by Gary Wigdahl
Birthplace of the Bobcat
Perhaps it isn't yet common knowledge that Rothsay is indeed the "Birthplace of the Bobcat," the original three-wheeled, front-end, skid-steer loader developed right here in Rothsay by the triumvirate of brothers Cyril Keller and Louis Keller and area turkey producer Eddie Velo. Inventors and historians have compared the skid-steer loader to the Eli Whitney cotton gin and the Cyrus McCormick reaper as among the great inventions in American history.
Make no mistake about it, the front-end, skid-steer loader that has evolved into today's Bobcat can be seen on construction sites all over the world, and to think it all began here starting along about 1956. That's when Eddie Velo stopped in at the Keller brothers' machine and blacksmith shop to inquire about the possibility of developing a relatively lightweight machine that could maneuver easily in the nooks and crannies of his turkey barns. The next year the first of the prototypes was ready for testing on Velo's farm.
According to Wikipedia, the Internet encyclopedia, "The first three-wheeled, front-end loader was invented by brothers Cyril and Louis Keller (manufacturer) in Rothsay, Minnesota, in 1957. The Kellers built the loader to help a farmer mechanize the process of cleaning turkey manure from his barn. The light and compact machine, with its rear caster wheel, was able to turn around within its own length, while performing the same tasks as a conventional front-end loader."
Recipients of the St. Olav Medal
Another triumvirate from Rothsay--Chester Serkland, Dr. Sidney A. Rand and Dr. Verlyn Anderson--have all been awarded the St. Olav Medal, the highest honor the government of Norway can bestow on an individual.
Serkland and Dr. Rand happen to be first cousins. Their mothers were sisters, both daughters of Anders B. Pedersen, pioneer merchant and Rothsay's first postmaster.
Serkland was a longtime Fargo attorney who eventually became a partner in a pioneer North Dakota law firm that evolved into today's Serkland Law Firm. Dr. Rand served in various capacities: as a parish pastor, evangelical educator, college president of four Lutheran colleges and as U.S. ambassador to Norway under the Jimmy Carter presidential administration.
Dr. Verlyn Anderson, like Dr. Rand, is a Concordia College, Moorhead, graduate. Dr. Anderson served as director of libraries at Concordia for 30 years, has led a number of tours to Norway and has done extensive speaking on the Norwegian-American experience before numerous audiences.
All three have been instrumental in preserving the rich cultural exchanges between Norway and the United States.
Early Rothsay Pastors
Speaking of Norway, a vast majority of the early pioneers here in the Rothsay area came from Norway. And organizing churches was one of the first needs the pioneers sought to have fulfilled. Fortunately, in the early years area congregations were able to call pastors who shepherded their flocks for years at a time.
The Rev. Magne Langeland was to serve the Hamar-Hedemarken Lutheran parish for 38 years--from 1883 to his death in 1921. Also at Hamar-Hedemarken, the Rev. Emil S. Salveson served 30 years--from 1923 to 1953. In the intervening two years, Hamar was served by the Rev. Halvor Bjornson. The Rev. Bjornson also served at South Immanuel Lutheran for 23 years from 1920 to 1943.
The Rev. U.D. Johnson served a five-point Lutheran parish (Our Savior's-Little Bethany-North Friborg-South Friborg and Norwegian Grove) from 1896 until his death in 1925. In more recent years the Rev. Maynard Stokka served Hamar-Hedemarken from 1962 to 1978.
Rothsay Public School Administration and Teachers
Through the years the Rothsay public schools have been most fortunate in having an outstanding school system. The fruits of those labors were amply rewarded when the national news magazine U.S. News and World Report in 2008 and again in 2009 designated Rothsay High School as one of the nation's best secondary schools, an honor reserved for only three percent of all secondary schools in the nation.
Two longterm administrators who played key roles in the development of the Rothsay school system were Superintendent Walter E. Hubert and Nora S. Rosholt, secondary principal.
Hubert first came to Rothsay in 1937 to serve as the principal, leaving Rothsay for the superintendency at Goodhue, Minnesota, in 1945. In 1956, Hubert returned to Rothsay from Goodhue after an 11-year hiatus to once again assume the superintendency, a position he held until his retirement in 1971.
While Hubert's 23 total years as superintendent at Rothsay is by far the most in school history, Nora Rosholt's 28 years as teacher, secondary principal, librarian and class advisor is a Rothsay school record in and of its own accord.
A pair of teachers who also served as coaches under Hubert and Rosholt, namely Bill Rose and Gerhard Meidt, have earned Minnesota statewide athletic hall of fame honors from their coaching peers, an accliam also earned by 1966 Rothsay High School graduate Lynn Peterson at Staples-Motley High School.
