Goodhue County, Minnesota

 

Hamlet of Red Wing

The origin of Red Wing as a village is shrouded in obscurity. It is certain that as early as 1806 Lieutenant Z. Pike found here a village, with a Red Wing as chief. Of this chief little is known, and the fact probably is that Red Wing (or Hhoo-pa-hoo-doo-ta, the Wing of Scarlet) was a title applied to successive chiefs of the tribe. The Indian name for their village was Hem-mennecha, meaning the place of hill, wood and water, surely an appropriate location for the winter quarters of a large band of Indians. The sign of the tribe was a staff, from which were pendant many bright colored feathers, with a wing dyed in blood at the top. This staff was borne in battle by the chief.

The modern history of the village begins ill 1837, when there arrived here two Swiss missionaries, sent out by the Evangelical Society of Lausanne, Switzerland. To these devout souls, Samuel Denton and Daniel Gavin, sufficient credit has never been given. They were the ones who really planted the standard of civilization here, and infused their personality among the Indians, so that those who came after had only to move into their houses and take up the broken threads of their work. For many years these missionaries labored faithfully and well, building two substantial log houses and teaching the Indians the tenets of religion and the customs of civilization. In 1846, owing to ill health, their effort was abandoned. In the fall of 1848, Rev. John Aiton, sent out by the American Board of Christian Missions, arrived in the village, took up his residence in the mission houses built by Denton and Gavin, and continued their work. These houses stood near what is now Bush Street, about one-third of the distance from Third to Main Street. In June, 1849, came Rev. J. W. Hancock, sent out by the same board to co-operate with Mr. Aiton in Christian endeavor.

Of his arrival here as a missionary, the Rev. Hancock wrote: 'While we were still somewhere in Lake Pepin, there was pointed out to us the top of Barn Bluff, which we were told was the place where we were to land. Peculiar sensations were felt by us at the sight of that bold bluff standing in the middle of that great valley through which our steamer was plowing its way. But there was not much time to indulge in sentiment. It was incumbent upon us to gather up our loose and scattered belongings that we might be ready for debarkation. We kepi as cheerful as possible while making preparations and saying good bye to our companions in travel. The bell rani; to announce that the boat would soon make a short stop. As it began to draw near the shore strange faces began to appear. Nearly the whole village came down to the Landing place to give us a welcome. Some were fantastically dressed and ornamented with feathers and paint, while others were almost destitute of clothing. Two pale faces appeared among the motley crowd, our former friends. Rev. J. P. Aiton and John Push. The boat hands made short work in dumping out our luggage upon the beach. Put when the turn came for the Livestock, especially the horse and cow, there was labor. Both these animals strongly objected to going ashore. The admiring crowd of men, women and children had no attraction for them. No coaxing could prevail. Human strength and skill finally accomplished the work. The only road up the river bank seemed a soil of gully through a thicket of bushes. The mission premises consisted of two substantial log buildings a few rods in the rear of the native houses. The latter were built of poles covered with bark and stood along the river bank near what is now Main Street, between Push and Potter streets. The mission houses were near the junction of Bush and Third streets. Narrow paths were crossing each other in various directions among the hazel hushes. There was a ravine just hack of the mission houses in which many springs of cool water gushed forth, forming a small creek, afterwards called the Jordan. The mouth of this creek was then the safest harbor for canoes. Beyond the creek, on rising ground extending some sixty rods east and west, were the Indian corn-fields. Bach family had a separate patch of corn, the whole being fenced around by stakes and willows. Ponies and dogs being the only animals kept in the village at that time, no domestic fences were needed.

There was a fine meadow of wild grass between Sorin and Barn bluffs. "We were obliged to keep our horse and cow tethered or confined in a rude stable. The poor cow seemed to suffer much before being reconciled to the new home. Once she got away and swam the river in her fright. We soon found her on the island opposite the village, and with the aid of a canoe brought her home. Some time passed before she could understand, seemingly, that the evil one did not wear a blanket. Some privations were suffered by being cut off from the rest of the world. Our nearest post office was twenty-five miles up the river. From thence we received our mail by going or sending for it by canoe. Many weeks often elapsed without news from the outside world. However, there were some things to balance the disagreeable. Plenty of work studying a new Language, trying to teach the children, and talking with the older people. The assessor did not trouble us. For about five years we had no special taxes to pay. For the use of a garden spot we paid the natives in vegetables."

