MOUNT PLEASANT TOWNSHIP
"HISTORY OF WABASHA COUNTY"
Compiled by Dr. L. H. Bunnell
Published Chicago by H. H. Hill, Publishers, 1884
Republished Currently by Higginson Books
The appropriate name was suggested by the magnificent view presented to an observer from the tops of some of the elevations in the south central part, and from the summit of Lone mound the sight is truly grand. For miles in all directions stretches the expanse of prairie, whose fertility is attested by the neat and commodious buildings everywhere present; neat churches and schoolhouses add to the effect, while to the northeast the eye catches the river hills of the Wisconsin side, and a glimpse of the blue waters of Lake Pepin through the valley of Boodie creek.
The northern part is drained by Sugar-Loaf creek, and in the eastern part Boodie creek begins its short course to the lake, amid wild and romantic surroundings.
The underlying rocks here are Potsdam lime and sandstone, which appear as picturesque walls along the valleys, with an occasional outcrop on the prairie, and are covered with strata of till, sand, gravel, yellow and blue clay, and rich loam.
A few birch, shrub-oak and poplar grow along the cooleys, but no timber of consequence is found. Wild grapes and plums are abundant in their season.
On the prairie roads are good and usually follow section lines, but in the cooleys much labor is required to keep them passable, owing to the rains which frequently work destruction by washing away or covering with debris from the hillsides. These roads are mainly kept in repair at the expense of the county, and in the eastern part a small portion has been macadaized. An Indian trail from Central Point formerly ran through Gilbert valley, and one crossed the southern part of the township. The first road in the township was one from Central Point to Mazeppa, reaching the prairie at the head of Bull's cooley. It was laid out by P. D. Martin and Robert Phillips, of Central Point, and used but a few years, the Mazeppa road, crossing the township diagonally, was early established and until late years saw a very heavy travel, being the main artery through which Lake City received its extensive trade from the southwest.
At first the American element largely predominated in Mount Pleasant, but of late years the population is about equally divided between those of American and foreign nativity. Of the latter class the German and Irish are the principal elements.
In production the township is probably not surpassed by any part of this rich county, grain, of course, being the main product. Stock-raising has lately received increased attention, the valleys being especially adapted to this industry. In the eastern part several attempts have been made to burn lime, but none very successfully.
In June, 1854, the settlement was begun by the location of O. A. Warren on the northwest quarter of section 1. He came with his family from Jo Diviess county, Illinois, and was a native of the Empire State. In 1866 he moved to Pierce county, where he still lives. The fall of the same year saw the arrival of Isaac Horton and William Bean, who settled on sections 12 and 1 respectively. Both of these have since left the county. In the spring of 1855 William Walters and Alfred Hannings settled in the northeastern part, and the next summer brought Milo Bull and Joel Clark. Mr. Clark purchased William Bean's "right of settlement" for two hundred and fifty dollars, and is still on the farm, being the oldest settler now living in the township. In the fall Sanford Gilbert settled on the farm where he now lives. The settlements above mentioned were all made in the valley, and in 1856 the prairie in the southeastern part was settled by William Mann, Benj. Taylor, E. P. C. Fowler, S. B. Clark, George Clark, E. H. Palmer, William Lewis, Jacob Rinus, Alfred Betterly, and perhaps others. The year 1857 saw quite an immigration, and the township rapidly filled up.
Those who came with a supply of money got along well enough, but many who lacked ready cash, experienced considerable hardship. During the "winter of the deep snow" (1856-7) markets were often inaccessible, provisions rather scarce, and trust was not to be had by the moneyless. Stories are told of those who lived for weeks on potatoes and salt, or a similarly scant diet, and one family is said to have existed four weeks on frozen rutabagas. Here, as elsewhere, the monotony of life was broken by visiting with ox teams, merry gatherings, getting lost on the prairie, hunting, etc., and as the settlement grew older, and the virgin soil bestowed successive bounties on the brave pioneers, population and prosperity rapidly increased, and this little spot, but yesterday the home of the buffalo and Indian, has become one of the most desirable places in the county.
An independent, open temperance society has been in operation for about sixteen years, and the interest is yet unflagging. Monthly meetings are held on Sunday afternoons in the Methodist and Presbyterian churches alternately. Popular temperance speakers are secured occasionally, and readings, music and speaking vary the exercises. The life and prosperity of this society through so many years is rather phenomenal.
