On the Street Where You Live (Blocks as Buildings)

By Cecelia Wattles McKeig (from The Depot Express newsletter, Spring 2015)

The best definition I can find is that a block was a multiple occupancy building. In Bemidji, a block such as the Dalton Block might house several offices or businesses and, very likely, apartments or rooms to rent as well. The term block is also used to define a piece of real estate such as Lot 1, Block 3, but that was different than the way the term was used to describe buildings in Bemidji. These blocks were more like “building blocks” – or not!

Over the years there were many blocks, and some of them are still standing. Bacon Block, Barker Block, Battles Block, Dalton Block, Goodman Block, Ibertson Block, Kaplan Glass Block, Masonic Block, Nangle Block, Naylor Block, Suman Block, Troppman Block and so on.

Miles Block
One of the most mentioned in early days was the Miles Block. It was built by C. H. Miles on the corner of Third and Beltrami, on the corner where the Northern National Bank stood and now the Northwest Foundation has restored the elegant old building.

C. H. Miles purchased the property on the corner, reportedly paying the handsome sum of $6,000 for it in 1901. He set about to have one of the finest buildings possible. The building was of solid brick, 50 x 80 feet, two stories, with a basement. The corner room was to be occupied as a first class saloon, the adjoining one would be for rent, and the second story was built for offices. His two saloons were the Great Northern and the Golden Club.

Bailey & Loud secured the two front office rooms, which were the largest in the building, and an adjoining library room. Probably no law firm in the state had better or more convenient apartments. The firm hosted a large gathering of their gentlemen friends in honor of having located in their elegant offices, and the evening was spent playing whist and enjoying a lunch.

Dr. Morrison also established himself in this building and rented several rooms. He used the one in the front as an operating room and the other as a reception room. The rooms were described as large and “decorated as beautifully as a lady’s boudoir.” When Dr. Rowland Gilmore came to Bemidji in 1902, he also took a suite of rooms in the Miles Block.

Charley Miles also had the first automobile in Bemidji. It was a two-door Ford painted brilliant red. It was quite a car. Miles was a nice appearing fellow, a very good dresser and courteous man. He could sign only his own name and that is all he knew, but he made quite a success of his business here. He had all kinds of roulette machines, slot machines and poker tables, all wide open, and he could not help but make money. He eventually moved to St. Paul to pursue his theatrical interest and sold the building in 1908 to George and Gearlds. On January 1, 1910, the former Lumberman’s Bank, renamed the Northern National Bank, moved to that corner and stayed there for decades.

Barker Block
Earle Barker came to Bemidji in 1900. He started business as a jeweler and in June of 1903 purchased the Mayo Drug Store. In 1907, he built the Barker Block. The newspaper reported that “the Barker block will be of solid brick, one story high, 100 feet long by 25 feet wide, with a basement running the entire length of the building. The front will contain very heavy plate glass, and will have two of the finest show windows to be found in the northwest. Contractor Kreatz expects to have the block ready for occupancy in time for Mr. Barker to make an elegant display of holiday goods in the spacious windows of his new location.” For the next years, there was not much mentioned about the block itself, although a great deal of attention was paid by the local newspaper on the military life of Lieutenant Earle Barker. He was a veteran of the Spanish-American War and headed Bemidji’s Naval Militia, which was the first contingent of Bemidji men to leave for service on April 17, 1917.

Then in late 1921, a new Barker block was built west of the original block. Otto and Carl Johnson opened a ladies’ ready-to-wear establishment on the main floor of the new building. The upper story of the new block was furnished for office purposes. Barker added a public rest room and beauty parlor in the basement. He also advertised the presence of a trained attendant for the children, free stationery, free telephones, free reading material, and a phonograph for the entertainment of those resting. In the store he provided use of a free weighing machine, free telephone service and a Sanitary Stamp Vending Machine.
Earle Barker sold Barker’s Rexall Drug Store in 1940 to Buck Buchanan and H. Arthur Vanderby, but it continued to be known as the Barker Block. Dr. Groschupf and Dr. McCann’s offices were located upstairs. This is where I had my tonsils removed. No hospital stay – but in the doctor’s office. Dr. Groschupf was our family doctor, and although his office was upstairs over Barker’s, he made home visits. I remember him visiting our home several times when I had bronchitis.

The drug store was sold once again in 1954 and August Ulrich opened the Bemidji Pharmacy in 1955. In April 1956, he established Just a Little Drug Store in the same setting and operated it until his retirement in 1974.

Troppman Block
Fred Troppman bought the Malzahn Block about 1905 and remodeled it several times. The Malzahn building was one of the oldest in Bemidji. An organizational meeting for the First Presbyterian Church was held there on August 24, 1896. It held many different businesses, but had a serious fire in 1904. Troppman bought the property and although he owned it, it still was referred to as the Malzahn Block for years until Troppman replaced it with a new brick structure in 1916. Troppman’s new building was considered the most conspicuous business block in the city, as well as the newest and best office building. The building was erected at a cost of approximately $20,000.

