Miner County, South Dakota




Corban, Walter H.

Girton, W. W.

Morstad, Peter J.

Ramsdell, Frank M.

Strand, John O.

Wheeler, Frank L.




Walter H. Corban

Little Sketches of Big Folks in Minnesota (Publ. 1907) Transcribed by Liz Dellinger

COBBAN Walter H. Minneapolis. Res 3236 Oakland av. Office 413 Phoenix bldg. Insurance. Born Jan 7, 1859 in Lowell Wis. Son of Robert and Isabella (Goff) Cobban. Married Oct 7, 1896 to Charlotte M Gibbs. Educated in the district schools of Chippewa county Wis. Worked claim in Dakota Ter in 1880-82; farm implement business Howard Dak 1882-85; special agt and adjuster Dakota Fire & Marine Ins Co 1886-90; asst gen agt N W Mutual Life Ins Co 1890-92; special agt Minneapolis of Manchester Fire Assurance Co 1892-1901; mngr Minneapolis for Minn., N and S Dakota Phoenix Mutual Life Ins co 1902 to date; pres General Inspection Co. Sheriff Miner county Dakota 1882-86; dep U S marshall Dakota 1883-86. Member Minneapolis commercial Club; Masonic fraternity and Knights Templar.

Who's Who in South Dakota, Vol. 2
By O. W. Coursey
Educator School Supply Co., Publisher, 1916
Transcribed and Contributed by Jim Dezotell
"I have never met you before, professor, but I have crossed and recrossed your trail a hundred times, and I have always found that your steps pointed in the right direction," said Father Haire, a member of the regents of education during Governor Mellette's days, to Prof. W. W. Girton, of the Madison State Normal, the first time they met.

What the good old father discovered, every other man who has ever crossed Professor Girton's trail, has also discovered. Here is a man of whom it may truthfully be said, "His life is an open book." With him, deceit is contrary to his nature. He has practiced the rules of civic virtue and private honesty for so many years that he could not betray his fellow man if he tried - but he will never try. A thirty-second degree Mason, he has inculcated from that grand fraternity, the noble principles which have moulded him into a righteous man.

His soul is embossed in beauty. From it emanates rays of powerful and magnetic friendship that draw his associates to him by legions. His inward nature exhales a soul-sweetness that causes his companions to speak with pride when they say, "He is my friend." Calm, judicious, even tempered, and one who practices daily those great civic virtues - silence and circumspection - his is the life ideal; his, the companionship to be sought; his, the example to follow. If every man's steps pointed in the direction of Professor Girton's, we would have no jails, no penitentiaries, and the millennial dawn which is to usher in the angelic day would be staring us squarely in the face.


It will surprise many of Professor Girton's friends to learn that his birthplace was Lincolnshire, England, April 10, 1850; that his parents were both British born and reared; and that later on, W. W. Girton married a girl (Frances Richmond), who was born at Belturbet, Ireland, May 10, 1852. This leaves but one year and eleven months between their ages. Whether Mrs. Girton has ever demanded "home rule" for Ireland we do not know ; but it is safe to say that Great Brit (her devoted husband) never denied to her a common sense request.

The same year that W. W. was born, his parents removed with him to America and settled at Florence, Mich. The next year his father died, and our baby immigrant, his good mother and one brother, were left in a foreign land to hustle for themselves. The mother took her little brood and wended her way to Sauk county, Wisconsin. Here William got his early education in a district school. Later he attended the public schools, and then he became a student for two years in the academy at Spring Green, going from there to the academy at Sextonville. Out of this trend of events, he had prepared himself for a teacher, and in 1870, at the age of twenty, he took up work as such in a district school near Reedsburg.

The financial struggles of childhood had taught our young teacher the art of saving. He guarded well his earnings and expenditures during the year, and then in April, 1871, he entered the state normal at Plattesville, from which he graduated in 1874.

