Saturday, April 4, 2009

Carving Counties in Minnesota

Sartell is a happy little village straddling the Mississippi River about 75 miles upstream of Minneapolis. It has a dam and a paper mill that grew up with and alongside it.

It is named after Joseph B. Sartell who first opened a flour mill on Watab creek that flows in from the west, then opened Sartell Bros. Lumber Company.

Sartell grew up on what the French voyageur called, the "third rapids" up from St. Anthony falls.

It incorporated in 1907 and almost always had a Sartell on the city council till 1973. Ripley or "Rip" was Mayor when we moved into town in 1970.

My friends and I used to bike a distance downstream to "Rips" store and buy penny candy. I can still smell the place and hear the wood floor creak. It is gone now, the site is where the Riverboat bar and grill is now.

The old metal truss bridge is still right there just down stream of the dam, but it is not open for the public. The new bridge is downstream of that a couple of blocks.

Sartell on the Mississippi, is on the eastern border of Stearns county. It has also grown up on the east side of the river and therefore, on the west border of Benton county.

We lived on the west side of the river, in Stearns county.

Beautiful and bountiful, with rolling hills, lakes and trees, Stearns County Minnesota has been an agricultural powerhouse with dairy and grain leading a broad spectrum of husbandry. It is historic in many ways, from Holdingford 13 to Saint Johns College.

We lived in Collegeville for a short while. It's a tiny one road hamlet, upstream on Watab creek, lined by about 8 farms and 10 homes, just down the road from the 100+ year old University in the pines.

There was a world class artisan wood carver in town who made the most fantastic wooden doors.

We also had a railroad that ran right through town. Every once in a while a little yellow inspectors rail car would come down the line, and if you were lucky enough to be there when he did, he would stop and give you candy. A genuine nice railroad man.

This is also where I first heard Garison Keillor on the Radio broadcasting on KSJN from Saint Johns University.

Saint Cloud is about seven miles downstream of Sartell on the Mississippi River. It also has a hydroelectric dam, it generates 9 megawatts of electricity.

It owes a lot of its success to the tornado of April 14, 1886 that flattened the up and coming town of Sauk Rapids on the other side of the river, a real setback the town has never really recovered from.

Saint Cloud was named after the town in France and is the county seat of Stearns County.

It was a way station for the ox carts on the Red River Trail that ran between Saint Paul and the oldest town in the Dakotas; Pembina, on the other side of the Red River near Canada.

They would cross the Mississippi River in Saint Cloud or in Sauk Rapids.

Stearns County is the 14th largest county in Minnesota with almost 1400 square miles, it runs about 54 miles east to west and 36 north to south.

Cold Spring has one of the best bakeries in Minnesota, and one of the best granite quarries in the world. It had one of the best breweries.

Saint Cloud, the largest city in Stearns County, also straddles the Mississippi River. And also like the City of Sartell, and many others, it is in more than one county.

Three in fact. Stearns, Benton and Sherburne.

There are 87 counties in Minnesota and they exist at the discretion of THE STATE. One long time sitting Legislator has suggested doing away with counties altogether, concentrating power in Saint Paul.

Because of the size of Saint Cloud and the difficulties of dealing with three county seats for the city, some at the Minnesota Legislature are suggesting redrawing the county lines.

The opening suggestion is to draw a new boundary for a new county, to be centered on the City of Saint Cloud. The neighboring counties would adjust accordingly.

Wobegone County is the suggested name for this new addition to the Minnesota landscape.

This is not sitting so well with many.

In each of the counties the effect could be dramatic and the county commissions are pondering the impact of such a proposal on jurisdictions, voting districts, and tax revenue.

It is interesting to compare this to the issue with the City of Washington, District of Colombia.

The Nations Capitol City was carved out of three States and isolated politicaly to prevent undue influence.

Some now see what they think is a better way; Statehood for Washington, D.C.
I do not think that is a better way.

Saint Cloud and the three Counties may yearn for the old headaches if they trade them in for new headaches.

Sometimes the wiser way is not the way those in power would have you go.

No comments:

Post a Comment