Courtland’s history chronicled

NEW ULM – Two women from New Ulm and Courtland have chronicled the history of the Village of Courtland and Courtland Township with books.

Sheila Wingate of Courtland, wrote and published a 282-page book on the early history of Courtland Township: “Courtland: The Early History 1855 to 1910.” The book has more than 200 photographs plus original records and maps, many of which have not been seen since they were created a century ago.

“Growing up and living much of my life in a very historical place – Fairfax, Va., near Washington, D.C., – I always loved history,” Wingate said. “The love of history helped lead my husband Andrew and I to move to the New Ulm area (in 1998).”

Wingate’s research involved reading old New Ulm newspaper stories, a Courtland Centennial history book, and files from both the Brown and Nicollet County Historical Societies.

One of Wingate’s book chapters names everyone who lived in Courtland Township until about 1900. Wingate researched one to four generations of all Courtland families to list everyone who lived in Courtland Township for about a half century until about 1900.

Other book chapters listed all men who held Courtland Township and village public offices, worked in the post office or served as postmasters, in schools, churches or in the military during the U.S.-Dakota War, Civil and Spanish-American Wars.

The book includes first-hand accounts of Courtland’s worst blizzards that killed people and animals, the Grasshopper Plague of the 1870s, and the Diphtheria Epidemic of 1880. Information came handed down in family stories, published obituaries and pioneer interviews in newspapers.

Wingate kept birth and death statistics in a separate family history program that enabled some Courtland families to create or correct family trees.

She said Courtland’s first ordinances were against public drinking and leaving horses unattended for more than a few hours.

In 1882, Courtland had three general stores, harness and wagon shops, a hotel and grain elevator. Decades ago, four passenger trains and four freight trains went through Courtland, whose population peaked at 952 in 1895.

Rosalia Lendt, who grew up in Courtland and taught second grade for decades at Emerson School in New Ulm – near where the former New Ulm Middle School stood for many years – became interested in Courtland history at a young age.

“My mother had so many old newspaper clippings that I kept through the years,” Lendt said. “I thought about how to retain the information and decided to put it all together in book form. Courtland is a close-knit community, even those that moved away, were all very interested in reading about its history.”

Lendt said some of Courtland’s more notable pioneers included Fred Zimmerman, who came to America from Germany at age eight. Settling in Wisconsin at first, Zimmerman helped start one of the area’s first farms at age 18. He married the former Mathilda Schroeder, another German immigrant.

“I remember Zimmerman’s big barn that stood until April 1984 when the fire department did a controlled burn that was covered in the New Ulm Journal,” Lendt said.

Zimmerman was a busy man. He hauled mail, later became the Courtland Postmaster, served 55 years on the Courtland school board until the district consolidated with District 88 in New Ulm in 1963. At age 90, Zimmerman was still doing bookkeeping for the R.W. Zimmerman trucking company. He died a week after his 99th birthday.

At one point, there were three implement dealers and five saloons in Courtland. Two establishments remain, the Crow Bar and Swany’s Pub. Wingate said the building that now houses the Crow Bar was among Courtland’s original buildings.

Wingate’s book can be purchased at the Brown County Museum, Nicollet County Historical Society and Courtland State Bank. Lendt’s book can be found at Courtland City Hall.

For more information, visit www.rootsweb/

Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at

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