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Identifying Minnesota's Historic Agricultural Landscapes


Contents: Chapter 4

4.  Survey Results

  1. Southwest Carver County
    1. Historical Overview
    2. Description of Resources

  2. Sogn Valley of Goodhue County
    1. Historical Overview
    2. Description of Resources

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4.  Survey Results

Each study area was reviewed, researched, documented, and evaluated following the methodology. The survey results discuss the 11 landscape characteristics defined in National Register Bulletin 30 and incorporates two additional categories identified in the Caltrans outline -- historic events, and visual character and intangible qualities. The survey results for each area are presented in two sections following the Caltrans outline:

  1. Historical Overview - Discusses land-use activities, spatial patterns, response to the natural environment, cultural traditions, and historic events.

  2. Description of Resources - Describes current landscape features, including circulation networks, vegetation, buildings, structures and objects, archaeological remains, clusters, small-scale elements, boundary demarcations, and visual characteristics.

Southwest Carver County

The Southwest Carver County study area encompasses the southern half of Benton township and a few properties along the northern edge of Hancock township. Mead & Hunt documented 130 properties within this study area in April and May 1998. Within the study area, the overall rating of contributing properties to noncontributing properties was 64 contributing and 66 noncontributing. Therefore, the study area as a whole has a 50-50 ratio of contributing to noncontributing resources.

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Farmstead along Highway 152

Historical Overview

Land-use Activities
Prior to 1860, 80 percent of Carver County's population was located in the settlement towns. However during the 1860s, agricultural production increased and, by 1870, 70 percent of the county was being farmed. Wheat served as an important cash crop until the 1880s. Crop diversification, including corn, oats, barley, hay, rye, and sugar beets, became the trend to lessen the impact of crop failures. By the 1890s, dairy and livestock production increased, causing a shift in production from cash crops to feed crops. By 1935, half of Carver County’s farm income was from livestock sales. Currently, crop production – corn and beans – are the two major crops in Carver County.

Spatial Patterns
A number of modern roads through Benton and Hancock townships follow the course of historic roads and the lines that separated sections of the townships. Presently, Highway 212 serves as the county’s major east-west thoroughfare, cutting through Benton township. As the 1880 plat map depicts, the major east-west thoroughfare was historically located north of Highway 212. The introduction of railroad lines in the 1870s connected Carver County with the Twin Cities for the first time. A historic and current railroad route cuts east-west across Benton township at the northern edge of the Southwestern Carver County study area.

Response to the Natural Environment
Bevens Creek flows through the southern part of Benton township. Topography in the area is largely level. Much of Benton and Hancock townships were heavily timbered with hard woods but, once cleared, offered good fertile soil for agricultural production. Scattered woodlots remain within the study area.

Cultural Traditions
Germans and Scandinavians were the two most prominent ethnic groups attracted to the agricultural land and river communities of Carver County. Benton township was settled primarily by Germans. Carver County attracted other ethnic groups as is demonstrated by the Irish immigrants locating in the southern and western sections of Hancock township. Most immigrants settled near others from their native land and formed religious communities that became the center for social activity.

Historic Events
Two waterways, the Minnesota River and the Crow River, provided early transportation routes that sparked the development of towns in Carver County. The establishment of railroad lines increased the county's development. The first railroad was constructed in 1872, linking Carver and Chaska with Minneapolis and St. Paul. In 1874, the Hastings and Dakota railroad passed through the southern part of Carver County. Land speculation followed the railroad, and towns such as Dahlgren, Benton, Bongards, and Young America appeared along the line. These towns became retail and distribution centers for the surrounding agricultural land.

Within the Southwest Carver County study area, the Bongards' post office was established in 1873. The community of Benton grew with the establishment of the Bongards' Cooperative Creamery in 1908. The creamery remains in operation today processing milk into cheese and butter for farmers from about a 200-square-mile area.

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Description of Resources

Circulation Networks
The Southwest Carver County study area possesses two types of transportation networks – roadways and railroad. Bevens Creek weaves through the southern part of the study area, but does not provide a circulation network. Roadways, largely state and county highways, within the study area are located on section lines.

