This town embraces that portion of township 119 north, range 24 west, lying east of the Crow river. It was set apart by the county commissioners April 10th 1858, and named from the village then located in the south-western part. The origin of the name was the charming appearance of the wood-lands, as seen by the first settlers in the early days of summer.
The surface is broken and hilly, and covered with a heavy growth of hardwood timber, interspersed by a few small tracts of marsh-land. The soil, as in other timbered portions is a dark loam with clay subsoil, the lightest portion being found near the old site of the village. A few small lakes are found in the central portion of the town, and in the southern part, and lying partly in Independence, are lakes Sarah and Rebecca of larger proportions. The former is about three miles long, and finds an outlet to the crow river through Edgar creek. The latter is about one mile in length, and connected with the Crow river by a small stream running through the north-western part of Independence, and the extreme south-western part of Greenwood, where it unites with the main stream.
Although separated from the Mississippi, the only course of travel at that date, by miles of dense woodland and mud. this town was among the first in the county to attract the attention of pioneer settlers. The first claims were made in the northern part of town in 1854. Among these early claimant was Mathias Harff who located on section 1 and opened a farm upon which he lived till 1866 then sold and purchased farm on section 10 , where he still resides. Mr Harff is without doubt the oldest living settler in Greenwood. His coming was illustrative of the rugged pathway, by which so many have reached their present place, through perhaps not happier, condition, and of that determined energy and courage, to which the county owes its present growth and prosperity. He gave one of the two sacks of flour which constituted his principal commissary stock, to a teamster in e exchange for transportation from St Paul to Dayton, then took his wife and aged mother in a "dug out"and paddled his own canoe up the crow river to the nearest accessible point to his claim, from where the remainder of the journey was performed on foot. Here in a small rude cabin, sub subsisting chiefly upon wild game, and with no implements but an ax and common grub hoe, he began the difficult task of opening a farm in the almost unknown forest,. His success on over-coming the manifold difficulties which beset his pathway,and the degree of prosperity to which he has attained example of the unfailing reward of persistent energy and perseverance. Mr. Harff has been identified with the growth and de development to the town, and was one of its supervisors for several years.
The first settlers in the south part of the town were E.O. Newton, Thomas Holmes, J.M. Burt, Robert Kennedy, Samuel Allen, Matthew and Albert Taisey and Messrs. Bucklin and Chase, all of whom settled at or near the south-west part of the town, early in 1855. Mr. Newton came fro Massachusetts, stopping a short time at Chaska, from which point he came to Greenwood the last of March, with an ox team and an old-fashioned wood-shod sled. In February previous, he had visited the locality and selected his claim, as had also the others named. He wearied of frontier life after about a year's experience and returned to his former home in the old Bay State. Those from Shakopee arrived in May, 1855, and the next month the town was subdivided into sections, by overnment survey. Others who came in May were James D. Young, William C. Gould and John B. Edgar, the former bringing the first waggon to this part of the country. In September of this year, John F. Power and A. W. Dorman settled in the south-west part of the town, near the Crow river. Other settlers of 1855 were Robert Gustine, A. S. Lindsay, Henry Greeling and August Kuhn. Among those who came soon after, were George F. Ames, Thomas R. Briggs, Andrew Thompson and his widowed sister, Mrs. Ann Cunningham, Christian Sipe, Carl Hafften, Benjamin Lawrence, Martin Conzet, W. W. Hall, Adam Hohenstein, Albert Roberts, W. P. C. Hawk, L. Allars, Nathaniel Moore and John O'Mera, some of whom figure conspicuously in the history of the town and deserve even more than the further mention yet in reserve in these pages. Before entering into further personal detail, however, it is necessary to devote some space to the rise and fall of the ephemeral "city", which now exists only in tradition. In the early winter of 1856-7, the few who came from Shakopee surveyed and platted about 200 acres on the south bank of Crow river, which was duly recorded as the "City of Greenwood", and in token of the sincerity of their intentions, those residing within the corporate limits, proceeded to the election of the following officers: Mayor, Matthew Taisey; Concilmen, Samuel Allen, Robert Gustine, John F. Powers; Recorder, A. Lindsay; Marshal, James D. Young.
