The railroad crew of Italian hand laborers who came to work on the first railroad cut in 1904 were housed in three big barracks west of the Armstrong railroad crossing. They dug a pit in a clay bank along the railroad track and would build a hot fire in it, then rake the hot coals out and put in big round loaves of bread to bake in the improvised oven. They bought chickens, milk and other produce from nearby farmers. They had an interpreter named Frank to make their wants known. Frank and Sam Macri, a well educated belligerent member of the crew parted company, and Sam went to live upstairs in Orlando Styner's granary. He had money hidden away and bought land from Clausen Briley, and lived in the little hat shop Annie Briley had operated on the Briley place. His wife in Italy died and his two children, Antonia and Joe, about ten and twelve, were living with an uncle there. Sam went back to Italy and brought his two children to his farm in Armstrong, built a big house, and lived there until his death. He raised lots of grapes to make his own wine for himself and his friends.
The first wooden bridge over the railroad tracks was built straight north and south joining Spring Street by Conover's store. The second bridge, slightly to the west was laid out with the north approach on the diagonal from Main St. The new bridge, scheduled to be built in 1969, will' be an extension of the creamery road going straight north to state highway twelve. Edward (Doc) Danielson's house will be a casualty.
0. E. Styner used to cut and haul cordwood to be sold to the St. Paul & Pacific railroad at the Armstrong depot. It was fuel for the wood burning train engines of that time. Roy Styner, his son, sleeps in the same bedroom he was born in seventy-five years ago.
Robert Mills from Henry Co., Indiana, volunteered and served in the Civil War from 1863 to 1865. Then he came to Minnesota and bought land from Job Moffatt who had proved the first claim in Independence township. This was north of Pioneer Creek, and adjoined the Styner place. He claimed each generation of that Scotch family had to have a Robert and a William which explains all the William Mills'. He used to say that Minnesota was such a healthy place to live, they had to kill a man to start a cemetery.
William Mills, father of Leslie Mills and Mrs. Ray Anderson, used to tell of being sent for the cows back in the marshy land west of the Armstrong cemetery. Wolves were howling, and both boy and cows were nervous. He held onto a cow's tail and both cows and boy hit the high spots running for home which was where M. C. Ostvig now lives.
The big old Benjamin Drake house on Spring Street was lived in by the Jacob Heinzen family who had twelve children. Later it was cut up into three houses, owned now by Mrs. Minnie Chenoweth, Karl Meyer, and John Ruff. The old Star Hotel was hand sawed in two to make two houses; Dick Ernst lived in one and Dick Schultz lives in the other. The old schoolhouse was bought at auction by Preston McCulley, who in turn sold it to Ed Pagenkopf and Murray Hill, who wrecked it and made two houses of it. The Pagenkopf house now belongs to Merle (Jim) Budd, on the old schoolhouse site, and Murray Hill used his lumber to build his present home. The fire escape (people got nervous about fire when George Mason's whiskers caught fire at a Christmas program) was divided up. Part of it is now the fire escape on the Presbyterian Church. Part of it wound up as an illegal fish trap in Pioneer Creek, and warden Art Gertz found it. Later it became a stairway and steps on the Merle Beer place.
Mae Mills Bergquist had a millinery shop in Offerman's house where Buelow's restaurant is now. Jennie Noreen, Mae Bergquist, Mamie Hill and Alma Peterson were apprentice seamstresses in the dressmaking shop above McCormick's store run by Mrs. Rachel Feming. McCormick's store became McCormick and Turnham before 1900. Then it became Turnham and Beer. Mrs. McCormick and Rachel Fleming both were sisters of Jim Turnham.
Henry Hardt operated a livery stable started in the 1890's where Ted's drugstore now stands. The Hardt hotel, same location, burned in 1938.
Durant's restaurant stood where the lumber yard is now located and the passenger trains used to stop for people to eat there. It was moved to become the Silverleaf Inn at the inter-section of county road 19 and Highway 12. Remodeled, it is now Andrew Swanson's home.
The early silent movies (a reel, a 3 minute intermission, another reel, and so on) (Ladies will please remove their hats flashed on the screen as long as a lady had a hat on) were held in the hall owned by Henry Pearson next to his home near the south side of the bridge. This location had been a farm implement and furniture store run by Ed DeCamp and 0. E. Styner, followed by Bill Peterson's blacksmith shop, and then Pearson's movie, entertainment and dance hall. It was bought and rebuilt by Ernest Pearson and Albert Thompson for their milk route trucks.
Albert bought Ernest out, and it was used for a garage to house the village fire trucks until the new fire barn was built. C. W. Christopherson now owns it.
The Odd Fellows, a popular lodge at that time, built a hall about 1890, and it burned to the ground in 1918. A new hall was built on the same site across the tracks from Conover's. Alvin Bryant hauled brick for the building with horse and buggy. It served as a social center as well as the lodge meeting place. Dances, box socials, home talent plays and entertainments were held there. Leslie Brown was one of the local dance band members who played there. The building was bought in 1945 by Axel Beck, Arnold Huss and Howard Johnson who were all cabinet makers. The company specialized in custom made store, restaurant, bank and bar fixtures. It changed hands in 1963 and is now operated by Einar Hagberg, joined in 1967 by his son Bruce, and is now Suburban Cabinet and Fixture Co.
At the Maple Hill Farm Resort there were 25 cabins and the hotel. The cabins were not housekeeping, only for sleeping. The meals were served at the hotel. Cost: $8.00 per week, per person for room and board.
When Maple Plain had a town team playing baseball in the early 1920's, the players recalled are: The Ditty boys, Bill, Clayton and Perry, Claude (Hans) Budd, Art Amundson, Jim Budd, Mel Cox, Ernie Pearson, Ed Danielson, Ray DeCamp, "Bottle" Danielson, Mike Watry, Lawrence Setzler, Stan Hill and T. M. Ruud. Lars Pearson was bat boy. The ball field was on the cartway on the Bryant farm.
Asa Bennett operated a saw mill on the site of the Ed Danielson home. Ben Hoisington and O. E. Styner also operated saw mills. Dave Briley was the first blacksmith and H. C. Dickey the wagonmaker. Jim Turnham and George McCormick ran an elevator on the site of the Herbert Heinzen home before the railroad cut was made. Mr. Bennett also operated a broom handle factory across from the present Glen Hillstrom place.