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As I Remember Brainerd
written in 1961, age 81
Family members are free to cite this oral history with permission and proper attribution.
We came to Brainerd in 1882, when I was three years old in Oct. 15, 1882.  My father, Henry Theviot,  came to Brainerd in 1881 from Belle Plaine, Minn., where he was in business, as he saw a bright future in Brainerd.  Brainerd was booming and he bought quite a lot of property.  In 1882, the next year, we followed with a brother seven years old; me three years, and a little brother Willie 1 1/2 years.  I can remember walking down Front Street, just getting in at noon, and Father stopped at a frame building—the only building in the 2nd block from 1st State Bank built in 1881 on Front St.  That Block was built up of all wooden buildings. Sec east block had one wooden building, a drug store going  So. On 7th street 2 buildings (?) painted light blue called the Blue Fronts.  My father had a general store in one.  The next one was a funeral parlor and Mr. McCall, a photographer,  over stairs. It also was living quarters for himself, wife and Ila, their daughter.  Next across the alley was a small Flour Mill.  The rest of the block was all vacant.   Going east on 7th St. next to Drug store a small store run by Richard Parker.  Everyone lived upstairs.  Next building as small candy and stationery store, then a meat market, a tailor (?) that R. C.  Walker owed and lived upstairs.  Then it was vacant until the Davis building.  which my father rented for us.  Mother had a Millinery store.   The building had just one large bedroom upstairs and two small rooms up in the back.  Then there was a hallway with stairs down and a large living room, dining room, large kitchen and two bedrooms off the kitchen.  In those days there were no bathrooms, just kerosene lamps, outside toilets.  I can remember father saying “Bertha, this is where we are going to live,” when we stopped.  My dad was carrying the baby and mother and older brother had me by their hands.  
In the next year, 1883, was a black diphtheria panic. Many passed away--both children,  also lots of older people.  My oldest brother got it, and my dad sent a wire to my grandmother in St. Paul as that is where she lived—on the corner of 3rd St. and Wabash in the old Roger Block.  She took the a.m. train, brought her big black shawl,  got in at noon and went to our store where we lived, and my father handed me out of the window downstairs where I slept with the maid.  Mother was upstairs with the sick brother,  and Grandmother took me back to the depot that had a big lunch room and at 1 p.m., she was back on her way to St. Paul.  Three days after, one brother died, and in three days, the other.    Mother nearly lost her mind, so I stayed with Grandmother until July 1884 when Grandmother came up to care for my sister that was born July 30, 1884, and stayed the rest of the summer.  The new sister made Mother get over her loss of the two boys.
We stayed in that store only one year as father had bought 50 feet east of us and had a house on the back of one lot and my Dad built a store in front for Mother’s Millinery store and next a two story white Brick store for his brother to run a liquor store with two apartments upstairs.  My cousin was born while they lived in Brainerd.  They rented one apartment.  We moved when the new store was (finished?).  A new Funeral parlor, Losey and Dean, built next to Dad’s brick building, as the one on 7 St. moved away as his health put him out of Brainerd.  The block across from National Bank, going West, was pretty well built up all around with a big Swartz Drug store at first day.  Upstairs had a big dance hall called the Bly Hall where they had all their parties.  That whole block was all built up as well the National Bank block except a hay market on corner of 7th and Laurel, a home of a Mrs. Dressen that lived on the alley way.  She made ice cream (delicious) and used her living room to serve it and kept roomers.  She was a widow and had only two children, a daughter and son, and they helped her. The son was my age and the daughter got married when I was in grade school and moved to Missoula, Montana.  The son moved to California.  The house was moved to north side when Brainerd started to build up.  It’s still on 7 St north of the old Larkin home.
Front Street in the early days was  all railroad property and we had parks in two blocks on the north side of Front Street, with a Bandstand and ??? one.  In winter time we used to have a skating rink and toboggan slides.  There was one entrance in front of National Bank where you buy your tickets.  The slide started at the corner of North side down to 8 St.  We’d go up steps, on the corner of 8th and Front and back along Front.  I had lots of fun there skating and sliding.  The old Brainerd was thickly settled toward the river and early days was a big Closterman (?) House where the present Court House is now and a first Catholic Church, a small one, and the block on 6th and 5th going south housed the city jail and a commercial  hotel on the corner of 5th and Laurel. When the first Court House burned, they built a wooden large one on the corner of 5th and Norwood, and where Drs. Cardel and the two dentists are was Charlie Rowley’s building.  They lived upstairs and had his shop down stairs.  South 6th build up first as Bonus and Howe ran a saw mill down by Boom Lake and the railroad built a spur that is now in use as far as Turcots Coal Yard. Turcots used to run across 6th St. to the saw mill during the early days, right by the Catholic church.  There was a down hill ravine on the south side of the Church and they had a trestle built up so the tracks could be laid on them and many a warning to stay away from walking on them as I might fall off.  That church burned and ground was bought at the corner of 9th and Juniper.   Brainerd had many fires  R. R rebuilt on the corner where Ransford now is. A lot of the old frame buildings were moved to Laurel St and where homes were torn down.  I remember a big Hotel in the corner where the First Federal property is.  Con O’Brien had bought the property after the first Opera House was on the 8th street.  Also bought property on Laurel St.  He rebuilt his own store right after the fire, then the block where the Fitzsimmons furniture and O’Brien block.  Also Montgomery Building, as he leased the property and building to them.