The first habitable house on the town site was built by Matthew and Albert Taisey in 1855 . The next year J. M. Burt opened a general store, in which a thriving business was carried on for some time. After about a year he sold to Albert Taisey, and he to Thos. R. Briggs, who closed out the stock in the fall of 1858.
In the winter of 1856-7 large quantities of logs were hauled to the site of a contemplated sawmill, on the bank of the Crow river. The mill was never built, however, and the logs were removed and used for other purposes, or perished from age and exposure.
In 1857, a mill was built on the north side of the Crow river, opposite Greenwood, to which fact was due the failure of the project just noted. A town site was also platted, but never recorded, and the subsequentlocation of the village of Rockford, eventually strangled this project borough.
Of course Greenwood needed a hotel, and so a commodious edifice was erected by Matthew and Albert Taisey, and given the euphonious title “Beaver House”. In 1862, when the Indian “scare” was at its height, the settlers converted this into a fortress, and for their better protection in case of an attack, tamarac poles were brought, and a stockade built, inclosing outbuildings and stable, and allowing space for teams and stock. Several families from Wright county nestled under the protecting wings of this fort, in addition to those of Greenwood, and occasional detachments of cavalry from Fort Snelling halted here while scouring the country for traces or tidings of the enemy. Many of the first historic events of the town occurred within the limits of the city.
In the spring of 1856, the first school was taught in a small building erected by a Mr. Peasley, as a residence, and jestingly called " Peasley's Hall." The estimable lady to whom is due the credit of first directing the youthful minds of this infant community was Miss Ruth A . Powers, daughter of John F. Powers and now Mrs. Jas. D. Young , of Delano, Wright county.
The next to preside over this early band of students, was Miss Mary Ball, daughter of Mrs. A. W. Dorman, by a former husband. In the fall of 1856, occurred the first death, and the first grave made by white men was opened to receive the remains of an infant daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Samual Allen. The little one’s name was Jennie.
The first preaching in town was in the winter of 1856-7, by Rev. Charles Galpin, of Exelsior, at the residence of John F. Powers. The same winter, Rev. Mr. Camp, an invalid spending the winter at Excelsior, held religious services at the home of Mr. Powers., on several occasions.
In 1857 the census showed the population of the city as seventy-six.
In this year occurred the first marriage, James D. Young and Miss Ruth A. Powers, the marriage dating September 17th 1857. They are now living in Delano, and their eldest daughter, Miss Katie, is remembered as the first white child born in Greenwood, her birth occurring June 15th 1860.
About 1857, after considerable effort on the part of the citizens, a post-office was established at Greenwood, and Albert Taisey appointed postmaster. Soon after, it passed into the hands of Mr. Powers, who retained it until his removal from Greenwood, in 1868, when he left it with his deputy, Mrs. Taisey. She had charge until 1869, when it was discontinued.
In 1857 a society known as the Independent Order Nobilium Fratrum, was organized in Greenwood, and reached a large membership in a short time. It was a select organization, Its principal tenets being fraternal fellowship, and the promotion of literature and music.
A lyceum was started about the same time, and was well sustained for a season. In 1858 both it and the I.O.N.F. withered and died from lack of vital force.
The village of Rockford was founded about 1857 and proved a fatal drain upon the young city of Greenwood whose auspicious opening bore promise of a better fortune.
Thus, one by one its roses faded, until the location of the Saint Paul and Pacific Railroad, at some distance south of the town, gave the last fatal blow, and the "City of Greenwood" was numbered with the things that were.
Some recompense for this loss, however, is found in the establishment of Rockford, a thriving village situated on the opposite side of the river, about a mile below the old site of Greenwood, which not only affords a trading point , but has good flour and lumber mills, and on the Greenwood side, a fine woolen factory, which is yearly gaining in public favor.
The Old Settlers
Some further recognition is due the pioneer settlers of Greenwood, and a brief record of their fortunes cannot fail to interest the general reader. Thomas Holmes was a man of unusual energy and activity. He was one of the founders of Janesville, Wisconsin, and later of Shakopee, this state. He also figured quite prominently in the early development of the cities of Milwaukee and Chicago. He made several trips to Montana, as guide to emigrant companies. He is now living in northern Georgia.
John M. Burt is now a resident of Chemung county, New York. HE visited this section about three years ago, and could but marvel at the changes time had wrought during his absence.
