The Renville County Seat Fight
From “The history of Renville County, Minnesota, Volume 1”, H.C. Cooper Jr and Company, Chicago, 1916, compiled by Franklin Curtiss-Wedge, Pages 578 to 608
CHAPTER XXVI OFFICIAL TRANSACTIONS
Story of the Doings of the County Commissioners—The County Seat Fights and Successive Court Houses—Names of County Officials and What They Did While, in Office—Estimate of Men and Motives—Compiled from the Auditor’s Records.
That there were county officials and some kind of county organization prior to those county officials elected in the fall of 1866 may be, and doubtless is true, and the question is considered in another part of this work.
In November, 1866, a full set of county officers was elected. There was at that time no court house, no county seat, no village, no schoolhouse, or church, in fact, no public hall or building in Renville County in which to conduct the official business of the county, and the county officers were forced to conduct their official business at their homes upon their farms in different parts of the county. These county officers did not begin their terms until 1867. The election of county officers in 1866 was most primitive; polling places were few, ballots were mostly written in, but the will of a few active people was registered, and the legality of the election was never questioned.
- D. White, George McCulloch and Francis Shoemaker were the county commissioners elected. Mr. White was chosen chairman. They organized at Mr. White’s house on Beaver Creek near where the county seat was afterwards located. Some of the newly elected county officers came forward and qualified as best they knew how. Some never did show up, others resigned soon after getting started. Setting up a county government in the wilderness was most perplexing with many aggravating things connected therewith, but the pioneer of those days had to do the things necessary to be done, regardless. They organized Renville County and it has stayed organized from that time on, with some upheavals that threatened the structure, but the old fellows laid the foundation so deep it never settled or got out of plumb.
The first meeting of the county commissioners before mentioned was held upon April 2, 1867. At this meeting the towns of Mud Lake (now Cairo), Camp, Birch Cooley, Beaver, Flora and Hawk Creek were named with the territory comprising them described, as were the school districts, from one to eight inclusive.
Though Charles R. Eldredge had been elected county auditor and his term of office began in March, a Mr. Christian appeared to act as deputy auditor at this meeting.
The second meeting of this county board was on April 4, 1867. Election districts were laid out. Judges of election were named and other local officers appointed in the effort to bring order out of confusion. Charles R. Eldredge, the duly elected auditor, appears to have entered upon the duties of his office at this time.
Grasshoppers and drought distressed the few settlers then in the county. The state and general government assisted them with food. No taxes had been levied or assessed, and there were no prospects of any money in towns or county treasuries for an indefinite time.
On May 21, following, this same board directed the county auditor to procure twelve copies of the revised statutes, pledging the good faith of the county for the payment. At this meeting the county auditor’s salary was fixed at $100.00 per year, for which the good faith of the county must also have been pledged, as in case of the statutes.
At this time most of the land was vacant government land and those few homesteads not taxable. The board appointed assessors to hunt property to tax. Like the election judges, some served, others paid no attention to their appointment, but in some way it was planned to hunt down a part of the taxable real and personal property in the county. Auditor Eldredge, who was not much of a scholar or scribe, with some help collected the data, secured writing paper somewhere, made himself a book upon which he extended and made a record of taxes against those they had lassooed, as it were. January 7, 1868, the board of county commissioners met in regular session in Beaver township with N. D. White of Beaver, chairman; Francis Shoemaker of Flora and Halleck Peterson of Camp, commissioners.
At this meeting a bill of $14.00 was presented by Sheriff F. E. Bresnot, and one for $51.00 by Gottlot Schieg, the jailer of Brown County, for care and board of prisoners, showing that law and order was being considered and the need of a county jail apparent.
At this time Charles R. Eldredge, county auditor, after nearly a year of official trials and tribulations laid down the burden of office, with its $100 annual stipend annexed, and resigned. Carter H. Drew was appointed county auditor in his stead. Mr. Drew was an eccentric bachelor about fifty years of age, a clean man and capable. He brought order out of confusion and started official bookkeeping of the county remarkably well, considering that he had no office, no blanks or bound books or money to purchase them. Sheets of writing paper, stitched and pasted together, comprised the entire records of his office. At this meeting the auditor was directed to secure lists from the U. S. land office of land entered and owned by individuals, that it might be assessed and taxed as funds were badly needed. The treasury was empty. Nevertheless, one record book was ordered for R. W. Davis, register of deeds. During this year the affairs of the county took on a more business like appearance. Roads were laid out and some effort to fix the worst places was made. Other towns and school districts were created, new assessors appointed and the small amount of taxable property in the county was fairly well listed and assessed. County Auditor Drew neatly extended the taxes upon the books he had made for that purpose. Now, if the taxes could be paid, things official would look better; but none were paid. There was no money, nor any way to get it. County orders were issued in payment of all county indebtedness, and the writing of these county orders entailed considerable labor on the part of Auditor Drew. So it was decided that the county should have printed order blanks, the assumption being that a printed order would look better, and what was of more importance, sell better, and be used more freely as a medium of circulation. The blind goddess of Justice was fixed upon as an emblem, being regarded as appropriate and considered likely to give the orders more the appearance of real money. The auditor was directed to write to Mart. Williams, a printer at St. Peter, for prices and styles. This was the first move to furnish supplies for the auditor’s office.
The determination to get at the taxable property over much territory must have been strong, for on Sept. 3, 1868, at a meeting of this same county board, on motion of Commissioner Peterson, the county auditor, was directed to assess all personal property in the districts consisting of the counties of Chippewa, Lac qui Parle and Big Stone. Thus it would appear that Renville County, once upon a time, had charge of a vast domain.
By this time the town site of Beaver Falls had been laid out. Henry Hipple had a blacksmith shop, N. Stone, Christian Pregnitz and others were starting or were already storekeepers, Louis Thiele was building a hotel, which was so far completed that a county convention was held therein and a full set of county officers named for the election in November, 1868.
The county officers nominated at this, Renville County’s first Republican convention, were all duly elected at the November election following, among whom were D. S. Hall, county auditor; Henry Ahrens, treasurer; W. H. Jewell, sheriff. The board of county commissioners for this year were Francis Shoemaker, of Flora; Newell Morse, of Beaver, and William Emerick, of Mud Lake. They could provide no place for County Auditor Hall; and Mr. Ahrens, the treasurer, was to be found on his farm if anything special was wanted. After Mr. Hall had qualified as county auditor he succeeded in persuading N. Stone, who had just erected a store building, to allow a small room, seven by nine, to be partitioned off with building paper in the rear part of this store for a county auditor’s office. Other temporary arrangements had to be made when there was a board meeting, for the room was not large enough to hold much more than one person with any comfort. This was the first county auditor’s office in Renville County.
March 4, 1869, an act passed authorizing the county to vote $3,000 bonds to build a court house. No action was taken by the county. .Later Mr. Hall moved the auditor’s office into his house. Then Lane K. Stone built a small building alongside of N. Stone’s store which he leased to the county for the register of deeds and some other county officers.
The affairs of the county ran on with some little improvement. Taxes were levied and assessed, a board of equalization met in regular form, all homesteads returned by the assessors were stricken from the rolls, personal property equalized and county business seemed to be taking shape. There was no election of county officers this year other than commissioners, but P. H. Swift, of Beaver Falls, was elected the first member of the legislature from Renville County.
At the regular meeting of the county board, Jan. 4, 1870, the commissioners were R. G. Weed, of Beaver Falls; Edmond O’Hara, of Cairo, and Louis Kope, of Hawk Creek. At this meeting, the chairman, R. G. Weed, was authorized to sign the bond of Louis Thiele for the sale of liquor in Beaver Falls. In March, Francis Shoemaker was appointed coroner, and in June his official burdens were further increased by the appointment of overseer of the poor. During this year the official business of the county was whipped into better shape; a few books had been gotten hold of for the use of some of the county officers, to the extent that at a June meeting of that year, upon the motion of Commissioner O’Hara, the books of the auditor and treasurer were ordered investigated and the report published. No graft having been found, a sigh of relief went up and public business moved on in a fairly decent groove, considering the cramped quarters for some officials and no offices for others. Notwithstanding all this, however, a most violent campaign was entered upon for the possession of the offices that fall. The Republicans gathered in Louis Thiele’s hotel had nominated a ticket. In opposition to them was put up a full ticket, called the People’s party. A. J. Wells, of Toinah, Wis., had just started a little weekly which he called the “Beaver Falls Gazette,” and with it he threw bombs into the Republican ticket. The Republicans went secretly to Redwood Falls and got out a large paper, which they named the Beaver Falls “Globe,” and circulated two days before election. In it they assailed the People’s party candidates without mercy, calling them candidates for State’s prison and printing affidavits to prove they should be in the darkest dungeons. No campaign since that time has ever approached the contest of 1870 in wrath and vituperation. After the smoke of battle had cleared, it was found that the entire Republican ticket had been elected. Wells moved his Beaver Falls Gazette back to Wisconsin, and the Beaver Falls Globe never appeared again.
