He was the poet-postmaster of Twin Lakes

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 26, 2008

By Ed Shannon , staff writer

During his lifetime, Frederick McCall had the distinction of being one of the first Minnesotans to have a pamphlet of his poetic creations published. Also, as the postmaster of Nunda, which later became Twin Lakes, he attained the status of being considered as the longest serving person in the state and the U.S. to be a part of the nation&8217;s postal system.

McCall was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on Nov. 24, 1826. However, he was not Irish but of English and Scottish ancestry. According to a biographical sketch in the 1911 Freeborn County history by Franklyn Curtiss-Wedge, when McCall, &8220; … was five years of age, he with his parents embarked in the sailing vessel &8216;Margaret Jane&8217; for America. The voyage, which consumed 18 weeks, was a most perilous one, there being mutiny on board, and the passengers were rescued by a British ship and eventually reached their destination, landing at Quebec, Canada.&8221;

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The McCalls lived for a short time in Montreal, then moved to Kingston in Upper Canada (now Ontario) and later to Port Sarnia on the St. Clair River and just across from Michigan.

Frederick attended the common school and also took up the study of Latin, learned the tinner and coppersmith trade and later learned general surveying. He worked in the employ of a party of surveyors and assisted to make the first survey of St. Marie channel and also of the northeast shores of Lake Huron. In 1849 he engaged with a partner in the manufacture of gloves and whips in Port Sarnia, but on account of ill health he later disposed of his interests and started for Minnesota.

On May 6, 1849, Frederick married Ann Wallis. They had four sons and a daughter who lived to adulthood. Yet, in a biographical sketch there&8217;s an indication that the couple may have had several other children. In that era, infant and child mortality rates were all too high, mainly because of diseases.

When McCall crossed the St. Clair River into the U.S. and went west, he left his family in Canada. He arrived at St. Ansgar, Iowa, on Sept. 10, 1856, and from there went to Shell Rock (now Glenville), where he stopped with George Gardner. He soon went to inspect the country near Twin Lakes, where he finally located and erected a log cabin. Some time later Mr. McCall went back to Canada and brought his family to Twin Lakes, arriving at this place June 11, 1857.

A Tribune &8220;Hi-Lites and Shadows&8221; created by artist Irv Sorenson in 1952 said this particular part of Freeborn County was named Welch Lakes. The real historical status for this name is very doubtful.

For different periods of time he was employed at various occupations, making ax handles, ox bows, working in tin shops in Albert Lea, Austin and Preston. On Dec. 4, 1857, he was elected to the office of justice of the peace where he served for many years. McCall has also been town clerk, chairman of the town board, first secretary of the county agricultural society, delegate for many successive years to the Republican county conventions, and against the drainage of Bear Lake.

The first post office for the pioneer community of Nunda opened in 1959 with Patrick Fitzsimmons as the postmaster. He served until June 15, 1865, when McCall became postmaster. The post office was moved from the Fitzsimmons home to the McCall home. In 1877 the post office was moved to the present location of Twin Lakes. And on July 1, 1881, the name of this postal facility was officially changed from Nunda to Twin Lakes.

During the years McCall lived in Nunda-Twin Lakes, he became known as a philosopher-poet. He created and recited poetry at various places, including church services. In 1887 his 36-page pamphlet, &8220;Thoughts on Theological and Scientific Theories,&8221; was published by a Minneapolis print shop.

McCall operated a general store where the post office was located. In later years this store was operated by his daughter, Margaret.

By 1912 or &8217;13, Margaret and two of her brothers had moved to Ogilvie up in Kanabec County. Also, by this time Frederick had resigned as the postmaster of Twin Lakes and he and his wife relocated to Ogilvie.

Ann (Wallis) McCall died on Oct. 17, 1915, and was buried in the cemetery at nearby Mora.

In early December 1917, the editor of the Tribune received a letter from Frederick which contained a poem with the title, &8220;The Prayer of Millions.&8221; At this time the nation was really involved in World War I and McCall&8217;s poetic theme was strongly anti-German.

Before this poem could be set into type, another message arrived at the Tribune which said McCall had died on Dec. 8, 1917, and would be buried next to his wife in the Mora Cemetery. As a result, his last poem and obituary were printed in the same issue of the Tribune.

At the time of his death McCall was considered to be the oldest postmaster in both Minnesota and the nation in both age (91) and years of service at the Nunda-Twin Lakes Post Office (over 45 years).