History of Forestville Township, Fillmore County, Minnesota
From: History of Fillmore County, Minnesota
Compiled by Franklin Curtiss-Wedge
H. C. Cooper, Jr. & Co.
Chicago 1912


Forestville Township is bounded on the north by Fillmore, on the east by Carimona, on the south by York and on the west by Bloomfield. It is a full congressional township, and in physical characteristics is not unlike the towns around it The south branch of the Root river, so called, has in turn its north, middle and south branches, and the town is well watered.

The north and south branches have their source in this township. They are beautiful spring streams, flowing out from the bottoms of cliffs more than a hundred feet high. The north branch is said to be the finest natural trout stream in the state.

The township received its name from the many streams within its borders, especially along the streams near the village, which has now become quite a summer resort. The township contains more and better timber than any other town in the county, has more beautiful natural scenery than the other towns, contains larger and better apple orchards and produces more apples, possibly, than any other town in the state. This lead in apple production was due to the persistent efforts of the late Barnett Taylor, the pioneer horticulturist who settled in the village in the year 1856, and at once began to plant apple trees.

Early Settlement. The first settlers in this township were Levi Waterman and his brother in law, Joseph Bisby, natives of Pennsylvania, who came from Iowa in the fall of 1852, bringing their families, stock and household goods. Waterman settled in 12, while Bisby's claim was east of the Waterman claim, largely in Carimona township. Waterman sold out to Felix Meighen and Robert M. Foster, and after moving about a while, settled in Kansas and pre-empted what is now a part of the city of Wichita. He is now dead. Bisby remained, became a prominent citizen and ended his days here. The Watermans and the Bisbys spent the winter of 1852-53 as the only settlers in the township.

In the summer of 1853 there arrived two men who were designed to be the real makers of Forestville. Robert M. Foster and Felix Meighen had known each other as boys in Pennsylvania. As a young man, Mr. Foster had moved to Steubenville, Ohio, and Mr. Meighen, who married Mr. Foster's sister, had located in Galena. After considerable correspondence, the two gentlemen decided to try their fortunes in a newer country. Consequently Mr. Foster came from Ohio to Galena, Ill., and after staying there a short time, started to the westward with Mr. Meighen. At Decorah, Ia., they heard of the lands to the northwest that were open to settlement. Continuing their journey they reached Elliota, and from there they traveled westward until they reached the fertile valley that is now the village of Forestville. After perfecting negotiations, Levi Waterman agreed to sell his claim. Mr. Meighen then returned to Galena, Ill., to serve out his term as deputy sheriff under his brother, William Meighen, who was then sheriff of Joe Daviess county, in which county the city of Galena was located. Mr. Foster remained, and in October, 1853, about forty rods north of the mouth of "Sugar Camp Hollow" he opened, in a double log building, the first store in Fillmore county, under the firm name of Foster & Meighen. Mr. Foster lived during the winter of 1853-1854 with the Waterman family, Samuel Riddle being also one of the boarders, Riddle having arrived in the early spring of 1854, and filed on a claim near the village. The Watermans also maintained a sort of a hotel for the convenience of travelers for about one year.

In 1854 the real influx of population began. Felix Meighen came back for a short time, bringing with him his brother, William Meighen, who also determined to east his lot here. Later they again went back to Galena, but the following year came to make their homes here permanently, bringing their families. Forestville Village. This hamlet boasts of the oldest store in the county, the first store which was opened in the county being still in operation here. The site of the village was staked out as a claim by Levi Waterman in 1852, was by him sold to Robert M. Foster and Felix Meighen in 1853, and was by them platted as a village in 1854. A store was opened by Foster & Meighen October 1, 1853, being in charge of Mr. Foster until the early part of 1855, when Mr. Meighen arrived with his family. In 1856 a brick store and residence were erected from the first brick made in the county. The store stock was moved into this brick store in 1857. The company continued as Foster & Meighen until 1868, when Mr. Foster withdrew. Thomas J. Meighen and a cousin, Dennis R. Meighen, then conducted the store in Felix Meighen's name for four years, since which time the establishment has been in charge of Thomas J. Meighen. The house and store erected in 1856 are still standing.

In the meantime William Meighen arrived in Forestville in 1855 and began to take an active part in its destinies. He and Major J. Foster erected the Freemont House. Mr. Foster opened it in 1856, and Mr. Meighen began to deal extensively in real estate. In 1856 a steam sawmill was built and Forestville became not only the center of a large territory in this county, but also the stopping place of the pioneers bound for points west and north.

