Sherburne History Center

Sherburne History Center
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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Camp Cozy Revisited

Photo of Camp Cozy dated approximately 1938
 courtesy of LeeAnn Watzke
Camp Cozy, Elk River experienced several different lives as a resort and gathering place in Elk River.  Originally created as a resort for overnight guests and campground, many regarded Camp Cozy as a technological marvel.  In 1925 A. W. and J. B. Jesperson created a series of canals and flues allowing canoes to float over and around, up and down the Elk River.  Unfortunately, their resort failed with the economic downturn of the depression. 

Late in the 1930s a bar/dance hall/ roller skating rink, and fast food joint reopened at Camp Cozy.  This gathering place for Elk River residents kept the city entertained for nearly twenty years before portions of the resort burned and the remainder sold.  Yet, Camp Cozy held a distinctive position in the history of Elk River keeping visitors and city residents entertained for many years.  
 
While researching Camp Cozy, the lack of information became terribly apparent.  If anyone would like to share photos, or memories of Camp Cozy, please contact the Sherburne History Center.  We would like to hear from you.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Politics in Farming Ever Present in Sherburne County

Action in politics and serious lobby efforts remains an unappreciated yet constant presence in the lives of farmers in Minnesota.  A reminder of this omnipresent activity appeared in the pages of the Sherburne County Star News in June of 1927.    

The newspaper reported nearly 5000 attended the Farm Bureau picnic held on June 7,  at Eagle Lake.  According to the paper, Farm Bureau President J. F. Reed addressed the large crowd and “illustrated the numerous ways” the Farm Bureau and local farmers helped each other. The overall message at the picnic revolved around the value of the Farm Bureau Federation and how the organized farmers produced “favorable legislation in the state legislature,”   

Aside from the politics of the day, the local picnic committee created a number of events and contests to entertain the crowd.  The committee consisted of J. J. Stumvoll, C. C. Dawson, guy LaPlant, Carl Bender and O. E. Tincher.  The contests included: a hog calling contest, won by S. F. Seeley; a chicken calling contest won by Mr. George Rush; and a dinner calling contest won by Mrs. Joe Weis.  The committee seemed determined to recognize and award as many people as possible at the picnic.  Recognition at the day’s events included: girl with the prettiest red hair went to Inga Olson of Santiago, largest family in attendance went to the Ed T. Cox family.  He brought 11 children to the festivities.  The longest resident was Henry Orrock of Santiago and the tallest woman prize was given to Mrs. John Lindquist of Becker.


Through all of the contests and enjoyment, at the end of the day, the purpose of the picnic remained political activism in Minnesota.  The late 1920s were difficult economic times for farmers in Minnesota.  Picnics and gatherings similar to the Farm Bureau picnic were important tools for lobby efforts to the state legislature. The picnic reminded county residents the strength of unity within the community.

Friday, August 4, 2017

More Crime In Sherburne County

Paddy wagon in front of St. Cloud Reformatory, circa 1920
Improved roads and new automobiles delivered an unwanted result to Sherburne County in the 1920s.  Crime flourished in the area.  Perhaps the high point of the 1920s county crime spree occurred in 1927. 

That year, a bandit gang of five men terrorized communities on the outskirts of Minneapolis.  Led by Frank “Slim” Gibson, the crew included Jack and Lester Northrup, and Ralph and Lester Barge.  In a crime spree expanding beyond Sherburne County, all the way to North Dakota, the men robbed banks and burglarized businesses.  The intrepid police work of Sherburne County officers led to their capture and prison sentences. 

Beginning in 1926, the outlaw crew robbed merchants and banks throughout central Minnesota and North Dakota.  In November 1926 the gang robbed the bank in Wheelock, North Dakota.  Frank Gibson murdered bank cashier H. H. Peterson.  Continuing into 1927, the gangsters robbed the Stanchfield State Bank in addition to banks in Delano, Grandy, and Hamel.  They also attempted, and failed, to rob the Brunswick, Minnesota bank three times. 

As the bank robberies provided limited success, the gang turned to burglarizing local merchants.  The five men stole over $1000 of silk from Mattson’s store in Braham, Minnesota.   The gang reveled their vicious nature with a burglary in Isanti, on December 21, 1926.  That night the man attempted to break into a warehouse in Isanti.  Discovered by town Marshall, Frank Dahlin, gunshots were traded.  Marshall Dahlin died from two gunshot wounds to the chest.  On April 28, 1927, the gang attempted another robbery in Isanti.  The gang handcuffed gas station attendant Gus Peterson to a post and shot him.  Luckily, Peterson survived his wounds.

