Incidents of the Early Times ~ Winona County, Minnesota
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Winona County, Minnesota
INCIDENTS OF THE EARLY TIMES
Pages 237-247 From the book
"History of Wabasha County" Published in 1884
Concerning Wabasha and Winona Counties in Minnesota
This chapter was transcribed by Greg Lafavor and proofed by Kitty Lafavor
Among the settlers who came into this county in the spring of 1852 were Wayne Clark and Scott Clark, brothers of George W. Clark. Wayne arrived about the first of May, Scott a little later in the season. Scott Clark was an invalid, and came on from the State of New York with the hope that the climate of Minnesota would prove beneficial to his health. He made a claim in the mouth of Gilmore valley. It included the Indian cultivation and extended onto the table where the residence of C. C. Beck now stands. His claim shanty, a small log house, stood on the same plateau but near the point next to the creek. He held this claim until his death, which occurred in June, 1854. He was buried on the grounds of what is now Woodlawn cemetery. His grave was the first in that locality. He was, however, buried there several years before the spot was selected as a public cemetery.
Wayne Clark did not come to Minnesota for the express purpose of making it a home as an actual settler. His principal object was speculation. He brought with him quite a number of land warrants, which he expected he would be able to use in securing lands on the "Sioux purchase" in the territory, but the lands had not been surveyed and he found that land warrants were not available property here. To preserve them, he carefully laid them away in his trunk, in which he also secreted other valuables. He brought with him from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, the trunk and "good clothes" of his brother, left there the year before, when George abandoned all superfluities of that kind.
These trunks were stored in Nash's shanty on claim No 2, which they then occupied as their headquarters. Nash and Gilmore were away, rafting logs for Farrell that had been cut on the islands opposite during the winter. Although living in this shanty on the prairie, they were engaged in making improvements on the claim of George Clark across the slough, putting in a crop of potatoes, corn, making garden and building a cabin.
One day, while engaged in putting the cabin in a habitable condition, they were alarmed by a messenger, William N. Stevens, crossing over in haste to inform them that the Sioux threatened to burn the shanty on the Nash claim, and that they had better come over and take care of their traps or their property would be burned up in it.
Startled by this report, they hastened to secure their valuables from threatened destruction. On arriving at the landing they found all of the settlers gathered at Goddard's shanty, with about half a dozen Indians as the center of attraction. They here learned that the cause of the alarm was from the neglect of Nash to pay the Indian tax which had been levied on the shanty by the Sioux, or to provide for its payment as he had promised the Indians. On this visit the Indians collected a barrel of floor from Gere, and another from Dr. Childs. There were but six inhabited claim shanties on Wabasha prairie at this time. All had paid their tax except Nash. Wabasha's' "infernal" revenue collectors were somewhat irritated at not being able to secure the delinquent tax on the shanty of claim No. 2. The leader and spokesman of the party expressed his dissatisfaction forcibly and emphatic in the Dakota language. The settlers standing around readily comprehended what he meant, although they could not understand but a single word of all that he said. By signs used in his demonstrations he intimated that they had promised to give them the flour when the Nominee came up in the spring, but had failed to do as agreed. Gesticulating with his hand, he pointed down the river, then moving them slowly up until he pointed up stream. This he performed several times, each time repeating, distinctly, "Nominee," pointing toward the shanty, shaking his fist and giving strong expressions of dissatisfaction. The interpretation as understood was that the Nominee had been up and down a number of times and Nash had not furnished the flour. Apparently becoming terribly excited in his manner, the Indian rushed to the cook-stove of Mrs. Goddard, which stood at the side of the building, and drawing out a blazing fire-brand, started toward the delinquent shanty as if he was going to set it on fire. This the settlers comprehended as only a threat that they would bum it if the flour or its equivalent was net forthcoming. He was easily pacified and induced to drop the incendiary torch when assured he should have the flour. Johnson furnished it from his own supplies and settled the matter at once.
This was the only Indian scare ever attempted by the Sioux with the early settlers in this county. The alarm was soon over and an amicable shake all around indicated a satisfactory adjustment of difficulties and a truce to all hostile demonstrations.
