In 1871 there were only two counties in what is now known as North Dakota. Renville County of today was part of a great territory known as Buffalo Country, and the Red River area was known as Pembina. In 1872 the territorial legislature made further divisions. It created Rolette, Bottineau, McHenry, Stevens, Mountrail, Williams and Wallette counties.
Stevens County included all of the present Ward and McLean counties and more besides. Williams lay mostly south of the Missouri River where Dunn County is now. Mountrail was a narrow strip including parts of the present Mountrail and Burke Counties and Wallette took the place of the present Divide and Williams Counties.
Thousands of buffalo then roamed these plains and the earliest pioneers, hunters and trappers, thrilled at the sight of the vast herds of the shaggy animals. However, they disappeared rapidly with the onslaught of hunters who slaughtered them mercilessly, some for sport, and some for the railroad.
By 1875 the large herds had been reduced to scattered groups here and there found mostly in out of the way places. The Coteau Du Missouri hills and the breaks along the Mouse River were among the favorite haunts of the buffalo and many of them were killed in these hills.
The last buffalo hunt called The It big Killing, was in 1882 and many thousands of the animals were killed in this famous hunt. After that year they were practically gone. Down through the years these beasts had furnished the meat supply for the Indians, together with antelope and deer, which were also in abundance in the vast plain area.
With the progress of civilization, the antelope and deer soon disappeared and now are only seen on very rare occasions.
With the extermination of the buffalo those who had been engaged in this occupation turned to gathering the bones, a harvest which lasted only a few years. During that time it almost became an industry in the northwestern part of the state. A firm by the name of Worner and Stoltz was the leading buyer in Minot and they paid from $6.00 to $15.00 a ton for the bones delivered there. Products manufactured from the bones included knife handles, commercial fertilizer and converted carbon used in filtration of sugar.
Indians roamed the plains in large bands and chiefly among those found in the north and northwestern part of the territory were the Gros Ventre tribe. Each tribe laid claim to a certain unbounded territory and were constantly giving way to a more powerful tribe.
The larger tribe would remain for a time, move on to conquer a smaller foe, and the tribe previously conquered would come back to claim their territory until a stronger tribe came again to dislodge them.
Thus they sought new hunting ground, only when driven off by a stronger foe, until the white man came to slaughter and drive away the animals on which they depended for existence.
The trails which they made threaded their way near the present site of Mohall and crossed the Mouse River near McKinney and other trails made by them in what is now called Renville County crossed the Mouse River near Henry Stammen's ranch in the western part near the county line. One of their burial grounds was located several miles farther south along the river. This burial ground, in tradition with the old Indian custom was made on poles. When the Government took charge of the Indians this ceremony was forbidden.
Wherever virgin prairie still prevails, many circles of stone can be found to mark the spot where teepees stood to form part of an encampment of Indians at some time. Many relics, as memories of these Indians include numerous arrowheads, stone hammers, skulls and spear heads.
Among the hundreds of bone collectors who searched here and there over the plains for the buffalo bones, were a group of half breeds from Pembina. They came to the northwest in search of bones, with large boxes on large two-wheeled carts, introducing for the first time this type of cart to the northwest country. The cart was the Red River cart and the bones were gathered rapidly by these men, as with their squealing carts and oxen they went here and there.
Foremost among this group of men was a French half breed-named Joseph Renville, who with this group of half breeds visited the Mouse River Valley. He returned again several years later, and it was through this mans visits to this part of the country that Renville County later came to be known by that name.
An early trapper who roved up and down the Mouse River Valley was among others, and perhaps the most famous, Yankee Robinson, who made a business of trapping and hunting.
Into what is now known as Renville County early in 1883 came the Gray Brothers., Robert H., John T., George C., and Lewis, to establish a horse ranch 10 miles north of where the present site of the village of Greene is. Settling in a large bend of the river, log buildings were hastily thrown up, with logs cut from the trees along the river. These boys, or young men, as they were then, came to the Mouse River Valley from Canada. Their outfit was made up of one horse drawn wagon laden with supplies, a number of saddle horses and pack horses and a large band of loose horses. The four men came westward searching for a suitable location for a ranch where ample range could be found to raise horses in large quantities.
Wild game was found in abundance by the Gray Brothers and they were never short of meat. Deer and several species of antelope, ducks and geese afforded good meat in the valley while prairie chicken, grouse and partridge were found in large covies almost anywhere on the prairie. Fur-bearing animals quite common along the river were mink, otter, beaver, timber wolves, red and grey foxes, lynx, silver gray fox and occasional black or brown bear. Such animals found on the prairie were mostly coyotes or prairie wolves.
The Gray brothers remained and by the end of the year had a very nice band of horses so they returned to Canada later in the year and brought more horses back with them. Their closest town was Devils Lake, to which point they made one trip during the fall to lay in staple necessities needed during the long winter. By the time the snow came they had a very comfortable home established, plenty of meat stored up and the valley afforded an open range for their horses which had to be watched all the time so as to not allow them to wander too far back on the vast plains both ways from the snug little valley. Their chief occupation during the long winter months was the trapping of the fur-bearing animals of which they caught many, and when spring arrived had a very good store of furs packed away.
About the same time the Gray brothers came to the Mouse River Valley three other brothers, Daniel, John and Michael Manning also came from Canada in 1883, searching for a suitable place to start a horse and cattle ranch, where access to open range would be found. Pressing westward from the Turtle Mountains they came to a creek and in the fork of the creek decided they had found a suitable location, so here they established their home. Some trees grew on the creek and with some of the largest of these and odd ones secured here and there from other clumps of trees, they managed to build a log shack, which was the start of what turned out to be the large Manning ranch on the fork of Antlers Creek. They, too made a return trip to Canada and came back with cattle and horses which in later years grew into one of the largest herds of cattle and horses in the northwest.
The abundance of tall grass on the vast prairie afforded a real paradise for the stock and during the next twenty years William Turner who came with the Manning Brothers as their foreman, made the declaration in 1903,"That they had not cut or stacked one single ton of hay for their large herd of cattle and horses during that time including the severe winter of 1885-1886.
