Sargent County Township Histories

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Whitestone Hill







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Char Kibbie
Sargent Co., NDGenWeb Coordinator

Whitestone Hill


The name “White Stone Hill” was given to this township after the name of a battle 
that was supposed to have been fought on these hills north of Gwinner. 
Some settlers still cling to the idea that the battle was fought there instead of 
near Merricourt in Dickey county. The name will forever cling to this township. 

The first settlers in White Stone Hill township were Ole F. Johnson and family 
of Swedish nationality, who arrived in this country in a covered wagon drawn 
by four oxen, together with Fred Carlblom and his family, also Swedish. They came 
from Wright county, Minnesota. Ole F. Johnson did not settle here when he first came 
to the township but went on to Fort Ransom in Ransom county and took up a claim 
together with another Swedish family by the name of G. Anderson. Late in 1881 
he settled on the NW¼ of section 14, township 132 range 56 west and held this as 
a squatter till 1882 when the government surveyors came and established the township lines. 

On this section is a spring of pure crystal water so in the years of 1882, 1883 and 
up to 1902 the people for miles around would come here and haul water home for domestic use. 
The spring was fixed up by building a plank curbing 8 by 20 feet and 6 feet deep. 
Sometimes as many as twenty ox-teams were lined up here ready to dip water into their tanks. 
After 1902, artesian wells were drilled on many farms the first one being put down 
on Nils Petterson’s farm south of Gwinner. 

Ole F. Johnson build the first lumber house in the fall of 1881. The spring of 1883 saw 
the sod house fast disappearing, frame houses replacing them and the claims being improved 
at a rapid rate. The settlers had taken new life. The following settlers put up the first houses: 
Nils Petterson, on SE¼ of section 2; John F. Carlblom, on the NW¼ of section 12; Eric Anderson, 
on the SW¼, of 12; John G Carlblom, on the SE¼, of section 36; Nels Bjork on the NE¼ of section 22; 
Burns Brothers on N½ of section 4; A. E. Stevens on the SE¼ of section 32; Elisha Andrews 
on the NE¼ of section 28. 

The first school house was built in the year of 1883 upon the SW¼ of section 14 and 
the first teacher was H. O. Barlow. 

The first store in the township was opened by John Elk and was a branch of Charles 
Hamilton’s store at Lisbon. John Elk was also its first postmaster and the post office 
was named Forshy. The first newspaper was established in the township by H. W. Spencer. 
He bought a printing press in 1903, and named his paper “Prairie Press”, a name which 
still holds good. 

The first church was build in 1897 upon the SE¼ of section 12, T. 132, R 56 and named 
the “White Stone Hill Congregational”. The first pastor was P. Shoblom of Augustana Synod. 

The first hotel was built in 1902 by Lund Bros. In the village of Gwinner, 
the first general store was built and operated by A. N. Carlblom. 

The N. P. was built through the township in 1900. The village townsite was bought 
by W. White and same was surveyed and platted out Mr. Lord from Geneseo in 1901. 

The first bank was built at Gwinner in 1904. It was incorporated as the 
“State Bank of Gwinner” with a capitol of $15000.00. This bank is still 
on a firm foundation and doing business in spite of financial stress. 

Frame shacks and sod houses were the first dwellings used by the settlers 
of White Stone Hill township. The furniture consisting of a table, chairs 
and bunk bed were very crude and homemade. Mrs. Petterson used a 4-X (XXXX) 
coffee box as a cradle for her babies. Plain utensils which the settlers 
brought with them were in use and only a few of these. 

The early settlers obtained their land by using the squatters’ right on homesteads, 
pre-emption and tree claims. The settlers in this township used all three rights. 

An ordinary little cook stove was used for both heating and cooking purpose. 
Candles and kerosene lamps were used for lighting. Wood was hauled from the 
Sheyenne river for fuel. The only way the settlers did for settlement was 
simply “just go and get it, just took it.” When this supply ran out, they used 
to gather cow chips, bones, twisted hay, used anything that would burn until 
a new supply could be obtained. 

