Sherburne History Center

Sherburne History Center
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Saturday, June 19, 2021

Recognizing Another Central Minnesota Hero

Occasionally, we recognize veterans and their actions during the wars of the 20th century.  The actions of Jack Bade, Frances Beck, and Charlie Brown have all been documented on these blog pages.  We need to expand the borders of Sherburne County to acknowledge the bravery of another young man from central Minnesota.  

Loading Bombs during WW II

In 1943, Malcom H Trombley, from Rogers, served in the United State Army.  As a private, he worked as part of an armament crew.  The crew loaded bombs into planes in the China-Burma-India theatre of World War Two.   

The newspapers noted his bravery in service when he rescued his entire loading crew from near disaster.  According to the newspaper reports, a crew member noticed a burning fuse on a bomb as the crew loaded it into a plane.  The entire crew ran for cover, fully expecting to die in coming second.  Trombley bravely removed the fuse from the bomb and threw it in the air just as it exploded. 

Although never recognized from the Army, Trombley’s crew mates acknowledged his courage.  A notice posted on a bulletin board in crew barracks read: “Private Trombley—who in the face of grave danger to himself, did on April 6, 1943, remove from a demolition bomb the tail fuse, which had been made live.” 

The notice went on to say, “We the guys who came so close to saying ‘hello’ to St. Peter, offer Private Trombley our thanks and are sorry we don’t have the power to award him a medal appropriate to the bravery displayed.” 

With the end of the war, Private Trombley returned to central Minnesota and a quiet life.  Little mention of any of the brave actions he took during his years in service.  Yet, a tradition of recognizing veterans of the World Wars remains an important feature of many blogs posts and social media that we happily join. 

Saturday, June 12, 2021

National Ballpoint Pen Day: Memorable in More Ways Than One


Just a sampling of advertising ballpoint pens
 in the SHC collections
This past week we failed to recognize National Ballpoint Pen Day (June 10).  In an effort to rectify this gross oversight, today we note the significance of this significant invention and the impact on local history.

Patented in 1888 in Argentina, the ballpoint pen slowly spread throughout the world.  On June 10, 1943, the international patent was filed with the United States Patent Office.  Today the ballpoint pen sells more than 57 pens per second throughout the world.  It is also the most widely used writing instrument in the world.  It’s design simply puts a steel ball at the tip of a tube of ink.  The rolling steel ball regulates the flow of ink for an even application to paper.

An ingenious design, the inventors and early marketers overlooked a valuable sidelight of the pen as a marketing tool.  Today, a multitude of pens carry advertising for businesses throughout the world.  With the ballpoint pen, the evolution of business and marketing can be followed.

The Northern States Power Company
pen used as a promotional tool

In the case of Sherburne County, in the collections of the Sherburne History Center a variety of pens document business in the county.  In the collection we have pens from gas stations, such as Charlie Brown’s Shell in Elk River.  We have a pen to help document Northern States Power Company.  Pens from Sherburne State Bank and AgStar Farm Credit Services help record the history of financial institutions in the county. 

National Ballpoint Pen Day recognizes a significant invention in the world.  Equally important, the ballpoint pen provides unique tools to document business and history on the local level.  Happy National Ballpoint Pen Day!

Friday, June 4, 2021

Be Sure to Commemorate National Donut Day

I just now posted on facebook a photo to commemorate National Donut Day.  Although the day sounds like a frivolous marketing tool for the baking industry, in reality it does have a serious, memorable component.  The celebration began in Chicago in 1938 to honor the members of the Salvation Army, particularly, women that handed out donuts to soldiers during World War One. The Salvation Army also hoped to use the day as a fundraiser to help people in need caused by the crisis of the Depression.  The celebration continues on the first Friday in June.  So, with that in mind, we want to honor NATIONAL DONUT DAY!  Here is a photo of one of the more famous of Sherburne County Bakers: Bake Anderson in his shop in Elk River.


Friday, May 21, 2021

National Register Sites in Sherburne County

View of Fox House in its original condition

With May being National Historic Preservation Month, it seems appropriate to talk about one of the five National Register sites in Sherburne County.  The most obscure and underappreciated of the sites must be the Herbert Maximillian Fox House.  So, we need to look at this structure to appreciate the impact and influence the site provides. 

 The original owner and builder of the Fox House remains unknown.  Before Herbert Fox, Ole Martinson purchased an 80-acre parcel along the St Francis River.  He later sold the parcel to Samuel P. Glidden, who in turn sold it to Fox.  With these transactions, the farm site grew to 160 acres.  Sometime before Fox purchased the property, Glidden or Martinson built the house.

The house construction makes the site unique.  All of the original slates on the house were vertical, and load bearing.  There remains very little horizontal construction in the original house.  This type of construction, for a time, signaled a New England influence.  The Fox House maybe the only example of this construction in Minnesota. 

