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by Joseph S. Nelson
Published here by permission


Light for the home before the advent of coal oil was the tallow candle.

Joseph R. Watkins’ first business venture was making a few bottles of Wards Liniment and selling it from house to house.

The family of Dr. Gibbs brought the first piano to Plainview. The two daughters became talented musicians. They later became the wives of Drs. Tefft and Adams.

On the farm: Four barrels of wet wood ashes in a row dripped enough lye, combined with some fat, provided enough soft soap fro all family needs.

The first automobile seen on Greenwood Prairie roads was in the early Gay Nineties.

Paul Johnson, a likeable clerk at Koenig’s store, dished up sugar at twenty pounds for a dollar.

On the farm: Shoes for men and boys were unknown before the Gay Nineties. The Nelson boys wore high boots with bright red leather tops and copper tips on the sole. The day was never done until the bootjack, hung back of the kitchen door, was brought out to aid in removing the boots. A good grease job and they were ready for use the next morning.

Theo. Saxe and Charles Rogers were the photographers. Rogers produced many good views of the Plainview Street Fair parades.

Hoop skirts were the styles in the eighties. Women were not properly dressed throughout the Gay Nineties unless they wore a bustle.

Derby LaRock, Harry Smith, Al Drysdale and Frank Wood were the barbers. Hair cuts a quarter, shaves 10 cents, shampoo extra. Many fancy shaving mugs lined the shelves on the wall cabinet.

On the farm: Rattlesnakes were numerous on the Nelson back forty. Often times in harvest they were bound in the bundles with the grain.

Harry and Fred Weikel operated the west end meat market. Fred threw in the liver free. Brueske and Hansen operated the east end market.

The first telephone appeared in the early Gay Nineties It was installed in Koenig’s store. Many were surprised when the hear Adolf Briese talking German into it.

Marshall Brothers were landlords at the Plainview Hotel. They made all trains with the baggage cart, when meals were ready they sounded the triangle. They were followed by A. Rockwell.

Miss Maggie Lamble operated a millinery store next to Nelsons. Her line was dresses and hats. She also sold bustles.

On the other side was A. Davy’s Saloon. There was always a dish of free crackers on the end of the bar. Two doors to the east were Erding Brothers, Julius and Albert. Besides operating their saloon, they were successful dear hunter, in season.

Prize possession in the Nelson family is a spinning wheel brought to America by their mother in 1865. It is more than a hundred years old. Also there is an iron bound chest, which bears the date of 1722.

Riefkogel Bros. were east end harness makers. Al played with the band for many years.

Julius Fricke and son, Al, were east end harness makers. The also sold buggy whips.

Henry K. Oliverson was a pioneer merchant. He later formed a partnership with A.C. Woodcock.

Fred Dickerman operated a gun shop, sold bicycles, and made washing machines.

Herman Thom was the exclusive shoe dealer. He also pegged shoes. Charles Bush was his successor.

Thomas G. Bolton and two sons, Milton and John were south side druggists. They also published the Bolton Gleaner, occasionally, as a store advertiser.

Landon and Burchard were the northside druggists. The also made Dr. Wards liniment. George C. Landon later moved to Winona and C.D. Burchard formed a partnership with Charles Reiter.

B. Leininger, Harry Austin, J.A. LaCraft, Chester Behner and Harry Eggers were the watchmakers. Behner later moved to Billings, Montana.

J.S. Bisby was a pioneer north side hardware dealer. He was succeeded by A.P. Stafford who preceded George Duerre.

Rock Cornwell was a south side hardware dealer for many years.

W.G. Edwards was the first automobile dealer and for many years operated a machine repair shop. L.O. Lundquist operated a wagon shop in the east end.

R.R. Damoude and son, Charles, were early farm machine dealers. R.W. Carpenter, Herman Schwantz and M.A. Grove and sons also dealt in farm machinery and buggies.

On the farm: Not many of the first settlers possessed watches or clocks. Their timepiece was the sun.

The dentists of the early days were Drs. Roberts, Tabor and Carpenter. They were followed by Robinson, Duerre, Smith and Carpenter. Dr. Roberts was a traveling dentist.

The most disastrous fire in the early nineties destroyed the Koenig grain elevator. A volunteer bucket brigade saved the elevator to the east.

