Saturday, November 26, 2011

Fair a Success!

From the Pine City Pioneer, September 22, 1911:

The Twenty-fourth Annual Fair a Grand Success in Every Department

The Pine County Fair Association has just closed one of the most successful fairs in the history of the association and the management is to be congratulated in furnishing to the visitors such a high class fair, both entertaining and instructive. The success of the twenty-fourth annual fair can be largely accredited to the untiring efforts of Secretary H.W. Harte and President J.Y. Breckenridge.

The exhibits in all the departments were the best ever seen in Pine county, or in fact in this part of the state. The exhibits from the towns in the northern part of the county are deserving of special mention, especially those from Hinckley, Sandstone, Kerrick, Bruno, Willow River and Sturgeon Lake show that the soil of Pine county, that at one time was considered worthless for farming, produces as good crops as can be found anywhere in the state. It has always been supposed that it was too cold to raise fruit in this part of the state, but to see the fruit exhibited at the fair grounds would convince the most skeptical that such is not the case, as the quality of fruit exhibited would compare favorably with any seen at the state fair.

An exhibit of Hinckley strawberries at the 1904 Pine County Fair

The exhibit of S.B. Wells of corn and wheat, which took the first premium at the state fair was on exhibition but not entered for a premium, attracted a great deal of attention, as it was exhibited in a show case in the large tent that held the exhibits from the northern part of the county. The exhibit of Iver Stumne, in a show case in the same tent, of Indian relics found on his farm at Pokegama lake was exceedingly fine, and was looked at with interest by the fair visitors.

The live stock exhibits were the finest ever seen in this part of the state and shows conclusively that our farmers have found that it pays to keep good stock. The dairy herds exhibited show that Pine county farmers have as good dairy herds as can be found in the state.

Tuesday, the first day of the fair, was an ideal day and the program of entertainment and sports was carried out exactly as advertised. At about 1:30 J.Y. Breckenridge, president of the association, formally opened the fair with a few remarks, followed by music by the Hudson & Thurber Co. of Minneapolis, Southland orchestra, which by the way is one of the greatest attractions that a fair can have, as they furnish an entertainment that it is hard to equal. Joel G. Winkjer, of St. Paul, was introduced and spoke for some time on dairying, he being at the head of the state Dairy and Food Commission. At the close of his remarks Gov. E.O. Eberhart was next called on and for over an hour made one of the finest talks we have heard in many a day and made votes for himself next fall, although not a word of politics was spoken. The Governor talked as though he was addressing one person, and his remarks were listened too with marked attention.

Pine County Fair - September 19, 1911

The part of the program that drew the crowd the first day, which was the largest of the three, was the next on the program, that being the marriage on the platform in front of the grandstand. At about three o'clock the Boy Scouts marched to the entrance of the grounds and accompanied the two automobiles containing the bridal party clearing the road for them when near the grandstand as the people were packed around the platform in a solid mass and the boys had to use their staffs in order to clear a road. The party in the autos were Rev. H.H. Parish and wife and the bridal pair, who were Mr. Arthur Elroy Wood and Miss Gertrude May Eaton, both of Willow River, were in the first, the second contained the ring bearer, two flower girls, and Mrs. H.W. Harte.

The ceremony was performed according to the ritual of the M.E. Church, the bride being given away by Governor E.O. Eberhart. The pair looked very nice, and after the ceremony they received the congratulations of those on the platform. The couple took in the fair the balance of the afternoon and departed on the night train for Hinckley where they remained until morning, when they departed for St. Cloud to visit relatives and friends after which they will return to Willow River where they will make their future home.

Gertrude Eaton and Arthur Wood

After the ceremony Mons Dubec entertained the crowd with his troupe of trained dogs, cats, monkeys, apes and rats. The performance of these animals each day of the fair was watched with a great deal of interest by the assembled crowds.

The ball game between the teams of Meadow Lawn and Rock Lake resulted in a victory for the Rock Lake team.

The boy scouts who were very much in evidence during the fair then went through some of their stunts, which were both instructive and interesting.

Each evening of the fair at about 7:30 the Southland orchestra entertained a crowd in the park for about an hour and a half, and to say that they entertained is putting it mildly, as during their concerts the park in front of the band stand was filled with people, even Wednesday evening in quite a hard rain storm the crowd was about the same as on pleasant evenings.

