By Duane C. Hazelton
Contributed by Lynn Wieczorek, Great-Great-Granddaughter of Cutler J. Hazelton, Duane's father.

Editor's Note: The first road from Aitkin to Nichols, the early beginning of the Aitkin I.O.O.F. lodge, early life in the little community near Mille Lacs Lake - all these things and many more are covered in the following article by D.C. Hazelton. The writer, now 92 years old, is one of the very early pioneers of the Cutler-Hazelton community and his recollections mirror the interesting developments in the growth of that section of Aitkin County. The article was written in co-operation with his daughter, Mrs. Gene Howe, with whom he makes his home. We are pleased to present it to our readers.

Webmaster's Comments: It is not known in which publication this first appeared.

Father of the Author
Photo contributed by Kenneth M. Reither,
great-great-grandson of Cutler Hazelton.

My brother, Edgar S. Hazelton, was the first settler in township 45, range 25, which was the larger part of Hazelton township. He homesteaded Lot 2 in section 28 on Pine Lake, after coming from Excelsior in 1880.

In 1881, just one year later, my brother Fred and I arrived. Coming to Nichols place in township 44, we took a canoe from Round Lake through the creek to Pine Lake and landed on the east shore of the lake where I took my homestead on Lot 3, section 28.

Our parents and sister, Cutler and Mary Hazelton and daughter Jennie, came in the fall of 1882. They homesteaded at the southwest end of Pine Lake. This made four Hazeltons with homesteads on Pine Lake, in what later became known as Hazelton township.

When my Father and Mother came, they built a large log house on the lakeshore and kept a stopping off place for travelers for as long as my father lived.

On July 6, 1882, Edgar Hazelton married Clara Fassett Curtiss (a widow), daughter of the Lucius Fassetts, pioneers of the Garrison community. Ed and his wife had five children: Charlotte, Belle, Alma, Edgar and Fred. Edís wife also had two children by her former marriage, Etta and Roy Curtiss.

For a long time we thought that Charlotte Hazelton, Edís oldest daughter, was the first white child born in the township, but my father met a man in Brainerd in 1892, who said he was 65 years old and that he had been born at the village of fur traders located on the north shore of Mille Lacs, just east of Nichols. This is all we know of the people of this village, but we have often seen the remains of the blacksmith shop and other buildings.

There was a territorial road from Fort Ripley that was usable as far as Nichols. We (my brothers, Father and I) cut it out as far as our place.

On March 14, 1885 I married Alice Kibbey at Excelsior, Minn., and we came directly to the homestead. The trip as far as Brainerd was made by train and there my brother, Fred, met us with his team. We had a comfortable log house that I had built and the first day in our wilderness home, I entertained my homesick bride with old-fashioned songs including "Nelly-Bly."

Deriving an income from out of the wilds was quite a problem in those early days. When I went to Aitkin for mail, I would dig ginseng on the way back and sell the roots on the next trip in. There was also some income to be earned from hunting and fishing. I went to Iowa to work on a farm for my brother, Frazier, while my wife went to Hassan to teach school. In the meantime we found a piece of railroad land (51 acres) which joined our homestead on the west and we purchased it for $125.

Few as they were, our neighbors were good ones. In the days when I played the violin, banjo, bones and tambourine, we would take the ox team about noon, pick up our neighbors along the way and travel eight or ten miles to a dance. By the time we got around to getting back home, it would be after daylight the next day. My father and I played for dances quite a bit.

We always had plenty of food, a good garden, an abundance of wild fruits and much wild game. What groceries we needed could be bought in Aitkin.

Our fist child, Hattie May, (Mrs. E.J. Gregg of Minneapolis) was born on April 4, 1886. On August 25, 1887, out son, Lyman was born and on July 26, 1889, a daughter, Josephine arrived. About this time we bought our first cow, a small black one, for which we paid $35.

It was in 1891 that we built our first school house at the outlet of Pine Lake. Miss Eliza Reddick was the first teacher there and also superintendent of the Sunday school which was started at the same time. Some of the old time families, many of who had children in school and Sunday school included Mr. and Mrs. Carl E. Taylor, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Pringle, Frankie Carr, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Coleman and family, Belle Downey, Mr. and Mrs. C.J. Schwab, Mr. and Mrs. Frazier Hazelton, Mr. and Mrs. Edgar Hazelton, my wife and I, my sister, Jennie, Deck and Della Nichols, Frank Knowlen and Charles Kibbey. We kept this log schoolhouse from Easter until Christmas. Della Nichols was the second teacher in the school.

In 1891, my brother, Fred sold his homestead to my oldest brother, Frazier. However, as long as Fred was living on his homestead, he had a little store where folks could buy thread, needles, tobacco, mittens, socks, and a few staple groceries.

The first road out of Aitkin was the road to Nichols. Four men were sent out to look it over. The four were Dr. Graves, Warren Potter, Ed Lowell and Mr. Clark. About all the settlers there were on the road were the Thompsonís on Hickory, Hazeltonís Pine Lake and the Nichols and Knowlen families in township 44.

