On the Porch

The official organization of Grandview Township took place in August of 1873 at the first town meeting in the home of Jacob Thomas. The village of Grandview was founded in the spring of 1878 and the town site was plotted by the railroad on July 5, 1878. Grandview was the name chosen for the town site by the early settlers to describe the expansive rolling prairies along with the sun rises and sun sets.

John Ireland, Bishop of the St. Paul Diocese, arranged with the Winona and St. Peter Railroad (later the Chicago and Northwestern) to have large tracts of land opened to Catholics in Lyon County; Grandview, Westerheim, Vallers, Nordland, and Eidsvold townships comprised the area selected. Canon Peter Van Hee, his brother, Angelus, and son, Aime, from Belgium came to St. Paul to join with Bishop Ireland on a visit to southwest Minnesota. Angelus was impressed with the soil and appearance of crops around Minneota. He ended up purchasing a half section of land and hired 20 teams and drivers to do the breaking of 100 acres. He then returned to Belgium to prepare to bring his family to America. Back in Belgium, Angelus spread the news of the land and possibilities available in America. Fifty families were willing to join Angelus’s family in the new settlement. The families were successful farmers, with money to pay their way to America and also to buy land.

In 1880, news of the proposed arrival of the Belgian settlers reached Grandview and stimulated the development of the village. Within six months, seven buildings were built in the village of Grandview. In March of 1881, Angelus Van Hee along with 350 people from Belgium and the Netherlands arrived in America on their way to settle in Grandview. They were met in Chicago by Father Louis Cornelius, pastor at Minneota, who told them of the very severe winter they just experienced. The area was snowbound and it would be for another month or so. Because of the wait and some of the men finding work in Chicago, only about a dozen families arrived in Grandview on April 23, 1881.

In September of 1881, at the request of residents of Grandview, the village and post office were named Ghent after Ghent, Belgium; a little later the depot also became Ghent. Father Cornelius, who was pastor at Minneota, became the first priest to serve the people of Ghent. Since both towns were on the same railroad, he came to Ghent regularly and offered mass in the depot, post office, or in one of the homes. On June 25, 1883, Bishop Ireland named Father Julius De Vos the first resident pastor in Ghent and gave the parish of St. Eloi independent status. The first church building was completed the following year.

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