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This issue: Contents
Tuesday, October 20th, 2015
  • Editor’s Note
  • WCHS News: Boutwell House Update
  • WCHS News: “Paranormal Investigations: Techniques & Theories” Program
  • What Is This Thing?!
  • Old News: Grandeur At A Cost
  • Featured Article: Stillwater’s 1868 Champions
Editor’s Note

Every year our touring season seems to go by quicker and quicker! You only have a few more weeks to check out the Hay Lake School and Warden’s House Museums before we close up for the season on October 31st. Make sure you get out there and do at least one more fun thing outdoors before it starts snowing and we all have to hide inside for the next 6 months!

In today’s Historical Messenger, I’ll give you a bit of an update on our ongoing Boutwell House Restoration Project.

You’ll get one last reminder about our upcoming “Paranormal Investigations” program (which is definitely the best way to get into the Halloween spirit. Get it? …”spirit”…like a ghost!? Whew, I’m hilarious.)

As always, I’ll invite you to take a wild guess at a mystery artifact.

There are many beautiful homes in Washington County and Stillwater, but sometimes their construction requires more than dollars and timber.

And what better way to close out today’s e-newsletter and the summer, than a nostalgic look back to when Stillwater was crowned “base ball” champions of Minnesota!

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 

Boutwell House Update

Last weekend, we held a rummage/barn sale at the historic Boutwell House that was extremely well attended! It was great to meet all the neighbors and give them a good “before” look at the house before the major restoration begins in earnest.

The first step to that began earlier this week when the Northern Bedrock Historic Preservation Corps cleaned out much of the debris in the house. If you’ll remember, back in January, heavy machinery had begun to demolish the home before being halted and the destroyed portions of the roof have been sitting in the kitchen ever since.

The Northern Bedrock crew was also able to perform some maintenance work on the Hay Lake School and the Boutwell family cemetery.

The house and grounds look absolutely amazing thanks to the amazing work by the Northern Bedrock crew! Now we are able to begin the actual reconstruction of the destroyed portions of the home to prepare to repair and remodel the interior.

If you’d like to learn more about their preservation efforts, check out the Pioneer Press’ article.

We’ve still got a long way to go – but if you’d like to contribute to the historical preservation of the Boutwell House, feel free to visit our GoFundMe page.

WCHS News 

“Paranormal Investigations: Techniques & Theories” Program

This Saturday, October 24th, the Johnsdale Paranormal Group will host their third annual Paranormal Investigations: Techniques & Theories program at the Warden’s House Museum.

The event will be held at the Warden’s House Museum in Stillwater. They will host encore presentations at 11:00AM, 3:00PM, and 7:00PM. We are expecting large turn outs for each showing, so if you want to be sure you have a good seat, we recommend arriving early!

Since last year’s event, the group has investigated reportedly haunted local locales such as the Wilson Place Mansion in Menomonie, WI, the LeDuc Mansion in Hastings, the William A. Irvin in Duluth and, of course, another investigation of the Warden’s House itself.

During this free and open to the public presentation, founder Justin Miner and his co-investigators will delve into the evidence they have gathered over the last year and will also explain exactly what goes into a “ghost hunt”. Including a showcase of their state-of-the-art equipment.

Each time slot will feature the same program and will last about 80 minutes.

Please contact Sean Pallas at or at 651-439-5956 for more information regarding these events.

What is This Thing?!

What Is This Thing?! (Round 19)

If you wanted to make multiple rapid guesses at last week’s What Is This Thing?! well…it would actually be the perfect device to do so!

Last issue’s mystery artifact is an early steno-type machine! This particular model has a patent date of 1882. In the hands of a properly trained operator, the machine allowed super-accurate and real-time recording of more than 200 words per minute. Shorthand machines were primarily used to quickly transcribe court case proceedings.

Modern versions of this device are still commonly used in courtrooms across the world and are also used when captioning live television (and can now record closer to 300 words per minute!)

Thank you to everyone who participated in last week’s challenge! Maybe one of you will be able to shed some light on the identity of this week’s artifact…

Can you identify the WCHS artifact photographed above? Can you guess its use? 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

Close Up

Old News 

Grandeur At A Cost

As the lumber industry hit it’s boom in Stillwater, many new millionaire’s began constructing the gorgeous homes that still dot the modern city’s hillside.

But beyond their massive price tags, poor safety standards also resulted in human tragedies.

During the completion of the Isaac Staples mansion, a painter tumbled from his scaffolding. The fall described in following article from the Stillwater Messenger sounds absolutely brutal.

