Argyle's Beginnings

In the beginning, there was silence except for the lapping of the waters of Lake Agassiz. This ancient lake, the result of the melting of the glacier, covered all of the Red River Valley to a depth of 600 feet in places. But, about 11,000 years ago, the silence must have been broken by the frightened cry of a young girl who was drowning -- because her skeleton was found in 193 I near an eastern beach of old Lake Agassiz.

With the dating methods available. they determined the approximate time of her death - which gives us a clue to the date when the first human beings arrived in the Red River Valley. She was probably a descendant of the primitive Mongoloid nomads who crossed the Bering Straits land bridge from Asia to North America, And she was named "Minnesota Man".

Silence descended again. Eons passed, and the lake finally receded into Hudson Bay after laying down a rich deposit of soil throughout the valley which is the source of the prosperity of this entire region.

In this soil the grasses came first and covered the valley with lush. thick grazing -- grasses that grew as tall as a man. Along the streams, trees flourished and spread, and the silence was ended forever because this rich pasture attracted the thundering herds of buffalo that passed through the valley by the hundreds of thousands on their annual migrations. And the buffalo brought men -- Chippewa, Sioux. and others who depended on the buffalo to sustain their way of life.

No one can be certain who the first white person was who came to the Argyle area. He may have been a hunter, trapper. trader, land speculator, surveyor, or someone passing through from one settled area to another. It is interesting to speculate that it might even have been the blue-eyed Indian known as "Falcon", who hunted and trapped in northwest Minnesota and Canada and took his pelts to Alexander Henry's trading post at Pembina. Falcon's real name was John Tanner. He was a white boy stolen as a child for a grieving Indian mother who had lost her son. Much of his adult life was spent in the Lake ot the Woods and Pembina area.

Whoever the first white man was, his name is lost to history. But it is generally accepted that Peter Jarvis (Gervais) was the first person to settle in the village of Argyle. His homestead claim to the SW1/4 of Section 10, Middle River Township, was filed in 1878. Like many other settlers, he did not stay long. Six years later, he bad already gone west and had given his wife power of attorney to dispose of any holdings in his name in Marshall County.

The village of Argyle is located on Section IS and the south half of Section 10 in Middle River Township, IS6N, Range 48W, Marshall County, Minnesota. The first settlement was made in Section 10, and the name Louisa appears on a contract between the railway company and the school board in 1880. In a petition to the school board to use the school for religious services, dated April 3, 1881. it is referred to as Middle River. However, the village was incorporated on December 12, 1883, as Argyle.

Argyle, 1892

The name Argyle is said to have been proposed by the Hon. S. G. Comstock, who was an attorney for the Great Northern railroad. There are several versions of the source of the name for the village, but all the stories are unsubstantiated as far as anyone knows, with the exception of the one given above, which was taken from Warren Upham's book, "Minnesota Geographic Names". In later years, "Louisa" or "Middle River" was called "Frenchtown", and is still called by that name today.

Before 1878. there were very few settlers on the land. The first real influx came with the completion of the railroad, although many settlers came in by wagon train, as well. Peter Jarvis was settled in Argyle (Louisa) in 1878. and Ferdinand (F.D.) Keye had a log cabin store in Argyle (Louisa) on lots 23 and 24. Block I. on what was later the site of the Longerbone house. In fact. F. D. Keye's store is the only building listed in Argyle (louisa) in 1878. It had an assessed evaluation of $450. That was Argyle in 1878! When Henry Keye (F.D."s brothers) came by wagon train in 1880. his family lived above the store until he got his house finished.

On September 9, 1878, the railroad reached Argyle (Louisa). There was no station.. not even a platform. The train simply stopped at the river. This train had no schedule, as it was a construction train with passenger car attached. Nils Malm tells of coming to Argyle (Louisa) in 1879. He missed the construction train and had to walk from Crookston. He said he saw only two buildings between Crookston and Argyle (Louisa). One was a shanty southwest of Euclid, and the other was the railroad sectionhouse in Warren.

Some time in 1879. Antoine Lafferior built a store in Argyle (louisa). The site is given as Lot 3. Block 3 in the tax records. This would be near the location where the Argyle Roller Mill was built later on.

