Washington County Historical Society

Gateway to Minnesota History

Month: February 2016

Twelve Thousand Years of Washington County History

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This issue: Contents
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
  • Editor’s Note
  • WCHS News: WCHS Annual Meeting with Jumpin’ Jim Brunzell
  • WCHS News: New Volunteer Orientation Meeting
  • What Is This Thing?!
  • Old News: Strict Rules For Fido
  • Featured Article: Twelve Thousand Years of Washington County History

Editor’s Note

Hello everybody!

Hope you were able to enjoy the nice weather before this morning’s little blanket of snow. Of course, what’s better on a snowy day than the latest Historical Messenger? Well…maybe no snow at all. Okay, but this is a pretty decent runner up.

As next month quickly marches towards us (hehe, get it? Whew, I’m hilarious) today’s News section will cover both our Annual Membership Meeting and our call for new WCHS volunteers. Speaking of events, many of our 2016 events are now listed on our Events page on the WCHS website! Be sure to check them out and get them on your calendars now!

In today’s “What Is This Thing?!” I’ll let you all know what you taught me about last week’s challenge!

Be sure to put any canine friends on a leash before heading into today’s Old News.

You may remember taking a survey a few months back where we asked folks like yourself what topics and areas of history you’d be interested in WCHS covering in the future. Now that we’re taking a serious and in-depth look at the results, we’re finding that many of you indicated you’d be interested in learning more about “Native American History”. It’s definitely a topic that deserves more attention that it receives.

But Washington County’s Native American history doesn’t begin with the the Dakota and Objibwe. No, you need to turn the clock back much, much further. In today’s Featured Article, I’ll invite you to imagine what the world might have been like in 10,000 B.C.E.

You wouldn’t be able to walk along where Stillwater’s Main Street will be without using scuba equipment. The retreating glaciers of the Ice Age have left Minnesota’s rivers flooded and swollen. And the subsequent strange ecology supports herbivores and carnivores who today you’ll only find in Museums of Natural History. Anthropologists estimate that at this time, between 5 to 10 million people exist across the entire planet. On the other side of the world, the Great Pyramids at Giza won’t be built for another seven and a half thousand years. And perhaps the most strange fact about this pre-historic world, is that in 10,000 B.C.E., our homo sapiens ancestors may have still been competing with homo floresiensis for the title of “Sole Surviving Human Species”.

It is in this foreign world that Washington County’s first residents lived their lives in what we now call home.

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 

WCHS Annual Membership Meeting with Jumpin’ Jim Brunzell

The Washington County Historical Society Annual Meeting will be held at the Water Street Inn in Stillwater on Thursday, March 31st.

The evening will begin with a social hour at 5:30 PM followed by dinner at 6:30 PM. The meeting will begin at 7:30 with an election of board members and conclude with our Featured Speaker – “Jumpin” Jim Brunzell.

Over the course of his 21 year long career, Brunzell trained under the legendary Verne Gagne with Ric Flair and the Iron Sheik and even faced former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura in the ring. At the meeting, Brunzell will discuss his long history with professional wrestling in Minnesota and his association with the Minnesota Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Brunzell will also be selling and signing copies of his new book with “True Stories from the Wrestling Road: MatLands

Reservations are required.

WCHS Members – $20.00 Reserve Tickets Online

Non-Members – $25.00 Reserve Tickets Online

For more information or to make reservations contact Brent Peterson at 651-439-5956 or brent.peterson@wchsmn.org

WCHS News

New Volunteer Orientation Meeting

The Washington County Historical Society invites those with a passion for history to join us at the Warden’s House Museum on Saturday, March 19th at 1:00 PM for a new volunteer orientation/informational meeting.

Whether you’d like to indulge your inner historian or build up your resume, volunteering with WCHS can be a very rewarding experience.

Volunteers assist the historical society in a wide variety of ways, including: cataloguing our artifact inventory, creating scrapbooks of historic photographs and newspaper articles, and, of course, guiding visitors through our museums. Our goal is to tailor individual volunteer experiences to suit the needs and interests of the volunteer!

