Civilian spotters scanning the skies for Russian bombers. A makeshift polio hospital housing the afflicted during the height of the epidemic. U.S. government planes releasing airborne agents to simulate a biological warfare attack.

These are all bits of unvarnished Rosemount history that John Loch has rescued from obscurity.

For more than 20 years, the retired pharmacist has combed through old newspapers collecting and cataloging any reference to Rosemount people, places and events, some nearly lost to time. He often finds cryptic little blurbs -- tantalizing unsolved mysteries -- that require additional detective work.

"Every place has a history," explains Loch, a member of the Rosemount Area Historical Society. And it isn't all glossy-haired girls smiling for pageants.

There are hardscrabble stories about a Depression-era hobo camp at the railroad tracks labeled by locals the "Depot Hotel" and farmers forced off their land in the name of patriotism.

Loch's goal is to find and catalog those details so future generations know Rosemount's stories. He has more than 106,000 entries in his history database.

"How quickly people forget. With this mobile society as it is now, we have so many people coming into town who don't know anything about history," said Loch, 64.

Some of his research will go into a picture book now being compiled by the Rosemount Area Historical Society. Loch will donate his database of old newspaper articles and additional research to the society.

People already call him for help with family trees or for help in explaining odd tidbits found in basements or old buildings.

Loch's meticulous examination of old newspapers often unearths nearly forgotten bits of the town's history, said Rosemount Area Historical Society co-founder Maureen Geraghty Bouchard.

"John keeps finding these little things. We say, 'Let's investigate,'" she said.

"He likes that challenge of solving a mystery," said his wife, Ann Loch. "To get to the real truth of a matter is just typical of the interest he has. There have been some scary things, like when [the U.S. government] dropped chemicals on Rosemount in the 1950s."

Funny thing is, Loch grew up in Minneapolis, not Rosemount. He has no kin there and lives in neighboring Apple Valley. But Loch said he has always been drawn to research and cataloging. It runs in the family. His two daughters are librarians. And Loch's first boyhood obsession was investigating written accounts of the abominable snowman.

His passion for Rosemount history sprouted when he took a job at a Rosemount pharmacy. It started with a desire to know more about his customers -- old farming families deeply rooted in the community.

"As a newcomer, I didn't know anything about the history because there wasn't anything written about it," Loch explained.

"He had a love of history and he actually started with pictures," Geraghty Bouchard said. "People were bringing in pictures [to the pharmacy] and he heard stories and it intrigued him."

Later, around 1990, he trekked to the library and started reviewing every edition of the Dakota County Tribune since it was first published in the 1880s. He prints out and indexes any mention of Rosemount people, places or events in his databases. He also now collects and gathers information from several other community newspapers.

"A lot of things are so mundane," said Loch, as he pages through some of his research in the den of his home. There are notices of four men golfing and Aunt Susie visiting from New York City.

But some of those blurbs have led Loch to interesting chapters in the town's history. Those are Loch's favorite stories to share.

"In the '50s they still had airplane spotters. Minnesota had a high concentration of a number of spotters and observation posts," Loch explained, because "if Russia ever invaded, they would probably come over the pole and over Canada."

Loch also has unearthed many articles on the Gopher Ordnance Works -- Rosemount's World War II-era gunpowder plant. Farmers were displaced from their land so the plant could be built.

"Several farmers were given six weeks' notice. They had to vacate their home. It was thousands of acres," Loch said.

He estimated he spends 15 hours a week on his research, and he said he'll never stop. His motivation is simple:

"I love Rosemount. I love history. I love the pictures that go with it."

Shannon Prather is a Roseville freelance writer.