Memories of Early Aberdeen - BY E. L. Davis
As secretary of the Commercial club in the early days, most every letter contained an inquiry about our churches and schools, and we could truly answer that both were fine as to quality as well as quantity.
In the summer of 1905 some literature reached Newton, Kansas, stating that somewhere between American Falls and Blackfoot, Idaho, a new irrigated tract was to be opened for settlement. In response to that advertisement four men from Newton, Kansas, decided to come to Idaho and investigate. Those four men were Henry Toevs, Sr., Will Bartel, George Bartel and F.B. Wedel, whom the people of Aberdeen learned to know very well and favorably. These four men were so impressed with the layout and prospects that they all filed on land and went back to Kansas to wind up their affairs and businesses preparatory to coming here and making their permanent homes. Many people came to Idaho in early 1906, erecting tents and any kind of shelter. Of the original four, Mr. Toevs filed on a farm now owned and operated by Peter Isaak, about 11/2 miles west of the southwest corner of the townsite. Mr. G.A. Barter filed on a farm west of town, and Mr. F.B. Wedel on the farm now owned by Mr. Abe Isaak just off the townsite at the northwest corner.
Mr. Will Bartel was our genial painter, later on. Mr. George Bartel became part owner and manager of the newly built Aberdeen Hardware Co. at the corner of Main Street and Central Avenue.
Mr. F.B. Wedel was primarily a promoter, and it was due largely to his efforts that the hospital at American Falls was built and operated, first by Mennonites and later by Power County. Also later, Mr. Wedel was the man most responsible for a large hospital at Salem, Oregon.
In 1906 Sunday School was held by the Mennonites in various homes. Many of these meetings were held at the homes of Henry Hege and Sam Hunsinger. Rev. Jacob Hege was the father of Henry, Ulrich, and Otto Hege, all of whom lived here when we arrived in 1909.
New settlers were arriving so fast that it became necessary to build a house of worship. In 1907, a frame building was erected about 11/2 miles south of the townsite on the farm now owned by George Thomas.
The First Mennonite church of Aberdeen community was organized in 1907 with a membership of 36. The church above mentioned was also used for a school house and continued as a church school or a school church for some years. This building has a unique history. It was sold to District No. 54, as our old district was called, then sold by the school district to the Lutheran Church and moved about 18 miles west or about one mile west of the old Heuther dray farm, and then moved back to Aberdeen and is now the Lutheran Church of Aberdeen.
To get back to the organized Mennonite Church; the names of those members were so well known to nearly every old timer, that at the risk of using more than the alloted space, I'll name them, or at least 35 of them, (as the paper didn't give the name of the 36th member). List follows: Jacob and Elizabeth and Martha Hege, Wilhelm and Maria Bartel, John J. and Anna Schroeder, Leonard and Minna Dirks, John, Agatha, and Anna S. Toevs, Eugene Leisy, Ulrich Hege, Elizabeth
Hege, Cornelius Anna and Henry Tiahrt, Albert H. Leisy, Walter Fast, Henry and Barbara Hege, Jacob P., Lizzie and Mae Wedel, Frank L. Wenger, Otto and Anna Hege, G.A. and Susanne Bartel, Samuel Hunsinger, Frank D. and Tena Enns, Henry Fast and Jacob P. Bartel.
The above named members were the first Mennonite pioneers of Aberdeen as well as the State of Idaho. It would be an interesting game for some reader, who knew them, to figure out just what the men ultimately did, other than farming. Several vocations would be listed, but space forbids to try here.
The first girl born in the country around Aberdeen was Alice Dirks, born 11/16/06. Alice was a very well-liked and capable worker in the Bank of Aberdeen for some time, then went to Portland to take Nurse's training and is now Mrs. F. Hubka and living in Portland, Oregon.
The Mennonites celebrated their 40th Anniversary on June 29,1947, and by coincidence, the Presbyterians celebrated their 40th year on the same Sunday night.
