Early County History
EARLY HISTORY OF MARTIN COUNTY, MINNESOTA
Source: History of Martin County by Wm. H. Budd, published by The Independent, 1897, Fairmont, Minn.; transcribed by Mary Kay Krogman
In the spring of 1856 what is now called Martin county was a part of Brown and Faribault counties. One tier of townships on the east embracing the towns now called East Chain, Pleasant Prairie, Center Chain and Nashville, was part of Faribault county, all the rest was Brown county, the boundaries of which was the Iowa state line on the south to the Big Sioux or Missouri river in Dakota, thence along the western boundary by the Big Sioux or Missouri river to a point nearly west of the Minnesota river; thence east to the Minnesota river along the line of the Minnesota river until Blue Earth county was reached, the eastern boundary being Blue Earth and Faribault counties. Only a small portion of the present Martin county had been surveyed. In the summer and fall of 1855 wonderful tales were told about the south, and especially the southwest of Minnesota territory, by the soldiers of the regular army passing through the country from Fort Dodge, Iowa, to Fort Ridgley on the Minnesota river, and also the hunters and voyagers, and now and then some persons who accompanied the soldiers, and others who looked over the land in advance of settlement. They told of the many and beautiful lakes and streams, and rivers of clear pure water abounding with large quantities of fish of different kinds, and ducks, geese, swan and other water fowl. In the sloughs large numbers of musk rata, mink, beaver, otter and other fur-bearing animals, of the groves of timber on the shores of the lakes and streams where the deer, elk and buffalo could be seen feeding at their leisure, only disturbed by the red men who in the spring and autumn would spend some time there in hunting and fishing until the cold weather of the winter would drive them away and they would return to places more sheltered by timber, where some would raise corn and where they had stored some of their supplies of dried venison, fish and other dried meats. We would hear that there was somewhere between the Minnesota and Sioux rivers, a quarry of what was called the pipe stone, of which the Indians made pipes, and it was reported by persons who had been over the trail from one fort to the other that they passed through droves of buffalo, and large number of buffalo calves had been captured in the early spring at different times.
FIRST WHITE SETTLERS.
Calvin Tuttle and one Mr. Rickey were the first white settlers who came to this county. They came in March 1856, from near Fort Dodge, Iowa, and built the first house on Center Chain Lakes. There were three chains of lakes running nearly north and south and from four to six miles apart east and west. One was called East Chain, one Center Chain, and the other West Chain. Messrs. Tuttle and Rickey settled on Center Chain, near Clear Lake, in Silver Lake township, on land which we think is now owned by C. J. True. The house was made of logs, only one room about 12x14 feet in size and the chimney was built of stones and stick. About the same time Mr. Tuttle made a claim on what was called Tuttle's grove on West Chain Lakes, what is now called Tenhassen township. There was quite a good deal of timber on each place. Mr. Tuttle's wife and children came in May 1856, the first family to settle here. They had seven children-three boys (two men grown), and four daughters (two women grown). Mr. Tuttle proved to be a speculator in claims, and a good specimen, who bought and sold several claims before he went away. He planted the first corn raised. This was on West Chain Lakes, and was damaged by frost on the 9th of September, 1856.
In the fall of 1856 there was an addition to the settlement in the persons of Thomas Cane and Samuel Dorning, who settled near Mr. Tuttle. They only came in time to cut some hay and put up a small house for winter. There was a young German who stayed part of the winter of 1856-7 with Mr. Tuttle.
The first settlement on East Chain lakes was made on section 1, Silver Lake township, somewhere near the last of May or the first of June by Israel Mead, Mr. Rogers and A. A. Wilber, a brother of Mr. Wilber coming in the fall. They settled on property now owned by Mr. Rubie and Mr. Hill on East Chain Lakes. Mr. Mead and Mr. Rogers went back to Pennsylvania. Mr. Rogers did not come back; Mr. Mead came back with his family late in the fall. Mr. Cowing, wife and one child and Isaac Lewis, a single man, came back with Mr. Mead and removed into the house Mr. Rodgers had built.
In the early part of June, 1856, Mr. Geo. Britts with his wife and two children, Mr. Gates and Wm. Hendricks settled on Center Chain Lakes and took claims near the property now owned by Mr. Rice and planted some corn and sowed some rutabagas, but did not raise much corn. In the month of July, 1856, Mr. Britt's settlement was strengthened by Rev. J. O. Hudson and wife and five children; Seeley Shaver, wife and four children; A. W. Young, wife and two children and T. B. Lily and wife. They bought out Tuttle and Rickey's claim and moved into the house first built in the county by them and obtained their claim to quite a good deal of timber. It was reported that they paid a good large amount for this claim right. They brought quite a number of head of cattle with them and built a comfortable log house.
About the first of July of this year, Mr. E. B. Hall took a claim on section 20 and 17, Fairmont township, land now owned by Mr. Alton and Mr. Ott. Mr. Church took a claim on section 8 and 17, land which is now in corporate limits of Fairmont. In July Wm. Budd bought the claim of Church. Mr. Budd and Mr. Hall were single men. They did some breaking and sowed turnips for the first crop. They built for their use a small house and put up hay and built stables for their cattle and tried to make things comfortable for the winter. It was while doing the breaking that they broke their plow and Mr. Budd was obliged to go to Mankato, a distance of about sixty miles the way they were obliged to go then, to get it repaired.
There was a settlement on the Des Moines river of a number of families in September. The settlement was at or near the town site of the present village of Jackson. It was called Springfield. When the writer made a visit there with his neighbor, Mr. Hall, there were no settlers between what is now Fairmont and Jackson. He was acquainted with the Wood brother's a Mr. Thomas and a Mr. Sower, and family, and some of the boys who lived on the town site, whose names we do not remember, nor the names of the other parties living, there. A family by the name of Thomas lived about a mile south of the town and had quite a large house which was used by the settlers for protection in the spring of 1857, at the time of the Spirit Lake and Jackson massacre.
We stayed there a number of days. There were no roads or trails leading from there, and we came back by the way of Tuttle's grove, now Tenhassen, passing through the towns now called Lake Fremont, Lake Belt and Tenhassen. The day was very warm, and when we got to Clear Lake in Lake Belt township our cattle took to deep water and left us in a bad condition, and we had to put the moral persuader to considerable use before they could be induced to leave the cooling bosom of the lake. Our supplies got soaked with water and you can imagine our condition. We spent the evening with Mr. Tuttle, who owned the claim where the large timber now is at Tenhassen, and had quite a pleasant visit with him. That night, the 9th of September, there was a frost which killed the sod corn and vegetables. We were obliged, on account of there being no bridges, to go around the south end of Lake Okamanpedan into Iowa and home by that route.
There was hardly anything raised that year, 1856, and we were obliged to go to the older settlement for supplies to live on during the winter. The writer went down to Garden City and dug potatoes. He had every seventh bushel for digging and putting in pits, there were plenty of ducks, fish and geese, which were procured and laid by for winter. Some of the settlers went quite early in the fall after provision and got back before there was much snow. Some did not get back any further than three or four miles this side of Algona, Iowa, where there lived a settler by the name of Seeley. There was a heavy snow fall the latter part of November, and the teams out with wagons had to lay by and could not travel. About the 10th of December another party who had made, some sleds started out and got nearly to Lime Creek settlement near Forest City, Iowa. This party was caught in a blizzard about the 12th of December, which lasted 64 hours. After the snow there came a rain which made a sharp crust. Some of the cattle could not be brought back until the later part of April or May following. Some of them were out several days before they could be brought to settlement and shelter, with not much to eat for nine days, one yoke of them dying from exposure. Mr. E. B. Hall and Gilbert McClure were instrumental in saving all the stock. The road had to be broken through the snow in order to get them to a settlement. This was one of the worst storms of the winter, the snow being very deep. In February some of the settlers went to help move these oxen further east where feed could be procured for them. As the snow was left in ridges and crusted, all provisions had to be brought on hand sleds long distances. These sleds had to be made with long runners in order to hold the loads up on the crust. A few days before Christmas the writer, with Mr. Cain and Mr. Tuttle, went from West Chain Lakes to Centre Chain, where they killed a small beef, hung three quarters in a tree and took one quarter and the hide, tied a long rope to it and dragged it to Mr. Tuttle's house. The reason this had to be done was that the snow would average from three to five, and in some places ten feet deep, and we had to keep some distance apart as the snow would not hold if we were all close together. The winter of 1856-57 was very severe and cold, with several very bad snow storms; snow three or four feet deep with a hard crust. Provisions were very scarce. When corn could be obtained it was ground in hand mills. Potatoes and salt were great luxuries when they could be procured. People had to resort to several things as substitutes for coffee.
Twenty men, nine women and twenty-three children comprised the number that spent the winter in what is now Martin County.
There was not much to amuse the settlers except working hard to get wood to keep warm, get something to eat and keep a road open to their barns and hay for their cattle. For these families that came late in the fall from thickly settled places in the east it was a long weary winter. There were no roads, the snow in places would hold up a person part of the time and in other places they would go out of sight. Snowshoes or other substitutes had to be used. All correspondence was carried on by going from one settlement to the other on snow shoes, etc., etc. There were no horses in the county. In March it was better to get around, as the snow would then hold up some.
If the present settlers will think of this county as it was then, with no roads, no provisions, no means of communication, with a very severe, cold winter, they can imagine some of the hardships families then had to endure.
It was the last of March or the first of April before the teams that went out for supplies could get back and then only by wading through water and slush , in some places quite deep.
About the latter part of the month of March. 1857, the chief Inkpadutah, with his band of Indians, made an attack on the settlement of Spirit Lake. At the time of the attack some of the men were away after provisions. After killing 42 persons, and taking 4 women prisoners, (Mrs. M. A. Marble, Mrs. Noble, Mrs. Thatcher and Miss Gardner), they moved from Spirit Lake, taking their prisoners with them, and went into camp on Heron Lake. Not satisfied with the plunder, cruelties and murders they had committed, they left a part of their camp, including the women and children and prisoners, at Heron Lake with guards, and a portion of them came back to Springfield, now Jackson. Some of the settlers at Springfield, not liking the way they acted, for their own safety took quarters in a log house of the town, owned by Mr. Thomas. The Indians made an attack on Springfield and killed eight persons. Previous to this attack a party called Dutch Charlie had taken the news of the massacre at Spirit Lake to Ft. Rigley, and asked for soldiers to be sent for the protection of the settlers at Springfield. The settlers were on the lookout for the soldiers and were surprised by the Indians in this way. As Dutch Charlie wore a blanket, so did Inkpadutah and his Indians. The settlers seeing some parties with blankets thought they were Dutch Charlie with some soldiers returning. They went out to see and were fired on from ambush in the brush behind a knoll. These people were besieged in the house several days, and were finally released by some troops from Ft. Ridgley. The troops did not kill any Indians as they did not pursue them in the deep snow and slush. The settlers remaining living at Springfield went back to the settlement near Algona and Fort Dodge. The women and children as well as men had to wade in the snow and slush, in some places waist deep, and suffered greatly from exposure. Report says that at that time there were several camps of Indians around the lakes in different places, pretending to trap and hunt some. When some of the settlers from Springfield got to Algona, some of the people at that place knowing of the settlement at Tuttle's Grove, and acquainted with some of the people, raised a company of six men, well-armed to investigate into the state of affairs with the settlers at Chain Lakes. They visited the different settlements and gave Mr. Indian an invitation to go back to his reservation, one of them being near Mankato, called Winnebago agency; the other was on the upper Minnesota River, called the Sioux agency. There was then some open water around the lakes, at the time the Indians left for their reservation.