As with the Gray brothers who were located about thirty five miles southwest of the Mannings, the latters closest railroad point in the U.S. was Devils Lake, which was about one hundred forty miles to the southeast.
Portage La Prairie, their old home in Manitoba, Canada, was only about one hundred twenty miles to the northeast so an occasional trip was made to their old home in Canada with an overnight camp at White Water Lake, which was nearly half way. One trip during the year was made to Devils Lake for provisions as better trails were found in this direction and not such rough country to cross, as the north end of the Turtle Mountains had to be crossed in a trip to Portage La Prairie and not much of a load could be hauled on the return trip.
1884 brought Ed Bryans Sr. from the same vicinity in Canada, traveling in a wagon containing his family and all their household goods and drawn by a yoke of oxen. Traveling westward from the Manning ranch on the Antler Creek he finally decided to squat on a tract of land about two miles north of the present Mouse River Park. Here he built a combination of a log and sod house which served as their home for the next five years. In 1889 he moved farther south to secure more hay and water for their stock. Here a frame house was built near the river and when the land was surveyed by the Government in 1895 and 1896 the section line passed within two feet of the house. This was the start of what later became the famous Bryans ranch. By 1906 Mr. Bryans had one of the largest ranches in the country, at that time having 10,000 sheep, which he went in for in a big way. With the coming of the settlers the open range diminished and he was forced to dispose of his large flock.
The same year (1884) John Stammen and his three sons Henry, Phillip and Michael settled thirty miles south of the Gray brothers ranch near where the county line is now. This ranch developed into a very large ranch and the original ranch later became the C.P. ranch owned by C. H. Parker of Minot and one of the only ranches in the state where a buffalo herd is maintained.
1885 brought more Portage La Prairie residents to the Mouse River when James Harkness and his son, William, came in with saddle horses and pack horses to settle three fourths of a mile from the international boundary.
The same spring brought Nels, Frank and John Swenson to settle north of the Gray brothers ranch about five miles, just a half mile south of where the village of McKinney was soon started.
The Mouse River Horse and Cattle Company which became one of the largest ranches in this region was started in the spring of 1885 with Otis McKinney and Clyde W. Joslin as the owners. A third man named Young also owned part of the company and his name was always linked with those of McKinney and Joslin. These men shipped from Ohio to Jamestown, N.D. and from Jamestown moved their outfit overland to the Mouse River Valley.
The next seven years saw the Mouse River Horse and Cattle Company increase its herd until in 1892 they were receiving 1200 head of polled Angus cattle and two hundred fifty head of Clydesdale horses. In 1892 most of the herd was shipped and sold to St. Paul markets, being loaded at Kenmare, comprising the first trainload of livestock shipped over the Soo Line from Kenmare.
W.E.(Billy) Grimell, also came to the valley in 1885 and he made himself quite a name on this new frontier as foreman for the Mouse River Horse and Cattle Company. He later homesteaded the land where the Mouse River Parks site is today and two and one half miles south down the river from the ranch of the Mouse River Horse and Cattle Company.
Joslin Post office, started in 1885 and named for Clyde W. Joslin, one of the partners in the famous Cattle Company, was located in a bend of the river four miles east and one half mile south of the present site of Tolley and on todays description of the land as NW of Sec. 1-Twp 160-Range 86.
This was the first regularly appointed post office in the County and mail was brought from Burlington which was the county seat of Imperial Ward County until 1886 when the railroad came to Minot. Mail was brought to Burlington from Devils Lake by stage as was mail from Burlington to Joslin. A man named Joe Overholt as the first stage driver. In the spring he had settled and started a small ranch about one and one half miles south of the present site of the village of Grano in the valley by the river. Coming from Burlington with the stage, Overholt went by way of the scattered ranches in the valley, following the river all the way.
He nearly always hauled merchandise for the ranchers and as no special route was laid out he often went out of his way to make deliveries to them. As there were practically no regulations of post offices at that time, people would come to his home to call for their mail or merchandise and in this manner his ranch soon became known as Overholt postoffice, and later as the vicinity became settled, quite a bit of mail was delivered from this point.
Tom Lansley and J. A. Juno were later stage drivers on this same route, but Overholt drove for several years.
Joslin was a busy little village for the first year, with the establishing
of the post office, store and blacksmith shop taking care of the bulk of
the business. All provisions and what equipment was used had to be
hauled from Devils Lake.
Henry Ludtke came to the little burg as the first postmaster and storekeeper and the most excitement was when the stage arrived every third day. Nearly everyone in the community gathered at the little post-office to get a letter from home.
McKinney post-office was started the next year in 1886 and was named for the other member of the Mouse River Horse and Cattle Company, Otis McKinney.
The little village was started first about a half mile south of the permanent location, and the first building was owned by Carl Swenson who served as postmaster and general storekeeper. Another building was soon erected and served as a hardware store with a lean-to serving as a blacksmith shop. Built on the slope west of the river almost straight west of the Swenson home, the little village never increased to more than these two buildings and several years later it was moved to a site about a half mile north of Swenson’s. A bridge was built there and McKinney grew to be the busiest little town in the proposed County of Renville.
With the start of McKinney in 1886, the stage line from Burlington to Joslin was extended to McKinney from Joslin and mail was distributed from McKinney.
1886 also brought another picturesque rancher to the vicinity where Sherwood was later to become a town. This was Mr. Colquhoun, who settled about twenty miles northwest of McKinney and started what later turned out to be one of the largest sheep ranches in the county. His home later proved to be a good stopping place for home seekers and settlers, and many of the early homesteaders got provisions and mail from this place.
By 1890 horses, cattle and sheep roamed the plains by the thousands with identification only by brand. Each individual owner had his own brand. Every large ranch had its own riders, commonly called cowboys, and those in the sheep business employed quite a few herders, accompanied each by two or three dogs as a protection against the ever depreciating prairie wolves or coyotes. The vast plains stretching both ways from the Mouse River Valley afforded a regular paradise for the large herds of roving stock. The long grass of many years growth served an abundant amount of feed both winter and summer.
The only obstacle was an occasional prairie fire in the spring and fall
of the years and as the country became more settled these became more numerous.
