J. F. Clyde and H. A. Dwelle editors

Volume I, 1918

The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago, Pages 8 - 16.








   Without going into any of the details concerning the Indian occupancy of the territory now known as Mitchell County, it is well to state that prior to the Treaty of the United States with the Sacs and Foxes, which was ratified March 23, 1843, at Agency City, all this portion of Northern Iowa was held by the various Indian tribes, especially by the Sioux and Sac and Fox tribes, who were ever at war one with the other. The Sioux Indians had ceded all their territory west of the Mississippi and southeast of the Minnesota River, to the United States in July, 1815, at Portage des Sioux, near the present St. Peter, Minn. The Winnebago and Sac and Fox tribes remained here the longest, as the treaty was effected with them only three years prior to Iowa being admitted into the Union.

   This treaty was made by John Chambers, United States Commissioner on behalf of the United States. In this treaty with the Sac and Fox tribes the Indians ceded to the United States Government all their lands west of the Mississippi, to which they had any right claim or title. By the terms of this treaty they were to be removed from the country at the expiration of three years, and all who remained after that were to move at their own expense. Part of these Indians were to move to Kansas in the fall of 1845, and the remainder the spring following. Hence it will be understood by the reader of this volume that the first settlers in Mitchell County had nothing to do with the Indians, except an occasional "Indian Scare," such as was experienced at the time of the Spirit Lake massacre of 1857, and the still more terrible one at New Ulm, Minn., in August, 1862, when more than twelve hundred white persons' were cruelly massacred.

   The only Indians seen in this county after white men settled here were the few roving bands of Winnebago and "Indian Town," or Tama City Indians, who used to make their annual hunting trips through this part of Iowa. They sometimes camped weeks at a time along the streams of this and adjoining counties, both in the fall and spring of the year. But these Indians were friendly to the whites and but little difficulty was ever experienced between the two races.



   To have been a pioneer settler in Mitchell County was to venture out beyond the confines of civilized life, leaving behind all the comforts and conveniences enjoyed by the older settled states. The friends of childhood, the scenes of young manhood and young womanhood, with all of the hallowed surroundings must be left and forgotten. Coming West was then an adventure-it was all untried and experimental. The settler knew he could secure cheap lands, but whether he could live here and maintain his family was another question to be solved by brain and muscle.

   There are still some living within Mitchell County who recall vividly those early years here, and many sons and daughters survive. To such classes this chapter is replete with interest. The old associations, the deeds and trials and battles against hunger and cold, while the settlers were few and far between, when wolves howled around the humble little log cabin home, sending a chill to the heart; and the wind was driving the snow through the many openings in the walls of the buildings; recollections of all these experiences come up before the pioneer who went through the winters of the '50s and '60s in this county. Often, however, he recalls these scenes with pleasure when he remembers that he has lived to see a thrifty and wealthy land, dotted with schoolhouses, churches and comfortable homes both in town and country.

   The following is taken verbatim from the "Historical Atlas of Iowa," published by the Andreas Atlas Company, in 1875, a work generally recognized as authority in matters concerning county history in this state:

   In the fall of 1851 Leonard Cutler and his son J. B. passed through Mitchell County prospecting and were the first to observe its beauty with an idea to a commencement of a permanent settlement. In the spring of 1852, the first land claims were made, the claimants being David B. Cutler and William Ramsdell. They commenced the settlement by the erection of the first cabin, which was of logs on what is now known as 'Doran's Farm,' about one mile north from Osage. But the first family in the county was that of L. S. Hart, Sr., who with his son Orrin came here in the summer of 1852, and stuck a stake about two miles below what is now Osage at what was then known as Spring Grove. L. S. Hart, Jr., came in the year 1853 and settled on the place where he now resides. This is where the first family lived. Their first house was covered with new mown grass but soon after a log cabin was erected.

   "In the year 1852, Rev. C. L. Clausen, a Norwegian minister, arrived with some of his countrymen from Wisconsin and made claims where St. Ansgar now stands on the Red Cedar, River; they then returned to Wisconsin, but came back and became permanent settlers on their claims June 23, 1853.

