Irving Township site of county’s first hotel

Irving Township can boast of being the home of the first hotel in what is now Kandiyohi County. This is how that came about. Actually, it was the first hotel in the newly opened territory, and it happened just about the same time Mr. and the new Mrs. E. T. Woodcock, the county’s first bona fide residents, were setting up housekeeping on the west side of what is now Green Lake. A party of promoters from the State of Virginia received a title to a 160-acre tract of land fronting on what they called Carnelian Lake in May 1857. The lake name was derived from the millions of carnelian stones on the eastern shore. They were dreaming of forming a new county, to be named Monongalia, for their home state, with their land to be its seat. Frank Pierpont, the brother of the then governor of Virginia, was in charge of the local venture.

This group left in the late fall leaving Holden Putnam, a single man, to live in a little shack, which they had managed to put up during their stay, throughout the winter to comply with the occupancy requirement on their claim. He was gone when they returned in the spring and what happened to him is still a mystery. The first thing they did on arrival was to begin the construction of a two-story blockhouse, which was also to be a hotel.

Once it was completed Frank Pierpont became the postmaster and hotel keeper. At first business was rather lively. New families took up claims and began developing them. Things were looking good for the promoters, but it didn’t work out that way. Within a year those new settlers began moving on to much greener pastures. By the time of the Dakota Conflict in 1862, only the Henry Parsons family was still there. They had left when news of events which might affect them was received by messenger. The blockhouse burned shortly after the Parsons’ departure, and it was never rebuilt.

In 1864, when re-settlement was allowed, a new town site was platted on the east side of Green Lake by a group headed by Eugene Wilson of Minneapolis. There were probably more men of means involved in the development of Irving (Named for Washington Irving) than with any other development than in the entire county. Accordingly, it fared much better than its predecessor.

Frontier-type businesses soon sprang up and, when a creamery began operating there, the community was known as “Buttertown.”

Growth was steady. William H, Clark filed a claim for land on the eastern shore of nearby Lake Calhoun, and two Civil War veterans settled in the northern part of the township — becoming its first Norwegian residents. Three years later the population had grown to 24 families.

A man, remembered only as Mr. Calhoun, started a cattle farm near the lake, but had others operate the place. It was rumored that he was a minister.

Some gold seekers from Stearns County stopped in Irving for a short while on their way west. When they left they took several of the settlers went with them.

“Old Man Larson,” as he was known, raised cattle. When some people started playing with his herd, it bothered Larson so much that he went after them with a shotgun. One unlucky fellow took a full charge in the chest, and Larson was arrested and tried for murder. It was determined that he was insane, so he was sent to the then new state institution in St. Peter for life. In 1870, a log school was built and the first session was taught that fall by Mrs. Burrell Adams. It was in 1879 that a party of Litchfield men showed up at Green Lake, with shovels in hand, to investigate the Indian mounds located there. They reported that they had found 39 circular mounds, ranging from 20 to 52 feet in diameter and 2 to 7 feet in height. The group opened a few of the mounds and found a sufficient number of artifacts to indicate that the burials were of a much earlier date, not connected with the Dakota and Chippewa tribes then in the area. Their finds were displayed for a time in a shop window in Litchfield and created a great deal of interest. Unfortunately, a man claiming to represent the Minnesota Historical Society took the artifacts, and the Society knew nothing about him. That’s how Irving Township lost a fascinating part of its early history, and the mounds have been worn down through the years, so they are no longer visible.

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