Beske Implement of Minnesota Lake, Minnesota
Brian Wayne Wells
As published in the March/April 2000 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine
Blue Earth County, located in south-central Minnesota, derives its name from the bluish-green color of the soil which was once used as a pigment by the native Sioux tribes in the area, long before the coming of the white man. (Warren Upham, Minnesota Geographical Names, [Minnesota Historical Society: St Paul, 1969], p. 57.) Indeed, the bluish-green tinge of the soil led the French explorer, Pierre LeSueur, to believe that the soil contained copper. After his initial exploration of the southern Minnesota area in 1695, LeSueur returned to France and made plans for another trip to the new world, this time with miners in tow who were to establish Fort L’Huillier in Blue Earth County and to commence mining the copper that was sure to be there. This expedition to the new world was mounted in 1700; however, as history reveals, no copper was ever found in Blue Earth County. Thus, Fort L’Huillier and France’sattempts at settlement of southern Minnesota came to an inglorious end.
Indeed, it was wealth of quite another sort located in the soil that attracted permanent settlement to southern Minnesota very early in the history of the State. It was the dark rich humus soil, now renowned as being some of the best soil in the world. Among the earliest settlers were four families from Scotland: David and Mary (Reid) Ogilvie; James and Hellen (Coutie) Ogilvie; Archibald and Anne Cardle; and Andrew R. and Jeanette More. They were attracted to the area by the rich soil and settled in what was to become Pilot Grove Township of Faribault County, the county immediately adjacent to Blue Earth County on the south. The Ogilvies, Mores and Cardles took up land near Weasel Lake. While James and Hellen Ogilvie took up a piece of land adjacent to the lake, David and Mary Ogilvie took up land to the north which was not adjacent to the lake. On June 5, 1867, a baby girl was born to David and Mary Ogilvie. They named her Jeanette More Ogilive, after their good friend Mrs. Andrew More. (We will meet Jeanette, or Nettie, Ogilvie as a mature woman later in this story.)
Settlement, based on agriculture, in southern Minnesota was successful beyond all expectations. Towns sprang up all over, with businesses to serve the agricultural community. One such town was Minnesota Lake, located directly on the boundary between Blue Earth and Faribault Counties. Conveniently located on the Chicago-Milwaukee and St Paul railroad line, Minnesota Lake was lopsidedly settled, with more of the village in Faribault County than in Blue Earth County. In 1890, the population of Minnesota Lake was 340. Ten years later, the population of the town had grown to 518. In 1877, Gustavus A. Beske immigrated with his parents from Germany when he was only 8 years and settled in Minnesota Lake, Minnesota. In 1902, Gus, or G.A., Beske, Andrew Petrok, and Ben Engibrittson bought a hardware business from the estate of C.W. Appley. The Appley Hardware store had been financed by Peter Kremer, the largest holder of stock in the 1st National Bank in Minnesota Lake. The three new partners, however, were able to continue this financing of the hardware store under their names. In 1904, the hardware store began selling farm machinery manufactured by many different companies.
After a few years, G.A. sold his interest in the hardware store to his partners and went to work for the International Harvester Company, traveling far from Minnesota Lake. Ultimately, however, he found that life on the road did not compare with the small town life of Minnesota Lake. Upon the untimely death of Ben Engibrittson on April 6, 1909, G.A. took the opportunity to return to his home town and bought out Ben Engibrittson’s share of the old hardware store. He also met Lydia Fischer, whom he married on June 31, 1909.
Once back in the hardware business, it became clear that G.A. Beske was the real force behind the partnership. It was G.A. Beske’s true element. He was a natural at sales. It was said that G.A. could sell anything, just by talking to people. Eventually, Andrew Petrok also sold his share of the hardware business to G.A. Beske Hardware truly fit the tradition of the general store in American folklore. It served as a place where the men of Minnesota Lake would gather daily around the coal-burning, pot-bellied stove in the middle of the store and converse. The Beske Hardware also began selling New Idea farm equipment and Ford cars.
In 1912, two significant events happened–G.A. and Lydia had a son, Woodrow, and G.A., as sole proprietor, undertook a franchise agreement to sell John Deere equipment out of the hardware store. So it was, that one of the first John Deere dealerships in the state of Minnesota was established in the tiny community of Minnesota Lake. A farm machinery dealership was an enterprize with great promise in 1912, but there were also great risks, as the next 80-year history of Beske Implement would show. Continue reading Beske Implement of Minnesota Lake, Minnesota