June 17, 1937
Majestic Mercer was indeed correctly named when we consider that from a historical standpoint, we date back to 1738 as the earliest recorded date when the Indian villages on the Knife River were visited by De la Verendrye, who was escorted by Assiniboine Indians from the Turtle mountains to these villages.
Later in 1745 his sons visited these same villages. Undoubtedly, numerous French voyagers visited these villages during the interval between 1745 and 1802. Missouri Historical Society records Charles Le Raye visited the Indian villages, at the mouth of the Knife river, exploring this stream some twenty miles to Spring Creek, thence west across the Little Missouri to the Yellowstone River.
The visit of Lewis and Clark in 1804 and 1805 and the finding of Sakakawea at the villages on the Knife river is well known fact which can not be disputed.
Alexander Henry’s journal records that traders and explorers from Pembina mountains visited at the Indian villages here in 1806.
Manuel Lisa, an Indian agent for the upper Missouri country, had a fur trading post on the south side of the Missouri river where later the post office of Expansion was established.
In 1811, John Bradbury, an English botanist, mentions these Indian villages and posts in Mercer county in his book, “Travels in the Interior of America.” Also recorded by the Missouri Historical Society, 1832, and in 1833 Maximilian, Prince of Wied, visited this territory.
In 1885 Henry H. Boller, an American traveler and writer, spent some time among the Indians here.
In enumerating the white men who were actual residents, it is hard to know who were the first.
Charbonneau, the husband of Sakakawea, lived at the Stanton village prior to Lewis and Clark’s visit in 1804.
Post traders and wood choppers lived here and the earliest recorded as homesteaders are Peter, C. Causey, an ex-soldier and scout, 1878; Ed Councilman and Joseph Dietrich, 1881. These men took squatters right homestead until this tract of land was thrown open for homesteads in the spring of 1882.
William Mercer, who said his name was actually Musser, served as one of the first Burleigh County Commissioners. He was a native of Pennsylvania, and a Civil War veteran. He was a charter member of Washburn’s GAR Post. Mercer is noted as plowing and seeding some of his claim in 1872, the first in the area to do so.
E. A. Williams, the man who nominated Mercer for county commissioner of Burleigh, named Mercer County for him. The atlas quoted from earlier, notes Mercer as being the proprietor of the town site of Painted Woods, “which promises to be one of the most prosperous and desirable on the Missouri.”
“The town never amounted to much other than Sven Peterson’s store, although it retained a post office until 1920.” It was located on Mercer’s claim on the NW ¼ of Section 26-142-81. When his town didn’t boo, Mercer grew tired of it. He moved to a ranch near the town that bears his name, and died there in 1901.
Bob McGahan, Steve Card, and Councilman came down the Missouri from Fort Benton and stopped at Causey’s trading post and wood yards and traveled up the Knife and chose their location for homesteads. Joe Beaubein and Bill Miller located west of Expansion, trading furs and wood to the boats that traveled the Missouri.
The Mannhaven Mercantile business was organized and became co-partners with S. P. Baker, owner of a fleet of steam and gasoline stern wheel boats navigating between Bismarck, Washburn, and Fort Benton, Montana. Mannhaven became a shipping point by river of grain down stream and received merchandise for the store by boat upstream. As business grew and flourished more partners joined and incorporated in what was called “The Slope Mercantile Co.” This establishment grew into monstrous business, drawing on a large territory—Mercer, Oliver, and part of Dunn County. They handled practically everything from a needle to a threshing machine. The Captains of the boats of pilots were Grant Marsh, Blund, and later the Leach brothers. The latter were running the boats until 1912 when the N.P. Railroad was built into the county.
The first bank in the county wads the Slope Mercantile Co., which did several hundred thousand dollars worth of business in a year. What seemed most important, their margin of profit never exceeded 10 per cent on their gross sales.
GENERAL INFORMATION ON MERCER COUNTY
Mercer County is located in the west central portion of the state just west of the Missouri River. Its elevation is generally from 2000 to 3000 feet above sea level. This county has a land area of 710,400 acres.
The average temperature for the growing months of June, July, and August is from 65 to 65.6 degrees. The average precipitation is about 15 inches a year. The rainfall for the growing months is 6.2 inches. The frost-free season is about 122 days.
The soil is affected by a thin layer of glacial tilland is underlain by a residual material from shale’s and small stones chiefly. There are areas of sandy loam, gravelly loam and stony loam. There are a few poorly drained areas in the county.