Arts & Crafts & Books & Gifts in Little Falls

The Little Falls Arts and Crafts Fair has completed its 45th year! The two day September event is managed by the Little Falls Chamber of Commerce and is one of the largest in the Midwest, attracting an estimated 100,000 shoppers, artists, crafters, and concessionaires. It has been held the weekend after Labor Day since 1972. I recall when it began, when Dave and Carol Graf, who owned an arts and crafts store downtown on East Broadway, were two of the leaders instrumental in its formation.

This year, I was one of eight local and regional authors invited to display and sell books along the sidewalk at the Good Book & Gift Store, next to the Great River Arts Center on First Street. My daughter, Renee (in photo), joined me in meeting the authors and the many shoppers who ventured by, or stopped at the bookstore. My thanks to Renee, and to Marge at the Good Book & Gift Store for providing the sidewalk space for displaying The Early Resorts of Minnesota and The Edge of Itasca.

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Here’s Mud in your Eye: Photos of Minnesota’s Early Health Spas

Mudbaden mudroom (click to enlarge)

Our many thanks again go to Rick Wolfe, who is once again sharing images from his extensive postcard collection–this time 1910-1940 postcards of early Minnesota health spas.

Spas go back at least as far as the Greeks and Romans. Their baths incorporated natural hot springs and served as focal points for social and recreational activities. Later spas became associated with wellness resorts, emphasizing the health benefits of mineral springs and thermal water in relieving rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Today the International Spa Association defines spas as “places devoted to enhancing overall well-being through a variety of professional services that encourage the renewal of mind, body and spirit.” This broad definition covers a great variety of nontraditional spas in the United States, including everything from hot stone massages to personal fitness, mixed with golf, tennis, swimming, and health foods.

Three of the earliest Minnesota mineral health spas were located near Jordan and Shakopee, and included Mudbaden, Jordan Sulphur Springs, and Mudcura. These sites incorporated mud from the Minnesota River in their treatments. Two of the facilities remain, although are no longer used as health spas.

You can view Rick’s spa postcards and learn more by playing the 3+ minute slide show below, or click here to view the individual spa images in Rick’s part of the “Shared Photos” section of this website (including his 800+ resort images).

To read my past blog posts, click here, or click on any of the “Blog categories” listed to the right. You can also share this blog post on social media by clicking any icon below.

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Radio interview

I was recently interviewed on Your Best with Kathy Weckwerth. On Kathy’s radio show we discussed her family’s purchase of a historic resort cabin, my books, and how Minnesota’s resorts are changing from the early era of smaller resorts with rustic cabins.

The interview can be listened to anytime on SoundCloud at the below podcast link–just click on the orange “play” circle in the upper left corner (much like a YouTube video). My portion of her show begins 5 minutes in, and ends near the 23 minute mark. You can replay or jump to any moment of the broadcast by clicking on the progress bar along the bottom, which shows the time in the lower left corner.

 

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Fuller’s Tackle Shops

On June 26, 2017, I spoke to members of the Hubbard County Historical Society at the Northwoods Bank in Park Rapids. The topic of the program was one that I could relate to quite well: Fuller’s Tackle Shop. The reasons? Jerry Fuller married my sister Betty, and my brother Royce and I both worked for the Fullers in our younger years.

(Left to Right) Royce Holland, Tom Stockwell, Betty (Holland) Fuller

Fuller’s Tackle Shop was not just a store; it was an institution! At it’s peak, before the rise of large sporting good chain stores, Fullers had three locations (Park Rapids, Grand Rapids, and Bemidji), plus a wholesale business that supplied hundreds of resorts and stores throughout northern Minnesota.

Fuller’s started in the 1880s as a hardware store, with Frank Fuller becoming an owner in 1891. His son, Earl took over in 1913 and the store evolved into something resembling a fifty mile wide, self-styled “Chamber of Commerce” in Park Rapids (In 1930, the Grand Rapids branch was added).

In 1916, Earl had started a fishing contest, and by the 1920s, the hardware store had become primarily known for sporting goods. About that time an organization known as “The Ten Thousand Lakes of Minnesota” began advertising Minnesota as a summer playground. Tourism increased, and so did business at Fuller’s Tackle Shop. Scattered resorts and country stores within a 25-mile radius, as well as the tackle shop, became weigh stations for Fuller’s Fishing Contest. Entrants’ fish were weighed and registered for a publication called the Fuller’s Golden Book.