Soon after Mr. Hancock's arrival an Indian school was started, and Mr. Hancock set about learning the Sioux language. He even compiled a dictionary in the Sioux Language. When the novelty of the school wore off, the interest among the red children waned most perceptibly and the school seems somehow to have fallen into disfavor among the Indians. Mr. Aiton and Mr. Hancock seem to have had different ideas as to the management of the school, and in 1850 the latter went to Long Prairie, some 150 miles northeast from St. Paul. Mr. Hancock remained in charge at Red Wing and became a permanent resident of the city. Preceding the Messrs. Aiton and Hancock, but at a date not positively known, came John Bush, who was one of the men sent under the provisions of one of the Indian treaties to teach the red men farming. The two missionaries found him here and learned to highly value his friendship and aid as well as his understanding of Indian character.

In the autumn of 1850 a man named Snow, having secured from the United States government a license to trade with the Indians, built a trading house of logs near the river, using the upper part for a residence, while in the lower part he kept his Indian goods for sale.

Calvin Potter came in 1851 and entered into partnership with Mr. Snow. A short time afterward. Snow died of cholera while on a trip to St. Paul, and Mr. Potter succeeded to the management of the business, continuing until the Indians sold their lands to the whites by treaty.

It was this same year (1851) that a post office was established here through the friendly agency of Hon. II. H. Sibley, the Minnesota delegate in congress. J. W. Hancock was appointed postmaster. He was under the necessity of performing a journey to St. Paul to be qualified and execute the required bond at an expense of over five dollars. His pay for the next two years hardly covered that expense, but the office was a great convenience. Up to that time the nearest post office was twenty-five miles away. The mail was carried in those days to and from St. Paul easterly, by steamboats in the summer and by a one-horse train in the winter. The few people here usually expected a mail as often as every week, but it was sometimes delayed three weeks on account of storms or floating ice in the river. In the spring of 1852 the one-horse mail train was by accident totally wrecked in crossing Spring creek, three miles west of Red Wing. The mail bags, some five or six in number, were left several hours in the water. After being fished out they were brought to the Red Wing post office and a whole day was spent in opening and drying the contents.

In 1851 also occurred the first death. In the words of the Rev. J. H. Hancock: "The first white person known to have been buried within the limits of this county was the dear wife who accompanied me hither from our eastern home and shared in the labors and privations of the situation for the first two years. She was a daughter of New England and of Puritan stock. We were joined in marriage at her father's house in Worcester County, Massachusetts, in 1846. In the latter part of the year 1848 we received the appointment to go and labor among the Dakotas west of the Mississippi river. For several reasons we did not start for the west until the following spring.

The health of my wife seemed greatly improved for a time after our arrival at Red Wing's village. She entered upon the task of acquiring a knowledge of the Dakota language with great zeal. She attracted the attention of the Indian children, taught the girls knitting and sewing and soon had three of them washed and dressed like white folks, living in the family with us. But I think she labored beyond what her strength could endure. In the autumn of 1850 her health began to decline and she died March 21, 1851. At her own request she was buried on Indian ground at the foot of the towering bluff. When a more advanced civilization came to found a city on the site of this Indian village and the ground was wanted for business blocks, a city for the dead was platted on the summit of the southern bluff overlooking the place, and to this cemetery her remains were removed. A marble slab at Oakwood cemetery now marks the last resting place of this devoted woman."

Early in the spring of 1852, John Day came over from Diamond Bluff. Wisconsin, and made a claim in the upper part of the town. Benjamin Young, a French half-breed, also settled here at about this time, and Day, Young, Bush and Potter staked out claims on the land now occupied by the city, in anticipation of the Indian treaty which was then being discussed and anticipated.

