| In the year 1853, seventy-seven years ago, R.D. Kinney, a
native of the state of Vermont, came west into this territory as
a missionary among the Indians. At that time travel was not what
it is today. Railroads ran only as far west as the Mississippi
River in Illinois. From there to St. Paul, travel was by
steamboat. From St. Paul north all travel was by stage and dog
trains. This was the route traveled by Mr. Kinney when he
arrived within the present limits of Royalton.
At that time settlers in this part of the country were few and Indians roamed the land. Mr. Kinney preempted a quarter section of land which according to the government survey made the previous year was described as the southeast quarter of section 35, town 39, range 32. That the reader may better know what part of the present village was comprised in Mr. Kinney's holdings, we will describe the present boundaries. Starting at the bank corner, east to the cross roads at Skinner Corner, south to Riverside Cemetery, west to the old Catholic cemetery, north to the place of beginning. Mr. Kinney erected a log house near the south line of his property about 30 rods east of the old Catholic cemetery. The house was located at this point for the reason that at this time the military road from St. Paul to Fort Ripley passes close to this location.
Soon after Mr. Kinney erected his house the government appointed him postmaster of an office to be established, and the newly appointed postmaster was asked to suggest a name for the same. In a conversation with the writer some years ago Mr. Kinney stated that he suggested several names, among which were "Burr Oak," "Platte River," and "Royalton." The latter was the name of the village of his birth in Vermont. His preference among the names submitted was Royalton and the post office department decided on this name. Mr. Kinney retained the post office for several years until he returned east. It was then located in the home of some other settler until the railroad was built in 1877, when it was located in the pump station where the Northern Pacific crosses Platte River below town.
When the depot was erected, the post office was turned over to the station agent. The post office having borne the name Royalton for so many years, the railroad company gave this name to the station when established in1878.
Mr. Kinney was the first settler in the present boundaries of the village of Royalton. After several years residence in Cincinnati, Ohio, he returned to this place in 1878, and in the early nineties built the residence now occupied by John Pennie. He and his wife occupied this home up to about 25 years ago, when they returned to Cincinnati to live with a daughter until death called then at a ripe old age.
Early Settlements in the Vicinity of Royalton
When the first white man arrived is not definitely known, but it was about 1830, when a trading post was established by Allen Morrison on the eas bank of the Mississippi near where the power dam northwest of Royalton in located. Allen Morrison, from whom Morrison County derived its name, came into norther Minnesota as early as 1820. He resided in Crow Wing for many years, later removing to White Earth where he died on the 28th of November, 1878. He was prominent among the early traders in this section and was a representative in the first territorial legislature of 1849.
The first settler to make a home in the township (Bellevue) was William W. Warren, who was of mixed blood and arrived in the late forties. He erected a house and cultivated land close to the Mississippi River on the line between sections 28 and 29. In the field notes of the government survey made in 1852, Warren's home is located 200 links west of the southwest corner of the northwest corner of section 28. This description would bring the location very close to the present home of Thomas McDougall. Mr. Warren was aman of education and was elected as arepresentative to the second territorial legislature of 1851. In a copy of the "Frontierman" published in Sauk Rapids, June 7, 1855, editor, William H. Wood, as follows: "The memory of W.W. Warren, then the best talker and most graceful writer in the territory, remains with us, and ever will, a bright and precious treasure. We often met him, and never shall cease to admire the reverential, thoughtful spirit, in which he was wont to discourese of the religion, customs, and history of the Indian. His knowledge in these matters was inexhaustilbe. He talked and wrote much and well. But his days were few. He has gone. That journey to the Spirit Land which he so often describe the Indian as traveling, he, distant from home and loved ones, commenced two years ago."
