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1943: Helen Bly welcomed by locally by band music

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 June 24, 1943.
To have a band playing, and a celebration in progress to herald her arrival to this section of the country was the experience of Mrs. Helen J. Bly, Garretson, when she stepped off the train at Valley Springs on May 30, 1886. Coming here alone from Lee, Ill., a bride of less than a week, she had ridden in dread that there would be no one to meet her when she arrived at the depot.
Instead, she arrived just as a decoration day program was in progress, and a gay crowd of people was on hand when the train rolled in. “I thought to myself,” said Mrs. Bly, “it isn’t so wild out this way after all if they have celebrations and bands, so I was ready to stay.”
Mrs. Bly was born in Lee, Ill., April 27, 1863, the daughter of Hans and Anna Johnson. She was one of a family of 11, and learned to do housework at an early age. The community in which she lived was made up mostly of Norwegian immigrants who were faithful to their church. Every summer, the children would attend parochial school after the public school term was finished.
She worked away from home after she was confirmed, and received $1.50 per week as her starting salary. This was later doubled to $3, and she felt as if she was getting rich.
The two big holidays during the year when she was a child were the Fourth of July and Christmas. The Fourth was usually observed by a community celebration in the form of a picnic and a patriotic program during the afternoon. Sometimes it was held in town, other times, in a grove on somebody’s farm. Local talent would furnish the musical part of the entertainment, and a speaker of the day would be engaged who would give a patriotic address. At Christmas time, there would be Christmas tree festivals at the churches, with both children and grown-ups taking part.
On May 24, 1836, at Lee, Ill., she was married to John H. Bly, and even before they were married they had planned to come to Minnehaha county to settle.
When asked if she were not a little frightened, or reluctant, to leave her home for a new and strange community, Mrs. Bly stated, “A person who has just been married is more nervy then that at any other time. I guess that was true in any case, because I accepted leaving home just as a matter of course.”
Mr. Bly loaded their farming equipment and other articles that they owned in to a freight car, and left his wife to make the trip alone on the passenger train. At Valley Springs to meet her was Amund Edmundson, a brother-in-law of Mr. Bly, who had settled here earlier. She and Mr. Bly went to live with the Edmundsons until their home was built.
Mr. Bly had been here earlier that year, and bought a farm, an unimproved quarter section, for $1,400. After he and Mrs. Bly came to live he hauled rock from the Palisades south of Garretson to build the foundation for the house. As soon as the house was built, they moved in, and to this day, Mrs. Bly is living in the same place.
The span of years which has elapsed since Mrs. Bly came has seen many changes. At that time, there was no such town as Garretson, but there was a town of Palisade, located on the Split Rock River.
There was a flour mill there and also a little store where they could buy what groceries they needed. A stage was operated between Valley Springs and Palisade twice each week, and brought the settlers their mail. Three or four years later, the railroad came thru, and the village of Garretson, was founded. Because it was off the railroad, the townsite of Palisade was then abandoned.
The late Mrs. Amund Edmundson taught Mrs. Bly how to twist hay into bundles to be used for fuel. Because trees were so scare, and the tall prairie grass was so plentiful, the latter after being twisted into tight bundles, was stacked neatly into piles like cord wood. Although it burned more rapidly than wood, and a considerable amount was needed to heat their small home, they managed very well until they were able to buy coal, Mrs. Bly States.
The first years they lived in the community, they worked hard, and sold their farm produce at low prices. Butter, churned by the housewife, was sold in town at five cents per pound. Considering the amount of work connected with it, the settlers were poorly paid for what they did, Mrs. Bly states, but nevertheless, most of them seemed to be happy and satisfied and got along well. “We had to pay a high interest rate on the money we borrowed to buy the farm,” she said, “but five cent eggs, we managed to keep it. Of course, we didn’t have as many places to spend our money as there are today.”
Although the blizzard of 1888 is one of historic interest in the northwest, Mrs. Bly said she experienced no hardships during the storm. Everything went well, Mr. Bly was home and managed to get all the stock into the barn, and they had plenty to eat and to burn. She agreed, however, that the storm was furious, and that she was more grateful that she was not home alone.
On another occasion, however, she was left alone with a baby while her husband and a neighbor were in Sioux Falls. They had started home but had to turn back when the storm struck. “Believe me,” Mrs. Bly said, “I spent an anxious night that night, and I was really glad to see Mr. Bly when he drove on the place the next day.”
Mr. and Mrs. Bly were the parents of seven children, six of whom are living now. They include Mrs. Julie Klungness, Garretson; Harvey J. Bly, Brandon; Elmer J. Bly, Moorhead;  Mrs. Holden L. Jordahl, Luverne; Clarence Bly, and James Bly, both of Garretson. One son died in infancy. Other direct descendants include 18 grandchildren and five great grandchildren.
Of a family of eight sisters and three brothers, Mrs. Bly is one of the seven still living. The others are Mrs. Melinda Risetter, Onawa, Iowa; Miss Jane Johnson, East Moline, Ill; Mrs. Emma Solomonson, Estherville, Iowa; Mrs. Louis Rogde, Madison, Minn.; Frank Johnson, Lee, Ill., and Mrs. Hattie Bly, Lee, Ill. A twin sister, Mrs. Anna Johnson died a year ago, and Mr. Bly died August 16, 1929.
During her life in this area, Mrs. Bly has been a member of the Palisade Lutheran church of Beaver Creek township. She has been a member of the ladies aid there for 55 years.
She is still active, and cooks and bakes for her son, James, who operates the home farm. She attributes her long life to having kept busy all the time, and to having spent a quiet life.
         Donations to the Rock County Historical Society can be sent to the Rock County Historical Society, 312 E. Main Street, Luverne, MN 56156.
Mann welcomes correspondence sent to

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