Elgin Village is the shipping point of a rich farming community which extends into Olmsted County, and furnishes adequate trading facilities for the people it serves. To the stranger the village presents a particularly attractive appearance, the north side of its principal business street stretching eastward from the railroad station being filled with sightly brick and stucco buildings, which on the south side is the new hotel, and a number of wooden buildings, as well as the brick telephone office. Westward from the tracks are the two elevators and the water tower. The residence section is well laid out, with cement sidewalks and numerous shade trees, and contains many handsome modern homes.
The village is located at a point where the broad acres of Greenwood Prairie blend with the northern border of the beautiful valley of the Whitewater, a stream that here drains the fertile acres of Viola and Elgin townships, and is fed by a myriad of sparkling springs from the hill sides, which gives a diversity of landscape that challenges the admiration. The southern border of the valley is skirted with low lying bluffs fringed with belts of timber and copse wood, while the northern border of the valley is lost in the undulating prairies that stretch many miles to the northward, to be lost in turn in the rugged landscape of the Zumbro River.
Elgin is incorporated, and the municipal improvements include good fire protection, waterworks, and electricity, and an excellent school which will soon be housed in a $65,000 building. There are Methodist and Lutheran churches, a good newspaper, two live banks, a creamery and live stock shipping association, and a goodly number of stores.
The early history of the village coincides with the early settlement of the township, as the interests of the community which the first settlers started centered about sections 27 and 28, in which sections the present village is located. The claims of the first four settlers, George and Curtis Bryant, Henry H. Atherton and George Farrer were all in this vicinity.
The first house of public accommodation was the frame house erected in 1856 on the northwest quarter of section 28, by George and Waldo Farrar, and opened by George Farrar for the entertainment of travelers. This is considered the first hotel and the first place of business in the community. This hotel was closed in 1860, and shortly after that Zebina Weld opened a hotel in the northwest quarter of section 27.
In the meantime, in 1857, Benjamin H. Gould built and conducted a blacksmith shop on the northeast corner of section 34. Mr. Gould, in 1858, erected for D. R. Sweezy, a blacksmith shop, a little south of what is now the east head of Elgin’s principal business street. A flouring mill was built in 1860, on what was afterward known as the Mill lot in section 27, on the north branch of the Whitewater, by Parr & Ellis. In 1866 the mill was discontinued for lack of sufficient water power, and the machinery removed to Elba, in Winona County.
The first store was opened in the fall of 1863. In the fall of that year Albert Glines sent D. F. Ferguson to Minneiska for a load of goods, which Mr. Glines displayed for sale in the home of John Houghton in section 27. In the following winter, Mr. Glines moved his granary from his farm to what is now the northeast corner of Main and Mill Streets, in the village of Elgin, fitted it up for a store, stocked it with general merchandise, and started business in the spring of 1864. This store was later taken over by the Richardson Brothers who conducted it for many years.
In 1874 Alexander Scott started a wagon-making shop on the corner of Park and School streets, which he continued for many years. Bryant Brothers & Johnson started a general store on the northwest corner of Park and Main streets. The first drug store in Elgin was started in 1876 by N. S. Head, but soon changed hands several times and was finally sold to Bryant Brothers & Johnson, who conducted it in connection with their general store.
In 1877, Bryant Brothers & Johnson erected a grain elevator on Main street, a few rods west of their store which was on the southwest corner of Main and Park streets. They marketed their grain in Eyota, the nearest railroad point. A few months later, in the same year, Richardson Brothers erected their elevator which with alterations and additions is still standing on the same site. Their market was at Mississippi River points. This year, 1877, was the banner grain year of southeastern Minnesota. The next year came the wheat failure, but these two elevators had plenty of grain in storage, for which they found a good market at a good price. When the railroad came, the Richardson Brothers found themselves in a suitable location with their elevator, but the Bryant Brothers & Johnson firm were compelled to move to the tracks, to its present location, the successive owners having been Louis Hoffman, J. W. Bryant, the Western Elevator Co., and D. F. Farsley.
The Winona & St. Peter railroad was completed through Elgin in November, 1878. It enters the town in section 33 and extends in a northeastwardly direction through the village of Elgin, to section 13, where it enters Plainview Township. With the coming of the railroad there was considerable doubt as to where the village was to be located. Hitherto the principal street was Main street, running north and south some three blocks east of where the railroad is now located. The Richardson Brothers, being well located on Main street, and owning property in the vicinity were contented to have Main street remain the business street, more especially as they were well provided with shipping facilities through their elevator which was located along the right of way. George Bryant, on the other hand, planned a village along Broadway, two blocks west of the station, he too having shipping facilities near the right of way, having moved the Bryant Brothers & Johnson elevator from its location on Main street. The Bryant Brothers & Johnson store was moved from Main street to Broadway, and other business houses built along that street. So for a time there were two villages, one on Main street and one on Broadway, with the station and the elevators in between at the tracks. Before long, however, a compromise was reached, Main street and Broadway were abandoned as business streets, and the stores were moved to Park street, so that the business center now starts at the tracks and stretches eastward.
The first issue of the Minnesota Union, published July 4, 1879, contains a number of advertisements which may be taken as fairly indicative of the business interests of the village shortly after the arrival of the railroad. These advertisements were as follows: H. G. Richardson & Son, general store; Bryant Brothers & Johnson (George and Curtis Bryant and A. K. Johnson), general store; Eureka House, A. F. Durham; Elgin House, L. V. Rich; Northwestern Hotel, H. Sievert; George M. Clark, farm machinery; S. F. Wicklow, farm machinery; W. T. Adams, meats; Henry Claussen, meats; E. W. Westover, blacksmith; D. A. Hart, refreshments; Frank Kierman, billiard hall; W. J. Abbott, barber; Beardsley & Weber, harness makers; R. McBride, mason; Alex Scott, wagon maker; J. M. Williams, dentist; A. B. Clark, dentist.
Elgin was already a hamlet of considerable importance in 1884. At that time the business houses were as follows: Richardson Bros., grain elevator and lumber yard; J. W. Bryant & Co., grain elevator and coal yard; E. Ordway & Son, hardware, tinware and pumps; Landon, Burchard & Co., drugs and medicines; H. G. Richardson & Co., dry goods, groceries, clothing, etc.; Fred. Meyer, blacksmith and horse-shoeing; M. H. Moody, harness-maker and carpenter; Alex. Scott, wagon-maker; F. A. Amsden, harness-maker; William Beantler, boots and shoes; Frank Ressler, butcher; E. O. Morton, carpenter, painter and windmills; Mercer Bros., black-smithing and horseshoing; John Graham, carpenter; Frank Kiernan, saloon and billiards, and E. Meilke, saloon and pool. There are two hotels in Elgin, the Eureka House, M. H. Safford, proprietor, and the Northwestern Hotel, E. Meilke, proprietor. Dr. W. T. Adams, then of the firm of Landon, Burchard & Co., had his private office in the rear of that company’s drug store. J. B. Norton, justice of the peace, had his headquarters in the office of the Richardson Brothers’ elevator. Dorr Dickerman, the town clerk, had his office in the store of E. Ordway & Son.
The fire of 1889 is an event long remembered in Elgin. On the night of November .., a dance was in progress in the dance hall over the store of the Richardson Brothers, on the north side of Park street, when a fire broke out in the old tanks in the rear of the store, probably caused by a lighted cigar. The fire was discovered by one of the dancers, and the young men present at once turned in an alarm and went after the village fire apparatus. The fire rapidly spread in two directions to the saloon building on one side and the bank on the other. The fire volunteers soon had three streams of water playing on the flame, and heroic work of these volunteers, together with the fact that two large wooden buildings had recently been pulled down to make room for two proposed brick buildings, undoubtedly saved the entire business section from ruin. Disastrous as the fire was, it resulted in good to the village, for that side of the street was soon afterward built up with brick blocks.
The village of Elgin had no separate government from the township until 1894, when it was incorporated. The first officers were: president, J. W. Bryant; trustees, H. G. Richardson, L. Hoffman, and D. W. Searles; recorder, John R. Houghton; treasurer, C. H. Siem; constables, B. S. Ordway and John Tradup; justice of the peace, Robert Williams. The streets, business houses and residences are well lighted with electricity, furnished by the Commonwealth Utilities Co. For some years the streets were lighted with kerosene lamps. In 1911, the village put in an acetylene plant for street lighting, the vote being taken by the council March 4 of that year. The Commonwealth Utilities Co. was granted a franchise March 4, 1911. A contract for street lighting was signed by the council Feb. 13, 1917, and the electric current turned on Feb. 8, 1917. The council meetings are held in the First State Bank. The village building houses the jail, the pumping station, and the fire apparatus. There is also an additional small building as a more conveniently located shelter for one of the hose carts.
The first move toward a waterworks system in Elgin was taken March 4, 1895, when land for the purpose of erecting a plant was purchased from J. W. Bryant and the Richardson Brothers, not far from the Richardson Elevator. A well was drilled, a tower and tank erected, windmill power installed, and 6-inch mains placed down the business street. With this beginning, the system has gradually been extended. The windmill was early found inadequate, and a gasoline engine installed. Later another well was drilled and another gasoline engine installed. In 1908 a new tower and tank were constructed. In 1917 a kerosene engine was put in, being paid for the first year. The works now consist of a direct and gravity system, with a gravity pressure of 60 pounds. The elevated tank on a 100-foot tower has a capacity of 47,250 gallons. The water supply is from two wells, 100 and 240 feet deep. There are six-inch mains along the main streets of town, and others of four inches. There are twenty hydrants. The water is distributed to every part of the village through well-constructed mains, and there are very few houses in the village that are not supplied with the city water. Water is supplied to the users, at a moderate expense. Lawns are sprinkled at the option of owners, and streets are sprinkled in any part of the village, when residents request it. The water has a force sufficient to throw a double stream of water over the highest buildings, in the remote parts of the village, while on the business streets, from four to six powerful streams are available at once. In this system Elgin takes considerable pride, and is further honored in being one of the pioneers in establishing water-works among the small towns of this part of the state.
