OF MOWER COUNTY

Part 3 of 13

  Interesting story of the earliest days.


Hon. B. F. Langworthy of Brownsdale,
One of the Earliest Settlers of the County,
Will Give a Series of Interesting Articles

The first constitutional convention of Wisconsin was in session in Madison, the territorial capital, between October 5th and December 16, 1846.

They formed a constitution, which on being submitted to the people, was defeated by a vote of 14,119 for, 20,231 against. Another convention was called, which convened at Madison October 18, 1847, and made provision for a second constitutional convention. This was held at Madison from December 15, 1847, to February 1, 1858. In March, the people voted on the new constitution, and it was adopted by 16,799 ayes and 6,384 nays. Wisconsin was admitted into the union of states by the act of congress approved May 29, 1848. The county of Winnebago was represented in the first convention by ex-governor J. D. Doty, and the second by Harrison Reed, both of Neenah and both intimate friends of mine. I had the privilege of voting for both constitutions.

In 1846, I was called on business to Dubuque, Iowa, and was in that state during the time of voting for their constitution. It was a close vote, 18,528 votes cast in all, and a majority of only 356 for adoption. In the late fall, I returned to Oshkosh to close out my business as I had made arrangements to remove to Dubuque, but I remained in Oshkosh until the summer of 1854, and then removed to Dubuque to make my home with my wife and little girl. I built me a home and thought that I would make that city my permanent home, but it was not to be so. I had four cousins there who had resided in Iowa territory since 1825. In 1845, they started in the banking business, under the firm name of J. S. Langworthy and Brothers. While I was visiting there in 1846, one of the firm with a few friends had formed a company and bought eighty acres of land lying east of the city among the islands for $8,000. I purchased a one-sixteenth interest in the tract for $500. When I returned from Oshkosh in 1855, they had recommended to fill in the sloughs on our property which afterwards became the east division of East Dubuque. My cousin took me by surprise by informing me that I could sell my interest for $4,000. I took the offer and the next day had $4,000 to my credit in the bank.

The bank of J. L. Langworthy & Brothers wished to start at that time a branch office in Chatfield, Minnesota. They sent up a young man named I. F. O'Farrell to build a suitable office building. The land office had just been moved to Chatfield, from Brownsville on the Mississippi near the extreme eastern end of the Southern Minnesota land district. J. L. Langworthy & Brothers requested me to come up and go into the banking and land warrant business under the name of Langworthy & O'Farrell. The business was good and there was a crowd at the land office every day. There was a great call for land warrants and money loaned readily at twelve percent interest. I arrived with my family in Chatfield in August 1856. When the U.S. land office concluded to remove the office from brownsville to some point nearer the center of the land district, they came to Spring Valley and proposed to the then proprietors to bring the office to Spring Valley provided that they would donate a few lots on which to put up a suitable building for their use. The proprietors did not propose to donate anything, but they would sell them the lots. The land agents were not anxious to buy and so they went over to Chatfield and made them the same proposition. The Chatfield proprietors were most anxious to accommodate them. They told them to select what lots they wanted and they would make out deeds for them. The Chatfield proprietors knew a good thing when they saw it.

As soon as the building was ready, Capt. McKinney and Major Bennett, the officers at Brownsville, removed the land office to Chatfield. In August I came with my wife and daughter and found that I.F. O'Farrell had got into his office and I immediately had all the work that I could attend to. All were anxious to take up land and those persons who had not taken up their preemption rights were anxious to do so now. I was one of these. We had the plans of the government lands in our copies and regularly corrected them so that when I went out to make a selection, I soon came across a quarter section that suited me. I was looking over the land in the eastern portion of Mower county. I came across a Norwegian old bachelor who had preempted eighty acres of timber and built his cabin. As his eighty of timber was on the west line of township 103, range 14, there was a fraction between this eighty and the quarter section of prairie in township 103, range 15. He could not preempt the prairie. I saw at once that there was my chance. I bought his timber eighty at five dollars an acre, all he asked. I then filed upon the quarter section of prairie which was the northeast quarter of section 12, township 103, range 15.

A few weeks after I had got the land, I had a brother and brother-in-law come to Minnesota to make their homes. They thought my new purchase would be a good place for a temporary home until they could do better. They commenced breaking the prairie and it was not long before they had their crop growing. Along in the summer, there came a Hoosier from Indiana to Chatfield, bringing a drove of young cattle. He did not find ready sale for them and after a few weeks delay he offered me fifty head of them at a greatly reduced price to close out his drove so as to return to his home in Indiana. He agreed to deliver at my farm in Mower county the fifty head of young cattle which I had brought from him. I accompanied him out there and we got to the farm after dark.

In the morning he got up and coming out to where I and my brother were, he stopped and looked around. Looking to the north, to the west and south, he could not see a house or a tree -- nothing but grass about eighteen inches high. He exclaimed, "My Gosh, what a Grand Meadow!" The next spring I concluded to leave Chatfield and the loan and land warrant business, and move out and commence farming. While I was young, I did so. I soon had a cabin built and we really enjoyed the change. Letters soon came in and the land was soon all taken up. As the postoffice at the village of Frankford was too far off, a few of us got up a petition and sent it to our member of congress from this district to have a post office be called Grand Meadow. As soon as the petition was sent to Washington the office was established and a commission for me as postmaster was received.

B. F. Langworthy
(To be continued)

[Mower County Transcript, Wed., Feb. 26, 1902, page 4, col. 4 -- 3rd article in the series]




Submitted to Mower Genealogy by Mark Ashley, 3/2011
Webization by K. Kittleson