Granite Lake History

 History of Granite Lake

Granite Lake History Video 1954

Albion township came into existence in the early 1850’s with the area mostly covered by forest, and was referred to by the early travelers through the area as the “Big Woods.” The following is taken from the Wright County Historical Journal starting with page 129, exactly as it was recorded by D. R. Farnham, circa 1880-81:


Is township No. 120, range 27. The township was originally all timberland. There are fourteen lakes in the township, covering about 2500 acres; some of them quite large. Granite Lake is section 20, 29,

and 30, is the largest lake in the township. Swartouts and William lakes in the south part of the town and Henshaw in sections 14 and 15, Albion Lake in section 9 and 10 are the next largest. The lakes are clear and pure water, and are well stocked with fish, pickerel, pike and bass. There are many natural meadows, and a large amount of hay is cut of best quality. The soil is a deep dark loam on a subsoil of clay. There is no town in the county that has better soil than Albion, and the crops of all kinds are very fine; the average yield per acre is above that of any town in the county; there is no sandy or light soil and hardly an acre of waste or poor land. Of course it is slow opening a farm, and there are very few large farms in the town. About one-eigth of the land is under cultivation, beside the natural meadowland.

From the center of the town to Monticello is about 18 miles, about the same distance to Clearwater; 12 miles to Buffalo; 10 miles to Howard and Smith Lake. On account of the distance from any market and also on account of all timber in the neighboring towns, and consequently very poor roads, the town has not settled up very fast, as farming has not been very profitable. There is not any village in the town and there has never been any lawyer, minister, or physician, or meeting house or church, although the town has been settled about twenty-five years.


The first settlers in the town were Thomas G. Holmes and B. E. Emery. They were natives of Canada, but had resided in the state of Michigan for several years. They came to Albion the 18th day of May 1856, and took up claims on the southwest quarter of section 10 and the southeast quarter of section 9, on the bank of Albion Lake. There were no roads through the town, but during the previous winter parties had been through the timber from Monticello to Forest City and had cut out something of a trail, in fact had been through with a team, but the road was impassable in summer.

Holmes and Emery built a cabin on the SW quarter of section 10 during the month of June that year. A townsite was surveyed and platted, and during the townsite and city mania in 1856 and 1857, lots and shares were sold to some extent. But the city named by the Holmes brothers after an ancient name of England, signifying chalk-bluffs (not very appropriate) never had much notoriety, and as it was twenty-five years ago, there is now only the Holmes’ house in the whole city. Robert S. Holmes came to Albion in August 1856, and with two brothers besides, they made their home in Albion to the present time. They have not cleared or cultivated a large farm, but generally have been busy about something, hunting, trapping, fishing or dealing in ginseng. Either Robert S. or Thomas G. has been postmaster for twenty-two years.


In 1857 the Monticello and Forest City road was laid out through the town, and considerable labor and money was expended to make it passable, and for several years, or until the St. Paul & Pacific

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railroad was completed through the big woods, was one of the principal avenues of travel to the western prairies.

In 1858 the Albion and Buffalo road was laid out and opened. There are many roads laid out and partially opened, but no good roads in any direction. The town has received very little help from the county or the state and the settlers have been obliged to build their own roads, and with the heavy timber to clear and the numerous small bridges or culverts to put in, it has been a heavy tax on them, and as the labor has to be distributed to many roads it is no wonder they have no good ones.


There are five school districts in the town. The first school established was in 1860, Henry Sears, teacher. The first schools were kept in private houses. The first schoolhouse was built in 1866, in school district No. 62. But as there had been one of those famous quarrels for which Albion was noted about almost everything of a public character, about the location of the school house, it was burned, it was supposed by an incendiary, before it was finished. In 1867 the old quarrel was finally settled and a schoolhouse finished. The town cannot boast of splendid schoolhouses or of first class schools.

The citizens are not united in raising money to build schoolhouses or in voting money to support schools. Many persons in each school district are willing to help support better schools and also to build better schoolhouses, but a large majority of the citizens are opposed to substantial improvements in that direction. Three months school in the year is all that they want, all the time they can spare their children from work on the farm, to waste at school, as they seem to think.


