In presenting the histories of the different townships of Becker County I have undertaken to arrange them in the order in which they were first settled, but in a few instances I have deviated from this rule to avoid too much skipping around over the county.
On the 27th of May, 1857, the survey of a townsite was made at the third crossing of the Otter Tail River, where the village of Frazee now stands, and the plat was recorded at St. Cloud, as Becker County was at that time attached to Sterns County for recording purposes.
It was claimed that the land covered by this townsite was held by half-breed script, but the title was never perfected. The script was undoubtedly "lifted" some time afterward and other land taken with it, and this land reverted back to the U. S. government. The certificate of the plat is signed by N. P. Aspinwall, surveyor. He was an uncle of Wm. Aspinwill, who now operates a store at Pine Point.
I have a certified plat of the townsite in my possession at the present time. The townsite is bounded and described as follows: "Commencing at an oak tree at the southwest corner of said townsite, and running thence north, crossing the Otter Tail River and Detroit Lake, five thousand two hundred and eighty feet, thence running east, crossing the Otter Tail River, two thousand nine hundred and fifty-eight feet, thence running south five thousand two hundred and eighty feet, thence west two thousand nine hundred and fifty-eight feet to the place of beginning."
Frank M. Campbell, of White Earth, now a man over seventy years of age, informs me that he is the F. Campbell mentioned as one of the proprietors, and Donald McDonald the old Otter Tail Lake fur trader was another. The townsite was one mile long north and south and three hundred and ten feet more than half a mile wide from east to west, and contained about three hundred and fifty eight and one-half acres of land.
Judging from the topography as shown on the plat, the townsite would very nearly fit the west half of Section 35 in the present township of Burlington, except that it was somewhat wider. The west line must have been near where the bridge across Town Lake now stands, and the east line very near the railroad bridge crossing the Otter Tail River, the north end near the Commonwealth Company sawmill, and the south end some distance south of the residence of Edward Briggs.
The plat shows one hundred and thirty-one blocks, with streets to correspond. Even the big marsh along the river south of Frazee between the railroad bridge and the outlet to Town Lake is mapped into blocks and lots with great precision.
In the written description Detroit is said to be located at "the southern end of a beautiful lake called Detroit Lake at the third crossing of the Otter Tail River, twenty-two miles northwest of Otter Tail City. This place is on the direct route between Lake Superior and Pembina. The face of the country to the west consists chiefly of beautiful prairies and lakes, while on the east there are large bodies of hard and pine wood timber. There are two water powers at this place capable of running a grist and sawmill." The narrow place on the Otter Tail River where the Commonwealth Lumber Company has built its bridge near its sawmill is marked on this plat as "Mill Property." The other mill site is marked below the outlet of Town Lake.
I will here insert a short article, written by Patrick Quinlan, the first white settler in Burlington Township, giving an account of himself and the first settlement of the township.
Richwood, December 26, 1903
I was born in Canada close to the village of Norwood. on the 15th day of February, 1836. My father and mother were Irish. I lived and worked on my father's farm until I started west. The railroad was built only to the lead mines beyond Galena, Ill. I arrived in St. Paul in may 1854. St. Paul was a very small village at that time. I stayed one night, took the steamboat at St. Anthony the next day and came to Sauk Rapids. No Minneapolis or St. Cloud at that time existed. I started for Long Prairie, and it was Winnebago Agency at that time. The first man I worked for lived down below Big Lake and he was a new settler, by the name of Foiles. I worked two months and a half at twenty dollars per month and I never got my pay. He accidentally shot himself, and his wife promised to pay me, but I never troubled her about the money. It was a bad start, however. as I lost a good deal of my wages afterwards. For three or four years before the war when a man got His money, very often it was no good, no one would accept it. Every man that was doing any business had what was called a bank detector. I worked for a man named Bonfield, who lived at Rice Lake near St. Anthony. He was in the lumber business and paid me a hundred and twenty dollars and the money was no good. In the year 1859 a man on his way to Red River offered me twelve dollars a month if I would go and help him through and work for him through the winter which I did, commencing the spring of 1860. I got a chance to work as watchman on the first steamboat on the Red River owned by Mr. Burbank, of St. Cloud. The boat was built by Mr. Anson Northrup at Georgetown and after working or the boat a while I got tired of the business and a man came and offered me twenty dollars a month to go with a party out to the Blackfoot country. They were going to trade for horses, so I started with them in a party of eight. After traveling some days we found ourselves among the buffalo. After traveling through that country and seeing so many buffalo, I thought that they would always remain. We struck the Blackfoot trail close to Bear Paw Mountain, and followed the trail northwest four days before we overtook the Indians. During the time we were following the Indian trail we saw many buffalo that the Indians had killed and left without taking any part of them for their own use. There were also a great many wolves. When we got within about two miles of an Indian camp we met some Indians who were going out on a hunt. Our boss treated them to some whisky which they liked very much and one of them asked for some whisky to carry to his friend who was out hunting. Our interpreter asked him how he could carry it. He said he would carry it, and he doubled up the tail of his leather shirt, poured in the whiskey, tied a string around it and so started off. We soon arrived at the camp, and I was surprised to see so many horses and we got quite a number and started for Fort Gary. While on our return trip three of us concluded to run buffalo one evening, and so we started out after a large herd and we managed to kill one large bull which we shot over twenty times before he fell. We found it very inconvenient to load our guns while on horseback. While coming through the Assiniboine country the Assiniboines took some of our horses from us. We were out on that trip something over two months, more than half of the time we lived on buffalo meat alone.
