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South Troy / Zumbro Falls during the Little House years

The Charles Ingalls family lived here with Uncle Peter’s family prior to moving on to Burr Oak.

The Zumbro River divides the village into two nearly equal parts, they being connected with a bridge which spans the stream at Zumbro Falls. – History of Wabasha County, 1884

Wabasha County, Minnesota is bordered by Lake Pepin and the Mississippi River to the east, and is just across Lake Pepin from the town of Pepin, Wisconsin. Originally, all of Township 109, Range 13 was called Concord Township, and all of Township 109, Range 14 was known as Mazeppa Township. Gillford Township was to the northeast and Chester Township to the northwest.

The settlement south of the river in Gillford Township was named Troy. As there was already a Troy in Minnesota, the name could not legally be used, so in 1858 it was changed to Zumbro, after the river. Ranges 13 and 14 in Township 109 were then divided into three civil townships: Mazeppa to the west of the river, Zumbro to the south, and Hyde Park to the northeast. Travel across the Zumbro River was difficult or even impossible at times, and it was easier to have most of the township lines follow the course of the river rather than straight township lines. (See map at right.)

In 1866, a dam was constructed to run a gristmill in Zumbro – this settlement had remained in its original township rather than become a part of Zumbro Township. The falls created by the dam led to the name change from Zumbro to Zumbro Falls for the nearby settlement, and business prospered until the mill was destroyed by fire in 1882. A bridge spanned the river at this point; it was first a pontoon bridge of five flatboats strung together, then a wooden bridge, replaced by a steel bridge in 1885.

The settlement south of the river was platted in 1878 by Fidel Sugg and Andrew Scholer. Typically, business lots were to the east and residential lots were to the west. From 1876 thorugh 1878, most of the settled farmland in Gillford Township which lay south of the Zumbro River was owned by Fidel Sugg or Uriah Whaley. Sugg ran a general store and Whaley was a prosperous farmer who had been in the area for twenty years at the time the town was platted.

The Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad completed a line on the north side of the river in 1878. In 1883 a cyclone and a series of floods destroyed the bridge and some of the homes and businesses in the settlement south of the Zumbro River, and many residents decided to move to the north side. The north-side settlement grew; by 1898, the population was 183. The new village of Zumbro Falls was incorporated on February 8, 1898. Prior to the mid-1880s, the Zumbro Falls Post Office was located south of the river in the settlement originally named Troy.

Eliza and Peter Ingalls Family in Wabasha County, Minnesota. In the spring of 1874, both the Charles Ingalls and Peter Ingalls families left Wisconsin and headed west. They crossed frozen Lake Pepin to Lake City in Wabasha County, and there they waited for warmer weather before moving on.

In Pioneer Girl, Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote that Uncle Peter’s family moved to a rented farm on the Zumbro River. The exact location of this farm – or even if there was rented farmland – is unknown. Most of the early property exchanges in Zumbro Falls, however, were recorded after town lots were platted on the north side of the Zumbro River. Eliza Ingalls did own a small parcel of land just east of Lots 2 and 3 in Block 5 of the original town, property bordering farmland on the south shore of the Zumbro River. Eliza sold this parcel to the trustees of the Zumbro Falls Congregational Society in 1910, while living in Stevens County, Washington. On both the 1875 Minnesota state census and the 1880 Federal census, the family was enumerated in Gillford Township among families known to own businesses, business lots, or farms south of the river in the original settlement. The Peter Ingalls house was destroyed by flooding of the Zumbro River in the 1888, and shortly afterward, the family left Wabasha County.

1875 MINNESOTA STATE CENSUS – The 1875 state census records the Peter Ingalls family just before Fidel Sugg, Charles Bryant, and Charles Whaley – all of whom owned property south of the Zumbro River. Charles Whaley was Uriah Whaley’s brother.

1880 FEDERAL CENSUS – June 7, 1880, census taker Ralph Cook recorded the families living south of the Zumbro River in Gillford Townhip. These included, in order: Fidel Sugg (hotel keeper), Edwin Harridan (retail merchant), Charles Bryant (blacksmith), Peter Ingalls (laborer), Alexander Carly (hotel keeper), Thaddeus Bright (harness maker), Sarah Glower (widowed landowner), William Churchill (druggist), John Strickland (keeps billiard room), James Huddleson (retail grocer), William Clark (farmer), John Hagn (miller), Joseph Roche (blacksmith), Jacob Lauternhlager (shoemaker), and Uriah Whaley (farmer). Numerous railroad workers were living in each of the three hotels at this time.

South Troy Settlement. The South Troy Post Office was established in 1863 and named after the original town to the north (which was called Zumbro at this time, but had been known as Troy earlier), but with “South” added for obvious reasons. The South Troy Post Office was still in use in at the turn of the century. A small settlement surrounded the Post Office in 1876; it included a blacksmith shop, wagon shop, store, harness shop, cemetery, and a schoolhouse – in which not only school classes but Congregational church services were held. South Troy Post Office was located 3.5 miles south of the Zumbro River in Zumbro Township, Section 24 – Township 109 – Range 14 (see map at right).

The Charles Ingalls family Bible records that Charles Frederick Ingalls was buried in South Troy. At the time of Freddy’s death, there was no cemetery in Zumbro Falls. The closest cemtery was in the southwest corner of SE 24-109-14, just northwest of the South Troy Post Office.

In the portion of the 1876 plat map shown at right, note that there is no town of Zumbro Falls located on the north side of the Zumbro River. Zumbro Falls and South Troy Post Offices are fewer than four miles apart, with the cemetery in South Troy. Harness shop and wagon shop locations are each indicated by a yellow X, and the original road south from Zumbro Falls is shown in pink. The Charles Ingalls family would have traveled this road on their way to Burr Oak.

South Troy / Zumbro Falls (PG)
doctor (PG)
Zumbro River (PG)