During the winter of 1875-76 Professor Girton was principal of schools at Muscoda, Wis. Then he drifted over to Cinton, Ia., and was appointed assistant superintendent of the school for the blind; but at the end of the first year he resigned to accept the principalship of the public schools at Harlan, Ia. In 1880, he was elected superintendent of schools in Shelby county, Iowa, of which Harlan is the county seat.

In this position, he served four years; then he established the "Shelby County Republican" at Harlan, which he edited and published for three years. However, in 1886, he sold out and came to Vilas, S. D., at which place he organized the Vilas Banking Co., serving as president of the same for three years. During this same period he established and published the "Miner County Farmer."

He sold out in 1889 and was immediately thereafter made chief engrossing clerk of the last territorial legislature, which at that time was in session at Bismarck. When the legislature adjourned he was made deputy territorial auditor, and as such he had charge of the tremendous task which we "Latter Day Saints" will never know anything about, of making a complete transcript of the territorial records to be filed in the capitol of our own state which had just been
organized; and of moving to Pierre, systematizing and filing away, over sixty tons of literature.

But Girton had gotten the teaching germ so instilled into his blood that he could not quit. So he went back to Miner county; was elected superintendent of schools in 1892; served out his constitutional limit - two terms - and in 1896 was elected to the chair of civics in our
state normal school at Madison.

This latter position he held until January 1st, 1914, when he resigned, on account of enfeebled eyesight. He was also made official secretary for the school, which position he held for many years. In addition to his regular work, he also served in 1901-02 as acting president of the normal.

Professor Girton served in 1905 as president of the Eastern South Dakota Educational Association. His "president's address" was a masterful piece of sarcastic statesmanship. We regret that we can not reproduce it again in full, (The Argus-Leader published it nearly in full at the time it was delivered). One paragraph must suffice:

"The rural school house may properly be described as a rectangular box built with no regard for proper heating, lighting and ventilation; planned and constructed with no other thought than that of economy. In most cases it stands alone on the bleak prairie without a tree or shrub to protect it from the wintry blast or to offer a little grateful shade from the summer sun. Two or three
windows on the side furnish the light. A stove in the center scorches the urchin nearest to it while the one in the corner is freezing. There is seldom any attempt at ornamentation of any kind, and the restless, vigorous boy, in protest against his unwilling captivity, shirks his lessons, cuts his initials on his desk, and at the slightest provocation adds truancy to his other sins."

In politics, Professor Girton has ever been a staunch and consistent republican. Since 1878, he has also been a devout member of the Baptist church. He is a thirty-second degree Scottish-rite Mason, and a Royal Arch degree York-rite Mason; also a member of the I. O. O. F. and of the A. O. U. W.

At Madison he was always spoken of as "the students' friend." Hereafter he will devote himself to real estate matters. Professor Girton has put his business instinct into his education and education into his business, so that today he is comfortably fixed. He owns a nice home fronting on the normal campus at Madison, and three splendid farms in Lake county. He and Mrs. Girton are the parents of six children - none of whom are now at home. They are each one thoroughly
educated, and each is now occupying a station of trust and honor at various places throughout the world.

This grand good couple have thus lived intelligently, and they are now prepared to spend their declining years in solid comfort, enduring peace and happy recollections. Yes; his "steps point right" and so do hers. Let us all endeavor to "point" ours in the same direction!


History of Dakota Territory, George W. Kingsbury, Vol. 4, 1915


Frank L. Wheeler, a grain dealer of Scotland, Bon Homme county, is a native of the lake country of New York, a region famous for its beauty. His birth occurred May 20, 1859, in Seneca county, south of Seneca Falls, on the old Wheeler homestead situated on the west shore of Cayuga lake. His parents, Jonathan and Harriet (Ogden) Wheeler, were natives of the Empire state and the mother, who has now reached the advanced age of eighty-five
years, is still a resident of that state, making her home in Geneva, at the foot of Seneca

