On the Street Where You Live (Lake Boulevard Indian Trail)

By Cecelia Wattles McKeig (from The Depot Express newsletter, Summer 2015) The historic Indian trail along Lake Bemidji’s west shore still exists, although perhaps it is not used to the extent it was in earlier years. The old trail has always been of great interest to local residents. It stretches along the lakeshore from Library Park to Bemidji State University. It has gone through periods of disinterest and lack of care to intense beautification projects spearheaded by the Bemidji Women’s Garden Club in the 1960s. The trail is a remnant of an Indian trail that linked Leech Lake with Red Lake. The trail was cleaned up and the area improved in 1941 by Works Progress Administration workers. Stonework, steps, and benches were put in. For […]

Sidetracked (Candy)

By Darla Sathre (from The Depot Express newsletter, Spring 2015) Valentine’s Day, with its surfeit of chocolate and other candy, is over. Soon will be Easter, along with more chocolate, as well as a variety of other indulgent sweets. I got to wondering about the availability of candy in the early days of Beltrami County. The first mention of candy that I found was maple sugar cakes distributed to visiting children by Chief Bemidji! It did not take long before bakeries and candy stores, or confectionaries as they were called, were scattered throughout the area. Mr. and Mrs. Frank Thompson built one of the first in Bemidji on Third Street during the summer of 1896. By July they even had new sidewalks in front of […]

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, […]

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 […]

Sidetracked (Potato Chip Plant)

By Darla Sathre (from The Depot Express newsletter, Winter 2014) Sidetracked 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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Sidetracked (Fireplace of States)

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

Every Picture Has a Story

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

On the Street Where You Live (Condemned Buildings)

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