The History of Cook

1894

04 Apr, John Edblom & Peter Leanderson homestead next to each other in what is now the Leander Community five miles southeast of Cook. The railroad passed through the Leander Farm and a station was established there, that is why the community was named Leander. Peter Leander's grandson Byron & Ginny Leander still live on this farm. It is the only Century Farm in the area, that is it is an active farm with the same family in residence for over 100 years with Byron being the third generation.

 

1900

 

April, John & Martha Olson became the first settlers to homestead at what was then known as Little Fork because of the river. Their 160 acre homestead was from what is now the Cook School (Vermilion Boulevard) north one mile. Descents still live on this farm.

 

April, John Abel Pearson homesteaded south of the Olson Homestead. He had been living on Lake Vermilion with his parents. Abel & his wife Klara's homestead was that area south of the Cook school where the hospital, clinic, Homestead and the Pioneer Apartments and the catholic church are now located. Their land also took in the area that is now the Vermilion Motel, Country Store, Subway Cafe, Zups IGA, McDonalds Cafe and the Lucky Seven Convenience store. Willard & Roy Pearson still live in the Cook area. Willard likes to tell the workers at McDonalds that he used to work there, of course that was over 60 years ago when he was cutting hay in the fields of his parents farm.

 

Albert & Augusta Peterson also arrived this year. They homesteaded north of Cook on the west side of  what is known as the Peterson's Hill. They were the parents of Alvi, Axel, Carl. Uno, Selma, Ralph, Emily and Annie. Ralph was a long time school bus driver, he married Marjorie Flack and they were the parents of Jermaine, Yvonne "Bonnie (Sam) Pajari, Doris, David and Judy. Bonnie's daughter Lois (Steve) Gams now live on this old homestead.

 

Oscar & Hilma Magnuson also came at the same time as her sister Augusta & Albert Peterson. Their farm was kitty-corner from Dyke's Body Shop. The old cement silo still stands there.

 

Originally the community was known as Little Fork but later became Ashawa which stands for "by the river or across the river." It was named Cook in honor of Wirth Cook who was a partner in the Virginia Rainey Lake Logging Company. He was instrumental in the railroad being built through our community. Cook was organized as a Village in 1926. But, in 1908 the name was changed again.

 

1901

 

John T. Joyce homesteaded the land on Lake Vermilion. In Sept of this year he started the resort that later became Pehrson's Resort.

01 Sep., the Railroad was constructed as far as Idington

 

1902

 

01 Jan, a camp was constructed for the railroad workers near where the creamery was later built. The first store near what is now Cook was constructed on the farm of Olgot Anderson, it is now the Eldien home. The next Spring he moved his store to where the townsite would be. Spring of 1902 John Joyce opened what was to become Pehrson’s Lodge.

 

1903

 

1903, May, Rev Lantz homesteaded on the west edge of what became the village of Ashawa. He was the first to constructed a dwelling in what was to become Cook. His 160 homestead is now First Street Southwest to the Ralph Road. The Simonson Chevrolet dealership was built on this homestead land on highway 53.

1903, May, Anderson Brothers built the first store in Cook, it still stands and was last used as the Picek Rental business.

1903, 03 Aug. The Plat of Ashawa was filed with St. Louis County. This map laid out the streets, alleys and lots for what is now the City of Cook.

1903, 17 Aug, Post Office opened as Ashawa, named after community. On July 31 1908 the name was changed to Cook   The Postal Department requested the change as a town in Southern Minnesota was named Oshawa and it was confusing as mail was going to the wrong place.

1903, 28 Aug. Nord & Ofstad Families arrived at Angora

1903, 10 Dec. James Gar Field published the first newspaper in Ashawa. He lived between what is now the drug store and the lumber yard, toward the river.

1903, 31 Dec. First train arrived at the town site. The engine was turned around just north of the bridge and it returned to Virginia.

 

1904

 

1904, 01 Jan. First railroad train caboose arrived in Cook. The train turned around just north of the Little Fork River and headed back to Virginia.

1904, 13 Jan. Gust Buboltz arrived in Cook with the first passengers on the train to Cook, then known as Ashawa.

1904, 04 Mar, August Buboltz opened the first business in our town. He named it the Little Fork Hotel. It was destroyed by fire in 1912.

1904, the first school in the Leander community was built on land donated by John Edblom from his 1894 homestead. It closed in 1920. This is now the home of  Gordon Anderson.

1904, railroad construction began north of the river through the Engdall farm

 

1905

1905, 01 Jan. Cook Cemetery started, Fred Ardin was the person first buried there, he was the father of Gust & Carl Ardin.

1905, Fred & Felix Lemoine built a general store that was located on what is now the vacant lot across from the drug store and next to the river. In 1910 he sold it to Ole Leding, his brother Lars joined him as a partner in 1912. In 1948 Walter Miller opened his first Cook grocery store there. The Vermilion Dry Cleaners operated by Earl Soderberg was the last occupant of this building. It was torn down in 1970.

 

1906

1906, 20 Feb. Nobel Beatty signed a petition to establish a township, first known as Vermilion township.

1906, 16 Oct. Alango Cemetery was dedicated

1906, 01 Dec, Gheen post office, became Alvina then Gheen again

1906, 10 Dec. Alango Finish Lutheran Church organized

1906, Field Angora Township organized

1906, Little Fork Lutheran Church organized, Church built in 1926

 

1907

1907, Swedish Baptist established, now the First Baptist Church of Cook

1907, Angora Township organized

 

1908

1908, 01 Aug, the name of the Post Office was changed because confusion with a village in southern Minnesota named Oshawa. The new name of Cook was in honor of Wirth Cook, an owner of the Rail Road that was constructed through Cook in 1903 and 1904.

1908, Buboltz constructed the two story building that was later Fadum’s Hardware. It is now the Napa parts store.

1908, Mark Twain stayed at the Joyce’s Landing Resort, later to be known as the Pehrson Lodge Resort.

 

1909

 

1909, 13 Jan. Gust Buboltz bought the townsite of Ashawa which is now the downtown area of the City of Cook.

1909, Gust Buboltz moved his family into their new house, in 1912 he had the second story constructed. It has been the home of  Don & Muriel Simonson since 1964.

1909, first rural telephone lines were constructed.

 

1910

 

1910, 28 Feb. Alango Township organized

 

1910, 29 Apr. The Leander Baptist Church was organized. The Church building was constructed in 1926. In 1971 they joined with the First Baptist Church. The Leander Church building is now the Leander Apartments.

 

1910, Apr. Herman Reik arrived in Cook, may have started Ford dealership at this time. In the 1920s he constructed a large barn shaped building north of the river which was know in later years as the Reik's Hall.

 

1910, O. J. Leding bought the LeMoine store, Lars joined him in 1912

 

1910, Gas powered engines replace steam engines on Lake Vermilion boats

 

1910, The first well drilled in Cook, behind Barnes Small Engine shop. Before the well water was carried to the various homes from a spring on the John Olson farm.

