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Hawk Creek Township
The History of Renville County, Volume 2
Compiled by Franklyn Curtiss-Wedge
(Edited by John Bakke.)
Hawk Creek township embraces the greater part of township 115, range 38, and a fractional part of township 144, range 38. It is bounded on the north by Wang township, on the east by Sacred Heart township, on the southwest by the Minnesota river, and on the west by Yellow Medicine and Chippewa counties. It is crossed by the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railroad.
The first settlement of Hawk Creek, like that of other Minnesota river townships in this county, is somewhat shrouded in mystery. With the establishment of the Sioux Indians at the Upper and Lower agencies, a number of Frenchmen and French half breeds settled on the north bank of the Minnesota. Among the Frenchmen who located in what is now Hawk Creek township were Magloire Robideaux, Louis La Belle and Alexander Guertin. It was probably about 1859, the year after the land north of the Minnesota was relinquished by the Indians, that these men setteled here. Louis Robert, pronounced and sometimes spelled Louie Robaire, an early steamboat captain, and the man from whom Roberts street in St. Paul is named, is believed to have had owned a store on the west bank of Hawk Creek near the mouth, some time before the massacre. He had an important store at the Yellow Medicine agency, usually called the Upper agency, and the post on Hawk Creek was probably merely a temporary branch. After the massacre Mr. Robert established a store on the west bank of Hawk Creek in section 28, near the place where Magloire Robideaux lived after the massacre. This store, operated by various clerks, was kept open well into the seventies and then discontinued. It is also said that in his extended wanderings, Joseph Schaffer stopped in Hawk Creek in 1861 long enough to select a piece of land to which he returned after the massacre.
Louis La Belle before the massacre lived near the mouth of Hawk creek. Not far away was the ford across the Minnesota on one of the trails between the Upper Agency and Fort Ridgely. Several of the escapes from the Upper agency during the massacre were made across this ferry and past La Belle's house, through what is now the southern part of Hawk Creek township.
After the massacre, possibly in 1865, the French and half breed settlers began to return to Hawk Creek. Magloire Robideaux settled on section 28. Peter Castine, known to the early settlers as "Big Peter," settled in section 35. Antoine Young settled in section 28. Louis G. Brisbois settled in section 35. David Carpenter and Francis Stay settled in section 1.
After the close of the Civil war, probably late in 1865 or early in 1866, Joseph Schaffer, Louis Kope and Joseph Marsch came together and settled here, Schaffer on section 16, Kope on section 20, and Marsch on sections 21, 22 and 27.
Joseph Schaffer was a notable pioneer. He traveled extensively in various parts of the United States, served four years in the Home Guards, and was wounded in battle, the bullet entering his back and being taken out of his right side. In 1862 he enlisted in the Fourth Ohio Battery and served until 1865, after which he located in Hawk Creek. He was married November 14, 1868, to Julia Mutta, daughter of Halvor Halvorsen Mutta, who had arrived that spring. The ceremony was performed at Yellow Medicine. This was the earliest marriage in Hawk Creek.
Early in 1866, Frederick W. Brasch settled in section 8. He and the three mentioned are said to have been the only persons, with the exception of the Frenchmen, then living in Hawk Creek township. On June 21, 1866, when the Thor Helgeson party arrived and settled in Sacred Heart, Paul Peterson settled over the line in section 1, Hawk Creek.
A number of settlers came in 1867, Isaac S. Earl settled in section 20; Joseph Meyer in section 17. A number of people settled in the Hawk Creek valley in Wang township, and with them came Christina Olson, who settled in section 5, Hawk Creek township. Christina Olson sold her claim to Torger Olson Skrukrud in 1868, and died shortly afterward. Henry Wilson also settled in section 5. The Hanson family, consisting of the father, Hans Hanson, and a number of adult sons, including Hans, Olaus and Thorwald arrived. The father, and the son Hans, settled just over the line in Chippewa county, Olaus settled in section 19, Hawk Creek; and Thorwald in section 18, Hawk Creek.
Some time before the spring of 1868, Halsten H. Ottos settled in section 22; Ole H. Ottos in section 35; and Jesse Wynn in section 8.
