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The Hankinson Family

The Hankinson monument is in Lot 18, Block G.

by Sue Hunter Weir

The Hankinson family monument is one of the most substantial and well preserved of the cemetery”'s early markers. Although it is now surrounded by many other graves, when Myrtle Hankinson was buried in 1870, the Hankinson family plot was the only one in Section G, near what was then the cemetery”'s northern boundary. Most of the other family plots in use at the time were located near the Lake Street side of the cemetery, but the Hankinsons chose a burial site nearly a block away. Their marker, sitting alone in one full section of the cemetery must have been an imposing site.

Myrtle was the six-day-old daughter of Richard H. and Sarah Martin Hankinson. Her parents were married in Minneapolis on January 20, 1868. A little over a year later, in late April 1870, Myrtle was born but died soon after from valvular insufficiency (a heart defect). Four years later, her parents had another daughter, Olive. Olive died on July 29, 1874, at the age of five months and 20 days; the cause of her death was not recorded. One year later, Sarah, the girls”' mother, died from “softening of the brain,” at the age of 28 and was buried next to her two daughters.

Richard Hankinson, the girls”' father, was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1842. In 1861, at the age of 19, he enlisted in Company D, Eighth Michigan Volunteer Infantry. He served until he was discharged for disability (a gun shot wound in his left wrist) in January 1863. Nine months later, in October 1863, he re-enlisted, this time in the Thirteenth Michigan Light Artillery where he served until the end of the war. At that point he moved to Minneapolis and began his career with the Northwestern Telegraph Company. He started out repairing telegraph lines, but after four years was promoted to superintendent of construction, and after three more years, he was promoted to assistant general superintendent.

Although Richard Hankinson”'s name is no longer well known, in his day he was widely regarded as one Minnesota”'s most successful early entrepreneurs. According to Stephen George, author of “Enterprising Minnesota,” (published in 2003), Hankinson was one of the state”'s earliest promoters of a marvelous new invention””the telephone. According to George, Hankinson was introduced to the telephone by one of his friends. Hankinson took two telephones home. He placed one phone in the closet of his den and ran a wire attached to the other phone, which he had placed in his telegraph office, and spoke into it. His second wife, Etta, heard his voice coming from the closet, ran and opened the door but found no one inside. Like her husband, she quickly became convinced of the potential of the telephone and helped her husband demonstrate it by singing into a phone. Hankinson set up the first telephone exchange in Minneapolis in City Hall starting with 11 phones; within two years he had over 700. In 1878, he formed the Northwestern Telephone Exchange and was elected general manager.

In 1886, Hankinson moved to Brightwood, North Dakota, where his name is a household word. In addition to owning a real estate business, Hankinson was the local postmaster. In 1889, he was elected representative to North Dakota”'s first state legislature. The town of Brightwood changed its name to Hankinson in his honor. Hankinson returned to Minneapolis where he died in 1911 and was buried in Lakewood Cemetery with several members of his second family.

Richard”'s parents, Daniel and Sarah Anderson Hankinson, are buried near his first wife and two infant daughters. Sarah Anderson Hankinson died on October 3, 1872, from inflammation of the bowels and throat. She had been born in 1796 and was 69 years old at the time of her death. Daniel Hankinson was born on December 30, 1792, and died from “old age” on December 3, 1880; he was 88 years old. Richard”'s sister, Frances Hankinson Grove, who died in childbirth in 1875, and her infant son, Frank, are buried in the plot, as well.

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