Gateway to Minnesota History

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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.

Troubled Bridge Over Equally Troubled Waters

 

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This issue: Contents
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
  • Editor’s Note
  • WCHS News: WCHS Annual Meeting with Jumpin’ Jim Brunzell
  • WCHS News: Boutwell Update
  • What Is This Thing?!
  • Old News: Stillwater’s 1864 Interests
  • Featured Article: Troubled Bridge Over Equally Troubled Waters
Editor’s Note

Howdy readers!

I’d like to start off by saying “Thank You!” to everyone who braved the cold for our Ice Cream Social on the 16th. With a -20 wind chill, the turn out wasn’t huge – but it was definitely enthusiastic!

Head over to our Facebook page to see a few photos from the day (and please join us in crossing our fingers and wishing for a warmer day next year!)

We’ve very excited to announce that retired professional wrestler and author Jumpin’ Jim Brunzell will be leaping from the top-rope as our Featured Guest speaker for our Annual Membership Meeting on Thursday, March 31st. Head down to our first News story for all the details.

I swung by the Historic Boutwell House last week and I’ll give you a quick update on the status of WCHS’ preservation efforts in our second bit of News.

Later on, I’ll try to step-up my game for this issue’s “What Is This Thing?!”

In today’s Old News, we’ll discover what news items on the national stage captured Stillwaterites…Stillwaterans…Stillwaterese..people from Stillwater’s attention in January of 1864.

You probably read that the current St. Croix Crossing construction project has been delayed – well, this is only keeping with the long tradition of having trouble with bridges in the St. Croix Valley! At least the new bridge hasn’t collapsed into the river! Check out our Featured Article to read about the Lift Bridge’s rickety predecessor.

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 

Boutwell Update

The Washington County Historical Society’s preservation efforts at the historic Rev. Boutwell House are continuing through the snowy months.

Working with professional architects, preservationists, and contractors – we are doing our absolute best to preserve the integrity of this beautiful piece of Washington County history.

As you can see in the photo – one of the biggest improvements is the closing of the giant hole in the back portion of the house created when the demolition process began last year.

We’re also happy to report that we have been able to save some of the original wood beams of the home and will be able to recycle them back into the re-construction of the home.

Stay tuned for more updates!

Thank you everyone who has supported the project up to this point!

Preserving the Boutwell House is a massive undertaking for the Historical Society…not to mention an expensive one! Honestly, the best and most direct way to support the Boutwell House is to make a tax-deductable Donation!

Thank you and we’ll see you at the Boutwell Open House this Spring!

What is This Thing?!

What Is This Thing?! (Round 26)

I guess I was way too easy on all of you for last week’s What Is This Thing?!

Last issue’s item generated the biggest response I’ve ever gotten for a “What Is This Thing?!” challenge! And all of you knew the artifact was indeed a carpet beater. (Although a few folks also offered that they were good for whacking grasshoppers and leprechauns).

I even got a few personal memories from a few readers! One of you wrote that:

“This entry is one that leaves me exhausted. I recall beating the carpets with one of those nasty things. Two things come to mind: the cloud of dust that inevitably rose from a beaten carpet (even when ostensibly kept clean) and the weariness that I felt in the arms after a session of spring cleaning.”

I absolutely love to hear when folks have personal connections to the artifacts in our collection!

Thanks to everyone who took a guess at last week’s item!

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

And if you still aren’t sure – here’s the reverse of today’s item with some writing on it…maybe that’ll give you a hint! Reverse Image

Old News 

Stillwater’s 1864 Interests

By 1864, the Civil War, which everyone had assumed would draw to a swift and decisive conclusion, was somehow entering it’s third year.

And all throughout those years men from Stillwater and Washington County had been out East fighting and dying in the Union’s efforts to put down the South’s Rebellion.

But what of those back home? Naturally, as you’d expect, many of the articles discuss the on-going war. Including an article highlighting the then-current events featured in John Christgau’s Incident at the Otterville Station.

Below is a small sampling of national news blurbs re-printed on the pages of the Messenger.

Note the consistently dismissive attitude towards news from the Confederacy. The editor’s comments insult both the “rebel Navy” and Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

The list also interestingly shows an interest in astronomy of the general public at the time.

News Briefs – Stillwater Messenger – January 26, 1864

John B. Gough and E. P. Whipple are lecturing in Washington

– There are sixty-six woolen factories in Rhode Island, having 225 sets of cards.

– The rebel navy numbers 507 officers and 874 men The latter are certainly well officered.

– They are having snow shoe races in Kingston, Canada

– A moose for the King of Italy, arrived in Boston on Saturday, from Halifax.

– There are now 187 National Banks organized [illegible] capital of thirty millions.

– Four comets, and three planets were discovered last year.

– Three hundred and six thousand and five hundred and forty-two barrels of mackerel were inspected in Massachusetts last year. The largest number since 1852.

– Two noblemen have been heavily fined in England for shooting peas at ladies on top of a cab. Dignified recreation!

– Over fifty thousand dollars was paid out in the city to farmers last week for wheat and pork. That is a tolerable fair week’s work. Prices have generally ruled high, thus giving the farmer a good profit on this labor and time

– A Nashville paper gives the following, showing the number of men Tennessee has furnished to the Federal cause:

Calvary: 12,000

Cavalry mustered into the service in new regiments not full: 1,300

Infantry: 11,000

Artillery: 1,100

Infantry [negroes]: 5,960

Artillery [negroes]: 2,600

Total: 33,360

This is doing well when we consider the difficulties which have been encountered by authorities. Recruiting still goes on briskly.

– Prof. James Watson, who recently discovered the new comet, writes to the Detroit Advertisers that the comet is now rapidly approaching the earth, and receding from the sun. Its distance from the earth, January 12th, was 45,000,000 miles. It will continue to approach the earth until February 1st, when its distance will be only 15,000,000 of miles, and its brilliancy five times greater than at the present time. It is probably that it will then be visible to the naked eye. After February 1st, it will recede from both the earth and sun. Should the comet become visible to the naked eye, it may first be seen on the evening of January 25th – before the moon rises – in the north-west, about 10 degrees south, and a little east of the bright star Alpha Cephei.

