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The History of Renville County
Formation of the Renville County Pioneer Association - Successive Meetings - Officers - Compiled from the Association's Records.
The Renville County Pioneer Association waa organized in 1902 and the constitution adopted June 28 of that year. Its objection is to perpetuate the memory of the settlement of Renville county and the strenuous times of those primitive days by frequent social reunions; to preserve the history of those early days and the persons who bore the hardships and privations of that wild frontier life; to cultivate the spirit of good fellowship; and to hallow the memory of those early pioneers who blazed the way to civilization. The meetings were held annually on the second Tuesday of June or at other times at the call of the president. Any person who has lived in the county twenty-four years is eligible to membership.
L. A. Brooks was the first president and F. C. Greene the first secretary.
The officers for 1903 were: President, L. A. Brooks; secretary, David Benson; treasurer, N. G. Poore; historian, Mrs. J. S. Baker; executive committee, Henry Ahrens, D. S. Hall, A. V. Rieke, P. O. Dosseth and C. H. Sherwood.
At the annual meeting of 1904 a committee was appointed to locate the lost graves of old settlers who were massacred in 1862. This committee consisted of Henry Ahrens, William Wickman and Millard N. White. The officers and executive committee for this year were the same as the year before with the exception that D. S. Hall became the historian.
The meeting of 1905 was an interesting one. The committee appointed to discover the forgotten, resting places of people murdered during the massacre reported five such graves and Millard White was appointed a committee to solicit aid from the Minnesota Historical Society and from the Renville county commissioners to suitably mark these hallowed spots. Charles Kenning, James McCormick and H. V. Poore were appointed a committee to secure appropriate badges for the association. A committee of three was appointed to act with the executive committee in gathering as much information as possible concerning the early settlers of Renville county. The records do not state who were appointed on this committee or what they ever did about the matter. The officers were the same as for the previous year.
The annual meeting for 1906 was held at Morton. On the opening day an address was given by State's Attorney E. T. Young at Riverside park, and the rest of the time was spent in social and athletic diversions. The second day an address was delivered by J. F. Jacobson of Lac qui Parle county, and then a business meeting was held. In the absence of the president, Brooks Henry Ahrens of Beaver Falls, presided. A committee was appointed for the purpose of locating more graves of massacred victims and to consider the matter of procuring means for marking them simply. The president in his message said: "I again take the liberty to urge that Renville county, which contributed such a large share to the history, not only of Minnesota, but especially of Minnesota valley, would be fully justified in appropriating the means needed to mark the resting places of those who sacrificed life and all, to lay the foundation for the blessings and prosperity now enjoyed by the younger generation and a few pioneers, who are still left. It would seem though, that our state, which is spending so much money to perpetuate patriotic and deserving deeds in the past, could well afford to concede a trifle for the purpose of showing future generations where those early martyrs sleep." William Wichman succeeded L. A. Brooks as president; the other officers and executive committee remained the same.
The association held its 1907 meeting at Olivia. A committee appointed two years before at Morton reported that they had not been able to agree for a design for a suitable badge. Thereupon a design submitted by Charles Kenning was adopted as the sign and uniform badge of the association. It was reported by William Wichman that through the efforts of John A. Dalzell the legislature appropriated a small sum for the marking the graves of massacred victims, and a committee consisting of William Wichman and Charles Kenning was appointed to go before the county commissioners and arrange the matter with them. The officers remained the same and the executive committee remained the same with the exception that Charles Kenning succeeded David Benson as secretary and David Benson succeeded P. O. Dosseth as a member of the executive committee. At this meeting the members of the executive committee were first designated in the minutes as vice presidents in accordance with the original constitution. Up to this date the minutes referred to them as the executive committee.
The 1908 meeting was held at Sacred Heart June 18 and 19. The first day addresses were delivered by Assistant Attorney General Geo. W. Peterson and by Michael Dowling. Music was furnished by the Sacred Heart band and a game of baseball was enjoyed. The second day the business meeting was held in the forenoon. The committee on monuments reported that monuments had been placed to mark the graves of Mrs. R. S. Henderson and two daughters, Johial Wedge, Eugene White and Radner Earle. A manuscript prepared by Dr. E. W. Earle relating experiences during the Sioux massacre was presented by President Wichman. This was later printed for the old settlers' association under the direction of Asa M. Wallace of the Fairfax Standard. A reproduction appears elsewhere in this work. The officers and vice presidents were re-elected. After the business meeting addresses were delivered by J. F. Jacobson, then candidate for governor, and George Welch, state immigration commissioner.
The people of Fairfax entertained the association June 18, 1909. Charles Lammers, who as a child was captured by the Indians, presented the association with a beautiful bouquet, and George Rieke, one of the few living persons who were adults at the time of the massacre, read some verses appropriate to the occasion written by himself in the German language. The same officers were elected, with the exception that A. V. Rieke was elected historian, with Asa M. Wallace as assistant. Addresses were delivered by A. V. Rieke, L. D. Barnard and others. Dr. Earle's pamphlet was reported finished and was distributed.
