Olmsted County, Minnesota


Kalmar Township

 (Township 107 North, Range 15 I Vest)

Why or how this township received the second-hand name of a small seaport city in Sweden, we cannot state. This is one of the timbered townships of the county, the northwest third, through which the Zumbro River pursues its crooked course, having originally been a forest, but the saw mills that furnished the pioneers with their building material, and the wood haulers who in the early years furnished Rochester with most of its fuel, and the farmers who had their wood lots there have so denuded the forest as to have changed it into quite an open farming district.

John Soble, Lyman Wright and E. Sinclair Wright are said to have settled in this township in 1854. In 1855 settlements were made by:

David L. King
Francis C. Whitcomb
Ira S. Whitcomb
Marinus King
Almeron Randall
Israel Devine
John Colwell
Alpheus Merritt
George W. Chilson
Ensign Chilson
Obediah Gilbert
Norman Haight
Frederick A. Olds
Joseph V. Matthews
Garlord Hurlbut
Benjamin McDowell
Samuel J. McDowell
Nathan Bowman,
Isaac Dodd
John Dodd
Darius Ellison,
Richard Middleton
Jerome Harrington
Joseph Edmiston
George Sinclair
Dudley Sinclair
James A. Blair
Thomas S. Kesson
William Postier
Henry Postier
Frederick W. Postier
Michael H. Staats

David Soble, Samuel G. Lewis, Joseph Graham. H. C. McManus, D. H. Roof, R. Telford, John and Isaac Johnston and others came in 1856.

The first death and marriage were in the family of James Canfield. An infant son died in August, 1855, and his wife died three days later; the following Christmas he was married to Mariva Bonner.

The first birth was of a daughter of D. L. King, in July, 1855. A saw mill was built in 1855 by I. S. Whitcomb, James A. Blair and Michael H. Staats; two years later it was changed to a grist mill and swept away in a freshet in 1866, and not rebuilt. W. W. Doty built a saw mill in 1857, and Richard Middleton built a saw mill in 1858, and changed it to a grist mill. He also kept a store from 1856 to 1858, but it proved a losing venture.

Miss Ann Losinger taught the first school in a claim shanty in the summer of 1855, and the building was moved to New Haven Township, and she continued teaching there: so becoming the first teacher in both townships.

The township was organized in May, 1858. At the meeting D. L. King was chairman; James Ford, moderator; John C. Simonton, clerk, and Hiram Fairbanks assistant. The first township officers were: Supervisors, D. L. King, chairman; H. C. Sheldon, Moses Herrick; clerk, Samuel McDowell; assessor, Benjamin McDowell: collector, James Ellison : overseer of poor, R. Middleton; overseer of roads, John Kinsey; justices of the peace, J. H. Harding, Norman Haight; constables, James Ellison and Robert Canfield. A town hall was built near the center of the township in 1874.

The population of the township was given by the state census of 1905 as 760.

The jackrabbit, the big white hare (Lepus compestris), native to the western plains, first made its appearance in the western part of the county about 1890. There is a tradition that a couple of men who went from Kalmar to Dakota and back by team had as part of their camping outfit a combined chicken coop and feed trough at the back of their wagon, and on their return brought a few jackrabbits in the coop and turned them loose after exhibiting them as curiosities. They are no longer strangers, but permanent residents.

Byron. When the Winona & St. Peter Railroad was built across the southern tier of sections in Kalmar Township, in 1864, the company established a station ten miles west of Rochester and named it Byron. It was located on the farm of Addison J. Dibell, who donated the depot site to the railroad company. The village is quite above the surrounding country, being 260 feet higher than Rochester, and is surrounded by rich grain farms. Mr. Dibell sold part of his farm to John W. Simonton and George W. Van Dusen, who platted the village, and Mr. Dibell platted an addition. An elevator and warehouse was built by G. W. Van Dusen and Thomas J. Templar, of Rochester, in 1869. It had a capacity of 30,000 bushels, and while wheat was grown, Byron did a large business in buying grain. In December, 1869, there were 4,500 bushels taken in per week. Thomas J. Templar was the first grain buyer. He moved to Kansas. J. Frank Weed, from Rochester, was station agent and grain buyer twenty-four years.

John W. Simonton built and kept the first store, which he sold to Knud E. Mo, who, after carrying it on a number of years, sold it and moved to the northern part of the state. Mr. Simonton carried on a wagon shop till a few years ago, when he moved to Rochester, where he now lives. Hiram Fairbanks and Robert Simonton started a store in 1865 and were in business several years.

A Baptist church was organized soon after the village was started by Rev. E. W. Westcott, the pioneer Baptist minister of Rochester, and in 1866 a good-sized and pretty church building was erected. The present pastor is Rev. T. S. Rooks. A Methodist church, also a good-sized and pretty structure, was built in 1873, during the pastorate of Rev. Robert Forbes, who is now secretary of the General Home Missionary Society of the Methodist church. The present minister at Byron is Rev. Arthur McCausland.

