Oxley’s photos coming home [UPDATED]Published 11:08am Monday, August 27, 2012 Updated 11:08am Monday, August 27, 2012
On June 22, 1919, as the F5 tornado approached Fergus Falls, Walter (W.T.) Oxley and his family took shelter in their home on North Cleveland Avenue. Minutes after the storm passed, Oxley went outside and began taking photos of the destruction.
“This event was very well documented for its time,” said Otter Tail County Historical Society Executive Director Chris Schuelke.
The photos taken by Oxley help provide a better understanding of the tornado’s destruction and the events that followed, Schuelke said.
A collection of more than 1,000 photographs taken by W.T. Oxley and his son, Lloyd Oxley, was sold to the Otter Tail County Historical Society on Friday, Aug. 24.
While W.T. might be best known for his photos of the 1919 cyclone aftermath, the collection that was sold to the historical society provides a history of Fergus Falls from 1902 to 1966.
“It’s a photo history of Fergus Falls,” said W.T.’s grandson Richard Oxley. “There are photos of farming and Main Street and just about everything.”
W.T. and Lloyd took professional photographs for businesses and even did school portraits and high school sports photos.
“The quality of work is unmatched,” Schuelke said.
The photos taken by Lloyd in the 1940s and ‘50s show how the community has changed over the years. There were a lot of businesses around then that no longer exist, said Schuelke.
Photography is just a hobby for Richard, but he wants to make sure the photos taken by his father and grandfather are seen by the public.
The extensive collection of photos taken by W.T. and Lloyd were passed to Richard after Lloyd died in 2006.
“I decided to sell them because I thought it would be better for them to be up in Fergus where they were taken and people can appreciate them,” Richard said.