J. Phillips settled in Albion in October 1858; he came from Indiana, settled on section 29 where he now resides. Thomas Dunham came about the same time. William Taylor, M.A. Taylor, G.L. Ingraham, W.R. Butterworth and his son. W.H. Butterworth, came to Albion in May 1857, from New York. They were considered a great addition to the small settlement as they were quite wealthy and well educated, enterprising and and intelligent gentlemen; they took up pre-emption claims in section 10, adjoining the townsite of Albion and on the shore of the lake; had made considerable improvement on their claims by the first of July and had sent for their families. But on the 5th day of July 1857, William H. Butterworth, the young man, in attempting to cross the lake in a canoe was upset or the canoe filled with water and sunk and he was drowned. This was the first death in Albion, and the sad affair cast a deep shadow of gloom over the entire community, as he was a genial favorite and much respected by all. His father was almost distracted and in a short time left the state never to return. The body of W.H. Butterworth was recovered and buried near the shore of Albion Lake, where it now lies alone with no stone or monument or anything to mark the place with but woods, and one or two persons know the exact spot. If the authorities of the town would take the trouble to mark the place with a stone or remove the body to a more suitable location, it would be a good deed of charity. But, also, the thing would not end perhaps with the body of the lamented Butterworth; all over the town on almost every farm the dead lie buried. There is no cemetery or public burying ground in Albion, and for twenty-five years the system of burying the dead on the home farm still continues. This may be all very well if there were no changes in the ownership of the land. But land changes hands and the new purchaser does not respect the graves of the children or the friends of his predecessors.

The graves are soon plowed over and forgotten, desecrated and unknown. At the next annual town meeting it is hoped that the citizens will take some steps to remedy this evil.

Another of the first settlers is Charles Judson. He is a native of New York state; he came to Albion with his family, December 27th, 1858, and settled on section 26. That winter and the winter of 1859 and 1860 his house was visited very often by Indians, Sioux hunters; they camped about a mile from his claim. The winter of the last named year they had a battle near his house with a war party of

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Chippewas. Several on both sides were killed and wounded. The next day the Sioux departed and it was the last of their hunting in the timber. Mr. Judson was elected sheriff of Wright County in the fall of 1863, but resigned the office after serving one year. He helped build the first mile of railroad in the state of Minnesota, but sub-contractors, Stark & Merill, drew the pay and ran away and the workmen got nothing, so Mr. Judson gave up railroading. He removed to section 10 near Albion lake in 1867, and built the first frame barn and the first granary in the town, and has one of the best farms in the township.


On the 6th of April 1858, the board of county commissioners divided the county into towns. Albion comprised township No. 120, range 27, and township 120, range 28, the latter township is now French lake. The first town meeting was held May 11th, 1858, and following persons were elected town officers:

Town Clerk – M. A. Taylor

Supervisors – R.S. Holmes, Chm; C.L. Ingraham, W.R. Butterworth

Justices of the Peace – T.G. Holmes, W.R. Butterworth

R.S. Holmes was a leading member of the board of county supervisors during the years 1858 and 1859.


Albion has been noted for petty quarrels and neighborhood feuds and two murders. The supposed strangling of a child by Euzeb Perrant, for which crime he had his trial and was sentenced to the state prison for life, and the same after a second trial, but he has since been pardoned by the governor. And also the killing of Mr. William Buckman, by shooting on July 5th 1879, by Mrs. Christina Sieg and her son Charles Sieg, for which crime they were tried at the April term of the district court in 1880, found guilty and Mrs. Sieg sent to Stillwater for three years, and Charles Sieg to reform school, he being only thirteen years of age.


The most remarkable event in the history of Albion is the disappearance of a little girl two and half years old, a daughter of John F. Spencer, who resided on section 12. Mr. Spencer has two other children older than “Etta” as they called her. About 3 o’clock in the afternoon of the 16th day of September, 1879, Mr. Spencer was at work in his clearing about twenty rods from the house, Mrs. Spencer was in the house doing the house work, the three little girls, the oldest about seven years of age, started from the house to go out where there father was at work. He saw them on the opposite side of the fence not more than four or five rods from him, the older two were making chaplet or wreath of colored sumac leaves and putting it on Etta’s head.

