History of Dresbach Township, Winona County, Minnesota
From: The History of Winonia County, Minnesota
Compiled by Franklyn Curtiss-Wedge, Editor
H. C. Cooper Jr. & Co., Publisher
Chicago 1913

(By O. W. Tibbetts.)

Dresbach township lies in the southeast corner of Winona county. It is the smallest township in the county, containing 4,400 acres. The shape of the township is nearly a perfect right angled triangle, with the acute angle on the bank of the Mississippi, just above Dakota. The township is five and one fifth miles long from north to south and about three and one fourth miles wide on the southern boundary It is bounded on the east by the Mississippi river, south by Houston county, and on the west by the township of New Hartford. The township was named in honor of George B. Dresbach, Sr.

The surface of the township is considerably broken by the chain of bluffs extending through the county along the Mississippi river. The bluffs, from their abruptness and loftiness, in some parts of the township, form a very majestic appearance, and are much admired by the lovers of nature. The highest bluffs are found along the Mississippi, where they rise several hundred feet above the river. Mineral bluff (named from the mineral deposits found under its base) is the highest (405 feet) in the township. This bluff is just at the upper end of the village of Dresbach. It affords from its summit one of the grandest views of any bluff along the Mississippi. One can see La Crosse, Trempealeau, Galesville, and several other towns in Wisconsin, at distances of ten to twenty miles. Mineral bluff is riven from top to bottom, facing the river. This seam once attracted a company of lead miners from Dubuque, Iowa, among which were Joseph and Francis Trudell. Some lead and silver were found B. the project was abandoned for that time. Later George B. Dresbach, Sr., formed a company, known as the Winona county Mining & Stone Co. A shaft was run into the bluff from the river through the seam. Much time and money was spent, but with poor result. The company divided and the land was sold for taxes. All tourists agree that the scenery about this bluff compares with any in the world. Although the surface is very rough and in places badly gorged, successful farming is carried on. Stock grazing is the chief pursuit and much grain is raised.

The soil of the township is good, being a black sub clay soil. It is also well adapted to grazing All, or nearly all, the township was once heavily timbered, the principal species being white and black oak. The township is well supplied with water. Living springs are found gushing from the bluffs all over the township, some affording sufficient water the year around for large farms. The springs are cold and clear as crystal, and free from all unpleasant tastes. There are no large streams in the township, but in every valley and from every bluff flows a little rill with clear cool water rippling its way to the Mississippi. The timber, red, white, black, and burr oak and hickory covers the ridges. Elm, ash, poplar, maple, birch, and box elder line the river besides cotton wood and willow, pine and cedar The early settlers built their cabins by the springs, but now the wells have taken the place of the springs nearly everywhere, the wells ranging in depth from 25 to 500 feet. In the early days the ridge was handicaped by lack of water, but the best farms today are on the ridges, the wells having made this possible. This has resulted in better buildings and better stock. The best soil in the state is found on these ridges. Clay for making brick, may be found all over the township, in the banks, below the sand rock buffs and blue sand stone is found on the bank of the river in great abundance and of fair quality.

Archaeology. Artificial mounds and relics are found in various parts of the township. While some men were digging in Mineral bluff, one hundred and fifty feet above the river, a skeleton of an unusual size was unearthed. On measuring, the giant skeleton was found to be ten feet in length, with other parts in proper proportion. In the skull was found a copper hatchet, and a dart or arrowhead nine inches long. Another skeleton, nine feet long, was found in the village of Dresbach, while some men were digging a road or trench. In many of the mounds have also been found copper hatchets, chisels, various kinds of tomahawks, and other weapons of war.

