Column: East side, west side, all around the Nobles County townsWORTHINGTON — Does Nobles County have more communities — more towns — than any other county in Minnesota? I think this is so.
By: Ray Crippen, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Does Nobles County have more communities — more towns — than any other county in Minnesota?
I think this is so.
There is a way to check this out. Get a map of every county in Minnesota. There are 87 of them. Count the towns on each map. I’m not going to do this. I am going to go with what I have been told: Nobles County has the most towns of any county in Minnesota.
There are 16 of them.
In alphabetical order:
Adrian, Bigelow, Brewster, Dundee, Ellsworth, Kinbrae, Leota, Lismore, Org, Reading, Round Lake, Rushmore, St. Kilian, Wilmont, Worthington. Add Pfingsten, which is a church community but once had a general store, a post office and a band hall.
It’s a lot of towns for one county.
It is two miles from Dundee to Kinbrae. Maybe seven or eight minutes. Eleven miles from Kinbrae to Brewster. Maybe 15 minutes. Fifteen miles from Brewster to Round Lake. Maybe 20 minutes. Fourteen miles from Round Lake to Bigelow. Twenty minutes.
Go to the west — seven miles from Reading to Wilmont. Ten minutes. Twelve miles from Ellsworth to Adrian. Fifteen minutes.
Worthington occupies 8.5 square miles. There are only 7.3 miles between Wilmont and Lismore.
We have talked of this before. It is no wonder the U.S. Census Bureau at last ruled, “It’s all one town. It is simply one neighborhood, then another neighborhood. There are more miles between suburbs in most cities than between towns in Nobles County.”
So it has come to be. The Census Bureau calls Nobles County the Worthington Micropolitan Area, population 21,378. The Census Bureau might have changed to name to City of Nobles, but it didn’t do that.
People have wondered at times how Worthington, with a population of 11,000 only 10 years ago, came to have Wal-Mart, Walgreen’s, J.C. Penney, Avera Health, Sanford Health, etc.
Well, you have to double the population figure. The Nobles population (2010) is edging toward 22,000 people, with additional workers coming into the county daily from Jackson County, Cottonwood County, Murray County, Osceola County — so on. The big companies, the big retailers, the big health providers study these kinds of things.
How did it come to be? Why so many towns?
Nobles County came to have five railroads. That’s a lot of railroads in a small area. The Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad (CMStP&P) laid its tracks to Kinbrae, only 1.5 miles south of (and parallel to) the tracks of the Heron Lake & Black Hills Railroad, which went to Dundee. Every railroad had to establish towns along its tracks for loading and for delivering grain and merchandise.
Today, things are growing in Nobles City. More or less. Along the way there have been at least a couple of steps in reverse.
Go back — oh, 135 years. If you were at Worthington and you wanted to get to Sioux Falls, you could board a stage coach at the Worthington Hotel, corner of 10th Street and Third Avenue, and have a picnic somewhere around the falls of the Big Sioux River before sunset.
If you were at Worthington and you wanted to go to Sioux City, you could go to the railroad depot and board a train. At one time, there were 14 passenger trains coming and going every day.
If you were at Worthington and you wanted to get to Kinbrae, you could go to a livery stable on Second Avenue and pay a fare. A driver would take you by horse and buggy.
If you were at Worthington in 1970 and wanted to get to Minneapolis, you go to Regional Airport on Worthington’s north side and take a plane.
Today, you have to have own a car. You drive to where you want to go or you are out of luck. Save for the fine bus service Nobles County’s commissioners provide to the county’s many neighborhoods, there is no public transportation.
A funny thing — the shortest route between St. Paul and Omaha goes through Worthington. Amtrak routes its trains from St. Paul south to Des Moines, then west to Omaha.
Politicians have said they would change this — they have said they would get some manner of public transportation into southwest Minnesota. No one ever has.
Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.