Chapter XXXVI.
History of Osage Township.


Just as Moses of old led the Israelites toward the promised land, just so did J. F. Siegford lead an exodus from Northern Iowa and Southern Minnesota toward the Third Prairie. But he did better than Moses, for he not only entered the promised land, but made proof and has continued to reside on said land ever since.

On the tenth day of June, 1879, with my son G. F. Siegford, George M. Carson, C. E. Bullock and A. W. Sanderson, with Joe Sombs as cruiser, I started northward from Verndale, headed for the Shell Prairies. The advance guard on the line of civilization at the time was one Alex. Cook, whose home was only ten miles north of Verndale. After leaving his place, we proceeded northward sixty miles through an unbroken forest, and across the first and second Shell Prairies, so well pleased were we with the beautiful surroundings and the fertility of the soil of the Third Prairie that we at once decided that here was our Eldorado, and here we would make our homes and await the coming of civilization, which we felt sure would not be far in the future, when the richness and the beauty of this region became known.

Carson, G. F. Siegford and myself, took homesteads on Section 18, Sanderson on section 20, while Bullock located in the town west. Our next move was to come to Detroit to make our filings, and in order to reach the land office we tramped over an Indian road through the forest to White Earth Agency, thence south twenty-two miles to Detroit. Returning to our claims later in the summer, we erected the regulation "claim shanties" and made such preparations as we could for the arrival of our families in the spring, and in May of the following year we were all back in Verndale, Geo. M Carson, wife and three children, and myself and wife. I had purchased a mule team, paying $415 for the same, and as we started upon our journey, one wagon loaded with provisions, such furniture as we had, clothing, etc., etc., to say nothing of the six children, three women and three men, the appearance of our outfit can be better imagined, perhaps than described. We were obliged to cut a road through the woods from Cook's, and were five days in reaching the prairie. We went to work at once, my son using the mules in breaking and in hauling the necessary material from Verndale, making fourteen trips during the summer. I returned to Verndale, were I worked at my trade, carpentering as a means of support to our families, who were, of course, unable to derive a dollar in revenue from the farms. Mr. Carson remained upon the prairie during the summer, and in the fall devoted his attention to locating other settlers who had now begun to come in considerable numbers. The first and second prairies also settled up rapidly, and during the next winter, that of 1880-81, there were about eighty families there. Immigration was stopped early in the fall, however, by the memorable snow-storm of October 16th, when there was a snowfall of fully two feet on the level in the timber, and this was followed only two weeks later by another storm of equal severity. Right here began the real hardship of those who had cast their lot upon the Shell Prairies; supplies of provisions were very limited, and with the great depth of snow it was next to impossible to replenish them, and when on January 27th another great snowfall occurred, this little band was practically shut out from the rest of the world. My son and myself were in Verndale when this January snow-storm came, and were detained there two weeks before we dared venture to return to our families, who, though well supplied with provisions were feared to be suffering for want of fuel. After two week of anxious waiting, however, Frank ventured to make the trip, making it on snowshoes. When within a half mile of home, so nearly exhausted had he become that he was unable to proceed farther and was obliged to spend the night there; finally reaching home in safety, he found that two friendly Indians had come along on snowshoes and had kindly replenished the supply of fuel. In reaching home he had traveled twenty miles on a logging road, then for fifty miles he was obliged to force his way through an unbroken blanket of snow four feet in depth. Until this time our wives had been in mortal fear of the red men, but in that time of anxiety and dire necessity they had no thought of fear of their visitors, who were supplied with food and in return supplied an abundance of fuel and attended to the out-of-door work. There was much actual suffering upon the prairies during that long, cold winter; provisions were short , and the mystery has always been how some of the settlers managed to live. A number owe their lives to the fact that Frank Horr, who had come upon the prairies in the fall, had brought a load of ordinary and rather a poor grade of wheat bran; when the snow became so deep that an attempt to obtain supplies at Verndale, the nearest railroad station, was not to be thought of, the bran was used by the settlers, who converted it into bread, gruel, cakes, etc., and were thereby enabled to sustain life. Since that time there have been years of hardship, but there has been no such genuine suffering.