– A refugee from Richmond, a man of note, who has just reached Baltimore, predicts that when the crisis comes Jeff Davis will cut his throat! He says the same of Pickens of South Carolina, and some others.

Featured Article

Troubled Bridge Over Equally Troubled Waters

By Brent Peterson

The first river crossing at Stillwater across the river was opened in 1876. It was a grand site and even though it was a toll bridge, people seemed to enjoy the convenience of going right across to the Wisconsin side. There was a pontoon section that would swing open and allow the rafts of logs and lumber go through. All seemed to be working well until Sunday October 10, 1886.

On that date a cattle dealer named John Foster arrived in town during the morning with 98 horses and mules which he had driven overland from River Falls and going to St. Paul. The animals were stopped on the approach span of the bridge on the Stillwater side at the request of the bridge master. There about a dozen men were counting the horses and mules when suddenly with a crash that was heard more than three blocks away, the span gave way and the animals and men dropped twenty feet into the water. Thankfully all the men and all but three mules survived the crash. The Stillwater Gazette said: “an examination of the span which broke disclosed the fact that there was not a sound piece of timber below the platform. All were rotten, the rusty iron rods pulled through the spongy wood, and the worm-eaten supporting beams gave way at once. Many people who examined the span asked the question: ‘How in the name of common sense do you suppose it held up the heavy four horse loads of lumber which have been passing over it so long?”

The bridge was quickly repaired and life went on as normal. But eleven years later the bridge again would collapse because of too many cattle on the spans.

On Friday September 10, 1897 a herd of 50 cattle were being driven across the bridge to the Wisconsin side. These cattle belonged to Isaac Staples and many of the cattle were coming from his Maple Island Farm and were going to pasture in Wisconsin. The span next to the pontoon on the Stillwater side started to creak and then gave way. About 30 cattle fell into the water while others had crossed the span just before it collapsed.

A portion of the bridge that fell landed flat in the water creating a raft of sorts. Several of the animals were trapped on that, one cow landed on its feel on the lower platform without even getting wet. However, the vast majority of the animals that fell went directly into the water. They were unable to gain any footing and were swimming about in a terrified and helpless manner, snorting and bellowing with fear. The Bronson & Folsom steamer, “Baby,” came quickly to rescue the animals and help with the clean up of the debris. Again, the breaking of the principal cross-timber caused the accident. The break was caused by one end of the huge timber being rotten. Another collapse of the wooden pontoon bridge happened on September 15, 1904 when the wooden structure caught fire. After the fire department and spectators gathered on the burning bridge, it collapsed sending fire fighters and spectators into the water. This collapse caused the death of three people.

After the collapse in 1897 the newspaper said that the incident had raised “considerable talk among the business men” in Stillwater about building a new bridge. Even one city council member remarked: “the old bridge had already caused the city more outlay than would have been necessary to put up a handsome steel one.”

The Stillwater’s current and iconic lift bridge was constructed in 1931 and has thus-far served travelers much more reliably than her predecessor.

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.

“Dancing With A Crowd of Swedes”

This issue: Contents
Tuesday, January 12, 2016
  • Editor’s Note
  • WCHS News: Winter Ice Cream Social
  • What Is This Thing?!
  • Old News: Lumbering Moves North
  • Featured Article: “Dancing With A Crowd of Swedes”

Editor’s Note

Woah, woah, woah. What happened to our mild winter!? I was really enjoying those 30 and 40 degree days back in December…I suppose kicking off the New Year in the single digits is just about as Minnesotan as you can get.

The only thing more Minnesotan than enduring Arctic-esque blasts is to have an ice cream cone in them! Our annual Winter Ice Cream Social is this Saturday! Head down to our News section to get the scoop.

I’ve got another mystery item from WCHS’ extensive artifact collection eagerly awaiting your attempts at identification down in today’s “What Is This Thing?!”

Although the lumber industry was the catalyst that birthed Stillwater and the surrounding communities, the supply of natural timber couldn’t survive the onslaught of industry. By the turn of the 20th century, fresh lumber in the St. Croix Valley was hard to come by. In this issue’s Old News, you’ll read a little about the fate of some of Stillwater’s now unnecessary lumbermen.

And staying on the topic of lumbering, we’ll read a letter from one of these lumber camps from way back in 1873. And just as a note, this letter was written from January 26th to the 30th. That’s right, winter was the season when the men were actually out in the woods felling trees.

The lumberjack writing the letter makes mention that his birthday fell on January 28th. According to the Stillwater Messenger covering that week, January 28th, 1873 “seemed to be one of the coldest days of the season, though the mercury in our reporter’s thermometer only indicated 26 degrees below. We heard reports as low as 38 degrees, but they were probably incorrect.”

It was 26 degrees below zero on this guy’s birthday and he didn’t even mention how cold it was!

Frank Briggs was outside swinging an axe in this kind of weather and I barely want to run from my apartment to my car…they were a hearty stock back then.

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 this 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! Head over to North Lowell Park in Stillwater, 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 25)

So most folks were able to tell that last issue’s What Is This Thing?! was a case that held binoculars…but a few were even able to tell that these are specifically Opera Glasses!

Stillwater used to actually have it’s very own Grand Opera House!

In 1888, author W.H.C. Folsom described it in his Fifty Years in the Northwest as follows: “The opera house occupies the site of the old Lake house, on Main street between Nelson and Chestnut streets. It was commenced in 1880 and finished in 1881, under the supervision of L.W. Eldred, architect. Its size is 90 x 120 feet, ground plan, and four stories in height, or seventy-one feet from lower floor to cornice. The style of architecture is a blending of the Queen Anne, Victoria and Gothic. The entrance to the upper part of the building is a stairway twelve feet wide, in a lofty, ornamental turret. The auditorium is 64×120 feet, and beautifully and elaborately finished and furnished, and is capable of seating over 1,200 persons. It is well lighted, being supplied with 130 gas jets, warmed by steam, and well ventilated. The stage is 39×64 feet, complete in all its appointments, and supplied with all the necessary stage scenery, wings, border bridge, balcony, interior and other decorations. The ceiling of the auditorium is superbly frescoed and the cornice is adorned with medallions of Shakespeare, Haydn, Schiller, Goethe, Dickens, Handel, Scott, Longfellow, Mozart, Tennyson, and Beethoven. The parts of the building not occupied for stage purposes are apportioned to halls, offices and stores.”

