The Daily Globe | A history of Lakefield
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Should the Genealogical Society buy some of these books for re-sale in the historical society quarters in Worthington?
Thursday, June 17, 2004
A history of Lakefield
By Julie Buntjer
LAKEFIELD � Like so many towns on the southwestern Minnesota prairie, Lakefield�s birth came about primarily because of the railroad � the Milwaukee Railroad, to be specific.
Though the rail has long since closed, the small town on the western edge of Jackson County has survived and thrived for 125 years. Residents will mark that milestone this weekend during the community�s annual celebration.
of the town�s historians, Byron Kroeger, spent months poring through local history books, articles and old editions of the town�s newspaper, the Lakefield Standard, to create a keepsake for the thousands of people who have called Lakefield home in those years. The result is a book published in late March that spans the town�s 125-year history.
Kroeger, who was born and raised in Lakefield and now works part-time for the Standard, has been a history buff for more than 25 years. The passion stems back to his college days, when he took journalism and art history classes at the University of Minnesota.
He began researching Lakefield history about a decade ago, but really delved into it last summer in preparation for the book. Today, he can often be found poring through documents at the Jackson County Historical Museum to learn more about the early settlers of Jackson County and the Lakefield area.
While the book �Lakefield: 125 Years 1879-2004� informs readers about the community�s humble beginnings and highlights events throughout its history, Kroeger said there are a lot of stories yet to be told about Lakefield.
He hopes to continue his research and later write and perhaps publish a more in-depth book on the community�s roots.
�It�s kind of a lifelong thing. Whenever I�ve got the time to dig into the local history, I will,� Kroeger said.
His present offering includes 66 pages, with both color and black-and-white photographs of Lakefield scenes throughout the past 125 years. The story begins with national and state events and moves into the founding of Lakefield. Historical events are written in chronological order.
While researching the community, Kroeger discovered Census information that showed population growth from 20 residents at the time Lakefield was incorporated to a high of 1,886 residents by the 1980 Census. Today, about 1,720 people call Lakefield home.
Kroeger�s book includes histories on the schools, listings of present and past businesses, and information about farm populations, farm size and farm technologies that have affected the rural community. He also touches on some of the interesting facts about the town, from the wildfires that threatened local homes and businesses in the early years to the outdoor bandshell that hosted concerts every week during the summer for more than 50 years.
Included in the book are excerpts from the Lakefield Standard on important events in the town�s history. The Standard is the oldest, longest-running business in the community, publishing a weekly paper for the past 119 years.
History in the making
While Lakefield was incorporated in 1879, the land was inhabited long before then, with French and English traders exploring the territory in the 17th and 18th centuries. By 1869, however, the first settlers came to Heron Lake Township to break up the soil and stake their futures on the land.
Anders R. Kilen, a sodbuster who helped establish many farms in southern Minnesota, is credited with Lakefield�s founding. He worked in the area during the early 1870s to help farms get established, but when the grasshopper plagues of the mid-1870s struck, he moved east.
�It was really hard times when the grasshoppers hit,� Kroeger said.
Throughout its history, Lakefield has had many hard times, but it�s also enjoyed prosperity. Kroeger said the community is poised for future growth and development, thanks to leaders willing and working to promote the town.
�Lakefield has always been progressive,� said Kroeger. �The EDA and Council are behind a lot of projects.�
Kozy Heat is the community�s largest employer and, although many retail businesses have closed in the last couple of decades, Kroeger said they have a good service industry base.
Kroeger�s book, published by the Lakefield Standard, is available for purchase at the newspaper office and will be sold during Saturday�s celebration at their tent. Copies can also be ordered by mail. Contact the Lakefield Standard for prices and shipping information.