Minnesota County Histories
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Bird Island Township
The History of Renville County, Volume 2
Compiled by Franklyn Curtiss-Wedge
Chapter XLI
p. 1292-1300

Bird Island township embraces township 115-34. It is bounded on the north by Kingman township, on the east by Melville township, on the south by Norfolk township, and on the west by Troy township. The villages of Bird Island and Olivia are within its boundaries.

The township of Bird Island was organized Oct. 2, 1876, and an election was held at the home of Joseph Feeter, Oct. 21, 1876, at which seven votes were cast and the following officers elected: Supervisors, Charles Humboldt (chairman), J. H. Feeter and J. Balsey; Clerk, J. S. Bowler; assessor, Benjamin Feeder; treasurer, Nahum Tainter; justices, Edward Bowler and R. G. Harter; constables, George Miller and John Engstrom.

The present officers of the township are: Supervisors, Mike Jungers (chairman), John Hopman, John Menz; clerk, R. S. Amberg.

The story of the early settlement of Bird Island has been told for this work by J. M. Bowler, as follows:

"In the spring of 1871, Captain John King, a Civil war veteran, of Hastings, filed on a Government homestead in Palmyra, Renville county, near the southwest corner. He gave to his neighbors such a rosy account of the country that, when he went to improve his homestead late in October, he was accompanied by Marion Boyer, Calvin Boyer, Nicholas O'Brien. Joseph S. Bowler, James W. Bowler and John A. Johnson, all except Johnson being Civil war veterans and entitled to a full 160-acre homestead. The party had four teams and journeyed via New Ulm, Fort Ridgeley and Birch Coulie. We camped nights and had a jolly trip. We took along materials enough to build a claim shanty, 14 by 16 feet, on King's homestead. He had told us that the whole township (now Palmyra) was vacant and ours for the taking. Eager to reach the promised land, we plied him with all manner of questions about it. He assured us that the nearest settlers, in Birch Coulie, were a mixed population, but when confronted with the names Reagan, Leary, McLaughlin, Pat Williams, Gillen, Dougherty and others of the same "mixed" significance which he had given us in his glowing account of his former trip to that land of milk and honey, he humorously admitted, now that we had come too far to turn back, that the people were all like himself, of a fierce Irish clan, who would help him to make way with the rest of us and he would have our teams, wagons and outfits and be able to start farming in good shape. But, after a good hearty laugh, Cap affected to relent and said that, as we have been neighbors and friends so long, he would get some red paint at Fort Ridgeley, paint our mouths, change our names and pass us off as Irish. Said he, "There is O'Brien, his name is all right; the Boyers we'll change to Bogerty and the Bowlers to Bolarity; your mugs are all right and will pass for Irish anywhere. But that Swede Johnson; no use to change his name; he can't hit the brogue; they'll kill him sure.'

"Camping at Birch Coulie on the last leg of our outward trip, we met a goodly number of those same Irish and were received with the generous hospitality peculiar to pioneers and which culminated in long years of mutual regard and friendship. Some have passed on to the better sphere, but a few of us remain, and though scattered, occasionally meet and greet each other with the old time fervor. The subject would fill a book, precious with memories to the sturdy characters who bore a worthy part in the settlement of one of Minnesota's finest counties.

"From Birch Coulie in the early morning we drove out to Capt. King's claim. As far as we could see, 'vacant' Palmyra was dotted with board and sod claim shanties. Before supper we had built King's shanty and had it ready for occupancy that night when we noticed a man on horseback coming towards us. He proved to be Ed. H. Oleson, who was for many years thereafter a well-known resident of Renville county. He presented to King for his signature a petition for organizing the town of Palmyra. It already contained the signatures of a goodly number of petitioners. As King read the paper I looked over his shoulder and read it, too. The names were all Norwegians or Swede, King turned to me and said, 'My name is Kingson; what's yours?' I replied, 'I'm Bowlerson.' That night, with blankets over it, but nothing under us but the cold, frozen prairie, we were kept busy rolling over and over in vain efforts to get warm.

"The next day, piloted by Ed. H. Oleson, we went claim hunting, but lost our bearing, and towards evening brought up amongst the sloughs in the southwest corner of what is now the town of Melville. The next morning, led by Pat Williams, we followed the survey north through what is now Norfolk into Bird Island and by 4 o'clock that afternoon had the Boyers located in section 28, Johnson in 32, O'Brien and J. S. Bowler in 26 and J. M. Bowler in 24. Williams was a powerful man physically, mentally alert and keen, and a great hustler. You couldn't lose him where Uncle Sam's marks were to be found on the prairie. He was at one time county commissioner. He died a few years ago in Minneapolis where some of his sons have become prominent in business.

