Welcome to Verndale, MN

Take a trip down memory lane and discover the historic past of Verndale, MN. While you might think that nothing happens in a small town, examine the photos on this site and you will see that quite a lot has happened at Verndale since it was founded in 1878.

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Verndale, MN, Farwell St., N. & Mason Ave., year 1890
Pictured is Farwell St. N., looking north from First Ave. N.
On the right side of this photo you can catch a glimpse of the front of an early blacksmith shop. The first building on the left is the livery stable, built by Moses Stewart, Jr., and later owned and operated by John L. Eddy. The next building up the street is the residence of S. L. Frazier. The second residence is that of C. E. "Elisha" Smith. He and his brother, A. P. Smith, operated the Smith Brother's General Merchandise store. The tall house, with two chimneys, at the far end of the street is the residence of E.M. Britts who owned and operated the Verndale Flouring Mills on the Wing River. This photo dates from about 1890.
 
Verndale, MN, Farwell St., N. & Mason Ave., year 1890
Farwell St. N. and Mason Ave. looking to the NW.
What looks like a scene from the TV show "Gunsmoke" is actually the north side business district in Verndale, MN. Verndale's business district on the north side of the railroad tracks was a bustling commercial area in the 1880s and 1890s. This photo from about 1890 shows a motley collection of hotels and shops bustling with activity. Pictured is the NW intersection of Mason Ave. and Farwell St., taken from the top of the Andrews Elevator. In those days, the North/South street names were not unified. North of the tracks the street was called Main Street, while south of the tracks the street was called Farwell St. Pictured to the left is the large, 3-story, Merchants Hotel which was located about where St. Frederick's church parking lot is today. The building next door to the hotel is, perhaps, the only building in this photo that is still standing today. Around the corner, the signs on the stores that are readable advertise a harness shop, meat market, and restaurant. In the background is the Academy building, erected in 1886 by the citizens of Verndale as a gift to Wadena County to serve as the county courthouse. When a vote settled the matter of the county seat in Wadena's favor, the building was used as a Catholic Academy for a few years. Later, the upper level became an Opera House, while the lower level housed an electric generator to provide power to the town.. In the distance, to the right of the Academy building, between the stands of pine trees, you can just make out the large mill pond created by the dam on the Wing River.
 
A large crowd is in town, possibly the Wadena County Fair of 1897, which was held at Verndale.
The Staples celebration team has just arrived by train. The racetrack and ball diamond was located in the distant right. The grain elevator was owned and operated by B.H. Pettit. On the left is the Park Hotel, a merry-go-round and the fire hall. This photo was taken from an upper level of the Andrews grain elevator which was operated by George Painter.



CHECK OUT the Verndale photo galleries:
Photo Gallery 1
Photo Gallery 2

Photo Gallery 3


Verndale's WWII Hero - General Lesley J. McNair:
General Lesley McNair was one the most important leaders of the U.S. Army during World War II; he may also be one of the most unknown.

In 1940, General George C. Marshal selected McNair to be the chief of staff at General Headquarters, United States Army. General Headquarters was responsible for mobilizing, organizing and training the Army ground forces. In March 1942, the Army was re-organized into three areas: Army Ground Forces, Army Service Forces, and the Army Air Forces. McNair was designated Commanding General, Army Ground Forces.

Over the next two years, General McNair architected and managed the largest mobilization in the history of the United States. By the end of the war, Army Ground Forces had:

* recruited, organized, trained, and shipped to overseas combat areas more than 2,000,000 men
* activated more than 80 divisions across five specialties (infantry, mountain, armored, airborne, and cavalry)
* maintained at fighting strength the Army Ground Forces fighting in three major theaters around the world

Read More

Verndale's Civil War Heroes - First Minnesota Volunteer, Infantry Regiment:

Harrison Lyons
Harrison was the third of four brothers, all of whom served during the Civil War. Stephan, the oldest, (1839) & Harrison served together in company A of the 1st Minnesota Infantry. George F (1841) served in the 9th Minnesota and John L, the youngest (1847) served in the 11th Minnesota. At 6' 2" tall, Harrison was the tallest enlisted man in the regiment. On June 29, 1862, at Savage Station, while charging a Confederate artillery battery, he was wounded by a piece of shell cutting the right side of his right knee. The regiment retreated. He was left on the field and eventually captured. The hospitals were full of sick and wounded. He lay on the battlefield without shelter for 10 days, all the time being exposed to heat, cold and rain. He was then moved to the Libby prison hospital in Richmond. He was exchanged six weeks after his capture.

