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Taunton: Still going at 125

Taunton, once known as a railroad town, celebrates its 125th year today.

August 27, 2011
Story by Steve Browne , Marshall Independent

Taunton is 125 years old, depending how you look at it.

Tiny Taunton, one square mile exactly, was platted in 1886, but incorporated four years later in 1900. It's fair to say 125 years though, because that's when the post office was established in August 1886 when the town was called "Lonesome." Three months later the name was chanced to Ripon, for a town in Wisconsin, and two years later changed again to Taunton, after a town in Massachusetts. That's the name that stuck.

Taunton was originally a railroad town, founded around the grain elevator served by the rail line. In 1981 the last train loaded at the elevator, as grain hauling moved more onto the roads. The Taunton Elevator later bought the trains acreage for expansion.

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The Catholic church of St. Cyril and Methodius was founded in 1885 according to Judy Traen, chairman of the celebration committee. A new wooden church was built in 1895, and the cornerstone for the present brick structure laid in 1927.

Traen volunteered to update the last 25 years of the town's history, first compiled for the centennial celebration on 1986.

"I showed up for an open meeting in May," Traen said, "by the third meeting I was the chair."

In recent years Taunton has declined in population like a lot of rural towns. From a high of 207 in 2000, Taunton has shrunk to 139 people in 78 households, and the school and church are gone now.

The church closed in 2008, and recently a bid was taken to demolish the structure. The church bell has been moved and mounted in the town cemetery. In 1970 it was decided to close the school and bus the students to Minneota.

In the past 25 years the number of businesses in town has declined from 15 to 13. But five businesses that were in town in 1986 are still there sometimes under different management: the State Bank of Taunton, the Taunton Co-op Elevator and Feed Service, the TriCounty Veterinary Clinic, the Corner Cafe, and Gary's Repair.

Korman's Service Station closed for a few years but has recently reopened under new ownership, according to life-long Taunton resident Ray DeVos.

Karen Swedzinski, a descendent of original settlers of Taunton who was born and raised in town, moved to California in 1982 but returned to Taunton and opened Paw Care Pet Grooming 20 years later. Some small trucking firms and independent owner-operators have found it convenient to operate out of Taunton.

So there might be life in the town yet.

"It used to be a place for retired people," Traen said, "but now it's more of a place for young families. There are a lot of children in town."

Traen attributes this to the availability of affordable housing.

There are other reasons as well. One of the new residents of the town is Emily Johnson, co-chairwoman of the celebration committee. Johnson, her husband Shane and their three boys have lived in Taunton for four-and-a-half years. Shane Johnson grew up in Taunton.

"I met my husband, who's lived here all his life, in Iraq when we were in the National Guard and we moved here," Johnson said. "I like the quietness and the small-town feel. Everyone knows everyone and everyone helps everyone."



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