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SAMUEL BALDWIN OLMSTEAD

 

EARLY CROW WING CO. PIONEER

Crow Wing County was established 23 May 1857 and organized soon after. Crow Wing, at that time, consisted only that part of the present county located east of the Mississippi and bounded on the south by the line between townships 42 and 43, on the east by the line between ranges 27 and 28, and on the north and west by the Mississippi River. C.H. Beaulieu appears to have been the first white man to locate within the county boundaries. He established a trading post as early as 1837 near the mouth of the Crow Wing River. Other well-known names of that time period include Morrison, MacDonald, and Beaupre, who was in these parts as early as 1844.

One name which may not be too familiar to many is Samuel Baldwin Olmstead. When Ft. Gaines, later known as Ft. Ripley, was built in 1849, Mr. Olmstead and his family moved from Prairie du Chien to what became Crow Wing County. He built and improved a farm opposite the fort on the east bank of the river and engaged himself in contracts to provide the fort with meat and vegetables. It hasn't been determined exactly what brought Olmstead to this part of Minnesota. Perhaps this market for his farm produce may have played a part in is settling where he did. Initially, the cattle for meat were housed and cared for at the fort. This was not cost effective nor was the meat of good quality. Cattle housed at the fort and kept the winter were deemed too poor to kill. It was decided that the fort would be much better off if they contracted out the providing of supplies like meat, vegetables, etc. Olmstead managed to secure most of the beef, hay and wool contracts for the fort. Samuel Baldwin Olmstead was born in Otsego County, New York in 1810. He came to the Northwest as a young man, living in Iowa and Minnesota. He may also have lived in Wisconsin since some sources state that he came from Prairie du Chein when he moved his family to the Ft. Gaine/Ft. Ripley area. Prairie du Chein's location on the Wisconsin/Iowa border could very well account for some confusion as to exactly where he was living prior to removing to Benton/Crow Wing County.

The Olmsteadís home was listed in the 1850 Federal Census of Benton County as dwelling #19. It was said to have been the first house in Crow Wing County. In the house, besides Mr. Olmstead, his wife and three children, were eleven men without occupations and two others listed as lumbermen. Some of these men were undoubtedly assisting in Mr. Olmstead's lumbering operations. One man, Freedom Howard, was the brother of Mr. Olmstead's wife.† Two men listed in the household with no occupation were Thomas Cathcart and Joseph Tesrow, who later played important roles in the development of the county. One source calls Mr. Olmstead a hotelkeeper. The census would seem to indicate that he and his wife took in boarders and might more likely be called operators of a boarding house.

The house where the Olmsteads lived stood until 1940. For many years, it was considered the oldest structure in the county. It was added to and remodeled numerous times. The Olmsteads sold the house to D.S. Moores and upon the later's death it went to Peter Johnson. Peter's son, J.A. Johnson , a great grandson of the early missionary, Ayers, made it his home for many years.

Sources call Samuel Baldwin Olmstead an explorer, lumberman, politician, hotelkeeper, and contractor. Anna Himrod in her History of Crow Wing County calls him one of the prominent businessmen of Minnesota Territory. Prior to coming to Minnesota, Mr. Olmstead was involved with Iowa politics. He was named a delegate to the 1844 State Constitutional Convention. In Minnesota on the local level, the Olmstead home was the polling places for the Nokasippi precinct, and Samuel Baldwin Olmstead was one of the judges. In state politics, Mr. Olmstead served as a member of the, 2nd, 5th, and 6th territorial legislature. In 1854, he was elected President of the Council.

In 1857, the government decided to close Ft. Ripley and sell the land. By virtue of settlement, a number of the early settlers of the area were given the opportunity to purchase 160 acres of the Ft. Ripley land at $1.25 an acre. Public sales were to be held for the rest of the land. Controversy resulted since the public sales would most likely result in a much lower price per acre. Sales were halted until the problem could be ironed out. The sales at $1.25 an acre were approved. Other sales were tied up in controversy until 1880 when all the problems were resolved.

Olmstead undoubtedly wanted to add to his holdings. The 1850 census states he had 30 acres of cultivated land and owned 9 cows. Olmstead's interest did certainly include farming since he and David Olmsted of Long Prairie were involved in the incorporation of the Benton County Agricultural Society. Samuel B., as Council President, was involved in getting up a committee to locate and mark a territorial road from Ft. Ripley to a point on the Red River in Pembina County. This was an effort to improve the Woods Trail, the only road going through Crow Wing County, first opened in 1844 from Pembina to St. Paul. Later, in the summer of 1855, he had a contract to build a government road from the Mississippi River at Swanville to Long Prairie. Samuel B. was also involved in lumbering. Lumbering operations were wide spread during the 1850s especially after the Indian were forced to live on reservations, and the pine forest of northern Minnesota was opened up to settlement. According to Himrod, the largest resident operator was S. B. Olmstead, who conducted operations along the Nokasippi River. Mr. Olmstead left Minnesota after the Civil War ended. He settled on a farm in Burnett County, Texas where he died 27 January 1878.

Up to this point, Iíve failed to mention anything about the family of Mr. Olmstead. Samuel B. married Lucy HOWARD, who was born in Columbus, N.Y.[4th child of Hopkins and Huldah (STEVENS) HOWARD]; She removed with her father's family to Concord, Erie county, Pa. in 1828. On 1 Oct. 1831, in Columbus, Warren County, Pennsylvania, she married Samuel Baldwin Olmstead of Crawford county, Pa; he was born in 1810 in Otsego Co., NY. They resided in Iowa and Minnesota. Her husband was prominent in public affairs, and assisted in the framing of the state constitutions of Iowa and Minnesota. In January, 1855, he was elected president of the Council (Senate) of Minnesota. He was also an Indian agent, and filled various other important official positions. They removed to Texas, and died in the vicinity.

Various census schedules list his family as follows:

Lafayette Howard born in Pennsylvania about 1833
Clara (Clarissa) born most likely in Clayton Co., IA about 1839

Esther A., born about 1844, possibly in Clayton Co, Iowa

Samuel Baldwin, born about 1851 in Iowa, possibly Clayton Co.
Lucy A., born in Minnesota about 1857
Emily, born in Minnesota about 1859
One census lists an Emma. Whether there is just a mixup in names or whether there is another child named Emma is unclear. The information about the Olmsteads is, for the most part, from census records --- Iowa Territory 1838; 1840 Clayton Co. Iowa; Minnesota Territory, Benton County, 1850; 1857 Minnesota Territory; 1860 Minnesota Federal Crow Wing Co.

Daughter Clara S. married Franklin Howard. Their children are:

Fred H. born about 1858
Franklin L. born about 1859
Curtis born about 1860
Esther born about 1861
Pearl born about 1866.

Clara's second marriage was to Louis Miller, born in Germany or Holland about 1834. Children from this marriage include the following:
Louis born about 1870
Otto born in 1872
Mnnie Maud born about 1874
Baldwin born about 1876
Florence born about 1878
William Service born about 1880
Charles W. born about 1882
Toby born about 1884

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Himrod, Anna. History of Crow Wing Co., unpublished manuscript, C.W. Co Hist. Soc. History of the Upper Mississippi Valley. MN Hist. Soc., 1881

Minnesota Land Concergs, Vol. 10. MN Hist. Soc. 1905

A Northwest Territory, Orr, Robert Baker. Muster Roll
Biography of Ft. Ripley. no date
Upham, Warren. Minnesota Place Names. Mn Hist. Society, 1920


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