VILLAGE OF PLAINVIEW
"HISTORY OF WABASHA COUNTY"
Compiled by Dr. L. H. Bunnell
Published Chicago by H. H. Hill, Publishers, 1884
Republished Currently by Higginson Books
Tefft House and City of Plainview
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The House In Which I Was Raised In Plainview *
The charming little village of Plainview is found in the heart of that delightful tract of country in the southern part of Wabasha county known as Greenwood Prairie. The place now (in 1884) has a population of probably eight hundred, the result of a steady and wholesome development through a period of twenty-eight years. It is located in the township of Plainview, on parts of sections 7, 8, 9, 16, 17, and 18, about four miles north of the White Water, the nearest river. It is the terminus of the Plainview division of the Chicago & Northwestern railway, which has its junction with the main line at Eyota in the adjoining county of Olmsted.
In the spring of 1856 J. Y. Blackwell, an Iowa lawyer, possessed of pioneer proclivities, arrived with his family on what is now the village site, and erected an insignificant domicile, half logs and half boards, near the present location of Geo. S. La Rue & Co's drug store, corner Broadway and Jefferson street; and the same season Levi Ormsby constructed a claim shanty a half-mile farther west. Mr. Blackwell was possessed of some means and at once set about getting out the timbers for a hotel, which was raised on the site of the present Plainview House, on the ensuing 4th of July. Ozias Wilcox arrived that summer, bought forty acres opposite the hotel, on section 8, from Hugh Wiley, and erected a store and dwelling combined. David Van Wort put up a carpenter-shop, and a Mr. Bray a blacksmith-shop. A few others had located on land that has since become a part of the present village of Plainview; among these were Edwin Chapman, Lloyd Yale and David Ackley; Dr. Gibbs was also an early comer. Thus populated the embryo city encountered the terrible winter of 1856-7, which opened up in November with a terrific snowstorm. The snow lay to a depth of about four feet on the level until the following April, and in places was drifted so as to nearly bury the poor little shanties of these humble pioneers. Communication with the outside world was practically cut off, and fortunate was this little community in having Mr. Wilcox and his well stocked store of groceries and provisions to draw upon in its extremity. This store is the same building now occupied by the Plainview bank. Throughout the entire winter of 1876-7, it was surrounded by a narrow court, swept bare by the same sporting winds that banked the snow several feet high on every side. Into these walls of snow, hard packed and frozen, steps were cut, that proved a substantial means of exit from the court below until an April sun destroyed them.
The severity of this first winter disheartened many people in the settlement, and but for poverty and a beautiful spring another winter would have found Plainview quite deserted. However, with the return of spring came new pioneer reinforcements from the States, other industries were established, and a delightful and prosperous season reassured all save Mr. Blackwell, who shrank from encountering the hardships of another winter, and busied himself before the approach of cold weather. In this he succeeded, and at once left for his Iowa home, deserting forever his little prairie protege.
The new town was first dubbed Centerville, and was platted under that name, which was changed to Plainview -- signifying its sightly location -- upon learning that another Minnesota town had also been christened Centerville. So successful have the inhabitants of Plainview been in arboriculture, that the plain view of early days is in these times much obscured; indeed the little city is fairly encompassed by groves of beautiful trees that effectually moderate the blasts of winter and parry the fierce heat of the midsummer sun, adding much to the physical beauty of the town.
The platting of the village of Plainview in the summer of 1857 was the conjoint work of J. Y. Blackwell, Ozias Wilcox, T. A. Thompson, Lloyd Yale and Dr. Gibbs. Additions to the village have since been made by T. A. Thompson on the west, H. P. Wilson on the east, and A. P. Foster on the south.
Its existence was at first menaced and its prosperity retarded by Greenville (afterward Greenwood), a rival aspirant for urban honors, located two and one-half miles east of Plainview. Fortunately for the latter town, Greenville could not give an unquestionable title to her real estate, as it was a part of the Sioux half-breed tract, and capitalists seeking investments for their money in village property were prone to pass her by. Plainview, on the other hand, had no such unfortunate circumstance to contend against, and thus having decidedly the advantage of her rival, soon vanquished her in the race. A few years later and Greenville is a thing of the past, while her leading spirits have augmented the industrial ranks of their elated and flourishing rival.
