Washington County Historical Society

Gateway to Minnesota History

Month: December 2015

From Boilermaker to Police Chief

This issue: Contents
Tuesday, December 29th, 2015
  • Editor’s Note
  • WCHS News: A Look Back at 2015
  • WCHS News: Winter Ice Cream Social
  • What Is This Thing?!
  • Old News: Turn of the Century’s First World Problems
  • Featured Article: From Boilermaker to Police Chief
Editor’s Note

Can you believe it…? It’s December 29th and the rest of the year has somehow ended up in our rearview mirror.

I swear these years seem to fly-by quicker and quicker!

WCHS had a heck of a busy 2015! Be sure to check out our first News Story to see just a few of the things we got up to this last year.

Of course we want to stay busy next year too! And we’ll be kicking the year off with everyone’s favorite winter activity – our Winter Ice Cream Social! Head down to our second News Story for all the details.

Take a look at our “What Is This Thing?!” section for this year’s final challenge!

In this week’s Old News, you’ll read about one newspaper editor’s fashion crusade.

Finally, we’ll wrap up today’s article by looking at the fruitful, yet short, life of John Glennon.

And on a personal note, thank you all for a wonderful 2015 here at WCHS. I wish each and every one of you a Happy New Years!

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

Are you going to let a little bit of snow and freezing temperatures keep you indoors?! Of course not! We’re Minnesotans!

January is the perfect time for an Ice Cream Social!

Join WCHS on Saturday, January 16th from Noon – 4:00 PM for everyone’s favorite seasonally-inappropriate winter event!

With FREE ice cream from Leo’s Malt Shop, you won’t even notice those cold gusts of wind off the river! Don your warmest winter wear, grab your ice skates, and join us in helping continue this fun (but admittedly a bit silly) Stillwater tradition!

Coffee will also be provided & chili will be available for a nominal fee.

WCHS News 

A Look Back at 2015

Whew, so here we are. 2015 is just about over.

Over the last year, we’ve hosted more than a dozen guest speakers, fundraiders, and other events. Both of our museums saw an increase in attendance over last year. We actually had an amazing 50% increase of admissions at the Hay Lake Museum and its associated events!

Not to mention that we managed to pay off the mortgage on the Greely Street building ahead of schedule and we stepped up and managed to prevent the historic Boutwell House from being demolished! The rebuilding and renovations of this wonderful historic home will actually begin tomorrow and you can look forward to learning more about our preservation efforts throughout the beginning of 2016!

But the fact of the matter is that nothing we did this year would be possible without the support of folks like you! (Yes, you! Whoever is reading this e-newsletter right now!) Thank you! Your assistance is appreciated (and needed!) more than you know!

If you are a member of WCHS, be sure to renew your membership for the 2016 year! And if you aren’t a member…what are you waiting for!?

Help us preserve and share our local history throughout 2016 and beyond!

WCHS Membership

What is This Thing?!

What Is This Thing?! (Round 24)

Last issue’s What Is This Thing?! might have been the hardest challenge yet! …in more ways than one!

This week’s artifacts are from the Stillwater Last Buddies’ Bully Beef Club. The club was organized in 1932 by 280 St. Croix Valley men who had all fought in World War I. Inspired by the similar “Last Man’s Club” of Civil War veterans, a bottle of cognac (the tip of the bottle is visible in the original photo) was donated to the Bully Beef Club by the Last Man of the Last Man’s Club – Charles Lockwood. Here’s a better photo of the bottle (you can see they actually didn’t drink it!)

The metal container is actually a very rusted can of corned beef. This type of beef was often used as rations for soldiers in both World Wars. This particular can was brought back from France by a member of the Bully Beef Club as a sort of memento and became the namesake of the club. If you look closely at the original photo, you can actually even see the petrified beef inside the can through the rust holes! A very cool and unqiue item we are fortunate enough to have in the Society’s collection!

Onto this week’s challenge!

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

Good luck!

