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Annandale's  Gedney Salting Station
Presentation to the Annandale History Club
February 6, 2017
Garry Elfstrand

Gary Elfstrand’s great-great-grandfather, Aaron Elfstrand, was manager of the Gedney salting station in Annandale for many years. The Annandale History Club secretary compiled the following information.

The following Annandale Advocate article tells about the salting or pickling station in Annandale. 

Annandale Pickle Past Brought Back By Water Leak

By Dirk DeYoung, Annandale Advocate, September 27, 1989

A piece of history put the city of Annandale’s maintenance crew in a bit of a pickle recently, but it ended up solving a mystery.

The mystery was what happened to a city water pipe running to the site of the M.A. Gedney pickle salting station the pickle plant used to be fairly close to where the Holiday Station Store is now.

“We’ve looked for [the pipe] in the past, but have never been able to find it,” McNellis said. “It’s always been kind of a running joke.”

But then water started appearing across Hwy. 55 from the Thayer Hotel a few weeks ago, and it was apparent there was an underground leak. The maintenance crew dug down and found the lead pipe, which had been sealed by being pinched, folded over a couple times, then wired together. It had corroded, starting the leak.

The city maintenance crew properly capped the pipe and filled the hole about a day after the leak was found, McNellis said. The  mystery had been solved.

Few people remember anything about the pickle factory, much less that it even existed. The proof is on a 1922 map of Annandale hanging on the wall at City Hall, right inside the front door.

Thorene Aronson remembers. Her father, Aaron Elfstrand, managed the factory for several years. It was opened in the late summer and fall when the farmers would bring in their cucumber harvest, she said.

Occasionally on of the Gedney brothers would come out and look over the plant, Aronson recalled.

Her father employed sorting and loading crews, including someone that would write the checks for the farmers who delivered the cucumbers, she said.

“[The cucumbers] were sorted out on a slow-moving belt by three or four girls,” Aronson recalled.

On that crew for a  number of years were two of Marion Ponsford’s sisters, who sorted the cucumbers before they were soaked in a brine inside big wooden barrels. Ponsford still lives in Annandale.

After the cucumbers were sorted, they were placed in big barrels and laid on their sides. Then a hole was opened on the top, where a salty foam would rise out. The barrels were eventually sealed and sent by rail to Minneapolis for further processing.

Ponsford, herself, was too young to work there at the time. “Us kids used to go down there and play a lot,” she said, explaining that children would play in huge salt bins.

Also, the pickles that were too big to be sent away for sale were put into large barrels, from which kids could grab an afternoon snack, Ponsford said.

“Gedney pickles were the best pickles around,” she remarked.

But W.D. Tobin, of Annandale, said that he and his friends thought the pickles tasted better when they would steal them. They would sneak in the site at night and take the pickles out of the holes in the barrels, Tobin said.

“We’d prod them with a stick and try to turn them around to get the pickles out of there,” he remarked, adding that he and his friends would do this three or four times a season.

Annandale lawyer Nobel Shadduck also has childhood memories of the pickle station. “I used to sell pickles there,” he said.

Shadduck said he remembers having to turn over all the leaves on the plants to find cucumbers small enough to be acceptable at the station.

Cucumbers less than four-and-a-half-inches long earned the most money, followed by those up to six-inches long. Big cucumbers were not acceptable and didn’t sell for anything, Shadduck said.

“It was a kid’s job,” he remarked, adding that he didn’t think he ever earned more than $1 a week picking future pickles.

Harold Jones remembers three or four big round steel tanks across from what is now the Thayer Hotel. When the pickle factory closed, he hauled the tanks to the dump, then hauled them again for a farmer who wanted to use them. But Jones is not sure when that was. He does remember, however, that the factory was in Annandale when he moved to the area in 1918.

Shadduck said the station was around during the early teens.

Mayor Lawler said he never saw the pickle station. However, kids talked about it in his school after his family moved to the Annandale area, so he guesses the factory was closed in the late 1930s.

But to confuse matters further, Gedney Tuttle, current president of the M.A. Gedney Pickle Company in Chaska, said he has no record of a company plant in Annandale. There were stations in Eden Valley, Kimball, and Watkins, Tuttle said. “There may well have been a station in Annandale.”

[end article]


Gedney was founded in 1880 on Lowry Avenue in north Minneapolis.  Local growers brought cucumbers to the plant.  At the end of the century, there wasn’t enough space to store enough barrels of pickles to last until the next season.  Also farms near the company’s Minneapolis plant were being replaced by  residential and industrial development and long distances discouraged farmers from bringing cukes into the plant in horse-drawn wagons.  The company began building branches in various rural Minnesota towns on rail lines with farms close enough to make growing cucumbers economically attractive.  It wasn’t long before all the company’s cucumbers were being supplied by farms near towns long distances from its plant in Minneapolis.

