The Reiten Family

It was a letter from a cousin in Petersburg, North Dakota that first set young Peter I. Reiten's (1872-1963) thoughts wandering to that new country in America.  A letter of great green fields, far inland, a truly wonderful place to farm.  The thoughts of that new land were intriguing to him.  But, what a decision he would have to make.  For at this time, he was also offered a chance to rent a farm near the Reiten family home at Hildrestrand, Norway.

It was 1893 when he arrived in Petersburg, North Dakota.  Here he married Johanna Knudson (1884-1957) in 1907.  They raised four boys: 

1.     Ingvard (1909)

2.     Carl (1910-1974)

3.     Edwin (1912) and

4.     Palmer (1917).

In not too many years it would be Edwin's decision to leave the farm.  Ed Reiten was eventually to settle in Cooperstown, where he would establish both his family and his business.  In 1940 he married Lillian Hamre (1914).  Their children are: 

1.     Joann (Mrs. Morris Saxerud) born in 1941 and

2.     Richard born in 1943.  And, his business would be Reiten Manufacturing Company.

In 1935, Ed Reiten had just graduated from the State School of Science at Wahpeton.  Unable to find work, he took to the road in a Model A Ford and offered on-the-farm welding service.  The fall of that year, a 23-year-old Ed came to Cooperstown to help Bruce Wright in his repair shop.  Ed had come to relieve Wright while he went to Bismarck for parts for his airplane.  After Wright returned Ed went to Petersburg and worked for the Petersburg Garage until the fall of 1936, and from there he went to the Fargo Foundry.

In 1938, Ed Reiten returned to Cooperstown, this time to buy the repair shop and start building Reiten Manufacturing Company.  During that first year he was the company.  And, he now had the opportunity he had longed for, a place to utilize his inventive abilities.

During the second year he added one employee, Victor Hopewell.  Besides doing repair work they started manufacturing water tanks and trailers.  One of his early experiments was a steel tooth for hay sweeps.  But, because of the war and shortages of steel, further development wouldn't be possible until 1946.  With his outlook adjusted, he began to specialize in keeping worn-out farm equipment in working condition.

The year 1941 saw the beginning of pull-type swather production.  As the war wound down the manufacturing pace increased.  Reiten's were now making tanks, trailers, swathers, elevators, truck boxes, pontoon boats, and stacker teeth.  Custom manufacturing was also becoming a very important part of their business.  In 1946 they began supplying parts to the Melroe Company of Gwinner, North Dakota.

In December of 1953 Reiten signed the long awaited tooth contract with the Farmhand Company of Hopkins, Minnesota.  It was then, that same day, Reiten's plant burned to the ground.  Jigs and fixtures necessary for swather production were destroyed.  However, the basic equipment used in the tooth line - a press brake that exerted 200 tons pressure and a squaring shear - were saved.  Following the fire, Reiten and his employees were joined by local farmers and merchants in their clean-up and salvage work.

The story could very well have changed here.  for it was at this point that other communities began to attract Reiten.  Promises of new plants and facilities came from several areas.  It was now up to him to decide- His roots were here and not damaged by the fire.  His family and home were here.  The community that had helped was here.  He would rebuild in Cooperstown.

The tooth production line was set up in only three weeks and when they had fulfilled their 1954 contract to Farmhand, they had produced 33,000 steel teeth.  And, at the same time, a new building had been under construction to house this fast-growing firm.

The year 1955 was the 17th birthday for the company, and at that time they employed 17 people.  All of them were local people and many had been trained in Reiten's shop.

Further product development and expansion was to lead to the Reiten Reset Plow.  It was with the marketing of this product that the plant would grow to employ more than 100 employees.  And, in 1967 led the Melroe Manufacturing Company to Cooperstown to purchase the Reiten firm.

It was now time for the second generation of the Cooperstown Reitens.  As Melroe no longer wished to do farm repair, Richard Reiten would build Reiten Machine Shop to specialize in farm repair.  He too, during his first year, was the company.  Later, he added his first employee, Harold Oettle.  The third year saw plant expansion and more employees.  Custom manufacturing was now becoming an important part of their business too.  The fifth year saw more employees and more plant expansion.  And now after nearly eight years in business, several building projects and employing 19 people, his company is known nationally as Reiten, Inc.

Source: Griggs County History 1879 - 1976 Page 75

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