History of Yucatan, 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 bearing this name is one of the western towns of the county of Houston, the second from the northeastern corner. It is bounded on the north by Money Creek and Houston, on the east by Houston and Sheldon, on the south by Black Hammer, and on the west by Fillmore County.

The South Fork of Root River winds through the township toward the northeast. The Root river itself is not far from the northern boundary, which is so arranged as to bring the line within the valley, and it thus has an irregular outline that carries the northeast corner of the township two and one half miles further south than the corresponding corner on the west. The township is diversified with the usual hill and dale, the topography and character of the soil being not unlike that of the contiguous townships. The railroad, following the Root River Valley, dips down into its territory at two points, but there is no station. It contains a little over 43 square miles, the surplus over a government township coming from a town on the north.

The first man to set stakes in the territory of Yucatan was Edwin Stevens, who first settled in the southern part, in what is now Black Hammer. It is difficult to fix the exact date, but it was probably in 1852. With the assistance of several Winnebago Indians, he erected a rude log dwelling. He also went down to Decorah and helped build the first mill put up there. In the fall of 1854 he sold out his place and took up his abode in another cabin of peculiar construction, it being all roof, and made by splitting basswood logs and piling them in an inverted V shape, with the flat side up, then covering the interstices with another layer in the reverse position, and finally covering the whole with hay. At one end he erected a stone chimney. This cabin was situated in the woods near the South Fork, in close proximity to the present Howe mill in section 23.

In the spring of 1856, when the town site fever was epidemic throughout this region, Mr. Stevens put up another log house on the open land north of his other location, and platted a town of forty acres, north of the road in the southeast of the southeast quarter of section 14, and gave it the name of Yucatan. His reason for selecting this name is not known, but it is possible that it was suggested to him by his own name, and a mental comparison between himself and John L. Stephens, the American traveler and author, then not long deceased, who had traveled and made extensive explorations in Yucatan, Central America, and made the world familiar with its ruined cities of mysterious origin, half buried in the depths of tropical forests. However, this may be, the result of his enterprise was that during the summer the city had five log buildings erected, and reached the pinnacle of its glory. A mill dam was completed and a saw mill commenced.

In September, 1855, Mr. Stevens transferred his right, title and interest here to Peter Larr and Hiram Howe, and removed to Worth County, Iowa, where he lived some years, and then went to Puget Sound, Washington Territory.

In the summer of 1855, E. Mclntire, from Dedham, Mass., who had been a railroad contractor, came here and took a claim on section 33.- He was an enterprising man, and secured the establishment of a post office which was called Dedham. He was the first representative from this district in the state legislature, and his son, S. B. McIntire, was the first cadet to West Point, appointed from this congressional district. Mr. McIntire afterwards took up his residence in Houston. In company with a Mr. Cooper he built a mill and had it running in 1856. It had one run of stones and a long bolt, turned out eight bushels an hour, and was driven by a reaction wheel. Soon after a run of stones for feed was put in. In 1859 an addition was made to the mill, in which a still was placed to make whiskey from the corn obtained as toll in the grist mill; the still had a capacity of 100 gallons a day. In 1861 Mr. Mclntire sold out to L. Lynch, Mr. Cooper having previously disposed of his interest.

John Adams was a very early settler, while Enoch Gould was the first man in the north part of the town, in the Root River Valley. Mr. Gould was a native of New Hampshire, and came to Yucatan from Fox Lake, Wis., in 1855. His family joined him a year or two later. He took 400 acres of land in sections 33 and 34. He secured a post office on section 33, called Hamilton, which afterwards gave the name to the town that was finally re-named Money Creek.

In the spring of 1856, Dr. T. A. Pope, of Chautaqua County, New York, who had lived a short time on Pope's Prairie, south of Caledonia, made a claim in section 13. In the same year he procured the establishment of a post office, which at first was called Utica, the name being later changed to Yucatan. Dr. Pope was the first postmaster. He also practiced medicine and opened a farm, and was the first town clerk, in which office he served for several years. In 1860 or 1861 he removed to Sheldon and taught school for about two years, then returned to his place in Yucatan. Soon after that he sold his farm and removed to Houston, where for a number of years he practiced his profession, finally going to Iowa.