Over the years, the Grand Opera House hosted a plethora of amusements, including everything from plays, operas, and masquerades, to boxing exhibitions, the John Phillip Sousa Band, and even Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.

The opera house was unfortunately destroyed by fire in 1902 and never rebuilt.

Thanks to everyone who took a guess at last week’s item!

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

Lumbering Moves North

Since Stillwater’s population was first officially counted in the 1860 Census, every decade had seen an increase in population. However, 1910 marked the beginning of a new trend.

Over the next few decades, Stillwater would lose about half of it’s “Golden Era of Lumber” population shrinking from almost 13,000 in 1900 to around 7,000 in 1940. Without the raw trees to support the industry, the lumbermen and many other workers were suddenly out of a job – and they didn’t stick around.

But where did they go? Well, naturally they followed the trees; specifically, into Canada.

One of the most interesting elements of this article is that the editor apparently understood that over-harvesting had completely destroyed the St. Croix Valley’s timber resources – but makes no mention or comment that the process was seemingly being repeated by the same men in the Great Saskatchewan Valley.

On a slightly less depressing of a note, the other bit of this article that jumped out at me is the very familiar name of one of the lumbermen…

Old Timers in the Far North – Stillwater Messenger – January 12, 1907

Dan Elliot, who is working for the Prince Albert Lumber Company, writes an interesting letter to the Gazette of the out look in that far away lumber district. Prince Albert is the capitol of Saskatchewan, and is located about 800 miles northwest of Winnipeg, on the Canadian Northern railroad. It contains about 10,000 inhabitants and is a thriving little city. In the three camps of the Prince Albert Lumber Company are a number of Stillwater men who have employment. Such well known loggers as Jas. R. Brennan, Jerry Donovan, Dick Carrigan, Dave Heffron, Ronald McDonald, Tom Ruseel, Tom Wadden, Arthur Farnham, Norman Russel and others, who have nearly depleted the forests of the St. Croix, are repeating the act in the Great Saskatchewan valley. The weather in that region is favorable to logging interests and a vast territory is being worked over by numerous companies that are engaged in cutting tress and getting ready to manufacture the logs into lumber and to ship the product east, west and south, and a great deal of it finds a market north, clear to Hudson Bay.

Featured Article

“Dancing With A Crowd of Swedes”

Frog Creek. Jan. the 26th, 1873

Respected Friend

Being it is Sunday morning and I have nothing else to do, I will improve my time in writing to you. I am well as [can be], hope this will find you the same. There is no one drunk to day, there were six of them the other night. I had most a fearful time. They went off and had a dance to another camp. They kept me up til twelve o’clock at night writing to you and [illegible]. One wanted one thing and one wanted another. Got my socks, moccasins, jacket in the morning. I hadn’t clothes enough to put on. We have quite a decent crew when they are sober. There is six Swedes in camp, three Frenchmen, nine Irishmen, four Americans, one Englishman. Quite a mixture don’t you think so? Our cook is Swede, he gives us good grub. Have lots of cranberries, Apples, everything that is good.

I don’t know what I wrote to you the other night – not half, I couldn’t think of anything [when] them lads more than went for me…Anderson did not say anything about them cranberries nor I to him. They were too busy a dancing. Don’t you think I was in big business dancing with a crowd of Swedes. Winnie and I danced one set. Got Bill Soule dancing with a nice young ladie and then made him call off. It was better than any circus I ever went to. I went to bed at ten o’clock, went to sleep about three in the morning – all the noise you ever heard…but then all would dance a while then drink a while. When I got to sleep I had to get up and feed the horses.

Well I will change the subject a little. The cook says he must have the table for it is dinner time. So I am obliged to stop for awhile. Well Cass I will try to finish this sheet. Today is the 30th, my birthday was day before yesterday. Wouldn’t you like to [have] pulled my ears? The supply team comes tonight. I will send this down tomorrow. I don’t know but I shall [buy] another horse. Old Tom is not extra well. The teams here are all getting por. Wm. Soule came very near his last-end. He was loading a log had a rope fast to a tree. He started his team and pulled the tree over onto his head. He hadn’t his senses for awhile, he is better tonight.

I have got a great little partner. He tends shed for me. He is French, lives in Little Canada. It is getting late so I will c lose hoping to hear from you soon. Give my respects to all the folks and a share to yourself.

From your friend,

Frank Briggs

I will give you Directions not knowing if you got my other letter.

Frank Briggs

Rush City, Minn.

Harrigan & Sullivan Camp

Upcoming 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.

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

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

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.

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.

Lost History

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

 

This issue: Contents
Tuesday, November 17th, 2015
  • Editor’s Note
  • WCHS News: Thank You!
  • WCHS News: Annual Holiday Book Sale and Open House
  • What Is This Thing?!
  • Old News: Vandalism Spree Brought to Light
  • Featured Article: Lost History
Editor’s Note

That’s right! I’m back in your inbox a short time after last week’s Veteran’s Day special edition!

Well, we’re more than halfway through November – let’s keep our fingers crossed to keep that snow away.

We’ll start today by giving a post-Give to the Max Day report.

Next, we’ll check out the details of our upcoming Annual Holiday Book Sale.

As always, I have another artifact from the historical society’s collection whose identity is eagerly awaiting your guesses.

In this week’s Old News you’ll read about a 1906 crime wave that was casting a dark shadow over Stillwater…literally!

And finally, we’ll wrap up today’s article with an article covering a few pieces of our county history that have been lost in the name of “progress”.

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

Thank You!

Let me send a huge Thank You to everyone who donated during Give to the Max Day last Thursday.

