Stories from the early days

C.G. Maybury Newspaper Account of William Haddock:

 "In 1901 he wrote for a New York paper an account of 1852 members of the locating committee for the Minnesota City Western Farm and Village site. “They (William Haddock and Arthur Murphy) came up the Mississippi river from La Crosse, Wisconsin on skates, a distance of thirty miles, with packs on their backs. Each carried a buffalo skin and some camp supplies.” Haddock records “After leaving LaCrosse we pursued our journey slowly up the river on the ice, hugging as closely as possible the Minnesota side of the river for the purpose of making observations. After traveling until about noon we stopped for dinner at a young trader’s, who happened to have a smoking dinner just ready for consumption. Having no time to lose, we resumed our tramp without perceiving any cabin or other dwelling. We proceeded on our journey until the shades of evening began to gather round. Having brought up at the lower extremity of a sandy island, we doffed our buffalo skins, selected a spot of a camp, collected wood, lit up a fire, spread out our skins and entered upon the full enjoyment of camping out. To camp out however, is not a very agreeable thing to a person not accustomed to it, especially in a cold February night” (Winona Daily Republican, January 15, 1901). MCHA newsletter October 2018.

Settlers Arrive 1852:

History of Winona County, 1857 "With the crowd of passengers brought up the river by the ‘Nominee’ on May 19 (1852) and landed on Wabasha prairie was quite a number of immigrants for the colony. For convenience in discharging freight and livestock, Captain Smith landed them at the lower landing, his favorite claim and special preference for a town site. Among the members of the association who were thus landed were Hiram Campbell, wife and three children; Mrs. Robert Thorp and three sons; H.B. Waterman, wife and son, Asa Waterman, Rufus Waterman; Andrew Petee, D. Q. Burley, H. Shipley and son; Mr. Hunt and others. This party has quite a large herd of cattle—oxen, cows and young stock. The greater part of them belonged to Hiram Campbell. Mrs. Waterman had two yoke of oxen and two cows, and Mr. Hunt two yoke of oxen. All of the arrivals had the greatest difficulty in reaching Minnesota City and still greater difficulty in taking their goods there. Often the passengers landed from boats had to camp on Wabasha Prairie for days before they could get to their destination and goods were sometimes left on the riverbank for a week or longer. The difficulty of transporting livestock from the landings at Winona to the landing at Minnesota City was especially great. The sloughs had to be forded, the usual method being for the men to divest themselves of their clothing and swim or wade alongside of the cattle. A wood-boat, the Macedonian was secured by the members of the colony and put in charge of D. Jackson, and this was used in transporting some passengers and a few goods.” (p. 158) MCHA newsletter October 2008

First Winter 1852:

"The first winter of Western Farm and Village Association settlers is described in the History of Winona County 1913 Volume I: “The settlers who remained in the colony and made their homes in Minnesota City during the winter of 1852-1853 had comfortable cabins, in which they passed the winter. Some of these cabins were of logs, others were of boards. No cases of suffering from insufficient food or clothing were known in the settlement. Their principle employment was providing firewood for present use and laying in a supply for the ensuing year. After the sloughs were frozen over they engaged in chopping on the islands, cutting and banking steamboat-wood, getting out logs, timber, posts and rails for use in claim improvements. Their social enjoyments were quiet visits exchanged with each other and occasional meetings of the Association”. (p 173). MCHA newsletter January 2009 

The Wabasha’s Prairie to Winona Manuscript: The Territorial Era 1849-1858 presents this information: “By this time the member's hopes, plans, and even some of their lives had been destroyed. What had seemed to be an ideal setting for a new town site soon turned into a disaster. Travel to the frontier was difficult, especially for those with families, furnishings, and supplies. The conditions in the new town site, of course, were crude and the weather in early spring in Minnesota can be harsh. Few of these new settlers had any experience in frontier living. They were not used to camping out. They hastily constructed "Gopher huts" which were nothing more than dugouts covered by a roof of logs covered by branches and dirt fashioned in such a way to drain off the rain to protect themselves and their families. Many people fell ill because they were exposed to the elements and were unable to ward off diseases like cholera and typhus. The materials for a town hall for Minnesota City were purchased and delivered to Minnesota City but due to sickness the hall was never built. Minnesota's bitter winters claimed their share of victims. One poor young boy lost his way tending his father's cattle and froze to death.” Accounting for the differences in the narrations will continue to challenge efforts of historical accuracy related to location and individual experiences.  MCHA newsletter January 2009 

1901 Letter by E.B.Drew-one of the original pioneers of Minnesota City:

"I was particularly interested in seeing the list of the members of the Western Farm and Village Association of New York. I had never seen a complete list. But on close examination, I am sorry to say, it is far from being a complete list. The names of Hiram Campbell and H.B. Waterman do not appear. They lived and died where they settled in 1852, the latter's death occuring the past season after living on the same farm forty-nine years".

"The names that I miss on the list, and there must be many others, are H. Campbell, three Watermans, father and two sons, two Houck brothers, S.D. Putnam, L.D. Follette, J.S. Denman, Dr. Childs, two John Smiths, father and son; Horace Peters, M.G and A.E. Jackson, H. Straddling, Egbert Chapman, and E.B. Thomas corresponding secretary. I have in my possession two letters from him written in New York City, winter and spring of 1852, the last one in March. To this letter he adds a P.S. 'Locating committee just arrived. Shall choose village lots tomorrow night. Will start squad early next week. Location on Mississippi River 40 miles above Root River near Rollingstone Creek. Please keep secret. Mr. Haddock is there surveying".

There are only 106 names in the list Mr. Bannon furnishes. I think that there must have been perhaps 200 that joined the association. Many that came to Rollingstone (Minnesota City) finding no shelter, no way of living, were very soon disgusted and homesick and left. Unfavorable reports kept many away. If the members had been mostly western people used to pioneering it would have been very different".

"I will explain what Thomas meant by 'squad" in his post-script. It was what they called the pioneer squad, consisting of about a dozen able bodied men, mostly carpenters, who were to get on the ground as soon as possible after the location was made to erect buildings to shelter all that came while they were building homes of their own. They had been there I think two or three weeks when we got there, but accomplished nothing; were mostly city chaps and knew nothing of pioneering. They claimed they could not get lumber and could do nothing without it. Had they known how they could have built comfortable log cabins without sawed lumber as was demonstrated very soon after we got there by parties who had pioneered in the woods of Indiana and Michigan."

"At the drawing for choice farms about May 20 there were, if I recollect right, 113 members that participated, either there in person, or represented by proxy, presenting good evidence they would be there. I still hope the book preserved by Mr. Bannon does contain all the names of all the members and that they will yet be published."

I will state while writing that the boat I landed from at Wabasha Prairie the night of May 4, the Nominee, Capt. Smith, brought a big load of the Rollingstone colony and their goods. Among them were Robert Pike Jr., Jacob S. Denman and family, Elder Ely, E.B. Thomas. In company with him were quite a number. In the morning Denman and Thomas concluded to go on horseback to Rollingstone to see for themselves what was there, as they had been hearing so many unfavorable reports. Our party concluded to wait and hear their report".

"Soon after they left the wind raised and blew a gale. There was no shelter but our covered wagon. Johnson had a board shanty holding the town site which he had in partnership with Capt. Smith of the boat Nominee. That was then filled with those who had landed the night before, mostly women and children. Two or three other shanties could be seen on the prairie. The prairie could not have been seen under more unfavorable circumstances. It had just been burned over. Nothing to be seen but sand and gravel stones. Gusts of wind at times would make the sand fly".

"Johnson began laboring with us, trying to induce us to stop there, offering each of us an acre of land on the town site. He harped a good deal on the Rollingstone people  having no steamboat landing. I was looking for good soil if there was any in the country.A free title to the whole prairie would have been no inducement for me to live there. Denman and Thomas made a quick trip. Their minds I think were pretty well made up before starting in the morning.The agreed that Rollingstone was no place for them, and they made a bargain with Johnson to stop with him and get each an acre of ground, the parties that were with Thomas and Elder Ely also. I will say that the only one filling his contract and getting a title to any of the town site was Elder Ely. Thomas and his satellites soon drifted away. Denman stayed till fall when he forfeited all and went on his farm where he lived for many years."

"I met Johnson a few weeks after our first meeting at his claim. He said they had surveyed and platted their town site and named it Montezuma. Never heard of any other name until I think about the first of September when I met Denman. He said they had named their town (he still lived there) Winona. Reading what was published in the Republican written by Mr. Maybury, in regard to Winona being first called Wabasha, causes me to write this. Don't think it was ever called Wabasha. What is now Wabasha was called Wabasha Village, and where Winona is was Wabasha Prairie and was known by that name. It was known at out place as Wabasha Prairie or the steamboat landing the first year or two after our first settlement in the county. It was some time before we got accustomed to the name of Winona."

"Sorry to see the notice of the death of my friend Capt. Van Gorder. The old settlers are going very fast and will be soon all gone. A mistake that he was born in 1837 as stated in his obituary. Think there was not much difference in our ages, his and mine." E.B. Drew Nov. 1901. 

Reprinted from the November 25, 1901 edition of the Winona Republican Herald newspaper