Washington County Historical Society

Gateway to Minnesota History

Month: December 2014

Pulling Up Tracks

 

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This issue: Contents
Tuesday, December 30th, 2014
  • Editor’s Note
  • WCHS News: Winter Ice Cream Social
  • WCHS News: WCHS Annual Membership Meeting – Cathy Wurzer
  • Photo of the Week: New Year Greetings
  • Old News: Tragic Foreshadowing for the Warden’s House
  • Featured Article: Pulling Up Tracks
Editor’s Note

Whew! Congratulations to all of you for surviving yet another hectic Yuletide season! Between driving to the in-laws, scrambling to find those last minute gifts, and, of course, frantically wrapping said presents as your guests arrive – I’d be willing to wager that many of you haven’t found a single moment to sit and relax in weeks!

Well my holiday-weary friends, it’s time to toss your feet up on your desk, try your best to ignore whoever is still listening to Jingle Bells in the office next door, and let yourself enjoy today’s issue of the Historical Messenger.

One of my favorite events of the WCHS Calendar is just around the corner – scroll down to our first News Story for the inside scoop on how to start your 2015 off with free ice cream!

Our Annual Membership Meeting date has now been officially set for March 26th. See the second News Story for more information.

Stop by our the Photo of the Week for a New Year’s greeting from your favorite county historical society.

In today’s Old News, we’ll take a look at the middle of a story that we already know has a sad ending.

Only 8 days ago on December 22nd, the locomotives of the Minnesota Zephyr were loaded up on trucks to begin their permenant departure from Stillwater. The Minnesota Zephyr was operated as a popular dinner train from 1985-2008 until raising costs and diminishing interest caused it’s owner and operator to lose $1.6 million in the last two years of the attraction’s run. Until last week, the train sat, unused and for all practical purposes abandoned, across the street from the Warden’s House Museum. It’s removal marks the end of another chapter of Stillwater’s story.

But this isn’t the first time a piece of iconic railroad history has disappeared from Stillwater. Head down to our Featured Article to read about the unfortunate and short-sighted loss of the Stillwater Union Depot.

Want to learn more about the history of Washington County? “Like” WCHS on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Sean Pallas

Historical Messenger editor and Warden’s House Site Manager

spallas.wchs@gmail.com

WCHS News 

Winter Ice Cream Social

On Saturday, January 17th, the Washington County Historical Society you to a Winter Ice Cream Social, which runs from Noon – 4:00 PM.

Why on Earth would we hold an ice cream social in the middle of January??

Well, first off, the ice cream doesn’t melt. Secondly…um…I guess that’s really the only advantage. But trust me – it’s fun!

Join your neighbors and fellow hearty Northerners for some free Leo’s Malt and Grill Shop Ice Cream, Root Beer from Lift Bridge Brewing, Hot Chocolate from Pub 112, and Daily Grind Coffee while we scoff at Father Winter’s best efforts to keep us indoors!

Chili from Leo’s will also be available for a nominal fee.

More Events

WCHS News

Annual Membership Meeting – Cathy Wurzer

We are excited to announce that Cathy Wurzer will be the special Guest Speaker at the 2015 WCHS Annual Membership Meeting! The meeting will take place on Thursday, March 26th at the Water Street Inn in Stillwater, MN. The event begins with a social hour at 5:30 PM. Dinner will then be served at 6:30 PM followed by a brief meeting and vote for WCHS Board Members. The presentation is scheduled to begin at 8:00 PM.

Cathy Wurzer is the host of Morning Edition for MPR News. She is also the co-host of Almanac, a weekly public affairs program produced by Twin Cities Public Television for Minnesota’s statewide public television network. Wurzer has won four Emmy Awards for her work on Almanac. Prior to her return to radio, she was an anchor and reporter for WCCO-TV, the CBS affiliate in Minneapolis. She has also been a talk show host for WCCO-AM radio, a producer for KMSP-TV, and political reporter for KSTP-AM radio.

She will be discussing and selling/signing copies of her 2008 book, “Tales of the Road: Highway 61“.

Tickets are $20.00 for Members of WCHS and $25.00 for Non-Members.

Reservations are required. Reservations can be made online or by calling 651-439-5956.

Photo of the Week

New Year Greetings

So..is it just me, or is this News Years card pretty weird?

I totally understand the clock about to strike midnight…but everything else in this picture just raises questions.