William Warren died in St. Paul in 1853, when about 30 years of age. From all records obtainable he must be given the honor of being the first permanent settler of Bellevue township. This township and adjacent territory was first a part of the county of Benton, organized in 1849, and remained as such until the organization of Morrison County in 1856. A military road established by the U.S. Government, and known as the Point Douglas and Fort Ripley road, passed through the township. This road crossed the Platte River a short distance below (southwest of)the present railroad bridge south of Royalton, and ran in a northwesterly direction to a point one-half mile west of the school house on the prairie, where it joined what is now called the river road to the north.
Over this road passed all traffic from St. Paul and the far north trading posts. It was the route taken by the famous Red River trains of two wheel carts carrying furs to the south and returning with supplies. The Red River carts were usually constructed entirely of wood and drawn by a single ox, and most of the drivers were half-breeds. They came from Pembina and other points to the north and northwest. The trains sometimes contained as many as 150 cars, and on account of the construction of the vehicles, their approach could be heard form miles by the squeak of the wheels on the wooden axles.
With the flow of immigration from the east in the early fifties, Bellevue received many settlers who came to make permanent homes. The majority were Scotch Canadians and natives of the state of Maine, and nearly all settled on the edge of the prairie and opened up farms; spending the winters in the pineries to the north, cutting and hauling logs. At that time lumbering in Minnesota was an infant industry, and the belief was as one early historian wrote: "The pine forests of Minnesota are inexhaustible." Today, 75 years later, the virgin pine forests are but a memory.
Next to W.W. Warren, the earliest settler in Bellevue Township was John McGillis, a Scotchman, who settled on the northwest quarter of section 33 in 1852. He resided here until September, 1855, when he sold the place to Henry Clark, a native of Maine, born in 1832.
Clark first came west in 1854, to St. Anthony, where he resided a short time before coming to Bellevue. He first settled in the meadow country north of the prairie, but soon left that locality to buy the McGillis place. In 1863 he sold the place to Calhoun Hayes, a native of West Virginia, born in 1832.
Hayes came to Minnesota in 1857, when appointed receiver of the land office in Sauk Rapids. Later he removed to Little Falls and held the office of register off deeds and county attorney. He lived on the place bought of Henry Clark until 1867 when he sold to James Muncy who arrived that year from Maine. From this time the place was know as the James Muncy place to all residents of past and recent years.
Among the settlers to arrive in 1853 were Duncan and James McDougall and Hugh Patterson who settled at the north end of the prairie near the river road. Henry Meyers and John DePue also arrived that year, the former settling on the northwest prairie, while DePue made claim on the west bank of Platte river about a mile south of Royalton. R.D. Kinney arrived this year and, as previously mentioned, was the first settler in the present limits of Royalton.
In the year 1854, P.A. Green, a native of New York, arrived and settled on section 35 and was the second settler of the territory of what now comprises the village of Royalton. Green's holdings of 160 acres lay three forties west of First Street, and one forty north of Center Street, west of the river. The depot and most of the business section of Royalton are located on the original claim of Green. When Mr. Green arrived, his family consisted of himself and wife, two sons, Charles and Frank, and daughter Mary. The Green home was located west of the lumber company's office, and was for many years a landmark in the village. It was torn down about 30 years ago.
In the 1855, James Lambert and sons, William T., Richard L., Josiah B., Isaac P., and James M., arrived from the state of Maine. The Lambert family was prominently identified with the early history of this territory. James, Sr., settled on section 33, engaged in farming and lumbering for many years and in his old age retired to a home in Royalton where he passed away in 1895. During his residence on the prairie he kept a stopping place on the old stage road and the Lamberts were widely known among the early travelers of this highway. Two other sons were born after the arrival of the family in Minnesota: Mark P. and John E. William T., the oldest son, was a soldier in the Civil war, and was later treasurer of Morrison County. Of the seven sons of James Lambert but three are now living: Isaac P. of White Earth, James M., of Funkley, and John of Little Falls.
Richard Lambert, a brother of James, arrived in 1855, settled at the north end of the prairie, and was one of the first officers of Bellevue Township. Daniel Lambert, father of James and Richard, came the same year and made his home with his son Richard.