The Elgin Fire Department, as at present constituted, was organized April 8, 1905. Previous to that time there had been a bucket brigade of volunteers. The first officers in 1905 were John Walch, president; D. R. Bigham, secretary; D. W. Searles, treasurer; and Charles Richmond, chief. J. G. Marek and Albert Stephans were the wardens. The full membership of 25 there was one company, with J. D. Siem as captain and Carl Boughton and Vincent Holton as lieutenants. The other company was organized before the close of the year. In addition to affording fire protection the department has taken an important part in the affairs of the village. On July 4, 1905, it had charge of a large “Home Coming” celebration, and in 1908 a similar affair was held. Several dances have been given, and the funds thus secured used in the purchase of a piano, for a small house, and for a fire hall and other smaller equipment not furnished by the village. The company has two hose carts with about 600 feet of 2 inch cotton hose, a hook and ladder truck and a 40-gallon chemical engine.
The school lot where is now located the Elgin public school has been the center of the instruction of youth in this vicinity since 1858, when school was taught there in a little claim shanty. The school is wee equipped, and teaches the usual graded and high school subjects. The village has recently voted $65,000 for a new building. The east wing of the present building was erected in 1883 after the cyclone, the west wing being added later. The first high school class was graduated in 1893. There were four members of the class: Louis Davis, Emmelyne J. Resler, now Mrs. Wolf; Ada C. Richardson, now Mrs. Charles Goodwin; and Iva M. Richardon, now Mrs. Paul Bryant. The school has the usual play apparatus in the yard. In the winter time, the village floods a nearby pasture, thus furnishing a safe skating place for the younger generation.
From the early days, there has been no lack of music in Elgin. Among the pioneers, there was a number of good singers, and music was always a feature of all social and religious gatherings. As time went on, musical instruments found their way among the people, and as the village increased in importance, efforts were made to organize a brass band which were more or less successful under different leaderships, which with the aid of a drum corps, always afforded music for nearly all public occasions.
In more recent years that has been a good band, public concerts have been given, and during the World War, the musicians were very generous in donating their services for various public patriotic functions. Orchestras are formed from time to time that are in good demand. Among the people there is a considerable amount of musical talent, and most public entertainments are well supplied with musid that ranks high among the musical efforts in larger communities. There are very few homes that do not boast of a piano or musical instrument of some kind, and not a few among the children and young people are proficient players. Among our children and young folks there are also a number of beautiful voices that are capable of being trained into any kind of concert work that may be desired.
The Methodist Episcopal Church of Elgin dates back to the earliest days. Many of the most prominent of the early settlers brought with them their Methodist faith from Vermont. The first Methodist services were held here in the home of George Bryant as early as 1855. William H. Soul preached here in 1858 or 1859, Elgin being then included in the St. Charles circuit, which, besides Elgin, embraced St. Charles, Dover, Eyota, Littleville and Plainview. O. P. Crawford, who came here in 1857, was also a local preacher. October 6, 1866, the Elgin circuit was organized, taking in a part of what had hitherto been the Plainview circuit. It included appointments at Forest Mound, Farmington, Pleasant View, Fitch’s Schoolhouse, and the Stone Schoolhouse. A board of trustees was constituted. The new circuit took immediate measures toward the erection of a parsonage at Elgin, for which George Bryant gave the land. Labor was commenced October 15, and on November 10 the minister’s goods were moved into the house when only part of the roof was on. On November 19, the building was completed. The official members for the year 1877 were Town Williams, S. G. Matthews, B. H. Gould, R. W. Chapman, George Bryant and George Farrar. In 1879 J. Q. Richardson, I. W. Rollins and Joseph Crawford were added. In 1878 the circuit contracted with J. W. Dickey for the erection of a church edifice, including foundation, for $2,3000, and this edifice was built under the direction of the board, and completed about September, 1878. It had an existence of but a few years, however, as it was totally demolished by the cyclone of July 21, 1883. The present church building was erected on the old site. Various improvements have since been made from time to time, including a full basement for the Sunday school and social purposes, constructed in 1915. The pastors have been: Reverend Messrs. W. C. Rice, George S. Simms, Nahun Taintor, J. G. Tetor, George S. Inness, O. A. Phillips, J. W. Mower, J. W. Stebbins, Leland P. Smith, T. H. Kinsman, Rev. Squire, B. C. Gillis, Wm. Gillis, W. T. Miller, E. C. Teachout, H. L. St. Clair, R. C. Wilkinson, S. W. Kemerer, R. O. Laureson, E. C. Lathrop, J. R. Jeffery, H. Hugh Gower, A. T. Davis, F. W. Sanderson and E. W. Haley.
The Congregational Church of Elgin was in the early days an important feature in the religious life of the community. Rev. Jonathan Cochran, an early settler who was also a clergyman, began holding services in Elgin as early as 1858. April 10, 1858, the church was regularly organized at the home of John Bryant. Rev. Jonathan Cochran was moderator, Benjamin H. Gould was clerk. Rev. Elias Clark, of Rochester, was present and assisted in the organization. The Articles of Faith and Covenants of the General Congregational Churches were adopted, with the exception that Article 7, relating to the sinful condition of man, was not to be accepted as including infants, an interesting sidelight on the theological trend of thought at that period.
The following persons were received from other churches: Benjamin Gould, Betsy Gould, Almira C. Gould, Benjamin H. Gould and Elizabeth Gould from the First Congregational Church of Seaport, Maine; Erastus Dodge, Mercy Dodge and Chandler W. Dodge, from the Independent Congregational Church of Oswego, N. Y.; and Catherine Washburn from the Congregational Church of Waterloo, Wis. James A. Washburn, Martha Dodge and Susan J. Dodge were received on profession of faith. Benjamin Gould was chosen deacon and Chandler W. Dodge, clerk. The next day being Sunday, regular church services were held and a Sunday school was organized with R. C. Stillman as superintendent. July 19, R. C. Stillman presented a letter from the Congregational Church of Hitchcockville, Conn., and Amy Barton from the Congregational Church of Binghamton, N. Y. The early meetings of the congregation were held at the John Bryant residence and the Forest Mound schoolhouse. Unfortunately difficulties soon arose in which the pastor and the deacon assumed opposite sides, difficulties somewhat typical of the days of uncompromising theological dogma, when “pride” and “self-righteousness” were deadly accusation to bring against a church member, and when differences in church circles spread to the entire community. As the result of the controversy the deacon with his family withdrew to the Methodist Episcopal church and was succeeded by James A. Washburn. Sept. 5, 1862, Henry Willard, the Plainview pastor, became pastor. Rev. Mr. Cochran continued to reside here and died a little later. Oct. 8, 1866, Rev. Palmer Letts became the pastor. For him a parsonage was erected , the work being started Nov. 7, 1867, and the pastor moving in Feb. 12, 1867, though the work was not entirely completed. Aug. 7, 1870, Rev. Gilbert T. Holcomb became the pastor. April 2, 1871, Rev. Mr. Willard of Plainview was again given charge. Since then there has been preaching at irregular intervals. In 1889 there came a revival of interest, with Rev. J. B. Renshaw as pastor, and in 1890 the new Articles and Covenants were adopted. The organization is still in existence, but the few remaining members worship with other congregations. The Congregational Society, as distinct from the congregation, was organized Jan. 28, 1867, the first trustees being Nathan Engle, George Bryant and William Cochran.
The Evangelical Lutheran Trinity Church (U. A. C.) was founded Feb. 19, 1894, by a number of Lutherans in and near Elgin, some of whom were members of Lutheran church at Potsdam, Minn. Rev. C. W. Brink, of Potsdam church, assisted in the organization. The charter members were: Carl Uecker, Julius Bartz, Hermann Schumacher, Fritz Petrich, Gustav Ponto, August Polikowsky, August Nehring, Ludwg Gehlhar, Julius Baum, Julius Polikowsky, Ferdinand Lambrecht, Rudolf Ponto, Louis Hoffman, Julius Rosolack, Christian Koepke, Julius Stephan. In the summer of 1894 the congregation erected a church 24 x 36, and parsonage on the east half of black (block) 19, purchased from H. G. Richardson & Co. for $200. The church was dedicated in October, 1894, which day also witnessed the installation of the first pastor, Rev. Henry Koepsell, a graduate of Concordia Seminary, Springfield, Ill. Rev. Koepsell filled the vacancy which lasted till February, 1896. Rev. B. Otto then took charge and served until August, 1900. September 5, 1900, Rev. E. H. T. Walther began noble work and served till May, 1919.
June 22, 1919, Rev. C. A. Affeldt, of Waltham, Minn., was installed as pastor by Rev. M. Weinhold, of Rochester. In 1905 the congregation erected a fine new church edifice on the old site, the old building being assigned to serve as school room. The first teacher in charge of the week-day school was Werner Heidtbrink, who served from September, 1917, to August, 1919. The school offers first to eighth grade subjects in the English language. In 1919 the parsonage was remodeled and enlarged by an addition to the west side. An addition was also built to the school house to serve as second class room and meeting room for the Ladies’ Aid Society, consisting of some 50 members. The congregation now owns a complete set of necessary buildings in first-class condition. All buildings are electrically lighted and connected with village water system.
January 1, 1920, the congregation numbered 87 voting members, 286 communicant members and 450 souls. Its property is valued at $25,000. The deacons are Emil Sell, Ferd. Koepsell and Gustav Gehlhar; the trustees, Aug. Koepsell, Gustav Ponto and Henry Wehrs; the school board, Chas. Tradup, Ernst Koepsell, Joh. Roeder; the treasurer, Reinh. Lietz; the secretary, Ernst Koepsell; the chairman, Wm. Schultz. With Trinity Church from its beginning was connected St. John’s Church at Haverhill, Olmsted Co., and since 1898, St. John’s Lutheran Church in Viola Township, Olmsted County. The pastor is highly esteemed, not only by his own congregations, but by the community, and his work is one of valued and increasing usefulness to this vicinity.
