This issue: Contents
Tuesday, May 5th, 2015
Both of our museums are now officially open for the season! And a huge thank you to everyone who came out to the Warden’s House Open House! We had over 200 people swing by the museum to see the new exhibits, sample treats, and, of course, to learn about the paranormal investigation raffle.
Feel free to browse through a few photos of the event in case you missed the fun!
And that’s just the beginning of our event line-up! Check out the first News Story to learn about our first presentation of the year featuring…me! (Oh no, that’s okay, please hold your applause. You’re all too kind!) A complete list of 2015 events can be found here.
In the second News Story, we’ll take a look at events and projects other Washington County historical organizations have on their calendars.
I’ll reveal the identity of last week’s mystery item and offer a new challenge in today’s “What Is This Thing?!”
This week’s Old News features musings on one of the most amazing technological advancements of the modern age.
And in today’s Featured Article, we’ll examine a perhaps scandalous, but important, element of our community’s history. When the St. Croix Valley’s lumberjacks found themselves in Stillwater during the off-season with pockets bursting with cash…and no girlfriends or wives – well, I think you can see where this is headed…
Historical Messenger editor and Warden’s House Site Manager
“Inside With Interesting Inmates” Presentation
Join Warden’s House Site Manager Sean Pallas on Sunday, May 17th, 2015 at 2:00 PM at the Warden’s House Museum for a discussion of the lives and misfortunes of a few interesting convicts of the Old Stillwater Prison.
The Minnesota Territorial and later State Prison was operated from 1853 until 1914 just north of downtown Stillwater. Throughout six decades, the Prison served as a “melting-pot” for Minnesota’s worst of the worst. Behind every inmate was a crime and behind every crime a story.
The tale of a spurned lover resorting to murder, a vicious conspiracy against a prison guard, and other harrowing but mostly forgotten prison tales will be shared at this free and open to the public presentation hosted by the Washington County Historical Society.
Washington County History Network
Yesterday, the Warden’s House hosted a meeting of the Washington County History Network which saw representatives of the Washington County Historical Society, South Washington County Historical Society, Historic Courthouse, Woodbury Heritage Society, Cottage Grove Historic Preservation Committee, Gammelgården Museum, Afton Historical Society, and even the Minnesota Historical Society come together and discuss the shared goal of preserving and sharing Washington County history.
Cottage Grove Historical Preservation Committee – The Cottage Grove Historical Preservation Committee is honoring Herb Reckinger for his historical preservation work in 2014. The Committee will have booths at both the Strawberry Festival (June 20th) and the Cottage Grove Farmer’s Market (June 11th). The Sunnyhill Park is now officially opened and dedicated. It is named for the rural school district which used to exist at the location.
Gammelgården Museum – Gammelgården’s special exhibit this year is: “Hemslöjden (Swedish Handwork) Needle, Hook & Shuttle”. On June 12th, the museum will host Scandia’s Farmer’s Market which runs 4-7 PM. Their annual Midsommar Dag celebration falls on June 20th this year. One more event to look forward to is a traditional crayfish dinner on July 18th!
Minnesota Historical Society – MNHS is putting on an educational workshop on properly preserving and utilizing archaeological artifacts entitled, “More Than Stones & Bones” in White Bear Lake on May 22nd. Space is limited so interested parties should make their reservation ASAP.
South Washington County Historical Society – On May 9th, the South Washington County Historical Society will be hosting Ed Claussen for a presentation on the history of the Caterpillar company. On June 13th, interested parties are invited to meet at 9:30 AM in St. Paul Park to carpool to the James J. Hill Farm in North Oaks for a tour of the site.
Washington County Historic Courthouse – During Stillwater’s Log Jam Days, the Courthouse will once again host their annual Ice Cream Social in July. Due to the popularity of their Victorian Teas – the Courthouse is currently exploring the possibility of adding a second sitting of the event! Keep an eye out for their popular Nooks & Crannies tour as well!
Woodbury Heritage Society – The Woodbury Heritage Society is continuing to raise funds to preserve the Miller Barn located at the corner of Valley Creek Road and Settler’s Ridge. The structure is the last remaining barn in Woodbury that was built without the use of nails. The Heritage Society hopes to repair the roof and siding of the barn and utilize the inside space for exhibits and for special event rentals.
What is This Thing?!
What Is This Thing?! (Round 7)
During last issue’s What Is This Thing?! most folks correctly identified that the photo did indeed feature some type of brush. A few guessed it was for horses, a couple supposed it was for floors – but this small hand-sized brush is actually known as a “silent butler” or “crumb butler” and was used for collecting crumbs and cigarette/cigar ash off tablecloths in between courses at formal dining settings.
Congratulations to everyone who knew both this item’s name and use! …but I’ve had a few of you throw down the gauntlet and ask that I increase the difficulty of my little challenges! And I say, “Very well!”
Today’s item features an item that our museum guests frequently point out and ask the guides to identify. In fact, I don’t know if I’ve ever encountered anyone who knew what this item was used for until I told them.
…Will one of you readers be the first?
Can you identify the WCHS artifact photographed above? 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.
