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Steele County Minnesota 
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City of Owatonna - History and News




OWATONNA AS A HAMLET.

History of Rice and Steele Counties Minnesota, Compiled by Franklyn Curtiss-Wedge, Chicago H. C. Cooper, Jr., & Co. 1910. Transcribed by Sue P Carpenter.

First Settlement—Pettit and Cornell—First House Built—Influx of Population—Bridge Constructed—Hotel and Stores Opened—Activities of the Early Days—Business Houses of 1867 and 1887—First Events.

The first settlement on the present site of the city of Owatonna was made by William F. Pettit and A. B. Cornell, in the summer of 1854. About the middle of May of that year William F. Pettit, George F. Pettit, A. B. Cornell and F. Wilbur Fisk left Sparta, Wis., for a visit to the far-farmed prairies of Minnesota. George F. Pettit had been at Faribault some time previous, and made such a glowing report of the country that those who had families took them along, determined to make their homes on the sunset side of the Mississippi. Seven wagonloads of people, furniture, supplies, etc., set out, and were four weeks in reaching Faribault—a long journey, attended with toil, discomfort and fatigue, and one that none but strong, brave hearts would undertake and successfully accomplish. George F. Pettit settled at Faribault, F. W. Fisk on East Prairie, and William F. Pettit and A. B. Cornell located on the present site of the city of Owatonna. Mr. Cornell made his claim on the east side of the river and Mr. Pettit on the west. Cornell built a somewhat primitive dwelling, which was constructed of poles covered with prairie grass, but it was sufficient to protect them from the storm and the scorching rays of the sun, and they were all content to wait patiently till a more commodious house could be erected. This was the first residence and the first building erected within what is now the city limits. Mr. Cornell soon commenced putting up a log house, just north of where the bridge now stands, and had the logs raised ready to put up on the roof when he sold his claim to Mr. Pettit, who had, in the meantime, disposed of his own on the west side of the river to a Mr. Crehore. Some time in August, Mr. Pettit had contracted with Mr. Cornell to build a house for him, similar to the one he was building for himself, but when he purchased Cornell’s claim the contract was annulled and another made that he could finish the one already commenced. We give the contract in full, as it is probably the first ever made in the county. It is as follows:

“It is hereby agreed by and between W. F. Pettit and A. B. Cornell, that A. B. Cornell shall, previous to the twentieth day of October next, build for said Pettit a log dwelling house on the foundation said Pettit has already commenced; said house to be 22 feet long and 18 feet wide; puncheon floor below, two doors and five windows, shingled roof, logs hewn inside up to beams and mudded on the outside; also a cellar 14x18 feet, dug so as to be 6 feet from bottom to sleepers; said house to be one and a half stories high and put up similar to said Cornell’s, and the said Pettit is to furnish all nails, glass, sash, putty and lumber for doors and the upper floor so as not to delay said job and to pay for said building $75. W. F. Pettit. A. B. Cornell. August 3, 1854.”

These movements gave a material start to the growth of the embryo city. The first track made across the prairies is the pioneer of civilization, and forerunner generally of a crowd of immigration, and this was no exception to the general rule. Others followed the lead of Messrs. Pettit and Cornell, and several houses were build that fall (1854). Hon. G. W. Green, of Beaver Dam, Wis., commenced the erection of a house which was raised on October 2, all the settlers in the vicinity assisting. Interesting articles, written by both Judge Green and A. B. Cornell, and giving a detailed account of the experiences of each, will be found in this work. In the winter following (1854-55) J. W. Park and S. B. Smith erected a log cabin near where the Milwaukee Railroad tracks are now located.

