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La Prairie Minnesota History

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From LaPrairie - The Road Back
By Dick Cain
1990 by the City of LaPrairie

It wasn't all hustle

Man was born to hustle," the motto of the LaPrairie News; was an idea shared by the early LaPrairie settlers. Though they hustled to build their town and make their livelihood, they also took time out for other pursuits. They made provision for educating their children, they pursued their spiritual lives and they relaxed at sports and social activities.

By most accounts, LaPrairie youngsters attended their first classes in the town in 1889, in a room over the jail. But shortly, the townspeople built a regular school building. Matt Spang has been mentioned as one of the early teachers. S.E. Boots took up teaching duties in 1890 and did the job for quite a few years, except for 1891, when his wife substituted for him. Boots, meanwhile, was apparently pursuing his photography and carpentry work.

In 1891, school enrollment was 32 and, in 1892, it was 24. Edwin French, Diana Fremont and John McMahon were singled out, in 1892, for never missing a day of school and never being late.

The LaPrairie News reported that there was agitation for a school east of LaPrairie and, it would appear, a school was built there in 1893.

A Most Unusual Accident

John O'Mora, who has been employed in making hay on the Maturin Ranch near Lawrence Lake, suffered a most unusual accident a few days ago. Discovering that flesh worms of a certain kind were taking undue liberties with his person, he attempted to remove them with a razor and in the operation nearly succeeded in obliterating his distinction of sex. Dr. Ehle (of LaPrairie) says the man will live.
-The LaPrairie News, Sept. 23, 1893


The LaPrairie church receiving the most mention in the newspapers was the Presbyterian. But the news wasn't always good. When the Presbyterians decided to go ahead with construction of a building, it wasn't long before fire destroyed the partially-built structure. The Magnet reported the fire in April, 1891. According to the contractors, Beaman and Boots, the loss was $1,600. Strong winds fanned the blaze that was touched off by a match accidentally dropped into a pile of wood shavings. To make matters worse, the congregation lost its building fund when the Duluth bank holding the money failed. "Nearly all the Presbyterians' money has been lost," the Magnet reported, adding that while all of LaPrairie is helping, assistance from Presbyterians all over the country would be appreciated.

The local congregation successfully raised the money needed and rebuilt. The building was later moved to Grand Rapids, where it served a Swedish Lutheran congregation.

One of the early Presbyterian ministers was a Rev. Smith, who served until 1892. Early the next year a new church board was elected, comprised of E.W. Fuller, chairman; Angus McIntosh, treasurer; and S.E. Boots, secretary. Stewards were Mrs. S.E. Boots, Mrs. Angus McIntosh, Mrs. J.H. McCauley and Mrs. J.H. French. In 1893, the pastor was Murdock McLeod, while S.E. Boots was Sunday School superintendent. The Rev. D. Darling also served the church.
Another church, the Methodist Episcopal, which included a Grand Rapids contingent, had as its ministers the Rev. F. Feetham, W.J. Knott, P.S. Ingersoll and W.H. Robinson.

Catholics held services in private homes and plans were announced by Father Gamache for building a church between LaPrairie and Grand Rapids.
Another minister in LaPrairie was the Rev. S.F. Moore.

Stealing the Fourth of July?

The LaPrairie News called the town's 1892 July Fourth celebration a "hummer." And a "hummer" it was, not only for the excitement on the program, but for some that wasn't...some that LaPrairie's neighbors upriver concocted.

Heading the program were the speeches, readings, singing and parade. Then there were the races, logrolling competition, picnic and fireworks. But the newspaper said the feature was the baseball game between LaPrairie and Duluth. Baseball, it turns out, is what figured in the unplanned excitement.

As the local paper tells it, LaPrairie and Grand Rapids joined up the year before to celebrate the Fourth at Grand Rapids. Now it was LaPrairie's turn. Grand Rapids businesses contributed to the celebration fund and a large turnout of Grand Rapidians was expected.

But there was a group in the Rapids that had another plan, allegedly instigated by A.G. Bernard, LaPrairie's former publisher who now was operating his Magnet out of Grand Rapids. The plotters set up a Fourth celebration for Grand Rapids, which included a baseball game, too, with Cloquet. The Cloquet team rode the LaPrairie-chartered train bringing over the Duluth band and baseball team, plus visitors, and was met at LaPrairie by Grand Rapidians.

Here's how the LaPrairie News relates the rest:
"In the confusion of the arrival of the train, they planned to carry off the whole trainload in free buses to Grand Rapids. All unconscious of the preceding trickery and impending danger, our officers informed the runners of the Grand Rapids conveyances that they would be treated courteously in awaiting the arrival of the baseball club and their friends, too, but they must not cry "free bus!" "free bus!!" "free bus!!!" and attempt to run off with the crowd.