The Amazing Modern World
A hundred years can seem like an awful long time ago. It’s easy to forget that many of the trappings of modern life originate from those first few years of the 20th century. But on the front page of the May 6th, 1906 Stillwater Messenger, before the following pages full of advertisements for farming equipment and horse-riding gear, an article on the miracle of human flight can be found directly above a report on the “Benefits of Food Adulteration” via chemical means.
It must have been a truly remarkable time to live through these dramatic advancements in technology. Their optimism towards the future is perfectly exhibited in the final line of this article.
Man May Now Fly At Will – Stillwater Messenger – May 5, 1906
“The problem of human flight is solved,” writes E.B. Grimes in Technical World Magazine for June. “One hundred and sixty times have the motor driven flying machines invented by Orville and Wilbur Wright of Dayton, Ohio, carried a man safely through the high air. The Wright flyer weighs about 925 pounds, including the operator. It is a true flying machine – not a dirigible balloon – and owes nothing to the lifting power of any gas. It seems to be completely under the control of the operator, who can send it up or down, ahead or to either side at will. Driven by a gasoline engine, said to be of twenty-four horse power, it flew on its last trip a distance of 24 1/5 miles without a stop. The speed during this flight averaged a trifle over 38 miles an hour.
Few inventions have had such tremdnous possibilities. Consider, for instance, what the exclusive possession of such a practical flyer, capable of lifting heavy weight, would mean to a nation at war. From a secure height, every movement of its enemy over a vast territory could be constantly watched; a whole army might be wiped out or at least thrown into confusion by bombs hurled from the sky; great cities might be easily terrorized – war it would almost seem, would be abolished by the common consent of mankind.
by Brent Peterson
As today, people in Stillwater a hundred years ago worked very hard to make a living. Those people working in the lumber industry such as the undercutters, sawyers, cooks and river pigs took pride in their work. The lawyers, business owners and even the clerks worked hard for every dollar that they made. All sorts of professions were practiced in the booming lumber town of Stillwater…including the “oldest profession”.
When the lumberjacks would come into town after the spring drive, there were places that the men would go to buy new clothes, get a hot bath, a shave, a haircut, and then possibly visit a social gathering spot to find a new “friend.”
Many of the lumberjacks coming out of the woods during the spring would head over to St. Paul’s Hill Street District. There one could find many of the Capitol city’s “Palace’s of Sin” which was only an hours ride on the train from Stillwater. Many of the famous Madams in that area were “Mother Mary Robinson,” “Lottie Leighton,” “Frenchy Mable LaSarge,” and the one and only “Nina Clifford.”
This is not to say that Stillwater did not have adequit facilities for the lumberjack. Just across the river into Houlton, Wis., according to historian Carol Maki, there were “sporting houses” conducted by such people as “Perry the Pimp,” “Mack Fortune,” and Larry Mandeville.
The best known Madame in Stillwater was the wife of Larry Mandeville. Her name was Nellie and around the area, she was known as “Red Nell.”
Red Nell became infamous, if for only appearing on the Police Register as regular as the sun setting. Over a 12 month period, from August 1882 through July 1883, Nell was arrested ten times. She was listed as having an occupation as a “Whore” and was arrested for running a “house of ill fame.” She was always arrested with another man named Mike Keogh, and he two was arrested for the same crime. Over this 12 month period, Red Nell paid $847 in fines, but never spent one day in jail. Tom Curtis, the late local historian, once stated that the brothels were permitted to operate by paying the city a yearly fine.
Other “ladies of the evening”, such as Delia Inbbuld, Flora Wood and Marti Childs, were arrested during this same time. Some either received a light fine, or maybe a day or two in jail, but some were “sent out of town” for their indiscretions. Stillwater was not the only place that had the ladies working. In an article written for the St. Louis County Historical Society titled “The Lumberjack Queens“, J.C. “Buzz” Ryan stated that he “knew a lumberjack by the name of Charles Baker who was born and raised in Stillwater who told me that the first job he had in Stillwater as a boy was hauling water with a horse and wagon from Stillwater to the Whorehouse at Bayport.”
In the Hudson Star-Times of 16 June 1882, an editorial ripped into the “city fathers” for permitting “Madame Cooper to again pitch her befouled tent in our midst and ply her hellish vocation in the face of decency, order and law.” Continuing, the editor said “Already her cargo of unclean birds has begun despoiling our youths; and is this people to look on in silence while such a base outrage is being enacted? Nor is Dame Cooper’s den the only hole of iniquity that need purging. There are other only wanting occasion to become even a greater stench in the public nostrils than hers and unless respectable society rises heroically and scoops these caves of iniquity from our midst, they may look for murders and debauches and felonies which will make those of the past seem mild in caparison. Away with these dives of pollution. Hudson can not afford to harbor them longer.”
Nellie “Red Nell” Mandeville, Stillwater’s most infamous Madame, died suddenly on July 22, 1888 at the age of 39. In her obituary in the Stillwater Messenger of July 28, the paper said that “the best that can be said of her life is that in public she always behaved decorously and is reported to have been faithful to her husband.” Nell was buried in Calvary Cemetery in St. Paul near where her mother and daughter lived. The end of Red Nell was not the end of Stillwater’s oldest profession. As long as there were lumberjacks, or any businessman that wanted to participate in such crime, Stillwater would always hold business opportunities for the likes of Nellie Mandeville.
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Washington County Historical Society collects, preserves, and disseminates the history of the county and state of Minnesota.