A Glance to the Past
“Excerpt taken from the book, Woodbury – A Past To Remember by the Woodbury Heritage Committee” submitted by Joyce Flynn, WHS Board of Directors
Life in Woodbury, 1884
The topography of Woodbury is varied and scenic. The southwestern portion is somewhat broken and in places quite bluffy; the southeastern part is a rolling prairie. Much of the land in other sections is rolling and, in a few places, marshy. A central valley extends from the north to south with hills on either side. Lakes head this beautiful valley. Payton’s Lake, now called Markgraf’s Lake is located in Section two. To the west, in Sections three and ten, lies Brookman Lake, now known as Wilmes Lake. All four of these names were those of old settlers. Fish Lake, today called Power Lake, located in Section eleven, was a very deep lake containing a good supply of fish. Peter’s Lake, located in Sections twenty-seven and twenty-eight, really consists of small ponds formed when rainfall is plentiful. Other lakes in Woodbury are Lone Lake, Spring Lake, Carvers Lake, in addition to which are many large ponds.
John and Alexander Mc Hattie were born in Scotland, came to America, and lived in Vermont for a short time. They continued to Herkimer County, New York, then to Ohio, to Indiana, and to Minnesota by 1840. Both brothers purchased a claim of land in Afton in 1841. In the fall of the year 1844, Alexander and John McHattie made their way up to Woodbury from Afton and staked out claims in Sections 23, 26, and 27. They returned in the spring of 1845, having sold their property in Afton, built a house on Section twenty-three, and lived there for some time.
In 1839, Mr. James Middleton, Sr., finding little future for his eight children in Ireland, sent his oldest son William with neighbors who were emigrating. William was to look over the new country and to invest his parents’ savings, largely his mother’s inheritance. William came up the river from New Orleans, remaining in St. Louis for four years; not satisfied with investing there, he continued up the Mississippi and thence up the St. Croix River to Stillwater. After searching here and there in Washington County, William staked a claim of several hundred acres in Woodbury Township Section in Section 25. Here was a fair-sized lake and some woods and rich, rolling prairie land waiting to be cultivated. William started to build a house almost immediately.
William’s parents came six years after he had left Ireland. He and his neighbors, the McHattie brothers, met them and his seven brothers and sisters at Point Douglas Landing with three wagons and three teams of oxen. These families were to see much of each other because the two McHattie men later married Jane and Margaret Middleton. William and Samuel, his brother, later enlisted in the Civil War and never returned.
A few years after the Middleton family had come to America, Sara Middleton died and was buried in a plot in the orchard near the house. In 1853, four years after Sara’s death, James Middleton, Sr., passed away. Jane and Margaret’s youngest brother, James carried on the responsibility of managing the farm and taking care of his mother and sister.
Indian trails ran through the Middleton property. Mrs. Moody writes that the Indians were very friendly; they often knocked at the door of her grandparents’ home and asked for food. While the squaws rested and ate, they would stand their little papooses, who were strapped on a board, against the porch. Some of our older people tell us that there also was a trail which led from Brookman’s (later called Wilmes) Lake through Section 10, 15, 22, 27 and 34.
On January 2nd, 1864, the town issued a call to the patriotic citizens in order to make up its quota for the war. This meeting was held in District 27. It was resolved that a $100 bounty should be offered to whoever would enlist before the next draft. We do not have an exact record as to how many volunteered.
Kerosene came into use in Woodbury during the Civil War. Many of our people hesitated to use this marvelous discovery as it was explosive. But soon they discovered that salt added to the kerosene was a preventative. It was an additional job for one of the young ladies in the household to wash and shine the glass chimneys, keep the lamps filled, and trim the wicks.