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A glance into Marshall’s past

MSU, Moorhead student from Canby tackles the history of Marshall for senior seminar class

December 17, 2011
By Cindy Votruba , Marshall Independent

When Canby native Stephanie Hansen's senior seminar history course had an assignment to research the history of any city in Minnesota or North Dakota, she jumped at the chance to learn more about the area she grew up.

Hansen, who just graduated from Minnesota State University, Moorhead, with a double major in social studies and communication arts and literature education, had written an extensive research paper on the history of Marshall for her senior seminar history class last year.

The paper, titled "Marshall, MN: A Railroad City's History" earned Hansen an A.

Article Photos

Photo from Minnesota State?Historical Society
Pictured is a look at Marshall’s Main Street in 1935. Stephanie Hansen, a Canby native, wrote about the history of Marshall for her senior seminar history course at Minnesota State University, Moorhead.

Hansen graduated from Canby High School in 2007. She said the assignment for her seminar was to pick a city in North Dakota or Minnesota and write a 15 to 20 page paper about the city's history.

"Naturally, I thought first to do the history of Canby," Hansen said. "However, I worked as a tour guide at Canby's Lund Hoel House in the summer before freshman year, so I already knew much of Canby's history." Hansen said she's always been very interested in history and it kind of runs in the family.

But since she wants to move back to southwest Minnesota someday, more specifically to the Marshall or Canby area, Hansen said she thought it would be much more interesting to learn about Marshall's history as she only had a present-day perception of the city.

"I'm hoping to get a job in Fargo, but in the long run I would like to teach in southwest Minnesota," she said.

Her professor, Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, is originally from the Redwood Falls/Morgan area, and she said he didn't mind that she selected Marshall. When she was given the assignment in September of last year, Hansen didn't hesitate.

"It was something I dove into immediately," Hansen said about the project. "I requested information everywhere I could."

The research lasted for eight weeks, she said, and because she lived so far away from Marshall, Hansen relied heavily on the MnSCU interlibrary loan program.

"Through this I obtained numerous print sources from the SMSU (Southwest Minnesota State University) library, other university colleges and the Minnesota State Historical Society," she said. All the photos that she included in her research paper came from the online version of the Minnesota State Historical Society archives.

Hansen said she was very surprised that railroad companies built Marshall.

"They wanted the railroad to be the source of many towns," she said.

In her paper, Hansen wrote that in 1872, the Winona and St. Peter Railroad Company was looking to expand into western Minnesota.

"In order to comply with the term of its land grant, the company wanted to extend the line through the newly-created Lyon County," Hansen wrote. "In an area surrounded by fertile lands and the Redwood River, the company staked out a new town and named it after Minnesota's previous governor, William R. Marshall."

Another historical tidbit Hansen was interested in about Marshall was how it managed to land the college, now Southwest Minnesota State University. She said Marshall was kind of a "quiet" town for a college. Other contenders included Luverne and Redwood Falls.

"It was interesting about the process of that," she said.

In her research, Hansen learned that the largest programs available at SMSU include business, education and hospitality management.

"From its first class of 509 students to this year's enrollment of 7,873, Marshall's Southwest Minnesota State University has educated thousands," she wrote.

Hansen also looked at how the downtown has changed, the Schwan Food Co., Holy Redeemer Church, how geography played a role in the creation of the town, and the city's demographics.

"Marshall is the perfect balance between a large city and a small town," Hansen wrote. "A variety of the city's largest businesses like Schwan's, Avera Medical Center, US Bank and Wells Fargo provide jobs to thousands of people in southwest Minnesota. For many, Marshall serves as the city to turn to for all their needs."

Marshall has come a long way, Hansen said in her research paper.

"After 120+ years of development, the city has gone from a post office on dirt roads to an ever-expanding community on a major highway," Hansen wrote.

Hansen said that history has an influence on the world today.

"I think it's a necessary study for any future generations as well," Hansen said.



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