In transporting the flour collected by the Indians, the barrels were opened with their hatchets and the flour transferred to sacks. The barrels were then destroyed.
The only claim shanties on Wabasha prairie for which this tax was paid to the Sioux were on claims Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4, and on the claim of Dr. Childs and for Henry C. Gere's shanty. John Burns paid them for his privileges in the mouth of Burns valley. Four barrels of flour settled all Indian claims on the colony at Minnesota City. These were all that paid the Indian tax that season. Finding the settlers were becoming too numerous to be easily alarmed, the Indians abandoned their compulsory plan of begging and let them remain undisturbed.
Notwithstanding the amicable adjustment with the Sioux in relation to the shanty they were occupying on the prairie, the Clarks removed their deposits and transferred all of their effects across the slough, where they were under their personal care. They commenced housekeeping in their own shanty, George W., Wayne and Scott Clark living together.
Wayne Clark spent that season in Minnesota, exploring the country looking for chances to speculate, but went down the river on the last boat in the fall without making a claim or investing his surplus funds in a country where securities (claims) were such uncertain property.
With the crowd of passengers brought up the river by the Nominee on the 19th of May, who landed on Wabasha prairie, were quite a number of immigrants for the colony. For convenience in discharging freight and live stock, Captain Smith landed them at the lower landing, his favorite claim and special preference for a town site.
Among the members of the association who stopped here were Hiram Campbell, wife and three children, Mrs. Thorp (wife of Robert Thorp) and three sons, H. B. Waterman, wife and son, Asa Waterman, Rufus Waterman, Andrew Petee, D. Q. Burley, H. Shipley and son, Mr. Hunt and others.
This party had quite a huge herd of cattle-oxen, cows and young stock. The greater part of them belonged to Hiram Campbell. Mr. Waterman had two yoke of oxen and two cows, and Mr. Hunt two yoke of oxen. As soon as the cattle were landed they scattered over the prairie in spite of the efforts of their owners to restrain them. The new-comers were not then aware that they were on an island, from which their cattle would not attempt to escape even if allowed to range over it. It was not until late in the day that all of the frisky herd were collected at the lower end of the prairie. The tents were pitched and the party remained at the landing until the next morning, when the wagons were loaded, the cattle collected, and all moved up to the upper end of the prairie, where they again camped near the landing-place of the Macedonian.
The following morning the cattle were again collected and after much trouble driven across the back slough at the crossing on the trail below where they camped. Mr. Campbell divested himself of all clothing and followed them over alone to aid his young stock if occasion required. The wagons, with the men, women and children, were transferred across the slough to the upper prairie by the Macedonian landing about where the present road is laid. Several trips were made to carry them all over. From here they made their way along down the dough and then moved on up to the table-land along the bluffs above the month of Gilmore valley, where they camped for the night. The next day, May 23, they made their entry into the settlement and mingled with the crowds there collected. Some of this party are yet residents of that vicinity.
On account of the difficulties in getting to Rolling Stone from Wabasha prairie, and because of the strong feeling of jealousy and rivalry that began to be exhibited between the two localities, Mr. Haddock urgently requested the members of the association, by messages and letters sent to those on their way up, not to land on Wabasha prairie. If the boats could not be induced to land them at Rolling Stone by going up Straight Slough, they were advised to continue on up the river and land on the Minnesota side below the mouth of the White Water. From there he supposed it would be practicable to reach the colony by land, or they could be brought down by water on the Macedonian.
But one small party attempted to reach the colony over this route. They came up the river on the Dr. Franklin. At Johnson's landing, where the boat stopped, they were advised by O. M. Lord, who chanced to see them, that they had better land there with the other passengers, and assured them that it would be more difficult to get to Rolling Stone from above than from the prairie.
Mr. Wright, who had previously visited the colony, and who now assumed the leadership, had such unlimited confidence in the judgment and advice of Mr. Haddock in the matter, that he decided to follow the instructions of the president of the association. They continued on and landed on the morning of May 23 about three miles below the mouth of the White Water and about a mile below Hull's landing, afterward known as Mt. Vernon.
