Olmsted County, Minnesota


High Forest Township

(Township 105 North, Range 14 West;
Part of Township 104 North, Ranges 14 and 15 West)

The elevation of the site of the villages, on which the first settlements were made and the surrounding belt of large timber, gave the township the appropriate name of High Forest.

In the spring of 1854 John S. Robinson with his family, comprising his wife, their daughter, Mary R., Lucretia Stafford and Charity Oleson, came to what was afterwards the site of High Forest village, accompanied by John S. Pierson, and Mr. Robinson made a claim there. The same summer claims were made in the township by George I. Covell, Nathan R. Lyon, John S. Pierson, Charles J. Johnson, Charles Grannis, Ira Smith, Frank Wilson, Henry White, Albert Munson, James Griffin and Timothy Twohey.

In 1855 settlements were made by William R. Tubbs, Lawrence Burns, John C. Buckley, Michael McCarthy, John G. Engel, David Munson, P. M. Tuttle, Lee Duncanson, L. Mahoney, James Thomas and William Wood. Among those who came in 1856 were Martin Holland, John Kelly, William Kelly, James Kelly, M. Hiser, Ed ward Judge, John Stewart, Lawrence Fitzpatrick and Mathew Fugh.

It is narrated in a sketch of the township by Dr. A. Grant, published in Mitchell's History that on the night of July 6, 1854, a terrific thunder storm came up with a rain that overflowed Robinson creek. The whole of the little community of first settlers were gathered in one log cabin which was so crowded that a lady with two little children slept in a wagon box. The freshet flooded the cabin, driving out the lodgers, and swept the wagon box off the ground and the woman and children were barely rescued. A thousand dollars in gold was lost by the woman, but was found in the morning.

The first birth in the township was of Anna S. Lyon, daughter of Orson and Sarah A. Lyon, born February 1, 1855. The first death was of Mary E. Robinson, one year and eight months old, child of John and Sarah C. Robinson, who died June 1, 1855.

The first marriage was of E. G. Earle and Miss Reese, in 1855. The knot was tied by Thomas H. Armstrong, then a justice of the peace for Mower County.

In the spring of 1856, before townships were organized, the part of the township then in Mower County was set off into a precinct and the following officers were appointed by the county commissioners: Supervisor, G. T. Covell; assessor, John Robinson; justice, T. H. Armstrong; constable, Orson Lyon. On the organization of the township, in 1858, the following officers were elected: Supervisors, D. B. Coe, chairman, Charles Stewart, A. Horton; clerk, W. Whitney; assessor, J. Pierce; justices. Julius Smith, David Brainard; collector, J. L. Rockwell; con stables, M. D. Chamberlain, John DeNure.

John S. Pierson, who located in 1854 in the part of the township in Mower County known as Pleasant Valley, was appointed postmaster for that region. The village of High Forest wanted the post office and tried hard to get it, but could not till Mr. Pierson resigned, when W. K. Tattersall was appointed.

The political conformation of this township, with twelve sections on its south taken off Mower county, has always been an inconvenience in the transaction of town business to those living farthest from the village, and a law was gotten through the legislature of 1869 to incorporate four sections, sections 5, 6, 31 and 32, which include the village of High Forest, and also to set off in a separate township the west half of the township from a line running north from between sections three and four. This would have made High Forest and Stewartville the local capitals of the separate townships and would have given each a separate representation in the county party conventions, as they were then constituted. The proposition was submitted to the voters and carried, but Hon. Charles Stewart, of Stewartville, had its legality tested in the supreme court by a suit for an injunction to compel Thomas Kinsella, the assessor, of the original township, to assess the property of the Stewartville half of the township, which he refused to do, assuming that the separation was valid and that the new township was outside his jurisdiction. The Supreme Court decided that the law of separation was unconstitutional because it embraced more than one subject. No further attempt was made at division of the township.

According to the state census of 1905 the population of the township was 669.

High Forest Village

In the spring of 1855 John Robinson had a village plat surveyed on his pre-emption and the same season Capt. William Russell, from Oswego, New York, bought, and improved the water power within the village and erected a saw and flour mill.

