History of Vivian Township, Waseca County, Minnesota
From: Child's History of Waseca County, Minnesota
BY: James E. Child
The Press of The Owatonna Chronicle, Publisher.
Copyright 1905


This is the southwest township of the county and was known in early days as the "Cobb river country." The land in this township is more nearly level than that of any other town in the county. The "Big Cobb river," running westerly through the southern portion of the town, and the "Cobbee," in the northern portion, furnish the principal means of surface drainage. The soil is a dark, alluvial loam, on a heavy clay subsoil, and very rich and productive.

E. S. Woodruff was the first white man to reside in Vivian. He had an Indian woman for his wife. He formerly lived near Green Bay, Wis., among the Indians, and afterwards lived in Iowa. He settled on section 27, in this town, in the summer of 1856 and lived there until the spring of 1865, when he died. He was one of the early mail carriers of that section. Later, the same year, two bachelors, B. F. Hanes and E. A. Clark, came here. Clark afterwards married and removed to Wisconsin in 1858. Hanes lived on his claim until his death, which occurred in 1872. James B Hill, a sketch of whose life is given elsewhere, moved here with his family July 2, 1857. S. L. Daggett soon after moved near Mr. Hill's place. He afterwards went to Blue Earth and died there in 1863. Four brothers named Shannahan came here in 1857, but soon after left for the gold mines in Colorado. Joseph Thurston and family and W. H. Harmon and family moved to this township in 1857. Ichabod West and his two sons, Ammi and John F., with their families, and John Dwyer and John Dineen and their families, began their homes in this town in 1858. Thomas Ryan, deceased, settled on section 15 in 1858. John A. Wheeler, one of the early settlers in St. Mary, took a claim on section 4, in this town in 1858. He was a windmill inventor and manufacturer. He at one time built a flouring mill, with windmill power, at Freeborn Lake. He was quite a genius. He was a Union soldier in the War of the Rebellion. His death occurred about 1876. Ole Johnson and his family came from Norway in 1855, lived in Waupun, Wis., for three years, and came to Vivian in 1858. Ole was born Jan. 4, 1824, and his wife, Betsy Nelson, Oct. 3, 1826. They were married Feb. 8, 1852. He enlisted in Company F, Tenth Minnesota Volunteer infantry, and served till the close of the war. Mark Moore, Montraville Sias, and three Welshmen (brothers) Owen M., David, and Samuel Jones - also came here in 1858.

Vivian was organized as a separate township under an order of the county commissioners dated April 5, 1858. According to tradition - the official records being lost - the first town meeting was held at the house of J. B. Hill The first town board consisted of J. B. Hill, E. S. Woodruff, and S. L. Daggett Hill being chairman. E. A. Clark was town clerk. The names of the other town officers are entirely forgotten.

The first death recorded in the township was that of a man named Sweeney, who perished near his home in November, 1857. He had been to St. Mary, and on his return was caught in a snow storm. Darkness coming on, he undoubtedly became bewildered on the prairie and froze to death. Many of our pioneers were thinly clad, and it is not surprising that a man, lost upon the prairie in a blinding snow storm, should perish.

The population of the township has nearly all changed since 1860. Very few indeed of the earlier settlers remain. The Ryan family and the Ole Johnson family are the only ones remembered to have settled in the township prior to that date. The town is now well peopled by hardy, frugal, industrious farmers, who are making it one of the richest agricultural townships in the county. Like Byron, it is well adapted to the production of grass, and to the raising of cattle and hogs.

As before stated, the early records of the town were destroyed. Mr. Edward Thompson, present town clerk, reports the records of the first ten years missing. The records of 1868 are the first to be found, and they show the town supervisors of that year to have been as follows: J. B. Hill, chairman, S. S. Comee, and M. Sias.

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