Search billions of records on

Chapter 41
Pages 1315-1336

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

This is a rather small township, both on account of Lake Pepin, which lies partly within its boundaries, and because the city of Lake City was carved out of its original territory.

Most of it lies back of the bluffs which form a kind of amphitheater within which the city is situated. Its surface is rolling, diversified by ravines and bluffs, from the summit of which fine views of Lake Pepin and the Mississippi Valley may be had. The soil is largely of yellow clay, and produces the finest crops of wheat: other corps, as potatoes, barley, rye, corn etc., are also raised in abundance, but the best proof of the fertility of the soil is found in the tasty farm houses and large barns that dot the landscape in every direction, evidently the homes of intelligent and prosperous people. It was settled largely by the Irish, and the present population is composed mostly of Irish, with some Germans and Americans. There are five school houses in the town in good condition, and the schools compare well with those of other sections. The first town meeting was held at the City Hotel, May 13, 1858, at which there were 103 votes polled and the following named gentlemen were elected town officers:

SUPERVISORS Charles W. Hackett, Abner Dwelle, Samuel Doughty
TOWN CLERK Dewitt C. Sterry
ASSESSOR Henry Collins
CONSTABLES Henry O. Perry, Levi Collins, Jr.

Since 1858 the following named men have served the town as Chairman of Supervisors and Town Clerk:


1859Samuel Doughty Dewitt C. Sterry
1860Samuel DoughtyDewitt C. Sterry
1861J. L. ArmstrongDewitt C. Sterry
1862William ArnoldDewitt C. Sterry
1863R. H. MatthewsDewitt C. Sterry
1864J. L. ArmstrongDewitt C. Sterry
1865George S. KentDewitt C. Sterry
1866R. S. GoodrichDewitt C. Sterry
1866-B. C. Baldwin (To fill vacancy)
1867J. L. ArmstrongS. R. Merrill
1868J. L. ArmstrongS. R. Merrill
1869J. L. ArmstrongS. R. Merrill
1870J. L. ArmstrongS. R. Merrill
1871J. L. ArmstrongS. R. Merrill
1872Geo. WatsonR. W. Purcell
1873Geo. WatsonR. W. Purcell
1874Richard O'BrianJ. S. Lewis
1875Richard O'BrianJ. S. Lewis
1876Richard O'BrianPatrick Reedy
1877Richard O'BrianPatrick Reedy
1878Richard O'BrianPatrick Reedy
1879Richard O'BrianPatrick Reedy
1880A. R. SpauldingPatrick Reedy
1881Richard O'BrianPatrick Reedy
1882Richard O'BrianPatrick Reedy
1883Richard O'BrianPatrick Reedy
1884Richard O'BrianPatrick Reedy


Reference has been made on page 806 to the matter of railroad bonds and the litigation in connection with them between the town and the railroad companies.

On March 6, 1868, the village of Lake City was authorized by special act of legislature to issue its bonds in aid of the construction of the Chicago and St. Paul Railway.

This act was amended February 2, 1869, the word "town" being substituted for "village." Pursuant to the authority given by these acts, and while the railway was in process of construction, the town of Lake City, by its Board of Supervisors duly convened, on February 6, 1869, adopted an ordinance, submitting the question of the issuance of the bonds to the legal voters of said town. The sum of $75,000 bearing interest at the rate of 6 per cent, per annum, etc., the principal to mature thirty years after the date of such bonds, was voted at the special election, held February 23, 1869. The delivery of these bonds was conditioned upon the completion and full operation of the Chicago and St. Paul Railroad between St.Paul and Winona on or before April 1, 1872.

On June 29, 1869, the Chicago and St. Paul Railway Company contracted with the Minnesota Railway Construction Company to build and equip the railway, from St. Paul to Winona, and also sold and assigned to the Minnesota Railway Construction Company all gifts, donations, bounties or aid in any form which had been or thereafter might be given to it by any person, corporation, municipality or State to aid in the construction of the railway, including the bonds which the town of Lake City had obligated itself to issue and deliver.

The road was completed and cars running thereon for the entire distance specified, and the road had become entitled to the delivery of the bonds by January 1, 1872. After this on February 26, 1872, the city of Lake City was incorporated, the territory of which was carved out of the town of Lake City.

No provision was made by the act incorporating the city, for the payment of any part of the debts or the assumption of any of the obligations of the town of Lake City, by the city of Lake City, nor is there any general statute of the State adjusting the liabilities of the old town within the new city.