Some of them burned many miles of grassland and raged for several days before
being subdued. Ranchers, cowboys, sheep herders and settlers would unite
and fight night and day to halt this ravaging menace whenever it started.
Many times a beef was killed, and tying two lariats to opposite legs of the dead animal, two cowboys mounted on two horses would ride along a line of fire dragging the carcass between them over the fires in this manner putting the fire out. Men on foot would follow with anything available to beat the flame out wherever it re-lit. This method worked well wherever the grass was short. Most of the grass was long, so this method was not very often used to an advantage.
Roundups were held in the spring and fall by the stockmen with the branding of young calves, colts or lambs taking place at the spring roundup. The fall roundup took care of cutting out of beeves, horses and sheep ready for market. The cheerful yells of the cowboys during these seasons was heard quite commonly, and the bumpety-bump of the chuck wagon also was a familiar sound.
McKinney, the largest town in the community serving all of the surrounding territory, was moved from it original site in the late eighties across the river, about a half mile north to a beautiful site in a large bend in the river. Here was a natural picnic ground and many picnics were held here just east of the little town. A wooden plank bridge was built here about 1890 after the visitors to the little town had used the ford a half mile north up to that time. The stage running to Minot after 1886 continued to use the ford and the rattle of the wheels and horse hooves on the rocks was a familiar sound to Swenson’s whose home was close to the ford. In the spring when the river rose, the stage would cross the ford and the water would often be over the bottom of the floor.
With the coming of the railroad, the main Soo line, to Kenmare in 1893, most of the staging from McKinney to Minot was brought to a standstill as a stage line was est-ablished from McKinney to Joslin to Kenmare. This proved to make faster connections than the longer route to Minot. Tom Lansley established the first stage line to Kenmare from McKinney. He also acquired the line from McKinney to Burlington about the same time and ran both lines for several years. He later turned over the line to Burlington to J. A. Juno.
Dakota Territory entered the Union and became a state in 1889. At this time the commissioners districts were redistricted throughout the county. In 1891 the leg-islature tried in an act by that body to divide this territory comprising the proposed Renville County, and attach the east fifteen townships to Bottineau County. Later the state Supreme Court held this act unconstitutional.
The Mouse River Horse and Cattle Company stopped their large scale ranching in 1893-. Much of their stock was shipped and sold. The stock driven to Kenmare was loaded at that point, comprising the first trainload of stock shipped over the new railroad.
After 1893 Kenmare grew by leaps and bounds. After that date McKinney secured all of its provisions and lumber from Kenmare. With the railroad now only about 16 miles away, McKinney also grew rapidly and became a busy thriving little town, in spite of the fact that it was inland. By 1903 there were three stores, two hardware stores, two meat markets, a drug store, bank, harness shop, a newspaper, two barber shops, two blacksmith shops, a livery barn, two restaurants, a hotel, two implement houses and six saloons. The stage stopped at the hotel to unload mail and passengers. It would then proceed to the livery barn where the horses were put up over night. In addition to the stores and other business places, dwelling houses were steadily going up and also a church and schoolhouse. The first cemetery in the county was started at McKinney with an interment as early as 1892.
In 1895 and 1896 the Government surveyed the land and made their headquarters at McKinney and Kenmare. Many old ranchers and early settlers watched this procedure with interest, little knowing that this was the first step toward spelling the end of their cattle kingdom.
Many Indians were frequent visitors to McKinney as their caravans from Fort Berthold made summer visits to the Turtle Mountains. Other Indians from Montana often camped here overnight also. No trouble was ever experienced with them. In 1890, after one of Rielts Rebellions, a group of Indians wandered into the United States from Canada and, at the request of the U. S. Government, Royal Canadian mounted police and a detachment of Canadian soldiers came down and rounded them up. Most of them were found in central North Dakota . The soldiers returned to Canada by way of McKinney following the river all the way. Stopping at McKinney, the officers filed their report with W. E. Grinnell, who at that time was assistant postmaster. The company remained over night at McKinney, and etched deep in the memory of the residents of the little town and surrounding vicinity was the clear cut bugle call the next morning and the sight of the soldiers with their red coats flashing in sunlight. They rode away in a two by two file along the trail winding its way beside the river.
Pleasant post office was the next settlement started in the proposed Renville County.
Hans 0. Johnson started a store and post-office there in 1895. Mail was brought to McKinney by the stage and Mr. Johnson brought the mail from that point twice a week. This post-office was named for its pleasant surroundings in the valley.
1896 brought the start of Barber post-office , which was only a ranchers home along the river where mail was left. Persons near that point could come there and get their mail rather than travel farther to McKinney or Pleasant. This post-office was named for the rancher of the same name.
The first school in the county was a private school at the home of N. W. Swenson. It was started in 1888 for the children in the immediate vicinity. In 1890 a log building was erected on the Swenson land near McKinney. This was the first public school in the county. The pupils were Ida, Anna and John Swenson, Hannah Hanson, Selmer Tufveson, Gordon and Garfield Wilson. Arthur Colby was the teacher. Some of them boarded at the Swenson home since the distance was too great for them to walk. The remainder of the children rode bronchos to and from school. This school in 1891 was moved to the Barber place, where Barber post-office was later established, and a new school was built at the edge of the town of McKinney. This school was the last building to be salvaged at the old town by the Government in 1937. Built from the best lumber and always kept in a very good condition, the old landmark was in very good condition when it was torn down.
In 1898 another school was started on the Ole Persons ranch near Overholt post-office. There were seven pupils in this school and as in the other schools, board shelves were built along the wall for desks and long benches were used for seats.
The first church in the county was built near Overholt post-office in 1900 by a group of ranchers and early settlers in that vicinity. When a regular pastor could not be secured, a layman among the residents of the vicinity generally conducted services. Whenever church services were held at the little church all the residents in the community would be present; others came many miles to attend services, also.
Many house parties were held up and down the river among the early ranchers and settlers. The participants would generally dance gayly until morning, provided the musicians wanted to play that long. Many such parties were held at Swenson’s. A common visitor with his fiddle to furnish the music was, Ole Ankerson Sundre. He played his "fiddle" all over the Mouse River Loop for just such parties.
