BY CRAIG WENZEL – TRUE DAKOTAN EDITOR
The 125th anniversary of the town of Gann Valley will be held this Saturday, July 31, 2010 with an all-day celebration. The observance actually begins the day before when the quasqui-centennial wagon train leaves the Ron Peterson residence on the Shelby road at 9:00 a.m. The train will arrive at Gann Valley at around 5:00 p.m., in time for an evening meal. The evening meal is intended for wagon train participants..
In 1885, another paper was established and named “The Buffalo County Sentinel.” It existed only a short time. In 1888, “The Dakota Chief” was established at Gann Valley with Morton Alexander as publisher. Later the name was changed to “The Gann Valley Chief” and the paper continued publication into the 1970s. Editor’s note: The Gann Valley Chief was purchased by the Wessington Springs Independent, which was later purchased by the Wessington Springs True DakotanBuffalo County was at one time the largest county in the state, comprising an area of 5,000 square miles.
In November of that year, John S. Nelson built a new blacksmith shop south of Leach’s livery barn. The Nelson Brothers, John and Otto, were early and long-time blacksmiths here. As early as 1915 they put a cement floor in their shop for a first-class auto repair shop. The car was making its appearance on the horizon. In that year Jack Meyers built a large livery barn where the Leach hotel used to stand, one block south of the post office now. It was a busy place for some years.
The ice harvest was an important winter occupation. Usually in January, weather permitting, men of the community went to the river, to dams, or to ponds to cut the ice. With saws and picks, they cut and pried loose blocks of ice and loaded them on wagons. There was a large ice house in Gann Valley and some women were fortunate enough to have ice boxes. The ice was sold in chunks about the right size to put into the top of the ice box.
The Watkins man was a welcome visitor in our pioneer homes. Not only did he bring news of the community beyond, but he sold household items much prized by the ladies, and he always left gum for the “kids.”
In the 1920’s, the pool hall and the barber shop were busy places. Adolph Gilbert had the pool hall and barber shop near the Pippin Hotel. He barbered there for several years, and later Clifford Pippin, Rufus Pippin, E. Ebert, and Harry Nelson were barbers there.
E. C. Burton, in the 1920’s had a harness and shoe repair shop in the north side of the Johnson building to do general harness and shoe repair.
There were once business buildings along the east side of what is now the courthouse yard. Fred Wilhelmy came out from Iowa and had a barber shop in the building there, and there was a dentist in a building there for a time.
In 1925, Neffie Seger opened an ice cream parlor in the hotel building.
Gann Valley has had several cafes. After the Farmers’ Savings Bank closed, Lee Trayler and his daughter, Alice, ran a cafe in it and later Bessie Oates ran it. It was destroyed by fire while Mrs. Oates ran it. Jessie Halbig and Clarice Nelson ran a cafe in Gann Valley for some time. When the Rockenbaugh came out from Indiana, they turned the old Hughes store into Rocky’s Roost, a cafe with rooms above. Later Mrs. Neil (Mildred) Ness ran a cafe in the main part of the building.
In those days, every lady of any class wore a hat; if you had wanted to buy a hat in Gann Valley, you could do so. In January, 1900, Mrs. Bessie Jones and Mary Simmons moved a building to a lot on Main Street just north of the Hughes Store and opened a millinery and dressmaking shop. Later the Misses Winters and Oates were proprietors.buying the H. B. Farren building, which they moved near the first one. By 1905, the old buildings had been moved onto new foundations and connected by a new building. Charley Johnson, a local young man, started working for them at this time, and he was with them for many years.
Gann Valley was fortunate in 1985 to have one cafe in operation; Jeanne and Tony Krebs operate it in a small building south of the service station. Editor’s note: The Krebs cafe is now closed.
Donald and Cecil Fraser and Charley Johnson all served their country during World War I. Nettie and George, with some hired help, continued the operation of the store. A general store in those days sold everything; early in its operation it boasted of selling two top buggies in one week; in later years it sank tanks and sold kerosene and gasoline. In 1921, the frame building burned to the ground, and the present tile building was constructed by J. N. D. Nemmers and Company. Fire seemed to plague the Frasers: in September, 1929, a large warehouse they had west of their store burned to the ground and quite a loss of goods was sustained.
George Fraser died in 1934, and Don Fraser managed the business until his death in 1954. Back in the 1930’s, when times were really tough, the store was lost through a mortgage. Don operated it in a part of Gus Petersen’s garage until he was finally able to repurchase the building and moved the stock back again.
When Don’s wife, Pearle, became involved in the schools of the county as county superintendent, he had hired help; among them were Pearle’s nieces, Joyce (Baker) Magee and Jeraldine (Baker) Knight and Wilma Melba Gaulke.
The store celebrated 50 years in business in 1953, serving coffee and doughnuts. Don Fraser died in July, 1954, and Pearle continued the operation with the help of her niece, Jeraldine Knight until July, 1959. At that time she sold it to Janice and Hugh Sedgwick. Janice, too, is a niece.
The Sedgwicks continued the operation of the store under the name: “Fraser’s Store, since 1903— The Quality Store”. The store is now closed.
Click here to see the Gann Valley 125th anniversary schedule of events: gann valley quasquicentennial schedule