Once upon a time, I thought I lived in the city of Esko. I lived in my imaginary city for almost 15 years.
Exploring the history of how Thomson Township and Esko began has been on my list of story ideas since I began working for the paper, so I was excited to finally have the opportunity to dig in and find the truth. The story morphed into how townships came about and how they are different from cities due to what I found during my research.
I lived downtown, in the center of a block. The Richardsons shared my short, dead-end road, which would later be named after them. I still think "Lund Lane" has a nice sound to it. My mailing address was Esko, MN, 55733. In my mind, that meant I was living in the city of Esko.
Not to mention my kids were in the Esko School District and played for the Esko Eskomos. They visited the Esko Dental Clinic, and of course, we stopped at the Esko Post Office to drop off mail.
Sometimes parents would make comments in passing, such as, "I live on this road in Esko, but my mailing address is Cloquet," or whatever, depending on where they lived.
I just accepted it as an idiosyncrasy of living in the community.
I didn't notice there is no mayor or city council. Yes, I knew there was a town hall office. I assumed it was because we lived in a rural area and it was a country thing.
I mean, after all, there are signs on Minnesota Highway 33 that show where to turn for Esko, so doesn't that mean Esko is a city?
Apparently not. After many hours of research, several phone calls and many, many questions I have been educated. I know now that Esko is a community, named after the first store built in the downtown area. The store sat on a corner of what is now Thomson Road and County Road 61.
The store was owned by the Eskos, early settlers to the small, but growing community in Thomson Township. The store was used as a landmark to help travelers know which direction to go once they reached the store. (Turn south at Esko’s Corner to head toward the Twin Cities, or keep driving past Esko’s Corner and you will get to Cloquet.) That was the reason it became known to locals as Esko’s Corner.
Several residents came together to write a history book with the same name, "Esko’s Corner," and the school district produces a newsletter named "Esko's Corner."
Thomson Township already had 40 years of history before the Esko Store was built. There were several schools, churches and farms in the growing township.
So, what I discovered on my journey is the community of Esko resides within Thomson Township.
Now, does anyone know where a place in Carlton County that used to be known as “Pleasant Valley” was?
I appreciate all of the people who patiently answered my questions and continued to answer their phones, even when they saw it was me again. And thanks, Paul, for coming out of retirement for a few minutes to point me in the right direction.
Jamie Lund is a reporter for the Pine Journal. Contact her at email@example.com or 218-879-1950.