These were dreary, lonesome days to the settlers; far from friends, marts and posts of trade, with no one save themselves to commune with, their lives must indeed have been “hermit-like.” Sometimes, too, a little fear of what the Indians might do crept into their minds to disturb their tranquillity, [sic] yet the Indians were at peace with the whites, and at that time considered them their best friends. But at times circumstances would occur to arouse suspicions of the people to a high pitch. The following instance of this was related to a historian: The first year of the settlement (1854) all the provisions and supplies of all kinds were brought from St. Paul, and at one time Mr. Cornell went with his team to that town to bring a load of provisions, etc., and was absent about a week, leaving Mrs. Cornell with only her children and a boy to keep her company. During his absence a party of Indians, a hundred or more, encamped for a time near Mr. Cornell’s shanty. Yet they were very respectful and civil to the white lady, and did not venture into her house. One evening they gathered material and lighted huge bonfires a little back of the shanty, and commenced and Indian dance with all its wild accompaniments of songs and shouts, making the night hideous with their antics and howlings. Just at this time Mr. Cornell, with his load, reached the hill about two miles north of the town, and, as he gained the summit, he saw the flames of the fires, and the dusky redskins dancing in the lurid glare of light. His wife and children! Had they become victims of the savage thirst for blood? The thought came crashing through his brain with the rapidity of lightning. He did not stop long to gaze, but, unhitching his team, he stripped the harness from the fleetest horse, and, mounting him, rode at the top of his speed, resolved to know the worst and save his loved ones or perish with them. Reaching the ford, his eyes were made glad at seeing his wife on the opposite bank, awaiting his return, who assured him that all were well and glad to see him return as safe as they were. Thankful that he was the only one victimized, Mr. Cornell returned and got his load of provisions.

When spring opened, in 1855, the settlement continued rapidly. During the spring and early summer the following named all came, many accompanied by their families: Addison Phelps, Nelson Morehouse, B. L. Arnold, Joel Wilson, Dexter Carlton, Parker Carlton, Alson Selleck, N. Winship, John Wilcox, two Schimeks, David Lindersmith, Leonard and Simeon Case, Bazil Meek, Obed Gaines, Miner Prisby, Adolphus Town, Philo Sanford, Charles Ellison, John H. and Ezra Abbott, C. G. Haynes, John Moon and Mr. Ward. Possibly there were a few others. All of these parties settled within a radius of a mile or two of the present center of the city. Many at once erected cabins, while others selected claims and returned for their families. The only sign of business here was at the residence of A. B. Cornell, where the traveling public was fed and lodged. Early in May of this year (1855) Smith & Park began keeping a few groceries and provisions at their cabin near the present railway depots. About the first of July, N. Winship commenced hauling logs for his hotel. They moved into it on August 4, and it was opened for the accommodation of the traveling public. This was the first hotel erected here, and, in fact, was the first building upon what was then the village plat. In later years, however, the plat has extended so as to take in the site of Cornell’s first cabin. In September, 1855, John Sweat put up a little cabin and opened a blacksmith shop near where Deeg’s wagon shop now (1887) stands. Later he sold to Joel Wilson, and left. In October, 1855, J. W. Park and S. B. Smith erected a log house just north of the Winship House, on Oak street, and filled it with a stock of goods which proved of great convenience to the pioneers. Quite a number of young men came this year, who only remained a short time.

In the summer of 1855 Mr. Pettit sold his claim to John H. Abbott and soon afterward bought an undivided half of Mr. Cornell’s claim, lying immediately to the south of the one just sold. All hands at once went to work to build up a first-class town. Roads and bridges, for the purpose of communication with other sections of the country, were the first things to be attended to, and with willing hearts and stout hands they went to work and opened up the roads, bridges the sluices and water courses, and soon had the satisfaction of knowing that at least an important thoroughfare was opened through their town. Mr. Cornell, with true Western energy and perseverance, built a bridge across the Straight river, and travel was seemingly nearly constant. Not infrequently were there from twenty to thirty or forty emigrant teams in the streets at the same time. Business flourished. Every settler whose house was large enough to accommodate more than his own family had all the spare room occupied with strangers and those seeking homes. Cornell, also, made several extended trips in advertising this locality. A village was platted, streets and lots marked out and speculation in city property was very active. In the autumn of 1855, the county was organized and Owatonna was made the county seat. A postoffice was opened this fall; mail routes were established, and stages were shortly afterward put on. In September, Mr. Cornell and John I. Abbott laid out the town site, comprising about 120 acres, about sixty acres on each of their claims. In November they went to Winona and pre-empted the land, and on December 26, 1855, filed the town plats in the office of Charles Ellison, register of deeds. A very respectable log school house was also built this fall, though the first school had already been taught. The old log school house performed a somewhat important part in the early history of the place. Schools were held in it during all school terms; each of the denominations used it in turn as a house of worship. All the political meetings and elections were held there; singing schools, lyceums and prayer meetings occ___ed the evenings, so that it was kept in almost constant use until it was removed and torn down. The town proprietors __nated about forty lots to those who would erect substantial and useful buildings. During this summer (1855), Mr. Pettit built the first frame house in the country, on the hill in the _stern part of the city. He was obliged to haul part of the pine lumber from Red Wing, with which to complete the house, which cost $107 per thousand, and the roof boards, procured at Faribault, cost $60 per thousand. Such were the advantages under which the pioneers had to labor.

