EARLY HISTORY OF LAG QUI PARLE COUNTY
From a teachers conference program booklet in 1932 for teacher Evelyn Jorgenson: Author unknown
On March Governor Alexander Ramsey proclaimed the Minnesota territory duly organized. That same year the legislature organized several counties. One was Dakota County whose boundaries were the Mississippi River on the east and the Missouri on the west; bounded on the north by a line running due west from the mouth of the Clearwater River and on the south by a line running due west from where the Sr. Croix joins the Mississippi near St. Paul. That was the first dividion that included our county. The next was the Blue Earth County, which was organized March 5, 1853 Mankato was the county seat. The next county was Brown, organized February 20, 1855 with New Ulm as county seat. Notice that all these dividions are covering less and less territory. On February 6, 1862 we find Redwood county composed of what are now Redwood, Lyon, Lincoln, Yellow Medicine, Brown and Lac qui Parle Counties with Redwood Falls as the county seat. On March 1, 1866 a new county named in honor of Colonel Samuel
McPhail was proposed. This county was to consist of the present Lyon, Lincoln, Yellow Medicine and Lac qui Parle Counties, excepting the two western ranges, 38 and 39 of Yellow Medicine, but the people failed to ratify the proceeding and there never was a McPhail County. The county of Lac qui Parle was formed with the present boundaries by legislature act on March 6, 1871. For some reason the new county remained attached to Redwood County for a short time. The first commissioners met January 11, 1872, at the village of Lac qui Parle which was selected as the county seat.
Eight years later the legislature passed an act to form Canby County to be named in honor of General R. S. Canby, who was killed by the Modoc Indians in California April 11, 1873. This act was not ratified by the people.
The name of the county of Lac qui Parle, is a French word that means "Lake that Talks", translated from the Dakota or Sioux name MdayIyeDan; and which name is applied to the adjacent lake which is an expansion of the Minnesota River. The lake is ten miles long, at maximum one mile wide, with a maximum depth of ten feet. The name was suggested to the Indians by the echoes thrown back from the bordering bluffs. Rev. Moses M. Adams, who was a missionary at the Lac qui Parle mission, told of a most remarkable creaking and groaning and whistling of the ice on the lake in winter and spring, due to the fluctuation of the water level, allowing it to rise and fall, grating on the abundant boulders on the shores. Strange sounds echoed and reverberated from the bluffs. To these voices we ascribe the Dakota and French name.
Before the settlement of the county, the county was all a rolling prairie without a tree for miles. It was quite well wooded along the Lac qui Parle river and lake. We can hardly believe that Lac qui Parle County was all a prairie when we look at the beautiful groves and well built homes today.
An early trading post was conducted at Lac qui Parle by Duncan Cameron, an adventurous Scotchman who was killed by Indians in 1811. The earliest history of our county has been vaguely recorded, so that it is hard to find much reliable material and information.
The great Indian corn, wheat and vegetable bottom near where the Lac qui Parle and Minnesota rivers intersect was partially destroyed during the, flood of 1881. The Indian women spun and wove cloth from the flax grown here. Joseph Renville conducted an important trading post of the American Fur Company at Lac qui Parle, of which Selkirk, Manitoba, where Winnipeg now exists, and Mendota were a part. The fur traders had a direct route for their trade, down the Red River to Lac qui Parle and down the Minnesota River to Mendota and then down the Mississippi River to New Orleans where the furs were distributed over the world.
Joseph Renville was the pioneer stock raiser of Minnesota. Joseph Renville heard of Rev. T. S. Williamson, a missionary at Ft. Snelling and invited him to Lac qui Parle. Rev. Williamson and Alexander Huggins established a Presbyterian mission at Lac qui Parle in 1835. Joseph Renville and his wife were the first members, the first pure Dakotan Indians to profess faith. Rev. Williamson was a physician at Riley, Ohio for about ten years. He then studied theology for a year and came to Fort Snelling as a missionary. With him to Lac qui Parle went his wife and one child, his wife's sister, Alexander Huggins and his wife and two children. On a Sabbath day twenty or thirty men and women would gather at the mission house. In 1836 the church consisted of seven members which was increased to nine that winter. Half of the members were full blooded Dakota women.
During 1837 Gideon H. Pond of the two famous Pond Brothers offered his services as a farmer and teacher at the mission. Another helper was Stephen Riggs, a graduate of Jefferson College. In 1854 they received a serious set-back caused by the burning of the mission house. Everything was destroyed by the fire, including the bibles and translations. Some of the indians stole during the confusion of the fire, but a good many helped to rescue things, which proved the value of their mission work. The mission was kept up until the indian outbreak of 1862 when it was abandoned. They are now building a park to commemorate the site of the first mission and trading post.