Henry Norton was the first wagon maker. His service was in great demand by the early settlers.

A canning factory was organized in the early nineties by enterprising citizens. After two failures it was sold to a corporation, which made a success of it.

Perhaps the most enthusiastic hunters were the Stephan Brothers, Herman and Walter, who lived a mile north of town. In addition to owning good guns, they possessed a kennel of coonhounds that made the coon chase ring with their baying.

A runaway of a farmer’s team down Main Street was exciting, but disastrous. It happened occasionally.

Frank A. Wells, a strong Democrat, served as Post Master during Cleveland’s administration. His daughter, Maud, was his assistant.

C.D. Lewis and T.C. Utterback were principals at the high school during early nineties. Utterback was a minister before and Lewis after their service to the school.

George R. Hall was a long time manager of Laird Norton Lumber Yards. He was succeeded by L.J. Gilbert. Mr. Hall later served as postmaster.

Frank J. Cornwell, a native of Georgia, operated a general store for many years. He was assisted by a nephew, T.A. Askew. Many clerks remembered were George H. Dickman, Henry J. Eggers, Oto Huney, Hary Balcom, Henry Binder, Lyda Finch, Mary Burnham and Ida McFarland.

George H. Denton was the first depot agent. He was a brother of Mrs. Del Pomeroy. He later organized the Tri-State Wholesale Electric Supply Co., at Sioux Falls. M.L. Manchester served as agent during the nineties. He later engaged in the grain business.

John Waste, Dan McFarland and A.C. Woodcock became the drey line operators. Mr. Woodcock became the first dealer in gasoline.

Joe Frisheim and later Ed. McCollough constituted a one-man police force during the nineties. They pumped water for the town during their rest period.

A bubbling water fountain across from Landon and Burchard store satisfied the thirst of farmers’ horses.

T.J. Wadleigh was the first furniture dealer and undertaker. He was succeeded by his son-in-law, A.W. Craig. Following Craig was the Nelson Furniture Company and M.A. Grove and Sons.

Purvis Bros. and Hostellers were the town blacksmiths. They shod horses and set wheel rims.

J.H. Davis directed the Plainview Bank. Sylvester Bros., Edward and Frank were his successors. Ed and Frank were annual big game hunters in the northern woods. The bank was later taken over by W.H. Zabel and Sons. The first National Bank came into being in the early nineties. Among the promoters was George Wedge.

R. Burkhardt and son, Alfred, were makers of clay brick. They supplied Plainview and community with their product for several years.

Julius Reiter, born west of town, served as mayor of Rochester for several terms.

Koenig Brothers; Will, Arthur and Albert, operated a large department store founded by their father William. The corporation later operated a department store at Sioux.

Gardner and Carl Colby, Royal Horton, John Stevens, Fred Weikel, Al Riefkogel and Charles Feisheim were the early members in the Plainview Cornet Band. Prof. J.A. Conway organized the Greenwood Concert Band in the late nineties.

The businessmen organized the Merchants Association and were very active in promoting the welfare of the town during the nineties. A memorable occasion was a meeting at Rochester at which time the group was addressed by Dr. William Worell Mayo, the founder of the Mayo Clinic.

George H. Dickman was for many years a clothing merchant. After retirement he became a successful real estate operator.

If your neighbor had a cow, he sold you a pail of milk for five cents. It was much more than a quart.

A.Y. Felton operated a creamery in the early days. His cream wagon called at prairie farms.

Barney Riley drove the Plainview-Wabasha stage line for many years.

S.J. Lillie, Fred Hays and Pete Pettit were the livery barn operators.

Alexander Rock was a stonemason.

On the farm: The big storm in the winter of 1888 piled snow high over line fences. A heavy rain followed in a few days, which coated the snow with thick ice. Kids on skates traveled all over the neighborhood.

The Plainview Street Fair was organized in 1900. It was very successful, even though they were unable to pick days without a downpour of rain.

Perhaps the biggest boost to Plainview was the installation of a waterworks system in the early nineties.

Lawton Brothers were south side grocery merchants for many years.

On the farm: Wages with a threshing crew were a dollar a day. The working day was from daybreak to dark, sometimes later. Occasionally the chinch bugs were first to reap the harvest.

Pat Murray was the first priest to serve the local Catholic Church.

