places it covered the telegraph wires. Peculiarly enough, it did not leave as a respectable October snowfall should have done. It gripped the western towns for weeks, and indeed, the following spring, instead of arriving earlier than usual to compensate for the October blizzard, came much later.

During the long, long winter the railroad companies were often unable to dig out their lines until the villages, buried beneath the drifts, were almost in despair of receiving supplies. Especially were conditions hard for the prairie town in the southwestern part of the state that depended on coal for fuel? It was impossible, of course, to get any coal to them. Their resourcefulness and communal spirit in some manner securing for them a scant supply of provisions. Lucky was the town that boasted a mill. Those that had no such source of food nearly starved to death.

There were, of course, in the midst of the general depression caused by the trials of the winter, many humorous episodes. The editor of a small weekly advised his fellow editors not to issue bare sheets because there was little news in the beleaguered towns. Said he: “Make up something, gentlemen; no sin in it these days.”

The Lake Benton News came out on brown store wrapping paper for several issues. Copies of this strange looking paper may be seen in the rooms of the Minnesota Historical Society. Villagers and farmers alike were driven, by necessity, to devise makeshifts at which they laughed despite themselves. In fact, the humor of the situation bore up those who, like true pioneer, had dared the uncertainties of prairie life.

There have been other bad storms in the history of the state. For instance in the years of 1873, 1886, 1888 and 1897. But the year of the "October blizzard" of ''the big snow" is remembered most tenderly by those who were privileged to make of it the basis for the remark that we all have heard around the stove in the country store: “Well, you can talk all you want to about snow, but there ain't no such storms any more like there used to be in the early days. Take the winter of 1880, etc.”**

Note: The writer of the above was for several years a resident of Lake Benton and is known to many of our older residents.

Organization of Old Settlers’ Association
By J. H. Manchester in Lake Benton News
Source: Early History of Lincoln County; Compiled by A. E. Tasker; Lake Benton News Print (1936); transcribed by Vicki Bryan

According to published notice, some of the old settlers of Lincoln County met at the office of J. A. Bigham Saturday, May 15, 1897 and perfected an organization. J. A. Bigham was elected president and J. H. Manchester, secretary of the organization. As this was the first meeting, we give the names of all those present: James Gilronan, H. T. Grahn, C. C. Cooley, J. A. Bigham, S. Manchester, J. H. Manchester, W. R. Elliott, J. G. D. Whipple, John Stevens, John Kroeger, A. C. Fletcher, Peter Peterson, V. Ostrander, Chas. Whitman, Amos Smith and James Stewart. Although this was not a large attendance, it was felt that it was enough for a beginning, and the membership would grow. After some discussion in regard to where to draw the line between old and modern settlers, the October blizzard of 1880 was decided upon. This comparatively late date was decided upon because the early settlers had almost all scattered and gone, and scarcely enough of them could be found to form a corporal's guard. It was decided to hold an old settlers' picnic on Saturday, June 19, and James Gilronan, Amos Smith and A. C. Fletcher were appointed a committee to make all arrangements for the same.

In view of the fact that but few of the first settlers were still living in the county, it was felt that steps should be taken to rescue from obscurity the early history of the county, and to this end the scribe was appointed historian of the society. And we would respectfully ask all old settlers in every township in the county to furnish us with a list of the first settlers in each town, the first marriage, first birth, etc., and any other information worthy of being preserved.

All counties have their Old Settlers' Associations and this county certainly ought to be in line on this subject. Such organizations are a source of enjoyment to those who participate in them and serve to bring up recollections of past hardships. It is a never ending source of enjoyment to get together and talk over old times and half forgotten scenes. We trust that the meetings of this association may be full of interest to everyone who participates.

The first meeting of the Old Settlers' Association of Lincoln County was held at Lake Benton, Minnesota on July 21st, 1897. A fair-sized crowd was present and all seemed to enjoy the occasion.

At 10:00 a. m. people began to wander down to the point – the old picnic grounds – and by half past ten the crowd had assumed such proportions that the program was commenced. John McKenzie spoke a few minutes, saying that every county should have its Old Settlers' Association, and he hoped this first meeting would be followed by an annual gathering, which could not fail to be a source of enjoyment.

