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Elnathan Gates - A Telephone Company Pioneer

Elnathan Gates was born June 23, 1897 to Dr. Joseph and Jenny Gates in Kenyon, Minnesota. He grew up with several of his aunts and uncles living with them the early years.

In April 1901, Elnathan contracted whooping cough. In August 1905 at the age of 8 Elnathan broke his arm just above the wrist when he fell ten feet from a home made trapeze that some of the boys had made.

In his final year of high school, 1915, Elnathan was selected captain of the school football team and vice president of the Literary society (Frances Gunderson, his future wife, was the president). He finished that year receiving his State High School Board certificate in Bookkeeping.

Elnathan went to Carlton College in Northfield. In the fall of 1916 he played football for the college team which was the state College champions. In January, Elnathan and his brother Russell played on an alumni basketball team at their former high school winning the game 27 to 15.

Elnathan was drafted in September 1917 as part of the Minneapolis ambulance unit and required to report to Allentown, Pennsylvania immediately. He was sent to France to work in the ambulance corp.

When his brother Russell later joined the military, their grandmother Gates proudly flew a service flag in her window with eight stars representing 8 family members in the armed service.

After seeing much service in the ambulance corp, in June 1919 Elnathan returned to Minnesota. In August, he joined the local veterans associations. His father was elected chairman of the Kenyon American Legion and Elnathan was selected as a delegate to the state convention in St. Paul in September.

Elnathan was a member of the masons.

On the 1920 census, at only 22 years of age, Elnathan was listed as the manager of the local telephone exchange. He enjoyed travelling, spending a week in Northern Minnesota in June, travelling to sporting events, and even took a trip to California in May 1920 following the death of his grandfather Thomas.

In December, the Kenyon Post of the American Legion organized a basketball team with Elnathan as captain to play against other legion teams.

On December 29, 1920, Elnathan was married to Frances Gunderson in the First Norwegian Lutheran Church by Rev. S. O. Simundson. A reception for family and close friends was held at her parents home.

He continued his love of sports, playing for the Kenyon menโ€™s baseball team, purchasing a registered setter hunting dog from North Dakota, fishing and travelling. He was the organizing contact for a sporting event for boys under 15 years of age held in Kenyon in June 1921.

In March 1922 Elnathan and Frances had a daughter which they named Evangeline. Three months later his father tragically died when his vehicle was hit by a train.

In November 1922, he joined the lineup of one of the best basketball teams in the entire state replacing a star forward who was leaving to attend Iowa University. โ€˜Nateโ€™ won the Albert Lea Short Stop golf tournament, one of the most popular events in southern Minnesota in 1930. He lost in the semi final of the American Legion Golf tournament that year. In 1931, he tied for 7th 4 strokes behind the leader in at the Albert Lea Short Stop. In 1932 Nate was selected to play on the International Webb Cup team of Minnesota Legionnaires for an annual golf match with Canadian Legionnaires.

"Nate Gates, oftimes champion in southern Minnesota and regarded as one of the finest golfers in that section" - Minneapolis Star โ€“ May 6, 1931, page 14.

In 1932, the family moved to Minneapolis. Elnathan started the Minnesota Telephone Company. Eventually he had customers in Iowa, North Dakota, Illinois, and of course Minnesota. During his career he was a president for the Minnesota Telephone association, a utility company, and a director of the United States Independent Telephone association.

Elnathan died November 14, 1959 in Minneapolis, Minnesota at the age of 62. He was the first of his siblings to die although both of his parents preceded him. Frances died in April 1987, in San Diego, California at the age of 87.ย 

For more information on Elnathan's family check out my Family Roots.