First Families of

Murray County, Minnesota

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The following biographies are from


by Maxine Kayser Luehmann.

Aaron Meyers

In 1855, Aaron Meyers, his wife and three small children ranging in age from five to one years in age settled on the Cottonwood River in what became Amiret Township in Lyon County.  He located there mainly for the purpose of trapping and trading with the Indian.

That same year James Lynd built a trading post in what became known as the Lynd Woods. 

The year that Inkpaduta’s renegades murdered the settlers at Spirit Lake and Jackson (1857) the Dakota Land Company established a townsite name Saratoga near the Meyer’s farm. 

John Renneker, the company salesman located at Saratoga, was not having success in selling lots at the townsite so he hired out to Aaron Meyers that year.  Renneker was ambushed and killed by some Sioux at the Plum Creek Crossing. 

That episode frightened the Meyers family into leaving that area.  The move took them to Section 20 of what became Shetek Township in Murray County.

Phineas B. Hurd 

Phineas and Alomina Hurd and their two children settled in the Lake Shetek area in 1859.  They lived three-quarters of a mile from the Aaron Meyer farm. 

Because of the blackbird infestation, Mr. Hurd and William Jones, a single man, left Shetek on 2 June 1862 to examine prospects in Dakota Territory.  They did not reach Sioux Falls and were never again seen or heard from. Evidence pointed to their death at the hands of Indians.  Mr. Voight, also a single man, was hired to take care of the Hurd farm during the owner’s absence. 

John Wright

John Wright had obtained two tracts of Bounty Land, Lots 1,2,3,4, and 6 in Mason Township and the SW1/4 of Section 8 of present day Murray,  that were offered for sale at the land office in St. Peter. 

The Wright family settled here in 1859.  They were her during the August 20, 1862 Uprising at Lake Shetek.  Mr. Wright was absent at the time of the Indian outbreak and had left Thomas Ireland to look after his farm and family while he was gone.  Thomas Ireland was left by the Indians for dead and Mrs. Wright and the children were taken prisoner.  She and the children were rescued by the soldiers at Camp Release.

Mrs. Wright was spoken of very highly by the survivors.  She was very good and kind.  The little girl, Eldora, died when she was nine years old and the son, George, lived in Settle a number of years ago.  Wright and his wife divorced.  She went to Nebraska, remarried, and all trace of her was lost.  Wright was last heard of at Salt Lake City, Utah.  Their cabin was burned for fuel in the year of the Big Snow-1880-81.

George Lamb

George and Louisa Lamb were the parents of the first white child born in Murray County.  Mrs. Lamb was a sister of John Wright.  The Lambs moved to New Ulm before 1862.  The little girl died in New Ulm and Mr. Lamb was killed during the massacre in that area. 

William Everett

The William Everett family lived south of the Des Moines River near present day Currie.  William and Almira (Hatch) Everett had three children. 

William J. Duley

William J. Duley, a Republican, was a delegate representing the ninth Council District (Winona, Olstead, and Wabasha counties) at the State Constitutional Convention in July 1857.  Sometime before 1860 the family settled on Section 6 of the future Murray Township. 

Mr. And Mrs. Duley had five children:  William, Belle. Emma, Jefferson, and Frances. 

Hoyle Parmlee

Hoyle Parmlee, who had helped to survey and mark the New Ulm Sioux Falls road, built his log cabin at the lower end of Lake Shetek near the place where the trail crossed the outlet.  Parmlee left the settlement before 1862.           

Henry W. Smith

Henry W. Smith built his log house about one quarter mile south of where the monument now stands.  Neil Currie took a photo of this cabin in 1914.  Mr. Smith and his wife, Sophia were childless. 

John Eastlick

John and Lavina Eastlick moved to Murray County in 1861 and located on the NE ¼ of Section 6 in what is now Murray Township.  Their five sons were Merton, Giles, Frank, Frederick and John. 

Thomas Ireland

The Thos. Ireland family moved with the Eastlick family from near St. Charles, Minnesota to Shetek during the fall of 1861.  The names of the daughters in this family were: Ellen, Rosanne, Sarah Jane, and Julianne.

Moses Cook

Moses Cook, a Yankee who was born in Vermont, settled in Okcheeda (Mason) Township during the fall of 1867.  He had been in the area on a hunting and fishing expedition in the spring of that year.  What he saw convinced him that this was a good place to live.

