The town of Cormorant was first settled in 1870. Dugald Campbell was the first settler. He came and settled in Section 36, May 18th, 1870. Dugald Campbell was born in Glasgow, Scotland, August 1st, 1819, and emigrated to St. John's New Brunswick, in 1825 with his parents, where he lived until 1848, when he went to Massachusetts where he followed the sea for one year. In 1849 he came to Stillwater, Minnesota where he followed the lumber woods in the winter, and was a raft pilot on the Mississippi River in the summer for six years. In 1859 he left the river, and settled on a farm in the town of Florence, Goodhue County, Minnesota, where he lived until April 22, 1870, when he took his team and came to Becker County. Mr. Campbell was married to Julia Furman, March 24th, 1861, at Red Wing, Minnesota, and of this union one son was born, Hubert B. Campbell, on May 20th, 1862. Mr. Campbell lived on his farm until his death which occurred March 13th, 1891.
The next settler was Sandore Olson, who came to the town of Cormorant about June 1st, 1870, and settled on the farm now owned by Murdock Pattison. Mr. Olson owned a farm at Evansville, Minnesota, at the time; he stayed here until after the town was organized in 1872, and then sold out to Mr. Pattison and moved back to Evansville.
The next three settlers were Nels Erickson, Knut Matson and Mats Nelson, who came here together June 8th, 1870. Nels Erickson and wife Eliza moved here from Carver County by ox team. They have a family of five children, Mary, Eliza, Carrie, Erick and Daniel, their son Eric being the first male while child born in the town. He as born December 25th, 1870. Their daughter Carrie was nearly killed at or near the place where S. D. Rider's farm is now in the town of Scambler, Otter Tail County. As they were unyoking the oxen one night they had one ox freed when the other turned quickly, swinging the yoke which struck Carrie, knocking her down, and for a while they thought her dead, but she recovered, and afterwards married Ole Erickson, and is the mother of four boys and six girls. Ole Erickson is one of the early settlers, he came here in 1871. Mr. Nels Erickson gives us some hard luck stories of his early days in this town and of the hardships endured by some of the early settlers, himself being among the number. He is one of the foremost farmers in the town.
Knut Matson is also one of the prosperous farmers. He and his wife, Anna, also came here from Carver County. They have a family of eleven children, Mary, Mats, Julia, Ole, Erick, Carrie, Emma, Clara, Mina, and two died when babies. Julia Knutson was the first white girl born in the town. December 8th, 1870.
Mats Nelson settled on a farm on the south shore of Cormorant Lake on which he lived until his death, January 29th, 1884.
Severt Olson, Peter A. Severtson, William Thompson, and Ole and Jonas Hoveland settled here on June 12th, 1870.
Severt Olson moved by oxen and wagon from Wisconsin. He as married to his present wife by the Rev. Mr. Hagebo, November 24th, 1873, this being the second marriage in the town. They have two children, Oscar and Clara. Oscar S. Olson was born May 18th, 1875.
Peter A. Severtson was married to Gunheld Severtson on Nov. 15th, 1871, by Minister E. A. Berg, who lived about 15 miles southeast of Fergus Falls; this was the first marriage ceremony in the town. They had a family of five children, Isaac, Zachariah, Josephine, Sena and Gena, of which all are living except Gena.
Ole Hoveland was the first to die in the town, also the first one buried in the Lutheran graveyard. He was drowned in Lake Ida, May 31st, 1874.
This seemed to be a very unlucky day, as there were nine persons drowned the same day at about the same hour:
Two at a little lake was of Hawley.|
One in Buffalo River, four miles west of Lake Park.
Two at Lorentz Olson's.
Ole Hoveland in Lake Ida.
One at Norwegian Grove.
Two at Elizabeth.
