Goodhue County, Minnesota


 ~ Pine Island Village ~

When the first hardy pioneers penetrated the wilderness as far as the site of the present villain' of Pine Island in the early fifties, they found a beautiful spot called by the Indians "Wa-zu-wee-ta," which translated into English means "Island of Pines," and here, owing to its natural advantages of wood and running water, combined with deep and fertile soil, the early settlers, in search of homes, stopped and built their cabins; and the erstwhile wilderness rapidly assumed the proportions of a center of civilization for a large surrounding country.

The term "Wa-zu-wee-ta," or Island of Pines, referred to a strip of land on the south side of the river reaching from about where Main Street now is well upon Newton's hill, which was heavily timbered with stalely white pines and was completely surrounded by a heavy growth of hardwood timber. This spot was a favorite resort of the Dakotah Indians, and here, in their skin tepees, they used to pass the cold months, sheltered from winter's storms by the surrounding hills and the heavy timber, through which roamed untold numbers of deer and elk. The Indian name was so appropriate that it was retained, but 'The term Wa-zu-wee-ta," or Island of Pines, was too large a mouthful for the taciturn pioneers and the name speedily became Pine Island. A pretty story is told of Chief Wacoota then at the head of the Red Wing band of Dakotah Indians, that when he was asked by the United States commissioners to sign the treaty that would require his people to relinquish their homes on the Mississippi River, replied that he would willingly sign if he could have his future home at Pine Island.

The town is located on sections 31 and 32 of township 109, range 15, and is as above indicated, the early settlers found a country heavily wooded, for the most part with hardwood timber and watered by the middle branch of the Zumbro, which divides in what is now the eastern part of the village, the north branch flowing directly through the town and the south branch passing the south.

It is generally understood that H. B. Powers was the first man who came and built his cabin in this town in the year 1854. A close second was Josiah Haggard, a youth of nineteen or twenty years, who came the same spring, located a claim and built his cabin about where the residence of Dr. Charles Hill now stands. This claim was jumped by a man named Howard, and Haggard crossed the Zumbro and made his second claim of land now covered by business blocks and residences. Hoses Jewell and his son, Solomon, came the next fall and the former pre-empted the Haggard claim, the owner ha vino- made but a half-hearted attempt to fulfil the conditions of the law. Moses Jewell returned to Wisconsin for the wilder, leaving here his son. Solomon, who has been a resident of the community almost continuously since that time and still owns a large tract of the original Moses Jewell pre-emption. Nelson Denison, another pioneer, pre-empted a claim farther east the same season and a large number of settlers arrived in that and the following seasons. Among these Giles and George Hayward, W. S. Newton, J. A. Tarbox, Philip and Henry Tome, John Lee, John Clance, Sylvester Dickey, C. R. White and others. Moses Jewell and family occupied a log house about where White Street now crosses Main Street, and there the first marriage took place between his daughter, Sarah, and A. B. Cron, July 13, 1856, although another marriage was solemnized at about the same time between H. B. Powers, the young settler, and Mary E. Miller. At about this time autumn of 1856 the first school was organized in a log building about where the Citizens State Bank now stands, with Annette Seek as teacher. Other schools were established in the vicinity shortly afterward, among which one was taught by Thomas McManus. The first school building was erected the following year near the Geo. Paige residence on the north side of the river. John Salmon was the first preacher and held services at the homes of the settlers. The first child born in the community was Martha Cron, now Mrs. S. P. Collins. The first death was that of Michael Horn in the winter of 1856. In 1856 Haggard & Hayward began the erection of a saw mill under the supervision of Rice Hamlin, a young Pennsylvania millwright, and the father of Charles and Henry Hamlin, who later became prominent in the affairs of the village. Tins mill was run in the early years by Dowry & Powers and about 200,000 feet of lumber was manufactured. In 1858, the mill was sold to A. J. Tarbox, and later passed into the possession of W. W. Cutshall who continued to operate it until about 1902, when it was dismantled on account of the scarcity of saw timber. In the late sixties a steam flour mill was erected on the bank of the river below the saw mill by Tarbox & Jewell, but several years ago, after a checkered history, it was pulled down and the machinery and lumber was sold. Another flour mill was built on the water power just below the confluence of the two branches of the Zumbro by a man named Jacobs and for a number of years did a flourishing business, but in 1876 it was burned and was never rebuilt. The dam was shortly afterward carried out and the land formerly covered by the waters of the mill pond have since become valuable for pasturage.