   "In April, 1853, Lorenzo Merry settled on the Cedar at a point since known as 'Merry's Ford'; in that year also came a number of settlers to make permanent homes in the Hart settlement and others were added to Clausen's settlement. In September, 1853, Josiah Cummings and his son William E. commenced the settlement at Mitchell. He was followed in the spring of 1854 by C. C. Prime, John Adams, and A. T. Cady and in August of the same year by D. G. Frisbie, who was for many years a prominent citizen of the county. Thus began the early settlement of the county started by a pioneer band that has opened up one of the richest agricultural counties of Iowa." Dr. S. B. Chase of Osage, Iowa, came to this county in 1856 and was looked upon as an early settler. In 1882 he prepared with evident care and research an account of the first settlement of the county. It is unquestionably as nearly correct as it is possible to make such a document. It is so valuable to a work of this character that we take the liberty to quote from it freely. He says: "So far as the writer has authentic history, James B. Cutler was the first white person who trod the soil of Mitchell County. From a diary kept by him, we have gleaned the following facts: On March 18, 1850, Leonard Cutler (who died at Franklinville, Iowa, when aged one hundred and two years), with his sons, Alonzo R. and James B. left LaPorte, Indiana, with a team seeking land. They passed through Chicago, where they had to struggle hard to keep from being buried alive beneath the mud. They came on to Prairie Du Chien, St. Paul, St. Anthony and Fort Snelling. These were then mere hamlets. Where Minneapolis now stands, there was then but two small shanties. Not finding what they were seeking they steamed down the Father of Waters in the 'Uncle Toby,' homeward bound.

   "At Prairie Du Chien they met some Pottawatomie Indian friends who gave them such a flattering account of Northeast Iowa as to induce them to examine it. Crossing the Mississippi they entered Iowa, June 1, 1850. On the 4th they reached Washington Prairie. Being greatly pleased with the country, James made a claim in section 7, township 97, range 7. After spending two pleasant weeks in exploring the country Mr. Cutler and Alonzo, returned to Indiana, leaving James at Prairie Du Chien, where he met the teams that followed him from La Porte. He returned to his claim June 28th and started west to explore the country, on horseback alone. Taking the old Indian trail at Fort Atkinson, he reached Bradford, July 1st. The Indian title to the land had been extinguished and its former occupants, the Sioux and Winnebagoes moved to their new home in Dakota Territory the preceding year. They went away unwillingly, and for many years large numbers returned annually to visit the haunts of their childhood, and the sacred mounds where slept the remains of their forefathers. From Bradford Mr. Cutler followed up the Cedar River to past where Charles City now stands, and July 4th, crossed the Cedar at Hyler's, now known as Flint's Ford, and entered Mitchell County. He then returned to La Porte. After a few days' rest, he again mounted his nag, August 18th and returned to Iowa, reaching his claim (says his diary) in Winneshiek County September 7, 1850. In 1851, early in the year, L. Cutler again started west, with his son David E. Cutler. They spent some weeks in the northeast counties, then came to Bradford, following the Indian trail from Fort Atkinson as James had done. From Bradford they came to - Charles City, having the water power privilege in view. Finding Mr. Kelly two hours ahead of them, they came up the valley to the southern boundary of Mitchell County. They then returned home by the way of Cedar Falls and Dubuque. They had neither made claims, nor learned of the beauty and value of Mitchell County.