Harrison was an influential member of his community. He was County Commissioner for Wadena from 1876 through 1917. He sold property, farmed, was a County Clerk and Justice of the Peace. Charles Parker, a comrade from their days in the First Minnesota, also lived in Verndale and they were best of friends. The two of them went on exploratory excursions in northern Minnesota as they surveyed much of the land up there. Lyons State Forest is named after Harrison.

Charles Parker
Charles Parker is another Verndale citizen who was in the First Minnesota, Infantry Regiment. Parker was born at Faribault, MN, and came to Verndale in about 1876 with a few of the earliest settlers. Mr. Parker owned a dry goods store and was involved in other ventures. He and his family left Verndale for Forsyth, Montana, in 1884; but three months later he died on July 13, 1884. He was only 47 years old. His remains were sent back to Minnesota for burial. The GAR Post #113 in town was named after him.

EXTRA! EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT!
Read the news from the 1880's when Verndale was a growing pioneer town with a bright future. You're sure to find the Verndale Journal newspaper from the 1880s very interesting.


Learn more about Verndale's famous grist mill:
In the Spring of 1880, the enterprising E.M. Britts came to town from Osage, IA, and erected his large flour mill on the banks of the Wing River just north of town. Read about this historic grist mill, the first water powered mill in the northern part of the state.

Verndale was once home to a college?
Did you know that Verndale was once home to St. Otto's College and Academy?

John Wesley Speelman: A Colorful Verndale Pioneer.
Read about one of Verndale's most colorful pioneers: John Wesley Speelman. He started the Verndale Sun newspaper and has the dubious honor of introducing carp to the waterways of Wadena County.

Verndale Once Had One of the Best Half Mile Horse Race Tracks in the State of Minnesota.
Checkout photos of the racetrack's grandstand on the Fun & Games page.

 

 

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Have fun exploring historic Verndale on this site!

Bird's Eye View of Verndale, MN, in 1906, as taken from the tower atop the original school, looking north up Brown street. Note the Russ hotel in the center, B. H. Pettit's Elevator and the Academy (court house) building to the left.

 

Verndale was known far and wide for its Fourth of July celebrations, as pictured here from a photo dated July 4, 1912. Here the crowd is entertained by a band playing in the old bandstand. Special trains from Wadena and Staples were often scheduled just to bring crowds to the festivities. In fact, in 1899 over 5,000 people celebrated the Fourth at Verndale (at least 800 came from Wadena on that day). Once at Verndale, there wasn't a dull moment. Baseball games with neighboring communities, horse races at the racetrack (located just west of town), foot races, bicycle races, speeches by local and state dignitaries and a host of activities made Verndale the place to go on the Fourth.

 

Bird's Eye View of Verndale, MN, looking south and east towards the main business district.
Image dates from about 1910. Note the Russ hotel on the right and Dickinson's Big Store on the left.

 

Bird's Eye View of Verndale, MN, looking north from the school in 1908. Note the Methodist church on the right, Andrew's Elevator in the center and B.H. Pettit's Elevator on the left.

 

Front Street (First Ave. S.) looking west in 1909.
Click here to see what this street looks like in 2005.

 

Main Street (Farwell Street), before the big fire, looking north about 1908.

 

Main Street (Farwell Street) looking north about 1912.
Click here to see what this street looks like in 2005.

 

I am actively seeking postcards and photos of Verndale, MN., to add to this website.
If you have any, please contact me at: ctdd98@yahoo.com

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copyright © 2011 Verndale Historical Society.
All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission of the publisher is prohibited.

 

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