About the middle of May in this year came those two sturdy pioneers, William Freeborn and Dr. W. W. Sweney. Later in the season Dr. Sweney brought his family here, as did also James McGuinness, and later E. C. Stevens. The story of Dr. Sweney's coming is told in his own words in the general history of the county which appears in this volume. To Dr. Sweney and his brother-in-law, William Freeborn, belong the honor of selecting the place as a village site. The former purchased the claim right of Bush and Potter and the latter that of Young, which adjoined the Bush and Potter claim on the west or upper side.

All these events occurred before the Indians had received word that the treaty had been ratified, and when as a matter of fact, the whites had no real rights here, though Dr. Sweney, the "medicine man," was a most welcome settler, and the others, for one reason or another, as the case might be, were tolerated.

In this year came the real influx of population. A raft of lumber from the saw mills at Stillwater was floated down and taken out of the river for building purposes and two young men were employed as carpenters during the winter of 1852-53. They were Hiram and Joseph Middaugh. They prepared the timber and finishing wood for a hotel, which was erected and made ready for the reception of guests as soon as the weather would permit in the spring. That hotel was the first frame building erected here. It stood on the corner of Main and Bush streets and was kept open for the accommodation of travelers for about two years by Andrus Durand. While Mr. Durand was the landlord it was the Red House, afterward it was called the Tee-pee-tonka, or "big house," and was kept by Jacob Bennett until destroyed by fire in 1865.

In the words of Mr. Hancock: 'Troops of claim hunters came in this season (1852) and many and amusing were the strifes about who should hold this or that favored claim in the surrounding county. At that time there had been no United States survey and each man was permitted to mark off his 160 acres. It was astonishing to see how long some men could pace.

Then, everyone had a host of friends coming after, for each of whom he must have a claim selected, and in duty bound must see that their rights were protected. All this made business lively in our embryo city. Arbitrations and appeals to the court of Justice Lynch were everyday occurrences. A slight skirmish was not infrequent, but to the honor of the first settlers of Red Wing, no lives were lost and none to our knowledge were seriously injured. Very few of the first claim hunters remained as permanent residents. They had come too soon. It was dull business to wait until the land could be surveyed and brought into market, boarding one's self in a log cabin eight or ten feet square, without any floor or window. Nobody thought of raising wheat at that time. Our flour, pork and butter all came from down the river."

At the opening of navigation in the spring of 1853, the prospects of the future city were brightened. The arrival of the first boat was looked for with great expectations, and these expectations were to a measure realized. It brought needed supplies of provisions. It also brought some friends, who had come to remain as permanent settlers. In fact, all that season and for several years following, the landing of the steamer at this port was hailed with delight. It was not an uncommon sight to see the larger part of the population hastening toward the river when a steamer was heard approaching. Among those who came to make the place their home this year were the following: William Freeborn, who having built the first frame dwelling in the city moved his family here; Isaac Lauver, James Akers, Reys, Mathew Sorin, Norris Hobart and Rezin Spates. These all brought their families. Several other families came later in the season, among whom were W. D. Chilson, Warren Hunt and T. J. Smith. The young men who were here as residents without families were Nels Nelson (known as Dr. Sweney's Nels). Mathias Petersen (Ringdahl), the Middaugh brothers, Hugh Adams, S. A. Hart, E. P. Lowater and David Puckett. Several built for themselves houses this year. Besides Mr. Freeborn's, already mentioned. William Lamer. James Akers, Mathew Sorin, Norris Hobart and Warren Hunt had each of them a frame dwelling house completed during the autumn of 1853. The remainder of the population occupied shanties or log cabins except the boarders at the hotel.

In August of this year the first company of Scandinavians who colonized the town of Vasa landed here. These were the pioneers of practical farming in this county: S. J. Willard, Hans Mattson, Peter Green, Charles Roos and A. G. Kempe. These men were so often seen in Rid Wing for several months after their coming they were generally considered citizens, but they were the real founders of Vasa Township.

It was in this year also that the village was surveyed and platted by J. J. Knauer for the proprietors, who were the following: William Freeborn, Benjamin F. Hoyt, Charles L. Willis and Alexander Ramsey.

The great event of the year, which did most towards transforming the old village into the new, was the first great conflagration. By this the style of architecture was wholly changed.

