A Pioneer History of Becker County

Chapter XXIII.

Lake Park Township.

The first settlers in Lake Park Township were George Osborne and Daniel McKay, who came into the township in April, 1870. They located on Section 36, and what has since been called the Jonas Errickson farm was one of their claims. They were both single men and left the country soon after they had proved up on their land.

The next settler was John Cromb, who came into the township on the 20th of May, 1870, and took up land on Section 26, 34 and 35. The same farm is now the home of John O'Day.

Mrs. John Cromb came with him, and was the first white woman who settled in the township.

John Cromb.

John Cromb was born in Perthshire, Scotland, on the 27th day of February, 1843, and came to the United States in June, 1869. He came directly to Balmoral, Otter Tail County, Minn., where he remained until the next spring when he came to Becker County, locating in Lake Park Township on the 20th day of May, 1870.

Mr. Cromb was a member of the first board of county commissioners of Becker County, being appointed to that office by Governor Horace Austin at the time of the organization of the county in March, 1871.

He was the first county audior elected by the people, which office he held until the fall of 1881 when he resigned to accept the appointment of register of the United States Land Office at Crookston, Minn., which office he held until after the election of President Cleveland in 1884.

Since that time he has been president of the Merchants' National Bank of Crookston, where he resided since the fall of 1881.

Mrs. F. M. Higley, now of Spokane Falls, Wash., who came to Lake Park Township early in June, 1870, says:

We came to Becker County on the 10th day of June, 1870. We had four children. There were ten others in the party; Harry Chamerlain, wife and one child; John Higley, wife and three children; James N. Chamerlain and Charlie Morgan. Abner and John Chamberlain did not come at that time.

I think Wash. Dixon came a little later than we. He was not with our party. We came a few days after John Cromb, George Osborne and Dan McKay.

We left St. Charles, Minn., on the 10th day of May, with ox teams and covered wagons, arriving in what is now Lake Park Township just one month from the time we started, the 10th of June. The weather was very rainy, and as we had to cook by camp-fires it was rather unpleasant at time, but on the whole we had rather an enjoyable time. Flora Moore taught the first school in Lake Park Township.

Mrs. Frank M. Higley.

History of Lake Park Township.
By Christen E. Bjorge.

Christen E. Bjorge is one of the old settlers of this county. He is a native of Norway, and was born in Ringibu, Gudbransdalen, on the 6th day of October, 1850. He is the son of Erick and Mary Bjorge. Mr. Bjorge, the subject of this sketch, remained in his native land attending school until 1867, and at the age of seventeen he emigrated to the United States and settled in Vernon County, Wisconsin, where he remained for three years. To get a somewhat connected idea of Mr. Bjorge's history, I will in his own words give the following taken from the Becker County Journal:

To get a somewhat connected idea of what I am about to relate it will be better to begin at the time I left Coon Prarie, Wisconsin, and started on my romantic search for land. The day dawned on which I decided to start; the second day of May, 1870. Many friends were present to bid us good-by and wish us good luck on our journey. It was hard to bid these friends good-by, but our decision could not be changed; we must look for a home but where we knew not. Still we would follow Greeley's advice and "Go West." The oxen bought for the occasion were hitched up and off we started sometimes at a gallop, somtimes in the road and sometime out as they were unbroken and would mind nothing. Thus we journe4yed until about to ascend a steep hill which leads from Coon Prairie to what was known as Dutch Ridge. Before we reached the top, the oxen lost all patience and made a manoeuver which overturned the wagon and broke the tongue and finally got loose. We lashed the broken tongue and continued our journey, arriving at La Crosse late that night, tired and discouraged by our first day's trip. We partook of a meager supper, crept into our wagon, and soon fell into a refreshing sleep.

The next day we left La Crosse, crossing the Mississippi on a ferry. On the Minnesota side the bank of the river was very steep and we came near having an accident. Our untrained oxen again showed their contrariness by backing up instead of going forward and another step backward would have plunged the whole outfit into the Mississipp, which here with majestic strength and splendor rushes by on its way to the gulf, ready to swallow and carry along whatever came in its way. But good fortune assisted us. The wagon was stopped by a projecting rock. We unhitched the oxen in a hurry, and drove them to the top of the hill. We had to unload and carry everything up the hill by hand. A passerby with a team of horses pulled he wagon up for us, and we again proceed on our journey. We cast a last look back to bid our dear Wisconsin good-by. La Crosse lay calmly smiling in the rays of the rising sun, but a treacherous enemy, the Mississippi, stretched out between us.