Nina post-office was another post-office established in the County by Owen Moon. He started this post-office at his farm in 1901 and named it for his daughter, Nina Moon. Owen B. Moon as he was rightfully christened, drove to Pleasant post-office, ten miles to the west and north, without remuneration. Often he took back with him only one letter. Homesteading four and one half miles west of the site of the present town of Sherwood he settled on October 8th, 1901. Within a year he had established a store , a blacksmith shop and a post-office. "Dad" Moon was often referred to as the father of Sherwood. The charter for his post-office was signed by President Theodore Roosevelt. With the coming of the railroad to Sherwood, "Dad" Moon moved his store and blacksmith shop and also his post-office - without official permission- to Sherwood. There he continued to run the post-office until Mrs. Minnie Alexander was duly appointed postmaster.
In 1899 Lewis post-office sprang up eight miles straight west of McKinney. A small store also was built there. A year later a school was built and started the next fall. This was named after the man on whose farm it was located. Marinus Peterson was postmaster there for several years. Mail for this post-office was brought sometimes from Kenmare and sometimes the stage was met on its route from Kenmare to Joslin. The mail reached Lewis post-office in this manner to be distributed among the settlers when they called for it.
Renville post-office, located 10 miles east of the present site of Mohall, was started in 1900 with a stage hauling mail, express and passengers plying its trade between there and Minot. Renville post-office soon grew to a small town and two years later had two stores, drug store, blacksmith shops, hotel, harness shop, hardware store, barber shop, law office, livery barn, meat market, a bank and a newspaper office. It also had a number of residences. A school was built here in 1903. The town was named for the French-Indian half-breed named Renville, who had twice visited this part of the country. He came here from Pembina.
With 1896 the settlers commenced to come in as soon as the Government Survey was completed, and the land was opened for homesteading. Every year after that the flood of homesteaders and land seekers, businessmen and gamblers steadily increased until all the land available was taken. Settlers were located on nearly every quarter section of land. Of those that came in 1896, 1897, 1898 and 1899 and 1909, only a small percentage remained. Of those that came in 1901 nearly all remained. The bulk of those that came in that year today make up the most of the agricultural district.
1901, 1902 and 1903 brought the largest flood of settlers and people from every other walk of life that the Northwest had ever seen. With the settling up of the country, more inland post-offices were established to conveniently distribute mail to patrons the fastest way possible. Haase post-office was started by F. W. Haase on his farm twelve miles northeast of the present site of Mohall in 1901. Dokken post-office was started on the Sherman Hatton farm in 1902. This was about six miles east of Haase post-office. Mail for these points was brought from Renville post-office by Ole N. Dokken, which in turn got the mail by the stage which was owned and operated by J.S. Murphy. It ran to and from Minot.
About this time Glenn post-office was started in SW 1/4 Sec. 21 of what today is Grassland township. It was just across the river from the present site of the village of Greene. This post-office was five miles up the river from Overholt post-office. The stage from McKinney to Burlington brought the mail for this new post-office. It was four miles down the river from Joslin post-office. Started on a homesteaders claim at the mouth of a large ravine near the river, it was named Glenn, for the large coulee. The settler was a Scotsman and to him the big coulee was a beautiful glen as they are called in Scotland.
On December 26th, 1901 the town of Mohall was started by M. 0. Hall, a notary public, real estate man, conveyancer and publisher. He built one building which housed his newspaper, ‘The Hall News’ and a general store; though not large, it housed many necessities needed by the settlers. The building was constructed with a small hall upstairs which at first had to be used for living quarters for Mr. Hall, the printer, Mrs. Hall, a bride of two weeks, and the printers Mother.
On February 22, 1902 M. 0. Hall was appointed postmaster and the name of the town was changed from Hall to Mohall. Another North Dakota town by the name of Hall conflicted with the old Mohall name. Up to February 22nd all mail to Hall was sent in care of Joslin and picked up in Joslin by some homesteader in the vicinity of Hall.
Early in 1900 Tom Lansley and J. A. Juno, noted stage drivers of McKinney, traded stage lines with Lansley evidently getting the better of the deal. Had he known that late the next year the village of Mohall was to start and develop into a thriving city, he most likely would not have traded.
So it was J. A. Juno who brought the first stage to Mohall soon after the post-office was established. In a short time he was running it on a daily schedule with a stage leaving each end of the line each morning. Juno drove one stage and William Bakeman drove the other. Leaving Mohall at 8 a.m., the westbound stage arrived at Kenmare at 5 p.m. The eastbound stage left Kenmare at 7:30 a.m. and arrived at Mohall at 4:30 p.m. The line ran by way of both McKinney and Joslin. It carried passengers, mail and later money from banks in Kenmare to banks in Mohall. Both stages met and stopped at Joslin for dinner. Horses were also changed at that place. In winter time these drivers really experienced some hard times. Among the worst was the September blizzard of 1902 - on the 13th of that month.
Only wagon trails served as roads, and heavy snows made these about impossible. The stage had to go through - and through it did go with four horses used on many occasions to draw the conveyance. One of Mr. Juno’s famous drivers was an ex-cowboy named Bud Hastings, noted for his horsemanship and for generally bringing the stage in ahead of schedule.
Mohall grew rapidly and within the next few months had developed into a busy town. J. H. Juno’s livery barn was the second building to go up in the new town and various other business buildings sprang up in a hurry.
During 1901 Hammerfest post-office was established in what is today the SE4 of Section 33 of Hamerly township. This was about eleven miles northwest of the present site of Mohall and about six miles northeast of McKinney. This was located on the J.P. Larson farm and mail put out from this post-office was supplied semi-weekly from McKinney, and brought by team by the Hammerfest postmaster.
