Washington County Historical Society

Gateway to Minnesota History

Month: April 2015

1965 St. Croix Valley Flood

This issue: Contents
Tuesday, April 21st, 2015
  • Editor’s Note
  • WCHS News: Warden’s House Open House
  • WCHS News: Paranormal Investigation Raffle
  • What Is This Thing?!
  • Old News: The Wrong Sort of Ghostbusting
  • Featured Article: 1965 St. Croix Valley Flood

Editor’s Note

Are we really sure we had 70 degree weather last week? As I’m sitting here typing this note, some sort of strange white fluffy stuff is fluttering outside the museum window…were those sunny days just a cruel shared hallucination?

…Welcome to Minnesota!

Thankfully, we’re about to be too busy to mourn “shorts and t-shirts” weather anyways! By the next issue of the e-newsletter, both the Warden’s House and Hay Lake School museums will be open for the season! Cue fanfare and trumpets.

And to properly start our season, our Annual Warden’s House Open House is this Sunday! Head down to our first News Story for additional details and information.

As fans of everything WCHS – you’ve probably heard of the paranormal event we have held at the museum for the last two years near Halloween. It’s become one of our most popular events and this year, we’re offering a chance for a lucky individual to get an insider’s access to the supernatural element of the Warden’s House overall narrative. Check out our second News Story if that rather cryptic teaser has piqued your interest.

Of course, I’ll also invite you wonderful readers a chance to take a crack at our sixth installment of the “What Is This Thing?!” challenge.

In Old News, you’ll read that the public’s fascination with the unknown, mysterious, and paranormal is nothing new.

And finally, this month marks the 50th anniversary of the record breaking 1965 St. Croix Valley Flood. You’ll be able to see a full exhibit, with remarkable photographs, on this harrowing episode throughout the 2015 touring season at the Warden’s House.

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 Open House

Help us launch the 2015 touring season while getting a sneak peek at the new Warden’s House exhibits at our free Open House this Sunday, April 26th from 12:00 – 4:00 PM!

This year we’ll be highlighting the industries from the Old Stillwater Prison, commemorating the end of the Civil War’s sesquicentennial, and remembering the dramatic 1965 St. Croix Valley Flood.

And all the while, you can enjoy generously donated Caribou Coffee, delicious treats and snacks, and live music by Mary Taylor Allen and her string instrument students all in a unique historic setting!

More: Events

WCHS News 

Paranormal Investigation Raffle

“Is the house haunted?” is probably the single most common question folks ask me about the Warden’s House.

If you Google “Haunted Places in Minnesota” – the Warden’s House will inevitably appear on almost every online list. Because of this reptuation, every year we receive dozens of requests to perform paranormal investigations at the museum which is simply too numerous for us to reasonably accomodate.

So this year, we’re trying something new…

Starting at the Open House on April 26th, WCHS will be selling raffle tickets to join the Johnsdale Paranormal Group on their annual overnight paranormal investigation of the Warden’s House. The tickets will be on sale at our museums throughout the summer until the drawing in early September.

Now, this isn’t a raffle for a “haunted house experience”. No costumed characters will leap out from behind curtains at you. At the same time, we obviously lack the ability to conjure any personal supernatural encounters.

The raffle winner (and one additional guest of their choice) will have a unique opportunity to learn from and work alongside experienced paranormal researchers and their state-of-the-art equipment. They will also be invited to be a part of our wildly successful Paranormal event in October.

The $10.00 ticket cost supports WCHS’ continued efforts of collecting, preserving, and disseminating the history of Washington County.

Full Contest Rules

What is This Thing?!

What Is This Thing?! (Round 6)

Thank you for another great round of What Is This Thing?!! I think we had a first this time – literally everyone who answered was able to correctly identify that the item was indeed a shoe-repairing device. (Although one person did amusingly ponder if it was a foot to a robotic grape-stomper). Two folks were even able provide the correct name: “shoe last”.

E-newsletter reader Carol Brotzler said, “How many of us youngsters didn’t have their shoes resoled on this “shoe last” during WWII?? My grandfather had several on stands and various sizes, too…made our shoes go from sibling to younger sibling while rationing lasted.”

I love hearing that people have personal stories and connections with the items in our collection, so thank you for allowing me to share that bit of your personal history with everyone!

And of course, thank you to everyone who participated!

