UNLESS YOU’RE A LOCAL or a native, you likely bypass the small towns which sit off county roads, tucked away from trafficked highways that take time-pressed travelers from destination to destination.
On a recent trip back to my native southwestern Minnesota prairie, my husband and I sidetracked off our usual route along State Highway 19 between Belview and Redwood Falls to follow Redwood County Road 9 to Delhi.
Decades have passed since I visited Delhi, at the intersection of county roads 9 and 6.
Most would surmise there’s not much in Delhi. That is until you look and consider that some 70 folks call this rural farming community home.
While some residents care about their properties with well-tended houses, others show less interest in maintenance. That is not uncommon in small towns. Or perhaps such neglect is more noticeable with fewer houses.
Like so many small towns along the railroad line, this settlement once boomed. Information published in The History of Redwood County, Volume 1, states that Delhi was platted in 1884, shortly after the railroad came through the area. Alfred M. Cook, a builder and owner of a flour mill in neighboring Redwood Falls, named Delhi, according to Minnesota place name info on the Minnesota Historical Society website. He came to the area from Delhi, Ohio.
The Delhi State Bank, built of brick in 1910, and now abandoned and apparently last used as a church, shows me that folks once believed in this place.
Not that they don’t anymore. But like all too many prairie communities, Delhi has mostly withered away.
Many other businesses once operated here, but they are no more, with the noticeable exception of a grain business. Delhi, in the late 1800s, housed general, drug, hardware and lumber stores, a hotel, a railroad and telegraph agent, a feed mill, a blacksmith shop, a farm implement business and more.
The Presbyterian church today appears shuttered.
Despite all of this and the inclination to despair, I cannot help but admire the determination of Delhi to cling to the land. Prairie roots run deep.
© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling