Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Military History of Otter Tail County

I was looking around the Otter Tail County Historical Society and came across this excellent source.

The OTCHS has done an excellent job giving a synopsis of Otter Tail County Military History.

They have a couple of great sounding exhibits opening in February- 'Otter Tail County in World War I' and 'Making Otter Tail County.' More information can be found here.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Vietnam Veterans Plaque Unveiled

The new Vietnam Veterans Plaque was unveiled on Veterans Day last Friday, November 11th. As part of the Veterans Day program, Fred Liljegren, Parkers Prairie High School graduate, a veteran, local character of note, and History Club Advisor, gave the keynote speech. His speech encouraged students to 'pay your debt' as many veterans have sacrificed for our country to be the great place that it is. He emphasized vigilance over complacency, gratitude over arrogance, and giving over entitlement. He encouraged students to take charge of their own education and to challenge themselves. 

At the conclusion of the address the new Vietnam Veterans Plaque was unveiled. The previous plaque (see earlier post) was missing a few names and there was not enough room to fit the others on. The new plaque is pictured with Mr. Liljegren above. Since its unveiling, another name has been brought to our attention (good thing there are extra name plates) and will be added soon. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

William O. Douglas

Image result for william o douglas

"Common sense often makes good law." William O. Douglas, 1957.

I was well aware of William O. Douglas's long tenure on the Supreme Court. He was selected to serve on the Highest Court in the Land by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1939, just a couple years after the failed court packing scheme in which FDR attempted to expand the number of judges to ensure his New Deal programs would not be shut down. Douglas became the longest serving judge in Supreme Court history, serving thirty five years. During his time on the court he wrote thirty books and numerous opinions.

He was an unconventional judge, writing his opinions quickly and using a variety of techniques, earning him the nickname Wild Bill. He was in the minority opinion often. He was a strong voice for First Amendment rights. He was a factor in a number of historic cases, upholding FDR's internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, claiming a right of privacy in the "penumbras" of the Constitution that later was used in part to legalize abortion, and he granted a temporary stay of execution to the Rosenbergs, who had been convicted of selling atomic bomb information to the Soviets.

Long story short, this Douglas played a major role in twentieth century America. I will spare writing more about his accomplishments here as there is plenty of great sources that cover that ground. The real question is, what is he doing on this site?

A couple of weeks ago I was eating at Tilly T's and ran into Norman Barge. During our conversation he brought up Douglas and his connection to Otter Tail County. He left me some additional information in my mailbox at church. It turns out that Douglas was born in Maine Township in Otter Tail County in 1898. The next time you are at Phelps Mill (which has a plaque in his honor), head about a mile and a half north to the Presbyterian Church. It was at this church's manse that Douglas was born.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A.W. Perkins

Fred Liljegren and Delmer Schmidt placing a Veteran’s Star at AW Perkins’ grave.

On a small hill north of Parkers Prairie, on the property of Demer Schmidt, is a solitary government issue limestone grave marker. There lies the body of A.W. Perkins, who fought for the Union for the entirety of the Civil War. This past week The Parkers Prairie History Club, along with Mr. Schmidt, placed a Veteran’s Star at this site to honor Mr. Perkin’s service.

According to the Otter Tail County Historical Society, Perkins was 17 years old when he enlisted in October of 1861. Joining him at Fort Snelling were his father and two brothers. They served in the 4th Minnesota Infantry Company D, and their first stop was Fort Abercrombie in North Dakota. Their job was essentially to keep peace on the frontier between Native Americans and settlers. Needless to say, this is assignment was not what many of the men who signed up wanted. In March of 1862 the Company was sent to St. Louis.

The adventure that many of the enlistees sought came quickly at this point. After participating in the Battle of Corinth, a fight that came down to hand to hand combat before a Confederate retreat, The Siege of Vicksburg followed. This was another crucial Union victory orchestrated by Ulysses S. Grant. It was brutal, forcing the Confederate soldiers and civilians of the town to be reduced to eating dogs, cats, and rats. This was the last Confederate hold of the Mississippi River and ended at the same time as the Battle of Gettysburg, providing the Union two major victories.
Perkins then took part in William Tecumseh Sherman’s March to the Sea, destroying everything along the way and crippling the South.

While the Historical Society was unable to find a cause of death, it is known that Perkins moved to Elmo Township to be with his parents and a younger brother, Abe Lincoln Perkins, who is buried on the same hill without a marker. This area was the frontier at the time, and death records were not always kept consistently. Gravestones were also not easy to get or afford during this time. However, Andrew Wattson Perkins was issued his marker for his service to the country.

