"HISTORY OF WABASHA COUNTY"
Compiled by Dr. L. H. Bunnell
Published Chicago by H. H. Hill, Publishers, 1884
Republished Currently by Higginson Books
Mazeppa was settled by pioneers I. O. Seely, Joseph Fuller, Enoch Young and C. C. Sleeper. These gentlemen made claims on sections 4 and 5. This was in the month of February, 1855. In April Mr. Joseph Ford and his son, O. D. Ford, and Mr. G. Maxwell arrived, and they were soon followed by others, among whom were two other sons of Mr. Ford. The same year came John E. Hyde, Francis A. Stowell and Elijah Lout, thus making quite a colony. The west half of section 6 was laid out in a village plot by Mr. Joseph Ford and his son, O. D. Ford. The site included a splendid water-power on the Zumbro, where the mills now stand. Arrangements were made to build up a village, and a saw and grist mill were erected that winter. Another mill has since been erected, some two and one-half miles east of the village, and the milling interest of Mazeppa today is a power in the county. John E. Hyde built the first store in Mazeppa in the fall of 1855, Mr. G. W. Judd a blacksmith-shop, and in 1856 Mr. O. D. Ford erected a small hotel.
When Mr. Seeley and his friends first arrived at Mazeppa they found a cave near the center of the town, where Trout brook empties into the Zumbro river, which was some fifteen feet high and twelve wide at its entrance, but diminished in height as they advanced. It was about seventy feet deep. On one side of this cave were found many curious pictures of birds and animals, some hieroglyphics also. These were rudely carved upon the rocks. They put their horses in the back part of this cave and then made themselves comfortable in the front, until they could build themselves homes to live in. The cave was considered a great blessing, and made them comfortable quarters for some time. The north branch of the Zumbro enters Mazeppa in the northwest corner, and runs down near the center of the town, and empties into the main Zumbro, which flows on through the town of Chester, entering it on its southeast quarter section. In addition to the water-power just in the village, another just below which is improved. Trout brook affords several fine powers. A flouring mill and sawmill are built upon it about two and one-=half miles from Mazeppa. About one-fourth of the surface of the town is covered with timber, and the rest is rolling prairie. The first school taught in the place was in the claim shanty of J. E. Hyde, and the first church service was also held in it by Elder Jacob McManus, a Methodist minister. The first school-teacher was Mrs. Sidney Munson. In 1869 the Congregationalists built a handsome church, and the schoolhouse was built in 1858. A graded school of high standing is sustained, and the building is a commodious one. The Catholics have also a very pretentious church completed. Mazeppa had a postoffice established in 1856, and J. E. Hyde was the first postmaster. The farming lands of this town are twenty thousand one hundred and fifty-two acres. The average yield of wheat is about twenty bushels to the acre.
Is situated in southwest corner of the county, bounded on the east by Lake City, on the south by Gilford, and north and west by Goodhue county. It is called Mount Pleasant, the height of ground affording a commanding view of the country around. These views are among the most interesting in the interior country. It was settled by white men in 1854. A small colony of men made claims in the northeast part of the town and only a short distance from Lake Pepin and the village of Lake City. The southwestern portion of the town was settled in the spring of 1855, by a company of gentlemen, who staked out their claims and made preparations to put up houses and establish themselves in their future homes. Thus the settlement grew, and soon here and there could be seen the claim shanty of the pioneer, and the people began to think themselves neighbors when they were within one or two miles of each other. Many were the privations that these new settlers were called upon to endure, yet they willingly took up the burden, looking to the future for the fulfillment of the promise of an abundant return for the labor bestowed. Golden harvests crowned their efforts, and all looked prosperous and encouraging. The first school in the town was taught in the summer of 1857, by Mrs. Alex. Graham, and Rev. Silas Haslett held the first religious services in the house of Mr. E. P. C. Fowler. After the schoolhouse was erected the meetings were held in that. There is a public house about five miles from Lake City, but no stores have ever been erected, owing to its close proximity to Lake City. There is a blacksmith-shop in the town, and the Methodists and Presbyterians each had small churches erected in 1858, in which regular services are held. The surface of the land is generally rolling prairie, with occasional groves of oak, and it is watered by springs and small streams not large enough for any extensive water-power. In 1866 Mr. N. F. Randolph represented Wabasha county in the state senate.