"November 4 we went to the United States land office at New Ulm and made our homestead filings, the first ones in the township except that of Rev. Nahum Tainter, made November 3, on land in section 24. He and I were neighbors for many years. Like myself, he had faults and we sometimes foolishly met in anger which has long since melted into kindly remembrance of his many generous acts, for which I feel myself greatly indebted to him.

"The evening of November 6, after a day's dreary drive in a cold rain, found us at home again. Next day my son, Burton H., came to celebrate the prospect of our new home on the prairie where just 21 years later he cast his first vote. May 5, 1872, in prairie schooners, we drove on to our respective claims and camped while we hauled lumber from Atwater, 30 miles north of us, half the way trackless prairie. Sometimes we got stuck in sloughs and had to pack our loads to dry land and then haul the wagon ashore with team at one end of several rods of rope and wagon at the other end. It was trying work, but we were in the prime of manhood with hope and the grand future of Renville county to beckon us on. Our nearest post office and trading point was at Beaver Falls, the county seat, 15 miles distant 'as the crow flies.'

"There was everything to do; homes and shelter for stock to build; prairie to be broken, and hay to be put up, and fuel to be hauled a dozen miles or more.

"Wild geese, ducks, sand-hill cranes and prairie chickens abounded and there were some fine herds of elk which furnished sport for the huntsman and good eating for the table.

"A few settlers came to our neighborhood that summer: Newton G. Poor, George Yeager and Ferdinand Steffen from Hastings, and Benjamin Feeder and J. H. Feeter from New Ulm, and later Edward Bowler, Samuel Caleff, J. J. Stearns, John Engstrom, Richard Camish, Sam Camish, Hamline V. Poor, George H. Megquier, Ferdinand Wolff, Kjel Olson and others whose names I do not recall.

"We raised a small crop of wheat and oats in 1873, and Libbens White came six miles with his machine and crew, uninvited, and threshed for us.

"In 1875 the grasshoppers made their appearance in Renville county, doing more or less damage in certain localities in 1875 and 1876. In 1877 they made nearly a clean sweep and went away almost in a day while wheat was in the milk. I saved forty acres of wheat by fighting the 'hoppers with coal tar and threshed over 800 bushels of the best wheat I ever raised. Some farmers raised a little, but most of the fields were eaten bare of everything but sorrel and wild buckwheat. Many settlers left their claims and some never returned.

"In 1878 the H. & D. Railroad was extended from Glencoe west through Renville county, which brought in settlers with a rush and put the villages of Hector, Bird Island, Olivia, Renville and Sacred Heart on the map. Bird Island possessed the advantage of being the end of a division. It became ambitious and went after the county seat. At the legislative session of 1879 it secured the passage of an act removing the county seat from Beaver Falls to Bird Island, subject to a vote of the people at a special election, at which removal was defeated. It could have been carried by good management but those of us who took an active part in it failed for want of knowledge of the proper methods. We simply did not 'know how.' County seat removals are usually dirty jobs. One dose was enough for me and I never again took an active part in one.

"Blizzards were a feature in Renville county in those days. Sometimes for 48 hours or more at a stretch fine snow would be driven before a cold northwest gale of such force that the strongest of men could not keep their feet without support of some sort, and few could survive long when exposed. Many a hair-breath escape could be related and not a few lost their lives by being caught out in them. Many cattle perished in them. In 1875 a Mr. Nelson, traveling from Willmar south on skis, got caught in a fierce blizzard. He sought to save himself by digging himself in under the snow and waiting for the storm to subside. One hour was enough to convince him that he would freeze to death if he remained there, so he resumed his journey, going southeast before the gale. In the night one ski came off, and, not being able to fasten it on, he took the other one off, left them, but retained his balancing stick and kept on. About 28 hours brought him into our neighborhood some 35 miles southeast from Willmar. He heard a dog bark, but, as he could not see in the blinding snow and could not follow the sound of the dog, there was nothing he could do but drift along with the storm until finding himself in some very tall, coarse slough grass, and being almost exhausted from cold, hunger and walking in the snow, he again dug in, but soon found that he would perish there, and on he went again. About half a mile brought him to the sled-track from my house to Beaver Falls, which he noticed by mere chance, and some guardian angel must have caused him to follow the track to the left towards my house, about 80 rods distant. The first sign of land was the corn stubble; then he stumbled on to my sled in the door-yard, and the woodpile sticking out through the snow. Finally he hit the house which he had been unable to see though only 15 feet from the woodpile. His knock on the door surprised us as would a voice from the grave. Needless to say we took him in and did for him the best we knew how. His feet and hands were pretty badly frozen and the fine snow had penetrated and packed into his clothing almost like ice. His shoes and overcoat were quite light for winter. But he was a man of iron with the courage of a lion. He said it was the second time in his life that he had worn an overcoat.

