Column: Is is really ‘Legal?’ Well, no, really it is quite memorable
Editor’s note: Former longtime Daily Globe Editor Ray Crippen died Dec. 27, 2015. We will continue to publish previously run “Isn’t That Something” columns on Saturdays, until further notice, as a tribute to Crippen and his knowledge of local and regional history. The following column first appeared Oct. 30, 2004.
WORTHINGTON — I think Nobles County never did learn to pronounce Leguil. Everyone said “Legal,” and that surely was close enough. It was reported in Iowa, where the family came from — the Dubuque area — the name was LeGuil. French. But don’t get into that.
Do you know the American Legion post home on the west side of Adrian’s main street (Maine Street)? That building has been home of Argonne Post 32 for decades now.
Frank Leguil gave the Legion that building. A gift outright. This is near the end of Frank Leguil’s story. The best, of course, is certainly nearer the beginning.
A young Iowa couple, Louis and Katherine Leguil, moved to a farm near Hadley, in Murray County, before Hadley had been a town for even 20 years. The boy Frank went to St. Columba Catholic school at Iona.
Later, early in the 20th century, the Leguils moved to a farm south of Lismore. They were living there when Frank enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1918.
Today, with a presidential election only hours distant, it is fitting to consider Frank Leguil the politician.
By 1940, the party getting the most votes at most elections in Minnesota was the Farmer Labor Party. Three governors were Farmer Labor governors. Four U.S. senators were Farmer Labor Party members.
The party getting the second biggest vote totals was the Republican Party. In 1938, age 31, Republican Harold Stassen was elected governor, breaking the FL grip.
Party No. 3 — Frank Leguil’s party, the party that elected no one — was the Democratic Party. Frank Leguil, war veteran, American Legion stalwart, living now at Adrian, was chairman of the Nobles County Democratic Party.
In the spring of 1940, Frank was elected alternate delegate to the Democratic National Convention at Chicago. The convention came in mid-July, and that was an experience never foRgotten.
Two locomotives were required to bring delegates from Minnesota and Wisconsin — and the families of delegates and the friends of delegates. Frank was with that crowd. It is said 30,000 people moved on Chicago that week and some them indeed ended up sleeping in city parks. There was no room in the inns.
The chief business of the convention of course was to nominate a man for U.S. president. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was completing his second full term. FDR sent a memo to the delegates saying he was through. While that memo was being read — this was orchestrated — a loud voice cried out, “No! No! We want Roosevelt!’ The delegates took up the chant. Frank Leguil joined that chorus. “We want Roosevelt! We want Roosevelt!”
So it was. FDR was nominated for a third term. Frank Leguil came home to Adrian with that story, plus a host of others. He was in the hall when the nation’s first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, made a speech urging the nomination of Henry Wallace as vice president. American convention delegates almost never before had seen a first lady. They never had heard one. Adrian urged, “Tell about Eleanor,” and kidded, “So, how did you get along with Eleanor, Frank?”
This brush with politics was incidental for Frank Leguil, of course. When he returned from France in 1919, he was fascinated by the vehicles he had seen. There were trucks of a kind which had not yet appeared in Nobles County. The army was making roads.
That was remarkable to see.
Frank Leguil and Jack Vanderah organized a custom grain threshing business. They edged into road building. Jack Vanderah died and Frank Leguil went on to become something all new, something almost no one had heard of: a road contractor. When Frank was born, there was no such thing.
Nobles County, Murray County, Rock County, the State of Minnesota, the U.S. government needed roads. In this neck of the woods, Frank Leguil built them.
Then — 1942 — Frank went into partnership with Jack and Judd Brown of Mankato. Brown and Leguil became one of the major contractors for the Alcan Highway. They built the Peace River bridge. They played a prominent role in one of the greatest road construction projects ever undertaken. In those circles, the name is famous still. I think they, too, say, “Legal.”
Frank was buried in Fort Snelling National Cemetery in February 1964.