The first mark of civilization in the town of Watopa, was made by Mr. John Gage in 1855, who made a claim to a section of land in the valley of the Whitewater in the northeastern part of the town. Mr. Gage reached the town in August, and in September sent for his family, and for a time they were the only white inhabitants. The Indians were quite numerous, and would often give trouble by stealing their loose property. Mr. Gage was the only settler until 1856, when his brother joined him and soon Mr. Garret Fitzgerald, C. Abbott, Ole Poleson and others arrived in the neighborhood. Mr. Charles Simpson taught the first school in the neighborhood, in the winter of 1857-8, in a small house belonging to Mr. Gage. There are now several schoolhouses in the town, in which schools are taught during the school terms of the year.
Watopa is somewhat hilly in some parts, as the Mississippi bluffs run through a portion of the town, which makes the soil better adapted to stock-raising and grazing than the production of cereals; although the land in the valleys is, to a great extent, productive, and yields large quantities of hay and grain. Religious services were first held in Watopa by a Baptist clergyman, Rev. William Weld, in August, 1858.
The history of Zumbro has been given in that of Hyde Park, of which it was a part until 1861, when it was thought best to divide the town and make two. The ford of the Zumbro at these places has been spanned by a bridge three times, the last one costing the county four thousand dollars. On the night of the 15th of April, 1883, it was destroyed by the wind, or cyclone, which traversed that part of the county.
Oakwood was first settled by white men in 1856, by William Tope, David and James Toley, Lawrence and Patrick Tracy, and Mathew Kinsley and son. These men arrived in the spring, and in the following autumn several other families came. Mrs. J. H. Bernard taught the first school in 1859-60, and a comfortable schoolhouse was built in 1861. The Roman Catholics built a small church edifice in 1865, which is the only one in town.
At the time of the organization of this town it was called Pell, but in accordance with the wishes of its inhabitants it was changed, and has since been known as Oakwood. A postoffice, called Millville, was established in 1867, and Patrick Fleming was appointed postmaster. Since the building of the Minnesota Midland railroad, Millville has grown to be a place of some pretension, and there is now a store, a blacksmith-shop, hotel, and a number of good dwellings in the place. A fine grain elevator has been erected, and there is also a watering and wood station for the Minnesota Midland railroad.
In the winter of 1858-9 a portion north of the Zumbro was joined to West Albany, but as it did not give satisfaction, in 1867 it was set back again by legislation.
A man by the name of S. Brink took the first claim in this township in 1855. He erected a two-story log house and opened it as a hotel. He then made a move to get a road laid out from Read's Landing to Oronoco, which opened up a highway between the two towns, giving his hotel some custom, as most of the hauling of lumber and provisions from Read's Landing had to pass through to the interior. In the spring of 1856 there was quite a large emigration to the place, and in the spring of 1857 Messrs. L. b., E. B. and C. A. McCollum bought the west half of the northwest quarter of section 28, and laid it out into blocks and lots for a village, which was called West Albany. Mr. William Applegarth built and stocked a store. A postoffice was established and Mr. E. B. McCollum was the first postmaster. The plat was sent to the register's office, but remained unrecorded, and was at length withdrawn, but in 1859 the present village of Albany was platted by Mr. D. Applegarth, and a hotel was built by Mr. Dawson. A gristmill was erected by Mr. Applegarth, and a store and a blacksmith-shop were built. Another mill has been erected about a mile below the town, and it has become quite a thriving little village. The first school taught in the township was by Augustus Applegarth in the summer of 1858, and the first religious services were held in Mr. William Applegarth's house. In 1857 the Roman Catholics bought a building and fitted it up for a church, and the Methodists, Lutherans and Presbyterians each have places of worship and regular services. Presbyterians built in 1859. The aggregate of farming lands comprise 10,102 acres.
The first settlement in the town of Chester was made in the spring of 1855 by J. M. Kimball, and about the same time Mr. R. F. Maxwell made a claim in the vicinity, in the southwestern part of the town, which comprises an even government township of thirty-six sections. Chester is bounded west and north by Goodhue county, east by Gilford and south by Mazeppa. A fine and fertile valley extends through the entire town from the southwest to the northeast. It was first named Bear Valley, and the postoffice was established under that name; but at the time of its organization under state law in 1858, by common consent it was changed to Chester. A schoolhouse was erected in 1857, and religious services were first held in the same. In 1866 a fine flouring-mill was erected by Mr. Benjamin Clark in the southeast quarter of the southeast section of the township on the Zumbro river. The town is watered by the Zumbro river and Trout brook, a small, clear stream flowing from springs. There is some timber along the Zumbro river, but the surface is mostly rolling prairie, of dark, rich loam, with clay subsoil. In 1859-60 Mr. F. M. Skillman represented the county in the state legislature.