The first school house or school for teaching indians to read and write was opened December 1835 at Lac qui Parle Mission in a conical Dakota Tent twenty feet high and twenty feet in diameter. Birchbark was used as a substitute for paper. The fertile lands of Lac qui Parle County were not to be left idle long. Many settlers soon came the first was Wm Mills.
In 1864 Wm. Mills, a sturdy pioneer and trapper passed through the country and stopped with his wife at Redwood Falls. He then located at Lac qui Parle township and built the first log cabin. To him and his wife in 1869 was born Annie Mills, the first white child to be born in this county. At this time the nearest neighbor was thirty miles in one direction and 15 miles in the other.
In 1869 Peter F. Jacobson headed forty-two norsc families from Fayette county, Iowa, to the "Lake that Talks". People of the mighty caravan of forty-two ox teams hitched to as many prairie schooners with five hundred head of cattle and two hundred sheep passed through Redwood Falls. These pioneers found location along the river regardless of surveyed tracts and built their homes.
Frank Stay is known to be one of the first settlers in the county. He and his wife were full blooded Dakota Indians. The site he occupied is along the Minnesota River in the north-east part of what is now Camp Release township. Other early settlers were David Lister, 1868, Lac qui Parle township, John Nash, 1868, David Webb, 1868, Cerro Gordo, E. B. Andrews, I868, Lac qui Parle township, S.J. Ferguson, T. I. Lund, John Maguire, and C. A. Anderson and others. H. A. Baxter settled in Camp Release township in 1869.
The homes of the pioneers along the river were log cabins thatched with sod or hay. Those on the prairies were sod huts. Their clothing was mostly what they made themselves, mocassins made of ox hide, mittens and socks knit from wool grown on their own sheep, and sheepskins used for coats and other clothes. The nearest mill in 1870 was at Redwood Falls. As the people increased mills sprang up along the Minnesota, Lac qui Parle and Yellow Medicine Rivers. When they could not get supplies they cracked wheat at home in coffee mills. Coffee, tea, and sugar were rare treats from the substituted home roasted and cracked barley. Cheap black molasses was used as sugar, and tobacco was grown at home.
Our county was visited by Gen. John C. Fremont who was here for a number of months for the war department. The widow of Alexander Hamilton spent several years with friends here.
During the controversy between St. Paul and St. Peter as to which should be capitol, Hon. Martin McLeod of the upper territorial house, introduced an amendment to make Lac qui Parle the territorial capitol. The measure lacked one vote of passing.
The Indians in the county as well as thru out the state were restless and dissatisfied before and during the civil war. They destroyed many young settlements and disbanded the trading post and mission in 1862.
The story of the exchange of prisoners at Camp Release under Gen. Sibley is well known to us all. The straight stone shaft, commemorating the event contains the whole story.
The village of Lac qui Parle is located on the left bank of the Lac qui Parle River one half mile from its confluence with the Minnesota. The village was located on a high prairie and was surrounded by as fertile a soil as there was. The first settlement of the town was in 1869 by Henry Cross. The town platted in 1871 by Cross, Averill, Hodge, Thibetts, and Nichols was first called Williamsburg. Lac qui Parte was the county seat until the railroad came through Madison. Then all the records and books were taken to Madison.
In the fall of 1871 a schoolroom and dwelling, store house and blacksmith shop were built. The Huggins family occupied the dwelling. In 1871 a post office was established with John H, Brown as first postmaster. Miss Aurie Grant taught the first school in the summer of 1872 in a building owned by Mr. Nichols. The same year the first newspaper was published by Charles J. Coughlin, the Lac qui Parle Press. In 1873 the Agricultural Society was organized and met in Lac qui Parle with L. R. Davis as chairman. The first frame building in the county was built by John H. Brown in 1872 and served as Court House, Post Office and Hotel.
Some other interesting facts about the county are; the first marriage ceremony was performed at the mission with Gideon H. Pond and Sarah Page the contracting parties. In 1872 there were 2449 acres of cultivated land and twelve organized school districts.
In 1877 following the ravages of grasshoppers the preceding year, seed grain was furnished those whose crops were destroyed. Twenty-nine applications were made.
Editors Note by Warren Jorgenson
This document was in bad shape so I retyped it as is.
Lac Qui Parle Mission Website