The Northern Pacific railroad was built and the first train run
over the line in the fall of 1877. The beginning of Royalton, however,
may be said to have dated from the spring of 1879, when George Newman of
Minneapolis came here and opened the first store. He erected his
building on the corner where the Royalton State Bank now stands. The
store faced west, and living rooms were built in the rear and were
occupied by the Newman family, who arrived later in the year. This was
the first store in the village, but some years previously a store had
been operated by T.D. Williams who came here from Massachusetts, and
opened business on what is now the Charles Borash farm, about a mile
above town. Mr. Williams owned considerable land on the east side of
Platte River, which was later platted as Williams' Addition. After
locating here Mr. Newman was appointed postmaster, the office having
previously been located in the railroad depot with the agent as
On June 12th, 1879, J.D. Logan and family, consisting of Mrs. Logan and sons Harry M., Frank B., and Charles W., arrived from Pennsylvania. Mr. Logan brought with him the machinery for a saw mill which he erected on a site just below the present Center Street bridge, it being the first mill in the village. Soon after his arrival Mr. Logan purchased from Jewett Norris of St. Paul, an extensive land owner in this vicinity, the former James Chapman home and farm of about 40 acres which lies south of Center Street between the bank corner and the river and extending south from Center Street a quarter of a mile. At the time of this purchase Royalton consisted of a depot, section house, the old Green house west of the track, the Chapman house, and the first house built in Royalton in 1853 by R.D. Kinney, which was unoccupied, as was the Green house. The only residents were Frank Hardy and wife, who lived in the depot; F.M. Lawhead and family, living in the Chapman house; Ole Black and family, living in the section house, and George Newman, in his store building. The total population was approximately 11 people.
Soon after purchasing the former Chapman farm, Mr. Logan proceeded to lay out into lots a strip from the bank corner to the river, one and one-half blocks wide, south of Center Street. The surveyor engaged to do this work was Richard Cronk of Sauk Rapids. After receiving the plat from Mr. Cronk, Mr. Logan named it Royalton, after the post office, and had it placed on record at the county seat as the original plat of the village. A year or so previous to this time, P.A. Green had surveyed into lots a strip on each side of the railroad north of Center Street, but had not had the same recorded. When recorded at a later date it was as Green's Addition to Royalton. At the time the first plat was made the village had two county roads passing through it, which had been laid out for some years but never opened. One was what is not Center Street, and the other running north and south, is now First Street. The land, except what Chapman had cultivated in the south part of the village, was covered with a thick growth of oak trees and underbrush. There was a winding road following no line except to avoid trees, running from the depot to the Newman store. A road ran to the river from the Chapman home to a point where it was forded just below the Center Street bridge. In the summer of 1879, Mr. Logan erected his mill, platted the town, and moved into the Chapman house with his family.
John D. Logan was a native of Crawford County, Pennsylvania, born in 1838. In 1855, at the age of 17, he came west by rail to the Mississippi, and up this river by steamboat to Hastings, Minnesota Territory. He resided at Hastings, Northfield, and other nearby points until the outbreak of the Rebellion in 1861, when he enlisted at the first call in Company G., First Minnesota Infantry. He served with this regiment in all its battles in the Army of the Potomac until discharged for disability in 1864. Upon leaving the service, he returned to Pennsylvania where he engaged in the lumber and mill business until coming to Royalton in 1879. During his residence in Royalton he held many offices of trust. He was the first president of the village council, a member of the first school board, and chairman of the board of supervisors of Bellevue township for many years. He organized and was the first commander of Phil Sheridan Post of the Grand Army of the Republic. Mr. Logan continued in the lumber business until 1892, when he retired. He died at his home here in 1907.