Although he had not been a resident of this county long enough to be recorded in the list of old settlers, he had seen and experienced frontier life and knew the hardships and privations incident thereto. He was followed by Peter Krall of Marshfield, who spoke at length of frontier times and recited many interesting circumstances connected with his early experiences in Lincoln county. All who know Mr. Krall will agree that he has an eloquence and a style of delivery peculiarly his own, and which lends an attractiveness to his tale. He and Matt Dressen and Jack Montgomery (the latter long since had changed his residence to that country where hardships are unknown) had come to this country together. They came from Marshall to Marshfield in a stage coach driven by Frank Apfeldt, and whatever the coach was noted for, it was not noted for its springs. They then started for Shaokatan to look for claims. There was but one house on the route, that of Levi Marcellus, who for many years had been gathered to his fathers. Dinner was had at Captain Pompelly's. The worldly possessions of this gentleman were not more numerous than those of the other very few settlers. His chickens were not numbered by the score, yet one had to yield up its life blood, and with true hospitality, not a cent could he be induced to take. The blizzards were described and the difficulty told of going to the stable during one of those storms. But with the disappearance of the red man the climate had become better, Old Boreas has become less ferocious in his assaults, and now a newcomer could not be made to believe in the rigor of the storms of those early times.

An incident that should not be forgotten occurred in those early days between a couple of Germans named Hensler and Ehret. Both had now left the county and so the story could be told without fear. Ehret was breaking land on his claim and turned his oxen loose at night. They being like the Wandering Jew, not a tooth in their heads that was sound, only two, sought Hensler's grain field, because the feed was easier to chew. Hensler remonstrated in vain. Finally he put the oxen in his yard and refused to deliver them until paid for the damage sustained. Ehret and his brother-in-law, Henry Weiss, still a resident of Marshfield, went after them and were met at the yard by Hensler with a shot gun. Weiss thought indiscretion the better part of valor and remained at a safe distance, but Ehret proceeded to take down the bars. Hensler put a dose of shot in his hip and thigh. He then proceeded to Marshfield, a mile away, and with moans and affecting gestures he said he was a murderer and asked for a justice that he might give himself up. "And what will become of my poor wife and children?" he asked. Ehret was brought to town and Mr. Krall essayed the roll of physician. He had never posed as a healer of human wounds, but with a terrier's jack knife he picked out several shot from Ehret's body, but he finally refused to proceed. A shoemaker named Kendall was then called in. His qualifications for the duty consisted of confidence in himself, and with a shoemaker's knife and awl he managed to extract the embedded shot, and then gave the cheering intelligence that his patient would live. Hensler all this time kept piteously moaning and sobbing and saying that he was a murderer, and asking what would become of his family. Through mutual friends peace was patched up between Hensler and Ehret, and the latter agreed not to prosecute the former if he would pay all expenses and agree not to shoot him again. This was agreed to and Hensler was admitted to Ehret's room. Immediately upon coming through the door Hensler dropped to his knees, clasped his hands, raised his eyes and in supplicating and penitential tones exclaimed: "Oh, Mr. Ehret, I never will shoot you once more again!" Ehret then told him to arise, that his sins were forgiven, to go his way but to sin no more. The shoemaker doctor charged $24 for the use of his knife and awl, the bill was paid, and peace again reigned supreme. During Mr. Krall's address he was frequently applauded.

A. C. Matthews was called upon and responded in a few well chosen words, closing with a comparison between pioneer and present times. G. B. Olson was called upon and gave some amusing anecdotes concern his first years in Lincoln County. He had driven the stage between Canby, Minnesota, and Medary, South Dakota, and between Hendricks and Medary there was a stretch of country twenty-four miles in extent, without a house of any kind. On one trip he had a lady passenger and soon after passing Hendricks she requested him to drive slower. This he did, but after ten minutes he was requested to hurry. He cracked his whip and urged his steeds much faster than before, and arrived in Medary just before the population of that part of the world was increased by the birth of a man child. Mr. Olson had a direct way in telling a story so that there was no possibility of mistaking the meaning of his language and on this occasion seemed to be at his best in this regard.

During this time the ladies prepared dinner, and a most elegant one it was, too. Free lemonade and ice water were in abundance and this part of the program seemed to be enjoyed by everyone.

After dinner the subjects of future meetings and a permanent organization were considered. G. I. Larson was elected temporary chairman and J. H. Manchester, secretary and historian. The latter not being present, John McKenzie acted temporarily in his stead. The temporary organization was then made a permanent one for the ensuing year. J. G. D. Whipple was made treasurer for the ensuing year. A committee consisting of one from each township and village was selected by the chair to designate time and place of the next meeting, and to generally assist in the management of the organization. The committee was as follows: Alta Vista – Isaac Vanderwaker; Marble – Halvor Applen; Hansonville – John Hanson; Hendricks – Lars I. Fjeseth; Royal – John Tainter; Limestone – E. Sigvaldson; Lake Stay – A. F. Chase; Ash Lake – Joe Pickering; Shaokatan – H. E. Weeks; Drammen – Martin West; Diamond Lake – Amos Smith; Marshfield – R. H. Sisson; Hope – John Moore; Lake Benton Township – James Gilronan; Verdi – John Kelley; Tyler – Isaar Starr; and Lake Benton village – H. D. Worden.

