Pages 180-185 From the book
"History of Wabasha County" Published in 1884
Concerning Wabasha and Winona Counties in Minnesota
During the latter part of the winter and early in the spring of 1852 quite a number of claims were selected, and on some improvements commenced. These "betterments" were simply a few logs thrown together, forming a sort of pen and designed to represent the nucleus of a future residence. When the Indians assessed the settlers they did not consider these improvements sufficient to justify the levying of a tax, notwithstanding the importance attached to these as evidence that the land was claimed and settled upon.
The claim made by George W. Clark in the fall previous was staked off and possession indicated by a few logs. The half mile west of it was taken by Jabez McDermott and the next by Josiah Keen. These two young men had been living at Bunnell's Landing, but about the time they made their claims they went up to the Rolling Stone, where they engaged in getting out black walnut logs with Noracong and McSpadden.
Clark also selected a location across the slough, which he held in the name of his brother, Scott Clark, then living in New York. This claim is now the farm on which George W. Clark resides.
Allen Gilmore made his claim next west of the one selected for Scott Clark. He built a log cabin in the grove west from where the Clark school-house now stands. It was from Allen Gilmore, and because of his living nearest, that Gilmore valley was given its present name. Mr. Gilmore occupied this locality until his death, which occurred March 29, 1854. It was purchased from the administrator of the estate, Dr. John L. Balcombe, by Orin Clark, a brother of G. W. Clark, who came into the county that spring. Mr. Clark occupied it for many years. He now lives in the city of Winona, but still retains possession of the grove. The other portion of the claim is owned and occupied by Mr. Celestial Peterman.
George Wallace made choice of a location back of the lake, where John Zenk now lives. It also included what is now Woodlawn cemetery.
Peter Gorr made a claim on the river just above Runnell's. He here built a small log cabin, which he occupied with his wife and three children.
In narrating some incidents of early days, Mr. Gorr says that during the winter of 1850-51 Augustus Pentler worked for Bunnell by the month chopping on the islands. In the spring he returned to Illinois, where his wife was then living. During the summer Pentler and Gorr came up the river together and stopped off at La Crosse, where they remained for a few days, but not finding employment, they crossed the Mississippi and came up the river on foot over the trail along the bluffs. At Brown's they stopped to rest and get something to eat. Mr. Brown furnished them a luncheon, but, learning that they were going up to Bunnell's for work, he declined to receive pay for the refreshments provided.
In speaking of Mr. Brown he very emphatically remarked: "I have known Nathan Brown a great many years. He was the whitest white man among all the old settlers in this county. He always had the courage to do right and never wronged any man willfully that I ever heard. He feared no man, but he trusted everybody with decency and gentlemanly. That was the reason why he was respected by everybody. Even the ‘cussed' Indians respected him and had confidence in his integrity. Strangers as well as acquaintances were always welcome to his hospitalities. No one ever left Brown's suffering from hunger if he made his wants known."
Gorr and Pentler worked by the month for Bunnell during that season. In the fall they built a comfortable log cabin on the island opposite Bunnell's and brought their families from Illinois, with the design of settling on the Sioux lands in the spring. They moved across the river about the last of February, 1852, and made their first settlement in this county.
About the time of the quarrel between Bunnell and Johnson, some difficulties occurred from business transactions between Bunnell and Gorr. These choppers took sides with Johnson against their employer. Johnson went down with his oxen and sled and moved them off from the island and drew the logs for the shanty.
Mr. Gorr selected this location as a temporary stopping-place for his family to live until he found a more suitable place for a permanent home. Bunnell objected to his occupying it. Anticipating trouble about the matter, Johnson and the settlers on Wabasha prairie went down and helped put up the cabin. Bunnell met them and strongly protested against their building a shanty on his claim. Gorr started toward him in a threatening manner and told him to "dry up and go home." Bunnell, being alone, considered discretion the better part of valor, and did not interfere with the house-raising.
When W. B.. Bunnell and Timothy Burns, lieutenant-governor of the State of Wisconsin, with others, originated the scheme of making that locality a town site, they found Gorr and encumbrance. Lieut. Gov. Burns offered him twenty-five dollars for his cabin, with a promise of further payment in lots when the town site was surveyed, provided he would abandon the locality. This offer Mr. Gorr accepted, and on June 6 made a claim in what is now Pleasant valley, about a mile above where Laird's flouring-mill stands. He built a log house on it and moved his family there on June 9.
The valley was for several years known as Gorr valley ! Until it was given its present name. Mr. Gorr was the first to settle in this valley, and among the first in this county to make farming a business occupation. He settled here with the design of making it his permanent home, and occupied this farm about ten years, when he sold out and invested in other farming lands. Mr. Gorr is yet a resident of the county and is now living on the bank of the Mississippi, about the village of Homer. The locality was once the town site of Minneowah. His house is within ten yards of the site where he built the log cabin which he sold to Lieut.-Gov. Burns in the spring of 1852.