The year 1880 saw a number of new residents of Royalton. Among these was Ira. W. Bouck who came from Iowa in the spring, purchased a lot where his present brick store is located, and proceeded to erect a building for a store with living rooms in the rear. This building faced west, with the front where the post office is now located. It was of frame construction, with the walls filled with sawdust to insure warmth. In this store Mr. Bouck carried a varied stock consisting of groceries, dry-goods, clothing, hardware, guns and revolvers, shot, powder, and cartridges. It was what would now properly be called a department store. He, like the other early merchants, bought grain, wood, ties, and farm produce. Soon after opening his store Mr. Bouck was appointed postmaster, the office being located in the store. As Mr. Bouck is still living here he must be given credit for being Royalton's pioneer resident merchant.
Ira W. Bouck was born in Independence, Iowa, in 1855. After graduating from the Iowa State Agricultural College in 1876, he taught school until 1880, at which time he was principal of the high school at Dunlap, Iowa. In the spring of 1880, he came to Royalton and opened a general store which he operated for many years. He was always active in politics, and held many public positions. He was a member of the first school board of this district, and is at this date president of the board, having been a school officer for nearly 50 years. Soon after coming to Royalton he was elected clerk of the township of Bellevue. He has served as postmaster and member of the village council. In 1902 he was elected as a representative in the state legislature, and served in the sessions of 1903-5-7. He served on the governor's staff for a number of years, and was delegate to a Republican national convention in Chicago. Mr. and Mrs. Bouck are among the oldest residents of Royalton, being preceded only by H.M. and F.B. Logan, who arrived one year earlier.
Another early merchant of Royalton who came in the summer of 1880, was Mark Kobe. He erected a building near the depot, and opened a store in the fall. A year later he built an elevator, the first in Royalton, and in 1887 he added a flour mill which he operated for some years. He also built the Hotel Royalton, which first was known as the "Tivola." This, while not the first hotel, was the most popular in Royalton, and was a favorite stopping place among commercial travelers. It is being torn down at the time this is written.
Mark Kobe was a native of Austria, born in 1848. He came to America in 1869, and to Minnesota in 1871. He was engaged in the mercantile line in Melrose and Rice before coming to Royalton. He served as commissioner of Morrison County for a number of years, and resided in Royalton until his death, which occurred several years ago.
Early Days in Royalton
After operating the hotel for several years, Mr. Brown sold it and the name was changed to the Merchants Hotel, which name it bore until torn down four years ago by Robert Kuschel, the last proprietor. The building was located just south of the bank corner, facing First Street. The hotel was at various times operated by Lou Forbes, G.A. Hollenbeck, L.W. Farnham, Fred Hammond, Mrs. Stewart, Joseph Orth, Harris Noggle, and the last owner, Robert Kuschel. In the early days the hotel and large barn in connection were filled to overflowing with men and teams bound for the pineries in the fall.
Robert Brown was a native of Missouri, born in 1839. He enlisted in the Confederate Army during the War of the Rebellion, and served through that conflict. He came to Morrison County in 1877 and taught school for a time before coming to Royalton in 1879, when he erected a hotel. He was elected clerk of the township of Bellevue in 1880, and for many years served as justice of the peace. Robert M., a son who died in infancy was the first death in the village.
In 1880, what is now Center Street was opened for travel to the river by removing the trees and brush. Up to this time the river was crossed by fording, a difficult task in time of high water. During the winter of 1880-81 the township erected a bridge supported on piling. This bridge filled the needs until 1886, when it became unsafe and bonds were voted to erect a one-span truss bridge supported on granite piers. The cost was to be $6500 complete, and many settlers of the township objected strenuously to the expenditure of this immense sum. Better judgment prevailed, however, and the bridge was built. This is the present Center Street bridge, and with the exception of painting and new floors, is the original structure as erected 44 years ago. What to many in the early day seemed an extravagant outlay has proved to have been a wise investment.
Numbered with the early residents of Royalton was Charles W. Bouck, who arrived in the spring of 1880. He was a native of Illinois, born in 1852. Mr. Bouck came here from Iowa, and for a number of years followed the trade of carpenter. For a time he lived in Brainerd, where he worked for the Northern Pacific Railroad, building bridges and section houses. He returned to Royalton in 1889, when he purchased the J.N. Carnes hardware store and was appointed postmaster. He operated the store with his son, A.C. Bouck, until 1914 when he sold his interest, and the business was continued by his son alone. C.W. Bouck served as a member of the village council, and four terms as representative in the state legislature. He was a large land owner in this vicinity, and in 1896 erected the C.W. Bouck block on Center Street. Mr. Bouck passed away after a short illness from pneumonia in 1920.