In the southern part of Wabasha county, and bounded north by Pell, or Oakwood, east by Plainview, and Olmsted county on the south and west, lies the town of Elgin. The north branch of the Whitewater traverses the town from east to west and drains the southern part, while the small streams in the southern part are tributary to the Zumbro. There is a grove of oak timber in the central part which covers about six hundred acres. (This grove is the only timber in the township.) The soil is productive, and its agricultural advantages are second to none in the county. It was first settled in the spring of 1855, by Messrs. George and Curtis Bryant, H. H. Athurton and George Farrar, who took claims adjacent to each other on sections 27, 28 and 34. A schoolhouse was built and a school kept in it in the summer of 1858, by Miss Gould. This schoolhouse was situated on the present site of the village of Elgin. The first church was organized in the spring of 1857, at the house of Mr. John Bryant, by Rev. J. Cochran, a congregational clergyman. Elgin postoffice was established in 1857; Mr. George Bryant, postmaster. Since the advent of the Eyota branch of the Northwestern railroad in Elgin, the place has improved rapidly. There are now several stores and a large grain elevator, which makes Elgin a formidable rival of Plainview; a commodious church also, in which regular services are held; a first-class school and school-building and several stores. Mr. Bryant held the office of postmaster ten years, when he resigned. In the northern part of the town of Elgin is another postoffice, called Forest Mound. The first colony of Elgin were all sturdy, high-minded, intelligent Vermonters, and the town to this day bears the impress of the energy and ambition of its first settlers.
Gilford was settled in 1855, by persons from Illinois. This town is also an even government township, and contains twenty-three thousand and forty acres. It is well watered by small brooks running through it in various directions. The surface is mostly prairie, although there are groves of oak which supply a reasonable amount of timber for fuel and fencing. The organization of the town took place in 1858, and a postoffice was established called Lincoln.
Glasgow was settled by white people in 1855, Mr. Wm. McCracken being the first to break the soil for a crop. This was in June 1855. It was too late for wheat, and Mr. McCracken put in corn, and in the autumn harvested a good crop; this was the starting of all agricultural pursuits in the township. These settlers were mostly Scotch, and the town was named after old Glasgow, in Scotland. A schoolhouse was built in 1858, and Miss Mary Cosgrove taught the first school in it the same summer. Religious services were held in the spring of 1858, by Rev. B. F. Wharton, a Baptist clergyman, at the house of Robert Cochran. A postoffice was established in 1867. Although the early settlers were mostly of the Scotch element, quite a large portion of the present population is composed of Germans. There are relics in various parts of the town of the former occupants of the town, which remind one forcibly of the mutability of all things, and that we, too, must pass away and yield to others the labor of our hands, and the homes we love. Glasgow is also an even government township, and contains eighteen thousand and ninety-eight acres of farming lands.
The first settlement in Pepin township was made in 1841 by Edward Hudson, a soldier under command of Co. Snelling at Fort Snelling. Shortly after coming to Pepin he married the daughter of Duncan Campbell, and settled down among the Sioux, cultivating a small piece of ground, the property of his wife. He erected upon that ground the first building in the town, and occupied it as a storehouse, storing therein the supplies shipped up the Mississippi for the Chippewa lumber trade. Hudson died in 1843, and was buried not far from the present steamboat landing. John Campbell arrived here in 1843, being sent out by the English government for the purpose of operating among the Indians against the French. Until 1847 there was not a white resident in this part of Minnesota, except those connected with the Indians, either by blood or marriage. Mr. Charles R. Read came here during the month of April of that year, and to him is due, to a great extent, the honor of inaugurating civilization in southern Minnesota. He came over from Nelson's Landing, where he had lived for three years. He occupied, after his arrival, the land owned by Edward Hudson's widow, by lease, for a time, but finally purchased the property and became sole owner. The landing had been called Hudson's Landing. He build a house the same year, and lived under rather adverse circumstances until the Indian titles to the lands were settled. In 1851, just before the treaty was ratified which extinguished their title, some of the mixed bloods tried to get Mr. Read removed from the place, but, struggling on to overcome the boisterous discord, he remained, and soon other members of the white race clustered around the fold. In the fall of 1851 Mr. F. S. Richards bought in and became a partner with Mr. Read in business. They established a trading house, and shipped goods and did commission business for the Chippewa lumber trade. The first steamboat that navigated the waters of the Chippewa was the Roller ~ Smith Harris, master ~ in 1852. Gov. William R. Marshall came here in the fall of 1852, and purchased an interest in the claim of and also an adjoining claim of John Campbell, upon which he erected a steam sawmill. This claim and the one occupied by Messrs. Read and Richards, is the present village site of Read's, which was laid out by the proprietors in 1856. Mr. T. B. Wilson, one of the present firm of Knapp, Stout & Co., came to the place about this time, and he and Mr. Richards built a block large enough for two stores, which were occupied by themselves for that purpose. Mr. F. A. Seavy put up a blacksmith-shop in 1854, and also a hotel, called the American House. A postoffice was established as early as 1850, Mr. Read being the first postmaster.
