MINNEISKA AND WEAVER
Pages 133 ~ 138
From the book
"HISTORY OF WABASHA COUNTY, MINNESOTA"
Compiled by Franklyn Curtiss-Wedge and Others
Published Winona, MN by H. C. Cooper, Jr., & Co., 1920
Republished Currently by Higginson Books
Minneiska Township is situated in the southeastern part of Wabasha County, on the Mississippi River. It occupies fractional township 109, range 109. On the north is a portion of Greenfield Township, on the west is Watopa Township, on the south is Mount Vernon Township in Winona County, and across the Mississippi River to the eastward is Buffalo County, Wisconsin. It is crossed by one railroad, the River Division of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul, with stations in this township at the villages of Minneiska and Weaver.
Much of the township lies in the flood plain of the Mississippi, and the bottoms of the Zumbro and its tributaries and estuaries. The northern part is almost all a sandy prairie, broken to the eastward in sloughs and lagoons, furnishing an ideal region of numberless wild fowl. In the south and southwest there are bluffs, ridges and broken land along the Whitewater.
The Whitewater River mouths at Minneiska. In this township is also what was until recently the main mouth of the Zumbro, and also several courses of that broken river. The Zumbro and the Whitewater are connected with a small stream of water about a mile back from the Mississippi, and in high water the waters of the Mississippi back into the Zumbro, casing the waters of the Zumbro to flow into the Whitewater, and thus many of the early investigators found the two rivers mouthing together. At the present time, much of the water of the Zumbro discharges into the Mississippi, opposite a point a short distance below Alma, a dredged waterway having been established from Kellogg.
The first settlement within the limits of what is now known as the town of Minneiska was made as early as 1851, Michael Agnes coming up from St. Louis in August of that year, and building a shanty on the southeast corner, on the river side. Louis Krutely followed the same summer, settling near Agnes. During the same year Charles R. Read, of Read's Landing, purchased a claim some four miles further up the river. These men only built shanties to shelter themselves while cutting wood for the steamboats that plied up and down the river, and broke no ground for cultivation during their first year. Their mainstay for subsistence were the rod and the rifle, and very often they had nothing but fish and fowl, and considered themselves fortunate if they could occasionally trade their game for some flour and other necessaries with the stewards of the steamers. The total sale of their wood curing the summer did not buy enough food to supply them during the winter, and they had a hard time to pull through until the following spring. Steamboats were not as plenty on the rivers in those days as now, and the advent of a steamer passing at intervals of weeks was a godsend to these hardy men. They used to climb a tree on the island opposite to where now is built the pretty village of Minneiska, commanding a view of the river up and down for several miles, to sight a coming boat, and it was with feeling of anxiety, as their supplies would run low, that they would watch for the first sign of smoke or the pant-pant of the steamer.
In 1852, B. C. Baldwin, Abner Tibbetts, B. H. Reppe and Joseph Schurb all took claims on the river bank. In 1853 John Cook and Albert Pomeroy were among the arrivals.
Much of the early settlement centered about West Newton Village established in 1853, and Minneiska Village established in 1854.
As early as the year 1854 the first birth occurred in the town. This was a daughter of Jacob Schurb, christened Mary, born in the month of January. The first marriage was that of Peter Schenk to Mary Leyes. The ceremony took place on July 16, 1856. The first death was that of the wife of John Meyer, which took place in January, 1855. Religious services were held here as early as 1856 by Elder Mallinson. The first school was taught by Mary Adams, in the summer of 1858, in a building owned by C. Anderson. No regular school building was erected until the year 1866.
The town was organized May 11, 1858. The official record of the first meeting, so far as is known, has not been preserved. However, A. Z. Putnam was the first chairman, and as such sat on the county board that year.
The second annual meeting was held at the place of S. C. Brown, April 5, 1859. The following officers were elected: A. Z. Putnam, chairman of supervisors; G. E. Kaeding and James M. Douglass, supervisors; Linus Bascom, town clerk; Linus Bascom, assessor; Aaron Fox, collector; Peter Wurstlein, overseer of poor.
The township name is of Dakota Indian origin, "minne" meaning water, and "ska," white. The river which has its mouth near here was called by the Indians Minneiska, and is now known as the Whitewater.
West Newton village was platted in 1853 by Charles R. Read, B. C. Baldwin, Abner Tibbetts and B. H. Reppe, taking its designation from a steamboat wrecked nearby that summer, leaving its pilot house, with its vividly printed name, about the water line. The plat was an elaborate one, showing magnificent streets and boulevards, with sites for churches, hotels, business houses and residences, and reservations for parks, public buildings and the like. Lots were disposed of through New York and Chicago agents. Purchasers, however, found here in place of an imporved village site, only a natural landing, a wrecked steamboat, and a few scattered cabins.
