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Laporte Minnesota History


The incorporation of the village of LaPorte, Minnesota in May, 1908 came after a decade of frontier struggles. The first dwelling in what was to become the Township of Lakeport was built in 1895 by John and Bob Cline about one half mile from the mouth of Kabekona River where they hoped to have a dairy farm in the rich grasslands. The swarms of flies and mosquitoes were too much for both man and beast. Bob Cline later homesteaded where Rexfords farmed and eventually built the home now owned by Jay Willets. That same year William O'Reilly walked in to build a claim shanty on the tract that is called "the O'Reilly meadow" to this day.

The first building in the village was built on the point by Harry Brummond and later moved to what is now Main Street.

The Brainerd and Northern Railway cut it's grade through in the spring of 1898 and that same spring Carl Datte came afoot to settle on Horseshoe Lake in the spot he called home for sixty years. He had been at Lothrop on Ten Mile Lake when that was end of track in 1895 and he had seen the site of Bemidji when it wasn't even a village.

The rails were laid in August and a depot and section house built. Other shacks sprang up. Shortly after this the big news in the state was about what proved to be the last Indian uprising in the continental United States, the battle of Sugar Point on nearby Leech Lake. The little village of Wilkinson preserves the name of one soldier who was killed there. The uneasy settlers in Walker demanded military protection for months and no place in the area felt very secure.

One pioneer family sleeps together in an unmarked plot on the Lloyd Frey farm near Kabekona Creek. Their tiny baby died first, soon joined by it's mother. The father, Nelson Daughters, lived on to become the first postmaster March 23, 1899, and give the tiny settlement the name of his wife, Ann.

A treaty with the Indians in 1855 forbade the sale of liquor to the Indians. Daughters was charged with liquor traffic and taken to Walker. On a sudden impulse he slipped away and returned home and resumed handling the mail. The sympathetic mail clerk dropped the bags off near where Oslins now live. A deputy sheriff learned of this fact and lay in ambush to shoot and kill Daughters with the mail bags on his back. Martin Johnson assumed the job as postmaster of Ann until the office was discontinued October 21, 1899.

Another violent death was that of Tom Seeley, who had come up the Necktie River by steamboat from Leech and Steamboat Lakes and homesteaded near Sunset Point. He was shot in a saloon north of Garfield Lake at Spur 75, which was also a settlement.

May 17, 1900 saw the post office reestablished with J.C. Stuart as postmaster. On December 11, 1901 the name was changed to LaPorte, but it was also called Lakeport as late as 1905.

In October, 1900, Pearl Meads became the first bride when she married Ambrose Bossom at the homestead of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. John Meads, where the George Cotants now live.

The Robert Blacks homesteaded west of town in March, 1901, and their daughter Jeanette, who was born that August, was the first white child. She was named for Jeanette Dally, whose parents, the Charles Dallys, had taken over the Daughter's homestead in May, 1901.

The first funeral service was that of Mrs. A.D. Stanley, the wife of the section foreman, in 1901. A.W. Almquist, whose homestead now belongs to the Lloyd Rudds, donated land for the cemetery in which hers was the first grave.

1900 also marked the first school. With Florence Stuart as teacher, the first classes met in part of the building that housed the post office and store. Soon a schoolhouse was built between the sites of the Sheets and Roberts homes. Incidentally, that was where the road then went. That building served five years, although at the last, some of the pupils met in part of what is now Ziglers living quarters. The front their place was once another school.

When the settlers began to realize the need for a church, they remembered Reverend L.R. Steinhoff, a missionary for the Minnesota Baptist Convention, who had some to hold the final rites for Mrs. Stanley. On October 4, 1902, he met with an interested group and helped them establish a church. The charter members were: Anton Almquist, Mrs. E.M. Crandall, Edward Lilliedale, Mrs. Docie Lilliedale, Miss Flora Crandall, Miss Jeanette Dally, Mrs. John Crandall, Mr. and Mrs. John Meads, Mrs. J.C. Stuart and Mrs. C.M. Dally. Services were held in the school house until the church built about 1904. The stained glass window was bought by the Little Mother's Club, which met about 1903-1906. The girls belonging were Ella and Ruby Niles, Ruth and Rena Stuart, Lois Dally and Mary Meade. They raised money by selling a hand-written newspaper, the first periodical in LaPorte. That building faced town. Later it was turned and the wing added. Reverend Wirth was the first pastor and he stayed five years. Reverend Charles Swindells was here from 1930 to 1947, and was also LaPorte's only Representative in the State Legislature.

