Benton Co. History: The Connection Between Gilman and Hester Park
UNDATED (WJON News) -- They are separated by miles but there is an interesting connection between the town of Gilman and Gilmanton Township in Benton County and Hester Park in St. Cloud.
A man by the name of Charles A. Gilman came to Benton County at the age of 22 years old back in 1855. He settled in Sauk Rapids which at the time was the largest town in Minnesota north of the Twin Cities.
He came from a very wealthy family out east, and you also find several towns named Gilman and Gilmanton in New Hampshire and Connecticut.
By 1857 Gilman had started his lumber business. Benton County Historical Society Executive Director Mary Ostby says there's no evidence Gilman ever lived out in the Gilman area, but that is where he owned the land for his business. Unfortunately for him, after just a few years fires destroyed the business, which was not insured.
In 1857 he married Hester Cronk from Sauk Rapids and they moved across the river in 1861 into St. Cloud.
In 1860 he was appointed by President Abraham Lincoln to run the land office in St. Cloud. That would have been a very prominent position at the time as any new settlers in the area would have had to go to him first.
Charles and Hester built a large home on the banks of the Mississippi River, which by now you've figured out was on the land where Hester Park is located now.
They raised a total of 16 children in the home.
He went on to serve in both the Minnesota House and Senate before becoming the Lieutenant Governor. He was the state's Lt. Governor from 1880 to 1887.
She was considered to be the First Lady of Central Minnesota. She was the mother of the St. Cloud Reading Room and was a big supporter of the local arts.
Charles Gilman donated a portion of the family grounds to the city with the stipulation that it be used as a city park and be named in her honor. So, in 1910, Hester Park was acquired by the city. In 1912, 45 additional lots were deeded to the city for the park.
Charles Gilman died on June 9th, 1927 at the age of 93 years old.
The Gilman's home on the high bluff overlooking the Mississippi River stood until about 1945 when it was torn down due to its deteriorating condition.
Once a month Mary Ostby is on the News @ Noon show on WJON talking about the forgotten history of Benton County, and in this case, a little Stearns County history too.