Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
© 2012, Duane Stanley
We left the newlyweds, Alvah and Julia Frost as they arrived in St. Paul from Ohio in 1861, as winter transitioned to spring, and snow was still on the ground. She recorded that they were "walking down the gangplank, and our feet touched the soil of a new world, the great Northwest.
They climbed aboard one of the coaches "of the Burbank line that did the freighting from St. Paul to the far North in winter, as well as carrying passengers from Prairie du Chien to the farthest forts. With our trunks in the boot, we were now comfortably rolling about on the heavy, elliptical springs on our way to Anoka.... With their four horses, their fine fur robes, and fur-coated drivers they made a picture of luxury which lent a charm to winter voyaging, over the sparkling snow." She noted that "along the trail, every few miles, was a fine hostelry prepared to entertain travelers or, as an old settler is quoted as saying 'to detain travelers in a hostile manner.'"
Arriving in Anoka they spent a night with a teacher of Alvah's. There Julia waited as her husband walked the remaining
15 miles to St. Francis where his family lived. He returned with a horse and buggy to retrieve his bride and their luggage. She writes, "At St. Francis we found but a store and a post office besides lumber and flour mills. My husband's parents were infirm, especially the father, he being afflicted with rheumatism. They received me with expressions of parental kindness. My two younger sisters-in-law, Elmina and Orlinda, were at home, and the brother next older than Alvah was the stay of the family, Levi Frost. We went to housekeeping in a little deserted claim shanty which was at least clean and cozy, a good place to camp out during the warm months."
That summer they found the land poorly suited to agriculture; the soil was "thin" and sandy, and they were convinced a new location was needed. They were surprised one Sunday at mid-summer when, while they were visiting neighbors, word came that a man from Ohio had arrived in St. Francis. "As we waded along through the sand I saw, over the tops of the brush, a tall silk hat. I knew at once that it was Brother William." Her brother, leaving his wife and daughter in Ohio was the next to arrive in Minnesota. It would be the following spring that the rest of the family would arrive to put down roots on the prairie. In the meantime, it was time to investigate a new location. Their good friend Emerson VanderVort was preaching a revival in the little village of Fair Haven, where Thomas Partridge had brought the earliest settlers five years earlier, many from the area of Mecca, Ohio. Two VanderVort brothers, Richard and James, had arrived to join the settlement while their widowed mother, Eliza, and younger sister chose to settle on the south shore of Carnelian Lake. This chance to see friends would also allow the opportunity to evaluate the area as a potential home.
Borrowing a "little white pony and a buggy, and one bright autumn morning we three started out with our lunch basket packed, ready for new scenes and experiences." It was a two-day trip to the ferry at Clearwater, and another day to reach Fair Haven.
The author noted their interest in the changing country once they crossed to the Mississippi's west bank. "As we proceeded, we noticed the soil with interest; in places it was a black loam, with a clay subsoil, and there were spots of prairie covered with tall hazel brush and small jack oaks. The sandy roads gave way to a good, solid, hard bed, and so we watched the diversity of country and the quality of soil with an idea as to its value as an agricultural country.
"After a hard day's travel we found ourselves at the small town of Fairhaven, where Emerson Vandervort was conducting a revival meeting. Here we were welcomed by the good Ohio people who were our church friends, among them the Stanleys from Maine Prairie who came down to meet us and take us back with them to look at the country. We left the white pony to rest while we climbed up into Mr. Stanley's big wagon and viewed the country from a high spring seat. This eight-mile ride was something novel and interesting. Mr. Stanley talked of "claims" and "homesteads," improved farms, and other matters of interest to us. At last we saw the land of our desire, and found it to be a little spot well protected from the wind by grove and brush land. Two beautiful lakes of clear water, Pearl Lake on the west and Carnelian Lake on the east, spread out their pleasing prospect before us. We heard of bass, pike, pickerel, catfish, and redhorse that abounded in Pearl Lake and furnished good eating for the homestead people.
"In the marshy land adjacent to the lakes, villages of muskrats built up their little houses of grass among the high rushes. The Stanley boys were hunters and trappers and made money every season from the furs they sold; besides, they furnished wild meat in variety for their home table... We found many natural resources in our new home; the tamarack swamps gave firewood and palings for fences; the marsh lands yielded hay; the land was good. The breaking of the sod without further cultivation gave a good crop of potatoes, turnips, and white beans the first season. Mr. Stanley was an excellent host and took delight in showing off the new country. He took William and Alvah out to look at lands to suit them, which resulted in our renting a farm with a good two-story log house, a team, and farming implements. Brother William also rented a tract of land with a house upon it, which he called the 'Shadow Place,' as he said that, upon examining the title, he found it had but the shadow of one! This name finally degenerated into 'The Shad.' The place was then vacant, the man being in the army and his wife at home with her mother. As the place we had rented would not be vacant until spring, we all moved into the Shadow Place as soon as arrangements could be made."
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What fascinating but familiar memories were enjoyed by all who attended the April 24 Historical Society event about "Growing Up in the 60s in small-town Minnesota. Tom Symalla's book and stories are of special interest, featuring events and actual characters. We even enjoyed historic "Anne of Green Gables" thumbprint cookies.
A favorite author and historian returns. Dean Urdahl is coming to Kimball withhis all-new presentation "Pursuit in the Dakotas," a look at what happened after the war in Minnesota. Don't miss the presentation at 7 p.m. Tuesday evening, May 22, at Kimball's Historic City Hall. All are welcome, no charge, light refreshments served.
All-School Reunion is Saturday, Aug. 11, at Kimball Area High School. All tickets are advance sales with deadline July 20. Because it is impossible to get in touch with everyone, please tell your friends. The last all-school reunion was in 1986.
One of our charter members presented the Kimball hiustory to Kimball sixth-graders Tuesday, May 8, complete with historic Knaus Jerky samples, prizes and the once-in-a-lifetime program we provide at the Kimball Elementary School. Thank you to Mariella Arnold for your time, teaching skills, and passion for youth and history. She's been presenting these for 10 years.
To contribute to this column or to the permanent society collection, or tax-deductible memberships, donations or simply questions and information, contact the Kimball Area Historical Society at Box 55, Kimball MN 55353, or e-mail
, (320) 398-5250 or 398-5743.