A contract, however, was entered into between the city of Lake City and the town of Lake City, through their respective municipal officers, in which it was agreed that of all cash in hand, taxes in hands of county treasurer, uncollected taxes, etc., the city of Lake City should receive 83 per cent and the town of Lake City 17 per cent. It was further stipulated that all outstanding accounts and claims against the old town of Lake City should be borne in the same proportion by each corporation. It is perhaps necessary to state that this contract never came to the notice of the courts in which the suit that followed with the railroad company was tried. In 1873 the name of the township of Lake City was changed to the township of Lake. On page 806 it is said: "The issue of the bonds voted and their transfer led to litigation." This is an error. After the completion of the road the Minnesota Railway Construction Company presented its bonds to the officers of the town of Lake and the city of Lake City to sign, but they refused to do this alleging fraud against the company. The Minnesota Railway Construction Company then brought suit by writ of mandamus in the Supreme Court to compel the town of Lake and city of Lake City to issue their joint and several bonds of the character and amount provided for. In this suit Thomas Wilson appeared for city of Lake City, and H. D. Stocker and W. J. Hahn for town of Lake. The defendants in this action alleged in their answer various acts of fraud on the part of the railroad company, the most material of which was that before the ordinance authorizing the holding of an election to ratify the issuing of the bonds was passed, the St. Paul and Chicago Railroad Company, for the purpose of inducing the Supervisors to pass the same, promised the Supervisors that if they would pass the ordinance, the railway company would locate on the private property of said Supervisors, thereby greatly enhancing its value. The city also made the further objection that as it was a new and distinct municipal corporation, since created and erected out of a portion of the original town of Lake City, it therefore was not liable for any of the obligations of the old town.

This answer was held sufficient as to the city and the action against it was dismissed. It now remained for the town of Lake to prove the alleged fraud.

For this purpose H. D. Stocker, Esq., went to California and there obtained depositions from the old Supervisors of the town fully sustaining the position of defendants. These depositions were place on file and coming to the notice of plaintiffs' counsel induced them to offer to compromise the suit which was accordingly done and a judgment by agreement of $2,500 was entered in the District Court of Wabasha county against town of Lake. A controversy now arose between the city and town, in relation to the payment of this judgment and the expenses of the suit. Under the contract entered into by these two corporations in 1872, the substance of which is given above, the cash on hand, taxes in hands of county treasurer, uncollected taxes, etc., belonging to the old town of Lake were divided in the ratios set forth in the contract, and all liabilities, debts, and obligations of said town had also been borne in like ratio. The expenses incurred in this suit together with the above mentioned judgment amounted to about $9,200. The town of Lake claimed that the whole of this amount came under the operation of the contract of 1872 and that the city of Lake City was accordingly bound to pay 83 per cent of it. Considerable discussion ensued and at a meeting of the city council upon August 28, 1882, the report of a committee appointed to investigate said claims advising the payment of 83 per cent of the judgment, viz.: $2,100 to the town of Lake in consideration of a full release by the town of all further claims against the city was unanimously adopted. The city authorities holding that expenses of the suit incurred by the town amounting to about $4,000 were voluntarily incurred by it and constituted a private debt of the town of Lake for which the city was not responsible under the contract. The town however, did not accept the $2,100 in the form it was offered, and the matter still remains unsettled. It may be permitted us to hope that it may be amicably adjusted in the near future.


It was not so much beauty of location, as it was opportunity for trade, that was sought by the early settlers along the upper Mississippi, else the beautiful location this city now occupies would not so long have remained unclaimed by white settlers.

The Indian ports at Red Wing and at Wabasha, the inlet and outlet of Lake Pepin, had been the home of half-breeds for years previous to any settlement at this point, and white traders had also been resident there for no inconsiderable time prior to the coming of any white settlers to this immediate vicinity.

The mouth of the Chippewa River on the Wisconsin shore, and Read's on this, had been occupied as trading ports by whites, the former for eighteen years, the latter for nearly as long, before Jacob and Philip Boody laid claim and settled upon lands now within the corporate limits of this city.

This settlement was effected in the autumn of 1853, the claims in all amounting to 328 acres, lying up the lake from the central part of the city. In May of the spring following, Mr. Patrick Conway and his two sons, James and William, arrived, and took claims back of the present city, near the old territorial road. In June, Mr. Abner Dwelle and his family, together with John Boody, cousin of the first claimants, came and took claims down the lake, and these were the only settlements prior to the year 1855.

