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Gullible visitors

Posted by sambr 
Gullible visitors
February 04, 2018 04:36AM
One of the delights of researching personal histories from the 19th and early 20th century is the serendipitous discovery of little everyday stories about one's subjects. There were thousands of small local newspapers that would publish some national and state news, but would mostly be filled with local news (and some gossip). Correspondents in the villages and towns in the area covered by a paper would send the editor stories about their neighbors - births, deaths, illnesses, school reports, parties and dances, out-of-town visitors, business trips.

In the late 1890s, Peggy Lee's father (then known by his birth name of Ole Erickson) was living in Bixby, Minnesota with his first wife, Eva. He was station agent for the Chicago, Milwaukee & St Paul Railway. The Bixby column in the local papers often carried news about the Erickson family and their ups and downs. Ole was a popular local character. Here is one of his stories from 1899, about a year before he left Bixby.

A couple of railroad men, evidently strangers to this part of Minnesota, wandered up to the depot the other day in search of information. One of them in the course of his conversation asked O M Erickson how much snow they usually had here. “Oh, about 14 feet,” said Ole, “sometimes more and sometimes a little less. You see that elevator warehouse over there; well I've seen snow on a level with that several times. Usually about the middle of February, when the snow gets so deep that they can't run trains the C M & St P builds a new line of road on the top of the snow and runs the trains over that. Sometimes they have to build two or three lines one on top of the other, and in the spring this makes lots of trouble, for the rails and ties come down when the snow melts and blocks up the ground road.” The road men looked incredulous but Ole continued, “You don't believe it, hey? Well, I'll tell you what I'll do. You see that frame building over there (pointing to Otto Meyer's wagon shop, built this spring); well, I'll make an affidavit to sustain my story that during the past five or six winters the ground on which that building stands was completely covered with snow and you couldn't see a trace of that building.”

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