Full Image

Different Angle

Old News 

Turn of the Century’s First World Problems

The following article was actually re-printed in the Stillwater Messenger from a contemporary London journal. Now usually I’ll try to select an article that focuses on local concerns for the “Old News” section, but I couldn’t pass this article up for a few reasons.

Firstly, whenever I see photographs from around this period, I always think about how uncomfortable everyone must have been. I can’t imagine wearing a wool jacket in the middle of August worn over a high collared button-up shirt. It’s very interesting to hear someone who would have been wearing these types of clothes comment on the fashion of the times.

Secondly, I’m fascinated by how much space the Messenger editors allowed for this opinion piece. This article is easily the longest on the page. The depth of the arguments (comfort, health, even touching on the theory of evolution) are equally interesting.

Finally, I couldn’t resist this article, because without a shred of irony, this drawing is in featured in the exact same issue of the Stillwater Messenger a few pages before this editorial. Yes, I’m sure wearing linen undershirts in summer was uncomfortable…but compared to the clothes women were expected to wear in the same temperature…?

Male Dress Reform – Stillwater Messenger – December 29, 1906

The necessity by which men feel coerced of proving to the world that they wear white shirts lies at the basis of all the difficulties of the dress problem. Until the garment becomes extinct it is hopeless to attempt the reform of men’s dress on the lines of health and comfort.

It will of course ultimately disappear, for it is but the mark of a stage in the evolution of dress, just as the vermiform appendix is a useless evolutionary remnant in the body. But the question is whether we ought to await the slow course of evolution or to use our common sense and abandon the ancient garment at once.

Why do we wear white shirts? Ages ago it was only the wealthy who could afford to clothe themselves in linen. The possession of linen underwear was then a mark of social position, and there was an obvious advantage in making public display of it.

We may not put down three-fourths of the discomfort of the hot summer to the account of the starched shirt. It prevents the very process devised by nature to keep the body cool – the evaporation of sweat. In so far as it hinders this natural process in summer, the white shirt favors disease. But in winter it is a fruitful cause of illness.

In winter the mere wearing of a white shirt would no doubt leave a man no better and no worse if he were content to wear it for his own satisfaction. But the curious law of evolution comes in and compels him to wear it in such a way as to do himself physical injury.

Wherever evolution is at work it leaves vestiges – literally, footprints. Probably it is millions of years since the vermiform appendix became a useless organ, but it still survives. All evolutionary survivals appear to be harmful. The appendix is the seat of appendicitis. In the inner corner of the eye there is the remnant of a once useful third lid, which now only lodges dust and causes irritation.

The lord chancellor’s wig was once a comfort in ancient drafty legislative chambers and now merely serves to make a sensible man look ridiculous and give him a headache.

People who drew up laws were long ago paid according to the number of words, but the multiplicity of words now only causes confusion. So the white shirt that was once a badge of wealth and culture, being no longer value for that purpose, is only a cause of discomfort and disease.

It is necessary to cut a piece out of the vest and the coat, just over the most important organs of the body, in order to prove to our neighbors that we wear white shirts. Consequently in the winter time we expose the lungs and the air passages to the cold wind and the cold rain.

From the point of view of health nothing could be more stupid. Bronchitis is one of the most deadly of all disease in this country. Bronchitis is simply inflammation of the bronchial tubes. This inflammation is excited by a chill, a chilling of that part of the body left exposed in order to show that we wear white shirts.

The white shirt, in fact, might appear in the tables of the registrar general as the cause of so many deaths, perhaps 100,000 a year.

And does it really improve a man’s appearance? By virtue of the association of ideas it certainly does. Usually men who do not wear white shirts are not given to cleanliness. The man who wears a white shirt washes his face and hands and brushes his cloths; hence when we see a white front and white cuffs we experience that pleasant sensation produced by general neatness of the person and clothing. But that a few square inches of white clothing over the chest makes a man look better is an absurd conclusion.

The case for the white shirt has not a leg to stand upon. The garment is uncomfortable, unhealthy, and unbecoming. And as it has lost the only useful function it ever possess – that is, its symbolism of exceptional wealth – we ought to discard it altogether. The difficulties of this course are very great no doubt. What we want is an “antiwhite shirt society,” which would agree to wear, from some prearranged date, a dress designed wholly with regard for comfort, health and beauty.

