A Pioneer History of Becker County

Chapter XLVI.
History of Spruce Grove Township.


August 4th, 1895.
I wish very much to assist you in your work concerning the county, and hope the enclosed will help a little.

In 1885, Sylvanus Hall came from Irving, Iowa to Butler, Otter Tail County, Minnesota to visit his son Jonah and family. He in company with his son and neighbors were hunting on December 26, his son being in advance he heard a cry and on looking around saw his father standing on a log who said, "Jonah, I am shot." His son reached him in time to catch him as he fell. He only lived a short time. He was 71 years old. The body was taken to his old home in Irving, Iowa. to be buried. The hunting and accident were in Spruce Grove, Becker County.

In 1884, Paul Troppman moved his family from Sanborn, Iowa, to Spruce Grove, and put up a sawmill on the Red Eye River. The next summer while running the saw he slipped, his foot striking the saw nearly severing the foot from the leg. The nearest surgeon was at Perham, twenty miles distant, amputation was necessary, which with loss of blood and the shock of the injury proved too much for him. He died about sundown of the same day. He was fifty years of age and was buried at Devil's Lake near Perham. Minn.

The following winter the mill passed into the hands of creditors, one of whom sent a family named Tubbs to occupy the house and run the mill. They had in their employ a Mr. Thomas Cassady, a nephew of Mrs. Peter Schram, all of Spruce Grove, he having a homestead in said town and being a young married man of twenty-four years. His bride came from Canada to Perham, where they were married in February. He was sawing shingles, the blocks were icy, one slipped from his hands, struck the saw, flew back striking him squarely in the face, knocking him down; with help he walked to the house a few rods away. A physician was sent for from Perham, who dressed his wounds, and giving directions as to the treatment. He left telling the young wife her husband would surely live. At midnight he insisted on changing his clothes and did so alone. In an hour he was a corpse, and his bride of two weeks a widow. His remains were buried in the cemetery at Perham.

From 1884, the year we moved into Becker County, until 1888 there were no mail facilities in this country at all. The nearest post-office was Perham or Frazee, each eighteen miles. Our mail was brought by whoever went to Perham, bringing for every family for miles around: therefore it was handled by any number of hands before it reached us in all conditions, if at all. Often it was mislaid or lost entirely. On going to town one time, mail was found scattered along the road for a distance of three miles, lost out of a man's overcoat pocket. C. H. Clifford sent a petition to Washington asking for a post-office and mail route. The post-office was granted immediately and named Clifford with C. H. Clifford as postmaster. The mail was carried the first year by his eldest son, Alfred H., without any specified conveyance or salary. He generally went out and back once a week, mostly with an ox team, taking him two days for a trip. Sometimes he would strap the mail on his back and go out and back on foot in one day. At the end of the year he was appointed mail carrier by the department for two years with a small salary, making two trips a week. At the end of his term, Charles A. Rick was appointed for a term of four years and performed his duties faithfully, losing but two trips in four years. J. B. Miller succeeded him making three trips a week. March 2nd, 1896, C. H. Clifford resigned, his wife Delia I. Clifford being appointed postmistress in his place. During that time Spruce Grove, where Clifford post-office was located, was organized, also three school districts, schoolhouses built, roads laid out, bridges built, and in the spring of 1896 there were scarcely forty acres either homestead or railroad land to be had in the town.
Yours sincerely,

This township was organized in 1889. The first town election being held January 19th, 1889, at the home of Alfred Blanchard. The first town board consisted of: Chairman, Henry Shafer; treasurer, Charles Maehler and clerk, Perry Vincent.

As the predominant timber in the town was evergreens, it was called Spruce Grove. The township was heavily timbered with pine--five million feet. Spruce, balsam, oak, poplar, birch, elm, basswood, ironwood, and tamarack with less quantities of other varieties. It is noted for its wild fruits consisting of plums, cherries, currants, strawberries, raspberries, cranberries, gooseberries and June-berries.

It has lakes and rivers abounding in fish, pike, bass, pickerel, sunfish, red-horse and suckers.

Game is plentiful, among which are moose, deer, bear, wolves, lynx, wild cats, skunks, mink, muskrat, etc., partridges, chickens and ducks. There is abundance of wild hay.

School District No. 52 was organized September 10th, 1887. The school board was: C. H. Clifford, director; treasurer, Charles Maehler; and clerk, Henry Shafer. The first school was held in the fall of 1887 in the private house of Fred Bonan with Miss Addie Coombs, of Detroit, Minn., as teacher. The schoolhouse was built in 1888 of logs.

The first settlers were Jorgen Dornbush and wife, whose maiden name was Casina Freie; both were born in Germany, and they were married in Houston County, Minn. They moved from there in January, 1880. Five children were born to them. Mrs. Dornbush died in April, 1884, and was buried at Perham, Minn. In August of the same year Mr. Dornbush married Miss Mary Altman, of Gormantown; ten children blessed their union. After a residence of twenty-two years and two months in Spruce Grove they moved with their children and grandchildren to Alberta, Canada.