The first white man who saw this country was the early trapper. Every creek gives evidence of the industrious beaver, that raised the water level and made nearly all the meadow lands here. But these ambitious little meadow makes are all extinct, like the men who caused their destruction.

The township of Osage is slightly rolling. Three-fourths of it does not vary twenty feet in altitude. It verges into hills on the northeast, and the Straight and Shell Rivers in the south and southwest.

Before the removal of the pine, Straight Lake, the head of Straight River was very beautiful. It was noted for its beautiful fringe of pine, spruce, balsam and birch. It is a body of water about three miles long, and one hundred and twenty rods wide. During the spring of 1881 a dam was put across the river about a mile below the outlet, which raised the lake twelve feet, thereby killing all the standing pine near the water and so its beauty was lost.

The waster in this lake is pure and deep. Pike, bass, crappies, pickerel, channel cat and sunfish are always to be found.

The outlet of this once lovely lake runs nearly due east, hence its name, Straight River, and it is remarkable for its swiftness; during the winter its course can be noted by the steam rising from the running water which changes the temperature several degree. Springs also break out all along it course.

Nearly all of these carry iron in solution, which forms iron-oxide when it comes in contact with the air. The water level varies with the lake. All ponds, bogs and well in the vicinity maintain the same level, and the quality of pure, clear, cool water with just a trace of iron and lime is not surpassed in the United States.

The timber of Osage Township upon the hilly land was mostly Norway and white pine, but the level portion, except the prairie, was covered with jack pine, which was thought in an early day to be worthless, but now ranks first in lath and shingles, and nearly all kinds of lumber is made from it. The price of jack pine logs is low, but when one buys lumber, he buys a mixture of it and other timber.

These woods in an early time were filled with game. Moose and deer were plentiful, and venison formed the menu of the early settler's bill of fare. As late as 1895 Mr. G. F. Siegford killed a bull moose in his barn yard.

The whole township is overrun with the white rabbit or northern hare, which forms the diet of both timber wolves and coyotes. Bear where found in the hilly land, as they seek the hardwood timber of the clay land, while the raccoon also share their company.

The bobcat or wildcat still inhabit these woods. Mink, otter, weasel and muskrat finish the list of fur bearers, and the striped and gray gopher, together with the chipmunk, make things lively for the farmer in early spring.

In the priority of settlement there was none, as J. F. Siegford, G. F. Siegford, G. M. Carson and A. W. Sanderson fixed their location in June, 1879, and as soon as they found the proper officers, filed homestead entries or declaratory statements.

The settlement was nearly likewise. The two Messrs. Siegfords and Carson moved upon their land the same day, April 9th, 1880.

The following is the list of those who settled during the summer of 1880 and 1881:
In 1880-April 9th, J. F. Siegford, G. F. Siegford, G. M. Carson; June 10th, A. W. Sanderson; later, Nat Lechman, John Hauser, Edelbert S. Frazier, Peter Sartin, Christ Minke, August Retzloff, W. Grant, Frank George, Frank Tooley, Wm. Bateman and Mat Gerry.

In 1881-Edward Peets, Mrs. P. B. Sackett, Mr. Minert, John Gillian, S. S. McKinley, Warner McKinley, J. D. Pratt, Ambrose Mann, Ambrose Mann Jr., J. W. Hawkins and Peter McIntyre.

During the fall of 1880 Edward Evans squatted upon the southwest quarter of Section 19. Here upon the banks of Shell River the first white child was born, a girl, Lulu Evans, who now resides in the state of Washington.

When A. W. Sanderson moved upon his homestead June, 1880, he was a single man, but had chosen his fiancee, Miss Mary A. Bullock, before his removal here.

Early in December they planned a wedding, but the location of an authorized person to tie the knot was hard to settle. December 12th they made an unsuccessful trip to Shell City, but failed to find any one, though a friend promised to furnish one the following Sabbath, so they returned with the knot untied. One week later, December 19th, 1880, Miss Mary A. Bullock became Mrs. A. W. Sanderson at Shell City; they returned to Osage the same evening.

