Northfield Historical Society singles out Volunteers of the Year

volunteerThe Northfield Historical Society will celebrate the spirit of volunteerism and single out two volunteers for special recognition during Volunteer Night on Thursday, April 17, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the society’s downtown location (408 Division Street). The event is free and open to the public.

The two Volunteers of the Year who will be recognized are former board member Judy Sosted and Erin Hahn, a junior at Northfield High School.

“Volunteering for the Northfield Historical Society has been a good fit because there are such a variety of opportunities to meet a variety of interests,” Sosted says. Since settling in Northfield in 1982 her work for the organization has included becoming a docent on the Posse, an organization that gives tours of the society’s museum, and working in the store. She enjoys telling the many visitors “not only the story of the raid, but also about the charms of Northfield.”

In addition, Sosted has volunteered for a variety of alumni-related tasks at Carleton College, her alma mater, and at the Norwegian-American Historical Society at St. Olaf College.

Hahn became involved with the Historical Society in eighth grade, when she participated in the SCOPE program and helped write the textbook, Our Story, that has since become part of the Northfield school district’s third-grade curriculum. In doing so, she not only gained a wealth of information about Northfield’s past, but also fell in love with the society.

“I love sharing Northfield’s story with tourists and residents,” she says. “But the history of Northfield — and of the James-Younger gang — is so complex that every year I learn something new and intriguing.”

This will be Hahn’s fourth year on the Posse, and she also enjoys working in the store. She plans to continue volunteering at the society for as long as she lives in Northfield.

Night of 10,000 Laughs

10KL_Postcard_Page_11-232x300This year’s  Night of 10,000 Laughs (formerly Ole and Lena Joke Night) will roar to life Friday, April 11, at the Grand Event Center. The event will feature the return of Ole, Lena, and Tina for a set of fun-filled Norwegian-style humor. And joining them this year will be Minnesota joke master T McKinley, who will add his own brand of Minnesooota-style comedy.

Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and the program will begin at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance and can be purchased at the Northfield Historical Society or online here.  Due to high demand, we are encouraging attendees to purchase tickets in advance. Appetizers will be provided along with a cash bar.

What being in the Posse is all about

Nick GonnermanBy Nicholas Gonnerman

Nicholas Gonnerman is a junior at Northfield High School. He first became involved with the Northfield Historical Society through the 8th-grade SCOPE program, and since his work on the Posse has volunteered in the Society’s archives and the store. His grandfather is a founding member of the Society.

This town and its people are defined by stories. Without the unique histories to which each of us belong, what would separate Northfield from, say, Faribault or Owatonna? The answer to that question is: very little. This is why being part of the Northfield Historical Society’s tour guide programs, Junior Posse and Adult Posse, is vital to continuing the vibrant stories that have, and forever will, shape our city.

The Northfield Historical Society’s Junior and Adult Posse tour guide programs focus on the most important of these stories — the failed 1876 bank raid. No other part of Northfield’s history has helped put this town on the map than the raid, and as a past tour guide I can attest to the great pride, immense learning, and profound enjoyment that accompanies telling others about it.

The experience begins with a desire to tell our story. A sense of curiosity, and an appreciation for history is all that’s required. Weekly classes are taught by the program director, Earl Weinmann. These courses require some reading on the James-Younger Gang and Northfield past, but the true learning takes place as you immerse yourself into the history. For me, that learning occurred on an uniquely intimate level. It seemed like I got to know each gang member — his personality, interaction with the gang, and motive — on an incredibly unique and personal level. The same goes for the town’s defenders. Figures like acting cashier Joseph Lee Heywood became more than just names. They evolved into living characters in the raid story, and I was able to make a true connection with local history.

