The early history on any town must of necessity be of
its first settlers. The material structures that later arise must have
a mental concept in the brain of the founder.
EARLY HISTORY OF THE MICHIGAN SETTLEMENT
During the spring of 1878 quite a number of farmers of western Michigan, decided to remove to some state farther west where lands were cheaper. Most of these farmers had small farms and were already comfortably situated. But rather than see the children leave the home and seek new locations they decided to accompany them.
While these people were making arrangement to sell their farms and turn them into cash it was decided to send someone into the west to find suitable lands and location for the new settlement. That May, Mr. E.W. Spaulding was sent to the Pacific coast where he remained nearly all summer and traveled extensively. He visited the best farm regions in California, Oregon and Washington territory.
Though Spaulding found many points of interest in these regions he found no farm regions outside of the Willamette Valley of Oregon and the Sacramento Valley of California that had the qualities that we considered appropriate for the farming needs of the Michiganders, and besides these lands were as expensive of those of Michigan. On his return home it was decided that he look elsewhere.
In the same year another man Mr. E. K. Crafts made a similar journey except he had no particular destination in view. He visited Chicago and while there chanced to hear a report of a phenomenal crop of wheat that had just been harvested by Mr. Oliver Dalyrimple in the Red River Valley of Dakota territory. Mr. Crafts, one of the largest growers in Western Michigan, after reading the Dalyrimple report made immediate plans to visit the region of the Red River Valley. His preparations took him to St. Paul where he located a surveyor, Mr. W. W. Taggert, who had traveled and had extensive knowledge of the entire region of the Red River Valley. Taggert recommended the region just west of the Bois De Sioux river in the location now southeastern Richand County as the best possible location.
1879 The First Settlers Come to Fairmount
Crafts was on the next train to Dakota Territory and the Red River Valley and was very pleased by what he found there. He returned to share his enthusiastic report, explaining that he found what he was looking for. " - - a long, broad, level prairie, as nice as any many ever saw, and extending for hundreds of miles to the north with nary a stone or anything to turn the course of the plow." This was all government land open for settlement, under the homestead pre-emption. He could not find words strong enough to tell half of the potential for this land and what the future would bring forth.
In March 1879 Crafts along with W. Spaulding, J. P. Taylor, Chas. Scheburn, U. A. Griffin and E. W. Spaulding left Hartford, Michigan to stake out the first settlement on the lands near what is now known as Fairmount. They stopped first in St. Paul to engage a surveyor to aid them in making their locations.
The settlers headed for Campbell, Minnesota arriving on the 20th where they secured teams. Then heading west they were for the first time entirely away from any view of dwellings. They crossed the river at the present site of Geo. Grovsvenor. That afternoon all of the party made selections for their homestead land sites. All of the founding party except E. W. Spaulding returned to Michigan the next day. Crafts, Spaulding and Scheburn stopped in St. Paul to purchase lumber which the railroad carried to Campbell the nearest delivery point, at half rates. E. W. Spaulding remained to work on buildings so as to have everything ready as possible when the families of the settlers were to arrive in about two weeks. Spaulding also made himself familiar with the landmarks in order to help new families to make their land selections on their arrival. Some of the new families to come shortly were Clark and Lee Johnson, Web and Deb Easton, D. M. Slawson, Allen Ragen, W. H. and W. J. Taylor who with E. W. came on foot from Campbell to make selections. The Johnson boys, also made selections for Robert Haney.
On the fifteen of April Clark Johnson, Web Easton, Ed Spaulding and Deck Slawson came over with a four ox team with lumber to put up the frame of the first house in the settlement. The building is now standing on the Clark Johnson farm two miles west of town. On the same day Bert Spaulding along with Wib and Frank Crafts, arrived in Campbell with two cars of household goods, horses, wagons, and everything need ed in a new country, even W. Spaulding's dog and Aunt Nan's cat. On the sixteenth, Warren Spaulding with a load of horses, farm machinery and a carload of corn and oats. The same day the barn on W. Spaulding's farm was started. On the twentiesth of April a party from Wahpeton and Breckenridge came down to visit the settlers knowing that water was not plentiful brought with them a tin can of some sort of beverage, a surprise to the Michigan tenderfeet, concoction known as "reservation tanglefoot". Some of the boys have since become better acquainted with the virtues of the beverage.
