To Honor Mom

Mother’s Day can be filled with flowers, candy, presents, hugs, sticky kisses, longing, and sadness.  Setting aside a special day to celebrate mothers has a long and somewhat painful history.  Ancient Greeks and Romans held festivals to honor the mother goddess, and early Christians celebrated a festival known as “Mothering Sunday”, however, it was death, poverty, and war that brought Mother’s Day to a national holiday.

Modern Mother’s Day began as a political and social peace movement.  In 1868 a “Mothers Friendship Day” was organized by Ann Jarvis* for mothers to gather with former Union and Confederate soldiers to promote reconciliation. She stated the purpose of the day was to:

To revive the dormant filial love and gratitude we owe to those who gave us birth. To be a home tie for the absent. To obliterate family estrangement. To create a bond of brotherhood through the wearing of a floral badge. To make us better children by getting us closer to the hearts of our good mothers. To brighten the lives of good mothers. To have them know we appreciate them, though we do not show it as often as we ought… Mothers Day is to remind us of our duty before it is too late. This day is intended that we may make new resolutions for a more active thought to our dear mothers. By words, gifts, acts of affection, and in every way possible, give her pleasure, and make her heart glad every day, and constantly keep in memory Mothers Day.

Abolitionist, pacifist, author, and suffragette Julia Ward Howe wrote a Mothers’ Day Proclamation in 1870, calling mothers to unite in promoting world peace.  In fact, she and other antiwar activists called for a Mother’s Peace Day to promote unity after war.  She believed women bore the loss of human life more harshly than anyone else.

Founder of Mother's Day Anna M. JarvisThe official observance of Mother’s Day is due to Anna Jarvis (Ann R. Jarvis’s daughter).  Anna pushed the efforts for an official Mothers’ Day after the death of her Mom, to honor her mother and the sacrifices mothers made for their children.  Her idea was to set aside a day for children to celebrate their Moms, and remember the work of peacemaking, reconciliation, and social action against poverty.**

She also argued that most national holidays were biased toward men’s achievements, so she started a letter writing campaign.  By 1912 many towns and states adopted Mothers’ Day as an annual holiday and by 1914 President Wilson officially established the second Sunday in May as Mothers’ Day.

Side note: originally the holiday was intended as a day to recognize women’s activism – the organized social and political action by all mothers. The apostrophe was moved so the original intent of Mothers’ Day, became Mother’s Day to emphasize women’s role in the home and family; a day to celebrate the service of your own mother.

Although she never married or had children, Anna Jarvis envisioning people wearing a carnation (colored if your mom was living, white if she was not***), as a badge and attend church services.  However, once it became a national holiday – it became heavily commercialized.  Anna spoke out against people buying items; she wanted to protect the day and filed lawsuits against groups that used the “Mother’s Day” as a slogan for sales.  “To have Mothers’ Day the burdensome, wasteful, expensive gift day that Christmas and other special days have become, is not our pleasure,” she wrote.  “If the American People are not willing to protect Mothers’ Day from the hordes of money schemers that would overwhelm it with their schemes, then we shall cease having a Mothers’ Day …” Eventually, she went broke using her money to battle the holiday’s commercialism. By her death in 1948, Anna – the Mom of Mothers’ Day – had completely divorced herself from the holiday and lobbied to have it removed from the calendar!

However you celebrate Mother’s Day or Mothers’ Day – we wish all moms peace and happiness, and thank you for your sacrifices.

Here are a few Scott County Moms.

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*Ann Jarvis helped start Mother’s Day Work Clubs to teach women how to properly care for their children.  Ann had lost eight of her own children under the age of seven and wanted to combat the poor health and sanitation conditions that contributed to a high child mortality rate.

** This was the Progressive Era.  Women started using their roles as mother, wife, and homemaker to make changes in the public arena.  Many women saw motherhood as a moral responsibility to become activists.

***Today, the white carnation is the most popular flower choice and was Annas original flower for Mother’s Day. She chose the flower because “The carnation does not drop its petals, but hugs them to its heart as it dies, as so, too, mothers hug their children to their hearts, their mother love never dying.”


Better One? or Two?