Tuesday's entertainment concluded with a wrestling match in Stekl's hall between Fred Hass, of Princeton, and Guy Hendricks, of this place. Before the principal match a preliminary was arranged between Harvie Davis and George Stekl, who went a fast bout for about five minutes. At 9:30 the principal actors stepped onto the mat to make the final arrangements. They chose Axel Rosendahl, of Sandstone, as referee and J.D. Boyle time keeper. After the arrangements were completed the referee introduced the men, time was called, and the sport began. It took seventeen minutes of as pretty work as has ever been seen on a mat in this place before the local man with a body scissors succeeded in in pinning the shoulders of his antagonist to the mat. After a rest of five minutes they again battled royally for twelve minutes when the local man was given the second fall. Before the commencement of the match Earl Chaffee issued a challenge to the winner which was accepted both by Mr. Hendricks and also by Mr. Hass. Mr. Hass said that he was fairly defeated but would like to meet both of the local men.

This closed the first day of the most successful fair ever held in Pine county.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Great Fire of 1894

In several of my blog posts, I have mentioned the forest fire that devastated portions of Pine County in 1894. What follows is a brief description of the events of September 1, 1894, a day that changed the lives of so many of Pine County's residents.  

The Great Fire of 1894

Small fires had been burning over much of central Pine County throughout the summer of 1894. The weather was especially hot and dry that year. Temperature soared to over 90 degrees, and rivers and creeks were reduced to the merest trickle in some places. Fires were often sparked by trains or started by farmers clearing land. These found ready fuel in dried out vegetation and in the “slash” left by the loggers, who cut down the pine trees only to leave branches and leaves in a tangle on the forest floor. Usually these small fires were brought under control by firemen and concerned citizens or burned out by themselves, but on September 1, conditions combined to create one of the most terrifying forest fires in the history of the United States.

The day dawned hot and dry. Smoke hung in the air from the dozens of little fires burning around the area. The people of Hinckley, Sandstone, and other small Pine County towns certainly complained about the heat as they began their daily work, but they had no idea that by evening their lives would be turned upside down. No one knows for sure how the fire or fires got started, but by afternoon a massive firestorm was approaching Hinckley from the south. The very air and clouds seemed to be on fire as the day turned black and red. Some terrified residents described a tornado of fire bearing down on the town. Buildings burst into flame. People burst into flame as they ran from their homes and businesses.

At the Eastern Minnesota railroad depot, engineer William Best waited nervously but bravely while as many Hinckley residents as possible boarded his train. He had coupled his engine and cars to another train to provide more space. The other engineer pleaded with Best to depart, but Best held fast to the air brake as long as he could before the situation finally became too dangerous. Since both trains were facing south and could not reach the already-burning roundhouse to turn around, when Best finally released the brake, the two trains slowly began backing up away from the fire and towards Duluth. The train backed toward Sandstone, about seven miles to the north. It stopped briefly in that village, and passengers frantically warned Sandstone's residents of the coming danger and urged them to take the train to safety. Tragically, not one villager accepted the invitation. The train resumed its backward journey, but by the time it reached the high bridge over the Kettle River just outside Sandstone, the bridge was already on fire. The structure was hardly safe on the best of days, and a speed limit of four miles per hour was strictly observed. Best decided to take one more chance and started across the burning bridge. He made it to the other side just in time. The train had barely reached solid ground before the bridge collapsed into the Kettle River. The train proceeded through the smoke and fire until it reached safety in Duluth where survivors were offered food, shelter, medical attention, and other necessities by the city's residents.

As the combined Eastern Minnesota train was making its way north, another train began its journey out of Hinckley. This train, engineered by James Root, departed from the St. Paul and Duluth depot and also tried to head north. It did not get very far, only seven miles in fact, before the train itself was on fire. Unable to go further, Root stopped his train near “Skunk Lake,” which was little more than a shallow puddle due to the drought. Passengers, some already seriously burned, hurried off the train and into the water, hunching down and throwing wet clothes over their heads. Sixty men, women, and children managed to survive.

Only a few hundred feet from Skunk Lake, the Samuelson family and many of their friends and neighbors huddled together in a root cellar. They had gathered together in a festive mood that day to celebrate the wedding of Minnie Samuelson and John DeRosier. The ceremony was just about to start when the firestorm made its way toward the Samuelson farm. Chaos ensued. People were running and screaming. Their happy day had turned into a nightmare. Then someone remembered the root cellar. It seemed like their only hope as the walls of flame drew near at a frantic pace. The family and their guests plunged inside...and then realized that perhaps they had made a horrible mistake. The air inside the cellar grew hotter and hotter as the flames approached. The door in front of them began to smolder. How would they ever survive? Perhaps someone bumped into or knocked over one of the cans of milk stored in the cellar. In any case, occupants were soon dowsing themselves and the burning door with milk. The stench must have been tremendous, but every person in the Samuelson root cellar survived. Minnie and John were finally married a few days later in Duluth.

