The Origin of Gilman, MN; How Did it Get Its Name?
WJON's Small Town series takes us this time to Gilman, Minnesota. Gilman is a town of 224 people located north of Foley where Highway 25 and County Road 3 intersect in Benton County. I talked with Mary Ostby from the Benton County Historical Society, Gilman City Councilman Andy Schommer and former Gilman City Councilman and longtime Gilman resident Randy Spiczka.
Ostby says the first 13 Polish families moved into Gilman in 1864 and she says after that a man by the name of Charles A. Gilman moved into the area and built a sawmill and hence the town was named after him. Gilman lived from 1833 to 1927 and was a Republican politician in addition to running a sawmill in Gilman. He held political titles of Minnesota Speaker of the House of Representative and was the 9th Lieutenant Governor of the state serving in that role from 1915-1917. He is buried in the Benton Count Cemetery in Sauk Rapids. Gilman settled in Gilman when a road was built from Sauk Rapids to Gilman which we now know as County Road 3.
Gilmanton and Alberta townships are right next to each other in Benton County. Ostby says Gilman is right on the line between the two townships with the town sitting in both. Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Gilman has a rich history. The church we see today was built in 1930 but the congregation became much earlier than that in 1872 when it was a log structure. Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church is celebrating 150 years in October of this year. Ostby says the early Polish settlers of Gilman in the 1800s left Poland due to not good political situations in their home country and were very determined and prideful in establishing their settlements.
Gilman today has many thriving businesses and events. Businesses include the Gilman Coop Creamery, the Gilman Municipal Liquor Store, PO Jo's convenience store and gas station and Collision Repair, First National Bank of Milaca in Gilman and the Gilman Post Office. Gilman also has the Gilman Community Park where many events are held including Gilman Days. At Gilman Days Andy Schommer says they have a softball tournament that starts at 6pm Friday and concludes at 8pm Sunday night involving 32 teams which includes men's teams and co-ed teams.
Gilman Days also includes a parade, a tractor pull, a 5K run/walk, and a kids pedal pull. Schommer has lived in Gilman for the past 12 years. He says Gilman has great people and a small town feel. He says the support of community not only comes from the residents but the surrounding rural area people. Randy Spiczka has lived in Gilman for the past 64 years. He served on the Gilman City Council and was part of the group who built the Gilman Community Park along Highway 25 we see today. Spiczka says Gilman continues to thrive because young people take on ownership of key spots and help make the town go.
Gilman has an event this weekend called "Old Bats for Random Acts" fundraiser/softball tournament that is having their 10th year at the Gilman ball park this Saturday.
If you'd like to listen to my conversations with Mary Ostby, Andy Schommer and Randy Spiczka they are available below.
Andy Schommer and Randy Spiczka