The First State Bank of Elgin dates back to the financial activities of J. W. Bryant, in the early nineties. About 1891, he started the Elgin Bank, a private institution. He opened in a building occupying the site of the present bank. This structure was burned in 1899, and was replaced in 1902 by the present bank. This building, of sightly ornamental brick, is well equipped as a modern banking house. It has been an important center in the village for many years. Many notable committee meetings have been held there; at one time the postoffice was located in its rear, and the village council still meets there. Mr. Bryant continued his private institution until April 1, 1904. On that date the First National Bank was organized by a group of Winona men, connected with the Merchants National Bank, in that city. The incorporators were W. P. Tearse, Sr. (president), J. H. Davis (vice-president), Hanibal Choate, V. Simpson and Theodore Wold. The new institution opened its doors April 4, 1904, with a capital of $25,000. John Walsh was cashier, and Edith Sawyer, who has been with Mr. Bryant, was assistant. In 1905 George Toogood and John Dubbles were added to the list of directors. In 1906 Mr. Tearse resigned as president and was followed by Hanibal Choate. The national charter was surrendered Aug. 1, 1909, and on Aug. 2, 1919, the bank was chartered as the First State Bank of Elgin with a capital of $30,000 and a surplus of $10,000. The first officials were: J. H. Davis (president), George Toogood (vice-president), John Walch (cashier), W. H. Richardson, John Dubbles, H. Choate and Theo. Wold. George Toogood was succeeded as vice-president in 1916 by W. H. Richardson. After Mr. Wold entered the Federal Reserve Bank, he resigned his place on the directorate of the bank at Elgin, and was succeeded by Charles Tradup. In 1915, John D. Siem became the assistant cashier. In 1920 William H. Richardson became president, John Walch vice-president, and John Siem cashier. The working force of the bank now consists of Messrs. Walch and Siem and Miss Sawyer. In December, 1904, the deposits were $52,000. In 1910 the deposits had increased to $225,000; in 1915 to $350,000; and in 1919 to $640,000. A statement of the condition of the bank at the close of business Sept. 12, 1919, shows a capital of $30,000; surplus and undivided profits of $23,553.47; deposits of $5556,900.52; and loans and discounts of $486,486.75. The bank has taken its share in all public and patriotic work, and is assisting its village and agricultural patrons along all lines of legitimate endeavor, thus helping in the general prosperity of the whole community.
The Farmers and Merchants State Bank of Elgin had its beginning in 1914. In that year J. W. Elliott, of Minneapolis, realizing the future possibilities of this rich region, came here, and interested George E. Purvis and Ernest Palmer in the proposition of starting a new bank. These three gentlemen made the necessary canvass and secured the requisite number of stockholders. On nov. 30, 1914, the news of the granting of a charter came by wire, and the bank was duly constituted with the three gentlemen mentioned, and Emil Schwantz and R. W. Richardson as the incorporators. The first officers were: President, J. W. Elliott; vice-president, R. W. Richardson; cashier, John C. Kettner; directors in addition to these three, Emil Schwantz and Vincent Hallenbeck. Mr. Elliott remained as president until June 17, 1918, when he was succeeded by Emil J. Sell, who is still in office. Thomas Richardson is now vice-president and John C. Kettner cashier, the other four directors being Vincent Hallenbeck, E. F. Schwartz, Thomas C. Richardson and Alfred Kenitz. The bank opened for business Dec. 1, 1914, in the old Webber Hotel. John C. Kettner, the cashier, was in sole charge. A few months later, additional help was necessary, and Alfred J. Schwantz became assistant cashier. He was followed by Arthur B. Bradbury. He entered the United States Navy May 1, 1917. The next assistant was Mabel W. Searles, followed Oct. 13, 1919, by Elsie E. Lindemer, who is still serving. The bank remained in its original quarters until moving into its new building Nov. 1, 1915. This building is the most sightly in the village, admirably equipped for its purpose in every way, and constituting a well-lighted banking house equipped with every facility for the carrying on of modern finance. The original capital of the bank was $12,000, increased on Dec. 1, 1919, to $24,800. The increase in the amount of deposits on Dec. 1 of each succeeding year of the bank’s history tells an interesting story of progress: 1915, $33,000; 1916, $56,000; 1917, $86,000; 1918, $95,000; 1919, $125,000. At the close of business Sept. 12, 1919, the bank had a capital of $10,000; surplus and undivided profits of $3,328.62; deposits of $100,434.98; and loans and discounts of $70,340.94. The bank has taken its share in working to increase the general prosperity of the community, especially in the way of making it possible for the farmers to secure improved seed corn. It has also materially increased the number of silos in this region, especially in the past three years. It has fathered the Elgin Live Stock Shipping Association, and also assisted other local enterprises. During the war it did its full share in the various patriotic drives.
Elgin has had four newspapers, the “Minnesota Union,” the “Elgin Journal,” the “Elgin Free Press,” and the “Elgin Monitor.” In the early days various neighboring papers at Winona, Rochester, Wabasha, Lake City and Plainview carried Elgin news items, contributed by various local people. One of these contributors was Ed. F. Barrett, who afterward became well known in the state as a professional journalist. The first issue of the “Minnesota Union” was dated July 4, 1879. The editor was F. O. Harding. There was but little local news in it. Such local items as appeared were largely of an advertising nature. The program of the exercises to be held that day was given, and an article signed by George Bryant told of the advantages of Elgin and vicinity as a place of business. Only a few numbers were issued.
The Elgin Journal first appeared March 25, 1882, and the last issue appeared Feb. 15, 1883. It was published monthly, with an extra issue in December, 1882. The editorial page bore the name of the Journal Publishing Co., but as a matter of fact, W. T. Adams was the editor and publisher, his reason for issuing the paper being the boosting of the village he loved so well.
The Elgin Free Press was established in the fall of 1895 by R. H. Luneberg. He sold it after about three yours to the Plainview News.
The Elgin Monitor was established Nov. 23, 1904, with Ross Hargrave as editor. The office was then located in the old postoffice building on Park street, across from the Northwestern depot. Mr. Hargrave conducted the paper for four months, when is was purchased by C. R. C. Baker, who took possession April 1, 1905. Mr. Baker continued as editor and published for 18 months, or until Sept. 7, 1906, when he sold out to Vincent Holton, the present proprietor. The paper was then moved to the First State Bank building, where it remained until October, 1915, when it was moved to its present location in the O’Donnel building, on Park street. Mr. Holton’s policy has been to conduct a newsy paper in the interest of the people of the village and the surrounding community, and his efforts have met with due appreciation. The Monitor has a circulation of 650, the subscriptions being payable in advance. In politics it is independent.
Elgin Postoffice was established in 1857. Many years ago there was merged in it the postoffice of Forest Mound, which was established in 1861 in the northern part of the township with William Town as postmaster. The Elgin office established in 1857 was located in the house of George Bryant in section 27. Possibly Mr. Bryant was the postmaster, but the work was done by his sister, Mary Ann Bryant, who was generally regarded among the early settlers as the postmistress. Previous to the establishment of the postoffice, the nearest points for the distribution of mail were the steamboat towns along the Mississippi; any settler happening to make the trip to those points bringing the mail back with him. After about ten years, Charles S. Richardson became the postmaster. There are two rural routes, both established Sept. 1, 1914. The first carrier on No. 1 was Henry E. Sawyer, succeeded by the present carrier, Fred L. Weber. The first carrier on No. 2 was D. F. Whipple, who is still serving. Mrs. Stella M. Searles, the present assistant postmistress, has held office since Aug. 2, 1916.
The Elgin Telephone Co., now merged in the Greenwood Prairie Telephone Co., had its beginning in 1897, when Dr. W. T. Adams and Ernest Palmer installed a private line, with toll connections at Rochester. A few local telephones were installed in the village and a few farmers also put in instruments. Later the Elgin Telephone Co. was incorporated with Dr. W. T. Adams as president, Ernest Palmer as vice-president, and W. P. Holton as secretary. This company added many miles of toll line, and installed a large number of phones among the farmer through Elgin, Viola and Quincy township, besides installing a large number of phones as a village exchange, but in 1903, finding it very difficult to secure money as fast as the investment required and because the doctor found the management required too great a sacrifice of his time, he sold his stock to holders of stock in the Greenwood Prairie Telephone company, after which the former company became extinct, and ownership and management of the telephone interests in Elgin passed into the hands of the Greenwood Prairie company.
One improvement after another has followed rapidly under the new management. The local service has been extended until now there are few families in town or country who do not have telephone service. The local service has kept pace with the improvements mad for the larger telephone companies so that the toll line possibilities are almost without limit. Elgin boasts of a fine telephone exchange located in a fine new brick building built by the Greenwood Prairie company.
The company has been among the first to institute new and up-to-date equipment and service in every department. Senator James A. Carley, of Plainview, is the secretary and manager of the Greenwood Prairie Telephone company and it is due to his efforts that this village is getting a telephone service that is equal to that in the larger cities.
The Elgin Live Stock Shipping Association has been an important factor in the development of the stock raising industry in the county, and has materially increased the profits of the farmers from that line of industry. The original organization meeting was held December 15, 1915. The following officers were selected: President, Emil J. Sell; secretary and treasurer, R. W. Richardson; trustees for three years, Thomas C. Richardson and Frank H. Ferguson; for two years, George L. Thompson and Arthur Searles; for one year, J. C. Gregor and Emil Schwantz. Emil J. Sell was chosen active manager. The first shipment was made Jan. 8, 1916. The company ships swine, cows and veal on an extensive scale, something like 95 cars having been shipped in 1919. In that year the total receipts were $250,280.76, of which the patrons received $247,944.84.
