In the spring of 1870, W. W. Rossman with myself and my brother William left McLeod County for Becker County. We came with teams as there were no railroads at that time. We made the trip in about two weeks, and arrived at Cormorant Lake the 1st of June and took claims on Section 29. The second day we went fishing and caught as fine a string of bass as you would wish to see. Rossman and I were cooks; he would make the slap-jacks, and I would fry the fish and make the coffee; we built a log cabin and covered it with bark and sod and the floor was made of earth. This we thought was a good house, but the mosquitoes were awful that summer, and I expect we used some cuss words about them. Our nearest place to buy anything was at Alexandria, about 100 miles away, but we brought enough stuff to eat so that we got along with catching fish and shooting game until fall. Then we went back to McLeod County to get the families. We made the trip without any mishaps. John McClelland came back with us. He located at Lake Eunice. In the fall of 1871 Sidney Buck was born, the first boy born in Lake Eunice. At that time we started the city at Buck's mills, and it has been starting ever since.
I was born in Orange County, Vermont, in 1833, and came to Minnesota in 1851. I went to California in 1858, and was in New York City at the time of the completion of the Atlantic cable. There was a great blowout at that time. I came back to Minnesota in 1860 and was here during the Minnesota massacre in 1862. In McLeod County I saw a whole family that had been killed by the Sioux Indians, and all had their heads cut off.
I came to Becker County and took a claim in what is now Lake Eunice Township on the 30th day of May, 1870.
In the year 1871 my brother William Buck and myself moved to Section 31, in Lake. View Township, where we built a sawmill the succeeding year.
Mr. and Mrs. John McClelland
By John McClelland
All history except that of wars is usually made up of little things, incidents, waifs floating on the stream of time, seemingly of no account as they pass, hardly worthy of record, and yet in the fitful passage of a century, the historian looks back for those little incidents with the interest that would surprise us could we realize a tithe of their importance in the estimation of those who shall come after us.
The names of the first settlers were Simeon S. Buck, William Buck, William W. Rossman, John McClelland, Archibald B. McDonell, Duncan McDonell, John A. B. McDonell, William McDonell, Finlay McDonell, Donald J. McDonell, Anton Glaum, Jacob Gessel, John Turten, Eugene Early, J. Peter Johnson, L. G. Stevenson, John Holstad, George W. Britt, William Wagner, John Nelson, John Germer, John Peterson, Nels Peterson, Ostra Olson, Ole Munson, John King and Thomas McDonough, all of whom I think came in 1870.
Among those who came in 1871 were Thomas Bardsley, Alonzo Fogg, John Dispennet, Thomas J. Martin, Conrad Glaum, Peter Glaum, Conrad Glaum, Jr., Jacob Shaffer, Warren Horton, R. A. Horton. Myla Converse came in the spring of 1872, and George W. Grant, Andrew Rydell, John O. Nelson, Wm. Blake and James Blake came in the spring of 1873.
George W. Grant was a veteran of the Civil War and the hero of many battles. In later years he has held many important positions in the Grand Army of the Republic. The lands in this town are much diversified, affording every facility for farming that the husbandman can desire. The western and northern parts are generally timbered with oak, maple, linden, poplar, etc. The balance of the land is prairie with groves of timber skirting the lakes. The surface is gently undulating, and the soil a rich black loam.
The first child born in the township was Sidney Buck, in October, 1871, son of William Buck, and is still a resident of Becker County. The first marriage was that of Alonzo Fogg to Miss Orlora Britt, by W. W. Rossman, justice of the peace, of Detroit. They now live in Washington. The first "husking bee" was at Mr. Britt's, where the boys got their pay for husking by kissing the girls every time they found a red ear of corn.
The first death in the township was that of Jane McClelland, mother of John McClelland and Mrs. W. W. Rossman of Detroit.
The first school in the town was a three. months subscription school taught by Miss Orlora Britt.
The first town meeting was held September 3rd, 1872, and the following officers were elected: Justices of peace, A. B. McDonell and R. A. Horton; supervisors, William Buck, John Dispennet and John Turten; town clerk, John McClelland; treasurer, John Bardsley; assessor, Duncan B. McDonell; constables, J. W. Horton and Charles R. Clockler.
