Washington County Historical Society

Gateway to Minnesota History

Month: September 2014

A Frontier Letter

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Local history articles, news, and events from the Washington County Historical Society

This issue: Contents
Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014
  • Editor’s Note
  • WCHS News: “The Unearthing” Screening
  • WCHS News: Annual Fall Membership Meeting
  • Photo of the Week: Johnsdale Paranormal Group at the Warden’s House
  • Old News: A Joke I Actually Laughed At!
  • Featured Article: A Frontier Letter

Editor’s Note

This past week, WCHS Executive Director Brent Peterson, Hay Lake Site Manager Dustyn Dubuque, and myself all had the good fortune of attending the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH.org) conference held in St. Paul this year. This was an amazing experience that brought over a thousand members of the history industry from across the country together in one place to “talk shop”. I look forward to begin implementing a few ideas I picked up from the convention over the next few months!

One last note before we get going with the issue today: I do need to send a big “thank you” to everyone who attended Stone House Museum manager Mary Smith’s presentation on the importance of Primary Source research at Hay Lake on Sunday and John Christgau’s discussion and book signing at the Warden’s House on Monday night.

As Minnesota slides further and further into autumn, WCHS still has plenty more events for you to check out! Both our news stories will detail presentations you won’t want to miss – including our Annual Fall Membership Meeting which is this Thursday!

And yes, that’s right, the insanely popular “Paranormal Investigations: Techniques and Theories” presentation will return to the Warden’s House this year. For a sneak peek from the Johnsdale Paranormal Group’s investigation of the Warden’s House – check out the Photo of the Week!

Today’s Old News isn’t actually news at all. In the early 1900s, it was popular to include short stories and humorous anecdotes in newspapers. Usually the later leave me scratching my head and hunting for some kind of punchline. But when I actually chuckled after reading this joke – I knew I had to include it in the Historical Messenger this week!

Finally, we’ll wrap up this issue with a letter sent from an early settler of Washington County back home to his family on the east coast. This beautiful glimpse into the life of one our early pioneers highlights not only the industries and opportunites the new territory had to offer, but the sacrifice he made in moving away from a wife and family he loved dearly.

Want to learn more about the history of Washington County? Become a fan of WCHS on Facebook or follow us on Twitter! See a new photo every week, read special articles, and stay up-to-date with the latest WCHS happenings.

Sean Pallas

Historical Messenger editor and Warden’s House Site Manager

spallas.wchs@gmail.com

WCHS News

“The Unearthing” Screening

In Tristan James Jensen’s new film, “The Unearthing”, Stillwater’s rich history conceals a healthy dose of mystery and intrigue. Jensen, a local Stillwater Area High School student filmmaker filmed the entire 60-minute feature at local haunts around town – including the Warden’s House Museum.

Tristan Jensen and the Washington County Historical Society invite you to a free and open to the public screening of “The Unearthing” on Sunday, October 5th at 2:00 PM at the Warden’s House. The museum is located at 602 Main Street N. in Stillwater, MN.

Please contact Sean Pallas at 651-439-5956 or spallas.wchs@gmail.com for more information on this screening or to arrange a museum tour.

WCHS News

Fall Membership Dinner Meeting

The Washington County Historical Society is excited to announce that Frederick L. Johnson will be the featured speaker for the Washington County Historical Society membership dinner meeting held on this Thursday September 25th at the Water Street Inn in Stillwater.

Johnson has taught in St. Paul Public Schools for 34 years, earning the Minnesota Chamber Foundation’s Education Excellence Award in 1987 and receiving a 1990 national Thanks to Teachers award at the Kennedy Center Education Leadership Institute in Washington D.C. He also received the Minnesota Historical Society’s Excellence in Teaching History award in 1990 and 1992.

He was the associate editor and reporter for the South Washington County Bulletin from 1970 to 1983 in Cottage Grove. During this time he won the Minnesota Newspaper Association First Places for reporting in 1975 and again in 1977.

Johnson has written nine books about Minnesota history along with numerous magazine articles. His new book, “The Sea Wing Disaster: Tragedy on Lake Pepin” is an expanded and updated version of his original, The Sea Wing Disaster, published by the Goodhue County Historical Society in 1986. The new edition includes 185 photographs and maps along with new research found in letters, documents and public records.

The Sea Wing, a river steamboat, capsized during a storm on Lake Pepin on July 13, 1890. There were 215 passengers on the excursion out of Red Wing. Nearly 100 of the passengers died making it still one of the most deadly accidents on the nation’s inland waters.