Harry Vance is another of the pioneers. He chose his homestead on the Necktie River in 1900 and has owned it ever since.

The Ladies Aid actually pre-dated the organization of the church, it being organized August 28, 1902 in the home of Mrs. C.E. Crandell over their store on Main Street. The first officers were: President, Mrs. Belle Crandall; Vice-President, Mrs. L.J. Miles; Secretary, Mrs. C.M. Dally; Treasurer, Mrs. Nellie Niles. Other charter members were: Mrs. John Crandall, Mrs. Robert Black, Mrs. J.C. Stuart, Mrs. C.E. Crandall, Miss Martha Wolf, Mrs. John Meads, and Mrs. Fred Lukenbill.

A gazeteer of Minnesota and the Dakotas of 1904-05 lists the population as 50. There was a tri-weekly state of Kabekona. The businessmen were: Larsen and Hendrickson, sawmill; Fred Lukenbill, justice; H.C. Stuart, General Store, Hotel, Levery and Blacksmith; J.C. Stuart, postmaster and express agent; Williams and Weir, barbers.

The Modern Woodmen built a hall from the material in the saloon at Spur 75 and continued for many years, but their associate lodge, The Royal Neighbors of America, organized December 7, 1905, and have been active ever since. Their charter members were: Ambrose Besson, T. Edward Bossom, Pearl Bossom, Myrtle Bossom, Cora Dennett, Mary Elgord, William E. Fenley, John Lettimore, Vinnie E. Lettimore, Blanche Meade, Otto W. Meade, Mrs. H.C. Stuart, J.C. Stuart, C.E. Strong, Laura Strong, Robert Robinson, Anna Robinson, Edith Toombs, Nettie F. Underhill, Austin H. Underhill, Exilda Vernon, Grace F. Wirth, Laura J. Weir and Ralph W. Weir.

It was about 1905 when Reverend E.M. Peterson began holding the services at the Lutheran Free Church on alternate Sundays in the Gladen School at Kabekona and the Johnson School. The families of A.C. Johnson, J.B. Olson, S.M. Christopherson Kravik, K.K. Gladen, Gilbert Gladen and T.A. Larsen comprised the early congregations. With school consolidation at LaPorte, the Johnson School was donated as a meeting house. Reverend T.S. Kolste was the pastor.

About 1920 Reverend Magelsson of Walker was holding Evangelical Lutheran services in the LaPorte School. In 1926 a basement was dug and equipped for a church. The present building was erected in 1932 and added onto later. Finally it was decided to combine the village congregation with that of Kabekona Valley and both belong to the Free Church. Just last year, in 1957, it was voted to abandon the Kabekona building and all meet at Trinity in the village.

The Lutheran Ladies Aid was organized in 1921. They held an outstanding 35th anniversary celebration in the summer of 1956 and had six of their charter members present as guests of honor. They were: Mrs. Amund Anderson, Mrs. T.A. Larsen, Mrs. J.O. Stephen, Mrs. Christine Johnson, Mrs. Adolph Thomton and Mrs. William Olmstead.

