History of Winona County
Submitted by John Bauer
Winona County was officially established with its present boundaries on February 23, 1854, three years after Minnesota Territory was opened to settlement. Prior to that time this area was at first part of Wabasha County and later Fillmore County under the Minnesota territorial government. After Minnesota achieved statehood in 1858 the county government was established with the election of supervisors in that year and the county board was formed in 1860.
The territorial government, organized in 1849, created nine counties for the Minnesota territory. Only three of them were completely organized as counties, the rest served for the distribution of judicial and administrative officials as needed.
Wabasha County which contained the area which was to be the future Winona County was bounded by the Mississippi River on the east, the Missouri River on the west the Iowa state line to the south, and on the North the latitude drawn from the mouth of the St. Croix River over to the mouth of the Yellow Medicine River This huge administrative area included all of southern Minnesota and the southeastern portion of what would be South Dakota.
In 1853 Fillmore County was created which included most of present Winona County. The creation of this new district was unsatisfactory to Winonans because the western area of the county was sparsely settled, most of the population in 1853 was in Wabasha's prairie and the area adjacent to it including Minnesota City and Minneowah. There were a few early settlers in the hinterland of Wabasha's prairie but they were widely dispersed. A few settlers had established a trading post as far west as St. Charles. Even though the first county meeting was held in Winona all the members of the county board were stockholders in the Chatfield Land Company which was involved in a scheme to acquire the county seat for a townsite they controlled on the western border of Fillmore County. T. B. Twitford from Lansing Iowa discovered and laid out the site for Chatfield. In order to advance his town he formed a stock company to make Chatfield the county seat for Fillmore County. The stock of the company was divided among twelve stock holders, among them were Robert Pike, Jr. of Minnesota City and Willard B. Bunnell of Minneowah.
Source: Winona County Historical Society.
First Settlements at Winona City
Source: History of Winona, Olmsted & Dodge Counties, H. H. Hill & Co. Publishers (1884) Chapter XXIV; transcribed by Peg Thompson
To catch the drift from the colony above, Johnson offered the choice of an acre of his claim on Wabasha prairie to each of the disaffected ones who would stop there, build a house and make it their residence for one year. At that time the claim had not been surveyed or divided into lots and streets. This offer was accepted by several and a number of locations selected.
Rev. E. Ely made choice of an acre south of Johnson’s shanty, about where the Ely block now stands, on the corner of Center and Second streets. Jacob S. Denman selected an acre adjoining that of Mr. Ely’s on the east; Dr. Childs an acre on the south of Mr. Ely’s; E. B. Thomas on the south of Mr. Denman’s and east from that of Dr. Childs’; John Evans selected an acre west of Johnson’s shanty; John Burns, a member of the association and one of the party who camped on the bank of the river from the Dr. Franklin on the 9th of May, accepted the offer of an acre from Ed. Hamilton on his claim on the same conditions as the others. The acre chosen by him was in what is now the front yard of the residence of Hon. H. W. Lamberton on the corner of Huff and Harriett Streets.
Mr. Burns planted a small garden and set out a few small apple trees, which he had brought up the river. Some of these trees afterward grew to be of considerable size. These were the first fruit trees, or trees of any kind, planted on Wabasha prairie by the early settlers. These fruit trees were planted in a trench near together, as in a nursery. When Mr. Huff took possession of the Hamilton claim he built a fence around the few trees that had escaped the ravages of the cattle, and after two or three years transplanted them in his garden.
W. H. Stevens gave the use of his shanty on the Stevens claim to Mr. Denman until he could procure lumber and build a residence for his family. Mr. Denman found occupation for his team and plow by breaking the land selected for himself and others. They all made small gardens by way of occupancy and improvements. Mr. Denman enclosed his acre and that selected by Mr. Thomas with a temporary fence and planted the field with corn. This was his first attempt at farming in Minnesota. It was not a profitable enterprise. The fence that enclosed this corn field was the first fence built on the prairie by the settlers. It was put up by George W. Clark and his brother Wayne Clark. Mr. Denman paid them for it by breaking four acres of land on Clark’s claim across the slough.
Neither Mr. Thomas, Dr. Childs or Mr. Burns ever made any other improvements on the lots selected. They abandoned them and made locations elsewhere. Mr. Thomas and Mr. Burns held claims in the colony, but left the territory in the fall. Dr. Childs remained on the prairie for several years after.
Mr. Denman built a house on his acre of prairie as soon as he could procure lumber. Mr. Ely built one in the fall. During the summer his family lived in Johnson’s shanty after they came up from La Crosse, where they staid for a short time. He paid Johnson four dollars per month rent for the use of the “Hotel.”
The house built by Mr. Denman stood on Lafayette street, between Second and Third streets. This was the first house built by the settlers on Wabasha prairie, not expressly designed as a “claim shanty.” It was a balloon frame building of considerable pretensions for that date of improvements, about 16x32, one story high, the sides boarded “up and down” with rough boards and the cracks battened. The roof was of boards, and because of its peculiar construction the building was given the name of “car-house,” from its fancied resemblance to a railroad car. The doors and windows were furnished with frames and casings – the first improvements of the kind. The floor was of dressed lumber, a luxury heretofore unknown. This building was divided into rooms by board partitions, and parts of it ceiled with dressed lumber.
Mr. Denman occupied this house as his residence until fall, when he moved on his claim. About the first of July he opened a store in the front room of this building. He brought up from Galena a small stock of goods suitable for the market, and here started the first store on Wabasha prairie for the sale of goods to the settlers. Jacob S. Denman was the first merchant to establish himself in business in what is now the city of Winona.
It was in the “car house” that the first white child was born within the limits of this city. While living here the family of Mrs. Denman was increased by the addition of a daughter on the 18th of July, 1852. Mrs. Goddard, after consultation with Mrs. Ely, gave to this first native settler the name of “Prairie Louise Denman,” the name by which she was afterward known. She has been dead many years. The oldest native settler, born in the city of Winona, who is now living, is Mason Ely, the second son of Rev. Edward Ely, born in 1853.
The primary object of all of the early settlers was to secure land for farming purposes on which to locate a future home. About the first thing done was to “make a claim.” Mr. Denman began prospecting as soon as he landed, and on the 9th of May discovered and formally made a claim on the upper prairie. He and his mother there held 320 acres. The high water flooded the bottom lands, and their claims covered all of the land not overflowed, lying east from the Rolling Stone creek, to about where the highway now crosses the railroads and extended south far enough to include the table next to the bluffs. It was on this table that he blazed the trees and inscribed his name as proprietor of the claim. It was on this table that he built a very comfortable log house, made other improvements, and moved his family there in September. The land selected by Mr. Denman had been previously claimed by Haddock and Murphy for the Western Farm and Village Association. Mr. Denman was duly notified that h was trespassing on grounds claimed for the colony, but he persisted in holding it and making improvements without regard to the protestations of the members of the association.
This was the first collision of a settler with that organization. The first person to encroach on the territory claimed was an ex-member. To get Denman off, the colonists tried “moral, legal and physical suasion, but he tenaciously adhered.” He lived in this log cabin under the bluffs for about three years, until he built a more modern house and large barns near the center of his farm. This claim, or, more properly, the claims of Denman and his mother, are now known as the Denman farm. It is at present owned and occupied by Mr. George Fifield.
Mr. Denman sacrificed this large farm, which he had secured by honest industry and years of hard labor, in his mistaken zealous efforts to aid the “Grange movement” for cheaper freights, cheaper supplies and cheaper agricultural implements. He removed to Texas, but his good luck at farming failed him there. It is said that Mr. Denman is now a poor man, and in his old age again a pioneer, looking for “a home in the west” in one of the territories. None of his family are now living in this county.
Dr. George F. Childs, with his wife and niece, lived for a short time in Johnson’s shanty. While there his niece was taken with the measles and died after a few days’ sickness. The remains were taken to La Crosse for burial.
About the middle of May Dr. Childs bought the east half of the claim made by Jabez McDermott. He paid McDermott eighty dollars for a quit-claim deed and possession of eighty acres. This was the first claim sale on Wabasha prairie. Whether this deed was ever made a matter of record is now very uncertain, as at that time there was on county organization in Wabasha county of which Winona county was a part. All matters of record were filed in Washington county, with which Wabasha was connected for all judicial purposes. Possession of land was then more important than title-deeds. The land still belonged to government and no surveys had been made.
The machine shops and surrounding buildings of the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad Company, the Winona wagon works and the Winona plow works are on what was once the McDermott claim. This locality was a favorite camping place of Wabasha’s band. When Dr. Childs took possession there were about half-a-dozen of their large bark cabins, or tepees, yet standing, but in a somewhat dilapidated condition, the settlers having taken material from them for use in other localities. In the vicinity of the machine shops was an old Indian burying place. The graves were scattered over that locality; very many were exposed and destroyed in the excavations made. Relics of the past – stone hatchets, flint arrowheads, and pipes of red pipestone – were found. Sometimes fragments of bones or a tolerably well preserved skeleton would be unearthed and used to help form a railroad embankment in some other locality.
