1914 was a year of steady growth for the bustling little burgs of Northern Beltrami County. The towns and communities, that four years earlier had been swept away by forest fire, were re-emerging. Substantial buildings began to replace those hastily constructed after the fire. Roads were under development and ditching projects held the promise of making more land suitable for agriculture. Logging continued as the mainstay with many camps operating to harvest and supply the timber to local mills and rail depots. The large sawmills at Baudette and Spooner were each employing crews of around 300 men.
Baudette, with a population of 1400, had six general stores, three meat markets, four confectionery stores and four clothing stores. Homestead lands within 12 to 15 miles of the town had been nearly all taken up and new settlers, arriving at the rate of one family per day, were now locating on homesteads within a 30 mile radius. Spooner was thriving in a similar manner.
The Williams area was also making great strides. Land there was particularity attractive to farmers and this brought new growth to the town. In 1914, the First State Bank was completed and opened for business. Paul Brushey erected a twenty-six room hotel, Anton Levandosky built a brick store building and Ogden and Sweinhart opened a flour and feed store.
A state highway was completed connecting towns from Warroad to International Falls. It was considered the most important development to reach Northern Minnesota. Highway No. 32 passed thru Roosevelt, Williams, Graceton, Pitt, Baudette and Spooner as it linked three counties together and opened a new auto route. Many of the north – south ditch grade roads being built throughout the region also intersected it along the way.
Several cooperative telephone companies were organized and phone lines were reaching into more rural locations. Subscribers were quick to sign up for the service.
Fire claims of $200,000 were finally paid marking the final stages in the history of the disaster. The settlement came after a bitter legal fight with the Canadian Northern Railway and claimants got an average of 15 percent of their losses. The court battle continued for a few who chose to opt out of the settlement.
The Baudette School had an enrollment of 255 and conditions had improved enough to allow the sale of bonds to erect a 16 room brick school. Since the fire, classes had been held in a number of temporary buildings. Work on the new school foundation was finished before year’s end. Spooner had already managed to rebuild their brick schoolhouse and 165 students were enrolled there.
A new Congregational church building was dedicated at Cedar Spur and at Baudette the Episcopal Church was consecrated. A Lutheran congregation was formed at Pitt with services being held in the schoolhouse. At Baudette, the Congregational Church installed a new bell and the Catholic Church completed their steeple and also installed a new bell.
The Cloverleaf Creamery, the first of its kind here, opened along the banks of the bay in Spooner. Manufacturing butter and ice cream, the company’s stockholders, homesteaders and residents of the twin towns, expected that the area would become a great dairying section.
The Cross-Dodds Lumber Company of Spooner expanded their business across the bay to Baudette and relocated their main headquarters to the new location near the Congregational Church. The First State Bank of Baudette became the First National Bank and work was started on the foundation for a new building. A State Bank of Spooner also opened for business.
Among the new buildings in Baudette were the Watson Block and C.J. Olson’s Mercantile. New business enterprises included Rulien and Lindholm’s Auto Livery, Gorman’s Steam Laundry, the Baudette Provision’s Company, the Baudette Realty Co. and the Rulien Real Estate Agency. Both realty companies were instrumental in locating a large number of new settlers.
The commercial fishing operations on the lake experienced record catches over the summer months with the fish being shipped via rail to markets in Chicago and New York. By fall, the International Joint Commission had completed its survey of the Lake of the Woods and maps of the work were to be prepared during the coming winter.
The steamer Keenora called at Baudette three times a week giving tourists a chance to see the town and locals an opportunity to take trips across the lake to Kenora. The steamer Agwinde who also made port calls at Baudette and Spooner reported the year’s tourist traffic as their best ever.
On the social scene a Queen Esther Lodge and the Twin Cities Athletic Club were formed by the young people of the two villages and both towns boasted of their talented baseball teams. The teams were comprised largely of men employed at the local mills and their game roster included some of the best clubs from around the state. The Northern Minnesota Editorial Association held their convention in the twin towns in 1914 and the area received glorious press coverage statewide following the event.
Although the United States had not yet entered the war in Europe, several local boys joined up with the Canadian regiment at Rainy River. To maintain neutrality, soldiers traveling by rail from Fort Frances to Winnipeg to join their company and set sail for England were halted at the border and turned back by local immigration officers. With immigrants from Austria, Russia, Bohemia, Galacia and Serbia employed at the mills, the escalation was being felt locally and watched closely. Despite our neutral stance, by the close of the year a war tax was being collected on billiards and pool halls, confectionery stores, cigar and tobacco stores, saloons and theatres.
As the year passed into history, much would change in a very short time but many of the foundations that were laid in 1914 would endure long into the future.