441 North Park Drive, Morton, MN 56270 info@renvillecountyhistory.com 507.697.6147

Renville County History 101

1901 Renville County Map

Currently, Renville County is divided into 27 townships with 10 cities. The townships include:
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Beaver Falls – established 1867, was the first County Seat until 1900, named for Beaver Creek.
Birch Cooley – established 1867, named for its small stream, Cooley is a French word meaning the bed of a stream, even if dry, when deep, having inclined sides.
Bird Island – settled 1872, name derived from a grove of large trees surrounded by sloughs, like an island plentiful with wild birds.
Boon Lake – organized 1870, bearing the name of its largest lake.
Brookfield – settled 1871, the name also used in Missouri.
Cairo – organized 1868, first called Mud Lake, from the capital of Egypt.
Camp – organized 1867, first named Renville, later changed to Camp.
Crooks – organized 1884, named in honor of H.S. Crooks, settler and homestead farmer.
Emmet – settled 1869, named in honor of Robert Emmet, an Irish patriot.
Ericson – settled 1871, named in honor of Eric Ericson, he served as County Auditor.
Flora – settled 1865, named after Francis Shoemaker’s horse.
Hawk Creek – organized 1867, named for its creek, translated from Sioux name, Chetambe.
Hector – settled 1873, was first called Milford, renamed for a town in New York State.
Henryville – settled 1866, named for pioneer farmer, Peter Henry.
Kingman – settled 1877, named in honor of W.H. Kingman, he purchased a large amount of land.
Martinsburg – settled 1873, named for Martin Grummons, whose father lived in the township.
Melville – settled 1873, named for the Melville Railroad station located in the township.
Norfolk – settled 1868, first named Houlton then Marschner, finally Norfolk for a county in England.
Osceola – settled 1875, named for the village in Wisconsin.
Palmyra – organized 1872, named by settlers who arrived from S.E. Wisconsin, for “City of Palms”.
Preston Lake – settled 1866, named for the largest lake in the township.
Sacred Heart – organized 1869, named for an early trader who wore a bearskin hat and the bear was sacred to the Sioux nation, he was known as “Sacred Hat”, which later became Sacred Heart.
Troy – settled 1871, named after an ancient city in Asia Minor, known as the scene of the “Trojan War”.
Wang – settled 1867, named for a group of farms in Norway.
Wellington – settled 1868, named for the Duke of Wellington, victor over Napoleon at Waterloo 1815.
Winfield – settled 1872, named for General Winfield Scott, chief commander of the Mexican War.
The Cities include:
Bird Island –
railway village incorporated in 1881, the same name as Bird Island Township.
Buffalo Lake – railway village incorporated in 1891, named for the picturesque lake north of the town.
Danube – railway village incorporated in 1901, first named Miles, changed to Danube for river in Europe. Editor’s Note: I don’t think this is true of how Danube received its new name.
Fairfax – railway village incorporated in 1888, named by Eben Ryder for his home county in Virginia.
Franklin – railway village incorporated in 1888, named in honor of Benjamin Franklin.
Hector – railway village incorporated in 1881, the same name as Hector Township.
Morton – railway village incorporated in 1887, along the Minnesota River, named by Railroad officers.
Olivia – railway village incorporated in 1881, named for Olive, the first station agent in Ortonville by A.B. Rogers, a civil engineer who located the railway.
Renville – railway village incorporated in 1881, named for Joseph Renville.
Sacred Heart – railway village incorporated in 1883, the same name as Sacred Heart Township.

Editor’s Note: If you have stories to share regarding the townships or town be sure to visit our Share Your Story Page on our website, email director@renvillecountyhistory.com or mail your story to RCHS, 441 N Park Dr, Morton, Minnesota 56270.

Honor Roll of World War I: Renville County

Compiled by Linda Balk, Research Librarian. Editor’s Note: The soldiers’ names in red have their local American Legion post named for them. We have not found any name on the Buffalo Lake Legion to date.

“Sixty-nine graves many of them in far off France, give silent testimony of the valor, courage and patriotism of Renville County soldiers. These graves may be seen, not in one section of the country, but all the way from Flanders Fields to Alsace-Lorraine. In them lie the remains of the young men of Renville County, who gave their lives on the altar of their country that the principles which gave this nation birth might not perish from the earth. At Chateau Thierry, in Artois, in the Argonne and along the Meuse these many brave young Americans paid the supreme sacrifice. They chose to risk all that we might be spared from a ruthless domination. The memory of the sacrifices will never cease as long as freedom reigns, and gratitude lives in the hears of the men and women of Renville County.” From the book Renville County in World War I: 1917, 1918, 1919.

