"HISTORY OF WABASHA COUNTY"
Compiled by Dr. L. H. Bunnell
Published Chicago by H. H. Hill, Publishers, 1884
Republished Currently by Higginson Books
The Territory of Minnesota was divided into counties by enactment of the first territorial legislature. The county of Wabasha, according to this division, comprised all that portion of territory lying east of a line running due south from a point on the Mississippi known as Medicine Bottle village, at Pine Bend, to the Iowa line; being the entire territory belonging to the present counties of Wabasha, Goodhue, Dodge, Olmsted, Winona, Mower, Houston, Fillmore and nearly one-half the territory belonging to Dahkota. Wabasha county was not organized under that act, but the division was declared to be for the purpose of the appointment of justices of the peace, constables and such other judicials as might be specially provided for. Wabasha was attached to Washington county for judicial purposes by provision of said act. By an act of March 5, 1853, the county was somewhat reduced in size, that portion north of a line extending from a point twenty-five miles south of the north branch of the Cannon river to Lake Pepin, at a point on the lake seven miles below Sand Point, being set off into the counties of Goodhue and Dacotah. By the provisions of this act, Wabasha county was attached to Goodhue county for judicial purposes. Fillmore county was also set off and organized under the same act, and comprised all the territory south of the White Water river, and extended west to a line running due southeast from a point on the north branch of the Cannon river, as above described, to the Iowa line. The remaining portion of land situated between Goodhue and Fillmore counties comprised the territory of Wabasha county as organized during the same session. By an act of February 23, 1854, the counties of Winona and Houston were organized, hence the limits and boundaries of Wabasha were again changed. By this act the boundaries were as follows: "Commencing at the southeast corner of township 107 north, of range 11 west; thence west thirty miles to the southwest corner of Kalmar, in Olmsted county; thence north twelve miles to the northwest corner of what is now the town of New Haven; thence east six miles to the southwest corner of the present town of Mazeppa; thence north twelve miles to the northwest corner of town 100, range 14 (being the present town of Chester); thence east six miles to the northeast corner of the same town; thence north six miles to the northwest corner of the town of Mount Pleasant; thence east to Lake Pepin; thence down the lake and Mississippi river to the present boundary line between Winona and Wabasha counties; thence west to the northwest corner of Winona county; thence south twenty-four miles to the place of beginning." By an act of February 20, 1855, Olmsted county was organized, with its boundary lines as at the present time; eight of the southern towns of Wabasha were set off as a portion of the territory of Olmsted county, leaving the boundaries of Wabasha county as a present described on the state maps.
The first election in the county was held at the house of Augustin Rocque, in what is now the city of Wabasha, October 11, 1853. At that election the following gentlemen were elected to the county offices: Christian Shively, Oliver Cratte and Peter Larrivierre, county commissioners; Alexis P. Bailly, register of deed; C. Shively, treasurer and coroner, and Levi Murphy, sheriff.
The board of commissioners met March 6, 1854, in accordance with an act passed by the territorial legislature, February 9 of the same year, and presented their certificates of election, properly certified to and endorsed, which were ordered to be deposited in the files of the office. Mr. Alexis P. Bailly acted as clerk of the meeting. The board then proceeded to business. A temporary seal was adopted, consisting of a circular piece of paper, containing a red wafer, upon which was inscribed: "Temporary Seal of the county Court of Wabashaw County." Mr. Shively was elected chairman of the board. Adjourned to meet again on the 11th, at ten o'clock. Pursuant to adjournment they met again the 11th, and divided the county into three assessment districts, by denominating all that portion north of a line running from an old ferry-house, which stood a little above Read's Landing, to the western extremity of the county, as the first district; Wm. Campbell was appointed assessor. The second district comprised the territory north of a line extending west from the house of Oliver Cratte on the levee, to the county line, not included in the first district; and the third district comprised the residue of the county. Mr. Whitmarch was appointed assessor for the second district, and Mr. J. McKenzie for the third. At this meeting it was discovered that Mr. Murphy was not eligible to the office of sheriff, as he was not a resident of the county, and Dr. Francis Milligin was appointed by the board to fill the vacancy. They also at that time located the county-seat at Wabasha. They met again on the 13th, pursuant to adjournment, to receive the bond given my F. H. Milligin, given as security for the faithful performance of his duties as sheriff. On the 20th of same month the board again met, and appointed Francis La Point road supervisor. Messrs. Campbell and Whitmarsh never having qualified, they held another meeting on the 24th and appointed Amos Wheeler assessor for the first district, investing him with power to assess the second also. At their next meeting, which was held July 3, they found they had acted contrary to law, or to the statutes regarding the assessment-roll, and the whole matter was dropped. They then proceeded to divide into election precincts. The first precinct comprised towns 108 and 109, of ranges 14 and 15; the place for holding elections was fixed at the house of Leonard B. Hodges, in Orinoco. Messrs. E. Chilson, J. Clark, and G. Gordon were appointed judges of the election. The second precinct comprised the rest of the county, the place for holding elections being the house of Augustine Rocque, in Wabasha. The board also appointed Messrs. Wheeler, I. O. Seely and J. McKenzie for judges of election. A portion of the northern part of the county was set off in November as the Montezuma precinct, elections to be held at the house of Mr. John Lyons. For judges of election the board appointed Messrs. Thomas Allen, R. S. Philips and J. Hanson. At the same meeting they appointed Joseph Pingrey county surveyor.
