A portrait of Dr. Albert Plummer, on display at the Methodist Church Museum, painted by Dollie (Mrs. Frank) Neill, both of Hamilton. Neill was an accomplished artist who also gave lessons to area residents, and other paintings by her are displayed at both historical society museums.
A portrait of Dr. Albert Plummer, on display at the Methodist Church Museum, painted by Dollie (Mrs. Frank) Neill, both of Hamilton. Neill was an accomplished artist who also gave lessons to area residents, and other paintings by her are displayed at both historical society museums.
What a treasure! The "History of Fillmore County," published in 1882, is a trove of mind boggling history. It includes "Explorers & Pioneers of Minnesota," an "Outline History of the State of Minnesota," the "Sioux Massacre of 1862," and a section, "State Education." After a fine compilation of county history, each of the 24 townships is described as to pioneer settlers, settlements themselves, businesses, and much more including mini-bios of countless citizens. Here are a few of the stories.

In Sumner Township, the village of Hamilton (a few miles north of Spring Valley) grew up around Hamilton Springs, offering fresh, clear water, winter and summer, at the rate of 1,500 gallons per minute. Lying on the north bank of the middle branch of the Root River, it furnished one of the best water powers in the county. One of the first homes went up in 1853; in 1855, Daniel Booth from New England arrived to plat and record the village. A post office was established in 1856, with Jacob McQuillan as postmaster. Booth and Randal put in a stock of goods worth $3,000, a blacksmith shop was begun, and a custom gristmill opened. Several sawmills were created to furnish lumber for the growing community in this heavily wooded area, and the town boomed. By 1880, the town had 30 buildings, including several general merchandise stores, more blacksmith shops, one schoolhouse, one harness shop, one hotel, several vacant business houses, and 20 residences. End of the story? "The non-arrival of the railroad blasted its prospects."

A fun story regarding Hamilton: A gang of organized thieves banded together by oath to support and defend each other, and made horse stealing their specialty. However, it was comprised mostly of "home talent." which made it particularly difficult for honest members of the community to rid themselves of the pests. They finally organized a "vigilance committee," collected all the village populace together, and announced they had sufficient evidence as to who had been committing these depredations. They were now prepared to lynch those who were implicated, and 100 shooting arms were brought into view. Imagine their surprise when a number of the most influential citizens broke from the crowd and headed for the woods "as fast as boots and hair on end would take them."

Another story: One noted resident was Dr. Albert Plummer, born in New Hampshire in 1840. An assistant surgeon in the Civil War, he had come to Hamilton to serve as their practicing physician with his wife and three children. One of these became known as Dr. Henry Plummer, a Spring Valley graduate in 1892, an associate of the Mayo brothers, and designer of the Plummer Building in downtown Rochester, as well as the Plummer Estate. Later, Dr. Albert Plummer had Charles Washburn, prominent Spring Valley contractor, build a home for him in Racine, Minn.

Second in importance in Sumner Township was Washington, also along the Root River, but only a "hamlet." Settled about 1855, the village was laid out and recorded in 1856. A store was opened and a post office established in 1858; there were some ten more buildings, including a blacksmith shop, a school, and dwellings. Several years ago Mrs. Rolf (Edna) Hagen compiled an extensive history of Washington. It truly was a thriving hamlet of industrious farmers and business people who worked and played together to make life joyful and tolerable for all. The Washington cemetery is still being used today for burials of descendants of those hardy pioneers.

Sumner itself was settled about 1853. A first sawmill became operational in 1855, the Kedron post office established 1869, and the area could boast a Grange in 1873, Grand Templars Lodge in 1874, a library of 100 volumes in a home, and a Friends Society. There were ten school districts, a Presbyterian Church and cemetery. The history records stories on J.A. Stout's Mill, the Stone Mill, Union Mill, and Tunnel Mill, all on Bear Creek.

In Spring Valley Township, a locality in Section 4 became known as Lime City. As early as 1854, a sawmill was established on Bear Creek, but very soon "the dam accepted an invitation to go out." Other mills were erected, finally Mr. O'Dell's steam-powered sawmill could put out 5,000 feet of lumber in a day. He then built a draw kiln (remnants may still be visible north of town on #1), and a dozen homes were built in the area, as well as a brickyard. The lime kiln in all its glory can be seen in a painting at the Methodist Church Museum, lower level.

So called "buried cities"? A city by the name of Liberty was mostly in the mind of Henry Kibler on his farm in Section 24. This "enthusiastic proprietor had goods for sale in his house, the nearest it ever came to becoming a city." In an earlier column, I mentioned the establishment of Beldena on Deer Creek north of town. Dr. W.P. Belden, a young man of means and energy, built a dam to secure water power, had the village surveyed and platted, but never recorded. Several families were attracted to the spot; a blacksmithy, shoe shop and store were started. However, competition from the surrounding villages proved too much, and when the dam went out in 1858, the popular "fishing hole" was gone and "the place declared moribund."

The village of Spring Valley is well recorded, and bios of many residents are a delight to read. Perhaps you can peruse a copy of the history at our local library.