Halloween in Scott County

Halloween in Scott County has been a fun time of year for people of all ages for generations, all the way up to today. From parades, dances, trick-or-treating, and mischief, Scott County has seen it all on Halloween. Looking through our collections and newspapers here at Scott County Historical Society, one can find quite a few stories and pictures about Halloween happenings through the years, so we’ve decided to short list of them here. In a book of recollections of life in Scott County titled As I Remember Scott County, Leo Michael, of Jordan, recalls causing a bit of mischief in his boyhood days. Following a late football practice, he and some of his friends “dismantled a wagon into small sections and dropped them into a well” and then went on to find an outhouse, but soon after trying to tip it, a voice emerged from it saying, “Take it easy there boys!” Rather than inconveniencing a lot of people, Leo and his friends opted to attend their school dance instead, saving more mischief for a later day.  In the same book, Lucille Grafenstalte Hirscher, of Shakopee, remembered attending a Halloween party with her mother as a young girl to see all the costumes. She recalled a meeting with someone she’d never forget, the Devil, or at least what she imagined he looked like. “He really was my idea of the devil. All dressed in red, complete with his horns, a tail, and a pitch fork.” She remembered being frightened for quite a while after, that is until she realized that the devil was, in fact, her grocer.

Scott County Newspapers also chronicled Halloween through the years, reporting where all the festivities could be found and on the fun that was had during those activities. From Jordan, Belle Plaine, and Shakopee, each town has had their own festivities through the years. The Shakopee Valley News, for example, covered Miss Day’s third grade class presentation of “Three Little Witches” from Prior Lake Elementary in 1968, which was reportedly “delightful”. It’s also been a tradition for schools from elementary through high school to host dances and parties, along with groups like the American Legion, Jordan Commercial Club, and the Lions. The papers would often report on the numbers of participants at the events; 1967 Jordan saw over 1,000 children and teens attend events thrown by the Legion Auxiliary and the Commercial Club, while 1966 Shakopee saw a record high of 2,052 attend their parties. The fun wasn’t just for the kids though! Members of the Shakopee “Golden Age Club” often helped residents of the Valley View Nursing Home in Jordan celebrate Halloween with a party of their own.

All of us here at the Scott County Historical Society would like to wish everyone a safe and happy Halloween. If you have any Scott County Halloween stories of your own that you’d like to share, we’d love to hear them in the comments!

 

 

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Thoughts and Scribblings…

 

treaty of mendota
Treaty of Mendota

A while ago I asked one of our volunteers to take a stab at writing a blog post.  He wasn’t sure what that meant, but did since he’s a newcomer to our area, he dug up some history of our county.  Here are his Thoughts and Scribblings!

August 5, 1851: The Treaty of Mendota, in which the Mdewakanton and Wahpekute bands of the Dakota “sold” most of their land in the southern part of the state, was signed by Governor Ramsey and Luke Lea, representing the United States, and Little Crow, Medicine Bottle, Good Thunder, Six, and Wabasha signing for the Dakota.  Other bands had previously “sold” their land in the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux.

August 4, 1854: Congress approved legislation guaranteeing pre-emption for Minnesota settlers squatting on lands that had not be surveyed.  Technically, the land could be sold only after being surveyed, but settlers had poured into lands “purchased” from the Native Americans, sometimes making substantial investments before the surveyor completed their work.  This act, sponsored by delegate Henry H. Sibley, allowed the settlers to purchase their land after the fact of settlement.

All this lead to an interesting question: What is Scott County?