Featured Article

From Boilermaker to Police Chief

by Brent Peterson, WCHS Executive Director

No one knows exactly where their career path will take them. How many of us actually are using our college majors in their day-to-day life?

Let’s take a moment to examine the life of a young boilermaker, who went through some career changes, but those changes seemed to suit him. His name was John S. Glennon.

Glennon was born at Dubuque, Iowa on December 23, 1860. At an early age he and his family moved to Chicago, where he received his education. Glennon learned the trade of steam boilermaker and came to Stillwater in 1882. He found work as a boilermaker with the Minnesota Thresher Manufacturing Company at the prison on the north end of Main Street. He worked at that position until 1885, when he was promoted to the traveling expert machinist and boilermaker for the company.

In 1888, Mayor George Seymour appointed Glennon as a policeman in the city of Stillwater, but resigned the position after serving one year. He was then elected by the city council to the position of Street Commissioner. He resigned this post in 1890, to accept an appointment by Warden John J. Randall to the position of Assistant Deputy Warden. Glennon served in that capacity until February 1, 1897. [Photo: Deputy Warden Glennon (left), Warden Randall (right)]

In 1891, while acting in the capacity of Assistant Deputy Warden, Glennon found himself a part of a State Legislature investigation of the cruel, brutal and inhuman treatment of prisoners. Two convicts who accused not only Glennon, but also other guards with cruel treatment brought this on. The committee appointed to look into the matter exonerated every guard and deputy warden named. However, this did lead to the resignation of Warden Albert Garvin.

On April 14, 1897, Mayor A.W. Pattee appointed John Glennon to the position of Chief of Police of Stillwater. At that time, the police force comprised of the Chief, one Captain, and nine patrolmen. This was small compared to other cities the same size of Stillwater.

In 1898, Glennon resigned the position of Police Chief, left Stillwater behind him and travelled to the alleged gold fields of Alaska to strike it rich. However, the expedition proved fruitless; there was no gold to be found. Glennon returned to prison work in Anamosa, Iowa.

When Warden Henry Wolfer again took over control of the Minnesota Prison in Stillwater, he sent for Glennon and made him the Deputy Warden, a position he would keep until his death.

Deputy Warden Glennon performed his duties fully, however, about 1905, his health began to fail. There was several times that his family and friends thought that recovery was on the way, but on the morning of December 26, 1906, only 3 days after his 46th birthday, John S. Glennon died in his home, the cause of death being pernicious anemia. Mr. Glennon left a wife and four children behind.

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.

The Valley’s First Christmas

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This issue: Contents
Tuesday, December 15th, 2015
  • Editor’s Note
  • WCHS News: Winter Ice Cream Social
  • What Is This Thing?!
  • Old News: An Awkward Transition
  • Featured Article: The Valley’s First Christmas
Editor’s Note

Well it looks like my comments last issue about the arrival of winter were a bit premature.

“I’m Dreaming of a Rainy Christmas” just doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?

Either way, thank you everyone who attended this past weekend’s Annual Holiday Event! We had a great turn out and it was an absolute pleasure getting to chat with you lovely folks in person one more time in 2015!

Not that we won’t be hitting the ground running next year…Be sure to check out our first News Story to find out the best way to start your 2016!

We’ll also satisfy your hunger for historical curiosities with another round of “What Is This Thing?!”

In today’s Old News, you’ll get a good reminder that biased journalism is not an invention of the 21st century.

Finally, we’ll stay in Minnesota’s past as we read how one of Stillwater’s earliest settlers celebrated Christmas on the frontier.

Happy Holidays everyone!

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

Are you going to let a little bit of snow and freezing temperatures keep you indoors?! Of course not! We’re Minnesotans!

January is the perfect time for an Ice Cream Social!

Join WCHS on Saturday, January 16th from Noon – 3:00 PM at the North end of Lowell Park in Stillwater for everyone’s favorite seasonally-inappropriate winter event!

