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Hines Minnesota

Hines Township: 1899-1999
A Brief Account of Early Events

Owens Block, Hines Minnesota

The committee charged with the responsibility of putting together this brief centennial publication—Alice Theisen, Wallace Page, and Betty Rossi—wish to thank all those who have kept and shared clippings and photographs, reminiscences and interviews. We have been too limited by time to do anything more than a sketchy beginning of what we hope will inspire a more thorough record of a remarkable community and those who have been a part of it.

May you continue to share the kind of vision expressed by Jabes Hines who, when his sister Stella got off the train in 1901 and sank to her ankles in mud and snow, said, "Don't cry, kid, someday we'll have graveled roads."

This material has been put together for the Hines Township Centennial
using a Mac G3 and Pagemaker software. The type is New Century Schoolbook
August 29, 1999

When the Minnesota Territory was established in 1849, the northern portion consisted of two counties, Itasca and Pembina. Beltrami County was then a part of Pembina. In 1894 Governor Knute Nelson appointed a board of three commissioners for the "partly organized" Beltrami County with "limited statutory powers." Beltrami County was later officially created by an Act of the Legislature on February 28, 1896, and "put on the map" with 60 full and 16 fractional townships.

Although settlement began in earnest around 1896, an 1893 survey of the area that was to become Hines Township listed the names of Crandel and Torrey as already living there. This was not uncommon. Many persons, anticipating the sale of land to private citizens, wanted to be there and ready when the opportunity arose. The Preemption Act allowed settlers to purchase 160 acres of land for 51.25 an acre and improvements. The Homestead Act gave 160 acres of public land, free, to settlers who lived on it and cultivated it for five years. This period could be shortened to six months, however, with the payment of $1.25 an acre. Among those listed as early settlers were G. Hower, J. H. Haver, H. Wevall, J. J. Nelson, Z. Theriault, M. Phibbs, F. LeSuisse, T. C. Newcomb, W. D. Tripp, William Hines, and Arthur Page. The first woman homesteader in Hines Township was Sarah Crandall, whose claim was on the east shore of Blackduck Lake.

Not all who were drawn to this new frontier were settlers and homesteaders—there were lumbermen, hunters, businessmen—and not all stayed. Some planned only to cut and sell the timber before leaving for more promising opportunities elsewhere. Others found life more difficult than they had expected and could not cope.One early resident stated that the winter of 1896-1897 "was a disastrous winter for the new settlers. The snow was very deep, and they were unable to get feed for their cattle and horses, and much livestock died that winter from starvation."

Still, the promise of free land, timber, good hunting and fishing, and the exaggerated claims of land agents and promoters cast their spell. Newcomers came from Iowa and southern Minnesota, from the Dakotas, from Canada and the eastern states. Some were lumbermen who followed the lumbering industry as it moved westward from Maine and Michigan and Wisconsin. Others were farmers working rented land who had heard that the soil of northern Minnesota was so rich that you could sow seeds among the stumps and reap a plentiful harvest. Thus populations grew, and on April 12, 1899, a petition for the orgaization of their township—originally called Blackduck and later, on May 7, 1919, changed to Hines—was signed by the following:

Deloss Mitchell
Carl R. Carlson
William Hines
John Jergensen
John McDougall
Johen Garlannbarger
J. W. Hines
Olaf Enstrom
Lawrence O. Fisk
Mike Nelson
T. C. Newcomb
Joe E. Foss
H. G. Kvislan
George W. Cox
Helver Halverson
Melvin A. Johnson
John Loink
John Myer
H. N. Smith
R. B. Blake
Arthur Diel
W. G. Parker
Joseph Loreve
George Moll
Syver Berg
Martin E. Christensen
M. L. Mickelson
Alex Carlson
Marten Stoll

The petition was granted on May 3, 1899, and signed by William M. Hines.


Before railroads entered the region, settlers reached the northern pineries by wagon, horseback, water, and on foot. From the west they came by way of Fosston and Thief River. Others coming from the east travelled through Deer River or used the Winnibigoshish waterway. Routes from the south included the Mississippi River and other overland trails through Brainerd and Park Rapids. They followed Indian trails, deer trails, faint footpaths, and often created their own way through thick forests and over frozen lakes. Trails were so bumpy and hazardous that passengers might be jolted out of a wagon and horses could become mired. Some joked that flags should be tied to the horses' ears so that they could be found in the mudholes.

"I walked until dark, and all I could see was trees"

The round trip to Bemidji by way of Buena Vista generally took three days, trips to Park Rapids and Fosston considerably longer. It was to these towns that settlers went for supplies, which they in turn sold to others, since many had no means of travel other than by foot or canoe. It is no wonder, then, that the coming of the railroad was so eagerly anticipated.