In the fall of 1855 B. S. Reppy, from La Crosse, opened the first store in a building erected by Mr. Robinson and another store was started by Coe & Huddleston. Mr. Huddleston was a well-educated young Englishman who also practiced law. He sought a wider field at Hastings, and afterwards at Minneapolis, and served as a lieutenant in the Union army.

Dr. Alexander Grant came in 1855 or 1856. He was a native of New York, of Scotch parentage, born in 1825 and reared on a farm. He acquired an academic and collegiate education, attended the medical department of Michigan University and graduated at Buffalo Medical College. He taught school and practiced medicine in Wisconsin and came to High Forest as a physician. On the failure of the firm of Coe & Huddleston he acquired their stock of goods, and kept a store as well as practiced his profession. He moved to Bath, South Dakota, in 1881 and died there in 1907. He was thoroughly educated, of keen intellect and scholarly tastes and took an active interest in all matters of local enterprise. In 1856 William K. Tattersall came from New York City and built a three-story frame hotel and was, for years, its landlord. He was postmaster twenty-six years.

Edward H. Armstrong, a native of Ohio, was one of the earliest settlers in the village, but he removed in a few years to Dakota, and after living there a few years, returned to High Forest, and has been one of its most prominent citizens. He is now a merchant there. His son. Charles H. Armstrong, is county surveyor and city engineer of Rochester.

The first school in the township was taught in the village by J. C. Howard in the winter of 1857 and 1858.

A Baptist church was built in 1860 and a Methodist church in 1861. The Baptist church was later occupied by the Congregationalists and a few years ago, was torn down and the Methodist is now the only church in the village.

About 1880 an academy was established by E. W. Young, under the patronage of the Methodist church, after about two years it was removed to Rochester.

In its early history High Forest was one of the most prominent villages in the county. It had a most attractive location, an unusually intelligent and enterprising population, with great local pride and faith in their home, but the failure to get a railroad, said to be because of engineering difficulties of getting into the village and the development of Stewartville, only three miles away, put a stop to its progress and it has since stood still.

The population of the village by the state census of 1905 was 106.


The Winona & Southwestern Railroad Company, in 1891, established a station on the farm of Edward Judge in the northeastern part of the town, and named it Judge Station. It has an elevator and a store and the post office was kept, some years by Lucius B. Gaskill, but it is now merely a flag station and a convenient shipping station for the neighborhood. Mr. Judge was a native of Ireland and settled on his claim in 1854. He died in September, 1904, aged about seventy years.


In the spring of 1857 Charles Stewart came from the state of New York and acquired a water process on Root River about three miles below the village of High Forest, and in 1858 got control of the Russell mill at High Forest and moved it to his location. He developed a fine mill and a small village grew up under the name of Stewartville. There was but little of it till the railroad reached there in 1891. The original villagers were, besides Mr. Stewart, William R. Tubbs and David L. Bonner, who were pre-emptors and farmers. David Stewart, Hiram Sage, who kept hotel. Thomas Fairborn, a blacksmith, and J. S. E. Stevens, a carpenter. Job Collin, who afterwards moved to Rochester and is now in the insurance business there, was the miller. A brick Presbyterian Church was built and Rev. George Ainslie, of Rochester, preached there for years. There was the usual public school house. In 1878 William Everett Smith came from Rochester, built a store and, till the railroad came, was the only merchant. He was born in the state of New York in 1851 and was brought with his father's family, to Pleasant Grove Township in 1857. He attended Curtiss' Commercial College in Minneapolis, and was a clerk in the grocery store of Charles H. Morrill, at Rochester, a year before going to Stewartville. He is still doing business as the pioneer merchant.