On the twenty sixth of April the families of W. Crafts and E. and W. Spaulding joined the settlers. The Mesdames Spauldings were the first women to arrive at the settlement, Mrs. Crafts remained in Campbell for a few days until the Crafts house could be completed.
On the 29th of April the first plowing of about six acres was done by Clark Johnson and seeded to oats, this produced a 'pretty fair' crop being cut by hand and threshed by flail by L. H. Johnson.
During April and May new settlers came, among whom were some of the most prosperous farmers in the community today. Each settler plowed as much as he could, W. Spaulding outdoing the others plowing over a hundred acres and this in addition to making to making 26 trips to Campbell. Most of the young men worked in Minnesota through the season and hired their plowing done.
The fall of 1879 most of the settlers returned to the East. The only ones to remain were E. and W. Spaulding, E. Taylor, W. Mackney, and U. A. Griffin with their families. The winter was not severe and the settlers enjoyed themselves much better than one would suppose. So ended the first year of the Michigan settlement.
In the spring of 1879 a post office was established in the home of Warren Spaulding. His wife (Aunt Nan) was post mistress. The mail was brought from Wahpeton every Saturday, carried by Bert Spaulding. He made the trip in all kinds of weather, sometimes on horseback. When the weather was poor it would arrive sometime in the evening. About sunset you could look in all directions and see the settlers coming for their mail. Some carried a large sack to carry mail to others in their neighborhood. The large kitchen would be filled with those anxious to hear from home as the sack was opened and the names read. As the news was received faces reflected the good news or the bad news of their mail.
Some of the "Firsts'
The first sermon brought to Fairmount was delivered by H. R. Brasted in August of 1881. Reverend Brasted was a traveling evangelist of the Baptist faith. Services were held in the house of U.A. Griffin. In 1881 H. G. Huntley, a traveling missionary overseer in charge of the South West organized the local Baptist church. Reverend E. E. Tyson was the first regular pastor. Services were held in local homes until a suitable housing for the church could be found.
The first school classes were taught in 1880 in a small rough board shanty built on part of the E. Spaulding farm. Miss Carrie Myers held sway in the small classroom teaches the three R's in true frontier style. The young scholars attending this first classroom included Lillie and Jay Devoe; Art, Mary, and Laura Gallup; and Alta, Maud, and Roy Haney.
An improved school building was erected by the fall of 1883. This one room school house was built across from the little church. Leila Mills was the teacher. Classes were not held in the winter. In June of 1884 there was a serious storm that hit while school was in session. The school house was blown off its foundation but no one was injured. In the same storm, there was another school shanty 5 miles south that suffered even greater damages. The teacher Jennie Williams and several children were seriously injured. Medical assistance required a team of horses to travel to Wahpeton and return, so it took a long time before the injured could receive medical aid.
There were three townships which comprise the territory about which this sketch is written: Fairmount named by N. Davis after Fairmount Park in Philadelphia; DeVillo, named for a cousin of the Spauldings, DeVillo Crafts; and LaMars named by Britton after LaMars, Iowa. The land laying as level as a floor with now and then a pocket or low place. The first year the ground appeared to be rather wet. One settler being so disgusted by the water on his farm that he sold it to his brother for a new hat.
Times Recorded by First Settlers
The winter of 1884 was a cold one with lots of snow and blizzards. Jimmie Taylor set out to visit the R. Deyoe home. While on the journey a blizzard struck suddenly. They found Jimmy later frozen to death and buried him next to a deep coulee. This was the first buriel in what was later to become known as Fairmount Cemetery.
Here are some families who are among the first settlers in the Fairmount community: J. S. Parsons who planted three tree claims in the northern part of DeVillo. Other tree planters included Horton and Quarry whose tree claims equaled that of a real forest. Other families in the vicinity were the Mackeys, Hamiltons, Dunhams, James Fox, Lee Johnson, C. Lisk, and Deck Slawson, U. A. Griffin, Pat White, R. Haney, Gallup, Bakers, Crafts, Web, Deb and Albert Easton.
