Anoka County History Blog

Anoka County Historical Society Presents Century Farm Award to Burman Farm

On Wednesday, July 23, the Anoka County Historical Society (ACHS) presented an Anoka County Century Farm Award to the owners of the Burman Family Farm at the bandshell on the Anoka County Fairgrounds. The Oak Grove farm was first purchased by the family by William and Rebecca Burman in 1913. The farm is currently owned by a family corporation made up of William Burman’s great grandchildren and their mother.

William Burman was born in England in 1840 and emigrated to the United States as an adult. He married Rebecca and they farmed in Burns Township before purchasing the farm that would stay in the family for the nest 100 years for $1,500. William and Rebecca raised five children, including Alvin Burman, who took over the farm in 1918. Alvin and Emma Buran raised five children, including William A. Burman, who took over the farm in 1951. Today, the farm remains in the hands of William A. Burman’s widow, Marlys Burman, and their children. It continues to produce corn and soybeans.

ACHS presents awards to farms that have been farmed within the same bloodline for 100 years or more and consist of the original 40 acres or more. This is the 37th Anoka County Century Farm award given by the Historical Society since the program began in 1978 and the sixth farm in Oak Grove to receive such recognition.

Descendants of the Woodbury Family visit Woodbury House on Home and Garden Tour

One of my favorite things about the Anoka Heritage Home and Garden Tour is seeing previous residents and the descendants of earlier homeowners come on the tour and share their memories of the house with the current occupants. It is always a treat to see the the homeowners gain a deeper connection and appreciation for their own home. On this year’s tour the grandson of Harlan Thurston visited the home grandfather’s on Rice Street, a home he hadn’t been in since he was a boy.

It’s not always descendents either. Perhaps my favorite story was when a woman, a long time Historical Society member, when to a home on Fremont Street. The home was originally built by George Green, a man who many associate with the Anoka Halloween celebration. The woman told the homeowners how she and her friends took their high school prom photos in front of the house because they always admired it and the garden—they never even knew Green. She lived nearby and went home and retrieved the photos, probably 60 years old at that point, and shared them.

Another treat from this year’s tour was meeting descendants of the Woodbury Family. The Woodbury House, owned by Dwight Woodbury at the time of the Civil War, was featured on this year’s tour. One of those women wrote a great piece on her experience for the ECM publications, that own the local ABC newspapers.

You can read it here.

Anoka County Early Years

Anoka County, organized on May 23, 1857, almost a year before Minnesota became a state, is located in the eastern part of the state, about midway between the northern and southern boundary limits. It is bounded on the north by Isanti County, east of Chisago and Washington Counties, south by Ramsey and Hennepin Counties and west by Hennepin and Sherburne Counties, and southwest by the Mississippi River.

The first white men known to have trod the ground that became the County of Anoka were (about 1680) Father Louis Hennepin, a Franciscan monk, and two companions. According to the record kept by Father Hennepin and still preserved, a band of over 100 Indians captured them near Lake Pepin and planned to kill them, but finally decided to keep them for slaves. A few miles below St. Anthony Falls the canoe of the white men was destroyed and they were compelled to walk the long weary miles to Mille Lacs Lake where the villages of the Sioux were located. They remained with their captors. Father Hennepin gave the river, along whose full length they traveled, a more beautiful name than it now bears. He called it the St. Francis (from which St. Francis Twp. took its name), but it later became known as the Rum.

Anoka County lies on both sides of the Rum River which enters the county about 20 miles north of where it enters the Mississippi. The first house in Anoka County was built in 1844 on the east bank near the mouth of the Rum River by Joseph Belanger, a fur trader in the employ of William American Fur Company on the upper Mississippi. This building was abandoned as a fur post after a couple of years but it was used many times, temporarily, by new settlers as one after another came, established his own home and left the old building for someone else’s use.

Other traders came to the post in 1846 and 1847 and a community started to grow as early as 1850 in the neighborhood of Anoka in what is now Ramsey Township. A wooden bridge, the first over the Rum, was built in 1853 and this activity brought people to Anoka. That same year construction of a dam was begun, with logs for the piling being cut near Round Lake and floated down the river. As more settlers came into the area, the community was given the name Anoka from the Indian tongue, meaning “on both sides”, or “from both sides”, as houses and buildings started rising on both sides of the Rum River.

One of the first acts of the Minnesota Territorial Legislature, which convened in 1849, was the organization of the counties of Washington, Ramsey and Benton. The Rum River was the dividing line between the two latter counties, and so the territory now embraced in Anoka County formed a part of both. In 1856, Sherburne County was detached from Benton and that portion of territory lying east of Sherburne County and west of Rum River was also detached and became a part of Ramsey Co.

By an act of the Legislative Assembly, passed on the 23, May 1857, Anoka Co. was organized with the same boundaries as today with the exception of the southeastern tip of the County. The organization at that time did not include the Twp. of Fridley which was organized the same day as Manomin (or Mahnomen as it was also spelled) County. Manomin county contained the exact lines of the former Twp. of Fridley including Columbia Heights and was organized through an error, intentional or otherwise. On the 12, April 1870, a petition, signed by a majority of voters of Manomin Co., for admission as a township, was presented to the County Commissioners of Anoka County, was granted.

The Governor, Samuel Medary, appointed as the first board of commissioners for Anoka County E.H. Davis, J.P. Austin and Silas O. Lum, with George W. Putnam as clerk. These commissioners met at Anoka and appointed the following county officers: Sheriff, James C. Frost; Treasurer, James M. McGlauflin; Coroner, Jos. C. Varney. Eight townships were created: Anoka, Watertown, Round Lake, Bethel, Columbus, St. Francis, Oak Grove and Centerville. The name Watertown was soon changed to Dover and a little later to Ramsey. There were only three voting precincts, Anoka, St. Francis and Columbus. Round Lake Township was later changed to the Town of Grow.