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Elgin Minnesota History
From the book
"HISTORY OF WABASHA COUNTY, MINNESOTA"
Compiled by Franklyn Curtiss-Wedge and Others
Published Winona, MN by H. C. Cooper, Jr., & Co., 1920
Republished Currently by
This history originally located at
Original page was difficult to read due to fixed width background used
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
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
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
First State Bank of Elgin
H. B. Choate
Hoard & Tenney of Winona, photographers
This may be Hanibal Choate mentioned above.
Photo Contributed by
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 ful share in the various patriotic
Farmers and Merchants State Bank, Elgin
Emil J. Sell, President & John C. Kettner, Cashier
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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 town
(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
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
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
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
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
End of Chapter
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