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The townsite of Gemmell, in southwestern Koochiching County, was the homestead of Peter McHugh. The place was first called Stoner but the name was changed to Gemmell in honor of W.H. Gemmell, first roadmaster of Minnesota and International Railway.
Among the homesteaders arriving around 1901 were: Thorsten Olson, C.A. Siders, L.F. Bryant,Eric Engquist, A. Berdahl, A.J. Landgaard, S.B. Hilborne, Leon Hoyt and son Albert, and Rev. A.E. Evans. All of these are now deceased. Sam and Louis Gangestead and Billy Winterstein were also among the early homesteaders.
School classes were first conducted in an abandoned building in the spring of 1907, and a log table with 21 kitchen chairs was used. This was later moved into a large room over a saloon, then into a newly built two-room schoolhouse in the summer of 1908. It is this building that was used until 1916 when a brick building was erected. The first school teacher was Edith Covell. In this latter building the students were able to avail themselves of a four year high school course.
In later years, when the timber industry had diminished, many families moved to other places. Consequently the school enrollment dropped and the students were transported by bus to Mizpah and Northome.
The first hotel built was called the Stoner Hotel, was owned and operated by Miss Anna Aaberg, and was next managed by Mr, E.W. Gosline. The year after assuming ownership of the Aaberg hotel, Mr. Gosline built a new hotel. Miss Aaberg sold her building to the Joseph Reinarz family, who arrived in Gemmell in November, 1906.
Arrival of the railroad in 1905 brought another sort of boom -- new business places, more settlers, logging camps and sawmills.
Charles Whitney was the first agent here for the M. & I. Railroad. The depot was built in 1909. The first section foreman to locate here was James Ramsey.
Being a great timber country, logging was the main occupation of the settlers in those days. In those times, Page and Hill had one of the largest pole and cedar yards in the world located at Gemmell. They commenced operations in 1908. National Pole Company also had a large cedar yard there.
Frank Miller built the first sawmill at Gemmell, but sold to Leon Hoyt. (Another source states that Mr. Hoyt purchased his mill from a Mr. Niles.) Hoyt operated the mill for many years, and it was later destroyed by fire. Ross & Ross, owners of a large sawmill, began operations at Gemmell' in 1910.
The first pastor at Gemmell was the homesteader Rev. A.E. Evans, a Presbyterian. Most of the early ministers were missionaries who travelled from place to place. Later on services were conducted at Gemmell by pastors from Mizpah and Northome.
Gemmell's present church was started through the efforts of Rev. Phillip Dermond, a Methodist pastor from Northome. It was dedicated in 1924 by a Rev. Pritchard. At present Gemmell has a Community Ladies Aid Society, composed of both Lutherans and Methodists.
Since most of the virgin timber has disappeared from the land in this section, the settlers have cleared some tracts and an agricultural community is in the making.
Pioneer Axel Dahl
Recalls 48 Years of Gemmell History
Pioneer Axel Dahl has been an interested observer and conscientious contributor to the development of the Gemmell area since 1902. It was natural, therefore, to seek his help in relating the history of the community where he has lived for almost 48 years.
"Still pluggin along on the farm," Mr. Dahl has provided the material for the account printed here today.
Dahl was born in 1878 at Oslo, Norway, and came to America in 1902. The same year he was attracted by the resources of the North Country and moved to Gemmell, where he took an 80 acre homestead.
Mrs. Dahl, sister of another Gemmell pioneer, Thorston Olson, came north in 1907. The two were married the following year at International Falls. Dahl recalls the ceremony very well because it was a double affair with Mr. & Mrs. A. Berdahl of Gemmell speaking their vows at the same time. As Dahl puts it, "Attorney Bill Kane spliced us together."
The six children born to Mr. and Mrs. Dahl are: Heider, living in California; Solveig (Mrs. Joe Thompson), also in California; Odvar and Harley, farmers at Gemmell; Gardar, living in Oregon, and Nora (Mrs. George Hecimovich) of Bovey, Minn.