The first settlers of this township went through all the hardships incident to the settlement of a new country. Goods of all kinds were high and money scarce. Everything had to be hauled by wagons from Alexandria, about ninety miles, the first summer. In the winter of 1871, Fletcher & Bly, of Minneapolis, opened a store at the Big Cut, three or four miles west of Detroit on the Northern Pacific Railroad, after which goods could be obtained at a more reasonable price. At this time lumber was out of the question. The houses were all built of logs with sod roofs. Some had glass windows, and others had none. The more enterprising settlers had logs split and hewed on one side, which they laid down for their floors. Others spread hay on the ground, which had to be taken up every few days to prevent the fleas and mosquitoes from becoming too plenty. The fleas and mosquitoes will be long remembered by the early settlers of this township.
Some time in April, 1872, while Mrs. John McClelland was out in the dooryard raking chips, two Indians suddenly appeared before her, and asked in Chippewa where her husband was. Although taken by surprise she did not answer, but kept right on raking chips. Finally the other Indian asked in good English where her man was, and she told him he went to "Oak Lake." Almost before the words were out of her mouth the Indian said "Good." This so frightened her that she was almost ready to run to one of the neighbors, but remembering the three children, she kept on with the rake, and showed as little fear as possible. The Indians after conversing awhile in their native language, started in the direction of Oak Lake. This event took place shortly after the Cook family murder, about five miles north of here. It required a great deal of nerve to pass through such an ordeal at a time when it was thought a general uprising of the Indians might take place any day.
A half crazy Dutchman by the name of Jacob Schaffer came into the township in 1871. Jake was naturally of a thieving disposition and would steal everything he could lay his hands on. He would steal from one neighbor and give to another, anything from an ox yoke to a load of lumber. On one occasion he was known to steal a load of lumber in Detroit and give it away before he got home. The last we heard of poor Jake he was dangling from the limb of a tree in Montana for stealing horses.
L. G. Stevenson was another queer specimen of humanity, who came here in 1870. "Steve," as he was called, was as cute as a fox, a first-rate neighbor, and a clever fellow all around. The first civil case tried in the township Steve was employed as counsel for the defendant and John McClelland for the plaintiff.As the justice of peace before whom the case was tried was not very well posted in Blackstone, he was at a loss to know how to open the court. Steve told him to repeat after him what he should say. "Proceed sir," said the justice of peace. "Hear ye, hear ye," said the justice of peace, "the justice court of Lake Eunice is now open, all persons having business in this court must appear and be heard. God save the Queen." "God save the Queen, be d---d if I'll do it," said the justice of peace, "there is something not right about that. We don't have a Queen in this country." After a sharp skirmish by the attorneys it was decided to call off the Queen and the case went on trial.
The plaintiff won the case, and as Steve did not tell the justice of peace how to close the court, the probability is, it is still open. Steve was for a long time the political Moses of this part of the country, and when the Republican party wanted to concentrate public sentiment and obtain full delegations from Becker County in the district conventions, they had but to can Steve, and the thing was fixed. Steve was a singular genius; the world would not have been complete without him.
Besides the characters in Lake Eunice mentioned by Mr. McClelland as noted for their peculiarities, there were others.
A man by the name of Thomas McDonough took a claim on Section 22 in 1870, and afterwards sold his right to Alonzo Fogg. Tom had no fingers or thumbs on either of his hands, having lost them by hard freezing. He, however, could do almost any kind of work, was an expert horse teamster, and could handle the lines as ski11fu1ly as a man with a full set of fingers.
A man by the name of Frank Yergens bought the north west quarter of Section 23 from John King, who had pre-empted the place after a close contest with the Northern Pacific Railroad Company. The same place is now owned and occupied by Alfred N Nunn. Yergens, or Dutch Frank, as he was usually called, was a peculiar specimen of the Lgenus homo. Knickerbocker's description of Wouter Van Twiller, the first Dutch Governor of New York, would apply equally as well to Dutch Frank. He was a man specially noted for the symmetry of his physical proportions, being exactly five feet six inches in height and six feet five inches in circumference. He was one of nature's noblemen, a man with a noble head---an immense head, a head that no ordinary neck could support, so nature came to his, relief by placing his head on top of his backbone, squarely between his shoulders without any neck at all.
