The Early History of Rockville

The following account of Rockville appeared in The History of Stearns County, Minnesota (1915).

Rockville lies in the southeastern portion of the county, and embraces township 123 north, range 29 west. It has an area of 23,040 acres. The surface is undulating. Sauk River flows in a northeasterly direction across the northwest portion of the town, to the west of which lies a strip of prairie. Mill Creek enters the township from the south, and joins Sauk River at the village of Rockville. In the center of the township, and along Mill Creek, the primary, or granitic, formation appears in place, and from this fact, the town derives its name. There are a large number of lakes in this town the largest of which is Grand Lake, a beautiful sheet of water, lying in the southern portion of the township. The next in size is Pleasant Lake, lying in the northeast corner.

In the fall of 1854 William Capple and a companion named Mack explored this region and to them the lakes of the town are indebted for their names. Mr. Capple claimed what is now the Michael Reiter farm and Mack claimed the present Michael Lapinski farm. Mack died the following year and lies buried on his claim. In the spring of 1855 William Decker, Christ Palinch, David Spicer, Hiram Taylor, Peter Kaiser, John R. Weaver and Nicholas Kirsh each claimed a quarter section in this township. David H. Spicer claimed the quarter section on which the village now stands. In the fall of the same year Michael Hansen and his son, Pierre, came here from Illinois, and with them was Mathias Ahles. By 1860 all the land available for agricultural purposes had been taken up.

The territory embraced in this town was a part of Maine Prairie until 1860, when Rockville was organized, and the first election held at the residence of M. Hansen, Sr, on June 25. The first officers elected were: Supervisors, M. Hansen, Sr. (chairman), Nicholas Kirsch and John Harren; clerk, D. H. Spicer; assessor, William Pecker; and justice of the peace, A. Smith.

School was kept in what is now district number ten, in the house of G. Bauer, soon after the first settlement was made, but a log schoolhouse was built on section thirty-four in 1860, which was superseded by the frame building, in 1874. District number sixteen was organized in 1867, and school held in private dwellings until the erection of the schoolhouse on section three. District number sixteen built a fine new schoolhouse just across the road from the old one in 1910. District number forty-four. The first school held in this district was in a rented log house on section sixteen, about 1866. In 1868, a small frame building was erected on section seventeen, which was succeeded by a modern building in 1880. ln 1892 the schoolhouse was moved to the village limits where it now stands. The school building of district number ninety-one is located on section fifteen, and was erected in 1874.

Rockville Village.- In the year 1856 a village site was surveyed and platted by H. C. Waite and D. H. Spicer, near the junction of Mill Creek and the Sauk River. The plat was named Rockville. Mr. Waite soon afterward disposed of his interest to Mr. Spicer who subsequently leased the water power to Newt N. Smith. About 1860 Mr. Smith built the first mill on the Mill Creek in the village of Rockville. This mill was later remodeled by Orlando Tenney, but burned down soon after. Nick Garding bought the waterpower site from Orlando Tenney and erected the present mill.

W. B. Mitchel and his father opened the first store at Rockville. Later Hengel & Ahles built a store here. Ahles sold his share to Jacob Weisman and a few years later Hengel sold to John Weisman and thus the present general merchandise firm of Weisman Bros. was formed. In 1911 the firm of Meinz & Winkler opened a general merchandise store at Rockville. In 1913 Joseph Winkler sold his share in the business to Al Meinz, a brother to Theo. Meinz, the original partner.

There are two large granite companies operating at Rockville, the Clark & McCormic Co., and The Rockville Granite Co. Several of the largest granite contracts in the northwest have been turned out by the Rockville companies.

The village has a population of 250 people, and is located on the Great Northern Railway, twelve miles southwest of St. Cloud. It has Catholic and German Lutheran churches, a bank, a hotel, granite quarries and mills. The principal products shipped are granite and produce. Land in the neighborhood is worth from $30 to $60 an acre. The postmaster is Jacob Weisman.. A short business directory follows: Henry Alexander, granite quarry; Jos. Breunig, real estate; Clark & McCormack, granite quarry; Nicholas Garding, flour mill; C. Lundhagen, railroad agent; Meinz Bros., general store; Jno. Meinz, blacksmith; Jos. Mertes, livery; Gust. Peters, meats; Rockville Creamery & Cheese Factory, Henry Witte, manager; State Bank, capital $10,000; (J. J. Ahmann, president; J. H. Breunig, cashier); Jos. Theisen, barber; Jno. Traun, hotel; Weisman Bros., general store; Jacob Weisman, insurance agent.

The Immaculate Conception Catholic Parish was organized in June of 1911. The first pastor was Rev.. Hubert Gunderman. Nicholas Thomey was chosen secretary, and Joseph Brunning, treasurer. A fine edifice of granite and brick was erected . the same year at a cost of $16,000.

The village of Rockville was incorporated in 1903. The following officers were chosen: John Meinz, president; John Weismann, Ben Garding, Henry Heck, trustees; John Garding, recorder; Nick Garding, treasurer; Dan Jansen, marshal.

The Rockville Creamery and Cheese Factory. The Rockville Creamery and Cheese Factory was organized in 1897 by William Brinkman, Pierre Hansen, John Wolf, John Weisman, Mike Boos, Peter Hengel and Peter Decker. The following officers were chosen at the first meeting: John Weisman, president; Peter Decker, vice president; William Brinkman, secretary; Peter Hengel, treasurer; John Wolf, Pierre Hansen and Mike Boos, trustees. The creamery was erected just west of the village limits where it still stands. As a co-operative organization the creamery was not a marked success so in order to keep the factory going Pierre Hansen bought up all the shares in the fall of 1899 and thence forward he and his son, C. M. P. Hansen, managed the affairs of the creamery until 1918, when the property was sold to Henry Witte, the present owner.

(The above articles on Rockville Township and Village are from the pen of H. J. Hansen.)

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