The first representative in the territorial legislature from the county was James Kirkman, of Wabasha, in 1855, who was succeeded by A. P. Foster, of Plainview, in 1856. Messrs. S. H. Kemp and B. C. Baldwin were delegates to the constitutional convention in 1857. James Redpath, from Tepeeotah, was the first senator. In 1858 J. T. Averill was elected senator, and W. J. Arnold, J. H. Burnham and F. E. Skillman, representatives. Owing to the delay in the admission of the state to the Union, Gov.-elect H. H. Sibly was not inaugurated until May 24, 1858, and it became optional with him to call or not to call the legislature together the next winter. As the republican party was successful that fall, and the election of United States senator the question of interest, no session was called. Politics had before that time been prominently democratic, and it was hoped the next election might secure again democratic majority and thus elect a democratic senator. The next autumn the result was the same, however, and the same parties from Wabasha county were re-elected with Hon. Alex. Ramsey as governor. W. S. Wilkinson was elected by that legislature to the United States senate.
Commissioners Shively, Cratte and Larrivierre, under the territorial government, were elected in 1853. Mr. Shively was elected chairman, and was the only member of the board who could read and write. They held several meetings during the spring of 1854, but Messrs. Shively and Larrivierre refusing to present themselves at the regular meetings, Alexis P. Bailly and John McKee, Esq., who, by the way, was the first lawyer in the county, were appointed to their places, and Oliver Cratte made chairman of the board. This new board, consisting of Oliver Cratte, Alexis P. Bailly and John McKee, held their offices until the close of 1855. The members composing the board in 1856 were: C. R. Read, chairman, Levi Cook and A. A. Weston; they were elected in the fall of 1855. Mr. Read was chosen for three years, Mr. Cook for two years and Mr. Weston for one. Mr. Weston being re-elected, the board, in 1857, comprised the same members with no change except that the chair was filled by Mr. Weston instead of Read. Before the close of the term, however, Mr. Read was again made chairman, owing to and injury inflicted on Mr. Weston by the shot of an outlaw, rendering him unable to attend the meetings of the board. The members composing the board in 1858 were: C. R. Read, chairman, Henry Amerland and G. Maxwell.
Before the termination of the year, the commissioner system was abolished and a supervisor elected from each town. Previous to this time the towns had not been organized, and during the supervisor system, which was in use from the adoption of the state constitution until its repeal in February, 1860, the towns represented, were: Wabasha, Pepin, Plainview, Zumbro (now Zumbro and Hyde Park), Mazeppa, Mt. Pleasant, Elgin, Pall, Smithfield (now Highland), West Albany, Watopa, Gillford, Minneiska, Lake City , Bear Valley (now Chester), Glasgow and Greensfield.
In February, 1860, the supervisor system was abolished, and the legislature passed an act authorizing the division of counties into commissioner districts, from which one should be elected for a term of three years. In pursuance of that act the county was divided into five districts, as follows: First district ~ Minneiska, Watopa, Highland and Plainview; second district ~ Elgin, Pell, Zumbro, West Albany and Glasgow; third district ~ Mazeppa, Chester, Gillford and Mt. Pleasant; fourth district ~ Pepin, Wabashaw and Greenfield; fifth district ~ Lake City. This division was an act of the commissioners, June 5, 1860.
G. W. Marsh was the first county auditor, holding the office in 1858 by provision of the statute making the register of deeds also auditor. This law was changed at a special meeting of the legislature in the fall of the same year, when W. W. McDougall was appointed by the board of commissioners, and held the office during the years 1859 and 1860.
E. W. Foster was elected in the fall of 1860, and held the office until November, 1861, when he entered the army, thus leaving the office vacant. Again it devolved upon the commissioners to supply the vacancy. They found their task a hard one, as it was with the greatest difficulty that a sufficient number of members could agree to make a majority. Several names were proposed, and each felt anxious for the position. Finally the one hundred and third ballot resulted in the election of A. G. Foster, who held the office the remainder of the term, and was elected in 1862, and again in 1864. W. W. Case was elected in 1866 and held the office until 1871, when he was succeeded by F. E. Stauff, who in turn was succeeded in 1875 by William Campbell, and Mr. Campbell by the present incumbent, Mr. G. A. Perkins.
