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August 27, 2015

The start of East Otter Tail County Extension Service

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The County Extension Service began in eastern Otter Tail County in 1922 with an office located in Perham to serve the northeastern 31 townships.

Due to a fire, the office was located in Henning from 1924-1932, after which it was moved back to Perham. There was a six-month period in 1931 when work was suspended due to a lack of funds. It was resumed again in 1932 because of a severe outbreak of grasshoppers.

Early educational programs in agriculture included farming with horses, introduction of alfalfa, corn, and small grains, control of grasshoppers and insects, soil testing, improving milk production, organizing boys and girls clubs and supporting community development.

One of the original sources of funding was the Farm Bureau Organization which provided office space and travel funds. Later the Extension office received funding from Otter Tail County, the University of Minnesota, and USDA.

Youth work was an important part of Extension programs. In 1923, there were 101 youths enrolled in 12 clubs. Records show that youth participated in the County Fair in Perham in 1923.

In the 1930s, the youth clubs were re-organized into community 4-H clubs, with the first 4-H agent coming in 1935.  Enrollment peaked in 1969 with 640 members and 31 clubs. Early 4-H projects focused on livestock, bread baking, sewing, canning, leadership, health, conservation, and shop. Popular events during the year included club tours, softball games, County Fair, State Fair, Share-the-Fun, and 4-H Camps. From the standpoint of achievement, 4-H youth work has been one of the most successful and lasting programs of the extension service.

The Home Economics program officially began in the County in 1947 when the first home agent was hired. Up until that time, local leaders and University of Minnesota State Extension Specialists gave lessons to homemakers and leaders on a variety of subjects. Popular lessons were nutrition, clothing, textiles, housing, furnishings, use of time, money and energy, child development, human relations, and health. In 1982, there were 608 homemakers enrolled in 52 clubs.

Lina Belar is the founder and retired director of the Friends of the History Museum of East Otter Tail County.

Denzil Cooper, former Agricultural Agent, submitted information for this article to the East Otter Tail County History, Volume I, published in 1994 and now available on-line at


August 6, 2015

Baseball has been a summer favorite in Perham since the 1920s

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Baseball has always been a popular summer pastime.

Baseball has been a part of Perham since its beginning from the days of semi-pro during the twenties to amateur baseball.

Teams over the years were the Greens, Colts, Kids, Kidders, Perham Brewers, Perham Independents, Perham Pirates, Perham Cubs and Perham Panthers.

Managers included: Kick  Claydon, M.B. Palzer, Bill Ryan, George Kelly, Eddie Stephenson, Al Woessner, George Bauck, Clarence Ruther, Elmer Eickschen, Ted Meinhover, Don Burgau Sr., Bob Stein,  Al Bretz, Art Winjum, Raymond “Stub” Burgau, Don Meyer, Arne Luhning, Al Krueger and Ernie Kawlewski.

Perham won the right to go to the State Amateur Baseball Tournament in 1949, 1954, 1956, 1958, 1961, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1981,1982, 1983, 1984, 1985.

1949 baseball team

1949 baseball team

In 1966 and the first part of 1967, they won 32 games in a row.  One year, they came from being tied for fourth place, to winning the league title and missing the State title by one run. In 1961 and 1966 they were Class B State Champions.

In the late fifties and early sixties, crowds were considered poor if they numbered less than four hundred. A few of the outstanding players have been Ligh Lucking, John Schmidt, Carl John, Hank Fellerer, George Kelly, Roy Martin, Milo Wakefield, Pat and Romey Johnson, Paul Krueger, Vic Pearce, Harvey Smalley, Tuffy Nelson, Don and Stub Burgau, Al Dunn, Al Stigman and the list goes on.

Roy Martin and Harvey Smalley were the first to be named to an All-State team. Raymond “Stub” Burgau, Don Burgau Sr., and Al Stigman have been given more region and state honors than any other players.  Al Stigman pitched a perfect game against Ashby in 1956.

Information in part from the East Otter Tail County History, Volume II, published in 1994 now available on-line by visiting Lina Belar is the founder and retired director of the Friends of the History Museum of East Otter Tail County.


July 29, 2015

Lefse and tortillas: The history of Perham’s Bec-Lin Foods

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Bec-Lin Foods was begun in Lake Park about 1951 by Arthur Carlson, who began baking  and selling lefse to surrounding area residents. It was a seasonal business, operating in the fall until Christmas.

In the late sixties Tory Olsen, Norman Nelson and Ed Knutson purchased the business. It was still operated as a seasonal business and had a sales volume of about $275,000 when Bill Schoeneberger and Tuffy Nelson purchased the business in late 1982.

