Southern Minnesotans Who Made Their Mark
This isn't about a Southern Minnesota town's most famous citizen, but rather about a person or, in one case, a creature that made its mark but may have been forgotten.
We'll start with Faribault-born Harry Williams. Williams was a composer who also had an Owatonna tie as he attended Pillsbury. His most famous work is the old song In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree. Here's a version done by the Mills Brothers and Louis Armstrong. By the way, Williams wrote a song titled Owatonna as well.
A connection to the NFL is cool. Albert Lea native Vinny Cerrato served as general manager of the Washington Redskins. His results with the team were probably short of what he hoped to accomplish, but he made the NFL in a mighty powerful position.
Here's a familiar name, Richard Sears of Sears-Roebuck fame. He was born east of here in Stewartville. It's said that one of his boyhood friends was the future husband of author Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Another somewhat forgotten person of note from Southern Minnesota is Waseca's Leroy Shield. At one time a festival was held for him, but I'm not sure if it still is. Leroy is noted for writing the theme music for the Our Gang and the Laurel and Hardy two-reel series of pictures. If you've watched any of these old films, chances are you've heard Mr. Shield's work.
Though baseball player Jerry Terrell was born in Waseca, he spent his young years in nearby Elysian. Terrell, a former Minnesota Twin, is noted for being the only Major Leaguer to vote against going on strike in 1980. It's said he did so because of his 7th Day Adventist faith. Terrell also played for the Royals and served various capacities in baseball after his playing days.
A Pennsylvania transplant made his mark in the Minnesota legislature. John L. Gibbs farmed 240 acres northeast of Geneva and also had 200 acres northwest of Geneva. That's a lot of land for 1895. Gibbs served as speaker of the House and later lieutenant governor of Minnesota from 1897-99. He died in Owatonna in 1908.
Our last figure of note is actually a horse. When one mentions Owatonna and movies made here, it's usually Angus Bethune. However old timers may remember that the horse race scenes in the movie about the legendary horse Dan Patch were shot at the Steele County Fairgrounds in 1947. The movie came out in 1949. Savage, Minn., is actually named after Dan's owner, a man named Savage. Previously it had been Hamilton, Minn. When Dan died, his owner, Mr. Savage, died of a heart attack a little over a day later. If you get some time, Google Dan Patch and read his amazing story.