With 1856 came renewed activity in a business way as well in emigration, and the little settlement on Straight river increased rapidly. The winter had been a severe one, but had not depressed the spirits of the colonists. In April of this year, Messrs. Pettit, Abbott and Cornell bought of Park & Smith 500 acres of land lying on the north side of town, for $8,000. This was afterward known as the “Five Hundred Acre Tract.” Early this year B. L. Arnold put up the Eureka House, the first frame hotel erected in the county. Philo Sanford during the same summer and fall put up what was then called the American House—now (1887) the Central. Elder Town, who had bought out Smith & Park, erected a small building on Bridge street, and moved his goods into it. Nathaniel Winship built an addition to his hotel. John Dingman came and put up a building near where Rosebrock’s furniture store is now (1887) located, and J. W. Morford, who arrived at about the same time, opened a stock of goods in it. A hardware stock was established by a couple of young men, who after a few weeks, sold to E. Y. Hunewill. Business took long strides forward. In July of this year, J. W. Morford and John Odell opened a store on Bridge street, and somewhat later in the season Dr. Harsha and Judge Donaldson a drug and general provision store. Potwin & Stoughton—A. N. Stoughton and George Potwin—opened business on Main street. J. B. Crooker came this year and a few years later opened a general store. Among those who came were M. A. Daily, J. M. Sheetz, Willard Wheaton, Harvey Beardsley, Joseph Webster, James Moore, George Oulton, Rev. H. Chapin, D. Potwin, the Odells and others.

During this year (1856) Town & Burch (Loren Town and J W. Burch) were engaged in the general merchandise trade. In the following year Mr. Burch sold his interest to A. Town, who afterward secured the whole business, and finally closed out the stock.

In the spring of the same year (1856) Ezra Abbott, J. W. Park and S. B. Smith brought a steam saw mill from Walcott, where it had been in operation for a year or son, and this was set up just north of the bridge on the east side of the river. Building operations were greatly accelerated. The common lumber for most of the new buildings was manufactured by it. This mill was in operation here for about three years, Mr. Abbott in the meantime having purchased his partner’s interests, and it was then sold and removed to Faribault.

In the fall of 1856 Nelson Morehouse erected a building and put a saw mill into operation on the water power on the west side of the river. He operated this for a number of years, and it was finally remodeled into a flouring mill. A live western newspaper was established in 1856, that did much toward making known to the outside world Steele county’s advantages [.] During the summer Melbourne and Burr opened a cabinet shop.

In 1857 the growth was not so rapid as it had been the preceding year; considerable railway agitation was had, although not more than had been the case in 1856. During this year (1857) G. W. True and Mr. Potwin brought a saw mill here from Mount Vernon, Ohio, a bonus being raised to secure it. The mill came in the name of True, although Pettit and Abbott were interested in it. It was set up just west of the Winship House. Machinery for a grist mill was also brought here, although this was never set up. The saw mill was run for several years, and it was finally removed to Morristown.

In 1857, the first millinery store was started by Mrs. Lambert, in a building where the Brooks bakery is now (1887) located. Mrs. Magoon also started a millinery establishment at an early day.

N. Squires established a meat market this year. William Wadsworth started a jewelry store on Main street, where the jail is now (1887) located. The Sherwood Brothers opened a saloon. Mr. Coburn started a general store, trusted the railway contractors, and it soon ended in bankruptcy.

