Beauford Township lies to the north of Mapleton, in Blue Earth County. The greater portion of its surface is prairie, but along the Big Cobb River, which traverses the northwestern part of the town, there is still considerable timber. The C.M. & St. P. Railway clips the southwestern comer and affords shipping facilities to Mapleton, just across the southern boundary and at Good Thunder, in Lyra Township on the west.
Being in the Winnebago Indian Reservation, this town was not settled until after the removal of the Indians. Up to 1866 it was known as "Winneshiek," and was attached to Mapleton for official purposes. March 13, 1866, the county commissioners gave it the name Beauford after a town in the East, from which a number of the settlers had come, and the meeting for organization was ordered to be held at the house of John Frey in Section 11 in Beauford Township.
The first actual settler was James Morrow, Sr., who claimed the northwest quarter of section 25, Beauford Township, upon which he went to live with his family about September 1, 1864. They were an excellent Scotch family. Other settlers of 1864 were Albert Arza, Seth C. Gates, and Joshia Rogers, who located in the northern part of the town.
The year 1865 through 1867 were rather active ones for this small settlement. These years saw an influx of settlers, 28 to be exact, and the establishment of Beauford's first municipal functions. In May 1865, a saw mill, built by Dr. W.F. Lewis, Basil Moreland and others, and run by Abel Keene, began operations. It was located on the Big Cobb River and didn't do too bad for one or two years. In February, 1867, a mail route was established, running from Wilton in Waseca County to Garden City, which crossed the Cobb near the residence of Franklin Childs. Later in the spring a post office was established here, with Mrs. Frances Childs as Postmistress.
In June, 1868, a second post office was established called "Perch Lake," with Albert J. Gates as Postmaster. The office was supplied by a mail route running from Minnesota Lake to Mankato. Gates remained postmaster unti11871, when Henry Nately was made postmaster, and the office moved to his home in Section 24. This office was discontinued in August, 1875.
The situation of the schools in and around Beauford has been rather vague. In a number of sources it was stated that the first school was taught in 1867 by Elizabeth Keys in a building erected for that purpose. Contrary to this belief, it was found that the first school was taught in 1867 by a Miss Ackerman of Medo Township in the winter of 1866-67 in District 86. It was kept in the Moreland Saw Mill building near Franklin Childs home. The next school, then, was taught in a log schoolhouse in District 95 by Elizabeth Keys in the summer of 1867 and the next winter of 1867 -68 in a frame building belonging to District 94.
In October, 1874, John Kimpton purchased a small tract of land in section 9 and built a store 12x20 feet. His stock at first consisted largely of tobacco and bitters, and his customers mostly were wood cutters and haulers. In June, 1881, he sold out to Leander R. Findley, who built a new store building adjoining the old one, and made a hall above the new part. The old Beauford Post Office, which Franklin Childs had kept for some years had been discontinued in July, 1875, and the town had been without a post office for six years. In July, 1882, L.R. Findley was appointed Postmaster of a new office called, "Beauford," which had just been established at his store.
The church has long been an established portion of Beauford. Religious services were started in School House Number 86, and a Sunday School was maintained through the efforts of Franklin Childs and others. The preaching was supplied usually by ministers of the United Brethren. After a season of special revival the church, which had been organized before, was legally incorporated February 9, 1884. It was called the "United Brethren Church of Beauford." Rev. Simon George was pastor and Rev. J.W. Fulkerson, presiding elder. A lot was secured near the store and a church building 24x40 feet erected here. In the fall of 1885, the interior was finished and furnished. June 20, 1886, occurred the Dedicatory Services, Rev. Tibbetts preaching the sermon.
In July 1885, Leander R. Findley sold his store to Calvin A. Fleming, who, after one year , rented the store to Chas. Drake, who ran it until July, 1887, when Ambrose F. Tenney purchased the building and stock. In March, 1889, Tenney disposed of the stock to Ralph Healey and the building to Fred Cramer. In May, Mr. Healey was appointed postmaster and served in that capacity for many years. In the eighties Joseph Latourell started a blacksmith shop at Beauford Corners. He was succeeded by William Sherman. Then came Mr. Johnson, and he was followed by Edward Ruhnice, who ran a blacksmith shop until 1897. Frank Nitzel started a second store at Beauford, which he ran for about a year and was followed for a few months by Amer Reinhart and Sulbeck. About 1894, Elmer Getty started a store and in 1896 built a new store building which continued until after 1906. In earlier years the mail service had been tri-weekly, and by 1896, it became daily. On August 15, 1904, the Beauford Post Office was discontinued and its place had been supplied by the Free Delivery System.
In March 1895, a Co-operative Creamery Association was organized with Al Madison, President, and Charles Hertzberg, General Manager. A building was put up at Beauford and on June 1, 1895 the creamery began operations, with Omer Mullin as buttermaker. It was a big success from the start and became one of the largest creameries in the county.
In October, 1904, Mr. Healey sold his stock of general merchandise to Omer Mullin, who built a new store building opposite the creamery and moved the goods therein. Beauford Corners now contains two stores, a blacksmith shop, a creamery, a church, and a number of residences.
From 1905 to the present day, Beauford has continued along its course of slow change. A very basic reason for the small amount of change has been due to the ownership of land. Property was always a family oriented phenomena. Because of the reluctance to accept outsiders into the land ownership picture, the residents of Beauford have possibly stifled the expansion of their settlement.
Almost all of the functions which the village at one time served have either disappeared entirely, or lessened in importance through the years. During the period of 1905 to the present time, Beauford contained a blacksmith shop, a church, school district #86, three general stores which shifted ownership with a great deal of regularity, a creamery, and a number of residences.
The following information is based almost entirely upon an interview with Mr. William Hislop, who was born in Beauford in 1903 and has resided there ever since. According to Mr. . Hislop, the blacksmith shop was an industry which depended upon the local horseshoeing business. It also was involved in a small amount of metal fabrication, plows, and implements of this sort, but with the coming of the auto and the iron horse, the tractor, it no longer had a base of income and simply disappeared. Perhaps somewhat of a present day replacement of this industry, or perhaps with a stretch of the imagination an offspring, is an industry located today on the northern edge of town, B&R Auto Salvage.
The general stores, at one time very much a part of the Beauford scene have changed greatly. The store which had been adjacent to the creamery illustrates a general trend of movement in the Beauford settlement. The lumber from one of the stores was used by a resident of the community to construct a garage on his property. Another of the stores, the latest one constructed, which was adjacent to the church, has been converted into a residence. The last of the stores, one of the original buildings, still serves part of its original function. The Beauford Feed Store Company sells feed and fertilizer as its basic commodities.
The famous Beauford Creamery, which had become one of the largest in the county, gradually went the way of most small town creameries. After the construction of a new creamery in 1931, and the successful operation for some 24 years, the operation was closed in 1955. Reasons cited for closing the creamery were the growing competition and specialization, and increased overhead due to the expense of hauling milk and products in and out. The building, after remaining empty for several years, was converted in 1961 into a mink ranch and continued in business through the mid-1980's.
The school building for District #86 is located just south of the crossroads, opposite the creamery on Highway 22, and has been converted into a residence. The school was last taught by a Miss Aughten and was closed down in 1952 when busing began taking the students to the more modern schools in surrounding towns.
Perhaps the only functional aspect of the Beauford scene which has not lost in value is the role played by the church. The church has served as a uniting force in a village which seems to have lost most of its centers of attraction. The present building was built in 1953 and was known as the United Brethren Church up until 1969, when it became the United Methodist Church.
Beauford, as a community, has been a unique situation, never actually following the pattern common to most small towns of its time. Instead of reaching a maximum peak of population and then falling off and dying out, it has crept slowly up to a population of about fifty, maintained itself at this point, and has managed somehow to change its functions, thereby avoiding death as a community.
Present day Beauford, although it appears as only a crossing of two highways and a score of buildings, does have some value. It served as both a base of operations for the farmers who are centered in this area and also as sort of a bedroom community, offering peace and quiet along with some economic gratifications to its residents. Approximately 50% of its inhabitants are employed in surrounding towns, while the rest are engaged in farming in the area. Only time will tell if the sleepy little hamlet can manage to survive in the unique manner that has been its trademark for the past century. Written by Terry L. Bateman for “The Heritage of Blue Earth County, MN,” 1990.
Originally Butternut Valley Township included what is now Cambria Township until 1867. Settlement was confined to the portion of Cambria Township along
the Minnesota and Little Cottonwood Rivers and Cambria Creek until after 1862. (see Cambria Township).
Butternut Valley Township has no creeks or rivers, but has three lakes
within its boundaries: Strom Lake, Armstrong Lake and Lieberg Lake.
In its natural
state the township was a vast rolling prairie, but settlement added the planting of trees and groves.
The first settlers came in 1857, among them were: Andrew Strom, Evan Peterson, Thomas Thomas, George Smith and Joseph Smith. Soon after came Knut Strom, William Jones and William Griffith.
Arriving in Butternut Valley Township in 1863 were: Charles Shelby,
Ole Siverson, Olens Solberg, Christian Erickson, Lars Halverson, David
Davis, George Keenan and John Hamil. In 1864 came Tolaf Holverson, P.O.
Hovey, William Jenkins, Ole Lieberg, Owen Pritchard, Kidal Rasmussen, Simon
Benjamin Kilby. Coming in 1865 were Lars Christopherson, E. Kettleson, Thomas J. Evans, Gilbert Gunderson, H. Holverson, Joel Haycroft, Addison Jones,
Billings and Lewis Johnson, Ellis Owens and Lars Thompson. Andrew Tweed, H. Hendrickson, Johannes Taarnd, Thorn Peterson, Ole Stone, Martin Osten, Nils
Thorstad, Anton Melby, Fredrick Hanson, Helge Hellekson, H.P. Felch, John R. Jones, Thomas E. Evans, Evan J. Evans, John Edward, Samuel, William and David Evans arrived in 1866.
The community of Cambria Township is located in the Northeast corner of Blue Earth County of the State of Minnesota and is bounded on the north by the Minnesota River. The Village of Cambria was founded in 1899-1900 when the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad was built.
The present location of Cambria was first opened for homesteading through the treaties of Mendota and Traverse des Sioux in 1853. The hardships which the early settlers endured are almost beyond imagination. The grasshopper infestation, the most severe winter of 1856-57, prairie fires, renegade Indians, swampy conditions and millions of mosquitoes, non-existent roads to name a few. Simple hand tools were all they had to tame this wilderness. The axe, the sickle, were to make do.
Cambria Township was originally included in Butternut Valley Township. After several years a move was started to divide it into parts. The residents of the North end wanted to form a township that was not so large and proceeded to petition to vote for a division. Robert H. Hughes took the lead to get votes necessary to divide it. The vote was overwhelming in favor of the division. Cambria, was the name given to the new township. Many of the residents who lived here had come from Cambria, Wisconsin, also as most of them had come from Wales. The South part of the divided township retained the name of Butternut Valley.
Tributaries of the Minnesota River which flow into it in Cambria Township are the Little Cottonwood River and Morgan Creek. Along the banks of these streams are a large variety of timber. This timber was used by the early settlers to build their log houses and other farm buildings.
Transportation or lack of it was a serious handicap but a steamboat on the Minnesota River stopped at various towns from St. Paul. An article in the New Ulm Herald of March 27, 1873, gives the schedule of the steamboat, Osceola, that left St. Paul April 18th stopping at towns or places where they had docks to load and unload freight. Its destination was Redwood Falls. After the railroad was built Cambria sprang up with one elevator, Woodman Hall, two stores, barber shop, a bank, telephone office, garage, lumberyard, post office, gas station, creamery, sawmill and a shipping association.
The Inkapadoota War was in March 1857 where Indians massacred settlers in Iowa and Minnesota. A company of soldiers dispatched from Fort Ridgely near New Ulm pursued them but they did escape. There was an Indian Village in Cambria township about a mile east of the Cambria cemetery on a farm where the Glenn Roberts family live. Professor William Nickerson of the University of Minnesota made a study of the village.
The first Welsh family who came to Cambria Township were Mr. and Mrs. John E. Davis in May 1855. Mrs. Davis was the first white woman who came to Cambria and the first child born was Catherine daughter of D.J. Davis in 1857. They had the first dwelling made out of two forked poles dug in the ground with a ridge pole placed on top with teepee poles laid on top and covered with prairie grass with one end open with a blanket covering the entrance. Later a log cabin was built.
