Local Items: More Than Trivial

Article written in winter 2009 for MCHS newsletter, Vol. 22, No. 4, 2009.
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Mr. Mann is the new station agent at Royalton.

Mrs. Pasco’s health continues to be poor.

The deer must suffer now; we start after them today.

Several Mille Lacs Indians have been in town this week.

Yesterday morning the thermometer got down to 17 degrees below zero.

A.P. McRae’s new feed mill at Swanville has started up, and is getting plenty of work.

Nic Lahr is in town selling cigars for the well konwn [sic] Minneapals [sic] house of Neethe, Miller & Murdock.

J.D. Lachance has moved his saloon into the Vasaly building west of the Merchants hotel on Oak street.

Little Falls Transcript, December 8, 1886

Before you get into much of a crowd in Gross opera house, it will be well to take a critical view of the sag in the roof, from outside, and see how you like the prospect. Then if you have a proper regard for your family’s future, get your life well insured, and go in.

Morrison County Democrat, January 8, 1903

Dick Clark has joined Co. K, and will act as drummer.

Everybody says that Boyce is running the best hotel in Royalton.

Little Falls Transcript, February 15, 1884

Richard Lee attended the lyceum last Friday, also the leap year dance, and called on friends afterwards.

A butterfly who thinks it is useless to find winter quarters has taken possession of Mrs. Whitaker’s centre table and subsists on the bread and sugar put there for his benefit.

Little Falls Transcript, December 12, 1884

The old outlines of the old court house are fast disappearing as the work of remodeling it progresses. It is uncertain when they will have it ready for use, but it will be all right before it goes into the hands of tenants.

The work of harvesting the timber from the numberous [sic] small islands above the dam is now nearly completed by the Pine Tree Lumber company, and in the summer the people of Little Falls will nave [sic] a beautiful little pond for sailing and rowing, extending about four miles up river.

Morrison County Democrat, December 5, 1891

A suit has been commenced against E. G. Hill, of Little Elk, for trespassing upon government timber land. The alleged amount of logs taken by him is 54,450 feet, valued at $267.52.

Little Falls Transcript, March 21, 1878

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As you read the Local Items reprinted from past local newspapers on page one of this newsletter, you may be asking yourself, “Who cares that Dick Clark joined Company K as a drummer?” Or, “What difference does it make that Richard Lee went to a lyceum and a dance, and visited with friends?” Or, “Do we really need to know that poor Mrs. Pasco isn’t feeling well?”

The Local Items column appears on the surface to deal with such trivial news, but that’s not how staff at the Morrison County Historical Society feel. One small statement can contain a wealth of information, along with leading to numerous questions.

Take the item about Mrs. Pasco, for example. “Mrs. Pasco’s health continues to be poor.” From this statement, we know that this woman is married. While we don’t know the nature of her ailment, it’s obvious that she’s been sick for some time. Because this item appears in the Little Falls Transcript, we can be pretty sure that Mrs. Pasco is a local resident, from somewhere in Morrison County, most likely. We also have a date, December 8, 1886, from the newspaper, which we can use to place when Mrs. Pasco was ill. These details can be used to conduct further research.

Tedious though it may be, a continued search through each Local Item column in the newspapers following the December 8 edition may turn up further word on Mrs. Pasco’s condition. It is this follow-up of Local Items that can provide a full story when all of the items on a particular subject are strung together. For an illustration of how much can be gleaned from the Local Items column on a single topic, here are a number of posts related to the ravine in Little Falls:

The village authorities are derelict in duty in not having the ravine bridge repaired. It is in a terribly shaky condition, and unless soon repaired, some accident may happen. – Little Falls Sun, November 16, 1882

It was a good scheme to utilize the dirt taken from the fire cisterns to fill Chestnut street across the ravine. This is a much needed improvement, and dirt enough can be had from that source to complete a good job. It will be a great convenience to many of our citizens. – Little Falls Sun, January 18, 1883

The firm of Clyde & Sprandle, we are informed, is about to dissolve. Mr. Sprandle will continue the business at the old stand, while Mr. Clyde will probably open another place in his building at the ravine bridge. – Little Falls Sun, February 15, 1883

O.L. Clyde is on deck again in his building on Oak street, at the bridge. It is the Headquarters Saloon this time, and it will be a nice one too. O.L. understands his business, and The Sun predicts for him a booming business in his new and commodious quarters. See his big advertisement in this issue. – Little Falls Sun, February 22, 1883

Would it not be a good idea to fill up the ravine across Oak street with mill slabs, and cover it over with dirt, and thus avoid the noise of the bridge on that thoroughfare? The old bridge is about worn out and must soon be replaced with something, and the whole width of the street could be filled with slabs at a less cost than a bridge could be constructed, and it would last four times as long, besides the advantage of appearance. Arrangements could probably be made so that the slabs would not cost anything but the hauling and piling, which would not be half the cost of a new bridge. It is estimated by competent Judges that slabs covered with dirt will last twenty years. Dirt enough to cover them probably can be had by grading down the rise in the street in front of the rink. The subject is worthy of careful investigation, and may result in solving the vexed bridge question. – Little Falls Sun, June 19, 1884

The village has replanked the Oak street bridge this week. This is the second time it has had to be planked in less than two years. As the frame work will not last longer than this set of planks, perhaps the city will fill up the gulch with slabs, and have something permanent. – Little Falls Sun, February 5, 1885

The fact that there was a major ravine, one that had to be bridged in more than one location, is difficult for most Little Falls residents to imagine today, but the proof appears in the Local Items columns.
Most newspapers gave up on the Local Items columns long ago. Now that newspaper companies are either folding or adapting to an online format and citizen journalists are joining in with news reports of their own, this relic of the old newspapers has been revived in a fresh format. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? It’s called Twitter.

By Mary Warner
Copyright 2009, Morrison County Historical Society

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