Sherburne History Center

Sherburne History Center
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Friday, April 5, 2019

On The Home Front: Victory Gardens

Victory Gardens seemed forever present beginning in 1942 and continuing into 1946 as World War Two impacted the civilian population of the United States. As a federal campaign declaring “food is fighting” the war, residents throughout Sherburne County took up the appeal to grow more food, and preserve more food, to help the war effort.

Pamphlets distributed by private companies and
the Federal govt. promoted the victory garden program 
“Every member of a well-fed farm family consumes $25 to $30 worth of vegetables and fruits every year,” Department of Agriculture agents claimed.  “A half to three-quarter acre garden will supply the needs of a family of six.”  The remaining produce grown on farms and small gardens throughout the county, and throughout the country, could be used in large cities and communities lacking the acreage to garden.

The surplus garden produce allowed the federal government to utilize commercially grown and canned vegetables for the war effort.  The federal government also suggested with enough victory gardens the railroads could stop transporting canned goods for family use. This way enhance transportation and shipping in support of the military machine.

In the community of Elk River, High School Principal Robert Handke developed a victory garden program.  Using school grounds to grow vegetables, he offered classes in the evening for city residents to learn the latest in food preservation practices. 

The Sherburne County Star News also provided advice for developing victory gardens.  “Food poisoning may lurk in the best-looking jar of meat, chicken or vegetables,” the newspaper warned.  “Don’t taste them until they have been brought to a good 15-minute boil.”

Growing and preserving food as part of the victory garden program provided every citizen an opportunity to contribute to the war effort.  The “food is fighting” program served a national role for local residents to participate in a program to win the war. 

Saturday, March 23, 2019

The USS Sherburne A Tribute to the County

As World War Two entered the fifth year of battles and bloodshed, a little-known event of some pride to the citizen of Sherburne County unfolded in the naval yards of California.  Although unreported in Sherburne County newspapers, on July 10, 1944, the Navy officially launched the cargo ship the USS Sherburne, (APA 250) named for Sherburne County, Minnesota. 

The Navy designed the Sherburne as a Haskell class transport ship, built to haul 1500 troops and their combat equipment to areas of the Pacific Theatre.  After its launching and shakedown exercises, the Sherburne sailed from California to Hawaii, and destinations throughout the Pacific. Her crew sailed to Guam and the Philippines before taking part in the Battle of Okinawa in May and June 1945.  The Sherburne ended the war in Yokohama, witnessing the surrender of Japan. 

As a Haskell class ship, the Sherburne was designed to move rapidly through ocean waters, relying on speed to avoid submarine attacks.  Armed with 40 mm and 20 mm guns provided the ship with defense against air attack. 

With the conclusion of the war, the Sherburne briefly served as part of operation Magic Carpet, to rapidly return troops to the United States.  By 1946 her service was transferred to the Maritime Administration until 1969.  That year the Navy recommissioned and refitted the Sherburne as a range instrumentation ship.  Renamed the USS Range Sentinel, she served until 2012 when she was scrapped. 

Although seemingly insignificant in the greater history of the war, the USS Sherburne served with some honor.  From the initial launching in 1944, until her scrapping in 2012 the ship gave the county a unique position of pride in twentieth century history.   The ship was recognized with a battle star for service in the assault on Okinawa.  With maximum speed over 17 knots, the crew of 500 officers and naval personnel hauled cargo of 1500 to the battle fronts of the Pacific Theatre in the final year of World War Two. One of only a few ships to continue service through the remainder of the century the simple cargo ship warrants greater recognition.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Bank's Business Strategy: Remember the Ladies

The 1915 Bank of Elk River Building located on
Jackson Street.  Although not visible, a side entrance to
 the bank led to the basement lounge for farm families and ladies

Recent efforts to map the Elk River business district provided some interesting results, not the least of these is the development of a ladies’ lounge in the Bank of Elk River basement.  Researching the lounge, shows the businessmen of Elk River very attuned to early 1900s marketing and customer service ideas.  Their efforts to recruit entire families shows an appreciation for a close-knit community.

Fire destroyed the business district of Elk River in April 1915.  The Bank of Elk River immediately developed plans for a new bank building. With the new construction on Jackson Street, the bank also introduced the idea of providing a “rest room for farmers wives and families.”  The idea being to provide “a place for farmers wives and families a place to rest and visit with one another.” 

The opulence of the new bank set a unique standard of excellence for the Bank of Elk River.  “The walls are a soft cream tint,” the Sherburne County Star news reported.  “the wood work in the beautiful cathedral oak.  The wainscoting and counters are Italian marble.”  The new building clearly intended to impress bank clients and customers. 

The lounge promised to be equally luxurious.  The lounge invited the ladies of Elk River and “every woman in the country” to enjoy the luxury of the rest room, while men conducted their business around town.  Electrical lighting, carpets, and comfortable chairs waited to greet every woman as she entered the space. 

The bank provided additional efforts to separate women from the unsavory aspects of business, providing them a separate entrance to the rest area.  The ladies never set foot in the bank to relax in the luxurious lounge. 

The Elk River fire in 1915 allowed the Bank of Elk River an opportunity to create a new image of themselves.  A financial institution interested in the comfort of the entire family, clearly a new strategy for banking and marketing.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Spring Forward and Save!

Daylight Savings Times becomes effective, this year (2019), in slightly more than one week.  Reviewing DST and the history seems appropriate to appreciate the experiment.  The idea originated more than 200 years ago, yet, came into common use with the beginning of World War One.  Even today it remains a confusing experiment in time.