The first 4th of July celebration was held near the log cabin if Mr. and Mrs. David J. Williams on the North side of the Minnesota River on July 4th 1855. A flag pole and flag were made and a program was given with Mr. Davis as one of the speakers.
Regular services were conducted in the Davis home and other homes. On October 14, 1855 Mr. Davis became a deacon in the Congregational church which was organized by Rev. Jenkin Jenkins. This was called Salem Congregational and served the community for a hundred years, before it became a part of the Federated Church in Cambria.
1856 through 1860 the 4th of July programs were held in a grove near the home of Mr. And Mrs. Davis. In 1861 the program was held in Judson. Due to the Indian uprising in 1862 these celebrations were interrupted but resumed again in 1871. They were then held at Wagner's Grove unti11963, where Mr. and Mrs. Duane Davis live. The last few years they have been held in the town hall. In the earlier days the people came on foot, by oxen drawn carts, horse drawn wagons, and automobiles. For many years the programs would be at 10 a.m. and at 2 p.m. and when the third was held, it was at school district #11 in the evening.
Refreshment stands were put up, ice cream, pop, lemonade, candy, firecrackers and fireworks were sold. Also other forms of amusements were cane racks, doll racks, egg throwing, target shooting, and horse shoe pitching. Frank Reed made a merry-go- round, and a horse was used for power. The programs were of patriotic nature with speeches, orations, recitations, and music. The Cambria Philharmonic Band and the Cambria Glee Club entertained at the Grove.
Baseball was part of the celebration and most every boy played and it
was a sport that was enjoyed by the crowd. In 1930 baseball phased out
and softball took its place. A softball diamond was laid out near the town
hall and the American Legion Post #329 installed lights. The Cambria Climbers
4-H club enjoyed softball and won many trophies. 4th of July fireworks
by the American Legion still put on a display after softball games and
lunch is served in the town hall by the 4-H
In December 1941 Horeb, Salem, and Cambria churches became Cambria Federated Church and a new building was dedicated September 2nd, 1942. December 22, 1954 a fire destroyed the church but was quickly rebuilt and the first service in the new church was held January, 1956. The Federated church became Cambria Presbyterian Church in July 1965 merging several small churches who closed their doors.
This history is a tribute to those who settled in this beautiful valley and the "Little Prairie" to the south as well as to those who carry the responsibility of maintaining the priceless heritage from those hardy pioneers who established themselves in a new land so long ago. Written by Eda Engles for “The Heritage of Blue Earth County, MN,” 1990.
The earliest settlers arriving in the spring of 1855 were William Gray
and Fellows D. Pease, who built a log cabin in Section 11, just above the
Perch Creek. The two young men had come from Iowa. At their cabin they kept goods which they used to trade with the Indians. These goods consisted mostly
of beads, powder, lead, a barrel of whiskey, and a few bolts of cloth, which they used in trading for furs.
Also coming in the fall of 1855 were Arza Barney, David Shaw, Francis
Percival, Benjamin and Samuel Pease. Settlers arriving in 1856 were
Rufus Thurston, William Wells, John Foster, James Bowles, Aretas and William Armstrong, John Devlin, William Hoover, Francis and Hugh Reynolds, George Rice and Eli Waite. In 1857 came John and Miles Porter, John Jessup and John Mead. Owen and Peter McAllen, Leman Pratt, Alfred Waite, Alfred Russell, Michael Russell, John Thompson, John Hughes, E.L. Fogg, Patrick Russell, Andrew Thompson, Herman Zempel, John Schwartz, James Cooling, John Delany and John Anderson all arrived in the early 1860s.
On July 8, 1857, townships 105 and 107 (now Lincoln
and Ceresco) were under the name Ceresco. Until
1865 Lincoln (or Fox Lake as it was called then) was
attached to Ceresco Township for administrative purposes. The name Ceresco was suggested by Isaac Slocum, who had come from Ceresco, Wisconsin. Isaac Slocum had intended the name Ceresco be given to Lincoln Township, which is where he resided. The name intended for Lincoln Township was Fox Lake, which was suggested by John and Miles Porter who had come from Fox Lake, Wisconsin. At a meeting of the county board held on April 6, 1858, the two towns were
mistakenly named and the error was never corrected. The first town election was held at the house of William Wells on May 11, 1858. The first officers elected
by the combined towns were: Isaac Slocum, supervisor; James Wilson and Arza Barney, chairman; C.A. Kompffer, clerk; J.C. Tibil, assessor; William Wells,
collector; J.C. Tibil and E.M. Tolbert, justices; Oliver Pease, overseer of the poor; and D. Gray and Isaac Bundy, constables.
Grange and Alliance organizations were formed in the 1870s and 1880s.
In 1888, a post office was established under the name Ceresco, with Michael
Russell as postmaster. It was maintained until 1905 when the Rural Free Delivery system was begun. In 1898, Mr. and Mrs. H.O. Thompson began
manufacturing cheese in their granary. This business became very successful and on March 27, 1901, a stock company was organized under the name “Ceresco
Cheese Company.” The stock company consisting of Julius Kopischke, John Nobles, Charles Russell, Frank Thurston, Gardner Mead, H.O. Thompson, R. Bergeman, George Cooling, William Rieve and Thomas Rooney, bought out H.O. Thompson. They built a large factory in which to manufacture cheese. In 1903, the company sold out to a Mr. Charter.
Danville Township, 105 North, Range 25 West, is located in the Southeastern corner of Blue Earth County, Minnesota. To a casual observer who passes through on his way to or from the larger towns that surround it, the township looks very ordinary and unexciting. There are no towns or villages within its borders. There are no popular fishing lakes with resorts clustered along the shores. There are no large, impressive rivers that have cut out deep gorges or broad valleys. All that exists is relatively flat, open country that over the last century has been converted from prairie to farmland.
The most striking physical feature of Danville Township is its vast openness. The original land survey of 1854, conducted by John Everett showed the land to be composed primarily of prairie grasses and swamps. Even today, large parts of the township are marshy, and the only trees that exist are those that were planted by the settlers in rows to serve as windbreaks around their homestead during the severe winters. Having a few if any trees to contend with made it easier for the farmers to plow up the land into fields which served as a magnet to attract early settlers into the region. The tough prairie sod more than compensated for any easy life the settlers anticipated. The marshy conditions also presented problems; because the standing water made farming impossible. Furthermore, swampy areas were the breeding grounds for mosquitoes, which carried a large number of diseases that were harmful and sometimes fatal to livestock and humans.
In addition to the marshes, Danville Township has several small lakes within its borders, as well as a large lake on its southern border now known as Minnesota Lake. Running diagonally across the township from the Southeast corner to the Northwest corner flows the Big Cobb River. It is unnavigable for anything larger than a canoe; and during the summer months, it is very shallow. However, it provided the settlers with a source of fresh water, as did the lakes, before wells could be dug. These bodies of fresh water also served as a source of fish, which supplemented the settlers' diets. The Big Cobb served as the major source of timber for the township, because its banks were all that had moisture enough to sustain woods. The marshes, on the other hand, were too wet and brackish to support large trees.
By 1853, Blue Earth County had been organized. Danville was the first township in Blue Earth County to be surveyed. This process began on September 26, 1854, in the Southeast corner of the township, but no completion date was given. The first settler in the township was Hector Sharp, who settled on section twenty-seven, in May of 1856. In June of that year, came Nicholas J. Kremer, Francis and Bernard Phillips, George Mosser, and Michael Shaller. They made claims in sections twenty-seven, thirty-four, and thirty-five respectively. Besides the fact that these sections were less marshy, another reason that they were settled first may have been because they were some of the first to be surveyed. On July 9, 1856, Danville Township was set off with the present-day townships of Mapleton and Sterling as one voting precinct under the name of Mapleton.
In October of 1856, John Kremer Sr. and his wife arrived from Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin. They were accompanied by their sons Peter, John Peter, and John. The Kremers became one of Danville Township's most influential families. They contributed much to the founding and development of the nearby town of Minnesota Lake. On April 6, 1858, it was decided by the County Commissioners to name every township in Blue Earth County. Up until this time, Danville Township had been referred to as Jackson. It was Lucious Dyer who persuaded the other commissioners to adopt the name Danville after his old home in Vermont. On May 18, 1858, one week after Minnesota had achieved statehood, the first township meeting was held. On October 14, 1858, Dyer's wish came true; the township officially became known as Danville.
In 1858, a settler named John Peter Eschbach arrived from Germany to purchase a quarter section of land (160 acres) in the Southeastern corner of section twenty-one. This was not unusual because most all of Danville Township's earliest settlers were German immigrants who came to America to escape compulsory military service, religious persecution, or control of their land by a landlord. Eschbach was part of a trend sweeping across Western Europe and particularly the Germanic states. It was a time of political and social upheaval in which various rulers vied for power in an effort to unite Germany as one nation; an effort that finally achieved success in 1871. They treated the peasants as pawns in their power struggles, using them to fight against their enemies. Many peasants refused and fled to America seeking a better life. Eschbach's Homestead Patent was signed by Ulysses S. Grant's Secretary, in Washington, D.C., on November 3, 1866, under provisions of the Homestead Act of 1862.
On August 17, 1862, one of the bloodiest Indian wars in American history began with a shooting incident near Acton, in Meeker County, Minnesota. Before it was over, at least four hundred and fifty and perhaps as many as eight hundred white settlers and soldiers were killed.
Danville Township was in imminent danger from the uprising. In 1855, the Government had created a separate reservation within Blue Earth County for the Winnebago Tribe, who were close cousins of the Sioux. It was composed of six townships: Rapidan, Decoria, McPherson, Winhoshek (now Beauford), Tecumseh (now Lyra), and Medo. Medo Township frames the northern boundary of Danville, so it was feared that the Winnebago would rise up and join their allies against the whites. Although the Winnebago remained peaceful, women and children were evacuated from Danville because the reservation was so close. They were sent to Owatonna and other towns east for the duration of the conflict, which lasted from August through December of 1862.
In 1864, another German immigrant came to settle in Danville Township along the northern shore of Minnesota Lake, which touches its southern boundary. His name was Gottlieb Schostag who was famous for constructing the octagonal-shaped grist mill that bore his name. Until it burned to the ground from a grass fire that swept across the dry lake-bed in 1939, the mill was the most famous landmark in the township.
The construction of roads in Danville Township further altered its geography. The first roads were Indian trails followed by a progression of dirt cartways, stagecoach lines, graded gravel surface roads, and most recently, hard surface blacktopped highways. As in the rest of the country, as settlement increased, so did the need for better communication and across to distant markets. With the invention of the automobile and America's increasing industrialism following World War I, roads were widened and paved to meet the demand. For the most part, these roads were built along section lines so they would not cut across the farmers' fields. However, footage was taken along the edges of the fields that bordered on section lines. Road improvement continues throughout Danville. Very recently, the County has completed the widening of several one-lane bridges in order to accommodate two lane traffic.
Probably the most drastic of all the geographical changes that have come to Danville Township throughout its history was the straightening of the Big Cobb River in the late 1960's. The purpose of this venture was an attempt on the part of some local farmers, to increase the drainage capacity of the river which would prevent it from flooding in the spring. These farmers also hoped to gain some additional farmland by eliminating some of the river's meanders. As part of this project, much of the timber along the Big Cobb was cut down. This proved to be the demise of the project, because without the trees to slow down soil erosion, the newly dredged channel soon filled up with silt, and the Big Cobb continues to flood each spring.
The history of Danville Township based on its geography reflects the trends and patterns of American history. Its broad prairies and winding streams attracted weary peasant farmers from Europe who wanted a better life. Its organization as a township reflected the desire to bring order out of chaos, settlement out of wilderness. The numerous conflicts that beset it reflected the problems of a developing nation. The historical geography of Danville Township changed it from a Native American game preserve to a patchwork of farms and rural communities. Because it is rural, Danville has retained much of its heritage. It serves as a window back in time to remind us of how we developed as a nation. Written by Bryce Stenzel for “The Heritage of Blue Earth County, MN,” 1990.
Decoria Township is bordered by the Big Cobb and LeSueur Rivers. It lies north of Beauford Township and was the last settled township in the county, not
being open to white settlement until 1864, a year after the Winnebago Indians were removed. It was given the name Decoria Township by the county commissioners on April 6, 1858.