In the fall of 1862 I came back to St. Cloud with a wagon train belonging to Mr. Burbank of that place. We expected to have trouble with the Sioux Indians, but we did not. From 1862 to 1868 I r remained at Crow Wing a good part of the time and worked for the government. I came to Becker County, May 28th, 1868, and built a cabin near were Frazee now stands. The land was not surveyed at that time and the railroad company beat me out of three forties of my claim, that part which was on Section 35. The land now belongs to Edward Briggs. I built my house on what is now the southwest quarter of the southwest quarter of Section 35, a little east of the Otter Tail River.
In June, 1868, Mr. Henry Way and Mr. Sherman came but went on to Oak Lake, west of Detroit where they put up hay to use the next winter. The next person after myself to settle in Burlington township was Charles E. Churchill. He came about the first of June, 1870. the same year the railroad was surveyed. I helped him build his house, hauling the logs with my team. His house was built on the west side of the river nearly opposite where it intersects the lake (in what is now Schebaher's field). The next newcomers were William Chilton, T. W. Chilton and William Redpath, who came some time in June 1870. Tim and Redlpath soon went back but about the 20th of August returned and James Chilton and James Winram came with them. When I came the nearest settlers were at Rush Lake; Otter Tail City was the nearest store. When I came onto the place I paid two dollars and twenty-five cents a bushel for ten bushels of potatoes at Otter Tail City. Flour was seven dollars per sack, pork thirty five cents per pound. During the first winter I had to carry my flour, pork and other supplies on my back from Otter Tail City. It was impossible to go with oxen the snow was so deep and no road. The first summer I was there I put up about thirty tons of hay and thought I could sell it to parties who were hauling supplies to White Earth for the Indians who had been removed there that summer by, the government; but as soon as cold weather set in they hauled all their supplies around by Leech Lake, and I was unable to sell any hay. I started from Otter Tail City one day about the middle of February on Indian snowshoes. I had about eighty pounds of flour and other stuff on my back. Night overtook me not far from where Perham now stands. It was cloudy and dark and I got lost. After wandering about for a long time I came to the Otter Tail River about a mile below the crossing and walked up until I came to the crossing, then I knew where I was. But there was an open space in the ice so I had to step into the water. The space was not very wide and the water only little above my knees. The night was not cold and I traveled about a mile, and finding myself pretty tired, stopped and rested. When I started I discovered that I was unable to carry my pack, so I had to leave it until next day. I arrived home sometime after midnight a very tired man.
William Thompson was my first neighbor. He came the next summer and located where Thomas Keys now lives in Otter Tail County.
There were lots of ducks, chickens and other game at that time and I shot a large bear. When I first saw her she had a large cub with her I did not have my gun with me then. It was at the north end of the grove, near where Edward Briggs now lives, and they were going to that rocky hill west by the river. So I went home and got the gun, which was loaded with shot and I added a bullet into each barrel and started after her. Hunting around for some time in the brush. I heard her run, but I could not see her owing to the density of the brush. After running a little way I saw her as she went west toward the river. I took a short cut. but when I arrived was not sure whether she was ahead of me or not. So I walked about watching very carefully for some time and was surprised all at once to see her standing on her hind feet about six feet away from me. I aimed at her breast and pulled the trigger, but the gun did not go off. It seemed to scare her and she got down and walked away sideways a few feet with her head turned toward me. I pulled the other trigger, the gun went off and she fell, and I loaded that barrel again before I went to where she was lying She was dead. I found that I had shot her between the eyes. I could not find the cub. I shot some other game; two wild cats, some mink and one red fox.
