When I lived in America, I always thought of Humboldt, Minnesota as home. We had moved around so much when I was growing up and Humboldt was the only thing that seemed constant.
Humboldt is a very small town in the very northwestern corner of Minnesota. It is just a few miles from the Canadian border. During my whole life, it has never grown bigger than around 120 people. The primary business there is farming. Like every other small town in the area it has its own grain storage towers that you can see from miles around. The land is so flat there (because it used to be the bottom of an ancient lake bed) that it is perfect for farming. The soil is rich and the trees are sparse. The trees that are there were planted after farming began.
In the winter it can get extremely cold. It gets so cold that it is dangerous to have any exposed skin for more than a few seconds (unless you are used to it). I remember going back one winter and experiencing temperatures around -20 F without any wind taken into account. It was the winter that I had to wear thermal underwear the entire time.
The summers are great and the days are long. Dusk usually doesn’t arrive until around 10 or 11pm some nights. It makes it hard for places like the drive-in theater that used to be in Hallock but you get used to the extra day light and even appreciate it.
Given the climate, the original immigrants came from similar areas. My grandparents are from English and Swedish ancestors. There are plenty of people in Minnesota that come from Norwegian or Scandinavian backgrounds. The same is true for places like North Dakota as well.
Humboldt, being in the corner of the state, is also very close to North Dakota. My Dad’s family comes from there from another small town called Adrian. I’ve only been there a handful of times but it is also a nice little town. I remember it being bigger than Humboldt.
Humboldt was officially founded in 1907 but people were living there before then. The train line was completed in the late 1800′s and farming was already fairly popular by the founding. My great-great grandfather James Diamond arrived in town before the train line was even finished. The train line hooks up to Canada and even today the cargo trains go by about twice a day. Humboldt had a train station but it has since been moved away. No train ever stops in Humboldt now except to transfer cars for grain.
Humboldt only has a few places of business now compared to its heyday. It has a gas station and post office. It also still has a church, and a community hall.
All the streets are dirt/gravel. It has a very small grid of streets that can be walked in a short period of time. Most of the houses are showing signs of age but some are still very well kept. People that live in Humboldt are either long term residents (like my grandparents and uncle and aunt) or more temporary residents for the bus plant in Pembina. House prices are really cheap (you can buy a house for less than $10000) but this equates to a house that most likely needs repair and is not close to work. Supply and demand in action.
Recently Humboldt celebrated its 100th year. It was quite a party and everyone appears to have had a great time. The time hasn’t seen that many people at one time for years and years. My Mom and her family were all there to remember the town and its people.
There is an official website for the Humboldt Centennial.
Humboldt used to have its own school and it was closed around the late 80s. It proved to be too expensive to run with so few students. There are only a few families that have called Humboldt home over the life of the town. After awhile you come to recognize family names that repeat through the history of the town. This became more obvious when I was looking through the graduation pictures.
The school was torn down and recently the school was commemorated by dedicating the original school bell.
It’s such a nice small town and in a way it is a timeless place. Time moves very slow there. Only entropy brings about change.
It’s a place you probably wouldn’t notice from the highway but once you have spent some time there, you probably won’t forget. The people are so friendly that it feels like a big family.
Last I heard, there were only about 80 people left in town. This number has continued to decrease over the years. I couldn’t tell you why exactly but it probably has something to do with the lure of bigger city living for the youth. Also the fact that farming is a heavily automated activity. One farmer can now do what would have taken much more.
I love Humboldt and will always have great memories of it.