The Elgin Ice Company embodies a project for the making of ice for home consumption, by filling molds with water, allowing the outdoor air to freeze it solid, and then releasing the blocks from the molds by means of steam, thus securing pure natural ice at a nominal cost. The company was organized Nov. 28, 1919, the organizers being: Dr. T. M. Peach, John C. Kettner, T. A. Rice, E. O. Becker, D. F. Kimber, Emil J. Sell, John Walch, J. D. Siem, J. F. Scott, D. E. Earsley, H. J. Bartz, J. A. Saufal, W. H. Benike, W. A. Johnston.
The Elgin Cheese Factory, the beginning of factory dairy industry in this region, started in the eighties, in a building still standing on the east side of Main street, south of the residence of Charles S. Richardon. This factory was operated by the Richardson Brothers, who at that time were operating a general store in that vicinity. The farmers brought in their milk, and took back whey to feed to their hogs. This factory operated for several years.
The Elgin Co-operative Creamery furnishes an excellent outlet for the extensive dairy industry in this vicinity. The Association was incorporated May 6, 1897, and business was commenced the same month in a building erected for the purpose. Much of the preliminary work done before the organization was the result of the enthusiasm of William H. Fellar. The creamery began as a whole milk plant, but about 1900 a few of the patrons began to use hand separators, and in time the whole milk plan was abandoned, and only cream is now received, the farmers hauling it themselves. The first officers of the Association were: O. T. Dickerman, president; Ferdinand Hampel, vice-president; R. W. Richardson, secretary; Dorr Dickerman, treasurer. O. T. Dickerman served as president one year, his successors being: Carl Uecker, 1898-1905; Julius Bartz, 1905-1911; Emil Schwantz, 1911-1914; Ferdinand Hampel from 1914 to the present time, he having been re-elected for the year 1920. Mr. Richardson served two years as secretary, and was succeeded by F. H. Ferguson, who served six years; G. J. Pratt, five years and nine months; and C. E. Dickerman, who after nine years and three months’ service, was again elected in 1920, H. E. Preston being elected vice-president, and Charles Richardson, treasurer. At the same time Henry Wehrs, Ernest Koepsell and W. E. Smith were elected directors for the year. The creamery has enjoyed a healthy growth. In 1902 its net earnings were $38,584.19. The report for 1909 showed gross earnings of $49,577.62; expenses, $2,717.83; net earnings, $46,859.79; amount paid patrons, $45,538.14; balance, $1,321.65. The report for 1919 showed gross earnings of $145,961.33; total funning expenses, $5,528.09; sinking fund, $1,284.00; total expenses, $6,812.09; net earnings, $139,149.24. The amount on hand at the beginning of the year was $42.48; total amount net, $139,191.72; paid patrons, $139.184.91; balance on hand, $6.81. The number of patrons during 1919 varied from 126 to 159.
The lumber yard has done much to increase the building industry in this vicinity. With the coming of the railroad, the lumber yard business was started in connection with the Richardson elevator. About 1896, the Laird Norton Yards, with headquarters at Winona, established one of their yards here. J. D. McMartin, now the vice-president of the O. M. Botsford Lumber Co., was the first agent here. In March, 1912, the Botsford Lumber Co., took over the Laird-Norton interests, and has since operated the yard with a local agent.
Elgin Lodge No. 115, A. F. & A. M., Elgin, was organized under dispensation, April 28, 1874. The officers who served under dispensation were: George Bryant, master; Enoch Dickerman, senior warden; H. G. Richardson, junior warden; George Farrar, treasurer; J. Q. Richardson, secretary; Nathan Engle, chaplain; D. A. Hart, senior deacon; George Engle, junior deacon; Ezra Dickerman, senior steward; O. V. Rollins, junior steward; R. G. Richardson, tyler.
The charter was dated January 13, 1875, and the following were charter members: George Bryant, George Farrar, David A. Hart, Nathan Engle, Orvis V. Rollins, Chas. S. Richardson, Curtis Bryant, Edward B. Hart, Andrew K. Engle, Ezra Dickerman, Robert J. Richardson, Joseph Richardson, Ezra Feller, Henry C. Richardson, Hoyt G. Hale, Enoch Dickerman.
The charter officers were: George Bryant, W. M.; Enoch Dickerman, S. W.; H. G. Richardson, J. W.; Nathan Engle, Chaplain; George Farrar, Treasurer; J. Q. Richardson, Secretary; David A. Hart, S. D.; George Engle, J. D.; Ezra Dickerman, S. S. ; O. V. Rollins, J. S.; Edward B. Hart, Tyler.
The first lodge hall was located over the H. G. Richardson vacant store on Main street, the building being better known as the old cheese factory. In 1882 the lodge rented the upper story of the E. O. Ordway building, later known as the L. E. Gates store, and the first meeting was held in the new hall Feb. 14, 1883. The following winter the lodge hall was transferred to the upper story of the Bryant store building, which Richardson Bros. had just purchased, and moved to Park street, where the First State Bank now stands. This lodge hall was nicely furnished and mad an ideal place for a lodge home until July 28th, 1899, when the building in which the hall was located burned, together with most of the lodge furniture and equipment. In August, 1899, the present hall in the Searles & Siem building on Park street was rented and furnished. In May, 1915, the lodge purchased the hall over the Dushek Hardware Store, which they now occupy.
The masters of Elgin Lodge No. 115, A. F. & A. M., Elgin, Minn.: George Bryant, Master U. D., April 28, 1874, to Jan. 13, 1875; George Bryant, Jan. 13, 1975 to December 28, 1877; Enoch Dickerman, Jan. 3, 1877, to Dec. 28, 1877; George Bryant, Dec. 28, 1877, to Dec. 28, 1878; William Searles, Dec. 28, 1878, to Dec. 27, 1879; D. F. Ferguson, Dec. 27, 1879, to Jan. 2, 1884; H. C. Richardson, Jan. 2, 1884, to Dec. 30, 1884; J. W. Bryant, Dec. 30, 1884, to Dec. 22, 1888; J. D. F. Ferguson, Dec. 22, 1888, to Dec. 28, 1889; J. W. Bryant, Dec. 28, 1889, to Dec. 18, 1893; R. L. Wood, Dec. 18, 1893, to Dec. 27, 1894; J. W. Bryant, Dec. 27, 1894, to Dec. 28, 1898; D. F. Fergusen, Dec. 28, 1898, to Dec. 18, 1900; J. W. Bryant, Dec. 18, 1900, to Dec. 10, 1904; R. L. Wood, Dec. 10, 1904, to Dec. 6, 1906; H. A. Stephan, Dec. 6, 1906, to Dec. 21, 1909; D. W. McDougall, Dec. 21, 1909, to Dec. 29, 1911; Vincent Holton, Dec. 29, 1911, to Dec. 30, 1913; Fred Holton, Dec. 30, 1913, to Dec. 28, 1915; Carl V. Houghton, Dec. 28, 1915, to Dec. 29, 1916; Henry Luhman, Dec. 29, 1916, to Dec. 28, 1917; Jay H. Smith, Dec 28, 1917, to Jan. 3, 1919; R. E. Graves, Jan. 3, 1919, to Dec. 30, 1919; W. P. Hagner, Dec. 30, 1919, to the present.
Vesper Chapter, No. 196, O. E. S., was chartered June 8, 1910, the charter officers being: Worthy matron, Lenore Holton; worthy patron, Vincent Holton; associate matron, Ida Marek; treasurer, Mary McDougall; secretary, Anna Searles; conductress, Susan Searles, associate conductress, Ethie Earsley. The charter members were: Lenore (Mrs. Vincent) Holton, Ida (Mrs Joe G.) Marek, Anna Searles, Helen Searles, Grace (Mrs. Fred) Holton, Eva Webber, Irene (Mrs. Ed F.) Webber, Mary (Mrs. D. W.) McDougall, Clara Woodruff, Ida (Mrs. Alex.) Scott, Ava Holton, Flora (Mrs. Carl) Houghton, Ethie (Mrs. D. E.) Earsley, Hazelle Westover, Tillie (Mrs Henry A.) Stephen, Harry A. Stephen, William P. Holton, Frank Blodgett, Alexander Scott, Fred A. Holton and Dougal McDougall. Delbert E. Earsley and Irvin E. Scott joined shortly afterward.