In 1868 there was quite an influx of new settlers. Those who are believed to have arrived that year are: Haaken Olson Agre, section 10; Karinus P. Agre, section 10; Martinus O. Agre, section 4; Simon Johnson, section 4; Tollef Johnson, section 4; Knute T. Rude, section 20; Peter Erickson, section 24; Torger Olson Skrukrud, section 5; Ole P. Sheggeby, section 26; Ole Holton, section 35; Ole Evanson Limbo, section 22; Halvor Halvorsen Mutta, section 22; Hans Hanson Sagness, section 22; Ole Fugleskjel, section 10; Kettle O. Bergen, section 26; Halvor Helgeson Goli, section 24; Helge G. Goli, section 24; Peter Erickson, section 24; Mons Anderson, section 14; Anders Johnson (father of Carl Anderson), section 26; Ole H. Skalbeck, section 24; Peter Simonson Kolebekken, section 8; Anders Johan Petterson, section 6; Anders Sandstrom, section 6.
Numbered among these is quite a colony that came from Freeborn county in the spring of 1868. The colony consisted of Halvor Helgeson Goli, wife and child, section 24; Peter Erickson (a brother of Mrs. Halvor Helgeson Goli), wife and family, section 24; Halvor Halvorsen Mutta and family, section 22; Hans Sagness and family, section 22; Mons Anderson with wife, section 14; Peter G. Goli came with this colony but settled over the line in Sacred Heart township.
The poll list of April 6, 1869, given the names of all the voters then living in Hawk Creek. It also includes the voters that lived in Wang.
The list is as follows: Henry Wilson, section 5; Magloire Robideaux, section 28; Theodore Rongerud (32, Wang township); Louis Kope, section 20; Joseph Schaffer, section 16; Knute T. Rude, section 20; Peter Simonson (Kolbakken?); Peter Erickson, section 24; Mons Anderson, section 14; Halvor Helgeson Goli, section 24; Theodore Behnert, section 20; Peter Jansen, section 6 or 26; Halvor Halvorson (Mutta?), Hans Gunderson (28, Wang township); Joseph Marsch, sections 21, 22 and 27; Hans Olson Grotvet (32, Wang township); Christian Ingebretson (33, Wang township); Hans Hanson (over the line in Chippewa county); Christian O. Narvestad (21 and 28, Wang township); Thorwald Hanson, section 18; Nels Olson (Ellefson?), section 8; Ole Hanson (Skalbeck?), (Possibly this should be Olaus Hanson, section 19); Hans Thorson, sections 18 and 19; H. H. Ottos, section 22; Ole H. Ottos, section 35; Paul Peterson, section 1; F. W. Brasch, section 8; Isaac S. Earl, section 20; Peter Castine, section 35; Jesse Wynn, section 8; G. R. Mulford, section 8.
In 1869 and 1870, the land in Hawk Creek township was well taken. Those who arrived about this time were: Nels Johnson Bakke, section 10; Andrew Anderson Tolander, section 26; John Christopherson (Big John), section 14; Lars Hendrickson, section 2; Hendrick Anderson, section 2; Ole Hendrickson, section 2; Olaf Erickson Kringsberg, section 2; Hendrick Erickson (father to Ole Hendrickson), section 2; Anders G. Rude, section 2; Christian Frederickson, section 18; Nels Anderson Thorstad, section 10; Peder J. Myra, section 1; Halvor Gregerson, section 15; Ole Aslakken Odegaard, section 25; Johanna Hanson Listerud, section 22; Hans C. Listerud, section 22; Erik Synnes, section 4; Engebret Hanson Dokken, section 8; Nels Olson Ellefson, section 8; Ole Gerhartsen Rösaasen, section 12; Gustav Olson Rösaasen, section 12; M Ekbom, section 12; Andrew G. Hanson, section 12; Arndt Johan Arntzen, section 12; H. H. Skogberg, section 10; Paul Gulbrandson Berg, section 10; Berndt Hoganson, section 24; Hendrik Eliasson, section 24; Andrew Carlssen, section 12; Andrew Hendrikson Tomti, section 12; Halvor Hendrikson Tomti, section 12; Carl Johnson, section 6; Adolph Jacobson, section 14; John Lof, section 14; Magnus Anderson, section 6; Carl Janson, section 6; John Ringberg, section 14; Elias M. Lindquist, section 6; Jonas Peterson, section 6; John Roste, section 13; Andrew Anderson Wigland (moved next year to Sacred Heart); Paul G. Berg, section 10; Ole Oppegaard and mother, section 24; Bertha Olson Johnson (widow of Anders Johnson, mother of Carl Anderson), section 26; Lars Johnson, section 14; Elias Erickson, section 14; _______ Bockman, section 20, a single man who died in the early days; J. Goddard, section 20.
