On the tracks with Andy Mack

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By Sue Bruns for the Pioneer. Andy Mack loves all things railroad: railroad history, railroad depots, railroad cars and tracks, lanterns and tools, time tables and correspondences, and even baggage carts. For most of his adult life, he has collected railroad memorabilia, studied railroad history, built model railroads, and toured by train on vacation whenever possible. As a kid born and raised in Pettybone, N. D., Andy’s only railroad-related toy was a small wind-up train. On the family farm, he helped milk thirteen cows by hand. Back then, the railroad transported the milk to market. Cream cans were loaded onto […]

$1 per week for tuition? You’d have to go back to 1904 in Bemidji

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By Sue Bruns for the Pioneer, Sep 5th 2020 In 1904, Bemidji answered the needs of high school graduates and other adults who wanted training in specific areas of business and opened its first business college. A small ad for Conway’s Commercial College appeared in the Feb. 25, 1904 Bemidji Daily Pioneer, advertising $1 per week tuition, a cut in price from the previous $2.50 per week. The school had recently opened at 108 Sixth Street. In October 1904, the institution’s name was officially changed to the Bemidji Commercial College. The Beltrami County Historical Society’s photo archives include a picture […]


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COVID-19 SELF-HISTORY INTERVIEW   This project is inspired by our friends at the Douglas County Historical Society.   Everyone’s experience matters. Your history matters. Help us record your history. With events being as momentous as they are in Minnesota, we’d like to offer a tool in the form of a Self-History Interview to help us begin recording the daily lived experiences during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Right now we have no way of knowing how significant of an event this may be, but we want to ensure we leave behind plenty of written records of the actual Beltrami County experience for […]

‘Centennial’ Teacher with a passion for Teaching and Learning

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Interview with Lillian Mathews, BSU graduate and Shevlin School teacher by Janet Kelly Moen                                   The life-story of a woman that encompasses an entire century is by necessity one that reaches back not only into another time, but into another continent as well. The changes over this period of time were staggering, and involved new lands, new technologies, in the context of different cultures and languages.  All of these changes were mediated through family life, in a time when families were both extended and large, and deeply imbedded in […]

Keeping the Northern Pacific Railroad Rolling: An interview with Lowell O’Brien, Bridge and Building Crewman

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On February 16, 2016 I interviewed Lowell O’Brien in Bemidji. Lowell and his crew repaired or rebuilt most of the wooden piling-type train trestles along the Northern Pacific rail line between Bemidji and International Falls, as well as further south towards Brainerd. Lowell was raised by his parents, Guy R. and Blanche O’Brien, near Hines, MN. His Grandparents were living in in Gemmell, MN. at the time—as his Grandfather worked for a cedar pole company. In fact, Lowell was born in Gemmell—his mother went to there to stay with her parents as the time approached for his birth (July 7, […]

Sidetracked (Just the bear facts…Oh deer…)

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By Darla Sathre (from The Depot Express newsletter, Fall 2015) While browsing through some Bemidji history publications, I (more than once) came across the famous 1897 photo that looks east on 3rd Street toward Lake Bemidji. Immediately one notices a bear cub and a fawn among the people. The Carson family owned two bears, one of which is seen in the photo along with Evan Carson. The first year they let the bear cubs hibernate over winter in the root cellar behind their family hotel, but come spring Evan got too close and one of the bear cubs stripped off […]

On the Street Where You Live (Grand Forks Bay)

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By Cecelia Wattles McKeig (from The Depot Express newsletter, Fall 2015) We seldom see a specific reference to Grand Forks Bay anymore, but from 1902 until 1940, there were frequent references to the popular vacation spot on Lake Bemidji, and Grand Forks Bay even had its own column in the Bemidji Pioneer and in the Grand Forks Herald! Do you know where it was? Grand Forks Bay was the oldest summer resort on the lake and was platted on the northwest shore of Lake Bemidji. After the Great Northern Railroad completed the connection from Fosston to Duluth in 1898, Bemidji […]

Sidetracked (Visitors)

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By Darla Sathre (from The Depot Express newsletter, Summer 2015) Although Bemidji gets visitors from far and near throughout the whole year, we really expect them in droves in the summertime. Bemidji has had numerous well-known visitors through the years, but this article is going to focus on two widowed First Ladies — Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin Roosevelt, and Edith Wilson, wife of President Woodrow Wilson. Eleanor Roosevelt visited Bemidji in October of 1955, staying at the Markham Hotel. While the reason for her visit was to speak at a teachers’ convention of the Minnesota Education Association, she […]