Buildings, Structures, and Objects
Farmsteads are the primary resource found within the Carver County study area. The study area was settled as early as the 1860s; however, most of the farmsteads’ historic resources appear to date from the period 1880 to 1940. Contributing resources on each farmstead primarily include farmhouses, barns, and related outbuildings.

The majority of contributing farmhouses are vernacular in form and display frame construction with original clapboard siding or replacement materials. Several brick and stucco houses are also seen, including two houses identified in a previous survey of brick houses in Carver County -- the ZumBerge/Kroells House on County Road 51, just south of Bongards and the Gruenhagen/Eckman House on County Road 152. Two early vernacular brick farmhouses (c. 1880) display side gable form, are one room deep, and feature a half-circular window in the gable ends. Other common historic farmhouse forms include the two-story cube with hipped roof and front dormer and the cross-gable form.

Contributing barns display gable, gambrel, and round roof forms and frame construction. Barn foundations are most commonly concrete, while stone foundations are also found. One unique barn, constructed on Lonely Oak Farm in 1927, is round with a gambrel wing constructed of Art Stone-cement blocks produced in New Ulm, Minnesota.

The Southwest Carver County study area includes pockets -- one to four houses -- of modern residential development that interrupt the agricultural landscape. Many of these houses were built within the last 5 to 10 years.

Noncontributing buildings and structures are generally of modern construction, including:

  • Houses, either replacing the historic farmhouse or on individual lots between farmsteads.
  • Metal pole buildings and outbuildings.
  • Modern silos and grain bins.
  • Small bridges carrying traffic over Bevens Creek

The study area also includes a modern noncontributing church and school.

Vegetation Related to Land Use
A variety of vegetation uses, both natural and man-made, are found within the Carver County study area. Agricultural fields and pastures predominate in the overall landscape. Small woodlots are found scattered throughout the area. Ornamental trees and shrubs are commonly found within the domestic space of the area’s farmsteads. Numerous shelterbelts shield the domestic space of farmsteads from wind. Rows of deciduous and coniferous trees and shrubs are planted between the road and the house to offer privacy, restrict viewsheds, and limit noise.

Archeological Resources
Archeological resources were not investigated as a component of this study. However, the survey identified an indentation from the foundation of a building next to the Zion Evangelical Cemetery. The team believes that this indicates the foundation of the former Zion Evangelical Church, which was associated with the cemetery. The current church and cemetery are located 2˝ miles east of this site.

Clusters
Farmsteads are the primary clusters within the study area. The farmstead clusters include a house, barns, and related outbuildings arranged closely together in the domestic space of the property. Some clusters have grown quite large to accommodate modern agricultural practices and include more than 15 buildings. In general, the farmstead clusters are within 50 to 100 feet of the road and are surrounded by fields and pastures. Within the overall landscape, the farms are spaced about every 40 acres. In some cases, farm clusters are closer to each other, or modern residences have been placed among the farms.

The study area does not include any hamlets or crossroad communities. Both Bongards and Gotha were excluded from the study area due to the presence of modern buildings that did not fit with the surrounding area’s rural historic character. The Zion Lutheran Church, School, and Cemetery on County Road 153 create a cluster within the study area.

Small-scale Elements
A number of small culverts for Bevens Creek and drainage ditches along the roadway are small-scale elements found within the study area.

Boundary Demarcations
Externally, the boundaries of the study area were defined to exclude county and state roadways with heavy traffic patterns that visually and audibly disturbed the rural character of the area. The loss of historic properties was also used to define the study area. Highway 212, a four-lane thoroughfare, defines the study area on the north, County Highway 53 on the east, County Highway 50 to the south, and County Highway 33 to the west. Internally, fields, fences, and roadways demarcate property boundaries within the study area. Most farmsteads were built close to roadways, which creates vistas of fields from one grouping of buildings to the next.

Visual Character and Intangible Qualities
The study area of the landscape is largely flat topography with a grid road pattern. Viewsheds are undisturbed by hills or valleys. East of the study area, the topography changes to rolling hills with curved roads following the topography. Utility lines and substations are a prominent modern feature.

