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Otter Tail County Minnesota

Effington Twp & Urbank Village





From Trygg Historical Maps, Trygg Land Office, Ely, MN www.trygglandoffice.com/maps.html
b=bottom land, m=marsh, p=prairie, s=swamp

 Basic Facts:

Township N136, Range W38
First Settled 1866
Government survey 1871
Organized as Arlington March 21, 1872
Name changed to Effington July 17. 1872


[Copied by Lory Brasel, lbrasel@leagent.net, from the book "History of Otter Tail County" Volume I - 1916 by John W. Mason]

Tile township of Effington (township 136, range 38) was created by the county commissioners on March 21, 1872, and given the name of Arlington. The first election was held on the 6th of the following month at the house of a man by the name of Sea. At the July session the same year, the commissioners ordered that "The name of the township formerly called Arlington be hereby changed to Affington." Whether the initial letter of the word "Afflngton" should be "E" or whether it was really called Afflngton until changed by order of the commissioners is a question which is not solved by the commissioners' records. Apparently the name should have been written Effington when the change was ordered on July 17. 1872.

The names of the original signers of this petition, which was dated February 15, 1872, are as follow: Paul Niecke, Emel Nusche, Otto Tonens, Mutt Evans, Vollinitin Jenson, William Miyser, John Muram, Hinrich Prohl, John Prohl, John Miller, Frederiches Miller, Wilhelm Peters, John Witt, W. E. Hyatt and Hoodgman. Effington township has only a few lakes, the largest being Block, Fish, Seih, Twin, Pearch and Hannes. The topography of the township presents no striking features, the most of it being level, with only an occasional elevation which might be called a hill. Settled largely by Germans always it has been well to the front as an agricultural community. No village has ever been platted within its limits and no railroad has ever crossed its borders. The life of its people has therefore been wholly devoted to farming pursuits. The history of this township is so closely related to that of the adjoining township, Leaf Valley, in Douglas county, that the two in reality have but one, at least as far as the German population is concerned. While the townships of Newton and Rush Lake were settled by colonies of many families, all firmly united by the ties of religion, the opening of this wilderness to settlement was a result of the determined efforts of but one family, and for the most part by only one member of the same. It is not too much to say that Peter Sieh was the father of Effington.

When in 1868, the "Iron Chancellor" had laid his heavy hand on a half dozen pretty German states, annexing them to the kingdom of Prussia, discontent ruled supreme among the inhabitants thereof. Thousands of young men left to avoid the draft for the three years of military service which was made compulsory. And where else could they proceed, but to the land of freedom, the land of Franklin and Washington, of whose ideal lives and patriotic deeds their school books had related. Hundreds of thousands of families followed in their wake making one of the largest immigrations in the following decade that the world has ever seen. At this juncture there lived in Buffalo or New York a young sailor who, during the season of navigation, traversed the Great Lakes. He had left the old farm in northern Germany years before against the wishes of his parents who had expected him, the eldest of their six children, to take the farm into his hands according to the custom of the country. This young sailor was Peter Sieh.

But Peter, driven from home because of his thirst for knowledge of the world, hired himself to a sea captain as cabin boy. Later on he became a sailor on German and English shipping vessels and, after absorbing a course in a seaman's college at Hamburg, he came to the United States well versed in English and German literature. He had a good knowledge of the world, and it would seem that he would have been the last one to exchange the charm of cities and adventurous sailor life for the uniformity and quietude of a rural home. But when his brother Frank renounced his allegiance to the king of Prussia and came over to this country, their parents promised to follow if they could find a suitable section of country in which to get land. Peter was alert and ready for the task. Stowing his choicest authors together with his compass in his satchel, the sailor headed for the west. He looked over the states of Iowa and Illinois but found the climate rather dry for his taste. Hearing of the park region of Minnesota, through which the Fort Garry stage road ran, he steered that way, arriving in the fall of 1866 at Alexandria. There was plenty of wild land between St. Paul and the stockade, but he had heard rumors that the Northern Pacific railroad would be laid by the way of Otter Tail city and his intention was to get somewhere close to that road. Accordingly he added some provisions to his stock, took out his compass, shouldered his rifle and went about five miles along the Fort Garry road where he found a wagon track switching to the north. He pushed on through the dense woods of northern Douglas county until he struck the beautiful little prairie in the township of Leaf Valley, Douglas county. On the southern border of it he found several sturdy Americans living at the very outpost of civilization. The most were from Indiana, whence the prairie took its name. But the sailor did not cast anchor there. He crossed the township near the northern border of the prairie near where the county line between Douglas and the land of the Otter Tail had been surveyed. There he found the little creek that flowed out of the largest and prettiest lake he had found in the wilderness north of Douglas county. It was Efflngton's largest sheet of water that bears the prosaic but distinctive name of Fish lake. This is the head of the Chippewa river, and the land through which this creek meandered, was the finest sections of farming land that the lonely traveler had ever laid his eyes on. It was a rich sandy loam, overspreading the gently sloping ground, where all kinds of wild grasses and bushes grew in profusion.

