Sherburne History Center

Sherburne History Center
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Thursday, December 10, 2015

John Earl Putnam—Pioneer and Public Servant

John Putnam deserves sainthood.  

Okay, that may be an overstatement, yet, here is a man that devoted his entire life to the development and improvement of Sherburne County.  His contributions to Sherburne County need to be recognized.  Born 10 November 1826, he moved to Big Lake, Sherburne County in 1855 where he lived until his death on 3 October 1899.  

Putnam was one of the first settlers around Humboldt, the community known today as Big Lake.  

In the forty four years he lived in Big Lake he held just about every possible elected office and public servant station in the county.  He was county clerk, Register of Deeds, County Auditor, first Clerk of the Court, Probate Judge, and County Commissioner.  He also served in a variety of offices in the City of Big Lake and for the local School District.  As a staunch supporter of the Republican Party, he was appointed Postmaster in 1861 and held the job almost continuously until 1898.  The one gap in his service of Postmaster was during a small portion of the Grover Cleveland presidency.  

Education was an important consideration for Putnam.  He provided the land and housing for the first school in Big Lake Township.  

Putnam retired from public service because of his failing health in 1898, one year before his death.  

His death brought out a huge group of mourners.  And recognizing the beauty of Sherburne County, he requested his funeral be held in the front yard of his home.  Nestled under a canopy of trees, Reverend Williams from the Union church conducted service in what Putnam described as “God’s first Temple.”   After the services, John Earl Putnam was buried in the community that he loved, in Big Lake City Cemetery. 
Although sainthood may be a bit of a stretch, John Earl Putnam was significant to the growth and development of Sherburne County.  His contributions need to be recognized.

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