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September 18, 2014

Football in Perham’s early days

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In 1932, Perham High School graduate, Fritz Hanson, set a standard for excellence on the football field that has been difficult for other Yellowjacket stars to duplicate.

After graduation, Hanson went to North Dakota State University, then to the Canadian Football League, where he became a charter member of the league’s Hall of Fame.

During the 1940s and ‘50s, Ted Meinhover coached the teams at Perham High School. His 1950 team was undefeated and unscored upon.

Larry Hauer coached the Yellowjackets in the 1960s, and they dominated the Heart O’Lakes conference. Under Hauer’s direction, PHS graduated its first and only Division I player, Dennis Drummond. Drummond started as a linebacker for the Colorado Buffalos for two years.

In 1982, under the direction of Bob Wilkowski, PHS was undefeated during the regular season, finishing at 9-1.

The 1989 team, coached by Fred Sailer, finished runner-up in the State Championship played at the Metrodome. The Yellowjackets entered the game with a 12-1 record, earning their way to the dome with two dramatic play-off wins over LaSalle and Deer River by identical scores of 10-7.

The Yellowjackets play their games at Ted Meinhover Field.

From information in the “1994 East Otter Tail History Book, Volume I.”

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


September 11, 2014

History of the Perham United Methodist Church

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A Methodist house of worship has been on the corner of 4th Ave. SE and 2nd St. SE in Perham for 131 years. The congregation was officially organized in 1882 with the Rev. Fred Post presiding.

The trustees named were Charles H. Tuesley (attorney), Andrew McCrady (saw mill owner), George F. Russell, John Kennedy and Amanda E. Butler (teacher).

The original white frame building, erected in the fall of 1882, was 24×44’. It served the congregation for 91 years.

In those days, pastors often served several congregations, traveling by horse and buggy or train.

The Perham parish included Richville members for most of 1906 to 1985. Dent was part of the parish from 1915 to 1917, and also from 1939 to the present (1994).

The congregation has owned five different parsonages. The first parsonage was built next to the church in 1903. In 1939, an annex was added to the original 1882 building, with members providing the labor.

A 50th anniversary celebration was held in August of 1933. Three hundred people attended a picnic at Lake Marion, including a charter member of the church, Steve Butler.

In 1961, during the ministry of the Rev. Charles E. Pieh, the congregation and Sunday school grew too large for the building. A Christian education building was built in 1965, and a new sanctuary in 1973.

In 1968, on a national level, the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church joined to become the United Methodist Church.

In 1982, the United Methodist Church celebrated its 100th year. Bishop Emerson S. Colaw led 200 people in worship at a centennial celebration, which was held July 25 of that year.

From the 1994 “East Otter Tail History Book, Volume I.” Lina Belar is the founder and retired director of the Friends of the History Museum of East Otter Tail County.


August 28, 2014

A history of Young’s Jobbing House

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Henry Mathias Young lived from 1870 to 1944. He was born in Chaska, Minn., the son of Henry Young and Magdelena Iltis.

Nicknamed “Brigham,” he was married in 1893 to Bertha Schaler. He owned a confectionary store and was an insurance agent for the Chaska area before moving to Perham, where he founded Young’s Jobbing House in 1896.

Henry Mathias Young, the founder of Young’s Jobbing House.

The couple’s five children were Mabel, Clarice, Norman, Harold and Kenneth Young.

Albert G. Rotta came from Germany and worked ten years for Standard Oil in North Dakota before moving to Perham in 1928. It was Ernst Mueller (Rotta’s uncle, a pioneer of Perham) who influenced Rotta to go into business for himself. Rotta bought Young’s Jobbing House, at that time a small operation housed in a 22×44 foot building.

The Great Depression, during which all three of Perham’s banks failed, hit just as Rotta was getting started. He managed to survive and built Young’s Jobbing House into a large and highly profitable operation over the years. He also purchased Wadena Fountain and Supply, Thief River Jobbing and Bemidji Candy Company. He sold the Bemidji business to Lyle Caughey, son of a well-known Perham policeman, Otis Caughey.

Rotta was a busy man, but he took time to be on the school board, fair board and other city projects. He was a generous (and often anonymous) contributor to worthy causes and was noted for his good and fair treatment of his employees. He died in 1961.

His son, Albert A. Rotta, continued in the business until his death. His widow, Rita, and a son, David, continued Young’s Jobbing House until it closed.

From information in the “1994 East Otter Tail History Book, Volume II.” Photo and bio of Henry Young from the Robertson Register of Historical Photographs. Lina Belar is the founder and retired director of the Friends of the History Museum of East Otter Tail County.