One dark, rainy night he took old Uncle James Blake, who was making his way home on foot from Detroit carrying a brass clock that he was taking home to repair, into his wagon to ride but afterwards made him get out and walk the rest of the way through the mud because he could not play him a tune on the clock.
Archibald B. McDonell was born at Fort William, Shire of Argyle, Scotland, on the 18th of October, 1814.
About the later part of June, 1870, Archibald B. McDonell and family composed of a wife and nine children, five sons and four daughters---Duncan the oldest of the boys was married a short time previous to leaving Canada, their former home-arrived in St. Paul. On the 22nd day of June, they went from St. Paul to Shakopee, Scott County, and remained there until the 5th of July, when Mr. McDonell and three of his sons left for Becker County to seek new homes, leaving his wife, Donald, and Finlay, his daughters and daughter-in-law at Shakopee, until he and the boys could erect a home on the wild prairies. They went by way of Carver, Young America and Glencoe, stopping with some friends from Canada a few days, who had settled on some lands on the Buffalo Creek, McLeod County. Then they left for Pelican Lake and the proposed Northern Pacific Railroad by way of Litchfield, Benson, Alexandria, Pomme de Terre, Fergus Falls, Pelican Rapids and arrived at Pelican Lake on the 20th day of July, the whole country traversed between Pomme de Terre and Pelican Lake being destitute of any houses, except one on the west end of Pelican Lake, owned by Robert Scambler, but in every direction a covered wagon and a little group of children could be seen. P. S. Peabody had started to build a house on the north side of Pelican Lake, which A. B. McDonell and sons helped to finish by hewing out basswood slabs for floor and room meanwhile looking about the country between Pelican and Cormorant Lakes for suitable lands to take as homesteads. The most attractive land had been staked out by parties who went ahead of the "Boom" on purpose to sell their rights to the newcomers in a short time. Men, horses and oxen were busy hauling logs for shanties, and plowing the prairie to get sods to cover the houses which made a very good and warm place to live in. The lands were not surveyed at the time when each man marked out the piece of land he intended to claim, but some time in the latter part of August, George B. Wright was sent by the government to survey the counties of Becker and Clay into townships and sections, which made a vast difference in the situation of some of the homesteads. About the first of September the other members of the McDonell family arrived at Pelican Lake, where A. B. McDonell had built a comfortable sod covered shanty after the fashion of the country. Before the cold weather set in not less than twenty families, composed of Swedes, Norwegians, Scotch, French, Irish Americans and Germans were settled around Pelican and Cormorant Lakes. In the days of the early settlement at Pelican Lake, fish could be caught in abundance at any point around the lake by dropping the hook into the water. Bait was plentiful, frogs, horse-flies and grasshoppers, and fishermen were sure of a pickerel, pike or black bass every time his hook struck the water. Fish and game wardens were unknown in the days of early settlement. At and around the Pelican country also partridges, prairie chickens, wild ducks, geese, pelicans, swans and sand-hill cranes were in countless numbers. Inhabiting the country then were deer, elk, common and jack rabbits, which went far in assisting the homesteader to stick to his claim during the seven years of grasshopper troubles. In the fall of 1870 and the winter of 1871, the nearest market to the settlement was Alexandria in Douglas County, something over one hundred miles distant. Until the Northern Pacific Railroad was built, P. S. Peabody had a few staple articles at from three to five five [sic] hundred per cent profit. Salt pork, 25 cents per pound, tea from $1.00 to $1.50 per pound. Calico at 25 cents per yard and everything else in proportion. But we must admit that it was about as easy to pay for the necessities of life in those days as it is to-day in 1894, as money was plentiful, work sufficient and good. wages at any kind of labor, and the job hunted the man and not the man the job as it is now. Most of the settlers have passed away.
