More recollections of the descendants of early settlers
Text from The Meeker REA Pioneer, October 1975. Reprinted from the Tri-County News Dec. 11, 2003. As told by Mrs. Henry A. Olson:
My mother was Henrietta Hickman Caswell (F.A.). She was 16 years old at the time of the Indian outbreak. One of their Indian friends came and asked my grandfather to take his family to the stockade because the Indians were on the warpath.
So my mother crawled on her hands and knees to the land where her father was cutting hay and told him what the Indian had said. Mother saw Indians lurking in the trees as she crawled. But grandfather said the Indians were his friends, and he refused to leave. The Indians never did bother them, while others were killed.
At Manannah, where six were killed, a monument was erected on the late Nathan C. Caswell farm west of Manannah.
The men had taken their families to Forest City, to the stockade, and six of them came back to take care of their stock, and there were the Indians to greet them, with hate in their hearts. Six were killed.
Some of the first families to settle in what was to become Litchfield township became involved in a great deal of Meeker County history. They were among those who helped bury the dead who were massacred in Acton township by the Indians. They helped erect the Forest City Stockade. And [they] were instrumental in organizing the first church in Meeker County.
In July 1856, Ole Halvorson Ness, Henry Halforson, Ole Halvorson Thoen, Amos Nelson Fosen, Nels Hanson and Colberg and Gunder Olson, after a three-month journey from Rock County, Wis., settled in Ness Township, what is now known as Litchfield Township. Later in the year, William Benson, Sven and Nels Swanson, Michael Lenhardt, and Ferdinand, Christian, Frederick and William Cook settled in the same general area.
The Ness Church in Meeker County was the first church congregation in that county, organized in 1858. The church building in the 2012 photo was built in 1874, after the congregation had met for years in a granary, barn, homes, and schoolhouse. The Ness congregation disbanded Oct. 16, 1968. It is now a Minnesota State Historical Site. Staff photo by Jean Doran Matua.
The first church to be organized in Meeker County was organized by these early settlers.
In the late summer of 1858, the St. Johannes Lutheran Congregation of Meeker County and surrounding counties was organized. The first services were held in the home of Ole Halvorson Ness. This congregation was organized just two years after the first settlers arrived in this area, all natives of Norway. This was the first church to be organized west of St. Paul, Minn.
The first services were held at the home of Ole H. Ness, which was located in the SE 1/4 of the SE 1/4 of Section 29, Litchfield Township. Services were also held in a new granary built by Mr. Ness. Larger gatherings such as weddings and confirmations were held in the barn built by Ness. For a large confirmation service, the barn “was decorated for the occasion with newly leafed-out oak branches.”
After years of meeting in a granary, barn, homes and a schoolhouse, a church [building] was built in the spring and summer of 1874. The name of the church was changed in 1861 to Ness Lutheran Congregation of Meeker County.
The old granary and barn that were used for the church services are still standing [in 1975].
The Ness congregation was disbanded on Oct. 16, 1968, after a service of 110 years. It is now known as the Ness Memorial Cemetery, as a memorial to the Ness Lutheran Church.
The Ness Church and cemetery were dedicated as a Minnesota State Historical Site, Sept. 13, 1970. It was the 92nd anniversary of the state monument erected in 1878 marking the grave site of the first five people killed in the Indian Uprising of Aug. 17, 1861.
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The Kimball Area Historical Society has enjoyed featuring our Forest City neighbors in this column. We hope column readers have enjoyed these as well.
Kimball Days coming to town you won’t want to miss. Beginning Friday, Aug. 9, “Supper-in-the-Park” from 5-8 p.m., serving the favorite menu hot roast beef on bun, baked beans, coleslaw, cake and beverage. Affordably priced at $7 for adults, children 3-10 are $3.50, and under 10 are free. “Main Street Memories” at City Hall are from 4 to 8 p.m. free and air conditioned.
Saturday, Aug. 10, “Audrey’s Coffee Nook” from 7-10 a.m. at
30 Main Street, next to the post office, watch for sign. Homemade cinnamon rolls, juice or coffee. Proceeds to our Historical Society projects.
Continue Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., come and see “Main Street Memories” and more at Kimball’s Historic City Hall, complete with new showcase presentations. This special event will operate again Sunday, Aug. 11 from
9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Register for door prizes, need not be present to win. Souvenirs are available.
Other events on the horizon: Tuesday, Sept. 24, special event speaker will feature Brian Pease, site manager of our Minnesota State Capitol with “Building a State and State House” 7 p.m. at City Hall.
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