Column: Construction was everywhere in 1892 WorthingtonJennie Covey, Nellie Stevens and Marguerite Wright probably will ride on a Turkey Day float for their class reunion. Jennie, Nellie and Marguerite are the Worthington High School Class of ’92 (1892). This year brings their 116th anniversary.
By: Ray Crippen, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Jennie Covey, Nellie Stevens and Marguerite Wright probably will ride on a Turkey Day float for their class reunion. Jennie, Nellie and Marguerite are the Worthington High School Class of ’92 (1892). This year brings their 116th anniversary. (WHS class reunions never cease.)
The three young women of ’92 were the last to be graduated from Worthington’s original, six-sided school — two stories, wood frame, painted white — which stood on that site where Central Elementary School now has been reduced to two piles of crushed bricks.
The reason Worthington began with a six-sided school is lost. Maybe someone thought that arrangement guaranteed maximum light. There was no electricity. There were no light bulbs to brighten school rooms.
By the summer of 1892, Worthington’s fabled castle school was under construction. The six-sided school had been shuttled to Fourth Avenue, not really far from what today is the back door of the Daily Globe.
It was an unusual year. Worthington had more people arriving than it knew what to do with.
The Worthington Advance reported in April, “For months every room that a human being could consent to dwell in has been occupied. Hotels and boarding houses have been crowded. … The old hexagonal school has given shelter within the last two months to about 50 persons. Though not at all adapted for residence purposes, the school has been a welcome refuge …” No electricity, no running water.
Carpenters worked not only on new houses. H.E. Torrance was building his Big Store, the two-story brick building at the corner of 10th Street and Second Avenue, which some people today remember still as Silverberg’s Department Store.
In clear view of the new Torrance building was the railroad depot — not the new (1898) depot but the original, low, wood frame depot which dated from 20 years earlier.
In the last week of May, in the first week of June 1892, Worthington residents kept their eyes on their depot.
One of these recent columns noted that when the railroad was completed between St. James and Le Mars, the United States would have a railroad line from Lake Superior to San Francisco. So it came to be.
On June 7, 1892, a gavel pounded the Republican National Convention into session at Minneapolis. When the Republican delegates from the West — famous senators and illustrious governors among them — set out for Minneapolis, they stopped, however briefly, at pioneer Worthington. Worthington was where steam engines got coal and water. Worthington was where delegates from Oregon and California and Nevada, from Kansas and Nebraska had opportunity to stretch their legs.
Maybe you have toured the Pettigrew Mansion at Sioux Falls. Sen. Richard Pettigrew and all the South Dakota delegates had to roll through Luverne and Adrian on their way to Worthington, where they also boarded a Minneapolis-bound train.
It would have been exciting. Never, by day and by night, have there been more politicians, women among them, on the Worthington townsite. The convention of 1892 was the first at which women were permitted to serve as delegates.
Worthington’s own state Sen. Daniel Shell headed for the depot to board a Minneapolis train. Before he returned home, Sen. Shell went on to Washington, D.C. The Republican delegates chose Shell as one of the members of the official committee to go to the White House to tell President Benjamin Harrison he had been nominated for a second turn.
It was a dramatic hour. Gov. William McKinley of Ohio had attempted to take the nomination for himself. Now, for a show of unity, McKinley (who became president four years later) was named chairman of Sen. Shell’s committee to meet President Harrison. McKinley and Harrison exchanged only words absolutely necessary — not even, “Good to see ya.” While Daniel Shell watched, the president took the message from the governor and then turned and went back to his White House office.
There never has been another major party national political convention in Minnesota through all those years since Jennie and Nellie and Marguerite were graduated from WHS and people lived in the old school. This year — September — the Republicans will be back, but of course they will arrive at Minneapolis by air. This time there will be no delegates stepping off a train at Worthington.
Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.