Samuel Allen is now a resident of Howard Lake, Wright county. Kennedy, Bucklin and Chase never became residents here, although largely interested in the town site. Matthew Taisey is now in Missouri, whither he removed several years since. Albert Taisey removed to Lake City, and has distinguished himself as a prominent organizer of societies of the Labor League throughout the state, notably so during the year 1880. A brother of Albert (Milton Nobles Taisey) is well remembered by the old settlers of Greenwood, as an active young man, with more apparent relish for the city than the forest. His dramatic talent led him to seek a place behind the footlights, and for that purpose he left the rural home, and for a time was lost to his former friends and associates; but a few years ago he appeared as a manager of a theatrical troupe, under the name of Milton Nobles, having dropped the family name, Taisey.
John B. Edgar died on his farm east of the old town site about eight years ago.
Geo. F. Ames made a claim opposite the present village of Rockford in the fall of 1855, and moved his family here early the following year. The first year or two he lived on the Rockford side, but afterward built a house on the Greenwood side, where he lived, leading an active life until his death in the fall of 1878, It was his capital and energy that built and put in operation the Rockford Mills, to which the place is largely indebted for its present growth and prosperity. He also built the first carding-mill, which has since developed into the present Rockford Wooden Mills. He first built a small shop for general work, and put in machinery for turning broom-handles and other light articles. To this he soon added a carding-machine, from which small beginning the factory has grown. Mrs. Ames still occupies the old homestead, from which pleasant location can be seen the moments of her deceased partner’s industry and enterprise.
John F. Powers remained at Greenwood until 1868, when he removed to Delano, Wright county, at the time the railroad reached that place, and opened the first hotel at that station. The building was moved from Greenwood, and did service at its new location until supplanted by one of more generous proportions. Mr. Powers is still a resident of Delano, though not actively engaged in business.
Jas. D. Young, removed to Minneapolis in 1857, remaining something more than a year, during which time he was largely engaged in surveying and platting in the city, west of the river. In 1858 he returned to Greenwood, and in 1862, purchased a farm south of the town site,upon which he resided until 1871, when he removed to Delano, and rented the hotel of John F. Powers. lie afterward purchased the building, and in 1879, built in its stead the line hotel he now occupies.
Wm. C. Gould has remained in the town since his first coming, except a short residence in Rockford, during the war. He is now located on a farm on section 28, west of Rockford. L. Allars removed to Rockford some years since, and in 1876 built and opened the Centennial Hotel, which he still occupies. Thos. R. Briggs removed to Wright county, and is now a prominent lawyer at Howard Lake. Andrew Thompson, still owns a fine, well cultivated farm on section 28, east of Rockford, but has removed with his family to the west part of the State, where he and his sons have secured quite a large tract of land, which they are fast developing into a fine grain and stock farm.
Christian Sipe is still a resident of the town, and in the enjoyment of the comforts secured by his early effort and enterprise.
W. W. Hall is pleasantly located on the north shore of Lake Sarah, section 34. He has been an active member of the community, and always interested in matters pertaining to the welfare of the town.
Martin Conzet has also been one of the active citizens of the town, and is now pleasantly located near the south line of section 33.
W. P. C. Hawk removed several years ago to Wright county, and is now a farmer near Wilmar, Kandiyohi county.
Adam Hohenstein located on section 11, where he now resides upon his original claim, which his industry has developed into one of the best farms in the town.
Nathaniel Moore first located near the present village of Cokato, in Wright county, and the tract since known as Moore's Prairie, still serves to perpetuate the remembrance of this sturdy pioneer, and honored citizen. Two of his sons, A. P. and Henry, are still residents of Wright county, and among its most prominent citizens. Their father removed to Greenwood at an early date, and settled on section 27, where he died several years since. His widow still occupies the old homestead.
Mrs. Ann Cunningham still occupies the old place on section 28, and her declining years are rendered pleasant by the faithful care and solicitude of her son, John Cunningham, who also ranks among the early settlers, and has, for several years past, held the office of town clerk.
Henry Greeling, on section 10, is among the earliest settlers, and has always been active in advancing the general interests of the community, and holds a prominent place in the German element of the town.