The members of this party were James Wright, wife and six children, John Nicklin, wife and two children, and S. M. Burns, wife and three children.
Mr. Wight was one of the directors of the association and one of its earliest members. He had been a resident of the city of New York, where he followed the occupation of a wood-turner. Mr. Nicklin was from the same place, where he was a lithographer. Mr. Burns was from eastern Pennsylvania, where he had been a hotel-keeper, or keeper of a restaurant. It was said that Mr. Burns brought more money with him than any other member of the colony
With their freight they had a large supply of provisions and quite an amount of household goods. Mr. Burns brought with him very fine pair of horses, a wagon and a general assortment of farming tools. The experiences of this party during their stay here are given as related by Mr. Wright to illustrate some of the incidence of pioneer life in the early settlement of this county.
When the horses of Mr. Burns were landed from the steamboat, they were not securely fastened by the deck hands who had them in charge. Their halters were loosely tied to the brush that grew along the bank, and by their restlessness they soon released themselves. Attracted by the fresh grass, they quietly enjoyed their liberty by grazing in the vicinity. Thinking it safe, Mr. Burns indulged them while he was putting his wagon together, which had been taken apart for convenience in transportation.
After completing his task Mr. Burns attempted to secure his team, but the horses playfully eluded his grasp of their halters and kept just beyond his reach. Startled by some sudden movement, they sprang off as if for a race but again halted to feed until he came near, when they again left him. At length, turning up a valley, they disappeared. He would occasionally get a glimpse of them on *** sides of the ravine and then lost sight of them entirely. He followed their trail to the ridge on the top of the bluffs, where he lost all trace and returned to the river at evening, tired and hungry, without his horses.
During the day, Mr. Wright and Mr. Nicklin arranged their goods in the form of a hollow square, and with poles and blankets formed a temporary covering over it. This provided a common shelter for the whole party. A cook-stove was adjusted for business near by, and as they had a variety of provisions and good cooks, their camp was comfortably established and well provided for, except protection from heavy winds. Plenty of dry grass and an abundance of blankets and quilt furnished them beds of which they had but little reason to complain. They had the material for tents in their boxes, but they did not consider it worth while to unpack them for the short time they proposed to stay there.
The following morning Mr. Bums resumed his search for the truant animals. As the flatboat was expected from Rolling Stone, Mr. Wright and Mr. Nicklin remained in camp. When at Wabasha prairie they had sent word to Mr. Haddock, notifying him of their arrival and asking to have the boat sent up for them.
In the afternoon Mr. Robertson and Mr. Woodcock came up from the colony with the report that an attempt had been made to bring up the Macedonian, but it was found to be almost impossible to manage it and the effort had been abandoned; that Capt Jackson proposed to take them down in his small boat and would come up in the morning to begin the undertaking. They also reported that there were no roadway along the bluffs that was passable for wagons, although them was a well-worn Indian trail.
Mr. Burns returned without his horses. He was unable to trace them, and for awhile was himself lost and gave up his search. He was tired out and discouraged with his fruitless efforts to find his stray property. He had paid a high price for his horses in Chicago, and, being fearful that he would lose them without a chance for their recovery, he offered a reward of fifty dollars for them delivered in camp or at Minnesota City.
Stimulated by this liberal offer Robertson and Woodcock volunteered to hunt for the strays. After a late but hearty dinner they took the trail at about four o'clock in the afternoon and found them before dark in the head of the north Rolling Stone valley and rode them to Minnesota City the same evening. The horses were returned to Mr. Burn uninjured by their frolic. He promptly paid over the reward.
Captain Jackson made the attempt to transfer this party with his small boat and commenced with the family and freight of Mr. Nicklin. To accomplish this required several trips. He was successful except with the last which was a valuable load in bulky boxes. The boat was capsized and the cargo a total loss "no insurance." Some relics of the contents of the boxes were found the following winter in the brush on an island, but nothing of value recovered. This accident suspended that line of transportation.