The first birth in this township was that of a daughter to Mrs. S. B. Clark. In the spring of 1857 death first visited the town, taking from the little settlement the spirit of Mr. Palmer. In March, 1859, the Rev. Sila Hazlett united in marriage Ephraim Selby and Adaline Clark, which was probably the first matrimonial know tied in the township.
In the spring of 1858 a meeting was held at the residence of E. H. Palmer to determine the name of the township about to be organized. Several names were proposed, among them "Huntington," by Wm. Lewis, and "Greenfield," by Silas Gilbert, both seeking to honor places of former residence. After considerable debate the present name was adopted, as before mentioned, being suggested by the views the adjacent elevations commanded. May 11, 1858, the legal voters met at the house of Benj. Taylor, on section 32, twenty-three voters being present. The meeting was organized by choosing Stanton B. Clark, moderator; James M. Knapp, judge; and E. P. C. Fowler and Sidney Cross, clerks. No wirepulling or excited buttonholing characterized this election. The men elected were the only candidates, having been chosen beforehand by mutual consent, and were voted for regardless of party.
The result of the election is partly shown in the table given below, and besides these the following officers were chosen: J. W. Cross and Silliman Gilbert, assistant supervisors; Harvey Seymour, overseer of town poor; J. M. Knapp and Alfred Betterly, constables, and S. B. Clark and Isaac C. Smith, justices.
This township has always been characterized by an unusual harmony, socially and politically. Party lines have never been closely drawn in local elections, there usually being but one ticket in the field; and so free from domestic difficulties is the community, that the one the justice of peace usually elected is rarely called upon to exercise himself officially.
Until the building of the narrow gauge railroad through the central part of the county the Mazeppa road was the scene of a constant stream of travel, many of the farmers coming long distances. For the accommodation of this portion of the traveling public, in the temporal matters of eating, drinking and lodging, J. Kramer, in 1858, built a small log hotel on section 26. It was run but a few years, owing probably to the competition of the Boston House about a mile down the road. This was a commodious frame erected in the fall of 1858, by Sidney Cross. For several years after it was built it was run by parties who rented the establishment, and in 1866 Mr. Cross himself became host and enjoyed a good patronage until 1878, when the travel was meterially lessened and the Boston House was closed to the public.
During and for a time after the war a postoffice was run by Dr. Veeder at his house.
But few tragical incidents in this quarter call for narration. Two or three robberies have been attempted in the lonely cooleys, and shortly after the war a Negro, John Newsom by name, was found on the prairie by Patrick McCormick, rigid in the icy embrace of death. Going home on a cold winter's night, half drunk, he became lost and helpless and slept his last sleep in the drifting snow and bitter wind. July 5, 1872, a cyclone crossed the township, demolishing a house belonging to J. N. Williams. Two persons were in the house at the time, and an empty barrel and a grub-pile stood near the house on either side; the occupants escaped uninjured and neither barrel nor grub-pile were moved. Besides taking the roof from another house no further material damage was done.
In the summer of 1856 the residents of the northeastern part hired Miss Laura Eldred to teach a term of three months. The only shelter available for the work was a little claim shanty which stood across the road in the edge of Goodhue county. These were the first educational advantages enjoyed by residents of this township. The first term taught in the township was probably in the summer of 1857, in the northern part, by Mrs. Alexander Graham. Among the other pioneer teachers of that day were Alfred Hannings, who taught the first term in district No. 7; Mary Smith, who began the work of education in No. 12; George Sexton, of No. 10; Mrs. P. C. Tabor in No. 67, and Mary Burleigh in No. 8. The first schools were nearly all taught before the organization of the districts by private subscription, and usually in some discarded claim or log shanty. In some instances schools were held in private houses for several years, and the facilities enjoyed were necessarily very crude. Books from different states, and of many kinds, was on of the difficulties presented to the teacher. In district No. 12 the third term was held in a little log house in which Sidney Cross had formerly "bached it," and he again found himself master in that shanty, this time in a different capacity. In this instance each family provided a seat for its young hopefuls, the size of the family bench being regulated by the number of children. In one district a school was held in a small granary about the time that very large hoops were the style; as the teacher dressed in fashion when she entered the temple of learning but little room was left for much else. So the hoops had to be dispense with, making an odd and noticeable change in contrast with her usual appearance. Usually the teachers of that day possessed a fair amount of pedagogical ability, but occasionally one aspired to rule whose capacity and qualifications hardly justified his pretensions. One teacher who didn't know the multiplication table ended his pedagogical career the second week, and another told his class to skip fractions, as they wouldn't have any use for them. He probably didn't believe in doing things "by halves." But since that time the schools have partaken of the general prosperity and progress, and now eight neat frame schoolhouses dot the township.
