Northern Lights were expected to grace the skies for the past few nights, but on Saturday the light may have been coming from the city of Emily's birthday cake.
It's 100 years and counting.
In 1900, Emily was established. Just 13 years later the small town boasted a two-story Emily Hotel, John and Amelia Lambert's store, the Emily Telephone office and a city park. In 1918 a highway connected Emily and Crosby. Rice was harvested toward the end of August for the wild rice plant in Emily and was sold for $1.90 to $2.50 per pound in the early 1950s.
In a booklet celebrating Emily's past for the centennial, it reported "the townspeople remember with gratitude and affection John Morris Lambert, the pioneer who staked a claim in Crow Wing County and played a major role in establishing and developing the town."
Emily changed over the years but the major landmarks remain. It is still a small community amid those lakes with girls' names -- Ruth, Mary, and Emily.
This year the annual Emily Day celebration includes a photo display of the early days. The people are gone but their black and white images remain to connect to the people who now use e-mail to communicate across the country but still fish in the same area lakes and walk the same ground.
Dorothy Martin, former Emily mayor, feels connected to those people. Her husband, Ben, traces his family back to the beginning and a grandfather who homesteaded in Emily. John Lambert had the first store and post office in town.
Ben Martin now lives on the same land where he was born. No other family has ever owned the home. Dorothy Martin said after three decades in St. Louis Park the pull of Emily was still strong.
"It was just his dream to come back here," she said of moving back to the community. "I think everyone wants to come back."
It's the pull of the lakes and the forest. Emily is a typical community.
There's lakes, hunting and fishing. It's a typical little community, residents say. And many have opinions on what Emily's future should be -- to grow or stay the same.
"When we first were married in 1946 we lived here for the first four years," Dorothy Martin said. "It's almost the same except it's a little more modern."
There has never been a shortage of views or people willing to express them. Martin laughed. ""People fought at the city hall then too."
And in another 100 years, Martin believes people will pause and remember those who came before.
"They'll look back and remember," she said. "Our kids have just loved it up here and our grandkids have loved it. There is just something about this little town. ... You just can't really beat it. I think it will live on in the same way and they'll look back to how they got here to begin with."
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