An ad in May 1916 read: “It is two stories high, one hundred forty feet long and fifty feet wide and is the home of nearly a dozen different institutions. The ground floor is occupied by the Troppman Department store and the Henrionnet Millinery Parlors. Housed on the second floor in large, commodious well lighted rooms are the following business men: Attorneys Andrews, Gibbons and Huffman, in a suite of four fine rooms; Attorney H. L. Loud, occupying a suite of two splendid rooms; Doctors A. E. Henderson and L. A. Ward using excellent quarters in the front corner rooms. To the left of the wide spacious hallway will be found the offices of J. W. Wilcox, who sells Overland and Willys Knight cars and farmlands; the Dean Land Company, who have for the past forty four years been selling Minnesota lands; and Mina A. Myers occupying quarters equipped for a modern hair dressing establishment. When you see the Troppman Block connect these various institutions with it in your mind’s eye and you’ll never forget who is who in this, Bemidji’s best office and business block.” (May 19, 1916)

What’s in a Name? (Townships – Southern Beltrami County)

by Sue Bruns (from The Depot Express newsletter, Winter 2014)

Beltrami County consists of 51 named townships –not all of them organized — and a number of unnamed, unorganized townships in the northern part of the county. Most of these townships have stories behind their names. Here are a few of those explanations.

Bemidji Township, along with a village established in 1896, took the name “Bemidji,” a shortened version of the Ojibwe name for the lake “Bemejigamaug,” meaning a lake with water running through it.

East of Bemidji is Frohn Township, established in 1898 and named “Frohn” by a Norwegian settler. “Frohn” means “pleasant view” in Norwegian.

Next, to the east, is Ten Lake Township, which was not organized until 1919. Containing Lake Andrusia and parts of Big Lake and Cass Lake, the township got its name when someone started counting the lakes and stopped at ten.

Spellings and details about these townships from: Louis Marchand, Up North: Beltrami County’s Townships (Bemidji: Bemidji State University Printing Services, 1998). For more information explore the book in the research library at the Beltrami County History Center.

Sidetracked (Potato Chip Plant)

By Darla Sathre (from The Depot Express newsletter, Winter 2014)

by Darla Sathre

As I was filing newspaper articles one day, the following few sentences, written by Rosemary Given Amble in 1995, caught my eye: “Bemidji’s industries in 1937 included several lumber mills and kindred activities. We still have some of those. We no longer have the railroad shops, butter and cream factories, the flour mill, the potato chip plant, nor the brick plant.”

Potato chip plant? I thought that was worth a sidetrack! I learned that it was called Witting Company. I looked in a 1942 city directory, and they were the only listing under the Potato Chip Manufacturers heading. They were located at 406 Minnesota Avenue. By 1946 there was a hardware store in that location. By 1976 it was, and still is, the location of Dress Club Cleaners. One old timer reminisced about her family taking a car ride to town and parking in front of the potato chip factory just for the enjoyment of inhaling the enticing aroma!

I found two names associated with the Witting Potato Chip Company: Winthrop C. Batchelder (1904-1962) of South Lake Irving, a city councilman for the 4th Ward; and Henning Thompson (1891-1965), a cook for the potato chip company.

As a sidetrack, did you know that it takes four pounds of raw potatoes to make one pound of potato chips? The average person eats six pounds of potato chips per year. An acre of land yields between 300-400 bushels of potatoes.

Bemidji also had a potato flour factory. During World War I, wheat was needed to feed the troops. To conserve on wheat, using potato flour was the patriotic thing to do. One carload of potatoes yielded 7,200 pounds of potato flour.

All this potato talk made me hungry. So I looked through the Bemidji Centennial Cookbook and found a recipe for “Amy’s Potatoes” on page 67 shared by Pat DeWenter.

“Amy’s Potatoes”
Bemidji Centennial Cookbook, Shared by Pat DeWenter, p. 67.

3 to 4 Potatoes ½ tsp Salt
¼ cup Parmesan Cheese ¼ tsp Pepper
¼ cup Flour ⅓ cup Butter

Peel potatoes. (Since I used wonderful red potatoes, I left the peel on!) Cut into strips as for French Fries. Rinse in cold water; pat dry. Mix cheese, flour, salt, and pepper in large brown bag. (I used a Tupperware bowl with a lid.) Add potatoes; toss well. Melt butter on 9 x 13 pan. Add potatoes. Bake at 375degrees for 1 hour, turning occasionally to brown evenly. Serves 4.

On the Street Where You Live (Multi-Generational Homes)

By Cecelia Wattles McKeig (from The Depot Express newsletter, Winter 2014)

In studying the buildings, blocks, and streets of Bemidji, I don’t know why it should surprise me that Bemidji people often lived a long time at the same addresses. After all, my mom is still in our family home after 70 years, but I find it interesting that some families chose to stay in the same house over decades. So much for upward mobility! Maybe we move less than the stereotypical American family, but I found many families and even neighborhoods that did not change much in the make-up of the families who lived there. One could choose from a multitude of examples, but these are just two of those homes.

601 Fourth Street
Annie Schauls purchased this corner lot from the Carsons on February 17, 1899, for $75, and the deed was delivered to Frank Schauls. Deed records show that she sold the house for $1,000 to Ed Pagel on March 16, 1904, and bought it back again from him the next day. A real estate person might be able to explain the “why” of these transactions. This house appears in Bemidji’s first city directory [1904] owned by Frank Schauls. This section of Bemidji was heavily populated. Small houses on lots on America, Irvine, Mississippi and Park Avenues gave quick access to the business area and train depots that contributed to Bemidji’s rapid growth. To move north of Eighth Street, for example, was really moving to the suburbs.

Frank Schauls ran a saloon in 1904. The case of Frank Schauls vs. Frank Gagnon went to a jury trial during the fall term of 1904. Schauls, the plaintiff, alleged that during the time he rented Frank Gagnon’s building at the corner of Minnesota Avenue and Second Street, certain repairs were made to the building by the defendant, and that while the repairs were underway his saloon business was damaged. He claimed damages against Gagnon upon this ground. Bailey & McDonald represented Schauls, while P. J. Russell appeared for Gagnon. A second case came up the next week. “The case of Frank Schauls vs. Willitts & Cahill was taken up this morning and occupied the entire forenoon. The plaintiff in the action wants damages for rent which he claims to have overpaid, the amount being $40.” The jury went to their room at noon and had not yet reached a verdict by the end of the day.

Frank Schauls was born in 1861 and married Anna Schwarz in 1899 in St. Cloud. Agnes was born February 2, 1900. Son Frank was born in Bemidji on June 26, 1901. John Casper Schauls was born in Bemidji on August 1, 1904. Frank and Anna Schauls also farmed in Maple Ridge Township. Mr. Schauls died in the spring of 1906, which left Annie as a young widow with three children.

Annie Schauls married Jacob Funk on August 31, 1908. They moved to a farm at Maple Ridge Township. Mr. Funk accidentally drowned while riding in a gasoline launch on Mud Lake less than a year later on August 4, 1909. It appears that Funk was returning to his home from a trip to Puposky and had nearly reached the landing when he fell out of the boat, sinking to the bottom of the lake into deep mud. Funk could not extricate himself and drowned without rising to the surface. Mrs. Funk was looking out of the window when Jake was coming across the lake and noticed him in the boat. She looked again a few minutes later, and the boat was running wild without any occupant. Their baby boy, Joseph Funk, was born the next day on August 5, 1909. This young man had a tragic start and an early death as well. He became ill and died while a sophomore at St. Thomas College in 1930.

Anna Funk was left with four children, three from her first marriage (Agnes, Francis and John) and baby (Jacob) from her second marriage to Mr. Funk. She moved back into the house at 603 4th Street and in 1913 advertised that four unfurnished rooms were available for rent.

According to the 1920 Census, she and her children were back at the farm in Maple Ridge Township while she rented out the house. It was occupied by G. B. Bagsley in the 1920s and by George Mahn in the 1930s.

Agnes Schauls was mentioned frequently in the newspaper social columns. She was the attendant for the wedding of Grace Riley to Joseph Forester in May 1919. Rudolph Welle was the groomsman. Agnes was also a music student at St. Cecilia’s Music Studio and performed in a quartet at St. Philip’s Hall in 1919. She became a nurse and was married in Bemidji on April 28, 1932, to William Lindusky. They moved to South St. Paul. Mrs. Funk eventually lived with the Linduskys and died on March 31, 1943.

John Schauls married and farmed in Maple Ridge Township. Frank married Ermyl Ashby on June 16, 1934, in Bemidji and moved into the house of his childhood. They raised seven children in the house at 603 4th Street. Mr. Schauls worked at Kenfield Lumber Company for many years and also farmed in Maple Ridge Township. Except for one year, he spent his entire life in Beltrami County. He was a member of the St. Philip’s Catholic Church and the town and school boards of Maple Ridge Township. He was still a resident of 603 Fourth Street at the time of his death on November 25, 1975. Mrs. Schauls lived at the house until her death in 1993.

406 America Avenue
Samuel Robinson and Agnes McConnell were married in 1898. They were two of the earliest residents of Bemidji. He purchased a business lot on the corner of Third St. and Bemidji Avenue on February 1, 1899, and they built this house about the same time. Their daughter Ella Robinson was born in 1898. The 1900 Census shows that Samuel and Agnes had four children (Mable, Effie, Elliot and Ella) living with them. Agnes was the mother of the three youngest children. Judge Spooner granted an absolute decree of divorce to Mrs. Agnes Robinson from her husband, Samuel Robinson on June 5, 1905, and she was allowed the custody of two children, a boy of eight and a girl of five, presumably Elliot and Ella. On the 1910 Census, she and her three children (Effie, Elliot, and Ella) were living at 406 America Avenue. The Sanborn Map Company in 1914 described the house as a dwelling, 1½ stories, with a one-story apartment and porch, and a small building also on the lot. Agnes McConnell Robinson lived in this house for 42 years until her death on May 5, 1941.

