Dick Petersen's wife always asked him "what are you going to do with those postcards?"
Petersen of Clarkfield has a collection of more than 150 historical Clarkfield postcards. They date back from the late 1800s to the early 1900s.
"I just gathered and gathered and gathered," Petersen said.
Pictured is water tower in Hanley Falls.
The M&StL water tower and windmill were located by the swimming beach on the Yellow Medicine River.
Dick Petersen and Steve Monson will do two book signings on Saturday, Aug. 7: 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Hanley Falls Threshing Show and 2-5 p.m. at the Clarkfield Lutheran Church’s 125th anniversary celebration.
Steve Monson's father was raised in Clarkfield. An old family photograph got him started on a 20-year research project on his family, which included his grandparents, Henry and Anna. Through that project, he got a lot of additional Clarkfield information, including railroad material.
And it was through that project that Petersen and Monson came together to write a book "Early Days in Clarkfield With Stops Along The Way" about the early days of Clarkfield and railroad stops from Minneapolis to Watertown, S.D.
"You learn about the local people and what life was like," said Monson, who lives in Brooklyn Park. "The first time they get electricity. Their new schools. The first movie in town. The bank embezzler that caused the original families to lose most everything.
"How much it cost to fetch the doctor. The first telephone lines. Like today, people had to be patient. They had diseases, droughts and setbacks."
Petersen, a retired educator/principal of the Clarkfield School, was once on the Yellow Medicine Historical Society board. His postcard collection started when he got some from his family in Alden as well as ones from his wife's family from Cottonwood.
It was a postcard with an 1885 postmark that Petersen got from eBay for less than $5. The postcard was from Monson's great-grandfather looking for his Civil War buddies that got the two men connected.
"That one got us off and running with Steve," Petersen said.
Monson had already wrote a book titled after his grandparents "Henry and Anna Monson," a book about Clarkfield's early families and their aspirations and failures, so he knew the ropes.
"I also had a lot of unused material about the town of Clarkfield, so it was natural then to team up with Dick," Monson said.
Petersen said he had gotten several bound books of tax records and real estate property taxes from the county, along with a book from the granddaughter of a family that had left Clarkfield. That book contained street addresses of families who lived there at the time and tax insurance amounts.
"Those were two invaluable tools that we had," Petersen said.
While the men worked on the book, new questions arose every day, Monson said.
"I am a very detailed person," Monson said. "As far as the trains are concerned, I wanted to be able to picture when the trains came in, when they left, what time of the day it was and what crowds of people may have been there to watch. So this meant studying old timetables."
Petersen said he had a 1908 postcard of a train coming into Clarkfield.
"He (Monson) knew what train it was and what time it came into Clarkfield," Petersen said.
The two would work together via mail and telephone.
"I would send him information and he would categorize it," Petersen said.
Monson said he wanted to know what stores were where at various periods of time, be able to picture his great-grandfather walking down the boardwalk and stopping to chat at the general store, bank or hotel.
"Sometimes we would have seemingly conflicting information," Monson said. "Two different stores on the same spot for example. I couldn't sleep until I solved it."
Petersen said Monson would send him what the book pages would look like.
"I'd proof it, update it and send it back," Petersen said.
One of interesting stories that surfaced, Monson said, was the National Bank cashier that embezzled money to buy land for himself. Petersen said there's also the roller mill and the Augustana Church that still has the traditional steeple.
"Church was an important part of these communities," Petersen said.
Monson said it was a joy to work with Petersen on the book.
"His personality, joy of life, and willingness to search for the next clue made the project fun," Monson said. "Neither of us knew just what the book would be like when we began. We just traveled down the path until we realized 'this is a really fine book.'"
Petersen said it's been a dream come true to make the book available to the people of Clarkfield.
"In a way it's my way of giving back to them," Petersen said.