New life for Shirley Station north of Crookston, MN

New life for Shirley Station north of Crookston on #75

By Mike Christopherson, Crookston Times
Jul. 18, 2016

Crookston, Minn.

Now that he’s retired, Myron Veenstra has found himself spending quite a bit of time trying to reconstruct his family’s history, and with him growing up with his family a few miles north of Crookston on Highway 75, he said his thoughts often returned to Shirley Station, the small, unincorporated town they called home.

“As a child, the Shirley sign had always been along the highway and I wanted to bring it back,” he said.

Well, it’s back, thanks to the efforts of Myron and Chris Veenstra, on the opposite side of Highway 75 from where the original railroad sign once stood. The family re-dedicated the iconic sign earlier this month.

Shirley Station was an unincorporated town on the Great Northern Railroad (GNRR), four miles north of the University of Minnesota Crookston. The area was also platted for blocks and was know as “Wakeman Townsight,” Myron explained.

In the early 1930s, he said, Shirley Station siding loaded sugar beets, cattle, and later bailed hay. Shirley Station was a train stop, which meant that the “Winnipeg Flyer” could be stopped to pick up or drop off passengers, Myron recalled. In their youth, he said his aunts would stop the train to travel into Crookston for the dance and party scene. GNRR first reduced the siding to spur and then removed all switches in the late 1960s or early 1970s, he said. Eventually, the Shirley sign came down but for many years Minnesota maps still carried the designation for Shirley, he added.

In addition to Myron’s affinity for trains, the family was connected to the railroad, he said. His grandmother, Nellie O’Neil Veenstra raised his father, three brothers and five sisters on the Sam Veenstra farm across from the Shirley Station siding. Myron’s father, Joe Veenstra, had worked for a time loading sugar beets, and Myron himself loaded baled hay in box cars as an adolescent. His grandmother had ridden the “Orphan Train” as a 7 year old in 1883 from New York to Edgerton, Minnesota.

The Sam Veenstra homestead included a two-room tin building attached to a round chicken coop that was utilized as a master bedroom, Myron recalled. All nine kids were raised there. They farmed and raised chickens and cows. Sam Veenstra was one of the first farmers to plant sugar beets in the area, Myron said, but got out of it, “Because, he said, ‘I’m not going to grow anything we can’t eat.’”

Myron noted that his sister, Priscilla Amiot-Waslaski, was a longtime resident of Shirley Station.

The family funded the sign restoration project, at a cost of around $300, Myron said.

See story link, including photos, HERE