Mr. C. Shively was elected treasurer in 1853, but never qualified, and Dr. F. H. Milligin was appointed by the board to fill the vacancy. He held the office until January 1, 1856. Mr. William Bonnell was elected in the fall of 1856, but leaving the country soon after, the board appointed Joseph Peak, who held the office until the spring of 1857, when he left the country, and L. M. Gregg was appointed for the remainder of the term. Mr. Gregg was elected in the fall of 1857, and held the office during the years 1858-9. William W. Prindle was elected in the fall of 1859, and held the office four years. Mr. J. F. Rose succeeded him, holding the office until January 1, 1868. Mr. A. Y. Felton was elected in the fall of 1867, and re-elected in 1869. He was succeeded by Anson Pierce, who held the office two terms; he in turn succeeded by A. J. Fowler, and Mr. Fowler in January, 1882, by R. A. Johnson.
Alexis P. Bailly was elected to the office of register of deeds in 1853, and held the office until July, 1855, when Dr. Milligin was appointed by the county board for the remainder of the term. Mr. Abner Tibbetts held the office in 1856-7; G. W. Marsh in 1858-9, and was succeeded by C. W. Hackett, of Lake City, who held the office until January 1, 1864. He was succeeded by Mr. D. H. Eldridge, who occupied the position until January 1, 1868. In the fall of 1867 Messrs. O. D. Ford and N. S. Wright were competitors for the office, and both claimed the election. This election was at the time of the vote for the county-seat, when exceeding heavy returns were received from some towns; and the consequence was great difficulty in determining who had the majority. Mr. Wright received his certificate of election, and held the office during the year 1868, when a decision was given by the supreme court that Mr. Ford was entitled to the election. Mr. Ford held the office during the remainder of the term, and was re-elected for another term of two years. Mr. Ford was succeeded by James G. Lawrence, who held the office four years, being succeeded by H. H. Dickman, one term, and he by J. C. Bartlett, the present incumbent.
Mr. H. P. Wilson held the office of judge of probate in 1856, Mr. G. Fl Childs in 1857, Mr. B. C. Baldwin in 1858-9. Mr. A. Z. Putnam was elected in the fall of 1859, and held the office four years. He was succeeded by Mr. G. DC. Dawley in 1864-5, who in turn was succeeded by Mr. E. Lathrop in 1866-7. He was succeeded by Mr. A. Fuller in 1868-9, who was re-elected in 1869 for 1870-1. Judge A. Z. Putnam followed, two terms, then J. T. Pope, one term, succeeded by F. J. Collier, one term. In the fall of 1882 Judge Putnam was again elected.
The first clerk of the court, elected under the state constitution, was Mr. S. A. Kemp, who held the office from 1858 to 1861; previous to that time the office was held by S. L. Campbell, Esq., by appointment of the territorial district court. Mr. N. F. Webb succeeded Mr. Kemp to the office, and held the position eight years. Mr. C. J. Stauff was elected in 1869, and still retains the position.
Levi Murphy was elected in 1869, but did not qualify, and the county commissioners appointed Dr. F. H. Milligan to fill the vacancy. Mr. Amos Wheeler held the office in 1854-5; B. S. Hurd in 1856. He resigned the office, and R. M. Piner was appointed in his place, holding the office during the year. In the fall of that year he was duly elected, and held the office until January, 1860, when he was succeeded by H. H. Butts, who held the office until January, 1862, being succeeded by William B. Lutz. Mr. Lutz was succeeded by H. H. Slayton, who held the office four years. In the fall of 1867 William Box was elected, who filled the office three terms; succeeded by Sydney Smith, two terms; and he in turn succeeded by Lyman H. Gregg, two terms. In the autumn of 1881 Mr. H. Burkhardt was elected, and is the present incumbent. The first judge of probate in the county was H. P. Wilson.
The first district attorney of the county was Judge John Tyson, succeeded by Hon. S. L. Campbell, and he in turn by John B. Davis. J. D. Jaqueth was elected in 1863, and in 1865 was re-elected and resigned. John B. Davis was again elected and held the office until January 1, 1867, when W. W. Scott qualified. Mr. Scott was succeeded by J. B. Davis, and Mr. Davis by J. Hahn, Esq., who held the office two terms, being succeeded by W. Matcham. Mr. Matcham held the office one term, and was succeeded by J. K. Benedict, one term, who was succeeded, January 1, 1883, by J. McGovern, the present attorney.
The educational interests of Wabasha county have not been neglected. The first school district was organized on November 20, 1855, and comprised a territory of some thirty square miles. The first school was taught by H. B. Potter, although a private school had been taught for a short time in Wabasha by Thomas F. Flynn. These interests have now assumed a prominent position in the history of the progress and prosperity of the county. The first superintendent of the schools was Mr. E. Hogle, who held the office in 1866; Wm. H. Robinson, in 1867, and he was succeeded by T. A. Thompson, who held the office until 1873. Mr. Thompson was an earnest, faithful worker, and to him is due, in a great measure, our present high standard of schools in the county. Mr. Thompson was succeeded by A. G. Hudson; Mr. Hudson, by J. H. Hays, and Mr. Hays by A. J. Greer, the present official.