History of West St. Paul, Minnesota
From: The History of Dakota County and the City of Hastings.
By J. Fletcher Williams.
North Star Publishing Company.
Minneapolis. 1881.


The town of West St. Paul is situated in the northern part of Dakota county. It is bounded on the north by Ramsey county, on the northeast and east by the Mississippi river, on the south by Inver Grove, and on the west by Mendota. As originally laid out, it contained also, all of township 28 north, of range 22 west, of the fourth principal meridian, but for the sake of better police regulations the village of West St. Paul was attached to the city of St. Paul, by act of the legislature, approved March 9th, 1874. The question was submitted to a vote of the people, and having the promise of a free bridge into St. Paul was easily carried.

The surface is generally uneven. Along the river between the bluffs and water's edge, is a rich bottom land, varying from a few rods at the north to a mile or more in width at the south. This is usually covered by timber. This bottom land furnishes excellent meadow for hay, and in occasional spots where it has been improved, rich farm land. Bordering this bottom is a high bluff, at intervals broken by deep ravines, and at the summit of the bluff extends westward from a quarter of a mile to a mile in width, a slightly undulating prairie. The soil of the prairie is of a black sandy loam, and produces large crops of grain, producing more corn than. wheat. The surface of the rest of the town is very rough, and when first settled was covered with a heavy growth of timber, in which oak was the most abundant. This has mostly been cleared for farms, some fine groves being left.

When first settled, as is always the case in new western countries, the farmers began raising wheat, but the rapidity of growth and closeness of St. Paul, has of late years induced many of the farmers to enter into market gardening, the soil of the northern and eastern part of the town being peculiarly adapted to that industry.

Sunfish lake, or Lake Thereau, the only lake of importance in the town, covers about sixty acres in sections 30 and 31. The water is clear and in places quite deep. The shores and bottom are of sand and gravel. There are a number of other ponds in the township, but they are more or less marshy and valueless, some of them drying completely up during drouths.

The Indian village, of Kaposia, of which a more complete sketch is given in Chapter XXXII, was located in section 22 of this town. The date of its origin is not known, but it is supposed to have existed many years before the advent of white men. Whenever the river washes away a considerable portion of the bank, at the site of the village, or when excavations are made, large numbers of human bones are exhumed, though it is not possible to determine to what tribe or race they belonged. There were a number of other burying grounds in this vicinity, but this one is unknown. For several generations Kaposia was the headquarters of the Dakota or Sioux Indians. The name was taken from a tribe of that name.

About 1836, two brothers named Kavanagh, were sent here by the Methodist society. Accompanying them were their wives and a Mrs. Boardman, and Miss Julia Boswell, as teachers.

In this company, though independent of the mission, came Charles Cavalier, W. R. Brown, and a man named King. After a short time this mission was abandoned. About 1838, W. B. Brown married Mrs. Boardman, and moved to a claim in Washington county, near Red Rock. The ceremony was performed by one of the Kavanagh brothers, and was probably the first in the town. Cavalier soon followed Brown to Red Rock, and for a time engaged in drug business. He is now living in British America. Miss Boswell and the Kavanaghs returned to Kentacky, and one of the brothers afterward became a Methodist bishop in the south.

During the year 1846, the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions sent the Rev. Dr. P. S. Williamson here to establish a mission, and money was furnished to erect mission buildings. This pioneer and his works are described elsewhere. The work on the mission building was done by Dr. Williamson, with the assistance of others. When completed it was 30x36 feet, with eighteen foot posts, and contained eleven rooms and closets. A quarter of a mile south of of this, A. Robertson, the government farmer, lived in a log house.

Associated with the doctor, as teachers were Miss Jane Williamson, his sister, Sylvester M. Cook and John Aiton. Cook came in the spring of 1848, and Aiton in 1852. When the treaty transferring the Indian lands to the government was concluded in 1852, and the Indians transferred farther west, the land heretofore occupied by the mission was thrown open for entry, and Miss Williamson endeavored to hold it under the proemption act. In order to become the "head of a family," she adopted two Indian boys.

A townsite company with Franklin Steele at the head had looked upon this as the place for a town, and gave Miss Williamson a note for $3,000 to abandon possession. The law required that all persons holding townsite claims should make within a given time certain improvements. The company quarreled with their surveyors who refused to sign the plate, and the prospective enterprise was abandoned.