Among the other early residents was Harry T. Gilbert, who came in 1880. Mr. Gilbert is a native of England, but came here from Iowa. Early in life Mr. Gilbert learned the trade of carpenter and cabinet maker, and followed this line and contracting after coming to Royalton. He is still a resident of Royalton, and is one of the few who came when the village was in its infancy.
E.A. Bowers was another early resident, coming here in the year 1879 from Missouri. He was born in Virginia in 1856. During his residence here he engaged in farming and dealing in livestock. Mr. Bowers died at his home here in 1916.
Among the few survivors who came to Royalton when it was founded is Harry M. Logan, born at Greenville, Pennsylvania, in 1867. He came to Royalton with his parents in 1879. During his early life he engaged with his father in the lumber business, and later became a partner. He served for several years as rural carrier when the service was inaugurated from the local post-office. In 1922 he was appointed postmaster, and has held the office since that date. Mr. Logan has held many local offices of trust, having served as clerk of Bellevue, member of the board of education, and president of the village council. He has been a resident of the village for over 50 years.
J.N. Carnes is another "old timer." He came here from St. Paul in the early eighties, and at first engaged in farming. Later he operated a hardware store and held the office of postmaster. He also engaged in the farm implement business, but later returned to the farm. For several years he represented his district as county commissioner, and it was mainly due to his efforts that the present fine steel bridge over the Mississippi was constructed. He lives on a farm just north of the village at the present time.
John H. Russell was one of the early day merchants of Royalton. He was born two miles south of Royalton, the son of Robert Russell, Sr., mentioned as one of the early pioneers of this section. His father having died when John H. was an infant, he lived with his brother, Robert L., until attaining manhood. Early in life he, with his brother, Wallace W., engaged in the meat business at Gull River, and in 1884 they opened a store here under the name of Russell Brothers, in the building now occupied by Frank Karlinski. Later J.H. bought the interest of his brother and for many years continued the store, and bought grain and produce. For several years he operated a creamery located in upper town. The creamery was destroyed by fire and was never rebuilt. Mr. Russell now lives in Little Falls and is engaged in the life insurance business.
The first hardware store in Royalton was opened in 1884 by Geissel & Fietsam. Mr. Geissel was a general merchant at North Prairie, where Mr. Fietsam was employed as clerk. The building still stands on Front Street and has lately been occupied by Geer's implement shop. Later J.N. Carnes became a partner, Mr. Geissel retiring, and the firm was known as Fietsam & Carnes. Mr. Carnes retired from the firm and bought the Crossman & Boutwell store, and from that time until a few years ago Barney Fietsam conducted the business alone until he sold to Peter Kroll. Mr. Fietsam moved from the original location when he erected the brick block on Front Street. He now resides in California.
The first implement business in Royalton was opened in 1882 by Young and Holmes, and was located where the Muncy block now stands. The firm was composed of Thomas M. Young, who later studied medicine and became a Seattle physician, and John Holmes, his brother-in-law. Both moved to the state of Washington, where they passed away several years ago.
Royalton was without a drug store until 1884, when Dr. James Lonsdale came from Iowa, and in partnership with his brother-in-law, I.W. Bouck, erected a building which was an extension to the east of the Bouck general store, and in this put in a stock of drugs. The firm name was Lonsdale & Bouck. Dr. Lonsdale practiced his profession here form many years, until he retired and moved to Sauk Rapids.
The first physician to practice in Royalton was Dr. J.H. Kinney, who came in 1883. Dr. Kinney was the son of R.D. Kinney, the first settler of Royalton, who has been mentioned as coming in 1853. During this early settlement Dr. Kinney was born in a log cabin in the south part of the present village, being the first child born in Royalton. His parents moved east when he was a child, and he was educated in Cincinnati, and did not return here until as a doctor in 1883. He lived here until his death about 25 years ago.