The oldest child Edas was born August 29th, 1881. He therefore is the first male child born in Osage.

The first white woman in the township was Mrs. George M. Carson.

During the summer of 1880 Mr. E. S. Frazier had located upon the south-east quarter of Section 22. He was an old soldier and could not stand the hardships of pioneer life. Early in October, 1881, he passed away and was buried on his homestead. For over one year the people lived without any form of government. August 15th, 1881, the citizens of the two unorganized towns, Township 140, Ranges 36 and 37, met at the residence of G. M. Carson and proceeded to organize a township government.

The following were elected: Town board, Dewit Clason, chairman; J. M. Hawkins and W. B. Bateman, supervisors; treasurer, E. J. Moore; clerk, C. E. Bullock; justices of the peace, G. M. Carson and H. F. Witter.

For a term of ten years the two townships were together. Owing to some dissatisfaction, May 4th, 1891, the eastern township pulled out of the organization and elected as follows:
Town board, Luther Phelps, chairman; John Schuman and Andrew Allen, trustees; clerk, F. E. Moss; treasurer, Steener Pederson; justice of the peace, G. M. Carson, A. J. Woodin; constables, G. L. Bullock and T. W. Sartin.


Osage, the name chosen, was taken from Osage, Iowa, which was conjured from O. Sage, a wealthy New Yorker, who afterwards gave his namesake a valuable library, and we are sorry that he did not serve us likewise.

Its Development.

During the spring of 1881, S. S. McKinley began the construction of a dam across Straight River on the southeast quarter of Section 20. He finished it during the summer and built the first sawmill. He also platted a portion of this quarter section west of the river, and secured the Carsonville post-office, carrying the mail from Detroit with Carson Brothers as carriers, three trips per week.

It was on the 10th of October, 1881, that the legal voters gathered at the residence of G. M. Carson and organized school district No. 31, and ordered a schoolhouse built "within forty rods of the dam."

Six weeks later, H. F. Witter, a second grade teacher, began the first school in a private house owned by K. C. Allen, March 1st. His term closed and he received an order for $66, with which he laid the foundation of his present fortune.

The following summer a schoolhouse was built near the present site.

Osage had quite a boom in 1881-2 but it practically stood still for ten years. Then prospects of a railroad appeared upon the horizon only to vanish in the early nineties. Then it began to retrograde for another decade, but in 1901 McKinley's store was consumed by fire, together with nearly all the buildings on the north side of the street. Osage had to rebuild and since that time has had a steady growth. In 1904 Henry Way built a fine residence and Mr. Burlingame also completed another modern building.

"Necessity is the mother of invention," but Osage dates its stable growth from the year 1901.

It was in the month of May that T. M. Sharp moved to Osage. He had previously leased the milling site for a term of years. He and Henry Way straightway began the improvement of the sawmill, and commenced getting out the lumber for a grist-mill. The mill was begun in the summer of 1902 and finished the next season. Now Osage can boast of having one of the best equipped seventy-five barrel mills this side of Minneapolis. A set of five double rollers, together with patent cockle extractor and smutter, and the improved machinery in line of bolters.

Three grades of flour are made, first patent, Straight (meaning the lake of course) and export. It is not uncommon to see men who live twenty-five miles away come here with a grist.

Under the same roof is a feed mill, which is at work nearly all the time making chop-feed for the farmers at the low price of five cents a sack.

The Roads.

When Osage Township was first settled there was a road running north by west through the tract. It was an old government trail between Leech Lake and White Earth. This road crossed the Straight at the outlet. Now we have at least fifty miles of road in pretty good repair, generally on section lines. The judicial road crossed the township from north to south, two miles from the west line.

The second bridge is now being constructed across the Shell River, and five bridges cross the Straight.

During the winter of 1903, while the Legislature was in session, E. D. Sylvester requested Senator Peterson for an appropriation of $600 for a bridge at Osage. Senator Peterson and representative Hawley took the matter in hand; but when the Legislature cut the appropriation bill in two, the allowance became $300. Now we have a substantial bridge of stone abutments.

The Hunt.

In the fall of 1889, J. F. and G. F. Siegford, Ed. Haight, G. M. Carson, Emmett Kelly and Frank Horr went on a hunting trip, as was their custom many season before and since, about the first of November.

After picking out their ground and making the necessary hunter's shack, they began to study the surrounding country. The ground was bare for several day, but one morning they awoke and found about four inches of snow had fallen. All were ready at six o'clock for the chase. J. F. Siegford, who had been cook for a few days, had noticed two deer near the camp, and when they started they always ran in the same direction. The plan was to start a drive from camp. Mr. Siegford made a detour of half a mile and located on the runway where it crossed the brow of a hill. He gave the signal and the boys started on a drive of about eighty rods. Soon Mr. Siegford saw the deer coming. Just as they were passing he dropped the one in the lead by a neck shot. The doe turned and ran the back track. Ere long she met Ed. Haight face to face. Ed., forgetting his double-barreled buckshot loaded gun, threw his "ready cap in the air" and stood admiring the symmetry and agility of the doe carrying the white flag. She stopped still, forcibly threw out her breath, and trotted slowly back down the runway. J. F. noticed her coming, took good aim and soon she lay within a rod of the buck.

When they asked Ed. why he didn't shoot he said, "Isn't it against the rules of war to fire on a flag of truce?"

The finish of the first drive was near the west bank of the lake, which was two miles long. Just above the first ledge on a rise of the ground was a second runway. Frank Siegford and George Carson were left to watch this runway, while J. F. Siegford remained where he was. The rest of the company went up the lake on the ice to make a drive. The men on the runway waited patiently for half an hour. Not seeing any deer or hearing any of the boys , they met and made a fire. Presently they heard a shot. Soon Frank and Ed. came down the lake on their back track whistling. They said "Awful big woods up there." "But where is Emmett?" they were asked. Neither had seen him for a hour and a half. All started to find the lost boy.

Just as they arrived at the north end of the lake, Emmett came in sight. When asked why he did not make the drive he said, "Why, you see after I had been in the woods a long time I came to a man's track and concluded to follow it. I traveled half an hour and came to a place where another man had taken the same track. I determined to catch him and hurried as fast as I could. I was about out of breath when I saw a porcupine on a tree just ahead and I shot him. Again I started after the man, sometimes nearly on a run. What do you think? What do you think? Why, soon I ran right into that --- porcupine. I took my back track and came to the lake."

Here on the bank they ate lunch and held council. It was agreed to send Kelly down the west bank of the lake to watch a runway at the outlet of the lake. This creek had high banks and was about forty rods long, running into a second lake.

The rest were to drive the eastern shore of the lake. Giving Kelly twenty minutes the start, they all lined up in the woods on the east bank with an interval of twenty rods between each.

Hardly had their systematic drive began till they heard shots down near the outlet. Bang, bang, bang, went the Winchester. The drivers kept making plenty of noise. About a hundred shots had been fired when they reached the outlet. They looked for Kelly and the venison. Only one small fawn was in sight. "How many were there?" they asked. "Over twenty, but I was too far off," said Kelly. At twenty-five paces he began to pick up shells, and ere he reached thirty near the foot of a balsam tree, he had picked up twenty-five empties. "Well," said Mr. Horr, "Kelly's got the ague; let's take the fawn and go to camp." It so happened that both hind legs and one front leg of the fawn were broken. Kelly declared that it was done at one shot.

But all days were not like this one, for when they started home twenty-seven saddles were strung up near the camp. Still this was a poor year for hunting.

Squire S. McKinley.

Squire S. McKinley was born at Geneva, Kane County, Illinois, February 9th, 1840. His school days were nearly all passed there, but in 1854 his parents removed to Newberry, Mitchell County, Iowa, and later to St. Ansgar. Later he took a course at the Academy and finally studied law under Daniel W. Lawrence.