Peter Larr, a native of Missouri, came here from Wisconsin in the summer of 1856, and took land on sections 14 and 23. This he sold in 1866 and moved up the valley, and a few years later settled on sections 26 and 27. In 1856 Mr. Larr and H. Howe bought out Stevens, including the mill property and the town site.

On April 18, 1856, John and H. Colby, two brothers from Erie County, New York, arrived and secured a place on section 22. They remained about eight years. H. Colby was the first regular mail carrier between this place and Caledonja, making a single trip each week, at first on foot, but later bestride a mule. On the breaking out of the, war he enlisted in Company H, Eighth Missouri Regiment. After the war he sold out and left the county, but later returned and settled on section 10. John Colby, after disposing of his share of the property above mentioned, moved to Oak Ridge and bought 120 acres on section 9. In 1865 Urdix Colby, his brother, joined him and opened a shoe shop near Howe's sawmill. Later. after several removals, he took a farm on section 27.

In the spring of 1853 or 1854 Asa Comstock secured a claim in section 27, locating on it in the spring of 1856, when he bought other large tracts. Fifteen years later he went to Missouri.

James Kelly, one of the influential and prominent men of Yucatan, came here from Brownsville, in April, 1856, and took 280 acres on section 29. He built a house and started a farm, which he left in charge of his father, Hugh Kelly, and went to work at the carpenter's trade in Rushford. In the fall of 1859 he returned to his farm to remain. His father died in 1871, and his mother in 1874, both at an advanced age.

Robert Earl was the first to locate on Oak Ridge, about 1858. In 1865 he sold to Mr. Colby. Soon after him came William Mahaffery, from Delaware, who stopped on section 7, and remained some 15 or 20 years, finally moving to Rushford.

Lawrence Lynch arrived about 1860, when he bargained for the Dedham mill and distillery, which he subsequently lost in the August flood of 1866.

The first birth in Yucatan Township was that of James C. Kelly, son of James Kelly, and occurred Oct. 28, 1857.

The earliest marriage of which any record has been found, was that of William King and Martha M. Colby, in the fall of 1857, the ceremony being performed at the residence of the officiating justice, E. Melntire, Esq.

In the winter of 1862, Mary Larr, daughter of Peter Larr, being at the point of death, requested that her remains might be deposited at a particular spot designated on her father's farm, and her wish being complied with, that became a nucleus for a cemetery.

A new cemetery was established in 1873, on sections 27 and 28, the first interment being that of Eugene Bidwell, in September.

In the summer of 1856 Edwin Stevens built a dam across the South Fork of Root River, on section 23, where the Howe mill was subsequently located, and commenced the construction of a saw mill. Before it was completed he sold the establishment to H. Howe, with the understanding that it should be finished according to certain specifications; but when the property was delivered it proved unsatisfactory, and the wheel was removed and numerous other changes made before it met the views of its new owner.

The first grist mill was that already mentioned, in section 33, on Riceford Creek, and was called the Dedham Mill. It was a frame building, 20 by 30 feet, and did a large amount of custom work. Mr. Watkins soon bought out Mr. Cooper, and Mr. Lynch bought out Mr. Mackintire in 1860. In the flood of August, 1866, it was swept away.

The Howe Mill on the South Fork in section 23 was erected by E. B. Howe, who commenced it in the fall of 1870 and completed it in the spring of 1871. The Daily Mill was put up about 1875 or 1876 by James Daily.

When the first meeting was held to organize the town, the chairman was Alonzo Adams. The first officers were: Clerk, Mr. Chapman; treasurer, Mr. Little; assessor, Hiram Howe; justice of the peace, E. Mclntire; constable, Charles Smith.

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