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Most of the early settlers of Dassel and its vicinity came from Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Virginia and, last but not least, Sweden, especially from Vastergotland and Varmland.
And some energetic families came over from Hutchinson and Kingston, which were thriving little villages at that time.
In those early days they had a hard life; friendly neighbors helped in cases of sickness and when food was badly needed. Game and fish were plentiful, which was of great help to the settlers.
Dassel was named in honor of Bernard Dassel, who came from a village named Dassel in the province of Einbeck, Germany. He was a friend of James J. Hill, who gave him the job of secretary of the St. Paul & Pacific Railroad, with a salary of $1800 a year: later the salary was generously raised.
The Saint Paul & Pacific Railroad platted the original townsite of Dassel in 1869, the year their rails reached here. Parker Simons, a civil engineer in the employ of the company, did the work in a most able manner.
He put up the first frame building in the village and liked it so well here that he became one of our most prominent citizens.
The east half was part of the homestead of John McKinney and the west half in the claim of Parker Simons.
Some additions were made later on, known as Breed’s, Rudberg’s, Lindgren’s, Ames’, Galiger’s, Cassel’s, Bell’s, and Norgren’s.
The original townsite and its additions are located on the south half of section 34, township 119 north of range 29 west: just one square mile: 640 acres in Meeker County, Minnesota.
Bernard Dassel in the early railroad, days, was in charge of the pay car drawn by the Wm. Crooks Engine No. 1 which made a visit every month to Dassel with the cash for its laborers. This famous engine, the oldest in Minnesota, is now parked in the Great Northern yards in Saint Paul and is often run out to help fairs and celebrations in Great Northern towns. The engine and its two cars were exhibited at the New York World’s Fair in 1939 and 1940. In the big show, Railroads on Parade, it was Lincoln’s’ inauguration train to Washington.
The railroad was completed to Dassel July 4, 1869 and a celebration was held to honor that great event. A few buildings were put up here in that year. In 1870 the real boom started. Dassel then became a “Boom-Town”, store buildings, many dwellings and a schoolhouse were built, some of the dwellings are still in use.
The first general merchandise store was opened by James H. and Chas. A. Morris in 1869 which was operated by them until 1872 when they sold out to Samuel A. Bunting. In 1873 it was destroyed by fire with no insurance. It was. promptly rebuilt by him and he was again in business, but died July 27, 1875, at the age of 43, leaving a wife and three daughters, Ida 17, Ella, 14, and Emma. 9. Sam Bunting was one of Dassel’s leading citizens.
Before moving to Dassel he was in Hutchinson, operating a saw mill, a hotel and the stage, Hutchinson to Dassel. After his death the store was sold to Rudberg Bros., who ran this business until 1880 when they sold the store to August Sallberg, a traveling salesman with Dassel in his trade territory who enjoyed such a good business with our merchants that he decided to locate here.
The fire of February 3, 1883, destroyed the place and he then built a two story brick building on the same location; it’s still there, on the southeast corner of Block 7, on Atlantic Avenue.
A saw mill was built by James H. Morris in 1869 and sold by him to George Brower, Wm. Bradford, and James Wilson in 1872. The mill was operated until 1875 when it was destroyed by fire. In 1876 it was rebuilt and continued’ in operation until August 5, 1881 when a small tornado visited Dassel which wrecked it for good and it went out of business.
In the period of its existence it was owned by J. B. Smith, our first President of the Council and also by Hunter and Elliott; it did a rushing business at all times.
A saw mill was built by Norgren & Johnson in 1885. which was operated with success for several years.
In 1875 John Norgren came over from East Kingston and started a general store with John O. Belin as a partner, under the name of J. Norgren & Co., which was in successful operation for over forty years. The last ten years it was owned by J. W. and L. M. Norgren, two of Dassel’s most popular and best liked citizens.
J. Norgren died January 15, 1907, age 78 years. John O. Belin died June 2, 1926, at the age of 79. L. M. Norgren died here July 12, 1923, age 59 years: J. W. Norgren died November 3, 1926, his age was 77.
Mickel Hendrickson in 1872 commenced the construction of a building for a store but died just before it was completed. He was in partnership with John Rudberg owning a threshing machine driven by oxen, and in threshing on his own farm he accidentally stepped into the cylinder of the machine while it was in motion which caused his death before a doctor could get to him. On October 15, 1873, O. H. Sundahl, Louis and Jonas J. Rudberg opened a general store in this building. On May 1, 1874, Chas. A. Morris bought O. H. Sundahl’s share in the business and November 10, 1875 the firm purchased the Samuel A. Bunting store from his heirs and combined it with their business.
General stores in those days had a box of smoking tobacco on the counter where customers filled their clay and corn-cob pipes with Peerless or Corn Cake tobacco, free. Also at the back of the store, there was a pail of water with a dipper in it where you got a drink when thirsty.
Thompson & Lindgren established a general store in their new building on Lot 11 in Block 8. They opened this establishment in 1883 and operated it for four years, then selling it to Rudberg Bros. In 1890 they sold an interest in it to Louis Palmersten of Stillwater. Minnesota, who remained a member of the firm of Rudbergs & Palmersten until 1895 when Nels Rudberg bought out Peter Rudberg and Louis Palmersten, and the partnership was dissolved. Palmersten opened a store of his own and Peter Rudberg bought the hardware store of John Clarquist.
Later Charles Olson became a partner with Palmersten under the firm name of Palmersten & Olson. In 1890 Charles sold out his interest in the company and then established a new store known as And. Olson & Co. A few years later he sold his share of the business to his brother, Joseph, who became the general manager of this store which enjoyed a thriving business for many years.
Joseph Olson died September 14. 1933, age 56. Louis Palmersten died February 15. 1906. at the age of 72.
Nels Rudberg operated his store until January 12, 1900 when it was destroyed in the big fire on that date. He again entered the general merchandise business in 1905 and continued in this until his death November 12, 1912.
S. O. Lindgren died June 12, 1892, age 35, and John Thompson, August 18, 1934, he was 87 years old.
Louis Rudberg and Nels Erickson established a firm under the name of Nels Erickson & Co. in 1881, and erected a building en the southeast corner of Block 8, but before it was completed a tornado visited Dassel and ripped off the second story of the building; it was then converted into a one-story building. They opened their general store November 1, 1881. Here the post office was located with Louis Rudberg as its efficient postmaster, who was Meeker County’s member of the Legislature in 1876, and County Commissioner in 1877.
Nels Erickson died September 7, 1910, at the age of 81.