Through your generous contributions, the Washington County Historical Society raised $995.00 to put towards our goals of collecting, preserving, and disseminating the history of Washington County.

That being said, if you missed Give to the Max Day, never fear! You can easily donate to WCHS throughout the year at our Donation Page!

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!

This year, we’re happy to announce that we’ll be highlighting a new book on the unique history of Stillwater’s Stonebridge Elementary by retired educator, Bernie Anderson. Stonebridge Elementary was a bit of an educational-experiment. What happens when you remove classes and let the students direct the content of the lessons? Find out with The Magic That Was Stonebridge: Reflections From an Era of Teacher Empowerment”.

This year’s other featured authors 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), Pam, Robin, & Nancy (Holiday Cookie Creation), and Brent Peterson (Stillwater: The Next Generation) will also 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?!

What Is This Thing?! (Round 21)

Thank you to everyone who made a guess at last week’s What Is This Thing?!

Most of you answered that last issue’s item was a “buggy horse whip” which is definitely correct. But only one person managed to be absolutely 100% on the money…

This particular horse whip was used by Stillwater native Arthur Jamieson to drive the horses working in the lumber industry. Winter was actually the logging season here in the St. Croix Valley. After felling the logs, the wood would be piled onto horse drawn sleighs and pulled across iced roads to lessen the animals’ burden. Even still, when you see the photos of these massive loads – you’ll see the horses probably needed a bit of encouragement.

Be sure to keep up with the Historical Messenger, the historical society recently received a very interesting donation of some other items belonging to Arthur Jamieson that will be revealed in a future issue…

On to today’s challenge! I’ve gone easy on you for the last two “What Is This Thing?!”s…but today’s challenge features an item that’s a bit more unique.

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 

Vandalism Spree Brought to Light

Oh the joys of youth.

One of your buddies comes up with a bright idea of how to pass the time…and the next thing you know, you’ve got a court date.

Boys Arrested for Breaking Lights – Stillwater Messenger – November 17, 1906

Chief Barnes has rounded up a half a dozen young boys who have been caught in the act of breaking incandescent lights and causing considerable damage to the electric light company. The boys had a hearing before Judge Doe Friday morning, who gave them a talking to and let them go with the promise that their parents will settle with the company for the loss sustained.

Featured Article

Lost History

by Brent Peterson, WCHS Executive Director

Stillwater is a town at has a lot of pride in its historic buildings. The commercial district of town is on the National Register of Historic Places and the citizens are proud of that. It was a great thing that the “Urban Renewal” of the 1960s didn’t take all the majestic buildings from the skyline of Stillwater, but it did take a few.

Today, the most talked about building that is no more in Stillwater is the Union Depot. Built in 1887, and opened with a grand celebration in early 1888, the depot was the most impressive building downtown Stillwater for decades. Designed by Chicago architects Edward Burling and Francis M. Whitehouse, the depot was construct by local contractor L.W. Eldred.

Passenger service from the Union Depot ended in 1927, but the Northern Pacific Railway operated a ticket office in the building until 1954. A restaurant was operated in the depot for many years. Morey Crotto took over the restaurant in June 1932 calling it the Depot Café, which continued until 1955.

The old depot was purchased by Russell Gilbert in February 1955 and used for his new company called United Fabricators and Electronics, UFE, which made radio and television parts. Gilbert sold the depot in 1959 to the Hooley’s who, in turn, torn the old building down in March 1960 to build the Hooley Supermarket.

The Hersey & Staples block that was located on the corner of Myrtle and Main Street, where Stillwater Antiques is now and formerly the Cosmopolitan Bank, was constructed in 1871. In the Stillwater Messenger of June 2, 1871, there was a sizable article about the construction of this building. The building was to be “50 feet on Main Street, and 125 on Myrtle Street, it will be three stories in height, with a basement, The building will be built of Stillwater stone, with the corners, window and door caps and trimmings of Lake Superior stone, which is of the same quality as that of the Milwaukee Court House. The front at the top of the building will have an exceedingly neat attractive appearance.”

On the first floor of this new building would be two large rooms fronting Main Street, one of which was already to be used by the Lumberman’s National Bank. There were also two offices for rent on the Myrtle Street side. A center staircase led to the second floor where there were two large offices fronting Main and four offices fronting Myrtle Street.

The third floor was originally a large open room, 50 X 120 feet with 15-foot high ceilings, perfect for a lodge or a fraternal organization.

Over the years there was a dry goods store, groceries, a bakery, and of course, the bank occupying on of Stillwater’s most beautiful buildings. The Lumberman’s National Bank later became the Cosmopolitan Bank. In 1967, the bank officials decided it wanted a more modern “log-cabin type of building” in which to do business. So the decision was made to raze the nearly 100-year old building and construct something else.

In September 1967, Bolander & Sons of Minneapolis started the demolition of the old Hersey & Staples block. It took until early the next year to complete and clean up the site. The local company of George W. Olsen Company constructed the present building. The architects were Kilstofe & Vosejpka, Inc. of Wayzata and the new Cosmopolitan Bank was opened in the spring of 1968.

Another outstanding building in downtown Stillwater that is no more was the Auditorium Theatre on South Second Street.

The plans for the Auditorium were drawn by the firm of Kinney & Detweiler of Minneapolis and the local construction firm of O.H. Olsen was the company to build it. The grand opening of the Auditorium took place on January 27, 1906 when the comedy play of “Piff, Paff, Pouf” took the stage.

In 1919 the first motion picture was shown at the Auditorium. It was a 10-reel version of “Shepherd of the Hills,” and from then on movies could be seen at the theatre. During July 1939, the theatre was closed for two days while a new sound system was installed.

As time went on, the building began to show its age. By the early 1970s, structural problems along with declining attendance made it hard to keep the building open. Though many people tried very hard to keep the Auditorium going (there was even a plan to make it into an evangelism center) the condition of the building made its closing inevitable.

The headline of the November 10, 1976 issue of the Stillwater Gazette said it all: “Auditorium Theatre to be Razed.” The Battle Wrecking Company of Minneapolis was to begin demolition of the building on November 13 and be completed by the week of November 28th.