Edward Joseph Brouillard moved to the Bemidji area in 1917. He was a private in the infantry in World War I. He and Ella Robinson married when he returned on September 25, 1919, and he moved into the Robinson home. During his career, he worked for the Crookston Lumber Company, the Bigelow Lumber Company, Robertson Lumber Company, and E. E. Kenfield & Sons. He was a member of the Ralph Gracie Post and the Bemidji Fire Department.

Agnes died in 1941 and is buried at Greenwood Cemetery.

Edward and Ella continued to live in the home. The Bemidji City Manager reported in April 1969 that a contract for purchase of the Brouillard property had been concluded for additional parking for City Hall. The Brouillards moved to the Northland Apartments. Edward died on December 24, 1970, and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery. Ella died in Indiana in 1976.

What’s in a Name? (Townships with Ojibwe Names)

by Sue Bruns (from The Depot Express newsletter, Fall 2014)

Beltrami County consists of 51 named townships (not all of them organized) and a number of unnamed, unorganized townships in the northern part of the county. At least four township names have their roots in Ojibwe words:

  • Bemidji Township, which, along with a village established in 1896, took the name “Bemidji,” a shortened version of the Ojibwe name for the lake “Bemejigamaug,” meaning “a lake with water running through it.”
  • Nebish Township: According to the Minnesota Historical Society, Nebish Township and its lake of this name are from the Ojibwe word “aniibiish,” meaning “tea,” a drink enjoyed by both the Ojibwe and white settlers.
  • Waskish Township, located northeast of Upper Red Lake was organized in 1916. The name for this township, as well as the village of Waskish within its borders, reportedly comes from the Ojibwe word for deer: “waawaashkeshi.”
  • Moose Lake Township was named for the already named lake within its borders from the Ojibwe word “mooz.”

Spellings and details about these townships from: Louis Marchand, Up North: Beltrami County’s Townships (Bemidji: Bemidji State University Printing Services, 1998). For more information about Beltrami County’s townships, their beginnings, and how they grew, explore the book in the research library at the Beltrami County History Center.

Sidetracked (Fireplace of States)

By Darla Sathre (from The Depot Express newsletter, Fall 2014)

Fireplace of States, Bemidji, undated [BCHS-2649].
Fireplace of States, Bemidji, undated [BCHS-2649].

I love rocks. So no matter where I am or what I am doing, rocks can get me sidetracked. The nationally known Fireplace of States located in Bemidji’s Chamber of Commerce Tourist Information Center is made of over 900 rocks from all over the country. It all started in the early 1930s with an idea from Harry E. Roese, district manager of the Federal Reemployment Service, as well as president of the Civic and Commerce Association in Bemidji. His grand idea was of a fireplace containing rocks from every state in the union, from every Canadian province, from all 87 Minnesota counties, and from all the national parks. The building of the fireplace became one the New Deal projects designed to keep people working during the Depression.

A short sidetrack concerning Harry Roese: He was the owner of the classy Shorecrest Resort with the dance pavilion on Birchmont Drive.

He did not work alone. A secretary in Harry’s office, Miss Kathleen Wilson, was directed to write solicitation letters for the rocks. Fifty years later she still marveled at how willing people were to send their rocks to Bemidji, especially considering shipping costs of heavy rocks. As the rocks came tumbling in, each was numbered so an identification key could be compiled.

Mark Morse was the stone mason in charge of building and designing the fireplace. (If I were to go on a sidetrack now I would tell you about the Bemidji State University outdoor fireplace, the Greenwood Cemetery pillars, and Mark’s many other masonry projects in Bemidji).

By the end of 1935, the fireplace was completed as part of the octagonal Bunyan House on the shore of Lake Bemidji. For decades tourists admired the great fireplace and the many rocks.

As a sidetrack, I came across a 1939 newspaper article about Miss Elsie Mae Willsey acquiring some circa 1514 tiles in Puerto Rico, from the home of the Spanish Explorer Ponce de Leon, that she planned to bring back to Bemidji to be added to the fireplace. We are not sure about what happened to these. By the way (a sidetracked way), Elsie was a daughter of the well known Captain Willsey of early Bemidji renown, but that would be a whole ‘nother story.

By the mid-1990s, the building was in poor shape and needed to come down. But the great Fireplace of States was to be saved! It was segmented, shrink wrapped, and moved with a crane into the new Tourist Information Center next to the 1937 statues of Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, Babe. Visitors still love the impressive Fireplace of States. Go see it. The only thing missing is the key. The only rocks that
we are certain of the origin are the ones that were engraved by the donors. But it is still worthwhile to check out!

Every Picture Has a Story

By Sharon Geisen (from The Depot Express newsletter, Fall 2014)

Vina Rhoda, Elizabeth Arnold, Francis S. Arnold, and Fred Rhoda with bicycles standing on the street, Bemidji, early 1900s.
Vina Rhoda, Elizabeth Arnold, Francis S. Arnold, and Fred Rhoda with bicycles standing on the street, Bemidji, early 1900s[BCHS-3550].

