What’s In Store?

We get donations from all across Scott County, and even beyond, but do you ever wonder what happens to the objects you give us afterward? Well you are in luck because that is what this blog post is about. The process of taking items into the collection in called accessioning, and entering them into our collection database is called cataloguing. One of our golden rules for items we take is “What is the history and how does it connect to Scott County?”, we don’t take copies of photos and we want to be sure that we have a good history for anything we take it. Starting to accession something requires the donor to sign over their ownership of the item to the Historical Society. Once all the paperwork is done, we begin the process of cataloguing the items.

Cataloguing has a few different steps to it, but all of them are pretty easy. Cataloguing an item starts by giving it a particular number. This number serves to tell us who gave it to the Historical Society, as well as which item in the system we should look for when we need it. The number is based on the donor, and then for each item they gave it proceeds in numerical order: 1, 2, 3, etc. We attached the number with a tag, or sometimes we use a special material that lets us write the number directly on the item. In most cases though we use a tag, it’s much easier to remove if we need it later.  After we give the object a number we enter into our database a description, dimensions, what we know about its history, connections to people and places, and finally, its storage location.

Storing historical artifacts is part space management, part chemistry, and part environmental sciences. Objects of all kinds are very particular about the kind of environment that is best for them. We have specially controlled storage rooms that keep the artifacts stable for as long as possible. Once we assign a space to an object, we begin boxing it or lining a shelf with foam to keep the artifact safe. As you can see, we have a lot of full shelves but very little space. Once the item is placed in storage, we check on it periodically to make sure it isn’t decaying or breaking down. Steps are taken to make sure items in our collection have the longest life span possible for the generations to come. When we put together new exhibits, we always search our own collection first for artifacts and stories of the people of Scott County.

Advertisements

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.

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.

Valentine’s Day 100 Years Ago And Beyond

Since this past Wednesday was Valentine’s Day, I wanted to take a look back through our newspapers and see if Valentine’s Day was celebrated one hundred years ago. Valentine’s Day landed on a Thursday, February 14, 1918. As most everyone knows, 1918 was a time of difficulty since the world was in the middle of World War I. World War I would not end until 11 November 1918, so in February, the war was still going strong.

I searched through five different newspapers, the Shakopee ArgusShakopee Tribune, Jordan Independent, New Prague Times, and the Belle Plaine Herald, to see if there would be any advertisements about the romantic day that is now so eagerly celebrated. Unsurprisingly, much of the newspapers were chalk full of information concerning the war at a local, state, and international level. The entire newspaper was not all doom and gloom, however. There were advertisements for local theatre shows and information on local individuals and their recent visitors. I had been expecting the heavy focus on the war in the newspapers, but was surprised to find that there wasn’t a single mention of Valentine’s Day in any of the newspapers published in February 1918.

In fact, I found mention of other days that were celebrated in February in 1918 that are not observed today, or if they are, only in certain states. The most mention was that of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, February 12. In 1918, all four newspapers had advertisements for the celebration of his birthday, but no mention of Valentine’s Day. Today, only Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, and New York celebrate February 12 as Lincoln’s Birthday. The advertisement below is from the 8 February 1918 edition of the Shakopee Tribune. Also mentioned in the 1918 newspapers was the celebration of George Washington’s birthday, February 22. In modern-day Minnesota, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington’s birthdays are celebrated as Presidents’ Day, which occurs on the third Monday in February.

Although Valentine’s Day is not an official holiday, I still found myself searching for that word ‘holiday’ when it came to that romantic day. An article in the Shakopee Tribune, published 8 February 1918, page 2, featured mention of holidays, as well as Abraham Lincoln’s and George Washington’s holidays. Again, no mention of Valentine’s Day, although the day most certainly was observed by Minnesotans at this time.

It wasn’t until I stumbled upon a New Prague Times article that was published the previous year, in 1917, that I found any evidence of Valentine’s Day. Amidst the information concerning local matters on the home-front of the war, there was this lovely advertisement that popped out at me.00001

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To my delight, there was yet another advertisement in the 8 February 1917 newspaper a few pages over.

