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From, "The History of Houston County", Taylor Publishing, 1982 - Page 27

Hokah Township is the second river township from the northern boundary of Houston County, lying south of La Crescent, having Mound Prairie and Union Townships to the west and Brownsville to the south, with the Mississippi River as the eastern boundary.  The name Hokah is of Indian origin and according to tradition, it was also the name of a powerful Indian chief whose village stood on the beautiful spot now occupied by the Village of Hokah.


Root River enters the township from the west and winds in an easterly direction through the northern half of the township until it empties into the Mississippi.  The valley of the river has an average width of two miles.  The river is joined by other streams:  the most important of which is Thompson's Creek which furnished reliable water power.  As of other river townships, Hokah has the usual bluffs facing the Mississippi, with interior valleys, ridges and plateaus and the scenery is very picturesque.   In the early days, the bottom land was heavily timbered with black walnut, maple, oak and other hardwoods, large quantities of which were cut and rafted down the river and some of which were sawed in local mills.


The first permanent settler in the township was Edward Thompson, who arrived in the spring of 1851.  Attracted by the fine water power, he staked out a claim and brought his wife and family here.

Butterfield Valley south of the village was first settled in 1853 by Hiram Butterfield who came from Illinois and took a claim in Section 8.  John Densch, who arrived in 1854, was probably the first settler on the "ridge".  His log cabin had a sail for a roof which he brought from the east.


The Root River Brewery was located on Section 28.  It was erected in 1867 by Joseph Pfeffer, Jr at a cost of about $10,000, and it had a capacity of thirty gallons a day.


A union cemetery on Section 10 was divided by an imaginary line into two equal parts; one half of which belonged to the Roman Catholics and the other half to the German Lutherans and the German Methodists.  The first burial was in 1859, a son of Fred Glassert who was about 12 years of age.


An Academy of the Sisters of Notre Dame was erected in 1866 in the northeast corner of Section 28.  There were accommodations for borders as well as day scholars and at times there were as many as forty regular boarding pupils in this large building of stone on this 200 acre plot of land.  There was a small burial place for the sisters and the priests.  Another cemetery was blessed about the year of 1873 on this land and the wife of J. G. Streigel was the first burial here.  There are still people being buried in this cemetery in the 1980s and the perpetual care makes it a pleasant resting place.


In the last half of the 20th century, Hokah Township provided excellent building sites for people who had employment in La Crosse, Wisconsin.  The plotted additions that are recorded are as follows:  Brookwood Hills, Sept 7, 1972, First Addition to Brookwood Hills, Aug. 21, 1974, Wagner Addition, Dec 27, 1971, Root River Terrace, Nov 10, 1970; E. E. Bentahl's Fox Chase Road Subdivision, March 23, 1973, E. E. Bentahl's Fox Shadows Subdivision, Nov 28, 1978.


The 1982 Township Officials for Hokah Township are: Clerk, Barbara Ratigan; Treasurer, Gertrude Wieser, Chairperson, Robert F. Tschumper and Supervisors, Lloyd Welke, and Duane Frauenkron.


Submitted by Mrs. Bernard Wieser.


From, "The History of Houston County", Taylor Publishing, 1982 - Page 28


The site of Hokah was, at its founding, an Indian village.  The name of Hokah is derived from their leader, Chief Wecheschatope Hokah.  The English translation is Garfish.

Detailed accounts of Edward Thompson finding this site and brining his family here in October of 1851 have been written in other histories.


Edward Thompson erected a sawmill in 1852, a flour mill in 1853, and in 1866 a dam across the Root River which furnished power for three flour mills and some cooper shops.  As early as 1854 Edward Thompson began working on a project to build a railroad through the Root River Valley.  The Southern Minnesota Railroad began operations at Hokah in 1866.  As a result, Hokah's population grew from 100 to nearly 1,500 but a census in 1875 counted 1,023 residents.  Water power for the railroad shops which were located at the present junction of Highways 16 and 44 was furnished by a wooden flume which ran from the floodgates of Lake Como.


In June of 1880, when the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul secured possession of the Southern Minnesota the shops were razed, leaving several hundred without employment.  Mos of them moved away and the loss of this business had its effect on the flour mills and cooper shops which closed one by one.


Hokah's first telephone line, built in 1902, by businessmen, extended from the heart of town to the depot.  In 1904 a switchboard was purchased replacing a system of call bells in the Hoffman Hardware.  On June 18, 1906, the Peoples Telephone Company was formed.


In 1917, the first electric lights were furnished by Hoffman and Ender using water power.  A cement flume carried the water from the floodgate area to the flour mill that, erected in 1914, was on the site of the former Weber mill.  Power was furnished from 7 pm. to midnight.  a 20 horsepower engine provided standy power.  This service was provided until 1920 when they sold out to Northern States Power.  The flume continued to supply power for the mill for some time after and is still intact today although it has been cemented shut.


The dredging of the Root River, starting in 1918 and officially known as Judicial Ditch No. 1, greatly changed the course of the river north of Hokah.  What was left of Edward Thompson's river dam was also dug up at this time.


A 1933 directory of business places in Hokah would have included:  four general stores, three service stations, two cafes, a bank, car dealership, meat market, flour mill, hardware and lumber store, cheese factory, creamery, barbershop, newspaper, automotive repair shop, as well as several individuals engaged in a service type business.


A city hall was built as part of the Works Progress Administration in 1938.  The village's share of the cost of $34,000 was $14,000.


Hokah celebrated its centennial on August 26, 1951.  It consisted of a parade and pageants.  During this time and until 1965 William Langen's Log Cabin Museum was a popular spot for anyone interested in local history.  Hokah's sewer system was installed in 1959.


Fun Daze, a celebration first held in 1966, has consited of many different recreational sports including a canoe race held on the Root River.


Como Development Corporation which was organized for much of the same purose as the Lake Como Park, Inc. built a swimming pool in the old Lake Como bed in 1968.  In 1974 the corporation built a bath house.  The pool and surrounding area were turned over to the city in 1981.


In 1981, Hokah improved the water system with a new well, reservoir and water mains.


Submitted by Barbara Bissen.



1860 Hokah Census Index





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Early Settler Surnames

  • Butterfield

  • Densch

  • Glassert

  • Pfeffer

  • Streigel

  • Thompson