Rev. Silas Hazlett, of Lake City, was the first to hold religious services in this township. In January, 1857, he met about a dozen persons at the log house of Stanton Clark and began the ministration which he has ever since continued. Two weeks later he preached at E. P. C. Fowler's, and for some time his services were held at private houses, or on the open prairie beneath an oak-tree's verdant roof. When the schoolhouse of district No. 10 was built services were there held, and the Presbyterian church was organized with about six members. In 1867 the present frame church was erected at a cost of two thousand dollars. The strength of the church is now about thirty. For twenty-six years has Mr. Hazlett been pastor of this little flock, marrying and burying those whom in childhood he christened, and he still visits them once in two weeks.
Methodist ~ During the war the community in the southwestern part of the township was visited by Rev. Stillwell, who preached a few times; by Rev. Hill, a Baptist, who preached occasionally for about a year; and also by Charles Hudson. In 1865 Henry Goodsell began preaching in the schoolhouse of district No. 10; he awakened considerable interest and organized a class. It was during his ministration that the church reached its period of greatest prosperity, and a church costing seventeen hundred dollars was built and dedicated free of debt. He has been followed by Messrs. Richardson, McMiff, Matson, Lathrop, Wilfred and Rockwood, the present incumbent. A union Sabbath school has been running ever since the start of the church and is held alternately at the Methodist and Presbyterian churches.
The first preaching in the northern part of the township was in the fall of 1865, by Rev. Birch, then a student at the Hamlin University of Red Wing. He continued his visits about two years and organized a class in the spring of 1866 at schoolhouse No. 8. He was followed by Henry Goodsell, and during his incumbency the County Line church was built at a cost of nine hundred dollars.
Rev. Richardson succeeded him, and during his stay this class and the one in West Florence, Goodhue county, united. This charge was visited successively by Messrs. McMiff, Phelps, Matteson, Wright and Noah Lathrop, who saw the breaking up of the class through dissension and emigration.
In 1880 Thomas Hartley, a Wesleyan minister of Greenwood Prairie, preached regularly in the schoolhouse, and the next year was followed by Mr. R. Balbridge, of the same denomination. A revival blessed his efforts and services were transferred to the County Line church. February, 1882, a church of thirteen members was organized by him, and afterward they purchased the church building of the Methodist Episcopal organization. A flourishing Sabbath school has been running for many years.
In 1870, T. A. Thompson, of Plainview, then state lecturer in the interests of the grange, visited this neighborhood and stirred up an interest which resulted in the establishment of a grange. Mount Pleasant Grange, No. 53, was organized at the schoolhouse of district No. 10, June 21, 1870, by D. K. G. Clark. It began with thirty-one charter members and the following officers were chosen: W. J. Newton, M.; J. C. Fowler, Sec.; N. F. Randolph, Chap., and T. W. Robinson, Lect. At first, meetings were held at the schoolhouse and afterward for several years at the residence of J. O. Fowler. In 1874 the old schoolhouse of district No. 10 was purchased and fitted up for a hall, which was used until the disbanding in 1878. Its greatest membership was forty-nine in 1872, and the interest was well kept up during its existence. The last meeting was held May 8, 1878.
This community has long manifested an interest in temperance and temperance work; and the influence of their work and efforts has been considerable.
Good Templar Lodge, No. 121, was organized July 27, 1875, by F. C. Stow, D. G. W. C. T., at the Presbyterian church, with fifty-six charter members. Soon after this meetings were begun in the grange hall, and there continued until the sale of the building, which deprived them of a place of meeting and was the main element in the death of the organization, no regular meetings being held thereafter. October, 1877, the membership reached sixty-seven.