Indian graves have been found in several places on Wabasha prairie and in the mouths of the valleys. Quite a number were exposed by the caving of the river bank on the lower part of the prairie. Two modern Indian graves were on Johnson’s claim when the whites first took possession of the prairie. They were left undisturbed for several years. The covering of sticks which were placed over them by the natives marked their location until the ground was plowed by Johnson in the spring of 1855. These graves were on lot 2, block 17. When it was improved and buildings were erected, the bones buried there were thrown out in excavating a cellar and taken possession of by Dr. Franklin Staples. These bones were the remains of young persons and were very much decayed. It has been stated that some of Wabasha’s children were buried in these graves, but there is no evidence confirming this statement. Wabasha’ special home was in the mouth of Burns valley.
The Indian village located on the McDermott claim, a part of which was purchased by Dr. Childs, was said to be the grand gathering place of the Mdaywakantowan division of Sioux. It was in this vicinity that Wabasha’s bands met for their amusements, sports and games as well as more serious and important affairs. From this village the Indian trails diverged as from a common center, some leading to the valleys, others up and down the bank of the river. The wild grass, common on every other part of the prairie, had almost entirely disappeared around this village or summer resort, and had been replaced by a fine turf of blue-grass found in no other place except along the bank of the river on the lower part of the prairie, where Mrs. Keyes now lives.
Mr. George W. Clarks says “That on McDermott’s claim there was a large flat stone, the center of a large circle of smooth, level ground, with well defined boundaries, plainly to be seen in 1851. This stone was taken away by some of the early settlers.”
Dr. Childs lived during the summer of 1852 in the little cabin with a bark roof which McDermott occupied as his claim shanty. He built a comfortable cottage near by it, in which he lived for several years. The logs and poles of the Sioux tepees were used in the construction of sheds and as posts for his fences. The bark covering of the huts was carefully gathered and used a firewood for his kitchen stove.
It was the custom of Dr. Childs to date all of his correspondence and business papers from his residence on this claim, to which he gave the name of “Ozelle cottage.” This name was derived from the one given by the old French voyageurs to Wabasha prairie. Ozelle was but the French pronunciation of Aix Aile anglicized by Dr. Childs in writing.
When Dr. Childs left New York he supposed that he would find the Indians occupying this part of the territory, and brought along an assortment of goods for the purpose of bartering with them, but found that the Sioux had forsaken their homes in this locality. He after a time traded his Indian goods with the Winnebagoes for dressed deerskins and got rid of his goods without loss.
Dr. Childs was a botanic physician, but never practiced his profession in this vicinity or only to a very limited extent. He engaged in mercantile business for a year or two after he sold his land. He moved to Minneiska, Wabasha county, where he lived for awhile. Dr. G. F. Childs is now a resident of the State of Maryland, where he has charge of a benevolent institution, a home for aged people.
Among he passengers who landed at Johnson’s landing from the steamer Caleb Cope on May 12, 1852, were Abner S. Goddard, wife and three children from La Crosse. They arrived at about four o’clock on a dark and rainy morning, and went directly from the landing to the shanty on the Stevens claim, in accordance with a previous arrangement made with Silas Stevens. On reaching the shanty they were surprised to find the table, benches and other furniture of the cabin which they supposed to be occupied, irregularly piled outside. When the inmates were aroused they discovered that the furniture had been removed to afford sleeping quarters for the occupants. William H. Stevens, and a young man living with him held one corner, while the family of Mr. Denman, seven in number were in possession of the remainder of the little 10x12 shanty, not occupied by the cook-stove. To accommodate the newcomers, the future occupants of the cabin, Mr. Denman provided for his family by making a shelter for them with the lumber he had laid up loosely to dry for use in the house he was then building. While living in this manner the loose boards were blown from over their heads during a severe thunderstorm one night when they were all in bed. They were compelled to seek shelter in Johnson’s shanty, but again occupied their lumber piles in the morning and continued to do so until their house was finished.
During the previous winter Mr. Goddard had been living in La Crosse. He there taught the village school – the first school ever taught in La Crosse, the first school ever taught on the Mississippi river between Prairie du Chien and St. Paul, if the Indian mission schools at Red Wing and Kaposia are excepted. His schoolroom was in the court house, which was built during the fall and fore part of the same winter. To add to their income and to accommodate some personal friends, Mrs. Goddard opened a boarding house “Aunt Catharine’s” table was then, as it is now, always full, without soliciting patronage. Silas Stevens became a boarder and made it his home with them while in La Crosse. After the attempt of Mr. Gere to jump the Stevens claim Mr. Stevens offered to furnish Mr. Goddard a shanty of sufficient capacity to keep a boarding house on Wabasha prairie if he would go up and live on his claim and also promised him an acre of the claim on which to build a house if he would continue to reside there. Others, then living in La Crosse, who had made claims, urged him to accept Mr. Stevens’ proposition. As Mr. Goddard had been up to the prairie with a party of claim hunters early in the spring, and had been solicited by the settlers in that locality to come up, he was the more readily induced to change his residence.
Immigrants were landed from every boat, and the little shanty was crowded with hungry guests as soon as their arrival was known. Meals were provided for all that came, but they were required to look out for their own lodging places. The beds of their guests were sometimes the soft sands of the prairie, the bed clothing their ordinary wearing apparel with the addition of a blanket.
Three or four days after the arrival of Mr. Goddard, another shanty was put up by Mr. Stevens to meet the increasing business and the demand for better accommodations. This shanty was a one story building about 16x32. To increase its capacity an awning of canvas was stretched from one side, which served as a shelter for the cooking department. The two rooms were subdivided by canvas partitions. It was customary, however, for guests who lodged there to blow out the candle and go to the bed in the dark. This was a rule of the house.
This shanty stood about where the “Davenport House,” now stands, not far from the corner of Third and Kansas Streets. The original shanty on the Stevens claim was torn down and the material used in the construction of this second one.
“Goddard’s” was the favorite stopping place – the most popular and commodious “hotel” on Wabasha prairie. This shanty was the “home” of many of the early settlers of this county who came that season. It was here they gathered for social enjoyment, to get the latest news, to discuss the matters of claims and current events. It was the place of gathering for all public meetings, and the headquarters of the Wabasha Protection Club, of which Mr. Goddard was elected secretary. A select school was opened here by Miss Angelia Gere, a young daughter o H. C. Gere. This was the first school attempted on the prairie. It was kept in operation but a short time. Here the first stated religious meetings were held, with regular preaching on the Sabbath day. This history would be incomplete without some special notice of Mr. Goddard an dhis family so intimately were the early settlers connected with this “settlers’ home.”
The summer of 1852 was known in the west as the sickly season. The extreme high water of the early spring was followed by another extreme of low water, with remarkably dry and hot weather. This occasioned a general epidemic of severe forms of malarial diseases, which were unusually fatal. These diseases prevailed extensively along the river. Wabasha prairie and the colony at Minnesota City were seriously affected by it. The settlement of this county was retarded through the loss of many of the settlers by death, and the removal of very many others to escape the threatened dangers of sickness in a locality where there was so limited accommodations, even for the healthy.
The settlers considered themselves fortunate, indeed, if in their attack of sickness they could get in at Goddard’s. The accommodation was prized, for there they felt sure of kind attention and watchful nursing. There were no regular medical practitioners in the county who followed their profession – none nearer than La Crosse, and domestic management was an important consideration with the sufferers.
The following extract from a letter to “Aunt Catherine” (Mrs. Goddard), written a score of years afterward, will illustrate somewhat the general sentiments of the early settlers in connection with the occurrences of that year: “I cannot forget the many deeds of kindness and motherly care my brothers and myself received at your hands when you house was a hospital and you the ministering angel. With nine sick persons, including your husband; with but two rooms in which to lodge and make comfortable your sick household how admirably and patiently all was managed.
In the latter part of this season Mr. Goodard and his two youngest children were prostrated with the prevailing diseases and died. Mr. Goddard’s death occurred September 11. The loss of a citizen of such promising usefulness in the new settlement was a calamity seriously felt. He was a man of the strictest integrity and of correct moral principals.
In his native state, Pennsylvania, Mr. Goddard was honored with the office of justice of the peace and held that position for many years. He there acquired the title of “Squire Goddard” by which name he was generally known. He was appointed postmaster and received his commission during his last sickness, but never qualified or attempted to serve in that capacity.
Mrs. Goddard now known as Ms. Catharine Smith, is yet a resident of Wabasha prairie. She is the oldest female resident of the city of Winona. Indirectly through her some of the best citizens of Winona became residents of this county. She is a sister of the Lairds’. Although the mother of many children, she has but one living, a son, Orrin F. Smith.
Aunt Catharine is a woman, whose social nature, kind heart and real worth have secured to her hosts of sincere friends. Her Easter parties, birthday gatherings and social reunions of old settlers are annual enjoyments to herself as well as to her numerous relatives and friends. Mrs. Goddard was connected with many incidents of pioneer life which might be mentioned some of which will be noticed.
Prominent among the settlers who located on Wabasha prairie this season was Dr. John L. Balcombe. About April 1 he came up the river on the Nominee and stopped at La Crosse. Being a gentleman of much more than usual general intelligence, with fine social qualifications, and also an invalid, he readily formed acquaintances and found friends among the best citizens of that place. Wabasha prairie was then attracting considerable attention from the residents of La Crosse, and not long after his arrival he was induced to join a party who proposed to explore the late Sioux purchase for farming lands. Their prospecting excursions only extended to the valleys along the river, where some claims were selected. It being too early in the season to attempt any very extended trip without a more suitable outfit than could be procured, they returned to La Crosse.
