Early resident remembered for his monuments

The K.T. Soland exhibit includes 40 samples of granite and marble, and the tools that are needed to inscribe them.
By : 
Mary Jo Dathe

About 1970 my dad stopped by an auction sale in Spring Valley; we have no idea about the who, what and why of the sale, but he often picked up things regarding Spring Valley history. The accompanying photograph shows he indeed did that.

Mr. Soland had the shop located at the corner of South Broadway and Park Street...the far end of the railroad spur that ran along the south side of Spring Valley Creek.  In other words, the Milwaukee railroad ran along the north side, and the spur serviced the shops on the south side including the monument shop, the barrel factory, etc.  These items were stashed in the garage in Stewartville and when he died, Mom moved to an apartment and these were given to the Spring Valley Historical Society where you can see them today.

The following is quoted in part from the Fillmore County History, Vol. 11 of 1912, which carried biographical sketches of prominent citizens: "K.T. Soland was born in this county Jan. 1, 1872.  The subject of this biography attended the common schools of the county until he became 18 years of age, after which he took up work on the farm with his father, T.G. Soland, and later clerked in his brother's store near home.  He then formed a partnership with O.H. Gilbertson of Spring Valley, and in 1906 purchased his partner's interest; since which time he has conducted the establishment by himself.  Mr. Soland handles all grades of foreign and domestic granite and has a full equipment of marble-working apparatus including a pneumatic plant for cutting and lettering. He erected and inscribed the J.P. Tibbetts monument in Preston which weighs 30,000 pounds, and which is the largest and finest monument in the county."

As a sideline: My son and I were exploring the cemetery and he was astounded to see the size of the Rexford monument, no doubt one of the largest and heaviest in the cemetery.  We're told this enormous chunk of granite came in two pieces and was hauled by flatbed and horses to its final resting place. What a monumental effort that must have been.  According to Don Oss, my husband, this must have been almost 24 tons; wow, those horses really had to strain to get that piece up the hills from the railroad sidings downtown.

To go on:  "Mr. Soland is vice president of the Minnesota Retail Monument Assoc.; he is stockholder in the Farmer's Store of Spring Valley, and a member of the Commercial Club.  He is captain of the hose Company No. 1 of the volunteer fire department, and a member of the Equitable Fraternal Union.  Politically he endorses the tenets of the Republican party.

"Mr. Soland inherits his abundant energy from his father who, though now advanced in years, is hale and hearty and often walks from his farm to the village of Lanesboro, a distance of six miles.  Mr. Soland married Dena Gelen, born in Spring Valley in 1878.  The family church is the Norwegian Lutheran."

My family assumes Soland chiseled and erected the substantial and tastefully decorated Steffens monument at the city cemetery for my great-uncle, Ephraim Steffens, who died in 1903, on whose lot were buried my Steffens grandparents, my parents, and my ashes will go there too. A check of cemetery records reveal Soland died in 1949, his wife in 1965, and they are buried in Block 2 (inside the main gate at the right) only a few lots away from the Steffens plot, under a very modest pink-gray granite double marker.  There is also a small granite marker inscribed "Infant Son, 1913. "

Hours at the Methodist Church Museum, Washburn-Zittleman Historic Home, the Ag Building and Washburn Workshop remain 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Memorial Day through Labor Day.  Come for a visit!