This early in the spring the pasturage for our oxen was poor, and consequently we had to proceed very slowly the first week so as not to tire our animals. To mention all the daily occurrences would take up too much space. But I thought it would interest both old and young to hear someting about the "redskins" at this time when they were a constant menace to those breaking up the prairie or clearing the forest to get a home for themselves and their families. The young people of to-day can hardly imagine what the pioneers had to experience, suffer and overcome.

We moved slowly onward and arrived at Otter Tail City about the middle of June, and met several land seekers who I will mention individually.

Martin Olson was just back from a trip to Becker County, where he had found a home and was to return with his family. Mr. Olson described the country with brightest colors, and all the company agreed to go look it over. From Otter Tail City (at that time an insignificant Indian village) to Becker County, there were no roads, only Indian trails. To go over these roads with heavy loads was next to impossible in many places. In the southern part of Becker County we had to cross a swamp which caused us much trouble and hardship; but cross it we must as we could discover no way around it. Consequently we had to bridge the swamp which took both time and strength, as the necessary materials had to be carried in. At last the bridge was finished, bu it was not the best. Then seven or eight yoke of oxen were hitched to each wagon, and off we started across the swamp. Here it was necessary to hurry along the rear teams, and when these fell through the leaders were hurried on to pull out thse which fell through the bridge. In this way we finally got everyting across.


All took up land near the timber. The party among the first settlers of this township, scattered as one after the other got ready and moved his family and belongings to the place chosen for their future home. We arrived at the place in Section 8 which became our home on June 28th, 1870.

The first thing we did was to build a claim shanty, its size was ten by twelve feet, seven feet high at the ridge. I had half a window facing the south. The roof was composed of poplar poles and hay, with clay on top. It soon showed that we were not master builders, as all the rain that fell on the roof streamed through into what we called a bed. The bed ws made from a couple of oak logs three feet long, laid six feet apart and covered with poles. There was no floor in the cabin, and when it rained there was little comfort within. Table we had none, but used a box which we had brought with us. We made stools out of oak logs, leaving a part of a limb on for a handle. There was little said about the necessary housefurnishing, as lumber and the necessary tools were not to be had. All we had was an old ax, and with such a tool it was hard to manufacture furniture. In the summer of 1870 we broke a few acres which were seeded in 1871, but the greasshoppers came and took it all; the same happened in 1872. In 1873, we had no grasshoppers but then we had a very small area seeded. The reason for this was that so many were of the opinion that we would again be visited by the grasshoppers, and also that so many were too poor to buy seed wheat. In 1874-5, the grasshoppers again ravaged the country so that there was nothing left for bread for the poor farmers. When I say that the grasshoppers were so numerous that they stopped railroad trains you will perhaps dout it, but it is a fact that the insects would alight on the rails in such numbers that the rails would become slippery, and the trains could not move.

These continuous failures, together with other obstacles and disappointments, caused many to loose heart. This must be said of the Norwegian; he is tough and determined to hold out; at least that was the case here. During thses year of prvation few moved away to other localities, but most of the first settlers remained. Many will perhaps wonder how so many could hold out for such a length of time without getting any crops. It must be said taht the railroad, the Northern Pacific, which runs through here was built to Lake Park in the fall of 1871, and this gave the farmers a chance to earn a little, both by their own work and the work of their ox teams. If the Northern Pacific had not been built at that time I dare say everybody woudl have been starved out of Becker County.

Even when we first settled here we lived in constant fear of the many Indians we had to mingle with. They had their homes on the White Earth Reservation, in Becker County. It soon became apparent that the Indians were not friendly to the whites, who were overrunning their hunting grounds.

In the fall of 1870 the Indians set fire to a stack of hay belonging to a farmer named Gunder Carlson, and when he went out to invesitgate he was shot from behind by an Indian. Mr. Carlson received six buckshot in the back and died two years later from the effects of the wounds. In the fall of 1871 a family by the name of Johnson were killed by the Indians, and in the spring of 1872 another family consisting of five persons were killed. These atrocities put fear and unrest in our minds, and made the situation very grave.