In 1890 the Winona & Southwestern Company, in anticipation of building their railroad, bought a quarter section of land that had belonged to the Stewart estate for the site of their depot and elevators. It was their intention to build a new town around their depot and a few buildings were put up there, but the old settlers refused to move to the new location, and the village grew up on the old time site near the mill. William S. Davis, from Wisconsin, built a hardware store in 1889. John Prehoitz started a meat market. Tuttle & Stillwell, Burr W. Tuttle and H. Leslie Stillwell, built a store; John Owens built the Stewartville House hotel and Roswell Sage, a son of Hiram Sage, built the Sage House. Later, the Robbins brothers, Frederick and Herbert, came from Fillmore County, built a store and did a large business in merchandising and banking.

Additions to the original plat of the town were platted by Eugene S. Wooldridge. Charles N. Stewart and others, and residences became numerous. In a few years several fine business blocks were erected. The first was built by Tuttle & Stillwell about 1895. The two-story brick Ginter block was built by William Keenan and bought by Mathew Ginter. The Opera House, built in 1895, is a very handsome two-story brick building with stores on the first floor and a very commodious and pretty amusement hall and convenient rooms of the Commercial Club in the second story. The Moore block, built by William Printz in 1896 is a large and attractive two story brick building of two fronts. In 1897 William S. Davis built a very handsome two-story double front brick hardware store of beautiful style and finish; he also built other substantial buildings. John H. Twohey, an old settler, built a two-story brick glass front furniture store that is one of the largest and prettiest in the place. The First National Bank building is a two-story structure with a strikingly handsome stone and brick front. The village drew a large trade from the rich surrounding country and had a rapid and unusually substantial growth, both business and residential. The buildings erected about that period were nearly all very pretty and of a size and finish far ahead of the size of the town, and have given it an air of prosperity that would be creditable to a place several times larger.

The mill pond, which is wide and long and very picturesque, was named Lake Alice by Charles N. Stewart, in compliment to his wife, and has been improved by a park on its shore and a launch and other boats on its waters, and is very popular as a picnic resort for the surrounding country.

The Stewartville Star, a weekly newspaper, was first issued May 1, 1891, with L. K. Alden as publisher and Linus Blank editor: was transferred to W. S. Dyars that fall and resumed by Alden & Son in the spring of 1893. Linus Blank again became the owner in July, 1893, and H. L. Walker bought it in October, 1893. He was an energetic business man and built up a good paper and ran it successfully till November 1906, when he sold to the Olmsted County Publishing Company and moved to the state of Washington.

The Stewartville Times was started in October, 1895, by Rev. M. H. Galer, who had been the Congregational minister. He sold in November, 1896, to Ben. Kamerer, and he, in October, 1898, to M. E. Sloan, who was appointed a clerk in a government office at Washington and sold, in August, 1899, to H. B. Foote. Edward Fanning was a partner for six months. The paper was afterward consolidated with the Star.

The Star is now the only paper in the village, and is a creditable sheet, and one paper is enough for any moderate-sized community. It was published and edited by J. I. Wheeler from December, 1906, to July, 1907, when Ulick Madden conducted it till September 1907, when Wallace V. Olin became editor and publisher, and is still conducting it.

Following the new growth of Stewartville, Dr. Edward Stoddard, who had been practicing at High Forest, removed to Stewartville and became its pioneer physician. He is a son of Mr. Stoddard, an early settler of Viola Township, and afterward a merchant in Rochester. He, in partnership with Frederick L. Wood, a son of Milton R. Wood, deceased, of Eyota, established a drug store. Dr. Stoddard moved to California several years ago, and Mr. Wood has more recently moved to Oregon.

Dr. Frank W. Burns, a son of John Burns, formerly of High Forest Township, now a resident of Rochester, came soon after and practiced in partnership with Dr. Stoddard. He is a graduate of the College of Physicians and surgeons of Chicago. He is still in practice. Dr. C. E. Fawcett, from Marion, and H. R. Russell, from Pleasant Grove, are also practicing physicians.