The name Decoria has an interesting history. Sebrevior DeCarrie, a Frenchman, married a Winnebago princess in 1729. Their son, Chonkeha DeKaury, was a well known chief of the Winnebagos in the early 1800s and was principally responsible for a treaty signed in 1816 in St. Louis, Missouri. Chonkeha had five daughters and six sons, the most noted being his eldest son, Konoka DeKaury, who signed the Treaty of Prairie Du Chien in 1825 on behalf of the Winnebagos. Another of this family was Wachon (Waucon) DeKaury, who was known as “One Eyed Decorah” by the whites, having only one eye. He was a prominent chief when the Winnebagos were removed to the reservation in this area and it was his name that gave the name to Decoria Township.
The first settler was Joshua Ady, who purchased lands in Sections 2
and 3 and moved his family into a log house on January 1, 1865. Soon
after followed Frank
Kennedy, John S. Larkin, Jacob Muntschinck, Samuel D. Brown, William Autry, John Rhodes, S. Quimby Larkin, Asa McCullom, Abraham Marble and George Todd. Other early settlers were A.H. Matteson, D.W. Burlison, Henry Wilcox, Charles Rundquist, Calvin Smith, W.A. Sellers, John Roerig, S.J. Mace, George McKee, William Waddell, B.H. Gerlich, Henry Weber and John Malony.
Decoria Township was first attached to Rice Lake and Mankato for official purposes until it was organized on September 19, 1867. The first meeting occurred at the house of John Larkin on October 8, 1867. The following officers were elected: A.H. Matteson, Jacob Muntschinck, J.S. Larkin, William Larkin and Charles Rundquist.
A post office called “Decoria” was established in June 1868 with John
S. Larkin as postmaster. The office was kept in his home, which was
located in Section
28. After one year the post office was moved to the home of George Todd, where it remained until it was discontinued in 1875.
On November 5, 1889 a new post office was established in Decoria Township
under the name “Lortz,” with Henry Lortz as postmaster. At first
it was supplied
semi-weekly, but after April 1, 1896 it had daily delivery in connection with Beauford. Henry Weber was postmaster for two or three years, but resigned in the fall of 1897. John G. McCullom was appointed his successor. In January 1902, the office was discontinued when the free delivery system was begun.
In the summer of 1873, a Grange was started in the town. It had a large membership and D.W. Burlison was elected its first master. Saw mills were operated in the town by J.D. Humiston and later by J.J. McCullom.
Through the efforts of B.H. Gerlich and others, a stock company was
formed in the spring of 1892, called “The Young Men’s Investment Co. of
Decoria,” for the
purpose of building a hall. Following its completion in June, the building was used for town purposes as well as social functions for some years until it was finally sold. In 1896 a town hall was erected in the center of the town.
The Mankato and Decoria Rural Telephone Company brought telephone service to Decoria Township in the early 1900s.
Garden City Township was first called “Watonwan” after the Watonwan River, which flows through it. Loon Lake and Mills Lake lie within its borders. Crystal Lake lies partly in Garden City Township and partly in Judson Township. Lake Charles was located in Sections 7 and 18, but today this lake no longer exists.
The first settler was S. Titus Mills and his family, who located on the east bank of Mills Lake in Section 13 in July 1854. A small shanty was erected. While living in this shanty, Mr. Mills began keeping travelers. In 1856 he built a double log house and about 1864 he built a large frame house. S. Titus Mills continued his hotel business until his death in 1873.
Other settlers that came in 1854 were: Edward and William Washburn,
Charles Gilchrist, George Lamberton, Ninion Thompson, Lucius Hunt, William
and Samuel Thorn. Coming in 1855 were: James Greenwood, James Gail, William Thompson, J.C. Thompson, Orlin Westover, John and Joseph Derby, Edson Gerry, Charles and Arza Barney, David Shaw, J.N. Cheney, Joseph Greenwood and Abraham Lytle. Among the settlers of 1856 were: Samuel Folsom, E.P. Evans, Amos Warner, Harris Capwell, David and James Thompson, A.M. Kendall, William Austin, Frank and R.H. Thurston, Patrick Rooney, James Glynn and J.A. Preston. Jefferson Piper, Dr. H. Thurston, C.B. Frazer and W.D. Smith arrived in 1857.
The township of Garden City became noted for the number of its mills
and the number of its townsites. Garden City, Watonwan City, Crystal
Lake City, Lowell
and Lake Crystal were all within its borders.
The village of Garden City was first laid out in June 1856 under the name of Fremont by Anthony Chase. In October 1858, Fremont was replatted as Garden City.
It is unclear when and where Crystal Lake City was platted. However, the townsite was vacated by the county board on February 28, 1863.
Lake Crystal was platted in May 1869 by L.O. Hunt and W.R. Robinson, upon the advent of the St. Paul and Sioux City Railroad. It sprang up into a bustling
village of about 200 inhabitants the first year of its existence.
The townsite of Lowell was surveyed in December 1865 in Section 13. A grist mill was built, a blacksmith shop and a few homes. After several changes of ownership, the mill was moved and the town became a thing of the past.
In the fall of 1856, Conklin and Hoxie built the first saw mill on the Watonwan River located in Section 32. Here was laid out the paper village of Watonwan City in August 1857. At Watonwan City was located the Butterfield Mills and the post office of “Watonwan,” which was established there in 1858. J.H. Greenwood was the postmaster. He was succeeded by C.F. Butterfield in 1860, who in turn was succeeded by Mrs. Elizabeth L. Scott. Watonwan City did not succeed and in February 1863 the plat was vacated.
In 1882 the name of the post office was changed from Watonwan to “Blaine.”
Rufus Cornish became postmaster. A.B. Barney opened a small store
Butterfield Mill in 1864. The schoolhouse of District #20 was established there in January 1858. A Presbyterian church was started at the schoolhouse in 1894,
called the Watonwan Presbyterian Church. In 1895 the small congregation built a church. The post office of Blaine was discontinued before 1908.
Jamestown embraces only half a township in area and is located in the northeast corner of the county. This township was originally covered with valuable timber, which over the years was cleared by the settlers for farm land. Portions of Madison, Washington, and Eagles lakes are within the townships borders, as are the entire lakes of Ballantyne, Duck, George, Long, Mud and Albert. Lake Gilfillan was also partly in the township, but has since been drained.
The name Jamestown was given to the township by Enoch Barkhurst in the honor of English colony in Virginia. The settlement of Jamestown township began in 1854 with Henry Hodges and Enoch Barkhurst first arriving. The same year came Albert Volk, Charles Doran, Lawrence Burns, Alvin Davis, James Ballantyne, Hugh Carr, Paul Fascnacht, Andrew Fowble, Rodey Cleary, John Henry, Samuel Kerlinger, Dennis Maher, Theodore Carter, Owen and John Meigher, Patrick Mullen, Michael, Timothy, Thomas and John Murtaugh, Abner Shearer, Lawrence, Margaret and Patrick Smith, John Spencer, James Stokes, John Sullivan, Bowater Sumner, Solon Webster, Hiram Wentworth and James Westlake. In 1857 came Anthony and Martin Baynes, George Bluhm, Patrick Doyle, Henry Dury, Michael Farrel, Phil McMasters, Martin Tarpey, and William Brown. Other early settlers were: Patrick Baynes, Joseph Gilfillan, Henry Robinson, Owen Sullivan, Patrick Lyons, Joseph Fischer, John Higgs, Owen Meighen, and Captain F. Burke.
Alfred Howe built a steam saw mill on Section 19 in 1857. The mill was not successful and after two years it was moved away.
The township was created April 16, 1858 and the first town meeting was
held May 11, 1858. The following officers were elected: Supervisors:
chariman, Robert Heslop and John Cummins; Clerk: A.P. Davis; Assessor: Solon Webster; Collector: Patrick Mullin; Justices: Lawrence Byrne and J.L. Burgess;
Constables: George Bennett and Timothy Murtaugh. At one time Jamestown included all of LeRay Township except for the southern tier of sections. On January 4, 1860 the township 108 (LeRay) was separated from Jamestown.
In 1872, L.D. Saylor purchased a sawmill from Owen Edwards from South Bend and moved it to Jamestown Township, where he operated it for a number of years. In 1880 A.B. Hough built a sawmill on Darrow’s Point at the north end of Madison Lake.
During the 1870s the people of Mankato began to realize the advantages
the beautiful lakes offered as summer resorts. In 1877 or 1878 George Clark
summer resort on Point Pleasant on Madison Lake. In 1878 C.H. Austin built a summer resort on the lake and in 1882, J.M. Barclay erected a two story hotel
on Point Pleasant. In 1883, Point Pleasant was laid out into lots by J.M. Barclay for summer cottages. In August 1880 a post office had been established and given the name Park, with C.H. Austin as postmaster.
The first school in the township was taught by Mrs. Sarah M. Davis at
the house of A.P. Davis during the summer of 1857, with eleven students
four school districts were established; District 43, 48, 133, and 151.
About 1857 W. and R. Volk, under the name Volk Bros., built a store near the north line in Section 20. A two story building, Volks Hall, was built with a meeting hall upstairs and a cooper shop on the first floor. A mill pond of about three acres lay to the east and on the north of this they built a big saw, shingle and planing mill. On the south side of the pond Fred Volk built a furniture factory in 1869. All were powered with steam, the water for the boilers being taken from the mill pond. Later a grist mill for grinding corn and feed were added. So extensive was this plant that it became known as “Volksville.”
They manufactured furniture, white oak staves for the cooper shop, and wooden farm implements. The first load of furniture from the factory was hauled by Clifford Johnston at the age of twelve, going through the wooden roads with team and horses with his load of chairs for the Eagle Lake Methodist Church. A fire occurred at the furniture factory on February 22, 1880, causing a loss of approximately $5,000. The factory was rebuilt but it is not known when business operations ceased. The factory was torn down in 1902.
Judson Township is bordered on the north by the Minnesota River and Nicollet County, on the east by South Bend, on the south by Garden City and on the west
by Butternut Valley and Cambria. The township contains about 38 square miles of territory and has a larger area than any other township in the county.
The timber along the Minnesota River consisted of maple, oak, hickory, butternut, walnut, basswood, cottonwood and poplar.
It was settled by mainly Welsh people. Its first settlers were
Chester Hill, John Randolf and Rev. John Tidland, who came from Nicollet
County in the summer
of 1853 and located claims in the Judson bottom. In 1854 came Gustaf Johnson, Peter Olson, Charles Youngerberg, John Beckman, Oscar and Francis Winnerstrand, John Goodwin, Robert Patterson, William Irving, Calvin Webb, John Jones and Lucius O. Hunt. Charles Rundquist, Gustaf Peterson, Andrew and John Johnson, Nils Nilson, C.S. Terry, Humphrey Jones, Thos. Y. Davis, William C. Williams, William Jenkins, William Jones, John Watkins, Hugh Edwards and sons, Hugh H. and John and Daniel Edwards, William Roberts and Rowland Price, Owen Roberts, Henry Hughes, David T. Davis and Rev. William Williams arrived in 1855. In 1856 came Benjamin Lewis, David and Edward Dackins, David Rees, Anthony Crisp, Thos. Evans, Samuel Pease, Samuel Foster, Evan Williams and son William E. Williams and Evan Davis.
The town was made an election precinct on April 8, 1856. The townsite of Judson was laid out by Robert Patterson on December 10, 1856.
A meeting for organization was held on May 11, 1858. The following
officers were chosen: Supervisors, Robert Patterson; chairman, William
Anthony Crisp; Clerk, T.R. Coulson; Assessor, W.H. Thurston; Collector, J.A. Tidland; Overseer of the poor, Gustaf Johnson; Justice, J.O. Robinson;
Constable, D. Reed; Road overseer, L.O. Hunt.
A village was laid out at an early date on the north shore of Crystal
Lake and was called Seymour. Because of a disagreement between the
proprietors, the play
was never recorded and athough some improvements were begun, the village was allowed to die.
The first religious services were held in the summer of 1855 by Rev.
John Powell, a Methodist minister. Rev. Jenkin Jenkins preached the
sermon at the home of John Watkins and a church was organized. This
organization later moved into Cambria Township and became the Salem Congregational
Church. A Welsh
Calvinistic Methodist Church was organized July 11, 1858.
In 1858, Rev. J.R. Ash organized a Baptist Church in Judson village. This church disbanded in November 1882.
In 1899, the Chicago & Northwestern Railway built a short line from Mankato to New Ulm through Judson Township and a new townsite called Judson was laid out near the location of the old village.
A portion of the village of Lake Crystal is located within the southern boundary of Judson Township.
In 1906, a railway station, wheat elevator, and creamery were located on Minneopa Creek near the center of Section 23, along the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha line. This station was called Cray.
