OUR ANCESTRAL PIONEERS
The Watson community is well known to us all, but could we have rode above it in an airplane in 1871, sixty years ago, we would have seen no Watson because it was not built yet. We would not have seen a single tree or shrub except along the shores of the Chippewa and the Minnesota rivers and possibly a very few trees and shrubs along the shores of Lac qui Parle Lake and the creeks. The great stretches of the gently undulating prairie in between these water courses were otherwise absolutely bare.
We would not have seen any Montevideo either. It had not arrived yet. We would not have seen any railroad for they had not started to build it yet, nor had they at that time decided to build it where it is now. Due west of where Montevideo is now located on the shore of Chippewa river, and about where Smith’s Addition to Montevideo is now, stood a little inland town. In 1870 it had about six houses and it was named Chippewa City.
Let us then for the sake of brevity and description go up in an imaginary airplane from Chippewa City in the month of August 1871 and fly above the Chippewa river in a northwesterly direction to see who has settled up that way. Leaving Chippewa City behind us we are soon high above the Chippewa river bluffs southeast of the Gippe farm. Below us is the river, a shiny and very crooked little ribbon threaded from one side to the opposite and back again throughout the length of a much wider and straighter and apparently endless green belt of timber. Down on the brow of the grass green river bluff west of the river are some dark uneven spots. They are the dugouts or log hfouses of William Crane, who settled in 1869 and George Crane, who settled in 1868. Farther north is Knute Knutson, who settled in 1868, and northeast of him on the bottom land east of the river is Jean F. Silvernail, who settled in 1865.
Right ahead below the airplane is the abode of Heinrich Gippe, who settled in 1865, while to the west on a naked flat plain that stretches between the Chippewa river bottom land and the Minnesota river blossom land there are some more habitations. They are, nearest the Chippewa river, the homes of Andrew Swenson and John Swenson, who settled in 1869, and John Ehrenberg, who settled in 1869, and west of them are Anders M. Anderson, who settled in 1869, Lars H. Bay, who settled in 1869, Jacob Syftestad, who settled in 1869, and Tollef Wik, who settled in 1869.
The sun is shining brightly and far down below us we see habitation signs denoting more homesteaders. There is Clark N. Crandall, who settled in 1867, and farther ahead between the bluff and the river, west of the river is the farmstead of Ole Haugland who settled in 1867. About one mile straight west from the river is the homestead of Ole T. Olson, who settled in 1869, and near by that the dugout of Lars O. Stensrud who settled in 1871 on railroad grant land wherefore he a little later became John B. Oyens nearest neighbor two miles farther north.
One half mile north of Ole T. Olson is the home of John Dvergsten. who settled in 1869, and one half mile west of Dvergsten the home of Iver Halverson Kanten, who settled in 1869. North of Kanten are more settlers, there are homes of Mrs. Dorthea Hilden who settled in 1869, Hans Hilden, who settled in 1869, Gilbert Hilden, who settled in 1869, and nearer the river the homestead of Hans Iverson Kanten, who settled in 1869.
Our airplane pilot hands us a piece of note paper containing the information that the plane will swing in a complete circle over a most interesting settlement, and to hold tight for the plane is going to climb to a higher altitude. The plane climbs and swings to the east, and we sight right below us against the Chippewa river timber belt the abode of Ole Waldum, who settled in 1870, and Peder Johnson Velo, who settled in 1868. The Chippewa river winding on through its timber belt disappears slowly behind us and we perceive right under us a settlement, - about the spot which half a century later became known as the Watson Community Club picnic ground, - containing the following settlers:
Captain Samuel J. Sargent, Civil War Veteran, who settled in 1865. Henry Tunnison, who settled in 1866, Edward Tunnison, who settled in 1866, Mahlon Gregg, who settled in 1868, E. J. Harkness, who settled in 1868, Johnatan Williams who settled in 1868. Some children are playing around the log house on the E. J. Harkness place where school is presumably in session. It is one of the first two schools in Tunsberg township. It was started in 1870.
