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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


“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 or 651-439-5956 with any questions regarding this event or to schedule a tour of the museum.

Other Events


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 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, 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.


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.

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Mission Statement

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