Random Thoughts: Change, Primary Sources & Other Stuff

Posts Tagged ‘Local History

The new Mississippi River bridge connecting Winona, Minnesota to Wisconsin (NORTH)  was dedicated yesterday (August 26).  It was a wonderful and fun event attended by many including the usual mix of local and state dignitaries. I especially enjoyed seeing what will be in a Winona time capsule that will be placed inside the new bridge.  A few of the items people may be able to view in the future include

  • Artifacts representing the Winona’s higher education institutions: Winona State University, St. Mary’s University of Minnesota and Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical
  • Products from local manufacturers such as St. Croix knits sweater, a Winona State  University pennant from Wincraft, and a Peerless Chain link
  • Hot Companies, Cool Jobs, a Chamber of Commerce publication
  • A high school yearbook and a working laptop with the School District’s Winhawk mascot as a screen saver (Will the computer still be functional when the time capsule is opened many years into the century?)
  • A Jim Heinlen print of Winona’s architectural highlights
  • Commemorative magnets t-shirts and caps
  • A Great River Shakespeare festival poster depicting the Mississippi River and bluffs;  it is also by autographed by company members
  • Tributes to notable Winona State theater professor Vivian Fusillo
  • Copies of current local newspapers (Winona Daily News and the Winona Post)  including special publications about the old and new interstate bridges
  • . . . and an autograph book to preserve the names of people who attended the dedication
  • . . . and much more

It’s a great and appropriate collection representing Winona 2016!

What would you include in a time capsule representing you community?

An abundance of photos!  (Winona Daily News, August 28, 2016)

 

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A first drive across the new bridge from the North and Wisconsin. The iconic and historic old bridge will be the bridge to Wisconsin when all construction is complete.

 

FromWisc

The same familiar city sites and bluffs to the South.

 

Winona. Quiet bridge!

The “old” bridge was quiet for a week in 2008 when it was closed for repair

 

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The Polish Cultural Institute and Museum celebrates Winona’s Kashubian heritage and the prominent role Kashubian Poles and their descendants have played in Winona’s history and culture since the mid 1800’s.
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The museum is located in the original headquarters of the Laird-Norton Lumber Company, a large lumber mill that operated during Winona’s heyday as a lumber milling town. Many immigrants were employed in the lumber industry.

Notable exhibits include wedding dresses and photos, household tools, lumber and farming tools, household objects,musical instruments, photos, religious artifacts and contemporary history artifacts.

fabric_artifactsGrants and other funding have provided opportunities  to translate, digitize and archive archives and documents.  A portion of the web site is in Polish Language translation services are provided by a young man who immigrated to Winona from Poland as a nine year-old.

The museum’s web site has biographical information on many deceased and living Winonans of Polish, links to genealogy sites, a list of pictures and stories related to Winona landmarks with Polish and Kashubian connections. The original (Washington) Kosciuszko School, the Hot Fish Shop and the Basilica of Saint Stanislaus Kostka are examples of significant local structures represented.

wordsThe Heritage and Community center has a large pictorial timeline display reflecting significant events and people (including contemporaries.)  A large sign showing language differences in English, Polish and Kashubian spellings caught my eye. The adjacent heritage house is furnished with artifacts representing Polish culture and used as a guest house.

The impressive museum is maintained by people who are passionate about preserving their heritage. Notable exhibits include wedding dresses, wedding photos, household tools, lumber and farming tools, vehicles, musical instruments, photos, religious artifacts and contemporary history artifacts.  Many Winonans and residents of Western Wisconsin where Kashubians also settled maintain ties with Winona’s sister city Bytow.  What’s in your backyard?

Resources
Polish Museum of Winona
Laird Norton Company & Family Foundation

Don’t commit crimes in St. Paul!  Rule #1 defined the cozy relationship between the St. Paul Police Department and notable gangsters residing there in the early 1930’s.

“St. Paul Police Chief” Tom Brown entertained us with tales of John Dillinger, Ma Barker and sons, Creepy Karpis and other notables during an entertaining bus-tour of St. Paul’s gangster locations.

We drove by a home once inhabited by the “nice neighbor” Ma Barker and the apartment once home to John Dillinger and site of a shoot-out.  We visited the site of a payroll robbery and shootout in SOUTH St. Paul and enjoyed entertaining stories of “Madam” Nina Clifford’s” brothel with its tunnel connecting it to a men’s club.