A. E. Messenger who bad arrived in St. Paul in 1853, concluded to make a claim and ascertaining the state of affairs regarding the site, following the advice of friends pre-empted it in 1855. A spirited contest followed, but was compromised by Mr. Messenger giving to the company the southern part of the claim in the south west quarter of section 22, now owned by T. W. Wallace. Mr. Messenger received his patent February 16th, 1856. In June following, he soldanundivided half to Sherwood Hough, of St. Paul, then deputy clerk of the territorial supreme court. A. J. Whitney, clerk of the court also became interested, with Judge Moses Sherburne. A townsite was laid out in August, and recorded November 13th, following. A short thñe after he received his patent, Mr. Messenger was offered, but refused $5,000 for the land. In a short time after the town was platted., quite a number of lots were sold to parties, but owing to disagreement between the proprietors whenever it was necessary to exercise public spirited generosity in offering inducements to enterprisers, but two or three persons ever settled in the village. Mr. Messenger purchased the lots from time to time, and in 1878, had the pint vacated, there now remaining no signs of the village except the house occupied by Mr. Messenger.

Until the massacre of 1862, the Indians visited their former home each winter. it is said that Little Crow, accompanied by two wives, came to the place a short time before the outbreak, stating that his braves wished to make war against the whites and that he had refused. After remaining a couple of days, he packed his goods, and, with his wives, embarked in two canoes, saying he had discovered Indian signs. A few hours after his departure, a number of braves, in their war paint, came, saying that they intended to kill Little Crow if he did not join them against the whites. After warning Mrs. Messenger and her children that unless they left they would be killed, the warriors departed. This incident was reported to the authorities, but they took no precautions against the danger.

Previous to the ratification of the treaty with the Indians, in 1852, the land in this neighborhood was not subject to entry, and no permanent settlement could be made. A few adventurous persons, feeling sure that the treaty would be made, took claims in 1851. A few of these, and especially those who had been connected with the mission, held the friendship of the Indians, and were not molested. Others stayed at considerable risk of annoyance.

Among those who took their claims in 1851, were Sylvester M. Cook, James Sweeney, William Thompson, James Dixon, James Locke, John and Patrick Fitzgerald, and Edward Moran. Cook had been a butcher at the mission at Kaposia, since 1848. Having made up his mind to remain after the ratification of the treaty; with this object, took a claim inthe north east quarter of section 34, and the north west quarter of section 85. On this he erected a dwelling, and took his family down to it in 1852, living there until his death. December 22d, 1858. In 1863, his widow married T. M. Libby, and they still remain on the farm.

Sweeney arrived in the fall of 1851, and took his claim on the south side of section 7, most of it now being within the limits of Ramsey county. He built a log house and occupied it, but on ancount of his wife's fright, took her back to St. Paul. It seems, one day, some squaws were begging food and whatever else they happened to see. Some articles, which they coveted, being refused to them, they threw some powder on the stove and became very threatening. After the ratification of the treaty, be took his family back to the claim, and has since resided there.

Thompson made his claim at the same time on the south east quarter of section 17. After living on it long enough to secure his patent, he removed to St Paul, where he still lives yet, owning the original claim.

James Locke settled and has since resided on the north west quarter of section 20. Fitzgerald took his claim in the centre of section 18. Moran took his claim in section 19, and after living on it a couple of years, sold and went to Rice county. James Dixon settled on section 20, and has since lived there.

In 1851, G. W. H. Bell came from Potosi, Wisconsin, and after living a year in St. Paul, crossed over to this town and located on land owned by others, whose interest he was guarding; concluding to settle on land of his own, he took a claim adjoining Sweeney on the east in section 7, and in the fall removed his family on his place. After a residence of a year, he sold out aüd went back to his former place in which he soon after bought an interest, and has resided there since. Having sold most of his land in small parcels,he at present owns but a fraction of the original tract. When the village of West St Paul was incorporated as a city, he was its first mayor. But little of his original claim now lies within the limits of Dakota county.

In the spring of 1852, John Aiton, one of the mission teachers, took a claim just west of the village, but subsequently abandoned it, and is now living near St. Peter.

