History of Spring Grove (Village), Houston County, Minnesota
From: The History of Houston County, Minnesota
Edited by: Franklyn Curtis-Wedge.
H. C. Cooper, Jr. & Co.
Winona, Minn. 1919


Spring Grove is one of the prettiest and most thriving villages in southern Minnesota. The travelar alighting from the train is confronted with a beautiful triangular park, over which towers the imposing architecture of the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran church, with its quaint evergreen bordered church yard, while from the apex of the park sweeps the main business street, with its two substantial banks on either side, and their attendant business houses. The residence section is perhaps the most beautiful in the county, for there is probably not a village in the state of even twice its size that has so many beautiful homes, artistic in architecture, modern as to comforts, and surrounded with beautiful lawns, evergreen trees predominating as arboreal ornaments.

The population is almost entirely of Scandinavian birth or ancestry, as is that of the rich agricultural region surrounding the vilage, and to the thrift of these people is due the prosperity of village and country. Since the earliest days, the history of the village and countryside has been almost identical with that of the church, the only one in the village.

The village has the one church, two banks, a live newspaper, two elevators, a creamery, a telephone company, electric light service and water works, and a feed mill, a hotel, two moving picture theatres, one of which is also a dramatic opera house, and a widely famed hospital, as well as the usual professional men and business houses.

The farmers co-operative movement is represented by the Farmers' Co-operative Creamery Association, and the Spring Grove Stock and Grain Co. This is also the shipping point for the Yucatan Creamery Association, not far away. The Wilmington Township Mutual Life Insurance Co. also has Spring Grove as its address.

Spring Grove 'village was incorporated late in 1889. Nov. 2, 1889, thirty four citizens, Asle Halverson, Lars Budahl, O. B. Nelson, O. B. Tone, Lars O. Dokken, G. E. Overstrud, E. Ellingson, J. M. Walhus, Andrew B. Foss, Andrew Lee, Otto Brenne, O. C. Hagen, H. M. Gjerdinger, Knud Olsen, S. H. Ellestad, Ole O. Roppe, Jr., Charles Hoegh, F. Bartholomew, H. N. Hendrickson, H. Hanson, N. P. Newhouse, P. Olsen Fallang, Gilbert Askum, Christian Olsen, Andreas Nikkelson, Hans S. Lee, Teman Gilbertson, Iver Seby, Magnus Johnson, Hans J. Ellefsrud, C. Muller, Nels Hendrickson, J. Muller, and E. A. Flaskerud petitioned the county board asking for the incorporation of a village to embrace the south half of section 11, township 101, range 7, and the north half of the north half of section 14, an area of 480 acres, the population of which on Oct. 31, 1889, was represented as 369 persons. It was set forth that of this territory, parts in the southeast quarter of section 11 had been platted by Mons Fladager, July 12, 1877, and Jan. 22, 1884.

O. B. Tone, one of the signers, was at that time chairman of the county board. On motion of H. It. Briggs at the regular session of that body, the petition was granted and the preliminaries placed in charge of Mr. Tone. An election was duly held Dec. 17, 1889, in charge of Lars Budahl, Ole O. Roppe, Jr., and H. N. Hendrickson, at which 75 votes were cast, 53 being in favor of the proposition and 22 opposed.

The first annual election was held Dec. 31, 1889, in charge of Ole C. Steneroden and E. Ellingson as judges and J. M. Walhus as clerk. Thirty four votes were cast and there was but one candidate for each office: President, Charles Hoegh; trustees, N. Olson, O. B. Nelson and Asle Halverson; recorder, S. H. Ellestad; treasurer, H. N. Hendrickson; justices, L. Budahl and F. Bartholomew; constables, J. J. O'Brien and O. G. Myrah.

The first meeting of the new board was held Jan. 14, 1890. Dr. C. K. Onsgard was the first health officer. O. G. Myrah was the first street commissioner. Later in the year a number of sidewalks and cross walks were ordered. Thus the wheels of the village government were set in motion.

