All Photos by Louis Hoglund

Recent history, ‘pre-history’ celebrated at MN Woman event

Christopher Hovden and Nancy Hilber performed May 4. Both sing regularly for St. Leonard’s church worship as well.

It was an evening celebrating ancient–and recent–history in Pelican Rapids May 4. 

Weaving stories of the old home town in song was Jeff Johnson, a Pelican Rapids native and singer-songwriter, who took the stage at the Pelican VFW. Several original songs reflected on the people and places of Pelican, where Johnson grew up, graduated from high school and worked with family business–Johnson Furniture. 

His songs celebrated Pelican’s oldest citizen, Nimuué “The Lady of the Lake.” Another was a tribute to his father, Everett, who is familiar to longtime residents as the “guy carrying a sofa; or singing in church,” laughed Johnson. 

The special dinner was hosted by the “Glacial Minnesota Woman Organization.” 

Messages were delivered by Phletus Williams, who has led the way in reviving interest and research in the Minnesota Woman, one of the state’s great archaeological discoveries–just a few miles north of Pelican Rapids, near Prairie Lake. Phletus gave the young girl, estimated at 15 years of age, the name “ Nimuué.”   She was covered by a glacier, perhaps 8,000 years ago or more. 

Glacial Minnesota Woman Organization board members gathered for a photo after the May 4 dinner-concert event. From left, Rudy Butenas, Terry Zentz, Darrel Forsgren, Joan Ellison, Phletus Williams, Sally Williams, and Rick Johnson. Note the centerpieces, which were designed and created by Terry Zentz.

Only Pelican can claim Minn. Woman as  “citizen”

In welcome remarks, Mayor Brent Frazier commented on the diversity of the Pelican area–from the lakes and farm field, to the ethnic and cultural blend.  Pelican is the home of both “Pelican Pete,” and Nimuué. 

“Only one community can claim Nimuué,” said Frazier, adding that a mention of the Minnesota Woman opens up a “whole new conversation” with visitors and locals alike. 

History was also on display, with a collection of arrowheads, fossils and pottery artifacts.  Most of the collection was provided by Darrel Forsgren, whose lifelong interest as a “rock hound” and fossil collector started when we first discovered a Native American arrowhead on his family’s Lake Lida area land, when he was a teenager. Included in his collection is a piece of lava, estimated at one million years old–which was found in Pelican Township. 

Jeff Johnson, Pelican 1975 graduate, performed at the VFW Club–including original songs with Pelican Rapids themes.

Johnson family, Skunk Hill recalled in song, lyricThe Johnson family spans much of the modern history of the Pelican Rapids area.  Brothers Everett and Virgil owned-operated Johnson Furniture. In his original song “Hymnsinger,” Jeff memorialized Everett’s well-known appearances as a vocalist in area churches and on Memorial Day, where he could be counted on to sing “My Buddy.”  A World War II veteran, Everett also sang in the Navy, in which he served after graduating from Pelican High in 1939. As Jeff sang, the “Hymnsinger,” Everett’s voice “brought heaven a little closer to home.”



This image of Pelican Bakery Betty Jane Egg Separator and Johnson Furniture salt and pepper shakers are souvenirs from the past–all of them plastic customer appreciation store gifts from Pelican businesses. Jeff Johnson, who performed Saturday in Pelican, worked with the well-known Johnson Furniture family.

Johnson also celebrated his rural Pelican nieghborhood, near “Skunk Hill Road,” where he sang “young lovers found their first love; old lovers lost their last…”  Sadly, the song also references his father Everett, who was lost to an accident on Skunk Hill Road, when his tractor overturned in 2004.