Monday, December 24, 2007

Anne’s Great, Great Grandfather

Her great, great grandfather and great grandfather arrive in Wayzata
by Warren Wakefield

The following essay is taken from a memoir that was written by
Anne's great grandfather. It is about his arrival in Wayzata,
Minnesota, as a seven year old in 1857. I've fallen in love with
these memoirs and they make me wish I could have known
this extraordinary man who wrote them.

Whatever this performance may develop, be it history, song or sermon or a series of anecdotes, it will be entirely lacking in exact chronology.

My personal knowledge of the Frontier development of this community begins October 1, 1857. I never saw A. O. Garrison, the founder of the village of Wayzata, he had finished his work in this region and moved farther West in the year 1856. To me the real pioneer settlers of Wayzata were William Dudley, B.F. and Tom Keesling and A.W. Day. These four men and their families constituted the entire population of the village when I first saw it. Three of these four original settlers were in the hotel business as early as 1855 and the fourth, Tom Keesling, was a frontier merchant, the proprietor of a small general store.

At that time the freight that went West to the various settlements in the Big Woods passed thru the village, and Wayzata, being a long day's drive from the river, was a stopping place for the freighters, which explains the popularity of the wayside hotel as a source of income. These freighters were more than ordinary men, for on each trip they solved problems in road building that would puzzle a modern engineer.

As we entered the one street of the Village that October afternoon fifty-six years ago, the first hotel we encountered was occupied by B.F. Keesling, a long, half log, half frame structure, which stood on the present site of the Gleason store. This tavern was never popular as a stopping place and was abandoned by its proprietor in the spring of 1858, when it was converted into an ashery and equipped with vats and furnaces for the production of potash and pearlash. This was a thriving business, the settlers in the surrounding country were clearing land and burning acres of log heaps; ashes were plentiful and could be had in unlimited quantities for the hauling.

The next hotel and the most popular one with the traveling public, stood on the present site of the Saunders House, and was the property of William Dudley. This house was furnished with an inviting bar; its beds were always clean and its basswood floors polished to a startling degree of whiteness. Aunt Ann could roast a leg of venison, bake a fat coon or convert a corpulent woodchuck into a stew that would tempt even a modern vegetarian. This hotel was burned in the fall of 1859, when Mr. Dudley built a small house on the site of the Nedderly building. This house was moved back from the street a few years later and is now a part of the Daughterty house, and the oldest building in the village.

The next hotel stood on the present site of the Dr. Tibbett's residence. A huge log barn stood on the street level, directly in front of the house. The house itself was an imposing affair for its period, and Uncle Abel W. Day, its proprietor, and Aunt Eliza, his wife, were unique characters. The popularity of the Dudley hostelry rested securely upon the popularity of its proprietor and Aunt Ann's prowess as a housekeeper and cook; while the Day enterprise was a failure, owing to Aunt Eliza's sour bread and Uncle Abel's mysterious and whispered conversation.

Tom Keesling's store, a 14-foot square frame building, stood on the lake shore, across the street from the Tibbetts and Wise Hardware store. Mr. Keesling quit business and moved to Minneapolis in the spring of 1858.

The Wakefield Family
Arrives in Wayzata
In the fall of 1857 the village front was almost wholly under water, the marsh south of the main street was navigable and the big swamp between Wayzata and Holdridge was an arm of the lake. Nowhere around the bay away from the village settlement was there a suggestion of a human habitation. The leaves had fallen and the growth of red cedar, which at that time skirted the entire lake coast, alone was green. The progress of our cavalcade through the village that October afternoon excited no interest. In fact, no one appeared on the street to be interested. Our coach dog looked in vain for an adversary, for, strange as it may seem not one of these frontier men owned a dog.

We ended our journey that night a mile and a half west of the village, where we made our final camp, and that night, just at dusk, my father killed a fat deer and for breakfast we had fresh meat, the first we had tasted for several months.

They Become Squatters
and Build Log House
There was no vacant Government land in this locality in 1857. The Territorial Legislature had set aside sections 16 and 36 in each Congressional Township as school lands, but no provision had been made at that time for the sale of this reserved acreage, so my father decided to become a squatter upon this state land and await the issue of its sale. Our first house was built upon the present site of the Bowman residence one mile west of the village. It was late in the season and the weather was cold, but the community came to our assistance and an unhewn log house roofed with oak shakes and chinked and mudded with clay mud was ready for occupancy within three days after the foundation logs were laid. We were at home at last.

My father and his family had started from Ashtabula County, Ohio, in the spring of 1856 and traveled with a wagon to Mower County, in this state, where we located, too late in the season to raise a crop. We did, however, break 20 acres of prairie land and prepare it for the next season's cultivation. That winter we lived in a pre-emption shanty of small dimension. We had neither vegetables nor meat; our entire bill of fare for eight months was bread or biscuit made of grown wheat flour and eaten to the accompaniment of a cheap quality of molasses. So stringy was that abominable flour that biscuit made of it could be extended like an accordion, tho it refused to relax and assume its original shape.

There was no game in Southern Minnesota that winter and no fish. The Winnebago Indians had combed the prairies for everything that wore feathers, and the crops of the settlers that had preceded us had been destroyed by grasshoppers. It was ninety miles to the nearest market, and to add to the burden of our existence, the snow fell three feet deep that winter and for ten weeks was covered with a crust so thick and sharp that travel with a team was impossible. When spring opened, we put in a crop of wheat and corn, made a big garden and waited for the harvest, but the harvest was never realized. A July hail storm again reduced us to a diet of bread and molasses, and made it necessary for us to abandon our claim and seek a locality where wood, game and fish could be had in abundance. We were a happy family that winter on Bowman hill, where we had plenty of palatable corn bread, fresh fish and venison and cranberry sauce, after eighteen months of wandering and trial we were mighty glad to get home.

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