There were other buildings that fell to the wrecking ball such as the Mower and Torinus block and the little white building on North Main Street that was Morey’s Café. Stillwater did well on preserving much of its heritage, but like everywhere else, some of Stillwater was lost.

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.

Lost History

 

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

This issue: Contents
Tuesday, November 17th, 2015
  • Editor’s Note
  • WCHS News: Thank You!
  • WCHS News: Annual Holiday Book Sale and Open House
  • What Is This Thing?!
  • Old News: Vandalism Spree Brought to Light
  • Featured Article: Lost History
Editor’s Note

That’s right! I’m back in your inbox a short time after last week’s Veteran’s Day special edition!

Well, we’re more than halfway through November – let’s just keep our fingers crossed to keep that snow away.

We’ll start today by giving a post-Give to the Max Day report.

Next, we’ll check out the details of our upcoming Annual Holiday Book Sale.

As always, I have another artifact from the historical society’s collection whose identity is eagerly awaiting your guesses.

In this week’s Old News you’ll read about a 1906 crime wave that was casting a dark shadow over Stillwater…literally!

And finally, we’ll wrap up today’s article with an article covering a few pieces of our county history that have been lost in the name of “progress”.

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

Thank You!

Let me send a huge Thank You to everyone who donated during Give to the Max Day last Thursday.

Through your generous contributions, the Washington County Historical Society raised $995.00 to put towards our goals of collecting, preserving, and disseminating the history of Washington County.

That being said, if you missed Give to the Max Day, never fear! You can easily donate to WCHS throughout the year at our Donation Page!

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!

This year, we’re happy to announce that we’ll be highlighting a new book on the unique history of Stillwater’s Stonebridge Elementary by retired educator, Bernie Anderson. Stonebridge Elementary was a bit of an educational-experiment. What happens when you remove classes and let the students direct the content of the lessons? Find out with The Magic That Was Stonebridge: Reflections From an Era of Teacher Empowerment”.

This year’s other featured authors 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), Pam, Robin, & Nancy (Holiday Cookie Creation), and Brent Peterson (Stillwater: The Next Generation) will also 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?!

What Is This Thing?! (Round 21)

Thank you to everyone who made a guess at last week’s What Is This Thing?!

Most of you answered that last issue’s item was a “buggy horse whip” which is definitely correct. But only one person managed to be absolutely 100% on the money…

This particular horse whip was used by Stillwater native Arthur Jamieson to drive the horses working in the lumber industry. Winter was actually the logging season here in the St. Croix Valley. After felling the logs, the wood would be piled onto horse drawn sleighs and pulled across iced roads to lessen the animals’ burden. Even still, when you see the photos of these massive loads – you’ll see the horses probably needed a bit of encouragement.

Be sure to keep up with the Historical Messenger, the historical society recently received a very interesting donation of some other items belonging to Arthur Jamieson that will be revealed in a future issue…

On to today’s challenge! I’ve gone easy on you for the last two “What Is This Thing?!”s…but today’s challenge features an item that’s a bit more unique.

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 

Vandalism Spree Brought to Light

Oh the joys of youth.

One of your buddies comes up with a bright idea of how to pass the time…and the next thing you know, you’ve got a court date.

Boys Arrested for Breaking Lights – Stillwater Messenger – November 17, 1906

Chief Barnes has rounded up a half a dozen young boys who have been caught in the act of breaking incandescent lights and causing considerable damage to the electric light company. The boys had a hearing before Judge Doe Friday morning, who gave them a talking to and let them go with the promise that their parents will settle with the company for the loss sustained.

Featured Article

Lost History

by Brent Peterson, WCHS Executive Director

Stillwater is a town at has a lot of pride in its historic buildings. The commercial district of town is on the National Register of Historic Places and the citizens are proud of that. It was a great thing that the “Urban Renewal” of the 1960s didn’t take all the majestic buildings from the skyline of Stillwater, but it did take a few.

Today, the most talked about building that is no more in Stillwater is the Union Depot. Built in 1887, and opened with a grand celebration in early 1888, the depot was the most impressive building downtown Stillwater for decades. Designed by Chicago architects Edward Burling and Francis M. Whitehouse, the depot was construct by local contractor L.W. Eldred.

Passenger service from the Union Depot ended in 1927, but the Northern Pacific Railway operated a ticket office in the building until 1954. A restaurant was operated in the depot for many years. Morey Crotto took over the restaurant in June 1932 calling it the Depot Café, which continued until 1955.

The old depot was purchased by Russell Gilbert in February 1955 and used for his new company called United Fabricators and Electronics, UFE, which made radio and television parts. Gilbert sold the depot in 1959 to the Hooley’s who, in turn, torn the old building down in March 1960 to build the Hooley Supermarket.

The Hersey & Staples block that was located on the corner of Myrtle and Main Street, where Stillwater Antiques is now and formerly the Cosmopolitan Bank, was constructed in 1871. In the Stillwater Messenger of June 2, 1871, there was a sizable article about the construction of this building. The building was to be “50 feet on Main Street, and 125 on Myrtle Street, it will be three stories in height, with a basement, The building will be built of Stillwater stone, with the corners, window and door caps and trimmings of Lake Superior stone, which is of the same quality as that of the Milwaukee Court House. The front at the top of the building will have an exceedingly neat attractive appearance.”

On the first floor of this new building would be two large rooms fronting Main Street, one of which was already to be used by the Lumberman’s National Bank. There were also two offices for rent on the Myrtle Street side. A center staircase led to the second floor where there were two large offices fronting Main and four offices fronting Myrtle Street.

The third floor was originally a large open room, 50 X 120 feet with 15-foot high ceilings, perfect for a lodge or a fraternal organization.

Over the years there was a dry goods store, groceries, a bakery, and of course, the bank occupying on of Stillwater’s most beautiful buildings. The Lumberman’s National Bank later became the Cosmopolitan Bank. In 1967, the bank officials decided it wanted a more modern “log-cabin type of building” in which to do business. So the decision was made to raze the nearly 100-year old building and construct something else.

