Washington County Historical Society

Gateway to Minnesota History

Month: May 2016

Moving to Washington County in 1850

 

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This issue: Contents
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
  • Editor’s Note
  • WCHS News: “Giving Faces to the Names” Program
  • WCHS News: 9th Annual Hay Lake Beer Tasting
  • What Is This Thing?!
  • Old News: Insulting the Competition
  • Featured Article: Moving to Washington County in 1850

Editor’s Note

Hello, hello, hello! Welcome to this week’s Historical Messenger! I hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend. On a personal level, I feel very fortunate to be part of an organization that helps preserve and share the stories of our local servicemen and women.

Speaking of Memorial Day, our next event coming up at the Warden’s House will be all about honoring those who served in the Vietnam War. Scroll down to the first News Story to learn about Herb Reckinger’s quest to find photographs of young soldiers killed while serving their country in Vietnam.

We’re now in that time of year where I’ll be mentioning our Annual Beer Tasting at least once per e-newsletter issue. But I only bring it up because I’m hoping to see you there! Be sure to check out today’s second News Story for all the important information.

There’s about a million links (and even two YouTube videos) waiting for you down in today’s “What Is This Thing?!” challenge!

If you think today’s politics get petty, you’re in for a treat when we all get to experience a new level of pettiness in today’s Old News.

Finally, today’s Featured Article is a really great follow-up to last week’s issue. So, they settled on the name “Washington County” and Minnesota is accepted as a Territory…but then what?! Well, folks had to move out to the new land of course! Today we’ll take a look at the Rutherford family’s journey from New York to the St. Croix Valley…and with five kids I wonder how many times, “Are we there yet?” was asked on the trip!

Don’t forget to make a day-trip out to the Eder School and Oakdale Discovery Center this summer! For the next ten Sundays (except for July 3rd), the school house will be open for free tours from Noon – 4:00 PM. We’ll be kicking the season this year with spinning wheel demonstrations this Sunday, June 5th!

We’ll see you there!

Sean Pallas

Historical Messenger editor and Warden’s House Site Manager

spallas.wchs@gmail.com

WCHS News

“Giving Faces to the Names” with Herb Reckinger

Join local historian Herb Reckinger at the Warden’s House Museum in Stillwater on Sunday, June 12th at 2:00 PM as he discusses the ongoing efforts to find photographs of casualties listed on the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC.

As a contributor to the national “The Faces of the Wall” project, Reckinger has spent the last two years meticulously researching and interviewing hundreds of surviving family members and friends of individuals killed during the Vietnam War. Due in large part to his efforts, the “Virtual Faces of the Wall” website now features a photograph for every Minnesotan listed on the Memorial.

The free and open to the public program will also highlight the lives of select Minnesotan and Washington County veterans killed in the Vietnam War.

The Warden’s House Museum is located at 602 Main Street N., Stillwater, MN.

Other Events

WCHS News

9th Annual Hay Lake Beer Tasting

Everyone’s favorite blend of history and beer makes a triumphant 9th annual return to the Hay Lake Museum on Saturday, June 18th from 4:00 to 7:00 PM and promises to be bigger and better than ever. More breweries, more food, more music, more fun! And be sure to meet our special guests this year, the craft beer fanatics over at the “Taproom Travelers” webseries.

Your $15 admission not only helps the historical society, it will allow you to sample the latest and greatest alcoholic concotions from Bent Brewstillery, Summit Brewing, Burning Brothers, Redneck Juice, St. Croix Brewing, Still H2O, Joseph Wolf Brewing, East Lake Craft Brewing, Tin Whiskers, and Lift Bridge Brewing.

You’ll also be receiving a collectable tasting glass sponsored by Opinion Brewery.

Not to mention that, dozens of Twin Cities businesses, sports teams, and theaters have also donated table-fulls of items and activities for our awesome Silent Auction.

We’ll be looking forward to having a drink with you!

What is This Thing?!

What Is This Thing?! (Round 36)

Pretty much everyone was spot on with last week’s What Is This Thing?! even when you could only see a bit of the artifact. (Of course, I made sure to include an important part!)

In case you still can’t tell, last week’s mystery item was a Mira Music Box ca. 1880. And a few folks did guess “phonograph” and this is sort the step before that invention.

If you’ll remember, I also included this photo as a bit of a clue last week; that is the underside of the flat metal music discs that this machine plays. The holes and tabs on the disc are placed in such a way, that as each tab connected with one of the box’s tines (featured in last week’s WiTT photo) it would produce a melody! It’s a bit complicated to explain, but very simple once you see how it works…

So to clear up any confusion – here’s a quick demonstration showing how the individual tines (7 seconds) would produce a sound.

And then another video showing the whole music box (19 seconds) in action!

As always, thanks for playing along!

Onto today’s challenge! Because I think it’s fun – we’re going to keep the game going with these close-up photos! You’ll see a quarter resting on the top portion of today’s object to give you a bit of sense of scale.

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 @WCHSMN, or post your guess on our Facebook page.

Good luck!