   "In May, 1852, L. Cutler, with his sons Alonzo R. and David E., again started west, accompanied by William Ramsdell and James Orchard. They explored Minnesota more carefully than in 1850, though not so comfortably. In crossing the Cannon River they lost the running gear to their wagon. The box got across safely. The wheels went down the stream. After a long but fruitless search for them, an expert Indian swimmer and diver from Red Wing was imported, and after some hard days fishing, without bait, the hind wheels were caught and the journey continued with the box secured to them. Encountering hostile Sioux at Vermillion Falls, and not finding Minnesota to otherwise suit them, they returned to Iowa and followed the correction line, there. Being run west to the Cedar. Thence they took a southward course to a beautiful grove--Lovejoy's--thence down Rock Creek, past Walnut and White Oak groves to the Cedar; thence to Bradford on their way home to Indiana. At Bradford they met Rufus Clark, a renowned hunter, who gave them such a glowing account of Mitchell County, whence he had just returned, that they concluded to retrace their steps and examine the heralded El Dorado. Inspection verily confirmed the report of Clark. It was indeed the most beautiful country they had yet seen. They camped for some days under a lone tree upon the John Skinner farm, and carefully examined the magnificent body of timber along the Cedar, and the beautiful prairie skirting it. Believing they had found the Canaan of Iowa, if not of the world, they pitched their tents, and July 11, 1852, D. E. Cutler drove a claim stake upon a claim sold by him the year following to Tyree Doran for $300. It was here David killed his first deer, one day while preparing his dinner. The deer seeking to quench his thirst at the famous Doran Spring, was all unmindful of the danger awaiting him. Game was then abundant and excellent. A good rifle, well loaded, and an unerring eye, the usual gift bestowed upon the pioneer, were all that was needed to keep the larder well supplied."



   The party then proceeded to select claims, break up the land, and lay foundations for cabins as follows: "The first was by D. E. Cutler, on the Doran place, as stated; the second by William Ramsdell, on the claim he subsequently sold to David Beckner, and where later lived M. D. Hatch. The rest of the claims were taken in what was then a part of Floyd County. The whole party returned to 'their home in Indiana late in the fall, to prepare to move upon the goodly land they had found in the spring of 1853. "In either June or July, 1852, L. S. Hart, Sr., and Orrin Hart, came and settled where subsequently resided John Lewis.

   "Joseph Hart came with his father's family May 22, 1853. His brother, L. S. Hart, Jr., and others came at the same time and laid claim to land later owned and occupied by J. W. Annis.

   "William Cutler came early in the summer and claimed the Theodore Wilson place in Hart's Grove. He sold to Mr. Wilson the following year.

   "In the spring and summer a large number came and settled in the South part of this county. Among them were these Henry Ramsdell, David Beckner, Tyree Doran and a little later came in G. B. Mayfield, Isaac Large, Laz Cutler, John Caton, John Kellogg, John Hensley, Moses Orchard and family, and R. Harvey Hubbard, and if there were more this fact is unknown to the writer.

   "Dr. A. H. Moore came into the county from Michigan, June 20, 1853. His brother-in-law, Harlow Gray, came at the same time. They made claims where they remained permanently. The doctor was Mitchell County's first judge and served as county judge three years. The first county election was held at his house; he served as doctor, advocate, judge, and sometimes jury, to whom all matters were submitted, and whose word was usually final. In 1855 he platted a portion of the City of Osage and gave it the name of "Cora," after his daughter, who later became Mrs. A. C. Ross. Later it was merged with another platting and both became known as Osage.

   "Another 1853 settler, Benjamin C. Whitaker and family came in and effected settlement in September, His claim included a portion of the present City of Osage. There he built a log house and opened a small store, the first one in Mitchell County. In that store he sold knickknacks, pork and the supposed sine qua non of a pioneer-whiskey. He was one of the rough and ready characters who became influential and famous in this county. It was he who was made the first treasurer of this county, and with it was then coupled the office of recorder. Later, he had the temerity to bring a steam threshing machine into this county, a questionable experiment at that time. About 1880 Mr. Whitaker removed to Wheatland, Dakota, where he operated a number of threshing machines throughout the famous Red River Valley of the North.

   "Wesley Converse was another pioneer who, came in with Mr. Whitaker and made claim to the land later occupied by Cyrus Foreman. The writer distinctly remembers one terrible cold night in the winter of 1856, when the passengers with him were snow bound on the prairie some few miles from Osage. He turned his sleigh upon its side, carefully wrapped those in his charge with such appliances as he had to protect them, and then placed his team in the rear of all. The next morning he brought them all safely to town, while some about him perished in the cold. During the Civil war he served his country faithfully in the old Third Iowa, with Maj. M. M. Trumbull as commander. Later, Mr. Converse removed to Dakota.