It was decided that in view of the fact that some members of the association lived so far away, the next meeting last two days and that the committee be instructed to make arrangements for those who lived far away to camp out during the night. This concluded the business session and an adjournment was taken and all repaired up town where festivities were soon in full progress.

The first thing was a foot race. Billy Gile won this with Wm. Ross a close second. The pace seemed too fast for Gilronan and he retired after measuring his length upon the ground. A ball game was played between the old settlers of the village and the old settlers outside of it, no professionals being allowed and each player being over forty years old. They were Townsend – Bush, Gile, Bradley, Cleveland, Whitman, Mork, Enke and Davidson for the village, and the outsiders were George Mennie, John Tainter, J. C. Enke, J. S. McCartney, Thos. Somers, Nic Curtis, Jim Stewart, Gilbert Peterson and Oliver Randall. Only two innings were played. The score stood 24 to 14 in favor of the villagers. The game was mirth provoking in the extreme, and many a hearty laugh greeted the attempt of some old fellow to straighten out his limbs and make believe rheumatism had never visited them. Another game was played between the old settlers and the new, in which no one was barred. This game was won by the new settlers.

Willie Whipple won the trotting race, and Mertie Weeks the running race. Ger Hoseley secured the prize for the standing jump and Harry Somers the run and jump. Wm. Bailey carried off the honors in the gentlemen's bicycle race and Katie Mork did the same for the ladies. Ray Weeks proved himself the best wrestler, while he and Harry Somers were a tie in the sack race. Chris Bovberg was a winner in the wheel barrow race. The oldest settler in the county, male or female, proved to be Mrs. Nat Briffett, who secured an easy chair. This lady came to this county with her parents in May 1868, and has resided here ever since Her father was frozen to death in the early 70's and her mother and brothers and sisters have all moved away, so she is richly entitled to the prize.

Taking all in all, the first meeting of the old settlers association of Lincoln County can be said to be a success. And it is hoped and believed that each recurring meeting will be as well attended as this was, and that as the years roll by the interest in these meetings and the pleasure derived from them will increase. – J. H. M. in Lake Benton News.

The Newspapers
Source: Early History of Lincoln County; Compiled by A. E. Tasker; Lake Benton News Print (1936) transcribed by Jean Hadley

According to G. I. Larson, the first newspaper to be published in Lincoln county was the Lincoln County Tribune, established and edited by H. G. Rising. The first issue was published on March 14th, 1879 at Marshfield, then the county seat. It was an eight-page sheet of regulation size and derived its principal support from the publication of final proof notices.

After the removal of the county seat from Marshfield to Lake Benton, Mr. Rising contemplated moving his paper to the latter point, but on being appointed postmaster at Tyler, he moved the sheet to the latter place. About this time or shortly after, W. E. Dean established the Lincoln County Journal, now the Tyler Journal Herald. Later on Mr. Rising moved to Redfield, South Dakota, Just what disposition he made of the Tribune does not appear, but that it ceased to function in a fore-gone conclusion.

The Tyler Journal-Herald
The following communication from W. E. Dean of Houston, Texas, written early in 1936 and published in the Tyler Journal in its issue of April 3rd of that year, relates the events connected with the founding of the Lincoln County Journal, later, changed to the Tyler Journal and in 1936 again changed to the Tyler Journal-Herald, on the acquisition of the sheet together with the Tyler Herald, by the present owner and publisher, S. U. Hansen. In this letter Mr. Dean tacitly states he was the founder of the sheet. Following is Mr. Dean’s own version of the matter:

I am pleased to note that the child of my early effort has become a hale and hearty adult, and still going strong. The first issue very evidently was the Friday in May or the first Friday in June 1881. There is no doubt of the year. I was married in September, 1881 and went on the Minnesota Editorial excursion in September, and had been publishing the Journal several months at that time.

I can also fix the date based upon the fact that I was secretary of the Lincoln County Fair Association. That was to open to the public October 18 at which date the October blizzard came and raged for three days, and for ninety-three days no trains could reach Tyler.

Again the date is impressed on my mind from the fact that during the suspension of all travel on the railroad, I was forced to issue a limited number of copies of the Journal on wrapping paper in order to keep alive several legal notices I was printing.

My first printer was named Wharton, from Lanesboro, Minn., He left me after some months, having a call as advance advertiser for a traveling troupe, Lincoln A. Bigham was my next assistant, and he later ran a small paper in Minneapolis.

