A Post Office No More ~ Rosy, Itasca County, MN

1.30.2022 ~ [archived ~ originally published 1.12.2017]

Rosy Post Office 1988 ~ T148N R29W, section 2, SW1/4 of SE1/4 [ICHS Archives]

Several months ago, I asked for information from readers regarding four categories of historical interest that I wanted to highlight during 2017.  Last week’s column had the first character sketch.  This week is about a community that no longer exists on the map and next week’s will be about a rural school.  Resorts, the 4th special interest series will start in late spring.  Throughout the rest of the year, I will periodically feature a column on one of these four categories.  Your suggestions, memories and photographs are always appreciated, so please keep them coming!

The community of Rosy was located on the northern boundary of section two in Third River township.  It is said that the name was given to the area because of the pink sand roses which grew in abundance. Mail came to Rosy from Bena.

In the fall of 1900, the neighbors volunteered to carry the mail from Bena to Rosy once a week. Apparently at the time, doing so for at least three months demonstrated the need for a post office in a community.  The postmasters in the thirty-some years the post office was active were Peter Bohn, Harry Sorby and Oscar Bohn.

The official register of the United States Postal Service, documents in long-hand that the post office at Rosy was established on February 1, 1901.  It was not expected that the post office be a special building, just a designated space.  In this case, it was in the home of the postmaster Peter Bohn.

The Bohn family had moved from Delano to Deer River in 1891, and then homesteaded in Third River Township.  Oscar, son of Peter and Anna, wrote “As the govt got the land surveyed it was open for homestead settlement and my father filed on the homestead in 1893, and in 1894, my mother and two sisters and I and our hired man Hans Bjurlein spent one winter from Jan to April 1st on the homestead and that $40 per month job my father had [when the family lived in Deer River] paid living expenses for us all.  My father had bought a small team of horses and a wagon for $20 and we had about three head of cattle as well.

The Fred Roberts and Frank Roberts also filed on homesteads in Third River township and also Matt Nolan and Charley Nolan took up homestead land, and in 1898 my sister Selma died of typhoid fever and about that time Emil Johnson, or possibly 1899, Emil Johnson came to us from Delano and filed on the homestead which later became and is now the Jack Westrem place.” [Oscar Bohn 8-20-1958]

There were enough families in the community to warrant a school, and on September 23, 1901 school commenced in an abandoned building on the property of Fred Roberts. The first teacher was Ada Fay Collins, whose salary was $40 per month.  She boarded with the Thomas Daigle family and three of her nine students were Daigle children; Fred, Flora and Philomina. There were also the Erickson children Minnie, Carl and Augusta; and Oscar Bohn, Nolan Cass and Alfred Johnson.  This school was known as the Decker School, Daigle School and even later as the Rosy School.

When this first school burned down, residents of Rosy donated logs and a new school was built closer to the hub of the community, near the Rosy Post Office.  By this time the Bohn’s had moved and built a large home across from the original location.  The post office and living quarters were on the first floor.  The second floor was one room that served as a meeting place, community center and dance hall. 

Another family who moved to the area were Norwegian immigrants Arnt and Sigrid Jamtaas. Their daughter, Gertina “Tina” was also a teacher, and split her time between Rosy and the Third River school between 1903 and 1905.  This was an unusual arrangement, but the school district felt it satisfied the needs of the two very rural communities.

The Peter Bohn family made plans to homestead in Canada, so Harry Sorby, a carpenter from Norway, who had lived with the Bohn’s for nearly ten years, was appointed postmaster on June 30, 1913.  Fulfilling a long-time community need, Sorby added a mercantile in the Bohn building.

Esther (Johnson) Connell’s Swedish parents were settled on a homestead in Good Hope Township when she was born in 1909. In 2001, at the age of 92, Esther wrote “Remembering Rosy,” dedicated to her children who pestered her to “put my memoirs down on paper.”  She shares fond memories of Sorby.

“Harry Sorby, a bachelor, was the postmaster and shopkeeper.  He sold a small line of groceries, such as flour, sugar, coffee and salt…also stocked kerosene for our lamps. My sister, Hazel, and I would walk or ride a horse to pick up flour and sugar for Mama. On a lucky day, Mr. Sorby would give us candy.  I especially liked the peppermint sticks.  I’d enjoy them all the way home.”

Esther started kindergarten at Dunbar school, which served the Rosy community by 1913. [Some records indicate the Rosy school closed in 1912.] “A bit jittery about what lay ahead, my teacher, Miss Agnes Murdock, made me feel at home. She was paid $40 a month. (And did she ever earn it.)

Quite primitive, the school was a small log cabin with a big wood stove that the boys kept filled.  Outside was an outhouse – a three holer and a handpump for water.  In the school yard we had a swing and teeter totter that one of the fathers made.  We girls liked to skip rope the best.  There were 11 of us in the school.  I can still remember all their names:  John Bardsley, Eino John, Irja Kuusela, Anna Kuusela, Helga Kuusela, Jacob Leinonen, Lempit Leinonen, Ida Sandness, Edward Simonson and Ronnie Simonson.

Most of the time we walked the one mile to school.  There were some days in winter – it got 30 below where we lived – when Papa would get out the sleigh and a team of horses and ride us through the snow.”  

Peter Bohn and his family returned to Rosy in the early 1920’s. They hadn’t been settled very long in the old homestead when Bohn was stricken with heart trouble and passed away in January 1924. Oscar, now 30 years old, stayed on the family home place.

The official register of the United States Postal Service indicates that Oscar Bohn became acting postmaster in September 1929 and was appointed postmaster on March 19, 1930.  Oscar married Grace in 1934 and they were the parents of three boys, Reynold, Peter and Donald.  Oscar died in 1960 and his wife Grace lived to be 102 years of age.

I am not sure exactly when the Rosy Post Office actually closed, but according to the United States census of 1940, Oscar was no longer postmaster, as he was working on a WPA project.

The building which housed the Rosy Post Office stood until 1990 when it was destroyed by a fire.  It was the last landmark of Rosy.

I think Esther (Johnson) Connell’s words ring true… “Rosy is gone now, but there‘s a mystique about it that lives on.” Her book, “Remembering Rosy,” is available for review in the library of the Itasca County Historical Society.

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