 

Resorters and businesses contributed money for prizes and ads in the booklet. The larger fish were documented on a 9 X 11 inch card and placed in the store’s window. Each entry noted the type of fish, its official weight, where it was caught, bait used, who caught it, their home address, the resort where they were staying, the date caught, and any local guide’s name. The window display of fresh contest fish, spread over chipped blocks of ice, became a focal point for tourists and locals. After a few hours, the fish were removed from the window. The entry card was given to the entrant as a souvenir (click on any photo to enlarge it).

Fishing Contest flyer

Fuller’s Golden Book and the Booster Fishing Contest became hallmarks of publicity for early tourism. On September 3, 1922, Earl explained the contest to a reporter from the Minneapolis Journal: ”There is always a crowd around the window,” Fuller said. “Automobiles stop on the street while one person gets out to see if there are any good catches that day. If a fellow sees that someone caught bass in Round Lake with a certain kind of bait, away he goes to Round Lake. If he doesn’t have that bait, he comes into the store to buy it.”

Earl & Eugenie Fuller in the Park Rapids store

By 1949, 25,000 Golden Books were being printed annually, each containing up to 100 pages of resort information, product ads, a fold out area lake map, and hundreds of fish entries. People registered their fish just to get on the book’s mailing list, and planned their vacations around the best resorts or lakes.

By 1964, the number of books had grown to 40,000, with nearly 4,000 mailed to contest entrants in 42 states. Bundles of books were shipped to over 350 tourist centers throughout the country.

Earl & Eugenie Fuller

By the early 1960s, Earl and Eugenie Fuller turned the retail business over to their son, Jerry. Earl continued helping into his late 70s in the Fuller’s Wholesale warehouse. Jerry, who began working in the retail store as a young boy, continued the business for another 25 years after taking charge. In addition to a daily fishing report on KPRM Radio and participation in numerous local organizations, Jerry wrote a weekly outdoor column for The Park Rapids Enterprise called “Fishing with Fuller” and later “The End of the Line,” which ran for 36 years.

In the 1980s the retail sporting goods underwent major changes. Buying habits changed and sporting goods stores became larger and more concentrated; the Fuller stores were sold, with the Park Rapids store eventually being absorbed by Reeds.

Jerry “reinvented” himself, starting the first pawn shop in Park Rapids. After enjoying a successful second career as a pawnbroker, Jerry passed away on December 3, 2011, his birthday. As I was completing my book, The Early Resorts of Minnesota, I asked Jerry Fuller to write about some of his experiences growing up in the tourism business. The following was written shortly before he passed away:

Jerry E. Fuller ca 1950s

Memories of the Tourist Business

Our Store was right in the heart of the resort area and we were usually the first stop as we sold the bulk of the fishing licenses in the County. Friday tourists would start rolling in, both returnees and new customers. The returning customers got to be old friends and many of the new ones required maps to get to their destinations, which we gave out by the thousands.

We sold Evinrude motors from 1913 until 1951 (They were invented in 1909). My job as a youngster was to break them in as they required 6 hours of running at various speeds before rental. I spent many hours on the river with two and three motors on the boat. We rented them in the summer, then reduced the sale price by half the amount of the rental and kept the motors on stands out in front of the store. Full length cane poles were also stored out on the sidewalk in steel rings, no locks and no problems save for one incident when two fellows had a mock sword fight late at night and broke a few. They came into the store the next morning and paid for them. It was a different era. I doubt that we could do that now.

When fish locators (Lowrance) first came out no one knew if or how they worked so we rented them as well. Same story, knocked off half the rent for the sale. Many folks would keep them two or three days and then liked them so well they would buy them. That was a good time for a youngster to be in that business.

Jerry Fuller 2010

With 70 years of combined ownership of the tackle shop, and continuous publication of the Golden Book, Earl and Jerry Fuller, along with their spouses and employees, contributed more than a giant’s share in publicizing nationwide tourism in Minnesota, especially in the Park Rapids area, and through the branch stores in Grand Rapids and Bemidji.

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Less Traveled: A Journey from Pine to Palm

My film review that follows first appeared in the Jefferson Highway Declaration’s Winter edition, 2017.

