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Emil F. Sell
The History of Renville County, Volume 2
Compiled by Franklyn Curtiss-Wedge
Emil F. Sell, banker, pioneer merchant, distinguished citizen and man of affairs, was for many years, since the days if his earliest boyhood, a powerful factor for good and for progress in Renville county. The influence of his strong, vigorous personality had a powerful effect on the community in which he lived and worked, and he is one of those rare souls of whom it may truly be said that the world is the better for his having been in it. His worth is written on the hearts of those whose lives he blessed, and his sterling qualities will not soon be forgotten. Emil F. Sell was born in Boltenhagen, Pommerania, Germany, March 20, 1862, one of the ten children of William and Albertina (Reinke) Sell, who brought their family to America in 1869 and took up a homestead of 160 acres in section 24, Cairo township, this county. The father died in 1877 at the age of fifty-six and the mother was left with a large family. Two years later, at the age of seventeen, Emil F. Sell started out life for himself as a clerk in the clothing store of William Salkowske at Sleepy Eye. Next he went to Springfield and found employment in the general store of Henry Bendixen. It was in 1883 that he came to Fairfax, and with a partner established the mercantile firm of Sell & Nelson, which after a while became the firm of Sell & Sell. When Gustave Sell died his interest was acquired by brother-in-law, J. W. Schramm, and the firm became Sell & Schramm. In 1900 the firm was succeeded by the Fairfax Department Store, of which Emil F. Sell, R. G. Reinke and A. F. Rieke were the principal owners. The mercantile business, however, was but one of the many lines of endeavor to which Mr. Sell turned his attention. In 1894 he organized the State Bank of Fairfax. Later he became a stockholder in the Farmers and Merchants State Bank of Arlington, in the First State Bank of Cambridge, and in the National Bank of Commerce, St. Paul. In 1910 he organized the First National Bank of Fairfax, and in 1911 he organized the Citizens State Bank of Franklin. At the time of his death he was president of the First National Bank of Fairfax; of the Citizens State Bank of Franklin, and of the Farmers and Merchants State Bank of Arlington. In August, 1898, he organized the Fairfax Standard Printing Co., and in 1912 he organized the Fairfax Farmers Grain & Stock Co. As a member of the village council and of the village school board he did most efficient work. In Fairfax Lodge No. 261, A. F. & A. M., he was an influential factor. In the Methodist Episcopal Church he was likewise active. He joined the church at the age of fourteen, and has been connected with the churches in all the towns where he has resided. He was one of the founders of the church at Fairfax, and served as superintendent of the Sunday school in the early days before the English and German congregations were united. After the union he continued to serve in the same capacity. In 1909 he was chairman of the committee which erected the church, and after it was burned in February, 1914, he was chairman of the committee which erected the present church. He died strong in the faith of the church he had so long and faithfully served. His death was unexpected. He was taken suddenly ill, was taken to the Bethesda hospital and after an operation died there January 9, 1915. His death was sincerely mourned, and press and public united in glowing tributes to his life and character. Mr. Sell was married November 3, 1884, to Emilie Schramm, daughter of Karl G. and Johanna (Fenscke) Schramm, early pioneers of Brown county, this state. Four children have been born. Erna is the wife of Dr. P. W. Wipperman, of Minneapolis; Gertrude O. married W. A. Fiss, cashier of the First National Bank of Fairfax; Florence and Jeanette live with their mother. The esteem in which Mr. Sell was held in his own community is admirably expressed in the resolutions passed by the stockholders of the First National Bank of Fairfax, from which the following quotations are taken: "The indomitable spirit that gave birth to the First National Bank of Fairfax, and that has for more than four years been its constant champion and leader, has been called. * * * It is with feelings of the utmost appreciation, respect and admiration that we attempt to measure and comprehend the excellence of the efforts productive of the many enterprises that have been successfully conducted by the dauntless spirit of our late president. Of the many characters who have been active in the affairs of Fairfax and vicinity the personality of the first president of the First National Bank of Fairfax stands out in bold relief. Many and varied have been the projects and institutions he originated and organized. The influence of his resourceful and enterprising mind has reached and stimulated practically every commendable movement and business in this his home town. He has been a leader among men; a leader who has ever chosen to elevate the moral, intellectual and religious forces of our community above those interests which are solely sordid and mercenary. The many and varied interests which were aided by the unfailing industry of his noble zeal, compassed all the better forces and influences of our community. Zealous in the church, fearlessly and bitterly opposed to corruption in civic and political life, a power and a genius in business and financial affairs, with a helping hand ever ready for those in affliction or distress, his was a friendship to be prized, a leadership to be desired, and a power for right and square dealing which may well serve as a laudable example for his co-laborers to emulate. His memory and business precepts will live until memory fades in the minds and hearts of all his friends and associates, a never failing source of guidance and inspiration."
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