"In a few days the weather moderated and we were able to take him to Hart's at Lake Lillian, where, under the intelligent treatment and nursing of good Mother Hart, his hands and feet were saved in good condition. Hart's was the half-way house between Bird Island and Atwater, our grain market and trading point. The old settlers spent many a pleasant night under his roof and enjoyed to the limit Mrs. Hart's excellent cooking. During the spring run they secured some good hauls of fish from Crow river, the outlet of Lake Lillian.

"Once a bunch of us with seven teams returning from Atwater were overtaken by a fierce blizzard, but were able to reach Hart's about supper time. The storm did not abate its fury for 36 hours. All but myself refused to move until the weather cleared. It pulled out about 10 o'clock the next forenoon for home, 15 miles due south, with the northwest gale and blinding snow beating my back and right side. Once started there was no such thing as turning back, and there was no place to stop. It was simply go on and take the chances or perish. Not a rod of the way could the team move faster than a slow walk. Safety depended on the ability of my team to keep the track and hold out until we could reach home. All I could see was my sled and team and the swirling clouds of finest snow, which at the distance of a few yards became as dense as an ocean fog. The roar of the storm was terrifying. If once we lost the track even by a few feet all hope was gone. Imagine if you can the state of one's mind under such conditions as hour after hour wore on without any change except when occasionally the horses became so blinded by ice gathering on their eye winkers that they would stop until I rubbed it off! While I was attending to one, the other would help himself by using me for a rubbing post.

"About four o'clock in the afternoon I reached Kjel Olsen's, 1½ miles north of my home, and stopped long enough to ascertain that his family and stock were all right. He had remained at Hart's.

"The last half mile was across a lake three-fourths ice and the rest bunches of snow. It was getting dark and the storm, with increased fury, swept across the smooth bosom of the lake and up against the south shore and fringe of small willow trees. It blew my sled around and headed the team northwest. It was a most critical situation. I seemed to be wrestling with fate. I was almost home and thought fast and acted quickly with a supreme effort to reach it, and by making use of the small stretches of snow and rushing the team across the icy spaces I managed to reach the south shore and find the opening that led up through the willows into my door yard. Home, sweet home, at last! It was a great relief to me. My wife was amazed, but no less glad to see me. Somehow she and the children never seemed dearer to me than at that moment. It was a fool-hardy risk which I never repeated.

"One summer I received a bad puncture in the center of my left heel by stepping barefoot on a rusty nail. We had no doctor but applied home remedies and I kept right on at hard work, harvesting, threshing, plowing and hauling wheat to market, not able to touch my heel to the ground for more than six months, and much of the time I suffered intense pain. The winter came on and I had to get my wood from the Bird Coulie bottoms, 15 miles away, over a winter trail but very little traveled. I usually started with my trusty team at the first streak of daylight and by 10 a. m. I was in the timber cutting my load, the team eating hay. An hour later the team and I took our noon meal, hooked up and picked up our load and started homeward, I being pretty well warmed up by the hurried exercise. For a mile going up out of the river bottoms it was pretty comfortable, but once fairly 'out on the prairie,' partly facing the bitter cold northwest wind, I would have to walk off and on, tiptoeing on my sore foot to keep from freezing, the poor horses patiently tugging away in the snow-filled track until we reached home, sometimes as late as nine o'clock in the evening and dark as Egypt. I had one very intelligent horse upon whom I depended to keep the trail and he never failed me.

"Those were severe trials, those long hours of wading in snow, of bitter cold and sometimes storms, darkness and doubt. How different it seemed when the team was under cover and I 'toasting my shins' in the 'bosom of my family!'

"I finished my fuel job in February and then took time to attend to my sore heal. A pipe had formed in the wound, but I had kept it open and running. Screwing my courage up to the sticking point, I seized the glass syringe and bottle of corrosive sublimate and turpentine which Dr. Sherwin had prescribed sometime before, and injected the stuff into the wound. In almost no time I was holding my sore foot with both hands and dancing a hornpipe on the other. A few days later I repeated the opration. It did its perfect work by cleaning the wound of pipe formation and bringing out slivers of bone. It healed slowly and in a few months was as good as new."

A typical pioneer letter, written more than forty years ago by Joseph S. Bowler, gives a splendid picture of Bird Island life in the early days. The letter was written by Joseph S. Bowler, at Bird Island, July 6, 1873, to his sister, Georgetta, then living at Lee, Maine.