In 1858 and 1859 the financial depression which had commenced with 1857 was severely felt here. Business development was at a standstill. Money was very close; paper money was almost worthless, and every one demanded gold or silver. The bank issue, based upon railway securities, also hurt this country sadly, and it is a truthful saying that a hatful of $100 bills of such currency would scarcely buy a meal of victuals.

J. B. Crooker established a general store in 1859 and among other business interests which in early days clustered here should be mentioned: The tailor shop started by Dresser & Goodwin, in a building nearly opposite Hunnelwill’s hardware store; the general store started at an early day by Bascom Bros., in a building where Greeley’s pump factory is now (1887) located.

The same state of affairs, financially, continued through 1860 and 1861, while in the latter year the breaking out of the war made matters worse. A great many of the able-bodied young and middle-aged men left during ’61 and went into the service. In 1862 business began to pick up a little. The Indian massacre drove many from the homes west of here, and Owatonna, being upon a main thoroughfare, and the first feasible stopping point, again became a scene of activity. The soldiers going through, and fleeing settlers, besides the fact that the soldiers in the army began to receive their pay at about this time, made money matters easier, and its effect was soon felt in the channels of business.

From 1863 to 1867 the city grew rapidly, and many substantial improvements were made. Two lines of railway reached the city in 1866, as is detailed elsewhere in this volume, and this added new life to the growth, although, to a great extent, the impetus to business development given by railway connections had been anticipated, and the growth caused by it really began in the summer of 1865. From that time until 1867-68, many fine business buildings were erected, among them being Dresser’s block, Kinyon’s building, Kelly block, Abbott block, Wadsworth’s building, Crooker’s residence; Crooker, Kelly, Bixby and Dr. Morehouse erected the row of bricks on the south side of Bridge street; Dr. Harsha, the First National Bank building; Odell & Pott’s building, Wadworth put up a brick building, Hunnewill a hardware store, and Soule erected the north sixty feet of the H & R. Moore & Co. Block. The Arnold and Park Hotels, Howe’s foundry and machine shops and other buildings erected and enterprises inaugurated.

The business boom of these years was almost without parallel in the history of Minnesota. The population of the city more than doubled, increasing from a village of 600 or 700 to a city of 2,000 during the years 1866 and 1867. Since that time the growth has been more gradual, but of a permanent and beneficial character.

BUSINESS MEN IN 1868.