The village in earlier days was the scene of many battles between the Sioux and Chippewas, and bones and implements of war, and domestic utensils have been often found while plowing gardens and grading the streets. The location is a pleasant one, extending along under the bluffs for some distance, giving it the appearance of a village of one street. The road to Lake City winds up the bluff, just above the village, and, as the summit is reached, the gaze turns upon one of the finest landscapes of the Mississippi, and admiration is lost in wonder at the magnificent scene. The village of Read's is situated in the eastern part of the town. In 1856 it was recorded as the village of Pepin, being just at the foot of Lake Pepin, but it is known all over the state as Read's Landing. A charter was framed during the winter of 1867-8, and approved by the legislature March 5, when the site was detached from the town of Pepin and set off as the village of Read's. The first election was held April 2, 1868.
In 1856 the county began to fill up rapidly with farmers from all parts east of the Mississippi; and when we look at the location of Wabasha county and its beautiful situation for scenery, and adaptation to agricultural pursuits, it is not hard to comprehend why this was one of the first settled counties of the state. Lying on the western shore of Lake Pepin, with bold bluffs rising in majestic grandeur over its waters, with moderate climate, exhilarating atmosphere, and a soil whose productions are almost boundless, with its natural beauty of scenery, it is certainly one of the most favored localities in the state. The county was named in honor of the celebrated chief by that name, of the Dakotah nation.
The town of Greenfield remained an unbroken wild until the spring of 1854, when Messrs. Aaron and Levi Cook, Henry Amerland, Isaac Cole, Madison Wilds, J. W. Murphy, C. C. Stauff and others took claims along the valley of the Zumbro. This valley extends from the Mississippi river, up the south side of the Zumbro about twelve miles, and is of fertile soil. It is commonly known as Cook's Valley, taking that name from the brothers Cook, who were among its first settlers. Cook's Valley postoffice was established in 1858, a schoolhouse built in 1857, and Miss Aurora Albertson taught the first four months' school during the winter of 1857-8. A church was built in 1861 by the Methodist society; this church is in the upper part of the valley. During the fall of 1856 Hon. Thomas H. Ford, ex-governor of Ohio, and Judge Casey, of Pennsylvania, visited this valley, and, being charmed by the prepossessing features of a claim owned by Timothy Enright, they purchased it at once, and laid out upon it a village-site, believing that it would develop itself in the building of a commercial city. This quarter section was situated upon the Mississippi, four miles below Wabahsaw. The location was indeed beautiful, it being an island in the delta of the Zumbro. The bluffs of the Mississippi are about four miles back of this point, and the surrounding country was level. This island for many years had been the general encampment of Wapashaw's band, and the proprietors of the village determined to name their city Tepeeotah, from the Indian tongue "teepee," meaning house, and "otah," many. They fully expected to see their city possess far greater dimensions than Wabashaw, which was then improving rapidly. A steam-sawmill was erected, in 1857, by D. Sinclaire & Co., and operations began in the spring of 1858. Mr. Theodore Adams became a joint proprietor of the town in 1857, and the company was known as Ford, Casey & Adams. Hancock Brothers built a store, and a goodly number of dwellings were erected, together with a hotel. But these business transactions came to a sudden close. It was found that boats could not land there except in high water, in consequence of the bar in the river, called Beef Slough bar, and which they thought would prove beneficial to them, to the detriment of Wabashaw, it being difficult for boats to pass it in low water. Then the hard times of 1857-8 came on, the proprietors became deeply involved, and the business of Tepeeotah, laboring under these combined disadvantages, sank to nothing, and in Marc, 1859, a fire occurred which obliterated the young city and not a remnant of its greatness can now be traced. As the town site was laid out, the lands adjacent to it were considered very valuable, which excited envy in the minds of many. A person owning a claim at the north of the town died in the fall of 1856, and many endeavored to possess themselves of the claim. This led to much disturbance, a quarrel ensued which was called the "Tepeeotah war." Parties in Wabashaw claiming to be creditors of the deceased tried to hold the claim, and, of course, net with strong