History of Homer 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


Homer township embraces nearly all of township 106, range 6, and a small part of township 107, range 6. It is bounded on the west by Wilson and Winona townships, on the south by Pleasant Hill township, on the east by Richmond township, and on the north by the Mississippi river. It comprises thirty three complete sections and five fractional ones. The surface is very much broken; the soil on the ridge land is clay, while in the valleys it is a black loam All along the river front, the ridges terminate in bluffs, but the soil and timber extends even over the declivities, producing a very picturesque appearance. The highest perpendicular wall is that of the projecting "Minneowah bluff point," which has an elevation above the railroad track of 545 feet at its brink. Its height a few yards back from the brow of the bluff is 582 feet above the line of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul road, making it 600 feet above low water mark, and 1,203 feet above sea level. The Minneowah bluff, is at its brow, 563 feet above low water. The next bluff west of the Minneowah bluff is but little less in height, and has been for years past a great resort for the brown and bluish falcons, of the Mississippi valley. The peculiar bluff ridge that projects into the center of the village of Homer, named by a steamboat captain, "Kettle Bluff," from a fancied resemblance of the range of rocks on its top to a row of salt kettles, is 453 feet above low water. The ridges below Homer, are of about the height of the ridges above Homer, six hundred feet from low water, though the height of land farther back from the river is considerably more. In the ravine back of Minneowah, and a little west of the "Snow-cold," or Minneowah spring, in some conditions of the atmosphere, and especially at a high stage of water on the river with a north wind blowing, a remarkable echo is thrown back from whistling steamboats and railroad locomotives.

The township is traversed by two creeks, Cedar creek and Big trout run. Cedar creek rises in the southwestern part of the township, flows northeast, and empties into the Mississippi river on section 1. Big trout run is formed by numerous springs in the southern part of the township; at Pickwick it broadens into a small lake, and long furnished water power for a large flour mill; from Pickwick the stream flows northeast, and leaves the township on section 13. It finally terminates in the Mississippi river on section 8, in Richmond township.

Early Settlement. Francois Du Chouquette, the blacksmith, settled at the present site of Homer village about 1831. Willard B. Bunnell settled on the same site, August 20, 1849. He employed many wood choppers. Augustus Pentler and Peter Gorr settled on the islands opposite Homer late in 1851. In the same year Jabez McDermott and Josiah Keene built a small cabin below Bunnell's house. Hirk Carroll, who took various claims in the county at different times, took a claim at the mouth of Pleasant valley in 1852, partly in Homer township and partly in Winona. He sold to Silas Stevens.

James Campbell in 1852 took a claim in the middle of the township, in Cedar creek valley. He was soon joined by William and Robert Campbell.

Leonard Johnson established himself in 1852 at a place about a mile below Homer, still known as Johnson's landing. He opened a wood yard. For a time Frank Wilson was his partner. Early in 1852, Peter Gorr moved to the mainland above Bunnell's. He was induced to vacate, whereupon he located in section 18, in the summer of 1852. Later he returned to his original location in the site of the village of Minneowah. John Lavine came in 1853, and located at the mouth of Pleasant valley, but in 1855: finally settled on section 11, in Cedar creek valley.

Organization. The number of votes cast at the first township election, May 11, 1858, was eighty eight. The names of the first township officers are as follows: Charles Griswold, town clerk; S. Britton, collector; Samuel Britton, overseer of the poor; Jared Baldwin, chairman of supervisors; Daniel Daugherty, G. W. Grant, supervisors; J. C. Norton, Ferdinand Cox, justices of the peace; J. C. Crane, Albert Preston, constables; Samuel Ailing, assessor.

Early Events. John Tony, in 1857, was the first to keep a regular postoffice in the village, the mails had been received and distributed from the postoffice, at the house of Willard B. Bunnell, the first postmaster, as early as 1853. The first marriage in the village and township was that of Harry Herrick, in 1856, to Rachel, a girl employed in the family of Mrs. W. B. Bunnell. The first road in the township reached from Willard Bunnell's place westward to the township line. It was begun in 1853 by private enterprise and completed in 1854. The first house in the township was owned by Willard Bunnell and stood at Bunnell's landing. The first birth in the township was that of Frances Matilda Bunnell - born February 22, 1850. This was also the first birth of a white child in this county. Charles Smith is said to have been the first teacher in the township and the first district schoolhouse is said to have been erected in section 33 in 1857. Private instruction in Homer was given at an early date, and a schoolhouse was erected in the village by subscription. Bunnell named the village in honor of the town in New York state where he was born, and the name was afterward given to the precinct and township.

Bunnell's history makes notes of several prominent citizens of the early days. They are: Aaron Decker, 1855; Sylvester Gardner, 1855; Dr. J. Q. A. Vale, 1865; Nelson Breed, Charles Green, James C. Towne, Thomas Wilson, George Kimble, Presley Tuel, E. B. Huffman, Wesley Martin, William F. Martin, Samuel Britton, Samuel Alling (about 1853).

Land Office Records. The first claims to land in Homer 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 case the settler had land in more than one section, only one section is given.