Full Image

Old News

Insulting the Competition

Sure, the news outlets of today might be pretty biased. You’ll find just as many Trump supporters over at the Huffington Post as folks looking forward to vote for Hillary on Fox News.

But let me assure you; this brand of pronounced politically partisan press is nothing new.

Let’s flip open the pages of the Stillwater Republican (can you guess what party they supported?) and read their editors literally call one of their Democratic-leaning neighbors a thief.

Stillwater Republican – A New Paper – May 31, 1870

We have heard it rumored on our streets for several weeks that Mr. J. N. Castle is soon to start a Democratic paper in this city, and that he is now “collecting” material for an office. To our brother printers up and down the river we would recommend a vigilant watch of their premises, and bolt and lock, on leaving the office, but on locking their offices to put the keys in their pockets, instead of over the door.

Featured Article

Moving to Washington County in 1850

By Jerry Brosious

The following notes were compiled by Gladys (Rutherford) McAdam during an interview her father, Charles A. Rutherford (1842-1937).

The notes describe the journey he made as an eight-year old boy, with is parents and brothers and sister from Bath, in southwestern New York, to Stillwater, Minnesota Territory, in May-June of 1850. His father James had come first in the prior year, 1849, when the area had just swapped from Wisconsin Territory to Minnesota Territory – but was still calling itself “St. Croix County.” In October of that year, the name would change to the familiar “Washington County”.

On May 27, the Rutherford family was packed and ready. They would depart from Bath for their new frontier home, “out West”.

A few explanatory comments concerning the account of their journey: Railroads traveled little of the route they took. The canal boat taken from Danville, N. Y. would have been on the Genesee River canal line that transported north to the Rochester area, where they would have proceeded on the famous Erie Canal. The Henry Hudson would have been a steamboat that sailed across Lake Erie, and then continued the Great Lakes chain on their journey, from Erie to Huron to the last lake, Michigan.

“Andrew Quinn brought the Rutherfords from Bath to Danville, where they took a canal boat and rode to Buffalo. There they took the Henry Hudson and came to Chicago. At Chicago they went to a hotel and it was so marshy, the hogs were wallowing in the mud in front of the hotel. Father went to John Rutherford’s and brought a team and took us out there. Father, Dan, John, and Dick (brother) went up town and brought a team and covered wagon. In this rig they drove to Galena.

At Galena they took the Yankee steamboat on the Mississippi, and in seven days arrived at Stillwater. Where Winona now stands was an Indian village. And the Indians came running down toward the river to see the steamboat. When the boat whistled, everyone dropped to the ground as though shot.

May 27 left New York; got to Stillwater June 16, 1850. In the party were James and Elizabeth Rutherford, Dominick – 12, Eliza – 10, Charles – 8, Rosella – 4, and Montgomery, 6 months. They drove right out to Rutherford’s settlement. Drove up was it now the ravine between Olive and Myrtle streets and west past Long Lake to where is now Masterman’s crossing; then across country about a mile to the farm that the father bought.”

Jim and Betsy Rutherford and their children settled in what was then Greenfield Township, later renamed Grant Township in 1864. James’ brother, William (called ‘pioneer of pioneers’ in his obituary) had come to the area in 1845. He and Albion Masterman staked claims in Grant Township in 1849, and William built the first house there in that same year.

The James Rutherford farm home was just to the north of his brother’s, at present day manning and Lofton Avenues in Grant Township.

Today, we can jet to New York in under three hours. (Editor’s Note: Of course, you have to add another two to get through the lines at the TSA). But it took the Rutherfords nearly three weeks, using a succession of modes of travel: horse and wagon, canal boat, Great Lakes steamboat, covered wagon, Mississippi steamboat, and finally, as they had began – horse and wagon.

 

Events

More information: WCHS Events >>>

Membership

Preserve the Past, Share in the Future!

Become a member of the Washington County Historical Society!

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

Benefits of membership:

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

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

More: WCHS Membership >>>

Mission Statement

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

Minnesota’s First County

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

This issue: Contents
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
  • Editor’s Note
  • WCHS News: Washington County Barn Quilt Trail – This Sunday
  • WCHS News: Eder School Schedule
  • What Is This Thing?!
  • Old News: Jail Break!
  • Featured Article: Minnesota’s First County

Editor’s Note

As I sit here typing, I can hear the birds chirping and the sun shining…I think I can finally believe that summer has arrived!

And it certainly arrived with in full-force at the Warden’s House. Over the past week and a half, we’ve had almost 250 students from local elementary schools like Withrow, Rutherford, and Afton-Lakeland explore and experience the museum! It’s always an absolute blast hosting the end-of-the-school-year visits. (Not to mention hilarious because every kid can tell you exactly how many days are left until summer vacation!)

We also hosted our first program of the season this past Sunday when Rick Shefchik brought tales from the early days of Rock N’ Roll to the Warden’s House! So a huge thank you goes out to everyone who attended and helped make our inaugural program a success!

The program series continues right along this coming Sunday with Hay Lake’s first program! Check out our First News story to read how you can learn all about Washington County’s Barn Quilt Trail.

In fact, we here at WCHS love programming so much, that we couldn’t help but pick up another venue in the off-season. Scroll down to our Second News story to read about what will be going on at the historic Eder School this summer!

