Finding Ancestors wherever their trails led with Genealogy Trails History Group

Todd County, Minnesota



This county, established February 20, 1855, and organized January 1, 1867, was named for John Blair Smith Todd, commander of Fort Ripley (at first called Fort Gaines), 1849 to 1856, which was in the part taken from Todd county in 1856 to form a part of Morrison county. Todd was born in Lexington, Ky., April 4, 1814; was graduated at the U. S. Military Academy, West Point, 1837; served in the second Seminole war and the Mexican war ; resigned from the army in 1856 ; was an Indian trader at Fort Randall, Dakota, till 1861 ; was a brigadier general in the civil war; was delegate in Congress for Dakota, 1861 and 1863-65, and governor of that territory, 1869-71. He died in Yankton, Dakota, January 5, 1872.


Information of names has been received from "History of Morrison and Todd Counties," by Clara K. Fuller, two volumes, 1915, having pages 211-307 on the history of this county; from E. M. Berg, county auditor, Otis B. De Laurier, Hon. William E. Lee, John H. Sheets, and Mrs. John D. Jones, each of Long Prairie, the county seat, interviewed during a visit there in May, 1916 ; and from Wilfred J. Whitefield, the oldest resident of Sauk Center, in Stearns county, also interviewed at his home in May, 1916.

BARTLETT township, organized March 22, 1883, was named for a family of pioneer homesteaders.

BERTHA township, organized January 4, 1878, and its railway village, platted in August, 1891, and incorporated in 1897, commemorate Mrs. Bertha Ristan, the first white woman settler there.

 BIRCHDALE township, organized March 24, 1869, was named from its Birch lakes, to be more fully noticed on a later page, and its morainic hills and dales.

 BROWERVILLE, a railway village in Hartford, platted in 1882, when the Sauk Center branch of the Great Northern railway was built, commemorates Abraham D. Brower, one of the first settlers of this county, who came in 1860, settled in Round Prairie township, and was chairman of the first board of county commissioners, in 1867; his fourth son, Jacob Vradenberg Brower (b. 1844, d. 1905), who was the first auditor of this county, 1867; and a younger son, Walter C. Brower (b. 1852), who was editor of the Stearns County Tribune, Sauk Center. These sons were proprietors of the townsite. The biography of Hon. Jacob V. Brower is presented by Josiah B. Chaney in the M. H. S. Collections (vo1. XII, 1908, pages Loading... Loading...

769-774), and by Prof. N. H. Winchell in "The Aborigines of Minnesota," 1911, pages x-xiv, with his portrait and autograph.

 BRUCE township was named by George Balmer, a Scotch pioneer farmer there, who was a county commissioners, in 1867; his fourth son, Jacob Vradenberg Brower (b. 1844, d. 1905), who was the first auditor of this county, 1867; and a younger son, Walter C. Brower (b. 1852), who was editor of the Stearns County Tribune, Sauk Center. These sons were proprietors of the townsite. The biography of Hon. Jacob V. Brower is presented by Josiah B. Chaney in the M. H. S. Collections (vo1. XII, 1908, 769-774), and by Prof. N. H. Winchell in "The Aborigines of Minnesota," 1911, pages x-xiv, with his portrait and autograph.

BURLEENE township, organized in 1888, has a unique name, for which further inquiry is needed to learn its origin and significance.

BURNHAMVILLE township, organized September 8, 1870, and its railway village, platted in February, 1883, are named in honor of David Burnham, who was a blacksmith for the Winnebago Indians at Long Prairie, and settled as a homestead farmer here soon after the civil war.

 BURTRUM is a railway village in Burnhamville, platted in April, 1884, and incorporated in April, 1901.

CLARISSA, a railway village in Eagle Valley township, "was platted in 1877 by Lewis Bischoffsheim and wife, of London, England. The place was named in honor of the wife." (History, 1915, p. 298.) It was incorporated in 1897.

EAGLE BEND, a railway village in Wykeham township, received this name from its location at a notable bend of Eagle creek.

EAGLE VALLEY township, organized March 17, 1880, is crossed by Eagle creek, which was named for the bald or white-headed eagle, "the bird of freedom," emblem of the United States, formerly frequent throughout Minnesota.

FAWN LAKE township, organized July 28, 1881, bears the name early given to a lake in the east part of its section 30.

GERMANIA township, organized March 17, 1880, was named by its German settlers, his name being proposed by Paul Steinbach, from the ship Germania in which he came to America.

GORDON township, organized in January, 1869, was named in honor of J. M. Gordon, a pioneer farmer, who was a member of the first board of county commissioners. GREY EAGLE township, organized September 15, 1873, and its railway village, platted in September, 1882, were named from an eagle shot here in 1868 by A. M. Crowell, who many years afterward removed to Bemidji and was its municipal judge.

HARTFORD township, organized March 12, 1867, has a name that is borne by a city and county in Connecticut, and by townships and villages or cities in Maine, Vermont, New York, Wisconsin, and twelve other states. HEWITT, a railway village in Stowe Prairie township, platted in April, 1891, was named in honor of Henry Hewitt, an adjacent farmer. IONA township, at first called Odessa, organized January 6, 1881, has the name of a historic island of the Hebrides, which also is borne by a railway village in Murray county.

KANDOTA township, organized in April, 1870, took the name of a proposed townsite platted here in 1856, on the shore of Fairy lake, by Edwin Whitefield, an artist from Massachusetts. This name, derived by him from the Dakota or the Ojibway language, is said to mean "Here we rest."

LEE'S SIDING, a railway station three miles north of Long Prairie, is named for Hon. William E. Lee, who was born in Alton, 111., January 8, 1852; came to Minnesota with his parents in 1856; organized the Bank of Long Prairie in 1882, was its cashier, and in 1896 was elected its president ; was a representative in the legislature, 1885-7 and 1893, being speaker of the House in 1893; was a member of the state board of control, 1901-03; was Republican candidate for governor in 1914.

LESLIE township, organized in September, 1876, and its railway village, platted in May, 1898, were named in honor of John B. Leslie, a pioneer settler from Kentucky.

LITTLE ELK township is crossed in its northeast part by the head stream of the South fork of the Little Elk river, flowing east into Morrison county.

 LITTLE SAUK township, organized in the spring of 1870, and its railway village, on the Sauk river at the mouth of the Little Sauk lake, refer to a band of five Sauk Indians formerly living at Lake Osakis, as previously noted for the cities of Sauk Rapids and Sauk Center.

LONG PRAIRIE township, organized March 12, 1867, had been occupied 1848-55 by the agency of a reservation for the Winnebago Indians. Long Prairie village, the county seat, was platted in May, 1867, and was incorporated in 1883. The name is received from the Long Prairie river, flowing through this county to the Crow Wing river ; and the stream was named for a long and relatively narrow prairie, from a half mile to one mile wide, bordering its east side for about twenty miles, from Lake Charlotte and Long Prairie village northward to the west line of Fawn Lake township. MORAN township, organized March 27, 1877, is crossed by Moran brook, here joining the Long Prairie river, named for an early lumberman.

 OAK HILL is a hamlet in Leslie township, named for its plentiful oak trees and morainic drift hills.

OSAKIS, a village lying mainly in Douglas county, but also extending into Gordon township, on the south shore of Osakis lake, received its name, like the lake and its outflowing Sauk river, from a small band of Sauk Indians, before noted for Little Sauk township.

PHILBROOK, a railway village in Villard and Fawn Lake townships, platted November 10, 1889, was named by officers of the Northern Pacific railway.

REYNOLDS township has a name that is borne by a county in Missouri and by villages in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, and seven other states.

ROUND PRAIRIE township, having one of the earliest settlements in this county, was named for the Round prairie, so called, about five miles long from north to south and two miles wide, in the western third of this township and the east edge of Little Sauk. The railway village of this name was platted in October, 1903.

STAPLES township, organized January 5, 1882, and the city of this name on the Northern Pacific railway, founded in 1885, platted as a village called Staples Mill in June, 1889, and incorporated as a city in 1905, commemorate Stillwater lumbermen named Staples, who had logging and manufacturing interests here. Two prominent pioneer lumbermen of this family, coming to Stillwater in 1853-54 from Topsham, Maine, were Samuel Staples (b. 1805, d. 1887), and Isaac Staples (b. 1816, d. 1898).

STOWE PRAIRIE, the most northwestern township, organized March 27, 1877, was named for three brothers, Amos, Isaac, and James Stowe, who were early settlers on and near a prairie area in the north part of this township, continuing also northward into Wadena county.

TURTLE CREEK township, organized in July, 1890, has Turtle creek, flowing through its west edge, and Turtle lake at its northwest corner.

VILLARD township, organized July 28, 1882, was named in honor of Henry Villard (b. 1835, d. 1900), president of the Northern Pacific railroad company in 1881-83, when its transcontinental line was completed. This name is also borne by a village in Pope county, for which a biographic notice has been presented.