 

1911

 

1911, 17 May, the first Bank in Cook, the First State Bank was incorporated, it  is now the drug store building

1911, Ed Balliet bought land from the Engdall family, now Balliet’s Addition  to Cook

1911, mail route established to Togo

1911, first creamery built

 

1912

 

1912, Buboltz Little Fork Hotel destroyed by fire, it was located between Clarks IGA and drug store

1912, 03 Sep. First State Bank building was constructed, it is now the drug store.

1912, Owens Township organized

 

1913

 

1913, First building constructed for the Swedish Baptist, now the First Baptist Church

1913, Brintz constructed a meat market, building now the Montana Café

 

 

1914

 

1911, Buboltz built what was to be the Variety and the dress shop buildings. In 1971 Musech constructed a new steel building for his grocery store.

1911, 02 Jan. Cook Covenant Church was organized

1911, 09 Jun. The plat of "Balliets Addition to Cook" was filed, the first addition to the Village of Cook. 

          April. Dedication of the Baptist Church building near the school.

1911, Dr. J. W. Kurz first doctor in Cook, he was blind, bank bldg (drug)

 

1915

 

1915, 18 Dec. Congregational Church organized

1915, Carl & Gust Ardin started confectionary store in the First State Bank, until 1931

1915, Charles Knapp started the News Boy paper

 

1916

 

1916, 01 Mar. First telephone switchboard in the village of Cook

1916, 27 Aug 1916 Gheen Post office became Alvina, Gheen again 21 May 1919

1916, Buboltz built what became Ranta’s Store, John Musech tore it down in 1970

1916, A. J. Thomas started Christmas business, moved to last location in 1919

1916, Mission Church founded by Joseph Lantz, their first pastor

1916, Catholic church constructed, it was called the Lady of Good Counsel, later St. Marys

 

1917

 

1917, 23 Apr. first service in the new Little Fork Lutheran Church, closed 2 Jan 1947.

1917, 20 Sep. Farmers & Merchants Bank organized, took over State Bank in 1929

1917, The grade school built, two class rooms, teachers lived upstairs. The building was torn down on 10 Jul 1958 to make room for the new gym.

 

1918

 

1918, L. F. Luthey started a central telephone exchange in town

 

1919

 

1919, 21 May, Alvina became the Gheen Post Office again, seen 1906

1919, Dr. W. A. McKechnie started his medical practice, stayed until 1928

1919, A. J. Thomas moved Christmas business Sony’s Electronics location

 

1920

 

1920, American Evergreen Company started by Herbert Ellsworth

1920, Nov. Dedication of the Congregational Church building

 

1921

 

01 Jan. Northern Farmers Co-op Credit Union organized, now the Cook Area Credit Union

1921, Leander Church building constructed

 

1922

 

1922,

 

1923

 

1923,

 

1924

 

1924,  Gustie  & Walter Gustafson were in charge of lighting City oil street lights

 

1925

 

1925,

 

1926

 

1926, 13 May, the Village of Cook incorporated, President and Council elected George Frances served as the first mayor of Cook, until 1930.

1926, 12 Sep, Trinity Lutheran Church was organized by Rev. Julius Fadum

1926, Dr Royal Gray served from 1926 until Heiam came in 1928

 

1927

 

1927, 20 Apr. The first recorded great flood in Cook

1927, 01 Jun. Sara Winchell became the telephone operator. The office was in her home. She hired a number of the local young ladies to work for her.

 

1928

 

1928, 28 Feb. Dr. William C. Heiam started his medical practice, opened hospital  in 1932

1928, 20 Jun, Norman & Marica Johnson (twins) were the first baby delivered by Dr. Heiam, they were born at home before he opened his Cook General Hospital.

1928, Alango Lutheran Church building was constructed

1928, Bell Telephone took over the Luthey’s telephone exchange office

 

1929

 

1929, George Francis still the mayor of our town

1929, First State Bank closed, took over by the F & M Bank

1929, Nels Benson and his son-in-law Axel Lofgren dissolved their partnership

1929, CW Palmer bought the Cook News Boy & the Cook News now the Cook News Herald

 

1930

 

1930, Waldo Reichel elected the mayor of Cook, served until 1943

1930, 26 Aug, Nelson Electric Co started providing electrical power in Cook. Arrowhead Electric

1930, 01 Sep, Mike & Anna Sorvari opened their general store. 1st with electricity

1930, Mike Marian, embalmer opened his office, west end of the drug store building

1930, Helmer Gustason opened the drug store in the closed First National Bank

 

1931

 

1931, Gust Ardin moved to the former LeMoine Forest Hotel from what is now the drug store building.

 

1932

 

1932, 23 Feb. Sherman Granite Quarry opened in Angora

1932,      Dedication of the new Cook High School building

1932, Ray Wilkinson bought the Cook News Herald

1932, Dr. Heiam established his Cook General Hospital, it had four beds

1932, 03 Oct. James Amundson was the first baby born in the Cook General Hospital

1932, Bob Pehrson bought Joyce’s Landing Resort

 

1933

 

1933,

 

1934

 

1934,

 

1935

 

1935, 01 Feb. Cook library opened to the public

1935, 05 Feb. Cook Women’s Club founded

1935, 05 Mar. Archie Mihm farm first rural residence to receive electricity

1935, 01 Jun. John Nylund opened his bakery

1935, 07 Jun. Village of Orr was incorporated. Scott Erickson the first the mayor. Creamery constructed a brick building, own Ohotto Service garage

 

1936

 

Spring. Buboltz built the Corner Café building, was Fox Hardware. It was torn down in 1970

01 Feb. Cook Library opened, it was founded by the Women’s Club. Chuck Knapp's mother was the first librarian.

26 Apr. Arrowhead Seed Growers organized in Albert Enzmann’s home

11 Jun. Highway 53 is not yet blacktopped, was built in 1931 thru Cook

01 Jul. Harry Thomas opened his road house. It was located where the Country Supper Club is now.

09 Jul. St. Louis Country garage building under construction in town

09 Jul. Oscar Svedberg is building a tourist cabin court

25 Aug. Waldo Reichel built his barber shop, the brick bldg across from the drug store.

15 Oct. Village considering putting in water and sewer lines

 

1937

 

Last Creamery building constructed, now the Ohotto Service garage

 

1938

 

1938,

 

1939

 

22 Jan. Northern Farmers Co-op Credit Union founded

08 Jun. Village bought a used fire truck from Chisholm

15 Jun. L. D. Gustafson started construction of the Comet Theater

28 Sep. Arnold & Alice Gustafson opened their new Mecca Inn

23 Nov. Joe Helstrom 36 drowned on Elbow Lake

10 Dec. Dedication of the new First Baptist Parsonage water and sewer lines were completed

 

1940

 

18 Mar. Bill Lobe bought the Luthey Chevrolet dealership, later become Voyageur, Simonson and now Phillips Chevrolet.

28 Mar. Nelmi Koivu wrote her first article for the Cook News Herald

Spring, what is now the Homestead Mills building was constructed

01 Apr. The Mecca Inn opened, now the BIC building.

 

1941

 

11 Jun. Harold Cooper opened his Café, it was in the now vacant building where the NAPA Parts store was before moving in 2002.. 