Meanwhile, in Sandstone, Erick and Christine Troolin were going about their daily chores, probably aided by several of their children. Had they heard of the horrors to the south as the Eastern Minnesota train passed through town? Perhaps, like many other Sandstone residents, they did not believe that the fire would come their way. They would soon learn differently. After leaving Hinckley in ruins, the firestorm roared toward Sandstone. Horrified villagers soon realized how very wrong they were to turn down their one chance of escape. Some, like the Troolins, dashed down the steep paths into the Sandstone quarry and plunged into the Kettle River as the flames raged around them and temperatures soared to over a hundred degrees. They drenched themselves as best they could. Other residents tried to escape the fire by hopping into wells. A few survived, but many, including one whole family, suffocated as the fire literally sucked all the oxygen out of the air. The fire soon passed to the north to wage further destruction, and Sandstone's survivors, some horribly burned, spent a long, agonizing night by the river where the stones were still too hot to touch.

Before the firestorm of September 1, 1894, burned itself out, several Pine County towns had been completely destroyed, more than 400 people had lost their lives, and hundreds of others were injured and homeless. Survivors were left to mourn their lost loved ones, survey the barren waste where their homes and businesses once stood, and soon courageously begin the process of rebuilding.

[Note: Erick and Christine Troolin were my great-great-grandparents.  Minnie Samuelson DeRosier was my great-great-aunt.  Her sister, Crissie, who was nine years old in 1894, was also in the root cellar along with their parents, John and Hattie Samuelson.  In 1905, Crissie married Hans Troolin, who had ridden out the fire with the rest of his family in the Kettle River.]

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Graduates First Class

From the June 6, 1907, issue of the Hinckley Enterprise:

Three Receive Diplomas from Hinckley High School. Large Audience Sees Exercises.

Hon. C.B. Miller Delivers Eloquent Address. F.E. Kennedy Captures Crowd.

Rev. Clemens Preaches Baccalaureate Sermon.

          The first class ever to graduate from the Hinckley high school received diplomas last Monday evening. Those receiving the diplomas were Grace Lucile Toering, Goldie Magdalene Hoffman, and Ethel Leora Currie.
          The baccalaureate sermon was preached in the village hall Sunday evening by Rev. C.E. Clemens who gave much good advice not only to those graduating but to all.
          The commencement exercises were held Monday evening. These also were in the hall and before an audience that filled it to overflowing. The hall was tastily decorated with the class colors of green and white and the school colors of red and white. The stage was banked with flowers while the graduates carried bouquets.
          Each of the papers read was excellent, Miss Toering's salutary being especially worthy of mention.
          The eloquent address given by Hon. C.B. Miller of Duluth was the subject of much favorable comment. He held the closest attention of his audience as he briefly reviewed events of the past and applied the lessons to be learned by them.
          The singing of F.E. Kennedy brought forth a burst of applause that only ceased when he again went to the piano. The applause he received at this time was, however, exceeded when he recited “Jest Jim”. After this he was obliged to return and rendered “Casey at the Bat” that only whetted the appetite of the audience for more, and he recited a parody on “Barbara Fritchie”.
          The entire program was carried out smoothly from the opening piano solo through the benediction.
          The program follows:

Monday Evening
Piano Solo – Miss Gladys Buttrick
Entrance of Class
Chorus – In the Harbor We've Been Sheltered
Salutary and Class History – Grace Lucile Toering
Oration “American Heroines” - Goldie Magdalene Hoffman
Valedictory and Class Prophecy – Ethel Leora Currie
Vocal Solo – Mr. F.E. Kennedy
Address – Hon. C.B. Miller
Chorus – Soldier's Farewell
Recitation – Mr. F.E. Kennedy
Presentation of Diplomas – Supt. R.H. Blankenship

The Hinckley High School Class of 1907

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Worst Storm in Many Years

From a Pine City newspaper, February 22, 1922:

A jammed frog in the side-track at Wellman's crossing south of Hinckley and the worst storm that has visited this section in many, many noons, all tended to cause a disagreeable tie up in railroad traffic between the twin cities and twin ports. The fast freight Tuesday night started the ruction and five box cars and the engine and tender piled up in a neat heap during the early hours of the blizzard. Before the wrecking crew could reach the scene of the disaster, the wind and snow had piled the track full in many of the cuts along the line. The Tuesday night train reached here on time, but was held here until Wednesday afternoon. The south bound night train went over the G.N. tracks from Hinckley and no more trains reached here from Duluth until late yesterday.

The storm raged all day Wednesday and the drifting snow made matters worse. The Wednesday night train ran into much snow at the cut south of Rock Creek and when finally reached by rescue engines was almost buried. They reached here yesterday afternoon at 4 o'clock with three healthy engines hitched to the bow end. Shortly after their arrival the snow plow from the north reached here followed by a delayed passenger train. If the accident at Wellman's could have been averted, the steady passage of freight and passenger trains would have kept the tracks clear.

The city as well as several others along the way fed the storm bound passengers during their forced visit.