A couple of weeks ago the Scott County Historical Society was lucky enough to have donated a unique piece of medical history. Before the days when you could go to a Pearle Vision, you had to have your eyes test the old fashion way, enter the Trial Lens Case. This massive case has been used by a few different doctors throughout the years in Belle Plaine. The case comes with dozens of removable lenses that are placed in a pair of frames to measure what strength of glasses you need.

According to what we could learn, this case was first purchased in 1927 by Dr. Herman Jurgenson, who then gave it to Dr. Roger Hallgren when he retired. The case changed hands many times, even at one point being used as a stand in the doctor’s office. This is a wonderful piece of the past to help show how far we have come in such a small time. Its objects like this that make history fascinating, imagine that less than a century ago this was how you got your glasses measured and fitted. Medicine in all fields has changed so much, it is good sometimes to look back and consider where we have come from. Now if you will excuse me, I need to see if I can find the right lenses for my poor eyes.

Pedaling Scott County’s Past

      It finally feels like spring at the Scott County Historical Society. There’s a green tinge in the Stans Garden, and plans are underway for summer programs, festivals and fairs. I am particularly excited for a series of bike tours highlighting the environmental and social histories of Shakopee, Jordan and New Prague. In the process of preparing for these tours, I started digging into the two-wheeled history of Scott County

                Biking has always been an essential summer pastime of Scott County. On October 26, 1893 the Scott County Argus front page boasted an editorial entitled “Riding A Wheel”. It begins “As in everything, a young girl has the best time of it in learning to ride a bicycle”. The piece goes on to describe the trials a young woman might endure in mastering a bike,  but concludes with “It is better to depend on oneself than lean on the shifty arm of a man. For arms tire and become sorely aweary, but the will of a woman is the truest steel”. 

                A few years later the July 19th 1897 issue of the Argus published a scathing review of the public highway system written by the Farmers Union. It begins with “Not for many years has need for better country roads been felt so much”. It continues, “Road repairs may seem expensive under the most favorable of circumstances, but when the cost of cartage and the expense of future repairs are taken into account, the cost of road repairs now would probably be less expensive if choices are economically made”. The sentiment would not seem out of place today, except the farmers were not arguing for better roads for motorized vehicles. Instead, they wanted the country to expand highways for bikes.

                On June 19th, 1900, William Hinds extoled the virtues of a new bike path from the Twin Cites to Shakopee, explaining that “With a good cycle path from the cities to this point we will see from fifty to two hundred riders from the cities here on every pleasant Sunday or Saturday afternoon, and the business of many firms, hotels, refreshment shops, soda water fountains and cycle shops will be largely increased in consequence”. He also said that the “The short run, fifty miles for the round trip, will serve to make it very popular for those who ride for pure and simple pleasure”. Bikes were so popular that on July 7th, 1897 it was published in the Argus that the State Agricultural Society declared that September 11th would be “Bike Day” in Minnesota.

                In fact, in the Local and Personal page of a single issue of the Argus, June 17, 1987, the following messages were posted:

·         Miss Mabel Peck entertained Misses Purdy and Loftus of Minneapolis Sunday, the young ladies made the journey on their bicycles.

·         Misses Adelaide and Rosa Marks delight in the possession of a new bicycle of the Fleetwing make

·         D.W. Pettit made the trip to and from Minneapolis by bicycle Sunday

·         Bicycles for rent by the day or hour by EJ Gellenbeck

·         Misses Annie and Lizzie Ries now in possession of a Fleetwing bicycle bought of JC Marx. The Fleetwing is the companion wheel of the Envoy line

·         Mrs. D W Petit returned Monday by bicycle from a week’s visit to Minneapolis

Along the sides of that page are lines of advertisements, including two for different bicycles. It is clear that the introduction of bikes gave a new sense of freedom to residents of the area, especially women. Bikes were used to visit friends and family, travel into town, and opened up new possibilities for work and entertainment.