Less Traveled: A Journey from Pine to Palm
A film by Darrell Johnston and Josiah Laubenstein

Reviewed by Ren Holland, Little Falls, MN

 

Last May, I met filmmakers and fellow JHA members Darrell Johnston, Leon, IA, and Josiah Laubenstein, Minneapolis, MN, in Itasca State Park at the “Source of the Mississippi River” in Minnesota. Park naturalist Connie Cox and I were impressed by their ambitions: they planned to travel the entire 2300 miles of the Jefferson Highway—Winnipeg to New Orleans—in a classic 1954 Dodge Royal. They would be stopping at selected communities to publicize the highway and to promote the issuing of proclamations by local officials in celebration of the centennial year of the first transnational highway through the Mississippi Valley. They planned to film their adventures and produce a documentary through their company, Highway Walkers Media—certainly an ambitious summer project.

I was pleased to hear this past fall that their adventure went smoothly and that the result was the documentary Less Traveled: A Journey from Pine to Palm.

The 130-minute film was not made to trace the exact route of the historic Jefferson Highway. Rather, it was an effort to visit the small towns that once were vibrant links in the important highway. They planned to interview and interact with individuals who today live and work along the route: farmers, small town business people, construction workers, historians, naturalists, professors, local officials, and, of course, members of the Jefferson Highway Association. Their broad goals were to help us all better understand our nation’s past and to contemplate some of the changes occurring today along the route of the old highway.

Along that route, these likable young men found a trove of mini-adventures to accent their story—from a visit to a historic Canadian fort, to crossing the slippery rocks at the source of the Mississippi River; from a ride in a hot air balloon at Indianola, IA, to a rodeo barrel race in Leon, IA. In Louisiana, they learned to eat crawfish—Louisiana style.

As the Jefferson Highway coursed from Winnipeg to New Orleans, it met up with (and even briefly overlapped) several famous east-west highways—from the beginning, the Lincoln Highway, and later, Route 66. The film gives ample coverage to Reed/Niland Corner at the Lincoln-Jefferson intersection in Colo, IA. As for Route 66, it intersected the Jefferson Highway north of Muskogee, OK, near where Glenn Smith, the current JHA president, lives. Glenn makes a cameo appearance in the film, not only to shed light on the Jefferson Highway but also to give the filmmakers some bare-knuckle advice on how to start their Dodge after running out of gasoline.

Because the slogans “Pine to Palm,” and “Palm to Pine” have both been used in connection with the old highway, the filmmakers made it a point to determine which was the correct description. Viewers can find out what evidence caused the duo to agree on which city—Winnipeg, or New Orleans—was the beginning (or ending) of the highway.

While the underlying light humor in the film is a treasure, there are some serious tones throughout as well, including comments from Dr. Anton Treuer, Professor of Ojibwe at Bemidji State University at Bemidji, Minnesota. He politely advised the filmmakers not to just look at the surface of the Jefferson Highway, but to think also of the history preceding it reaching back 10,000 years to when the first North Americans traveled along the same route.

I found this documentary to be a carefree yet informative and thought provoking film. You will be not only entertained by it but left with a deeper understanding of our nation and a renewed interest in its customs and history.

A DVD of the film can be obtained for $15. To place an order, go to www.HighwayWalkers.com and hit the “merchandise” tab. Or, to order by phone, call 641-414-3286 and send check to 324 NW 13th Drive, Leon, IA 50144. Also available at $25 is a companion to the film, a photo book entitled Less Traveled: A Journey down the Jefferson Highway, which the filmmakers describe as a “coffee-table book that shows iconic landmarks, rarely seen gems, and behind-the-scenes shots from the film.” To order a copy or to obtain more information, follow the same procedures indicated above.

Click here to read my earlier blog post when I met with Darrell and Josiah during their journey through Park Rapids and Itasca State Park.

(all photos used with permission from Highway Walkers Media)

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Kurt Brown’s Leech Lake Postcards

Sunset View Resort

Sunset View Resort

Kurt Brown’s family has been going to Leech Lake, Minnesota since the 1930s when Kurt’s grandparents started staying at Sunset View Resort, near Brevik. His grandfather eventually built a cabin near Sunset View. Later that cabin became part of Carlson’s Resort, and the family continued to rent it for many years.

