Chapter 40
WATOPA TOWNSHIP
Pages 1261-1314

From the book about Wabasha Co. Minnesota
"HISTORY OF WABASHA COUNTY"
Compiled by Dr. L. H. Bunnell
Published Chicago by H. H. Hill, Publishers, 1884
Republished Currently by Higginson Books


Owing to the roughness of its contour, this section was not as early settled as the rest of the county. In fact, some portions of this township have not been cleared of their native growth of shrubs and opened to cultivation until within the past ten years. Indian Creek valley extends across the town from east to west, the stream entering on section 31 and leaving on 24. North of this is Snake creek, whose head is near the west side of the town, flowing about due east, and joining the Zumbro on section 12. The Whitewater river crosses the southeastern portion, and thus the town is composed of alternate ridges and valleys. The ridge between the Whitewater and Indian creek is quite broad, and is known as "Hoosier Ridge." Those on either side of Snake creak are narrow, and have no distinctive appellation. Nearly all the people are Irish, these people wholly occupying Snake Creek valley, and the ridges on either side and at its head. They are industrious, and have cleared and made fertile what seemed unpromising to the prospector. In the southwestern portion are several German families, who are making "the wilderness to blossom as the rose." ("The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose" Isaiah 35:1) Among the earliest residents were Frank and John Gage, who settled in the Whitewater valley in 1855. During the same year Nels Westling and Andrew Johnson, Swedes, located in the valley of Indian creek. In the following year came Olaf Paulson, James and Daniel Gow, John Feddelson, and George and William Christie. Daniel Gow, a bachelor, still lives on his claim, alone, in a hole in the ground, covered with loose boards. Perhaps it is not proper so say he lives alone, as his chickens inhabit the den with him. Of those above mentioned, besides Gow, Westling, Johnson and John Gage still reside here. In 1857 Dr. L. D. Holmes settled on Indian creek, and J. B. Haines became his neighbor next year. These were eastern people, and a spirit of enterprise and advancement came with them. In 1859 a log school-house was put up through the efforts of those last above named, and a school taught by Mrs. William Welds. The husband of the latter was a preacher of the Baptist denomination, and he held religious services in J. B. Haines' house as early as May or June, 1860. In December of this year Rev. D. B. Gleason, a Methodist, preached at the same place, and about this time Mr. Haines attempted to organize a Sunday school, but found so little cooperation that he was compelled to give it up. Rev. Harvey Webb succeeded Mr. Gleason as pastor of the Read's Landing circuit in 1861, and held services here. This was about the last attempt at preaching in the town. An effort was made, not long ago, to organize a sabbath school in the same locality, but was abandoned. In this connection it may be noted that neither church edifice nor saloon have ever been opened in the town. Were the question of licensing a saloon submitted to a vote of the people, it would no doubt receive a large majority.

The earliest effort to educate the youth of the town was inaugurated in the fall of 1858. A log tenement-house on the farm of John Gage had been vacated, and Mrs. Timothy Young proposed to open school in it. She proceeded to scrub out the house, in preparation for this use of it, and fell dead while thus engaged. This was undoubtedly the first death to occur in the town, and was caused by heart-disease. The school was, however, conducted, Josiah Porter being the teacher.

There are now five districts, with the same number of school-houses. The best and largest is that in district No. 34, the first regularly organized district. This is a neatly-paointed frame building, in Snake Creek valley, on section 11. When the first building was put up there were few pupils, but the number on the school register at one time reached ninety. The first house stood partly on land now included in the right of way of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railway, on the southeast quarter of section 11, Creek valley. The second was erected on the present site, and was burned in June, 1878. The first teacher employed in this district was Dora O'Neil, but when it was found that she was a Protestant the people decided that she was not capable of teaching their children. Miss Sylvia Tiffany then took the little flock in charge, and managed its instruction with satisfaction to the patrons.

Cupid kept away from the locality for some time, according to the memories of early inhabitants. The first residents of the town to be united in marriage were William Ryan and Margaret Hickey. This wedding was celebrated at Wabasha, February 16, 1863.

(My book is missing pages 1263 through 1278. They haven't been removed ~ they were never included to start with! However, a friend has copied them and sent them to me, so we continue:)

On September 7, 1856, a son was born to John and Eleanor Gage. He was christened Burton Wallace, and died January 25, 1859. During the latter year a daughter was born to Charles Simpson, but is now deceased. These are the earliest births of which any knowledge can be found.

The political town of Watopa was organized May 11, 1855. The earliest records of election and public acts have been destroyed, but this much has been learned in regard to that election from early settlers: The Indian name, Watopa, was adopted, after considerable discussion of other titles. The supevisors chosen were William Abbott, chairman, John Gage and Henry Wagner. Charles Simpson was made town clerk, Daniel Seymour, justice of the peace, and John Crain, constable. The affidavit and bond of Justice Seymour's first case was filed July 28, 1858. Suit was brought by Philip Smith to recover possession of a horse, valued at one hundred dollars, unlawfully held by Valentine Jacob. After due trial, the case was decided in favor of the plaintiff, and costs of eight dollars and seventy-four cents assessed against defendant. To cover this, the constable levied on three thousand brick in possession of Jacob; but after being twice advertised for sale no buyers appeared, and the brick were not utilized in satisfying just demands of the minions of the law.