In DeVillo and south some of the first settlers were T. P. Williams, Frank
Williams, Geo. Wetherbee, H. Hubbard, and three Pelham families.
The first merchant was B. W. (Bart) Schouweiler. The first doctor was
Dr. D. C. Steele who endeared himself to the people for he never refused
a call and braved many a storm to help those who were suffering.
The Milwaukee Railway came through in the year 1884. We can easily envision the elation of those stout hearted pioneers as they experienced the arrival of the welcome railway for it assured that the years of their isolation was shortly to end. As we look back and contemplate the difficulties and challenges of the first settlers we would conclude that these years were of any form of really great compensations.
Two years later 1886 marked the completion of two new rail roads the Soo and the Great Northern. Our young metropolis was now 'rarin' to go. There had already been a couple of small buildings erected on the Milwaukee Railway's right of way. In one of these Mr. Curtis had the first store. I believe from accounts that he was also the agent for the railway. Mr. S. S. Payne had another of these stores and later became the official postmaster replacing the service that had performed by Mrs. S. Spaulding as before related.
Mr. B. W. (Bart) Schouweiler was the first business erected on what
is now Main street at about the same time as the business noted above.
There was a grain elevator situated on the Milwaukee situated where Cudahy
Produce now stands. Mr. Weideman was the buyer. On the Soo Line the first
elevator was erected in 1886 by the Atlantic Elevator Company. J. M. Moyes
was the first buyer there. About this time in 1886 Phil Gottleman built
a small frame building somewhere along the Milwaukee right of way, which
was later removed by U. A. Griffith to the lot where the Hoffman hardware
now operates and still stands.
In the county auditor's office in Historical Data Vol. 2. Page 359 we read that on April 28th 1887 the board of county commissioners after being waited upon by certain petitioners and after describing the metes and bounds of the proposed village, ordered that a meeting be held on the Ninth of May at the store of Noah Davis to determine by majority vote whether such territory shall become the town of "Fairmount". And the county board further ordered that J. C. Henvis, N. Davis Jr. and Mr. B. W. Shouweiler act as judges and that H. L. Eastman and Merrick Crafts serve as clerks for such election. The vote was favorable to such, incorporated, giving our official birthday as May 9, 1887.
This ended the town of Sewall as the town had been known until this time. The name "Fairmount" was originally proposed by Mr. Henvis who had come from Philadelphia where shortly before the National Centennial Exposition had been held in Philadelphia in Fairmount Park.
The first official meeting of the new town's board was held on August 30th, 1887. G. F. Wilson was president and H. L. Eastman was clerk. At this time much more business than just the official business was looming on the horizon of these people's hopes. This was caring for the infant population, the first of which had arrived at the L. H. Johnson home and followed soon after by the birth of the first child born within the town limits at the home of R. W. Dougherty.
I am also told that the first marriage was that of Mr. Dougherty. The second marriage was that of B. W. Schouweiler and Miss Carrie Nelson. I will end this manner of reporting here lest it become a census report instead of an historical sketch.
Mr. Nels P. Nelson who had been located on the Bois de Sioux since April 1878 were by now the 'old settlers' and Mr. Nelson, being a first class mechanic and blacksmith had come into town and in 1886 had erected a blacksmith shop about where the residence of A. I. Lee now stands. After many years of faithful service he returned to his first love and bought and continued to operate one of the Spaulding farms, two miles west of town.
Mr. Lafayette Parkhill Sr. and his two sons, C. T. and William came in 1879 and John Anderson and his nephew J. P. Nelson, came about the same time. Both of these families came from central Wisconsin. The sole survivor of the first family, Hon. Layfayette Parkhill came in 1882 and took up the claim of his deceased brother, William. While he was still diligently managing his fine farm he was elected to the legislature as well as supervisor and assessor. Later after removing to town he was elected to the Office of Assessor for the village. In 1897 he built and still owns the corner on First and Main which has been since its constructions one of the foremost trading centers in the town. Successive firms at this corner appear to have been; Deyoe and Haney, Deyoe and Wetherbee, Wetherbee and Easton, and then for long years, E. W. Wetherbee. A few years ago it was remodeled and a fine basement added and since that time it was occupied by John Bostrom.
