Gary, Norman County, Minnesota

Gary Mercantile Co, Gary, MN


Taken from "History of Norman County, MN" Centennial Edition 1958
  and Turner and Smeling History of Clay and Norman Counties, Minnesota


The eastern part of the county surrounding Gary was settled in the later eighteen seventies and early eighties.  The actual Village of Gary was originated in the year 1886, following the dramatic end of the race of the two railroads; namely, the Northern Pacific and the Great Northern, to complete the railroad for operation from the south on into the northern part of the state.  The Northern Pacific won the race.  The Great Northern worked north some two and one half miles east of Gary and the grade and railroad bed are covered with willows and other growth or has been leveled by landowners. 

Gary is located in the central part of Strand Township.  G. L. Thorpe opened the first general merchandise store.  The post office was established in 1887.  Names associated with the founding of Gary are B. K. Strand, Gregor Moe, Anton Larson, the Wermager brothers, Rishoff, Holmgren, Bethel, and Schulstad.  Shortly thereafter came other early settlers whose names are still prominent in the community, such as Halvor Lee, Louis Garden, and others.  The Gary Creamery Association, the oldest creamery this side of St. Cloud, was established in 1896.  Gary was incorporated as a village in 1901. The first elected officials were : President of council, G.E. Plasen; councilmen, Gust Groberg, Halvor Lee, and T.O. Wemager; recorder, O.T. Rishof; treasurer, D.C. Jones: assessor, L.L. Bergan; justices of the peace, L.L. Bergan and A.T. Thompson, and constables Halvor Lee and S.E. Wickam.

Presidents of the village council are: 1901, G.E. Plasen; 1902, B.K. Strand (appointed); 1903, A. Larson; 1904, D.C. Jones; 1905, D.C. Jones; 1906, T.O. Wermager; 1907, T.O. Wermager; 1908 T.O. Wermager; 1909 J.H. Heimark; 1910 J.H. Heimark; 1911, Lewis Garden (appointed); 1912, Lewis Garden; 1913, Lewis Garden; 1914, Lewis Garden; 1915, P.J. Groth; 1916, P.J. Groth and 1917, Lewis Garden.

Even in this early age the village and surrounding community became well known as a ball playing town and some of the players still remembered are Rishoff, Holmgren, Bethel, and Schulstad.  The ball playing interest was kept alive throughout the entire nineties and early nineteen hundreds, and Gary gained wide-spread recognition in this sport.

Tragic indeed is the date of May 22, 1917, in the history of Gary and also the surrounding community.  On that fateful day a fire destroyed some estimated 28 business places and 25 homes, leaving only the grain elevators, the lumber yards, depot, and the livery barn.  Loss amounted to over $100,000.  The new fire engine was defective and a bucket brigade was used. No reference is made to the fire in the village council minutes other than a mention that all debris should be removed at one certain date, and that by order of the Village Council all buildings should be of brick or block when replaced.  Excellent recovery was made after the fire, and the town was rebuilt in the same year, although some businesses did not reestablish. The fire was discovered in a barn in the rear of the Dewey hotel. A strong wind from the north quickly carried the flames and burning embers to the frame buildings. In less than fifteen minutes the First State Bank, Albert Brunsberg's restaurant, Olson & Martinson's hardware store, Lewis Dekko's meat market and the People's Supply Company's machinery warehouse were in flames, which passed beyond control. The People's Supply co-operative store, Joe Gerstner's barber shop, the post office, Dr. Arnold's drug store, the Farmers State Bank Carl Eid's restaurant, Sletager's pool hall, Hanson & Groth's brick block, containing a large hardware and furniture stock; Clarence Strand's blacksmith shop; the Gary Telephone Company's office and a large boarding house owned by Anton Hanson all went up in flame and smoke.

It was during this period and in the early twenties that the village added to its reputation as a baseball town, largely through the efforts of M. E. “Shorty” Dekko, the Welly brothers, Shamshall, Ole Lee, Jr., and others.  This team took on all comers including fast traveling teams and were successful in holding their own against such opposition.  Shortly thereafter such names as Bjerk, Brevik, Heiberg, Thronson, Ellingson, and Thordal were added to the list of outstanding ball players.

During this entire period the community prospered, good schools were established, and early in the village’s history two banks were in operation.  Such names as Elleraas, Sundet, and Bagne are associated with these banks that prospered and grew in the days of steady economy.  Business places kept a good trade and such names as Gust Eeg, Eid, and Garden are associated with the earlier growth.

In the Depression of the 1930’s, the two banks were unable to continue; the community naturally suffered as did other business places, some of which consolidated with others and continued operation.  The grain elevators were taken over entirely by the Cargill Company.  Eid and Garden discontinued as merchants and other changes were made.  In 1936 Gary celebrated its 50th anniversary.

In the early forties, E. A. Narum began the egg buying and other operations in the village.  Following WW II a new bank was established and such names as M.A. Bell and K. V. Flom are associated therewith.  Harold Natwick bought the Cargill elevators and began his operation of the Gary Grain Company.

In 1936 the addition to the Gary High School was made possible a complete four year high school course.  In 1951 a very fine addition was made in a most practical building program which has served as a model for many new constructions in this part of the state.  Ray Garden and Manville Brevik were prominent in connection with this program.

During this time the village and the surrounding countryside have maintained excellent churches for worship and have been nobly supported by the people of the entire community.  The churches are largely Lutheran.  



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Last modified Friday February 04, 2005