As a matter worthy of preservation, we here present a full business directory of Owatonna in 1868: Attorneys—Amos Coggswell, A. A. Harwood, Searles & Hickman, Delos Higbee, Kinyon & Wheelock, M. A. Dailey, J J. Aiken, N. M. Donaldson (judge). Agricultural Implements—Loweth, Howe & Co., Allen & Dearborn, Fisk & Medal, G. W. Payne, J. E. Buxton. Wm. Scruby. Boots and Shoes—Chase Bros., Lord Bros. & Co., Cooper Bros., Morford, Willsey & Co., G. F. Albertus, J. Lonergan, Frank Yaneck, J. E. Griggs. Books and Stationery—C. E. Seaton. Bankers—Easton & Kinyon, S. Mills, Jr., and Co. Barbers—Jerry Pope, J. A. Pierce, Louis Teabean. Bakeries—Mrs. J. G. Cochran, George Chapman, M. J. White. Blacksmiths—F. H. Cooper, M. S. Quiggle, P. Schuster, C. Hanson, Hiram Cartwright, ---- Sherman, ---- King. Brewery—Mace & Co. Clothing—J. G. Denerline, Friend & Newsalt, G. F. Albertus, Soule Bros., Armstrong & Cottrell, J. E. Griggs, Marble & Co., Lord Bros. & Co., Cooper Bros. Cooper Shop—Peter Hanson. Dry Goods—Lord Bros. & Co., Cooper Bros., Arnston & Connell, Morford, Willsey & Co., Armstrong & Cottrell, Siebold & Hortsman, Soule Bros., L. Andrews, G. F. Albertus, Jo. Wilson. Dentists—G. J. Cole, Miss Kellogg. Drugs—Harsha & Donaldson, L. Boxby, Bennett & Hubbard. Eating Houses—Railroad Eating House, C. F. McNamara, Mitchell Bros., Hiram Cartwright, Mrs. Cochrane, W. C. Bosworth, George Chapman, M. Lont. Earthenware Factory—C. C. Cornell. Express Offices—Merchant’s Union and American. Furniture—J. F. Hanna, H. & J. Hickox, Chas. Schoen. Flour and Feed Stores—Farmer Brothers, Kelly & Tyler, Marble & Co., J. P. Requa, T. J. Clark, Arnston & Connelly, Newton & Gross. Foundry and Machine Shops—Lowth, Howe & Co. Groceries—Kelly & Tyler, S. S. Russell, Soule Brothers, G. F. Albertus, Joos & Boll, L. Andrews Siebold & Hortsman, Morford, Willsey & Co., Armstrong & Cottrell, Arnston & Connelly, Cooper Bros., T. J. Clark, William Cleator, J. Chambers, H. Cartwright. Hardware—Cottrell & Hunkns, J. E. Buxton, Thomas & White, E. Y Hunnewill. Harness Shops—O. M. Hammond, O A. Albee, A. Burch. Hotels—Winship House, Barker’s Exchange, National Hotel, American House, Arnold House, Scandinavian Hotel, Steele Center House, Tilden Houise, Owatonna House. Hoopskirt Factory—W. Holt. Jewelry—Ezra Abbott, J. F. Young, J. Hough. Lumber Dealers—Crooker Bros. & Lambareaux, S. B. Washburn, Backus Bros., Sterling & Searles, Dean & Co. Livery Stables—Twiss & Christie, C. W. Hastings. Milliinery—Mrs. L. H. Kelly, Mrs. Magoon, Mrs. White, Mrs. W. Holt, Mrs. M. J. Myrick. Meat Markets—J. A. Opplinger & Co., Kowietz & Riedon, Truax & Savage. Physicians and Surgeons—E. M. Morehouse, L. H. Kelly, Dr. Blood, L. L. Bennett, D. Bodle, D. S. Harsha, J. G. Gilchrist and W. A. Ware. Photographers—G. W. Chesley, Mrs. J. P. Briggs, A. F. Simons. Painters—Hall, Beors & Co. Planing Mill—Lamonte Gilbert. Real Estate Dealers—W. H. Kelley, B. F. Melvin, John H. Abbott, Ezra Abbott, Searles & Hickman, Kinyon & Wheelock. Tailors—John Cottier, J. G. A. Denerline, Christopher Fahriess, D. B. Marble & Co. Telegraph Offices—A. H. Lee, Opearator at C., M. & St. P. depot; G. H. Merrill, at W. St. P. depot. Wagon Shops—P. Schuster, Sherman & Brown, ----- Brown, ---- King.

