Goodhue County, Minnesota


 ~ Leon Township ~

Leon constitutes Government Township 11, range 17, and is bounded on the north by Cannon Falls, on the east by. Belle Creek, on the south by Wanamingo and on the west by Warsaw. It is drained by branches of the Little Cannon in the northwestern portion, these streams causing the land to be somewhat broken in that locality. In the valleys there is a light growth of timber. The eastern part of the township is drained by the waters of Belle creek. The soil is rich and causes Leon to be one of the most desirable farming sections of the county. The people are educated and progressive, being for the most part Americans of Norwegian and Swedish descent, although a few of the sturdy old pioneers of Norwegian and Swedish birth still remain to tell the story of their early struggles to their children. Of Leon it has been truthfully said: "Its cultivated fields, possessing a soil of marvelous fertility, its broad acres of arable land, its timber and water, beautiful residences, barns and granaries, flocks and herds, and finally the health and general prosperity of its inhabitants, are the living evidences of a section of country rich in natural resources and abounding in happy homes."

The first settler, Haldro Johnson, a Norwegian, came here from Dane county, Wisconsin, in the fall of 1854. He made a claim on section 20, built a rude cabin and spent the winter there. The following spring he went back to Wisconsin, and married, bringing his bride with him to the new country, where they were to establish their rooftree and live in happiness. In the summer of 1855 came the following Scandinavians and their families:

A. J. Malande, Andrew Larson, Gutrom Pederson, Ole Pederson, J. Wamberg, John Bottolfson, M. Edstrom. C. A. Haggstrom, William Olson and Rognold Johnson. They at once staked out claims and broke the land, most of which still remains in the possession of the families of the original claimants. In 1856 came Albert, Calvin, Samuel, David and Horace McGaughey, F. F. Dimmick, James Cox, Seth Davis. Charles A. Johnson, William Greaves and Ellery Stone with his sons. The eastern people who settled in the central and southeastern part of this township in the early days did not as a rule remain long, and consequently few of their names have been handed down to posterity in this county, although several attained prominence in the localities where they afterward settled.

Frank Johnson, born May 8, 1856, and died September 7 the same year, was the first white child born and the first person to die in the township. The first school was taught in 1857 by Daniel Van Amberg, in a log schoolhouse near where William Olson afterward took up his residence.

Among the early settlers came H. Ferrell, who laid claim to a section of land and surveyed and laid out town lots, naming the place Wastedo. His dreams of a future great city were not realized, and a larger part of the village plat is now devoted in farms. In 1857 E. A. Sargent built a store and stocked it with general merchandise, and the next year Martin Thompson built another store. Blacksmith shops were opened in 1857 and 1865. In more recent years the store of M. T. Opsal at this point became the trading center of the town. The post office at Wastedo was discontinued some years ago and Cannon Falls R. F. D. No. 1 was substituted.

Of Leon, thirty years ago, it was written: "The township is now inhabited almost exclusively by a steady, industrious class of people, natives of Norway and Sweden, and their descendants, the Norwegians residing principally in the southwestern portion of the township, and the Swedes in the northeastern. They are all, or nearly all citizens of the United States, and as their interests are thoroughly identified with the land of their adoption, they take a deep interest in the political and social welfare of the country. Many of them are men of wide education and ability, some of them having represented their districts in one or both branches of the state legislature, while others have filled local positions of trust and honor." This is no less true today. To the Civil War Leon contributed the following soldiers: 

George Brockman
Charles Berdan
A. J. Bailey
W. D. Bryant
Ephraim A. Bard
Harry Bristol
John Banks
Lewis Butterson
David E. Burden
Edwin Cox
Almeran Davis
Peter Froyd
H. M. McGaughey
Eward G. Bailey
Elec Albertson
Christian Ludwigson
Morris Harrison
John Ehrichson
Knute Oleson
Ellery Stone
Andrew McCausland
William H. Druping
Andrew Ericson
B. F. S. Ives
C. H. Bullock
Charles H. Bond
George H. Cross
Norman Daniels
Sidney Deming
William H. Ganis
William L. Kenyon
Andrew Morrison
John Stanton
A. H. Van Voorhies
Lyman Waldon
George Wells
Peter A. Holm
John Johnson
Yors Larson
Fred Miller
James Swerger
Oscar L. Stranahan
H. M. Stranahan
Matthew Sidmore
Newell J. Sumner
F. H. Shaw
James G. Wiley
Fenn Iswell
Joseph E. Smith
Charles Barcow
Henry Fane
Peter Mewrer
Fred Mohrmann
Xavier Demarra
William Zime
Ole Loe
Smith Martenas
Thor Oleson
Thomas Cramwill
James Conroy
A. P. Oliver
L. G. Price
D. Van Amberg

