Opinion

LaVerendrye County

Rhonda Silence
starnews@boreal.org unorganizedterritory.me

The name of our newspaper sometimes causes confusion. Not here in Cook County, but outside of the county. At least once a week we get phone calls or emails from someone wanting to place an obituary or classified ad—from Cook, Minnesota or from Cook County, Illinois.

The Cook County, Illinois inquiries must come to us via the Internet. Someone in Mundelein or Arlington Heights googles “Cook County newspaper” and our little North Shore newspaper pops up.

Those are easy to recognize. The caller sometimes has an accent that sounds different than our Minnesotan/ Canadian/ Scandinavian blend. And the phone number for their ad or the location given for their event is a giveaway. We don’t have any yard sales on 115th Street in Cook County!

The other common error is less easily uncovered. We frequently get obituaries from families or funeral homes outside Cook County. Many of them are intended for us. We have a wealth of people who have ties to the Arrowhead. There are seasonal cabin owners, recreation park campers and past graduates from Grand Marais High School or Cook County High School. Usually though, if the obituary is meant for us, it includes the connection. The family will speak of happy days spent at the cabin or the year of graduation from GMHS or CCHS will be mentioned.

So when an obituary arrives without some sort of reference to Cook County, we give the sender a call. Sometimes the bereaved asks us to add a line to let readers know why they feel the obituary should be shared in the Cook County News-Herald. We feel better having that information, as there may be readers who need a little explanation to trigger their memory of that long ago schoolmate or old neighbor.

Other times the people who submitted the obituary are shocked that they sent the obituary to Grand Marais. Most of the time it was intended for the newspaper on the Iron Range, in the town of Cook, Minnesota. Further confusing the issue is that the newspaper in Cook, Minnesota is the Cook News- Herald.

We don’t mind the confusion; it’s kind of funny. And we’re glad to help people find the proper place to send their obituary. We have the Cook newspaper’s phone number and email in a handy spot by the phone.

But I have long had a secret desire that could end the confusion. It’s a bit controversial however so I don’t think it could ever happen. I haven’t shared the thought with anyone because I know how resistant Cook County can be to change, e.g., Artists Point is still a sore spot with many people. “It’s Coast Guard Point,” my family members will assert.

So I know I’m crazy even to suggest something that would be a remarkable change. But thanks to the recent article in our Spring Home Improvement supplement by Brian Larsen about Steve and Sharon Frykman’s landscape business, the idea has been tickling my brain.

Sharon noted that they use rocks a lot in their landscape design and joked that our part of the state should be called “Rock County.” I love that idea!

I've wanted a change ever since I learned long ago that Cook County was not the original name proposed for our beloved Lake Superior territory. No, when our county was formed on March 9, 1874, State Senator Colonel Charles Graves from Duluth proposed naming the county in honor of a pioneering explorer, Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, sieur de la Verendrye. “LaVerendrye County.”

It is not entirely clear why the name LaVerendrye County was not adopted. Some guess that it is because it is difficult to say and spell. I disagree. I think people would have gotten used to it and come to love it. It is different and distinctive and celebrates someone who traversed our northern forests and waterways. La Verendrye is credited with founding the fur trade in northern Minnesota and Canada.

Perhaps I just like LaVerendrye County because LaVerendrye rhymes with my name—Rhonda Rae…LaVerendrye.

However, the powers that be in 1874 decided that our county would be named after a noble man, a prominent citizen and a brave soldier in the Civil War. That would be fine with me had he been a Cook County resident. But no, Major Michael Cook was from Faribault, Minnesota!

What do you think? Rock County or LaVerendrye County? Or some other name altogether? Or should I just keep my crazy ideas to myself?

I like geography best, he said,
because your mountains and rivers
know the secret.
Pay no attention to boundaries.
Brian Andreas


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2014-05-24 digital edition


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