A good deal of amusement was created in the spring of 1860, by a suit brought against John Gage for stealing corn. Before the case came to trial, Gage was elected justice of the peace, and offered to go on with the trial. To this neither the law nor the mind of the plaintiff's attorney would assent, and the case was therefore taken to Minneiska for trial. The judgment of this fellow-citizens in electing him justice was there justified by his acquittal. At another time, Gage's enemies sought to annoy him by bringing suit against him, during high water, on Sand prairie. The defendant proceeded quietly to secure possession of all the boats in the neighborhood, and proceeded to the scene of trial. Of course the case went in his favor, buy default of his opponents.

1859 the town officers elected were: supervisors, Garrett Fitzgerald, George A. Layes and John Keating; town clerk, William Abbott; assessor, John Hickey; collector, George C. Curtis; overseer of poor, Alois Holtzer.

From 1860 to 1871, inclusive, J. B. Haines was town clerk. For those years only the supervisors are given in the following list. Thereafter, the fourth name is that of the clerk, in every case the chairman of supervisors being given first. John B. Mullins has been treasurer for the last ten years, and assessor for many years, still holding the latter office.

1860. Daniel Seymour, G. A. Layes, Olaf Paulson.
1861. William Abbott, G. Fitzgerald, John Schalling.
1862. J. B. Mullins, G. Fitzgerald, John Feddelson.
1863. Charles Jencks, G. Fitzgerald, john Feddelson.
1864. J. B. Mullins, G. Fitzgerald, Charles Jencks.
1865. John Feddelson, G. Fitzgerald, Henry Wagner.
1866. J. B. Mullins, Lewis Martin, E. T. Lawrence.
1867. J. B. Mullins, John Kennedy, William Putnam.
1868. No record kept.
1869. J. R. Hamlin, John Kennedy, John Gage.
1870. J. R. Hamlin, Timothy Young, Dennis McCarthy.
1871. Same as 1870.
1872. John Kennedy, Patrick Hickey, George Ropert, J. B. Mullins.
1873. John Kennedy, P. Hickey, E. W. Hurd, J. R. Hamlin.
1874. Same as 1873.
1875. J. Kennedy, J. Gage, William Fitzgerald, J. R. Hamlin.
1876. Dennis McCarthy, James Brown, Matthias Webber, J. R. Hamlin.
1877. D. McCarthy, John Starr, M. Webber, J. B. Mullins.
1878. Patrick Drury, Peter Schilling, James Lamy, N. P. Burman.
1879. J. Kennedy, E. W. Hurd, Peter Schilling, N. P. Burman.
1880. J. Kennedy, James Lamy, William Putnam, Robert H. Wood.
1881. J. Kennedy, E. W. Hurd, P. Hickey, R. H. Wood.
1882. Peter Schilling, Peter Jacoby, Pat. Hickey, N. P. Burman.
1883. Same supervisors as 1882, R. H. Wood. On account of the death of the latter, N. P. Burman was appointed clerk in April.
1884. Patrick Shea, P. Schilling, Robert white, N. P. Burman. Assessor, J. B. Mullins; treasurer, Thomas Wood, Jr.; justices, John Gage, N. P. Burman; constable, James Gray.

At the presidential election in November, 1860, the republican electors received thirty-two votes, and the democratic twenty. Twelve years later, when U. S. Grant was made president of the United States, his electors received twenty-two votes in Watopa, while his opponent had forty-three. In 1880 the democratic electors had a majority of twenty out of one hundred and fourteen ballots. When a state governor was chosen, in 1883, the republican candidate received twenty-two votes, to his opponent's seventy-one. On most of the county officers the vote stood twenty-eight to sixty-five, the latter figures illustrating the political sentiment of the town.

At the town meeting, in 1861, only thirty-seven votes were cast. Next year there were twenty-nine. In 1863 but twenty-five voters turned out, which was probably about all then in town, but next year the number was raised to forty-one. Since then the number of voters has largely increased.

The population of the town in 1860 was three hundred and seven. Ten years later it increased to four hundred and sixty. Probably the number is little more at this time than in 1870. In the last census Watopa and Minneiska were taken together, reaching one thousand and twenty-three. The last-named town included three hundred and ninety-four in 1870, and has grown some since, so it is probably that Watopa about held its own.

The number of acres of farming-land assessed in Watopa in 1860, was 6,420, valued at $25,776. Personal property was assessed $755, and the total basis of taxation thus became $26,531. At the last assessment the number of acres taxed had more than trebled, reaching 21,775. Their average valuation was $5.58, making an aggregate of $121,576, nearly five times that of 1860. Personal property in 1883 was rated $19,215, and taxes were therefore assessed on $140,791 of property.

