Goodhue County, Minnesota

 

 ~ Belle Creek Township ~

Belle Creek Township lies in practically the geographical center of the county, and constitutes one entire government township, its number being 111 north, range 16 west. Its area has remained unchanged since the township was first constituted in accordance with the township act of the legislature in 1858. Belle creek waters the western part of this township, and affords fair water power. It is bordered by fine stretches of hay meadows and an occasional ledge of limestone. Near the creek are also scattering groves of oaks, white birch and poplar. The surface, which is largely a rich, undulating, high prairie, except in the vicinity of the creek, is in general about 150 feet higher than its neighboring township of Vasa. Its other neighbors are Leon, on the west; Minneola, on the south, and Goodhue, on the east.

The first influx of whites into this section was in 1853, when Charles Ross and A. G. Kempe went into the township and built a cabin on section 5, mar the creek. They spent the winter there, but soon after moved north into what is now Vasa. In the spring, or early summer, of 1851. Walter Doyle, with his five sturdy sons, Henry, Richard. Michael. Walter and John, settled on sections 2 and 4. Benoni Hill and his sons, John, Henry and Thomas, came in July and made their claims on sections 5 and 8. James O'Neill and family also came the same year; and in the fall the Rev. S. P. Chandler staked out a claim, but did not move on it until the following spring. In 1855 the influx was rapid, and the town was soon thickly settled. A large part of the ground was broken up, grain sowed, and cottages built in place of the original cabins.

It was not long before children came to bless the homes of the pioneers. Anna O'Neill was born in March, 1855, but did not long live to enjoy the distinction of being the first white child born in the township, having passed away when still a schoolgirl. Her father was James O'Neill. May Cook was born in August of the same year, daughter of Jacob Cook. John Cavanaugh, son of Patrick Cavanaugh was born in November.

The first two deaths were by accident. In the early part of the winter of 1855-56, Dennis Cavanaugh started to go on foot to his brother's, a distance of about two and a half miles. After he started, a terrible storm came up, and he was frozen to death near Hader having lost his way. His body, which was not located until the snow had melted in the spring, was found three miles from his home, and in an opposite direction from the one lie should have kept to reach his brother's. His wanderings through the wilderness in the raging storm, until merciful death relieved him from his sufferings, can only be imagined. In May of the following spring. James Connel attempted to cross a slough with an axe on his shoulder. In some manner he stumbled and fell, and the edge of the axe struck his head, causing a fracture of the skull which resulted in death. The first death due to natural causes was that of Mrs. S. P. Chandler, June 28, 1856.

Pioneer discomforts were no dampener to the ardor of Cupid, and in 1856, Lewis White and Emeline Hill took before the Rev. S. P. Chandler the vows which made them man and wife. Although no school houses were erected until 1859, as early as the fall of 1858 Alvin Herbert taught school in the basement of a stone house owned by a Mr. Kirkpatrick, and the school was continued in session practically every season, in some of the settlers' houses.

The rich soil of the township showed its possibilities even in the earliest days, for in 1856 Walter Doyle and others obtained fair yields of wheat, threshed it by hand with flails and carried it to the Mazeppa mill to be ground.

In 1856 James Allen laid out a village plat and christened the place Troy City. With sanguine hopes of the future, Jesse Johnson built a store and stocked it with merchandise. No other building was ever erected on the village site. The financial crash of 1857 impaired trade to such an extent that Mr. Johnson closed his store; and all further attempts to build a city there were abandoned. A post office, called Burr Oak, was established in 1854, and H. M. Doyle was appointed postmaster. This was on the line of the old stage route from St. Paul to Dubuque, and the following year, when the mail route was changed, the office was discontinued. During the existence of this office Mr. Doyle's house was the last one on the road before reaching Oronoco. twenty-five miles to the south, and consequently was an all-night stopping place for the stage, and Mr. Doyle entertained such prominent men of the early days as Governor Ramsey, General Sibley, J. C. Burbank and many others. He also entertained twenty-six of the principal men and chiefs of the Chippewa tribe, including "Hole in the Day," their head chief, when they were on their way to Washington.

In 1858 another post office was established in the southwest part of the town and named Belle Creek. S. P. Chandler, the first postmaster, retained that position for many years. There was no hotel, and Mr. Chandler opened his house for the accommodation of travelers, especially the farmers of the western part of the county, who had no other place to stop on their way to Red Wing with their wheat. When the Minnesota Central rail road was completed to Faribault the tide was turned toward that village, and Chandler's place was closed to the general public.

At the first election, held at the residence of Walter Doyle, thirty votes were polled. Among the early supervisors were S. P. Chandler, H. M. Doyle (two terms). Michael Doyle, John Edwards, Francis Malloy, Walter Doyle and -lames Malloy. The early clerks were Patrick Drudy four terms), H. M. Doyle, Michael Doyle (two terms), P. J. Sheridan and Michael Doyle.

The township did its share in the Civil War in a noble way. The official list of those enlisting from the township is as follows:

Freeman J. Beers
Truman E. Beers
George Cook
James McGrath
John Manning
David Petty
William Gardiner
John Hilger
Jacob Hilger
Jacob Cook. Jr.
Timothy Cavanaugh
Walter W. Doyle
Patrick Drudy
Patrick Edwards
Martin Edwards
Timothy Foley
Patrick Foley
Henry L. Gilbert
Henry M. Craig
Patrick Malloy
Daniel W. Malloy
Thomas Bolls
Cornelius K. Bylen
David Switzer
John B. Taylor
James Cassidy
George Cook
James Schweiger
Ruben Taylor
Horace Carpenter
Nelson Cannon
Elander W. Carpenter
Francis M. Irish
William J. More
Russell E. Snell
George Johnson
Amos Hanson
John Nels Johnson
Robert Smithson
Henry Kirkland
Isaac Bridell
Michael Cavanaugh
Nels Johnson

The first religious services held in this town were at the residence of Benoni Bill, May 25, 1855, the Rev. Morris Hobart officiating.

The Catholic Church was commence in 1865, and cost over $3,000. The present beautiful edifice was erected in 1893. It is the largest congregation in the town, and has been a potent influence in the up building of the community.

The Episcopal Church was built in 1873 at a cost of $1,600, mainly through the exertions of the Rev. S. P. Chandler, who was pastor of the parish until his death, in 1888. For several years there was a post office at Ryan, in the eastern part of the township.

 Goodhue County| Minnesota AHGP 

Source: History of Goodhue County Minnesota, Franklyn Curtiss-Wedge, H. C. Cooper Jr, & Company, Chicago, 1909.

 

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