                Today, bicycles are still important to Scott County. Shakopee alone boasts 80 miles of bike trails. You can still take a Sunday bike ride to the twin cities along the Minnesota LRT, Cedar Lake Trail and the Minnesota Greenway. If you are interested in joining us for summer bike tours, tickets are available now for our May tour of Shakopee. You can find more information at our website or at

Written by Rose James, Program Manager, Scott County Historical Society

The Sound of History: Music and Society in Scott County

When it comes to history, it is easy to see how people’s clothing has changed, how houses look different, or even how social customs evolve.  We often take it for granted that life sounds much different than it did 100 years ago.  I remember watching an old episode of The Twilight Zone in which a scientist experimenting with time travel in 1961 brings a violent cowboy from the 1880s into his present.  The cowboy, a master of his environment in the 19th century, is nearly driven mad when he walks out onto the New York street and hears cars honking their horns, jukeboxes blaring from diners, sirens whizzing by, and the dull roar of the city crowds.  The difference in sound between his world and the modern world was overwhelming.  Today, we can walk into virtually any business and hear music piped throughout the store or restaurant.  Our cars are equipped with radios, tape decks, CD players, or even DVD players, turning them into portable sound machines.  And our homes have just as many, if not more devices that emit constant streams of sound, television being chief among these.  In the pioneer days of Minnesota history, long before these technological and cultural innovations enveloped our everyday worlds in sound, music was a much more powerful social force.

Social connectedness was one of the underlying purposes of music for a long time, and still is among those who go to concerts, play in bands, or sing in choirs.  Just as music was an important part of individual expression and entertainment, live musical performance was an important social activity that brought individuals together and connected them to their communities.  Here at the Scott County Historical Society, we have a number of items that illustrate this important musical legacy throughout the county.

The earliest pioneers to the county brought their musical instruments, skills, and traditions with them from the eastern U.S., Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Bohemia and other countries.  In those heady days of land-grabbing and town-founding, dances and parades were some of the few occasions when settlers could enjoy themselves and interact with one another.  Maine native Daniel Storer kept an extensive journal of his migration to Scott County in the early 1850s and his new life in Shakopee.  Like many pioneers, Storer was multi-skilled and held numerous positions in the new town: carpenter, justice of the peace, town clerk, as well as fiddler and singer.  His journal, published by the Shakopee Heritage Society, gives a glimpse of Storer’s success as a fiddler.  It also hints at the social interactions of others during such festive occasions:

December 14, 1854: Went to a party in the hall in the eve.  Gates and I played for them.  A good many got drunk.  I took Dr. Ripley’s lady home, and he was so mad that he set out to shoot me.  He was so drunk himself that she would not go with him.

December 19, 1855: Went to Mrs. Holmes’ birthday party the night of the 19th.  There was a large crowd of people there.  Douglas and I played for them.  John McCormick, whom I used to know in Stillwater, was after me to go to Eden Prairie the same night and play for a dance there.

Storer’s talents were much in demand, and the playing provided him with a little extra income.  More importantly, he and other pioneer musicians brought townspeople together.  Young men and women could court at such functions and strengthen their relationships with dance and conversation.  Business might be conducted, or neighborly disputes settled (or commenced, in Dr. Ripley’s case).  For many, town hall dances and concerts would simply be a much-needed reprieve from their daily toil.

Storer also witnessed several dances and songs performed by the Mdewakanton Dakota (Sioux) of Chief Sakpe’s village.  Like Samuel Pond in his recollections of the Dakota in 1834, Storer was entranced by Dakota music, yet failed to understand it as a vital part of Dakota culture.  Dakota traditions emphasized connectedness and kinship, and dances and singing were a way of reinforcing stories and memories from their history.

Browsing through our photograph catalogue, a researcher might find any number of images of marching bands parading through the streets of downtown Shakopee, Main Street in Belle Plaine, or Water Street in Jordan.  Many of the occasions for which bands played in small towns and cities were tied to community or national celebrations, such as Independence Day, or Armistice Day.  One photo from 1925 shows band leader extraordinaire Hubert Stans with his Shakopee band during the annual picnic of the American Range Corporation.


Bands were an effective way to create fanfare to advertise business or products.  Two photos from Belle Plaine in the early 1900s bear this out.  “Plano Day” on June 19, 1901, took place along Main Street.  The marchers advertised machinery made by the Plano Company and sold in town.  American flags waive and signs read “Plano Plano” and “Plano Leads the World.”  The band in the middle of the photograph is the Valley Coronet Band of Belle Plaine led by Matt Hally and Barney Kirchoff.  The band is headed straight for a muddy patch at the intersection of Main and Meridian (or else a large pile of horse manure).

