Sherburne History Center

Sherburne History Center
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Friday, September 15, 2017

More Tales of Prohibition in Sherburne County

Although not found in Sherburne County, this photograph
illustrates the equipment needed to create moonshine.
A news report in the pages of the Sherburne County Star News provides entertainment and also highlights the challenges police faced enforcing the 1920s prohibition laws.

The Sherburne County Star News reported in February 1929 of a burglary at the county jail.  “It is not often that anyone cares to break into jail,” the paper wrote. 

The cause of the “jail break-in” began several days earlier.  Saturday night, February 9, 1929, Sherburne County police arrested an unidentified bootlegger.  Police caught the man transporting 120 quart bottles of whiskey from Fargo, North Dakota to Minneapolis. 

After a weekend in jail, the man pled guilty to bootlegging.  He paid the $240 fine and left the county.  The whiskey remained in the county jail waiting disposal.  Tuesday night, 12 February, an unknown thief broke into the jail and removed all 120 quart bottles.  The police speculated the bootlegger returned for the whiskey.  Tracks around the jail suggest the thief used a truck to hauled away the alcohol.  By the time of the discovery Wednesday morning, police theorized, the bootlegger completed his delivery and the alcohol distributed on the streets of Minneapolis. 


In addition to being an interesting story, the reports of bootleggers breaking into jail highlights the monetary value of bootleg whiskey and suggests why prohibition failed and was repealed in 1933.   

Friday, September 8, 2017

Airplanes Soar Through Sherburne County

Airplanes, literally and figuratively, soared through Sherburne County in the 1920s.  The magical technology of flight sparked the imaginations of more and more Sherburne county residents as the decade proceeded.   In 1928, the fascination with airplanes culminated at the Christmas celebration in Elk River. 
A group of young ladies admire 1920s aircraft
 in Orrock Township 

Beginning with the post war period, Sherburne County held a fascination with airplanes.  As early as October 1919, the Sherburne County Star News reported on deliveries to Elk River merchants via air transport. 

Interest grew until August 1927, a race and good will tour passed over Elk River.  At that event, letters addressed to Elk River Mayor Beck dropped from planes, requesting city leaders place signage on the highest building in town.  During the race pilots used the signage as a navigation tool.  Still later in the year, an aerial circus performed above Elk River.  Wing walker and acrobat George Babcock, performed a variety of feats, including hanging from the plane “by his knees, hands and teeth,” the paper reported.
 
With an appetite for airplane technology, Elk River entered enthusiastically welcomed 1928.  Early in the year, local businessmen explored plans to develop an aircraft assembly plant.  In February, construction of a Curtiss Bi-plane began in an undeveloped, yet planned, airplane landing field west of Elk River.  Although the construction plant never came to fruition, the Elk River dedicated the airfield in May 1928. 

For the people of Elk River and Sherburne, the high point of air transportation in 1928 arrived in December.  “The scream of the fire siren and the roar of the big creamery whistle announced the coming of Santa Claus in his first flying visit to Elk River” the newspaper reported.  Just two weeks before Christmas, the Elk River Commercial Club arranged for Santa’s visit.  A plane from Robbinsdale flew to the headquarters of Santa Claus, the paper reported, to deliver him to Elk River. 


Although never able to capitalize on the business and technology in airplanes, Elk River and Sherburne County maintained an interest in airplanes and flight into the 1930s and through the Second World War.  Yet, interest seemed at the high point in the magical year of 1928 when plans for the city and dreams of aeronautical development soared.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Tuberculosis An Epidemic in Sherburne County

With the reported end of Minnesota measles outbreaks; and school beginning (where most children receive inoculations) I think of the multitude of epidemics and diseases that have plagued Sherburne County.

Tuberculosis, although generally not associated with epidemic disease; in the early 1900s the “white plague” caused significant worry in households throughout the United States.  Sherburne County suffered a share of panic and death from the disease.  An example of the concern and worry about the disease appeared in the local newspapers in December of 1928. 

In 1928 a vaccine for tuberculosis remained in experimental stages.  The American Lung Association carried out a fundraising campaign to cover research costs and patient treatment.  Part of the campaign included selling Christmas Seals in communities throughout the United States.  Locally, to promote the campaign and sell the Christmas seals, the Sherburne County Star News personalized the disease, reporting 5 terminal cases of Tuberculosis in the county.  The report promoted the Christmas Seals program seeking a cure and an end to the epidemic disease. 

A second promotional campaign consisted of information distribution.  A popular flyer from the Lung Association, handed out by the County Board of Health, reminded citizens that spitting in public spread Tuberculosis.  The front page of the flyer reminded people not to spit in public.  The reverse emphasized the health concern, “Do your bit, don’t spit.”  

Tuberculosis is also referred to as the white plague, consumption, or simply TB.  Most prevalent in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the symptoms most patients included a persistent cough and physically wasting away.  Doctors found the disease difficult to diagnose until patients were in a terminal stage.  “Minnesota now has more than 14,000 active cases,” the 1928 newspaper reported.  “Many of these are not even suspected as yet by the persons themselves, who are each day lessening their chances for recovery and spreading the disease to members of their families.”


Although the medical community developed a vaccine in 1906, the post-World War Two generation experienced the first mass immunization against the disease.  The 1928 Sherburne County reports possibly marked the highpoint of epidemic tuberculosis.  The fear in every household seemed a legitimate concern.  As the newspaper reported, even in Sherburne County “No home is safe from tuberculosis until all homes are safe.”