This collection contains oral histories pertaining to life and events in the West Central region of Minnesota. The oral histories range greatly in topic and time period. The digitization of these oral histories was made possible in part by the people of Minnesota through a grant funded by an appropriation to the Minnesota Historical Society from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Any views, findings, opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the State of Minnesota, the Minnesota Historical Society, or the Minnesota Historic Resources Advisory Committee.
Roy Peterson was a Benson area milkman who was active in a number of liberal political movements in West Central Minnesota since the 1930s. His mother was from Sweden and his father was from Denmark.
In this interview, Roy Peterson discusses the political attitudes in Benson, Minnesota, the Non-Partisan League, the Farmer's Holiday movement, accounts of violence with the Farmer's Holiday Movement, the Depression in Swift County, the Farmer-Labor Party, and the National Farmer's Organization (NFO).
Joseph Petrick and Hazelle Petrick
Joseph Petrick was born in Ortonville in 1901. He enlisted in the army in 1917, but did not go overseas at that time. Later, he joined the National Guard and stayed with them until the 1950s. Athletics were an important part of his early life and he was involved with championship football and basketball teams in high school. He later coached a women's basketball team during the 1920s. From 1927-1969 he served as a rural postman. Joseph and Hazelle have raised 2 children.
In this interview, Joseph Petrick discusses growing up in Ortonville, his high school experiences, Hamline University, and his marriage. He enjoyed talking about athletics in his early life, experiences at a variety of jobs, including as rural postman in Big Stone County, and his years in the National Guard, particularly during World War II. He also briefly discusses Ortonville during World War I, including enlistment and anti-German sentiments.
Hugh B. Robards
Hugh Robards was born January 11, 1894 in Alexandria, Minnesota. He graduated from Carleton College in 1916 and served in the infantry in World War I. He was discharged in 1920, at which time he returned to Alexandria to take over operation of the Cowing Robards hardware store.
In this interview, Hugh Robards discusses the early founding and development of the store, obtaining the Our Own Hardware franchise in 1913, advertising, business fluctuations in the Depression and World War II, and the rationing of products during World War II. He also discusses the time he spent in France during World War I, tourism in Alexandria, and the civic duties of citizens.
Henry A. Roust
Dr. Henry Roust was born and raised in Mankato, Minnesota. Upon graduation from the University of Minnesota Medical School, he established his private practice in Montevideo in 1928. From 1953-1956 he held the mayor's office. At the time of the interview, he was the oldest living doctor in the area and was residing in his home in Montevideo.
In this interview, Dr. Roust discusses a brief history of the Chippewa County Hospital and its Board, and also comments on the centralization of medical facilities and personnel. He then proceeds to talk about urban renewal in Montevideo and the development and future of the area.
In this interview, Arthur Sand discusses the Non-Partisan Party and Farmer Labor Party in depth. He also discusses how the Depression affected the parties and their relation to the Democratic Party. Also, he briefly discusses local reactions to current issues such as: the model city near Evansville, gun control, and taxes. The interview closes with references to the development of Wendell.
Alfred Schaeffer was born in 1895 three miles south of the village of Pomme de Terre. His parents came from Goodhue County to Grant County in 1872.
In this interview, Alfred Schaeffer talks about his early neighbors and teachers. He discusses the history of his grandfather who was a miller in the village of Pomme de Terre. He discusses the railroads and how they surveyed the village.
Elaine C. Schaeffer
Elaine Schaeffer was born in Pomme de Terre Village on February 16, 1903. She attended country school and graduated from Elbow Lake High School. In 1924, she received her B.A. in history from Macalester College in St. Paul and in 1930 she completed her requirements for a M.A. from the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to her retirement to Elbow Lake in 1953, she was associated with a number of educational institutions in a variety of capacities. Those positions were: high school instructor in Mapleton MN (1924-25); assistant high school principal and instructor in Dickenson, N.D. (1930-1934); high school principal in Lasson, MN (1934-36); head of the history department and dean of women at Elgin Academy and Junior College in Elgin, Illinois (1936-45), dean of women, summer session, University of Montana (1945), College preparatory counselor at Milwaukee City Day School for Boys (1945-53). From 1953 to the time of the interview, she was the secretary for the Grant County Historical Society.