The company consisted of two full time and seven part time employees and was located in an old cinder block building.

Bill and Tuffy set out to develop a year around business.  They expanded into the Mexican Food business while growing the lefse business.

In 1984 they purchased a piece of equipment that allowed them to mass bake lefse while retaining the old fashioned recipe. Expansion into the corn and flour tortilla markets was also begun.

Tuffy was diagnosed with cancer in May, 1985, and he died in February, 1986. Because of increased business a new, modern plant was built in Perham in October, 1987. With nineteen employees and sales of $1.5 million the Perham chapter of Bec-Lin Foods had begun.

In 1991 a pressed flour tortilla line was added, requiring an expansion of the current facility. By 1994, Bec-Lin Foods had about sixty-five employees, sales of five million dollars and was the largest lefse baker in the United States. In addition, its

Mexican Foods were marketed over a wide area of the United States.  Employees came from Audubon, Detroit Lakes, Dent, Ottertail, New York Mills, Vergas, Sebeka and Deer Creek to work in the facility. For many years, Bec-Lin was one of the major foods manufacturing companies in Perham.

In June 2000, Cenex Harvest States Cooperative bought two Minnesota tortilla businesses, including Bec-Lin of Perham, with plans to produce the company’s Monteray Wraps and El Gran Deli tortillas, as well as Scandinavian Premium and Aunt Julia lefse  at Cenex Harvest States’ New Brighton, Minnesota facility.

Information in part from the East Otter Tail County History, Volume II, published in 1994 now available online at

Lina Belar is the founder and retired director of the Friends of the History Museum of East Otter Tail County.


July 1, 2015

Independence Day – Alf Jorgenson

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The Fourth of July, Independence Day, is the National Day of the United States.  The date commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from Great Britain.

The day is commonly associated with picnics, parades, family reunions and fireworks – but, it is also a day to recall the lives of those whose service to the United States helped ensure freedom and independence both here and throughout the world.

Alf Jorgenson enlisted in the local National Guard infantry company, a part of the 135th Minnesota Regiment in February of 1941.

They joined three other infantry regiments from Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota at Camp Clairborne in Los Angeles, Calif. for basic training.

Once assembled, they were known as the Red Bull 34th Infantry.

In April of 1942, they landed at Londonderry, Ireland for more infantry training and were the first troops overseas in the European theatre.

In December of 1942, they landed in Algiers, North Africa and took part in an all-summer campaign to drive the German and Italian armies out of Algeria and Tunisia.

Once completed, the 135th Minnesota Infantry Regiment was one of the American troops in the Tunis Victory Parade.

Their next stop was the mountains of Italy. This was mud and mountains all the way from the “toe” of Italy, up through the boot and finally almost to the border of Switzerland.

Alf fought in the battles of Hill 609 in Africa, Salerno Beach and Conte Cassino (Abbey) in Italy, Anzio Beach (where he was wounded) and the Road to Rome.

By the time the war with Japan ended, he had been reassigned to a training unit at Camp Gordon, Ga.

He was discharged on July 3, 1945, after having fought for independence for nearly four years.

Information from the archives of the newspapers of Perham, an index of which is available online at Lina Belar is the founder and retired director of the Friends of the History Museum of East Otter Tail County.


June 25, 2015

A history lesson on public education in Perham

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With the railroad arriving in Perham in 1871 and settlement in 1872 the Perham Public School

District #44 was organized in September of 1873. Classes were held in Christ Schroeder’s

Harness Shop until the first frame schoolhouse was built in 1875.  In 1888, a two-story solid brick schoolhouse, including basement, was constructed. The frame school building was purchased by St. Henry’s Parish for $25.00 in 1890, and used as a school until it was replaced by the current St. Henry’s brick school building in 1916.

In 1898, the public school constructed an addition and the upstairs became a high school, with the first PHS students graduating in 1903. A new high school was built in 1917 and located at 200 5th St. SE, its current site. In 1935, 36 students graduated, with senior class sizes varying between 4 to 52 pupils.

In February of 1936, the 1888 school, including the 1898 addition, was destroyed in a spectacular fire, possibly from spontaneous combustion of wood refuse in the basement. The subzero weather prevented the fire department from extinguishing the blaze.

In 1937, a gymnasium-auditorium, four classrooms, a band room and a county agent’s office were added to the 1917 school building. The gymnasium-auditorium was one of the finest built at the time, which offered theater seating for both basketball games and stage performances. In years, to come, the hardwood gym floor was turned to a 90 degree angle, expanded and spectator bleachers were added.

In 1937, one bus handled the Perham School bus route whereas in 1994, 28 buses travel the routes. In 1955, an expanded gym, home economics and shop areas were added to the building.

In 1964, a school building addition provided more elementary and office space, a multipurpose area and science laboratories.

Dent Independent School District #55 1, (originally #274), consolidated with Perham in 1970-71. Dent, having combined with four adjoining districts, #514, # 1505, # 1523, and # 1526, built its current structure to house its increased student enrollment in 1963. The Perham-Dent School

District #549, having consolidated with 18 school districts, between 1956 and 1970, flourished and the student population continued to grow.

In 1971, the city of Perham celebrated its Centennial, with PHS graduating 126 students and offering 53 subjects from which to choose. Major growth in student enrollment brought additional expansion and building projects in the 80’s and 90’s. In 1989, Dent Elementary School received a two-classroom addition and major renovation and accommodated more than 100 kindergarten through fourth grade students in the south part of the district. In 1990, Heart of the Lakes Elementary School (HOTL) was built at 810 2ndAve S.W. as part of a three phase project.

It houses kindergarten through sixth grade students and cost $3.5 million. In 1991, at a cost of $3.8 million, PHS completed a major addition and renovation project. The PHS Auditorium was updated and modernized in 1994 for $600,000. Also in 1994, ground breaking and construction began on a six million dollar Middle School, southwest of HOTL, which would house fifth through eighth grades. Total student enrollment for 1993-94 was 1,610 pupils, with 135 classes for 7th – 12th grades and 209 school district employees.

As stated in the 1917 Perham High School Annual, our school facilities and community’s priority on quality education have been made possible through the “sacrifice and foresight” of its citizens.

Perham-Dent Schools’ Alumni have become successful men and women in all walks of life, thanks due in part to the 119 years of dedicated school teacher, staff members, principals, superintendents and board members. May the rich tradition of Perham and Dent School History provide the cornerstone of its education building blocks for the future!


Information for this article was taken in part from the East Otter Tail History Book, Volume I, 1977, now available online at  Lina Belar is the founder and retired director of the Friends of the History Museum of East Otter Tail County.


June 18, 2015

Merchants of Perham: Bauck Brothers General Merchan-dise

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In 1894, two brothers, Fred Bauck, Jr. and Henry Bauck, sons of Fred Bauck, Sr., a pioneer of Perham, established a general merchandise store in Perham.

They sold hardware, dry goods, and groceries, among other things. In 1903, after several years operating their business in wood frame buildings, the two brothers built the building known as the Bauck Block at the corner of West Main Street and Second Avenue SW.

The building was erected at a cost of $18,000. A few years after the building was completed, the brothers decided to dissolve the partnership, with Fred taking the hardware business and Henry the grocery and dry goods business.


A news item from the March 6, 1913 edition of the Perham Enterprise reads:  Henry Bauck left for Canada where he will take up land.

Fred, however, expanded the hardware business and began selling farm implements and cars – Page, Reo, KRIT – and in 1917 added the Chevrolet line. He also began dealing in alfalfa, clover and related seed buying, cleaning, and selling.

Fred was active in community and church affairs, serving for a time as mayor. He was also a volunteer fireman from the early years onward. Fred died on July 4. 1931.

Fred’s oldest son, Ed, had been working with him in the automobile business and continued after his father’s death. Another son, Erv, managed the hardware and seed business for two years, at which time a third son, George, the youngest, took over the operation continuing in the same spot in the Bauck Block.

In 1963, George changed the store from a hardware business to a paint and supply business. In 1970, he sold the seed operation to Perco, Inc. of Perham.

In 1935, the older brother, Ed, added a school bus operation to his automobile business. In 1947, he built a new building for his dealership at 235 W. Main St. The Oldsmobile line was added in 1954. Ed died in 1962, at the same age as his father, 59.


Information for this article was taken in part from the East Otter Tail History Book, Volume I, 1977, now available online at  Lina Belar is the founder and retired director of the Friends of the History Museum of East Otter Tail County.


June 10, 2015

Merchants of Perham – Vin-cent Drahmann

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Vincent Henry Drahmann was born in Perham on May 13, 1887, the son of John Bernard and (Mary) Elizabeth Goecke Drahmann.

John Drahmann was one the first merchants of Perham, buying out his brother Henry Drahmann and John Barney Kemper and Henry Kemper who had first built a small frame store near Rush Lake.  They moved it to Perham in 1867 when the coming of the railroad made it likely that the small settlement was to soon become a bustling community.

Later, the wood frame building was replaced by a sturdy, large, yellow brick structure known as Drahmann’s Store.  When John B. Drahmann he died in 1907, at the age of 53, the business was taken over by his sons. Leo and Vincent Drahmann operated the general merchandise store from 1907 to 1964.


By the time the business was discontinued on Oct. 10, 1964, Drahmann’s Store had been in existence a total of 97 years. The grocery department had been closed out in 1959, and the entire building devoted to dry goods after that time.

Vincent H. Drahmann was married to Louise Speiser on May 14, 1912.   At that time he was already a busy merchant and continued to be so until his retirement some 50 years later. Besides the grocery business, he was active in community affairs, being chairman of the Perham Public School Board, and first president of the Perham Advancement Club which later became the Perham Chamber of Commerce.

He spent long hours on the road committee and was instrumental in getting adequate roads built in the Perham area. About 1920, he and his brother Leo, who was managing the dry goods department of the store, went into the potato raising business on the prairie just outside of Perham. Growing, storing and shipping potatoes became a thriving sideline for the Drahmann brothers for some years.

Vincent Drahmann was a lifetime member of St. Henry’s Catholic Church (which, incidentally, is a replica of the church in St. Henry, Ohio from where many Perham area pioneers came) and a long-time member of the Knights of Columbus and St. Henry’s Society.

Vincent and Louise Speiser Drahmann were the parents of seven children. Catherine Louise, born in 1922, was bookkeeper in Drahmann’s store for many years and the first librarian of the Perham Library. She still lives in Perham.

Vince Drahmann died in 1979. He lived from the horse and buggy days, when there were no cars, airplanes, radios, television, telephones and countless other conveniences, to well into the computerized age and the spectacular event of the landing of man on the moon. His business experience went through bad times and good, from the barter stage to the supermarket era.

The Drahmann building, home of Perham’s first general merchandise business, was razed in 1976.


Information for this article was taken in part from material submitted by Catherine Drahmann for the East Otter Tail History Book, Volume I, 1977, now available online at   Lina Belar is the founder and retired director of the Friends of the History Museum of East Otter Tail County.


May 21, 2015

Agnes and Harry Davies

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Harry J. Davies was born in Perham on Oct. 1, 1886, the son of Fred and Emma Allen Davies. In 1915, he was married to Agnes Berry, who was born Oct. 28, 1894, the daughter of Ludgar and Annie Berry, near Richville.  Harry and Agnes did not have any children.

In 1898, Harry took over the operation of his parent’s cafe, store and bakery. For several years he ran a small hatchery, and later was bookkeeper for the Perham Co-op Oil Company. He was also a gifted amateur photographer.

Agnes worked for August Jahn in 1917, who ran the Golden Rule variety store at the corner of what is now First Ave. S and Main Street.  She remembered Armistice Day in 1918. When school was let out, August brought out the fireworks, skyrockets, and Roman candles bombarded the downtown buildings. Three-inch Minnesota limit firecrackers erupted all over the place.

She stayed with the Golden Rule when August bought the Old Bijou Theatre and remodeled it. The business was sold to J. P. Feyereisen about 1925, and she worked for him until he sold out.

Lester and Bernice Platt bought the building and she worked for them also. Agnes also did stints with Agnes Rosen in her dress shop, Art Rosen when he ran the Red Owl and at the drive-in. She also had used clothing shops. Agnes went to work for Bill Kemper in 1952 and remained in his employ until she retired in 1970.

Agnes was very enthusiastic about fishing all her life. She won the prize for the best fisherman’s hat. Weather never bothered her. She had a dock right in front of her retirement home on Big Pine Lake. She also did ice fishing. Harry died in 1951 and Agnes in 1976. They are both buried in St. Henry’s Cemetery.


Information for this article came from the East Otter Tail History Book, Volume I, 1977, available online at   Lina Belar is the founder and retired director of the Friends of the History Museum of East Otter Tail County.


May 15, 2015

Dick Beitz: A Lifetime of Hobbies

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R.A. “Dick” Beitz was born June 7, 1891, the son of August and Ida Beitz. On Dec. 8, 1915, he married Olga Jahn. She was born June 24, 1896, the daughter of Nicholas and Johanna Jahn. Both were born in Perham, where they remained and reared their three children, Veery (Mrs. George Ryder), Robert and JoAnn (Mrs. Eugene Adamczyk).  Olga died in Feb. 1975, and Dick died in Sept. 25, 1976. Both are buried in the St. Paul’s Lutheran Cemetery at Perham.

