Washington County Historical Society

Gateway to Minnesota History

Category: Historical Messenger (page 2 of 7)

The Warden’s House

 

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This issue: Contents
Tuesday, June 14, 2016
  • Editor’s Note
  • WCHS News: 9th Annual Hay Lake Beer Tasting – This Saturday
  • WCHS News: Warden’s House Flashlight Tour
  • What Is This Thing?!
  • Old News: Out for a Parade
  • Featured Article: The Warden’s House
Editor’s Note

Whew – we’ve got a lot to cover today, so let’s hop straight in it!

First off, thank to everyone who attended our “Giving Faces to the Names” last Sunday with Herb Reckinger. In case you missed it, Herb is part of an amazing national project to find photographs of people listed on the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC. As of June 10th, they are still missing photos of 11,464 American soldiers who were killed during the war. The families of these men and women deserve to be able to one day, not only see their loved ones’ names etched on a wall, but their faces along with it. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund will not let these people slip into the obscurity of history. Visit their website and feel free to search their photograph database, if you may know someone who has access to one of these missing photographs, please reach out to Herb at 651-459-7950 or nreckinger@msn.com.

Secondly, if you missed Olivia’s Washington County Barn Quilt Trail program at Hay Lake last month, fear not! We have links! From Hay Lake Site Manager, Dustyn Dubuque:

“Last month 13-year-old Olivia who is responsible for bringing the first Barn Quilt Trail to Washington County spoke at the Hay Lake School Museum. Our very own Johannes Erickson Log House is on the Barn Quilt trail. We at the Washington County Historical Society have partnered with the Barn Quilt Trail over the past year and wanted to share how to learn more about the trail and the upcoming second edition of the trail.

To find information on the Barn Quilt Trail check out their website.

Also “Like” them on Facebook!” (Photo: Dustyn, Olivia & her mother, Ann)

Alright, so I’ve already sneaked in two News Stories in the Editor’s Note, so I’ll fly through the rest of my normal spiel:

In our real New Stories you’ll read about the Annual Beer Tasting (which is this Saturday!) and the announcement of the first ever series of “Flashlight Tours” of the Warden’s House Museum!

Even us at the Historical Society have no idea what today’s “What Is This Thing?!” is!

Summer is the time of year for parades and in this week’s Old News you’ll read about a celebration during Minnesota’s infancy.

Finally, you may have visited the Warden’s House Museum before – but do you know it’s story? Today’s Featured Article will tell the tale of the building WCHS has called ‘home’ for the last 75 years.

Sean Pallas

Historical Messenger editor and Warden’s House Site Manager

spallas.wchs@gmail.com

WCHS News

9th Annual Hay Lake Beer Tasting – This Saturday

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

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

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

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

Cheers to History!

Other Events

WCHS News

Warden’s House Flashlight Tour

Fan of History? Lover of all things spooky? Well we’ve got a little opportunity for you we need to talk about…

For all you night owls, we are offering an inaugural Flashlight Tour of the Warden’s House Museum on Saturday, July 9th. For the first time ever, see the Warden’s House in a different light (or lack thereof). Perfect for a unique date night or simply an eerie night for you and your friends, you’ll learn about the history of the Warden’s House, the old Stillwater Prison, and a bit about how our museum has earned a reputation as one of the “Most Haunted Places in Minnesota“.

Tickets are $15.00 per person and must be bought in advance. Tours will last about an hour. Space is limited. You can find more information and reserve your tickets online.

9:00 PM Tour

9:15 PM Tour

Will there be ghosts? You decide. Will it be fun? Definitely!

What is This Thing?!

What Is This Thing?! (Round 38)

Well, I thought I was being tricky with last week’s What Is This Thing?! but within 20 minutes of sending out the newsletter, someone had not only correctly identified it as a typewriter – but had even been able to say the exact brand!

Consider me impressed!

Yes, this is an Oliver brand typewriter from about 1912. I was hoping to confuse a few of you because this particular model of typewriter has a rather unique arm design. You can see what I mean in this brief (10 seconds) video.

As always, thanks for playing along!

This week’s item is a bit different. This time, I’m genuinely looking for your help! One of our board members found this in their yard and we’re just plain stumped. I can tell you that it’s metallic – maybe iron. It’s also very, very heavy. Much heavier than you’d expect. There seems to be a circle cut into the top of it – but that’s all the info I can offer. Take a look at both pictures linked below and hopefully you can help satisfy our curiosity!

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

Good luck!

Top Image

Bottom Image

Old News 

Out for a Parade

I’ve selected this article for two reasons:

First, in June 1859, Minnesota has just celebrated it’s first year of statehood only a month prior. So I think it’s pretty interesting to see just how much patriotism and civic pride these newly minted Minnesotan’s have even at this point.

Secondly, the “military” mentioned in this article are the local militia group Stillwater Guard. In two short years, the Stillwater Guard won’t be marching with down Main Street in remembrance of a historic battle – rather they’ll be marching eastwards towards battlefields of their own.

The members of the Stillwater Guard would be some of the first men to volunteer to fight the Confederacy and formed the majority of the members of Company B of the famous 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Many of these men would die at familiar sounding places like Bull Run, Gettysburg, and Antietam.

Stillwater Messenger – The Parade and Ball next Friday- June 14, 1859

We think we can safely assure our citizens and visitors who attend, a pleasant entertainment next Friday – Every effort is being made by the committee to render the occasion the most attractive ever witnessed in the State – The military, accompanied by the Afton Brass Band (fourteen pieces) will form at the Armory on Main Street at 2 o’clock, and after will repair to the parade ground on the bluff south of the city, where the companies will be reviewed and inspected by the Governor and staff and Regimental officers.

In the evening, the spacious Halls of the Sawyer & Buck’s Hotel building will be thrown open for a grand military and civic ball, which will be largely attend by the gallantry and beauty of the State and of the neighboring towns of Wisconsin. Taylor’s St. Paul Quadrille Band has been secured for the evening. The occasion promises to be one of much interest, and we trust our citizens will give our military that encouragement which their energy and perseverance in organizing and sustaining this arm of the public defense so richly merits.

Featured Article

The Warden’s House

by Miranda Zinnel

There are two major challenges when researching the history of the Warden’s House. Since the home was built and owned by the Territorial and then State governments of Minnesota, it was never on the tax rolls so the taxable value and other details were never recorded. Secondly, building permits were not required until the late 1880s and most additions to the Warden’s House were completed by the 1870s. These two facts right there immediately cut out two extremely valuable resources. Moreover, many records were lost or destroyed when the prison was moved to Bayport in 1914.

That being said, the efforts are certainly not hopeless or without results.

The Warden’s House is located at 602 Main Street North in Stillwater, Minnesota. It has been described as a “two story, low gabled roof structure designed in an early Greek Revival style with Federal influences.” According to the National Register of Historic Places the house is significant because it “represents the prison warden’s residence in Minnesota between the years 1853 and 1914. It is the only remnant of the Minnesota Territorial Prison established in 1853, and the only principle structure left standing of the original Minnesota State Prison at Stillwater.”

After the location for the prison was fixed, a call went out for designs for the new prison. The land was purchased in what was known as “Battle Hollow” from Stillwater’s first mayor, John McKusick and the region’s first physician, Christopher Carli for $100 per acre. Francis Roach Delano, Jacob Fisher, and Mr. Freeman submitted three different plans for the prison’s layout. After much discussion and debate, Fisher’s plan was selected. In July 1851, the prison board selected Jesse Taylor & Company’s bid to construct the prison for $17,000. The contract was approved the next day with the stipulation that Taylor could provide a bond with sufficient security. By August 25, 1851 the construction company had submitted a bond and their bid was officially accepted.

Work on the Warden’s House continued over the next year and a half, from grading the land to laying stone. On March 5, 1853, the Minnesota Legislative Assembly passed an act transferring the superintending of the prison from the Building Commissioners to the Warden. This means that after this day any reports on the Prison buildings appeared in the annual and later biannual Warden’s Reports. On April 4, 1853, Francis R. Delano became the first of thirteen Wardens to occupy the newly finished Warden’s House. But it seems that the construction process lacked staying power.

The years and weather were not kind to the home and by 1860 considerable repairs were becoming increasingly necessary. John Proctor, a Stillwater hardware dealer, took over as Warden on January 1, 1860. He noted on several occasions that the house was in dire needed of repairs. In his first report to the State Legislature, Proctor wrote, “the Warden’s House should, if it to be occupied as a dwelling, undergo some repairs before another winter.” Proctor added, “A cistern should be built, as the water we are obliged to use at present is totally unfit for most of the uses for which water was designed.” The pleas fell on deaf ears.