Some of these people came in groups and some came singly. One of the largest groups came in June, 1869, from Olmsted county, with oxen, goods and cows, crossing the Minnesota at New Ulm. In this group were: P. C. Brevig, wife and one child, section 4; Benjamin Nelson Bjorra, section 4; Christian Bjorra, wife and two children, section 4; Hans Berg, single, section 4; Christopher Anderson Setra, wife and one child, section 6; Iver Mattson, single, section 6; Edward Mattson, single, section 6; Erick Synnes, single, section 4; Nels M. Lien, wife and children, over the line in Chippewa county.
Hawk Creek was organized April 2, 1867. It then embraced everything that is now in Renville county west of the range line between sections 36 and 37. Isaac Earl and Peder Pederson were appointed judges of the election which was to be held at the home of G. P. Greene. The meeting was not held and G. P. Greene was appointed assessor. Land to the west not now in the county was attached to Hawk Creek, July 17, 1868, and the following officers appointed by the county board: Supervisors, C. C. O'Brien, William T. Dugn and Thomas Olson Kolien; assessor, Ole O. Enesvedt; clerk, G. P. Greene. There is no record that any town meetings were held until 1869. On March 22 of that year, Darwin S. Hall as county auditor issued a call for all voters of the county living in range 38, to hold an election on Tuesday, April 6, 1869. The order to call the meeting commanded by the commissioners March 9, and obeyed by Mr. Hall on March 11, as well as Mr. Hall's call for the meeting dated March 22, are still on record in the township books, having been copied by the town clerk, G. B. Mulford, on July 5, 1872. The meeting was held as ordered on April 6, 1869, at the home of Henry Wilson. That there had been some previous organization is shown by the notation in the minutes: "The meeting was called to order by J. S. Earl, the town clerk." On motion of Jesse Wynn, Henry Wilson was chosen moderator. Magloire Robideaux was appointed assistant clerk and Theodore Rongerud and Jesse Wynn judges of election. It was ordered that the next election be held at the home of Joseph Schaffer (spelled in the records Shaffers). The officers elected for 1869-70 were: Supervisors, Louis Kope (chairman), Theodore Rongerud and Peter Erickson; clerk J. S. Earl; assistant clerk, Paul Peterson; treasurer, Louis Kope; justices of the peace, T. W. Brasch and J. S. Earl; constables, Jesse Wynn and Louis Brisbois. In 1906 a town hall was erected in section 14. The present officers are: John Bakke (chairman), Julius C. Hanson and H. H. Eliason; treasurer, S. O. Odegard; assessor, Olaf Fagerlie; clerk, E. O. Oppegaard; justice of the peace, E. O. Oppegaard; constable, H. W. Golie.
The first services in the western part of Renville county were held at the home of Peter Simonson Kolbakken in section 8, Hawk Creek township. The Rev. Nels Ulvesaker presided. Later services were held in the home of Christian Ingebretson, in Wang township. Still later services were held at the home of P. C. Brevig. When the log schoolhouse was built on the southwest quarter of the northwest quarter of section 4, services were held there until the church was erected. Mrs. Eliza Mulford, the wife of G. R. Mulford, had taught school in a private house before the schoolhouse was erected. After the schoolhouse was erected T. Simpson Norgaard taught school there. Near the schoolhouse a cemetary was started. At that time it was planned to some time build a church in the same locality. But later the cemetary was abandoned and most of the bodies have been removed. The schoolhouse and cemetary were located on the land of P. C. Brevig.