LeRay Township is situated in the northeastern part of the county. It was originally a part of Jamestown, but was made a separate town by action of the county commissioners on January 4, 1860. It was named “Lake,” but on June 11, 1860 was changed to “Tivoli” and on September 5, 1860 the name was changed to
“LeRay” at the suggestion of William Cole after a town in New York from which he had come. In its native state the entire town was covered with a dense
forest of fine timber. It lies on the southwestern border of what was known as the “big woods.” The southern tier of sections belonged to the Winnebago
reservations until they were added to the town in March, 1984.
Portions of Madison Lake and Eagle Lake lie within the northern border.
There are smaller lakes: Indian, Alice and Mud which are within the
borders of LeRay
Township. Byron Lake and a portion of Lake Gilfillin no longer exist.
Settlement of LeRay Township began in 1856. The early settlers
were: Alexander and James Douglas, George Adam Beiries, Robert Haslip,
William, George, Albert and Robert Turner, Henry Lang, M.D. McNamara, William Cole, George Chapman, George, Jacob, John and James Burgess, George Bennett, Patrick Madigan, William Morris, David Davis, Thos. Davis, Rev. Elias Clark, William Gilfillan, Arvad Johnson, Conrad Schogll, Joel Cloud, Joseph Titus, Joseph Metter, George Lill, Jerome Weatherby and Alvin Reynolds. Coming in 1857 were: Henry Robertson, John and Horace Cummins. Other early settlers were: August Glockzin, Michael Silke, Nicholas Frederick, George Sower, John Ulrich, Jerome Dane, R.G. Wood, John Waggoner and Ira Reynolds.
The first town officers were elected in January 1860. Elected were: Supervisors: William Cole, chairman, John Cummins and George Beiries; Clerk, Arvad Johnson; Treasurer, Jerome Dane; Justices, Jerome Dane and J.L. Burgess; Constables, George Bennett and Issac Turner.
The first post office was established in 1870 and called “Spier” at the suggestions of George Beiries after his home in Germany. Freeman A. Cate was appointed postmaster. In December 1873 the name was changed to Eagle Lake and Henry Bossard became postmaster. He had a small store near Eagle Lake station.
Lumber and wood naturally became one of LeRay’s chief industries.
In 1864, J. Sylvester and Thomas Burgess purchased a steam circular saw
mill of 15,000
feet capacity and moved it to their farm on the west line of the township. Here in February 1867, the Burgess Bros. opened a small store. They sold the mill in
the early 1870s to Henry Simons. Simons later moved the mill near the outlet of Eagle Lake and in 1882 the mill was taken to Tennessee.
In 1870 the Winona and St. Peter Railroad was built through the township. In 1884, the Cannon Valley Railroad was built through the northwest corner of LeRay Township.
In 1871 Woodham and Harrison Burgess built a grist mill at the junction
of Eagle Lake Creek and Madison Lake Creek. Three or four years later
Pickle became its owners and shortly after the firm changed to Cate & Pickle. In the fall of 1872, Morse Bros. built a waterpower saw mill near the mouth of
Madison Lake Creek. In 1876, Smith, Kingsley & Cornwell, built a saw mill at Eagle Lake. In the summer of 1873, Chas. Stokes erected a saw mill at Smith’s
Mill. Other early mill operators were: J.D. Humiston, McBeth Bros., Fred Gilfillan, A.B. Hough, B. Gerlach, Horace Cummins, Gordon Bros. and Elwin Merrill. In 1881 E.F. Wilson had a factory for the manufacture of doors, sash, blinds, etc.
The first school was taught by Miss Hannah Haslip in a log cabin in Section 18 about 1859, with an attendance of 14 students. Eight school districts were organized in LeRay Township: District #42, 50, 52, 104, 127, 135, 140 and 153.
Mankato Mineral Springs was located in Section 29. Its virtues were known to the Indians. The medicinal qualities of the spring were first discovered by the whites about 1889.
The villages of Eagle Lake and Smith Mill lie within the boundaries of LeRay Township.
Lime Township is one of the earliest settled townships in Blue Earth County. It was originally a part of the Kasota precinct and in 1855 it became a part of
LeSueur County for a period of one year. Lime Township was restored to Blue Earth County in 1856 and it was created into a separate township in April
Situated in the northern part of the county, the Minnesota River forms
Lime Township's western boundary and the northern boundary is LeSueur County.
theeastern end of the town lies Wita Lake (Wita is an Indian name meaning island, as there are two large islands in the lake).
Lime Township had the largest and best stone quarries in the county.
Early quarries were the famous Klondike and McMullen quarries. The
township is said
to derive its name from lime kilns which were the first built in the county.
James Rablin was the first settler in Lime Township. He located
with his family on Section 32 in July 1852. Among the early settlers
of 1853 were Evans
Goodrich, Jared Lewis, Hiram Fuller, O.S. Redfield, Robert Wardlaw, William Wood, Henry Goodrich, Chris Roos and James Talmadge. Coming in 1854 were Peter Schulte, Frank Borghmeier, Henry Vahle, Morton Laflin, John Menne, Edmund Buckley and John Henderson. In 1855 Daniel Campbell, Frank Henline, Edward Young, Philip Patten, John Sanger and David Steele arrived. A large number of settlers arrived in 1856 and among them were, John Rausch, George Schaefer, John Hamilton, Nicholas Heinzman, Frederick Heinze, Sebastian Pfeffer, Philip Mueller, Jacob Traub, Joshua Haas, Jacob Hub, Patrick Duffy, William Chapman, Benjamin Stannard and Nicholas Sanger.
The first meeting for the purpose of organizing the township was held May 11, 1858. Daniel Chapman was chosen chairman of the town board and Henry Goodrich was elected town clerk. Evans Goodrich was elected chairman of its first Board of Supervisors.
Charles Forester built a saw mill in 1871, which was located at the
north shore of Eagle Lake. The saw mill burned down in the fall of
1873 but Forester
rebuilt the mill and continued operation.
In March 1878 a post office was established at Caroline Station with Conrad Smith as postmaster.
Stone was a railway station located three miles north of Mankato, on the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha Railway. There was also a post office.
Bradley was a railway station located four miles north of Mankato, on the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha Railway. A post office was located there also.
Benning was a railway station established in 1903 and located between
Stone and Bradley stations, at the junction of the Great Western and Milwaukee
and was used by both roads.
Mankato Junction was located on the Chicago Northwestern Railway, 2½ miles northwest of Mankato. There was also a post office here.
Lincoln Township lies north of Ceresco and is made up of prairie land. At one time there were several small lakes within its borders. These lakes have dried
up and today the entire township is under cultivation.
The first settler to arrive was Archibald Law, who came from Janesville,
Wisconsin and located with his family on portions of Sections 30 and 31
in June 1855.
He was followed by Isaac Slocum and Dr. Jos. Tibble. Conrad Stultz arrived in the spring of 1856. Alfred and Smith Keech, Isaac and Willis Bundy came in 1857.
The town was designated "Richfield" on April 6, 1858 and was attached
to Ceresco for official purposes. At a session held by the county
April 16, 1858, the name was changed to "Fox Lake." On September 6, 1865, the county commissioners separated the town from Ceresco and made it into an
independent town under the name "Lincoln," after President Lincoln.
There had been little settlement from the time the first settler arrived in 1855 until after the Civil War. After the close of the war the Norwegian and Swedish immigrants began settling the town. During 1864-1866 the following arrived and settled in the northern sections of the town: Capt. E.P. Lieberg, Knute Halvorson, Matthew Simon, Ole Soren, Herman Olson, Ole Olson, Nels Torgerson, John Hustroft, Jacob Jacobson, Hogan Nelson, Kittle Rasmussen, John C. and Fred Johnson.
In October 1865, Rev. John A. Peterson, Andrew Swenson, Andrew Erickson, and Mons Johnson arrived and settled in the southeastern part of Lincoln Township. Coming in 1866 were: Peter Peterson, Swen Martinson, Andrew Granlund, Swen Bergtson, and Swen and Peter Swenson.
In 1867, Rev. John Erickson, Andrew Erickson, Jonas P. Johnson and August
W. Johnson. Other early settlers were: Charles TenEyck, John W. Trask,
Conger, David Quinn, Richard Sprague, C.D. Halloway, A.H. Fairbanks, William Roberts and M.H. Miller.
The first town election was held September 26, 1865 at the home of John
W. Trask. The following officers were chosen: Supervisors, Isaac
Chairman, S.D. Halloway and Isaac Bundy; Clerk, John W. Trask; Treasurer, J.C. Tibble; Justices, Albert Keech and William Roberts; Constables, A.H. Fairbanks and M.H. Miller.
Henry Goff taught the first school in a log building during the winter of 1862-63. It lasted only two months and there were fifteen scholars. The first school district was No. 15, which was organized in July 1857. Soon after four more school districts were formed; District #67, 85, 89 and 119.
A post office was established in November 1867 in Section 7 and was
called "Iceland." Daniel Quinn was the first postmaster. When
the St. Paul and Sioux
Railway extended west to Lake Crystal in 1870, a weigh station with a sidetrack and platform was located here. A telegraph office was added later. The station
was called Iceland until 1906 when the name was changed to "Perth."
A Swedish Baptist Church was organized in 1868, by Rev. Peterson. A church building was built in Section 26 in 1881.
The Norwegian Lutheran Evangelical Church of Lincoln was first organized in 1876. The church building was erected in Section 5 in 1894.
A farmers co-operative creamery was built in 1890 in Section 15, with William Kittleson as the first buttermaker.
A rural mail route was established in 1900 from Lake Crystal. In 1904 a farmers telephone line was built from Madelia.
Lyra Township lies north of Sterling and west of Beauford Townships. The Maple River flows northward through the middle of the town and the Blue Earth River
meanders through the western boundary. Lyra has rich soil and is well wooded and watered making it desirable for early settlement.
The first white settlers were the Noble G. Root and Barnabas Simmons
families, who arrived in the fall of 1854. Early in 1855, the Winnebago
located by the government in Blue Earth County and made to include the present township of Lyra. These two settlers were obliged to leave their claims in 1856.
The county commissioners named the town "Tecumseh" on April 16, 1858.
The town was returned to a white settlement after the removal of the Indians
and was attached to Mapleton for official purposes. Sometime before the removal of the Indians, Barnabas Simmons returned to his claim in Section 33 and lived in harmony with the Indians.
The first permanent settler after the removal was Marcus L. Plumb, who
located on section 28 in the spring of 1864. Other early settlers
were Lysander Cook,
Jason and Calvin M. Drake, Rev. Jesse M. Thurston, Gottfried Glaucke, Chas. N. Plumb, Earl Blossom, Fred and William Hilke, Volney Crandall, Levi Houk and
Jos. C. Harlow, all coming in 1864. In 1865-1866 came Gilbert Webster, Marion Hills, Simon and Thos. Garvin, Ephraim Palmer, John G. Morris, Martin
Schroeder, Jonathan Townsend, Clark Puffer, Joshua Burgess, Geo. R. Beals, Geo. Wilson and Harvey Case. Coming in 1867-1868 were O. Cassidy, Andrew L. Heaton, John B. Radcliff, Rev. Fredrick A. Pratt, Benjamin S. Hawes, William and Patrick Mountain and Thomas Benedict.
The county commissioners granted the petition of Marcus L. Plumb and others for organization of the town on May 29, 1866. The first meeting was held September 22, 1866 at the home of Martin Schroeder. At this meeting the name was changed from Tecumseh to Lyra. The new name was suggested by Rev. J.M. Thurston after a town he had come from in the east. The name comes from ancient mythology and represents the lyre carried by Apollo. The first town officers elected were: Supervisors, Gilbert Webster, chairman, Clark Puffer and Volney Crandall; clerk, Lysander Cook; treasurer, Gottfried Glaucke; justices, M.L. Plumb and Ephraim Palmer; constables, Martin Schroeder and Chas. N. Plumb.
A waterpower saw mill, which was built in the summer of 1865 by Lashbrook
& Gates, was the first mill built in the township. It was located on
River near the northeast corner of Section 28. Eri L. Lashbrook sold out after a year or two and the mill was owned and operated by Trowbridge & Gates for
four or five years and then the machinery was removed. Hiram B. Doty built a small waterpower saw mill on the Maple River in the northeast corner of Section
28 in February 1866. Doty operated the mill until 1876, when he moved it to Section 4 and added a feed mill to it and put in steam power. This mill was in
operation until 1888. A saw and gristmill was built in 1868 by Oren Palmer and Allen Miller on the Maple River where a railway bridge crossed the river. This
mill was abandoned about 1884.