In the 1862 report, Proctor’s suggestions morphed into demands as he stated that, “the walls of the Warden’s residence have not yet fallen, but probably will.” Proctor finally received $600 for repairs to the house that year. Just over a decade later, during the term of John A. Reed, the house underwent another process of repairs and expansion. On March 15, 1878, Warden Reed was directed to spend $500 for repairs on the Warden’s House. The Stillwater Daily Sun in May 1883 noted that, “Warden Reed’s lots and residence are being enclosed with a handsome iron railing.”

The last Warden to occupy the house was Henry Wolfer. It was through his direction that a new prison in South Stillwater (now Bayport) was constructed. After the new prison was completed and all the prisoners transferred by 1914, Warden Wolfer retired. The old Warden’s House was then occupied by Thomas Ross, a Deputy Superintendent of the Prison and his family until 1941.

By then, only the original twine factory and the Warden’s House itself were the only two structures of the original prison that had not been demolished. There was some discussion of tearing down the Warden’s House but an impassioned state legislator convinced the State of Minnesota to offer the home to the recently formed Washington County Historical Society for $100. WCHS opened the historic home as a museum that summer and celebrates 75 years as a museum this year – the second oldest house museum in the state.

Over the past three-quarters of a century, WCHS has continued the legacy of continually repairing the Warden’s House. In the mid-1940s, an old “brooder house” was torn down and the wood used as scrap. The main part of the roof was redone in 1948 for $310.20. In the early 1950s, the windows, screens, and porch were repaired and painted. The chimneys enjoyed refurbishing and repairs in 1954. In December 1974, the Warden’s House was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In March of 1978, the Society was granted a $6,000 grant for repairs on the roof, windows, and doors. These little patch jobs had helped preserve the home…but just like under Warden Proctor, major renovations were becoming increasingly necessary.

After a structural assessment in June 1983, it was determined that the Society would need to raise $20,000 to prevent further deterioration of the property. That August, the roof was re-done with cedar shingles and in November, the rear portion, that had spent the last 100 years sinking into the ground, was raised and given a new foundation and basement.

In September 1985, Charles Nelson of the Minnesota Historical Society “agreed that the present porch is dangerous.” Thus, it was decided that the original and extremely damaged porch was to be replaced by a new porch resembling the original Territorial-era design. With a sense of historical irony, inmates of the current Stillwater Prison helped construct the new porch.

The history and changes to the Warden’s House are intertwined with the history of the St. Croix Valley and the State of Minnesota. The Washington County Historical Society will always place maintaining and sharing this important connection to our shared history as one of our top priorities – just as we have for the last 75 years.

 

Moving to Washington County in 1850

 

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

Editor’s Note

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’ll see you there!

Sean Pallas

Historical Messenger editor and Warden’s House Site Manager

spallas.wchs@gmail.com

WCHS News

“Giving Faces to the Names” with Herb Reckinger

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

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

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

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

Other Events

WCHS News

9th Annual Hay Lake Beer Tasting

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

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

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

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

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

What is This Thing?!

What Is This Thing?! (Round 36)

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

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

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

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

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

As always, thanks for playing along!

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

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

Good luck!

Full Image

Old News

Insulting the Competition

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

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

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

Stillwater Republican – A New Paper – May 31, 1870

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

Featured Article

Moving to Washington County in 1850

By Jerry Brosious

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Events

More information: WCHS Events >>>

Membership

Preserve the Past, Share in the Future!

Become a member of the Washington County Historical Society!

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

Benefits of membership:

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

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

More: WCHS Membership >>>

Mission Statement

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

Minnesota’s First County

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

Editor’s Note

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sean Pallas

Historical Messenger editor and Warden’s House Site Manager

spallas.wchs@gmail.com

WCHS News

Washington County Barn Quilt Trail – This Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

Other Events

WCHS News

Eder School Schedule

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

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

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

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

Eder School Programming:

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

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

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

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

What is This Thing?!

What Is This Thing?! (Round 35)

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

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

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

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

As always, thanks for all your guesses!

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

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

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

Good luck!

Full Image

Old News

Jail Break!

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

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

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

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

Stillwater Messenger – May 17, 1890

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

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

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

Featured Article

Minnesota’s First County

By Robert and Nancy Goodman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upcoming Events

More information: WCHS Events >>>

Preserve the Past, Share in the Future!

Become a member of the Washington County Historical Society!

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

Benefits of membership:

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

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

More: WCHS Membership >>>

Mission Statement

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

 

 

Brazilians, Mexicans, & WW2 Pilots Trained in Lake Elmo

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

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

Editor’s Note

Touring season is here!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sean Pallas

Historical Messenger editor and Warden’s House Site Manager

spallas.wchs@gmail.com

WCHS News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Events

WCHS News

Washington County History Network Meeting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is This Thing?!

What Is This Thing?! (Round 34)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck!

Full Image

Old News

Daily Minutia

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

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

About Town – Stillwater Republican – May 3, 1870

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

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

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

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

– Northern Lights were beautifully brilliant last Saturday night.

– McKusick’s saw mill commenced sawing yesterday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Personal:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured Article

Brazilians, Mexicans, and WW2 Pilots Trained in Lake Elmo

By Anita Buck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

 

 

Powers in Prison

 

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

This issue: Contents
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
  • Editor’s Note
  • WCHS News: 75th Annual Warden’s House Open House
  • WCHS News: WCHS Internship & Scholarship
  • What Is This Thing?!
  • Old News: Historical Fine Dining
  • Featured Article: Powers in Prison
Editor’s Note

Hello everybody! Can you even believe how nice it’s been the last few days?! I’m still half expecting good ol’ Minnesota Weather to throw us a curve ball here and dump one last snowfall on all our heads.

Speaking of curve balls…be sure to check out The St. Croix Base Ball Club’s 2016 schedule for all your vintage base ball needs.

In today’s newsletter, you’ll get your last reminder for our 75th Annual Warden’s House Open House this Sunday!

You’re also running out of time to submit your applications for our 2016 scholarship and internships! If you’re planning on putting your hat in the ring for either, you must have your application to us by April 30th.

Of course, we also have another mystery item down in today’s “What Is This Thing?!” section!

We’ll take a look at a restaurant review from 138 years ago for our slice of Old News.

And finally, we’ll close out by looking at the life of Martin Powers who was not only a long-time prison guard for the Minnesota State Prison, but a victim of a vicious inmate attack, and (very briefly and only technically) warden of the old prison.

Oh! And before closing, if you’re attending the Minnesota Alliance of Local History Museums conference next week, be sure to say “Hello!” if you see me. I’m looking forward to meeting and greeting with everyone there!

Sean Pallas

Historical Messenger editor and Warden’s House Site Manager

spallas.wchs@gmail.com

WCHS News 

75th Annual Warden’s House Open House

The Washington County Historical Society will launch its milestone 75th touring season at the Annual Warden’s House Open House this Sunday, April 24th from Noon – 4:00 PM! This is a free event.

At the Open House, you’ll get a sneak peek at the museum’s newest exhibits on early immigrants into Washington County, local “last man’s clubs” of the Civil War and World War I, and the 100th anniversary of the Stillwater High School year book – the Kabekonian.

You’ll also be invited to enjoy live music provided by students of Mary Taylor Allen, sample delicious treats and snacks, and sip on coffee generously provided by Caribou Coffee.

From 1853 to 1914, the Warden’s House was the home of 13 different wardens of the original Stillwater Prison. For the last 75 years, the historic home built by the Minnesota Territorial government has been operated as a Victorian life and prison museum by the Washington County Historical Society.

The Warden’s House touring season runs May through October with tours held Thursdays through Sundays starting on every hour from 1:00 to 5:00 PM

For more information contact Sean Pallas at 651-439-5956 or spallas.wchs@gmail.com.

Other Events

WCHS News 

WCHS Internship & Scholarship

The Washington County Historical Society is inviting post-secondary students to apply for a paid summer internship position at the Warden’s House Museum in Stillwater and the Hay Lake School Museum in Scandia. The deadline for applications is April 30th, 2016.

The internship program introduces students to the day-to-day workings of a regional history museum and provides an opportunity to apply academic skills and training in a unique working environment.

Application Process

Please send application letter, resume and two letters of reference by April 30th, 2016 to:

Washington County Historical Society, c/o Internship Committee, P.O. Box 167, Stillwater, Minnesota 55082

Qualifications: The intern must be an undergraduate or graduate student majoring in History or a related field. S/he should have good English and communication skills, be reliable and able to work both as a team member and independently. S/he should have creativity, pay attention to detail, present him/herself well, and enjoy working with the public.

