Judy Spooner Viewpoint: Cottage Grove has sweet connection to Mars candy familyCottage Grove has a connection with the man who invented the Milky Way candy bar and his son, who invented M&Ms.
By: Judy Spooner, South Washington County Bulletin
Cottage Grove has a connection with the man who invented the Milky Way candy bar and his son, who invented M&Ms.
Local historians talk about the “Mars candy people,” but details were sketchy. It’s another historical mystery and I’m all over it, with the help of local historian Bev Gross, who is really good at traipsing around cemeteries, and John Burbank, the city’s senior planner.
John Scott Mars was widowed with five sons and married his second wife, Catherine, who had two sons that John raised as his own. The family moved to Cottage Grove around 1860.
He owned land north of the intersection of 65th Street and Hinton Avenue.
His second son, Luther, was about 13 years old when the family came here from Pennsylvania where John and Catherine were born.
John’s father came from Ireland and his mother from Germany.
Luther, who lived in Cottage Grove until he was about 30, married Elva in Pope County, Minnesota. Franklin Chester Mars, founder of the Mars Candy Company, was born there on Sept. 24, 1883. I found his birth certificate in the Minnesota History Center. The couple were listed at farmers and Franklin was their only child, a grandson of John Scott.
Franklin’s great uncle and John Scott’s brother, Hartley Mars, his wife Elisabeth, and children, Margaret, Elizabeth and Placidus came to Cottage Grove in 1865. Elisabeth was pregnant with son, John H., at the time. They also had a son, William, who died before they emigrated.
In 1885, they had Henrietta who died at 14 years old and is buried in the Old Cottage Grove Cemetery. Hartley and Catherine, who were married 57 years when Hartley died in 1912, are also there. Daughter Placidus, who lived until 1946, is also there with her husband, Wyatt Munger.
Here’s an interesting connection. Hartley gave land for the Sunnyhill School, south of Sunnyhill Drive, which is an extension of Inman Avenue. The new Sunnyhill Park, in the Pine Glen Addition, is on land once owned by John Scott.
There is a story on the Internet that Franklin and his parents lived in Newport. Frank, who had polio as a child, was taught by his mother to hand dip chocolates.
It’s a great story but I could find no evidence that the family ever lived in Newport. Luther’s brother, Albert, and his cousin, John H., farmed in Newport and the family might have lived with them or they could have rented a house between censuses but I couldn’t find them.
Forrest Mars, who invented M&Ms, was Frank’s only son.
In 1983, the city was annexing Atkinson Cemetery next to McDonald’s on East Point Douglas Road when Forrest put a Mars family monument there. It was probably because John M. Mars bought a plot there, but there’s no John M. It could have been a transposed middle initial from John H., but I’m almost certain neither Forrest’s great grandfather nor his cousin is buried there. However, he has five family members in Old Cottage Grove.
Stay tuned. I’m still working on the rest of the story.