Who has allowed these young children to operate a truck? What’s in the sacks they are transporting? What does the million written on each one mean? Do they each have a million dollars? Are these two kids driving around with at least 11 million dollars…? They are going pretty fast through the middle of a snow covered field, far away from town…in the middle of the night…is something illegal happening in this picture? Is this a depiction of the aftermath of some kind of heist? That would definitely explain their creepy expressions…

And the most important question – where the heck are their necks?!

…in all seriousness though, Happy New Years from WCHS! Thank you all so much for the support over the last year. During 2014, we increased our attention and focus towards hosting programs at both the Warden’s House and the Hay Lake School. Because of this shift, both of our sites saw significant increases in attendance this year when compared to 2013 and you can expect that change in tone to continue through the 2015 season.

Keep your eyes on our website and this newsletter and make sure you’re part of the fun we’re having at WCHS this coming year!

Happy New Years!

Full Image

Old News

Tragic Foreshadowing for the Warden’s House

Just in the last issue of the Messenger we discussed how newspapers of the past didn’t shy away from publishing private personal matters. While this may have upset the subjects of the stories at the time, it really does allow historians a very intimate look into the lives of these people.

Warden Henry Wolfer was the longest serving Warden of the Old Stillwater Prison. Since he was the resident of our humble museum for 20 years, we know a good deal of information concerning not only his professional life but also his personal and family happenings. The main drama of the latter being the death of his daughter Gertrude.

After marrying the prison physician, Gertrude and her new husband moved across the state to Blue Earth, Minnesota around 1907. Unfortunately, shortly after the birth of their first son Winston, the young mother suffered a case of appendicitis and passed away.

Although I had always imagined to be a case of a sudden and lethal bout of unhealthiness – the following short article reveals poor Trudy’s appendix woes to be part of a longer pattern. It also tragically records her family’s ultimately futile efforts.

News Briefs – Stillwater Messenger – December 30, 1905

Mr. and Mrs. Warden Wolfer and daughter Gertrude leave in a few days for Florida, to be gone a couple of months. They go in the hope of benefiting their daughters’ health, which has been poorly of late.

Featured Article

Pulling Up Tracks

by Brent Peterson

There have been many buildings that have come and gone in Stillwater either by fire, flood or by just being torn down. Some don’t bring many memories back, some bring a few, but no other building brings back the flood of memories than the old Stillwater Union Depot.

It was the Stillwater and St. Paul Railroad that constructed an 18-mile railroad track from White Bear Lake to Stillwater. The track reached the north part of Stillwater on December 29, 1870 (144 years and a day ago) and that was when Stillwater was connected with the rest of the world.

Within the next 15 years, Stillwater was the end of the line for four branch lines of three different railroads. This made for much passenger confusion, so a petition was passed around by Stillwater residents for the creation of a “Union Station.”

The transfer company, which linked the railroads together, took on the depot project. The head of the transfer company was Dwight M. Sabin, a Stillwater resident and U.S. Senator.

The transfer company was in “receivership” or what today we would call chapter 11, but the company went ahead with the construction of the new depot in July 1887. Chicago architects Edward Burling and Francis Whitehouse were contracted to design the building and local contractor L.W. Eldred was hired to build it.

The building opened to the public on February 7, 1888 to a great charity ball. The headline in the Stillwater Gazette read, “For Sweet Charity’s Sake” and continued with “The opening of the Union Station a Brilliant Success.”

The exterior of the building was done in the Gothic Revival style with stone arches, gables and at the northwest corner, a 75-foot clock tower. The building was built with “drab colored cut stone, furnished by Henry Furst & Co. of Chicago.” Each stone was numbered and fit in the place for which it was designed in a “snug” manner. The foundation walls were constructed with Stillwater stone furnished by C. Colgren. The roof was made of slate with tin and copper rain spouts. All the pine timbers used in the construction were purchased from Hersey & Bean lumber company and from John G. Nelson. F.H. Lemon, of Stillwater, did the painting and decorating of the building.

Inside the building there were oak, maple and pine floors, along with beautiful stained glass windows and terra cotta fireplace mantles. It had 20 functioning rooms on two floors that were ornately decorated with tongue and grooved wainscoting and bevel edged mirrors. The depot was equipped with electricity, but it also included gas lighting.

The total cost of the depot was $45,000 and Sam Hadley was the proprietor of the “cozy little barbershop” and Dan Harkins was in charge of the baggage room while George Hill oversaw the “check room.”