In May, 1872, a message was sent out that the Indians were gathering on the White Earth Reservation for a council. Their war spirit gathered strength as their meeting progressed. The Indians had even donned their war paint, and were dancing the war dance. There was at that time a minister on the reservation, who sent the settlers word about the doings of the Indians. When war-like rumors came out, the settlers of Lake Park Township gathered at Lake Park to discuss what had best be done. The most careful were chosen as leaders, and it was decided to build a fort on a little hill south of where our peaceful little village, Lake Park, now stands, with extensions on each corner so that firing could be done along the side of the fort from the inside, railroad ties were set upright in these ditches, and the dirt tramped in again. Port-holes were arranged here and there around the fort. Women and children were brought inside the stockade. Some of the men were placed as sentinels while others were stationed at the port-holes to receive the expected enemy. The settlers remained here for several days. Meanwhile there was nobody at home to care for the stock, so these animals were obliged to shift for themselved as best they could. The warlike Indians did not come. The reason was that the above mentioned minister had brought his influence to bear upon them. Their minister was a steadfast friend of the white settler and he, next to God, must be thanked for our deliverance. When the settlers received the good news that all danger was over for the time being, each one proceeded to his own home. In 1896 there was another fear of Indian uprising, but then, as before, it was frustrated by the peaceful ones who were more friendly to the whites.

Thirty-five years ago nobody would have thought that at this time Becker County would become such an important county in the state. It is not only one of the handsomest counties in the state, but the farmers and the inhabitants are as a whole well-to-do, not to say rich. Especially in the western part we see on every hand well cultivate farms and substantial buildings.

Large herds of cattle now grazing where not many years ago herds of buffalo were found.

C. E. Bjorge.

Mr. C. E. Bjorge was united in marriage to Miss Dian Hamre on the 28th day of October, 1875. Miss Hamre was born in Goodhue County, Minnesota, and was the daughter of John and Emily Hamre, both natives of Norway. Mr. and Mrs. Bjorge have been blessed with six children, Edwin, Julia, Annie, Oscar, Rhoda, and Leona.

Mr. Bjorge was appointed postmaster at Lake Park under Cleveland's first administration. He conducted the office with credit and satisfaction both to himself and all concerned. He was president of the village for a few years, then assessor of the township, and was census enumerator in 1880 and 1890, and clerk and member of the board of education.

Mr. Bjorge is a man of good business abilities and qualifications, and has been successful in whatever business he has been engaged.

. . .

John B. Norby.

John G. Norby, one of the most successful and prosperous farmers of Becker County, resides on his farm in Section 5 of Lake Park Township. Mr. Norby was born on the farm Ekern in Berum, Askers, Norway, November 17th, 1837. In 1851, his father died and the following year Mr. Norby with his mother and five sisters and one brother removed to his grandfather's farm, Norby, where he lived until 1867. On June 21st, 1858, he was married to Thorena Larson. She was born on the 12th day of November, 1835, on a farm Okeri-Berum, Norway. On April 12th, 1867, Mr. Norby with his entire family consisting of his wife and five children, Gustav, Dorthea, Lousie, now Mrs. C. K. Ekren, Lars, Ludvig and Adolph, and also his mother and four sisters, took passage by steamship to the United States ands arrived at Lansing, Allamakee County, Iowa, May 12th. He moved out to east Pain Creek Prarie to live with his brother-in-law Jens Okeri. During the summer he worked on the nearby farms, and was paid at the rate of one dollar per day. On May 14th, 1871, Mr. Norby, with his wife and six children, Henry Edward having been born in Fillmore County, started out with two yoke of oxen hitched to a prarie schooner, and one hundred and thirty-five dollars in his pocket to seek a home in the Northwest, and on the evening of June 16th arrived at the place of Ole E. Bjorge in the western part of Becker County. After looking over the land in various directions, Mr. Norby finally decided to locate on Section 5 in Lake Park Township and commenced at once the errection of a log cabin. In the fall he worked with his two yoke of oxen, in the cut of the Northern Pacific Railway, west of where the village of Lake Park is now located. The Winter of 1871-2 was cold and stormy and exceptionally hard, but the people, being all in the prime of life and full of strength and courage withstood the hardships remarkably well during these early years, which were filled with many hardships. The settlers were very sociable. During Christmas and other holidays several families were gathered together in the newly built log cabins, and spent the time singing, story telling and various other amusements. During these years money was extremely scarce, but the people were full of energy, hope and happiness.

Mr. Norby at various time has added by purchase to the size of his farm, so that it now comprises an area of four hundred and twenty-five acres of as good agricultural land as can be found anywhere in the Northwest. Large and comfortable buildings have been erected, and on the farm may also be seen a fine herd of Red Polled cattle headed by thoroughbred sires.

In politics Mr. Norby has always adhered to the doctrines of the republican party; he is a member of the Norwegian Lutheran church, and is also one of the directors of the Becker County State Bank.

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