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Piecing together history
JUNE 14, 2010

Researchers, like Jeanette Servin, work to uncover Dassel’s past

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

DASSEL, MN – Among file cabinets and old newspapers, the Dassel History Center’s research team pieces together remnants of the past.

“We have an extensive library for a historical society of our size,” said Jeanette Servin, researcher of family history for the Dassel Area Historical Society (DAHS).

Servin, a Dassel native who currently lives in Darwin, has been doing family research for the DAHS since 1992.

The 78-year-old doesn’t consider this as much of a job as she does a hobby.

“I don’t quilt, I do research,” Servin said.

“It’s like putting a crossword together and it’s fun,” she said.

Servin is one of three of the main researchers, in addition to Julie Lindquist and Diane Rosenow.

Rosenow really pushed the society to begin doing research. Servin attributes Phyllis Carlson as being the true Dassel historian.

“She started family histories before we (the historical society) did,” Servin said. Carlson is now a resident at Lakeside Healthcare Center in Dassel.

DAHS Director Carolyn Holje said their work is “invaluable” and the researchers are “extraordinary” in the information they find and its accuracy.

“It’s a huge part of what the history center is about,” Holje said.

Though the DAHS archives can serve many different purposes, the majority of their use is for family histories.

The most recent family history was prepared by Betty Bollman Anderson, which archived the Bollman family history from 1766 to 2009.

When assisting with family research, Servin and the others use an array of resources including the Dassel newspaper, which dates back to 1893.

Other items include church and township records, censuses, oral histories, high school annuals, marriage and burial records, local history books, photographs, and much more.

Through all the resource materials, Servin has found obituaries to be the most useful.

Not only do they provide information, but they can also share family secrets that otherwise would not have been uncovered. “Things that people have kept hidden for years,” Servin said.

Such things she has found in obituaries revealed secrets of illegitimacies and even excommunication from churches.

The majority of the searches are of Swedish descent, since the area was inhabited by Swedish immigrants, Servin explained.

These searches can be difficult since many Swedes have the same last name such as Nelson, Peterson, Swanson, and Johnson.

According to the records kept of family searches, there have been 37 Anderson families researched through the DAHS, Servin said.

Doing research is much like detective work, Servin said, though they still haven’t uncovered the mystery surrounding who murdered Oloff Palmquist, a Dassel bank clerk, killed at 3 p.m. in 1914.

Though there are speculations of who killed Palmquist, no one is telling and the case remains unsolved.

Other shocking finds that one may think wouldn’t have happened in small town, Dassel include stories of people being tarred and feathered and a Ku Klux Klan meeting that was held in Breeds Park.

What also may be shocking was that Dassel was quite the “bustling community” with four grocery stores and two pharmacies, according to Lindquist.

They get requests for information regarding family history from all over the US.

Just a couple weeks ago, Servin helped a woman from Seattle who was looking for information about the Hutchins family.

The Hutchins family were natives from the southern states who settled near Pigeon Lake, south of Dassel.

These pioneers later made their way west to Washington, according to Servin.

Though later Dassel was made up of mainly Swedish descent, the surrounding townships were also settled by New England natives (Kingston), Germans (Ellsworth), Irish (Darwin), and southerners (Collinwood) after the Civil War. The Finnish also settled north of Kingston around 1900.

A map on the history center’s fourth floor exhibits these various settlements.

Family histories are done upon request with fees, depending on time and extent of research.

People are also welcome to come in and use the archives from their own research and the historical society will assist if necessary.

For more information, call the Dassel History Center at (320) 275-3077.

Headlines in past newspapers

These are some examples of the headlines Servin has found from past newspapers during her research (names are fictitious):

• “Einar Einerson was adjudged insane and taken last Friday to Fergus Falls”

• “Mrs. Hjalmerson dies at the advanced age of 55”

• “Swan Lake pioneer goes to the great beyond”

• “Lake Albert resident tarred and feathered for committing adultery with neighbor’s wife.”

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