Thomas H. Girling was born in Nottingham, England in 1865. He came to America with his parents in 1872. Thirty years later he opened a small printing business and began publishing a weekly called Picturesque Robbinsdale. In 1894, Girling was elected to the Village Council. During his time in office, he took the lead in creating a saloon fund to pay for getting Crystal Hill cut down. The steep incline just south of Crystal Lake had teams and caravans backed for almost a mile trying to climb the muddy slope. Girling convinced the Hennepin County Commissioners to contribute $2000 and in 1894 the hill was reduced by nine feet and Girling went to work getting the much traveled road that became West Broadway ready for grading and paving.
In 1903 Girling was elected to the Minnesota State Legislature. He left politics a couple of years later and started the Girling Warner Transportation Company. By 1910 the company had a fleet of five buses running between Minneapolis and Anoka via Robbinsdale, Osseo and Champlin. The locally manufactured buses were actually retrofitted “Wilcox Trux.”
Wilcox entered the automotive business in 1907. Their first car was called the Wolfe. Truck production began in 1909 with one-ton and three-ton vehicles. By 1918 Wilcox claimed to have over 500 trucks on the road in the Twin Cities. The largest Girling Warner vehicle could hold up to 50 passengers. The fare from Minneapolis to Anoka was 50 cents.
In 1917 when Girling was reelected to the Minnesota House of Representatives he stood first and began the debate over women’s suffrage, arguing that,
“Women shouldn’t be dragged into the dirty pool of politics” and approving such a measure would “cause irreparable damage at great expense to the state.”
Girling continued to serve in the legislature until his death in a car accident in 1924. He was remembered as a champion of rural Hennepin County. Governor Perus said he was one of the most efficient legislators in the state. Girling was a Republican, but he usually had the support of Democrats and ran unopposed for his last term in office.
*This post first appears courtesy of the Robbinsdale Historical Society.
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