Among the prominent citizens of the early days to arrive in 1855 was Sylvester Henenlotter, a native of Prussia, who settled on section 27, just west of the railroad and two miles north of Royalton. Mr. Henenlotter was one of the early county commissioners and held many town offices during his life. His son, Severin Henenlotter, now living here, is the oldest living native of Bellevue.
Another settler of 1855 was Mathias Roof, who lived on what is now the Charles Borash farm. One of Mr. Roof's daughter married Sylvester Henenlotter, and another married Nathan Richardson of Little Falls, who was prominent in the origination of Morrison County and one of its first officials.
This year saw the arrival of a new settler from across the sea, Henry Armstrong, a native of Holland, born in 1818, and a carpenter by trade. Contrary to the usual custom, Henry Armstrong did not settle near the prairie but went into the wilderness east of Platte River on section 25, on the north of what is now the Nick Younk farm, and was the first in the township of Bellevue to make a home east of the river. After living in this location for a few years, he moved to a farm on the south of the prairie near the Mississippi, known later as the James Black place, and in 1866 moved to the town of Two Rivers where he lived until his death in 1894. In the early days Mr. Armstrong followed carpentering as well as farming, and during this time built the Peter Green house previously mentioned as the second home in the present boundaries of the village of Royalton. Henry Armstrong, a son, is at present a resident of Royalton, and was a small boy when his father settled here.
Among the pioneers who arrived in 1856 were Stephen Hill of the state of Maine, sons Jonas, Jasper, Henry, and Stephen, Jr. E.G., another son, had arrived the year previous. William Trask, one of the first commissioners of Morrison County, and sons Richard, Daniel, Mark, and Samuel, arrived in 1856. Another arrival that year was George Borman, a native of Ohio, born in 1812. He was the first chairman of the board of supervisors of Two Rivers where he moved in 1865. Two of his sons served in the Civil War, one of whom died in the service.
Other arrivals who came in 1856 were Donald McDougall, who was the first town clerk and served in the capacity until his death in 1874, with the exception of one year; John Frye, Joseph and John Stewart, John Deering, and James Chapman.
James Chapman was a native of England, born in 1815. He purchased of R.D. Kinney, the first settler of Royalton, the northwest quarter of the southeast quarter of section 35, west of the Platte River. This plot of about 40 acres lies east of First Street, and south of Center Street in what is now Royalton. Mr. Chapman built his home, a log structure, close to where the Charles Berry house now stands. Later he added a frame addition to the original structure. Here his sons George, Nathaniel, and William were born. James Chapman lived on this farm until 1878, when he moved to a new farm of 320 acres in section 33, having sold his first holding to Jewett Norris of St. Paul. The farm in section 33 is now owned by his son William, and grandson N.P., son of George. William Chapman is the oldest living native of the village of Royalton.
Allen Blanchard, a native of Maine, settled in Bellevue just west of the Henenlotter farm in 1858. He lived here until 1865 when he moved to a farm on the west bank of the Mississippi in the town of Two Rivers, and on the organization of that town in 1865 was one of the first town officers. Blanchard's Rapids, the site of the present power dam, was named in his honor. Mrs. Allen Blanchard is at this date a resident of Royalton, and is in her 92nd year. She is the only one of the early settlers of the fifties now living here.
The township of Bellevue was organized in 1858, and at that time extended east to the county line. Later, other towns were formed to the east, reducing it to the present boundaries. The territorial name of the township was Platte River, but it was changed to Bellevue when Morrison County was organized. The first town officers were: Supervisors, Richard Lambert, chairman, S. Henenlotter, Duncan McDougall; clerk, Donald McDougall; treasurer, William Trask; constable, J.H. Hill; justice, John McGillis; assessor, John Frye.