 

1942

1942,

 

1943

 

          August Buboltz elected mayor of Cook, served until 1945

06 May. Opsahl’s sawmill burned, Marvin Chase later bought this pond site

11 Jun. Village of Cook took over the ownership of the airport

09 Dec. Village voted to operate a Municipal liquor store

 

1944

 

01 May. Municipal Liquor store established in Cook

 

1945

 

              Dr. Heiam elected mayor of Cook, served until 1965

10 Apr. Earliest the ice has gone out on Lake Vermilion

20 May. Cook's worst fire. Herman Kjellbergs wife and three sons died.

04 Sep. Art Refsdal Standard Oil fuel truck fell through the bridge near the Eldred Burtness home

 

1946

 

04 Feb. The Village of Cook bought the land for the airport

01 Dec. Two steam engine train crashed head south of Angora

12 Dec. Gus Gustafson became the Ford dealer

 

1947

 

04 Jul. The first Timber Days celebration and parade, a two day event.

 

1948

 

     Nov. Walter Miller opened store in old Leding building across from drug store

08 Nov. Village Council closed the bridge behind what is now Riverside Oil

 

1949

 

02 Jan. first Sunday Service in the new (present) First Baptist Church building. Their building constructed on site in since 1913, it was then known as the Swedish Swedish Baptist. The old building was moved to Orr and became           the Lutheran Church there.

 

1950

 

 

1951

 

01 Feb. Arrowhead Power Company of Cook sold to the REA

 

1952

 

06 Mar. The Post Office moved into the Brown Building from the Ranta Store building (now IGA). It was moved on 20 Aug 1997 to it's own current building.

 

1953

 

12 Jan. Ralph Harvey named the Cook Village Attorney

02 Mar. Bob Ranta bought the Ongalo-Waataja Red Owl Store

 

1954

 

20 Dec. Farmers & Merchants Bank moved to the Main Street. This is now the First National Bank of Chisholm.

 

1955

 

20 Jan. Walter Barnes opened his station, now the Lucky Seven Convenience store

24 Feb. Wilfred Leinonen started Willies Auto Sales, corner by Covenant Church & the Tire Shop.

20 Mar. The last service in the old Lutheran Church, now Dickson Apt.

 

1956

 

01 Jan. Roy 61, 1978 & Erma Hill bought the new Sorvari store, now the Cook News Herald building.

03 Feb. Friday night drawings started in the local business places

03 Feb. Chase’s Addition annexed, area south of the Cook School

18 Jan. Miller-Chase Furniture store opened, now the Subway Café

 

1957

 

01 Mar. Dial phones first installed at Cook, Cook News Herald the first place

01 Mar. Gus Ardin sold his Ardin’s Bus Depot to Eghner Edblom & Martin Silvi

07 Mar. Oscar Carlson bought the Standard Oil Agency from Art Refsdal.

11 Jul, the Farmers & Merchants State Bank of Cook paid of the last money owed to depositors from the 1933 Bank Holiday.

 

 

1958

 

27, Feb. Frank Pliml moved his Electrical business to the new bldg, now the

              Laundromat

10 Jul. School house built in 1917 torn down, new gym built in that location

 

1959

 

09 Jan. Miller’s IGA grocery store destroyed by fire

16 Feb. Johnnie Cash stopped for speeding through Cook by Richard Harding

05 Mar. Miller's IGA moved to former Miller-Chase building which in now the Subway Cafe building.

26 Mar. Pete Duebendorf sold his Vermilion Boys Camp to the area Lutheran Churches for a Bible Camp.

06 Apr. Mike Wical & Charles Bast bought the Life of Riley Resort      

26 Oct. the Cook Community Hospital opened its doors

 

1960

 

17 Mar. Toivo Hiltunen opened his Hiltunen Lumber Yard. Manley & Jerry Burris bought the business in 1978 and closed it that year.

04 Feb. Cook police officer Richard Harding cashed a stolen City of Cook check

21 Oct. Cook Bank started closing on Saturdays

 

1961

 

01 Mar. Frank Pliml opened his laundry mat. Lloyd Gustafson is now the owner of what is now called the Handi Wash

01 Apr. Lawrence & Lorraine Aune bought the Nylund Bakery

01 Jul. The Railroad stopped running the Bud car passenger service. This was a diesel powered one car vehicle for passengers only.

 

1962

 

28 Jan. Last Sunday Rev Edwin Bonander as the pastor of First Baptist Church

 

1963

 

18 Oct. Lawrence & Lorraine Aune took over the Nylund Bakery

 

1964

 

06 Jan. Don Simonson started selling cars for Lobe Chevrolet Company

 

1965

 

1965, Douglas Johnson elected mayor of Cook, served until 1970

 

1966

 

27 Jan. Dedication of the new Cook catholic church building south of the Cook Community Hospital. The Timber Days Association bought the old catholic church building for a community center.

10 Feb. Russell Duame started his marine business in the Vermilion Small Engine

 

1967

 

04 Apr. Art's Addition to Cook petitioned to join the Village of Cook

01 Aug. Minnesota Sales Tax started, 1%

 

1968

 

31 Jan. Bill Lobe gave Dr. Bartholdt a $1,000 donation for the Cook Clinic

 

1969

 

01 Jan. Lambert Lumber closed. Ray Ronning bought as the buildings and renamed the business the Cook Building Center

09 Jan. Cook Area Development Association was founded for making to loans to local businesses.

27 Feb. Mel Ranta opened the Red Onion, now the Landing Restaurant on Lake Vermilion. This location was Russell Duame's Marina and is now the Landing Supper Club.

01 Mar. Dennis Duame bought Ardin’s Bus Depot from Eghner Edblom who had bought from Gust Ardin. He added Denny’s Café, the building was damaged by a fire in 1979.

