Not Past It - Small Town Secession

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So, even on our cell phones, we have no reception in Kitty.

We’re sitting in a hole, think about it, as being a volcano and we’re in the mouth of the volcano and we got the crust all the way around us.



I can only as one of only about a hundred and forty residents who live in Kinney, a tiny town in northern Minnesota.

The city centre is just two blocks wide and four blocks long on Main Street, you’ll find Library a bar, a town hall and not much else.


And its small size pales in comparison to the massive active mind that sits right next door.

You can hear the backup beeps.

You can hear the cranes, banging on the trucks.

You can hear the trucks taken off and when they blast the house shakes, Like An Earthquake.


If my windows are open the curtain stand out straight from the Aftershock of the blast.

The mine is digging up iron and it’s the reason Kenny was established here in the first place, but the iron along with another metal called manganese has proven to be a huge issue for the community.


For decades.

The two metals have been slowly seeping into their water system.

Back in the 1970s.

The water lines were almost inoperable because they were so plugged up.

Their water lines are collapsing, they were in pretty rough shape.


So we needed lines, but we didn’t have the money to put new lines in.

Kenny try to get help from the state and federal government, but they were turned away every time they were told they were just too small or there wasn’t enough money available.

But the situation was Dire, they needed a new water system.


With nowhere to go.

Can you took matters into their own hands?

On July 13th, 1977 the town decided to secede and leave the union to become its own country.

Kenny was like Uncle Sam.


We need to talk.

It’s not me.

It’s you.

From gimlet media.

This is not passed it a show about the stories.

We can’t quite leave behind every episode.


We take a moment from that very same week in history and tell you the story of how it shaped our world.

I’m Simone plannin.

So what’s the deeper story behind kidneys?

Attempted secession.

It’s a tale of fortitude and creativity from a small community left behind by their own government.


And the ticking time bomb that America’s Water Systems, that’s coming up.


The story of Kenny’s secession begins like many epic tales in tragedy on a cold winter night in 1974, a house fire erupted in the small town.

We stood in the kitchen our house and watch the fire because it was just down the alley from us.


That’s truly I can do lie again.

She’s lived in Kenny for more than 50 years and serves as the city clerk.

She was in her 20s at the time of the fire.

She says the house was being rented, by a man who had grown up in.

Kenny the Our started when he threw his cigarette out, the window.


He smelled the smoke and he went running down touring the whistle because at the time if there was a fire you when Trang fire whistle blows whistle notified, Kenny’s volunteer, fire department.

Shirley’s brother Billy Wilt see who was a kid at the time.


And is now the current fire chief and Kenny remembers watching the truck arrived at the scene.

They couldn’t get the fire truck started.

They were pushing the fire truck down the street and trying to pop the clutch on it.

And once they got his started they went to fire hydrants and couldn’t get water out of them.


They tried six or seven different fire hydrants, but none worked.

The water pressure was too low while the fire fighters scrambled to find a working hydrant.

Billy remembers watching the House burn to the ground.

They could see Flames coming out all the windows and going up the walls and burning.




The house had belonged to the parents of Mary Anderson.

She’s the heroine of our story at the time of the fire.

She was the mayor of Kenny, but that wasn’t her only job.

She also worked as a nurse and owned, the local bar in town in a mining town.


She was a petite woman, but she knew how to lay down the law with her foul-mouthed.



Hey, buddy, cut it out right now.

I don’t hear you and they do, especially things that language.

I don’t give a damn, how many times I’ve heard.

I don’t like it.

So, Is it that’s Mary herself from an interview?


She gave to the Iron Range Research Center in 1988.

Mary had grown up in this region of Minnesota, as mayor of Kenny.

She had gained a reputation as a fighter and a go-getter.

Someone who wasn’t afraid to speak her mind.


She would host rallies at her bar and other politicians from the area would come to socialize and get a taste of her.

Renowned Serbian home-cooked meals, surely remembers it.

Well, all the local mayor’s, you know, local Congressman would come and the bar would be packed.


You couldn’t even get in the place.

Might marry was in our She know them all by name.

They all knew her people who knew Mary said she was smart friendly and energetic.

Shirley says, she was a Savvy politician.

She knew who to call Anna, and who to talk to and you didn’t fuck her.


When she said, we’re going to do this.

She was a feisty little old lady that got her way and in 1975 as she faced re-election, what Mary wanted was to fix Kenny’s Water System?

So that what happened to her parents house?


It’s never happened to anyone elses.

Well, you know, we had a bad word to system and how you doing?

Still working different things.

Now suggested politics.

