TRIP FROM OWATONNA, STEELE CO., TO ENGLISH GROVE, DOUGLAS CO., MINNESOTA
Owatonna, Minn., Apr. 29, 1878
We, Old Pioneers of Steele County, Minn, have formed a new migrant train for greener pasures in the west. This train consists of Squire W. Brees & family, Solomon E. Brees & family. Also 2 of the children of their sister, Mrs. Alvina Case. 18 people in all. Squire's outfit consisted of 2 wagons, 1 with house 6x16 ft. made of thin lumber. This was the Family Home. The other wagon was loaded with Farm Tools. Wagons drawn with 1 yoke of Oxen each. The wagon of Solomon E. Brees was covered with muslin, 2 thicknesses, size 6x12. Load with family. Weight 2200 lbs. drawn by a Span of mules. Wt. 2400#. Amelia Case Russell & husband "Will" had a new wagon drawn by a span of 5 yr. old horses. The wagon of Frank Case had a hay rack loaded with Farm machinery, drawn by 2 yoke of oxen. There was also 5 cows to drive along following the wagons.
Monday morning, Apr. 29, 1878, started out at 9:30. Arrived at Clinton Falls at Noon. Took dinner, then followed along the Strait River & arrived at Walcott in the evening having traveled 15 miles. We camped for the night. Built Fire & hung the camp kettle. Cooked supper & made coffee, then went to bed but did not sleep very well as the mules were tied to the back end of the wagon & kept eating all night, also something came crashing thru the brush & the dogs set up a howl. I jumped out, ran down thru the brush as hard as I could go thinking it was 1 of the mules. Not being able to overtake it I came back & found both mules hitched to the wagon. It rained hard. All kept dry. Some slept, some didn't, it wasn't the Home Bed. It was strange. Tuesday, Apr. 30th, arose with the Lark. Had breakfast & left camp at 8, traveled along the river. Occasionally thru woods and prairie for 10 miles. Stopped & took dinner, then moved on & arrived at our camping place at 9 P.M. 1-1/2 miles north of Northfield. This is a beautiful place. Is noted for the Great Bank Robbery. It's a handsome little town. The Northfield Academy is a splendid structure on a rise of ground west of the city. We have traveled 21-1/2 miles to day. The cattle's feet are very sore. We will have to slacken our pace. Wednesday, 1st, set, set up the stove, baked biscuit, cooked potatoes, made coffee & enjoyed our breakfast after a wonderful night's rest. We greased our wagons, got some feed for the teams & left camp at 9 A.M. and crawled along at a snail's pace about 4 miles & stopped for Dinner then traveled on our way thru splendid country, timber, prairie, water, traveled about 5 mi. & camped for the night by an empty house & barn. Put the teams in & fed as though we were at home. The Farm wasn't fenced & there was about 100 acres of splendid wheat. One of Squire's oxen is sick & terrible foot sore. We all slept sound. Thursday, May 2nd arose to find the Ox very sick & would not eat. We sat up the stove, fried meat, cooked potatoes, baked biscuit & c. Had breakfast, left camp at 8 A.M. & passed thru Farmington, a nice little town & surrounded by splendid prairie country, then thru Rose Mound & left the beautiful prairie country. Passed on thru the woods 1¾ miles & bought our hay from an Irish woman & way she charged was a caution. She said an armfull ought to be worth fifty cents, for she hauled it ten miles. Then we moved along about 1 mile & camped for the night. It was a terrible cold night but all slept well & warm. Our teams felt the need of a barn. The wood sheltered them some. Plenty of stone here & plenty of Whortleberry Brush. Everybody feeling fine & enjoying the trip.