I hope you’re still enjoying the “What Is This Thing?!” challenges – because I’ve got a real doozy for today’s issue.

Be sure to read today’s Old News to learn about an Old Stillwater Prison inmate’s daring and acrobatic attempt to grant himself a pardon.

And finally, before we close out today, we’ll learn a bit about Minnesota’s First County. (Pst. It’s Washington County. Sorry for the spoiler.)

Oh! And don’t forget, our Annual Beer Tasting is just around the corner! On Saturday, June 18th, beer connoisseurs from across the state will descend upon the Hay Lake Museum – make sure you’re one of them!

Sean Pallas

Historical Messenger editor and Warden’s House Site Manager

spallas.wchs@gmail.com

WCHS News

Washington County Barn Quilt Trail – This Sunday

Join the Washington County Historical Society this Sunday, May 22nd at 2:00 PM at the Hay Lake School to learn about how Olivia Nienaber is using the “Barn Quilt Trail” project to bring together art, history, & health in a unique and fun way. She will also be discussing the upcoming installation of our county’s second quilt trail!

The Washington County Barn Quilt Trail is a 16.4 mile route that winds through the scenic communities of Scandia, Marine on St. Croix, and the Town of May in Minnesota. Along the way, there are seven barn quilts that are based on quilt patterns in the book “The Quiltmaker’s Gift”.

The trail goes through farm areas, a state park, a downtown area, historical sites, and forested areas. The Hay Lake Museum’s barn quilt can be seen alongside the Johannes Erickson Log Home!

Wherever a person is on the Barn Quilt Trail, it’s beautiful.

This is a free program and will be held at the Hay Lake School Museum located one mile south of Scandia, at 14020 195th St N, Marine-on-St. Croix, MN 55047.

Other Events

WCHS News

Eder School Schedule

In case you missed the news – the the programming and operations of the historic Eder School House in Oakdale is now under the growing WCHS umbrella.

Starting June 5th, the School will be open for curious visitors every Sunday, from Noon – 4:00 PM through August 14th (except for July 3rd). Bring the kids over and let them see a classroom without a single smart board or tablet!

But one of the best things about the Eder School is that it shares a parking lot with the absolutely wonderful Oakdale Discovery Center. The Discovery Center has rotating art exhibits, a large aquarium, a “hands-on” wildlife exhibit, and sits in the middle of the 220 acre Oakdale Nature Preserve. The Preserve boasts miles of paved trails, a 28 acre lake, playgrounds, and countless opportunities to enjoy the natural prairie landscape.

So pull out your calendars now and pick a Sunday to make a day-trip to the Eder School and Oakdale Nature Preserve! It’s easy to miss the gems in your own backyard – don’t let this one slip by for another summer!

Eder School Programming:

Sunday, June 5th @ Noon – 4:00 PM: Spinning Wheel Demonstrations – Get a taste of how much effort and labor went into a putting a shirt on your back in the “good old days” with a live spinning wheel demonstration!

Sunday, July 10th @ 2:00 PM: History of Wreslting in Minnesota – Learn about Minnesota’s long history with professional wrestling with Oakdale’s own George Schire, author of “Minnesota’s Golden Age of Wrestling”.

Thursday, July 21st @ 5:00 – 7:00 PM: “Girl from Birch Creek” Screening – Justice Rosalie Wahl, longtime resident of Lake Elmo and the first woman appointed ot the Minnesota Supreme Court Justice, fights for equal justice regardless of race, gender, or economic status in “Girl from Birch Creek“. The evening will begin with an open house of the Eder School at 5:00 and the screening of the documentary will begin at 6:00 PM inside the Oakdale Discovery Center.

Saturday, August 20th @ 2:00 PM: “One-Room Schoolhouses” with Dustyn Dubuque – Learn about Washington County’s one-room school house legacy with Hay Lake School Museum Manager, Dustyn Dubuque.

What is This Thing?!

What Is This Thing?! (Round 35)

Once again, efforts to identify last week’s What Is This Thing?! were made a bit more difficult just by pushing the camera in for a close up! I don’t know about you – but I am loving this little twist to our “mystery challenge” game. (And at 35 rounds in, I think it was due for a bit of innovation anyways!)

Several folks saw the item as some kind of gong or dinner bell, and I can certainly see where that idea would come from! But, if you look really close at the photo, in the bottom left of the image you’ll see a portion of the rest of the artifact which is a bit of a clue.

And of course, if I had pulled back about a foot and used this image…it would be pretty obvious what the item is!

Yes indeedy, last issue’s item was the reflector lens of a kerosene lamp! When you light a candle it naturally sends light in every direction – which isn’t particularly useful when you’re trying to light a room and half of the light is sailing straight into a wall. This reflector lens would help solve that issue by pushing more illumination in the direction of your choosing.

As always, thanks for all your guesses!

Onto today’s challenge! And once again, you’re treated to a close-up photo of a larger object. Although this time, I’ll try to give you a few clues. First, you’ll see a quarter in the picture to help you judge the item’s size and scale. And secondly, whatever this item is; you’d also need one of these in order to use it.