In 1853 Charles R. Read built a store and hotel, and a postoffice was established. In 1854, B. H. Reppe built a store. But the river soon began to wash the land away, the embryo village died, and the site is now almost covered with water.
Minneiska Village was platted in 1854, by the two first settlers, Michael Agnes and Louis Krutely. In the same year that the town site was laid out Dr. Geo. F. Childs and a few others located here. Little improvement was made from this time until the fall of 1856, when Pliny Putnam built a hotel. S. A. Houck commenced mercantile operations the same season, and H. B. Slater opened a store in 1856. The first blacksmith shop was built and put in operation by Albert Pomeroy, but he had not remained in the business long when he sold out to Peter Peterrein. The first warehouse was built by Dr. Childs in 1856, and was occupied by Timmerman & Swart in 1857. In 1856 a steam sawmill was erected by the firm of Biglow & Son, which was continued in operation about four years, when the business was closed up and the machinery removed to Chippewa. In 1861, Bentley & Yale built a large grain warehouse.
The first school taught in Minneiska was in the summer of 1858, by a Miss Adams, but no schoolhouse was erected there until 1866. The Roman Catholics built a fine church there in 1867, and the Lutherans built one in 1871. The Methodists, also, have a small house of worship.
The older residents still tell of the great fire of January 6, 1884. The fire was discovered by Nick Rouck, a merchant, between his store on Main street, known as the Agnes building, and the large elevator of Brooks Bros., the belief being that it originated in the former building, which, besides being occupied as a store and dwelling by Nick Rouck, was also occupied as a dwelling by the Bowman and Agnes families. The night was clear and extremely cold, the thermometer registerd 30 degrees below zero, with a light wind blowing from the bluffs, and both the Agnes building and the large elevator were soon enveloped; the flames then crossed the street, and, despite every effort by the people, caught on the large three and a half story hotel, owned by Joseph E. Becker, of St. Charles, and managed by John W. Short, and this structure was soon reduced to ashes. Two other buildings, one a warehouse, owned by Brooks Bros., lying northeast of their elevator, and the other an icehouse, lying north of that, were also razed to the ground. Twenty-five thousaned bushels of grain were destroyed in the elevator, besides all the machinery. Dr. D. F. Brooks, who, in partnership with Dr. Jas. B. Cole, had an office in the elevator building, lost a medical library, while Dr. Cole lost all his surgical instruments.
The village is picturesquely situated on the Mississippi river bank, parallel to which the main street ~ the only one of any consequence ~ extends for over a mile. On this street, which is somewhat elevated above the bank, are a number of stores, modern as to stock and equipment, which draw a good trade from the surrounding country. Located on the River Branch of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway are an elevator and lumber yard, the former representing the Farmers' co-operative movement, while the latter is under private ownership. Both are doing a thriving business. The Farmers' State Bank is a sound financial institution which is rapidly gaining strength, and there is a local telephone exchange which well serves the village and surrounding districts. In a sharp bend of the road, at the lower end of the business part of the village, is the Grand View Hotel, which, during the summer months enjoys a good patronage from transient pleasure seekers, attracted by the excellent fishing facilities. Many of the houses at the upper end of the village are located on the side of a steep bluff, commanding a beautiful view of the river, and are reached by climbing long flights of steps leading up from the road. Three churches ~ Catholic, Methodist and Lutheran ~ furnish opportunities for religious worship for people of different creeds, and include in their combined congregations most of the people of the village. Fishing is an industry pursued not only for pleasure, but also as a matter of business, and large catches are often made. Minneiska has one of the finest natural landing places on the upper Mississippi, and should the proposed plans for the revival of river traffic materialize, the village may again witness the lively and bustling scenes attendant upon the arrival and departure of steamers.
The Farmers' State Bank of Minneiska was organized November 30, 1917, with O. J. Linstrum, president; E. F. Fitzgerald, vice-president, and A. E. Laufenburger, cashier. The bank started with a capital of $10,000, which has since remained the same, and a surplus of $2,000, which has been increased to $5,000. A recent statement showed deposits of $200,000, and undivided profits of $671 after paying a 10 per cent dividend and increasing the surplus to $5,000. The officers are the same as at the beginning, while the directors are C. F. Mogren, John Peshon, Bert Gage, E. F. Fitzgerald, August Nelson, O. J. Linstrum and Julius Zimmerman. The institution does a general banking business, handling insurance and farm loans.
