Reprinted from the Tri-County News May 3, 2001.
In 1886, the Soo Line Railroad decided to bypass Maine Prairie in favor of Kimball Prairie, five miles to the south. With the arrival of the railroad, Kimball became a regular passenger and freight stop for the shipping of farm products, buildingh materials and merchandise. The railroad also created local jobs, and Kimball continued to grow. That is what brought Addie Dalton Lutgen to Kimball in 1962, when her late husband Donald Dalton became the Soo Line Depot Agent at Kimball. She has graciously shared here some wonderful
photos and memories from those years. She still resides in Kimball, with husband Ben Lutgen.
“When a depot was available for a new agent, they were assigned according to their seniority. A main line assignment was choice (Minneapolis to Winnipeg was a main line with branches off from it). My husband was several years older than me, and at one time I remember he had the most seniority of any agents on the Soo Line.
“The depot agent and his family could live in the depot building free as part of his wages. There was no running water in the Kimball depot. It had two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen, a small pantry off the kitchen, and a small cellar under the pantry. Other depots we lived in had the living quarters upstairs and were larger than the one in Kimball. The depot itself had an office, waiting room, and a large freight house. On Saturdays (before laundromats) I would wash clothes in the waiting room and put up lines so the clothes could be hung there to dry.
“All depot agents had their own personal telegraph keys, just as a barber would have his own set of tools of his trade. In the cash drawer was kept a handgun. We had free lifetime railroad passes. We would ride on the passenger train to Theif River Falls where our families were from, or occasionally go to Minneapolis. The section crew (those who fixed the tracks) often gave the kids a ride to South Haven or Watkins, and we would drive over and pick them up.
“The Kimball depot had a ‘bum’s jungle’ about one-quarter of a mile from the depot. There they had cooking utensils and a makeshift cover of wood where they slept. They rode the crain by crawling into empty cars. The were friendly – never harmed anyone. I remember one who wrote poetry, and another one who had been a lawyer. He said he couldn’t handle the pressure and just “took off.” They marked houses in town. Certain markings would tell other bums where they could get free food and handouts. They also marked which places they should stay away from.”
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To our readers: If you have more information on this week’s topic, please let us know. The Kimball Area Historical Society meets monthly at historic Kimball City Hall.
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You may take pride in the accomplishments you have helped us achieve again over this past year. And we thank you for resolving to continue to help us meet the challenges of next year through 2014 renewal of memberships, or your new one. January is membership month for us. Because of faithful members, we have been making substantial progress in preserving our area’s heritage.
If you have a family story and photos to share, please sent to us at the address below so that your story can be included in our archive collection.
Exclusive for 2014, events, milestones, and celebrations:
March 25 “A family’s military legacy” - Bill Morgan
April 5 Kimball EXPO at KAHS
April 22 Vintage postcard collecting - Steve Briggs
June 24 Lake Francis area history - Tom Stanton
June 28 Fair Haven’s Old Settlers Festival and exhibit
Aug. 8-10 Kimball Days Festival, supper and exhibit
Sept. 23 Pan Car Story - Ron Graham
Oct. 28 - Ox Cart Trail history - Duane Stanley
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New or renewed membership, information about all the above, The Kimball Area Historical Society can be reached at Box 55, Kimball MN 55353, or phone (320) 398-5250, and 398-5743, or e-mail
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Happy New Year