On hearing of the depredations done at Spirit Lake and Springfield the settlers concluded to build a log house for a fort, which they did, of six equal sides large enough to hold all the settlers when needed. This building was built on the claim of Mr. George Britts and was called Fort Britt. This land is now owned by Dr. Rice. This fort was not used by the settlers at the time of this massacre in the spring, but was prepared and in condition to be used when needed. This building was erected on the claim of Mr. George Britts and was called Fort Britt. This land is now owned by Dr. Rice. This fort was not used by the settlers at the time of this massacre in the spring, but was prepared and in condition to be used when needed. The first time it was used by the settlers was later in the season, a mention of which will be made later on.
Hon. Charles E. Flandrau, agent for the Sioux of the Mississippi, arrived in this city last evening, from the Sioux Agency, on the steamer Minnesota, accompanied by Mrs. Margaret Ann Marble, one of the women taken prisoner by the Indians, at Spirit Lake, Iowa, in March last, and whose release from & captivity has been briefly noted in our paper. From Mr. Flandrau we learn some very interesting facts connected with the captivity of Mrs. Marble and her associates.
Mrs. Marble states that on the 13th of March last, a party of Indians came to the residence of her husband at Spirit Lake, Iowa, murdered him, and took her off as a prisoner to their camp, in the vicinity of the lake. At the camp she found a Mrs. Thatcher, a Mrs. Noble and a Miss Gardner, all of whom had been taken prisoner by the Indians, in their attack on the settlers at the lake. Mrs. Thatcher's husband had escaped being killed, by a temporary absence from home, as, we believe, had Mrs. Nobles', but the entire family of Miss Gardner had been murdered.
The Indians broke up their camp at Spirit Lake immediately, and proceeded to Heron Lake, a distance of about twenty-five miles, where they camped, and left their squaws and prisoners, and started on an expedition, Mrs. Marble supposes, to the Des Moines, at Springfield, where they committed more murders. They returned to the camp at Heron Lake in about ten days, with a large lot of powder, dry goods, guns, etc., all of which had probably been secured in their attack on Springfield. On the next day after their return, the Indians broke up their camp, and started westward. They were on the march every day for upwards of a month, and only rested at Skunk Lake, west of the Big Sioux river, and about one hundred and twenty-five miles northwest of Spirit Lake. Mrs. Marble, estimated the distance traveled at four or five hundred miles, probably owing to the torturous course pursued by the Indians, to avoid pursuit. She thinks they arrived at Skunk Lake about the first of May. Here they remained five days, when the fortunate circumstances transpired which resulted in the release of Mrs. Marble from captivity.
In relation to the trials and sufferings of the unfortunate females during the journey to Skunk Lake, Mrs. Marble's narrative is deeply interesting, and calculated to thrill the heart of the most indifferent with feelings of horror, indignation and desire for justice, if not revenge, upon the cowardly murderers.
Immediately on starting from Heron Lake, Mrs. Marble states that herself and associates were forced to carry heavy packs, and performed the most degrading and menial services in the camp. She says that the pack she was compelled to carry consisted of two bags of shot, each weighing twenty-five pounds, and a lot of camp furniture, increasing the weight of the sack to one hundred pounds. On top of this heavy load, which this weak, ill-used and distracted woman was forced to carry, was placed the additional weight of an Indian urchin of some three or four years of age. The snow was very deep; the prisoners were but thinly clad, and most of the time suffering from hunger. The warm clothing they had on them when they were made prisoners was taken from them by the squaws, and in its place they received but a scanty supply, ill suited to the weather and the exposure they were forced to undergo. At times the unfortunate captive would fall to the ground, exhausted, and utterly unable to proceed further. Then the inhuman wretches would place a muzzle of a loaded gun at her head and threaten her with instant death unless she would immediately continue her weary march. When a horse stolen at the settlement would die or be killed by the Indians for food, the prisoners would be allowed to recruit their exhausted strength by a supply of horse flesh, but with these exceptions they suffered greatly from a want of food and were glad to snatch up the gones thrown away by the Indians after their repast. Mrs. Marble states that they were often forced to eat the wing feathers plucked from the ducks shot by the Indians, and shriveled before the fire to save themselves from starvation.
When the Indians would encamp for the night the captives were compelled to carry wood and water, build fires, put up the tepes, etc. They were, however, never allowed to prepare the food. At first they very naturally rebelled at the treatment they received, but the Indians beat them with clubs into submission to their orders. Mrs. Marble states that she soon discovered that the only way to secure herself from ill treatment was to perform the duties assigned her with cheerfulness and alacrity. Herself, Mrs. Noble and Miss Gardner pursued this course and were treated more kindly than their associate, Mrs. Thatcher, who was in delicate health and utterly unable to do the amount of work required of her. This led to the most tragic horrible occurence when the party crossed the Big Sioux.
They arrived at this stream about fifteen days after leaving Heron Lake. The Indians cut down several trees on each side of the river, and thus made a bridge across it. When Mrs. Thatcher attempted to cross she was thrown into the river; she succeeded in swimming to within a short distance of the opposite side when one of the Indians deliberately shot her through the head killing her instantly. The body of the unfortunate woman was left floating in the stream. Her death was hailed by the Indian women with loud shouts of joy and exultation. The feelings of the surviving prisoners at this horrible murder cannot be imagined. They beheld in Mrs. Thatcher's death the fate reserved for them, when overpowered by fatigue they would be unable to proceed.
About five days after the party reached Skunk Lake, two Lac-qui-Parle Indians, on their spring hunt, made their appearance at the camp of Inkpadutah's band. They were well received by the chief and his followers. A feast followed, at which the Indians related their exploits at Spirit Lake, boasted on the murders they had committed, the goods they had stolen, etc.
The Lac-qui-Parle Indians remained in the camp all night, keeping a very sharp outlook, they informed Mr. Flandrau, on the movements of Inkpadutah, who, they apprehended, would attempt violence. The next morning, having previously learned that the Indians had three white women in the camp, they made a proposition to purchase one of the captives. After considerable negotiation, Inkpadutah's band consented to part with Mrs.Marble in consideration of receiving one gun, a lot of blankets, a keg of powder, and a small supply of Indian trinkets. The two Indians immediately started homeward with Mrs. Marble, and arrived at Lac-qui-Parle on the 20th of May. On the journey, occupying ten days, they treated Mrs. M. with great kindness, furnishing her with warm clothing, carried her over streams and provided her with food.