With FREE ice cream from Leo’s Malt Shop, you won’t even notice those cold gusts of wind off the river! Don your warmest winter wear, grab your ice skates, and join us in helping continue this fun (but admittedly a bit silly) Stillwater tradition!

Coffee will also be provided & chili will be available for a nominal fee.

What is This Thing?!

What Is This Thing?! (Round 23)

Last issue’s What Is This Thing?! was pretty tricky! It would have been a heck of a lot easier if I would have used this picture showing the device assembled!

That’s right! Last week’s mystery artifact is indeed a collapsible lantern! Specifically, it was known as “The ‘Stonebridge’ Folding Lantern’. This particular model has a patent date of November 27th, 1900. This specific lantern was owned by Wade H. Yardley of Marine-on-St. Croix. He used it as a hanging light for his canoe.

Congratulations to everyone who was able to illuminate the identity of last week’s challenge! (Don’t mind me if I go after these easy puns. Sometimes I can delude myself into thinking I’m funny.)

(…get it? can delude. “can-del-ude”… if you say it out loud that middle bit sounds like “candle”…I’ll see myself out.)

Eh hem. Anyways, onto this week’s item!

As a bit of a clue to this object’s size, you’ll see the top of a bottle to the right of this particularly rusty object.

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

Good luck!

Full Image

Old News 

An Awkward Transition

Taking place less than a decade before the Civil War, the transition from Minnesota’s territorial period to its formal statehood was an extremely political and hotly debated process.

Way back in November of last year, our featured article discussed how even getting Republicans and Democrats in the same room to form a state constitution was a difficult task in itself.

So let’s check in on the state of affairs only a few short months after Republicans and Democrats battled so bitterly over the wording of Minnesota’s constitution. The editor’s of the Stillwater Messenger certainly weren’t trying to hide their opinions.

Note: The bold emphasizes are present in the original article.

Governor’s Message Delivered – Stillwater Messenger – December 15, 1857

What cannot be done in the name of Democracy? Samuel Medary [Democrat, photo right], Governor of the Territory of Minnesota, has sent in his message to the Legislature of the State of Minnesota – a body with which he has no more right to communicate than has James Buchanan – and the Democratic members, like a set of blundering asses or willing accomplices in usurpation and wrong-doing, even invited him to do so, and then insulted the people of the State by ordering one thousand copies of the document printed at the expense of the future State.

The Douglas Democrats may prate and howl about the newly discovered wrongs of Kansas; but we tell them there are just as unscrupulous, defiant, dare-devil politicians in our Capitol at St. Paul, as border ruffianism in Kansas can produce. But there is a day of political judgment coming, when the virtuous people will say to those men – “depart from me, ye accursed villains!”

As a matter of history and arrant usurpation for after references, we will publish this message hereafter – our columns being too much pre-occupied to-day.

Previous to the delivery of the Message, the Republican Senators entered a manly protest upon the Journal against this high-handed usurpation. They refuse to recognize Gov. Medary as Governor of the State of Minnesota. Let them maintain their position like men, as we know most of them are. Medary is an interloper – an usurper, who has no business whatever in intruding his particular notions upon that body. As Sam Medary, or as Governor Medary, Governor of the Territory, we should treat him with all respect – but when he commences putting on the airs and flourishes of Governor of the State, meddling with business not his own, we would treat him as we would any other meddler and interloper.

Featured Article

The Valley’s First Christmas

by Brent Peterson, WCHS Executive Director

The first Christmas held in Stillwater has been a story that has been handed down from family to family. It has been reprinted in newspapers and books, but this first Christmas, celebrated nearly 175 years ago needs once again to be handed down as a heritage present to the readers of the Historical Messenger.