Three transfer companies operated the depot at one time or another, all failing. James J. Hill’s Northern Pacific Railroad purchased the final transfer company in 1902. Northern Pacific stopped passenger service from the depot in 1927, but kept a ticket office there until 1954.

In 1903, just after Hill purchased the transfer company, a new ticket agent started at the depot. Joseph Carroll, later known to most of Stillwater as “Papa” Joe Carroll would work and live at the depot for more than five decades. The depot went through many changes of occupants during its life. Morey Crotto operated the lunch counter starting in 1932. The ladies waiting room was converted into the bus depot in 1946. By 1952, the bus depot closed and the place was used by the St. Croix Valley Arts group until 1955.

Russell Gilbert took over ownership of the depot in 1955 where he began his business called United Fabricators and Electronics [UFE]. He sold the depot to Hooley’s in 1959 when his new building on South Greeley Street was completed (which, of course, WCHS purchased and is the process of converting into the new Washington County Heritage Center).

Hooley’s torn down the old depot in April 1960 to make way for a new and modern supermarket.

It has been more than 50 years since the Union Station was hauled away from the skyline of Stillwater’s downtown. It is probably the most felt and grieved building that was lost in Stillwater, but not the only one. As Stillwater prepares itself for another transformation with the construction of the new St. Croix River Crossing, let us not lose sight of what once was and vow to not to lose anymore than we already have.

Full Image of Depot

WASHINGTON COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY | GiveMN

 

Upcoming Events

More information: WCHS Events >>>

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 collects, preserves, and disseminates the history of the county and state of Minnesota.

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Grey Cloud Island Township

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This issue: Contents
Tuesday, December 16th, 2014
  • Editor’s Note
  • WCHS News: Winter Ice Cream Social
  • WCHS News: The Gift of Membership
  • Photo of the Week: Streetcar Buried in Snow
  • Old News: Your Personal Problems Are Our Headlines
  • Featured Article: Grey Cloud Island Township

Editor’s Note

No…no… it’s okay. It’s fine that it snowed last night. I mean, last week’s gorgeous weather was just a fluke! I didn’t expect it to last forever …no… no, I’ll be fine

sigh – Welcome back to winter everybody.

At least the snow held off for our Annual Holiday Sale this past Saturday! With the temperature in the 40s, we had the biggest turn out in years. And I can very happily report that this latest event puts the total 2014 attendance to the Warden’s House Museum above the 2,000 mark! To give this milestone a bit of prespective, this is an increase of about 25% from last year.

So a huge and monumental thank you to everyone for a fantastic 2014!

To learn how to start your 2015 off on the right foot – be sure to check out our first News Story!

Those of you with names still on your shopping list should head down to our second bit of News for a unique Christmas gift idea.

While this morning’s light dusting of fluffy-white-stuff may have been a bit of a bummer – you’ll want to button your coat up and toss on a scarf before scrolling down to our Photo of the Week.

Are you sick of your friends on Facebook oversharing? In the Old News section, you’ll see that back in 1905 it was the local newspapers who were doling out TMI.

And finally, we’ll learn a little about one of the oldest settlements in Washington County in today’s Featured Article.

And since we won’t be chatting again until the 30th, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Want to learn more about the history of Washington County? “Like” WCHS on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Sean Pallas

Historical Messenger editor and Warden’s House Site Manager

spallas.wchs@gmail.com

WCHS News 

Winter Ice Cream Social

ice_cream_social_poster_digital_smallOn Saturday, January 17th, the Washington County Historical Society you to a Winter Ice Cream Social, which runs from Noon – 4:00 PM.

Why on Earth would we hold an ice cream social in the middle of January??

Well, first off, the ice cream doesn’t melt. Secondly…um…I guess that’s really the only advantage. But trust me – it’s fun!

Join your neighbors and fellow hearty Midwesterners for some free Leo’s Malt and Grill Shop Ice Cream, Root Beer from Lift Bridge Brewing, Hot Chocolate from Pub 112, and Daily Grind Coffee while we scoff at Father Winter’s best efforts to keep us indoors!

More Events

WCHS News

The Gift of Membership

Gift shopping time is winding down, but don’t worry! WCHS is here to help!

For the man or woman who has everything, how about part ownership in the preservation of their community’s histor? The best way to do just that is by giving a Gift Membership to the Washington County Historical Society!