The following is the list of World War I soldiers that were killed in action, died of wounds, or died of illness while serving their country in World War I. If you have information to add to this list please contact Nicole at the Museum 507-697-6147. We preserve the history of all our Renville County veterans and need your help to gather this information.

Bird Island: Thomas Francis Devaney died June 12, 1918 in France; Ray Franklin Lee died September 29, 1918 at Winnebago, IL; Helmuth A. Thomas died September 25, 1918 in France; Arthur Theodore Ledin died October 7, 1918 at Camp Hancock; Olaf Ytterboe died October 8, 1918 in France; Alfred Knutson died October 13, 1918 at Camp Grant.

Buffalo Lake: Herschel A. Ralston died May 27, 1918 Edgewater, Maryland; Paul R. Schuetz died October 16, 1918 in France; Peter A. Winkler died October 25, 1918 at Camp Grant.

Danube: Clarence Winnifred Lueck died September 13, 1918 in France; William Charles Manthei died October 5, 1918 in France; William Tolzman died October 6, 1918 at Camp Hancock.

Fairfax: William H. Bruggeman died September 16, 1918 in France; Charles Buehler died September 29, 1918 in France; Clarence Albert Buehler died October 5, 1918 in France; Otto Semerud died October 5, 1918 in Georgia; Calmer Melchar Carlson died October 9, 1918 in France; Raymond Arthur Mantel died October 17, 1918 in France.

Franklin: John Engen died November 17, 1917 at Camp Dodge; James C. Leary died January 4, 1918 at Camp Douglas; Maurice Henry Johnson died August 13, 1918 in France; Carl Joseph Martin died September 28, 1918 in France; Julius H. Jensen died October 5, 1918 in France.

Hector: Albert Beack died September 28, 1918 in France; William W. Prelvitz died September 29, 1918 in France; John Lawrence Thompson died September 30, 1918 in France; Arthur Beske died October 4, 1918 in France; Ernest Hilding Nelson died October 7, 1918 at Camp Hancock; Allen George Wenz died October 7, 1918 at Camp Hancock; Carl Orin Potter died October 8, 1918 in France; George Paul Arlt died October 9, 1918 in France; Vladimer Orlando Lindgren died October 17, 1918 at sea; Joseph Conrad Loftness died October 17, 1918 in France; Charles Leroy Nelson died October 21, 1918 at sea; Gerhard Hilding Hallquist died October 23, 1918 in France; William Edward Habel died November 28, 1918 at Camp Cody. Note Potter used Brookfield Township as his World War I registration.

Henryville Township: Joseph F. Malecek died November 6, 1918 at Camp Cody.

Morton: Oscar Alfred Wellnitz died December 22, 1917 at Camp Pike. Note Wellnitz used Birch Cooley Township for his World War I registration.

Norfolk Township: Alfred Clement Reger died September 26, 1918 in France.

Olivia: Samuel G. Erwin died December 20, 1917 at Camp Cody; James Vern Neuenburg died March 21, 1918 in Vancouver Barracks, WA; John Schanil died August 27, 1918 Jefferson Barracks, MO; William Erickson died September 14, 1918 in France; Charles Jakes died September 26, 1918 in France; Adolph Majxner died September 28, 1918 in France; Sidney Harrison Bergstrom died September 29, 1918 in France; Frank Charley Spevacek died October 16, 1918 at Camp Hancock; Thomas Flannigan died October 23, 1918 in France; Reuben Arthur Pfettscher died November 11, 1918 in France; Melvin Elmer Amundson died December 20, 1918 at Camp Cody. Editor’s Note: After World War II the Legion Club added Strom to their name.

Renville: Frederick Fess died September 19, 1917 at Camp Cody; Palmer Alexander Adwell died June 6, 1918 in France; William Henry Ashley died August 16, 1918 in France;Helmut Albert Goeltz died June 14, 1918 in France; Emil Hermann died September 27, 1918 in France; Dirk Tjepkema died October 3, 1918 at Camp Sheridan; Howard J. Youngs died October 4, 1918 in France; Dick W. Bakker died October 5, 1918 in France; Howard McBroom died October 5, 1918 at Camp Hancock; William J. Lawrence died October 6, 1918 in France; Elwell G. Engelking died October 8, 1918 in France; Edward Michel Burdick died October 12, 1918 in France; Abraham Schendel died October 17, 1918 at Camp Fremont; Thomas James Dvorak died October 20, 1918 in France; John Kronlokken died November 2, 1918 in France; Odean Sweiven died November 6, 1918 at Camp Forrest. Editor’s Note: After World War II the Renville Legion Post added the name Garvey to their title.