In 1902 Winifred and Whitney post-offices were started by homesteaders about ten miles and fifteen miles northwest of Mohall respectively; the former located on the southeast quarter of section 19 of what is today Hurley township, and the latter located on the southwest quarter of section 4 of present Hamerly township. For a little over two years these two post-offices got their mail by way of Hammerfest post-office through McKinney twice a week. On July 14th 1904, star route service was established from Mohall to Winifred, Whitney and Nina. At this time, Whitney post-office was moved to section 30 of what is today Eden Valley township, or four miles east and two miles north of its original location. J. A. Juno of Mohall was the carrier and made the trip six times a week - a distance of 22 miles to Nina post-office one way- and he received $622.44 a year, or $51.87 a month. Nina post-office was discontinued that fall when Sherwood was started and the star route ran then only as far as Whitney and continued to do this until patrons of both post-offices were taken by rural routes from Mohall and Sherwood which were est-ablished during the next two years.
Prosperity post-office was started in 1902 on the SE ¼ Sec. 12 of what is today Prosperity Township. Mail for this office was received at Pleasant, which received it twice a week from McKinney, as did Barber post-office. This post-office was later replaced by a rural route from Sherwood.
1904 brought the extension of the Great Northern Railway from Mohall to Sherwood and Owen (Dad) Moon moved his little village of Nina post-office and all to Sherwood.
The first original survey of the railroad was made and completed August 28,1902.
Started at Granville, it passed through Mohall in a northwesterly direction to stop at the east edge of the Mouse River Valley two miles east and one half mile north of Pleasant post-office in Sec. 20 of what is today Prosperity Township. The railroad came to Mohall the next year and a Y was built here indicating the temporary end of the line. The following year, 1904, the original plans were changed and the road bed was laid to Sherwood, which was barely started when the railroad arrived.
With the thought in mind that heavy snows would block the new railroad P. J. Murphy established a stage line from Mohall to Minot. This was done December 10, 1903 and was operated throughout the winter, which proved to be a winter with lots of snow. When spring came, the stage was abandoned. Throughout the winter the train was run on a three day a week schedule so the stage got in some business it would not have gotten had a daily schedule been in order. This schedule was also followed throughout most of the next summer with the train running on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The fall of 1904 arrived with a heavy express and passenger service so this rule was abolished.
Soon after the start of Mohall and Sherwood the topic of county organization became the main issue of the day. Many meetings were held throughout the proposed county as everyone wanted their independence from Imperial Ward. Committees were organized and delegations were sent to Minot and Bismarck but no action seemed to be forthcoming. While the various committees were working on County organization., George R. Whitford of Mohall, a general merchant was doing a very good business and had to have larger quarters so he decided to build a store. Little did he know that when he started work on his new store he was building a building that would later serve as a courthouse for about 27 years. Construction on the building was started July 28th, 1904 with Edwin B. Loucks as architect and John Walstead as contractor. The concrete work was done by the Kahabka brother and the lumber and other materials used in the building were purchased from the M. G. Ripley and Company lumber yard. The building, 24 ft. by 80 ft., was constructed with an 18 by 40 ft. cellar, this excavation also being made by the Kahabka brothers. The building had a flat roof with a slight pitch. The roof was finished off with a rubberoid material, and the cost of the building was $3,000.00. The building was completed and occupied by November 1st of that year. The store building which Mr. Whitford vacated was turned into a hall and opera house and much entertainment as held there during the next few years.
Not to be outdone by its new rival to the East, McKinney on November 5th 1903, became the proud owner of a flour mill built by W. J. Paff. This was the only flour mill northwest of Minot and it was a very busy mill for several years as Mr. Paff proved to be a very good miller. This new asset also proved a big help to the other business places in town. The following year, 1904, by September 22nd, Mr. Paff had his mill dam completed, and could use water power as long as the river was high enough . Steam had been his only power up to this time. During the fall of the year, when the farmers laid in their winter supply of flour, it was a common occurrence for the mill to be open night and day. Teams were lined up all day waiting their turn. The mill burned to the ground May 10th, 1906, but undaunted, Mr. Paff rebuilt it and had it grinding flour again by Christmas of the same year.
On October 27th, 1904, Haase post-office was moved to the E. 0. Smith with Mr. Smith resuming Mr. Haasels duties as postmaster. Mr. Haase resigned and moved to Iowa.
The following year on June 22nd, 1905 a star route was established from Mohall to Dokken post-office by way of Haase with Glen M. Dokken as the stage driver. He made a distance of 21 miles one way, six days a week.
With the coming of the Soo Line, or Wheat Line as it became known, to Tolley in the fall of 1905, several business houses in McKinney moved their buildings, businesses and all to Tolley. Eventually it was Tolley and the coming of the railroad to that town which finally caused McKinney to fade. Joslin post-office was moved to Tolley on July 20, 1905 with Henry Ludtke still postmaster. This was three months before the railroad arrived. Joslin, only four miles east and one half mile south, soon ceased to exist. After the rails came to Tolley and the post-office was moved it was only a few months till the store and blacksmith shop were also moved. The other small business buildings were moved within the next year and by the next fall the historic little village had practically been abandoned.
The stage discontinued its service to Kenmare and ran only as far as Joslin by way of McKinney after the railroad came to Tolley and Kenmare from the east. This was continued only until the first of May 1906 and then the stage set up a daily schedule from Mohall to Tolley via McKinney and Joslin, lengthening its line from Joslin to Tolley. This ran only through the summer months and was abandoned October 1st, 1906, thus marking the end of the famous stage line which traveled many a mile through the Mouse River Valley.
Just as Joslin was moved to Tolley, so was Overholt post-office moved to Grano August 17th, 1905 fully a month before the rails arrived in that new town. John Cleven was appointed postmaster and another historic state village became a memory.
Tolley received its name from the man for whom it was named, E. C. Tolley; he founded the town and the Townsite was purchased from him. He was a real estate man in Kenmare, and after the inception of Tolley also had an office in that town.
Grano was named by Charles Lano, postmaster at Mohall, who was asked by the Townsite committee of the new town to select a name. R.H. Grace, another close friend and member of the committee, suggested the name be left to Mr. Lano. Trying to do justice to himself and Mr. Grace, his good friend, he racked his brain for a suitable name. One morning while eating breakfast he spied a new cereal in a package on a shelf entitled Grain-o. He had an idea - with his quick wit and a little manipulation he made out the word Grano - doing justice to his good friend by using the first three letters of his surname and also to himself by using the last three letters of his own surname. So Grano it was.
