Something doing in Spring Valley
Tuesday, May 13, 2014 3:00 AM
As Memorial Day approaches we start thinking about veterans and their important place in our lives, preserving our freedom and independence. Historical society files show two gents who played a part in the Civil War, both named Pierce.
One of them, James Pierce, came to Spring Valley in 1875. His background? His father, George Pierce, served in the Civil War in the First Massachusetts and then the Second Minnesota Regiment. While the father was involved in the conflict, young James lived in LeRoy where he attended school until age 15, then took work on a farm. He learned to become a butter maker, and operated the Spring Valley creamery for 10 years, which may have been located in the southwest corner of town. According to his bio, when the creamery was destroyed by fire, he took a job at an elevator in Iowa; he then returned to Spring Valley to manage the LaCrosse Grain Co. elevator on Market Street.
James Pierce was an independent Republican, but did not seek a local public office although he was a staunch member of the Masonic Lodge. He married Rosabell Mason, and they had one son, Roy. Mrs. Pierce was devoted to the arts, and taught classes in oil and watercolor painting; some of her paintings were exhibited at the Minneapolis School of Fine Arts. She was a member of the Order of Eastern Star, and the family was faithful to the First Baptist Church. They once lived in a home on Warren Avenue.
David Pierce was an even earlier Spring Valley resident. Born in Maine in 1830, one of 10 children, he married and came to LeRoy in 1857 where he pre-empted land. The family moved to Spring Valley about 1862; here he enlisted in Company E, 7th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry, and served almost three years in the Civil War. The family continued to live here until 1867 when they moved to Freeborn County. About 1886 Mrs. Pierce's health began to fail, so they returned to Spring Valley where she died the following year.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Pierce "came from good Puritan stock" and believed in responsible citizenship and education. Their five children made good: Sarah married M.N. Johnson of York; Frank became an editor in St. Paul; Clara, who died in 1890; Eleanor married Chas. Marquis of Illinois; and Varney who lived on the homestead in Freeborn County. It was recorded that the Pierces sacrificed much to give their children a good education and instilled in their hearts the determination to be useful citizens.
In the photo there is indeed "Something Doing in Spring Valley." We see a bandstand at the intersection of Broadway and Main with maybe half a dozen gents playing instruments under their "show" sign. Wooden store-front shops appear on the east side including a Bicycle Shop sign. On the west side is Parson's Stone Block, built 1872, with its six arched windows. The main floor was rented to various businesses, but here a portable sign, surrounded by a passel of young men, reads "Hamms Beer"! It is obviously a patriotic holiday as there are numerous flags a-flying. Note the dress of the citizens - ladies in long white gowns and very fancy hats while most of the men sport a hat, white shirt, and vest or coat.
What really caught my eye was the hotel looking quite "short." It was not until 1915 that Mr. Sampson added a third story to what was called the Commercial House, and re-did the entrance. Also striking are the huge cottonwood trees that grew along the south side of the hotel, soundly berated by the merchants as spreading too much "cotton" in the spring time, fouling the dining tables and pantries. They voiced a demand to have the trees cut down. Across the street to the south is the Farmers Store (now our community center) built about 1899, our first large department store. At left on the horizon we see the bell tower of the Molstad School up on the hill that stood there from 1885 to 1963, and from which many pictures were taken of downtown Spring Valley.
Watch for the Memorial (Decoration) Day parade in next week's column.