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Boomtown, Minnesota


Julie Bahr

Orleans was started in 1904 as a very small village - asit is today. But what years there were in between 1904 and 1972! Almostlike one of those boomtowns in California. Orleans was only intended tobe a village but during those "boom years" it was a very importanttrading center. About 1911, Orleans had two stores, a lumber yard, poolhall, hotel, bank and school among other places of interest.

Orleans was originally to be a few miles northeast of whereit is presently located. If it had been where it was first sighted to beit probably would have survived much better because that location had andstill has a small creek and well water that is readily available. The pastand present occupants of Orleans must have their water.

It is a great day in a town when there is need for a storeor maybe even two or three of them. Anderson & Matthew was the firststore Orleans starting in 1905. It was sold to George Harrington some yearslater. The post office at that time was also located in this building. Everything was fine until 1921 when fire swept through the building causingHarrington a heavy loss but the important books and paper in the post officewere saved.

J. P. Gardiner also had a store. The store building wasbuilt by Mr. McCullum in Hallock. When the Soo Line went through Orleans,the store moved to Orleans. It was owned and managed by Mr. Gardiner andJohnny Lang. The store continued to serve that community until 1956 butit changed hands several times. After Mr. Gardiner, there was Paul Stregeand, in turn, followed Lowell Berg.

In 1908 a Humboldt man, Jo Irving, rented an old storebuilding and had general merchandise. A Mr. Hunter also had a store forsome time.

No settlement is complete without a church. Orleans wasvery proud of its Presbyterian Church. Prior to this services were heldon the 2nd floor of the school. The church has been active since 1915 whenit was erected. One of the many ministers that served Orleans was ReverendB. McGuire. Services were discontinued in 1967 and the building was soldto George Thompson of Orleans who is the present owner.

As the years progressed, the people got wiser and richerso it was decided there must be a bank. At one time there was not onlyone but two banks. The Bank of Orleans was incorporated in 1905 by J. W.Wheeler, N. J. Nelson, and Edward Florance. C. W. Clow was the cashierfor as long as the bank was in business. Unfortunately, this was only fortwo years.

The First State Bank had a little better luck in the moneybusiness. This bank was also started in 1905 and was founded by John Birkholzof Grand Forks and T. M. George of Hallock. Their cashier was Edmund Franklin. The First State closed down in 1923. My informer remembered distinctlyfor she had money in the bank.

Orleans had both Standard Bulk and another important businessfor with cars coming up this far north, gas was needed so there were Standardpumps for some time. The Standard Orleans pumps were by the Gardiner StoreBuilding until 1956 when Gerg closed up, then they went across the streetby Folks Backlund's. They ended up at the Post Office. The Standard Bulkwas first owned by Johnny Hunter then Micky Lund and finally Sheldon Carlsonwho took the business with him to Lancaster when he moved.

J. U. Lang was one of those prominent people that keptOrleans on its toes and moving steadily. He was the manager of the OrleansGrain Company and also the local implement dealer for quite some time.

Orleans was showed with all kinds of little businessesthat did so much to help progress. There was a livery stable owned by SamThompson. He often drove travelers around who wanted to see the country. Along with horses came a blacksmith shop. It was opened and run by JoeJaczcak. A newspaper was also printed once every two weeks to keep thegeneral public well informed.

"Our communities children must have a school so theymay go and learn what we have not." This phrase must have been heardat many meetings across the nation at different times and Orleans was noexception. A school was built and Mr. Borton was the first school teacher. The school progressed so that in the years around 1921 there was a needfor three teachers. Some of the teachers that taught at Orleans were Velmaand Verta McCrystal, (Mrs. Velma Isely, Mrs. Verta Johnson), Elsie Thompson,(Mrs. Elsie Dexter), Lily Bill (Mrs. Lily Trolin), and Mr. P. N. Tri. Butschool days weren't all work and no play. Field days were always specialdays that everyone loved. Many different kinds of relay races, includingthree legged races, and games kept everyone working, laughing and havingfun.

The Orleans band was an honor to be in and anyone couldbe in it but the catch was you had to play a musical instrument. Once thisband got good enough they played at some of the dances that were in theschool. There was a dance every Saturday night and sometimes other localbands or an orchestra from Winnipeg would come and play for them.

The school seemed to be the center of attraction. Almostanything and everything was on the second story of the school. There wasno town hall so all town meetings were held there. Many people saw theirfirst movie in the school, it was a hand crank of course.

Every now and then a minstrel show came around to entertainthe people but most of the time they had to make their own entertainmentand the people of Orleans knew how to do it. Such activities as whist tournaments,baseball, talent shows, wolf hunting or just playing a game of pool at thelocal pool hall seemed to keep everyone happy. It was impossible to havea decent Saturday night unless you went to watch the train come in. Itwas simply natural to go buy groceries, visit and exchange the latest gossip.

That is Orleans as it was and today the population hasdecreased to under twenty people.

Nothing can last forever, not rock, not man, not even Orleans,but Orleans, found this out earlier than some of the villages.



Dexter, Elsie - Hallock, MN, Interviewed January 13, 1972

Dexter, Jane - Interviewed January 19, 1972

50th Anniversary Edition, Kittson County Enterprise

Interviewed January 19, 1972

50th Anniversary Edition, Kittson County Enterprise