NEW RICHLAND-HARTLAND-ELLENDALE-GENEVA AREA

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History tells us that 1855 brought a whole host of immigrants to Minnesota. Geneva was one of the first villages to form in the county, in fact one of the first in the state (though Minnesota didn’t become a state until 1858).

The land upon which it sits is located near Geneva Lake, which is 6 miles long and 2 miles wide. I know, because we clocked 17 miles when we used to snowmobile around it. It’s beautiful, and some might say worthless because it is quite shallow in most places, though this was not always so.

I think the house where my mother now lives is the oldest building in town. My dad “saved” the house and moved it when the new city liquor store was built. He couldn’t see that “good old 150-year-old house” being torn down, so he moved it a half block, did some repairs, put a basement under it, and added a large family room and entry way, along with a big double garage.

My grandmother talked of it often because as a school child she had been invited to a birthday party there and she thought it was the most. Admittedly, for that day and age it was a big, beautiful house with an open “rocking chair” porch. 

Grandma said who originally built the house, but I didn’t write it down so I am not sure who it was. She told me once the family who lived there had a child that died. They buried the child by the evergreen near the front of the cemetery.

The cemetery was established in 1885 and the name, Guetzmacker, rings a bell, but that may just be because he was an early resident at that time. Other recognizable names were Morey, Stacy, Farr, Osborne, Goodnature, Gibbs, Jones, Randall, King, Holmes and Henion, to mention a few.

Indians were often seen on the streets and were peaceful. There were those who feared them, but it wasn’t until 1862 that the first written Indian uprising was recorded.

People who would travel along the east side of the lake could see a bent tree that is said to have been an “Indian marker,” which is where the Indians crossed the lake.

Henry King was the county treasurer and his wife the first township teacher. John Gibbs was elected to the legislature and was Speaker of the House of Representatives. Another settler, E.C. Stacy, was the first lawyer and among the first county commissioners appointed by the governor. He was also appointed postmaster and he and his son traveled to Austin weekly to bring mail to Geneva. Mrs. Stacy was a physician and the first practitioner in the area. Names like Wayne, Holmes, Conklin, Randall, Jones and Hanson appear often in the town’s history.

There was a financial depression in 1858-59. Paper money was almost worthless. Quinine was used for cough syrup, which sold for 88 cents, material for a dress was $1.49 and a pair of shoe laces, 5 cents.

Early settlers would call for help to put in crops or put up a building and neighbors rallied to help. They also had a “get-up and go” volunteer fire department, and we still do!

The home of Francis and Warren Torgerson back then was a Sears mail order house. All the parts for the house came ready cut and just needed to be put together. Unfortunately, it was sometimes difficult to find the right pieces, so some pieces were cut by mistake.  When you think about it, it wasn’t so strange considering tools and building equipment weren’t so plentiful then.

The first church was called the Union Church and was shared by all religious denominations. Later, because it was most often used by Lutherans, they purchased the building. In 1909 a group of Danish people from the area met and organized a Lutheran congregation and it was named Gadthaab or Good Hope.

My grandmother went to the “Farr” School before she could attend school in Geneva (because of language). I can remember her talking about skating on the pond located by the school, or ice boat sailing on the lake.

She talked about walking several miles to school, and “sharing” shoes with her brother. She also told a story about one little boy who probably was being “baby sat” in school, who would for some reason say “cookies” and “horses” repeatedly.

Another child who was being disciplined had been put out in the hall, which also housed the library. He climbed the shelves to the top and fell asleep.

The children marched to the cemetery every Memorial Day for a great number of years to decorate the graves with garden flowers, which made the old cemetery as precious as love.

There was never a time when it went uncared for by the people of the town. To this day there are those who ask to be brought “back home” to be buried there. To me it is a beautiful symbol of love. People of all walks of life, religion, nationality, age or circumstances all share the common ground. I always refer to it as the cemetery on the hill. It is a landmark, as well as a monument.

The sidewalks, or I guess I should say walkways, back in those early years, were made of wood. Sometimes candy or coins fell in the cracks and the kids would “fish them out” with well chewed chewing gum that was really “tar.” When the hard candy that was sold in bulk got down to itsy bitsy pieces, and mostly sugar, people could buy a bag full for a nickel.

Speaking of walking, one farmer complained to the school board because the kids would cut across his land and he thought it hurt the land.

People pulled tricks back then too. The guy who had one of the first cars would drive up and stop to “give a ride” – then pull away saying, “Oh, I know you like to walk better.”

When Geneva became more modern and cars whizzed through town, one little girl was told by her parents to never cross the road if she saw a car coming. Someone said she stood there for hours.

A dog had the same orders and was so well trained that when he chased a cat or squirrel, he stopped at the curb so fast my grandma could hear his claws scratch.

Free shows were a treat in many small towns in outdoor lots. Kids, and grownups alike, took advantage and filled the lot.

Mickey Mouse movies didn’t look like the Mickey Mouse as we know it. He almost looked like a mouse with skinny arms and legs and a long nose. Westerns were usually favorite shows with none of the blood, guts, sex and swearing in them like we hear today, and few commercials.

Kids back then got a nickel to buy a bag of popcorn or a package of walnettas, a favorite, because you got more pieces for your money — more pieces to share or hoard for another day.

Pop was sold in glass bottles that were reused. My mother remembers finding a popsicle stick in the bottom of a bottle of orange pop.

Lots of early memories of this great town of Geneva, Minnesota. I would appreciate hearing about other special memories people may have of Geneva.

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If you have birthdays and anniversaries you would like to include, or news to share, please contact me via e-mail, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., by postal mail, P.O. Box 192, Geneva, MN 56035, or telephone, 507-256-4405.

Birthdays and anniversaries:  

• Thursday, November 3rd: Nakayla Joy Butler, Preston Dean Shaunce, Brian Muri, Paula Degan Conroy, Tim Hanson, Sydney McCamish, Quinn Sebastian Briedenbach, Jennifer Misgen, Angie & Josh Lair

• Friday, November 4th:  Evelyn Elizabeth Benning, Scott Anderson, Andrew Farr, Stuart Vangen, Jeff Carlson, Brant Hemingway

• Saturday, November 5th: Faith Jennie Tweeten, Preslee Jean Twetten, Hope Ann Twetten, Alyssa Hagen, Kerri d’Eustachip, David Wayne, Skyla Knudtson, Mavis Langlie, Chad Bratten, Allison Hanson

• Sunday, November 6th: Brody Richards, Makota Grahm Misgen, Mary Ann Lund, Darlene Kronberg, Dylan Paul Moen, Jon Beck, David Hagen, Doug Klemmensen, Lauren Jo Draayer, Chad Ayers, Toni Roberts, Taylor Roberts, Kellie & Ryan Benning

• Monday, November 7th: Ella Dobberstein, Solveig Adelaine Mattson, Ava Leigh Wangsness; Alymra Seath, Jolee Johnson, Travis Diederrich, Linda Dobberstein, Scott Olson, Mark Sundwall

• Tuesday, November 8th: Sydney Larson, Andrew Jensen, Brian Hughes, Burton Nelson

• Wednesday, November 9th: Phyllis Hagen, Tami Lund Wacek, Scott Coxworth, Jon Aronson, Kent Kruckenburg, Cindy Gould, Tim Westrum, Christopher Jepson

May your special day be a day you'll never forget, filled with smiles, good cheer, and laughter!

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