It was Lydia Carli, who traveled from Chicago to what is now Stillwater in 1841. She came here and lived in the Tamarack House that was constructed by her half-brother, Joseph R. Brown. It was that Christmas that Mrs. Carli would latter tell about to Mr. A.B. Easton, the publisher of the Stillwater Gazette and the two volume History of the Saint Croix Valley published in 1909:

“I suppose I ought to tell you something about the first Christmas celebration ever held in Stillwater. And speaking of that reminds me that several years ago a fellow was here and talked a long time about this old time affair, and then went away and wrote a nice story about it; but made a bad break in the first line by saying there was but one person living in this city who observed Christmas day in 1841. The two children I brought with me are still living, and I am quite sure they were present at that famous Christmas gathering. Yes, you can wager they were strictly in it.

“And when it comes to figures and dates he says I was born in 1878, near Lancaster, Pa. Of course, that was the printer’s mistake. Our household at the time mentioned, consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph R. Brown and their three children, Dr. Carli and myself and two children. On the bluff back of us were about a dozen Sioux Indians. I manufactured a lot of incongruous things in the nature of dolls for the little girls and some wonderful zoological impossibilities for the boys, made of dough. We called these Christmas presents. Wouldn’t compare with the glittering treasures that adorn Christmas trees in these modern times. When we came to the subject of the feast my brother suggested that we get up a dinner for the squaws and children in the tepees, and that he would provide for the men and would invite all the inhabitants of the town.

“Christmas morning dawned bleak and cold and gray. When I looked out no living thing met my sight; nor did a sound break the solitude. The quagmire now covered by the business part of Stillwater was covered deep with snow, and a desolate white waste stretched away on every side. There were no sound of Christmas bells, no outside greetings to exchange.

“The Christmas bill of fare comprised pemmican [thin strips of meat dried in the sun], salt pork, black dried apples, bread, coffee and sugar. The port was of the ‘condemned’ variety. And right here – let me see, in the Bible doesn’t condemned mean the same and damned? The flour sent to us had also been condemned by the government – and no doubt the examiners used the scriptural synonym in speaking of it – and the stuff arrived here in solid chunks, which I had to smash up and sift before using. But notwithstanding all these drawbacks and discouragements the day and the dinner were merry.

“The table had no covering of cloth; we didn’t use one for the reason that in the winter it would freeze to the table if anything wet was spilled on it. The Indian guests were not only all eyes and ears in wonder and expectation, but pretty near all mouths when it came to the business of eating. The squaws were on their best behavior, if you know what that is, and if one of them spilled her coffee she scooped it up with remarkable agility.

“It is hardly necessary to remark that we were shy on napkins.

“But everything passed off pleasantly and the three of us who are yet living who participated in this first Christmas gathering in this city often revert to the occasion as one of the memorable events in our checkered lives.”

Mrs. Carli would died in 1905, but leaving a legacy of Stillwater’s First Christmas for the pages of newspapers, books and local history for generations to come.

 

Oak Park Heights

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This issue: Contents
Tuesday, December 1st, 2015
  • Editor’s Note
  • WCHS News: Annual Holiday Book Sale and Open House
  • What Is This Thing?!
  • Old News: Minnesotan Connections
  • Featured Article: Oak Park Heights
Editor’s Note

Well, winter has finally reared its snowy head here in Minnesota! Didn’t you miss scraping ice off your windshield every morning?!

I hope you had a fantastic Thanksgiving this past week! Maybe you even decided to brave the hordes of Black Friday shoppers! If you’ve still got some names on your holiday shopping list, be sure to check out our first News Story to get all the info on our Annual Holiday Book Sale!

If you keep scrolling, we’ve got another mystery item for today’s “What Is This Thing?!” eagerly waiting your best guesses.

In today’s Old News, we’ll take a look at two Minnesotan cities that really have quite a bit in common.

And yes, the WCHS museums may be closed for the season, but don’t worry – you can still get your fill of Washington County history on our website!

Did you know that our website has an Online Exhibit section? Explore our virtual tours through history and enjoy a sample section on the history of Oak Park Heights as our Featured Article!

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 

Annual Holiday Book Sale and Open House

On Saturday, December 12th, 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 overly-pushy department store crowds and instead have a truly unique holiday shopping experience while meeting local authors, sipping coffee generously donated by Starbucks, and enjoying live holiday songs provided by Mary Taylor Allen’s local student musicians at our annual 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.

