Looking back over 150 years of Waverly
Before the State of Minnesota began in 1858, there were settlers seeking to establish pre-emption claims on land, or to purchase Military Bounty Warrants from land agents.
Before the Village of Waverly began in 1869, there were the townships of Marysville and Woodland, in Wright county, Minnesota.
In Marysville township, a mill was constructed to harness the water power from Little Waverly Lake; a German Catholic Mission church was built, a small village platted on the north side of the lake, beside a creek exiting toward the Crow River. This village was called Waverly Mills.
In 1862, Andres Doerfler purchased his farm in section 32, on what had been intended to be that village. His son would later become Waverly’s first RR agent, and general merchant. George Doerfler’s daybook 1871-1877 is a written record of bartering for supplies needed by the settlers who traveled into the village, of exchanging labor for supplies, or the use of a horse to plow a field for credit.
Along the Crow River, another group of pioneer settlers, French Canadians, planned the Marysville town center, with a sawmill, a store, a blacksmith shop and a church. A bridge was constructed across the river in 1858. This part of Marysville has been known as “Little Canada.”
Isaac Granger established his farm along the Crow river; that farm is today still owned by his descendants, and has been designated a “Century Farm.” H. C. Morneau, son-in-law to Mr. Granger, traded a farm to J. K. Cullen, for the hotel in Waverly. Morneau was later elected probate judge, and mayor of Waverly. He hired W. N. King, as a young man, to take care of the livery stable associated with the hotel. Mr. King grew to be the owner of the hotel, a lumberyard, a hardware store, a merry-go-round; furthermore, he sold pianos.
A French-language newspaper frequently reported news about Waverly’s progressive citizenship of different nationalities.
A Swedish-language newspaper reported how the citizens of Waverly worked together to rebuild their streets, to save the cost of needed repairs.
Waverly was a melting pot for members of neighborhoods, where residents spoke their native tongues: French, Swedish, Polish, German, and Bohemian colonies surrounded Waverly and met in town.
In Woodland township, a group of early settlers, Bohemian emigrants, arrived as early as 1856.
Irish emigrants came west, from the anthracite coal fields of Pennsylvania, where they had worked since leaving Ireland during the 1840’s. James F. McDonnell was a school teacher in Pennsylvania. His father had been killed in a mine explosion. James’ profession led him to Minneapolis, then to Waverly, where eventually, he was a merchant.
The Homestead Act of 1862 opened up public lands for free, to settlers who stayed on their claims for five years, and made improvements.
Swedish emigrants arrived in Minnesota by the 1870’s. A settlement in Marysville, between the villages of Buffalo and Waverly established the community called “Swedesburg.” Their skills as bricklayers and carpenters were used to construct the brick Lutheran church in 1875; the church is acclaimed today for its historic architecture.
The Railroad Arrives
The S P & P railroad tracks were laid on the north side of the Waverly’s twin lakes, essentially the border between the townships, and completed in December 1868.
Commerce started at the site of the train depot, called Waverly Station. Waverly Mills ceased to develop. Businessmen came from the East, and other towns, to open shops and provide services.
The railroad opened up travel, daily mail service, shipments of goods and markets for agricultural products. Though not on a river, Waverly could now be easily reached. East bound and west bound trains carried passengers to and from the cities.
Once established, the village thrived. By 1877, a newspaper reported that Waverly contained three excellent stores, two hotels, one commission store, two blacksmith shops, one carpenter shop, one wagon-maker, a school house, an elevator, a post office, a telegraph and express office, a photographer, and a good Catholic Church.
Newspapers Tell the Story
It is through the early newspapers that much of Waverly’s story is told.
A special edition, in December 1898, of the Waverly Tribune contains drawings of the village business district, “Pen Pictures of the Village of Waverly, Wright County, the most Beautiful and Prosperous Village on the Great Northern Railway System.”
In 1902, Picturesque Waverly was published, a brochure to promote the village. Mr. Wright, the photographer, recorded the enterprising businesses, the lovely homes, the schools and churches. Biographies and portraits of prominent men of the community enrich the historic document.
The brick house of M. F. Martin, a merchant whose store stands empty today on Elm street, is captured as a horse-drawn buggy passes by. The house is across from the Catholic Church.
Carl Kingstedt, a Swedish merchant, built his house in 1902, beside his large brick store.
Thomas F. Kelly also built his handsome home next to his hardware store, which later became the Dr. Roholt’s Emergency Hospital and Clinic,
The editor of the Waverly Star Tribune, James P. McDonnell, published a poem, “I Am the Farmer.” Written in 1921, the time period following WWI, the poem is an acknowledgment of the farming community’s deep value. They were our settlers, the pioneers of Waverly’s community; the families who came seeking land and opportunity, instrumental in Waverly’s early success.
Sixteen “Century Farms” in Marysville and Woodland Townships, (two are now Sesquicentennial farms, the Gagnon farm in Marysville and the Doering farm in Woodland) will be featured at Waverly’s history display, recognized for commitment and longevity. Farmers traded their eggs, maple syrup, milk, cords of wood, meat, and grains in Waverly’s early commerce. They supported the many businesses of Waverly village; the harness-maker, the blacksmith, the grain elevators, the grocery store. This system was local, sustainable agriculture; a mutually beneficial relationship within the community.
For Waverly’s Sesquicentennial, Sue Claessen has created a trifold map, a self-guided tour of Waverly past and present. It will be available at the city office. On a single sheet of paper, Sue has encapsulated the book “Waverly: the Early Years,” written by Sue and her husband, Ed Claessen, in 2017.
Village Hall will offer a display of historic items, gathered from residents.
A local artist’s gallery and sale will be at the city office building.
A dinner, cooked using traditional recipes, plus a presentation by historian Ed Claessen, happens Thursday evening, July 11, at the Village Hall.
Waverly’s post office will offer a unique postmark in a booth.
A parade of 70 units begins at 1 p.m., Sunday afternoon, July 14.
Everyone is welcome to come help celebrate Waverly’s 150th birthday during Waverly Daze, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, July 12-14.