Morrison County Influentials: 56-60

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

6 Replies to “Morrison County Influentials: 56-60”

  1. I have confirmation that there was a bank many years ago in the Hennepin Paper Building located by the railroad tracks and the main street that runs through Little Falls, Mn. It is the building with the lovely historical murals. Please confirm, if you can, when this was a bank and which one that it was. I have recently purchased a bank vault alarm bell and housing on the north west corner of the building that was originally installed in the 1920’s by the O.B. McClintock Company of Minneapolis. They dealt specifically with banking institutions. Thank you very much, Dave Kanis

  2. Hi, Dave – I’m familiar with the building you’re talking about, but don’t know enough of its history to confirm immediately whether there was a bank there at one time. I’ll take a look at the Sanborn maps we have on file and see if I can get a more definite answer for you.


  3. Hi, Dave – I’ve found the answers to your questions. I checked the 1892, 1895, 1902, 1909, 1915, and 1930 Sanborn insurance maps we have on file. The bank does not show up until the 1930 map. On the corner where the mural is, there were 4 businesses. The West Hotel was in the section nearest the river. There were 2 saloons west of that, and west of those was the bank. It appears from the map that this was one big building that was partitioned into four sections, but I can’t be sure about that.

    After checking the Sanborn maps, I went to the Little Falls city directories for a name. The bank shows up in the 1928 city directory as the People’s Bank. J.A. Barton of Two Harbors, MN, was the President. M.J. Gunderson of Elmdale, MN, was Vice President, and A.A. Barton was Cashier. The address was 107 West Broadway.

    The bank does not show up in either the 1916/1917 or 1938/39 directories. Our directories skip years, so these were the only ones I could check. I then went to the phone books, which we have on file from 1930 to the present. The People’s Bank appears in the 1930, 1931, 1932 and 1933/34 phone books, but disappears by the 1934/35 edition.

    That gives you a range of existence for the bank of somewhere between 1916/17 and 1933/34. Hope this helps.

  4. Hello Mary !! Thank you very much for checking out this information. No one seemed to know about its existence and no wonder, it has been too many years ago for any old timers to remember it however historical records are invaluable for this type of search. Thank you again, Dave

  5. Hello Mary, I just thought of something that I may need your help with again if you would be so kind. I, as you probably know, collect bank vault alarms for a free museum here in Eagle Bend. As I was extracting the old Peoples Bank alarm from the Hennepin building a man that worked in the plant behind the building came over to talk. He asked me if I had ever heard of the Cream Can Bandit gang. He did some history of the old hotel that you did a history on and told me that this gang would stay at the hotel at times. They were responsible for robbing many banks, to mention a few; First state bank of Miltona, Bank of Odin, Iowa and others. The reason they were called the cream can gang was that they would burn a hole in the bank safes and use water that they hauled in cream cans to cool the metal after entering the safe. They were active in the early 30’s. I went up on the web and found an article in the Milwaukie Journal about their heist in Odin, Iowa and a friend of mine who owns the old Miltona bank building has told me about when and how they broke into the vault in that building. This would be a great addition to my little museum if I had some information about them, who they were, if they were caught, where they were from, and a little more information about their activities. If you have any information I would most certainly welcome it. Thank you for your time, You are super !!!! Dave Kanis

  6. Hi, Dave – As it turns out, not only have I heard of the Cream Can Gang, one of my relatives was in it. Nice claim to history, eh?

    There’s a substantial article about the Cream Can Gang in the July 7, 1939 issue of the Little Falls Daily Transcript, complete with pics of gang members, including Edward Mrozik, who looks like my grandpa, but was actually my grandpa’s first cousin. Another relative of mine did research on Edward, checking out the information that was on file about him at Alcatraz. He also spent time in Leavenworth.

    The other men in the gang were John Specht, alias Morrell, alias Walther Morneau; William Rigby, alias John Howard; and Virgil Dollimer, who was described as “a meek tramp.”

    The Transcript article I’m referencing for this info is a report on how the gang was brought to justice, with the exception of Edward Mrozik, who, at the time of the story, had not yet been caught.

    I’ll contact you via email about sending you a copy of the article. If you have time, you might want to stop by the Weyerhaeuser Museum and check out our Mrozik file. It contains a series of emails from the relative who did the prison research on Edward.

    Thanks for your interest! – Mary

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