A Pioneer History of Becker County

Chapter XXXV.

History of Walworth Township.

By Albert E. Higbie.

Being one of the first settlers in the town of Walworth, I will relate some of my early day pioneer experiences. In the fall of 1878, I, my wife and son six months old, left the home of my childhood in Jefferson County, Wisconsin, and started west in search of homestead land. We landed in Audubon and during the winter of 1878-79 kept the Audubon Hotel, and in March, 1879, filed on the northeast quarter of section 22, Township 142, Range 43 and on the first of June we moved on for actual settlement. The nearest neighbor was eight miles away, O. O. Noben in Atlanta. At the time Walworth and Atlanta were organized into one township called Atlanta. In the fall and winter of 1879, three families consisting of my brothers and myself built a shanty on the south branch of the Wild Rice River and spent our first winter of pioneering. That winter was very cold and the snow was deep. We hauled our wood from the Wild Rice River, a distance of fifteen miles and without any such roads as we have now. There was only a stage road going from the Wild Rice River to Lake Park. In the spring several settlers moved on claims they had taken. Among the first was Anthony Johnson on Section 8, and the Morks. There were several of the Mork brothers and sisters and their families still reside on Section 34. Their father died in the early day, and their mother died in 1904, having lived a very useful and helpful life, always ready to lend a helping hand to the sick, which was very neeful in an early day for many times a doctor could not be had within twenty-five miles. All the old settlers called for Gradma Mork in time of sickness.

Our town meetings were at first held jointly with Atlanta, and the first one we attended was at O. O. Noben's house a distance of eight miles. The heavy growth of grass afforded a good hiding place for the mosquitoes which made travel nearly impossible without a smudge.

In the year 1882, it became necessary to divide the two townships, and the petition being completed it was handed to me to be sent in. I suggested if no objection were raised that it be named Walworth, after a beautiful prairie county in Wisconsin. In an early day every little slough was filled with water and wild ducks and geese were numerous. The sand-hill crane was a common bird, and occasionally a deer or moose would be seen grazing with the stock on the open prairie.

Our town being new, it was noted for its hunting grounds, and hunters came from many different states, and put up with what poor aecomniodations could be had for the sake of the huntmg. I remember well a large white crane that was shot by W. E. Reid, of Detroit. The bird was mounted and is now on exhibition in a hotel office at Wadena. One morning as I went to my sod barn, directly back of it sat a flock of about seventy-five geese in the tall grass. The only gun I owned was air old army muzzle loading musket. I loaded that to the brim, and let drive at them and the result was that five large geese fell but I was the loser of one front tooth as it was nearly as dangerous to be behind it as in front, for it would kick like a mule! We encountered many hardships and numerous persons became discouraged and left, but what still remain are well-to-do farmers.

The prairie lands of Walworth as they appeared twenty-seven years ago seemed little fit for habitation, but their present thriving condition has been accomplished by hard work and good judgment. The settlers that have lived through it are now happy and that much wiser for the experience they have had.

In the year 1882, a log schoolhouse was built on Section 21. This answered the purpose for school, town hall and church. Miss Christina Johnson was the first teacher to wield the rod, Miss Lizzie Hunt the second, and Fred L. Day of Audubon succeeded her. The attendance was very small on account of the distance to walk and poor roads, and many days there was not a scholar in attendance.

On such an occasion Mr. Day would frequently go to his boarding house and play checkers. On one of those occasions, Mr. Chapin, county superintendent, happened to visit the school, but all old timers know that checkers was Mr. Chapin's favorite game, and he soon took a hand in with him. In those days we only had four or five months school in the year, only just what the law required to get state aid, but now we have four good school buildings in the township, each of which has school from eight to ten months in the year.

After a heavy growth of grass in the summer months, the following fall the prairie fires would sweep along at the rate of forty miles an hour and with only now and then a little patch of breaking to check its speed.

For many years the nearest post-office and market was Lake Park, a distance of fifteen miles, but now we are blessed with a railroad station, rural free delivery and a nearby market. All the old settlers came with very little money, but lots of courage and energy for which they have reaped the benefit, for now it has the name of being one of the finest towns in the county. A fine prairie country covered with beautiful groves planted twenty-five years ago with our own hands and land valued at $30 per acre, and fine buildings and windmills and everything that helps to make farm life a pleasure. We think all have been amply repaid and have no complaints to offer.

Strikes Eastern Clay and Western Becker Counties. -- Five Killed and $20,OOO Worth of Property Destroyed.

For the first time, people of this locality beheld the destructive effects of cyclonic winds.

The storm originated north of Ulen Monday evening at 5:30 p. m. and passed in a southeasterly direction through the southwest corner of the town of Walworth and the northeria part of Atlanta carrying death and destruction throughout its ten mile course.

In the town of Ulen and three miles north of the village of Ulen four children of the family of Mr. Hoium were killed and six dwellings destroyed.
--June 11, 1902.

Albert E. Higbie.

He was one of the old settlers of Walworth Township, and was born in Rome, Wisconsin, June 26th, 1851, and was the son of William and Emma Higbie. He was married in 1874 to Flora Tallmadge. Mrs. Highie was born in Amsterdam, New York, May 12th, 1858, and was the daughter of Henry and Jane Tallmadge. Two children have been born. Claude E. was born in Wisconsin, in 1878, and came with his parents to Walworth when six months old. Frank E., was born in Walworth, July 25th, 1881, and was the first child born in the township.

Anthony Johnson.

Anthony julinson settled on Section 8 in the township of Walworth in the spring of 1880, and has resided there continuously ever since. He now owns a fine farm, and has filled many township offices with honor to himself and advantage to the township

N. P. Johnson

Among the old settlers I will mention N. P Johnson who settled on Section 8, in an early day, and has held several township offices, and P. P. Berg who came from Audubon in the year 1882, located on Section 28, and has taken an important part in township and school matters. He now has a fine farm on which are fine buildings surrounded by a grove of evergreen and fruit trees.

John Anderson.

John Anderson came in the early eighties but sold his farm three years ago, and went back to Denmark to stay, but after a year came back here and said Walworth was good enough for him.

The first town meeting held in Walworth after being set off from the town of Atlanta was at the school house on Section 21, on the third day of April, 1883. Anthony Johnson was elected town clerk; Simon Jenson, A. E. Higbie and L. Johnson, supervisors; N.A. Narum, justice of the peace and 0. Benson, constable. The town was bonded for $150 to improve the highways. The first death in the town was Frederlck Mork, infant son of Anna and Fredrick Mork.


Return to Walworth Township