Special thanks to Missy Hermes of the Otter Tail County Historical Society for researching A.W. Perkins and Delmer Schmidt  for allowing us access to his property and for joining us in honoring Perkins with his Veteran’s Star.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Vietnam Veterans Plaque

The PPHS History Club is looking to find the names of Vietnam veterans not already listed on the plaque in the high school, which is dedicated to all those who attended Parkers Prairie High School and also served in the Vietnam War. We are also looking for the names of nurses who served in the Vietnam War and attended PPHS. Unfortunately, not all of the names were put on the plaque, and we are looking to fix that. As of now, the History Club knows of two Vietnam veterans who are not listed: Leon Hansen and George Woida. The names listed below are all those who are currently on the plaque. If you know of anyone whose name is not on the list and should be, please contact David O’Brien at dobrien@pp.k12.mn.us or Fred Liljegren at 218-338-6173. Keep in mind that the veteran does not necessarily need to have graduated from PPHS, only to have attended. Thank you for any information you may provide!
Veterans whose names are currently listed on the plaque: Stevan Angell, Dwight L. Benson, Robert C. Bjerketvedt, Ronald C. Diedrich, Gary D. Diekow, Roger A. Dittberner, Lowell E. Freudenberg, John L. Gessel, Warren S. Hall, Kent B. Halverson, Terry E. Iverson, Donald M. Martinson, Michael A. Lein, Bruce N. Boehne, James H. Hanson, Urben T. Hellerman, Leroy C. Hemquist, Ronald D. Hink, Thomas M. Hink, Alvin C. Johnson, Robert C. Julig, Daryl P. Koep, Douglas D. Kraemer, James M. Kraemer, Gale D.Uhde, Klaus W. Seeger, David Diedrich, Steven J. Jenson, David E. Larson, Jon M. Larson, Thomas D. Larson, Ronald A. Lenke, Richard J. Lenarz, Allan J. Lenz, Robert W. Lenz, Earnest A. Lind, Roger O. Lukken, Gary C. Uhde, James A. Watt, Donald Myren, James R. Boehne, Roger A. Meyer, Gary J. Olson, Dennis O. Payne, Tony J. Quitmeyer, Alan D. Ratajesak, Kenneth L. Rauscher, James A. Robbin, Marvin H. Schauland, Charles T. Severson, Thomas R. Terfehr, James J. Theusch, Lester O. Freske, John T. Lundblad, Charles A. Thun, Donald A. Uhde, Thomas A. Uhde, Charles K. Venzke, David A. Weber, Dennis Weber, Duane S. Weller, Irvin G. Woodworth Jr, Donald H. Zuehlke, David E. Booen, David F. Carlson, Ralph S. Guck, Michael F. Theusch, Richard S. Theusch, and Donald R. Rubner.
UPDATE 7.27: Thus far we have over a dozen names that will be added.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Herdman Barn Pictures Part Four: FOLDEN TOWNSHIP

Click on the image above for part three of the Herdman Barn Pictures. See here for more information on these images!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Herdman Barn Pictures Part Three: EFFINGTON TOWNSHIP

Click on the image above for part three of the Herdman Barn Pictures. See here for more information on these images!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Herdman Barn Pictures Part Two: ELMO TOWNSHIP

Click on the image above for part two of the Herdman Barn Pictures. See the previous post for more information on these images!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Herdman Barn Pictures

Last year while I was at a wedding reception for a former student, I was chatting with Gale Iverson about the History Club and some of the things we have been up to the last couple of years. He mentioned to me that Donna Herdman had pictures of a number of local farms. I jotted myself a note.

I was pleasantly surprised when I came to school one morning and had a message from her. She had beaten me to the punch. The History Club had begun its annual application process and we were looking at activities for the summer. The focus for the year is the changing rural landscape. When Donna mentioned the pictures she had, the fit could not have been more perfect.

These photos were taken by Donna and her husband during the 90's. The sheer number of photos is remarkable and they provide the visual evidence of the importance of agriculture in this community (not that a drive through the countryside would not be ample enough evidence). The History Club spent a day scanning the photographs so they can be available digitally. Click here for the first of a series of the photos that Donna has so kindly shared. This first batch is Parkers Prairie Township and the family names and sections have all been documented by the Herdmans.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Gustave H. Shoutz

This past spring the Minnesota History class was exploring the centennial book. In the section on the elevator was a picture of a gentleman, G.H. Shoutz. No one knew much about him and there was little about in the centennial book aside from the fact he built the first elevator in town. We did some searching online. No luck. Using the website findagrave, I hoped that information about him would quickly reveal what we wanted to know- his story. 