Early Settlers. It is believed that John Reed attempted to establish a wood yard and trading post at Dakota, about 1840. His stay was brief. In 1847 Jeremiah W. Tibbetts camped on the present site of Dakota with a band of Sioux (Dakotah) Indians, built a small hut, six logs high, 12 by 12 feet stacked with hay, and opened a trading post. It was he who named the village Dakotah, in honor of the Indians with whom he had come from the banks of the Big Cedar, in Bremer county, Iowa. In the spring of 1848, Mr. Tibbetts went to St. Paul with these Indians to visit Territorial Governor Alexander Ramsey, who employed him as an interpreter. Later, Mr. Tibbetts became once more identified with Dakota. Nathan Brown located permanently on the site of Dakota in 1849. He had visited the place prior to that time. The story of Nathan Brown's settlement, and the platting of Dakota has been told elsewhere. Soon after Brown arrived, a Frenchman named Peleau started trading on Tibbett's old site, a short distance below Browns. Tibbetts returned sometime in the season of 1849-50, and started a store on the old stand. He was also agent for the Chute Land Co., of St. Paul. Brown and Tibbetts hauled their merchandise to and from La Crosse on hand sleds. During the winter of 1850, they had a foot race from Dakota on a wager. Tibbetts being younger and stronger than Brown, won the race. In the spring of 1851, George Tibbetts, father of Jeremiah W. Tibbetts took possession of the store building, and Jeremiah took up river work.

In 1852 a French colony settled in what is now the village of Dresbach, under the leadership of Joseph Maynard. Others soon followed. Hamilton McCullum came to the county in 1852 and settled on section 28, in what is now Dresbach township. His cabin became a favorite stopping place for the early pioneers coming up the river from La Crosse. His place was long known as McCullum's landing. It is now called McCullum's crossing.

Land Office Records. The first claims to land in Dresbach township were filed in 1855. Those who filed that year were as follows, the section being given first, the name of the claimant next, and the date of filing last. In ease the settlers had land in more than one section, only one section is given.

17 - Alphonso Warren, October 20. 18 - Frances Trudell, August 28; John B. Maynard, August 28; Joseph Maynard, August 28; Lambert Robillard, August 28; James Smith, August 15. 19 - Asael Pierce, November 8; Fred'k Lebbe, October 20; Francis Gaconnet, November 8; Christopher G. Ripley, November 8. 20 - Volney Warren, August 15. 28 - Hamilton McCullum, October 17; Stephen Boutwell, October 17. 29 - Henry Seidel, February 11; John Nagel, October 11. 30 - Mathias Nagel September 29; Jno. Eberhard, October 20. 31 - Terrance McCauly, November 6; John Tarr, December 27; Michael Farrell, December 31. 32 - John Montgomery, October 23; James Doyle October 20; William E. Potter, November 9. 33 - William H. Welch, October 20. The first to stake out claims were the Messrs. Turnbull, McCauly (Terrance and Thomas), Sulivan, Davidson, Schlabach, Buck (W. W. and William), Zisch, Johnson (John), Carlson and Nagel (Mathias and John), and possibly some others.

Early Events. The first birth in Dresbach was that of William Morrison, son of William and Adaline Morrison. The first marriage was that of Jeremiah W. Tibbetts and Catharine Isabel Maynard. John B. Maynard; Rachel, wife of Lambert Robellard; Sophia, wife of Joseph Trudell; Catherine Isabel, wife of J. W. Tibbetts; Adaline, wife of Wm. Morrison, were the children of Joseph Maynard. Joseph Maynard was the leader of the French Colony at Dresbach.

The first road was built in the township by private parties, up and down the river. In 1854 a territorial road was surveyed through the township, up and down the river. This was changed to a state road, soon after the admission of the state, and finally into a county road, under the county road statute.

Political History. The political history of Dresbach dates from July 9, 1853, when the Root river precinct was created, the residents of the town being included in that district. When Daeotah precinct was created, April 29, 1854, it embraced the present towns of Dresbach, New Hartford, Pleasant Hill, Wiscoy and Richmond. Gradually the limits of the precinct were curtailed. April 9, 1857, the precinct of Dakota as defined by the commissioners embraced the present towns of New Hartford and Dresbach. April 6, 1858, Dresbach was created with its present boundaries. Under the territorial government, Z. M. Caswell became justice of the peace in 1856. Other justices have been: Terrance McCauly, George P. Dresbach, Sr., James Patton, E. S. Burns, Charles Zisch, Henry Sims, J. P. Neville, Zachanah Gaskill, R. Remp, O. W. Tibbetts and Alfred McKowen.