July 5, 1858, the first township election was held in the store of E. A. Sargent. Mr. Sargent was clerk of election and A. E. McGaughey was the forwarding clerk. Fifty votes were polled: From that time until 1879 the officers were as follows, the first named of the supervisors under each year being the chairman:


1859, Ellery Stone, George Seassons, William Olson
1860, S. N. McGaughey. John Ingebrightsen, J. Vanderberg
1861, Alexander Merritt, A. Larson, J. K. Stranahan
1862, Alexander Merritt, John Ingebrightsen, Seth Davis
1863, James McGinnis, A. Larson, F. I. Collins;
1864, Alexander Merritt, S. Anderson, A. Larson;
1865, Alexander Merritt, K. J. Onstad, Fred Miller;
1866. Thomas Balfour. John Ingebrightsen, John B. Lee;
1867, E. D. Stone. John Ingebrightsen, Fred Miller;
1868, F. F. Dimmick, John B. Lee. Charles Holm;
1869, William Greaves, E. D. Stone, S. Anderson;
1870, S. Anderson, F. I. Johnson. E. D. Stone;
1871, E. D. Stone. Charles Anderson, John B. Lee;
1872, E. D. Stone, James B. Lee, Charles Anderson;
1873-1877, E. D. Stone, Charles Anderson, T. S. Medje,
1877, Thomas Balfour, John Haggstrom, Charles Edstrom;
1878, John Haggstrom, Nils Skog, Knut K. Hougo. Clerks,
1858, George F. Sargent; 1859-61, E. G. Bailey;
1861-63, E. A. Sargent; 1863-65, D. Van Amberg;
1865, E. A. Sargent; 1866-68, E. G. Bailey;
1868, Thomas Balfour; 1869-73, M. T. Opsal ;
1873, John Edstrom.


F. F. Dimmiek
Fred Miller
John Surratt
F. F. Dimmick
Ed. L. Otterness
D. Van Amberg
Nere Holgeson
S. Anderson
C. J. Wing
Mons S. Frevig


E. D. Stone
O. L. Stranahan
B. F. Davis
John Lagerstrom
H. P. Davis
A B. Crow
John Lagerstrom
A. Olson
H. M. Stranahan
B. P. Davis
Jonathan Poe
J. A. Holm
H. M. Stranahan
O. S. Urevig
John A. Holm
D. E. Berdan
O. S. Urevig
John Lewis
O. S. Urevig
P. J. Peterson
Ed. Berdan
K. K. Hougo
J. Helm

Justices of the Peace

D. C. Stranalian
S. N. McGaughey
James McGinnis
M. Bryant
J. K. Stranahan
Ira Babcock
E. A. Sargent
Fred Miller
John Miller
M. Bryant
A. A. Flom
John Miller


William Olson
E. Stone
William Olson
Ed. L. Otterness
M. T. Opsal

E. D. Stone, 1869-60

The oldest church in the township is the Spring Garden Swedish Evangelical Lutheran church. The Urland congregation of the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran church was organized in the winter of 1871.

In 1859 the Rev. Mr. Barnes organized a Presbyterian church, and during the following year the Methodist people perfected an organization, but both of these attempts expired, owing to lack of support.

George Wright Matchan, deceased, will long be remembered for his sterling worth and noble Christian character. One of a family of fourteen children, he was born at Hilton, Yorkshire, England, August 8, 1830, in the house where his parents settled at their marriage, and where both died, after a continuous residence of more than sixty years of happy life. Here was spent his boyhood and early manhood, and in April 1850, he married Mary Ann Shields, daughter of William and Frances (Miller) Shields, also born at his native place, April, 1858, the family consisting of Mr. and Mrs. Matchan and three young sons, George, Robert and William, emigrated to Canada, taking passage in a sailing vessel of the type of that day. After a stormy, trying voyage of forty-nine days at sea, they landed at Quebec, from whence they went to Farmersville, Ontario, subsequently settling on a farm near the village of Green Bush, about twelve miles westerly from Brockville, on the St. Lawrence. Here were born to them two children, Almira and Edward. April, 1864, the family immigrated to the United States, living for a few months at Waukesha, Wis. During the summer of 1864 Mr. Matchan, leaving his family at Waukesha to follow later, started for Minnesota in quest of a home, and in the fall of that year rented the farm of James Scofield, in the town of Roscoe, where his family joined him, remaining until the spring of 1866, and where was born to them another daughter, Laura. The summer and winter of 1866-7, they lived on the farm of T. D. Rowell, east of the village of Zumbrota, moving thence to the farm lying south westerly from Zumbrota village, in the town of Roscoe, which Mr. Matchan had purchased in the fall of 1865 of Josiah Thompson, then living at Zumbrota. This farm consisted of 160 acres, for which he agreed to pay $800, paying $100 cash and $100 per annum, with interest at ten per cent. Here were born to them another daughter, Annie, and a son, Wesley.