Sacred Heart: Abner Rude died August 6, 1918 in France; Otto Stoa died September 29, 1918; John Throngard died October 11 ,1918 at Camp Custer; Joseph Alfred Viken died December 2, 1918 in France; Arthur Mahlum died December 1918; Frank Christian Larson died February 7, 1919 in France.

Listed as outside of Renville County but included in the book, Renville County in World War I: 1917, 1918, 1919 published by the Olivia Times in 1920: James Gustaf Mattson (Winthrop) died August 17, 1918 in France; Edward August Ewald (McLeod County) died October 10, 1918 in France and Oscar Loftness (Gibbon) died October 10, 1918 in England.

Editor’s Note: If you have additions to this list please contact Nicole. We strive to preserve the history of our entire county.

58 County Boys Give Their Lives in World War II

Published in the Buffalo Lake News on July 4, 1946

12 Men From Eastern Renville County Made Supreme Sacrifice in the Second World War.

The first consolidated list of Army dead and missing in World War II – a compilation of the names of nearly 310,00 men and women who gave their lives in the nation’s service – were released by the War Department today.

The Renville County list shows 58 gave their lives in World War II. Nine of these men are from the Buffalo Lake area.

An overall death and missing rate of 2.98 percent from all causes was indicated by the listing. Of more than 10,000,000 men and women mobilized into the Army between the presidential declaration of unlimited national emergency on May 27, 1941, and the concluding date of the study, January 31, 1946, a total of 307,554 had been killed in action, died of other causes or became missing, later to be determined dead. In addition, 1,424 persons were still carried as missing on January 31, 1946, bringing the total number of names in the list to 308,978.
Of this total, 57.1 percent, numbering 176,432 were listed as killed in action. Other casualty breakdowns showed that 25,493 (8.25%) died of wounds suffered in combat; 929 (.3%) died of combat injuries; 85,219 (27.6%) died other than in battle, and 19,451 (6.3%) were administratively determined to have died. The missing figure of 1,424 represented .45% of the total.
The tabulation for the State of Minnesota reads as follows:
Killed in Action (KIA) 3,793
Died of Wounds (DOW) 607
Died of Injuries 23
Died Non-Battle (DNB) 1,626
Finding of Death Under Public Law 382
Missing 6,463 (M)
The list of men who gave their lives in battle under one of the causes mentioned above includes only those whose home address was Renville County.
Sgt. John A. Aalderks, KIA; Pfc. Frank E. Barber, KIA; Pfc. Quinton Leslie Sanford Benson, KIA in Saipan 07/06/1944; Lieut. Eva M. Biebel, DNB; Sgt. Charley V. Blondell, KIA; Pvt. Jerome S. Boyum, KIA; Pfc. Wayne V. Brandt, DNB; Clarence F. Buehler, KIA; Pfc. Emil A. Butendorf, DNB; S/Sgt. Myron A. Carrigan, KIA; 1st Lt. Robert G. Chesky, M; T/5 Charles Christensen, KIA; Pvt. Harry B. Clancy, KIA; Pvt. Merlin J. Clouse, KIA; Pvt. Raymond A. Coursoll, KIA; Lt. Comm. John B. Daly, KIA; Pfc. Arthur M. Distad, KIA; Pfc. Howard R. Dodge DND; Pfc. Matt J. Dworshak, KIA; Pfc. Ertwin H. Gens, KIA; Capt. Leonard A. Haen, KIA; 2nd Lt. Robert M. Hagestad, DNB; 2nd Lt. Herbert C. Hansen, KIA; Sgt. Leo C. Hartmann, KIA; S/Sgt. Frank E. Hautals, DOW; Pfc. Halvor H. Helgeson, KIA; Pfc. Lester L. Ingalls, KIA; Cpl. James F. Hoff, KIA; Pvt. Leonard C. Johnson, KIA; S/Sgt. Harold C. Julson, KIA; 2nd Lt. William P. Kieffer, KIA; Pvt. Joseph A. Krentz, M; S/Sgt. Walter O. Kurth, KIA; Pfc. Erwin A. Lindquist, DOW; Pfc. Henry Markgraf, KIA;; Pfc. Arnold E. Nicolai, DNB; Sgt. Lester E. Odell, DOW; Pfc. Silas J. Olson KIA; Pvt. John Palacias. DOW; Pfc. H.J. Pawlitschek, KIA; PFC, Charles P. Pederson, KIA; T/5 Gordon C. Powers, KIA; Sgt. John P. Revier, KIA; Sgt. Herman R. Rewerts, KIA; Pfc. Vernon R. Romness, DNB; S/Sgt. William Schroeder, DOW; Pfc. Herbert F. Schlute, KIA; Sgt. Ellsowrth J. Seesz, DNB; Pfc. George F. Spevacek, KIA; Pfc. Charles M. Stegel, KIA; T/5 Milton O. Stoll, DOW; S/Sgt. Timothy J. Sullivan, DOW; Sgt. Carl O. Swanson, KIA; Capt. Lyle R. Torbenson, KNB; Sgt. Rudolph C. Trapp, KIA; Sgt. George E. Wabashaw, KIA; 2nd Lt. Philip N. Wolling, DNB; Pfc. Edgar G. Wood, KIA and Pfc. George S. Works, DOW.

