Sherburne History Center

Sherburne History Center
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Friday, December 8, 2017

Sherburne County Faces Challenges in 1920s

The 1920s proved a challenging decade for Sherburne County.  The period seemed particularly tough in the community of Clear Lake.  Coupling crime and economic challenges presented significant difficulties.  The tenacity of business owners and residents kept the village moving forward.  Examples, such as the history of Frank Hankemeyer and his general merchandise store reveal the resolve of character in the local residents.  Despite the challenges of the decade, the persistence of men and women like Frank Hankemeyer reinforce the character of the community. 

The county newspaper, the Sherburne County Star News, suggest the 1920s a crime riddled era for Clear Lake. The news regularly reported businesses burglarized and hold-ups in the small town.  Thieves burglarized the local creamery.  In broad daylight, bandits robbed Joseph LeBlanc’s general store at gun point.  The newspaper regularly reported thefts of livestock and burglaries.  The Clear Lake crime wave culminated with the arrest and conviction of the school district Treasurer for embezzlement in 1933. 

Hankemeyer General Store, circa 1910, Clear Lake

Perhaps the greatest challenges presented, fell in the lap of Frank Hankemeyer.  In the 1920s, the newspaper reported, thieves robbed Hankemeyer’s store nine times.  Located on the main street of Clear Lake, thieves regularly pried open a side door and burglarized Hankemeyer’s in the dark of night.  During a burglary in 1928, the Star News reported, thieves helped themselves to approximately $500 of merchandise.  After ransacking the store, they broke open a gas pump and fueled up the getaway car before leaving the scene.

The ultimate challenge to Hankemeyer’s presented itself three months later, in November 1928.  A fire erupted in the building, causing more than $30,000 in damages.  Although insured for only $17,000, Hankemeyer resolved to rebuild and reopen.  He overcame the challenges of crime and fire to become a long-time fixture in Clear Lake.  Hankemeyer’s store remained in place into the 1950s.

Hankemeyer’s general store reflects the tenacity and resolve exhibited throughout Sherburne County history.  An insistence to flourish in spite of the many challenges put in front of the community.  In spite of crime, fire, natural disasters, or economic challenges, Sherburne County residents continuously reveal their persistence in moving Sherburne County forward.

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