In this interview, Elaine Schaeffer discusses the history of Pomme de Terre, the Schaeffer family history and her reminiscences of her early life, as well as her experiences in the field of education.
John Scharf was born on October 30, 1929 in Minneapolis. He graduated from Washburn High School, Minneapolis and went on to get his B.S. and M.S. from the University of Minnesota. He worked with the Minnesota DNR as the Fish and Wildlife Manager from 1960 until the time of the interview, and he had lived and worked in Morris since 1960.
In this interview, John Scharf discusses the acquisition of the Helsene Prairie land by the DNR and the history and objectives of its management. Some topics include planting that has been done, control of hunting, changes in wildlife populations and future plans.
Mary Schumaker was born in 1888 and was a teacher and principal in Ortonville, Minnesota.
In this interview, Mary Schumaker discusses her family history, teaching, social and intellectual activities, the chautauquas in Ortonville, the G.A.R., Ortonville and the railroad, World War I and German citizen repression, storms, the Depression, and Lawrence Welk.
Born in Correll, Minnesota in 1901, Kathryn Scott graduated from R.N. school in St. Paul in 1922. She came to Appleton in 1923 where she worked as a nurse until her retirement in 1971. For most of these years she worked for Dr. W.C. Kauffman, one of the first doctors in Appleton.
In this interview, Kathryn Scott discusses early nursing, doctors' practices, the running of a private hospital, and changes in the medical profession.
George Shervey was born on a farm near Barrett, Minnesota on October 18, 1904. He was involved in the business of farm implement sales from 1924 until his retirement in 1972. He was active in civic and community affairs, maintaining an interest in local history. During the time of this interview, he was the president of the Grant County Historical Society.
In this interview, George Shervey discusses the contest between Elbow Lake and Herman for the county seat and courthouse.
Henry Thornberg was born on January 3, 1891 in Sanford Township of Grant County, where his parents had immigrated in 1888. He was drafted on July 23, 1918 at the age of 26 into World War I.
In this interview, Henry Thornberg tells some of his life history and his experiences in World War I.
Walter L. Smedley and Gladys M. Smedley
Walter Smedley was born in 1885 in Illinois. He moved to a farm near Norcross, Minnesota with his family in 1902. He returned to Illinois a few years later, to attend a veterinary school in Chicago. When Walter Smedley graduated in 1912, he came to Herman, Minnesota and established his veterinary practice. At one point, he owned a portion of the Helsene Prairie.
In this interview, Walter Smedley recalls his early experiences as a veterinarian and his life in the Herman area. The discussion centers on the prairie land which he owned, including what he used it for, its management, and other related topics.
Oscar Sorby's parents arrived in Montevideo in 1879 and he was born here in 1884. After attending public school through the 6th grade and spending one year at Windom Institute, Oscar Sorby began his career with the railroad. He was affiliated with the railroad for 71 years.
In this interview, Oscar Sorby discusses Montevideo before the turn of the century and his father's lumber, carpentry, and ice businesses. He talks about his first assignments with the railroad and the life of a fireman on the trains in the early 1900s. He discusses the need for a strong railroad union, the union and management, and railroad union action. He discussed life on the railroad during World War I. Finally, he discusses politics, including meeting Taft and William Jennings Bryan campaigning for the presidency in 1908 and George McGovern.
Elisabeth Strandness was born on April 5, 1896 on the farm on which she was residing at the time of the interview. After working for the U.S. Forest Service for 30 years, she retired to the farm. She was the former owner of the Strandness Prairie tract recently acquired by the Nature Conservancy.
