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Paynesville Press - August 1, 2001

View from the Lake

Railroad was used to attract tourists to Lake Koronis

By Linda Lorentzen

1886 Minn. railroad map One of the benefits of having access to the Internet is taking classes through "Barnes and Noble University." The free classes provide written lectures by knowledgeable people and then recommend books to augment learning. Of course, the recommended books are available through their online bookstore. One of the classes, "All Aboard: The Railroad in American History," outlined how the railroad was instrumental in forming the nation's economy. In fact, the railroad in the 1800s became the nation's first big business. Every part of the nation was affected by the railroad, some parts more than others, and Paynesville was no exception.

The official railroad map of Minnesota, put out under the direction of the Board of Railroad Commissioners by Rand, McNally and Co., Chicago, in 1886, had some inaccuracies in labeling such as Lake Koronis is listed as Cedar Lake and Rice Lake as Eden Lake.

Two railroads were in a race to reach Paynesville: the Soo Line and the Great Northern. In the book, Paynesville Year 125, published by the Paynesville Historical Society, the battle of the railroads is outlined. The grain and cattle industry that had developed in the Paynesville area attracted the railroad industry. Railroads would provide outlets for these farming businesses to reach the rest of Minnesota and other parts of the country. While the people in Paynesville would have desired both railroads to run through the town, the railroads refused, both companies desiring to reach the town before the other. The first railroad to reach Paynesville would have the right-of-way and the railroad companies worked day and night to ensure their victory. "As they neared the Paynesville area they hired every available farmer and horse or oxen in the country. Nor did they cease work at nightfall. Young boys were hired to hold lanterns for the workers and huge bonfires were kindled to provide light as ties were laid and spikes driven. The Soo Line finally won the battle as they pushed their strands of tracks through the Paynesville area several hours before the Great Northern." The railroad arrived in Paynesville/ New Paynesville in 1886.

Railroad maps of the late 1800s had some inaccuracies. The following was noted in the New Paynesville Press, July 23, 1891, issue: "We have received a railroad map of Minnesota from the railroad commissioners of the State. It may be all right as far as the railroads are concerned, but it is away off as regards post-offices. In this vicinity Eden Valley, Hawick, and South Haven do not appear at all; while Fair Haven, Logering, and Roseville are made railroad towns, and Zions and New London are put out in the country. Among the lakes it is just as bad. Our Koronis is labeled Cedar and Rice is labeled Eden Lake. If other parts of the State are as badly jumbled up, it won't have much value as a map of reference."

In the May 30, 1995, "View From the Lake" column, the attempt of a Soo Line agent and New Paynesville businessmen to lure people to Lake Koronis was outlined. A train to New Paynesville transported a party of Soo Line officials and newspapermen from the Twin Cities for a day of activities at Lake Koronis in May 1899.

Another excursion to promote Lake Koronis in June 1899 was undertaken by W. S. Thorn, an assistant general passenger agent of the Soo Line. With assistance from W. R. Callaway, general passenger agent of the Soo Line, 27 prominent railroad men of the Twin Cities and Chicago took the train to New Paynesville to be treated to several hours on Lake Koronis. The agents represented Chicago, Milwaukee, Topeka, Santa Fe, St. Paul, and Minneapolis.

The St. Paul Dispatch reported, "It was the second party given by the general passenger agent this year to New Paynesville and was arranged expressly for the city passenger agents of Chicago. îNarbonne,' one of the drawing room sleepers of the new îImperial Limited' was placed at their disposal and attached to the fast over-land train which left Minneapolis at 6:35 Saturday evening. The sleeper gave the party an introduction to the trans-continental train of the Canadian Pacific."

Once the train arrived at New Paynesville carriages transported the men to the lake to board the steamboat or other small boats for a fishing excursion. The town's businessmen supplied all fishing tackle. Pike, bass, and pickerel were the catches of the day. The men were returned to the train in time to catch the night trains heading to Chicago with the hope that they would spread the word about the Soo Line connection to Lake Koronis.v While railroad officials originally were interested in transport of grain and cattle from New Paynesville, they soon realized the potential of transporting people to beautiful Lake Koronis. These first attempts by the railroad to bring businessmen to Koronis and be entertained by the businessmen of New Paynesville were successful. By targeting the audiences of railroad agents from around the upper Midwest region, more tourists were informed of New Paynesville's view from the lake.

Information for this column was taken from Paynesville Year 125, New Paynesville Press issues July 23, 1891; June 29, 1899. Thanks to Dolores Hislop from the Paynesville Area Historical Museum for additional information.

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