In the 1880s a new generation of our families came into its own. Within the small social confines of Cannon Falls and the surrounding townships, there were Dibble family weddings and births almost every year, and no doubt each event saw most or all of our principal characters facing each other around the altar, baptismal font, or dinner table. On the business side, the Minnesota Dibbles, Haldens, Moruds and Kowitzes prospered both on the farm and in town.
The Goodhue County community itself was acquiring a cosmopolitan flair. The often subtly sarcastic Beacon reported in January, 1884, that "Goodhue County is now blessed with seven first class newspapers," and went on to remark that, "The affairs of the village must be gliding along very smoothly as the council has not had a meeting for months." (That may have been because, at the time, Judge John Wilson was serving as virtually a one-man city government. While continuing his duties as Justice of the Peace, he was also the Village Clerk, Village Recorder, and Village Assessor.) The paper also indicated that Cannon Falls residents were looking outward with interest at the world around them; it reported that regular meetings of a Scientific Society (at which papers were presented) and a Free Trade Club were ongoing.
Yet despite all of these joys, successes and intellectual pursuits, medicine remained primitive, both men and women were often overworked, and illness and death were never far away, even from those who seemed strongest.
The Dibble farm in Stanton Township, now under the management of Alonzo's son Ed, began a transformation away from grain to a dairy operation that milked shorthorn cows. We don't really know what Ed and Alonzo were thinking at the time, but we do know that per-bushel wheat prices had declined by almost 70% over the previous 15 years, and that beginning in 1878, Goodhue County wheat crops began experiencing a severe blight due to stem rust. No doubt the move to dairy cattle was good business.
Ed's sister Sarah, with a few years of teaching already under her belt, went back to school to improve her skills. She attended Carleton college for a year and completed the teacher's course at Winona State Normal School.
Meanwhile, Richard "Dick" Dibble, son of the late "townie" Jonathan Dibble, was becoming an entrepreneur.
In the immediate wake of Jonathan's sudden and unexpected death, Dick's stepmother, also named Sarah, had taken the children to stay with her brother-in-law Alonzo and his wife Rebecca on the farm in Stanton. When she recovered from the depths of her shock and grief, she and the children returned to her home in town--the "Captain Charles Gellett House", which is today a historical landmark. But all of the children continued to spend time on Alonzo's farm. Dick learned butchering skills there and as a teenager he began hiring himself out to other farmers in the area.
Around 1882, when he was 20, he and a partner, George Tanner, bought H.N. Geering's meat market and set up shop on Fourth Street in Cannon Falls as Tanner & Dibble. George Tanner was a son of William P. Tanner, Vice President of the First National Bank, of which Dick's uncle Alonzo and the brewer Ferdinand Kowitz were founding stockholders. William P. and his older son William came from New York; George was born in Minnesota. The market was probably in one of the wood-frame shop buildings on the west side of Fourth Street between Scofield Drugs and the "Estergreen block". A few years earlier George's brother William had gone into business with Foster B. Seager; their first venture was also a meat market, known as "Tanner & Seager". But this business had closed not long after its founding and those partners moved on to establish the Tanner & Seager Nursery and Tanner & Seager Ice. When Geering sold out to Dick and George and moved to St. Paul, Tanner & Dibble became the only game in town when it came to meat, at least for a while. Dick may also have been running his late father's livery stable; we are told that the "J. Dibble Livery" was buying advertising in the Beacon around this time.
Tanner & Dibble Meats may have been just a couple doors up from the Kowitz saloon.
On May 5, 1882 the saloon's proprietor, widower Ferdinand Kowitz, Sr., got married again in Red Wing. His bride was 20-year-old Katrina Trenter/Trentor, known as Kate. The Trenters were a German family from the city of Darmstadt in the state of Hesse, just about ten miles south of Frankfurt. They settled in Sand Creek Township in Scott County, about 30 miles northeast of Cannon Falls, before 1855. Kate was born there in around 1862. Kate's parents were John Trenter (born about 1821) and Anna Maria Holmann (born around 1832). Kate had several brothers and sisters; by 1880 her mother had died and Kate was running the household for her father.
Ferdinand's daughter Bertha recalled Kate as a "mean stepmother" and implied that she hired herself out as a housekeeper to get away from her. In fact, it was common in middle-class German families of the time for the sons to work with the father and the daughters to work as maids, laundresses or nannies for other families, and the Kowitzes were probably just following this tradition. Bertha's sisters Edith and Emma also did such work when they became old enough. Her beef with Kate may have had more to do with the fact that Kate was just seven years older than she was. Teenage Bertha may have seen her as an unworthy replacement for her mother as well as a rival for her father's affections. For her part, Kate had experience taking care of children but, being so young, may have lacked confidence in her own authority and may have overcompensated by adopting a tough attitude toward Ferdinand's kids.
Also around 1882, Alonzo Dibble's brother-in-law, Charles Ahlers Jr., returned to Goodhue County with his wife Caroline and their younger children from a brief sojourn in Texas and Kansas. They settled down in Red Wing. The children remaining with the family included William, Louisia, Mary, Alford/Alfred, Lewis, and Charles J. By this time, Alonzo's father-in-law Charles Ahlers presumably having died, Charles J. was known as "Junior" and his father was called Charles Ahlers Sr. Charles J. may have continued farming for a while after his return from Kansas, but eventually he opened a machine shop.
Foreshadowing what was to come for the city of Cannon Falls, sometime late in 1883 (as reported by Bonfort's Wine and Spirits Circular for December 10 of that year), the Kowitz brewery on Cannon Falls' North Side, across the river from the 4th. Street business district, burned. It was rebuilt almost immediately. The new brewery boasted a 22' x 43' 3-story stone main building, a 2-story frame building 32' x 40', and a 24' x 36' 2-story malt house. All the machinery and brewing equipment was replaced with the latest models.
The 4th. Street butcher Dick Dibble married the mill foreman Norman Coplin's daughter Ella on January 17, 1884. This may have been a somewhat posh affair, suitable for an up-and-coming young businessman. Though both families were from Cannon Falls, apparently no venue there was suitable for the event, because it was held at the "Batlo House"--the Hotel de Batlo--in Red Wing. The hotel was erected by Joseph Batlo in 1874. At the time of the wedding, it was considered to be the "second finest" hotel in the city (as always for this branch of the Dibble family, "pretty good" was good enough). Today the building is the "Eagle House" at 325 Plum St. Dick and Ella's daughter Olive Hattie Dibble was born the following October.
Between those two happy events, on May 21, 1884, at around midnight, a fire began on the second floor of A.O. Sather's store in Cannon Falls. Sather's wood-frame building was on the west side of 4th. St., just north of Van Campen's wood-frame store, which stood on the corner of 4th. and Main (today the brick-faced Van Campen Building occupies the same corner; to its north is the nearly identical Westman & Danielson Building, where Sather's store stood). Between and behind them was Sather's warehouse, which caught fire next. Then Van Campen's building started to burn, at which point those fighting the fire concentrated on trying to keep the flames from moving further north, by soaking the roof of the Scofield Brothers building. In this they succeeded; that building, which was built of limestone in 1878 and faced with brick, is still there today. It was estimated that approximately $14,000 worth of damage was done (about $335,000 in 2017 dollars), only about half of which was covered by insurance.