…Of course, I took the second photo really up-close as well. I don’t want to make it too easy on you!

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 @WCHSMN, or post your guess on our Facebook page.

Good luck!

Full Image

Old News

Jail Break!

One of the most common questions I get at the Warden’s House is, “Did anyone ever escape the prison?” And the answer is: Absolutely!

Instead of paying for a full stone wall, the territorial government believed a wooden fence would be sufficient to maintain security. However, when this theory utterly failed when it was put to the test. During the tenure of the first warden Francis Delano, over the course of a single night – every prisoner in the territorial prison escaped.

But that was in the 1850s, when guards were only used during the day and only a half-dozen or so inmates were housed inside the prison. What about when the facility was run much more professionally some 40 years later?

Well, let the Stillwater Messenger introduce you to Fred Douglass.

Stillwater Messenger – May 17, 1890

During the past twelve months a convict whose professional name is Fred Douglass, sentenced in 1889 to fifteen years’ imprisonment for trying to rob a Minneapolis bank, has been giving lessons in how to get out of prison without waiting for a pardon or expiration of sentence. Once he secreted himself in a box car and eluded the vigilance of the guards, but he was discovered as he was getting out of the car and was brought back.

At 1:10 Monday Douglass again turned up missing. He was last seen by the officials at 1 p.m. that day, and is supposed that between that and 1:10 he arranged himself in clothes left in or near the foundry by citizen employees of the thresher company, and squeezed through a seven-inch aperture between the top of the gate and the stone arch and escaped unharmed. Nothing has since been heard of him. Hereafter any clothing left around the shops or yard by citizens will be destroyed.

Fred was returned to the prison less than a week later and was forced to wear a ball and chain for his escapades. But this wouldn’t be the last time Fred made a break for freedom – less than a year later, a reported for the Messenger happened to be walking along the road when Fred and two other inmates bolted from the front gate. The reporter was then witness to the escape artist dodging bullets and secreting himself underneath a train for several minutes before being shot at once again – and finally surrendering.

Featured Article

Minnesota’s First County

By Robert and Nancy Goodman

Washington County was created by an act of the Minnesota Territorial Legislature dated October 27, 1849 and signed into law by the new territorial governor, Alexander Ramsey, on November 1. Unlike the other eight counties created that day, Washington County hardly noticed its new status – its officers simply noted the change of name from St. Croix to Washington and continued on doing business as they had for the past nine years.

Washington was truly the first county in the Minnesota Territory. It was the only surviving political entity from Wisconsin Territory, having become a county in January 1840. When Wisconsin became a state in March of 1848, all of what is now eastern Minnesota was contained in two huge counties that straddled the St. Croix River: St. Croix County, Wisconsin Territory extended from Lake Pepin to just north of Mille Lacs Lake and had its county seat at Stillwater and LaPointe County, Wisconsin Territory, which continued on north to the Canadian border, with its county seat at LaPointe on Madeleine Island.

Because the state of Wisconsin was created with its western border at the St. Croix River, the leftover part of these two immense counties (the land between the Mississippi and the St. Croix) was left without government nor territorial officers. Western “Minnesota” (between the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers) was in a similar circumstance. It had been in Clayton County, Iowa Territory, and was also left without political organization when Iowa entered the Union in 1846. But unlike the St. Croix-Mississippi triangle, western Minnesota and most of LaPointe County were still “Indian” territory and not open to white settlement, so few people minded the lack of government.

In St. Croix County the situation was very different in this regard.

In 1838, as soon as treaties with the Dakota and Ojibwe had ceded the lands east of the Mississippi to the United States, settlers had poured in, taking up home sites, building sawmills, and starting towns. In 1848 they saw themselves as disenfranchised.

How many people were living here then? In the debates concerning the forming of the Minnesota Territory, Senator Stephen Douglass of Illinois assured his colleagues that there were “somewhere between eight and ten thousand people” living in the Minnesota region. This was somewhat optimistic – in reality there were only a few thousand Euro-American settlers in the area. The census taken by John Morgan of 1849 painstakingly counted all the non-Native peoples – whites, mixed-bloods, and voyageurs. St. Paul had then 910 people, Stillwater 609, Little Canada 322, and St. Anthony 248. – a little over 2,000 in total. The 1850 census taken the following summer enumerated only about 3,500 people in what had been St. Croix County.

Although in the summer of 1848, there had been considerable discussion about whether Wisconsin Territory continued to exist, the county officers apparently thought it must, as they continued on without break as St. Croix County, Wisconsin Territory. Issuing license, collecting taxes, holding elections and making appointment to offices left vacant when the incumbent was found to be living on the “State of Wisconsin” side of the St. Croix. For the first time in American history, a State and Territory not only shared the same name – but shared borders as well.

The confusing and potentially awkward situation was resolved when Minnesota Territory finally came into being on March 3, 1849, the county government simply kept going without missing a beat as St. Croix County, Minnesota Territory. It was not until the new Minnesota territorial legislature met in the fall of 1849, that the new county of Washington, named for the first President as befitted the first county, was formed.