1, James Brennan, October 27; 2, M. Wheeler Sargeant, November 14; 3, William Lamson, December 1; Augustus T. Pintler, November 22; Jno. A. Mathews, December 12; Jared K. Buck, November 19; George Hilbert, October 23; 4, John Sanford, October 18; Gilbert Finkle, November 19; Jared Baldwin, August 20; Robert Pike, Jr., October 29; Thomas J. Hough, August 18; 5, Willard B Bunnell, August 20; Aaron Decker, October 25; James M. Lawrie, November 17; Thomas F. Babcock, November 29; 6, Thos. C. Clay, October 24; Franklin B. Rowell, October 6; 7, James A. Toms, October 24; Peter Goor, October 22; James P. Clay, October 22; 8, Thomas Hanley, Jr., October 18; Henry D. Huff, December 12; 9, Isaac Page, September 1; 11. John Lavine, November 13; Patrick Clark, October 25; Robert Campbell, October 22; 12, John Duville, October 3; 13, William A. Jones, November 15; G. W. Grant, October 24; 15, James Campbell, November 19; 17, Silas Winget, December 17; Patrick May, October 18; Joel Morrison, October 15; R. R. Crosby, November 22; 18, Chas. G. Waite, November 14; Martin Otterson, October 22; Warren Rowell, October 1; 19, Harry Scranton, October 30; Jno. Albright, October 17; Frederick Cogswell, July 26; 20, William V. Custard, October 12; 21, William Campbell, November 20; Chas. Howard, October 30; 23, Henry Weisser, October 30; 24, Lewis Huttenhow, October 30; 25, Geo. Burden, November 19; 26, James E. Rutherford, October 24; Allen Lewis, December 8; 28, William W. Learned, December 3; Chas. H. Berry, November 21; 29, Deidrich Upman, October 30; 30, Robt. D. Aikman, October 17; David B. Harriman, November 26; Nicholas Gallienne, December 28; Thomas Hanley, Sr., October 18; 31, Chas Lafoss, September 28; Hans Bredahl, December 1; 32, Mark Howard, December 4; 33, Alvin Lewis, November 20; 35, Henry Facett, December 7; John P. Davis, December 18; 30, John Keyes, October 30; 31, John James, October 6; Lozenzo D. Smith, October 30; 32, Presley Tuel, October 6.

Minneowah was platted by a syndicate in 1852. Its story is told in connection with the chapter on early village plats. In the spring of 1853 a large hotel was built. Myron Toms seems to have been landlord for a while. C. F. Buck, afterward a prominent resident of the county, came to Minneowah in. the fall of 1853, and remained there and at Homer some two years. H. B. Stoll was also an early resident. R. F. Norton, later a storekeeper in Homer, reached Minneowah in 1854, as did Dr. J. C. Norton, who kept his office there. Thomas J. Hough kept a store in 1854, and was succeeded the same year by Charles M. and Royal Lovell. After the syndicate abandoned its plans, a man named Dougherty secured the hotel and kept a store. A new village was platted in 1855. A summer colony composed of Winona people now occupies the site.

Homer village was surveyed March 27, 18:55, by H. J. Hilbert. The proprietors were Willard B. Bunnell, John A. Tory, Bradley Bunnell, H. J. Hilbert, Thomas Hough and C. F. Buck. The plat contained forty four blocks situated in sections 4 and 5, town 106, and section 32 and 33, town 107, range 6. The first house was owned by Willard B. Bunnell. Frank Wilson built the first store in 1855. Before the town was laid out this place was called Bunnell's landing, and a postoffice was kept in Mr. Bunnell's house. In 1855 Ferdinand Cox opened a store in which he sold drugs and liquors. He afterwards moved to Pickwick. In 1856 Jacob Meyers built a blacksmith shop. In 1857, Woodruff Griswold and one of the Nortons built a store and a warehouse. In 1860, Hoxie Able erected a sawmill. In 1868 another was started by R. F. Norton and other members of his family. Both mills failed for lack of power. Homer has a population of 125. It is located on the Mississippi river six miles southeast of Winona on the C., M. & St. P. Railway. It has a store, a school and three churches.

Pickwick was first laid out in 1857. It is located in section 13, Homer township, at the head of a pond caused by the expansion of Big trout run. It is almost surrounded by high bluffs, and is widely known for its picturesque situation. Big trout run flows northeast from the village, and its zigzag course can be traced for miles down the valley by the willows growing on its banks. The village was named after the famous character created by Charles Dickens Thomson Grant, who came in 1853, was the first settler in the village. The first store was owned by Ferdinand Cox, who came in 1855. Wilson Davis came in 1856. The blacksmith shop was built by John Cripps in 1858. The wagon shop was operated by Joel Morrison. A sawmill and gristmill combined was erected in 1854 by Thomson Grant. The flourmill was commenced in 1856 by Thomson Grant and Wilson Davis. A small building owned by the mill company was used as a school as early as 1858. Lou Grant was the teacher. In 1861 a school was put up by the district. Sarah Shorey was the teacher for several years. A frame building 24 by 44 feet, was built by the district in 1863. Charles Sufferins kept the first postoffice in 1858. The flourmill for many years had a large output. It is now operated as a grist mill. The hotel at Pickwick was long famous for its hospitality. Pickwick has a population of 150 people. It is located twelve miles southeast of Winona and two miles southwest of LaMoile on the C., M. & St. P. Railway. It has a picturesque lake, two stores, a school, a mill, a creamery several churches and a blacksmith shop.

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