The twentieth century opened with a certain amount of optimism and prosperity which bid well for the nation and country. William McKinley was president and the program of the agrarian segment of the west which had been represented by William Jennings Bryan was subverted or absorbed in part by the rising prosperity which followed the depression of 1893-97.
In The Park, the Monitor Works had recovered from the illness occasioned by the depression and was in full production, making from a thousand to fifteen hundred grain drills yearly which were distributed to farmers through dealers buying from branch houses at Fargo and Omaha or from private wholesalers. Though S.E. Davis was fifty-nine years old he had an able corps of younger assistants in D.K. Yorgey, L.W. Fuller and George Moseley. While many manufacturing plants were becoming electrified, the Monitor Company continued to use a steam engine to drive the long line shafts which were belted to the various milling, boring and grinding machines. With the expansion of the market it was found necessary to replace the seventy-five horsepower engine with a hundred horsepower plant but even this was found to be too small within a short time. Joe Williams, the engineer, of the power plant, said that the lights for the company were furnished by a small generator which was driven by the main engine. Hours of labor were ten to twelve daily for which workmen were paid about a dollar per day, payable weekly in gold, which was somewhat better than other plants paid. Only one strike was called during the time in which Davis owned Monitor but the workmen were “talked out of it.” The quality of the product continued to rise during the life of the company and in 1904 the drill won the grand prize and medal at the World’s Fair at St. Louis. The company profited despite the slow obsolescence which was taking place. Davis bought a sheep ranch in Wyoming and was the main stockholder in a rice plantation in Louisiana, and had been director of the Northwestern National Bank in Minneapolis. After thirty-nine years in the manufacturing business he was desirous of retiring. Davis wanted to sell the plant to his employees but none seemed to have resources enough to buy it, though it was rumored that two were interested. In 1908 the Moline Plow Company of Moline, Illinois bought the Monitor Works and in October ten heads of departments of the plow company were surveying the works of the Monitor Company, The older company modernized the plant to provide enough grain drills which could be sold through their extensive dealership organization. A larger engine of one hundred and fifty horsepower was installed to do the work that the hundred horsepower engine had previously performed but even this was too small and was said to have been doing three hundred horsepower work within a couple of years. Part of the machinery of the plant was powered by electrically-driven line shafts and in 1913 or 1914 the company began operating around the clock, by using two shifts. A new superintendent of the plant, Mr, Mclntyre, was sent from Moline to replace E. R. Beeman, son-in-law of Davis, who retired from the firm to manufacture garden tractors. About two hundred and fifty men were employed by the firm. The integration of Monitor into the larger corporation gave a |new lease on life for the company, but the shift from home-ownership to ownership by a distant company marked an end of a period. Monitor was the most successful manufacturing firm St. Louis Park had seen; while others came and went, Monitor kept on producing, giving jobs to workmen who lived nearby.
Though Davis retired from the firm in 1908, he had but five years of life left to him. Enroute home from the west coast in his private car attached to the Great Northern Oriental Limited, he died as the train pulled into the Minneapolis station. An uncompromising Republican, vigorous opponent of liquor, commanding personality, a thirty-second degree Mason, Elk, and member of the Second Church of Christ the Scientist, his passing marked the end of an era.
The Minnesota Sugar Company which had had such success in the past years continued operation though there was evidence of storms arising on the horizon. In January of 1900 the company had seven representatives working among farmers trying to get contracts with them to raise beets. The company officials said that they would need six thousand acres this year instead of the four thousand that had been required the previous year. About two thousand farmers in twenty one counties were raising beets which was said to have earned them fifty to sixty dollars per acre, though a few made as much as $100 per acre. The largest plot was fifty acres.
But at the same time the Sugar Company was having trouble disposing of the odorous refuse of the mill. They had been dumping it in the swamp and Minnehaha Creek and people living near the dumping sites were complaining of the stench and were threatening to bring injunctions to prevent the use of this method of disposal. The company did not feel that they could afford to install sewers to carry off the refuse because it would cost about $6,000. Theden, president of the company, told the public that the company employed about four hundred men and paid farmers $75,000 besides providing feed for cattle. He implied that Winona businessmen were making a bid to have the company move to that city. Furthermore, the Chicago Great Western Railroad, of which James Lusk was onetime counsel, and currently director of the Sugar Company, was trying to get the plant moved to St. Paul. The village council told the public that they had no money to build a sewer and other citizen groups tried to induce the two railroads in St. Louis Park, which served the plant, to put pressure upon the Sugar Company to remain. St. Paul interests were persistent, saying that the refuse could be dumped in the river if the company moved there. Theden confirmed the rumors and indicated that he was not satisfied with the St. Louis Park arrangement. He had approached the City of Minneapolis government and asked the officials to build the sewer but it was impossible to build sewers outside the Minneapolis city limits at taxpayers’ expense. Nevertheless, Minneapolis businessmen tried to keep the company in the area and the Board of Trade considered soliciting voluntary contributions to the sum of $7,000 to build the sewer. Theden and vice-president Hinze were pleased, and in May began readying the plant for the fall run. In October the plant began operations and employed about five hundred men. The daily capacity was to be six hundred tons, two hundred and fifty tons more than the previous year. About one hundred thousand dollars were spent on improvements, three quarters of it upon machinery. Though the season was successful, the legislature did not vote the bounty as it had done in previous years and Theden remarked that it should have been done.
