Harkin Store celebrates old fashioned Independence Day

NEW ULM – Every year on the Sunday closest to the Fourth of July, the New Ulm Battery makes a visit to Harkin Store just nine miles northwest of town.

The combination of general store and military cannon proved to be a major draw Sunday, with visitors coming from all over the state and even a few from out of state. It is a rare chance to experience two sides of history: war and peace.

Once every half hour the Battery would fire their cannon from the Harkin Store parking lot. For safety reason the cannon only fired blanks, as a live round could travel over a mile. John Fritsche has been a Battery member for 48 years and invites those interested in volunteering with the organization to call him at 507-276-3234.

While the cannon brings in a fair share of historical enthusiasts, Harkin Store has it’s own rich past. The Harkin General Store was originally part of a river town called West Newton in 1870. It also served as post office. Once the railroad was finished in 1873 the store’s profits fell and a plague of grasshoppers finished off most West Newton. By the turn of the century, rural free delivery replaced the post office and the store closed in 1901.

However, unlike many similar stores the Harkin’s family never auctioned off items in the store, and in fact used the building for storage. In 1938 it was opened a museum with many of the original items on the shelf. Since 1973 the building has been owned by the Minnesota Historical Society.

Site manager Ruth Grewe explained that some of the building had to be reconstructed, such as the floors, before tourists could be allowed inside. Grewe estimates that 40 percent of the building is original as are many of the items that remain on the shelves.

The Battery’s next stop will be as the starting gun at the Bavarian Blast 5k/10k run. Harkin’s Store Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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