The spring of 1855 brought quite a reinforcement to the little settlement, and from that time forward frequent accession to the number of settlers occurred, until in the fall of 1856 it was estimated that about 300 persons were settled in the neighborhood. Among the arrivals of 1855 whose names have become household words were Abner Tibbetts, William Berry, Seth Skinner, who brought a small stock of goods which he retailed from a board shanty belonging to Abner Tibbetts, and Mr. Samuel Doughty, who bought the claims of Jacob and Philip Boody, and in June of this year erected the first frame dwelling in the place, bringing his lumber by raft from Read's Landing. This building, originally intended as a kitchen for the more considerable dwelling he proposed to erect, was 18 by 26 feet, and stood very nearly upon the site of the present dwelling of Mr. Doughty on High street. He also brought a few blacksmithing tools with him, and though his shop was not very commodious, its usefulness to the pioneers as a place where their plows might be sharpened, amply compensated for its lack of windows and chimney. Although the country was still a wilderness, and Indians were constantly passing back and forth from Red Wing to Wabasha, camping on the shores of the lake near the houses of the early settlers, and occasionally inviting themselves to dinner, yet they were generally civil, and the settlers knew very little of the privations that oft are suffered by pioneers in sections far removed from the highways of trade. Provisions were brought from Prairie du Chien by the steamers that were constantly plying up and down the river, for these were the days when trade was booming upon the Mississippi, as many as nine steamers having been seen in the lake at one time. The beautiful plain, covered with burr oak, white and black oak, maple, hazel brush, etc., intersperse with little stretches of prairie as smooth as the most finely-kept lawns. Game was abundant, and the lake and creeks teemed with fish. Currey creek was especially noted for deer, there being several runways upon it, and a drove of nineteen elk was at one time seen by Mr. Doughty on the prairie back of the town.

Nothing but sheer laziness would prevent a man from obtaining as many prairie chickens and ducks as desired. Wolves, too, were common, and were frequently seen in numbers playing upon the ice of the lake. In the year 1856, large numbers arrived, and buildings of a permanent character were rapidly pushed. Messrs. Tibbetts, Dwelle and Baldwin erected a large store building in 1855 and 1856, which was occupied by H. F. Williamson, who opened quite a large stock of goods. This building stood near the foot of Washington street, where the old grange warehouse now is. Mr. Patten also built a store, and the steamers, which previously objected to landing at this point, began to make regular stops. A town was surveyed and platted this year, Messrs. Tibbetts, Dwelle, and Doughty being proprietors, and the lots sold rapidly to the new-comers. Mr. Doughty donated four of his best lots, in what is now the central portion of the town, to Messrs. Jacobs and Sigler, in consideration of their erecting a hotel thereon. The City Hotel, the result of this transaction, stood on the corner now occupied by Stout, Dwelle and Hassinger's clothing store, and was a good-sized and popular house. It was converted into a store afterwards, and finally destroyed by fire in 1882. In this year, also, a sawmill was erected by Messrs. Gillett, Thompson, Starr, and A. H. Gaylord at the foot of Main street, the frame of which is still standing.

Mr. Abner Tibbetts built a grain warehouse, which was occupied by J. L. Armstrong and L. H. Maples, who started the forwarding and commission business. During this year the Congregationalists built a small church, which was destroyed by a windstorm while in process of erection, but was immediately rebuilt. The materials for building were rafted from above, principally from Stillwater and Hastings. The town grew rapidly. In 1857, John T. Averill put a run of stone into the planing-mill of Tupper & Sons, which was the first move toward a gristmill. The Post Office was established in 1856, and H. F. Williamson appointed postmaster. The first child born upon ground included in the town plat was a girl born to John Boody and wife, in the summer of 1854. The first death in the settlement was in the same family, Mrs. John Boody, who died sometime in 1855. The first marriage was that of G. W. Hathaway and Miss Abbey Langley, in the year 1857. The ceremony was performed by Rev. Elias Hazlett, who also taught the school it being opened in 1856. Matters continued to improve in the little colony until the lands were legally entered and title properly acquired, soon after which the formal organization of the county into townships was effected, and the history of the colony here becomes a part of that of Lake City Township, May 11, 1858, the time of the first town meeting, to be resumed as separate history in 1864, when by special act of legislature the city was endowed with special and corporate privileges.


Even in as healthy a locality as Lake City, the dread messenger is not unknown, as the many monuments and marble slabs of the present beautiful cemetery, mute testimonials of his visits, show.

Mrs. John Boody, the first person who died in Lake City, and her child, were buried at Muncie Lake. Several others were buried near where Jewel's nursery now is. All of these were afterwards removed to the present cemetery, which is upon a plot of ground set apart by Mr. Abner Dwelle, about the year 1861. Its location, upon the southeast side of the city, separated from the high bluffs only by a ravine, toward which it slopes upon one side, is as pleasant as can be desired, while the regularity of its streets and the numerous evergreens that in future years will shade these quiet graves, show evidences of the taste and care of the proprietor of the grounds Mr. Dwelle.