In September 1967, Bolander & Sons of Minneapolis started the demolition of the old Hersey & Staples block. It took until early the next year to complete and clean up the site. The local company of George W. Olsen Company constructed the present building. The architects were Kilstofe & Vosejpka, Inc. of Wayzata and the new Cosmopolitan Bank was opened in the spring of 1968.

Another outstanding building in downtown Stillwater that is no more was the Auditorium Theatre on South Second Street.

The plans for the Auditorium were drawn by the firm of Kinney & Detweiler of Minneapolis and the local construction firm of O.H. Olsen was the company to build it. The grand opening of the Auditorium took place on January 27, 1906 when the comedy play of “Piff, Paff, Pouf” took the stage.

In 1919 the first motion picture was shown at the Auditorium. It was a 10-reel version of “Shepherd of the Hills,” and from then on movies could be seen at the theatre. During July 1939, the theatre was closed for two days while a new sound system was installed.

As time went on, the building began to show its age. By the early 1970s, structural problems along with declining attendance made it hard to keep the building open. Though many people tried very hard to keep the Auditorium going (there was even a plan to make it into an evangelism center) the condition of the building made its closing inevitable.

The headline of the November 10, 1976 issue of the Stillwater Gazette said it all: “Auditorium Theatre to be Razed.” The Battle Wrecking Company of Minneapolis was to begin demolition of the building on November 13 and be completed by the week of November 28th.

There were other buildings that fell to the wrecking ball such as the Mower and Torinus block and the little white building on North Main Street that was Morey’s Café. Stillwater did well on preserving much of its heritage, but like everywhere else, some of Stillwater was lost.

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.

Veterans’ Day in Washington County

 

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

This issue: Contents
Wednesday, November 11th, 2015
  • Editor’s Note
  • WCHS News: Give to the Max Day! – November 12th
  • Artifacts of our Veterans
  • Featured Article: The Last Man of Company B
Editor’s Note

Hello e-newsletter readers!

Now you’ll immediately notice that today’s issue doesn’t quite fit into our normal schedule. But, since today is Veteran’s Day and tomorrow is Give to the Max Day, I thought it would be fitting to put this brief newsletter together…

All across the nation, November 11th is set aside to remember and extend our sincere gratitude towards all who have served in the military. From coast to coast and even here in Stillwater, living servicemen and women are rightly honored in speeches, parades, and even by simple gestures like offering a free malt and burger.

But what happens to the memories and stories of veterans who have passed away?

Of course for a while, they will be retold and remembered by their loved ones. But what then? This form of oral history has an expiration date. Their widows and children and even their children’s children will all be gone some day. The men and women who risked their lives in the name of our country deserve something more permenant.

The Washington County Historical Society has been preserving the memories, stories, and histories of our local veterans for more than 80 years. In almost every room of the Warden’s House Museum, you’ll find at least one artifact tied to the life of a Washington County veteran. These physical objects allow us to peer through the fog of history and realize that these soldiers weren’t just statistics or grainy black-and-white photographs. They were brothers, farmers, mothers, teachers, grocers, and most importantly: people.

They are our friends and neighbors – just a few decades removed.

And many of these made enormous sacrifices that must be recorded and remembered.

Please consider donating to the Washington County Historical Society tomorrow during Give to the Max Day. Your donations allows us to continue re-telling and saving the stories of our veterans for generations to come.

Thank you.

And of course, a special thank you to all of our veterans.

Sean Pallas

Historical Messenger editor and Warden’s House Site Manager

spallas.wchs@gmail.com

WCHS News 

Give to the Max Day!

On Thursday, November 12th, your gift goes farther on Give to the Max Day! Organizations that raise the most money in their size brackets are granted additional cash bonuses and an extra $1,000 is added to one random donation per hour! Even a simple $10 puts our name in the hat!

Here’s what you can do to help!

– Schedule Your Donation Early! You can log on right now and you can actually schedule your donation to be processed on Give to the Max Day.

– Spread the Word! Share our Donation Page on your social media pages and email it to your friends!

– Donate! The easiest way to make a difference for WCHS is simply by making a gift! GiveMN keeps it easy by accepting all major cards through their secure online payment system. You don’t even have to register any kind of account! Their website is designed with both PC/Mac and mobile platforms in mind.

Thank you all for your continued support of the Washington County Historical Society!

Artifacts of our Veterans

From left to right, the above photograph shows a cap from the Civil War, an American helmet from World War I, and an officer’s helmet from the Second World War. All three belonged to Washingotn County veterans.

The soft cap belonged to Samuel Bloomer of Stillwater and is one of the few surviving caps of the First Minnesota Volunteer Regiment. The First Minnesota became famous during the Battle of Gettysburg when the unit suffered 80% casualties in less than 30 minutes on the second day of the engagement. Close Up of the Clover Emblem

The doughboy-style flat brimmed steel helmet in the middle is an excellent example of ‘trench art’ which was popular during the First World War. The juxtaposition of artistic expression painted on a combat tool perfectly symbolizes the volunteer soldier of the United States. The helmet is painted with a detailed (if slightly inaccurately drawn) map of western Europe.

Another World War I artifact on display at the museum is this typewriter. It was manufactured in 1898, but was carried across the battlefields of France throughout 1918. The soldier who used this machine chronicled where he was stationed by writing the dates and locations in pencil on the typewriter lid.

The final helmet is a steel M1 style World War II helmet that belonged to Edwin T Swenson of Washington County. Although you can see a Major’s rank insignia on the helmet, Swenson was eventually promoted to the rank of Colonel. Over 22 million of this type of helmet were produced for American servicemen during the Second World War. It became standard issue for American GI’s through the Vietnam War.

Featured Article

The Last Man of Company B

by Erica Whalen, former WCHS intern

The originators of the last man’s clubs tradition in the Stillwater area were the Civil War veterans of the famous Company B of the First Minnesota Regiment. The Stillwater men who served in the First Minnesota came primarily from the Stillwater Guard, a local militia originally organized in 1856 to protect early settlers in the Stillwater area from local Native Americans. The First Minnesota is known as the first volunteer regiment to reply to President Lincoln’s call for volunteers in 1861.

