By David Schleper
Spier Spencer was born in Elizabethtown, Spencer County, Kentucky, January 22, 1827. His father was a prominent slave owner. He lived there until age 14, when his father sold his slaves and moved to Boone County, Indiana. The family stayed in Indiana for eight years.
In 1849, accompanied by his only brother, John B. Spencer, he went west and located at St. Paul when that city was still a small village. They worked as carpenters there until 1853. On November 16, 1853, Spier married Rose Ann Spencer at Traverse de Sioux. Rose Ann Spencer was the first white girl who married there. Spier and Rose Ann were cousins.
For thousands of years, Traverse des Sioux was a crossroads and meeting place. American Indians gathered here to hunt and to use the shallow river crossing. During the 1800s, Europeans and European Americans came to trade furs with the Dakota hunters and to farm the fertile prairie.
In 1851, it was the site of the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux, where the upper bands of the Dakota nation ceded about half of present-day Minnesota to the U.S. government in exchange for promises of cash, goods, and education and a reservation. U.S. government representatives negotiated the first of two treaties with the Sisseton and Wahpeton bands of Dakota. Approximately 24 million acres of Dakota land were transferred to the government and opened to white settlement.
The town of Traverse des Sioux soon grew up around the site with more than 70 buildings, including five taverns, two hotels, and several churches. In 1856, however, nearby St. Peter was chosen as the county seat and by the late 1860s, nothing was left of the once-booming town of Traverse des Sioux.
Spier and Rose Ann sold their farm and moved to Shakopee in 1853. He purchased 1/3 of the town of Shakopee from Thomas Holmes and David L. Fuller. It cost him $4100.
Spier opened a general store in Shakopee and traded produce and furs with the Indians. In 1855 he built a home on the site later known as the Major Strait farm. He had a side business in 1861 owning and operating a steamboat, Clara Hinds, on the Minnesota River. He was active in the affairs of the rapidly growing village of Shakopee.
In February 1856, with three other men, Spier struck out from Shakopee to stake out and plat a town site in the wilderness. They arrived and staked out the city of Blue Earth. Spier went back to Shakopee, while the other three became the county commissioner, sheriff, and justice of the peace of Blue Earth.
In the fall of 1862 a kernel of wheat struck him in the eye and caused inflammation, resulting in total blindness in one eye. Spier then disposed of the farm, bought a home on Second Street, and opened a private boarding house known as the Union Home. Later he mastered the trade of broom-making and supplied local stores and communities until 1895, when he retired.
Spier Spencer passed away on January 26, 1907 and was buried at Valley Cemetery in East Shakopee.
Rose Ann Spencer was born at Terre Haute, Indiana on April 25, 1834. She was educated at St. Mary of the Woods Convent.
In 1852 Rose Ann came to St. Paul with her parents, and she married her cousin and moved to Shakopee. Spier and Rose Ann had six children: George, Julia, Charles, Carrie, Hattie, and Belle.
Rose Ann was of a kind and loving disposition, a kind neighbor, and a loving wife and mother. She died on October 5, 1913. She was one of the pioneer residents of Shakopee, and she was “summoned to enter into the Great Beyond, and a general wave of sorrow swept over the community when his death was announced.”
This information from Shakopee Tribune Nov. 20, 1903 and October 10, 1913, and two obituaries of Spier Spencer: Shakopee Tribune Feb. 1, 1907; and Scott County Argus, Feb. 1, 1907.