Early History of Harlem

By Mabel Cusik Klinkhammer
Contributed by Jerry McQuay.
Source: Sargent County News newspaper, November 12, 1925.
   About 1888 and 1889, Harlem was a thriving town of about four hundred inhabitants. It had two general stores, blacksmith shop, two hotels, lumber yard, livery stable, post office, three elevators, a bank, barber shop, meat market, drug store and many residences.

   It was a very busy town, it being the terminus of the C. M. & St. P. Railroad. The nearest town to the north being Lisbon, twenty-five miles distant. Farmers for many miles hauled their produce which consisted of grains, principally wheat, to the elevators and in turn purchased supplies of all kinds here. Oxen were usually used for this purpose. The Town was named after Harlem, N. Y.

   From 1881 to 1886, Mr. Simeon Mills conducted a store at a little inland town called "Millsburg", the supplies being hauled from Lisbon in large wagons. It was located in the northeast corner of the NEΌ of section 23. When the railroad was built, the town moved to Harlem, all the buildings being moved on wagons.

   Some of the early settlers were Frank and James Smith, (Frank Smith who now lives in Pennsylvania returned here for a visit after an absence of about thirty-three years, and was very much surprised to be unable to find the town.) He had charge of an elevator and general store. George Bale had a hardware store. Thos. McAndrew also had an elevator. Ben Gray, Ben Fulton and Geo. Buck had charge of the livery stables. "Ham" McQuay the veterinary. Dr. T. J. Patterson physician and surgeon. Dr. Patterson is now located at Lisbon. Carl Mohn was section foreman. He now lives at Britton S. D. Other pioneers still living in the neighborhood are Livy Johnson, Ole Anderson, George Bale, Wm. Cole, L. W. and Harry Mallinson, Thos. Cusick and Peter Russell.

A. M. Cook conducted a general store at Harlem. At present he is living in Tacoma, Washington, with his daughter Marion.
Ike Leonard has carried the mail over route No. 1 since 1905, making twenty years of service for Uncle Sam.

   The tar paper house of early days was built of rough boards, over which tar paper was tacked to keep out the wind and cold. The door was a home made affair, also covered with tar paper. There were only a few small windows. Some were white-washed inside.
The sod houses were made of sod piled one on top of another. Open spaces were left for a door and windows. There were usually only one or two rooms. These were boarded up on the inside, then papered or whitewashed. Some had wood floors, while others had only mother earth for floor. The good housewife covered them with braided or crocheted rag rugs.

   The pioneers were very sociable people and loved to entertain their friends and neighbors. Strangers were always welcomed, as they usually brought news from the other states, and perhaps partly because they were generous, kind hearted people willing to share whatever they had with others.
Often they would go from twenty to thirty miles to attend a party or dance. In summer, they used a wagon or hay rack, while in winter a sleigh was used. Usually two teams were used to pull the conveyance.
To make the distance seem shorter the young folks would sing songs or tell stories. Arriving at the scene of jollification, they would find other friends and relatives assembled. Every one immediately began to enjoy in the manner which best suited his fancy. The young folks danced, while the older generation played cards or visited. The children amused themselves playing games.
At midnight a bounteous lunch would be served usually each family contributed something for supper. After supper they would resume their various sports until the "wee small hours" of morning. However, in winter they often stayed until daylight, driving home through the cold, frosty air of early morning.

   Long before the railroads were built in Harlem township, sturdy pioneers had made a trail from Lisbon to Ellendale; anyone needing supplies must get them form one of these places. They either took their own ox team, if they expected to have a heavy load, or else walked. Many of the pioneers tell of carrying sacks of flour on their backs from Lisbon to their home, and in addition, a small parcel in a bag.

   The one who went to town brought all the mail for the neighbors, and left it at what is still known to old settlers as the Bromley farm. (Mr. Gardner now owns the farm). The other settlers called for their mail here whenever convenient . This place was also used as an inn, where the weary traveler could refresh himself before continuing his journey.

   The grade for the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railroad was built in 1884, and the rails were laid in 1886. The branch is known as the Harlem Andover division. The railroad graded the roadbed as far as Sheldon, but did not lay the rails farther than Harlem, planning on continuing it at some future time. However, in 1900 the N. P. railroad built a branch line from Henning to Oakes, coming within two and one-half miles from Harlem. This took away a large amount of business from the north, which is a very prosperous country, and the loss of trade caused many of the business men of Harlem to move to other towns. Harlem gradually decreased in size until there is nothing left of the once thriving village except the depot, school house and two residences.
In the fall of 1923 the railroad removed the rails form Harlem to Cogswell, making Cogswell the terminus of the division, owing to lack of business.

