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Pathways Through Our Past

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Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

This story was sent to me by Diana Collison Jones. I met Diana a little over a week ago at Marilyn Page's home where the Hines Township book committee was meeting. This group has a good start on their book, but hopes to hear from more of you early residents as well as those that currently live here. Diana is going to be a great addition to the Hines committee and to our Blackduck History Center.

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Diana writes:

The Collison Families

Not just in Hines Township, but in Langor, Taylor, Hagali and others -- if there's an old barn standing -- one built perhaps three-quarters of a century ago odds are it was built by Clarence Collison or one of the men he taught. He was one of two brothers who made a lasting mark in the community, the other was Golden, or "Goldie," whose confectionery was one of Hines' long-established businesses. A third brother, Ray, remained at the place on the Devil's Elbow road in Taylor Township where William Collison had first settled with his family. And William's brother, George, lived in that part of Hines known just as "Chinatown." The two older men were from Dundas in Minnesota's Rice County. (Devil's Elbow Road and Chinatown? They ought to stimulate some conversation at coffee Monday morning).

Clarence's wife, Ruth, came to Hines to work for V.M. Owen and soon after meeting Clarence, married him. They raised a family of five including daughters Vera, Ruby and Ina and sons, Glenn and Bruce. Both boys and Vera are no longer living.

Clarence became well-known for his barn construction and taught the trade to others including William Newcomb. Suddenly, it seemed it was the time of the Great Depression and a time when many farmers were leaving the area. The Works Progress Administration was established in May 1935, and Clarence quickly found work on WPA projects, including building the original clubhouse -- a log structure -- on the Blackduck Golf Course. Clarence continued working as a carpenter and in the 1950s after the school in Hines had been closed, he bought the old building and tore it down to salvage the lumber. The old school bell was saved and now stands in front of the Hines town hall.

Goldie opened the first confectionery in Hines. He married 20-year-old Dorothy Borden in 1923. She was the daughter of pioneer settler, Walter Borden, who farmed south of Hines and lived in what was reputed to be the first frame house in the township. Goldie and Dorothy had six children -- Lyle, Oral, Evelyn, Acel, Wilbur and Opal. Oral, Acel and Opal all bore names found frequently in their family tree, which dated back to the Collison's first arrival in this country with the Puritans in 1627.

Goldie's Confectionery started in one building, then expanded after the closing of the Hines Bank in 1929, by moving into the bank building, adding a line of groceries and converting the former store into their living quarters. After Goldie's death, Dorothy continued in the store which by that time had moved into what is now the Pioneer Store. Her older sons had urged her to buy a store in Oregon where they lived, but she came back to Hines because, she said, "in Oregon the stores sell beer and I've fought all my life to keep a tavern out of Hines," and she came back to continue the fight!

Dorothy gained a measure of fame writing poetry. A Bemidji newspaper story in 1974, quoted her, The Small Town Store written on the back of a piece of pasteboard from a cereal box. Other poems were dashed off on old sales slips, bits of wrapping paper, or whatever was handy when she thought of a rhyme. She remarried in 1960, and continued writing even as the grocery stocks in the store gave way to bare shelves and showcases holding only a few candy bars or packs of gum. After Dorothy's death, her and Goldie's son, Wilbur, continued to live in the store until his own death in 2003.

Thank you Diana, for the human interest, and informative story. We're glad you joined us.

The History Center needs high school annuals from the 1950s and 1960s, etc. Do you have one you'd like to donate? We have annuals from 1945 (the first one) through 1951, and a few books from graduation reunions that you'll find very interesting. The Old Boosters and other unique publications from school would look very nice on our library shelves also.

It's February and our door was opened to a new look last Thursday. Marie Juelson's Hen and Rooster collection is cute and colorful and is on display all month. Of course, we'd like you to participate in our Valentine Sweetheart raffle. The drawing takes place Feb. 13 at 3:55 p.m. Volunteers are selling tickets and a lot of nice prizes will be waiting just for you. Stay warm!

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