On arriving at Lac-qui-Parle, the two Indians, who are brothers, and known as Grey Foot and Roaring Cloud, placed Mrs. M. in their father's lodge, she was treated with equal consideration and kindness. Here she remained until Messrs. Williamson and Riggs, missionaries, arrived, and removed her to the Agency, at Yellow Medicine. After a few days rest, with the families at the Agency and Fort Ridgley, she started for St. Paul, in company with Mr. Flandrau, and arrived at the Fuller House last evening.
Mrs. Marble is about twenty-five years of age; of medium size, and very pleasant looking. She is a native of Drake county, Ohio, and moved to Michigan about ten years ago, she has been twice married. Her first husband's name was Phips. After his death, she married Mr. Marble, with whom she removed to Linn county, Iowa, and ultimately to Spirit Lake, in Dickinson county. Mrs. M. is in a very destitute condition. Her husband has been murdered and as to whether her parents are alive or not she is ignorant. We trust those who are blessed with a supply of this world's goods will contribute liberally in aid of this unfortunate woman. The privations she has undergone, and her present destitute condition, commend her to the consideration of the benevolent. Any money forwarded to her address at the Fuller House, will reach the proper destination.
Mr. Flandrau has adopted the most energetic means to secure the release of Mrs. Nobles and Miss Gardiner. On the 23d he dispatched a party of trusty Indians to Skunk Lake, with four horses and a wagon, and provided them with everything necessary to secure the release of the remaining captives by ranson. The Indians would reach Inkpadutah's camp in about four days.
Roaring Cloud and Grey Eagle report the band of lnkpadutah to number about fifteen lodges. The Indians are well armed, each of them possessing a revolver, rifle, etc.
This year there were additions to and departures from some of the settlements. Israel Mead and Mr Cowing with their families moved away, while B. C. Hinkly and Isaac Lewis moved in. This left, in what is now Fairmont township, only four persons, and they all single men. This was called the bachelor settlement.
In May or June there was a settlement started on Elm Creek, what is now Rutland and Westford townships. Messrs. Geo. S and H. H. Fowler, Henry Martin, G. W. Whittelsey, William Sleepier, Mr. Harrison, Philo Morse and Mr. Day, were the first to settle here. B. C. Hinkley also took a claim in Rutland township, and a man by the name of Harrison took a claim on land now owned by Thomas Allen in Center Creek township. There were no women with the settlers the first year. Some of them built quite comfortable log houses, but the majority of them put up claim shanties, and in the fall left for the East, proved up on their land and did not come back (though some did come back in the spring of 1858). In June there were some additions wo what is now Fairmont by three families, who made claims, but left the latter part of July on account of the reports of the Indian depredations. There were also some additions to the settlement at East Chain by the arrival of Mr. Older and brother, and Alfred Wilber, who returned with his wife and her sister. In the Center Chain neighborhood Dr. Shafer came and took the claim where the Center Chain postoffice is now. West Chain also had a new arrival in the person of Mr. Campbell.
On the 27th of July or thereabouts some of the settlers left the country and some went into the fort for safety, owing to an alarm caused by an article published in the Mankato Independent, July 25th, 1857, which is here inserted:
Correspondence of the Pioneer and Democrat.
SIOUX AGENCY, M. T.
July 17, 1857.
Our relations with the Sioux Indians have never worn such an ominous aspect as at this moment. Step by step have the negotiations assumed a belligerent character, until now, there is no alternative but fight. The Superintendent (Cullen) has taken the decisive ground that the Sioux nation must aid in the capture and surrender the of murderer, Inkpadutah, and his party to the civil authorities, in view of the Article of the Treaty of 1861, which guarantees eternal peace and friendship between the contracting parties. At first the Indians appeared to regard the surrender or destruction of Inkpadutah as a matter of duty; next they would act in connection with the troops; and now they deny altogether the obligation to do anything in the matter. Thus stand the parties. The Superintendent, acting under explicit instructions, with ample testimony that the Sissetons, a portion of the Yanktons, and possible some of the Mauwekton Indians, sympathize with the spirit Lake murderers, while they on their part, throw themselves upon treaty stipulations, as they interpret them, and ignore entirely the Inkpadutah party.
Yellow Medicine is not the great spot of interest. We left there day before yesterday, at 3 o'clock p. m. Then all was quiet, the Superintendent awaiting the arrival of the Lower Sioux who were going up to hold a grand union council, and decide therein, what they should do towards the capture of Iukpadutuh. On our way here, we met the lndians going up in considerable numbers, and they are still moving that way; their wives and children, with few exceptions, remain here.
Yesterday morning the rumor of the stabbing of a soldier, by an Indian of the Coleem (Keposia) Band reached us. These are the circumstances: At dusk, in the evening of Thursday, 15th inst. the soldier went to the river, near the improvement, for water and while quietly and unsuspectingly passed by an Indian, received a stab in the back. We have not learned the name of the wounded man; it was rumored that he was mortally wounded, but by advices from there this morning, we learn that he still lives. The Indian sought the protection, at the Sisseton camp. Major Sherman sent, an officer and guard to demand his surrender which was not only peremptorily refused, but a large number of Indians paraded and leveled their guns upon them. The officer was not supported strongly enough to insist upon his surrender. He reported to Major Sherman, who immediately put his battery in motion to fire upon them. The Indians sent a deputation begging him to give them till morning and that they would give him up the culprit. The lateness of the hour and the desire, if possible, to avoid a collision induced the Major to grant the time. Later advices say that the Indian was not given up at 4 o'clock a. m. this day.
There are now at Yellow Medicine some 165 men, Major Sherman with his battery, one company of the 10th Infantry, and Major Patten and Captain Sully of the 2d Infantry, with their commands. Nothing could be more opportune than the arrival of the division of the 2d Infantry, four companies, under Col. Abercrombie. We learn that, then, the Colonel awaiting an express, will, if necessary, proceed to Yellow Medicine with all the available force at his command, perhaps one hundred men, and garrison the Fort with citizen soldiers.
