About the beginning of the present century, Robert Dickson, a red-haired Scotchman, was, by the British government appointed " superintendent of the western tribes." Traverse county was included in his vast range of dominion. "Red Head," as the Indians called him, had a post on Lake Traverse, where he lived for several years. The remains of his post, which was occupied for years by his successors, are visible to-day on the lake valley belonging to Walter Steers, six miles from Browns Valley. The real founder of Browns Valley was Joseph R. Brown, one of the most distinguished of Minnesota's pioneers. In 1835 he located at Lake Traverse as agent of the Northwest Fur Company. He located on or near the farm now owned by A. M. Huff. Samuel J., his son, is engaged in business at Browns Valley, three of his other children are residents at the agency. Traverse county is historic ground, but its earlier events are connected with the doings of the pioneers and explorers, and are therefore treated in another place. In the "sixties" the fur trade of this region was immense.
    From 1865 to 1869 Major Brown operated a line of stages out from the valley to Redwood Falls and Forts Wadsworth and Ridgely. From 1868 to 1879 Col. E. Dunlap, resident at the Toqua lakes, ran the Fort Wadsworth and Sauk Centre stage line via the valley. He subsequently changed the route and discontinued it when the railroad was completed in December, 1880.
    In 1877 about 1200 cattle entered the valley. They were destined for the agency, to be substituted for Indian ponies to prevent roving habits. The first live stock brought by cars was on September 15, 1881. In 1858, Messrs. Snow & Hutton, duly authorized, erected an iron monument at the head of Traverse Lake; and one at that of Big Stone, to define the' boundary between Minnesota and Dakota. A straight line connecting there demarks the boundary. The one at Traverse is an object of curiosity. This is an initial point for a homestead strip of land and a datum for surveys. During the outbreak some Indians attempted to pull it up, but it was down too solid for that. They succeeded, however, in tipping it to one side. They also gave it a savage blow, knocking off a corner and cracking it down a few inches.
    The government surveys were made in 1870, and in 1871 and 1872 permanent settlement commenced all along the lake. The first colony of white settlers located on Lake Traverse in what is now Windsor township, September, 1871. It consisted of Hugh Whitely, George Schiefly and James D. Finley, with their wives and children. They all came from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Mr. Whitely built the first frame house in the county. At first they suffered many privations; at times they almost starved. The Indians were friendly to them without exception. The Bailey family, from Tennessee, settled in 1867, on Lake Traverse. From there they moved to Big Stone, and thence to the meadow land south of the valley. Lon, Thomas and Frank trapped it for years.
    To establish an election precinct and execute local duties, Governor 0. K. Davis, in 1874, appointed S. J. Brown, county commissioner. The next year the governor added Hugh Whiteley and M. I. Matthews. In 1879, G. JM. McLane, James Maroney and H. H. Howe constituted the board of commissioners, and served until the county was organized. Until the organization, Traverse county was under the jurisdiction of the officers of Stevens county.
    On the railroad bond question in 1877 Traverse unanimously voted to pay the debt-the only county in the state so voting unanimously.
    The first meeting to organize the county was held in the office of J. Alley, at Brown's Valley, December 17, 1880, Col. Hooper being chairman. Major Folsom, E. C. Goodenow and H. W. Barrett were appointed a committee to confer with the people in other parts of the county. Under t he management of H. L. Prescott, the boundary lines were drawn, and a bill introduced into the legislature by S. J. Comstock. The act, which was approved February 14, 1881, defined the following boundaries: Beginning at the intersection of the line between townships 129 and 130, with the Bois des Sioux river, thence east to the northeast corner of township 129, range 45; thence south to the south-east corner of township 125, range 45; thence west to the boundary of the state; thence along the state line, through Lake Traverse to the point of beginning. The county seat was located at Brown's Valley until the following general election. At the first county election, held March 8, 1881, the officers elected were: H. W. Barrett, auditor; J. T. Schain, treasurer; H. L. Mills, register of deeds; W. H. Place, judge of probate; Josephus Alley, attorney; W. S. Barnett, sheriff; S. W. Frasier, clerk of court; D. L. Roach, superintendent of schools; A. Cowles, court commissioner; C. C. Mills, coroner; George McLane, P. D. Phalen, and H. H. Howe, commissioners. The highest number of votes was 266.
    The first term of the district court was held at Brown's Valley, at the store of M. Davis, September 27, 1881, John H. Brown being the judge. As there was no case on the calender, the court adjourned. The first trial by jury was the case of Huff vs. Holman, before Walter Steers, justice, February 25, 1880.
    The first school district in Traverse county was organized in the fall of 1879, and embraced the western part of township 126, range 48. A school house was built the following summer, and the first school in an organized district was taught by C. T. Havens. School districts 2 and 3 were organized in 1880; there are now over twenty districts.
