History of Black Hammer, MN
From: The History of Houston County, Minnesota
Edited by: Franklyn Curtis-Wedge.
H. C. Cooper, Jr. & Co.
Winona, Minn. 1919


Town Histories

The township of Black Hammer lies on the western boundary of the county. It is bounded on the north by Yucatan, on the east by Caledonia, on the south by Spring Grove, and on the west by Fillmore County. It is a full government township, with an area of 23,040 acres.

The surface in the southern part is generally rolling prairie, interspersed here and there with little groves of young timber. Riceford Creek enters the township in section 31, and winds its tortuous course in a northerly direction, to finally leave the town between sections 4 and 5. Along this stream the surface is more broken, with bluffs that extend up from 350 to 400 feet above the surface of the water below. On the top of the hills are level ranges, with a growth of brush and small oak timber, and this, when removed, leaves the land in a fair condition for cultivation.

The soil is a dark loam, mixed with clay, and capable of producing wheat and the other cereals. The sides of the bluffs are more or less covered with timber of different varieties, such as oak, elm and basswood, with an occasional red cedar clinging to a crevice in the rocks. The eastern and ibrtheastern part of the town is also bluffy or broken, and covered with timber, which is originally owned by the farmers of Caledonia in ten and twenty acre lots, from which they procured fencing and fuel.

The appearances in the north part of the township indicate that this region was at one time the favorable rendezvous of a race that antedates our American chronology. Near Riceford Creek are the remains of what might have been fortifications, or perhaps constructions intended for some other use. They have teen plowed over, and other eroding processes have been at work, and now some of them are well nigh obliterated. There is also in this vicinity a cave or cavern that may have been formed or modified by human hands. It has an entrance not unlike a door, four feet square, and extends a thousand feet or so, varying in height from five feet to six feet. At one time a gold coin was found in this cavern by Peter C. Carrier, a son of William Carrier, who disposed of it to James Vincent, of Houston village. It was about the size of a $5.00 piece, but bore no intelligible in scription.

The first white man who came to the township with the view, of locating was Ed. Stevens, who arrived from Cambridge, Wis., with his wife in the summer of 1852. He picked out a location in section 21, but on account of the dry weather and scarceness of water, remained there only a few days, removing to a place in section 4, where there was a spring, and there he and his wife built a log house. In 1854 he sold his claim to Peter Carrier, Sr., and moved to a mill site he had found in Yucatan.

In March, 1853, the second pioneer of Black Hammer arrived, in the person of Torkel Aageson, a Norwegian, born in 1818, who had been two years in America, having lived awhile in Rock County, Wisconsin, and Winnishiek County, Iowa. He brought tools with him, with which he built a habitation of poplar poles, with a birch bark roof, where he lived alone, the only white man in town, except Stevens, who was several miles away to the north. During the first season he broke ten acres, which marked the beginning of agriculture in the town. He afterwards planted an orchard and gathered the first crop of apples ever raised in this section.

In June, 1853, other settlers arrived, including Knud Olsen Ike, with his three sons, Knud, John and Ole; Mr. Guttorm, and Jens Olsen Otterness, the two last mentioned of whom were still living on their original claims thirty years later.

Lars C. Findreng settled in section 21 in 1854. He died in 1873, when his son, Ole T., came into possession of the farm. Halver Olson came in 1853 and was a squatter on section 17. He moved west in the seventies. Another early settler was Christopher Ericson, who located in section 17.

The first death which occurred in the township was that of a daughter of Lars Skime, who died in 1854, and as a burial place a spot was designated on the farm of Torkel Aageson, on the southeast quarter of the northeast quarter of section 22, where about twenty interments were made prior to the establishment of the cemetery near the church. All indications of the spot having once been used as a burial ground, however, have long since disappeared.

The first birth in Black Hammer Township was that of Anna Maria Otterness, daughter of Guttorm Otterness, and occurred in the fall of 1853. She died in early womanhood.

The first town meeting was held in the schoolhouse in district 37, on April 5, 1859. The officers of the meeting were: Julius Billings, moderator; George Mitchell and O. W. Olson, judges, and Alexander Simpson, clerk. The meeting was called to order at ten o'clock. H. B. Solberg moved that the name of the town be "Clinton," and the motion prevailed. This name, however, was subsequently rejected by the state authorities, as there was already a town in the state by the same name. At this meeting resolutions were adopted permitting both hogs and dogs to run at large. Twenty-five votes were cast. The assessment for road tax was two days' work for each poll, and five mills per cent on real estate. The town was divided into six road districts, and the boundaries of each specifically defined. Three road overseers were appointed, William Carrier for the northern part, John McCabe for the southwest, and Christian Lamen for the southeast. At a town meeting on Dec. 31, 1863, it was voted that each volunteer soldier receive $300 as a town bounty, and that the drafted men receive a like amount, payable in town orders.

Black Hammer Township is probably the only township thus named in the country, unless some former residents may have bestowed it upon some newer settlement farther west. The name was derived in the following manner. Knud Olson Bergo, who was living just across the town line in Spring Grove, on getting up one morning saw that a fire had swept over the prairie in the south part of the township to the north, including a bluff which formed part of sections 27, 28 and 34. Its charred appearance at once suggested to his mind a certain bluff located in Slidre Valders, Norway, which was Mr. Bergo's birthplace, and so he exclaimed in Norwegian, "Sort Hammer," which signifies "Black Bluff ;" and the people have had the good sense to retain the name to this day, which, it will be perceived, is cornposed of an English and a Norwegian name. Mr. Bergo died many years ago and was buried in Spring Grove cemetery. In the early eighties his widow was living with her only daughter Mrs. Knud S. Nohre, near Riceford. The only son, Ole, removed to one of the western counties in the state.

The men from Black Hammer who early enlisted for service in the Civil War were assigned to Company F, Tenth Minnesota Volunteer Infantry. Their names, so far as can be learned, were: Hans O. Oleson and Chandler Flemming, who were killed at Nashville, Tenn.; Alvin Smith, who died at Memphis, Tenn.; Silas Carrier, who died at Ft. Sneffing, Minn.; and Frank Brown, William Cooper, Silas J. Cooper, Henry Cooper and John Birdsell.

About Oct. 1, 1864, a number went into Company D, First Minnesota Heavy Artillery. These were Tosten Johnson, Ole O. Ike, Andrew Christiansen, Ingvald Hanson, Ole O. Ose, John Anderson and John McCabe. Mr. McCabe was the only one who did not return. He left a widow and two children, who lost their lives in August, 1866 when their house, in section 29, was swept away by a flood.

A military company was organized in the town under the state laws during the war, and was duly officered and drilled. It numbered about 75 men, and had a band of three pieces, purchased by the town, and consisted of a fife, a snare drum, and a base drum. The headquarters of the company were at the schoothouse in district No. 37. The officers were: Tosten Johnson, captain; George Mitchell, first lieutenant, and Lars Larsen, second lieutenant, with the usual non-commissioned officers.

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