I always wanted to be in to some political office.

Mary won the mayor’s race and she got to work right away.


Determining what needed to be done to fix the water situation.

The town needed to repair the filtration system, fix the water plant and replace the clogged up pipes.

I mean, they were 70 years old and they were still here from the 1900 when they were first.


Put in the town of Kimi was built in the early, nineteen.

Hundreds and it was originally intended to be a makeshift mining town.

The water system was only Post a last 25 years, but roughly 75 years after it was founded the town and its pipes were still standing and people were moving to Kenny to work in the nearby mine called Min Tak.


Men Tech was booming.

They were building and they needed the construction workers in just seven years.

The town’s population nearly doubled going from about 300 in 1972, an unofficial total of 600 residents in 1976.


Shirley remembers the toll.

All those people took on the Water System, more people in town.

The more showers, The More Bounce people were washing their cars, watering their lawns watering their Gardens, long water going on.

Shirley remembers the water, pressure being terrible, but it wasn’t just because of the increased water usage.


Remember, it was also because the water pipes were plugged up with iron and manganese. 2 metals found naturally in the groundwater.

Buildup in the pipes over time, making it harder for water to get through.

The metals were annoying in other ways to like, whenever surely did a load of laundry and used a special brand of bleach.


Her clothes turned orange.

That was always that special shirt that you just love.

That’s the one that got all the spots on it.

The one you didn’t care about a mop, right?

All the time, that was iron from the water because the water pipes were so full of it.

That’s like some fashion craze, took over the town.


And that craze was splotchy rust colored tie.


And there are also real health risks from drinking water with too much, manganese consumed at high concentrations for a long period of time.

Manganese may cause problems with the nervous system.


But most of the Town residents weren’t aware of the health risks at the time and the pore water pressure, which was the reason why Mary’s parent’s home.

Burnt down was enough for Mary to get fired up, Shirley’s brother, Billy remembers that moment in her words were I’m going to fix this damn phone.


So nobody else has to live through this.

She along with the other five council members, pleaded their case to State agencies asking for funding to replace the town’s water lines.

They also tried asking the federal government reaching out, to the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the federal Housing Authority.


But all of their requests were ignored or denied either because the agencies just didn’t have enough money or because Kenny was too small.

It was always hard to get through the paperwork as we were competing with every municipality in Minnesota, small and large.


That’s Jim.


The City Attorney at the time.

This is from an interview, he gave to the Iron Range research center after filing.

Countless funding applications and waiting through bureaucratic red tape.

The town was getting nowhere and Kenny needed water badly and it was clear to tell him leadership.


They were going to have to get creative.

That’s exactly what happened at a city council meeting on June 12, 1977 both Jim Randle and mayor, Mary Anderson, had a spark of inspiration.

We should get the heck out of this country.


It just struck me and I said, well, I suppose we could succeed and apply for foreign aid as a foreign country.

That’s what I was thinking, get out of here.

And I said, I’m coming.

Get some y’all.

So we talked about it and it got legs in the kept having legs.


So Mary said Jim, why don’t you draft something?

And I did.

So we decide to CC from the Union.

To secede from the Union.

In order to get foreign.


You’d think it’d be the kind of idea.


Someone throws out in a meeting and everyone goes haha.

Yeah and just moves on but Mary was serious.

She asked Jim to draft a letter threatening to secede from the union and send it to the Secretary of State in Washington DC.


She knew that this would not have a bad effect.

That would get us some publicity and she was pushing me all the way to get it done in the letter.

Jim made it.


That Kenny wanted to succeed as peacefully as possible.

He wrote if necessary.


We will be glad to declare war and lose.

However, if this is a acquirement, we would appreciate being able to surrender real quick as our mayor works as a nurse in a hospital and most of our council members work in a nearby mine and cannot get much time off from work.


Then he presented the letter to Mary and the council the next day.

Nobody was against it.

Everybody signed on.

So, you know, Screw we did it.

Screw them.


We did it.

Jim sent the letter to the US Secretary of State.

And that was that Jim Mary.

And the rest of the council.

They didn’t really expect much of a response, long time, Kenny.


Resident Billy Wilt, see the current fire, chief remembers the town, didn’t either everybody thought it was kind of a joke.

There was some kind of a publicity stunt, nobody that I can remember really took it.


That Kenny was just gonna become.


Song Little Country in the middle of Minnesota.

Kenny couldn’t actually legally become its own country, an 1869 Supreme Court ruling made any state, secession from the union null and void after the Civil War, but that wasn’t the point.


The point at least a Jim and Mary was to stir up attention and just like any good post-breakup glow up.