Severt Hokland settled here July 1st, 1870. Ole Erickson and Nels Estenson about September 1st, 1870. Gabriel Hanson, Lorenz Olson and Andrew Erickson in the spring of 1871. Peter Anders in the summer of 1872. Tom Olson in 1875. Ole E. Olson is also one of the old settlers. He came here April 1st, 1871. They had a family of six children, Isabel, Edward, Simon, Henry, Olaus and Sarah. Their daughter Isabel was the second girl born in the town. Mr. Olson left Norway and went to Australia and worked in the gold mines as day laborer until he had accummulated $1,800, which he invested in a mine of his own, from which he realized nothing. When he had lost all, he began to work by the day until he had raised money enough to take him to California, where he worked a while and became sick and his sickness cost him all he had before he was able to work again. He came to Minnesota, got married and settled in Cormorant. Of his children, Edward and Olaus are both dead. Mr. Sherbrook married Isabel Olson.
The first town election was held February, 26th, 1872. The first township officers were as follows: Chairman, Dugald Campbell; supervisors, Samuel C. P. Brandt and Ole E. Olson; clerk, David Merry; assessor, Severt Hokland; treasurer, Sandore Olson; justices, Dugald Campbell and David Merry; constables, Charles T. Hanson and Patrick Liddy.
Severt Olson, Peter A. Severtson and Ole Hoveland had the fist sawmill in the town, which consisted of an old fashioned whipsaw which they bought at Alexandria. They sold lumber for the floors of some of the first buildings that were built in Detroit, for which they received $30 per thousand.
At first there was but very little land under cultivation, and so all the unmarried men would go south for haying and harvest and would work on their farms here in the winter and early spring. It was often a hard matter to make both ends meet. The fist crop that Severt Olson raised he worked nearly all summer for the seed and had to haul it from the southern part of the state. He did not get his grain threshed, but he had it stacked and ready, and had sent for the threshing machine when a prairie fire came along and burned up all his grain and hay. He had worked on the Northern Pacific Railroad and had spent what money he made for a yoke of oxen, so he had to cut down a crooked tree, and make himself a pair of bob-sleds. He worked in the woods northeast of Detroit all winter, and the next year when his grain got to be about a foot high the grasshoppers came and took every bit of it. The next year he got part of a crop and the grasshoppers took the rest of it. He had just enough to live on and had to buy seen for the next year again. He thought it strange that he should have such a small crop when his neighbors all around him had more per acre than he did, so he asked Peter Severtson why this should be, and Peter told him that if he had been a married man and had a family he would have needed more and would have got more, but as he was single he did not need it, and so did not get it. Severt got married the next year, and his crop was good accordingly.
To show the scarcity of money we will relate a story of Peter A. Severtson, who took grist to mill at Alexandria in the fall after snow began to fall. Of course, it took quite a while to make the trip with the oxen, and he had to camp out at night. One night his coat caught fire and there was a big hole burned in the back when he awoke. He had no money to get it repaired and none to buy a new coat with, so he had to get along the best he could the rest of the way to town and home again.
Along about the year 1977, Charley Squires, Murdock Pattison and W. W. McLeod built a dam and erected a mill at Cormorant village. The name of the firm was Murdock, Pattison & Co. The property changed hands until W. W. McLeod became a sole owner eventually. He ran it several years by waterpower, and after that failed he put in a steam plant and removed the old burrs and put in a complete set of rollers which worked well for several years. It afterwards changed hands several times, each party taking what they could out of it, but most of them sinking some money, until lately it was purchased by Berthold Kroll, who was a man of experience, and he has so far given satisfaction and has secured a good trade.
The first store was started about the time that the mill was built. The firm name was McLeod & Davis. They sold out to S. A. Halgren, October 11th, 1880.
The nearest post-office when the first setlers came was Fort Pomme de Terre. After the Northern Pacific Railroad was built, then Audubon was the nearest, then one was started at Pelican Lake. The citizens of this village wanted a post-office at Cormorant, and sent several petitions but they seemed to do no good, the neighboring villages working against it and it seemed impossible to do anything further. During the time that W. D. Washburn was stumping the district for congress some of the patrons thought that it was an opportunity that they ought not to lose, so W. W. McLeod wrote to W. D. Washburn, stating that there were a number of voters here that would like to support him in his campaign, but they were of the opinion that the favors should not be all on one side as we were in need of a post-office. If he would use his influence in our behalf we would do what we could for him. In just nine days the commission came for John A. Davis as postmaster.
Miss Jane Bardsley taught the first school in Cormorant. She afterwards became Mrs. John A. Davis.