Pine Island Village was surveyed and platted in the winter of 1856-57, on land owned by John Clance, Moses Jewell and J. A. Tarbox. For many years the principal business part of the village was on the north side of the river and grew rapidly to a flourishing business point. The business portion of the village, however, gradually moved southward, until at the present time nearly all the business houses of the village are on the south side of the river.

The first hotel was built by E. Denison in 1857 and old settlers still remember how the ladies of the village plied their needles for days to supply the new hotel with the necessary bed and table linen. John Lee had previously built a hotel on the old St. Paul-Dubuque road near where Poplar Grove church now stands and the landlord was also postmaster of the place, but the fact of the existence of the hotel or post office is now scarcely remembered. The early settlers received their scanty mail from Oronoco, where a settlement had existed for a number of years, but in 1856 a post office was established with John Clance as postmaster. J. A. Tarbox, Jas. McManus, S. S. Worthing, Fletcher Hagler, Chas. Parker, Henry Hamlin, Henry Tome and George II. Tome have since held this responsible position, the last named gentleman being the present incumbent.

The war history of the village and the country immediately surrounding it could it be written in full, would make interesting reading. It has been said, probably with more or less justice, that Pine Island has furnished more soldiers to the government in proportion to the size of the place, than any town in the country. Be that as it may, it is a fact that of the Minnesota regiments which took part in the Civil war and the Sioux war of 1863-4. Pine Island was liberally represented in all with the possible exception of the Ninth Infantry, while a number enlisted with Wisconsin regiments. Again in 1898 the young men of Pine Island responded to call to arms, and a few found soldiers' graves in distant lands. Pine Island Enlistments

In the spring of 1878 the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad Company built a branch line through the village, giving the people of the village and surrounding country much needed transportation facilities. In the early days the only means of transportation was by wagon over the rough country roads, and the nearest markets were Red Wing and Lake City on the river. In 1902 the Great Western Railroad Company, having purchased the Duluth, Red Wing and Southern railroad from Red Wing to Zumbrota, extended the line through this place to Rochester, connecting with their line at that place, so that at present the railroad service enjoyed by the people of this vicinity is nearly all that could be desired. In the spring of 1878 the Village of Pine Island was incorporated and separated from the township. The first council to serve the village was composed of the following: President, Charles Hill; trustees, Messrs. Dickey, Thompson and Lowery; recorder, G. H. Glidden. In 1899 the people voted bonds in the sum of $6,000 and installed an excellent system of waterworks. Water is obtained from a well drilled in the solid rock and located beneath the mill power house and power for pumping is obtained from the mill power engine. The water mains have since been extended so as to afford city water and fire protection to nearly every portion of the village. An electric light plant was installed at the mill in 1899 by Loomis F. Irish and electricity is now being used in all parts of the village, both for public and private lighting. The year 1900 saw the beginning of the present excellent telephone system, when Thomas H. Bunn put in a small switchboard and built a few miles of line. The system has grown rapidly and now penetrates all parts of the village and many miles into the surrounding country in all directions. Pine Island is justly proud of its schools. From the log shack of 1857 the school moved to a brick school building erected in 1864, built on the site of the present school building, but this; building was outgrown and a commodious wooden building took its place, in 1883. This building served its purpose admirably for many years, but the school again outgrew its quarters and in 1904 an additional building of brick was erected at a cost of $10,500. This building furnishes quarters for the high school and the seventh, eighth and ninth grades, library, gymnasium, laboratories and several class rooms. Out from these schools a number of men and women have gone who have attained a high place in the work of the world. A few notable examples are a United States diplomatic representative now stationed in Spain, a representative in Congress, a professor at Harvard University, several men in the United States civil service, and teachers of both sexes in large numbers. The village boasts of over forty business places, including two banks, two grain elevators, several general stores, a creamery and a roller mill, the latter institution being built in 1895 by Bidwell & Doty, and now owned and operated by Loomis P. Irish. In the spring of 1909 the electors of the village voted municipal bonds in the sum of $3,000 to be used toward the construction of a new city hall, and the building was finished in October of the same year at a cost of about $12,000. It is a fireproof structure 40x60 feet in size and contains a large hall, fire station, jail, council rooms, etc., and is withal a fine structure and admirably situated to the needs of the village. The fire department consists of about forty officers and men under Chief J. A. Kaiserlik, divided into three companies, and thoroughly equipped with fire fighting apparatus.-Ralph W. Holmes.

  Goodhue County |Minnesota AHGP 

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


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