Why Melrose is Called Melrose and It’s Documented History
Melrose is a town of 3,598 people in western Stearns County along Interstate 94 and Highway 52. The town was named after Melrose, Scotland because the early settlers were Scottish. To help tell the story of Melrose I was joined by local historian Roger Paschke, Mayor Joe Finken and City Administrator Colleen Winter. The first settlers who came to Melrose were Moses Adley and Robert Wheeler in 1857. Wheeler is credited with naming the town Melrose because it is a Scottish name and he was Scottish. Area communities New Munich and Meire Grove were settled prior to Melrose.
Father Pierz was instrumental in recruiting Austrians and Germans to Central Minnesota and many settled in the Melrose area in the 1860s and 1870s. Initially Melrose was a Protestant settlement according to Paschke.
Paschke explains Edwin Clark is considered the "Father of Melrose". He says Clark arrived 10 years after Adley and Wheeler and established the first feed mill, flour mill, general store, lumberyard, hardware store, and bank. In 1872 Paschke says Clark donated land to the Great Northern Railroad. In 1884 Melrose became the railroad division point and held that until 1923. Paschke explains the population grew to 3,000 people in large part due to the railroad. In 1923 the railroad division point moved from Melrose to Waite Park. When this happened Paschke says Melrose dropped two-thirds of their population.
Melrose was considered for the Stearns County seat at one point according to Paschke. Among the early settlers to Melrose was August Lindbergh, the grandfather of Charles Lindbergh. One of August's two sons, Charles moved to Little Falls where he had a son also named Charles. August and his wife Louise are buried in Melrose.
Many famous people are from Melrose including James Gallagher, who was the first to fly non stop around the globe in 1949. The event was celebrated with Gallagher Day in Melrose on May 20, 1949.
Others hailing from Melrose include athletes former Michigan and Gopher football player Bill Daly, former NBA forward Mark Olberding, former St. Cloud State and Professional basketball player and WNBA official Jan Niehaus, former Kansas City Chiefs tackle Matt Herkenhoff, Olympic track and field athlete Amanda Smock (Thieshafer), baseball pitcher Howard Nathe, longtime basketball official John Leiser and former professional wrestler and Iditarod racer Paul Ellering just to name a few. Paschke says Melrose has won state championships in gymnastics twice and has typically achieved well in many sports including football, basketball and baseball.
Melrose Mayor Joe Finken explains Melrose has changed quite a bit over the years. He says the community is now 40% Latino. Finken says he loves the diverse community Melrose has become and has been able to attend many Latino celebrations and has tried new ethnic foods. He says the last 5 new businesses that have opened downtown are Latino businesses.
The current businesses in Melrose include Finken Water, Arvig, Jennie-O, Land-O-Lakes (Which was Kraft), CentraCare Hospital/Clinic, Warrior Boat, Stearns Electric, Magnify Financial, Leedstone Agriculture, Carstens Industries just to name a few. Melrose also has the Melrose Area History Museum which Paschke says opened in 1987 and is in the old St. Mary's Convent building.
The last weekend in June the city of Melrose gathers for River Fest Days. Events can consist of a parade, a rodeo, and rides. Finken says they always get many groups together to help raise money for their organization. The Friday after Thanksgiving Melrose has a parade with floats, meet Santa, offer free hot dogs and a fireworks celebration takes place.
If you'd like to listen to my conversation with Joe Finken, Roger Paschke and Colleen Winter it is available below.