The Elgin Branch of the Wabasha County American Red Cross was organized May 25, 1917, and as Wabasha County was not yet organized for Red Cross purposes, Elgin worked with Olmsted County Chapter at Rochester. The officers elected were: Mrs. John Walch, chairman; Mrs. Walter Bleifuss, secretary, and Mrs. John Kettner, treasurer. In September, 1917, it was voted to become a branch of the Wabasha County Chapter, and another election was held whereby Mrs. John Walch was retained as chairman. Mrs. D. J. Whipple became vice-chairman, Mrs. Fred Holton secretary, and Mrs. John Kettner treasurer. Mrs. John Kettner and Anne Searles were added to the executive committee. At the annual meeting in 1918 Mrs. George Barden, Mrs. Frank Gillooly, Frs. Fred Holton, Mrs. A. L. Kimber and Anne Searles were elected executive committee. This committee elected the following officers for 1918: Helen B. Searles, chairman; Mrs. George Barden, vice-chairman; Nora Johnson, secretary, and John Kettner, treasurer. The special committees were as follows: Sewing: Mrs. John Siem (chairman). Surgical: Mrs. John Walch. Refugee Work: Mrs. B. S. Ordway. Knitting: Mrs. Lenora Filkins, Mrs. John Kettner and Anne Searles. At the annual meeting in October, 1919, the executive committee elected was composed of Mrs. Frank Gillooly, Mrs. Fred Holton, Mrs. R. W. Richardson and Nora Johnson. This committee elected the following officers for 1920: Helen B. Searles, chairman; Mrs. Gillooly, vice-chairman; Nora Johnson, secretary, and John Kettner, treasurer. The work was continued from May, 1917, until no more was called for, and the records show that the branch completed 861 pairs of knitted socks, 296 sweaters, and 112 other knitted articles. The branch had some knitters who deserve special mention: Mrs. Jo. Richardson, 84 years of age, knit many pairs of socks, besides other articles. Mrs. James Patchin, over 70, also helped much. Mrs. Julius Bartz, over 70 knitted more than 70 pairs of socks. Mrs. Emma Ellsworth, over 70, became totally blind during the time of war work, but stopped knitting only as long as she was seriously ill, adding many pairs of socks to her credit after her sight was gone. Another who knit several pairs of socks, though totally blind, was Marie Zalel. In the sewing department 621 articles were made, including many different kinds. Much of this work was done in the homes, and for several weeks the house of Mrs. John Siem, chairman of the sewing department, was used nearly every day by workers. In the Surgical Department 9,943 articles were made. Much credit for this work is given Mrs. John Walch, who gave much time, work and money, going to Wabasha to prepare herself to take charge of and teach the work, all of which was done under her supervision. Three hundred and eighty-three towels, sheets, napkins, and other articles, were made and sent to hospitals. One thousand and ten gun-wipers were made, mostly by pupils of the public schools. The new and used articles collected and sent to refugees in Europe, and to northern Minnesota fire sufferers, numbered 1,377, and money was also sent. From the date of organization up to January 1, 1920, the amount of money raised was nearly $3,800. Many money-making schemes were used, among them and Old-Time Dance, which was in charge of the men. A Home Talent Play was given by the women. Another successful plan was devised, by which every citizen was given a chance to help. A committee of six women canvassed the village, asking each one called on to pledge a certain amount for each of the six succeeding months, this money to be used for material for work. On the first of each month the committee went out collecting, and about $150 a month was collected, only a few pledges being broken. Some work was done by Eastern Star members for the O. E. S. Patriotic League. The business men did many things to help, and by the co-operation of all the workers, Elgin Branch of the Wabasha County A. R. C. never failed to “go over the top” in everything it was asked to do.
The Old Settlers’ Perpetual Union of Whitewater Valley, with headquarters at Elgin, has been an important factor in binding together the old settlers and their families, and keeping alive those early traditions which otherwise would be rapidly fading into forgetfulness. The Union had its beginning with an informal meeting of Old Settlers held at Elgin, February 19, 1855. I. W. Rollins was chosen chairman and Charles S. Richardson, secretary. George Farrar, O. T. Dickerman and Curtis Bryant were appointed a committee to draw up constitution and by-laws. The committee appointed to arrange for the regular meeting to be held February 28, 1885, consisted of I. W. Rollins, Ezra Dickerman, Enoch Dickerman, Perry Whiting, S. B. Evans, George Evans and D. F. Ferguson. The early meetings were held in February of each year. Beginning with June, 1893, the annual picnic and meeting has been held in June. All the meetings have been successful. In 1890, owing to the prevalence of the influenza, then called “la grippe,” the meeting was poorly attended, and in 1917, owing to war conditions. The presidents of the association have been: 1885, George Farrar; 1888, H. C. Woodruff; 1889; 1889, A. N. Whiting; 1891, I. W. Rolling; 1894, John Q. Richardson; 1895, O. T. Dickerman; 1898, Enoch Dickerman; (died Aug. 22, 1898, and succeeded by Alexander Scott, appointed); 1899, Alexander Scott; 1900, Curtiss Bryant; 1902, George Farrar; 1905, Dr. T. W. Adams; 1906, Charles S. Richardson, to the present time. The vice-presidents have been: 1885, I. W. Rollins; 1886, John Q. Richardson; 1887, Enoch Dickerman; 1888, William H. Teller; 1889, Enoch Dickerman; 1891, John Q. Richardson; 1893, Dr. W. T. Adams; 1894, O. T. Dickerman; 1895, Ferd. Hample; 1902, Gilman Robinson; 1903, J. K. Mc___; 1904, Charles S. Richardson; 1906, George Farrar; 1907, John Q. Richardson, 1908, Alex. Scott; 1910, Dr. W. T. Adams; 1918, C. H. Siem. The secretaries have been: 1885, O. T. Dickerman; 1888, Curtiss Bryant; 1900, Moses Ross; 1903, Alexander Scott; 1905, Curtiss Bryant; 1906, Ralph W. Richardson, to the present time. The treasurers have been: 1885, William Searles; 1888, I. W. Rollins; 1889, William Searles; 1892, Joseph Richardson; 1894, Enoch Dickerman; 1897, John Q. Richardson; 1906, Alex. Scott; 1908, Dr. W. T. Adams; 1910, Alex. Scott; 1919, Clarence E. Dickerman.
A meeting to form the Elgin Cemetery Association was held May 11, 1863, J. Q. Richardson acting as chairman and R. S. Stillman as secretary. Three trustees were elected: Joseph Richardson to serve three years, H. Stanchfield, two years, and D. F. Ferguson, one year. A tract of land of two acres and ten rods was deeded to the Cemetery Association May, 1864, by Mr. Rollins, for a consideration of twenty-five dollars. According to local tradition, the death of 26 persons who are buried here occurred before the date of the transfer. The first few burials, it is said, were made near the site of the first schoolhouse, and the bodies were afterwards moved to this plot. It is also thought that burials were made here before the transfer. The first three deaths of people who are now buried in this cemetery were as follows: Matilda Bryant, May 27, 1856 (this was the first death in the township); Mary E. Stanchfield, December 2, 1857, and Wilbur B. Emerson, September 28, 1859. The cemetery is still owned and controlled by the Association started in 1863, each owner of a lot being entitled to one vote. At the annual meeting held March 25, 1899, steps were taken to secure proper care for the cemetery by levying an assessment of $2.00 a lot to pay for needed improvements, and this plan in its general features has been followed ever since, though the amount of the assessment has varied from time to time. At the same time the ladies were invited to form an organization to assist in the work, which they did, the Ladies’ Cemetery Association of Elgin being organized April 15, 1899, with Mrs. J. W. Bryant, president: Mrs. D. W. Searles, secretary; Mrs. O. T. Dickerman, treasurer; Helen Searles, first vice-president, and Fannie Davis, second vice-president. The object of the ladies’ association was to improve the appearance of the cemetery in any and every way most needed. The first year about $150 was raised by giving entertainments, socials and the annual dues of twenty-five cents. This society keeps up the flower beds, has planted many ornamental shrubs, and placed urns in several places, besides helping the Elgin Cemetery Association to buy more land, build the fence, and keep the cemetery mowed.
The Elgin Cyclone of July 21, 1883, was an event never to be forgotten in this vicinity. Contemporaneous accounts of the event in the newspapers of the time, give a complete description of the devastation wrought.
No warning of the catastrophe was given. For some days the weather had been unsettled with light rains. The morning of Saturday, July 21, was somewhat cloudy. Nothing untoward happened in the forenoon, and at noon the people betook themselves to dinner. About this time the skies commenced to darken, the rain to fall, the wind to rise and the thunder to roll, and people began to quicken their steps in order to seek shelter from what they imagined would prove to be an ordinary midsummer thunder and rainstorm. Fortunate for them it was that they did so; fortunately it was that the school was closed; providential it was that the devastating wind struck the village at a time when nearly all the people had reached their homes, and together with their wives and children, had been afforded a few seconds’ time in which to fly for refuge to their cellars.
At about 12:10 the furious wind burst upon the village; with the pent-up force of whirlwind and tornado, hurricane and cyclone combined, lashed up to a degree of fury hitherto wholly unknown in this section of the country. Whirling, twisting, wrenching and tearing, it broke upon the defenseless village, and in less than two minutes’ time literally blew it to atoms. So wholly unexpected was the occurrence that there was no time for the exercise of any thought save that of personal safety, and but barely time for that. In far less time than it takes to write it, the prosperous little village was a scene of dire wreck and desolation. Within the brief space of two minutes’ time whole rows of buildings were leveled to the ground, some piled on top of others; houses lifted up bodily by the force of the wind, overturned, and their inmates violently thrown out and injured; other houses crushed and actually ground to pieces; acres of crops throughout the town laid waste; large trees twisted off at the trunk, five feet from the ground, leaving the roots in the soil; every business house in the place wrecked or unroofed; horses, cows and other cattle mangled and killed, and some of these, together with heavy timber from the lumberyard, parts of buildings and other weighty articles, picked up by the wind, lifted high in the air, and sent whirling through space, to come crashing to the earth at forty rods and more distant. The general line the storm took through the town was from about west to east, bearing slightly toward the north, nor was its greatest degree of force attained until it reached the village of Elgin, where it burst and scattered in different directions.
Almost immediately after the storm, the sun shone out bright and clear, but soon the clouds again appeared, and a heavy rain added to the discomfort of the people, all that day and night and the next day.
The arrival of the 1 P.M. train going north to Plainview was the first means the inhabitants of Elgin had of communicating the terrible news of the disaster to the outside world, the telegraph poles and wires being blown down for the distance of about a mile and a half, and the electrical elements having affected the wires as far north as Plainview. At about 1:30 P.M., E. T. Rollins, who was then telegraph operator at the Elgin office, in the railroad depot, by going along the track to about a mile south of the village, managed to make connections with the broken wires and telegraph the fact of the occurrence to Eyota, and by these means was the news first made known. The response was as generously and promptly made as it was needed; money, clothing, food, merchandise and lumber from different parts of the northwest was sent in by kind hearts, to be received by willing and thankful hands. The afternoon train from Plainview brought at least two hundred persons from that place to the scene of the disaster, eager to render all the immediate assistance so needful, while from all portions of the adjoining country people began to pour into the unfortunate village and help in the work of clearing away the wreck and aid in providing means of shelter for the homeless. The injured received al the attention and care possible from a big- hearted, whole-souled people, and before night arrived there were none but who had at least been temporarily provided for. As soon as some of the leading citizens could be assembled together a relief committee was organized, composed of Elijah Ordway, Alex. Scott, H. G. Richardson, Dr. W. T. Adams and Dorr Dickerman.