Today the History Club headed to the Otter Tail County Historical Society for an array of item to research, one of them being Mr. Shoutz. Wil Hezlep and Chloe Thue were in charge of finding his story. They found it using the microfilm of the Parkers Prairie Independent. Of particular interest was his obituary, published on January 12, 1961.

Gustave was born, raised, and married in Glencoe. His wife, Amelia, moved with him to Parkers Prairie in 1903. His elevator was indeed the first one built in town, using lumber hauled from Henning by wagon. The timing was perfect. The railroad came through shortly thereafter. His elevator was ready and full. Twelve years later her partnered with Math Kraemer and they dismantled his original elevator and moved it to Goodrich. Then the partners bought the Prairie Elevator. 

They later built a Philip's 66 Station on Highway 29 and the Feed Mill. Shoutz was a busy man, later owning and operating elevator in Westbury, Minnesota and Bridger, Montana. At age 71, he sold his share of the elevator and service station to his partner and settled into retirement. He enjoyed life in Parkers Prairie for the next twenty years.

So why did our search prior fail? Well, Mr. Shoutz was buried not here in Parkers, but in Buffalo Lake, where he and his wife had lived in the earlier years of their marriage. 

The elevator (actually, there were a few at one point earlier in the century) was crucial for farms in the area to get their products to the market in the railroad era. The importance of local elevators cannot be underestimated. Shoutz and Kraemer deserve a lot of credit for their entrepreneurial spirit and contributions to commerce in the bygone days of Parkers Prairie.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Oak Hill Cemetery: Lost and Found

This summer I will be posting a few essays. First up is more on Oak Hill (formerly Scriven) Cemetery. Google maps labels it Scribbner Cemetery and I have no idea why. Click here for Oak Hill Cemetery: Lost and Found.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Country School #218

This documentation tells us all about district #218 in Effington Township, Ottertail County. In this there will be interviews, teaching records, maps and historical happenings.  This was written from a local history student, Amber McManigle, taught by Kelly Mesker In January 14, 2000. Thanks to her great work we have all of this great information at our fingertips. 

Parkers Prairie Explosion

The images above show where the explosion happened in town and the buildings affected by the explosion. Click on it to enlarge.

On April 2nd, 1995, Parkers Prairie had its infamous explosion. An inebriated teenager was opening the lines on propane tanks around town. He opened four of the valves in the back of the fire hall. The propane tanks were used for the Smelt Fry. The explosion had occurred when the furnace turned on early Sunday morning. There were editorial reports saying that the lines might not have been capped the night before. If they were capped, the explosion might not have happened. Of course, if the tanks were not tampered with, there would have been no explosion.

A teenager was convicted. He was kept in custody in fear that he would run away because he had run away twice from his parents that year. As for the town’s recovery, it took about a year to repair all the buildings that were damaged. Governor Arne Carlson Representative Collin Peterson had visited the town to asses the damages. The town had received a million dollar donation from the state to repair buildings and build a new city hall, fire hall, and to replace the fire trucks. While this was a difficult time for all involved, the town came through the incident stronger.

Creamery Part Two

Shown here is a record of stock from the Parkers Prairie creamery.  The original price of the stock was $5.00 per share in the 1930’s. The first stockholders were A.B. Hazen and Geo. Mccombs. The owner and founder of the creamery was John Hawkinson. The first creamery was erected on Highway 29 Where Frank Bettin’s house now stands. It ended up going bankrupt after about 3 years of operation. In 1907 farmers pushed to have another creamery and eventually did buying the building for $600. It continued business until Land O’ Lakes bought the building in 1970 and the building was abandoned in 1971. This signified the end of Parkers Prairie Creamery.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Creamery Records

Our assignment consisted of Mr. Dave O’Brien giving us a box of dusty paperwork and we had to go through them all. The box was labeled Creamery Records and we found mostly tax records and building records from the early 1900s. Among those records we found these three instruments.
The object on the right is a “Paley Test Bottle”. This instrument was used to measure fat in milk and cream. This was called the “Babcock Method” of measuring. In the middle of the image there is the instructions for use of the Paley Test Bottle. On the top of the image is a Butter Color Indicator used to tell the correct color of butter. If it was the correct color that meant it was made correctly.The other glass instrument was a ladle to pour the milk and cream into the “Paley Test Bottle.”

Monday, April 18, 2016

Oak Hill Cemetery

A few years ago a student claimed that there were Civil War vets buried near his home in a small cemetery. I quickly forgot about it, thinking he was mistaken. However, after this young man brought it up on another occasion, my interest piqued. A good friend of mine, Fred Liljegren, went to the site one day after school and, sure enough, it was exactly what my student had mentioned. Six Civil War vets were buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, formerly known as Scriven. 