After such an exciting and not a little expensive time in securing office, the successful officials began to lay plans for a building of some kind to hold them. So when the legislature convened in January a special bill was introduced, authorizing Renville County to issue $2,000 in bonds for the purpose of building a jail. The county was issuing large sums in county orders for transportation, care and board of prisoners, and those in favor of building a court house thought that if the proposed building was called a county jail less objection would be raised by the opposition. However, much quiet work was being done by those interested to permanently locate the county seat at Beaver Falls, and an emissary was sent to the state capitol to assist in “logrolling” the bill through the legislature, a purpose in which he was most successful.
The act was approved Feb. 27, 1871, and became a law. It was provided in the act that the question of issuing county bonds should be submitted to electors of the county at the town meetings in March and that the town clerks should include in their notices that the bond proposition would be voted upon, but the act further particularly provided that if any of the town clerks failed to give such notices it would not invalidate the election or prevent the canvas of the votes that were cast.
The text of the act is as follows: “An Act to Authorize the County Commissioners of the County of Renville to Issue Bonds for the Erection of County Buildings.
“Be it enacted by the legislature of Minnesota: “Sec. 1. That the county commissioners of the county of Renville are hereby authorized to issue the bonds of the said county, to the amount of two thousand dollars, for the purpose of erecting a jail, at Beaver Falls, the county seat of said county.
“Sec. 2. Such bonds may be issued with coupons attached thereto, and of such denominations as the county commissioners may determine, and shall bear interest at a rate not exceeding 12 per cent per annum, which said interest shall be payable half yearly, and the principal thereof shall be payable at any time, not less than three nor more than six years from the date of said bonds.
“Sec. 3. Said bonds and interest coupons attached thereto shall be signed by the chairman of the board of county commissioners, and countersigned by the auditor of said county, and said auditor shall keep a record of all bonds issued under the provisions of this act, giving numbers, dates and amounts, to whom issued and when payable.
“Sec. 4. The said board of county commissioners shall have authority to negotiate said bonds as in their judgment shall be for the best interests of said county; provided, however, that said bonds shall not be negotiated for less than eighty-five cents on the dollar.
“Sec. 5. The said board of county commissioners, and the proper authority of said county, shall, and are hereby authorized and empowered to levy an annual tax on the taxable property of said county, in addition to all other taxes required to be levied, sufficient to pay the interest accruing on said bonds, and the principal of said bonds as they shall mature, which said taxes shall be levied and collected in the same manner as other taxes for county purposes are levied and collected, and no part of such shall be appropriated for any purpose whatever other than the payment of said bonds and the interest thereon.
“See. 6. The proposition to issue said bonds shall be submitted to a vote of the electors of said county at the next annual town meeting. The ballots shall have written or printed thereon the following words, ‘For issue of bonds for building jail,’ or, ‘Against issue of bonds for building jail,’ said vote shall be cast at said election in the same manner as votes cast for town officers, and if upon a canvass of said votes, a majority of said voters, who shall have voted upon said proposition, have voted in favor thereof the issue of said bonds shall be lawful. The town clerks of the several towns in said county shall, at the time of the giving notice of the annual town meeting, insert in said notice a paragraph setting forth that the question of issuing said bonds will be voted on at said town meeting; provided, that any neglect or failure on the part of any town clerk to give such notice, shall not invalidate the election or prohibit the canvass of votes cast upon such question.
Sec. 7. This act shall take effect from and after passage.
“Approved February 27, 1871.”
Mail service was slow and facilities for information were few at this time. Only the town clerks of Beaver Falls and Flora knew anything about the legislative act or gave the required notice, hence these were the only towns to vote on the bond issue and, as was expected, the proposition was carried.
At this time the commissioners were R. G. Weed, chairman, Louis Kope and Bernhard Marchner, Ed. O’Hara having been eliminated in the upheaval the fall before. The “conspirators” for the building of a court house, masked under the name of a jail, now became active. Many informal meetings were held, attended by the county commissioners, of which no record was made. Much secrecy was maintained and methods pursued that would be considered outrageous at this time. But in those days it was considered that anything was fair in war, and war it certainly was that was waged between Beaver Falls and Birch Cooley for the possession of the county seat honors. Much of the preliminary work for the issuance of the bonds, such as procuring the blanks and the like, had been accomplished.
So, upon May 18, 1871, the before mentioned commissioners met at Beaver Falls and ordered that $2,000 in bonds of the county be issued for the purpose of building a jail in Beaver Falls. A resolution adopted and signed by each member of the board, presenting the manner of issuing and negotiating said bonds, was made a part of the records. It was a kind of “Round Robin,” with the object of holding each commissioner responsible, for $2,000 was a large sum of money in those days. That the act of issuing those bonds was consummated with trepidation by those responsible is seen by the careful wording of the following resolution:
“Whereas by an act, passed by the legislature of the state of Minnesota, approved Feb. 27, 1871, authorizing and empowering the board of county commissioners of Renville county to issue the bonds of said county for the purpose of building county buildings at Beaver Falls, the county seat of said county upon certain specified conditions named in said act, and whereas by the provisions said act, the said board of county commissioners were authorized and empowered by a majority of the legal voters of Renville county, voting on said subject to issue bonds in the sum of $2,000 for the purpose expressed in said act and, whereas, said board of county commissioners have agreed and decided to erect a jail in Beaver Falls, the county seat of said county by virtue of the authority vested in them by the provisions of said act and a majority of the legal voters of said county voting thereon.
“Now, therefore, it is resolved by the said board of county commissioners that D. S. Hall, county auditor of said county, shall proceed forthwith to prepare and negotiate the said bonds in sums of not less than $50 each nor more than $100 each, to the amount of $2,000 as provided in said act and at no greater rate of interest than provided by said act, and on such terms, less the maximum interest, provided in said act, as he can obtain the funds at any time within the publication of the notice herein provided for, and the auditor shall report to the board of county commissioners, his contract with the purchaser or purchasers of said bonds, properly signed, sealed and executed within ninety days from the adoption of these resolutions by the said board of county commissioners.
“And be it further resolved by the said board of county commissioners that the said bonds shall be divided in three equal classes, as near as may be, that the first class shall be due and payable at any time within four years after the issuance thereof,at the option of said board of county commissioners and in like manner the second class, at any time within the fifth year after the issuance thereof and the third and last class shall be due and payable at the option of the said board of county commissioners at any time within the. sixth year after the issuance thereof with interest pro rata at the rate of negotiation, not exceeding the maximum rate of interest allowed by said act in accordance with the terms thereof.
“And that it is further resolved by the said board of county commissioners that the said D. S. Hall, county auditor, shall publish in condensed form, in the St. Paul Daily Press and in the New York Daily Tribune for one week and in a weekly newspaper published in an adjoining county to Renville, for the space of two weeks, a notice that bids will be received for any part of said bonds or the whole thereof, for sixty days from and after the first publication of said notice. That all of said bonds purchased by persons residing within the state of Minnesota shall be paid when due, according to the tenor thereof, at the office of the county treasurer of Renville county, Minnesota, of Beaver Falls, in said county and state, and all bonds purchased by parties without the state shall be payable when due according to the tenor thereof at any place or places, in the city of St. Paul, Minnesota, that may be designated in the said bonds by the said D. S. Hall, the said county auditor.”
This resolution was so carefully considered and thought to be so important that it was then and there signed by R. G. Weed, Louis Kope and Bernhard Marschner, county commissioners, and attested by D. S. Hall, county auditor.
At the next meeting of the commissioners, June 16, 1871, the ground was measured off and a site selected for the county jail which the money from the sale of the county bonds was going to pay for. No time was to be lost, for at this meeting R. G. Weed, H. W. Nelson and Henry Ahrens were appointed a committee to procure plans and specifications and to add more ground to the proposed site if necessary.