   "C. C. Prime came in the autumn of 1853, made a claim in Hart's Grove and there erected the first frame house in Mitchell County. Not liking his surroundings-the next spring he moved his house to Mitchell and there opened the first hotel in the county.

   "Josiah Cummings and family settled in Mitchell in the fall of 1853. They were the first to settle in Mitchell Township. John H. Johnson came in September, and the next spring came his father, Hilger Johnson and Ole Torgerson and their families, and settled in White Oak Grove, on Rock Creek, and there lived and died honored citizens of this county."



   For another historical work, a few years ago, the author of this history prepared the following on the Norwegian Colony of this county:

One of the most important events. in the history of Mitchell County was the Norwegian Colony which came here largely through the efforts of Rev. Claus L. Clausen. Mr. Clausen was the first Scandinavian Lutheran minister in America. He was born in Denmark in 1820, and there grew up and was educated. His life work, however, was nearly all done among the Norwegians. This was because Norwegians came to this part of America in large numbers before the Danes began to migrate this way, and because of the other fact that the Danish people's language is the written language of Norway. There are many dialects spoken by the common people in different parts of Norway, some of which differ so much that residents of one portion of the country often find it hard to understand the dialect spoken by other residents. But all who have learned to read and write understand readily the Danish language.

   Mr. Clausen did little preaching in Norway, but came to, America when he was twenty-three years of age, and was here ordained to the ministry. His first work was done in Northern Indiana, from which place he went to Southern Wisconsin, where he labored in Rock and adjoining counties. His people were considerably scattered, and he finally concluded to start a colony in some new and fertile region where his people might be together, if such a place could be found. With this in view, he made several trips to the north and west through Wisconsin and Minnesota. But he found no place in these regions which suited his purpose. On these and other journeys made by him he looked up the Scandinavian people and preached and otherwise ministered to them. In June, 1852, he came into Northern Iowa and Southern Minnesota and went as far west as Albert Lea, in company with a Mr. Gallagher. But the country there seemed too wet for their purpose and they turned back, going eastward near the state line till they came to what is now called Deer Creek, then followed this stream to its junction with the Cedar River just to the west of St. Ansgar. They saw a great many wild animals along this creek. The Danish word for animal is pronounced the same as our word deer, and so Mr. Clausen called the stream Deer Creek. They crossed the Cedar River and went eastward through the splendid heavy timber composed of walnut, maple, ash, oak, elm and basswood, till they came to the beautiful prairie where St. Ansgar is now situated. Mr. Clausen knew at once that he had found the goal of his long search. Here was the ideal place for his new colony. He hastened back to his home in Luther Valley, Wis., and began at once to prepare for the removal to his new home.

   In the following September he returned to this county, bringing with him Mikkel Tollefson Rust (father of T. M. Tollefson, of St. Ansgar Township), Hans Halvorsen Smedsrud, and Levi Olsen Lindelien, and perhaps others. They explored the country, located claims and built a log house for Mr. Clausen at a place just outside the town plat near where S. V. R. Smith lived many years. After spending about six weeks in the county, the party returned to Wisconsin for the winter. Mr. Clausen made a contract at Mineral Point, Wis., for thirty or forty wagons for the use of the colonists. As soon as the grass was large enough to sustain their cattle, some two hundred head in all, about thirty of these wagons started for Iowa bearing the colonists and their effects. The wagons were all drawn by oxen, and the children did most of the driving of the other Stock. Mr. Clausen and his family were in a carriage drawn by horses, and there was only one other horse in the party. To procure better feed and to prevent confusion, the party was soon divided into three sections, the second and third of which followed the others at safe distances. They crossed the Mississippi River at the mouth of the Wisconsin River on a ferryboat driven by a treadmill operated by a blind horse and a mule. This old ferryboat has become memorable among the old settlers. The writer of this, when a five-year-old boy, crossed on the same boat, and was terribly frightened because the boat was almost capsized in mid-stream when struck by a sudden and violent storm. Mr. Clausen's party went westward, then to the north almost to the state line in order to avoid the sloughs along the more direct route. There were many difficulties to overcome. It was necessary to make roads in some places and to bridge some streams with rough logs cut from trees growing along their banks. The journey was slow and often very laborious. A few of those who came in the first section did not like the new location and started back. These settled in the rougher country in Southern Minnesota. Another party of their countrymen reached here ahead of the Clausen party and "jumped" a few of their claims. The claimants could not persuade those who had taken possession of their lands to remove, so made new locations, and no serious harm resulted. The land here had not yet come into the market, and had only been surveyed into townships six miles square, so the colonists "squatted" on their claims and waited until the next year for the survey to be completed and to make their purchases.