Rev. G. Drews was the early pastor of the Emmanuel Lutheran Church.

T.E. Utterback served the Church of Christ as pastor during the same period.

A.L. Loomis served as pastor of the Congregational Church in the early nineties.

Rev. William Gillis was the pastor of the Methodist Church in the nineties. He promoted an extensive church-remodeling program. Many of the Nelson boys became members of the church in 1903.

Frank Meachum and son, Gill, operated a flour and gristmill for a number of years

Fred Weikel, Al Fricke and Alton Davis were among the best players on the Plainview Gay Ninety baseball team. Their worthy rivals were the Gainey Brothers of Elba.

H.P. Wilson and J.F. Pope were the pioneer attorneys. They were followed by S.S. Lyons, Jame A. Carley, A.A. Burkhardt, R.R. Dunlap and Fred Gerber.

Mr. Carley served for many years as state senator. His outstanding service to the state was his aggressive stand on state ore tax. He presented the state with a large tract of land on the Whitewater River for a state park. Mr. Dunlap is now serving as state senator.

Doctors serving Plainview in the early days and thereafter were Dr. Gibbs, Dr. N.S. Tefft, Dr. J.P. Waste, Dr. F.H. Roberts, Dr. E.S. Muir, Dr. E.A. French, Dr. J.A. Slocumb, and Dr. Robert Glabe.

A.B.W. Norton served many years a justice of the Peace.

The G.A.R. Hall was the only playhouse and was very popular.

The Plainview News has been a welcome visitor to many homes on Greenwood Prairie for more than eighty years. For a number of years it was under the able management of Lee Meachum, who disposed of his interests to T.G. Bolton. Bolton was not a stranger in newspaper work as he had for a long time published a store paper, which was distributed free. Following a disastrous fire, which completely destroyed the News plant, it came into possession of Will G. Mack, who consolidated it with his publication, the Plainview Record.

Will G. Mack was well qualified by his years in newspaper work to manage his new possession.

He seldom missed a trip to the depot on arrival or departure of trains. By his courteous and understanding service to the public, he made the News one of the most progressive weekly newspapers in the territory. Will G. Mack is not there now, but he has left News in good hands, those of his son, Robert J. and grandson, Robert M. Mack.

Charles A. Venables drove a spanking team of horses hitched to a shining medicine wagon when he called on the farmers of Greenwood Prairie, dispensing Watkins medicine and spices.

Many of the first settlers had no matches. They learned from the Indians how to start fire by friction. Many maintained beds of hot coals in the back yard from which fire was transferred to the kitchen stove when needed.

Home made oxcarts were often times seen with wooden wheels cut from large logs.

Butchers in 1860 sold beef at ten cents per pound. Pork shoulders were a little more.

Corn in 1932 brought the farmer ten cents per bushel. His hogs were worth two cents per pound. Eggs sold at Elgin stores during Cleveland’s administration at three cents per dozen.

Store prices in 1938 were: Sirloin or T-bone 15 cents per pound; bacon ten cents; coffee twenty four cents; fifty pound sack of flour $1.28; and ten pounds of sugar for thirty-nine cents.

Engineer Huxley and Conductor Pendergast piloted the Plainview – Eyota train during the Gay Nineties. The only serious accident was where the train rammed a forgotten flat car parked on the mainline track a few miles west of Plainview. On one occasion there were no trains for a week due to a heavy snow blockade. A rotary snowplow finally cleared the track.

Notes from the contributor,

This entry is from a privately published book by Joseph S. Nelson. He is the son of Oliver Nelson and was born 1877. The book was published in 1958 and copies given to family members. The 1854 part is the year they arrived and settled in Highland Township.

My wife's great-grandfather, Levi Emery, is mentioned in the book as is Ursula Metcalf. They are both mentioned in one of the entries on the "Biographies and History of Wabasha County" site. Ursula Metcalf/Emery was the first teacher in Highland Township (the Rich District 39). Ursula Metcalf/ Emery died in 1915 and is buried at Lake De May, Alberta, Canada.

My wife is decended from Arnold E. Nelson, a brother to Oliver Nelson, and Levi Emery/Ursula Metcalf. A son of Levi and Ursula Emery married a daughter of Arnold E Nelson.

There are some 828 people named in the book. I am in the process of transcribing the book so it can be given to family members.