Preble Township is the second on the eastern boundary of the county from the Iowa line on the south. It has
Norway as a neighbor on the north, Black Hammer, in Houston county, on the east, Newburg on the south and Canton
on the west, and is identical with a town of government survey. Nearly the whole area of the south half of the
town is gentle, rolling prairie, with occasional small clumps of timber. Some of the most beautiful farms imaginable
are situated in this section of the town. The south fork of the Root river comes in by two branches into the southwest
part of the township, and following its winding way, after uniting in an average northeast course, makes its exit
from that corner. In its course several small branches are received. Along this little river is the valley, which
varies in width from one fourth to one half a mile. The timber along the bluffs is quite plenty and consists of
oak, elm, poplar and some pine, with a luxuriant growth of grass in the valley which furnishes au excellent quality
of hay. The soil is not unlike other parts of the county contiguous, and is equally productive of like crops.
Early Settlement. The two first settlers in this township were Nels Johnson (Nessa) and Thore Olsen (Faae), who
located in section 33 in the year 1853. The property brought with them from La Salle county, Illinois, consisted
of three yoke of oxen and a few head of other horned stock, two old rickety lumber wagons (known in those days
as prairie schooners), and a small amount of household goods. They at once built a double tenement cabin, each
with a single apartment, ten by twelve, and covered it with basswood bark. The floor was what God made, and not
graced with carpets. These two men and their families, seven in all, dwelt in this cabin for a few months, when
they succeeded in securing better quarters. In 1853 ten acres were broken up on the Newburg side of the line, and
in 1854 Nels Johnson (Nessa) commenced to cultivate his present farm in section 22 in Preble township, he being
entitled to the credit of being the first man to sow and reap a crop in this township. The first year Nels Johnson
(Nessa) and Thore Olsen (Faae) had no near neighbors except a band of Winnebago Indians that had located their
"tepees" on the northwest quarter of section 32-102-8, within eighty rods of where the two men with their
families had settled, and no doubt these "red skins" excelled at pilfering and begging, and therefore
were not a very desirous class of neighbors.
In 1854 several other settlers came in and secured claims near where Nels Johnson (Nessa) and Thore Olson (Faae),
had established themselves, and among them were Jacob Jacobson (Ilage), Rasmus C. Spande and Christian Christopherson,
and among the first settlers in the north part of the township were Ole Gjermundson, Bjorn Larson (Egvene) and
Lars C. Tarvestad.
This township ranked among the first in the county in the manufacturing industry. The first mill built in the town
was a small sawmill, built in 1855 by an early corner from Cattarangus county, New York, whose name was David Weisel.
This mill was situated near the confluence of the south branch of Root river and Weisel creek and near the northeast
corner of section 19. The machinery of this diminutive sawmill was, with the exception of the saw and a few castings
that were necessary in its erection, made by his own hands. Later a corn cracker was added and operated by the
same power. The mill stones were cut from a rock taken from a bluff near by. Immediately after this "corn
cracker" (as it was called) was completed and put in operation the settlers began to flock there with grists
of corn and wheat to be ground, and it was taxed to its utmost capacity. There were no bolting attachments to separate
the bran from the flour of the grain ground so it had to be done by a hand sieve.
This mill was emphatically a home institution, and like Roe's mill, on Riceford creek in Houston county, it too
"was a very industrious mill, for just as soon as it finished grinding one kernel it commenced on another."
It was operated by the builder with considerable success until that terrible flood of August 6, 1866, when he and
his mother were drowned and his residence, mill and all his accumulations washed away, leaving nothing as a relic
to remind the coming generations where was once situated the happy home of the David Weisel family in the latter
part of the fifties.
The first regular grist mill in southeastern Fillmore county was built by Collins Hall in 1857. This was a small
frame structure located on Weisel creek near the northeast corner of section 32 in Preble township. Mr. Hall built
it according to his own plans, doing most of the work himself. His natural genius was shown by his work and ingenuity,
and a successful mill was the result. The builder operated it himself and it was patronized to its utmost capacity
until that eventful night of August 6, 1866. A few years later the mill was rebuilt by the proprietor, Collins
Hall. This was a more substantial structure, as it was built of stone and was operated by him until his death.
Today, what was formerly known as Hall's mill is simply a relic of bygone days.
In the year 1858 the second sawmill was built on Weisel creek in Preble township by E. P. Eddy near the northwest
corner of section 29. It was quite substantially built and was operated by Mr. Eddy until it was wrecked by the
terrible flood of August 6, 1866. Later the property was sold to James Kelly, who rebuilt the mill and operated
it only for a short time, when it again was torn out by a freshet, and has not since been rebuilt. The next mill
built in Preble township was a sawmill by Nels Johnson (Nessa). This was located on the south branch of Root river
in the northern part of section 17. It shared the same fate as those higher up the stream on August 6, 1866. It
was subsequently rebuilt and Mr. Johnson also added a grist mill in 1872.