In the fore part of May Dr. Balcombe again visited Wabasha prairie. He brought with him a horse or pony and camp supplies. He here secured the services of Ed Hamilton whose robust strength and experience as a cook made him a valuable acquisition in the exploring excursion he proposed to make. After transporting their outfit across the slough they started for the back country, Hamilton leading the way on the trail with a heavy pack of supplies, the doctor following on horseback with the balance of their outfit, which included a sack of corn and a bundle of hay.
Following the trail to Minnesota City they went up the south valley and out on Sweet’s prairie on a trail marked by the settlers of the colony. They spent three or four days in exploring the country along the branches of the White Water and Root River as far as the western part of this country. In the vicinity of what is now the town of Saratoga they saw a large herd of elk, the last that have been seen in this vicinity.
They returned through the Rolling Stone and arrived at Johnson’s landing on the evening of May 12, and went directly to the shanty of Mr. Goddard, where the doctor was provided or as a guest with such accommodations as the place afforded, although Mrs. Goddard had hardly taken possession of the premises. The next day he returned to La Crosse.
About the last of May another exploring party was organized in La Crosse by Dr. Balcombe, Rev. J. C. Sherwin, Rev. William H. Card, and other prominent citizens. Provided with horses and necessary supplies for camping out, they took passage to Wabasha prairie. The services of Ed Hamilton were again secured. As the grass had by this time become sufficient for the support of their horses, the trip was only limited by their inclinations or the extent of their camp supplies.
This party went out through Gilmore valley. Keeping on the divide between the Root river and the White Water and Zombro rivers, they explored the country as far west as the head waters of the White Water, spending the Sabbath in the vicinity of the present village of St. Charles. Religious exercises were observed and Elder Sherwin delivered a sermon to his companions. This was the first religious meeting held in the country back from the river.
While on the excursion Dr. Balcombe made discovery of many choice locations. His habits of close observation with a retentive memory, gave him a decided advantage over other explorers, which were afterward of pecuniary value. He could long afterward point out the choicest locations to the early settlers seeking farming lands. While on this trip he first discovered and located the present site of High Forest. It was not until a year or two afterward that he found sale for his rights of discovery.
This exploring excursion satisfied Dr. Balcombe that the resources of this part of the Sioux purchase, when developed, would amply support a large commercial town on the river and that the outlet must be in this vicinity. He decided to locate on Wabasha prairie, and accepted Johnson’s offer of an acre of ground on the same terms offered others. The acre selected was west of and adjoining that chosen by John Evans. He built a shanty on Main street, between Front and Second streets, near the alley. It was 12x16, one story , of little better style than common claim shanties. It had a gable roof instead of the ordinary shed roof. This was at first of boards, but was afterward covered with shingles.
Dr. Balcombe also bought an undivided one-third of the Hamilton claim No. 5. Mark Howard, a gentleman residing in Hartford, Conn., purchased another third. Edwin Hamilton retaining one third. Walter Brown of La Crosse, was appointed agent for Mr. Howard. This property is now known as Huf’s addition to the original town plot of Winona. The claim was valued at $200. The shares were $66.66 each. Mr. Hamilton then supposed he had made a good sale.
About June 1, Dr. Balcombe brought his wife from Illinois where she was on a visit with her son. Stopping at La Crosse for awhile, she came to Wabasha prairie on June 13. They boarded at Goddard’s until they commenced housekeeping in their own shanty in July. About July 1, he built a shanty on the Hamilton claim, which he leased to O. S. Holbrook, of which mention was made in earlier pages.
Early in July Dr. Balcombe went down the river and brought up some household furniture and supplies. He also brought back with him a span of horses and a colt, double and single harnesses, a lumber wagon and a buggy. This was the first buggy ever brought into the county and the only one for nearly a year afterward.
After spending the summer and fall in Minnesota, Dr. Balcombe sold his interest in the Hamilton claim, with his horses and wagons, to Edwin Hamilton for $661, and with his wife went down the river on the last boat in the fall. He spent the winter with his only child, a son, St. A. D. Balcombe, then a druggist doing business in Elin, Illinois. He returned the following spring. Further attention will be given him in the occurrences of that year.
History of Winona City
Source: History of Winona, Olmsted & Dodge Counties; H. H. Hill & Co. Publishers (1884) transcribed by Jean Hadley
When the county of Fillmore was created out of Wabasha county by special act of territorial legislature, approved March 5, 1853, the new county thus created was organized for judicial purposes and divided into electoral precincts. One of these precincts was called the Winona precinct, and included within its limits the territory embraced in the level bottom lands on the west side of the Mississippi river in latitude 44 degrees north, longitude 14 degrees and 30 minutes west of Washington, and known as Wabasha prairie. The life of Winona precinct as thus constituted was of short duration. By special act of territorial legislature, approved February 23, 1954, Fillmore county was in turn divided and the present county of Winona formed, its boundaries fixed as now existing, and Winona designated as the county seat. Under the provisions of this act, a special election was held April 4, 1854, within the several precincts as then designated by the county commissioners of Fillmore county, for the purpose of choosing county and precinct officers. These commissioners were Henry C. Gere, Myron Toms and Wm. T. Luark. The precinct officers to be elected were, two justices of the peace, two constables and one road supervisor. Under the Fillmore county administration the precinct officers were appointed by the governor of the territory, and for Winona precinct were, John burns and John M. Gere, justices of the peace; Frank W. Curtis, constable; and Geo. W. Clark, road supervisor. These officers held their seats until the regular territorial election, on the second Tuesday in October, when Geo. W. Gere and Wm. H. Stevens were elected justices of the peace and F. W. Curtis, constable. The terms of office for which these gentlemen were elected expired by operation of the special act of February 23, 1854, ordering a special election to be held April 4 ensuing. The judges of election were appointed by the Fillmore county commissioners, the election held as ordered, and Winona precinct, besides casting her vote for the regular county officers, elected for herself as justices of the peace Wm. H. Stevens and Geo. H. Sanborn, and for constable, Frank W. Curtis. No official record of this election is on file in the office in this county, as the returns were made to Fillmore county. The Winona county commissioners, elected April 4, 1854, met at Winona, the seat of government for the new county, April 28, of that same year, and the following day April 29, 1854, redistricted the county. By this partition Winona county was divided into six electoral precincts; one of these was named Winona and described as township No. 107 north, range 7, west of the fifth principal meridian. As will be noted by the description, the precinct of Winona, as then formed, was identical in its boundaries with the present township of Winona, including the corporate limits of the city of Winona. The official term for which these offices were filled in April expired when the regular election for the territory was held the ensuing October. The official returns of this election-the very existence of which seemed unknown until they were unearthed for us by ex-county auditor Basford from among the musty archives of the county records-give the following as the result: justices of the peace, S. K. Thompson, A. C. Jones; constables, F. W. Curtis, A. C. Smith; road supervisor, Enoch Hamilton. It does not appear from any records in the office of the register of deeds, or from any acknowledgment upon any instrument extant, or from the memory of any one familiar with those times, that A. C. Jones ever qualified as justice of the peace or exercised the functions of that office. There is abundance of parole evidence to show that G. H. Sanborn continued to exercise the authority of justice for months after the October election, and in connection with S. K. Thompson “reserved the peace” in Winona precinct.
The election of 1855 returned Henry Day and John Keyes, justices; Harvey S. Terry and W. H. Peck, constables; and Wm. Doolittle, road supervisor.
The officers elected in 1856 were: justices of the peace, G. R. Tucker, I. B. Andrews; constables, Harvey S. Terry, C. C. Bartlett; road supervisor, Asa Hedge. This was the last precinct election in which the residents within the city limits took part. The term of office for which the above election was held expired with the charter election held Monday, April 6, 1857.
From the formation of Fillmore county, March 5, 1853, until the charter election for the newly incorporated city was held, four years and one month later, the settlers on Wabasha prairie were subject only to such general laws and regulations as had been enacted by territorial authority for the government of such communities as were uninvested with corporate rights and privileges. This day had passed by for Winona and she was now to enter upon the larger and more responsible work of creating a city government, and administering its affairs, answerable only to herself within the limits of her corporate franchises. Before entering upon this phase of the history of Winona, it is necessary that some idea should be given of the growth in population and the material progress made by the little community from the date of its planting to the eve of its incorporation, and for this purpose a brief reference to these matters will be all that is necessary.