WARD township, organized in July, 1877, was named for a township in Randolph county, Indiana, by settlers who had come from there.

WARD SPRINGS, a railway village in Birchdale township, platted by J. W. and Martha J. Ward, was previously called Birch Lake City, from its location beside Little Birch lake.

WEST UNION township was organized March 12, 1867; and its railway village, platted in June, 1881, was incorporated in 1900.

WHITEVILLE was the name commonly given to an early settlement in 1865-6, about five miles west of Long Prairie, for three sisters, wives of L. S. Hoadley, Albert Madison, and Horace Pierce, "whose maiden name was White." (History, 1915, p. 225.)

WYKEHAM township, originally called Eden, organized January 10, 1880, has a unique name, received from England.

Source: History of Morrison and Todd Counties, Minnesota, Volume I, Illustrated, by Clara K. Fuller (1915) Chapter X; transcribed by Glenda Stevens

Todd county commenced with three civil townships and has been divided and subdivided, until today it has twenty-eight civil townships. Long Prairie, Hartford and West Union townships were made by act of the board of county commissioners on March 12, 1867.


Bartlett comprises congressional township 133, range 34. It was organized by the county board of commissioners on March 22, 1883. Its population in 1910 was six hundred and twenty-one. It is without railroad or village, but is an excellent agricultural section. It is west of Staples township, north of Germania and east of Stowes Prairie township. It has numerous small streams.


The sub-division of Todd county now known as Bertha township was organized on January 4, 1878, by the board of county commissioners. As then constituted, it contained also township 34, range 132, that which now comprises Germania township. The Great Northern railway runs through the township from north to south along the eastern portion. Its only village is Bertha. It is bounded by the county line at the west, Stowe Prairie at the north, Germania at the east, and Wykeham at the south. In 1910 it had a population of seven hundred and fourteen, besides the village of Bertha, which then had two hundred and ninety-six.


Birch Dale township was organized on March 24, 1869, and now comprises congressional township 127, range 33. It is situated on the southern line of Todd county, east of Kandota, south of Round Prairie and west of Grey Eagle township. Its population in 1910 was four hundred and forty-four. Its villages are Wards Springs and Birch Lake. The Northern Pacific railway, Little Falls and Morris division, runs through the southeastern part of this township. There are numerous small lakes within its borders.


Bruce was made a separate township some time previous to 1901, and comprises all of congressional township 129, range 32. It has two fine, small lakes. Small streams course here and there throughout the township. It is bounded on the north by Little Elk, on the east by Morrison county, on the south b Burnhamville township and on the west by Long Prairie township. Its population in 1910 was five hundred and nineteen. It is without a railroad line and has a portion of the hamlet of Pillsbury on its south line.


Burleene township was organized some time just prior to 1889, and now comprises congressional township 130, range 35. It has no village or railway lines within its borders. It had a population in 1910 of four hundred and sixteen. It is bounded on the west by the county line, on the north by Wyeham township, on the east by Iona township, and on the south by Leslie township.


Burnville township was organized on September 8, 1870, and constitutes congressional township 128, range 32; is bounded on the east by Morrison county, on the south by Grey Eagle township, on the west by Round Prairie and on the north by Bruce township. Its population in 1910 was seven hundred and thirty-one. At first it included township 129. It is cut up with many lakes; has the villages of Cogel, Burtrum and a part of Swanville, Morrison county. Its railroad is the Little Falls and Morris branch of the Northern Pacific.


Eagle Valley township now constitutes congressional township 131, range 34. It was organized by the county commissioners on March 17, 1880. It had a population of nine hundred and thirteen in 1910. Its only village is Clarissa in section 27. This village is a station on the Great Northern railway. The township is bounded on the north by Germania, on the east by Ward, on the south by Iona and on the west by Wykeham township.


Fawn Lake was organized July 28, 1881, and comprises congressional township 132, range 32. Both in the southern and northern parts are found pretty lakes. The Northern Pacific railroad runs through this township en route from Staples to Little Falls, with a small station at Lincoln, a part of which village is within Morrison county. Sections 5, 6 and 7 are touched by the waters of Long Prairie river. In 1910 the census returns show a population of two hundred and ninety-one. It is bounded on the north by Villard township, on the east by Morrison county, on the south by Turtle Creek township and on the west by Moran township.


Germania township as now constituted is congressional township 132, range 34. It was organized on March 17, 1880. It is the second from the west and the second township from the north in Todd county. At its west is Bertha; at the north Bartlett; of its east, Moran, and at its south is Eagle Valley township. It had a population in 1910 of five hundred and ten. It is without village or railroad lines.


Gordon township was organized by the county commissioners at their session in January, 1869, and was then township 128, range 35, but in January, 1871, to it was added township 129, range 35. Subsequently it assumed its present boundary – township 128, range 35. It was bounded by the county line on the west, on the north by Leslie township, on the east by Little Sauk township, and on the south by West Union township. Lake Osakis, the largest lake within the county, is situated in this township, covering much of the northwestern portion of the township. The population in 1910 was six hundred and forty-eight, with eighty-nine in that part of the village of Osakis in Todd county. Its railroad facilities are obtained by the Great Northern system, whose main line runs through the village of Osakis, on the county line.


This is the southeastern township in Todd county and constitutes congressional township 127, range 32. It was organized by the county commissioners at their September 15 meeting, in 1873, and the record says it is to be known as “Gray” Eagle, but for some reason custom saw fit to have it known as “Grey.” The Little Falls & Morris branch of the Northern Pacific railroad runs through its northwestern corner, with a village station point known as Grey Eagle, in section 7. This township has a number of lakes. Its population in 1910 was placed at five hundred and sixteen, and the village of the same name at three hundred and seventy-eight. It is bounded on the east and south by the county line, on the west by Birch Dale township, on the north by Burnhamville township.


Hartford township is congressional township 130, range 33. It was organized on March 12, 1867; now has a population of one thousand four hundred and forty-nine, inclusive of the village of Browerville, the only village within its borders. It is bounded on the east by Little Elk township, on the south by Long Prairie, on the west by Iona township and on the north by Ward township. Long Prairie river courses through its western sections, as does the Great Northern railway, making a station point at the village of Browerville.


Originally Iona township was called Odessa. It was organized on January 6, 1881, and now comprises congressional township 130, range 34. It is south of Eagle Valley, west of Hartford, north of Reynolds and east of Burleene township. Its population in 1910 was placed at eight hundred and ninety-nine. It is without village or railroad facilities.


Kandota is one of the southern line of townships of the county. It is east of West Union, south of Little Sauk and west of Birch Dale township. It is cut up considerably by beautiful clear lakes, and through it runs the Great Northern railway. It has no towns or villages. Its population in 1910 was three hundred and thirty-three. It dates its organization as a civil township from April, 1870, and now comprises congressional township 127, range 34.


Leslie township is on the west line of the county, the third from the south and fifth from the north line of Todd county. It now comprises congressional township 129, range 35. Long Prairie river courses through its territory. There are no railway lines here and only one hamlet – Oak Hill. A portion of Lake Osakis extends up into the southeastern portion of the township. It was organized in September, 1876, and at that date included what is now Burleene township (township 130, range 35). It had a population in 1910 of six hundred and one. It is purely an agricultural section and contains many excellent farms.


Little Elk township comprises congressional township 130, range 32, and was organized prior to 1890. It had a population in 1910 of three hundred and ten. It is bounded on the north by Turtle Creek township, on the east by the Morrison county line, on the south by Bruce township, and on the west by Hartford township. In the western portion are found a number of beautiful lakes. There are no villages or railroads within this township.


Little Sauk township was organized by the county board at its session in the spring of 1870. It constitutes congressional township 128, range 34. It is north from Kandota, west from Round Prairie, south from Reynolds and east of Gordon township. Its population in 1910 was six hundred and forty-seven. The village of Little Sauk is within its borders, and there are several handsome lakelets. The Great Northern railway runs through the southeast corner of it, making a station stop at the village of Little Sauk.


Without entering into the uninteresting process of cutting down the once larger townships to their present limits, it is deemed best to locate the townships as they now stand and probably will ever remain on the map of the county. Long Prairie township is now congressional township 129, range 33; is south of Hartford, west of Bruce, north of Round Prairie and east of Reynolds township. In this the seat of justice for Todd county has always been situated. It is on the south bank of Long Prairie river, and is a station point on the Great Northern railway. Its population in 1910, including the town of the same name, was two thousand two hundred and ninety-five. It is within a very fertile farming section and has one of the largest creameries in the state.


Congressional township 132, range 33, is what is known as Moran civil township. It is south of Staples township, west of Fawn Lake, north of Ward and east from Germania township. It was organized on March 27, 1877, and included at that date congressional townships 132 and 133, range 33. In 1910 it had a population of four hundred and ninety-eight. Long Prairie river runs through the southeastern sections of the territory. There are no villages. As an agricultural section it has but few equals in the county.