The people of Plainview and neighboring towns entered into the good work with remarkable generosity and enterprise, and at a meeting held in the Methodist Episcopal church at Plainview that night upward of $200 in cash was raised for immediate use. Early next morning a large delegation of men volunteered their services, came to Elgin and labored all day in the rain in the work of providing shelter for the houseless, and helping to save much of the perishable goods that stood exposed to the weather.
The only person killed was Mrs. Z. S. Thayer, about thirty-five years of age, and a native of Elgin. She kept a millinery store on Park street, adjoining the drug store occupied by A. L. Kimber. Mrs. Thayer was found lying partly across the counter, crushed beneath the roof. Her little girl, Maud, was found in the ruins, under a counter, unharmed. Edith Dillon, aged about twenty, had her skull fractured; William Bowen, seventy-six years of age, had a thigh broken, and John Townsend’s child, about eight years old, was injured about the spine. R. W. Chapman, A. L. Kimber, and a few others, were more or less injured.
A detailed description of the damage wrought by the storm gives something of a picture of the development that had been reached in Elgin and vicinity up to that time.
On Park street, the principal business street, which runs east and west, across the railroad track, stood a large two-story frame building, owned by E. O. Morton, the first floor of which was occupied by Frank Ressler as a meat market and F. A. Amaden as a harness-shop, and the second by R. W. Chapman as a dwelling. Here, no doubt, was the most miraculous escape in the whole disaster. The building was completely wrecked, and yet four persons, Mr. and Mrs. Chapman and Edith and Hattie Dillon, were thrown out with the wreck and escaped with their lives; two of the four only, Edith Dillon and R. W. Chapman, being injured, as before stated. On the same side of the street were two one-story frame buildings, one belonging to and occupied as a dwelling by Frank Ressler, and the other owned by A. Y. Felton, of Plainview, and occupied by Thomas C. Udell as an agricultural machinery warehouse. The front of Ressler’s dwelling was thrown ten or twelve feet off the foundation and the building partly unroofed, while Felton’s was racked nearly to pieces. On the other side of the street the storm played similar havoc. The two- story frame building belonging to George Bryant, the lower part of which was occupied by Mrs. Z. S. Thayer as a millinery store, and the upper floor by John M. Townsend and family as a dwelling, was left a total wreck, as was also the other two-story frame building next door, owned by Richardson Bros., and occupied by A. L Kimber as a drug store and dwelling. Mrs. Kimber saved herself and child by seeking the security of the cellar; but Mr. Kimber and John M. Townsend’s family escaped by mere chance. Mr. Kimber was caught between the two buildings, which stood not over two feet apart, and it was with difficulty that he was extricated from the debris unharmed.
Mr. Townsend’s family, like Mr. Chapman’s across the way, were indoors at the time the house was struck. They were not thrown out, however, but came down with the wreck, and with the exception of the one child mentioned landed safe and sound. Mrs. Thayer, who was in the store below, met her death as already stated. A little farther west, on the same street, stood E. Ordway’s new two-story frame building, the lower part of which was used by Ordway, Dickerman & Co., as a storeroom, and the upper floor as the lodge-room of Elgin Lodge, No. 115, A. F. & A. M. This entire building was destroyed. Ordway, Dickerman & Co.’s hardware store was unroofed, and the second story of Frank Kiernan’s saloon and billiard-room blown off, while Bryant Bros. & Johnson’s large store, which had but lately been occupied by A. Ludke, was badly racked, and the second story partly blown down. The railroad station depot received but slight damages. The north end of J. W. Bryant & Co.’s grain elevator was demolished, and the structure racked. Richardson Bros.’ grain elevator was slightly damaged, their lumber office and sheds were all down, and much of the lumber in the sheds picked up by the wind and scattered in every direction. Van Dusen & Co.’s coal-sheds near the depot were a total wreck, and E. Meilke’s Northwestern Hotel, west of the station, was partly unroofed ad badly used up. Fred. Meyer’s blacksmith shop on Grain street, and Henry Claussen’s house and barn on Van Dusen street were completely destroyed. H. G. Richardson & Co.’s house, occupied by A. Meilke, had the front torn off and was otherwise damaged, while Henry Claussen’s shoeshop was not greatly injured. Capt. J. B. Norton’s house opposite was racked, chimney down, stable and outbuildings leveled to the ground, hay lost and buggy broken to pieces.
This includes all of the buildings on Park street, and those north of Park street and west of the railroad track. Another street about as greatly devastated as Park street was Main street, which is in the eastern part of the village, running north and south. Commencing on this street where it is crossed by Dry creek, the bridge over which was torn to pieces, the first house, that of David Houghton, which was somewhat damaged, and a fine barn completely demolished. The next place is that of Benjamin H. Gould, which fared somewhat better, but was racked, a post from David Houghton’s barn crashing through its north side. Mark Richardson’s outhouses, sheds and stables were all demolished. At w. B. Porter’s and W. H. Gilman’s, trees two and a half feet through were broken off near the ground and thrown in all directions. The houses were not greatly damaged. Mr. Porter’s barn was completely ruined, and a corner of Mr. Gilman’s house was badly broken from the fall of a large tree. The corner of Main and Center streets, where stood William Bowen’s house and barn, was swept clean. A few pieces of boards and a few sections of roofing scattered pell-mell, together with a few broken articles of furniture, was all that was left to indicate that a dwelling once stood on the gaping cellar. Mr. Bowen was alone in the house when the storm struck it. He was picked up unconscious on the road, covered with mud and sand. Further southward on Main street is the residence of John M. Houghton; the house was partly unroofed and badly racked, barn unroofed and outbuildings completely destroyed. On the corner of Main and Mill streets stands the store of H. G. Richardson & Co., where the post-office is also situated. The new main part of this building was unroofed, and the back part badly racked, and the barn back of it completely demolished. Mrs. Woodward’s dwelling across the way, owned by H. G. Richardson & Co., escaped as free from injuries, probably, as any house in town, as did also the blacksmith- shop south of it owned by Richardson Bros., and occupied by Mercer Bros.; but the next building, which was also the property of Richardson Bros., and occupied as a wagon-shop by Alex. Scott, was unroofed and several new carriages badly damaged. The residences of Charles S. Richardson, E. O. Morton and Mrs. Seeley, then occupied by William Baker, on Mill street, were comparatively uninjured. John Graham’s house escaped very fortunately. The trees were so badly broken, that at first one had to cut his way to it with an ax, but the house was all right. George Farrar’s old house, occupied by Fred. Westover, was unroofed, and the second story partly torn down, and D. W. T. Adams, south of this had his barn and outbuildings completely demolished and his house slightly racked. Opposite were E. W. Westover, whose house was pushed back six or eight feet from the foundation, and F. A. Amsden, living in a house belonging to Richardson Bros., which was unroofed and had one corner blown off.
South Street runs east and west along the southern boundary of the village plat. On the north side of the street, and just west of the railroad track, stood the large barn owned by George Bryant, which was almost entirely demolished. The residence in front of it escaped with but slight damages, as did also Miss Mary Ann Bryant’s residence; but her other house, occupied by Fred Meyers, was left half unroofed. Dorr Dickerman’s new house, just enclosed, was laid flat on the ground, but the Congregational parsonage, which he occupied, received no material damage. The Methodist church, a beautiful little edifice which cost about four thousand dollars, was a total ruin, hardly a stick left standing, but the parsonage on the lot adjoining, occupied by Ref. J. W. Stebbins, escaped with partial damages. George Farrar’s fine barn and his house weathered the storm very well. N. H. Moody’s house escaped comparatively uninjured, but the handsome and commodious schoolhouse south of it, at the head of School street, was a complete wreck. E. Ordway’s residence was but little damaged, but the Eureka house, north of it on School street, owned by Thomas Mathieson and managed by M. H. Safford, was considerably racked. The southern portion of the building was shoved back twelve feet from the foundation, and the barn leveled to the earth. Farther east on South street, on the bank of the Whitewater, lay the wreck of Charles S. Richardson’s barn and windmill, and just east of this, on the north side of the street, was a most remarkable example of the unparalleled force of the wind. Alex Scott’s residence, a strong story- and-a-half frame building, on a stone foundation, was built here on rising land overlooking the village. It was taken up bodily from its foundation by the wind, turned upside down and hurled through the air with tremendous force a distance of several rods, when it was dashed to the earth, and, together with all its contents, was reduced almost to splinters. Mr. Scott, who, with his wife and child, had sought refuge in the cellar, suddenly found themselves exposed to the beating rain, their house having been lifted off their heads with as much ease as if it had been made of paper.
These details of the ruin in the village give but a partial view of the real devastation. Trees were mangled and twisted in all sorts of shapes and felled to the ground, window-panes shattered, shutters broken, shingles torn off and scattered, the chimneys all down, fences laid low, plank walks torn up, and all along the streets and on the vacant lots the ground strewn with broken lumber, shingles, pillows, bed quilts, household utensils, clothing, fragments of furniture, in fact a mixed assortment of anything and everything.
The one-story house occupied by Mrs. Proctor and owned by Charles S. Richardson, east of the village, was unroofed and about half a story torn off. The house of Lucien Metcalf was half wrecked, his barn and cribs unroofed, his hay-sheds all torn to pieces and the place mangled up generally. Walter Dunn’s house was racked and his barns unroofed. The hay-sheds and windmills of O. V. and I. W. Rollins, Joseph and H. G. Richardson were all more or less damaged, and Abner Smith’s granary, sheds and corn-cribs were down flat. George Wedge’s barn received some damages. H. D. Wedge lost a mile and a half of fence. J. E. Brown had his barn, granary and sheds blown over. J. R. Hunter lost his stable, and a few others suffered to a greater or less extent as far as Jacob Haessig’s farm.