The population of Winona county at the date of its organization is generally placed a little below 800 – a slow growth, and one not destined to be much accelerated during the year and a half that followed. The attractions of southern Minnesota, to which Winona has ever been the chief gateway, seemed generally disregarded, and the rush of settlement was farther north along the Minnesota river; the St. Paul press growing so eloquent in its description the beauty and fertility of that valley as to attract the attention of prospective settlers to that region. The protracted occupation of this section of Minnesota by the Indians, their final removal not having been effected until the autumn of 1853, had much to do in preventing early settlement of southeastern Minnesota. But when the vast territory lying west of Winona was opened to settlement in the summer of 1855, and the government land office established here in November of that year, the change from the dull inactivity of the previous year was almost marvelous. The influx of population, the rapid increase in the number of business houses of all kinds, the activity manifest in every department of trade, the impetus given to all speculative movements, the number of buildings in course of erection, all testified to the fact that a new day and better one had dawned upon the prospective metropolis of southern Minnesota. The condition of affairs at the close of the year 1856 may be summed up as follows: The population had increased from about 800 in December, 1855, to 3,000 in December 1856. There had been erected during the year 290 buildings of all kinds, among them three good churches, a large four-story warehouse, a commodious hotel (the Huff House, now standing), a steam flouring-mill with five run of stones, a large three-story banking building, besides scores of others of less note, yet decidedly creditable to the young city. An idea of the value of real property may be had from these specimen quotations of sales of real estate, taken from the columns of the “Winona Republican” of that date: “A lot on Second street, between Center and Lafayette, 40X100 feet, $1,600 cash; two corner lots on Walnut street, $1,800; a lot, 80 X 140 feet, corner of Second and Center streets, $6,000.” The manufacturing establishments were two steam saw-mills, one steam planning-mill, one steam flouring-mill, one cabinet manufactory with steam power. The river was open to navigation from April 8 to November 17, and during that time there were 1,300 arrivals and departures of boats. A tri-weekly line of steamers was maintained for greater part of the season between Winona and Dubuque, and the forwarding and commissioning business for that season aggregated $182,731.96. There were fourteen attorneys-at-law and nine physicians waging war against crime and death, and about 150 business houses, stores, shops, etc., distributed as follows: Dry goods, 14; groceries and provisions, 16; clothing, 7; hardware and tin, 6; drugs, 5; boots and shoes, 4; furniture, 4; books, 2; hat and fur store, 2; wholesale liquors, 2; hotels and taverns, 13; eating-houses and saloons, 10; lumber yards, 5; blacksmith shops, 3; warehouses, 4; brickyards, 2; livery stables, 2; sign painters, 3; watchmakers, 3; butchers, 2; wagon and carriage ship, 2; fanning-mill maker, 1; gunsmith shop, 2; bakeries, 2; dentists, 3; gaugenean artists, 1; banking-offices, 6; real estate and insurance, 10; printing-offices, 2; harness shop, 2; barber shop, 3. To these may be added five churches and two schools, and you have a fair summary of Winona business at the close of the year 1856. The original plat of Winona, surveyed June 19, 1852, by John Ball, for Erwin H. Johnson and Orrin Smith, was so set apart and recorded under the revised territorial statues of 1851, in accordance with the town site act passed by congress May 23, 1844. This original plat was bounded on the north by the Mississippi river, on the east by Market street, on the south by Wabasha street, and on the west by Washington street. It comprised a square, each side of which was six full blocks. This plat was enlarged from time to time by “additions,” until at the close of 1856 the platted area on Wabasha prairie covered a tract of ground fully two miles in extent from east to west and nearly half that distance from north to south. The principal of these additions was never recorded as such, and is generally known as Huff’s survey of the city of Winona. This survey and dedication was made in 1854, and extended from the original town plat on the east to Chute’s addition on the west, a total length of seven blocks and a fraction, and covering an area considerably larger than the original plat itself. This addition does not now appear on the maps as such, and for years has been included and its blocks numbered as a part of the original town plat. The more important of the subsequent additions were Laird’s addition and subdivision, immediately east of the original plat. These covered an area of about 80 acres in extent, fronting north on the river and extending some half-dozen blocks to the south. Hamilton’s addition, lying east of Laird’s, was the largest of any of the plats, original or additional. It comprised an area of 160 acres, extending westward beyond the macadamized road leading to Sugar-loaf Bluff, and running backward eight or ten blocks from the river. Within its limits are some of the most populous sections of the city. These, with Taylor & Co’s addition, and Sanborn’s and Hubbard’s all on the south, and Chute’s addition on the west, were platted and dedicated before the close of the year 1856. Beyond the limits of these additions but little building has been done, save in the Polish quarter just east of Hamilton’s addition, and in the vicinity of the wagon-works just west of Chute’s addition. The latter of these settlements, in what is known as Evans’ addition, is rapidly building up, and will some day be a populous portion of the city, lying, as it does, in the immediate vicinity of the manufacturing establishments recently located in west Winona.
That the county seat of Winona county was destined at no distant day to become a city of no mean proportions was very early accepted as a fact by her citizens, and preparations for investing her with corporate rights and privileges were not long delayed. As early as November 11, 1856, the “Winona Republican,” in a brief editorial, called attention to the matter of securing a city charter, and suggested the necessity of taking definite action, alleging that the movement would be heartily supported by all the members of the territorial legislature from the southern Minnesota districts. A meeting of the citizens was accordingly called for Saturday evening, January 3, 1857. The response to the call was quite general. The meeting was held in Central Hall, and organized with Edward Ely, better known as Elder Ely, in the chair. W. C. Dodge was elected secretary, the business of the hour stated, the measure of incorporation approved, and after considerable discussion as to corporate boundaries, etc., a committee was appointed to draft a charter, and report the same at an adjourned meeting to be held on the following Saturday evening. The members of that committee, three only of who are now residents of Winona, were: W. G. Curtis, W. Newman, C. H. Berry, William Windom, M. Wheeler Sargent, John Keyes and Edward Ely. On Saturday evening, the 10th inst., the citizens met, pursuant to adjournment of previous week, to hear the report of their committee. Hon. C. H. Berry, on behalf of the committee, presented the report, which at their instance he had drafted, together with an abstract of charter. The only question upon which differences of opinion arose was as to the proper limits for the proposed incorporation. Some were in favor of quite extended corporation boundaries, others advocated a comparatively limited boundary. The report favored extending the boundaries of the city to include the causeways over the slough at the east and west ends of town, the following reasons being adduced: That, as the maintenance of good approaches to the city more nearly concerned the citizens of the corporation than those outside its limits, the control and repair of the roads over the sloughs, by which access to town was only possible, should be under the care of the city; that the vote of the county outside the city limits being in excess of that polled within the city, it would not be wise to allow the county vote, which might or might not approve the expenditures for maintaining these causeways in good repair, to control a matter so essential to the interests of the city; that as the city would certainly reap the most benefit, it was only just that she should incur the responsibility of the increased outlay; that it was a question whether the county had any right to appropriate moneys for a work so nearly sectional in its character; and that in any event the more liberal policy would be for the city to assume the burden, leaving the county authorities free to assist in bearing it if at any time they saw fit. It was also represented that by extending the corporate limits a larger proportion of property-holders whose lands would be increased in value by their nearness to a large city would be taxed to defray the city expenses. The reasons of which the above is a brief summary were approved, the report adopted, the abstract of charter commended and returned to the committee with instructions to complete the draft and submit it as a completed charter for the adoption of the citizens at a meeting to be held the following Saturday evening, January 17, 1857. This was accordingly done, and the accepted charter was forwarded to St. Paul, where it came before the territorial legislature, passed, and the act formally incorporating the city of Winona was approved March 6 of that same year 1857, and became law immediately after its adoption.
Act of Incorporation
By the provisions of this act the extreme southeastern limit of the city was established just where the western boundary of Winona township touches the south shore of the Mississippi river. From this point the boundary line of the corporation was run due west four miles, thence north two miles, thence east to the middle of the Mississippi river, thence in a southeasterly direction down the middle of the stream to a point due north of the place of beginning. The ground thus inclosed within the corporate limits of the city formed an irregular four-sided figure; its south boundary a right line four miles long, its west boundary a right line two miles long, its north boundary a right line running east about one and a-half miles to the shore of the river, from which point it followed the irregular shore line southeasterly to the west line of Winona township, The city was divided into three wards. The first ward embracing all that portion of the city lying west of Washington street. The second ward extending eastward from Washington to Lafayette streets, and the third ward including all between Lafayette street and the city limits on the east. The wards thus established were each to constitute an electoral precinct, the judges of election for which (at the ensuing charter election) were to be appointed by the county commissioners, as was the case in all precinct elections. The charter election was ordered to be held on the first Monday in April, polls to open at twelve o’clock and close at four o’clock, and the officers to be chosen were, one mayor, one recorder, one justice of the peace, one marshal, one assessor, one attorney, one surveyor and two aldermen for each ward. The mayor, aldermen and recorder to form the city council.
Tuesday, April 7, 1857, the first charter election for the city of Winona was held, when the following vote was cast.
Office. Candidate. Votes Polled.
Assessor 1st Ward
Assessor 2nd Ward
Assessor 3rd Ward
Alderman 1st Ward
Alderman 1st Ward
Alderman 2nd Ward
Alderman 3rd Ward
Alderman 3rd Ward
Aldermand 3rd Ward
R. D. Cone
E. A. Gerdtzen
J. V. Smith
H. B. Upman
E. A. Batrchelder
G. W. Horton
P. B. Palmer
H. W. Lamberton
D. S. Norton
H. B. Cozzens
O. M. Lord
C. H. Blanchard
A. P. Foster
P. P. Hubbell
W. H. Dill
I. B. Andrus
I. D. Ford
P. V. Bell
G. W. Payne
Geo. H. Sanborn
E. H. Murray
From these returns it appears that the maximum vote cast was for marshal, for which office 754 votes were polled; the vote for recorder being the minimum, 654. The average vote was about 685 to 690. The third ward vote was equal to the votes of the first and second ward in the ballot for aldermen, and led those wards in the vote for assessor, 400 votes being cast in the third ward for that office and only 339 in both the others. The usual proportion of population to voters would have given Winona at this time a census of 3,770 souls, so that the estimate of 3,000 population for the city was probably not much out of the way.