Fox House post move to SHC

Originally located on property of the Sherburne Wildlife Refuge, to save the house, it was moved to the site of the Sherburne History Center.  When SHC moved to its present location, the Fox House was also moved.  In spite of these disruptions, the integrity of the original structure remained intact.  Efforts to preserve this unique construction caused the renovators to envelope the house with horizontal wood slats.  Select locations around the house provide insight to the original construction. 

Today, the house remains on the property of the Sherburne History Center, continuing to document the influence of New England emigration to Minnesota.  Providing yet another example of the importance of Historic Preservation and reasons to commemorate National Historic Preservation Month. 

As a minor footnote, the other four National Register sites in Sherburne County are: The Elkhi Stadium in Elk River, the 1920 water tower in Elk river, the Oliver Kelley Farm in Elk River, and the Minnesota State Reformatory for Men Historic District near St Cloud.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Maybe Minnesota Poet Laureate

To commemorate National Poetry Month, we need to recognize the apparent first Minnesota Poet Laureate, Margarette Ball Dickson.

Born in Iowa, she earned a B.A. Iowa State Teachers College, an MA from the University of South Dakota.  She also studied for a time at the University of Iowa and the University of Chicago.  She then taught at a variety of different schools before she settled in Staples, Minnesota and founded the Dickson-Haining School of Creative Writing.  She served as editor for a variety of different magazines.  She also cofounded the League of Minnesota Poets.  For her work, in 1938, she received the Rockefeller Center Gold Medal award.

In 1934 the Washington, D.C. based Poet Laureate League named her Minnesota Poet Laureate.  She held the title until 1961, just two years before her death.  At times, the title of Minnesota Poet Laureate lacked official state designation.  The Minnesota government refused to pass legislation recognizing the title until 2007.  At that time, Robert Bly received the honor from Governor Tim Pawlenty.  The current title belongs to Joyce Sutphen, who received the title in 2011.


Saturday, April 10, 2021

Sinclair Lewis and His Impact in Sherburne County

More than a bit of folklore suggests Sinclair Lewis spent some time in Sherburne County, visiting family and, more importantly, writing.  So, we have to sit, contemplate this lore, and consider any impact Lewis may have had on the area. 

The first book published by Lewis, under the pseudonym Tom Graham, Hike and the Aeroplane marked the beginning of a significant career.  Part of the folklore maintains that after the publication of his book Main Street he was ostracized.  He never set foot in Sauk Centre again.  However, family members owned property and lived in west Sherburne County.   

In addition to Main Street, he went on to publish Babbitt, Elmer Gantry, and a host of other works.  He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1930.  The first writer in the United States to win the award.  Perhaps most insightful, his 1935 publication of It Can’t Happen Here explores events after a fascist wins the Presidential election.  He died at age 65 in Rome, Italy.  Yet, his writing career seemed prolific and impactful.

Because his life and travels remain difficult to track, the folklore of Sinclair Lewis visiting and staying in Sherburne County remains just that: folklore.  Yet, we must wonder, with Lewis growing up in Sauk Centre, his extended family living in Sherburne County; did Sinclair Lewis influence the character and history of Sherburne County?

Friday, March 26, 2021

Women and High School Basketball 1920's Style

Although, individually unidentified, the 1921
Elk River Women's Basketball Team included:
Rosie Roggatz, Maria Taplin, Esther Cornelius,
Althea Gould, Evelyn Bressler, and Agatha McBride
Fifty years before the federal mandate known as Title IX, sports for high school women seemed the norm in areas around Sherburne County.  With the conclusion of Women’s History Month, it seemed appropriate to acknowledge an earlier generation of female athletes competing in the high schools.

Referencing the earliest yearbooks available in the collections of the Sherburne History Center, the Elk River High School Women’s Basketball Team stands proud in 1921 and 1922.  Unfortunately, their record seemed less than stellar. In 1921 they posted a 1 and 4 record, and in 1922 their record ended at 2 and 4.  The simple fact that they played remains the important detail.  Not only Elk River, but Buffalo, Princeton, Anoka, and Monticello all organized women’s basketball teams. 

Central Minnesota High Schools presented some forward-thinking opportunities in the 1920s.  Years before federal law prohibited gender discrimination in high school sports, Elk River and others provided equal opportunity.

The 1922 team included: back row l to r: 
Agatha McBride, forward; Evelyn Bernard, Guard; 
Dorothy Leffingwell, forward; Leah Scoville,
Guard.  front row l to r: Mable Kaliher, Guard;
Grace Johanning, Jumping Center; Esther Cornelius,
forward and Capt.; and Elizabeth Nickerson; 
running center.