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“Chief Brown” at Swede Hollow Park, the former site of the Hamm Mansion.

We stopped at the site of the former Hamm mansion (home of the brewing  family) in the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood to see where William Hamm Jr. was kidnapped and taken away from the Land of Sky Blue Waters to Chicago.
Historic Photo: Reporters and onlookers at the Hamm residence following the kidnapping.

The Gangster tour is a fun and an interesting way to learn about a seamier side of St. Paul’s history. The tour includes a bit of literary history with glimpses of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Summit Avenue home and Garrison Keillor’s current residence. The mansion of railroad builder James J. Hill is nearby.

The tour begins at the man-made Wabasha Street Caves, known as a gangster hideout but originally used to raise mushrooms. The Caves are open for tours and for weekly swing dance parties. A fun spring day in the Saintly City!

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Wabasha Street Caves

Wabasha St. Caves bar

Lib Guide Minn. Historical Society
Gangsters in St. Paul
Gangster images and artifacts

What’s in your back yard?

WatchFobWhat was in Lincoln’s Pockets the night he was assassinated? 

Lincoln’s Pockets, a Library of Congress professional development activity  answers the question. These artifacts are available to teachers and students digitally in Lincoln’s Pockets, a LOC Teacher’s Page Professional Development Activity. The complete packet includes facilitator directions, participant questions, and links to the artifacts. Some objects are easily identifiable, most, such as the object on the left,  are not. (What do you think it is?)

The engaging (and easy to implement) activity generates interest and questioning as participants try to identify each object and decide what they have in common. The contents of Abraham Lincoln’s pockets on the evening of his assassination are part of the Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniania

Numerous museums and cultural organizations are holding special events and exhibits to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination.  Remembering a Fiendish Assassination is an especially unique event sponsored by the The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. One commemorative experience will be a reenactment of Lincoln’s funeral train procession from its arrival in Springfield, Illinois, to Springfield’s Oak Ridge Cemetery. Funeral Train Reenactment website.

JohnWilkesBoothThe 10-year old Springfield museum is incredibly fascinating and educational. Visitors enter the  extensive Presidential Journeys Gallery through a replica of the White House entrance. John Wilkes Booth stands off to the side, watching the Lincoln Family, Frederick Douglas, and other White House visitors.

An especially moving exhibit is a recreation of the Ford’s Theater assassination and a recreation of Lincoln’s closed casket.

The museum utilizes extensive technology to heighten the visitation experience. A  battlefield scene is loud and intense; in another live presentations it is hard to distinguish a live actor from a hologram. The museum and nearby Lincoln sites such as his home and office are well worth the visit.  There is a lot to see in Springfield. Allow at least two days!

mindoro-Cut-SignThe first warm weather of 2015 means it’s time for a road trip to visit undiscovered sites in the Driftless Region of Western Wisconsin.  Last weekend’s drive took us to County T and State Highway 108 between Mindoro and West Salem in LaCrosse County.

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The trip highlight was the Mindoro Cut. Built in 1907-1908, the Cut is considered the 2nd largest hand-hewn cut in the United States.  It is listed in the National and State Register of Historic Places. County T and Hwy 108 are popular with motorcycle riders and convertible drivers. Both feature scenic views; Hwy 108 has wonderful hairpin turns.

I didn’t know about the Mindoro Cut before our road trip! It’s fun to keep discovering what’s in my backyard.

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The Mindoro Cut: National Historic Marker Database
Mindoro Cut Makes History, LaCrosse Tribune, Nov 30, 2006

What’s in your backyard? Be a tourist in your own community; discover local history in unexpected places. Check out some ideas in Just off I-35
(Library Media Connection, November/December 2014)

I can remember the time I spent in this state park. We had to work at Plainview in the cannery. I enjoyed very much the landscape surrounding us. The trees, the rocks. It was similar to Germany.
Ernst Kohleick, former POW, 1974.

A major character in Chris Bohjalian’s Skeletons at the Feast is a Scottish prisoner of war working on a family estate in Eastern Germany as Russian forces are invading at the end of World War II. German internees are employed on a farm during an episode of the British detective series Foyle’s War. Both situations renewed my interest in learning more about the German POW camp at Whitewater State Park in Southeast Minnesota, a short distance from my home. Housed in a former Civilian Conservation Core barracks, POWs worked on area farms and in canning factories. They were paid a minimum wage so they could resettle in Germany after the war. Friendships developed between POWS and county residents, including some of German descent. Some POW returned to the area in the 1970’s to revisit the former campsite; some oral interviews were recorded.