00001

Buoyed by this discovery, I searched the Belle Plaine Herald in both February 1917 and 1918, and was pleased to find another, small, advertisement concerning Valentine’s Day in the 8 February 1917 newspaper, but again, no mention of Valentine’s Day in the 1918 newspaper. 

00001

It is interesting to know that Valentine’s Day was a day worthy of printing advertisements for in Scott County in 1917, but not in 1918. Perhaps individuals in the county could feel the end of the war, and wanted to focus on what was occurring overseas in their newspapers? That is, of course, just speculation on my part. What I do know is that WWI ended in November of 1918, and Valentine’s Day was once again a day to show off in the newspapers.

I did not search Scott County newspapers in the period of World War II, but instead chose to see what we had for Valentine’s Day memorabilia in the collection. We have many Valentine’s Day cards in our collection, and I chose a few of the cutest, and loveliest, to show you. Valentine’s Day is often thought of a day simply for couples, but as many of these cards indicate, it can also be a day for loved ones, be they from a daughter to a father, or a grandchild to their grandparent. These cards below range from the 1950s to the 1990s, and all were written with love. I hope that you have had a wonderful Valentine’s Day, whether you celebrated it on Wednesday, or plan to do so over the weekend. Or any day you please. Enjoy these cards, and if you’re interested in learning more about Valentine’s Day in Scott County, feel free to stop by.

2015.13.221954Notermann 1961.1978 (2)1978 (3)1978 (4)1978198019911995

Images of Football in Scott County

With the Super Bowl in Minneapolis this weekend, what better occasion could there be to share some historical photographs of football in Scott County from our collection? Pictures that begin around 1890 show an interesting progression of equipment, from padded body suits with a simple leather cap to the more recognizable shoulder pads and hard helmets with facemasks we’re familiar with today. Many of the later images were captured by LeRoy Lebens as part of his work as the official photographer for the Waniyetu Shakopee High School Yearbook, which are a part of his larger collection we are currently inventorying here at SCHS. If you’re interested in learning more about sports in Scott County or the LeRoy Lebens photo collection, come by and see us at the Scott County Historical Society!

1 20050600009 Frank Dierberger of Shakopee 1890
1890- Frank Dierberger of Shakopee
2 19990530075 Rock Spring 1905 George Vierling, Reno Ketterer, Ed V. Mertz, Math Klinkhammer, Joseph R. Witt, Emil Strehlow
1905 Rock Spring Team- George Vierling, Reno Ketterer, Ed V. Mertz, Math Klinkhammer, Joseph R. Witt, Emil Strehlow
3 20060180211 BP Minn Valley Champions 1914 Lorenz Woods, Bill Crahan, Emmett O'Neill, James McDevitt, Martin Donovan, George Brown, Mike Pendy, Tom Sheehan, Leo Pendy, Herman Beutow, Bo
1914 Belle Plaine Minnesota Valley Champion Team- Lorenz Woods, Bill Crahan, Emmett O’Neill, James McDevitt, Martin Donovan, George Brown, Mike Pendy, Tom Sheehan, Leo Pendy, Herman Beutow, Bob White and John Weibeler
4 20120140821 Leo Hartmann SHS 1922
1922- Leo Hartmann of Shakopee High School
5 20090490024 1922 SHS Team
1922 Shakopee High School Team
6 20090490015 1936 SHS Football
1936 Shakopee High School Team
7 20110200081 SHS 1939
1939 Shakopee High School Team
8 20110200082 1939 SHS
1939 Shakopee High School Team
9 20090450010 1942
1942 Shakopee High School Program
10 20130311332 SHS 1955
1955 Shakopee High School
11 20130312840 SHS 1958
1958 Shakopee High School
12 20130313601 SHS 1958
1958 Shakopee High School
13 20130315539 Small Fry 55-60
Shakopee “Small Fry” League 1955-1960
14 20130317865 Small Fry 55-60
Shakopee “Small Fry” League 1955-1960
15 20080050107 69-72 Sans is 16
Just for fun, from the Maurice Stans collection, the 1969-1972 Nixon Administration Cabinet as a football lineup. Maurice Stans can be seen in the middle of the middle row as #16