The explorer, however, went on in the dense woods, through the thickets, over marshes, across creeks and around clear little lakes covered with all kinds of water fowl, while in every nook was found the houses of the industrious muskrat. Deer were to be seen on every side and all kinds of small game were to be found in abundance. When he struck the north shore of the small lake through which now runs the line dividing sections 33 and 34, a streak of the finest timber looked before him and here he built his camp fire for the night. Small wonder that he said to himself: "Eureka, I have found it." So he built a log shanty, the first habitation of a white man in the brush between Indiana and Parkers Prairie. Here he lived through the winters of 1866 and 1867, getting his mail and provisions from Alexandria twenty-three miles distant, and spending his days in hunting and exploring the surrounding country.

During the winter he had informed his parents and brother Frank of the glorious country; of its climatic and geological conditions so akin to the native land, old Schleswig-Holstein. In the spring of 1867 he went to St. Cloud to meet them. He found his mother, Frank and three sisters awaiting him. The father Peter Sieh, Sr., and one daughter remained in the old country to sell the property. In the last part of March they reached Peter's winter residence and having the tedious journey of one hundred miles walk behind them looked hopefully to the future. Like all other early pioneers they felt sure that one or the other of the great railroads would cross in convenient proximity to their claims. Peter had staked out a quarter section on the south side of the county line, which for the most part, contained prairie land. Frank was so charmed with the fine tract that Peter gave him his choice, when he took the claim next to it. Frank then went with the ox team to St. Cloud to haul provisions, while the other five members of the family made themselves comfortable in Peter's winter quarters on Mumm's lake. Frank had a tough time of it, but after an absence of nearly two weeks, he reached the county line in good spirits, and brought with him Charles Peets and wife, he a strapping fellow, who, as soon as he had looked over the lay of the land, declared that the only claim worth taking in this "Goll darned Siberian country" was the one that Peter now held. Peter thought most probably that he could not afford to endanger the future of his settlement by losing one family out of the two of which it consisted, and deeded his claim to the new corner. He now surveyed what was to become section thirty-four in the present township of Effington, homesteaded on the southwest quarter. The brothers broke fifteen acres of prairie on Peter's place. Those fifteen acres the only prairie in Effington constittited the first cultivated field of the township. Soon after the brothers built a house on this claim from which they carried on their farming operations.

The following article bearing on the early history of Efflngton township appeared in Wheelock's Weekly in its issue of June 10, 1897, and is given in full:

Contemporaneous with Peter Sieh's arrival, a large party of Catholic immigrants from Stearns county had settled in and around Millerville township, where they erected a church, several stores, etc. This settlement branched into Effington and most of the settlers in the west end came from that direction later in the seventies.

Paul Nuske, a Young painter from Berlin, took a claim in the Effington woods, living there with his brother Emil until 1873 when they separated. Paul having located his claim wrongly, becoming discouraged through other misfortunes, together with the privations and fatigue of frontier life, was taken violently insane.

The first to arrive the following spring were Henry Proehl and wife. Mr. Proehl had been on a land seeking expedition to Todd county the fall previous, but could not find any land that could be compared with the fine farming lands of Carver county, his former home. In the spring he had bought an ox team outfit and with several other Carverites started for Douglas and Otter Tail counties for the land of hunting and trapping.

