History of Douglass, MN
From: The History of Dakota County and the City of Hastings.
By J. Fletcher Williams.
North Star Publishing Company.
Minneapolis. 1881.

At the session of the board of commissioners for Dakota county, held April 6th, 1858, township 113, range 17, was made the town of Douglass, and has remained under the same name and with the same boundaries to the present time. An attempt was made to change the name of the town in May, 1858, by the presentation of a petition signed by thirteen resident land owners of the town, as follows:

"We, the undersigned residents of the town of Douglass, Dakota county, Minnesota, petition to your honorable body to change the name of our town from Douglass to Aurora."

Nevertheless, the town retained and still retains the original name.

The northern part of the town is covered for the most part with a light growth of oak timber. A rolling prairie with sandy soil extends over the central and western portion, varied occasionally with oak openings. The south eastern part of the town is very rough, rendering cultivation of portion of sections 28, 24, 25 and 26 impracticable.

The town embraees no lakes within its boundaries, and two small streams represent the living water of the entire township. Trout brook rises in section 27 and flows in a south easterly direction through sections 26; 35 and 36 into the Cannon river, which touches the south eastern corner of the town.

The second is a still smaller stream, flowing across the south west quarter of section 31.

The settlement of Douglass is said to have began with Hugh McKay, who made the first claim within the present limits of the town in the spring of 1854, on the north west quarter of section 4. He lived, however in Hastings until the following spring, when he moved on his claim.

Here he remained, until 1863, with his family, when the enjoyment of his improvements was interrupted by a terrible catastrophe. While returning from Hastings with an ox team in company with his wife, they were overtaken by a thunder storm, wife and team killed by lightning, and he was himself so much injured, that he never recovered. In 1864, he disposed of his claim, although he lived many years after at Hastings.

James Keetley, John Borrill, Isaac Sydman and Benjamin Hare from St. Joseph county, Michigan, arrived in October, 1854, and filed claims in Douglass.

James Keetley's claim was the west half of the south west quarter of section 3, and the east half of the south east quarter of section 4. He built a shanty and broke three acres that fall, and the following spring increased it and put in six acres of wheat and several acres of sod corn. He was forced to thresh his wheat with a flail on the ground and separate it from the. straw and chaff in the primitive way by means of a shovel and the wind. Keetley bad no family, and occupied his leisure in visiting the cabins of the few neighbors, especially John Borrill, who had a family and lived near. Keetley occupied this land until 1880, when he sold, and now lives on his farm lying partly in Vermillion and partly in Marshan.

Benjamin Hare's claim was the north west quarter of section 3. He, like Keetley, was unmarried, and they worked their respective claims together, but Hare spent the first winter with Dr. Foster in Hastings, as well as the time during summer not required on his land. In the fall of 1855, he married and removed to his claim, but his occupancy was short in consequence of the death of his wife, in August following, after which he sold. He enlisted in the war from this county, and now lives at Sauk Centre.

John Borrill's claim was the south half of the south half of section 2, where he built a log house the first fall, 16x24 feet, which was the first in town. Here he lived nearly ten years and became an important factor in town politics. He wasa member of the first town board, and in 1861, was chairman. In 1879, he removed to Stevens county, where he still resides.

Isaac Sydman's claim was the north east quater of section 11, where he built a house and broke fifteen acres in the spring of 1855, after spending the winter with BorrilL In 1858, he returned to his old home in Michigan.

John Holmes, in the spring of 1855, made a claim on the east half of the south east quarter of section. 1, and eighty acres in section 2. Holmes became the victim of the money sharks of early settlements. He mortgaged his claim for $211, agreeing to pay 5 per cent. a month interest. Later he borrowed $50 additional, and reduced the rate on the entire amount to 3 per cent. a month. Not being able to pay at the end of two years, he was obilged to submit to an increase to 5 per cent, a mouth. At this rate of interest the debt soon became $880, and by foreclosure the property passed to the hands of others. Better fortune followed Holmes' subsequent endeavors, and he is now well established and owns part of the original claim, besides other lands.