opposition from the residents of Tepeeotah. A general combat ensued which resulted in hostilities that lasted for a year. In those early days law was of little avail, and several shots were fired, a man by the name of Polehemis being killed. The incendiarism before mentioned probably arose from this trouble. The fine site still remains, but the soil is sandy, and is not sufficiently fertile to be of value for farms. The business transactions of Greenfield at the present time are carried on at Kellog. A village called Pawselin was laid out in 1863 by Messrs. Johnson & Morgan, who thought they had discovered a clay from which the pottery by that name was manufactured. Like many other discoveries, it proved to be a myth, and their town did not increase in population until 1871, when the Minneapolis, St. Paul & Chicago road was built through here, and just at its junction with the Zumbro the village of Kellog was laid out adjoining, which entirely suspended Pawselin, and business centered there. A large grain elevator was erected, which added to its importance; the postoffice was removed to Kellog, a Methodist church built, and two hotels.
Many difficulties attended the early settlement of Greenfield, owing to a band of outlaws settling there. The leader of this band was one Dresser, Rufus Dresser. He settled upon a claim now owned by Mr. James Orr, and endeavored, by aid of his crew, to keep possession of the entire valley. Other parties taking claims, Dresser, or some one of his band, would declare ownership at once, a dispute would commence, and crime be the result.
A man by the name of George Hayes purchased a claim, and Alexander Beard, one of Dresser's men, claimed ownership. Mr. Hayes, not willing to give up possession, employed a Mr. Wilds and others to remove Beard, who was building a log house. Dresser was then assisting him. Mr. Wilds, upon his arrival, ordered them both off the place. A quarrel arose upon this, which came to blows, and finally Dresser ordered Beard to shoot, which he did , shooting and mortally wounding Mr. Wilds, who died the same day. A warrant was issued, by a justice from Wabashaw, for their arrest, and sheriff Hurd attempted to arrest them, but failed. A party from Wabashaw met them at Tepeeotah that same night, among whom was A. A. Weston. They arrested and conveyed them to Wabashaw, where they were examined, and afterward conveyed to Stillwater, but, soon making their escape from there, they returned and boldly made their appearance at Wabashaw. Beard was again arrested and confined, but escaped again and left the county. Mr. J. J. Stone was deputy sheriff at this time, and in attempting to arrest Dresser was shot at by Dresser's wife through the door. One the 15th of February Mr. Weston was shot through the window of his house and died from the effect of the wound about three years after. Dresser was again arrested, but finally made his escape and left the country. It is supposed that this same band were instrumental in the destruction of Tepeeotah by fire.
Greenfield is well watered and has a fair amount of timber. The Zumbro flows through the town from west to east, and discharges its waters into the Mississippi through three different mouths. The extent of the farming lands are fifteen thousand seven hundred and thirty-seven acres.
Wabasha county possesses as good facilities for manufacturing pursuits as any county in Minnesota. The immense power at Minneapolis, of course, more than equals any other single power; but the powers of the Zumbro and its tributaries are being rapidly developed, and they are equal to propel as much machinery as any in Minnesota. The united forces of the four principal forks of this stream traverse the county through its entire length, a distance of about fifty miles.
The two middle forks unite in the township of Oronoco, in Olmsted county, forming one rapid stream, which winds its way for a distance of two miles and unites with the waters of the south branch, which it carries onward about two miles farther, and enters Wabasha county in the town of Mazeppa. The north branch also enters the county at this point, and flows a distance of about four miles, and discharges its waters in the main Zumbro very near the center of the town. From Mazeppa it finds its way eastward, forming the boundary line between Zumbro and Hyde Park, crossing the northwest corner of Oakwood and the southeast corner of West Albany, traversing the towns of Glasgow and Greenfield, and enters the Mississippi, receiving on its way tributary waters from smaller streams. The principal powers that are improved on this stream are at Mazeppa and Zumbro Falls. The French name of this river is Embarrass, so called from its many winding sand turns, and difficulty in following it to its several mouths. The Indians call it Waziouja.