Kenny, definitely started turning some heads, but they had no clue.

Just how much attention They would actually receive people just tend to like underdogs, everybody kind of recognize.


We were an underdog in that it was, you know, kind of tongue-in-cheek.

So I’d say the Press coverage was the most part favorable.

After the break, Kenny gets its 15 minutes of fame, a passport and a Navy that’s coming up.


Welcome back before the break, the Tiny Town of Kinney Minnesota voted to secede from the Union.

City attorney, Jim Randle and mayor, Mary Anderson.

Started contacting various newspapers in the area, to get the word out, but for almost 7 months, no one bothered to write about their New Foundation until February 5th 1978.


When a local paper published a story titled move over Monaco.

Here Comes Kenny, two days later.

It made national news on NBC, the town of Kenny, Minnesota needs.

He’s a new water system.

And since the federal tax collectors, take all the money.


These days Kenny, is asking, help from Washington, but it says, the red tape is so horrendous.

The town fathers have voted to secede from the union and become a foreign country Town father’s the Mary Erasure because they say Farner seem able to get help from Washington more easily than Americans.


If necessary.

They say they will go to war with the US and lose.

They don’t say what would happen if they went to war with the us and one.

Other major news outlets followed suit between February and April of that year.

It’s estimated that more than 50 articles were published some even as far away as the Philippines and Switzerland.


Shirley remembers her Town, making headlines and the commotion that followed.

So now everybody wanted to come and see what Kenny looks like.

What’s the foreign country?

I’m right in the middle of the United States.

It was just a little kitty so different than any other little Stone, but we had a lot of people come through in addition to crowds coming into town letters flooded in from around the world telephones at City Hall and the local bar wouldn’t stop ringing.


People tend to get a kick out of That they kind of liked it.

We were kind of tweaking the federal government.

The federal government is a big fat, moving Target for a lot of people.

Jim and Mary realized their sudden Fame was the perfect opportunity to raise awareness and hopefully attract some funding.


So they decided to have some fun with it together.

They came up with the idea of making passports, Jim sketched, a design of their official seal a green eagle with its wings outstretched.

Or a red and white star beneath it.

Their motto, file and triplicate and Nod to The Impossible bureaucracy.


The council encountered.

When applying for government grants, Jim, then printed up several hundred copies.

Shirley’s husband was the first to get his hands on them.

He bought the first passport who brought him home and said, here’s our passports, and he said, now, your legal.


You can come and go.

And I said, I really need this.

It surely wasn’t the only one who was confused, my grandma called and she wanted to come visit.

And she says, can we come visit, or do we have to get a passport?


So we can come and we said, no, you’re allowed to come into the City without a past.

What you can buy one after you get here.

If you want one, the passports were just a gimmick of course, and they turned out to be a moneymaker for the city, the Republic of Kenny sold a couple thousand, passports for a buck apiece.


Mary Anderson said, she made $2,500 and decided to invest the money back into the town’s Community.

Center site about two stones in the refrigerator and fix the roof and front empty tables, and 36 cherries, and the furnace, and electric most are electric coffee pots and plastic cleats.


In addition to passports, the town kept dreaming up other ways to get creative with their new and formal country.

The school district held a contest.

Students to design the national flag, someone donated a canoe to the city.

It became the sole vessel of Kenny’s Navy.

Jim Randle said, some residents went so far as to change their address.


Some people even started naming their business, the Republican Kenny some folks started getting their mail, by that name.

All of this was written up in the press and eventually the publicity paid off.

On March 2nd, 1978 almost a year and a half.


After Kenny had declared independence, a state agency approved, a grant of 60,000 dollars.

By the end of that year.

The Republic of Kenny had received State development.

Grants amounting to nearly $200,000.

It shows what we did at that time and we did it.


We pulled it off, we declared victory in and we won.

Long live, the republic and Kenny.

Kenny, and it’s roughly, 450 residents.

Now, had enough money to complete.


All the repairs for their water system.

By 1981, the city replaced, its water and sewer lines.

Drilled a 450-foot well and had new fire hydrants.

The water was flowing again.

This was a special time as Shirley’s brother.


Billy remembers, I’ve always told people and I still tell people at Time kidney was greatest down there, ever was, but soon after their glorious Victory Kenny.

Took another head starting in the mid 80s, iron, mines, all around, Kenny started closing.


This was closely related to some national Trends.

The unemployment rate had increased and there was a downturn in the steel and auto Industries with less demand and Minds closing, and Kinney.

This meant thousands of workers in the area were furloughed and the town.