At the March 19th meeting, we’ll take a tour of the Warden’s House Museum and provide further information about volunteering with WCHS.

The Warden’s House is located at 602 Main Street North in Stillwater, MN.

Please contact Sean Pallas at spallas.wchs@gmail.com or 651-439-5956 with any questions regarding volunteer opportunities or this orientation meeting.

What is This Thing?!

What Is This Thing?! (Round 29)

When selecting last issue’s What Is This Thing?! I thought I’d make things a little more challenging by only featuring a section of complete artifact set. When you come across this particular item in our museum, you’ll see it displayed alongside a stoneware clay beer bottle as an example of early bottling technology from the 1870s.

Now, I had a few folks guess that it was a boat plug but the overwhelming majority of you said it was a Civil War canteen stopper. Among this number was a few re-enactors who are extremely familiar with standard Union soldier equipment. And you know what, all of you were absolutely correct.

This canteen plug has either been re-purposed to serve as the beer bottle stopper or simply incorrectly displayed alongside it. Even a simple Google search of “Civil War Canteen Stopper” will bring up pages and pages of photos displaying caps with the exact same look and design as ours.

So, it looks like when I asked “What Is This Thing?!” last issue, it was a genuine question!

I promise I know what this week’s mystery item is though!

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 

Strict Rules For Fido

Examining a society’s laws are a good place to begin to understand that society’s concerns. Folks usually don’t bother writing laws banning some activity unless that activity has become a problem.

So what the heck was going on with all the dogs in Stillwater in the early 1900s?!

In October of 1883, the Stillwater Daily Sun made mention of a “a vicious canine, which bit a little boy some time last week on Chestnut Street,” and followed it up a few short months later with, “John Nolan’s dog attempted to chew up a small boy on the street to-day, and the police have ordered a dose of cold lead for the canine.”

After enduring assaults by wild and allegedly domesticated dogs for twenty years, the leaders of Stillwater came up with the following drastic measure for the four-legged citizens of the city.

Must Muzzle Dogs – Stillwater Messenger – February 23, 1907

The city council has amended the ordinance relating to dogs and it is now imperative that all dogs running at large must be muzzled or they will be killed. Every police officer is ordered to destroy dogs running at large not provided with muzzles.

Featured Article

Twelve Thousand Years of Washington County History

by Robert Vogel

Following common practice, we sometimes refer to the people who lived in what is now Washington County before the first European explorers arrived on the scene as prehistoric Indians. The term “prehistoric” is a misnomer – because they lacked a written language, virtually all that we know about these ancient cultures comes from the archeological record, but this heritage is nevertheless historic in that it tells the story of how people lived in earlier times, provides insights into how they viewed the changes in the world around them, and connects our recent past with the full continuum of the human experience.

For the sake of convenience, archeologists categorize the data from the sites they excavate using a framework of cultural traditions based on chronology, material culture, and basic subsistence, and other characteristics. The four main cultural periods represented by archeological sites in Washington County are: the Paleo-Indian tradition, which lasted from about 10,000 to approximately 5,000 B.C.E; the Archaic, which is dated to between 6,000 and 500 B.C.E.; the Woodland, from about 500 B.C.E to 1400 C.E; and the Oneota, which overlaps slightly with the Woodland, between toughly 900 and 1700 C.E.

The ancestors of today’s American Indian tribes first appeared in the Washington County area about twelve thousand years ago, a little before the end of the last ice age. The clearest evidence that Indian people have lived continuously in Washington County sine roughly twelve thousand years ago comes to us in the form of beautifully crafted flaked stone spear points which distinguish the Paleo-Indian tradition. These distinctive artifacts are occasionally found along the bluffs and gravels beds bordering the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities area.

Paleo-Indian hunters lived in small, highly mobile groups and concentrated on big game animals such as bison, bear, moose, deer as well as several species of now extinct herbivores such as mastodons, mammoths, ground sloths, musk oxen, and giant bison. Of course, in Paleo-Indian times the environment of Washington County was quite different from today. Though there were no longer great sheets of ice on the ground after 14,000 B.C.E, glacial meltwaters filled the valleys of the St. Croix and Mississippi from bluff to bluff and the cold, wet climate favored an ecosystem dominated by open spruce parklands. It took several thousand years for the now familiar oaks and pines to migrate into this region and our “normal” weather pattern is less than 5,000 years old.

