I had an opportunity to meet this past Saturday with Glen Wheeler. Glen has a terrific recollection of a lot of history in our area. On this new page, I will share the information that Glen shared with me.
For starters, Glen helped me to correct the information I had on the "Good Old Days" pages about Gust Nelson, who was not a blacksmith at all, but a harness maker!
I learned that Glen actually knew Gust! Apparently when Glen was a small boy and around 1929, he and his Dad went into the harness shop one day to get some bridles fixed. Gust asked him if he had a jackknife. Glen told him he didn't. Gust said that every boy should have a jackknife and gave him a Jim Dandy Jackknife! Gust was famous for the Jim Dandy Harnesses....only $74.50 in the Spring of 1929! Take a look! This picture is taken from a Spring 1929 Harness catalog, distributed by Gust Nelson to farmers in the area. This particular catalog was mailed to RR1, Garden City.
Gust apparently was also known to provide free boot oiling for the school boys who all wore leather boots in those days! The home that Gust and his family lived in is apparently the home that was once owned by Joe Caven on Main Street.
Cabinet Maker and Veteran
I suspect that those of you who have been here since Lassie was a pup, already knew this, but I just learned that Glen is a terrific artisan! His life career has been as a cabinet and furniture maker. He has also been a carpenter, building homes in the area. Most, if not all, of our area carpenters and cabinet makers got their start with Glen. Calvin Baarts apparently worked for Glen about 16 years. Glen still works at his shop on the farm west of Vernon Center. Glen thought that his Dad might have made kitchen cabinets for my kitchen! He remembers climbing the stairs to deliver those cabinets at my place. Not sure if they are the same ones that are still here. As I recall, Bob Diel's dad was also a furniture maker and may have made the ones that are here now for Bob and Lorraine. If you want to see some beautiful furniture, you need to get out to that farm and check out Glen's work!
During WWII, Glen served in the Philippines for 1 year. He completed his basic in Texas, Camp Campbell, Kentucky and went oversees from Fort Lewis in Seattle. Glen was in the infantry, but was transferred to ordinance when he got to the Philippines and was in charge of repairing the guns. He tells a cute story about Warren Bremmer who had a sawmill on Giles Gray's farm. Apparently Warren was involved in a battle with some rice wine one evening while in the Philippines. The rice wine won and Dean Brown ended up carrying Warren back to the barracks at the end of the evening. Glen says that this is how he knows Warren was in WWII and should have been on that Honor Roll!
Stores and other Buildings
The store currently owned by Vince Pentico was the John and Axel Halvorson General Store.
There was a Cooper Hardware (these Coopers were from the twin cities and apparently no relation to Don) which also sold John Deere Tractors. Axel Peterson (no relation to Dennis) was the manager. It was located between what is now Swanee's Tiny Park and the old W.E. Thomas Lumber Yard, which was next to The Axel Halvorson General Store. The Post Office was between Swanee's and the Hardware store and there was a drug store in there too! It became clear to me, that stores in those days must have been quite small! Glen confirmed this, noting that the old post office was only about 10' wide....just wide enough for some mail boxes. It was a lot different than today, where one store can fill an entire block!
There was once a Mobil gas station where the car wash now stands. It stood next to the phone company.....where Vernon Center Lumber now stands. Apparently there was an undertaker's parlor in that building at one time and a furniture store either in the building or next to it. Thanks to Jim Cooper, a picture of the Mobil station and old phone company office is now posted here! You can even see the old metal shop (now Geiffer's Towing).
West of the Wilde Syde....between there and where Andy Anderson once lived, there was a Web Gas Station, a livery barn and a hotel. Apparently all of this stood in the area that is now Jayne's parking lot! Glen tells me that they use to have a special deal at the Web Station.....7-8 gallons of gas for $1.00! Oh how I long for the "good old days"!!
In those days, the township had their polling place in the old Opera House. The old meat market was where Thomas apartments are now and if I got this right, it became the post office at one point. The Jack Spratt store was run by H.B. Palmby.
Vernon Center was a regular metropolis in those days!
The Muske family were the first people that Glen's folks knew in these parts. When Glen's dad was considering purchasing the farm in about 1925, he apparently stayed with Al Muske. After buying the farm, he went back to get his belongings. He returned with 4 horses, a cow, some machinery and household items. It took him two weeks by rail to arrive, no doubt crossing the Blue Earth River across that old trestle bridge that once stood below the hill from the Schmissing farm. When he arrived, he was met at the station by the entire Muske clan! Glen's Mom and the two kids came about two weeks later. They were met at Elmore by the Muske's and delivered by auto to their new home in Vernon Center. The farm was one mile west and north across the field from the Giles Gray place (where the Doyen's now live).
