|A History of STRUM
and the TOWN OF UNITY by Roy Matson
|scarcity of timber had been evident on their three day travel, but the Beef River Valley and
their home coulee had no trees, except for a very few willows and alders along the river or
creeks. They learned that Indians burned the hills regularly to insure blueberry crops. The
natives were of the peaceful Winnebago tribe whose winter village was south on the Black
River. A couple of families lived that first summer in the upper end of the valley. They
called occassionally for a loaf of bread, always reciprocating with a pan of meat. There
were actually few Indians in this area.
Esten Johnson Dahl’s family soon learned that their closest post office was at Hamlin, that
A. J. Lyons and the Wingads lived to the northwest of their home and P. B. Williams to
the northeast. Several of the English speaking families had pre-empted land in sections 22
and 23 further east.
The first winter was without incident except for a constant scrounging for wood. John
remembers seeing and hearing a wolf atop their animal shed one cold, moonlit winter
night. Then a small son died and the father made a trip back to the Cannon Valley
cemetery for interment.
One early spring evening two men walked down from the west ridge. They had been
looking for land, were tired and hungry, happy to learn the family was Norwegian and
delighted to know the whole valley was empty. The Flatens settled on the next quarter
section up the valley and before many months had passed, Engebret Pederson chose land
above them. Over the ridge in what was called west valley, Even Evenson and Anton
Dahl, both of the Ronglien family, had homesteaded. Across the river in Carter valley,
Johannes Christianson had built a home. Over the ridge in Big Creek, a settlement from
Rindal, Norway had begun in 1867.
1869 had seen several Norwegian families locate in this river valley, but 1870 brought
many more with a result that about all except the hilliest forty acre pieces of land were
preempted. Very few had any equipment or cash but they were an ambitious, industrious
people with high hopes about possibilities in this new land. Various area valleys had a high
number of settlers from certain “bygds”, or localities, in Norway, the reasons for this are
discussed elsewhere in this telling.
During the first decade of settlement, 1857-1867, the local area had been governed by the
town board of Sumner which included all lands north of township line 24 north, in ranges
7, 8 and 9, later Sumner, Unity and Albion townships respectively.
In 1862 residents of Hamlin formed the Town of Chase in honor of young David Chase
who had been killed at the battle of Shiloh. That town organization seems to have faded
away, as only part of an 1863 assessment roll remains, and range 9 residents created the
township of Albion in 1869. The town of Sumner assessment roll for 1870, however,
includes range 9 as if Albion did not exist. Perhaps some agreement had been made about
a tax division.
One can easily understand a reason for this separation. The Sumner town board had a
representative from range 9, and travel to the Osseo area to consult about a township
problem demanded not only travel time but a matter of communication in order that a
proper official could be contacted. Residents of range 8 (present Unity) had received
generous attention from Sumner voters, once settlement had become stabilized. P. B.
Williams had served as both supervisor and chairman, Esten Johnson Dahl and Lars Dahl
had terms as supervisors and Even Evenson had a term as town clerk and supervisor.
Evenson was supervisor in 1877 and possibly instrumental in obtaining a $75
appropriation to consult a river bridge between sections 15 and 16 (red bridge). Early that
same year he obtained favorable action and laid out the Carter Creek road, now County D,
over the ridge into Big Creek area. Its southern point began at his north farm line, about a
mile south of the present village, and a