Company B of the First Minnesota was involved in many of the most well-known battles of the Civil War. It saw action at Bull Run, Yorktown, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg and was present at Appomattox Court House for General Lee’s surrender on April 9th, 1865. According to Anita Buck in her article on the H & H Last Man’s Club, the rallying cry of the 135th infantry of Company B became “to the last man,” a phrase used at Gettysburg originally to help spur on the troops (Army, May 2004). The phrase also helped to establish the Last Man’s Club after the war.

The Last Man’s Club first met on July 21, 1886, the 25th anniversary of the First Battle of Bull Run, in which the First Minnesota played a prominent role. The members agreed to hold meetings annually on the anniversary of the battle. A stringent set of ceremonies was put in place and adhered to at each meeting. Each was made up of a formal parliamentary meeting, a speech by an invited guest speaker, a dinner, and a memorial to those members who had passed away. The format of the first banquet was to be duplicated each year by the Last Man’s Club and by later last man’s clubs in the Stillwater area.

The first years of the Last Man’s Club saw the founding of enduring traditions, many of which survive over a century after their founding. The inaugural meeting saw the implementation of the basic meeting procedure, with John McKusick, the first mayor of Stillwater, as guest speaker. Meetings were held at one of Stillwater’s hotels, the Sawyer House, which today is the site of the Lowell Inn. The club had 34 members by its second meeting in 1887. Also in that year, a bottle of wine was donated with the intention that the “last man” would drink a toast to his fallen comrades at the club’s last meeting.

A poem written by Henry Hayden, called “The Last Survivor,” was read at each meeting since its introduction in 1887, with the final verse of the poem attaining special significance to the Last Man’s Club as well as to later clubs of its kind in Stillwater. The poem was dedicated to the last man but also neatly sums up the ideals of the club. It looks back to “the days of ’61” with nostalgia and refers to club’s deceased as “my patriot dead.” The poem also refers to the end of the club’s last meeting, with no answering call from the dead. The Hayden poem makes frequent reference to the Civil War but its last verse proved an appropriate ending for the meetings of the later clubs while maintaining ties with the originator:

The camp fire smolders-ashes fall;

The clouds are black athwart the sky;

No tap of drum, no bugle call;

My comrades, all, good-by.

By the 1924 meeting of the Last Man’s Club, the three remaining members able to attend voted to change the constitution of the club. Rather than waiting for the last member alone to open the bottle, the present members Peter Hall, John Goff and Charles Lockwood all voted to change the club constitution and have the last two members open the bottle. They tasted the wine, which by this date was sour, and then resealed the bottle for the last man to carry out the planned toast.

Charles Lockwood was the last surviving member of the Last Man’s Club at age 88. On July 21st, 1930, he attended the last meeting at the Lowell Inn, which was attended by widows of two members, Mrs. W. N. McClure and Mrs. Nellie Bloomer as well as several other dignitaries . The long table was still set for 34, with 33 of the chairs draped in black crepe. In keeping with the original plan of the club, he poured a glass of wine from the bottle and toasted to his fallen comrades.

Although the Last Man’s Club passed into history with the 1930 meeting, the conventions of the club were well remembered by Stillwater residents. The veterans of the next large conflict would pick up the traditions established by the 34 men of the Last Man’s Club and carry them on. The continuation of the founding traditions of the Last Man’s Club shows that later veterans saw their actions in the tradition of the famed heroism of the men of the First Minnesota.

Upcoming Events

More information: WCHS Events >>>

Preserve the Past, Share in the Future!

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.

161 Years of Elections in the Valley

This issue: Contents
Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015
  • Editor’s Note
  • WCHS News: Washington County History Network
  • WCHS News: Give to the Max Day! – November 12th
  • What Is This Thing?!
  • Old News: Accusations at the Ballot!
  • Featured Article: 161 Years of Elections in the Valley
Editor’s Note

November is here and the WCHS museums are closed for the season…but don’t be too sad! We had a great 2015 at both the Warden’s House and the Hay Lake School. Here in Stillwater after tallying up everyone who attended a program or took a tour of the museum, our attendance numbers are up 10% over last year. And even more impressively, when calculating similar figures for the Hay Lake Museum, we saw about a 50% jump!

Thank you to everyone who came out to visit us this year!

And never fear, although our museums may be closed until May 2016, this humble e-newsletter will still hit your inboxes every-other-week!

In today’s news sections, we’ll first take a quick look into the happenings of other historical organizations from around Washington County before getting you the details on this year’s Give to the Max! day.

Naturally, we’ll have another artifact awaiting your attempts at identification in our “What Is This Thing?!” section!

And since today is Election Day, the remainder of today’s issue will highlight the history of voting in Washington County!

We’ll start by reading a bit about the contentious 1857 election in Old News.

And we’ll round out this week’s issue with a look at some of the earliest elections to ever occur in Minnesota!

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 

Washington County History Network

Yesterday, I had the pleasure with meeting representatives from five other historical and preservation organizations from around Washington County. Here’s a quick report of what we’ve been up to! (Also, Harriet, I hope you’re enjoying your trip to the Philippines!)

Afton Historical Society: The Afton Historical Society had a very successful Fall Festival with 180 folks turning up for the fun. Throughout December they will be hosting a Holiday Bake Sale fundraiser and will once again set up their ever popular model railroad display. They are also collecting food, winter hat, and warm mittens donations for the local food shelf.

Gammelgården: Everyone at the Gammelgården Museum of Scandia are hard at work preparing for the annual Meatball and Lutfisk Dinner on Thursday, November 19th. Get your reservations now so you can challenge your tastebuds with this traditional dish! And take advantage of a 15% discount at the Scandia Boutik on the same day!

Cottage Grove Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation: The Gottage Grove ACHP has recently overseen the grand opening of the recently remodelled John P. Furber Farm. The Furber Farm is now enjoying its new lease on life as a wedding venue!