Nevertheless, the recovery was swift. Van Campen built his handsome Italianate building immediately after the fire. Sather having moved to new quarters across and up the street, the Swedish immigrants Gustavus Westman and John Danielson built their nearly identical, though smaller, adjoining store building on Sather's former lot at the same time. Both buildings were designed and built by A. Doner; they were constructed of limestone and faced with brick like the Scofield Brothers' building, which survived the fire. They strongly resemble that older building, and today one must study the details of their fronts carefully to tell them apart.
The mid-1880s was a time of popular unrest in the United States, both for industrial workers who were experiencing increasing pressure to work longer hours in more difficult conditions, and for farmers, who faced constantly dropping commodity prices on the international market and tighter credit. The farmers around Cannon Falls and the factory workers in Red Wing were looking for relief, and in the fall of 1884 they got a new face, the Red Wing lawyer and Democratic activist Osee Matson "O. M." Hall, to represent them in the state Senate.
Osee Matson Hall was born in Conneaut, Ohio on September 10, 1847. He came to Minnesota straight out of college and settled in Red Wing in 1869, where he started a law practice. He married Sila Elizabeth Magee (born December 12, 1847) in 1873. They had three children: Pauline M. Hall, born in April 1874; Charles P. Hall, born September 22, 1875; and Edward Samuel Hall, born May 26, 1884.
By 1880 Osee was making political speeches, whether in support of local Democratic candidates or his own campaigns we don't know. In that year he gave a speech to a group of Zumbrota farmers in which he deplored modern trends, which he called wasteful: "We require more things to live with than did our fathers--and therefore we live better. We must have finer houses, richer furniture, more delicate and a greater variety of food--a hired girl in the kitchen and a hired man in the stable; our farms must be more extensive, our stock ... fancier, our machinery of the latest pattern ... Weddings are so expensive that few men can afford to marry ... Funerals are so extravagant that it seems to cost more to put a man under ground than to keep him above."
How Hall, a Democrat, got to the state Senate is something of a mystery. The county was largely Republican in those days, as was much of the state. Minnesota state senators served two-year terms and were elected in odd years. History records that a Republican, Martin Spencer Chandler, was elected to the seat in 1883, and that he vacated it halfway through his term. History did not record why he left (he didn't die in office; he lived until 1893). So one might expect that when a Republican state senator suddenly left office, a replacement would initially be appointed, either by the county Republican leadership or by the Governor (who was Republican John S. Pillsbury), and that when they got around to holding an election, the voters would certify the arrangement. Perhaps there was no interim appointment, and the local situation had gotten so bad that the voters were ready to "throw the rascals out". At any rate, O. M. seems to have been popular; he was elected for a two-year term in his own right in 1885.
Cannon Falls was well-served medically by the Conley family, several generations of which gave the town doctors and dentists. Foremost of these at this time was Dr. Alonzo Theodore ("A. T.") Conley, whom many historical accounts refer to as the "town doctor". A. T.'s younger brother, Hiram Edward Conley, known as "Ed", gets second billing through no fault of his own. A. T. went straight to medical school and came to Cannon Falls in 1876. But their father Lewis had incurred a major debt in one of the railroad bankruptcies that were common at the time, and Ed had to help bail him out by working in his sawmill back in Kossuth, Iowa.
By 1881, 25-year-old Ed had joined his older brother in Cannon Falls and was beginning to learn medicine as his apprentice. There he met Alonzo Dibble's daughter, the schoolteacher Sarah Dibble. He probably spent a good part of his leisure time in her company, but he knew that if he wanted to be a doctor he would need formal training. So he went back to his home state to attend Iowa University, where he earned his MD in March of 1884, at the age of 29. He established his first medical practice in Palo, the little town near Cedar Rapids where he was born. He came back to Cannon Falls to marry Sarah on August 28, 1884, and the couple returned to Palo. But perhaps Sarah was unhappy being so far away from her family; in any case, when an opportunity arose in March 1885 to partner with Dr. E. C. Case in Waterville, MN, about 30 miles southwest of Cannon Falls, Ed took it. It was there, on September 16, 1885 that their first child, Mira V. Conley, was born.
In November 1885 the young couple returned to Cannon Falls for good. Ed went into partnership with his brother A. T. Sarah gave up teaching to become a wife and mother, but she remained active in politics and the intellectual life of the community.
On March 12, 1885, Sarah's brother Ed Dibble married Laura Crook. Laura was born on January 24, 1867 in the "High Prairie". High Prairie is a local name given to a stretch of (relatively) high ground that runs northwest-to-southeast south of the Cannon River. It begins just southeast of the Dibble farm in Stanton and ends in northwestern Leon Township, which is where Laura and her family were living in 1870.
Laura's father was George Crook; he was christened on February 22, 1835 in Leckhampstead, Buckinghamshire, England. He came as a teenager to the United States in 1849 and may have settled in Connecticut. At least, that's where his wife Elizabeth was born, in around 1834. By 1860 they were in Leon, where George had a farm and also worked as a teamster, and in 1861 Laura's older sister, Eefluda Crook, was born. Laura also had a younger brother, William John Crook, who was born on May 5, 1873.
Ed and Laura's first child, Della Eefluda Dibble, was born on December 22, 1885. While that was a good year for the "farm" Dibbles, it was a bad year for the "town" Dibbles. On May 16 of that year, Dick's older brother Nathan, only about 24 years old, died.
Nathan had had "consumption" (tuberculosis) for some time, though he was healthy enough to work as a laborer on Ed's farm in 1880. We know so little about Nathan that it is tempting to read too much into his obituary, which says, "It is comforting to Nathan's many friends that during the latter portion of his life on earth, he turned his attention most willingly to the study of the cardinal doctrines of Christianity. He took delight, when he was too weak to read the Bible himself, in hearing others read it to him, saying that he enjoyed it." Perhaps the young man had long been inclined toward spiritual things. Or perhaps he simply sought comfort and reassurance as death loomed closer. We may never know.
Perhaps tuberculosis was becoming endemic in the region despite its early claims to be a health haven. Also in 1885, on April 28, and also of tuberculosis, Dick's father-in-law Norman Coplin died. Norman had left his position as foreman at R. Gregg & Co. Mills the year before and traveled to California in an unsuccessful attempt to find a climate that would cure his disease. He was only 49.
Peter and Mary Aslakson had at least two more children in the early 1880s: Salma/Selma A. Aslakson was born on February 2, 1882. Anna Marie Aslakson was born on June 22, 1885 (another daughter, Agnesa Mary, may have been born in 1884, but does not seem to have lived to adulthood). With several children in tow, Peter definitely needed to make a better living than he was eking out as a schoolteacher and part-time bookkeeper. It was time to put his legal skills to use. He moved his family from the family farm in Mineola Township into Cannon Falls, and opened a law office in a back room on the second floor of the Thompson Building on Fourth St. (where Hi-Quality Bakery is today), across the street from Ferdinand Kowitz's saloon. His fourth child, and only son, John Selmer Aslakson, was born in Cannon Falls on February 14, 1887.
By 1886, Tanner & Dibble occupied a 2-story frame building of over 2,600 square feet. As the Beacon reported in one of those items, characteristic of newspapers of the time, that was half news, half advertising, "They keep on hand a full stock of meats and sell at reasonable prices," and, despite the recent arrival of competition, "They have a flourishing trade and are doing a profitable business."