With their Membership, the special person in your life will be able to visit both our museums for free, use our research center for free, and will also get a free subscription to our quarterly newsletter the Historical Whisperings! This unique gift will be a lasting memory for any history buff and a Student Membership is a great stocking-stuffer for any junior historian!

Our online gift shop is also still shipping out your Christmas needs!

Anyone who’s spent any time in Stillwater needs to own the Ode to Stillwater documentary; an amazing collection of films from the turn of the 20th century taken by legendary Stillwater photographer John Runk.

Or help your loved one commemorate the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War with In Their Own Words, a collection of letters and diary entries by Washington County soldiers during the War Between the States.

And of course! Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday from WCHS!

Photo of the Week

Streetcar Buried in Snow – Stillwater – Feburary 1917

As you can see above, the weather could be much, much worse!

In the 1916-1917 winter season, Stillwater received roughly 100 inches of snow! The worst of it fell during a series of blizzards in January and February. You can see in the photograph that the snowbank appears to be even with the top of the streetcar! …hopefully the guy in the front had some help shoveling…

Things got pretty bad in downtown as well. Here’s a photograph looking down Chestnut Street at the bridge.

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Old News 

Your Personal Problems Are Our Headlines

In the past, I’ve shared examples of early 1900s newspapers being rather “gossipy”. From reporting on family day-trips to detailing specific guests townfolk had over for dinner – the editors of these papers seemed to find these mundane stories a good use of their ink.

So, if these common day-to-day occurences were turned into articles – you better believe they shared any juicy gossip they stumbled across.

Both these articles appeared on the same page of the Stillwater Messenger. And you’ll probably think that they’re rather personal in nature. I would think that the subjects of these stories weren’t particularly excited that their personal woes could be found in the Saturday edition.

Has Mental Trouble & An Unfortunate Girl – Stillwater Messenger – December 16, 1905

Has Mental Trouble

Robert J. Porter of South Stillwater, now conducting a saloon in that village, is suffering “from a mind diseased,” or at least that is what some of his friends apprehend, and a court of inquiry was held Monday by a commission of physicians who decided that his trouble might be temporary and he was sent back to the city hospital to await events and further inquiry. He has since been sent home in the care of his wife.

An Unfortunate Girl

That poor girl, Anna Newman, who has been in the prison and the hospital in this state several times, was again transferred from the prison here to the Rochester asylum. The girl has been insane for years and we doubt if she is at all responsible for any of her acts. She is most unforunate and greatly to be pitied. Her former home was near Stillwater Junction. We believe her parents and relatives are dead.

Featured Article

Grey Cloud Island Township

If you’d like to learn about the histories of other cities, towns, and villages of Washington County, check out our Community Histories page!

Grey Cloud Island has a long history of settlement by Native American peoples. It was an important place for the Woodland mound-builders (c. 100 B.C. to 600 A.D.) and for people of the Late Mississippian culture around 1000 A.D. The island has the largest concentration of mounds in the county.

The only Indian village known to have existed in Washington County was on the island. In the 1830s about 40 families of the Mdewakanton band headed by Medicine Bottle moved from Kaposia (South St. Paul) to the northwestern par of Grey Cloud Island.

The Treaties of 1837, by which the Dakota ceded their lands east of the Mississippi to the United States, required that all Dakota villages be moved, so in 1838 Medicine Bottle moved to Pine Bend in Dakota County. The bark houses his band left behind were taken over by the families of fur trader Hazen Mooers and his son-in-law, Andrew Robertson. Robertson named the island for his mother-in-law, Margaret Mooers, whose Dakota name was Grey Cloud Woman.

Continue the Story

WASHINGTON COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY | GiveMN

Upcoming Events

More information: WCHS Events >>>

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 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.

First People of the Valley

Receive the Historical Messenger in your inbox once every two weeks by signing up for our mailing list!

 
This issue: Contents
Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014
  • Editor’s Note
  • WCHS News: Warden’s House Holiday Event
  • WCHS News: Winter Ice Cream Social
  • Photo of the Week: District No. 21 – Lakeland School
  • Old News: A Bit More Involved Than Kraft
  • Featured Article: The First People of the Valley

Editor’s Note

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are still enjoying the fourth day in a row of leftover turkey sandwiches. Toss some questionable mashed potatoes and another helping of turkey in the microwave and settle in for today’s Historical Messenger!

Apparently folks are starting to realize that shopping on Black Friday is sort of miserable. Why wait in the cold at 4:00 AM just so you and a dozen strangers can trample over each other? Check out our first News Story to learn about our much more pleasant and personal gift shopping opportunity.