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Wounded German prisoners being loaded aboard a United States Army transport plane at an advance air base in North Africa (Library of Congress)

Camp Whitewater POWs were from North African and Normandy campaigns. Whitewater was one of 20 POW camps in Minnesota and a “branch” of the Algona, Iowa base camp. On Veterans Day an area television station broadcast a video featuring the camp setting, an interview with the park naturalist, and historic photos.

 

A tornado destroyed the Whitewater camp barracks in 1953 leaving few visible remains. There are, however, primary sources about camps in Minnesota and other states available in digital collections.  A comprehensive starting place is The Library of Congress State Memory Collections Portal.  One Minnesota Reflections artifact is a Letter from Alois Sauer to Henry Peterson in Moorhead, Minnesota. Sauer shared fond memories of his time at in Minnesota:

AloisSauer_1The time I lived in America, especially on your farm, was the best of my life. I learnt [learned] this, when I came as a prisoner from the U.S. to France. What a contrast! In the U.S. we had plenty to eat and the people were so good to us, and there in France we met only hunger and hate. And when I returned at home the conditions were not much better. Our food-rations were and are still today terrible small, and I often wanted to have only a small amount of the foods I got in the USA.

More resources

German POWs, treatment of POWs and unlikely friendships between POWS and civilians are timely classroom topics!

Historical fiction suggestions

  • Bohjalian, Chris. Skeletons at the Feast. Crown, 2008. For older readers.
  • Greene, Bette. Summer of My German Soldier. Puffin Modern Classics, 2006. Story of a young Jewish girl in Arkansas and a German POW. For middle level readers
  • Dallas, Sandra. Tallgrass. St. Martin’s, 2007.  Weaves the story of an unlikely friendship between  internees at a Colorado Internment Camp and a beet farmer’s family throughout the book. A parallel plot is the anti-Japanese behavior and attitudes of other community citizens. Upper middle level and senior high readers.

Primary sources offer exciting possibilities for all content areas
Learn how to find and use primary sources in your classroom!

 

For-Adams-Sake-Amazing! 

I’ve  just read For Adam’s Sake; A Family Saga in Colonial New England. It is extremely interesting, packed with detail (some juicy) and highly readable. Historian  Allegra di Bonaventura meticulously researched an abundance of primary sources but relied heavily on the detailed diary Joshua Hempstead  kept for nearly 50 years while living in New London, Connecticut,

The lives the Hempstead family, other families of English ancestry, and the Jacksons, an African American family, are interwoven.  Adam Jackson, was Hempstead’s slave for 30 years. Informative accounts of Native Algonquins are also part of the saga. Family and daily life, farming, occupations, hard work, disease, travel, Colonial slavery, and disagreements over religion and land are just some of the many facets of late 17th and early 18th century life in  Colonial America. Rich detail and intense narratives captured my attention throughout.

The Hempstead name and my ancestors’ experience Colonial New England piqued my interest when I read about the book.  I have known Hempsteads all of my life; my Ford ancestors immigrated to Colonial New England in 1621.  I dug out a family history and discovered that Hannah Dingley, wife of James Ford, a 4th generation family member, lived in the New London. The Ford family is not part of For Adam’s Sake, but there is a crossover of the names (Beebe, Winthrop, Rogers, and Harris) and similar situations are included in both.

di Bonaventura’s sources span an extensive range of primary source documents and pictures from New England Historical Societies, The Library of Congress, and beyond. The Hempstead family homeHempstedHOUSE was occupied by 8 generations of Hempsteads into the 20th century.  It is now a historic site.

  • For Adam’s Sake: A Family Saga in Colonial New England by Allegra di Bonaventura.  Liveright, 2013. More info.
  • The Ancestry of the Children of William Arthur and Nellie Clara Ford Van Alstine; Part 2; Ford Ancestry in America, 1620-1976.
    Compiled by James Neal Van Alstine, Center Conway, New Hampshire, 1976.
  • Hempstead Houses, Connecticut Historic Site
  • Excerpt from the Joshua Hempstead Diary, New London County Historical Society
  • Ebook Version of Joshua Hempstead’s Diary (Google Books)
  • Mary Johnson’s Primary Source Librarian blog alerted me to this intriguing book.  She also has a personal connection with the book! Amazing!  Thank you!

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