For fun, Dick joined the town's amateur baseball team, which in the 1880s had a winning reputation and was a source of considerable pride. With him on the team was Judge Wilson's son Ed, a very popular young barber and horse fancier. The team played against regional rivals in Red Wing, Northfield, St. Paul and elsewhere.
Dick's sister Minnie married Harvin C. Penney on October 11, 1886. Harvin, known as "H. C.", was born in 1856 to Eliger P. and Wealthy A. Penney of Roscoe Township in Goodhue County. Eliger, known as "E. P.", was born around 1815 in Maine. Wealthy was born in Ohio. The family lived in Illinois in the late 1840s and in Wisconsin in the early 1850s. E. P. Penney was present for the first town meeting of Roscoe Township on May 11, 1858, when he was elected as a town constable. By 1870 the Penneys had an 80 acre farm and were growing wheat and oats. Harvin had several siblings: Francis Penney, born around 1848 in Illinois; Mary E Penney, born around 1853 in Wisconsin; Milton Penney, born around 1859 in Minnesota (he died at the age of 8 on July 6, 1867); and Emma Penney. E. P. died on December 30, 1873 and was buried in Pine Island, a small village in the southeast corner of the county, east of Roscoe Township.
Dick's cousin Alice M. Dibble, the youngest child of the Stanton farmer Alonzo Dibble, married Francis Ashbury Richardson, known as "Frank", on February 16, 1887 in Red Wing. Frank's parents were George Warren Richardson, a clergyman born in Concord, Erie County, NY (near Buffalo) on November 25, 1824, and Caroline W. Fay, also born in 1824 in NY. The family lived in Wisconsin in 1852, when their first child, George O. Richardson was born, and in Illinois when their son David F. Richardson was born. In 1857 the elder George claimed land in Section 12 of Kenyon Township in Goodhue County, and Frank was born there on November 5, 1857. Frank's brother Earl M. Richardson was born in 1859, and by 1860 the family had moved east to Pine Island Township. Frank's sister Emma Richardson was probably born there, in 1863. Frank had a homestead in Grant County, Dakota Territory (now in South Dakota about 120 miles west of Minneapolis), and the couple moved there.
Later that spring of 1887, and once again in May--this time the evening of May 20--fire struck Cannon Falls once more. It began in a supposedly "unoccupied" room on the second floor of Ben Rodgers' saloon on the west side of Fourth St. (about where the P. A. Peterson and Kulker's Restaurant buildings are today). This fire was far worse than the 1884 conflagration. Most, but not all, of the brick and limestone buildings that had been constructed before or after the 1884 fire on Fourth St. between Main St. and Mill St. survived. But there had been a long drought, and all of the wood frame stores on both sides of that block went up like matchsticks and were utterly destroyed, leaving only their stone foundations. Among these was Tanner & Dibble's meat market. Also destroyed, with only its stone vault left standing, was the First National Bank on the northwest corner of Fourth and Mill, in which Alonzo Dibble and Ferdinand Kowitz held stock. Yet again, the town sprang back quickly, with new limestone buildings going up all along the street. One of these was Ferdinand Kowitz's new one-story brick-faced limestone saloon (now the northern-most portion of Scofield Drug & Gifts).
In an even more startling repeat of history, at 10 o'clock in the morning of January 20, 1888, the Kowitz brewery burned again. The frame building was completely destroyed and the stone building was partially damaged. The malt house seems to have escaped. The Red Wing Daily Republican reported that "The fire is supposed to have originated from a drying kiln." Breweries used such kilns for several reasons, including drying wood for barrels and drying hops, the flowers that give many beers their distinctive flavor. The value of the brewery was variously reported as between $7,500 and $10,000 but the insurance paid only $5,500. In early February the papers reported that the Kowitzes were planning to rebuild the brewery in Randolph, a village a few miles northwest of Cannon Falls in Dakota County. However, those plans seem not to have gone forward, and this fire was probably the end of the Kowitz brewery (though one source reports that the brewery burned a third time, without providing a date or other information, and another source reports that the brewery produced 1,000 barrels of beer annually between 1882 and 1889, so the business may have continued somewhere, for a while).
One month after the brewery fire, on February 20, 1888, Ed and Laura Dibble's second daughter, Jessie, was born. Then, on March 17, 1888, a son was born to Dick's sister Minnie and her husband Harvin C. Penney. They named him Milford. Shortly thereafter, Minnie, possibly weakened by her pregnancy, contracted spinal meningitis. She was ill for some time, and died on April 16, 1888. Her infant son, less than a month old, was adopted by James and Elizabeth "Lizzie" Elder, and he grew up as Milford Elder.
James Elder drilled wells and installed windmills to pump the water from them and was well known in Goodhue County. He was born in around 1846 in Pennsylvania. Lizzie was born in Rhode Island, probably around 1850. The middle-aged couple lived in Cannon Falls and don't seem to have had any children of their own.
Of Milford's real father, Harvin C. Penney, not a trace remains.
On July 14, 1888, Alice and Frank Richardson had their first child, a daughter named Zelle Francis Richardson, on their homestead in Dakota Territory.
On November 27, 1888, Dick's sister-in-law, Ella's older sister Hattie, married William R. Vosburgh in Helena, Montana Territory. William was born in either Missouri or Iowa in about 1858. His parents were Nathan B. Vosburgh, a cabinet maker from New York, and his wife Julia. In 1880 Willliam was working as a laborer a few miles east of Helena in or near what is now the ghost town of Rimini.
During the following winter, Alonzo's second wife, Rebecca, contracted pneumonia. She passed away on March 10, 1889. Alonzo was devastated by this loss and never fully recovered, though the extent of the damage was not revealed until some time later.
It may be that Tanner & Dibble Meats did not survive the destruction of their store in the 1887 fire. At any rate, in the spring of 1889, Dick Dibble had a new partner, his sole surviving sibling, Dan. The firm was known as Dibble Brothers and was located in the new, post-fire limestone building erected by O. J. Hawkins on the west side of Fourth St., just a few doors north of Kowitz's saloon (now the approximate location of the south half of Althoff's Hardware). As the Beacon later reported/advertised, they offered "a choice line of fresh and salt meats, poultry and game."
By 1890, with farm prices dropping, credit growing tighter, and industrial working conditions becoming more dangerous and debilitating, Populism and the related Free Silver ideology had gained a strong foothold in Minnesota. O.M. Hall, after a 3-year hiatus from politics, stepped out of his Red Wing law office and returned to public life. This time he ran for the US Congress, and won. He served two terms.
As a Democrat, Hall had to compete with the People's Party (populist) candidate, so it's no surprise that his rhetoric was similar to theirs. His firey speeches against the millionaire "bosses" were very popular. But Hall scorned the "silver men"; although some farm and labor advocates believed that a silver-based currency would make more money available for farm loans and higher industrial wages, Hall and the Democrats believed that the whole 'Free Silver" campaign had been cooked up by the owners of silver mines in the far West.
Unlike many populists then and now, O. M. Hall was firmly in favor of free trade and vehemently opposed to the high tariffs that were supported by mainstream Republicans in his time. In a speech he gave as a Congressman in Philadelphia in 1894, he confronted his Republican opponents: "Is it true, gentlemen, that after a century's protection your boasted industries have become so benumbed, so debilitated, so imbecile that they cannot stand side by side with the American farmer in the struggle for American supremacy?"
