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BEGINNINGS OF PIERCE COUNTY

Much of Martell Township was settled by Norwegians. One of the first to come was Christopher Heyerdahl, who was born in 1822 in Prestegaard, Gudbrandsdalen, Norway. He was well educated for those times, having graduated from the Latin School in Christiana and the Commercial School in Berlin, Germany. He emigrated to Jefferson county, Wisconsin in 1854, clerked in a store for a time and married Margaret Karlstrom (Kolstrom) of Rock River, then bought his bride to Martell in 1856 where he settled 160 acres of land. He was a man of great influence and was consulted on all business and legal matters in the neighborhood. He held the office of town clerk for more than 25 years and was Register of Deeds and Clerk of Court for Pierce County, resigning the latter to enlist and serve in the Civil War until its termination. He was the father of seven children, one of whom is still living in Martell Township—Elizabeth, whose husband is Halvor Herum. Mrs. Arnold Anderson of Ellsworth Twp. and Mrs. Fred MaGee, who being widowed, lives at home, are her daughters. Martell village is located on a point on Rush River which is best suited for water power as were other villages. A saw mill was the first industry, the first saw being a cross cut hung vertically.

There were many young men, but few girls. Such as came were snapped up in short order as wives for young settlers. I heard that Congressman Nels Haugen tell this story: There were two girls in Martell Township, both named Mary. Early one morning the Mary who lived on the farm came to call on the village Mary, who called to her and said, Mary, I was married last night.” The other Mary answered “For goodness sake, who to?” and the village Mary asked, “Name, what is his name?” But in spite of short acquaintances these hasty marriages were common in that they both made efforts to make a home. The first year of Mrs. Kay’s marriage she raised 20 heifer calves (bought of the farmers for $1 each) on hay tea. The hay was cooked in a wash boiler on the stove and then soup mixed with ground oats and a small portion of oil meal and fed to the calves instead of milk. It took all day and half the night to so this but it furnished feed to start with. This work was done by the woman as the men worked in the pineries in the winter to get money for improvements, etc., with small clearings at first, as there wasn’t much in income. When spring came maple syrup making was in order. Sumac spiles were made by burning out the pithy center with a hot wire and a hole was bored in the tree on the south side and the spile driven in. The sap would then drip into troughs hollowed out with an axe from an 18 inch slab of wood. The sap was boiled in an iron kettle that held as much as 30 gallons. This was an indispensable piece of furniture used for many purposes. Hung on a pole between 2 crotched posts with a fire underneath, it was used to boil lye from the leach barrels mixed with waste fats to make soft soap. After it got as thick as heavy cream, if a cup or two of salt was added and it was boiled a bit longer, hard soap was the result. It was used to heat water for butchering and for making apple and pumpkin butter with maple syrup for sweetening. One of early settlers’ wives even hid under one of these kettles during a surprise visit of Indians. Even the field notes for road construction were interesting.

Descriptions of roads found in an old township record book read as follows: Martell: Tuesday, April 20, 1858 Began at N.W. corner of Sect. 10, then S. 160 rods, then E 324 rods to center of E. side of section 10. Thence N 372, E 213 rods. Thence N 84 E 65, 4 rods to North and South road. Bertelsen’s Road, Wednesday, April 21, 1858 Began at SE corner of Section 34, thence N 320 rods to NE corner of Section 34, thence E 80 rods thence N 320 rods to N side of Section 26 River Road, Wednesday, pm April 21st 1858 Began an SE corner of section 23 thence N 244 rods, thence N 23 E 19 rods. Thence N 14 E 15 rods to Rush River 20 rods. Thence N 429 W 18 rods to section line. Thence N 53.5 then N 882 W 68 rods to Rush River and Grist Mill 74 rods. Thence N 482 W 48 rods, thence W 125 rods to north and south road. I hereby certify that the above are the field notes of roads surveyed by me, and the within are the drafts of the same. Sworn H. Bennett, Surv. Individuals key to settlement have been mentioned. Perhaps the most colorful “character” in those earliest days was Exard Jacques or Jock. Although it has been told before in the first book about the area, parts of it do bear repeating. And a bear plays a key role in this story, too.“Jack Du Bossis or Du Boise, as he was sometimes called, was a great hunter, found that the forests abounded with elk, deer, bear, and other animals. It is said that he shot 3 elk in one day in 1856. Another time he shot a bear in section 11, Gilman township, with a muzzle loader and missed. The bear came at him with a rush knocking his tomahawk out of his hand and grabbed his right arm before he could get at his knife but he managed to get it and stabbed the bear in the heart. The bushes were trampled and bloody for several rods. He was laid up all winter but managed to recover to meet a questionable end later on.” He was badly wounded. Elling Hanson found him and brought him to his home in Martell. Jock’s family later scattered and some of them became important in the history of other areas. His son, Nicholas, is credited with opening exploration in the area of Western Alberta, Canada. Bears in Martell Twp.? Yes, all were present. So were mountain lions. Some bears have again been seen here, and others believe that mountain lions are also present today. Land use was for logging, then farming. A few lime quarries have been dug and used. The Knutsons have a large one on their farm. Urbanization has been seen in the form of many new homes being constructed on small 2 – 40 acre plots not intended for agriculture. Farming remains the most significant source of income. Gone are the $1.25 per acre land prices; it is closer to $800 per acre now for an average. Planning and zoning regulations are a way of life. Source: pp 8-9 “Is There Any Lutefisk And Lefse Left”, by Pat M. Wiff

 

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