Reynolds comprises congressional township 129, range 34, and was organized prior to 1890. It is south of Iona township, west of Long Prairie, north of little Sauk township and east of Leslie. Its population in 1910 was seven hundred and thirty-three. Long Prairie river flows through the territory from section 6 to 13. In the southern part are found several small lakelets. There are no towns or railroads within its bounds.


Round Prairie was originally a part of Long Prairie township. It now comprises congressional township 128, range 33. It is south of Long Prairie township, west of Burnhamville, north of Birch Dale and east of Little Sauk township. In the central and north portions are found several of the fine lakes for which Todd county is so famous. The Great Northern railway runs through sections 6, 7, 18 and 19, with a station at Round Prairie village. It had a population in 1910 of six hundred and ninety-eight.


Staples township is on the north line of Todd county, west of Villard township, north of Moran, and west of Bartlett township. The central portion has a chain of pretty lakelets. The only place within its borders for trading is at the city of Staples located on sections 1, 2, 12 and 13. The township in 1910 had a rural population of six hundred and nineteen with two thousand two hundred and fifty-eight in Staples city. It was organized on January 5, 1882, and is an excellent farming section. Its railroads are the main line of the Northern Pacific from Duluth to the coast, and the St. Paul and Little Falls division which forms junction at the city of Staples, which is a modern railway town, having shops and offices, together with the most extensive yards and side-tracks of any place on the entire route.


Stowe Prairie township is in the extreme northwestern part of Todd county and is west of Bartlett township, north of Bertha and has the county line for its north and west boundaries. It is congressional township 133, range 35, and dates its organization from March 27, 1877, when it comprised also township 132, range 35, which is now Bertha township. It had a population in 1910 of six hundred and eleven. In its exact center is the village of Hewitt, a station point on the Great Northern railway. The correction line of government surveys is on its south line.


Turtle Creek is one of the latest townships organized in the county, the date being in July, 1890. It comprises congressional township 131, range 32. It is south of Fawn Lake, west of the Morrison county line, north of Little Elk township and east of Ward township. In 1910 its population was two hundred and twenty-five. Its surface is cut up by numerous pretty lakes, including the larger one, Rice Lake. There are no villages or railway lines within the township limits.


Named for a former resident of the Northern Pacific Company, Villard township was organized on July 28, 1882, and comprises congressional township 133, range 32. It is the extreme northeastern township in the county. It had a population of three hundred and forty-one in 1910. At its east is the county line; at its south, Fawn Lake township; at its west, Staples township. Its southeastern portion is traversed by the Long Prairie river, and its railroad lines are both branches of Northern Pacific. The Crow Wing river cuts into the northeastern part of the congressional township from which this civil township is made up, hence the territory does not contain more than thirty-one and one-half sections. Its only hamlet is Philbrook, a station on the Northern Pacific, on the south line.


Ward is congressional township 131, range 33. It was organized with township 34 (now Eagle Valley civil township), but later cut down to its present limits. The date of its formation was in July, 1877. The Long Prairie river runs through this township from north to south. It has no towns or villages, and the Great Northern railway line touches its extreme southwestern corner. In 1910 it contained a population of eight hundred and one. It is a rich, fertile farming section, with prosperity on every hand. To its north is Moran township, to its east Turtle Creek, to its south Hartford and to its west is Eagle Valley township.


West Union is the extreme southwestern township of the county and comprises congressional township 127, range 35. It was organized on March 12, 1867, at the same date of Hartford and Long Prairie. It had a population in 1910 of five hundred and eighty-five, including the village of West Union, the only village in its territory. The main line of the Great Northern railway traverses the township diagonally from southeast to northwest. There are three small lakes in the southern part and one in the eastern portion of this township.


Wykeham townhip was originally called Eden township and was organized on January 10, 1880, from congressional township 131, range 35. Eagle Bend is its only village. The township is bounded on the west by the county line, on the north by Bertha township, on the east by Eagle Valley and on the south by Burleene. Its population in 1910 was six hundred and sixty-four. The Great Northern railway runs through the northeastern sections, passing through the village of Eagle Bend.

Early Days in Todd County
By John H. Sheets, in 1911
Source: History of Morrison and Todd Counties, Minnesota, Volume I, Illustrated; by Clara K. Fuller, Chapter II; transcribed by Carol Sylvester

Todd County is located in central Minnesota within what is known as the Park region of the state – a beautiful stretch of country comprising fertile prairies, noble forests, ranges of verdure covered hill, with hundreds of sky tinted lakes and streams of limpid waters.

No country ever offered better advantages for home building than this section. The first settler could choose at his will from a vast environment, taking such land as he pleased. The prairies and brush openings made it easy for one to break and subdue the soil and farms could be opened with much less labor than the dense forests of middle-west sections afforded, such as had been the case in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. Nor did the first settlers here suffer the exposure and endure the hardships encountered by those early pioneers in other sections. The forest gave them fuel and building materials and the maple trees provided them with plenty of sugar. Natural meadows abounded along the streams, and in the marshes there was an abundance of grass and other forage for stock; wild fruits grew in abundance and game of all kinds ranged in the forests, while the lakes and streams had plenty of excellent fish. It is true that many of the refinements of life were, for a time wanting, but all were healthy and happy and lived in a lively hope of a better near-at-hand future which soon crowned their efforts.

Attractive Side of Frontier Life

The so called poverty of the frontier settler is not the squalid poverty of the city slum; it does not dwarf the body and mind of the growing child, but stimulates to healthy effort and contributes to growth and independence. Nor must it be inferred that the life of the early settler was dull and unattractive. They had their social functions, their society meetings, their churches and schools, and on the whole, their life was full and satisfying and useful – if not even more so than the more developed and more elegant social circle of the present day.

But whether frontier life is more wholesome or attractive than that which comes later, like youth to the individual, it comes to the community but once. The conditions of that golden day are gone. The wild game of the forest is nearly a thing of the past. The deer and the elk and some other species of game are vanished, and the prairie chicken and the partridge are less plentiful than when the first settlers came upon the scene. But the clear bracing atmosphere, the bright sunshine and waters of crystal purity still give life and vigor to our people and the fertile soil yields abundant harvests to the industrious husbandman.

The Indian Problem

During the early years of the nineteenth century this territory was the disputed ground between the Sioux and Chippewa Indians. It was at one time in possession of the Sioux, but they were gradually dispossessed by their more powerful foes and about 1840 the government established a boundary line between the two hostile tribes; aiming to confine the Sioux to the great plains from the forest lands of the Missouri River, while the Chippewas were given possession eastward to Lake Superior. But this did not end the hostilities between them and roving bands of Sioux and Chippewas often met in deadly battle. Among the Chippewas who came up the river to trade with the white settlers about sixty-five years ago, there was a tradition that at some time in the past a bloody and decisive battle was fought between these two tribes in the vicinity of Coal Lake, near the western edge of the town of Little Elk, in which the Chippewas were victorious.

Were it possible to write the history of these two powerful tribes, as they waged deadly warfare for possession of the land, it would rival in interest the most fascinating tales of chivalry. But this region was generally occupies by Chippewa tribe when the first settlers came here and many citizens still resident frequently recall visits by old chief “Bad Boy” and his tribesmen to this section for several years after Todd County was organized. The chief and his followers were friendly to the white men during the Sioux outbreak in 1862, and they were not strictly confined to their reservation by the government and state authorities. As late as the early seventies these Indians came up the long Prairie River to trade the products of their industries with the people of the white race and even in 1877 there were occasional Indian camps in the northern part of Todd County.

The history of the settlement of Todd County would be comprised almost wholly within the history of Long Prairie village when the present site of the county seat was selected by the government as the location of the Indian agency. This agency was established in 1845 and the Winnebago Indians, brought here from somewhere in Illinois, made this their home. This tribe had joined with the Sacs and Foxes and Pottawattomies in the Black Hawk War in 1838, and when the outbreak was suppressed, the Winnebago’s were sent to this agency. The expedition which brought these Indians to their new home came up the Mississippi by boats as far as St. Paul, and from there by pack train and on foot coming into the present limits of Todd County by way of Osakis and along the south shore of Osakis Lake. There was then no trail by which to travel and the party had to cut a road as they moved through the primeval forests of that day.

Old Indian Agency

The establishment of the agency brought a large number of white people, many being government officials and other employees while others came as Indian traders and adventurers. There were erected one hundred and fifty buildings and about a thousand acres of land was broken and fenced into forty-acre lots to be farmed by the Indians. The first residents of the present village can remember the marks of the plow and the hollows where the cellars of the houses had been along the old road down the prairie towards the north beyond the farm now owned by the Thiegs brothers and as late as 1880 or 1881 the site of the old stockade could be traced in the western part of the village. The lumber used in building the town at that time was sawed by a mill run by horse power somewhere in eastern Hartford or Little Elk. Some of these buildings were comparatively fine structures costing as much as three thousand dollars. The agency was maintained until about 1854 when disturbances between the Winnebago’s and the Chippewas became frequent and the former tribe was removed to a new agency not far from the present site of Mankato.