   Mr. Clausen entered about 800 acres of land, including the present site of St. Ansgar and the mill property at Newburg. Besides Mr. Clausen and family, there were in the party his brother Peter Clausen, Mikkel Tollefson Rust and family, Gilbert Gilbertson and family, Hans O. Rust and family, Erick H. Espedokken and the family of Jacob Asselson, Ole O. Haugerud, Sr., and family, Halvor Thorson and son; also Assor Knudson and family and Ole O. Grovo and family. These all settled near the Cedar River and within a few miles of St. Ansgar. Those who settled near Rock Creek were: Syver Johnson, at Red Oak Grove, near the George B. Lovejoy place; Levi Olsen Lindelien and Ole Haroldson, at Walnut Grove; and still farther down the creek at White Oak Grove, Ole Torgerson, and Helge Johnson Rodnigsand. The person last named was the father of President J. H. Johnson, of the Farmers National Bank. I believe that Erick O. Stovern and family joined the Clausen party near Calmar, Iowa. The other party from Wisconsin, which came here in the spring of 1853, contained among others, N.H. Nelson, now of St. Ansgar Township, and his brother Gulbrand; Knud O. Lee and family, and L. O. Anderson. Still others came about the same time from Clayton County, Iowa, among whom were Ole E. Sarido and family, Knud Everson Hustad and family, and the Rierson brothers, Torkild, Lars and Torsten, and their sister.

   During the fall of 1854 and 1855, the settlement had many additions, but the names of the later arrivals are too numerous to here be given.

   Rev. Clausen organized a church soon after his arrival here and remained its pastor until 1872. The stone building at St. Ansgar was completed in 1864, and was then the only Norwegian church building west of Winneshiek County. Mr. Clausen was a man of strong character, genial disposition and many attainments. His parishioners had but recently come from a far distant country. They had but little knowledge of our language, customs or laws, and were in need of almost constant advice and help in business matters. These they received without stint from their pastor. And he impressed himself strongly on all other persons with whom he came in contact. This article is of necessity too short to detail his many labors and great influence. He was a justice of the peace, school fund commissioner, member of the Sixth General Assembly of Iowa, representing therein the counties of Winneshiek, Howard, Mitchell, Worth, Winnebago and Bancroft. During the Civil war he was chaplain of the Fifteenth Wisconsin Regiment, known as the Norwegian Regiment, and held other important positions of honor and trust. The Town of St. Ansgar was platted and laid out by him, and named after one of Norway's early saints.

   Many of the early settlers described in this sketch remained in this county, and not a few of them are living at the present time. They and their descendants, with but few exceptions, have been among our best citizens. They are law abiding, thrifty, industrious and progressive. No doubt the good citizenship of these people is partly due to the teachings and influence of their early pastor, Rev. Claus L. Clausen.

   (Having given a description of the first settlement at Osage and the upper country at St. Ansgar and touched on Mitchell, the following brief account of settlement, general, in other parts of the county will be given by townships, but the detailed account of township settlement will be found in the section of this work which treats on the histories of the various townships.)

   In Burr Oak Township the first settlement was made by a Mr. Wilson at the beautiful grove in sections 9 and 10, in June, 1853, who sold the following year to Job Bishop, moved to Osage and died there in 1872. The next to come into this township was Oliver Tillotson and Alfred Curtis, in the fall of 1853, both taking claims in sections 9 and 10. James Curtis and Thomas Wynn came in 1854. Others of 1854 settlement included Messrs. Isaac Wynn, Eli Shultze from Pennsylvania. They built a shanty on the left bank of the Little Cedar River, near the west quarter post of section 6, township 98, range 16. They filed on land at Dubuque and made some hay that fall. In 1884 Mr. Shultze was the oldest representative of all the pioneers-of this township.