August 21, 2014

Oil era: 47 years of Nundahl Oil

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In 1945, Bernie Nundahl Sr. and his wife, Sadie, came to Perham from Minneapolis, Minn., and purchased the Phillips 66 Station and bulk plant from Ziegler and Johnson. Bernie’s goal was to sell more than a million gallons of gas and fuel in a year.

With four road constructions going and much farm trade, the heating fuel and gas pumps at the station were kept active from 5 a.m. until 10 p.m., making that dream come true.

Nundahl Oil was the first Perham dealer to install a metering system on their delivery trucks. As distributors, they supplied many of the Philips 66 dealers in the area and also supplied aviation fuel to Park Rapids, New York Mills, Wadena, Henning, Evansville, Detroit Lakes and Perham – where they had pumps and tanks at the airport. The shop at the station was a busy place, with repairs, tires and oil sales.

After serving three years in the Navy, Bernie Jr. joined his father in the business in 1946. Bernie Sr. retired in 1952, selling the business and leasing the station to his sons, Bernie Jr. and Vernon.

At this time, Ed Beringer became a partner. Bernie Sr. died in April 1954, at the age of 48. Ed Beringer retired in 1971, to recover from a heart attack, and moved to California. Vernon worked part-time at the Perham Post Office, eventually selling his share of the partnership to Bernie Jr.

In 1979, the Nundahl Oil building at West Main was purchased by Bauck Chevrolet. The business was moved to 210 E. Main, where Bernie Jr. and his wife, Jan, continued to operate the station along with the bulk plant (which had relocated to the industrial park).

Bernie Jr. and Jan retired in January 1992, ending the Nundahl Oil Company era after 47 years.

Bernie Nundahl submitted this information for the “1994 East Otter Tail History Book, Volume II.” Lina Belar is the founder and retired director of the Friends of the History Museum of East Otter Tail County. An exhibit about the early gas stations of Perham is currently on display at the History Museum.


August 14, 2014

The Palubicki merchants

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In the early 1900s, Jacob Palubicki and his brother John started a business in Perham, selling general merchandise and groceries at the corner of West Main and 2nd Avenue SW. In 1913, John moved to Montana, but “Jake” continued in business until he sold out in 1930 due to illness.

After finishing high school and two years of college, Jake’s son, Bernard, got the urge to follow in his father’s footsteps. He bought the Red and White Grocery in the Bauck building from Leon Ceynowa in 1937, taking on the Red Owl franchise in 1938.

Adjoining the Red Owl was the Perham Department Store, owned by Bernard’s aunt, Ann Mohr, who was also his bookkeeper.

In 1959, Bernard and his wife, Esther, took on an extensive remodeling project, expanding and converting their store into a modern “self-service” supermarket. They absorbed the area formerly occupied by the Perham Department Store and Bauck’s Hardware storage, plus a new warehouse addition in back of the Bauck building. The Red Owl corporation honored the Palubickis via KCMT-TV in conjunction with their grand opening in October 1959.

In the 1970s the Palubicki Red Owl was recognized for operating one of the top three meat departments in the Red Owl firm’s 300-store territory. Norbert Mikula was the meat department manager for 15 years.

In 1971, after four years of college and three years in the U.S. Army, Bernard’s son, Dick, returned to Perham and joined his father, taking over as owner in 1974. Dick and his wife, Karen, ran the store until the Red Owl Corporation was bought out by Super Valu in 1988. Due to this change, and the lack of customer parking, Dick sold the business and became owner of the Super 8 Motel. He also became part owner and manager of the Super America gas station and convenience store in Perham.

Bernard’s youngest son, James, was also in the retail food business, in Fosston, Minn.

Merchandising was an important part of the career of Palubicki’s daughter, Ann Marie. She and her husband, Bill Hughes, owned and operated the Hughes Department store for many years on Main Street, in the location now occupied by Lakes Café.

Bernard’s youngest brother, Michael, was also a food retailer. After serving with the U.S. Army in World War II, he returned to Perham and spent a few years learning the grocery business from Bernard. In 1949, with Bernard’s help, he bought the Red Owl in Aitkin, Minn. and operated it until his death in 1970.

Mike’s widow, Marge (Pawlowski), with the help of their sons Greg and Phil, continued in business and eventually built a modern new supermarket. After Marge’s death in 1978, Greg took over the Aitkin store and Phil bought the Red Owl in International Falls.