By 1880 there were still only seven lots occupied in Argyle. which by this time was in the present location on Section I5, Middle River Township. On the cast side of the railroad tracks, there was only one building on Lot 6, Block 2 -- Augustine's Hardware. On the west side, F. D. Keye had moved his store from Frenchtown to Lot 1, Block 5, now the location of the Communitv . Room in the Argylc Mall.

The next lot north of Keye's store was a saloon called "The Sample Room" owned by Sam Connors, a black man. The name derives from the fact that salesmen in those days traveled by train. . . When they arrived in a town, they rented a room in a hotel to . . display samples of the goods they sold. Buyers were invited to the "sample room" to select their merchandise and place their orders.

The lot north of Connors was also a saloon owned by Hayes and Kivel. Next to that was thc Menzel House, a small hotel. and beyond that on Lots 11 and 12 in Block S, J. J. Stone had his farm headquarters. It included a machinery shed, granary, and stable. The next block north had only one building, which was A. D. Verboncoeur's store on Lot 4, Block 4 -- the present site of Lindstrom's Pool Hall. Argyle -- 1880!

That doesn't seem like an impressive beginning, but there were about 300 people in the Argyle area at that time. and changes were coming fast. A school was organized in March of 1880. and the director of the school board was a woman. Mrs. F. D. Keye. If that seems surprising, be prepared for another surprise. One of the first private bankers was a woman. She was Mrs. Karl or Charles Menzel (Fredericka Keye) , who operated the first hotel and rooming house in Argyle. Her brother, F. D. also acted as banker for the community. In the first issue of the Marshall County Banner, printed December 23, 1882, F. D. Keye advertises his "general store and private bank".

By 1881. religious services were being held in the school house and, according to the obituary of Wiliam Carrese, Argyle had a post office. Mr. Carrese was the post master.

The following year. the Marshall County Banner began publication. H. W. Brown and A. J. Clarke, who were practicing attorneys in Argyle, were its founders.

The year 1883 was an eventful one for the community. In February, the county bought the SW1/4 of Section 12, Middle River Township, from W. T. Lackey, who was Marshall County's first sheriff, for a "poor farm" for the sum of $2,200. It was rented out for cash, and the money thus obtained was used for indigents in the county. The first Roman Catholic church was built in that year, also.

On December 13, 1883, the village of Argyle was incorporated, and on December 26, the following officers were elected: President - F. D. Keye; Trustees - Andrew Olson, Joseph Dalpay, John Augustine; Recorder - Louis Decker; Treasurer - J. J. Stone; Justices of the Peace - Moses Allard, Octavo Barker; ConstableOtto Stoltz.

Later, Peter Kirsch was named village attorney, and J. J. Stone resigned as treasurer and was replaced by William Carrese.

The first order of business in January of 1884 was to set the liquor license fee at $250. The first license was issued to Emma Vellieux, wife of Henry. In the elections, the village and the township were separated, so Octavo Barker could not take office, as he lived on the NW1/4 of Section 26, Middle River Township (where Gene Crummy lives now) and was not a resident of the village. He was replaced by E. M. Richardson. They ordered two pair of shackles and two pair of handcuffs and planned a jail measuring 16'xI6'x8', which Henry Keye built for $375 on Lots 7 and 8, Block 9, First Addition. Dan Beaudry and Ray Pagnac have residences on these lots at present.

The Roller Skating Rink was one of the highlights of 1884. It was a busy social center and was the largest building in town. It was located on Lot 3, Block 10, First Addition. There is a story that the men got tired of having their wives spend so much time at the rink with the babies parked outside in their buggies, so they burned the rink down. It's all pure speculation, but the rink did burn down a few years later.

In 1885 the Presbyterian Church congregation was formed, and they held their services in the school house until the church was built in 1886.

Argyle opened its first bank -- the Farmer's and Merchant's Bank -- in 1886. In the bank's advertisement in the Banner, it asserted that it was the oldest bank in Marshall County. Hans L. Melgaard was president of the bank, and Ole Melgaard was cashier.