Early Days in Royalton
Wheat was the leading crop in those days, and about the only crop of the farmer to bring cash. In the fall, wheat flowed to market in a constant stream, hundreds of loads being marketed on some days. The first building for the handling of grain was built just south of the depot by Barnes & McGill of Minneapolis, soon after the railroad was built. The first wheat buyer was the station agent. Later this business was taken over by local merchants. The first grain houses, known as flat houses, were operated without power. The grain was hauled up an incline to the floor built on a level with the car floors, unloaded and weighed by hand, and dumped into open bins. Cars were loaded by hand, the moving of the grain from house to car being done by wheel-barrow. Houses of this type were operated by I.W. Bouck and J.H. Russell. In 1882, Mark Kobe erected the first grain elevator with steam for power. this was a six bin structure and was an imposing building for the new village.
In the early times Royalton was a leading market for railroad ties and cordwood. Ties were marketed in such quantities that the railroad was lined with piles ten tiers deep and half a mile long, the numbers running into the hundreds of thousands. These ties were bought by the local merchants, mostly in trade for goods. they came from the territory on the west side of the Mississippi. The bulk of the ties were made from clear white oak, hewed flat, eight inches thick, and if the face measured 12 inches and had no defects, brought from 25 to 30 cents each. Wood was marketed in large quantities and was mostly hard maples, and brought from $2 to $2.50 a cord. This wood was shipped to the cities and to the prairie country to the west. In the early days the railroad company bought considerable wood for use in the locomotives. For several years after the road was build, only the passenger trains burned coal, all freight engines using wood for fuel.
At this time but few horses were used in hauling products of the forest and farm, oxen being the rule. Large quantities of hardwood logs were brought to the local saw mill to be made into lumber. The early settlers' houses being built mostly of logs, the lumber produced at this time was used in many of the first frame houses erected on the west side of the Mississippi. White oak logs, as fine as ever grew, could be purchased at the mill for the sum of $4 per thousand feet. The local mill manufactured pine lumber form logs floated down Platte River in the summer, and sawed oak, basswood, and other local timber during the winter season.
In 1882, George Boyce arrived from Kansas and bought the Newman store building, located where the bank now stands. This he raised to two stories and built an addition and opened a hotel with a saloon in connection. This was Royalton's first saloon, and during the spring and summer when the log drive was on the "lumber jack" made this a lively place. Boyce operated the place for a number of years, and then moved to the state of Washington. In 1884, Charles Gillpatrick, a resident of Two Rivers, moved to Royalton and opened the first furniture store, located opposite the depot on Front Street. This building was later moved to Center Street where it still stands and is occupied by Thelen's shop. George Pavitt arrived in 1884 from Clearwater, and built a building on Center Street in which he opened a harness store and shop, the first in the village. This building, the first facing Center Street east of First Street, is still standing, just east of C.W. Bouck block.
The roller skating craze struck the village in 1882, when it swept the country in general. Local parties erected a rink on Front Street, opposite the depot. The building was 50 x 100 feet in size and fully equipped for skating. Where the people all came from in this early day to patronize this new amusement is a mystery, but the fact is that when it was opened it was crowded nightly, sometimes overcrowded. Later a stage was added to the end of the structure and shows were given, both professional and amateur. It was a popular amusement place for dances and large gatherings until it burned in 1889.
Up to 1889 all buildings in Royalton were of frame construction, but in this year James Muncy, who lived west of town and was extensively engaged in farming and lumbering, built the first brick block. It is still standing on Front Street.
Wages at this time were low compared with the present. Mill hands received $1.50 per day; carpenters, $2.50. Drivers on the river, working from 15 to 18 hours, sometimes in the water, received $2.50 which was considered high wages. Workers in the woods received from $15 to $18 per month with board. Farm products brought low prices, wheat being about the only cash crop. It sold for from 40 to 60 cents per bushel. For potatoes there was no market. Butter brought as low as 10 to 15 cents per pound, and eggs as low as six and eight cents per dozen. Merchants were compelled to do mostly credit business, and many settlers were carried from fall to fall when the wheat crop was marketed. In spite of these conditions the village made rapid strides from 1889 to 1890, and acquired many industries and rapidly increased in population, until it soon became the second largest town in Morrison county.
