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National Grange News
Local figures helped shape Minnesota

By Joni Astrup (Star New, MN 1/8/08)

  JANUARY 8, 2008 --

Oliver Kelley, former Gov. Elmer L. Andersen, Red River trails, grasshoppers, Charles Babcock and a nuclear power plant all have one thing in common.

They all have a connection to Elk River and were either nominated for or included in a list of 150 people, places and things that shaped Minnesota. The list was compiled as part of the celebration of 150 years of Minnesota statehood.

Kelley, Andersen, Red River trails and grasshoppers all made the Minnesota 150 list. Babcock and the nuclear power plant did not.

Those on the list are featured in a new exhibit at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul. They also are in the new book, "Minnesota 150." For more about the Minnesota 150, go to www.mnhs.org.

The exhibit was created from more than 2,700 nominations, according to the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS). Nina Archabal, MHS director, described it as "unprecedented in the degree of public participation."

A committee of MHS staff, community members and subject experts selected the final list of 150. Nominations included in the exhibit cover a wide range of categories, from sports events, to political figures and pop icons, to inventors and their inventions, to lasting examples of cultural traditions, according to the MHS.

Bob Quist, site manager of the Oliver Kelley Farm in Elk River, made several nominations, all of which were related to agriculture. Agriculture has played a big role in Minnesota's history, and Minnesota remains a premier agricultural state today.

"I think it's so important. I wanted to make sure that was recognized," Quist said.

His nominations that made the Minnesota 150 were Kelley and grasshoppers. Quist said he expected Kelley to make the Minnesota 150 list, but was a little more surprised that grasshoppers made the cut.

He also nominated Kovar Harrows/Kovar Machinery, now Kovar Sales Inc., in Anoka because of its long-term impact on Minnesota agriculture throughout the 20th century and into the 21st century. The company began in 1914 when Joseph Kovar devised a new type of spring-tooth harrow that could remove quack grass from row crops.

Quist nominated the Wealthy apple as well. "It was the first successful apple in Minnesota," he said.

Here's more about the Minnesota 150 with local ties.

Oliver Kelley

Oliver Kelley was the founder of the first successful national farming organization, the Grange. The historic Kelley Farm in Elk River is recognized as the birthplace of organized agriculture in America.

Kelley and his wife, Lucy, began farming the land on the banks of the Mississippi River in 1850.

Today, the working 1860s farm is a National Historic Landmark operated by the Minnesota Historical Society. It is located 2.5 miles southeast of downtown Elk River along Highway 10.

Elmer L. Andersen

Elmer L. Andersen served as a state senator from 1949-1958 and as Minnesota's governor from 1961-1963, but his tie to Elk River is in the newspaper business.

Andersen founded ECM Publishers, the owner of the Star News. The ECM family of publications includes 27 weekly newspapers and shoppers, with a combined circulation of more than 400,000.

Red River trails

The Red River trails are described in the "Minnesota 150" book as "a meadering patchwork of rutted oxcart paths across the prairie and around the woods that connected St. Paul with Fort Garry and Winnipeg."

The trails were in use from the 1820s until the railroad came in the 1870s, according to Bobbie Scott, programs manager at the Sherburne History Center in Becker. Furs and other merchandise were brought by oxcart to St. Paul, where the Métis traders helped establish St. Paul as a commercial center, she said.

Several spots in Sherburne County served as stopping places for the carts, including Joseph Jerome's tavern in Haven Township and Orlando Bailey's place at Bailey Station. The meandering trails came together in St. Cloud and followed the north side of the Mississippi River through Becker, Big Lake, Elk River and Anoka to St. Paul, according to Scott.


"Every summer from 1873 to 1877 Midwestern farmers saw flourishing crops vanish as swarms of grasshoppers descended on their fields," according to the book, "Minnesota 150."

"There had been earlier infestations in the 1850s and 1860s, and more were to come in the 1930s. But the five-year plague in the 1870s was particularly devastating, leaving thousands of families without the basic necessities, including seed for the next year's crop."

Charles Babcock

Charles Babcock of Elk River was nominated but did not make the Minnesota 150. Babcock was the first state highway commissioner. The Babcock Amendment to the state constitution led to the Good Roads Movement.

Nuclear power plant

A nuclear power plant that once operated in Elk River also was nominated but not selected in the Minnesota 150.



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