This issue: Contents
Tuesday, March 24th, 2015
  • Editor’s Note
  • WCHS News: Annual Membership Meeting
  • WCHS News: Internship and Scholarship
  • What Is This Thing?!
  • Old News: Tragedies on Page Three
  • Featured Article: Minnesota’s First Commercial Photographer

Editor’s Note

Alright everyone, let’s all cross our fingers, knock on wood, and throw a pinch of salt over our shoulders…pleaaaase let Spring be here to stay!

In a little more than a month, both our wonderful museums will swing open their doors to everyone with an interest in history. And be sure to check out our exciting official 2015 Season Events schedule. This year our programs will cover the entire spectrum of topics: everything from professional wrestling to dragonflies (with plenty of Vintage Base Ball sprinkled throughout!)

WCHS’ Annual Membership Meeting is this Thursday! For last minute reservations and information, head down to our first news story.

We are also still accepting applications to our 2015 Internship and Scholarships. The deadlines for these are only a few weeks away; don’t let these amazing opportunities slip by!

If you’ve been reading the Historical Messenger regularly, you’ll already know that newspapers at the of the 20th century tended to share a little too much personal information; from detailing when families were out of town visiting friends to diving into the embarassing details of your neighbors’ arrests. In this issue’s Old News section, you’ll read some truly grizzly details that modern journalists might be hesitant to publish.

Finally, in our Featured Article, we’ll help celebrate Women’s History Month by taking a look at one of Washington County’s earliest innovators and educators: Sarah Louise Judd.

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 

Annual Membership Meeting

Online tickets: WCHS Members / Non-Members

WCHS News 

Internship and Scholarship


The Washington County Historical Society is offering internships for post-secondary education.

The internship program is designed to introduce students to the workings of a regional history museum and the interpretive educational process. The internship provides a rare opportunity to directly apply academic skills and training in a unique working environment, as well as provide exposure to a career as a history museum professional.

The intern should have good English skills, 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. General history knowledge and museum work a plus.

The 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 lectures, research facilities, exhibit display and design, collections care and preservation of artifacts. The intern will assist staff in researching and developing an interpretive guided tour for visitors. Opportunities will be offered to attend to board meetings, participate in fundraising activities, assist with Society sponsored events and contribute to the quarterly newsletter.

The internships are open to all undergraduate college students majoring in the history field or like major. Please send application letter, resume, and references by April 15, 2015 to: Washington County Historical Society c/o Internship Committee, P.O. Box 167 Stillwater, MN 55082. For more information visit our website.


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 15th, 2015.

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/are 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.

Please visit our website for application documents.

What Is This Thing?!

What Is This Thing?! (Round 4)

I didn’t go easy on you last round! This perculiar set of rollers had a few folks thinking “pasta maker” and others imagining some sort of clothes wringer – which I can definitely see. But we actually only had one person identify it’s correct use…

Last issue’s device is called a “fluting machine”, it was used to add corrugation to metal pipes. This particular model was patented on February 23, 1869. The original schematics of the invention are even available online.

While this is a heavy duty/ industrial fluting machine – a smaller, but very similar version, would have been a common enough sight in well-to do 1870-1890s homes. The smaller fluting machines were actually used to iron ruffles and pleats on dresses. Any qualified washerwoman would have advertised her experience and access to a fluting machine when seeking clients.

Again, a huge thank you to everyone who is participating!

By now you know the drill – onto the guessing! I’ll see you next issue with the correct answer!

Can you identify the WCHS artifact photographed above? Can you guess what this table was used for? If you’d care to venture an answer, you can send an email to me at, tweet @WCHS2, or post your guess on our Facebook page.

Good luck!

Full Image

Old News 

Tragedies on Page Three

In a world heated by stoves and illuminated by lanterns – house fires were once a major concern of previous generations. As you can see below, Stillwater and the surrounding area were unfortunately suffering from a string of truly horrible accidents involving fire in March of 1906. I know when I opened up this newspaper, I was a bit surprised to see two articles with “Burned to Death” in the titles literally right next to each other.

At a historic level, we can take interest in noting that the editors of the Stillwater Messenger offered the victims little privacy. Full names, ages, and chilling details are available for anyone to read.