The Catholic Church at Minneiska ~ The first Catholic settlers locating in what we now call Minneiska (formerly known as Whitewater) were Michael Agnes and Louis Krutly, who arrived about 1852. They were single and enterprising young men. The first Catholic family coming here was that of Joseph Schurb, whose wife in maidenhood was Elizabeth Traut. They took a homestead about a mile west of the village incorporation. To this couple was born in 1854 the first white child in the neighborhood, Mary Schurb. Baptism was deferred for some years on account of not seeing a Catholic priest. In 1857 the first priest came, administered baptism to about seven children, and at the same time held a four days' mission, to preach to the lonesome and forlorn Catholic people to be steadfast in their faith, to look with confidence to the Divine Providence, who would send in due time a priest at intervals to minister to them the sacraments and instruct them in the principles of their religion. The good priests were Father Lette and Father Van.
In October, 1858, Father Tissot was sent by Bishop Cretin of St. Paul, as first resident priest at Wabasha, and to take care of the adjacent country, which included Minneiska. He came to Minneiska about Easter time in 1859. Like the priests who had previously visited this place, Father Tissot was obliged to celebrate Mass in private houses, including those of Michael Agnes, John Salintini, Peter Werstlein and Anton Heaser, the latter residing in Trout Valley. These services kept the few Catholic families together and preserved the seed of Catholicity which was destined in after years to sprout so profusely.
Even the change of pastors in 1866 to Father Trobec, did not in the beginning bring a change of divine worship. The Catholic community at this time numbered about eighteen families ~ those of Michael Agnes, Joseph Schurb, Nicholas Bartholomae, Peter Schank, Joseph Heaser, Michael Heaser, Nicholas Hidershide, Anton Heaser, John Peter Nepper, Nicholas Becker, Henry Maus, Henry Nepper, Peter Werstlein, Michael Ponsle, Valentine and Charles Jacob Jackson, Peter Peshon, Nicholas Walch and Matt. Runk. Poor as they were, but thrifty, they listened to the advice of good Father Trobec to build a little church, and on June 18, 1867, a building committee was appointed, consisting of Michael Agnes (president), Peter Schank (secretary) and Joseph Schurb (treasurer). Michael Agnes donated two lots towards the new church, thereby settling its location. The burden of expense was carried by the members through assessment, the total amount being about $1,100. The dimensions of that frame structure were: 30 feet wide, 40 feet long, and 14 feet high without a sanctuary or a belfry. The altar and vestments came from Wabasha, Father Trobec himself building the altar. This church answered the purpose for 44 years and kept the struggling little flock together.
On June 18, 1867, was celebrated the First Communion Day in the house of Mr. Agnes. The happy communicants were Joseph Schurb, Mary Hidershide, Mary Heaser, Anton Sery and Mary Schurb. It is gratifying to think of the noble-minded men and thoroughly Catholic mothers who guided the destiny of our parish from the beginning. Every word spoken by Father Trobec seemed to have been a seed for good and found a ready echo in the hearts of his listeners, and even to this day his memory is as vivid as if the good Father had left only yesterday. About the year 1871 the cemetery was bought by the parish and later on deeded over to the diocese. The first Catholic man buried there was the late Jacob Dondlinger, who dies July 16, 1870. Since then most of our old Catholic pioneers have found a quiet resting-place under the shade of the iron cross which was erected in the year 1906.
In 1887 Father Trobec was removed to St. Paul and Father Wurst took charge of Wabasha and this place. On account of the multifarious duties incumbent on Father Wurst, things under his guidance went about the same as under Father Trobec's regime. Services were kept about twice a month, on a week day and on a Sunday, as Wabasha had off and on an assistant. We may honorably mention the Fathers Geran, Jacob, Hechenberger, O'Connel, Lager and Holper. About 1890 the sanctuary was built to the church and the whole church was back-plastered at an expense of about $480.
December, 1895, brought one of the greatest changes into the Catholic community of Minneiska by the appointment of the Rev. Francis Xavier Mueller as resident pastor at St. Mary's church. Then Father Mueller arrived at Minneiska and made his first home with the family of Henry Wolf, remaining there until a suitable residence could be procured. The parish soon set to work to find a suitable rectory, the trustees and pastor securing the Brooks residence for $1,000, and within a short time the residence was furnished and ready for occupancy. Under Father Mueller's direction, more space for worship was provided by the construction of a new floor to the entire church and the enlargement of the gallery to twice its former capacity. On February 10, 1896, Father Mueller also organized the two main societies: St. Joseph's for men, and St. Ann's for ladies, both established for the spiritual good of his flock. He proved a faithful, devoted and hard-working pastor, and it came as a shock to the congregation when, on the first Sunday in October, 1900, he announced that he had to obey his Bishop's call to another field. And mingled with the sad feeling of parting with a beloved pastor came the stunning calamity of the ever memorable day of October 24, 1900, when a terrible fire destroyed over half of Minneiska, also leaving in ashes the priest house, with the trunks already packed for Father Mueller's departure. "With few things I came to Minneiska," said the distressed priest, "but with less earthly property I leave this place." All the records, such as baptismal, matrimonial and death records, were destroyed; the secretary's and treasurer's records were saved, being in the hands of Joseph Schurb, the treasurer.
