George Murray

Citizen from Fairmont, MN

The First Martin County Farmer

Martin County is well known for its farms and hard working farmers from the early settlers to the farmers of today. But, what was it like in the very early days of Martin County for farmers? George Murray was one of the very earliest farmers in the county, and his experiences might make us wonder why he stayed, as well as providing us with knowledge of the many hardships faced by those rugged, early day pioneers.

George Murray came to Minnesota from Nova Scotia at the age of twenty-one. Murray, and his brother, eventually settled in Martin County in June of 1863. At the age of twenty-two, George Murray, with his brother, homesteaded government land in Rolling Green Township. George Murray was the first permanent settler in Rolling Green Township. Initially, he and his brother cut hay and stacked it on the north shore of Pierce Lake. They then went back to Preston in Fillmore County where his brother had lived, finished the fall’s work, and started again for Martin County with twenty head of cattle for the winter.

When they returned to Martin County, they built a stable for the cattle out of poles and coarse hay. They then built a dugout in a hillside covered with poles, hay, and earth on top for them to live in during the winter. They had no stove, but dug a fireplace in the bank at the end of their dugout. The fireplace was about two feet square and extended about three feet above the roof of their dugout. It seemed to work quite effectively for them. The establishment of this home took place fifteen years before there was a railroad in the county, and ten years before the newspaper printed its first issue.

A few days after Christmas Day of 1863, it began snowing and continued until the day before New Years. Then the wind started and they had a three day blizzard. New Year’s Day of 1864 was the coldest day ever recorded in St. Paul to that point in time.

Two young men on their way to Jackson with a yoke of oxen and a wagon stopped a day before the storm. They asked if they could stay until the storm moved through the area. They put their oxen in the stable, covered the door, and brought firewood into their shanty. They then had supper consisting of pancakes and pork, as the Murrays had brought a good supply of flour and pork with them.

By the next morning, the storm had completely shut them in their shanty with no way of getting out, and their supply of firewood was quickly running out. Eventually, one of the men made his way through the chimney to the outdoors and was able to chop down a tree close to their dugout. He in turn dropped the split firewood down through the chimney.

After being snowed in for three days, they were finally able to escape the primitive hut and get to the stable. However, what they found was ten head of stock dead and one missing. The hungry cattle had eaten their way through the hay barn and were later found buried in the snow. Fortunately, both ox teams were still alive, and the men on their way to Jackson were soon able to continue their journey.

Story generously provided by: The Martin County Historical Society

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Fairmont, MN 56031

Martin County, MN

Martin County, MN

Visit our county page and you will learn about the contributions made by the citizens from our town and county (founders, business people, volunteers, entrepreneurs and military veterans). Here you will find information about our town and county's points of interest, festivals/events and faith community. You also will find stories about the contributions made by farmers/ranchers located throughout our county and of course you will learn about the community organizations that have built and continue to build strong communities (chambers, community groups, and departments, etc) and much more when you visit the Martin County, MN page.