Pages 204-215 (excluding page 213-214)
From the book
"History of Wabasha County" Published in 1884
Concerning Wabasha and Winona Counties in Minnesota
Scene Near The First Settlement of Rolling Stone The above cut is from a sketch taken and kindly furnished by Austin W. Lord.
It was designed that settlement on the lands selected for the colony should be made simultaneously by the members of the association, or as near so as practicable, to prevent intrusion from persons not belonging to the organization. As soon as the locality was formally decided upon a volunteer party already organized started west for the Rolling Sone, to hold possession of the "claim" made by Haddock and Murphy, until the arrival of the main body of the association. This advance guard, to which the name of "pioneer squad" had been given, was a party of eleven men who left New York city on April 7. On their way they were joined by three others, making the total number of this guard fourteen. All of these were young unmarried men except one. Mr. R. Mauby, of New York, was accompanied by his wife and seven children.
The pioneer squad of the Western Farm and Village Association came up the Mississippi from Galena on the steamboat Caleb Cope, and landed at Johnson's Landing on Wabasha prairie on April 14, 1852. The Caleb Cope was under the command of Capt. Harris, who had chartered her to run as an opposition boat against the Nominee, in place of the West Newton, which was not then ready for the early spring business. The fare, on this trip, was but fifty cents each, for passengers from Galena to Wabasha prairie. Freight was in about the same proportion of discount from regular rates.
This party of immigrants were warmly welcomed at the landing by Mr. Haddock, who had been anxiously expecting them, and had come from Rolling Stone on purpose to meet and guide them to "the promised land."
The following names of this party were furnished by a member of the squad who yet lives in Rolling Stone, at Minnesota City. The names of some of his old comrades have faded from his memory. He is the only on of the "old guard" that is now a resident of Winona county. His name heads this list of names: Hezekiah Jones, Wm. Stevens, J. W. Viney, David Robertson, D. Hollyer, R. H. Boothe, S. R. Schroeder, John Hughes, ___ Talmadge, ___ Randall, and D. Mauby and family.
They had with them quite a large amount of supplies and camp fixtures, including a large tent, household furniture, a cook-stove, tools, etc., and also brought with them two yoke of oxen and a wagon. The cattle, wagon and household furniture were the property of Mr. Mauby. The oxen and wagon were purchased for him in Illinois, by Mr. H. Jones, who came west in the fall before, and joined this party at Cherry Valley, then the terminus of the railroad. The team and wagon were used in transporting their baggage from Cherry Valley to Galena, where their supplies were purchased.
This party landed at about the foot of Main street; their freight was piled on a mound on the bank of the river and covered with the tent. It was there left in charge of one of their number, whose name is now forgotten, but who was designated as the "cigar-maker." Leaving Mr. Mauby and his family here the others hastened on to their destination.
Mr. Mauby engaged Johnson's shanty, at the upper landing, as a home for his family, until he could build a cabin for them at the Rolling Stone. He remained with them until they were settled in their temporary abode.
No provision had been made for the subsistence of the cattle. No supplies had been brought along for them, as it was supposed that hay could be readily procured, but none was to be had. There was an unusual rise of water in the river for the time of year, and a strong current was running through the slough, making it difficult for strangers to ford to the upper prairie, and no wagon trail had yet been opened along the bluffs. It was decided to leave the wagon with the freight, but to take the cattle along, as they might have use for them. The oxen were taken up to the Rolling Stone, where they were turned loose to procure a living for themselves, from the old grass on the bottoms, and such browse as they were able to get from the brush along the stream.
Temporary supplies were packed up by the party. They were ferried over the slough by the Indians in canoes. With Mr. Haddock as guide, they followed the trail along the bluffs to Noracong's shanty, there Mr. Haddock was living. Noracong and his party were then away rafting the black walnut logs they had cut during the winter.
Noracong's little shanty, about 8 X 12, stood about where the railroad crossing now is ~ north from Elsworth's flouring-mill. It was the headquarters of the pioneer squad. Finding their accommodations insufficient, some of the party constructed a kind of hut, to which the name of "Gopher house" was given. One of these "gophers" was built on the table, about fifty rods above where Troosts' flouring mill lately stood. Another one was on the table, about forty rods west from where the school building now stands. These huts were of logs, placed in the form of a house roof, and covered with dry grass from the bottoms, over which was a layer of earth covered with strips of turf arranged to shed the rain. The earth inside of the hut was excavated to the depth of a foot or more to increase the area inclosed. These huts were filled with dry grass and used as sleeping quarters.
