Archive for May 20, 2007

Anoka County Celebrates its Sesquicentennial; some lessons learned

May 20, 2007

Anoka County, Minnesota is celebrating its Sesquicentennial this year, and this weekend, May 18-20, is one of their major event times. (See  I was fortunate enough to be at the County Government Center on Friday afternoon when the Wagon Train arrived. I was standing next to an Ox-cart, an antique replica of one of the original Ox-carts of the Red River Ox-cart Trail, which ran hundreds of miles, from St. Paul to Winnipeg, to support the  trading network into Canada. It ran down the main street on Anoka, old Hwy 10.

I found myself thinking how hard our ancestors worked to build the communities and businesses we often take for granted today. I was struck by what one of the speakers said, that when Anoka became a county, it was because citizens resolved that they had reached a point of development where they needed to contribute their own funds (taxes), to pool them together to support infrastructure. They realized that even though business was booming, that common infrastructure — schools, roads, public safety and law enforcement — were needed to ensure that the community could support and sustain the businesses that were growing, and the citizens that were settling.

It reminded me of my own great-grandfather’s story, himself an immigrant to Minnesota in the 1880s from Sweden. He worked on the James J. Hill railroad, laying down track, and was a lumberjack in central MN, and was one of the laborers who helped build the Minneapolis City Hall, before settling down to farm in Mille Lacs County where he served also as a justice of the peace and on the school board.

He said he was so proud to be doing well enough financially to be able to pay his taxes to support the community.  You don’t hear that much these days — that people are proud to have the right and responsibility to pay taxes to support their communities and their democracy. But those are the lessons you learn when you pay attention to our ancestors stories.

There will be many more stories ahead, of sacrifice and ambition and community vision. Stay tuned…..