Chapter XXI.
History of Detroit Township.

By Henry Way.

The following interesting account of the first settlement of Detroit Township is from the pen of Henry Way, now of Osage, who was one of the pioneer party:

In 1865 a colony composed of sixteen families left Iowa and arrived in Otter Tail County, July 31, 1865. There were no white settlements in that county as that time. We settled on Battle Lake, remaining there three years. From Otter Tail Lake to Dayton, over that vast expanse of country now covered with cities and town and past were Fergus Falls now stands, there was not a white settler nor a house. As I was a farmer by occupation I desired to find a good range for stock where there was an abundance of grass, good water and some timber. Having been informed by the Indians and half-breeds of the immense cattle range north, five of us started out in search of it. We came past what became Otter Tail City, then occupied by some mixed bloods. We forded the Otter Tail River three times, which brought us to the present location of Frazee City, where we found a man named Butler, who claimed that the land was all taken by script, and who told us it was still fourteen miles to the "land of promise.

We camped there that night, he promising to go with us the next day and show us the land, rich with strawberries, and only waiting for the cows to come to have them with cream. We reached Oak Lake, June 28, 1868, and were so well pleased with the country that we took our claims without getting of the wagon. L. D. Sperry, A. W. Sherman and myself each took a claim at Oak Lake, Mr. Sherman taking the one which was since the county poor farm. We at once commenced improvements - that is, we started foundations for our houses and left then for the buzzards to roost on and hold our claims until we returned. We then returned to our families in Otter Tail County. Mr. Sherman came back and built a house and put up hay; I also built my house and the next spring came with my family. When we were at Battle Lake we had to go to Cold Springs, nine miles this side of St. Cloud, for our flour, and to Sauk Center for our groceries and all things used by farmers. This was 108 miles, and took us from eight to ten days to make the trip. After we started in Becker County we did all our trading and milling at Alexandria, distant 100 miles. My friends, think of it; what would you think of starting out with an ox team, 100 miles, for a box of matches or a pound of tea? Why, I think you would say, "Give me the Northern Pacific Railroad to make the trip with.

Mr. Sherman was on his farm during the winter of '68 and during my absence they got out of provisions; Paul Beaulieu, of White Earth, called, and, learning of their situation and sympathyzing [sic] with them, promised them a sack of flour before the setting of another sun; and he was as good as his word. All traffic was carried on then with dog sleds, and our mail (what we had), was sent from Otter Tail City by the hand of some Indian.

In the spring of 1869 a party of men in the employ of the Northern Pacific Railroad Company came through from St. Cloud. They came with supplies, and made my place their headquarters. At that time it seemed almost impossible for a railroad to be build through a country without inhabitants. During the summer of 1870 we were surprised to see a train of buggies and wagons coming into our neighborhood. There were fifteen of them and they called at my place and wanted to buy a sheep. We sold them one, and one of the men informed me they were looking for a place to locate a railroad. This man was Mr. Eugene Wilson, of Minneapolis. There was also Rev. Mr. Lord, of New York City, who invited us to come to their camp at 10 o'clock a.m., was he would hold a meeting. We went, and listened to a good sermon. Then we had dinner with them, it being Sunday they did not travel. Gov Smith, of Vermont, was then president of the company; there were senators and ex-senators from other states, and physicians for soul and body, and also Carleton Coffin, the great newspaper correspondent, who justly entitled this the Park Region.

Henry Way

The place that Mr. Way selected for his homestead was at the north end of Oak Lake, on the southeast quarter of Section 7. In 1870 he sold his improvements to Mrs. Barbara Stillman, after which he located on Section 20 in what is now Audubon Township. L. D. Sperry lived there much of he time during the early seventies, and Elias Nason lived there in 1885. It now belongs to J. Isaacson.

Almon W. Sherman located on the west shore of Oak Lake on the place that afterwards became the poor farm, and is now (1905), the residence of L. O. Ramsted.

L. D. Sperry selected for his homestead, a place on the west shore of the lake in the northwest quarter of Section 7. After living there for a year or two he rented his house to a man by the name of Sterling, and the first store ever opening in Becker County, to trade with white people was begun in this house, Sperry living in the meantime on his mother-in-law's place (Mrs. Stillman's), at Oak Lake.

The old White Earth and Red River trail passed close to both of these houses. Byron Wheeler since owned this place, and lived there for several years, in the same house where the store was kept.