24 Sep. The Lofgren store was demolished to make room for a trailer house anda  parking lot.

31 Dec. Ken Leding stopped his private Ambulance service. The hospital rented an ambulance to continue this service.

 

1970

 

01 Jan. The Cook Volunteer ambulance service started

01 Jan. Dr. Maasaud Farooq started his practice, Dr. William Heiam retired

31 Jan. First Snow Days celebration, sponsored by the Timber Days Assoc

01 Feb. LD Gustafson sold the Comet Theater to LeRoy Pearson

01 Feb. Ed Novak sold his Mobil Oil business to Don "Undy" Anderson

29 Mar. North St. Louis Rescue Squad organized.

08 Jun. The Great Flood of 1970 started, rained eight inches in 24 hours

10 Jun. the new 1970 Chevrolet Suburban Ambulance put into service

21 Jul. Ernie Lund filed for the County Commissioner election

 

1971

 

01 Jan. Leander Baptist Church joined with the First Baptist Church

01 Jan. Wally Refsdal became the mayor of Cook, served until 1973

01 Jan. Don Simonson became a member of the Village Council

08 May, the old Reik's Hall was torn down. It was built in about 1920.

 

1972

 

11 Mar. Bill Lobe 55, owner of the Lobe Chevrolet Company dealership was shot and killed by his wife.

15 Mar. Graig Kronholm bought the Bakery from Lawrence Aune

20 Jul. Allan Homer opened his barber shop, first in the Ardin Building

 

1973

 

01 Jan. Marvin Chase became the mayor of Cook, served until 1977

07 Jan. Leonard Richard’s house next Congregational Church burned

15 Mar. Don Simonson & Bill Vanne bought the Lobe Chevrolet dealership. In 1975 we moved to Highway 53

10 Apr. Roger & Sylvia Makela bought out the Fox Hardware

29 Apr. Rev. Dennis Morreim installed as the Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, he served until 07 Mar 1982

09 Sep. Carl Brown put a gable roof on what is now Gustafson Motors building

 

1974

 

04 Feb. Account Bill Corcoran moved into what is now the Vermilion Small Engine building

15 Mar. Gunnar Kronholm's wife Eunice kidnapped, later set free.

10 Apr. Lloyd Beaurline bought Mecca Inn and renamed it the BIC building

10 Oct. The bridge over the Little Fork north of Celina was damaged by fire.

 

1975

 

05 Jan. Dean Buchanan bought the Cook Building Center from his father-in-law Ray Ronning

01 Mar. Mike Haney started as the Pastor of the Covenant Church

05 Mar. Simonson & Vanne moved the Voyageur Chevrolet dealership to highway 53

03 Aug. Trinity Lutheran Church dedicated their new sanctuary and downstairs Sunday School rooms

 

 

1976

 

29 Jan. Residents started moving into the Homestead Apartment building

07 Feb. Nels & Joyce Rude opened a feed business in the old Lobe Chevrolet Co building

06 Mar. Mike & Diane Suomela bought the Hanson Furniture Store

 

1977

 

01 Jan. Mike Popelka served as the Mayor of Cook until 1979

09 Mar. Mike Holmes became the Hospital Business Manager

10 May. Johnson's One Stop destroyed by fire. This location is now the Country Store and Vermilion Motel.

 

1978

 

05 Jan. Bruce & Kathy Hively bought the Spring Bay Resort from Yale Corcoran

03 Mar. Radio tower set at the hospital for communalizations

01 Apr. Gary Albertson bought the Cook News Herald from Wayne Evans.

08 May. Mecca Inn/BIC building damaged by fire.

25 May. Voyageur Chevrolet became Simonson Chevrolet-Olds, Inc.

01 Nov. Cook Fire Departments first modular ambulance put in service

 

1979

 

01 Jan. Judy (Schelde, Hensen) Anderson served as the Mayor of Cook until 1981

15 Jan. Mike Sarazine opened his Optical Shop in what is now the Great Northern Lending office.

20 Jan. Fire damage the old Ardin Bus Depot and Confectionary store

01 Feb. Tim VanSoest sold the Northwoods Dairy Bar to Bill Green

01 Feb. Kris Squires started working at the Credit Union

20 Feb. IRRRB tore down the Ardin Hotel bldg that was damage by the 20 Jan fire

12 Jul, passing lanes were constructed on highway #53, 6 miles miles south of Cook. Some day we will have a four lane all the way from Virginia.

 

1980

 

27 Jan. Howard Lindsey & Shirley Wells died in their house fire 

09 Feb. Musakka log house burned, ten miles south of Cook 

20 Feb. Joe Barrnett became our City police officer replacing Tom Whitebird

24 Feb. Fire damage at the Cook School gym, smoke filled the rest of the building

16 Mar. Gary Hokkanen won the first "Beargrease" dog sled race

01 Aug. Arne Ojanen bought the Brown Building from Carl Brown.

 

1981

 

            Yale Corcoran served as the Mayor of Cook until 1987

10 Jan. Jill Duame named to head the Cook Post Office

02 Feb. Don Simonson retired, Chief of the Cook Fire Dept & Ambulance Squad

09 Feb. Dennis Rinne named Chief of the Cook Fire Department

27 Feb. Bob & Jacki Heglund opened the Driftwood Café, was Jim’s Grille

 

1982

 

09 Jan. Mark & Teresa DuMarce’s house destroyed by fire, was Sara Winchell’s home for many years

07 Mar. Rev. Dennis Morreim left the Trinity Lutheran Church to serve a Lutheran Church at Cloquet.

 

1983

 

02 Jan. the Bell Tower was set at the Trinity Lutheran Church

20 Jan. Dan Bogren opened a parts store in the old Jim’s grille, his son Dan now owns it

19 Feb. Residents started moving into the new Pioneer Apartment building

04 Mar. the Potlatch plant south of Cook four miles started  producing "Oxboard". 116 employed. Takes 600 cords a day.

 

1984

 

18 Jan. The Cook School Teacher went on strike

26 Jan. end of the hot lead printing at Cook News Herald, new four until Goss Printing Press

01 Feb. Mary Farrington opened her Mary’s Nettle Net in Reichel building

05 Mar. Melvin "Bud" Ranta started working for the City of Cook.

31 May. The Harrigan Bridge was closed, reopened in1986

20 Sep. Darlene Bakk Simonson opened a new beauty shop on the Main Street in the building that is now the Floral Shop. This building is now the home to Sarah Niska's Floral Shop

 

1985

 

08 Feb. First Street Sign in Cook, Simonson Boulevard

17 Feb. David Wicklund’s last Sunday as the Pastor of First Baptist Church

     Farmers & Merchants Bank second story added

 

1986

 

07 Aug. The new Harrigan Bridge was opened to traffic

 

1987

 

13 Jan. Loren Lind became the Mayor of Cook until 1989

01 Feb. Eb Schmolling became the post master of the Cook Post Office

 

1988

 

08 Jan. Police officer Tom Whitebird resigned, to the Eveleth Police Dept.

6 Jan. Al Hietala started with the Cook Police Department, he is now the Chief.

09 Feb. School Board voted to close the Alango School

 

02 Apr. First Chamber Egg Hunt held at the Simonson Chevrolet dealership.

 

1989

 

10 Jan. Don Simonson served as the Mayor of Cook until 1991.

10 Jan. Don Simonson sold his dealership to Lee & Larry Phillips

30 Jan. 911 started in Cook. Before that we did not have house numbers

14 Feb. Jim & Ruth Black bought the Brown Building from Arne Ojanen. They sold to Rick Scheuring who operates a Taxidermy 

01 Mar. Bill & Joan Clazmer bought the Country Club from Albertson & Pascuzzi

 

1990

 

01 Feb. Al Vogt named the Administrator of the Cook Community Hospital.

22 Mar. Rodney Edblom bought the Pump business from Chuck Nicholas.

 

