This issue: Contents
Tuesday, July 28th, 2015
  • Editor’s Note
  • WCHS News: WCHS Audience Survey
  • WCHS News: “Outhouse Archaeology” Program
  • What Is This Thing?!
  • Old News: The Fair Is Here!
  • Featured Article: Our Sharpshooting Mayor
Editor’s Note

Whew! We have had a busy couple of weeks since the last issue of our little e-newsletter…so let’s quick catch you up to speed..

Robert Goodman shared stories of Washington County’s Civil War soldiers at Hay Lake while Greg Guffey explained a bit of Minnesota’s Masonic history at the Warden’s House.

Stillwater celebrated Log Jam Days and the Warden’s House was happy to show festival goers around the museum throughout the weekend! After exploring the rows of food trucks, many Log Jammers made their way to Old Athletic Field to watch a half-dozen teams from across the state cross bats.

On the Boutwell House front, WCHS received a $25,000 anonymous donation towards our preservation project! This is a obviously an amazingly great step in the right direction towards preservation of this historic home! To learn more about the project visit our GoFundMe page. We’ve still got a long way to go, but thank you for your support over the last few months!

Alrighty! Now that you’re back in the loop – let’s move on to today’s Historical Messenger!

You read my ramblings every-other-week, now it’s your turn to ramble back! Check out our first News Story to participate in this year’s ‘Audience Survey’!

After you let us know what you think about WCHS, plug your nose and head down to the second News Story to learn all about our next museum program: “Outhouse Archaeology”!

Later, we’ll head into the 13th round of our “What Is This Thing?!” artifact challenge.

And the tail end of summer may be here, but the County Fair is just beginning! Scroll down to our Old News section to read the first time the Washington County Fair was called “annual”!

And as always, we’ll leave you with a bit of Washington County history. Today we’ll cover one of Stillwater’s earliest pioneers, politicians, and Civil War veterans: Mahlon Black.

Want to learn more about the history of Washington County? “Like” WCHS on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and explore our massive photograph collection through our intern-run Instagram!

Sean Pallas

Historical Messenger editor and Warden’s House Site Manager

WCHS News 

WCHS Audience Survey

If you haven’t heard, WCHS will be undergoing a major expansion with the opening of the new Washington County Heritage Center projected for 2018. We’ve got a lot of work to do between then and now, but I can’t put into words how excited we all are to be part of this process. And here’s your chance to be directly involved:

As we move into the planning stages of the new museum, we have to determine what types of exhibits and services to offer at the new location. We have put together a brief 12-question survey so we can learn what the public (that’s you) hope to see the new Washington County museum!

If you have a minute, we’d greatly appreciate your input. This is going to be your museum too! Let us know what you want to see there!

Thank You!

WCHS Audience Survey


“Outhouse Archaeology” Program

Join privy digger Mark Youngblood on Sunday, August 16th, 2015 at 2:00 PM at the Warden’s House Museum for a free program covering his unique style of unearthing history.

Mr. Youngblood has spent more than 30 years locating and excavating 19th and early 20th century privies and outhouse sites.

A century ago, folks used their outhouses as garbage dumps – but what was considered trash 100 years ago are today’s historical artifacts!

Mr. Youngblood will share some of his techniques, stories, and a few favorite items he’s discovered at this presentation anyone interested in local history won’t want to miss!

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.

More: Events 

What is This Thing?!

What Is This Thing?! (Round 13)

Now, I know it’s easy to forget considering our recent hot and humid weather, but Minnesota does get pretty cold! Last week’s What Is This Thing?! would have been a buggy-driver’s best friend from October to February!

This item is a foot-warmer for a carriage! To use this device, you would place hot coals inside the tray visible in the above link. Then, the driver would squeeze it beneath their feet and the heat would escape from the grates on the backside of the device.

As always, thank you for participating and congratulations to all the folks who correctly identified last week’s artifact!

…but how about this week’s challenge?!