In this interview, Elisabeth Strandness discusses the history of the management of the land, the flora and fauna, activities concerning the prairie since the Nature Conservancy acquired it and her attitudes towards the land.
Ann Swanke was a teacher in Browns Valley for many years. Her husband moved to Browns Valley in 1886 at the age of six months.
In this interview, she discusses the presidents from McKinley-Nixon, roads, electric lights, radios, automobiles, storms, World War I and II, fires, and the Depression.
Ann Swanke was a teacher in Browns Valley for many years. Her husband moved to Browns Valley in 1886 at the age of six months.
In this interview, Ann Swanke discusses her early family history, her education, her early teaching experiences, World War I, her home and social life as a child, her family's bakery, her church, going to college, the methods she used in her teaching, and her writings.
Henry Swanson was born in 1892 and was Swedish. He farmed in the White Rock, South Dakota and Munson Township area.
In this interview, Henry Swanson gives a brief history of Munson Township, the opening of South Dakota's Sisseton Indian Reservation, and White Rock, South Dakota. He discusses farming, the Great Depression, storms, diseases and medicine, the Hutterite Colony, and farm and labor movements.
Orville Tatge was born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in 1920 and moved to Minnesota in 1927. He served in the Armed Forces in World War II. He has been active in the National Farmers Organization (NFO) since 1962, and was elected President of the Swift County NFO in 1963. He was appointed County Treasurer in 1969.
In this interview, Orville Tatge discusses the Farmer's Holiday Movement and life during the Great Depression. He compares different farmers organizations and their functions. He then goes into his activities in the NFO, and the meat holding of 1964.
Olin Thompson was born on May 1, 1888 and lived across the river from the old site of Pomme de Terre village. His father was Michael Thompson. He married Elaine Brown.
In this interview, Olin Thompson discusses his first teachers and the school he attended. He talks about Pomme de Terre village and the businesses that were there, as well as the stagecoach from Herman to Ashby.
This interview deals primarily with Alice Tripp's campaign for Governor in the 1979 DFL primary race (in which she won 20% of the vote, the first woman in the state to do so), but it also touches upon Tripp's family history, the development of her political ideals, and her role as a woman activist in West Central Minnesota. Some of the political issues and concerns which Alice Tripp comments on include: international politics, energy and corporate power, labor unions, and cooperatives.
Clara Torgerson Wheeler
Clara Wheeler was born July 12, 1891 on a farm in Glenwood, Minnesota. Her father farmed 120 acres and raised cattle. She went to school in District 40 and was one of 14 children. She also taught school before her marriage, in a one-room schoolhouse. She also attended the Glenwood Academy.
In this interview, she discusses farming, life on a farm, and around Glenwood in general. She also briefly discusses interactions with Native Americans in her childhood.
Dr. Wilson served as chairman of the board of citizens who fought to build a new hospital in Starbuck, Minnesota.
In this interview, he discusses the problems involved, including the decision to switch from a community operated hospital to a district operated one. Other specifics discussed include Glenwood's unwillingness to help with the project and the difficulty in finding an adequate plot of ground on which to build.
Gordon A. Yock
In this interview, Gordon Yock talks about the Clara City Telephone Company, its good services and low rates, problems of other communities with phone service, and the Continental Telephone Company of Minnesota and Appleton, Minnesota. He also discusses the Variety Supply Company and some of its problems, his years as Republican State Chairman, the Boy Scouts in Clara City, and the churches and the German ethnic community in Clara City.
Gordon A. Yock
In this interview, Gordon Yock describes the beginning of the Variety Supply Company of Clara City, Minnesota (a warehouse and distributing enterprise which functioned like a cooperative. He discusses the difficulties in obtaining merchandise during World War II, the difficulties of convincing rural merchants to join with the VSC, and attempts of large jobbers to keep VSC out of the distributing field. He discusses the early days in Clara City and Emil Yock's General Store in Clara City. Emil Yock was Gordon's father and a pioneer settler of Clara City.