Roads--Or Lack of Them
According to Frank Schimelpfenig, 85, one of the oldest
citizens in the Vergas area at this time, the roads years ago were a far cry from what we have today. Frank's folks, Mr. and Mrs.
William Schimelpfenig from Young America, Carver County, came to Section
4, Dora Township in 1876. Frank was born on January 1, 1891, the
seventh child of twelve. All the children were born on the home farm.
Frank tells about the trail that went past their farm,
between the two Spirit Lakes, as having eight inches of water over it.
The roads were all very crooked, as they avoided all
swamps, and heavily wooded and hilly areas. Winter roads were always
routed over the lakes as they were level. The only uphill going would
be from one lake to another. Another reason for lake routes was that
the roads were impossible to keep free of snow, as they weren't graded.
In the wintertime, neighbors would keep the lake roads
and trails open by cooperating with one another. They would hook three
teams to a homemade snow plow and try to push the snow away so that the
teams and sleds could go through.
It was in the winter that most of the logs, ties, and
other products were hauled to the market places of Perham, Luce, Frazee,
Pelican Rapids, and Vergas. They went over as many lakes as possible.
Visiting other families, going to church, going to town,
and all other business had to be done via the wagon or sled. In the
winter a double box on a sled with a blanket or canvas over the top
helped protect the people from the cold. It was estimated that a good
walking team could travel about four miles in an hour.
The roads were constantly improved as more people came to
the area, and more automobiles took to the roads. Not until 1927 were
roads being surveyed and rebuilt.
Anyone who owned an automobile in the early days, had the
yearly task of putting it into a shed and setting it up on blocks. This
kept the weight off the tires to insure longer life. This was done at
the first sign of snow. in later years when cars had batteries, the
batteries were also removed and stored in a warm place.
Frank said that in his years he has driven "thousands of
miles, and that the roads now are one thousand percent good."
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