Organization. Dresbach was organized May 11, 1858, and the following officers elected: Supervisors, H. McCullum (chairman), A. Pierce and J. Fletcher; town clerk, W. W. Warren; collector, John Ingersoll; assessor, Z. M. Caswell; justices of the peace, Z. M. Caswell and T. McCauly; constables, J. Ingersoll and T. McCauly; road supervisors, Peter Brown and James McCauly. The officers for 1913 are: Supervisors, John Nichols (chairman), Robert Faucett, F. Ouish; clerk, II. Wass; treasurer, D. H. Baker; justice, Alfred McKown; constable, August Schwakie; police at Dresbach village, P. M. Brown.

Accidents. While Joseph Maynard, one of the original settlers of Dresbach, was hauling a load of corn fodder, his team became frightened and ran away, upsetting the load on Mr. Maynard and breaking his leg. He lingered for several weeks, but died from the effects of his injuries, November 19, 1865. In April, 1878, Joseph Hoffman, a young man, fell off a log, at Dakota, and drowned in the Mississippi. In 1881, James McClane, while crossing the river at Dresbach, fell from his skiff and wag drowned.

Ferry. March 31, 1873, Alex. C. Donalson began to make regular daily trips from Dresbach to La Crosse with his skiff ferry. He ran three seasons between the above places, averaging 200 trips a season, of eighteen miles a trip, making 10,800 miles for three seasons. In 1876, Mr. Donalson extended his trip from Dakota to La Crosse.

Schools. The first school of any kind in the township was a select school opened in the winter of 1856-57 on the present site of Dresbach village. Richard (or Dick) Aldritch (or Aldrich), was the teacher. It is said that Charles Olmsted taught a private school the following winter. In 1859-60, Harlow Colsten (or Colson) taught the first public school in the township. He received $25.00 a month. The people had built a schoolhouse by subscription, but the whiter was so severe it was thought best to hold school in a private home. There were thirty five pupils enrolled. G. B. Dresbach, Sr., and Rufus Reed were on the school board. Other early teachers in that locality were Maggie and Jennie Looney and James Berry.

The first schoolhouse in Dresbach village was burned down in 1875. Another was built the next year, at a cost of $500. The present schoolhouse in Dresbach was finished in 1912, at a cost of nearly $4,000. It is arranged for a four room school and is a splendid building, one that would be a credit to a town of much greater size. Charles Zisch, Mrs. R. Remp, Mrs. Ed. Maynard, were the school board who built the new school house. The first school in Dakota valley was taught in 1860 by Helen Berry (Emily). It is said that Ellen Young taught the first organized school in the village of Dakota, in 1860. The school was held in Nathan Brown's house. The teacher received $12.00 a month and there were eight scholars. Early teachers in Dakota were Helen Berry, Jennie Robillard, Guillilland L. Brown, James Wilkinson and ____ Castor. There are now four school houses in Dresbach township. There are five churches: Episcopal and Methodist Episcopal at Dresbach village, and Episcopal, Methodist Episcopal and Roman Catholic, at Dakota.

Dresbach Village has a population of 175 people. It is located on the C. M. & St. Paul Railway and the Mississippi river 20 miles southeast of Winona and eight miles northwest of La Crosse. It has two stores, one brick yard, a blacksmith shop, an eighth grade school and several churches. Dresbach village was originally settled in 1852 by a French colony led by Joseph Maynard. In the party were John B. Maynard, Peter Lambert, Moses Verdeau, John Peleau, Robert Lambert Robillard, Joseph and Francis Trudell, John Felix, A. Volney and W. W. Warren, Joseph Hooper, Asael Pierce and Sampson Allen. George B. Dresbach, Sr., bought the village site from this colony. Some of these did not take up their permanent residence here until later. Other early settlers were: Calvin, William and Charles Young, Calvin Digney, Abraham and James Looney, Dick Aldritch, Richard and Milton Douth, and John and Peter Gittens. A. Warren was appointed postmaster in 1857, and he and A. L. Jenks who followed him sold a few goods. George B. Dresbach, Sr., was interested in several stores, one of which was managed by William Patton, with whom Mr. Dresbach was associated in building a sawmill in 1862-63. Other first store keepers were John Miner, J. P. Neville, Caleb Innman and Henry Becker. The first lime kiln was opened by Joseph Maynard. The first grindstone factory was opened by Alfonso Warren. The first stone quarry was opened by Asael Pierce. Brick yards were opened by William Sherwood and Gilbert Johnson Later, George B. Dresbach, Jr., operated the North-Western yard and Henry Becker and the Youngs operated the lower yard. The first blacksmith was Peter Lee. The first carpenters in the village were the Robillards and Maynards The first hotels were kept by Joseph Menard and Robert L. Robillard. The first church building was the Methodist Episcopal, promoted by William H. Sherwood. The second was the Episcopal, promoted by Gilbert Johnson.