Perhaps I should explain that I had my early files of the Journal and also the file of the “Bull Dog” carefully stored in a zinc-lined box, and later found it had been used as a maternity hospital for mice.

“The Bull Dog consisted of only five or six issues and was devoted exclusively to the exposure of villainy with which that section was for a time infested. I am proud to think that it served its purpose in a small way in assisting the public to wash its dirty linen. In that old day we were robbed by robbers. Today we are robbed by legal means, Taxation.”

During its lifetime the Tyler Journal has functioned under the various management of first, its founder, W. E. Dean; later, G. I. Larson, William Huddleston, Edward Bigham, T. T. Gronlund, M. Glemmestad, a Mr. Strong, A, K. Stauning, P. J. Theisen, S. J. Pedersen, Axel H. Andersen, H. M. Fredricksen, and the present owner, S. U. Hansen.

The Lake Benton News
The Lake Benton News was established in December, 1880 by Arthur W Morse and is now in the fifty-seventh year of its existence. As has alrady been stated, Mr. Morse relates that it was established to further the interests of Lake Benton in the county seat fight, wherein Lake Benton was seeking the removal of the county seat from the village of Marshfield to the latter village. Lake Benton supporters considered that Mr. Bryan, the publisher of the Lake Benton Times, was not sufficiently aggressive in Lake Benton’s interests in the contest and therefore they proceeded to establish a newspaper of their own, for the express purpose of winning the contest if possible.

Since its establishment the News has been under several different ownerships and managements. From Mr. Morse it reverted to the ownership of John L. Cass. Thence after a few years it became the property of A. J. Rush. Both the latter two publishers were strong Democrats and reflected their political faith in the columns of the News. From Mr. Rush the paper passed into the hands of John Herbert Manchester who was a staunch Republican. After several years and at the death of Mr. Manchester the sheet passed into the ownership of Roberst S. Tucker, who was also a firm Republican by political faith. Next the paper passed into the hands of The News Printing Company, an organization comprised of several individuals consisting of R. S. Tucker, A. J. Rush, Chas. E. Lavesson and the First National Bank of Lake Benton. During the several years of ownership in this organization it was edited and under the management of R. A. Turner, now of the Brookings (So. Dakota) County Press.

In 1910 the paper was sold to A. E. Tasker, since which time he has been the sole owner and publisher. The sheet is Independent-Republican by political faith.

The Tyler Herald
The Tyler Herald was founded in 1906 by William F. Hogue. Mr. Hogue came to Tyler, Minnesota in April of that year from Steel, North Dakota, and assisted by his wife, decided to establish a second weekly newspaper in the field. The establishment of a second paper was inspired by a factional dispute between certain business interests that had existed for several years previous.
Mrs. Hogue was actively associated with her husband in the establishment and management during practically the entire twenty-eight years of the joint ownership and management of the sheet. To start with the paper was published as a Republican organ, but after a number of years it became more or less independent in its political leanings, Mrs. Hogue claiming to espouse Democratic political views.

After twenty-eight years successful management of the paper and at the death of Mrs. Hogue, Mr. Hogue retired from active business life and the paper was sold to S. B. Determan. Mr. Determan conducted the various policies of the paper for about a year, whereupon it was sold to S. U. Hansen who also purchased the Tyler Journal and consolidated the two under the name Tyler Journal-Herald, in 1936.

The Hendricks Pioneer
The Hendricks Pioneer was established in 1900, the first issue being dated April 12, 1900, and was founded by C. P. Sonnichsen. The first issue was printed in the office of the Lake Benton News, the editor of which was a former employer of Mr. Sonnichsen. In June, the Pioneer building was erected and the machinery hauled here from Lake Benton, consisting of an 8-column Washington hand press and an 8x12 Chandler & Price Old Style jobber.

Mr. Sonnichsen operated the Pioneer until the year 1905 when he sold his plant to Albert L. Swenson. Mr. Swenson continued as editor until he was elected county auditor of Lincoln county in the year 1918. He was succeeded by his brother, Willis S. Swenson, who conducted the business until November, 1923 when he met death in an auto accident.

After that time the Pioneer reverted back to A. L. Swnson who in January, 1924 secured the editorial services of Mr. George Graybill of Duluth. Mr. Graybill continued with the Pioneer until the following August when he was replaced by Mr. J. V. Hage of Franklin, Minnesota. Harvard W. Swenson, son of A. L. Swenson, took the helm as publisher during the summer of 1924, and bid for the honor of being the youngest editor in the state, seventeen and one-half years.

