A View from the Lake

This article submitted by Linda Lorentzen on 7/21/98.

Over the years I have become less and less organized in meal preparation when at the cabin. On our recent vacation I found myself going to town to the grocery store on an average of once per day. Even the many convenience stores in Paynesville have been a source of some serious before dinner shopping. I take a lot for granted. I have easy access to a variety of fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy products, in addition to all the Ziploc bags, tin foil, aspirin, and toilet paper that may be needed. In the early days of Paynesville, this easy access to goods was not the case.

In 1860 the first crop of grain that amounted to anything was grown and the first threshing machine operated in town was run by William Maybee and William Lee. The settlers hauled their grain to St. Cloud which was anywhere from a 33 to 44-mile trip. All of their groceries and dry goods were purchased there.

Merchants exchanged their goods for butter and eggs. Then they sent the butter and eggs to St. Paul. Due to the number of new settlers on the Red River, wheat and oats were in high demand in Cold Spring. The demand lasted until the settlers were able to raise their own crops. The Press explained, "During the Indian War in 1862 to 1864, there was a good market at home for oats, at fair prices, to feed the government horses, stationed at different frontier towns. Then in 1864 there was a rush of emigrants to the Red River and the counties west of Stearns. Their needs furnished a good market for all kinds of produce."

Sauk Centre became a good market for Paynesville citizens to sell their crops. Then when the railroad was built to the south they conveniently brought their harvest there.

The railroad brought tremendous change to Paynesville. In the early days oxen were used to haul produce to St. Cloud, taking three to four days. "In the summer they camped out while on these journeys, sleeping under their wagon. These trips were quite notable events. When anyone intended to make the journey it would be known several days beforehand, and many of their neighbors would send by them for things they needed. One would want to send eggs to be exchanged for groceries, others wanted dry goods and all sorts of things, so the departure or return of a settler from one of these trips was quite an important matter," described The Press.

I am overwhelmed at the responsibility assumed by these early settlers, not just for their own families, but also for many neighbors. Shivers run up and down my spine when I think of the number of trips to town I make to complete my own list. If sent in earlier days to St. Cloud, I probably wouldn't have been chosen to return. I would have certainly forgotten something.

The Press reported, "It is claimed that the people in those days were more neighborly, hospitable and generous. There was no stealing and but very little quarreling. The people were happy and cheerful and looked hopefully forward for a brighter future." As I look around at all the people shopping in town I think that some things are timeless truths such as: searching for produce, happiness, and a view from the lake.

Information for this column was taken from The New Paynesville Press, March 19, 1896.

Return to Archives