Under these dynamic environmental conditions the country between the St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers had much to offer the Archaic hunter-gatherers who followed the Paleo-Indian big game hunters. Notwithstanding the mass extinction of large animals at the end of the ice age (in which the Paleo-Indian may have played an important role), there was still abundant animal life, ranging from buffalo on the expanding upland prairies to mussels in the rivers, and the deciduous forest and grassland ecosystem contained literally hundreds of varieties of useful and edible plants. Gathering appears to have been relatively more important than hunting to Archaic folk in our area – just why is not clear, but it may reflect their more settled lifeway which depended upon having a dependable local food source. To the Archaic cultures also goes also the credit for domesticating the first wild plants, which may have begun sometime around five thousand years ago. As time went on, Archaic populations slowly increased and while they were still living in small groups and following a more or less nomadic pattern of subsidence, by around 100 B.C.E. there appears to have been a fairly dense concentration of people living along the Mississippi between the mouths of the Minnesota and St. Croix. Not surprisingly, Archaic-aged spear and dart points are commonly found in local farmers’ “arrowhead” collections throughout the county.

The preferred locations for Woodland period habitations sites also seem to have been near streams and lakes, where the bottomland forest provided excellent hunting and gathering, through the broad, bench-like terraces bordering the Mississippi and St. Croix were nearly as good for human habitat as the floodplain areas. The high prairies and dense forests away from the rivers do not seem to have offered much that was useful to Woodland people, whose hunting and gathering economics otherwise closely resembled that of their Archaic forbearers. The prairies in the southern part of the county, for example, probably did not support larger herds of deer, and buffalo bones are conspicuously absent among the materials excavated from Woodland sites there.

In contrast to the lifestyle of the Archaic peoples, Woodland period sites reflect two important innovations: pottery-making and mound building. Archeological sites yielding the distinctive Woodland grit-tempered pottery have been found in nearly every community within the county, with the densest concentrations along the Mississippi and St. Croix. Evidence of a fairly large seasonal hunting and fishing camp is preserved at the Schilling Site on the Mississippi River in Cottage Grove, which is part of an important complex of Woodland sites known as the Grey Cloud Island Locality. This site, which was first excavated by the St. Paul Science Museum in 1958, is believed to have been occupied intermittently between about 100 B.C.E. and 1400 C.E. and is one of a small handful of archeological sites in Minnesota that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Woodland earthworks, commonly known as “Indian burial mounds,” were once abundant throughout southern Minnesota and antiquarians mapped several hundred in Washington County during the late nineteenth century. Unfortunately, with the exception of several important clusters of mounds preserved in tact in Cottage Grove and Denmark Township, over the last 150 years the majority of these ancient monuments have been destroyed by vandalism, agriculture, or suburban development.

The typical Woodland mound was cone or dome shaped, three to eight feet, and fifty to one hundred feet across, constructed in stages over several years. Most though by no means all, contained human remains and association artifacts (“grave goods”) – and for this reason the mounds that survive are regarded as sacred sites by contemporary American Indians and warrant protection as unplatted cemeteries under state law. Washington County also has some unusual mounds, such as the so-called “bedrock mounds” at the Bissell site, where the earth mounds incorporate chunks of native limestone.

Sometime during the late Woodland period, a serpentine mound was constructed in what is now downtown Afton, and this is believed to mark the northern limits of a unique regional Woodland variant known as the Effigy Mound Tradition, characterized by earthworks built in the shapes of animals.

