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Historical Sketches of Royalton and Vicinity

By Frank B. Logan

Originally published in the Royalton Banner in early 1930
and reprinted in book form in June of that year

Page 1   |   Page 2   |   Page 3


Royalton's First Bank

   Up to 1888, Royalton was without a bank. In that year, O.H. Havill of Brainerd, associated with C.M. Herig of Minneapolis, opened a private bank in a building located where the Energee filling station now stands. Mr. Havill was cashier and everything else connected with the bank. The name of the institution was the Bank of Royalton. The second bank was started by Charles R. Rhoda and associates, and was known as the Merchants, and later as the First National Bank. Mr. Rhoda had been cashier of the Bank of Royalton, taking the position when Mr. Havill moved to St. Cloud as an officer of a bank there. Mr. Havill later was connected with the state public examiner's office in St. Paul, where he died about 10 years ago. Royalton has had other banks than those mentioned, but these were the pioneers.    Charles R. Rhoda was connected with the banking interests of Royalton for about 30 years. He was interested in other lines of business as well. He, with A.C. Wilson and Mark Murphy, built the local electric system. Power was first furnished by a local plant located in lower town, where both water and steam were utilized. Later, current was obtained from the power dam at Little Falls. Mr. Rhoda owned and operated, for a number of years, the local show house, and installed the first moving picture machine in Royalton. This house was built by James Muncy and originally was located on Logan Street, one block south of Center Street where it now stands. Logan Street, when the mills were running in the eighties and early nineties, boasted of a number of business houses. At one time there were located there two shoe stores, two grocery stores, a meat market, photograph gallery, show house, and saloon. Most of these buildings were later moved away when the town found its civic center.    Before we pass on from this early date we might mention a few of the early residents who were here in the eighties. Among these was W.L. McGonagle, who arrived in 1887. Mr. McGonagle was born in Illinois in 1859. He was interested in a grocery store in Chicago until 1882, when he came to Minnesota, locating in Minneapolis. Here for a time he followed the trade of his father, that of barrel maker. Later he lived at Elk River and Clearwater before coming to Royalton. Upon his arrival here he opened a barber shop and confectionery store where he operated for many years. Soon after locating here he built a building of his own on Front Street, to house his growing business. In 1914, having been appointed postmaster, he sold his business. He served as postmaster for eight years, being succeeded by H.M. Logan in July, 1922. After his service as postmaster he went west on a visit, and while preparing to return to Royalton was stricken suddenly and died in Seattle, Washington, February 9, 1924. "Mac," as he was commonly known to his friends, was always interested in the welfare of his town, and during his residence here held many positions of trust, among which was chief of the fire department, and member of the school board. Soon after coming to Royalton, in 1889, he was married to Miss Cora Gallery of Elk River, who survives him. Of his four children, two are residents of Royalton, Dr. E.H. McGonagle and Mrs. L.B. Billig. Loren lives in McCloud, California, and Ralph in Seattle, Washington.    Another pioneer of the early days, and one of the early business men, is L.J. Dassow, who is still a resident. Mr. Dassow ran one of the first meat markets in Royalton, coming here in the eighties. Later he engaged in farming, but retired several years ago and moved back to town. During his residence here Mr. Dassow has several times held the position of president of the council, and was for a long time chairman of the township board of Bellevue.    A prominent business man of the present day, Albert C. Bouck, came near being a native. He came here when a boy with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. C.W. Bouck, in 1881. He attended the local schools and later Shattuck Military Academy. Upon graduation he entered partnership with his father in the hardware business. In 1914 he purchased his father's interest and continued business, and recently added other lines of merchandise and changed the name to Bouck's Department Store. Mr. Bouck has served several terms as president of the village council, and is at present village treasurer.    T. Fulton Bell, known to all his friends as "Fult," dates his residence in Royalton from 1884, so he can be considered among the pioneers. Mr. Bell spent his early life in working in the local saw mill, and later was employed in the flour mills of Minneapolis as packer. He returned to Royalton when the rural mail delivery was instituted from this office, and has held the position ever since. For a time he was interested in the automobile business in which he was very successful. He has served several terms on the village council, and is a member at the present time. "Fult" was known in his youth as one of the best ball players this section ever produced. He was a member of several semi-pro teams of the nineties, and started his baseball career at an early age, being referred to many times as the "kid wonder."    As we stated in the history of the early days, the post office of Royalton, was established in 1854, seventy-five years ago, and 23 years before the railroad was built. R.D. Kinney was the first postmaster, holding the office until 1858, when he returned east. It was then moved to the old village of Langola, with the name changed to Langola. Lewis Stone was appointed postmaster. Stone was the man who built the dam and mills in this "lost village." From 1859 to 1869 the office was held successively by a party by the name of Sherman, H.B. Smart, and S. Flint. In 1869 Frank Green was appointed, and held the office until 1878, when it was moved back to the Kinney homestead and again named Royalton. Bradford Lufkin, who operated the Northern Pacific pump station on Platte River, and lived in the Kinney cabin, was appointed postmaster, and in 1879 was succeeded by Frank Hardy, the station agent. Since that date the office has been held by the following: George Newman, mentioned as the first store keeper in the village; Ira W. Bouck; John H. Russell; Barney Fietsam; J.N. Carnes; C.W. Bouck; Barney Fietsam (second appointment); A.W. Swanson; A.E. Joslin; W.L. McGonagle, and the present incumbent, H.M. Logan, who was recently reappointed for his third term. Mr. Logan served for 18 years as rural carrier before becoming postmaster.