It must be remembered that at this time the Indians had sold their land by treaty and had agreed to move to a reservation. However they still maintained their tepees here. The great fire occurred near the time when the Indians were accustomed to return from their winter hunting grounds to occupy the summer tepees and be ready to plant corn, which usually was early in May. The day was serene and cloudless; carpenters were engaged on the new houses that were being constructed. Between 12 and 1 o'clock the cry of fire was heard while nearly all the people were eating dinner. Leaving their tables immediately, they saw smoke rising from the bark wigwams, which was quickly followed by flames bursting from the roof of every structure of the kind. Nobody seemed to know what to do. All stood looking as if paralyzed with amazement. In less than an hour all the bark covered houses in the place disappeared. This evidently was the work of incendiaries, but they were not discovered.

There was no policeman and no magistrate to bring them to justice. The few log houses then occupied by the white settlers escaped the conflagration, as did the new frame buildings. Only a few days after some of the natives returned, looking somewhat disappointed at the change, but took it all as a matter of course and fixed their habitations temporarily at other points in the vicinity.

W. B. Hancock, who arrived in Red Wing in October 1853, thus describes the city at that time, after speaking of the rather starting appearance of the Indians: "The whole town-site was covered with bushes some ten or twelve feet high. The hotel on the corner of Main and Bush streets was nearly finished and occupied by Mr. Durand. William Freeborn had a fairly large frame house. H. L. Bevans had some goods in a board shanty on Main Street. Warren Hunt had a small house. That is all the buildings on Main Street that I can think of, William Lauver, Squire Akers, and a man by the name of Smith, had small frame houses on the other side of Jordan, as it was then called. John Day lived on his claim all the time. I do not think the city extended that far. His shanty stood on the bank of the bay where the Red Wing Stoneware Company now has its works. Rev. Sorin had a frame house. Calvin Potter had a hewed log house with a store in the same building. The same was afterward used, with a new front built on for a hotel called the Metropolitan, burned many years ago. There were some mission houses, which stood on Bush Street (what would now be about the middle of the street, a little to the south of mid-way between Main and Third streets). H. L. Bevans lived in one. A. W. Hancock, the other. The latter was two stories and double, one end being used as a school and meeting house. Dr. AV. W. Sweney lived in a log house near the river hank. A man by the name of Hoyt had a log house somewhat further back. Mr. Chilson, who afterward built the Chilson House, was here. Jim McGuires moved into the school house and lived in it that winter. The family of Rezin Spates lived out on Spring creek. The house stood where the poor farm now is. These are all the married families I can recollect, but there were several bachelors' establishments in and around Red Wing at that time."

Some farming was done this year. Wheat, oats, corn, potatoes and rutabagas were grown within the limits of the present city. Probably the first wheat raised in Minnesota south of the Minnesota River was raised here at that time. A notable event was the first Christmas dinner (1853), when the town proprietor, William Freeborn, invited the entire population to a Christmas dinner at his home. With one or two exceptions, all accepted, making an event at which practically the entire population of Red Wing was present.

An incident of this year is related as follows: A number of Indian families were encamped in the vicinity of Red Wing, a few miles up the river, on the Minnesota side. A man named Hawley had a shanty on the Wisconsin side, just above the site of the present village of Trenton. Some trouble occurred between Hawley and Ta-sha-ta (Deer Hoof), in which the Indian received a fatal stab with a knife. Word was brought to the few settlers at Red Wing that Hawley had killed an Indian and the settlers were seriously alarmed, for it had been the boast of Red Wing's people that none of that band had ever killed a white man and it was naturally expected that they might now seek retaliation in vengeance on the whites. Some of the settlers went up to the Indian encampment and assured the Indians that Hawley should be punished as he deserved, and they were satisfied, manifesting no desire to wreak vengeance on the innocent settlers. Hawley fled from his shanty and was never afterwards seen in the country. A report subsequently came back that he had been shot and killed by an Iowa sheriff.

The little community at Red Wing spent the winter of 1853 in peace and safety. Religious services were held each afternoon Sabbath in the school room of the old Mission house. Hiram Middaugh was leader of the choir and also teacher of singing. Debates and social parties were held occasionally. As soon as the ice on the river became strong enough to bear up teams, travelers began to pass up and down the river, frequently tarrying for the night in this little village. In the fall of this year, Dr. W. W. Sweney was appointed postmaster.