Hawk Creek postoffice, also called for a time Jeanetville, was established about 1869 by J. S. Earl. Later postmasters were G. B. Mulford and F. W. Brasch. The last postmaster was Ole Fugleskjel, who kept it at his place in section 10 until it was discontinued.
The old lime kiln was an important feature of Hawk Creek life in the early days. It was located near the center of section 35, about half a mile below the mouth of Hawk Creek.
An important school district in the town is that of district 41. The first officers were: Director, Ole Hendrikson; clerk, Haagen O. Agre; treasurer, Ole Fugleskjel. The first teacher was Nellie Enestvedt. The present officers are: Chairman, John Bakke; clerk, C. O. Anderson; treasurer, C.. A. Jacobson.
The first real estate assessment of Hawk Creek township, 114-38 and 115-38, was made in 1869. Those assessed were: (114-38) Peter A. Oslie, section 1; John Hough, section 1; David Carpenter, section 1 (note to effect that this was transferred to Geo. Carey and F. Girard). (115-38) Olson Haagen, section 21; Magloire Robideaux, sections 27, 28; Peter Castine, section 28; Anton Young, section 28.
By 1871, quite a number of people had acquired property in Hawk Creek, 114-38 and 115-38, the real estate assessment that year being as follows: (114-38) Lillie LaCroix, section 2; Louis G. Brisbois, section 2; Hendrick Peterson, section 2; Helgar Hanson, section 2; Ole Oleson, section 2; H. Hendrickson, section 2; Ole Hendrickson, section 2; Ole H. Skalbakken, section 2; Halvor Christianson, section 2; Martin Larson, section 2. (115-38) Lillie LaCroix, section 35; Louis G. Brisbois, section 35; Louis Roberts, sections 27, 28; Frank Girard, section 28; Peter Castine, section 28; M. Robideaux, sections 27, 28; H. Hendrickson, section 27; H. Erickson, section 27; Holston H. Ottos, section 27; Ole Hendrickson, section 27; Haagen Olsen, section 21; Ole H. Ottos, sections 34, 35.
The first personal property assessment of Hawk Creek township (115-38) was made in 1869. Those assessed were: Mons Anderson, Andrew Anderson, George Bachman, Louis Brisbois, W. F. Brasch, Thor Christoferson, Peter Castine, Isaac S. Earl, Peter Erikson, Hans Grotvet, Hans Gunderson, Bernt Hagenson, Halvor Helgeson, Hans Hanson, O. Hanson, Thorval Hanson, Ole Hendrickson, Ole Holtan, Simon Johnson, Tollef Johnson, Nels Johnson, Christian Ingebretson, Louis Kope, Joseph Marsch, Joseph Meyer, Halvor H. Mutta, H. H. Ottos, Kettel Olson, Christian Olson, Martinus Olson, Karenus Olson, Ole H. Ottos, Christin Olsen, Paul Peterson, Knud T. Rude, Theodore Rongerud, Magloire Robideaux, Louis Roberts, Joseph Schaffer, Peter Simmonson, Amos F. Stone, O. P. Sheggeby, Andres Tollander, Hans Thorson, Jesse Wynn, Henry Wilson.
Spring Farm, with its stretches of fertile lands and forests, its blooded stock, abundant crops, wild game, and natural beauties is one of the notable places of the county. The farm was purchased by Edward O'Connor in 1893, and was the original Joseph Schaffer claim in section 16, Hawk Creek.
Soon after Mr. O'Connor acquired the farm, he decided to find the true spring, being convinced that the place which the previous occupants had used as the spring was in fact merely a place where the water seeped from the impregnated soil. Consequently he had his men start excavations. After they had dug for a while they were successful in their quest, for there came a sudden gush of water which carried everything before it, washing out a considerable area of boggy ground. In this boggy earth were found complete skeletons of buffaloes and deer, many antlers, and vast quantities of fossils, as well as petrified frogs, snakes, turtles, leaves, twigs and the like. The find was of such importance that Dr. Birke of the University of Minnesota came to the place to investigate. He could find no reason for the petrifications. He expressed the opinion, however, that the place had been a buffalo wallow, and that the skeltons were of buffaloes and deer which had been mired in the wallow and were unable to make their exit.
