Surname: Pelan‎ > ‎

Pelan Township

State Bank of Pelan

There is a ghost town called Pelan in Kittson County, Minnesota. It was first settled around 1880 and the township was encorporated around 1903. However, the town fell into decline as it was by-passed by the railroad and the town ceased to be encorporated by 1909. The township survives to this day.

The fullest account of the town that I have seen thus far, is an article by Milton H. Sather found in a commemorative issue of the Pelan Advocate newspaper from 1984. It describes what was known about the founder of the town, namely Charles H Pelan:

Information on the life of Charles H. Pelan, at best, is very sketchy. From early accounts of the Two Rivers area it appears that Pelan, an Englishman of considerable wealth, found his way - first to Hallock and then the Two Rivers crossing about 1880. ... Pelan began a cattle ranch "for pleasure and sport". A large amount of Pelan's patrimony - it has been said - was spent in the saloons between Winnipeg and Crookston ... Charles Pelan did not remain long in the Two Rivers area.

Charles is mentioned in a number of texts - the earliest that I know of is "Minnesota Place Names, A Geographical Encyclopedia" (1920) by Warren Upham.

So was Charles Pelan really an Englishman, i.e. from England ? American usage of the era sometimes uses "English" in a generic sense as meaning from the British Isles.

Looking at the 1880 United States Federal Census we can find a Charles Pelan (aged 27) living as a hardware store keeper in Hallock, Kittson County not more than 40 miles from where the Pelan townsite was. He lists his mother and father as coming from Ireland which is clearly in keeping with the expectations of this research. His place of birth looks like Iowa. Furthermore, the 1885 state census for Minnesota lists a Charles H Pelan also living in Hallock who was 33 and who claimed have been born in Iowa - all consistent with the former census. For those not familiar with US geography, Iowa is the next state south of Minnesota.

Further censuses show that he was living again in Iowa in 1895, 1900 and 1910. This is consistent with the article above, i.e. he left Minnesota. His father's birth place is repeatedly listed as Ireland although his mother was cited as from New York. More census research suggests his father was called Christopher Pelan - who was born in Ireland around 1815 - and was living in Dubuque, Iowa in 1850 and 1856. He is still there in 1866 on an IRS list [1] in addition to Pelan & Randall a lumber manufacturing business [2].  Christopher reputedly constructed the first sawmill in Dubuque.

Indeed, much of this matches up with independent research of Christopher's wife, Elizabeth Simplot, by Alan N. Miller. He states that Christopher was a native of Belfast according to a source he found [3]. You will also note that Christoper Pelan was a successful businessman who died in 1877. This would account for Charles's generous patrimony at that time and so supports the story above.

Thanks

I would like to thank the Director of the Kittson Museum, Cindy Adams, and her research assistant Kathy Pederson for searching for additional material and locating the reprinted article. This supplemented the other references I found elsewhere. I would also like to thank Glenn Browne of the Kittson County Historical Society for co-ordinating this search and forwarding the results.

I would also link to thank Alan N. Miller for the reference to Belfast and additional advice.

References

  1. IRS Tax Assessment Lists, 1862-1918
  2. Wolfe's Dubuque Directory (1875-1876)
  3. "History of Dubuque County, Iowa", Western Historical Publishing Company, 1880, p.857

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