Settlers following Mr. Dornbush the first two years were Fred and Charles Maehler and families, John Husen, Aug. Beckman and wife, Fred Voight, Henry Shafer and family and then several families of Finns. The first couple married was Fred Voight of Spruce Grove and Mrs. Elizabeth Meyers (widow) of Gormantown, The Rev. Krattchmer officiating.

The first birth was twins born to Mr. and Mrs. August Beckman, a boy and a girl.

The first death, Turgen Christoff Dornbusch, father of Jorgen Dornbusch, aged 73, of old age. He was born in Germany, and buried in Perham, December, 1881.

A young Finn, aged thirteen, whose gun discharged while getting through a fence, was killed, the ball lodging in his neck. He lived six days.

In the early days hunting parties came from Moorhead and Fargo and east from Chicago and other cities, after deer and other game. The Chippewa Indians were allowed to hunt here, securing immense quantities of venison.

Edward L. Schram, son of Peter and Jane Schram, early settlers, shot and killed the first moose. George Shafer, eldest son of Henry and Sophia Shafer, had a novel experience. He shot a deer as it was lying down, and ran to cut its throat, when it jumped up, and catching its horns in his coat, carried him a long distance, before he was extricated by his coat giving away.

A Youthful Fiend.
Perham was terribly agitated last Saturday June 2nd, 1882, by the discovery that two men, a surveyor named Washington, and a German boy, his assistant, named Fehrembach, had been most foully murdered, about twenty miles north of that place, in Red Eye Prairie, near the Becker County line, presumably on the Monday previous. It appears that the two men started out of Perham to survey some pine land, and were afterwards joined by a lad named John Trivett, aged fifteen. On Monday Trivett borrowed a gun of a farmer, who shortly after heard some shots, but thought nothing of it. Trivett is well known at Perham, and generally considered a worthless vagabond, and seldom had any money. He was seen in Perham, however, on Monday, and exhibited a watch and revolver, and afterwards sold the watch for five dollars. On Friday the dead body of the German boy was discovered by a farmer, the head crushed in, several bullet holes in the body and a knife wound in the neck. The body of the surveyor was found Saturday, the back of the head being badly mutilated by a discharge from the shot gun. Trivett bought a new suit of clothes at Perham, and left for the West on Tuesday morning, intending to join the cowboys in Montana, as he has often avowed his intention of doing. He was traced to Bismarck after the discovery of the bodies, by Deputy Sheriff Butler, of Otter Tail County, and arrested and returned to Perham Thursday morning. He is said to have confessed the crime. He was heavily armed when taken, and had assumed the name of the noted Frank Ford.

These are all the particulars so far as we have been able to learn, of the murder of the men and the capture of the villain, and this morning's train brings the news that Trivett did not wake up at daylight this morning, but those residents of Perham that did, found the dead body of the young fiend suspended by the neck from a telegraph pole. On the evening of Trivett's hearing, Mr. Washington, brother of the murdered man, was allowed to interview the murderer, and his confession is as follows: "I'll tell you all about it." He then stated that he came upon the surveyor aud Fehrembach; Washington was sitting by a marsh looking at his plat, "and I just thought," said the boy, "of pictures I had seen in novels of men being killed in that position, and I drew my shotgun to my shoulder, just like that." suiting the action to his words, "and shot him through the back of the head. He never got up. Fritz, who was a little way off, then came at me with his hatchet, and I saw I had got to kill him or he would me, and I quickly rolled the surveyor over, and pulled out his revolver, and quickly began firing at Fritz, who turned and ran and I after him. When he had run about forty rods Fritz fell and I drew my knife on him, but I couldn't kill him with the knife, which broke in my hand, and I thought it a mercy to finish him quick, which I did with the hatchet." "Did Fritz say anything?" "Yes," said the boy, "He asked for water, and I went to the creek for water and had nothing but my hat to bring it in. When I got back he was dead. I then rifled Washington's body and started off, threw his revolver into the creek, and dropped the gun in the woods, one barrel of which will be found still loaded, and went to where my father was building a bridge and camped all night with him. He did not know what I had done, and I left him in the morning and went to Perham. You know the rest."

This statement was listened to by the brother of the murdered surveyor, and Steve Butler informed us that it corresponds exactly with the first story the boy told him at Bismarck before he was primed by the prisoners in jail at that place and Fargo.
-- Fergus Falls Journal
June 2d, 1882

Yes, Trivett murdered the two surveyors on the southwest corner of Section 31 of Spruce Grove Township.

The name of the surveyor was Edward Washington, and that of his assistant was Fred. Fehrembach. It was about the last of May, 1882, and the bodies were found three days after the murder. Trivett was caught at Bismarck, N. D., by Constable Steve Butler, of Perham. He was about fifteen years old at the time. They gave him a hearing, but the third night afterwards a mob lynched him by hanging him to a telegraph pole in the village of Perham.
Mr. Dornbush was living near there at the time of the murder.

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