The First Church in Royalton

   The first attempt to organize a church in Royalton was made at a meeting held in January, 1880. At this meeting J.D. Logan was chosen chairman and R.D. Kinney secretary. It was decided to take steps to organize the First Presbyterian Church of Royalton, and at a meeting at the home of J.D. Logan held a month later such an organization was effected. Services were conducted at this time by the late Rev. E.V. Campbell of St. Cloud. There were nine charter members at the time of organization. R.D. Kinney and J.S. Bouck were the first ruling elders. The same year a church building was erected on the lot where the Ed Stodolka residence now stands. At one time the church had a large membership, but most of them moved to other places and the congregation disbanded and the building sold to be wrecked.    A Methodist church was organized in 1886, Rev. J.N. McDonald being the first pastor. In 1886 a church building was erected which still stands, although somewhat improved from the original structure. A parsonage in connection with the church was built in 1890.    The first Episcopal church services were held at the residence of George Newman in 1880, the pastor coming from Brainerd. In the fall the building of the present structure was begun on lots donated by Mrs. Peter Green. The first location, facing east, was on the opposite side of the street from where the building now stands.    Holy Trinity church was organized in 1896 by Bishop Torbec of St. Cloud. The first building was a frame structure located west of the railroad, where it still stands and is used as a storehouse. The present imposing structure was erected in 1912 and is one of the finest church buildings in this part of the state. The first pastor was Rev. Urbanka. The present pastor, Monsignor August Plachta, has had the charge of the parish since 1907, during which time it has grown rapidly.

Royalton's First School

   Until the year 1882, there was but one school house in Bellevue Township: that on the prairie. In that year the Royalton district was organized, the first officers being I.W. Bouck, J.D. Logan, and J.C. Higgins. The first school was held in a small frame residence building which still stands of Logan Street, near the river, and is at present owned by William Yahn. The first teacher was Miss Mary Green, the daughter of an early pioneer of this section. The first school building, a two-story frame structure, was erected the following year on the lot west of the site of the first school. The building was occupied until 1889, when it caught fire from a defective chimney at the noon hour and was completely destroyed. Mrs. Milo Young, now a resident of Swan River, was one of the teachers in this building. At the time of the fire the town had grown to such an extent that the building could not house all the pupils, and a primary department was conducted in another building.    After the fire, quarters for the school were obtained in the Presbyterian church and a vacant store building, and the sessions continued until the end of the term. Steps were taken by the board to secure a new and larger site and to erect a building to take care of the increasing number of pupils. The location, which created a stiff contest, was decided on by a vote of the people. The site of the present buildings was the one chosen. The first building erected was a four room brick veneered structure, and was built by local contractors. This building is the north wing of the present grade school. A few years later, another wing to match the first was erected, and a high school was organized, offering a full four years course. In 1911, the building crowded, bonds were issued and the present modern high school was erected. The bonds have all been paid and the district is out of debt.    I.W. Bouck, a member of the first school board of 1882, is the president of the present board.