The first school was held in the home of Jasper Hill in 1857, Mrs. Hill being the teacher. Later a school was built at the north end of the prairie. Mrs. R.L. Lambert, then Miss King of Anoka, now a resident of Royalton, taught in this building, which was later moved away. Miss King was married to the R.L. Lambert in 1869, and is among the oldest of the settlers now living in this section.
At an early day the settlers established a township cemetery on section 21, just south of the G.E. Brockway farm. Although in a state of neglect, the cemetery still remains, and here is the last resting place of many of the early residents.
Bellevue sent its full quota of soldiers to the Civil War, among whom were Richard Lambert, who enlisted at the age of 42 years, William T. Lambert, E.G. Hill, Stephen Hill, Jr., Jonas Hill, George Stewart, Frank Green, Henry Meyers, Joseph Stewart (died in service), John Deering, Frank Flint, A.A. Morrill, Louis Borman (died in service), and George Borman, Jr.
High water in the summer of 1860 carried away the dam and mills, and they were not rebuilt by the company. Mr. Tuttle returned to Minneapolis, where he resided until 1867, when he located in the township of Two Rivers. There he built a saw mill, the first in the town, and also operated a ferry on the Mississippi where the present bridge west of Royalton is located. His home was on the bank of the river, west of the bridge site. Mr. Tuttle was member of the convention of 1857 which framed and adopted the constitution of the State of Minnesota, and from 1849 to 1853 was treasurer of Minnesota Territory. Mrs. Belle Graham of Little Falls, an extensive holder of real estate in Royalton, is a daughter of Mr. Tuttle.
One of the earliest settlers in this neighborhood was Robert Russell, a native of Scotland, who settled on what is now the George Yanitz farm two miles south of Royalton, in 1851. He was well known to all old settlers as "Scottie." He went to the mines in Colorado in 1860, where he was killed in an accident. His eldest son, Robert L., carried on the old farm until 1873 when he moved to Brockway, Stearns County, and later to Rice where he died a short time ago. Robert Russell, Sr., was the father of W.W. and John H. Russell, early merchants of Royalton.
One of the best know of the early settlers at the south end of the Prairie was John Higgins, born in New York in 1836. Mr. Higgins came west in 1854, settling near the Robert Russell place in what is now the town of Langola, Benton County. He followed teaming as well as farming in the early days, and during the Sioux Indian outbreak in 1862 joined General Sibley's expedition in the war against the redskins. He was always prominent in public affairs, and held many local offices. He was well posted in the events of the early days, and the writer is indebted to him for much data of this history of early settlement. Mr. Higgins died about 25 years ago. A daughter, Mrs. M.J. Bowers, is a resident of Royalton.
The state of Vermont furnished one of the early pioneers in the person of Schuyler Flint, born in 1814. He came to Minnesota in 1856 and settled at the lower end of the prairie, on the bank of the Mississippi, where he resided until his death in 1882, and was the first person buried in Riverside Cemetery in Royalton. Mr. Flint devoted his time to farming, and held the office of county commissioner of Benton County for several years. He was the first chairman of the board of supervisors of Langola, and was also town clerk and assessor. He was the father of Francis S. Flint, a solder of the Civil War, who settled in the township of Swan River, Morrison County, and on the organization of that town was one of its first officers. F.S. later moved to Langola, east of Rice, where he operated a farm. For several years before his death he was postmaster of Rice.
Maine furnished another early resident of Langola, when Albert A. Morrill, born in 1833, came to this town in 1856. Mr. Morrill settled in the "lost village" of Langola, a description of which we will take up later, based largely on information furnished by him. While a resident of the village of Langola, Mr. Morrill was elected constable and tax collector. During the war he enlisted in the Eleventh Minnesota regiment, and after the war located in Brockway Township, Stearns County. In 1875 he moved to Buckman township where he engaged in farming, and was elected county commissioner in 1875. In 1884, he moved to Royalton where he resided until moving to the state of Washington in 1903. The town of Morrill, Morrison County, was name in his honor.
