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Pictorial history book provides glimpse of Nobles County’s early years

WORTHINGTON -- A collection of more than 200 photographs from Nobles County's earliest years, from its inception in 1872 to 1940, are included in a newly released book available today at the Nobles County Historical Society Museum in Worthington.

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A derailed passenger train car, around 1910, was the first train wreck in Dundee history. (Special to the Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON - A collection of more than 200 photographs from Nobles County’s earliest years, from its inception in 1872 to 1940, are included in a newly released book available today at the Nobles County Historical Society Museum in Worthington.

The book, “Images of America: Nobles County,” features themes ranging from agriculture to Main Street, education to churches, and transportation to the entrepreneurial spirit. A series of special events are planned to promote the book, the first being June 4-6 at the historical society.

Jerry Fiola, who helped spearhead the project, said the book is the result of a collaborative effort of historical society members. Many of the photographs hail from the museum’s collection, as well as from individual contributions. If book sales are successful, Fiola said there may be a second volume - from 1940 to present - at some point in the future.

The photographs span decades and points across Nobles County.

“For some communities we had more photos than others,” Fiola said. “For Leota we only had a couple of photos in our archives that lent themselves to the book. As we share this book, we’re trying to put out a call for additional photographs for future work along these lines.”

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The society intends to develop a list of photographs still sought for its collection.

“The beauty of today is we can scan them in at a high enough resolution for publication and we can give the photos back to the families,” he said.

Fiola said the society is excited to share the photos included in the book, noting there are some unique images. He estimates 30 to 40 percent of the images have complete identification.

“We looked at many of the community centennial publications that were put together,” Fiola said, adding that information for photos were often found in those centennial editions. “Those communities did an excellent job of documenting their community’s history. Nearly every town in Nobles County published a centennial book and we’re real fortunate to have those.”

The book’s cover - as well as some other images in the book - are from glass plate negatives, circa 1890-1910, provided by the Historic Dayton House.

Fiola said some interesting facts were learned by working on the book, from the 13 communities organized almost directly because of the railroad (the other two -  St. Kilian and Leota - were built around churches) to the population of veterans locally.

“The Worthington GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) chapter had one of the highest memberships in Minnesota back in the 1870s,” Fiola shared. “There were a lot of Civil War veterans attracted to this part of the state.”

The society worked with Arcadia Publishing, a South Carolina-based company that has done numerous history books for counties across the country, to complete its latest book. Fiola said Rock County did a book through Arcadia a few years ago, and society members used that book as an example while compiling the Nobles County version.

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The historical society had often talked about doing additional publications, but the projects have been few. Most recently, the society published a Ray Crippen book about railroads in Nobles County.

“Part of the dilemma of doing publications is book publishing is expensive,” Fiola said. “We really didn’t have those resources.”

Then, when the Daily Globe chose the Nobles County Historical Society as the benefactor from funds raised in the annual Regatta chair auction last summer, Fiola said it couldn’t say yes fast enough.

“We already had Ray’s book in the can, ready to go to press, and Arcadia had approached us about doing a pictorial history,” he said. “The problem was coming up with the upfront money to pay for it.”

With proceeds from the chair auction, a donation from the Daily Globe and a fulfilled funding request from the United Way, Fiola said the local historical society has now established a publishing fund. Proceeds from book sales will go back into the account in hopes of having a self-sustaining fund.

Numerous events are planned to promote the book, and while they are called book signings, Fiola said the project was a collaboration of society members, and thus, they will not be actually signing the books.

“There will be a presentation by representatives of the committee that put the book together,” he said of planned promotional events. “We will share a brief Powerpoint presentation with interesting insights about the county’s history that this book yielded.”

Fiola said the events will also provide time for the society to share information on its rural schools of Nobles County project, as well as provide an update on ongoing talks with Nobles County regarding a potential new location for the museum.

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A current schedule of book promotional events follows:

  • 1:30 p.m. June 4, NCHS Museum, Worthington;
  • 7 p.m. June 5, NCHS Museum, Worthington;
  • Noon June 6, NCHS Museum, Worthington;
  • 12:15 p.m. June 13, Brewster Senior Center;
  • 7 p.m. June 13, Rushmore School Community Room;
  • 2:30 p.m. June 17, Ellsworth festival tent;
  • 2 p.m. June 25, Bigelow Fire Hall;
  • 7 p.m. July 3, Lismore Legion Hall; and
  • July 4, Pioneer Village, Worthington

Fiola said presentations on the book will be given to various organizations upon request.
Copies of “Images of America: Nobles County” may be purchased at the Nobles County Historical Society, located in the lower level of the War Memorial Building, 407 12th St., Worthington.

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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