In 1857 a State Constitution was ratified by the people and on May 11, 1858, Minnesota was admitted into the Union by an Act of Congress”, the 32nd State. The population in 1857 was 150,037. For some reason this community was not organized then as most of the towns were. It was a farming community and the settlers were more eager to clear the land and plant crops than in starting towns to make reading for later historians; but after a portion of the township was assigned by the County Commissioners to the town of Brooklyn, and another portion to Minneapolis, the residents decided to protect their interests. On March 24, 1860, a caucus was held in the home of J. S. Malbon to organize the township of Crystal Lake and commence its civil history. At that time it consisted of 24 sections (over 15,000 acres). Two tiers of sections from Brooklyn and two from Minneapolis were taken for this purpose. Crystal Lake Township was bounded on the east by the Mississippi River, on the south by the village of Minneapolis, on the north by Brooklyn township and on the west by Plymouth township. On April 3, 1860, again at Malbon’s home, an election was held and the following were named to offices:
H. S. Plummer, Chairman
John B. Johnson
Henry S. Warren
Supt. of Schools:
N. R. Thompson
J. S. Kales
Luther Bartlow (who failed to qualify and Josiah Dutton was appointed later.)
H. S. Camp
The total vote cast at the meeting was 55 and when one considers that 55 represented the male population which had settled here within 8 years it is more impressive. The tax voted for all township purposes $200.00. A story told of the earliest town meeting (Township and town were used “rather loosely m the records but the civil unit was a township”) exemplifies the primitive political state. Every settler was so busy with his own affairs that none desired to serve as an officer. As soon as “men were nominated, they would decline to serve. N. R. Thompson was moderator. He examined the law and found that any freeholder unwilling to serve could be fined $50 and costs. “Gentlemen,” he announced, “I have no desire to interfere with any private affairs, but the next man elected as an officer of Crystal Lake Township who refuses to serve shall be fined $50” and read the’law. The offices were soon filled. Of the early settlers few became prominent in state or county affairs, but N. R. Thompson, who was the first moderator of the first town meeting, also became the first Superintendent of Schools in the town. He later was Sheriff of Hennepin County for four years and served several terms on the Minneapolis City Council.
The first religious group to organize was the Crystal Lake and Brooklyn Free Will Baptist Church. It was started in 1860 with six members, including the Stillmans, Merritts, and Thompsons. A church (pictured with the 1860 township map at the top of this post) was built in 1875 on land donated by Josiah Dutton (who came from Vermont in 1853) on the corner of Bass Lake Road and West Broadway, formerly called Jefferson Highway and earlier Bottineau Road. It was commonly called “The Little White Church.” The Robbinsdale Historical Society has a chair from that church. Some of the early settlers sold farms to a colony of Germans who were mostly Catholics, and in 1863 built their first building, using it for a school house as well as for services. In 1873 it was remodeled for exclusive church use and named St. Marie’s Catholic Church. Services were held there until 1914 when the parish was consolidated with Sacred Heart and the church torn down. Peter and John Schuller and Bernard Hommes had donated a five-acre tract for the church and cemetery, familiar to those who decorate the graves of veterans of so many wars on Memorial Day each year. The cemetery at 45th and Xylon Avenue North, originally St. Marie’s, is now called Assumption Cemetery and is managed by Gethsemane Cemetery.
This post is the fifth in a series based on the book Robbinsdale Then and Now by Helen Blodgett