It appears that D. S. Hall, the auditor, had been active and had sold the bonds to Horace Thompson, of the First National Bank of St. Paul, without advertising and without doing many of the things required by the resolution of the board passed May 18, directing the issuance of these bonds. Time was of the utmost importance, the rumblings from Birch Cooley, an aspirant for the county seat, were somewhat alarming, and it was rumored that W. H. Jewell was about to, or already had, begun a suit to enjoin the commissioners from building, and it was feared the sale of the bonds might be prevented. Thus the real need of converting the bonds into cash was apparent and the resolution of May 18 was practically reconsidered, County AuditorHall being directed to do the things he had already done by the adoption by the board of the following resolution:
“The resolution passed by the board upon May 18, 1871, ordering the issuance of $2,000 county bonds to build a jail at Beaver Falls is so amended as to read as follows:
“D. S. Hall, auditor of said county, shall proceed forthwith to prepare and negotiate the said bonds in such sums as may be desired by the parties purchasing, and that the sum be made payable in St. Paul or New York if better prices be obtained for the bonds by so doing and that $600 be made payable in the fifth year and $700 be made payable in the sixth year, after the first day of July, 1871, the day said bonds shall be made. The report of the county auditor regarding the contract for the purchase of the $2,000 county bonds which he had made with H. Thompson, of St. Paul, was received and accepted, and it was ordered that the bonds be properly executed and signed by the chairman and countersigned by the county auditor and forwarded by the said county auditor to the First National Bank of St. Paul, and that the cash received therefor be payable to the order of Henry Ahrens, county treasurer of said county of Renville and state of Minnesota.”
Bids were advertised for and activities looking to the building of the county jail were apparent when at a meeting of the county board on August 10, 1871, Chairman Weed announced that several bids had been received, but he had been ordered by the district court to proceed no further with the building of the jail or awarding contracts; until at a hearing before said court, it was shown by what authority said jail was about to be built. Hence no bids were opened and Chairman Weed was authorized to procure counsel and defend the jail building proposition in court.
The case as brought was W. H. Jewell, plaintiff, vs. R. G. Weed, et al., defts. E. St. Julien Cox, afterward judge of District Court, plaintiff’s attorney, Alfred Walling, later judge of the Supreme Court, North Dakota, defendants’ attorney. Mr. Jewell sets forth in his complaint among other things: That the county commissioners did secretly and surreptitiously procure and obtain the passage by the legislature of the state of Minnesota of an act to authorize the county commissioners to issue $2,000 in bonds for the purpose of building a jail at Beaver Falls, the county seat. That the proposition was to be submitted to a vote of the electors of the county at the town meetings; that it was not so submitted and the town clerks not advised. That the matter was secretly, covertly and designedly kept from the knowledge of the electors, saving only those of Beaver Creek and Flora in said county. That thirteen towns in the county would have cast eight hundred votes; that only Beaver Creek and Flora were advised, casting 120 votes in all, eighty for and thirty against said bond proposition. The complaint further alleged that the commissioners were about to issue or already had issued bonds to carry out their scheme fraudulently conceived, and that the act was a fraud upon the inhabitants of Renville County because it attempted to locate the county seat at Beaver Falls. In short, the complaint bristles with words illustrating the war-like spirit prevailing at the locating of the first county seat of Renville County.
The case was tried before District Judge M. G. Hanscom in September, 1871, and decided against Mr. Jewell. At a meeting of the board of county commissioners, Oct. 2, 1871, they were informed by the clerk of the court that they were no longer restrained from proceeding with the erection of the building for which bonds had been issued. The .commissioners then and there, without delay, proceeded to open the bids which they were enjoined from doing in August previous. It was found that David Carrothers, of Beaver Falls, was the lowest bidder for the building of the jail, his estimate being $1,700. He was awarded the contract and immediately proceeded to break ground and gather “niggerheads” (as the rocks from the prairie were called), of which the walls were to be made. A warranty deed to the county from Essler & Carrothers, the town proprietors, had already been recorded.
Mr. Jewell not being satisfied with the decision of the District court appealed his case to the Supreme court (Minnesota Report, Jewell vs. Weed, Vol. 18, page 247), which held with the District court. A legal review of the case appears elsewhere in the history.
Peter Henry, commissioner in place of R. G. Weed, was appointed inspector or overseer of the work, but before much could be started cold weather came on early. Nothing much could be done in the winter, but in the spring of 1872 things began to assume shape. Quite a respectable stone building was erected. The jail was in one end, two good sized rooms were fitted up for county offices, and these with a hall on the upper floor in which to hold court, comprised the completed jail. Lane K. Stone released the county from a two-year lease of his building, then occupied by some of the county officers, and the commissioners agreed to move the county offices into the new court house, the so-called “jail,” on Oct. 1, 1872.
There was evidently no “graft” in the building of Renville County’s first court house, for the commissioners allowed David Carrothers, the contractor, $169 above his estimate to partly reimburse him for his loss on the contract.
The court house being completed, the auditor and treasurer moved into one of the rooms, the register of deeds and judge of probate into the other. Other county officials provided their own quarters, Henry Ahrens, county treasurer, was made custodian of the court house hall and was ordered to charge $6.00 for dancing parties and shows, and $1.00 for each twenty-four hours’ use by the justice court. He was directed to pay at once into the county treasury all moneys thus received.
The county officers being better located than ever before, things official moved quietly after the strenuous years of 1871 and 1872. In March, 1873, Eric Ericson became county auditor in place of D. S. Hall, Hans Gronnerud, treasurer in place of Henry Ahrens, and the county commissioners were B. Marschner, chairman, Peter Henry and Ole Jacobson. Officialdom moved on with little friction this year. January, 1874, finds the board of county commissioners increased to five instead of three, as heretofore. They were: Peter Henry, chairman, Ole Jacobson, James O’Brien, T. L. Rude, and M. T. Ridout. John M. Dorman was not satisfied with the small salary as county attorney and the district judge, M. G. Hanscom ordered his salary increased to $480 per annum for 1873 and 1874. In March, it was found that two cell doors were needed for the new jail. Henry Hipple, the village blacksmith, was awarded the job at $75, and Gus. Strenzel, the other blacksmith, was appointed to inspect the work when completed. On April 6, of this year, Geo. H. Megquier, having obtained a first-grade certificate, was appointed county superintendent of schools and April 7 John M. Dorman resigned as county attorney and Megquier was appointed county attorney in his place. Megquier being judge of probate at the time of these appointments, continued to hold these three offices with no appearance of physical exhaustion or fatigue.
That year a bed was needed in one of the jail cells. Horton W. Nelson, a carpenter of Beaver Falls, agreed to construct the bed at a reasonable price. This same carpenter was later appointed an expert by the commissioners to investigate the financial condition of the county from the time of its organization.
Jan. 17, 1874, township 115-32 was named Milford. July 29, 1874, it was changed to Hector.
The early bookkeeping of the first county officers made it quite difficult to get at exact figures, but by this time there was some bad political blood floating and the carpenter expert was “out to get someone.” Nelson was an honest man but prejudiced and in no way qualified, but he took plenty of time and reported that the county had been defrauded of about $1,400. This was much money in those days, the accusation created a sensation and citizens of “the other side” rolled it under their tongues as a sweet morsel. The commissioners on June 17, directed the auditor to notify Ex-Treasurer Henry Ahrens and his bondsmen which was done. Did Mr. Ahrens or his bondsmen hasten into town and put $1,400 or any other sum into the Renville county treasury? Not any. On the contrary, they told the commissioners that in Horton Nelson they had an inefficient expert, not qualified by experience nor training to examine county or any other bookkeeping, that Mr. Ahrens had retained no money belonging to Renville county while treasurer, and courted the fullest investigation.
On July 29, the commissioners by resolution directed the county attorney to employ assistance and commence an action at once against Henry Ahrens, ex-treasurer. Gordon E. Cole, the leading lawyer of the state, was employed to assist County Attorney Megquier; Cox & Grenlund and Alfred Wallin, of St. Peter, were Defendant Ahren’s attorneys, and it looked as though a battle royal was about to be staged. Excitement ran high, and as always in such cases, there were gossiping persons ready to condemn Ex-Treasurer Ahrens before any trial was held. ExAuditor D. S. Hall stood forth boldly in the defense of the accused, insisting that there was no shortage in the Renville county treasury chargeable to the ex-treasurer.
For this reason, though charged with no offense, Mr. Hall was linked with the defense and came in for a good share of scandal while the affair lasted. As, in most law cases, there were many delays, giving unlimited opportunity for public talk. Later, Sept. 24, 1875, the counsel for both sides stipulated that the case be referred to Wm. G. Hayden, of St. Peter, former auditor of Nicollet County, a competent expert on county bookkeeping and an able man. He was directed by the court to thoroughly examine all records of public money received by Ex-Treasurer Ahrens during his three terms of office, he having been the first treasurer, elected in 1866. Mr. Hayden was also directed after this investigation to report a judgment. This he did on April 1, 1876, reporting among other things that “the auditor’s accounts have been kept in a clear and concise manner,” that no defalcation on the part of Ex-Treasurer Ahrens had been proven, and he reported a judgment in favor of the defendant, Ahrens, and against the plaintiff, the Board of County Commissioners, thus fully exonerating Mr. Ahrens to the gratification of friends and officials who believed in the honesty and good name of Renville county officials.