Started emptying out.

With fewer residents and fewer tax dollars.

Kenny ran into financial problems again, but Kenny and their mayor weren’t about to give up they decided to take matters into their own hands.


In 1987 and response to the crisis, mayor Anderson and the residents of Kenny decided to put together a summer Arts and Crafts Festival to help raise funds for Community improvements.

They called it Republic of Kenny day.

Surely remembers the crowds the park was loaded and we had a lot of people coming in and that’s when they had the little boost out there selling the passports.


They continued the tradition, every summer, until the mid-90s renaming its accession.


In honor of the historic feat that mayor Mary Anderson, pulled off.

I Pat Mary on the back and I give Mary a lot of credit.

I’m proud to be part of it that our mayor was thoughtful enough to think of something like this to do it, you know, the town planned their last and biggest celebration in the summer of 2007, the 30th anniversary of their secession.


Mayor Anderson.

Well former mayor by this point served as the Grand Marshal presiding over the three-day event.

They held a parade set off fireworks.

And of course and Kenny tradition set up.

A customs Booth to sell more passports.


But sadly, the event was Mary’s last only three months later.

She passed away.

A local newspaper reported that her funeral was attended by nearly a hundred, people more than half the population of Kenny at the time, including blue collar, workers residents of Kenny.


And a who’s who of political leaders.

She was 92.

These days, Kenny still has problems with their water and it’s Fallen to Billy the fire chief and the city’s sole employee to manage it.


All we have a high content of iron and manganese in our water and the manganese is building up inside of the lines.

And I’ve had a few residents it since I’ve started working that their water pressures dropped off to practically nothing.


Billy says, there was one resident who was concerned about the health?

Risks of the manganese in the water.

She came to speak at a city council meeting shortly after putting a filter system in her home, anxious.

It little cups in front of all the everybody on the city council and then she’s got a gallon bag out of her purse and asked them if they wanted a drink Billy says the bag Bag was full of dark hazy water, and it raised a concern with city council what the water looked like.


And I told them that it’s the same water this going into, everybody’s house and I told him, the only thing they could do to make the water, any better going to her house would be to replace the lines.

And so that would mean replacing every line in town and it’s that’s just not economically feasible.


Water infrastructure.

Repairs are usually prohibitively expensive for any Town, big or small.

So this issue extends far beyond Kinney thousands of Water Systems across.

The u.s.

Are desperately in need of repairs than all of them.


Need to be updated regularly to comply with new, pollutant regulations, but the federal government hasn’t been spending nearly enough to cover the cost in 2019.

They allocated less than 1% of what the EPA.

It’s is needed to fix our nation’s water systems.


And this level of underfunding has been pretty consistent over the years.

Without a huge influx of government spending things will get worse will see low income communities drinking water, that makes them sick.


We’ll see more boil water.

Notice has more water shut offs and will spend more on bottled water, which isn’t well regulated, but that’s a whole other can of worms.

The current system puts the burden on communities to ask for help with their water infrastructure.


Just look at Flint Michigan where for years, the water was contaminated due to the city’s decision to not protect the water against corrosive lead pipes.

It took the protests of activists including an eight-year-old nicknamed Little Miss Flint, for politicians to pay attention to the lead.


In the city’s water.

As of last fall, pipes were still being replaced.

Like Kenny flint and other communities have been forced to take matters into their own hands and like Kimmy.

They shouldn’t have to go to Such Great Lengths, to get safe clean, drinking, water file that in triplicate, and long live, the republic of Kinney.


Not passed it as a Spotify original produced by gimlet and zsp media.

This episode was produced by Sarah Craig.

Next week.

We are blasting off with Sally Ride.

I kind of waited for the phone call from NASA or the president or somebody to say that.


We’re going to do something to honor Sally, the first, very first American Woman in space, I got no calls.

The rest of our team is producer.

Kinsey Clark associate.


Producers Jake Maya are low and Julie, Carly.

Our intern is Laura Newcomb.

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Ponte a tape sync by James, Napoli fact-checking, by Jane, Ackerman sound design and mixing by Bobby, Lord and Sam bear original music by Sachs kicks.


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Our theme song is Toko Liana by Coco, Co with music supervision by Liz Fulton, technical Direction by Zach Schmidt show art by Elysee Harvin and Talia Rahman.

The executive producer at CSP.


Media is Zach Stewart Ponte.

The executive producer from gimlet is Abbie.

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We’ll see you next week.

Take care of yourself, be creative.

Don’t be afraid to try something different.

Take care of yourself, be creative.

Don’t be afraid to try something different.