Joseph S. Bowler was one of the early settlers of Bird Island and was widely known throughout the county at the time of his death in 1887. He was popular and held in high esteem by Renville county people. The letter follows:

"Dear Sister Georgie: I suppose it seems a long time since I wrote to you, and indeed so it is - and I feel little like writing today, but duty impels me to. Yesterday I dug, or commenced to dig, a well, sunk it eleven feet, and today I feel the effects of it. I reached water but not in quantities to suit me, but not having a wind-lass to draw up the earth, I suspended. Eleven feet perpendicular is about as far as I can throw wet clay.

"We take but little recreation in this country. Sunday most of us rest a little. The Glorious Fourth I went to Madison's and helped him hoe garden part of the time, and part of the time we recreated. We intended to give the women and children a boat ride on the lake, but the wind blew and made it too rough. The children had sport, however, making marbles from clay.

"We have been fairly settled here four weeks, and it begins to look a little like home. We have a good garden and have had green peas once, but greens several times. I planted some seed of the box elder - a sizeable forest tree - very ornamental - and they are now three or four inches in height and growing finely, so you see I am near timber. Back of the house I have a row of California sunflowers. They look quite lofty. Sarah has a fine flower garden in blossom. For stock I have a cow, a Dorking hen, a Buff Cochin and a Pencil-neck Brahma cock - the poultry being a present to me. Madison is going to give me a young swan; he caught five in the lake a few days ago. I have borrowed a heifer from Madison to keep my cow company.

"For crops I have twenty acres of wheat, three-fourths acre of potatoes, one-half acre of beans and my garden. The spring being unusually wet, some of my wheat was drowned and will amount to but little, but the most of it is quite good. Have very few potato-bugs - not enough to notice. We have thousands of acres of natural meadow that produces from one to four tons of hay to the acre. In low places and swamps it is now as high as one's head. Throughout the country west of the big woods hay is worth just the cost of putting it up - about $2.50 per ton.

"We now have a mail route through here. Started the first of the month. It runs from Beaver Falls east to Birch Coulie, thence north by us to Kosmos in Meeker county. After a time we shall try for a post office here. We can get our mail brought to us, however, so you see we are within the pale of civilization. Our post office address is Beaver Falls, Renville County, Minnesota, at present.

"There is some travel through here now; more than there was last summer, considerable. The route from Preston Lake to Bird Island was terra incognito before we came through to everybody but trappers, but, since we made a track through, emigrants go this way instead of taking the old route, which was farther north.

"I must give you some little account of our move up here this spring. Madison and I came up before our families did. After we got our crops in we were ready to start back. We waited one day for it to stop raining and on the 21st of May we started. After going a mile it commenced to rain and it poured for six hours. It seemed before that the land would hold no more water. The sloughs were full and the high prairie was soft. During the first twelve miles we were nearly mired several times on high prairie, to say nothing of the sloughs, but I must explain this term 'slough' (western pronunciation, 'slew').

"Sloughs are either the natural drain from the prairie to the creeks and rivers, or are basins having no outlets and holding water some part of the season and mud when there is no water. If this were a timber country and the rainfall were greater, most of these sloughs would be creeks or lakes. This spring being so wet, all the sloughs filled with water and were in fact creeks. When a slough is narrow, say not more that two or three rods wide, it is not a difficult matter to cross, but when it is twenty rods wide or more it is no fun. The modus operandi of crossing sloughs with a load is this: take a long rope or chain - it should be long enough to cross the slough, but generally is not - attach it to the end of the wagon pole and get the horses as far from the wagon as possible. At the word 'Ready,' horses that have been there a few times will start on the canter and not stop till they are across, unless they get down in the mud, and, if they do, unhitch, drive them out and swing to the right and left and start again. These places are turnpiked and bridged in settled communities.