The Tornado of 1886
In Buckman Township, many settlers lost all their buildings and much stock. The large farm plant of Senator C.B. Buckman was among those destroyed by the storm. The tornado occurred on a still, warm, sultry day, and was funnel-shaped, the small end sweeping the ground. Its power was so great that the largest trees were torn up by the roots and carried away. In this storm 74 people were killed outright, and 136 injured; 138 buildings were destroyed, and the loss was estimated at $500,000.
The Lumber Business in Royalton
The first attempt to build a mill to saw logs in this vicinity was made by John DePue, whose claim joined the present village on the south. Some time in the fifties he started the erection of a mill on Platte river, about a half mile below the present railroad bridge. Here he built a dam and dug a millrace, it being the intention to operate the mill by water power. A Crew of men ascended the river to the pine forests and cut logs which were floated down to the mill site, where they were hewed into timbers for the framework for the mill structure. The frame was completed and a partner of DePue went east to purchase the necessary machinery for the mill; but he never returned and the mill was never finished. Years later, after DePue had moved away, the settlers nearby used many of the timbers in the construction of other buildings. Today, the millrace can be plainly traced, and the timbers used for mud sills or foundation logs for the mill are still in place.
At this point, just below the mill site, are embankments built to the river's edge, on each side of the stream. Many who have seen this work have wondered who built these earth works and why. In the early fifties, when the government was building the Point Douglas-Fort Ripley road, it was decided to build a bridge over Platte River, which had previously been forded. A contract was let and the earth approaches constructed, but a bridge was never built for the village of Langola had sprung into existence and a bridge was built there which diverted travel through that town. To those who may be interested in early history, a visit to this old mill site will be interesting. Trees over a foot in diameter have grown up in the old millrace and on the bridge approaches.
The first mill to operate in Royalton was erected in the summer of 1879, by J.D. Logan. Hardwood from west of the Mississippi was sawed in the winter, and pine from Platte River was sawed in the summer. The mill had a capacity of 15,000 feet per day, and used steam power. After the first year, a shingle mill, planing mill, and feed mill were added to the plant. This mill did a thriving business until 1883, when it was destroyed by fire. In 1884, T.W. and J.W. Bell, with Mark Miller, arrived from Pennsylvania with machinery for a saw mill, which they erected on the river just below where the creamery now stands.
After operating the plant for a short time this firm sold out to A.C. Wilson and Garry Peavy, who continued the business under the name of Wilson and Peavy. Mr. Peavy retired from the business, which was from then on known as A.C. Wilson & Co. this mill had a capacity of 40,000 feet per day, and also made shingles, lath, and all kinds of dressed lumber, and ground feed. It was leading industry of Royalton for many years, and employed many men in the mill in summer and in the woods in winter. The plant was burned when struck by lightning in the summer of 1903.
In 1886, J.D. Logan erected a saw mill on the east side of the river, just above the flour mill dam. This was operated for two years, when it was moved to the timber country near Randall and Lincoln.
In the days of lumbering the streets were often filled with "lumber-jacks" dressed in their bright colored mackinaw clothes and spiked shoes. When they struck town bent on a good time many of the citizens feared for their safety, but the log driver was not as fierce as pictured and little trouble occurred, although they patronized the saloons freely and produced a harvest for the keepers. They did at one time take possession of a saloon where the owner through fear of trouble refused to serve them. After drinking their fill they filled pails with liquor and carried it back to camp. The "lumber-jack" was a hardy character who worked hard and played hard. The work was sometimes in ice cold water, and the hours from sunrise to dark. They were fed well, and many old timers will recall the fine meals served at the camps where the cook was king. The passing of the "river driver" in Royalton dated from 1900 when the last log drive was seen on Platte River.