Many were the trials and great the discouragements encountered before the final victory over debt and necessary farm betterments, but the good old farm yielded not only a comfortable living for the family during all the years of its subjugation and improvement, but in response to good cultivation made possible the purchase of an additional eighty acres adjoining, at a much greater price per acre than its own first cost, and the building of a hue home in the village of Zumbrota, at a cost, including the lands, of over $5,000, to which the family, then consisting of himself, wife, Annie and Wesley, removed, remaining until the fall of 1906, when, because of declining years and health, he sold with the idea of purchasing a home of less size, where he and the wife and mother might pass the last years of their lifetime with the least care and responsibility. In this respect, however, his calculations were defeated. He died at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Laura Secore, Red Wing, February, 1907. At the village home above mentioned, April, 1900. Mr. and Mrs. Matchan celebrated the fiftieth (golden) anniversary of their wedding, at which were in attendance all of their eight children, the wives of those married, all their grandchildren and most of their nephews and nieces, numbering in all fifty-five persons. Mr. Matchan from his early boyhood was identified with the Methodist church, being one of the few original organizers of the First Methodist Episcopal church at Zumbrota, with which he was identified as member, and in one and another official capacity, until the time of his death. Mr. Matchan was a man of positive character and intense conviction, clinging at all cost to the right, frowning publicly and privately upon that he considered wrong. His word once given was sacred, and no inconvenience or sacrifice was too great for him to suffer that he might fulfill the simplest promise. Heg left surviving him five sons and three daughters, and his wife. Mary Ann.

The oldest son, George L., is a prominent attorney residing at the city of Minneapolis. The second son, Robert D. a well-known physician and surgeon, also resident of Minneapolis, where for two decades he has continuously occupied the chair of surgery in the homeopathic department of the medical school of the State University of Minnesota. The third son, William, resides at Milton, N. D., where he is engaged in the lumber and grain business. A daughter, Almira Osborne, resides at Payette, Idaho. Edward M. resides on the old home farm in Roscoe, where he is making good both as a farmer and citizen. Laura, wife of J. A. Secore, resides at the city of Anoka, where her husband occupied the important position of superintendent of the department of manual training in the public schools of that city. Annie, wife of Rupert Staiger, resides at Zumbrota where they own their home and large grounds, which represent no inconsiderable increment indicative of their thrift and future prosperity. Wesley G., the youngest of the eight, was a graduate of the medical department of the State University, and for eight years and more until his death, occupied an envious position in his chosen profession in the city of Bismarck, capital of our sister state of North Dakota, where he died July 21, 1909, cut off before reaching the prime of his manhood, for he was less than thirty-three years of age at the time of his death. He had nevertheless, by persistent effort and consistent living, attained a standing in his profession and in business and social circles of his home city, not often reached by men of mature years, and because of his manly character and genial kindly nature, his death was mourned by the entire community, men, women and children, representing all walks in life, pausing at his bier for that last look of homage to the memory of their dead friend. The wife, mother, widow, now seventy-five years of age, residing at the old, new, village, Zumbrota, sad because of the loss of her loved ones, yet contentedly happy in the reflection of their victories and in the possession of the respect, affection and love of all her living offspring, relatives and friends, which are legion. She still works while waiting, firmly secure in the knowledge, resulting from a life of practiced Christian faith and works, that the future holds for her only good, gleaning in her declining years the honey of the flower of a life well spent, basking in the sunshine of the hope of the meeting in that great beyond, where awaits for such as she, life eternal, and the "well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy lord."

The homely, trustful, energetic, faithful life work of these two old Goodhue County pioneers will shine forth in the pages of this history of the achievements of those who made Goodhue County what she is, in the galaxy of stars which make up the great state of Minnesota, as a guide for others here and to come, to whom is left the completion of a great work so inauspiciously begun.

  Goodhue County |Minnesota AHGP 

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


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