Gedney selected a particular variety of seed to be planted by all of its growers.  The seeds were planted in late May and harvested from mid-July until late August or early September.  Picking cucumbers was a back-breaking job for adults.  Cucumbers were often picked by children on plots of less than an acre on each farm.   There were many, many local growers near Annandale.    

BRINING OR SALTING STATIONS:  These branches were called salting stations.  Each salting station was equipped with ten to twelve tanks with a capacity of 80-110 barrels of cucumbers apiece.  Each day, after the cucumbers had been graded, they were put into these tanks according to size along with enough salt water to cover the cucumbers.   The brine pickled the cucumbers in a state of permanent preservation.

This cucumber procurement and preservation system reached its peak in the 1940s and 1950s.  It was a demanding job, requiring attention almost 24 hours a day during the intake season of mid-July through August.  By the late 1960s the number of stations, which numbered 50 over the years, shrank to seven or eight.  Reasons for station closures included fewer growers in an area and the popularity of fresh pack pickles, which resulted in brining being discontinued at many of the salting stations.  These in turn became intake-only stations with green stock being picked up by semitrailers every night and brought to Chaska.  Also, the invention of mechanized picking devices and the availability of migrant workers after the sugar beet harvest made it possible to contract for much larger acreages with fewer growers.    

At one time there were salting stations in Annandale, Kimball, Eden Valley, Dassel, Cokato, Willmar, Lake Lillian and Silver Lake.  The salting stations were near the railroad tracks.  In the 1930s truckers started transporting the pickles to the Gedney plant.                   


ANNANDALE – Circa 1916 to 1932 

The cucumber collection and brining station in Annandale is thought to have started circa 1916 and closed in 1932.  Hopefully, the exact dates of operation will be found someday.  The ideal length of the cucumbers was under 4 ½ inches.  When the brining process was completed, the cucumbers were rinsed and loaded in barrels for delivery to the Gedney plant in Minneapolis or Chaska.

For many years, Aaron Elfstrand (1864-1944) was manager of the Gedney pickling station in Annandale.  Elfstrand also represented the company in different parts of the state as a “pickle” buyer and in sales. The pickling station was open in late summer and fall.  Elfstrand hired sorting and loading crews and someone to write the checks for farmers who delivered the cucumbers.  The farmers waited for their cukes to be sorted and graded.  The cukes were sorted on a slow-moving belt by three or four girls.     

Annandale Advocate, Aug. 12, 1926: The Gedney pickle plant in Annandale opened for business a week ago and will soon be running to capacity. The season this year is later than former years, but prospects point toward a good yield of cucumbers. Aaron Elfstrand is manager of the plant again this year and is ready to render efficient service.

Annandale Advocate, Sept 27, 1989: Annandale's pickle past was brought back by a water leak. For a long time, the city could not locate a water pipe running to the site of the M.A. Gedney pickle salting station. But then, water started appearing from the Thayer Hotel, and it was apparent that there was an underground leak. The maintenance crew dug down and found the lead pipe, which had been sealed by being pinched, folded over, then wired together. The crews properly capped the pipe and filled the hole.

COKATO – 1916 to 1918   

Cokato Enterprise, August 3, 1916:  Pickle factory running:  The local pickle salting station of the M.A. Gedney Company of Minneapolis opened last week, with C.C. Erickson in charge.  Pickles are coming in slowly owing to the warm, dry weather now prevailing.   August 31, 1916:  The M.A. Gedney company have this week had a well dug near the factory.  The work was done by John Hammerlun.  The new sign over the local ‘pickle factory’ states that the Cokato station is No. 34 on the company’s list.”  March 1, 1917:  Pickle acreage said to be small:  Whether the farmers around Cokato will raise cucumbers for the M.A. Gedney Co. pickle salting station this year is said to be very much of a question.  It is reported that a representative has been able to sign up less than half a dozen contracts to date.  May 3, 1917:  The M.A. Gedney Co. has contracted for the output of 90 acres of cucumbers for its salting station in Cokato.  The company had a crew here recently removing the outside tanks as those inside the shed should accommodate the acreage contracted.   

The Gedney factory in Cokato was a short-lived venture.  The Cokato Enterprise reported it opened in the summer of 1916 and closed after the 1918 pack.  The structure was torn down in 1922.   

