Sherburne History Center

Sherburne History Center
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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Camp Cozy Revisited

Photo of Camp Cozy dated approximately 1938
 courtesy of LeeAnn Watzke
Camp Cozy, Elk River experienced several different lives as a resort and gathering place in Elk River.  Originally created as a resort for overnight guests and campground, many regarded Camp Cozy as a technological marvel.  In 1925 A. W. and J. B. Jesperson created a series of canals and flues allowing canoes to float over and around, up and down the Elk River.  Unfortunately, their resort failed with the economic downturn of the depression. 

Late in the 1930s a bar/dance hall/ roller skating rink, and fast food joint reopened at Camp Cozy.  This gathering place for Elk River residents kept the city entertained for nearly twenty years before portions of the resort burned and the remainder sold.  Yet, Camp Cozy held a distinctive position in the history of Elk River keeping visitors and city residents entertained for many years.  
 
While researching Camp Cozy, the lack of information became terribly apparent.  If anyone would like to share photos, or memories of Camp Cozy, please contact the Sherburne History Center.  We would like to hear from you.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Politics in Farming Ever Present in Sherburne County

Action in politics and serious lobby efforts remains an unappreciated yet constant presence in the lives of farmers in Minnesota.  A reminder of this omnipresent activity appeared in the pages of the Sherburne County Star News in June of 1927.    

The newspaper reported nearly 5000 attended the Farm Bureau picnic held on June 7,  at Eagle Lake.  According to the paper, Farm Bureau President J. F. Reed addressed the large crowd and “illustrated the numerous ways” the Farm Bureau and local farmers helped each other. The overall message at the picnic revolved around the value of the Farm Bureau Federation and how the organized farmers produced “favorable legislation in the state legislature,”   

Aside from the politics of the day, the local picnic committee created a number of events and contests to entertain the crowd.  The committee consisted of J. J. Stumvoll, C. C. Dawson, guy LaPlant, Carl Bender and O. E. Tincher.  The contests included: a hog calling contest, won by S. F. Seeley; a chicken calling contest won by Mr. George Rush; and a dinner calling contest won by Mrs. Joe Weis.  The committee seemed determined to recognize and award as many people as possible at the picnic.  Recognition at the day’s events included: girl with the prettiest red hair went to Inga Olson of Santiago, largest family in attendance went to the Ed T. Cox family.  He brought 11 children to the festivities.  The longest resident was Henry Orrock of Santiago and the tallest woman prize was given to Mrs. John Lindquist of Becker.


Through all of the contests and enjoyment, at the end of the day, the purpose of the picnic remained political activism in Minnesota.  The late 1920s were difficult economic times for farmers in Minnesota.  Picnics and gatherings similar to the Farm Bureau picnic were important tools for lobby efforts to the state legislature. The picnic reminded county residents the strength of unity within the community.

Friday, August 4, 2017

More Crime In Sherburne County

Paddy wagon in front of St. Cloud Reformatory, circa 1920
Improved roads and new automobiles delivered an unwanted result to Sherburne County in the 1920s.  Crime flourished in the area.  Perhaps the high point of the 1920s county crime spree occurred in 1927. 

That year, a bandit gang of five men terrorized communities on the outskirts of Minneapolis.  Led by Frank “Slim” Gibson, the crew included Jack and Lester Northrup, and Ralph and Lester Barge.  In a crime spree expanding beyond Sherburne County, all the way to North Dakota, the men robbed banks and burglarized businesses.  The intrepid police work of Sherburne County officers led to their capture and prison sentences. 

Beginning in 1926, the outlaw crew robbed merchants and banks throughout central Minnesota and North Dakota.  In November 1926 the gang robbed the bank in Wheelock, North Dakota.  Frank Gibson murdered bank cashier H. H. Peterson.  Continuing into 1927, the gangsters robbed the Stanchfield State Bank in addition to banks in Delano, Grandy, and Hamel.  They also attempted, and failed, to rob the Brunswick, Minnesota bank three times. 

As the bank robberies provided limited success, the gang turned to burglarizing local merchants.  The five men stole over $1000 of silk from Mattson’s store in Braham, Minnesota.   The gang reveled their vicious nature with a burglary in Isanti, on December 21, 1926.  That night the man attempted to break into a warehouse in Isanti.  Discovered by town Marshall, Frank Dahlin, gunshots were traded.  Marshall Dahlin died from two gunshot wounds to the chest.  On April 28, 1927, the gang attempted another robbery in Isanti.  The gang handcuffed gas station attendant Gus Peterson to a post and shot him.  Luckily, Peterson survived his wounds.

Only two weeks later the gang attempted to steal tires from a warehouse in Zimmerman.  Police intercepted the two cars driven by the thieves heading south toward Elk River.  A running gun battle stretched to Anoka. The first car, containing Jack and Lester Northrup, was forced into a ditch.  They fled into the nearby woods and were later captured.

Deputy Sherriff Mike Auspos chased the second of the cars to near Anoka, trading gunshots with the gangsters as they drove.  As the gun battle neared Anoka, Officer Auspos ran out of ammunition and was forced to give up the chase.

After their capture, the Northrup brothers confessed their crimes and identified the other three members of the gang.  Police arrested Gibson and the Barge brothers in Minneapolis.  Gibson and Jack Northrup received life sentences in the Stillwater prison for the murder of Marshall Dahlin.  The other three received lesser sentences at the St. Cloud Reformatory for their involvement in the Zimmerman robberies.  When they fulfilled their sentences for burglary, the Isanti District Attorney promised to pursue the greater charge of attempted murder of Gus Peterson.

Ten years later, Frank Gibson again appeared in the news.  June 1936, the state transported Gibson to St. Peter for a psychological evaluation.  While there, he and 15 other convicts escaped.  Gibson remained the only prisoner to avoid immediate capture.  In January 1937, Gibson was identified as one of eight men killed in a train accident in California.

The careers of these bumbling and violent criminals ended through the bravery and hard work of Sherburne County police.  The state carried out quick arrests and convictions through hard work of men such as Deputy Sheriff Mike Auspos.