The government property, it seems, was purchased shortly after by Anson Northrup and sold by him to the Long Prairie Land Company. The headquarters of this company was at Cincinnati, Ohio, and all the town lots of the original site of Long Prairie village as well as many farms in the vicinity were purchased of this company. Major Clark, one of this company, was the first resident agent and brought in cattle and ponies from the Red River country. General Van Cleve was afterward the resident agent and his wife, Charlotte Van Cleve, was prominent in charitable and public movements in the state until recent years. Lake Charlotte to the south of town, was named for her. But white settlers could not be drawn to this section in what early day and at the close of the year 1859, W. W. Tuttle, James Martin, and General Van Cleve, with their families were he only inhabitants of the once populous and bustling town. Many of the inhabitants went to other parts of the state, while a few settled on Round Prairie; C. E. Buss, who went to West Union, and A. H. Gibson, who took land on Bear Head creek in what is now the town of Bruce. These three residents of the first town of Long Prairie later became permanent residents of the county, Mr. Gibson and Mr. Buss remaining until death called them hence, while Mr. Hewes occupied his farm until some twenty-five years ago when he removed with his family to the state of Washington. Mr. Buss was for many years county treasurer.

An Old-Fashioned Pole Raising

In the spring of 1860 A. D. Brower came into the county along with a few others and on the 4th of July of that year, the total population of the county to the number of twenty-seven souls, gathered at Long Prairie to celebrate the nation’s birthday. On that date a pole was erected on the present court house site, which was known for many years as “liberty pole,” giving its name largely to the town. Many of the older settlers knew of the town under this name, rather than that of Long Prairie. This pole was damaged by fire and on the 4th of July, 1869, at celebration in the village, a new “liberty pole” was raised and dedicated by Rev. John Jones to the memory of George Russell, Richard D. Brower and Abraham D. Brower, Jr., who had given their lives in the War of Rebellion. This pole remained standing until about the time the present court house was built in 1883.

In the summer of 1860, Samuel Lee, father of William E. Lee, moved to Long Prairie with his family, from a few miles west of the Mississippi. He had started for West Union, where he expected to locate permanently, but on reaching Long Prairie, he was persuaded by General Van Cleve to stop here, as there were many housed empty which he could occupy and land in abundance for farming, free of rent. He remained in Long Prairie for about two years when he went back and located on the east bank of the Mississippi. From that place he enlisted in the army during the Civil War.

The Sioux Outbreak

Along in the latter part of the summer of 1860, a company of soldiers in command of Lieutenant Latimer, after who Lake Latimer after whom Lake Latimer was named, was sent to Long Prairie to guard the few settlers against danger from the Indians. Roving bands of Sioux led by Winnebago’s roamed through this section in their forays against the Chippewas, their hereditary enemies, and it was feared they might attack the whites. During the stay of this company of soldiers, a young girl, the daughter of one of the officers, whose name is now unknown, died and was buried on the northern declivity of the hill east of town. All the older inhabitants of Long Prairie and vicinity well remember the old lichen-covered picket fence that for many years marked the grave. This company of soldiers must have been withdrawn before the year 1862 at the time of the Sioux Indian outbreak, as no one remained in the village at that time except James Martin and family and the resident agent, one Mr. Weakly—General Van Cleve having gone to the front in command of the Second Regiment Minnesota Volunteer Infantry.

When the outbreak occurred and news of its horrors reached Long Prairie, the inhabitants of the county fled to protected points, and Todd County reverted to its former state of an uninhabited wilderness. A. D. Brower and family alone remained on his farm in the southwestern extremity of Round Prairie surrounded and guarded by a band of friendly Chippewas. Thus Mr. Brower took rank as the oldest continuous resident. After the Civil War, immigrants began to locate within the borders of Todd County and commenced to build up permanent homes. Many will remember Mr. Brower as a conspicuous figure at all public gatherings—a somewhat under-sized but well-built figure, erect as a soldier, clad in buckskins, with long, flowing white hair and beard and with keen, twinkling blue eyes. It was reported that the town was burned by Indians after all the inhabitants had fled, but Mr. Brower always contended that in this matter the red man was slandered—that the buildings were torn down and carried away by white settlers to the south and west, the materials being used to build new houses. Among the buildings destroyed were a Catholic church near where the depot now stands and a convent near the present site of the Baptist church. This may be said to have ended the first twenty years of the history of Todd County.

A Courageous Pioneer

It is impossible now to chronicle much of the history of that period, but several interesting incidents have been handed down. General Van Cleve, who has been mentioned as a resident agent of the Long Prairie Land Company, was a West Point graduate, but how he came to quit the army and enter civil life is not known. He was well qualified for military life, especially on the frontier, and it could not have been for lack of courage or love of ease as he spent his early years on the frontier or in the Civil War. He entered the War of the Rebellion as a colonel and was breveted general for brave conduct at the battle of Wilson Creek. He was trained athlete and could jump nimbly over a pole held as high as his chin and he knew no such thing as fear. While agent here, at one time a party of Sioux Indians chased a Chippewa girl name Susie Roy, who was employed as a domestic in his family—several of them following her into his house—where she sought his protection. He was alone, but his boldness, cowed the Indians so they left the girl and family unmolested. The same party, on going down the prairie, met a lone Chippewa near the old school house site whom they shot, and placed his body in an upright position in a pile of rails. Van Cleve’s boys noticed a gun protruding from the rails and on examination found the Indian’s body decapitated and the head scalped.

A man named John Bailey opened a saloon outside the agency, across east of the hill near the present site of the Hilger farm house and whiskey was sold to the Indians in violation of the law. Van Cleve, with others of the agency, went out to suppress the traffic by force—the only way possible at the time. In the fracas that occurred a Mr. Barnum, from Little Falls, was stabbed and the tradition is that the wound was inflicted by H. C. Hewes. It was not serious, however and Barnum soon recovered. He was justice of the peace in Little Falls and was afterward mobbed by a party of toughs, who resented some decision of his as justice of the peace. A short time after the trouble here. Van Cleve was at a hotel in Little Falls and overheard a party upstairs planning to go to Long Prairie and mob the men who had interfered with the whiskey deal. He was a stranger to the men and could have escaped, but instead, he walked in among the crowd and told his name saying they could settle the trouble with him tehn and there without going to Long Prairie. He was able by his undaunted bearing to defy the whole crowd and they left off their proposed raid on Long Prairie.

Mr. Van Cleve visited Long Prairie some twenty-five years ago and in a public address told of one winter spent here when their stock of provisions was exhausted except for a supply of wheat. By accident, some broken glass got mixed with the grain and the family had to pick over the wheat a kernel at a time, to separate from it the particles of glass. This wheat they boiled and ate as their sole article of diet, the roads being blocked with snow preventing communication with the outside world. During the time the Van Cleve family resided in Long Prairie, their youngest son was born.

During the early days, James Martin carried the mail to the agency from Little Falls. He afterward settled on a farm three miles east of Pillsbury in what is now Morrison County. About the year 1872 a murder occurred near his house, the result of a quarrel over a game of cards, and as a result of the tragedy he became insane and committed suicide.

The last company agent in Long Prairie was a Mr. Weakly, who was city bred and in no way fitted for the place. Probably as a result of his incompetence as well as the breaking out of the Civil War, the Long Prairie Land Company abandoned the place and let the town go to destruction. David Olmstead was an early resident of the town, being an Indian trader, and was elected to the state Senate in 1848. He got lost in the woods between the town and the Mississippi at one time and wandered about a whole week, finding his way out of the wilderness by following down the stream of Two Rivers. David Day was a resident of Long Prairie in the early fifties and was elected to the Legislature in 1852, and was made speaker when the house organized.

Original Boundaries

In the foregoing sketch wherever Todd County is mentioned, it has reference to the present boundaries. Originally the county extended east to the Mississippi river and the division occurred in 1864 when a vote was taken on the proposition to take two tiers of townships from Todd and add them to Morrison County. Since the larger number of voters lived along the Mississippi river the vote was in favor of division. A. D. Brower was appointed by Governor Miller to hold the election and he went with Henry Ellingson, William Overman and James Brower to West Union, where the ballots were deposited in a cigar box. There were eighteen votes there against division, but the settlers in the eastern district cast twenty ballots in favor of division.

After the Indians had been conquered, and all danger from that source was ended, the permanent settlement of the county began. A few families who had fled from their homes at the uprising of the savages returned and became permanent residents of the county. Among these were A. H. Gibson, of Bear Head; Peter Losey and H. C. Hewes, of Round Prairie, and C. E. Buss and perhaps others in the southwestern part of the county. At the outbreak some families sought safety in the stockade at Sauk Centre, which was guarded by three or four companies of soldiers under command of Capt. Oscar Tayler, afterward a prominent lawyer of St. Cloud, while others, mainly from Round Prairie, took flight to the settlements along the Mississippi River, which were protected by a military force at Ft. Ripley.

Of all the men and women who lived here before the outbreak and passed through the terrors of that brief period none are now living, except it may be H. C. Hewes and wife. A few of the younger generation who were then children are still residents of Todd County. Among such may be named Mrs. William E. Lee, formerly Miss Eva Gibson; Mrs. L.B. Branch of Round Prairie , formerly Miss Carrie Losey, and Charles Losey, a brother, and possibly a few others. The writer cannot say what became of W. W. Tuttle and family, but it is known that he lived several years in Little Sauk, and that his daughter, Bertha, was one of the first white children born in the county, Mary Hewes being the other. They were born on the same day in Long Prairie, June 14, 1858.

Philo Farnum and family had settled on what many years ago was known as the Lawson farm, on the road from Long Prairie to Round Prairie, and this family was among those who had to flee for their lives. It cannot here be stated how long Mr. Farnum was a resident of the county, but at one time a band of predatory Chippewa Indians broke into his house and robbed it of such articles as they could make use of, presumably during the time the family were absent on account of the Sioux hostilities.

New settlers were few and far between until the close of the Civil War, when the energies of the nation were turned from destructive warfare of brother against brother and the armies of peace began conquest of the great West. The formation of school districts may throw some light on where the settlements were first effected. District No. 1 is located in the southern part of Round Prairie township in the vicinity of the Sergeants and it is here that probably the first neighborhood was formed. Possibly the next settlements were made in the southern and southwestern parts of the county around Fairy Lake, in the townships of West Union and Gordon.

Old Long Prairie and Mississippi Road

Like the flow of water, the currents of the new settlements are influenced by the lay of the land and the natural obstructions that may stand in the way. At this time there was a wagon road from Long Prairie to the Mississippi, which had been opened by the government, after the agency had been established, at a cost of thirty thousand dollars; and there was also a wagon road from Round Prairie to Sauk Center, following in a general way, the old Indian trail. It was easy also for teams to travel down the prairie on the east side of Long Prairie River, as far as the mouth of Turtle Creek and also up the south side. The old stage road from St. Cloud to Ft. Abercrombie, passed through the southwestern portion of the county, near the line between the forest lands and the big prairies, and open lands along the streams determined the first settlements. The data concerning the new settlements are somewhat conflicting. W. W. Tuttle, who figures in the early history of Long Prairie village, removed to West Union in 1859 or 1860 and found living there George Gurney, C. E. Buss, George Smith, Joseph Jordan, John Kerr, Jesse Dapper, Jerry Stone, and a Mrs. Gordon, with their families. This being before the outbreak, it is not known how many of these first settlers returned after hostilities ceased, but it is certain that Buss, Smith, Kerr and Stone lived in the vicinity many years later. C. F. Bohall, H. F. Lashier and S. M. Herbert, old timers in public affairs of the county, are named as pioneers of West Union, and Byron King and George Herberger were prominent names in that town in an early day.

Settlements also sprung up in the region of Fairy Lake in the town of Kandota between 1860 and 1865, and among the first inhabitants are the names of Rev. John Jones, father of J. D. Jones, A. D. Hale, A. B, Stinchfield and Theodore Belden. J. O. Milne was an early resident of Kandota and represented the old Forty-first district in the Senate of Minnesota from 1870 to 1872. East of Sauk Lake a few settlers came in 1865 and five years later the town of Birchdale was comparatively well settled. Among the first in this section were John Dimon, Charles Finkley, Joseph Rowell, Royal Smith, L. S. Bishop, William Hartung, Martin Peters, L.L. Matterson, A. P. Fuller and Edmund Finney. Further east is what is now Gray Eagle settlement was somewhat later, but sometime between 1865 and 1870 there came John A. Robins, Alexander Young, Ferdinand Trace, J. M. and J. A. Huffman, Rev. Thompson and son S. S. Thompson, Alonzo Clark and Edmond Callahan.

Round and Long Prairie Settlements

The early settlements in the vicinity of Round Prairie and Long Prairie are better known, however, than those along the southern border of this county. In 1863 Peter Losey returned to his farm on Round Prairie and by 1865 several families had located in that section. Henry Elingson and William Overman took claims in sections 7 and 8 and these were the first homestead entries made at the St. Cloud land office. They were both soldiers in the Civil War. Samuel Sergeant and family came in 1865 to be followed soon by William Russell, David Matthews, William McCarrahan, , E. B. Rice, William DeLuryea, William May, Daniel Harsh, A. T. Tracy, H. H. Scott, and Charles Hamlin, all familiar names in the early days of that section.

Later on the timber lands of east Round Prairie were taken up largely by French and German emigrants among which were Oliver Peltier, J. B. Monnier and Mr. Brooks of the former nationality, and Paul Hansmann, Ferdinand Kaercher and the Fausts of the latter.

About 1864 Dan Bosworth, a typical frontiersman, settled about a mile west of Long Prairie village and soon after came H. Venewitz, who built a house on the block which now is occupied by L. M. Davis. This house is still standing, but not on its original site. Venewitz put up a saw-mill and a flouring-mill on the stream west of the sidetracks and near where the elevators now stand. His son Philip is still a resident of this county, operating a meat shop at Browersville. Bosworth later took a homestead in Hartford where he remained until his death some thirty years ago.

In 1865 came to this vicinity Michael and George Dinkel, H. Strum, Samuel and Benjamin Meyer, C. Haaser and Henry Stevens, all Germans, who took farms near the village, most all becoming permanent residents. After Venewitz, in 1867, S. P. Chandler and Jacob Fisher opened a general store on the present site of Kulstad’s laundry and this firm—John Wait afterward becoming a partner, was for many years the leading business firm of the town and county. Ignatius Reichert opened a hotel, in 1869, in a small log building on the site of the present Hotel Reichert and about the same time Charles Harkens started another general store where hundreds of old timers in the county bought their supplies. For some three or four years these three business concerns were the only ones in the village. Settlers then commenced to come in to fast to be of interest to enumerate here.

Todd County Settlements
Source: History of Morrison and Todd Counties, Minnesota, Volume I, Illustrated, by Clara K. Fuller (1915) transcribed by Larry Lakey


In 1865 began the settlements up the river west of Long Bridge and also down towards the north, L. S. Hoadley, Albert Madison and Garret Butler took up land five miles west of the village, Mr. Madison having become acquanted with the country during his service as a soldier. Horace Pierce and Gardner McClafling came in with Hoadley and Madison to look at the country and they also settled the next year. This was the original “Whiteville” settlement so named for Mrs. Hoadley, Mrs. Madison and Mrs. Pierce, who were sisters and whose maiden name was White.

In July, 1866, Benjamin Maynard came on foot from Elk river, the end of the railroad at that time, and filed on land up the river beyond Whiteville and built a cabin to be occupied by his family later in the season. Maynard was a soldier in the Union army and being a native of Kentucky, he concluded that he could not live among his old neighbors, most of whom were in sympathy with the Southern cause. He was mustered out of service at Louisville and came up here without going home. About the same time, Elijah, Joseph and Samuel Porter, also Kentuckians, settled in that locality. For about three years newcomers poured into that section and took up land mostly along the river, as far up as the western border of the county. Among these were William McGuire, I. N. Ely, James Davis and others from Kentucky. Albert and Dan Allee, Linus and A. M. Doty, Thomas Simmonds, J. Newville, C. H. Taylor, Jonas and Z. V. Booth, J. S. McCay, William Freeman, William Beach, John B. Leslie and far up the river John Bail. Of all these first settlers in that section not one is now living on his homestead, except A. M. Doty, but several of the families are represented by the younger generation.


In June, 1865, John Bassett came with his family and with a well-equipped outfit of horses and other stock and took land in Hartford, he being the first settler there, and four days later came James Landphere and W. H. Redfield. In August John Wait and George Case located on land near what is now called old Hartford. They built a bridge across the river, which was known as the Wait bridge for many years. Mr. Case soon abandoned his claim. William Powell came in a little later and settled on the now well-known Charles Drill farm. The following season came George Pearmine, who was for years on the outskirts of civilization on his farm near present Clarissa. None came in there till in the seventies. Running down the east side of Long Prairie river from Long Prairie village, we find along in 1870-71, besides those named, Nicholas Rectenwald, Peter Pontius, D. Sdomy, Joseph Moore, R. H. Losey, L. W. Nickerson, Francis Pickins, William Neil, Thomas Laidlow, Henry Weitmeyer, Schuyler Closon, Mrs. Hermes, widow, William Shubert, Daniel Sanborn, Truman Tyrrell.