Henry J. Harrington made a claim in the mouth of Pleasant valley, of what is now known as "Hamilton's Farm." During the season of navigation Mr. Harrington was employed as mate on one of the steamboats running on the upper Mississippi. Early in the spring of 1852 he brought his family to Bunnell's, where they boarded until he had a shanty built on his claim. His first cabin was a low one-story structure, made of small logs or poles, roofed with bark, from the Indian tepees in that vicinity. This shanty stood in a grove on the table east of the present farm buildings and on the opposite side of the stream. Here Mrs. Harrington, with a family by the name of Chamberlain, lived until Mr. Harrington built a more permanent house on the west side of the stream.
This second building was a very comfortable story and a half hewed log house, about 16 X 20, with a cellar under it, walled with stone. This building formed a part of the old farm buildings on "the farm." Mr. Harrington made some improvements. He had about ten acres of breaking fenced in with a rail fence, which he planted to corn. He also cultivated a garden and set out some fruit-trees. It was his design to open up a stock farm here, but he did not live to carry out his plans. He died in 1853. His funeral was on Sunday, June 12.
Mrs. Harrington leased the house and cultivation to Patrick Nevil, who came into the county that fall. She stored her household goods in a part of the house and went down the river among her friends to spend the winter, leaving the care of her property to her agent, George M. Gere, Esq. Early in the spring Mr. Gere sold the claim to M. K. Drew for $400, giving a quit claim deed subject to the lease of Mr. Nevil. Some incidents relative to this claim will illustrate the uncertainty of real estate transactions while the title to the land was in the United States.
Mr. Nevil lived on the Harrington placer through the winter, and in the spring made a garden and planted the enclosed field with corn. During this time he made a claim in the valley opposite to Gorr's, where he had some breaking done and built a shanty. This is now the farm of his son, John Nevil. Having an opportunity to dispose of his crop to a cash customer, he sold his lease to John C. Walker, a recent arrival with a family, and moved on his own claim.
In this transaction Mr. Nevil gave Walker a quit claim deed and possession of the house. Walker then assumed to be the proprietor and real owner of the claim, and successfully resisted all attempts of Mr. Drew to acquire possession, even after the lease had expired or was declared void. He barricaded the house and with his family closely guarded the premises. Under no pretext was anyone permitted to pass the boundaries of the fence which inclosed the improvements.
Mr. Gere, justice of the peace and agent of Mrs. Harrington, with the constable, Harvey S. Terry, attempted to obtain entrance to the house by demanding the household goods of Mrs. Harrington stored in the dwelling. They were met at the "bars," by the whole Walker family. Mr. Walker, with his gun in his hands and revolver in his belt, Mrs. Walker, armed with a huge carving knife, the children carrying an ax, a scythe and a pitchfork. The officers of the law hesitated "to storm the castle against such an armed force," and called a parley for negotiations. Mr. Walker did not object to deliver up the goods, but would not admit them into the enclosure. He stood guard while Mrs. Walker and the children brought the furniture from the house and delivered it outside the fence,. Walker refused to relinquish the claim to Mr. Gere, but sent word to Mr. Drew that he did not desire to be mean about the transaction, and would pay him $400 for the claim, the amount he had paid to Mrs. Harrington, provided they would give a quit claim and leave him in peaceable possession of the property. Finding the speculation and unprofitable one, and glad to get his money back, Mr. Drew accepted the proposition and the claim became the "Walker Farm." Mr. Walker occupied this locality about ten or twelve years, when he sold out and went south.
Hick Carroll made a claim in the timber below Harrington's, which he sold to Silas Stevens. He also made other selections along the river at various places, but did not locate on any until he made a claim on the head waters of Pine creek, in what is now the southern part of this county, where he made a permanent settlement and home for his family.
The sale made by Hick Carroll to Silas Stevens was the first "real estate" transaction, the first sale of a claim ever made in the early settlement of this county. Mr. Stevens had such confidence in the development of the country and future growth of a commercial town on Wabasha prairie that he gave Carroll $50 if he would relinquish the claim and let him have possession of it. It was held by Mr. Stevens for a year or two afterward in the name of his son, Wm. H Stevens. It was the design of Mr. Stevens to make this locality a site for a steam saw-mill, expecting to use the slough for the purpose of storing logs brought down the river.
Mr. Stevens gave his claim on Wabasha prairie into the hands of his son, Wm. H Stevens, to hold possession, and returned to La Crosse, where he continued to carry on his lumber business.