Todd Township in Hubbard County, Minnesota, doesn’t have a town hall. The survey township on which the civil township is based (T140N, R35W) includes most of Park Rapids, the county seat, and the courthouse complex has facilities that the township uses for meetings and voting.
I’ve ridden my bicycle into Park Rapids many times, but finally included a stop at the courthouse on a short ride to three townships on July 15, 2014.
Until looking it up I had assumed that Todd Township got its name from the same place as Todd County, the second county to the south of here. But it didn’t. Todd County is named after a Civil War general, John Blair Smith Todd. Todd Township in Hubbard County is named after Smith Mitchell Todd, who was also a Civil War soldier but not a general and no known relation.
He was said to be the first European-American settler of the township.
It’s not clear exactly where he first settled, but he homesteaded the quarter-section of land to the right of the road in this photo, (The trees and grass are not quite as green in this photo. That’s because this one and those below were taken not last summer, but on March 31 and April 1 of this year.)
The reason the place of settlement is not clear is that an 1882 news article quoted on Smith Todd’s Find-A-Grave page refers to a log cabin that had been built by Smith Todd’s son, Charles, in what is now the city of Park Rapids, which would be the NE quarter of section 26. The GLO database doesn’t list a land patent for that quarter section, so it’s not clear whether either of the Todds, father or son, were ever owners of that land, too.
On this map Todd township — the survey township — is outlined in pink. The Smith Todd homestead acreage seen in the above photo is an orange square, and the location of the present-day farmstead seen in the photo is indicated by the green marker. The county building complex, which is probably just a few blocks west of a log cabin of the Todds that is referred to in the 1882 news article, is at the location of the red-and-black square marker. The route for the July 15 ride is shown in red.
Smith Todd was said to have settled on Second Prairie. The part of Second Prairie that lies in Todd Township is shaded and outlined in golden-yellow. The government surveyor who subdivided the township into sections had delineated the prairie very clearly on his plat map; the prairie boundary as shown above was obtained by tracing the information from the plat map.
The reason I did this was to find out whether Smith Todd had homesteaded in the middle of the prairie or on the edge, as so many of the first settlers in southwest Michigan had done. It turns out that his quarter-section was on the edge, the prairie boundary almost bisecting it from southwest to northeast. And the present-day farmstead is right on the boundary.
In southwest Michigan it was common for settlers to pick sites like this. These sites were preferred because the prairie was ready for immediate plowing, and wood for building and fuel was close at hand. I would like to find out whether others of the first settlers on the northern Minnesota prairies also picked sites like this; but am not certain how successful I will be. It turns out that not all the government surveyors delineated the prairie boundaries so carefully. That is the subject for more research.
The next stop on July 15 was in Straight River Township, which adjoins Todd township on the south. The above photo on the road that forms the boundary between the two townships was taken on April 1 of this year, though.