Half a mile west of the village is the farm of Curtis Bryant. He lost a large barn, together with corn-cribs and other buildings, while four of his horses and two colts were killed. One of the colts, a three-year-old, was taken by the wind from in front of his house and carried north about forty rods, over fences and buildings, and found dead. Col. W. H. Feller’s barn was unroofed, house damaged, granary moved off the foundation, and another building down flat. Frank M. Bigelow’s large barn was down to the plates and partly moved on the foundation, the house considerably damaged and windmill blown to pieces. Fred C. Hartson’s house, occupied by Judson Hudson, was taken by the wind thirty feet from its foundation and utterly demolished, but Mr. Hudson, his wife, child and sister escaped from the flying debris safe and sound. A place occupied by Mrs. Amelia Drake had a stable and granary blown down, besides trees destroyed. William Tornow, tenant on William Brown’s farm, suffered severely, and Mr. Brown had a barn and granary demolished, containing 400 bushels of oats, 150 bushels of wheat and 15 tons of hay, which were all destroyed. The storm made terrible havoc among his trees and timber. At this point there appeared to be a succession of storms constantly forming, which spread out nearly two miles in width. H. G. Richardson & Co.’s house west of this, Gus Warner, tenant, had the barn and granary blown down, besides trees badly damaged. Charles Dobbins had his stable, swine-house and granary blown down, house partly wrecked and partly unroofed, his stock hurt and trees badly injured. A plank 2 x 6 inches, broken from a hay-rake, was carried from about 150 feet southeast of the house and crushed a hole through the west side of the house. The granary of Harrison Rice was blown down and his stable destroyed. He lost thirty tons of hay and twelve acres of corn, and his house was partly unroofed. Henry C. Woodruff had his barn blown down, which was a great loss, as he had water-works in the barn attached to his windmill, which was also blown down. His house was partly unroofed, and his loss in timber and fruit-trees was irreparable, as it had taken him nearly twenty years to grow them. Pursuing further westward, the following damage was wrought by the relentless wind: William Cook, machine-shed and corn-crib injured, wagonhouse, henhouse and windmill down, roof on barn moved, and fine grove destroyed. William Searles, barn unroofed, corn-crib and stable partly unroofed, hay and machine sheds and windmill torn down, seventy-five tons of hay destroyed, and thirty acres of timber badly damaged. August Swanke, house badly racked and shingles torn off, barn partly unroofed, granary, shed and stable destroyed. A. B. Hart, house, machine-house and sheds blown down, and fifteen acres of timber damaged. Mrs. Hart and child escaped by going down to the cellar. E. Raymond, a tool-house, 45 x 60, and a cow-shed and stable, 25 x 200, blown down. On another place he lost two houses and a barn, seventy tons of hay and a windmill, and had forty acres of timber destroyed. A. Park, barn unroofed, sheds partly unroofed, hoghouse moved, henhouse destroyed. H. Southwick, barn unroofed, sheds down and five acres of timber destroyed. Mr. Patrick, stable blown down and house injured. M. Nash, house partly unroofed and the furniture damaged. Mr. Fitch’s shade-trees down, and a number of cherry trees torn out by the roots. A. Demke, granary badly broken up, James W. Finney, on Mr. Taylor’s farm, house partly unroofed and moved off the foundation, and barn, granary and corn-crib wrecked. August Barrent, on Henry Dewitz’s place, lost everything he had. The house, two granaries and barn were demolished, all the furniture destroyed and clothing blown away. Mr. Barrent and family were caught up by the wind and hurled skyward with the flying debris, one of the boys being carried by the wind southeast about forty feet, then northwest about sixty fee and south twenty fee, landing him on a wood-pile; then he was seized again and carried about twenty-five feet and left in a ditch. Another boy was carried about sixty feet and dropped in a small creek. Strange to say, neither was much hurt. John Twitten, hay and sheep sheds blown down, besides a hog-house, 16 x 80, and the house partly unroofed. Thomas Brooks’ farm, occupied by Joseph Hines: the house was carried from the foundation fifteen or twenty feet, where it struck a willow tree, and was hurled about six feet beyond the tree, that keeping it from entirely falling, only a part of it being blown off. The family were in the house, and the tree keeping the building from falling doubtless saved their lives, although some were quite badly hurt. The barn, sheep-shed, 30 x 40, granary and hog-house, 16 x 80, were destroyed. At another farm, owned by Thomas Brooks, a granary was blown down. The Fitch schoolhouse was laid perfectly flat, the bell alone remaining to show the site. Duane W. Searles’ buildings were partly down, while F. Bennie lost his barn, granary and part of his house. W. H. White, barn blown down, granary injured, shingles torn off the house and the windmill blown down. A hired man in the barn was carried with it, being injured about the heard. A horse was hurt, fences on one side of the farm carried off, and the fruit trees nearly all destroyed. Forty tons of hay were scattered. A. B. Stacy, house racked, chimneys blown down, wagon-house, granary and hay-sheds leveled, and buggy and machinery broken, fences and thirty tons of hay blown away. Harry Dodge, fruit trees injured and hay blown away. S. Snow, house partly unroofed and kitchen blown down; barn, hay-sheds and stable entirely destroyed, machinery, wagon and cutter demolished and hay blown away. The two houses, barns, sheds, granary and machine-house of D. M. and F. G. Harvey were laid flat, not a vestige of the buildings being left. Their hay was blown away, machinery broken and crops destroyed. Fred and James Harvey’s house was swept down, Mrs. Harvey being caught and held by timbers, but fortunately but little hurt. George Harvey’s windmill and three sheds were blown over. On the Dieter place, occupied by E. F. Dodge, the house was carried eighty-five feet, and the L demolished. Mrs. Dodge, with her baby and girl ten years old, ran down the cellar as soon as the doors of the house blew open, and Mr. Dodge started for the same place with another little girl, but did not reach it, being carried away with the house, luckily escaping injury. After the storm was over one of his boys crept from the debris of the L unhurt.
The stone schoolhouse on the Lake City road was almost entirely demolished. Then still further, the storm continued, carrying it out of Wabasha County.
A month later the “Rochester Cyclone” swept over the country, but did no damage in Elgin and the immediate vicinity.
After the Elgin Cyclone the work of reconstruction started, and a better, larger village soon arose on the ruins.
Elgin Township is well situated in that part of southeastern Minnesota known as Greenwood Prairie. It is one of the two most southern townships in Wabasha County, Plainview being the other. It is bounded on the east by Plainview, on the south by Viola in Olmsted County, on the west by Farmington in Olmsted County, and on the north by Oakwood and a very small portion of Zumbro.
The quality of the soil of this township is excellent: a rich, dark loam, with sufficient sand mixed in with it to create that degree of warmth so necessary to productiveness; while the land, viewed form an elevation, as it gradually rises and falls in rolling prairie as far as the eye can reach, reminding the spectator of the huge billows of the far-distant ocean. Its productive soil and pleasant location, with a surface sufficiently undulating to secure excellent natural drainage, renders Elgin’s agricultural advantages of the best. The north branch of the Whitewater River enters the town from Olmsted County at section 33, and flows in about a northeasterly direction through section 33, and across the northwest corner of section 34 into section 27, south of the village of Elgin, when it takes an easterly course through sections 27, 26 and 25, into the town (township) of Plainview. This stream, together with Dry creek, which empties into the north branch of the Whitewater on section 27, drains the southern part of the town, while the streams in the northern part are tributary to the Zumbro. The town is fairly well timbered in different portions, the number of trees, since settlement has prevented the forest fires, having increased both by natural growth and by the planting of wind-breaks and shade trees. The largest grove is located near the center of the township.
The first settlers in this immediate vicinity were George Bryant, Henry H. Atherton, Curtis Bryant and George Farrar, who landed from a steamboat at Winona, came up across that county to St. Charles, and then found their way onto the borders of the marvelously rich Greenwood Prairie, arriving about April 8, 1855.
Little wonder that these hardy pioneers who, with the exception of George Farrar, who had lived a while in Beloit, came directly from Vermont, where they had been cradled by the side of gurgling brooks, and had watched the grazing cattle on the rugged hillsides, while they were lulled to sleep at night by the hum of whirring spindles, as the good wives and mothers, changed the fleecy wool into the home spun garments with which they were clothed, should see in the broad acres that stretched out before them as they entered the beautiful valley, the promised land which had been the burden of their thoughts and dreams, and caused them to plant their stakes, and declare this to be their future homes, where the thriving village of Elgin is now located.
It was nearly sundown when they halted by a bubbling spring that sung its merry song as its sparkling waters hurried to join the current of the nearby Whitewater, and attracted by it, decided to make this spot their first abode, and began to prepare for the night. The glorious April sunset painted the landscape in splendor of gold and carmine, while a gently breeze tossed the dry grass that covered the broad acres in every direction, into wavelets that reflected the silvery sheen of the last rays of sunshine that seemed reluctant to close the draperies, as the twilight deepened into night.
They gathered a few faggots (dry sticks for kindling) from a nearby grove, and kindled the first camp fire that was destined to mark the beginning of a settlement, which in the very near future must become one of the garden spots in the almost limitless northwest. Little did our four first settlers reckon as they prepared their frugal meal, and spread out their blankets on the virgin soil of the beautiful valley of the Whitewater, what part they were playing in the history making of the great state of Minnesota, then a territory, so soon to become an important factor in shaping the destinies of our great American republic. Wearied with their long march across the trackless prairies, they sank to slumber on their new made beds under the canopy of the starry sky, with no fear of wild beasts or prowling Indians, they were lulled to sleep by the gently soughing (sighing) wind, and slept through the night, to awaken as the first streaks of light heralded another day. As the aurora heralded the approaching sunrise, the air was vibrant with the twittering of myriads of feathered songsters, and the deep sonorous boom, boom, boom of the prairie chicken as the haughty male bird struts back and forth near their brooding grounds, puffing his gills, and emitting the deep sonorous booming never to be forgotten by the early settlers.