1991

 

04 Jan. Edwards Lucky Seven Convenience Store opened

10 Jan. Doug Nakari became the Mayor of Cook

12 Feb. Mike Lantry became the City of Cook Attorney

11 Mar. Bill Pasch started as a Cook Police officer, left on 1 Oct 1999

27 Jul. Cook airfield renamed Raymond Hill Field

16 Oct. new Bridge opened, Rice River south of Cook, Ralph Road.

      Greg Burckhardt bought the Cook Bldg Center from Dean Buchanan

 

1992

 

10 Jan. Darrell Lindgren served as the Mayor of Cook until 1998

06 Aug. Airport Beacon installed

08 Aug. Picek Tire Shop building damaged by fire

29 Nov. A logging truck destroyed the bridge on the Reik Road

 

1993

 

01 Jan. Farmers & Merchants Bank sold to Chisholm First National

28 Jan. meeting at the Cook school in regard to selling the REA

01 Mar. IRRRB removed the old parsonage next to the First Baptist Church

 

1994

 

14 Jan. Human Touch II Gift Shop opened in the old American Legion building

29 Mar. 3rd story of the Comet Theater under construction.

04 Oct. Co-op Store building destroyed by fire, it included the office of the Credit Union.

 

1995

 

09 Jan. Don Price moved the Cook Motor office from the McDonald site, now Culbert office.

14 Jan. Train derailment at the Homestead Mills

15 Feb. Cook Library opened in the new location, was the Fire Hall

17 Mar. Northern Farmers Co-op Credit Union renamed to the,

     Cook Area Credit Union.

13 May. Mt. Iron First National Bank opened  in the new Zup’s grocery store

31 Oct. R & J Cafe damaged by fire

 

1996

 

02 Jan. Ron Waggoner became the State Farm agent for the area

15 Mar. Don Simonson sold the Montana Cafe to Valerie & Jerry Ohotto

 

1997

                                                                                                                                                                               

15 Jul. Dan & Jodi Julkowski opened their new Northwoods True Value Hardware store on Highway 53.

 

1998

 

11 Jan. Jamie Nelson won her 4th Beargrease Dog Sled Race on the North      Shore of Lake Superior. She and Ken live in Togo.

17 Jan. Loggers demonstration in Orr with over 1000 in attendance, 200 logging trucks lined the highway.

23 Mar. Dr. Travis Shearer joined the Cook Dental Clinic, left in soon

 

1999

 

10 Jan. Harold Johnston served as the Mayor of Cook until 2002, re-elected

05 Feb. Cook Credit Union ATM (automatic teller machine) installed

16 Mar. Don Simonson started the www.cookmn.com website

 

2000

 

22 Jan. Heiam’s old Cook General Hospital totally destroyed by fire as it burned to the ground, it was last used as the Amundson Apartment complex

31 Mar. Cafe 53 opened, was the R&J Cafe now Great Northern Lending office.

 

2001

 

2001,

 

2002

22 May, Tom & Lisa Ojanen opened their Subway Cafe 

2003

 

01 Feb. The Cafe 53 closed to become the office of the Great Northern Lending Company.

10 Feb, Clark's IGA grocery store was destroyed by fire.

01 Apr. Dr. Mrosak joined the Cook Area Dental Clinic

 

2004

 

18 Jan. Pastor Marcus Hess of the Trinity Lutheran Chruch, left after serving since 1993

 

 

 

 

Pioneer Settlers

1900, the first homesteaders arrived in what is now known as Cook, it was called "Ashawa" by the Indians that used this area as a stopping place in their travels to and  from Lake Vermilion.

Some of the first settlers were: John & Martha Olson,  Abel & Klara Pearson and Karl & Ellen Engdall. This area had just recently been opened to homesteading. Homesteads in Minnesota consisted of 160 acres which were free if you "proved up".  To prove up on must live on the land for five years and improve the property. After this time the homesteader needed three witnesses to state he had qualified. The United States Government then issued a patent stating this land belonged to the settler.

Olson's 160 acres homestead was northeast of what is now Cook and it included what is  now the Cook School and the First Baptist Church.  Pearson's homestead was directly south of  Olson's and is now the Cook Community Hospital, the Homestead and Pioneer Apartments plus many of the newer houses in Cook.  Engdall's homestead bordered Olson's to the west and  included that area north of  the river to what is now the Ashawa Road. In the year of 1904 the railroad cut through his land at angle to the northwest.

The first white baby born in this area was to John & Martha Olson on the 8th of June 1902, she was named Florence (see the pioneer families listed below).

1903, 03 Aug. Charles McGaginnis filed the "Plat of Ashawa". This plat took in the present downtown area of Cook including some land from Karl Engdall.  August Buboltz bought the townsite from McGaginnis in 1909.

Why was the townsite located here, because the railroad crossed the Little Fork River at this point.  The steam engine locomotives had a healthy appetite for water. The river was dammed under the bridge to maintain enough water for the storage tank, the train than stopped next to the tank to fill its reservoir. The railroad was started from Virginia in 1902 and reached International Falls in 1907.

1903, the railroad was completed to the Little Fork River from Virginia. The first train arrived on the 21st of December. The first passenger train (caboose) arrived on the 31st of December. The fair was $2.50 one way.  With the railroad coming this far the Virginia Rainy Lake Lumber Company started buying pine logs in this area for their sawmill in Virginia which was about 26 miles to the south. Many families' complete livelihood was from the forest. Spruce sold for $6 a cord delivered to the rail. After cutting the timber many of the homesteaders cleared the land for farming.

1903, 10 December. The first newspaper was published in Cook, by James Gar Field, it was called the Northland Farmer. It was first printed in a tent that sat between what is now the drug store and the lumber yard.

The Anderson Brothers, John & Algot constructed the first store building in what was to become the village, this log building still stands and is presently used for a tool rental business.  James Field was one of the earliest settlers.

1903, 31 December. August Buboltz arrived on the first passenger train. He constructed the first hotel and saloon and opened it on the 4th of March of 1904. It was located on the corner of  what is the parking lot next to Clark's IGA store..

 

During the early summer of 1900, the first homesteaders arrived in what is now

known as Cook, it was called "Ashawa" by the Indians that used this area as a

stopping place in their travels to and  from Lake Vermilion.

 

John & Martha Olson

 

Some of the first settlers were: John & Martha Olson,  This area had just recently been opened to homesteading. Homesteads in Minnesota consisted of 160 acres which were free if you "proved up".  To prove up on must live on the land for five years and improve the property. After this time the homesteader needed three witnesses to state he had qualified. The United States Government then issued a patent stating this land belonged to the settler.  Olson's 160 acres homestead was northeast of what is now Cook and it included what is  now the Cook School and

the First Baptist Church. 

 

Abel & Klara Pearson

 

Pearson's homestead was directly south of  Olson's and is now the Cook Community Hospital, the Homestead and Pioneer Apartments, the Catholic Church, plus many of the newer houses in Cook. 