The Warren Register of July 7, 1887. reports that Argyle had been named a U.S. weather station, and J.J. Stone was appointed observer.

The first piece of equipment purchased for Argyle was a road grader. Good roads were important for a growing community. It was not until 1888 that Argyle had a fire engine. This was a horse-drawn hand pump. Also in 1888, six cisterns were dug in strategic locations around town. They were curbed with planks and filled with water. This was the water supply in case of fire -- there being no water system at the time. The Warren Register for May 2, 1888, reports that a mill site had been secured on the Middle River in Argyle and grounds for a public square and city park had been purchased. A later issue of the Register reports that the Argyle Roller Mill was to open on October 1, 1888.

By 1891, many changes had taken place in Argyle, The village had a population of some over 300 by this time. The Menzel House, Argyle's first hotel, had changed hands. It was no longer a hotel. Herman Meisch had a small grocery downstairs and slept upstairs. Also in the building was Doug Farrell's jewelry store and small restaurant, Colin Robertson's tailor shop, and at the rear of the building Joseph LaBelle had a bakery.

On December 4, 1891, at 3 a.m.. Herman Meisch was awakened by the smell of smoke. He found the bakery in flames and could not use the stairs, so he jumped to the ground and ran to ring the fire bell, which was at the fire station (where the present senior citizen's homes are located). It was bitter cold; there was a blizzard from the north, and deep snow. It took half an hour with four horses on the fire engine to make the one block to the fire. Then the men had to bodily lift the engine into place next to the cistern which was in the alley back of the bakery. Because of the storm and the difficulties in getting the fire engine in place, the two buildings north and all the buildings south to Second Street were destroyed. This would represent the entire area covered by the Argyle Mall at present.

In many ways, the fire may have speeded the development of Argyle. It necessitated a lot of new construction, and probably forced Argyle to move ahead faster than it might otherwise have done. A letter printed in the Marshall County Banner describing Argyle as it was on March 1 of 1894 -- two years and two months. after the fire -- states: " In Argyle there are now many brick buildings and stores with up to eight clerks. They are: two drygoods and grocery stores, two grocery stores, two furniture, two millinery, two hardware, one confectionary, one drug store, one bank, one clothing store, two implement shops, one notions, one lumber yard, a flour and feed store, one flour mill, one stationery and boots and shoes, five elevators, two butcher shops, four livery stables, two barbers, four hotels, one tin shop, one restaurant, four blacksmiths, three saloons, one bakery, one horse sale barn, a fire department and fire station, two physicians, an opera house, three churches, and a two-story four-room school. The town hall is a handsome brick structure though hardly large enough for the growing requirements of the place. At night the town is well lit with street lights. Yesterday morning after the storm, city horse snow plows promptly cleared the snow off all the walks in city fashion."

Argyle had come a long way in the 16 years since 1878 when F. D. Keye's log store was the only building in town! The writer of the 1etter from which the above quotation was taken was visiting Argyle and writes about what he found here, but the Banner did not print his name, so we have no way of knowing who he was.

By this time (mid-1890's) the early period of Argyle's development had passed. Argyle had officially separated from Middle River Township in March of 1894. The town was established, and every year brought improvements of one kind or another -- telephone, cement sidewalks, electricity, running water and sewers. There were farmer's institutes, concerts, plays, lectures, and entertainments of various kinds at the Opera House and later at the City Hall. Some of this was home talent, but public speakers and traveling entertainers were brought in and well advertised in the Banner.

Argyle had an orchestra and a cornet band. In the Banner of December 18, 1892, we read that a new four-string double bass viol had been purchased for the Argyle Orchestra, and in March of 1893, a new bass tuba for the cornet band. The tuba cost $75. This may not seem like a big expenditure, but when you realize that men's shirts were advertised in the same issue of the Banner at 38 cents, and jean pants at 75 cents a pair, it shows the high regard they must have felt for music. As early as 1884, a Mr. J. Trembley advertised that he was offering instruction in the violin. Later, a Prof. Milne offered courses in vocal music and voice culture two evenings a week for a ten-week period. Also, there were local singing groups.