William Cole made a claim in May, 1855, the north west quarter of section 6, which was timber land, when he settled with his wife and fashioned an abode. Cole first settled on Vermillion river, but suffered inconvenience for want of fuel. To use his own language, he sold because he did not like prairie hay for fuel. His house, on his new claim, was a "dug out," or something that would now be called a "root house." It was made by digging a cellar about three feet deep, 14x16; logs were then used to build the sides up three feet above the surface of the ground, logs placed over the top, and the whole covered with sods and a few boards brought from the claim on Vermillion river. In the door he fitted a window with six panes of glass, spread a few loose boards on the floor and the habitation was complete. It was found that some little improvement was required, for after a heavy rain the cellar proved a cistern, and a well or drain was made to dispose of the unnecessary moisture. Cole proved superior to all difficulties and hardships, and still occupies the claim.

Harvey Van Auken came to this township in 1855, and laid claim to one hundred and sixty acres in section 11, which he retained as a residence for runny years. He was elected chairman of the first town board, and justice of the peace, and while living in the town was always identifled with its politics. He removed after some years to his native state, New York.

Barney Gergen made a claim in the spring of 1855, the north west quarter of section 7, and built a small log shanty, one half of which he covered with basswood bark, the remainder without roof. In this he lived for some time, in company with Charles Lorenz of Hampton. During the first year he went to Illinois and bought a yoke of oxen and two cows. To indicate the price of cattle, it may be stated that be refused to sell at $60 each, cows which cost but half that amount in Illinois. Mr. Gergen lived on this farm until his death, May 15th, 1880.

Arnold Schmeitzer came from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, in 1855, and made a claim on the south west quarter of section 6. There he built a claim shanty in which he lived for about three years, when his death occurred. He has two sons in the county; Theodore, on the old homestead, and William, proprietor of the Farmers Home at New Trier.

Gorman North made a claim of one hundred and sixty acres, in 1855, forty acres of which was in Douglass, forty in Goodhue county, and eighty in the town of Marshan. He built his house in Douglass, where he lived about eight years, and then returned to his old home in the state of New York.

After this, settlement went on quite rapidly, although noimportant centres of business were made. No village or platted town site exists in the township. The nearest approach to a village is Miesville, so called, on the south east corner of section 11, partially on sections 12 and 14. Here, is the St. Joseph Catholic church and cemetery, with which ten acres of land is connected; three saloons, hotels, one store with general merchandise, the post office, wagon shop and blacksmith shop.

The first death in the town was that of Mrs. Benjamin Hare, August, 1856, whose husband has been mentioned among the first settlers.

The first birth was that of George Borrill, February 28th, 1856, son of John Borrill, also one of the first settlers.

The first marriage was March 8th, 1864: Luther L. Twichell and Sallie Dance.


Game - October 17th, 1857, whileD. W. Twichell and hired man were at work on his farm on section 12, they discovered a bear coming toward them. When he had approached quite near, they attacked him with the pitch forks with which they were busy. Not fancying their reception, Mr. Bear beat a hasty retreat towards the woods, with our heroes in full chase. The bear soon took refuge in a tree, when Mr. Twichell mounted guard with his fork and sent the hired man to the house, a mile distant, for a gun. Their pursuit had brought them to section 11, Van Auken's place.

When the gun came, the bear was killed, and Mr. Twicheil with the neighbors feasted on bear steak of home production.

Deer were very plenty in the town and vicinity at the time of settlement. It is said that Barney Gergen killed twenty-one alone in the year 1855. At one time, following the trail of a wounded deer, he came up with him, shot the fellow, and despatched him. Just then an Indian came up who claimed the deer on the score that he had wounded him and was in pursuit of his game. But Barney did not see the matter in that light and did not propose to give up his prize. For some time high words were used in their respective languages, and it began to look like a warm time. Mr. Gergen thought the advantage was on his side, since one barrel of his gun was still loaded while the Indian was not so well provided. The same thought seemed to occur to the Indian, and he made the white man understand by signs,as neither could understand the language of the other, that he was willing to divide the deer even. This adjustment was made and the matter ended peaceably.