Following are some notes from Axel Dahl's memory: Between 1898 and 1905 at least A new settlers came to make their homes in and around the present town of Gemmell.
Pete McHugh platted part of his land and the place was called Clear Lake. Later
was changed to Stoner and after the railroad arrived, it became Gemmell.
Inga Aaberg and Ole Person (Boyer) erected the first hotel. Inga was a sister of Arne Aaberg, early merchant of Northome.
Mrs. H.E. Huber was the first postmistress.
A Rev. Jensen was the first Lutheran minister at Gemmell. He traveled over much of the country on foot. It seems that "the apostles' horses" were the chief mode of transportation in those early years.
Blackduck was the nearest trading point. It took one day down and one day to come back, with a pack load of from 70 to 100 lbs.
Dahl remembers carrying a cast iron cook stove on his head for 3 1/2 miles. To obtain rest, he had to lean against a tree. If he had set the stove down he could not have been able to get it back on his head again. Many others had similar experiences.
Arrival of the railroad in 1905, brought another sort of a boom - new business places, more settlers, logging camps, and sawmills.
Frank Miller built the first sawmill at Gemmell, but sold it to Leon Hoyt. The State Lumber Company put in a mill that cut from 140 to 60 thousand board feet per day. The Crookston Lumber Company used a steam skidder and took out millions of feet of white pine, besides buying logs from the settlers along the railroad.
Among the large operators in cedar were the National Pole Company, Page and Hill, American Cedar, Northern Cedar, Larson Bros., Oscar Forstenson, Martin Bros., and E.A. Johnson. There were many smaller operators.
It was commonly reported that the National Pole Company's yard at Gemmell was the largest cedar concentrating point in the United States at the time.
C.B. Juelson built and operated a very complete general store. He sold out and moved to Portland, Ore.
E.W. Gosline put up a hotel and saloon and later opened a store. He bought up several tracts of land until now he has one of the largest farms around. It is well stocked with beef cattle.
Charles Hoyt was in the saloon business for a time but sold his building to Mrs. Anna Peterson, who remodeled it and turned it into a hotel.
Among others who built in Gemmell were Mr. Rofidal, William Reinarz, Mr. Hunter, Joe Reinarz, Jack Sherman, Erick Engquist, Ed Hendrickson and William Tindell. The latter was section foreman for many years, and also was a farmer. Fred Scott built a hotel and Mrs. Danielson a nice restaurant with living quarters above. Joe Reinarz bought the Stoner Hotel from Miss Aaberg and P.E. Peirson built a new home.
William Rusch operated a farm, besides being the town's main carpenter. Alvin Rusch was clearing up his farm when he was not busy working on the section.
Henry Kinsella, who was foreman for the National Pole Company for years, is now farming on a large scale.
Mike Weichselbaum was the first Gemmell town clerk and Mr. Molton was one of the early supervisors.
The first teacher was Edith Covel. The first depot agent was Joe Condon and the best one was Harley Reinarz. Hubert Reinarz is the owner and operator of a farm and a sawmill.
August Wilm, the barber, was an early settler of Forest Grove.
One of our earliest settlers was Thorsten Olson, who came here from Morris, Minn., with his wife and five children in 1901. He filed on 160 acres and bought 100 more. He now has one of the best farms around and has raised a family of 11 children. Thorsten has retired now and lives in Gemmell. Four of his sons are farming--one on the old home place.
Dahl's conclusion: "None of us old-timers turned out to be millionaires. We probably dreamed that we would. At least we pushed the brush line back and made a better place for the future generation to live."
"The thoughts of how friendly and neighborly everyone was, make the heart warm to its roots. The struggles we had are forgotten, but the memories of the fun we had and the friendliness of all will linger in us to our last breath,"
Above article written in 1949.
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