About the middle of December, 1870, Jedediah Anderson started a small store in a vacant house belonging to Mrs. Sherman on Section 18, close to the west shore of Oak Lake, in Detroit Township, and two or three days later another store was opened by S. B. Pinney, with Ole A. Boe for clerk, in another vacant house belonging to Mrs. Sherman, so by the beginning of the year 1871 there were three full fledged stores running full blast, in what is now Detroit Township.

C. A. Sherman or Alma Sherman as he was usually called, took for his claim the east half of the northwest quarter, and the west half of the northeast quarter of Section 19.

Samuel J. Fox located on Section 15 where John O. French now resides, but the time of his location is uncertain. French ways that he was living there when the Northern Pacific Railroad surveyors camped at Floyd Lake in August, 1869, but he is not sure whether he had a house or not. He also says that he saw Max Vannose and Leon Vannose there at Floyd Lake also, but saw no houses. As all three of these men were living with Chippewa women, the probability is that they were all living in wigwams, prior to the summer of 1870. The Vannoses both built their houses near the southwest corner of Floyd Lake on Section Sixteen.

Melvin M. Tyler located on the northwest quarter of the northwest quarter of Section 34 on the 28th day of July, 1870, and built the first section of what was afterwards enlarged and became the Tyler Hotel, that stood for so many ears on the north side of the railroad, near the Pelican River.

About the first of September Archibald McArthur took a claim on the north shore of Detroit Lake, on Section 35, where the little prairie comes down to the lake a little east of the Pelican River.

The next settle was Deacon Samuel B. Childs, who came from Alexandria and selected the southwest quarter of Section 28, on the 30th day of September, 1870. Mrs. Childs and the rest of the family came on the 22nd of May, 1871.

William W. Rossman located on the east half of the northwest quarter of Section 34, which afterwards became the Holmes Addition of Detroit, sometime in October 1870. He had been living for several months in Lake Eunice, being one of the three first settlers in that township. This land is now right in the midst of the village, and takes in the Holmes school building.

Many of the early settlers will probably remember Michael Dalton, who lived for several years on what was since the C. P. Bailey farm; the northeast quarter of Section 32. Dalton located on this place in October, 1870, and Clarence McCarthy settled on the southeast quarter of Section 32 at the same time. Late in the fall of this year, Samuel J. Fox took the west half of the southeast quarter and the west half of the northeast quarter of Section 34, and built a house on what is since known as the Fox Hill. A large part of the village of Detroit is now built on the old Fox property, including the Frazee and Holmes Addition and the Holmes Second Addition, taking in the Hotel Minnesota and the court house.

In November, 1870, I selected the northwest quarter of Section 6, for a homestead, but did not make any improvements until late in January, 1871, at which time I built a log house, and Andrew Tong built a house on the northeast quarter of Section 6 that same winter.

Josiah Richardson took the northwest quarter of Section 22, some time in the summer or fall of 1870.

Charles Tyler I think located on the south tier of forties of Section 26, since known as the Brook's farm, in the fall of 1870.

These were about all the settlers in Detroit Township before the advent of the New England Colony in the spring of 1871.

History of the New England Colony.

Mr. Thomas J. Martin of Lake Eunice gives the following account of the origin of the New England Colony:
At the close of the Civil War, Congress passed a law giving to every soldier, sailor and marine 160 acres of land, which could be taken tinder the homestead act. In 1870 the Northern Pacific Railroad Company commenced to build its road through Minnesota, and in the winter of 1870 and '71 Charles Carleton Coffin, war correspondent and reporter for the Boston Journal who in 1869 had accompanied a party of Northern Pacific officials and engineers over the proposed route in northwestern Minnesota, gave a series of lectures in Boston, which were listened to by large audiences and were published by all the prominent news papers of the day. The result of the land grant and these lectures was the holding of a large meeting in Boston in the spring of 1871 and an association was formed, known as the Gale Association of Ex-Soldiers and Sailors.

Mr. Coffin was present at these meetings, and vividly pictured out the possibilities of the Northwest. Committees were appointed to visit the different states where government lands could be obtained, and Frank B. Chapin, Calvin K. Day, William H. H. Howe, Thomas J. Martin and _______ Sanderson were appointed a committee to visit Minnesota. Sanderson, Day and Chapin came to St. Cloud and there purchased a lumber wagon and came the rest of the way with their team. Mr. Day was accompanied by his wife and daughter The other two members of the committee, Howe and Martin, were accompanied by Millard Howe and Frank Barnes, L. C. Averill and wife, two young men, Tucker and Kimball, and the wife and two children of T. J Martin. They came by way of the lakes to Duluth then a town of 300 inhabitants, then to Crow Wing on the cars, remaining there the guests of James Campbell, late of Richwood, who kept a hotel at that place, until they could procure wagons to transport them to Detroit. They arrived in Detroit May 22, 1871, where they met Mr. Chapin and Mr. Day, who were staying at Tyler's Hotel, it being the only house near the line of the railroad.