Only two weeks later the gang attempted to steal tires from a warehouse in Zimmerman.  Police intercepted the two cars driven by the thieves heading south toward Elk River.  A running gun battle stretched to Anoka. The first car, containing Jack and Lester Northrup, was forced into a ditch.  They fled into the nearby woods and were later captured.

Deputy Sherriff Mike Auspos chased the second of the cars to near Anoka, trading gunshots with the gangsters as they drove.  As the gun battle neared Anoka, Officer Auspos ran out of ammunition and was forced to give up the chase.

After their capture, the Northrup brothers confessed their crimes and identified the other three members of the gang.  Police arrested Gibson and the Barge brothers in Minneapolis.  Gibson and Jack Northrup received life sentences in the Stillwater prison for the murder of Marshall Dahlin.  The other three received lesser sentences at the St. Cloud Reformatory for their involvement in the Zimmerman robberies.  When they fulfilled their sentences for burglary, the Isanti District Attorney promised to pursue the greater charge of attempted murder of Gus Peterson.

Ten years later, Frank Gibson again appeared in the news.  June 1936, the state transported Gibson to St. Peter for a psychological evaluation.  While there, he and 15 other convicts escaped.  Gibson remained the only prisoner to avoid immediate capture.  In January 1937, Gibson was identified as one of eight men killed in a train accident in California.

The careers of these bumbling and violent criminals ended through the bravery and hard work of Sherburne County police.  The state carried out quick arrests and convictions through hard work of men such as Deputy Sheriff Mike Auspos.

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Typesetter's Challenge

Sherburne County Star News, frontpage
January 11, 1900
An interesting column published in the Sherburne County Star News emphasizes the challenges of 1920s technology.  This brief statement generates some appreciation for the 21st century ability to communicate: 

"The Star news admits that it occasionally make typographical errors and we are not ashamed of it,” the paper reported.  “Possibly the general public does not know it, but in an ordinary column there are 10,000 pieces of type.  There are 7 possible wrong positions for each letter, 70,000 chances to make errors and millions of possible transpositions.  In the sentence, “To be or not to be,” by transpositions alone 2,759,022 errors can be made.” 

The paper concluded their column with the defiant claim, “No paper is ever without errors and there never will be one.” 

Considering this, spell check on my word processing program makes me appreciate the computer technology more than ever.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Fred Corey: Another Local Profile in Courage

Inherent dangers exist in the timber industry.  A brief biography of Fred Cory illustrates some of these dangers.  His life also serves as an example of courage and hard work to overcome obstacles. 

Born in Otsego and living in Elk River, Fred Corey worked the first half of his working life in the timber industry.  In 1895 he received the appointment as a land inspector for the Minnesota State Auditor’s Office.  His job as timber cruiser demanded he inspect land in the Iron Range, identifying trees suitable for harvest as lumber.  “He is honest and competent and will perform the duties of the office in a faithful and conscientious manner,” the Elk River Star News speculated.  The job, though, led directly to an accident that left him disabled for the rest of his life. 

In March 1895, while cruising timber in the Iron Range, his compass failed him.  He became lost.  Shortly afterwards, a spring blizzard hit the area.  Corey became stranded overnight in freezing weather.  “It was a bitter cold night,” the newspaper reported.  “Twenty below zero, the snow being two feet deep,” Corey struggled to keep moving through the night.  Finally, able to walk out the next day, he found his camp despite suffering from frozen ears, hands and feet.   The Star News report summarized Corey’s condition and surgery.  “Several fingers were amputated and a portion of both feet,” the paper reported.  “Mr. Corey stood the operation well, and it is hoped his recovery will be speedy.” 


In spite of hard work, Fred Corey never recovered to full health.  He left the timber industry and received an appointment as the Elk River Postmaster.  He held the position for 17 years.  As a political appointment, his dedication and hard work counted for little, Woodrow Wilson replaced him as postmaster in 1915.  Beyond his disabilities, Fred Corey remained active in his retirement at the Union Church in Elk River and as a Mason.  Fred Corey an example of dedication to life and devotion to hard work, died February 1924.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Thieves Beat the High Cost of Living in 1920s Sherburne County

“Somebody,” the Sherburne County Star News in November 1919 reported, “has discovered a new way of reducing the high cost of living.”  Thieves victimized farmers in Sherburne County for several years by stealing anything they might be able to eat or sell. 