Speaking of the Minnesota farmers he represented, he said, "Let me tell you why we are not protectionists. In the wheat fields of Minnosota and Manitoba enormous crops of the world's choicest wheat are grown. Side by side the surplus of these two crops start for the seaboard; side by side they cross the reeling Atlantic; and face to face they meet and compete with each other in the open markets of Liverpool. No farmer has ever yet received one price for that part of his wheat which is consumed at home and a different price for that which is shipped abroad. It all goes at the same price; its price in Liverpool less charges of transportation, etc. The price of the surplus is the price of the entire crop. The Manitoba farmer gets for his wheat its Liverpool price less charges. The price of our Minnesota wheat in New York is the Liverpool price less charges: its price in Chicago is the New York price less charges; its price in Minneapolis is the Chicago price less charges; its price on the interior farms is the Minneapolis price less charges. If you shut Manitoba wheat out of Minneapolis it competes with ours in Chicago; if you exclude it from Chicago, it oompetes with ours in New York; if you shut it out of the United States altogether, it will still compete with ours in Liverpool; and there, uninfluenced, unprotected by home tariffs, it battles with the world's wheat, and the price of our entire crop is determined by the world's demand and the world's supply. What difference does it make to us then whether we meet our competitors in Minneapolis, Chicago, New York or Liverpool, so long as Liverpool gauges and fixes the price at all these points? Unless our tariff laws can shield us from competition in Liverpool they cannot protect us anywhere this side of Liverpool."
Near the end of the campaign of 1894 O. M. fell ill in the midst of a close race. As he lay on his sickbed, some newspapers in the district published an alleged interview with the populist candidate. As the papers reported:
"Maj. J. M. Bowler, People's Party candidate for congress in the Third district, practically throws up the sponge and asks all Populists and Independents who do not care to vote for him to cast their ballots for Joel P. Heatwole, the Republican candidate. 'Joel Heatwole will be elected to congress in the Third district,' he said yesterday. 'There is absolutely no question about it. The scheme to have the Populists cast their ballots for Congressman Hall and thus throw me overboard has been frustrated. Our people do not want Hall re-elected. We want to bury him so deep that he will never be resurrected. He has betrayed his constituents in voting on silver legislation, and also on the tariff. His vote to reduce the tariff on barley ought to condemn him, if nothing else does. I have been through the Third district from end to end.speaking for the People's party almost daily since last August. I am satisfied that Hall will be snowed under. 1 have said so repeatedly in private, and now say so in public. Those who feel they cannot consistently vote for me should vote for the Hon. Joel P. Heatwole, and ought to induce others in a like frame of mind to do the same thing. I admonish the voters of the Third district not to vote for the traitor Osee M. Hall, and if they follow my advice ihey will not regret it. Heatwole is a clean, able man of good ability, and 1 am sure he will not pander to trusts and corporations as the present member of congress from our district has done."
As reported by the St. Paul Globe (which referred to Heatwole as "Joel Peanut Heatwole, Joel Perfidious Heatwole") , Bowler instantly denounced this as a "forgery": "I believe it was inspired by Joel P. Heatwole, as it is about at par with his whole plan of electioneering for himself. ... I wish further to state that I regard O. M. Hall as an honorable, highminded man, incapable of stooping to dishonorable methods to secure votes for himself."
Hall seems to have been unable to defend himself in this fracas. Whether because voters believed the bogus Bowler capitulation, or simply as part of the massive Republican landslide of that year, which cut Democratic seats in the House of Representatives in half, O. M. lost his seat in 1894 and returned home to practice law on the shores of Lake Pepin.
Hiram "Dr. Ed" Conley also enjoyed a political career during the 1890s, serving two terms as a Cannon Falls alderman and a term as Mayor. At some point he also was president of the Board of Education and of the Goodhue County Medical Society. His and Sarah's family also grew in the early years of that decade: Their daughter Emma L. Conley was born on September 15, 1890. She was followed by a son, Alonzo D. Conley on May 24, 1892, and on February 19, 1894, Ora K. Conley, destined for local fame as a writer, was born. Finally, on February 16, 1900, Lewis E. "Eldridge" Conley was born.
At some point after 1885, the Conley brothers' parents, Lewis and Betsy, moved from Iowa to join their children in Cannon Falls. Lewis had made the transition from sawmill operator and farmer to expert cabinet maker. He also seems to have invested in real estate locally. On March 25, 1897, Lewis and Betsy celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in the home of Dr. A. T. Conley. Lewis died on January 5, 1901 in Cannon Falls; his wife Betsy died on August 23 of the same year in Rochester, MN.
By 1890, the teenage Charles J. Ahlers ("Junior") had learned the machine shop trade and was working in his father Charles Sr's machine shop in Red Wing, while also attending school. By 1895, the shop had already begun to transform itself into a heavy equipment dealership; Charles Sr. and his sons Alford and Lewis were all listed as machinery "dealers" in the State Census that year.
As a young man Charles joined the local militia and served in Company G. That unit had its own basketball team and Charles, who was well known as an all-around athlete, was a prominent member.
Also in 1890, on July 6, Ella Dibble's sister Hattie lost her husband, William Vosburgh, less than two years after they were married.
By 1890 the farmer Ed Dibble's sister Alice and her husband Frank A. Richardson had returned to Cannon Falls from South Dakota. Their daughter Cora Alice Richardson was born on August 18 of that year. They had a son named George Alonzo Richardson on February 26, 1892, and a daughter named Louise Ahlers Richardson on May 11, 1894. By 1895, Frank was teaching school, but Alice had given up that profession to take care of the children. Sadly, on April 23, 1898, the Richardsons recorded the death of a male infant. His birthdate is unknown but he did not live long enough to receive a name.
The young boy John Aslakson got three new sisters in the 1890s: Pearl Martha Aslakson was born on February 21, 1891. Mabel Helen Aslakson was born February 16, 1894. Cora Angeline Aslakson was born March 21, 1896. Their father, the successful lawyer Peter Aslakson, embarked on a career in public service. He became Secretary of the Cannon Falls Board of Education in 1891. He served as Cannon Falls City Clerk in 1892-93, succeeding Judge Wilson, and City Attorney from 1894 through 1896. He was also Captain of the Cannon Falls Fire Department Hook and Ladder Company. A lifelong Republican, he was deeply involved in local politics as Chairman of the Third Congressional District Republican Committee from 1896 to 1902.
Peter's father, the immigrant farmer Sven Aslakson, died on November 11, 1894. A few years earlier he seems to have divided his Mineola Township farm between Peter and Peter's younger brother, Samuel O. Aslakson. Peter got about 40 acres and Sam got 117 acres; he stayed on the farm and made improvements to it; under his care it was a very prosperous dairy operation.
In late June of 1891, Alonzo Dibble, at the age of 65 the patriarch of the Minnesota Dibbles, embarked on a trip to Kansas City. When he got there, he wrote his family that he was going on to California. He stayed in Sacramento long enough to "purchase a draft" (perhaps a cashier's check written on a Sacramento bank?). However, he immediately went back to Kansas City and shipped his trunk home from there. Then he journeyed to Des Moines, Iowa, where he mailed the draft and a money order home to his family. Next, he went to Waterloo, Iowa, arriving there on July 10. The Waterloo Daily Courier reported what happened next:
"About 5 o'clock last evening a man came to the Central House and asked for a room. He registered as 'I. William, Minn.' and stated that he didn't want any supper. He had no luggage and retired about 8 o'clock. As landlord Williams showed him to the room which was No. 28, on the third floor, near the head of the stairs, he said to him that the location was such that there would be no noise. 'That's just what I want,' responded the man and closed the door.