The city limits were not long unchanged. The following year, 1858, the act of incorporation was so amended as to change the city boundaries on the south and east. By this change, and an immaterial one made nine years later, the southern boundary was fixed to conform in some degree to the south shore of lake Winona, and some quarter-sections were taken off the western end of the corporation as originally bounded. By these acts about one and one-half square miles were taken from the area of the city as established by act of March, 1857. By act of February 10, 1870, a further curtailment of a quarter of a section was made, at which time the tract in the extreme west end of the city, known as the fair-ground, was set outside the city limits, and these are the only changes made in the boundaries of the city since its incorporation. The ward changes have not been numerous. February 15, 1865, the boundary line between the second and third wards was removed two streets east of that upon which it was originally established and Market street made the division line. When the whole act of incorporation was amended, March 1, 1867, the boundary between the first and second wards was moved one street east and Johnson street became the separating line. February 28, 1876, a radical change was made. The city was divided into four wards, and their boundaries respectively were, for the first ward, that portion of the city lying west-ward between the center of Washington street and the city limits; second ward, that portion lying between Washington street on the west and Walnut street on the east; third ward, that portion extending from Walnut street on the west to Vine street on the east, and the fourth ward, that portion lying within the city limits eastward from the center of Vine street. These changes were all made by special act of Minnesota legislature and are the only ones made in the several ward boundaries to date.
Several changes, some of them quite important, have been made from time to time in the list of city officers, both as regards the nature of the office and the status of the officer. Under the original act of incorporation the elective officers of the city were: one mayor, one recorder, one treasurer, one marshal, one attorney, one surveyor, one justice of the peace, one assessor and six aldermen. Some misapprehension concerning the election of assessors must have occurred at the first charter election, as three assessors were returned, one for each ward, a thing not contemplated by the act. The term of office for aldermen and justice was fixed at two years, all other official terms one year. By the act of March 8, 1862, the number of justices was increased to two, and the recorder, though still an elective officer, was denied any vote or voice in the proceedings of the council, his duties being to keep a report of the council proceedings, to make an annual estimate in August of the current expenses for the year and of the revenue necessary to be raised therefor. A radical change in the list of elective officers was made by the act of March, 1865, which defined said officers to be a mayor, two aldermen from each ward, two justices of the peace and city treasurer. The offices to be filled by appointment of the council were: recorder, marshal, assessor, attorney and surveyor, and the first regular meeting after the charter election was designated as the time and place of appointment. All terms of office, except those of aldermen, which remained unchanged, were fixed at one year, the rule to apply to offices filled either by election or appointment. By act of 1867 the original act was so amended as to virtually constitute a new one. By the later act the officers to be chosen by the people were: mayor, two aldermen for each ward, two justices of the peace, a treasurer and an assessor. The terms of office were as before established by act of March, 1865, with the exception of justices of the peace, whose term was fixed at two years. The officers to be appointed by the council were: recorder, marshal, surveyor, attorney and street commissioner. All persons otherwise qualified to vote for county and state officers were made eligible to vote at any city election in the election district, of which at time of voting they had been for ten days resident, and were also qualified thereby to hold any city office to which they might be elected. All officers, elected and appointed, were required to take an oath of office, and bonds were to be given by the marshal and treasurer. The city justices were given exclusive jurisdiction over all cases and complaints arising under the ordinances, police regulations, laws and by-laws of the city; the powers of the council were fully set forth in extensor, and they were duly empowered to act in all matters pertaining to the peace, cleanliness and safety of the city, as also to the security and public conduct of the citizens. This “act,” “virtually the one under which the city authorities now act,” was declared to be of a public character and not contravened by any general law of the state conflicting with its provisions, unless so expressly stated in the enactment of such general law. By act of February, 1870, council was restrained from incurring an indebtedness in excess of $10,000 for any specific purpose without first submitting the same to the voters of the city and receiving the sanction of two-thirds of the votes cast, for and against the measure. By special act of April, 1876, aldermen were prohibited from receiving any compensation for their services, either directly or indirectly. A new departure in making up the official list of the city was taken in 1877, by authority of an act passed that spring. Under this amendment the officers to be elected were: a mayor, treasurer, recorder, assessor, attorney, marshal, street commissioner, surveyor, physician, two aldermen for each ward and two justices of the peace; the council, as heretofore, having authority to appoint such additional officers as in their judgment the interests of the city required. The term of all officers elected by the people was fixed at two years, and of those appointed by the council one year. The experiment did not prove satisfactory, and in 1879 this act was repealed by an amendment, making the officers chosen by the people to consist of mayor, treasurer, assessor, whose terms of office were for one year; and two aldermen for each ward, and two justices, whose terms, as before, remained fixed at two years. By this amendment city justices were clothed with all the rights pertaining to justices elected under the general laws of the state as well as the exclusive jurisdiction before given them, over all sections and complaints arising under the laws, ordinances, by-laws and police regulations of the city.
Winona Wagon Company
Portrait and biographical record of Winona County, Minnesota; Chapman Bros. Chicago 1895 Page 370 - Transcribed by Christine Walters
THE WINONA WAGON COMPANY was incorporated in October, 1879, as the Winona Rushford Wagon Company by A. J. Stevens, John Albertson and O. B. Gould. The last-named became President. The capital stock was originally $45,000, and the first year about five hundred Rushford wagons were sold. From that time the business has steadily increased until now the annual sale amounts to ten thousand wagons. Business is done in a three-story brick shop, 50x400 feet, with a two-story, in which is stored the raw material which comes in from the yards. There is also a blacksmith shop, 65x190 feet, a seasoning shed, 25x500 feet, full of smaller timber, and a larger building, containing about ten thousand sets of hubs. All the timber for the more important parts of the wagon is seasoned for three years, either in protected sheds in the yards, or in buildings enclosed from the weather, and for three months before using is kept in the seasoning rooms in a bath of hot air at a temperature of one hundred degrees, day and night, until every particle of greenness or moisture is thoroughly extracted. Man}' important parts, such as hubs, etc., are then dipped in boiling oil, which prevents checking and imparts an especial toughness to the fibre.
At the extreme end of the factory, where the finished property is kept, are side-tracks from all the railroads entering the city, so that it is no trouble to load goods. A new contrivance has lately been introduced into the factory—a powerful hydraulic tire-shrinking machine, used in shrinking tires on wheels. The tires are first heated to two hundred and sixty-five degrees in a steam heater, too hot to handle hy hand, but not hot enough to burn wood. The tire is then laid on the wheel, which is placed horizontally on the machine, the tire slips down into place, and with a touch the operator causes plungers to move up against it all around it. The pressure forces it to contract, and it is set against the wheel so forcibly as to place the proper "dish" in the wheel, and is then held in place still more tightly when it cools and contracts. This is a most excellent piece of machinery, and with it one man can do the work which would otherwise require ten men. The bands are put on the hubs by a machine working on the same principle.
A spoke-driving machine, which is operated by a boy, drives spokes for forty wagons in a day— the work of four men. This consists of a hammer at the end of a handle three and a-half feet long, so swung on an axle moved by friction wheels that its strikes a powerful blow, and yet is as easily controlled as is a small hammer in the hands of a skilled blacksmith. Three blows will drive the most obstinate spoke to its shoulder in the hub, and much more solidly than is possible by hand. New machines of most improved patterns are being added in each depar'ment, and many of the special machines are made in one part of the plant by skilled machinists, who are thoroughly conversant with every need of each machine.
The Rushford wagon is known from Maine to California, from Manitoba to Texas, and its fine lines of construction, combined with the best material, the finest workmanship, and honest effort in each department, has given it a name second to none among wagons. The great demand can be partially appreciated when it is known that over one hundred styles of wagonsarc made in this factory alone, styles differing in details of dimensions rather than in finish and general appearance. Every department of this large plant is under the trained eye of its Superintendent, Mr. Hennessy, whose generalship in handling men and meeting emergencies is unquestioned. This has proven one of the very few manufacturing plants started in Winona that have had a steady improvement and advancement, there having never been one day of disaster. It has been one of the really important institutions, and has ever afforded sure employment, summer and winter, to hundreds of employes, many of whom are almost fixtures, not a few having been in its employ for ten or more years. It has been the policy of its management to so conduct business that each employe could feel that so long as be attended to duty he could depend upon his position, and situations are not held through favoritism, but through merit.
WINONA PUBLIC SCHOOLS.
Source: History of Winona, Olmsted & Dodge Counties, H. H. Hill & Co. Publishers (1884) Chapter XL; transcribed by Jan Stypula
As introductory to the history of the public schools of the city of Winona, as they have existed since the organization of the "board of education of the city of Winona," April 19, 1861, some mention is necessary to be made of the early educational work of the territory now included within the city limits. The first attempt at school teaching that was ever made in this region was in the summer of 1852, by Miss Angelia Gere, a young girl of fourteen or fifteen years of age, who collected a few small children in the shanty of Mrs. Goddard (known through all this region for the past twenty-five years as Aunt Catharine Smith). As nearly as the memory of old residents can fix such matters, this school was only continued for a few weeks, the instruction was of the most primitive kind, and the number of little ones eight or ten. The following summer, 1853, Mrs. E. B. Hamilton opened a school in her own little house at the lower end of the prairie. This school had been in session about two or three weeks when it was abruptly closed by the death of the teacher, who was killed by a stroke of lightning, June 19.
