ALTA VISTA TOWNSHIP
There being no early official records pertaining to the organization of Alta Vista township, we are compelled to piece together the threads of data at hand, meager though they be, as best we can.
The origin of the township's name is but a conjecture. However, as the word "Alta" is a version of the word "alto", meaning a height, and the word "Vista" meaning a distant view or landscape, we link the two words together and venture the suggestion that the name means a high view. It is generally believed that the name was applied by that most picturesque and versatile pioneer resident, Colonel Samuel McPhail. Col. McPhail was a Mexican war veteran and mingled quite extensively amid Spanish environments while in that service, hence we conjecture he used the term "vista" as it was suggested by its extensive use among the Spanish people.
As to the date when the township was organized we have no data, but conclude that it was about that time the other Lincoln county townships became local political units, from 1878 to 1880.
Samuel McPhail was one of the first settlers in the township, coming in the year 1875. However, we have no data stating whether or not he occupied an official position in the political organization of same, but it is reasonably supposed that he was one of the prime movers in the township's organization. He did, nevertheless, serve as county attorney and county surveyor for several terms.
Isaac Vanderwarker came in 1879 and was later chairman of the board of supervisors for several terms. Joseph Stringer came in 1878 and was afterwards town clerk and justice of the peace. Benjamin H. Sorensen came in 1870 and appears to have been the first settler in the township. At the time he settled on his claim the land was not surveyed and he was unable to prove up until the year 1872. John P. Boulton came to the township in 1880 and his son, William Boulton, still lives upon the land his father purchased at the time he came. Peter O. Vine came in 1880 and afterwards served as town clerk and assessor. Myron Mason is said to have been the first town clerk and postmaster in the township.
The following historical facts connected with the residence of Col. Samuel McPhail in the township are of considerable interest: Colonel McPhail was mustered out of military service in 1864, coming to Alta Vista township in 1875 where he located a tree claim, receiving his patent to the land in 1878. He did not take the land with the express purpose of making a home, but rather at the solicitation of Government officials for the purpose of establishing an experimental tree claim.
He made considerable success in the growing of trees. He succeeded in raising the first oranges in the state of Minnesota on his tree claim and also succeeded in raising a coffee tree as well as several other trees and plants not adapted to Minnesota climate.
The writer visited the old McPhail homestead in the summer of 1935 and saw no evidences of trees other than those which are native to this climate, which leads us to believe that he reached but a brief success in his experiments with tree life.
Alta Vista Township
Boulton, John P.
McPhail, Colonel Samuel
Sorensen, Benjamin H.
Vine, Peter O.