Among the early settlers of Preble township whose names have been preserved are the following - the section wherein
they settled being given in most cases:
1853 - Nels Johnson (Nessa), 33; Thor Olsen (Faae), 33; Nub Nelson, 26; Helge Erickson; Hans Nelson, 36.
1854 - Jacob Jacobson (Hage), Rasmus C. Sproule, 27; Christopher Christopherson, 28; Ole Gjermundson, 1; Lars C.
Tarvestad, 2; David Weisel, 19; Walter Braden, 18; J. C. Braden, 18; W. W. Braden, 18; Bertel Christopherson, 34;
Patrick Flanegan, 14; Daniel Malone, 14; Peter Peterson, 33; Peter Peterson, Jr.; Michael Peterson, 33.
1855 - Bjorn Larson (Egvene), 2; Iver Thompson, 27; Nels Nelson (Kindingstad), 21; William G. Sutherland; Norman
Sutherland, 18; Daniel Sutherland; Isaac Isaacson, 34.
1856 - Thomas G. Hall, 29; A. C. Seelye, 31; Ole Anderson, 34; Collins Hall, 29.
1857 - Aslak Housker, 36.
1858 - Anders Halvorson (Nordbrovaagen), 26; Ole Housker, 36; Rasmus Housker, 36.
1859 - Daniel Steeland, 22; John Danielson, 28; Gulick Olsen, 2; Gunder Anderson, 16; Johanes Steeness, 34.
1860 - Arne Arneson, 26 (settled in Newburg in 1853).
The Indians. A band of Winnebago Indians encamped on section 32 as late as 1853. On one of their begging tours
nine or ten Indians stopped at the cabin of Hans Arneson and asked for something to eat. Mrs. Arneson, in order
to get rid of them, went to the bread box and gave them all the bread she had. It was customary for the Indians
to examine everything in the house, and on looking in the bread box, saw that it was empty. After a short consultation
among themselves in their own language they then gave Mrs. Arneson one of the loaves of bread back. Thus they showed
their generosity and belief in the golden rule, "to do as you would wish to be done by." In the fall
of 1854 after Austin Eastman had driven the Indians off his claim in section 11-101-9 they camped for the winter
on the northeast quarter of the northwest quarter of section 5-102-8, where the spring brook empties into the larger
creek. In the spring of 1855 they left their camping ground and have not camped on Weisel creek since that date.
Political. The first town meeting to organize the town and elect officers was held on May 11, 1858. Thomas G. Hall,
David Weisel and Iver Thompson had been appointed by the county commissioners as the judges of election. Mr. Hall
being absent A. C. Seelye was appointed to fill his place. J. C. Braden and I. H. Titus were appointed as clerks.
The total number of votes cast was twenty seven, and the following officers were unanimously elected: Supervisors,
Thomas G. Hall (chairman), Iver Thompson and Walter Braden; town clerk, J. C. Braden; assessor, David Weisel; collector,
Nels Nelson; overseer of the poor, Christian Christopherson; justices of the peace, David Weisel and A. C. Seelye;
constables, Wm. G. Sutherland and Iver Thompson. The house of Nels Nelson was designated by ballot as the place
for holding elections. On May 22, 1858, the supervisors held a meeting, divided the town into four road districts
and selected the following overseers: Lars C. Tarvestad, Ole Anderson, Justus Sutherland and David Weisel. A tax
of 2½ mills was levied and two days' work for every man on the roads.
War Record. On September 10, 1864, a bounty fund was voted, of $3,200, one half to be assessed in the year 1864
and one half in 1865. On March 27, 1865, a special town meeting was held and the sum of $2,500 voted to be expended
in the support of families of drafted men, but the close of the war suspended the tax. In 1864 a home guard was
organized under the state law, with Norman Sutherland as captain. They drilled a few times near the schoolhouse
in District No. 9.
Postoffice. At first the nearest postoffice was at Decorah, Ia., twenty miles away. After a while a postoffice
was established at Lenora and later at Newburg. The office in Preble was established in 1876, the first mail arriving
April 13. Samuel Gray was the postmaster. It is on a cross route, between Houston and Decorah. The last postmaster
of Preble postoffice was J. W. northern. The patrons of this office now receive their mail front Spring Grove.
Choice postoffice gave the people good service for many years. The most recent postmasters were J. J. Elepson,
Richard O. Richardson and Carl J. Hellerud, the latter being in charge when the office was discontinued. The people
now receive their mail by rural route from Mabel. Tawney postoffice opened in the late nineties. The postmaster
was T. E. Halvorson. The patrons now receive their mail from Mabel.