Onto this week’s challenge! I hope this is a bit harder for you all – I think you might be able to guess what it’s used for, but do you know what this artifact is called?

Can you identify the WCHS artifact photographed above? If you’d care to venture an answer, you can send an email to me at spallas.wchs@gmail.com, tweet @WCHS2, or post your guess on our Facebook page.

Good luck!

Full Image

Old News

The Wrong Kind of Ghostbusting

As soon as I saw this article, I knew I had to include it in today’s Historical Messenger. I wanted to use this as an example of literally the exact opposite of what you can expect from the paranormal investigation raffle.

It’s definitely worth noting that the newspaper reported not only the suspected con-artists’ full names but also their home address.

…And I absolutely love that “Bob Kelly” is the name these geniuses came up with for a Fifth Century sailor.

Fake Spirit Trapped – Stillwater Messenger – April 21, 1906

Minneapolis – Cowering with fear and imploring mercy from every lineament of their palid faces, Mr. and Mrs. C. Amundson, 1125 Sixth street southeast, were exposed at a private séance, and the mask was lifted so effectively that both confessed that they had been deceiving the public for years.

While the spirit of “Bob Kelly”, a sailor, who was supposed to have died 1,500 years ago, was cavorting about the parlor floor, one of the spectators in the mystic circle leaped from his seat to embrace the ethereal Kelly, and clasped instead the living Mrs. C. Amundson, dressed in black tights and her bust draped with a veil of white silk. A struggled followed. There was a crash of breaking lamps, mingled with the groans of those whot hought they had communed with the spirits of their departed loved ones, until a pocket searchlight was turned upon the quivering form of Mrs. Amundson and another revealed the blanched face of Mr. Amundson.

Featured Article

1965 St. Croix Valley Flood

by Brent Peterson

In a case of true Minnesotan weather, the state “enjoyed” record-breaking snowfalls across the state in late March 1965. When this coupled with raising temperatures and unusually high amounts of rain – officials began to realize a serious situation was forming. The Mississippi River and its tributaries, including the St. Croix River, were going to flood.

Knowing the devastation that surely would occur without immediate action, St. Croix Valley residents leapt into action. Every available body was needed to hold back the raising waters; high school students were released from class and even fifty inmates from the Minnesota State Prison were sent to help. Starting on April 10, 1965, construction began on a massive sandbag and earthen dike to save Stillwater’s downtown area.

Because of the large number of youths helping to build the barrier, the defensive line became known as the “Teenager’s Dike”, and was adorned with a large painted sign labeling it as such.

By April 15th, city and county officials decided that all “pedestrian or moving vehicles” be prevented from entering the business district of Stillwater. Effectively sealing off downtown Stillwater for the first time in history.

Other river communities were also facing the onslaught of water. Dikes sprung up all along the banks of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers. Unfortunately, many of these could not hold back the volume of water and the dikes at Mankato, North Mankato and Chaska gave way and the volunteers were ordered to higher ground after loosing the battle with the river.

But in Stillwater when the St. Croix River finally crested at 694.07 feet above sea level on Easter morning April 18th, 19 feet above normal, the “Teenager’s Dike” held.

Fifty years later, this episode remains in our memories not only for the record water levels – but for the efforts of people from all walks of life to save their community. Roger Peterson, a Stillwater city council member during the flood, recalled that he received a call from a Minneapolis man at 6 AM Easter morning and wanted to know if it would be all right if he came over with a car load of other volunteers and help in anyway he could. Peterson responded by saying, “Sure, come on over!” The man on the phone was blind.

After the crest, the city of Stillwater re-opened on April 21st. The Hooley Supermarket created a commemorative medallion. “This medallion was designed to honor those who worked so hard to save Stillwater from a flood disaster” said Jack Hooley. The medallions, that had a picture of the “Teenager’s Dike” sign on it, were given away free with every purchase at both the Hooley stores in Stillwater.

As for the eponymous paper and paint sign, it was carefully taken down when the dike was hauled away and placed into the collections of the Washington County Historical Society where it remains as a physical reminder of the strength and comradery of the St. Croix Valley communities.

It is currently on display at the Warden’s House Museum.