Lodges and clubs flourished. The churches with their various organizations were active. Argyle was not the cultural wasteland one might have supposed it to be. The isolation of early days was gone, too. Issues of the Banner reveal that people were constantly traveling about. A lot of it was local: to Stephen, Warren, Crookston, Grand Forks; but almost as much involved trips to Canada, various places in the U.S., Norway, Scotland, Germany, etc. for winter visits or even longer.

In less than twenty years, Argyle's frontier days were over, and a stable and prosperous little community looked toward the promise of the future in the Twentieth Century.

[Sources: Howard Chandler's notes, obtained from Banners; Information on "Falcon" found in "Red River Runs North" by Vera Kelsey, Harper c1951.)

"Peter Jarvis, resident of Williams County, North Dakota was found dead last week on the prairie and is supposed to have been murdered. Some of our older citizens will remember Mr. Jarvis. He was one of the early settlers here and laid out the part which is now known as French town." (Taken from the July 4. 1895. edition of the Banner.)

Making ice

Although the railroad was built from Crookston to St. Vincent in 1878. white men had been in the area years before. As early as 1750 there was a white trader at Pembina -- across the river from St. Vincent. Alexander Henry. Jr. was stationed at Pembina from 1800 to 1808. and he and his men made many trips to fur posts on the Red Lake River. Thief River. and elsewhere in the area. In the early 1840's. Norman W. Kittson and Joseph Rolette. agents of the American Fur Company at Pembina, launched their ox-cart trains from that point to St. Paul carrying fur. The main route followed the high land some distance east of the river through central Marshall County.

In 1872. the St. Paul and Pacific became insolvent. When the panic halted railroad building. James J. Hill began to look into the possibilities of railroad promotion. He interested three Canadian financiers. Donald Smith. George Stephen. and Norman Kittson. They acquired the defaulted bonds of the company in 1878 and in May of 1879 organized the St. Paul. Minneapolis. and Manitoba Railway Company to take over St. Paul and Pacific holdings. This system became the Great Northern and eventually the Burlington Northern.

Construction work began again in 1878. and the Canadian border was reached that year. Many settlers who had come into the country found employment on the railroad. and news that it was built built spurred settlement.

About this time. Hill and his associates began to circularize Europe with literature telling of opportunities in northwestern Minnesota. The result was that thousands of settlers flocked to the area. One such group settled east of Argyle. and the Marshall County Banner for May 19. 1910. reports "Twenty-four Belgian families along with a priest and a Belgian count arrived in Foldahl Township. The party was in charge of the D.S.B. Johnson Land Company. They will make Argyle their trading point so as to affiliate with the Catholic Church here."

The railroad had obtained large land grants along the right-of-way. and this land was sold to settlers at $5 per acre, with a rebate of $2.50 per acre if 3/4 of the land was broken and another rebate of fifty cents for every acre cropped. This was a great incentive for settlers. Argyle was one of the many towns that sprang up as a direct result of the coming of the railroad. (The above information was taken from the pamphlet. "After Sixty Years -- When the Railroad Came". commemorating the projection of the line from Crookston to the Canadian boundary in 1878, bringing into existence the towns along the route. 1938.)

In 1883. in an effort to provide for welfare cases. the county purchased the SW 1/4 of Section 12 in Middle River Township for $2200 from W. T. Lackey. who had originally obtained it from the railroad. The farm was to be rented out to farmers. and the money thus obtained was to be used for indigents in the county.

There seems to have been some difficulty with the project right from the start. because the county records for June 10, 1884, report that bids had been called for on cash rent for the Poor Farm, but none had been received, and they were trying to sell the Poor Farm. Six months later it was noted that the Poor Farm commissioner had been fired.

In June of 188h, E. C. Peck rented the Poor Farm, and the Marshall County Banner for June of 1895 reports that the "Committee on the Poor Farm is authorized to sell the buildings on the farm to Mr. H. (Henry) Belisle in payment of hauling and spreading manure on said farm," The following year, the Banner reported that Henry Belisle was given a $64 reduction on his Poor Farm rent on account of a poor crop.