This began the Parker Prairie History Club's interest in the abandoned cemetery. The group talked to the township to get approval to clean up and maintain the cemetery. For the past two years, the group has done just that. On top of the maintenance, the group has investigated the history of this interesting spot.

Using dowsing rods (an admittedly unscientific method) it appears that there are far more people buried at this site than the number of markers that are there. While some of this is due to the fact that not everyone had a markers placed at their burial site during the time period when this cemetery was active. However, oral histories indicate that there used to be over one hundred markers. So where did they go? Well that is the mystery. This area may have been used at one point as a pasture. This may have led to damage. It is clear in looking at the landscape that there are unmarked graves. The ground has settled in spots that indicate a burial location. Furthermore, blue flag blossoms- a flower commonly used to mark burial sites- blossom each year.

The cemetery is on donated land that residents could use for burial plots if they grubbed out the tress. It was an active cemetery from the 1870s until the 1930s. Six Civil War vets, including Thomas Costello and Benjamin Rice are interned here. Hanna Foote, the Scriven postmaster, is buried there. According to Spruce Hill Remembered, there was a diptheria epidemic in 1896 and there are at least three documented cases of children who passed who do not have a death certificate on file or a grave marker. Furthermore, Spruce Hill township had a population of nearly seven hundred around 1900. Those who passed away needed a place for a proper burial and Oak Hill fit the bill.

So, how will the History Club find out how many are buried there? Well, we may not be able to. We have attempted to enlist Ground Penetrating Radar, but it is expensive and our attempt to procure a grant has been painfully slow moving. The mystery remains...

More on the Oak Hill Cemetery will be posted in the future.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Elevator Down!

Kelly Mesker stopped by my classroom the other day and dropped off some items of interest. The attached photo of the 1903 Elevator being knocked down was of particular interest to some of my students (they are always interested in the destructive events in this town's history). According to 100 Years of  Community, the Parkers Prairie Centennial book, G.H. Schoutz owned and operated the first Elevator in town. It changed hands a few times before it was demolished, but Mr. Shoutz remains an interesting, somewhat elusive case and the PPHS History Club is going to make an effort to track down his personal history. Some online searching turned up little, save for some interesting notes in google books. More info on this gentleman to come. As always, if anyone reading this has information, please share! Until then, click here for some images of the elevator's fall.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Proposed Golf Course

Click on the image above for an image of the proposed golf course from the sixties!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Special Bond Election

On November 2, 1966, the town of Parkers Prairie was asked to vote on whether or not to add on to the school. The new addition would include a new gym, several classrooms including science rooms, agriculture and shop rooms, a library, and several bathrooms. Although, the layout today isn’t the design pictured, the schools renovations for 1966 are still functioning and in use today. In the attachment (click on image above) there is a proposed drawing of the addition with a list of what will be included in the proposal, a list of reasons why the vote was taking place, and a comparison of other school levies.

1997 Fishing League Facts Book

In 1988, Phil Revering started a fishing league in Parkers Prairie. There were 11 teams the first year which turned into 16 teams during the second. This is when they decided to limit the amount of teams each year to 16 because interest had generated, but public access was limited. The league fished on different lakes around the area including Adely, Carlos, Clitheral, Big Chippeawa, and many more. The attachment (click on the image above) shows names of teams, details on fish caught from each lake, and other things the league needed like rules and a tentative schedule.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

February 1965 Area Fact Survey

By clicking on the booklet above you can view a 'Community Fact Survey' printed by the Parkers Prairie Lions Club. A shot history of the town, some great images, and information on industries and taxation in the area are included. This was recently given to the class by Kelly Mesker. 

P.S. Kathee and Gary, if you recognize this it is because you gave it to Kelly with instructions written on the packet to "return to Gary Olson." We promise we will return it soon!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

December 1964 School Newspaper

By clicking here, you can visit the December 1964 school newspaper. The front page headline: Luke 2:1-14. This was in the era of change with the Supreme Court's Engel v. Vitale decision, the case that certainly reduced the role of religion in the public schools. The class certainly had a good time looking through this newspaper, as a couple of familiar faces in the building are on the Grade 9 Honor Roll. There is plenty to look at, from columns to sports rosters and results. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Exhibit at OTCHS