In a second photograph, this one from 1904/5, we are back on the same corner in Belle Plaine with the same Valley Coronet Band, but a different product and different advertising scheme.  Rather than a march, we have a stunt, with six men on a makeshift stage pulling on a pair of overalls to demonstrate their durability.  At such parades one might hear rousing songs with names like, “Robinson’s Grand Entrée,” “The Explorer March,” or “March Independentia.”


The coronet was a smaller version of the trumpet, and coronet bands were popular throughout the county.  Hubert Stans was an accomplished coronet player in his Shakopee band and Chaska Sodality Band.

Polaroid Exif JPEG

In Jordan, the Germania Band, the Jordan Coronet Band, and the Jordan Imperial Band, all made use of this light and loud instrument.  Most cities proudly built bandstands in public parks and other gathering places to accommodate the growing number of musical groups.  The resorts around Prior Lake and Spring Lake always promoted their band pavilions and Saturday night dances to vacationers as their main social events.

While bands played at civic occasions and for advertising purposes, other people voiced their opinions about important political and social issues through song.  The anonymous writer of a temperance song from 1880 probably intended his song to be circulated among others who supported the prohibition of alcohol.  The lyrics come from an older temperance song that may have been written by New England poet and abolitionist John Pierpont.  The song is scribbled on a scrap of lined paper, and the author must have had some formal training in music to be able to put notes to the lyrics.  One verse captures the crusading spirit of their movement: “No alcohol we’ll buy of sell/ Away, away the bowl./ The tippler’s offer we repel,/ Away, away the bowl./ United in a temperance band,/ We’re joined in hearts,/ We’re joined in hand./  Goodbye to rum and all its harms,/ Farewell the winecup’s boasted charms,/ Away, away the bowl,/ Away, away the bowl.”

Throughout the history of the county, communities have produced musicians and forms of music that helped strengthen social ties.  Music and performance had a way of bonding people together and bridging the gaps between communities.  It is a rich area of historical research that can lend perspective to the way that we experience musical performances today.  How is music a part of our lives in a way that connects us to one another?  Do we recognize and respect local musicians or musical traditions with the same pride that communities did in the past?  How has technology changed public and ceremonial forms of music?  Whether music brings us together for a local festival, a family celebration, or a social cause, it is a significant historic source of heritage, entertainment, and social well-being.


If you would like to know more about this topic, visit the Scott County Historical Society on the web and search our catalogue at, or email us at

By: Patrick Rodgers, past SCHS Curator

The New Guy

IMG_0858As the new Curator of Collections for the Scott County Historical Society, I wanted my first blog to be something of an introduction. I was going to tell you a story of who I am and about my background in history. However, I was given the idea to instead talk about what it is like to be the new guy. What is it like to start at a new place, with new people, and new ways of doing things? How do you start? What do you do? How do you feel? I thought about this and realized that this is a good opportunity to tell you about myself in a different way. On that note, I would start by saying that my first few days could be summed up in two words, “I’m lost!”

It has been my experience that starting a new position can be one of the most exciting and confusing times in someone’s career. I’m still not entirely sure how I got here, I remember asking for a job and suddenly having one. Since I started with SCHS I have had to learn whole new ways of doing things, while at the same time knowing exactly what I am doing. The history field is strange in that way, everyone does things differently but we all end at the same thing. You save the same types of history and information no matter where you go. I only wish best practices told me how to manage my office.

As you can see, my office is full of all kinds of things, each one with a story, and each one a total mystery to me. For example, I found a box on a shelf full of pictures. I looked and looked and couldn’t find a thing on them. A box of 300 some pictures and I had no clue what to do with them or even what they were. Here begins the lesson of a new job, ask questions, every question. After some digging, and reaching out to me predecessors, we found out that all of those photos are copies. Here at SCHS we don’t accept copies of things into our collection, we want the genuine article. Still, the photos have a ton of history locked up in them. Those photos have been meaning to go in our library for years, I just happen to be the one doing it.

I admit I was lost when I started here, I didn’t know where to start or what to do. I look at that mess of an office and froze. It didn’t take long though for me to prioritize and begin tackling all of the projects and loose ends that needed tying up. I hope this quick blog gives you a sense of who I am, and if not feel free to stop in and meet me. I am always happy to talk with people and get to better know my community.

