Column: Have you 'Hurd' the story of Nobles County's oldest Civil War vet?WORTHINGTON — I wish I knew more about this business of tearing down old houses and replacing them with new. These columns have lamented more than once that Worthington doesn’t save its buildings. “Everything” gets torn down. On one hand.
By: Ray Crippen, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — I wish I knew more about this business of tearing down old houses and replacing them with new. These columns have lamented more than once that Worthington doesn’t save its buildings. “Everything” gets torn down.
On one hand.
On the other hand, very many houses were never built to last through 100 years, although by now there are very many dilapidated, outdated 100-year-old houses along our streets. Last week this column talked about the young Japanese at Worthington who once sexed chicks for Boote Hatchery. It was noted they lived at 1519 Second Ave. — but the house at 1519 was cleared away and a new house has replaced it.
In the 1500 block of Second Avenue there actually were four old houses cleared away and replaced. I don’t know this story, as I noted in the first sentence. I wish I knew how this gets done.
The house across the street from 1519 Second Ave. — the house at 1516 Second Ave. — is another that was cleared away and replaced. This brings to mind a distinguished Worthington resident. The house at 1516 was the home of Frank Pothast and his wife, Tena. Frank Pothast was Nobles County’s last veteran of the war with Spain (1898).
There were two of those old guys. Reuben Hurd lived in a house that was cleared away for a part of the Daily Globe building. Reuben Hurd was Nobles County’s last veteran of the Civil War.
We honor war veterans today. I don’t fault anyone on this count. But the honor is not as personal as it once was. Worthington was a much smaller town. There was a parade every Memorial Day, and in every Memorial Day parade there would be a convertible with Frank Pothast and Reuben Hurd riding in the back seat. Everyone knew the war veterans. You could shake hands with Frank and Reuben if you wanted. People did.
(The news lately told of a man who lied that he was a decorated veteran. A sheriff arrested him. I don’t like people lying about military service, but I hope the sheriff does not begin a general round-up of liars. It was said a lie is an abomination unto the Lord and an ever-present help in time of need.)
Frank Pothast, Nobles County’s last tie to the war with Spain, died just ahead of Memorial Day in 1959 at age 83. Reuben Hurd died in 1946 at the age of 101. You might guess he was Minnesota’s oldest veteran of the Civil War but he lost this title to Albert Woolson of Duluth, who lived to 109.
Pvt. Hurd offered a vivid description of combat and a story of shooting an enemy, almost as though he were shooting a deer. He told about his Vermont regiment fighting under Gen. Grant at Cold Harbor:
“As a rule nobody who fought in the war could see any enemy individuals to shoot at in battle. With the clouds of smoke from the black powder ... covering everything, such a thing was impossible.
“Often, in order to hold the enemy’s attention while an advance was being directed at another point, troops were ordered to continue firing when they could see absolutely nothing to shoot at.
“My company was stationed in a hollow. We saw through the dusk several rebels on a hill above us, apparently not knowing that we were there within range. Without orders, I foolishly fired at the distant figures. The smoke from my gun prevented my seeing the result of my shot but one of my comrades exclaimed, ‘You got him, Hurd!’ I saw him fall!’ I had to take his word for it. I didn’t see anything.”
Hurd was a teenager during his war years. It was 1885 — he was 40 years old — when he made a decision to come to Minnesota and to Worthington. He may have been influenced by Theodore Roosevelt, who went to Dakota Territory in 1884 to raise cattle. Hurd organized a livestock company and a meat market 30 miles from the Dakota Territory border. He also managed the Worthington Creamery for fellow Verman native H.E. Torrance.
Reuben Hurd became the first person to ship cattle and horses from Worthington in carload lots.
Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.