Early Town Growth After the Arrival of the Railroad
Returning to the town after the advent of the railways, we find that about 1887 Frank Elliot and R. W. Dougherty built a hotel which was called the Fairmount Hotel. It also had livery and bus line facilities in connection. The hotel management was next taken over by Henry Mills and he then selling to U. A. Griffin. It was then to be known as the Richland Hotel, a name it bore for many successive managments during which it was renovated and enlarged. The Richland drew a generous patronage and was well known for its fine cuisine.
Mr. Schouweiler's first store, the first on Main Street was situated where "Bert's Club House" now stands was followed by another store built by N. Davis in 1886. Here Mr. Davis succeeded Payne as postmaster and he in turn was succeeded by Frank Zillgitt, succeeded by E. A. Spaulding, and later succeeded by the long term of Charles Leathart.
Mr. Davis built the corner building known as the John Leathart corner in 1886. Pursuing the early buildings of the town we find that Mr. Schouweiler along with W. H. Cox, Mr. John Leathart, N. Powell and Ed Ballard incorporated the first bank known as the Bank of Fairmount. To accomodate this they built a frame building on the south side of Main Street. The same location that is had been occupied by the Fairmount News. Later in 1901, a new brick building was erected on the adjacent north side street corner on a lot owned by the Zillgitts.
During this period other businesses were spring up. Among these were Frank Zilgitt grocery; Zillgitt and Johnson dry goods and clothing; and the Ready and Zillgit restaurant. The firm of Sawyer and Arnold had put in a lumber yard on the Soo. R. W. Dougherty and A. J. Thiesen had built the West Hotel and adjoining brick buildings where Dougherty carried a stock of hardware, harness goods, and farm machinery. Dougherty also operated a livery. He later sold the hardware to E. R. Collins in 1896 and the livery was sold to the Taylor Brothers.
In addition to the two first class hotels mentioned earlier, Mr. Henry Strait had a fine brick building constructed near the bank and a fine restaurant was opened there. In 1901 Mr. Jos. Clark built the adjoining building which was occupied at once by the new First National Bank. This bank was officered by D. C. Steele, President; C. P. Watson, Cashier; and Frank Whittaker, Vice President. Wm. Cross, a prosperous farmer on the Minnesota side was also a heavy stockholder.
In 1897 Mr. John Leathart, one of the 79'ers retired from his farm 2 miles north of town and bought the store and building of Noah Davis to begin to engage in the grocery and general store business, which became one of the substancial business places for a quarter century afterwords. About the same time as the coming of Mr. Leathart, or possibly a year earlier, O. H. Hellekson bought out the hardware business of U. A. Griffin and built the present hardware store, removing the old Phil Gottleman business to the east and adding a lumber yard on the east.
The Mergens brothers had come in 1895 and bought out the drug business of Davis and Schouweiler. A year or two later they built a substancial brick building which still houses, as of this writing, the oldest continuous business in town. This sturdy building turned the sweep of flames in 1901 when fire swept the space from the Leathart corner west to the Mergens building. Likewise many years later in 1912 or '13 again stopped a fiery onlslaught from the other side when the row of wooden buildings went up in flames owing to a misbehaving movie theater film.
On the south side of the street the August Colberg drug company had taken over the small frame building which the Baptist Church had outgrown and installed a fine stock of drugs and medicines. Dr. Steele was associated with the Colberg enterprise at first. In 1903 B. W. Schouweiler built the "Big Store" an outstanding mercantile emporium which he carried on for many years. The big store later was succeeded in operation by O. T. Valla, Knud Thompson, F. M. McConn and Sons and lastly by John Bostrom.
During these last years of the century the town continued to grow and flourish even without a promotional boom, though it was not entirely without some of the growing pains incidents common to frontier development. One of these was the incident of the "Reno Blight" was undertaken by a psuedo lawyer who had an office in a vacant lot adjoining the Masonic lodge building. But the fate of this unblest reknown was nipped in the bud by the advent of statehood in 1889. Thus the nobler attributes of uneffacable pioneer character was allowed to prevail.