In the fall of 1853 a private school was opened by Miss Willis, long since married and settled in Chatfield, and this was the first school, that really deserved the name, opened on the prairie. Miss Willis was followed in 1854 by Miss Hettie Houck, now Mrs. W. H. Stevens, of this city, who taught a subscription school in a building belonging to Aunt Catharine Smith, on the corner of Front and Franklin streets. The number of pupils in this school was about twenty-five; the teacher was engaged at a regular salary; no tuition fee was demanded; the funds were provided by voluntary subscription, and the school is really entitled to the name of the first public school of Winona.
During the winter of 1854-5 a school was opened by Mr. Henry Bolcom, in a small building on Second street, afterward known as Wagner's saloon. This school was supported largely in the same manner as that of Miss Houck's, the school-tax for the district never having been collected. The pupils in attendance during the winter term numbered about thirty.
In the summer of 1855 Miss Almeida Trutchell, subsequently Mrs. David Smith, taught school in the embryo city. The following winter, 1855-6, Geo. C. Buckman, now of Waseca, Minnesota, wielded the birch. Mr. H. C. Bolcom, who had been attending term at Oberlin College, Ohio, having returned to Winona, was employed as teacher during the winter of 1856-7, and his work in that line closed with the closing of the spring term. The original school district No. 2 had been divided in the spring of 1854, prior to which time there was but one school district on the prairie. No. 14, the new district, comprised that part of the town plat west of Lafayette street; but for particulars concerning these matters, see history of Winona county schools. In the fall of 1857 a union, by mutual agreement of the two districts, was effected, and the trustees of the separate districts became informally the board of the quasi united one. These trustees were for No. 2, Col. H. C. Johnson, Andrew Smith and H. C. Bolcom ; for No. 14, Dr. J. D. Ford, Dr. A. S. Ferris and John Iams. Rev. Geo. C. Tanner was employed as principal for the union or grammar school, as it was called; commenced his work November 17, 1857, and before the close of the winter four schools were in operation. The teachers of these schools were: Rev. Tanner, his wife, Miss Wealthy Tucker, who taught the primary, in what is now ward 1 of the city, and John Sherman, who taught in the lower part of the city. Of the early Winona schools, from 1856 to 1860, at which time his services were transferred to the normal schools, Dr. Ford was the mainstay, and pages might be written concerning the straits into which the board were often driven to maintain the schools. As an instance, we may note the concert held in the L. D. Smith building, with Dr. Ford and his daughter and W. S. Drew as principal fuglemen. The proceeds were applied to the purchase of a terrestrial globe, the first article of school apparatus purchased for the Winona public schools. This globe, which should have been preserved as a relic, was burned in the fire of July 5, 1862. Rev. Tanner was succeeded in the fall of 1858 by Mrs. A. W. Thomas, who was his assistant during the latter part of his school work here.
There was a constant increase in the work of the schools from this time forward. In the fall of 1859 Mr. V. J. Walker was employed as principal, and his work continued long after the city schools were established upon a solid foundation. In this work his wife, a most excellent teacher, was associated with him, and their influence in the young life of the city and its schools cannot be told in words. For the eighteen months elapsing from the time of Mr. Walker's assuming charge of the schools until they were turned over to the city board of education at its organization, no record survives. The final report of the districts to that board are lost, and all we know is by the memories reviving twenty-four years of eventful history, in which so much relating to those early times has passed into forgetfulness that it is impossible to reproduce it even approximately. We only know that the schools had no permanent abiding-places, that accommodations were difficult to be found and good quarters impossible to be received, money scarce and times hard, yet out of all the schools emerged tried as by fire, to approve the wisdom of their early management.
BOARD OF EDUCATION.
By special act of Minnesota state legislature, approved March 7, 1861, under the title "An act for the establishment and better regulation of the common schools of the city of Winona," all the school districts and parts of school districts within the corporate limits of the city of Winona were consolidated to form one district, the regulation and management of which was committed to a "board of education," for the creation and government of which the special act above cited made provision. By the terms of this act it was ordered that at the time of holding the regular charter election in the city, one school director in each ward should be elected, who, in order to qualify, should take a prescribed oath of office, and that the directors thus chosen, together with the principal of the State Normal School at Winona, should form the city board of education. It was plainly the intention of the act, as indicated by its wording, to make all resident members of the normal school board ex officio members of the city board of education, but this intention was defeated by the omission of a material word in the engrossing of the act. Thus the school board of the city at its organization was constituted with but four members, one each from the three wards of the city, and the principal of the State Normal School at Winona. The special provisions of this act of March 7, 1861, it is not necessary to make further allusion to, as it was superseded by the act of legislature approved March 8, 1862, which latter act it was declared should be construed as of a public nature and subversive of the act of the previous year. By the terms of the new act the election of two school directors from each ward was provided for, the terms of office of such directors fixed at two years, and the directors thus chosen to constitute the "city board of education," thus effectually severing all connection with the normal school authorities in the management of the public schools of the city. By the act of March, 1862, provision was also made for the election of a superintendent for the city schools'; members of the board of education were debarred from receiving compensation for their services as such; annual reports were required to be made to the county auditor and to the state superintendent of schools, and the board of education was invested with such powers as were deemed necessary to their existence, government and effective work as a corporate body entrusted with the onerous duty of providing the best possible educational facilities for the children and youth of a growing city. To preserve the homogeneousness of the educational work throughout the state, the board of education was made amenable (as far as practically applicable) to the general school law of the state, and to the rules established by the state superintendent of public instruction. There was one provision of this act destined in the course of events to become a fruitful source of contention between the common council of the city and the city board of education, and for this reason, if no other, it must be specially noted. This was the clause by which the city council was empowered to pass upon the annual estimates for school expenses presented by the board of education, and to accept or reject the same in whole or in part as they deemed best The city treasurer was made the custodian of all school hinds paid in under the tax levies ordered by the council or otherwise derived, and required under penalty to keep the same separate and distinct from all other funds in his hands. The act also provided for equitable payment of all judgment liens against the board without issuing execution against the school property of the city.
At the time the act of the legislature creating the "board of education of the city of Winona" became operative, March 7, 1861, the city was divided into three wards, and at the charter election in April of that year the several wards elected members of the board of education as follows: First ward, Thomas Simpson; second ward, Richard Jackson; third ward, John Keyes; and these gentlemen, with Prof. John Ogden, principal of the State Normal School at Winona, were the original board of education for the city of Winona. The "board" met April 13, 1861, for organization and elected Thomas Simpson president and John Keyes clerk; Prof. John Ogden was made superintendent of city schools, and the "board of education of the city of Winona" became a fixed institution.
Concerning these gentlemen, who twenty-two years ago composed the first board of education of this city, it may not be amiss to state that Prof. Ogden left the city in December, 1861, and is now in charge of a private normal school at Fayette, Ohio. Thomas Simpson is still a resident of the city, in active professional life, and president of the State Normal School board. Richard Jackson was several years in business in this city and died here early in 1875. John Keyes, justly entitled to the honor so generally accorded him as "father of the Winona public schools," died on the old Keyes homestead in the eastern part of the city, December 2, 1876, at which time he had been a resident of Winona a little over twenty-three years. The informal union of the two school districts within the city limits, and their harmonious working for nearly four years prior to their legal consolidation, were very largely owing to the disinterestedness, good judgment and abiding interest in educational matters displayed by Mr. Keyes. His work by no means ended with the formation of the school board. As clerk of that board during the first seven years of its existence, during which time the high school building was erected, he became so much an integral part of the public school administration of the city during that early formative period, that his influence in the educational life of the city can scarcely be overrated. Appropriate resolutions bearing testimony to his valuable services as an officer and member of the city school board were spread upon the records of that body, and the memory of his labors will long survive his generation.
The great fire of July 5, 1862 (to which reference is so frequently made in this work) destroyed the records of the board of education, including the records of the schools which had preceded the organization of the board. It is therefore impossible to give any authentic statement concerning the condition of the schools at the time they passed under the control of the board of education. A general statement made by Mr. Keyes, as secretary of the board, shortly after the fire, appears among the records. From this we learn that April 13, 1861, the board of education, on assuming charge of public school matters in Winona, found themselves in possession, by transfer from the old school districts numbers two and fourteen, of some old school furniture, one terrestrial globe, one set of outline maps, some rented rooms in various parts of the city, some indebtedness, no school buildings or sites in fee, or money. The sum of $285 was subsequently paid to settle the accounts of one of the old districts, and it is only a reasonable probability, from information obtained, that the board expended about $500 in settling the affairs of the old districts. The public schools as then existing, April 13, 1861, were one grammar school, or high school, as it was called, of which V. J. Walker was principal, and five primary schools scattered through the various wards of the city, occupying such buildings as could be the most cheaply rented for that purpose. The systematic grading of the schools was immediately undertaken by the board and the entire schoolwork of the city reorganized. The schools as thus established were one high school, one grammar school, three secondary and four primary schools. The estimate made for the ensuing three months' expenses, at the expiration of which the school year as equally established would close, was $1,000. This estimate was approved by the council and the schools opened as organized under the new arrangement. A report of the schoolwork for the fractional year ending August 31, 1861, gives the following figures: Number of children of school age in the district, 772; number of children enrolled in the schools, 382 ; average attendance, 252. The total expenditures for the three school months were $932.68, itemized as follows: Teachers' salaries $703, repairs and furniture $151.64, rents $73.04, fuel $5.
