Sherburne History Center

Sherburne History Center
click on picture to visit our webpage: www.sherburnehistorycenter.org

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.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Pierre Bottineau Building Elk River

Pierre Bottineau, surveyor, land developer, translator and explorer, played a vital role in the early settlement of Sherburne County and Elk River.
Pierre Bottineau circa 1855

Born to a French Canadian father and half-Dakota, half- Ojibway mother, Pierre Bottineau was native to the frontier Minnesota.  As he traveled and explored the territory, he helped develop a number of towns.  In about 1849, he arrived in the area of Elk River and commissioned the construction of a hotel along the banks of the Mississippi River.  The buildings remained in Elk River longer than Bottineau. 

Pierre Bottineau originally built a cabin near the mill races on Orono Lake.  The second Bottineau structure, built in 1849, housed the carpenter Bottineau hired to build his hotel.  In quick order, the hotel, christened the Riverside, opened for service.  The carpenter’s cabin served as a small saloon for hotel guests and the increasing population of Elk River.  By 1852, the Nickerson family paid $1500 for the property and Pierre Bottineau left the town seeking other adventures.  For another forty years, Bottineau continued to work and explore Minnesota and the eastern lands of the Dakotas.  He died in Red Lake Falls, Minnesota in 1895. 

1894 Sanborn Map noting Bottineau
cabin in yellow highlights
The Bottineau carpenter’s cabin remained in place for several decades after Pierre left Elk River.  Early maps of Elk River clearly document the location of the cabin.  A bird’s eye view of Elk River, published in 1879 shows the cabin sitting next to what was then known as the Elk River House.  A Sanborn Map of the community, published in 1894, also notes the location of the cabin. Shortly after the publication of the Sanborn map, the Sherburne County Star News reported the cabin demolition of the cabin so that the hotel could be expanded.  “Modern improvements necessitated its removal.”  

Although a brief stay in Elk River, and with a limited role in the overall settlement of the community, Pierre Bottineau played a significant role in creating the community of Elk River.




Friday, April 28, 2017

Arthur Dare—Booster For Sherburne County

Every so often we acknowledge leaders of Sherburne County.  No real criteria exists for selecting these profiles of greatness.  We simply select individuals we believe played an important role in the history of Sherburne County.  With this column, we look at the life of newspaper editor and politician Arthur N. Dare. 

Arthur Dare--1850 to 1923
Born in Onondaga County, New York on May 25, 1850 Arthur N. Dare lived an early life packed with adventure.  Living in New York until age 18, he traveled with his family to Wisconsin, and from there, at age 20, he landed in Minneapolis.  While in the cities, he studied for four years as a printer.  In the early 1870s he signed on as a sailor on a whaling ship to see the world.  After a quick journey into the South Pacific, he returned to Minnesota and settled in Elk River.  In 1878 he purchased half ownership in the Elk River newspaper.  In less than a year he had purchased the other half of the paper to become editor, publisher, and owner of the Sherburne County Star News.   

Over time, his journalistic work and thought provoking editorials gained attention throughout Minnesota.  In 1895 he was elected to the first of three terms to the Minnesota House of Representatives on the Republican ticket.  In his third term the legislature elected him Speaker of the House.  In 1901, he left the House, political leaders urged him to set his sights on Washington, D.C.  to run for the Sixth District House of Representatives.  He declined their encouragement and resumed his printing career.  In 1917 he retired from the newspaper business, turning over the operations of the newspaper to his son, Laurence Dare. 

At the time of his death, newspaper publishers throughout the state recognized him as a gifted writer, editor and publisher of the Sherburne County Star News.  In the pages of his newspaper, Mr. Dare boosted and promoted Elk River and Sherburne County.  In reading his columns no doubt existed, his goal in life was to advocate for his home county. 