Well, in no particular order…

  • Scott County was established and organized by the MN Legislature on March 5, 1853, and named in honor of General Winfield Scott (who never set foot in Scott County).
  • The county has a total area of 368 sq. miles of which 356 (96.8%) is land and 12 sq. miles is water.
  • It is the third-smallest county in MN by land area and the second-smallest by total area.
  • Now mostly farmland, it was initially an oak savanna and a mixture of grass and clusters of trees that grew parallel to the river valley.  The savanna bordered the “Big Woods”, a closed-forest savanna that covered most of MN before it was logged in the mid-19th century and converted to farmland.
oak-savanna
Oak Savanna
  • Scott County is home to several historic, scenic, and entertainment destinations, including Canterbury Park, The Landing, Elko Speedway, Mystic Lake Casino, the Renaissance Festival, Valleyfair Amusement Park, Blakeley Bluffs, and more.
  • This area was first inhabited by two bands of the Santee Sioux (Dakota), the Mdewakanton and Wahpeton.  Their semi-nomadic life followed a seasonal cycle.  In the summer the villages were occupied, but in the winter the groups separated for hunting.  They had many permanent villages along the MN River and trails leading to these settlements and to the Red River Valley in the north and Prairie du Chien to the Southeast.  These trails were later used by fur traders and settlers; known as the “ox cart trails.”  Later these trails became highways such as Hwy’s 13 and 169.
  • The MN River and Ox cart trails were the primary transportation routes.  The first settlers were Yankees, followed by Germans, Irish, Czechs, and Scandinavians, each bringing their own traditions and religions.  Most settlers became farmers.
  • The county has seven cities – Belle Plaine, Elko New Market, Jordan, New Prague, Prior Lake, Savage, and Shakopee (the county seat); 11 townships – Belle Plaine, Blakeley, Cedar Lake, Credit River, Helena, Jackson, Louisville, New Market, Sand Creek, Spring Lake, and St. Lawrence; and 10 unincorporated communities – Blakeley, Cedar Lake, Helena, Lydia, Marystown, Mudbaden, Spring Lake, St. Benedict, St. Patrick, and Union Hill.

Another blog post will explore how each of the major communities within Scott County came to be (and why), and how they developed.

This blog post was written by SCHS Volunteer Paul Keever – Thanks Paul!

Shakopee Stove Companies

In the late 19th century into mid 20th century Shakopee was the home of a booming industry.  In the times before electricity really got a hold in America, the tools for cooking and heating relied on wood or coal with gas becoming popular later.  Stoves and ranges that these fuels were loaded into were heavy metal constructions that looked quite a bit different than the typical box stove/oven combos that we see in our modern kitchens.  Here, in the northern portion of the Midwest, such heating implements were in high demand but there wasn’t really a big Midwestern stove and range producer until 1891.  The year 1891 marked the beginning of the Minnesota Stove Company, and once it started, it took off.

In May of 1891 Henry Hinds, Theodore Weiland, and Julius A. Coller returned to Shakopee after being appointed to inspect a stove and general foundry in Ohio.  They were sent to determine whether or not a proposition to open a similar business in Shakopee seemed a wise thing to do.  Their reports returned satisfactory and the plans to build the Minnesota Stove Company were put into action shortly thereafter.  On September 19th of the same year the foundry was built with the first smelting taking place on November 23rd.  Some of these early stove styles were the “Steel Coral” stoves.  These stoves, unlike later stoves, were highly decorated.

MSC Coral StoveMatchless Steel Coral Range

The cold northern weather and the lack of stove companies pushed the Minnesota Stove Company to early success.  A 1906 copy of the Scott County Argus stated that 100 stoves were sold from one advertisement within two hours of leaving the press.  Due to these successes, the “Imperial Coral” stove was added to the production line and in 1908 the foundry was expanded.  A 12,000 square foot brick building was added to make the total size for the company 60,000 square feet.  They also increased the number of employees.  What had started as a 35 person operation was increased to 85.  By 1908 the company had “more than 150 styles and sizes of stoves” to claim.  Some of these were the Sanico, Steel Coral, and Son Brands stoves.  In 1911, the company was overhauled.  They had a new cupola made and new machinery installed.

The Sanico line.

 

Things continued to go well until 1914, where the Minnesota Stove Company ran into one of its first hiccups.  The company closed in December of 1914 due to an issue with union workers and they stayed closed for about two months.  They closed again in March of 1915 due to similar issues.  They opened again on April 15th of 1915 with a crew of non-union workers.  By October 1915 they were employing 125 workers and business was booming once more.  An October issue of the Scott County Argus stated, “The company is today one of the chief manufacturing industries of our city and one of the leading institutions of its kind in the Northwest.”