Just then their mother called them to come into the house and he saw them all start for the house, distance less than twenty rods. The two eldest girls came into the house and Mrs. Spencer asked “where is Etta?” “she is coming” said the children, but as she did not come into the house in less than five minutes, Mrs. Spencer went to the door to see where she was. As she did not see Etta she went out to where Mr. Spencer was, and who, when asked where Etta was, said that she went to the house five minutes ago. They both began to look after her, and about a half an hour, they came to the conclusion that the child was lost. There was at that time a threshing machine running about a half mile from Spencer’s and some twelve men with it. They were informed about the missing child. Immediately they stopped work and all went to look after the lost child, and before night about forty persons were hunting. All that night they hunted with lanterns and the next day nearly the whole town turned out to look for the lost child, with some from Maple Lake and French Lake. For two or three days nearly 200 persons were engaged in the search. Every foot of land for miles was very carefully looked over. As the little girl was not out of sight of her parents more than two or three minutes until she was missed, and the almost immediate thorough search made for her, and the fact that there is no lake or marsh or bog in the vicinity, and no probability that there were any wild

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beasts in or about the place or any signs of any being in the neighborhood, it is very strange and wonderful where the child could go to. Etta was a very interesting little girl, a beauty, the pet of the family, and it was a hard blow to the parents. Mr. Spencer was almost distracted, and has since that time traveled over a large portion of the State, and inWisconsin, looking for his lost child. Like the Charley Ross case there have been rumors and reports that the child was stolen by the Gypsies, as there was a band in the State about that time, but there is no evidence that they ever came to Wright county. Mr. Spencer went to several clairvoyants or “spiritual mediums” and they always told him that the child was taken by a woman. Of course there is no reliance to be placed on such information. But drowning men, it is said, will catch at straws, and he followed the Gypsies to St. Paul, St. Peter, and all over the State and to Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, in fact has spent nearly all of his time for a year and a half hunting for the lost child, and had the assistance of the chief of police of Minneapolis and St. Paul; he has spent all of his own money and property and has been helped with a liberal hand by the citizens of Wright county, but without avail. The case is as mysterious now as it was nearly two years ago, and the citizens of Albion and all others who have been well acquainted with the case and all of the circumstances connected with it, have settled down to the conviction that the little girl was not carried to a great distance, and that an old grudge, such as jumping a homestead, or something of the kind, was the cause of the loss of Henreitte Spencer.


There is no waterpower in the town. A.J. Phillips has a steam saw mill on the bank of Granite Lake of about 25 horsepower, which is run during the winter and spring and furnishes a large amount of native lumber to the settlers for building purposes. Mr. John Buckman in the south part of the town has a steam saw mill that is run during the winter. Both of these gentlemen own threshing machines which do good work during the season of threshing.


There are no stores in the town. During the summers of 1860 and 1861, a small stock of goods was kept at the Holme house, which was the headquarters of the ginseng buyers and diggers, and when the ginseng season ended the stock of goods was removed. Albion was noted for ginseng and many persons went to the town for a number of years to dig roots. It is impossible to give any statistics, as there was no account kept of the large amount dug and sold. But from personal knowledge and observation it is believed that Albion produce double the quantity of ginseng of any town in the big woods. But the town did not receive much benefit from this source, as nearly all was taken by outsiders and non-residents.


In 1862 and also in 1863, the whole population left. Many went to St. Paul or Minneapolis, but the majority stopped at Monticello. Farms and crops were abandoned and the latter ruined. A six weeks or two months absence was long enough to ruin almost everything on the farms. Two or three persons from French Lake and Albion stayed in and about the Holmes house most of the time, but in a frightened state, not daring to look around or save much from the general destruction of farm crops. The population of Albion for the past twenty years is as follows:

In 1860, 78

In 1865, 87

In 1870, 281

In 1875, 358

In 1880, 786 Note: In 2001, 1,171, 409 households, 2.86 person/household

Our lake’s water quality is worth protecting for enjoyment today and for the future.

Calendar of Events:


The first records of fish stocking for Granite Lake


The first fisheries lake survey for Granite Lake described the problem with the connection of the lake to the North Fork of the Crow River. The first lake map is drawn based on fieldwork this summer. The maximum depth found was 34 feet.


Walleye fingerlings stocking begins for Granite Lake on a consistent basis. The number of walleyes stocked – 100,000 fry and 3,776 fingerlings.


The lake was stocked with 5,075 walleye fingerlings.