DASSEL – 1916 to Unknown

Dassel Anchor:  April 6, 1916:  The Gedney Pickle Company announced plans to construct a new pickle shed next to the railroad tracks across from the auditorium.  The shed will be much like those at other stations, and can hardly be called a “thing of beauty, nor a joy forever.”  June 23, 1916:  Work on the new pickle sheds began last week and is being rushed in rapid manner by a large crew of carpenters.  It is said that they will be painted white.   July 6, 1916:   H.P. Daily of the M.A. Gedney Company, pickle manufacturers, states that the outlook at present is most favorable for an excellent cucumber yield.  The hundreds of fields are growing rapidly.  The company shed has been erected and is ready for service, awaiting the arrival of the first load of cukes.   July 27, 1916:  The Gedney Pickle plant in Dassel is ready for the immense crop of cucumbers that will come in this season.  The plant is one of the largest and best equipped to be built by the company.  The plant will be in the charge of Ben Lawson, assisted by Miss Rachel DeLong, Earl Olson, and Ade Wreisner, plus a dozen to 15 girls working as sorters.   August 24, 1916:  Pickles are everywhere:  With day and night crews working at full capacity, it was impossible to make any sort of headway in keeping up with load after load hauled in by farmers.  Many local businesses and others are turning out in the evening and lending a hand.  September 28, 1916:  It is likely that nearly 40 carloads of pickles will be shipped from the local salting station as a result of this season’s run.  November 16, 1916:  Dassel pickle growers are to receive $1.80 a hundred pounds next year.  Prices will be increased all around, it is said.

KIMBALL – Circa 1916 to 1947

There were two large wooden barrels or tanks with a catwalk on top until 1948.  The Gedney station was near the railroad tracks where the quonset hut now stands.  Tri-County News, July 22, 1937: “W.T. Walters, manager of the local pickle factory informs us the factory is open for business.  Date unknown:  M.A. Gedney opened a salting station during the pickle season through 1947.  The familiar old “pickle factory,” as it was generally referred to with its huge vats, was torn down and removed in 1948.

SILVER LAKE – 1956 to Circa 1969

Silver Lake Leader, March 6, 2014: “LOCAL CUCUMBER GROWING ALSO PRODUCED GOOD INCOME FOR COMMUNITY IN 1950S AND ‘60S -- Ray Paggen was hired in 1956 to manage the Gedney buying station in Silver Lake.  About 120 families signed contracts to grow exclusively for Gedney.  There were also stations in Lake Lillian, Willmar, and Eden Valley.” 


Gedney Pickling Company was founded in 1880 by Mathias Anderson Gedney (1822-1925), originally from New Jersey.  He first got interested in pickles in 1863 when he moved to Illinois and began working for Northwestern Pickle Works near Evanston.  He left there in 1874 to join S.M. Dingie & Company, a pickle company in Chicago.  In 1879 he decided to found his own company, moving to Minneapolis where he searched for local farmers willing to grow cucumbers, a semi-tropical vine fruit not yet introduced to the state. Cucumbers require a long and warm growing season, and Minnesota winters were thought to be too long and too cold.

In 1880, he founded M.A. Gedney Pickling Company with two of his five sons, Charles Bailey Gedney and John Parker Gedney.  The first factory opened in 1881 on Lowry Avenue in North Minneapolis.  Two other sons, Isadore Vallies and Henry Edwin, joined the company.  The company was incorporated in 1888.

By 1893, factories were established in Minneapolis, St. Paul and Chaska; Omaha and Kearney , Nebraska; and Mauston, Wisconsin.  Expanded railway service ended the need for these local branches.  All Gedney factories outside of Minnesota were closed.  In 1958, all pickle processing moved to Chaska.

Mathias Gedney passed away in 1925, and youngest son, Isadore Vallies, succeeded him as head of the company.  In 1945 Isadore’s son-in-law, Harry Augustus Tuttle II, succeeded him.  Harry Tuttles’s son, Gedney Tuttle (1927-2014), took over in 1967, followed by his son, Jeffrey Tuttle, in 1997.  Gedney Tuttle retired as CEO in 1998.  In 2009, Gedney Tuttle wrote a book about the history of the Gedney Company, titled “The Minnesota Pickle.”    Other family members worked in the company or held key positions. 

The company began the State Fair Pickle line in 1994, with Minnesota State Fair pickle recipe contests.  In 2002 Gedney began producing pickles for the Del Monte and Target Archer Farms brands.

In 2009, the company was sold to a California company called PMC Global, Inc, but still produces pickles in Chaska under the Gedney name as well as Del Monte and Cains.

Notes by Annandale History Club Secretary