On August 1st, 1906 another pioneer village started to become a memory when rural route No. 2 was established east to Renville post-office from Mohall. This brought the discontinuance of that inland post-office. After that date all mail was directed to Mohall for that post-office. Rural routes Numbers 3 and 4 were soon to follow out of Mohall. They were established November 16th, 1906 with number 3 running southwest and number 4 running northwest. This brought the discontinuation of Hannerfest post-office in Hamerly township and also Glenn post-office in Grassland township.
Some excitement was caused that fall when on October 25th, 1906 the Great Northern Railway purchased the Townsite of McKinney from Peter Burleson for $10,000.00. A survey crew surveyed a route from Antler to McKinney and on to Kenmare. A preliminary survey from Mohall was also made from the end of the old Y to McKinney. For a time it seemed as though the road from Antler to Kenmare may be realized as stakes were driven, but nothing ever developed from this venture.
On April 11,1907 the Dokken post-office, which was in reality the Sherman Hatton farm home, burned. It was then transferred to the Dokken home and continued as a -post-office by the man for whom it was named. It seemed a bad year for pioneer post-offices, for on October 24, 1907 Haase post-office burned and was never re-established. Dokken post-office took over what patronage the rural routes did not.
On August 1st, 1907 Loraine station was granted about half way between Mohall and Sherwood. The depot was in a boxcar for the next two years. On November 4th, 1909 Loraine received a depot by rail, shipped from an abandoned station. Loraine grew rapidly as it was a good grain center and many car loads of grain were shipped from this point the first year of its existence. The name came from a suggestion by S. H. Sleeper of Mohall for whom Sherwood was named; Sherwood, being his first name. With the suggestion in mind and ideas of their own, the railroad company finally took the name suggested by S. H. Sleeper.
Rural route No. 5 was established on April 1st, 1909 and this route ran northeast of Mohall, eliminating the old stage and mail line to Dokken post-office. This removed the last stage running from Mohall and brought to an end a business which had meant so much to the developing of this northwest country as it had in all frontiers.
After the abandonment of the stage from Mohall to Tolley in 1906 mail was carried by a star route from Tolley to Pleasant by way of McKinney and Barber post-offices, a distance of seventeen miles or thirty four miles round trip. Mail was carried by George Fitch of Tolley for many years over this route.
While all this was going on the county organization was becoming more and more tense. Foremost among the workers from the proposed Renville County was H.H. Steel of Mohall, who worked incessantly for county independence. Action was finally brought up to the State Supreme Court in 1908 with the proposed counties of Burke and Mountrail also clamoring for independence, as also was another county, Lake, which was proposed by Kenmare sponsors who wanted that city for a county seat of some county. They were not particular about which county it was.
On November 19,1908 the State Supreme Court ruled in favor of Mountrail County, but ruled against Renville, Burke and Lake Counties. This setback did not stop Renville residents fight for county independence, but on the contrary they came back stronger than ever.
With such a good fight on hand and the possibility of realization of county -independence and a possible county seat fight pending, M. O. Hall, founder of Mohall, and erstwhile soldier of fortune, returned to Renville County in the spring of 1909. He started the conversation of a new town on the river where the Soo Line railway crossed on its way to Tolley, Kenmare and Norma. Norma was a small town about half way between Kenmare and Tolley, founded in 1905, and supposedly named by Ambrose Olson, Townsite agent, for his sister, Norma. This town’s like all other small towns of the early 1900's sprang up in a hurry and was a very busy little town with a large territory - especially to the north. Early settlers in the community included the Dahl Brothers, John McEwen, John Nelson, Louis Johnson, Paul Peterson, John Oberg, Fred Tunnell and many others, with many of these settlers coming in the late 19O0's.
Glenburn was another town in the southeast part of the county; founded in 1903 when the Great Northern laid its track from Granville to Mohall. First named Lincoln for Abraham Lincoln, it was later changed to Glenburn, brought about by a boy riding a bicycle. A bystander remarked ‘look at Glen burn up the road’. Early settlers in the community were A. Aitken, C.C. Healy, W. Healy, J.J. Winderl, J.H. Hoke, O.C. Clapper, Harry Gidley, J.A. Carroll, W.W. Sharp, J.F. Sharp and Dr. K.O. Knudson and many others.
M.O. Hall lost no time in starting the town of Greene named for Thomas Greene, an engineer of the Soo Line Railway. Living in a tent in the beautiful valley through-out the summer, Hall advertised his new town in every newspaper in the county. A rural route from Tolley ran west of Greene and here Mr. Hall received his mail. The Townsite was located on a sort of plateau just above the old ford in the river where the stage on its route from Overholt to Joslin crossed the river on its journey with mail, passengers and express. The ford was also used by all early ranchers and settlers as this was the main trail to towns where provisions could be secured. The Canadian detachment of soldiers and police also crossed this ford in 1890 on their return trip to Canada.
M.O. Hall held his lot sale at Greene August 17th, 1909 and several buildings were then already under construction, including the large building built by M. 0. Hall. The building was built with the intentions of some day being a court house as Mr. Hall planned on going after the county seat in earnest if county independence was secured.
The building was constructed of Denbigh pressed brick with a full basement. Two stories high, 56 ft. by 80 ft. it was built at an approximate cost of $17,0004.00. Much of the carpenter work on the building was done by Henry Ludtke former post master at Joslin and later at Tolley. The large building was completed by September 20, 1909 and on that date the Farmers State Bank of Greene, with M.O.Hall president, J. B. Meyers vice president and Hans M. Rosevold cashier, opened its doors for business. Besides the bank the building also housed a hardware store, barber shop, general store, billiard parlor and a restaurant . These were all on the first floor, while the main part of the second floor was a dance hall and opera house. Several extra rooms were to be used as offices when Greene became county seat. J. P. Neist, Hamerly a merchant of Mohall, occupied the general store in the Hall building, but Peter Bertleson of McKinney had erected his building and his general store was already doing business before the Hall building was completed.
During the fall of 1909 and the next winter, elevators, two of them, were built and also a school house and blacksmith shop. A lumber yard and implement house followed shortly after that. A nice depot was built during the fall and stock yards were built with loading chutes.