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Farmstead along 63rd Street

Sogn Valley of Goodhue County

The Sogn Valley study area is in northwestern Goodhue County. The study area includes the southeastern section of Warsaw township, the northeastern section of Holden township, and the northwestern section of Wanamingo township. The study area was limited to the area defined by the hills of the Sogn Valley and the 1,150-foot contour line indicated on the USGS quad maps. A total of 93 properties were documented within this area in April and May 1998. The overall property ratio for the entire study area is approximately 55 contributing properties to 38 noncontributing properties, for a 60:40 ratio.

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Historical Overview

Land-use Activities
Norwegian immigrant groups spearheaded much of the rural settlement and agricultural development of the Sogn Valley in Goodhue County. The soil and climate within Goodhue County was well suited for wheat production and this crop dominated in the 1870s. By 1873, the county had 134,647 acres in wheat production with an estimated crop of 3,250,000 bushels. Farm sizes ranged between 80 acres and 200 acres.

In the 1880s, wheat production declined due to deterioration of the soil from single-crop plantings and the appearance of chinch bugs and other pests that led to crop failure. After 1890, farmers were forced to diversify and planted new crops including corn, oats, barley, rye, hay, alfalfa, potatoes, and flax. In addition, farmers turned to stock-raising and dairy farming, which grew in importance in the twentieth century.

Spatial Patterns
The major roads throughout western Goodhue County follow the historic travel routes of the nineteenth century. The Red Wing to Kenyon stage coach route and grain road passed through the southern section of the Sogn Valley through the early hamlet of Norway. As early as 1870, railroad routes were established through Goodhue County. Historic and current railroad routes lay on all four sides of the Sogn Valley study area.

Outside the county’s larger communities, towns primarily catered to the local market and serviced the surrounding agricultural region. In the Sogn Valley, a few small hamlets - Nansen, Norway, and Sogn - with not much more than a post office and general store formed to serve the daily needs of the farmers. Farmers traveled to markets in the larger communities, such as Red Wing and Hastings, to sell their grain.

Response to the Natural Environment
The Sogn Valley is about 9 miles long with the hamlet of Sogn near its middle. The Little Cannon River and several small tributary streams run through the valley. A major portion of the area is prairie with gently rolling hills. The rolling meadowland, woodland, and climate of the area is similar to Norway. Early settlers often chose sheltered sites tucked under the hills within the valley. Farmsteads were often settled near the Little Cannon River or one of its tributaries. Settlers used local materials, including logs from trees on their land or the local limestone to construct some of their early buildings.

Cultural Traditions
Settlement of western Goodhue County was predominantly Norwegians coming directly from Norway, primarily from the Valdris region, or moving from earlier settlements in Wisconsin. The first Norwegian settlers made their homes in the Sogn Valley area as early as 1854. Norwegian settlers typically established themselves near fellow countrymen, even seeking out those who came from the same valley in Norway.

The 1890 census shows the predominance of Norwegians in western townships of Goodhue County. Holden township included 607 Norwegian settlers, Warsaw township 409 Norwegians, and Wanamingo township 698 Norwegians. Even the number of Norwegian names used within the valley indicates the predominance of Norwegian settlers - Holden, Norway, Sogn, Nansen, Aspelund, and Vang. Many of the Norwegians in the Sogn Valley and Goodhue County established Lutheran churches as the center of religious and social activity.

Historic Events
The Sogn Valley study area encompasses the northeastern section of Holden township and the northwestern section of Wanamingo township and a small portion of southeastern Warsaw township. All three townships were organized in 1858 with primarily Norwegian settlers.

The first state road was laid out in the southern section of the Sogn Valley area in 1856, and a year later, a post office in the township was established on this road at the hamlet of Norway. Other post offices in the valley were established at Nansen (1898-1905) and Sogn (1892-1903). The post offices closed in the early twentieth century with the advent of rural delivery service. In addition to post offices, the hamlets of Sogn and Nansen included a general store and a cheese factory.

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Description of Resouces

Circulation Networks
The Sogn Valley study area has only one type of transportation network - roadways. The valley is divided by County Highway 14, a north-south roadway through the center of the valley. Other roadways weave through the valley. Most roads in Holden and Wanamingo townships follow the section lines in a grid pattern. However, the roadways within the valley depart from the grid system and follow the natural contours of the topography. The Little Cannon Creek and its tributaries weave through the Sogn Valley study area but do not provide a circulation network.

