Henry Wheeler

Henry Wheeler

The City of Northfield along with the Defeat of Jesse James Days Committee and the Northfield Historical Society will dedicate the newly created Wheeler Park Wednesday, September 7, at 2 p.m. The nearly three-acre park, located just south of Jefferson Parkway at the end of Prairie Street (950 Jefferson Parkway E.), was recently redeveloped by Northfield resident Norman Oberto and his family.

The park is named in honor of Henry Wheeler, who cemented himself in Northfield history when he grabbed a rifle and fired at James-Younger Gang members during their attempted bank robbery in 1876. His shots killed Clell Miller and wounded Bob Younger. Wheeler, a graduate of Carleton College’s Preparatory Department, was studying medicine at the time and would later graduate from the University of Michigan.

“I hope this park will remind people of the strong community we have built since that fateful day in 1876,” says Oberto. “Just being a good neighbor and friend, helping those in need, and trying to make our community a better place to live exemplify the character demonstrated by Henry Wheeler.”

Oberto explains that he had not paid much attention to Henry Wheeler’s role in Northfield’s history until Hayes Scriven, executive director of the Northfield Historical Society, asked for assistance in purchasing a set of historical artifacts that had been in a private collection for more than 30 years. With Oberto’s help, that collection — which includes Wheeler’s rifle and a gold watch given in appreciation for his actions during the raid — is now on display at the Northfield Historical Society.

Over the past few years Scriven has led efforts to shift the focus of the raid story from the gang members to the Northfield residents who helped foil the attempted robbery. “The locals have never received enough credit for what they did that day,” he says. The NHS has been revising its historical exhibits to reflect this new approach.

Oberto is chairman and an owner of Lakeville-based Imperial Plastics, a manufacturer of engineered plastic components. He resides in Northfield with his wife Lori. They have three daughters: Lauren, Allison, and Emily.