Right by this settlement, in the bend of the Chippewa river, where it runs west after flowing straight south for many miles, is the river crossing on the historic Government Trail from Fort Rigely, in the east, to Fort Wadsworth, in the west, and to Fort Abercombie, in the northwest, and we scrutinize intently this Old Government Trail. It comes from the southeast, over the flat land east of the river bluff east of Chippewa City, like an endless rope laid out over the Chippewa river crossing in a northwesterly direction farther than a human eye can follow it. Thus it extends over the naked prairie weaving around sloughs and ridges, disappearing in ravines and depressions and emerging again, having here and there in its surface, like files crawlilng along a string, some small emigrant wagon outfits, and some bigger freighting outfits composed of massive, high wheeled brake equipped covered wagons, hauled by one or tandem yokes of oxen lumbering awkwardly along tugging at their creaking, swaying, loads.
In swinging in a wide circle south we see to the southwest, not far from the Government Trail, the homes of: Edward Nelson who settled in 1869, Andreas Hendrickson, who settled in 1871; and Ole Jacobson, who settled in 1869. On the east edge of the river timber to the south are signs of the habitations of: Henry A. Runion, who settled in 1866, A. G. Ward, who settled in 1866, C. D. Ward, who settled in 1866, when these three filed on timber claims. Looking again to the east we see the homes of Sivert Johnson, who settled in 1869; and right south of him Ole Salomonson Axness, who settled in 1867; and southeast of him J. M. Irwin, who settled in 1870.
Our plane having completed the circle we are heading north above the Chippewa river. To the east less than two miles from the river we glance at the abodes of: Lars Saxberg, who settled in 1869; and nearer the river Hans M. Olson, settled in 1868, and Fredrick Olson who settled in 1868. Coming right beneath the plane at this moment is the home of Isak Amundson who settled in 1867, and a little ahead the home of Jacob Engleson who settled in 1868.
Looking farther east we behold the farmstead of Hans Martin Lund, who settled in 1868 and Ole Erickson who settled in 1868; Erick O. Erickson who settled in 1968; Mrs. Randi Marken who settled in 1869; William Thompson who settled in 1868; Nels Svenungson who settled in 1868; Nels Fredrickson who settled in 1869; Tollef Jacobson Libakken who settled in 1869.
But following us on the left side the west side of the plane all the way, we see below us another apparently endless string laid out in an irregular, winding, turning, manner going north along the side of the river valley. We saw it passing Ole Haugland’s sod barn a while ago, and now a tiny yoke of oxen, standing, that is, they seem to be standing, in front of a tiny wagon, and beside it a tiny speck that must be the ox teamster; - It is undoubtedly some settler on his way to Benson with a few sacks of grain or one returning to his dugout with a log from the timber.
Then we look down ahead to the east side of the river and we see a school house, Yes, it is used for a school house, but it is also the log house home of Brigt Johnson who settled in 1868, (on the homestead that later became the Rev. O. E. Solseth farm.) Right below us by the west side of the river lives Moses A. Page who settled in 1869, and Albert Page who settled in 1869, while one half mile west of the river we see the home of Theodore Johnson who settled in 1871.
Farther west about one mile from the river, in the hillside west of the creek valley, is the home of John B. Oyen who settled in 1869, and one half mile north-east of Oyen on the creek valley is the home of Iver Retrum who settled in 1869. Along this creek valley to the north-west we of: Anders Iverson who settled in 1869; Nels Iverson who settled in 1869; Iver Nilson Krogstad who settled in 1869; Ole Slotte who settled in 1869; and Arnt E. Lyngen who settled in 1871.
While the airplane is over the home of Paul Golie who settled in 1869, we also see the home of Hans Halverson who settled in 1867, in the Dry Weather Creek ravine, and Ole Dalen who settled in 1868. Then our plane passes over the dugout of Sivert Klefstad who settled in 1869, and we are right over the home of the Risor Post Office in the home of Ole Torgerson who settled in 1867; and right east of the post office is the home of Civil War Veteran, Sunclov Alleckson who settled in 1868, and a little to the north the home of Halvor Alleckson who settled in 1871.
Had we had time to look during our flight up the river we might have seen through the crystal clear water in the gravel lined river channel; schools of Pike; Pickrel; Bass; Buffalo Fish; Red Horse; Suckers; Cat Fish; Bullheads, and an occasional Sturgeon. We have already seen an antelope and some huge flocks of ducks and prairie chickens; and against the green carpet formed by the tree tops we have seen the happiest flocks of: Canaries, Robins, Wrens, Black birds and many other song birds, and we saw a lone deer, horrified by the drone of the motor, flee into the forest.
