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Chapter 7
Pages 604-609

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

The first settlers of the county were from the eastern states, from new England to Illinois, with some Irish and German immigration, who, with very few exceptions, were poor, bringing with them barely enough to feed and clothe themselves until the first cabin could be built and the first crop gathered. Industry and economy have repaid the most of these old pioneers with comfortable, commodious homes, surrounded with nearly all the comforts of the east. They were possessed with determination, believing that others had thus prospered before them, and what others could do they could also, and would; yet the way to opulence and comfort has been through continued hardships and untiring perseverance.

In later years nearly all nationalities have contributed to help increase the population of the county, and nearly two-thirds of these people constitute the population at the present time.

In 1857 the county began to fill up with farmers, and towns and villages grew almost like magic. The soil of the county is varied. Along the banks of the streams it is somewhat sandy, but producing all kinds of grain and vegetables in abundance. The surface of the country along the Mississippi is hilly, while back from the river is rolling prairie. That known as Greenwood Prairie, is celebrated for its immense wheatfields, some seasons there being one continuous wheatfield for twenty to twenty-five miles.

The town of Plainview was first settled by Messrs. A. T. Sharp, E. B. Eddy, Thomas Todd, Wm. Boatman and David Campbell. They arrived there in the spring of 1855, on May 21, and with one accord agreed that this was the land they long had sought, and at once decided to remain. They at once began the construction of domiciles for their families, and having provided those, commenced operations for agricultural improvement. A Norwegian by the name of Nels Oleson had arrived before them, and settled in the northeast corner of the town, and he was probably the first to break the sod in the town. Before the close of the month the number of families increased to seven, by the arrival of David Ackley and Edwin Chapman. In June the colony was swollen by the arrival of A. P. Foster and Benjamin Lawrence, from Vermont, together with several families from Wisconsin. They went to work with a determination that the settlement should be permanent. Before fall their settlement contained thirty families. The first thing to be considered was education, and they proceeded to erect a schoolhouse, the boards of which were sawed out with a handsaw by Mr. Boatman, and the shingles were made by Mr. Eddy. This was in the spring of 1856. Before June their schoolhouse was completed, and Miss Annie M. White employed to preside over twenty scholars; hence to her is due the honor of teaching the first school in Plainview. The same zeal in regard to educational advancement has existed ever since, and there is probably no town in Minnesota, containing no greater population, that has expended more in the cause of education than Plainview. At the time the first schoolhouse was built no village existed in town, although a portion of the same section upon which the town was built was laid out into lots the same spring, and a good deal of effort was made to build up a town. Those most instrumental in this effort were Messrs. Boatman, Sharpe and Burchard. They succeeded in getting a postoffice, and Mr. A. P. Foster received the appointment of postmaster.

The name of this office was Greenville, that being the name by which the settlement was known. A branch store had been opened druing the winter previous by Messrs. Richards, of Read's Landing. Mr. Burchard became a partner in the spring, and had special charge of the Greenville branch. This was the first store opened on "the Prairie."

During the summer of 1856 Messrs. O. Wilcox, Dr. F. C. Gibbs, T. A. Thompson, J. Y. Blackwell, David Ackley, E. Chapman and T. A. Tomlinson laid out a village site on sections 17 and 8. They gave the name of Centreville to the new town. This transaction was much to the disadvantage of Greenville, and gave rise to a jealousy between the two villages. Greenville retained the postoffice, but Centreville made the more rapid strides in growth and commercial prosperity. Very few buildings were built in Greenville after the new town was laid out, and a few of the buildings erecter there were afterward moved to Centreville. In 1858 the postoffice was discontinued and a new one opened at Centreville. This event changed the name of the town. There was a postoffice in Winona county by the name of Centreville. In view of the location, which was the watershed of the Zumbro and White Water rivers, and in plain view of a large tract of surrounding country, they changed the name to Plainview. Since that time the town has made rapid advancement in wealth and general prosperity. They have now a fine school-building erected at a cost of fifteen thousand dollars, and the school is in a very flourishing condition. The Methodists were the first to erect a church edifice. The first church service was held in 1856 by the Rev. J. Cochrane, a Congregational clergyman. There are at present two churches and four organizations: Methodists, Congregationalists, Baptists and Disciples. The first flouring-mill was erected by C. T. Allaire during the summer of 1869. The southern sections are traversed by the north branch of the Whitewater, and along the banks of this stream the wooded portion of Plainview is situated; the remaining portion is prairie land of vast richness of soil. The amount of territory constituting the farming lands is twenty-one thousand eight hundred and sixteen acres.