April 3, 1876, Alfred Wallin, one of the attorneys for the defense, had judgment entered against the Board of County Commissioners and the matter was closed. The county had been to some expense and it had cost Mr. Ahrens no little annoyance and money, but the political atmosphere was cleared and few regretted the cost.
Jan. 5, 1875, Eric Ericson was re-elected county auditor and the Board of County Commissioners consisted of Wm. F. Grummons (chairman), Fred V. Haas, Peter Henry, Francis Shoemaker and Ole Jacobson. These commissioners at their meeting on January 7, by resolution, instructed all the justices of the peace in Renville County to demand security for costs in all criminal cases brought before them and to enter judgment against the complaining witness and his bond when the defendant was not convicted. It is not known that this local statute has ever been repealed. Attorney Wallin appeared before the board and offered for $75.00 to demonstrate even to the extent of getting court decision that witnesses in a criminal action in justice court are not entitled to and cannot collect fees as such from the county. The proposition was laid on the table. This year the county officers were compelled by law to file with the county commissioners under oath a statement of the total receipts of their offices. The judge of probate’s salary was $84.75; the register of deeds took in $550.00; the sheriff’s salary was $376.83.
Jan. 4, 1876, Eric Ericson was still county auditor. The Board of County Commissioners consisted of Fred V. Haas (chairman), Wm. F. Grummons, T. H. Sherwin, Owen Heaney and Ole Jacobson. The board by resolution requested the legislature to authorize the county to issue bonds to the amount of $8,000 with interest not to exceed 10 per cent. July 27, commissioners refused to raise the liquor license from $50 to $100.
Jan. 2, 1877, Erie Ericson was re-elected auditor and filed his official bond. The commissioners were T. H. Sherwin (chairman), Fred V. Haas, Henry Paulson, Owen Heaney and Wm. F. (inimmons. Owen Meany was appointed superintendent of the burning of the prairie grass in Renville County to comply with an act passed by the last legislature. Some remarkable acts must have been passed by the legislature in those days. In September, Arnold Vincent appears as commissioner in place of Fred V. Haas. At this meeting it was decided to buy a county poor farm and a committee was appointed to receive proposals.
Jan. 1, 1878, Eric Ericson again became county auditor. The commissioners were Henry Paulson (chairman), T. H. Sherwin, W. F. Grummons, Owen Heaney and Edmond O’Hara. March, 1878, Commissioner Grummons moved that county officers should not get any printing done at the office of the Renville “Times.” Kelsey, the publishers, doubtless had said something which had touched the tender sensibilities of some of the members.
At the July meeting, J. S. Niles appeared as a commissioner in place of Edmond O’Hara, whom he had ousted in a contested election. Ed. O’Hara presented a bill for $78 for his expenses of the contest. Sept. 3, 1878, a special meeting of the board was called at the request of Commissioners Sherwin, Heaney and Grummons. H. H. Grace was appointed clerk for the board. At this meeting a letter was received from Gov. Pillsbury suspending temporarily Auditor Ericson. By resolution of the board, P. H. Kirwan was appointed to act as auditor during the disability of Auditor Ericson, and to give bond and quality according to law. H. H. Grace, clerk of the board, was directed to so notify Mr. Kirwan. A bill of $90 was allowed to H. H. Grace for work in the auditor’s office. Sept. 4, on motion, the board requested the appointed auditor to employ former Auditor Ericson to assist him.
State Examiner H. M. Knox, having filed a report charging Auditor Ericson with a shortage in seed grain vouchers and an overdrawn salary account, was the cause of the county auditor’s temporary suspension. At this meeting a resolution was passed, signed by County Commissioners Paulson, Heaney, Sherwin, Grummons and Niles, asking the governor of the state for a continuance, or stay of proceedings upon the charges lodged with said executive against the said auditor by Public Examiner Knox, setting forth in said resolution that, upon a further inspection of the auditor’s office by them, that they are satisfied that there was no criminal intention on the part of Auditor Ericson, that vouchers covering alleged deficits had been produced since the examination by Public Examiner Knox with the statement of the auditor, that they were misplaced at the time of the examination. At a special meeting, December 6, a letter signed by every member of the board was sent to Governor Pillsbury, setting forth that all matters pertaining to Auditor Ericson’s office had been adjusted to the satisfaction of the Board of County Commissioners and requesting the reinstatement of Auditor Ericson, whose resignation followed. Mr. Ericson was afterwards appointed to the railway mail service, where he served with credit for a number of years, later being elected county superintendent of schools for Renville County, holding this office to the entire satisfaction of the public for a number of terms. Jan. 7, 1879, the Board of County Commissioners met in regular session with Commissioners Henry Paulson (chairman), Owen Heaney, J. S. Niles, Thomas Leary and John Thompson, and P. H. Kirwan, county auditor.
This year the county was divided into three districts for medical attendance on the poor, a contract to be let at the lowest possible rate to a competent physician bidding for the same.
A resolution was adopted that all applications for liquor license be rejected except from towns which have voted in favor of license.
Jan. 6, 1880, the Board of County Commissioners met in regular session. The commissioners were Henry Paulson (chairman), Owen Heaney, J. S. Niles, Thomas Leary and John Thompson. P. H. Kirwan was the county auditor. At this meeting, the county attorney’s salary was fixed at $400 for the year and Henry Kelsey was to do the county printing. January 9, pursuant to an act of the legislature ratified by the voters of the county, $15,000 in bonds of the county were ordered issued to pay the floating indebtedness of the county. These bonds to run ten years at 7 per cent interest and not to be sold less than their face value. This year the county was divided into five districts for medical attendance on the poor. Dr. J. W. Barnard was awarded districts 2, 3 and 4 at $36 each. Dr. F. L. Puffer was awarded districts 1 and 5 at $45 each.
Jan. 4, 1881, the regular session was held. Commissioners: John Thompson (chairman), Henry Paulson, Owen Heaney, Thomas Leary and Owen Carrigan. P. H. Kirwan, county auditor. The representatives of this county in the legislature was requested to secure the passage of an act authorizing a second term of court for Renville County.
Jan. 3, 1882, regular session. Commissioners: Thomas Leary (chairman), Henry Paulson, Owen Heaney, Owen Carrigan and Louis L. Tinnis. County auditor, P. H. Kirwan.
Jan. 2, 1883, regular session. Commissioners: Owen Carrigan (chairman), Lewis L. Tinnis, Thomas Leary, Henry Schafer and Peter P. Dustrud. County auditor, P. H. Kirwan. At the November meeting of the county commissioners, Peter G. Peterson took the place of Peter P. Dustrud.
Regular session of the board January, 1884. The commissioners were: Lewis L. Tinnis (chairman), Owen Carrigan, Thomas Leary, Henry Schafer and John I. Johnson; P. H. Kirwan, county auditor. At this time the salary of county superintendent of schools was placed at $960, and that of the judge of probate at $650. At the session in March, Dr. Stoddard was awarded the contract for attending the poor of Renville County for one year at $350, and Henry Kelsey was given the county printing. Joseph Smith, of Morton, was given a charter for a ferry across the Minnesota River.
Jan. 6, 1885. Regular session. The commissioners were: Henry Schafer (chairman), Owen Carrigan, Gunerus Peterson, John I. Johnson and Jerry H. Reagan. P. H. Kirwan, county auditor. At this meeting the board fixed the salary of county superintendent of schools at $1,000. The county attorney 7s salary was fixed at $900 and the judge of probates at $700 per annum.
Dr. A. G. Stoddard was again engaged to give medical attention to the poor of the county, for which he was to receive $300. C. L. Lorrain, of Bird Island, secured the county printing, doing it at l1/^ a description for delinquent tax list; financial statement and commissioners’ proceedings of each meeting, gratis. This is certainly very cheap for printing. Dec. 1, 1885, at a special meeting of the board, M. O. Little, an attorney, presented a petition for the removal of the county seat from Beaver Fallsto Bird Island, and G. J. Depue presented a petition for the county seat to be located at Olivia. S. R. Miller, county attorney, was consulted and a discussion of matters pertaining thereto deferred to December 3, at which time Commissioners Jerry H. Reagan and Gunerus Peterson were appointed a committee to examine the two petitions and report to the board as soon as practicable. Gorham Powers appeared as attorney for Bird Island petitioners and December 15 was appointed as the day for the board to consider the two petitions.