"But to return. After getting as wet as we could hold we got to Preston Lake and got some dinner and at night stopped about seven miles west of Glencoe. We got home all right in three and one-half days on Saturday. Sunday we rested and Monday we went packing, intending to start Thursday morning. Got all ready Wednesday night but it rained so we waited till the next day, Friday. Friday morning Madison and I started with the team and stock, Vic and a girl who is stopping with us this summer going with us, also a young man who was going to look up land. We expected to reach Glencoe, the end of the railroad, Sunday night, so we arranged to have the families start on Monday morning and join us in Glencoe. Our household goods we had shipped to Glencoe and expected some of our folks from this settlement with teams to take them. I should tell you, however, that it had rained half the time we were at Nininger getting ready; and as we had to cross the Minnesota river at Shakopee, I feared that the ferry-boat would not run. I advised Madison to telegraph to Shakopee and ascertain whether that were the fact, but he had no idea that such was the case, and, as he knew more about the country than I, I did not urge the matter. We made good time Friday and camped at Credit river in Scott county. I had a little difficulty the first morning in breaking a heifer to the halter. Got an early start the next morning and at 9 o'clock a. m. were in Shakopee; and lo! the river was all over the bottoms, and the current was like a mill race. No crossing with teams! Footpads could cross in a skiff, but as the ferry-boat was usually propelled by means of a rope that was played out. Madison went to the railroad depot and tried to get a car to put us across on the railroad bridge. He found he could not get one before Tuesday and then it would cost ten or twelve dollars; besides, we would have to take the wagon to pieces. I advised going back to St. Paul at once and get across the river by going around the mouth, crossing the Mississippi twice on bridges, once at St. Paul on the south side of the mouth of the Minnesota and back at Minneapolis on the north side. That would take us three days more. But, when Madison gets his mind made up to take one particular route, he sticks to that and nothing seems to deter him. He was bound to get across the Minnesota at Shakopee some way. We heard that a steamer was expected the next day, Sunday; and supposed we could get across on that. So Sunday morning a steamer did come, but wanted fifty dollars for setting our outfit across. So we let them go, and, as a last resort, Madison went to the ferry-man and induced him to let him have his ferry-boat and to help us get across if possible. It was a risky undetaking, for, had anything happened, horses and stock would have gone to the bottom. By working hard all day we got across without any accident, and camped at Chaska, five miles from Shakopee.

"When we found we could not cross at Shakopee, or supposed we could not, we telegraphed to our families to wait further advice. Monday morning we started and I went off the road about a mile to Carver and telegraphed to the folks to start at once. We went about then miles further, to within a few rods of Carver creek, and found that we were balked again, for the bridge was washed away, and we were told that we must go back to Chaska and take another road. But, 'No,' says Madison, "I can get to that other road without going all the way back to Chaska.' So he and I started to explore and found that we could get to the other road by going a mile south through woods and swamps - all of which we did, and got within six miles of Glencoe that Monday night. At eight o'clock Tuesday morning we were in Glencoe waiting for the two o'clock train with families. Rained that day. Found that the teams we had expected that day had come, taken a part of Madison's goods and all of mine and gone on. So we concluded we would lie by the remainder of the day and take a fair start Wednesday. Got the women and babies in a house, put the children in the wagon and we camped on the ground.

"Started early next morning and at night reached Preston Lake without getting stuck in the mud. From Preston Lake we have the wild prairie for twenty miles. Started Thursday morning from Preston Lake, and went four miles when we came to a slough which was practically a creek at this time. Got stuck and horses down. I packed the women and babies across in my arms and made the larger children wallow. Got through that by hitching to the end of a long chain. Went one mile further and came to a worse slough, with water waist deep. Unloaded the women and children and packed them all across the slough, lengthened out the rig and got across without miring the horses. Went three or four miles more and came to another slough; tried to cross without hitching out as it was narrow, though deep; mired the team; took them off; packed the women and children across; hitched out and got across. Concluded to take dinner - did so - started after dinner and two miles on we came to the worst slough on the route, very wide. I packed Sarah and Lizzie across and the boys that were with us took the babies and Eddie; Vic and the other girl wallowed. Got across that after getting the horses down four times, and before we finally got across had to run the wagon some distance by hand as the horses could get no footing. We had no trouble after that but got home in good season. Since that time we have had pleasant weather though rather warm; the sloughs have partially dried and the traveling is rather better. So much for that.

"You write to know whether you can get a school up here. Schools are scarce on the frontier, and we are not yet acquianted, so I could not give you any encouragement in that line. I suppose there is no school nearer than ten miles. You need not wait for a school, however, for you can come and find a home without that.

"We are all as well as usual. Sarah is not very strong yet. We have the best baby on the big prairie. I call him fine looking, too. He does not average one cry a day and would not cry at all if he was attended to properly.

"I have now written more than you usually write in six letters. I want to hear from you soon. I hope father will come out here. I will write him in a few days, though he owes me three or four letters. Love to all. Sarah sends much love. Madison's folks are as usual. Truly your brother, (signed) J. S. Bowler."