Squire had just reached his majority before President Lincoln was inaugurated on the 5th of March, 1861, he offered his services to his country. A company was organized and drilled under John P. Knight as captain. In June, 1861, Squire, with twenty-nine others, were mustered into the service of the United States at Keokuk, Iowa. His regiment, the Third Iowa Regiment of Volunteers, lost nearly half its number in the first battle. It followed Grant to Fort Henry, Fort Donaldson, Shiloh and Memphis. It was under General Halleck at the second battle of Cornith, and later took part in the battle of Coldwater and Greenville, where Mosby entertained them royally to the extent of half of their depleted ranks. At the battle of Haines' Bluff, General E. O. C. Ord commanded, but May 9th they met General Grant and took part in the great siege of Vicksburg. Squire was with Sherman at the capture of Jackson, Mississippi, where the division had one of its hardest encounters during the war. His regiment was ordered to charge some cannon on a slope; when they were within a few steps Mr. McKinley was facing one of them. A discharge followed and the first thing he remembered afterward was that a comrade was washing his face at a little creek. He immediately took his place in the ranks. Next the regiment was with Sherman in a marauding expedition in Alabama. Later, what was left of the boys took part in the ill-fated Red River expedition, and were forty-seven days under fire. The regiment having fought itself out of existence, was mustered out at Davenport, Iowa, in July, 1864. There were fifteen men in line of Squire's company. During this exciting term of service Squire never lost but one battle, and that was caused by a case of measles which held him bedfast. He never entered the hospital, and the only harm done to him was done by the concussion of the cannon.

He then returned home and later raised a company and was commissioned captain, but this organization was never mustered in.

During the fall of 1865, Squire was elected sheriff of Mitchell County and was the first officer to land a bank robber in Fort Madison.

In the spring of 1880, he, in company with a Mr. Britz, filed on the Rice water-power of Park Rapids and the following spring sold it to the present owner.

June, 1881, found him building a dam across Straight River at Osage, which furnished power for his sawmill.

Squire McKinley was strictly temperate, clear-headed, and an orator of no mean ability. His loyalty was unquestioned. He voted for every Republican President---Lincoln to Roosevelt.

Lying on his death bed, he closed the interview with the words, "The Shell Prairies are an ideal place for any man to live. The most beautiful country I ever saw." He died February 19th, 1905.

J. F. Siegford.

The subject of our sketch was born on Chestnut Street in the city of "Brotherly Love" on August 14th, 1824. His father's birth was under the same roof, and this house is still in possession of the family whose ownership will soon reach the second century milestone. Mr. Siegford is the second of a family of five, two brothers and two sisters besides himself; both of the brothers are living.

When J. F. Siegford was seven years old his father moved to Rochester, N. Y., where he went to school in a log school house for six months in a year, each pupil paying tuition. He carried Cobb's Dictionary and Speller and Daboll's arithmetic. A piece of slate rock served as a slate, being ground smooth, and a soft rock pencil served for computations and writing.

Rochester was then a small town, there being only one house west of the river, in the midst of a black ash swamp, now the heart of the city.

At fifteen years of age he was apprenticed to his uncle for four years as a wheelwright, who was then working in Lowell, Massachusetts. His trade being learned, four years later he became master mechanic and later superintendent of a paper mill.

He followed this new trade at Wheeling, W. Va., Lowell, Mass., Gibsonville, Pike and Rochester, N. Y.

While working at Gibsonville, he met and married Miss Elmira Davis, of Danesville, who has shared the trials of her husband for the last fifty-seven years.

During the war Mr. Siegford worked for the government, and assisted in throwing the pontoon bridges across the Tennessee River at Chattanooga.

In 1865, he was in Wisconsin, a farmer, working a part of the time as a carpenter. Three years later he sought another climate, moving to New Hampton, Iowa, where he worked as a contractor.

Ten years later he again moved, but this time to Minnesota, and settled where he now resides.

He is an Abraham Lincoln Republican, and has always tried to make the "North Star State" shine as bright as any of her sisters. His activity of early life has remained with him in his later years; although over eighty years old he moves as supple as one of forty.

His active days of labor are over, but he takes pleasure in looking backward over an active career with the consolation of a life well spent.