Carl Hafften settled on section 23, near the lake which bears his name. Adjoining his farm is that of Christian Scheudel, whose land also borders upon a lake bearing his name, and connected with Hafften Lake by small stream of about eighty rods length.
Benjamin Lawrence settled on section 34, and has since opened up three other farms, finally settling upon his present place, on section 28. Pew, if any, of the early settlers can recall more hardships or privations endured than his record shows, among which was the total loss of his household goods, provisions, etc., by fire, which destroyed his house while the family were absent from home.
John O'Mera came here early in 1858, first renting a farm for one year, then purchasing his present farm, on section 28. He has held the office of Supervisor for two years, Town clerk fifteen years, and Clerk of his school district for eighteen years. His farm is one of the best in the county, and he is fast gaining prominence as a successful stock grower, to which his principal attention is now given.
A. B. Dorman is comfortably located on section 81, the only remaining one of the original settlers on the old town site of the defunct city of Greenwood, and the ground once designed for a busy mart is turned by his plow-share, in the cultivation of his farm, of which it forms a part. About one-half the original plat is included in his farm; the balance is owned by other parties. Mr. Dorman has been almost constantly in the service of the town in some official capacity, serving as supervisor for several years, and Justice of the Peace for the past twenty years, besides his official connection with the public schools. In 1840, he married Mrs. Susan C. Northup, who has borne him three children: Homer W., Harriet E., and Willie N. Of these, Harriet E. married O. C. Willcutt, and, in 1870, died. Homer is now on the farm with his father, as is also Willie, who is married. Mr. Dorman is now seventy years old, but in the full possession of his faculties, and as genial a companion as in the earlier days of his manhood.
A. J. Roberts settled his family here as early as 1857, but did not settle down to farming, himself, until about 1864, being engaged in trapping and trading previous to that date. Albert Roberts, his son, settled here in 1806, and soon became one of the prominent public men of the town. He has twice been elected chairman of the town board, eight times elected assessor, and was the census enumerator for his town in the years 1875 and 1880. In the fall of 1880. he was elected as representative of his district to the state legislature, on the Republican ticket.
Like most of the towns throughout the county. Greenwood hastened to embrace the privilege afforded by the admission of the state, and a legal organization was effected at a meeting held on the 11th of May, 1858, at which the following officers were elected: Supervisors. J. R. Ames, chairman. H. G. Ferrell, William C. Hawk; Clerk, Thomas R. Briggs; Assessor, Benjamin Lawrence; Collector, R. W. Currier; Justices, D. R. Farnham and Clinton Howe ; Constables, John CMera and Volney S. Britt; Overseer of Poor, Andrew Thompson. The town expenses for the first year were §115. Several of the above list of officers are now residents of Wright county, a few only remaining in Greenwood.
The American element of Greenwood mainly find church affilliation at Rockford. The German element is about equally divided between the Lutheran, and Methodist churches, and both have erected houses of worship.
The German Methodist society have a comfortable building on section 12, erected about eight years since. The society is quite numerous, and weekly service is maintained in their church. The Lutheran church, on section 11, was built four years ago. It is a commodious wood structure, and furnishes ample room for the congregation which assembles for service each Sabbath.A parsonage has been erected near the church, on the opposite side of the road, and on the north is the cemetery, established about the time the society was organized.
From the little band of juveniles who formed the first school, in 1856, the increased population now supports four entire school districts, and shares jointly with two others located mainly in Independence. District No. 76 lias a good school building on section 28; District No. 77, on section 25; District No. 75, on section 14; and District No. 74, on section 12.
Greenwood has an area of 13,460 acres, the assessed valuation of which is $157,947. Its personal property is assessed at $20,088, and its taxes for 1880 were 81,956, all showing a healthy development since its first settlement in the not distant past.
The officers elected for 1880 were: Supervisors. George W. Shelley, chairman, John Jacobs and Mathias Harff; Clerk, John Cunningham; Assessor, A. Roberts; Justices, A. W. Dorman and Ephriam Sipe; Constables, George Shelley and
Martin Conzet, a native of Switzerland, was born in the year 1829, and emigrated to America in 1847. He worked at the carpenter's trade in Dubuque, Iowa, six years, removed to St. Anthony in 1853, and worked at carpentery and cabinet-making until 1856, when he kept a boarding house. The same year he made a claim, where he now lives. He was elected constable at St. Anthony in 1855, and held the office two years; hasheld the office of town assessor ten years. At the Wright county fair, the family made forty three entries and received eleven premiums. He was married in 1852, to Elizabeth Beauchlein. They have seven children.
