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November 21, 2019

61 YEARS AGO • NOVEMBER 13, 1958


When Pioneer day was observed at the Heron school Wednesday there were several “old timers” present to reminisce on what was.

In the 1880s Heron was known as Heron Siding and was named for a veterinarian by the name of Heron. At that time it was a division point for the N.P. railroad. Some of the remains of the foundation of the round house can still be seen. There was a 35-room hotel which restocked the dining cars as they traveled through the area. There were three stores and 18 saloons and about 300 Chinamen living there. They were laborers on the railroad, had truck gardens and laundries. When the hotel burned in 1888, the division point was moved to Hope, Idaho. A number of the residences were moved on flat cars to Hope.

Industries at the turn of the century were telegraph poles, cedar posts and shingles. There was a shingle mill on Elk Creek below the railroad bridge and a lumber mill at Cedar Spur, three miles west of Heron owned by Donlan and Moderie. This was later moved to the Cecil Groff ranch.

The present gym was built for a schoolhouse in 1904. The one room school it replaced was moved across the tracks and used as the Methodist Church until 1931.

To save their wooden bridge east of town, the railroad started a backfire up Elk Creek during the 1910 fire. It did not burn the town but went south of town. However, in 1921 a fire started from sparks from a burning sawdust pile and swept through the west end of the town, burning about 3,000 posts piled on the Elk Creek Road and also a large number west of the road. It burned to the edge of the Heron store which at that time was owned by Martin H. Larson. Then the wind changed saving the building.

On display for the occasion was a glass dish owned by Mrs. Henry Schwindt and purchased in 1886. Also a copy of the Heron Examiner printed in 1906, displayed by Mrs. F.E. MacSpadden.

Mrs. Carolyn (Schwindt) Larson was born July 17, 1887 at Heron, she was the daughter of Henry and Elsie Schwindt. She moved to New York with her parents in 1888 and returned with her parents in 1895. She married Martin H. Larson. In 1918 Mr. and Mrs. Larson purchased a general store in Heron and he was appointed postmaster. Following his death she became the postmaster and served until retiring in 1957. Her retirement from the Post Office ended a span of 62 years during which she or an immediate family member served as postmaster. Her father was the postmaster in 1895. The 62 year span is believed to be a record for one family serving in a post office.

Henry & Elsie Schwindt

From Pioneers and Settlers of Heron, Montana

Henry Schwindt was called Hy, he was born March 14, 1848 Bavaria Germany

Sanders County Ledger, Jan. 12, 1984 – article on Heron, Montana written by Jan Fraser, great granddaughter of Henry Schwindt. May 22, 1895, well known businessman Henry Schwindt became the postmaster. This job was to remain in the family until 1957.

From the notes of Carolyn Schwindt Larson, some details were available after her family began operating the post office. When Henry Schwindt became postmaster, the office was located in his store, the Heron Mercantile Co. Mail was delivered by the Northern Pacific train. A mail crane hung along side of the railroad tracks. Bags of outgoing mail were hung here, to be caught on a hook extended from the train. Many times the hook failed to grab the bag, and scattered mail along the right-of-way. Incoming mail sacks were dropped off the train onto the ground, to be picked up by anyone in the vicinity.

The Heron Merc and post office survived the devastating fire of 1921 which wiped out most of Heron. A barrel of gas next to the building became too hot to move, but didn’t burn. One fellow stated the store, with its two rooms of Lombardy poplars, was built in the “dark of the moon,” a sign insuring good fortune. The store was later destroyed in 1953. The first store was located just east of the present day store, approximately where Mrs. Minnie Sellmer now lives. The Heron Store burned to the ground March 2018.


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