The Unboxing of Fallout Shelter Items – 56 Years Later

The very last donation of 2017 was given to SCHS by the Rahr Malting Company on December 21, 2017. It was exactly as if the we had received an early Christmas present. The donation consisted of five boxes, of both the small and large variety, and all that was written down on the paper was that they were civil defense supplies from 1962. Needless to say, it was very exciting opening and uncovering the items inside of these civil defense boxes. As it turns out, these boxes were like a Christmas gift to SCHS, just opened up fifty-six years after they were originally packaged. Although it may have felt like Christmas here at the museum, the items in these boxes were originally packed for a much darker and serious purpose: in the event that a fallout shelter was needed in the future.

The Rahr Corporation, established in 1847 in Michigan, has since expanded to several different locations, one of them happening to be on 1st Avenue West in Shakopee. The facility in Shakopee was built in 1937, and had been added onto in 1954, 1977, 1981, 1994, and 2016.1 The information that many may have forgotten, however, was that the Rahr Malting Company was designated as a fallout shelter in 1961-1962 for the citizens of Shakopee. The boxes that were donated to SCHS were chalk full of fallout shelter items, many of them having been undisturbed for more than fifty years.

Included in the items were lists for Medical Fallout Shelter Kit “A”, which was one of the smaller boxes that could treat 50-65 shelter occupants, and for Medical Fallout Shelter Kit “C”, which was one of the larger boxes that could treat 300-325 shelter occupants. Each list identifies the items and the quantity of each item. Kit “C” contained the exact same items as in Kit “A”, just in larger quantities due to the larger number of proposed occupants. Also included was a brochure titled Fallout Shelter Medical Kit Instructions, dated July 1962, as well as a thicker brochure titled Family Guide: Emergency Health Care, which detailed instructions on caring for individuals while in a fallout shelter. These lists and brochure can be viewed below.

The items that were packed in these boxes were medical supplies, which would be extremely necessary in the event of needing a fallout shelter. Any and all items that could fit were made to sit inside their own individual brown cardboard box, the name of the item written on the front of the box. Items included several different kinds of bandages, scissors, thermometers, tweezers, safety pins, isopropyl alcohol, surgical soap, toothache remedy, eye and nose drops, diarrhea medication, many different kinds of pills (sulfadiazine, penicillin, aspirin, cascara (a laxative)), as well as tins of baking soda, petroleum jelly, and bottles of table salt. Also included were small bottles of iodine pills that would have been used to treat water in fallout shelters. All of these items were necessities when living in a closed off fallout shelter, be it with either 50-65 people, or 300-325. These items were chosen and packed with care, ready to offer aid to those who were sick. Although many of these items were labeled as being packed and stored in 1962, we, unfortunately, don’t have information on which building on the Rahr Malting campus was to be used as the fallout shelter.

Nonetheless, these items are a museum’s treasure, and very much a look into the past when nuclear war felt very much like an imminent threat. These boxes stored in the Rahr Malting Company show that a very national fear was felt by everyone everywhere throughout the United States, even in small Shakopee, Minnesota.

Many of these items have not been viewed since the 1960s, so I am pleased to allow you a secondhand look at these fallout shelter items. Enjoy.

IMG_20180103_133216
All of the items unpacked from their boxes, gathered together by type of item.

IMG_20180117_110404IMG_20180117_110519IMG_20180117_112305.jpgIMG_20180117_111406.jpg

(https://www.rahr.com/rahr-malting-co/shakopee-malthouse)

Handwritten Recipes

December is a special time for many people – it is a month full of wonder, for the holiday spirit is just around the corner. For many of us in Minnesota, it is a time of beautiful snow flakes outside and of cuddling together with a blanket before a fire or a television. December is a time of sweet smells of crisp air, pine trees, and of course, delicious aromas of food.

Nothing brings individuals together like that of a warm meal or tasty dessert at the table. Before long, families and friends will be together to celebrate Christmas and the New Year. In honor of this time of feast, I thought it appropriate to look through SCHS’s collections and see what we have concerning food and their recipes.

