The middle of summer and road construction season can be found everywhere. We like to complain about the bottlenecks and traffic jams that these projects cause, but we would not complain so much if we remembered how road conditions used to be. It was only 101 years ago that construction began on Minnesota Highway 55 that would connect the Kimball, Watkins and Eden Valley area to the Twin Cities. In 1912, the road was yet unnamed and known only as the state road that ran along the Soo Line. Following is a short story that ran in the Oct. 10, 1912, issue of the Eden Valley Journal:
The middle of summer and road construction season can be found everywhere. We like to complain about the bottlenecks and traffic jams that these projects cause, but we would not complain so much if we remembered how road conditions used to be.
It was only 101 years ago that construction began on Minnesota Highway 55 that would connect the Kimball, Watkins and Eden Valley area to the Twin Cities.
In 1912, the road was yet unnamed and known only as the state road that ran along the Soo Line. Following is a short story that ran in the Oct. 10, 1912, issue of the Eden Valley Journal:
“The new proposed state road along the Soo from Minneapolis west, is meeting, naturally, with opposition from villages out of the path of the road. Work has begun and it will go long toward securing the road along the Soo Line from Minneapolis through Wright County to South Haven. If the road is secured, that for Meeker, Stearns and Pope counties, advocated of good roads will hustle to win the road along the Soo to Glenwood. Jealous and envious neighbors may retard the building of the road for a time but there will be a state road along both the Soo and Great Northern lines from the cities across the state before the end of 10 years.”
One of the communities that William O’Brien, the author of that story, was referring to was Litchfield. O’Brien also wrote an editorial in that very edition of the Journal that said folks from Litchfield were somewhat jealous of the fact that tiny Watkins and neighboring Eden Valley were going to be located along the highway.
Imagine how different life would be today if Minnesota Highway 55 had not come through these communities?
However, thanks to the railroad line that came to these towns years earlier, the highway did come to be.
When the railroad came, it did bypass some towns, which soon collapsed. One only need to look at history and 1877 when a tiny hamlet of Pappelbusch existed about five miles west of present day Watkins. The name of that community was changed to Loegering after a man named August Loegering moved to Pappelbusch and opened a general store. Although if you look at early maps of the area, the towns name was spelled “Logering,” pronounced LOG’ RIN.
Loegering was a big man, standing 6-foot, 6-inches tall, and sported a full beard. He must have been an influential sort because soon folks began referring to the town after his surname.
In addition, when the railroad was being planned, Loegering and others were livid. No matter how hard they tried, railroad surveyors could not get the folks of Logering to sell land for a railroad right of way.
After being chased away by the good but stubborn folks of Logering, the story goes, the surveyors found other land on which to lay their tracks. When that happened, merchants in Logering saw their businesses move to up-and-coming communities such as Eden Valley and Watkins, which were more fortunate and had the railroad pass right by.
Although there is another version of this story as well that some give credence to, this one tells the tale of the tracks going past Logering. However, the tracks were laid in a hurry because the Soo Line was racing with the Great Northern Railroad to see who could reach Paynesville first. As the story goes, the first railroad to reach Paynesville would have the right of way to that town and the loser would have to maintain the crossing. In their haste, it’s said, the Soo Line surveyors built the tracks near Logering in a swampy area and every fall and winter the muskrats, or bankrats as they were called, would dig nests in the side of the tracks and undermine the railroad.
When the tracks were not under water because of the flooding, the trains were tipping over because of the muskrats.
For a busy railroad, this would not do, so the tracks were soon moved to their present location, leaving the muskrats and Logering behind.
According to records of the Minneapolis, St. Paul, Sault Ste. Marie Railroad in Minneapolis, the tracks were indeed moved in 1906 and 1907, including a six-mile stretch near Eden Valley, which was called “The Eden Valley Revision.”
Records do not indicate why the tracks were moved, but high water could very well have been the reason, thus the reason for the second version of the story.
Either way, the next time you are sitting in traffic, slowed down by construction on a road or a rail crossing, give thanks that both are there.