A. B. McDonell died Nov. 27th, 1902.
The old settlers will doubtless nearly all remember John McClelland. He was the first register of deeds ever elected by the people of this county, and held the office for six years, and as he was always obliged to walk on his knees he was for a long time a familiar figure in Detroit. He now lives in the state of Washington.
The story of suffering from cold and hunger of Dr. Ripley and John McClelland in the spring of 1856 resulting in the death of the former and the loss of his legs by the latter comprises a pathetic chapter in the history of the times. John McClelland had reached Glencoe prior to the month of March, 1856, but at what particular time whether in the latter part of 1855 or the early spring of 1856 cannot now be recalled. In the month of March 1856, Dr. Ripley of Shakopee, and John McClelland, then of Glencoe, were employed by Bell and Chapman to go to Cedar City a point now known on the Hutchinson and Litchfield road, about thirteen miles distant from Hutchinson and nine miles from Litchfield for the purpose of constructing a log house to be occupied as a temporary country hotel or stopping place for new comers, and also for the accommodation of others who might conclude to settle or engage in business at the new townsite which had already been, or which was about to be laid out at that point. The snow was rapidly disappearing at the time of starting, the weather was comparatively mild and the indications were that spring was near at hand. In view of the mild weather, moccasins which had been worn during the winter, were exchanged for boots, and the two men left Glencoe with supplies of food sufficient to last but ten days, at the end of which time their employers promised to send or come with additional supplies.
Upon their arrival at the new townsite, they threw together a few logs for a shelter in which to live while engaged in the construction of the main or hotel building, supplying a cover for that portion of the shanty only, under which stood their improvised bed. After their arrival and within a few days a fierce snow storm prevailed and the weather changed to bitter cold. They remained fifteen days and until all their food except about a pound of dried apples and a quart of rice was exhausted and no one appeared with additional supplies. At the expiration of that time they started for Forest City. The snow was deep and drifted and their progress slow. They had matches with them and when night came they took shelter in a grove and started a fire. The next day they traveled until nearly noon, when they discovered that they were lost, and their matches having become damp in the meantime they would not burn. They undertook to return to the shanty which they had left and to retrace their footsteps to the place they stopped the first night in the hope that the fire of the previous night had not died out, but in this they were disappointed, the fire was dead and they spent the second night tramping in and about the ashes in order to keep from freezing. When morning came they resumed their tramp and when within about seven miles of the shanty the doctor laid down exhausted from exposure, cold and hunger and said he could go no farther. He was urged and encouraged to make another effort, but finally gave up entirely, and as Mr. McClelland left him the doctor requested that in case the latter reached the shanty and was able to return, that he do so, and bring back some matches. Shortly after the separation Mr. McClelland fell through an air-hole while crossing the north fork of Crow River, got his feet wet, and they immediately swelled so that he had to cut off his boots, and the remainder of the way he walked in his stockings. Upon reaching the shanty an effort was made to procure water, from a nearby lake in which to bathe his feet to withdraw the frost, but the lake was frozen to the bottom and no water could be procured. He then built a fire and as soon as his feet were placed near the fire he became wholly unable to walk. During the following eighteen days, and until relief came, he started a fire four times, only. His entire food supply during those 18 days, after three days on the road without a morsel of any kind of food, consisted of the remnants of dried apples and rice before referred to. John McClelland was brought to Glencoe and from thence taken to Shakopee, where both of his legs were amputated, one four and the other eight inches below the knee.
Dr. Ripley's remains were found two months after the last separation from my brother, about half a mile from the place where he was last seen alive, his hat hanging an a bush near by and a bottle partly filled with chloroform by his side. Lake Ripley, located near Litchfield gets its name from the circumstances narrated above, as well as the hotel in Litchfield by the same name. My brother's misfortune was the occasion of my father's removal from Indiana to McLeod county which occurred shortly thereafter, after a stay en route of about six weeks in Shakopee, where the family was detained in caring for brother John while recovering from his injuries, Glencoe was reached on the 11th day of June, 1856. At the solicitation and with the assistance of friends my brother, shortly after the occurrences narrated published a small book or pamphlet entitled "Sketches of Minnesota," in which was incorporated the story of his own and the doctor's suffering and the circumstances surrounding the latter's death. Miss Katie Gibson who has before been referred to as the first teacher in the log schoolhouse was understood to have been the doctor's affianced at the time of his death, and she visited my brother after we had removed to the farm to make inquiry as to whether the doctor had spoken of her before his and the doctor's last parting.