Buildings, Structures, and Objects
Farmsteads are the primary resource found within the Sogn Valley study area. Settlement within the area began as early as 1860. Some resources within the study area date to this early period, but others, such as dairy barns, reflect the need for different outbuildings to adapt to new agricultural practices. Typical barns found within the study area include gambrel or gable roof with a stone or concrete block foundation and vertical or clapboard siding. Less common forms identified included round roof barns and a gambrel bank barn constructed in 1918 for the Foss Farmstead.

The farmsteads include a variety of contributing outbuildings, such as clay tile silos, smaller barns, machine sheds, corn cribs, and pumphouses. Noncontributing outbuildings primarily include grain bins and metal pole buildings, with a few metal Harvestores.

Contributing farmhouses within the landscape are primarily frame construction with clapboard siding representing the following forms: American Foursquare, two-story cube, gabled ell, and cross-gabled. The earliest extant houses within the study area are gabled ell houses, c. 1880, that display limited Italianate details, primarily through decorative window hoods. One such early house, located on Bow Trail Road, is built on top of the original dugout. Dating to c. 1860, the three-room dugout built into the hillside features thick stone walls. During a later period, c. 1900-1920, the American Foursquare was a popular form, displaying two stories, hipped roofs, and dormers or gabled roof peaks over the main entrance.

Holden Lutheran Church and cemetery (formerly the Norwegian Lutheran Church) are located on Highway 56 within the study area. Built in 1925, the church displays the Neo-Gothic style of construction.

Structures in the study area include small bridges and culverts carrying traffic over the Little Cannon River. Most of these structures display modern construction of metal or concrete. A few foundation remnants, likely from outbuildings, are considered contributing elements within the landscape.

Vegetation Related to Land Use
Fields and pastures are the predominant types of vegetation within the Sogn Valley study area. Agricultural lands are used for crop and livestock production.

The domestic space of the individual farmsteads features ornamental plantings, and often shelterbelts serve as the boundary between the domestic space and fields or pastures. Wooded areas remain near the creek, on hillsides, and in woodlots scattered throughout the area.

Archeological Resources
A few ruins of farmsteads are found within the Sogn Valley study area. These include foundations and barns or outbuildings without extant supporting buildings or a farmhouse. A dilapidated farmhouse stands on a hillside along 63rd Street.

Clusters
Farmsteads are the primary clusters within the study area. The farmstead clusters include a house, barns, and related outbuildings arranged closely together in the domestic space of the property. Most often the farmstead clusters are located within 50 to 100 feet of the road and are surrounded by fields and pastures. Within the study area, it is not uncommon to find farmstead buildings on both sides of a road. For example, a residence and garage may be located on one side and the barn and outbuildings are found on the other side. In these cases, the buildings are often within 50 feet of the road.

Within the overall landscape, farms are generally between 40 and 160 acres. The study area also includes clusters of smaller parcels of land (5 to 20 acres) in Sections 3, 10, 11, and 12 of Holden township, primarily along the Little Cannon River and on steeper slopes. These parcels appear on the 1877 Plat Map of Goodhue County. It is likely that these smaller parcels were not suitable for farming and were used as wood lots for nearby farmers.

Historically, the crossroads community of Nansen was a small cluster featuring a general store and post office and a cheese factory. Currently, only the cheese factory remains.

Small-scale Elements
Culverts and drainage ditches are two types of small-scale elements found throughout the study area. Culverts are used to divert the Little Cannon Creek and its tributaries underneath the roadways.

Boundary Demarcations
Externally, the boundaries of the Sogn Valley study area were loosely defined by busy roadways that interrupt the rural character -- County Road 49 on the north; County State Aid Road 1 on the east; County State Aid Road 30 on the south; and State Trunk Highway 56 on the west. Geographically, the study area lies within the valley and is defined by its ridges. Internally, fields, fences, and roadways mark the boundary of properties within the landscape.

Visual Character and Intangible Qualities
The visual character of the valley includes limited viewsheds defined by the hills.

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