Mr. Wheeler of this review migrated west in the spring of 1880 and remained for a year at Winona, Minnesota, but on the 17th of May, 1681, he came to Huron, South Dakota, on the first train that made the trip with its own engine. Owing to a stretch of marshy ground transfers had to be made until a firmer track could be built and even this at places sank below the surface, the water rising behind the train as it proceeded on its way. Shortly after his arrival in South Dakota Mr. Wheeler opened a lumberyard in Hitchcock near where he took up a homestead, a pre-emption and a timber claim, remaining there until 1893. He was then for two years in business at Viborg and for three years at Howard, after which time, in 1898, he came to Scotland and entered the grain business, in which he has continued to the present time. He has a large elevator and is well equipped for handling all kinds of grain and farm produce. He also has elevators at Blaha and Plumba. His careful study of commercial and agricultural conditions and his systematic methods of carrying on his business are the causes of his gratifying success. In addition to his grain business he has other interests, including a controlling interest in the Peoples Telephone Company of Scotland.

Mr. Wheeler was united in marriage in Scotland in 1891 to Miss Ida Shaw, a daughter of Henry and Mary (Eckert) Shaw, who came to South Dakota in 1886. Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler have become parents of five children: Mary, a teacher in the Scotland schools; Floyd, who is associated in business with his father; Henry, who is now taking an engineering course at Vermillion; Frank and Harriet.

Upon coming to Scotland to reside Mr. Wheeler purchased the house in which he had been previously married. He is a member of the Masonic fraternity and has served as worshipful master and high priest. He fortunately escaped the blizzard of January 12, 1888, as he was on a visit in New York at the time. However, he had occasion to worry because of the great storm, as on his ranch at Hitchcock was a considerable herd of cattle in charge of a brother. In a little over one year from that time his farm was in the track of the worst prairie fire the Dakotas have ever known. On the 2d of April, 1889, the flames swept with appalling speed across the wide plains and at times leaped across half a mile of fire guard. The barn upon Mr. Wheeler's place was burned, but he considered himself fortunate to escape so well. With the usual American thrift and energy he has succeeded in business and is accounted one of Scotland's respected and prosperous citizens. He is a democrat in politics and is a member of the school board, having served as its president for ten years.

History of Dakota Territory, George W. Kingsbury, Vol. 4, 1915


Frank M. Ramsdell is proprietor of a meat market at Faulkton and in connection with the conduct of a successful business of that character derives a good income from farm property which he owns in Faulk county. He was born at Osage, Iowa, August 18, 1862, and is a son of William and Mary A. (Nixon) Ramsdell, the former born near Lake Erie, New York, and the latter at Three Rivers, Michigan. In early life the father engaged in merchandising at Osage, Iowa, and in the year 1878 he became one of the pioneer settlers of Moody county, South Dakota, where he took up the occupation of farming, which he followed until, having become possessed of a comfortable competence, he retired from active business life, spending his last days in the enjoyment of well earned rest in Flandreau. He took an active and helpful interest in public affairs and was a member of the last territorial legislature. He also filled various county offices and while in Iowa acted as county sheriff for eight years. He likewise was called to various positions of public trust in South Dakota and proved most loyal and capable, doing all in his power to advance public progress and improvement. His widow yet survives and still makes her home in Flandreau.

In a family of eight children Frank M. Ramsdell was the third in order of birth. He attended the public schools of Osage, Iowa, and resided at home to the time of his marriage. He afterward secured a preemption claim in Miner county, South Dakota, where he resided for a year and then went to Faulk county, where he obtained a homestead and tree claim. With characteristic energy he began to develop his land, breaking the sod and cultivating the fields until rich crops rewarded his labors. Year after year the work of improving his farm was carried steadily forward and success attended his efforts. In 1902, however, he removed to Faulkton, having been elected to office, and later he purchased the meat market of which he is still proprietor, conducting a good business in that line, having built up a large and gratifying trade. He still owns three hundred and twenty acres of farm land in Faulk county and is likewise the owner of city property.