Robertson and Woodcock, with an eye to speculation, offered to deliver the goods of Mr. Wright and Mr. Burns at Rolling Stone for fifteen dollars. A bargain was at once closed with them and they proceeded to construct a raft from some dead oak-trees standing on the bank of the river. After the logs were secured together and loaded with a barrel of pork, a barrel of beef, a barrel of vinegar and cask of hams, but little of the raft was above water. Lashing the freight to the logs they added a cook-stove, shoved off into the current and safely landed it at "Lord's lumber yard" without accident and without delay.
After the raft had left the shore Burns decided that he would not move down to the settlement. He had made arrangement with the Halls for an interest in their town site and concluded to remain on the river. He immediately commenced to build himself log house, and moved his family and goods up to the landing.
On Saturday Mr. Hunt and Mr. Shipley came up along the bluffs with two yoke of oxen and a wagon for the purpose of moving them down. This was the first wagon that ever passed between the two places. They met with no serious obstruction for the passage of an empty wagon, although the way was rough and uneven.
When they left Rolling Stone Mr. Shipley was apparently in his usual health. He had that morning parted with his son, a young man about sixteen years old, and sent him down to Galena to bring up his family, which he had left there two weeks before. While on his way up along the bluffs he began to complain of not feeling well, and soon became too sick to even follow on the trail. Mr. Hunt made him as comfortable as he could on a bed of grass in the wagon, and brought him through to Wright's camp. Here everything was done for his relief that they were able to do, but without avail. He died a few hours after his arrival, at about twelve o'clock at night. His disease was supposed to be cholera.
The remains of Mr. Shipley were buried the next day at about 12 o'clock, Sunday, May 30, 1852. The grave was on the bank of the river, near where he died. His coffin was a few pieces of slabs taken from the drift-wood of the river and arranged around the body, while lying in the grave. After the grave was filled, a piece of a slab was placed at the head and his name, "H. Shipley," marked on it. The last resting-place of this early pioneer is now unknown. The personal effect of Mr. Shipley were taken in charge by Mr. Wright and sent to his wife. The oxen and wagon belonged to Mr. Hunt. Mr. Shipley had no interest in them.
Mr. Wright now became anxious to leave that locality, and as soon as the rude burial was completed he loaded the wagon with some of his household goods and decided to attempt to go through by land, but the attempt proved a failure at the start. The wagon was upset within a few rods of where it was loaded, the boxes were smashed and their contents scattered as they tumbled and rolled promiscuously down the bank almost into the river. A large looking glass rolled on the edges of its frame for several rods and lodged in an upright position against a tree, without injury. The same mirror is yet in use by Mrs. Wright in Minnesota City.
At about the time the loaded wagon upset a steamboat appeared in sight, coming down. Mr. Wright abandoned his damaged property and devoted all his energies to attract the attention of the pilot He hoisted signals of distress and hailed the boat most vociferously, and was actively seconded in his effort by his family, one using a tin horn another beating an accompaniment on a tin pan. Alarmed by the proceedings, the captain of the boat cautiously ran over toward the Minnesota shore, expecting to learn that the Sioux had risen against the settlers. He was, however, soon relieved of any anxiety on that score, and discovered as he drew near that they were some of the passengers he had landed there on his way up-that their noisy demonstrations were made because they were anxious to leave that locality and go down to Johnson's landing. He good-naturedly consented to take them on board. As the boat swung round to the shore the captain hailed Wright and inquired, "Where's your freight?" Pointing to the wreak of the wagon-load, Wright replied, "There is some of it, as soon as we can get it together." Observing the condition of affairs, the captain called to the men forward as the gang-plank was launched out, "Get ashore there, some of you, and bring them duds aboard in bulk." To Mrs. Wright's extreme surprise, and before she could rally from her helpless astonishment, her clean household stuff, bedding and clothing of every description, was carried off in the arms of the dirty roustabouts and before she could offer even a feeble remonstrance they were piled promiscuously on the greasy, dirty deck.
All of Mr. Wright's goods were taken aboard except four barrels of floor which he had brought up for the association, designed to be used in payment of the Indian tax on the shanties, in the colony. The flour was taken down by Mr. Hunt in his wagon, the first freight carried through by a wagon over that trail.
