56654 became their zip code and they indeed earned it.
The folks who talked about George used reverential tones, held in high esteem by his neighbors historical portrayals described him at various times as “beloved”, “no man in the country round has been held in higher respect”, “a man of god”, “an honorable man”, “all that he saith cometh surely to pass”, “a good husband, a loving father and faithful friend”.
George was born in Pennsylvania in 1851, he married his wife Mary in Ohio in 1874, and from there they moved to Kansas where he was engaged in the newspaper and drug business. Additionally he was postmaster for two terms during the Cleveland administration and afterwards they spent time in Oklahoma.
The year 1898 found George and Mary in grand adventure. Envision the scene: there they sat in Rat Portage, Ontario with their son Malcom and daughter Clara, (son Mac was not mentioned though he later penned his early memories) where they then boarded the Steamer “The Kenora” with a team of horses, a cow, and some household furniture. At the time, the Canadian side of the Rainy River, was populated and there were very few settlers on the U. S. side. As a result they first resided in Ontario, but had their eye on a site on the U.S. side at the confluence of the Rainy and Black River. They were industrious and hardworking; during their first year they raised enough clover hay for the livestock and ample potatoes for themselves. In addition to their agricultural efforts they also cut timbers, hauled them to an area sawmill and built a suitable home and barn on their chosen site. They moved to their new homestead in 1899 and it turned out that their home was the logical stopping off point for all settlers moseying on to their new homestead dreams in the Black and West Fork of the Black River areas, it was reported that Mary ended up preparing thousands of meals for the hungry adventurers, one handwritten memoir actually said thousands of people, seems implausible to me, do you think it possible?
Immediately after their buildings were completed on the farm at the mouth of the Black River George started to obtain mail from the village of Koochiching (now Int’l. Falls). Up to this time any mail for U.S. settlers was received via Rat Portage once a week sometimes much longer but George being progressive wanted U.S. mail service and to say he was determined is the proverbial understatement. George frequently walked to Koochiching to get mail for the settlers who picked it up at his home and finally he was successful in establishing a post office in his home but not without a political kerfuffle. Think political cronyism is something new? Presidents McKinley and Roosevelt being Republicans wouldn’t appoint George a Democrat as postmaster (a Miss Jennie Mourhess was appointed but didn’t meet the residency criteria) wife Mary had voted Republican and ultimately became the first postmaster. George was indeed persistent and he carried the mail without pay until the letter count grew to the point where the government would grant a contract. The mail contract went to Mr. Gratten De Grau, Gratten paddled a canoe in the summer against the current and then always seemed to have a gusty headwind on his way back making it difficult and in the winter he hoofed it. Mr. De Grau was described as a physical giant of French extraction and was thought as Paul Bunyanesque by his grateful neighbors. There is some contradicting testimony as to whether he occasionally used a team of horses but at the time the trek from Loman to Koochiching was over thirty miles, Gratten would leave home at 2:00 AM and would return with the mail about midnight walking over sixty miles. Can you imagine? This effort must have had impetus for the U.S Mail credo only one should add the dark, bugs, mire and what have you to their anthem. Where do you suppose and how did he cross the Rivers on his jaunts?
Our next chat will show what George and Mary Loman did to have the growing community honor and venerate them in posterity and we’ll chat about how Loman, Minnesota grew to become a bustling center of economic development well-seasoned with social and civic pride.
About the Author: Mike Hanson is a long time resident of Birchdale, Minnesota. He enjoys spending his time in the great outdoors, building birdhouses, and has a deep interest in uncovering and understanding settlement history. His writings come from hours of research, as well as engaging discussions with locals and area historians, both professional and amateur.