Historical Pine River, Backus yearbooks archived online

Heritage Group North worked the past year to digitize every high school yearbook the group could find

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Roofers Local 96 donated time and material to repair the roof of the historic caboose in Pine River in March of 2020. Submitted Photo

Yearbooks going back as far as 1936 are now available to view online for graduates of Pine River High School.

Backus yearbooks going back to 1948 have also been digitized, as have all of the high school yearbooks under the merged school districts thanks to Heritage Group North, a Legacy grant and area residents.

Annette Houg said planning for digitization began nearly two years ago. HGN was awarded an $8,485 grant in July 2020, after which volunteers began gathering the yearbooks with the help of local residents and collectors.


There are other yearbooks, especially from Backus, that have not yet been scanned. Some sharing the link to the digitized yearbooks lamented that elementary yearbooks were not also included. Houg said more yearbooks could possibly be scanned in the future, but it would take funding to make that a reality.

Those funds could either come from grants or fundraisers. HGN does not have any remaining funding for more yearbook digitization. As this project grew in scale, it went over budget by approximately $2,000 on top of the Legacy grant. Generous individuals helped to fill in the gap.

"When we were working through it we found quite a few more yearbooks than anticipated," Houg said.

The website housing the digitized yearbooks went live Thursday, April 1. The project took longer than anticipated.

"There were some glitches due to the shutdown," Houg said. "The company was working on more of a skeleton crew, so it was slower than it would have been."

The books were meant to tie into HGN's annual "Lost Pine River" program where they provide speakers and exhibits to commemorate Pine River history. The program was postponed in 2020, and to continue forward, HGN is anticipating some changes to the format.

"We're still going forward with the school history, which we were planning to do last year," Houg said. "We don't know about having a big event, but we want to schedule times for small groups to come in when they want to and we'll have all the school memorabilia we've gathered or had donated on display with maybe some kind of slideshows."

Though not optimal, Houg thinks the smaller groups will be more able to take their time looking at the historical exhibits rather than rushing through to make time for a presentation or meal. Houg is also looking at contacting representatives from different graduating classes or past teachers.


Northern Micrographic was responsible for scanning the books. Find the yearbooks at

The Caboose

Another long delayed project was recently completed in Pine River. The caboose located by the historic Pine River Railway Depot finally has a new roof. The Roofers Local 96 arrived Monday, March 22, to finish re-roofing the caboose.

The Local 96 committed to re-roof the historic caboose in 2019, and installed a temporary roof in November of that year. Like many projects, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the final installation for approximately a year.

The roofers donated the materials and labor for the project as a training exercise for apprentice students. In 2019, HGN President Denny Houg said the donation would save HGN thousands of dollars.

Travis Grimler may be reached at 218-855-5853 or Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at

Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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