History Footnote #9

NHS 40th logoThis year NHS is celebrating it’s 40th Anniversary. For the next 40 weeks we will unveil 40 interesting Northfield history facts. All of them were pulled for the Northfield News. Some are of major events and some are just fun! We hope you enjoy this series and remember you make history happen every day!

The Reverend Kenneth Martin of the Congregational Church recovered from the mumps on December 14, 1950 – only to pass them along to his cat.

Wheeler Collection now on display!

046Last night we unveiled the new Henry Wheeler collection display.  It was great event. You can now view the .50 caliber Smith Carbine Wheeler used to help stop the James-Younger Gang during the failed 1876 bank raid.  You can also see the gold pocket watch Wheeler was given by the First National Bank of Northfield for his role in the raid; and the pistol Wheeler carried with him for the rest of his life in fear the Miller family would retaliate.

Thank you to the First National Bank of Northfield for funding the production of the display case. Finally,  a BIG thank you to Norman Oberto and his family for purchasing the collection and loaning it to NHS! We are very happy the collection is home!

NHS is open seven days a week, Monday-Saturday 10-5 and Sunday 1-5.

History Month Continues on June 25 and 26

‘Tombstone Tourist’ to visit Historical Society on June 25

Jeff Suave

St. Olaf College archivist Jeff Sauve places the headstone of John Boone, a corporal in the Union Army during the Civil War and one of the first African-American settlers in Northfield, into it’s rightful resting place. (Jerry Smith/Northfield News)

The Northfield Historical Society is pleased to host Jeff Sauve— Northfield’s own “Tombstone Tourist” — as he presents a program highlighting Northfield’s cemeteries June 25 at 6:30 p.m. Sauve will discuss some of the more interesting tombstones in Northfield as well as give background on the people associated with the tombstones. The program will be free and open to the public.

One story Suave will recount is that of Sheridan Knowles Mackay, a “remittance man” from England who died in 1867 at the age of 34. A 1948 Northfield News clipping notes Mackay’s obituary in The Farmer’s Union newspaper (St. Paul, Sept. 6, 1867): “The Northfield Recorder published an account of the death of a well educated English gentleman named Sheridan K. Mackay, who had been staying in that village some weeks with the hope of reforming his habits of intemperance. A saloon keeper induced him to break his pledge, and continued to furnish him liquor until he became delirious, in which condition he wandered off, and was found dead in the woods between that place and Dundas.”

Mackay’s white stone cross, unique in design for its time, has elaborate inscriptions on both the front and back that have weathered to the point of being indecipherable. The newspaper clipping provided the following detail on the inscriptions:

Front: Sacred to the memory of Sheridan Knowles Mackay, barrister at law, Inner Temple, London. Born in Liverpool 1833, died at Northfield Aug. 6, 1867.

Back: Here he lies peacefully among strangers until the resurrection, when all earthy divisions will be unknown. As there is but one shepherd, so there is but one sheep fold.

Since that 1948 article the tombstone has been cemented at the base, and unfortunately the repairs cover the most telling line of the inscription, but which was noted in the clipping: “Life’s fitful fever’s o’er.”

Attend this program to learn more about Mackay’s and other headstones in Northfield. Sauve is associate archivist at St. Olaf College.

Untold Stories: St. Olaf College on June 26

Untold ArtOn June 26 the Northfield Historical Society will present Untold Stories: St. Olaf College with Greg Kneser. Cost of the tour is $20 per person, and it will start with a 6:00 p.m. happy hour at Froggy Bottoms. A bus will bring participants to the college at 7 p.m.

Participants will hear explanations of why St. Olaf has not gotten around to naming anything after the founder of the college, what happened to Ytterboe the Dog, and the location of a hidden monument to Ole Fugleskjel and the lawless brewery that once existed adjacent to the campus … and much more.

Kneser is vice president for student life at St. Olaf and longtime Northfield resident.

You can reserve your spot now!  Seats are limited!

Eventbrite - Untold Stories: St. Olaf College

History Footnote # 8

NHS 40th logoThis year NHS is celebrating it’s 40th Anniversary. For the next 40 weeks we will unveil 40 interesting Northfield history facts. All of them were pulled for the Northfield News. Some are of major events and some are just fun! We hope you enjoy this series and remember you make history happen every day!

Petitions demanding the incorporation of the Bible into the high school curriculum – sponsored by the Ku Klux Klan, according to local rumors – were circulating in Northfield on October 23, 1925. They requested that a Bible be placed in each classroom and that a portion of it be read each morning.

History Month Continues

History MonthHistory Month is in full swing with two events this week.

June 11 @ 6:30 p.m.
Village on the Cannon

The Northfield Historical Society and The Entertainment Guide have teamed to produce Volumes 2 and 3 of Susan Hvistendahl’s trilogy of “Historic Happenings” books. A presentation and signing of Historic Happenings at St. Olaf College and Historic Happenings at Carleton College will be held at 7 pm in the Village on the Cannon Community Room, 301 7th Street W., on Thursday, June 11, with a social time starting at 6:30. The books are compilations of columns written for The Entertainment Guide since 2007. Refreshments will be provided by the Northfield Historical Society. Special musical guest on the VOC piano will be Marc Reigel of Carleton’s Night Crawlers, a rock group featured in the Carleton book.

