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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sean Pallas

Historical Messenger editor and Warden’s House Site Manager

WCHS News 

Washington County History Network

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

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

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

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

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

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


WCHS News 

Give to the Max Day!

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

Here’s what you can do to help!

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

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

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

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

What is This Thing?!

What Is This Thing?! (Round 20)

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

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

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

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

Good luck!

Full Image

Close Up

Old News 

Accusations at the Ballot!

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

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

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

…Happy Election Day everyone!

Election Fraud – Stillwater Messenger – November 3, 1857

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

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

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

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

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

Featured Article

161 Years of Elections in the Valley

by Brent Peterson, WCHS Executive Director

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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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.

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Mission Statement

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