History of Freeport

The Village of Freeport is located in the northeastern corner of Oak Township, on the line of what was the Great Northern Railway. It came into existence shortly after the Great Northern, after which the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Naitoba Railroad Co. built its line from East St. Cloud across the Mississippi and thence to Melrose.

It was at this point that John Hoeschen, who had shortly before come from Germany with his parents, seven brothers and two sisters, opened the first store, while his brother, Joseph, built the first hotel in the village. The two buildings were the first businesses, but previous to this period, several farmers had settled the area. Henry Wahls owned the town site. The eastend, which later became the church and school site,was owned by Frank Benolken. Wahls was the first settler.

The village was first named Oak Station, but owing to complications arising in the names of Oak Station and Osakis, it was changed to Freeport. The new name appears to have been suggested by the Benolkens, who came from Freeport, Ill. Freeport was incorporated as a village in September of 1892. Previous to the incorporation, two blocks in the village had been platted, known as John Hoeschen's and Joseph Hoeschen's Block. In order to obtain the population required for an incorporated village, the territory had to include several surrounding farmhouses and extend the corporate limits. When the articles of incorporation had been accepted, the village of Freeport was laid out in 16 blocks. Later the two additions-Beste's Addition in 1900 and Schoener's Addition in 1912-were platted.

The first sidewalk and oak plank walk were laid in 1894 from the Woling Hotel corner to the church. The village hall was builtin 1895, originally a frame structure which was later brick veneered. The steel jail cell was made by Richter and Sons, who then constructed a large blacksmith shop which is still in use. The water works system was installed in 1903, and in 1913, a new electric light system was completed. The population of the village as given by the census of 1910 was 450.

The railroad station was perhaps the first building in the town proper. The first agent was Mr. Gates, who was succeeded by an agent by the name of Freetag. In 1885, Henry S. Leitch became the agent and he held the office for 28 years.

School District No. 102, comprising the Village of Freeport and the adjacent vicinity, was organized in1874. The first schoolhouse, a small log building, was soon replaced by a larger frame structure. It was soon found necessary to build an addition in 1890 that was large enough to accommodate two rooms. Teachers during the early part of the school's existence were the two Borgerdings - by then Fathers Henry and Thomas, O.S.B. - Henry Benolken, Mr. Moersch, John Steichen, Joseph Hilt, Louis Wiber and Joseph Heinen. Prof.Gothard Harren was the first principal after the two rooms had been added, with John A. Maus as assistant.

The Freeport post office was established in 1879, with John Hoeschen as first postmaster. It was originally known as the Oak Station office. Mr. Hoeschen was followed by Henry Benolken.

Our Roots in Oak Township

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Freeport in the Twentieth Century

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Videos appear courtesy of the Stearns County Historical Society