I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Charles Hallock, the founder of the town where I live — Hallock, Minnesota, was a well known naturalist. Hallock, the county seat of Kittson County, is situated in the very northwest corner of Minnesota along the borders of Canada and North Dakota. While county residents are avid hunters and fishers, Kittson County is not known to be a hotbed of environmentalism. I count myself as one of the few.
Charles Hallock was a mover and a shaker, and from what I can gather, quite a character. Born in New York City in 1834, he became a writer and editor whose literary career spanned 60 years. He contributed to Harper’s magazine, the New York Times and the Evening Post. He wrote a number of books and countless articles, worked as the financial editor of Harper’s Weekly and in 1873 established a magazine called Forest and Stream, which years later in 1930, merged with Field and Stream. Dedicated to wildlife conservation, one of the goals of Forest & Stream was to instill in its readers a love for nature. Forest & Stream was an early advocate for environmentalism and sponsor of the national park movement. It also helped to popularize canoeing and self-guided camping tours. Mr. Hallock retired from its management in 1880 and sold his interest in the journal to George Bird Grinnell, who later launched the National Audubon Society.
Hallock first visited northwestern Minnesota and fell in love with the area in about 1875. A few years later in 1879 he set out to establish a farm colony in Kittson County for sportsmen. He considered it to be the “finest game and grain-producing region in America.” He had his sights set on Hallock in part because it was on the rail line. His vision included a large hotel and a park of primitive forest and a winding river where sportsmen might erect summer cottages where they could escape. It was his hope that it would become a well-known resort for sportsmen during the summer and fall. He joined forces with Judge John Swainson of Uppsala, Sweden to raise funds for the hotel and game preserve. They were able to raise a few thousand dollars from some men in St. Louis, Monroe, Michigan and Philadelphia. He convinced Andrew Carnegie to visit in hopes of securing a financial contribution for the sportsmen’s farm colony but after his visit Carnegie declined to contribute.
Hotel Hallock was completed in 1880 at a cost of $12,000, but struggled in part because of high operating expenses. Mr. Hallock described Hallock the town. “Bands of elk came within a few miles of town, moose ran through the village, a black bear came to play with the kids at recess. A couple of pet bears were always on hand for the Swedes to practice boxing on. Prairie chickens nested on the edge of town.” He also referenced timber wolves, coyotes, wild geese, mallards and teal. While we no longer have pet bears for the residents to box, black bears playing with kids during recess and the moose population here has dwindled to almost nothing, the rest of his description rings surprisingly true today. Not that much has changed, which is pretty amazing if you think about it. Unfortunately, in 1892 on Christmas Eve the hotel, which had no insurance, was destroyed by a fire. Hallock made no attempt to rebuild.
It was because of his efforts and presence here that the town was named for him. Hallock was elected a town officer in 1880 and in 1887 the town was incorporated. After the demise of Hotel Hallock, Mr. Hallock visited less often but he continued to write about the town which brought sportsmen and Hallock’s literary friends to vacation here from all over the nation.
My next posting will discuss some of Hallock’s writings and his views and ground breaking efforts on game protection.
Kristin Eggerling is a board member for Conservation Minnesota Voter Center, the mother of two, and a freelance writer in northwestern Minnesota.