Friday May 3rd, Left camp at 8 A.M. & traveled over hills & stone, thru the woods & down hills so steep that the teams & wagons stood up endwise. Arrived at the Minnesota River at noon, drove in among the big trees on the river bluffs. Built a fire & took dinner then drove on the Ferry & crossed the Minnesota River to Fort Snelling, and in going up the hill thru the sand we broke the doubletree, but fixed it up & got up the hill all right. Went on thru sand about 6 or 8 inches deep for about 1 mile. The Fort is situated on a point of rocks between the Minnesota & Mississippi Rivers on solid white sandstone, "as white as flour," Is built of stone & bricks & painted white. The sandstone is covered in every place which can be reached with pictures of many descriptions carved in the rock. The Fort commands the Rivers & country for a number of miles. While in camp last evening we saw a large fire in the direction of Minneapolis. Heard this morning the Washburn Mills blew up and burned. The explosion was caused by gas from flour. 16 men were buried in the ruins. We arrived at Minnehaha Falls this afternoon. All went down to see them. They are splendid. A sheet of water about 30 ft wide about 100 ft high falling over table rock, with a space behind the fall about 25 ft. wide which is dry except fine spray from the falling water. We all went around under the Falls. We got some hey from a Big Farmer & he told us to go on about 1/2 mile & camp in his grove & we would find plenty of wood in piles. So we moved on & camped for the night. After a terrible cold days travel facing the wind, The grove is a splendid one, of young popple & Oak with large opening of about ½ acre with green grass, smooth as a lawn. All land around here is held, at $500.00 per acre.
Saturday, May 4th. Got up this morning & found it raining & snowing. The owner of the property, "Mr. Steele," came in the grove in his carriage & told us to go over to a stack of tame hay there was in the field & get hay for our teams & cattle free of charge. So we borrowed a wagon, hitched up the mules & got a load, enough to last today & Sunday. We pitched a tent & set up the stove, washed & baked & got wood for Sunday. Today I am 39. Will probably always remember this birthday. We find the Ox is better.
Sunday, May 5th. Arose this morning & found a heavy frost on the ground. The neighbors gave us an invitation to come up to Sunday School. So we got ready & went. They had a splendid Sunday School. Then in the p.m. some of the neighbors came over & called on us. Everything went off very pleasantly.
Monday, May 6th. Got all the hay we wanted & tied on our loads & left camp at 8 A.M. & arrived at Minneapolis about 10 A. M. Visited the ruins of the Flour Mills. The Washburn Mill was built of stone, the walls were 6 ft. thick at the bottom & 18 inches at the top. It was blown down clost to the ground. Thousands of bushels of wheat are still smoking while we are looking them. In this heap of ruins there is still 8 men under them. Stone, iron, timber, bolts, rods etc. are piled up, & scattered in every direction 4 ft deep in the streets. In every direction we see buildings racked, windows blown out, heavy walls cracked & in bad shape. We passed on thru the city, which is a beautiful one & crossed the Mississippi to the East side, about 2 miles & took Dinner. Then on to Coon Creek & camped for the night. We have come 36 miles today. Principally Oak openings from Mpls to where we are camped. Rich farmers & cheap lands.
Tuesday, May 7th. Left camp at 7 A,M. thru sand. Passed a good many fields of Rye 20 inches high. Spring Wheat all along the road, 5 to 6 inches high. Just passed 2 snakes up in a Bur Oak tree "dead" they were the size of a fork handle & 6 ft long. The farms along here are splendid & the farmers are rich & have fine buildings. We are now passing thru where there has been a hurricane, trees torn out by the roots & twisted in all shapes. The roof of a house sailed over a piece of timber & part of it lays here near the road 40 rods from where it started. It's a general distruction of everything. We went about 7 miles & took Dinner & all had a game of Ball, "2 old Cat." I went to a house for some sour milk. She gave me 14 qts cream & all to make biscuits with, She was clever I'll tell you. Then we traveled on thru splendid country & camped at Elk River, where there has been another gentle breeze which broke down & tore up the trees. We set up the stove & baked biscuits, & Squire caught a fish about 3#. We had supper & retired for the night.