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 >>>

Mission Statement

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

Conquering Nature

This issue: Contents
Tuesday, April 7th, 2015
  • Editor’s Note
  • WCHS News: Internship and Scholarship
  • WCHS News: Warden’s House Open House
  • What Is This Thing?!
  • Old News: An Udderly Ridiculous Article
  • Featured Article: Conquering Nature

Editor’s Note

A huge thank you to everyone who came to see Cathy Wurzer at our Annual Membership Meeting back on the 26th! WCHS Board President Dave Lindsey and Treasurer Tom Simonet were both re-elected to their respective positions and the membership welcomed Jeff Rankin as the newest member on the Board of Directors. In case you missed the fun, here’s a few photos of the evening’s festivities!

We are only accepting internship and scholarship applications for another 8 days! Check out our first News Story for the details. If you are interested in learning about working in the history field (and getting paid while you do it!) this is an opportunity you don’t want to miss!

In less than a month, both the Warden’s House Museum and the Hay Lake Schoolhouse will be open for tours! We’ll be kicking the season off with our Annual Open House of the Warden’s House on April 26th this year. Head down to our second News Story to learn more!

Of course, we’ll also continue with our “What Is This Thing?!” game!

In today’s Old News, we’ll read about a good ol’ fashioned, turn-of-the-century bovine brawl.

And be sure to stick around for today’s Featured Article to read a tale of the St. Croix Valley’s early residents using technology to master the world around them.

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

Internship and Scholarship

Internship

The Washington County Historical Society is offering internships for post-secondary education.

The internship program is designed to introduce students to the workings of a regional history museum and the interpretive educational process. The internship provides a rare opportunity to directly apply academic skills and training in a unique working environment, as well as provide exposure to a career as a history museum professional.

The intern should have good English skills, communication skills, be reliable and able to work both as a team member and independently. S/he should have creativity, pay attention to detail, present him/herself well, and enjoy working with the public. General history knowledge and museum work a plus.

The internship is a mixture of training and hands-on experience. The intern will be invited to learn about day-to-day operations of a small history museum, including lectures, research facilities, exhibit display and design, collections care and preservation of artifacts. The intern will assist staff in researching and developing an interpretive guided tour for visitors. Opportunities will be offered to attend to board meetings, participate in fundraising activities, assist with Society sponsored events and contribute to the quarterly newsletter.

The internships are open to all undergraduate college students majoring in the history field or like major. Please send application letter, resume, and references by April 15, 2015 to: Washington County Historical Society c/o Internship Committee, P.O. Box 167 Stillwater, MN 55082. For more information visit our website.

Scholarship

The goal of the Washington County Historical Society Scholarship program is to encourage historic preservation and interpretation, and to encourage students to study history by providing financial assistance in the form of an educational scholarship.

This scholarship is available to a graduating senior enrolled in a Washington County high school, or a student in a college or university program currently residing in Washington County (as a permanent residence) who is focusing on history, American studies, architecture, or a history-related field of study. Applications must be submitted before April 15th, 2015.

Applicants must also:

– Have a grade point average of 3.0 or higher

– Be a member of the Washington County Historical Society or have an immediate family member(s) who is/are a member of the Society.

The Scholarship Program is facilitated and managed by the Washington County Historical Society Board of Directors and administered by a designated committee.

Please visit our website for application documents.

WCHS News

Warden’s House Open House

Help us launch the 2015 touring season while getting a sneak peek at the new Warden’s House exhibits at our free Open House on Sunday, April 26th from 12:00 – 4:00 PM!

Enjoy generously donated Caribou Coffee, delicious treats and snacks, and live music by Mary Taylor Allen and her string instrument students all in a unique historic setting!

We may also have a fun surprise or two up our sleeves for the folks who attend – but you’ll just have to swing by and see them yourself!

More: Events

What Is This Thing?!

What Is This Thing?! (Round 5)

Whew! I got a lot of responses to last issue’s What Is This Thing?! challenge! While a few folks ventured answers like a Baptismal station or a knitting stand – many of your answers hovered around a smoking table, which is pretty dang close! This particular smoking table is specifically designed for cigars.

Most of those who were thinking “smoking table” were able to correctly identify that the larger, flat container in indeed an ashtray. However, the other two cup shaped holders proved a bit more challenging!

The largest cup could hold extra cigars for future use and the smaller held matches. You can even see a flat metal section on the flat surface where you could strike the matches!

Another feature of the cigar table is that the flat surface actual rotates to make accessing the various containers easier for the user.

Thank you everyone who threw a guess my way! I love reading your responses!

Onto this week’s challenge! Just what the heck is this thing!?