And don’t be too sad that 2014 is almost over – that just means the 2015 WCHS event season is just starting! Learn about the first event on our 2015 Calendar in our second bit of News .

From the 1850s to the 1950s, children’s education in Washington County was handled by 79 loosely organized rural school districts. We’ll take a look at one of these districts in our Photo of the Week.

Head down to Old News for an early 20th century take on a modern-day college student dietary staple.

Finally, we’ll read some interesting and surprising facts about the original inhabitants of the St. Croix River Valley.

And one correction from the last e-newsletter: the photographer who captured that beautiful image of the Post Office desk is Marilyn Rau and can be contacted at mrphotography@frontier.com.

Want to learn more about the history of Washington County? “Like” WCHS on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Sean Pallas

Historical Messenger editor and Warden’s House Site Manager

spallas.wchs@gmail.com

WCHS News

Warden’s House Holiday Sale

On Saturday, December 13th, the Washington County Historical Society invites the public to our Annual Holiday Event at the Warden’s House Museum, which runs from Noon – 4:00 PM.

Avoid the aggressive department store crowds and instead have a truly unique holiday shopping experience while enjoying Caribou Coffee, meeting local authors, and listening to live holiday songs provided by local student musicians at our book sale. Not to mention that some of our most popular titles will be up to 50% off their normal price!

Our books and DVDs cover a wide variety topics such the histories of various Washington County communities, notable historical figures from the area, Minnesotans in the Civil War, and of course, the Old Stillwater Prison and the infamous Younger Brothers.

This year’s featured authors Robert and Nancy Goodman (In Their Own Words, The Last Rafter, and more), Nicole Helget (Stillwater), Ken Martens (The Perilous St. Croix River Valley Frontier), and Brent Peterson (Stillwater: The Next Generation) will be on hand to chat about their newest works and sign copies of their books. This is the perfect personalized gift for the lover of history in your life!

The Warden’s House 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 event or to arrange a tour of the museum.

WCHS News 

Winter Ice Cream Social

On Saturday, January 17th, the Washington County Historical Society you to a Winter Ice Cream Social, which runs from Noon – 4:00 PM.

Why on Earth would we hold an ice cream social in the middle of January??

Well, first off, the ice cream doesn’t melt. Secondly…um…I guess that’s really the only advantage. But trust me! It’s fun!

Join your neighbors and fellow hearty Midwesterners for some free Leo’s Malt and Grill Shop Ice Cream, Root Beer from Lift Bridge Brewing, Hot Chocolate from Pub 112, and Coffee while we scoff at Father Winter’s best efforts to keep us indoors!

Photo of the Week

District No. 21 – Lakeland School

Originally created in 1851, District 21 extended from the St. Croix River to just north of St. Croix Beach and surrounded the Lakeland community.

For its first decade, the school district didn’t actually have a school. Classes were held in various generous community members homes. Obviously, a long term solution had to be devised.

In 1869, the two-story wooden building in the photograph above was constructed for a cost of around $6,000. Grades 1-4 were held downstairs and Grades 5-8 were upstairs. At it’s height, Lakeland School had around 100 students and each grade was held in a different classroom. However, as cities and population centers became more established, by 1938 only 42 students attended Lakeland School regularly.

In the fall of 1948, the school burned to the ground and the district was absorbed by the nearby Afton district.

Over the years, WCHS has been fortunate enough to collect a few memories of this extinct school district from its former students.

“There was no electricity in the schoolhouse when I started. There were kerosene lamps in side brackets on the walls near each window. When a suggestion was made to the school board [for electricity]…Andrew Nelson addressed my father with a strong Swedish accent and said ‘Sixty years ago when I went to school we didn’t have ‘lectric lights. If your girl needs glasses, take her to the doctor.’ I did get glasses at age eleven and District 21 got electricity!” – Peggy Wolter

“The teachers rode to school on the school bus from old Stillwater Motor. This bus returned to Stillwater with the high school pupils. The teachers then returned from Lakeland to the old Stillwater Motor Garage.” – Marcella Schrank Fisher

“The huge coal stove with the ornate jacket that kept us warm in winter…the ice slide we made and tore down on our feet or on chunks of cardboard. It’s a wonder we didn’t break our necks.” – Mavis Smart Johnson

Old News 

A Bit More Involved Than Kraft

I probably still have food on the brain because of Thanksgiving …but doesn’t this sound delicious?!