December 15, Gorham Powers, attorney for Bird Island petitioners, asked that about 150 names be stricken from the Olivia petition and added to the Bird Island petition. December 16 the board addressed a note to County Attorney Miller, asking, “Is a man a freeholder, in whose wife the record title to the real estate is vested?” His answer was, “He has only a contingent or inchoate estate which may never ripen into even a vested life estate. Should the husband die first, then he would never enjoy the life estate. Should she sell it in his lifetime the estate would be defeated. A freehold is a vested estate in lands either in fee or for life. The fee is in the wife in the above question, and the husband has no part of the estate until the wife dies, leaving him a survivor. Then a life estate in the homestead only vests in him by operation of law.”
December 17 the commissioners spent the entire day examining these petitions for county seat removal and adjourned to meet after supper for an evening session, at which time the following resolution was offered by Attorney Powers, for the petitioners, and adopted by the board.
“Resolved, that the county attorney be and is hereby instructed to submit to the attorney general for his opinion thereon the following questions, to-wit:
“If, under the laws of 1885, for the removal of county seats, two petitions are presented to the county board at the same time, asking for the removal of the county seat to a different place, and many persons, duly qualified, have signed both petitions, and such persons who have signed both petitions, do before either petition has been filed, present to the county board, proof by their affidavits that they signed one of said petitions under a misapprehension of facts and false statements, and have since signed the other petition, and asking that their names be erased from the petition first signed by them, and that they be counted up on the petition last signed by them: Can the board, if satisfied that such persons are freeholders, who are residents and legal voters of said county, count them upon the petition last signed by them, or must they be rejected or erased from both petitions ?”
Jan. 12, 1886, was the date set for a further consideration of the subject. Jan. 5, 1886, the board met in regular session: the county commissioners were Owen Carrigan (chairman), Henry Schafer, Gunerus Peterson, J. H. Reagan and John I. Johnson; P. H. Kirwan, county auditor. The board fixed the salaries for 1886 as follows: County auditor, $1,200; treasurer, $1,200; superintendent of schools, $1,000; county attorney, $900; judge of probate, $700. This year the newspapers came to an agreement: Lorraine, of Bird Island, took the tax list at legal rates; Kelsey, of Beaver Falls, got the financial statement (which was published gratis the previous year) at $1.50 per folio, and Kelsey’s paper, the “Times,” was designated as the official county paper. Simon Johnson, of Hawk Creek, and John Foley, of Birch Cooley, were appointed appraisers of State land.
Jan. 12, 1886, the board met to consider the Bird Island and Olivia county seat removal petitions. January 12 and 13 were wholly taken up with the examination, and the fourteenth was also begun when Mathew Donohue, of Bird Island, caused considerable excitement by offering for the consideration of the board the following: “Resolved: Upon investigation of the petition asking for a change of the county seat from Beaver Falls to Bird Island, we find as follows: That there are in the county a total number of 1,546 persons who are legal voters, residents and freeholders of this county and that 841 of said legal voters residents and freeholders have signed the above named and described petition.” Commissioner Peterson moved the adoption of the foregoing resolution which received no second, and on motion of Commissioner Schafer “to lay on the table,” there were two ayes and one no, two commissioners not voting.
Then Ben. Feeder presented for consideration the following: “Whereas, a petition duly signed by a majority of the freeholders who are legal voters and residents of said county, was duly presented and received by the Board of County Commissioners of said county at a session thereof held at Beaver Falls in said county on the first day of December, 1885, asking a change of the county seat of said county from Beaver Falls to Bird Island in said county: And, whereas, you, the said county auditor have not filed or caused said petition so received to be filed as required by law: Now, therefore, you are hereby required that, without delay, you file or cause said petition to be filed in your office and that you proceed therein as required by law. Dated this 14th day of January, 1886. Benjamin Feeder. On behalf of himself and all other petitioners.”
In regard to the above request, the county auditor asked time to consult the county attorney before acting.
The following request was also presented:
“To the honorable Board of County Commissioners of Renville County:’ Whereas, a petition duly signed by a majority of the freeholders, who are legal voters and residents of said county, was duly presented to your honorable board in open session thereof, and received by you at Beaver Falls in said county on the first day of December, 1885, at 11:45 o’clock A. M., asking a change of the county seat of said county from Beaver Falls to Bird Island, in said county; and, whereas, said petition has not been filed in the office of the county auditor of said county of Renville as required by Section 3 of Chapter 272 of the general laws of the State of Minnesota, approved March 5, 1885.
“Wherefore, you, the said Board of County Commissioners of Renville County, are hereby respectfully requested and required that you forthwith order and direct the county auditor of said county, to-wit: P. H. Kirwan, Esq., that he forthwith file or cause said petition to be filed in the records of his office as provided by law. Dated January 14, 1886. Respectfully yours, Benjamin Feeder. On behalf of himself and all other petitioners.”
The Board of County Commissioners asked for time to get the opinion of the county attorney as to how to proceed in the matter of the above petition.
Things were getting some interesting. The Bird Islanders had been waiting results of the commissioners’ examination of their petition some days and were impatient. During a lull in the activities likely when most of the forces had gone for refreshments, Mat Donohue went to the clerk and withdrew the Bird Island petition and put it in his pocket. Upon this becoming known to the board they were angry and ordered the offending clerk to demand the return of the petition and freeholder list until final action could be had thereon. Such request was made by said clerk but was refused by the petitioners. Then, after some heated discussions on a motion, the board proceeded with the examination of the petition for the removal of the county seat to Olivia.
The following request was presented to the county auditor, P. H. Kirwan: “Whereas, a petition duly signed by a majority of the freeholders, who are legal voters and residents of said county, was duly presented and received by the Board of County Commissioners of said county at a session thereof held at Beaver Falls in said county, Dec. 1, 1885, asking a change of the county seat of said county, from Beaver Falls to Olivia, in said county; and, whereas, you, the said county auditor, have not filed or caused said petition so presented to be filed, as required by law; now, therefore, you are hereby required and requested that without delay you file or cause said petition to be filed in your office, and that you proceed therein as required by law. Dated this 14th day of January, 1886. Yours respectfully, G. J. De Pue. On behalf of himself and all other petitioners.”
A similar request was also presented by Mr. De Pue, addressed to the Board of County Commissioners. The commissioners, as in the Bird Island petition, asked time be given until the county attorney shall have rendered his opinion.
The county attorney’s opinion was as follows: “To the Board of County Commissioners of Renville County. Gentlemen: In response to your request for an opinion as to your duty with respect to the demand herein made, I respectfully refer you to the opinion of the attorney general of this state, under date of Dec. 12, 1885, and Dec. 14, 1885, and by your honorable board received and filed on the sixteenth day of December, 1885, which fully answers your question, which is: Whether at this stage of the examination of the petitions before you for the removal of the county seat of this county, and before both petitions have been examined or any final action taken as to the validity of either petition, you are bound, in duty or otherwise, to receive and file the petition as within required. Respectfully yours, S. R. Miller, county attorney. Above opinion also refers to papers of similar import presented to Auditor Kirwan. S. R. Miller.”
The above opinion of County Attorney S. R. Miller was based upon the following questions propounded to the attorney general as follows:
“Attorney General W. J. Hahn. Sir: I desire to submit the following questions for your opinion on same: When two villages in the same county present to the Board of County Commissioners of such county petitions for the removal of the county seat to their respective villages under the laws of 1885 for the removal of a county seat and when such petitions both purport to have a majority of the resident legal voters and freeholders of such county as petitioners thereon, and both petitions are presented, practically at the same time—is the Board of County Commissioners authorized:
First. To examine both petitions before receiving and filing either?
Second. Where names of such petitioners are found upon both of such petitions, asking the Board of County Commissioners to submit the question of removal to one place in one petition and to another place in another petition, is not the Board of County Commissioners authorized to cancel their names on both petitions on the ground of inconsistency in their prayer or petition?
Third. Where both petitions have, as a matter of fact, about an equal number of signers and a majority of legal petitioners in the county by reason of such duplication of names, how is the board to determine which petition should be filed? Respectfully submitted, S. R. Miller, county attorney, Renville, county, Minn.”
Attorney General Hahn wired answer as follows: “Answer first two ‘yes,’ other by former opinion. Duplicate petitions pasted together not good.”
