by Dennis Dalman
Although Gilbert Stock has lived for 83 years midway between St. Joseph and Sartell, his heart has always been closest to St. Joseph.
That is one reason he intends to donate a 100-year-old book to the St. Joseph Area Historical Society. The book is actually two big fat dark-brown leather books with gold-embossed spines, Volumes I and II, of History of Stearns County, Minnesota by William Bell Mitchell. Published in 1915 by H.C. Cooper Jr. and Co. of Chicago, the 1,536-page work includes many old photographs of buildings, as well as mostly studio-taken portraits of families and individuals. The books also contain hundreds of brief histories of many of the families who settled and lived in Stearns County at that time, including Gilbert Stock’s ancestors.
The old books, in very good condition, have a long and somewhat mysterious history in the Stock family. One day, some years ago, Gilbert’s wife, Theresa, asked him to get a ladder and go up into the attic of the old farmhouse, just to see what could possibly be stored up there. Gilbert fetched the ladder, climbed it, opened the attic hatch door, peered around, then reached onto a nearby board where he discovered the two old dust-covered books.
He and Theresa figured Gilbert’s father, Joseph, had enjoyed perusing those history books, which he would store – when not reading them – in the attic to keep them out of the reach of his many young children, who might damage them.
Later, the Stocks loaned the books to people they knew who wanted to read about their ancestors, then they lost track of the books until Gilbert did some “detective” work and traced them to a resident in Gilman, who had forgotten to return them to another person who had loaned them after borrowing them from someone else.
Recently, Stock sat at the big old wooden table in his dining room and talked about the books, family history and the pleasures of living in the St. Joseph area.
Fit as a fiddle
Despite his age, Stock is as fit as a fiddle, with a quick warm contagious smile, a twinkle in his eyes and an ability to recall anything in the past in the flicker of an instant. Just about every time he tells someone his age, they gasp and say, “Well, you sure don’t look it!”
Stock lives in St. Wendel Township right along CR 133, the curvy road that leads from St. Joseph to the crossroads at CR 4 (just to the east of Stock’s home) and then onward east to Sartell’s Pinecone Road.
Stock lives in the house he built years ago. But just to the west of his current house is the farm and the old farmhouse where he was born in 1931, the brother of six boys and six girls, several of whom, including Gilbert himself, were born at home, not in the hospital. Seven of Stock’s siblings are still living.
Stock served in the Korean War in 1952-53, which he remembers vividly for the horrible bone-chilling cold winter weather he and his comrades had to endure.
Back from Korea, Stock worked at a town job and on the family farm for a few years. Then he met Theresa Bromenschenkel, fell in love and married her in 1957, the same year his father asked him if he’d like to buy the farm. And so he did, and that is where he and Theresa raised their seven children – three boys and four girls, all of them still living in central Minnesota. Son Steve now lives in the old farmhouse and still farms the land there. Stock’s nephew, Glen Lauer, a former dairy farmer and school-bus driver, lives directly across the county road from Stock’s home.
St. Joseph connections
For 13 years Stock was a substitute rural mail carrier for the St. Joseph Post Office, then he became a full-time carrier and with the help of some of his children, he continued delivering mail for 20 more years until an accident put him out of commission. One day, when his mail truck was caught in an unshoveled area by a mailbox, Stock reached to push something, slipped and popped out his shoulder. It was a nasty injury that lingered, making mail delivery virtually impossible. To this day, when he salutes the flag, for instance, he has to do so by helping lift his right arm at the elbow with his left hand. And Stock, as a proud veteran, has saluted the flag so many times in his long life. He has been a long-time member of the American Legion in St. Joseph and was its commander for six years. In 2007, he was happy to go on a Freedom Flight to Washington, D.C. with other veterans to view the war memorials, including one in honor of Korean veterans.
Stock looks remarkably young most likely because he likes to stay active. He has volunteered as a Meals on Wheels delivery man, a cleaner of trash from ditches and a frequent helper on his old farm, now operated by son Steve.
Stock considers St. Joseph his hometown, although he sometimes scratches his head in wonder why he sometimes seems to be considered some kind of outsider, even though he doesn’t live within the city limits. But Stock jokes about it, laughs it off.
He chuckled as he told the story of enrolling some of his children in the St. Joseph Lab School in the 60s. He paid the tuition ($500) but later he was told he would have to pay twice that much since he didn’t live in the city. Later, he purchased a plot in the new St. Joseph Cemetery, and that, too, cost him more money because he’s not a city resident.
“You’d think I’m being penalized,” he said, laughing.
Stock’s wife, Theresa, died of an illness in 2011. Stock has 58 nieces and nephews, all on the Stock side, and he and Theresa have nine grandchildren.
Stocks in history
In History of Stearns County, there is a big paragraph about the Stocks and their journey to America and their movements within their new country.
His great-grandfather, Menne Stok (Dutch spelling) was born in Holland and emigrated to America with his three brothers in 1848. During the sea voyage, a contagion of cholera broke out and half the passengers died. One of the brothers died of the disease, after reaching Indiana. From Indiana, Menne Stock (the Stok had been changed to Stock) came to St. Joseph Township, bringing with him his two children from his first wife. For a time, he worked in a flour-and-feed mill. Then, after his second marriage, he moved to a farm in St. Wendel Township. It was the place where his second wife, a Mrs. Galama, had lived and worked with her husband, Mr. Galama, until he died, leaving her with six children to raise and farm work to be done. Menne married her two years after her husband died.
The history then mentions further offspring, leading to Jake Stock, Gilbert’s grandfather; and Joseph Stock, his father.
photo by Dennis Dalman
Gilbert Stock peruses the two big history books he intends to donate to the St. Joseph Area Historical Society. Now 83, Stock, who grew up on a farm a few miles east of St. Joseph and still lives there, has always had a loyalty and soft spot for the City of St. Joseph.