It contains several fine monuments, and many of the lots have been beautified by the planting of trees and shrubbery. It is a pleasant spot, though it may bring sadness to many a loving heart, and time will add to both its ornamentation and natural beauty.


Hon. William H. Lyon, U. S. Indian Commissioner, of Brooklyn, New York.

This gentleman though not a resident of Wabasha County, belongs to its history, and especially to the history of Lake City.

He was born at Holland, Hampden Co., Mass., October 18th, 1819, and (as was also Gen. Nathaniel Lyon, killed at the battle of Wilson Creek, Mo., in the late war) is descended from William Lyon, one of the early English settlers of Massachusetts, and who located in 1635 at Roxbury. At the age of 14 Mr. Lyon was sent to Hartford, Conn., to attend school with the purpose of ultimately studying law. But after leaving school he was engaged for some time in teaching in Wayne Co., N. Y.; the last two years as principal of the Clyde High School. While he was in charge of this school, Prof. Morse first put his telegraph in operation between Washington and Baltimore. The subject of telegraphy greatly interested Mr. Lyon, and, after some experiments, he invented a printing telegraph; or, rather, he demonstrated by means of a model, which he constructed, that pen and ink type and ink could be used in conveying the messages by the telegraph wire. Mr. Lyon, strange as it may seem, never pressed his claim as a scientific discoverer, or even took any means to secure to himself the honor or benefits of his discovery. Yet it became, no doubt, the basis of a theory which has since been utilized.

The Clyde Eagle, of July 11th, 1844 (Vol. 1, p. 9), has a two-column editorial headed, "The Electro-Magnetic Telegraph Improved," in which is the following: "With this machine, Mr. Lyon is able to write with pen and ink with the same facility that Professor Morse scratches characters upon paper with points of steel." This editorial was copied into the New York Commercial Advertiser, Evening Post, the Boston Traveller and other journals.

About this time he changed his mind in regard to studying, and decided that a mercantile profession would be more to his taste.

In 1845 Mr. Lyon went to New York, and engaged in the wholesale dry-goods business. In 1847 he changed to what was them termed the Yankee Notion and Fancy Goods business, which he has continued successfully up to the present time. He was among the first New York merchants to visit Europe to secure a better assortment of fancy goods than could be procured from the New York importers.

In 1848, after having completed his orders and selections in England, he started for France, but was prevented from going by the revolution then in progress there. While waiting in Belgium, he learned of the flight of Louis Phillippe to England and the establishment of the Provincial Government of the French Republic under Lamartine. He left immediately for France, and was the first American Merchant to enter Paris after the insurrection. Everything was in confusion, business prostrated, and the commission houses and manufacturers had large stocks of good on hand which they were very anxious to turn into money. Mr. Lyon bought largely, at very low prices, and also made plans for future shipments, many of which arrangements continue to this day. He afterwards extended his connections to all the leading manufacturing centers of Europe until few houses are better known throughout the world. The firm of Wm. H. Lyon & Co. occupy a spacious stone building, Nos. 483 and 485 Broadway, New York, 50 feet on Broadway, running back 200 feet to Mercer street. The basement and several floors cover a space of 50,000 square feet devoted to the display of their extensive stock.

In all these nearly forty years this house has kept in the van of progress. They import goods from Europe, China, India, and Japan, and their sales extend not only to every State in the Union from Maine to California, but to Mexico, West Indies, South America, and Canada. Mr. Lyon has been fro many years a member of the New York Chamber of Commerce, a director in the Brooklyn Life Insurance Co. and chairman of its Executive Committee. Was one of the incorporators of the New England Society, of Brooklyn, and a director since its organization; a member of the Long Island Historical Society and a director of the Oxford Club.

When, in 1876, Hon. Zachariah Chandler, the Secretary of the Interior, was requested by President Grant to select a practical business man in New York city as a member of the Board of Indian Commissioners, he chose William h. Lyon. Mr. Lyon was assigned to the Purchasing Committee immediately, and for many years has served as its chairman, giving to the business of the Government the same measure of devotion that had made him one of the most successful merchants in the city of New York. The business of the Government's Indian Warehouse in New York received from Mr. Lyon the same conscientious attention that he had given to his private affairs. The best article for the purpose, at the lowest possible price was the one rule governing him and his associates. These methods stamped out the "shoddy" contractors, and now the best merchants, millers, manufacturers, and cattle dealers in the country compete by hundreds for the contracts. The Purchasing Committee, of which Mr. Lyon is chairman, is credited with having saved the Government millions of dollars in the purchase of Indian annuity goods, supplies, etc. In former years the purchases were so conducted, that certain contractors were sure to get the awards. Last year 354 bids were received, and awards were made to 145 different parties, and under the present management those persons are considered the lowest bidders who gave the best value in goods at the price, and such invariably get the contracts.

