England Prairie Pioneer Club is a non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization of about 100 members from central Minnesota.
England Prairie Pioneer Club was founded in 1979. The idea of three farm families to start a club was to preserve and restore old machinery found in the area. Children could learn and respect the grueling ways their grandfathers earned a dollar; such a club would give the oldsters a reason to meet and converse with friends --a chance to relive the past.
The first Pioneer Days celebration was held in 1980 on a private farm. In 1981, the Club purchased land from Chester and Hazel Cain near the southern border of Wadena County.
An 80' x 64' building was erected, complete with a kitchen.
In 1983, the railroad icehouse from Staples, MN was donated and moved on the grounds; the building was cut down the center in order to move it. Half of this building became the saloon, which a few years ago was changed into an exhibit building. The other half of the building is used for storing gas engines.
In 1989, a museum and blacksmith shop was added.
In 1998, Don & Elaine Schmitz donated a building for a chapel, which we now have outgrown.
In 2006, this building was changed into a first aid station.
In 2000, we built modern bathrooms with showers.
In 2002, a tractor pull track was built, "one of the best around" so say the tractor pullers and a scale for weighing the tractors was donated from a feed store in Sebeka.
In June 2003, England Prairie was broken into, many dollars worth of food items were stolen that we had just bought as we were preparing for activities. We had a security system installed.
In 2004, we moved in the Hewitt "Deep Rock" Filling Station, donated by Jerry and Sonja Stilwell, which many of the members bought gas at during the many years of operation by Elmer Arndt and Alan Smith and we are in the process of restoring it.
A new playground was added in 2005 for the children, a new swing set, new seesaw and a used slide.
A commercial dishwasher was put in and a room was built to enclose it.
In 2006, we bought a cabin style building from Eli Zook to be used for our ticket booth.
In August 2006, a log Chapel was built. During Show Days of August the dedication and first service were held.
We had a couple of pickups pull at the tractor pull on August 26, 2006.
On August 27, 2006 we held our first ATV pull.
In 2007, we made a memorial flower garden; it contains rocks from Hassa's farm, Norton's farm and from Uberto's farm and flowers from Elaine Schmitz and Shirley Rokes.
Each year we keep working on improvements to the existing buildings.
In 2010, we moved in a little white building, that will become a barbershop/beauty parlor and we also moved in a depot from Philbrook.
In 2011, we moved a corn crib from Hewitt.
In 2015, we were hit by a tornado resulting in the loss of some buildings and damage to others.
In 2019, we replaced the wood on our 1918-1925 Baker Monitor L Windmill.
Also 2019, the roof on the Blacksmith/Printshop building was replaced with the help of a grant from the Browne Family Foundation.
England Prairie Pioneer Club is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization located in Verndale, MN.
The History of England Prairie,
How the area got it's name
There was some surveying done in England Prairie in 1863 and again in 1869 by the railroad company. The Great Northern Railroad came to Eagle Bend from Sauk Centre several years before it was built to Wadena and continued on to Akley and beyond. After building the railroad through this area, the railroad company advertised land for sale to people in foreign countries. They sold this land very cheap to get the country settled which, in turn, would make business for them.
Gene Cabotte, a Frenchman, was the first white man to follow the rivers and trade goods for furs with the Indians in these parts. He had traveled on Wing River, which cuts through England Prairie. He married an Iroquois indian but he never brought her to these parts because there were Sioux indians here and the two tribes didn't get along.
The Funace Colony from England came to this area in the 1870's. The Scottish people settled west and south of Wadena while the English were in this area. This being why the area was called England Prairie. Some of the early settlers in England Prairie were named Aldrich, Ashburner,Kissock and Murray. A few of the settlers from Scottland were William Wilson,George Stewart and Alex or George McLean. William Hetherington, Charles Relph, Herbert Taylor, Kit Emerson and J. Slater were some of the early settlers from England.
The original Ashburners are buried in Mt. Nebo cemetary, as well as one sons wife, who lived with them on their farm.
Luella Schmitz, Wadena, remembers back to 1909 when she was five years old. At this time, her family moved to the farm where the Tim Wohlert family now lives. There was a log house and barn on the farm. Her family built a new barn, which is still there. They lived in the log house for one year. They had to climb a ladder to the loft where they slept. Sometimes, when they woke up in the morning, there was snow on the floor that had sifted through the cracks in the roof, and they could also look down through the cracks in the floor. They moved a small house, from the corner where Howard Witthuhn now lives, onto the farm. This was to live in while building a new house, but the new house never got built. The house is still there but has since been built on to and remodeled.
The district three school house was built on the east side of what is now Highway 71 and on the north side of County road one. This was moved one half mile east on the south side of County road one in 1906 or 1907. The largest enrollment ever recorded for district three school was in 1914 with 49 pupils. In 1940, district three school house burned down. The pupils finished that school year at district 13 school house, which is located on the present Bob Derby farm. A temporary school building was moved in to hold classes in while the new school house was being built. In 1954 the school was incorporated with district 819, in Wadena, and the school house was sold to a private individual.