Position Overview: The 10-week internship is a mixture of training and hands-on experience. The intern will be invited to learn about day-to-day operations of a small history museum, including interpretation, exhibit displays and design, collections care and preservation of artifacts. Opportunities will be offered to attend board meetings, participate in fundraising activities, assist with Society sponsored events and contribute to the quarterly newsletter.

Requirements: Interns will be asked to design and complete a project that will benefit both themselves and WCHS.

Supervisory Procedures: The supervisor will work with the intern to set goals, both personal and objective, to be tracked throughout the internship.

The internships are made possible by an annual grant from the DeLonais Foundation.

Scholarship

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

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

Applications must be submitted before April 30th, 2016.

Please carefully review, complete, and submit the following scholarship application form:

2016 Scholarship Application

Submit applications to:

Washington County Historical Society

c/o Scholarship Committee

P.O. Box 167

Stillwater, Minnesota 55082

Applicants must also:

– Have a grade point average of 3.0 or higher

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

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

The scholarship is made possible by a generous grant from the DeLonais Foundation.

What is This Thing?!

What Is This Thing?! (Round 33)

What?! What did you say? I’m sorry! The neighbors are playing their records too loud, they must have one of last issue’s What Is This Thing?! attached to their players!

If you still can’t tell what last week’s artifact is – then here’s a helpful side view that will probably clear up any more confusion.

Yes, last week’s item is indeed a record player speaker, specifically an upgrade from the standard horn for an Edison cylinder record player. This particular horn was painted to look like a flower to give the piece a bit of color and class an otherwise plain metal speaker would be missing. But look at the size of this thing! This horn is like the Victorian era equivalent of Bose speakers!

Thank you to everyone who ventured an answer and now onto today’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 

Historical Fine Dining

By 1878, Stillwater was starting to become a bit more cosmopolitan. The lumber industry was making a lot of people a whole lot of money. So, it was natural that a few creature comforts started to creep into this former frontier town. For example, in the very same issue of the Messenger that this article appeared an advertisement for a local tailor claimed it could best the quality found in Chicago or out east.

Two things I think are interesting to note are first, despite the proprietors hopes that “Live and Let Live” would be a “permenant” fixture at 220 Chestnut Street – a quick look at Google Earth Street View reveals that hasn’t quite been the case. (Although, to be fair, that would have been pretty impressive for a business to survive that long!)

Secondly, I think it’s worth pointing out that the author didn’t detail the menu that could allegedly compare to any “first-class restaurant” but rather listed all the prominent community members who attended the grand opening. This includes Stillwater Messenger owner and operator Victor Seward…and lists Joseph Larravie twice.

Live and Let Live – Stillwater Messenger – April 19, 1878

The New Restaurant on Chestnut Street – Grand Opening Yesterday.

Willetts Bros. & Co.’s new restaurant in the Mower block was formally opened to the public yesterday, a large number of invited guests partaking of the bill of fare presented. The rooms are pleasant, convenient and well adopted to the purpose. The table service is new and complete and of a fine and expensive quality, the cook is one of the best in the city, the proprietors are gentlemen of taste and experience and are determined to make the “Live and Let Live” a popular and permanent in [illegible] on. Yesterday’s bill of fare would have been a credit to any first-class restaurant, and if the managers continue as well as they set out we predict for them a brilliant success.

The following is a list of the guests who partook of yesterday’s hospitality and will verify all we have said in commendation of this new establishment:

Mmes. Jos. Larravie, Peter Blackbird, Elizabeth Billido, Jacob Faloon, Miss Emma Robert, Messrs. C. W. French, J. C. Rhodes, Jr., F. D. Goodrich, John McNall, Ira A. Fuller, J. L. Wheeler, H. C. Farmer, Frank E. Joy, W. E. Easton, Matt. Shortall, C. H. Wiltberger, V. C. Seward, P. Blackbird, W. S. Conrad, C. H. Cobb, Joseph Larravie, F. D. Taylor, M. H. Bromley, C. A. Bromley, W. M. Capron, W. H. Bell, H. W. Smith, C Jackson, H. Drake, M. S. Willard, Alonzo A. Capron, Wm. E. Nickens, S. H. Hadley, A. Tracy, Geo. Tracy, Joseph Schupp, W. P. Sawyer, James Bromley, A. B. Easton, and O. H. Comfort.

Featured Article

Powers in Prison

by Steven R. Powers

Stillwater Gazette, July 2, 1935. Two Minnesota prison guards hung up their canes on the front hall tree for the last time under orders from Gov. Floyd B. Olson. The two totaled 97 years on the job; Martin Powers with 53 years and John White with 44. When interviewed, Powers said, “ I handled a lot of tough men in my time. Settling down with fighting cocks and a garden will be a real change.”

Martin Aloysious Powers was born July 29, 1861, in Barton, Maryland. In 1882, at age 21, Martin traveled to Stillwater, Minnesota, and began work with the Northwestern Car and Manufacturing which was in the same facility as the old Minnesota Stat Prison. This company produced threshing machines and railroad cars.

Martin began his first day of work on April 6, 1882. The Northwestern Car and Manufacturing Company was employing inmates for labor while doing contract work for the State Prison. Martin was a non-prison crew boss or supervisor over inmates. When Martin began working in the prison, John A. Reed was the eighth warden.

On January 9, 1884, the four-story, 300-foot long factory of the Northwestern Car and Manufacturing Company was destroyed by fire. Martin as well as several other men were temporarily unemployed. He used this opportunity to go to Dubuque, Iowa, and while there married Agnes Mulqueeney.

After the young couple returned to Stillwater, Martin was reemployed by the Northwestern Car Company, which soon after became the Minnesota Threshing Manufacturing Company.

In 1891, Martin was promoted from crew boss to guard in various prison shops. He was now employed by the State of Minnesota. Martin never forgot the years he spent working in the threshing machine shops. In a 1935 interview he remarked, “we had to work them [the inmates] real hard in those days. We had two bosses to please. The contractors complained when we didn’t get enough work out of them, and the warden complained when we didn’t keep discipline.”

September 8, 1896 started out to be a routine day. Twelve o’clock, the time the convicts were marched into the dining room for lunch, the guards, including Martin, remained in the aisle. At approximately 12:45, Martin was attacked by a convict named James Rogan.

According to the Stillwater Daily Gazette of September 9, 1896, “James Rogan suddenly rose and drawing his knife, made a lunge at Mr. Powers who was standing close by him. He struck twice, cutting two long gashes, one reaching from the forehead crossing the left eye and the nose, to the right cheek, and the other a little lower down, square across the face and cutting the tip of his nose. Rogan then followed up his attack by throwing a bottle of vinegar at the guard, but this time his victim managed to dodge.”

Deputy Warden Lemon who was in the adjoining room heard the fracas and finally cooled Rogan’s ardor with one blow of his cane. “Put in solitary September 8, 1896, at 1:00 p.m. For assaulting Officer Martin Powers with a shoe, knife and throwing mustard and vinegar bottles at him. Release Rogan at 9:00 a.m. September 12, 1896. Punishment forfeiture – four and one half days, nine hours.” Three years and six months were added to his sentence.

Powers lost total sight in his left eye as a result of the attack.

The state legislature in 1905 arranged for the building of a new prison. On January 25, 1909, the new prison opened for a limited number of prisoners. It took five years to phase the prison population from the old prison to the new one. On July 20, 1914, the last of the prisoners left the old prison – all except eight. Because of certain legal technicalities that required a “prison to be maintained in the city of Stillwater.” Martin Powers was placed in full charge of these men, occupying the unique position of guard, keeper, deputy warden, and warden of a prison all his own. When he finally transferred to the new prison later that year, he was given charge of the fire room crew.

Powers worked hard into his late sixties. On May 31, 1935, Martin received a letter from Warden J. J. Sullivan that explained Governor Floyd B. Olson’s retirement order which compelled Martin and seven other men to quit their jobs because they were eligible for pension. They would be given one-half their former salary from the Minnesota State Employees Association. Martin worked his last day at the prison, July 1, 1935.

An interview with Martin Powers was carried in the Stillwater Daily Gazette on Tuesday July 2, 1935. After working with convicts for 53 years, Powers felt he knew something about human nature. “I have seen more prisoners than any living man in Minnesota. I don’t know of any one living, either prisoner or official, who were there when I started in 1882. I have seen a lot of prisoners come and go, and I think I can size them up pretty well. When a prisoner is assigned to us guards, we have a little talk with him and tell hi m what work is expected of him. I haven’t had any trouble with any of them – not even the tough boys. They all respond to decent treatment.”