It was during the pastorate of Rev. Baer that the village church was built here in town and later built into the fine large church where they now worship under the splendid leadership of Rev. H.N. Harder.
It will be noted that the interests of the church and the school ran parallel in the first churches here, even to using the same buildings. As stated previously, the Presbyterian Church celebrated their 40th Anniversary on 6/29/47. Their first meetings were held in the home of Mr. and Mrs. M.L. Haines in the Hamilton Merc Store bldg., as there was no other place to go at that time; then services were held in a large tent almost exactly in the center of Washington Street at the east side of Main Street, diagonally across from the bank building., and toward the east from the Valley Supply. This nice tent was described by Mr. Haines as follows: "20' x 40' tent with board floor, also side walls boarded to ceiling, with tent roof". This tent also became the first church building in town.
(Flash: I have just learned that the tentative population of the City of Aberdeen according to 1950 census is 1475, or an increase of 45 percent since 1940).
The first boy was Otto Hege, youngest son of Henry Hege, born 3/18/07. Otto is well known to all present Aberdeenites, and is a successful farmer and lives on the corner east side of what is known as the Hege corner.
Rev. J.B. Baer came in 1909 from Illinois and settled on a farm west of town and became pastor of the Mennonite Church. He built and lived in the house occupied by Col. M.A. Fugate for so long and now occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Glen Fugate.
This tent was also used as a school house, and Mrs. C.L. Meyers, a sister of Mrs. M.L. Haines, was the first teacher.
Next the church and Sunday School services were held in the school house, now owned by the Methodist Church as a place of worship. An old Aberdeen Times states that all material for the present Presbyterian Church was on the ground August 25, 1911, so, presumably, the church was finished in 1912. Mr. Edgar Toevs, who is everybody's friend, is the present very efficient pastor, both in and out of the church and I sometimes think he does more work and spends more time as minister outside the church building-always helping someone in need.
Until June 12, 1910, when they organized, the Methodists worked with the Presbyterians, all working together in a worthy Christian endeavor. After they had organized under the leadership of Rev. Osterhout, they held their meetings for a time in a little Baptist Church located where the family of Mrs. Jacob D. Toevs now lives. Ted and Alden and Irene should be very good people, and the same time intelligent, for, first they lived in a church, which later became the house now occupied by Mr. J.B. Greenman and Frances. Then they bought a school house from the district, which went into their present fine place of residence. Mr. Albert Pletz preached in the Baptist Church and also, occasionally, in the Mennonite Church. Later he became my partner. Mr. Pletz was a good preacher as well as mechanic which we will explain in a later chapter. Rev. W.H. Hertzog, who resides in Blackfoot is the present minister here, preaching every Sunday night. Mr. Hertzog is a man of very high attainments. He used to be the District Supt. for this district, and is a fine speaker and a good godly man. When the present Grade School was built, the school house was sold to the Methodist board, on bids, for one thousand dollars. The writer was chairman of the School Board, and also a member of the Church Official Board, so, naturally did not vote on the sale. Later, the School Board tried to buy the building back as they were crowded for room, but the church board wisely decided not to sell.
The Catholic Church was established in Aberdeen in 1914 with Father Fox as spiritual leader, and it serves a large number of the Catholic faith drawing from a large territory. Now, Father James Grady is their present leader.
The Latter-Day Saints moved the frame building, formerly occupied by the Valley Supply Co., to 1st East in 1916, where they held their services until a fine, large recreation building was built in 1928, on their present location. Mr. J.F. Monsen was presiding elder (later bishop) until a Ward was organized and Mr. Marion Clinger became first bishop. Until recently, Aberdeen Ward belonged.to Blackfoot Stake, but now is under the new American Falls Stake, under the very able leadership of Mr. George Woolley, who takes a leading part in every worthy civic program. Mr. Woolley is a man of high caliber, and would be a welcome leader in any community. Mr. Bruce Beck is present bishop of the Aberdeen Ward. More power to him. American Falls Stake is made up of the following wards: Springfield, Sterling, Aberdeen, American Falls and Rockland. Their splendid new church building will soon be ready for occupancy and is a credit to our town.
