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Orleans: Once But No More


Craig Wiese

History has shown us many villages and towns that havesprung up from out of nowhere. Towns that have come to life because of agold rush or of a need to band together for protection or progress. Manyof these towns have been started because of a railroad.

But because many of these boom towns did not have verystable footings on which to grow, they prospered only for a short time.When the main means of support was used up, the towns began to disappearand turn into deserted ghost towns.

A good example of a boom town was the town of Orleans,which is located approximately five miles from the Canadian border in thefar northwestern corner of Minnesota.

In 1904 the Soo Line Railroad began building a railroadfrom Winnipeg to Southern Minnesota. Since the railroad was a very importantmeans of travel and transporting freight and grain, the town of Orleanswas established that same year.

The town was originally planned to be located a few mileseast of where it now stands today, but because of the railroad, the locationwas changed to where it now stands.

The region surrounding Orleans was a land rich in farmproducts of all sorts. The main farming was wheat raising. After the railroadcame through, elevators were erected along the railroad for a cheap andeasy way to transport the grain to market. When the town reached its peakin about 1907, Orleans was operating four grain elevators. Later two ofthe elevators were destroyed by fire. This loss seriously hurt the economyof the Orleans farmers.

Orleans, being an important trading center had many andvaried business places. In 1905 the first merchants to open up a businessplace were Anderson and Matthew who operated the general merchandise andmachine store. In the early 1900's the general merchandise store sold everythingfrom a yard of calico to plows to bean soup. The only transportation wasby horse and buggy, so the farmers made a weekly trip to town to get suppliesand visit with their neighbors. The store was later sold to George Harrington.

Along with many of the very first settlers such as HermanMagill and George Richards, a prominent figure in the history of Orleanswas J.D. Gardiner and his wife. Mr. Gardiner was originally from Lancaster,Minnesota, another small town located seven miles south of Orleans. Mr.Gardiner operated on of the first general merchandise stores in Orleans.The building was originally a few miles out of town, and it had to be movedinto the town by horse drawn wagons. Allen Hunter had the post office andMr. Gardiner ran the store. Along with Allen Hunter, Pete Nelson ran themail service.

The town of Orleans also had many other important placesthat were essential to the farming community. One such business place wasthe creamery. The farmers from around the community brought their milk andother dairy products into Orleans to be processed at the creamery. The creameryfirst started out to be a fine business, but because of the shortage ofwater the creamery had to be relocated in Lancaster.

Other business places included a hotel owned by James Mitchell.A few years after the hotel was opened it too was destroyed by fire.

Jack Mildrum owned the local pool hall which was one ofthe means of entertainment.

Besides the local pool hall, Orleans organized a band asanother way to entertain themselves. The band was made up of the local peoplewho played instruments. The band played at the barn dances that were heldevery two weeks. They also played at the annual picnic, which was the largestsocial affair of the year.

McLees had the livery stable and Joe Jazczak was the blacksmith.

In 1906 Abbot started the lumber yard which was later movedto Lancaster which became the Robertson Lumber Company.

Orleans was a busy, fast rising town but the people stillhad time for their church. The Presbyterian church was the only church inOrleans.

In 1905 Orleans erected the school house that still standstoday. The school had three teachers and about twenty students. But theschool too was moved to Lancaster where the demand was greater.

The prosperity of Orleans grew to such an extent that Orleansboasted of having two banks. The First State Bank was built in 1905 by JohnBirkholz of Grand Forks, North Dakota and T.M. George of Hallock, Minnesota.The cashier of the bank was Edmund Franklyn. The second bank was The Bankof Orleans. It was started in 1905 by J.W. Wheeler, N.J. Nelson and EdwardFlorance. Chester Clow was the cashier. This bank closed in 1907.

Being in an agricultural area, the town of Orleans grewup fast with many thriving business places. The town at one time had anestimated population of sixty residents. Because of many serious fires,the lack of water, and the deterioration of the land, the towns's prosperitydid not continue on for many years. The people then began to move away tolarger towns where the opportunities of making a better life were greater.

The town of Orleans is a realistic example of a boom townthat was once but is no more.

>The town of Orleans is a realistic example of a boom townthat was once but is no more.