The combination of productive floodplains and ready access to water transportation routes caused the Indian peoples affiliated with the Oneta tradition to establish themselves along the Mississippi and the lower St. Croix. A regional offshoot of the influential Mississippian cultural tradition with strong ties to the great Indian metropolis at Cahokia (near modern day St. Louis, Missouri), the Oneota culture evolved the first truly tribal communities, built compact villages surrounded with log palisades, carried on extensive trade over vast distances, and introduced a new ceramic technology based on using crushed clamshell as temper. Agriculture was also brought to Minnesota at this time and the river floodplains would have been the best places for planting gardens of corn, beans, squad and tobacco. Though Washington County appears to have been on the northern periphery of the Mississippian sphere of influence, there is one excavated, well documented Oneta site in the county; the Sheffield Site, a summer hunting and fishing camp near Marine that has been radiocarbon dates to about 1300 C.E.

When Columbus “discovered” the Americas at the end of the fifteenth century, Washington County appears to have been depopulated. The sites on the Lower Grey Cloud Island and at Point Douglass, for example, appear not to have been occupied after about 1400 C.E., and the written records compiled by the earliest French explorers fail to mention any villages on the Mississippi three centuries later. The reason for this lack of native settlements are not at all clear, but the consensus among present-day archeologists is that the Oneota probably displaced many of the Woodlands groups, who were then pushed into marginal areas.

Washington County history is founded on several millennia of ancient American Indian history which we can explore through archeological sites. Just as it is inaccurate to say that the county’s heritage encompasses only the events that occurred since 1837, it is erroneous to picture Native Americans as primitive, uncivilized peoples whose heritage is somehow removed from our own. These cultures were the first explorers in the St. Croix Valley, named all the landmarks along the Mississippi, altered the natural distribution of plants and animals wherever they settled, and were the area’s first farmers, lumbermen, boatmen, politicians, warriors, and artists.

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 St. CroiX-Files

This issue: Contents
Tuesday, February 9, 2016
  • Editor’s Note
  • WCHS News: WCHS Annual Meeting with Jumpin’ Jim Brunzell
  • WCHS News: Washington County History Network
  • What Is This Thing?!
  • Old News: Flirting via Sleigh Ride
  • Featured Article: The St. CroiX-Files

Editor’s Note

Hello everybody! Welcome to the latest edition of our humble e-newsletter, the Historical Messenger!

During our last issue, we discussed the current state of our Boutwell House Preservation Project and I finished the update with a reminder that direct donations were the easiest way to support our preservation efforts. Well, another way to help preserve this piece of history is to purchase one of our limited edition Boutwell House T-Shirts. Show off your pride in Washington County history!

Our Annual Membership Meeting is March 31st, check out the first News Story for more details on reserving your spot.

We’ll check in on the other historic organizations of Washington County in today’s second bit of News.

Folks are saying I’ve been too easy with the last few “What Is This Thing?!” challenges…hopefully today will be a little trickier for you!

Head down to our Old News section to read about a bit of friendly competition between the sexes from 1869.

Now, some of you might not quite be as big of nerds as I am, but I have been absolutely loving watching new episodes of The X-Files after its 14 year long hiatus. Watching everyone’s favorite FBI agents track down monsters and little green men every Monday night has become a highlight of my week. I’m just waiting for the episode where Mulder and Scully come visit Stillwater. That’s right, did you know that over the years the St. Croix Valley has had it’s share of UFO sightings?

Fire up the X-Files Theme and head down to our Featured Article to learn about Stillwater’s mysterious “airship” of 1897.

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 

WCHS Annual Membership Meeting with Jumpin’ Jim Brunzell

The Washington County Historical Society Annual Meeting will be held at the Water Street Inn in Stillwater on Thursday, March 31st.

The evening will begin with a social hour at 5:30 PM followed by dinner at 6:30 PM. The meeting will begin at 7:30 with an election of board members and conclude with our Featured Speaker – “Jumpin” Jim Brunzell.

Over the course of his 21 year long career, Brunzell trained under the legendary Verne Gagne with Ric Flair and the Iron Sheik and even faced former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura in the ring. At the meeting, Brunzell will discuss his long history with professional wrestling in Minnesota and his association with the Minnesota Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Brunzell will also be selling and signing copies of his new book with “True Stories from the Wrestling Road: MatLands

Reservations are required.