With the dawn of another day, no time was to be lost, and soon the nearby groves were made to resound with the lively tune played with the shining axes as chips flew, and the enthusiastic group under the direction of George Farrar erected a log cabin shingled with elm bark. This cabin, built on the claim of Henry H. Atherton, was located between the present eastern terminus of Elgin’s principal street, and the Whitewater River. It served not only as a dwelling place for the pioneer who built it, but also as a shelter for many of the early settlers who came later.
On April 21, 1855, three of these original settlers staked “filed” on the claims which they had selected for their future farms. The claims of George and Curtis Bryant embraced nearly all the present village plat, the former having the northwest quarter of section 27, while the latter had the northeast quarter of section 28. Henry H. Atherton took the northwest quarter of section 34, George Farrar chose a quarter section claim, consisting of eighty acres in section 26 and eighty acres in section 27, but did not file on it. In the fall he filed on some timberland consisting of the east half of the southwest quarter of section 17. Immediately after securing his claim, George Bryant returned to his native state of Vermont for his family, and came back to Elgin in May of the same year, bringing his family, as well as Leonard Laird and family. Mrs. Bryant and Mrs. Laird were therefore the first women in the community.
The settlement was augmented in June of the same year, with the arrival of Henry H. Stanchfield and family, Carlos B. Emerson and family, E. L. Clapp and wife, Byron A. Glines and wife. In October, John Bryant and wife, parents of George and Curtis Bryant, arrived with several other members of the family and took a claim. These people named probably constituted the entire population of the little community when fall merged into winter. Additional log cabins had followed the first one, and while in some instances several families found it necessary to share a single cabin, all were at least sheltered. A few made trips back East. It is said that during the absence in Vermont of George Farrar, Leonard Laird “jumped” his claim in section 26 and 27. When Mr. Farrar returned he brought with him his brother, Waldo, who was afterward killed at the Battle of Gettysburg.
The little settlement grew considerably in 1856. Early in March, Orvis V. Rollins and Irving W. Rollins came over from Plainview and settled on sections 22 and 27. William D. Woodward came a little later and settled on a claim in section 33, that he had selected the previous year. Others also took claims, all being from the Eastern states and most of them from Vermont. These people themselves called their settlement “Paradise,” happy in the wonderful opportunities of the new homes they had found. But for many miles around, the other settlers referred to this community as the “Yankee Settlement.”
The year of 1856 did much to justify the high hopes entertained by these good people. The rich soil gave promise o abundant crops, and a fair acreage of land was broken and planted. More cabins were erected, shacks put up for the cattle, and even a few fences constructed. The cabins were for the most part overcrowded, one small single-room cabin sometimes accommodating several good sized families of parents and growing children, furnishing lodging as well for a few visiting friends. It seemed imperative, therefore, that there should be a special place for the lodging of travelers and land-seekers. To supply this need, George and Waldo Farrar erected on the northwest quarter of section 28, the first frame house in the township. This house, George Farrar opened as a tavern, and continued to entertain travelers until 1860.
To this little community on the banks of the Whitewater, far from native state and former friends, came the usual vicissitudes of birth, and death and love. June 30, 1856, a son Arthur D. was born to Byron A. and Zalma M. Glines. This promising youngster, who was the first white native of Elgin Township, died five years later. On August 13, 1856, the first courtship in the little community ripened into marriage, when George Farrar and Emeline Bryant, the daughter of John and Lavina Bryant, were united in wedlock at Winona. Earlier in the year, on May 27, the bride’s parental home had been saddened by the death of her sister, Matilda, at the age of nearly thirty years. Her funeral marked the first public religious services in the town and were conducted by Elder Blunt, from the Tumbleson Neighborhood, so called, in Haverhill Township. In the same year Elder Lord, a Methodist Episcopal clergyman, held services at the home of George Bryant. The next year, Rev. Jonathan Cochrane, a Congregational clergyman, held services at the same home.
The first political meeting in the township was held in August, 1856, to choose delegates to go to Winona for the purpose of nominating candidates for seats in the Territorial Legislature. One of the delegates was Irving W. Rollins, who attended the convention held at Winona, Sept. 1, of that year. Oct. 14, 1856, the election took place at Greenville, not far from what is now Plainview, voters attending from the present towns of Plainview, Elgin, Highland and Oakwood. County and precinct officers, as well as representatives to the Territorial Legislature were voted upon.
On May 11, 1858, a meeting was held at the house of John H. Pell for the purpose of town organization and the election of town officers. George Bryant was appointed moderator and Robert C. Stillman clerk, and William Brown and John H. Pell judges of election.
At this election the town was named, each voter placing on the back of his ticket his choice of a name. The whole number of votes cast was fifty-four, fifty being in favor of Elgin. Who suggested the name or why is in doubt.
The officers selected were: Supervisors, O. P. Crawford (chairman), Joseph Leatherman and William Cook; clerk, George Bryant; assessor, Robert C. Stillman; collector, C. W. Dodge; justices, I. W. Rollins and Morgan Culbertson; constables, B. H. Gould and Jasper Elliott; overseer of the poor, John H. Pell. Thirteen days after this town meeting (May 24, 1858) the first meeting of the board of supervisors was held at the house of the town clerk, and they proceeded to divide the town into the following road districts: the north half of the town to comprise road district No. 1. The southwest quarter of the town to comprise road district No. 2. The southeast quarter of the town to comprise road district No. 3. The board then appointed the following overseers of roads: William Town, district No. 1; William Brown, district No. 2; Gurden Town, district No. 3.
The first assessment of taxes was then made by this board, who levied a tax of one-half of one percent of every dollar on the assessment roll of the previous year, as received from the office of the register of deeds for the county of Wabasha, and also taxed each man liable to the same two day’s labor on roads.
The first election after the admission of Minnesota as a state was held in the fall of this year, October 12, 1858. Elgin participated in this election, which was to choose a senator and representatives to the legislature, a judge of probate, a county auditor and a coroner.
The first petition for a public road was made to the board of supervisors at their first meeting. The petition was dated May 22, 1858, and was signed by twelve persons. By order of the supervisors the proposed road was regularly surveyed by one J. A. Sawyer, and on June 16, 1858, he made his report. The day following the board examined the route, and, having found the same well suited for a public road, declared it opened as such, and ordered all fences of obstructions on the route removed by December 1, 1879. This road the first laid out in the town, was known as town road No. 1, and was described as follows: “Commencing on the east line of the town, at a stake one hundred and six rods north of the section, stake in the southwest corner of section 13, and running southwesterly 314 rods, to a stake in latitude forty-three and one-half degrees; thence southwest 272 rods to a stake by I. W. Rollins’ land, in latitude fifty-two and one-half degrees; hence southwest 48 rods to a stake on the south side of Dry creek, in latitude twenty-one degrees; thence southwest 100 rods to a stake north of John Bryant’s house forty-three degrees; thence southwest 24 16/25 rods to a stake south of George Bryant’s house, in latitude forty-six and one-half degrees; thence southwest 190 rods to a stake on the south side of the Whitewater, in latitude nineteen and one-half degrees; thence southwest 40 rods to a stake in latitude twenty-nine and one-half degrees; hence southwest 80 rods to a stake in latitude twenty-eight and one-half degrees; thence southwest 84 rods to a stake by W. D. Woodward’s house, in latitude twenty-nine and one-half degrees; thence southwest 28 8/25 rods to a stake by Woodward’s bridge, in latitude fifty-two degrees; thence west 6 rods to a stake west of the bridge; thence southwest 106 rods to the quarter-stake in latitude twenty-eight degrees, where it meets the Olmsted County road; and road being five miles thirteen rods and twenty-four links in length.” The next road laid out ran north and south through the center of sections 5, 8, 17, 20, 29 and 32. It was designated as Town Road No. 2, and was declared by the County Board to be a public road on Aug. 21, 1858.
The first settlers on Greenwood Prairie had come from Eastern states where fruits were plentiful and preserves were considered a necessary part of the daily diet. It was natural, therefore, that they should consider with interest the possibility of obtaining fruit here. Various wild fruits and some berries were found here, crab apples, plums, strawberries, gooseberries and grapes. When these were not obtainable the good pioneer ladies sometimes made pies from sorrel and brown sugar. A pioneer in fruit growing was I. W. Rollins of Elgin. Before leaving Vermont he arranged to have some apple seed sent him at Wabasha. These seeds were planted in the town of Elgin on April 11, 1856. The trees wintered well the first two winters, and in 1858 he top-grafted some of them with shoots with scions from Vermont. In 1859 he and his brother O. V. Rollins, planted another orchard. Some of these were grafter, but a portion of the grafted tops were winter-killed. In 1860 some seedlings were planted. In seven years from planting the seed, a few trees bore fruit, and in 1871 Mr. Rollins harvested no less than 200 bushels. In the meantime others had become interested. There were naturally many discouragements. Some of the varieties proved absolutely unsuited to the climate. Even many trees of a variety that was generally suitable succumbed to the weather of some particular winters after living through other winters that had seemed more severe. But the pioneers persevered and were rewarded, some with bearing enough for outside marketing. Among the early growers who procured threes from Mr. Rollins’ first planting were George Bryant, J. Q. Richardson, Albert Glines, Henry Stanchfield, Caleb Metcalf, Enoch Dickerman, John and William Pell, James Brown, J. Baldwin, Nathan Fisher, Wesley Hill, George Sylvester, Charles Sylvester, George Harrington, A. P. Foster and Rodman Burchard.