Bovey and Coleraine: A Tale of Two Villages – Part One

By 1912, Bovey’s Main Street was cleaned up considerably since its earlier days a decade before this photo. Here we can see that now a prosperous business district was available to residents. The shops are equipped with awnings that can be extended or retracted, depending on the time of day and the weather. Wooden sidewalks helped to keep people’s shoes out of the mud. And a barber pole (in the lower right corner of the photo) tells us that gentlemen had a professional barber to take care of their hair and whiskers!

I know that there are people in big cities who believe that there’s nothing very interesting about small communities. But nothing could be further from the truth! There are many interesting things and people in small places. The beautiful play “Our Town” by American playwright Thornton Wilder leads us to reflect on, among other things, this very topic.

The Iron Ranges of northern Minnesota have, through the years, seen many small towns come and go. The Indigenous people, who lived here long before any European people, often built their communities along the creeks, rivers, and lakes in this region. Then came white fur traders, who built their outposts along the water routes. When the timber cruisers arrived, they worked their way into the forests from the water routes, and eventually sawmills were built along the water. Then came the tote roads and railroads. And small communities were soon springing up wherever people gathered for work opportunities.

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