The saw rig crew at the Moen place in Spring Valley Township about 1896.
The saw rig crew at the Moen place in Spring Valley Township about 1896.
It is almost guaranteed that most readers of this column have never had to cut up cordwood or logs for heating their homes as seen here. Remember those parlor stoves with the isinglass peep holes in the door, or the sturdy kitchen cook stoves that needed a great deal of fuel, especially on baking days? The photo, dated about 1896, was taken at the Moen place south of Spring Valley. From front to back are Austin Goodwinson, George Nelson (his saw rig) and Tom Moen.

What is known about the saw rig? Mounted on the iron-wheeled horse-drawn wagon is a Webster Vertical Gas Engine, water-cooled, using a gravity system with the barrel on the back of the wagon acting as a radiator. The wooden box on the wagon just behind Goodwinson is labeled "brandy" and it is assumed this is the tool box for the saw rig. Those were pre-prohibition days and one could order spirits by mail and have them shipped by railroad express. It was of interest to learn the area now known as the Root River Country Club south of town was once heavily forested. The land was divided into "wood lots" and many folks found it necessary to own a lot where they could harvest fuel.

The photo was a gift to the local historical society from Don Oss who spoke at the society's annual meeting in April for the program on iron mining. Don is a "home-town boy", born here and graduating in l948; later a life-time career as an engineer with Hanna Mining Co. His parents, Gjert and Julia (Moen) Oss lived at 608 South Hudson, including their three children, Gertrude, Calvin and Don. In 2009 I wrote a column about Gjert Oss, a reliable employee at the Halbkat Store for 37 years. Born in Norway, he had traveled to America in 1902 via steamship; worked at the lumber trade; then in grocery stores, a trade with which he was well grounded as his father had operated a general store in Nowary. Oss worked at the Halbkat store in all areas of clothing, shoes and groceries, walking back and forth along Hudson Avenue six days a week. His working hours were 7 to 11 AM, l2 to 6 PM (ten hours) and Saturdays 7 to l2, l to 5, and 6 to l0 (l3 hours). We can see why Sundays were welcomed as a day of rest, but we know they were faithful members at Trinity (Norwegian) Lutheran Church. The Oss children were baptized and confirmed at Trinity, once located at 2l6 North Section. Don has fond memories of Sunday School picnics at Masonic Park and Red Bridge, and fishing with his Uncle Marean DeGroodt and Frank Owens at these notable spots.

Gjert Oss married Julia Moen of Ostrander in l9l8 and it is her brother, Tom Moen, we see in the accompanying photo. Tom was born in Telemark, Norway in 1881 before the family came to American, and he died in October, 1951. Julia was born and grew up here. She supplemented the family income by working during the summer and fall canning seasons for Reid Murdoch, later Libby Foods in Rochester. She devoted most of her time to caring for family, relatives and friends, and enjoying her church sewing circle. Her mother, Kari Moen, lived with the family until her death; then a number of girls from area farm families boarded at the Oss residence to enable them to attend Spring Valley High School.

The Oss family were related to the DeGroodts, as Marean DeGroodt married Julia's sister, Carrie, and they lived at 300 West Fremont, just a door away. Marean served as a custodian at the Molstad School and high school along with Al Jero, also a neighbor. The Oss boys could not misbehave at school as their pranks would have been reported to their parents by a neighbor who lived on either side!

After the third generation Halbkat sold the grocery store, Gjert worked for the new owners, Art and Mildred Alink; then later at Al Carson's Grocery. He found it necessary to retire at age 77 following cancer surgery, but he remained fairly active until pneumonia took his life at age 90 while at Community Memorial Hospital in Spring Valley. Both he and his wife are buried at the city cemetery.

When the museums open on Memorial weekend this year, the public is invited to visit the "Country Store" at the Methodist Church Museum on West Courtland. Many of the artifacts on display are from the Halbkat Store, and a number of these were given by the Oss family. Look for the vintage coffee bean cabinet in its original red paint, brass scoops used for flour and sugar, even Gjert Oss's white grocery jacket. A fun visit!