Minnesota’s first governor, Alexander Ramsey, arrived in the Territory at Stillwater, at 9 p.m., on May 26, 1849. In one of his first official acts declared St. Croix County to be one of three judicial districts, and a regular court was held in Stillwater before the first meeting of the legislature. After consulting with several local officials, the governor proclaimed the first legislative districts and set the election for August 1. Though Ramsey’s proclamation was issued on July 7, District Judge David Cooper had noted in a letter written from Stillwater weeks before that the “quarrel between the aspirants for the legislature (was) waging wondrous hot.”

The election sent three Councilors from the area to the legislature: James Norris of Cottage Grove, David B. Loomis from Marine-on-St. Croix, and Samuel Burkleo from Stillwater. In the lower house there were three representatives from Stillwater – Morton Wilkinson, Sylvanus Trask, and Mahlon Black along with Joseph Furber of Cottage Grove.

The original bill establishing the first counties in the new territory emerged from Burkleo’s committee on local government with the name of St. Croix county retained – the boundaries being, of course, much reduced. The name was amended to Washington, together with changes to the names of proposed counties of St. Paul, Elk and Koshkonong. The county bill, as passed on October 27, 1849, divided Minnesota Territory into nine counties: Washington, Ramsey, Benton, Itasca, Wabasaw, Dakotah, Wahnahta, Mahkata, and Pembina. Only the first three were declared to be organized counties; the others were “organized only for the purpose of the appointment of justices of the peace, constables, and such other…offices that may be specially provided for.”

Governor Ramsey appointed the first officers of the new counties of Benton and Ramsey, but Washington kept on with the old St. Croix County officials. The first election in the new Washington County was held Nov. 26, 1849. County officers elected were commissioners, John McKusick, Hiram Berkey, and Joseph Haskell; treasurer, Socrates Nelson; register of deeds, John S. Proctor; judge of probate, Harvey Wilson; and sheriff, Jesse Taylor. Justices of the Peace were also elected: Jerry Ross at Taylor’s Falls; Martin Leavitt at Point Douglass; Albert Harris and H. K. McKinstry, Stillwater; and James Moore and W. H. Johnson, Marine.

Washington County was divided only once, in 1852, when Chisago County was carved out of the northern section. Today, our county’s officials are stewards of a more than 175-year-old legacy and Washington County has never forgotten it’s historic significance as the Birthplace of Minnesota.

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.

 

 

Brazilians, Mexicans, & WW2 Pilots Trained in Lake Elmo

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

This issue: Contents
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
  • Editor’s Note
  • WCHS News: “Minnesotan Rock N’ Roll of the 60’s” Program
  • WCHS News: Washington County History Network
  • What Is This Thing?!
  • Old News: Daily Minutia
  • Featured Article: Brazilians, Mexicans, and WW2 Pilots Trained in Lake Elmo

Editor’s Note

Touring season is here!

No need to spend another weekend flipping through Netflix menus. It’s time to get outside and check out our Museums! The Warden’s House is open Thursdays through Sundays, from 1:00 to 5:00 and Hay Lake is open Saturdays and Sundays 1:00 to 5:00.

That, of course, means the always popular Speaker Series are starting up at both sites! Flick on your lighter, wave it over your head, and head down to our first News Story to get the scoop on our first program this year covering the history of local Rock N’ Roll music.

But WCHS isn’t the only historical organization with a busy summer planned! Stay tuned for a quick recap of yesterday’s Washington County History Network Meeting in our second bit of News.

Learn the identity of last issue’s mysterious ancient artifact and face a new challenge in the “What Is This Thing?!” section.

Do you ever find yourself sitting on your couch, desperately wondering what sort of random and extremely personal happenings went on in Stillwater in 1870? Well, we’ve got the perfect solution for your curiosity in today’s Old News.

And finally, we’ll close out today’s e-newsletter with a look at the surprisingly international aircraft training schools of Washington County’s past.

Sean Pallas

Historical Messenger editor and Warden’s House Site Manager

spallas.wchs@gmail.com

WCHS News

“Minnesotan Rock N’ Roll of the 60’s” Program

Join author and award winning journalist Rick Shefchik on Sunday, May 15th, 2016 at 2:00 PM at the Warden’s House Museum for a free presentation on Minnesota’s Rock N’ Roll history.

Shefchik will discuss his latest publication, “Everybody’s Heard About The Bird: The True Story of 1960s Rock N Roll In Minnesota”. The book chronicles the arrival of rock music in Minneapolis by tracing local bands’ first steps into the new genre.

Throughout the 1950s and 60s, Minnesotan artists like Augie Garcia, Bobby Vee, the Fenderman, and Mike Waggoner and the Bops helped drastically and permanently change the way popular music was written, performed, and produced.

If you’ve ever bought a new needle for a record player or belted out a classic at a rock concert – you won’t want to miss Shefchik’s entertaining and enlightening take on pop-culture history.

Rick Shefchik spent almost thirty years in daily journalism, mostly as a critic, reporter and columnist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. He is the author of From Fields to Fairways: Classic Golf Clubs of Minnesota. He’s a novelist and author of three works of nonfiction and has been in several working bands as a guitarist and singer.