As a young boy in the 1960s, Kurt remembers many resorts near Brevik. These included Jensen’s Cabins, Pikedale, Twin Port Resort, Bear Island View, Lein’s, Sunset View Resort (Kurt states that this one may have had the best beach on the lake), Carlson’s Resort (this one was near his grandfather’s cabin), Safe Harbor, and Chippewa Lodge. Today four of these are still operating—Carlson’s, Chippewa, Huddle’s, and Pikedale.

Carlson's Resort

Carlson’s Resort

Over the years, Kurt has been collecting old maps and postcards of the early resorts near Brevik. My sincere thanks goes to him for contributing 32 of these images to my website’s “Shared Photos” section (click here to view the 32 images, and/or view a slideshow of these images below). Of note, in the photo of Carlson’s Resort, the cabin built by his grandfather is the one on the right.

To read more about Kurt’s interest in early Leech Lake resorts, visit his blog “Old Leech Lake Resorts.”

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Early Clearwater Lake at Annandale, Minnesota

Sweeney Resort, ca 1950

Sweeney Resort, ca 1950

Steve Briggs, from Eagan, Minnesota, is a postcard collector with a special interest in Clearwater Lake in Minnesota. He has generously contributed fifty cards to the “Share your history” section of this website. Most are associated with early resorts, and many are over 100 years old. Click here to view these postcards, or play the video slide show below.

In 1953, Steve’s maternal grandparents, Art & Maude Hoese, bought a cabin on Clearwater Lake. They, their children, and their families would meet at the lake each summer for almost twenty years. Steve and his three brothers “couldn’t have wanted a better vacation—pure fishing!” A log book was kept detailing their vacation adventures each year, until the last entry on July 21, 1972. It read: “Stopped in Annandale to close the sale of the cabin….Moved out our clothes, food, and other things that did not go with the cabin…it was a sad day….The last chapter—Dad.”

Most resorts on Clearwater Lake have vanished. Two of the brothers and their families have been taking annual fishing trips to Clearwater Lake for the past 6 years. They have rented from the Maple Hill Resort and from private cabin owners.

My thanks to Steve for sharing his collection for all of us to enjoy.

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A Mini-Minnesota Tour of Northern Minnesota

Split Rock Lighthouse courtesy of Pixabay and Creative Commons license

North Shore’s Split Rock Lighthouse courtesy of Pixabay and Creative Commons license

It is amazing how much of Minnesota’s resort country can be packed into four days of travel. My wife’s sister Ann, and her husband Ray, from Michigan, have been around the world twice on National Geographic Tours, but had never seen Duluth or the North Shore. My wife, Ida Mae, and I enjoy viewing the North Shore, so we designed a Mini-Minnesota Tour that included it and Northern Minnesota when they visited us over the Memorial Day weekend. (Ann had worked two summers at Pehrson’s Lodge on Lake Vermilion when she was a college student, so that was another priority on the list of places to visit.)

On Saturday, after a flight from Detroit to Minneapolis and a 100 mile drive, Ray and Ann joined us at Little Falls for the first leg of our journey. We drove to Duluth and Fitger’s Inn, overlooking Lake Superior, where we enjoyed a fine dinner and stayed the night.

Duluth skyline, courtesy of Randen Pederson and Creative Commons license

Duluth skyline, courtesy of Randen Pederson and Creative Commons license

Gooseberry Falls 1 Gooseberry Falls 3 Gooseberry Falls 2 Lake Superior rocks

The next day, we headed up the North Shore, stopping at Gooseberry Falls State Park, Lutsen Lodge, and Grand Marais. We ended our Sunday tour staying at Naniboujou Lodge, with beach walking, a dinner in front of their famous stone fireplace, and immaculate rooms with a beautiful view of Lake Superior.

Burntside LodgeThe following morning (Memorial Day) we backtracked on Highway 61 to Highway 1 and traveled north to Ely and the historic Burntside Lodge. We congratulated the LaMontagne’s on their resort’s 75 years of family ownership (click here to read my previous blog on this Blue Ribbon Resort).

We then left for Pehrson’s Lodge on beautiful Lake Vermilion, near Cook. We walked a path along the shoreline, while Ann told us how she spent her summers working in the restaurant (which no longer operates).