 “O, gone now are the good old days of hot cakes, thickly spread”

Spring is beginning to peek in from between the piles of snow, and Minnesotans from around the state are turning their attention towards their lawns and gardens.

A hundred years ago, that attention was cast as patriotic as well as recreational. As the United States entered World War I, food production was in the forefront of war preparation efforts.

Between the Civil war and World War I, cooking and kitchens were transformed in America. Iceboxes were being slowly replaced by refrigerators, invented in 1913. Farming changed too as gas powered tractors were becoming a commonplace sight in Minnesota’s fields. Crop, husbandry and soil research from large land-grant universities was making a difference in the daily lives of farmers. As A. D. Wilson, the director of the University of Minnesota said at the time “The changed conditions are placing more and more bright progressive men and women on our farms who are not ashamed to study their profession and put their best efforts into it. As a consequence, we are developing a true science of agriculture. We no longer depend on ‘chance’ or ‘good luck’ for results in farming but know the conditions necessary for good luck”. Scott County got into the game too. Entire pages of the Scott County Argus were devoted to the latest Agricultural research, with rousing headlines such as “Sugar Beets and Mangels Tend to Increase Milk When Fed to Dairy Cows but Corn Silage is Far More Economical” and “Prevention of Corn Smut Through Formaldehyde Use”, both appearing on March 16, 1917.

Less than two weeks after war was declared, President Hoover issued the proclamation “We must supply abundant food for ourselves and our armies… and for a large part the nations with whom we have now made common cause… without abundant food the great enterprise which we have embarked upon will break down and fail”.  In 1917, approximately half of Minnesotans lived on farms, and many of them began to view their efforts as essential to US victory.

An editorial published in the March 9th 1917 issue of the Scott County Argus declared:

“With conditions like these everyone who has a piece of ground should plant some food products. Most all of the large cities in the country are entering the worldwide movement of greater food production. If Shakopee does not do her part in this great movement it will not be the fault of her public school teachers, for all boys and girls are being encouraged to take up some form of the work and more encouragement from the homes of our young people is needed…Education should help us live better NOW as well as later in life, and NOW is the time for the young folks to get into the game.”

A much shorter letter to the Argus published on May 18th 1917 advocated “Minnesota can aid materially in averting a food shortage during the war and save millions of dollars annually on food in times of peace if we will take steps to utilize the millions of fish that inhabit the lakes”

During the war, meat and sugar were deemed important for the creation of foods which could provide compact calories for shipment abroad to feed soldiers and allied nations that were directly impacted by the fighting. Americans were also encouraged to conserve wheat so that bread could be distributed to hungry troops. In exchange, Americans were asked to use more milk, fish, and grains such as oats and corn

Throughout these efforts a lot of emphasis was put on the role of women. While most men and women still operated in distinct spheres during this time, the war provided the need and opportunity for female leadership, particularly in the role of food conservation.

The Minnesota Commission on Public Safety was organized in the spring of 1917 and a women’s auxiliary was created simultaneously. The sentiment of this organization was summed up thus in the May 1917 issue of Farmers Wife Magazine: “With the farm women lies the sacred charge of serving this nation in its hour of peril… on farmers’ wives and daughters, in large measure, rests the fate of the war and the fate of the nations”. The April 20th 1917 issue of the Scott County Argus described the creation of a statewide committee on food preservation and conservation by the governor. The article lists as one of their primary duties “… to encourage home economics and the organization of groups of town women to assist farm women in harvest and other periods of labor stress”.

womans committeee

The Woman’s Committee booth at the 1917 Minnesota State Fair

The efforts were not without humor. A poem in the January 2018 issue Northfield Norwegian American described rationing with these words:

“Oh gone now are the good old days of hot cakes thickly spread

And meatless, wheatless, sweetless days are reigning in their stead

And gone are the days of fat rib roasts and two inch t-bone steaks

And doughnuts plump and golden brown, the kind that mother makes

And when it comes to pies and cake, just learn to cut it out”

Mr. Hoover’s goin’ to get you if you don’t watch out”

In terms of sheer volume, these efforts were largely successful.  In first year of war the US shipped 9 million more tons of food overseas than before the war, approximately a 250% increase. Listed below are a selection of recipes shared in Minnesota newspapers to help tTheGreatWar-202x300heir readers practice conservation of sugar, wheat and meat in the kitchen. For more recipes and local war stories, visit the “The Great War” exhibit currently on display at the Scott County Historical Society. Let us know your results if you try any of these recipes!