The featured author this season is former teacher and principal in District #834, Bernie Anderson. Anderson completed a book titled, The Magic That Was Stonebridge: Reflections from an Era of Teacher Empowerment, a book detailing the unique structure of Stonebridge Elementary School in Stillwater. Anderson writes that “positive transformations were woven into best practices on a daily basis” at Stonebridge. From 1967 to 2001 he worked at Forest Hills, Marine on St. Croix, Oak Park, Rutherford and Stonebridge.

Others authors include Robert and Nancy Goodman (In Their Own Words, The Last Rafter, and more), Gloria VanDemmeltraadt (Memories of Lake Elmo, Darkness in Paradise) Bill Schrankler (Shadows of Time: Minnesota’s Surviving Railroad Depots), Frederick L. Johnson (Suburban Dawn, Sea Wing Disaster), 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.

What is This Thing?!

 

IMG_0070What Is This Thing?! (Round 22)

Last week’s What Is This Thing?! is definitely an example of the more embarassing side of Washington County history.

Several people supposed this was used as a type of horse or other type of animal mouth bit…and that’s close, but it was actually used on people.

The Old Stillwater Prison had some pretty harsh rules. If inmates were acting up, this device was used as a form of punishment. The leather portion would be strapped around the back of their head while the metal section would be inserted into the prisoner’s mouth. Then the guards would have been able to lead the thoroughly dehumanized inmate around by the face.

Thank you to everyone who participated in last week’s challenge! For this week, we’ll tackle something a bit more on the lighter side of our collection…

As you see in the photo, this is a collapsible version of something. The important elements of this item are all on display, including the pins in the foreground.

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

Good luck!

Full Image

Old News 

Minnesotan Connections

While attending the Univeristy of Minnesota: Duluth I absolutely fell in love with that northern city. Where else in the middle of the country are you in an ocean port?

Likewise, I have now been the site manager of the Warden’s House in Stillwater through four seasons and have been completely swept up in the history of this town.

After spending a fair time in both locales, I’ve noticed a number of interesting parallels between Duluth and Stillwater.

Just to name a few: they’re both built on a hill, htey’re both just across the water from Wisconsin, and obviously, they both feature iconic historic lift bridges.

When comparing their histories you’ll see that both enjoyed moments of being major industrial and commerical centers.

At the same time the Zenith City was projected to outgrow Chicago; Stillwater’s lumber industry was literally building the nation. But, in another parallel, eventually the Iron Range dried up and Minnesota’s old growth forests were depleted.

Today, these former industrial titans have been forced to adapt by shifted their focus to tourism. Thousands flock to Duluth every year to tour the elegant Glensheen Mansion and Stillwater’s historic downtown district is packed with “day-cationers” every summer.

Through highlighting the history of their former glory days, both cities have discovered ways to flourish in the modern world.

The following article discusses a trip to Duluth by notable founding fathers of Stillwater including her first mayor – John McKusick.

Stillwater and Duluth – Stillwater Republican – December 1, 1870

Messrs. McKusick, McCluer, Proctor and others, who took a pleasure trip to Duluth last week, returned on Saturday, much delighted with their journey, and impressed with the sights they had seen. They report that all talk in Duluth is of Stillwater and the approaching Railroad connection with this city. They look upon Stillwater as destined to be, in the future, a more important point than St. Paul. Duluth, and the Superior Railroad company, are exceedingly anxious for a connection with the Tomah road via Stillwater, and will unite with us to bridge Lake St. Croix at this point, and make the connection directly east. And one at all familiar with the country can see at once that this would give Duluth a much shorter eastern and southern connection than any she can get through St. Paul, and a much more direct one that to rundown the Lake here and cross at Hudson.

John McKusick says he never had any great ideas of Duluth until he had seen it and looked it over for himself. But he is now convinced that an immense city must arise somewhere about the head waters of Lake Superior – the probabilities are rather in favor of Duluth than of Superior City, Bayfield or any other point. They propose at Duluth to the wholesale trade and grain shipping of all this region, and in our opinion she can control both next season, if she and the Philadelphia parties interested in her growth will put in the required capital and energy.