Then came Jacob Kutterman with his family, settling on section 35. He lost his arm in a threshing machine cylinder in 1873. He had to leave the farm after the grasshopper years, and became widely known as the builder and proprietor of the Union hotel at Evansville, Douglas county. William Meyer and family next arrived, settling farther back in the brush than anyone had done. Near him settled the Carsons, a Swedish couple, who had the misfortune in March, 1879, to lose their little three- year-old boy. The boy had been left penned up in the house by the mother who had gone on an errand to a neighbor's. Mr. Carlson was not at home. When she returned the child had mysteriously disappeared. The neighbors were aroused and a search was made. Then the supervisors took the case in hand, and ordered out every man in the township. For two more days the people systematically scoured the surrounding woods and lakes, as yet icebound, but not a sign of the missing child could he found. There was no snow. Some of the people claimed to have seen moccasin tracks, but were doubted, and, on account of Mrs. Carlson, the wildest stories were afloat. A short while after a large bear was taken by old man Hengen and his boys, and the fate of the little one was settled in the minds of most people. The Carlsons later removed to Grant county. About 1895 the papers stated that Mrs. Carlson had gone up to the Fort Totten reservation to reclaim her child (now a voting man) who had been kidnapped by a hand of Turtle Mountain Indians when an infant. The young man was identified beyond a doubt. but refused to follow his mother home.

Next came into the settlenient John Miller with his family, including his sons Rudolph and Fred, and in the fall William Peters and John Witt arrived from the south. They located their claims and erected shanties that fall, living and "baching" through the winter near Fish lake.

A large camp of Chippewas camped on the lake that winter. Skins being high in price, they lived high, got plenty of fire-water and raised all kinds of trouble during the nights, so that their shouting and yelling would re-echo from the distant Leaf mountains, keeping many a faint-hearted individual from sleeping. The settlers tried to find out where the Indians procured the stuff, but failed. The band left without doing any harm. Henry Proehl has related how some of the bucks, having been sent to Millerville for provisions, on their way back to camp were so drunk that one of them would be hugging snow almost all the way, when the other, in trying to help him on his feet, would roll over him. One had two jugs hanging over his shoulder while the other had started with a sack of flour, but had only the sack left when coming to his wigwam. The flour formed a white streak from Millerville to the lake.

To William Peters probably was due the fact that there was no outbreak of these Chippewas. Whenever they visited him, and that was very often, he would give them generous treatment by regaling them with hot pancakes, the making of which was one of Peters' chief accomplishments. The Indians were very fond of these pancakes and Peters has often told of his feats in trying to appease the cravings of three or four hungry bucks at a time with his frying pan. To him it is due that the New Ulm atrocities of 1862 were not repeated in this part of the state, and, if a grateful posterity ever build him a monument, it should represent him amidst his dusky friends trying to appease their ravenous appetites with pancakes. Early in 1868 Peter Sieh had heard, when at Alexandria, that a man from Iowa had erected a store on the little prairie to the west of Effington. One day he and Henry Prochl started off with their axes for Parkers Prairie. There they found Henry Asseln, the pioneer storekeeper, who had just got ready to sell kerosene at sixty cents a gallon, New Orleans black strap for one dollar a gallon and all other things in proportion. Asseln promised that if they would mark out a line for a road he would send men to cut out the east part of it, while the men from the Schleswig-Holstein settlement would open the four or five miles on the west. This was done and the settlers were glad to have a store and postoffice within eight miles of them. A mail route from Osakis to Otter Tail City via Parkers Prairie was established the same year. There was now a road through the township from the Indiana prairie to Parkers Prairie and it helped a great deal in drawing settlers thither.

About this time Holdquist and Steverson settled in the northeast corner of the township. W. E. Hyatt erected a commodious house just across the Parkers Prairie line on the only forty-acre tract that he took in Effington. The rest of his land lay in Parkers Prairie. A man by the name of Hodgeman, a kind of a factotum to the Hyatt family, took tip a claim adjoining the latter's. He seemed to possess little thrift and sold out two years later to Deitrich Thies.