The presidents of the village have been: 1889, Charles Hoegh; 1894, A. Halverson; 1897, T. T. Bergh; 1899, Truls Paulson; 1903, Charles Hoegh; 1906, O. B. Nelson; 1907, Truls Paulson; 1908, Asle Halverson; 1909, G. C. Glasrud; 1914, C. J. Sylling; 1916, G. C. Glasrud; 1918, C. J. Sylling.

The recorders have been: 1889, S. H. Ellestad; 1897, H. L. Quanrud; 1898, C. J. Schansberg; 1903, F. E. Poerg; 1907, Helmer Ostle; 1908, E. O. Clauson; 1914, Ove Hoegh; 1917, E. L. Quinnell. March 9, 1910, John Vaaler was elected clerk, but refused to serve, and Mr. Clauson continued. All the early elections were practically unanimous the candidates receiving all, or within one or two of all, of the votes cast. Up to 1895, the greatest number of votes cast at any election was 34. In that year, owing to the water bond question, 63 votes were cast. But then interest waned, and in 1899, only 31 were cast. In 1900 there were 59 votes, the successful candidate for mayor having nine votes cast against him. The first real contest came in 1901 when Truls Paulson received 24 votes for president and Charles Hoegh 23. In 1902, Paulson received 58 votes and Hoegh 24. The next year out of 121 votes cast, Hoegh received 119. In that year, 1903, was the first contest for recorder, F. E. Joerg receiving 87 votes and H. L. Quanrud 34. In 1904, the total vote dropped to 42 and there were no contests. The license question coming up in 1905, there were 137 votes cast, but the only contest for an office was over the position of recorder, F. E. Joerg receiving 88 votes and Ove Hoegh, 50. On the license question, 33 votes were for license and 100 against. Again in 1906, the only contest was over recorder, F. E. Joerg receiving 69 and Helmer Ostle, 48 votes. In 1907 came the first contest for trustees, Ole Hendrickson receiving 21 votes against A. O. Roppe's 58 for a position on the board. The next year, Asle Halverson was elected president with 58 votes against Henry Fladager, who received 33. In 1909, when the voters were divided over the question of selling Lot No. 56, there was a close contest for all the offices except that of justice. The proposition to sell was carried by a vote of 39 to 26. Interest waned the next year, only 35 votes were cast and there were no contests. In 1911 there were contests for president and trustees but none were close.

In 1914 there were contests for mayor and trustees and clerk, but none were close except for clerk, Ove Hoegh defeating E. O. Clausen by a vote of 69 to 61. In 1915 there were no contests except for assessor, O. F. Karlsbratten receiving 33 and Charles Hoegh 25 votes. In 1916 there were no close contests, all except two being unanimous. The closest was for clerk, Hoegh receiving 54 and Clauson 27 votes. Glassrud had 71 votes for president, and Sylling 12. In 1917 the only contest was for mayor, G. C. Glasrud receiving 51 and J. N. Ristey 48 votes. In 1918 there were no close contests. For president, E. J. Foss received 26 votes against 40 for C. J. Sylling. In 1919 the election was unanimous.

Fire protection was established in 1891, when the village purchased land from Ole O. Roppe, erected an engine house and secured equipment consisting of 2 hand fire engines, trucks, platforms, hose and pails. As a preventive of fires, Ole O. Hagen was appointed to the position of chimney inspector. The village now has fire equipment consisting of three hose carts, a small hook and ladder truck, 700 feet of good 2½ inch hose and a bell alarm. There is a volunteer fire department of 25 members.