Organization of Royalton Village

   Until the 1882, the town meetings and elections had always been held in the school house on the prairie. That year it was voted to move the voting place of Bellevue township to the new village of Royalton. Many of the old pioneers resented the change, and one old settler made the remark that "the glory had departed from the prairie." The change was a wise one, however, for the country to the east was rapidly being settled and Royalton was the central point. Until 1886, Royalton had no separate organization, but was a part of the township of Bellevue and was governed as such. The village was incorporated and the following officers elected: president, J.D. Logan; recorder, John Holmes; trustees, R.L. Lambert, J.C. Higgins, and Frank Caughy.    By this time the village had assumed such proportions that some of the citizens decided to organize a fire company. A meeting was held and an organization effected, to be known as the Royalton Hook and Ladder Company. This company had no equipment except a silk flag for parade purposes. In 1888, the council decided to purchase some sort of apparatus, and a small steam engine, hose cart, and 1000 feet of hose were purchased. Water was secured from a large tank located under the engine house, the railroad water tank, and the river. The purchase of this equipment caused a great deal of protest at the time from the more conservative element, but its good work done at several fires which soon occurred justified the outlay, and all objection ceased. The first engine did good service until 1901, when a large steamer was purchase, which served until the water works were installed in 1922, when it went out of commission. After the purchase of the first engine the name of the company was changed to Unity Fire Company.    In 1892 an aerial hook and ladder truck was purchased and Hook and Ladder Company No. 1 was organized to take charge of the new apparatus. At this time the other company changed its name to Engine Company No. 1. The early firemen were strict on discipline and this tended to make the organization efficient. Regular meetings were held twice a month, one for the transaction of business, and the other for practice. The rules were strict, and any member not present was fined 25 cents. No excuse except sickness or absence from town was accepted. The fines, when levied were paid, and no member ever quit on account of the drastic rule.    At practice meetings, work was the order of the evening. If runs were not made, there was brass to shine and cleaning and polishing to be done, and the officers were unrelenting in their demands for perfection. The engine house, as a result of this rigid system, had the appearance of a paid city department. At one time the engine company was equipped with regulation blue firemen's uniforms, and after some drilling made a fine appearance on parade. The old time fireman worked without thought of reward other than that of service well done. He took great pride in his organization, which was a social as well as a practical factor of the village. Who of the old timers can forget the "firemen's ball," an annual event of the early day?    After the village was incorporated, many improvements were made by the council. Streets were opened to travel which had formerly been left as nature made them; sidewalks, then made of plank, were constructed and the appearance of the town otherwise improved. The section house which had stood between the railroad and the I.W. Bouck store was removed to a site near the depot. This left an unsightly plot with an abandoned cellar hole facing the main streets. George E. Wilson who was president of the council for several terms, took the matter up with the railroad company and obtained permission to take over this plot and beautify it for a park. The land was graded, trees set out, an iron fence built, and the present park on Front and Center Streets is the result of this forethought.    George E. Wilson may rightfully be classed among the pioneer residents of the village, having come here in 1887. He is a native of Canada, having come west to Minneapolis in 1883. After having been employed in that city for four years, he came to Royalton and engaged in the lumber business with A.C. Wilson & Company until the timber in this section was exhausted. Since that time he has engaged in the real estate and insurance business, and has farms which he rents. During his residence here he has held several public offices, among which were president of the village for several terms, secretary of the school board, and is at present time justice of the peace.    As early as 1886 the citizens of Royalton desired a band. An organization was formed that year and a band of about 20 pieces was formed. The members bought their own instruments and paid their teacher from their own pockets. The first director was Prof. J.M. Van Camp who was at the time instructing bands at Little Falls and Sauk Rapids. Prof. Van Camp was an expert cornet soloist in addition to being an able band leader, and the new organization made rapid progress under his direction. The only resident here at present who was a member of this organization is H.M. Logan, who first played a trombone, and later baritone.    In 1894, a band of 12 to 14 pieces was organized and was known as the Fire Department Band. Every player was a member of the Royalton fire department. This band was also instructed by Prof. Van Camp, who had taken up his residence in Royalton. This bad was self supporting; revenue aside from that contributed by the members was raised during concerts, dances, and other entertainments. During its existence the band was engaged many times for events away from home. It played twice for fairs at St. Cloud, Woodman picnics at Detroit and Glenwood, gave concerts at Little Falls, and entered a contest at St. Cloud where it won second place against a large field. After Prof. Van Camp moved to Minneapolis, the band was led by both H.M. Logan and Fred McGonagle. The only members of this band at present residents of Royalton are H.M. and F.B. Logan. The band had uniforms of gray trimmed in black.