After traveling southwest on Highways 53 and 169 through the Iron Range and rain, we arrived at Sugar Lake Lodge, near Grand Rapids. There, we enjoyed dinner and a good night’s sleep, followed by a great breakfast of waffles, strawberries, and whipped cream.

Mississippi HeadwatersOn Tuesday, our last day, we drove west and south on Highway 2 and 71 to Itasca State Park’s Douglas Lodge in time for the wild rice hot dish lunch. Of course, we visited the Source of the Mississippi, and traveled along the 1916 route of the Jefferson Highway through the park.

Black & White Restaurant

Myself, Ida Mae, Ann, and Ray at the Black and White Restaurant

We were running out of time, so we stopped briefly at the Chase on the Lake Hotel on Leech Lake at Walker. Then we returned home in time to enjoy a delicious dinner at the Black and White Restaurant in downtown Little Falls.

On Wednesday we said our goodbyes, and Ray and Ann returned to Michigan.

We of course could not visit all of the great resorts we passed, nor could we stay overnight at all the ones we visited. However, we were impressed by the uniqueness of each one, especially where we had more time, such as our overnight stays at Fitger’s Inn, Naniboujou Lodge, and Sugar Lake Lodge.

Silver Creek Cliff Tunnel along Hwy 61 by Doug Kerr, courtesy of Creative Commons license

Silver Creek Cliff Tunnel along Hwy 61 by Doug Kerr, courtesy of Creative Commons license

Our four day Mini-Minnesota Tour of about 800 miles was a rush, but such a pleasure that we plan to design another for next summer. We plan to add more classic Minnesota hotels, resorts, and parks to our list of favorites.

I hope to follow up with more details on these great resorts under “Classic Blue Ribbon Resorts,” on this website.

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Tracing the Jefferson Highway in a ’54 Dodge

(click to enlarge)

(click to enlarge)

I had the recent pleasure of meeting two young travelers/filmmakers who are following the route of the old Jefferson Highway to promote its 100th anniversary. Many of you know of this highway— the first international highway— connecting Winnipeg, Canada to New Orleans , Louisiana. (Click here to read my other Jefferson Highway blog entries.)

Josiah Laubenstein and Darrell Johnston, started their road trip to New Orleans at Winnipeg on May 7, 2016. Originally they had planned to drive a Model T Ford (photo below), but found that it would be impractical on today’s highways. Instead, they are driving a classic red and white 1954 Dodge Royal. By May 10 Josiah and Darrell had followed the “Pine to Palm” route to Itasca State Park at the Source of the Mississippi River. Connie Cox, Itasca Park’s lead naturalist, and I, along with Nicole Vik, of the Park Rapids Enterprise, met the travelers at the Brower Visitor Center in the park. There, Connie presented a compact history of the Jefferson Highway’s route inside Itasca Park and its role in early tourism. After stopping to see parts of the original 1916 roadbed, we ended the happy excursion in the rain on the slippery rocks at the Source of the Mississippi River.

The trip will take Josiah and Darrell to a new town each day, where they will have proclamations signed by mayors encouraging residents to become aware of the highway. One example would be to promote a “Drive the Jefferson Highway Day,” where residents could follow on, or near, the original Jefferson Highway roadbed between small towns.

On July 19, I will be presenting a program on the Jefferson Highway at the Brower Visitor Center as part of the 125 year birthday celebration of Itasca State Park. Maybe you might drive to the Center over the original Jefferson route! Driving from the south, it runs underneath most of the present roadway, from just inside the South Entrance to near the Douglas Lodge entrance below the Brower Visitor Center. From the north, much of the Jefferson roadway inside the park lies under the present route, after being rerouted to Bagley.

Jefferson signFollow Josiah and Darrell and their cameras online as they travel the old Jefferson Highway to New Orleans at www.highwaywalkers.com.

You can also read more about their Park Rapids visit in Nicole Vik’s newspaper article (click here), and learn more about the highway from the Jefferson Highway Association.

1916 Ford Model T

1916 Model T Ford, similar to one that might have been new when the Jefferson Highway opened.

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The Jefferson Highway: From Palms to Pines? Or Palms to Prairies?