This morning he arose early, ate his breakfast and then paid the bill and sat around in the office until between 8 and 9 o'clock when he went upstairs again. A short time afterwards, John Beck, the clerk, heard a noise which he took to be the explosion of a fire cracker. Five minutes later he went upstairs to get the lamps. As he opened the door to room 28 he saw a fearful sight. Stretched upon the floor, diagonally of the room, lay the occupant, dead, with a bullet hole through his right temple and a 32 Smith and Wesson revolver lying on his breast. He had taken off his coat and folded it into a pillow which supported his head. He had taken off his shoes. The bullet had plowed its way entirely through his head and lodged in the lower drawer of the commode. When Mr. Beck reached the room he was gasping for breath but by the time a physician could be called he was dead and only the reflex muscular action following the exit of life was noticeable.
Why did he do it?
This question promises to remain a mystery, as the dead man had used every precaution to conceal all clues to his identity. In his pocket were two pocket books, one of which contained $45 and the other 9.45 in gold and silver coin. In one of the pocket books was a bill of lading with the name of the sender and place torn off, but showing that a trunk containing clothing of the supposed value of $75 was consigned to F.A. Richardson, Cannon Falls, Minnesota.
As stated above every scrap of evidence in regard to his identity was carefully concealed. His name was erased from his memorandum book and torn from the bill of lading, and he had no baggage and nothing else was found about his person, other than stated above, exception an Elgin watch in a silver case.
The anxiety with which he erased his name from his effects makes it probable that the name in the hotel register is an assumed [name] and that he did not desire to have anyone know who he was."
A week later, his trunk arrived at his daughter Alice's house. Two days after that, the bad news came via telegram, confirming the identity of the suicide. As the Beacon reported:
"Mr. Dibble was always looked upon as one of the most substantial and thorough farmers in the vicinity. Thoroughly honest and upright [in his] dealings he was naturally respected and esteemed by all who knew him. He was a thoughtful, unassuming gentle man. He was a careful reader and kept himself posted on most of the questions of the day.
His three children are all married and comfortably settled and his circumstances both financial and social on a sure foundation. His friends did not realize his loneliness that was settled down upon him like a dark cloud after the death of [his] beloved wife two years ago. Naturally inclined to look on the dark side of life at times, this grew upon him as old age came stealing on until his mind seems to have become deranged and he was noticed to be more than usually depressed and thought, as he expressed to a few that his friends were leaving him or had something against him. Had his family and friends but faintly realized his condition how promptly they would have done all in their power to dissipate the gloom.
Alonzo Dibble will always be remembered as a kind and loving father, a true friend, an upright and honored citizen."
There is very little that we can add to this description, except perhaps to speculate that the trip west may have been an attempt to recreate some of the feelings of promise and adventure of his first journey to California, to join the Gold Rush, when he was still a young man. There may even have been a woman in Sacramento, still young in Alonzo's mind, who, he thought, might have missed him when he left, and may still have been waiting... Of course, this is nothing more than romantic imagination, and we probably will never completely understand Alonzo's final wanderings.
The story was shocking, or, perhaps, touching, enough to be picked up and reported by newspapers throughout the country. The Los Angeles Herald reported that Alonzo "had been missing from home since June 26th." This language suggests that he disappeared on that day without telling anyone where he was going, though we don't know that for a fact. The paper described him as a "wealthy farmer", and that he surely was.
Alonzo left the bulk of his farm--336 very prosperous acres--to his son Ed. But he gave 80 acres just north of that property to his daughter Sarah Conley, along with a "yearling mare colt". His daughter Alice Richardson was left $1,500 (worth about $39,000 in 2018), Alonzo's horse Charley, and all of his furniture. Ed's wife Laura got his mare Molly. His nephew Dan received $200 (about $5,200 in 2018 dollars), the same amount given to Edward A. Chapman (no doubt a relative of Alonzo's widow Rebecca, though it's not clear whether he was a brother or a cousin). Interestingly, Dan's brother, and meat-market partner, Dick Dibble received nothing, though he, like Dan, was a witness to the will.
1891 was a year of widespread tragedy in Cannon Falls. A diptheria epidemic took many lives, including those of two of Sarah and Dr. Ed Conley's daughters, 6-year-old Mira and infant Emma. Ed treated them himself, struggling during what must have been a horrendous 48-hour period to perform tracheotomies to enable the gasping children to breathe, only to watch first Emma, on April 8, and then Mira, on April 10, die.
As the allegedly "Gay Nineties" continued, family members constantly changed partners with joy and sadness in the dance of life.
On September 30, 1890, Lars Halden's wife Anna Kvern Halden passed away from throat cancer at the age of 48. She was buried in the Kongsberg Cemetery, on the farm near Fergus Falls.
Dan Dibble married Isabelle Sanders on August 11, 1891. She was born in June of 1868. Isabelle's father was a Scotsman, William Sanders, born around 1842. Her mother may have been Lorinda J. Fields, born in around 1852. The family settled about 50 miles southeast of the Haldens' Fergus Falls homestead, in Alexandria, in Douglas County, MN, where William was the school superintendant in 1880. At some point after 1875 Isabelle's mother died, and William remarried, to a woman named Emma, in around 1878. Dan and Isabel's first child, their daughter Jean, was born on August 11, 1892. Their son Donald was born on June 21, 1894.
In the 1890s Dan owned 52.5 acres of land in northeastern Stanton Township, along the Cannon River just over the line from the city of Cannon Falls (a bit more than the southeast quarter of the southeast quarter of Section 12), and next to an 86-acre plot jointly owned by Dick's former partner George Tanner and Foster B. Seager. Today this is just northwest of the Cannon Valley fairgrounds where Highway 52 crosses the river.
Further south in Stanton Township, Ed and Laura Dibble became the parents of twins, Willard and Willis, on November 18, 1893.
Earlier that year, Dick's wife Ella became seriously ill with "macrosis of the spine". That diagnosis is not used today; it simply means that her spine became enlarged or elongated. Given her young age (she was in her late 20s), our best guesses are that: she sustained a major injury that resulted in swelling and slow death of spinal tissue; she developed bone cancer centered on her spine; or she had an auto-immune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus that progressed rapidly. Eventually she required so much care that she moved back into her mother Eliza Coplin's house in Red Wing. She finally succumbed there on September 8, 1893.
Just two days earlier, Dick's baseball teamate Ed Wilson married Edith Kowitz, daughter of the brewer Ferdinand Kowitz, at the Church of the Redeemer in Cannon Falls. Edith's sister Bertha served as a bridesmaid. Ed, son of the town father Judge John Wilson, was a barber. His shop was just north of Dibble Brothers in the Hawkins Building on 4th. St.
But his real love was horses and horse racing. The story goes that Ed ran away from home at the age of 12 to pursue this avocation, and went to work for Colonel Kitson in Minneapolis. The Colonel was the owner of Little Brown Jug, "one of the best money earners in racing history", according to Roots & Wings. His training facility included an indoor track. There Ed learned to drive and train racing horses, and he worked professionally as a horse trainer for several years, including in Hutchinson, MN.
