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First Settlers of the First Prairie

March 6, 2014 by Hubbard County Historical Museum Director

These are recollections of “Aunt Fanny”  Frances A. Glass she was born November 28, 1856.  She married Elmer Wright in Iowa and was twenty -two years old when she and Elmer came to the 1st Shell Prairie.

She wrote these recollections about 1879 and 1880 in 1935.

Seeking a home was the cause of the settlement of 1st Prairie, many of us came from N. Iowa and S. Minnesota

We came on the covered wagon trail, reaching Verndale May 1879.  A party composed of S. Jones, Dan Witters, T.Tinklepaugh, Mr. and Mrs. E.A. Wright and John Claflin guided by Wm. Kindred reached the 1st  Shell Prairie May 9, 1879.

We found four families on the prairie who had arrived a few days before, Harry Vail, Jesse Campton on Sec 28 T 139-R 34 W and Mr. Pelkey and Mr. Gotcha on T 139 R 33.

On May 10 , we were joined by R.J.Rex, M.S.Wagner, R. Hare and Geo. Rex.  All from Iowa.  One of our joys was to have a free donation of good hay for our horses from a logging co who had not logged as they expected.

After getting some hay for our horses we were ready to go and select our claims, Wm. Kindred was our guide.  Sec 22 T 139 R 34 was chosen by R.J.Rex, M.S.Wagner, John Claflin and E.A. Wright, Dan Witter Sec. 20, SE 1/4 T 139 R 34, R. Hare, NW 1/4 Sec 28, S. Jones, NE 1/4 Sec 32.  After selecting our claims we — one day to help Jas. Campton raise a house for his family.  At this time there were no buildings on the prairie.  Wm. Kindred had a claim in Wadena County, he had a house raised but no roof, our party helped make shakes and soon had it covered, many of the settlers shared the hospitality of its roof.

Our party returned to Verndale, it was a real task as a trail had to be blazed for future use of the trail as we had used in coming could not be used after the frost had gone.  During the summer and fall of 1879 many came and selected their claims then returned in 1880.  We of 1879 and early 1880 were the real pioneers. 1st Prairie was the metropolis of what is now known as Hubbard County (Then Cass County)

Late in July we went to find work in the harvest fields.  We were not a rich class of pioneers that came in 79, but financially very poor.  At that time our Government was not furnishing relief so we had to work.  We returned late in September with a long winter to prepare for.  With H.B. Morrison Logging Co. of Motley operating that fall and winter many of the settlers found a chance to work which was a great blessing.

The population of the 1st Prairie ranged around 47 during the winter of 1878-80.  2nd Prairie had no settlers during the winter of 1879.

Yes, The Indians had a trail across our Prairie, they caused us no trouble, they furnished us with some game and buckskin mocksins.

The history of the new settlement would be incomplete without a  few claimjumpers.  We too had a few of that unloved class.

Did we have a hard time?  No we were just 56 years younger than at this time. (She wrote this in 1935)   It was new to us so we had a good time and established our new home.

Families remaining on the Prairie during the winter of 1879-80 were N. Bement, S.J. Boorum, L.D.Lewis, Ed Tripp, Miles Sanford, John Claflin,E.A.Wright, H. Vail, Ira and Saul Benham and James Campton.

In 1880 many settlers came.  A sawmill was established by B.A. Mantor.  A Trading Post by J. Howard.  Among our settlers were many Veterans of the Civil War, they were granted some special favors.  As most of them drew pensions, we had some money in circulation..  The town of Verndale was especially kind to the settlers of the 1st Shell Prairie.

Frances Wright died October 30, 1944 at the home of her sister in law Mrs. John Hinds in Park Rapids.


As a side note I will mention that the town of Hubbard was originally known as Mantor, apparently named after B.A. Mantor.


1 Comment

  1. Enid Sanford says:

    My great-grandfather, Miles Sanford, was mentioned in her article as having stayed on the prairie for the winter of 1879-80. (Great-grandmother was Mary Rutherford Sanford.) I believe that was their first year there, having come up from Fillmore County in the southern part of Minnesota (he was originally from New York State, so was really a pioneer from the East). Miles Sanford was a veteran of the Civil War and was injured, so he received a pension. My grandfather, Fred Sanford, was born in Fillmore 1869, and my father, George Dewey Sanford, was born on the prairie in 1898. My family lived there, 6 miles east of Hubbard, until I was eleven years of age, when my father died, and we moved to Park Rapids. So I am always interested in stories of these early settlers. My parents and aunts and uncles talked about the “good old days” and some of those names mentioned in her article were familiar. Does anyone know if she was the Fanny Wright who drove the first “school bus” which was with a team of horses, if I remember correctly? If so, I heard stories about her too! :)

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