(click to enlarge)

Old Jefferson Highway map (click to enlarge)

In 1916, at the dawn of the age of automobile tourism, the Jefferson Highway became the first transnational highway in the United States. It connected existing roads between Winnipeg, Manitoba and New Orleans, Louisiana, and was advertised as the “Pines to Palms” Highway. It entered the northwest corner of the state, angled southeast to Minneapolis-St. Paul, then went south, exiting near Albert Lea, Minnesota.

The highway’s opening was marked with a sociability tour that traveled from St. Joseph, Missouri to Winnipeg. Citizens from cities along the route welcomed the tour with celebrations and parades. When the enthusiasts reached the Minnesota border, many probably expected to see their first pine trees, since Minnesota had gained fame for early logging and pine lumber. However, they saw nothing but deciduous trees covering the rolling hills and farmland. It would be more than 200 miles of dusty or muddy roads before they likely saw even one pine tree.

So where did the pines begin on the Jefferson Highway? Would Winnipeg have pine trees?

Those familiar with Minnesota’s geography knew that the pines were primarily in the northeastern part of the state. They probably knew that Winnipeg was part of the flat, treeless Red River Valley and had been labeled “The Gateway to the West” when the railroad first reached it. And of course, they knew “The West” meant the Great Plains, and in Canada, wheat fields stretching to the Rockies.

It wasn’t until the travelers were nearly 300 miles north of the Minnesota-Iowa border that they found an abundance of pine trees. This was at Menahga, Minnesota. While most of Minnesota’s original forest had already been sawed into lumber, the smaller, second growth pines were no doubt a welcomed sight, especially for those who had come all the way from New Orleans, including Louisiana’s Governor Ruffin G. Pleasant. In a welcoming speech he is credited with labeling Menahga “The Gateway to the Pines.”

Primeval Pine Grove Park in Little Falls, MN (click to enlarge)

Primeval Pine Grove Park in Little Falls, MN (click to enlarge)

While the caravan had found pine trees (and a lake) at Menahga, another question might be asked: Were these pines the first ones that the tour group saw along the Jefferson? The answer would be: “No.” We could find at least one city that might have competed as a “Gateway to the Pines.” That was Little Falls, about 80 miles south of Menahga. It was likely that the first significant stand of pines was a 57 acre tract of land called Primeval Pine Grove Park at the west edge of Little Falls. The grove of white pines was purchased in 1907 by local citizens to preserve a sample of the original trees that once covered the central and northeastern part of the state. It is one of the few stands of old growth white pine remaining in Minnesota.

Traveling north of Little Falls, the Jefferson Highway travelers would have noticed over the next 20 miles, pines in small groves near Darling, Randall, Cushing and Lincoln. However, the hilly terrain quickly receded into flat farmland. Had the highway used the original draft that followed the railroad to Thief River Falls, the caravan would have possibly not seen a large pine tree beyond Little Falls. Fortunately, a route was chosen that turned northward at Wadena.Twenty miles north of Wadena, second growth trees, most likely jack pines, would appear along the highway. After another 30 miles, the travelers’ eyes would widen, as they experienced the huge old growth red and white pines in Minnesota’s Itasca State Park. Traveling north beyond the park’s boundary, they would see second growth pine for another 50 miles until reaching Bemidji. Then, as they headed northwest to Winnipeg, the pines would gradually change to aspen, then disappear into flat prairies as they passed the remnant beaches of ancient glacial Lake Agassiz.

Today if you followed the original route of the 1916 Jefferson Highway in Minnesota, you wouldn’t have to travel 300 miles to see numerous pine trees. Because of private and public tree planting and windbreaks, pine trees can be found lining highways throughout Minnesota, often in areas where pines weren’t seen in 1916. For today’s tourist however, roadside planting portrays an illusion of a Minnesota covered with pine trees.

To learn more, visit The Jefferson Highway Association.

A slab from a white pine cut in 1975. Frank Mitchell and I have used it to advertise Jefferson Highway presentations. The grove that contained this tree would have been visible to the sociability caravan of 1916 as it exited Little Falls, MN (click to enlarge)

The above photo shows a slab from a white pine cut in 1975. Frank Mitchell and I use it to advertise Jefferson Highway presentations. The grove that contained this tree would have been visible to the 1916 sociability caravan as it exited Little Falls, MN (click to enlarge).

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