The board requested the auditor to give notice that county seat petitions would be taken up again by the board March 16,
- On March 16, the records of the county auditor’s office show the Olivia county seat removal petition was taken up, but that is all it does show. The inference is that the county seat war dogs were organizing for a stronger battle.
At a special session of the board in June, Thos. H. Collyer was appointed watchman at the court house or jail, and ordered to keep awake from 7:30 in the evening until 6:00 in the morning under the threat that, if he failed, the auditor might discharge him. Whether the auditor was to sit up and watch Thomas is not stated in the records, but as no discharge is recorded, Thomas doubtless “made good.”
At a special session in December, the Board of County Commissioners appointed Hans Gronnerud county abstractor, requiring him to give bond in the penal sum of $2,000. January, 1887, the Board of County Commissioners were Henry Schafer (chairman), Patrick Williams, A. H. Anderson, John Hurst and John Thompson, with P. H. Kirwan, county auditor. This year Lorraine, of the Bird Island Union, was to print the financial statement at $1.50 per folio, and Kelsey, of the Beaver Falls “Times,” the tax list at 12c per description. Dr. A. G. Stoddard was appointed county physician at a salary of $480 per annum, payable $40 monthly. At this meeting a resolution was adopted looking toward the purchase of a county poor farm. April 20,
1887, the board agreed to offer bounties for the destruction of gophers and blackbirds. April 21 a petition was presented to the board, asking for the incorporation of a village, to be called Morton, and May 26, 1887, was the day appointed for the electors to meet at the Keating Building and decide the matter. At a special session June, 1887, Hans Gronnerud, proprietor of the Farmers’ Bank of Beaver Falls, was designated as county depository for county funds, furnishing bonds in the sum of $25,000.
June 23 the commissioners resolved to pay no more bounties for gophers or blackbirds after July 1, 1877. Dec. 2, 1877, a petition was presented to the board, asking for certain territory to be incorporated into a village and named Fairfax. The board granted the petition and gave notice that an election would be held by the electors of the territory affected, at the office of Martin D. Brown, Esq., Jan. 5, 1888, to decide the matter.
Jan. 3, 1888, the board met in regular session with the same commissioners and auditor as last year, though John Thompson was elected chairman. This year C. L. Lorraine secured the delinquent tax list at 12c per description and Henry Kelsey took the financial statement at $1.50 per folio, and 60c per folio for each session of the proceedings of the commissioners which heretofore have been published gratis. The printers were evidently no longer devouring each other. At this meeting salaries were fixed as follows: County treasurer, $1,200; county auditor, $1,200; judge of probate, $800; superintendent of schools $1,050; county attorney, $900.
March 20, 1888, a petition was presented for the incorporation of territory to be called the village of Franklin, which was granted and the electors notified to meet at the drug store on April 24, 1888, and vote on the proposition. January, 1889, the commissioners are John Thompson (chairman), O. F. Peterson, Patrick Williams, John Warner and A. H. Anderson; Patrick H. Kirwan, county auditor.
This year Dr. Stoddard offered to give medical attention to the county poor for $480. Doctor Welsh applied for the position at $390, but it was notwithstanding given to Stoddard at $480. Dr. Stoddard was experienced. C. L. Lorraine was the one and only bidder for county printing this year, receiving $1.50 per folio for the financial statement, 75c per folio for each session, commissioners’ proceedings, and 12c per description for delinquent tax list. Jan. 9, 1889, Hans Listrud succeeded Hans Gronnerud as county treasurer and filed a bond for $65,000; $17,913.11 was shown to be in the treasury, $17,615.38 of which was on deposit in Gronnerud’s Farmers’ Bank of Beaver Falls. Although action on the question of county seat removal had remained in abeyance on the account of inadequate laws pertaining to that subject, rumblings were heard in different parts of the county and considerable activity noticed on the part of leading citizens who had succeeded in securing the passage of a new county seat law. So, on May 3, 1889, the Board of County Commissioners met pursuant to a call issued by virtue of an act of the legislature of the state of Minnesota, approved March 21, 1889, for the removal of county seats. At this meeting a petition for the removal of the county seat from Beaver Falls to Bird Island was presented to the board. The opposition presented a goodly number of names of those who had signed the Bird Island petition, asking to be stricken from that petition for various reasons, thus the matter came squarely before the board for consideration. The first thing the board did was to establish a set of rules for proceeding with the case before them, which was elaborate and precise, resolving first, second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth at great length. M. O. Little and Thos. E. Boylen appeared for Bird Island and Judge H. J. Pick, of Shakopee, appeared for the opposition. The session continued for three days, and several nights; the discussions were very heated and much bad blood manifested. On the evening of May 6, 1889, the commissioners ordered an election to be held throughout the county on June 4, 1889, to decide whether the county seat should remain at Beaver Falls or removed to Bird Island. The election was duly held and the result was 3,427 votes cast, of which Bird Island received 1,580, and the opposition 1,847. So the county seat remained at Beaver Falls.
The result of this election made the friends of Beaver Falls feel some jubilant and the citizens of that place at once manifested a generous and liberal spirit to the extent that on July 18 they offered to pay $500 for certain lots and buildings and furnish a site on the public square free of cost to the county, provided the county erect a court house with vault on said site costing not less than $3,500 and during the year 1889. The object was to firmly fasten the county seat at Beaver Falls, with a new court house. It appeared as though efforts looking to removal had terminated and the Board of County Commissioners must have been of that mind, for they at this same meeting adopted unanimously a motion for a building to be 40 feet wide, 60 feet long, and 20 feet high, with vault and furnace to cost not more than $3,700. O. F. Peterson, Pat. Williams and John Warner were appointed a building committee with authority to proceed with the erection of said building.
This building committee advertised for sealed bids, for the erection of this new court house, including vault, etc. Sept. 3, 1889, it was found that the lowest bid was $3,939, by John P. Thiry, which was finally approved by the commissioners and the contract let to Mr. Thiry for that amount. The contractor was urged to make no delay, so he at once began to break ground, assemble his material and workmen for a rapid work. On December 13, of this same year, the building committee reported the new court house complete according to contract and it was at once approved by the board.
Now that the county seat matter was apparently settled for all time, Beaver Falls wished to assume more dignity, and upon this same day presented a petition, asking to be incorporated as a village. This was granted, and the electors notified to’ hold an election Jan. 21, 1890, at the court house to decide the matter. December 14 the commissioners by resolution directed the county officials to move their offices into the new court house not later than Dec. 21, 1889.
Jan. 7, 1890, the same commissioners continued in office. A.
- Anderson was made chairman. A resolution was adopted, ordering that the county attorney’s salary from and after Jan.
I, 1891, should not exceed $700.
Lorraine, again the only bidder, secured the county printing at the previous year’s price. Jan. 10, $500 was appropriated to aid building a bridge across the Minnesota river at Sacred Heart and $500 to aid a bridge at Franklin. At the meeting, May 6, it was proposed to remodel the old jail and make it a residence for the sheriff as well as a jail. S. R. Miller was allowed $10 for making contact for new court house, same to be deducted from county attorney’s salary for September.
Jan. 6, 1891, Commissioners O. F. Peterson (chairman), Pat. Williams, A. H. Anderson, Tyke Yetterboe and John Warner, E. L. De Pue, county auditor. Frank Poseley became county treasurer and P. B. Olson, register of deeds. This year there must have been some dissension among the printers, for Lorraine, of Bird Island, the lowest bidder, asked only 20c a folio for printing the financial statement for which he received $1.50 the previous year; 3c per description for delinquent tax list, as against 12c the previous year; proceedings of the commissioners he printed gratis, for which the previous year he received 75c per folio. But the Bird Island “Union” was made the official paper of the county; that was considered a partial recompense. R. T. Daley became county attorney and Wm. Wichman, sheriff. January 9 the following resolution was adopted by the board: “Resolved, that the county board desires to extend to the retiring auditor, P. H. Kirwan, its appreciation of his untiring efforts in securing for the county an able, successful and economic administration, always willing and watchful of the county’s interest; and we personally, who have had the benefit of his advice and counsel, desire to express our appreciation of his efforts in our behalf.”
The retiring county auditor replied feelingly, thanking them for their consideration and expressing his gratitude to them and to the people of Renville County, as well as to his efficient assistant, T. H. Collyer, for their spirit of kindness always manifested toward him, during his many years of service as auditor of Renville County. May 4, 1891, the chairman was directed to appoint a committee to look up and locate a poor-farm which should consist of 320 acres and be located within three miles of the H. & D. railway.