Andy Rosin was the City Man at Vernon Center for about 2-3 years, after he returned from service in WWII. Andy had some health problems, having gotten Malaria during the war. It bothered him the rest of his life. Andy eventually moved to Sioux Falls, SD, where he went to work for the Park System until his death. Andy's folks were Fred and Edith Rosin. They lived next to me in the home now owned by Mariano Topete. Fred worked primarily day labor for area farmers and loved to fish catfish in the Blue Earth River! His wife Edith, was a Muske, and that's how Glen's family became familiar with the Rosin's.
In the early days, the first settlers had to ford the river because there was no bridge. A ford is a place in the river that is shallow enough to be crossed by wading, horseback or oxen. Eventually a bridge was built just west of the current 169 bridge. Apparently the old piers are still there. It was eventually called highway 5 in the 1920's and the primary road into and out of Vernon Center. It was where Charlie's Hill is today. Later, highway 5 was closed. Highway 169 became the new primary road and a new bridge was built, east of the highway 5 location. It was a steel bridge and at one time had a steel top. That bridge was upgraded over time, the last time when the new highway was built through town in the 1990's.
The Wilbur Edition and the old Sinclair Station
In all the years that I've looked through old photos of this town, I have never found one of my place. Glen doesn't remember it that well and we both figure it must have been about the only thing out on this end of town at the time. He does recall that Bert Hanson lived on what was the Fred Wilbur place. He also remembers that the Glynn's use to buy eggs and chickens from the farmers and sold them and gas here. Glen believes this was once a Sinclair station. Since I have the old abstract for this place, I dug it out and will indulge myself with a little history of what became known as the Wilbur Edition and a few stories I've heard over the years.
The very first recorded entries that involves the land upon which my house was built, were patent instruments recorded in 1857 and 1860. In 1860 the land (about 160 acres in total) was patented to Jordon Stacy the 2nd by President James Buchanan. An Act of Congress approved on March 3, 1855, granted "Bounty Land" to certain Officers and Soldiers who were engaged in the Military Service of the United States. In 1861 the Mortgage is in default and a notice of sale is issued to inform the public that the 160 acres of land would be sold at public auction. A number of Warranty Deeds appear from 1865-1887. The land seems to go back and forth, broken into smaller sections and may have been used as an instrument of borrowing much needed cash. Some of the names that appear during this time include Gilman G. Young, Henry Schuler, Charles L. Sherwood, Samuel Thurston, Almira C. Munsel, S.D. Gaylord, John B. Cooper, John, N. Hall, Franklin Barnes and William Buck (who defaulted). Franklin Barnes and John Hall granted a right of way on their parcels (forever!) to the St. Paul and Sioux City Railroad Company. The defaulted William Buck property was sold to Adelbert C. Wilber in May 1887 who filed the Wilber's Addition to Vernon Center in May 1896. It was incorporated with the rest of the town in 1899. In 1897, a warranty deed was issued to Fred C. Wilbur for Lot No.1 and Lot No2 in Block 1 of the Wilber's addition. From 1897 through the early 1900's warranty deeds were issued to Frank Hebert Barnes, Otto Peterson, D.M. Royer and A.T. Carlson. In 1929 the name John W. and Esther Gnadke appear as deeded Lot 1 and the West half of Lot 2 of Block 1 of the Wilber's Addition......where my house is located. The names Theordore O. Peterson and E.H. Borchert appear in 1939. Borchert sold the property in December 19th, 1945 to Albert G. and Lydia E. Wohlrabe. The Wohlrabe's apparently sold it to Joseph A. and Lucille A. Glynn on July 23, 1958. The Glynn's sold it to Bob and Lorraine Diel on October 1969. It was sold to me by Bob and Lorraine on July 27, 1984.
I've heard a number of interesting stories about the place over time. I'm not sure who lived here or what was operating at the time of these stories, but apparently during prohibition, they ran moonshine from here. It would have been owned at that time by Otto Peterson or the Gnadke's. Ownership doesn't always tell you who was actually living on and working the property. Any of the former owners could have rented to others and that would not show in the abstract. Louise Pahl once told me that during WWII, German prisoners kept in the area were driven by her to the Hemp Factory (yes....we had a Hemp Factory apparently. But I believe it was used to make rope). She drove truck and often stopped here for gas. The Wohlrabe's must have owned the place at the time, although Joe Glynn could have been operating the station and living here back then. I believe all of their kids were raised here. I know there use to be a barber shop here and Lorraine Diel and Barb Glynn once had a craft shop here as well.
So that's the story of my place and since no one else seems to have one, here's a picture. The old lamp post is from the original station, but no longer works:
My thanks to the Wheelers for the time they spent with me on Saturday. It was fun chatting with them and finding out more about the history of our town. Glen: If I've gotten any of this information mixed up, send me an email and give me a good thrashing the next time you see me!
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