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 Jan. 19, 2008.
WORTHINGTON — If you have 17 brothers and sisters it must be a small challenge just to remember each of their names, addresses, spouses’ names. Add to this the offspring of your brothers and sisters — a fulsome colony of nieces and nephews. It would be small wonder if you had cousins you really didn’t remember well.
Luther Burbank was the 15th of 18 children. You remember Luther Burbank? Burbank developed the russet potato, which still is the most popular potato for French fries. Through his work of 55 years Burbank also gave the world Santa Rosa plums, Freestone peaches — 800 strains and varieties of fruits, vegetables, berries and flowers.
Mary Allen of Worthington said she was Luther Burbank’s first cousin. It is difficult to trace this link. But then — W. Atlee Burpee, founder of the Burpee Seed Co., also was Luther Burbank’s cousin and it is hard to trace that link. Focus is on those 18 brothers and sisters.
No matter. I don’t think Mary Allen lied for her Worthington obituary. The obituary writer volunteered Mary not only was Luther Burbank’s cousin but she, too, “was a great lover of all plant life.”
When local people write about Mary Allen (some days no one does), they usually switch to Mary’s husband, Samuel. Sam Allen was a huge figure in early Worthington.
Sam and Mary were married in Wisconsin in 1861. Sam was a carpenter/contractor living at Ripon. Fifteen years later, 1876, Sam set out for Dakota Territory with a team and wagon. He got as far as four-year-old Worthington. There was a cry for houses and buildings at every hand. Samuel Allen decided to stay. Mary and the eight children — five boys, three girls — arrived in 1878.
I don’t know the house or the block where the Allens lived. I wish I did. Samuel Allen became famous locally.
Sam was contractor for Worthington’s first brick building, the Masonic temple at the corner of 10th Street and Second Avenue, which burned in 1924. Sam Allen built Worthington National Bank and the German Evangelical church that was razed in 1926-27. He was contractor for (I don’t know any of these buildings) the Peterson & Stitser block, the Morland & Lewis block, the Chaney & Mackay store, the Wilson store. Maybe it should be said — first of all, most of all — it was Samuel Allen who built Worthington’s stately, beautiful (lamented) Carnegie Library. That was 1904, when he was 72. Sam died in 1911 when he was 79.
It might be said Samuel Allen was Worthington’s builder, save for the fact there also was Julius Palm. Palm Avenue, which runs north and south through central Nobles County, is named for Julius.
Julius Palm was born in Sweden. Trained in his homeland as a carpenter, he came to Worthington in 1887 when he was 21. Julius first went to work for (who else?) Sam Allen.
Julius built chuches — Worthington’s First (and first) Baptist church on Fourth Avenue, three Lutheran churches at Tracy, Lutheran churches at Mankato and Sherburn. He drew up the plans for the original Indian Lake Baptist church. Most of all, Julius Palm was a house builder. He built houses for some of Worthington’s most wealthy and prominent residents, Sen. Daniel Shell, Lee Shell, Dr. Ray Humiston, Fred Humiston, W.I. Humiston, H. J. Ludlow, the Okabena apple grower.
The Humiston houses were built in a row along 10th Street between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue. All the Humiston kids were in and out of all the Humiston houses day by day. One of those houses is now relocated at the corner of 10th Street and Eighth Avenue.
There seems to be no record of houses and buildings done by other local contractors in those earliest years. There were others — oh, Sam Swanson, for one. Julius Palm brought his carpenter nephew, Carl Anderson, from Sweden. Carl Anderson worked for Uncle Julius and then for contractor Sam Swanson. Later, they opened Swanson & Anderson Furniture Store.
No doubt Mary Allen kept watch on all that building that was going on — just as she kept watch on her plants, her eight children and then her grandchildren. Along the way, Mary took pride in the achievements of her cousin, Luther Burbank.