The Indians now at Yellow Medicine number 5,000 at a low estimate.
The treaty Indians, at that Agency, count 4,250. We think 750 is rather a low estimate for the addition from the plains. In addition 200 lodges of Cut-heads are reported to be at Lac-qui-parle,and on their way down. This would collect a force of 6,500; and with the Yanktons, who have just left for the plains, 7,000 to 8,000. We have still some 2,500 Mauwakantons, or Lower Sioux; so we would have to count at least 10,000 Indians. In case of a war, we may or may not count all those as enemies. We are not disposed to place much reliance upon the only branch of the family from whom we could expect any aid - that is the Lower Sioux. They are reported - those who went up - to be on this side of the Yellow Medicine river. All the other Indians, and our troops, are on the other side of the river. They won't mix with the others, and maintain now, if not an attitude of friendship to us, at least one of indifference in the coming struggle.
Here, then, are the figures, and you and the people of the Territory will see and judge what is best to be done:
Should a war break out, of which there are too many chances, there will be 19,000 Indians - say 2,000 fighting men - against 200 troops; or ten to one.
We do not wish to alarm, but to suggest that the possibility of an Indian war be considered, and that provision be made to meet it and close it up before winter sets in.
On August 1st there was an addition, to the settlement on Center Chain Lakes by the arrival of John R. Gile and wife, Isaac Winchet and Geo. W. Mattox, and on West Chain Lakes the number in the settlement was increased by Wm. Z. Clayton and Geo. Memam.
At a public meeting of the citizens of this section of the county it was decided to make the fort six logs higher and cover the sides and roof with sod. After the fort was completed most of the settlers returned to their claims.
Before leaving the fort the following agreement was made:
Fort BRITT, August 8, 1857.
We the undersigned, claimants and citizens of Chain Lakes, Brown County, Minnesota Territory, feel to join together for each other's mutual assistance towards sustaining our just rights, surrounded, as we are, even by circumstances the most critical for ought we know; feel that it is our bounden duty to mutually pledge our honors as Americans to be true to each other whether present or absent as to our claims, that we will endeavor, In case of absence, of one or any of the party, to sustain their rights against any other person or persons, and shall use our utmost endeavor to avoid any and all illegal proceedings that would have a deleterious effect upon the well-being of this vicinity,
Jno. B. Gile, Geo. Mattoz, Isaac Winchett, E. B. Hall, Benson C. Hinke, A. Wilber, J. C. Hudson, William Hendricks, Isaac Lewis, Jas. S. Hudson, W, Z. Clayton, Geo. G. Britts, Gilbert Shafer, Wm. H. Budd, Columbus Tuttle. A. W. Young, Thos. A. Cain, Wm. S. Campbell, Geo. Tuttle, Samuel Dorning, Geo. Merriam.
After being at home a few days word was sent us that Mr. Britts, and the men with him in the fort, had some suspicion of Indians, so they searched the woods near the fort, and in doing so Mr. Britts was shot in the left side, a slight flesh wound being inflicted.
He saw an Indian and snapped his rifle at him but missed fire. He then fired his revolver and the Indian fell.
Mr. Britts being afraid of ambush retreated back a little, when he met the men who went out with him and they all returned to the fort. Dispatches were sent out to inform the settlers, most of whom reached the fort in a short time. We then organized ourselves into a company for defense and elected Geo. Britts captain and Wm. H. Budd lieutenant. August 9th six men came from Blue Earth City, Messrs. Young, Lee, Jellett, Clark, Bowen and Kiester. the latter for a number of years state senator and judge of probate of Faribault county. These men stayed all night and took turn on guard. August 10th Capt. Btitts and as many men as could be spared from the fort without leaving it unguarded, went into the woods to scout and look for Indians and try to find the Indian shot by Mr. Britts. They could not find him but did find blood on the leaves near the place where he fell and along a trail leading to the lake. They also found a small tepe, but after a thorough search through the woods found no Indians. After being housed up at the fort for a few weeks, fighting mosquitoes and keeping a sharp lookout for the dusky savage, some of the men, with their families, returned to their claims, others left for the East, while a few remained in the fort. Those who belonged to the bachelor settlement of Fairmont returned to their homes without getting any great prizes, to commence the work of waiting for times to change.
There were some claims taken in Center Creek township by A. Parks, Chas. Parks and sons, and Mr. Meeder, A. N. Fancher and Thos. Allen also took claims in this township in the spring of 1858. In Nashville a settlement was made by Ira Clenich and some others in 1859 and 1860.
In these early times of the first settlements of Minnesota there were not many ways in which one could earn money, and it would seem that there would not be many outlets for money, still provisions had to be bought. When the writer came to Minnesota he had $1200. When he had obtained provisions and supplies for the first year's settlement and got his cattle back from where they had been blockaded in Iowa, the sum total of his possessions in money was $2.50. We presume this was largely the case with all the other settlers, and accounts, with the Indians scares, for so many of them leaving. Any observer of the settlement of new countries knows that the first settlers, those who pave the way for developments, are either compelled to leave on account of misfortune, lack of means of support, and in most instances lose what little property they possessed.
In the fall of 1857 Isaac Lewis and B. C. Hinkle built a house in Fairmont. Mrs. A. W. Young and Mrs. Jno. Giles were the first white women to visit the bachelor settlement, coming from Fort Britt. Mrs. Giles' nickname was "Dick" and this name was given to the lake upon which her husband took a claim.
The first wedding in Martin county was on the 24th day of September, 1857 at the house of Calvin Tuttle (Tenhassen) the contracting parties being Lousia Tuttle and W. S. Campbell, the ceremony being preformed by J C. Hudson. The writer was there and partook of the wedding cake. There were no liquid refreshments except cold water, no orchestra or bridal procession but the occasion was enjoyed by all who attended.
