About the Haverhill Pikes

Pike Barn

History of Rufus Pike

Material prepared for Pike Family Reunion by Mark L. Pike, son of Wallace Pike, August 1969

For sixty years a resident of Olmsted county, [Minnesota] since his arrival in Haverhill in a covered wagon with members of his family, Orin Pike, at the age of 81 has some interesting recollections of a seasonable life.

The pioneer Olmsted man was born in Orange county, Vermont, January 12, 1845. “I remember of going to school in the little village of Bottomville,” he says, “and also of seeing father thresh grain with a flail after it had been harvested with a hand sickle.”

In the spring of 1851 the Pike family moved to Green Lake county in central Wisconsin and although only six years of age, Mr. Pike recalls the trip well. The journey was started on a train but the party soon transferred to a canal boat, “cent a mile and board” drawn by a horse, with a boy astride, on the tow path. Located on a new farm in the Wisconsin county, the elder Pike after paying the expenses involved in moving, had $20 left. Early in 1852 the Pikes, started farming in Wisconsin with a yoke of three-year old steers for animal power. Three years later with two yokes of oxen fit for work, the farming operation expanded a little more. back to top

Helped With the Farming

“My brother, George, and I helped with the farming as much as we could,” Mr. Pike says, “doing nearly all of the plowing and helping with the corn hoeing. Coming from Vermont, my father thought corn had to be hoed at least twice. Finishing my schooling at the age of eight years, at nine George and I hoed one row of corn to every one of father’s. At ten each of us could take a row alone.” As Mr. Pike puts it, he started his pioneering while young.

“In the winter of 1855,” said Mr. Pike, “father and Uncle Lewis Page walked from Greene Lake to Fillmore county, Minnesota, a distance of 500 miles and back again. Father mortgaged his stock to raise $200 in gold to preempt 160 acres for $50. Not liking the land he found in Fillmore county, father brought his money back and bought more oxen and in the spring he had a team of six yokes of oxen.

“In the spring of 1857, after father had made another trip to Fillmore county in search of land without success, we pulled up stakes in Wisconsin, with an outfit of six yokes of oxen, three wagons, about 10 head of cattle, including a pair of three-year old steers, a breaking plow and provisions sufficient to last six months.”

The Pike family took up their new home on the stage road one-half mile west of the little village of Greenfield. The village of Harmony is now located on a part of the Pike family’s first Minnesota homestead. back to top

Cheated By A Land Sharper

Through the operations of a land sharper the elder Pike was cheated of a large share of his possessions. Reserving two yokes of oxen, one cow and a calf and one wagon, he traded off the rest for 160 acres of land. “The trader promised faithfully,” Mr. Pike says, “to work with father the next season to break the largest portion of our farm, using the animals and machinery he had obtained in the deal. The land trader disposed of all the property within ten days. Father saw the position he was in, with no possibility of getting work. He had mortgaged the farm for $350. He lost his grip and for a time as thoroughly disgusted and only waited until spring to get back to Wisconsin.

“The winter of 1857 and 1858 was very severe. About six inches of snow fell on November 6 and it was added to until we had about two feet which remained until April. Our cattle were so poor in the spring that we had to wait for them to fatten before starting. With less than $4 we began the return trip to bargain with the boat captain who had taken us over the river the year before, and located in the same neighborhood.”

“Father regained his grip on himself and we prospered again, but slowly. In the autumn of 1862 he started again and went to Brown county and located a claim and was planning to start life out there, when he heard of the Indian outbreak. But in the spring of the following year, having bought his first team of horses and having a friend in Winona county, about ten miles southeast of Lewiston, he paid him a visit and located on a farm of 166 acres. We started out again in a covered wagon and arrived there on October 8, leaving brother George in Wisconsin, where he had been working for several seasons.” back to top

Battle with Rattle Snakes

Mr. Pike described the strange actions of a team of oxen used in breaking land when they first brush with a rattle snake. The snake struck at the animals, and although it was cut in two by the shares of the plow each time the team passed that point in the field, they exhibited signs of nervousness. The instinctive dread the oxen had for the reptile was shown the following year when, in passing the point where the snake was killed, they attempted to run away.