Illustrative Character of the Early Settlers
One incident highlighting the golden character of these
pioneers is recollected by Mr. and Mrs. N. P. Nelson who resided near
to the Bois de Sioux. The Nelsons had retired for the night when Mrs.
Nelson was taken suddenly ill. N. P., after making her as comfortable
as possible, rushed to his nearest neighbor, Mr. Sikorski for help. Mrs.
Sikorski quickly dressed and followed N. P. home to care for Mrs. Nelson,
while Mr. Sikorski started out in haste walking in the darkness on foot,
to fetch the nearest doctor Dr. O'brien in Wahpeton. It is hard to match
such unselfish acts that forge a memorial that the years can not destroy
but only strengthen.
No growing town can remain long without a newspaper. One Mr. Smith started a weekly newspaper in a small frame building on the north side between the Mergens store and the State Theatre about the year of 1890 possibly a little earlier. I am unable to find out what Smith called this sheet but he is reported to be a man of real ability. He won a contest held by the Great Northern to design an exclusive emblem to be displayed on all their rail cars. In doing this he received a prize for $1000. This publisher was followed by another, a Mr. J. F. Burt who had previously been a grain buyer in White Rock. He called his paper the Fairmount Journal. I am told that his daughter, Mrs. Frank Zillgitt was the chief editor of the paper. In 1896 Bradley W. Clabaugh bought out Mr. Burt and started the Fairmount News. When the Bank of Fairmount moved into their new building in 1901 Clabaugh moved into the former Bank site and there it remained publishing as the Fairmount News weekly from that date to the present. After Clabaugh others followed with the ownership of the Fairmount News, namely: Barney Stoffel in 1923; then Samuel Ristey. These all used the original primitive equipment until the present ownership of P. A. Frederickson and Lloyd Johnson when the plant was re equiped with lino type and other improvements which gave us a wide awake up-to-the-minute newspaper which has recently won distinguished recognition from official publishing authorities.
Medical skills were offered from the earliest times by Dr. Steele as previously noted. Steele, always on hand to make calls with his black team of horses, near and far, day and night, long years before the honk of the ubiquitous auto was ever heard in the land. Dr. W. E. Kitely arrived in 1885 to practice in the community. Dr. N. H. Greenman arrived about the turn of the century.
Spiritual Climate of Fairmount
Mrs. Wetherbees previous account has detailed the first efforts in this direction. The first room donated by Mr. Henvis was followed by the much larger building that was later taken over by the Colberg Drug store. The Baptist congregation was then located to its present location.
The Methodist Church had their first services in June 1882 in the unfinished house of Thos. Bardsley. The Reverend Ira Carter was the preacher. In 1889 it was decided to have an edifice constructed for this congregation which was then built in 1890. Rev. Jas. Strachan, a junior under Rev. J. H. Kelley of Wahpeton held temporary services until the new building was completed. J. D. Deets assumed to first pastorate. The pastoral succession seems to have been as follows: Rev. Richard Hamer, 1891; Rev. J.H. Howard, 1892; Rev. J. A. Hovis, 1893; Rev. Even Halsell, 1894; Rev. F. L. Rhodes, 1896; W. E. Plaxton, 1898; Thos. E. Green, 1899 to 1900. In the present century additions to the succession include: S. F. Beer and Rev. Morrison this followed by longer pastorates still in the memories of some of our citizens; Rev. J. N. Loach and Reverend Sage. The edifice was remodeled and updated in later years.
The Catholic Church was built in 1899. It was without a resident priest until the coming of Rev. Fr. Meyer a few years later. Since that date the church has made rapid strides and today is a very strong parish with the addition of a fine priest's residence and a parish hall purchased from the school board at the time when the new high school building was constructed in 1911.
As of the time of this writing our present resident priest is Rev. Fr. Behrens who has directed the building of several magnificent monuments displaying his collection of beautiful, rare and historic stones and gems from every part of the earth. These have been constructed in enduring monuments where all who view them may experience, in the language of the great dramatist, "a sermon in stones and good in everything."