On account of the general distress, the new German priest, Rev. Casper Koegel, arrived unnoticed, and before the people were aware of his presence he had found a temporary home in the Grand View Hotel, then managed by William and Margareta Fitzgerald, who have since gone to their eternal reward. In 1901 a new rectory was built at a cost of $1,800. A chapel was attached to the rectory, in which the weekday services and other incidental devotions were held. Also, by permission of the Bishop, the Blessed Sacrament was kept therein and the stations of the cross were canonically erected.
On February 4, 1905, a written appeal was sent to each member of the parish for the purpose of erecting a new church, but for some reason or other, no active steps were immediately taken about it by the pastor. In 1907, on his return from a vacation in Europe, the pastor personally took up the subscriptions for the church from the members of his parish, and within two weeks nearly $8,000 had been subscribed, for Minneiska was anxious to keep the church within her limits, and Catholics as well as non-Catholics contributed to the cause. Henry Husser generously offered to donate a half acre of his valuable land.
In May, 1908, the building committee was elected, consisting of John Peshon for the village of Minneiska, Anton Tibesar for Mount Vernon, Edward Heaser for the Trout Valley, James Sullivan for White Water Valley, John Malony for Indian Creek, Thomas Sheehan for Sand Prairie, and by virtue of their office, Father Koegel, Henry Wolf and John Riley, being officers of St. Mary's Corporation, also belonged to the building committee. The committee decided upon a full stone foundation with a brick superstructure, the plans and specifications being drawn up by W. H. Stenens of Winona. The church was erected by Oscar Lindstrom of Minneiska, who in 1901 built the rectory, and whose father, John Lindstrom, in 1867, built the first Catholic church of this place. Work was begun in the fall of 1908, the cornerstone laid April 27, 1909, by Rev. Father Schmitz, who was delegated by the Vicar-General, the Bishop being ill, Father Meier of Winona, who preached the German sermon, and Peter Tibesar of Minneiska, a theological student, acting as assistants. The church was subsequently completed and is now one of the ornaments of the village. The high altar was donated by subscriptions from the Oak Ridge people, under the good influence of Frank Maschka (now deceased). One side altar was donated by Mr. And Mrs. Anton Tibesar; the bells were donated by Andrew Kreidemacher. New stations of the cross, and also confessionals, have been installed by various parishioners, the cemetery has been put in first-class condition, a group erected therein, and a handsome fence built around the grounds, the expense of improvements being about $1,000. Father Koegel has been pastor since 1900. He has been a hard worker, in addition to the church at Minneiska, having built one equally as large at his mission at Elba, Minn., and during his charge the rectory at Minneiska has been built. Both buildings have been cleared of all debt and other improvements are going on.
Weaver village dates from 1871 when it was laid out, the intention being the establishment of an important shipping and trading center on the newly opened railroad. The first settler in this region was Andrew Olson, who brought his family here in the early fifties. He was followed by George and Christopher Abbott. In 1857 William Weaver secured a farm here, and it is upon a part of his place that the village is platted. When the village was laid out, W. H. Hopkins erected and opened a store and was appointed postmaster. William Weaver erected a large hotel. Warehouses and other business interests followed. In 1872 a schoolhouse was built, and this served not only as a place of secular instruction, but also furnished a meeting place for the Methodist Episcopal and Norwegian Lutheran congregations.
The village is situated on the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway, in the southwest part of Minneiska Township. It has several good stores, a bank, a hotel, and a creamery, all well managed and prosperous institutions. To the west and somewhat to the north lies an extensive plateau, reached from the village by a road along the southern aspect of the bluff, which becomes steeper and more picturesque as it nears the summit; while about a mile to the north lies the southern edge of Sand Prairie, stretching from the river to about half a mile from the foot of the bluffs, and north into Greenfield Township. Weaver is a convenient market town for much of the surrounding territory, and is the home of a number of retired farmers, in addition to the local business men and railroad workers.
The Weaver State Bank was established in 1916 for the convenience of the farmers and merchants, among whom the stock was distributed. About a year ago it came under more exclusive management. Its president is D. J. Murphy; cashier, C. L. Childe, and assistant cashier, G. P. Todd. The bank has a capital of $12,000; surplus and profits of $2,400, and deposits averaging $37,000.
End of Chapter