Worthington 150: Worthington’s first 50 years included paved streets

Worthington soared to a new population of 3,481 persons by the 1920s.

Chautauqua Park
An early day gathering at Worthington's Chautauqua Park.
Nobles County Historical Society
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WORTHINGTON — Running boards, rumble seats and canvas tops marked Worthington’s entry into the fabulous “Roaring Twenties.” Cars had come to the mud trails of the prairie and the arrival of the automobile meant a street paving program to accommodate the vehicles.

It was a noisy, hilarious and potentially dangerous scene. But the merchants of 1934 declared it a huge success.
One night he ran smack-dab into a group of evangelists while staggering out of a saloon. He was converted on the spot. Since then he traveled all across the country preaching the gospel and convincing sinners to “get right with God.”
The city’s Army National Guard unit, Co. F of the 215th Coast Artillery, was ordered to active duty in 1940, a full year before the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.

The city’s first paving program “made 56 blocks of concrete out of the prairie mud,” according to a newspaper report of Oct. 28, 1920. The community celebrated with a dance at the National Guard Armory and a big street parade through the downtown area.

Gasoline was 16 cents per gallon, the price was 15 cents for children and 25 cents for adults for a ticket at the Grand Theatre. The Grand Theatre, one of the finest movie houses in the area, was sold to George Ehlers and Nic Casareto, and the two men made the official announcement that a 700-seat, all-new theater would soon be opened on the city’s main business street.

Wortington soared to a new population of 3,481 persons — an increase of 45% from 1919’s official census report of 2,395. Ten pounds of sugar sold for 75 cents, three loaves of bread were 20 cents and men’s suits were $23.85.

The railroads, so important to the settlement of the region and to the community, gave way to the Fords, the Graham-Paiges and the Hupmobiles. By 1920, there was only a short segment of concrete running three miles west of Worthington and another short stretch at Rushmore.


County commissioners were promising (in 1921) that 240 miles of improved (graveled) roads would be completed and that 90% of Nobles County residents would be no more than two miles away from “permanent roads.” The 240-mile objective was somewhat strong, however, as the board was letting bids before the end of the year in an attempt to reach the 200-mile mark.

The first year of the decade also marked the arrival of a new businessman, Jack Boote. From Hawarden, Iowa, Boote purchased a shoe repair shop here in September.

Hog prices dipped following the end of World War I and brought farm income to the lowest level in four years. Late in the year 1920 there was discussion in the community regarding the lack of extra stocks in retail stores. Merchants were having special sales to enable the firms to obtain cash to pay utility bills.

A timeline that celebrates big moments in our town's history.
Adrian proposed dissecting Nobles County so it could reign over a new county.
While Worthington City Hall maintains all council meeting minutes, the early minutes are handwritten.

The school systems in city and county were planning a school lunch program to assure that each child received a proper diet; residential telephone rates were $1.75 per month; license plate charges for the automobiles were based on what amounted to 2% of the list price of the car; and the golf course — now GreatLife — opened April 18, 1921.

Harvest hands were earning $2.40 for a 10-hour day in the fields and the 18th Amendment banning liquor was adopted Jan. 16, 1920. Through the decade, the court records showed that not all the residents of Worthington and Nobles County believed Demon Rum was bad for their health. The reports of the era show that the Wilmont area was a prime source of illegally-produced booze.

Also, the Worthington City Council purchased property for a new National Guard Armory at Third Avenue and Ninth Street for $8,500.

A timeline that celebrates big moments in our town's history.
The Indian culture along the shores of Lake Okabena remained undisturbed until the mid-19th century, when white settlers first moved into the area.
An addition to the junior and senior high complex, the auditorium was designed with the classic art deco features so popular at the time.
The first public school consisted of 49 students and two teachers who met in various rented rooms throughout the village.
At least 50 confirmed reservations were received from Midwestern windsurfers of various skill levels.
First festival focused on playing soccer.
Committee member recounts sorting everything from dresses and suits to shoes.
Ludlow a figure in Worthington's early history.
“Building international relations on a community-to-community basis … represents a new approach to democracy.”
Jack started as an immigrant shoemaker and went on to lead a flamboyant rags-to-riches life. He was part of an interesting era in Worthington’s history.
Last local casualties were from Vietnam war.
The founder of this unique partnership visited Crailsheim in 1958, when she was decorated with the “Bundersverdienstkreuz Erster Klasse.”
His home still stands today as a bed and breakfast.
The Mobergs and Larsons came to America together in 1870, an arduous journey by boat, foot, wheel car and railroad.
E. O. Olson was a prominent figure in Worthington's history
Worthington was a natural for the natural ice industry. The railroads were here. The lake was here.
Worthington’s economic base began to broaden from the narrow pedestal of farming to the much broader one of agriculture.
One Worthington woman who was close to the welfare scene expressed it another way: “I never told my kids how tough we had it. And I forgot it as soon as I could.”
In 1916, a hexagonal bandstand was built about 75 feet out on Lake Okabena at the foot of Third Avenue.
His most notable accomplishment was in 1911, when the four-story hotel which bears his name was built, with 118 feet of it faced on 10th Street and the courthouse square.
From the first permanent house to the largest King Turkey Day in 1966, Worthington has a storied past.
Prior to 1909, post was termed president.
Worthington Mayor Mike Kuhle shares thoughts on city's milestone anniversary.

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“I want you to be very creative,” resident artist Bobbie Alsgaard Lien told Brienna Bahl’s class of first-grade students Thursday. “You’re artists now!”
Any resident within the city of Worthington can apply to get a nutritious, balanced meal delivered to their door. Both regular and special diet meals, such as salt-free or diabetic, are available.
Mahoney was named Education Minnesota Worthington’s Teacher of the Year in May 2022.
The Jackson County Libraries are hosting puzzle competitions at all three libraries on Feb. 25.