View from the Lake

This article submitted by Linda Lorentzen on 6/2/99.

George R. Stephens, founder and editor of the New Paynesville Press, had his first encounter with the area in October 1887. He had been sent to evaluate the prospect of a newspaper for the New Paynesville area. Exiting the Soo Line train depot he walked along the one "wind swept street running south."

"I had been given a ticket... to go out and see the place. The officials thought there was a Œprospect' for a good town," Stephens recounted.

The community was eager for a newspaper and did all they could to make Stephens welcome. "I was introduced to everybody and everybody was unanimous for a paper. They called a meeting in the lumber office for that evening and took me out for an introduction to beautiful Lake Koronis. That sealed my fate. I had never seen a body of water like it, nor have I seen anything to equal it since."

The first winter for Stephens in New Paynesville brought 19 snowstorms and plummeting thermometers. He had two stoves in his office that barely kept the room warm. Because the town did not have sidewalks he would have to step off of the porch flooring in front of his office into knee deep snow.

Winter melted into spring and Lake Koronis became for Stephens a haven from the pressures of the new business. Topics for many columns in his paper revolved around the lake. His love for Lake Koronis, etched skillfully in his careful words, brought many people to the lake and business to the town. He knew that New Paynesville had a jewel close enough to the town to help businesses flourish and he wasn't afraid to publicize.

"Whether fretted by storms, locked up tight in old King Boreas' icy grip, or sparkling in the summer sunshine, and surrounded by flowers and green woods, it is always interesting," read one column about Lake Koronis.

In 1897 the St. Cloud Journal-Press correspondent to the New Paynesville area remarked on the lack of accommodations for visitors to Lake Koronis. The correspondent wanted to build a cottage "and occupy it with his family and friends next summer, provided the park board would give him an acre of land of the lake front." He questioned the efforts of the New Paynesville businessmen in trying to lure people to the lake through his column in the St. Cloud newspaper.

Stephens published a rebuttal to the St. Cloud Journal-Press correspondent in The New Paynesville Press, outlining the generous proposal of the town businessmen. The proposal, in effect since 1895, was that if anyone "wished to build a cottage at Koronis park, a lot will be donated to him, and when his cottage was completed the park board would give him a warrantee deed for the lot." Many people took advantage of the offer and accommodations at the lake began to emerge. No one could question Stephen's loyalty to New Paynesville or Lake Koronis.

Indeed, two years earlier, the same St. Cloud correspondent wrote the following in a column in the Journal-Press on August 22, 1895: "Mr. Stephens and his paper have ever been true friends to the best interests of this village and many improvements can be traced directly to their influence." Stephen's influence continues to be felt today as Lake Koronis' current visitors frequent Paynesville's businesses and return to enjoy a view from the lake.

Information for this column was taken from The New Paynesville Press issues: February 11, 1897 and December 5, 1918.

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