Besides the troubles incident to sewers and refuse, and the haughty neglect of the legislature, the public became critical of the company. This was an era of “trust busting” by the dynamic and erratic Theodore Roosevelt and the public was concerned over the sugar trust. Theden in a martyric mood said that the cane sugar trust was trying to kill the Sugar Industry especially in regards to tariff schedule changes. Though the company operated successfully in 1901, the cry became louder and there were some who said that the beet sugar companies were also in a trust. Theden assured the accusers that it was impossible to make a beet sugar trust and tried to rebut ex-governor John Lind who had said that the sugar beet industry was of doubtful value to the United States. Theden went on to offer $5,000 to anyone who could prove that his company was a member of a trust. The public was also critical of the legislature for paying bounties to the company as is shown in a letter to the editor of the Minneapolis Journal from a Vesta, Minnesota, man who said that ex-senators were the beneficiaries of the bounties and that the state did not owe a debt to the sugar company. The attorney general declared that the bounty had been illegal but a court decision prevented the state from collecting the previously given bounties from the company.
Nevertheless, the company continued to produce sugar and in 1902 used seventy million pounds of beets from two thousand farmers in forty-three counties in making 6,732,208 pounds of sugar. The beet raisers received $192,527 for their product in 1902.
The company did not care to discontinue operations because the quality of Minnesota beets was rising. Beets had at one time produced only ten percent sugar in contrast to European beets which gave thirteen percent, but in the later years the Minnesota beets had a sugar content of sixteen percent. But the problem of refuse remained, and the company was faced with potential injunctions from almost anyone who lived along Minnehaha Creek into which the refuse was dumped. The bonus was not likely to be paid in future years and there was a problem of shipping beets from more remote areas. In 1905 a disastrous $400,000 fire did extensive damage to the troubled company from which it never recovered. Four years later the stockholders voted to dissolve the corporation which was granted by the court and the company ceased operations. With the company gone the employment possibilities decreased, and another attempt at keeping industry in the village had failed.
The Malleable Iron Company also ceased to operate in this period primarily because it could find no market for its product. The officers tried various expedients in making parts for wagons, plows and stoves but there was no health in the firm. In addition, a scarcity of competent malleable foundrymen kept the quality of the product low. Apparently it was not meant that St. Louis Park would become an area of heavy industry, built on iron and steel.
Jarless Spring Carriage Company and the Thompson Wagon Company both had ceased to operate some years earlier, but F.P. Wallis, who had been secretary of the two firms, organized The Wallis Coach and Carriage Works in 1904 and continued to use one of the buildings. It was a small firm with a stated capital of $10,000, all of which was to be paid in before the company began to operate. Frederick P. Wallis was to be president, Arthur T. Himes was vice-president and treasurer and Hannah C. Wallis was secretary. It operated. a few years after which the machinery was moved to Minneapolis and the company began to manufacture automobile upholstery in addition to carriages. The day of the carriage and wagon companies was about over because of the rise of the automobile industry, and names like Studebaker became better known for the automobile than for their buggies.
A small company which located in The Park, which was almost doomed to be absorbed by large farm machinery companies, if not competed to extinction, was the Fosston Wind Stacker Company, which made a device for threshing machines which would carry the threshed straw upward to a straw pile by the use of a blower fan. Older threshing machines used a slat conveyor to carry the straw but someone had to stack the straw when it was carried to the rear of the thresher. The wind stacker, or blower, could blow the straw to any part of a stack and largely eliminated the stackman. Incorporated in February of 1902 for $100,000 for a thirty year life, the company office was in Minneapolis though it leased a Walker owned building in The Park which had formerly been occupied by the Thompson Wagon Works In which to fabricate its product. Severin N. Sorenson and Ole L. Larson of Minneapolis, plus Arthur P. Lothrop o£ St. Paul were the founders of the company, while the first directorate was composed of the above named plus Chauncey E. Wheeler and W. C. MacFadden. All but MacFadden were officers of the company. The firm operated in The Park for two years and made several hundred wind stackers which were used on the thresher manufactured in Hopkins, before it amended its articles of incorporation to change the name to Fosston Manufacturing Company and moved to Merriam Park in St. Paul. Sorenson remained as president but David M. Dalrymple of St. Paul replaced Larson as secretary. Later the company made grain and seed cleaners.
