Sherburne History Center

Sherburne History Center
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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Obituaries and Death Notices: Making the Distinction

On the SHC website we offer “look ups” for both obituaries and death notices.   Requests for these look ups arrived in the past few weeks.  Concerned that researchers do not make the distinction between obits and death notices, maybe we need to note the difference.  When you search for death information, you know the difference and anticipate results.
Content provides a distinction between obits and death notices.  A death notice is a straight forward announcement of death.  Printed details include the name, date of death, and possibly some distinguishing feature of the individual.  In the early newspapers of Sherburne County, death notices can be found anywhere in the pages.  Often, small paragraphs are printed in the local news columns.
In contrast to the death notice, surviving family members help write obituaries.  They are longer than death notes, and they are much more personalized.  Date of birth; date of death; cause of death; names of survivors; and a brief biography all may be included in an obituary.

A date of death will distinguish between an obituary and a death notice.  Sherburne County newspapers did not generally publish obituaries until the mid-1910s or early 1920s.  I think the earliest obituary I have found was published in 1910.  Researching an individual, dead in 1894 in Becker, may have a death notice printed in the Sherburne County Star News in Elk River, but certainly not an obituary.

Another feature that distinguishes an obituary from a death notice: surviving family members pay for obituaries.  As you research Sherburne County, consider the financial state of the family.  Would a bachelor uncle, living on rented land and dying alone have an obituary published in the local news pages?  Probably not.
A notable exception to the obit versus death notice discussion: prominent residents may receive a news column announcing their death; an honor reserved for the most prominent of community residents.  The news story is a significant exception to death announcements of any kind in the local newspapers.  

As you conduct your research make a note of the differences between death notices and obituaries.  These distinctions may save you time, money, and confusion as your research progresses.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Ray Clement, Ella Kringland and Sand Dunes State Forest

A conservationist described the Sand Dunes State Forest as “A green dream come true.”  An area recovered from desolate, sandy soil to “a nature lover’s dream.”  An area in Orrock Township, at one time regarded as decent farmland.  With the coming drought in the 1930s the land became a farmer’s nightmare.  By 1940, farmers and Sherburne County residents described the land in Orrock Township as a wasteland, the epicenter of the poison ivy capital of the world, and the home of Zimmerman sand.  The land was so bad “the jack rabbits carried lunch bags as they hopped over the area.”

Beginning in 1943, a transformation took hold and the resurrection of tillable land came about.  In no small part, this dramatic change resulted from efforts by Ray Clement, the Minnesota Forest Service and County conservationist Ella Kringland.    Farmers abandoned land or surrendered to tax forfeiture.   Clement petitioned the state legislature to set aside part of this Orrock Township land and plant trees as part of a restoration plan.
Ella Kringland, from SHC photo collections:

Legislative action in 1943 resulted in the creation of Sand Dunes State Forest.   4-H members, the Issac Walton League, sportsmans’ clubs, the county commission, and a number of other volunteers helped plant trees in the new state space.  Slowly, the Sand Dune State Forest was changed from wasteland to forest.  After Clement’s lobbying work, volunteers organized by Ella Kringland planted trees.  Ella is credited with organizing groups to plant 3 million trees in the Sand Dunes State Forest.

In a brief autobiography, Ella explained the dramatic planting as a result of automation.  “A tree planting machine can easily plant more than 1,000 seedlings per hour,” she wrote.  “In 1945, 25,000 evergreen seedlings were planted by machine on thirteen acres.” 

Each year Ella organized planting projects for the state forest.  Until her retirement in 1967, Ella Kringland led the charge to plant Norway Pine, Jack Pine, White Pine and Red and White Cedar in the sandy soil.  Before the efforts of Kringland and her army of volunteers, the area around Orrock Township was described as “Mother Nature’s game of real estate transfer.”  The planted trees slowly established themselves and held the sandy soil.  Clement’s, Kringland’s, and other conservationists’ efforts made Sand Dunes State Forest the “green dream come true.”


Monday, July 6, 2015

Davis Brothers Promotional Materia

Working in the Archival collections this morning, I came across this postcard from the Davis Brothers store in Elk River.  From the collection, it appears Davis Brothers issued a series of postcards for each month in 1911 and 1912.  No doubt mass produced, the post cards highlight the efforts of local businesses to promote themselves. 

Unfortunately, we do not have a great deal of information about Davis Brothers in Elk River.  Andrew Davis created the mercantile.  He first worked with H. H. Wheaton.  Later he joined partnership with H. J. Heebner.  The fire of 1902 destroyed the company.  Out of the ashes, Davis built the mercantile that became Davis Bros.  He led the company until his death in 1922.

In addition to the promotional cards, two undated photos in the collection illustrate business growth for Davis Bros.  The first is the actual store, the photo most likely is dated around 1910.  The second photo shows Davis Bros. delivery truck, dated in the late 1920s.


Like so many small businesses, scattered, unrelated materials document the existence of the business.