A thieving crime wave first appeared in 1919, Jim Brown a Livonia Township farmer reported a two-year-old steer butchered in his field.  The thieves took “everything along except the head the entrails,” the paper reported.  According to the reporter, Brown’s steer was the second Sherburne County theft by butcher that year.  The paper also recalled several sheep had been similarly stolen.  “It may be that an organized band of thieves are operating in this section,” the Star News suggested. 

Later in the 1920s, organized gangs of thieves again operated in the county.  For more than three years, 1921 to 1924, butter thieves targeted creameries owned by the Twin Cities Milk Producers Association.  In October 1921, the Star News reported the thieves hit the Elk River Creamery and made off with 445 pounds of butter.  Police speculated the thieves might have gotten away with more except some unknown disturbance frightened them away.  Earlier in the year the gang of thieves hit the Forest Lake Creamery.  There “they took away everything they could find including the butter in tubs as well as prints.” 

After diligent investigation, police closed down the ring.  Charles Blad, from St Paul was identified as the leader of the gang.  Police convinced him to plead guilty for a sentence in Stillwater prison of “an indeterminate term.”  

Police paused to catch their breath before they began investigating yet another crime ring in Sherburne County.  In December 1925 thieves victimized county chicken farmers.  “A series of raids, bearing all of the earmarks of the deeds of experienced professionals culminated with the theft of between 60 and 75 blooded Rhode Island Red Chickens,” the Star News reported.  The thieves, the paper speculated “are of the type who travel in automobiles, steal, and market their products in the Twin Cities.”  Police speculated the capture of the thieves would be difficult.  In response, the paper reported, “the farmers of western Sherburne County are setting their man traps and oiling up their shotguns.” 

For whatever reason the thefts stopped in Sherburne County.  Although never violent crime, the value of the property stolen from the farmers and citizens of Sherburne County was significant.


Friday, July 7, 2017

Sherburne County Fair: History of the Early Days

Promotional announcement for the
Sherburne County Fair in the
Star News 1915.
Sherburne County Fair, 2017, meets on July 20 to 23.  It seemed appropriate to look back at the early days of the fair and experience the Great Sherburne County Get-Together from 128 years ago.

The fair first met at the A. B. Carlson farm in 1889.  After the first year, the event moved to the Meadowvale School, the future site of the Sunbeam Grange Hall.  Later sites for the fair included the Houlton property near the Mississippi River and the current site near Highway 10. 

Until 1915 the county fair consisted of a one day meeting.  Farmers brought out samples of their best crop, while women displayed craft work, baked goods, and jams and jellies.  The day concluded with a potluck picnic.  October first and second, 1915 the fair staged a two day event.  Slowly, over time the Sherburne County Get-Together expanded to the four day event of today. 

Over the years, the Sherburne County Agricultural Society, the group responsible for staging the fair, suffered growing pains.  At least three times the group reorganized and redefined themselves.  The group organized in 1889, they reorganized in 1915, in 1945, and again in 1989. 
Scheduling the fair forever challenged the fair board.  The original fair met the end of September 1889.  By 1972, the dates of the fair crept into July when the county gathered on July 14 through 16.  Weather considerations, heat and rain, as well as the work schedules of farmers tested the planning capabilities of the fair board.  The event, today, remains in July.

Continuing through to today, the support for the fair appears throughout the county.  Perhaps the most ardent boosters of the fair include the Sherburne County Star News.  Under headlines in 1918, the newspaper announced, “Another Great Success Scored By The Sherburne County Fair.”  The reporter for the news went on to describe the fair as “a complete success from every viewpoint.  The exhibits were plentiful and of a high quality, while the attendance was most satisfactory.”  Other years, the newspaper promised “More Exhibits Than Ever,” and “Prospects Are That the Sherburne County Fair This Year Will Be a Hummer.”


In spite of the many challenges and needs to reorganize, the Sherburne Fair remains a central event in Elk River.  An event inviting county residents to the “Great Get-Together” that promises to be “another great success.”