To the east of these along Turtle creek were N. Irsfeld, Thomas Mundry, S. J. Davis, William George, F. Cleveland, J. H. Scott, E. N. Perry. On the west bank of the river were Nicholas Pontius (still occupying his old homestead) Fred, Jacob and John Holler, Phillip Petrie, Otis Lanphere. Thomas Rambo, J. P. Weeks and two grown sons, Warren and Clark (whose original claims are a part of the farm afterward owned by Levi Whitesell), Richard Phillips, Fred Knarr, Louis Piepenburg, Charles O. and Carl Martin. In 1870 and 1871, came the seven Sarff brothers, Solomon Shull, John Gray, Joseph and E. J. Sutton and Lewis Sheets, all locating in a bunch to the north of the present site of Browerville and long known as the Hoosier settlement. Others came from Indiana later on, among them Barnhill Polly, A. Murphy, A. Cherry, John D. Nickey. Of these Indiana people, Joseph Sutton alone occupies the original homestead on which he first settled.

After that date, this section of the county was rapidly settled, largely by Germans and Americans of German parentage, Louis and Joseph Woell, Joseph Gruber, Ben and J. C. Borgert, John and Henry Becker, John and Ed. Host, Henry Speaker, William Disselbritt, William Smith, August an Carl Drawz and Frederick Zachow being familiar names.


A few settled along the river as far north as northern Moran, among them J. H. Cates, who kept a wayside inn in Moran, John Senti, Wallace and Lucian Wolff and Theodore and Philo Powell. All that portion of the county, comprising fourteen congressional townships, were included in the township organization of Hartford and Ward, and the few settlers along the river road to Motley, that whole region was practically unsettled. George Pearmine was the only resident of the present town of Eagle Valley and R. V. Harris, of the present town of Iona, which was then a part of Reynolds. It was about the year 1871 or 1872 when the first Polish settlers began to take up land in Hartford and within a few years along the Turtle Creek was a flourishing colony of these people. John Morzenzek, Joseph Zigan, Thomas Feist and Joseph Buhl were among the first of the Polish settlers.

On the eastern edge of the county no settlements were made except along the government road from Swan River to Long Prairie. Besides A. H. Gibson, mentioned previously as the first to settle in that vicinity, Albert Rhoda settled on the farm which he still owns in the year 1866, and George Balmer settled on his farm near the present site of Pillsbury soon after. David Burnham built a mill at the outlet of Swan Lake on the site of the present village of Pillsbury, which was then named Burnhamville and later this became a flourishing little hamlet, and the center of a thriving farming community.

A general store was established in 1875 by William E. Lee and R. H. Harkens and later when this store was moved to Long Prairie, Dr. J. Frank Locke carried on a general store business there, and also operated a flouring-mill. A woolen-mill also was in operation in the village for several years in the eighties and the early nineties. The Lee & Harkens store after being moved to Long Prairie, was run under the firm name of William E. Lee Company, and Doctor Locke also some years later came to Long Prairie where he has since resided. Both these individuals have been prominent in the public affairs of the county. For many years Charles Smith also operated a general store in the village. Among the early settlers in that section were Charles D. Krousey, Jabez Merrill, Duncan McCrae, John Stoll, Maxim Pepin, H. W. Twitchell and Charles Perley.

Further to the west in that section Jeremiah Adams, C. D. and E. Batchelor were early settlers on Bear Head creek, the Batchelors operating a saw-and shingle-mill for several years.

Another little community must have sprung up at an early date along the northwestern shore of Lake Osakis, as a school district was organized there, being a joint district with the territory partly in Douglas county. Seth Curtis was an old-time resident in that locality and his son, Oliver Curtis still resides on the old farm which is devoted largely to fruit culture.


The settlement of the northwestern towns is of comparatively recent date. About the years 1875 James, Isaac and Amos Stowe left the Kentucky settlement west of Long Prairie and took up land along Wing river in what is now Stowe Prairie. In 1877 there was quite a settlement in that section, among the pioneers being C. H. Ward, Chancy Wilcox, David Bennett, George Penny, M. L. Hinman, John Kelly, C. C. Lane, “Pap” Powell and Hy. Hewitt. Further up the Wing river, Henry Bottemiller opened a large farm and also John Riggs and family settled near the present site of the village of Bertha. S. H. Hamilton and Paul Steinbach were the pioneers of the present town of Germania and for several years there were no settlers living between Steinbach's farm in northern Germania and the Pearmine place on Eagle Creek. The present town of Wykeham and Burleene were unsettled except by J. H. Thompson and J. B. Leslie in the south of the latter and a Mr. R. Barnum, a single man, who lived in solitude on a claim in western Wykeham. Eagle Bend was only a bend in the stream. About 1880 or 1881, Manassas Sarff with his family, moved from Ward township to the Eagle Bend vicinity and about the same time, B. F. Abbott and family settled on the land now the town site of the village. When the railroad was built to that point there soon sprang up a flourishing village and the land was rapidly taken in that section and settled by permanent residents.

The building of the railroad resulted also in the location of Browersville and Clarissa and the rapid settlement of the lands all along the line. B. F. Abbott, J. H. Thompson and C. G. Odell opened stores in Eagle Bend, which were among the first business institutions. A. H. Odell, F. Nutting & Son and J. V. Glann were among the pioneer business men of Clarissa, the former doing a large business in shipping cordwood for several years. In Browerville, Perry & Scott opened the first store, moving it from old Hartford when Browerville was platted in 1882 and this firm is still in business there. D. C. Davis also established a general store, but soon went out of business, R. H. Harkens and afterward C. E. Harkens succeeding him. William Kahlert opened a general store in 1883 or 1884, which is still running under the management of the Kahlert Brothers. When C. E. Harkens closed his business in Browerville, Sutton & Hart established a general store on the same site in 1887 and this business grew to the present establishment of the Hart Brothers.


The largest town in the county is Staples, although one of the youngest, on the Northern Pacific railroad. This town grew up as a result of the Northern Pacific cut-off being built in 1885 from Little Falls in order to shorten the run from St. Paul to the coast. It is almost wholly dependent on the business incident to the railroad traffic, the population being largely made up of railroad employees. Staples furnishes a good market for vegetables and small fruits as well as eggs, poultry and dairy products, and many farms in the north end of the county are devoted largely to this line of production. This cut-off also brought into existence the village of Philbrook, which was laid out by B. F. Hartshorn, an early settler of Motley. Joseph Smith and Mr. Phelps were among the first business men of this town. It is the trading place of a rather sparsely settled farming country, but being well within the Cuyuna iron district it has a fine prospect of being a prominent business center of the future.

The people who now make up the population of the county are typical of the American people, generally. They represent many of the older states, as well as European countries. There are the New Englanders or descendants from the old Pilgrim stock and people from New York and other eastern states, as well as large numbers from the great middle west. A large percentage of the people are Germans or Americans of German parentage an this nationality is more numerously represented in the towns of Long Prairie, Hartford, Ward, Moran, Germania and Bertha. The Scandinavians (often called the Yankees of Europe), began to settle in Little Sauk, Gordon and Kandota about 1870, although a few came at an earlier date. Peter Peterson, John Peterson, Mona Anderson, Jens Johnson, Andrew Johnson and John Olson are names of old settlers in Little Sauk and Gordon. Later a large number of this nationality settled in Iona, Eagle Valley, Wykeham, Ward and other towns of the central portion of the county. The Polish settlers have already been mentioned. In northern Ward and southern Moran there is a large settlement of Bohemians and these people have built a hall in which to meet and observe the customs of their native land and to celebrate the holidays of their adopted country. There are also quite a sprinkling of French settlers near Clarissa and in Round Prairie. The Irish are also in evidence in Todd County, as in every new country. It is noticeable that the children of all these various races show a marked tendency to amalgamate—to be, in fact, one race.


In all sections of the county the energies of the first settlers were directed to the opening of farms and the cultivation of the soil, and those who were reasonably industrious and prudent were eminently successful. In every neighborhood among those who commenced to build homes in an early day, can be found many well-to-do farmers and it is also equally true that many who have bought lands more recently, have been quite successful. But other industries were not neglected. There were numerous saw-mills. A mill was built near the mouth of Turtle creek about the year 1875, by John Barnes, which was afterward purchased by James Hart. After operating the mill for several years, Mr. Hart sold out to C. A. and Eben Jones, who run the mill until the pine timber within reach of it was used up. A large section of central Todd county was supplied with lumber from this mill and back in the later seventies it was the chief source of lumber supply for Long Prairie.

About the year 1880 F. LaHatte built a mill on Lake Beauty in the town of Bruce and J. M. Harrington at Coal Lake, six miles east of Browerville, and these two mills cut from a half million to a million feet of lumber a year for about ten years. In 1874, Getchell, Hayford & Teller built a saw-mill two miles west of the village, which was afterward purchased by Chandler, Fisher & Wait, who also erected a flouring-mill which was known for many years as Wait's mill. The mill was destroyed by fire along in the nineties and was never rebuilt. Alexander Moore, of Sauk Centre, built a grist-mill at Little Sauk about 1868 or 1869, which afterward came into possession of W. and John McNeice and most of the farmers of Todd county for ten or fifteen years, got their milling done at this mill.