Dick, still young at 31, remarried on September 26, 1894. His second bride was the 25-year-old daughter of the man who owned the saloon a few doors south of his butcher shop, Bertha Kowitz. Once again, the event took place in Red Wing, not Cannon Falls. Bertha, despite her complaint of having had a "mean stepmother" herself, did not want Ella's daughter Olive around, so she was sent to live with Ella's mother Eliza Coplin, but Dick visited her regularly and showed great tenderness to her at holiday family gatherings.
Up north, another matrimonial union was shaping up, and the struggle to build a life in the wild, long ended with a decided victory in Goodhue County, was continuing.
In the vicinity of Fergus Falls, Lars Halden had donated land on which to build the "Kongsberg" church. (Kongsberg is a town in Norway and it was the name given to the cemetery in the southeast corner of Lars' claim where many Haldens are buried.) The church had been built in 1886, but none of the farmers there at the time knew how to build a steeple. A young homesteader and carpenter from even further north near Warren, MN, Ole Morud, who had begun making winter visits to his relatives in the area soon after he arrived in the United States in the early 1890s, had the requisite experience, so the townsfolk invited him to return in the summer to do the job. This he was happy to do, because it would give him a chance to spend more time with Lars' daughter Eline (known as Ella). She had inherited Lars' love of music, and much like Sarah Dibble, was the organist at this church, and at the Our Savior's church in Fergus Falls, on alternate Sundays.
Ole returned to his farm and built a real frame house, sixteen feet square with a root cellar and a loft. He continued to work hard, improve his land, and visit Ella on occasion.
In the late 1890s, Ole Morud married Ella Halden at the Kongsberg church. When they went back north to Warren, Ella's bachelor younger brother Peter accompanied them and established his own 160-acre homestead (the southwest quarter of Section 24) about a mile south-southeast of Ole's in Helgeland Township. His house may have been near what looks like a sharp bend in a dry creekbed today, on 120th. St. NW, about 500 feet north of 170th. St. NW. Peter would come over when Ella was baking bread, the story goes, and buy some loaves for himself. In 1901, Peter was elected Treasurer for Helgeland Township.
Ole's relations in Otter Tail County, by the way, were the Haugens. Olina Haugen of Aurdal Township in that county had married Arne Kvern, the brother of Ole's mother-in-law, Anna Kvern Halden, a dozen or so years before Ole married Ella.
Farm life was strenuous on the prairie around the turn of the century. The farms were large, as were the ambitions of the farmers, and even with the machinery of the time, it wasn't possible for one farm family to bring in the full harvest alone. So farmers routinely worked together during harvest, going from farm to farm, sharing equipment and draft animals, to make sure everyone's crops were brought in on time.
A major task of the harvest was "threshing" the grain--usually wheat or oats--which meant separating the grain kernels from the stalks they grew on. Someone in the neighborhood owned a newfangled steam thresher, successor to the horse-powered thresher of Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House" books, itself a step up from the ancient method of piling the stalks on the ground and beating them with sticks. The thresher took in the stalks that the farmers had cut and stacked, separated the grain and spewed it out into sacks, and chopped up the stalks and blew them out the back. It traveled majestically from farm to farm at the head of a procession that included wagons full of coal to fuel it, wagons hauling tanks of water to make the steam, and the farmers and farm hands in wagons and on horseback to do the work.
It was heavy work, and Ole's daughter Olga (known as "Ollie") later described how the workers were fed to keep up their energy:
"Before the threshers were coming, a young calf or hog were butchered. Some was given to a neighbor, and they returned the favor when they threshed. There was no refrigerator for keeping the meat except the cool cellar, where it was salted down in crock jars. It would keep a few days this way, but if there was a rainy spell so they couldn't thresh, it had to be canned or put in brine. Much was ground for meat balls. This was prepared, fried until done, then put it in crocks with lard poured over it. If put in a cellar this would keep for several weeks."
While the farmers threshed, "The housewife brought forenoon and afternoon lunch out to the field. Forenoon lunch usually consisted of doughnuts, cookies, and a big pot of coffee. Afternoon lunch was sandwiches, cake and cookies. Cups and the food were carried out in large dish pans. Cream and sugar were always included since most of them used it in their coffee then. The noon meal was served in the kitchen. This consisted of beef, pork or chicken, with mashed potatoes, gravy, several vegetables, cabbage salad, pickles, and several kinds of pie for dessert. There were always home-made buns and bread. The cooking was done on the wood stove, so with the smell of food being prepared, the flies were always a problem. So one of the women-folk was shooing the flies away from the table with a clean dish towel."
Meanwhile, down south in the somewhat grandiosely, but legally, styled "City" of Cannon Falls, there were no flies on Dick and Bertha Dibble. Their first child, Archibald Richard, was born on June 12, 1896.
About a year after his grandson Archie's birth, Ferdinand Kowitz, Sr. died at his home on the North Side on August 16, 1897. According to Roots & Wings, at the time of his death, Ferdinand "left about $600,000.00 in cash alone" to his heirs. He also left quite a bit of real estate, both in the vicinity of his home and former brewery on the North Side, and over the border in Dakota County. Some of this land was apparently rented out and producing income, which Ferdinand designated for his widow, though the land was to be held by his youngest son Herman until he reached the age of 21. Herman was 16 when his father died. When Herman reached 21 this real estate was to be sold and the proceeds divided up, with one third going to Ferdinand's widow Katrina and the remainder divided equally among his other children, except that the children were not to be given their shares until they reached the age of 24. One wonders if it occurred to Herman to ask why the money should be divided when he turned 21 but not given to him until three years later.
1898 saw President William McKinley's (actually William Randolph Hearst's) "splendid little war", the Spanish-American War. The local militia, including Charles J Ahler's Company G, was mustered into the US Army in June of that year. Charles served in the 13th. Minnesota, where, as a corporal, he was wounded in the assault on Manila in the Philippines. As far as we know, he was the only one of our characters to serve in that war. His service also included playing intramural basketball with other units; a series of games against Company K may have been the first basketball games played in Asia, according to one source.
While Charles Jr. prepared to risk his life on and off the basketball court in the Philippines, his father lost his. The trouble started the previous winter. On December 27, 1897 Charles Sr. was driving his carriage along "College Bluff" (probably College Avenue) when he experienced an "apoplectic stroke". He was found at 5 pm, lying on the ground beside the carriage, unconscious but still holding the horse's reins. He faded in and out of consciousness for several days but seemed much improved by early January. Still, he never returned to his old self, and at 10 o'clock on the morning of June 1 he finally succumbed.
When Charles returned from the war in 1899, he took over for his father and ran the business with one of his brothers. Charles's b-ball companions also returned, and the team went through several name changes, from Company G to the Red Wing Athletic Club to the Foresters and, fnally, to the Red Men. With Charles as team captain this outfit grew into a regional legend until its demise in 1911.
In 1902, Charles dissolved his partnership in the family business and went to work as a salesman with the McCormick Company. From 1905 to 1912, he worked for the Foster Brothers Electrical Construction Company, then left to start his own firm, C. J. Ahlers Electrical Company. He married Sylvia Worden on June 21, 1913. They don't seem to have had any children.