Education in Early Fairmount
As noted in Mrs. Wetherbee's narrative, the first school was conducted in a rude board shanty, located close to the Milwaukee tracks and about a half mile south of the town site. After its destruction by the cyclone a couple of years later the one story, one room building was erected on the site we call the Twin Gables service station. This building was moved a few years later to a location a block east and a couple blocks north, making its second stand where the residence of Charles Templeton nows stands. Education transpired at this site until the year 1893 when the next larger school site was started squarely across the east end of Main street. Here a Mr. Cluff served as the first principal. About 1904 or 5 that building was turned a quarter turn around and moved to the north side of the street. Additional rooms were added at this time. A new more fire resistant brick building was constructed in 1911 following a growing reputation of educational quality and growing enrollment from both sides of the river. The addition of other rooms and a new gymasium date from 1930.
Other Social Organization and Businesses
The town of Fairmount saw activity in numerous lodges and fraternal organizations since 1892. These included the I.O.O.F; the Masonic Lodge chartered June 15, 1893; the order of Eastern Star, chartered June 24, 1898; and the Rebeccah Lodge which had its beginning March 3, 1899. Besides lodges there has been numerous active church societies, garden clubs, homemaker's clubs and literary clubs. Space and incomplete details limit our listing of them in any kind of detail.
I have remaining but a few business houses to mention to bring our account up to the new century and forward to the present time. Here is that listing: The Hellekson Lumber Co., and the Salzer Lumber Company where Charles Eide had his training for his present management by serving in both of these. After the sale of the Hellekson company to the Allen Bros. the lumber yard was discontinued. But soon after another lumber company was opened in the vicinity of the Milwaukee tracks. This company which came to be known as the Crane Johnson lumber company was managed by some able business men, among them, Al Monson, Mr. Anton, and Mr. John Birtel. Later these two companies joined to form a single entity operated as the Salzer Lumber Company and managed by Chas. Eide.
For a few years during the boom period of 1912 to 1915, L. H. Johnson and his son in law Jas. Leathart carried a large stock of building material to accomodate the growing demand for construction in the community. During the first quarter century of progress one of the most important adjucts to this progress was the use horses. Horses powered the liveries, dray lines, bus lines. The number enterprises and facilities tied to the horse would weary the reader. It is a safe bet that the cash earnings connected to this class of the economy would far surpass any other segment of enterprise. I shall not attempt to name any of these, lest in doing so, I should omit any deserving agency.
While this history does not take up in full the later years of Fairmount, it does cover practically every point on which authentic information has been available from the time of the first settlers up until the completion of the F. & V. Railway in 1913. It is our belief that the major part of the pioneering in the village was completed by that time. Exceptions would be a number of infrastructure improvements, modernizing touches such as improved electric service, water works and sewer systems and the additional of certain industries as the Gamble Robinson wholesale house and the Cudahy packing company plant and several private establishments.
The closing chapter of this history of Fairmount could be summed up by
stating that Fairmount has enjoyed slow and steady growth over these past
years. At this writing in 1937 Fairmount boasts 45 active business
enterprises most of which are home owned and operated. The tally includes
three general stores, two hardware stores, two drug stores, four restaurants
or lunchrooms, three garages, three dray lines, four service stations,
two barber shops, hotel, theatre, meat market, bakery, shoe repair shop,
heating and plumbing establishment, hatchery, cream and produce
station, creamery and poultry packing plant, wholesale house, elevator,
lumber yard, three fuel dealers, bank, general repair shop, blacksmith,
pool hall, three bulk oil plants, laundry, implement dealer, newspaper,
livestock dealer, dentist, doctor and telephone exchange. And last but
not least, Fairmount is currently served by 3 railroad companies operating
4 transportation lines affording the best all-directional transportation
in the entire northwest. Fairmount still needs to add a few other
kinds of companies; manufacturing or wholesale establishments. To any
of these types of business we offer a hearty welcome and full cooperation
and support is pledged by the entire community under the leadership of
the Fairmount Commercial Club.