Memories of Roads in Vergas, Minnesota

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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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