The event is open to the public and the cost is $20 for WCHS members and $25 for nonmembers.

The evening will begin at 5:30 with a social hour, dinner at 6:30 and the business meeting will be at 7:30. Mr. Johnson’s presentation will be after the short business meeting. Books will be available to purchase at the event.

Reservations are required. To make reservations or for more information about the event please call 651-439-5956 or visit www.wchsmn.org.

Photo of the Week

Johnsdale Paranormal Group – Warden’s House, Stillwater – September 20, 2014

This past Saturday, the Johnsdale Paranormal Group visited the Warden’s House for their third investigation of the museum to prepare for their upcoming presentation which will be held on October 25th, 2014. Due to the high level of interest, they will first showcase their evidence at 11:00am and have encore showings at 1:00 and 3:00 in the afternoon. Keep on the look out for more information as we move into October.

In the meantime, feel free to check out this album for some behind the scenes pictures from their visit! And then visit their website to see what their previous investigations have turned up: Warden’s House Evidence.

old news

A Joke I Actually Laughed At!

As I mentioned in the Editor’s Note, it’s not surprising in the least to come across a joke or two in these old newspapers. Turns out that when you put more than a hundred years of pop-culture inbetween a gag’s delivery and it’s reception some of the humor is lost to time. What is surprising is that when I read this one, I actually chuckled! Hopefully a few of you out there will enjoy this as much as I did.

“He Was On the White List” – Stillwater Messenger – September 23, 1911

A Frenchman bought a house in the country, and had hardly settled there when the local band called and asked for his subscription to its funds. He put his name down for contribution, which as he undestood, entitled him to be serenaded on Sundays. Sundays came and went. The band played at various houses, but never at his. Finally, the London Telegraph says, the band called, not to play, but to collect the donor’s subscription. He said: “But you have never played to me.” The bandmaster looked surprised. “What does monsieur think of us? Does he suppose that if we had played we should ask him for money? Monsieur evidently does not know our band. Monsieur, having promised a generous contribution, is on our white list, that of the supporters whom we spare.”

FEATURED ARTICLE

A Frontier Letter

from Washington: A History of the Minnesota County, Anna Enquist, Louise Johnson, Sue Collins, Gail Seifert, Betty Roney

Afton, Washington Co., May 16, 1857

Dear Wife,

After I wrote you at Prescott, I went home with one Mr. Getchell 12 miles over the prairie, arrived at his house just at sundown Sunday eve. Getchell and Brothers own one mile square prairie and timber, 80 acres under cultivation.

Last Monday, I went to work on the farm plowing and harrowing. Got a very good idea of prairie farming, he has sowed 50 acres and is going to sow and plant 30 acres more. He has 15 acres spring wheat sowed. He has about 100 bushels of wheat on hand. Looks about as plump as York State winter wheat, has 200 bushels potatoes. I ate of them, the best I’ve ate this year. Had corn, and other grain in abundance, I fared better there than I have at any other place since I left Steuben and that’s saying a great deal.

Tuesday I came over here and engaged in the lumber business with James Getchell who lives in this town. Do not know how long I shall remain her. Labor of every kind seems to be in good demand. This a new town has one hotel (where I am now boarding) one steam saw mill and more going up immediately. This is a great town can’t say as it will compare with the country around the stream of which Burns sung however they have got some splendid trout streams in this place.

As I have an opportunity to send this by a gentleman that is going directly to Hudson I must necessarily hurry. I shall have the same gent enquire if there is any letters there from you. I think I shall go up there myself next week. Have seen or heard of Ace but conclude he is still Hudson which is only 3 miles on the opposite side of the lake. My lumbering business is all in the St. Croix Lake. They say letters are often several weeks coming or going to and from Eastern states so I concluded that I would not get one from you before next week some time if I did as soon. I will wrote you again tomorrow (Sunday) and give more particulars.

You must collect enough of Theodore to keep along till I can send you some money. I think he will sent you it when ever you let him know that you want it. It is now due.

Game is very plenty here but I have not taken time to fish or hunt since I came here, have seen three deer at time two or three times within rifle shot and plenty of Prairie Hens Plover Ducks. W. Getchell caught a fine string of brook trout in brook that runs across his farm that day that I was there Monday. We had them for breakfast Tuesday morn before I came over here. I sent Mary a Minnesota newspaper the other day. I will send you more immediately. The mail leaves here only once a week (Tuesday). I have been so tired and busy I have not written to any body but you for several days. Should be glad to hear from you tonight but must bide the mail.

