OF EARLY OKOBOJO
first settler in the locality of Okobojo was Peter Brennan, who was a
squatter on a tract of land which surrounded the town-site on two sides,
his building being near a little plum grove about where the new residence
of George Bunch now situated. He "squatted" on that location
early in 1882 and remained in that part of the country for five or six
years and finally vanished, and as he was an old man at that time it is
not likely that he is now living.
The town was laid out in the spring of '83, before the county was organized. The first settlers to locate were Merit Sweney, town site agent, and part owner of the same, and A. C. Parsons, who started the first store near where the present McGannon store is located, and ran it through the first year of the town's history, selling it in the spring of '84 to Captain Bliss Sutherland, who operated it for several years before turning it over to his son, Frank, both of whom are now dead. This store passed through several hands as the years went along, finally getting into the possession of Alex McGannon, who now operates it
store was a hardware store, opened the summer of ‘84 by Captain W. W.
Stewart, who with H. R. Mills, of Port Huron had been induced by
mercantile ventures were in the way of a shoe store put in by John
Bradley, and when the town of Clifton finally vanished from the map, Norm
Willits, who had been operating a store at Clifton moved his building to
Okobojo and operated there for several years.
"hotel" accommodations were by the Bunch family. E. P. Bunch
filed on a tract of land adjoining the town and built a two-story building
which was used for that purpose. But before that his son, Charlie, had put
up a shack and was feeding the land prospectors who came out in the early
spring of 1883, but the new building was soon put up and different members
of the Bunch family operated it as a hotel for several years. This
building was later moved to the farm of James Bagby in Grandview township,
and later moved back to Okobojo, and is now on the farm of Hal Glessner,
just south of town.
The next move
in that direction was that of George Henderson, who lost his life on the
prairie while returning from Pierre with a load of lumber and fuel when an
early storm caught him. His team was found in the brush along the creek
the next morning and a party started out to hunt for him, but the day was
cold and stormy and the body was not found. The next day about twenty
horsemen spread out across the prairie and the body was found about two
miles south of town. This was the first tragic death in that locality.
Sweetland was the first loan agent, locating in 1883. He remained for
seven or eight years.
newspaper was printed in May, '84, by Frankhauser-and Travis. Frankhauser
soon drifted back to Michigan and A. C. Parsons joined in the business
which was later taken over by Travis; alone, who maintained it until 1892
when he sold it to John Glessner. After Mr. Glessner's death this paper
was sold to John Livingstone and by him to Will Green. After his death
Mrs. Green sold it to John and William Crawford who published it for
several years. In 1928 it was purchased by G. J. Zimmer, who published it
for a year from the office of the Onida Watchman at Onida, at which time
it died a natural death for lack of patronage.
W. W. Stewart and H. R. Mills took a share in the townsite they secured
the erection of a flouring mill in the fall of 1884. This was put up by T.
J. Brownlee, a young man from southern Illinois. He kept it in operation
for several years, but the fuel problem was too expensive, and this along
with the dry years and the failure of the wheat crop put an end to the
attempt, and the building was torn down.
In the beginning of settlement, Okobojo was the central point of gathering for the southwestern part of the county, and the celebrations of various kinds were held there, the first of importance being a Fourth of July opening in 1884. Others followed, along with, literary society meetings and other gatherings in the little old schoolhouse, which was built in the fall of '83. But it was a small affair and something more fitting to the needs of such gatherings was wanted and while often discussed nothing was definitely done until the spring of 1890, when a town hall association was organized, and stock enough sold to secure lumber to start the structure which has been the general meeting place for western Sully residents
soldiers from Fort Sully were frequent visitors, and were generally
present whenever any entertainments were pulled off. Soldiers were prone
to sell extra uniforms when short of cash, and many parts of such uniforms
were owned by settlers. Knowing that a delegation from Fort Sully would be
over to one of the Fourth of July celebrations, a "company" of
infantry was put on as part of the parade. The "company" was
more or less uniformed, and was headed by a captain, two lieutenants, two
sergeants and four corporals, followed by the "ranks",
consisting of one small boy, who managed to carry the weight of his old
musket past the crowd, and then let it fall, to be carried by stronger
hands from that time on.
society meetings in the old schoolhouse drew large crowds as there was
good vocal music available and the Bruner orchestra occasionally came down
from Carson to assist. The director of the little plays put on at each
meeting was Miss Cora Spurling, who afterwards traveled for several years
with a stock company in the east, and made a record for herself as an
emotional actress. With her assistance some entertaining programs were
One if the
tragic events of early day settlement in that section was the death, by
lightning, of Thomas Porter, who lived about a mile north of town. A
terrific electrical storm was in progress, and he rose from his bed for
some purpose. Being a man over six feet tall his head was near the
ceiling, and a bolt which struck the corner of the house evidently struck
his head. He fell; apparently his wife was also stunned for when she
recovered consciousness she found her husband dead on the floor. While the
storm was still raging and in the darkness she made her way to the nearest
neighbor for assistance.
boxing gloves which had hard usage for several years will be recalled by
the male portion of the town when thinking of early days, as very few
escaped entirely from the effect of that old pair of gloves in the time
they did duty for all the populace.
One of the
forms of amusement was in the way of country dances. These were held at
the smell homes in Okobojo or that vicinity and meant generally moving out
the furniture to get room for the old square dances of that day. And the
country schoolhouses had to accept their share of moving desks about to
accommodate the many dances held within their walls.
is generally pictured as one of hardships. Compared with the present days
of living, it was probably just that. But most who came to the prairies in
early days came from communities which did not know of the things
considered as necessary in these times, and those who settled thought that
they were having rather a good time in their venture into a new country,
and while it was not all roses, most of those who went through it praise
that experience, even though they would not care to go through it again.
incidents, some pleasing and humorous, and others not so lined up,
occurred to keep the settlers interested. One of these was when in the
fall of 1890, one afternoon four wagons all loaded
The first few
years in Sully county were blessed with plenty of rainfall and the prairie
was covered with a heavy carpet of grass. Crops put in yielded bountifully
and it was a land of great expectations. But about 1886 was the first
awakening to different conditions, and for several years crop returns were
light and settlers began to leave for new locations and by 1890 the
prairie population was very much reduced. It has "come back"
several times since that, to again be followed by dry years, and just at
this time is certainly not a fairyland by any means.