The 1910 meeting was held June 18 at Renville. The same officers were continued, with the exception that Charles H. Sherwood succeeded N. G. Poore as treasurer, and A. D. Corey succeeded Charles H. Sherwood as vice president from the fourth district. A. V. Rieke and Asa M. Wallace as historians presented a report. They declared that they had made every effort to get the pioneers to send in short sketches giving the data concerning their birth, marriage, size of family, time of locating in the state and county, important positions held if any, and such other matter as would be of interest to future generations. The report says: "We are very sorry to report that the request was not liberally responded to. Even the officers of the association have been negligent in their duty in this respect." Those who responded to the request sent out by Messrs. Rieke and Wallace in 1909 were A. D. Corey, B. C. McEwen, E. J. Butler, James Drake, Gunerus Peterson. These sketches are preserved with great care in the records of the association where they will be available for future generations.
The 1911 meeting was held at Bird Island June 2. An important feature of this meeting was the question raised by H. V. Poore and Charles H. Sherwood as to whether carnivals should be a feature of the old settlers' meetings and a committee was appointed, consisting of Charles Kenning, A. D. Corey, Charles H. Sherwood, Hamlin V. Poore and Darwin S. Hall to consider the matter. Darwin S. Hall was elected president and C. H. Nixon succeeded Mr. Hall as vice president from the first district. A committee consisting of J. Schoregge, Hamlin V. Poore, Charles Kenning, Charles H. Sherwood and A. D. Corey was appointed to consider places for future meetings. Stories of old times were told by the members.
Buffalo Lake was the host of the 1912 meeting. The old officers were continued. At this meeting the association was entertained by reminiscences by the old settlers. A committee appointed at a former meeting declared itself as opposed to permitting carnivals with "fake shows, wheels of fortune, other gambling devices, and indecent and immoral vaudeville street shows to appear at the same time and village as the meetings of the old settlers' association." They declared, however, that the members of the association desired to "take an active part in all educational matters, including music of all kinds, and such athletic and moral sports that will tend to the general uplift of the members and their families both old and young to the point of education and usefulness of American citizens, to the end that this association may become a factor for good within the county."
At this meeting Governor A. O. Eberhart was present and delivered a very interesting address. A large platform for dancing was erected in the open air, the weather was fine, and as a host to the pioneers Buffalo Lake did itself proud.
June 13, 1913, the annual meeting was held at Olivia. The officers were re-elected. with the exception that Martin Matson succeeded A. V. Rieke as vice president from the second district, and Charles Waldow succeeded A. D. Corey as vice president from the fourth district. For the first time in the history of the association there was a contest as to location of the next meeting. Invitations were extended from Renville, Franklin, Hector and Danube. Renville received the most votes. This meeting was well attended. The people of Olivia threw open their homes to the pioneers, and did much to make the occasion pleasant, interesting and entertaining.
The association met at Renville June 18, 1914. A committee consisting of Darwin S. Hall, William Wichman and J. R. Landy was appointed to solicit data for a history of the early settlers and of the members of the association, who were urged to furnish them with information. The officers remained the same, with the exception that William Wichman succeeded Henry Ahrens as vice president from the third district. An address was delivered by Judge J. C. Nethway and in the evening a banquet was served by the citizens. A chautauqua was being held at Renville during this meeting, which detracted some from the attendance, but on the whole the meeting was a success. The opera house was placed at the disposal of the association, while Mayor W. J. Ashley and Timothy O'Connor were at all times on the alert for the comfort and entertainment of the city's guests.
The meeting held at Hector June 25 and 26, 1916, was an interesting one. The election resulted in an entire change of officers as follows: President, William Wichman of Morton; secretary, F. G. Nellermoe of Buffalo Lake; treasurer, Tim. O'Connor of Renville; vice presidents, William B. Strom of Hector (First district); E. J. Butler, Hector (Second district); S. A. Greenslit, Morton (Third district); M. J. Dowling of Olivia (Fourth district); John Bakke of Hawk [Creek] (Fifth district). Addresses were delivered by Governor Winfield S. Hammond and Lieutenant Governor J. A. A. Burnquist. Various committees were appointed: W. B. Strom, Charles N. Nixon, A. O. Allen to thank the speakers; David Benson, F. G. Nellermoe and Charles Kenning to thank the people of Hector; W. B. Strom, E. J. Butler and Charles H. Hopkins to thank the retiring officers, and William Wichman, S. A. Greenslit and F. G. Nellermoe to purchase tent suitable for annual meetings. Another committee consisting of Darwin S. Hall, Charles H. Hopkins and David Benson was appointed to co-operate and advise with the parties now at work in the preparation of a history of Renville county. A large tent, pitched in the principal street, well ventilated by leaving the side walls low so one could easily look out, was a new feature, introduced for the first time, by Hector, at this meeting. Easy chairs, rockers, lounges, rugs, with tables, lemonade and cigars, made it a cool and comfortable place to rest as well as ideal for talks and business meetings. Mayor A. O. Allen, Hon. C. H. Nixon, W. B. Strom and others made every pioneer and visitor feel that they were welcome and right at home, and it was the consensus of opinion of those present, that Hector had discovered numerous satisfactory ways for the comfort and happiness of their guests.
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