Among those who came in 1852 were, Jerome Pettijohn, Horace Dresser, Patrick Hurley and his sons, A. R. French, W. R. Brown, J. M. Griggs, William Dickman, Caspar Hodene, Adam Lashinger, Perrit, James Corrigan, John Burke, E. Sweeney, T. McNamara, Peter Tierney, Bartlett and Thomas Daily, James Martin, Robarge, and Horace and Orrin Bromley.

Pettijohn located his land in sections 34 and 35. He did not live upon it, but soon traded it for his sist&s, Mrs. Cook's interest in their homestead Illinois.

Dresser took land in the same section, but after living there for a time sold and went to Pine Bend, where his family still lives. Patrick Huricy made his selection in section 17, and lived on it until his decease, which occurred a few years ago. His son Patrick took the place, kept it for a short time, then sold it and went to Iowa.

During the summer, French settled on section 22, and after living on it a few years, lost it. He afterwards served in the army, and now lives in Washington, D. C.

Griggs was unfortunate with his claims. He first settled in Red Rock, Washington county, in 1850. Two years later, in company with his brother-in-law, W. R. Brown, he came into Dakota county and took, a claim in the center of section 27. While absent, during the following winter his claim was jumped by Orrin Bromley. Griggs took another claim and lost it in the same way. He next took a claim in the southern part of section 27. He continued to reside here until his death, April 18th, 1868. His family have since occupied the farm.

Brown entered a claim on the south side of section 27 and the north side of section 34. He continued to live in Washington county and sent a man maned Hoyt to live on his place. He subsequently sold it to O. C. Gibbs. The property is now owned by the Saddler Brothers. Diekman took land in the south west quarter of section 32. Casper Hodene selected his claim on section 31, where he lived a number of years then returned to Germany.

Lashinger made his claim on section 32, where he still lives. An Irishman named Perritt settled on the south west quarter of section 21, but after a couple of years sold and went to St. Paul. James Corrigan entered a claim but shortly after sold and went to Inver Grove. John Burke took eighty acres in section 20, where he still lives.

James Stutzman purchased of an Irishman a claim, lying partly in section 20 and partly in 29. He resided here until about ten years since then sold and went to Washington county. E. Sweeney settled in the south east quarter of section 28. McNamara, in the north east quarter of 83, and Tierney took land in sections 33 and 34.

Bartlett Daly entered the east half of the south east quarter of section 17, and after living on it a few years sold it and moved away. . His brother Thomas made his claim on the south east quarter of section 16 but only remained onit long enough to secure his patent, then sold out and moved away.

A brother-in-law of Robarge made his claim in the north east quarter of section 28, and soon after turned it over to Mr. Robarge, who lived upon it until about a year ago, when he moved into St. Paul.

Quite a number of Irishmen made claims but sold their rights, and left without proving up. The buyers were principally Germans, most of whom arrived during the winter of 1852-3.

Among the arrivals of 1853, were Bixler, Paul Hartnagle, G. H Blase, Joseph Nasser, Adam Lever, Samuel Gehhin, F. Schultz, August Korfhage, and Jacob Marthaler. Korfhege was a minister, and occasionally preached to his neighbors. He settled near the present site of the German Methodist church, but after a few years sold out.

The earliest birth occurred at the Kaposia mission. Henry M. Williamson. son of the Rev. Dr. Williamson, was born at the mission house early in March, 1851. He lived with his parents at Kaposia until they removed to Yellow Medicine. He graduated in the first class of the State university, at Minneapolis, in 1873, and is now practicing law at Flandreau, Dakota.

Louella J. Cook, daughter of Sylvester M. Cook was born in the mission house at Kaposia. She lived with her parents until grown, and has since been engaged teaching. In Nov., 1876, she married J. B. Gaston, and is now living at Wilmar, Kandlyohi county, both engaged teaching. Horace J., son of Horace and Elizabeth Dresser, was born on his father's claim, the land now being owned by Van Buskirk, January 19th, 1858. He is now living near Hancock on a farnL

Mary, daughter of John MeShane, was, born early in 1858. Charles D. Bell, June 28th, the same year. He still lives with his parents, G.W. H. and Mary P. Bell.

The first deaths in the town were the daughter of Martin Furlong, in 1853, and about the same time, at Kaposia missIon, a child of John Aiton died. The former was buried at Mendota.

