Sunday, November 28, 2010

County Seat Battle

Old Kittson County Courthouse- I must say, it has a lot more
 style than the current courthouse building...too bad it couldn't 
have been saved.   Architecturally it was described as "...a 
three-story brick building above a high battered-stone basement 
with Romanesque tower; unusual half-timbered attic story 
gables; large chimneys on each side above medieval corbelled 
cornice brick."  It was once described as "...one of the finest
county capitols in the northern half of Minnesota."  
First 100 Years of Minnesota Bar Association (1983)
[Photo courtesy:  Minnesota Historical Society]
Kittson County was organized February 25, 1879. The first county commissioners, who were appointed by Governor Pillsbury, designated Hallock as the temporary county seat. However, in 1891, a group of citizens from St. Vincent, circulated a petition to move the county seat to St. Vincent, with a promise to build an $8,000 courthouse. The petition was dismissed by the county commissioners because of the "unauthorization of the circulation of the petition" and that they had no jurisdiction for this matter. 


But the whole story is a bit more interesting than that...

When the first board of County Commissioners met at Hallock, on April 8, 1879, they met in a building then occupied by Hans Eustrom, the first county auditor, which building is described in a “bill of sale” as “one certain frame house located on lot 14, of block 2, in the Village of Hallock, the dimensions of which are 14 by 18 feet, one story high, and known as the house now occupied by Hallock and Swainson and formerly by H. Eustrom, as county auditor’s office.” This bill of sale was made by Wenzel Newes to Charles Hallock, and reference to lot and block belongs to the old plat of Hallock, which was situated on the south one-half section 12-161-49, and not to the present plat on section 13. A Misc. 81.

On July 23, 1883, Robert Thompson, one of the commissioners, was authorized to rent for the term of two years, from January 1, 1884, from any private person or stock company, owning a large enough building, six rooms for the use of the county officers, at a rental not to exceed $300.00 per annum. Previous to this, the various officers had held their offices at their homes or places of business.

Pat Carrigan, who was the treasurer, resided at Northcote, but had Mr. Harvey P. Smith, as deputy, who kept the treasurer’s books, at the Bank of St. Vincent. Mr. Smith was also deputy register of deeds, and kept those records in the bank. H. Eustrom, the auditor, had his office at Hallock. J. A. Vanstrum1, sheriff, R. B. Hedenberg, county attorney, and W. F. McLaughlin, the clerk of court, all had their offices at St. Vincent.

Another view of the grand old Kittson County Courthouse...
[Photo Courtesy:  Minnesota Historical Society]
Mr. L. B. Riddell, who owned the east half of section 14, of Hallock township, had erected in 1883, a large frame building two stories high, on a couple of lots in the west part of Hallock, and this building, sometimes called Riddell Hall, was leased by the county, as the county building. This was occupied by the officers, and the county business transacted therein, until in 1896, when the present court house was completed, and the offices moved there. Riddell Hall was afterwards purchased by Walter C. Kelso, who moved it to the northeast corner of block two, of Hallock, where it now serves as a business building. The upper story is used by the Hallock lodge of Masons, as their lodge room.

The first court was held at the Hotel Hallock, the proprietor, Mr. J. B. Peabody, having tendered to the commissioners the use of the same, gratis. On April 9, 1881, the commissioners accepted the same with thanks. However, they did not escape without pay, for on July 25, 1881, among the bills the commissioners allowed, we find that James B. Peabody was allowed “$4.00 for the use of a jury room during the July session of the court and breaking of window lights.”

In 1892, and the following years, the people of the county began to agitate the building of a suitable court house, and as usual in new counties, this brought up the question of the location of the county seat. At the first meeting of the commissioners a motion was made that St. Vincent should be made the county seat, but this was lost and the seat of government was located at Hallock. When the question of a new building came up, the county seat question was resurrected and a bitter fight was made to have the seat of government changed to St. Vincent.2 However, the attempt to change was abortive and the court house was built at Hallock. The county issued its bonds for $5,000.00, and with other additions not then contemplated, brought the cost up to about $20,000.00.

The present county officers are: Auditor, C. J. Hemmingson, deputy auditor, J. V. Hemmingson, treasurer, Ole Myre, county attorney, R. R. Hedenberg, clerk of court, E. A. Johnson, register of deeds, Edward Nelson, deputy register of deeds, Abbie West, superintendent of schools, Blanda Sundberg, sheriff, 0. J. Anderson, deputy sheriffs, Oscar Johnson and J. K. Ross, judge of probate, George Baker, coroner, Dr. A. W. Shaleen, court commissioner, A. P. Holmberg.

The county commissioners are: 1st district, A. Arvesen, chairman, 2nd district, Louis Swenson, 3rd district, Boynard Anderson, 4th district, Thomas Coleman, 5th district, Charles Clow.

From: The History of the Kittson County Courthouse (1909), by Edward Nelson [Courtesy of the Minnesota Legal History Project]

1 - John A. Vanstrum was born in the Province of Halland, Sweden, Nov. 5, 1838. Came to Minnesota on the Steamer Golden Era from Dunleith, Ill. First located in Red Wing, Goodhue County, of which town he was a resident at the breaking out of the Civil War. He assisted the late Col. H. Mattson in recruiting Company D, Third Minnesota Volunteer Infantry, and was mustered into the same in October, 1861, and was appointed sergeant of Company D. Was promoted to second lieutenant March 30, 1862, first lieutenant May 30, 1862, and captain Company D Aug. 2, 1862. Re-enlisted with same company as veteran January, 1864. Promoted major of Third Regiment May 25, 1865. Was discharged with regiment at Fort Snelling Sept. 17, 1865. Has been a resident of Kittson County since January, 1879. Was sheriff of said county from its organization, April 8, 1879, to Jan. 8, 1889, and is the present register of deeds of said county, which office he has held since the fall of 1891. Mr. Vanstrum stands high among his fellow citizens, being a man of integrity and enterprise.

From:  Minnesota Territorial Pioneers - Biographical Sketches of Territorial Pioneers

Source:  Special Laws of the State of Minnesota passed during the
27th Session of the State Legislature commencing January 8, 1891

Source:  Ibid (see above)
2 - Minnesota's Pembina County, of which St. Vincent was designated the temporary county seat, was one of the 9 original counties established in Minnesota territory in 1849...

From:  The Public Statutes of the State of Minnesota (1849-1958), compiled by Moses Sherburne & William Hollinshead, Commissioners

[Click to Enlarge, to see details...]