Olmsted County, Minnesota


New Haven Township

 (Township 108 North, Range 15 West)

The first settler in this township was Matthias C. Van Horn, who came from Iowa to Oronoco in the spring of 1854, and, pushing beyond, on foot, found a location on the Zumbro River where he made his claim, built a log house and, the next season, brought his family. He died in 1895. Park Amsden settled the same season. In August of the same year Samuel Brink came from Iowa with eight teams and eighteen men, all of whom took timber claims and sold out to Brink. History repeats itself but slowly. This was more than fifty years ago, and the government has only within a few years begun prosecuting millionaire miners, lumber men and ranchers in the far West for following Brink's humble example. He started the town of Durango on the river, built a saw mill and a store in partnership with John Holmes. Brink moved to Lake Chetek and Holmes sold to Charles Nye and in 1857, on the death of Nye, Daniel Heaney of Rochester, became the proprietor of the store and mill. John H. Hill, afterward a druggist in Rochester, was postmaster. In 1858 the name of the hamlet was changed to New Haven, the name also given to the township. The store was closed, the darn went out and the embryo city collapsed about 1864 and is now a farm owned by John Cornwell, who was for years a prominent citizen of the township, but is now a resident of Owatonna.

The first boards sawed at the Durango mill were used in building houses for Abram Clason, who settled in the township in 1854, and for Daniel Salley, who settled in 1855.

Among the laborers digging the race for Brink was Barney McGinley. He remained in the neighborhood and in 1868 settled on a farm in the township.

John and William Kilroy, J. N. Palmer, C. Colgrove, Amos But ton and Philo Phelps also came in 1854.

In 1855 John B. Bassett and son, Joshua B. Bassett, Joseph and John Cornwell, Cornelius White, Edward P. Reynolds, Charles W. Osborn, William W. Button, A. Clason, F. W. Cornwell and P. Kennedy and a number of others made claims.

In 1856 settlements were made by James H. Hodgman, Walter Martin, Daniel Jewell, Samuel Campbell, A. O. Cowles, R. Elliott and Herman Frost.

The first child born in the township was Bertha E., daughter of William Kilroy, in March, 1855.

The first death was of Mrs. Helen Madison, wife of Henry Madison, in August, 1856. She was under twenty-one years of age. The first couple married were John Holmes and Miss Diana Phelps, in the spring of 1855.

In 1857 the county commissioners changed the boundaries of New Haven and Oronoco by setting off three sections in the north east corner of the former township and attaching them to Oronoco. The Zumbro River runs across that corner. This loss of territory was acquiesced in by the people of New Haven till 1866, when, as the result of a suit in the district court, it was decided that the action of the commissioners had been illegal, and the territory was restored to New Haven.

The township was organized in May, 1858. At the town meeting, held at Heaney's store, the following officers were elected: Supervisors. John Loury, chairman; Daniel Salley, Thomas McManus; clerk. John Cornwell: assessor, J. H. Hodgman; overseer of poor, Arnold Hunter; collector and treasurer. A. N. Bowman: justices, A. B. Chapin. L. S. Howe; constables, Charles Osborn and A. N. Bowman. John Cornwell was re-elected clerk every year during his residence there. There were eighty-one votes cast at the first election, and Daniel Salley cast the first vote.

New Haven was the only township in the county that voted against the $5,000,000 loan of state credit to the railroads in the election of 1858.

Several saw mills were built in this township. In 1855 Baker & Mattison built one only about a mile above Brink's, which was bought a couple of years later by James Button, and conducted successfully by him for several years. He later moved to Rochester. This township was originally the most heavily timbered in the county, about two-thirds of it having been forest. Most of the building timber of the early settlers came from it and Kalmar Township.

A post office was established in 1862 within a mile of the west line of the township and county, and named Othello. The Post office Department required the mail to be carried from Mantorville without expense to the government, and David Rowley did that favor to his neighbors once a week till the government felt rich enough to establish a service of its own three times a week. Almeron O. Cowles was the first postmaster. After ten years he resigned in favor of William Porter, who died in about a year, and Mrs. Cornelius White, the wife of a pioneer and veteran soldier, was appointed. She did faithful and poorly paid duty for years, and resigned in 1902. The office is now among the things that were. The state census of 1905 states the population of the township as 878.

For years the woods from Kalmar and New Haven to Pine Island were the resort, in the early summer, of wild pigeons which nested there. Every morning and afternoon, during the breeding season, flocks of the birds could be seen for miles around, leaving and returning to their nests, and the Genoa woods were raided ruthlessly by hunters from the surrounding country. The pot-hunters shipped the birds and their squabs in bags and barrels to Chicago and other markets, and the breaking up of their nests and the thinning of the timber for fuel destroyed the homes of the birds, and the pigeon roosts are no more.


A saw mill was built in 1856 at the location known as Genoa, by Mapes, Baker & Frycke. In 1857 another one was built in the same vicinity by Charles Chapin & Son. In 1863 John Kilroy and Leonard W. Kilbourn built a larger steam mill, which was burned down in 1864 and rebuilt. In 1869 Joshua Bassett built a steam saw mill. All the mills did a good business till the bringing in of pine lumber by railroad destroyed the market for native lumber. Ira Richards opened the first store in 1863, and J. L. Bassett started one in 1864, and Hiram Miller in 1865. The village of Genoa was platted by John B. Bassett in 1865. A large and well-built school house is the principal institution of Genoa.

  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 12:27:55 EDT

 Copyright 2011-2022 AHGP - Judy White
The American History and Genealogy Project.
Enjoy the work of our webmasters, provide a link, do not copy their work.