The first white child born in the county was about a year previous to this time, in the fall of 1856. A daughter was born to Mr. and Mrs. Geo. Britts, and was named Mary Virginia Britts. In the fall of 1857 Mr. George Britts and family left the country and did not return, saying they had had enough of frontier life. Mr. Seely Shafer and family left for Wisconsin and were gone nearly two years before they came back. Nearly two-thirds of the settlers left the county in the fall of 1857, many of whom never returned.
By the act of the territorial legislation in 1857 this county was separated from Brown and Faribault counties and described by towns and ranges, all being taken from Brown county with the exception of a tier of towns on the east.
In October, 1857, the. north half of section 8, town 102, range 30, was surveyed for a town site by the Des Moines and Watonwan Land Company, and was called Fairmount (afterwards by petition changed to Fairmont). The same company had located several town sites for speculative purposes, the law then allowing parties who wanted to establish town sites to hold a section of land by having a house built on each quarter section. This house was to represent store, blacksmith shop, hotel and carpenter shop. This company wanted some houses built and tried to negotiate with the writer for building the same. Having heard before of town site speculators we agreed with them that we would build one house, and if that was paid for we would build the others. E. B. Hall, A. L. Sharps and myself built the first house on the town site. The building of this house was not paid for, and there were no more built. This company surveyed and made a plat of Fairmont, which has since been copied by Deputy Surveyor Sawyer, but was void as they never required any title to the land. As to subsequent plats we will speak of them in due order.
In the fall of 1857 Gov. S. Medary appointed I. S. Fisher, A. L. Sharpe and Wm. H. Budd as commissioners to organize the county of Martin and locate the county seat. These parties met December 16th, 1857, and organized the county and established the county seat of Martin County at Fairmont. I. S. Fisher was made chairman of the board of commissioners, E. Cook Smith register of deeds and clerk of the board of county commissioners, B. C. Hinkle, treasurer; Isaac A. Lewis, sheriff. There were no appointments made of probate judge or clerk of court. The commissioners had their first meeting January 4th, 1858, when the completed the list of officers, but most of them failed to qualify, salaries too small for an object, no salaries being paid for the first two years.
The first election held in the county was held at Fairmont, April 15, 1858. The question of the credit for railroad bonds was voted on at the time. In order that our new settlers may know what the railroad bonds were, let them ask those who were here ten years ago. The judges of election were I. S. Fisher, A. L. Sharpe and Wm. H. Budd. Clerks of election, I. A. Lewis and B. C. Hinkle. There were seventeen votes cast at this election, but lo, when these returns reached the capital at St. Paul, and after passing through the different hands at that place, they were credited as 1,700. The voting of these railroad bonds nearly bankrupted the treasury and no railroads resulted. Later settlers will remember them as the Seely-Chamberlain and other railroad bonds.
At the meeting of the commissioners April 24, 1858, petitions were received and granted establishing three election districts, the first election district consisting of what is now the towns of East Chain, Silver Lake, Tenhassen, Lake Belt and Lake Fremont. The second consisted of the towns of Pleasant Prairie, Fairmont, Rolling Green, Manyaska and Jay and the south half of Center Creek, Rutland, Fox Lake, Fraser and Elm Creek. The third consister of the north half of the towns above mentioned, also the towns of Nashville, Westford, Waverly, Galena and Cedarville. The judges of election appointed for the first district were, A. Wilber, A. W. Young and W. S. Campbell, and the meeting was held at Fort Britt. The records are lost as to who were appointed in the second and third districts. My recollection is that there were no elections held in the third district as there were not enough settlers.
The first settlement made in what is now Fox Lake and Elm Creek was made by Lewis, James and Andrew Tweed, three brothers, in the spring of 1858, two of them married. One of them lived on the north side of Fox Lake, and two of them on Elm Creek. Two brothers by the name of Hanson had claims on Twin Lakes, one of them married. These people were all Norwegians, They lived there till the spring of 1863. James and Louis Tweed came to Fairmont and are still living in the township of Fairmont.
In February, 1858, a bridge was built across the inlet of Lake Okomanpedan. The timber for this bridge was furnished by Calvin Tuttle and sons. It had to be hewn and framed, the plank being split timber. When the timber was all framed some of the Center Creek people came to the raising of the bridge, which was 160 feet long. We think that we were there about two weeks and helped frame it. We thought at the time that we had done something for the good of the public.
The year 1858 was a year of hard times in the older settlements, but brought more settlers to this county, in what is now Waverly, Rutland and Westford townships. Mr. H. H. Fowler returned with his family, Mr. Geo. S. Fowler also returned with them. Philo Morse, W. W. Carrington, F. Adams and S. H. Parker (single men), also came. John W. Sleepier and family, and some others settled along the banks of Center Creek near Winnebago. Mr. A. C. Dewey and wife, Wm. Johnson and family, Isaac Johnson and family, Chas. Johnson (single) and A. F. H. Brigham and Mr. Nichols (both single), settled in Fairmount. Dr. Shafer returned to Center Chain Lakes with his wife and sister. There were also some new settlers at Tuttle's Grove, Tenhassen, and A. N. Fancher settled at Center Creek. There was also in this year a settlement of four or five single men in the towns of Galena and Cedar.
In the spring of 1858 some of the men who had taken claims the year before came back and staid long enough to pre-empt their claims, others did not return, abandoning their claims entirely. Those who were here went to work and put in corn, potatoes, beans, rutabagas, plenty of meIons and carrots, large quantities squash and "garden truck," all of which came very good, for we had learned the lesson that we must work or the ship must sink.
In May 1858 Minnesota was admitted into the union and became the thirty second state.
There was a very fair crop raised in 1858 by those who planted, but a large amount of damage was done to the corn by the black birds.
In the fall the first post office in the county was established at Fairmont. W.H. Budd was appointed postmaster, and took the oath of office at Winnebago City October 9,1858. The first mail was brought by Andrew C. Dunn and a Mr. Sherlock. Not long since. Mr. Dunn, speaking of the early days of Fairmont, said that he did not think the landlord at Fairmont at that time set a very good table. For bread the landlord set his man "Friday" to grind corn on a piece of stovepipe that had holes in it like a grater. Some of it was grated coarse and some of it left almost whole, but it was the only way to make bread in those times. This was before the time of baking powders.