The water power on Platte River was improved by the erection of a dam. Flour and saw mills were erected; stores, a hotel, Indian trading post, blacksmith shop, and many residences were built, and for years it was a thriving town. After years of prosperity high water came. Platte River became a raging torrent, the dam broke, and the entire town, being built on a flat but a few feet above the river was washed away. The home of John Higgins, located on the high ground above the flat, was not damaged. Mr. Higgins later moved his home south to a location on the bank of the Mississippi. The town was never rebuilt, and if the curious wish to investigate the site of the "lost village" a few depressions in the earth will indicate where homes and business buildings once stood.
Again quoting from the "Frontierman" published at Sauk Rapids in 1855, and the first paper published in Minnesota outside of St. Paul and St. Anthony, we find the following in reference to Langola:
"The town of Langola is situated above the mouth of the Platte River, which is a stream of considerable importance, both on account of the extensive pineries on its upper banks, and the fertility and loveliness of the country through which it meanders after leaving those pineries. The town has but just started. It has, however, an auspicious beginning. A good grist mill is in successful operation, at which as good flour is being manufactured as can be made at any mill in Minnesota. Arrangements are being made by the proprietors of the town for the erection of a substantial saw mill which, we are authorized to say, will be ready for work during the present season. Several new houses have recently been built, one of which is now being occupied as a boarding house and hotel. The place is surrounded by a rich farming country; is eligibly situated; possesses a valuable water power, and we see no reason why, with the energy they have thus far exhibited, the proprietory of Langola may not concentrate there considerable business and capital, and thus add one more to the long list of thriving towns in our county."
Such is the story of Langola. Few people now living ever saw the town on the banks of lower Platte River. Langola was not the only early day town in the vicinity of Royalton to pass out of existence. Seven miles to the northwest of Royalton, on the east bank of the Mississippi River, was located the thriving village of Swan River. Its history dates back to 1848, when William Aitkin, one of the early Indian traders, who had been in charge of the American Fur Company posts in northern Minnesota since 1830, settled on the east bank of the Mississippi, opposite the mouth of Swan River. He built a ferry on the Mississippi, and erected a building for a trading post. His reason for establishing his post here was that the Winnebago Indians had been removed by the government from Iowa to the west of the Mississippi in the vicinity of the Long Prairie River, and the road to the reservation joined the Fort Ripley road at this point. Here he traded with the Chippewa and Winnebago Indians and the early white settlers. Mr. Aitkin was one of the first commissioners of Benton County, which in the early days embraced the territory around Swan River. Aitkin County was named for him when organized in 1872. No better idea can be gained as to the importance of Swan River than to again quote from the comments of Editor William H. Wood, in the "Frontierman" of 1855.
From this it would seem that Editor Wood from his experience, considered Swan River a lively town in more ways than one. Today, one passing this point on the river road would never suspect that a town had existed. Not a building or sign of a building of the old town remains. If Langola is the "lost town" of the early days, Swan River must be the "deserted village."
The early settler endured hardships common to all pioneers. Not the least of these was the grasshopper scourge which visited this section in the summer of 1856. These pests appeared in clouds in midsummer when crops were maturing, and the growing crops were nearly all consumed. From the great quantities of eggs deposited, an immense swarm appeared the following year, devouring all green growth. They suddenly left this section early in the summer of 1857, and since that time have not appeared in numbers to do much damage.
The early stage road which was the route to the north for all freight and passenger traffic, changed its location after the village of Langola sprang into existence, and erected a bridge at that point over Platte River, which had previously been forded. From this point it extended north past the Lambert stopping place. This road was the location of the telegraph line of one wire that provided communication with the south long before the railroad was built.
