St. Nicholas Wasn’t Always Where it is Now in Central MN
St. Nicholas is an unincorporated community in Luxemburg Township in Stearns County. The community is south of Cold Spring, west of Marty and north of Watkins. St. Nicholas falls within the ROCORI school district.
I talked with longtime St. Nicholas residents Shirley Lutgen and Vern Hennen. Lutgen grew up in St. Nicholas, moved to St. Cloud to become a nurse, became an RN, worked at St. Cloud Hospital and then relocated to St. Nicholas in 2015. Hennen spent the first 12 years of his life living on a lake near Richmond before moving to St. Nicholas. He attended school in St. Nicholas threw 8th grade. He worked at Franklin Manufacturing in St. Cloud for 43 years before retiring.
The community of St. Nicholas was originally settled in the 1850s when a group of settlers came from Dubuque, Iowa when the land became available. The first St. Nicholas settlement was 3 miles north of where present day St. Nicholas is. Lutgen says the majority of the first settlers where of Luxembourg descent. The first St. Nicholas Catholic Church was built there along with a school, a cemetery, a blacksmith shop and a saloon. Lutgen explains the settlement grew to the point where the church wasn't big enough so in 1890 the decision was made to build a larger church 3 miles south to a more central site within the parish. She indicates this was controversial and created a rift between members of the parish. Lutgen says the buildings in the old St. Nick fell into disrepair. A cemetery and building is all that remains. She says a saloon was built across the street from the new church, in present day St. Nicholas, which led to more development. Lutgen says the town was plotted in 1912. Businesses that sprouted up include a blacksmith shop, a dance hall, a saloon, a feed and grain store, a grocery store and a buttermilk creamery. Many of the original buildings are still standing today.
St. Nicholas had a 1st-8th grade school for many years. It was located north of where the church currently stands. Just east of where the school was is a lake called School Lake. Vern says the lake has some minnows and used to have bullheads but not anymore. Lutgen and Hennen explained at one time they had 2 schools in the community. Lutgen says they were 2 small one room school houses although she indicates the most recent school had 3 rooms and was 1st thru 6th grade. Lutgen and Hennen both attended a one room school house that was 1st-8th grade.
St. Nicholas today is a close knit community where many of the residents like to "tool around" the town in golf carts. A big event in St. Nicholas that has been going on for the past 4 years is called "Nicktoberfest". Lutgen says it is a community event with limited tickets that includes music, food and drink. She says a local resident shoots his canon off every time a keg goes dry.
St. Nicholas has baseball and softball fields. Their amateur baseball team is the St. Nicholas Nicks. Vern Hennen says years ago Father Donny encouraged the residents to create a better baseball park and they did with community members supporting it both financially and physically by putting the work in. The current ball field is under construction.
A local resident had buffalo in town for about 30 years before he sold them a couple of weeks ago. Hennen says he started with a few before growing the herd.
If you'd like to listen to my conversation with Shirley Lutgen and Vern Hennen it is available below.
Ghost Towns of Benton County