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Callaway's early days

A street scene of Callaway in its early days. (Undated photo courtesy of the Becker County Museum)1 / 2
A residential street in Callaway, year unknown. (Photo courtesy of the Becker County Museum)2 / 2

"Why should we reminisce?" is the first sentence from the "Reminiscence of Callaway's Early Days," written by Jennie and John Jenkin in 1960. They answer the question by stating, "The story of the past helps make us aware of things in the present. The present shows us what to look for in the past."

As we at the Becker County Museum have been researching for the county's 150th history book project, I find there is no other statement that is more fitting for why we should be recording history — and not just history but also the present.

The following information is taken from the Jenkins's write-up of Callaway's early days, which we would not have if they had not taken the time to record their memories.

"At the turn of the century, news was spread that the Soo Railway would be extending its lines

northward. This was indeed welcome news to the people in this community who had been making the trip by wagon or sled, 12, 15 or 20 miles to the nearest station on the Northern Pacific. Surveyors drove stakes hither and yon but finally by 1903 this present road was laid out.... An elevator was erected before the railroad was completed... Workmen had arrived early in the spring of 1904... I recall them coming to our rural school to visit and observe the work of us children, also begging the teacher to instruct them.

"The road was made by hand. The men filling small dump carts with shovels, being paid a certain amount for each cart filled. Horses then pulled 10 or 15 of these over a track to the place to be filled. There was much concern about the location of the station, and after much debating, two stations were made between here and Detroit instead of one, as first planned. J.K. West, who had invested in land, was influential in getting Westbury established, and four miles north, Baxter was located. By July 4, 1904 the rails were laid through here, and the Townsight of Baxter was located in what seemed pretty much of a quagmire. The town site was laid out in what was later organized as Section 32 of Callaway Township.

"The first building in town was built by N.A. Granquist for Bovy Shute Lumber Co., July 1904. Andrew Eide opened his store also. He lived in a tent and sold his groceries and dry goods, first from a piano box then built a small building covered with tar paper. He continued to build as his business grew... Callaway Township was organized in 1905. The first township election was held in Ernester's Building on March 30, 1906.

"Florence Granquist was the first child born in Callaway. Date was Jan. 4, 1905. School District 96 was organized 1906... The first school building was a two room frame building... In 1913, this was doubled in size and there were three teachers until 1920... On Jan. 2, 1937 the school house burned.

"The greatest excitement of each day was the arrival of the passenger train — southbound about 8 a.m. and northbound at 6 p.m. Everyone who possibly could, met the train and followed the mail bag to the post office and waited at the store for the mail to be distributed... Paul Johnson was instrumental in having a rural route started from the Callaway Post Office in 1922 and served as carrier a short time... Other businessmen arriving soon after the railroad was built were John Speten, who came from Audubon and built his hardware store east of the site of the County Highway shed... Andrew Speten came about the same time and had a restaurant on the site of our new post office.

"By 1906, we had our first bank, started by J.P. Ernester and his son, John... They also put up the first telephone lines and the central office... Some of our early industries were outgrowth of our nearness to forests. Hauling lumber and ties from Sprafka's Mill and other mills to be loaded on railway cars earned a livelihood for many and extra cash for farmers who did this hauling during the winter... Since every farmer in the neighborhood has some dairy cows, a co-operative Land-O-Lakes Creamery was built in 1915... In 1917, Henning Londeen built a flour and feed mill... Callaway once boasted having a newspaper, the Callaway Tomahawk... Then there was the Picture Show, still silent pictures.

"The first village well was dug in 1907 by Constance and his son, Bill... In 1913 the first water system was installed with a water tank. In 1943 the volunteer fire department was organized. The sewer system was put in in 1933... Before the days of cars there were livery barns. The first build by Peter Frederickson... The other built by Felix Bisson... It was necessary to have freight hauled from the depot to places of business in early days as there was no truck delivery... When the town was less than three years old, it had three saloons.

"The honey industry has helped put Callaway on the map. Paul Johnson came to this neighborhood in the early '20s, bringing with him one hive of bees. He has developed this into one of the largest apiaries in the state and now has 150 bee yards containing 6,000 hives... New homes built in recent years, new post office, store and blacksmith shop show us that Callaway is on the up grade."