On our way through Otter Tail City we formed the acquaintance of Mr. and Mrs. E. G. Holmes. who have done so much for the prosperity of Detroit. We found the following ex-soldiers living near Detroit, viz.: William W. Rossman, Josiah Richardson, Derrick Huck and John 0. French. The colony was soon increased by the arrival of Charles H. Sturtevant and Martin H. Garry.

The first store in tile village was built by E. G. Holmes and John H. Phinney in Tyler Town in August of 1871.

In the fall of 1871 Capt. William F. Roberts came as an agent for the New England Colony, which had purchased all the railroad land in the township of Detroit, and proceeded to put up a building known as the New England House, which has since been enlarged to the present Waldorf Hotel. In the spring of 1872 a large number of x-soldiers came to Detroit. Among them were George Wilson, Col. George H. Johnston, Edgar M. Johnston, L. D. Phillips, James T. Bestick, Robert Carson, George A. Learman, Milo S. Converse, George L. Brackett, George W. Grant and others.

On the back of this [Western Land Improvement Association] Certificate is printed the articles of incorporation, which are too lengthy to publish in full, but the preamble reads as follows:

Whereas., It is proposed to form an association under the foregoing title for the purpose of promoting and aiding emigration of persons who served in the late war, and others, and the settlement of families on the present uncultivated land of the West (and more especially at present, on lands in the neighborhood of the town of Detroit Lake, Becker County, Minnesota,) in such manner as to induce considerable companies to go and settle in the neighborhood of each other, and thus create a community for mutual protection and encouragement, and the early establishment of schools, churches, and other needful institutions of society:

And Whereas, It has been determined that the most convenient method of managing the matters aforesaid will be to put all the lands, moneys, and property of every description which shall be contributed, or may be acquired in the promotion of the matters aforesaid, in the hands of one person, to he held by him in trust, and managed for the promotion of the business:

And Whereas, Colonel George H. Johnston, of Boston, Massachusetts, has been chosen to act as such trustee for the present, and until his successor shall be chosen:

Now, Therefore, I, the said George H. Johnston, in consideration of the premises and one dollar in hand paid, do by these presents accept said Trust, etc., etc. Then follows eleven articles for the government of the Trustee and the Association.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I, the said George H. Johnston, have hereunto set my hand and seal. this fourteenth day of June, A. D. 1871.


This association was separate from, and independent of the Gale or New England Colony, mentioned by T. J. Martin in a preceding article.

They acquired all the odd numbered sections of land in Detroit Township, and laid out the original townsite of Detroit on the south half of Section 27, Colonel Johnston served in the capacity of trustee for several years at the end of which time for some unknown reason the whole of this valuable acquisition came into his hands, and in 1883 a large part of it went into the hands of Henry S. Jenkins.

During the spring and early summer of 1871 the following settlers located on land in Detroit Township:
Frank B. Chapin, Calvin K. Day and William H. H. Howe, on Section 26, J. 0. Crummet on the east half of the southeast quarter of Section 34.

Isaac N. Thomas on the southeast quarter of Section 28, James Hickey on the northeast quarter of Section 28 and Dewit C. Heald on the northwest quarter of Section 28.

Swan Anderson on the southwest quarter of Section 22, and Charles E. Herbert on the northeast quarter of Section 22.

Millard F. Howe and Frank Barnes and Henry Miller on Section 14.

Frank A. Johnson on the southwest quarter of Section 6, and Gus. Turnwall on the southeast quarter of Section 6.

Nelson Heath on the southwest quarter of Section 2.

Mellville H. Davis on the southwest quarter of Section 8, and James Blanchard on the west half of the east half of Section 8, and a settler on the east half of the east half of Section 8, whose name [George Kennedy] I have forgotten.

On Section To George Vose and John Anderson.

C. P. Wilcox on the southeast quarter of Section 18. and Cyrus. A. Rollins on the west half of the south (quarter of Section 18.

