Sherburne History Center

Sherburne History Center
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Friday, June 23, 2017

More About Mail Service

Harold Keays prepares to deliver the mail on his Harley Davidson
motorcycle, just one of several modes
of transportation for his postal route.
On October 28, 2016 this blog highlighted the workload of mail carrier Harold Keays.  Local newspapers in 1915 estimated he delivered 11,000 letters and parcels each month.  After some research, we wanted to update the career of Harold Keays and acknowledge other postal workers in Sherburne County.

After the news article appeared in the Sherburne County Star News, reporters further investigated the work load of Sherburne County mail carriers.  While working in Elk River, John Keen, the mail carrier on route number 3, handled the largest monthly workload.  According to the newspaper, he delivered approximately 14,000 pieces of mail each month.  Charlie Reed, on route 2, worked the lightest of the delivery schedules, delivering 10,000 pieces each month. 

Four years after the paper reported these statistics, Harold Keays announced his retirement.  Mail recipients along route 1 held Harold Keays in high esteem.  The year of his retirement, his customers gifted him a gold watch.  Yet, after 18 years of service he chose to take some time off.  At his retirement, Keays estimated several startling statistics.  In his career he traveled 168,480 miles.  He traveled 4680 miles by bicycle; 28,080 by motorcycle; 48,840 in a Ford automobile, and 86,880 on horseback.  He conceded the Ford was the most reliable means of transportation.  In his 18 years, he delivered nearly 26 tons of mail or 2,134,080 pieces. 


It seems almost an understatement, in his retirement announcement, Keays noted the job became too strenuous and hastened the end of his postal career. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

The First Hospital in Elk River

Doctors and medical care often gauge the permanence of a frontier community.  The presence of a doctor in a small town suggests a stability similar to a developing religious congregation.  So, the existence of the medical profession in pre-1900 Elk River seems appropriate.  The interesting detail of medical history in Elk River is the relative late arrival of a hospital or clinic.

Hospital announcement from the
Sherburne County StarNews,
August 23, 1923
The Sherburne County Star News reported in 1923 of the incorporation and opening of a hospital in Elk River.  Prior to this opening, doctors in Sherburne County made house calls.  There were no hospitals in the county to send desperately ill patients.  Dr. Arthur Roehlke served as the primary physician with Marie DeBooy serving as the administrator at this new hospital. 

With great fanfare the hospital purchased and remodeled the interior of the Andrew Davis residence.  With two private rooms, two wards, a surgery and administrative offices, the building promised to house and care for up to 12 patients.  It appears the hospital was too selective about the patients it would treat.  In an announcement published in August 1923, the hospital offered care for obstetrics, gynecology, pediatrics, and general medicine.  Yet, “no contagious or objectionable diseases accepted” the announcement concluded.  In spite of the selectivity, the first patient for the hospital was admitted.  “To Miss Kate Noot, of Bailey Station, goes the distinction of being the first patient at the new hospital,” the newspaper reported. 

Elk River may have been a very healthy community, or the hospital may have been too selective regarding patients.  By March 1924, after only seven months of business the hospital closed permanently. “At no time,” the newspaper reported, “have there been enough patients to pay the expenses.”  

Elk River clearly exhibited the stability of a permanent community; capable of supporting a hospital.  Yet, the first attempt at a medical clinic quickly failed.  In 1924 a hospital with a resident medical staff remained a future goal for Elk River.

            

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

An Interesting ad for Wrigley's Chewing Gum

In our search for interesting information about Sherburne County, we occasionally come across unusual advertising that reflects the broader culture of America.  This ad for Wrigley's Spearmint Gum found in the Sherburne County Star News in November 1924 has a number of unusual features we wanted to share.  Take a look:
 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

SHC Collecting Veterans' Histories

This week we commemorate the 73 anniversary of the D-Day invasion of World War Two.  The entire year we commemorate the centennial of United States involvement in World War One.  Next year, 2018 will be the 120 anniversary of the Spanish American War.  In the 20th century, the United States also fought in Korea, Vietnam, and several times in the Middle East. 

Here at the Sherburne History Center, we appreciate the significant number of men and women from the county who have served in some branch of the United States military.  We would like to document this service. 
 
Are there veterans in Sherburne County that would like to share their military history?  We would like to hear from you.  We simply want to document the military service of the many men and women that lived and helped build Sherburne County.  If you would like to help us by offering your military history, please contact Mike Brubaker, Executive Director at the Sherburne History Center, 10775 27th Ave, SE.  Becker, MN 55308, or call us at 763-262-4433.  

Friday, May 26, 2017

Sherburne County and Mapping Minnesota

1849 map of Territory of Minnesota
Maps provide wonderful information and great appreciation for the early history of Minnesota.  An early map of the Minnesota Territory, dated 1849, holds significant information about the settlement of Minnesota and the creation of Sherburne County.  One of the original counties of the Minnesota Territory, Benton County, along with the two other counties, Washington and Ramsey, covered large areas of land.  In 1856 the Minnesota Territorial legislature created Sherburne County out of a small, southernmost section of Benton County.

Sherburne County, we all know, was named after Minnesota Supreme Court Associate Justice Moses Sherburne.  Senator Thomas Hart Benton, of Missouri, served as the namesake for Benton County.  The other original counties also held political significance in their names.  Washington County, obviously named in honor of President George Washington.  Ramsey County honored the first Territorial Governor, Alexander Ramsey. 

The politics of the times guided the naming of a multitude of counties and communities in Minnesota.  Sherburne County serves as an example of these political honors. The geography provides more insight into the settlement of Minnesota.  And, the changing borders and county lines raises some speculation about the development of the territory and State.

Friday, May 19, 2017

More Fire In Elk River

Elk River Potato market during better times, circa 1900.  
 SHC photo collections, 1995.017.012 
Fire is all too common in farming communities.  Barns and haystacks catch on fire.  Wood buildings routinely burn.  In 1924 Elk River, however, a particularly unusual fire erupted in the potato warehouse and the Elk River Fire Chief immediately suspected arson. 

Trainmen traveling through Elk River discovered a fire in the potato warehouse at 5 am on February 2, 1924.  Luck followed the city and firefighters on this day.  The Elk River fire siren had failed earlier in the week and continue to malfunction.  The trainmen notified the telephone exchange.  Telephone operators then notified firefighters by telephone.  Fortunately, the fire remained small. 

After the firefighters entered the warehouse, they discovered several small fires.  In an hour’s time, they extinguished the fire.  Inspection of the warehouse revealed two bags of bran with two fruit cans of gasoline inside the grain.  The arsonist sealed the glass jars too tightly and prevented the gasoline from igniting. 

The manager of the warehouse was arrested and charged with arson.  Many suggested his motives included insurance fraud.  Although the newspapers do not report the outcome of the investigation and trial. 

After the warehouse fire, the county continued to suffer from a variety of fires.  The Frye homestead in Elk River burned down.  The McKinney house in Orrock burned.  The homes of R. J. Johnson in Big Lake, and the home of E. D. Smith in Becker were also burned.  And, the Big lake Depot also burned. 

Although fires were common in the farming communities of Sherburne County, 1924 seemed particularly challenging for fire fighters.