|A History of STRUM
and the TOWN OF UNITY by Roy Matson
|That First Assessment (1878)
Big Ole Thomasgaard had been elected as Unity assessor at the first town meeting in
1878, the first of many terms as an official of this township. Incidently he was also the first
of the local immigrants to obtain full citizenship. Thomasgaard’s records are clearly
recorded and show the township to be sparsely settled. Over sixty 40-acre parcels of land
were assessed as railroad property although many of these parcels may have been in the
process of sale. Speculators were buying at the railroad price of $1.25 per acre and easily
doubling any investment. Forty acres of land usually carried an assessment of $50. A
house added $300-400 to this amount. Actually some new settlers spent the first year or
two in dugouts.
Personal property was recorded in great detail. A horse was valued at $40-75. Peter
Hanson and Hans Mathison each had 5. Chairman Williams was a horse dealer, he had 12.
Williams also had the most meat cattle, 14. Andrew Call was next with 13. Several settlers
also had swine, usually 4 or 5, but Jack Carter had 7 and civil war veteran Sam Hogue was
assessed for 12 hogs. Sleighs and wagons were counted. Few had more than one of each
but M. P. Imislund had 3. Three reed organs were assessed, one at $50 and 2 at $75. The
highest assessment was charged to J. LeBarron at $650. Andrew Call had $5 less. The
total of all personal property was $25,460.00. Real estate totaled $91,325.00 for a grand
total of $116,785.00.
An interesting comparison of farm domestic animal population is worth some space.
Year Horses Sheep Swine Cattle
1878 148 147 145 491
1900 415 436 469 969
1936 not assessed 885 169 2279
1971 not assessed 53 204 3717
Hog prices bottomed at $.02 per pound in 1936. No wonder farmers quit hogs. The 1971
sheep count of 53 is hard to believe. There were only two teams of horses used on farms
that year although several were pastured. Some change.
Unity citizens had an opportunity to vote on the county seat controversy that first year and
delivered a majority favoring Whitehall. The following spring Thomas Howery presented a
resolution at the annual meeting opposing the borrowing of any money to build a county
courthouse. It was adopted. P. B. Williams was not a candidate for chairman in 1880 and
Even Evenson succeeded to that post.
The first resolution concerning the restraining of cattle from roaming at will was made by
P. B. Williams in 1881 and was adopted, although the minutes mentioned a “divided
house.” Then in the fall of 1881 came the first real calamity to hit the fledging township.
Unity was sued for $5,500.00. It seems A. D. Moon was freighting a load of foods from
the Augusta depot to R. P. Goddard’s store in Eleva some time in late 1881. A bridge of
some sort must have existed over the river near the St. Paul’s Church because Mr. Moon,
wagon team, and the whole load of goods crashed through the structure. Mr. Goddard
asked for $500 damage but Moon served notice that his loss would come to ten times that
amount. A special meeting was called of all taxpayers to meet at the Howery School. $300
was voted to obtain a good lawyer with the authority to spend $750 if needed. Goddard
quickly settled for $250, but Moon held out for a couple of years. Finally an order shows
he accepted $187.50. Attorneys fees were $15. It seems a little over $100 was spent on
plank and bridge work in December, 1881. The township bought 8,000 feet of planking
from Bennet’s Mill to be hauled and piled on Clement Thompson’s farm, hauling to be let
to the lowest bidder. Esten Johnson was awarded the job at $4.25 per thousand feet. The
lumber bill came to $43.92.
Ole Thomasgaard succeeded Evenson as chairman and served off and on for the next 25
years. A most unusual report was made by town officials at the spring annual meeting in
1882. No poor fund tax had to be raised