Benton County Historical Society and Museum
Sauk Rapids Minnesota
Preserving the Past and the Present for the Future....

County History




Gilmanton lies near the center of the county, and has an area of 30,720 acres, of which 689 are under cultivation. The surface is gently undulating, and generally covered with timber, excepting the meadow land, of which th^re is a large acreage along the creeks and in the Elk river bottom. The latter river flows in a southerly direction through the western portion of the township. The soil in the eastern part is a rich, dark loam, but the timber is very heavy, aud the work of improvement progresses slowly. The soil in the western part is more sandy, and the surface in the vicinity of Elk river, somewhat broken.

In the fall of 1855, Charles A. Oilman, while on a prospecting tour, encamped on section seven, and selected the spot for a town-site. In 1857, Mr. Oilman, in company with 8. C. Hayes, G. W. Sweet, and H. C. Nute, surveyed and platted a town there, which they named "Medora," but was more commonly known as "Peep O'Day." A house was built, which was the headquarters for some eight or ten unmarried men, who had made claims hi the vicinity and built small shanties. T. DeLong brought his family during that summer, and settled on section eight. He remained about eighteen months and abandoned his claim, as did the others who had settled at Peep O'Day.

No further improvements were made until March, 1864, when C. Galarneault settled on section thirty-two. In April, John Donovan settled near him, on section twenty-eight, and removed his family there in the fall of the same year. Freeman Benwar settled on the same section that fall, and E. Raymond made a claim on section twenty-six. These all reside on their old homesteads, which formed a nucleus for a thrifty and enterprising settlement. The same fall, P. G. Skeate, now of Sank Rapids, settled near the old townsite of Medora, on section eight. There was no road, and three days were required to transport his family from Sauk Rapids to his claim. Jacob Gazette settled near him, on section four, the following spring; he is now a resident of Minneapolis. Peter Visner, Clement Teller, and others soon settled in the vicinity, and since then, the population has steadily increased, until 1880, it numbered 461 persons.

Gilmanton was organized in 1866, it having previously belonged to Watab township. It was named in honor of Charles A. Oilman, who had always taken a deep interest in the welfare of the town, and was instrumental in the location of permanent settlers.

When organized, the territory included all the present towns of Maywood, Alberta, and Gilmanton, except the west twelve sections of the latter, but was reduced to a single congreessional township by the organization of Alberta and Maywood, and in 1873, twelve sections were detached from Watab, since when, the boundaries have not been changed.

The first election was held at the residence of P. G. Skeate on the 5th of May, at which the following officers were elected: Supervisors, Calvin Briggs, Chairman, C. Galarneault and • Jacob Wolhart; Clerk, J. B. Abbott; Treasurer, Jacob Gazette; Assessor, Joseph Heiney; Justices of the Peace, John Donovan, and P. G. Skeate; Constables, Michael Hary and William W. Goundry; and Road Overseer, P. G. Skeate.

The first birth in the town was George Henry, a son of P. G. Skeate, born on the 8th of February, 1865.

The first death was the daughter of Henry Miner, in 1865.

The first marriage took place on the 4th of January, 1870, the happy couple being John McCune and Sarah Teller.

Rev. Sherman Hall with whose faithful senses, the reader is already acquainted, held meetings in the town in an early day, and formed a congregation. He was followed by Revs. T. T. Frickstad and A. N. Ward, and a church was built, but there are now no regular services held.

The first Catholic service was held by Father Pierz, at the residence of C. Galarneault in 1867 or '8. He was followed by Father Buch, who held mass at the house of E. Raymond in 1870, and succeeded in organizing a congregation who have erected a church on section thirty-three.

In 1872, Rev. IX A. Miller organized a Baptist Church, of which he became the pastor. He was succeeded by Rev. M. D. Everst, and a church was built, but at present, services have been discontinued.

The first school taught in the town was by Mrs. Ida Barnum, in a log school house on section eighteen. There are now four school houses, in which the regular terms are taught.

A saw mill was built by C. C. Holmes, on Elk river, on section twenty-six, in 1871. It is still operated by Mr. Holmes, and has a daily capacity of about twelve hundred feet.

According to the agricultural report of 1880, the aggregate products were: wheat, 3510 bushels; oats, 2806 bushels; corn, 2282 bushels; barley, 80 bushels; buckwheat, 27 bushels; potatoes, 2083 bushels; cultivated hay, 112 tons; wild hay, 753 tons; tobacco, 266 pounds; wool, 248 pounds;, butter, 9300 pounds; and honey, 680 pounds.