Mort Bath was the first mail carrier from Nichols to Aitkin. He walked to Aitkin once a week. His schedule was Nichols to Aitkin on Friday and Aitkin to Nichols on Saturday. There was only the one post office at Nichols. Wm. Grusolos finished Mortís 4 years as mail carrier.

My father was the next mail carrier from July 1 1889 to July 1, 1893. The road was rough and narrow and he often had to chop out fallen trees. He took to town butter, eggs, pork, veal and other produce the settlers had, paid taxes and brought out medicine and groceries. He even carried passengers. His team was big and his good spring wagon with four seats had a good top and side curtains in case it rained. He made the trip twice a week going in one day and back the next.

When my father stopped carrying the mail in 1893, I bought his team and wagon and, in 1896, I took my family to Minneapolis with that same team and wagon.

My brother, Frazier, took over the mail route in 1893 and continued for four years.

When the Odd Fellows Lodge was organized in 1889, my father and I both joined as charter members and my father was the first Past Grand. We always enjoyed the lodge meetings very much.

In 1891 our homestead cabin burned and we lost everything. We built then on the piece of railroad land, living there until 1896, when we sold our home to Mr. and Mrs. Chas. Butler. Once again we built on the homestead.

On February 15, 1893, our fourth child, Adeline Luella (Mrs. Eugene Howe) was born.

On March 4, 1897, my father passed away. My sister died in 1893. My mother lived on the old homestead for about two years and then came to live with us until her death in 1902.


Hazelton township was organized in 1892. Carl Taylor acted as moderator and Robert Coleman as clerk. The following officers were selected: D.C. Hazelton, chairman; Frank Pringle and A.R. Knowlen, supervisor; F.C. Hazelton treasurer; Frank Knowlen, assessor; E.S. Hazelton and Otto Wasserzieher, justices; August Holst, Rudolph Host, constables; and John Rowen, poundmaster. The meeting was held at the C.J. Hazelton home.

In 1891, my brother, Ed, sold his homestead to me and bought a piece of land from our parents. He built the house now occupied by Mr. and Mrs. B.F Reem and lived there until 1899 when he sold the place to Mrs. Emma Branch. In 1894 the Cutler post office was started and Ed was the first postmaster. Ed moved to Merrifield about 1900. Mrs. Emma Branch took over the post office and about this time the Bennettville post office was started with Asa Bennett as the first postmaster.

From about 1890 the main industry was the logging business. There were several sawmills in the community. One was owned by the OíNeil brothers, one by Chas. and Phil Kibbey and one by Asa Bennett.

About this time the chief entertainment during the winter was the ďliterary societyĒ. People came from near and far. The program was mostly impromptu, but there was always a lively debate on some interesting topic. C.J. Schwab was about the most fluent speaker and certainly enjoyed a good debate. He was able and willing, taking on either side. My brothers-inĖlaw, Phil and Chas. Kibbey and I often put on a minstrel show.

About 1893, I planted my first orchard of apple, plum and cherry trees as well as tame strawberries, raspberries and currants.

We all worked together in the community and organized an active church organization. Finally, in 1903, our little church was built on the shore of Pine Lake and for many years was the center of all neighborhood activities.

In March 1903, our youngest son Oliver, was born. Hattie was married in June and Josephine died in August.

It was also in 1903 that Heman Moork built the first telephone line from Nichols to Aitkin. Ours was one of the first phones installed.


I was one of the charter members of the Aitkin County Agricultural Society and exhibited there for over 50 years. I attended the state fair for more than 20 years. In 1900, I secured a few bees and soon built up an apiary of 50 hives and for many years we had a good income from honey and fruit.

As the years went by, the road improved and we started taking summer boarders. People came from as far as Missouri to enjoy the good air, good fishing, and good farm food. They would come to Aitkin on the train and I would meet them there with the team. It took about three hours to drive to our place then.

In May 1909, our second home and all its contents burned, but we rebuilt on the same site that same summer. In February, 1915, our son, Oliver passed away. On October 15, 1915, Adeline married Eugene Howe of Aitkin and on November 3, Lyman married Fay Sarff of Palisade.

About this time automobiles were getting more numerous and we built three cottages which we rented to tourists during the summer. We kept up the cottage business as long as my wifeís health would permit. On March 14, 1935, about 150 friends and relatives gathered at the little Cutler church to celebrate our golden wedding.

On June 16, 1944, my wife passed away and since that time I have made my home with my daughter, Mrs. Howe. I was born at Columbus, Wisconsin on January 25, 1860, and am the only surviving member of the Cutler J. and Mary Wheeler Hazelton family.

I have 14 grandchildren, 35 great grandchildren and 3 great-great grandchildren.

We lived a happy life on the shore of beautiful Pine Lake. We watched the country develop from pack trail to wagon road to paved highway. We saw it grow from ox team to horses to Model Tís to high powered cars, from tallow-candles to kerosene lamps to electric lights, from the old parlor organ and violin to the phonograph, radio and television. But you know, I think I liked the old days best.