BUSINESS HOUSES OF 1887

The general business of Owatonna, in the various lines of trade, was represented by the following-named gentleman and firms: General Merchandise—G. F. Albertus, J. Opplinger & Co. A. Kasper, Soukup Bros., Nelson & Jefts, J. C. Jahreiss, Petrich & Speckeen, M. Leary, T. H. Kelly & Co. and W. Holt. Exclusive Dry Goods—H. R. Moore, Jr., & Co. and J. L. Saxton. Groceries—Twiford & Sperry, E. Downie & Co., A. Muderking, Wm. Davidson, E. W. Piper, E. W. Clarke, Stowers & Jefferson, E. F. Requa. Clothing—John Shea, H. Katz & Co. and J. Schulein. Hardware—E. Y. Hunnewill, Thon Bros., Crandall & Nelson, Parrott & Smith, A. Knobloch and N. C. Larson. Drugs—F. M. Bauter, Wm. Gauswitz & Co., C. Peterson and Luers & Luers. Boots and Shoes—William Mork, Nichols & Hall, Weber & Son and J. A. Butsch. Jewelry—Henry Birkett, Julius F. Young and C. F. Warner. Lumber—Laird, Norton & Co. (George Clark, manager), J. Z. Barncard & Co. and Wisconsin Lumber Co. (McIndoe Alexander, manager). Saloons—Emil Theimer, J. Gleaser, Chas. Kenmoth, Joseph Hoffman, T. Fedder, Bion & Hoffman, W. Watowa, Joseph Kubat, M. Ryan, Mrs. Bartsch, Anton Belina and Thompson & Wightman. Flour & Feed—J. W. Gillett. Nearly all of the grocery stores also handle flour and feed. Marble Works—Webb & Henningway, Byrne & Jones, McLaughlin & Larson, R. H. Chapin, M. S.Quiggle, Crandall & Nelson, Virtue & Co., and Hotchkiss & Co. Pump Factory—Orrin Greeley. Diamond Feedmill Manufacturers—McLaufhlin, Sheldon & Co. Blacksmith Shops—Brown & McRostie, Homer Wardell, C. Zannetti, Ben. Meixner, R. Deininger, H. Cartwright, C. Hanson, M. S. Quiggle and C. F. Smith. Wagon Shops—C. Schoen, Ben Meizner, John Deeg, R. Deininger and H. Cartright. Livery—Fred Rosskopf and R. H. Chapin. Confectionary—Chas. Chenoweth, W. Dennis. Bakeries—C. Chenoweth and Mr. Brooks. Harness Shops—H. F. Luce & Son, O.; Butsch, Meyer Brothers, C. Bowers and O. M. Hammond. Shoemakers—J. Lee, O. Searle, J. R. McLeod and J. Bartosch. Merchant Tailors—John Cottier, N. W. Hanson and D. Banks. Barbers—Jerry Pope, Parker Brothers, Boggs & Essex, N. G. Frisco and Andrew Sanderline. Books and Stationery—A. M. Kinyon. Several drug stores also handle a light stock of this line of goods. Grain –Pratt & Co., Soper & Son, J. S. Austin. Photographers—G. W. Chesley and H. Muller. Dentists—Doctors Medd, Searle and Stearns. Real Estate—B. S. Cook. Meat Markets—Owatonna Packing Company, Charles Meschke, Gus Schwanke, Boice & Forsyth and John Stranski & Co.

FIRST EVENTS.

The first white child born in what is now Owatonna was George K., a son of Mr. and Mrs. G. W. Green, which occurred on April 6, 1855. Dr. W. W. Finch attended and went from Judge Greene’s house to that of A. W. Adams in Clinton Falls township, where frank, a son of A. W. Adams, was born. The first death at Owatonna occurred in August or September, 1855, and was a child of Miner Prisby. The remains were buried in the woods north of town. The first marriage of residents took place at Fairbault in the summer of 1855, the contracting parties being John Wilcox and Clara Brooks, the ceremony being performed by Elder Town. The event was heartily celebrated by the pioneers, especially the young people. The first building erected upon the original town plat was the Winship house, built in July, 1855. The first building put up within what now constitutes the incorporate limits was A. B. Cornell’s log cabin. The first store was opened by S. B. Smith and J. W. Park in the spring of 1855. The first blacksmith shop was started by John Sweat. The first frame building was W. F. Pettit’s residence. The first brick building was erected by William Wadsworth in 1863. It was built for a store, but is now used as an engine house.


MODERN OWATONNA.

History of Rice and Steele Counties Minnesota, Compiled by Franklyn Curtiss-Wedge, Chicago H. C. Cooper, Jr., & Co. 1910. Transcribed by Sue P Carpenter.

“Beautiful Owatonna”. – The City of Beautiful Homes. – Ideal Situation. – Public Facilities. – Educational Institutions – Parks and Trees. - Sidewalks. – Business Advantages. – Public Buildings. – Contributed by Hon. F. A. Dunham.

Beautiful Owatonna! Build on verdant hills,
      Stretching o’er the landscape, the vale and valley frills.
The river, parks and woodlands enhance her beauty rare,
      With Civic Pride we call her the fairest of the fair.

Beautiful Owatonna! With the quaint old Indian name,
      Fairest of Minnesota’s cities with ever widening fame.
Beautiful Owatonna, with her schools and charming homes;
      Once seen, she’s ne’er forgotten, however far one roams.

