How Buckman Got Its Name; The Story of Buckman
Buckman is a small town in southern Morrison County in Buckman township with a population of 307. It was established in 1869 and was named after one it's early settlers, Clarence B. Buckman. Buckman later became a United States Representative in 1881 and was a Minnesota Senator for 3 terms and he was also a U.S. Marshal.
To help tell the story of Buckman I was joined by longtime residents Horst Hanneken and Mayor Greg Gangl. Hanneken wrote a book about the history of Buckman called "Buckman, It's Pioneer History and It's Cultural Legacy". He says the first settlers of the town included the John Otremba & Joseph Mischke families, settling just north of Buckman in late 1879. Buckman’s present location consisted of 5 initial homesteaded farms, belonging to a Peter Müller, Michael Oestreich, Peter Kunz, John Sitzman, and Jacob Hohn. Parts of each farm ultimately became the town of Buckman. Clarence Bennett Buckman was also an early pioneer, as were several former Civil War soldiers, who settled west of Buckman.
Hanneken says the early settlers were almost all German Catholic, the Müllers coming from Trier, Germany, with the Otrembas and Mischkes from Silesia, a historic German province now part of SW Poland. Many 1st settled in Dane County, Wisc.! Once land became scarce and/or expensive, they were lured here to Morrison County by Fr. Francis Xavier Pierz, who advertised good land and strong German Catholic surroundings. John Schmolke published a book with photos highlighting the local landscape, and enticed many to come here from Germany, especially from Silesia, with its ever changing political climate. Many of the next generation moved here from Central Iowa, first to New Ulm & Sleepy Eye, then here - again because of scarce or overly-expensive land in those regions. Most Buckman settlers trace their origins to the Trier area of Germany along the Luxemburg border, or Silesia, or parts of the former Austro-Hungarian empire, much of the current Southern Czech Republic. The strong German Lutheran community of Dixville and Little Rock mostly came from Prussia, or Northeast Germany along the current Polish frontier.
Hanneken indicates Buckman took its name after Clarence Bennett Buckman, a lumber magnate, advanced farmer, MN senator, U.S. representative, U.S. Marshall, etc., who owned over 1400 acres of farm land 1 mile north and 1 mile west of Buckman, land currently owned by Dave Solinger. The farm at the turn of the 20th century was one of the most advanced agricultural enterprises in Minnesota. Sections of his buildings were destroyed by the disastrous tornado of April 14, 1886, which leveled Sauk Rapids, killed many in a wedding party in Rice’s Station, before heading towards the Buckman area. A farmer, living 2 miles South & 1 mile West, had just gotten his family in a storm shelter, when he was sucked out of the doorway and killed, just before the storm headed towards the C.B. Buckman farm, where it destroyed many buildings. It ultimately crossed country and blew itself out near Sullivan Lake.
Buckman had many early businesses. Hanneken says the first business was a grocery store, started by Joe Hortsch and John Schmolke, two young Germans in their early 20’s. After a year in business, John Schmolke, a cobbler by trade, bought Hortsch out, quickly expanded his business to include farm machinery, hardware, clothing etc. a true general store. He was instrumental in constructing St. Michael’s Catholic Church in 1902, replacing the 1st one built in 1881. He was also a key player in bringing the 1st doctor to town, organizing Buckman’s 1st creamery, starting the bank, applying for incorporation in 1903, and being a land agent for the railroad, ultimately bringing mostly German Catholics to the area to settle and farm. Hanneken says John Schmolke built the 1st creamery in the area; it was organized in 1899 and brought into Buckman in 1903 and organized into a Farmers’ Coop in 1912.He also organized 4 more in Agram, Genola, Lastrup & Ramey! Frank Mischke, Sr., the son of pioneer Joe Mischke, started a blacksmith shop, a livery, a hotel during the 1890’s and then a general store in 1909. He was a major early figure in the Buckman business community, with his son taking over the reigns during WW1 after a new hardware store and implement shop were built in 1909. They were an International Harvester dealer in business until 1960, and were also instrumental in supplying area rural electrification projects during WW2. Hanneken explained John Brandl, a shoe and harness maker by trade, settled in Buckman in 1902, built his own store in 1910, and quickly became a prominent community leader. Recognizing the future demand of motorized vehicles, both in transportation and in agriculture, he quickly expanded his interests, building a Ford garage next door in 1916, also selling Ford farm equipment, a family business until 1982, when Brandl’s moved to Pierz, where it would remain for another 20 years.
Buckman used to have 5 schools in its history. Hanneken says Buckman’s 1st schools were wooden structures near the current church, with the 1st mainstay yellow brick 4-room, two-story school built in 1910, as a Public School Distrist 41 built for $6,300. The school was bought by St. Michael’s in 1915 for $10,000 after the Religious Garb Laws went into effect, and expanded in 1956, ultimately closed in 1992, due to Catholic school consolidations. Until the late 1950’s the entire area also had rural country 1-room schoolhouses, which were virtually all consolidated by 1960.
Hanneken shared the following memories from his childhood in Buckman. The Buckman of 50 years ago was a constant. Everyone knew everyone else. The population was all local. It was a safe place to grow up. Virtually everything one needed was found locally, with two grocery stores, two hardware stores, a car dealer, three implement dealers, a blacksmith shop, creamery, school, church, three bars, its own post office, a historic 1910 wooden water tower, and a calm, peaceful, safe, friendly community. Buckman, like most small towns, has changed.
Roots are not deep anymore. The history is gone. The business climate is almost gone, except for Girtz’s historic Buckman Bank Bar being carefully remodeled to show its original purpose, and Kevin Popp’s Buckman Hardware Store still meeting the needs of the locals. Sunrise Ag is a major business entity now, dominating Main Street and the skyline. St. Michael’s Catholic Church still thrives, with a strong family base, loyal members, and fantastic local support.
Buckman has a rich sports history including championship caliber baseball and basketball teams. The Buckman Bambinos baseball team and Buckman Aces' basketball team stood out in the 1920s. The Buckman Billygoats Amateur Baseball Team won the Class C State Championship in 1999 and placed 2nd in the State Tournament in 2001 and 2022. The Billygoats are back in the Class C State Tournament this season. Hanneken says pitcher Sam Gnifkowski, from Buckman, is the 1st member of the Minnesota Baseball Amateur Hall of Fame.
Both Hanneken and Gangl explain the town of Buckman has changed quite a bit over the years from when they grew up in Buckman. Many of the businesses that existed in the 1950s and 1960s aren't there now and some of the buildings are gone too. Gangl says he'd like to have the gas station that recently closed open again. He says the building also used to have a hair salon and liquor there.
If you'd like to listen to my conversations with Horst Hanneken and Greg Gangl they are available below. Hanneken's book "Buckman, It's Pioneer History and It's Cultural Legacy" is available Farmers & Merchants State Bank in Pierz.
LOOK: Highest-Rated Museums in Minnesota, According to TripAdvisor
Gallery Credit: Stacker