Another company which was lost to the village in this period was the Shaft Pierce Shoe Company. Walker, it will be remembered, had built a two story, fifty by one hundred foot factory building for the company when it was established in St. Louis Park and the firm had established a stitching and cutting room in Minneapolis on First Avenue north. Under the trademark “Minnehaha Shoes” the company in its earliest days was making about 150 pairs of shoes daily which were sold in Minneapolis, Chicago, St. Paul and generally throughout the northwest. In 1901, in order to integrate production, the village factory was moved into Minneapolis. A strike in 1902 by workers who wanted wage increases which would raise apprentice cutters to nine dollars weekly and kid cutters to sixteen fifty weekly attracted wide attention. Fletcher Walker, who had taken over his father’s interest in the business, sold his shares, and in April 1902 the company was merged with the North Star Boot and Shoe Company, though W.S. Shaft retained a sizeable interest in the firm. Later the company moved out of Minneapolis. Fifty men who were employed by the firm at the village factory were transferred up town and many removed there, though a number commuted on the streetcar.
With a number of manufacturers moving out of The Park or ceasing operations, the Walker interests found several buildings vacant and desired to rent them. Lewis R. Gorham, who was secretary of the Minneapolis Land and Investment Company was well as secretary of the other Walker corporation, The Red River Lumber Company, inserted an advertisement in the Minneapolis Times offering for rent or sale a factory in St. Louis Park. Myron R, Martin, of Superior, Wisconsin, a subscriber to the paper, saw the advertisement, and needing a factory in which he could expand his infant grinder business, answered the ad. In March 1902 he bought the site with a down payment of $500. In a couple of months the M.R, Martin firm was located in the village and was producing an engine driven grain-grinder.
The history of the company was largely the concept and work of one man, Myron R. Martin. He had been born in Hebron, Jefferson County, Wisconsin, March 12, 1858, the son of Freeman Martin, a descendant of veterans of the Revolutionary War. Early he had showed a remarkable genius for invention, having perfected in his youth a rotary-drop, hand operated corn planter. He studied at Albion Academy before entering a law office in Madison to study law. But law he abandoned and within a short time had invented a new type of gearing for a windmill. The Duplex Manufacturing Company was established at Brooklyn, Wisconsin to produce the new device and Martin became the chief salesman for the firm. His father, meanwhile, had moved to Rutland, Iowa, where young Martin met his future wife, Emma Pavey, whom he married in 1890. Later, when the Duplex Company was moved to Superior, Martin became superintendent of the factory. His next invention was a feed-grinder, which the company made and sold under the name Jewel Grinder. Being anxious to have a complete factory of his own, Martin resigned from the company in 1895 and organized the Superior Cycle Company, to make bicycles. Within four years he had made not only cycles but one of the first automobiles seen in Superior, a two cylinder, clutch transmission buggy capable of speeds of fifty miles an hour. But he saw the difficulties of manufacturing it for the market and soon turned to a new model of the grain-grinder which was made with both six and seven inch burrs. After Martin had sold the first carload of grinders to the Stickney Engine Company, he felt that success was near and expansion was needed. It was at this point that he was perusing the newspapers seeking a new location.
In the new location Martin had a complete factory in which he could make gray iron castings as well as all other parts of his grinder. In addition, at times he made castings for other firms, for example, the Fosston Wind Stacker Company. His firm went through various difficulties, with taxes which continued to rise, with fire hazards in the old buildings, and with a tornado which in 1904 did considerable damage to buildings in the village. Nevertheless, the business prospered and seven years after changing the name to the Martin Manufacturing Company in 1907, began construction of a new building which was finished after the war. About the same time Myron Martin invented a burr for the grinder which could be resharpened. This improvement was sought after by many farmers who could thus dispense with the buying of costly new burrs when old ones grew dull. The Martin Company was a welcome addition to the village in the sense that it provided employment for men, but it also provided new blood for the social life of the area. Martin was a strong opponent of liquor and tobacco, and though he sought but few political offices, his voice, and that of his family, was heard increasingly when public counsels were asked.