Have you looked at a picture and wondered: Who are these people? What did they do for a living? Why did they come to Bemidji? If they moved away, where did they go? Where was this picture taken? What happened to that building? What did these people accomplish? Many questions like these stir in our minds just from looking at a picture, and I recently had those questions while looking for pictures to hang in the hallway of the Beltrami County History Center.

I came across this wonderful black and white photograph of two couples with their bikes somewhere in downtown Bemidji. There are several things in the photo that made me start wondering: the architecture of the building, the clothing being worn, and curiosity about the people in the photograph.

The two couples in the picture were identified as Francis Spinner Arnold and his wife, Elizabeth M. (Ridenour) Arnold and Fredrick William Rhoda and Melvina Eva (Yunk) Rhoda. The photo indicated it dated to 1904-1908. Researching these two couples I discovered they both came to Bemidji and became long-time residents of Bemidji and very prominent citizens.

Francis and Elizabeth Arnold are the couple in the middle of the picture. Elizabeth was born December 21, 1868, in Rochester, Iowa. Her parents were John Daniel Ridenour (March 23, 1835 to June 11, 1907) and Sarah Cordelia “Cora” Kester (October 27, 1840 to May 2, 1911).

Elizabeth was one of eight children born to John and Sarah Ridenour. She and Francis married January 10, 1905, in Minneapolis where Elizabeth was employed. They adopted a girl they named Hazel Mildred Arnold. The family is buried in the Greenwood Cemetery in Bemidji.

Elizabeth’s obituary gives us a wonderful look at the active and civic life of Mrs. Arnold. She was active in the Red Cross, a charter member of the Women’s Study Club formed in 1903, and a member of the Beltrami County Welfare Board and the Beltrami County Historical Society. Francis, Elizabeth, and Hazel lived at 802 Beltrami Avenue from 1907 to her death. That home burned in 1968. Elizabeth died June 29, 1952 at the home of Mrs. Elizabeth Cronemiller at 609 Bemidji Avenue.

Francis Spinner Arnold was born March 1, 1867, in the District of Columbia. He graduated from law school at Georgetown University in 1892. Francis was a member of the bar in the District of Columbia and was associated with the United States Court of Claims and the U.S. Court of Prior Land Claims for a number of years, during which time he served as a government representative in Cuba for about a year. He continued law practice in Washington until 1900 when he came to Bemidji and entered a law partnership with L. H. Bailey under the firm name of Bailey and Arnold. Leslie Harrison Bailey was a brother-in-law to Francis and Elizabeth. Mr. Bailey was married to Elizabeth’s sister, Ida Cordelia (Ridenour) Bailey.

For a number of years Mr. Arnold engaged in the abstract business with the Beltrami County Abstract Company dealing mostly in title work, and was well known among the court house employees as a “walking dictionary.” He was considered conversant on current events as well as matters of law and title.

Mr. Arnold played an important role in securing the location of the Bemidji Normal School (later Bemidji State Teachers College and Bemidji State College, and now Bemidji State University). In the early days, he was secretary of the Metropolitan Club, an organization of more than 100 business and professional men of Bemidji who were active in the development of this North Country. Mr. Arnold died May 31, 1937, several months after a stroke.

Fredrick William Rhoda is standing on the far right and Melvina Eva (Yunk) Rhoda is standing on the far left. Melvina Eva Yunk was born in Marinette, Marinette County, Wisconsin on August 11, 1891. The 1905 census shows that she was one of nine children born to Matt Yunk and Mary (Weber) Yunk. Both of her parents were born in Germany (Prussia). Melvina came to Bemidji in 1906. She and Fredrick married in Bemidji in 1907 or 1908 when Melvina was only 16 years old. Melvina lived from the time she married at their home on America Avenue until her death on June 12, 1959. She is buried in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Bemidji.

Fredrick William Rhoda was born on July 19, 1869, on a farm where the village of Swanville is now located in Minnesota to Albert Julius Rhoda and Matilda Rhoda. Albert came to the United States in 1856 at 19 years of age with his parents, Karoline Friederike Wilhelmina Fischer (Born April 12, 1809, in Kremen, Germany (Prussia) and died September 17, 1904 in Winsted, McLeod County, Minnesota) and Christian Wilhelm (William) Rhode (Born September 8, 1801, in Kremen, Oberhavel, Bandeburn, Germany (Prussia) and died March 23, 1888 in Waconia, Carver County, Minnesota).

Fred was Clerk of District Court for Beltrami County from January 1903 until he died at his home at 423 America Avenue on November 27, 1938. When he was a young man, Mr. Rhoda moved with his parents from the farm to Long Prairie and served for a number of years under his father, Albert, who was a deputy county auditor of Todd County. In 1892, Fred went to Staples where he worked as cashier in the Bank of Staples. In 1895, he moved to Park Rapids and became cashier of the Bank of Park Rapids.

On December 24, 1897, Mr. Rhoda came to Bemidji and with William M. Taber started the city’s first bank, the Bank of Bemidji. It was before the days of incorporated state banks, and so it was a private institution. In 1898, the bank sold out and became what is now First National Bank. In 1898, Mr. Rhoda started the Merchants Bank of Bemidji and operated it until the turn of the century, when it was sold to the Lumberman’s State Bank.