   The men who served in the Army and Navy during the World War, from Harlem township are: Sigurd Anderson, Arthur and Roy Cole, Leo Cusick, Sam Noyes and Albert Russel.
Livy Johnson and Harry Mallinson have collections of arrow heads, hammers, spears and clubs which the Indians used.

   Harlem township held its first school election on November 30, 1886. Named School Township Harlem No. 10 and elected officers.
A store building was rented in Harlem for a school house and Miss Nettie Hodjson was hired to teach the first term of school in the new township. The number of children of school age as certified by the clerk was thirty-three. School No. 2 was build by John Wesdahl in 1895. The first teacher was Mable Cook.

   A copy of the "Harlem Courier" published on Friday, July 19th , 1889, is filed in the book of early history of Harlem Township. A few items of interest from "The Harlem Courier" published by Bale and Barton are as follows:

  The Ladies Aid Society of Harlem is over today, about fifteen strong , visiting their sister society at the residence of Rev. James Anderson. The meeting is a pleasant affair for all concerned. (Aug 1893)
  "Go to Harlem and celebrate. (1889)
  "Reader, you are especially invited to attend the county convention of the W. C. T. U. at Harlem on the 20th and 21st. (1893)
  "Harlem seems to be getting in to the front in good shape. (1894)
  Official Notice. (1889)
"Public examination of teachers will be held at the following places during the ensuing year: Forman, First Tuesday in April. Milnor, First Tuesday in June. Sargent, first Tuesday in August. Rutland, First Tuesday in October. Harlem, Third Tuesday in October. Applicants for the first grade certificate will be required to pass and examination upon Geometry, Algebra, Physical Geography, Bookkeeping, Natural Philosophy, and Civil Government in addition to the common branches.
Examinations will open at 9 o'clock A. M. and close at 5 o'clock P.M., and all work for 2nd and 3rd grade certificates must be finished the first day.
The examination for 1st grade will continue two days.
A special examination will be held at some point in the county during October in order to accommodate those who from any cause find it impossible to attend the public examination.
Dated at Forman, this 23rd day of November 1888
  Samuel A. Danford
  County Supt. Of Schools

   "(1888) By Henth arrived from Harlem this afternoon, and gave the item the following information: While a party of working men were engaged yesterday, taking the old curbing out of a well six miles west of Harlem, the well caved in suffocating John Michael, a prominent farmer about 30 years of age. It took several hours to recover the body. Deceased leaves a wife and three children to grieve over his sad and terrible death.

   Cook Brothers have dissolved partnership, A. J. Cook retiring from the firm.
The Creamery is in full blast under the capable management of Mr. H. Meyer, of Elgin, Ill.
Farmers or others needing ground feed for stock can be supplied promptly at A. M. Cook's farm. A large quantity is kept constantly on hand for sale at close prices, or to exchange for grain. (May 31, 1889)

   Harlem's jovial aggregation of base ball tossers played an excellent game with a picked Forman team, on the grounds here, last Saturday. Will Riddle of Milnor, umpired the match, which was witnessed by a large crowd. The score follows:

Forman                         R   O


Rittenhouse, c…………….....3...1
Vail, p…………………….....3...1
Wiper, ss…………………….2...2
McInnis, 1b………………….1...4
Smith, 2b…………………….0...4
Patterson, 3b………………...0...4
Stark, 1f……………………..0...3
Argersinger, cf……………….0...5
Miller, rf……………………..1...3
Total………………………10..27

Harlem

Fulton, c………………........0...4
Carter, p………………........2...3
Richards, ss………………....1...3
Smith, 1b………………........1...2
Smith, 2b…………………….1...3
Bale, 3b……………………...2...3
Dunham, 1f…………………..0...4
Lille, cf……………………….1...1
Kelley, rf……………………..1...4
Total………………………….9..27

Innings  1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9
Forman 3 - 1 - 0 - 0 - 2 - 2 - 0 - 0 - 2 - 10
Harlem 0 - 0 - 1 - 0 - 0 - 1 - 0 - 0 - 7 - 9

Forman played a faultless game until the last inning when errors and wild pitching very nearly gave the visitors a victory. (May, 1889)

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