History of Kenneth

Transcribed from "The History of Rock county"
By A. P. Rose
Published in 1911

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  Located on the line between sections 1 and 2, Vienna township, on the Worthington-Hardwick branch of the Rock Island railroad, seven miles southeast from Hardwick, is Kenneth, the youngest of Rock county's towns. Although it was the last to come into existence, it has outdistanced some of the other villages, and today is the largest of the county's unincorporated towns. Since its founding, Kenneth has been distinguished as a leading grain market and derives it support from a rich farming section. It is well supplied with the various business enterprises that go to make a prosperous country community.

  Kenneth came into being as a direct result of the building of the Burlington road extension from Worthington to Hardwick, during the year 1899-1900, and was one of the four towns, three of which were located in Nobles county, that were created by this agency a decade ago. Plans for the new town of Kenneth were in the making for several months before the rails were laid to the proposed location. The track layers reached Lismore, the nearest station on the east, June 9, 1900, and from that point continued their way westward into Rock county, passing through the Kenneth town site during the month of July and reaching the terminus at Hardwick on the 4th day of August.

  Before the spring of 1900 opened, negotiations were under way by T. H. Brown & Co., the town site company connected with the Burlington road, for the purpose of a desirable site for the new town it had been decided to establish in Vienna township. The deal as finally closed in April for the promoters by their agent, J. A. Kennicott, resulted in the transfer of twenty acres on sections 1 and 2. It was decided at that time to name the town Kenneth for the eldest son of Mr. Kennicott, in recognition of that gentleman's efforts in the company's behalf.

  The town site was surveyed by county surveyor W. N. Davidson, the dedication was made by Thomas H. Brown July 20, 1900, and the papers filed for record ten days later, on July 30. The plat created from this survey formed the town into four blocks. The streets running east and west were named First, Second, and Third, and intersected by First Avenue west, Main avenue, and First Avenue east. A second plat of Kenneth was surveyed by W. N. Davidson for Andrew Messner on April 2, 1902. This survey was filed for record in May, 1902. No additions to the original town site have been platted.

  Simultaneous with the arrival of the connecting iron band to the undeveloped town site of Kenneth, during the latter part of July, 1900, building operations were commenced and the town assured of a reality. Before the month of August had passed three elevators had been completed and were prepared to handle the season's business. The three grain firms initially represented were Bemis & Howard, Ryan & Berg and E. A. Brown.

  Although the greater part of the year 1900 was over before activity in the promotion of the new town was commenced, it saw the establishment of a number of enterprises. Early in October James A. Palmer opened his saloon. The pioneer merchant and first postmaster was J. L. Hogan. He was not long to have an unopposed field in the general merchandise business, for during the winter A.D. Parker became a resident of Kenneth and established a second general store. Mr. Parker at once erected a building, 60 X 22 feet in size, to house his business. About the same time the firm of Trotter & Trotter, hardware dealers, commenced business. The St. Croix Lumber company, during the same season, established a branch yard in Kenneth and installed Frank Linderwood (?) as agent. The depot was also erected in 1900, and James Costello became the first station agent.

 The year of 1901 was one of substantial improvement. The town's first blacksmith, E.M. Newell, came from Edgerton in February, erected a shop and was ready to serve his patrons by the twentieth of the month. Thomte & Johnson were on the ground in March and commenced the erection of a livery barn. In the course of the next month the same firm saw a hotel building, a two story structure, 24 X 50 feet in size, well under way. The hostelry was opened the second week in May. The first sidewalk in the town was constructed in eary April. Another business enterprise was added to the village during the same month by Walter Bemis, one of the grain buyers, who engaged in the farm implement business in connection with his other interests. The first dwelling house in the village was brought to completion early in May and was occupied by Section Forman Solen. This was only the beginning of other improvements of the same nature that were consummated during the course of the year.

  A visitor to Kenneth, writing in the Rock County Herald of May 3, 1901, pictures the condition of the flourishing hamlet at that date:

"Unostentatiously, but none the less surely, a new town, small but enterprising, has grown up in Rock county and gives promise of many good things in the future, greater growth, population, business and importance. One year ago Kenneth, Minnesota had no existence, today it is a bustling burg with every equipment for transformation into a city. Peopled by enterprising, thrifty and progressive citizens, its business enterprises in the hands of public spirited and far sighted men, and surrounded by a rich and productive agricultural country, Kenneth enters the list of Rock county towns with every promise of growth and prosperity. Where one year ago was but a fertile field are now two well stocked general merchandise stores, a hardware store, a commodious hotel, a lumber yard, a blacksmith shop, three elevators, livery stable, restaurant, two dray lines, a farm machinery and implement business, all housed in handsome and substantial buildings."

