|A History of STRUM
and the TOWN OF UNITY by Roy Matson
|buying farm produce in a building next to the main street railroad crossing. By 1904 Fred
Lyon had erected an elevator just east of Olsonís building and Strum had four dealers in
the grain buying business.
This phase of local agriculture had about two decades of boom. Except for two or three
years, farm prices were considered good from the mid 1890ís to the early 1920ís.
Whatever the farmer brought to town seemed to have a ready market. Taxes were
moderate, the urge to buy high priced automobiles with an accompanying demand for
better roads had yet to snowball. About the only cloud on the economic horizon seemed
to be high farm prices as a result of World War I.
As stated several times throughout this story, roads were horrible. With four buyers
scouring the valleys as far as 10-12 miles out, business was secured but, except for nearly
customers, the majority waited for snow and use of a sleigh to haul their goods to town.
Main street became alive with the first snowfall. An early morning start from 10 miles out
would bring a farmer into town at about 10:00 A.M. to become part of two or three dozen
teams with sleighs trying to unload. There were varied experiences. Henry Hammer, an
upper Johnson Valley farmer, was remembered to have hired three neighbors to haul baled
hay to the cars. It was cold, far below zero those three days, but the four made two trips
each day from four miles out, loading and unloading enough baled hay to fill several
carloads. Hay bales in those days were wire tied and weighed around 110-120 lbs. A
sleigh and a good team could handle a two ton load with normal winter road conditions.
Each railroad car would hold 400 bales or more depending on its size. Hay usually
brought $6.00 per ton and up. Ted Eide remembered that as a bouncing youth, he had a
winter of considerable hauling from their farm in Bruce Valley. A start at 11:00 A.M.
would find he and his load edging up to the present Indrebo hill just south of town. With
Chimney Rock and Bruce Valley sleigh loads from the south and Johnson Valley and
Unity coming from the east, it was a rare day that drivers did not blanket their horses and
inch their way the last half mile to town. Loads from the Big Creek area usually
double-teamed up the north side of that ridge before road building equipment changed the
approach to make easier access. Residents of that valley contributed much local activity
through the years. One of their men, John Clemenson, operated the Northern Grain &
Seed for several years.
As most all others, the day of the elevator passed. Oats brought 52 cents per bushel in
1910, about the same in 1915 and up to 55 cents in 1920. Wheat reached a little over
$2.50 per bushel shortly after 1920, but the market slumped from then on, possibly
because western wheat was a better flour grain. Small trucks began freight service in big
cities and the day of the horse was ending for such work. With their exit, purchases of hay,
straw and grain dropped and local farmers began milking a greater number of cows, all of
which slowed activity at the elevator. T. M. Olson obtained title to the Northern Grain &
Seed building. The Cargil Company disposed of their investment at an earlier date. A
Farmer Co-op ran the Lyon facility for some after his death. Another co-op altered and
operated the Northern building as a feed mill for some time.
All these buildings are gone now. In their time they served this trade area very well and
played a great part in development of the village. The only building left of the pictured
skyline is the white structure built by Henry Ruseling.
Builders and Buildings
Builders and carpenters have always been plentiful in this community, some being
exceptional craftsmen. To enumerate all at this late date would be about impossible but at
the risk of missing some able men we will mention names as one and all in building our
Undoubtedly the St. Paulís church was the first building within the present corporate
limits of the village. It seems that Erik Holden was the head carpenter but several men