I decided to try making research notes on last week’s Morrison County Influentials before attempting to write this week’s blog post. As I conduct research on the Influentials I’m familiar with, inevitably, I run across other potential Influentials. I have a feeling we’re going to get to 150 and still have a list of people left who deserve to be on the list. If you have an argument with any of our Influentials, please do leave a comment – or add someone you think should make the list.
Last week’s Influentials:
51. Dr. G. M. A. Fortier II (1903-1988) – Physician and surgeon. Named for his father, Dr. George Marie Alma Fortier I. Started practicing medicine in 1929, practiced medicine for 45 years, 41 of which were spent in Little Falls, MN. He had the Little Falls Clinic built in 1945 and practiced medicine there until he retired in 1974. Was a past director of the Chamber of Commerce and also helped to organize Winter Wonderland.
52. Charles Edward Vasaly (1869-1935) – State Prison Superintendent. Born at Old Fort Ripley in Morrison County, Charles was the son of Louis and Frances Vasaly. He learned the printing trade as a young man, working at a publishing house in Chicago from 1891 to 1894, when he returned to Little Falls to work as a reporter for the Little Falls Transcript. He and his brothers, Stephen and Peter, purchased the Little Falls Herald in 1895 and Charles became the paper’s editor. He served for 7 terms as Mayor of Little Falls. Was president of the Commercial Club. In 1909, the governor of Minnesota appointed him to the Board of Control and became the first person to be reappointed to the office. He became chairman of the Board of Parole and then was apponted to the position of superintendent of the St. Cloud Reformatory in 1920. He served in this position until 1933, working to refore inhumane prison practices.
53. Henry Adelbert (H. A.) Rider (1851-1931) – Born in Massachusetts; came west in 1878 and had a long career in the railroad. He worked for several railroad companies, including the Northern Pacific and the Soo Line, the latter of which originally brought him to Little Falls in 1886. Although he hadn’t been educated as an engineer, he had a mind for it and learned while on the job, engineering bridges, terminals and round houses, and surveying railroad lines. In 1894 he was elected Sheriff of Morrison County and served in this capacity until 1901. He was elected to three terms in the State House of Representatives (1893, 1903, 1905). Morrison County was part of his district. In 1905 Rider was appointed U. S. Deputy Marshall and served until 1910. At that time, he resigned to take the position of Executive Agent of the State Game and Fish Commission, to which he was appointed by the state governor. In 1929, Rider wrote a brief history of Little Falls, MN, that appeared in the Little Falls Daily Transcript (March 16, 1929).
54. Colonel Andrew D. Davidson (1853-1916) – Born in Canada, came to Minnesota in 1877 and Little Falls in c. 1893. He lived in Little Falls for approximately 10 years and served one term as mayor of the city. With his brothers, Alexander Rae Davidson and William Davidson, he founded the First National Bank in Little Falls in 1889. Prior to this, he and his brothers had opened the Bank of Little Falls in 1887 in the Trebby building. Andrew Davidson served as president of the First National Bank. He was a partner in the Davidson & McRae real estate firm and a general agent for the land department of the Canadian Northern Railroad. He gained the title “Colonel” from a Minnesota governor “for services rendered to his community and the state of Minnesota.” (pg. 18, Merchant Prince: The Story of Alexander Duncan McRae by Betty O’Keefe & Ian Macdonald, 2001) Andrew’s story is much bigger than this and entwined with that of his brother . . . .
55. Alexander Rae Davidson (1855-1922) – Born in Canada. Alexander and Andrew were the sons of William and Christina (McRae) Davidson. Alexander first worked with the railroad (as did Andrew) as a station agent. He established the Bank of Little Falls in 1887 with his brothers, and then First National Bank in 1889. He was cashier of First National Bank until around 1907, then became president of the bank. Alexander was also president of many other banks around Minnesota. Locally, he helped organize Farmers and Merchants State Bank of Pierz, Randall State Bank, and Farmers and Merchants State Bank of Royalton and served as president of the first two. He and his brother Andrew, along with their cousin Alexander Duncan McRae, purchased the Little Falls Granite Company.
With the Davidson family’s background in the railroad, banking and land deals, and ties to Canada, by 1903, they were involved in negotiations to purchase a huge amount of land in Canada for colonization purposes. In May of that year, it was announced that the Davidsons (with their cousin Alexander D. McRae) had been given the entire land grant of the Canadian Northern Railroad, which consisted of 23,000,000 acres in central and northern Canada. At that point, it had been the largest private land deal ever made in North America. (LFDT, May 11, 1903) The Davidsons and McRae then proceeded to develop that land and get settlers to take up residence there.
Because Alexander Duncan McRae was part of that enormous deal and thoroughly mixed up in the Davidsons’ affairs in Morrison County, he is going to be #56 on our list, which continues thusly . . . .
56. Alexander Duncan McRae
57. Dr. G. M. A. Fortier III
58. Charles A. Fortier
59. Moses LaFond
60. Colonel Raymond A. Rossberg