After living there four years and losing my claim, I concluded to move to White Earth. So I found a claim that suited me north of the Buffalo River. I took the land in my wife's name and we are still living on the same land. My health has been very poor for some time and I do not expect to get rich, but I am content. I do not think it best to trouble you any more.
Patrick Quinlan died at his home near Richwood the 10th of March, 1905.
William C. Chilton built on the land now occupied by his heirs. His cabin stood on the west bank of the Otter Tail River close to his old bridge forty or fifty rods above where the planing mill now stands.
James C. Chilton built on Section 15 on the same land where he now resides. James was for several years a sailor on Lake Ontario in his younger days, and served a term in a military company in Canada and was on the Northern Pacific R. R. survey.
T. W. Chilton built on Section 27, near the upper end of Town Lake.
James Winram located and built on Section 14, down near the tamarack swamp, opposite where Tim. Chilton's house now stands.
William Redpath built a house a little west of where the lumber platform of the big sawmill is now. He afterwards sold his claim to Charles M. Campbell, who proved up on the south tier of forties of Section 26 where the steam mill and lumber piles now stand. C.M. Campbell came to Becker County in May, 1872.
The next settler after those mentioned by Quinlan who came into the township was John Graham, who came in October, 1870. and selected the land where he now resides, and went back for his family and returned with them August 25th, 1871. Then came Patrick O'Neil who was then a beardless youth but seventeen years old; he came on the 4th day of December, 1870.
Next came Luther Weymouth and Chris. Gardner on the tenth of December of the same year. Mrs. Weymouth came in March, 1871.
Early in the spring of 1871 Weymouth and Gardner built and opened up a hotel on the south side of the river, near where the present Perham road starts to come down the hill towards the river.
Johnson Wilson, late in the year of 1870, selected a place on the northwest quarter of Section 20, where David Graham now resides. He built his house the next summer in a fine spruce grove, but the trees have since all been destroyed by the winds and storms. There was a fine little prairie covering several acres of land, a little east of his house at that time.
In 1871 there was quite an influx of settlers into the township. August Trieglaff and Anthony Komansparger came about the first of June and located on Section 24. The Trieglaff boys now own both farms.
In the spring of this same year Robert McPhee and family located on the northwest quarter of Section 10, and, about the same time, James Macwell settled on Section 28 with his family, where the Richmonds now reside.
William Hoffman came into Burlington Township in June, 1871, from Fort Madison, Iowa, and the following spring took a homestead on the northeast quarter of Section 22. He is a veteran of the Civil War, and still resides in the vicinity.
I.J. Collins came to this county in 1871, but went back to New York and returned with his family on the 18th of May, 1872, and located on the southeast quarter of Section 34.
Roscoe Dow located on Section 20 on the 25th of June, 1871.
E. L. Wright came from Vermont and located on the southwest quarter of Section 10, in May, 1872.
Wm. Hehrhold and family came to Burlington about the 15th of October, 1873, from Missouri and settled on Section 28, where they still reside.
In May, 1871, William Austin located on Section 32, on what is now known as the John Brigg’s farm. He usually went by the name of "Billy Chicken".
Mr. John Chilton moved into this township from Canada in the year 1873 and located on Section 14. He was accompanied by his wife, son John R. Chilton, and three single daughters, one of whom afterwards married William Redpath. The other two daughters married Patrick O'Neil and James Scott, two prosperous farmers who still live in the neighborhood.
Another daughter, Mrs. C.W. Campbell and husband came into the township in 1872, and still another, Mrs. John Gummer, came with her husband from Canada in 1884.
John Chilton, Sr., was born in Vermont and died in Burlington Township on the 26th of November, 1886, aged 75 years.
Mrs. James Chilton was the first white woman to settle in Burlington, arriving on the 4th day of December, 1870, and her son, Guy Chilton, was the first white child born in the township. He first saw the light in James G. Chilton’s log cabin, which stood on Section 15, on the 16th day of April, 1872.
The first death in the township was that of Chris. Gardner, which occurred about the 10th of August, 1871. Mr. Gardner was a member of the board of county commissioners at the time of his death.