On the 25th of December, 1882, Mr. Ramsdell wedded Miss Laura A. Smith, a native of Batavia, Iowa, and a daughter of John D. and Julia A. Smith. The father, who was a farmer by occupation, removed from Iowa to South Dakota with his family, settling in Miner county, where the family were living when his daughter became the wife of Mr. Ramsdell. In 1884 Mr. and Mrs. Smith removed to Faulk county, taking up their abode upon a claim near the Ramsdell farm. Mr. Smith served as county commissioner and in matters of citizenship proved his loyalty and progressive spirit in many ways. He died on the old homestead January 6, 1906, and his widow now makes her home with Mr. and Mrs. Ramsdell. Six children have been born to Mr. and Mrs. Ramsdell: William F., an agriculturist residing in Faulkton; Claud, who resides in Faulkton, is married and assists his father in the conduct of his meat market; Leone, the wife of C. K. Brooks, of Manchester, South Dakota, who is connected with the Atlas Elevator Company; and John, Delia and Verne, all at home.

Mr. Ramsdell is identified with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Modem Brotherhood of America and the Modern Woodmen of America. His political indorsement is given to the republican party and for four years he served as register of deeds of Faulk county. He was likewise a member of the board of education for a number of years and he discharged his duties m a most prompt and capable manner. His religious faith is evidenced in his membership in the Christian church, but as there is no church of that denomination in Faulkton, he attends the Methodist Episcopal church. His salient characteristics are commendable, for he has been found progressive and reliable in business, loyal in citizenship and faithful to the ties of home and friendship.

History of Dakota Territory, George W. Kingsbury, Vol. 4, 1915


While the Bob and Nels clothing store has for some years passed from the hands of the original proprietors, it has ever remained one of the chief commercial enterprises of the city and the high standard has been in no whit abated since it came under the presidency of Peter J. Morstad, whose name introduces this review. In fact, a spirit of progress has been manifest and the success which has come to the establishment is attributable in large measure to the efforts, close application and sound business judgment of him whose name introduces this record. He was born in Norway, December 27, 1853, his parents being Juul P. and Ingeborg (Lynne) Morstad. The father died in 1877, aged seventy-seven years, while the mother passed away in the year 1907, having survived her husband for three decades. They had two sons and four daughters, of whom two sons and three daughters are living.

Peter J. Morstad, the fifth in order of birth, benefited by a high-school course in Norway and in 1870, when a youth of sixteen years, came to America with a brother aged eighteen years, making his way to Albert Lea, Minnesota, where lived his married sister and a paternal uncle, who had come to the new world in 1848. Mr. Morstad was employed at farm labor for five years in the county of Freeborn, of which Albert Lea is the county seat. He spent that entire time in the employ of Hans Christopherson, whose daughter he afterward married. In 1875 he left the farm and entered the farm implement business as clerk in a store in Albert Lea, being connected therewith for two years, the last year as silent partner of T. L. Torgeson. He afterward spent two years as a clerk in a general store in Albert Lea and in 1881 removed to Miner county, Dakota territory, where he took a preemption claim and also a tree claim, totaling three hundred and twenty acres of land. In October of that year, he located in Grand Forks, where he spent a year as clerk in the general store conducted by M. I. Mandelson. In 1882 he purchased the Star clothing business in connection with A. Christopherson and with his former employer as a silent partner. Three months later, however, the store was destroyed by fire, and as no other location could be secured in that town, Mr. Morstad found it necessary to seek a home elsewhere.

On the 6th of April, 1883, Mr. Morstad located in Sioux Falls and opened the Boston Clothing Store in connection with A. Christopherson under the firm style of Morstad & Christopherson, which association was continued until the 1st of September, 1911, the partnership being dissolved on that date. Mr. Morstad then purchased an interest in the Bob & Nels Clothing Company, Incorporated, and now carries on the business. He is president and general manager with Mrs. Nels Arnston as part owner of the business. This is one of the old established mercantile houses of the city. In fact, it is regarded as one of the landmarks of this part of the state. The store was opened by R. E. Vreeland and Nels Arnston, and following the custom of those days when every man was known to his acquaintances by his first name, these two young merchants named their store after the popular nickname it had been given by the people of the time, calling it the Bob and Nels Store. The name has since been retained, although the original proprietors have both passed away. The business has now been in existence for twenty-four years and many of its old patrons remain with it, showing that the most reliable business methods have ever been employed. An extensive line of clothing and men's furnishings is carried and a liberal patronage is enjoyed, for the firm has ever employed progressive methods and has carried a most up-to-date line of goods. In all business transactions they are thoroughly reliable and trustworthy and the success which has come to the institution is the merited reward of the energy, close application and business ability of the owners.