The streets of the city have taken on a grotesque aspect, with mountain-high drifts everywhere, behind which hide businesses and houses. Everybody who could scare up a camera was out yesterday afternoon getting snap shots of the town, and of the 10-horse snow plow outfit captained by Mayor Perkins which opened the streets for school children and others. Their work was to go on this morning.

Mail carriers are marking time and wondering how they will be able to haul the accumulated mail when the roads do become passable. 

A train stranded by the 1922 blizzard

Monday, November 7, 2011

News from the Dart - Part 8

From the February 8, 1893, issue:

Sandstone Grits

* Joseph Kronenberg drove up from Hinckley, Friday last, and visited with his family.

* There are murmurings of discontent among some of the workmen employed in the quarry.

* Mr. Tobin is here from Minneapolis in the interests of the firm of Ring & Tobin, the quarrymen who are doing such great work in this place.

* The quarrymen received their pay last Friday and Saturday, Mr. Tobin acting as paymaster.

* P. Peterson, the quarry foreman, is quite ill. His friends – and they are legion – hope his sickness will be of short duration.

* T.W. Finn, well known as a bright business man and jolly fellow, made a trip to the Twin Cities on business the first of the week.

* Mr. Adams, representing the Central Supply company of Chicago, was in town Friday, exhibiting school charts to the board of education of this village.

* Miss Anna Sutherland, who has been the guest of Miss Clara Troolin during the past fortnight, departed on Monday for her home at Stanchfield.

[Note – Clara Troolin was the sixteen-year-old daughter of Erick and Christine Troolin. The Troolin family lived on what is now Minnesota Street in Sandstone. They saved themselves in the Kettle River during the 1894 forest fire that destroyed Sandstone and several other Pine County towns.]

Sandstone before the 1894 fire

Thursday, November 3, 2011

News from the Dart - Part 7

News from the Dart – Part 7

From the February 8, 1893, issue:

Talk of the Town

* According to the weather clerk's report the lowest the thermometer has ranged this winter has been 28 below.

* Wm. Cathcart will rusticate at Brennan Lumber company's camp No. 5 for the next few weeks and attend to the culinary department there.

* Father Lawler is organizing a local company to present that laughable Irish comedy “Pike O'Callahan” to be given for the benefit of the church.

* When in search of a place to spend a pleasant evening, don't forget to visit the Tower temperance saloon and bowling alley; also a pool table in connection. All kinds of soft drinks, cigars, nuts and candies at the bar.

* A blizzard – one of the most severe storms experienced in this section this season – took place Monday evening and Tuesday. Traffic was somewhat retarded by the storm and the mail from Duluth arrived in town with a “double header” an hour late. The loggers in the vicinity have no doubt got enough of the “beautiful” to serve all ordinary purposes.

* Some despicable and contemptible person or persons were deftly manipulating the light fingered art at the ball last Friday evening. Some of the ladies on repairing to go home found they were minus quite a few articles of wearing apparel. It is to be regretted that the authorities cannot lay hands on the unprincipled thief or thieves and give them a few months rest in Washington county jail.

* S.C. Knouf returned from Iron River on Thursday evening last where he has been employed in a shingle mill for the past month. He has unfortunately been in bad health for some time and thought a change would be beneficial. On his arrival here his trunk was left on the depot platform, and some enterprising sneak thief broke open the trunk and rifled it of most of its contents. No clue has as yet been got as to the wily thief. Mr. Knouf holds a baggage check for the trunk and has entered a claim against the railroad company for his loss. He has accepted the position of night clerk at the Morrison hotel and being of jovial and obliging disposition the patrons of that hostelry may expect to be treated in first-class shape.

The Dance of the Season

          Through the energy and tact of Messrs. Maloney and Collins the most enjoyable dance of the season was held in Hanson's Opera Hall last Friday evening. All the youth and beauty of Hinckley, intermixed with a few of the reigning belles from North Branch, Sandstone, and Eau Claire, rehearsed the poetry of motion to music furnished in excellent style by Kleist's orchestra from St. Paul.
          Among those present were Misses Agnes Vaughan, Luelia Wright, Lu Quiilin and Messrs. Frank Olson, W.K. King, Morgan Vaughan, John Hurley, Will Smith, and Frank Smith from North Branch; Misses Edner and Prenevost and Messrs. Anderson and Edner from Sandstone; Miss Lizzie Cramer of Eau Claire.
          The belles of Hinckley have introduced something new by their supplying a sumptuous refreshment at the dance which kindness is thoroughly appreciated by all. A number of the young married folks were also present and added much to the hilarity of the evening.
          It is hoped before mother earth throws off her mantle of white that quite a few of such social gatherings will take place. Nothing has a better tendency to cause a feeling of true friendship to exist in society than meetings of this kind, and more than that Cupid takes such opportunities to be around on business of an agreeable nature.