On September 7, 1876, the Northfield Minnesota Bank was robbed by James-Younger Gang. Cole, Jim, and Bob Younger were all convicted of robbery and murder and were sentenced to serve life sentences at the Stillwater Prison.

Powers knew all three brothers well. He often reflected on his memories of the now legendary Younger Brothers. “Yes, sir, I locked and unlocked the Younger brothers for 11 years. They were good boys, those Younger brothers. They had brains. They knew what they were up against in prison and they behaved.”

Agnes Powers died in her home in 1939. Martin Powers died two years later on October 1, 1941 and is buried besides his wife in St. Michael’s Cemetery in Bayport. A simple inscription on his marker reads, “Martin Powers, 1861-1941.”

The current State Prison is actually visible from Martin’s grave; allowing in some way, for this long time officer and guard to stand permanent watch over Minnesota’s inmates.

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.

 

 

Visiting the St. Croix 149 Years Ago

This issue: Contents
Tuesday, April 5, 2016
  • Editor’s Note
  • WCHS News: 75th Annual Warden’s House Open House
  • WCHS News: WCHS Internship & Scholarship
  • What Is This Thing?!
  • Old News: Prison Twine Season
  • Featured Article: Visiting the St. Croix 149 Years Ago
Editor’s Note

Howdy e-newsletter readers!

First off,, thank you to everyone who made it out to our Annual Meeting last Thursday! We had a great turn out for Jumpin’ Jim Brunzell! Here’s a quick album in case you missed the festivities.

It’s also time to fire up the fanfare now that we’re a bit less than a month away from the official openings of the Warden’s House and Hay Lake Museums for the 2016 season!

In fact, you can be part of this year’s kick-off event at our 75th Annual Warden’s House – check out our first News Story for all the details!

And don’t skip our second News Story or you’ll miss all the important info about our internship and scholarship programs!

Another challenge (and a quick correction) is waiting for you in today’s “What Is This Thing?!” section.

Scroll down to the Old News segment and you’ll take a look at an often overlooked entrepreneurial element of Stillwater’s state prison.

Now that Spring is on the horizon, Stillwater is once again alive with vacationers from all corners of the Twin Cities. Visiting the city these days is as easy as typing “Stillwater, MN” into your smart phone and hopping on 94. But the Valley has always called to the adventurous spirit!

Check out today’s Featured Article to read a fascinating and detailed first-hand account of a St. Croix River expedition from a century and a half ago!

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

75th Annual Warden’s House Open House

The Washington County Historical Society will launch its milestone 75th touring season at the Annual Warden’s House Open House on Sunday, April 24th from Noon – 4:00 PM! This is a free event.

At the Open House, you’ll get a sneak peek at the museum’s newest exhibits on early immigrants into Washington County, local “last man’s clubs” of the Civil War and World War I, and the 100th anniversary of the Stillwater High School year book – the Kabekonian.

You’ll also be invited to enjoy live music provided by students of Mary Taylor Allen, sample delicious treats and snacks, and sip on coffee generously provided by Caribou Coffee.

From 1853 to 1914, the Warden’s House was the home of 13 different wardens of the original Stillwater Prison. For the last 75 years, the historic home built by the Minnesota Territorial government has been operated as a Victorian life and prison museum by the Washington County Historical Society.

The Warden’s House touring season runs May through October with tours held Thursdays through Sundays starting on every hour from 1:00 to 5:00 PM

For more information contact Sean Pallas at 651-439-5956 or spallas.wchs@gmail.com.

Other Events

WCHS News

WCHS Internship & Scholarship

The Washington County Historical Society is inviting post-secondary students to apply for a paid summer internship position at the Warden’s House Museum in Stillwater and the Hay Lake School Museum in Scandia. The deadline for applications is April 30th, 2016.

The internship program introduces students to the day-to-day workings of a regional history museum and provides an opportunity to apply academic skills and training in a unique working environment.

Application Process

Please send application letter, resume and two letters of reference by April 30th, 2016 to:

Washington County Historical Society, c/o Internship Committee, P.O. Box 167, Stillwater, Minnesota 55082

Qualifications: The intern must be an undergraduate or graduate student majoring in History or a related field. S/he should have good English and communication skills, be reliable and able to work both as a team member and independently. S/he should have creativity, pay attention to detail, present him/herself well, and enjoy working with the public.

Position Overview: The 10-week internship is a mixture of training and hands-on experience. The intern will be invited to learn about day-to-day operations of a small history museum, including interpretation, exhibit displays and design, collections care and preservation of artifacts. Opportunities will be offered to attend board meetings, participate in fundraising activities, assist with Society sponsored events and contribute to the quarterly newsletter.

Requirements: Interns will be asked to design and complete a project that will benefit both themselves and WCHS.

Supervisory Procedures: The supervisor will work with the intern to set goals, both personal and objective, to be tracked throughout the internship.

The internships are made possible by an annual grant from the DeLonais Foundation.

Scholarship

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

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

Applications must be submitted before April 30th, 2016.

Please carefully review, complete, and submit the following scholarship application form:

2016 Scholarship Application

Submit applications to:

  • Washington County Historical Society
  • c/o Scholarship Committee
  • P.O. Box 167
  • Stillwater, Minnesota 55082

Applicants must also:

  1. Have a grade point average of 3.0 or higher
  2. Be a member of the Washington County Historical Society or have an immediate family member(s) who is a member of the Society.

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

The scholarship is made possible by a generous grant from the DeLonais Foundation.

What is This Thing?!

What Is This Thing?! (Round 32)

Last issue’s What Is This Thing?! actually pairs pretty well with the butter mold from two issues ago (which was incorrectly linked in the previous Historical Messenger).

Several readers (especially the Boy Scout alumni among you!) immediately recognized the last item as a Reflector Oven. This contraption would be placed near a camp fire or wood burning stove and allows you to easily bake bread or biscuits! Here’s a video of a modern reflective oven in action.

This particular oven came from Stillwater’s Mulvey family and, in fact, was one of the first items ever donated to the historical society!

Thank you to everyone who participated – even those of you who just make a guess to yourself at your desk!

Let’s move away from the kitchen for 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 

Prison Twine Season

If I’ve ever shown you around the Warden’s House Museum, you’ll probably have heard me say the following: “I think that when people imagine the ‘Stillwater Prison’ – they picture some sort of Andy Griffith Show sort of scenario; two cells and Barney Fife with his feet up on a desk.”

When in fact, the Stillwater Prison was a very large and professional institutional. At its most crowded, the prison housed anywhere from 550 to 600 inmates. And these inmates housed in the prison had all been sentenced to “hard labor”. At Stillwater this meant factory work.

By 1900, the Stillwater Prison produced 5.5 million pounds of twine annually. It was extremely popular with local farmers as it was made out of high quality Manila hemp, while the low labor costs kept overall prices affordable.

The following is a brief article reminding customers to place their orders sooner rather than later.

Binder Twine Orders – Stillwater Messenger – April 5, 1902

Famers Advised to Make Knows Their Needs While Supply Lasts.

Orders for binder twine are being received in large numbers daily at the state prison. The output is 35,000 pounds per day. Warden Wolfer is mailing about 30,000 circular letters to farmers of the state in which he says:

“We write to remind you that unless your order is at the prison on or before May 1, we may not be able to fill it. First come, first served. As orders are coming in very fast you should order at once if you wish to make sure of your twine from the prison.

“We also wish to advise you that the outlook is for higher prices before the season closes. If you want prison twine at the lowest price at which binder twine will be sold this season, send in your order at once.”

Featured Article

Visiting the St. Croix 149 Years Ago

by Anita Buck

A pencil-written manuscript in the files of the Washington County Historical Society recounts a remarkable canoe trip to the Dalles of the St. Croix. Written by Robert Ormsby Sweeny in June 1867, it details a trip Sweeny and his wife Madge made in company with “my good, trusty old voyageur Antoine Cadotte”.

Sweeny was a pioneer settler of St. Paul. Born in Philadelphia in 1931, he arrived in St. Paul during the wave of immigration which flowed west in 1852. He was instrument in founding the first Pharmaceutical Society in the state. In 1875, he became chairman of the State Fish Commission, a post he held until his death in 1902.

Art dominated his attention. He made a graphic record of the buildings in St. Paul. He made drawings and paintings of Indian peoples and artifacts. He even designed an unused state seal for Minnesota. He was president of the Minnesota Historical Society for several years. According to an article written by Josephine Lutz-Rollins in the April 1941 Interpreter of the University of Minnesota, Sweeny’s sketchbooks include such events as the openings of the Indian mounds in St. Paul, Carver’s Cave at the time of the Centennial celebration in 1867, and the first and second ice carnivals in 1886 and 1887. Miss Lutz remarked that there were 38 sketches of the trip to Ka Ka Beeka in the collections to MNHS in 1941.