About 1838, W. R. Brown married Mrs. Board man at Kaposia Mission, the ceremony being performed by one of the Kavanagh brothers, then in charge of the mission. Outside of the mission, the first marriage was that of Benjamin Herring and Esther Abraham, performed by Justice James Locke, April 9th, 1855. The eastern part of the township Is principally settled by Americans. In the central and south western, the population is largely Germans, and the north western, Irish. The census of 1880 showed a population of about 489.


The first meeting for the purpose of organizing the town was held May 11th, 1858, at the house of R. M. Probstfield, in what is now the sixthward of the city of St. Paul. It was a frame building used as a dwelling and saloon. Alpheus R. French was chosen moderator, and R. R. Phelan, clerk. After some discussion as to the propriety of calling the town Kaposia, it was decided to name it as suggested by the board of county commissioners at their meeting April 6th, 1858. After selecting a name the following officers were elected: J. W. McGrath, G. C. Dunwell. John Moffett, supervisors; D. A. Beuton, clerk; L. D. Brown, assessor, R. M. Probstfield, collector; A. R. French and J. Vanderhorck, jastices of the peace; H. Derrick and J. McCarthy, constables; Thomas Odell, overseer of poor, John Rigney, John Silk, Sr., and Jacob Marthaler, overseers of roads.

Following in a list of the supervisors and clerks since organization. Supervisors; 1859, John Trower, John Silk, Sr., August Korfhage; '60, John Trower, Jacob Marthaler, John Fitzgerald; '61, N. N. Thompson, Jacob Marthaler, William Blase; '62, M. T. Murphy, Jacob Stutzman, John Fitzgerald; '63, M. T. Murphy, B. L. Sellors, Jacob Stutzman; '64, H. E. Bidwell, Taylor, James Sweeney; '65, H. E. Bidwell, Jas. Sweeney, Paul Hartnagle; '66, G. W. H. Bell, William K. Dixon, Moses Bixler, '67, Moses Bixler, William K. Dixon, Michael Iten; '68, '69, J. C. McCarty, E. Sangerin, A. Jobst; '70, James Locke, John Kulenkamp, Louis Touehett; '71, William Kern, John Kulenkamp. Louis Touchett; '72-3. G. W. H. Bell, Thomas Odell, Joseph Minea; '74, Joseph Hare, William Kern, Thomas Walsh; '75, Charles Thoele, Jacob Marthaler, William K. Dixon; '76, Charles Thoele, Frederick Thoele, Jacob Marthaler, '77, Peter Tierney, Frederick Goldberg, Mathias Schaffer; '78, Peter Tierney, Mathias Schaffer, John Kulenkamp; '79-'80, Peter Tierney, Mathias Schafer, William K. Dixon.

Clerks. '59, '60, H. T. Upham; '61, Moses Bixler '62, '63, James Sweeney; '64, '65, K. N. Guiteau; '66, John Barlow; '67, A. J. BIdweil; '68, '69, '70, Phillip Crowley; '71 '72, E. H. Wood; '73, '74, William Bircher, '75, '76, Frank Lockwood; '77, '78, John Kockendorfer, '77, '80, C. J. Cook.

The officers elected for 1881, were A. J. Gfflett, W. K. Dixon, Jacob Marthaler, supervisors; Noah Groff, clerk; Hartwig Deppe, treasurer; W. A. Forshee, assessor, Joseph Hurley, justice of the peace; Martin Furlong, constable. Hurley failed to qualify and James Locke still retains the office, having held it continuously since 1860.


At the time of the settling of this township the government allowed to any person who laid out a townsite and made certain improvements, a full section of land. In 1857, Brown, Vaiden and Hall employed Mumford and Belden, surveyors to lay out a town on the north shore of Sunfish lake, on the south half of section 30, township 28, range 22, and the south east quarter of section 25, township 28, range 23. It was platted into large lots, and recorded March 6th, 1857, under the name of Glentoro. However, the enterprise fell through. It is now owned by Joseph Hone, W. Dawson and J. DePew of West St. Paul, and F. R. Smith of Mendota.

In the northern part of the town, on sections 16, 17, and 18, lots and out lots have been laid out as part of the city of St. Paul. Jackson and Bidwell's addition to West St. Paul was made as early as 1856. West St. Paul' was then a city; and in Dakota county. The part now in the town of West St. Paul, was laid out on the north half of the north east quarter of section 18. Dawson's out lots include the entire north east quarter of section 17. It was laid out into five acre lots.