This advance guard had volunteered to come on for the express purpose of keeping off trespassers. Although designated the pioneer squad, no other duties were assigned to them or expected from them. They spent their time in explorations of the immediate vicinity of their camp, and in hunting and fishing, furnishing plentiful supplies of ducks and trout. They all lived in common, each contributing from his own stores for general use. A cook was appointed to take charge of this department, who called for assistants when aid was required. Mr. Jones and one or two others assisted Mr. Haddock in his survey of the village plat, to which he was giving his whole attention.
In this survey, the base of operations was a straight line along the edge of the table on which Troosts' flouring-mill recently stood. It was there the first street was laid off, extending from the lower end of the table to the bluff at the upper end. The village lots and streets were laid off parallel with and at right angles to this street as a base line.
Mr. Haddock attempted to make the survey with his pocket compass, to which he affixed some sights of his own invention or construction, but was compelled to abandon this uncertain process, and rely on his guide poles and measurements. A long rope and poles superseded the tape-line and pocket compass. About two hundred acres were thus surveyed before Mr. Haddock procured a surveyor's compass and chain, with which the survey of village lots and farms were completed.
Mr. Mauby built a log shanty for his family. This stood near where the railroad station at Minnesota City now stands. It was about 12 X 16 feet in dimensions. The shed roof was covered with strips of elm bark, fastened to poles. This cabin was built on the village lot drawn by Mr. Mauby at the meeting of the association in New York city, March 31.
On May 1, 1852, O. M. Lord, Rev. William Sweet and Jonathan Williams landed on Wabasha prairie from the Dr. Franklin. They were left by the boat at the lower landing, at about ten o'clock in the evening. Applying for lodgings at Pentlers, they found the little cabin already full, densely crowded to overflowing. On looking about to discover what other chances were possible for sleeping quarters, they saw what in the darkness they supposed to be a haystack, apparently not far back on the prairie. As nothing more favorable presented itself, they started out from the landing with the expectation that they would be able to make a comfortable bed from the hay at the stack. After traveling a short distance they suddenly became aware that what they had imagined to be a stack was but the form of the bluffs ~ the outlines of which could be seen in the distance ~ they were in front of the "Sugar Loaf," the top of which, a mile and a half away, could be dimly seen above the horizon. Disappointed in their pursuit of lodgings in that direction, they returned to the river and passed the night on the sand, sleeping soundly wrapped in their blankets.
At daylight they prefaced their explorations of the country by taking observations of their surroundings. Except the broad river, then a raging flood overflowing the lowlands, and the general picturesque views extending in every direction from the landing, there was nothing in Capt. Smith's town site to excite their admiration or arouse any practical interest. The barren, sandy prairie, recently burned over, was almost entirely destitute of any appearance of vegetable life, except that the few trees and bushes along the river bank were just beginning to exhibit a faint appearance of green. Wabasha prairie was of no apparent value to these practical men, prospecting for good farming land.
Without longer delay than to indulge a good appetite for breakfast, they started for the Rolling Stone, their point of destination. Following the trail along up the river to the upper landing, they took a straight course over the prairie toward the mouth of the Gilmore valley. They were compelled to ford the slough, which was then flooded from the high water in the river. The crossing place, on the trail which they struck, was about a quarter of a mile above where the bridge, on the Gilmore Valley road, now stands. To keep their clothing dry they stripped, and carried it over on their shoulders, with their packs. Following the trail along the bluffs they readily reached Noracong's shanty, and found themselves on the grounds claimed by the Western Farm and Village Association, and were hospitably received by Mr. Haddock and such of the pioneer guard as were not absent on foraging expeditions to the trout streams in the valleys.
Mr. Sweet was the only one of his party who was a member of the association. Mr. Williams, although not a member, was a proxy representative, prospecting for his son-in-law, H. H. Hull, who belonged to the organization. Mr. Lord was not then in any way connected with the association. He was favorably impressed with its plan of colonization, but was desirous of exploring the surroundings of the locality before deciding to make it his home. He was, however, afterward prominently identified with the affairs of the colony.