WCHS Members – $20.00 Reserve Tickets Online

Non-Members – $25.00 Reserve Tickets Online

For more information or to make reservations contact Brent Peterson at 651-439-5956 or brent.peterson@wchsmn.org

WCHS News

Washington County History Network Meeting

Yesterday, the Woodbury Heritage Society hosted the quarterly meeting of the Washington County History Network. Ten organizations came together to discuss their ongoing and upcoming activities…and to drink coffee.

Here’s a quick glance at what’s going around the county:

Afton Historical Museum: The Afton Historical Museum reports that its 2015 display on the ‘Roaring 20’s’ was widely popular and is currently installing a follow-up exhibition featuring the history of the 1940s. They are also paying close attention to the proposed street sewer renovations scheduled to take place in Afton. The Afton Historical Museum would like to see the protection of the Rattle Snack Native American Mound made a top priority.

Cottage Grove Advisory Commitee on Historic Preservation: The Cottage Grove ACHP is closely following the fate of the Hill-Gibson House which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. The site recently went into foreclosure and the bank would like to see the house preserve, but perhaps moved from its current location.

Denmark Township Historical Society: The Denmark Township Historical Society is continuing to raise money and write grants to repair and renovate the Valley School House that was purchased by the society. Their annual meeting will take place on April 26th at 7:00 PM at Point Douglass.

Gammelgården Museum: The Gammelgården Museum reported that their Lutfisk Dinner and Lucia Dagen were both very well attended at the end of 2015. They’re looking forward to an event-filled 2016!

South Washington County Heritage Society: The South Washington County Heritage Society hosted another well attended program on St. Paul’s gangster history. The Society will be meeting with a bit before 10:00 AM on February 13th at the Saint Paul Park City Hall to carpool to Obb’s Bar & Grill for breakfast, brunch and a bit of history. On March 12th, John Hemlick of Super America and Super Mom’s will be hosting a discussion on the history of the donut!

Stillwater Library: The Stillwater Library has recently upgraded and modernized their St. Croix Reading Room Collection. Researchers will now be able to use flash drives to save images from their microfilm collection rather than having to print individual pages.

Stonehouse Museum: The Stonehouse Museum will be opening to the public on Memorial Day. They are currently seeking interested volunteers to help run the museum.

Washington County Historic Courthouse: The Washington County Historic Courthouse is still transfering event and wedding operations away from county employees towards a private business. This will allow the county parks staff to focus more on the historic aspects of the Courthouse. There is a possibility of expanding the annual Victorian Tea and Christmas at the Courthouse will be able to continue and thrive.

Woodbury Heritage Society: The Woodbury Heritage Society is currently undertaking efforts to preserve the Miller Barn on Valley Creek Road. The Barn is one of the few remaining in all of Woodbury and represents the city’s early farming history. The Society is currently seeking signatures for a petition to request the demolition of the Barn be halted for four years while the Society raises the money necessary to preserve the barn. Petition blanks can be obtained by contacting Bill Schrankler at 651-738-1836.

What is This Thing?!

What Is This Thing?! (Round 27)

Many of you put on your best jacket and top hat and were able to correctly identify last issue’s What Is This Thing?!

This is indeed a man’s detachable shirt collar! Detachable shirt collar? Yes, this extinct bit of fashion was popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s when high collars were extremely fashionable. However, shirts and all clothes in general were cleaned irregularly since doing the laundry was such a lengthy process.

By making collars a separate article of clothing folks could clean, iron, and (most importantly) starch their collars without having to launder the entire shirts; which made the whole process a lot easier.

As you can see in the Reverse Image, the final copyright on this particular collar was 1921. This decade would be see high-collars fall out of fashion in favor of more comfortable shirts. As pointed out by one loyal reader, the company that produced this shirt, Van Heuson, is still in business today!

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

Old News

Flirting via Sleigh Ride

Last issue, we discussed what folks in Stillwater were reading about during the Civil War.

Today, we’ll move 5 years into the future and see that by the end of the 1860s, life was thankfully starting to get back to the realm of normalcy. Gone are the figures on the “Rebel Navy” and “Union artillery” and the notes hoping for the suicide of important Confederates have disappeared as well. Instead we find the re-telling of a fun and harmless little episode staged by the St. Croix Valley’s young men and women.