  There was a marked and steady growth throughout the whole of 1901. The population of the village had reached a point where the erection of a commodious two story school building became advisable and the building was completed late in the year. The business interests of the young town continued to prosper, and a number of enterprises were added. Among these was a bank, and institution much desired. The bank opened for business July 1 in the A.D. Parker building, with Mr. Parker in charge. In September the town was supplied with a physician, Dr. Van Krevelen, formerly of Holland, moved to Kenneth and opened a drug store which he conducted in connection with his practice. A number of new business buildings were brought to completion during the season of 1901.

  The question of the incorporation of Kenneth became an issue in 1902. The substantial and increasing growth of the town, together with the splendid material advancement that it had been privileged to enjoy during the short time of its existence, seemed in the eyes of the town's businessmen  to justify the desire to assume the privileges and obligations of local self government. Several obstacles confronted the promoters of the plan for incorporating. It was found necessary to extend the bounds of the proposed corporation for a number of miles in each direction of the village in order to secure the population required by law before any village is entitled to form itself into an independent municipality. There was considerable opposition to the scheme, especially by farmers whose lands it was proposed to include within the corporation. A petition was signed by A.D. Parker and thirty seven others, asking for the incorporation of Kenneth, was presented to the board of county commissioners and was considered by that body at its regular meeting on December 19, 1902. A petition of remonstrance signed by B. Halverson and seventeen others was submitted to the commissioners on the same occasion, and the matter was brought to a focus. Both sides to the controversy were represented by authorized representatives and arguments for and against incorporation were made. The board ordered that the petition be referred to the county attorney for his opinion as to its legality, especially in regard to the quantity of territory which had been included.

  The matter was brought to a conclusion at the meeting of the commissioners on January 8, 1903, when a request signed by twelve of those interested in the proposed incorporation, asking for a withdrawal of their original petition, was presented. Although no later attempt has been made to bring about the incorporation of Kenneth, there is every reason to believe that in the near future the town of Vienna township will be in a condition to successfully inaugurate such a movement.

  Kenneth's growth has been slow but substantial. It experienced a setback during the years 1903 and 1904 because of the destruction, by hail and rains, to the crops in that section which finds its market in Kenneth. Since that time, however, the town has maintained its own and is still unsurpassed as a grain market and trading point.

  Kenneth's school history began almost with the founding of the town. In April, 1901, a petition asking for the creation of a new school district to include the town of Kenneth was favorably acted upon by the board of county commissioners.

  Following this action, on May 2, a meeting of the citizens of Kenneth was held and the organization of the district perfected.

B. Halverson was elected director, J.L.Hogan clerk and George Watson, treasurer. At a meeting held later in the same month it was voted to raise $2500 for the erection of a school building. The edifice, two stories in height, 28 X 40 feet, was erected by Hackett & Robinson, of Luverne, and was completed in time for the opening of the winter term on December 6, 1901. School opened on that date with Nellie Morse as teacher and with an enrollment of thirty two pupils.

  Two church organizations are maintained in Kenneth, the Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran, and both possess church edifices. The Catholic church building, which formerly occupied a site in Lismore township, Nobles county, was moved to Kenneth early in 1903. The Evangelical Lutheran church was erected during the season of 1907.

  The Kenneth State Bank is an outgrowth of a private institution which began business July 1, 1901, as the bank of Kenneth, with R.B. Hinkly, president, and A.D. Parker, cashier. The bank erected a building of its own during the summer of 1903. The Kenneth State Bank, following the reorganization, commenced business July 10, 1907, with capital stock of $12,000. The incorporators were Andrew Messner, A.D. Parker, John Engebretson, John Wonderle, L.W. Johnson, Chris. Haiback, B. Halverson, Kittil Olson and L. Kreun. The first officers and board of directors consisted of Andrew Messner, president; B. Halverson, vice president; A.D. Parker, cashier; John Engebretson, assistant cashier; Chris Haiback.