Mr. Hage remained until the new year, 1925 when K. E. Holian of Maynard, Minnesota, took up his duties as foreman. The following August Mr. Holian purchased the plant and building and continues as the Pioneer editor and publisher.

The following communication from C. P. Sonnichsen of Hood River, Oregon, written 36 years after the first issue of the Pioneer relates to various incidents with the newspaper’s founding:

“In the spring of 1900 there was a popular report that the Chicago & North Western railroad was about to build a spur line from Tyler to Astoria, with four stations on the extension. My enthusiasm was aroused to a point where it seemed it was up to me to choose a town and establish a newspaper, which was to begin with and grow with the town.

“Only railroad officials were informed as to just where the town in the immediate vicinity of beautiful Lake Hendricks was to be located. With pony and buggy, a few trips were made into the Hendricks country, seeking general information and possible location for a home for the plant.

“In conversation with Railroad Attorney E. B. Korns and other railroad officials, and being admitted into their confidence, a tip was given-that if it were possible to procure the use of Arnt Pedersen’s granary, immediately above the lake, the location would be in as close proximity to the proposed townsite as it would be at that time possible to procure-for a pioneer newspaper. The railroad officials were very kind and gave general information as to their intentions in the Hendricks country.

“At that time there were no surveys made, no stakes driven, and no definite signs of coming developments. With hope and confidence, a newspaper plant was purchased and temporarily assembled in my home in Lake Benton. There, for the first issue of the Hendricks Pioneer, dated April 12, 1900, the type was hand-set and made into forms, and the printing was done on R, S. Tucker’s

Lake Benton News press.
“The first bundle of Pioneers was personally delivered to a country postoffice, S. Erickson being the postmaster, near the field of adventure. Entry as second-class matter was granted by the postal department. The first Pioneer from the press went to H. C. Hansen, who also was the first subscriber. In brief, this is the history as to how and when the Pioneer was originated and founded. Later when the townsite was platted, the Pioneer was the first business for the town.

“When lots were on the market, a lot next to where it was said the country postoffice would be moved, in the Fjeseth & Erickson hardware and furniture building, was purchased; a printing house was built-small but with space for office and dwelling. The Pioneer building, first to be completely constructed, had the distinction of having the first brick chimney.

“The first public improvement in town was the plowing and grading of Main street, done by G. A. Lindskog, road contractor. Business men on the street chipped in $25 apiece to pay for the needed improvement. Later, Gilbert Johnson installed a pump on his residence property, and to and from this pump was carried many an old water bucket.

“The town grew rapidly in population, and new buildings rose and flourished like a field of mushrooms. Noise of hammer and saw was heard from daybreak until midnight, and on the recurring morn there were new houses or shacks where none were the night before.

“After incorporation of the town as a village, a large water tank for domestic and fie purposes was erected by the municipality. A public school and churches were built. Road building and sidewalk extensions came in sequence. Hendricks grew to be a substantial and beautiful village.”

The Ivanhoe Times
The Ivanhoe times was founded in August, 1900 and Number 1, Volume 1, of that publication was then launched and made its initial bow to the then recently born village of Ivanhoe. Three hundred copies of the first issue was circulated among the business men and citizens of the town and rural community.

The Times was established as one of the early business institutions of the village, and its founder, believing that was a field suitable for a weekly newspaper in the new-born village, made the venture of launching the publication. It was presented in its first appearance as a 5-column, 8-page paper, the contents of which were a liberal amount of display advertising by business firms of Ivanhoe, and liberal run of new matter and editorial comment.

The founder of this publication was Jos. A. Bigham, a pioneer and well-known citizen of Lincoln county, who had purchased and acquired a portion of the type and equipment formerly used in the publication of the Clarion, weekly newspaper at Lake Benton, which had recently been merged with the News. This formed the nucleus around which the Times was builded and the paper has been published ever since. Only three other editors have been associated with its publication other than the founder up to the present time, over a period of nearly 37 years.

Mr. Bigham retained ownership and issued the Times for only a short period of time; approximately two years, when he disposed of the plant to David Kreps. This editor and owner took over its publication some time during 1902 and was at the helm an even shorter length of time than his predecessor disposing of the paper and plant to A. K. Stauning, who became owner and editor some time in the early summer of 1903. The publication was continued under that ownership and management for another rather short period of time and was sold in the early birth of 1906.

W. N. Johnson, the present owner and publisher, purchased the plant, good will and business from Mr. Stauning, and issued the first edition under the new ownership on the 16th day of February, 1906. Mr. Johnson has retained ownership of the Times ever since and is the present owner and publisher, in connection with which he enjoys the distinction of being the Senior Editor and Newspaper Scribe in Lincoln county, in point of years served in the business. Up to the time this history is compiled he has completed 31 years of actual newspaper work at the helm of the Times, and is now beginning to round out the 32nd milestone as publisher of the County Seat Weekly.