Wednesday, May 8th. We all Slept good, got up feeling like a lot of larks. Left camp at 7:00 A. M. got out about 2 mi. & team came along & got scared at Squire's wagon & tried to run away. The men jumped out got the horses by the head. The horses tipped the carriage over & 1 horse got his leg between the tongue & brace & scratched the hair off so bad it looked red. We helped them get straightened up. No one hurt. We got flour & feed at Elk River Mills & Will caught 2 very nice fish. We passed through Oak openings & prairie with wind blowing a gale. Dirt & sand flying in clouds. Arrived at Big Lake at noon. Took dinner. The lake is a beautiful one, one mile wide, 2 miles long, has sloping gravel banks about 5 rods wide. It's surrounded by timber, the road and railroad pass along the south shore. The wind is terrible & the surf is rolling and the foam flying "like bundles of wool" about 5 rods. There is 13 miles of prairie just ahead so we shall stay here till morning.
Thursday, May 9th. Wind high & cold. Left camp at 6:30 thru sand 8 inches deep until we passed the lake, then came out on Broad Prairie about 8 miles wide, timber an both sides, the Mississippi on the left, the road in the centre. It is not settled here, can be bought for $2.50 per acre. R.R. on the right. A splendid chance for people with small capitol. About 10 A.M. we passed a Frenchman's farm. He was putting in 500 acres of corn. Splendid prairie as far ahead as we can see. Harry is walking 5 to 6 mi. a day, says he is going to walk to Sauk Centre. Just now at 11 A.M. we are just 59 miles north west of St. Paul and 16 miles from St. Cloud. Arrived at Whites Tavern at noon. 14 miles this A.M. Took dinner & looked at some of the fattest Steers I ever saw, 1500# each & sold yesterday at 4-1/2 cts per pound. Raising corn & cattle is the principle business here. Started out at 1 P.M. traveled all the afternoon on the vast prairie except a small belt of young timber & now at 5 P. M. we are in sight of St. Cloud. Went in camp at 6, two miles from the city.
Friday, May l0th. Left camp at 6 A.M. Went up opposite the city & bade Frank, Amelia & Will, Goodbye, then Squire & I walked over to the City. We took dinner here, then went on to Sauk Rapids, crossed the river on the Ferry & the river was so full of logs running down that it was close work to get across, then went on to St. Joe, 7 miles. Went out 1 mile and camped for the night. This is a German Catholic village & is all Catholic for 40 miles ahead & timber 60 miles ahead with some prairie. A splendid country.
Sat., May 11th. Drizzley this morning. Ice in the water pail. Took breakfast. Went on, found timber on 1 side, prairie on the other & splendid wheat fields. Arrived at Cold Springs at noon. Took Dinner & then a game of ball "2 old cat," then went on about 2 miles came to a flat rock 100 ft. long, 15 ft. wide, 2 to 3 ft. high, also a large flock of blackbirds with yellow heads, the first I over saw. Passed thru New Richmond or Richland & crossed the Sauk River & out on the prairie again. Went 4 miles & camped for the night. The leaves on the trees was killed by the frost last night.
Sunday, May l2th. Arose & found ice in the pail again. We staid until about noon, then moved on again, that we may reach a mill before our feed is all gone. We arrived at St Martens about 3 P.M. A small village on an elevation of land from which we can see 20 miles to the right & left & ahead, all prairie. Settled by German Catholic, their crosses can be seen in every direction. After leaving St. Martens we come to a beautiful little water course wending its way thru the prairie, 18 to 30 inches wide & from 2 to 5 ft. deep. Camped by another little stream just like the other only a little larger & a yankee living close by, the first we have seen for 50 miles & splendid land for sale at $5.00 per A. & all Yankees for many miles, This man gave us 1 doz. eggs & a pail of milk right from the cow. We have been feeding hay for the last 2 days, 6 inches long, called Grasshopper Hay. This is everything they raised last year & many of the farmers went 40 miles to cut hay to winter their stock.
Monday, May 13th. Arose this morning after a good nights rest & found frost on the ground. Left camp at 7 A.M. & passed on thru a splendid prairie country, thousands of acres of good land for sale and thousands of splendid wheat. Took dinner on the Sauk River, 11 miles from our last camp, 5 mi. west of Melrose. Moved on thru timber & prairie, 6 miles to Sauk Centre and camped on a little creek for the night 1/2 mile west of Sauk Centre.
Tuesday, May 14th. This morning Squire & I walked back to Sauk Centre, got some bread, flour & feed. Returned to camp & took dinner, then moved on 3 miles & parted with Squire's family. They went 4 miles north of West union on Little Sauk River. Then we proceeded on alone & arrived at Robert Thomas "Farm" in the evening "within 11/2 miles of our future Home." Retired for the night. We have passed thousands of acres of splendid land for sale at $5.00 per A, also thousands of acres of splendid wheat this P.M.
Wednesday, May l0th. Arose this morning and went over to the Farm, and drove up to Benjamin Roberts close to our Farm, He showed me the corners & wanted us to move in with them until we got a house built. My wife thought we better live in the Prairie Schooner, so we drove out on the Farm & unloaded.
Thursday, May 16th. Cold & foggy. Mr. Roberts came down & said there was no use talking. We was not going to stay there. So we loaded up and went up to his home. We have a room by ourselves & they have one. Everything has passed off smoothly, not a jar between us. He also gave us a large part of his garden to plant.
We planted 9 acres of corn on breaking, also potatoes & beans & 2-1/2 acres of Buckwheat. Have built l00 rods of fence & dug 40 rods of ditch. We have l6 acres broke. I took a job of building some new road, got $24.00 in 7-1/2 days. My team worked 2 days. I did the rest by hand, also built a house & moved in, also made 8 tons of hay.
Later took the family up to Mr. Roberts & I started for Melrose to get my freight which was shipped from New York State. Got within 6 miles & camped, got up in the morning & went to harness the mules & began to I feel very strange. Got so weak I could not stand. I leaned against the wagon. I saw the Stage going by & hailed them. He wanted to know what I wanted. I tried to tell him but he drove on. I slid down between the wheel & box. I couldn't see or hear, but knew where I was & thought I was about to die also thought what will Jen & the children do out there alone & I might lie there all day & no one come near me for it is a common thing to see teams hitched to the side of wagons all along the road in the woods. I lay there perhaps 20 minutes when I began to hear the birds & wind in the trees. I opened my eyes & could see. I got up with dificulty & my strength returned. I hitched up & drove about 20 rods & found 2 men getting breakfast on a sheet iron stove. I got warm as I was cold & wet. I sweat so while I was sick my clothes were wet from head to foot. Then went on to Melrose. Got warm again & got the freight. All in good shape except book rack of organ. I drove back to Sauk Centre & got dinner then home, driving 30 miles that day. In about 4 weeks from that time I wanted to go again & get the seeder & Bob Sleds but Jen wouldn't let me go alone. So we put the cover on the wagon & all get in & went down within 3 miles of Melrose & camped under a big Bur Oak & it rained terrible hard. But all kept dry. In the morning went down to get our freight. Bought some flour, meat & feed for the mules & started for home. But first as we were going into Sauk Center it commenced raining & it just poured down so the water was 4 inches deep on the level, but we kept dry. We arrived at home before dark.
We went over to Squires when we had been
here about 2 weeks. Found then on the bank of a beautiful little lake in the woods.
A splendid place only 3 miles in the woods. We staid all night with them &
then returned. Some time later we drove down after 6 P.M., 12 miles. Arrived there
late, after loosing our way & then going, back & finding it again in the
woods, dark as pitch, running over logs. We found his fence & unhitched and
tied the teams to the fence & fed them, and made our bed in the wagon with
brush over the top & shawl over that, with bedclothes over us & slept
till daylight as sound as pigs in clover. At daylight hitched up & drove down
& called Squire and you would have laughed to see him stare. We found then
all well with 10 acres broke.