C. L. Lorraine, now of East Jordan, Mich., and formerly well known in Bird Island, in a letter to J. M. Bowler, now of Minneapolis, also formerly of Bird Island, has the following to say in regard to Bird Island weather:

"Bird Island, which is located on about the highest point of land within fifty miles in every direction, can easily claim the record for wind. Early in the early eighties, R. D. Young, then agent for the C. M. & St. P. Ry, at that place, secured a set of signal service instruments and made regular reports to the United States weather service. For some years, month for month, while this was kept up Bird Island not only held the record for velocity of wind but was usually 100 per cent or more higher than the next lower station in Minnesota. At one time the wind was too strong to read the gauge-meter for one day, and when it was read the next day, it showed over 2,500 miles in the 48 hours, or an average of over 52 miles per hour for the whole 48 hours.

"During twelve months, taken in the growing season of 1886 and the preceding winter, the total precipitation - rain and snow - at Bird Island was less than 9 inches of water. During the winter the ground froze to great depth and frost cracks several inches across in places and from four to six feet deep opened. The crop of grain next year, while short of straw, was quite good. The deep freezing, which did not thaw out until the growing season was well along, kept the roots moist and healthy. In most places with such a drouth there would have been no crops.

"The winter of 1887-88 was notable for heavy snow and its great drifts. In exposed places the drifts were solid from peaks of roof of building to the ground on the west and south sides, which were used by the 'kids' for coasting. The railroad company kept its line well open to Bird Island, but from there west the drifts were too solid to shovel or to buck with their heavy 'Earling' snowplows. That year the rotary snowplows made their appearance, the C. M. & St. P. purchasing one of the first two made and brought it to this line to try out. They cleared the track about a mile and a half west of Bird Island when in a heavy drift they snapped the great shaft of the rotary, putting it out of commission until a new shaft could be gotten from Passaic, N. J. This delayed the [opening] of the road two weeks, during which time several score of passengers were marooned at Bird Island, the women and children being taken into the homes and given the best the people could do, though at that time the stock of flour ran so low that supplies had to be shipped in by express before freights began to move. When the railroad was finally cleared of snow, more than two-thirds of the way from Bird Island to Granite Falls, there was just a ditch through the drifts with the sides from three to twenty feet high."

The first real estate assessment of Bird Island township, 115-34, was made in 1876. Those assessed were: Charles Humboldt, section 6; Ben Feeder, 14; Marion Boyer, 28; Thomas Gage, 30 (note to effect that this was transferred to H. S. Works); Laura A. Gage, 30; Calvin Boyer, 28. In 1877, there were added to this list: John McIntosh, 8; Nicholas O'Brien, 26; James M. Bowler, 24.

By 1881, quite a number of people had acquired property in Bird Island township, 115-34, the real estate assessment that year being as follows: T. H. Kelly, section 1; T. S. Ashmore, 3; J. S. Bowler, 2; J. B. Lambert, 3, 10; C. Hurd, 5; J. Carp, 5; C. Humboldt, 6; James Burnes, 6; Thos. Lucy, 7; N. Stone, 7; Stephen McIntosh, 8; S. R. Miller, 2, 23; C. J. Gates, 6; W. R. Marshall, 12; Jos. H. Feeter, 14; J. M. Bowler, 14, 24; Benj. Feeder, 14; D. L. Babcock, 17; James Greeley, 17; Lizzie Bowler, 13; Geo. W. Miller, 18; John Nester, 18; Wm. Wolff, 20; Peter Henry, 17; Mary Casey, 21 (note to effect that this was transferred to F. Hodgdon); Alfred LaBolt, 21; Thomas Olta, 23; Mary A. Stone, 24; N. Tainter, 24; E. D. Stone, 24; G. O. Robertson, 26; Marion Beyer, 28; Calvin Beyer, 28; Thos. Gage, 30; Laura Gage, 30; James Curran, 30; John Revere, 32; John Johnson, 34; Fred Kromer, 36; P. J. Harvey, 36; Jerome Balsley, 30; H. D. Jackson, 20; Selah Chamberlain, 14; Frank U. Moore, 25.

The first personal property assessment of Bird Island township, 115-34, was made in 1876. Those assessed were: Jerome Balsley, J. E. Barker, Edward Bowler, J. M. Bowler, J. S. Bowler, James Curren, J. E. Engstrom, Benjamin Feeter, J. H. Feeter, Erastus Fouck, Charles Humboldt, J. C. Hodgdon, John King, J. B. Lambert, George Miller, William Morse, John Nester, Nicholas O'Brien, John J. Stearns, L. W. Stearns, Harry Sawyer, Joseph Sharbine, Nahum Tainter,

Those paying personal taxes in Bird Island township in 1915 were: R. S. Amberg, F. J. Abraham, Herman Brown, H. T. Beyers, Fred Baumgardner, Charles Beckeler.

