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This issue: Contents
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
  • Editor’s Note
  • WCHS News: “Giving Faces to the Names” Program
  • WCHS News: 9th Annual Hay Lake Beer Tasting
  • What Is This Thing?!
  • Old News: Insulting the Competition
  • Featured Article: Moving to Washington County in 1850

Editor’s Note

Hello, hello, hello! Welcome to this week’s Historical Messenger! I hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend. On a personal level, I feel very fortunate to be part of an organization that helps preserve and share the stories of our local servicemen and women.

Speaking of Memorial Day, our next event coming up at the Warden’s House will be all about honoring those who served in the Vietnam War. Scroll down to the first News Story to learn about Herb Reckinger’s quest to find photographs of young soldiers killed while serving their country in Vietnam.

We’re now in that time of year where I’ll be mentioning our Annual Beer Tasting at least once per e-newsletter issue. But I only bring it up because I’m hoping to see you there! Be sure to check out today’s second News Story for all the important information.

There’s about a million links (and even two YouTube videos) waiting for you down in today’s “What Is This Thing?!” challenge!

If you think today’s politics get petty, you’re in for a treat when we all get to experience a new level of pettiness in today’s Old News.

Finally, today’s Featured Article is a really great follow-up to last week’s issue. So, they settled on the name “Washington County” and Minnesota is accepted as a Territory…but then what?! Well, folks had to move out to the new land of course! Today we’ll take a look at the Rutherford family’s journey from New York to the St. Croix Valley…and with five kids I wonder how many times, “Are we there yet?” was asked on the trip!

Don’t forget to make a day-trip out to the Eder School and Oakdale Discovery Center this summer! For the next ten Sundays (except for July 3rd), the school house will be open for free tours from Noon – 4:00 PM. We’ll be kicking the season this year with spinning wheel demonstrations this Sunday, June 5th!

We’ll see you there!

Sean Pallas

Historical Messenger editor and Warden’s House Site Manager


“Giving Faces to the Names” with Herb Reckinger

Join local historian Herb Reckinger at the Warden’s House Museum in Stillwater on Sunday, June 12th at 2:00 PM as he discusses the ongoing efforts to find photographs of casualties listed on the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC.

As a contributor to the national “The Faces of the Wall” project, Reckinger has spent the last two years meticulously researching and interviewing hundreds of surviving family members and friends of individuals killed during the Vietnam War. Due in large part to his efforts, the “Virtual Faces of the Wall” website now features a photograph for every Minnesotan listed on the Memorial.

The free and open to the public program will also highlight the lives of select Minnesotan and Washington County veterans killed in the Vietnam War.

The Warden’s House Museum is located at 602 Main Street N., Stillwater, MN.

Other Events


9th Annual Hay Lake Beer Tasting

Everyone’s favorite blend of history and beer makes a triumphant 9th annual return to the Hay Lake Museum on Saturday, June 18th from 4:00 to 7:00 PM and promises to be bigger and better than ever. More breweries, more food, more music, more fun! And be sure to meet our special guests this year, the craft beer fanatics over at the “Taproom Travelers” webseries.

Your $15 admission not only helps the historical society, it will allow you to sample the latest and greatest alcoholic concotions from Bent Brewstillery, Summit Brewing, Burning Brothers, Redneck Juice, St. Croix Brewing, Still H2O, Joseph Wolf Brewing, East Lake Craft Brewing, Tin Whiskers, and Lift Bridge Brewing.

You’ll also be receiving a collectable tasting glass sponsored by Opinion Brewery.

Not to mention that, dozens of Twin Cities businesses, sports teams, and theaters have also donated table-fulls of items and activities for our awesome Silent Auction.

We’ll be looking forward to having a drink with you!

What is This Thing?!

What Is This Thing?! (Round 36)

Pretty much everyone was spot on with last week’s What Is This Thing?! even when you could only see a bit of the artifact. (Of course, I made sure to include an important part!)

In case you still can’t tell, last week’s mystery item was a Mira Music Box ca. 1880. And a few folks did guess “phonograph” and this is sort the step before that invention.

