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1943: Diamond Club turns spotlight to Art Herbert

Bits By Betty
Lead Summary
Betty Mann, Rock County Historian

The following article is part of the Diamond Club Member group that began in the January 7, 1943, issue of the Rock County Star Herald. Members of this group consist of persons of age 75 and older.
The following appeared in The Rock County Herald on September 23, 1943.
Maybe you knew him as the “shoemaker in back of the Handy grocery.” Or maybe as the man who made harness for Burley and Kennicott. Perhaps you will recall him as one of the members of the Luverne fire hose team that won the world’s championship back in 1895. Or maybe as “Big Waxie” Herbert, the man with the inevitable cigar in his mouth.
Anyway, he’s been back in Luverne for the past two weeks, visiting his daughter, Mrs. A. B. Cowan and to those of his many old friends and acquaintances that didn’t get to see him, we’ll say, “here’s Art Herbert, cigar and all, and he missed seeing you, not because he wanted to, but because he didn’t have the time.”
Almost 80 Years Old
Mr. Herbert, who is lacking just three months of being 80 years old, decided he’d earned a vacation so he closed his shoe repair shop in North Hollywood, and he and his wife boarded a train for Luverne. “Sure, business was good,” he said, “but it will be good when I get back, too. The shop would stand if I was dead and gone, so it should be there if I get back. If it goes up in smoke in the meantime, that’s all right too. A fellow’s got to have a little fun once in a while.”
And fun he has been having since he’s been here, especially shaking hands with his former acquaintances. “Took me two hours to get from the Handy Grocery corner to Nelson’s store one day,” he declared. “After that trip, my wife told my daughter if she ever wanted to go up town to do some shopping she’d better not take me along if she was in any hurry.”
Lived Here 40 Years
Mr. Herbert was a Luverne resident for 40 years, having come here in 1888, and having left for California in 1928. He lived in various places before coming here as a young man. Born in Celk, Quebec, Canada, Dec. 22, 1863, the son of Samuel and Elizabeth Anderson Herbert, he came to the United States with his parents in 1865. His first home in this country was at Ft. Snelling, Minn. While living there, his father helped build the first bridge across the Mississippi river from Ft. Snelling to St. Paul. From Ft. Snelling, they moved to Lakeville, south of Minneapolis, and from there to Farmington, where they lived until 1878. Mr. Herbert’s father was a blacksmith.
With considerable land still open to homesteading in the area west of Sioux Falls, the Herberts left Farmington and moved to the vicinity of Wall Lake, S.D.
The trip was made by covered wagon, and from Mankato to Worthington, they travelled with a wagon train consisting of 36 wagons. All but the Herberts were bound for Nebraska. Some of the wagons were covered with blankets. At night, they would form a circle with the cattle on the inside to prevent their straying away. For a boy of 15, that was a great experience, Mr. Herbert recalls. Days were always filled with excitement, and the nights proved enjoyable because a man with a fiddle and another with an accordion provided music for the group.
Hauled Lumber 40 Miles
Lumber for their new home on their homestead was hauled from Beaver Creek, because the railroad had as yet come as far as Sioux Falls. Mr. Herbert’s father hauled two car loads of lumber and two carloads of machinery by wagon, a distance of 40 odd miles.
Until their new home was built, they lived in a tent. A heavy, wet snow fell in April, causing their tent to fall down on them while they slept one night. That was an experience that Mr. Herbert will never forget.
The days I spent on the Dakota prairie were the happiest days of my life,” states Mr. Herbert. “Lots of times I’d go for six months and never see another woman’s face except my mother’s and sisters. Occasionally we’d see Indians, and wild game was plentiful. Every once in a while, my brother and I’d go out and shoot an antelope in the hills. Fish, especially big bullheads and perch, filled Wall Lake so for a kid that loved the out-of-doors, that was real country.”
Began Learning Trade
In the spring of 1881, he went to Sioux Falls to learn a trade. He wanted to be a blacksmith, but there were openings for an apprentice at that time. There was an opening in a harness shop, owned and operated by John McGee, so he went to work. The first year, he earned $25 and received his board. The second year, his salary was increased to $75. He was to have received $100 his third year, but he figured he knew enough about the business then to go out and get a job for himself so he quit. He went to Parker where he worked as a journeyman for two years, and from there went to Hartford, where he lived about a year. There he met and married Minnie Schultz, on Dec. 12, 1885. From there he went to Sioux Falls, and remained there until coming to Luverne on July 15, 1888.
Mr. Herbert was helping shovel snow from the railroad track at Parker at the time the famous blizzard of January 12, 1888, struck. During the morning, the weather was so warm that the men were working in their shirt sleeves. At 1 p.m. the station agent at Parker told the crews that they shouldn’t go out that afternoon as a blizzard was reported at Mitchell. The storm struck at 2 p.m. and at 4 p.m. the temperature had dropped to 44 below zero.
He states that he started walking home a distance of 10 blocks, and he didn’t reach there for two hours. After reaching home, he heard his next door neighbor calling, and he found that the latter’s chimney had blown off his house. Both he and his neighbor tied their clotheslines to door knobs of their respective homes and then fumbled their way through the blinding snow until they reached a clothesline post between the two places.
(Continues Next Week)

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