Today is the 131st birthday of John Campbell. In 1912, John founded Northern Light Milling Company with his older brother. The Owatonna-based business sold flour and a new breakfast food called Malt-O-Meal.

John enlisted in the army when the US entered World War I in 1917. As part of the 33rd Infantry Regiment, he helped guard the Panama Canal. There were no Germans to fight in Panama, so John spent much of his time playing poker and won over $800.

According to legend, John used this money to found the Campbell Cereal Company when he returned to Owatonna in 1919. He also became a charter member of Owatonna’s new American Legion post later that year.

The Legionnaires of Post 77 elected John post commander in 1924. During his tenure, Commander Campbell organized a color guard for parades, started an endowment fund, and compiled a list of all veterans buried in the county.

John’s company relocated to Northfield in 1927 and then to Minneapolis. He later renamed the business Malt-O-Meal after its most famous product. John Campbell died in 1971 at the age of 82.

View more history for Post 77 in Owatonna, Minnesota