In June 1867 William H. and Aaron S. Post purchased land in Section
18 for a mill site and in May 1870 sold the land to Herbert W. Dart. Dart
of an ancient bed of the Blue Earth River to construct a new mill race, which afforded a much better waterpower and more convenient site for the mill, which
had now been changed to a grist and shingle mill. Dart sold the mill in January 1877 to Henry O. Dryer, who in turn sold an interest to Thomas G. Quayle in
1878. The mill was then moved to the top of the bluff, enlarged and operated by a cable, which communicated with the water power at the foot of the bluff. The
mill as called Cable Mills and was now exclusively a gristmill. From 1879-1905 the mill was sold several times with the last owner being Joseph Kreuer. In
August 1905 it was struck by lightening and burned.
About 1870, George Doty built a mill on the Maple River in Section 2,
which he operated for a few years under the name of Elkhorn Mills. R.L.
Houk and Walter
Redfern built a large steam gristmill at Good Thunder, which burned in the summer of 1908.
During the time that Lyra Township was part of the Winnebago Reservation,
an Indian chief named Good Thunder, occupied the log buildings and field
was the homestead of Noble Root in Section 10. Here was a ford in the Maple River, which became known as Good Thunder's Ford. When the railroad was built through the area in 1869-1870, the proprietors arranged to have a depot and town site near this ford. This was the town site of Good Thunder.
A post office was established on May 6, 1871, called Good Thunder's Ford. John G. Graham was postmaster.
The first school in Lyra was taught by Charles Harnes in 1869 in Good
Thunder. A two-story frame school house was built in 1873 and a brick
building in 1892.
School districts established in Lyra Township were: District No. 87, 97, 98, 103, 118, 121, 126 and 149.
McPherson Township lies to the north of Medo Township. This town was formerly part of the Winnebago Indian Reservation. The LeSueur River meanders across the township from southeast to northwest. The portion north of the river was once covered with heavy timber, while to the south of the river was fine prairie land. Rice Lake lay in the southwest corner of the township.
The township was first attached to Mankato for official purposes and was called Rice Lake in August 1855. The name of Rice Lake was chosen after the lake of that name located in the township, which was famous among the Indians for its production of wild rice.
The first settlers were Chas. Mansfield and A.W. Callen, who settled on the east side of Rice Lake in the fall of 1854. In 1855 white settlement in the immediate area was suddenly cut off by the National Congress, which had created a new reservation for the Winnebago Indians. Among those connected with the Indian agency, who came with the Winnebagos in June 1855 were: General J.E. Fletcher, Indian Agent, Henry Foster, Joshua Ady, A.L. Foyles, W.J. Cullen, Superintendent of Indian School, Chas. H. Mix, Asa White, Geo. Culver, Peter Manaige, Newell Houghton and J.L. Alexander. In June 1856, John Johnson located at the agency as blacksmith. In 1861, J.B. Hubbell and Lucius Dyer and other officials located at the agency.
The Winnebago Indians were removed in May 1863 and immediately settlers began pouring into the town.
By September 2, 1863 enough settlers had located in the town to require the county board to create it into an independent municipality. The name was changed from Rice Lake to McClelan, after the famous Union General McClelan. The first town meeting was held at the home of Lucius Dyer on September 19, 1863. The following officers were elected: Supervisors, Asa White, chairman, J.Y. Colwell and Lucius Dyer; Clerk, Henry Foster; Treasurer, R.O. Bartlett; Assessor, Chas. Manaige; Justices, J.L. Alexander and J.Y. Colwell; constables, Aaron Foyles and Alexander Payer.
Henry Foster was the first postmaster appointed in 1856. He was succeeded in January 1862 by James B. Hubbell, who in turn was succeeded by Lucius Dyer in May 1863. The post office was designated “Winnebago Agency.”
In February 1865, the name of the town was changed from McClelan to McPherson by act of the State Legislature.
On August 11, 1865, Aaron Hilton laid out a townsite in Section 8, which he called Hilton. This village was later renamed St. Clair.
The post office of “Belleview” was established in June 1873 and was located in Section 32. James H. Eastman was the first postmaster. He served until January 1876, when Amos H. Eastman was put in charge. Eastman was succeeded by A.B. Preston in 1879.
The first school was taught by the Methodist minister, Rev. B.Y. Coffin in 1857 for the Indians at the agency. The first public school was taught in 1863 at the agency by Francis Beveridge. Nine school districts were formed over the years; Districts #69, 70, 71, 73, 76, 96, 124, 146 and 148.
At the session of the county commissioners held on April 6, 1858, the town of Mankato was given the territory included in the congressional township 108, range 26, lying east of the Minnesota River, and that part of township 108, range 27, lying east of the Blue Earth River, except the southern tier of sections in both townships, which was added on April 16th.
The first settlers in the township outside the city limits were Columbus Ballard and H.B. Kauffman, who came in 1853.
The village of Tivoli was surveyed in April, 1858 on land owned by Moses
Bennett and Hollis Whitney in Section 25. Bennett built a saw mill
and some other improvements were made. A Congregational Church was
organized in 1857-58 through the efforts of Mr. Bennett and Rev. M.N. Adams
with about thirty
members. A church building was erected. This church was later used for a school house, District #3.
The Tivoli post office was established in 1858, with Moses Bennett as postmaster. The town proved unsuccessful and the plat was vacated in 1870. But it remained a stage stop and post office years later. In 1897 the directory lists it as a country post office, with daily stages to Mankato and Minnesota Lake and fare 25 cents and a population of 91.
The township was organized in connection with the city of Mankato on
May 1, 1858. The first members of the board were: S.M. Walker, chairman;
Shoemaker and J.Q.A. Marsh with S.C. Kitchen as clerk. The first election separate from the city was held April 7, 1868 and was held at the school house
in District #3.
Mapleton Township is bounded on the south by Faribault County and lies west of Danville, east of Sterling and south of Beauford. It is a prairie township and is traversed by the Maple River.
This township was originally called Sherman and was attached to Mapleton (now Sterling) for official purposes. These two towns were organized and acted together for two years until 1860, when they were divided and separate organizations effected.
The town was first organized by Uriah Payne in the spring of 1856 when he located in Section 7. Other early settlers were Ira Annis, J.W. Sprague, James Cornell, Robert Taylor and Asa Sherman, for whom the early township was named.
The first town meeting of the independent township was held April 2, 1861.
The first post office was established in 1857, with Stephen Middlebrook as postmaster.
About 1858, Middlebrook Bros. built a steam saw mill on the Maple River in Section 7. The mill burned in June 1863, but was rebuilt and was operated for another two or three years.
Ozias C. Healy was a member of the original Mapleton Colony. In 1856, he selected a farm along the Maple River in LuraTownship, Faribault County, just across the Blue Earth County line. A stage route from Owatonna to Jackson ran through the Healy homestead and the home became an accommodation for travelers as well as a post office. Mr. Healy called his homestead Grapeland due to the abundance of wild grapes found in the area and the post office became known as Grapeland also. This office was discontinued in 1905.
In 1867, a post office was established in the northeast corner of the town at the cabin of Joel Gates called Garden Prairie. When the Wells Railway was built and the village of Mapleton was founded a few years later, the office was discontinued.
On June 1, 1891, a post office was re-established at Old Mapleton called Hawkins, after an earlier settler, Sylvester Hawkins. Mrs. Jennette Taylor served as postmistress. It remained open until 1905 when the daily rural free delivery of mail was inaugurated.
The first school was taught in 1857 by Jarvis P. Harrington in a log schoolhouse in Section 7. Six school districts were established in Mapleton Township, District No. 34, No. 35, No. 36, No. 56, No. 105 and No. 120.
Medo, an Indian word meaning small potatoes, is what the Winnebago Indians called the area that now comprises Medo Township. The township was part of the Winnebago Reservation established in 1855, but the Indians left the area in May 1863. As the white man moved in, the village of Medo became a center for the pioneers. The settlement was later known as Faley’s Store and included a post office, general store, blacksmith shop and feed store. The stage coach delivered mail from Minnesota Lake.
Among the early settlers of Medo Township was Lars Severson, who purchased land from the Winnebago Indian Agency in 1866 for three dollars an acre. The original land grant, signed by President Andrew Johnson, was in the Norwegian settlement and was the ideal place for Lars Severson to bring his bride Betsey Lee from Cambridge, Wisconsin, to start their married life in 1867. On that homestead nine sons and two daughters joined the family.
Also early pioneers were Sjur and Herberg Vieg, who gave land for the Medo Lutheran church and cemetery. For many years only Norwegian services were held there, but the younger members wanted to be Americans, so the “Norsk” language was replaced by English. Some of the older members were very disturbed and said, “How can it be Lutheran if it isn’t Norwegian?” On Christmas Eve one can still hear “Jeg Er Sa Glad Hver Julekveld,” which translates, “I Am So Glad Each Christmas Eve.”
In 1907 when the Alphabet Railroad from Albert Lea to St. Clair chose Pemberton for its station, the settlement of Medo, or Faley’s Store, faded into history. A replica of the Faley Store, built from the original lumber, is now on the Lawrence and Evelyn Rathal homestead.
One half mile south of the Medo Lutheran Church was the Little Cobb Post Office, established in 1875 and also served by stage coach from Minnesota Lake. The Little Cobb settlement lasting fewer years than Medo and became a memory after July 1904.
A third community called Cream was organized in 1894 in the southeast corner of the northeast quarter of Section 12 in Blue Earth County. As the town grew, its business spread into Waseca County since the town site was on the county line between Blue Earth and Waseca Counties. In 1905 a post office was opened in Cream along with a creamery, cheese factory, general store, barber shop, box car depot, the Modern Woodmen Hall, which was the popular spot for dances. Long-time resident Elmer Severson, recalls, “For a dime or a quarter, you could dance and have lunch.”
Simon Berentson had a store in Cream where customers could barter their eggs and home churned butter for flour, sugar and other necessities. When they didn’t trade out their total products, Mr. Berentson paid the balance. The butter was stored in barrels, sealed, and sunk in the ground under the store floor. He took the butter to Janesville along with the eggs, and he brought back groceries and general merchandise for the operation of his store. From Janesville, the butter was sent to Chicago where it was rechurned and sold as reconstituted butter.
Mr. Berentson sold groceries to the workers on the Alphabet Train crew because they were Czechs and Poles and couldn’t speak English. Mr. Berentson spoke Norwegian and could communicate with them. But the train didn’t come to Cream because of its county line location. It was the death blow to Cream and the birth of Pemberton, a mile and a quarter west of Section 1. Plotted in 1907, Pemberton remains today the only village of pioneer days.
Several country schools were established in Medo Township. The first school was the Round School House in District 63. It was located on what is Lindeland’s farm on County Road 21. It was later moved to the corner of Lindeland’s farm where it was used for a Norwegian School by the Medo Lutheran Church. Still later it was moved to the first farm south of the Medo Lutheran church.
In time the country schools were consolidated and a school was built in Pemberton. It served the community from 1921 until it merged with Waldorf in 1960. The elementary school, kindergarten through sixth grade, remained at Pemberton and the junior and senior high school moved to Waldorf. Today Waldorf-Pemberton has the distinction of being the smallest school to participate in the State Basketball Tournament. Their concert and stage bands, under the direction of James Kopetski, have many trophies to prove they can compete with the bands of larger schools in the United States and win first place.
What is in store for the small potatoes Medo Township is unknown, but as family roots grow deeper, the past will be retained by the descendants of pioneers who agree with Christian Metz: “Behold the mark of the old. Let heritage not be lost, but bequeath it as a memory, treasure and blessing. Gather the lost and hidden and preserve it for thy children.” Written by Elvina Severson Lewis for “The Heritage of Blue Earth County, MN,” 1990.
Pleasant Mound was first settled in 1856, but the first actual settler is not known. The township was named Otsego by the County Commissioners on April 6, 1858, and attached to Shelby for official purposes. On October 14, 1858, the name was changed to Willow Creek, which was probably an eastern name familiar to some old settler, appropriately applied because of the abundant growth of willows, which characterize the principal brook in the township.
Running north and south, a peculiar chain of mound-shaped hills rise to the height of 50 to 75 feet above the surrounding prairie. The Indian name for this ridge was “Ichokse” or “Repah Kichakse” (to cut in the middle, perhaps from the fact that the ridge is divided into a number of mounds; or it may mean thrown down or dumped in heaps, as the spelling is uncertain).