Charles 0. Quincey on the southeast quarter of Section 24 and Charles W. Rand on the southwest quarter of Section 24.

Israel James Hanson on the southeast quarter of Section 30, Alfred Staigg on the northeast quarter of Section 30, and John Lethenstrom on the northwest quarter of Section 30.

Hannah Collins was living on the southwest quarter of Section 36.

There was also a settler on Section 20, whose name I have forgotten, perhaps two.

In December, 1871, Lester C. McKinstry, William P, McKinstry and Hosmer H. Wilcox took claims on Section 4.

E. G. Holmes sent his store to Detroit in August, 1871, it being the first store opened in the village, and in the fall of 1872 located there permanently.

The following from the Detroit Record, May 25th, 1872.

A pioneer association has been organized at Detroit, a meeting of which was held at Tyler's Hotel on Thursday of this week. (The association has for its object the mutual benefit of its members.)

A large majority of these settlers were members of the New England Colony and many others located in the village belonging to that colony. In the spring and summer of 1872 another stream of emigrants poured into Detroit from Boston and other parts of New England, and in 1873 the influx of settlers was kept up, although there was quite a falling off as compared with the two previous years. The newcomers, however, were not all from New England, probably one-fourth of the whole population coming from other parts of the country.

Among the New Englanders who came in 1871 were Robert Buchanan, Thomas Louden, Alexander Louden, W. C. Roberts, George E. Jepson, Millard F. Howe, Frank Barnes, L. D. Phillips and many more whose names I have forgotten and have not space to mention if I could remember them all. Many more came in 1872, and in the spring of 1873 the following came to the village:
Charles W. Dix, A. S. McAlister, and from other parts of the country came J. H. Sutherland, S. N. Horneck, A. J. Clark, Carlton Curry, Jasper B. Hillyer and Charles Cochran or "Scotty" as he is familiarly called.

Col. George H. Johnston came to Detroit in the fall of 1871 but went back to Boston, returning in the spring of 1872 to remain permanently. Robert Carson came with him as private secretary and remained with him for several years.

John A. Teague first came to Detroit about the 20th of May, 1872, but after remaining there a day or two went on to Glyndon where a village was just started. About the first of May he took a preemption on a quarter section of land on Section 14, in Hawley, in Clay County, where he lived until 1874 when he came to Detroit and engaged in the drug business, in which he remained until 1906 when he became a full-fledged dry goods merchant. Mr. Teague has made a success in business affairs since he came to Becker County.

W. J. Wood came to Detroit with his parents July, 1872. He was then budding into manhood, and went by the name of the big Wood boy.

Some of the members of this colony were lacking in staying qualities, for in the year 1873 they began to scatter away and their numbers have continued to dwindle down by removal and death until of the three hundred or more who came at different times, there is now but a handful left.

The colony may be said to have undergone a severe and thorough sifting process, and those who remain represent the No. 1 Hard kernels of wheat, a fair illustration of the survival of the fittest.

Many of the worthy colonists have fallen by the wayside, and their bones are now mingling with the soil of Becker County, others have made Detroit a way station on their journey to other regions. but a majority of them returned at an early date to their old homes in New England from whence they migrated.

M. V. B. Davis came to Becker County with Mrs. Davis about the middle of the seventies and located on a farm in Lake Eunice, but finding a rural life too dull for his energetic temperament he finally located in the village of Detroit and engaged in the boot and shoe business in which he has been eminently successful.

A. E. Bowling, another gentleman who has made a small fortune as a boot and shoe merchant, came to Detroit from Michigan, April 15, 1879, with his young wife and his circumstances now indicate what industry and frugality will accomplish.

Horace Bowman came here first in 1874 but remained but a short time. He came again in 1879 with Mrs. Bowman, after the death of his father-in-law and engaged in business with his brother-in-law S. N. Horneck.

Among the pioneer women of Detroit who arc still living here are Mrs. F. B. Chapin, Mrs. C. K. Day, Mrs. C. O. Quincy, Mrs. J. E. Wood, Mrs. E.G. Holmes, Mrs. W. C. Roberts, Mrs. S. N. Horneck, Mrs. Charles Craigie, Mrs. S. B. Childs, Mrs. C. H. Sturtevant, Mrs. F. Rumery, Mrs. Geo. Wilson and Mrs. J. E. Bestick. All these came in the early seventies.

Mrs. S. N. Horneck died in February 1907, since the above was written.

Organization of Detroit Township.

