The Old Drug Store (1857)

by David R. Schleper

On May 28, 1857, David Lennox How arrived in Shakopee by riverboat from Alden, Michigan via Chicago, and opened the Old Drug Store. It was a three-story building on the north side of First Avenue, between Lewis and Holmes streets. The first owners were David Lennox How and D.W. C. Wisner.

D. L. How & Bro. Ad

David continued in the business until 1870, when he sold out to Edward G. Halle and Charles H. Lord. D.W.C. Wisner retired in 1858 and sold his part of the enterprise to Dr. J.S. Weiser, who held it until he was killed in action in the Civil War in 1861.

(Below is D. L. How)

D. L. How

The Old Drug Store operated in the frontier community in which Dakota Indians performed dances on the main street and frequently peeked into the windows of the white settlers’ homes. Bears, deer, and other wild animals were plentiful and roamed within a short distance of the city limits in the 1850s and 1860s.

The Strunks operated the store since 1874. Herman H. Strunk came to Shakopee in 1854 from St. Louis, Missouri, where he was working as a drayman since coming to Germany in 1838. He married Mary Ann Dinklage in St. Louis, and on September 1, 1852 Charles Joseph Strunk, known as Joseph, was born.

(Below is Herman H. Strunk):

Herman H. Strunk

Joseph got into the drug store business on a hot July day in 1866. Herman and Joseph were returning from a fishing trip when they stopped to weigh their catch. They met Arnold Grafenstad, a Shakopee cabinet maker. “I can get your boy a job in the drug store in town if he wants it,” Grafenstad told the elder Strunk.

The 15-year-old Joe Strunk was happy to get away from the family farm, and to earn some money, so soon he was performing small tasks and errands for E.G. Halle, who had purchased David Lennox How’s drug store. Joe, or C.J. Strunk, went on to practice the art of pharmacy for 66 years, until, at his time of death in February 1930, he was the oldest pharmacist in Minnesota. His wife was Mary Gellenbach Strunk.

Old Drug Store

(Below is the Old Drug Store in the 1920s):

Old Drug Store in the 1920s

Herman also followed his son into the drug store business when he bought the City Drug Store on Lewis Street with G.W. Gellenbeck in 1871. Strunk purchased the Old Drug Store in 1874, and moved his stock from the Lewis Street location to main street in Shakopee. The store had been operated continuously by the Strunk family except for a brief time in 1953-1955 until it was closed for good in June of 1977.

An ad in the Argus in the 1870s listed drugs, medicine, white leads, glass, dry and mixed paints, lard, linseed, turpentine, artist materials and many more items. Pills, tinctures, and ointments were made by hand. A large cast iron mortar with heavy cast iron pestles was used.

When C.J. Strunk died in 1930, A.M. Strunk continued the operation until his death in 1938. Then Joe B. and George H. Strunk continued the store. At that time, the third floor was removed and the store remodeled. Strunk Pharmacy remained in this building until 1972, when it moved to a building on Lewis Street between Second and Third avenues. (This is now Pablo’s restaurant.)

In 1957, the Old Drug Store celebrated its 100-year birthday celebration. In the basement they found many interesting files and old records. One was the first recorded prescription, which was issued to F.H. Themes on November 10, 1863, for silver nitrate solution, a prescription for tonsillitis.

A journal of Shakopee’s first doctor, Dr. J.S. Weiser, who was later killed while serving with the Union army, was in the basement. Some of the records included Comfort Barnes, who got box pills for Andrew for 25 cents. John Hinds visited and got advice for his wife for $1.00. Henry Pauly paid $5.00 to have his wife deliver a baby. Comfort Barnes extracted a tooth for Johnny at 50 cents. And George Keyser received medicine and attendance at night for $10.00.

Other finds in the Old Drug Store were part of history, according to the Shakopee Valley News, including:

  • An old map of 1855, showing Minnesota with only 18 counties (it currently has 87).
  • An old, badly damaged still, which was used in compounding drugs years ago, and which was very suspicious of the revenooers in the prohibition era.
  • Two tickets to the 1893 World’s Fair and Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois.
  • An ingenious device known as a pill machine, used in the days when the pharmacist had to full their own pills!

In 1879 it was one of only four places in Shakopee that had a telephone.

The Old Drug Store did not have many of the items which a modern drug store had; it did offer a wide variety of goods and services to the customers. A soda fountain was installed in 1870. Prayer books, text books for school, and other items, including paint, were offered.

The Strunk Pharmacy at the Old Drug Store closed after 120 years of service in June of 1977.

(Some information from Shakopee Scrapbook by Michael, Patricia, and Joseph Huber; Strunk Pharmacy to Note 100th Birthday During Year by Argus Tribune, March 7, 1959; Local Pharmacy Oldest in State; Has Been in Business 100 Years by Shakopee Valley News, March 7, 1957; Strunk Pharmacy Ends 120 Years of Service, Shakopee Valley News, June 14, 1977.)

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