A History of STRUM
and the TOWN OF UNITY
by Roy Matson
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dozen years later became the main street of Strum. Evenson, of course, was interested in
providing travel rights for any member of the Big Creek settlement that could be induced
to join his church group and aid in building a house of worship, a happening that took
place a few months later.

1877 must have been a busy year for several local residents. In January the Carter Creek
road to Big Creek was laid out. Then in February Evenson’s group of Norwegians formed
the St. Paul’s Lutheran congregation, circulated a petition that raised $600 and built their
church. A. J. Lyons donated land for the building and cemetery. Evenson was secretary
and largest contributor. At the first annual meeting he paid an indebtedness totaling $800.
During  the fall of that year the citizens of range 8 came to a decision about separating
from the Town of Sumner. Voters of Sumner had been very considerate about granting
official representation to the sparsely populated western half of the township, but again
there was the matter of travel and communication. Anyway, on April 2, 1878, voters of
range 8 assembled at the Howery school (later the site of the Brick school) for their first
annual meeting. Simon Olson who would eventually become Trempealeau County register
of deeds was elected clerk, and his clear, well written minutes reveal that $200 was raised
for roads and bridges, $200 for incidental expenses, and $50 for support of the poor. Polls
closed at sundown and P. B. Williams was chosen 1st chairman, Lars Dahl and Ole J. Moe
supervisors, Simon Olson clerk, Even Evenson treasurer, and Ole Thomasgaard was
elected assessor.

The name of the township must have been chosen at a pre-election meeting. It is a short,
interesting episode that should bear mention. Dennis Lawler and P. B. Williams were the
first two settlers north of T24, R8. The former felt his surname should be used as the name
for the new municipality. Someone must have felt that P. B. should be privileged to have a
choice because he suggested the name of his home town in Maine. Straws were drawn and
P. B. won. Hence we have Unity. Somewhere there is a note that Noah Comstock of
Arcadia served as advisor for this township organization and refereed the straw tally.

Norwegian settlers held all administrative posts of the new township except chairman.
They outnumbered their Yankee neighbors and the matter of sucuring voting rights after
just a short residence may be puzzling. It appears the act of securing land was a step
toward suffrage. A letter written by C. E. Wenberg, the first Norwegian settler in Chimney
Rock, had an enlightening sentence confirming this. He arrived in 1869 and cast his first
vote for U. S. Grant as President in 1872. Wenberg tells that his first paper was given for
free with an understanding that “my vote would be given as recommended by he who gave
the paper.” In any event these new citizens were highly impressed by these laws that gave
them authority to vote and manage their own government. In my files is a letter from a
new arrival that had been sent back to relatives in the old country, wherein he tells of
many differences in this new land. “Here” he says, “if we don’t like the man in office, we
vote another in his place.” Simple. By 1880 all officers were Norwegian with Even
Evenson chairman.

These people took a keen interest in running the township. The first recording of a vote
came in 1884 when 119 were cast. Later, 134 ballots were given and the high was 160 in
1892. Remember that only men voted. Ole Thomasgaard succeeded P. B. Williams after a
couple of years. Otto Langerfield, M. Imislund and Even Evenson also served as chairman
in succeeding years. The Howery school was used for a meeting place until 1887 when
Finstad’s hall (the 2nd floor of the blacksmith shop) took over. In 1894 the Temperance
Hall became the home of Unity for the next 85 years.