Detroit Township was organized on the 29th day of July, 1871, and the first township election was held at Tyler's Hotel on that date.

The township officers elected that day were:
W. S. Woodruff, chairman of supervisor; C. A. Sherman, supervisor; S. J. Fox, supervisor; Archibald McArthur, town clerk; S. B. Childs, treasurer; William W. Rossman, justice of peace; John 0. French, constable; Z. Sutherland, constable.

When the township was first organized it took in all of what is now the townships of Detroit, Lake View, Burlington, Erie, Height of Land, Silver Leaf, Evergreen, Toad Lake. Spruce Grove, Wolf Lake, Green Valley and Runeburg. When Lake View was organized the next spring, all of the south tier of townships were detached from Detroit and attached to Lake View, and when Burlington was organized later on, everything east of Burlington became a part of that township, and everything east of Detroit sill remained a part of Detroit, and when Richwood was organized, everything east of that township became a part of Richwood.

There was considerable non-resident pine land scattered over these eastern townships, and they came in for their share of township taxation, which in many cases was enormous, and which finally led to a lawsuit in 1876 with the result that these unorganized townships were cut loose from the organized towns and all farther taxation discontinued except for state and county purposes.

First General Election in Detroit.

The first general election in Detroit Township was held at Tyler's Hotel on the 6th day of November, 1871. Millard Howe, who was one of the judges of that election says: "The first election in Detroit was held at Tyler's Hotel in November, 1871. The election board were: Judges; Frank Barnes, Millard Howe and either Isaiah Delemater or William G. Woodworth, I do not remember which, and the clerks were Charles Doell and either Delemater or Woodworth. We played a game of seven-up to who should carry the election returns out to Dr. Pyle's house who then lived two miles west of where the village of Audubon is now. Pyle was then county auditor, appointed by the county commisioners [sic]. I got beat, so the next morning I started out for his place on foot by the way of the Oak Lake Cut. A little west of the cut I came across Dennis Stack who showed me where Pyle lived.


Following close upon the heels of the New England Colony was another colony coming from Buffalo, New York and from Dunville, Canada. In the summer of 1872 a man by the name of Whitson C. Darling, hailing from the last named town arrived at Detroit and after looking the county over returned to the East and began the organization of a colony with which to people the vacant land in the vicinity of Detroit. Our friend Alfred Meilie in his history of Erie Township gives us further light on the inside workings of Darling and his colony.

On the 29th of March, the first instalment [sic] of this colony arrived from Buffalo, and consisted of Mrs. Caroline Trimlett and her son William, now one of the merchants of Detroit, then a beard-less boy; Mr. George Neuner and wife and two striplings of boys, John Neuner, now of Frazee, and Frank Neuner of Erie Township. But few more came for the next two or three years and the flood of emigration did not fairly set in until the spring of 1876, when it began in earnest, and for the next three or four years bid fair to rival the New England Colony of 1871, '72 and '73 in the number of emigrants it sent to Detroit and the surrounding country. They came to the number of about three hundred from Buffalo and Canada in about equal numbers, those coming from Buffalo being mostly Germans, while those coming from Dunville, Canada, were mostly native born Canadians of English or Irish descent. Some of the Germans located in Detroit but a majority of them took homesteads in Erie Township. The Canadians mostly settled on land in Lake View, Detroit and Burlington. They were nearly all honest and industrious and possessed of excellent staying qualities, as they and their children now constitute a large part of the population of Erie and Lake View, with a good sprinkling of them in Detroit and Burlington.

The first white child born in Detroit Township was a daughter of Henry and Jane Way, who was born on the north shore of Oak Lake in July, 1870. This child died in infancy.

The first white boy born in Detroit must have a notice. He was born Wednesday, the 24th of July, 1872, and his mother was Mrs. J. O. Crummett. This is Frank Crummett.

The first death in Detroit Township and in Becker County was Almon W. Sherman, who died on the west shore of Oak Lake on the 30th day of December, 1869.

The first people married in Detroit Township were John Anderson to Mary St. Clair, by Squire Rossman on the 15th of February, 1872. They were married at the home of Samuel J. Fox who was then living on Fox Hill, now in the heart of the village of Detroit. Miss St. Clair was of mixed blood.

Clayton Gould and Dee Sherman were the first couple married in the township where both parties were fully of white blood. They were married at the home of her mother, Mrs. Almon Sherman, at Oak Lake on the 10th of September 1872.

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