“A Tale of One City” Brewster, Minnesota  - Centennial booklet (1858 – 1958)

Compiled by: Ethel MCNAB KRUKEMEYER

 

This booklet has no copyright date, no publishing date and no location of publication. The booklet has been in my family for years.  It is with great respect and gratitude to Mrs. KRUKEMEYER that it is transcribed for Nobles County genealogists.

 

Ethel Ruth MCNAB KRUKEMEYER passed away September 18, 1994.

 

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            This is the story of 87 years of Brewster’s progress – a history of places – persons – businesses and events.

            No attempt has been made to record all the happenings, for to do so would require volumes.  I submit my account in all humbleness and humility to the people of Brewster.  I am sure you will find cause to challenge some of my statements and will find omissions that were made, not intentionally but because I knew nothing of them.  May this be pleasing to you and those pioneers who are still with us; may it serve as a suitable memorial to those who have gone beyond the portals, a salute to those pioneers who strived undaunted to built this community for you and for me.

            When our forefathers first visited this part of Minnesota, it was a vast prairie land, with the azure sky above and the waving of the prairie grass on the vast expanse below, spotted here and there with patches of wild timber.  Some of the early pioneers were here before the building of the railroad, reaching their destinations with the aid of a compass.  They came in covered wagons drawn by oxen.  Some had horse drawn vehicles.  Others walked behind the wagon herding cattle.  The earliest settlers lived in the covered wagon which had been their home over the many miles until a dwelling could be constructed.  The first abodes were dugouts, or sod shanties called “Soddies”.  These sod huts were built of blocks of sod cut from the land, with roofs covered with poles and sod put over the top.  Some were plastered with mud; the carpeting was mother nature’s black earth.  The sod house had one of the advantages of our insulated homes, it was warm in winter, and cool in the summer.  The weird howl of a coyote piercing the air became a frightening lullaby for children to hear on retiring for the night.  A more pleasant sound falling upon their ears was the fluttering of wild prairie chicken wings or the call of a wild goose, for from such provisions came the provisions for the family meal.

            Lumber was secured in early years at St. James, Mankato and Jackson.  They could not obtain things in Worthington because according to the plotting records Hersey was older than Worthington.  The town site survey record for Hersey was filed in the office of the Register of Deeds June 10, 1872; the instrument for Worthington being filed June 27, 1872.

            The first barns were pole affairs, covered with long wild prairie hay.  In severe winters a farmer would find, after a severe blizzard lasting several days, his barn and stock would be completely buried in the snow.  After digging out, he would find the sides and ends of his barn had been consumed for the animals’ survival.

            The prairie hay served another purpose.  Many evenings were spent “twisting it” and storing it for fuel.

            In speaking of blizzards we are reminded of the tale of John WESTON’s Ghost so interestingly portrayed in the Nobles Co. History, published in 1908.  It seems John WESTON of Seward Township had gone to Graham Lakes after a load of wood.  A storm came up, seemingly out of nowhere, and he was lost in the blizzard.  The account tells how after the storm was over people searched for miles around.  The story tells how he had driven across his own land twice, as shown by the sleigh tracks.  How strange that the severity of the howling blizzard did not fill the tracks!

            He had unloosed his oxen, which were found choked to death with their own yoke.  The day after the storm, one of the searchers had returned to his home and was doing his chores.  He came out of the stable and saw John WESTON coming up the path.  WESTON had on the blue soldier overcoat, which he usually wore.  He spoke to the man who became mortified and told WESTON he thought he was frozen to death.  WESTON replied, “I am, you will find my body 1 ˝ miles Northwest of Hersey.”

            Before this, on the second night of the storm Mrs. WESTON and her son were awakened by a knock at the door.  A voice, sounding like her brother’s asked her if she knew John had frozen to death.  There were no tracks in the snow, and no one at the door.  In the spring the body was found in the exact spot reported.  Each reader will hold his own views on the authenticity of this story, but it has become a part of Brewster’s past.  Be that as it may, blizzards were not the only hazards.  Grasshoppers would swarm down in huge black clouds and consume the grain instantly.  Tar was spread around the fields and thousands of them were killed, but they were so numerous their destruction was not to be.  There were 8 years of the grasshopper plague, followed by 8 years of extremely wet weather, when crops were drowned out.  In spite of all hardships, the great faith of the people led them to continue and our present community is “the fruit of their labors.”

            Mrs. O.W. BERREAU gave me this information about Brewster in the early days.  When she came to Brewster to work for the GEYERMANS, their store was the B. KRUKEMEYER Building.  There was an old creamery across from it, that GEYERMAN used for an ice house and worked the butter for shipping.  A little west of this was a 2 room house in which the blacksmith lived.

            A blacksmith shop stood where the Park Hotel now stands, a hotel was where the pool hall is now, and a dance hall stood near WEINANDT’s Hardware.  It was the old building just recently torn down.  Farther south, where MCCONNEL Implement is, stood a one-room school.

            There were the depot and agents cottage and a warehouse near the tracks where GEYERMAN stored grain and Coal.  That was Brewster in 1890.

            The oldest building in BREWSTER is the present B. KRUKEMEYER building, built by John HEISER the same year the depot was built.  If the walls of this land-mark were empowered with a gift of speech, what a history they could divulge.  This building has housed a store, a post-office, dress-making parlors, telephone office, Millinery store, Tribune office, a bank, a hardware, restaurant, shoe repair shop, early drug store, bakery, dry cleaners agent, cream station and radio repair shop!

            The divisions of the history will recall the old days in Brewster in its various phases.  In preparing this, I have read 4,056 newspapers; Brewster Tribune and County papers.

 

Ethel MCNAB KRUKEMEYER