With the flour and saw mills running steadily, times were good in Royalton and the place prospered as never before or since. The mill erected by Mr. Hill passed through the hands of several firms before it was destroyed by fire in 1908. In 1888, a flour mill was erected by Mark Kobe as an addition to his elevator, located near the depot. This was not operated steadily until acquired by Mark Murphy in 1896. Mr. Murphy had been connected with the Hill mill since 1884 as wheat buyer. He built up a prosperous business with the Kobe mill, and operated the plant until it was destroyed by fire in 1901. Mr. Murphy proceeded to build a new mill in lower town which he ran steadily until his death in 1909, when it passed into other hands, and while still standing does little but grind feed. The Kobe and Murphy mills were of 50 and 100 barrels capacity. Mr. Murphy, in addition to his milling business, shipped a great deal of the grain marketed in Royalton. When the milling industry prospered in Royalton, the flour produced had a reputation for quality surpassed by non, and no flour from outside ever gained a foothold in the local markets. Who of the old timers will ever forget the brands, "Primus," "Sparkle," and "Manna?"
The only resident in Royalton at present who was prominently identified with the milling industry is Richard Wilde. "Dick" was a miller in the "big mill" for many years, later going into the general store business, from which he retired a few years ago.
Royalton's First Newspaper
C.C. Brown, the founder of Royalton's first paper, was a man of wide experience in both country and city papers. He was not only an expert printer but a brilliant writer. He had the reputation of making news where there was no news. He could by his gift of writing make the most trivial incident seem like an event of great importance. He delighted in a battle of words with other country papers, and wrote many scathing articles directed at contemporary editors. His office was invaded many times by infuriated citizens, the victims of his sarcasm, but they usually left in better humor without doing the editor bodily harm. Brown went from here to Duluth where he held the position of night editor on one of the daily papers for a number of years. He died at that place while still in the prime of life. The office of the Record was located on the second floor, over the saloon of the Boyce hotel, then known as the Platte House, which was located on the corner now occupied by the bank.
When Welch and Henenlotter acquired the paper the name was changed to The Banner. After a short time the paper changed hands again, W.F. Street, an attorney who came here from Sauk Rapids, taking it over.
Mr. Street ran the paper but a short time when A.W. Swanson of Wisconsin acquired the property. Mr. Swanson had learned the printing trade on the Shell Lake Watchman in his native state. He published the paper continuously for over 20 years. During Mr. Swanson's ownership great changes were made in the equipment of the plant. The army press was replaced by a Washington press, formerly used on the Princeton Union. Later an Ideal hand press was installed, soon to give way to a modern power cylinder press. Power job presses replaced the old foot power machine which had seen service for years. When Mr. Swanson disposed of the plant it had become an up-to-date country newspaper office.
Mr. Swanson carried the paper through it most critical period, and many time had a hard struggle to collect sufficient revenue to pay for the cost of material to issue the paper. To his credit, he never gave up the fight, and when he sold the paper, to which he had given his best under adverse conditions, it had reached the stage of prosperity. Mr. Swanson, when he sold the paper, moved to California where he now resides.
The next owner of The Banner was A.E. Joslin. He did not publish it, but rented the plant to Harold Knutson, the present congressman from this district. Mr. Knutson had learned the printing trade on the Clear Lake Times. Knutson published the paper for but a few years, when it was sold to Verne Barstow, who in turn sold to Willis Dally. After a short experience, Dally sold to L.R. Lisle, who had worked first for Knutson, and later published a paper in North Dakota. Lisle retired in favor of J.E. West, who a short time ago sold to the present publisher, E.R. Salisbury. This is a brief history of the paper for the past 45 years, which, as far as we are able to remember, has never missed an issue.
In the early day, every business house without exception was a regular advertiser. The business men were public-spirited to the extent that they realized the need of a paper in the town and considered the money well spent even if they could not see direct returns in money. It was the old spirit of "live and let live." Our town would be more prosperous if we had more of this spirit today.