The first public well in Spring Grove dates back long before village days. Mons Fladager blasted a seventy foot well, and lined it with masonry, that being long before the days of the drilled wells. A windmill was placed over this and troughs extended to the street, thus providing water for public use. The first steps toward establishing the village waterworks were taken on Sept. 19, 1894, when land was purchased from Lars Budahl for $350, for the purpose of establishing a water supply. March 12, 1895, by a vote of 56 to 9, the voters authorized the issuing of $3,000 bonds. It was decided to have a plant operated by a windmill, but as the work progressed it was found necessary to have a deeper well and establish a gasoline engine pumping station, with tower and tank. The complete system with mains and hydrants was completed in the early spring of 1896 at a cost of $3,927. The system has since been extended.

The waterworks are conducted on an elevated tank system, with an 1,800 barrel tank on a 60 foot tower. The water supply comes from two deep wells, the pumping power being furnished by a gasoline engine. The pressure is 30 to 35 pounds. The village has about 3,000 feet of six inch mains, 16 double hydrants, and 4 dead ends.

Jan. 3, 1898, it was voted by the council to light the village streets with kerosene lights. April 17, 1901, it was voted by the council to introduce a gasoline system. In the meantime in 1892, the contract having been let Dec. 9, 1891. March 18, 1893, S. G. Reque was authorized to draw up plans for an electric light plant. A vote was taken on March 10, 1903, by the citizens on the question of issuing bonds of $5,500 for the purpose, and a favorable, decision was reached by a vote of 70 to 50. But on June 16, 1903, the council rejected all bids, and the proposition was abandoned. March 12, 1912, bonds of $7,500 were voted for a city hall, electric light plant and extended water works. The work was completed that year. The city hall is a sightly brick structure of one story, housing the plant and the council chamber, and lock up, and providing shelter for the fire apparatus. The same year a new city well was provided. Aug. 31, 1915, a contract was made with the Root River Power & Light Company for service for a period of fifteen years. At the same time $1,750 was voted to improve the local plant, so that the village now has excellent light service for street, commercial and residential purposes.

The Root River Power & Light Co. with home offices at Preston and power plant at Brightdale Park, supplies the village of Fountain, Preston, Harmony, Canton, Prosper, Mabel, Spring Grove, Caledonia and Houston. The officers are: president, Tollef Sanderson; vice president, A. G. Olson; secretary treasurer, S. A. Langum. A. H. Hanning is the general manager.

One of the beauties of Spring Grove already mentioned is the public park, a triangle of land lying west of the stately church. The eastern part of this park was presented to the village by the church. In 1914 the village erected a bandstand. In the meantime, a number of lots had been sold at the western apex. In 1916, these lots were occupied by several buildings. At the apex was a cellar hole, the store of T. T. Bergh having been torn down. East of this was a long building, extending from street to street, at an angle. It was vacant, the north end having previously been occupied by the Onsgard State Bank and the south end by the Olson & Kieland general store. Next east of this store was the blacksmith shop of H. P. Dahl. In the spring of 1916, Rev. Alfred O. Johnson and Albert Hallan appeared before the council representing the Church Auxiliary Board, the young peoples' society of the church, and presented a proposition by which that body agreed to present the village with $3,400 toward purchasing these lots, removing the buildings, filling up the holes, and converting the entire triangle into a park. The proposition was accepted, the buildings were removed and the ground levelled, the remainder of the expense being met by the village. The shrubbery which adorns the park was put in by the Ladies' Improvement Club. This club, officially named the Community Improvement Society, was organized April 4, 1917, with these officers: president, Mrs. C. M. Langland; vice president, Mrs. Ove Hoegh; treasurer, Mrs. J. N. Ristey; secretary, Mrs. C. J. Helland.

The village has a sightly and commodious school building with graded and high school courses, one of the most efficient schools in the county. The first school in the vicinity was a Norwegian school. In 1857, a frame school house was built, about 18 by 24 feet. Here school was taught sometimes in English and sometimes in Norwegian. This building, across the road, east of the present school was the community center, serving as general meeting place, town hall, and school house. In 1872, a two story building was erected, giving place in recent years to the present structure. The building is well located, in the midst of spacious lawn, with ample accommodations for play grounds, athletic apparatus and the like.

The Spring Grove Hospital fills a need long felt in the community. Seeing the necessity of such an institution, Rev. Alfred O. Johnson, at the solicitation of a number of leading citizens, called a meeting early in 1916, and plans were perfected which resulted in the incorporation, Feb. 15, 1916. A suitable location on the northern outskirts of the village was purchased May 12, 1916, and the building was started at once. The institution was opened Jan. 8, 1917, in charge of Emma Larson. She was succeeded Dec. 14, 1918, by Miss Erlanson. The original officers and trustees are still serving. They are: Alfred O. Johnson, president; Dr. G. M. Helland, vice president; J. N. Ristey, secretary and treasurer; J. J. Jetson, M. S. Nelson, P. L. Bergsgaard, H. A. Burtness, O. A. Kroshus, all of Spring Grove, and H. E. Burtness, of Caledonia. The hospital is pleasantly located on a commanding crest, is equipped with all modern facilities, is well attended, and is doing splendid work of healing and comfort.

The post office was established in 1854, through the exertions of James Smith, who was appointed postmaster, and the office was opened at his house, which was a tavern at that time. It was he who gave the name of Spring Grove. He continued to hold the place until about two years afterwards, when Embrick Knudson was appointed, and he removed the office to his house near the old Hinkley place. In 1861, Mons Fladager was appointed deputy, and kept it in his store for about a year, when Mr. Prentiss succeeded to the position and removed the office to his hotel, the old Hinkley store. After a time Dr. T. Jenson was appointed postmaster. He appointed J. C. Tartt as deputy, who took the office into his store in the east part of the village, near the old McCormick place. The office was kept in this way up to 1865, when Nels Olson Onsgard was commissioned. Then came Truls Paulson and next O. E. Kieland. Mons Flatager was then appointed by the Cleveland administration without solicitation, but he refused to serve, and T. I. Doely, who had circulated a petition, was appointed. He was followed by O. B. Tone, who was succeeded by O. C. Vaaler, who is still serving.

Spring Grove had a newspaper nearly forty years ago. In the spring of 1880 an enterprising young man, Sven H. Ellestad, started a small folio, 10 by 24 inches, and called it the Spring Grove Posten. He was editor, proprietor, publisher, and printer. Schmidt Nilson, who became interested in its success, contributed most of the editorial work to its columns. It had a local habitation in a small frame building back of T. T. Bergh's hardware store. His press was a small one, and is said to have cost $180. The paper flourished for a while, but the circumstances did not prove propitious, and the publication was discontinued, the subscription list being taken over by the Decorah Posten.

The Spring Grove Herald was started as the Spring Grove Weekly by W. H. Smethurst. The office was located in the Haaken & Haaken building, where Ellingson's restaurant now is. The paper had quite a struggle for existence, and was finally purchased by Frank Bartholomew, now at Winnebago City. He moved it to the corner building now occupied by the Fladager Brothers. Then he built a two story building with the printing establishment down stairs, and an opera house up stairs. In April, 1893, this building caught fire, and in spite of the heroic efforts of the volunteer fire department, with the fire pumps, this building, the implement warehouse next door, and the church, were all destroyed. It was only by strenuous work that the rest of the business section was saved. But undaunted Mr. Bartholomew printed a fire issue, and operated in a shack until the spring of 1895, when he sold it to O. K. Dahle, who built the present one story building on the same site, and edited the Herald until he was elected county attorney four and a half years later. It was then conducted by Geo. W. Drowley as lessee, for a time, and later sold to George H. Kuster, then principal of the local schools. He sold to Albert Olson, who in turn disposed of it to E. L. Berg. It was then transferred to B. L. Onsgard, the present owner, who has been in possession since 1906. During this period, the Herald has been edited by various parties as lessees: Charles L. Metcalf, three years and until he was elected clerk of court and O. O. Kjomme during the years 1914 and 1915. With these exceptions, the paper has been ably conducted by Mr. Onsgard himself, and under his management has enjoyed a large circle and important influence.

