This branch of the Austrian Hesch family is descended from Johann Hesch and his wife Marya (Schlinz) Hesch, who came to America from Oberschlagles, Bohemia with three sons: Paul, Mathias, and Anton. +++Johann & Marya settled in Buffalo County, Wisconsin but moved to Pierz, Mn in about 1885. .+++Mathias settled in Waumandee, Wisconsin and moved to Pierz in 1911. +++Anton never married but farmed with his dad in Agram Township, where he died in 1911.+++And Paul, my great grandfather, settled five miles away, in Buckman, Minnesota. He died there in 1900.

: : : : : : : : : : : :

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Watab, Minnesota & the Peace Rock

In the early 1970s, we had friends who lived in a rambling old brick house about a mile from the river west of Rice, Minnesota.  The house was built as a hotel by George T. Rice,  catering to travelers on the Red River Oxcart trail and later to stagecoach travelers along the same trail/road. This map shows the area in 1874, and the relatively straight road between the river and the tracks must have been that trail. Wow.
 The inn and the stables behind it, by the 1970s, were in bad repair.  They really weren't appreciated as historic, more as an eyesore.  The whole place is gone now, except for the lilac bushes and daylilies.
Still, the idea that people stopped there on the way to and from Winnipeg or on their way to Rice and points east was pretty cool, not to mention the pure romance of a primitive trail nearby.  If I listened hard enough, could I maybe hear an echo of the oxcarts out there on the prairie?
* * * * *
A few years later, when the kids were small, we lived south of Rice in the neighborhood of Gordon Bridge, which is about 5-6 miles downriver from the old Rice Hotel.  Gordon Bridge doesn't cross the Mississippi--it's a bridge over a tributary from Little Rock Lake and it's watershed.  I often wondered where the oxcarts crossed the channel.  They had to have come very near to where we lived, and then down thru a place called Watab, near the Peace Rock.  Ooo! PURE history!
Added May, 2013--I read lately that Little Rock Lake (originally a swamp) was formed when the dam in Sartell was built, around 1903.  And that means the oxcarts probably had only a stream to cross.  Cool, huh?
The area today compared to Watab township in 1914
On the 1914 map, the yellow line was a "well used wagon road", according to the legend, and the pink line was/is the Northern Pacific RR tracks (slightly mis-marked to the east, too).

Here's a description from a venerable book called Minnesota Place Names by Warren Upham.  (The blue outline is just a bonus fact for your next Incredibly Trivial Persuits game).  The pink outlines talk about Peace Rock, and the green underline made me laugh.

Peace Rock is visible from the River Road, but it's pretty well shrouded in trees.  

Another vanished feature of the area was a dance hall/bar called Mississippi Lodge, which was built about where Watab Siding is marked on the 1914 map.  It was gradually replaced by a supper club called Pirate's Cove.  The Cove burned down in the fall of 1998.  There've been a number of different schemes to redevelop the restaurant and area, but with little success so far.
 But hey, whatever happens there, someday, it'll be HISTORY, right?

1 comment:

  1. I was enthralled by the timeline of the Red River trail onwards past your old house. Wow, that is cool. I remember the petroglyphs on the rock but never knew their significance. Good sleuthing, Larry and Birdus.