Nathan Richardson, Zimmerman Photo, St. Paul, undated. From Morrison County Historical Society collections.
Nathan Richardson, Zimmerman Photo, St. Paul, undated. From Morrison County Historical Society collections.

You think you know a guy. Especially after spending a few years with him. What he likes, what he doesn’t like, how he can get all passionate about an issue (and, maybe a little loud-mouthed and cantankerous when things don’t go his way.) He introduces you to his family and friends; you get to know his enemies. Curiously, he doesn’t seem to want to avoid the latter.

You get to know his quirks, like how he collects the oddest things. There was that tarantula his son sent him, his mineral and pottery shard collections, and that four-pound potato he kept in his office downtown. One time, his hen even laid an egg that had a perfectly-formed mini-egg inside. But, when he and his friends dug up the bones of three lynched men, well! I just don’t know what he was thinking.

He’s ambitious, this one. No sitting around waiting for someone else to do the work or come up with some good idea. Always running for some political office or another. Register of Deeds, Judge of Probate, Postmaster, County Attorney, Mayor of Little Falls, even Minnesota State Legislator. The list goes on. Thing is, he’s not too proud to take on the grunt jobs, either. Census-taker, Election Clerk. Frankly, I think that census-taker position was just an excuse to get out and meet people. I swear, there isn’t anyone he doesn’t know. A real Chatty-Cathy, for a guy. How his wife puts up with him, I have no idea.

His chattiness spills over into his writing. Letters to the editor, two histories of Morrison County, travelogues from several long journeys, inaugural addresses. He can go on and on, and he does. Never one to pull any punches in his writing, that Nate Richardson sure tells it like it is, and if you’re embarrassed by what he’s written about you, well you just better straighten up, fella. That’s all there is to it.

Even though he can be kinda gruff, the guy’s got a heart of gold. Forever helping out the poor, doing lawyerly stuff for the veterans, and the Ojibwe Indians, especially those of the Mille Lacs Band persuasion. That’s why he’s called Uncle Nate – he’s everybody’s uncle and you can always count on him in a pinch.

He’s got energy to burn, and he’s more than willing to burn it to benefit his adopted community. He came from Michigan, you know. Commerce Township, County of Oakland. Left behind a big, industrious family to come to Morrison County, Minnesota. That was their loss, I tell you. He’s been working hard to get us half a county and a railroad. (Did I tell you he’s ambitious?)

But, here’s the deal. Just when you think you know all there is to know about Nate, he surprises you and you realize you don’t know as much about him as you thought you did. Complexity is his middle name, or rather, it should be. Come to think of it, I don’t know his middle name. Well, there you go. More to learn about the illustrious Nathan Richardson.

By Mary Warner
Copyright 2006, Morrison County Historical Society

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