The two banks are the State Bank of Spring Grove and the Onsgard State Bank.

The Onsgard State Bank had its beginning in the seventies when Nels Olson Onsgard, then a store keeper, began to handle the financial affairs of his customers as a personal accommodation, selling them drafts, arranging loans and the like. In 1890, this business was organized as the Bank of Spring Grove, and established in the rear of the store. Later a brick addition was built, facing northward on the other street. Sept. 6, 1907, the Onsgard State Bank was incorporated, with Nels O. Onsgard as president, O. K. Dahle as vice president, O. N. Onsgard as cashier, and B. N. Onsgard as assistant cashier. In 1911, O. N. Onsgard became vice president, B. N. Onsgard cashier and 0 E Hallan, assistant cashier. In 1915, after the death of Nels Olson Onsgard, O. K. Dahle became president, the other officers remaining as before. In 1917, P. T. Newhouse succeeded O. N. Onsgard as vice president. On Nov. 1, 1918, B. T. Haugen became second assistant cashier. The officers are now: president, O. K. Dahle; vice president, P. T. Newhouse; cashier, B. N. Onsgard; assistant cashier, O. E. Hallan; second assistant cashier, B. T. Haugen. The institution moved to its sightly new banking house, Feb. 7, 1916. This building is well equipped for its purpose, having aside from the main banking room, a consulting room and an officers' room, with other conveniences. The bank has a capital of $25,000, surplus and undivided profits of $15,622.96; loans and discounts of $266,758.18; total deposits of $388,054.81; and immediate cash reserve of $53,463.70, according to the report of Dec. 31, 1918. The bank aims to give to its patrons every service compatible with conservative banking judgment. Realizing that in the development of the rural districts lies the future of the village, it is helping in that development in every way possible, and impresses on the farmers that the banking house is their real financial headquarters, where consultation may be had on all subjects pertaining to their mutual interests.

The State Bank of Spring Grove was incorporated Nov. 1, 1904, by C. J. Scofield, of Caledonia; O. B. Tone, O. B. Nelson, Mons Fladager and Dr. Trond Stabo, of Spring Grove; and E. J. Scofield, of Elbow Lake. Nov. 10, these gentlemen, as directors, met and chose O. B. Tone as president, O. B. Nelson as vice president, and C. J. Scofield as cashier. In the meantime, a bank building, a sightly structure of brick, a real ornament to the business street of Spring Grove, and in every way excellently equipped for its purpose, had been erected. Doors were opened on Dec. 12, 1904, in sole charge of the cashier, C. J. Scofield. The capital stock was $15,000 and the surplus $5,000. The institution since then has enjoyed a well deserved growth. From a staff of one the working force has increased to four. Oct. 1, 1906, Charley M. Langland became assistant cashier; in January, 1916, Archie C. Scofield, son of the cashier, became second assistant cashier; and on June 5, 1918, M. C. Ike became bookkeeper. O. B. Tone, the first president, served until his death, March 14, 1917, and at the January meeting of 1918 was succeeded by O. B. Nelson, and Mr. Nelson was succeeded as vice president by Peter Fladager who, after the death of his father, Mons Fladager, in 1906, had become a director at the January meeting of 1907. In January, 1914, Charley M. Langland succeeded Dr. Trond Stabo as director. But in January, 1918, Dr. Stabo again became a director. So with the retirement of O. B. Tone and Mons Fladager, both deceased, and the addition of Charley M. Langland and Peter Fladager, the directorate is the same as originally constituted. In 1905, the first full year of business, the bank had deposits of $56,002.36, and loans and discounts of $44,112.27. In 1910, the deposits were $205,434.35, and the loans and discounts $176,976.19. In 1915, the deposits were $313,852.46, and the loans and discounts $339,032.46. The bank is in close touch with farming conditions, and aims to be a farmers bank in every particular. It endeavors to assist the farmers in their financial affairs, looking after their investments and giving advice at all times. It has also taken an important part in distributing helpful literature, encouraging business methods in agriculture, and lending its best assistance in the progress of the community. According to the report, at the end of 1918 the bank had a capital of $15;000; surplus and undivided profits of $14,785; loans and discounts of $289,092.97; total deposits of $393,678.76; and immediate cash assets of $69,859.96.