    At the election of November 8, 1881, the permanent location of the-county seat was voted upon. Mandata received a majority of sixteen of nil the votes cast. It was claimed by the friends of Brown's Valley that Mandata was not entitled to the county seat, and the claim was contested. The ground taken was that there was not and never had been, within the boundaries of Traverse county, any such place as Mandata. This ground was taken, owing to the fact that no plat had ever been recorded of any such place as Mandata. It was also claimed that fraudulent votes had been cast; that at one precinct where thirty votes had been cast in favor of Mandata, the number was eighteen ballots in excess of the total number of legal voters.


    Browns Valley, now the title of the town, formerly represented the valley, which is an excavation in the prairie, made by glacial drift, having a length of four and a breadth of two miles, which was the possession of the Brown family, of which Major Joseph R. Brown was the celebrated head. The bluffs surrounding this valley have a height of from a hundred to a hundred and fifty feet.
    The Brown family first owned about one thousand acres of land in this valley. The town site, and its additions consists of the original "Todd site" of sixty acres, which mainly comprises the present village, and which was purchased by Angus Brown, who erected thereon the first homestead in the county and was surveyed and platted into lots in 1878, and four additions.
    The Prescott addition consists of four acres, contiguous to Prescott & Co.'s store, and was also purchased of Angus Brown. It was platted in 1880. The Dale & Boise addition consisting of eight acres in the western portion of the village, was purchased of S. J. Brown, who had bought up the balance of his brothers' claim, was platted in 1878. The Plateau addition, located mainly on the plateau, was surveyed and platted in the summer of 1881. The Bartlett addition, located east and north of the plateau, was also platted in 1881. A portion of the Plateau addition has been laid out as a city park. In its limits is a curious granite rock, on which are a number of strange hieroglyphics, which seem to have been chemically impressed. It appears to have been known as the "Sacred rock," and in early days was spoken of as having been worshipped by the Indians.
    The first business firm in the valley was Brown, Searles & Downie, who were engaged in general merchandising and farming, as early as 1867. Subsequently Brown's partners sold out and the firm became J. R. Brown & Sons. In 1870 the firm was Brown & Allanson. Benjamin Thompson, the first Indian agent, in 1867, built the government warehouse, now occupied by J. W. Hines, and distributed rations and annuities from there. It was then discovered that the house was not on the reservation. He therefore bought it of the government. Attached to it was a blacksmith shop, and the whole was sold by him, to H. T. Lovett. It afterwards again passed into the possession of Thompson. In 1867 S. J. Brown was appointed postmaster, the first in the county; he held the office until 1878, when he was succeeded by Walter Steers. In 1879, H. L. Prescott, the present postmaster, was appointed. Prior to 1870 it was called Lake Traverse. On the death of Major Brown, that year, the name was changed to Browns Valley. S. J. Brown was also the first notary public in the county, being appointed in 1869. In 1872 Brown & Bros., consisting of Samuel, Angus and Joseph, established the first real estate office. J. W. Hines, in 1872, built and traded in a store on the table land at the head of Lake Traverse. In 1874, he purchased Benjamin Thompson's store, and Conducted it until the spring of 1881, when he sold out to E. C. Goodenow. The first business firm on the present town site, however, was that of Prescott & Co.
    With the exception of the services held by Father Ravoux, which occurred as early as 1842, at Lake Traverse, the first religious services were those held in 1877, when Father Oster, also, at the house of S. J. Brown, baptized the children of Mrs. Hines and Mrs. Parker. From then, until 1879, services were held by ministers of different denominations, at various times. In April, 1881, at the residence of E. S. Beck, Rev. O. Rogers organized a Baptist society, and the following summer the erection of a church edifice was' commenced. The Presbyterians, on September 18, 1881, organized a church society in the building belonging to M. Davis, not yet occupied.
    During the extra session of the legislature, in 1881, Browns Valley was created an independent school district.
    The Traverse County Bank was started in 1881, and opened in December of that year.
    The first business firm on the town site, Prescott & Co., was established in the spring of 1879. They do a general trade. In the tall of the same year William Cameron commenced general merchandising. The first drug store was started by A. Cowles. Larkin & Bros. general store was started 1880, when there were only three other stores. Nelson & Schain, who have a large general store, also established in 1880. E. C. Goodenow, who bought out J. W. Hines, settled in the summer of 1880. The hardware interest is represented by J. Brown & Co., who also, deal in tin and wooden ware; and by Bowman &, Barrett, the latter also keeping a line of drugs. J. F. Moore is a heavy dealer in flour and feed. Walter Steers representing Hardy & Co., of Winneconne, Wis., deals in groceries, and handles, on his own account, flour and feed. The lumber interest is represented by H. W. Dezotell, and John A. Burnett. The firm of Gordon, Holding & Co., are the machine men. Place & Brown are engaged in real estate, insurance and kindred branches of business. W. H. Place is a lawyer; the Brown of the firm is S. J. W. P. Todd is also engaged in the real estate line. Josephus Alley, who was the first county attorney, practices law and attends to collecting and insurance matters. The elevator was built by J. I. Brown, and is now owned and operated by him; it has a capacity of 35,000 bushels; he represents the Minneapolis Millers' Association. The Traverse House is the principal and first hotel in the village. It was opened in 1879 in a building used by Prescott as a store; in 1881 it was rented to B. Holding, who has since kept it. He also has a well stocked livery stable. Werts Hotel, the second built, was erected in the fall of 1880, by A. Werts; he was succeeded in the spring of 1881 by A. Rustad.