The spring of 1854 opened early. That year the steamer D. Hillman passed through the lake, April 5, 1854, on its way to St. Paul. Early this spring came a number of new settlers. Hon. W. H. Welch, then chief justice of the territory of Minnesota, visited the place and decided to make his home here. Among others who came to stay were W. W. DeKay, P. Sandford, W. H. Wellington, C. J. F. Smith, William Colvill, Jr., P. S. Fish and S. J. Hasler. A large number of private houses were erected. The American House (at first Mrs. Allen's boarding house) was opened, and J. C. Weatherby's dry goods and grocery store, E. P. Lowater's shoe store and Hoyt & Smith's warehouse all commenced business. Wheat raised this year was found to be of a most superior quality, and the marketing and shipping of this cereal gave Red Wing its first start as a business point.

A few years after, and before any railroads had found their way into this territory. Red Wing was claimed to be the greatest primary wheat market in the world.

Red Wing this year was made the county seat of the new county of Goodhue. A full complement of county officers were appointed by the territorial governor, nearly all being citizens of Red Wing. The burdens of office, however, were easily borne. Philander Sanford, the first lawyer in Red Wing, built an office on Main Street, where practically all the public business of the county was transacted.

One thing that gave the place some reputation abroad at the early beginning was the probability that it would soon be the seat of an institution of learning of a high order. It was known that the Methodist Episcopal church was about to establish a university somewhere in the northwest and that Red Wing had been selected as the proper place for it. The hopes of the people in regard to such an enterprise began to be realized toward the end of the year 1854, when Prof. Jabez Brooks, on November 16, opened a school in the hall over Smith, Hoyt & Co.'s store. This school was called the preparatory department of Hamline University.

The prevalence of cholera on the river during the summer of this year had retarded the growth of the town somewhat. Persons were frequently landed here from boats who were infected with the disease, and though cared for as tenderly and patiently as possible, many of them died. It was remarkable that the pestilence did not spread among the residents.

The Indians had been formally removed by the government in the fall of 1853, to their reservations, but many stragglers came back again and encamped near the place during the following season. Considering that this was the home as well as the burial place of their ancestors, this is not surprising. No danger was apprehended by those acquainted with the ways of the Reds, but some of the new comers had their fears. It would have been very easy for the Indians to have taken the place by surprise and murdered all the inhabitants in a single night had they been so disposed. The distance between Red Wing and their new home was not great. Very few white settlements then intervened. The Indians were fully acquainted with the country, but greatly dissatisfied with the change that they had been compelled to make. But their patience was not quite exhausted and the settlers were not molested. One man was badly scared, however. Awakened suddenly in the night by a hideous noise, he thought the Indians had certainly come and that the work of death was going on at his neighbors' houses. Believing that all was lost, he resolved nevertheless to sell his life as dearly as possible. Snatching his revolver, which was ready loaded, he bounded into the street in his night dress, and, rushing to a clump of bushes which stood between his house and the others, he awaited the attack, hoping to kill at least three or four Indians before they should kill him. An interval occurred in the noise, revealing the sound of familiar voices among those who were imitating the savage war whoop, and he was convinced of his mistake. It was only a party of boys paying their respects to a newly married couple.

The winter of 1854-55 was very mild for this latitude, and the usual intellectual and social enjoyments of the season were passed with all the pleasures incident to such scenes. But though mild and pleasant, it seemed to extend unusually long into the spring. The first boat from below was never waited for more anxiously than at that time. With a large majority of the inhabitants it had been the first winter of their experience in Minnesota. Along in the spring the winter supply of meat, flour, vegetables and fruit began to fall short. There was money enough, but for a month or so pork and flour could not be had in Red Wing for money. The ice in the river was too weak for traveling. No one was in actual danger of starvation, fish were plentiful, and as the ice began to melt in places, wild ducks came to the rescue, yet the settlers craved a change of meat and more bread. The proprietor of the Red Wing House had his difficulties in supplying his guests. With a flour pail in his hand he was frequently seen calling on some private family to borrow a few pounds of stuff to make bread of, promising to return it in full when the first boat should arrive. The puffing steamboat came at last and landed a stock of groceries and provisions for the firm of Jackson and Enz, a firm which had just opened a store on Bush Street. Among the goods landed at this arrival were eleven barrels of flour and a large hogshead filled with smoked hams and shoulders. These articles found so ready a sale that, although they did not arrive until Friday evening, they were all sold out before Monday. Under the circumstances, the firm prudently limited each family to a certain portion. Thus all were, for the time, supplied. Settlers living on claims far from town came in as soon as they heard of the arrival of a boat. Other boats came in a few days, bringing needed supplies for other firms, and plenty now reigned among those who had the money with which to buy.