Among the many changes in St. Louis Park in the period from 1900 to 1913 was one which involved the Walker Streetcar Line. Population had grown but streetcar service continued to be on a half hour schedule. In 1900 a committee appointed by the village council in response to public demand visited Lewis Gorham, who was Walker’s agent in such matters, requesting that more frequent service be provided and that benches be placed at waiting points. And natural phenomena also gave the company troubles. In 1902 in October, lightning struck the car barn and burned it., destroying one car. The total damage was about $3,000 which was repaid by the insurance company. In 1904 the tornado which tore through the town also did damage to the car barn along with other damage to the town.
Sometime in about 1902, the company built an extension of the line to Hopkins, which was a bustling little village at that time. The line was built down Lake Street across the marsh and into Hopkins but not across the railroad tracks. Hopkins thus received its first streetcar line to the city and the increased use of the service no doubt caused many more trolleys to pass through St. Louis Park. Within a couple of years the Minneapolis and St. Paul Suburban Company line built an extension through Hopkins connecting to Lake Minnetonka.
Thomas B. Walker, who was taking somewhat less interest in St. Louis Park than he had in the 1890’s when he was booming the village, desired to sell the line, or at least get some other organization to operate it. In October of 1906 it was announced in the newspapers that the Twin City Rapid Transit Company was about to take over the trolley system belonging to the Minneapolis Land and Investment Company which they would make a part of the Minneapolis and St, Paul Suburban Company. The contract gave the larger company the right to purchase the Walker line. Officials of the Minneapolis and St. Paul Suburban Company appeared before the village council and asked for a special franchise. It will be remembered that the Minneapolis Land and Investment Company had reserved to itself the right to construct a street railway, which virtually amounted to a perpetual franchise. The council called a special meeting in November and gave the second and third reading of the charter and order it printed in the Hopkins News. Said Thomas Lowry, president of the Twin City Rapid Transit Company in his 1907 Annual Report which reviewed the events of 1906: “During the boom of 1892 there were started outside the city limits, two villages for manufacturing purposes, St. Louis Park on the southwest … 6.1 miles from the city limits…. Great pressure was brought to bear on our company to make extensions….. We secured Minneapolis rights to connect. We leased these rights to parties desiring to build reserving the privilege to purchase when we saw fit. We recently concluded that the time had arrived … we purchased the St. Louis Park line for $40,000 and the Robbinsdale line for $30,000.” There being no need for two streetcar lines going from Minneapolis to Hopkins, the line connecting St. Louis Park and Hopkins was torn up in 1906 or 1907. Apparently, the village fathers looked benevolently upon the new owners because in 1908 they contributed twenty dollars to build a waiting station in Manhattan Park. No serious criticism is brought to the attention of the village council until the war broke out – and then again in the 1930’s.
The competition of the streetcar company was such as to reduce the passenger revenue of the railroad to small proportions. In 1908 the Milwaukee line proposed to remove the depot but a protests from L. W. Fuller caused a reconsideration. Fuller, in protesting to the council about the removal of the depot, also asked that body to request the M&StL to build a cattle chute for loading livestock. The chute was not built but the move to remove the depot was blocked.