The Struggle for a Bridge

   By 1890, Royalton had become an important trading center for this section. The country both east and west had been settled up rapidly, and Royalton merchants drew trade from a large territory. At this time the only connection from the west side of the Mississippi was be ferry, and it was realized that this was a handicap in getting trade from that section. The ferry was built and put in operation in 1868 by Calvin A. Tuttle who received the sum of $200 from the county to aid in the construction. This ferry was operated by Mr. Tuttle for a number of years and finally became the property of Mark Kobe, a local merchant. The ferry was an uncertain means of crossing the river on account of saw logs that floated down the stream all summer, and greatly hindered the running of the boat. The need of a bridge was imperative.    A meeting of our citizens was called to discuss ways and means to procure one. It was decided to ask aid from the county and hold elections in the village of Royalton, and townships of Bellevue, Two Rivers, and Elm Dale to vote on a bond issue to finance the project. A committee went before the county board and were given no assistance whatever. Elections were held in the towns mentioned for the purpose of issuing bonds, but Two Rivers and Elm Dale voted against the proposition. This was a great surprise to those behind the projects, for these were the towns which would have received the greatest benefit from a bridge. They would not only have had the convenience of an all-year-round crossing, but would have been relieved of the expense of ferry charges. Had the people been allowed to vote without outside influence being brought to bear on them the bonds would no doubt have carried, but paid workers from rival trading points did a great deal of effective work just before election with results disastrous to the bridge prospects.    These setbacks were enough to discourage most people, but not those who constituted the businessmen and leading citizens of that day. They had set out to have a bridge and were not to be defeated by outside influence.    Royalton and Bellevue voted $10,000 bonds, and this with some private subscriptions from public spirited citizens of the west side towns provided the funds. A contract for a bridge was let and a combination wood and iron truss bridge of two spans was erected, and for the first time in the history of Morrison County, a bridge outside the town of Little Falls spanned the "Father of Waters."    This bridge was of great value to the whole of southern Morrison County, as well as Royalton. A short time after completion, this bridge which had cost this community so dearly was carried off the piers and landed in the river badly wrecked. The wrecking of the bridge was caused by the combined force of ice and the logs frozen in the ice during the spring breakup. As the local taxpayers felt that they had assumed a burden sufficiently heavy in the erection of the bridge, the county was appealed to for funds to rebuild. Again through outside influence, help was denied and again the township and village assumed the burden and replaced the bridge. A few years later the bridge was again carried down river by the combined action of the ice and logs. This time the county board gave assistance in replacing the structure. This bridge remained in use until 1918 when Morrison County, during the time J.N. Carnes represented the district on the board, built the present fine steel structure which now spans the river.

