‘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