The person who taught the first school in Burlington Township was Miss Nellie F. Brigham, of Richwood, now Mrs. C. H. Potter, of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. She says: "I think I may safely claim the honor of having taught the first school in Frazee. I began my school there about the 20th of May, 1874. The school numbered seventeen pupils and I can recall them all by name now if necessary. The schoolhouse was a new structure. I boarded at the Thompkin’s Hotel. It is a source of great pleasure that I am numbered with my two sisters among the earliest instructors of Becker County."
The first marriage in the township was that of T.W. Chilton and Amelia Rider on November 24th, 1873, by the Rev. J. E. Wood, of Detroit.
The following article written by William W. Howard will undoubtedly be read with much interest, especially by some of the first settlers in the western part of the county. He was the compassman for George B. Wright, the U. S. government surveyor, who had the contract for surveying the township lines lying between the 9th and 10th standard parallels and the 5th and 6th guide meridian, which includes Silver Leaf, Height of Land, Grand Park, Holmesville, Erie, Burlington, Lake View, Detroit, Richwood, Hamden, Audubon, Lake Eunice, Cormorant, Lake Park, Cuba and six townships in Clay County and seven in Otter Tail. Mr. Howard ran all these town lines for George B. Wright and then ran the section lines in Lake Park, Audubon, Lake View and Burlington. He began in the eastern part of this work in April, 1870, and finished about the middle of the next winter. Among his assistants were John A. B. McDonell and William McDonell, of Lake Eunice. In 1871, he was sent out by the Northern Pacific Railroad Company as one of its land examiners, and in August I joined his party and remained with him until winter.
In 1883, while I was county auditor, I was authorized to procure a set of certified plats of the townships of Becker County, and I employed Mr. Howard to do the work. The bound volume of government plats in the office of the register of deeds at Detroit is the work of Mr. Howard.
ST. PAUL, MINN., Feb., 22, 1897
A. H. WILCOX, ESQ.
Dear Old Friend: --You have asked me to give some account of my knowledge of our experience with Bachinana. It was early in the season of 1870 that I left Minneapolis for the then unexplored region of Becker county, George B. Wright having a government contract to run the township lines of twenty-four townships, extending north and west from Gormantown in Otter Tail County. Our outfit consisted of an ox-team, covered wagon, two tents, and the general outfit of a government survey where the country was mostly prairie and could consequently be reached by wagon.
The old Red River trail ran through the timber from the Otter Tail to Oak Lake, and from Thompson’s at the first mentioned point, to the three log houses at Oak Lake, comprising nearly all there was of civilization in the whole region.
Our first line north landed us in a tamarack swamp, about one and a half miles east of where Frazee now stands, and our experienced camp-man and cook declared after some exploration that the way ahead was impassable for team, if not for man. For want of knowing anything better to do, I sent a man back to civilization to consult George B. Wright, and not to be idle we started to subdivide Town 138, Range 39, Gormantown, trusting to get a contract for it when he township was finished.
After about ten days of work we were in the northwestern part of the town one afternoon, when, through the stillness of the forest, came floating on the air, a peculiar sound, indeed, for that country, but familiar to any one who had ever been on a survey with George B. Wright. “Who-o-pe,” faint and long drawn out, but most unmistakably George B’s voice. You may be sure we were all alert, and shout after shout was answered back, though where he was or how he got there was a mystery. Soon the call came nearer, and it was not long before we saw a birch canoe coming up the river. We had by the merest chance happened to be just in the vicinity of the Otter Tail. In the canoe were “George B.,” a halfbreed - Charlie, the Indian, Bachinana or Neeche The canoes were to take the place of our wagons, and the half-breed and Indian the place of the oxen, propelling the canoes, where available, and carrying our burdens on their heads where canoeing was impracticable.
Packing a load on 100 lbs. by a strap over the forehead was a novelty to me then, and I well remember what I thought of the advice of one wiser than I, vis: "if the packs are not heavy enough to start with put in a few rocks."
We reorganized our "survey" on that line, and managed to "swamp" a road for the team up the east side of the river to within about a mile of Height of Lank Lake, and using that as our base of supplies, we run lines east and north by aid of canoes and packers. With varying success we worked north until we reached Height of Land Lake, and after running our line east across the lake, we found ourselves about a mile and a half east of the lake, at night fall, so we had to make camp for the night as best we could. We constructed a rough bough shelter and pitched our mosquito tents under it. These latter being a small square tent of mosquito netting, six feet long, two feet wide and three feet high, suspended by the four corners on boughs stuck in the ground. By carefully getting under these tents we were safe for a while from the millions of mosquitoes, that make life almost intolerable in a new country.