Fred and Melvina had one adopted son, Albert M. who was born September 17, 1918. In 1940, Albert, at age 21, was living with his mother at their home at 423 America Ave. Albert was a bookkeeper for a retail lumber yard. I believe that Albert is still living in Bemidji and is 95 years old. I would love to talk to Albert about his long life in Bemidji. Think of all the changes he has seen and the wonderful stories of his parents and the Arnold family. If anyone knows Mr. Albert Rhoda, please contact the History Center so a visit with him could be arranged. I would also love to hear from the children and grandchildren of the Arnolds.

Doing research on these two couples is like being a detective. Maybe my love of history, mysteries, and suspense novels explains why I find looking for information of this kind very fascinating. Doing my own family genealogy over the years has been just as interesting for me as looking for these two families. I found the information for the article at the Beltrami County History Center. If you are trying to uncover your own family history or want to play detective, the History Center is a great resource, and independent research there is free. Obituaries in newspapers are a particularly great source of information. The Arnold family has listed a great deal of information on Elizabeth’s family that can be found at the website Find a Grave, including family photos of Elizabeth’s parents.

What building is that behind our couples? I think it is the building on the corner of Minnesota Avenue and Third Street in Bemidji. The Third Street front was the First National Bank. The side of the building on Minnesota Avenue is shown in this picture. Some of the original railings shown in the picture are still there today. It appears that people lived in this building. You can see curtains in a window and it looks like a walk-up entrance. Notice the beautiful designs of the metal stairs and railings.

On the Street Where You Live (Condemned Buildings)

By Cecelia Wattles McKeig (from The Depot Express newsletter, Fall 2014)

Bank Saloon, Clavin and Tanner, 211 Third Street, Bemidji, undated [Andrew Clavin is fourth from right with dark suit and hat] [BCHS-3753].
Bank Saloon, Clavin and Tanner, 211 Third Street, Bemidji, undated [Andrew Clavin is fourth from right with dark suit and hat] [BCHS-3753].

Driving down the street last spring, I was surprised to see a backhoe at work tearing down a building at 1207 Bemidji Avenue. I quickly made a left and came back through the alley and watched as the claws of the machine tore at the old house. I wondered who had lived there and why it was being torn down. No doubt there was good reason, as many houses in Bemidji have “gone to seed” and needed to be removed. In the early 1960s, more than three dozen old houses, outbuildings, and other structures were condemned and removed by the city or torn down by their owners.

1207 Bemidji Avenue
John McDonald bought four lots on June 27, 1905, for $500 from the Bemidji Townsite Company and built a home there. In the fall of 1906, Mrs. McDonald advertised for a girl to help with the housework. J. A. McDonald advertised his barn for rent on December 27, 1907. They sold the house in 1907 to Matthew Phibbs for $2,200.

Matthew and Mary Phibbs sold the house on contract for $2,070 to Edgar C. McGregor on July 19, 1909. Tragedy followed their move when Edgar, their 5-month-old son, died after an illness of about two months. The funeral was held at the house on November 10, 1909. Edgar McGregor was a timber cruiser born in Canada, and his wife Gertie was born in Minnesota. In 1910, they lived at the house with children Ford, William, John, Daniel, and Marguerite. Ellen Johnson, 22, was the Swedish live-in helper.

Less than a year after baby Edgar’s death, the parents were stunned when their son Ford, age 9, died on July 21, 1910. He had been sick only two or three days and his death was a total shock to his mother. A baby girl named Gertrude was born in the fall on September 19, 1910.

While returning to her home in Nymore at 11:30 at night on August 10, 1911, a young woman who did dressmaking and had been sewing at the McGregor home was accosted on the bridge crossing the Mississippi. A struggle ensued, her screams frightened the man, and he released her and ran.

A son, Thomas, was born in 1913. The Ladies of the First Methodist were entertained at the McGregor home in February 1914. A son, Gordon, was born June 26, 1916. Mrs. McGregor advertised for a nurse girl to assist at the home. In July 1916, E. C. McGregor, accompanied by his son, Jack, went to the Twin Cities to visit Donald Stevens, formerly of Bemidji, for a week.

The next month E. C. McGregor kicked up some excitement when he complained about refunding license money to former saloon owners in Bemidji. The city council voted at a meeting on September 27, 1915, to refund saloon license moneys to 12 former saloon keepers of Bemidji, as follows: Thomas McCarthy, $144.99; Geo. Tanner, $37.58; Matt Thome, $378.57; Gennis & Layon, $245; E. K. Anderson, $490; Andrew Dahl, $695; Frank Lane, $653.33; F. B. Brinkman, $861.91; J. E. Maloy, $397.39; John Bye, $163.33; Harry Gunsalus, $397.39; and J. E. Croon, $144.99.