On the 10th of January, 1884, at Manchester, Minnesota, Mr. Morstad was united in marriage to Miss Antoinette Christopherson, a daughter of Hans Christopherson, and their children are: Juul Henry, treasurer of the Bob & Nels Clothing Company; Irene Cora Marie; Porter Alfred, of San Francisco; Carl Alfred and Clay Eugene Grant. All the children are at home save Porter Alfred.

The parents hold membership in the Lutheran church and Mr. Morstad belongs also to the Masonic lodge. He is also connected with the Elks and is a member of the Commercial Club. In politics he is a republican and for four terms, or eight years, he served as one of the aldermen of Sioux Falls, during which period his influence was ever on the side of right, progress and improvement. In fact, he stands for all that is commendable in commercial and municipal affairs and has done much to further those interests which arc a matter of civic virtue and civic pride.


John O. Strand is conducting an abstract office in Howard and has won a reputation for accurate and thorough work in that connection. He has also been closely identified with public affairs, having held a number of local offices. He was born in Norway, on the 1st of February, 1858, a son of T. O. Strand, whose birth occurred in Norway on the 25th of March, 1824. The mother, likewise a native of the land of the midnight sun, was in her maidenhood Bergit Ashland. The parents came to De Kalb county, Illinois, in 1861 and remained there upon a farm for five years, subsequently removing to Freeborn county, Minnesota, where they continued to reside for fifteen years. In 1881 they came to Miner county, South Dakota, and homesteaded land. The father passed away upon his farm in Miner county, January 14, 1889, and his demise was much regretted by his many friends and neighbors.

John O. Strand completed the course in the common schools of Freeborn county, Minnesota, and attended the Augsburg Seminary in Minneapolis, Minnesota, from 1878 until 1881. He subsequently took up a homestead in Miner county in his own name and remained upon the farm until 1888, when he was elected county treasurer and held the office for two years. When his term expired he engaged in mercantile business at Carthage, continuing in that line for eight years. At the end of that time his business was destroyed by fire and, as he was appointed clerk of the commissioners court of the public land office, he did not continue his mercantile enterprise. He held the office to which he was appointed for two years, making his residence during that time in Pierre. After resigning the position he opened an abstract office in Howard and has since devoted his time to its conduct. He has a large clientage and his abstracts are all prepared with great care so that they are in fact an accurate record of all transactions recorded affecting the property concerned. He has had some banking experience, as he was cashier of the Merchants Bank at Carthage for two years, proving himself an efficient and popular official.

Mr. Strand was married June 25, 1896, to Miss Lilly Johnson, a daughter of Bernt Johnson. Seven children have been born to this union as follows: Tansea J., whose birth occurred January 7, 1898; Agnes B., who was born March 26, 1899; John R., May 26, 1901; Lilah, January 4, 1903; Norman V., September, 1908; Vivian E., whose birth occurred in February, 1910; and Fern Iris, who was born November 11, 1912. The children are all attending the public and high schools of Howard. Mr. Strand is a prominent member of the Lutheran church, of which he is a trustee and also superintendent of the Sunday-school. His political allegiance is given to the republican party and he is now serving his second term as alderman. Fraternally he is a Mason and has many friends in that organization and in the community at large.

"History of Dakota Territory",
By George Washington Kingsbury, George Martin Smith
Published by The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1915
Submitted by K. Torp (no relation)

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