The estimated expenses of the schools from September, 1861, to close of the spring term of 1862 were $2,175, which added to the amount previously levied, $1,000, gives a total of $3,157, to carry on the nine schools of the city from April, 1861, to the close of the school year, August 31, 1862. The work of grading the schools undertaken and partially accomplished the previous year was now completed. The number of schools remained as previously established and the several rooms occupied by them prior to the fire of July 5,1862, were: primary (1) Kenosha Ale House; (2) Hancock's building, upstairs; (3) Hubbard's Hall, second story; (4) Mrs. J. S. Hamilton's building, in the third ward. Secondary -(1) South room Hancock's building; (2) Cooper's, then Hancock building; (3) Hubbard's Hall, first floor. Grammar school was held on the first floor of the Hancock building, north room until April, when it was removed to the brick schoolroom on Front street.
The high school was first in the Hancock building, then in the "brick schoolroom," and from thence removed to the city building when the grammar school took possession of the brick room on Front street The rentals for the year were $293, exclusive of the Hancock building, the use of which had been generously donated to the school board by the proprietors.
The election for members of the school board in 1862 was under the act of legislature, approved March 8 of that year, requiring the return of two members from each ward. The members of the-board as thus constituted were: first ward -Thomas Simpson; W. S. Drew, who did not qualify, and the board filled the vacancy by electing E. Worthington; second ward - T. B. Welch, R. D. Cone; third ward - F. Kroeger, John Keyes.
On the third Monday in April, as required by law, the board met and organized, with Thomas Simpson president and John Keyes clerk. The Rev. David Burt was elected superintendent of schools for the city, his compensation for services fixed at $100 per annum, and a like amount voted the clerk as salary. The estimated expenses for carrying on the schools for the year beginning September 1, 1862, are not given in full, but the tax levy submitted to the council for approval was for $2,945. The whole amount expended certainly doubled that sum. The public moneys of 1858 for districts numbers two and fourteen aggregated $1,130, and at this time, 1862, there was not only a marked increase in the number of school age within the district, but also in the ratio of appropriation to each individual. The wages paid teachers by the board at this time were as follows: principal of high school, per month, $55; teacher of grammar school, per month, $35; secondary school, per month, $22.50; primary school, per month, $20.
The necessity of establishing the schools in permanent quarters had long been apparent to the friends of education in the city, and the question of building schoolhouses as the state of the treasury would permit from time to time was freely agitated. At some meeting of the board prior to July 5, 1862, a resolution to build a schoolhouse in ward No. 3 was adopted. Lots 5 and 6 in block 15, Hamilton's addition to the city of Winona, were purchased and the contract let for building a ward schoolhouse, at a cost, including lots, of $1,760. As we do not intend to follow the history of the several schools through their temporary quarters to their final establishment in their present permanent homes, we state here that this first purchase of two lots in block 15 was subsequently followed by the purchase of the entire block, and upon it in 1876 the present Washington school budding was erected, as will be more particularly noted hereafter. It was at this juncture, close of spring term of 1862, that the fire, before mentioned, swept away the brick schoolroom on Front street, and destroyed (among scores of others) the office of secretary John Keyes, obliterating every Vestige of record concerning the schoolwork of the city, from the opening of Miss Angelia Gere's nursery school in 1852 to the latest minute of the board of education made in June, 1862. * * *
The first meeting after the fire was held June 9, 1862, in the office of the secretary, and vigorous efforts made to provide accommodations for the schools to be opened the ensuiug term. These efforts were eminently successful, and the work of the schools was systematically resumed at the opening of the school year. The school report for the year then ended, August 31, 1862, showed no change in the census returns of children of school age within the district from those presented for the previous year, but the enrollment had increased from 382 in 1861 to 419 in 1862. A reduction had in the meantime been made in the number of schools sustained by the board, one of the secondary grade having been discontinued. In October of this year the clerk of the board, as required by law, took the census of children of school age, upon which census returns the division of public moneys to the schools throughout the state was based, and reported an increase of 188 over the census of 1861-2. No special change is to be noted in the school work for the year ending August 31,1863. The number of schools remained unchanged, and the old officers of the board were continued at the-head of affairs, as was also the superintendent. Though no special changes occurred in the schoolwork the board itself was making progress. The school building in ward three was completed as per contract some time in December, 1862, and on January 1,1863, this, the first school building erected for school purposes by the school authorities of Winona, was dedicated to the uses for which it was constructed. Thomas Simpson, as president of the board of education, presided at the opening exercises, and delivered an appropriate address, the manuscript of which lies before us as we write. Action was taken this year in the matter of purchasing school sites in wards numbers two and three; the salaries of clerk and superintendent were raised to $150 each per annum; the clerk was instructed to advertise for contracts for a school building in the first ward; the Steam's schoolhouse, in the second ward, was purchased at a cost of $415, exclusive of ground rent, which was fixed at $10 per annum; lots 1 and 2 in block 119, original plat of Winona, were purchased, and contract closed with Mr. Conrad Bohn to erect a school building upon them at a cost, including fencing, of $2,200. This contract was entered into August 22, 1863, and with this action of the board closed the transactions of that school year. The building on block 15, Hamilton's addition (as also the one now under contract by Mr. Bohn), was a two-story frame, arranged for the accommodation of two schools, one on each floor. The building in the first ward, when completed, was occupied for school purposes by the board, and so continued until the erection of the Madison school building in 1875; since then the old house known as the Jefferson school building has been provisionally turned over to the city council for the use of the fire department.
The census returns for the new school year 1863-4 showed a material increase in the number of children in the city, 1,221 being the number reported by the clerk. The increased number of children demanded increased accommodations, and the school of secondary grade, discontinued in 1862-3, was reopened, making the whole number of schools under the care of the board ten. January 15,1864, Mr. Burt resigned his office as superintendent of Winona public schools, and Dr. F. H. Staples, a practicing physician of the city, was elected to fill the vacancy. Dr. Staples discharged the duties of superintendent until September 4, 1865, when he resigned, and was succeeded by Prof. V. J. Walker, who taught the Union Grammar School of the city from the fall of 1859 until the organization of the city school board, when he was elected principal of the high school, April, 1861. Mr. Walker continued to perform his double duties as high school principal and superintendent of city schools until the close of the school year in 1869, at which time he closed a very successful term of ten years as principal of public schools in Winona.
By the charter election of 1864 a change was made in the membership of the board of education, and upon the organization of the board L. B. Tefft was elected president; secretary Keyes still in office. The estimates for the year opening September 1, 1864, were for one high school, one grammar school, four secondary schools, six primary schools, all of which were opened with the exception of one secondary, the total number being eleven schools. To provide for maintaining these during a school year of ten months the estimated tax required was $12,000, $5,000 of that amount to apply to a fund for the erection of a suitable central school building, which the necessities of the schools demanded and the wisdom of the board was forecasting. The salaries of teachers at this time had somewhat appreciated. Wages were per month, high school, $65; grammar school, $35; secondaries, $25 ; primaries, $22.
The officers of the board were not changed in the spring of 1865, and the school registers bore the names of 806 pupils, the actual enrollment for that year. The, estimated expenses for the year opening September 1,1865, were $16,500. The actual tax levy was $9,632.78, with an item of $5,000 for central school fund. At the close of school year, August 31, 1865, the city owned three wooden buildings, the total valuation of which, including furniture, was $5,000, the buildings accommodating five of the eleven schools maintained by the board.
The school year 1865-66 was an eventful one. The board had previously selected block 37 of the original town plot, as the site of the proposed central building, and acquired title to several of the lots thereon. The work of receiving possession of the entire block was pushed vigorously, and on May 15, 1866, title was perfected and the block secured. Bids for the erection of a suitable central school building had been advertised for in the meantime, and contracts awarded to Conrad Bohn, of this city, three days prior to perfecting title. The contract price of structure was $36,700, the whole costing with furances and furniture about $52,000. Ground was immediately broken, walls erected and roof put on that season, and the building was completed and accepted by the board September 7, 1867, named by them the High School, and the afternoon of September 13th set apart for its formal dedication, which was accordingly done, Hon. Mark Dunnell, of this state, delivering the dedicatory address. This building is decidedly an ornament to the city, a monument to the public spirit of the citizens, and a credit to the board of education under whose administration it was erected. The block on which it stands is in the very heart of the best residence portion of the city. The building faces north, the main entrance being on Broadway, with side entrances on Walnut and Market streets. It is a substantial, ornate structure, built of brick and stone, rising three full stories above the basement, in which are the furnaces and fuel rooms. The extreme length from east to west is 96 feet; from north to south, 82 feet; height of main walls, 32 feet; of gables, 48 feet; of main ventilating shaft, 72 feet; of minor ventilating turrets, 66 feet; with a tower rising 94 feet from the water-table to the finial.
The basement is nine feet between floors, the first and second stories each thirteen feet and the third story, in which is the assembly room, fifteen feet. A hall eight feet wide running the extreme length of the building, with double doors at each end, affords ample means for entrance and exit The staircases are four and one-half feet each, and the rooms are fully provided with cloak closets.
There are four recitation rooms, each 28X34 feet on the main floor, and also on the second. The north half of the third story is the high school room proper, the space on the south side being divided into recitation rooms for high school classes. The building is occupied by the following schools: one high school with three recitation rooms, two grammar schools, three secondary schools lettered A, B, C, four primary schools.
The city superintendent's office is in the tower on the main floor, a comfortable room 12x12, supplied with a small reference library and connected with the city telephone exchange.