Valentine Thonnes left the parent farm on the Indiana prairie, squatting on the claim that he cultivates today. The E. F. Jenson family and that of Frank Revering arrived in 1871 and Henry Trachte and Peter Raap in 1872. Peter Sieh, Sr., came over to rejoin his family in 1870. His coming was calamitous to the settlement, for on his ocean journey he had contracted the small-pox which broke out in the neighborhood just after his arrival. Hardly a family escaped the terrible scourge. Several children died, and of the adults there some like Henry Proehl and William Meyer, whose honest countenances, after passing through the ordeal, appeared as if old Nick himself had threshed peas thereon.

In the latter part of the sixties it cost eight to twelve cents a bushel to get wheat threshed. Very few or no horses at all being obtainable, oxen were putt to the horse-power, but it was mighty hard work to keep up motion and every now and then a rest had to be taken to allow some poor Dick or Harry to get over his dizziness. The oxen, not being accustomed to the double-quickstep round dance, would sometimes act as if crazy, roll on their backs and cut all kinds of capers.

In 1869 the hopes of the settlers of this and surrounding townships of getting the Northern Pacific railroad within handy reach were blasted by the building of that line as far off as Wadena.

Most of the able-bodied men in the settlement went to Perham that fall in order to earn a few dollars helping in its construction. The wheat raised in those years, over home consumption, had to be hauled up to Perham, at first, by the way of Millerville and Battle Lake, later on via of the Parkers Prairie and Otter Tail City road, a full fifty-mile haul.

The year 1872 marks the beginning of a new epoch in the settlement's history. Not only were the days of squatter at an end but township 131, range 38, was organized and in consequence the first legal highway established. The voters were split in two factions, one with Hyatt as leader and Matthew Evans as lieutenant, winning the offices by one majority. Hyatt was by far the shrewdest politician that this town could ever boast of, Mike Schneider. 'The Wild Dutchman,'' probably excepted, and his capableness in managing a caucus was indeed remarkable. In the spring of the same year (1872) the bitter fight over the removal of the county seat from Otter Tail City to Fergus Falls, and the consequent election for the purpose, annexing this part of the county to Wadena county, took place. All voters were present except W. E. Hyatt and F. Miller, who held a caucus by themselves, electing Hyatt with unanimity a delegate. The other caucus had chosen Mr. Holquist, who, when coming up to Fergus, was not recognized by the committee of credentials and Hyatt represented the town as being solidly against any county splitting scheme.

As the St. Paul & Pacific had that spring started the construction from St. Cloud to Moorhead of the present main line of the Manitoba railroad system, there was a chance to earn a few dollars, of which many a poor settler availed himself. But, alas, the work of grading, when nearly finished, had to be abandoned and for six years there was nothing done above Melrose, making that place the nearest railroad station to the south where wheat and other produce had to be marketed, sixty miles distant, until about 1878. After the grasshopper time, farmers could haul the produce to Wadena, and the next year to the nearest stations on the St. Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba railroad, Brandon and Garfield, thirteen and seventeen miles away. respectively.

The first settler of this township (Peter Sieh) had now seen all his plans as to locating his colony near at least one of the great trunk lines overthrown. The removal of the county seat crushed his last hope of obtaining a railroad to go north and south to Otter Tail City. Before the lands were thrown open to settlers he had given up his squatting right to John Mumm, who had married one of his sisters. Not quite discouraged then, Sieh had squatted the remaining claim in section 34, to which he obtained homestead papers in 1872. He built a house here in which he lived with his parents until 1874. He then sold out to a newcomer and went to Washington territory to find a location near the ocean. He has, as a surveyor, seen a large part of western Washington, living there several years. He taught out west, but advised his friends in Minnesota not to remove to the coast, as it was not a good farming country. Later on Sieh went to Idaho, where he got a paying situation with the Northern Pacific railroad.