When money became available for the settlement in 1916, McGregor brought action through Attorney M. J. Brown to halt the refunding of the money. Action was brought against “the city of Bemidji, Charles Vandersluis as mayor, George Stein as clerk,…George W. Rhea as treasurer,” and the former saloon keepers to enjoin the city from returning the license money claimed by saloon keepers. Exception was made of the firm of Gennes & Layon and of Frank Lane for the reason that they closed their places of business on November 30, according to the order of the federal agents, and did not again open them as “soft drink parlors.”

McGregor filed a complaint, on behalf of the taxpayers of Bemidji, that notwithstanding the order, the liquor license holders had continued to operate their respective saloons, designating their respective places of business as “soft drink parlors,” and continued to sell intoxicating and malt liquors, with the exception of the following: “F. E. Brinkman, who from and after the 30th day of November, 1914, discontinued the operation of his saloon.”

The action went to the Supreme Court and I don’t know the outcome. Meanwhile, McGregor must have been doing okay financially as he purchased a new Reo automobile in September 1916. The sale was made through C. E. Battles, who had the Reo agency in this city.

In September 1917, McGregor put the house up for sale. It was described as an eight-room house with bath, barn, and garage on a 100-foot lot facing east and south with crab apple and plum trees, currant bushes and strawberry plants. Household Goods were advertised for sale in April 1918.

McGregor sold the property to Ernest D. Boyce, an employee of the Bemidji Box Factory, on May 21, 1918, for the sum of $3,300. The McGregors moved to Boise, Idaho and lived out their lives in Idaho.
The Presbyterian Aid society met at the home of Mrs. Ernest Boyce on September 26, 1918. It was noted: “Lunch will be served, which will be the first time for the past year, the same having been discontinued in order to Hooverize.”

Gene Boyce, their six-year-old son, was ill but recovered in October 1921. Miss Harriett Boyce was hostess to the Young Ladies Sewing club on a Saturday evening in October 1922. The Boyce family lived in the residence until about 1927 when Boyce sold the residence to G. H. Bergstrom, proprietor of the Bergstrom Flour & Feed Co. Bergstrom sold it to Charles and Etta Johnson, who lived there in the 1930s. He was a carpenter.

The property with the four lots was sold to Homer C. Baer, and then split into two properties. Lots 11 and 12 were sold to J. B. and Ida Parenteau for $600 on June 17, 1937. Lots 9 and 10 were sold to Roxie Nelson for the sum of $1,350 on June 16, 1938. Roxie was a beauty operator in 1942. The property remained in the Nelson family for the next sixty years and was listed in the city directories under the names of Roxie Nelson, Roxie Gilstad, and Mrs. Mina Nelson.

Mrs. Mina Nelson moved to Bemidji in 1937 where she operated a rooming house until her death on May 22, 1966. Mrs. Roxy Gilstad continued to own the property until her death in 1990. In 1974, her son, Private Paul Gilstad, graduated from recruit training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, California.

The house was taken down by a backhoe on April 23, 2014, to make way for a future Bi-CAP Youth-Build home project. A total of three houses were torn down for the program, which is a partnership between the city, Headwaters Regional Development Commission and Bi-CAP to provide housing for low-income individuals.

315 Fifth Street
An interesting and once-lovely home was in existence on Fifth Street from 1898 until it was razed in 1970. The home was built by A. T. Clavin. The local newspaper noted that Clavin had almost completed his one-story building on the Ed Boyd lot on February 10, 1898. The old Clavin house was right across the alley west of the Presbyterian Church.

Andrew and his wife Annie were one of the first couples to settle in Bemidji. Andrew was an Irishman, born in Wisconsin in January 1849. Annie Seado was almost 20 years younger, born in 1868 in Wisconsin. They were married about 1887. In 1900, Anna, a Swedish seamstress lived at this residence as the servant. The Clavins are listed in the first Bemidji city directory in 1904, but no street addresses had been assigned yet.

Clavin was an early saloon keeper. In 1912, he was the co-owner of the Clavin & Tanner Saloon at 211 Third Street. He was also owner of the Star Theatre. In 1909, he attended the Seattle Exposition and visited with old friends. He asserted that he had one of the most enjoyable times of his career and that the “big show” is indeed a “hummer.”

In 1912, the Fire Marshall ordered George Tanner and Andrew Clavin to remove the two story building known as the “Star Theatre,” situated on lots 18 and 19 of block 17, within sixty days because it was an alleged fire trap. Clavin filed an injunction and in 1917, Judge Stanton modified the order and directed the owners of the building to repair it and to make the chimneys, heating apparatus, and electric wiring conform to Bemidji city ordinances.

Members of the Linger Longer Club surprised Mrs. Clavin on her birthday in March 1917. The members gathered at the Clavin home and prepared a sumptuous seven o’clock dinner. The hours were spent in cards and music. By this time, the house was quite imposing. The house had ten rooms and beautiful chandeliers and furniture. I remember Mrs. Clavin sitting on the porch, and my brother was her paperboy. Clavin also had property in Eckles Township.

After the death of Andrew in 1932, Mrs. Clavin continued to live there and to take in boarders. At one time, her brother John Seado lived with her. He was a retired lumberman and a resident of the Bemidji area since approximately 1920.

