It is not often that a person who moves into a new community becomes so associated with the community that they become one in the same.
Idor Pederson purchased a gas station in 1930 and became one of the most respected citizens of the growing resort village of Forest Lake.
Pederson was born in Belgrade, Minnesota, on Sept. 30, 1900, the son of Jens Pederson and Emma Olson. He was educated in the Belgrade area, graduating from the area high school. He enlisted in the United States Navy during World War I and served from January 1918 to February 1919.
After leaving school in the 10th grade to help with the farm that the family had, his family lived and worked on farms in the communities of Sudan, Westbrook, Newfolden, Sauk Centre and Watkins. He said: “I appreciated the work. You learn that you can’t spend every nickel you make. I’ve had to work hard all my life.”
He purchased the Standard station at the crossroads of U.S. highways 61 and 8. Pederson always believed that Forest Lake was going to grow, but he said back in 1993: “Who would have guessed that Forest Lake would grow like this? I sure never did. I figured we’d have steady growth, but nothing like this.”
During the peak of his business, he would sell between 200,000 and 250,000 gallons of gas a year, except for the years during World War II when gas was rationed. Gas was about 20 cents a gallon and less during those years.
There was an incident early in Pederson’s ownership of the station that would live in the pages of Forest Lake history forever. On April 12, 1932, Nels Berglin, the night marshal, stopped in the station to chat with T.M. Houle, Sigurd Sirer, Oscar Olson and owner Pederson. Morris Olson was there as well, but was in the washroom removing grease from his hands.
A 1929 Ford pulled up to the pumps for gas and purchased a dollar’s worth of gas. Pederson took the money by the pumps and walked back into the station with two men following him. The two strangers drew their guns and said: “This is a stickup. Lay down on the floor. We mean business.”
Soon the shooting began — Marshal Berglin got two shots off with his revolver, but he was hit with the gunfire of the robbers and fell backward, and later died. The robbers got nothing from the robbery attempt and were later identified by Pederson after being caught committing further robberies.
His first public office was when he served on the newly consolidated school board, serving from 1938 to 1944. Pederson then ran for Washington County commissioner from the Forest Lake area in 1944 and won. He would never lose the seat and served for the next 32 years as commissioner, retiring in 1977.
Pederson married Rose McGowan in 1937. Together they had one daughter and also raised Rose’s four children from a previous marriage. Rose passed away in 1981.
Idor received many honors over the course of his career. In 1976, he was named citizen of the year by the Forest Lake Lions Club. In 1979, he was the grand marshal in the Fourth of July parade in Forest Lake. In 1983, he was named one of two outstanding senior citizens in Washington County, later received numerous awards of merit for his efforts in Forest Lake and the county, and was twice honored by Minnesota Govs. Al Quie and Rudy Perpich.
Idor Pederson, who for his work in the community and throughout the county became known as “Mr. Washington County,” died on Feb. 2, 1998.
Brent Peterson is the executive director of the Washington County Historical Society.