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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Regulating Automobiles in the Early Days

In the world of legislating transportation, in 1909, the State of Minnesota took the lead.  The Sherburne County Star News reported “road rules are many and explicit.  Cars are required to carry brakes, horns, lamps, etc., and speed is limited to 25 miles an hour, or 10 miles an hour at crossings, curves and other dangerous places.” 

With the article in the May 6, 1909 issue, the newspaper emphasized enforcement would begin immediately.  The laws become “operative May 15,” the paper reported.
At the time, the regulations and licensing came from the Secretary of State.
Previous research suggests the laws had minimal impact on Sherburne County as there were very few automobiles in the area.  In a few short years, however, the transportation departments in the state would led by Elk River native, Charles Babcock.  And the rules for operating the "horseless carriage" would become more important.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Yet Another Party in Elk River

Previously we explored a variety of different parties and celebrations around Elk River.  The lemon party, an event for ladies with admission being one lemon.  The lemons are used in various games.  The highlight of the evening arrived when the ladies made lemonade out of the admission fees. 

The Sherburne County Star News documented a variety of similar celebrations.  On October 17, 1912, a particularly unique party invitation graced the pages of the newspaper: “The Christian Endeavor will give a necktie social this evening.” 

The newspaper announced, “Ladies are requested to wear aprons and bring a necktie to match, sealed in an envelope.  These will be distributed to the gentlemen and the wearer of your necktie eats supper with you.”  The brief announcement guaranteed a “big supper” and fun for all.  “Everybody is invited, the older people as well as the young folks.”    

There are no reports for the success of the party, hosted at the home of Fred Nickerson.  Yet, the unique nature of the event suggests the creativity of party planners flourished in Elk River.  

1917 Concert Celebration at the bandstand in Elk River.  
Photo part of SHC collections 1990.200.645

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Dane Town: Once a Community in Sherburne County

Dane Town “is a Danish settlement that tells about the well known Danish ability as farmers.”  This translation of the 1903 pamphlet Norwegian Settlements and Congregations, fails in modesty to describe a community now marked by only a cemetery.  

Dane Town dates around 1872.  Bernard Nelson noted his grandparents purchased 40 acres in Becker Township.  This marks the beginning of Dane Town.  

Although never incorporated in Sherburne County, Dane Town briefly maintained many of the institutions that hint towards permanence.  A church had not been built, but a congregation of Danish Lutherans were well established.  In the early history the congregation was led by a Pastor Ingebrigtsen.   

In addition to the religious congregation, a school had been established and a Danish newspaper published.  A newspaper, The Daylight was edited and printed at the Rasmus Jensen farm.  Virginia Johnson, in a four page essay remembering her life in Dane Town described “school days like a little family.  Our school was heated by wood.  The wood shed was a favorite place to act out plays during recess.  The bleachers were piled up wood.”   

In all likelihood, transportation led to the demise of Dane Town.  With improving roads, more farmers began to move into Becker, Palmer and Santiago.  In the end, only the cemetery remained to mark Dane Town.   

In her essay, Virginia Johnson summed it up, “I remember Dane Town as a safe place to live with neighbors who were honest and helpful.”  

A few residents of Dane Town.  Photos from the SHC collections 2007.040 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Fire Prevention in Elk River

The Sherburne County Star News published an article on 30 January 1913 illustrating the challenges faced by Elk River in efforts to avoid and combat fire. 

The newspaper reported the village council voted to purchase 250 additional feet of fire hose to enhance the “ancient and leaky hose” used by the city fire fighters.  The council and newspaper acknowledged the purchase fell short of needs.  The expense of 75 cents per foot for the hose limited the purchase. 

“It is believed that some of the old hose can be used with the new,” the paper reported.  “At the last fire, it will be remembered, so much difficulty was experienced in coupling the old host together and preventing leaks that the fire nearly burned itself out before any water was turned on.”    

Previous discussions concerning fire protection included: building a centralized fire station and training to maintain and use the available equipment.  The fire of 1915 pushed the issue of fire protection to the forefront of town council discussions.  This culminated with the construction of the Elk River water tower in 1920.    

The high point in fire prevention was the water tower.  Yet, combating fire in Elk River continued to challenge city leaders for years to come.

Elk River Fire Dept., circa 1920.  From SHC collections 2006.015.005

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Under the Heading: Unusual News

… the Sherburne County Star News reported on 7 March 1912: “Mrs. John E. Putnam, age 83 years, is now cutting her third set of teeth, having been without teeth for 16 years and having been baldheaded for nearly 40 years, is now the proud possessor of a fine head of hair.”  

 The gossip columns from 100 years ago makes reading the newspaper an adventure.

Friday, August 26, 2016

More About Hotels in Elk River

In recent weeks the history of hotels and hospitality in Elk River has been area of study.  The primary focus centered around the Blanchett Hotel, also known as the Merchants Hotel, and the Riverside Hotel, also known as the Elk River Hotel.  Now we are giving attention to a lesser known boardinghouse/hotel in Elk River.  
As late as the 1950s, the hotel above Kemper Drugs was the Hamlet Hotel.  Originally known as the Princeton Hotel, the space served more as a boardinghouse for long term residences, in contrast to the short stay hospitality of the Blanchett and the Riverside.  

To locate each of the different hotels, this 1894 map has been brought out from the collections to help us visualize the area.  The Riverside Hotel is located on the corner of King and Main.  The Blanchett is located on the east side of Jackson (Princeton) and on the north west corner of Jackson (Princeton) is the Hamlet Hotel.  The Great Northern Railway station was located across the street, directly north of the Merchants (aka Blanchett) Hotel. 

An important detail to note: this map documented Elk River before the many devastating fires that encouraged business owners to relocate south of the railroad tracks.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Elk River's Claim to Fame

Becker’s claim to fame includes strawberries.  Big Lake gained fame for the purity of the ice.  Another truth handed down through time: Elk River’s claim to fame is the potato. 

The Sherburne County Star News reported on March 28, 1912 “that Elk River has been famous as a great potato market.”  As proof a front page news article reported two men in an unnamed, yet famous, Minneapolis restaurant heard the demand for Elk River potatoes.  “The Elk River potato is known and called for as an especial relish of big Minneapolis restaurants,” the paper reported.  The paper went on to suggest that although some believed the men “had taken a wee bit too much of some sparkling fluid from bottles,” it was common knowledge around the Sherburne county town, “Elk River potatoes are famous and will be more so in a few years."  
The Star News felt this claim to fame warranted some action by the county to adopt a specific type of spud to market it as the true Elk River potato.  “In this way Elk River and its product would be advertised broadside and it would add much to the town as a potato market.”  In spite of the good ideas to market the potato and Elk River, no action was taken to create an Elk River potato.  

In spite of inaction, more than 100 years passed since the tuber so abundant in Sherburne County brought fame to Elk River.  Just as Big Lake has its ice; Becker gained fame through strawberries; so, Elk River remains famous for the potato.  

Elk River potato market, circa 1900
SHC collections 1995.017.012