As early as the summer of 1858 we find a school established in the village. David Van Wort's carpenter-shop sufficed for a schoolroom, and a young Vermonter by the name of Hale wields the ferule. An old building that still stands on High street became the next schoolhouse; prior to this it had served duty as a drugstore for Dr. Gibbs. The district when first established was known as No. 60, and retained this number until it was organized into an independent district in 1869. The present school-building was erected on the public square, near the center of the village, in 1867, at a cost of nearly sixteen thousand dollars. The following year the school was graded. A few years ago the high school was created, and the required course of studies adopted, and today the Plainview public schools rank high among the schools of Minnesota.
The first religious organization of any kind in Plainview was effected by the Rev. O. P. Crawford, of Forest Mound, in August, 1857, and consisted of a class composed of the following named ladies and gentlemen, namely, J. Y. Blackwell, Guerdon Town, Sophronia Town, S. Lattie, Mrs. Lattie, Matilda Todd, Mrs. Thompson and Edwin L. Ball. This class afterward developed into the Methodist Episcopal church society of Plainview, which opened the first Sunday school in the village in April, 1861, with Franklin Sylvester as supterintendent. The present Methodist church edifice was erected in 1866; it is 33x60 feet, and cost four thousand dollars. The society have also a parsonage that cost them one thousand dollars, which was built in the summer of 1867.
In 1863 the Rev. Henry Williard organized the Congregational church society, which has since become the leading church of Plainview. In 1871 their present church edifice was built, at a cost of seven thousand dollars. Its dimensions are 36x56 feet, with a vestry (the gift of the Rev. H. Williard) 28x32 feet.
The Society of Christians was organized in Plainview February 1, 1864, with twenty members. The first pastor was Abraham Shoemacher. In 1866 they purchased the old schoolhouse and converted it into a church.
The Methodist and Congregational societies support regular weekly preaching.
A Catholic society is organizing and preparing to build a church.
Both the Odd-Fellows and Masonic fraternities have good healthy organizations in Plainview. Plainview Lodge, No. 63, A.F.A.M., was organized December 24, 1866, and Plainview Lodge, No. 16, I.O.O.F., was instituted with fifteen chartered members on December 26, 1866.
Several lodges of Good Templars have had brief existences; and the Ancient Order of United Workmen once flourished in Plainview, but is now defunct.
While the prevailing spirit is anti-rum, there is yet no organized temperance society in the town except a branch of the Women's Christian Temperance Union.
The first attention to the banking business in Plainview was in 1864, when E. B. Eddy established a small bank in connection with his hardware store. In 1867 we find Mr. Eddy giving his exclusive attention to the management of the first and only bank in the place, which is known as the Plainview bank. The business has seemed to prosper form the very first; has changed hands several times; at present the firm is Henry Amerland & Co., of which the Hon. W. E. Wording is the managing spirit, with a capital of twenty-one thousand dollars.
Long before the advent of the Plainview railroad the village had become an excellent market for the productions of the large and extended tract of rich farming lands that surround it. Large quantities of grain were bought by Plainview buyers, who hauled it with teams to shipping points on the Mississippi river. In 1878 the railroad was completed from Eyota to Plainview, and the building of elevators was commenced, of which there are now three, each having a capacity of about thirty thousand bushels.
In the spring of 1875 Plainview became for the first time an incorporated village. The territory embraced within her corporate limits was as follows: The S.E. 1/4 of Sec. 7, S. of Sec. 8, S.W. 1/4 of Sec. 9, N.W. 1/4 of Sec. 16, N. of Sec. 17 and the N.E. 12 of Sec. 18. The first election of officers resulted in the choice of E. B. Eddy for president, Chas. Weld, Dr. J. P. Waste and Wm. Lawton for trustees, A. C. Cornwell for recorder, R. Burchard for treasurer and A. B. W. Norton for justice of the peace. Three years later the municipal organization was abandoned, in order that the residents of the village might vote with the remainder of Plainview township, the bonds required to further the building of the Plainview & Eyota railroad; and since 1878 the village has had no municipal government.