“Jake” would have been proud to see so many of his descendants inheriting his business ability.

Bernard and Esther Palubicki submitted this information for the “1994 East Otter Tail History Book, Volume II.” Lina Belar is the founder and retired director of the Friends of the History Museum of East Otter Tail County.


July 31, 2014

The founding of German Mutual Fire Insurance Co.

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The first meeting of the German Mutual Fire Insurance Company was held in Perham on July 22, 1895. Franz Wasche was elected chair, Karl Alstadt elected secretary, and they, along with three others (Diederick Sieling, John Krekelberg and Albert Zitzow) formed a committee to draw up the by-laws.

At their second meeting, the following were elected to the board: Jacob Jung, president; Karl Alstadt, secretary; Andrew Dietlein, treasurer; and board members Frank Wasche, Joseph Nau, Martin Fiedler and F.D. Seiling.

The original area of operations included 10 townships. The board set the following limits of coverage: horses $70, oxen $20, cows $15 and sheep $1.50 per head. The premium rate was set at 75 cents per $100 for five years, payable in advance. This came to 15 cents per $100 of coverage per year.

The treasurer’s books show receipts beginning with January of 1896. The first loss paid was paid to Karl Alstadt on Sept. 5, 1896 for the loss of his cow to lightning. The first fire loss was paid Aug. 17, 1897, to Franziskar Alzheimer, for a dwelling loss in the amount of $310. The first directors of the company were paid $1.50 per day. The secretary received 50 cents per policy issued and the president received 3 cents per signature. Agents were paid $1 for each application.

Up until December 1931, the minutes and records of the mutual were written in the German language. (In 1977, these books were at the Lake Region Mutual Insurance Company office in New York Mills.) The name of the company was changed at the annual meeting in 1953, from the German Mutual Fire Insurance Company to the Perham Mutual Fire Insurance Company. The area of coverage increased to 45 townships and the rate of premiums to 20 cents, or 2 mills.

In 1960, Perham Mutual and Finnish Township Mutual merged to form the Lake Region Mutual Insurance Company. In 1964, Hubbard County Mutual merged with Lake Region and the area of operation grew to cover 146 townships in seven counties: Otter Tail, Wadena, Becker, Hubbard, Cass, Beltrami and Todd. On Jan. 1, 1997, Flom Mutual merged with Lake Region Mutual of New York Mills to form the Flom Region Mutual Insurance Company.

It now operates in a 10-county area within a 90 mile radius from Flom, Minn., with agents in Perham and New York Mills at United Community and Farmers Merchant Agency. Policy holders now number over 3,000, with an insured value of property in excess of $500 million dollars.

The above includes information from “The History of East Otter Tail County, Volume I, 1977.” Lina Belar is the founder and retired director of the Friends of the History Museum of East Otter Tail County.


July 25, 2014

Famous people of Perham past: Sam Wallace

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Sam Wallace was one of the most unique and interesting characters that Otter Tail County has ever known. He was a pioneer of Corliss Township, coming from Scotland in the early 1880s.

He and his wife were the first European settlers northwest of the Toad River for 200 miles. Logging was a big industry in the early days. For seven winters, Wallace was a cook in the logging camps. In 1883, he was employed by A. Pelton as a timekeeper on the first large drive to Winnipeg. After that, he took to farming and built a large barn, of which he was particularly proud. Sam was always a writer and a thinker, and was very active in politics.

He was a Populist when the People’s Party flourished in Minnesota in the early 1900s. Ten years later, he was a Socialist, welcoming the Non-Partisan League in 1916. Later, he became an ardent champion of the Farmer-Labor Party. Sam didn’t believe in hiding his lamp under a bushel. At every Non-Partisan League or Farmer Labor picnic held within 30 miles of Corliss Township, his Scotch voice could be heard, strong and clear, either in speech or song (for he was as good a singer as he was a speaker and writer).

Sam’s body was rather small, but his soul and spirit were large. He was honest, sincere, courageous, and to know him was to love him. Born in 1854, he had been married three times and was the father of 21 children. At the time of his death at the age of 93, he had 36 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Virginia Wallace, a descendant (by marriage) spent years at the History Museum of East Otter Tail County compiling extensive research on Sam Wallace.

The above information is from “The History of East Otter Tail County, Volume I, 1977.” Lina Belar is the founder and retired director of the Friends of the History Museum of East Otter Tail County.


March 13, 2014

St. James Hospital cared for 40,000 patients

The St. James Hospital stood at the corner of Fifth Street and Sixth Avenue SW in Perham for more than 90 years.