Peter Bertleson was one of the leading boosters for the new town, and with the start of his new store in Greene he had accumulated four stores at Greene, McKinney, Kenmare and Edson. Edson was an inland post-office started in 1907 in the southern part of what is today Stafford Township. Mail was hauled there from Norma by a star and rural route. The little village was and still is located only one mile east of the county line, and served quite a large territory with a general store, post-office, blacksmith shop, church, school and a large hall for a country community.
Greene, had one of the prettiest locations of any town, excepting McKinney, in the county. The little village was also fortunate in having a very good water supply with a large fresh-water spring. Several large groves along the river afforded wonderful picnic grounds and there was then a large amount of fish in the river. The place was ideal for a summer resort or for recreational purposes.
Throughout the winter of 1909-1910 and the spring of 1910 the county organization situation became worse and more tense. Finally on May lst, 1910, the State Supreme Court ruled in favor of Burke and Renville Counties and almost at one the race for the county seat was on with Mohall, Sherwood and Greene the leading contenders.
On July 20, 1910 Governor Burke appointed County Commissioners R. D. Johnson of Mohall, D. M. Gillespie of Glenburn and Ben Harvey of Sherwood. July 22nd the commissioners met at the community hall at Mohall and R. D. Johnson was elected chairman. Peter Carlson of Tolley was appointed Auditor, Thomas F. Clifford of Mohall State’s Attorney. They adjourned till July 27th when they appointed A.C. Dayton of Glenburn as sheriff, Frank C. Baska of Sherwood treasurer, E. E. Joslin of Grano Register of Deeds, Hans 0. Johnson of Pleasant clerk of court and Percy Crewe of Sherwood, Judge. On July 29th they again met and appointed J.A. Cull of Sherwood Superintendent of Schools. Hans 0. Johnson declined to accept clerk of court so J. D. Taylor of Pleasant was appointed. The old Whitford building was rented by the Board of Commissioners to be used as a temporary courthouse until the county seat was decided.
The commissioners met again on August 14th and at this time divided the county into three commissioner district numbered one, two and three with eight north townships and nine townships and seven townships comprising the districts respectively.
On August 18th the Grano Tribune, Sherwood Tribune and Tolley Journal were appointed official county papers. On August 19th bids were let to F. Johnson of Tolley and Christian Thoreson of Mohall to furnish the temporary courthouse with furniture including chairs and desks.
As a bait in the county seat fight to enlist aid, a contract of lease was drawn up on October 28th, 1910 by and between S. H. Sleeper, H. H. Steele and Nels Iverson as trustees and the County of Renville to lease the old Whitford building and premises on which it stood to the county for ninety nine years for the consideration of one dollar, and the building was to be used exclusively as a court house, The lease was accepted by the Commissioners after the election.
Campaign committees were organized and the battle waxed hotly. When election was over and the votes were counted Mohall had 619 votes Sherwood 424, Greene 379, Tolley 282 and McKinney 122, so Mohall was county seat. A big victory celebration was held in Mohall on November 22nd .
The first county general election was held in Mohall November 5th 1912 and several of the appointed officers lost out. Those elected were S.A. Wilcox, Sheriff, William Belideau, Treasurer, Peter Carlson, Auditor, J. D. Taylor, Clerk of Court, Thomas Clifford States Attorney, Percy Crewe County Judge, Walter Martine, Register of Deeds and M. Sheridan, Superintendent of School. John M. Sauer replaced D. M. Gillespie as commissioner in district number three.
On August 4th, 1910 a contract was awarded to John F. Walstead to repair the old Whitford building and he completely remodeled the building. He put in all necessary offices so it could be used as a temporary courthouse. Later after Mohall secured the county seat, two vaults were built, one on the second floor for the Auditor and treasurer and sheriff and one on the first floor for the judge and clerk of court. Offices on the first floor included the Judge, clerk of court, register of deeds, the courtroom, jail and the boiler room. On the second floor were the offices of the treasurer, auditor, sheriff, superintendent of schools and commissioners rooms. The States Attorney had a private office down town in his regular law office and later in a building on the west side of the courthouse. It had been built for a harness shop by W. H. Budewits in 1907 and later became the property of the county through delinquent taxes.
This building served as courthouse until June 18th, 1937 when the new memorial courthouse took over the duties of the old building. Work on the new courthouse was started in July of 1936 with I. E. Orheim of Minot as the contractor and E. W. Molander of Minot as the architect. The completed building represents an investment of $117,800.00. It was made possible by a grant of $51,650.00 from the Public Works Administration and $30,000.00 from the Soldier's Memorial levy. The new courthouse is situated on the northwest corner of Main Street and Fifth Avenue, faces south and is L-shaped in plan. The short arm of the L is one story high and houses the jail. The long arm is two stories in height and is divided into three wings. The walls of the east and west wings are of malt faced brick, lined with tile furring. The center wing is slightly higher due to the high courtroom ceiling. The walls are faced with Kettle River sandstones which was also used for the base course, sills and coping.
Bronze entrance doors in the center of the south facade lead through a vestibule to the first floor corridor. The community room is to the north of this corridor in the center wing, and the imposing court room is located in the center wing to the south of a corridor on the second floor. County offices housing the Judge, Superintendent of Schools and the Federal Feed and Seed Loan Office are on the second floor in the east wing. Similar offices of County Welfare Board.. Federal FSA, Children’s welfare and WPA sewing room are on the second floor in the west wing. The offices of the Sheriff and Register of Deeds are on the first floor in the west wing; the Treasurer’s and Auditor’s offices are on the first floor in the east wing. The State’s Attorney’s office is on the west side of the main entrance and the Commissioner's Room is on the east side of the main entrance.
The basement of the east wing is devoted to the American Legion rooms and the west wing to the boilers coal, store room and Federal Commodity room. The memorial entourage in front of the building consists of a forty foot metal flag pole, eight foot diameter granite base with carved inscription surrounded by circular steps, which are stopped by stepped up granite abutments. On these pieces are engraved the names of the men of Renville County who gave their lives in World War I.