Their utensils for cooking were a few iron kettles and a spider which were brought 
with them. The good house wives spun, cared the yarn, and knit all stockings and 
wristlets for home use. All clothing was made by hand for there were no machines. 
The baby was cradled in a XXXX coffee box. 

The wells were holes dug in the edge of sloughs and sided or curbed up. These 
oftentimes were one-half miles away. No disease was thought of in these days 
and germs were unknown. 

North of Gwinner on section 14 was a spring of water pure and clear as crystal. 
The settlers hauled water from here in tanks for use. Northwest of Gwinner is 
another spring which is still in use especially by diabetics who cannot drink 
artesian water. 

The first wedding in White Stone Hill township was that of Nils Petterson and 
Selma Swanson. He took this timid lass, drove to Lisbon, hunted up Judge Ryman 
and were married; Ole F. Johnson and Fred Carlblom accompanying them as witnesses. 
They returned the same day and went at once to housekeeping in a little two room 
shack, as happy as two bugs in a rug. There were no neighbors to charivari them 
so they were spared this embarrassment. 

The walking plow drawn by oxen was the first plow used in turning over the sod. 
Later horses were used. A broad cast seeder for sowing grain was used. An ordinary 
binder using wire to tie the bundles. First the threshing machine was a horsepower 
but this very soon was supplanted by a steam thresher. The first one in White Stone 
Hill township was owned by Nils Petterson and Fred Carlblom. Hay was cut by a mower, 
raked with a one horse rake and pitched up by hand for there was no buckers nor stackers. 

Sod barns were first in use. Mr. Petterson built his own sod barn and was assisted 
by Mrs. Petterson who carried the sods to him. Mr. Petterson’s first crop consisted 
of five acres of oats and seven acres of wheat and when harvested he concluded to 
stack. He knew nothing about stacking and his stacks would continually fall down. 
They covered a wonderful space of ground and it took him one whole day to haul hay 
enough to cover his few stacks. One lives and learns. 

The farm implements were very much the same as those of today. 

Buffalo bones were gathered by the wagon load and shipped by tons to some bone 
industries in the east. 

The pioneer school was a typical frame building used for housing the pupils; chairs 
were used for seats and boxes for desks and teachers table. All the schools were equipped 
with globes and maps for which the district paid exorbitant prices. School dealers 
in those days were unscrupulous. The building was heated with a small wood stove; 
they carried water in a pail from a nearby coolie to drink and used one dipper for all 
of the children. The fourth grade was as high as was needed to be carried, for the 
children were small and winters severe. H. O. Barlow was the first teacher. He had no 
training whatever, he told them he could teach and they took him at his word. It proved 
to them in a short time that he could raise more radish and rutabagas better. He held 
no certificate of any kind, but they let him teach six months, there in the fall and 
three in the spring. The winters were too severe to trust children far from home.  

The first school statistics of White Stone Hill School Township are as follows: 
Held its first election Nov. 24, 1883. Named school township No. 3 White Stone Hill 
and elected for treasurer, Giles E. Mershon. Term of office expired June 30, 1884. 
For clerk, Ole Johnson. Term of office expired June 30, 1885. For director, Elisha 
Andrews, term of office expired June 30, 1886. 

At the annual school election held June 24, 1884, John F. Carlblom was elected treasure, 
but the question of legality was raised and the matter referred to W. H. H. Beadle, Ter. Supt. 
and because of Carlblom being listed in the same school that Ole Johnson, the clerk was 
declared eligible to said office and R. A. Rutherford was by the Supt. N. G. Herring 
appointed August 15, 1884 to fill vacancy thus arising until the next annual election 
and until his successor was doly qualified. Oct. 31, R. A. Rutherford moves out of Ter. 
thereby causing a vacancy in the office of the Treasurer and Supt. N. G. Herring appoints, 
Nov. 28, 1884, A. B. Willey to fill said vacancy until the next annual election and until 
his successor is qualified. 

Number of residents of school age in school township June 30, 1884: Males 26, females 9. 
Total 35. 

There have been eight grade graduates passing on into high school and out into the worked 
for the past fifteen years but the first high school graduates completed their course 
in June, 1925. They are as follows: Edith Kjellin, Allen Kjellin and Carl Meinhardt. 