In making the first trip with the mail Mr. Sherlock lost the mail sack in the Blue Earth River, and that trip was lost, unless it was that the distribution of the mail in the river notified the fish to come up, for there was high water the next spring and plenty of fish came up the river to the lakes.
The first death in the county was the death of Mr. Nichols, who was killed by the falling of a tree in the fall of 1858, on the land now owned by Mr. Shigley.
On the first day of December Benson C. Hinkle was given the contract to carry the mail from Winnebago City to Fairmont once a week, and took the oath of office as mail carrier before Wm. H. Budd, justice of the peace.
September and October of 1858 were very wet months. Lakes and streams were high, and we could make but slow progress in traveling. Crops had to be watched constantly to keep the blackbirds from destroying them, more especially the corn crop.
Maj. Sherman, afterward Gen. Sherman, then commander of a four-gun battery, with six horses on each gun, came through Fairmont with his command from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, on his way to Fort Ridgley, on the Minnesota River. He was obliged to come this way on account of the high water on low lands west, and better roads this way, and thinking he could get better sustenance for his command in the way of grain and provisions. He did some work on the bridge at Tuttle's Grove in order to move his artillery across. He had sixty-four mule teams and eighty head of horses. They camped near Mr. Ott's house in Fairmont township. They got corn in the shock of Mr. Hall to feed for the night. The writer sold him 80 bushels of corn at 75 cents per bushel. This was in the fall of 1858. While in camp here a child of one of the families connected with the battalion died.
The route from here to Fort Ridgley was down Lake Avenue, across the outlet of the lakes near where the railroad bridge now is, then northwest across Lily Creek, west to Center Creek, then north through Rutland township, taking a northeastern course and crossing the lakes between Twin Lakes and Luke Charlotte, above where the county poor farm now is, where the lakes divide, the water north of the ridge running into Elm Creek and south into Center Creek. The command followed the lakes on the east side to Elm Creek, where the Fowler settlement was and still is, thence north by way of Perch Creek, east of Madelia, between the latter place and Butterfield's mill. They were obliged to take this route on account of high water. The direct route from Fort Dodge, Iowa, to Fort Ridgley ran through the towns of Lake Belt, Manyaska, and Cedar, by way of Cedar Lake, but as above stated, this route could not then be taken on account of high water. These were the first troops to pass through Fairmont after the settlement was made. Previous to that time Lieutenant Albert Lea, after whom the thriving little city in Freeborn county is named, passed through going west on an exploring expedition.
Also Gen. Fremont with his command had gone through this country, and the name of some of his men can now be seen cut in the rocks at Pipestone.
The fall and winter of 1858-9 was not very cold, and not much snow fell, enough, however, to make some sleighing, but it was not deep. The lakes and creeks were very high.
There was a boat built here, the lumber of which it was made was sawed by a whip-saw. If our readers do not know what that is let them inquire of Webster a dictionary. That was the only kind of saw mill in this part of the country at that time. The boat was built by Isaac Johnson, W. H. Budd and some others. It left here in April 1859, and went east by the following route: From Center Creek to the Blue Earth river, down the Blue Earth river to the Minnesota, from the Minnesota to the Mississippi. F. H. Brigham, A. L. Sharpe and Sam Dorning were the passengers, and they took their outfit with them. The writer heard from them after they reached St. Paul and La Crosse.
The following is a copy of the document issued by the executive office, giving us legal authority to constitute election districts, which had been previously made, in advance of the authority received from the governor:
State Of Minnesota, Executive Office, St. Paul.
October 28, 1858.
Messrs. Benson C. Hinkle and Henry H. Fowler, of Martin County, Minn,:
Gentlemen: - You are hereby appointed commissioners to divide the county into towns in conjunction with William H. Budd, heretofore appointed, under provisions of the act to provide for township organizations.
HENRY H. SIBLEY, Governor
By Francis Basin, Sec'y of State. [State Seal.]
February 8, 1859, the commissioners met at Fairmont and constituted three election districts, comprising the territory heretofore mentioned. The southern district, District No. 1, was called Nevada; District No. 2 Fairmont; District No. 3, the northern, was called Waverly.
There were some additions to the settlements in 1859, but very few. Andrew Everett and family settled near Fort Britt, Henry Pratt and family settled in Fairmont at East Chain Lakes, as also did Burion Rowley. This year Mr. A. Wilber built a dam at East Chain Lakes, and a mill was built there, later. The crops were quite good this year; corn, potatoes and "garden truck," and some wheat was raised on Elm and Center Creeks.
April 26, 1859. another wedding occurred in the County of Martin, the contracting parties being DeWitt Older and Miss Elizabeth M. Clark, who was a sister of Mrs. Wilber of East Chain. They were married at the residence of Gilbert Shafer, at Center Chain, Rev. J. C. Hudson officiating.
In the spring of 1859 the state passed a law that the chairman of the town supervisors should act in place of the old county commissioners for the transacting of county business. Andrew Everett was chairman of the board in Nevada precinct, W. H. Budd in Fairmont precinct and John W. Sleepier in Waverly precinct. An assessment was made in June of this year on the property in the different precincts, and was the first ever made in the county. The spring of 1859 was rather a cold season, the 4th of July being so cold that fires were needed.
The county supervisors met at the office of the register of deeds in Fairmont on the 13th day of September, 1859, and organized by electing W. H. Budd chairman. At this meeting they equalized the assessments of the different districts and found the amount of property returned subject to taxation to be of the amount of $31,356; the amount of taxes levied to be raised for the ensuing year, 1860, $313.56. which was the first tax levied in the county, and was for the purpose of paying all previous indebtedness contracted and to defray all expenses for the ensuing year. As this county had been organized nearly two years, the reader can readily see that as we were providing for three years' expenses, salaries of officers, fuel, rent, books of record and stationery, that the county was not run on a very expensive basis. B. C. Hinkle acted as clerk of commissioners by right of his office of register of deeds. The following bills were allowed:
W. H. Budd, services as commissioner and books and stationery. $25.35
B. C. Hinkle as clerk, books and stationery. 28.20
There were also some other minor bills.