The weather has been tolerable cold since I’ve been here and I suppose it has nearly every where else. We have had however two or three comfortably warm days. The oak trees have not yet leaved out but they are budding nicely. Cattle begin to get a mess of grass. Wild plums and cranberries are abundant in this country and good substitute for apples which they do not have.

St. Paul is about 18 miles from Afton by wagon road about 30 by lake and river. From what I can learn of this territory and I have taken a good deal of pains to do so. Minneapolis and St. Anthony are the finest towns in this Territory with a splendid country of land surrounding them. I mean to go up there in a few weeks perhaps within a week however I may work about here all the season. I do not think it practicable for me to encourage you to come yet. I want to learn more about the country.

They break up prairie here in the summer months generally and if I can succeed in getting a piece of land which I think I can if I have my health. I can get it ready perhaps by next fall. I think this is a fine land as I ever saw. They saw garden vegetables grow very large and very quick after they once started the gardens. I’ve seen them black as those of NY State that have been manured for years. Any of the good prairie or oak openings are rich enough for gardens as soon as they are subdued.

The river and lake is the highest it has been for 15 years except last spring but is gradually falling. Millions of saw logs are floating loose on the lake. They cut them on the rivers that flow into the lake and float down. Every log is marked by the man that owns it before he lets it drift. One man or general agent sees to picking them up and rafting them getting them into booms and to saw mills. Experienced hands get from 3 to 5 dollars per day for that kind of work, that is what I have been engaged in this week. Whether I shall work at much more can not be known at present but will let you in due time.

Tell Jennie and Lib that the wild plum trees are so low that they could stand on the ground and pick them off. They grow from three to eight feet high with busy tops their plumbs are said to very excellent.

Your most devoted husband,

Joe Shaw

I will write you again in a day or two. Write often perhaps some of them will come if not all. You know not how anxious I am to hear from You.

 

Donate

Events

Upcoming Events

More information: WCHS Events >>>

Membership

Preserve the Past, Share in the Future!

Become a member of the Washington County Historical Society!

Membership is one way that you can help support the Washington County Historical Society. Your membership helps us collect, preserve, and disseminate the history of Washington County for county residents and visitors in the belief that a historical perspective enhances our understanding of community and sense of place.

Benefits of membership:

  • FREE admission to the Warden’s House Museum in Stillwater and Hay Lake Museum Complex in Scandia
  • Discounts on purchases in the museum gift shop (10% Individual & Family members, 15% Patron & Sustaining members)
  • FREE use of WCHS library and research center
  • Subscription to Historical Whisperings, the society’s quarterly newsletter
  • Discounts on tickets to membership meetings
  • Knowing that your membership dollars support the preservation of our treasured past for generations to come

The Washington County Historical Society has depended on membership ever since it was formed in 1934. Please show your support for the organization by becoming a member today.

More: WCHS Membership >>>

Washington County Historical Society

Mission Statement

Washington County Historical Society collects, preserves, and disseminates the history of the county and state of Minnesota.

Find us on Facebook!

 

 

 

 

Set-Set-Set Hike!

Local history articles, news, and events from the Washington County Historical Society
This issue: Contents
Tuesday, September 9th, 2014
  • Editor’s Note
  • WCHS News: Hay Lake Speaker Series: The Story Objects Tell
  • WCHS News: WCHS Annual Fall Dinner Meeting
  • Photo of the Week: Northfield Bank Robbery Anniversary
  • Old News: Raiding the Fridge
  • Featured Article: Set-Set-Set Hike! Football in Stillwater

Editor’s Note

Hello! Welcome to the latest Historical Messenger!

As is the norm; we’ll start this issue by letting you good folks know about a few upcoming events we have in store in our News section.

It’s no secret that the story of the Younger Brothers is one of our prized feathers in the WCHS metaphorical hat. Our connection to the famous gunslingers truly helps put the Warden’s House Museum on the national map. The whole drama that lead to the trio’s unwilling migration to Washington County began on September 7th, 1876. We’ll retell that famous story in today’s Photo of the Week.

And we have another equally well-thought-out heist in our Old News as well!

Although we’ve now officially left the summer months behind us – at least football season is here, right?! To help kick-off the year, let’s take a quick look at some local football history.

Want to learn more about the history of Washington County? Become a fan of WCHS on Facebook or follow us on Twitter! See a new photo every week, read special articles, and stay up-to-date with the latest WCHS happenings.

