Where’s Bethlehem?

I tried following a star. I’ve tried a lot of other things too, but I’m having little luck finding Bethlehem. That’s because the Bethlehem I’m seeking isn’t in the Holy Land. It’s supposed to be right here in Little Falls, or so I’ve been told. Word passed on by local historians says that there was a settlement in Northwest Little Falls called Bethlehem. The story goes that Swedish people who were employed by the lumber company settled in a group of houses, perhaps company houses.

A grouping of small houses shows up on an 1892 map, on Second Street and Third Avenue Northwest. Twelve structures (some may be outbuildings) are located on the south and west sides of the block. It would seem a reasonable assumption that this would be Bethlehem. The property records I checked out, however, do not seem to bear this out.

Although the date corresponds with the building of the Pine Tree Lumber Company in 1892, these houses were not owned by Pine Tree. There is an interesting twist to this story. The property was part of the Little Falls Water Power Addition. John A. Berkey was President of Little Falls Water Power Co. The Water Power Co. sold to Home Building Co., whose President was also John A. Berkey. E. O. Williams was Vice President of L. F. Water Power and Secretary of Home Building Co. Home Building Co. entered into a contract with Julius Abrahamson. Can we assume that he was a contractor for some of the houses? Some of those original twelve buildings, with later additions, still remain on that block.

It’s safe to say that the houses had nothing to do with Pine Tree Lumber Company, that officers of the Little Falls Water Power Co. were able to take advantage of a good property deal, and that there is a lot more research to do before we find Bethlehem. Anyone got a star we can follow?

by Jan Warner
Copyright 2000, Morrison County Historical Society

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