A problem which confronts any group of people who live in any measure of proximity to each other, and which is normally solved only by reference to government is that of fire prevention and fighting. In the village the only attempt in the last century to solve that problem resulted in little but talk. In April of 1893, the council appointed a committee consisting of Dan Falvey, George Thompson and Joseph Hamilton to investigate and inspect different types of fire fighting equipment but records do not show that any equipment was purchased though it might be presumed that a voluntary bucket brigade was formed. Monitor and Esterly, and later other firms, had fire fighting equipment which was hauled to fire, which perhaps accounts for the official lethargy. In the first three years of the twentieth century the council and others were very active, and interested in fire fighting machinery and organization. On August 25, 1900, an election was held to authorize the Issuance of certificates of indebtedness of $1,500 which resulted in a thirty to three approval. In the same month the council ordered some equipment, purchased and in September bids were received from the New Jersey Car Spring and Rubber Company and the W.S. Nott Company. The former bid seemed satisfactory and the village-ordered a #6A Segrave truck. During the same year the fire department was organized with about twenty members, some of whom were George Gibson, C. H. Hamilton, Joe Williams, John Williams, Charles Miller, L. L. Brown, George Wilbur and Joe Fisher. At a special meeting of the council on September 15th, three councilmen voted against buying the $1,500 machine but ordered a $1,200 model. Because of some kind of. Misunderstanding, the New Jersey Spring Car and Rubber Company filed a suit against C. B. Waddell, who was president of the council, but the suit was settled by the new council in 1901. Sam Sewell was hired at a cost of $65.00 monthly to care for the fire wagon which was kept in the Syndicate Block with stables for the horses in the rear. In mid 1901 the council asked a committee of five to organize a volunteer fire department, appointing A. H. Masters, Joe Williams, J. E, Williams, Charles Hamilton, and E. M. Trenkley to do the job. Within a month twenty-seven men were enrolled with Charles Miller as chief and Joe Willlams as assistant chief. Shortly after this the council bought beds and bedding for the fire department for which it paid $23.14 and in the early part of the next year bought rubber coats and caps for the volunteers. Apparently, the system of having a paid and a volunteer department in competition with each other was not satisfactory and it was voted to discontinue the department and dispose of all the equipment. Furthermore, it offered ten dollars to the first person who got the chemical engine to the fire. The street lighter was to care for the engine. Six months later a committee sold the coats and hats of the department. From that time on the village was dependent upon the goodwill of interested people in fighting fires. Monitor, of course, lent their equipment and it was necessary at times to call for outside aid. The council in 1912 voted fifty dollars to the Minneapolis Fire Relief Association for aiding in putting out fires in St. Louis Park. For the next twelve years the fire fighters were volunteers and one might surmise what happened to the property insurance rates.
As far as police protection, the village seems to have required but little. Every year the villagers at the annual election chose two constables but their duties were largely serving legal papers for which they got a fee. The town hired a marshal but his duties were light if he had any. A few drunkards were occasionally “locked up” but beyond that there seems to have been little lawbreaking, though in 1908 there apparently was considerable gambling, probably in pool halls, which the council tried to suppress for which they appropriated $100 for use by the village attorney. [Someone whose name is lost sent to Mayor Hurd a marshal’s badge which was used in the early days.] Along about 1913, John Sandberg was appointed marshal at a salary of $70 per month. A few vagrants slept in the jail but the place either was misused or not used at all. In 1902 the Board of Health petitioned the council to clean the jail “as it was in a filthy condition.”
The government of the village was in the hands of a rather small group of men although the group showed enough changes to represent the desires of nearly all citizens, excepting women who could not vote. The president of the council during the preceding century was Joseph Hamilton who was elected eleven times but with his death at the turn of the century a new group of faces was seen in the office. C.B. Waddell, who had defeated Hamilton for the office once in the 1890’s held the office thrice in the first decade of the next century. A.T. Masters and C.H. Hanke both held the office more than one term, while F.W. Sugden, Louis M. Larson, and C. J. Miller were also presidents. It often happened that the above men, when not serving as president, were serving as trustees or councilmen. The three economic groups in the village area were represented: the dairymen, the gardeners and the industrial faction. Though one cannot find an issue which would cause dissension, most changes in the officialdom seem to have been made for personal rather than policy reasons. Most of the officials served for very small yearly salaries though in 1911 the treasurer was paid two percent of the total amount of funds handled. That same year, the treasurer, Louis L. Ainsworth died, and in his place his father, W. C. Ainsworth, was appointed to the position after S. E. Davis and Herbert Carleton signed his bond which was required of the treasurer. In the same period at least three officials moved away or resigned: Sugden and Miller from the presidency, and J.E. Williams from the recorder’s position (clerkship). As far as internal organization of the council is concerned, the committee system was established about 1903 and expanded thereafter. One can study the personnel changes of the village government in the Appendix.
As in earlier periods the problem of roads and sidewalks was one with which the council and government wrestled. Dan Falvey continued his career of road grading in addition to his long service to the school district. Road grading bids were solicited through the columns of the Minneapolis Tribune and the Hopkins News and several were usually submitted by contractors. One example will suffice to show how the system operated. In 1903 a contract was to be let to grade Excelsior Avenue and bids were solicited. When bids were opened at the May council meeting it was found that D. C. Dolan had bid twenty-six cents per cubic yard to move dirt while William Falvey, brother to Dan and cooperator in most grading enterprises, had bid twenty-seven cents per cubic yard. Falvey was granted the contract; the law apparently did not require acceptance of the lowest bid. That same year road problems became so complex that two road districts were created in the village, a north and a south district. It will be remembered that about this time in the nation a movement was afoot to improve roads under the guidance of the Good Roads Commission. This organization requested the St, Louis Park village council to put guide boards at the intersections of most roads. The council considered the proposition but laconically instructed the clerk “to thank the Good Roads Commission and to advise the same of the financial standing of the village treasury.” It was some years later when the streets were marked.
