Sherburne History Center

Sherburne History Center
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Saturday, July 31, 2021

Somewhere in France


An interesting collection arrived at the Sherburne History Center in recent weeks.  A wonderful collection of letters from George Bostrom to his family members living here in Sherburne County.  Particularly interesting, the bulk these letters came from France during World War One.  George’s letters document the different training camps and finally his stations “somewhere in France”.  The letters begin in 1918 and continue through 1920.  In letters to his family George documents everything from experiencing bombings at the front, to the price of chocolate.  Also interesting, he provides the exchange rate from American dollars to French francs.  From his letters we know, a 12-ounce chocolate bars cost anywhere from thirty cents to sixty cents.

Letterhead from the Knights of Columbus.  
George Bostrom used this, as well as letterhead 
provided by the YMCA, to write letters home

In a letter written the day before the Armistice, George provides a sense of life in the Army and the excitement about the coming end of the war:

Nov.10, 1918

Dear brother,

I am now in the third camp since landing here.  It is also the best one I’ve been in on this side of the water. One of the things contributing to this is that we have no guard duty, K.P., or detail work.


Today the papers tell us that the Kaiser has abdicated and the long-looked for revolution has begun in Germany.  Naturally this is news that must bring joy to people in all the allied nations, or it cannot but be an indication that the end of the war is not far away. 


This collection may provide fascinating details as we fully examine it for information about the first war “to end all wars.”  As we can examine these letters more, we will provide greater details about George Bostrom and his service to the United States.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Another Year For The Sherburne County Fair


This week is county fair week.  Give or take a few years, we need to note the 132 years of the annual meeting.  Each year, an opportunity presents itself for county farmers and future farmer to gather and share ideas for improved farming.  This gathering also gives them all an opportunity for bragging rights for their own farming prowess.

An early fair exhibit in
Meadowvale, circa 1900

So, we need to look back at the first meeting of county farmers at the fairs held in Meadowvale.  Starting in 1889, framers would meet for one day in November with the harvest complete and time to explore new ideas and techniques.

Then, starting in 1915, the fair moved into Elk River.  First at a location near the corner of today’s Jackson Street and Highway 10.  Later, the fair site moved to land bordering the Mississippi River.  Finally, in 1957, the fair located to the present site on Joplin Street on the western outskirts of Elk River.  The length of the fair also continues to expand.  From the one-day event of 1889 to the four days in 2021, with so much to see, the fair exhibits demand some time to take it all in.

Post 1916 fairgrounds near the Mississippi River
Although the fair location and duration changed from time to time, the basic goal of sharing information and providing an educational opportunity, remains the same.  The exhibits presented by local farmers and 4-H groups provide an abundance of skill to be appreciated. 

Be sure to enjoy the Sherburne County Fair.  Here is an opportunity to celebrate the farming heritage that is so much a part of the character of Sherburne County.

Friday, July 2, 2021

Celebrating the Fourth of July in an Earlier Decade


With the Fourth of July weekend upon us, local historians inevitably ask: how did we celebrate so many years ago?  Has it always been loud fireworks and excessive drink?  The answer to these questions remains a definitive yes and no.  Depending on the year and the location, the fourth of July celebration in Sherburne County has been both loud and raucous, and other times silent and sedate. 

Veteran's Memorial at
Sherburne History Center
Using newspapers as the source, in the decade of the 1890s, often town baseball remained the highlight of a July Fourth celebration.  The newspapers routinely reported of tournaments pitting Elk River nines against Rogers, Monticello, or other local teams.  With the end of nine innings a watermelon feast marked the culmination of the celebration. 

During the decade, livelier celebrations also took place.  In 1893, the newspapers advertised river excursions on the Mississippi River.  The steamer “Louise” offered hour long boat trips on the river at the low price of twenty-five cents per person.  Three years later, the Sherburne County Star News reported the cancellation of annual blueberry parties due to the shortage of blueberries in 1896.  Still, three years later, in 1899, the residents of Elk River’s upper town neighborhoods marked the Fourth of July with the purchase of a cannon.  This ultimate noise maker “ushered in the glorious fourth and disturbed the slumbers of the community.”

Apparently, the fire works never change.  The timing of the blasts varied from time to time.