Mr. Belisle continued to rent the Poor Farm for another two years, but by the end of 1899. this method of providing for the poor was abandoned, and in January of 1900. the farm was offered for sale, It was bought by John Robertson of Argyle, whose land adjoined it.

Taken from the "Sheaf" and "Marshall County Banner" April 20, 1881,)

A motion was made by F. D. Keye that the County Seat of Marshall County be and the same is hereby located in Township 151'1, Range 48 in Section 15 on the townsite of Argyle in the town of Middle River, County of Marshall and state of Minnesota, It was seconded by A. Diamond, A. Mcintyre refusing to entertain the motion. Deeming it out of order that we place the safe and contents in the Sheriff's charge and have it immediately conveyed to the town of Argyle.

A special session in November. A special law 41 said that the county seat of Marshall County be established at Warren.

The county board on March 12. 1882, moved that the safe at Argyle be replaced in the County building at Warren at the expense of the County with A. P, Mcintyre appointed to move the safe to Warren.

The safe had been placed in the building of J.J. Stone.

In May of 1881. the attorney salary was stopped. The Register, Clerk of Court and Treasurer was moved to Argyle in the J. J. Stone building. McIntyre was absent from the Argyle meetings. The George U. Holcomb building was leased for County Officers at $I2 per month. Titus must get new treasurer's bond for SI0,000. In October, the room over Trautman's Drug Store was rented for Auditor and Treasurer. Titus refuses the bond, and so Trautman was appointed as Treasurer.

On January 3, 1883, bonds were rejected for Eston Rayon, Auditor, and H. J. Bennewitz, Sheriff, J. P, Nelson, Clerk of Court, and Peter Dalquist, Surveyor, They also set the liquor license at $IOO.

Swanson, Hanson, and Keye were not elected commissioners.

On February 27, 1882, the meeting was at Warren. The board resolved to hire men and teams to haul the safe back to Warren, It was returned on March 7, 1882. The matter was not fully resolved until October IS, 1890, when it was brought to a vote. Warren got 1268 votes to Argyle's 941 votes.

Flood of April, 1897

"We had no mail for over a week,so we went after it and brought it up on a handcar. Hard work pumping, but we got through."

The first post office in Middle River Township was established January 19, 1880, and William (Carrens ?) Carrese appointed postmaster July 26, 1880, according to records of the General Services Administration, Federal Archives and Records Center.

The Argyle Post Office appears on these records on September 12, 1882, with William Carrese the appointed postmaster of the Argyle office. Other persons to serve in this capacity were: William Hazel -- 1884-89; Donald Robertson -- 1889.94; Burt Bivins1894-98; P.S. Nelson -- 1898-1900; B.S. Buckingham--1901-15; H. R. Meisch -- 1915-18; E. G.Lasha (acting postmaster) -1918; Ruby Anderson -- 1918-21; C. M. Krogh--1921-31; Nora Skarstad (acting postmaster) -- 1932; Grace Headrick (acting postmaster) --1933; C. A. Hedquist -- 1934-51; and M. Dale Swanson-- 1951 and presently serving in this office.

The office started out as a fourth class office and is now a small second class (J) office.

The first RFD (rural free delivery) Route #1 at Argyle was estabalished in December, 1905, with I. August Anderson being the regular carrier. Mr. Anderson served this route until his retirement in 1925. Others to serve this route were Ed Steinbauer (retired in 1953), C. A. Hedquist, Hervey E. Carlson, and C. Donald Hedquist. This route served the southeast Argyle rural area.

March of 1907, RFD #2 was established, Richard Hunt, George Stewart, William Marlette, Alex Deschene, C. A. Hedquist, and Hervey Carlson have served as regular carriers, Route #2 served the southwest Argyle rural areas.

March of 1913, RFD #3 was established, with Paul Krogh being appointed as temporary carrier. E. G. Lasha, O. P. Olson, and Olai Anderson served the route as regular carriers. When Olai Anderson retired in 1950, Olaf Hedlund served the route as temporary carrier until C. A. Hedquist transferred from postmaster to this route in 1951. February of 1955, Route #3 was consolidated with routes #1 and #2. C. A. Hedquist was then assigned to Route #1, and Alex Deschene continued to serve Route #2 until he retired in November of 1955. Later C. A. Hedquist carried Route #2 until his retirement in July of 1970. Route #3 originally served the northeast Argyle rural area.

