The Birth and Growth of Marshan Township
Marshan Township was not settled by white men until Hastings, MN had become an established community in the early 1850s. In fact, the Sioux Indians, the main inhabitants of the region, didn't even camp in the Marshan area. They preferred to stay in Red Wing and Kaposia instead, a small trading post downriver from St. Paul. After many years, people from other areas found our township and decided to reside.
This small town was located on the east half of the northeast quarter of Section 27 and the west half of the northwest quarter of Section 29. The land was owned by Michael Marsh, from whom the place derived its name. Marsh had the land surveyed and platted and recorded the plat on Aug. 26, 1856.
This village was located on the east half of the northeast quarter and east half of the southeast quarter of Section 28. It was surveyed and platted by T. Blakely, and owned by land speculators, with F. B. Curtiss as the agent. In 1857, the company established the first hotel in the township. Sadly, it burned down and was rebuilt by Michael Marsh, but was destroyed by fire again in 1874.
The Bellwood Catholic Church was built on land donated by the townsite company. The Collins brothers donated five acres of land on the northwest quarter of Section 22 to Bishop T. L. Grace in St. Paul to be used as a cemetery. A survey was made at the time, but it was never recorded. In 1874, D. B. Lowell conducted a second assessment. The plat was recorded in July.
The Bellwood Cemetery, which still exists at the intersection of Highway 61 and 190th Street, contains a monument to Henry G. Bailly. He was the first settler in Hastings, MN. His father, Alexis Bailly, was one of the first explorers and fur traders to spend time in the area. Henry’s mother was Lucy Anne Faribault, daughter of Jean Baptiste Faribault, who was a famous fur trader during the settling of Minnesota.
The Immaculate Conception
The township's second church, the Church of the Immaculate Conception, was organized in January 1862. The cornerstone was laid in April and the building was completed a few months later at a total cost of $500. Opened to the public on August 10, 1862, the property consisted of painted confessional, tabernacle, belfry, and crucifix. These architectures were made by Edmond Doyle, Nicholas McGree, and M.D. Phalen.
Emerging Educational System
Even though farming in the 1850s was extremely challenging and required that every family member pitch in to help with the chores and fieldwork, the settlers recognized the need to educate their children.
Since traveling by horse or on foot over often muddy or snow‑drifted roads was a never‑ending struggle, townships, by necessity, hosted multiple school districts that accepted students from a limited number of sections surrounding their one‑room schoolhouses.
Marshan's first school was taught in the winter of 1857-58 by William A. Gray in a small log house on the northeast quarter of the southeast quarter of Section 21. He held another class in the next winter.
From 1859 to 1860, Michael Mallany taught school in a house on the western part of Section 27.
Early in the spring of 1864, a small house costing $150 was built on the northeast corner of the northeast quarter of the area. The following summer, M.D. Phalen taught a three months' school in the house and continued to teach there six to eight months annually for the next 11 years.
In 1877, the district built a new and larger schoolhouse for $387.
The district was organized at a meeting held on Dec. 8, 1858, in W.H. Montgomery's house. Those in attendance voted to build a schoolhouse on the northwest corner of the northeast quarter of Section 6, on land owned by C. Johnson.
However, the building was not erected as planned. Instead, school was conducted in private homes until 1865. The district's first teacher, Susan Lyon, taught the first school in a house owned by C. B. Poor.
The first classes in this district were taught in 1862. It was held in M. Marsh's house by Michael Mallany, who had taught in 1859-60 in the western part of Section 27. Later on, another building was organized and a schoolhouse erected on the northeast quarter of the southeast quarter of Section 27.
Catherine Ryan taught the first classes in the new building, which was used until 1879. In the same year, a new schoolhouse costing $400 was built on the southeast corner of Section 26, on land owned by P. Demsey.
This district was organized on March 31, 1874 during a meeting held at the home of W.B. Mather. Attendees voted to raise $400 to build a schoolhouse on the southeast quarter of Section 7. However, the building eventually was built on the northeast quarter of Section 8, on land owned by Peter Huneicker. Ella Gilkey taught the first term during the winter of 1875-76. It lasted four months and involved about 27 students.
Formed in 1879, this district was under a special act of the Minnesota Legislature. The first organizational meeting was held on Sept. 6, 1879 at the Cook house, owned by John Estergreen. The attendees decided to raise $500 for building a new schoolhouse and $300 for a teacher's salary and incidental expenses. The building, situated on Section 12, was completed in the fall of 1879.
By the early 1900s, it was becoming clear that the nation's rural education system was highly inadequate. One of the strongest advocates for a more progressive rural school system was President Theodore Roosevelt. He appointed the Country Life Commission in 1908 to investigate and report back on the living conditions in rural America. The commission called for a massive overhaul of the rural school system, mainly through consolidation.
Hastings native John Karpen, a strong advocate of consolidation, was elected Dakota County's superintendent of education in 1914. He managed to convince voters in the Randolph area to approve the consolidation of six districts in southern Dakota County and one in Goodhue County.
A new $30,000 brick school building in Randolph was completed in 1918, becoming the county's first consolidated school. Eight buses needed to transport rural students to the new school were delivered in August of the same year.
The march toward a modern county school system hit a number of roadblocks along the way. These include the Great Depression and insufficient tax bases. Rural schools were declining rapidly by the late 1940s. Many of the old schoolhouses were of little use and some had been abandoned. The students also bused to other schools.
In 1948, the first schoolhouses in the county were offered for sale. The one in District No. 33 in Marshan was sold to local resident Fred Bauer, who later sold it to George Marschall.
Described in 1905 as “the most picturesque and perfect example of a columnar rock weathering in Minnesota,” the township's most notable natural attraction is Chimney Rock. It is a 40-foot high sandstone outcropping that served as a guidepost for early settlers and travelers. Now called the Chimney Rock Scientific and Natural Area, it continues to fascinate visitors today.
This picturesque river flows through the northwest corner of the township, entering at the northwest quarter of Section 7 and leaving by the northeast quarter of Section 6.
The Rev. Neill also wrote about a four- or five-acre clear, spring-fed pond called Smith's Lake. It was located in Section 27 on land owned by Mrs. B. Gergen. Neill also noted that the pond and the river are the only two bodies of living water in the township.
Later on, Rev. Neill discovered that two small ponds, which are almost identical, were situated on Section 22. They were separated by a narrow neck of land but four rods wide. The ponds, which are called the Twin Lakes, are remarkable for their beauty, clearness, and inexhaustible supply of water. A few years later, they simultaneously disappeared without any perceptible cause.