Arthur Dare passed away in his home on September 4, 1923. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Industrial Elk River: The Hoop Factory

Elk River factories circa 1900
SHC photo collection
Always regarded as an industrial town, Elk River supported a number of factories and shops in its early history.  The barrel hoop factory must be regarded as one of these shops that branded the community as an industrial center.

Opening in 1895 and operating for only a brief time, the factory employed ten men and boys around the Lake Orono industrial area.  The Sherburne County Star News described the factory as a “veritable bee-hive of industry.”  Using the best cuts of elm trees, the factory trimmed and shaved the wood into thin strips.  Factory workers then heated the wood, molded, and nailed into the appropriate size hoops for wood barrels.  The newspaper went on to explain that “the very best of timber is required in the manufacture of hoops.”  The scrap wood became fence pickets and fire wood. 

The opening of the factory created an unusually high demand for elm wood. The paper reported in April of 1895 of rising theft and illegal cutting of elm trees on private land.  The trees, land owners speculated, were destined for the hoop factory.  Early reports speculated the demand for elm wood might exceed 500,000 feet in the year 1895. 


Unfortunately, the demand for barrel hoops seemed limited.  Although not yet fully documented, the factory operated for only a brief period.  Like the starch factory and the Elk River pickle factory, the challenges of shipping and stockpiling inventory led to the demise of the operation.  Yet for a brief time the hoop factory encouraged industrial experimentation and promoted the community reputation as an industrial town.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Financing World War One

Advertising War Savings Stamps in the
Sherburne County Star News, 1918
Paying for war is often a challenge for the United States government.  In the 1800s, financing war meant the government borrowed money from rich financiers.  Only with World War One did the United States government appeal to the general public for aid in paying for war.  The Liberty Bonds sales appeared to be very successful and often viewed as patriotic tests.  In Sherburne County, local leaders actively promoted the bond subscription drives and claimed significant success.

The government created four Liberty Bond programs in 1917 and 1918.  In 1919 the government also issued a fifth Victory Liberty Loan bond.  In total, Liberty Bonds raised $21.5 billion for the war effort.  With each bond program, Sherburne County received a quota of funding the county must raise.  The first Liberty Bond quota called for $130,000 from county patriots. 

The Sherburne County Star News praised the county for meeting the quota for the First Liberty Bond sale.  “Sherburne County has done its full share toward supplying Uncle Sam with funds for war purposes,” the newspaper praised. 

Unfortunately, after the first sale the quotas increased and the local population felt the pinch of war time expense.  A more active, better organized program became necessary.  A Sherburne County War Savings Committee developed plans to promote more bond sales.  The second campaign hoped to raise more than the $160,000 county quota. 

With the creation of the War Savings Committee, sales programs developed a sophistication beyond a simple patriotic appeal.  “It is planned to make a special campaign to interest the schools of the county for the sale of the war savings certificates and the stamps,” the newspaper reported. 

Under the war savings stamp program, the post office and local banks sold stamps valued at 25 cents each.  “You will be given a card to paste them on,” the newspaper ads said.  After pasting 16 stamps on the card, it could be redeemed at the local bank for a War Savings certificate.  After January 1, 1923, the certificate could be redeemed for five dollars. 

As part of the campaign, the committee encouraged competition among schools and students.  The school in Otsego “made the best record of the schools in this vicinity in the purchase of war savings certificates and thrift stamps,” the newspaper reported.  The average subscription of the 28 students in the school exceeded $40.  “Nearly $1.50 each for the pupils.” 


The liberty bond sales, the rationing and the draft, all illustrate the sacrifices made during World War One.  The first “war to end all wars” tested the citizens of the United States.  The challenges to support the war and continually sacrifice show Sherburne County as a singular population ready to step up and give.

Friday, April 7, 2017

You're In The Army Now

Unidentified soldier from World War One
SHC collections
The United States declared war on Germany and its allies on 6 April 1917.  Men not yet enlisted in the National Guard were subject to the draft.  In Sherburne County, several hundred men entered the army as a result of the Federalization of the National Guard and the draft.  Although events in training camps were never typical, letters sent home, and later published in the Sherburne County Star News, give a sense of life in the camps.