Meanwhile, shortly after the brewmeister Ferdinand Kowitz died, the first of Ole and Ella Morud's own nine children, Leonard, was born, on October 1, 1897. The others were:
Alice, born February 19, 1900
The Morud household was a cultured one. In addition to playing the organ, Ella also played the guitar. On Sunday afternoons she and the children would sing together around the organ. They often sang Norwegian songs, even though the children didn't understand the language. Ole had a wind-up "victrola" phonograph, and was a fan of opera. He had records by singers Alma Gluck, Galli-Curci and Madame Schuman-Heink, piano compositions by Paderewski, and the violin music of Fritz Kreisler. The children had to stay still and quiet when Ole played these records so he could "hear the overtones". All the children learned to play instruments such as the organ or ukelele. Together they must have produced a sound that warmed many a chilly heart, or at least kept many ears warm from vibrations, on frigid winter nights.
On June 16, 1910, the local paper, the Warren Sheaf, found it worthwhile to report that "Ole Morud was engaged at Ole Pederson's last week blowing up rocks." One hopes that he stuffed cotton in his ears so he wouldn't damage his ability to hear the overtones.
Some of Ole's children went to North Star College in Warren. The "college", which was started by the Augustana Synod of the Lutheran Evangelical Church in 1908, actually seems to have been a cross between a high school and a community (what used to be called "junior") college. Leonard pursued the "commercial" course there and graduated, at the age of 17, in May 2015, when he received an award for penmanship from the "Business Journal of New York City". Apparently he was so excited about it that, according to the Sheaf, he "fell off his bicyle on commencement day and dislocated his shoulder. He was immediately brought to the hospital where the joint was replaced. On the following day he was brought to his home by Arthur Willson. On Tuesday he came to Warren on his bicyle. It did not take him long to mend."
While in school Leonard used some of the family acres to grow popcorn, which he sold to pay his tuition. After graduating, he got a job as a bookkeeper for a lumberyard down in Fargo, North Dakota (about 100 miles south of Warren).
Unfortunately, in 1908, on October 17, Leonard's bachelor uncle, and neighbor, Peter Halden, died at the age of 35. In the end, he returned to the family homestead in Fergus Falls, to be buried in the Kongsberg Cemetery. Ownership of Peter's 160 acres up in Helgeland Township reverted to his father Lars.
Further south, but in the still chilly neighborhood of Fergus Falls, the Morud kids' uncle Martin Halden passed away at the age of 20, in 1900. We don't know anything more about his brief life. But the remaining Halden aunts and uncles were very busy.
On December 22, 1903, the oldest, Caroline Halden, married Eberhard Erikson in Fergus Falls. Eberhard was a carpenter; he was born in Norway in around 1855. They moved to North Dakota, and in 1910 were living in Hebron Township, in Williams County, near Williston on the Montana border. They don't seem to have had any children.
In around 1903, Caroline's sister Inga married Gustav P. Johnson in Fergus Falls. Gustav was born on July 9, 1876 in Otter Tail County. His parents were Paul Johnson, a farmer born in Norway in around 1839 who came to the United States in 1869, and Marie. Marie died before 1905. Inga and Gustav's first child, Melvin G. Johnson, was born on February 6, 1904 in Friberg Township, about eight miles northeast of Fergus Falls. Their second son, Leonard G. Johnson, was born on May 17, 1906. Gustav and Marie lived on Paul's farm for several years.
Inga's brother John L. Halden moved to Canada as a young man and farmed there for several years. He returned to the States--just barely, settling in Bottineau, about ten miles south of the Canadian border. In 1905 he married Mary Olson there; she was born about 1887 in Norway. Their son Elmer Halden was born in around 1908, and their daughter Leona was born in around 1909. 1910 found them living among the majestic mountains and glaciers of Kalispell in Flathead County, northwestern Montana. With them was John's younger brother, Oscar, also a carpenter, and their widowed father, Lars.
Like his brother, Oscar seems to have gone to Canada for some period of time after 1910, but we don't know anything else about his activities during this period.
John's brother Alfred may not have been living with him when the census-taker arrived in 1910, but he was in the area around that time. Alfred married Olga Elida Overby in Somers, Montana, on Flathead Lake about 10 miles south of Kalispell, on June 28, 1911. Olga was born about 1893 in North Dakota. Her father, Christian P. Overby, a farmer, was born around 1857 in Norway; he came to the United States in 1886. Her mother, Martia, was born around 1868, also in Norway; she emigrated in 1889. Alfred and Olga settled in Kalispell, where Alfred worked as a clerk, warehouse man, and baggage handler for the Great Northern Railroad. In around 1913 they had a son, Louis W. Halden, and their second child, Ruth E. Halden, followed in around 1917.
The sons of Lars' brother Mathias, John A., Carl, and Leonard Halden, stuck close to home after the turn of the century, working as laborers on their dad's farm. Then, on December 21, 1905, John married a daughter of Norwegian immigrants named Ida M. Boen; she was born around 1883 in Minnesota. Their first child, Julian Halden, was born around 1907; their second, Elinor/Eleanor Halden, was born about ten years later. John owned a threshing rig and hired himself out to the farmers around Fergus Falls. By 1910 he was working as a machinist in Moorhead, Minnesota, just east of Fargo, ND. John's brother Carl lived with John's family, and Carl also worked as a machinist. In around 1911, Mathias, Mina and their younger children moved to Big Sandy, in central Montana, about 90 miles northeast of Great Falls, and started a new homestead there. Before 1915, the youngest son, Leonard, married a woman named Manda. The couple moved to Montana, where their daughter Irene was born in that year. Mathias's younger daugher, Emma Louisa, married Clyde Franklin Knotts on October 5, 1915 in Great Falls. Emma's older sister, Ida, stayed home with her parents and remained single for many years.
The grand old man of the Halden family, Johannes P. Halden, father of Lars and Mathias, having reached the age of 93, passed away on March 14, 1909. He was laid to rest in the Kongsberg Cemetery.
As for the Halden siblings' mother's family, the Kverns:
Arne P. and Olina Haugen Kvern had six more children: Carl A. Kvern, born in April 1892, Agnes Kvern, born May 29, 1895, Oscar Kvern, born January 7, 1898, Laura Kvern, born September 25, 1908, Einar A. Kvern, born aroun 1901, and Ellnorea A. Kvern, born around 1903, all in Fergus Falls Township.
Arne's and Olina's first child, Paul Kvern, married Sena Elizabeth Hendrickson Anderson sometime before 1912; she was born in 1893. Their children were Helga Svern Kvern, born in 1912, and Alfred Reuben Kvern, born in 1914. Arne died on October 5, 1915.
In the somewhat warmer environs of the Cannon - Mississippi River junction, the small town of Bay City, Wisconsin hugged the northwest tip of Lake Pepin (the setting of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House in the Big Woods). Bay City was founded in 1853 as Saratoga, Wisconsin when the Philip brothers and a relative of President John Tyler, Charles Tyler, established a steam-operated sawmill there. Apparently the sawmill failed, because Saratoga was eventually abandoned and most of its buildings moved to another town. Tyler bought the town site for $1700 in back taxes and renamed it Bay City in 1886. The town was the site of the first recorded murder in Pierce County. A squatter named Dexter was upset because a man named Morton had bought the land he was occupying, and he killed the surveyor who was sent to lay out the town. Around the turn of the 19th. - 20th. centuries, Bay City was an important source of freshwater fish, and had a pickle factory and a train station on the line between Chicago and St. Paul.
