Sherburne History Center

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

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.”

Friday, June 30, 2017

Arson in Big Lake

Arson often caused a shivering chill of fear to many early Sherburne County residents.  A simple fire could devastate a family.  A fire intentionally set generated fear in an entire community. 

Big Lake, in 1925, experienced such a fear.  In September and October at least nine fires burned eleven homes around Big Lake and Lake Mitchell.  Police and community members “staked out” neighborhoods around the two lakes.  On October 8, 1925, after a chase from Big Lake into Wright County and the Silver Creek community police captured a suspect. During the chase police shot at the fleeing vehicle.  The suspect suffered bullet wounds in the shoulder, this wound caused him to lose control of his automobile.  Police found the wrecked vehicle and the wounded suspect.  After his arraignment in Elk River court, the suspect was transferred to the St. Cloud hospital.  The newspapers identified a local veterinarian being in police custody and charged with arson.  However, reporters compounded the confusion about the identity of the arsonist when they later noted the suspect as a local telephone technician.   

At the trial, the Sherburne County Star News noted a tremendous amount of local interest.  The trial “attracted a large number of people, especially from Big Lake and vicinity, the court room being crowded to the limit,” the paper reported. The news also acknowledge the lack of solid evidence against the suspect.  “Most of the evidence,” the paper reported, “is based on circumstantial evidence.” 


Interestingly, the newspaper never reports the outcome of the trial.  The arson cases, however, stopped in Big Lake.  Yet, the fear of arson and fire continued to concern numbers of Sherburne County residents.  Fire prevention and organizing community fire fighters became significant concerns in many communities in Sherburne County in the 1920s.  Flames from a traveling locomotive, or from a poorly extinguished cigarette, or from arson all caused more than a little apprehension in Sherburne County.  The fear generated by an arsonist in Big Lake in 1925 was not an event any community wanted to experience.

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: