John B. Drahmann and his wife Elizabeth came from Ohio in 1881 and settled in the very young town of Perham, where he established a general merchandise business that lasted for nearly 100 years.
John was born February 24, 1854 in St. Henry, Ohio. His wife, (Mary) Elizabeth Goecke, was born Oct. 25, 1853 near Maria Stein, Ohio where her father was a cabinetmaker and builder of fine altars, some of which are in use today. They were married in 1877.
After coming to Perham, John went into the general store business, buying out his brother, Henry Drahmann. Henry Drahmann and Henry Kemper, another early settler, had built a small store near Rush Lake in 1867.
They moved it to Perham when the coming of the railroad in 1871 made it obvious to them that the small settlement would soon be a bustling community. Later that wood frame building was replaced by a sturdy, large, yellow brick structure which became known as Drahmann’s Department Store. At various times, John B. Drahmann was also postmaster, newspaperman and mayor of Perham.
John Drahmann and his wife Elizabeth had five children, all born and raised in Perham. When he died in 1907 at the age of 53, the business was taken over by his sons, Vincent and Leo. Vincent managed the grocery business and was also very active in community affairs. He was 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 in committee meetings and was instrumental in getting adequate roads built in the Perham area.
About 1920, he and his brother Leo, who managed 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 side business for the Drahmann brothers.
Drahmann’s business finally closed in 1964 after being in existence for 97 years. The brick building which had housed Drahmann’s Department Store since 1898 and the nearby Merchant’s Hotel which was built in 1900 were both torn down in 1976.
Catherine Drahmann, one of Vincent’s daughters, is still a resident of Perham. She was librarian of the Perham Public Library from 1978 to 1994 and a very active volunteer for the East Otter Tail Historical Society and later the History Museum of East Otter Tail. She was given a Volunteer of the Year Award at this year’s Leadership Banquet.
One of her volunteer activities included compiling the East Otter Tail History Books, which are now fully searchable online at www.HistoryMuseumEOT.org.
Lina Belar is founder and retired executive director of the Friends of the History Museum of East Otter Tail County.