This free and open to the public presentation will be held at the Warden’s House Museum which is located at 602 Main Street N., Stillwater, MN.

Please contact Sean Pallas at spallas.wchs@gmail.com or 651-439-5956 with any questions regarding this event or to schedule a tour of the museum.

Other Events

WCHS News

Washington County History Network Meeting

Yesterday, the Washington County History Network held its quarterly meeting at Gorman’s Restaurant in Lake Elmo. (They put croutons in my chicken caesar wrap and I was definitely into it.)

Amanda Lathrop from Lead Sheep Productions was good enough to give a program on perserving personal and individual histories to the group. If you are interested in capturing your or a family member’s life story in a professional and thorough manner – I would highly recommend checking out the production company’s Facebook page and contacting Amanda at amanda@leadsheepproductions.com or 651-246-1695 for more information.

You know, this is pretty corny, but it’s just a really special experience to get to sit at a table packed to the gills with folks who are passionate and genuinely care about their communities’ histories.

Here’s just a few of the historical goings-ons of the county:

Afton Historical Society: There is currently a part-time position open at the Afton Historical Museum. The organization is seeking someone to operate the museum during their open hours on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Interested parties should visit their website to find contact information.

Cottage Grove Historic Preservation Commission: Cottage Grove’s Historic Preservation Commission is concerned over the removal of the Hill-Gibson House from the city’s registry of historic places. Now that the house has been de-listed, it is scheduled for demolition and will be replaced by a retirement community.

Denmark Township Historical Society: Last week, the Denmark Township Historical Society hosted a program by Ken Martens on the Point Douglas Cemetery. They are also still pursuing various grants to restore the Valley Schoolhouse.

Maplewood Area Historical Society: The Maplewood Area Historical Society is hosting an “Alice in Wonderland’s Had Hatter” themed ladies’ tea on May 28th. See their website for more details and for exhibit open hours.

Stillwater Library: Researchers should be excited to hear that the Stillwater Library is undergoing an extensive catalogue and inventory of the St. Croix Room Collection. The Library also has a new microfilm reader that will allow you to directly save digital copies of the newspapers to a flash drive rather than having to physically print individual pages.

Washington County Historic Courthouse: The Washington County Parks Department is planning to bury a time capsule next year as part of the courthouse’s 150th anniversary. The Parks Department is seeking donations of items that represent how people today live in Washington County. (Although, they probably don’t too many Starbucks cups.) The Courthouse is also putting together a new exhibit that will highlight how Prohibition affected the Valley.

They also hosted an inaugural “History Hike” that was very well received and the Courthouse will still host the kick-off for this year’s Lumberjack Days, but with some modifications to the event from previous years.

Woodbury Heritage Society: The Woodbury Heritage Society is re-locating from Woodbury City Hall to the Public Works Building. Next year, the Society will help helm the festivities celebrating Woodbury’s 50th Anniversary as a City. The movement to preserve the Miller Barn is gaining steam as the Heritage Society will be giving presentation before Woodbury’s Park Department and City Budget Committee in the new couple of weeks.

What is This Thing?!

What Is This Thing?! (Round 34)

The answers for last issue’s What Is This Thing?! were certainly consistant! To the person, every person who sent me an email with their guess reported they thought it looked like either a petrified bagel or a rotten doughnut. And you know what – I suppose it does look quite a bit like both of those!

But last issue’s artifact is actually part of an ancient Native American fire-starting kit!

In this diagram, our fire-starting stone is the portion labelled as “socket”. You’d slide the socket over the tip of the drill to give yourself a better handhold during the lighting process.

In this brief YouTube video, you can actually see how a similar device/set-up would have worked!

Thank you to everyone who keeps this little game fun by sending in your guesses!

Onto today’s challenge! And once again…I’ve tried to be a little tricky by taking a close-up picture of only a portion of the whole artifact.

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 @WCHSMN, or post your guess on our Facebook page.

Good luck!

Full Image

Old News

Daily Minutia

If you’re a regular reader this humble e-newsletter, you’ll know that I absolutely love that newspapers used to publish utterly mundane tidbits of town gossip. It’s such an interesting and unique opportunity to really get a sense of what daily life would have been like in the late 19th century…or at least, how the reporting newspaper perceived it.

So, I’ll invite you to take a little journey through time to learn the status of Mr. Davis’ garden, hear a successful fishing story, and read the paper’s editor give a bit of good natured ribbing towards a newly married former co-worker.

About Town – Stillwater Republican – May 3, 1870

– Eggs are plenty and came down to fifteen cents per dozen Saturday.

– Mosquitos are making their appearance, much to the regret of every body.

– Our streets are now full of men, looking for employment.

– Last Saturday, Sunday, and Monday were real hot days.

– Northern Lights were beautifully brilliant last Saturday night.

– McKusick’s saw mill commenced sawing yesterday.

Geo. Francis Train has been engaged and will lecture in this city May 9th.

– A steer two years old was weighed on Web McKusick’s scales one day last week that weighed 1,110 pounds.

– The frame of the new shingle mill of D. Gaslin & Co., on the opposite side of the lake, is up and nearly enclosed.

