Guest Column By Tom Rockvam
Back in 1872 a company called the Glendron Iron Wheel Company started up business in Toledo, Ohio. The Glendron Iron Wheel Company manufactured bicycles, tricycles, wheelchairs and coaster wagons.
Over the years the company went through many buyouts and transitions along with countless other forms of business changes. It produced the Glendron wooden wheelchairs from 1880 to 1940. According to the serial number on this wheelchair, it was built in 1912, so it was created the same year that the town of Mound became a township in Minnesota.
I was able to trace the whereabouts of the wheelchair for the past 30 years, but its history before that is kind of sketchy.
As the story goes, a gentleman who farmed in the Delano area for over 30 years had it stored in one of his sheds and all that he could tell me was that he got it from his uncle who had bought a farm in the Walnut Grove area, which was on the shores of Plum Creek many years before and that the wheelchair was covered up in a back corner of a barn that was on that property. When I asked him how long it had been in the barn, he told me that it had been there since he was a little kid and who knows how long before that.
Do any of you remember the episode on the TV show "Little House on the Prairie" where Nellie Olesen, after falling from a horse, faked that she couldn’t walk and blamed it all on Laura Ingalls? Nellie then used a wooden wheelchair to get around as she pretended to be healing. She also made Laura feel so guilty and responsible for what had happened that she had Laura doing her homework and also anything else that Nellie wanted.
This all came to an abrupt end one day when Laura peeked in Nellie’s window and saw her prancing and dancing all around her room. When Laura knocked on her door, Nellie hurriedly got back into the wheelchair and covered her legs with a blanket. Laura calmly told Nellie that it was a beautiful day and that she was taking her outside to get some fresh air.
Once outside, Laura pushed Nellie in the wheelchair to the top of a hill and there in full sight of Nellie’s mother, she gave the wheelchair a hard shove which sent Nellie and the wheelchair bouncing at break neck speed down the rocky terrain of the hill headed straight for a swampy pond. The wheelchair then hit some rocks on the shore of the pond and stopped dead sending Nellie airborne out of the chair and into the skunky water where she panicked and scrambled to her feet in the chest-deep water.
With seaweed and algae hanging all over her, she ran back to the shore as everyone watched and realized that she could walk and had been lying to everyone for the past two weeks.
Coming from the Walnut Grove, Plum Creek area, could this possibly be the same wheel chair?
Come to the Mound Centennial Celebration at Surfside Park and check out the wooden wheel chair at the Mound-Westonka Historical Society’s display in the old Mound Depot. The 100-year-old wheel chair will be there on display and you can decide for yourself.
Bring along your camera and have your picture taken in the historic, 100-year-old, wooden wheel chair.