The first thing that came to mind was cookbooks. We have many different types of cookbooks – indeed, the museum holds nearly fifty-five cookbooks, many from the various churches or clubs in the county, and standard cookbooks manufactured from around the United States. The oldest cookbook we have is one from 1890 called the “Compendium of Cookery and Reliable Recipes”. Upon seeing that SCHS has so many cookbooks, my interest was piqued on what we had for handwritten recipes.

A recipe can tell you a lot about the people that used it. A recipe can give one hints of their heritage, pride, and interests. Specific ingredients in a handwritten recipe can also give us insight on the easy or difficult times individuals faced, depending on whether or not ingredients could be gathered. Unfortunately, due to their profound usage in a kitchen, many recipe cards may not live very long lives. Many get wet, torn, or perhaps just thrown away. Many do not get the chance to be preserved in a museum. Below are a handful of handwritten recipes that are being preserved here – for yourself, and for future generations to view. These recipes were all handwritten on some medium of paper, be it notebook paper, recipe cards, or other types of paper.  The most interesting handwritten recipes that I found, however, were written on wallpaper samples!

Please enjoy looking at the handwritten recipes below. The first recipe was most likely written between 1910-1940. The wallpaper sample recipes were most likely written between 1925 and 1935. The last recipe was written in 1985.

Take a look through your own collections and see what interesting recipes you can find! Try some out – particularly for a delicious Christmas dessert. Most of all, please do your best to preserve such lovely recipes. The future’s generations stomachs will thank you!

Untitled-5Untitled-4Untitled-3Untitled-21Un-1

 

 

Paintings from Scott County Residents

Halloween has come and gone, and so November follows quickly behind. The first snowfall has already occurred, but luckily for us, it hasn’t been able to stick around. Before we know it, though, snow will be piled up around us.

Instead of focusing on the cold and dreary colors that will come soon, I feel it important to take a look at some colorful paintings that have been done by wonderful Scott County artists. Their bright and beautiful colors will surely amaze, whether they were done with oil, watercolor, or acrylic paint. We have many paintings, several from the same artists,  but I have chosen to pick a variety of paintings to show the diversity of the painters and their skills throughout the county.

I like to think that pictures – or paintings, in this case, are worth a thousand words, so without much more to say about these paintings, I leave you to take a look at them below and enjoy.

I hope that these paintings brighten your day. Thank you to the artists who have taken their time to paint such wonderful images that are close to their hearts, as well as donating them to SCHS so we may preserve them for future generations. Feel free to visit SCHS to see these paintings in person, or donate paintings of your own.

2001.47.7
Oil painting of the Moses Starr Titus residence in Shakopee, 1868. Artist unknown.
2007.65.1
Painting of a street scene in Prior Lake 1965. Artist: John McGuire.

 

 

 

2017.14.1
Oil painting of Josephine Sand Grommesch, Scott County pioneer woman. Artist: Patricia Kness, great-granddaughter,
2013.31.189
Painting of St. Paul House, 1971. Artist: LeRoy Lebens.
2013.31.4195
Painting of Dallas Cowboy Tony Dorsett, date unknown. Artist: Dave Tommy (a Shakopee HS student)
2017.42.1
Watercolor painting of Dr. Nevin’s House in Shakopee, 1993. Artist: Susan Melchior.
2012.14.856
Pastel and acrylic painting of Joan of Arc, undated. Artist: Lorraine Coller.
2017.42.3
Watercolor painting of Murphy’s Landing, 1993. Artist: Susan Melchior.
2017.49.1
Watercolor painting of the Old Monnens Farm in Shakopee, 1992. Artist: Lila Greenwood

The First World War

Post by SCHS Intern: Aaron Sather

The First World War, also often called the Great War or the War to End All Wars, was a massive conflict that has shaped the world in numerous ways. It marked the end of many Empires such as the Austro-Hungarian Empire, German Empire, Russian Empire, and Ottoman Empire. It was also a beginning for many new Nation-States that were formed out of remains of these Empires. While some Empires and Nations were involved in the conflict directly for all four years, the involvement of the United States is radically different than those on the continent of Europe. Many isolationists were antagonistic towards going to war, but eventually war was declared and the United States directly involved. Everyone in the United States, the State of Minnesota, as well as Scott County was involved in the conflict to a varying degree.