Defunct Lincoln County Newspapers
Lake Benton village is the birthplace for several weekly newspapers that, since their inception, have become defunct. One of the very first, if not the first, is the Lake Benton Times which was established and first published September 12th, 1879. The founders and publishers of this publication were Kimberley & Morse, who also published the “Times”, Sioux Falls, Dakota Territory. A. W. Morse, one of the above-named publishers, edited the Times. This sheet was later sold to Bert Bryan.

Regarding its foundation and disposal, we quote Mr. Morse’s exact words, as stated elsewhere in this history: “The first paper published in Lake Benton was the Times, the outfit being brought overland from Marshall in advance of the railroad. I disposed of this paper to Bert Bryan.” In further reference Mr. Morse relates: “The (Lake Benton) News came into existence solely to advance the interests of Lake Benton in the county seat contest, as we thought Mr. Bryan was not sufficiently aggressive in setting forth the claims of our village.” The Times eventually suspended publication the reasons for which the writer is not advised, neither are we advised as to the date of is suspension.

Other weekly papers established at Lake Benton in an early day are the Lake Benton Topic, first published June 10, 1886, by Robert S. Doubleday. We have no means of ascertaining how long this paper was published. Another short lived weekly was a second Lake Benton Times, established in the early 90’s by John L. Cass. This sheet evidently was published for but a short time and was democratic politically.

Still another weekly was the People’s Protest which was established sometime in 1893 and existed but a short time. This paper was founded and published by Metcalfe & Bigham, strong supporters of the People’s Party. And again another weekly was the Lincoln County Clarion, established in 1894 by Andrew Jackson Rush. This sheet was of strong democratic tendencies and was merged with the Lake Benton News sometime previous to 1910.

The Lincoln County Advertiser was established in about the year 1906 at Ivanhoe, this county. A. E. Seagrave was the founder and publisher of the sheet during its short life. The paper was purchased by W. N. Johnson, publisher of the Ivanhoe Times, and merged with that publication in 1909. Mr. Seagrave then went to the Pacific coast where he later died.

Political History
Source: Early History of Lincoln County; Compiled by A. E. Tasker; Lake Benton News Print (1936) transcribed by Bobby Dobbins Title

First Political Convention
The first political convention for nomination of candidates for county offices, or at least the first of which the writer has any knowledge, was held in the school house in Marshfield in 1875. I think it was a mass meeting. No particular lines were drawn, all went that chose to and every body voted. The compensation of the different offices was so small that the chief difficulty was in getting someone to accept them. At this convention I was nominated to the offices of clerk of court and court commissioner. During my term of three years as court commissioner the emoluments amounted to 75 cents. The circumstances were these: Two young men named J. E. Ells and Albert Mayette had adjoining claims in section 22, township of Lake Benton. For a time they were very chummy and during this period they had bought a harrow together. Later on they became enemies. Mayette had and kept possession of the harrow and refused to sell or allow Ells to use it, claiming it to become something immovable when he came in from the field at noon or night. Ells came to see me to see what could be done to compel Mayette to settle or allow him to use the harrow. I told him that the harrow was not worth over ten dollars, it was not worthwhile to make a fuss about it, but Ells was angry and wanted something done; so I told him I would issue an injunction as court commissioner. Accordingly as I was capable of doing, with the proper number of whereases, now therefores and other high sounding legal phrases, commanding, enjoining and restraining Mayette from using said harrow, etc., I issued and signed the document as court commissioner, and attached some large red water seals that I found in an old desk that belonged to Charlie Goodwell, and gave the document to Ells, telling him at the same time, that it was probably worth as much as an equal amount of brown paper. Ells served the original on Mayette and told me afterwards that it did the business. For my services I received the seventy-five cents mentioned previously.

First Delegate Convention
The first delegate convention of which I have any knowledge was in the fall of 1877, and was held in the upper room of the school house at Marshfield. The county was then divided into three commissioner districts, known as the Yellow Medicine, Marshfield and Lake Benton districts, each being entitled to five delegates. Paul Evenson, Ole Fladland, John Ingebretson, John Crofoot and John Trulock were the delegates from the Yellow Medicine precinct. The caucus that selected them was held at the house of Ole Fladland in the township of Marble. Mr. Fladland then lived in section 8, Marble, afterwards owned by Edward Juraneck. * * * At this time S. D. Pumpelly and J. G. Bryan were rival candidates for representative. Bryan was also candidate for county auditor. He failed in securing the nomination for auditor, but secured two of the three delegates to the nominating convention at Marshall, where he received the nomination, but was beaten in the general election by J. W. Williams of Marshall, who ran as an independent Democrat.