Royalton Votes Out the Saloons

   While our business men were always ready to get behind any movement for the betterment of the town, they did not always agree. The question of licensing of saloons came up in 1894, and a "no license" club was organized to put out the saloons, and the fight was on. Royalton had had saloons almost from the beginning of the town, and at the time the question was brought up, had several. Every citizen lined up one way or the other. The feeling was better and many friendships were broken, for a time at least, over the saloon question. The advocates of no license insisted that the sale of liquor was a detriment to the town and the place would be better off without saloons. On the other hand, those favoring the sale of liquor claimed that as long as surrounding towns had saloons, no benefit would accrue from voting out the liquor, but on the other hand, the town would be injured by the loss of the trade of those who desired to patronize the drinking places.    A hot campaign was waged by both sides and every means used to secure votes. At the spring election the saloons were voted out. As some of the licenses did not expire for several months after the election, the town was dry but a few months before the election of the following year when the question was again submitted to the voters. During the time the saloons were out arrests were made of "blind pigs," so it is a question if the place was really dry. The second time the question came up, in the spring of 1895, the campaign on both sides waged hotter than ever. In addition to the question of license, two complete village tickets were in the field, one favoring license, and the other against. After a warm campaign, the advocates of license won and the saloons came back to stay until the country "went dry." During this election, about 300 votes were case, and as only men voted at that time, it would have indicated a population of 1500 people in the village. It is safe, however, to say that such was not the fact, as many voters who drifted during the winter, left soon after election.    Twenty-five years and more ago Royalton had a reputation as a great place for sports. Its baseball teams were famous in this section of the state. Perhaps the best known player who represented Royalton in the old days was Joe Doty. Joe was a pitcher of note - a southpaw - and had a reputation far beyond this section. Royalton was in the class of towns much greater population and won a majority of its games when playing such towns as Little Falls, St. Cloud, Brainerd, Staples, and others. Among the members of the earlier teams who are still residents are Ira Bouck, who played first base on the first team organized; J.N. Carnes, who played in the early days, and Fulton Bell. Fred McGonagle, now of Seattle, who came here about 1890 from Minneapolis, was a pitcher of ability and did much to put the place to the front as a baseball town.    Horse racing interested the sporting element in the early days, and a half mile track was built on the prairie south of the village. This track was the scene of many races between running horses and it was no trouble in those days to raise sufficient purses by popular subscription to attract the best horses in the state. These events were so popular that the saw mill would shut down during the races that the employees might witness the sport, to which no admission was charged. The races drew large crowds from the surrounding towns and country. Roller Bros. developed a runner from a western horse named "Chess," that became quite famous in this part of the state. Although not of running stock, this horse developed such speed that the thoroughbreds sent here to race him could never beat him on a half mile track. Those were the good old days in sport in Royalton. Hundreds of citizens followed the ball teams to games in surrounding towns, and for one game in St. Cloud, a special train was chartered to carry the crowd. This was before the day of motor cars.

Early Dams on Platte River

   In early times, when the flow of water on the river was much greater than it is at the present time, promoters and speculators were on the lookout for sites for water power dams. Many dams were built that were never used for power. One such dam was located just above the present bridge in upper town, and was built by James Muncy in 1884. Efforts were made to secure some industry to utilize the power, as a considerable head of water was raised at this dam, but they never succeeded. After a few years the dam was washed away by high water and never rebuilt. Another dam, the ruins of which may still be seen in the river, was built by A.C. Wilson & Company, but not for power purposes. This dam was constructed to raise the water to make a pond for the storage of logs for the saw mill, and was made necessary by the lower dam at the flour mill going out. The dam at the flour mill was carried away three time, twice while used by the mill, and the last time when owned by the Royalton Power and Light Company. During the life of this dam the village maintained a bridge on it which was a great convenience to this part of town. The present low stage of water existing on Platte River has ruined the former water powers, and none are utilized at the present time. In early times the stage of water was such that log drives passed through the village as late as July, and the logs of that day were not small.

