Sunday, June 10, 2018

Minnesota Historical Sites ~ The Harkin Store

I am a sucker for old fashioned General Stores. I love the variety, the sense of community, the quirks, and the layouts. In Minnesota, we're blessed to have two General Stores preserved and operated by the Minnesota Historical Society. I blogged about the one at Forestville here at HHH last summer. You can read about this SE MN gem here:

The other General Store Museum is located near the charming Germanic town New Ulm, in south-central Minnesota. While Forestville is depicted in the year 1899, The Harkin Store is depicted earlier, in the 1870s.

The Harkin Store - Author's photo

As with Forestville, the Harkin St
ore closed its doors with much if its inventory intact, because the railroad never came to the West Newton community. The town dwindled to the point where a store was no longer viable.

Before that time, however, the Harkin Store was the center of commercial and social aspects of West Newton. Riverboats docked nearby, bringing goods and people. The mail was delivered and sorted at the store. The owners, Alexander and Janet Harkin, prospered.

Modern River Boat - Author's photo

But while the railroad bypassed West Newton, the Rocky Mountain Locust did not. They came in swarms...and they stayed for four years. The store and the area around entered an economic depression from which the store and town never really recovered. Though the store limped along for years afterwards, it was eventually closed, sealed up with everything inside. For thirty-seven years, the contents remained untouched.

In 1977, the Minnesota Historical Society took over the site, restoring and renewing the building and contents. The Harkin Store is now operated by the MNHS through the Nicollette County Historical Society.

When you visit the Harkin Store, you can expect to see an authentic General Store, restored to its 1870's appearance, with authentic wares on the shelves. Knowledgeable guides will show you through the store, tell you the stories of the area, and grow your appreciation for this historical gem.

Image result for map of Minnesota historical sites
Minnesota Historical Site Map

While you're in the area, plan to visit Fort Ridgely a few miles to the northwest, and the Brown County Historical Society in New Ulm to the south.

Have you visited a restored General Store? Are there any in your state?

Erica Vetsch is a transplanted Kansan now residing in Minnesota. She loves history and romance, and is blessed to be able to combine the two by writing historical romances. Whenever she’s not immersed in fictional worlds, she’s the company bookkeeper for the family lumber business, mother of two, wife to a man who is her total opposite and soul-mate, and avid museum patron.

You can visit her online at and on Facebook at Erica Vetsch Author


  1. Great post! I'm not sure if we have anything like this in Maine, or in Vermont where I am from originally. I can't imagine the treasure of having all of the contents preserved as well, so you have the period products in original packaging! What a boon for historians!

    1. Connie, I think one of the most valuable items in the Harkin Store was the ledger that showed what they charged for various items in the store. So helpful for a writer doing research!

  2. Thank you for sharing your great post!

  3. That picture of the general store is amazing! We lived across the street, actually a county road, for 11 years in Wisconsin. It was half groceries and half hardware. That was 1980- 1991. It is still in operation as far as I know. It wasn’t as old as your pictured one, though. Thanks for an interesting post.

    1. Paula, I think our society would be much improved if we had more little general stores and fewer Super Walmarts. :)