Looking at the successes of the Minnesota Stove Company, a second group of men looked to open a stove and range company of their own.  In 1915 J. Warren Hawthorne, George G. Reis, W. T. Curry, and Rudolph T. Selbig incorporated the Shakopee Stove Company, what was originally going to be called “Equity Stove Company,”  and produced their Gopher line of stoves and ranges.

Work in the foundry of the Shakopee Stove Company began on October 28th of 1915.  Finished products did not begin rolling out until mid November due to the late arrival of cleaners, nickeling equipment, and polishing equipment.  These stoves were designed by the four men that had incorporated the business.  They were with little decoration so that parts could be easily repaired and replaced.  Much like Minnesota Stove Company, business at the Shakopee Stove Company took off.  Fortunately, demand for their products was so high, both companies were capable of existing in Shakopee without interfering with each other.  In fact, before the Shakopee Stove Company was even completed, they had orders for each of the items in their product line.  People were so impressed by the Shakopee Stove Company’s work that the Waterbury Furnace and Heating Company of Minneapolis moved orders for foundry work from an Iowa company to the Shakopee Stove Company.

In 1921, William Spoerner stated that the Shakopee Stove Company could not meet demand despite having recently added two expansions.  A newspaper reporter referred to a statement by William Spoerner saying “…he is not able to supply the demand with the limited capacity of the plant.  He says if he had the room he has orders enough to keep  a force of twenty-five full-fledged molders busy every day.”  Part of the problem the Shakopee Stove Company had was that they had no where else to expand to.  They had other companies working near them and while they were looking to expand to a plot of land past the railroad, they did not end up working out a deal with the owners.

While the Shakopee Stove Company was having its troubles keeping up with demand, the Minnesota Stove Company had problems of its own.  On March 1st of 1923 there was an explosion in the casting room at the Minnesota Stove Company that was likely caused by a spray used for castings coming in contact with an electric stove.  The explosion started a fire that spread to the assembling department and warehouse.  Firemen were able to prevent the enameling department from getting caught up in the blaze.  The total losses amounted to $150,000 that was only partially covered by insurance.  Despite the fire, business wasn’t too harshly affected.  Employees were back to work by March 12th and damaged stoves were sold off at a reduced price.After Fire Sale

On March 16th of 1923 they set plans into motion to expand their enameling department.   Within one year, business was high once more despite certain areas within the factory still being shut down.  In March of 1924 they  organized a 150 person fire company and fully equipped the building with fire chemicals and a new hose to prevent future fire problems.  Unfortunately, later that year, the Minnesota Stove Company ran into a second problem.  It was the same problem that the Shakopee Stove Company was having.  Demand was high.  Too high.  The Minnesota Stove Company was not able to keep up and was declared bankrupt October 27, 1924.  This was not the end of things though.  The people of Shakopee had seen their stove company do a lot of good for their town and they did not want to see it go.  The company was sold to the American Range and Foundry December 4th with the sale being confirmed December 22nd.  The main offices of the American Range and Foundry moved their offices to Shakopee and the business was taken over as the American Range Corporation on January 1st of 1925.

Sadly, fire struck again in early 1925.  This time, at the Shakopee Stove Company.  On February 3rd at around 2:40am the Shakopee Stove Company caught flame destroying the building, machinery, equipment, heaters, and ranges.  Only one new steel warehouse was saved and this was only due to a rapid response keeping the fires contained to the other buildings.  That warehouse along with the 150 stoves and heaters inside of it were the only things to survive.  The losses amounted to $40,000 dollars and was, again, only parially covered by insurance.  Unlike the Minnesota Stove Company, the Shakopee Stove Company did not recover and its story ended there.  This is particularly unfortunate seeing as plans were in place to merge Shakopee Stove Company with the American Range Corporation.  An article from a February 13th edition of the Shakopee Argus stated, “A consolidation of the Shakopee Stove Company with American Range Corporation was to have been effected last Saturday but was held up temporarily and would have gone into effect this week.”  After only 10 years, the Shakopee Stove Company was gone leaving the American Range Corporation to meet demand.