Written by Rose James, Program Manager


Hitchcock, N. (1918). The Mobilization of Women. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 73.

Eighmey, R. K. (2010). Food will win the war: Minnesota crops, cooks, and conservation during World War I. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society Press.



Easter Greetings

The celebration of the arrival of spring began in ancient times.  The pagan goddess Eostre was an Anglo-Saxon goddess of dawn and spring – bringing brighter and longer days.  She was also the goddess of fertility (eggs were a symbol of fertility and newborn chicks represent new growth).  Around the 2nd century AD, Christian missionaries ventured north and used existing pagan holidays as a way to convert people to Christianity.  They allowed people to continue their seasonal celebrations, but added Christian meanings to them, and gradually over time overtook the pagan meaning.  This is why the pagan goddess’s name Eoster – is now the name of the spring holiday Easter.  It is also why some of the symbols used to celebrate the pagan holiday are still seen today – brightly colored eggs, baby chicks, rabbits, and flowering plants.

Although eggs have always been a symbol of the season, the practice of delivering eggs was first introduced in German in the early 17th century and brought to the U.S. by Dutch settlers in the 1700s.  German children would make decorated nests for their eggs – which were filled with eggs and little gifts by the Easter bunny the night before (kinda like Santa).

We can really see the blend of seasonal and religious symbols in the holiday’s greeting cards.  Ancient Egyptians would exchange notes on papyrus – and this practice was also shared by Greek and Chinese cultures.  These would be much the same as handmade paper cards that were popular in the early 13th century.  But it wasn’t until postage stamps were introduced in the 1840s that greeting cards came into their own.

Cards became an extremely popular way to send personal messages – and with the availability commercial production – they were made on a mass scale.  Cards were made for all the holidays, but since Easter was mostly seen as a religious holiday, the use of greeting cards didn’t take off until the turn of the 19th century.  The Easter card was born in Europe when a stationer in Victorian England added a drawing of a rabbit to his greeting card.  Later cards included chickens, eggs, rabbits, the cross and more. Early Easter greetings were sent on postcards that featured Easter symbols or natural scenery.  Many were colorful and often embossed, or had gold cutouts.

According to American Greetings, Easter is the fourth most popular holiday for sending cards, just behind Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.  Here are a few from our collection…

And just for fun… here is a stereoscope card of a woman “Trying on the Easter Bonnet”.  Easter was also known as the holiday were it women would sport their new spring hat/bonnet.


Funny Photos From The Lebens’ Collection

As we finish inventorying our collection of LeRoy Lebens’ photographic work, a whopping 32,617 images, we thought it would be fun to share some of the most entertaining images that we’ve found through the past year. Having taken photos for most everything you could imagine: weddings, portraits, advertising, and nature, just to name a few, Lebens caught a lot of interesting and funny moments. These are only a small selection of what we have found. If you are interested in finding out more about the LeRoy Lebens collection, come by and give us a visit at the Scott County Historical Society.

0643 Joyce - Sames Wedding
Groom being pulled into the church by his fellow groomsmen (Joyce – Sames Wedding)
Groom being carried up the stairs at St Mary’s Church for his wedding (Schmitt – Rosckes Wedding, 1972)
Leroy Huth posing against a fence post (1966)
Valley Players (1966)
Just a posing clown (Circa-1965)
Clown (Circa-1980)
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Ad for the “Barron Book Rest” (1960) Probably not the safest idea…
Just a Jailbird (1965)


Probably my favorite picture of the collection, a turkey dressed up with a doll’s head, named “Roy Turkey” (1963)
Photo for a Friday the 13th calendar (1967)




St. Patrick Hamlet

With St. Patrick’s day just ahead there is an obvious desire to want to write about it.  Instead of talking about the day itself, though, I would like to discuss the small hamlet in the Cedar Lake township named after that patron saint of Ireland.  St. Patrick, like so many aspiring towns of its time, never really grew bigger than a couple hundred people.  Today, St. Patrick is not more than three points of interest, clumped together on a stretch of road called Old Highway 13, and a few residences.  What is there has an interesting and long standing histories.