On July 22, 1891, Hans Gronnerud appeared before the board and offered to sell the following described property to the county for $8,000: 320 acres of land, being in the south half of section 20, township 114, range 33, with all improvements thereon and including personal property as follows: four farm wagons, two mowers, one hay rake, two binders, two churns, one corn planter, one grass seeder, two farm scales, one butter worker, blacksmith tools, carpenter tools, one road scraper, one new drill, one Van Brunt seeder, three bob sleds, one sulky plow and breaker, one cultivator, two double-shovel cultivators, three harrows, four hay racks, one sack truck, one cook stove, one heater, all household goods, 150 grain sacks, one corn marker, two wheelbarrows, five good milch cows, ten pigs, 300 bushels wheat, 500 bushels oats:and Mr. Gronnerud agreed to have all land then under cultivation plowed by Oct. 1, 1891. The board unanimously agreed to purchase the farm and property at the price offered, and the auditor was instructed to advertise for a manager of the poor farm, so purchased from Mr. Gronnerud. Sept. 14, 1891, Henry Milan was employed by the county as superintendent of the poor farm at $50 per month. William Windhorst contracted to refit the building on the farm for $725.
On Nov. 6, 1891, a petition was presented, asking for the incorporation of Buffalo Lake, which was granted, and the qualified electors of the territory affected notified to meet at the Hotel Goeble on Jan. 4, 1892, to decide the matter, which they did in due and ancient form.
Jan. 5, 1892, the same commissioners served, but A. H. Anderson was chairman. E. L. De Pue was county auditor. This year clerk hire was allowed in the following offices: county auditor, $600; register of deeds, $500; county treasurer, $200. The board refused to employ a regular county physician. F. W. Schmidt, of the Fairfax “Crescent,” agreed to publish the financial statement at 10c per folio, the tax list at l^>c per description, and commissioners’ proceedings at 5c per folia, his paper being designated as the official county newspaper for 1892.
On November 16 the county commissioners ordered two delegates from each town in the county to meet in convention at Bird Island, Jan. 14, 1893, for the purpose of electing four delegates from Renville County to the good roads convention in St. Paul, Jan. 25 and 26, 1893. Thus started the good roads movement in Renville County, which its energetic and public-spirited citizens have kept alive and working.
Jan. 3, 1893, commissioners were: John Warner (chairman), Thyke E. Yetterboe, E. J. Butler, A. H. Anderson and A. D. Corey. E. L. Du Pue was county auditor. S. R. Miller again became county attorney. A. E. Hilland and S. W. Tredway, publishers of the Morton “Enterprise,” received the county printing at 41/oc per folio, and were to furnish all county papers supplements, to be mailed to subscribers at lc per copy; delinquent tax list to be published at Y^c per description. Commissioners’ proceedings were to be published gratis. But the “Enterprise” was designated the official newspaper, which was evidently considered of value.
July 11, 1893, the telephone company of Renville was authorized by the commissioners to operate its instruments in the auditor’s office in the court house, but with the provision that the company must indemnify the county against increased cost of insurance caused by running the line into the court house building, and the commissioners reserved the right to remove the telephone from the building when public interests demanded it and when public opinion is opposed to such use of the court house. Thus we see how the telephone was received no later than 1893. July 13 we find the first estimate of county expenses, which was: Salaries, $7,500; board of prisoners, $500; insane, $500; district court expenses, $5,000; justice court, $1,500; stationery and printing, $1,400; light, fuel and repairs, $600; payment on poor farm, $2,000; support of poor, $2,700; road and bridge, total $24,100.
Jan. 2, 1894, the same commissioners and auditor served, with Thyke E. Yetterboe as chairman of the board. R. C. Sheppard, publisher of the “Union” at Bird Island, secured the county printing and the “Union” was designated the official county newspaper. Jan. 6, 1894, the county commissioners issued a notice to the voters and property owners of Renville county that Hans Gronnerud, the owner of two sets of abstracts of land titles of the county, had offered to sell for $6,000, the commissioners declaring that they had decided to purchase unless seriously objected to by the people, and stating they would meet Feb. 8, 1894, to hear and consider objections, winding up their notice by saying, “Let the people now be heard from or forever hold their peace.” On February 8 the board decided that they had no authority to hire a force of experts to work on the records. On February 10 Mr. Gronnerud, for one dollar, entered into an agreement with the commissioners to sell his abstracts to the county in case the records of the register of deeds were destroyed. Thus the county was given the first chance to buy the abstracts for $6,000.
Now, it would seem with the new court house, vault, good office rooms, and everything for conducting the county business better than ever before, and Beaver Falls incorporated, that the county seat removal would never be again thought of or suggested, but busybodies, ambitious towns and rival interests soon revived the question, and this time Olivia reached out for the county seat and began an active campaign.
On May 2, 1894, P. W. Heins, for and in behalf’ of, and by authority of the village and county seat committee of Olivia, appeared before the board and offered to deposit with the county treasurer $4,100 to aid in new county buildings at Olivia, to deposit with said treasurer a deed for a block in Olivia upon which to build a court house, to furnish office rooms to August, 1895, and stipulating that the citizens of Olivia would waive all right of action to recover any part of the donation, as well as pledging their sacred honor to do all this in the event of Olivia securing the county seat.
The board at once adopted a resolution, accepting the deposit and terms thereof, but refused to be responsible for the safe keeping of the deposit. To this Mr. Heins made no objection and thus again was a county seat war launched upon the people of Renville county. The contest was most bitter and entered into political, social and even religious affairs; candidates for office had their diplomacy taxed to the utmost, catering to the opposing forces and the battles went merrily on, Olivia scouring the county for signers to her petitions for the removal of the county seat to that place.
June 23, 1894, the commissioners met to consider the Olivia removal petition. As in the Bird Island petition five years previous, the board adopted elaborate rules for introducing and discussing matters thereto pertaining, before them, one of which was that the “sessions of the board shall commence at 9 o’clock A. M. of each day, except Sunday, until a final conclusion is reached, and hold till 6 P. M., with two hours for recess at noon.” Hon. John Lind appeared for those opposing the petition, claiming that the petition was illegal in that the petition was circulated within five years from the last county seat election, contrary to law. Hon. Lyndon A. Smith appeared for the petitioners, arguing their side of the case. The commissioners decided for the petitioners, declaring the petition to be legal and valid. Days were spent before the board in this matter and the discussions were heated at times. Finally a general protest was filed against the petition, setting forth, among other things, that the signatures were obtained by fraud, etc., and signed by Attorneys Thos. E. Boylan, John Lind and G. T. Christianson. But the commissioners, after much deliberation, decided the Olivia’s petition legal and valid, so an election to decide the matter was ordered held on July 18, 1894.
At this election Olivia received more than 55 percent of the vote. So, at a meeting of the board on July 21, 1894, the commissioners ordered the county seat moved from. Beaver Falls to Olivia and constituted themselves a committee to superintend the removal of all records, furniture, archives and county property. Olivia was feeling some jubilant while Beaver Falls was in a “cave of gloom,” but the friends of Beaver Falls did not propose to quit so easily and on this same twenty-first day of July, Sheriff Wichmann served a copy of a complaint upon the commissioners and all the county officers, setting up twenty-one different reasons why the county seat should remain at Beaver Falls and demanding an injunction and order from the court, preventing the county seat from being moved to Olivia. However, the county seat went to Olivia and the district court dissolved the injunction. Quarters were rented for the different county officials at Olivia, but upon an appeal to the Supreme Court, the District Court was reversed, and the county seat with its archives, furniture, and records packed back to Beaver Falls. The Beaverites were wild with joy, of course, while the friends of Olivia were much incensed. Conditions were not ideal in the county during these contests.
On October 1 the commissioners set apart $700 from the general revenue fund to pay costs in defending the county in county seat lawsuits. The two sets of Gronnerud abstracts were eventually acquired by a company and the sets finally purchased from that company by the county for $4,000. They are now in the register of deeds office. These are kept posted right up to the minute, and the register of deeds office is about as well appointed in these later years as it well could be.
Jan. 8, 1895, the commissioners were: A. D. Corey (chairman), E. J. Butler, A. H. Anderson, A. J. Anderson and F. A. Schroeder; Jesse T. Brooks, county auditor; Hans Listrud, treasurer: Peter Ericson, register of deeds. Edgar E. Cook, clerk of district court; and Perry W. Glenn, judge of probate. Henry Kelsey, of the now Olivia “Times,” secured the county printing at three cents per folio for financial statement and agreed to furnish the other county papers the same at 40c per hundred, delinquent tax list at lc per description and commissioners’ proceedings gratis. At this meeting a resolution was adopted asking the legislature to change the school district system to a township system. Julius A. Betz was employed by the board to transcribe the grantors and grantees index in the register of deeds office for $135. March 4, 1895, E. M. Clay, M. D., was made county physician at a compensation of $60 per month.