A post office was established at the home of F.O. Marks on the mounds and called “Pleasant Mound” at his suggestion. Another post office was established in the township in 1863 called “Willow Creek”. In January, 1864, an attempt was made to organize the town as a separate municipality under the name of “Butler,” but it failed. On September 6, 1865, the town was finally created and designated Pleasant Mound on the suggestion of F.O. Marks. The first town meeting was held September 26, 1865.
In June 1866, a large German Lutheran colony arrived and purchased claims therein. The first German Lutheran services among them were held in 1868 at private houses by Rev. Ahner of Blue Earth City.
In the fall of 1886, two new post offices were established in Pleasant Mound. One was called “Upton” and the other named “Hope.” About 1889, a store was erected, a blacksmith shop put up, and in 1896, a creamery built. This place has since been a small center for the town under the name of Willow Creek.
The earliest known Fourth of July celebration was held in 1867 on top of the mounds where a booth was made of the leafy branches of trees and a Red River cart was used as a speaker’s platform. In 1876, the people of Pleasant Mound and vicinity held an American Centennial celebration at Wilder’s grove on Willow Creek. At the county and state fairs around the turn of the century, J.S. Parks of Pleasant Mound put on exhibits of 240 different varieties of apples raised in his orchard, demonstrating conclusively the possibility of our county in apple culture.
The following is the “History of a German Colony” written by F.M. Schwarz. “Out in Pleasant Mound Township there is a part of what is probably the largest single group of farmers of German origin in the state. These German farmers started arriving shortly after the conclusion of the Civil War, coming from older settled sections of the state, from Wisconsin and from Germany. Perhaps the largest portion of them came from the Province of Posen, in Germany, originally.
Since the timbered land along the streams had all been taken, these thrifty farmers located the land out on the prairie, full of sloughs and with no timber to speak of. Their lands had the additional disadvantage of being comparatively far from villages or places to market their crops.
Not many of these farmers were at all well equipped, even for those times, with this world’s goods and had to wrest their living from the stubborn soil. Thrifty, industrious to a degree unknown to native farmers, careful in their expenditures, making each improvement pay for itself as it was made, these sterling citizens have now what is perhaps the show section of the county – fine residences, cultivated, fertile farms, splendid well-kept groves and stock of so even a degree of excellence that the section exudes an air of prosperity found in a few places of the state. They have developed their last-choice lands to the point where they should be first choice. They are still comparatively distant from market centers but the advent of the motor driven cars and trucks has robbed that disadvantage of some of its disrepute.
Christ Schwarz, Carl Schwarz, and John Krienke, who had lived near Rochester, were the first to arrive, coming in June, 1866. The original homes of these men were in Wisconsin and they had come to Minnesota in search of better land a few years previously. Nearly all of the German colony came here because of the ties of kinship. Someone had told them of the good soil to be had in Blue Earth County. These three pioneer German farmers came to investigate, liked the land better than anything else they had so far seen, sent back word to their relatives, who in turn notified their relatives, and so the German colony came into existence.
Clay Howard had a sawmill on the Jim Miller place on the west bank of the Blue Earth River, about three miles west of where Amboy is now. They bought acre lots of John Wilder, who had settled on Willow Creek (the Willow Creek Store stands on what was the southwest corner of his farm), cut logs, either had them sawed into boards at the sawmill or built of the logs direct, traded with the store adjacent to the sawmill and built buildings enough to get along with. There was some railroad land in timbered tracts and much of that timber went to the person who got there first. Some of the Germans, always alert for opportunity, got their logs from that land and so the settlement started.
Settlement was rapid, Emil Luedtke and Michael Mitzner arrived on October, 1866. August Urban and Wilhelm Ulrich had started for new lands about the same time the Schwarz’s and Krienke had set out. They stopped near Janesville, but that year was a wet one and the numerous potholes and sloughs in that neighborhood made them decide to go onto where Urban’s brother-in-law, Carl Schwarz, had settled. They arrived in July, 1867. The Carl Schwarz home was headquarters for all the new arrivals until they located, which was not long. All cooperated in helping each new arrival.
True to the habits of worthwhile settlers, schools and churches were early considerations of these people. In 1867, a Presbyterian preacher, who also preached in Garden City, held services for them. The next year Rev. Ahner, of east of Blue Earth, came once a month and held services here. Practically all of these people are of Lutheran faith and Rev. Ahner was the first minister of their faith to minister to them. The organizers of the first Lutheran church were Carl Schwarz, August Urban, Emil Luedtke, Michael Mitzner, Wm. Ulrich, August Bethke, Wm. Vandrey and M. Altenburg. There were 35 members of the first church in 1870.
In all these years of residence, only two crimes of major importance have occurred among these Germans, proving their peaceful and law-abiding nature. One occurred in 1874, but not in Pleasant Mound Township. Its scene was a mile east of the Fieldon church and was the result of a quarrel between August Zempel and Gottlieb Stahn in which Stahn was stabbed, dying a week later. Self-defense was proved in favor of Mr. Zempel. The second was the murder of John Schwartz in 1889 for which Wm Lenz was sentenced.
Those few survivors of the early settlement now survey the scenes of their early settlement with a great pride, and well they may, for there is no better monument to industry and perseverance in the state.”
The following article was taken from The Amboy Herald. It contains the reminisces of early days in Pleasant Mound Township by Mrs. Donzetta Briggs Corbett. She would have been five years old in 1863 when this story begins. Prior to this, the Briggs family had migrated to Iowa from Chicago for health reasons.
“Arriving from the state of Iowa in the spring of 1863, we settled, temporarily, in a small log cabin on what is now the George Schneeberger farm as, of course, there were not any buildings on the homestead which father had taken, a short distance south of this cabin. The trip was made in covered wagons pulled with horses and oxen. We drove the cattle and sheep and camped wherever night overtook us, but if possible, near or with some settler. As there were not many roads at this time, just trails and plenty of mud holes to get mired in, we thought we were doing very well when we made 15 or 20 miles a day. It certainly takes stout hearts and strong backs to pioneer. At this time of our arrival, there were but two small cabins in sight on this vast prairie. At least it seemed a vast prairie to us because there was but one tree, called “The Lone Tree,” between the Blue Earth River and what is now known as the city of Fairmont.
The prairie was dotted with small lakes and sloughs, which were covered with muskrat houses and which offered great sport to the small boys, who were fortunate enough to own a trap.
Mother was very homesick at first, as the farm we had left in Iowa was a beautiful place with its small creek running through it and its banks covered with cowslips. But soon our Minnesota prairie was in bloom with the pink Sweet Williams, Moccasin flower with its lovely lavender throat and some so beautifully spotted. The gum weeds spotted over the country stood straight and tall like sentinels. It was a gala day for us to break them and later gather the gum, which was nearly as good as the spruce gum from New York state.
One evening, when bringing in the cows, my younger brother tried to catch what he thought was a kitten in the tall grass, but to his dismay it proved to be a pole cat and much fun was made of him.
Many birds nests were destroyed in breaking the land; there were hundreds of bob-o-links and meadowlarks filling the air with their melodies; great flocks of brants and the stately long-necked cranes that paid little attention to the people. Father shot 18 prairie chickens on his way to Garden City. Deer were often seen in or near the woods on the Blue Earth River. One morning we were called to see two big, black bears and a cub, which were following the trail west of us, from Chain-Lakes to Mankato.
That summer Father built a large log cabin on his place one mile south of where we were living. East of the mounds there were more settlers and they held a three-month school, during June, July and August, in a small cabin with benches placed around the outer walls for seats. Our teacher, Miss Lizzie Shannon from Shelbyville, got along very nicely without a desk. There was no well at the school and how very thirsty we would get; once in a great while one of the boys would bring a small pail of water from the nearest house. Good gardens were raised even on sod-breaking and when we had potatoes, corn meal and buckwheat for cakes, we considered we were living very well.
Winters were long and severe and our wood had to be hauled several miles and mostly by oxen; the snow would drift badly and at times if you were able to get one load of wood in a day, you were lucky.
Our footwear consisted of heavy leather shoes and boots, a few were fortunate enough to have a sheep lined affair called packs; overshoes were unheard of and the mittens were homemade and probably had to be patched every night. One wonders how they stood the extreme cold in those winters.
Stables were made of poles covered with hay which proved to be quite warm and cozy. Blizzards came suddenly, often and, at times, were terrible. In one, my father and mother nearly lost their lives, their hands and faces were badly frozen before they found safety. Another time Father was saved by the light Mother always kept in the window on stormy nights.
The only way of heating the house was by the cook stove, which was kept red hot most of the time. Coals were taken out in iron kettles and placed here and there in the rooms. The oven of the cook stove was at the top and back of the stove, with the pipe touching the back of the oven, hence they were called the elevated oven stove. You were lucky to have a warming pan to run over the sheets, before jumping into bed at night.
The second year, we were having Sunday School and preaching now and then at our place. A Mr. Taylor from Shelbyville, who kept store there, was our preacher. Later the Sunday School was held at Mr. Dodds.
Then there were long trips to the Butterfield Grist Mill, located on the Watonwan River. It would take two days to make these trips and get your grist ground. Also, there were two trips to Mankato each year for supplies.
Along came the Indian outbreak that sent terror into every heart when Charles Mack was killed. Mr. Mack was mowing grass for a Mr. Hindman, who in return was working on Mr. Mack’s farm near Willow Creek. Mrs. Hindman and children were visiting my mother that day. We children were playing outdoors and saw several horsemen ride up to Mr. Mack, there was loud talking, a shot or two and terrible yelling. We ran and told Father, who hurried us inside, got his gun and ammunition ready, barricaded the doors and windows best as possible, but we saw no more of them at this time. When Mr. Hindman reached home that evening he found everything destroyed in their home. The pillows and featherbeds cut open and strewn about, looking glass, clock and dishes smashed. They and several other families stayed nearly two weeks at our house during the night time, the men keeping guard outside and we children expecting every minute to be scalped. The children were kept upstairs and the moment took turns watching from an upper window. At this time a Mrs. Archer gave birth to a son who was named Lincoln. Once, a short time afterward, we saw several horsemen approaching and as we children were alone and frightened, we ran over the edge of the hill and lay down flat on the ground thinking we were hid. Of course they saw us and called that they were soldiers and hungry. We gave them milk and all of Mother’s fresh baked bread. It was none too much, but we were glad we had even this much for them.
Shortly after this we visited a sister in Mankato who worked at the Clifton house. At this time we saw our first steamboat, tasted our first ice cream, which we did not like very well because it was too cold, and sampled for the first time the long stemmed strawberries which grew in abundance on the prairie and from which Mother made such delicious shortcakes.
Regardless of the fears and hardships suffered and of the inconveniences, we learned to love this new home and country as well as did the more settled one we left in Iowa. Do you think of locating in Minnesota? If so you will find that Blue Earth County is the garden spot of the state.”
The Wiederhoeft family also gave us an account of the early history of Pleasant Mound Township. Included in their history were some of the following events: The 1896 creamery was replaced by another new building in 1911. This creamery burned down April 30, 1931, and was replaced by a new brick building in the same year. It was later enlarged and also had Golden Sun Feed products for sale. The township had the town hall remodeled during the winter of 1939-40 by W.P.A. labor and it was again dedicated to the public April 2, 1940, with Rev. W.H. Schramm as the speaker. The 75th anniversary of Pleasant Mound Township was celebrated on September 6, 1940. Rev. W.H. Schramm was speaker of the occasion, the Farm Bureau served the lunch, and Clarence Boesch, Luther Boesch, and Frank Widmann were on the committee. In the year 1922, the first two miles of road were graveled in the township. The township has arrangements with the Lewisville Fire Department for fire protection. The winter of 1951 was a winter of severe snowstorms, with roads being blocked a good share of the time. In the year 1953, the area had severe windstorms blowing down several barns. There were also heavy rains which caused damage to two of the bridges undermining them. Written by Kelly Reuter for “The Heritage of Blue Earth County, MN,” 1990.
Rapidan Township is situated in the north central part of the county and is traversed by the Maple and LeSueur rivers in the east and the Blue Earth and Watonwan rivers in the west. These rivers are bordered with timber, back from which stretch fertile prairie land.