Dresbach in 1882. In 1882 Dresbach village was noted for its brick yards and stone quarries. A review of the village at that time gives the following information: "Louis Blumintritt and Henry Blochik operate a steam sawmill and deal in wood of all kinds. William H. Sherwood and Gilbert Johnson, both formerly of New York, are the owners and operators of two large brickyards. They ship from three to four millions of brick annually. They employ from thirty to forty men. W. B. Williams and L. C. Smith, of Red Wing, Minnesota, started a brickyard in Dresbach in the spring. They burn a superior quality of brick, and ship about one million of brick a year. George B. Dresbach, Jr., and John H. Moss have organized the North-Western Brick Company, under the firm name of Moss & Dresbach. The company manufacture one million of brick a year. Joseph Ginther and John Schmeltzer, blacksmiths and machinists, have increased their line of busbies by building a steam mill this year, for the manufacture of ground feed, turning lathes, laths and barrel hoops. The Winona County Mining and Stone Company, an incorporated company with capital stock of $100,000, was organized in 1880, with John Gilman, of St. Paul, president; Geo. B. Dresbach, Sr., vice president, and E. S. Burns, secretary and treasurer. This company is at present operating steam machinery in quarrying rock just above the village of Dresbach. J. F. Tostevin & Sons, of St. Paul, are now operating a stone quarry with steam machinery in the village of Dresbach. They also own and operate a stone sawmill in connection with the quarry. They saw, dress and ship stone of sizes ready for use. Geo. B. Dresbach, Sr., and John Gilman own a stone quarry of fifteen acres now in operation; the stone of the above quarries being of the celebrated Berea, Ohio, sandstone in quality, now so extensively used throughout the United States for building purposes and grindstones.

George B. Dresbach, Sr., came to Minnesota about 1850 and centered his activities at the village which now bears his name. With him was his brother, afterward famous as Herr Dresbach, the lion tamer of P. T. Barnum's early circuses. George B. Dresbach, Sr., had some $50,000 when he located at Dresbach. He bought out the French colony, and became sole proprietor of the village of Dresbach, not only putting in all the money he could raise himself, but also persuading many others to invest in the same venture. He lost everything, and died in poverty, maintaining, however, his courage and indomitable will to the last.

Dakota village was laid out in 1855, and was located in what is now New Hartford and what is now Dresbach. 1874, Nathan Brown filed a second plat which is the present plat of the village of Dakota. The present village is the railroad town, and is popularly known as New Dakota. It was on the site of New Dakota, in Dresbach township that Jeremiah W. Tibbetts settled in 1847. The village is located below the upper Dakota creek, and is therefore sometimes called Lower Dakota. Old Dakota, or Upper Dakota, was the river town. It was located above upper Dakota creek in New Hartford township. It was here that Nathan Brown took up his residence in 1849. While the original settlements of Brown and Tibbetts were some distance apart, the whole locality is usually spoken of by historians as Dakota.