The first election in the Village of LaPorte was held May 19, 1908 in the Woodman Hall. James Niles and Frank Selhover were chosen as judges of election and Frank Simpson as clerk. J.C. Stuart received 22 votes as President of the council and F.M. Crandall 19. C.E. Crandall, William Fenley and Henry Williams were elected Trustees, and A.H. Underhill was elected Treasurer. C.E. Strong was Clerk and John Drake and Henry Williams were Constables. The village was separated from the township in June. In August they voted on a saloon license, 22-10 favoring a license. Voters were: W.E. Fenley, A.W. Almquist, E.A.W. Burns, F.M. Crandall, F.H. Cady, A. Jones, H.D. Barber, C.E. Strong, W.H. Troxel, R.I. Miller, J. Niles, Henry Williams, John Drake, Earl Dally, Frank Braford, Nels Nelson, Frank Simpson, Charles Bossom, C.E. Crandall, George L. Crandall, Austin Underhill, J.H. Secord, A. Gohres, W.H. Rardin, Frank Longcore, J.L. Toombs, T.E. Bossom, A.J. Simpson, E.A. Troxel, J.E. Pierce, J.S. Toombs, J.C. Stuart and Joe Simpson. The village jail was ready for a council meeting place in December. Telephone poles were being erected by the Farmers Mutual Telephone Company. An ordinance was passed providing a $50.00 fine for hitching animals to the gas light poles.

In 1909 warrents were issued for a chemical fire engine. All children under 16 were quarantined for an epidemic of polio.

By 1910-11 the Gazeteer found 175 inhabitants, a Baptist church, a bank, a hotel, two sawmills, and a weekly newspaper. The Laporte News began publication September 11, 1908 by C.T. Kelly and Sons. Charles Crandall was the postmaster.

The Crandall family handled the mail until 1916 west William Pennar was appointed postmaster. He held that job until 1942.

Seneca Snake Root for medicine and blueberries were shipped out in quantity. 500 crates of blueberries were sent out in 1913.

Fire took a great toll through the years. May 11, 1911 saw the destruction of everything on Main Street in a few short hours. Thirteen business places were wiped out. From this arose the present "brick block." This survived the mysterious blowing up of the bank in 1917, which shattered the corner, but involved no loss of capital. The First State Bank withstood this blow but moved to Vergas after the fire on 1936. In 1923 a hotel on the present garage site was demolished. Another fire in 1932 ripped through everything on the east side of Main Street. The present depot is on the same site as the one that burned in 1915.

In 1918 war, flu, diphtheria and forest fires all hit together. When the bodies of Andrew Anderson and Harry Black were sent home for burial, the village was surrounded by fire. These two boys were LaPorte's only casualties in World War I. See The LaPorte News Story

The Catholic pioneers went either to Walker or Cass Lake for mass. Father John J.T. Phillipe of Bemidji was the first priest to hold mass here, and he did so in the homes and in the Hotel LaPorte, then owned by Gilbert Gladen. In 1921 he bought the lot where St. Theodore's Church now stands. The Catholic Exchange Society of Chicago then gave $1,000.00 towards a structure. The Father Phillipe was called to Warroad and Father Fraling took his place. He turned out to be the chief carpenter on the new building and he received help from most of the first parishioners. Among them were the families of Paul Filla, Paul Hinrichs, A. LeFebvre, William Bosmans, C.J. DuPont and A. Vershure. There has never been a resident priest for this village and usually there are no masses during the winter months but the building is inadequate when the summer residents come back.

In July 1912, Districts 43, 50, 67, 75 and 77 consolidated, and in 1913 the grade school on the present site was expanded to provide four grade rooms and high school, which expanded to include domestic science, manual training and agriculture. The first graduates of LaPorte High School were Donald Dally and Guy Fenley in 1916. Justin Snesrud was the first superintendant.

By 1924 the school had produced a basketball team that won a penant. Members were Charles Ebersole, Albert Kolbe, Lynn Zothman, Leon Guttormson, Otto Bothne, Bob Larsen, John Collver, Johnnie Johnson and Ralph Underhill. The 1926 debate team of Hazel Underhill, Annie Pederson and Harold Marston also made themselves known. In declamation Lois Findley and Rose Hawkins won honors for their school. In 1930 another basketball team won a pennant. Their members were: Mel Stephen, Albert Pederson, Harold Underhill, Wendell Troxell, Bob Steele, Clarence Hanson, Jim Kelsey and Orville Clark. The same year some of those same boys won the sub-district in track at Remer. In 1931 Bob Steele won the state championship in track and went on to win the state relay record at Hamline University the next year.

Maxine Berry won third in the state in humorous declamation in 1939.