But on a personal level, it is difficult to not sympathize with these unfortunate individuals – even though more than a century has passed since these incidents. While we may accuse the vivid details presented as being macabre, has this possibly sensationalist journalism preserved the emotional impact? You’ll just have to be the judge.

Please note: The details in the two later stories are somewhat graphic.

“Fire in Dutchtown” / “Burned to Death” / “Burned to Death – Stillwater Messenger – March 24, 1906

Fire in Dutchtown

Fire destroyed the residences of Adolph Doerge and Fred Greenow, two small buildings located north of the railroad bridge on Monday night. The total loss will amount to $1,200 on both buildings, on which there was a small insurance.

Burned to Death

Albert Frenel, a French Canadian, met death in a most horrible manner at one of the James E. McGrath camps on Snake river on Sunday.

He had been to a dance, and in starting a fire, in the camp office Sunday morning, with kerosene, his clothes in some way caught fire and he died in a few minutes after going into the office.

Frenel had been a foreman for Mr. McGrath for a number of years and was well liked. He was 36 years old and single. His people live in Canada.

Burned to Death at South Stillwater

A heart rending calamity occurred at South Stillwater on Thursday afternoon.

Mrs. Emil Asp, left her home to obtain a pail of water, leaving her three year old son, Raymond, asleep in one of the rooms. She stopped to talk with a neighbor and while doing so her home took fire; the blowing of the fire alarm whistle alarmed her and with a mother’s love she tried to entering the burning building in the vain effort to save her child, but was prevented by neighbors who pulled her back. Her hair was scorched and her face was burned.

The building was burned down and all the remained of the poor child was the skull and trunk. The shock to Mrs. Asp has left in a very serious condition. It is not known how the fire originated.

Featured Article

Minnesota’s First Commercial Photographer

by Brent Peterson

Sarah Louise Judd was born in Farmington, Connecticut on June 26, 1802. She was educated in the local schools and then, at the age of 30, joined her family in the Marine settlement in Illinois. In 1838, three of her brothers, Lewis, Albert, and George, became stockholders in a company that went into the newly opened lands between the Mississippi and St. Croix Rivers in the Wisconsin Territory. Sarah would come to the new village of Marine Mills in 1844.

By 1845, she moved down the St. Croix to the Village of Stillwater and later that year became the first schoolteacher in Washington County when she taught school at Point Douglas. The next year she was the first teacher in Stillwater, and then taught school at Marine in 1849.

It must have been the teacher in her that in 1848 she learned how to make daguerreotypes, the earliest form of photography. Daguerreotypes were invented in France around 1835, and by 1840 the technology had spread across the Atlantic to New York City. According to Warner & Foote in the 1881 “History of Washington County and the St. Croix Valley,” “Mrs. A. Eldridge made daguerreotypes first in the spring of 1848, and continued in Stillwater two years; succeeded by Truax, Everett and others.” Sarah was bringing Western civilization’s latest advancements to the frontier. This date makes her the earliest known commercial photographer in Minnesota.

Sarah married Ariel Eldridge on January 8, 1849 by a Protestant minister. Ariel was thirteen years her junior but worked very hard in the carpentry business. He eventually started a book and stationary store, and then added a jewelry business as well. It was thought that Sarah worked with Arial in his bookstore, especially being such a well-educated woman for the time.

The Eldridge’s continued in the book business, sometime taking on partners and selling off the business just to turn around and start another. Sarah was prominent in the First Presbyterian Church and Ariel was very involved with the community, being elected to the Stillwater City Council, as a County Commissioner, and justice of the peace.

Sarah Louise Judd-Eldridge died on October 11, 1881 from “general debility” after being an invalid for some years. She was buried in Fairview Cemetery, Stillwater. Ariel later married Mrs. Sarah E. Staples of Lakeland in 1888, but they later divorced. In his final days, Ariel moved to Alma Center, Wisconsin to live with his brother. It was there that Ariel died on March 25, 1896.

Unfortunately, we do not have any examples of Sarah’s photography. How many of Minnesota’s “founding fathers” and pioneers stood before her camera? Did she capture images of Minnesota’s forests before half a century of logging had their toll on the landscape? These questions are likely to remain unanswered – but we can thank her for introducing the camera and photography to our little portion of the globe.


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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.