Incidents ~ Winona County, Minnesota

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Winona County, Minnesota


Pages 335-342
From the book
"History of Wabasha County"
Published in 1884
Concerning Wabasha and Winona Counties in Minnesota

Among the incidents of this winter at Winona, noted by Dr. Childs in his diary, was the following ~ "Sunday, January 30, 1853: Attended meeting; Elder Hamilton preached. At night had the privilege of leading a prayer meeting at the house of Mr. Evans ~ the first prayer meeting ever held on the prairie; Elder Ely present."

The building of the first bridge across the Gilmore valley creek, the first bridge in this part of the county, is thus noted by Dr. Childs ~ "Monday, January 31, 1853: Very mild, snow fast disappearing. Engaged building a bridge on the Winona creek, aided by George and Scott Clark, Royal Evans, Edwin Hamilton and Allen Gilmore. Of all the men who voted at the meeting in favor of the work, pledging their assistance, from the village and lower end of the prairie, but one was present."

The following is also copied from the diary of D. Childs ~ "Sunday, February 27, 1853: Thawing, with rain; Allen Gilmore immersed." At a prayer meeting held at Mr. Evans' on Sunday, February 20, "Allen Gilmore expressed a wish to be immersed, which was decided to take place next Sabbath." This was the first instance of the observance of this religious ordinance in what is now the city of Winona. It is said that Rev. E. Ely officiated at this baptism.

An incident which occurred about the first of March of this year (1853) will illustrate the reckless impulsiveness of Charles S. Hamilton, of whom mention has been made. During the winter a party of Winnebago Indians were camped over on the Trempealeau bottoms, and for the purpose of selling venison and furs and skins they frequently visited the settlement on the prairie. Aside from being inveterate beggars, they were in no way troublesome. At the time spoken of, two of these Indians, who had been up to the village, stopped at H. S. Hamilton's while on their way back to their camp. They asked permission to sharpen their knives on the grindstone which stood outside. This was readily allowed by Charlie, who, with his young brother Eugene, were the only ones at home. The Indians quietly used the grindstone and started across the river on the ice. When they were at full long range distance of his rifle from the house, Charlie, standing in the doorway, deliberately took aim and fired at them. One fell senseless. Fearing another shot, his comrade seized and dragged him beyond the range of the gun. The wounded Indian, after lying a short time on the ice, got up and, with the help of the other, went on over to the Trempealeau.

The Winnebagoes complained to Bunnell of the unjustifiable assault. Bunnell called at Elder Hamilton's to learn the cause of the shooting, but Charley had no excuse for the cowardly act except that he only shot at them to scare them, supposing they were beyond the range of his rifle. The ball struck the Indian on the head and glanced off, inflicting a scalp-wound. The force was sufficient to knock him down and render him senseless without producing serious injuries. Bunnell warned Charley to be on his guard and take care of himself, for the Indian might attempt to retaliate if he had an opportunity. Charlie was afraid of the Winnebagoes after this occurrence, but no hostilities were ever threatened that was known.

During the winter the matter of a county organization was a general topic of discussion among the settlers along the river. The counties of Dakota and Wabashaw had remained unorganized, as they were created in 1849. The territorial legislature, during its session of 1853, divided them and made provision for several counties from these divisions. While this matter was under consideration the question of the establishment of the county seats of the new counties became an important matter; almost every settlement presented claims for the location of the county offices. Every settlement along the river in this part of Wabashaw county had lobby representatives in St. Paul for the purpose of securing the location of the county seat of this division. Minnesota City, Winona, Mineowah and Brownsville were rivals for the honor. By a general act the legislature conferred the authority on the county commissioners to locate the county seats.

When Wabashaw county was divided and Fillmore county was created from the southern portion, March 5, 1853, its boundaries were described as "Beginning at the southwest corner of Wabashaw county, thence southeast to the Iowa state line, thence east on said Iowa state line to the Mississippi river, thence up the middle of said river to the mouth of the Minneska or White river, thence up said river on the south line of Wabashaw county to the place of beginning." The western boundary of Fillmore county was then supposed to include the present city of Rochester, in Olmsted county, and the present village of Chatfield in Fillmore county. Its northern and western boundaries were not clearly defined.

The act by which Fillmore county was created declared it to be an organized county, "invested with all and singular the rights and privileges and immunities to which all organized counties are in this territory entitled to by law," and that it was the duty of the governor "at so soon a time as possible to appoint all county officers, justices of the peace and constables, as said county may be entitled to by law, who shall hold their offices until their successors shall be elected and qualified at the next general election."

Wabashaw county, before it was divided, had no county seat. The act creating Fillmore county provided as follows: "It shall be the duty of the first board of county commissioners which shall be hereafter elected in any county laid off in pursuance of this act, as soon after said board shall have been elected and qualified as provided by law, as the said board or a majority of them shall determine, to locate the county seat of the county, and the location so made as aforesaid shall be the county seat of the county, to all intents and purposes, until otherwise provided by law.

Under this act the governor appointed the following officers: Register of deeds, H. B. Stoll, of Minneowah; treasurer, Erwin H. Johnson, of Winona; judge of probate, Andrew Cole; sheriff, John Iams. The justices of the peace previously appointed for Wabashaw county were continued, viz, T. K. Allen, John Burns, Geo M. Gere and H. B. Waterman. The county commissioners appointed were Henry C. Gere, of Winona, Myron Toms, of Minneowah, and William T. Luark, of Minnesota City.