While W. W. Ramsey, J. G. Bryan and myself were at Marshall attending the nominating convention, we met one evening by invitation at the office of O. C. Gregg, who was then county auditor of Lyon county. During the evening we were induced by Gregg, who no doubt had some axe to grind (I think he was interested in the nomination of O. P. Witcomb for state auditor), to impersonate a Republican county convention for the selection of a delegate to the state convention, then about to assemble. So we resolved ourselves into the Republicans of Lincoln county in convention assembled, passed the customery resolutions and chose Bryan as delegate. I trust the reader will not be too severe with Mr. Gregg as I think he later redeemed himself. This was the first county convention for Lincoln county, for the selection of delegates for a state convention.

Legislative Aspirants
At the time Lincoln county was organized, its territory was embraced in the thirty-seventh legislative district, comprising Redwood, Brown and Lyon counties. The first candidate for legislative honors from Lincoln county was J. G. Bryan, who ran for representative on the Republican ticket in 1877, but was defeated by J. W. Williams of Marshall, who ran either as an independent or Democrat.

The first citizen of the county elected to either branch of the legislature was C. M. Morse, who at the time lived at Lake Benton. He was elected to the house in 1882.

Members of the House
1882 to 1886, C. M. Morse; 1886 to 1888, John Hanson; 1888 to 1890, A. J. Crain; 1894 to 1896, Frank W. Nash; 1896 to 1898, J. H. Manchester; 1898 to 1902, C. W. Stites; 1904 to date, Marcus Lauritsen.

All the members of the house from Lincoln county up to this time, were elected on the Republican ticket. The only resident of this county minus the toga was Orrin Mott, who was state senator from 1890 to 1894, by the grace of the Populist party.

The First Flouring Mill
So far as the writer knows the first talk about establishing a flouring mill in this county was in 1878 or it might have been in 1877. I recollect that the water in Lake Benton lake was then very high and W. L. Hughes, who had then recently located near Marshfield, and who was a practical miller, conceived the idea of damming the natural outlet and digging a race, starting at a point near where the line between the townships of Diamond Lake and Marshfield touches the shorelines of the lake, thence northeast to a point where it would connect with the channel of the natural outlet. The county surveyor was called in to ascertain the number of feet fall, etc. Whether his report was unfavorable or whatever the reason was, the project was finally abandoned.

In 1880 a man named Rogers built the first flouring mill in the county at Lake Benton. * * * During the summer of 1881 Rogers spent considerable time and labor in constructing a dam and millrace preparatory to building a mill on one of the branches of the Yellow Medicine river in the township of Alta Vista, but finally abandoned the undertaking and left the county.

First Attempt to Establish a County Fair
The first attempt to hold a county fair in Lincoln county was in 1880. Arrangements were made to hold the fair at Tyler. A few buildings of booths had been erected upon the vacant land just east of the village, and a race track laid out. Of course, the buildings were only temporary affairs. It was not expected by the promoters to do more than make a beginning. I think the fair was to have opened Friday, October 15th. Judge Weymouth of Marshall, was to have been the orator of the day, but the opening day found the October blizzard in full swing, and all thought of a fair was abandoned.

The first fair held in the county was in 1905 at Tyler. It is of interest to note that a week prior to the fair a strong wind storm wrecked the grandstand and stables, but the business men and farmers of the community showed their cooperative spirit by rebuilding in time for the fair to go on. The fair has been held every year since with the exception of 1918 – the year of the cyclone. Community and county interest can best be judged by the number of exhibits, a few hundred in 1905 to as many thousand in recent years.

By way of contrast, I will say, however, that in 1880 I do not think it would have been possible to have placed on exhibition a single specimen of domesticated fruit grown in Lincoln county. In 1905 the fruit display was certainly fine. Among those who were awarded premiums in the fruit department at the Lincoln County Fair in 1905, I will mention as follows: Apples, Wm. Dorn of Shaokatan, 2; Casper Larsen, 1; Peter Olsen, 1; Rasmus Black, 6; Jorgen Johansen, 2; L. Therkildsen, 2; Mrs. Fred Welsand, 2; K. K. Knudsen, 3; C. C Andersen, 2; J. A. Jacobsen, 2; J. C. Fredericksen, 1; Mathias Andersen, 3; Christ Utoft, 1, and Niels Nielsen, 2. Grapes and cherries: Rasmus Black, Matt Erschens and Christ Utoft received premiums. Plums: Rasmus Black, J. C. Andersen, K. K. Knudsen and Mathias Andersen.

