Goodhue County, Minnesota


~ Featherstone Township ~

Featherstone comprises one entire government township. No. 112 north, range 17 west, and has remained unchanged since the township act of 1858. It has no villages, its trading and shipping point being Red Wing, which is its near neighbor. Burnside, also, as well as Red Wing, borders it on the north, Hay creek on the east, Goodhue on the south and Vasa on the west. It is crossed by the Great Western railroad, the line through this township having originally been the Duluth & Red Wing. The township is intersected by the Hay creek valley on the east and by Spring creek valley on the west. These valleys are deep and wide, but their slopes are almost uniformly turfed, while between the bluffs that enclose them are some of the finest farms in the state, in a rich, deep loam. The higher farms on the uplands between the valleys are based on a yellowish loam for sub-soil, and are fertile and reliable for the usual crops. Some of them are sightly and command very picturesque landscapes, extending over the valleys with which the township is nearly surrounded. The surface is from undulating to rolling. Beautiful residences, surrounded with groves, from which stretch rich and highly cultivated farms, prevail through the township. The earliest settlers, who had come from countries wooded and watered, were not familiar with the advantages of prairie land, and consequently Featherstone was not settled until settlements of considerable size had sprung up in some of the other localities in the county.

The township was named from William Featherstone and his extensive family, who came here with a number of farm hands to assist him in breaking the land, in 1856. He was not, however, the actual first settler, as in 1855 John Spencer, Philip Storkel and the Messrs. Goldsmith and Coleman had staked out claims and started to cultivate the land. Other early settlers were William Freyberger, George Featherstone, J. Meacham and Rev. John Watson.

William Featherstone, in relating some incidents of the early days, not many years ago, said that he broke a claim in 1856, but that a portion of his land had been broken the year before by others. He sowed ten bushels of fife wheat which he had brought from Canada, the first seed wheat of that kind in this section of the country. His first crop yielded but eighteen bushels to the acre. He sold what wheat he could spare for seed, broke up 170 acres more of land and sowed the next year, receiving a yield of about twenty-four bushels to the acre. The larger portion of this crop was also sold for seed. This is claimed by some writers to have been the origin of "hard wheat" in this state, but the same honor has been claimed for other localities.

The first death in the township was that of a Mr. McMahon, who perished from exposure on his attempting to return from Red Wing on a cold night in January, 1857. The first marriage was that of James A. Jones and Mary Libby, daughter of William Libby, the ceremony being performed by the Rev. J. H. Hancock. The first school was taught in the summer of 1856 by Mary Cox, in a claim shanty, the location of which later passed into the hands of Henry Featherstone.

October 21, 1857, William Libby called a school meeting. F. N. Leavitt was chosen chairman and George Featherstone clerk. The first board of trustees consisted of William Freyberger, William Libby and William Watson. William Featherstone was clerk, making a board composed entirely of Williams. Although the district comprised nearly the whole township, there were but seventeen children of legal school age. The first schoolhouse was built in the winter of 1857-58 at a cost of $250. The first church service was held at the home of William Featherstone in 1856. In 1862 the Methodists built a church edifice, 26x40, at a cost of $1,000. Hay Creek mills, on Hay creek, were built in the early days by a German pioneer named Kotzube, who afterward sold out to Messrs. Cogelt and Betcher, of Red Wing. In 1866 Ezekiel Burleigh opened a hotel, but failing to secure a license, he closed the place, finding that the patronage was too limited to support a "dry" hotel.

A list has been preserved of the voters at the first election, held July 5, 1858. They were:

John Watson
F. N. Leavitt
Philip Rounds
George Wooley
William Libby
Ernest Rosa
Benjamin Jones
David Coverdale
Calvin Frizzell
John Watson
William Featherstone
Jonathan R. Perkins
H. B. Wooley
Charles Perkins
C. Rosa
Edward McMahon
Samuel P. Snow
John Gennis
William Freyberger
A. D. Roberts
Joseph Frizzell

The election resulted as follows: Supervisors, William Freyberger (chairman), S. P. Snow, Harlow Rogers; assessor, A. D. Roberts: justices of the peace, William Libby, L. Snow; constables, W. H. Featherstone, Charles Perkins; town clerk, John Watson; collector, H. B. Wooley; overseer of poor, William L. Watson; overseers of highways, J. R. Perkins, J. C. Arnold, George Wooley, Gotleib Buholtz, William Featherstone.

Among the early chairmen of supervisors were William Freyberger, F. N. Leavitt, William Freyberger, George Featherstone, F. N. Leavitt (three terms), William Freyberger.

The early town clerks were John Watson (two terms), A. D. Roberts, John Watson (three terms), George Featherstone (two terms).

Featherstone's contribution to the Civil War consisted of:

R. N. Aakers
George Cook
W. H. Featherstone
Edwin A. Fessenden
August F. Greed
Owen Gallagher
Lemuel Herbert
Charles Johnson
Francis McMahon
N. P. Malmberg
Thomas Pallas
Frank E. Peterson
William Edson Rice
John Suiter
Samuel Smith
Benjamin J. Taylor
Harvey Van Auken
C. H. Watson
Robert Chaterick
Robert Callihan
James Cramand
Sewell Ellsworth
Andrew J. Ellis
August L. Green
Isaac W. Stewart
Franklin J. Gale
Perry Gilmore
John C. Hilt
John Hallivers
Patrick Ogo
Henry Jones
Nathan Levy
John Livingston
D. M. McDole
John A. Murray
James Nelson
William Piper
Frank Rayher
Charles Rye
William J. Skinner
John Thompson
William Maloy
Charles W. Wixon
Frank H. Wright
Alvin H. Walter
William Trippe
John Moore
Watson S. Tilton
Walter Carter
Redden H. Everett
Anson C. Smith
Joseph R. Squire
Ezra Sheldon
Thomas T. Kennedy
Hiram Niell
Edward Smith
Freeman D. James
Elias C. McCrorey
Daniel H. Robinson
Tolak Oleson.
John Arnold
Joseph Hepp
Joseph Katthoff
Anthony Leland
Frederick Schmidt
Richard Britton
Jacob Banlig
Andrew Baker
Charles Baker
Benjamin Bevins
Thomas Carr
Thomas Hope
George E. Hanson
Albert Savage
Nelson Moriset
Ernest Pfefferle
Mathias Schabert
Horace K. Blake

At the present time agriculture is practically the only occupation carried on in the township. There are several fine schools, and the township is noted for the teachers and professional men who have received their boyhood education within its borders. The town has a Methodist church and a neat town hall, well suited for public gatherings. On Trout brook, in the northeastern part of the town large mills were once erected for the purposes of a tannery and sugar mill and were owned by J. E. Porter, but are now demolished. There was once a post office, Burley, in this 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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