Built in 1902 at the request of Dr. Frank Brabec, it was constructed of yellow brick from a local brickyard owned by August Haut. Many turn-of-the-century buildings in Perham were built from this yellow brick, and a few still remain.

The St. James Hospital was built by the Franciscan Sisters, whose primary concern was function. Nonetheless, the structure had a pleasing symmetry, and the bricklayer, named Alex Nelson, topped each window with a graceful arch.

Above the main entrance was a bell tower. The bell was used to summon the doctor who lived across town. In 1925, a new wing was added to the building, which botched the original symmetry but greatly increased the ability of the hospital to serve the growing area. The 60-foot addition contained an elevator and many other modern features of the day. This addition was also built by Alex Nelson.

The hospital served the village of Perham and surrounding communities for more than 50 years. Although it was managed by the Franciscan Sisters, it was described in Mason’s History of Otter Tail County as “a public institution, being maintained by donations from Catholics and their friends for the benefit of the public generally irrespective of religious beliefs.”

The building contained 70 rooms and was always filled. By the late 1950s, it was necessary to build a new hospital to conform to the burgeoning regulations for medical facilities. St. James became a home for the aged. It continued to be staffed by the Franciscan Sisters until, finally, they gave the St. James building, land, and a cash donation to the community.

Once a new nursing home was built, the St. James building was left vacant (except for storage of medical records and supplies). In 1989, hospital district representatives voted to demolish St. James, but delayed doing so at the request of local citizens and because of a lack of money. It was eventually demolished in 1993.

St. James Hospital played an important role in the history of healthcare in the Perham community. During the half-century that it flourished, it cared for close to 40,000 patients.

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

Forgotten Towns,History,New York Mills

February 27, 2014

Following the Northern Pacific Railroad through Otter Tail County

In the mid to late 1800s, the Northern Pacific railroad platted towns along its tracks in order to draw more business to the railroad. The first town platted by the railroad, entering Otter Tail County from the east, was Bluffton. It was platted by A.M. Arling for the proprietor, C.M. Maltby in 1880 and recorded in March of that year.  Charley Maltby also established a grist mill in the town, which accounted for its rapid growth. In the early 1870s, its population was larger than that of Wadena.

Next up the line was Topelius, also spelled Dopelius. It was located about four miles east of New York Mills and had a depot that was open day and night. Further on was Boardman, the first village platted in Newton Township. It was located on the Northern Pacific railroad in Section 7 and its plat recorded in 1880. Being that New York Mills was laid out one-half mile from Boardman, it was eventually enveloped and lost its identity and became a part of New York Mills, which was platted in 1883.

New York Mills had been named by Dr. Van Aerman and his two partners, Olcot P. Boardman and George L. Cornwell, who built their sawmill in Section 8, the present town site. The first car lot shipment of material hauled by the railroad was supplies for their saw mill.

Richdale, which was a few miles west, was located in Section 33, where the railroad crossed Pine Lake Township.  It was platted in 1899 by George A. Burbank for Albert and Augusta Boedigheimer. It was originally platted as Richland, but due to another town by that name, it was changed to Richdale.

Coming next:  Perham and westward on the Northern Pacific railroad line.


February 20, 2014

Perham hospitals vital to the community

Dr. Frank J. Brabec came to Perham in 1893. He first established his office over the old Kemper Drug store, adding a small operating room in which to do surgery. As his practice grew, he utilized the space over an old tavern and then persuaded a Mrs. Price to build him a hospital downtown next to the Bauck store. Dr. Brabec’s practice soon outgrew these quarters and the doctor appealed to the Franciscan Sisters to build a much needed hospital in Perham.

The St. James Hospital was built in 1902 at the corner of 5th Street and 6th Avenue. Brabec was responsible for the 45-degree angle of the building. It, like the home he built for himself on the north side of town, was set on a true north axis, to get maximum light exposure. For years, they were the only two buildings in town to have this orientation. The rest of the community is aligned with the railroad tracks which run northwest to southeast. The St. James Hospital played an important role in the history of health care in the community, and was the cornerstone on which today’s hospital is built. During the half-century that it flourished, it cared for close to 40,000 patients. Many are still alive and many more remember loved ones among those numbers. Dr. Brabec died in 1950.

Over time, medical technology and population growth outpaced its ability to function as a modern hospital. The hospital remained until 1993, and then it was demolished. Many artifacts were rescued from the building prior to demolition. They have been catalogued and archived by the History Museum of East Otter Tail with larger items stored at the Pioneer Grounds.