The water of Geyser Spring, from which the farm takes its name, is sold for medicinal purposes throughout the United States and also in many foreign countries. The water is bottled and marketed by the Myrrhmuese Co., Ltd., of New York, Chicago and St. Paul.
After the spring was cleared out it still exhibited many interesting characteristics. One of these peculiarities was its intermittent flow. For many years it flowed eleven minutes and stopped one minute, then flowed another eleven minutes and rested a minute, continuously and without variation. But since the reservoir was put in and the water piped it no longer shows this remarkable quality.
The water now furnishes a sixty-five pound pressure. From this pressure is secured power to run the cream separator, the washing machine, the pump which pumps the soft water into the cistern, and the gas plant which manufactures gas for light and fuel. The water is also piped through the grounds, the house and the barns.
On the farm is a curious Indian mound which has never been scientifically explored which presents a rich field of inquiry to the archaeological investigator. It is located in section 16, and occupies about a quarter of an acre. It is evidently a dome, some ten feet high, about one foot thick, its composition being of cobble stones of various sizes, with a cement-like substance which holds them together, thus forming a half sphere, Several loads of the stone have been removed, but nearly all the formation remains untouched.
The farm consists of three divisions. Wallace O. O'Connor occupies a bungalow near the spring. William E. O'Connor and H. L. Tufte occupy the other two divisions. Each division makes a specialty of full blooded stock, one being given over to Shorthorns, one to Holsteins and one to Herefords. A specialty is also made of Red and Poland China swine. Often as many as 1,000 bronze turkeys are raised, presenting a truly noble sight as the great birds wander about with stately tread. The orchards are large and produce some of the best fruit in the county.
The forests are especially attractive. Along Hawk creek for half a mile a retaining wall has been constructed, thus giving the farm the appearance of some old country estate. Mr. O'Connor is a lover of nature, and has imported wild ducks, wild turkeys, Chinese pheasants, wild Canadian geese, black squirrels, wild deer and other birds and animals, while the native animals such as raccoon, gray and red squirrels, foxes and rabbits have flourished and multiplied.
John Bakke, the vice president of the Old Settlers association from the Fifth district, has taken more than usual interest in the preservation of the story of the early days in the western part of the county. His own experiences as a boy were typical of pioneer boyhood throughout the Northwest. John Bakke was but five years old when his parents decided to make the great venture into an unknown land there to seek amid new surroundings to secure a competence for themselves and their families. Nels J. Bakke, Ole Holton and Ole P. Sheggeby and their families all came on the same ship. John Bakke still remembers the pride he took in his new red jacket and the wonderment that stirred him at the strange sights that met his eyes on the voyage and after landing in the new country. He recalls clearly the two years his family spent in Clayton county, Iowa, and the trip to St. Peter, the wait there while his father went out to look for land, and his wonderment at the steamboat, which took them up the Minnesota river. On the way he heard stories of the Indian massacre and passed places where the passengers said people had been killed, but he was assured by his mother that the danger was over and that never again in this county would the Indians be dangerous. The little village of Beaver Falls interested him greatly, and at last he was off for the future home of the family in Hawk Creek township.
During the first summer the family lived in a cabin owned by Ole Evanson Limbo. There were no doors or windows, the spaces between the logs had not been chinked up, and the cabin offered little protection from the elements. The father was away a good deal of the time working for the pioneers along the bottoms or constructing a dugout on his eighty-acre homestead in section 10. The family purchased a cow, and this was kept at the claim of Ole P. Sheggeby, a mile away, and the mother walked every morning and night to the place to milk the cow and thus secure milk for herself and children. She also planted a small garden.
The Limbo shack was on the old government road, and there was an almost continuous string of pioneers passing the house. The neighborhood was fast filling up and many pioneers were settling still further west.
A great annoyance then and for many years thereafter were the mosquitoes which swarmed everywhere. It was impossible to keep them from the cabin, and one could not sit down in front of the cabin in the afternoon without being immediately covered with the unpleasant insects. The mosquitoes were especially annoying to the baby.