A Methodist Episcopal church was organized and built a pretty church building, but, the pioneer Presbyterian Church having ceased to exist, the Methodists sold their frame building to the German Methodists, and bought the brick Presbyterian building. The Congregational church has a pretty building. The Second Adventists also have a neat building. St. Bernard's Catholic Church was organized by Rev. Stephen Condron and has a large place of worship. The first Methodist preacher was Rev. Royce; the present one is Rev. M. Meade. The first Congregational minister was Rev. E. C. Crane; the present one is Rev. L. Jones. The first Adventist preacher was Rev. John Hopkins; the present one is Rev. Comer. The present Catholic priest is Rev. Stephen Condron, who is also in charge of St. Bridget's church in Pleasant Grove Township. The mill, after the death of Charles Stewart, in 1866, was carried on by his son, Charles N. Stewart, who sold it to John N. Cussons, a native of England, who had for several years been a miller at Chatfield. He and his sons, Wauzee and Jackson Cussons, have made it a modern mill, unusually well equipped with the latest improvements, and doing a large business.

O. E. Hammer opened a law office in 1895, and is the only lawyer. He was born in Fillmore County in 1867, and is a graduate of the University of Minnesota.

A system of waterworks for fire protection was established in 1895, by a vote of eighty-six to eight. It consists of a tank, on top of an eighty-foot tower, holding 2,000 barrels, filled from a well in the central part of the village by steam pumps, with a capacity of 500 gallons per hour. This supplies 2,700 feet of mains in Main Street, with six hydrants, a liberal provision for a community of the size. There are about twenty-five members of the fire company, with a neat and convenient engine house, 2,000 feet of hose, hose carts and hook and ladder apparatus.

An electric lighting system was established in 1900 and is in general use. It was started by Mr. Johnson, who, for lack of capital, worked under much discouragement, and died about the time that he had got it fairly established. It is now managed by T. F. Alexander, from Rochester.

The Stewartville Creamery was organized about 1900, by Edward J. Graham, and is now conducted by William H. Welch, from Rochester.

The People's Telephone Company of Chatfield established a branch at Stewartville about 1901.

The public school district including the village was changed to an independent district in 1898, and, after a very spirited contest, a vote for the issuance of $15,000 in bonds was carried by fifty-five majority. The old school house was sold for $1,000 and a new brick school house was built in 1899, at a cost of $16,000, a large and very handsome two-story brick edifice, centrally located and standing as a splendid memorial to the educational spirit of the builders of the village. The school ranks among the first of the county, including a high school, and having eight teachers. There are two banks, the First National and the First State Bank.

The secret and beneficial societies are the Masonic Lodge and lodges of the Modern Woodmen, United Workmen and American Yeomen. There have been lodges of Odd Fellows and Knights of Pythias, but they have been discontinued.

That almost mythical individual, the oldest person in the state, would seem to have been William Sargeant, who died at Stewartville in 1883, at what was believed to be the age of one hundred and fourteen years. He was a native of England and uneducated.

In November, 1893, a vote for the incorporation of the village was carried by fifty for to five against the proposition. The first officers elected were: President, John Preleitz; council. Herbert Robbins, Frank Andrews, Ralph Whitney; treasurer, W. E. Smith; recorder, A. C. Tichenor; justice, H. S. Walker; constable, Ed ward Fanning. There was only one ticket voted for. In June, 1903, after a freshet had washed out the dam of the Cussons Milling Company, the community showed its public spirit by voting 129 in favor to 32 against issuing $2,000 in bonds for the rebuilding the dam and improving the park, an action that, whether strictly legal or not, was highly necessary for the prosperity of the town.

Seventy of the young men of Stewartville and the vicinity enlisted in a company of Spanish war volunteers organized at Spring Valley in April, 1898. On their return, in September, 1898, they were given a cordial public reception at Stewartville. The opera house was crowded and speeches were made by Edward Buck. Editor Sloan and O. E. Hammer; a bountiful banquet was served at Mack's Hotel, and there was dancing till morning.

The population of the village by the state census of 1905 was 851

  Olmsted County |Minnesota AHGP 

Source: History of Olmsted County Minnesota, by Hon. Joseph A. Leonard, Chicago, Goodspeed Historical Association, 1910.


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