The first floor of the old courthouse building today houses the Mohall Creamery where Mohall Maid butter is made. The second floor has been completely remodeled and is divided into several nice apartments. The old vault on the first floor had been turned into a cold storage locker and contains a number of lockers which are rented to individuals for $10.00 a year. A large amount of modern equipment has been installed and the creamery employs a force of three men besides the managers Mr. Johansen and Mrs. Johansen. An ice cream store is operated in the front of the building and a girl is hired during the summer months to run this.
The large steam boiler, besides heating the complete building, also heats two large modern homes located on the remainder of the block behind the Creamery. Water -consumed by the Creamery boiler is pumped from a large well just southwest of the building. This was developed about a year ago when there was a consistent shortage of the supply of city water.
The old building formerly occupied by the States Attorney is today used as a store-room for Surplus Commodities and this building is still the property of the County.
The historic town of McKinney is now only a memory. The post-office was discontinued on August 15th, 1916. The old mill changed hands many times and finally became the possession of Frank Leavitt about 1918. He continued to run it until 1928 when business became so poor he closed it up. In 1934 he started to move the huge structure to Tolley. After moving it only a short distance, about a quarter of a mile south of its original location, he ran out of money and abandoned it. When the Government purchased the entire valley up to two miles north of the Mouse River Park in 1935, all buildings were removed or torn down by CCC boys. William Clifford of Mohall purchased the mill by debts against it and tore it down, using the lumber for the construction of several modern houses in Mohall. Some of the machinery was salvaged, but most of it was sold for scrap iron.
Most of the historic and picturesque Mouse River Valley was purchased in 1935 by the Bureau of Biological Survey for a wild life refuge. Land was purchased up to two miles north of Mouse River Park or four miles north of the site of historic old McKinney and where State Highway No.5 crosses the river. The valley was bought in Renville County as far south as the County line.. and additional land was purchased south of there in Ward County. The large dam was constructed at the county line in 1935 and 1936, backing the waters up and forming a large lake, named Lake Darling. The name undoubtedly came from "Ding Darling", nationally known preserver and observer of wild life. A large number of ducks, geese and other water birds arrive here now in spring and fall with many of them nesting here.
All of the buildings in the valley were purchased with the land and as much lumber was salvaged as possible and much of this was used for the construction of buildings at the temporary camp of CCC’s at Mohall and also at other camps throughout North Dakota and Montana. The entire valley and all adjoining land purchased by the government was fenced with steel posts and four wires. Two graded roads, later graveled, were constructed; one on either side the entire length of the purchased valley. These were to be used as observation routes by the Refuge manager.
A four foot dam was built two miles south of McKinney the entire width of the valley. This helps to control the flood water in the spring of the year so not too much water reaches the big dam at one time. All of this work was done by CCC boys. Trees were cut wherever they were below the flood water line so all trees were cut up to about a mile north of Greene and many of them all along the river banks and in low places up to the end of the Refuge north of the Park. Many of these trees were used to build snow fences and other things, such as pheasant shelters and sheds, fish runs and duck nests along the river.
The McKinney cemetery was not purchased but was fenced out to be available to the public. The log cabin first built by Nels P. Swenson was reconstructed and moved to a place alongside the gate to the cemetery. It was to be preserved as a memory of the colorful days of early life in the Mouse River Valley of the ranchers and settlers, stage drivers and cowboys who contributed so much to the early settling and development of this northwest country.
State Highway Number 5 was built in 1928 and graveled the next year. State Highway Number 28 was built in 1933 and the north half running north to Sherwood was built in 1929 and graveled the following year. The part running south from Number 5 has never been graveled.
The Mouse River Park started as an amusement park in 1912. It is the recreational center of the county. C. H. Parker's C.P. ranch, formerly the Stammen ranch, is the scene of many visitors as one of the few surviving buffalo ranches in the northwest. Mr. Parker has maintained a herd of about 50 buffalo here for several years. When the Government bought up the valley some of the ranch was also purchased. With a smaller pasture add less hayland, Mr. Parker has moved part of the herd to another ranch he has near Williston.
When the valley was bought by the Government it meant moving out all the old ranchers and early settlers. Consequently very few of them are left to date, William Harkness, who came in 1885, is the only old time rancher still living in the Mouse River Valley. Gust Johann who came to the valley in 1887 lives in Mohall with his son-in-law and daughter. Both Mr. and Mrs. Johnson are fairly well but have retired from active work. William Harkness is on the original Harkness ranch. He will be 75 years old next March, but still sits in his saddle about as straight as ever and does considerable riding every day. He has active duties about the ranch, which he runs with his son, Aubrey.
Henry Ludtke, original Joslin postmaster, lives in Tolley and still earns his living at his trade of carpenter work.
Ed Swenson lives with his brother-in-law on the edge of the valley one mile west and one half mile north of the site of old McKinney. Frank Swenson, who came to the valley it 1885, lives southeast of Minot. George Schofield, though not one of the early settlers, lives in Mohall and tells interesting stories of these colorful days of pioneering in Dakota Territory. He came to the territory in 1883 and to Minot in 1887.
J.Dighton Taylor, county judge, is the oldest county officer in point of service in the courthouse today. He started as clerk of court in 1910.
The present County officers consist of County Commissioners T. P. Parke, Chairman, Judd Peteman and L. P. McClung, Sheriff, Donald Fosters, County Auditor W. A. Coutts, Alta Hamerly, Register of Deeds. Tena Kohrman, County Treasurer, Mathilda Smith Superintendent of Schools, P. M. Clark States Attorney, J. D. Taylor County Judge. Mathilda Smith,County Superintendent and L.P.McClung, Commissioner were recently defeated for re-election by Floyd Peterson and J. Oscar Johnson, respectively.
Mohall now has a continuous paved road to Minot which was put in during the
summer of 1939. The main street in Mohall was paved in 1934. This
constitutes all the pavement in Renville County. The well kept graveled
county and state roads are a far cry from the deep rutted trails used by the
stagecoach, which came to blaze the trails here and there through this vast
northwest. The Northwest was the home off the buffalo and the land of
(This history has been compiled over a period of time. It appears to have been concluded during the Fall of 1940.)