Prior to the intrusion of settlers, the area of St. Patrick was heavily forested land inhabited by members of the Sioux tribe.  The Sioux in this area lived primarily on a hill, referred to as Teepee Hill, at the time that settlers first arrived.  This hill served as both a village, with 50 bark teepees at the time settlers arrived, and as a sacred meeting place.  Nearby lakes were used for fishing.  The swamps and woods of the area also provided wild animals for fur and food.

The first white settlers of the area were of Irish decent, arriving in the early 1850s.  Ireland at the time, was suffering under the atrocities committed during the Great Famine.  Many families were fleeing  Ireland at this time to escape the combined problems of potato blight and gross mistreatment at the hands of the British government.  This resulted in large numbers of Irish immigrants arriving in North America.  The first settler to arrive to the area of St. Patrick was named Thomas O’Donnell.  Early on, a total of 65 Irish families ended up settling  in the area.  The area was then, and is still now, used primarily for farming.

These Irish families were of the Roman Catholic faith, hence the town’s name, and they held early church services in the cabin of one Thomas Quill beginning in 1856.  In 1857, these families claimed Teepee Hill for their own and started to build the first St. Patrick Church and cemetery there.  Despite this, the settlers relationship with the native Sioux remained friendly with only some moments of tension that never spilled over into violence.  This church, which was built from logs, was completed in 1859.  In time, this church became inadequate for the needs of the people of St. Patrick.  Using limestone from Jordan, construction on a new church was began in 1870 with the cornerstone being laid in 1873.  This church and cemetery still stand today.

In the late 1800s, the people of St. Patrick built a combination tavern and hall.  This original building burned down in the early 1900s but was rebuilt.  A gas station and repair shop were added in 1939.  The building is currently known as St. Patrick’s Tavern.  This tavern was, and still is, the center of information and social activity in St. Patrick.  One of the most popular activities held here were card parties involving games like poker and euchre.  There were also plays, dances, celebrations and even traveling medicine shows.  Of course, St. Patrick’s Day was the most important celebration of the year.  The people had a local reputation for their celebrations, not only on St. Patrick’s Day.

Besides its church, tavern, and renowned celebrations, St. Patrick used to be a popular destination for local farmers to buy feed and sell their milk.  This is because St. Patrick used to have a creamery and feed mill which allowed people to take care of selling milk and buying feed in one location.  These two places used to be the main source of business in St. Patrick and made it much more of a destination than it is today.  When the feed mill caught fire December 2nd, 1962 it was completely destroyed while the nearby church and parish building were both saved.  The feed mill was not rebuilt making it less convenient for farmers to sell their milk.  Farmers went to places like Jordan or Lydia seeing as both these areas had feed mills as well as creameries.  This along with being passed by for railroad construction stopped St. Patrick from growing.

Though it is not growing now, St. Patrick did see more immigrants coming to the area between World War I and II.  Czech families began moving to St. Patrick during World War I while Irish families began to slowly move out.  The Czechoslovakian families were not well received to the area but these poor relations never led to violence.  Throughout World War II more Czechoslovakian, German, and Swedish families moved to the area as more Irish families left.  By the mid-1950s only four Irish families still lived in the area.  This change was said to have revitalized this community.

The other remaining attraction, besides St. Patrick’s Tavern and St. Patrick Church, was built during the 1950s around the time of this revitalization.  On May 25th, 1952, Bonin Field was officially opened just behind St. Patrick Church.  This baseball field was named after the former Catholic Priest, Leo Bonin.  The field was renovated in 1989 and now has teams from third to eleventh grade as well as two adult teams.  One adult team, the St. Patrick Irish, are an MBA Class C team that have won 13 state championships.  The other adult team, the St. Patrick Shamrocks, play in the Federal League and have won four Class A state championships and one Class C state championship.  The field has no bleachers but fans can get a good view of the field from a hill just past the line between third base and home.  Children can make a little bit of money by helping to fetch the balls.

Despite its small population St. Patrick still attracts a decent amount of attention with its three points of interest.  St. Patrick Tavern still pulls a crowd, St. Patrick Church still has a strong congregation, and Bonin Field has a lot of baseball going on.  From the early settlers rough beginnings, St. Patrick has formed a small and enjoyable community.