The naming of Bird Island constitutes a most interesting story. In the early days the sloughs and swales formed an island in section 15 in what is now the township of Bird Island. The prairie fires which prevented the growth of timber could not reach this island and consequently a heavy grove grew thereon. Most of these trees were of the hackberry variety. Some measure from forty to sixty feet from the ground to the lowest limbs, while they were from fifteen to thirty inches in diameter. This island furnished a favorite camping place for Indians and trappers and provided timber for the early settlers. There is still a grove on the spot and is the only natural growth of trees for many miles, all the other groves having been planted since the settlers arrived. Not far from this island and located in section 24, extending into section 13, was a lake known as Pelican lake as deep in some places as eight feet. This lake is now drawn off and crops are planted in its bed.

Mrs. Lizzie S. Bowler, wife of Major J. M. Bowler, underwent many interesting experiences in the early days. In an article prepared for this work she says:

The thought of Renville county awakens many pleasant recollections and I am pleased to know that a history of it is being prepared for I spent many of the best years of my life there and five of my children were born and reared there on the soldier's homestead which my husband took in 1871.

In 1856 my father and mother with their three daughters left the eastern home with all its comforts and immigrated to Minnesota where we built a new home on the raw prairie. That experience was helpful when later I repeated it in Renville county where we had to endure so much inconvenience and hardship.

In June, 1873, my husband came back to our home in Nininger where we had lived since the war, and we packed our belongings. He, with a team, stock and oldest daughter, Victoria, started for our new home in Bird Island. My husband had been up there since the early spring, had put in wheat in his land that he had broken and had prepared the ground and sowed the flower seed which I had given him. It did well and in due time the beautiful flowers came to remind us of the old home. The contrasting colors could be noted at quite a distance on the green prairie.

My sister-in-law, Mrs. Joseph Bowler, and I with our children had to go on the train from Hastings to Glencoe for that was as far as the cars ran, and we did not go for a couple of days after the others so as to give them time to get to Glencoe by the time we arrived. When we got there they were waiting for us. Their trip was full of adventure, especially getting across the Minnesota river at Shakopee owing to high water which covered the river bottoms deeply from bluff to bluff. They joined forces with David Sivright, of Hutchinson, who was waiting with four horses and a buggy to cross. They spent an entire day rigging sweeps onto an old, discarded ferry-boat and navigating across the swift river current until they grounded in shallow water several rods from the opposite shore, when stock, teams and passengers took to the water and all waded ashore. They paid $5.00 for the use of the old craft and went on their way rejoicing. There was considerable risk in crossing, but they took it like men.

After fixing ourselves comfortably in our prairie schooner carriage, we left Glencoe and started for Bird Island, our future home, over 36 miles of the worst road I ever saw; and many places there was no road. After several hours' ride we reached the hospitable and comfortable home of Mr. Houck at Preston Lake. The next morning we were quite refreshed and anxious to resume our journey. Had we not been full of hope and the pioneer life our faint hearts would have failed us at what lay before us. We had to cross many sloughs which were the terror of every one at that time. When we came to one, two young men and the brother of my husband who were with us would drive the team across, or rather, try to, and sometimes they would mire in the mud and water with just their heads sticking out; but after this kind of performance they succeeded in getting across, and, hitching the horses to the tongue of the wagon by a long, strong rope, would pull it across. Then Mr. Bowler's brother would carry his wife and me over and the children would wade. This was repeated many times during the afternoon, but just before sunset that beautiful June day we arrived at our destination glad that we were all there and able to refresh ourselves with the food we had taken with us.

The next day my husband with the young men who came with us had to go to Beaver Falls for flour and other necessaries, and the young men went to the land office at Redwood Falls. I had enough flour in the house for one baking; it was a warm day and, while baking my bread, I took the children out and sat in the cover of the wagon which had been taken off the wagon and left near the house. I heard someone speak, and, looking up, recognized a man whom we had met on the prairie the day before who said he was from Wisconsin and was hunting a claim. He came near where I and the children were sitting and asked me to give his wife and two little girls something to eat - said they had been wandering around lost on the prairie all the night before. I told him to hitch his horses to his wagon bax and wait till the bread was baked. There was a cake, too, in the oven, and they should have something. I made a cup of tea for Mrs. Olson, for that was their name. After living in their wagon box most of the summer, they finally located north of Hector, where the family continues to own a nice farm.

There were no trees to be seen in all the country around, but those that grew on Bird Island - a little piece of land surrounded by sloughs so the fire had not killed the timber.

