Read about the Division Street of 1895 from the eyes of a writer in 1935.

“Up and Down Main Street Forty Years Ago,” very recently added to the Northfield History Collaborative’s online collection, does just that. The booklet was published by one-time Northfield News editor W. F. Schilling. In it, Schilling describes what the town was like when he came here in April of 1895. He colorfully describes local businesses and characters in a way that’s hard to find in other accounts. It took quite some time to whittle down my list of highlights for you!

At just more than 40 pages, this booklet is an easy and entertaining read — I honestly had trouble pulling myself away from it so I could write this blog — yet it’s already proven helpful in local research since being scanned and made searchable.

Special thanks to the Northfield News for giving permission to publish this online.

What follows are four of my favorite passages.

  • Page 8.  In the little building in which Sid Freeman is now located [The Hub, about where the northern part of the First National Bank building is now], perhaps more history was made, more wars fought, more battles won and lost, with less, blood spilled, than any other like space in the whole city. That was John Clifford’s grocery and contained all the paraphernalia, accoutrements, appliances and comforts of the grocery stores of the pioneer day and age. … There was housed almost daily the Clifford’s band of story tellers.They were not early risers and generally came drifting and dragging in from 9:00 to 10:00 in the morning. Some of them went home for dinner and others came in about noon and stayed for the day or at least until a relief squad showed up …Not all of these men were veterans of the Civil War but most of them were, and what fun they did have! I wish that I could remember one-half of the stories that were retailed to me. 
  • Page 23. I first met Charley [Dougherty] on the old iron Fourth street bridge as he was hauling the mail to the depot and the way that old bridge used to “jiggle” when old “Star,” his faithful black horse, used to go across it when she was in a hurry was a caution.There was a sign on the bridge “$10.00 fine for driving off a walk,” but old Star couldn’t and Charley wouldn’t read that sign if he was a bit late. As Charley was aIways a member of the city council and had something to say as to who hired the police, he just couldn’t believe in signs nohow. Well, old Star carried the mail and express for nigh onto thirty years, and when it came time for her to quit — the ordinary horse would have had to quit long before — Dr. McKenzie had to chloroform her to get her off the street. In the early stages of her service to the government when a train whistled for Northfield, she went to the depot for the mail whether Charley was on the wagon or not, and as a rule Fritz, the big Newfoundland dog, saw to it that no one else occupied the place of the driver.
  • Page 28.  Where the post office is now located was a building owned by Mrs. S. E. Davis, but occupied by Dwight Bushnell and his son-in-law, W. E. Hibbard, as a livery stable. …  Memorial Day was a great one for the livery stables and that was a great chance for the students to pair off and go to the country to get the first “breath of spring.” This stable specialized in horses that could be driven with one hand as many of the students majored in oratory in those days and could not show up the scenic beauties of nature properly and drive with two hands. “Old Fred” could be driven with one hand and he was also a horse that could see well after night and was in very great demand by all the youngsters.
  • Page 43. There was another rule that caused considerable trouble just before commencement each year. For two weeks during exams boys were forbidden to take their girl friends out. It was known as quarantine period and a dark time for all. One fine spring some of the boys had a streamer made one yard wide by fifteen feet long with the word “QUARANTINE” nicely painted in black on yellow bunting and hauled this up on the flag pole of Willis Hall. This had to stay up for two weeks for no one in Northfield could be hired to take it down for a local committee would have waited on said individual and a good ducking in the Cannon river would have been his without much ceremony. [I want to say I’ve seen a photograph of this before.]