    The Browns Valley Reporter is the first newspaper established in Traverse county. S. W. Frasier is the editor and publisher; he started it in an historic edifice known as the "old log house" from whence the first issue of the Reporter came on May 2, 1880. It is a well conducted journal.
    Josephus Alley, born in 1848 in Virginia, came to Minnesota in 1865. He read law, was admitted in 1874 and practiced in Wright county till coming in 1881 to Browns Valley; he was the first county attorney of this county; now belongs to the Traverse County Bank company.
    J. F. Baer was born in Cross Plains, Wisconsin, in 1854. When fourteen years old he went to Sherburne county, Minnesota, and two years later to St. Paul and Minneapolis; he was employed at painting; in 1878 he located at Browns Valley and in 1881 opened a paint shop.
    H. W. Barrett, native of Maine, was born in Piscataquis county, May 6, 1864, and soon after accompanied his parents to Sheboygan county, Wisconsin. In June, 1880, he came to Browns Valley and in company with E. H. Bowman opened a hardware store. Mr. Barrett was the first auditor of this county.
    G. I. Becker, native of St. Paul, was born in 1857. He engaged in the stock business in 1879 in Grant county, Dakota, and continued two years, then became interested in banking at Browns Valley with the Traverse Comity Bank.
    J. J. Brown was born in 1852 in Canada, and in 1874 came to the United States. Locating at Minneapolis he operated the Tower mill four years; in 1880 he came to this town and built a warehouse; the next year he completed the Browns Valley elevator.
    William W. Cameron was born in 1837 in New Brunswick, and upon coming to the United States at the age of twenty, located in Rock county, Wisconsin. In 1872 he removed to Winona county, Minnesota, and in 1878 to Browns Valley, where he has since been in the mercantile business.
    Samuel W. Chadbourne, born in Maine in 1847, went to Boston when eighteen years old and embarked in dry goods trade. In 1877 he was employed in the Fort Sisseton government store and the next year opened a store at Browns Valley; since 1881 has been one of the Traverse County Bank Company.
    S. W. Frasier, born in Valparaiso, Indiana, in 1855, removed in 1870 to Litchfield, Minnesota, and in 1872 began to learn printing. He was on the Litchfield Ledger till 1880, when he bought a six column folio outfit, with army press, came with a mule team to this town, and May 2d, issued the first copy of the Browns Valley Reporter, setting type and doing editorial work himself; the paper has since been enlarged; in 1881 he was elected clerk of the district court.
    Harry L. Prescott was born in 1850 in Stillwater, Saratoga county, New York. In 1877 he came here and the next year, in company with others, opened the first store in the place; he drew up the bill establishing the boundary of Traverse county, and was instrumental in having it organized; was the first delegate from this county to the republican state convention; in 1879 he was appointed postmaster. Married in 1876, Kate Hooper.
    W. P. Todd was born in Vernon, Jennings county, Indiana, in 1847. He attended school at Cleveland and after leaving Fairfield college was in business at that place four years, and subsequently at Willmar, Minnesota; he started the first bank in the latter place and was its president; in 1873 he removed to Litchfield and in 1878 bought the town site of Browns Valley; in 1880 he was active in securing the organization of the county, and the next year opened the Bank of Browns Valley.
    A. E. Tuckey was born in 1843, in Otsego, New York. In 1862 he entered Company K, 121st New York, and served till 1865; soon after came to Minnesota; lived in Scott, Hennepin and Stearns counties till coming in 1878 to Traverse county, where he has since lived on his claim; in 1881 he took charge of Becker & Co.'s elevator.
    R. A. Tuckey was born in 1846 in Otsego county, New York. Prom 1857 to 1866 he was in Scott county, Minnesota, and afterward employed at Sisseton agency; subsequently located at Lake Crystal; was contracting for five years, in general trade two years, and three years in the wheat business; in 1877 he took a claim in Traverse county; he was principal of schools at Sisseton agency two years and afterward chief clerk at the fort. Since 1881 has been in lumber trade here.

Source - History of the Minnesota Valley, Rev. Edward D. Neill, 1882, pages 986-990.

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