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An inside look at North Hudson history

North Hudson's first village hall was not built until 1966. The picture of the structure above was taken before the building was expanded and modernized. New construction began in 2007 and the new hall opened in 2008. Photo by Jon Echternacht

Editor's Note: The following article talking about the history of North Hudson and the village board, was written by Barbara (Zezza) Smrdel. She is the daughter of longtime North Hudson resident and village President Daniel Zezza (1905-1969). Barbara is a 1947 Hudson High School graduate and a retired teacher. Dan Zezza served as village president from 1943 until his death in December 1969.

A look back

In the first part of May, a blue flannel cap worn by Babe Ruth when he played for the New York Yankees was for auction at the price of $400,000. Yes, Americans treasure their history and their heroes.

On the tenth of June, North Hudson will celebrate its treasured heroes of the past 100 years who built our village from a small settlement to an organized community of 3,500 persons. It's Centennial time! Come join in the celebration.

Tour the village hall and enjoy a pictorial history of the village presented on a 6'x8' quilt made by residents. In the adjacent park, you will be delighted by food, music, talks by local leaders, and wagon rides through the railroad shops, the source of North Hudson's early growth. Eat a grilled Italian sausage wrapped in a Scandinavian lefsa (lefsauetz) introduced at the Pepper Fest of 1959 and symbolizing the cooperative work of all villagers as they worked to build their new village school.

It is important to have this celebration at the village hall, since the Centennial coincides with the newly-enlarged building. The village was almost 70 years old before it could afford its own government building. Yet, only 40 years later it has been enlarged because of population growth.

Before 1963, when the new village school was built on Lemon Street, the old school on Fifth and St. Croix streets was the center of educational, social and political events. One of the four rooms was dedicated to village business. It was in this school in March of 1912 that 40 eligible voting men met to discuss the question of the incorporation of their settlement into a village. At a second meeting in March, these men appointed J.M. Ryan to lead their group, minutes were recorded, and the search for independence as a village began.

After preparing a plat map of the desired size of the village, and receiving permission to ask residents to give approval to the plan to incorporate, each of the men contributed a sum to cover the cost of holding a referendum, contributions ranging from 50 cents to $4 with no promise of repayment.

The referendum for incorporation was decisive and an election of village officers followed. A railroad worker, Hans Lystad, received all of the 63 votes cast for president, and T.W. MacQuarrie, a teacher at Galahad School for Boys, received all 63 votes for clerk. Names of the first council members will be familiar to long-time residents: Axt, Thill, Raisner, Munro, Swanson and Kurrasch.

The first meeting of the Village Board of the Village of North Hudson was held on April 1, 1912, presided over by newly-elected President Hans Lystad. As recorded by Clerk MacQuarrie, it was moved by Mr. Thill, and seconded by Mr. Swanson that $800 be raised to meet the running expenses of the village for the coming year. The motion carried unanimously and the meeting was adjourned until the following evening at 6 p.m.

Thus began a succession of leaders who gave of their time and talents for the "Little Village That Did." While honoring the memory of the very early Presidents, Hans Lystad, Sam Michaelson, Fred Dick, Joe Pederson, Joe Florence, A.J. Lyksett, Dan Zezza, Bill Cunningham, Len Skalicky and Wally Gregerson, it is good to note that all of the village presidents and councils, past and present, face the same problems. They have to levy taxes, feed the poor, fix the streets, provide health and safety services and welcome businesses, all which are meant to care for the people of the village.

Similar agendas

While the first council agenda was written one hundred years ago, it is surprising to see that 2012 village agendas do not differ much from those in 1912, although the solutions sought would be appropriate to the times. For instance, in the agendas of early presidents:

  • Taxes: In 1913, Hans Lystad lamented "we have as yet raised and collected no taxes." (2012, we need to set the mill rate).
  • Garbage removal: We need to clean the garbage out of the streets and yards. (2012 reduce, recycle, reuse).
  • Sewer and water: Demand is so great that you may dig your own water and sewer, or have the village do it and be charged. (2012 - Why is the cost of the sewer system so high?)
  • Health protection: In 1918 the State Board of Health issued a quarantine for influenza. Homes, schools, hotels had to be fumigated. Later, scarlet fever demanded the same care. (2012 there are local hospitals and clinics for preventive care).

    Oral history tells that five-year-old Leona Muckenhirn died during the influenza outbreak. The "undertaker" cried while combing the hair of the beautiful young girl. Because of the fear of contagion, there was no funeral. The casket was placed on a horse-drawn cart and the silent, sad father walked alone behind the cart from North Hudson to the Willow River Cemetery.

  • Loitering: Many men were coming to the railroad shops to seek work. There were not enough accommodations for them. Soon loitering and liquor began to mix. Neil Cosgrove presented a resolution to the trustees stating that we will not allow undesirable citizens into our village on account of their being undesirable and non-supporting and apt to cause riots. (2012 we have a municipal court held in North Hudson).
  • Fire Protection: Leo Muckenhirn was appointed fire chief of the brigade in the shop which also protected the village. (2012 fire protection is contracted with Hudson).
  • Pound Master: The Pound Master was paid a bounty for each dog. (2012 the unlicensed animal might be taken to a pound).
  • Liquor license: Saloon licenses were issued in 1912 to George Starr and H.S. Gasoline. Other licenses quickly followed. (2012-liquor licenses are issued by the village determined by population).
  • Attract business: James Sherry opened a business on Fifth and Wisconsin. The store sold everything that a villager needed and it was operated in a clean and honest manner. Sherry served many years as treasurer of the village and was so trusted that at times he was elected by acclamation. (2012 there are many companies in North Hudson, as diverse as Pet Grooming to Electronics).
  • Crowd control: In 1922 the ugly face of the railroad strike appeared. The union accused the railroad of bringing in strike breakers. To control this, President Sam Michaelson appointed eight special police to assist the village marshall for the duration of the strike. These volunteers -- W.H. Smith, Dan Cullen, Leo Muckenhirn, C.E. Lombard, C.F. Eastman, Wm. Swaner, Ed Lundeen, Patsy Ranallo -- were soon joined by 25 other special police. (2012 we have our own police force with offices in the village hall.)

    Remember past

    We stand today on the shoulders of all these village leaders who generously spend time, talent and patience, many for a long period of years, so that we live happily and safely today.

    "Only if we remember our past, its important events, the people we love, our country's history, and community stories, can we begin to understand the meaning of our own lives." I quote from an exhibit at the Smithsonian where Judy Garland's red slippers and Abraham Lincoln's black hat are exhibited.

    So as you view the village quilt, tour the village hall, ride down Monroe (Munro) Street, and circle the old railroad shops, remember that these are our red slippers and black hats. We are exhibiting people and things that we hold in esteem. This is our past, our history and our community story.

    Celebrate Centennial! Enjoy the sights of the "Little Village that Did"!

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