The last route to be established was RFD #4. Two carriers that I can name were Conrad Johnson and Charles Dundas. When Charles Dundas retired in 1948, George Stewart served as temporary carrier until the route was consolidated with Routes #2 and #3 in September of 1949. Route #4 served the northwest Argyle rural area.

As the routes were established, each regular carrier had a substitute to serve the route during their absence. Through the years, many persons from the community served in this capacity. As the farms grow larger, rural population decreases, better roads and automobiles are built, and economics considered, rural routes continue to be consolidated.

We now have Route #1, 121 miles in length, 156 families, served by C. Donald Hedquist, who was appointed carrier in 1959. Route #2 is now classified as an intermediate route and is headed out of the Stephen Post Office. The part of this route that serves the Argyle area is 61 miles in length and serves 67 families. Chauncey Benson, Stephen, Minnesota has served this intermediate route since the consolidation in 1975.

Since the beginning of postal service in Argyle. many persons have served as temporary clerks without career status. Career clerks to serve in recent years were Nora Skarstad, who retired in 1948; Hervey Carlson. who served as regular clerk and rural carieI' and later transferred to Shevlin, Minnesota retired in 1979; Allard Swanson, retired in 1979; Dale Swanson; and Beverly Fulks, who is the present Career Clerk.

For many years, the mail was received by the Great Northern Railroad. but this service was discontinued in October of 1968. The mail is now trucked to area post offices from the Thief River Falls Sectional Center Post Office. The Post Office has been quartered in various locations, and in May of 1970 was moved to its present location on the south side of Third Street, between Pacific and Jefferson Avenues.

A special centennial postmark will be used in cancelling letters from January IS. 1983. to July IS. 1983. to commemorate Argy'le's big event.

Sources of information for this article were received in part from Marshall County Banners, notes from Howard Chandler, old post office records, and General Services Administration., Federal Archives and Records Center, Chicago, Illinois.
--M. Dale Swanson September 25. 1982

Argyle City Hall, June 2, 1902

"On the second day of June. A.D.. 1907, without grace, for value received, we promise to pay to Farmers and MerchantBank of Argyle on order the sum of $1.000.00 at it's office in Argyle with interest from the date here of and until fully paid at the rate of 6 percent per annum, interest payable annually on January 2 in each and every year."

Besides this note and mortgage. the Woodmen have paid $700 toward their share in the building and about $600 for furniture and paraphernalia, making their interest in all about $2.300.

The Royal Neighbors bought and paid for paraphernalia. furniture. etc.. including a $125 carpet, to the amount of $200. On Tuesday evening. January 25, it is the purpose of the camp to extend invitations to its 84 members, their families, and the Royal Neighbors to be present and to participate in the burning of the above quoted mortage and note which will blot out all of the indebtedness of the Camp. Entertainment will be provided for and everything possible done to impress upon the minds of those present the importance of this event.

Truly speaking, Argyle Camp has reason to feel proud of its great accomplishment in such a short space of time, and those members who took upon themselves this great obligation should be awarded space on the charter of the great American lodge.

January' 13, 1910
On Monday, George L. Demers (Argyle local clerk), Argyle Camp No. 2338, Modern Wood Men of America, paid last installment on their portion of the magnificent building which was erected in 1902 and which now serves the purpose of a magnificent opera hall, the property of the City, on the lower floor, and also comfortable as well as elegantly provides lodge rooms for the Masonic, and the Woodmen, Eastern Star, R.N.A. orders on the upper floor. The building was erected by contractor C. N. Morin.

The building is 115 feet by 32 feet on the ground, with 30 foot studdings, is modernly finished, and contains a splendid heating plant in the basement. The building was erected at the cost of $6,500 by the city and a continous lease granted to the Masonic Lodge and the Modern Wood Men of America for the use of the upper floor, which was finished in every way to suit their convenience.


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