Written by Tony Connors, Curatorial Assitant.


Rass, Jeanne.  “St. Patrick: Irish settlers move, but town remains.”  Prior Lake American, 3 Aug. 1987.

The New Prague Times, 29 May 1952.

“Losses Total In Excess of $50,000 As Weekend Fires Destroy Feed Mill, Granary, Cedar Lake Home.”  The New Prague Times, 6 Dec. 1962, vol. 74.

Doerr, Sylvia.  “Stories and recollections of St. Patrick, Cedar Lake.”  As I Remember Scott County, edited by Marcia Spagnolo et al., Scott County Senior Citizens, 2006, pp. 113-115.


Housekeeping Then & Now

When we think of housekeeping today we usually think of dusting, vacuuming, throwing clothes in the washer/dryer, grabbing ingredients from the fridge and whipping up dinner – or nukeing a frozen dinner in the microwave.  Things were much different over a century ago.

Because tasks were so more time consuming, they were assigned specific days of the week…

  • Monday – wash clothes
  • Tuesday – iron
  • Wednesday – mending
  • Thursday – churn butter
  • Friday – clean the house
  • Saturday – bake
  • Sunday – rest

drysinkWashing clothes was a huge chore.  If you weren’t lucky enough to have a cistern in your house where you could pump water into the kitchen – then you had to fetch water from a well.  Then the water needed to be heated on the stove.  Laundry detergent wasn’t available.  You would have had to make your own soap from lard (or fat), water, and lye.  To wash clothes you soapwould shave some slivers of soap into the boiling water, fill a washtub and hand scrub the clothes on a washboard.  Another tub of clean water was needed to rinse the clothes, then they were hung outside to dry (yes, even in the winter).  All this work gave you back pain, cracked hands, and scraped knuckles.

washtubEventually washing machines were created to help with the work.  This is a hand-operated wooden washer and wringer – made doing laundry easier and saved water.

After clothes dried – you ironed them on Tuesdays.  No plugging in a steam iron; you placed a heavy “sadiron” (so called because of its weight 5-9 pounds), on the cook-top to heat.  These irons ironhad wooden handles to protect your hands.  However, they didn’t  hold heat very long, so you always had a second iron on the stove ready to switch out.  Ironing gave a person some awesome arm muscles.

While ironing you would notice whether a piece of clothing had any tears or holes.  That was set aside for mending on Wednesdays.  Clothes were NOT thrown out – they were sewingrepaired, socks were darned, and those too worn beyond repair were saved for quilts or rags.  If the item needed major repair work, the treadle sewing machine was put to use.  This made mending and creating clothes so much easier.  Although a person could purchase clothes from a store – most women made clothes for themselves and their families at home.

Thursdays were spent churning, making butter for Saturday’s baking.  Milk was put into churna wooden container and a dasher was plunged up & down for 30-40 minutes to make butter.  The leftover milk – buttermilk – was saved for baking too.  This was usually a child’s chore.

broomFriday – cleaning day!  The same bar of soap was used not only for washing clothes, but also for washing dishes, cleaning floors, wiping down walls and furniture, taking baths – everything.  Floors and ceilings were swept, rugs were hung out and beaten, beds were striped and remade, furniture was dusted – the full house was wiped down.

Saturday was set aside as baking day, partially because families usually age a big meal on bakingSunday.  Women would bake bread for the full week on Saturday – maybe 10 – 12 loaves – from scratch.  Not only did you need ingredients, you needed fuel for the stove – whether wood, corn cobs or coal.  No turning a knob, or pushing a button to set a temperature – temperature was tested by running your hand in the oven to feel the heat.  Ovens cooked much slower, which is why cooking started in the morning for the evening meal to be on time.  It’s also why a specific day was set aside for cooking the weekly bread supply.

After a week’s worth of work, Sunday was set aside as a break from chores to relax, visit with friends and family, and have fun activities, such as singing around the piano, or listening to records on the Victrola.

Housework 100 years ago took lots of time and elbow grease. Today we take for granted the machines that allow us to complete in minutes what used to take days.  So next time you sprinkle some detergent into an automatic washing machine, be a bit grateful you didn’t have to make the soap, heat the water, hand scrub the clothes, or wring them out.  Today’s housekeeping is so much easier thanks to advances in technology.