Editor’s Note: We honor all Renville County veterans at the Renville County Historical Society, if you have more information to add to the veterans’ lists for all the military and wars please contact Nicole at the Museum 507-697-6147. We want to make sure they are honored.

Social Media Avenues

Posted on May 16, 2020!

Due to Governor Walz’s Stay at Home order the Executive Director, Nicole Elzenga, has been working from home. During this time period organizations have been posting more frequently on their social media avenues to share artifacts, photographs, stories, and more. Elzenga has also added a few new videos to the YouTube page for visitors to see exhibits in the Main Museum.
Some of the social media posts have included such hashtags as #mnmuseums, #RenvilleCountyMN, #letsgotomorton, #MNHistoryatHome, and a few fun ones #mnoddities, #creepiestobject, #recipecollection, #artifactoftheday. Simply copy-paste one of the hashtags into GOOGLE or another search engine and the pages will show up with various museums’ posts.
RCHS is considering putting a booklet together of the posts to have for sale at the 2020 Renville County Fair.
If you have an #mnodditiy in your own personal collection please share on our various social media sites and be sure to tag us!
As the Stay at Home order will expire on Sunday, May 17, 2020 (midnight) Elzenga will be returning to work at the office but the Museum is still closed to the public until June 1, 2020. This information may change but Elzenga will keep the information updated on the website and social media avenues. Remember #HistoryMatters and we are all in this together. Stay safe & healthy and we hope to see you later this summer!

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Renville County Country (Rural) School Districts by Township

Norfolk District 28 (Red) and District 36 (White) on the Museum Grounds in Morton, MN.

Bandon: 29, 60, 66, 69, 124
Beaver Falls: 4, 5, 6, 7, 135
Birch Cooley: 2, 3, 13, 19, 20, 55, 96
Bird Island: 64, 85, 103, 123
Boon Lake: 25, 34, 38, 77, 120, 122
Brookfield: 49, 99, 118, 133, 134, 138, 139
Camp: 1, 10, 30, 31
Cairo: 23, 26, 32, 39, 45
Crooks: 52, 75, 105, 119, 140, 145
Emmet: 9, 33, 37, 58, 127
Ericson: 42, 88, 98, 131, 142, 161
Flora: 8, 18, 22, 80, 97
Hawk Creek: 16, 21, 40, 41
Hector: 51, 63, 65, 102
Henryville: 11, 12, 27, 59, 104, 111
Kingman: 68, 82, 117
Martinsburg: 71, 78, 83, 92, 113, 129
Melville: 76, 81, 93, 100, 114
Norfolk: 28, 36, 47, 84, 101, 112 Editor’s Note: 28 and 36 buildings are on the Museum Grounds in Morton, Minnesota!
Osceola: 90, 110, 115, 136, 116
Palmyra: 46, 84, 87, 91
Preston Lake: 24, 53, 57, 130, 132, 143
Sacred Heart: 14, 15, 35, 50, 108, 128
Troy: 67, 70, 73, 89, 126, 137
Wang: 42, 44, 48, 61, 94, 141
Wellington: 54, 56, 95, 109, 125
Winfield: 62, 72, 74, 106, 121

Editor’s Note: I am aware of a few standing schoolhouses used as township halls including Beaver Falls District # 5. What schoolhouses are still standing in Renville County? What schoolhouses were moved to other locations like Norfolk Districts # 28 & 36? Contact Nicole 507-697-6147 or email director@renvillecountyhistory.com to share this information. We are working on a map to locate the country schools and country churches that are still standing in Renville County. We would like to GPS the locations of the other churches and schoolhouses no longer standing.