Our place was on the south side of what was then called "Pelican Lake," so called because of the number of pelican that used to be in it during the spring and fall. There were also some swan and they hatched their young in the grass nearby. The wild fowl of many kinds made that their home. As my husband plowed the land after harvest, he took his gun along and as he went up and down near the lake would fire at the geese and ducks and many times would have several dripping pans of ducks. One Saturday afternoon, after spending all the forenoon cleaning ducks and preparing for the Sabbath, for we never forgot the Sabbath and felt that God watched over us, I sat down to rest. I heard some one speak and looked out of the window. There was a span of horses with a large carriage with several men and women; they were friends from a distance of thirty miles. The first thought that came to me was: "What shall I do with them in a shanty with only one room?" But again we brought the covered wagon box into use for one bed room, and when bed-time came, we were all comfortably laid away for the night. The next day (Sunday) we visited, talked over old times and had plenty of good things to eat and enjoyed it as much as though it had been a palace; and when Monday morning came and our friends had returned to their homes, we felt that we had had a very enjoyable time and we were glad they came. Those were the first women I had seen after I went there except my neighbors, Mrs. N. G. Poor and Mrs. J. S. Bowler. About the first of September Mr. Bowler's father came from Maine. On September 25 our daughter Kate, now Mrs. George E. Butler, of Sleepy Eye, was born, the first white child born in Bird Island township. The years as they came and went were filled with many joys and sorrows.

In November of that year we rigged up our prairie schooner again and started for Nininger, Dakota county, where we were to spend the winter and where my husband was to teach a four months' school. After spending a very pleasant winter, we returned to our home in Renville county and started in with all out farming operations and to put an addition to our house, but is was not long before the grasshoppers began to come.

The year before they had been in the southern part of the county but there were not enough of them to do much harm to crops, but along the beaten roads and wherever they could find bare spots, they deposited their eggs and for three seasons they remained, but for some reason did not do the damage to our crops that they had done nearer the Minnesota River. But we were kept anxious fearing they would take everything, even clover and grass. But the summer, with its terrible storms and mosquitoes, was passing when the harvest came. By this time we began to have a number of neighbors and they all joined together to harvest and thresh. We had finished ours and the whole crew of neighbors had gone over to N. O'Brien's place. As he had no family the women had given him food for their dinner.

Among the rest of our neighbors was a German blacksmith who was helping. Just at night there was a terrible thundershower and wind-storm came up and they started him home. He had to go past our place and he had quite a distance to go to his home. As he drove up near our house to leave the pans and pails that they had taken the dinner in, he jumped out of his wagon into a big tub of clothes I had left there when the shower came up. You can imagine how I felt, but could not help laughing, but oh! my clothes filled with prairie mud.

My husband had to be away a great deal for every stick of wood was hauled from Birch Coulie and all lumber from Atwater or Glencoe. Our daughter, Victoria, who was then eleven years old, was my help indoors and out, for there was no help to be had and no place to put help if we could get it.

The winter of 1874-75 was a terrible winter on the prairie. Snow, snow, snow everywhere and every few weeks a terrible blizzard! One fine winter day our neighbor, N. G. Poor, came down about three-fourths of a mile distant from the end of the lake. The neighbors exchanged papers, for it was hard to get the mail from the post office at Beaver Falls, and we were glad to get any news from the outside world. He brought what papers he had to exchange, got his papers and sat talking. Mr. Bowler went to the stable to do the work and after while came back in the house. Mr. Poor said he must go and my husband said, "I guess not." Mr. Poor said, "Why not?" and my husband replied, "Because there is a big blizzard." Sure enough, and Mr. Poor did not dare to start for home until noon of the third day. But we had a good time visiting, reading, sleeping and eating.

Out chimney was a stove-pipe going through the roof of the house. As the snow filled the pipe, it froze and clogged the pipe so the smoke could not get out. Something had to be done so the men tied ropes around their waists and fastened it to the house and started out to go on top of the house and to the root cellar where all the good things to eat were and get something for dinner. Soon they cleared the chimney and succeeded in digging their way into the cellar and came in with a dishpan full of vegetables, nice home-cured ham, canned fruit, etc., and, while the ropes were on, they went to the stable to feed the stock. Now this is what is meant by a blizzard to the early settlers of Renville county. There were three of those blizzards that winter with many snow storms that might have been called bad.

But we were young then with health and hope, and though the home building was very rude, our home within was filled with contentment and love and we looked for the time when the home without would be more pretentious.

I have given you just a little taste of what the first settlers of Renville county had to undergo to pave the way for those who are enjoying all the comforts of life. I could go on and fill a large book with the ups and downs as they came to us but think I have said enough that whoever reads this will understand what a pioneer has to endure.

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