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The life of Harald E. Boen

Harald E. Boen was a country newspaper editor and to a degree followed the pattern of such people, but he was a cut above the rest and into so many other things. He had a very inquisitive, inquiring mind and a voluminous memory consisting of a wide range of subjects, not the least of which was Wadena and Wadena county happenings.

Harald was born to Haldor and Margot Boen at Fergus Falls on May 27, 1887 and died April 7, 1979 of old age. His father was the editor of a Fergus Falls newspaper and later was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for one term. According to his granddaughter, Helen Scheer, he and his wife divorced primarily as a result of his sojourn as a congressman in Washington. As a result of this he and son Harald never again had a close relationship.

As a young man, Harald learned the printer's trade in his father's shop in Fergus Falls. In 1906, he took a job in Drake, N.D., as a printer, but became homesick and went back to Fergus Falls. Later that year he went to work for Harry Ives' St. Hilaire Spectator in the northwest part of the state as a printer. In 1907, he met a young school teacher named Margaret Plowman whom he married in 1911. At that time they moved to Grand Rapids, Minn., where he worked for the Grand Rapids Review as a printer. In 1912, on what he considered an attractive offer of the Wadena News, owned by A. J. Merickel, he accepted a position, and they moved to Wadena. His description of this passage is quite interesting: "On our arrival in Wadena, it was a dark and dismal day with the sun setting in the west and a sharp, chill wind blowing from the west blowing gravel, grit and dried horse manure with cutting force as we made the long walk up from the Great Northern Depot.

"As we neared the present Jefferson Street we passed a long line of teams tied to hitching posts, some of the horses blanketed and some not. The vehicles to which they were hitched projected well into the street, the horses with their front feet deep into the holes created with their impatient stamping and their rears high on the frozen mound of their offal accumulated through the many weeks of winter. It was a depressing sight and one not calculated to inspire enthusiasm in this, our new hometown to be. The next morning, however, I was in a more optimistic mood and suffice it to say that I have been here ever since and glad for it for many reasons."

Thus began a long career consisting of several different occupations, but always getting back to the newspaper business.

In 1913, the Wadena News was absorbed by the Wadena Pioneer Journal, owned by Wm. Verity and with this Harald moved to that paper. Alvah Swindlehurst was the local editor of the Pioneer Journal and it was during this time that Harald and he became fast friends, and was affectionately known to Harald as "Swin." In 1914, Swin was appointed register of the Cass Lake Land Office and moved to that city with Harald taking over the editorship. Harald had great respect for Swindlehurst, not only for his newspaper abilities but also for his knowledge of early Wadena and Wadena county history, of which he often wrote.

In 1920, as a sideline to his editor job he started a chicken hatchery on the north side of Wadena and named it Wadena Farms Hatchery. On Oct. 1, 1926, he resigned his position as editor of the Pioneer Journal and purchased an 80 acre tract just north and east of the Tri County Hospital to expand his hatchery. This plant would have a 30,000 incubator for baby chicks with a facility for brooding up to 5,000 chickens. It was reported in the newspaper that Harald had in the back of his mind a project to incubate and brood turkeys and raise them in confinement for commercial purposes.

This property was to be devoted to the hatchery business with the balance being rented out to others for farmland. He sold the hatchery to a man by the name of James Blair in 1935, but evidently things didn't go too well as he got it back in 1936 and finally closed it out in 1938.

He encountered a couple of obstacles with the property which he solved over a period of time. The first was the neighbor bordering him on the south, August Stoecker. August was what one would label a progressive liberal and foreign to Harald's conservative mien. However, once they came to know and understand each other's views they became good friends. The second problem was the primitive sewage disposal plant used by the village. As we know today, the flow of treated sewage, treated in a very modern plant, empties into Union Creek which is the creek flowing through the Boen property on its way to Leaf River. In 1933, as a consequence of increased usage and expansion of the sewer system, it outgrew the disposal system and as a result Union Creek running through the Boen property was thoroughly polluted. Harald filed a law suit against the city for $5,000, for the purpose of spurring the city to action. As a result of this the system was expanded and up graded to take care of the problem.

This is the property that Harald lived on for the rest of his life and which in turn was purchased by his daughter Helen and her husband, Ralph Scheer, giving Harald life estate. Today under the supervision of Harald's grandson Kent Scheer, the property has been turned into a wonderland with a large stand of Norway pine, many varieties of other trees, Union Creek wandering through it and the house sitting in a grove of mature white oak trees.

In 1925 upon the death of William Verity, the Pioneer Journal was purchased by Harold Knutson. Harald was quite upset with the methods employed to get the price on the newspaper lowered and he was so enraged he told Knutson off and resigned his position. The next day Knutson called him and they patched things up and Harald went back to work. He resigned in 1926 to venture into other interests and to look after his hatchery business being replaced by Alfred Lemke as editor.

In 1935, Harald went into another venture the establishment of a dairy operation, which he named Golden Guernsey Dairy with city milk delivery. He continued this until 1945, My recollection of this was the home delivery which my folks partook of and the line of Bireley soft drinks which included Bireley's orange and grape which were absolutely the best drinks ever.

Later in life in 1958 he returned to the Pioneer Journal as a specialty or feature editor,. He began writing a series of articles titled "Just Reminiscing," which continued until 1960 and in 1962 began a long series of articles titled, "A Progress Report," which continued on a regular basis through 1965 and then a few more articles until 1968. These articles published regularly in the Pioneer Journal covered almost every subject you could imagine. From individual personalities, to Wadena county and Wadena city history, to composed poetry. However, his favorites were baseball, Wadena history and Wadena personalities and history. A copy of all his writings are on file at the Wadena County Historical Society, a total of 353 articles as well as several articles dealing with the Boen family and his early upbringing.

I recall that one day, probably a year before he died, he came into the hardware store and said that he had given up driving his car and thought maybe he should get a bicycle to get back and forth to town. He thought that he would like a three wheel model but wondered if he could handle it. I told him I would bring one out that evening and he could try it out. That evening I went out and he tried it out but he didn't have the strength to operate it. I still remember the look on his face and I could have cried.

Harald and Margaret Boen had three children, Helen who married Ralph Scheer, Robert who married Aldice Prall and Herbert.

Harald Boen was one of a kind. An independent, sometimes outspoken man, who stood true to his principles and was always a great booster for Wadena, Wadena County and for the farmer.