Hear stories of such St. Olaf luminaries as F. Melius Christiansen, Kenneth Jennings, Miles Johnson, John Maakestad, Dean Gertrude Hilleboe and performers and artists Irene Gubrud, Sharon Moe, Ron Sell, Nancy Ringham, Gary Briggle, L.K. Hanson and Ward Sutton and of Betty White’s 1992 visit to St. Olaf. Notable figures featured from Carleton are President Larry Gould, “unsinkable” art professor Holbourn, Dean Margaret Evans, Jimmy Gillette, Reed Whittemore, “Doc” Evans, Max Exner and Fred and Deborah Sayles Hill. Learn about the iconic bust of Schiller, famous non-graduate Peter Tork of the Monkees, the May Fete and Rotblatt softball tradition. Shared collegiate history includes early football and basketball (including two goat trophies) and the nation’s only metric football game played between St. Olaf and Carleton in 1977.

June 12 @ 5:30 p.m.
The Grand Event Center

NHS is a proud partner with St. Olaf and Carleton College in Northfield Historical.

NorthfieldHistoricalNorthfieldHistorical is a mobile app and website that allows anyone with a mobile device or an Internet connection to explore Northfield, Minnesota, including the campuses of St. Olaf and Carleton Colleges. Learn about the city of “Cows, College and Contentment” through map-based presentations, multimedia content, and curated walking tours using our mobile apps, available on Google Play and iOS.

A launch event celebrating the app is slated for 5:30 to 8 p.m. on Friday at The Grand Event Center. The social hour begins at 5:30, with the program starting at 6:30.

The Grand is located at 316 Washington St., in Northfield. The event is free and open to the public.


Wheeler Collection to be unveiled

Wheeler Gun 2012

The Smith Carbine being installed at NHS in the 2012 display

The Northfield Historical Society is pleased to announce that a portion of the Henry Wheeler Collection will be on permanent display as of June 16. It will include the Smith carbine that Wheeler used to kill Clell Miller and wound Bob Younger during the failed 1876 bank raid by the James-Younger Gang, and the watch Wheeler received from the First National Bank of Northfield in appreciation for his actions during the robbery. A small revolver that Henry carried with him for the rest of his life also is included.

The display will open June 16 at 7 p.m. at the Northfield Historical Society in downtown Northfield. The event is free and open to the public.

In November 2014 the NHS was loaned the collection by its new owner, Norman Oberto of Northfield, who purchased the collection from Gerald Groenewold  and Connie Triplett — owners of the collection for more than 30 years. “I am grateful for the opportunity to assist our Northfield Historical Society in securing this collection,” says Oberto. “These unique artifacts will become the centerpieces in memorializing the failed bank robbery by the James-Younger Gang due to the heroism by the people of Northfield.”

NHS first learned about the Wheeler collection in 2012 when Dr. James Bailey, a forensic scientist who conducted a study of the skeleton in the NHS collection, was researching the Henry Wheeler and his carbine. In 2014 Scriven made an unsuccessful bid to get a grant from the Minnesota Historical Society that would allow NHS to purchase the rifle. Scriven then reached out to a mutual friend of Oberto and “the rest is history,” quips Scriven.

Oberto, who purchased the collection in November, explains that having this collection at the NHS will serve as a reminder to be like Henry Wheeler and the other townspeople who acted with courage on September 7, 1876. “We have the opportunity each and every day to be like the heroes of early Northfield by our actions as responsible citizens in making our town a better place to live,” he says.

New collection, new case
Since the collection came to NHS the staff at the society along with Museology (an exhibit design and fabrication firm in Minneapolis) have been researching, writing, and designing its new display case. The last time the bank raid exhibit was updated was 2005, explains Scriven, “So bringing in this collection allowed us the opportunity to start the process of updating the entire display. This is just the first step in a multiyear project to update the exhibit.”

The new display has been funded by the First National Bank of Northfield.

The Wheeler collection will be the “crown jewel” of the new display as the enhanced exhibit begins to shift the story from being about the raiders to telling the story of Northfielders. “The current exhibit has done a great job telling the story, but it does not highlight the townspeople as much as it should,” says Scriven. “The Wheeler collection is the first step in highlighting the townspeople properly.”

History Footnote # 7

NHS 40th logoThis year NHS is celebrating it’s 40th Anniversary. For the next 40 weeks we will unveil 40 interesting Northfield history facts. All of them were pulled for the Northfield News. Some are of major events and some are just fun! We hope you enjoy this series and remember you make history happen every day!

On July 8, 1976, Congressman Al Quie dedicated the Scriver building in downtown Northfield. At the time, the building was undergoing renovation that would enable the Northfield Historical Society to house its museum inside.