Going it Alone – Stillwater Republican – February 9, 1869

Last Thursday being quite a pleasant day and the last day of Leap year, the young ladies of our city took it into their heads that they would have a sleigh ride all to themselves, and to this end, hired one of Bromley’s best four-horse rigs, into which some fifteen or twenty of them piled, taking a drive through our streets and there down to Hudson. This was about the sweetest load we ever saw, and many was the sighs the young men gave as they passed them with a saucy wave of the head and a look that said as plainly as words, “don’t you wish you were here.” They did wish it every one of them and we will tell those young ladies, as a secret, that there was not a young man in town but what would have given his boots to have been with them.

But this was not the end of it. For several weeks back the young men had been making arrangements for a grand sleigh ride on New Years in which the girls were to have a part, but this determined them to “go it alone,” and accordingly on Friday they hired one of Bromley’s best horses with six horses. Everything was of masculine gender, even the horses. Into this some twenty or twenty-five of them piled, and supplying themselves with horns, drove around our streets, serenading several of the young ladies engaged in the ride of the day before. Not to be out done in any particular (except behavior) the young men went to Hudson, too, blowing their horns, and succeeded in making the good folks of Hudson believe that they were all “tight,” to use a technical term. They also carried a banner on which was inscribed – “Leap year ride continued – as the Girls rode the old year out, we ride the new one in and go it alone.”

Of the two loads we would rather have been with the first, and, girls, between you and ourselves every one of those young men would too, for they told us so.

Featured Article

The St. CroiX-Files

by Brent Peterson, Executive Director of WCHS

Obviously, there are many people in the St. Croix Valley that enjoy listening to ghost stories. They never seem to tire of the translucent white woman in the creepy old house that looks out the window, or the sounds of footsteps creaking up the old staircase. But these aren’t the only “paranormal tales” in the Valley. Others would fit better in an H.G. Wells story.

In the book, “The M-Files: True Reports of Minnesota’s Unexplained Phenomena,” author Jay Rath scanned the country side and publishes newspaper notations of “unexplained” nocturnal lights and “mystery airships” from across Minnesota. Naturally, Stillwater appears in many of these reports.

The earliest report Rath finds in a Stillwater paper dates back to December 1871 when an unexplained nocturnal light is seen by witnesses. Then in January 1890, N.A. Nelson again spots an unusual light at night and is never able to find a reasonable explanation for its appearance.

The mystery airship caused quite a sensation in Stillwater. Many speculated on the mysterious object’s origins and purpose. The local merchants even got into the act using it for advertising purposes. The meat market of D.J. Hooley placed and ad in the Stillwater Messenger in May 1897 with the heading, “The Air Ship Seen and Heard From.” The ad reads that farmer Nolan of Lake Elmo had seen the craft and that it looked very much like a large barge. The crew were of strange appearance, according to Hooley, and they communicated that they drank nothing but water and ate nothing but meat. However, the peculiar aviators were nearly out of meat but luckily Hooley was ordering more and everyone in Stillwater should come in and purchase some before the strange visitors cleaned him out!

The air ship was finally discovered according to an article by S.E. Sanderson in the Stillwater Gazette of April 14, 1897. “The notorious air ship is not a fake, it landed in August Nelson’s strawberry patch about 5 o’clock yesterday morning. The operators had just got the machine securely anchored when they were discovered by Hon. Geo. A. Oliver, who was on his way to the post office.” The article then said that the men who operated the air ship had taken off from San Francisco and were on their way to Duluth.

Other UFO sightings in the Stillwater include August 17, 1961 when 5 people observed a group of UFOs arranged vertically in a “V” formation. Another nocturnal light was observed on July 18, 1975 and on March 22, 1978 a man spied a flying saucer while traveling north on Highway 95.

There have been many stories about mystery “air ships” “UFOs” and ghosts that go up and down the St. Croix Valley. These stories are a part of our heritage and get told from one generation to the next and I hope the stories will continue. So the next time you see a large barge shaped object in the sky, a blue light on the St. Croix, or something else, please let us know the story for other generations to read and enjoy.

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.