Stillwater and the country tributary are greatly interested in the growth of Duluth for a great metropolis there will give us advantages which could not accrue to us from any other source. If Duluth can control the commerce of the Northwest north of the line of central Iowa, or even north of the southern line of Minnesota, Stillwater must become the gathering point of a large trade which might otherwise center at points below us. The interests of Duluth and Stillwater are closely interwoven, and both cities will work together for mutual welfare.

Featured Article

Oak Park Heights

from the WCHS Community Histories Online Exhibit

Oak Park Heights was platted in 1938 and incorporated as a city in 1959, but its story began much earlier, when it was known as Oak Park. The first 10-block plat—entered by John Parker, William Dorr, Gold and Mary Curtis, Olive Anderson, and William M. McCluer in 1857—was soon followed by four more plats. Located in Baytown Township, between Stillwater and South Stillwater (Bayport), the new townsite had high prospects for sale of residential lots and, because of its river frontage, for industrial development. Most of the community founders had an interest in the lumbering industry.

Early settlers were David Cover, a river pilot who came to Oak Park in the 1840s and dealt in logs and lumber, and John Parker, who relocated from St. Croix Falls in 1850.

Early development centered around Mill Street, which led to the river and the milling townsites just to the south. In the 1880s, a sawmill was constructed along Oak Park’s riverfront, along with a barrel-making company. About 1890 Jewish settlers Moritz and Bertha Bergstein settled in Oak Park. They operated a waste materials yard with a warehouse and “shoddy” mill, where waste fabric was recycled into stuffing for mattresses. The rubble stone mill building and warehouse still stand but are in the path of the new bridge construction, and are slated to be moved.

Oak Park’s nearness to Stillwater and the main road to St. Paul encouraged a number of well-to-do residents to build impressive homes on the bluff overlooking Lake St. Croix. Still, only a few hundred people called it home in 1910. By 1914 the new Minnesota State Prison had been built next to Oak Park, bringing new economic activity to the area, but there was little new construction in the 1920s and 1930s.

Oak Park, today known as Oak Park Heights, has been considerably changed by recent development. Highway 36 was cut through in the 1930s, dividing the community. Improvements to Highways 36 and 95 and construction of the Allen S. King generating plant and its power lines in the 1970s had considerable impact on the residential community. In the late 1990s, a portion of the original townsite including many of the mid-19th-century bluff homes was razed in preparation for a new river bridge.

When Highway 36 was extended to Stillwater in the 1930s, automobile tourists flocked to the river valley. One old vestige of this era is the Club Tara Hideaway. This log cabin style roadhouse, built in 1932 as Lynch’s Chicken Shack and still in business as a restaurant today, is typical of the establishments that sprang up to cater to motorists. Another artifact of the automobile culture is the limestone wayside overlook on Lookout Trail, constructed in 1938s by the National Youth Administration. Both are on the original alignment of Highway 36.

Little commercial or residential growth occurred in Oak Park Heights until 1960 when construction started on the St. Croix Mall. Oak Park Heights has become highly commercial, at least along the Highway 36 corridor, which features dozens of businesses and eating places. Considerable development has taken place on the south side of the highway, extending past Highway 5. Krueger’s Christmas Tree Farm has been replaced with big box stores, restaurants, apartments, and two large malls. Stillwater Motors, the Post Office distribution center, the Stillwater Area High School, and Boutwells Landing Senior Living Center are also in Oak Park Heights. The Minnesota Correctional Facility–Oak Park Heights on Orleans Street opened in 1982 as a maximum security prison.

The community has numerous parks, including Brekke Park, which overlooks the large Bayport Wildlife Management Area. Although sometimes overshadowed by its neighbors, this growing community of more than 4,000 residents is still thriving.

Oak Park was replatted in 1938 as the village of Oak Park Heights and incorporated in 1959. Its growth has sped up, adding more than 1,000 residents since 1990, to about 4,795 in 2014.

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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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Mission Statement

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