Loss of life or limb by freezing was not an unusual occurrence during those early Minnesota winters, due to the severity of the climate. Snow fell to the depth of from two to three feet and the thermometer registered from 30 to 40 below for weeks at a time, and owing to the dry, steady, cold atmosphere and the entire absence of any thawing, the great snow storms which prevailed, drifted into heaps, rendering travel with teams on the prairie, sometimes impossible, and at all times attended with danger.
But notwithstanding the risks and dangers to which the early settlers were exposed life among them was not wholly monotonous, nor devoid of interest. They hoped for better things and enjoyed the anticipation. Hospitality and generosity one with another were among their commendable virtues. There were no church bickerings, nor society factions among them. They all joined together in whatever of pleasure or amusement the times and circumstances afforded.
Geo. W. Britt was born January 8th, 1811, at Litchfield, Maine; came to Lake Eunice in 1870.
Uncle Britt, as he was always called by his friends, was one of the first settlers in the town of Lake Eunice, and without doubt the first corn-husking bee in Becker County was held at his house. The writer was there and never will forget the hearty welcome he received and the splendid New England supper that was spread for the hearty settlers. It was a supper never to be forgotten; no lack of food at that table. Uncle Britt was raised in the forests of Maine. When a young man he was a lumberman, a sailor and cruiser to locate pine lands in Maine and Canada. It was his boast that he had driven the rivers of Maine and Canada for 27 springs, and his accounts of some of those drives and varied experiences in the forests of Maine and Canada were very interesting. He was a very kind hearted man; no one needing food or shelter was ever turned from his door.
He died at Lake Eunice April 4th, 1893, from the effects of la grippe and old age.
DEAR MADAM: At your request I give you these few items of the early history of Becker County. I left Boston, Mass., on the 9th day of May, 1871, going by the cars to Newport, then by boat to New York, then via the Erie Railroad to Buffalo, where we took the boat J. R. Coburn for Duluth. We were in the first boat that left for Duluth that spring and were nine days in the passage, carrying a large amount of freight as well as passengers. It was a very pleasant trip. We stopped in all of the principal ports, and at last reached Duluth, where we found a new town. The principal street ran north and south, the buildings were all one style facing the street with square fronts. There were two elevators and the railroad station was one mile from the lake. There were no regular trains, the railroad being in the hands of the construction company. We remained at Duluth one week. Here we made the acquaintance of the Rev. Mr. Gilfillan, who was a resident minister. We found the railroad in a bad condition. There were numerous trestle works which were dangerous. They did not dare to trust the engines over some of them, and so the cars were detached from the engines and pushed across the trestle and another engine took them on the other side. We reached Thompson the first day and had to remain there over night. Here my connection with the Grand Army of the Republic was of benefit to us, for I found some comrades among the railroad men, and they gave us material aid. Thompson was a hard place; being the beginning of the Northern Pacific Railroad, it was filled with railroad employes [sic] and that class of people that follow a railway crew. Nearly every other building was a saloon or dance hall. Gambling was openly carried on, and the town could boast of its houses of prostitution. In the evening, one would think bedlam was let loose.