The United States land office for the Red Wing land district was opened here about the beginning of, the year 1855; W. W. Phelps, register, and Christopher Graham, receiver. They first occupied the office of P. Sanford and were kept busy in filing the declaration of intention of pre-emptors and "proving up" until the time of the first public sale. The same year, sometime in the summer, the Red Wing "Sentinel," the first weekly newspaper, made its appearance. It was a very creditable appearing sheet, published by Merritt & Hutchins. The printing was done in a building on Main Street which was used as a carpenters' shop and a house of worship, being afterward remodeled into a private residence. This was the year of the first liquor agitation in the village.

To quote from a previous history: "The most remarkable event of this year was the advent of whiskey. The town proprietors and nearly all the early settlers were professedly temperance men. Liquor selling was to be forever prohibited. But, at a time least suspected, the evil made its appearance. A building, afterward occupied by the "Argus" on Bush Street, had been erected by Jared Boughton, and was rented to a dry goods merchant named Parish. This store began to be a place of frequent resort by those who loved to talk. After a while it was told to one of the unsuspecting citizens that this dry goods merchant kept 'hardware' in his cellar. More than two years had passed since the town was begun and no intoxicating liquors had been kept for sale here openly. How the whiskey ever got in the cellar of that dry goods store was a mystery. It was soon evident that it was there. Men were seen coming from that store with unsteady step and flushed visages. A public meeting was called. Men of every profession and trade met together to express their indignation. Long speeches were uttered, and politicians joined their voices against the illegal sale. A committee of five was appointed to wait on the merchant who had the hardware in his cellar and inform him that the sale of the stuff could not be allowed. The committee visited the offender, going in a body to the store, stating the object of their visit and the authority under which they acted. The man winced somewhat under the influence of popular feeling thus boldly expressed, denied the charge of selling it, but admitted that men could go to his place and get as much as they wanted. This man soon after closed his business and left the place."

The first sale of public lands occurred at the United States land office in Red Wing, beginning August 29, 1855. W. LeDuc, of Hastings, was the auctioneer. The notice of this sale had been previously given in the newspapers and many strangers were in the village at the appointed time. The settlers had formed a claim association in this immediate vicinity for the purpose of protecting themselves from land sharks and speculators. David Hancock was president; P. Sandford, secretary, and Rezin Spates, assistant secretary of this association. Royal Lovell was appointed to represent the settlers at this sale. He stood close by the auctioneer and bid in all the lands that they respectively had claimed. Mr. Lovell held a description of every claimant's land, ready to bid the moment the numbers were called by the government agent. The settlers stood by, ready to back him if the occasion required. Though a large number of speculators were present ready to take advantage of such opportunities as offered for picking choice tracts, they dared not bid against the settlers after being informed of the combination.

The first brick yard in the county was opened for the manufacture of brick in East Red Wing by George Wilkinson in the summer of 1855. He had taken the contract for the erection of Hamline University and came and commenced the manufacture of brick for that structure chiefly, however furnishing material for others also. Besides the university building there were two brick dwellings erected that same year. The university building was completed and dedicated early in January 1856. The preparatory department was immediately opened for students and a college class was soon afterward formed. Before the year closed two teachers, besides Professor Brooks, were added to the faculty. The institution soon obtained a wide reputation and students flocked hither from a distance to enjoy its advantages. The lectures given by the professors from time to time and the debates of the literary societies were often attended by citizens and contributed much to make the new home attractive to all.

