Tricounty News

Kimball is prosperous village in southern Stearns County Part One

Maine Prairie chosen by eastern settlers in 1854; Alvin Messer staked first farm claim; log house built by Greely in 1856

Hercules Dam and son plowed first land on “prairie” after several claims had been staked; first home was mere shanty; settlers came in rapidly.

Reprinted from Tri-County News Nov. 14, 2002.

Text from The Daily Journal-Press, St. Cloud, March 20, 1928.

Maine Prairie Township, in which Kimball is situated, lies in the southeast portion of the county, and has an area of 36,000 acres. The western and southern portions of the town are undulating, and in some places quite broken. The balance of the town is a gently rolling prairie, interspersed with a clay sub-soil. This town is dotted with numerous lakes, the principal of which is Pearl Lake, lying in the northern part of the township and having an area of about 700 acres.

In 1854, a number of people living in Massachusetts determined to establish in the west, a colony where they and their children might attain the highest ideals of human environment and achievement. Agents sent out to secure a location came up the Mississippi to Clearwater and, accompanied by James Campbell, started into the interior. On this trip, they discovered what is now Maine Prairie and named it “Paradise.” But they were bewildered by a furious snow, lost their way, and never returned to their chosen site until years after it had been settled. The members of the colony were scattered and took up their residences in various localities.

In February 1856, A.B. and A.S. Greely and the Rev. Alvin Messer who had left Maine Prairie in the fall of 1855, and had spent the winter at St. Anthony, heard of the beautiful prairie now included in Maine Prairie Township from Henry Johnson, who kept a hotel at Neenah, six miles south of St. Cloud. March 10 of the same year, A.B. Greely and wife, A.S. Greely, Alvin Messer and Ansel Crommett left St. Anthony for Maine Prairie. In due time they reached Little Prairie three miles west of Neenah. Here they built a log house. Hercules Dam, Dudley S. French and others joined them there. From this location the men found their way to Maine Prairie. It is said the Alvin Messer was the first to stake out a claim there. He also selected one for Albert Staples, and Hercules Dam took one in the same neighborhood. About May 1 these early settlers cut a road through the timber from Little Prairie to Maine Prairie, and A.S. Greely’s ox team accompanied them, being the first team through. Mrs. Hercules Dam was with her husband, and the first white woman to arrive at Maine Prairie. Mr. Dam and his son Freeland H., who lived at
St. Cloud for many years, built the first shanty on the “Prairie” which was roofed with bark and rendered service until a log house could be built, which was done later. These two began the first plowing done on the “Prairie.”

Settlers came in rapidly. Among those who arrived in 1856 may be mentioned: D.W. Fowler, Joseph E. Dam, Samuel Young, Albert Staples, A.T. Crommett, Wm. Milligan, Horace Greely, Martin Greely, Hiram Millet, Moses Ireland, John and Orlen Farwell, Fay M. Kimball, R.F. Adley, James Taylor, George Clark, Daniel Spaulding, Ruel Furlong, Marilla and Almira French, John P. Guptill, James Simmons, D. Southerland, D.A. Hoyt, S. Leovrett, Aaron Scribner, Andrew F. and Donald Perkins, Wm. Stewart, Henry Hutchinson, “Dog” Mayo, James M. Kimball, John C. Dolan, Edwin Kidder, Thomas Shaw, and A. Wade.

Other settlers who came in the 1850s were D.B. Stanley, Alpheus Maservey, Thomas Cadwell, George W. Cutter, V.A. Roberts, Alexander Spaulding, Thomas Stein, Rev. T.E. Inman, Doctor Solomon F. Brown, O.S. Seater, John White, Josiah Eaton, Don William, and Nicholas Schafer, N.T. Greely, Henry Weldert, Michael I. Patten, B.H. Winslow, Charles Neal, and Isaac Bentley. Most of these men were married, many had families, and some had adult sons whose names are not mentioned in this list.

Among the prominent arrivals of the early 1860s were E.H. Atwood, Samuel Cossairt, Michael Goodner and sons David and Henry, Jacob Goodner, Wm. Day, Wheeler French and his sons E.J. and Almon, Peter Morrey, B.U. Watkins and his sons Joseph R. and William, T.R. Wiley, Nicholas Loesch, and Benjamin Barrett.

Abraham Shoemaker came in 1872 and Trueman L. Stickney in 1870, while Wm. Louden came along about the same time. The following may also be named as early settlers: Dayton E. Meyers, Capt.  Hamilton, E.J. Gregory, Joseph Mason, Arnold and J.W. Goodspeed, Joseph Whitney and brothers George, Fred and Hod, Frank Knower, Isaac Coleman, J Petty, Robt. Driver, Barney Allen, C.S. Strout, O. Nelson, John Cline, Robert Martin and Dudley Smith.

The first marriage in the township was that of Joseph Mitchell and Sarah Greely in 1858. The first death was that of George Snyder in 1857. A.B. Stanley opened the first store in 1857.

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The history of the nearby “Lake Francis Area” was enjoyed by all for the first time ever. Tom Stanton filled the evening with a wonderful story about this and the terrific book written by him and a few others with its unique memories. If you were there, you heard and saw the premiere performance the Stanton family knows well. Thanks for coming.

Saturday, June 28, our members will be presenting a history exhibit at the Fair Haven Old Settlers Festival in their great community park from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. including their famous parade of historic vehicles, tractors and floats at 10 a.m. There is no charge and you may stay all day for enjoyable events. Bring your own picnic or support their food vendors. We look forward to seeing you. Bring a lawn chair for the parade.

Kimball Area Historical Society began in 2000 and has never increased its membership dues so feel free to join our friendly group as we feature fantastic events like the one mentioned here. Watch this column for speaker and event dates and titles coming next. August, September, October, and November include many free events yet in 2014.

Need more information? Contact us at Box 55, Kimball MN 55353, or phone (320) 398-5250, or 398-5743, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , and also on Facebook.