– McKusick & Anderson have the foundation of the new mill at the ferry landing nearly completed.

– Sunday was a good day for our livery stables. Everything in the shape of a horse was out.

– We understand that Sam Bloomer has been appointed to take the census of Stillwater town and city.

– Geo. Davis has just received a lot of new plants, bulbs, and a large variety of choice rose bushes from the east.

– Last Saturday we saw new lettuce in Geo. Davis’ garden that was nearly large enough to pick.

– This morning the sun rose at 4 o’clock and 52 minutes and set at 7 o’clock and 2 minutes, making the day 14 hours and 10 minutes long.

– Dr. J. K. Reiner has purchased himself a new and handsome carriage. We understand that Dr. Stone has taken orders for five more similar to it, to come from the same manufactory.

– Last evening our efficient and popular County Auditor, R. Lehmicke, was presented with a handsome gold headed cane from the members of the Deutcher Verein, of which society he is the musical director.

– Rengstorff, and Morris of the Sawyer House, one day last week took over thirty fine speckled trout from Boles’ creek. Joe Carli and Joe Yorks started last Saturday for Kinnikinnick to try their luck at trouting.

– The Hudson Times says a very destructive prairie fire, in the way of burning fences and destroying young timber, occurred back of Lakeland on Friday last. The amount of damage done is variously calculated from $4,000 to $5,000. We are told that it caught from a gun wad.

– Personal:

– J. N. Castle returned from the East yesterday.

– W. G. Clark of St. Louis, is in the city.

– Mr. F. Schultz returned from the east last Friday. He will soon be followed by a new stock of goods. – Wm. E. Thorne went east yesterday after goods.

– The First Universalist Society, of Stillwater, hold divine service at Armory Hall on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Sundays in each month, commencing at 2 and 7 P.M. A cordial invitation is extended to all to come and hear. Rev. George Adams, Pastor

– S. Selleck has employed Mr. John Bell, an old and well known cutter of St. Paul, to supervise the merchant tailor department of his store, and will guarantee satisfaction to those who may favor him with their work.

– Mr. John Gierry, formerly of the Minnesota House, has rented the livery stable and gorund on Main street, near Westing. Hospes & Co’s store, for ten years, and is going to fit the same up for a billiard hall and saloon.

– As will be seen by a notice elsewhere, our old foreman “Tom” Bressnell, as he is familiarly known in these parts, has forsaken his old ways and become a happy benedict. “Tom” graduated at the printing business in this place along with ourselves; he peddling democracy in the shape of the old St. Croix Union – a sin he has long been trying to atone for by fighting the rebels and vigorously voting the Republican ticket since his majority – while we furnished unadulterated republicans through its rival, the Messenger. Tom recently made a raise by speculating in corner lots in the “Zenith” city, and concluded that now was the time. Sensible conclusion, – happy boy.

Featured Article

Brazilians, Mexicans, and WW2 Pilots Trained in Lake Elmo

By Anita Buck

“The setting is a Washington County pastoral that would have brought joy the Old Masters. It is the 160 acre Veronica Flynn farm, two miles east of Lake Elmo, with its broad pastures, venerable trees, and picturesque brick farmhouse nearly a half-century old.”

This is an excerpt from an article in the Stillwater Daily Gazette of Monday, June 8, 1942. It described the glider pilot school operated in the St. Croix Valley by the Army Air Corps from May to November of that year.

Even before the United States was drawn into the war in 1941, individuals across the land were training pilots for other countries.

Lt. Thomas North, a Twin Cities flying veteran, created and owned a small airfield, Northport, located on Highway 96 between White Bear and Stillwater. North had been contracted to train flyers from South and Central America and Mexico. The Latin American students were chosen by the own countries after an exhaustive competition to find the most outstanding young men. Their respective governments sent them to the United States for aviation training under the best teachers available. Nine were sent to Northport, along with three North American fliers.

Names on the roster were Gualo de Cowea Broves, Edgard Aleveda Mereira, and Wilson Simeon of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Harry Gibson, Jr. of Caracas, Venezuela; Ramon Alaroon and Raul Turner of Santiago, Chile; Cesar R. Berdo of Lima, Peru; and Enrique Labadie of Ilaveals, Mexico. The North American trainees were Robert J. Richled of Worthington, MN; Orlando Fossum of Staples, MN; and Stanley Sanders of Manchester, KY. The Latin Americans had received English instruction in their homelands, which gave them the necessary building blocks to communicate with their instructors. While in Stillwater, the men elected to only speak in English to continuously improve their language skills.

Irene Hedberg, a Spanish teacher at Stillwater senior high school, was recruited to strengthen the cadets’ grasp of English. Looking back at the experience, Miss Hedberg had doubts on who did the teaching. “I was supposed to be giving them a solid understanding of English,” she said, “In return they were adding to my Spanish.”

She also recalled their refined manners. “In the classroom they insisted on standing until I sat down, which complicated things when I wanted to use the blackboard. And when I went back to my high school classroom, I had to learn to pick up my books when I left a room. At Northport, I always had a willing escort crew.”