Among those who made successful beginnings at fruit raising were Theodore Nordmeyer, Chas. Chester (the large orchard upon the Chester farm, one and one-half miles southwest of Lake Benton, was set out by M. E. Matthews in an early day, and is one of the earliest orchards, if not the first orchard set out within Lincoln county), Soren Sorensen, Hans Ries, Knud Lund, Chris H. Duus, Jorgen Johansen, John Brandt, John Cornelsen, Jens Krog, Claus Johnson, Carl Garmatz and W. J. Bruce, all within the central and southern part of the county at that time, and Mr. Bruce in the central part. (Note: One of the largest orchards in the county today is located on the George Herschberger farm in Ash Lake township.) The writer was unable to obtain any data as to fruit growing in the northern part of the county.

The first "1st Premium" at the county fair was won by John Donovan of Tyler on a peck of potatoes. Mr. Donovan has always been an enthusiastic worker in the interests of the fair and furthermore, is willing to give affidavit that he has never missed a day any year of the fair. Likewise, Mr. S. J. Sorensen of Tyler, has a very enviable record. He, and he alone, has been the first, last and only superintendent of the cattle department of the county fair since its inception in 1905. He is also the oldest director of the Fair Association at the present time.

Articles of incorporation of the Lincoln County Agricultural Society and Fair Association were filed with Register of Deeds J. P. Hagen, still in the business of farming at Hendricks, on the 24th day of August, in 1904. The contract for land was obtained from the Winona & St. Peter Railroad on March 12, 1905 and final settlement and deed were given on March 21, 1906. Officers of incorporation of the Association were L. C. Pedersen, president; H. Sykes, first vice president; George Christensen, second vice president; C. H. Kelson, secretary, and J. P. Jensen, treasurer. The first annual meeting of the Association was held in November, 1904. C. C. Andersen was elected as president and C. H. Brown, secretary. The first fair was held on September 20, 21 and 22, 1905.

County Extension Activities - County Extension Work and The 4H Club
By Lawrence Biever, Assistant County Agent
Source: Early History of Lincoln County; Compiled by A. E. Tasker, Lake Benton News Print (1936) transcribed by: Richard Ramos

Co-operative extension work in the field of agriculture got its start in Lincoln county in the year 1918. With the opening of active work in this particular field of endeavor, A. W. Malcolmson was chosen as the first County Agricultural Agent, serving in that capacity from February 1st, 1918 to January 1, 1920. Since that time five other good men had served to direct the destinies of the work in Lincoln county. They include O. Z. Remsberg, who served from January 1st 1920 to February 1st, 1922; A. A. Kosmoski, from February 1st 1922, to September 1, 1924; A. W. True, from Sept. 1, 1924 to March 1st, 1928; Fritz B. Peterson, from March 1, 1928 to January 1st, 1930, and the present County Agent, Mr. H. N. Kaldahl, who has taken care of the work in the county since January 1st, 1930.

The opening of Extension Work in Lincoln county in 1918 marked the beginning of 4H Club work. The Clubs at that time were organized by A. W. Malcolmson on a project basis, that is each project by itself, such as baby beef club members belonged to a club, sewing club members belonged to a sewing club. These clubs were usually organized on a community basis. The baby beef project was the first project introduced with thirteen members enrolled in 1919 and nine of the members, viz., William Norgaard, Lawrence Wogensen, Walter Wogensen, Leslie Fredericksen, Emma Hansen, Leland McDowell, Truman Johnson, Everend McDowell, and Thorvald Nielsen, finished the work. William Norgaard’s calf placed first at the County Fair held in September.

In 1920 the membership was boosted to 244 club members, enrolled in nine projects, namely, poultry, bread, pig, calf, corn, sewing, potato garden, and judging. No officers had been selected for the various clubs until in 1922 when the Ivanhoe Club elected William Jarczyna for president, and Norman Johnson, secretary. The Drammen Club elected Chas. Schultze, president, and Mae Johnson, secretary.

Truman Johnson owned the Grand Champion baby beef calf in 1920 and Leslie Fredericksen, Walter and Adolph Wogensen accompanied Truman to the Junior Livestock Show at South St. Paul to exhibit their calves. Gilbert Fox exhibited his first prize pig at the State Fair.

The quality of the calves had improved, so that in 1921, Thomas A. Kelly of Lake Benton exhibited the Junior Grand Champion Hereford at the state show. Thomas repeated again in 1922 and in 1923 he exhibited the reserve Champion of the State Show which entitled him


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