By Tara Mathews
HOWARD LAKE, MN “Not many people know the history of Albright’s Mill, or that it was once a town,” said Karen Erickson, who lives up the hill from Albright’s Mill.
The Albright’s Mill County Park is located in Middleville Township four miles north of highway 12 on Wright County Road 5, northwest of Howard Lake.
“This is my home, and I want my children’s children to know the history,” Erickson said.
She began researching the county park following a conversation with Cokato resident Bill Fiedler, who is also passionate about the park’s history.
Fiedler grew up near Albright’s Mill, and remembers when the park was a “busy town,” filled with business and people.
A brief history
At one time, the town had a general store, which included everything from shoes to food; and a flour mill, which shipped its flour to a nearby town called Smith Lake.
Albright’s Mill had a school, post office, church, and park, as well.
The general store was the “hang out” for local children and teenagers, according to Fiedler.
“In the 1920s, I believe, is when the town faded away,” he noted.
Then in 1961, Charles Moore sold the property to Wright County, and it became a county park, Fiedler added.
Erickson plans to include stories about an Albright’s Mill resident, Pappy Rice, who was a “jack of all trades” for the little town.
“Pappy Rice was a genius,” Fiedler noted. “He did everything from healing to fixing guns and jewelry.”
There was a time when a family in the town had a band that would dress in uniform and perform for residents, and the whole town would gather to enjoy the park, according to Fiedler.
There was also a small gravel pit, which was used by the local residents, and is still in use.
“Now the park and gravel pit is getting ruined by people abusing it with off-road vehicles, and they are not supposed to be driving in there anyway,” Erickson stated.
She is hoping that remembering the history of the town, will also help protect the park, she added.
Asking for assistance
“Interviewing people has been amazing because of the smiles and memories that everyone has shared,” Erickson commented.
Although Erickson has an abundance of information about the old town, she would like to find out more details before writing her book, she said.
“I’m sure there is so much more out there that I don’t know about,” Erickson commented. “I am hoping that children of Albright’s Mill residents who have passed may have photographs, stories, or other items to share.”
Once the book is complete, she plans to have it converted to digital form and share it with the local historical societies.
Some items about which Erickson would like to have more information before she completes her book include:
• how long the mill was operated after Herman Albrecht died in 1895;
• who were the brick makers or saw millers used to build the buildings;
• the baseball park and games that took place; and
• problems caused by an issue with the dam in the 1940s.
“The information I have found is amazing, and honestly, ‘Little House on the Prairie’ has nothing on these stories,” Erickson said.
She wants to publish the completed books and possibly make a series of books with different stories about the residents of the old town, she added.
Following completion of the Albright’s Mill story, Erickson wants to write about another small town in the area that faded away, Smith Lake.
“If anyone has information about Smith Lake, that’s my next adventure, and I would appreciate any information,” she stated.
Erickson said she wants to begin writing the story about Albright’s Mill in January, and would like help from anyone who may have information regarding the town between 1800 and 1962.
Anyone with information or pictures may contact Karen Erickson at (320) 286-6782.
She also plans to arrange a meeting in January, at which people can share information about the history of Albright’s Mill.