Benton Co. History: The Ghost Town of Wengert
SARTELL -- It is very unusual for a smaller town like Sartell to be on both sides of a major river like the Mississippi. Here's a little insight on how that happened.
Benton County Historical Society Executive Director Mary Ostby says Sartell on the east side of the river used to be called Wengert.
The Sartell brothers had already established their sawmill on the west side of the river when the Watab Pulp & Paper Company announced plans to build a dam there.
That's when two men named Haden and Wengert platted a townsite directly across from them using the name Wengert.
Having said that, the Sartell brothers had already built up their mill on the west side of the bank on the other side of the river, so it was a quirky little place of two towns right in the same location across from each other, one in Stearns County and one in Benton County.
Newspaper references at the time actually refer to Sartell as Sartellville.
The Sauk Rapids Free Press ran two competing articles on the front page on June 20th, 1905 one with the headline "Sartell the New Village" and the other with the headline "Wengert On the Mississippi". Ostby says clearly the two towns were in competition with each other.
And at the end of the Sartell new village article, they are focused on the west bank at that time in 1905, and the end of the article makes some references of them proposing housing for people working in the mill and you can decide whether you pay taxes in Benton or Stearns County.
To make things even more complicated, the Watab Pulp & Paper Mill was also developing housing in that same area for its workers.
By 1907 the town of Sartell is officially incorporated on both sides of the river. Ostby says it is not exactly clear how the Sartell brothers took over Wengert just a few years later, but she suspects it has to do with the creation of the Jefferson Highway and the land on the east side of the river being so valuable.
Ostby says Sartell is unusual in that it is a smaller town on two sides of the river, unusually you don't see anything less than 50,000, and so Wengert is the answer to the question of how Sartell ended up on two sides of the river because there was a little competition there.
Once a month Ostby comes on the News @ Noon Show on WJON and talks about the forgotten history of Benton County.
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