Famous men in White Stone Hill township are as follows: A. N. Carlblom held the office 
of county auditor from 1890 to 1897 when he was elected state auditor, holding said office 
for four years. 

A. E. Stevens was elected county commissioner in 1900 holding office for four years. 

Nils Petterson was elected county commissioner in 1904 and held the office continuously 
for ten years. He was then elected representative to the legislature, holding said office 
for seven years or four terms. In 1920 he was elected State Senator for a term of four years, 
or up to 1925. 

Men who served in the late World War were: Hilding Einar, Safstrom Thomas McFarland, 
Theodore Arvid Anderson, Phillip G. Silvernail, Anton G. Jelineck, H. T. Severinson, 
Harry Ivan Cooper, John Bjelland, Albin Carlson, Harry Edblom, Oscar Benson, Fritz Carlson, 
Einar Erickson, Sam Hanson, Arthur Holmstrom, Julius Albrahamson, John Agner, Harry Hegle, 
Oscar Johnson, Joe Kinkor, Chancy Bishop, B. Olson, Elmer Bentson, R. W. Safstrom. 

Indian remains in White Stone Hill township were mounds found where Indians had been buried. 
The bodies or bones rather, were placed in shallow graves and covered with prairie boulders 
found in the vicinity. The relics take from these mounds consisted of bone, stone, and copper 
implements used for hunting, warfare and personal adornment, also for the amusement and games. 
The copper was the raw material form the mines of the peninsula of Michigan, showing that the 
Mandan’s had come in contact with the Indians of the North. The copper was pounded out into 
crude knives about eight inches long. 

Tepee rings were found in this township on section 11, which showed that the Indians camped 
on their way up and back to the turtle mountains whither they had gone on a visit. 

There are no relics in this township except stone hammers and knives cut from stone and 
copper which they brought with them. The relics have all been carried away. 

Gwinner, the first and only village in White Stone Hill township was organized in 1900. 
A. N. Carlblom built the first store, handling general supplies; Nels Bjork was the first 
harness maker; Fred Rehborg came up from Minnesota and started a lumber yard and hardware 
store; Anton Olson was the first blacksmith and A. N. Carlblom was the first postmaster, 
H. O. Barlow was the first teacher. 

The Northern Pacific railroad was built through White Stone Hill township in the year 
of 1900. Up to this time all provisions, clothing and necessaries were hauled form Lisbon, 
16 miles away. An occasional trip was made at Milnor, then a new town. 

An old trail called the “Government Road” was used by the settlers and by Indians 
from 1881 to 1896. The trail ran diagonally across Section 36, through sections 26, 23, 
14 and 10 and on to Fort Ransom in Ransom county. There were as many as thirty rigs 
of Indians in a company at one time, camping on section 11 near the cool water spring. 
They were all friendly and gave the settlers no alarm. 

Dead Colt Hill: John C. Fremont, the Pathfinder, accompanied by the French scientist 
I. N. Nicolett on their return to Minnesota crossed from the north to the south almost 
exactly where the old Fort Ransom-Sisseton Trail ran. He stopped on what is locally 
called White stone Hill but then known as “Dead Colt Hills”, northwest of Gwinner, 
on August 15, 1839. He gives the elevation as being 1372 feet above sea level. 
The Dakota name for this hill is given by Louis LaBelle, a Sisseton, as “Skunk-hde-ska-paha,” 
translated, “the hill where the little one died,” referring to the death of a pinto 
colt in the dim days before coming of the whites. The Indians tradition is that while 
camped near the springs at the eastern end of the hills in late winter a severe snow 
storm came on and many of the colts perished. The owner of the pet pinto colt was 
so grieved that after the storm he took the body of the colt up on the hills and buried it 
and then the others carried up their dead also and buried them and gave the name to the 
place which still persist among the old Indians and is found on Nicolett’s map and others. 

Source: The Forman Independent News, October 29, 1928.
Contributed by Jerry McQuay, July 2005.

© Copyright 2005-2010
Char Kibbie
Sargent Co., NDGenWeb Coordinator