The expedition set out at daybreak on June 1, with Madge and Sweeny both “well-freighted with sketch books, pencils, and perspective”. Both travelers were artists. The party left St. Paul and started down the Mississippi. Madge, on learning that the canoe had no name, suggested it be called La Fliche, “the Arrow”.

Passing beyond Dayton’s Bluff, the party glided through an area of luxuriate bottom grass where herds of cattle grazed. At noon, they stopped at one of the islands for lunch. While Antoine prepared lunch, Madge gathered wild flowers. After a nap, they resumed their journey.

At “the pretty little town of Hastings,” Madge and Sweeny disembarked and walked through the city to the road leading to Point Douglas. Antoine continued by canoe. As the couple marched on, past a saw mill, following a cart road leading over a rough bridge, clouds gathered “in threatening extent and blackness as we entered the forest under the tall arches of whose trees we stalked like specters in the awful hush and twilight of the gathering storm.” Breaking out of the dark and threatening forest, they saw ahead the broad open river. There, a crude ferryboat was readying for its trip across the Mississippi. On board were the ferryman and his helper, a farmer boy driving a pair of cattle yoked to a cart in which sat a countrywoman and a little girl. A black dog sat under the cart. Sweeny and Madge boarded the ferry. Before they reached the opposite shore, the storm broke with crashing bolts of thunder and floods of rain. At the fair side, the ferryman pointed out a house where they “kept folks over night.” Madge and Sweeny made their way to the shelter.

“The public room in which we refuged from the falling rain boasted but scanty and plain furniture. A chair and stove, a long, row rakish looking bench that also answered for a washstand, urging from the bucket, dipper, and tin basin side by side upon one end of it.”

Sweeny sought the proprietor, “a large-framed, large hearted, old-fashioned person, chatty and pleasant, full of quaint kindness and curiosity.” When their hostess learned that Sweeny had his wife with him, she invited them into the parlor. While their hostess and her daughter Sary served tea, the rain stopped. Sweeny went to check on Antoine, and found his bivouac for the coming night. Antoine was disappointed that his passengers planned to stay indoors for the night.

Back at the inn, the Sweenys followed the proprietor’s directions, took their candlestick and climbed the precipitous stairs to a small room with a single curtain-less window. “The clean scrubbed floor was bare, as were also the walls; neither chair, wash stand or any other luxury hampered the limited space of our dormitory.”

While Sweeny looked for a place to stow their belongings, Madge “burst forth in a tone of dismay. There she stood, holding the candle over the bed with one hand, and with the other holding back the sheet she had just turned down.” The bed had been slept in, the sheets were dirty. Concluding to make the best of the situation, the couple decided to spread a large shawl over the bed and pillows, and finally went to sleep without disrobing.

In the morning, Sweeny took one look at the “well-soaked hempen towel” used by the other boarders, and decided to forgo his morning ablutions.

Breakfast over, the travelers started for Antoine’s camp on the St. Croix. “Descending the rocky hill to the sandy point, we got a full clear view of this splendid sheet of water, glittering like a beautiful sapphire beneath the cloudless sun.”

Towards noon, they “put into the mouth of a small stream called the Kinni-Kinnick [sic]”

“Thinking I saw a trout leap, I took a light line from my pack and cutting a small pole, and with Madge’s assistance in the shape of a few small green grasshoppers, I assayed my luck in a shady pool near a large rock. My success was considered complete when I returned within an hour, the captor of twenty speckled beauties,” which Antoine fried to a rich tender juicy brown. Madge discovered a patch of wild strawberries, so “with thankful hearts and keen relish, we sat down to our repast.”

Learning there were two beautiful cascades a few miles up the stream, Sweeny and Antoine scrambled over rocks and fallen trees to the falls. Here Sweeny made several sketches. By the time they returned to the beach, it was too late to continue their journeys, so they pitched a tent for the Sweenys. Antoine crawled under the canoe for his night.

When Antoine learned of Madge’s love of wild flowers, he daily found time to gather some for her. Madge made sketches of the ferns, mosses, lichens and aquatic plants that the voyageur brought to her. She told him the botanical names of the plants, “which gave him extraordinary merriment. His efforts to remember and pronounce the names were most ludicrous. He would laughingly explain ‘No use. No use. Frenchmen’s tongi no say that good like Yankee tongi!”

La Fliche continued up the lake the next morning, and crossed Catfish Bar. Antoine related the legend of the Indian hunter who turned into a fish, then into a sandbar.

Putting in at Afton, the Sweenys ascended the bluff back of the village, “from the top of which there is a panoramic view far down and up the lake.” Both made sketches from their vantage point.

Leaving Afton behind, they reached and passed Lakeland. Again they got out and climbed the bluff, from which they watched the sun “sinking in glorious splendors, casting gleams of amethyst and gold across lake and valley, laced by long shadows from the hilltops.”

Afton a good night’s rest, they crossed the lake to Hudson, “whose pretty little cottage houses nestle cozily back in terraces against the bluffs.” There they procured two horses and a cart, and went to see the falls of the Willow River. A few hours drive brought them to the cascade. There they lingered on the banks of the river to do several sketches. On their return trip, they drove “through a singularly undulating country, abounding in curious ravines and wondrous rocks. Some of them so like ruined Castle wall and Donjon keep, parapet and battlement, that it was hard to realize they were not man’s work.” Descending a slope into a deep valley, they discovered another natural wonder.

“This curiosity is in the form of an immense symmetrically shaped dome of white sandstone, surmounted by a capping of limestone supported upon columnar masses not unlike colossal Carriabides.” Sweeny wrote that, “it glittered in the sunlight with dazzling whiteness like the great Oriental Taj Mahal.”

Leaving Hudson behind, they paddled a few miles up the lake to a sheltered camping sport where they remained for the Sabbath. After reading the Lesson and Collect for the day, they sang several hymns, and spent the rest of the day reading and conversing.

Monday morning the canoeist reached Stillwater, “the most picturesque town of the Lake St. Croix nestled under and against the high rock that buttress-like prop up the overhanging bluffs.” Following one of the zig-zag flights of steps, they climbed one of the tallest hills to view the river.

Sweeny noted that the water here contracts, and becomes the St. Croix River. “As we glide along, we pass a grand facade-like-cliff of creamy grey sand and limestone, wind and weather worn into almost perfect Moorish arches, whose sheltering curve are the fastness where countless sand martins and bank swallows build their young.

“At another point a beautiful shelving rock projects far over the bank bellow … while from its strong eaves a crystal spring distills in glittering drops…”

At Arcola, noted Sweeny, “the river divides into several channels among…islands whose vine clad trees made cool and leafy grottos.”

A short distance further, they passed the mouth of the Apple River, “which here forms quite a lagoon or bayou several miles long and about half a mile wide abounding in waterfowl and fish. There is also quite a pretty water fall on this stream…”

That evening, their dinner was fresh frog legs, caught and cooked by Antoine. Later, “we could see a skiff with standing figures.” A few minutes later, there came into the glare of the campfire, “four sturdy and wholesome looking lumbermen, erect and paddling in time to their songs. They waved their hats cheerily to our greeting.”

Breakfast the next morning included fried fish and fresh eggs, which Antoine had conjured up from a nearby farmhouse. Their day’s paddling brought them into the dalles of the St. Croix. (There was no mention in the manuscript of Marine on St. Croix.) “We stopped and climbed to the foot of a curious pile of ponderous blocks that Antoine assured us is called the Devil’s Chair.” [The Devil’s Chair was toppled by vandals in 2006.]

“The river banks are hereabouts a perfect labyrinth of curiosities for those who love to seek them out. We peeped down into strange well-liked circular openings into the very hearts of the rocks…and after climbing an almost inaccessible ravine, we had the temerity to actually walk into and eat our lunch in the bake oven, declared to be the property of his Satanic mastery.

“The St. Croix here is swift, deep and narrow. The water has a dark rich amber color doubtless stained by the roots of the countless pine and tamarack through which many of its tributaries flow.”

Camping that night on an island, Madge found a veritable garden of violets and other wild flowers. Next morning, after breakfasting, they continued their voyage, stopping now and then to sketch and examine the curious rock formations.

Sweeny conclude his narrative: “There are two little villages here at the falls of the St. Croix, one on each side of the river, connected by a dainty fairy-like bridge from one rocky shore to the other. The Minnesota side is called Taylor’s Falls, while Wisconsin side is named St. Croix.”

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.