South Washington County Heritage Society: The South Washington County Heritage Society will be hosting Adam Potter at the St. Paul Park City Hall for a discussion and program on American military uniforms from World War 1 to the Global War on Terror.

Woodbury Heritage Society: The Woodbury Heritage Society recently hosted a group of 20 second graders at the Woodbury Heritage House. The group also went before the City Council to urge the City take steps to preserve the historic Miller Barn. According to Woodbury Heritage Society, the outlook unfortunately appears to be rather grim.

 

WCHS News 

Give to the Max Day!

Thursday, November 12th, your gift goes farther on Give to the Max Day! Organizations that raise the most money in their size brackets are granted additional cash bonuses and an extra $1,000 is added to one random donation per hour! Even a simple $10 puts our name in the hat!

Here’s what you can do to help!

– Schedule Your Donation Early! From now until November 11th, you can actually schedule your donation to be processed on Give to the Max Day.

– Spread the Word! Share our Donation Page on your social media pages and email it to your friends!

– Donate! The easiest way to make a difference for WCHS is simply by making a gift! GiveMN keeps it easy by accepting all major cards through their secure online payment system. You don’t even have to register any kind of account! Their website is designed with both PC/Mac and mobile platforms in mind.

Thank you all for your continued support of the Washington County Historical Society!

What is This Thing?!

What Is This Thing?! (Round 20)

Whew, a lot of you knew exactly what last week’s What Is This Thing?! was!

But just in case you didn’t, last week’s device was known as a lamplighter! This particular model would be used to light indoor gas lightining. At the Warden’s House, gas lighting was installed in the 1870s followed by electric lighting in 1888! Neither were particularly reliable however, so both types were used for the next decade.

Thank you to everyone who participated in last week’s challenge! Now to take a crack at this week’s! (And no, its not the candle or the table…)

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

Close Up

Old News 

Accusations at the Ballot!

If you thought today’s politics were leaning a bit towards extreme partisanism, check out the article below!

Sure, modern Democrats and Republicans might not want to work together…but back in 1857 you started an article by calling the other city’s editors a bunch of liars, then you could sprinkle in casual racism and compare your opponents to the devil…all on your newspaper’s third page.

Of course, anyone familiar with history will know exactly what this growing schism will culminate into in a few short years…

…Happy Election Day everyone!

Election Fraud – Stillwater Messenger – November 3, 1857

In speaking of election frauds, the Pioneer of Saturday, says!

“Again in Stillwater, and at various points in Washington county, the Republicans imported voters from Wisconsin. This is the way Washington county was carried for the blacks; and of course honestly carried, because Black Republicanism was benefitted thereby.”

To use plain Anglo-Saxon language that cannot be misunderstood, that is an unqualified lie.

There were Wisconsin votes polled at Lakeland, in this county – at least fifty colonized ten-day voters from that State – but every devil of them voted the straight Loeofoeo ticket – They voted for pay – their board bills and wages being paid by St. Paul and Stillwater Democrats, as Democracy is now understood.

The Pioneer cuts a beautiful figure talking about election frauds – it looks like Satan occupying a prominent position in the brimstone country rebuking sin!

Featured Article

161 Years of Elections in the Valley

by Brent Peterson, WCHS Executive Director

Not many cities in Minnesota can boast as being as old as Stillwater. It is true that four young men from out east came and laid claim to the area we know as Stillwater and created the Stillwater Lumber Company. From there a village, town and city grew to where Stillwater, more than 18,000 people strong, stand today. The progression of a settlement to a town to a city does take a while but in the case of Stillwater it only took eleven years.

On February 24, 1854 William McKusick introduced “A Bill for an Act to Incorporate the City of Stillwater, in the County of Washington” to the representatives of the 5th Territorial Legislature of the young Minnesota. Once this bill passed, Stillwater was able to create its own government with its own local ordinances and laws. The second section of the bill allows “for the good order and government of said city, it shall be lawful for the male inhabitants thereof having the qualification of electors of member of the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Minnesota, and shall have been a bona fide resident within the city of Stillwater for one year, to meet at the Court House in said city, on the first Monday of April next, and at the same time annually thereafter, at such place as the said village council may direct, and then and there proceed by ballot to elect one mayor, one recorder, and three councilmen, being residents of said city, and having qualifications of voters as foresaid, who shall hold their offices one year.”

Section 10 of the bill went on to list the powers of the new city council including: “To regulate butchers and the places were animals may be slaughtered; to regulate the burial of the dead; to regulate the keeping and vending of gunpowder; to prevent horse racing; to regulate the police of said city; to suppress and restrain disorderly houses, and groceries, saloons, houses of ill-fame, gaming tables and to prevent and quell any riot.”

Naturally, the city was also authoritzed to “assess a tax” from its property holders.

Both houses of the Territorial Legislature voted in favor of the bill and on March 4, 1854, Minnesota Territorial Governor Willis Gorman signed the bill into law and Stillwater officially became a city in the Minnesota Territory – the same day as St. Paul.

It was now the people of Stillwater’s civic duty to select the members of this freshly minted city government. The elections were held according to the recently passed bill, which were held on the first Monday in April. In those elections, John McKusick was elected Stillwater’s first Mayor. Dr. Christopher Carli, J.C. York, and J.N. Masterman were elected council members and C.D. Glifillan was elected recorder. The first City Council meeting in Stillwater was held during the evening of Wednesday, April 12th.

To open the meeting, justice of the peace Harley Curtis swore in the newly elected officers. The five men sat down, took their positions and then immediately moved for adjournment. No need to rush into anything.

The council met again the following night and four of the next seven nights as well laying out rules and ordinances for the new city to follow.

That first council hammered out additions to the city limits, dealt with noise and disorderly behavior, handed out liquor licenses, and debated concerns involving the St. Croix . 161 years later, today’s city council, retain that continuity by making decisions on the exact same topics as their 19th century predecessors.

Events

More information: WCHS Events >>>

Preserve the Past, Share in the Future!

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.

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