Royalton’s 125th anniversary celebration will be the occasion for The Gathering 2012

By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer

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The Morrison County Genealogy Society (MCGS), working with the Morrison County Historical Society, will again present The Gathering, this time in Royalton, Sunday, Aug. 5.

The Gathering is scheduled in partnership with a Morrison County community to coincide with a celebration in that community, with the goal of instilling a sense of community pride and helping residents discover and record their family history.

The first Gathering was held in Belle Prairie Township in 2007, and the next in Motley in 2010.

A stone footing still remains from an old dam and bridge over the Platte River in Royalton on property owned by Bernie Haldenwanger. The flour mill that once existed on the south side of Haldenwanger’s driveway was built in 1884 to produce 500 barrels of flour a day. The bridge washed out for the final time in the 1920s. Pictured standing above the footing are (from left): Royalton Mayor Andrea Lauer, Morrison County Genealogical Society member Pat Quinn and first female firefighter in Morrison County Bernie Haldenwanger.

“Most of the MCGS members live in or near Little Falls and we were looking for a way to get out into the rest of the county,” said Society member Pat Quinn. “We came up with the name of ‘The Gathering’ because it can take in everyone and anything.”

“We include the entire community of Royalton, which is made up of Swan River, Two Rivers and Bellevue townships in Morrison County and Langola Township in Benton County, as well as the city of Royalton,” said Royalton mayor Andrea Lauer.

Coinciding with Royalton’s annual Platte River Day, Saturday, Aug. 4, The Gathering will take place during a year marking the city of Royalton’s 125th anniversary. There will also be celebrations this year for Holy Trinity Church’s 100th anniversary, the 100th anniversary of the Royalton Public Library and Treasure City’s 50th anniversary.

One landmark of Royalton’s days gone by is the remnant of a stone bridge abutment at the edge of Bernie Haldenwanger’s yard along the Platte River.

According to historical sketches written by early settler Frank B. Logan, the dam and bridge that were on that spot were located at a flour mill built in 1884. The dam and the bridge over it were carried away by high water three times. The first two times the dam was being used by the flour mill, and the last time it was owned by the Royalton Power and Light Company.

“I have found coal buried in my yard on the site of the mill,” said Haldenwanger, who has lived there since 1978. “Several years ago I found a millstone in the river, which is now in the Royalton Museum.”

A second millstone found on the property now sits behind the Royalton Senior Center.

Haldenwanger herself is a piece of Royalton history, as she was a charter member of the first First Response Team in Morrison County in 1982, and then in 1985 became the first female firefighter in the county.

Royalton’s was the first stand-alone First Response Team in Morrison County, and members were trained by an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) instructor from Wadena through St. Cloud Technical College.

Haldenwanger was the liaison between the team and Morrison County Public Health. She made all the orange trauma vests with many pockets. Each member responded to calls directly from their homes.

“Someone donated an old van, so then we could use a backboard and oxygen,” she said. “The Fire Department offered storage for the van, and then we could respond from a base.”

Several Royalton firemen who were working with Haldenwanger on the First Response team asked her to join the firefighters, but it was nearly a year before she agreed.

There was no formal training then; the team members trained each other. The seasoned people advised the novices.

“After about 18 months, things settled down. I was just there to do a job,” she said.

“I replaced a great big man, and since there was no extra gear, I had to wear his,” said Haldenwanger. “His men’s size 12 boots were filled with rags so I could wear them, and the helmet was too big. Everyone was excited when the department got new lightweight turnout gear and thigh-high boots in 1986.”

Over time, calls to structural fires decreased due to construction safety requirements, while responses to vehicle accidents increased.

Haldenwanger retired in 2009, after 24 years as a volunteer firefighter. “I am very proud to have been a member and to have served my community for those years,” she said.

Lauer encourages all community members to be part of The Gathering, part of the history of Royalton. “We are all part of a huge tapestry — individual ‘threads’ — creating the pattern for our community,” she said.

The MCGS will sponsor a class to help those people who would like to put together a family history display board for The Gathering. The class will be held at Royalton City Hall Tuesday, May 29 from 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Tips and encouragement will be given by Judy Glaze and Anne Brenny.

For more information about the Gathering, call Royalton City Hall at (320) 584-5900.