Benjamin Franklin proposed a form of daylight savings time in 1784.  While touring France, he wrote an essay, “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light,” proposing Parisians could save the cost of candles if they were to rise from bed an hour earlier each day. Using natural light to start the work day would lead to significant savings.  Many readers regarded his suggestion as an attempt at humor and was not taken seriously. 
The start of World War One, Germany and her allies adopted a form of daylight savings time to save on the short supplies of coal and other fuels necessary for the war effort.  The United States adopted the Standard Time Act on March 3, 1918.  The idea of daylight savings was so offensive Congress ended the practice with the end of the war in November 1918.

The second war “to end all wars” witnessed the resumption of daylight savings.  Franklin Roosevelt ordered DST beginning February 9, 1942.  Known as “war time” the practice remained in place until September 1945.  In Sherburne County, the newspapers seemed neutral about this unique war sacrifice.  Daylight saving “will not mean so much of a saving this time of year,” the Sherburne County Star News commented in February 1942.  “It will make a big difference in mid-summer,” the paper suggested, “Sherburne county residents will see daylight at 10 pm in midsummer.”  

With the end of the war, DST also ended.  However, some states chose to keep the practice.  For twenty years, confusion of time seemed common. In 1966 the transportation industry insisted a consistent time standard be adopted.  Congress passed the Uniform Time Act of 1966, mandating daylight savings time beginning in 1967.  However, state options to reject, or expand, DST remain in place to this day.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Boosters Celebrate Sherburne County

Citizens may celebrate the birthday of Sherburne County, 163 years strong, on Monday 25 February.  Looking back on the original promotion and emigrant recruitment for the county reveals a very proud group of settlers.  

The Saint Paul Pioneer Press newspaper published an unsigned letter from an early settler of Sherburne County. 
Pierre Bottineau's cabin, one of the first
structures built in Sherburne County.
In later years the cabin abutted the
 Riverside Hotel
“At Elk River Station,” an 1868 letter writer suggested, “prosperity is at this time manifest.  A steam saw mill with the usual attachments for furnishing building material, is being built and will soon be in operation.  A new school house to cost two thousand dollars, is to be erected the present season.” 

The letter went on to describe a “people free from all bigotry and have no great partiality for any particular sect.”  The residents of Sherburne County supported education for their children and nearly guaranteed a dramatic growth in population.  Priced between four and eight dollars an acre, promoters promised land guaranteed to provide ample crops. 

As part of the efforts to promote Elk River and Sherburne County, a second letter described Elk river as “growing rapidly.”  The city housed “two first class hotels, at reasonable rates for both day and week board.”  From Elk River, “hundreds of men are to be seen daily, on their way to the pineries on Rum River and the Upper Mississippi.” 

After the legislative birth of Sherburne County, promoters of the community quickly developed a program to sell the county as new and exciting opportunity.  163 years later, Sherburne County continues to deliver exciting and new opportunities.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Update: Charlie Nogle at Pearl Harbor

Recently we published information concerning Elk River men stationed at Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.  We noted the newspaper’s lack of information about Charles Nogle, reportedly stationed at Guam, possibly captured or killed.  New information, with help from Nogle’s descendant Sandra Koppendrayer, allows us to provide an update: 

Actually stationed at Ewa Field, near Pearl Harbor, Marine Air Corps mechanic Charles Nogle witnessed and survived the attack on Hawaii.  A 1989 newspaper article published Nogle reminiscences about the day.  “At the time of the attack, I was a crew member on a DC-5 that out on the field.  We had two of them, and on December 7, one of the was in the overhaul hanger at Ford Island,” he said.  “Ironically, it was the only hanger building on Ford Island that was not hit, and that old bird never got a scratch on it.”

Nogle explained at the time of the attack he was caught wearing nothing but a towel, preparing to shower and head for liberty in Honolulu.  In the chaos that ensued, an officer ordered him to get dressed before joining the fight to protect Pearl Harbor.  He also remembered an anticipated invasion generated significant tension the following days.  An attack that never arrived.

To conclude the update: Charlie Nogle served throughout the war and returned home.  Elk River remained a residence for only a brief time after his return. 

Friday, February 1, 2019

In Consideration of Barns

A recent facebook post from the Stearns County History Center noted a variety of explanations for round barn architecture.  Although I am not too thoughtful, the article caused me to wonder the different why’s of barn construction.  Why are they round?  Why paint a barn red, or white?  What are the motives of a house barn? 

According to the Stearns County post, folklore suggested round barns were built so the devil could not hide in the corners.  More practically, round barns better withstood high winds, tornadoes, and other natural disasters.  In the end, technology eroded the popularity of round barns.  Loading silos and feeding cattle in a round barn proved more difficult than using a rectangular barn.  And, the expense of construction also discouraged the unique architecture of a round barn. 
Round barn located on the Perry Garner farm,
near Elk River, circa 1916

Economics also determined the color of a barn.  Several farmers suggested to me they painted barns red or white depending on the price of paint.  Still others mention that a homemade mixture of skimmed milk, lime, and red iron oxide created a long lasting, red tinted paint.  In addition, red barns may be warmer than white barns or unpainted barns.  The red hue absorbs heat in the winter time and makes for a warmer interior for the farm animals. 

Heat from the animals also plays a role in the construction of house barns.  Ole Rolvaag discussed house barn construction in his classic work, Giants of the Earth.  In his novel, Rolvaag makes clear, the heat generated by farm animals creates a more comfortable environment for a family sharing the same building.  Farmers utilized the house barn architecture for centuries in both Europe and the United States. 

As the Stearns County post suggests, barn construction is complex and at time very personal.  Yet the history of barn architecture provides significant consideration.