A large immigration from other states and from Europe came to this place in 1856. Many new enterprises were begun. Merchants and mechanics flocked hither and buildings of various size and materials were constructed. The north side of Main Street, between Bush and Plum streets, was filled with business blocks, mostly of wood, the south side of the same street having but two or three vacancies. A boarding house was built by Mrs. Huldah Allen, who soon afterward became Mrs. Richard Freehorn. The first machinery for the manufacture of sash and blinds was put in operation this year by Hasler & Todd. They used a one-horse tread mill power. The land office did a flourishing business and called many strangers to this place during the three years it remained. Hotels and boarding houses multiplied and were well patronized. Barnes & Vanhouten opened a brick yard at the west end, and commenced the manufacture of that article, while Mr. Wilkinson's yard was still supplying brick, but not in sufficient quantities to meet the demand. The first sawmill here was put in operation by Pettibone & Knapp. It was afterwards conducted by Freeborn & Pettibone. Cogel & Blakely built a mill for the manufacture of sash, doors and blinds. The machinery for this mill was sunk in the Mississippi with the steamer Itasca while on its way hither. Other machinery was soon purchased and the mill put in operation before the close of the year. The following year the same firm commenced the manufacture of wheat flour, with one set of stone.

The prominent firms doing business here so early as 1856, besides those already mentioned, were: J. C. Weatherby, dry goods and groceries; McIntire & Sheldon, F. F. Philleo, Richter & Sherman, general merchants; Betcher & Brown, hardware; W. E. Hawkins and W. H. Wellington, painters; William Colvill, Murdock & Bristol, Charles McClure and E. T. Wilder, attorneys at law; Smith, Towne & Co., dealers in real estate. The last named firm consisted of Otis F. Smith, Thomas F. Towne and J. C. Pierce. There was a hall over a business block on the north side of Main Street, called Philleo hall, which was finished and devoted to the use of the public during the year 1856. This hall was for some time the place of holding conventions, public lectures, concerts, church festivals, etc., by the Presbyterians, Episcopalians and Baptists in succession, until each had built churches for themselves. The Methodists occupied the chapel of Hamline University for Sunday services until their church edifice was completed. The fourth day of July was duly celebrated for the first time in Red Wing in 1856. There was a grand procession following a band of musicians, three in number. First came the officers of the day, officers and reader; second, school children and teachers; last, citizens generally. This procession marched to a grove nearby, where the usual exercises, appropriate to the occasion, delivered, were listened to with attention. Hon. W. W. Phelps delivered the oration. Long tables had been prepared by the ladies, loaded with the best eatables the times could furnish, and a free dinner was partaken of by all present.

The Presbyterians commenced building a brick church this year. The outer walls were finished and the roof completed when the winter set in. The interior was finished, furnished with a bell and dedicated the following summer. This pioneer church still remains on the corner of Sixth Street and East Avenue and serves the purpose of its founders.

The spring of 1857 was backward in its approaches, but it brought a larger number of new citizens to the town and county than during any previous year. The work of building new houses and stores was pushed with vigor through most of this season. The financial crisis which prevailed throughout the country began to be felt in full measure here toward the close of 1857. The stringency in the money market did not check the growth of this new city entirely. A high rate of interest was allowed for the use of money, but the farmers were raising golden wheat. Large quantities of that product found a market here. Wheat buyers were in the street ready to meet teams as they entered, and prepared to pay cash for the loads. Wheat drawn by oxen from fifty and even 100 miles away was marketed here in the early days. This caused a demand for a repository for money, and the first bank in the county was opened here by Pascal Smith under the name of Smith. Meigs & Co. It was this year that, by an act of the territorial legislature, a charter was granted to the citizens of Red Wing for a city form of government. The first charter election was also held this year and resulted in the election of J. C. Weatherby as mayor and James Lawther, F. F. Hoyt and Charles Beers as councilmen. The same year another weekly newspaper commenced its publication, under the name the "Red Wing Republican." The first number was dated September 4. 1857, and Lucius F. Hubbard was editor and proprietor.

A convention had been held in St. Rani to frame a constitution for the new state in order to he admitted into the Union at the next session of congress. The work of that convention having just been completed, the full copy of that constitution was published in the initial number of the "Red Wing Republican."

The first regular convention of the Republican Party was held in Red Wing. September 1 of the same year. Until this time party politics had made very little show in the county. The paper which had been published every week since August. 1855, the "Sentinel," was a newspaper which served the wants and necessities of all the people, but it was well known that its editor was a Democrat in national politics. As a matter of course, when Minnesota should become a state the former party affiliations would become manifest. This first Republican convention was presided over by William Stanton as chairman, and H. L. Bevans acted as secretary. Hon. Charles McClure made the principal speech at the convention. A full ticket was nominated. The Democrats held a party convention also and nominated a strict party ticket. The latter ticket was sanctioned by a vote of the people with one exception. Since that time until the present the Republican Party has generally been victorious.

In 1857 came a great impetus to building activity. Previous to this year cut-stone used for door and window sills in brick structures had to be imported from St. Paul, and lime for plastering was imported from down the river. Phineas S. Fish made the first experiment of producing lime from the stone in Barn bluff this year. The article he produced was considered inferior and he did not continue the work.

One of the most important events of the early days of Red Wing was the burning of the Galena, July 3, 1858. Notwithstanding the dull times in reference to business matters throughout the country on account of the money panic, many new buildings were added to the city this year. The contract for building a court house and jail was let in June. The work on the foundation was soon after begun and pushed on until winter set in. A goodly number of professional men, mechanics and laborers were added to the permanent population. Immigration from the old country increased. Stages began to run in various directions, roads and bridges were constructed to accommodate travelers and visitors. After harvest, wheat began to pour in for sale, and wheat buyers multiplied. The custom of having free public lectures was inaugurated in the fall, and continued throughout the winter from November to April, about two lectures a month being given. These lectures were given for the most part by men who resided here. This custom prevailed up to the beginning of the Civil War and added much to the social and intellectual enjoyment of the people. Occasionally the lecture appointment was filled by someone outside the city. Among the latter were Bayard Taylor, J. G. Holland and Edward Eggleston.

June 16, 1859, was made memorable by the first graduating exercises of Hamline University. In connection with these exercises it might be mentioned that the first music teacher in Red Wing was Harriet Kellogg, now Mrs. Jesse M. Hodgman. She gave lessons on the piano in 1856 and for several years following was the only teacher in that line. The first teachers in singing were Hiram Middaugh, S. A. Hart, C. L. Davis and J. C. Hawes.

A project was set on foot here at an early date to improve the methods of communication with the country further west navigation of Cannon River. The plan was never consummated, though an act of incorporation was obtained from the legislature.

H. B. Wilson, in his recollections, says of the early stores in Red Wing: 'The early stores consisted of various sorts and varieties. Gambia & Smith were among the first. Their store was on the west side of Jordan, near the river, and occupied the present site of the C, M. & St. P. railroad station. It was above this store that the preparatory department of Hamline University was opened by the Rev. Jabez Brooks, November 16, 1854.

About the same time, M. B. Lewis and Charley Beers conducted a warehouse on Levee Street. J. C. Weatherby and H. L. Bevans had stores on Main Street. But the principal store in Red Wing in 1858 was kept by McIntire & Shelon. It stood on the east side of Bush Street, between Main and Levee streets, nearly opposite the St. James Hotel, the building having been long since destroyed by fire. In this store was purchased everything that the families of Red Wing ate or drank or wore. One could buy anything from a steamboat anchor to a mouse trap, and Mrs. C. J. P. Smith says she bought her wedding dress there. In this store were a number of clerks who afterward became prominent citizens. They were Thomas F. Towns (bookkeeper), Jesse Hodgman, Sidney Allen and T. B. McCord. McIntire & Sheldon conducted the store until about the beginning of the war, and then sold out to T. K. Simmons, who made a fortune out of the war rise in prices. The first book store in Red Wing was kept by E. P. Lowater in a story and a half building at the corner of Main and Bush streets, the site on which the St. James now stands. Mr. Lowater was at one time postmaster and the mail was distributed from his store.

  Goodhue County |Minnesota AHGP | Red Wing Directory, 1869

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

 

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