 

Karl & Emma Engdall

 

Engdall's homestead bordered Olson's to the west and  included that area north of  the river to what is now the Ashawa Road. In the year of 1904 the railroad cut through his land at angle to the northwest.

 

The first white baby born in this area was to John & Martha Olson on the 8th of June 1902, she was named Florence (see the pioneer families listed below).

 

1903, 03 Aug. Charles McGaginnis filed the "Plat of Ashawa". This plat took in the present downtown area of Cook including some land from Karl Engdall.  August Buboltz bought the townsite from McGaginnis in 1909.

 

Why was Cook located here?

 

Why was the townsite located here, because the railroad crossed the Little Fork River at this point.  The steam engine locomotives had a healthy appetite for water. The river was dammed under the bridge to maintain enough water for the storage tank, the train than stopped next to the tank to fill its reservoir. The railroad was started from Virginia in 1902 and reached International Falls in 1907.

 

1903, the railroad was completed to the Little Fork River from Virginia. The first train arrived on the 21st of December. The first passenger train (caboose) arrived on the 31st of December. The fair was $2.50 one way.  With the railroad coming this far the Virginia Rainy Lake Lumber Company started buying pine logs in this area for their sawmill in Virginia which was about 26 miles to the south. Many families' complete livelihood was from the forest. Spruce sold for $6 a cord delivered to the rail. After cutting the timber many of the homesteaders cleared the land for farming.

 

1903, 10 December. The first newspaper was published in Cook, by James Gar Field, it was called the Northland Farmer. It was first printed in a tent that sat between what is now the drug store and the lumber yard.

 

The first store

 

The Anderson Brothers, John & Algot constructed the first store building in what was to become the village, this log building still stands and is presently used for a tool rental business. 

 

James Field was one of the earliest settlers in the town of Ashawa as he set up a printing press and published the first paper in

 

1903, 31 December. August Buboltz arrived on the first passenger train. He constructed the first hotel and saloon and opened it on the 4th of March of 1904. It was located on the corner of  what is the parking lot next to Clark's IGA store..

 

The town's name was changed

 

Ashawa
"By the side of the river"

 

Originally the new community was called Little Fork after the River. There was

an Indian trail that crossed the river and they called the place "Ashawa" meaning

beside the river or near the river. The first post office opened on 17 Aug 1903.

On 01 Aug 1908 the name of Ashawa was changed to Cook by request of the 

U.S. Postal Department. There was a village in Southern Minnesota by the name

of Oshawa that was being confused with our Ashawa. As they had first claim to 

the name.  The name of Cook was chosen in honor of Wirth H. Cook, a Duluth

lumber dealer and a railroad official and the chief promoter of the construction of 

the railroad through this area.

 

13 May 1926,  Cook became an incorporated Minnesota Village with a President and Trustees.  The first election was held this year with 93 voters. The candidates chosen were progressive business men interested in the welfare of the village. The election resulted in George Frances being named the President;  Adolph Johnson, O.J. Leding and Verner Bergren Trustees. A.H. Erickson was elected the Village Clerk. Walter Freudenberg the Justice of the Peace and Carl Nelson the Constable

 

John & Emma Edblom

1887, in April,  John Edblom landed in Boston Harbor as he immigrated to the United States from Sweden.  He made his way to Tower, Minnesota. 1892, 13 June he married Emma Johnson in Tower.  John operated a general store in Tower for a time.1892, John Edblom and his friend from Sweden, Peter Leanderson traveled from Tower via Lake Vermilion to what is now the Frazer Bay Landing. They walked the Tower-Itasca Tote Trail which ran southwest to what is now Sherman's Corner. They spotted the land they wanted and established rights in 1893. This area had been surveyed in 1884 and opened soon there after for homesteading.

1894, 23 April. John & Emma Edblom settled on their homestead in what is now known as the Leander Community.  Homesteading that very same day and on property adjacent to John was his friend Peter Leanderson.  In later years Peter was known as Peter Leander.  The community of Leander came about with the train crossing Peter's land in 1903. About 40 construction workers used Peter's house for a dining room, thus the railroad company named the landing and the siding Leander.

1901, 9th day of October. John Edblom applied for citizenship with the court to become a United States Citizen.  This had to be done before a person could gain title to a homestead. John's wife Emma did not have to apply, as she automatically became a citizen with her husband.

To improve their homestead the family built a log house 22 x 26 feet with a board floor and a cellar below. There were four rooms, seven windows and two doors, cost $200. The barn was 30 x 60 feet and cost $1,000. Also a chicken house, a combination blacksmith shop, store house and wood shed 12 x 45 feet, cost $100. Also they had cleared 35 acres at the cost of $750, with 18 to 20 of them under cultivation.  A curbed well 20 feet deep at the cost of $40. The stock consisted of; 14 head of cattle, two horse and 35 chickens.   This all done by the time he applied for a patent (title) in 1901.

This information was taken from a copy of the original homestead proof papers that were witnessed by Peter Leanderson, John Oberg, Nels Anderson and Andrew Berg when John made application for a patent on the 11th day of October 1901 at Duluth, Minnesota. The notice was published in the Tower Weekly Newspaper once a week for six weeks between the 9th of August 1901 and the 13th of September 1901. Ashawa/Cook did not have a newspaper yet.  Many newspapers were founded just to publish homestead notices as advertising was not enough to support the publisher, until the community grew.

John Edblom was born in 1867, died 1961, Emma Johnson Edblom, born 1869, died 1948. Children; Helga 1893-1987 & Ole Olson 1887-1973,  John Arthur 1894-1931 & Martha Trygg 1907-1989,  Hulda 1896-1969 & Peter Anderson 1996-1961, Helen 1898-1997 & Magnus Johnson 1899-1945,  Jhalmer 1900-1916, Eghner 1901-1990 & Edith Kjelberg 1902-1997, Martha 19093-1995 & Adar Engberg 1890-1934,  Rudy 1905-1989 & Anne Mravinc 1914-1985,  Herbert 1907-1987 & Lucille Eldien 1912 and Richard 1909-1996 & Adelia "Dil" Bakk 1916-1997.