W. W. Hall was born in Quebec, Canada, in 1832; moved to Minnesota in 1855, and settled on a farm in Independence; sold it in 1866, and bought the one he now occupies. During the Indian troubles he moved to Rockford and worked on the Stockade, which was built for protection of the settlers. He assisted in organizing the town of Independence, and held the office of supervisor for two years, and one year in Greenwood. He is now manufacturing amber cane syrup. Married in 1854, to Harriet Bishop. They have nine children.
Adam Hohenstein was born in Germany, in 1832, and emigrated to America in 1850. He was engaged three years in the baker's trade, in NewYork; worked at farming in McHenry county. Illinois, three years; then moved to Minnesota in 1856, and located on his present farm. He has been town supervisor eleven years, town clerk seven years, and treasurer two years. He was drafted in 1864, and ordered to Company A. Third Minnesota; was mustered out in 1865. He was married in 1858, to Caroline Glaser. They have seven children living.
George Hohenstein was born in Germany, in 1848, and came with his parents to this country four years later. They remained in New York until 1854, when they removed to Illinois, and in 1861 came to Minnesota, and located on their
present farm. He was married in 1873, to Miss Louisa Bechtle, of Germany. They have four children: Ida, Martha. Louisa and Christian. Mr. Hohenstein has held the office of constable for eight years.
Carl Hafften was born in Germany in 1828. His father died in 1849, and in 1852. Carl went with his mother to Canada. In 1857, they moved to Minnesota, and settled in Greenwood, where he has since lived. He has a fine farm located near lakes Hafften and Scheudel. He has been engaged for the past five seasons. in the manufacture of Amber Cane Syrup, turning out from eight hundred to one thousand gallons per year. In 1852, he married Maria Holtz of Germany. They have had sixteen children. Those living are: Charles. August, John, William, Louis. Albert, Robert, Emma. Frederick, Matilda, Henry and Mary.
John Jacobs, one of the early settlers of this county, is a native of Wales, born in 1835. He emigrated to the United States, with his parents, in 1843, and located in Oneida county, New York, where his father died. He removed to Wisconsin in 1851, and engaged in lumbering until 1858, when he removed to Minneapolis, Minnesota. He enlisted in Comp. B, 6th Regt. Inf. and served against the Indians until 1864, when he went South, where he was taken sick, and mustered out. He was married in 1864, to Miss Matilda McKinley of Wright county. They have had four children, three of whom are living: William, Nettie and Belle. Lizzie R. died. Mr. Jacobs has held the office of town Supervisor, two years.
John O’Mera was born in Vermont, in 1828. He moved to Minnesota in 1857, stopped in Minneapolis one year, and locating on his present farm in 1859, turned his attention to stock raising, to some extent. He has been town Supervisor two years; Clerk fifteen years, and school clerk eighteen years. In 1855 he married Miss F. M. Emory. They have seven children.
Albert Roberts, a native of Maine, was born in 1844. He enlisted in 1862, in Company C. twentieth Maine Regiment, was in the battles of White Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg and Cold IIarbor. At the latter place he
received a gun shot wound in the face, carrying the ball for nearly two months before it could be extracted. He graduated at Eastman's Commercial College, Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1866. Moved to Minnesota and Settled on his present location. He has been chairman of the Board of Supervisors two years, assessor eight years, and was enumerator in 1875 and 1880. He married in 1868, Isabella M. McKindly. They have four children living.
Ephriam Sipe was born in Pennsylvania, in 1848. He moved to Minnesota in 1857, and remained with his parents until 1880, when he located on his present farm. He has held the offices of town Supervisor one year, School director five years, and is Justice of the Peace at the present time. His school advantages were limited to a period of fifteen months, but by close application he has gained knowledge sufficient to fill the different offices With credit. In 1880 he married Margaret Husted, of Corcoran, who was born April 29th, 1863.
Extract (Chapter L) from "History of Hennepin", published 1881