One of the new problems which came to the attention of the road committee of the council was that of automobiles which were beginning to be driven in The Park. It is thought that Dr. John Watson had the first car, a side crank, one cylinder Oldsmobile with brass trimmings which many residents called a “gasoline buggy.” Not long afterwards S. E. Davis bought a White Steamer though he was an excellent horseman. Langdons had a two cylinder De Tamble with a chain drive and Davis eventually purchased a gasoline driven “horseless carriage.” When Davis died he had a 1909 Lozier, a low slung, gasoline driven automobile. But cars were something which would be more common in the years to come and the council considered regulations for traffic. As early as 1902, they put on the ordinance books a regulation which “prohibits autos from speeding at more than ten miles per hour.” Today the highway sign says “40 speed limit,” probably faster than most autos of the earliest period would travel. Forward looking president of the council Hanke suggested to the trustees in 1912 that an auto be purchased to help in road inspection but nothing was done about buying one.
Another innovation of the period was the replacing of the wooden sidewalks with stone or cement. As with the road grading, the construction of sidewalks was let out on contract. In 1905, four bids for stone or cement walks were rejected though the bids were as low as sixty-three cents a square yard for cement sidewalk blocks. But sidewalks were built mainly by Minneapolis firms, and the costs were assessed against property owners; owners with twenty-two foot lots paid $6.35, twenty-five foot lots $7.27, fifty foot lots paid. $12.71 and $14.54 depending on the width of the sidewalk, and the thirty-three and fifty-five foot lots paid proportionately. Of course, there were many areas which did not have sidewalks as is shown by the request of Dr. G.M. Wade who wanted the council to provide a cinder path in the Brookside area.
The bicyclists in 1902 were still requesting a path on which they could ride and hoped for a route fourteen blocks long. The council was sympathetic and approved a request, adding, “as far as the money in the treasury would permit.”
The cost of government in the period 1900 to 1913 seems small when compared with today’s costs but that was probably because the people of that day were willing to do without many things we think are essential. In 1902, only a five mill rate was levied; one mill each for fire, general roadwork and one mill for the general fund while a two mill levy was used for special road fund. Three years later the rate was four and one-half mills. In 1910 the total costs of village government was only $5,500 which seemed very high to the taxpayers league headed by Dr. John Watson and Charles Hamilton who wanted assessed valuations reduced by twenty percent. The council agreed to cooperate in reducing assessments and only $5,000 was budgeted for the year 1912. The total assessed valuation seems to have been about one million 7 dollars, about what it costs to operate the schools for a year in our age.
As has been mentioned earlier, the village had provided street light which seem to have been gasoline lanterns and hired R. D. Lewis at $12.50 per month to light the lamps. Later, in 1909, a Mr. Lufkin was hired on the piecework basis to light the lamps at four cents per lamp. One wonders who put out the lamps – or did they merely let them run out of fuel? But in 1910 the village ceased to operate street lights because a revolution was taking place in The Park; the introduction of electricity which would put an end to the need for the services of the quaint lamplighting custom which had been so celebrated in poetry.
This revolution in living, the introduction of electricity, was promised many years earlier when the council passed an ordinance which granted to the Minneapolis Land and Investment Company the right to build electric lines and sell electricity. It was specified in the 1891 ordinance that one mile of line must be built within five years but there is no record of a line having been built except that which was used by the streetcar company. But if the development company was unwilling or unable to provide current, at least, the growing Minneapolis General Electric Company was, and in January of 1911, officials of that company appeared before the council and asked permission to build lines, etc. At a special meeting in mid-month the council considered a thirty year franchise for the company but the motion to grant it was laid on the table. However, there still existed a virtual perpetual franchise to the Minneapolis Land and Investment Company – and the opinion of Mr. Walker, the main stock-holder was sought. The next month Dr. George M. Wade, who was a member of the council, conferred with T.B, Walker and told him that ninety residents of the village would like to purchase electricity from the Minneapolis General Electric Company. Walker granted the request and within a month the General Electric Company was given a franchise. At the same time it made an offer to the village to light the streets, saying that for $1,500 annually it would provide eighty-six 25 candlepower lamps, seventy-five 32 candlepower, and sixty 40 candlepower streetlights. It further agreed to put up certain poles and wished for a five year contract. The council took advantage of the offer. Thereafter many citizens had their houses wired for electric lights, Joe Williams doing some of the original wiring. Monitor soon was using commercial electricity and the village was on the road to a boom in use of current which within forty years would drive a half dozen motors in each home plus give light, heat and refrigeration. Requests came thick and fast for the installation of wiring in houses after this time.