Design is prepared for a “high velocity” culvert barrier placed on the outlet of Granite Lake for the purpose of isolating it from the North Fork of the Crow River.


The lake was stocked with 9,540 walleye fingerlings.


The lake was stocked with 3,276 walleye fingerlings.


A spawning area for northern pike is constructed with the assistance of the Annandale Sportsmens Club and Company D of the US Army Reserves Engineering Battalion.

The lake was stocked with 583 walleye fingerlings and 2,200 adult bluegills.


The lake was stocked with 6,300 walleye adults and 5 northern pike adults.


The high velocity culvert installed by the fisheries construction crew.

The lake was stocked with 2,958 walleye fingerlings, 12,000 northern fingerlings (est.), and 23 northern adults.


The lake was stocked with 1,252 walleye fingerlings, 6,000 northern fingerlings, and 27 northern adults.


The lake was stocked with 2,770 walleye fingerlings and 4,500 northern pike fingerlings.

Our lake’s water quality is worth protecting for enjoyment today and for the future.

Calendar of Events (continued)


The lake was stocked with 2,322 walleye fingerlings, 1,120 northern fingerlings, and 42 northern adults.


The lake was stocked with 550 northern fingerlings.


The lake was stocked with 2,227 walleye fingerlings and 38 northern adults.


A recreational use survey showed angling pressure to be 42 hours per acre and non-angling surface water use to be 8 hours per acre. The lake was stocked with 68 northern pike adults. Use of the northern pike spawning area was discontinued because the pond leaked badly. The pike population has sustained itself naturally since then.


The current public water access is acquired and developed on the west side of Granite Lake. The lake was stocked with 2,040 walleye fingerlings.

At this point, the DNR started to manage this lake primarily for walleyes.


The lake was stocked with 1,970 walleye fingerlings.


The lake was stocked with 19,240 walleye fingerlings.


The lake was stocked with 11,000 walleye fingerlings. More than 26,000 pounds of bullheads were removed by commercial fisherman, Jim Kath during the 1988-89 season.


The lake was stocked with 176 walleye yearlings.


Ten-year survey, 1982 – 91, was conducted and showed an average of 35 fish houses were placed on Granite Lake each winter during the first part of January. The lake was stocked with 188 walleye adults and 70 walleye fingerlings.


The lake was stocked with 1,640 walleye fingerlings and 28 walleye adults.


The lake was stocked with 1,100 walleye fingerlings.

Our lake’s water quality is worth protecting for enjoyment today and for the future.

Calendar of Event (continued)


The lake was stocked with 1,850 walleye fingerlings.


Lake association becomes active again electing Don Sundberg as president and Helen Mattila as secretary/treasurer.


Treated lake twice with copper sulfide during summer months.


Lake association participates in Citizens Lake Monitoring Program and starts secchi disk readings. The Robert Peterson family had taken secchi disk readings in prior years. The lake was stocked with 3,630 walleye fingerlings. Cleanup day occurred on Libby Lake in April. MPCA conducts lake assessment survey on water quality and provides recommendations to improve water quality. DNR fisheries conducts lake assessment survey on lake and finds land use in the Granite Lake watershed is determined to 4% residential, 63% agricultural, 14% pasture, 3% grasslands, 11% forest and 5% wetlands.

A fish consumption advisory is issued by the Minnesota Department of Health for anglers who wish to eat larger walleye. No advisory is necessary for bluegills or yellow bullhead. Fish were collected during the DNR summer survey.


Buffer strips were created at southwest corner of lake on Lampi and Reid properties.


Lake association elected Sheryl Hagstrom as president with Bonnie Hammer as secretary and Bob White as treasurer. Lake association started testing for phosphorous at inlets and outlet of lake.


Association starts participating in Wright County Soil & Water Conservation District’s Cooperative Lake Monitoring Program to core sample lake water. DNR waters division installs lake level gage for tracking lake level changes.


Lake association joins Initiative Foundation’s Health Lake Program and completes visioning session. Lake association is actively engaged in creating a lake and watershed management plan. Lake association submits proposal for grant monies from DNR’s Shoreland Habitat Grant Program during September. Association added a vice-president position and elected Tim Waldschmidt to that position. Albion Township conducted first Clean-up Day – Sharri Rau chaired this event.

Our lake’s water quality is worth protecting for enjoyment today and for the future.