In 1882 or 1883 F. Nutting & Son built a saw-mill and grist-mill at Clarissa where an immense amount of timber was manufactured into ties and bridge timber for railroad building. There are at present several modern flouring-mills in the county located at Long Prairie, Browerville, Clarissa, Eagle Bend, Bertha and Hewitt.


Todd county was without railroad facilities of any consequence during all its early history, which retarded growth and settlements in much of its territory. Previous to 1873, St. Cloud was the nearest railroad station and from that town all immigrants had to move by teams. In 1872 the Northern Pacific was built from Duluth to Fargo and cut through the northeastern corner of the county and the village of Motley, just across the county line in Morrison county, became the shipping station for the grain and some other products of the farm from Long Prairie and all settlements to the north.

As most farms were devoted exclusively to wheat culture, it was tedious and expensive work to market the crop by wagons. About the year 1874, John Bassett built a boat by means of which he carried his grain down Long Prairie river to a landing near Motley, the capacity being about three hundred bushels. The boat floated down the current with the load, and was brought back by means of poles. Four men with long poles, pushed the boat up stream by walking from prow to stern, two at a time, one on each side, while the other two walked forward to take their turn when the two poling the boat reach the stern. A fifth man at the tiller held the boat in her course. The round trip was made in three days, from the Bassett farm on the river east of Browerville.

In 1875 Chandler, Fisher & Wait built a steamboat, which was operated two or three years in carrying produce from Long Prairie to Motley. The capacity was little more than that of the Bassett boat, as the machinery made up a considerable portion of the displacement, but during the spring and summer floods, the boat was quite a convenience. The boat was built and fitted up at Motley by John Wait, H. H. Morrell and David Burnham. Mr. Wait, who represented the forty-first legislative district in the Legislature, secured an appropriation of two thousand five hundred dollars to clear the channel of the river from rocks and other obstructions. But dry seasons came and the river was no longer navigable and in 1877 the boat was dismantled. If this steamboat was not a financial success it gave the people some agreeable excitement for the time and forms an interesting incident in the history of the county.

HISTORY OF MORRISON AND TODD COUNTIES MINNESOTA By Clara K. Fuller Volume I, Published by B. F. Bowen & Company, Inc. Indianapolis, Indiana (1915) Submitted by Veneta McKinney

Owing to the absence of "election returns the list of county officials is not complete from about 1879 back to the early days, when records seem to have been made for the time being only. From the secretary of state and from the Historical Society the following is all that can be learned along the line of Todd county officials:

In 1879, H. F. Lashier was in office and held it until 1883; M. J. Martin, 1883 to 1885; Albert Rhoda, 1883 to 1899; J. J. Reichart, 1899 to 1901; Walter Peltier, 1901 to 1909; E. M. Berg. 1909 to 1919.

In 1879 C. E. Burr was in office and held it till 1883; F. C. Chase, 1883 to 1885; C. E. Burr, 1885 to 1891 ; John Peterson, 1891 to 1899; W. I. Paine, 1899 to 1907; Henry Froelich, 1907 to 1913; August Stephan, 1913 and is the present treasurer, term expires in 1919.

In 1879 F. C. Chase was sheriff and was succeeded by J. F. Bassett, 1881 to 1885; S. J. Davis, 1885 to 1887; George W. Maynard. 1887 to 1899; Joseph G. Harmes, 1899 to 1903; Charles Hamilton, 1903 to 1909; Anton Johnson, 1909 to present date, term expires in 1919.

In 1879 W. E. Lee was in office and was followed by J. I. Bell, who served till 1885; C. H. Ward, 1885 to 1893; Charles Harkins, 1893 to 1895; John Wait, 1895 to 1901 : William J. Gutches, 1901 to 1909; H. C. Maynard, 1909 to present date, term expires in 1919.

In 1879 William O'Bryan was serving and was followed, in 1881, by L. S. Headley, who served till 1891; D. A. Tufts, 1891 to 1895; J. Frank Locke, 1895 to 1899; W. F. Callahan, 1899 to 1909; B. A. Lewis, 1909 to present date, term expires in 1917.

In 1879 the county attorney was A. W. Crowell, who served till 1881; J. D. Jobes, 1881 to 1883; E. B. Wood, 1885 to 1891; R. E. Davis, 1891 to 1899; George W. Peterson, 1899 to 1909; Arthur L. Church, 1909 to present incumbent, William M. Wood, whose term expires in 1919.

In 1879 J. H. Sheets was in office; C. H. Ward, 1881 to 1885; S. S. Sergent, 1885 to 1887; G. E. Keyes, 1887 to 1897; S. S. Sergent, 1897 to present, term expires in 1919.

In 1879 the coroner was M. Nessline; he served till 1881; J. H. Gates, 1881 to 1893; John Nutting, 1893 to 1895; C. E. Harkens, 1895 to 1897; M. L. Murphy, 1897 to 1899; B. W. Parrott, 1899 to 1905; C. E. Reeves, 1905 to 1907; P. O. Scow, 1907 to 1909; E. P. Story, 191 1 to 1913; John Markuson, 1913 to present, term expires in 1919.

Charles Harkens was succeeded in 1883, by Jacob Fisher from 1883 to 1891; C. E. Harkins, 1891 to 1895; M. L. Smith, 1895 to 1897; C. E. Harkens, 1897 to 1899; P. O. Scow, 1899 to 1907; J. E. Withers, 1907 to 1909; N. Irsfeld, 1909 to 191 1; P. O. Scow, 191 1 to present date, term expires in 1919.

M. L. Smith was holding this position in 1879 and in 1895 was followed by W. M. Barber; J. E. Withers, 1907 to 1909; N. Insfeld, 1909 to 191 1 ; W. M. Barber, 191 1; N. Irsfield, present incumbent, term expires in 1919.

In 1879 A. Rhoda was superintendent, held till 1883; John Barnes, 1883 to 1887; W. M. Barber, 1887 to 1891; J. G. Mock, 1891 to 1895; Rudolph Dettler, 1895 to 1897; O. B. De Laurier, 1897 to 1901 ; George Peterson, 1901 to 1907; Bertha F. Roddis, 1907 to 191 1; Victor S. Knutson, 191 1 to present date, term expires in 1919.

1893, Eli Woodman, Sid S. Taylor, M. Sarff, Henry Froelich; 1895, John W. Swanson, Sid S. Taylor, Henry Froelich, Louis Anderson; 1897, E. E. Greeno, J. W. Swanson, Ben Brever, Eli Woodman, Louis Anderson; 1899, E. E. Greeno, Henry Fraunt, Ben Brever, John Long, Louis Anderson; 1901, E. E. Greeno, Henry Fraunt, Fred Kemphenkel, John Long, Chris Heen; 1903, E. E. Greeno, E. A. Perkins, Fred Kemphenkel, J. C. A. Long; 1905, J. D. Marlin, E. A. Perkins, F. Kemphenkel, John Long, Chris Heen; 1907, J. D. Marlin, Ed Paulson, F. Kemphenkel, Chris Herrman, Jr., Chris Heen; 1909, Ed H. Thiel, Ed Paulson, F. Kemphenkel, Chris Harrman, George E. Curtis; 1911, E. A. Thiel, Ed Paulson, F. Kemphenkel, J. J. Grimes, G. E. Curtis; 1913, C. A. Remillard, Ed Paulson, Charles J. Speiker, J. J. Grimes, G. E. Curtis. The board in 1915 is composed as follows: C. A. Remillard, runs to 1917; William F. Wieseke, to 1919; Charles J. Speiker, to 1917; Chris Hermann, to 1919; G. E. Curtis, to 1917.

Educational Interest
Source: History of Morrison and Todd Counties, Minnesota, Volume I, Illustrated; by Clara K. Fuller, Chapter VIII; transcribed by: Helen Coughlin

Todd county easily ranks with the foremost counties in the state in the matter of its public schools. Not alone is this true of the common public school system but also of the parochial, or church schools. The Catholic and Lutheran schools at Long Prairie and the Catholic (English and Polish) schools at Browerville are excellent examples of thorough organization of their class. The co-operation between these institutions and the board in charge of public instruction has ever been for the highest good to the greatest number.

Round Prairie had the first school in Todd county and that was more than forty years ago. In 1911 the records show the county had one hundred and fifty-one schools in operation. The buildings have improved in character as the years have passed, until today no county has more excellent buildings and better cared for grounds, as a rule, than Todd county. Here one finds many of the best types of rural schools to be found in all Minnesota. Five years ago there were sixty schools in Todd county drawing special state aid. More than seven months constitutes a school year here. In 1910 there were five graded schools, three semi-graded schools and three high schools. New and improved buildings are the order of the day in all parts of the county—when one is needed it is immediately erected. The five graded schools already mentioned are located at Bertha, Clarissa, Browerville, Grey Eagle and Burtrum. Gutches Grove, Hewitt and West Union had semi-graded schools. Other county school superintendents have been excellent, but none superior to the present one.