The Otter Tail County Historical Society has an exhibit on high school sports in Otter Tail County. GO TEAM! is the 2016 temporary exhibit and each school has supplied artifacts and information for the exhibit. With the help of Kelly Mesker, some of the Parkers Prairie Panthers artifacts are on display. For example, Parkers Prairie had a girls basketball team in the 1920s! It is definitely worth a look. More on the exhibit can be found here. The Minnesota History class paid it a visit on March 15th.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Proposed Lake Adley Park

Recently a student brought in this proposal for Lake Adley Park dated 1955. By clicking on the blueprint above, an image that can be enlarged further will open. As can be seen, the park was not made to the proposed size. Highway 29 and the road heading to the park are clear on the blueprint and the proposal allows for a large area north of where the current park is. The only parts that made it were the access road and a small part of what they had of the picnic area and the shooting range was put elsewhere.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Parkers Prairie Roller Mill

While organizing the files of local history projects, we came across some old photos. These photographs are of the Parkers Prairie Roller Mill. When looking in the Centennial, we found the mill was located near the four old elevators. Roller Mills use cylindrical rollers to grind grain, as opposed to gristmills, which used large, circular stones. An example of a roller mill would be Phelps Mill. Although we couldn’t find a lot information about the old Parkers Prairie Roller Mill, we think the photos are interesting enough to share. If anyone has any additional information about the Parkers Prairie Roller Mill, please contact dobrien@pp.k12.mn.us.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Minnesota Map...including Scriven!

This map of Minnesota has no date on it, but we have placed it to be made somewhere in the early nine-teen hundreds. There are many small towns on this map where censuses were no longer taken after the early 1900s. One of the most noteable of these is Scriven which is located just southeast of Parkers Prairie on the close up picture of our region. The town of Scriven had a Post Office that closed in 1905, though the community lingered on for a few years afterward. The company that made the map, AK Nystrom & Company, told us the map is vintage, but could not help us identify the year. Apparently the year the map was made would be on the bottom right side, but has frayed off. In the coming months, more will be posted on Scriven- particularly its cemetery. 

Click here for a closer image.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Peterson Burial Mound

The Peterson Burial Mound is located on the Southeast side of Nelson lake located in Parkers Prairie township. The burial site was first discovered by a farmer in the 1930’s when plowing his field. There were two burial mounds discovered when the farmer who owned the land plowed up the first mound and found human bone fragments including the skull. Upon discovering this, he decided to contact the University of Minnesota Archaeological Department.  The archeology crew then discovered a second mound with human remains as well. The bone fragments of six individuals were brought to the University of Minnesota and were eventually repatriated at the Sisseton Reservation in 1999. Very little is known by locals about this site or any actions that the University of Minnesota took in regards to this site. This information was found in a Minnesota Historical Society publication from 1968 and through correspondence with the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Historical Society. Click here for additional information.
Source: Burial Mounds of Central Minnesota (St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society, 1969)

Friday, February 5, 2016

1983 All School Reunion

A school was built and teachers hired,
The way our ancestors desired.
We find in history as we delve -
The first grads were in 1912.
Up rose the sigh, “Dear Parkers High.”
But hist’ry’s hazy, sometimes crazy.
It seems around that time, we’re told,
There were years of two-year classes -
Pioneers, those lad and lasses.
And time went by, at Parkers High.

- “As Time Goes By At Parkers High” by Eileen Klein

Deep in the files of Mr. Mesker’s cabinet, we found this speech from the all school reunion held on August 13, 1983. The event brought 1,500 past students, faculty, and administration from all walks of life to Parkers Prairie High School for a day full of fun. Irene Murray, a graduate from the class of 1913, was the oldest student at the program. Former students from different graduating classes were involved in the program, which included music, skits, entertainment, and speeches. Everyone came together again and shared old and new stories. Click on the image above for more information.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Proposed Junior College in Parkers Prairie, 1968

The first artifact we have chosen to share is this interesting document from 1968. Mayor George Revering wrote the introductory letter for this informational packet that sought to have a junior college located in Parkers Prairie. It is followed by a letter of support from the Parkers Praire School Board Chairman Carold Hilgren. This is followed by information about the town and why it would be a good location. Included in this information is: demographics, maps, potential students, a proposed site, and who to contact for additional information. One very interesting aspect included is the number of local businesses. This is on page eight of the packet and definitely worth perusing. Click on the image above to open the file.

Thursday, January 28, 2016


Public School, Parkers Prairie Minnesota, 1908

Parkers Prairie School, 1908
Photo from Minnesota Historical Society

Thank you for checking out this website. The purpose of this site to share interesting historical stories from the Parkers Prairie area. Please check out the About section of the site for more information. Our first artifacts will be posted soon!