Railroads ushered in economic opportunity in the Byway area, just as they did in so many other parts of the country. From their beginnings as a means of moving logs out of the vast pine forests to their transformation into movers of tourists to resorts that sprung up where logging camps had once stood, railroads were economic engines for the Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway area. Learn all about them at Northern Trackers on CSAH 3 south of Crosslake.
The first rail line built by Brainerd Northern came through Jenkins in 1895. A depot and water tank to furnish water for the steam engines were built. These formed the nucleus from which the village was built. The many long freight trains transported logs which were loaded along this line. Two passenger trains ran daily and two nightly, except Sunday, carrying passengers, baggage, express and mail.
With the coming of automobiles and Greyhound Bus, these daytime passenger trains were removed and night passenger service was also discontinued in 1963.
Freight trains were still hauling freight, mostly pulpwood, in 1975. Eventually, rail service discontinued and the tracks were pulled – forming the base for the Paul Bunyan State Trail.
Depot agents and telegraph operators during the early years were Arthur Thompson and a Mrs. Gaardmo, as well as others.
The water tank, which was built along the railroad track south or the depot, was cared for by Mr. Martin Satre all the years it was used. It was discontinued when the trains changed from steam to diesel for power. The the water tank was torn down.
The depot was sold to the Sibley Grange organization in 1963 and moved to another site near the school house in 1972. The “Brainerd Northern” name was changed to Minnesota International in 1900 and was changed to Burlington Northern in 1974.
A supply depot located on the land granted by the government August 21, 1883 to Mrs. Isabella Jenkins and her husband later by Louis Wahl and wife Lottie, probably marked the beginning of the development of this area. The supplies were hauled by teams and wagons from Brainerd to this place. From here they transported by “tote” loads to the various logging camps in the surrounding country. This depot was located east of the present site of the village. In 1895 Martin Satre received a deed to some acreage from the government which also became a part of the village.
Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins sold their land to George Knutzen in 1900. This tract of land has had several owners, including William Brandes and the Wahls.
The railroad lay within the survey granted to the Jenkins family and from this family, no doubt, the name “Jenkins” originated.
(Source: Lake Country Echo, 1975 by Mary Dropping, Jenkins Centennial August 2004)