In 1854, Basil Moreland, G.W. Cummings, William Washburn, and Williston Greenwood arrived and staked claims in Rapidan Township. They were forced to leave their claims the following year because the entire township was included in the Winnebago Reservation. White settlers were barred from the area until the removal of the Indians in 1863. Late in 1863 and in 1864 settlers began to arrive again. Among them were: J.D. Hooser, Henry Eberhart, Gottfried and Jacob Sanger, James Stratton, Riley, Martin and Alfred Stratton, Carl and William Just, G. Schwan, M. Bozin, William Stevens, C.P. Cook, Charles Miescke, Theodore Buckholtz, Silas Kenworthy, M.A. Reeder, E.M. Reynolds, Ethemer Town, Peter Paff, James White, Fernando Blodhorn, E.C. Payne, Martin Wotter, John and Joseph Jones, Frederick Dittman, Charles Blume, Andrew Yaeger, William Jones, Lucius Dyer, C.G. Chamberlin, Allen Thompson, Charles Palmer, William and August Blume and E.B. Parker.
The town was first named “DeSoto” by the county board in April 1858. In July 1864, C.P. Cook started a town site in Section 6 which he called “Rapidan,” after a river by that name where he had lived in Pennsylvania. On March 2, 1865, a bill was passed by the State Legislature changing the name of the township from DeSoto to Rapidan at the suggestion of C.P. Cook.
The township was organized April 1865 and the first town meeting was held in April 15, 1865 at the home of E.C. Payne in Section 21. The following officers were elected: Supervisors, E.C. Payne (chairman), W.L. Stevens and Jacob Sanger; Clerk, M.A. Reeder; Assessor, J.D. Hooser; Treasurer, G. Schwan; Justices, C.P. Cook and A.J. Jewett; Constables, P. Paff and Henry Eberhart.
John Morrow purchased 120 acres of land near the mouth of the Maple River in the summer of 1865, where he erected kilns and manufactured lime for two or three years. He also opened stone quarries on the same land.
In the winter of 1866-1867, George Heaton and Richard Rew built a saw mill on the Blue Earth River in Section 31. They later added a flour mill and named it the “Union Mill.” The same winter Lucius Dyer put up a saw mill on the Maple River in Section 35, to which he later added a grist mill. The mill later passed into the hands of George Gerlich, and then to Jesse Mericle. In 1884, Henry Dyer built a new mill on the Maple River. Flour was ground by water power obtained from a dam a short distance up stream. This mill was later operated by Frank Hawes.
In 1867, Silas Kenworthy, H.W. Mendenhall, James Swan and James Wiswell laid out a town called “Rapids,” on land adjoining their mill. In December 1865, Paff and Reynolds had opened a store here. There was also a blacksmith shop and a cooper shop. Nothing further became of the town site.
A post office was established in Section 35 in 1867 and was named “Maple River.” The first postmaster was Lucius Dyer.
In October 1869, the “Castle Garden” post office in Rapidan Township was created in charge of Dr. N. Bixby, who lived in Section 15. As there was no mail route, Dr. Bixby had to carry the mail from Mankato for the office. J.W. Derby succeeded Dr. Bixby as postmaster. The office was discontinued in March 1875.
A new post office was established in January 1876 at the home of Olaf Olson called “Rapidan,” on the Chicago Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway. Olaf Olson opened a store at Rapidan, which he operated until August 1887.
The first religious services were held in 1864 by Rev. Steinner of Alma City, a United Brethren minister, at the home of J.D. Hooser in Section 21, then called Castle Garden. Services were later held in a log school house which had been built on the Stratton claim (District No. 79).
Lutheran services were started in 1874 by Rev. Barge and a church was organized. In 1885 a church building (Calvary Lutheran Church) was erected in Section 8. This small frame structure was replaced by a larger building in 1893. St. John’s Lutheran Church was built in Rapidan in 1897.
In January 1899, a Sunday School was organized in the Yaeger school house in Section 11, with Mrs. George Harris as superintendent. The school was called Mt. Hope Sunday School. The Presbyterians held services in connection with the school for some time.
The Congregationalists maintained a Sunday School and services at the Woodman’s Hall in Rapidan in 1905-1906 with Rev. J.A. Clark.
The County Poor Farm is located in Section 1. A large brick house and a farm of 160 acres was provided by the county for the poor and less fortunate. A log house was succeeded by the brick house in approximately 1881 and was capable of holding twenty four people. In December 1888, the overseer was Mr. And Mrs. Marston, who kept the building and the surroundings in order and cared for the residents. A portion of the farm was under cultivation and livestock, such as cattle, pigs, horses and chickens are raised. William F. Lewis was administrator from 1889-1895.
The first school was taught in the summer of 1866 in a log school house in Section 27 (District 79), by Miss Emma Smith of Garden City. Seven School Districts were located in Rapidan Township, District No. 66, No. 79, No. 90, No. 91, No. 92, No. 109, and No. 143.
In February 1891, a post office was established at Rapidan Mills, with W.D. Hall Jr. as postmaster. In 1892, P.E. Nelson became postmaster. In the fall of 1900 the Free Delivery system was started in the town.
The Maple River Telephone Company was organized in August 1903 with Aleck Anderson as president. The Farmer’s Center Telephone Company was organized in August 1904 with Chas. Sperlich as president.
Norman Jackson, his son, Eli N., and step son, Hiram Luddington, were the first settlers in Shelby Township. The settled on the north shore of the lake, later named for Jackson, in the summer of 1855. The lake’s Indian name was “Sinkpe” (muskrat) because the lake was thickly populated by muskrats and their rush-built homes covered the southern part of the lake. Jackson Lake’s outlet was Independence Creek, which emptied into the Maple River.
A few weeks after Jackson arrived, Edward Brace, who walked all the way from St. Paul, settled in the same neighborhood. The story of how Mr. Brace got to Shelby is typical of many others. In the early spring of 1855, Edward Brace and a companion came up the Mississippi with a large party of immigrants on the first boat that got through the ice jam on Lake Pepin. When they reached St. Paul, they found there were no boats going up the Minnesota because of the low water that spring. The men walked from St. Paul to Mankato, then on to Shelby, where Mr. Brace took a claim near Jackson Lake. People used to say that his was the best farm in the county. Edward Brace was the second settler in Shelby Township.
In July, George J. and Simon Hoffman took claims on the Blue Earth in the Shelbyville neighborhood. Early in April 1856, settlers began to pour into the township. The noted Methodist pioneer preacher, Rev. John W. Powell, located in and laid out the townsite of Shelbyville in April 1856. It was a 320 acre tract, the west half of Section 35. Rev. Powell was a tall, raw-boned, Lincolnesque character who was very active in the creation of the new town. The names Shelby and Shelbyville were adopted on the request of Rev. Powell because Shelbyville, Indiana was his original home.
On July 7, 1856, the election precinct of Shelby was created; this also included Vernon and Ceresco. This first election was held at Shelbyville on October 15, 1857, when thirteen votes were cast. The Board of County Commissioners met on April 6, 1858, and proceeded to divide the county into townships instead of election precincts. Shelby Township was created May 11, 1858 and was first called Liberty. The name was changed to Shelby on October 14, 1858. The first town board was organized on that date. The township of Shelby is well situated for farming. The Blue Earth River crosses through the township from south to north and is bordered with timber, back from which stretch broad and fertile prairies. Besides Jackson Lake, there is another lake in the township and this is Ida (Mud) Lake. It is a low, swampy lake with beautiful woods surrounding it. These woods were a popular picnic spot in earlier days.
The first white child born in Shelby was Mary A. Root, daughter of Noble G. Root, born on June 16, 1856. The first marriage was that of Elnathan Kendall to Miss Louise A. Richardson on July 3, 1856. The wedding was celebrated by Rev. J.W. Powell at the home of Abner Thompson, which consisted of a covered wagon, a tent beside it, and a fine oak grove. The witnesses were Mr. And Mrs. Thompson and Geo. Richardson. The second marriage was that of Simon Hoffman to Miss Phoebe Esther Allen on August 3, 1856, at the groom’s log cabin with Rev. Powell officiating. The first death in the township was that of Mr. Peirce in the autumn of 1856, the second death was Mrs. Rudolph Crandall in August 1857.
The first religious services in the town were conducted in 1856 by Rev. John W. Powell, and a Methodist Evangelical Church was organized by him in the fall of that year. A Sunday School was started in 1857 with Henry Stoek as first superintendent. In 1858, a church building was erected on Block 32 of the village. The cornerstone of the building was laid with due ceremony. A jar filled with various mementoes of the occasion was duly deposited under the stone. The church was legally incorporated January 8, 1863. A big Sunday School picnic was held in the grove by the village on July 22, 1875. There was a procession held a mile long and over 500 people participated in the festivities.
The first school in Shelby Township was taught in the summer of 1857 by Miss Clarissa A. Jacobs at her father’s home, Asahel P. Jacobs, in Section 4. There were eight children in attendance. A school was built in Shelbyville in 1857. It had only one small window. The seats were fashioned from split logs, having wooden pegs for legs. In the winter of 1857-58, David Grey taught the first regular school in town, having a dozen scholars.
The first store in the township was started by Rev. Powell. Two or three buildings were put up in the town in 1856, many others followed and business increased. The first post office was established at Shelbyville in 1856 with J.W. Powell as postmaster.
From 1858 to 1879, Shelbyville was a live, thriving town. In the early 1860’s it was the only town in the county possessing the necessary enterprise to make an offer to handle the county fair. The offer carried with it the services of the community and assurance that it would furnish and fence the necessary grounds. In 1867, Shelbyville had a hotel, church, schoolhouse, mill, two stores, a blacksmith shop, wagon shop, and others. There were also many social functions, including lyceums, mock senates, meetings and church activities. In 1871, a Farmers Club was organized. Old Settlers meetings were held in the village February 2, 1877 and July 4, 1878 drawing large crowds. Today the site of Shelbyville is a grain field.
Other attempts were made to start townsites in Shelby Township. Woodland is that portion of Blue Earth and Faribault Counties which lies on the west bank of the Blue Earth River. It was first settled by the fringe of Shelbyville and Winnebago pioneers around 1856-57. The fall of 1855 was the beginning of another neighborhood in the northwest corner of the township, later called the Green Valley neighborhood. In 1857, an attempt was made by S.M. Folsom and others to start a townsite on the northwest corner of Section 5 but it was soon abandoned. Late in 1857, a post office called Liberty was created in the neighborhood at the north end of Jackson Lake. The Champion Mill post office was established in August of 1878. These post offices were later phased out.
On September 3, 1870 the population of Shelby Township was – Inhabitants, 729; Dwellings, 132; and Families, 135. Written by Kelly Reuter for “The Heritage of Blue Earth County, MN,” 1990.
South Bend township is one of the smallest townships in the county; its area is about twenty miles. It is located in the northern part of the county at the point where the Minnesota River makes the great “south bend,” from which the town derives its name.
In June 1853, a small steamboat, the Clarion, landed at the bank where the village of South Bend later was built. The Clarion was commanded by Captain Samuel Humbertson. Humbertson, along with his nephew, Thomas Lameraux, his clerk, Alden Bryant and his engineer, John Mann liked the location and they decided to settle here and start a town. Other early settlers were: I.S. Lyon, Lyman Matthews, D.C. Evans, E.R. May and Owen Herbert. The South Bend post office was established in February 1856 with Matthew Thompson as postmaster.
The town was laid out in December 1853 and continued to increase until the early 1860s when the Indian outbreak occurred. This created a panic and many people left South Bend.
The townsite of LeHillier was surveyed and platted in September 1857 by Noah Armstrong, William McCaulay, John McCauley, Chas. Chapman, Ann M.R. DeWitt, Robert Nichols, John Wilson, Sidney Hawley, William Sturgis, Isaac Day and George Nelson. A two-story stone building was built by George Keenan in which he opened a hotel. In 1859 LeHillier had one stone hotel, a school, a lyceum and several buildings.
Adjoining LeHillier, up the Blue Earth River, another townsite was platted by Thomas Riley and Fred Roelofson in September 1857, called West LeHillier. This townsite never amounted to anything and can only be found on the county records.
The village of Minneopa was platted in September 1870 by D.C. Evans and Elias F. Drake in Section 20. It was named for the falls nearby, which the Indians called “Minniinninopa,” meaning the stream of two falls. The St. Paul and Sioux City Railway erected a grain elevator, at which D.C. Evans acted as buyer. Nearly 20,000 bushels of wheat were bought and shipped from this station in the month of November alone. J. Dean of Minneapolis opened a lumber yard in Minneopa. During the summer the picturesque falls attracted picnic excursions from St. Paul, St. Peter, Mankato and many other places. A general store was located in the village and owned by Rev. Daniel Rowlands. This store burned down on March 2, 1881.