In the fall the family moved into the dugout on the homestead in section 10. There they spent the winter. This dugout was little more than a hole in the earth, finished on the inside to a certain extent with boards though at first there was no floor except the hard earth. Steps from the level of the prairie led down to the door, a rude contrivance made of boards. There was but one room, and most of the furniture was home made. The children slept in a little bed which in the daytime was slid out of the way under the bed where the parents slept. When the schoolmasters, in boarding around at the different homes, reached the Bakke home, they slept with John in the little bed.
The clothes worn by the children were warm but primitive. The homespun goods brought from the old country lasted a long time and were made over and over until there was no wear left in them. Outer clothes were for the most part made of blue jeans purchased at the Robert store at the mouth of Hawk Creek.
The Bakke family purchased a pig from G. P. Green and a sheep from Thor Helgeson, both in Sacred Heart township. The mother sheared the sheep, carded the wool, and knit warm socks and mittens.
John Bakke attended school in a log schoolhouse in section 10, district 41. The first teacher was Nellie Enestvedt, now Mrs. P. O. Kittlesland. Sometimes he attended the school in district 42, on the Brevig farm. The first teacher here was T. Simpson Norgaard. Another early teacher was Christian Hegge, an old soldier who had been a professor in Christiana, Norway, and who was a scholarly man versed in many languages.
As the years passed conditions gradually improved. The father built up the dugout with logs so that it was in reality a log house. Next a frame house was erected, the lumber being hauled from Willmar with oxen 40 miles away. In the meantime suitable barns and outbuildings had been constructed.
John Bakke tells with especial relish his experience during the great storm of 1873, when so many perished in Renville county. Some of the pioneers had no facilities on their place for watering their stock and its was the duty of the boys in the families to drive the cattle to a spring some distance from the Bakke home. On the day of the big storm, the weather being warm and mild, John Bakke, and his boyhood friend, Ole Berg, the son of Paul Berg, a neighbor, started for the spring with their cattle. They reached the spring and started back. When they were about a mile from home the wind suddenly changed to the northwest and a terrific blizzard held them in its grasp. The boys were nearly blinded, they could not see the trail, and the cattle were almost unmanageable. But the fathers of the youngsters met them on the trail, and by the hardest kind of work the two men and the two boys managed to get the cattle to safety. Other neighbors who had cattle at the spring were not so fortunate. The cattle got astray, some were killed by the cold, and a few wandered down the creek to Joseph Schaffer's where they were cared for until the storm had passed. The little dugout was covered with the drifting snow. On this and other occassions the snow often drifted above the top of the door, so that when the family started to leave the dugout in the morning they would find their way blocked by a solid bank of snow.
For several years the family used oxen with which to break the land and do their farm work. In the early days, Nels Johnson Bakke, Paul Berg, Nels Thorstad and Ole Fugleskjel bought a Buckeye machine which was a combined mower and reaper. They took turns using this machine on their farms and took turns supplying oxen to draw it. It was John Bakke's duty to drive the oxen. The machine gathered the wheat into bunches which the men who followed bound into bundles by hand. Nels Thorstad had a pair of black oxen which were especially unmanageable. They continually got into the grain and were almost beyond the control of the boy driving them. John Bakke remembers to this day the spectacle he must have presented, crying bitterly as he tried to do his best with the vexatious animals.
Mr. Bakke also remembers the grasshopper ravages. One day when they were the worst they were so thick that people out of doors had to cover their face with their hands to keep their flesh from being beaten to a pulp by the swarming insects. About Hawk Creek the farmers attempted to drive them away by burning straw, but this had little effect. The last year of the ravages, when the new brood left after eating up everything that was green, their flight darkened the sun like some great cloud.
As a boy Mr. Bakke often fished in Hawk creek. At that time the fish were plentiful, especially pickeral and buffalo fish. One day John Bakke with the Deason and Thorstad boys went fishing in the creek and caught so many that they had to throw some away, the weight being more than they could carry home.
The nearest market place during the early days was at Willmar, forty miles away. Mr. Bakke often accompanied his father to that place, and when he was no more than twelve years old he made trips there, driving the oxen alone in company with neighbors and bringing back goods for the household.
Prairie fires often swept the country. Hay stacks were burned down, and sometimes a cabin would be destroyed in spite of efforts made to check the progress of the flames.
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