Meidt's son, Chris, is currently serving as an assistant coach to Washington Redskins head coach Jim Zorn in the National Football League. The younger Meidt spent some of his formative years right here in Rothsay before the family moved.
Major League Baseball Player
Without a doubt the most stellar athlete ever produced by Rothsay High School is Dave Goltz, a 1967 Rothsay High School graduate. Goltz carved out a splendid 12-year major league career as a pitcher for the Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Dodgers and California Angels, posting a 113-109 won-lost record. Goltz was the first Minnesota-born player signed by the Twins ever to make it to the Twins' major league roster. In 2010, Goltz was selected one of the 50 Greatest Twins. Click here to read more.
Vice-President of the NRECA
Another native son, Melvin Ouse, became a leader in the push for rural development of electricity, serving as the head of the Minnesota Rural Electric Association before advancing all the way to the vice-presidency of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. Ouse was among those traveling to the White House in Washington, D.C., on NRECA business to meet and have his photograph taken with then President Lyndon B. Johnson.
CEO and Chairman of the Board of the First Bank System
Still yet another Rothsay native, Donald R. Grangaard, steadily advanced up the banking ladder to become the chief executive officer and the chairman of the board of the then First Bank System, one of the nation's largest bank holding systems at the time.
In the field of communication, 1954 Rothsay High School graduates Dewey Heggen and Dale Western made outstanding contributions, Heggen as a television news anchor in both Fargo and Bismarck and Western in a variety of positions, including editor, of North Dakota Horizons magazine.
Western also applied the most necessary finishing touches of all by his artistry on the newly unveiled Rothsay prairie chicken monument in 1976. Of course, the engineer, creator and mastermind of the monument is none other than Art Fosse.
A 1950 Rothsay High School graduate, Eugene Osmondson, fulfilled a lifelong dream by kayaking all the way from the source of the Mississippi River at Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota to its delta in Louisiana by the Gulf of Mexico. Then he wrote and published a book about the experience entitled Odd Ones Never Quit. Osmondson and his wife then generously donated $200,000 to the Rothsay public school system in appreciation for the education he received here.
President of the Minnesota State Bar Association
A 1961 Rothsay High School graduate, David L. Stowman, earned the approval of his peers by being elected to a term as president of the Minnesota State Bar Association in 2004. He has also for quite a number of years now been honored as being among the select SuperLawyers in the country. In addition, he is probably the only person with a Rothsay background ever to have successfully run and completed the entire Boston Marathon.
Rothsay has also had its share of talented beauty queens through the years, be they Homecoming queens, county dairy queens or queens of the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion at Rollag, just to name a few. However, two that stand out are Joyce Moen Herrick, who was selected the very first Minneapolis Aquatennial queen way back in 1940, and Martha Barsness Jensen, who while a Luther College student was selected Miss Iowa of 1956 and went on to compete in the annual Miss America Pageant, then held in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Lastly, perhaps a word or so is in order for all the gallant and dedicated men and women from the Rothsay area who have served faithfully in the armed forces through the years. Unlike many heartland communities, we have no Black Jack Pershing (hometown Laclede, Missouri), no Omar Bradley (hometown Clark, Missouri), no Dwight D. Eisenhower (hometown Abilene, Kansas) or even Lesley McNair from nearby Verndale, Minnesota, to single out for acclaim in our midst. No, but we do have the privates, the corporals, the seamen recruits, the petty officders, the airmen first class, thesecond lieutenants and the ensigns and the day-to-day keepers of the flames in great abundance. After all, it's a tough job, but someone has to do it, and we've done it admirably. For were it not for this profusion of the everyday man and woman coming together to protect our cherished freedoms, we could not have survived this long as a nation. From Shiloh and Chickamauga in the Civil War to the beaches at Normandy, from DaNang to Kabul, we have been equal to the task. Along with countless thousands, people from the Rothsay area have gallantly joined forces to help save democracy in this world. That in itself is no small tribute, and all those who served have earned a right to that tribute.
Former General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, "America is great because it is good. And if America ever ceases to be good, it will cease to be great."
Gary Wigdahl bio
Currently a member of the Rothsay, Carlisle, Foxhome area PARTNERS board and a volunteer at the Rothsay Library Link, Gary Wigdahl is a former award-winning newspaper editor with the "Grant County Herald" at Elbow Lake, Minnesota, and the "Cambridge Star" at Cambridge, Minnesota. He is the author of the centennial history of Rothsay, "Twixt Hill and Prairie: A Century of Challenge in the Rothsay, Minnesota, Area" published in 1982.