With profanity, screaming, ribald songs, and shooting, we passed a sleepless night. The next day, Sunday, we loaded our goods on a flatcar and started for Brainerd. The day was warm and the sun was hot. The engine burnt wood, the sparks came and fell on us in showers, sometimes setting our clothing on fire. At last we reached a place called Aitkin. Here we had to leave the train and all of our heavy goods, for there was a sink-hole in the track, and the train could not cross it, so we got our trunks on a handcar, and women and children, and in addition to our company, we were met here by Superintendent Hobart and some other officials of the company. We pumped that handcar for about eight miles over a road bed that resembled a snake both in its wanderings up and down pitchings as well as its curvings. At last we reached the sink. Here the earth had entirely disappeared, the track held together, and we had a suspension bridge about half of a mile in length. I should think it was about ten feet to the water, and the rails hung down to within a foot of the water at the center. When we got there we walked around, and they let the car go. It was carried by its own momentum down the incline and half way up the other side, where it was seized by men stationed there and pushed up the remainder of the way. Here we for the first time in our lives saw mosquitoes. I had previously met a few, but without any exception there were more to the square inch going round that sink-hole than I ever saw before, and this was our experience to be followed up by day and night, till cold weather put an end to them. After getting around the sink we entered a passenger train and in about one hour reached Brainerd. Brainerd was headquarters for the Northern Pacific Railroad, and the description of Thompson answers for Brainerd. Mr. Hobart directed us to go to the Pine Restaurant, and. we found a most excellent family, but there were no beds and we had to lay on the floor; of course, the mosquitoes and the eye watering smudge were there. Three days in Brainerd, and then we took a train to Crow Wing River, that being as far as the iron rails were laid. We stopped two days with James Campbell, now a resident of Richwood, who kept a tent hotel at this place. Here we hired teams, and after three days of travel we reached Detroit Lake, camping where the small stream empties into the lake near the club house. The next morning we drove into Tylerville. We remained here a few days, and June 15th, I selected my present homestead. It hardly seems necessary to mention the struggles and hardships, loss of crops by hail and grasshoppers, as well as the makeshifts to get along. These experiences are common to all new communities, yet we experience pleasure in speaking of them.
Religious services were held at different places in the county by the Rev. "Father" Gurley. I think at that time he was a Methodist, but he became later on connected with the Episcopalians. The first religious service held in Maple Grove was in the fall by the Rev. Mr. Wood, of Detroit, who reorganized the Sunday-school on that day, and also united James Hanson and Annis Mix in marriage. November 8th, winter set in, the snow never disappearing entirely till May 3rd, 1872. On April 9th we gathered maple sap and made maple syrup, the first run of the season. On April 13th, 1872, Marion Martin was born.
Through some neglect on the part of the department officers, the Grand Army of the Republic lost its position in the National Encampment and all G. A. R. work was at an end, as there was no department we could not work. So the members of the G. A. R, and old soldiers formed themselves into the Becker County Veteran's Association.
In May, 1872, Mr. Norcross, uncle of William A. Norcross, of Detroit, started a brick-yard near where the Detroit House stands. Those pond holes near there are where he dug his clay. He made good brick earlier in the same season near Mud Lake, where another yard was started, Giles Peak furnishing the supplies for carrying on the work. In 1873 W. Norcross burned a kiln in the yard. His uncle started and also made brick east of the Pelican River on the Rand place. In 1875, a yard was started by Shaw and Kindred. In July of that year Kindred sold out to T. J. Martin. The first attempts were failures, but later they succeeded in making good brick. In 1880 Martin sold his interest to Shaw, who carried it on for two years more and then burned out.
Sylvester Moore was born at Trumbull, Ashtabula County, Ohio, on the 31st day of December, 1820. In the year 1852 he was married to Miss Mary Jane Teachout at Darien, Walworth County, Wisconsin.
Mr. Moore came with his family to Becker County on the 14th of June, 1871. He took a homestead on Section 12, in Lake Eunice, where he lived the remainder of his days. In the early days of this county he took an active part in the affairs of his town and county, and in this connection he earned and enjoyed the confidence and esteem of all. Sylvester Moore was a man of unimpeachable character, honest in word and deed, well informed and a man whom it was a pleasure to meet and an honor to call a friend.
Sylvester Moore died on the 2nd of November, 1899. Mrs. Moore and four children survive him. They were Mrs. S. B. Curtis, Mrs. O. V. Mix, Henry Moore of Shell Prairie, and Leslie G. Moore, of Lake Eunice.---Detroit Record.