Macaroni With Cheese – Stillwater Messenger – December 2, 1911

Wipe a nice quantity of macaroni with a clean, dry cloth, break and throw it into boiling, salted water. Let it boil until it yields easily to pressure between the fingers. Drain it in a colander and rinse it thoroughly in cold water. Put into a saucepan 1 ounce each of butter and flour, and stir them together over the fire until they form a thick paste. Heat a cup of half milk and water to the boiling point and stir gradually into the butter and flour, season to taste with pepper, salt and a dash of nutmeg, add the macaroni; grate two ounces of hard, dry cheese and when the macaroni is quite hot stir in the cheese. Sprinkle with bread crumbs, add a few bits of butter and stand in the over just long enough to brown.

Featured Article

The First People of the Valley

by Bob Goodman, from “A History of Washington County: Gateway to Minnesota History

Humans have lived in the St. Croix and Mississippi River valleys for about 12,000 years. The earliest prehistoric tradition was that of Paleo-Indian nomadic people who hunted big game such as mastodon and bison. From 10,000 to 3,000 years ago, Archaic tradition people, makers of stone tools, may have lived or hunted here. Woodland culture people of about 2,500 years ago produced the mounds that are still visible in parts of the county. These people made pottery and also began to raise crops.

Grey Cloud Island was an important place for the Woodland mound-buildings (c.600 B.C. to 600 A.D.) and for people of the Late Mississippian culture around 1000 A.D. These people used the Mississippi River as a conduit for trade and settlement. By the nineteenth century the Mdewakanton Dakota had moved into the area.

The Dakota, called Sioux by Euro-Americans, originally lived in central and northern Minnesota around Mille Lacs Lake, which is where Father Louis Hennepin found them in 1680. Their name, Mdewakanton, means “people of Spirit Lake.”

By settlement times the Dakota had been pushed south by Ojibwe people known to early settlers as Chippewa. Dakota and Ojibwe had a history of conflict and keep some distance between their settlements, with the nearest Ojibwe villages on Pokegama Lake in Pine County and the Dakota mainly on the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers. Washington County was in general a no-man’s land, home only to hunting and war parties.

The United States established an agency for the Dakota at Fort Snelling in 1820. In 1825 the rival groups were persuaded to sign a peace treaty and accept a U.S. government-surveyed dividing line between them that followed approximately the northern line of the county. It did not really keep them apart, as both Dakota and Ojibwe came to the Indian Agency at Fort Snelling. Both groups continued to use the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers as a highway to the fort.

By the early 1830s a splinter group of about 40 families from the Kaposia Dakota band headed by Medicine Bottle had moved to Grey Cloud Island. Their village of bark houses was on the northwestern part of the island. No other Indian villages appear to have existed in the confines of the county at this or any later time.

Dakota Treating Signing – 1837

The St. Croix River was included when Wisconsin Territory was established in 1836, but the land between the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers was still unceded Indian land. Lumbering interests put pressure on the U.S. government to purchase the pine lands of the St. Croix. In July of 1837, Governor Henry Dodge of Wisconsin Territory met with the Ojibwe at Fort Snelling, where a treaty was signed ceding all lands of the Chippewa between the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers up to the 46th parallel to the United States. Another treaty was signed in Washington D.C. that September with the Dakota, who had claimed the lands now included in Washington County. The treaties were ratified in 1838. The few Dakota living in the county moved into unceded land west of the Mississippi.

The two nations still clashed. After an altercation in 1839, the Dakota pursued the Ojibwe to a camp on the St. Croix River in the ravine north of Stillwater and fired into theirs midst, killing more than 20. The ravine, later the site of the Territorial Prison, became known as “Battle Hollow.”

Wisconsin Territorial Governor James D. Doty negotiated a treaty with the Dakota in 1841 that would have opened all of southern Minnesota to settlement. But Congress did not agree to the terms, and it was another 10 years before the press of settlement necessitated the purchase.

In July 1851, Alexander Ramsey, Minnesota Territorial Governor, and Luke Lea, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, signed treaties with the Dakota at Travers des Sioux and Mendota that opened the vast “Suland” of southern Minnesota to settlement and consigned the Dakota to reservations along the Minnesota River, opening the floodgates to immigration.

 

WASHINGTON COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY | GiveMN

Upcoming Events

More information: WCHS Events >>>

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.

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Washington County Historical Society

Mission Statement

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