Early prospects for a rail line running through the area were advanced as early as 1894 by David Wellington Hines, also known as "Farmer Hines" or "Welly." Hines had farmed land in northern Dakota but had no means of getting his grain to market. Thus his plan was to build a railroad on land owned by farmers between Drayton and Deer River, where it would connect with a defunct road to Duluth. Farmers who contributed ties and labor would own a majority interest in his Duluth and North Dakota Railroad company. He had persuaded his brother, Jabe, and a cousin, William M. Hines, to join him in his venture. Unfortunately, "Welly" was too often distracted by other concerns and left crews to work on their own. Although some grading had been done, the work slowed and investors became discouraged. The project was finally abandoned, to be completed later by James J. Hill.

Meanwhile the M & I Railroad had been gradually approaching from the south, its
progress slowed by laborers who left work for better wages in the harvest fields, and by a stretch of bog near Erickson Lake that seemed impossible to fill. When it finally reached Hines in 1901, there was great rejoicing! Although there was no depot there, the "shaking land" caused the train to move so slowly that it was easy for passengers to get on and off. The first to arrive at the new stopping place were Jabe's sister Stella, their mother, two sisters and a brother-in-law.

With the arrival of a much more convenient method of transportation in Hines, and then in Blackduck, the population of the township grew steadily. Better roads became necessary, and were financed, built and maintained by private citizens and businessmen. The state did not build or maintain roads until the early 1920s.


Mail delivery in early Hines Township was slow, erratic—and eagerly awaited, especially by the women, who often saw no one else but their immediate family for months. There were no established mail routes. Letters came in through the Red Lake Agency or were left at logging camps, where they stayed until someone going the right direction could drop them off. They were also left at "stopping places" or sent with friends or relatives moving into the area. Only first class mail could be delivered, as catalogs and magazines would be too heavy to carry.

With the railroad moving steadily northward, mail was soon being sent from St. Paul to the new communities in record time. The Dysart Post Office was established in 1898 on the west shore of Blackduck Lake, the Hines-Summit Post Office in Blackduck in 1900, the Hines spur Post Office in 1904. But while mail reached communities much more rapidly, it might still be delayed by bad roads and weather. Now, however, patrons received not only letters but magazines newspapers, and the Sears Roebuck catalog.

Newspapers were also an important link to the outside. They were set up quickly and disappeared nearly as rapidly. Among those that endured were the Blackduck American established in 1901 by E.L. Oberg. The town of Hines was one of the few communities that had no newspaper of its own, however briefly. Residents were quick to point out, however, that theirs was also one of the few towns with no saloons.

One other important means of communication, the telephone, made it possible to talk to neighbors "just a phone call away." Telephone lines served a number of parties, individuals were "rung up" through the use of a special ring for each party—two long rings and a short; short, long, short, etc. One could get the news by listening in on others' conversations, though too many listeners made communication virtually impossible. Telephone switchboards were often in the home, where they could be operated by the housewife while still caring for her children and doing household chores. The telephone operator was also the person with whom you could leave messages or who could be asked to do the calling for the church dinner. In the village of Hines, Blanche O'Brien was the telephone operator for many years.


When only a few settlers lived in the region, parents taught their children at home; but as soon as there were enough pupils, parents looked for a more structured form of education. While schools were being organized, children often met in the homes of those offering to teach. Charles Ditty organized Cedar Park School, the first school on the northwest side of Blackduck Lake, about 1905. Another early school, the

Lake View School, was built on the south shore of Blackduck Lake in 1901. The Hines Consolidated School was a two-story frame building within the village and included grades one through ten. Blackduck also had a two-story frame school built in 1902 for grades one through twelve. Eleven students were in Blackduck's first graduation class.

In the early country schools, teacher contracts were renewed in January, and it was not uncommon for school boards to have to find a new teacher for the remainder of the year. Teachers were paid thirty dollars a month when there were sufficient funds. They boarded at homes within the community, did their own janitor work, and went to school early enough to start the fire before the children arrived.

"The teacher deserves credit for the way she handles the school, and I do not think that a whip has been used in it the last year, and the scholars all like and respect her."


With the wilderness closed in around them, settlers were concerned that their children not become ignorant and uncultured. Their concern for education was matched by their concern for the spiritual life of children and adults alike.

The First Lutheran Church of Hines held a meeting at the J.F. Johnson log cabin on November 10, 1915, to organize a congregation. They had 26 charter members, and funds and labor were donated for the construction of a church and parsonage. The cornerstone was laid in July, 1917.

In October, 1921, ground was broken for the foundation of the Methodist Church, which was located just west of the Hines school. The Rev. Jewyll served as pastor there for many years.

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