The meeting for organization of the town was held May 11, 1858 at the village of South Bend. Officers elected were: Lyman Matthews, Chairman; Luther Barrett and John Jones, Supervisors; Edmond Purnell, Clerk; David Lewis, Assessor; Lars Lee, Collector; Elijah Bangs and L. Abbott, Justices; Lars Lee and W.P. Goodell, Constables.
The first school in the township was taught in the summer of 1855 by Mrs. Joshua Barnard, at her home in the village of South Bend. A log school house was built in the fall of 1855. Later five school districts were established in South Bend Township; District No. 4, No. 5, No. 8, No. 72 and No. 77.
Religious services were first conducted by Rev. William Williams, a Baptist minister, in the spring of 1855 at the home of D.C. Evans. In September 1856, the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Church of Zion was started. A church building was erected near Minneopa Creek in the spring of 1858. Later a larger church was built in 1883.
The South Bend Congregational Church was first organized December 11, 1869 and a church building erected in 1861 with Rev. Jenkins as pastor.
A Wesleyan Methodist Church was organized at South Bend village on October 19, 1856 by Rev. R.D. Price and continued in service until the Indian outbreak. In 1860 a Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Church was organized in South Bend village, but after a few years disbanded. In 1865, a Welsh Presbyterian Church was started and Rev. James Price ministered to it for a few years, after which it too disbanded.
In 1889, Samuel and George Pond laid out Riverside Park Addition, which adjoined LeHillier on the west. A brick yard was started there by O.R. Mather, I.N. Flanagan, E.A. Gibson and S.C. Pond. The yard was used for many years and was owned and operated by F.G. Pannenberg and Co. Stone was found in large quantities underlying the tableland, which lay east of the old village of South Bend. For years it furnished all the material used by Mr. Carney in the manufacturing of the Mankato Standard Cements.
In South Bend, there was also found the famous blue and green clay, used as a pigment by the Indians, and mistaken for copper by the French and from which is derived the names “Mankato” and “Blue Earth.” In 1869, Buck, Sowers and Co. started the manufacture from the clays in South Bend.
In the winter of 1854-55, a school teacher by the name of Murphy, living in New York City, advertised in a paper, a call for a meeting to form a colony to locate on western farms. A number of persons responded to this call and an organization formed entitled the “Minnesota Settlement Association.” A. Murphy was elected president, William Wilde, secretary, Ezra L. Ferguson, corresponding secretary, and A.A. Wessels, treasurer. A fee of $10 was charged each member when joining. The benefit assured him in return consisted of cheap transportation west, an opportunity to pre-empt 160 acres of the best farm land, one lot in the townsite which was to be platted in the midst of the new settlement, which was certain of being a big town and having a well settled community at once, instead of the isolation incident to the ordinary pioneer life.
During the winter of 1855-56 it was found that Robert Taylor came to Blue Earth County and selected the lands along the Maple River around Lura Lake, in Sterling and Mapleton Townships, 239 persons were entitled to benefits of the society. They left New York in April of 1856, reaching Mankato on the 5th day of May 1856. Only 139 received their claims. The rest dispersed, some went back home, others went to Mankato and other towns. The rest split to Sterling and Mapleton. Mapleton was created July 9, 1856. The county commissioners granted the petition of the citizens to change the name to Sterling. On April 3, 1860 Sterling became a separate organization.
Sterling Township (Township 103 North, Range 27 West of the 5th Principal Meridian) extends south to Faribault County, lies west of Mapleton. Some of the Scotch settlers thought the name should be Stirling after Lord Stirling of Scotland. William Russell suggested Sterling as pertaining to the pound sterling and the sterling worth of the land and its settlers. The name Sterling was adopted by the citizens with much enthusiasm.
Sterling Center was a prairie town with wooded land along the Maple River on the northeastern part of the township. It lies 25 miles south from Mankato, 7 miles west of Mapleton and 6 miles east of Amboy. It was settled in the 1850’s. The stage ran to Amboy and Mapleton three times a week. It had a post office, general store, blacksmith shop, feed mill, millinery store, a congregational church and even a doctor by 1895.
In the spring of 1855, the first settlers, V.A. Hyland, Horace DeWolfe and George Root came to Sterling. Many others followed in 1856.
The township originally had two large lake lying almost totally within its borders, Lura Lake on the east side, Jackson Lake on the west. Jackson Lake was eventually drained and is now farm land. Lura Lake was so named because an early settlers found the name “Lura” carved in a tree near the lake. The Indians called Lura Lake “Tweapa” meaning water lily, and “Ataakinyan” meaning crooked or irregular. Jackson Lake was named after settlers, Norman L. Jackson. The Indians called this lake, “Sinkpe” meaning muskrat.
Most of the celebrations were of a religious nature and were held at church or school buildings. Travel was by wagon or other horse drawn conveyance.
The first store in Sterling Center was opened in 1863 by William Russell, Sr. at his home on the west bank of Rice Creek in Section 15. In November 1863, he sold his farm to William B. Buell, keeping a small tract in the northeast corner just east of the creek. He built a new home here and moved in 1864, moving the post office and store there.
The first mill was built by Gideon B. Doty and his father, George W. Doty on Providence Creek about 80 rods from its mouth. A second mill was built in 1864 by George W. Doty and his son, Hiram B. Doty on the Maple River near the mouth of the creek. It was sold in February of 1866 to Fuller and Miller. Henry Spickerson had built a mill near the west shore of Lura Lake prior to 1862. It was sold to Alphie M. Hewitt who had Gideon B. Doty run it.
The first schooling began by teaching in the homes. Later some homes were opened to more students. One of the first schools began on the second floor of the Doty store building taught by H. Baker about 1866. Later log schools were built.
Religious services were conducted by Rev. J.E. Conrad, a Presbyterian minister, in his home, it being in the southeast quarter of the Section (See Sterling Congregational Church).
The post office first was established in the early 1860s, with William Russell the first postmaster, the office located in his house. Thomas Randall was next to receive the appointment and moved the post office to his home. He was succeeded by William Ellis, Jr. with the office located in his store. The “Sterling Store” remained in existence until the 1950s.
In 1907 a cheese factory started operations. A thousand pounds of milk came in and that indicated that it would be a success. Milk was taken every other day. But that too went by the wayside.
Today there is no “Sterling Center” town. The buildings were boarded up or torn down. Houses have gone up in their stead. The Sterling Township Hall is located on the other side of the creek. It is used for meetings, elections, etc. The church and cemetery where many of the first citizens are buried are all that remain of the little prairie town. Written by Clare Prechel for “The Heritage of Blue Earth County, MN,” 1990.
Vernon Center Township lies north of Shelby Township and in its early years was for the most part a prairie town. The Blue Earth River travels through the southeastern part of the township and the Watonwan River touches the northwest corner.
The first white settler to arrive in the township was Israel Wing, who located in Section 25 in the spring of 1855. Other settlers coming in 1855 were: Robert Marley, James Taylor, Thomas Doak, Joseph McClanahan, Alexander Arledge, Marcus L. Plumb, Marcus Johnson, John Darling, Cyrus Foot, George Keenan, Robert Hopper, Asa Barney, Charles Barney and Matthew Gallagher. In 1856 came Christian Detamore, Elnathan Kendall, Horton Nelson, David Carpenter, C.C. Washburn, Malon Warren, Lory and Solomon Harriman, Lucian, Nathan and William Bass, Harney Browning, George, Richard, Martin and Lewis Johnson, Solomon Halmick, John Miller, and Jonathan Leavitt. The first settlers lived in their covered wagons with elm bark in place of shingles. There were tremendous timber forests and a great abundance of waterfowl and wild game; however these slowly disappeared as settlers arrived and cleared the land.
Settlers arriving in 1857 were: Col. Benjamin Smith, Benjamin McCracken, Thomas Hays, Ezra Cooper, Franklin Barnes, Elias Carpenter, Levi Cord, Elkanah Davis, Edward Dolan, John Dooley, Edward and Peter Webber and Charles Beckwith. Soon after arrived Theodore Sowers, E.T. Champlin, Peter Mertesdorf, John and E.C. Wilber, E.D. Cornish, S.H. and S.R. Grannis, L.S. Terry, A.M. Hannay, Martin Conroy and S.J. Nimms. By 1857 all the land in Vernon Center Township had been claimed.
A townsite company was formed in Mt. Vernon, Ohio, called “The Blue Earth Company” in 1856, with the purpose of starting a town on the Blue Earth River. Two of the company’s most active promoters were Col. Benjamin F. Smith and Benjamin McCracken. Benjamin McCracken came to Blue Earth County in the spring of 1857 as an agent for the company. He purchased a parcel of land in Sections 26, 27, 34 and 35 in the township. In June 1857, the townsite was platted which became Vernon and later called Old Vernon.
In June 1857, Col. Benjamin F. Smith arrived and brought with him the machinery for a saw mill, which had been purchased in Mt. Vernon by the Blue Earth Company. Reuben and M.B. Haynes purchased half interest in the mill, which was erected in the fall and winter of 1857. The mill was operated by Smith and Haynes until 1862.
During the first year of its existence, Vernon village had a rival located two miles away on Sections 33 and 28. This townsite was called “Montevideo” and had been started in July 1857, by Horton Nelson, Jonathan Leavitt and Henry Goodsell. A steam saw mill was erected by Jonathan and Caleb Leavitt and Jacob Taylor in the fall of that year and was operated until it was moved to Madelia in November 1858. Nelson had begun erecting a hotel, but after the removal of the mill, it was abandoned and the town fell through. No plat was ever recorded.
The township formed a part of Shelby precinct for about a year. On July 8, 1857 the township was made into a separate election precinct and called “Vernon” which was suggested by Col. Smith and Benjamin McCracken, after Mt. Vernon, Ohio. The first election was held at the home of Benjamin McCracken, with Horton Nelson, C.C. Mack and T.B. Northrup the judges of the election. The first justice of the town, J.A. Darling was elected the fall of 1857.
On April 6, 1858, the county commissioners met to form the towns of the county. This township was called Montevideo, but changed to Vernon on April 6th and later changed to Vernon Center on October 14, 1858.
The meeting for organization of the township was held at Vernon on May 11, 1858. The following officers were elected: Supervisors, J.C. Browning, chairman, William Reed and Edward Nickerson; Clerk, J. P. Dooley; Assessor, Ezra Cooper; Collector, T.S. Hayes; Overseer of the Poor Israel Wing; Justices, Nathan Bass and G.W. Johnson; Constables, William Skinner and P.B. Day.
A post office was established in Vernon in 1858 and was called Vernon Center. John P. Dooley was the first postmaster. He was succeeded by John S. Smith in 1861. In 1863, Theodore Sowers was appointed postmaster during which time his home just south of the village of Vernon was a stopping place for the Mankato and Blue Earth stagecoaches.
The Blue Earth branch of the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha Railroad was completed in 1879 and it passed a half-mile to the east of the village of Vernon. Elnathan Kendall laid out a new townsite in the northwest quarter of Section 26 and called it “Vernon Center.” The railway company laid out another townsite adjoining Vernon Center, calling it “East Vernon.” Later the two towns of Vernon Center and East Vernon were combined and formed “Edgewood.”
A strong rivalry arose between Edgewood and Old Vernon. But the railway station gave the new town, Edgewood, the advantage and in March 1881, Edgewood became the site of town elections.
In July 1883, a new postoffice called Edgewood was created with E.W. Washburn as postmaster. In 1885, Edgewood and Old Vernon’s post offices were consolidated under the name of Vernon Center, with J.B. Pierce as postmaster. The name of the new village had been changed to Vernon Center in October 1881, but the name Edgewood was not entirely dropped until 1885 when the postoffices were consolidated.
The post office of Myrna was established in January 1874 and T.L. Perkins appointed postmaster. The office was in his home in Section 30 until February 1878 when E.D. Cornish and the office was moved to his home a mile farther south. The 1892 directory records a stage to Vernon Center tri-weekly with a fare of 25 cents. Myrna had a population of thirty in 1892.
Another post office was established about eight miles west of Vernon Center called Prion in approximately 1900. This office was very short lived and was discontinued in 1902.
The first religious services held in the township were conducted by Rev. C.L. Taylor, a Methodist minister from Shelbyville in the fall of 1857 in Vernon.
The first school was taught during the summer of 1858 by Miss Henrietta Smith in a small frame building in the village of Vernon. Six school districts were established, District No. 23, No. 24, No. 25, No. 26, No. 129 and No. 147.
*This information is quoted from "The Heritage of Blue Earth County, MN" (1990), by Julie Hiller Schrader