The first newspaper ever published in Plainview was a campaign sheet, edited by N. E. And M. Stevens, of Wabasha, and issued, for a few weeks in the early part of the year 1864, from a local office, where it was printed. It was named the Plainview "Enterprise," and was a half-patent six-column folio. The next newspaper venture was made by T. G. Bolton, who issued the first copy of the Plainview "News" on the 16th of Novemeber, 1874. This paper was the same size as the defunct "Enterprise;" was issued monthly, printed in Wabasha, and designed especially as an advertising medium for Mr. Bolton's drug business. It has been issued weekly since April 18, 1877, when F. A. Wilson became its proprietor. The following June the Plainview "News" printing-office was established, and a few weeks later the ready-print feature of the paper was discarded. April 1, 1878, H. J. Byron purchased the office, and six months later took into partnership Ed. A. Paradis, to whom he sold the interest which he had retained in the "News" in April, 1882, since which time Mr. Paradis has continued sole proprietor of the business.
The village of Plainview now contains about forty places of business, has three physicians, one lawyer. The business buildings are chiefly wooden, but are for the most part respectable both in size and appearance. Its growth seems to have been moderate but wholesome. The people of Plainview are cultured and sociable, industrious and prosperous. But even in such a well balanced and intellectual community as this there is usually enacted, sooner or later, some bloody and deplorable tragedy, and Plainview has had its tragedy. This occurred on the 22d of January, 1876, when Frank Hathaway, aged 24, son of a Highland township farmer, with a revolver, shot and killed Nettie Slayton, a highly respected young lady of 17, who had refused his hand in marriage, and immediately thereafter made an unsuccessful attempt with the same weapon upon his own life. It culminated three days later in the hanging of young Hathaway to a tree at midnight, by an orderly gang of disguised men, supposed to have been composed of many of the best and most prominent citizens of both Plainview and Highland.
The sled leaned against the steps is the one Grandpa made for my cousin, Janie. I still have that sled. I need to give it to her!
That board on the roof stayed there all the time. It was to keep the person who was putting up the storm windows from falling off the roof. The storm windows were home-made and horribly heavy. They each had a little "door" in the bottom of the frame so you could let in a little air if you wanted to. When I got older, I was the one who put up the storm windows. Now that I have arthritis I understand why Mom and Grandpa trusted me with such an important job!
The back porch was enclosed all the time. That's where Mom put the wringer washing machine, the two benches to hold the rinsing tubs, the kerosene cook stove for summer canning, and the old commode which was once a beautiful chest with drawers on one side and a door on the other for the "Thunder Bucket." That's where Mom stored rags and the cat slept there too. Now it's cleaned up and in my living room.
Around the back of the house was the cistern, the outdoor toilet, a huge garden, the garage, and the chicken house. We didn't keep chickens, so the chicken house was used for storage. There were several ancient United States flags out there. I can only imagine how old they might have been.
The garden grew every veggie that we ate the year round. I can still hear Mom encouraging me as I worked out there with my rump to the sky: "Just think how good this will taste next winter!" Well, she was right, but that didn't make me much happier at the time. Goodness, the woman even canned chickens! She reached right in there and pulled out their ~ oh well. But there were rewards. My friend and I used to sneak into the basement and filch a quart jar of dill pickles which we snacked on while playing dolls in the tents we made from blankets clipped to the clothes lines.
The garage never held a car that I know of. It was Grandpa's workshop. He was a carpenter and he also filed and set saws. This was before people threw away their saws when they got dull. Grandpa had an old jig saw with a metal tractor seat and which was run by pedalling the metal bicycle pedals. When I was big enough to reach the pedals, I was allowed to cut out shapes in the scrap wood. Grandpa used a hand planer and cut long golden curls of wood which he hung in my black-brown hair.
When I entered high school I tried to enter a class called "Shop" so I could learn more about woodworking, but I was told that girls couldn't do that. Since then I've built walls, hung doors, and finished sheet rock beautifully. I can also play the piano, crochet, and bake cookies. Girls can do anything and so can boys.