Jacob “Jake” Herzog

Born October 13, 1886 – Died June 29, 1970

Jacob Herzog, a native of Austin, worked most of his life as a machinist for the Milwaukee Railroad. He ultimately became a prominent Mower County politician. He started his political career in 1912 as Third Ward Alderman on the Austin City Council and after serving two terms, Herzog decided to run for mayor in 1919 and lost to A.C. Page by only 41 votes. In 1922, Herzog was elected county commissioner and served on the county board for 12 years. He was chairman from 1925 to 1934.

In 1935, Herzog was named to the Works Progress Administration (WPA) as a regional manpower director with an office in Rochester. He supervised the training pf WPA workers for private industry. He was later assigned to the War Manpower Commission with an office in St. Paul. He worked with many different industries to survey factories, streamline productivity and train handicapped persons for factory work.  Once the war ended, after 10 years with the WPA, he returned to the Milwaukee Railroad and his home in Austin.

When State Representative Thomas Dunlap decided not to run for re-election in 1948, Herzog filed for the seat and won. He served as District 5 State Representative in the Minnesota Legislature from 1949-1958. 

Through his leadership and vision, Herzog was responsible for the creation of East Side Lake, a depression-era project that came to fruition in the late 1930’s. In 1961, the Austin Daily Herald described Herzog’s role in the creation of East Side Lake as “more than any other man responsible for building the present lake.”  His dream of creating a lake came from the fact that Austin lost a previous lake or “mill pond” on the same stretch of Dobbins Creek. In 1892, Beaver Lake, the backwater created by a flour mill’s dam on Dobbins Creek near the present-day East Side Lake dam was drained when flooding washed out the dam.

In 1915, while serving on the city council, Herzog talked with fellow council members about purchasing the former Beaver Lake Dam site to rebuild a similar dam on Dobbins. Despite many opponents, the city purchased the property.  During those years without a lake, Herzog thought many times that it seemed like there never would be another lake on that stretch of Dobbins. This all was despite the fact that the former Beaver Lake area was left as a muddy marsh considered by the public as an eyesore, including a large hole where there use to be a dam. It took nearly five decades until that lake was reborn and renamed East Side Lake.

Herzog was a member of the Knights of Columbus, the local American Red Cross, and served on several committees to further the growth of the city including: the development known as “Austin Acres” in the southwest sector, the grandstand at the fairgrounds, and the athletic field for Austin High School.

Do you know someone that has made an impact on the City of Austin? Submit a Pillars of the City nomination for next year!