Patrick McDonough and John Canfield were the first settlers of this town.. They came in the summer of 1855 and built small homes for themselves, installed their families therein, and went to work. The next year other settlers moved in, among whom were W. L. Cleveland, James S. Felton, the brothers Doane and E. G. Smith. In 1857 C. G. Dawley and Thomas Smith located. Mr. Smith built a store and stocked it with general merchandise in 1858; it was destroyed by fire in 1859, and Mr. E. J. Duganne built another in its place the same year and filled it with a general assortment of goods for the accommodation of the settlement; but Plainview and Wabasha drew so largely on the trade that Mr. Duganne closed the store, and it has never been reopened. In 1857 D. J. Watkins built a mill near the center of the town, which furnished a large amount of hard lumber for fencing and building purposes; he also, in 1860, built a gristmill, but finding the water-power insufficient to propel the machinery of both, the sawmill was allowed to go into disuse. This stream is called Indian creek. In 1864 Mr. Henry Hampe built a flouring-mill upon the same stream. Both of these mills add greatly to the business interests of the town. A schoolhouse was built in 1859, in what is now district No. 40, in which religious services were first held by a Methodist minister the same year. There is but one church edifice in the town, which was built in 1866 by the Roman Catholics. A postoffice called Smithfield was established on the road from Wabasha to Plainview in 1858, and James S. Felton was appointed postmaster. Another office was established near the center of the town in 1864, called Lyons; W. L. Cleveland, postmaster. The town was christened Smithfield in honor of one of the settlers, but when organized under the state law it was changed to that of Highland. The surface of the land is quite rolling, and in some places even hilly, particularly along the banks of the streams. Much of the surface is covered with scattering oaks, which furnish a good supply of fuel. The soil is very productive. Highland contains an even township of thirty-six sections, most of which is now under cultivation.


This town includes all that portion of government township 109, range 13 west, lying north of the Zumbro river. At the time of the government survey the township was known as Concord, that being the name of the election precinct in which it was situated. At a town meeting in May, 1858, it was given the name of Troy, but the legislature not indorsing the action, a new christening resulted in Zumbro, to correspond with the river which runs through the town. The first settlement dates back to May, 1855, when quite a number sought homes and selected claims. The town settled up rapidly, and in 1856 a schoolhouse was built, and a school taught therein the next winter by Miss Mary J. Shaw. In consequence of the inconvenience of the settlers on different sides of the river getting together for elections and public meetings, the town was divided, upon application, by the county commissioners in 1862, the Zumbro river being the dividing line; the part north of the river was set off as another town and named Hyde Park. A postoffice was also established, Mr. Wm. Parker being postmaster. In 1866 the county purchased of John T. Rose one hundred and sixty acres of land on section 11 of this town, and located the county farm for the benefit of the poor. This was afterward changed, and a farm of eighty acres was purchased about one mile from the city proper of Wabasha and business part of the same.


Minneiska claims next to Wabasha to be the oldest town in the county. One Michael Agnes came up from St. Louis and settled in the southeast corner in 1851, and Louis Krutely arrived about a month later. Some time during the same year Charles Read, of Read's Landing, purchased a claim four miles farther up the river, but nothing was done at either of these points except to cut wood for the boats until 1852, when Abner Tibbetts and B. C. Baldwin purchased property at the upper yeard and one Joseph Schurb settled in the vicinity of the other. In 1853 several settlers arrived at each place. Messrs. Read, Baldwin, Tibbetts and Reppe laid out a portion of their claim into a town site the same year and called their place West Newton; it was so named from the fact that the wreck of a steamboat was lying at that time in the river, but a few yards from the site, by the name of Newton. The boat had sunk in shallow water, and the name in large letters remained on her pilot-house above the water. A postoffice was established in 1853, and West Newton might have become an important point, but the land was low, and the river kept wearing the banks away, which finally compelled the town to surrender. The village site now lies mostly in the waters of the Mississippi, and all there is left of West Newton is the name. It is now considered the finest hunting-grounds for ducks and other feathered game on the river. Mr. Agnes, however, succeeded better with his settlement, and he laid out the village of Minneiska in 1854. It was named after the river which runs through the township and enters the Mississippi near the upper part of the village. "Minneska" is the Indian name for white water. Minne is water and ska means white; the name of the river was changed to Whitewater, and the town is called Minneiska. But little improvement was made until 1856, when Mr. Putnam went there. He built a hotel in the autumn of that year, which is still standing as the back part of the Minneiska House. A large grain warehouse was built there in 1859 by Timmerman & Swart, and Mr. A. P. Foster, of Plainview, drew the first load of wheat to that warehouse that was shipped from Wabasha county. Another large grain warehouse was built in 1861 by Messrs. Bentley & Yale. A steam sawmill was erected in 1856 by Biglow & Son, which was in operation about four years, when the machinery was removed to some other point. Minneiska has great note as a wheat market, although it has suffered somewhat since the advent of railroads. The first school taught in Minneiska was in the summer of 1858, by a Miss Adams, but no schoolhouse was erected there until 1866. The Roman Catholics built a fine church there in 1867, and the Lutherans built one in 1871. The Methodists, also, have a small house of worship. Minneiska is a fractional town, and is the only town in the county where a greater number of acres are made use of for the production of hay than of wheat, about four hundred acres being meadow-land, whole number for farming purposes under cultivation being nine hundred and twenty-five.