Although the almanac plainly showed that the day of their arrival at Rolling Stone was Sunday, the Rev. William Sweet and Deacon Jonathan Williams accompanied the more liberal-minded O. M. Lord on a Sabbath day's journey into the wilderness back of the bluffs, to view the land. Proceeding up the valley of the Rolling Stone, they followed the trail leading out through what is now known as Straight Valley, onto the dividing ridge between the Rolling Stone and Whitewater. Following up this divide they came upon a beautiful prairie, on the edge of which they camped for the night. The next day they explored this locality, and each made choice of a claim. They gave it the name of Rolling Stone prairie, by which it was for a while designated. After selecting their claims they returned to the headquarters of the embryo colony, Noracong's shanty, and made report of their discoveries.
This party of three was the first of any of the settlers to visit the country back of the farm occupied by him for many years afterward. The claim made by Mr. Sweet was the farm occupied by him for many years afterward. The name of Rolling Stone prairie was, because of his residence here, changed and given the name of Sweet's prairie. Mr. Sweet is now living near Minnesota City. The claim made by Mr. Williams, adjoining that of Mr. Sweet, was for H. H. Hull, who was then living at Scales Mound, near Galena. Mr. Hull came on with his wife later in the season, and occupied the claim shanty of Mr. Sweet through the winter. In the spring he sold the claim made for him by Mr. Williams, and located himself a few miles farther south, in what is now the town of Utica. He lived these a few years, when he sold out and went back to Illinois.
After making this claim Mr. Sweet went back to his home and brought on a part of his family. About the middle of June, he with the aid of the settlers at Rolling Stone built a small log-house, and made some improvements on his claim. In the fall he returned home, leaving his son, a boy about twelve years, to remain and live with Mr. Hull, who, with his wife, was to occupy Mr. Sweet's shanty during the winter. It was made the duty of this boy to drive the cattle down into the Whitewater Valley to water. The boy was treated with a great deal of severity. During one of the coldest days of that winter, the boy without sufficient protection was sent to drive the cattle down into the valley ~ but he never returned. Mr. Hull found him a few rods from the house frozen to death. The body was put into a sink-hole, and not buried until the next spring.
The claim made by Mr. Lord on Sweet's Prairie was never improved by him; some other settler had the benefit of his choice.
On the second of May a large detachment of the main body of colonists, about fifty in number, men, women and children, bound for the Rolling Stone, came up the river on the Excelsior from St. Louis. This party did not land at Wabasha prairie. Supposing it to be practicable for steamboats to go through Straight slough, if the officers of the boats were inclined to make the attempt, and on account of the extreme high water which made it difficult to get to the mainland from Wabasha prairie, Mr. Haddock had advised this party so make it a condition of their passage that they should be landed at Rolling Stone. Captain Ward, of the Excelsior, promised to land them anywhere they wished, provided it could be done with safety to the boat.
On arriving at Wabasha prairie, the pilot refused to attempt the passage through Straight slough, deciding that it was not a navigable channel. The party continued on, expecting to find a landing-place somewhere above. At Holmes' landing (now Fountain City), the boat stopped to replenish its supply of wood. They here found Thomas K. Allen, the secretary of the association, who, with Augustus A. Gilbert, one of the directors, had landed from the Dr. Franklin during the previous night Mr. Gilbert had taken a canoe and crossed over to the Minnesota side of the river, leaving Mr. Allen in charge of their baggage. A cow and a breaking plow was a part of their freight.
Learning that there was no prospect of landing from the steamboat near their destination, they bargained with the master and owner of the wood-boat to transfer them to the other side of the river. The German agreed to undertake the trip for fifteen dollars, although he was unacquainted with the river in that vicinity, provided they would help him get his boat back to his woodyard again.
Taking Mr. Allen and his freight on board with the loaded wood craft in tow, the steamboat proceeded on up the river, unloading while on the way. The colonists with their freight and live stock were transferred to the empty scow, which was cast off when about a mile below the mouth of the White Water and near the Minnesota shore. From there they drifted down to Rolling Stone. It was late in the afternoon when they left the Excelsior. By carefully hugging the shore they fortunately succeeded in safely landing, about fifty rods above where Troosts' flouring-mill recently stood. It was long after dark before the weary immigrants gathered around the camp-fire of the pioneer squad, which had been a beacon to guide them as they poled the sluggish craft across the overflowed bottoms from Haddock slough, down which they had drifted until nearly opposite their landing-place.
Noracong's little shanty was literally packed full of children, with a woman or two to care for them. The "gophers" were crowded to their fullest capacity. The colonists not provided with shelter bivouaced (sic) around the camp-fires. The night was a cool but pleasant one. None seemed to suffer from the exposure they were subject to on the first night of their arrival in their new home.
