The first white man to set foot on the soil of Shell Lake Township so far as we know was William Morrison. Among several letters written by Mr. Morrison on this subject and signed by himself, and addressed to his brother, Allan Morrison.
Following are extracts from this letter:
|Berthier, Canada, Jan. 16, 1856.|
My Dear Brother:
Your letter of the. 26th ultimo is at hand. I note what you say about the source of the Mississippi River. You wish to know who was the first person that went to its source. For the information of the Historical Society I will state to you all about what came to my knowledge.
I left Grand Portage, on the north shore of Lake Superior, now the boundary line between the United States and the British possessions in July, 1802, and arrived at Leech Lake in September the same year. In October 1 went and wintered on the headwaters of one of the branches of the Crow Wing River (Shell Lake). Our Indians were Pillagers. In the winter of 1803 and 1804, I went and wintered at Wild Rice Lake. I passed by Red Cedar Lake (Lake Bemidji) now called Cass flake, followed tip the Mississippi to Cross Lake, and then up the Mississippi again to Elk Lake, now called Itasca Lake, the source of the great Mississippi River. A short distance this side I made a portage to get to Rice River. I discovered no trace of any white man before me when I visited Lake Itasca in 1804. No white man can claim the discovery of the source of the Mississippi river before me, for I was the first that saw and examined its shores.
From Brower's history of Itasca State Park:
Shell Lake was an ideal place for a trading post, there being a beautiful location on Section 11, which was undoubtedly the place where Morison's trading post was located, in October, 1802.
See biography of Wm. Morrison, by Geo. A. Morison.
The first settlers in the town of Shell Lake in recent years were the families of Tyree Doran and Henry Smith, who came into the township on the 12th of May, 1881. Doran took a homestead and built a house on the southeast quarter of Section 2, and Smith located on the southwest quarter of the same section.
A young woman whose name was Angeline Kinney, settled on the northeast quarter of Section 2 a few months afterwards, but after her marriage to Joseph Brewer in 1872, she went to live with her husband in Green Valley Township. This place was then taken by Frank Wilson who came into the township in the fall of 1881.
These were all the people living in Shell Lake for three years. Their nearest neighbors were living on Section 4. in Carsonville, four miles to the east, while to the north, the west and the south, there were no white people living within fifteen miles.
At that time the Indians claimed all the land in that vicinity as far south as Shell Lake, and looked upon the Doran and Smith families as trespassers. and made several demands for their removal.
During their first summer there were about thirty lodges camped on Section 11, by Shell Lake, only about half a mile from where they were living and some of the young braves threatened to kill both families if they did not move away. When the Dorans were building their log house a crowd of Indians gathered around and threw knives at the men and several other threatening demonstrations. In the process of building they rolled up some of the upper house logs with a horse and a long rope, and whenever the log would get nearly up to the top of the structure some Indian would call out, "whoa;" when of course the horse would stop and the log probably roll back to its starting place. This interference finally led to a quarrel with the Indians which came near proving serious, and was the cause of much bad blood for several years afterwards. After awhile, however, they became reconciled and these same Indians became their best friends.
The next settlers who came into the township were Thomas Richmond, Robert Richmond, John Abeline and Andrew Abeline who located on Section 3 in May, 1884, and John Conklin settled on Section 11 some time afterwards.
Ole Eckman came into the township in the spring of 1894.
Leonard Hambly took a homestead on the southwest quarter of Section 30 in the spring of 1886 and resided there for several years.
There were no other settlers east or south of Shell Lake for seven or eight years, but during the last twelve years nearly all the government land has been taken up, principally by Swedes.
George Brager now owns a store and runs a post-office on the southeast quarter of Section 20.
The first people to get married in Shell Lake Township were Frank Wilson and Mattie Doran who were united on the first day of January, 1885.
The first boy born in the township was Fred Smith, son of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Smith, who was born in 1882.
The first girl born in the township was Mary Richmond, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Richmond, who was born on the 10th of January, 1886.
The first death was that of Mary Jeffrey who died May 27th, 1887; aged about two years.
The first school teacher in Shell Lake Township was Jennie Smith who began her school in April, 1890. She taught in an old farmhouse. The first schoolhouse was built on Section 2 in 1891.
Organization of Shell Lake Township.
The first election, at which Shell Lake Township was organized, was held on the 7th day of December, 1897; at the school house in district No. 45.
The first annual township election was held on the 8th day of March, 1898, and the following officers were elected: Chairman of the board of supervisors, Clarence Kimball; supervisors, George Davis and John M.Olson; clerk, Ole N. Eckman; treasurer, John Westerlund.
Alexander Ahern was elected assessor but declined to serve and Frank Wilson was appointed in his place.
The first justice of the peace was John N. Ellis, and John M. Olson was first constable.
Tyree Doran was a Virginian, born among the Blue Ridge Mountains on the 23d day of December, 1815, and was married to Miss Sarah E. Sims on the 23d of February, 1850. They lived for several years in Iowa and came to Becker County in May, 1881.
Mr. Doran was a typical Virginian, about six feet four in height, of gigantic frame and symmetrical proportions.
He died at Grand Forks, N. D., in the year 1895.
Mrs. Doran is still living. Their children were: John, Joseph, Charles Frank, Cruessa, Henrietta, Mattie, Leonard and Judson.