Of course we had to be very guarded in our movements for a very slight strain on the mosquito netting would tear it and thus defeat its purpose. And “thereby hangs a tale.” I was lying next to Joe Deloria, a French boy, who having been brought up among the half-breed Indians, could talk Chippewa, to which tribe Neeche belonged. About the time we were beginning to think of sleep, it began to rain, and though our boughs were poor shelter it was enough to tempt the Indian and he crawled in between Joe and myself. Being pitch dark, I did not see him and supposed it was Joe rolling over and thereby causing a big strain on my tent, placing it in imminent danger of tearing; my only hope of saving myself from being devoured by the insects on the rest of the trip lay in having Joe get off my tent, so I called out sharply to him to do so, by Neeche understood not, so I reinforced my remarks with a threat of a “punch” if he did not lie over. Any one who has had to lie out in the woods all night at the mercy of mosquitoes in a wet season knows what my provocation was. So I gave him a powerful dig in the ribs with my elbow, my back being to him. I never was noted for obesity and I suspect my elbow was sharp.
Great was my surprise to hear only a deep grunt in place of the torrent of profanity I expected. Then I discovered that I had unknowingly and perhaps unjustly struck the revengeful Indian; as he had probably not been aware of his encroaching on my bed, nor had he understood my call and threat. However, I had saved my netting and got some sleep despite the rain.
But when we turned out in the morning, the half-breed informed us that Neeche was going home. "White man had struck him." He said if I had used a hatchet (it might have saved some lives later if I had) it would not have been so bad, but to be struck with the fist "like a squaw" was too much for Chippewa pride. But by dint of coaxing and explanations and promises of a pair of buckskin leggins I had in camp, we persuaded him to stay, notwithstanding he had donned his war paint, and was got up in great shape in his wrath. But he did not get over it as long as he was with us. When later we got out near the Red River trail, and met frequent bands of Chippewas, he would rehearse the whole affair with no good will towards me. Indeed had I then known what kind of an Indian he really was, I doubt very much if I would have given him so much chance to do me harm. He told later that there were three white men he meant to shoot before he died; two he did shoot, I believe, perhaps I was the third. I remember I was a little suspicious of him and when running the line between Ranges 39 and 40, Town 140, now Grand Park and Holmesville, I wanted to get my canoe into Tamarack Lake and emptying into the Otter Tail River near the reservation line, I started with my two Indians for Tamarack Lake by that route, and after paddling hard a whole day, we found ourselves in Flat Lake, one half of which lies on the reservation, instead of in Tamarack Lake. The mistake had arisen through a confusion of names on the part of the Indian and half-breed.
I was anxious to reach Tamarack Lake that night, so in order to make sure of its location and identity, I left the half-breed to get supper and about sundown with Bachinana for a guide, started down the canoe trail due south to see if the next lake was really Tamarack lake. I guess that was the best chance he ever had if he meant me any harm, but with a vivid remembrance of the ignominious "dig in the ribs" in mind, I compelled him to go in advance all the way, and carried my hatchet in my hand, knowing that a hatchet inspired more wholesome fear in an Indian, than would a revolver.
I will confess to a feeling of satisfaction, not to say relief, when I heard he had gone to the "happy hunting ground."
When in the mood for it he was for an Indian a good worker, but his reputation was to work only a short time until he got money enough to indulge in what seemed to be a ruling passion -- gambling. He had very little regard for human life. It was only by the superior strength of his antagonist that we escaped a tragedy in our camp a few weeks later and just before he left us. our party, comprising at that time two more half-breeds, one, Peter, being a very powerful fellow. One night the gambling in their tent seemed to be more boisterous than usual, and Neeche pitted against two brothers, half-breeds, lost everything even to the shirt on his back, when in anger, out to the wagon he rushed, and seized a gun. Nothing but Peter’s superior strength saved him, but he managed to discharge the gun in the air, during the struggle. We concluded it best to take all the firearms into our tents after that for our own safety. He left us soon after this, some time in July, I think, mainly because he had earned some $30 and wanted to have a good time with it. I learned that he soon lost it all at gambling.
Sometime in the fall the old man Carlson, living in the northwest part of Audubon Township, was called out of his home by the burning of his hay stacks one night, and shot by this same Indian.
Of his subsequent career I think you are better informed than I am. Except for this passion for gambling, and his readiness with his gun when incensed, he was very tractable and mild for an Indian.
WILLIAM W. HOWARD
This Indian, Bachinana, is the same one who shot Gunder Carlson in October, 1870, as related in the history of Audubon Township.