Adolph Johnson

Adolph Carl Johnson, is best known as a Deputy Sheriff in the Cook and Orr areas. Adolph was born in Sweden on the 6th of July 1890. Adolph served in the Swedish military from 1909 to 1913, he also served as a palace guard in Stockholm.   At the age of 23 and not able to speak English, Adolph immigrated from Sweden, he arrived in Cook on the 31st day of December
1913. He soon found work on a farm west of Cook.  The next summer he worked in the woods as a lumberjack. In 1917 he and Verner Bergren started a bus line from Cook to Virginia and later to International Falls. In those days the roads were nothing but trails. In 1930 Adolph was appointed a deputy sheriff for St. Louis County, he served until he retired in 1957.
1919, Adolph married Viola Kjellberg of Cook. Her parents were Charles 1870-1959 and Augusta Anderson Kjellberg 1862-1943, they were also Swedish immigrants. The Kjellbergs had lived at Rock Creek, Minnesota before moving to the Cook area in 1903. They had four children; Herman 1894-1965 & Leona Gordon 1911-1945,  Beatrice "Beda" 1898-1964 & Albert Ferguson 1880-1960,  Viola 1900-1977 & Adolph Johnson 1890-1985 and  Edith 1902-1997 & Eghner Edblom 1901-1990. Viola's mother was a charter member of the First Baptist Church of Cook when it was founded in 1907.  Adolph & Viola had three sons;  Richard Adolph & Carolgene,  Russell & Emile and Curtis & June.
Adolph's son Dick,  a retired State Farm agent from St Cloud, Minnesota has written a very complete history of his family, a copy is this book is on file at the Cook Public Library. What a wonderful credit to his parents, everyone should write a book. Dick's legal name is Adolph Richard Johnson but was known as Richard while in school.  After his military service he added
A. Richard to his name being there are so many Richard Johnson's..

 

 

George & Mary Lindsey.

1904, Pioneers started arriving in this area in greater numbers when the land was opened for homesteading in the area west of Cook. George's brother Norman, who never married, settled first in what is now Linden Grove, he urged George to come from near Long Prairie, Minnesota. In June of 1904 George and his wife Mary O'Toole their children left their farm for Ashawa. They traveled by covered wagon pulled by a team of oxen. Also traveling with them were Mary's brother Joe O'Toole & wife Hattie.  When they arrived in Virginia on the 4th of July they camped near what is now the golf course. They traveled from Virginia by train to Ashawa. To reach their new home they traveled partly on the Little Fork River and walked the rest of the way. They had to leave most of their personal belongings until later. There homestead was 11 miles west of Cook, they cleared land and built houses of log. George established the first post office in Linden Grove in his home. They named the community after what they thought were Linden trees, they were aspen. These farms are still in the family. George was born in 1879, died in 1928, his wife Mary O'Toole Lindsey was born in 1875, died in 1952.  Their children were: Violet 1894-1988 (Mike) Mellak, Lillie 1896-1994 (Elmer) Thon, Rose 1899-1912, Pansy 1901-1987 (Steve Mellak & Peter Starkovich), Norman 1903-19.. & Helia Bergman, Mrytle 1907 (Floyd) Mann, Goldie 1909 (Archie) Mihm, Howard Lindsey 1911-1980, Gladys (Tony) Palma and Olive 1917 (Clifford) Rasch..

 

John & Martha Olson

1900, John & Martha Olson homesteaded on 160 acres of land in 1900. Their land included three 40s running north from the corner of North River Street (Hwy 24) and Vermilion Blvd where the Cook school is located, the Baptist Church and past Dyke's Body Shop, Bart Anderson and to the Sam Keister farm. It also included a 40 east including Clark & Barb Brenna's and Norman & Betty Johnson's homes to the Larson Road. Their daughter Florence was the first with baby born in this area.


John Olson was born in 1862, died in 1950, Martha Erickson Olson was born in 1868, died in 1958. Their children:  Olof 1887-1973 & Helga Edblom 1893-1987,  Sophie 1889-1971 & Gottfried Carlson 1892-1975,    Anna 1892-1920,  Matilda 1894-1908, Martha 1908-1991 & Gunnar Bakk 1904-1995,  and Florence 1902-1991 & Cameron Johnson 1900-1953 and her second husband Carl Bergstrom 1891-1973.   This farm became the home of Cameron & Florence, then their son Gerald (1925-1995) & Bev Hendy who still lives there.

 


 

 

 


John & Selina Silverdale
1889-1982 & 1881-

John Jr was born 9 May 1889, Selina was born 30 Apr 1891, both in Sweden, they were married there on 10 Feb 1918.  They homesteaded 1922 in Silverdale near his father's homestead.  John became the community butcher. He also worked in the area logging camps to support his family. John died 5 Sep 1982 in the Cook Nursing Home.  They had five children; Betha & Arnold Davis 1918-1994,  Karen 1918-1998 & Wayne Metsa 1919-1983,   Henry 1924-1998, Ruth 1928-1929  and  Lawrence 1934-2003& Joan.




J

John & Karaline Silverdahl.
1856-1929 & 1864-1950

John immigrated from Sweden to Minnesota in 1897. He lived first lived at Wilmar, Minnesota for a short time, them moved north to the community that was named after him. John became the first homesteader there and the first postmaster. The first school was built on his land. He also had the first threshing machine which he did custom work with. The Silverdale community is about 25 miles northwest of Cook. Highway 65 runs through part of the community. His wife Karaline and son John Jr and wife Selina immigrated to Silverdale in 1922. The name of the community was spelled Silverdale to reflect the rolling hills. John's son married Selina in 1918 and they lived in Silverdale until moving to Gheen and to Cook. Selina lived to the age of 110 years and passed away in the Cook Nursing Home on May 24, 2001.

 

 

Elder Metsa Famiyl

Thanks to Jackie for sending this requested history of Elder's family. Every father should be so fortunate have children that are so caring.

 

Elder was born December 31, 1928 at the home of his Finnish grandparents, John and Selma (Rautio) Metsa in Angora, the only child of Emil and Elna (Koski) Metsa. Although both of his parents were born in Minnesota (Emil in Soudan and Elna in Hibbing), they all lived together for a time on the Metsa farm and spoke Finnish. Elder therefore did not speak English on a regular basis until he entered first grade.

 

Early settlers in Angora, John and Selma Metsa were born and raised in Ylitornio, Finland, a town in Finnish Lapland that lies north of the Gulf of Bothnia, and just east of the river that forms the border between Sweden and Finland. John was a farmer there, and Selma was a dressmaker. One day shy of his 20th birthday, John and Selma were married in July, 24, 1884. Selma had turned 20 just six months earlier on December 31, 1863.

 

In 1888, John traveled to America. He settled in Soudan, and Selma followed in 1889 with their two young children, Eli and Eva. John worked in the lumber business in Ely and Tower, as well as for the mine in Tower, hauling supplies from Soudan to Mt. Iron, Old Mesabi, Merritt (which later became Biwabik), and even to Mine Center in Canada. Travel to Canada was made across the frozen ice of Lake Vermilion and Rainy Lake.

 

In 1904 John and Selma spent two long days moving their young family in horse-drawn wagons, along with three teams of horses, four cows, two chickens, and all the family belongings across 22 miles of trail from Soudan to Angora. They stayed over at a place called “Old Jimmers,” a popular stop-over place for travelers.

 

John was one of the first members of the Angora town board, a position he held at intervals over the next 23 years. Logging operations provided the money used to make improvements on their 520-acre Angora homestead (located along what is today known as East Anton Road). In 1906, Ellen, the youngest of their seven children was born (after Eli, Eva, Eric, Edward, Eino and Emil), and by 1915 the seven-room, two-story family farmhouse was completed. In the late 1920s, John purchased a large parcel of land on Lake Vermilion and constructed the original portion of a traditional Finnish log cabin that is still standing today.