Just across the lake (actually a wide spot in the Mississippi), about 5 miles away, lay Red Wing, Minnesota. On the outskirts of Bay City, on the road to Red Wing, was the small farm where, soon after the turn of the century, Francis A. Johnson and his wife Rose L. Chiecke Johnson raised four children:
Francis Edward Johnson, born April 7, 1903
Francis and Rose were married in 1902; before their marriage she worked as a servant in the household of F. O. Rockwell in Fargo, North Dakota.
Rose was born in 1877. Her parents were Constantine Chiecke and his wife Catharina. Constantine was born in September 1839 in Germany; he came to the United States in 1865. Catharina was born in 1874 in Wisconsin; her parents came from Germany. The family lived in Millerville in Douglas County in west-central Minnesota. Rose had many brothers and sisters:
Stephan Chiecke, born January 1874
We don't know much more about Rose, except that in later years she always seemed to wear the head scarf known as a "babushka" (the preferred headgear of Russian grandmothers, the Russian word for whom is "babushki"). As always, research continues.
On the other side of the river, in Red Wing, O.M. Hall was back in his law practice, having lost his bid for a third Congressional term in 1894. His son Charles had attended Hobert College in New York and law school at the University of Michigan, graduating in 1901. He was admitted to the Minnesota bar in 1902 and joined his father's practice. It wasn't long, though, before he struck out on his own. He set up a practice in Cannon Falls, and became the city attorney there in 1904. It must have been around this time that he met and courted Dick Dibble's daughter Olive, known as "Ollie". They were married on July 28, 1908. Not long after, Charles returned to Red Wing, alone. Olive stayed with her grandmother Eliza Coplin in Cannon Falls, while in 1910 Charles was living in a boarding house on 4th. St. in Red Wing. This is rather curious. We know Charles became the Red Wing city attorney. Red Wing is about 22 miles from Cannon Falls. That's not a tough commute today. There was a rail line between the two cities--a section of the Great Western Railroad--but we don't know how often the trains ran. Perhaps Charles moved to the boarding house to be close to his new job while doing some house-hunting.
Back in Cannon Falls, Ed and Edith Wilson's first son, Clair Edward Wilson, was born on December 6, 1899. Their second boy, George Alexander Wilson, known as "Dody", was born on August 30, 1901. Ed's father, the venerable Judge John Wilson, passed away just shy of his 90th. birthday, on December 16, 1903.
Dick and Bertha Dibble's second, and last, child, the aptly-named Glee Doris Dibble, was born on December 5, 1902.
Bertha's sister Emma began her adult life by following the family tradition of working as a servant in a middle-class household. The family she chose was that of Phillip and Etta Weis, in St. Paul, Minnesota. She attended nursing school and some time after 1900 returned to Cannon Falls to work with the Conley brothers.
Ed and Laura Dibble's daughter Jessie graduated from Cannon Falls High in December of 1905. Desiring to pursue a career as a teacher, she went to college at Mankato Normal School. While studying there in February 1907, she became ill and was hospitalized in Mankato. We don't know what her illness was, but after several months of treatment, the doctors felt nothing more could be done for her. She returned to the Dibble farm in May, and died there, at the age of 19, on July 5, 1907. Ed's widowed father-in-law, George Crook (his wife Elizabeth died on July 26, 1887), passed away a couple years later, on December 23, 1909.
Dr. Ed Conley gained a certain amount of notoriety around this time for owning the first automobile in Cannon Falls, a vehicle manufactured by International Harvester. No doubt his wife Sarah gained even more notoriety through her activities as an officer of the Women's Christian Temperance Union.
Dr. Ed and his brother A.T. continued to do their best to provide medical care to the people of Cannon Falls. There is an interesting and tragic record of a procedure A.T. performed, with the help of other doctors, presumably including his brother, in 1908. The school superintendent A.W. Newman's wife, Minnie, was near the end of her term of pregnancy and had been having "difficulty" for a week. The doctors had to anesthetize her and crush the baby's skull and remove it or, they believed, the mother would have died. The baby boy weighed about 12 pounds (huge for a newborn) and was full-term. Today this procedure would be called a "partial birth abortion" and be heavily politicized. At the time, it simply was considered necessary, both by the doctors and by the attending nurse, Emma Kowitz, to save the life of the mother. Unfortunately, the procedure wasn't enough. Though Mrs. Newman at first seemed to be doing well, it wasn't long before Emma had to call Dr. Conley back. Minnie was having complications and weakening. A.T. was unable to save her. The distraught husband and father was reported as saying he "hasn't anything to live for." The reader is left to draw whatever conclusions he or she wishes from this story.
At some point before 1910, Frank and Alice Dibble Richardson returned to South Dakota, this time to Perkins County, in the northwestern part of the state. They were living in the Breckinridge District (later named River Park, and not now findable on the internet) in that county, but they only took their son George with them initially. Their 19-year-old daughter Cora was living with Dr. Ed Conley and working as a milliner, and Cora's 15-year-old sister Louise was there as well. Louise joined her parents in SD a bit later that year, perhaps after the school year ended. Their oldest daughter, Zelle, had her own home in Cannon Falls and was working as a schoolteacher.
In 1911, Zelle married Roy Charles Mills. He was born on September 13, 1880 in Belleville, Kansas. Roy's father was John Wallace Mills, born in New York; his mother was Grace Darling, born in Ohio. Zelle and Roy moved to Chicago.
Young John Aslakson got his BS from St. Olaf College over in Northfield in 1909. He spent some time in Duluth that year, and then went on to get his law degree from the University of Minnesota in 1913. He joined his father Peter's practice, but he seems not to have liked being a lawyer very much. After only a few months he took a job as a supervisor and salesman with the Aluminum Cooking Utensil Company of New Kensington, Pennsylvania. He didn't journey to the Keystone State though; he hung around Cannon Falls and spent time with the young music teacher Della Dibble. They were married on June 20, 1914. Their daughter, Jessie Louise Aslakson, was born exactly a year later, on June 20, 1915.
At the age of 33, in around 1910, the nurse Emma Kowitz married Benjamin J. Gorton. Benjamin was born on August 31, 1879 in Rochester, MN. His parents came from New York. He was a shoe salesman all his life. The couple lived in Minneapolis, and their daughter Eleanor Elizabeth Gorton was born on November 20, 1911.
Also in 1911, on May 5, Eliza Coplin, mother of Dick Dibble's first wife Ella, who cared unstintingly for her dying daughter, and raised her granddaughter Olive, passed away after a long illness.
On November 26, 1914, the voice of that great warrior for the people, Osee Matson Hall, was finally stilled. He was buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Red Wing.
Johan Peter Johannesson (John Johnson), Swedish patriarch of our Johnson family, died on April 22, 1915 and was buried in the Clayfield Cemetery near Bay City in Pierce County, Wisconsin.
Although the century had turned fifteen years previously, and "modern" technologies such as general anesthesia, mechanically-powered farm equipment, and automobiles had begun to trickle in, the big changes that are usually associated with the 20th. century were yet to be felt in Goodhue County, or for that matter, in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and most of the rest of the nation. Some of those changes resulted from a new wave of immigration that had been building for the last twenty years. That is where our story turns next.