Sean Pallas

Historical Messenger editor and Warden’s House Site Manager

spallas.wchs@gmail.com

WCHS News

Hay Lake Speaker Series: “The Story Objects Tell”

Mary Smith, the manager of the Stone House Museum located in Marine on the St. Croix, will be giving a detailed presentation on the importance of primary sources at the Hay Lake School Museum in Scandia on Sunday, September 21st at 2pm.

The definition of a primary source is that of a document or artifact from the actual time period in question. For many historians a primary source can give an accurate representation of a person, building, or location of a given time period.

Mary will not only be giving a presentation on the importance of primary source but will also have artifacts to show. These artifacts can be a small or large part of a story from Marine on the St. Croix, Scandia, and Washington County. This event is great for not only the experienced historian, but also for anyone who enjoys a physical history of the surrounding area.

This presentation is free to the public and will be at the Hay Lake School Museum located at 14020 195th St. N. Marine on St. Croix, MN 55047. If there are any questions about this event please contact Dustyn Dubuque at (651) 433-4014 or at dustyn.dubuque@hotmail.com.

 

WCHS News

Fall Membership Dinner Meeting

The Washington County Historical Society is excited to announce that Frederick L. Johnson will be the featured speaker for the Washington County Historical Society membership dinner meeting held on Thursday September 25th at the Water Street Inn in Stillwater.

Johnson has taught in St. Paul Public Schools for 34 years, earning the Minnesota Chamber Foundation’s Education Excellence Award in 1987 and receiving a 1990 national Thanks to Teachers award at the Kennedy Center Education Leadership Institute in Washington D.C. He also received the Minnesota Historical Society’s Excellence in Teaching History award in 1990 and 1992.

He was the associate editor and reporter for the South Washington County Bulletin from 1970 to 1983 in Cottage Grove. During this time he won the Minnesota Newspaper Association First Places for reporting in 1975 and again in 1977.

Johnson has written nine books about Minnesota history along with numerous magazine articles. His new book, “The Sea Wing Disaster: Tragedy on Lake Pepin” is an expanded and updated version of his original, The Sea Wing Disaster, published by the Goodhue County Historical Society in 1986. The new edition includes 185 photographs and maps along with new research found in letters, documents and public records.

The Sea Wing, a river steamboat, capsized during a storm on Lake Pepin on July 13, 1890. There were 215 passengers on the excursion out of Red Wing. Nearly 100 of the passengers died making it still one of the most deadly accidents on the nation’s inland waters.

The event is open to the public and the cost is $20 for WCHS members and $25 for nonmembers.

The evening will begin at 5:30 with a social hour, dinner at 6:30 and the business meeting will be at 7:30. Mr. Johnson’s presentation will be after the short business meeting. Books will be available to purchase at the event.

Reservations are required. To make reservations or for more information about the event please call 651-439-5956 or visit www.wchsmn.org.

Photo of the Week

Thomas Coleman “Cole” Younger – September 1876

At around 2:00 in the afternoon, 138 years ago this past Sunday, the eight-man strong James-Younger Gang had their sights on the vaults of the Northfield Bank. But their plan was about to fail in the most spectacular fashion.

As Frank James, Jesse James, and Bob Younger stood inside the bank itself, growing increasingly frustrated at Joseph Heywood’s refusal to open the safe, the citizens of Northfield began taking notice of the commotion. Hardware store owner J.S. Allen saw the armed men through a bank window and instead of adding him to their pool of hostages, gang member Clell Miller made the fateful decision of sternly suggesting that Allen should continue down the street minding his own business. Naturally, the cool-headed man raised the alarm instead.

Within moments, the whole street had turned into a warzone. Sharpshooting Northfield men made their way to every window and rooftop, quickly seizing the advantage against the outnumbered raiders. Both sides drew blood from one another.

Out of spite, Heywood had been slashed by a knife and then shot in the head by one of the Jameses. (The specific brother often shifts depending on who is narrating the tale.) In the confusion and crossfire, another bystander, Nicholas Gustavson, had been gunned down as well.

Two of the gang’s less-famous members, Clell Miller and Bill Chadwell were dead in the dust. They would suffer the further indignity of becoming a gruesome souviner photo – still found in Northfield gift shops today. Warning: Graphic Photograph of Two Corpses

After barely escaping the disaster, the surviving robbers decided to split their party into two sections. The James boys would flee in one direction and the three Youngers and Charlie Pitts in another. Mr. Pitts selected the wrong travelling companions.