During the period before World War I there also was added to the services available in the village another utility, the telephone. Northwestern Telephone Exchange was setting poles and making connections as early as 1911. Rather often the company came to the council and asked permission to extend their lines. About five years later another system began putting lines into the village, The Tri State Telephone Company. Thus some residents had to have two telephones if they wanted complete coverage of the telephone population. Joe Williams, fire chief and Monitor engineer, had three phones, one from each company and a private line from Monitor. The system was inconvenient but the two telephone companies had merged by 1920 and the public was able to call all subscribers on one phone.
The growing population of the village, which had grown from 1,325 in 1900 to 1,743 a decade later, had caused many changes in voting population, need for stores, etc., but the area in which need for services was most notable was in the schools. Lincoln School, which had seen its first graduating class of two girls in this period, was too small to accommodate the rising school population. Under the direction of Superintendent E. S. Hatch, who had come to the system from Del1 Rapids, South Dakota, plans were made to build another school building, to be used primarily for a high school. T. B. Walker, the largest landholder in the village, offered two and acres between the M&StL depot and the streetcar line on which to locate the school. The new school, which was to have an auditorium capacity of eight hundred, was to c cost $60,000 for which a bond issue was voted 327 to 70 in March of 1913. At the end of the period the new building was under construction while four other schools were in operation. Thus, for a time, the schools were adequate for the population but the great pressures were to develop again when the village made a phenomenal growth in later decades.
One of the issues which caused a great amount of hard feelings and bitterness during the opening decades of the twentieth century was that of liquor and saloons. T. B. Walker had always been an abstainer and was uncompromising in his view that liquor was an evil not to be tolerated, and S. E. Davis, Joseph Hamilton and many others shared his views. At the same time there were Germans, Irish and others who considered any attempt to keep them from having a “wee drap” whenever they pleased, a serious violation of their rights as citizens. In replatting the Park, Walker had inserted into the deeds he granted a stern provision restricting the buyer of the property from using it for liquor dispensing purposes. During the first years of the village an annual vote on the liquor question usually resulted in a victory for the drys. But beginning with the twentieth century, those who favored licensing of saloons more often won the election. In 1902, the village voted for saloons 135 to 73 and within a couple of months Conrad Birkhofer was granted a license to sell liquor for one year. In the next year, the vote again permitted license, the results being 96 to 35, and a license was granted with a fee of $1,000 per year, though many considered $500 as an adequate fee. The license was granted to a brewery or liquor company but the place of vending the drinks was often under another name, for example, Walin’s Saloon which was on Grant Street. In 1905 when 236 people voted, the license was rejected by twenty-nine votes, but the reverse was true in the following year and for every year until 1916 when, with the “grass roots” movement to “dry up” the nation, St. Louis Park voted dry again. John Sandberg and Fred Walline (Walin) were most often granted the license, though C. H. Perry was given one in 1907 when the council in a stormy session reduced the fee to $700 while two members tried to raise it to $1,500. Two years later the council placed an ordinance on the books which forced the saloons to close at ten in the evening. That same year there were five applicants for license: William Klebs, John Hinkle, John Sandberg, George Williams Jr., and George A. Warner; the first four received the permit at a cost of $700 each, though a month earlier the clergy opposed granting licenses to Klebs, Hinkle and Warner. The prohibitionists made another stand in 1910 when they lost again, 151 to 143. [The vote on liquor franchise by years when the information is available is: (the first figure is the number favoring license): 1893, 102-242; 1894, 130-186; 1895, 56-216; 1896, 97-117; 1897, 1898, and 1899 there is no record; 1900, 54-124; 1901, no record; 1902, 135-73; 1903, 96-35; 1904, no record; 1905, 103-132; 1906, 115-100; 1907, 130-108; 1908, 140-100; 1910, 151-143; 1911, 192-119; 1912, 200-127; 1913, 177-105; 1914, 216-153.] One argument by the wets said that the village should keep saloons because many men would thus be kept from coming to Minneapolis and going home on the late cars after their drinking bouts. The village, like all towns, had its village drunk, who scarcely drew a sober breath, but The Park had a drunkard who began to create a disturbance whenever he was “in his cups.” The council ordered in 1913 that the habitual drunkard was to be arrested every time he created a disturbance. Five years later, after the passage of the federal prohibition law, a habitual drunkard had to find bootleg sources, or resort to vanilla and flavoring extracts.