Unearthing History at Grey Cloud Island Cemetery

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

This issue: Contents
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
  • Editor’s Note
  • WCHS News: WCHS Annual Meeting with Jumpin’ Jim Brunzell
  • WCHS News: Help WCHS with Amazon Smile
  • What Is This Thing?!
  • Old News: Unsubtle Resentment
  • Featured Article: Unearthing History at Grey Cloud Island Cemetery
Editor’s Note

Well, apparently we’re supposed to get snow tomorrow…so pull up this newsletter on your phone or tablet, get outside and enjoy spring while it lasts!

If you know any history students in your life, be sure to let them know about our 2016 Internship and Scholarship Programs. Our internship is a 10-week long paid position that allows undergraduate and graduate students a chance to gain hands-on experience at a local historical organization. While the scholarship provides one $2,000 or two $1,000 grants to further a student’s education in the history field. You can find more details and application information here. Applications must be submitted by April 30th. Funding for our internship and scholarship programs is generously provided by the DeLonais Foundation.

Time is running out to save your spot at this year’s Annual Meeting with special guest speaker Jumpin’ Jim Brunzell! Check out today’s first News Story for your last reminder!

In our second News Story we’ll take a quick minute to talk about an easy way you can help keep the lights on over here at WCHS!

Last week’s “What Is This Thing?!” proved to be pretty tricky! To see how you handle today’s mystery artifact just keep scrolling!

In 1864, tensions from the battlefields of the Civil War could be felt all the way in Stillwater. Read today’s bit of Old News to see how the civilian population’s frustration turned towards the able-bodied men who had yet to volunteer to fight.

The old town cemetery is literally where you’ll find the last mark many of our pioneer ancestors left on Earth. Consequently, these sometimes forgotten grounds can be used to reveal a bit about the lives of the people interred within. Head down to our Featured Article about the often intertwined lives of Grey Cloud Island’s first white settlers.

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 next 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

Help WCHS with Amazon Smile

The Washington County Historical Society is now taking advantage of a program offered by Amazon.com to help raise money for non-profit organizations like ours.

The program is called “Amazon Smile” and it works like this:

Instead of going to Amazon.com to do your shopping, head to smile.amazon.com.

Log into your Amazon account as normal and then when prompted to select a charity to support, simply type in “Washington County Historical Society”. (Just make sure you pick the one based in Stillwater, MN!)

Then do your shopping normally!

Amazon sells everything from high-end computers to toilet paper and will donate 0.5% of every sale to WCHS as long as you use smile.amazon.com. There’s literally no difference on your end using Amazon or Amazon Smile. The exact same items are sold for the exact same price…it’s just Amazon Smile helps us preserve Washington County history!

Do you have a bookmark to Amazon on your web-browser? You can easily change it to smile.amazon.com to ensure every Kindle book you buy online helps WCHS!

Thank you for your help!

What is This Thing?!

What Is This Thing?! (Round 31)

Our guests are on their way! Steam the nice tablecloth, polish the silver and don’t forget to grab last issue’s What Is This Thing?!

I had a handful of folks correctly identify our last challenge – but it was definitely a tricky one! It is a wooden butter mold!

You’d press the mold into fresh butter to leave a decorative pattern to add a bit of “fanciness” to your table! This particular mold imprinted a pineapple design into the butter which symbolized hospitality, warm welcomes, and friendliness to the Victorians.

One of our readers asked when the modern stick butter packaging entered the market….and with a bit of digging we found that according to “Princely Packets of Golden Health (A History of Butter Packaging)” written by Milton E. Parker in 1948, Swift & Company introduced 4-ounce sticks wrapped in wax paper in 1907.

I was surprised it was so early!

Onto today’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

Unsubtle Resentment

The American Civil War is undeniably an interesting topic.

It’s covered by thousands of books, hundreds of movies and documentaries and historians spend their whole careers focusing on flanking actions and battlefield maneuvers. Luckily for us in 2016, the attitudes of the ‘homefront’ have been preserved in local papers across the country – including quiet little Stillwater.

And Washington County was certainly invested in the war. Company B of the First Minnesotan was comprised almost entirely of Stillwater men. They had even participated in high profile battles like Bull Run and Gettysburg.

So, what was life like for those men who didn’t go East to fight the Confederacy when so many of their neighbors were literally dying in the name of the Union? The following article will show that they were understandably not the most popular people in their community.

But I try to look at history from both sides. This article is obviously calling these men dishonorable cowards – but at the same time, when photographs of the battlefields start making their way across the nation: can you blame anyone for being a bit squeamish and less than eager to join the fray?

Thanks to the Internet, you can see these photos for yourself if you’d like. Please note, these are actual photographs of Civil War soldiers killed in battle. They are graphic.

Four Dead Soldiers Near Little Round Top – 1863

Confederate Soldier Killed in Petersburg Trenches

Unburied Confederate Lays Next to Union Soldier Buried Where He Fell – 1862

Soldiers Killed at Gettysburg – 1863

Confederate and Union Soldiers Killed at Gettysburg – 1863

After seeing these, I don’t know if I’d be rushing to the recruitment office.

Reasons for Not Enlisting – Stillwater Messenger – March 22, 1864

“Sigman” of the Boston Transcript says:

The following reasons for not going to the war are believed to be authentic.

I. I was brought up by kind parents to do nothing, and have done it for thirty years, and cannot think of changing my vocation. I therefore pray thee have me excused.

II. I have a hereditary horror of strife. My grandfather ran away at the battle of Brandywine. If he had then and there been killed my father would not have hidden the cypress swamp at the battle of New Orleans. My mother always cautioned me to be careful how I meddled with edge tools. I cannot go.

III. I am rather delicated; must have a fire in my chamber; couldn’t live in a tent;must have my mulled wine at ten; besides, what should I do for lobster salad and boiled oysters? Pray have me excused.

IV. When I was poor I could not restrain my patriotism; but somehow or other it has troubled me of late. This war has lasted long enough. I have married a rich wife. I cannot go.

V. Talk not to me about your delce et decorum est pro patria mori. I’ve no notion of it. I want none of your dulces and decorums. My maximum is, dum vivimus vivamue. I bought a couple of trotters last week – cost me $2,200 – Guess I shan’t go to the war while the sleighing lasts.

VI. I cannot deny it, the smell of burnt gunpowder acts like a cathartic on my stomach and bowels. Have me excused immediately.

VII. My heart is with our gallant troops. No tongue can tell how I long to join the army. But, when I refer to the subject, my poor wife goes into hysterics, “Dearest Eleezur,” she cries, “have you the heart to leave your own, your devoted Jerusha Matilda Anna!” And over she goes, tossing up her arms, and kicking out her legs like all possessed. It is irresistible. I give it up. I cannot oppose the wishes of this interesting creature. I cannot go.

VIII. I have no time for it. The very few hours I can spare from eating, drinking, smoking and driving I give to the fine arts. War is not one of these. I would be excused.

IX. I should go, were it not for my religious scruples on the subject of war. Often, as I have been sitting, all alone, in my distillery, something within has told that war was wrong – probably the workings of the spirit – I cannot go.

X. I have consulted the spirit of old Mrs. Pitcher, of Lynn, and am assured that, if I went, I should run away and be shot in my back settlements. Of course I cannot go.

XI. My mind is in a very unsettled state. Upon every confederate success I am all for secession; and upon every Union victory I am for crushing the rebellion at once. If the war was over, I think I might be tempted to volunteer; but I cannot as matters are at present. When I read the little telegrams as they are brought in at the insurance office, if the tiding are in favor of Jeff, I find myself, almost unconsciously, nodding and winking significant at Major Piddle, who goes for succession; and if the news is unfavorable to the rebellion, my hand seems of its accord to grasp that of Deacon Blunt, and ”the Lord be thanked” slips out of my mouth before I know what I am saying. I must be excused.

Featured Article

Unearthing History at Grey Cloud Island Cemetery

by Alice Robinson & Donna Reynolds

“A dozen miles or more down the Mississippi from St. Paul is Grey Cloud Island, a singular formation rising out of the river with its central portion hundreds of feet above the low-water mark, and varied in its natural character and topography” wrote a Pioneer Press journalist in the late 1890s. “It stretches for five miles into hills, woodlands, meadows, swamps, and waterways. There are granite boulders, sandstone cliffs, sandy shores and rich farm lands.” The newspaper writer tells us that every old settler knows the locality. It was one of the first portions of Minnesota white settlers made their home.

In researching the family names on the gravestones in the cemetery, one wonders where these people came from and why they came to this seemingly remote area.