Can you identify the WCHS artifact photographed above? If you’d care to venture an answer, you can send an email to me at spallas.wchs@gmail.com, tweet @WCHS2, or post your guess on our Facebook page.

Good luck!

Full Image

Old News

An Udderly Ridiculous Article

Last issue’s Old News featured several grisly deaths at the hands of accidental fires. All and all an unquestionably depressing and fairly heavy topic.

So, I offer the following article as a palate cleanser.

Row Over A Cow – Stillwater Messenger – April 7, 1906

Mrs. August Miller and Mrs. Dorothy Reinsberg, of Lakeland, and a number of their neighbors appeared in the municipal court of this city to settle a dispute that occurred about a cow that was locked up by Mrs. Reinsberg for trespassing, and which led to blows between the two women.

Mrs. Reinsberg swore out warrants for the arrest of Mr. and Mrs. Miller and Judge Doe fined the latter $1: which, with costs, amounted to $34.44.

Shortly after, Mrs. Miller commenced a suit against Mrs. Reinsberg. It is a pity that the cow did not belong to the beef trust.

Featured Article

Conquering Nature

by Brent Peterson

Years ago once the river froze over and the steamboats were not able to come up the river, not much of anything happened until the spring thaw. No mail, deliveries or merchandise made it to the stores or the homes of Stillwater. Until Martin Mower, lumberman and boat builder, decided to use mankind’s latest know-how to challenge Mother Nature’s might.

Mower and his brother John established a lumber mill between Stillwater and Marine in 1847. It was there that Martin started building steamboats for the St. Croix River trade. It was in the winter of 1868-69 that he first tried to create an iceboat between Stillwater and Taylor’s Falls.

Although his first craft did make several trips carrying passengers and freight between the two communities, the rough ice that was encountered was enough to dampen any thoughts of continuous service with the vehicle. Mower’s next attempt at an iceboat came in the winter of 1876-77. There he created a boat and named it the “Queen Piajuk” after the daughter of an Ojibwa chief.

According to the Stillwater Gazette of January 31, 1877, the length of the keel was forty feet, breadth of beam eight feet; depth of hull, two feet. The one boiler was made by Rosser & Dean of Dubuque, Iowa – thirty-two inches in diameter, six feet in length. Two horizontal engines, geared to equal forty-horse power and to propel two iron driving wheels four feet in diameter with cogs, or spikes, on the rims that are “similar to the driving wheels of a locomotive.” The whole thing was placed on four large sleigh runners and was steered by means of “tiller wheel and wire tiller rope, attached to the forward runners and managed from the pilot house placed near the bow.”

The Gazette continued its description of the iceboat, saying “she has a single smoke stack, while near by is the steam whistle common to steam vessels. A handsome jack staff ornaments the bow, while perched jauntily on the pilot house is the figure of a swan with its wings out-stretched as if eager to regain the graceful position on the bosom of the lake.” It was estimated that the craft would be able to travel about 10 miles an hour and would be able to make the trip from Stillwater to Taylor’s Falls, 30 miles, in three hours. However, it was also planned to pull a Pullman car that was 28 feet long and eight feet wide which would naturally extend this journey.

A trial run was to be made on January 28, 1877. Some two hundred spectators arrived up in Arcola for the Queen to be put through her paces. Steam built up but the craft did not move. Several horses and townspeople armed with crowbars tried to get the boat to move, but it didn’t.

After a week of work, the Queen finally made that maiden voyage. It was Sunday, February 4th and with whistles piercing the air that the Queen Piajuk, captain by Jack Kent, came sliding into Stillwater followed closely behind by Martin Mower driving a team of horses.

Mower would continue to work on the iceboat, which did make several successful runs up to Taylor’s Falls. The following year a test run with the Queen was postponed due to thin ice. The iceboat would jump and bounce on the rough ice and it received the nickname of the “St. Croix Grasshopper.”

It is thought that the Queen made its last voyage in 1879 from Stillwater and went back to its Arcola home. In the book, Steamboats on the St. Croix by Anita Buck, it is thought that the Queen “probably reached its home port of Arcola safely, but perhaps was dismantled there. The oak timbers from the ice craft may have been used to build the pile driver Arcola.”

The ice experiment had seemed to end. But as the newspaper said, “Looking at Queen Piajuk we feel that human ingenuity has added one more laurel to the brow of him who long since brought about the successful application of steam to annihilate space.”

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 >>>

Mission Statement

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