While the Meighens and Fosters were building up a village north of the river Henry Fitch had taken a claim south of the river in section 13, which in 1854 he sold to Forest Henry and William Renslow. They platted South Forestville and started a village. A grist mill was erected with Henry Spies as miller. A sawmill was also conducted in connection with this mill. Alvin West opened a hotel. Reuben Odell and later Gilbert Bassett opened stores. In 1856 a distillery was built, and conducted by Robert Douglas, Reuben Odell and others. The product, which was pure rye whiskey, was sold at retail at forty cents a gallon. The imposition of the high war tax on liquor and distilleries caused this plant to be closed during the first year of the Civil. War. After the village was started business increased rapidly, many residences were erected, and the future of the community seemed assured. Only fertile fields, owned by Thomas J. Meighen, now mark the spot which was once the village of South Forestville.

The two Forestvilles flourished for a time. In 1880 there was a population of 100 people. During the war there were some four hundred persons living here. The best school in the county added to the attractiveness of the place and families flocked in from all the eastern states. It was soon believed that Forestville would be the metropolis of the county. But when the railroad which Forestville expected to get passed far north of the village, there was an exodus to Spring Valley and elsewhere, and although for a time the village held its own, it now consists merely of a store, the old Meighen home and a number of other buildings, which the owner, Thomas J. Meighen, still retains for various purposes.

Posteffice. This was established in 1855 with Forest Henry in charge. In a year or two R. M. Foster received the appointment, and served until 1869. Felix Meighen then served a number of years and was succeeded by his son, Thomas J. Meighen, who held the position until the office was discontinued. The patrons now receive their mail by rural routes from Preston and Wykoff.

Land Office Records. The first titles to land in Forestville township were issued by the government in 1854. Those who obtained land that year were as follows the date of the issuance of the warrant being given first, then the name of the owner and then the section in which the land was largely located: September 9, Forest Henry, 13; September 9, Alonso Renslow, 13; September 9, William Renslow, 13.

Those who obtained land in 1855 were as follows: January 16, John Galloway, 23; May 2, Abel Baldwin, 5; May 19, John E. Hosking, 22; August 27, Edward Trask, 23; August 27, Ezra R. Trask, 22-26-27; August 31, John Bower, 7-8; August 31, Leon Lefevere, 7-18; September 8, David Bender, 18; September 10, John IL Kirkendoll, 18; September 19, John II. Bonesteel, 21; September 19, Robert M. Foster, 12; September 27, John B. Hayles, 23; October 12, Major J. Foster, 12; October 12, Bedar Judd, 31; October 19, Jonathan P. Chapin, 6; November 3, Alexander Pine, 5-8; November 17, Charles Craling, 21-22; November 17, Almond Sage, 24; November 20, B. K. Ingalls, 29; November 30, John H. Varnel, 19-20; December 29, Harrison Pine, 23.

Prominent Men Among the prominent men in Forestville township and village before the war, aside from those whose names appear elsewhere in the township and village history may be mentioned: Joel Watkins, John Long, Lionel C. Long, H. S. Bassett (who clerked in his father's store), Charles E. Evans, R. R. Sisson, John Bottom, S. H. Bateman, John Eulette, James Eulette, Frank Johnson, John C. Smith, Maj. D. E. Runals, Louis Eidam, J. L. Colby, Copeland Richardson, George Barr and sons, George, John and Lawrence, John N. Graling, Charles Graling, J. H. Bonesteel, D. K. Michener, J. L. Michener, A. B. Rejester, Levi Rexford, John E. Raskin, Charles Hanson, Holley Cook, Victor LeFevre and Leon LeFevre, Peter McCracken (who later moved to York township), Fred K. Baldwin and Henry C. Baldwin, Luther Rexford and Levi Rexford and others whose names are mentioned in the early claims to land.

Of these men it is interesting to note that Lionel C. Long moved to Nobles county and now lives in St. Paul. He became a. prominent man, and in 1894 polled a large vote as populist candidate for congressman from the second district.

Alvin West was prominent in town affairs, and for twenty years held the combined offices of town clerk, assessor and treasurer, a thing never elsewhere heard of in Minnesota history.

Louis Eidam, Jr., met with a tragic death. After assisting in a frame raising on the farm of Joseph Bisby he and John C. Smith started home to the village. A severe thunder storm came up, but the men continued on their way. Smith stopped in a house for a moment to get a gun which he had left there and Eidam continued on toward his home, watched by his wife from the front window. Suddenly there was a blinding flash of lightning which revealed him to his wife, and then a second flash which showed that he had disappeared. Investigation showed that he had been instantly killed. Mr. Smith's life had been saved by a trifling errand. The widow of Mr. Eidam afterward married Lionell C. Long and lives in St. Paul.

Various Events of Interest. In the fall of 1854 R. M. Foster was married to Elizabeth Renslow by H. S. H. Hayes. The first death of a citizen was that of Owen Riley in 1856 of a sudden case of enteric inflammation. The first child born was Emma Renslow in July, 1854. The first death in town was in the fall of 1853 when there died the child of a family passing through the town. The whole settlement turned out to the funeral.

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