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

The Fair Is Here!

Tomorrow is the start of the Washington County Fair! From July 29th to August 2nd, thousands of your neighbors will be chit-chatting, enjoying local music, and (perhaps most importantly) exploring interesting and deliciously unhealth food-options.

The Washington County Historical Society will be visiting with fair goers at our booth in Building C! Be sure to swing by throughout the fair to see our special exhibit, and chat with our board members, authors, interns, volunteers, and maybe even a ghost hunter or two!

To get you into the Fair going mood, we’ll take a look back at 1906 with this following announcement of the “second annual county fair” from 1906!

See you at the Fair!

Washington County Fair – Stillwater Messenger – July 28, 1906

The second annual county fair of the Washington County Agricultural Society will be held at Lily Lake Driving Park on August 28, 29, 30, 31, 1906. The farmers are taking considerable interest in this event and there is good reason to believe that it will be a grand success.

Remember the date and bring something to the fair.

Featured Article

Our Sharpshooting Mayor

by Brent Peterson

Many of the earliest settlers of Washington County were farmers and lumbermen looking for a new place to start. Most of them were looking for something, either material goods or something inside themselves. A person who didn’t know what he wanted to become in life came out here and found it. This is the story of the former Mayor of Stillwater, Mahlon Black.

Black was born in Hamilton County, Ohio on October 4, 1820. His grandfather was a naval officer during the Revolutionary War and a soldier in the War of 1812. Mahlon spent his early days on his father’s farm and received a common school education. At age 17 he began the study of medicine in Cincinnati Medical College, but not being that interested in medicine he decided not finish the course and set out to find what he wanted.

In 1842, he came west to Menominee Mills where he was employed in the lumber industry until 1846. In 1847 he became a part of a government survey crew and located in Stillwater. He married Miss Jane Stough in St. Anthony, the home of the bride’s mother, on September 21, 1850.

He was elected to the first, third and last Territorial Legislatures and was also a member of the extra session in 1857. During the term of 1852 the Territorial Legislature voted to outlaw the manufacture and sale of “spirituous or intoxicating liquors.” In April of that year, a vote of the territorial citizens voted 853 to 662 to outlaw intoxicants. The penalty was a $25 fine. However, Rep. Mahlon Black proposed a tougher penalty – death! Only two other legislators sided with Black’s proposal and that idea failed. By the end of 1852 the territorial court had thrown out the law, and the saloons were back in business.

Black also served as Stillwater’s Postmaster from 1857 to 1861 and was elected mayor of Stillwater in 1860 and 1861.

On January 4, 1862 he enlisted in the Second Company of Sharpshooters, which was at the outbreak of the Civil War and was assigned to the Army of the Potomac. He was promoted to Captain and Provost Marshall in the Second Division of the Second Army Corps, during which time he was one of Gen. Givon’s staff officers.

During his military service he was in 54 battles, in some of which over 100,000 men were engaged on each side. He was wounded four times during his 3 years of service. At the Battle of Petersburg he was nearly killed when a bayonet thrust pierced a “vital part of the body”.

He served until the close of the war being mustered out on January 3, 1865 and received a special and honorable discharge from his commander, Gen. Smyth.

In 1867, Black left Stillwater and settled in Minneapolis. He held the position of land examiner and auditor of Hennepin County from 1874 to 1878.

His health took a turn for the worse in the fall of 1901. In the afternoon of October 25, 1901, Mahlon Black died at the family home on Fourth Avenue South, Minneapolis.

The Stillwater Gazette said of him “Mr. Black was an exceedingly popular man and had very few enemies. He was of a cheerful temperament and always looked on the bright side of life, and, like the poet, whatever sky was above him, his was a heart for any fate. In any dark days of gloom or adversity, which are likely to come to any of us, there was a smile on his lips and a song in his heart.”

Upcoming Events

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.

More: WCHS Membership >>>

Mission Statement

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