This year B. C. Hinkle filed a petition on what is now the town plat of Fairmont. The old town plat company having failed to perfect their title he proved up and acquired a title to the land. The following were the treasurers in the different election districts, who acted as collectors of taxes: A. W. Young, Nevada; Asa Dewey, Fairmont; Geo. S. Fowler, Waverly. This year Asa Dewey was elected county treasurer and was the first in the county.
The harvest of our crops this year was done in a most primitive way. There were no threshing machines in this county then, and great pains had to be taken to protect crops from the ravages of the blackbirds - the fields had to be watched. There were probably more birds in the county then than now, and with a small acreage they would literally cover a field.
The winter of 1859-60 was cold, with quite a little snow in November and January, but not much sleighing. December was a pleasant month.
About the first of January, 1860, Mr. and Mrs. Pratt, who built a part of the log house on the hill where the writer lived, and near where the residence of Mrs. Gleason now is, gave what would be considered a high-toned party for the county in those times. They concluded that this was the best way to get acquainted with the settlers in the county, as they intended to run their house for a hotel afterwards, and they invited their neighbors from Center Creek, Elm Creek, Tuttle's Grove, Pilot Grove, East Chain, Winnebago City and Blue Earth City. In arranging for the dance it appears that two sets of musicians, who were then called "fiddlers", had been engaged, and both came. We danced all night, and had a good, lively and enjoyable time and went home some time the next day. It may be of interest to some yet living in this county and elsewhere to know that we have not forgotten them or that dance. We write this from memory, as to some of the people who were present: Mr. and Mrs. H. H. Fowler and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. W. Harrison and daughter, Mr. G. S. Fowler, Mr. Sherlock and others from Winnebago City; Mr. and Mrs. A. W. Everett, Mr. and Mrs. A. W. Young, the Misses Hudson, Mr. and Mrs. B. Lilly, Mr. and Mrs. B. Thompson, from Fort Britt; Mr. and Mrs. W. W. Campbell, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Cain, Miss Tuttle and others from Tenhassen; Asa Dewey, Mr. aud Mrs. Isaac Johnson, B. C. Hinkle, Mr. Pratt and others from Blue Earth City; John W. Sleepier from Elm Creek, and some other parties from across the line in Iowa, and others whose names we do not remember. This was a great society event for this country then. The size of this house was 11x19, story and a half heigh. The musicians, dancers and dining room were all in these two rooms, and there was a good chance to get acquainted with each other.
For the purpose of getting supplies we were obliged to go to Mankato, or other older settlements, but we had raised a good crop that year and ducks and geese were plenty and we lived fairly well. After the middle of January there was no cold weather, very, much such a season as the spring of '95. Wheat could have been sown in February, and was sown in March. This was a very dry spring, and no water running in the outlets of the lakes. There was considerable garden stuff put in this year, which was of great help and assisted much in the appearance of the table.
March 7, 1860, the commissioners met and transacted such business as came before them necessary to be done. Geo. Fowler had been elected the year previous as county auditor, and acted as clerk of the board. He was the first auditor of this county.
J. H. Johnson, Darius Rowley and C. Schultz and families all settled near East Chain Lakes in this year. There were some new settlers in Tenhassen and different parts of the county.
In March Mr. John B. Swearingen aud Jane Swearingen, his wife, settled on Buffalo Lake in what is now Rutland township. With them came James Swearingen and his three children, also Wm. H. and David Swearingen, Rebecca Swearingen, all children of J. B. Swearingen and wife, who still live in Fairmont. Mr. Swearingen built quite a large log house - one and one-half story.
The weather was very fine in March and April, not very much water running, the streams nearly dry.
A few families who were living near had a meeting and had obtained the house of B. C. Hinkle on the town site and fitted it up for a school. The money to run the school was raised by subscription. This school was taught by Mrs. Loraine Swearingen, wife of Geo. Swearingen, who now lives in this city. This was the first school taught in Fairmont. There was not a very large attendance. Mrs. Swearingen gave excellent satisfaction as a teacher and was re-engaged later on. Three months was the length of this first term of school in Fairmont.
In 1860 some wheat was sown by Messrs. Pratt, Fowler, Harrison, Allen Bros., Parks, Fancher and Meeder. There was not much object in growing small grain as the threshing had to be done by hand or trodden out by horses. The principal crops were corn, potatoes, beans and sorghum, and turnips as substitutes for apples for winter.
In the spring of 1860 there were quite a number of new settlers in the county - perhaps twenty. Mr. B. C. Hinkle had some of his land, section 8, where Fairmont now is, surveyed and platted for a village plat. The surveying and platting was done by W. S. Campbell, the surveyor of the county, and this was the only work he did as county surveyor. The plat was filed and recorded in the register of deeds' office that spring. There were some "land lookers" or hunters who came through this year. In the months of March and April there were quite a number of Indians trapping and hunting and fishing around the lakes. Some of the settlers carried on quite a trade with them, giving flour and provisions in exchange for fur. At times there must have been 500 or more of them in camp around the lakes. Whenever they could get any whisky they became very troublesome.
There was no rain or storms in the month of March, though there was qnite a good deal of rain in the month of April, the ground was quite wet for wagons and teams, it was also a cold month. Grass was no higher the first of May than the first of April. There was considerable breaking done.
The first camp meeting held in the county was held at Tuttle's Grove and lasted a week. It was a sort of a union meeting of the several religious denominations and resulted in great good. There had previously been a lack of church organization, and new countries need churches as well as the older ones. The people took an active part in the conducting of the meetings, but they were much annoyed by the mosquitoes who could attend and presist in singing when others were talking, and making themselves disagreeable.
On September 4,1860 the commissioners met at their annual session and made a tax levy for all purposes, of four mills on the dollar. A. W. Young was this year elected auditor. The commissioners were B. C. Hinkle, chairman, J. C. Hudson, and J. W. Sleepier.
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