This island was once occupied by the woodland Indian tribes. In the 1830s, their leader, Medicine Bottle, and his small community lived at the bend of the Mississippi near Baldwin Lake. They had made bark lodges and grew crops of squash, corn, and beans. They fished and hunted in the lakes and meadows close to the river. At this time, the surrounding area was called “Spirit Wood” because of a beech tree growing there.

In 1837, the federal government signed a treaty with the Native populations for ownership of the lands east of the Mississippi River. Medicine Bottle’s band moved from their ancestral homes across the Mississippi to a place known as Pine Bend. Two fur traders, who had traded with the Natives living there, moved into the now vacant bark homes with their wives and children. Hazen Mooers and Andrew Robertson built log cabins along the river and grew crops, which they sold to the kitchens at Fort Snelling. Andrew Robertson changed the name of the island to “Grey Cloud” in honor of Mooer’s wife. She was a mixed blood woman, rearer in Canada, named Mar-pi-ya-rho-ta-win, or “Grey Cloud Woman”.

The next year, Joseph R. Brown build a settlement on the lower island, bringing with him voyageurs and boatmen to set up a trading post and farming operation. Now the mystery of the cemetery is revealed.

Two of Brown’s voyageurs, turned farm hands, Joseph Bourcier and Maxcell Courterior, stayed on the Island and married. Joseph Bourcier married his employer’s former wife, Margaret McCoy. The census records for 1850 show them living in Red Rock before coming to Grey Cloud. They built primitive housing on the slough and cultivated small farms.

Maxcell Courtier married Joseph Brown’s daughter – whose name was also Margaret – and built a house next to door to Joseph and Margaret Boucier. Brown’s younger daughter, Mary, married a Cottage Grove farmer’s son named Henry Brunell and they also moved to the channel. So the first European families to truly make the Island their home were the McCoys, Bourciers, Courteriors, and Brunells.

As the years went on, more families made their way to the Island. But when these early settler’s children were ready to marry – their options were limited to the boys and girls next door. This can make tracking family history and genealogies a bit tricky.

For example, when researching the grave of an 8 month year old girl named Lorraine Huysentruyt it is difficult to determine which French Canadian family she belonged to. Her obituary was listed in a 1922 copy of the Hasting Gazette. Lorraine’s father was Adolph Heysentruyt from Belgium. He was brought here to work at his uncle’s sheep ranch on the Upper Island. Lorraine’s mother was Lavina McCoy. Lorraine’s grandparents were Mary Mavis and Mose McCoy. Her great grandparents were Simon and Monjeau Mavis and Anthony and Jane McCoy. Her great great grandparents are Joseph Monjeau and his Dakota wife, Nanna Coussi. The family trees tend to get a bit…intertwined.

The cemetery is located in the center of the area where all of the first settlers lived. They probably began by utilizing part of the Bourcier farm in the early 1870s. By this time, this acre of land was transferred from a Bourcier daughter to her sister, Francis Bush Stringer and is shown on records as a cemetery. The name Bourcier had became Americanized to “Bush”. The area continued to be used as a cemetery and was taken care of by the families of those interred within. A chart of the burials and the names was made in the 1940s by Edward LaBathe. He, and others, would dig the grave for a funeral and erect white painted crosses for the graves without markers. Unfortunately, the crosses were gone by 1985. The French Canadians planted cedar trees at the head of the graves, but time and weather have destroyed many of these trees.

There are eighteen veterans from various wars and conflicts buried in the cemetery; five being from the Civil War.

At the present time there are 190 known graves and burial is still permitted to residents of the township and families of those who are buried there allowing modern residents to reaffirm their connections to their island’s pioneer past.

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.

 

The Plaster Doctor – Healin’ “Till” It Hurts

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

This issue: Contents
Tuesday, March 8, 2016
  • Editor’s Note
  • WCHS News: WCHS Annual Meeting with Jumpin’ Jim Brunzell
  • WCHS News: Oakdale-Lake Elmo Historical Society Collection Transfer
  • What Is This Thing?!
  • Old News: Minnesotans Like Minnesota
  • Featured Article: The Plaster Doctor – Healin’ “Till” It Hurts
Editor’s Note

Alright folks, we’ve got a lot to cover today! The closer we get to Summer, the busier we’re getting over here at WCHS!

If you’d like to get a piece of the action, be sure to attend our upcoming “New Volunteer Orientation Meeting” scheduled for Saturday, March 19th at 1:00 PM to learn about all the volunteer opportunities here at WCHS! The meeting will be held at the Warden’s House Museum in Stillwater.

Not only are we looking for new volunteers, WCHS is now officially accepting applications for our 2016 Internship and Scholarship Programs. Our internship is a 10-week long paid position that allows undergraduate and graduate students a chance to gain hands-on experience at a local historical organization. While the scholarship provides one $2,000 or two $1,000 grants to further a student’s education in the history field. You can find more details and application information here. Applications must be submitted by April 30th. Funding for our internship and scholarship programs is generously provided by the DeLonais Foundation.

Whew…that’s already a lot and we haven’t even gotten into today’s issue!

You won’t want to miss the high-flyin’, chair smashing guest speaker at our upcoming Annual Meeting. Check out the first News Story for more details on getting your reservation today.

I’ll take a moment in our second News Story to announce an exciting new addition to the WCHS family – the Eder Schoolhouse in Oakdale!

A new artifact is waiting for your identification efforts down in the “What Is This Thing?!” challenge.

And you can ask just about any pop-drinking, family cabin-owning, Paul Bunyan-admiring, honest-to-goodness Minnesotan what they think about their state and I think you’d have a hard time finding many negative opinions. In this week’s Old News, we’ll read what one of our cheese-loving neighbors thought of our wonderfully prideful state back in 1870.

Finally, we’ll dive head-first into the pool of early 20th century medicial-quackery as we read about the St. Croix Valley’s very own John Till – the “Plaster Doctor”.

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 

Oakdale-Lake Elmo Historical Society Collection Transfer

The Oakdale-Lake Elmo Historical Society has transferred its collection to the Washington County Historical Society.

Citing the difficulty in acquiring new membership and volunteers, the Oakdale-Lake Elmo Historical Society [OLEHS] asked the WCHS to take over programming at the Eder Schoolhouse located at the Oakdale Nature Preserve.

“We wanted to make sure the work this organization has done for the past twenty years didn’t get lost,” said Rich Eder, President of the OLEHS, “The Washington County Historical Society will make sure what we have done will live on for future generations.”

“They have done marvelous work,” said Brent Peterson, Executive Director of the Washington County Historical Society, “It will be an honor to build on their efforts and continue telling the stories of Oakdale and Lake Elmo.”

The schoolhouse, built in 1888 and known as the Eder School, was rural District #12 in Washington County. It served a couple generations of area students until the district was consolidated into another in 1920. The building was moved and served as a shed for the Eder family until 2000 when it was donated to the OLEHS. It was moved and donated to the Oakdale Nature Center in 2004.

On May 23, 2004, Myrtle Eder and Myrtle Hunstiger attended the grand opening. Mrs. Hunstiger, age 105 at the time of the opening, was a teacher in the school in 1918 and 1919. Mrs. Eder was one of her former students at the school.

Later in 2004 the OLEHS received an award for their preservation efforts of the school from the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota.

WCHS Board Chair, David Lindsey, said that “transferring the collection and programming to the Washington County Historical Society is a win-win for everyone.” Lindsey continued, “The stories and the history will be more accessible to the people of Oakdale, Lake Elmo and Washington County as a whole.”

Many people helped in making sure the schoolhouse was preserved including Jim Morphew, Duane Ellertson, Judge Thomas Armstrong Sr., Chuck & Carol Houck, Rich Eder, Bill Rasmussen, Louise Frederick, Gloria Knoblach, and many more.

WCHS plans on opening the schoolhouse to the general public for ten Sundays and hosting three programs at the site over our normal 2016 touring season.

Keep an eye on the e-newsletter, our website, and our social media outlets for more information!

Events

What is This Thing?!

What Is This Thing?! (Round 30)

Be sure to floss, because I think you’ll want to do everything in your power to avoid last week’s What Is This Thing?!

That’s right, this is indeed a foot-powered dentist drill! Yeesh…I just had a dentist appointment yesterday and if he would have came at me with one of these things, I would have left a “me”-shaped hole in his wall during my undignified retreat.

I’ve always wondered what would happen if the dentist lost his rhythm on the pedal halfway through the operation. I mean, besides a lot of screaming from the patient, of course.

Let’s all collectively shudder and move 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 

Minnesotans Like Minnesota

I have spent the entirety of my (almost) 27 years of life living in Minnesota. And holy buckets, I love this state. But even I’ll admit that we march to the beat of a different drummer over here. Just take a look at our recent Presidential Caucus results for the latest example of Minnesota’s ‘different-ness’. And sure, we may be a bit self-centered. But hey, it’s pretty comforting to see these attitudes have a long tradition!