The first meeting of the board of county commissioners was held at the "Winona House" on May 28. H. C. Gere was chairman and H. B. Stoll as register of deeds was clerk. The business transacted was the appointment of three assessors, ~ S. A. Houck, J. C. Laird and Jeremiah Tibbets. The approval of the bond of sheriff John Iams, with O. M. Lord and E. B. Drew as sureties.

The following names were ordered to be entered as a grand jury list for the June circuit court: H. B. Stoll, James F. Toms, Myron Toms, Nathan Brown, Willard B. Bunnell, H. Carroll, Henry C. Gere, George M. Gere, Wm. T. Luark, George H. Sanborn, Harvey Hubbard, Isaac Hamilton, O. S. Holbrook, Wm. B. Gere, S. A. Houk, S. A. Putnam, H. B. Waterman, E. B. Drew, O. M. Lord, T. K. Allen, Egbert Chapman, A. A. Gilbert, Robert Taylor and A. P. Hall.

The petit jurors for the same court were Edwin B. Gere, John Evans, Erastus H. Murray, Edwin Hamilton, William H. Stevens, John C. Laird, Alex. Smith, John Emerson, Erwin Johnson, John Burns, Frank Curtiss, George W. Clark, Scott Clark, Allen Gilmore, H. B. Thompson, Isaac W. Simonds, Jerry Tibbets, Asa Pierce, ___ Fortune, S. J. Burnet, H. J. Harrington, William E. Hewitt, Henry Herrick, Warren Rowell, James Kinkade, ___ Fletcher, Squire Day, A. T. Pentler, James Campbell, ___ Thompson, ___ Webster, Peter Gorr, O. H. Houk, J. S. Denman, Charles Bannan, S. E. Cotton, H. Stradling, Wm. H. Coryell, H. Hull, J. W. Bently, D. Q. Burly, J. Nicklin, J. Wright, P. D. Follett, R. Thorp, Louis Krutzly, Henry W. Driver, C. R. Coryell and Alex McClintock.

The second meeting of the board of county commissioners was held at the house of John Burns, in the mouth of Burns valley. Mr. Toms, Mr. Luark, and the clerk, Stoll, were present, but there is no record of any business except to approve the bonds of the assessors, Mr. Toms acting as chairman.

The next meeting was July 4, at Minneowah, at which no one was present except Mr. Toms and the clerk. "The chairman adjourned to meet at Winona July 5."

The next meeting was held pursuant to adjournment, and the following entry afterward made on the record by Mr. Stoll, who was not present. It was evidently designed as a squib at Wabasha prairie: "Winona, July 5, 1853 ~ H. C. Gere and Wm. T. Luark, commissioners, met pursuant to adjournment at the Winona hotel. Myron Toms, one of the absent commissioners, not being able to reach Winona on account of the high state of water and the then impassable gulf, the former commissioners adjourned to meet at the Winona Hotel July 9, 1853. Approved the bond of E. H. Johnson, county treasurer of Fillmore county. H. B. Stoll, clerk."

The office of H. B. Stoll, the register of deeds, was in the village of Minneowah. The first deed recorded was one from Isaac Van Etten to H. B. Stoll, dated January 4, 1853, and filed in the office May 11, 1853. This conveyed one half of Van Etten's interest in Minneowah. The consideration was $300.

The first deed made in this county that was placed on record was a quit-claim from William B. Gere of part of his claim on Wabasha prairie to A. M. Fridley, of St. Paul. It is dated November 1, 1852, but not filled for record until the 29th of June, 1853. The consideration was $150. The acknowledgment was before George M. Gere, justice of the peace, November 4, 1852.

The part of William B. Gere's claim transferred by this deed was eighty acres, on which the shanty of Henry C. Gere stood. The incidents of this transaction were given to the writer by Mr. Fridley many years ago. During the latter part of the season of 1852 Mr. Fridley made the acquaintance of Henry C. Gere, while on a steamboat between La Crosse and Wabasha prairie. Gere then proposed to sell him a claim of eighty acres he held on Wabasha prairie. Mr. Fridley purchased the eighty acres where H. C. Gere was then living for $150, receiving a quit-claim from William B. Gere. He also gave H. C. Gere $50 to hold the claim for him until the following spring. Gere continued to occupy the shanty until the spring of 1854, drawing upon Mr. Fridley during that time, in consideration of his services as claim-keeper, until the sum total paid H. C. Gere by A. M. Fridley for that eighty was $1,200. The claim was then placed in possession of L. D. Smith, who came here from St. Paul with his family in the spring of 1854. It is now known as Plummer's Addition to the plat of Winona.

During the season of 1852, and until the following year, the claim of Captain Smith at the lower end of the prairie ~ Claim No. 1, ~ held by Smith and Johnson, had remained undisturbed, no attempt having been made to molest it. Johnson removed the shanty, using the lumber for other purposes at the upper landing.

Early in the spring, in April, 1853, the unoccupied claim was jumped by Isaac W. Simonds. As soon as this was known to E. H. Johnson, he, by direction of Captain Smith, commenced suit against Simonds in justice's court, before Squire Gere, to oust him from the possession he had assumed. The defense was under the management of a lawyer by the name of Stevens, from La Crosse. It was then learned that Simonds had taken possession of the claim for a stock company, composed of William B. Gere, Charles S. Hamilton, Isaac W. Simonds and ___ Stevens, the attorney in the claim suit. The suit was adjourned from time to time, from in April to about the first of June, without coming to trial. In the meantime the company had a town surveyed and platted covering 141 acres of the claim. It was given the name of Wabasha City. The claim shanty stood a little in front of where the residence of Mrs. Keyes now stands. This was occupied by Simonds and Charlie Hamilton.

End of Chapter


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