Since we started our flight we passed by, but did not enumerate the following, Harvey Payne who settled in 1869; Aaron Clark who settled in 1869; J. Emmerting who settled in 1866, and John Bloomer who settled in 1868. But straight west we see the home of Knut Olson who settled in 1871; and northeast of Knut the home of Hans Anderson Vikhammer who settled in 1868; and we go right above the domicile of Knut Angrimson who settled in 1867; and past the river bluff top where Nels Klefstad lives who settled in 1869. Then ahead of the plane right below us is the home of Amund K. Hagen who settled in 1868.
We think we are seeing James Jameson who settled in 1870 out here, but we are not pop sure, when our independent pilot starts banking the plane something scandalous and circling around and around looking for Umadilla post office and meanwhile we pass above the following: Gunder P. Blom who settled in 1869; Ole E. Emerson who settled in 1869; Endre Einerson who settled in 1870; Hans P. Blom who settled in 1869; Paul Hanson Blom who settled in 1869; Anders G. Nes who settled in 1869; G. G. Nes who settled in 1869; Ole H. Blom who settled in 1869; Ole Anfinson who settled in 1870; Gabriel Skogrand who settled in 1870; Ove Overson who settled in 1867; Nels K. Hagen who settled in 1869; Knut Hagen who settled in 1869; Joel Woods who settled in 1869; Doctor Marvin Hull who settled in 1871; Nels Gunderson who settled in 1870; Isak Olson who settled in 1869; George F. Woods who settled in 1869; Ole Hagen who settled in 1869; Ove O. Quale who settled in 1870; Henry W. Woods who settled in 1869; Gabriel Gabrielson who settled in 1869; Knut Johnson who settled in 1870; Elling Jorgenson who settled in 1871; and John Trytten who settled in 1871. And we have also lost, somewhere, O. O. Lien who settled in 1869.
We are right over Cottonwood Creek, and right west of a crossing over that creek, we discover one more very crooked string laid out over the prairie in a southwesterly direction until out of sight in the horizon. It is the Lac qui Parle county settlers road to Benson. The plane turns to the southwest. Live specs are apparently in motion, some going northeast, some southwest, some going to Benson and some home again; while to the south, and west of the river we perceive the habitations of more settlers: namely; Helmer Olsen who settled in 1869, and Julius Olsen who settled in 1869. Then while approching the home of Nels Hovrud who settled ln 1871 we observe to the south in the distance a settlement consisting of Sivert Roaldson who settled in 1870; Sivert Nordtomme who settled in 1870; Elias Nortomme who settled ln 1870; Anders Eliason who settled in 1869; Eivind Lund who settled in 1870; Christian Lund who settled in 1870; and Anders (Forman) Bergsoe who settled in 1870; - and nearer by Erick Slotte who settled in 1869.
During our ride we have seen small enclosures or yards next to dugout stables and sod stables, and here and there some dark rectangular, square, and plank shaped patches, and also some fine black lines extending from the habitations for some short distances. Some of the yards or enclosures are built of wooden rails and some out of sod. The fine black lines are the sod fences that are deep and narrow ditches with rows of dirt along one side of the ditches moulded from the dirt excavated from the ditches into high sharp ridges. The rectangular square and plank shaped patches are the evidences left by the breaking plows being used. All over the prairie we have passed above we have witnessed cattle roaming unrestrained according to their own desires, while nearer to the homsteaders abodes we have often seen from two to four bovines grazing or reposing after the manner of working cattle or yoke oxen, - but we have not seen, so far, more than two horses.
Before passing above Nels Hovrud we also passed above Hans M. Norby who settled in 1869; while to the west appears in plain view the homes of Eivind Sundgaard who settled in 1870; Christian Sundgaard who settled in 1870; Erick Morstad who settled in 1871; Anders H. Skreberg who settled in 1871; Arne Pederson who settled in 1870; Nels J. Bystrom who settled in 1870; and Anders Evenskaas who settled in 1871. - Then a stub of a silvery ribbon glistens on the western horizon ahead of the plane. It is the southern end of Lac qui Parle Lake appearing and disappearing with the swayings and undulations of the plane. Then we pass over the home of Jens Hanson who settled in 1870, and we are above the bottom land of the detour channel of the prehistoric river Warren.
