Travel. We take it for granted. Commuting to work for a half-hour or more a day is a common occurrence. A two-hour drive for a shopping trip is considered effortless. Hop in the car and go, go, go! Most of us have no need to worry about mass transit schedules, but when we do need to chug or jet off to a long distance locale, planning the ride is relatively simple.
What did people do when travel wasn’t so easy? If you are thinking, as I did, that people just stayed home, you may be surprised to discover that they managed to cross distances with great frequency. By looking at the “Local Items” and “Personals” sections of the Little Falls Daily Transcript, a sense of just how often people came and went can be gained. Following are some examples of the journeys of folks in January of 1898.
“G.W. Massy went to St. Paul on business today.”
“Chas. Kiewel went to Royalton today on business.”
“E. W. Thompson, of Staples, was a city visitor today.”
“Miss Ella Pedley returned this morning from a visit with her sister at Ft. Ripley.”
“John Gorman, of Maple Lake, Wright county, arrived in the city today on a visit to his brother James.”
“F. Beard, of Butte, Mont., was a Little Falls visitor today.”
“Barney Burton returned from Minneapolis Wednesday evening. Barney has purchased a trotting horse, which he thinks can throw dust in the eyes of all the fleet ones of this section.”
“Mrs. John Gagnier and her daughter, Mrs. Mary Greir, who have been visiting relatives in this city and vicinity, left Tuesday night for their home at Lincoln, Mich. Miss Adelle Rocheleau, niece of Mrs. Gagnier, accompanied them home. Miss Rocheleau’s health has been poorly of late and she went to Michigan in the hopes that a change of climate would prove beneficial.”
“Rev. F. A. Sumner went to Glenwood this morning and will not return until next week.”
“Mrs. Frank Malich was a Minneapolis visitor this week.”
All of these travel items, and more, appear within three consecutive days worth of the Transcript, from January 5 through January 7, 1898. The primary method of long distance transportation at that time was by train. The railroad was in place throughout the state of Minnesota by 1887. As you can see, it was well used. The following article from the January 5, 1898 Daily Transcript illustrates two other methods of travel.
“Fred Stangle was at Green Prairie today and his team ran away, compelling Fred to walk a greater portion of the way back to the city. In the first place one of his horses fell and broke the buggy pole. Fred hired a wagon from one of the farmers and while he was tyeing the buggy behind the wagon, the team ran away with everything but Fred. The pole of the farmer’s wagon was also broken, and Fred found his horses tangled up in the timber near Little Elk. Constable F. B. Stuart happened along the road and brought Fred to the city.”
So much for the buggy ride to town! But Fred followed the horses’ example and started hoofing it. Hitchhiking appeared to be common then, too. It’s apparent that we humans are a nomadic lot at heart, and no matter the distance, if there is someplace we’d like to be, we’ll do just about anything to get there.
by Mary Warner
Copyright 1998, Morrison County Historical Society