   In Cedar Township the earliest settlers were O. C. Harrolson, Levi Olsen Lindelien, natives of Norway, who came here in the spring of 1853, settling in sections 1 and 12. (See township history.)

   In Douglas Township the first settlement was made by F. A. Sprague and M. W. Cummings in the early spring of 1855. They claimed land in sections 29 and 33 in township 98, range 15.

   In Jenkins Township the first to become actual settlers were the members of the Scott families--Joseph Scott and Simeon Brown Scott who came to the township in the spring of 1853. The first white man here was Simeon Brown Scott of section 3, township 99, range 15. He was a native of Jefferson County, Ohio. The Scott men were famous hunters and had every element to make good pioneers, James Foster and Daniel Woodworth were the next to come to this township. (See township history.)

   In Liberty Township the pioneer settlement was effected by F. B. Rolf in 1853. He located in section 15 and remained there until his death, three years later.

   In what was the original Lincoln Township, the first to settle was L. S. Hart and family from Oneida County, New York, but who came here from St. Joseph county, Michigan. The Hart settlement included several persons, men grown when they came to this county. (See township history.)

   In Newburg Township settlement was at first made by a number of persons from the Rev. C. L. Clausen colony, in 1853. This was along the Cedar River and Deer Creek. S. R. McKinley and W. D. Fulton were among the first American born to locate within this township.

   In Otranto Township the earliest to settle was Lorenzo D. Merry, a native of Troy, New York, who settled here in the autumn of 1852, in section 22, but soon re-located in section 21. He was a sort of "mover" and finally went to Red River of the North where he operated a line of boats and a ferry line. Following this members of the Clausen Norwegian Colony claimed land here. (See township history.)

   In Rock Township the first settlement was made by E. Mier, a native of Norway, who came here from Winneshiek County, in 1853, purchasing land in sections 14, 22 and 23. He died in this township in 1872.

   In Stacyville Township the first settlement was effected by Adam Blake and Nicholas Hoeman who preempted land two miles north of Stacyville in May, 1855. Fitch B. Stacy came the same year.

   In Union Township the first to locate was a German named Evenhart Vitts, in April, 1856. He located in section 35, remained until 1859, and moved to Missouri where he was residing when last heard of. For list of other settlers see township history.

   In Wayne Township the first to invade the territory for the purpose of making permanent settlement was William Smith from Illinois, who located in the southeast quarter of section 34 in July, 1853, where he built a log house and covered it with shakes." This was the only family in the township until 1855, when S. L. Woodman settled in section 36.



   The pioneers of this region all met on an equal footing of opportunity; riches gave their possessors no great advantage in the new conditions; poverty constituted no great drawback to the worthy ones, and absence of the aristocratic element, now frequently seen domineering in society, must have been a cause of much satisfaction to these rugged pioneers. Then everyone was considered and treated as a neighbor and brother, until he showed himself unworthy. Public gatherings were much like family reunions, and the fact that there was little unpleasant rivalry made such occasions doubly enjoyable. Hospitality knew no bounds. If a stranger pulled the latchstring it was considered, as a matter of course, that-he should receive an equal share with the members of the household, whether that share was little or much.

   But why dwell longer on the long ago past? We live in the present, and work for the future. As no country can have a second "pioneer day" period, so no individual can have a second period of young life and hope and opportunity when youthful days have been once left behind. The wonderful accomplishments of our forefather pioneers in Northern Iowa should ever be food for reflection to those who have come after them. . The fact that the foundations of our county and commonwealth were laid so splendidly by men and women of such courage, virtue and devotion, under so many perils and sacrifices, should ever inspire us to deeds of even greater value than it was their lot to perform, for our opportunities are greater and more numerous than fell to their lot.