When Mr. Wright reached Johnson's landing he there found Willie Shipley, waiting for the down boat. He informed the astonished boy that his father, from whom he had parted not two days before, looking healthy and strong, was dead and in his lonely grave on the bank of the river. Mr. Wright gave him the property found with his father-his watch, a pocketbook with papers and a small amount of money-to be carried to his mother.
His family were not left without means of support. Mr. Shipley had left a considerable sum of money on deposit in Galena, under the control of his wife. The family returned to their former home. Their experience in the west was a sorrowful one.
At Johnson's landing Mr. Wright, with his family, was permitted by Mr. Denman to pass the night in the unfinished house he was then building. They reached Minnesota City the next day, June 1, and went directly to the "gopher" Mr. Wright had helped to build nearly three weeks before. It was near here that his provisions and cook-stove had been stored when landed from the raft. This gopher house was their first home in the colony. Mr. Wright has retained possession of and lived continuously with his family on the same land and in the came locality ever since that period, about thirty-one years. They occupied the "gopher" and a tent until he could procure lumber and build a more comfortable place to move into. Soon after their arrival the whole family were prostrated with sickness in some form. Two of the children died with measles, then prevailing.
Like most of the members of the association from New York city, Mr. Wright's previous experience had but poorly fitted him to meet the demands of pioneer life. Many things were learned from practical experience. Incidents that may now be pleasantly related, and are amusing to listen to, which occurred is their acquisition of a western education, were once really serious matters with them.
The provisions brought down on the raft were jointly owned by Mr. Wright and Mr. Burns. The morning after his arrival Mr. Wright went out to inspect the condition of his supplies, and discovered that his cask of hams had been broken open and the contents carried off. The fact becoming known, the indignant colonists proceeded to investigate the affair. A careful examination of the matter commenced, but the mystery of the transaction was soon revealed without a shadow of suspicion resting on any member of the association. The cattle of the settlers had been corralled in the bend of the stream near by to prevent their wandering off to parts unknown or trespassing in the settlement. In their eagerness to get salt, the cask had been broken open and the hams eaten by the ravenous bovine monsters. All of the cattle in the settlement were under suspicion as being implicated in the transaction, but the herd of Hiram Campbell were charged with being the principal and leading offenders. The fragments of partly eaten hams were found scattered over the ground in the vicinity of the empty cask.
To prevent any further loss to Mr. Burns, it was proposed by Mr. Wright that an equitable division of the pork and beef be made. In the absence of Mr. Burns, friends of both parties were selected to make the division. The meat in each barrel was taken out and accurately weighed. One half of each was then put into one of the barrels for Mr. Burns and the other half into the other barrel and turned over to Mr. Wright as his individual property. This was apparently a just dissolution of partnership, but Mr. Wright soon discovered that the mixing of the two kinds of meat did not improve the quality. It was soon understood that Mr. Wright and Mr. Burns had a surplus of meat, and some less fastidious persons purchased it at less than cost.
Although transportation bad proved to be barely possible from Hall's landing to Rolling Stone without considerable expense in opening a wagon trail, there was to Mr. Burns more than a glimmer of a prospective landing-place for the colony, and he located himself where he could have the benefit of the river trade in the business in which be proposed to engage. Having money to invest, he built a large hotel. His bar was the main source of profit. He paid no license, for the law prohibited the sale of intoxicating drink. His hotel became a favorite resort for the rivermen and traveling public, and was not entirely shunned by the settlers. The Indians resorted to Burns' for trade. During the years of 1852-3-4 there was more liquor sold by Mr. Burns than in all other parts of southern Minnesota. He brought on quite a stock of general merchandise and opened a store. A postoffice was established and S. M. Burns was postmaster. He furnished employment for a large number of men cutting steamboat wood on government lands, on which large profits were made.
After a heavy expense trying to build up a business point at this place, Mr. Burns was forced to abandon the attempt, and the village of Mt. Vernon ceased to exist. The scheme to make it the landing-place for the colony did not prove practicable, although a wagon road was opened between the two places
The town of Mt. Vernon, in the northwest part of Winona county, took its name from the village of that name at what was once known as Hall's landing, on the Mississippi. Not a trace of any of the improvements made by Mr. Burns are now to be seen. The village site is almost unknown.