By 1927, the American Range Corporation was facing the same troubles that the Minnesota Stove Company had faced.  A headline from the May 26th edition of the Argus Tribune declared, “Local Industry Captialized at $500,000, Employs 175 Men Has $25,000 Monthly Payroll, Capacity 75 Stoves Daily, Production Fails to Keep Step with Demand.”  Despite its struggles, the American Range Corporation continued to run until May 1931, when it shut down temporarily.  Between 1931 and 1933 the factory made efforts to restart but it was unclear if it ever was able to.  Reports suggest that there were plans to restart in late 1931 but it would seem that did not happen.  On August 10th of 1933, business did start again with owners expressing hope that the restart would not just be temporary.  By 1936 business was certainly rolling smoothly as work was done to keep pace with the demand caused by a cold streak.  Eventually, the problems of the past caught up with them and supply was not able to meet demand.  Instead of continuing the business, it was authorized for sale on April 20th of 1940.  The factory was bought for $45,000 by a group in Chicago.  Beginning in 1941, the factory space was put to a new purpose of building cots for the military engaged in World War II.  The factory never returned to its original purpose.

The Scott County Historical had an exhibit entitled “Stoke the Fire: The Life and Times of the Shakopee Stove” in 1998.  Below are some photos of the stoves produced by the Minnesota Stove Company, Shakopee Stove Company, and American Range Corporation as displayed in the exhibit.  The white stove in the upper right hand corner is currently on display in the museum.

Ghost Towns of Scott County

Merriam-Webster’s definition of a ghost town is: “a once-flourishing town wholly or nearly deserted usually as a result of the exhaustion of some natural resource.”1

It is sad to say, but Scott County has its fair share of ghost towns. Below is a list of those ghost towns, with years that the towns were founded and/or ended. As you can see, many of these towns only lasted a handful of years, at most.

  • Louisville, 1854
  • Mount Pleasant, 1856
  • Bellefontaine, 1856
  • St. Lawrence, 1856
  • St. Joseph, 1858
  • Dooleyville: 1855-1870
  • Yorkville
  • Merriam Junction, 1866-1871
  • Helena, 1887
  • Village of Joel: Blakeley Township 1897-1917
  • Brentwood, 1860
  • Luxembourger – early 1900s
  • Lydia

Why did these towns disappear? Many of these towns contained grist or sawmills, a post office, church, school house, hotel, general store, creamery, newspaper, tavern, blacksmith, and of course residential houses. So why, with all the apparent success of a growing town, did these towns die out?

For many of these towns, the main reason was location, as well as mode of transportation to the town. Several of these towns were built near rivers, as that was one of the main sources of transportation at the time. For St. Lawrence, the building of the railroad spelled the end for the town. The river was no longer used, and no main roads were built to the town. For Merriam Junction, a town built right on the railroad, the invention of the automobile was its downfall. All that is left of the town is an old dilapidated railroad depot.

For towns like Yorkville and Brentwood, animosity between their neighbor towns caused them to struggle with their business. Yorkville residents were seen as a threat by those in Chaska Township, and many Yorkville residents were lured over to the other side. Brentwood was on the other side of the railroad tracks to Jordan, and held possession of the depot. Jordan residents disliked this fact, and eventually Brentwood was incorporated into Jordan, disappearing entirely.

No matter the reason for its disappearance, the fact remains that these towns that once flourished are no longer standing. Even though many of these towns have little to indicate where they once stood, their memories are still held in the minds of once residents, as well as their family members. These towns still stand in photographs, newspapers, and postcards. Take a look at a few of the photographs the SCHS has in its collection of some of the ghost towns in the county. Place your mouse over the photo to see the town.

 

If you wish to learn more about the ghost towns of Scott County, please contact the SCHS for more information. If anyone happens to have photographs or information on any of the ghost towns in the county, please let us at SCHS know. We would greatly appreciate the information! Of course, if you’re feeling adventurous, go right ahead and do your own exploring of Scott County’s ghost towns!

Source:

1 (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ghost%20town)