A Second Adventist church was organized in 1882. It ceased to exist several years ago.

Dr. Stannton B. Kendall, who had been for three years living on a farm in the township, built a hotel in the village in 1867, and also practiced his profession. He died in November. 1897, aged ninety years. In 1868 his son, Joseph B. Kendall, opened a large store and was also postmaster fifteen years, and kept the hotel several years. In 1892 he sold the store to John C. Crabb, now of Rochester, and Sam E. Tompkins, who is now keeping a grocery store and is postmaster.

William A. Rickert, who is a son of Nathan Rickert, deceased, who settled in the township in 1858, started a harness shop in the village in 1868 and continued the business till 1899, when he engaged in the restaurant business, which he is still conducting.

Byron was incorporated as a village in 1873. The limits were extended far beyond the village plat, to give the better control of the sale of liquor. It includes all of section 32, the west half of section 33, the south half of section 29, and southwest quarter of section 28, an area larger than that of many a city. Within those limits saloons are not allowed. The first village officers were: Councilmen, Dudley Sinclair, Francis C. Whitcomb and Thomas S. Kerson; recorder. Knud E. Mo; treasurer, Perry Newell; justice, George H. Stephens; assessor, George W. Gove; constable, W. L. Standish.

A cheese factory was organized in 1873 by sixteen persons making a promissory note for $1,000. The factory was a benefit to the community, but a loss to the organizers. It failed to pay the note or the interest on it, and the makers had ultimately to pay a penalty of $2,000 for their public spirit. After running ten years the factory was sold to Marvin & Cammack, of Rochester, who ran it about eight years and changed it to a creamery. About 1896 a co-operative creamery company was organized and is still run successfully; Fred C. Little is president. It uses the cream of 106 cows.

The leading business establishment is the brick yard. John Christensen and the Whitcomb brothers started a brick yard about 1878 and did a local business for a few years. Crist Nelson started a yard about 1888 and in 1893 sold it to J. B. Kendall, who is conducting it on a large scale. He employs from twelve to twenty men. The first year he made about 800,000 brick and now turns out from 1,000,000 to 1,300,000 a year, shipping mostly to Rochester and Owatonna, along the railroad to South Dakota and to various towns in southern Minnesota.

Albert L. Cutting came to Byron from Rochester in 1880 and established a general store, which he is still carrying on. He was born in New York State in 1852 and came to Rochester with the family of his father, Lucius S. Cutting, in 1855. He clerked in the store of J. D. Blake and was a partner with Miss Mary Macomber in the ladies' furnishing store now conducted by Misses Scott & Everstine. His son, Fred E. Cutting, is the proprietor of a large nursery.

The village is an independent school district and about 1901 a large and handsome two-story frame school house was built. There are four teachers and the course of instruction includes eight lower grades and a two-year high school course.

The State Bank of Byron was started as a private bank, in 1902, by Williams & Williams, from Concord, Minnesota. It was incorporated in 1905 as a state bank, with a capital of $10,000, and has deposits of about $50,000, most of it the money of farmers. J. B. Kendall is president and Frank E. Decker cashier. The bank building, a pretty one-story brick structure, finished in thorough business style, is an architectural ornament to the town.

The Zumbro Valley Telephone Company has its headquarters at Byron and accommodates the village and neighboring country. The secret societies are the Odd Fellows, Modern Woodmen, Yeomen of America and Beavers.

The population of the village, by the state census of 1905, was 315.


When the branch railroad was built from Rochester to Zumbrota, in 1878, it ran across section 1, the northeast corner of the township, and a station was established and called Douglass, for Harrison Douglass, the owner of the land on which it was located. Mr. Douglass built a grain elevator with a capacity of 18,000 bushels. He was a native of the state of New York, a blacksmith and a California pioneer, and came to Kalmar Township in 1855, starting a blacksmith shop before there was any at either Rochester or Oronoco. He acquired a large amount of farming land and was influential in the community. He died in 1902.

Hiram Miller put up and kept the first store and was postmaster for a number of years. Douglass is a village of but few houses. Its most prominent feature is a large and good-looking school house, which is also used as a church. There is a lodge of the Modern Woodmen of America.


An attempt was made to establish a village on the Winona & St. Peter Railroad, in 1870, four miles and a half west of Rochester, on the farm of V. Matthews, in Kalmar township, right on the boundary line between that township and Cascade. A side track was built, a small warehouse put up; William M. Leonard and Sterling Cross, of Rochester, started a store; a post office was installed, and a school was kept there, but the attempt to make a town failed, and after about five years the station was abandoned and nothing but the side track was left. It was too near Rochester.

  Olmsted County |Minnesota AHGP 

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


Please Come Again!!

This page was last updated Friday, 11-Sep-2015 12:27:54 EDT

 Copyright 2011-2021 AHGP - Judy White
The American History and Genealogy Project.
Enjoy the work of our webmasters, provide a link, do not copy their work.