Betty Belanger’s was a historian. She retired as a nurse from Cambridge Hospital. Yet, her avocation involved documenting the lives and histories of Sherburne County and the Hungarian immigrant families around Elk River. Her research culminated with From Dairy Farms to Gravel Pits: A History of Sherburne County’s Hungarian Community. She documented the lives of the many Hungarian immigrants coming to Sherburne County.
The introduction noted without her work “the stories and struggles” of these early settlers “would have faded into the past, leaving behind few traces.” Although the statement may seem overly dramatic, it is accurate. Without Betty Belanger, much about the Hungarian settlement in Elk River would have died.
Betty Belanger avoided branding the first arrival, or the latest, most vital of events. Instead her history carefully cataloged the challenges facing early Hungarian immigrants. She explored the role of the Church in the community. She noted celebrations and families. Then, beginning with the family of Rose Fazekas, Betty Belanger devoted individual chapters to many of the families settling in Elk River and Sherburne County.
Betty Belanger was definitely a historian. In honor of Women’s History month, I wanted to offer belated, and overdue, recognition of her work. Betty Belanger was a gifted historian and an intrepid researcher.