Pursuant to notice from the county board of supervisors of Dakota county, the voters of this township met at the house of John McLaughlin, on section 9, May 11th, 1858, for the purpose of electing town officers. Harvey Van Auken, John Borrill and John McLaughlin were chosen judges of election; and Hugh Larimer, clerk. Officers elected: Harvey Van Auken. Daniel W. Twicheli and John Borrill, supervisors; A. J. Patch, clerk: Hugh Larimer, assessor, James Keetley, collector, Richard Powers, constable; Harvey Van Auken, justice of the peace; John Holmes, overseer of highways.

Chairmen of town board for successive years with the years of their election: J. A. Wilson, 1859; D. R. Wilson, 1860, John Borrill, 1861; D. R. Wilson, 1862; Oliver Patch, 1868; R. Cecil, 1863, vice Patch removed; N. W. Taplin, 1864; B. M. James, 1865; John McNamara, 1866; Henry Pyle, 1866, vice McNamara failing to qualify; D. Boser, 1867, 1868, 1869; John Kuhn, 1870, 1871, 1872; Joseph Reigart, 1873, 1874; H. Glein, 1875, 1876; John Kuhn, 1877; H. Glein, 1878, 1879, 1880; Hubert Nicolai, 1881.

Town clerks: G. F. Wilson, 1859; S. S. Twichell, 1860; N. W. Taplin, 1861; F. G. Wilson, 1862; J. C Pyle, 1863; J. C, Dance, 1864; John Cadwallader, 1865; J. C. Pyle, 1866; N. W. Taplin, 1867, 1868, 1869,1870, 1871, 1872; William Kennedy, 1873, 1874; N. W. Taplin, 1875, 1876; John J. Caneff, 1877, and, re-elected each year, he still holds the office.

The records of the town show prompt and patriotic action in filling the demands made by the government for soldiers in the late rebellion.

The first measure was the issuance of twelve town orders, dated February 25th, 1864, for $200 each, bearing interest at 10 per cent. per annum, to be paid as bounty, one to each soldier who enlisted.

At the annual town meeting held in the spring of 1864, it was voted to levy a tax of five cents on a dollar to pay town orders issued to volunteers.

At a special town meeting, held August 13th, 1864, it was voted to levy a tax of four anda half cents on a dollar for the payment of volunteers to fill the quota.

At a special meeting January 14th, 1865, the following resolution was adopted:

"Resolved, That we vote by ballot for or against a tax on the taxable property of the town to fill the quota of the town under the late call of the president of the United States for volunteers, issued December 19th, 1864, or, if said qñota cannot be filled by volunteers, to pay each man drafted under said call $300 in town bonds, for the benefit of his family; and that the supervisors of the town be authorized to issue bends and raise money on them to procure volunteers."

On the final question twenty votes were cast, all in favor of the tax. A motion was also passed appointing Jacob C. Pyle and Wentel Grouse to go to St. Paul and procure volunteers and have them sworn into the service.

The first bonds were issued in February, 1865, bond number one, of $122, February 13th. Nineteen, to the amount of $2,838 were issued to become due March 1st, 1865. Others were issued from time to time, in all about $9,000.

In March. 1865, bonds to the amount of $890 were paid. In settling with the town treasurer, in January, 1866, it was found that he had paid since March settlement for bonds and interest $4,349.20. The last payment of $314 was made in March, 1868.

Douglass is a farming town, and little business other than farming is conducted.

At the little neighborhood called Miesville all the business, in other lines, carried on in town congregates. In the fall of 1874, John Mies bought one and one-half acres on the north-east corner of section 14, and opened several departments of business. He first built a dwelling and hotel, opened a restaurant and saloon, and soon built a blacksmith and wagon shop. In 1879, he disposed of the blacksmithing department, but still continues the wagon shop.