We’ve actually already discussed this incident in passing back in May, in our A Millionaire’s Missing Mansion featured article. If you re-read that e-newsletter, you’ll see that despite the article’s optimistic prognosis, the painter’s injuries proved fatal.

Perhaps even more sobering is the fact that this beautiful mansion was torn down only a few short decades after this unnamed man’s death. In the end, the monetary cost of maintaining the home was deemed too great.

Serious Accident – Stillwater Messenger – October 20, 1871

On Wednesday afternoon a young man, a Swede, in the employ of Webster Brothers, while engaged in painting the cornice of Mr. Isaac Staples new residence accidentally stepped backward off from the platform and fell some thirty feet into the cellar, striking on his head and shoulders the stone steps.

Fortunately his fall was broken by striking upon the roof of the porch and then upon the top of a door from which he fell into the cellar-way. He was taken to his boarding house on Main street formerly occupied by Muller’s furniture store, and Dr. Kinkle called. It was found that though no bones were broken he was badly bruised and probably injured internally; he is doing well and will probably recover.

Featured Article

Stillwater’s 1868 Champions

by Brent Peterson, WCHS Executive Director

Almost one hundred and fifty years ago, a handful of young and up-and-coming Stillwater businessmen gathered together on a playing field and left as undisputed champions. It took an abundance of skill, physical agility and most importantly, a sense of teamwork. These champions were known by the river that had made their city great; the St. Croix Base Ball Club.

They became the Minnesota state champions of base ball in October 1868 by defeating the Minnehaha Club of Northfield in a three game series. Contemporaries and historians have both called the final game the best played base ball game in Minnesota during the 1860s. The game featured many outstanding defensive plays as well as an amazing showing by the St. Croix’s highly esteemed pitcher [or hurler] William Miller.

Luckily for us, the Stillwater Republican newspaper has preserve a report of each inning of the big game: “The third and last game of the series of the match between the St. Croix Base Ball Club of Stillwater and the Minnehaha Club of Northfield, was played on the grounds of the Vermillion Club of Hastings on Saturday last and as the following score will show, resulted in favor of the St. Croix boys.”

“The Minnehahas won the outs and St. Croix went to bat. The first inning resulted in a score of three tallies for the St. Croix, and a whitewash for Minnehaha. On the second inning the order was reversed – the St. Croixs being whitewashed and the Minnehahas making two runs. The third inning was hotly contested, and closed with two tallies for St. Croix and one for Minnehaha.”

“The fourth was by far the prettiest of the game – the St. Croixs sustaining another whitewash and the Minnehahas being saved from a like score by the agility of Rawson who made home from third on a passed ball. The next strike put the side out.”

“On the fifth inning both sides were ‘on their muscle’ and succeeded in making one tally each. The sixth was very animated and closed with a score of two for St. Croix and three for Minnehaha – making both sides even with eight tallies each. O’Brien, of the St. Croix made a beautiful steal from third, home on this inning.”

“On the seventh inning the St. Croixs treated their opponents to another whitewash. Minnehaha returned the compliment by ‘serving up’ a similar dish to the St. Croix. The St. Croix boys went to bat on the eighth inning with ‘business’ stamped on the countenance of each and run up a score of seven tallies. O’Brien and McKusick making two pretty home steals. The Minnehahas worked hard to retrieve this loss but were obliged to take the field after scoring two runs.”

“On the ninth and last inning, the St. Croixs went to bat under favorable circumstances and were evidently determined to run up another good score but their opponents took two pretty flys and one foul, and forced them to go to the field after making two tallies. The Minnehahas now came to bat realizing that nothing but hard work would save the silver ball to them – for they had to make seven tallies to tie and eight to beat their opponents. Vangilder, Fuller and Miner succeeded in making one run each and the game closed leaving the St. Croix boys four tallies ahead on the game.”

“Mr. Miller, the pitcher of the St. Croix club had been up from a sick bed but a few days and was unable to pitch the entire game. But when he was on duty his swift balls counted every time. He is acknowledged to be the best pitcher in the State and the St. Croix boys claim him to be the champion pitcher of the Northwest.”

Miller, the pitcher, would never again pitch for the St. Croixs. The St. Croixs lost the State championship the next year to the Lake City Club. However, the Stillwater team continued to be a dominate force in baseball right through the 1870s.

These days, volunteers from the Washington County Historical Society
take up the mantle of the St. Croix Base Ball Club
and challenge other local vintage clubs to 1860s rules base ball.
In this way, we can all share a bit of our athletic predecessors’ glory from when the sport was a gentleman’s game…and when the game was two words.

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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.