 

During the most productive years of the Angora farm, the family harvested as much as 1,500 bushels of grain and 30 tons of hay. By the time John and Selma celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary in 1949, the farm was reduced to 16 head of livestock. The two oldest children, Eli and Eva, remained unmarried and had stayed on to run the farm. John died February 12, 1950, and Selma died several years later. They are buried in the Lakeview cemetery at Tower, along with both of John’s parents (who also came from Finland) and sons Eric and Edward, who died in their youth.

 

The family seemed to have a fondness for the letter “E”, as son Eino married Elway Malmstrom (they built the neighboring farmhouse in Angora and had five daughters: Marjorie, Lillian, Irma, Ellen Fran, and Denise); son Emil married Elna (Koski); and daughter Ellen, while not carrying on the tradition of the “E,” married Frederick Sorgenfrei (they lived in Virginia and had three children: Carol, Fred, Jr., and Shawna, who now lives on Lake Vermilion with her husband Don Kishel). 

 

As previously mentioned, Elder’s parents, Emil and Elna lived and worked on the family farm for a time, and on the blizzardy night of December 31, 1928 became the proud parents of little Emil Elder in one of the upstairs rooms of the farmhouse (Elder later chose to switch his name around and go by Elder Emil instead). Just when folks might have thought that the selection of names beginning with ‘E’ might be growing thin, Elder went away to college at UMD in Duluth and fell in love with a young nursing student named Bess Paul from Bemidji. Upon learning that Bess’s parents were named Ernest and Evelyn, perhaps he felt that marriage was inevitable.

 

Elder and Bess married in Bemidji in 1951. Elder’s best friend, Bud Heiam of Cook, was best man at the wedding. (To this day, the succeeding generations of the Metsas and the Heiams have remained close friends.) As newlyweds, Elder and Bess lived in Virginia. When the miners went on strike in 1952, however, jobs on the Range were hard to come by. Elder approached the supervisor of Olcott Park (he had worked for the park department in high school), and asked if  perhaps there was a job he could do. The only one available was the job of feeding the monkeys in the monkey island at the park, and he took it. He smiles today as he recalls that even though there was little money for food, there were always lots of peanuts and bananas for him and his new bride.

 

In 1953, Elder obtained a position at Mt. Iron High School teaching business economics and typing. Three children (Jackie, Paul, and John) came along in 1953, ‘55, and ‘57, and in 1963, an opportunity arose for Elder and Bess to open their home to Kathy (Ruoho) as guardian parents.

 

In addition to teaching, for several years from about 1959 to 1963, Elder and Bess also owned and operated (with the help of Elder’s parents) the Holland Hotel, which was Chinese restaurant and boarding house on Chestnut Street. While they never did completely understand the invoices that came written in Chinese, Bess whole-heartedly grew bean sprouts in the basement of the house they built on 13th Street South and the children enjoyed a seemingly endless supply of fortune cookies. Elder also worked downtown on Monday nights in the basement of Sears selling Allstate Insurance, and while still teaching in Mt. Iron, he was elected to serve on the Virginia School Board.  Eventually, after 15 years of teaching, he resigned his position and went to work full time selling both insurance and real estate as an independent agent. They also sold the Holland Hotel, and Bess resumed her nursing career at the Virginia Municipal Hospital, and became active as a Brownie and Girl Scout leader (at which time the Metsa kids traded fortune cookies for a seemingly endless supply of Girl Scout cookies that Bess would purchase by the case and store in the basement freezer).

 

Elder eventually served on the City Council and as Mayor of Virginia. Bess resigned from nursing and opened the Cedar Hutch–a small gift shop on Chestnut Street–with her good friend Bonnie Nagle. Several years later they sold the Cedar Hutch, and Bess’s love of people and travel led her to work with another close friend Bunny (Kesanen) Isaacson as a tour guide for bus tours that ran all over the country from Virginia, yielding a wealth of stories “from the road.” (Once she called from her hotel room in New York and said she was soaking the air filter from the bus in the hotel bathtub; another time she called from Arizona to say the bus driver had to drain the chemical toilet on the bus to fish out someone’s eyeglasses.)

 

As grandchildren came along, the cabin at Lake Vermilion became a hub of summer activities for all the Metsa, Kishel, and Sorgenfrei cousins. Today, still another generation of grandchildren is taking the saunas and roasting the marshmallows and hearing the beautiful loon calls at night.

 

It was the calls of those loons that inspired Elder’s wife, Bess, to dream that Virginia could some day play host to an art festival. “I would call it the ‘Land of the Loon’,” she said one morning in 1976 to another good friend (and talented artist) Maryann Nelimark as they shared a cup of coffee in her kitchen. Then, on the shoulders and imaginations of many dedicated and hard-working people, the dream indeed took on roots and wings, and has now become a grand tradition every Father’s Day weekend in Virginia’s Olcott Park (on the very same grounds where Elder used to feed the monkeys in the Monkey Island and visitors used to gather in the 1950s).

 

As with all families, joy mingles with times of deep sorrow. Sadly, in 1994, Bess died following surgery in Minneapolis to repair an abdominal aneurysm. She was 64. Two years later, in August 1996, Elder and Bess’s youngest son, John, lost his wife, Dianne (Richards) and the family’s beloved German shepherd when Dianne and the dog were struck and killed by a passing motorist who lost control of his truck and plummeted down a river bank in Alaska, while John and three of their four sons were hiking along behind her. Dianne was 39. John was also struck by the vehicle, and suffered a broken leg. The family had been in Alaska for less than a week when the accident happened, as John had just accepted a position as assistant superintendent of schools for the Healy school district. With the unflagging and generous support of the Healy community, John was able to fulfill his commitment to the job that year, but returned to Minnesota with his four boys the following year. Dianne and Bess are buried near each other in Greenwood Cemetery in Virginia. After serving in various positions in Rochester, Babbitt, and Orr, John currently serves as K-12 principal in Cherry, MN. He and his wife Carol (Carlson) also own and operate the historic Comet Theatre in Cook.

 

At 77, Elder has retired to Cook, MN, a place he calls “the best little town on earth.” Living now just a few miles from homestead his immigrant grandfather worked with those teams of horses, he is thankful for the optimism that was passed down, and the opportunities born of sweat and Sisu.

 

There’s a magic in a small town that big cities can’t offer, a sense of belonging that returns even after one has been away for a long time. Even a walk through the local cemetery, where we find the same family surnames engraved on headstones that once appeared in our high school yearbooks, yields a pleasant familiarity. Something whispers, “These are my people. This is home.”

 

And it’s true that home is where the heart is. Elder can be found most mornings – winter and summer – with an amiable group of guys who gather for coffee, breakfast, and to share an opinion or two at the Montana Café on Main Street. These are his people. This is home. 

 –Jackie (Metsa) Cheves, Dec 31, 2006.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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