Smith's out lots, surveyed in 1874, are on the north west quarter of section 18, township 28, range 22, and north east quarter of section 13, township 28, range 23. Some of these lots have been vacated and are now parts of farms.

Washington Heights addition to St. Paul was made in October, 1874, on land owned by Ira Bidwell, in the north east quarter of the northwest quarter of section 17. Albrecht's out lots were laid out in March, 1880, on the north west quaher of section 16, and include all that part of the quarter lying west of the St. Paul and Hastings road.


The first school, excepting the mission, was conducted in the summer of 1855, in a small log house on the south west quarter of the southwest quarter of section 7, on the claim made by G. W. H. Bell in the summer of 1852. The teacher, Miss Eleanora Seamans, was paid by subscription Because of the, nearness of St. Paul, and the opening of schools south of the town, school houses were not built as rapidly as the growth of population would admit, though what is now district number 97, soon had a house built. About 1871, the present commodious house, which has seating capacity for fifty scholars, was built, on land belonging to G. W. Wentworth.

District number 2. During the summer of 1857, Miss Margaret A. Brown taught school in a small shanty on land owned by Theobald Motz, and had about twelve scholars. The school was afterwards transferred to a shop built by F. M. Libby, and continued in that structure until the house now used was built in 1863. It is situated on the north side of section 84.

School district No. was organized December 1st, 1860, at the house of G. H. Blase. The first teacher was Miss Margaret Funk. Their present house was erected in 1878. located on the east half of the south east quarter of section 32, on the road running west from the "German" road to St. Paul. It will accommodate fifty scholars. Besides the districts described, the town has three joint districts.


The first church organization, after the missions, was under the direction of the Rev. Richard Dudgeon, at the mission house at Kaposia after it was abandoned as a mission. Services were held irregularly in this building for a couple of years, and occasionally at a little log house on Orrin Bromley's claim. After a year's service, Mr. Dudgeon left the congregation without a pastor until 1855, when Rev. Kidder took charge, but remained only a short time. After a vacancy of a few months, Rev. L. D. Brown came and preached about a year, and was succeeded by Rev. Rich. Since then regular services have been held at different places until the school house was built in district No.2, which has since been used. The present pastor is Rev. Morgan, of St. Paul, who holds services every Sunday. A Sunday school has been connected with the society since organization. The first superintendent was John Aiton, the present is Mr. Goodrich.

The Second Adventists, organized under the leadership of Rev. Hines a few years ago, and soon had quite a large congregation. After holding meetings for a time in the school house of district No.2, they disbanded.

The Zion German Methodist society was organized at the house of Adam Lashinger, in the summer of 1853. by the Rev. A. Korfhage. In the spring of 1854, a church was partially built. It wasa log structure, 22x32, feet, and located on land owned by Lashinger. On account of a change of the road, the church was soon afterward moved from that site to the place where the present edifice stands, the south east quarter of section 32. In 1858, five acres of land were bought and divided into three lots, one for the church, one for a cemetery, and one for camp meetings. The log church was used until 1868, when the present brick building, 26x40 feet, with seating capacity of 150 persons, was built. The cemetery is located just north of the church, and the camp meeting lot, east of the two. A comfortable parsonage stands south of the church. The ministers who have officiated since Mr. Korfhage are: Gustave Zollman, John Schnell, J. G. Speckman, G. D. Siebrasse, Carl Hoilman, F. W. Fiegenbaum, Philip Funk, John Schnell, Wm. Robert, Henry Botteher, Edward Schutte, Henry Dietz, George Hartung, Wm. Robert and Philip Funk, the latter being the pastor at present.

The German Evangelical church was built by a branch of the Zion German Methodist Society. They call themselves "Albrechts," though their belief is similar to the parent denomination, the only difference being a matter of form. Having no organization of their own, they met for a number of years with the Zion congregation. Their first meetings, independent of that order, were held at private houses, under the leadership of Rev. Tarnuzer. In 1880, their present pastor, Mr. Holster, took charge of the congregation. The church was built in the spring of 1875. It is a neat structure, capable of seating one hundred and twenty five persons, and is located in the center of section 32.


Union cemetery was laid out in March 1867, on land presented by N. N. Thompson, to the Union Cemetery AssocIation. It is pleasantly located west of the St. Paul and Hastings road, on the south side of section 34, and contains about one and one half acres.

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