A Pioneer History of Becker County

Chapter LI.


By Charles E. Spencer

On section 26, in this town, is a hill about two hundred and fifty feet high and a man standing thereon can get a good bird’s eye view of the whole township.

As I have stood there viewing the panorama spread out before me, my mind has gone back for ages to the first part of the quaternary period, when nature was busy preparing this world for the dwelling place of man, and I saw where an ice boulder had been detached from that huge floe that swept our continent from north to south and as it was breaking up, formed a great crevasse, beginning up on the reservation and extending in a southeasterly direction from four to six miles in width, which, later on, formed the Shell River valley and prairies of that name. As this detached iceberg resting on our township gradually melted it left the surface of the land on which it rested broken and rolling, a sort of confused mass of stones, clay and sand, of which we have specimens of all varieties. Then, slowly, nature began the work of clothing in green, which went on until some of the finest forests of pine in Minnesota stood where desolation reigned supreme.

Father Hennepin crossed this township while returning from his exploration of the head waters of the Mississippi; part of his trail is still in existence and is know as the Itasca Trail. To him belongs the honor of being the first white man to enter our township.

On April fifteenth, 1881, Elizabeth C. Knapp, a widow, with a family, decided that this would make a good home for her and her little ones, and she homestead the southeast quarter of Section 30. Shortly after making settlement on her claim, Mrs. Knapp had the misfortune to break a leg, which, coupled with pioneer hardships, made her bed not one of roses, but perseverance and grit enabled her to surmount all obstacles, and she is now living in Park Rapids enjoying life, though not in the best of health.

Mrs. Knapp’s pioneer life and hardships were greatly mitigated by her son, a lad of thirteen, who had kept the larder well stocked with venison and bear meat, which was found in abundance, while ducks and pheasants and rabbits were too numerous to mention, and could be found almost at the door.

Pioneer life is always a repetition of itself, joys and hardships so mingled as to make life a continuous succession of excitements which dispel the gloom of solitude, and buoy up the mind with an exhilaration known only to those who have lived on the frontier and entered into the strenuous struggle for existence there.

Widow Knapp, our pioneer settler, drank her cup and murmured not, happy now in her old age to think she won the fight, and is honored by all who know her.

Mrs. Knapp was followed in a few months by John Sheel, Kelly Lewis and Sam Orran. Mr. Lewis is the only one of the pioneers still here.

For a number of years the southwest corner of the town was the only part settled. The next settlement formed was in the southeast, headed by M. W. Vanderwater and P.S. Dorsey, both of whom have had much to do with public affairs in Becker County. This settlement was later added to by the writer and others, until today there is but little vacant land left in this corner.

Settlement in the north side of the town was headed by the Bittman Brothers, who were soon followed by Mac Eischens and others. Today there is a flourishing settlement of Germans there, who are fast improving the country and building for themselves good home. There is still quite a strip of land in the center of the town unsettled, which is well adapted to diversified farming. There once stood in the township close to fifty million feet of pine which has mostly been cut and driven to the big saw mills. The soil is good and a settler here today can find vacant land containing natural meadow and timber for building purposes, land containing natural meadow and timber for building purposes, the question of fuel being to remote to consider.

There are two mills in active operation here. One owned by Mr. Eischens, in the north side, who cuts lumber, lath and shingles, also does a general flouring business, having good water-power. The other is a general sawmill, owned and operated by the writer on the south side of the town. We have several fine lakes. The largest is Two Inlets, from which the town derives its name. One called Hungry Man’s Lake in the northeast corner, took its name through the misfortune of an old man, one of the early settlers Mr. Christian, who got lost in the woods and wandered for two days and nights and was found by an Indian on its shores.

The first white child born was Mary E. Sheel, born Sept. 10th, 1882. I do not know where she is now.

The first male child born was Thomas Christian, born Dec. 24th, 1894, now living in Canada.

Al. Farr and Bell Knapp were the first couple married. Mr. Farr was killed by a threshing machine in 1899.

The first schoolhouse was built of logs about 1890, and the first term of school was taught by Sam Dazell. We now have three fully equipped, modern schoolhouses in the town, which are all in one school district, No. 67.

Our organization as a township was completed in 1898. The first town officers were: Supervisors: Henry Bittman, chairman; W. T. Devereaux, Barney Bittman; and town clerk, A. K. Lewis.

Politics at that time were somewhat exciting here; it was almost a solid demo-populist town, the writer casting the only republican vote in the township for the first five years of his residence therein.

We are now about equally divided between republicans and democrats with any occasional populist.

This township has been the home of three old soldiers: John O’Neil, a member of the present town board; B. H. Cool, who still lives here, and Louis Fuss, who occupies “a little green tent, whose curtain never outward swings,” dying soon after taking his claim-the first death in the town.

This ends the story of our existence as a commonwealth. Many circumstances could have been better-more could have been worse, but taking it altogether, I am glad I came here, and there is still room for many more, who will receive a hearty welcome.

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