The creamery industry is an important one in Spring Grove. The first creamery in Spring Grove was started by Nels Olson Onsgard, merchant and banker. The successive owners were then: Graham & Tollefson; Ole N. Kjome, Sylling & Larson, Gaare & Sylling; and Nels Kjome, the latter of whom sold to the co-operative company. The Spring Grove Co-operative Creamery Co. was incorporated Jan. 28, 1909, by Knute H. Rauk, P. C. Onstad, O. C. Vaaler, Albert Bergsrud, Magnus Thoreson, Peter Kinneberg and K. E. Kieland. K. H. Rauk was the first president. The present officers are: president, Henry Roverud; vice president, C. B. Doety; secretary, Carl Haugen; treasurer, Peter Onstad; directors, Knute H. Rauk, O. A. Kroshus and John N. Schmidt.

The vicinity of Spring Grove was selected as the site of a village in 1852 by James Smith, and at once became a famous stopping place for the heavy stream of pioneers coming from Brownsville, or up over the Iowa prairies and bound far the rich farm lands to the westward and northwestward. He put up a house and a store on the eastern part of section 11, and began to accommodate travelers. In 1855, he sold his store to William Hinckley. Hinckley bought land of Embrick Knudson, and erected and opened a store a half a mile west of Smith's place. About this time Embrick Benson sold to William Flemming forty acres on which most of the village is now located. Flemming opened a hotel, called the "Pumpkin Tavern." About this time Smith platted a village which never materialized. He soon sold to Robert McCormick who kept a public house. Nick and Jesse Demering opened a saloon near the "Pumpkin Tavern," but soon sold to a Mr. Badger, of Wisconsin, who put in a stock of merchandise. This building with its contents was soon burned. Tartt & Smith from Dorchester, Iowa, then opened a store but remained only a short time. In the meantime the forty first owned by Benson and then by Flemming had passed into the hands of Peter Halverson. In February, 1860, he sold to Mons Fladager, the real founder of the village. Mr. Fladager opened a store in the "Pumpkin Tavern" building. In 1864, he erected a store on the site of the old Badger building. In 1881, he completed a brick block. The same store is now occupied by his sons. Mr. Fladager platted the present village. When he arrived here there were but two people, William Hinckley, keeping a general store, and Peter McCormick, keeping a hotel.

In the meantime, the surrounding country had been settled by sturdy Norwegian pioneers, the vanguard coming in 1852. Of the first colony, there now remain but two: Mrs. Mons Fladager, who was Jorend P. Lommen, daughter of Peter Lommen, and L. T. Johnson. The early township history has been related. The interests of the township center in the village, the town hall being located but half a mile to the westward. This building was erected in 1896, has suitable sheds, and in the yard a commanding flag pole has been erected. Nearby is the beautiful cemetery where so many of the pioneers repose.

This cemetery is the third in the vicinity. The first was on the southeast corner of section 10, on the farm of H. N. Narveson. At that time it was expected to erect the church there. Some thirty or forty people were laid to rest here, the first being Hans Ostensen Melbranter. After the church was built, a cemetery was platted in its yard after the ancient custom. This cemetery, surrounded by a beautiful hedge, is still in existence, and here many of the noble pioneers are buried, though it is not now in use. The present cemetery is a beautiful sweep of ground on a height about a mile from the village.

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