An event which did untold damage in St. Louis Park before it went on to do similar damage in St. Paul, Stillwater and other places before it reached this area was the tornado which tore through this area on August 20, 1904. Originating in South Dakota, it hit Glencoe before it reached the village where it did $25,000 damage to the Sugar Company, tore down the smoke stack on the Malleable Iron Works and did $15,000 in damages to Fosston Wind Stacker, in addition to destroying one hundred and forty-four stackers. Monitor suffered $15,000 damage while Peavy Elevators had losses up to $50,000. Great Western Elevators suffered loss and the Minneapolis Land and Investment Company found that damage had been done to twenty houses, which could be repaired for about $3,200. Three persons were killed: Mr. Ohde and two children. Traveling on, the storm did about a million dollars worth of damage in St. Paul, mainly in the retail district before it moved to Stillwater where it did another $100,000 worth of damage. It had already killed three persons at Glencoe and did $250,000 damage at Waconia. There have been other storms since this disastrous one but none that exceeded in death and destruction, the one of 1904. A second serious event was the fire which did serious damage to the Sugar Company buildings in 1909 or 1910.
Economically the village saw a decline in the number of industrial plants though those which remained seem to have increased their efficiency. Along the south edge of the village, and in other places also, the market gardeners were busy with their fields of onions, carrots, beets, cabbage, potatoes and other vegetables. C. B, Waddell had several workers employed to do the field work while he made daily trips to Minneapolis where he sold the produce to either commission firms or directly to merchants. In the afternoon he made another trip to St. Paul where he put a consignment on the train which would take the produce to Duluth. Many others were engaged in the same business, Fletchers, Rixons, Bastons, Gasts and Shephards to mention a few. At the other end of the village were the dairymen who sold most of their milk to Minneapolis patrons. There one saw herds of cows grazing in the pastures, and fields of alfalfa which would be the winter feed. One could find dairymen whose names were Johnson, Kjelde, Larson, Applequist and others. One fellow who sold milk said that he sold a great deal of water in Minneapolis in milk bottles, and that his best cow was his backyard pump. Thus three types of work provided a living for the people of the village; gardening, operating the milk shed for Minneapolis, and the industrial activities. Walker was no longer interested in making the village an industrial center, and built no more factories, nor incorporated any more firms. He seems to have been content to sell lots, the taxes on which were eating yearly out of his purse. The early dream of the industrial village faded, but the momentum established when he platted the village carried on for a long time.
Optimism about the future of The Park remained higher than was necessary and promoters continued platting additions, though Walker had thousands of lots for sale. In the three years 1907 to 1910, there were a couple of plattings filed yearly, notably Brookside, Fern Hill, McCarty’s First [and second addition to Fern Hill], Cedarhurst, Excelsior Avenue Addition, Wooddale, Oakenwald and Browndale, to mention a few, but in 1911 the number increased as it did again in 1912 when Norwaldo, Roxbury Park, Birchwood, Manhattan Park and others were approved by the village fathers. In 1913, a virtual plethora of plattings were recorded, among them The Bronx, Oak Lawn, Lenox, the Oaks, Hillcrest and University Club. The number of new lots, no doubt, outran the demand for sites, in as much as Lenox had 472 lots, Bronx 120 and others in proportion.
The platting of this great area presaged another attempt to boom the village and it was not long until one could read the Minneapolis papers about the great advantages of living in the area. Five very fine qualities which the village could offer prospective seekers of building sites were: low taxation, no municipal debt, two rapid transit lines, industrial trackage, and nine square miles of space. The real estate section of the Minneapolis Journal for November 2, 1915, was devoted entirely to telling of the great opportunities in St. Louis Park. A news story said that two thousand lots had been sold recently and that probably two hundred houses had been built. T.B. Walker gave reporters a story about how and why the village had been platted and talked about the industry that had once existed or still was operating. He did not forget to mention the role which he had in developing The Park. If indications are correct there probably were about ten thousand lots in St. Louis Park whose owners wanted to deed to someone else. Seven thousand of them belonging to T. B. Walker and the Minneapolis Land and Investment Company.
The thirteen years which had elapsed since the turn of the century had seen many major changes in the village. For one thing, industry was not as important as it had been, though gardening and milk producing had made some gains. Village government had wrestled rather successfully with problems of roads, sidewalks, fire protection, and liquor. The school district had enough schools to educate the young. The next few years were to see more changes which presaged the development of the residential suburbs and to see the village grow to proportions not imagined by the founders.
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