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Easton’s unofficial historian

By Staff | Jun 7, 2020

LuAnn Schrader holds a newspaper she help produced to help celebrate the 1973 centennial celebration of the founding of Easton.

Did you know there was once a lake in the city of Easton (Heckles Lake), or that the town was at one time home to a Methodist church?

LuAnn Schrader knows. But, then again, she may know more about the history of the city of Easton than anyone else alive today.

With her extensive knowledge of the small town, located on Highway 109 between Delavan and Wells, she should perhaps have an official title, such as Easton Historian.

One might think her love and fascination with everything about Easton comes from being a life-long resident of the city and that she could trace her ancestory back to the founders of the city. You would be wrong.

“I actually grew up in Alexandria and graduated from high school there,” Schrader explains. “I went to college and got my teaching degree from St. Cloud State University.”

Shortly after her college graduation she was hired for her first teaching job.

“In 1965 I took a job with the Wells-Easton School,” Schrader says. “I taught art in the elementary grades and I also was a junior high math teacher.”

Five years later, in 1970, she married Richard Schrader and the couple had three children, Bill, Lynn and Chuck. Her husband passed away in 1993 but she has been blessed with eight grandchildren.

“Actually, number nine is on the way,” she comments. “When Chuck and his wife have their baby this year, each of my three children will have three of their own.”

Schrader taught at Wells-Easton for seven years. Then she became a volunteer teacher of art at the parochial schools in Wells and Easton.

“I loved teaching art,” she shares. “Kids are so free to express themselves through their art projects.”

She says she is not sure where her love of history came from but guesses it took root when she was doing genealogy research.

“Both my parents came from big families,” Schrader remarks. “I did a lot of genealogy research on our heritage and I suppose it evolved into my love of history.”

Her interest in the history of the city of Easton begins with the town’s namesake, J.C. Easton.

“He was a fascinating man and was Minnesota’s first millionaire,” Schrader states. “He was a well-known banker and eventually controlled 11 banks. He was an investor in land and purchased property where he thought the railroads would be built.”

Banks and land were not Easton’s only investments, according to Schrader.

“He ended up having controlling interest in the Southern Minnesota Railroad and also acquired large amounts of stock in a half dozen or so other railroads,” she says. “Easton is also reported to have a sailboat which he kept at Walnut Lake.”

Schrader became involved in sharing Easton’s history with others during the town’s centennial in 1973.

“I helped put together a newspaper for the celebration,” she explains. “We had thought about doing a book but decided to do the paper to save money.”

In 1986 she became involved in producing an Easton calendar.

“Pat Loonan did the sketch on the front of the calendar and I did many of the drawings inside of the calendar,” she comments. “Information about the history of the city was found on each page.”

The current calendar will be the last, according to Schrader.

“It is the 30th edition. We missed a few years,” she says. “But, we just don’t have the audience anymore. The young people are not as interested.”

She explains how the making of the calendar changed over the years.

“At first, we used a copy machine to make the copies and used a three-hole paper punch to put them together,” she notes. “Later we utilized Kinkos and I could take the calendar up on a storage device and they could print them. Then we would bring them back to the bank in Easton and bind them there. We also started including old photographs instead of drawings.”

But just because the publication of the calendar is ending does not mean Schrader is done with her telling of Easton’s history.

“My goal is to have a book published within five years which covers the history of the town,” she shares. “I am 77 so I need to get going if I am going to get it done.”

Schrader says she enjoys people and is thankful for the friends she has that have shared stories and information about the town with her.

“Whether it is ladies I have played cards with or neighbors or friends from church; once people became aware I was researching Easton’s history they have been great about sharing photographs and stories for me to use,” she says.

One of the most interesting stories she has done was on the “lost” Schermerhorn Cemetery which is located north and east of the town. Schrader, along with others, worked hard to restore the cemetery.

“It was an abandoned cemetery and you have to hike a half mile across the edge of a field to get there,” she explains. “Dave Hanson, who was the Faribault County Veterans Service Officer at the time, was determined that every military veteran buried in Faribault County had a headstone.”

And, that leads to some more interesting history.

“Schermerhorn Cemetery is the only cemetery in the county which has a veteran from the War of 1812 buried in it,” Schrader notes.

She has many other stories and bits of information ready to be included in her book.

“I admire the determination of all the people who started this community,” Schrader shares. “From the people who began at Wesner’s Grove to the ones that put Easton on the map.”

Asked again about her love and interest in the city which she moved to at a young age, Schrader says, “There is a saying ‘you bloom where you are planted’.”

And, this spry lady of 77 years is still blooming and ready to share more of the history of the community which she calls home.