PRESTON, Minn. - It's just a short drive away, nestled in the trees, within the confines of Forestville Mystery Cave State Park near Preston. Every step across a landmark bridge at the park leads you to the tales of yesteryear.
"Historic Forestville is just one of the many small towns that popped up in the 1850s and this is what's left," explained Rebecca Lofgren, a Program Associate with Historic Forestville.
Within the last year and a half over $1.5 million dollars worth of work has been done to preserve the town for future generations. It's what Lofgren described as a great representation of the settlement of Minnesota by U.S. citizens and immigrants. While Historic Forestville may have been small it undoubtedly had many big stories to share.
"The town was growing until the late 1860s when the railroad bypassed Forestville and at that time there were over 100 people here. By 1880 there were less than 55 and after that, it became more of a company town or farm, then just a family farm and eventually part of the state park," said Lofgren.
The railroad would avoid the hills of the valley going just 5 miles north of Forestville thru Wykoff. Walking the grounds of the historic village you'll see a livestock barn and storage for the family's crops, along with what Lofgren called the heart of the tour, The Meighen Store.
"The story is that in 1910 Thomas Meighen who is Felix's son walked away and locked the door. When he closed the store over 60 percent of what is in the store today is original, the paper and fabric products did not survive as well so some of them are reproductions," said Lofgren.
Groceries, hats, paints, and much more if Forestville families needed it, the store offered it, including the postal service.
"The post office was here from 1855 to 1902 and then at that point the RR delivery service started and so then all the class 4 post offices that did less than 1,000k of business a year were disbanded - average here was 75$ a year - a little bit short, yes... (laughs)," explained Lofgren.
Adjacent to the store is the Meighen residence. Inside there is technology from the 1800s like an apple peeler and a coffee grinder. It's something Lofgren hopes will resonate with youngsters who visit historic Forestville.
"There is technology here believe it or not it's just not the technology that they are used to. Even just a stove was actually technology at that time," said Lofgren.
While the town has a lot of history to share Lofgren said it isn't all good. She pointed to how the land was taken from the Indigenous People.
"The historical society and just history in locations, in general, a lot of times we talk about all the good things that happened there but it's not always all good - just like today, there are good things and bad things. That has been the way it has been for eternity."
To learn more about Historic Forestville click here.