G. F. Siegford.

G. F. Siegford, son of J. F. Siegford and Elmira Siegford, first saw the light of day January 29th, 1849, at Danesville, N. Y. His early education was obtained from the village schools of Danesville, East Pike and Mt. Morris. When sixteen he removed with his father to Columbus, Wisconsin, where he attended school in the winter and farmed in summer.

Three years later he engaged as a carpenter and joiner, working with his father at New Hampton, Iowa. For a period of eleven years he was associated with the company, Siegford & Son, and many buildings from Waterloo to Osage, Iowa, stand as monuments of their handicraft.

During the winter of 1875 he took a brief respite from labor and visited the scenes of his boyhood. Here he met and married Miss Sibyl Haight and the following spring they returned to Iowa.

In the fall of 1878 the family removed to Verndale and remained there for the winter. The following spring he moved to the farm where he now resides.

For the next four years he followed the carpenter's trade at Pine Point and Rice River Mission and one season at Fargo.

Since that time he has been engaged in farming. He now commands 575 acres of land, 370 of which are improved.

His wife, Sibyl Haight, was born May 31st, 1844, at Oakport, N. Y. She attended a district school, and began teaching at the early age of fifteen, beginning at $2.25 per week or $9.00 per month of twenty-two days. Mrs. Siegford taught the greater part of the time for seventeen years, and towards the last commanded $35.00 per month which was counted big wages in those days. They have raised four children to manhood and womanhood, Roy E., Renie, Maurice and L. L.

Mr. Siegford is the largest individual land owner in Osage Township, and a few years more will find him farming one of the best farms in Becker County. He has filled nearly every position of trust in the township affairs and has always been equal to the emergency.

Mr. and Mrs. John Gillian.

John Gillian was born at Lowell, Mass., July 21st, 1843. His wife is his junior by one year, having 1844 as the date of her birth, and Prince Edward Island as the location. In 1863 she took up her residence in Lowell, Mass., and six years later she married John. The chances in the East are limited, and ten years later they moved West, and in the spring of 1881 moved to Verndale and a few months later upon the northwest quarter of Section 20. Not long after they came to Osage, Mr. Peter McSuteer, who had subsequently located upon the northwest quarter of Section 32, passed away, and Mrs. Gillian fell heir to 160 acres in Shell Prairie. They now have 220 acres under the plow and several acres more ready for the breaker. They are contented and have retired from active life, and hope to spend their latter days under Christian influence.

W. P. Holliday.

As a further evidence that Osage is a good place to live, we give an account of W. P. Holliday. A Canadian by birth, born August 23rd, 1849, in Ontario, he emigrated to Meeker County, Minnesota, in 1878, and two years later he was in Cormorant Township, Becker County. Five years later he took up a homestead in Osage Township. Here he lived seven years, and again moved to Cormorant Township. He had the misfortune of losing his first wife during this move, and had equally good luck two years later in finding another. Again he moved to Osage, 1901, and has since remained upon his homestead. He says that he has lived in a good many places, but Osage suits him best of all, and that if anyone can make an honest living he can do it in Osage Township.

Luther Phelps.

Luther Phelps was born on a farm in Warren County, N. Y., March 8th, 1832. At the early age of eleven he went before the mast, and sailed the seas until he gained his majority. He was a soldier in the civil war. When he was twenty-two years of age he married Miss Mary E. Horning, who was also a resident of the same county and state.

Nine children were born to them, five boys and four girls. All the boys have farms near their father's, while their older daughter, Mrs. Smith, resides on a farm just across the road.

While the family was living near Albert Lea, Minnesota, they heard of the free land on Shell Prairies, and in the fall of 1880 Mr. Phelps and family removed to Osage and settled upon the northeast quarter of Section 14, where he lives to-day. When he came to Becker County he possessed four horses, harness and wagon, together with a little money. He now has two horses, eleven head of cattle, some other stock and machinery enough to run the seventy-five acres he has under the plow. He has made an honest living, increased his stock, which is enough. Few men can boast of more.

Next Chapter.