In 1872, Nathan Brown opened the first store in what is now the village of Dakota. His son Holt, and his niece, were the clerks. The next building was the blacksmith shop of Peter Lee erected in 1873. Mr. Lee also built a dwelling house the same year. The next building was the store of Peter Innman. Then Henry Becker moved the postoffice building of Peter Neville from Richmond, and converted it into a store building with a saloon under the warehouse. Arthur Wellington built a hotel, followed by Ellis Brown. Other buildings followed. Brown, Faueett & Workman built a store in 1883. Workman & Sheehan owned the goods. J. P. Neville purchased the building and goods, and traded the same to A. C. Brown. The present store belongs to J. W. Donehower. In 1884, L. B. Camden and A. C. Brown built what is known as the Harrington store, which is owned at the present time by W. H. Harrington & Son. Joseph Hoffman opened a harness shop in 1874. Leonard Helsaple opened a wagon repairing shop. He was succeeded by W. H. Vance. Dakota has a population of 275 people. It is located on the C. M. & St. Paul Railway and the Mississippi river eighteen miles south east of Winona and ten miles northwest of La Crosse. It has a park, two stores, a blacksmith shop, several churches, an eighth grade school and a feed mill. Several thousand crates of berries are shipped out of here every year.

Dakota Cemetery. In Dakota cemetery repose many of the early settlers of this vicinity. The first burials were those of Mrs. Eliza A. Brown and infant, wife and child of Nathan Brown. Mrs. Brown died July 21, 1854, and the infant August 16, 1854. Other old settlers asleep in the cemetery are: Susan, wife of Caleb Innman, died July 21, 1880, aged 70 years; Mary, wife of C. S. Guynnup, died December 16, 1876, aged 58; Reynold IL Brown, died March 30, 1870, aged 72; Charles Brown, died July 17, 1870, aged 79; Alvina, wife of B. J. Moore, died November 4, 1875, aged 47; Anna J. Cleveland, died July 2, 1878, aged 67; Phebe A., wife of Simon Mott, died September 27, 1861, aged 77; Sarah, wife of Leonard Helsapple, died September 16, 1880, aged 66. Mary, wife of C. S. Guynnup, and Sarah, wife of James G. Wilson were sisters, of Nathan, Reynolds, and Charles Brown. Anna, J. Cleveland's husband was first cousin to Grover Cleveland. The Helsapples are a large family in this vicinity_ George Tibbetts, died May 25, 1855, age 55; Alice Wilson, Tibbetts wife of O. W. Tibbetts, died September 24, 1885, age 30 years; Alice Mabelle, daughter of O. W. Tibbetts, died November 15, 1885; J. W. Tibbetts, died January 25, 1899, age 68; Catherine I. Maynard Tibbetts, died March 27, 1903, age 71. Phoebe Adella Tibbetts Shay, died October 25, 1885, age 23; J. G. Wilson, Sarah B. Wilson and Jered Brown, were first settlers, who leave large families in this vicinity. Noticeable among the family lots are those of the Lambert, Tibbetts, Brown, Neville, Winter, Lilly, Lee and Helsapple families. The cemetery is a very picturesque spot and is well cared for by an association. There is also a Roman Catholic cemetery. In Dakota valley on the farm of J. G. Wilson is also a cemetery where many of the early settlers of this vicinity are at rest. In this cemetery repose J. G. and Sarah B. Wilson, parents of the present J, G. Wilson. Annie Mott Miller, Alexander Donalson, Barney Young and Bridget Young and several members of their families are also among the pioneers who are laid at rest.

The River Channel. When the original survey was made of the Mississippi river from La Crosse to Lake Pepin, the true channel of the river was ascertained and the islands were assigned to the state nearest to whose banks they lay. But some of the islands were near the middle of the river, and in high water, the stream on both sides was navigable. Richmond, Dakota and Dresbach islands were assigned to Minnesota. When the government began to improve the river, lights were placed at various places, and the dams which were built between these three islands and the Minnesota mainland confined the current to the Wisconsin side of the islands. Thus Dresbach and Dakota and other people who had part of the year enjoyed good landing on their side of the river were entirely cut off from the main channel. Two years ago, Sydney Anderson presented to Congress a petition charging Captain W. A. Thompson with destroying the channel in front of Dresbach and Dakota, and working viciously against the interests of these two places. A public hearing was held at Centennial hall, Dresbach, September 26, 1913, Major C. Keller, U. S. Engineers, presiding. About 100 persons were present including representatives from La Crosse, Dakota and Dresbach. The fight was sharply contested. The result is that the records are to be gone over and the matter considered by one of the high departments at Washington.

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