Initially, St. Francis was only big enough to support one store and that was the Streetly Store.
C.C. Streetly came to Canada from Scotland, and was in the mercantile business there until 1857. He came to Minnesota and ran an Indian trading post until the Dakota War in 1862.
Then, in 1866 he came to St. Francis. He built a general store, became the postmaster, and ran for several town offices. He was joined by his brother, William in 1870, and they worked the store together. ‘
William married a local girl, Ella E. Murry and they had two children, Charles and Robert.
The Streetlys built a new store in 1889, east of the old one. This is the store that was sold to Rev. Shadick, who, in turn, sold it to C. E. Shaw.
Apparently, Mr. Shaw came into Shadick’s store one day in order to buy supplies for the winter. He wanted great quantities of several commodities, causing Mr. Shadick to remark,”Are you trying to buy me out?”
Mr. Shaw thought about it a moment and asked, “What would you take for it?” They struck a deal at that very moment and it became Shaw’s store that very day! Shaw or his family ran the store until 1947.
Meanwhile,Henry G. Leathers was a local boy born in Oak Grove in 1858. He attended country school, then Anoka High School, then Carleton College, graduating as a pharmacist.
In 1882 he opened the general store, on the west side of the river. Reputedly, he sold “everything from soup to blasting powder.”
His son Bob worked with him by 1910 and took over in 1932 when Henry died.
In 1947, fire completely destroyed the grocery store so Bob purchased Shaw’s store, formerly built by Streetly. Bob Leather’s son, Don Leathers, took over, making the store a family business for 95 years.
About 1977, Jensen bought it and moved the grocery part over by the high school, where it became Jensens and is now County Market. The original Streetly store, now called the Leathers store became the Hardware store, run by Tim and Rich Holen.
It is still there, right across the street north of the current post office. (Rich Holen was fiancé to Don Leathers’ daughter, but the wedding never took place.)
One store was located on each side of the river. The Rum River has always defined St. Francis, and the bridge over it has always been a vital corridor uniting the town.
The first wooden bridge was built across the Rum in 1864 at Bridge St. However, it was washed away, along with the dam in May of 1894.
Mr. Woodbury, or rather his estate because he had passed away by then, financed the rebuilding of the dam and it was completed by October.
The bridge was financed by issuing $3,000 in bonds, and persuading Anoka County to match that amount.
The resulting iron bridge lasted until 1964, when the current bridge was opened. (Aug. 29, 1964). The new bridge was needed because, according to the newspaper, “Up to 16 school buses use that bridge every day.”
Editor’s note: Maria King is a volunteer for the Anoka County Historical Society.