Beautiful Owatonna! Here rear the stately walls
      Where gather youth and maidens to learn in classic halls.
From village, city, prairie, they come to seek and find
      Equipment for life’s service. Go forth to bless mankind.

Beautiful Owatonna! Home for the homeless child;
      Brought from the teeming cities, brought from the prairie wild.
Here Minnesota gathers her wards from far and near
      In Beautiful Owatonna, the orphaned ones to rear.

Beautiful Owatonna! Her sons are widely known
      In halls of state and nation, their worth and wisdom shoen.
Forth at their country’ bidding in times of direst need
      They passed through death and carnage, that the suffering might be freed.

Beautiful Owatonna! Hence, sons and daughters go,
      On missions of peace and mercy their Master’s love to show.
Forth to haste the coming of the millennium to be
      To distant western Mesa, to lands beyond the sea.

Beautiful Owatonna! In mill and shop are made
      Her products eager sought for, in all the marts of trade.
The name of Owatonna is known the world around,
      It speaks for lightened labor where toiling ones are found.

Beautiful Owatonna! Her name unsullied be.
      Synonym for virtue, for culture broad and free.
Beautiful Owatonna! Her citizens’ joy and pride;
      Their lives extend her glory, her fame spread far and wide.

Owatonna has long been known as “The city of beautiful homes,” and although the name is very true and appropriate it fails to convey a proper and complete idea of the beauty, excellence, prosperity and life of the city. “The city of happy homes and prosperity” would be much more appropriate. The site for the city was selected by men of excellent judgment and foresight as is apparent to the most casual observer. The business part of the city and all connections with railroad depots is on level ground, with a gravel sub-soil, surrounded on all sides by low-lying hills, just rolling enough to give the residence district a beautiful appearance and good drainage, without any bluffs or steep grades to inconvenience vehicles or pedestrians. The name of the city is of Indian (Sioux) origin and signifies “straight.” The proper pronunciation being “Woonna.”

The electric lighting plant, gas plant and central heating plant are owned by a private corporation, which furnishes electric light and gas to the greater part of the city and the hot ___ central heating plant furnishes heat to most of the business uses and a great many dwellings, without the inconvenience and filth attendant on private heating plants.

As the population of the city is mixed it naturally follows __t there are a great number of religious organizations in the ___ and a great number of fine church edifices and dwellings. I will mention the different denominations without regard to __ number of members or the excellence of church edifices or or__ellings. First Baptist; Catholic (three parishes) Bohemian, ___ish, Irish and German; First Congregational; St. Paul’s Episcopal; Lutheran (three parishes), St. John’s German Lutheran, __ John’s Evangelical and Danish Lutheran; First Methodist –Episcopal; German Methodist-Episcopal; Seventh Day Adventist; First Presbyterian and First Universalist.

The educational system of the city is unexcelled and as each institution will be treated in detail elsewhere in his history a ____ mention will suffice for the present. Pillsbury Academy is a ___-___ nominational school of Baptist persuasion, for both sexes ___ has a main school building and auditorium, two dormitories, gymnasium and armory, and a music hall. It is a high class preparatory school and is widely and favorably known throughout the Northwest. The Owatonna public school system is one of the very best in the state and is well equipped with all modern appliances and departments. Besides the high school building there are three ward school buildings and all are find modern brick and stone structures. The Academy of the Sacred Heart is a Catholic school for girls and is the usual high grade school of that class and in connection therewith is a parochial school for children. Canfield Business College, as the name indicates, is a school of business and is one of the best in the state. The State School for Indigent Children, with its fine buildings and beautiful grounds, is justly one of the show places of the city. It has a capacity of two hundred and fifty inmates and poor children are sent here from all parts of the state to enjoy the care and protection provided for them by the state of Minnesota.

Owatonna is the principal city and county seat of Steele county, one of the very best dairy and diversified farming districts in the United States, and as a result of the prosperous conditions existing very generally throughout this region, the city is prosperous. Not with the transient prosperity of a boom, but with steady, normal and healthy business conditions, that will prevail as long as Mother Earth continues to produce, and that is one of the reasons, among a number, that causes this city to be an absolutely safe place to make an investment.