But Effington, how did this township receive its name? Who was its godfather? It was the genial Matt Evans. When the first town meeting had been held in 1872 the voters could not agree as to the new baby's name. The majority wanted it to be christened after its first settler or his mother, Mrs. Anna Sieh, the names of Anna or Annaheim being the ones most favored, and, doubtless, most appropriate, commemorating the name of the first white woman in town. This was vigorously opposed by Hyatt, who wanted to stand sponsor and therefore suggested "Arlington." the name of a place where he had lived before. But Matt was there also. He had literary tastes and had even read a novel (he claimed himself to had read several), and in this novel had occurred the name of Effington. Matt thought it the most beautiful name he had ever heard and pushed it to the front, but failed to get any support and the whole matter was dropped. When the first assessor came to Fergus for his instructions the county auditor told him that the town had to get named now, and if the young man did not name it he, the auditor, would have to assume the sponsorship. What should our voting assessor do? He was no particular friend of Sieh's, much more though of Hyatt; but then there was Matt, who was courting the voting man's sister, too, persistently. Well, we all know how a young fellow, who is sparking the first named voting fellow's pretty sister would act. No, he could not go back on Matt, and Effington it will be for the time eternal.

The present township officers are as follows Supervisors, Charles Luedke, G. A. Huwe and Clemens Suchy clerk; George J. Kraemer; treasurer, Carl Schauland; assessor, Thomas Koep; justices, Gust Huwe and J. Kraemer; constables, Theodore Koep and Arthur Wright.


Population totals in state and federal census summaries.

   Effington  Urbank Village
 1875  127  
 1880  312  
 1885  536  
 1890  658  
 1895  747  
 1900  711  
 1905  742  
 1910  652  
 1920  758  
 1930  794  
 1940  732  

Places of birth for Effington Township in the 1905 state census.

 Native (USA)  25   3%
 Minnesota  487   66%
 Foreign  230   31%
     Germany  210   91%
     Sweden  5   2%
     Norway  7   3%
     Canada  1   0%
     Ireland  0   0%
     Denmark  1   0%
     England  0   0%
     Poland  3   1%
     Finland  0   0%
     Russia  2   1%
     Scotland  1   0%
     Other  0   0%

Land Maps


The following names have been extracted from original land records (by John Nelson) and Mason's History (by Karen Terry). Absetz , Jacob , Martin ; Arkan , John ; Benke , Julius ; Bettin , John ; Block , Charles ; Brockopp , August , Carl ; Carlson , John ; Doasa , Gust ; Frendenberg , John ; Fridgen , John ; Gashe , Henry ; Gluba , Felix ; Grothen , Theodor ; Guderjahn , Friedrich ; Gulbransen , Gunerius , Hans J ; Hacker , Ludwig ; Haugen , Bartholomans ; Hennes , Christian ; Hultquist , John P ; Huwe , Emil , Johan L , Otto ; Jensen , Ernest F ; Kilde , Carsten B ; Kramer , John ; Kruger , Ludwig ; Kuttimann , Jacob ; Kutzbach , Carl ; Lidtke , Charle ; Meyer , Wilhelm ; Mielke , Ernst ; Miller , John F ; Mittag , Wilhelm ; Munn , John ; Nyman , Nils P ; Olsen , Gunerius ; Olson , Ole ; Peck , Nikolas ; Peffer , Richard ; Pesch , Casper , Christian , Petter ; Peters , Wilhelm ; Politicki , Valentine ; Prohl , Casten H , John H ; Quitmeyer , Otto ; Raap , Claus , Johann , Peter ; Revering , Frank ; Ross , Carl ; Sabbin , Fred ; Schneider , Michael ; Schwanz , Wilhelm ; Siverson , Bradi ; Stemmer , Anton , Nikolaus ; Stibal , Karel ; Suchy , Helary ; Syverson , Eberhart , Halvor ; Theis , Diedrich ; Thoennes , Michael , Valentine ; Thun , Carl , Ferdinand ; Timmerman , Claus ; Totz , Gottlieb ; Trachte , Henry , Hermann ; Wachholz , Michael ; Wangerin , Franz ; Wiebskowski , Stanislaus ; Wilke , Carl ; Witt , John

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