In a letter published in the Sherburne County Star News Theodore Coder described daily life in Camp Cody, New Mexico.  “We left Fort Snelling Oct. 10 and arrived at Deming, adjacent to Camp Cody, on Oct. 15,” he wrote.  “Had a delightful trip, or at least it was to me, but I did not fall in love with the country on first sight or have no deep affection for it yet.”   He went on to describe the hazards of camp life.  “The sand blows here like the snow in Minnesota, but give me the snow every time.”  He went on to point out the annoying plants and creature in camp life, including: cactus, sage brush, horned toads, centipedes, scorpions, and the occasional rattlesnake.

Overtime, life at Camp Cody became routine.  “We roll out at 5:30 and have reveille, then they double time the boys around for a while to give them an appetite,” Coder wrote. “First drill at 7:10 until 11:00.  Mess at 12 and woe unto the cooks if there isn’t enough chow.  Drill from 1:00 to 4:00.  Mess and retreat at 5:15, then nothing to do but write letters until you get ready to go bed.  Tattoo at 9:00, call to quarters at 10:00 and taps at 10:30.” 

Although a great deal of camp life might be described as boring, the community of Deming sits next to the camp.  “The First Minnesota, or 135th Infantry now, is quarantined for measles so none of us can go down town,” Coder reported.  “The town is about 3,000 population.  It is more like a carnival that a town—curio shops, fruit stands and popcorn wagons whichever way one may look.” 

In contrast to life in Camp Cody, New Mexico, some Sherburne county draftees were sent to Camp Grant, Illinois.  Life in Camp grant apparently livelier.  Built on the outskirts of Rockford, Illinois, the city organized a Red Cross station to provide entertainment to troops.  Unfortunately for these troops, this larger camp was also the sight for a deadlier strain of influenza in 1918.  Although no evidence pinpoints Sherburne County troops dying at Camp Grant, more than 4,000 died from the disease at the Illinois training installation. 
 

The letters and records of World War One suggest there never existed a typical day for troops in the training camps in the United States.  Every location presented a level of boredom and daily challenges for each individual leaving Sherburne County to enter into war.  

Saturday, April 1, 2017

World War One Introduces Rationing

Shortly after the United States declared war in April 1917, citizens realized in addition to the necessary rations of U. S. soldiers, there existed the starvation of civilians throughout Europe.  The government created the U. S. Food Administration to encourage rationing and conserving food.  Under the direction of future President Herbert Hoover, the administration instituted a voluntary rationing program that included Meatless Tuesdays and Wheatless Wednesdays.  Through the year of war and into 1919, consumption of meat in the United States dropped more than 15 percent.  Exports of food to Europe increased significantly.

Locally, the Sherburne County Star News promoted the rationing.  Referring to the Meatless Tuesdays and Wheatless Wednesdays, the paper opined, “If these measures are necessary to win the war, let us all munch corn meal and be thankful.”  The paper went on to suggest the rationing of bacon.  “Bacon is the soldiers’ real food friend,” the paper reported.  “He can apparently do more fighting on it than anything else.”  Another effort put forth by the newspaper was the publication of alternate recipes and methods to conserve food.  The message from the Star News, “don’t be a family of willful wasters.”

Unfortunately, some of the ration programs failed.  Early in the effort “heatless Mondays” promoted rationing of coal and other heating products.  Weather conditions made this particular program untenable.


Yet, rationing in World War One allowed for significant export of food to the allied countries in Europe.  The program marked such success Herbert Hoover received the nickname the “Great Humanitarian.”  Programs continued into 1919 to aid the recovery of all of Europe from the first “war to end all wars.”  It not only fed the many troops in Europe, it helped stave off starvation amongst a desperate civilian population.