In February, 1934 the school and it's contents were demolished by fire. Luckily not one child was hurt. There was a kindergarten in session there, as well as the regular enrollment. Classes resumed almost immediately in the Baptist Church and continued there until November, when the present main building was ready. It was built as a Civil Works Administration project. W.C. Soderlund was the first superintendent in the new building and he introduced radio as a high school project. The Village Hall, another C.W.A. project, was used as a gym until the new wing on the school was completed. Time doesn't permit listing every student who was a credit to L.H.S., but the basketball team of 1958, which won the sub-district at Cass Lake, deserve a final paragraph. Members of that team were: Jerry Harvey, Don Sandwick, Jack Jacobson, Al Clark, Ronnie White and Ray Robinson.

In the early days the 4-H Club work was carried on in the school. Anna Idtse, a Home Economics teacher was the pioneer leader in bread baking and Ida Anderson won a trip to the State Fair. Later, Superintendant and Mrs. O.L. Kaupanger, with the help of Miss Idtse's brother, then the County Agent, got other projects started, so there was something for the boys as well as the girls. Later the Farm Bureau sponsored the project and since then it has been carried on directly from the County Agent's office. At first there was only one club in the school, and later Benedict, Kabekona, Lake George and LaPorte had separate clubs. A few who had trips beyond the State Fair were Edythe Johnson and Annie Pederson, who went to the National Livestock Exposition in Chicago in 1928, Annie Pederson won a trip to the 4-H Leaders Encampment in Washington, D.C. in 1929, Helen Humphrey was State Health Champion in 1938, Dean Schmidt went to Chicago in 1955, and Ray Robinson was State Sheep Shearing Champion in 1956. Those who have lead 4-H work feel that there is much more to it than winning trips. It is educational, provides an incentive to do better in chosen projects, to get more education and to be better citizens. When these things are learned early in life, they stay.

Anderson-Black Post 462 of the American Legion received it's charter December 18, 1933. Charter members included C.J. Dupont, V.E. Erickson, R.R. Diestler, John Opem, Carl Johnson, John Pederson, Theodore Anderson, R.D. Haggard, John Score, R.J. Child, R. Olson, George H. Haggard, Lyle J. Powell, F.J. Bates, E.A. Kukkuck, William R. Roach, L.A. Robinson and Randolph Clark.

The Auxillary received it's charter January 4, 1937. It's first members were: Mrs. William Roach, Mrs. Art Waldron, Mrs. Roy Bastin, Mrs. R.R. Diestler, Mrs. C.R. Andrews, Miss Ellen Gilpin, Mrs. R. Haggard, Mrs. Fred Pederson, Mrs. George Haggard, Mrs. Alois Leyendecker, Mrs. Henry Schmidt, Mrs. George Oelrich and Mrs. Irvie Willard.

LaPorte citizens have always been quick in their country's defense. C.N. and William Troxel, J.C. Luckenbill, C.N. Comstock, Peter Fessenden and William Conover had all seen service in the Civil War before they came here to wrestle homes out of the wilderness. Daniel Meeks was seeing service in the Spanish-American War while the first railroad was reaching into this region.

Harry Black and Andrew Anderson were joined in Lakeport Cemetary by Ray and Donald Dally, Joe Swindells, Leo Robinson, Nick Hanson and Frank Vogeltanz are in Evergreen and Ray Diestler in at Fort Snelling.

There are 119 stars in the community service flag that has hung in the high school assembly room since the early forties. The gold stars there stand for Norman Shaffer, Warren Olsen, Ervin Stephen, Melvin Sargent Frank Niles and Raymond Bosmans. Those who did come home were well decorated with medals, but outstanding was Adolph Bothne, who counted the rarely given Navy Cross as only one of his many decorations.

Though many saw service in the Korean Conflict, Harlan Blanchard was the only one who gave his life and was brought home to rest in Evergreen Cemetary.

This the saga of LaPorte from cant hook to clam loader, with dairy farms and summer homes and cabins filling the gaps where the mighty white pines stood.

Compiled by MARGARET POWELL - 1956

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