Civic Spirit of Early Days

   From a small beginning in 1879, Royalton had by the year 1900 become a flourishing village with a reputation for trade that extended over a large territory in all directions. This did not come by chance, but from the fact that the town had the type of business men who went after the things that would benefit and build up the place. The town needed a bridge to draw business from the west of the river, and we have related how it was obtained under discouraging circumstances. When our citizens felt that a flour mill was needed they did not wait for one to come to them but went after it by advertising in the city papers, showing the advantages offered and tendering financial assistance. One citizen offered the water power and several acres of land suitable for a mill site. Others subscribed sums up to $100 each to make up a cash bonus to offer to any one who would build a mill. Several parties investigated the offer, and as we have related in another chapter, a mill was built in lower town which steadily enlarged until it had a capacity of 500 barrels a day.    The time arrived when it was realized that a creamery was necessary to the prosperity of the town. No individual cared to make the investment needed, so a meeting was held to take up the creamery proposition. The result was that a company was formed, stock subscribed for by the business men, and a creamery constructed. Some citizens subscribed for as much as $500 worth of stock in this venture. This creamery was operated as a stock company for a time, but finally passed into private hands. It was located in upper town and after running for many years was destroyed by fire. When this creamery was built the cream was gathered by the company, routes being established on which the hauling was done by teams.    There were times when the roads leading into town became very poor and were not repaired by the authorities in the townships through which they passed. At that time the attention pain to the upkeep of the highways was not what it is today. Poor roads kept people from coming to town, and if they did not come it hurt business. In many cases like this, the business interests of the village raised money by subscription, and crews were sent out to repair the roads where needed. The business man paid out his money freely if it was to enhance the interests of the village as a whole. For many years the village paid regular road tax into the road and bridge fund of the township of Bellevue, not a dollar of which was expended in the village. The citizens realized that money spent on roads surrounding the village was a benefit to them and paid the tax willingly. We could give many instances where the old spirit of "live and let live" prevailed in the young village which grew and prospered.    Royalton had the distinction of being the first town in this section to inaugurate the plan of paying the farmer cash for produce. Previous to 1902, eggs, butter, and other produce was traded for merchandise in all sections of the state. When the cash for produce plan was started in Royalton, the town drew trade from territory never tapped before, and its fame as a trading place increased. Royalton became the leading produce market in this section of the state. Figures of shipments by rail, as shown by the railroad agent's records for the year 1906 show that during that year the car load shipments totaled 1597 cars in and out. This did not include local shipments, which were large. The item of eggs alone was 7,000 cases shipped out. The shipments of butter totalled 200,000 pounds, and 12 cars of clover seed were shipped out. The shipments from this point included grain, flour, feed and other milling products, wood, ties, and livestock. During one week in the fall, the shipments of dressed turkeys totalled eight tons. One dealer made a shipment of a carload of dressed turkeys at one time. The were shipped by express to Montana, in a special express car set out here to be loaded.    From 1907 to 1910 a citizen of the village had charge of and produced the Morrison County agricultural exhibit for the Minnesota State Fair. These exhibits were gathered from in and around the village. They consisted of specimens of all kinds of grains, vegetables, grasses, fruits, and other agricultural products. The first exhibit, in competition with the entire state, scored second in points, and first in beauty. The three following exhibits scored first in points and beauty. As the county appropriation for these exhibits was only from $100 to $150 per year, the balance of the expense was raised locally. This competition with counties from every section of the state, indicated that our territory was equal to any from an agricultural standpoint. As these county competitions are still the leading feature of the agricultural department of the State Fair, it is a matter of regret that some public spirited citizen does not at this time place our resources before the thousands of visitors who annually visit the big exposition.

Publisher's Note

About Frank B. Logan

   The publisher of the Royalton Banner is deeply grateful to Mr. Logan for his compilation of these very interesting sketches, which he wrote voluntarily and without thought of remuneration. We regret, however, the modesty which prevented him from including his own biography and his part in the history of the community. It was he who had charge of the Morrison County exhibit at the Minnesota State Fair from 1907 to 1910 and won three successive first prizes and one second prize. Later he had charge of the agricultural department of the fair, and for nine years was a member of the board of managers.    Born in Greenville, Pennsylvania, Mr. Logan came to Royalton with his parents in 1879. During his youth he worked with his father, J.D. Logan, in the lumber business, and later attended Bradley Polytechnic Institute at Peoria, Illinois, where he learned the watch-making trade. After completing the course he returned to Royalton and opened a jewelry store which he operated for over 30 years.    In 1907 he took charge of the Morrison County Fair exhibit, and in 1911 was appointed assistant superintendent of the agricultural department of the state fair; in 1913 he was promoted to superintendent. He was elected to the board of managers in 1915, and served in that capacity until 1924. At that time he nominated his successor and was made a life member of the State Agricultural society, sponsors of the fair.    Mr. Logan has held many positions of trust in the township and village. He served 18 years as clerk of Bellevue township, has been president and clerk of the village council, president of the school board, and is now clerk of the Royalton School District. He is engaged in an insurance business now, and is one of the oldest residents of Royalton in length of residence here.

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