July 8, 1895, the board of county commissioners met for the first time in Olivia, the citizens fitting up the Julian block with vaults and offices for the county officials, and they moved in. October 5, the commissioners appropriated $291.65 in payment of rent for county offices and the auditor was authorized to draw his warrant monthly for the same as earned.
Jan. 7, 1896, the same commissioners served as in 1895, though E. J. Butler was chairman. F. W. Rae, of the Fairfax “Crescent,” secured the county printing. This year, for the first time, two county physicians were employed, Dr. E. M. Clay, at $600, and Dr. A. G. Stoddard, at $400. On February 27 Commissioner Corey offered a resolution setting forth the fact that the supreme court of the state of Minnesota had reversed the decision of the local district court and adjudged that the county seat of this county had not been changed to Olivia and directing that the rehearing of the case petitioned for be dismissed. Hon. John Lind, attorney for the opposition to Olivia, addressed the board, favoring the adoption of the resolution, but it received only the vote of Commissioner Corey. S. R. Miller, county attorney, then presented an opinion at some length, which was spread upon the records. He opposed the resolution, denying the right of the commissioners to dismiss the petition for rehearing, which was set for six weeks ahead, without consulting him. He declared that the commissioners said they objected to the turmoil when in fact they started the turmoil and had been “turmoiling” for a year and seven months and certainly should be able to stand six weeks more of their own creation. On April 27, 1896, the board met at the county auditor’s office in Olivia for the purpose of providing for the removal of the records and county offices back to Beaver Falls, but all were served with an order from the district court restraining them until further order of the court, upon which they adjourned and went home, but the supreme court made a final decision against Olivia, and in May, 1896, the county seat went back to “Mother Beaver,” as the village was called in those days. On May 28 the county treasurer was directed by the board to return to the Olivia county seat committee $4,100 and deed for certain lands, in view of the supreme court decision that the county seat had not been permanently located in Olivia, and so the elements of discord continued to smolder.
Jan. 5, 1897, the commissioners were F. A. Schroeder (chairman), E. J. Butler, J. I. Johnson, A. J. Anderson and C. A. Desmond; J. T. Brooks, county auditor. Doctors E. M. Clay and A. G. Stoddard were again county physicians; Clay was to receive $500 for the year, while Stoddard had to be satisfied with $350.
July 15, 1897, was the date of the first public benefit ditch in Renville county. Isaac Bogema and others petitioned the board to lay out a ditch through the town of Bandon, Camp and Birch Cooley, believing it to be a public benefit and utility. Peter E. Wicken, C. W. Parsons and W. B. Munsell were appointed viewers for said ditch, which was ditch No. 1 of the many ditches laid out and dug through Renville County since that time, absorbing many hundred thousands of dollars. On Oct. 25, 1897, after hiring overseers and having trouble with renters, the commissioners sold to P. S. Eastberg the county poor farm for $8,000, just what they paid for it six: years before. November 4 a petition was presented to the board, signed by C. H. Hopkins, Albert Hansen, A. V. Rieke, A. P. Lee, F. M. Reed and W. F. Mahler, asking the commissioners to purchase paint and use it to blot out the profane inscription on the McIntyre building adjacent to the court house in Beaver Falls. Whether McIntyre ‘s house was painted at the expense of the county is not disclosed by the records.
Jan. 4, 1898, same commissioners and auditors served as in 1897, with A. J. Anderson as chairman. This year four county physicians were appointed: Dr. E. M. Clay for the northwest part of the county, at $225 for the year; Dr. F. L. Puffer for the northeast, at the same price; Dr. F. W. Penhall, the southwest, at $150; and Dr. A. G. Stoddard, the southeast, at $200. January6 the first two typewriters were purchased by the county, one for the judge of probate and one for the superintendent of schools. This year George T. Castle, of the Bird Island “Union,” received the county printing at legal rates.
Jan. 3, 1899, the commissioners were: E. J. Butler (chairman), J. S. Johnson, F. A. Schroeder, C. A. Desmond and Norman Hickok, with J. T. Brooks, county auditor. Henry Kelsey, of the Olivia “Times,” received the county printing that year at $1.45 per folio for financial statements, 12c per description for delinquent tax list, commissioners’ proceedings 75c per folio, and all other legal notices 75c per folio first insertion and Me for subsequent. Dr. A. G. Stoddard was appointed county physician for the year, at a salary of $750, taking the place of the four physicians of the previous year. May 3, 1899, W. J. Donohue appeared before the board, and on the part of Bird Island, offered to place in escrow with them, a deed for a block of land in that place free to the county, provided the county seat is located there. The board directed that the subject be considered at their meeting July next.
On July 10 R. T. Daly appeared as attorney for Bird Island, offering a building gratis to the county if the county seat be moved to that place. On the same day Attorney George F. Gage, on behalf of the citizens county seat removal committee of Olivia, offered to place in the hands of Auditor Brooks a warranty deed for the Winhorst block, with all the buildings thereon, or a choice of several blocks of land in Olivia upon which to build a new court house, free, provided the county seat be removed to’ the village of Olivia, and at this same time Attorney Gage notified the board that the village of Olivia was about to enter upon a contest for the removal of the county seat permanently to that place.
So the county seat removal war dogs were again taking up the cry with both Bird Island and Olivia lining up their forces for a drive to win. The tension was nearly at the breaking point in this country those days. August 23, 1899, the board met at the county auditor’s office to inspect and consider a petition filed in that office on August 3, 1899, praying for the removal of the county seat from Beaver Falls to Bird Island. H. H. Neuenberg, a legal voter and taxpayer of the county, appeared specially by his attorneys, Lyndon A. Smith, George W. Somerville, S. R. Miller, J. M. Freeman, and George F. Gage and objected to the jurisdiction of the board to consider and inquire into that Bird Island petition, and their reasons were set out at length: First, no legal notice of intention to circulate petition was given; second, petition was circulated prematurely; third, petition was prematurely filed; fourth, no legal publication of auditor’s notice of this board meeting was made; fifth, affidavits of publication of notice were insufficient; sixth, notice was not legally posted, etc., etc. The objections were overruled and the board, as in former county seat removals, adopted a set of rules for its government upon the hearing of the petition to be considered. August 24 McClelland and Tift, Daly and Barnard, G. T. Christianson and B. H. Bowler appeared as attorneys for the Bird Island petitioners and the entire day was spent in arguing questions of law. August 25 the examination of the petition for the removal of the county seat to Bird Island was begun in earnest. Numerous names were withdrawn from the petition over the objection of the attorneys for Bird Island, Commissioners Schroeder, Johnson and Butler voting to allow the withdrawals, Commissioners Desmond and Hickok voting against it. It was an exciting day and wholly taken up in withdrawing names and hearing the arguments of attorneys. The legal battle was one long to be remembered. On August 26, after listening to arguments of attorneys and noting the withdrawals of names from the Bird Island petitions, the board of county commissioners voted unanimously to reject the Bird Island petition.
On Sept. 15, 1899, the board again met in the county auditor’s office, this time to inquire into and examine a petition for moving the county seat from Beaver Falls to Olivia, but found that an action had been commenced against the commissioners and all the county officers, with Justin I. Brown as plaintiff, also that a writ of injunction had been served, restraining them from examining the Olivia petition until the termination of the action. After endless delay and attorney’s defenses, the injunction was dissolved.
The Olivia petition was passed upon favorably and an election was ordered to be held throughout the county upon the twenty-fifth day of October, 1900, at which election 2,786 votes were cast. Against Olivia there were 1,251 votes. In favor of Olivia there were 1,535 votes. So again the commissioners declared the county seat of Renville county located at Olivia. The votes were canvassed in the forenoon of the twenty-ninth of October, 1900, in the afternoon, county officers were warned that no legal business could now be transacted in Beaver Falls. Commissioners Desmond, Hickok and Johnson were appointed to provide for packing and transporting all furniture, records, etc., to the county seat now at Olivia. Immediately, and with all due haste, Commissioners Butler and Schroeder were dispatched to Olivia to arrange for county offices. Haste was admonished on every hand.
At the Indian outbreak in 1862 the vicinity of Beaver Falls was vacated with some speed, but the dispatch in getting the county seat and its belongings out of Beaver Falls and over to Olivia, after the votes were counted, is claimed to exceed that stampede by several hours, for we find that the commissioners, with all members present, met at the auditor’s office in Olivia the next day, Oct. 30, 1900.