Sherburne History Center

Sherburne History Center
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Friday, January 26, 2018

Townships: The Political Building Blocks of Sherburne County

The development of Sherburne County and the political divisions are common questions.  When were specific townships created?  How was the county originally divided? 

The Minnesota Territorial Legislature created Sherburne County from the southern lands of Benton County in 1856.  This legislation designated Humboldt (later renamed Big Lake) as the county seat.  Special elections chose Elijah Cutter, John Stevenson, and Ephraim Nickerson the first County Commissioners.  The newly created county was divided into three assessment districts.  The county Commissioner, two years later, created the original five townships of Sherburne County.  On September 13, 1858, Baldwin, Big Lake, Clear Lake, Elk River, and Briggs Townships came into being.  Briggs Township was later renamed Palmer. 

Although this map is dated 1874, a significant error on this
township map is the omission of Blue Hill, created in 1868
yet not designated on this sheet.
Over time, six other townships developed.  The county drew lines for Livonia Township in 1866, Santiago Township on January 7, 1868, and Blue Hill Township May 5, 1868.  Becker became a township in 1871, Haven in 1872 and Orrock in 1875.  More than 100 years later, in 1978 Elk River Township and the City of Elk River consolidated and the township ceased to exist as a political division. 

Beyond the townships, the villages, towns and cities of Sherburne County continued to grow and develop.  Yet, for a large part of the history of Sherburne County, the basic unit of government, designated to provide for the residents of the area, remained the township.  Knowing their dates of creation is the first step in appreciating the history of Sherburne County.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Sensational Crime in Elk River: Bank Robbery of 1929

Although not the site of the 1929 bank robbery, the lobby
of the Bank of Elk River gives a sense of the security
and business atmosphere in the bank.
In the heyday of bank robberies and crime, the 1920s; in the time of Al Capone, Bonnie and Clyde, and a slew of other criminals; Elk River experienced what the Sherburne County Star News called “one of the most sensational crimes committed in Sherburne county.” 

In the morning of August 9, 1929, three bank robbers kidnapped Dr. George Page, his wife, Zella, and bank cashier, T. E. Olson.  While one bank robber held Mrs. Page hostage, the other two escorted Dr. Page and Mr. Olsen into the First National Bank of Elk River.  After entering the bank, Mr. Olsen announced the robbery.  Cashiers turned over $7200 to the robbers. 

After leaving the bank, the robbers retrieved their third member at the home of Dr. Page.  Surprisingly, the bandits did not confine their three hostages.  After the robbers left the Page house, Dr. Page noted the license plate and description of the getaway car.  The bank robbers fled to Birch Lake where they picked up a fourth accomplice, a woman by the name of Alice Hull.  The robbers then fled towards Princeton. 

The detour to Birch Lake gave police time to organize, identify the bank robbers and track them towards Zimmerman.  Mike Auspos and Earle Brown, both from the Minnesota Highway patrol, identified the bandits and engaged in a running gun battle with the bandits.  Brown managed to wound August Becker, the bandit driver, and forced the getaway car off the road where all four suspects were arrested.  Because of his wounds, Becker’s arm was later amputated.  

In their court hearings, all three of the men pled guilty to robbery and kidnapping.  They received life sentences in Stillwater Prison.  Alice Hull maintained her innocence in the episode.  She claimed to be an unwitting accomplice of the bank robbers; a young woman simply wanting to experience a “good time” with the three men.  

The outcome of her trial is not reported.  

Although a seemingly exciting episode on paper, the bank robbery in Elk River proved to be dangerous to innocent victims and the bank robbers themselves.  Those that suffered the most were the bank robbers.  And, the “good guys won” in the end.  Yet, the perceived excitement of a bank robbery and car chase quickly looses the romance factor when the dangers of the episode come to mind.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Orlando Bailey and Bailey Station Worthy of Historic Note

Bailey Station Depot circa 1910
A number of early pioneers, or settlers, of Sherburne County deserve recognition. Every few months we  notice one of these individuals.  Orlando Bailey, founder of Bailey Station, warrants recognition as an influential person in the settlement of Sherburne County. 

Born in Chautauqua, New York in 1820, he migrated to Sherburne County with his family in 1852.  He built a small farm five mile west of Elk River and developed a stage station and hotel.  The site later expanded into a railway station and still later a gas station.  Orlando Bailey founded a transportation site encompassing every form of locomotion for 150 years. 

After Orlando Bailey settled the area, he built (for the times) an elaborate hotel.  A 1944  family history written by his nephew Vernon Bailey, remembered Orlando Bailey and his home.  “We stayed for a time with Uncle Orlando in his big house, no longer used as a tavern, but roomy and pleasant with broad piazzas along two sides, a large laundry and woodshed at the rear and ample barns and stables for the stage horses and considerable stock of cattle and farm horses.”  By the time of Vernon Bailey’s stay at the Bailey Station, the railroad companies had bypassed Bailey Station.  Orlando Bailey and his son Albert, devoted their energies to farming.  “Uncle Orlando and his son Albert were both lovers of good horses and kept the best to be had for both heavy work and for fast driving teams,” Vernon remembered. 

In addition to settling and farming outside of Elk River, Orlando Bailey actively supported the community of Sherburne County.  For a time he served as County Sheriff, County Commissioner, Justice of the Peace, and Postmaster.  He also instilled the importance of public service to his children.  Orlando’s son, Albert, served 40 years as Sherburne County Probate Judge. 

Acknowledging some of the early pioneers of Sherburne County remains a goal of the Sherburne History Center.  His work to settle the area and his contributions to public service for the county, Orlando Bailey stands out as an early settler providing significant contributions to the early community of Sherburne County.