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Paynesville Press - June 20, 2001

View from the Lake

Disagreements over road locations
have occurred since the late 1800s

By Linda Lorentzen

1880 plat of Paynesville Controversy regarding road location has been present since Paynesville's earliest days. When the early settlers of Paynesville began their treks to Lake Koronis it almost always involved trespassing on someone's land. Newspaper reports and editorials recorded heated discussions and incidents erupting as Paynesville/New Paynesville residents journeyed more frequently to the lake.

In the late 1800s, a common practice was to circulate a petition to landowners who would agree to donate or have minimal reim-bursement for land on which to build a road. Actually, in those early days roads were often placed in the same location as "cartways" that had been used for horse drawn, two-wheeled vehicle transportation.

In the July 16, 1891, issue of the New Paynesville Press, a storm was brewing over a cartway proposed to lead from south of town to the lake. (Close to the present day location of the road from Donna's Bed and Breakfast north to Paynesville.) "When A. A. Chisholm heard of this he became displeased and fenced up the cartway where it starts to cross his land. From this point back to the village, it runs along one of his lines, and hence would take off a strip two rods wide. (One rod equals 16.5 feet.) As he had a gate across the road at another point farther down toward the lake, the passersby proceeded to leave that open for spite."

Unknown persons were trying to act as mediators making suggestions through the newspaper. "How much better it would be to get together and fix matters all up pleasantly. Very few men want more than what is fair, when you come to understand them. It would therefore be ever so much better to talk and act in a reasonable manner, and quietly agree to something that would be justice to everybody. We hope to see this done."

Landowner Chisholm felt differently. His feelings were evidently explained in an editorial to the Paynesville News, another short-lived newspaper serving the Paynesville area from 1891-1893. Unfortunately, only two days of publication exist in the archives at the Minnesota History Center, neither of which contain Chisholm's editorial. The following was found in the Paynesville Press: "A. A. Chisholm also helps Brother Dyer (editor of the Paynesville News ) out in his editorials, and partly misinterprets the editor of the Press. It does not look to an impartial critic as though it can be justly called Śmaking trouble' when a community asks for a road, nor is it Śgouging' any man's hard earnings." The community insisted that they did not want to defraud Chisholm of any money and "he knows our publicly expressed hatred of everything in the nature of spite. We admire friend Chisholm's manliness in signing his name to his article! It don't look to us like spite for a community to ask for a necessary road, though we can't say as much for filling up a passage with barbed wire."

In the Map Collection at the Minnesota History Center, an 1880 map of Stearns County, by Warner and Foote, shows the ownership of the land in question. The zigzag road shown across Stanger and Chisholm land is the cartway that would eventually be a more direct road to the lake. However, just as this Chisholm dispute was settled another controversy arose in trying to establish the road to Lake Koronis. A history of debate and compromise has led to over a hundred years of traffic streaming toward a view from the lake.

Note: The 1892 road disagree-ment will be addressed next week. Information for this column was taken from the Paynesville Press issues: July 16, 1891 and July 30, 1891.

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