Other churches organized later are, St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church which now has a local pastor in the person of a young man named B.T. Bauer, who seems to be a hustler. The church people built a nice home for him across the street north from Burgemeister residence.
The Assembly of God Church has a large congregation and is led by Rev, Garrison.
The Seventh Day Adventist Church and the Church of the Brethren are other churches here, established in the later years.
A few firsts may here be mentioned. The water tank was built in 1910.
The first Farm Institute was held February 24, 1911, with Dean Carlyle as our big man from outside. The old timers will remember him as one of the outstanding judges of livestock (especially horses) in the U.S., and he was called to judge fairs in many states.
On February 12, 1912, the Moveable School was held here, at which we had several celebrities, viz., Dr. J.A. McLean, President of the U. of I., Dean E.J. Iddings, who is very well known here as he had much to do with the Experiment Farm, in the early times, at least; W.H. Olin, E.F. Rhinehart who also is well known here, and Mrs. Alba Bales were judges. E.L. Davis was used as secretary. Don Bark, who was irrigation expert also came here often and the burden of his sermon was, irrigate more than irrigate.
Aberdeen has taken her full share of prizes at the fair all through the years as evidenced by trophies at the high school.
The Commercial Club was organized March 15,1910, in the old bank building. Officers elected were: E.D. Hines, temporary chairman, Dallas Fugate, President, E.W. Harold, secretary and T.J. (Tobe) Wedel, treasurer.
The first telephone to the outside came in the fall of 1909. The first telegram received that we have any record of was February 22, 1911. Miss Jones (Mrs. Lowe) came to Aberdeen to establish the office for the Aberdeen Townsite Co. and the American Falls Canal and Power Co. from Blackfoot on September 20, 1909. And the AberdeenSpringfield Canal Co. having been formed on April 11, 1910, she continued as secretary for all three companies until the middle of October 1912.
The Aberdeen-Springfield Canal Co. was an organization of all of the owners of water rights purchased from the American Falls Canal and Power Co., and Mrs. Lowe was elected as first secretary. The first real meeting of all stock holders was held on June 13th, 1910, but some warm meetings were held on March 15th, another on April 2nd, and a third on April 11, 1910. Stock was issued and mailed out on May 21 to owners. Mrs. Lowe was called upon to help out on other occasions. Secretaries succeeding Mrs. Lowe in order, are as follows: J.M. Lattimer, Mrs. Lowe, Glenn Fugate, Mrs. Mabel Arms, Ira J. Wenger (who served faithfully for 25 years), and the present secretary, Elmer Isaak, who is doing a very good job.
The first train left Aberdeen November 11, 1910, and pulled out the first car of spuds to be shipped from Aberdeen.
The Iowa Lumber Co. Yard, later named the Gem State Lumber Co., and now the Tri-State Lumber company was opened on May 6, 1910, with our friend George J. Lechleiter, Mgr., and on May 6th, 1950, about 1100 people helped to honor him and his company at a wonderful banquet held at the high school-people coming for miles to the biggest event of its kind ever held here. The company and George are to be congratulated. Nuff said on that, as all will remember it for a long time to come.
The Postmasters who have served this community have been M.L. Haines, who was appointed November 1, 1907; Mrs. Georgia Toner, wife of publisher Jap Toner; Peyton Harris; Frank Dvorak; Mrs. E.V. Gohman and our present very efficient Postmasters, Mr. Alvin Funk, who is also a splendid community man. Miss Francis Greenman has been the pleasant and worthy assistant postmaster since January 24, 1919. Mr. Henry Hege carried the last mail June 30,1910, and the first mail by train arrived January 15,1913. The first passenger train (what we called the Galloping Goose) an oil burning affair started in 1912.
Mr. and Mrs. Alvin Partner were rural mail carriers for many years and they and Mr & Mrs. McPeek have done and are doing a fine job carrying out the tradition of "the mail must go through".