Filling the pages of history in Walnut Grove

WALNUT GROVE historian Dan Peterson recently completed a comprehensive compilation of the city’s history. Photo / Per Peterson

If you find yourself stumped on anything relating to the history of Walnut Grove, there’s really only one person to go to.

Historian Dan Peterson, a 1987 graduate of Walnut Grove High School, recently completed his page book titled “The Story of Walnut Grove, Minnesota: 1873-2022. And it was no small feat. Thousands of hours of research, interviews and collecting information and photographs resulted in a massive 660-plus-page compilation of all things Walnut Grove.

Peterson left no stone unturned in putting together the book, one of many he has penned focusing on Walnut Grove and local history.

“The research started a long time ago,” Peterson said from his quaint Walnut Grove home that practically doubles as a museum. “Years and years and years ago. I actually started writing this one this last winter. I wanted to one, final really good, accurate history before I try to move on to some other projects.”

Peterson’s paperback book has 24 chapters. It covers six townships and everything in-between — from the Walnut Station and village government, to farm life, high school sports and education — he dedicated roughly nine pages to staff that has served in the Walnut Grove School District over the decades — form administration, to teachers, custodians and bus drivers. And that’s just the beginning, as the book delves into just about every aspect one can imagine. The last page of the book — Page No. 662 — is left blank for people two jot down their personal memories of Walnut Grove. Peterson said he devoted about eight hours a day to writing during the winter months.

“I had done the research already,” he said. “The research was ongoing.”

Peterson’s research included going through every newspaper he could glean information from. Walnut Grove, he said didn’t get a newspaper until 1891, and his reaches back 18 years before that.

“I had to go to a lot of other sources to get that early information,” he said. “Currie luckily had a newspaper early, and they had a Walnut Station section for a while. Redwood Falls was the other one that had Walnut Station, which is kind of amazing for the time period — how far away that is. And the early Marshall papers would have a piece here and there.”

Through his research, one interesting discovery Peterson made was that he founders of the town, Elias and Lafayette Bedal, came from southeastern Minnesota and worked to recruit people from that area to come to southwest Minnesota to help them start the village.

“One of the people two came ended up being a teacher for a year and then moved back to southeastern Minnesota, and there were enough people from that area, that he did a Walnut Station, which had news of Walnut — way down in this little paper over there. I was able to corroborate a lot of things from that.”

A former high school history teacher, Peterson derives a lot of pleasure from his writings. Not only is he able to quench his unending thirst for history, he hopes putting in all the legwork to bring history to life gives people a portal to their own bank of memories.

See more in this week’s paper!