Mayer’s first pioneers



Mayer’s first pioneers

By Joanie Buettgen

Copyright 2010

Have you ever wondered what it was like in the 1800s?

If you have, you’re probably apprehensive about researching your favorite topic. Come to the Carver County Historical Society in Waconia. Read to your heart’s content; our library is jammed packed with interesting books and research materials.

It is our hope in this newsletter, to take you on a trip, and visit the lives of Ed Hahn and O.D. Sell. Hopefully, you will be inspired to check up on your ancestors, and maybe learn some new facts that you can share with your children and grandchildren.

The small town of Mayer, Minn. has bits of history that many of the locals know. Do you?

For instance, Hahn was born in Germany on March 8, 1860. In 1884, he moved to Helvetia at 24 years of age, and married Louise Harloff on Nov. 3, 1884. Hahn was a local merchant. He died at 65 years of age in 1925.

The rail line known as “The Great Northern Railroad Company,” built the Hutchinson Branch in 1885. One year later, Hahn moved to the railroad location and laid out what is now Mayer. Hahn was a general merchandise businessman and lived in Mayer until 1909. Then, he moved to Minneapolis and again engaged in the same type of business for ten years. Afterwards, he came to Watertown, purchased a home, and a business called “The Barth Store.”

Hahn was always cheerful, helpful, and a kind-hearted man. He was a well-known public figure, and was involved in many local organizations.

Helvetia was named for the ancient name of Switzerland, the native land of early settlers in that community. Helvetia’s town site was platted in 1856, the origin of Mayer. Helvetia’s Post Office was established in 1875. At that time mail was delivered to the Helvetia Post Office by the stage coach; which made regular trips to: Delano, Chaska via Watertown, and Waconia. This stage coach line remained in operation until 1891. Mrs. O.D. Sell, daughter of August Ninnemann, was postmaster from 1879 to 1894. She remembers receiving and distributing mail from the stage coach which made two round trips per week. Hahn succeeded Mr. Ninnemann, and held office from 1894 to 1902.

The First Mayer Creamery was established in 1897 when Fred Hein, Hahn, and Gustav Lenz and Fred Foster formed a company and built a creamery.

Another famous Mayer resident was O.D. Sell, and was one of Mayer’s pioneer businessmen. His activities in the Village of Mayer date back to 1896 when he came here to accept a position with Hahn. After being in Hahn’s employ for one year, he decided to go into business for himself. In 1897; he built the John Grimm store and became a merchant that same year. The store was a general merchandise/grocery store until 1909. Sell left Mayer to accept a position as floor manager with Powers-Mercantile Company in Minneapolis. 

In 1918, he returned to Mayer, to take over the business of Louis Bury who was called to serve in World War I. After two years, he sold the stock to G.Leng and the building to Henry Grimm, and accepted a position with Wyman Partridge Department Store in Minneapolis. He returned here in 1927 and platted Navaho Heights, a tract of land southeast of Mayer comprising of thirteen lots. That same year, he built the large brick garage which his son Elmer, owned at the time. Approximately $40,000 of construction work was sponsored by Sell that year, and he is one of Mayer’s most public spirited citizens.

The first telephone line was built to Mayer in 1899, by Dr. E.E. Shrader and J.J. Ponsford from Watertown. Many Mayer residents were eager for the telephone service to arrive, and a few made contributions to have the extension from Watertown built, the two who had telephone lines installed they were, Hahn and Sell.

Mayer was incorporated on Aug. 27, 1900; and one village official was Elmer Sell-Justice of the Peace.

The Mayer Fire Department was organized on Dec. 12, 1900 when a group of local businessmen met to form a volunteer fire department. Hahn was elected temporary chairman and Sell was temporary secretary.

Recently, I had the privilege of speaking with Marianna Anderson, Sell’s granddaughter. “We lived in Superior, Wis., and I would visit my grandfather and grandmother, Anna. During World War II, O.D. Sell was a widower. My mother, Hilda, and father Roland, was in the service in 1944. In the summer of 1944, we came down to Mayer and I spent the summer with O.D. Sell. There wasn’t much for me to do, so I would just follow him around. I went with him taking photos. He had a project with every school house in Carver County. He took pictures of barns and anything else of interest,” Anderson said. “We would go to many of the farms, and he would go to the discarded piles of rubbish; and find anything he thought was interesting. We were here during the county fair in 1940. Suzie Hansen, a milliner, made hats from the scraps of material. Later on she gave me a quilt. I donated this log cabin pattern quilt to the Carver County Historical Society.”

Funny stories are always an interesting way to let family members peek into your lineage. Anderson commented on an event, “The only thing that comes to mind is when we would get up in the morning,” O.D. Sell would ask, ‘Are you up for the day? Or, just for a rest?’”

His grandchildren were quick witted, “We responded, with some smart remark,” said Anderson. “O.D. Sell always enjoyed the bantering with his grandchildren, I’m the only granddaughter. He had two grandsons, and O.D. Sell only had one daughter, her name Hilda. His daughter-in law was also named Hilda.”

Sell became involved with the Carver County Historical Society after his wife died in 1940.He was lonesome and had to find things to keep himself busy,” said Anderson. “He had always been interested in history. He knew so many people and somehow he got the idea to donate some of things he’d had collected. He wanted them preserved at the Carver County Historical Society.”

Many people may leave their hometown but they always return, “My tax accountant lives in Waconia,” said Anderson. “I come out here at times and visit Mackenthun’s, Marlene at Carver County Historical Society and visit with my family in the cemetery located in Mayer.”

Joanie Buettgen researched this article for the Carver County Historical Societies newsletter. She can be reached at: Email:,, www.linkedin/com/in/joaniebuettgen. She has also been published in Minnesota Moments Magazine, and the Kansas City BBQ Society Newspaper.


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