John Mamer located in this neighborhood, in 1877, and built a blacksmith shop on Mies' land, but in 1878 he bought of A. Dockstader one acre in the south west corner of section 12, on which he moved his shop and still operates it. Here he introduced a five horse power engine, which operates a turning lathe.

John Kelhofen built a small house and opened a hotel and shoe shop, in 1876, on the north east quarter of section 14. In 1877, he increased his business by adding a stock of general merchandise, including dry goods, groceries, boots and shoes, and at the same time gave up his saloon. In 1880, he. enlarged his buildings again, and opened a saloon.

John Kump opened a saloon and hotel at this point in 1876, and still continues.

The first post office in town was established at Miesville neighborhood in 1878, and Mr. Anton appointed postmaster. The office is called Trout Brook, and was named by John Kennedy, postmaster at Hastings. The name was borrowed from the small stream in the southern part of the town. The first mail was received May 11th, although Mr. Anton received his appointment April 10th. It was brought by A. Dockstader from Hastings. Dockstader carried the mail for several months, when he was succeeded by others. In July, 1879. a mail route was established from Hastings to Northfield, embracing Trout Brook, New Trier, Hampton, East Castle Rock and Waterford, with S. W. Mattison mail carrier, who reaches this office from Northfield, Mondays and Fridays; from Hastings, Tuesdays and Saturdays.

The County Line Methodist Episcopal church dates its origin to a feeble beginning in June, 1859, when Rev. Shaw, of Hastings held a religious service in Oliver Patch's log house, located on the north-east quarter of section 11. A class of seven members was organized at the same time at the house of A. Dockstader, then living in what is now Welch township, Goodhue county. Services were held at this house every week until the following spring, 1860, when a church, 18x24 was erected on the south-east corner of section 1, township 113, range 17. Jacob Meyers preached the first sermon in this church, and continued to visit it monthly as the regular pastor of Red Wing circuit, to which this church bad been attached. Services were held every Sabbath, except those occupied by the visits of Rev. Myers, by local preachers.

In 1865, as the church had increased in number to sixty members, it was found necessary to have more room, and an addition of twelve feet in length was made to the church. The church was fertile in usefulness, and in the winter of 1860-'61, a great revival was witnessed, resulting in many conversions. Three of these converts have been educated for professional lives;two physicians, and one preacher of the gospel, now settled in Texas.

In 1870, quite a number withdrew, and formed a Congregational church. This, and the removal of members caused the discontinuance of services, and in the spring of 1880, A. Dockstader bought and removed the building.

The Douglass Congregational church was organized August 28th, 1870, in the school-house of district 58, by Rev. E. W. Merrill, of Cannon Falls, and Rev. J. W. Ray, of Hastings, the latter preaching the sermon. Only eight who united as organizers were present, owing to a severe storm, but others were soon added, increasing the number to forty. Previous to this organization, preaching services had been maintained during the summer by Rev. Merrill.

In 1872, a church, costing $1,400, was erected on the north-west corner of the north-east quarter of section 12. Three hundred dollars of the cost was received from the American Congregational Union and the remainder from subscriptions before the dedication, and the church has never been embarrassed by debt like many western churches. It has been united under the pastorate with Cannon Falls. Pastors have been Rev. Merrill, to 1874; Rev. C. A. Ruddock, to 1877; Rev. B. Fay, to July, 1878. The church was without a regular pastor from the last date until Rev. C. A. Conant, the present pastor was called to the charge of Cannon Falls and Douglass. Services are held alternate Sabbath's at each place. The present number of resident members at Douglass is twenty five.

A Sunday school was organized in 1870, with about fifty in attendance, E. Harrison, superintendent, which has been continuously maintained. It is held weekly, with an average attendance of fifty, although eighty have sometimes been present. The library, added in 1871, now requires a change, although it has been of much service in the past.

St. Joseph Catholic church. The corner stone of this church was laid in May, 1872, anda church completed in the fall of 1873. It is a frame building 40x60 feet, with belfry, costing $3,000. and is located on the south-east corner of section 11. The site, with ten acres of land for church and cemetery, was purchased of A. Coons. The first mass was celebrated October 16th, 1873, by Father Magnus of of New Trier. About sixty five families worshipped here at the organization, evenly divided between the Irish and German population. At present about eighty-five families attend, two-thirds of which are Germans. In 1878, the bell costing $300, was procured at Cincinnati. Pastors have been: Father Magnus to 1874; Father George Sherrer of Hastings, to March, 1880; Father Canilius until October, 1880; Father Boniface, from the last date to the present.

The cemetery was first used in 1874. In 1876, C. B. Lowell surveyed and staked out three acres on the west end of the lot. This yard contains 357 lots and at the present only twenty five graves.


School district number. 65 is a joint district. The first school taught within its limits was that in the summer of 1860, by Miss Jennie Warner, in the County Line Methodist Episcopal church. This was also the first school taught in the town of Douglass.

The following fall a school district was formed joint with Welch, Goodhue county, and Marshan, and a school taught during the winter, 1860-61 in the church, where schools continued to be held until 1864-65, after the division of school districts which made the county line boundary. During the whiter 1864-65, school was taught in a log house owned by Oliver Patch, on section 11. During the summer of 1865, a joint school was held again, with Goodhue county, in the church. During the summer of 1865, a school house costing $888 was built on the south-east corner of section 2, 22x32, with 12 foot walls. By an act of the county board, in the spring of 1881, the northwest quarter of section 31, township 114, range 16, was detached from this district and added to district 30. The present limits of the district are: sections 1,2,11, 12, township 113, range 17; south half of sections 35 and 36, township 114,rauge 17; the south west quarter of section 31, township 114, range 16, thus combining portions of Douglass, Marshan and Ravenna.

School district number 64. The first school was taught in this district in 1863, by Miss Julia Cross, in a granary on the north east quarter of section 29, on the Cannon Fails and Hastings road. A sthall school house was built the following summer, 16x22 feet, at a cost of $150, on the north-east quarter of section 29. The first school in this house was taught by Miss Sarah Hale. At a special school meeting, held March 15th, 1873, it was voted to levy a tax of $700 to build a new school house; the contract to be let to the lowest bidder. The lowest bid was $765, to be paid in district bonds bearing ten per cent. interest. The building was 24x30 feet, with twelve foot posts.

The old school house was sold to Charles Draeger, and the new occupied nearly the same site.

The district embraces sections 19, 20, 21, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32 and 33.

School district number 58. The school-house in this district was built in the summer of 1868, and is by far the most expensive school-house in the town. It cost $1,546, and is 24x30 feet with a storm house and entry, and a wood house attached in the rear. This fine school-house was built on land in the north east corner of section 23, then owned by E. W. Grosvenor, with his agreement to donate the site, but before the conveyance was made the farm was sold, and is now owned by R. Gregg. When formed from district 65, this district embraced sections 13, 14, 23, 24 and 25. In 1875, the east half of the south-east quarter of section 15 was detached from district 78, and attached to this district. Miss Helen Cattier taught the first school; four months in the winter of 1868-9.

School district number 84, was organized at the house of D. Boscr, in 1867. The first school was taught in a granary owned by John F. Koffeler, in the summer of 1867. During that summer the present school house was built, on the north west corner of section 35. This district embraces four sections.

School district number 78. The first school was taught in 1862 by Miss Jennie Warner in a log house on the south east quarter of section four, owned by James Keetley. When organized the district contained sections 3 to 10 inclusive, and sections 15, 16, 17 and 18. In 1875, the east half of the south-east quarter of section 15 was detached and added to district number 58, by an act of the county board. Inthe spring of 1881, the south east quarterof section 18 was detached and added to district number 62, of New Ther. In 1869, a school-house was built, costing $515, on the north-east corner of section 8, on land donated by J. Donndellnger. School was taught in this house, in the summer of 1869, by Miss E. F. Degeil, since which time the regular terms of school have been uninterrupted.

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