Historic home of ‘healer’ to be auctioned

january 21, 2008

Tracy Apartments was once the home of Earl Tracy, controversial healer

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

What has been a five-unit apartment complex in Cokato, Tracy Apartments, will be hitting the auction block Saturday, Feb. 2.

Many know this property along Broadway and Fourth Street, however few may know how the structure actually got its name.

The original building was a home purchased by a famous Cokato healer, Earl Tracy, in the early 1930s.

This man was born and raised in Cokato. His parents, John and Emma Tracy, were from two of the town’s earliest settler families.

Born in 1886, Tracy didn’t stick around too long. In 1915, Tracy moved to North Dakota.

Before he returned to Cokato in 1932, Tracy had traveled around the world, lived in several states, and married four times (five after he moved to Cokato), according to Mariénne Kreitlow, who wrote a musical about Tracy’s life.

“He was a worldly man,” she said.

For a short time, Tracy was a businessman, but found this wasn’t his forté.

“He was a very unsuccessful businessman and a successful healer,” Kreitlow said.

Tracy returned to Cokato in 1932, in the midst of the Great Depression. He decided to give up business, and announced he was going to heal the ill and that his “chief interest in life was to spread sunshine,” said Carlton Lee, former editor of Cokato Enterprise, in a biography of Tracy.

Upon his move back to Cokato, Tracy lived with his parents at their home on the corner of Mooers and Third Street.

In 1934, shortly after his father died, Tracy bought what was known as the N E Berg residence, now known as the Tracy Apartments.

This residence was an “ordinary, old-fashioned brick house,” according to Lee.

Later, Tracy added on extensively, making it a 17-bedroom home.

Tracy hired Cokato mason Charlie Root to build the stone wall in front of the home, along with stonework on the exterior and interior.

This became Tracy’s home and where he offered his healing practice.

Soon, people traveled from all around to come to Cokato for Tracy’s healing works. Cars are shown lined up along the street outside his home (see photo).

No matter how controversial Tracy’s practice was, it brought a lot of money into town since out-of-towners needed a place to stay and eat.

The house is now owned by Punk Lundeen. Previous owners included Marion Hempel and Kevin Geisenger.

It includes five units, original oak woodwork, and three stone wood burning stoves with a unique rock formation in the center of each one, according to Lundeen.

“It’s such a unique building,” Kreitlow said.

“If I had a lot of money, I would snatch it up in a second and restore it,” she added.

Knowing the story behind the man, Kreitlow hopes someone will purchase the Tracy property, restore it, and maintain its historical elements.

More behind the man

“Earl Tracy was a man who, some people believed had the ability to heal them with the touch of his hand,” said Cokato Museum Director Mike Worcester.

“However, he was not what we call today, a faith healer,” he added.

Tracy had no professed religious leanings, according to Worcester.

People from all over the state, came by the busload to see this supposed healer.

“People would take a bus out from Minneapolis to come out to see him,” Kreitlow said.

The townspeople weren’t sure what to think of this so-called healer.

Tracy has been called an “agent of the devil” and a fraud. Others claim Tracy healed them.

“And they say it with great conviction,” Worcester said.

There are many testimonies of Tracy’s healing powers. One included a family in a neighboring town.

The son was very sick and the doctors told the parents to take him home and make him comfortable, for death was soon to come.

To get a second opinion, the parents talked with their priest. They told him about Tracy and if they should take their son to him.

“It can’t hurt,” said the priest.

After the son’s visit with Tracy, he was healed.

It has also been reported Tracy had a closet full of canes that were left by his clients.

One day, a Minneapolis Star reporter came to Cokato to interview Tracy. He told the reporter not to write about him because he didn’t want anymore clients, since he already had more than he could handle.

The reporter spoke with townspeople who had been healed by Tracy. The headline in the Star called Tracy a “Miracle Man,” according to Lee.

Having overworked himself, Tracy became ill with pneumonia and died Christmas Day, 1938. He is buried in the Cokato Village Cemetery, east of town.

For more information about Earl Tracy, visit the Cokato Museum website at www.cokato.mn.us/cmhs.

An inspiration

Kreitlow, being a composer, songwriter, artist, vocalist, and now playwright, grew up in Howard Lake. She wanted to write a songs about local things and people. One of her friends told her about Tracy. She was fascinated by him.

“I could hardly believe it was real,” she said.

What was so intriguing to her was not only his healing, but the fact that he was living in a conservative, religious town like Cokato.

“He was very controversial,” she said.

After doing some research, Kreitlow wrote a song that was meant to be from his perspective, she said.

Later, it turned into a musical, with Kreitlow writing the score and the notebook.

The play was performed at the Richard Slocumb Theatre on the Campus of San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas in Oct. 2000.

“It was a wonderful project to do,” she said.