On September 21st, the hundreds of Minnesotans who were now hunting the fugitives managed to track the three Youngers and Pitts a swamp outside of Medelia. After another brief but intense firefight – Pitts was dead and as Cole Younger later described, the three brothers had been “shot to pieces.” In the above photograph taken shortly after the Younger’s capture, you can see Cole’s eye swelled shut due to a bullet lodged underneath his skin. Jim had taken a shot to through his lip into the roof of his mouth that would cause him constant pain for the remainder of his life.

A few short weeks later, the Youngers would begin their 25 year stay at the Minnesota State Prison in Stillwater.

 

 Old News

Raiding the Fridge

Alright, we got a little heavy there with murdered bank cashiers and grisly post-mortem photography. Let’s cleanse our paletes with a slightly more light-hearted tale…although this will include a bit of criminal activity as well.

A Robber of Ice Boxes – Stillwater Messenger – September 9, 1905

John Currie, who lives with a widowed mother at 1218 Sixth Ave. South, was arrested by policeman Maher last Friday night while in the act of robbing the refrigerator at the residence of W. H. Caldwell. It was the third time within a couple of weeks that this same refrigerator had been robbed of its contents. Currie is a young man, aged 22 years and has been employed in the printing offices of this city. He pleaded guilty of petit larceny and was sentenced to 90 days in the county jail.

FEATURED ARTICLE

Set-Set-Set Hike! Football in Stillwater

by Brent Peterson

To go into the history of football in Stillwater, we should visit some of the high school’s championship clubs that have played on the gridiron in this city.

One of the most powerful football clubs in Stillwater High School history would have to be the 1943 team coached by Leo A. Rorman with Assistant Coach Phil Belfiori. In that year, the team went undefeated [7-0] and outscored the other clubs 192 to 13. If there were state championship that year surely Stillwater would have captured the trophy.

In 1971, playoffs were started for the state high school football champions. In 1975, four years after the playoff system was started and also just four years after George Thole became the high school football coach, the Stillwater Ponies found themselves playing Richfield for the State Class AA Championship.

The game was played on a cool Friday night in November at Parade Stadium in St. Paul. Both teams had extremely good years and were both undefeated entering the championship game. There were 14,000 fans on hand, and at that time it set a single-game playoff attendance record.

The game was hard fought and the scoring took place not only on the passing game but also on the ground. The quarterback for Stillwater was Mike Nolan. He completed only six passes in the game but they were good for 124 yards. His main target through the air was Bob de St. Aubin who caught five of those passes for 97 yards, which included the winning touchdown with 18 seconds left in the game.

Todd Butterfield and Terry Richert kept Stillwater moving on the ground. Richert scored a touchdown on a four yard run and de St. Aubin scored earlier on a 42-yard pass from Nolan. Richfield had scored on a Mike Connelly seven yard run a 56-yard pass play from Joe Smith to Mike Voelker and then Dave Larson added a 30-yard field goal.

With the score 17-13, the Stillwater Ponies drive 77-yards with the last play being the short pass to de St. Aubin for the touchdown. After the game, coach Thole said “we played a real worth opponent in Richfield. I know that. Our defense just rose up and stuck it to them in the second and third quarters. We shut down their running game.”

Since 1975 George Thole had led the Stillwater High School Football Team into the championship game several more times, winning some and losing some. As we watch this year’s squad get set to start a new era in the football teams history, let us not forget the history of champions that have been given to us.

 

Donate

Events

Upcoming Events

More information: WCHS Events >>>

Membership

Preserve the Past, Share in the Future!

Become a member of the Washington County Historical Society!

Membership is one way that you can help support the Washington County Historical Society. Your membership helps us collect, preserve, and disseminate the history of Washington County for county residents and visitors in the belief that a historical perspective enhances our understanding of community and sense of place.

Benefits of membership:

  • FREE admission to the Warden’s House Museum in Stillwater and Hay Lake Museum Complex in Scandia
  • Discounts on purchases in the museum gift shop (10% Individual & Family members, 15% Patron & Sustaining members)
  • FREE use of WCHS library and research center
  • Subscription to Historical Whisperings, the society’s quarterly newsletter
  • Discounts on tickets to membership meetings
  • Knowing that your membership dollars support the preservation of our treasured past for generations to come

The Washington County Historical Society has depended on membership ever since it was formed in 1934. Please show your support for the organization by becoming a member today.

More: WCHS Membership >>>

Washington County Historical Society

Mission Statement

Washington County Historical Society collects, preserves, and disseminates the history of the county and state of Minnesota.

Find us on Facebook!