This issue: Contents
Tuesday, February 10th, 2015
Howdy! Thanks for checking out the latest Historical Messenger!
In addition to our regular news stories today, I’d like to take a moment to mention that the Warden’s House will be participating in this year’s Chocolate March. Reserve your tickets now and on March 22nd, you can visit the Warden’s House, Aurora Staples Inn, Water Street Inn, Cover Park Manor, and Outling Lodge here in Stillwater…while at each stop sampling wonderful chocolate confections!
WCHS is also now accepting applications for both our 2015 scholarships and internships. For the history student or anyone who wants to experience working in the history field, these are invaluable opportunities we are able to provide thanks to the generosity of the DeLonais Foundation. Visit our website for more information on how to apply.
And one final quick note before we get into today’s contents, if you remember a few weeks ago, I discussed the imminent demolition of the Boutwell House in Stillwater Township. Well, that story has taken some interesting twists and turns and the house is still standing – for now. Here’s the Pioneer Press’ update from yesterday on the developing story.
Onto today’s issue!
Want to get more involved with our ongoing mission here at WCHS? Head down to our first News Story to read about our volunteer orientation meeting on March 15th.
There are still spots open for our 2015 Annual Membership Meeting! Besides a fantastic dinner and an interesting presentation, this is also a great opportunity for members of our organization to directly impact the direction that WCHS takes in the coming year. (Pssst! And if you’re not a member – you can become one very easily online!)
In today’s Photo of the Week, we’ll be turning it over to you! Show us how much you know about history by identifying the object photographed below!
In Today’s Old News, you’ll see a professor in 1906 sharing a bit of regret regarding the Civil War. But the object of his lamentations may surprise you.
And in this week’s Featured Article we’ll discuss an athletic competition that involved nationally famous participants, was marred with allegations of cheating, and ended in a humiliating defeat…what? Am I talking about last week’s Super Bowl…? No, why would you think that?! I am, of course, referring to the 1875 rowing race between Stillwater and Red Wing!
Historical Messenger editor and Warden’s House Site Manager
New Volunteer Orientation Meeting
Anyone who is passionate about preserving and sharing our local history is invited to attend an informal informational meeting at the Warden’s House on Sunday, March 15th at 1:00 PM to learn about volunteer opportunities with the Washington County Historical Society.
WCHS relies on our volunteers’ help with everything from guiding visitors through our museums, to collecting data for our tens of thousands of artifacts, to even serving tea at our Annual Christmas Event! Wherever your interest in history lies, we can tailor a volunteer experience to suit you!
For more information, contact Sean Pallas at email@example.com or call 651-439-5956.
Annual Membership Meeting
We are excited to announce that Cathy Wurzer will be the special Guest Speaker at the 2015 WCHS Annual Membership Meeting! The meeting will be held at the Water Street Inn, in Stillwater, MN on Thursday, March 26th. The event begins with a social hour at 5:30PM, dinner is served at 6:30, a meeting and election of WCHS Board Members will begin at 7:00pm, Cathy Wurzer’s presentation follows.
Photo of the Week
What Is This Thing?!
Can you identify this artifact from the WCHS collection? If you’d care to venture an answer, you can send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet @WCHS2, or post your guess on our Facebook page.
Next issue of the Historical Messenger, I’ll announce those who answered correctly (and report some of the more popular or interesting incorrect guesses!)
The “First & Goal” Volunteer Infantry Regiment?
The Civil War was the bloodiest and deadliest conflict of this nation’s history. Military action claimed roughly 2% of the lives of the entire American population…but do you know the most tragic part of the whole affair? The soldiers weren’t football players!
Or at least, that’s the (presumbaly) sarcastic point being made in the paragraph below.
Although the recent Super Bowl drew a viewing audience of roughly 120 million, in the sport’s infancy the supposed barbaric and brutal nature of the game earned it harsh criticism.
Front Page News Briefs – Stillwater Messenger – February 10, 1906
Scorn for the claim that football makes hardy citizens reached its climax in this passage in a speech to the alumni of the Univeristy of Pennslyvania by Dr. S. Weir Mitchell: “Alas for the generation which ventured into the war of the sixties without the training of modern athletics! Let us reflect with sorrow on how much more splendid might have been Round Top or the fight at the Bloody Angle or at the bridge at Antietam if Lee and Grant had played football.”
Red Wing’s Rival Rowers
by Brent Peterson
In the 1870s, there were many boat clubs throughout Minnesota. Stillwater had the St. Croix Boat Club; there was one in St. Paul, Minneapolis, and in Red Wing. The clubs were devoted to sculling, which is a type of boat racing, either on the Mississippi or St. Croix Rivers. People in St. Paul and Stillwater didn’t think too much about the boat club in Red Wing, but Stillwater decided to make a challenge to them anyway.
The date for the race was set at June 28, 1875. The two boat clubs both bragged on what they would do to the other. The Red Wing club took a photograph of a very large muscular man stripped to the waist, and sent it to Stillwater. The Red Wing group claimed this was the type of man that rowed on their squad. The man in the photograph however, was a local blacksmith. The Stillwater group took it seriously and sent a spy down to Red Wing to watch their group practice. This backfired on Stillwater, for someone had recognized the spy, and the Red Wing oarsman performed very poorly that day. The spy then came back to Stillwater, and told the local people to bet as much money as possible on Stillwater, because they were sure to win.
The Red Wing crew did another thing to almost seal their victory in the long awaited rowing match. There was a new member on the Red Wing Boat Club. The Stillwater team was told his name was “John B. Fox,” but his real identity was world champion rower, Ellis Ward. In 1879, Ward would become the first (and most successful) crew coach for the University of Pennsylvania. The photograph to the right shows Ward (center) around 1885 with one of the many trophies his teams captured over the years.
The day of the race came, and in mid-afternoon, the four-oared race was to begin. The Stillwater crew consisted of T. Scully, J. Morarity, John McGrath, and Ole Staples. For Red Wing, they had Charles Lent, Joseph Harrison, E.B. Philleo, and “John B. Fox.”
According to an account in the Red Wing Argus, “almost at the first stroke some member of the Stillwater club ‘caught a crab,’ and the result was that the spray was thrown in such quantities as to completely hide the crew from the spectators on the wharf opposite.”
The Stillwater crew never caught up to the Red Wing boat. They continued to lose ground, and did not come back to the starting point. Instead, the Stillwater crew conceded the race and just rowed back to the waiting steamboat to go home.
However, the Stillwater crowd and boat crew were broke from a day of heavy wagering. There was no food on the steamer to feed the hungry passengers or enough coal to make it back to Stillwater. So the Stillwater people choked down their pride and borrowed $1,500 for coal and food, and finally made their way back home.
The yelling of foul play went on for years. The Red Wing people would only say that Stillwater or St. Paul would have hired Ward if they had the chance. The following year, Stillwater again challenged Red Wing in a four oarsmen race, but this time the race was held in a neutral site, that being Prescott, Wisconsin. The Stillwater crew, who were still hurting from the previous years loss, won the race in 1876. Ellis Ward did not participate in this rematch.
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Washington County Historical Society
Washington County Historical Society collects, preserves, and disseminates the history of the county and state of Minnesota.