The Government and the Indians are to be congratulated upon the most fortunate selection of Mr. Lyon as a member of the Board of Indian Commissioners.

In the summer of 1862 Mr. Lyon visited Lake City, Wabasha County, for the purpose of selling a small piece of property that had been taken for him by an agent (upon a debt, we believe.) But when he arrived in Lake City upon a steamer, on a beautiful summer day, he was so well pleased with the place, so charmed with the beauty of the surrounding scenery, and so much delighted with the climate that, instead of selling, he commenced to buy and build, and for more than twenty years has continued to buy more and more property, and to erect building after building, until he became years ago the largest property owner in the city.

Although he has visited time and agin nearly all the famous summer resorts of this country and of Europe, yet, since his first visit to Lake City, he has spent nearly every summer vacation in the City of the Lake, never tiring of its beautiful scenes, and always declaring that the climate here agreed with him better than at any other place in this county or Europe.

Lake City is to be congratulated upon that fortunate first visit in 1862, as he has ever since held her best interests dear to his heart. When the first draft had been made during the late war, it was almost impossible to raise the money to hire substitutes, even at exorbitant rates of interest, and the town was in a great strait; but Mr. Lyon, arriving about that time, came forward and readily loaned the required amount, refusing to accept anything but simple interest, taking the first bonds of the town ever issued.

When Lake City was trying to secure the County Seat, and Wabasha was presenting the County with a Court House, Mr. Lyon personally purchased, at a high figure even for that day, all of block No. 23 (the Sherman House block), to be presented to the County for a Court House site in the event of Lake City's success in the contest.

Believing that it would be a benefit to the city to have the business streets as wide and commodious as possible, he purchase the land along the northerly side of Broad street and donated to the city a strip 20 feet wide along the entire length of the street, from the lake shore to the depot, except along the sides of three out of the ten blocks, which he was unable to purchase. The strip along these three blocks was afterwards condemned by the City Council; the street widened through its entire length to 90 feet, and its name changed in his honor from Broad street to Lyon avenue. He has made liberal and large donations impartially to all the churches of the city that have been built since he became interested in her. Believing that Lake City's climate and beauty of scenery would make it, with proper accommodations, a great summer resort, he labored for years to interest the citizens to join with him in the erection of a large summer hotel, offering to take one half the stock if necessary. Seeing that manufacturing interests would help the city, he interested parties in New York, and in 1872 came out with all the plans and specifications ready, and intending to close contract with local builders for the erection at the foot of Lyon avenue of a building for manufacturing, at an estimated cost of $50,000; but upon his arrival, finding that his plans for widening the avenue, which was necessary to his full arrangements were opposed and not likely to be carried our, he returned home and located the building in Brooklyn, New York.

The various buildings erected and owned by him in the city, Lyon House block, Opera Hall block, Lyon block, Post Office block, Printing block, etc. are described in our description of Lake City.

Mr. Lyon is a gentleman of imposing figure and commanding appearance. Although his attention has always been given strictly to his business engagements, he has found time for social enjoyment and public duties; his congenial temperament making him fully to enjoy life as he journeys through it.

(The remainder of this section contains the biographies of the following people which can be found on the biography section: William Annond, Benjamin Franklin Baker, Peter Beck, Dr. David K. Boutelle, Thomas Brown, Curtis Bryant, Aruhur (sic) J. Carroll, Vilroy E. Clifford, Rev. Oliver Perry Crawford, Charles Crawshaw, Hugh Douglas, William H. Edwards, Marville M. Follett, L. H. Garrard M.D., Joshua B Haines, Edward E. Heerman, Andrew A. Helgerson, Coleman S. Hendricks, Marquis L. Hendricks, Rev. Sven August Lindholm, William B. Lutz, William Martin, Caleb H. Metcalf, Lucian Monroe Metcalf, John Bacon Norton, Christian H. Pletke, Garrison D. Post, John W. Reifkogel, George C. Richmond, Irvin W. Rollins, Orvis Rollins, Capt. Pearl Roundy, Alexander Scott, Rev. James M. Shurtleff, Oscar Smith, John Henry Sparrell, James C. Stout, William J. Taylor ~ my great-grandfather, Benjamin Winter, William Wilson, David J. Wood, Matthias Wood and William Dennison Woodward.)

End of Chapter