By Crystal Thompson
Early 20th century Kremlin boasted more than 300 residents and 33 places of business, as well as a dozen telephones.
According to an article published in the Liberty County Times in 1956, and later in the book Grit, Guts, and Gusto: A History of Hill County, the first three men to lay claims in Kremlin were Ted Oltesvig, K.C. Farley and E.C. Carruth. They arrived in spring of 1909, when very few had taken up their claims on the yet unsurveyed land north and south of the Great Northern railroad tracks.
Farley was a land agent who plotted the first townsite in the Kremlin area. Archie Parsons and Homer Spaulding opened Kremlin's first general merchandise store in the Farley addition. Carruth owned an addition just to the east of Farley's townsite, where he planned to build a "first-class town". Oltesvig built Kremlin's first hotel and saloon on the Carruth acreage. Parson and Spaulding soon moved their store to the Carruth addition, causing the Farley addition to quickly fold.
In the spring of 1910, the first large influx of homesteaders began to arrive. As many as fifty to a freight came to the area throughout the following year. Early homesteading families included, among others, Donoven, Hagen, Johnson, Nelson, Vogel, Wilson, Wright, Cady, Dees, Koutnik, Purdy, Reum, Wall, and Williams; many of whose descendants live in the Kremlin area today.
The town of Kremlin began to grow as the settlers continued to pour in. The Great Northern Railroad constructed a depot in 1913 to handle the implement and equipment shipments that were arriving on every freight train. Ed Bohleg served as the first depot agent.
The St. Anthony Elevator was constructed in 1911 to provide a ready market for early grain crops. C.A. Carlson opened the first hardware store in the spring of 1912. This early store and implement dealership was the largest on the Hi-Line in those days. Its founder also served as notary public and justice of the peace for the Kremlin township, the building burned to the ground in 1919. At various times throughout Kremlin's early history there were as many as four general stores.
H. Earl Clack, the pioneer Hi-Line grain and oil man, built an elevator in Kremlin in 1913. C.P. Black was the elevator's first manager. E.M. Allison later arrived from Big Sandy to become agent of the firm, where he remained for 33 years. Jewel Jensen was the town's first postmaster, Christ Vosen is credited with opening the town's first blacksmith shop and Mrs. Carl Sorenson owned and operated the first restaurant.
Matt Casey was the publisher of Kremlin's first and only newspaper, The Kremlin Chancellor. Casey once wrote in a front page story, "Twenty miles west of the county seat, and on the main line of the Great Northern railroad lies Kremlin, the bustling, booming, growing trading center for the hundreds of homesteaders who have filed on 600,000 acres of highly productive chocolate loam soil."