Location: Hassan Area Historical Society
Surnames/tags: Stenglein Nelles
Hassan Area Historical Society: History of Fletcher
Settling the Land The first permanent settlement in northwestern Hennepin County occurred in 1854, with three settlers staking claim in northern sections of what is now Hassan Township adjacent to the Crow River. The earliest settlers in the Township probably arrived in one of three ways: on a crude road from Osseo, by way of the Mississippi River on a steamship stopping at Dayton, or on small boats along the Crow River. Because this area of the county is part of the "Big Woods," development was slow and gradual as residents methodically cleared and improved their holdings..
In 1855, a sawmill was established in Dayton, and the Minneapolis and Pacific Railroad was constructed along the Mississippi River, providing a market for the timber cut by the residents. Farmers initially grew corn and potatoes, without much labor, and as the land was cleared the fertile black loam soils (which were deposited by the glaciers) yielded excellent crops of wheat, oats, Timothy, clover, and other grasses.
Territorial Road As the surrounding areas were settled and grew, the construction of public roads was begun. The first of these roads to pass through Hassan Township was the Territorial Road, also known as the Minneapolis and Monticello Road. It was surveyed and authorized by the Territorial legislature in 1855. The Territorial Road transversed the township diagonally from near the southeastern corner to the northwestern corner, crossing over a series of elevated ridges including the section in Fletcher which is the highest point in Hennepin County. Identified in 1881 as "the first legitimate outlet for this section," the Territorial Road quickly became the major transportation route for residents in and around Hassan Township because it was relatively well maintained and provided relatively easy access to markets at Minneapolis or other points along the road. In about 1856, county commissioners laid out the Corcoran-Dayton Road, running in a north-south direction between the crossroads center of Corcoran and the Village of Dayton in northern most Hennepin County. The Hassan and St. Peter Road was also established in 1856 along the western end of the township, running parallel with the Crow River to St. Peter, but it never developed into an important transportation route and was abandoned within a few years.
First Settlers to Fletcher Fletcher did not emerge immediately after initial settlement, but instead developed gradually over a 25-year period. The first settlers to locate there were Andrew and Margaret Stenglein, who emigrated with their two sons and daughters from Bavaria, Germany around 1855. Settling on an 80-acre parcel of land in Section 25 of Hassan Township, by 1873 they owned an additional 80 acres to the west in Section 26 and had built a wood frame, two-story house at the southeastern corner of the Territorial Road and the Corcoran-Dayton Road.
Two years after they arrived, in 1857, the Stengleins and their German neighbors helped to organize St. Walburga's Catholic Parish, and one year later built a log church on the farm of John and Walburga Fehn, two miles south of the Stenglein farm. Things stayed pretty much the same on the big hill until the parish moved in 1883. The $3,000 church was constructed on land donated by Conrad Stenglein directly across the street from his farm. A year later a rectory was built and the cemetery platted. In 1885 the church expanded its domain with the construction of a one-room school just north of the rectory.
Business Enterprises This cluster of buildings was situated on a high ridge and became a conspicious landmark for a long distance and formed the nucleus of the hamlet of St. Walburga. Some years later, at least by 1895, the first service units of this crossroads hamlet appeared. A blacksmith shop stood on the south side of Territorial Road about 50 yards west of the intersection with the Corcoran-Dayton Road. The second business enterprise was a meat market/butcher shop on the west side of the Corcoran-Dayton Road, about 50 feet south of the Territorial Road. At the turn of the century there were four or five business establishments within the crossroads settlement. Another important element in the creation of Fletcher occurred in 1902, when St. Walburga Church erected a new three-story, brick veneer school across the road from the 1885 building. Using brick from Dayton, the new school was reportedly built by a German mason who also constructed two other brick buildings in Fletcher.
One of the more significant events for the hamlet took place at the turn of the century when area residents lobbied U.S. Congressman Loren Fletcher to establish a Post Office at St. Walburga. According to local informants, Fletcher agreed to the task with the provision that the community name its post office in his honor. As a result, during the brief period from 1900 to 1906, mail was delivered to the renamed Hamlet of Fletcher, after which is was transferred to the post office in Rogers.
The Fletcher House Hoping to benefit from this new identity were Frank Stenglein and Magnus Nelles, who in about 1905 opened the Fletcher Store at the southwestern corner of the major intersection in town, now known as the "Fletcher House." Mail was probably delivered to the store, an all-purpose mercantile purveying staples, dry goods, hardware, and a myriad of other items. Whether the Fletcher Store also sold beer and liquor is not known (the Stenglein House did serve as a Tavern in the early part of the century), but by the 1930s it did have a gas pump outside. Typical of dual-purpose general stores in unincorporated hamlets, the second floor of the Fletcher Store was occupied by its owners, Frank and Lenore Stenglein, who also built another residence immediately south of the store to live in during the hot summer months.
Over the years several other buildings were constructed in Fletcher. John Hagel built a farm house on 40 acres just south of the Stenglein dwelling in 1895, and his property formed the southern border of the community. John and Margaret Nelles erected a brick veneer dwelling in 1905 that is part of the farmstead complemented by four other wood frame buildings. Among the out buildings is an early 20th century timber frame horse and cattle barn with mortise and tenon joints secured by wooden pegs, and a small building used for preparing meats and washing clothes.
In about 1914, four or five local residents combined their resources to form the Fletcher Hall Association and construct a community building used for dances, plays put on by the local school, social gatherings, fall festivals, wedding receptions, and other events.
Many of the original buildings in Fletcher still stand as a testament to the determination of the founders. Let us hope that the integrity of the hamlet can be preserved for future generations..