Great quantities of sand and gravel are available for street use, and, as a result of the continued and systematic use of such material, the fifty miles of streets within the corporate limits are uniformly in good repair. On all of the residential streets are to be found great numbers of beautiful trees, of every known variety, thus making of the city, especially in the summer time, a veritable forest and giving the whole residence district the appearance of a beautiful park. In this park-like region are a great number of elegant modern homes, few of which are imposing or ornate, few are old or dilapidated, thus producing a uniformity and symmetry in the dwellings that is very pleasing, and would lead a person to believe that all of the buildings had been designed by some competent architect. The general condition and appearance of the homes denotes very accurately the financial condition of the citizens generally, there being few very rich and few very poor people in this city.

For several years the city has required the use of stone, brick or cement in the construction of sidewalks, and as a result, the thirty miles of sidewalk in this city if fully 95 percent of such material and in connection therewith there are miles and miles of well-kept boulevards with neat stone or cement curbing and cement or cobble stone gutters.

Owatonna is peculiarly well situated from a business standpoint, being located in a prosperous region and having excellent railroad facilities. It is located at the junction of three great railway systems, viz.: Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific; Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul and the Chicago & Northwestern lines, sixty-seven miles south of St. Paul, and with forty trains daily has direct, ready and convenient connection with all points north, east, south or west. On account of the location, railroad facilities and good homes, a great many traveling salesmen make this city their home. Straight river runs through the city and is a beautiful little stream. It is not large enough to be of any material advantage for power purposes bur furnishes ample drainage facilities.

In the population of 6,500 to 7,000 people may be found a wonderful mixture of races with no one nationality predominating, thus causing the natural rivalry of races that makes for the success of any community.

The business part of the city resembles somewhat the for __ shape of a hand ax. Broadway and Bridge streets, each of one solid block, being the blade, and Cedar street, of four blocks, being the handle, with Central Park as the eye of the ax, ___s it is the eye of beauty of the city. In the retail business section are one hundred and four retail business houses, of which ___nety-eight are of stone, brick or cement, and of which four____ are double storage buildings. In addition there are twenty-two retail business places which are usually found in frame buildings in any small city, being the lumber yards, blacksmith shops, coal and wood yards, etc.

Practically all of the retail business buildings are modern and in good repair and many are deserving of special mention. The National Farmers’ Bank building is one of the very best __ the Northwest. The Kelly building; the Parrott & Smith building; the Owatonna Hotel; the Auditorium building and the __ndall building are all fine three-story brick and stone buildings or more than ordinary excellence.

The city is provided with all modern conveniences usual to a city with a much greater population. The water system is the property of the city and has proven to be a paying investment. __ profit therefrom being about two thousand five hundred dollars annually, besides furnishing all the water for city use without ___ge or tax, thus making a total saving of about eight thousand ___ars annually to the city. With fifteen miles of water mains ___ twelve miles of sewer mains the greater portion of the city __ supplied with water and sewer service.

Owatonna is justly proud of its parks, and Central Park, located in the center of the city, adjacent to the business district, is the subject of favorable comment from all who see it and is indeed a “thing of beauty.” Mineral Springs Park, located within a mile of the city, was beautiful in nature, but owing to the care and attention it has received it is now a beauty spot far surpassing most public parks.

The public buildings of the city are an expression of the general desire of our citizens to have the best things obtainable for home or public use. The Steele county court house is a fine three-story brick and stone building surrounded by a beautiful lawn and many fine shade trees. The Steele county jail and sheriff’s residence is a modern brick structure containing all modern conveniences. The city hall, fire station and firemen’s hall is an elegant three-story brick and stone building equipped with modern fire fighting apparatus, convenient city offices and the third floor, devoted to the use of the Firemen’s Relief Association, finished and furnished by such association, is the most beautiful and well appointed hall in the state. The Owatonna public library, an elegant brick building, surrounded by a wide lawn, is a handsome structure; the city hospital has an ideal situation and surroundings, while the churches are all notable examples of ecclesiastical architecture, the Universalist church being especially notable for it is pleasing design.




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