…I’m also glad we settled on “Minnesotan” instead of “Minnesotian”.

A Representative Minnesotian – Stillwater Republican – March 8, 1870

The editor of the Superior Tribune, (Wis.) who has lived in Minnesota, gives the following as the characteristics of a Minnesotian:

“We lived among the Minnesotians long enough to know that they are indeed “a peculiar people,” and that they are always ready for any project, however reckless, however desperate, or however unjust to others which promises to advance the interests of favorite localities, or the material prosperity of their State.

Taken as a whole, but the Minnesotians are a good set of fellows, but they are as different from the staid people of Wisconsin, as the mercurial, nervous and wiry little Frenchman is from the grand old German, who smokes his pipe and “[drinks] his lager [beer]” and takes every thing coolly and deliberately.

A representative Minnesotian is a man who has the ingenuity of the Yankee, the energy and perseverance of the ant, the cunning of the fox, the selfishness of the miser, together with the courage of the bovine who undertook the butt the engine off the track.

He is one who will freely shell out his money to carry out any favorite scheme – one who carries many of his points by “bluff” – one who has audacity, effrontery and “cheek” enough for any emergency, and whose State pride is strong enough to lead him to work for Minnesota and Minnesota enterprises, first, last and all the time, and under all circumstances and at whatever costs.”

Featured Article

The Plaster Doctor – Healin’ “Till” It Hurts

by Anita Buck

Plaster doctor, wonder healer, unorthodox practitioner, defendant in court – these were just some of the titles given to a man named John Till. And he earned every one of them.

Till offered “miracle cures” that were sought by people from all around the St. Croix River Valley. He had patients from Stillwater and Marine, from the Twin Cities, and from many other towns throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin. But John Till was not a licensed doctor, a matter that frequently landed him before judges.

Known primarily as “the plaster doctor”, Till practiced his healing art in Hudson, New Richmond, Somerset, and Turtle Lake, Wisconsin in the first two decades of the 1900s. He used a salve and a plaster, both touted to have the power to pull out infections. The salved was supposed to contain a mysterious ingredient called 4X. The plaster was a concoction of kerosene and croton oil, both of which are irritants. Till – and his patients – believed that the plaster drew the poison out of the body, stimulating accelerated healing. No matter what the complaint, patients stripped to the waist and held onto a rail while “Doctor” Till applied the plaster to the back from the neck to the bottom of the spine. After that, they wore cotton batting sewn into their clothes to soak up the matter that ran from the inflamed skin. Till’s patients found the treatment to be extremely painful, but that didn’t stop them from flocking by train, buggy, carriage, and riverboat to wherever he was practicing.

John Till was born in Austria in 1870. He worked for a blacksmith for a while, and during that time learned about various folk cures. At age 28, he immigrated to Canada, where he worked as a lumberjack and practiced medicine on the side. His career took off after the “miracle cure” of Mrs. Octave Cloutier of Somerset, Wisconsin. Till treated her infected cheek with his mysterious medicine, and the remedy worked overnight. When word of the cure spread, he left the lumber camp and set up shop in the Cloutier farm home. Immediately be became known as the Wonder Healer or the Plaster Doctor of Somerset. Although Till never called himself “doctor,” his patients certainly did.

After a time, he moved to New Richmond, Wisconsin. An article in the New Richmond News reported that many of the passengers who came in at the city’s depot were nearly dead when they were taken off the trains. Still, they managed to survive a rough buggy ride out to Till’s establishment a couple of miles north of town. The report continued, “About every third home in New Richmond would seem to have two or three of these ‘diers’ [sic]. What a dismal site, but Old John laughed all the way to the bank.”

Interestingly, the man didn’t charge his patients per se, rather he simply left a bucket on the table, and many emptied their pockets into the donation container after their “plasterings”. According to an anonymous letter received by Marie Lynch of New Richmond, “Old John Till” arrived at the New Richmond bank with a nice team of horses and carriage. He was a small man with hair long and unkempt, in bare feet, wearing earrings, and carrying two large bags of money.

In the Somerset Triple Centennial Book, it is recorded Till was supposed to have deposited $3,000 every two weeks. That account, though, was said to be exaggerated.

John Till didn’t spend all his time treating patients. He spent quite a bit of time in court. He was plagued by lawsuits and harassed, probably rightly, by the Wisconsin Medical Board. Early in his career he was tried on a charge of practicing medicine unlawfully, and was found not guilty by a jury of six men. Later, the plaster doctor appeared in circuit court in Barron County, Wisconsin, again on the charge of practicing medicine without a license. A jury only took 45 minutes to find him guilty of the charge. Even though Till was hauled to court a number of times, he generally managed to secure a ‘not guilty’ ruling by either a jury or by appeals to high courts. Of course, he wasn’t quite able to maintain that spotless record.

An article in the New Richmond News from May 11, 1921, reported that he started serving a six-month sentence in the local jail for practicing medicine without a license. After that term, he apparently had his fill of the American legal-system’s “hospitality” and him and his wife, Hedwig, departed for Germany, probably bringing a good sum of American dollars with them. Eventually, he settled in the Sudetenland. The former healer wrote to a fanner in Stanton, Wisconsin, requesting 100 pounds of seed barley, which was sent to him. His son, John Till Jr., visited New Richmond, and reported that his father owned a large form, and delighted at being a country gentleman. His mother, he said, was enjoying life. Apparently his stack of American dollars was allowed him to take advantage of Germany’s post-World War I run-away inflation.

After Till Senior’s departure from the United States, it was rumored that his “secret salve”, the miracle plaster, was being solid from a farm home near Somerset.

The plaster doctor then disappeared from our American sources for a few decades. He finally resurfaced in in February 1947, when the Stillwater Gazette reported his return from Germany. The good “doctor” was broke.

World War II had hit him hard financially. He lost his property and decided to return to his old stomping grounds. He planned to live near Kiel, Wisconsin. It was rumored he would go back into the plaster business. Whether he did or not is unknown. If so, his renewed career was short. John Till died in July of 1947 at the age of 77.

Even though the records show that many of his patients suffered terribly at the hands of John Till, there are just as many people from both side of the St. Croix River who swore by his skill and miracle cure. Whether he be quack-pot or hero – the Plaster Doctor is long gone, yet John Till lives on as a legendary figure of the Valley’s history.

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.

Twelve Thousand Years of Washington County History

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

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

Editor’s Note

Hello everybody!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Want to learn more about the history of Washington County? “Like” WCHS on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Sean Pallas

Historical Messenger editor and Warden’s House Site Manager

spallas.wchs@gmail.com

WCHS News 

WCHS Annual Membership Meeting with Jumpin’ Jim Brunzell

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

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

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

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

Reservations are required.

WCHS Members – $20.00 Reserve Tickets Online

Non-Members – $25.00 Reserve Tickets Online

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

WCHS News

New Volunteer Orientation Meeting

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is This Thing?!

What Is This Thing?! (Round 29)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck!

Full Image

Old News 

Strict Rules For Fido

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

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

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

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

Must Muzzle Dogs – Stillwater Messenger – February 23, 1907

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

Featured Article

Twelve Thousand Years of Washington County History

by Robert Vogel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Events

More information: WCHS Events >>>

Preserve the Past, Share in the Future!

Become a member of the Washington County Historical Society!

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

Benefits of membership:

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

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

More: WCHS Membership >>>

Mission Statement

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

The St. CroiX-Files

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

Editor’s Note

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Want to learn more about the history of Washington County? “Like” WCHS on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Sean Pallas

Historical Messenger editor and Warden’s House Site Manager

spallas.wchs@gmail.com

WCHS News 

WCHS Annual Membership Meeting with Jumpin’ Jim Brunzell

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

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

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

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

Reservations are required.

WCHS Members – $20.00 Reserve Tickets Online

Non-Members – $25.00 Reserve Tickets Online

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

WCHS News

Washington County History Network Meeting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is This Thing?!

What Is This Thing?! (Round 27)

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

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

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

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

Onto this week’s challenge!

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

Good luck!

Full Image

Old News

Flirting via Sleigh Ride

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

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

Going it Alone – Stillwater Republican – February 9, 1869

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

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

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

Featured Article

The St. CroiX-Files

by Brent Peterson, Executive Director of WCHS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upcoming Events

More information: WCHS Events >>>

Preserve the Past, Share in the Future!

Become a member of the Washington County Historical Society!

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

Benefits of membership:

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

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

More: WCHS Membership >>>

Mission Statement

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

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