Among the party landed from the wood-boat were S. E. Cotton, wife and child; H. W. Driver and wife; Lawrence Dilworth, wife and four children; James Wilson and wife; James Hatton, wife and four children; Mrs. Charles Bannon; Dr. George F. Childs, wife and niece; David Densmore, John Shaw, M. Fitzgibbons, D. Jackson, William Harris, Horace Ranney, William Sperry, A. A. Gilbert, Thomas K. Allen and others ~ some families whose names are now forgotten.
It was under such circumstances and condition of affairs that this colony was settled, and some of the members of the association initiated into the mysteries of pioneer life. Many were greatly disappointed; the realities presented to view served to somewhat cloud the illusive fancies pictured in their imaginations, of comfortable homes in the west. Some were discouraged and home-sick. Others, strongly dissatisfied with the location, decided to abandon the colony and return down the river. Some of the more courageous announced that they had come to stay, and notwithstanding the prospective hardships to be endured, they cheerfully set about making their arrangements accordingly.
At daylight the next morning the freight was unloaded from the wood-boat, and a party of nine, principally members of the pioneer squad, among whom were H. Jones and William Stevens, assisted the proprietor to land it on the Wisconsin side of the river. On their return the same day they brought with them a small flatboat, which was at first hired and afterward purchased by the association. This craft was called the Macedonian. It was a roughly-constructed affair of sufficient capacity to carry about three cords of wood, and proved really serviceable to the settlers.
The following morning some of the pioneer squad started with the Macedonian for Wabasha prairie to bring up their freight and baggage left on their arrival in charge of the "cigar-maker." Dr. Childs, William Sperry, and two other disaffected ones, who had decided to abandon the colony, embraced the opportunity and engaged passage with their families and all of their possessions and moved down to Johnson's landing. The flatboat was landed on Keen's claim, a little north from where the fair grounds were once located. From there the party walked to Johnson's and waited for a steam boat to take them back down the river. Dr. Childs remained in charge of the goods until they were hauled down by Johnson's ox-team, which, with Mauby's wagon, moved the freight of the pioneer squad up to the landing-place of the Macedonian. The flatboat returned with the goods of the pioneer party and also carried up the family of Mr. Mauby, who had been living in Johnson's shanty at the upper landing.
The Macedonian was used as a freight boat during the time of the high water and was most of the time under the control of Captain Jackson. On this first trip it was under the management of Mr. Jones. In speaking of the matter Mr. Jones said: "The wind was blowing quite strong from the east that day and we were heavy loaded both ways. The trip down was a hard one. Thinking to make the return trip easier, I tore off two or three strong poles from the Indian tepees, which we passed on our way up from Johnson's, and rigged a sail by hoisting a portion of the canvas of our tent. We went up at a good rate of speed, but kept in shoal water to please some who were afraid to venture out." This flatboat was usually propelled by oars and poles or was dragged over the flooded bottoms on the upper prairie by means of long ropes, the men who performed this service sometimes wading in the shallow water.
The large tent, which had been brought along by the advance party and used to shelter their goods at Johnson's landing, was put up at Rolling Stone as soon as it arrived at that place. Its location was about twenty rods east of where Stewart's hotel now stands. It afforded some accommodations for the houseless settlers, until they could build more comfortable places for themselves. With their cooking-stoves arranged under the trees, where they cooked and took their meals, the tent afforded shelter and sleeping quarters for several families, besides protection for some of their most valuable goods. They were abundantly supplied with provisions. Unaccustomed to pioneer life they hardly knew what to do or where to begin to make homes for themselves on the village lots apportioned to each member before he left New York. They were mechanics of different trades, and were willing to use any means in their knowledge to make their families comfortable, but they could not build houses without lumber, and none was to be obtained at any price. But few of the men were handy with the axe of understood how to build a log house.
Seeing the urgent necessity and imperative demand made for lumber, O. M. Lord, accompanied by Mr. Densmore, went up the Chippewa river and brought down a small raft of lumber, which he landed safely about where the wood-boat with its passengers reached the shore.
Mr. Lord here opened the first lumber yard ever in operation in this county. He readily retailed his lumber in small lots and soon exhausted his stock without supplying the demand. He was then engaged by the members of the association to go up to the mills on the Chippewa and purchase a large bill of lumber which they ordered. He was to attend to the sawing, rafting and delivery of the same. This raft was brought down from the Chippewa, attached to a large raft destined for some point on the Mississippi below, and cast off at the head of the slough. He made a successful trip and landed his raft at "Lord's Lumber Yard."