St. James Day, 2/13/14 27 Jan 14

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Businesses

– The St. James Public School District is one of the larger employers in town. Their mascot is the Saints.

– St. James is home to several industries. These include: ST Industries, a maker of precision tools; a turkey processing plant; Tony Downs Foods, maker of frozen foods distributed nationwide; Watonwan Farm Service, which deals in farm products; Consumers Supply Corporation, wholesalers of feed-additives, lawn and garden products, and water softener salt; Nelson Hood Exchange, who exchange new and used truck hoods; and Westin Automotive Products, makers of automobile accessories.

– St. James Health Services was awarded a contract with the Veterans Administration in recent years to supply health care to Veterans across southern Minnesota.

 

Festivals and Events

– St. James celebrates its railroad heritage every year with “Railroad Days.” The annual event is held every June and features many fun activities for the whole family. 

– The Watonwan County Fair is held in St. James every July. It is the oldest county fair in the state.

– St. James hosts 4 concerts in the park every summer. One of these concerts is always timed to coincide with the National Night Out festivities.

 

People

– The City of St. James has a population of approximately 4,600 people. The Mayor is Gary Sturm.

 – The Watonwan County Relay For Life is held in St. James every July. The fundraiser for cancer research consistently ranks among the top in the state and nation for communities its size.

– Becky Cselovski took over as Superintendent with the St. James School District in June 2010, and her contract was renewed for 2 years in 2012. She replaced longtime St. James Superintendent Nordy Nelson when he retired.

– The St. James Area Chamber of Commerce 2012 Business Of The Year was the Good Samaritan Society in St. James. The business has been constantly growing in the 50 years it has been in St. James, and now includes Good Samaritan Home Care, Prairie Rehab, Pleasant View Skilled Nursing, Prairie View Senior Housing, and Brandt Ridge Assisted Living. The award was presented in March of 2013.

– A dedication ceremony for the newest Habitat for Humanity of South Central Minnesota home was held in St. James in February of 2013. This was home 102 for the branch, and the new homeowner was Amy Shupe. Habitat For Humanity staff and volunteers, as well as Shupe’s friends and family were on hand to present her the keys. She completed 200 “Sweat Equity” hours in the construction of the home as a requirement of the program.

– A St. James City Council meeting was streamed online for the first time ever in February 2013. The meeting was also archived online for the first time ever on the city’s website.

– The District 840 Foundation held the 11th annual St. James Cash For Kids in April of 2013. The biggest money-maker was the naming rights for the high school gym, which went for $4,400 in honor of longtime St. James Sports Booster Denny Kaus, who passed away in March of 2013. Half of that came from the community at-large, and the other half from District 840 Foundation President Leora Ask. There were a total of nearly 900 auction items for Cash For Kids.

– St. James Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tabitha Johnson turned in her resignation in April of 2013. She had been the head of the St. James Chamber since early October of 2012. New Executive Director Jennie Firchau took over the position at the end of April after serving as the chamber’s administrative assistant for 3 years. She is an Ormsby native and St. James High School graduate who has lived in the community for over 20 years.

– KNUJ’s Hometown Hero for August of 2013 was Cleo Erickson of St. James. The St. James native has been involved with the Watonwan County Relay For Life since it began 16 years ago. She has also been active in the community’s Railroad Days festivities, helps with daycare for the children of neighbors and family, puts on a large Halloween display for the kids every year, and volunteers her time in many other ways. Erickson also worked as the secretary for St. James Schools for nearly 4 decades, and was recognized as a Watonwan County Senior Volunteer of the Year in 2013.

– KNUJ’s Hometown Hero for November 2013 was Marion Edgar of St. James. Edgar has volunteered her time at area nursing homes for many years, and helped found the group Senior Partners. She was also a founding member of the Pioneer Club and was active with the St. James Chapter of the Watonwan County Historical Society, along with many other boards, commissions, and organizations. Edgar was the recipient of the St. James Sertoma Club Service To Mankind Award in 2013, and has been given the President’s Award for her service to the banking community. The City of St. James proclaimed June 15th, 2005 to be “Marion Edgar Day” as well.

– The St. James Area Chamber of Commerce 2013 Business Of The Year was Anytime Fitness of St. James. The award was presented during the chamber’s annual banquet in January of 2014. 

 

History

– The City of St. James was founded in 1870 by the president of the St. Paul & Sioux railroad Company, EF Drake.

– St. James is the county seat of Watonwan County and is located on Highways 4, 60, and 30. Lakes that are in or near town include: St. James Lake, Long Lake, and Kansas Lake, which is 6 miles south of town.

– St. James has a unique story behind how it got its name. General Sibley was a member of the Board of Directors for the railroad. He was given the honor of naming the planned town, and proposed a lengthy Sioux Indian name. The next morning, the president of the railroad, EF Drake, asked Sibley the name he had chosen for the town but he had forgotten it. Rather than have the General go home and retrieve the document that had the name on it, Drake suggested the name “St. James” and the name was agreed upon by the railroad men.

– The town site for St. James was chosen by railroad surveyors who established the halfway between St. Paul and Sioux City, Iowa. A train engine repair center was erected at the site and St. James grew around it. In 1871 when the village charter was established the population was 600.

– Many great and interesting people called St. James their home or business-place.  Among those are Minnesota Governor Hammond and Reverend and Mrs. Theodore Mondale, who are Walter Mondale’s grandparents.

– The first church came to St. James in September 1870, and was Presbyterian. The First Baptist Church of St. James was organized in February 1871 and their church was built in 1872. The Methodist Episcopal Church was also organized in 1871 and built a house of worship in the fall of 1872.

– The first passenger train that came to St. James was on November 22, 1870. It was an excursion from St. Paul consisting of elegant coaches filled with railroad VIP’s.

– In late July of 1873, a plague of grasshoppers appeared in St. James, and across much of Minnesota. Everything in the young village was ruined or destroyed, and the grasshoppers stayed for four long years. When they finally left as suddenly as they came the people were destitute, but the pioneering spirit persevered, and the town was rebuilt.

– In the year of 1896, St. James had more than 100 businesses, including: 4 large hotels, a $35,000 opera house, a modern creamery, a flour mill, 3 carriage and wagon manufacturers, a library of several hundred volumes, 1 cigar factory, a steam laundry, a bottling works, 8 churches, and a modern sewer system.

– By 1940, St. James had grown to a city of almost 3,500 people. The business district included: 10 food stores, 5 general stores, 7 apparel outlets, 2 furniture stores, 7 car dealers, 13 gas stations, 9 lumber and building stores, 11 restaurants, 3 drugstores, 3 hardware stores, 2 music stores, 3 farm seed supply stores, 2 jewelry stores, and 12 other stores.

– The Saluators Railroad Museum Park is located on St. James Lake, across from the Hickory Inn. The park features a 122 year old train depot, track, caboose, switch tower, and sand tank.