Mr. Cook had many interesting and enjoyable experiences while hunting, fishing, and trapping.  At one time, in one day, out of Bloody Lake he caught 201 pickerel, ranging in weight from two to four pounds.  This was done with a spear and a decoy hook.  Another time, he and John Boonhower, a friend, caught five hundred pounds of buffalo fish with their hands.  Some of these fish weighed as much as twenty three pounds.  They were caught in a small slough north of Lake Sarah.  During 1867 Mr. Cook caught in his traps, in one night, seventy-nine muskrats.  In the market these netted him from three to eight cents apiece. 

Andrew B. Lester

Andrew B. Lester came to Murray County in 1868 and took up a homestead on the N1/2 of the SE1/4, Section 24 Okcheeda (Mason) Township, 

Mrs. Lester, nee Cordelia Cooley, taught the first school in the county in 1869.  Classes were held under the branches of a large tree on the bank of Okcheeda Creek, on the Lester farm.  In the spring o9f 1873, Mrs. Lester held school in a small dirt roofed log hut that belonged to C.B. Calkins.  The district extended from Enberbe’s to the Oliver Drews’. There were four children each from the J. Young and R. Boonhower homes and six each from the J. Quackenbush and A.C. Lester homes according to a statement by A.B. Lester.   

Oliver Drew

Oliver Drew settled on Section 2 of Okcheeda (Mason) Township in 1869.  He related many interesting anecdotes of his early life.  When Oliver was 30 years of age, in 1850, he was seized with gold fever. He left his farm in Illinois and went to California,  After engaging in mining for two and a half years, he had saved a little over $4,000.  He returned home by way of South and Central America.  In 1860, he decided to try gold mining again and prospected in the area of Pike’s Peak for two years.   

The four children of May (Atwood) Drew were Ellen, Douglas, Clara, and Drucilla.  Douglas went through the ice and drowned in Lake Shetek. 

“Drucy” Drew was herding cattle one day when two men came riding up and asked where Lost Timber was located.  Local people believed that these men were the notorious James brothers.

James Drew

Remember in youths as you pass by,
As you now, so once was I.
As I am now so soon shall you be
Prepare this way and follow me.

 “Grandpa” Drew, as he was known by all, was a veteran of the War of 1812.  He came to Murray County with his son, Oliver, in 1869.  He was a devout Methodist and conducted the first religious meeting held in the county. 

James Drew was interred at Bethany Cemetery at Lake Shetek.

Leonard D. Bonesteel

Mr. Bonesteel’s title to a Quit Claim Deed for the NE1/4, Section 34 of Okcheeda (Mason) Township was recorded on 5 July 1870.  He purchased the land from a New Ulm man. 

Mr. Bonesteel conducted a store in his small (12X24) log house.  This site was identified as the geographical center of the county and an unsuccessful attempt was made to locate the county seat there. 

On 18 January 1873, Leonard Bonesteel sold the farm to David M. Bonesteel. 

Jane Bonesteel, later Mrs. Fenton, was an early teacher in the county. 

James Young Jr.

In 1869, James Young jr. bought the former Eastlick farm from the Aldrich family.  He took the grain from his first harvest to the Rapidan mill at Mankato.  In addition to raising crops, Mr. Young raised mules on his farm. 

Mr. Young had come to Murray County from Freeborn County, Minnesota.  It was while there that the “fires of patriotism burned in his bosom” and on 17 February 1862 he enlisted in Company C, Fifth Minnesota Volunteer infantry.  He participated in the battle at Fort Ridgley and other actions against the Indians.  Because of physical disabilities, he was discharge December 1862. 

Roswell Boomhower

When Roswell Boomhower arrived in 1867, he found Capt. Aldrich, Joseph Aldrich and Abner Marsh living in Murray Township.  Mr. Boomhower settled on Section 18. 

A Yankee, he was born in Schohari County, New York.  His wife’s maiden name was Angeline Silvernail.

He was the first of the second settlement to build his own log house.  He built the stable of poles thatch with hay. 

He served the township both as chairman of the board of supervisors and as treasurer. 

Dennision S. Greenman

Dennision S. Greenman, a Civil War veteran, came to Murray County in 1867 in the company of his brother-in-law, Moses Cook.  He located on Section 20 of Shetek Township on Lake Fremont.  The first year he lived in the abandoned log house of Aaron Meyers.  That year he began his farming operations by breaking ten acres of land and putting up a considerable amount of hay. 

Mr. Greenman was the third settler in Shetek Township.  Those who preceded him were D.E. Haddock and Thomas Ireland.  Mr. Ireland was the only one of the original Shetek settlement to return to his old home.  After a few years, he and his second wife, Sally Haddock, moved away. 

Between 1867 and 1871, a few more settlers located in Shetek.  Among these were E.C. French, W.F. Silvernail, ad Samuel Armstrong. 