"The moment the special train arrived, the cry "free bus!" "free bus!!" "free bus!!!" came from those Grand Rapids hirelings. Our people fell to the job with a dull and sickening thud."

The Grand Rapids Magnet called it a disgraceful proceeding.

After the train incident, the Fourth proceeded. Dr. Fred Barrett, Tower, was the orator of the day and Lizzie P. Hawkins read the Declaration of Independence. The Glee Club, under the direction of Courtney Buell, sang "America," "The Star Spangled Banner," and "Red, White and Blue." Parade contingents included the Carthumpian Brigade, the Duluth Marine band, LaPrairie Hook and Ladder No. 1 (there was no No. 2), the baseball clubs and citizens. The News said the Marine band .did a good job of burlesquing the Grand Rapids band, and got a lot of laughs.

The LaPrairie nine downed the Duluth team, 11-3, in nine innings. E.W. Fuller won the single scull race, while J.H. Heberle was first in the men's foot race. Peter Holt won the logrolling contest and in the boys' footrace, Johnny Hawkins was first and Israel Fremont second. The fireworks were called "outstanding."


In the early days, baseball and boxing were major LaPrairie pastimes. Two LaPrairie pugilists were John Holland and Lew Eaton. Holland took on Jack Pool of Seattle in a match at Chap-man's Hall in 1891 with the oddsmakers favoring the Seattle slugger. Just who won isn't clear, the paper noting only that Holland was still going after 10 rounds of "scientific sparring." Eaton also had a match with a LaCrosse boxer, but more interesting were the fights he and the other local boys had with Grand Rapids representatives.

In 1893, LaPrairie's Eaton fought Grand Rapids' Thomas McCormick. Eaton won in 10 rounds. "The purse was insignificant," the paper said, "but think of the glory."

Meanwhile, baseball fever was taking over. In the spring of 1891, LaPrairie organized its first regular team. Heading the effort were S.S. McMahon, president; C. Pratt, secretary and treasurer; and A .P. White, manager. Local businesses were "touched lightly" for support ($1 or $2) and, shortly, the grounds were ready.

The Invincibles didn't win all their games, but they won most of them. In an early outing, they fell to Cloquet, 44-7, but in a Fourth of July return game the locals took it 17-14. It doesn't appear that they lost any of the all-important games with Grand Rapids. One score had the Invincibles winning 32-9. Said the Grand Rapids Magnet, "The LaPrairie boys wanted to come up here and beat the home nine once more to sort of o'liven themselves up a little." The Rapids team had talent, but needed more practice, it was added.

The LaPrairie Invincibles was one of the best baseball teams in northern Minnesota
The LaPrairie Invincibles was one of the best baseball teams in northern Minnesota and a consistent winner in games against the Grand Rapids nine. Three players in the photo have been identified: front, left, is Will McEwen; and third from left is Matt Spang; and back row, second from right is Ery Martin.


Among the Itasca lakes receiving praise for its fish was Trout Lake. D. Cocharan of the Fraser House and W.D. Leeman caught 110 pounds of rainbow trout there with "bait and hook from an anchored boat," an 1893 newspaper report said. One of the trout went 10.5 pounds. Spearfishing on the Mississippi and Prairie Rivers was also popular.

In 1891, the wild ducks were plentiful and the "sound of the shotgun is heard in the land."

Deer hunting was popular, too, of course, and deer sightings by persons without a gun handy were mournfully reported.

A moose kill by A. McIntosh in 1891 received considerable newspaper play. Live weight was reported at 1,440 pounds, blades 14 inches across and distance between horns 4 feet 10 inches. This "most valuable speciman of the moose tribe" was taken to Duluth for mounting.


Dancing was a favorite pastime of LaPrairieites. In April 1891, a big masquerade ball was held at the Wells Stone store, with music by the Cloquet Orchestra and supper served by the Ladies Aid Society. Said the Magnet, "The ladies' costumes were highly becoming and some quite original." In the crowd were 15 couples from Grand Rapids.

Dances were also put on by Hook and Ladder No. 1, Lilly and McGuire and the Bachelors Club, which hired the Duluth Marine Orchestra for a party and dancing at the Oddfellows Hall. J.A. Bowman, C.A. Buell and J.E. Mueller were listed as active Bachelors Club members, as were W.O. Tillitson, James Shampine, Fred Collett, George Arscott, Dr. H.B. Ehle and Charles Leeman.

One of the dance highlights was at Swan River, for which LaPrairieites hired the Cloquet Orchestra and a special train to take them to and from the shindig. The train left LaPrairie at 8 p.m. There was dancing - waltz, polka and quadrille - until early in the morning, followed by a break for a snack and more dancing. The train headed back about 4 a.m.

On to LaPrairie History Page 4

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