During the war of the rebellion, the number of able-bodied men in the town was very small, and one man was drafted three times. No tax for bounties was ever raised. A subscription was made for this purpose, but much of it was never paid. As other towns were offering large bounties for volunteers, many citizens of Watopa, who enlisted in the United States service, were credited to other towns.

When the question of issuing state bonds to the amount of five million dollars, to assist railroad construction, was submitted to the people in April, 1858, this town was in a precinct with part of Winona county. Only one vote favoring the proposition was cast in the precinct.

The following circumstances are related as showing the experiences of Minnesota pioneers: As late as 1859, flour was difficult to procure in the spring and early summer, after the long winter had exhausted the supply brought by boats in the previous fall. On one occasion Mrs. J. B. Haines and Charles Jencks set out for Minnesota City to procure flour, and had nothing for lunch on the way save some green cucumbers. At noon they turned out the oxen to feed, and sat down by a spring to eat their lunch. On reaching their destination, they succeeded in securing fifty pounds of flour, which was to feed several families in the valley. When Mr. Haines had raised a crop of wheat, he engaged men to thresh it. The dinner provided for the hungry workmen was devoid of bread or pastry, because their materials could not be procured, yet seemed a feast to them. Butter and cream were plenty, and also tea and coffee. Trout, which was easily caught in Indian creek at that time, furnished the flesh, and squash the vegetable portion. For dessert, sweetened stewed pumpkin was supplied, sugar being easily obtainable. Despite the hardships then endured, people declare they were happier in the pioneer times than in these days of form and etiquette.

WEAVER VILLAGE

Weaver village was laid out in 1871. William Weaver and a man by the name of Dodge were the proprietors. The town was named after the former gentleman, and stands on sections 29 and 30 of Minneiska township.

In the summer of 1851 Andrew Olson emigrated to this section with his family, took a claim and erected a house, the first in this vicinity. Soon after two brothers, George and Christopher Abbott, and in 1857 William Weaver arrived from New York State and opened up a farm, on the north side of which a part of the town now stands. As soon as the village was laid out a postoffice was established, with W. H. Hopkins as postmaster. At present writing Weaver contains a store, hotel, butcher-shop, blacksmith-shop and two warehouses.

The store is a handsome brick block, 44 x 65 feet, and is owned by W. H. Hopkins, who keeps a stock of general merchandise and farm machinery. The hotel is a large brick structure, and was erected by William Weaver, at a cost of nine thousand dollars. In 1880 he sold out, and is at present engaged in farming near Casselton, Dakota. Mr. James White is now keeping the hotel. The warehouses are in charge of Brooks Bros., of Minneiska, well known throughout the state as dealers in wheat and lumber. The present school was built in 1872, and answers the double purpose of school-house and church, the Methodists and Norwegian Lutherans, alternating in their services. The population of Weaver is now about one hundred.

Michael Callohan (not in book's index), telegraph operator, Weaver, was born at Sandy Creek, New York, in 1858. His parents, John and Mary Callohan, were natives of Ireland, and emigrated to America in 1837, settling where our subject was born. When a young man he tried living in several towns, among which were Rochester, in New York, and Niagara Falls, but finally concluded to visit St. Paul, which he did in 1880. Liking the west so well led him to locate in Winona for a year, and again he moved, this time to Weaver, where he now resides, being in the employ of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railroad, as agent and operator. Mr. Callohan is a member of the Catholic church, and also of the Winona State Military Guards. He married Eliza Hitchcock, of Weaver. They have one child, Mary Agnes.

Following is a section concerning Societies of Zumbro Township, which I have added to the chapter about Zumbro Township. Following that, on pages 1268 to 1274, are several interesting stories from various locations in the county. I have published them on their own page, "Pioneer Stories," which can be accessed on the home page. The remainder of the chapter consists of the following biographies which are all published on this site, but which are not all from this township:

Ira O. Seeley, Major Francis W. Seeley, Hon. Hugh P. Willson, Capt. John Samuel Walker, Charles Frederick Rogers, Ozias Wilcox, Amzi Brainard Watts Norton, William Clark, Edward Franklin Hopkins, Patrick McDonough, Miles McDonough, Patrick McCarthy, George W. Hall, Elijah Stout, George C. Stout, Hon. Patrick Henry Rahilly, Calvin Dickinson Vilas, M.C., Rev. William Gardam, Dwight Frederick Brooks, Thomas Talman Jenks, Jerry Dady, Michael U. Dady, Abner Tibbits, Dr. P. A. Jewell, Silas Gerome Smith, Patrick Francis Ryan, John McDonald, Lewis De Camp, Ira De Camp, Joseph E. Favrow, Jacob Bush, Lawrence Calhoun, Thomas Wood, Edgar T. Rollins, George Farrar, John W. Bryant, William T. Adams, M.D., Henry W. Gilman, Dorr Dickerman, Hon. William H. Feller, Thomas J. Bolton, Rhinaldo W. Chapman, Roswell Newton White, Charles O. White, Rufus C. Wright, Theodore Bowen, William Sydney Webster, George Freeman Hancock, Charles Carroll Lowe, Hon. William John Hahn, Elijah Porter, and Fritz Lange.

End of Chapter