F. Benwar, one of the early settlers of Gilmanton, was born in Canada East, on the 14th of March, 1819. He remained in Canada, working on a farm, until 1835, when he came to New York; and in about 1841, removed to Rhode Island, where he lived for six years. Then, going back to Canada, he spent two years, and again returned to Rhode Island. In 1855, Mr. Benwar came to Minnesota, living in Rice and Sherburne counties till 1864, when he came to his present farm. Miss S. Morris became his wife on the 13th of September, 1843. They have had thirteen children, seven of whom are living.

John Donovan, an early settler of this town, was born in June, 1820, in Tipperary county, Ireland, where he was engaged in farming until 1852. Then, coming to America, he resided on a farm, in Columbia county, New York. In May, 1857, after having spent one winter in Illinois, Mr. Donovan

came to Minnesota, resided for seven years in Sherburne county, and came to this town, taking a timber farm and homestead. The following year. (1865), he brought his family to their new home, which is now one of the best improved farms to the town. Mr. Donovan was the first Justice of the Peace in the town, and in 1872, was elected County Commissioner, which office he held three years. On the 23d of October, 1856; he married Miss Bridget Doolan. They have two sons.

Thorston De Long was born on the 18th of February, 1835, in Canada West. Assisting his parents on a farm until eighteen years of age, he came to Buffalo, New York, and learned the carpanter's trade. The following year (1854), he returned to Canada, and two years later, came to Sauk Rapids, Minnesota, working a year at his trade. He then came, with his wife, to Gilmanton, and took a claim on section sis, being the first married man who located in the town, In 1858. Mr. De Long returned to Sauk Rapids, from thence to Canada, and in 1864, to Illinois. Two years later, he came to his present farm, since when, he has made himself thoroughly acquainted with the northern part of the State, spending many years in its wilds, in prospecting for pine lauds., Miss Sarah E. Cronk became his wife on the 5th of February, 1857. They have had ten children, and seven are living.

Ebenezeb N. Demick, a descendant of one of the Plymouth Colonists, was born on the 12th of May, 1845, in St. Lawrence county, New York. Residing with his parents until sixteen years of age, he enlisted in Company E, of the Ninety second New York Infantry, and served for seven months, when he was discharged for disabilities received in the service. In August, 1862, he reenlisted in the Sixteenth New York Infantry. Company F, serving as an orderly at Brigade headquarters. After receiving his discharge, he returned to New York, in 1865, and the fall of 1869, came to Sauk Rapids, Minnesota. The following year, he came to this town, taught school for a tune, and has since given his attention to the improvement of his farm in section seven. Mr. Demick married Miss Georgiana Teller, daughter of one of the old settlers of the town, on the 6th of December, 1870. They have had six children, one of whom is deceased.

Henry Faling, a native of Knox county, Ohio, was born on the 9th of November, 1845. In 1856, his parents removed to Michigan, where, when thirteen years of age, Mr. Fating hunted with the Indians; also assisting his father on the farm. In 1869, he visited the western territories, and the following year, settled on the farm in this township, where he has since resided. During the first few years of his residence here, Mr. Faling derived his principal support from hunting. He was married on the 3d of August, 1873, to Miss Emily Harris. They have one son, Frederic.

Casimebe Galarneault, one of the pioneers of Sherbume county, was born on the 15th of August, 1829, in the parish of St. Edwards, Canada. He received his education at a private school, assisting his father on the farm, during his leisure time, until 1850. Then, coming to Minnesota, he was employed, for a time, in what is now known as the town of Haven, Sherbume county, where he took a claim the following year. Ill the spring of 1864, he came to his present farm, in section thirty-four, being the first permanent settler of the township. Mr. Galarneault is a man well known throughout this, and adjoining counties, was elected County Commissioner in 1866, holding the office three years. In 1875, he was again elected, and has since filled the position. Mr. Galarneault has a farm of about four hundred acres, eighty of which are cleared. On the 8th of January, 1852, he was married to Miss Margaret Malone. They have had eight children, three of whom are deceased..

Thomas Henhessy, a native of Kilkenny county, Ireland, was born on the 22d of December, 1804. Assisting his father on the farm in his native town, until 1832, be came to America, and located at Toronto, Canada. Remaining there but a short time, he began working on farms near Rochester, New York, in which place he learned the cooper's trade. He worked at his trade in Canada, then in Michigan, and three years in Illinois, after which he was employed on a farm, in the latter State, until 1868. Coming to Minnesota, Mr. Hennesy spent one year' in Sank Rapids, removed to Racine, Wisconsin, spending two and a half years, and returned to Minnesota. In 1872, he purchased the farm where he has since resided. He was married to Miss Margaret Murray on the 16th of February, 1836. They have had eleven children, only four of whom are living.