Dick was only a sophomore in high school when his parents died, forcing him to leave school and go to work.

One of his first jobs was driving a team of horses during construction of St. Henry’s Catholic Church. His job was to handle the team which pulled up tubs of brick and mortar to the church tower.

He then began employment at the M.J. Gans drug store, where he remained for 45 years. When that business terminated, he started at Kemper Drug and worked on a full-time basis for 10 years, before switching to part-time work for seven years.

When he started working for M.J. Gans, Dick also began keeping weather records, a hobby he continued for more than 60 years. His other hobbies included photography, hunting and fishing and, at one time, motorcycling.

His weather records were carried weekly in the Enterprise-Bulletin. A disappointment for him was that his early records were lost in one of his moves. Through the years, he accumulated a raft of equipment that he used each evening at 6:30 p.m. to record maximum and minimum temperatures, barometric pressures and precipitation readings.

Both bi-metal and mercurial thermometers were used, wind velocity and direction were recorded and humidity taken.

Outside of occasional severe winter blizzards, there have been few violent storms in the Perham area, according to Beitz. Small tornadoes destroyed some barns and other buildings, but the worst probably was many years ago when the “Perham Cyclone” ripped off the roof of the old Globe Mill and sent it sailing down Main Street. Buildings in its path were damaged.

A lover of birds, Dick had built a 60-apartment house for martins at his home which was located along U.S. Highway 10 at that time. The birdhouse was nearly completely occupied when a portion of the mill roof struck it and slammed it to the ground. Miraculously, only three or four of the martins were killed and about half of the colony returned the next season.

Bird photography brought Dick many prizes. He once won second prize in an Eastman Kodak national contest for a shot of some marsh hawks. He was a regular contributor to the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Minneapolis Sunday Tribune and Star Journal photograph sections and won many prizes going back as far as 1925.

He had a collection of pictures of ducks and birds nesting, hunting and fishing scenes and still life that was begun when Dick and Harry Davies were partners in a photo-finishing laboratory. Many of the fishing scenes were along Toad River and Cat Creek (near Sebeka) where he and his son, Robert, did a lot of fine trout fishing.

During these years Dick also became a member of an informal club of motorcyclists. There were about six enthusiasts in Perham at the time, among them Leo Drahmann, Bernie Kemper, and Ed Wasche.  Dick’s first machine was a belt drive, single lung Wagner. Later, he owned two Indian models. Trips in those days were not lengthy by today’s standards. Main highways were nothing more than rutted roadways and it was quite an undertaking to ride as far as Duluth, Fargo or Fergus Falls.

Dick died at the age of 85 after a busy lifetime of successfully pursuing his hobbies.


Information for this article came from the East Otter Tail History Book, Volume I, 1977, available online at   Lina Belar is the founder and retired director of the Friends of the History Museum of East Otter Tail County.


May 8, 2015

East Otter Tail County Fair

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In 1913, the sixth annual exhibition under the auspices of the Perham Agricultural Society drew a large crowd.

There was a display of livestock as well as agricultural products. The judges were from the agricultural college at St. Paul.

During those years, horses were very popular not only to do the farm work, but the carriage horse could be seen all over.

They even had a horse race at the fairgrounds during the year and some of the women were better drivers then the men.

There were cow contests and horse contests and even one for goats. Julius Rogalski had the prize billy goat.

Market Day in 1910.

Market Day in 1910.

It seems that there was as much interest in the oldsters entering the exhibition in those days as there is in the 4-H children of nowadays.

It was suggested that the people take an interest in their garden vegetables and hay grasses and corns for the next year. This was an early beginning to our East Otter Tail County Fair at Perham.

The stakes for the Exhibition building at the East Otter Tail County Fair grounds were driven in 1916.

Previously it had been a Street Fair in downtown Perham each year, with each merchant having an exhibit in front of his store and offering prizes.

Carnival tents lined the middle of the streets and the merry-go-round usually stood on a vacant lot.

Casper Lotterer was fair secretary, not to mention fire chief, village clerk, etc., and such old stalwarts as Joe Loerzel, Mike Huss and Matt Paulson policed the grounds. Charley Weber. George Humphrey and Don Weickert were other secretaries before Sandy DiBrito took over.


Information for this article came from the East Otter Tail History Book, Volume I, 1977, available online at   Lina Belar is the founder and retired director of the Friends of the History Museum of East Otter Tail County.