If you’ll remember, I also included this photo as a bit of a clue last week; that is the underside of the flat metal music discs that this machine plays. The holes and tabs on the disc are placed in such a way, that as each tab connected with one of the box’s tines (featured in last week’s WiTT photo) it would produce a melody! It’s a bit complicated to explain, but very simple once you see how it works…

So to clear up any confusion – here’s a quick demonstration showing how the individual tines (7 seconds) would produce a sound.

And then another video showing the whole music box (19 seconds) in action!

As always, thanks for playing along!

Onto today’s challenge! Because I think it’s fun – we’re going to keep the game going with these close-up photos! You’ll see a quarter resting on the top portion of today’s object to give you a bit of sense of scale.

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

Insulting the Competition

Sure, the news outlets of today might be pretty biased. You’ll find just as many Trump supporters over at the Huffington Post as folks looking forward to vote for Hillary on Fox News.

But let me assure you; this brand of pronounced politically partisan press is nothing new.

Let’s flip open the pages of the Stillwater Republican (can you guess what party they supported?) and read their editors literally call one of their Democratic-leaning neighbors a thief.

Stillwater Republican – A New Paper – May 31, 1870

We have heard it rumored on our streets for several weeks that Mr. J. N. Castle is soon to start a Democratic paper in this city, and that he is now “collecting” material for an office. To our brother printers up and down the river we would recommend a vigilant watch of their premises, and bolt and lock, on leaving the office, but on locking their offices to put the keys in their pockets, instead of over the door.

Featured Article

Moving to Washington County in 1850

By Jerry Brosious

The following notes were compiled by Gladys (Rutherford) McAdam during an interview her father, Charles A. Rutherford (1842-1937).

The notes describe the journey he made as an eight-year old boy, with is parents and brothers and sister from Bath, in southwestern New York, to Stillwater, Minnesota Territory, in May-June of 1850. His father James had come first in the prior year, 1849, when the area had just swapped from Wisconsin Territory to Minnesota Territory – but was still calling itself “St. Croix County.” In October of that year, the name would change to the familiar “Washington County”.

On May 27, the Rutherford family was packed and ready. They would depart from Bath for their new frontier home, “out West”.

A few explanatory comments concerning the account of their journey: Railroads traveled little of the route they took. The canal boat taken from Danville, N. Y. would have been on the Genesee River canal line that transported north to the Rochester area, where they would have proceeded on the famous Erie Canal. The Henry Hudson would have been a steamboat that sailed across Lake Erie, and then continued the Great Lakes chain on their journey, from Erie to Huron to the last lake, Michigan.

“Andrew Quinn brought the Rutherfords from Bath to Danville, where they took a canal boat and rode to Buffalo. There they took the Henry Hudson and came to Chicago. At Chicago they went to a hotel and it was so marshy, the hogs were wallowing in the mud in front of the hotel. Father went to John Rutherford’s and brought a team and took us out there. Father, Dan, John, and Dick (brother) went up town and brought a team and covered wagon. In this rig they drove to Galena.

At Galena they took the Yankee steamboat on the Mississippi, and in seven days arrived at Stillwater. Where Winona now stands was an Indian village. And the Indians came running down toward the river to see the steamboat. When the boat whistled, everyone dropped to the ground as though shot.

May 27 left New York; got to Stillwater June 16, 1850. In the party were James and Elizabeth Rutherford, Dominick – 12, Eliza – 10, Charles – 8, Rosella – 4, and Montgomery, 6 months. They drove right out to Rutherford’s settlement. Drove up was it now the ravine between Olive and Myrtle streets and west past Long Lake to where is now Masterman’s crossing; then across country about a mile to the farm that the father bought.”

Jim and Betsy Rutherford and their children settled in what was then Greenfield Township, later renamed Grant Township in 1864. James’ brother, William (called ‘pioneer of pioneers’ in his obituary) had come to the area in 1845. He and Albion Masterman staked claims in Grant Township in 1849, and William built the first house there in that same year.

The James Rutherford farm home was just to the north of his brother’s, at present day manning and Lofton Avenues in Grant Township.

Today, we can jet to New York in under three hours. (Editor’s Note: Of course, you have to add another two to get through the lines at the TSA). But it took the Rutherfords nearly three weeks, using a succession of modes of travel: horse and wagon, canal boat, Great Lakes steamboat, covered wagon, Mississippi steamboat, and finally, as they had began – horse and wagon.



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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.

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Mission Statement

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