Religious services were held in this neighborhood as early as 1855 by Father Pierz, an early missionary among the Indians as well as the whites. He held mass at the home of Sylvester Henenlotter, one of the early settlers of section 27. Stephen Hill, one of Bellevue's pioneers, held services and preached at the home of settlers in 1856, and later in the first school house on section 21. Others who conducted religious services in the early days were R.D. Kinney, Rev. Hoppel, and Rev. T.C. Kinney, who arrived in the early seventies, built a home, and remained several years. Services were held mostly in school houses, no church building having been erected until the village of Royalton sprang into existence. The early day post-office which we mentioned as being first located in the home of R.D. Kinney, was moved many times. P.A. Green and Schuyler Flint were among those to hold office of postmaster.
The two were taken back to the hotel at Swan River where they were given a good meal, and afterwards, cigars to smoke. While enjoying the smoke in the bar room they witnessed the preparation of the hangman's noose on the ropes with which they were to be executed, showing no particular interest in the proceedings. If they were interested, they showed no sign of it. When the preliminaries were completed, the march was resumed to a point just south of the present gold links at Little Falls. Here a pole was suspended between two trees, to which the ropes were attached. The Indians were placed standing on the seat of a wagon which had brought them there, and at a signal from the leader, the horses jumped ahead leaving the doomed men suspended in mid-air. They were cut down and buried on the spot where they met their end. About 29 years ago a party under the direction of Nathan Richardson, an early pioneer, opened the graves and removed some of the bones. In the grave a few coins were also found.
The leader of the execution party, of which several early settlers of this section were members, was Anson Northrup, a well known citizen of the early days of Minnesota. In 1855 he lived in the township of LeSauk, a few miles above St. Cloud. In 1856 he built and operated a saw mill at Swan River village. He served as senator from this district in the first state legislature of 1857-58. He had charge of the transportation of a steamboat from the Mississippi to the Red River of the North in 1857. On this trip he was accompanied by John Higgins, of whom mention has been made in another chapter. On the outbreak of the Civil War he became wagonmaster of the First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry, serving until the summer of 1862, when he returned to the state to fight the Sioux Indians in the outbreak of that year. Anson Northrup was typical of the early pioneer, a man of great energy, a born leader of men who knew how to overcome the obstacles and hardships of the early settler.
From war time until the latter seventies, new settlers were few. The building of the railroad brought a new influx of people seeking homes. This period brought many settlers to the territory east of Royalton, where the soil was better for agricultural purpose, and it eventually became the more thickly settled portion of the country. The grade for the railroad from Sauk Rapids to Brainerd was constructed in 1871-72. The company failed, and no further work was done on the line until 1877, when upon reorganization, the rails were laid. During the intervening years the settlers used the grade as a wagon road. The first train was run from Sauk Rapids to Brainerd on November 1, 1877, in charge of Conductor William Spaulding.
When word went out that a train would start service on that date, it was an event in the history of this section. Settlers for miles in every direction flocked to what is now Royalton to witness the passing of the first train on which was later to become one of the great trans- continental railway systems. The crowds cheered lustily as the small wood-burning locomotive appeared, hauling a short train on its way to the north. It was a great change from the old stage line which had been the method of transportation from the early days. To give an idea of the time consumed in traveling by stage we will quote from an advertisement for the stage line as published in the "Frontierman" at Sauk Rapids in 1855.
Three days from St. Paul to Fort Ripley! This would take about four hours with the present day automobile. The auto bus time for the trip is about five hours, including stops at all towns.
Among the settlers who arrived to make homes after the Civil War were Samuel Muncy and sons James, Robert, Samuel, Willard, William, and Frank, who arrived in 1866. George W., another son, arrived later. All made homes in this vicinity and were prominently identified with the early development.
Peter McDougall, a native of Canada, born in 1820, arrived with his family in 1873 and settled on the bank of the Mississippi on a farm which had formerly been the home of John Dearing, an early pioneer. Two son, Thomas and James McDougall, are living on the farm at the present time. James Borden, who had been a resident of Bellevue in the fifties, but had returned to Canada, came back in 1877 and settled on a farm north of the McDougall place. This brings us to the time when a village was about to come into existence, the first in this section since the passing of Langola and Swan River. Its name was Royalton.
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