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November 30, 2012

The early history of Compton Township

Compton Township, which is located along the eastern edge of Otter Tail County, not far from the town of Wadena, was first commissioned as Grant Township and then named in honor of Captain James A. Compton on July 29, 1875.

Compton Township is drained by Oak Creek and Bluff Creek, which flow into the Leaf River and to the Mississippi watershed. There are just seven miles of railroad – the Northern Pacific, in Section One, and the Fergus Falls-Wadena branch of the Northern Pacific in the southwest part of the township.

There is no lake or town in the entire township.

Many of the first settlers were immigrants from Scotland and Sweden. Most of the Scots who came to Compton were members of the Furness colony, which was organized in Barrow, Furness district, England in the early 1870s by the Northern Pacific Railroad. They intended to settle on land owned by the railroad in the Red River Valley, but got only as far as Wadena. James Robb, William Anderson, John Stewart and James Strang were among the colonists from Scotland who came in 1873. George Stewart joined his brother in Compton after spending six years as a marine engineer in China.

Swedish immigrants included Nels Lifquist, who came to the United States in 1873. He found employment with the construction crew that did the grading of the railroad from Wadena to Fargo. Favorably impressed with the prairie of Compton, he returned to Otter Tail County after the crew reached Fargo and filed on a homestead. He prepared a dugout in a side hill of sod and slabs and sent for his family. John Veden, who had descendants in Compton, met his future wife on the ship when he came from Sweden in 1856. He settled at Parkers Prairie in 1869 and moved to Compton about the time of the grasshopper scourge.

Mr. and Mrs. Olaus Anderson came from Sweden with their five children and settled in Compton in 1878, arriving there by covered wagon from Carver County. Indian wigwams dotted the land where they settled near the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Others who settled at Compton included Ben Burton, who arrived in 1866. Burton was born in New York State and moved to Illinois as a young man. He was married and the father of six children when the family moved to Compton.

Frank Ranson, a veteran of the Civil War who took a homestead in Section 18 of Compton, was the first blacksmith in that part. Mary R. Wilson was the first teacher of District 62, which had more than 50 pupils from 1886 to 1889.

John Monroe was born in Kentucky and moved to LeSueur County with his parents in 1865. He came to Compton in 1878. He found small shanties and hard living while looking for land. He and three other men stayed with Mr. and Mrs. A. M. Darling in a 10 by 12 shanty. When bedtime came, tables and chairs were piled outdoors and the men slept on “shake-down” on the floor.

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