The school census, taken in the tall of 1866, showed 1,952 children of school age within the city, an increase of 741 in three years. The census of 1867 showed a further increase 229, making a total of 2,181 for the latter year.
Henry Stevens became president of the board at the annual meeting in April, 1866, secretary Keyes still retaining office. At this meeting the salary of clerk was raised to $250 per annum, as was also that of the superintendent.
No change was made in the officers of the board at their annual meeting in 1867. When the schools opened in September of that year the salary of high school principal was fixed at $1,300, and the wages of female teachers $40 per month.
At the annual spring election in 1868, secretary Keyes was not returned and the board organized with H. D. Huff, president, and John Ball, secretary. The following year, 1869, Mr. Ball gave place to J. M. Sheardown, who held the office of clerk to the "board" until his resignation in December, 1871. At the annual meeting in this year, 1869, the salaries of clerk and superintendent were raised to $300 each per annum. At the close of this school year a new departure was taken and the office of superintendent of schools separated from the principalship of the high school. This position was offered to Prof. Varney, at a salary of $1,500 per annum, but he declined the offer, and the office was not filled until October 4, 1869, when the officers of the school board were authorized to employ Prof. W. P. Hood, which was done as ordered. The new superintendent entered immediately upon his work and continued in office until the close of the spring term in 1871.
At the annual meeting in 1870 Gen. C. H. Berry, at present the senior member of the Winona county bar, was elected president of the city school board, and held that position by successive reelections until he retired from the board in 1878. During these years the beautiful ward schoolhouses in the east and west ends of the city were constructed at an aggregate cost of $60,000, and the educational work of the city advanced at every point June 20, 1871, Prof. F. M. Dodge was elected city superintendent of schools, and his salary fixed at $1,500 per annum. December 15, 1871, Mr. M. Maverick was elected to the clerkship of the board of education, made vacant by the resignation of J. M. Sheardown, and held that office until the election of Dr. J. M. Cole, at the annual meeting in 1875. December 18, 1871, the board adopted resolutions recommending the erection of a good three-story brick building in the first ward, and memorializing the city council to procure such legislation as would authorize the issue of $15,000 of school bonds.
The report of the clerk, made October 1, 1872, showed an increase in the number of schools, census enumeration, enrollment in schools, expenditures, etc., the figures being as follows: One high school, four grammar schools, seven secondary schools, nine primary; 2,427 children of school age, an actual enrollment of 1,414 on the school registers. The total receipts from all sources were shown by the financial statement in August to aggregate $25,336.68. The schools were maintained during a school year of ten months, and 22 teachers employed; average wages of teachers, gentlemen, $100 per month; ladies, $55 per month.
The reports made in 1874 show receipts for the year ending August 31, $42,987; disbursements, $28,987; children of school age in the city, 3,098; children enrolled in the schools, 1,339. The annual election in 1875 placed Dr. Cole, as before said, at the clerk's desk, a position held by him for six years, during which he rendered valuable aid to the educational work of the city. During this school year the Madison school building was completed at a cost of about $32,000, and in the annual report of the clerk, made August, 1876, the following exhibit appears:
Houses owned by the board, four (two brick and two frame); values of school sites, $25,000; values of buildings, $106,060; value of buildings erected during the year, $31,306; seating capacity of buildings, 1,478; receipts for the year, $60,891.28; disbursements for the year, $44,926.40 ; teachers' wages, $15,420 ; average wages, gentlemen, $120 per month ; average wages, ladies, $50 per month.
The Washington school building a facsimile of the Madison building, was accepted at the hands of the contractor November 17, 1876, and the schools in the eastern part of the city transferred to their new quarters January 1, 1877. The purchase of block 15, Hamilton's addition, upon which the Washington building was erected, has already been noted. This block on which the Madison school building stands is the one adjoining that on which the old Jefferson schoolhouse was built in 1863. This new block, No. 118, was purchased by the board December 21, 1869, as the site of the prospective school building for the first ward. A description of the Madison building will answer for both, as one is almost the perfect facsimile of the other. The building is a fine three-story brick, stone basement and trimmings, with mansard roof. The extreme length from east to west is 80 feet; from north to south, 77 feet. The main walls rise 30 feet above the water-table, and the gables 45 feet. The tower is 80 feet high, and height of the several stories as follows : Basement, containing furnaces, fuel and storage room, 8 1/2 feet to joists overhead ; first and second stories, each 13 feet; third story, 12 feet. Each floor is divided into four recitation rooms, each 25 X 30 feet, provided with cloakrooms, all the modern appliances for comfort and convenience, and each room seated to accommodate from 40 to 56 pupils, according to grade. The several floors have each a main hall running the extreme length of the building from east to west, with a cross hall. The main halls are 8 feet wide, and the cross halls 6 feet 8 inches in the clear. The building fronts north on Wabasha street, upon which is the main entrance, with side entrances on Dakota and Olmsted streets. Free exit is afforded from the halls on the main floor, in three directions, by spacious doors and stairways, and there are two staircases, each four feet in the clear, leading from the upper stories. The Madison school building is provided with four wood-furnaces, and the Washington school with five. These buildings, with their twelve schoolrooms each, and the high-school building with its nine school (and three recitation) rooms, make comfortable provision for thirty-three schools, thirty-two of them now running and, under the able management of superintendent McNaughton, doing efficient work. These three school buildings, each occupying a full block in well-chosen locations, with their ample walks, growing shade-trees, tasteful architectural appearance, and thoroughly furnished rooms, are a just occasion of city pride, the value of sites, buildings and improvements falling little short of $175,000.
Early in 1877 the board of education recorded its emphatic disapproval of the attempt made in the state legislature to create a "state text-book committee," and dispatched one of their members, Dr. J. B. McGaughey, to St Paul to express to the legislature the sentiments of the Winona board of education. The obnoxious measure became a law, but Winona schools were exempted from its provisions. The annual meeting in 1877 made no changes in the officers of the board. The reports of the clerk not only showed encouraging progress in school matters, but also a growing liberality on the part of the board in fixing teachers' wages, which were established as follows: Principal of high school per month, $130; assistant, $60; grammar school teachers, $60; secondary school teachers, $55; primary school teachers, $50. The enrollment for the year was 1,820, and the average attendance 1,260. The total receipts of the board for the year were $60,243.69, and the year closed with $15,968 in the treasury.
In the spring of 1878 Dr. J. B. McGaughey became president of the board; Prof. Dodge was followed by Prof. Irwin Shepard as city superintendent of schools ; the financial exhibit showed receipts in excess of $60,000, expenditures a little over $45,000. There was a hitch in the city council over the authorization of the tax levy required by law, and clerk Cole reported his ability to carry the schools through the school year with the aid of a temporary loan, which was accordingly done, no school tax being levied for that year. In 1879 Dr. T. A. Pierce was elected president of the board, Prof. Shepard was followed by Prof. W. F. Phelps as city superintendent of schools, and the enrollment for the year showed a decrease of about 150 over the enrollment of 1877. This fact was due to the opening of several parochial schools in the city.
Matters were in status quo during 1880, but in 1881 Dr. Cole retired from the clerkship of the board, after six years' consecutive service, and was followed by W. J. Whipple, who held that office two years. Dr. Pierce continued at the head of the board, and in the fall Prof. J. W. McNanghton, the present superintendent of schools, assumed educational control.
The annual meeting in 1882 was principally noted for the protracted contest for president, in which an adjournment was had to the following evening, after 130 ballots were cast. At the adjourned meeting Dr. J. B. McGaughey was elected president of the board upon the 187th ballot.
The election held the evening of April 20, 1883, continued Dr. McGaughey in the chair, and elected Arthur Beyerstedt clerk of the board.
A summary of the schools as now existing and controlled by city superintendent McNanghton is in brief as follows:
High School Building. -- One high school, of which Thomas L. Heaton, graduate of Michigan State University, class of 1880, is principal. His assistants are Mr. J. J. Helmer, Misses J. Mitchell and Frances Elmer. One grammar school; three secondary schools, A, B, C; four primary schools. Total schools in high school building, 9: total enrollment, 564; number of regular teachers, 12. The curriculum of the high school is appended:
Required for all Courses
Required for all Courses
Third Study for Classical
Third study for Science
Third Study for Business Course
Essentials of Eng. Gram.
Physical Geography Physics
Madison School. -- One grammar department, in charge of Miss Mary Youmans; three secondary schools; eight primary schools. Total enrollment, 623; total schools, 12.
Washington School. -- One grammar department, under care of Alvin Braley; three secondary schools; seven primary schools. Total schools, 11; total enrollment, 636.
The entire educational force of the city comprises, for its public schools, 1 superintendent, 35 regular and 2 special teachers, the schools under their charge having a total enrollment of 1,823 scholars. This enrollment is about the same as that of 1877, to which is to be added the 700 pupils enrolled in the parochial schools. There has, however, been a most gratifying improvement in the average daily attendance, the reports showing an increase of 300 in the average attendance of to-day over that of 1877, under the same nominal enrollment. There is no longer a school census taken, and the number of children between the ages of 5 and 21 in the city cannot be given. The estimate is made of about 4,000; but if the proportion of enrollment to total number of school age was maintained now as in years past, the number would be considerably in excess of 5,000.
The work of the parochial school appears in connection with the history of the various parishes by which they are maintained.
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