From the last annual report made by the county school superintendent the following showing was made for this county:

Number of pupils entitled to apportionment ----------------5,542
Number not entitled to apportionment-------------------------963
Total enrollment-----------------------------------------------6,505
Average number of days each pupil attended-----------------232
Number of women teachers during the year 1914-15--------247
Number of men teachers during the year 1914----------------39
Number teachers graduates of Normals------------------------49
Number teachers graduates from high schools---------------108
Number districts loaning text-books free----------------------152
Number districts selling text-books at cost-----------------------2
Number of frame school houses erected during the year-----1
Number of brick school houses erected during the year------3
Value of brick school houses erected during the year----$34,000
Value of all school buildings erected during the year-----$46,650
Total number books in libraries-----------------------------12,640
Total number of libraries in county-----------------------------124
Number school houses having no trees about them----------9
Number standing in natural groves----------------------------139
Aggregate indebtedness of all districts------------------$126,400
Average length of school in months-----------------------------8


The total receipts for high and graded schools was $82,844; for rural schools, $119,845; total $202,690. The amount disbursed was just equal to the above amounts.

It cost for the 1914 school year in Todd county, $13.41 for the education of each pupil sent to the rural schools. It cost $35.45 per pupil for each attending the city of village schools, which calls forth the question whether the country boy or girl is considered worth only one-third as much to the world as those living in town.

In 1910 there were only fifty-eight schools drawing special state aid, but in 1914-15 the number was increased to one hundred and twelve, by which fact the revenue was increased in Todd county from state to local funds available to the amount of $6,400.

Five years ago there were only about five and one-half months of school per year here, but now the term is nearly eight months.

The matter of consolidated schools is just beginning to engage the attention of Todd county school patrons. Already two such schools are under course of erection—one near Grey Eagle and another near Staples.

Industrial work, where the hand is taught as well as the head, is fast coming into fashion in this county. The articles made by both boys and girls show considerable skill.

In brief, it may be stated that Todd county in 1914 had nearly nine thousand scholars and four thousand parents; two hundred and sixty teachers; four hundred and seventy school officers; and these were all to be looked after by the worthy school superintendent, Victor S, Knutson, who in making his three hundred and fifteen visits traveled over four thousand miles.


The following is a page of a report issued by the county superintendent, Mr. Knutson, to the school patrons and officers in Todd county in 1915, and will serve as a permanent record of school matters here.

"We can have well-equipped school buildings, excellent school boards, splendid school spirit in the district, and still have a very poor school. Such could be the results only when we have a poor teacher. Fortunately the year just passed had very few of those kind of teachers, and there were but a few failures and those were given passports before the year was out. We trust that there will be no failures this coming year. It seems impossible to keep our good teachers in this county for any length of time. The increased salary they are paying in other states and other parts of this state take away some of our very best teachers. We are glad to report, however, that many of our school boards are beginning to realize that fact, and are paying sufficient wages to old teachers that have made good. The girl who works but six, seven or eight months a year and then has to attend summer school and prepare herself for teaching almost all the time during vacation, at from forty to fifty dollars per month has not much left at the end of the year.

"During the past year several of our teachers have taken an active part in the social life of the community. They have taken an active part in the preparation of farmer club programs, in school entertainments and various social activities in the community. We should urge upon our teachers to do even more of this work the coming year.

"We hope that the patrons of our schools will show the teacher the same kind consideration that they would their own son and daughter were they away from home under the same conditions. There is nothing that will make teachers do better work than to be happily received and well taken care of in a district. It will cheer them on to do better work. On the other hand we shall insist that the teachers do all in their power to make it pleasant for the people with whom they come in contact, and with whom they must work. We shall urge them to make life easy for the people with whom they board and to make it a pleasure rather than a burden for patrons of our schools to board the teacher. With this splendid co-operation which we are pleading for between the patrons and the teacher we know our teachers will make a success this coming year."

Todd County Newspapers
Source: History of Morrison and Todd Counties, Minnesota, Volume I
Illustrated, by Clara K. Fuller (1915) Chapter VII; transcribed by Mary Triplett for Genealogy Trails

The Hewitt Banner was established in 1904, by Jesse M. and John J. Goar, who conducted the same until January 27, 1906. From then until January 1, 1914, it was run by W. C. Dally, and from then until February, 1914, by J. V. Barstow; from then on till July 1915, by V. E. Joslin and it is now property of L.A. Groover, who runs a lively five-column octavo sheet. In its politics it is a Republican paper and is a good news-letter each week.

The Todd County Argus, of Long Prairie, Todd county, was established by J.H. and J. E. Sheets in 1872, and it passed into the hands of its present owner on September 21, 1914. A. E. Roese, the present man at the helm, is making a first-class paper, or rather is keeping it to the high standard to which it had been built by the Sheets family who are all thorough newspaper men. Long years has the Argus been issued as a welcome caller at the homes of Todd and surrounding counties. It is now a six column paper; subscription rate one dollar and fifty cents per year and it goes to many sections of the Union aside from Todd county. It was formerly a Republican paper. It is printed on an up-to-date power press and is a well-edited, finely-printed newspaper. It has ever sought to build up the county and state of Minnesota by each issue saying true and good things concerning the county. Would there were more such boosters as the Argus has been for all these forty-three years.

The Eagle Bend News, of Eagle Bend, Minnesota, was established in the fall of 1893, by W. E. Hutchinson, who is still owner and editor. It is a neatly-printed, eight-page newspaper having six columns to the page. Its subscription rate is one dollar a year. It is run on a power press—two revolution Cottrell—by a gas engine. It circulates mostly in Todd and Otter Tail counties, and is a Republican journal of no uncertain sound. This paper is published in a building owned by Mr. Hutchinson, erected in 1900. It has all the latest equipment and does job work to the satisfaction of all who patronize the establishment.

The Grey Eagle Gazette was established on October 17, 1900 by Fred D, Sherman, now the commissioner of immigration at St. Paul. Its other owners have been M. J. Walburn and Will Wilke. Politically, the Gazette is Republican. It has a good circulation in Todd county. It is printed from a power press propelled by a gas engine, and in form and size is an eight-page, six-column paper of the quarto form. Grey Eagle is indeed fortunate in having so good a local newspaper within her borders.

The Long Prairie Leader was established at Long Prairie on November 14, 1883, by Frank B. Simmons, who came from Little Falls where he had been associated with the newspapers of that city. Simmons sold to Harvey Fisher and Bert Rodman, and they to W. G. Graham, and in 1892 he sold to a stock company headed by Rudolph Lee, present editor of the paper. The present form and size of the Leader is a six-column quarto, all home print. It is eight, ten or twelve pages as necessity from issue to issue. Subscription price is one dollar and fifty cents per year. The office was erected in 1914, exclusively for the publication of the paper and has two floors. Circulation is largely in Todd county. The machinery used in the production of this journal includes a linotype, news press, two-revolution Babcock press for large job work, job presses, power cutter, power stitcher and all other machinery used in up-to-date plants doing job and newspaper work.

The Browerville Blade was established at Browerville, Minnesota, May 4, 1905, by Mrs. Del M. Wright, but is now property of K. H. Balcom. It is an eight page folio, printed on a power press. It circulates in the vicinity of Browerville and has a yearly rate of one dollar. The plant in which it is printed has two jobbing presses, a newspaper press, cutter, perforator, stapler, etc. It is in independent in its politics and pays strict attention to the best needs of the community in which it is published, always striving to get the news, the whole news and print it fresh and in decent English language, hence it is a home newspaper and welcome in hundreds of Todd county homes.

Able Men Manage the Local Papers

The Staples World was established in 1890 by John T. Drawz, who was sole owner until October 1, 1914, when the paper passed into the hands of its present owner, J. W. Featherston. Mr. Draws is now running a job office at St. Paul, Minnesota. The present owner came from Sisseton, South Dakota, where he had conducted the Standard for two years, he being its owner. For one year prior to that he had owned the Sentinel at Sauk Rapids. He has been in the newspaper business twenty-eight years, nearly all of this time in Minnesota. He conducts an independent paper but is Republican in his politics. It is an eight-page, six-column paper, all home print. It circulates in Staples, Todd and adjoining counties. It is run from presses propelled by an electric motor.

The Bertha Headlight was established in January 1899, by William Young, who soon after sold to I. J. Courtright, who continued until May 1, 1909, when it was leased to W. H. Hansen, and at that time the name was changed to the Herald. In March, 1910, Mr. Hansen purchased the plant.

The Clarissa Independent was established on July 17, 1900, by P.S. Dorsey, who continued to conduct the paper until July 22, 1902, when George A. Etzell became the owner. This has been, in a way, one of the most successful newspapers in Todd county. It has always been independent in its politics. It has a well-equipped printing establishment.

Todd County Home Page

Visit our National Site:

Genealogy Trails

© Copyright by GenealogyTrails