(A repeat from Dec. 28, 2000, the year the Kimball Area Historical Society was founded).
In a 1949 appearance before the Kimball P.T.A., Mr Granville Smith, then president of the Stearns County Historical Society, called for some information about the Halfway House on old Highway 15, opposite school 37 and the "Blue Moon," where the county road crosses to Pleasant Lake. The upshot of this request has been a couple of greatly appreciated letters from Mr. James Knower of Kimball, last driver on the stage coach line that linked St. Cloud with points south. Excerpts may be of particular interest to present-day postal employees.
"The house you referred to is the original Halfway House. It got its name from being the half-way stopping place between Maine Prairie and St. Cloud for refreshments and drinks. It was managed by a Mr. Krear and served as a country store for the neighboring farmers.
"In my stage coach days, we always stopped there to water our horses. My operation of the stage between Fair Haven and St. Cloud was approximately between the years 1900 and 1903 when the stage was discontinued because of the establishment of Rural Free Delivery of mail.
"Contracts for carrying the mail on the stage route were let out on bids for a four-year period. My contract called for $550 per year for carrying the mail and free transportation for postal inspectors if and when required.
The contract also provided that the driver was entitled to the right-of-way on the road over other traffic, a provision which we never attempted to enforce, as we felt that we might need the assistance of other travelers at times, as much as they might need ours.
"The contract called for the stage to leave the Fair Haven post office at 6 a.m., and to return at 6 p.m. each of the six days a week, and no holidays recognized. Intermediate stops were made at the post office in Kimball, Maine Prairie, and Luxemburg. It was up to the postmasters to have the mail ready for dispatch as we were required to wait no longer than six minutes from time of arrival at the various offices. Bond was set and supplied in the amount of $4,000 and while we were supposed to carry a gun to protect the mail, this provision was never enforced.
"Six horses were used in operating the stage, starting with a fresh team at Fair Haven in the morning. A change of teams was made at Maine Prairie. Then the return trip was started from St. Cloud with a fresh team, and another change was made at Maine Prairie, the trip being finished with the same team used in starting the trip in the morning.
"In addition to carrying the mail, passengers were also carried. The fare charged was $1 from either Fair Haven or Kimball to St. Cloud, a fare of 75¢ from Maine Prairie, and 50¢ from Luxemburg, and apportionment charges between any of these intermediate points. The stage could carry nine riders besides the driver, and an extra charge of 25¢ was made to carry a trunk.
"In addition to mail and passengers, I also made a charge of 10¢ for errands carried out in St. Cloud. Frequently I paid taxes for others and brought varied items of merchandise as requested.
The postmaster at Fair Haven during my driving days was Bert Baldwin; at Kimball Eliel Peck; at Maine Prairie D.B. Stanley; at Luxemburg Mr. Kasinski, the latter name approximate. At St. Cloud the postmaster was Harvey Weyre. When I started the route, the St. Cloud post office was on Fifth Avenue South, but during my term it was removed to its present location on Eighth and St. Germain.
"The stage did considerable passenger business for people who came by Soo Line train both from the east and west to Kimball, and then were enabled to get across to St. Cloud or to travel in the opposite direction from St. Cloud to points south. Numerous Normal School students were passengers,
"I was born and raised on a farm one mile north of Maine Prairie Corners,. My parents located on that farm in about 1866 or 1867, and I was born in 1876. As a boy, I can remember the remnants of an old cellar or pit which I was told marked the spot of the Maine Prairie Fort, but I have no recollection of the fort itself"
Text from the Tri-County News Oct. 27, 1949, the year of the Territorial Centennial.
Another early history of Kimball states that Feb. 15, 1904, the Rural Free Delivery was inaugurated from the Kimball post office with three routes. Mr. O.F. Hewitt was carrier on route number 1, Mr. Guy Moss on number 2, and Mr. J.B. Vincent on number 3. Wages were $50 per month.
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Start the new year off right: Join or renew membership in the Kimball Area Historical Society. Our fiscal year begins and ends each January; $10 gives you an individual membership, $15 gives you a family membership, $25 gives you a business membership. As you know, the responsibility for preserving historic Kimball belongs to all of us. Through your support, future generations will also have an opportunity to learn about our history and about the men and women who had the courage to risk their lives for the future.
Just imagine ... if you've seen every "History Matters" column, then you've read 262 with this one. Feb. 20, 2010, will be the next Board of Directors meeting at 10 a.m. in Kimball's Historic City Hall. Next is Tuesday, Feb. 23, for our first 2010 meeting, featuring Dean Urdahl's continuation of the Sioux Uprising and reparation that followed. His area history program of true stories are something of interest to all. Watch for details here in two weeks. Put it on your calendar.
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"A morsel of genuine history is a thing so rare as to be always valuable." - Thomas Jefferson