William T. Thayer
William T. Thayer
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Veterans Day is fast approaching and to honor them, let's look back at two more hardy souls who also were early Spring Valley pioneers. In last week's column, I mentioned William T. Thayer, who married a neighbor girl, Ella Smith, daughter of Johnston Smith. Thayer was a Civil War veteran, coming to Spring Valley in 1868 from Crawford County, Penn. With background as a farmer, he purchased land two miles northwest of town to build a home, where the Floyd Hess family lived in my lifetime. He married Ella Smith in 1869, and within a few years, he traded a team of horses for 40 more acres adjoining his original plot.

They lived on this farm for several years, but tragedy struck when his wife died in 1883, leaving him with five little children to care for. Three years later, he married a fine widow lady, Lucy Anderson, from his hometown in Pennsylvania. One child was born to them, Ella, who in later years married Archie Jorris. His second wife died in 1913, leaving a daughter by her first marriage, Jennie (Mrs. William) Jahns. Thayer died in 1915.

Under headlines in the Centennial paper in 1955, we read "Francis Rafferty, a blacksmith and Indian fighter in early days." Rafferty was born in 1833 in Seneca County, N.Y., where he grew to manhood. In 1858, he started west, coming via Chicago, Milwaukee, and La Crosse by railroad and to Winona by boat. A hardy soul, for sure, he walked all the way to Frankfort, Minn., (west of Spring Valley) arriving April 13, 1858. The very first business transaction he did in Minnesota was to trade his $50 pocket watch to a man named Lew Patchin for a lot in town. Here he built his blacksmith shop, the lumber of maple coming all the way from Lime Town, a fairly new community north of Spring Valley.

Rafferty married Helen Weed of Frankfort in 1860, and that same year built the house there where they resided for many years. In 1862, he responded to the call for volunteers, enlisting in Co. C of the 9th Regiment, Minnesota Infantry. The men were sent to New Ulm and Mankato to quell the outbreak of Sioux Indians; then south to Mississippi, Tennessee, and more places to continue the war between the states. He was taken prisoner in June of 1864 and confined at the infamous Andersonville Prison for the next six months. Honorably discharged from the army in July 1865, he returned to his work at the blacksmith shop in Frankfort. Then there were moves: to a 320 acre farm three miles east of Spring Valley in 1873, and finally to Spring Valley in 1882 when he bought the home owned by C.W. Taylor at 221 North Section. He lived out life as a stock buyer and shipper till he died in 1902; his wife died in 1924. They had nine children, and son Mark lived in the family home seen in the photo.

Mark Rafferty served as a drayman, delivering goods and passengers about town from the railroad depots and as needed. His wife, Bertha Rafferty, was well known about town, first on the faculty of the high school, later clerking at the Halbkat General Store. Bertha was active in the community and a charter member of the famous Lobdill Twins' Up-to-Date Club, belonged to the American Legion Auxiliary, the Order of the Eastern Star, and was faithful to the Congregational Church. I knew her well as our dedicated librarian, and she was a dear friend of my grandmother, Blanche (Harry) Steffens, often included in our family get-togethers. The Raffertys are buried in our city cemetery.

Blessings to all our veterans - those who served our country in the past, and those who continue in the military - we do appreciate you!