Miloma once a place of promise: Community was named for Milwaukee, Omaha railroads
MILOMA -- It could have been a metropolis, a teeming town and a center of southwest Minnesota commerce.
Located at the junction of two major railroads -- the Milwaukee and the Omaha -- people once believed Miloma was bound for greatness.
The grandeur never quite materialized.
Three miles southwest of Heron Lake and three miles northwest of Okabena lies all that's left of Miloma in 2011 -- a grain elevator.
"It was a nice area to do business in. The people that surrounded it were loyal to the elevator, and it was enjoyable time doing business there," said Dennis Turner, who operated the elevator as Miloma AgriService.
During Turner's tenure, he operated it as an elevator and a feed mill, and stored animal and pet food there. Turner sold the elevator to Leonard Nau, who said he sold it back to Bank of the West about seven years ago.
People still recall Miloma in its heyday -- when it included a union depot, a post office, a combined restaurant and store and a warehouse.
"That old elevator used to be the post office. I can still remember when they used to deliver the mail there," said Martin Bunge Jr. of rural Heron Lake.
When Bunge attended country school, his parents often asked him to pick up the mail during his walk home, and he would stop in Miloma to get it.
"They had slots for the local people where the mail went into, and it was in the office of the Miloma elevator," Bunge said.
Bunge's parents even lived in Miloma, briefly -- after they were married in March 1915, they lived in the hotel there, while their home was being built.
"At one time, Miloma was going places," Bunge said. "The roads were bad. The only long-distance transportation we had, really, was the railroad."
People transferred from the Milwaukee to the Omaha line, and vice versa, at the Miloma depot.
Bunge's grandfather, Christian Bunge Jr., bought 640 acres in the area with the intent of starting a town at Miloma. Christian, his descendant said, was always looking for opportunities because he had 16 children to provide for, but he died before Miloma got off the ground.
Though it never grew, Miloma did see its share of excitement and tragedy when a county sheriff was shot to death pursuing a thief in 1919.
"Somebody had stolen a suitcase full of clothes, and (the sheriff) was going to intercept him when the train stopped at Miloma. ... This guy whipped out a pistol and shot the sheriff to death over a suitcase full of clothes," Bunge said. His father heard the shot.
The thief ran into a cornfield, where he was caught and arrested by a posse. People telegraphed for a doctor, but by the time he had arrived, the sheriff was dead. More than 400 people attended the funeral.