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1943: Fritz is one of the best-known Luverne residents

Bits By Betty
Betty Mann
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 Nov. 25, 1943.
         Perhaps one of Luverne’s best known residents is Frank H. Fritz, retired plumber, whose experiences if listed in chronological order and in detail would fill a good size book, and would be as interesting, perhaps, as any biography of a mid-westerner ever written.
         Mr. Fritz has virtually been on “his own” since he was seven years old. One of a family of 17 children, he left home to live with his grandparents, after his grandfather had promised to give him a pony.
         “Grandfather was in favor of union hours,” Mr. Fritz said, “only his viewpoint was somewhat different from those of this day and age. He believed in an eight-hour day, alright; eight hours in the forenoon and eight hours into the afternoon.
         “As a matter of fact,” he added jokingly, “sometimes when we got up in the morning, we’d meet ourselves just coming to bed.”
Born in Wisconsin
         Mr. Fritz was born in Durand, Wisconsin, October 22, 1868, the son of Jacob and Caroline Fritz. His father, a cabinet maker by trade, had taken up a homestead in Wisconsin in 1858. He had served seven years as an apprentice cabinet maker in France before coming to this country, and had also served three years with the German army during the Franco-Prussian war.
         After Mr. Fritz went to live his grandfather, he helped on the latter’s farm until 1882. As a boy, he bound grain side by side with a man on one of the old reapers which had just come into being. He earned the first money he could call his own, however, by picking up lumber along the river and selling it to the local lumber dealer. He explained that a sawmill was located up the stream from Durand, and the finished lumber was floated down on rafts. Occasionally, lumber would fall into the water and float onto sand bars, and it was this that he picked up and sold. He collected $8 worth one Sunday, he recalls.
         Another way he earned money was by taking fishermen out at night to spear fish. At this job, he earned as high as $1.50 per night.
         Speaking of fish spearing, he related that he can also take credit as being a professional fisherman. He speared various kinds of fish in the Chippewa river, and these sold to the meat markets for two cents a pound. The dealers retailed the fish for four cents a pound, he said.
Learned Tinner’s Trade
         In 1882, he hired out to a man in Durrand to learn the tinner’s trade. The first year he earned $75, the second $100, and the third, $125, but during the latter year, he had to pay for his board out of his earnings. During those years, he not only helped his employer with his trade, but he took care of his team, and milked the family cow besides. Despite the seemingly meager wages, he managed to save $100 in those three years, and at the same time, he bought his own clothing.
         He finished learning the trade in July, 1886, and he then decided to go to South Dakota to help with harvest. He got as far as Glenwood, Minn., and there he obtained work with a railroad grading crew, hauling provisions with four miles and a wagon from Glenwood to Elbow Lake.
         “I’ve hated a mule ever since,” Mr. Fritz said, and explained his dislike for the hybrid equine by stating that every time he crossed ground that was soft underfoot, one of the mules would lie down. “The only way I could get that mule started again was to unload the wagon by packing whatever I was hauling on my back to dry ground, and then reload it again.”
“Good Old Days”
         In his younger days, he also did some logging in the northern woods. “Lots of times,” he said. “I’d be standing in icy cold water clear up to my armpits. Those really were the good old days!”
         The spring after he worked at Glenwood he came to Luverne, arriving here May 5, 1887. He immediately entered the employ of the late J.W. Gerber, pioneer hardware merchant, and worked for him until January 1893.
(Continued next week).

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