The cadets kept in touch after they transferred to Purdue for further training, but that correspondence was brief. Ms. Hedberg often wondered where her pupils had ended up in their lives and if they ever thought of their days in Stillwater.

The class lasted seven months at Northport. They were up at 6:30 am, flew from sunrise to sunset, and studied in ground school until 11:00 pm. They were off duty from 5:00 pm Saturday until 10:00 am Sunday, when training resumed. When the men arrived at Northport, only one could actually fly. But by the time they graduated, all had more than 100 hours of ground school, and 40 to 50 hours of flight time. This qualified them for private pilot licenses in the United States, and instructor ratings in their homelands.

By the time the United States entered Second World War, air power was becoming increasingly crucial. Designs were made for transporting men and material by means of glider planes, which would be towed to a target area and released. Unpowered, they would glide soundlessly to the ground. With the Northport Flying School already established, the Army Air Corps looked closely at the area. It selected Stillwater as the operation center for a glider training school. There were three other such schools in Minnesota and two in neighboring South Dakota.

North was given a contract for the training. Wendell Wilson, Don Cafferty, Phil Belfiori and Milton H. Kuhlman, principal of Stillwater High School, were engaged as ground school instructors. Sixteen flight instructors were added at the start with more hired later on.

A caravan of a half-dozen military vehicles arrived in Stillwater on May 26, 1942. They parked next to the post office on Second and Myrtle Street where Tom North met the group. He had made arrangements for the officers and staff to stay at the Northwestern Hotel. However, a staff sergeant amongst the soldiers later reported that the commanding officer took one look at the proposed lodgings and said, “No way.” Eventually, six of the group would stay at the much-swankier Lowell Inn while the others found rooms at private residences throughout town.

At first, the brick house on the Flynn farm served as the base’s offices. The barn was used for airplane repairs. Eventually, the whole operation was packed up and moved to more suitable quarters at the old CC camp on Highway 95, approximately at the site of the Anderson Window Corp. facility in Bayport. The military leased a second field near the Twin Point Tavern in Lake Elmo and a third just north of Highway 12 near Lakeland. An auxiliary field was leased in Wisconsin for emergency landings.

Barely two weeks after setting up the glider school, the first batch of trainees arrived. Under an agreement with the board of education, candidates for the flight program were housed in the Stillwater High School gymnasium. There the men were cared for in dormitory fashion. The Air Corps even took over the school cafeteria until a mess hall was later installed at the CCC campsite.

On June 11, 1942, the pilot training school and its fields were inspected by Major Gen. George E. Stratemeyer, commander of the Southeast Air Corps Training Center. The general was reported to be “pleased with the layout and progress of the school.” Every other week, 250 students arrived for two weeks of training. These were Air Corps volunteers and almost to the man – not a single had flown before. North and his instructors gave them flight training in about 20 planes. Instructors worked 7 days a week, dawn to dark, any time the weather was fit to fly. Students flew the planes eight hours with the power on, and then eight hours with no power what so ever including dead-stick landings to simulate operating a glider.

On June 11, the glider base’s staff were the target of chemical warfare. But the culprit wasn’t a member of the Axis Powers…

The Stillwater Gazette reported that two able-bodied skunks had taken up residence under the old Flynn farmhouse. “Officers and NCOs alike reach the decision that they were training for the air corps, not for gas warfare. A call went out for Rube Grandquist, district game warden.”

Students, officers, and instructors of the Army Air Fore Aviation school watched as an expert in glider flight gave a demonstration at the Flynn farm field on Saturday, June 20. Tom Bellak of the University of Minnesota aeronautics school brought his own glider to Stillwater. Bellak was given a tower into the air by Lt. Renz. For many of the students, this was the first time they had ever seen a glider in person.

In recalling the operation of the glider school, Jim Rog had said that the command group had a “double A” priority. They received anything they asked for, dealing directly with Washington, D.C. Fort Snelling handled finance, medical care, troop movements, and provided escorts for the dead.

Although the Stillwater school had the best safety record of the six Midwest schools, there were two accidents with four men killed. Once, a student panicked and froze on the controls, crashing into the ground. Both the student and the instructor were killed. Following a snowstorm one winter day, a plane took off without having its wing de-iced. The plane plummeted into the ground and again, neither the trainee nor the instructor survived.

During the six months the glider school operated, almost 3,000 cadets received training. The last students completed their instruction on Friday, Nov. 13, 1942. From there, they were assigned to Lockbourne, Ohio or Texas for advanced training before being deployed to Europe.

The civilian instructors continued to work for Tom North, training pilots until the government contract expired in 1943. Almost all of the instructors enlisted in the Army Air Corps as flight officers. More than half flew in the Asian Theater, transporting supplies between India and China. At air bases all over the world, they met fellow instructors as well as many of the pilots they themselves had taught in the St. Croix Valley.

After the cadets left in November 1942, the members of the permanent detachment finished the business of the school. Paperwork was wound up on Sunday. By mid-afternoon on Monday, Nov. 16, the last of the personnel boarded their vehicles and headed south, closing this chapter of military glider training in Washington County.

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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.