Biographical Sketch of

Oliver J. Bemis

Item #1 of 2 items

Few men know more of the settlement of Austin than does Oliver J. Bemis, born in Paris, Oxford County, Maine, April 20, 1829. His father was a physician and gave his son good advantages for schooling.

When twenty-one years old he and his older brother George came to Union, Wisconsin. In April 1852 he, with two others, hitched three yoke of oxen and one yoke of cows to a wagon and started overland to California. They reached Fort Laramie July 4th, and finally landed at the Feather River Mines, where young Bemis was taken sick and lay in the hospital for seven
Tombstone of Oliver Bemis
Oakwood Cemtery, Austin, MN
months. The next spring he began work in the St. Louis mines. Here some of the diggers were taking out $200 or $300 daily.

In June 1855, he decided to return east and came to New York by way of the Isthmus of Panama. Going to see his brother in Wisconsin he found that he had gone to Austin, Minnesota, and thither he came. When he arrived, the town site was all one tract of heavy, natural timber. On the banks of the Cedar River grew eight hundred maple trees, which were annually tapped by the settlers.

His brother George was a shoemaker, and they opened a shop together; the first of its kind in Austin. During the year 1856 there occurred the dispute
Headstone for Oliver Bemis
concerning the location of the county seat, and Oliver Bemis hid the records of the county under his coat for two days, while the trial was going on. A year later, by a vote the people, the present county seat was chosen and peace restored.

He raised one of the first crops in the county in the summer of 1856, consisting of eight acres each of wheat and oats; realizing $1.25 and $1.50 per bushel for the same.

In March 1859, he married Elizabeth Vandegrift. They resided in Austin until 1866, when they moved to their present home in Windom. Oliver died in Austin, Minnesota on March 27, 1899 and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Austin along with his wife.

Contributed to MnGenWeb by Darrel K. Waters, with photos by K. Pike

Item #2 of 2

Oliver J. Bemis 1829-1899

Oliver J. Bemis, one of the earliest pioneers, came to Austin from Maine in 1855, he pre-empted 160 acres near the present city, built a shanty and started breaking the land. The following year he sold this land and purchased a farm in section 3, Windom Township; at about the same time starting, with his brother George, the first shoe store in Austin.

In 1859 he married Elizabeth M. Vandegrift, a native of Philadelphia, and to them were born six children: Mary O., Edwin T., Charles H., Sarah, wife of Samuel McMinnis, Frank C., and Howard J.

Oliver Bemis was born in Paris Hill, Oxford County, Maine April 20, 1829, and was taken by his parents to Penobscot county in the same state at two years of age. It was here that he was reared.

When he was twenty-one years of age he located in Wisconsin, remained two years and then went to California. Starting from Rock county Wisconsin, he went over the plains with ox teams, commencing his journey April 15, and arriving at his destination August 28. He engaged in mining in Sierra County and remained there until 1855 when he returned to Maine via the Isthmus of Panama, arriving in Mower County later the same year.

From History of Mower County, 1911.
Article Submitted by Kathy Pike. Illustration submitted by D. Waters.