“In the spring of 1866, father, George and I,” Mr. Pike continued, “started west again with four horses and a covered wagon, looking for land. Arriving in Rochester, we met friends from Wisconsin, who owned land in Haverhill township and father bought 160 acres of virgin land. He also rented a farm in Farmington township to live on while we were making a new home.”

Relating the trip made by the entire family from Winona county to the farm in Olmstead county that fall, Mr. Pike says: “We made Utica the first night in the midst of a rain storm. In the morning the wind had changed to the northwest and there was eight inches of snow on the ground. But we started with all of the load on one wagon. We drove northwest from Utica when we should have gone toward Eyota. At noon we stopped at the house of Henry Hatfield, north of Dover, for lunch. He gave us the use of a yeard where the stock had tramped down the snow. We set out again and the sun set and the full moon arose and there was no house in sight. My brother, who was riding the lead horse, was too cold to ride and too tired to walk, and he began to cry. back to top

The Road to Haverhill

“Coming out on the prairie we say a light a long way ahead in the direction in which we were going and we were all cheered. On reaching the house, I went to inquire about lodgings, but the man said he had no accommodations, but when I told him that my little brother was crying with the cold; I heard a woman’s voice say: ‘Pa, they can stay here. Let your little brother come right in.’” The family stayed there that night and the next day continued to the new home in Haverhill township, where Mr. Pike has lived to this day.

During three-quarters of a century, as boy and man, Mr. Pike has witnessed the development of agricultural machinery from the crude, makeshift implements of the pioneers to the modern, labor-saving devises employed today. He saw steel plows, drawn by gasoline tractors gradually replace cast-iron plows drawn by ox teams; he saw hand grain seeding give way to modern grain drills, hand sickle methods of harvesting evolve into the modern grain binders and flail threshing by hand to mechanical, power-driven threshers. From the days when he kindled fires form flint and steel and when the tallow drip candles were the means of lighting the Haverhill pioneer has seen many new improvements take the place of the undeveloped methods in use half a century and more ago. back to top

Believes in Prohibition

Mr. Pike is a firm believer in prohibition. Of male members of his family, consisting of father and five sons, none used liquor or tobacco in any form, he says: “Among my earliest recollections,” Mr. Pike says, “was that of my drunken uncle holding me on his knees and rubbing his bloted face, with whiskers ten days old, against my face.

“In the 70s and 80s I was quite well acquainted with seven well-to-do representative farmers living in Haverhill and Farmington township. The men, all American born, made it known by their words and actions that they ‘would not give up their liberty.’ Of the seven, but one owned a home to die in. He owned a large farm and a saloon in Rochester. He divorced and married again. At his death, his property was appraised at $70,000 and his widow married again. The estate has gone to the four winds. Of the other six, four divorced their wives, one died in the poor house, three in the Soldier’s Home and the remaining two were penniless when they died. So much for the ‘good old saloon days.’” back to top

Additional Information Not Included in the Rochester Newspaper Account of the Pike Family History:

In the Rufus Pike family there were three girls: Climena, Alice, and Anna; and five boys: George, Orin, Wallace, James and Charley Pike. James and Charley Pike bought some land at or near Brookings, South Dakota. James owned his farm as long as he lived. Charley Pike sold or traded his land for property in Long Beach, California.

George and Orin Pike purchased 80 acres on the east of the Pike homestead near Rochester, Haverhill township. Later George bought Orin’s share and made his home there, where he raised his family. George B. Pike married Uranah Page on Feb. 22, 1872.

Wallace Pike bought and owned the 160 acres to the south of the old Pike homestead which he sold in the late 1890s to buy a large farm at Elk River. He then traded the Elk River farm for rental property in Minneapolis, consisting of ten houses and 2 stores. In about 1905 Wallace Pike purchased 164 acres of land in Newport, Minnesota, near Red Rock. Then when Wallace Pike passed away, brother Charley took over the Minneapolis property for the investment Charley had made in cattle and sheep to help Wallace stock his farm. back to top