Mrs. Clavin died about 1952. The property passed to the First National Bank on March 30, 1954. It became a nine-unit apartment house with many problems. Firemen were called to the residence on several occasions, and in October 1970, the city passed a resolution that the building had to be either repaired or razed. The owners of the building, John and Lucille Wright, had 60 days to improve the conditions in the dwelling or to have the building torn down. Jack Wright opted to tear it down. He recalled in an article for North Country that the house had some nice chandeliers and a beautiful old china cabinet.

The Social Security office was built there later on and it is currently the site of the Chriswell Building.

The Bemidji Belle & Dixie Belle

By P. J. Reynolds (exclusive online content to accompany The Depot Express newsletter, Summer 2014)

Bemidji has changed a lot over the years. Tons of tourist attractions have come and gone, but there is one attraction that many old timers will always remember: the Bemidji Belle and the Dixie Belle. During the 1950s the Bemidji Belle and the Dixie Belle were very popular tourist attractions. They used to sit at a dock which was at the water front near the Paul and Babe statue.

The Bemidji Belle was a 66 foot knotty pine stern-wheeler. It was launched on May 21, 1953, its captain being Don Holmes. It held up to 125 passengers. While they snacked and listened to music from either a jukebox or live orchestra, they cruised around Lake Bemidji for about 30-40 minutes at a time. A year earlier, the Dixie Belle was launched in 1952, and Don Holmes also operated this boat. Also in 1952, the City Council approved for Don Holmes to install rides on the lake front. Holmes thought that it would increase tourism to the small town of Bemidji. Don called this place the Paul Bunyan Playground. Don Holmes did many things to bring more life to this community and for the tourists that were exploring Bemidji at the time.

But sadly the Paul Bunyan Playground disappeared in 2006. And the Bemidji and Dixie Belle were finally docked in 1973 and were never sailed again. Don Holmes passed away September 9th, 1999 here in Bemidji. Don Holmes is gone, but he left a memory behind, the memory of Paul Bunyan Park. Where kids and parents could go and spend a fun afternoon together. He left behind a memory of fun, and he will never be forgotten and neither will the Bemidji Belle and the Dixie Belle.

Sidetracked (Drs. Larson & Larson)

By Darla Sathre (from The Depot Express newsletter, Summer 2014)

Eyesight is something we tend to take for granted until we have a problem. I have worn glasses since childhood, but recently got a new prescription. I am now wearing trifocals with lines. They take a little getting used to, and the first time I wore them in the museum archive room my eyes felt a little dizzy. Nothing major, just some adjustment issues on my part involving moving my head up and down trying to focus on newspaper articles. So when I noticed a 1907 Bemidji Daily Pioneer article about a local optometrist office I got sidetracked. A picture of an eye halfway through an article is what really caught my attention. The article’s headline read “DRS. LARSON AND LARSON INSTALL ELECTRIC SIGN.” The sign they had installed was a large reproduction of an eye. It was wired to wink at passersby!

Before Bemidji had an optometry office, Dr. C. J. Larson had an office in Park Rapids. Several times a year he would come to the Hotel Remore in Bemidji and stay a few days seeing eye patients. Then in September 1906, Dr. Carl J. Larson and Dr. Erick W. Larson started their Drs. Larson and Larson optometry business in Bemidji. It is obvious that they kept up-to-date in their profession. By early 1908 they had a lens grinder in their office. In March 1909 they acquired the new De Zeng’s Luminous Retinoscope and Opthalmoscope. In 1909, Dr. E. W. Larson completed a post-graduate course at the New York Institute of Optometry. He then passed an exam to be qualified as an optometrist in North Dakota as well.

Drs. Larson and Larson had various locations over the years, sometimes residing in the same building as their office. Locations included: the Mayo block, over the post office, over Boardman’s Drug Store, 401½ Beltrami Avenue, and two doors west of the 3rd Street Café. At one time their residence was 515 Bemidji Avenue.

Dr. Carl Larson was also a clarinetist and a member of the City of Bemidji band. He died in 1963 at the age of 85. One of his daughters, Bea, was also an optometrist.

Of course, Bemidji has been home to many other optometrists. While looking for stories about others, I got sidetracked by a story involving the father of former Bemidji optometrist Dr. James Davey. Both father and son were Dr. James Davey. The elder was an ear, nose, and throat specialist in Chicago. He once removed a cyst from the ear of Homer Onassis – you know, the father of Aristotle who was married to Jackie Kennedy. Anyway, this surgery saved Homer’s life and in gratitude he gave the doctor an Italian custom-made nickel bed. About twenty years ago this bed was up for auction, with a minimum bid of $100.000. I am sorry to tell you that I do not know if it sold (or to whom or for how much money) because as I started to dig for more facts I once again became sidetracked. Besides, I have to go now to clean my new glasses. Maybe that is part of my adjustment problem!

Images from the Bemidji Daily Pioneer, July 25, 1907 & the Bemidji Daily Pioneer, March 27, 1909.