The education I received went beyond the weekly classes. As a group, we traveled to Missouri and the birth and death sites of members of the gang. We walked on the same floorboards as a young Jesse James did in his childhood home. We saw the bullet hole made by the shot that ended his life. And we tracked down his gravestone in a nearby cemetery. Along with some other sites, some for pure fun and others for historical pertinence, we learned more than facts that occurred on September 7, 1876; we learned about the lives that shaped the story. I had never experienced a more intimate level of history before joining the Posse.

After the learning and travels, our mission was to showcase what we knew to the public. We put together a tour that we would present to museum visitors. I had as much freedom as necessary to design my tour, and in no time, my fellow guides and I were showing people through the museum. My summer tours flew by. Conducting tours was a fun and rewarding experience. Obviously some public speaking skills were required, but apart from some first-tour jitters, tours went smoothly and my audiences were always kind. The tour itself was a pivotal part of the Posse. The enjoyment I got from telling this town’s stories and the excitement I saw others had from hearing them, not only shows how well the program is constructed, but how much it impacts Northfield.

Being a part of the Posse means being able to communicate and continue our town’s most famous moments. After all, what is Northfield without its stories?

If you are interested in being an Adult Posse tour guide member for the upcoming summer tour season, contact Earl Weinmann at 645-9488. Tour training takes place for one day a week during the months of April and May.

Hops, Grapes and History–March 8th!

Hops BannerWe are proud to present “Hops, Grapes & History,” a benefit event featuring a performance by Minnesota music legends, The Belfast Cowboys on Saturday, March 8 at the Grand Event Center in Northfield.

The evening begins with a beer and wine tasting from 6 to 8 p.m., featuring a hand-selected variety of Minnesota craft beers and wines; hors d’oeuvres; and a silent auction with a chance to bid on numerous goods and services from local businesses. Then from 9 to 11:30 p.m., the event culminates with a not-to-be-missed performance by The Belfast Cowboys, one of Minnesota’s most acclaimed and popular bands.

A nine-piece band fronted by the legendary Terry Walsh and featuring a full horn section (including veteran sax man Vic Volare), The Belfast Cowboys pay tribute to the iconic music of Van Morrison. The Belfast Cowboys have rocked and rolled their way around the globe, including sold-out shows in Ireland, BB King’s Blues Bar in New York City, and the world-renowned First Avenue Mainroom.

Born on St. Patrick’s Day in 2002, “The Belfast Cowboys, complete with a rollicking horn section, conjures up the spirit and the songs of Ireland’s greatest export,” according to the Chicago Tribune. Along with their own catchy original tunes, The Belfast Cowboys also wow their audiences with spot-on favorites by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Band, and Elvis Costello.

“I love live music, and The Belfast Cowboys are truly one of my favorite live bands…ever!,” proclaims Jessica Paxton of KYMN Radio. “Terry Walsh and his crew are master performers. They know their stuff and they put their heart and soul into their live shows. I guarantee a good time for music lovers of all ages. And be sure to wear your dancing shoes!”

A testament to their steadfast popularity, The Belfast Cowboys play regular gigs in Minneapolis at legendary venues like Nye’s Polonaise Room, Lee’s Liquor Lounge, and Whiskey Junction. “This is a really big deal to have The Belfast Cowboys come down to perform in Northfield, and it couldn’t have happened without this partnership with the Historical Society,” says Paxton.

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Proceeds from “Hops, Grapes & History” will support the Northfield Historical Society. Admission to all scheduled activities (including the beer/wine tasting, hors d’oeuvres, silent auction, and The Belfast Cowboys) is $40 per person or $70 per couple.

For those who choose to attend the performance by The Belfast Cowboys only, doors will open at 8:30 p.m. and the music will begin at 9 p.m. Admission to the music-only portion of the evening is $10 in advance and $15 at the door.

You can order tickets online here.

This event is made possible with support from College City Beverage; Firehouse Liquor; Hvistendahl, Moersch, Dorsey & Hahn, P.A.; Northfield Lines; Northfield News; KYMN Radio; The Grand Event Center; The Sketchy Artist; Edward Jones (Jon Snodgrass); and Northfield Olive Oil and Vinegars.