William Harris was born in South Wales, on the 9th of November, 1823. Four years previous to 1841, he led a sailor's life, then came to Canada, where he was employed a part of the time on a farm, and the remainder, on vessels on the Lakes. Moving to Michigan, he remained until coming to Benton county, Minnesota, in 1866, where he still resides. Mr. Harris is at present Justice of the Peace. On the 28th of October, 1851, he married Miss Sarah Davidson. They have had ten children, five of whom are living.

C. C. Holmes was born on the llth of March, 1825, in Chautauqua county, New York. When he was eleven years old, his parents moved to Illinois, where he learned the carpenter's trade, also helping his father on the farm. In 1856, he came to Sauk Rapids, was engaged four years at his trade; and then opened a general merchandise store, which, in connection with the Post office, he carried on for nine years. Then, moving to Kandiyohi county, he remained for a year, and returned to Sauk Rapids. After having visited Missouri and Kansas, he came, in 1871, to his present farm, in this county, on which he erected a saw-mill, and has since operated it.

Gregory Lindley, a native of Montreal, Canada, was born on the 17th of July, 1844. When a boy, he learned the tanner's trade of his father, working at it, in his native city, till 1861. Then, he spent eight years traveling in the United States; working, sometimes at his trade, and sometimes as sailor in a coasting vessel. In 1869, he came to his present farm, and the following year, was elected Town Clerk, having held the office every year since. Mr. Lindley was married to Miss Ellen Hughes, on the 16th of February, 1868. They have had six children; one is deceased.

Frederick Lilje was born in Prussia, on the 25th of September, 1835. When young, he learned the trade of wood-turner, at which he worked for three years. ' In 1852, he came to America, and enlisted in the Seventh Regular Infantry. Serving his time out, he again enlisted in the same regiment, and while stationed in the Southwest the Rebellion broke out, and the whole regiment were taken prisoners. They were finally exchanged, and Mr. Lilje served in the army of the Potomac, and in 1862, re-enlisted in Company I, of the same regiment, serving for three years. In 1867, he purchased a farm in Maywood, Benton county, and five years later came to his present farm. He was married to Miss Julia Ann Barnum, on the 4th of March, 1862. They have had nine children, and eight are living.

Andbew Mcgeorge was born in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, on the 27th of January, 1830. Residing there until twenty-three years of age, he visited California, Mexico, and other western places, and, in 1859, returned to his native city. In 1872, he came to Minnesota, and was two years in Clearwater, and four years in St. Cloud; then, in 1879, located on his present farm in section twenty. Mr. McGeorge was married to Miss Lucy A. Hastay, of New Brunswick, in January, 1862. They have five children, Jessie A., Estella J., David L., Ansel, and Grace. One died in infancy and another at the age of twelve years.

Felix Parrant was born in Canada West, on the 29th of November, 1847. In 1850, his parents came to St. Paul, where his father was foreman in a brickyard. Six years later, they removed to Sauk Rapids; remaining a year and a half, they came to St. Cloud, and took a claim. Then, after staying in the latter place a short time, they removed to St. George, Benton county. In 1864, Mr. Parrant enlisted in Company D, of Hatch's Independent Battalion, serving some over two years. In 1867, he purchased his present farm, where he has since resided, with the exception of about five years' absence in the Government surveying party, in charge of General Barrett, in the Indian Territory, Dakota, and Minnesota. He was married to Miss Lavinia Latterell, on the 19th of March, 1871. They have had two children, only one living.

Jacob Siscely was born in Canada West, on the 25th of January, 1830. When about seventeen years old, he learned the carpenters' trade, at which he worked until 1857, and came to Crow Wing, Minnesota, where, for four years, he was employed at his trade. In 1862, he enlisted in the Minnesota Mounted Hangers, under General Bibley, serving for one year. Then, in 1868, Mr. Siscely came to his present farm, where he has since resided, working a part of the time at his trade. He was married to Miss Mary Jane Masterson, on the 23d of April, 1854. They have had eleven children, eight of whom are living.

Benton County Historical Society and Museum
218 1st Street North
P.O. Box 426
Sauk Rapids, MN 56379

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