J.H. Low

“Mr. Low’s genealogy and history are more interesting embodying the thrill and romance of early pioneer life in various parts of the country.  His grandfather, Gideon Low was for a time stationed with a detachment of the regular army at Fort Snelling in 1821.  His father, Jacob Low was at one time captain of a merchantman carrying wonderful goods for barter between European ports, the West Indies and New York and there on December 29th 1842, John N, Low was born” Six months later the family moved to Wisconsin.  In 1862 Mr. Low came to Minnesota and spent several winters trapping in Murray County.  He was a member of the “Moscow Expedition” in 1863. 

“On September 15, 1869 he was married to Josephine Jones of Leeds, Wisconsin---in the winter following, in company with his brother, Bart Low, again journeyed into the wilderness, this time with the definite purpose of preparing a home for the young wives they had left in the protection of the parents’ homes in Wisconsin.” 

“In 1870, the two wives and another brother, Lewis, came from Wisconsin, making the trip by boat and train to Mankato and then by wagon to Bear Lake, crossing the Des Moines River in a log canoe---.” 

Mr. Low was struck and killed by a train in the fall of 1915.

Bart M. Low

B.M. Low enlisted in the Union Army in the fall of 1863.   He was a member of Company E, Forty-Second Regiment, Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry.  After his discharge in June, 1865 he moved to Mankato, Minnesota.  He selected his claim in Section 10 in what was to be named Lowville Township in 1866.  He was active both township and county affairs and served in the lower house of the state legislature. 

The B. M., Low log house measured 14X29 feet and had an attic.  The windows were brought from Mankato.  Lime and plaster came from a kiln in Lake Sarah Township.  The home became known as the Gateway House and was a popular stopping place for many.  Later this log house was enclosed within the walls of a frame house. 

B.M. Low died 29 July 1893.

Justin Quackenbush

Justin Quackenbush was the son of Jacob D. and Janet Quackenbush, born 13 February 1833 in Onondage County, New York. He married Harriet Ann Travis in 1856 in DeKorra, Columbia County, Wisconsin. The family moved to Sparta County, Wisconsin where they farmed.

In 1870 they moved to Murray County, Minnesota where Justin homesteaded the NW1/4 of section 30 in Murray Township. He and Harriet were members of the Presbyterian Church of Slayton.

After Justin's death, 30 May 1885, Harriet married H.S. Cox and later Sullivan Lower. She moved from the family farm to Slayton and spent the rest of her days there.

The children of Justin and Harriet were Albert, Adela, Cora, Eugene, Alfred, James, Martha, Mary E., Louise, Ernest Justin, And Agnes.

Zebediah Marsh

Zebediah W. Marsh arrived by wagon train, in Murray County, in 1871 settling on the south shore of Fox Lake, Shetek Township, Section 28. Other early settlers in the neighborhood were Dennis Greenman, Eben C. French, Walter F. Silvernail, David Haddock, Thomas Connor, and Sam Armstrong.

Zebediah assisted in the organization of the township and originated the petition for the organization of the first school district in the County. District 111, known as the Marsh district. The first building was of logs and when the new schoolhouse was built with a sunrise painted on the entrance the school became known as "Sunrise School". This building is now at the End of the Line Park in Currie, Minnesota.

Lorian Mason

Lorain Day Mason, known locally as "Low" Mason was born October 16, 1842, following service in the Union Army during the Civil War, he was married to Anna Boomhower, oldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs, Roswell Boonhower on July 4, 1866.  In the Spring of 1867  they came to Murray County where they homesteaded a quarter in Section 12 on the south shore of Lake Shetek in Mason Township, which was named after him, he had the distinction of building the first house in Murray County after the Indian massacre just five years earlier.  They broke a small acreage of land that summer and then returned to their homes in Mankato.  After harvest, Lorin returned to his claim and put up some hay for his stock.  In October, the Masons moved to Murray County.  The first winter they lived in the abandoned Rhodes Cabin in Section1. 

Mr. Masons father, Milo D. Mason, also accompanied him here and took a forty acre claim in Section 7 of Murray Township adjoining his sons which later became a part of the Edd Mason farm containing the building spot.

Cyrus E. Cross

Cyrus E. Cross and Isabel Matilda came from Pennsylvania.  Their children were Lottie May, Clifford, Walter, and Otto.  Mr. Cross was on the Mason Township board for many years.

Andrew Dahl

 Andrew Dahl and his wife came from Norway.  They had one child, of which was recorded-Beryne Serene.  Andrew Dahl served on the Mason Township board for many years in various ways.