Old Northfield

Old Northfield Police PhotoIf you are on Facebook and you have not found the page, Old Northfield.  Check it out!  Many photos are being posted from the Northfield Historical Society collection and the Northfield History Collaborative!  We are asking if you have any memories or can identify anyone in the photos post, please put them in the comments.

Holiday Hours


The Northfield Historical Society will be closed on Dec. 24/25 and Dec. 31 and Jan. 1. We will be open all other days our normal business hours.

Northfield, Mandela and Me

This post has been contributed by Cherif Keita.

Cherif KeitaKeita is Professor of French and Francophone Studies at Carleton College.  A native of Mali, he has published books and articles on both social and literary problems in contemporary Africa.  He has completed a documentary film entitled “Oberlin-Inanda: The Life and Times of John L. Dube”, about the life of the first President of the African National Congress of South Africa and his education in the U.S. at the end of the nineteenth century. “Cemetery Stories: A Rebel Missionary in South Africa”, his second documentary traces the relationship between John Dube and a Northfield missionary family who mentored him and educated him in the United States.


My condolences to the people of South Africa on the passing of our one and only Madiba, this great symbol of humility, who will forever remain the most genuine voice and the moral conscience of a continent in dire straits. I really hope that all of us, whatever our field of endeavor in life, will prove ourselves worthy of his shining legacy.

This December marks the 14th year of my involvement with the history of South Africa, both as a researcher and as a frequent visitor to a land I fell deeply in love withMandela April 1994Ohlange Institute © Richard Shorey / Sunday Times since my first trip with college students in 1999, to study for a month the topic of “Poetry, Performance and the Politics of Identity in South Africa”. At the core of my passion to understand and absorb the past of this brave nation lies a hidden challenge set before me by President Mandela in 2000, when he had his office sent me a message saying that he himself did not know much about the Reverend John Langalibalele Dube, the man to whom he had paid such a resounding tribute on April 27, 1994, when he traveled to the Ohlange High School in Inanda(KwaZulu-Natal) to vote in the first multi-racial democratic elections. As the whole world was waiting to see him consume the first fruits of this long-awaited victory, he walked up to a poorly kept grave located behind the voting station (the Ohlange Chapel), piously stood in front of it and uttered words that surprised then and continue to surprise to this day many around the world: “Mr. President, I have come to report to you that South Africa is today free!” Mandela was thus saluting John Langalibalele Dube, the first President-General of the ANC, the fighter known in his distant days as Mafukuzela Onjenge Zulu[The Zulu Storm that woke up the Nation], and on whose shoulder he and thousands of his comrades of the liberation movement had stood in the struggle that led to this victory over Apartheid, the most brutal form of colonial and racial oppression.

Receiving Madiba’s grave message about his inability to answer my interview questions, along with his sincere wish that I succeed in my research project, my great excitement and hopes for an on-camera chat about John Dube, to which he had earlier agreed in principle, were suddenly dashed. I was overcome by a terrible feeling of discouragement for I had suddenly missed my chance to meet in person such a giant of history. However, I regained my aplomb a few days later, once I realized that through this canceled meeting, Madiba had offered me a unique gift by admitting his ignorance, something that leaders and particularly often pompous heads of state in Africa rarely do. I told myself that if Mandela, at his age, did not know much about Reverend Dube, the first president of a party and movement he embodied in the eyes of the world, there was one important call to me and to other young people, i.e. to roll up our sleeves and dig out the information for everyone’s edification. That day was born my motivation of the next 13 years, to answer a nagging question: What Would Mandela Like to Know about Dube, about his struggles and his hopes for his people. In a sense, the spirit of Mafukuzela(1871-1946), that had strongly connected with me at Ohlange, in January 1999, during my visit with the students, had clearly spoken to me through Madiba’s voice and through his humble admission that he could not offer anything of substance to a young researcher about the father of his own party.