Immediately ahead of the plane on the northeast bluff brow of the southwest shore of the ancient river bed, right on the Lac qui Parle-Benson trail, is the home of Nels Aamot who settled in 1870, and its is also the home of the Wren post office. To the south along the bluff brow are the homes of Anders Hanson who settled in 1869; and Hans Jacobson Baaten who settled in 1871; Ole A. Johnson who settled in 1870; Erick H. Johnson who settled in 1870; and there should be somewhere in range of the plane the homes of Knut Hanson who settled in 1869, and Hermund Peterson who settled in 1869. Spread out to the south over an otherwise totally naked plain are the homestead domiciles of Hans Hagenstad, Sr., who settled in 1869; Hans Hagenstad, Jr., who settled in 1869; Iver Hagenstad who settled in 1869; Knut Stenerson who settled in 1869; Ole Teigen who settled in 1869; Fredrick Teigen who settled in 1869; and Anne Klefstad who settled in 1871.
Our plane is nearing the Minnesota river shore above what is one of the most historic places in the northern Mississippi valley. Here extending north and south along the eastern shore of the Minnesota river near its junction with Lac qui Parle Lake are: The Old Lac qui Parle Indian Mission site, Joseph Renville’s cattle ranch site, and the site of the original head Indian village founded hundreds of years ago and known as Lac qui Parle Indian Visage in history.
Here on these historical sites are now the following settlers: Lorenzo Lawrence who settled in 1868; John Lawrence who settled in 1868; and the oldest settler in the homestead days, John B. Bushman who settled first on his land here in 1836 and returned after a long absence and settled on the same land again in 1867. Here is also on the Lac qui Parle Head Village site the home of Kittel Veliekson who settled in 1863, and a little farther north the home of James Olson who settled ln 1870.
Leaving these historic sites behind us our plane roars reverberatingly above and over the channel of the also historic Minnesota river, the river that is also in history known as the St. Pierre river. Curling up through the interstices in the tree tops comes spirals of smoke from dozens of Indian lodges along the river. Here we observe some vestiges of the government Indian school built under supervision of Indian Agent Major Galbraith in 1861, and our thoughts begin to dwell on the fact that Amos Huggins was unaware of any danger shot here while unhitching his team near some Indians in the beginning of the masacre of 1862. And who can tell; the massacre might have been avoided and hundreds of innocent settlers lives spared had the venerable Joseph Renville, buried east of the river, lived thirty years longer. He had a remarkable influence over the Indians and he could also understand the white people at the same time.
But while dwelling on this, we are leaving behind us these histotic places and the whole interesting Lac qui Parle settlement consisting of: - nearest to the river, Hans J. Lokken Who settled in 1867; and up towards the lake shore Thom Anderson Nykaas who settled in 1870 on a timber claim. And by this time our plane has swung around in a wide half circle until it is heading towards Chippewa City and we have passed above, J. H. Brown who settled in 1871; Peter F. Jacobson who settled in 1869; J. F. Jacobson who settled in 1869; Hugh J. Chalmers who settled in 1869; David P. Lister who settled in 1868; John Nash who settled in 1868; John F. Averill who settled in 1871; William P. Mills who settled ln 1868; Lyman Hodges who settled in 1871; Abner Tibbets who settled in 1871; Henry Cross who settled in 1871; Browning Nichols who settled ln 1871; Hans Johnson who settled in 1870; Peter Simpson who settled ln 1869; Lars Tinderholt who settled ln 1870; G. E. Home who settled ln 1869; John Larson who settled in 1869; Aad Anderson who settled in 1970; John Anderson who settled in 1870; C. A. Anderson who settled in 1870; H. J . Borgendale who settled in 1870; Martinius Moen who settled in 1871; Henrik Egdahl who settled in 1869; and Frank Stay who settled ln 1868. And we return to Chippewa City where after making a trip above the actual pioneers in this original Watson Community territory, the alrplane lands and the trip is ended.