The first and most obvious avenue of involvement for American men in the war was direct military service. When the United States declared war in the Spring of 1917 the US Navy, though expanded due to the relationship between naval power and empire building, had limited utility due to the prevalence of U-Boat tactics. Dreadnoughts could blockade ports but engagements between naval squadrons remained limited. Meanwhile the US Army was grossly undermanned and ill equipped to fight the war expected of them on the Western Front, and later in the east against the rising Bolshevik threat in Russia. The United States needed to recruit, train, equip, and feed its Army before deploying the American Expeditionary Force to Europe. This process took months, and it was not until the summer of 1918 that the AEF began arriving in France en masse, often still lacking adequate arms and training. Many would receive weapons and training from the French. All states and counties in the United States were expected to provide men for the war effort. Scott County has changed drastically since the First World War as it was much more agricultural then. Being a food resource rather than a military manpower resource less enlistment was expected of Scott County to preserve its workforce and keep food flowing out of its fields. Even so 453 people were enlisted for military service from the county, 14 of whom would perish in service to their country. While enlistment rates for the county were at half the national average, the casualty rates remained the same as the rest of the nation. The brutality of the Great War is what drove these casualty statistics.

The type of combat varied incredibly across all fronts. From the brutal maneuver warfare of the massive Eastern front, to the chaotic asymmetrical warfare of the Middle East and Africa fighting was brutal. The Great War often remembered through the lens of the Western Front. Static lines were literally dug in the ground and the fighting descended into trench based warfare. Machines were developed to gain an advantage over the enemy, often with an incredible capacity to end human life. Tanks were developed to smash through heavily fortified lines, airplanes were used to reconnoiter and harass enemy positions (including civilians) and chemical weapons were developed to spread terror and death across vast swaths of territory. All off this technological development came due to the need of ascendancy on the battlefield and contributed to the wars brutality.

The American Expeditionary Force, under General John “Black Jack” Pershing, arrived in France and was engaged in horrendous trench warfare. There are many battles that display the severity and danger of the war, but the Battle at Verdun shows the horror that was the Great War the men from Scott county would find themselves in. General Falkenhayn, the German mastermind behind the battle, planned to “bleed France white” by taking the French village of Verdun and the surrounding forts. This plan was not to gain Verdun for any strategic importance but rather than to kill as many French soldiers as possible. Verdun was a place of great importance to French pride and so they defended it with vigor. The French motto “Ies ne passeront pas” or “They shall not pass” appeared in French propaganda. Thousands of French soldiers came to the defense of Verdun, some claim around 60% of the entire French army was rotated through the Verdun lines over the course of the 9 month 3 week and 6 day battle, and thousands died in the brutal battle of attrition. Artillery was used so extensively during the battle that trees still struggle to grow in some places around the site of the battle. In the end the French held, but their victory was a pyrrhic one. This was the type of war the American men were entering.

American involvement would allow French and British Units to finally receive much needed support, stepping in to bolster the Anglo-French lines after nearly three years of attrition and loses. American units were not broken up and assigned to allied units as Pershing wanted the AEF to stay American, though African American Units (the military was still segregated) were loaned to the French who had no issue using colored troops. A notable example of African American men in the war are the Harlem Hellfighters or the 369th Infantry Regiment, getting their nickname from the enemy and not themselves. After helping their allies hold the line the allies went on the offensive. Once enough Americans had arrived in France for the AEF to mount their own massive Meuse-Argonne Offensive, part of the greater 100 Days Offensive that finally pushed German forces back beyond the Hindenburg Line. Their lines shattered and now facing a combined Anglo-French-American Offensive free to maneuver unrestricted by prepared defenses and their people starving the German Empire signed the Armistice on November 11th, 1918. Though men were the ones who fought the war they were not the only ones involved in the it.

Men were the ones who were almost always on the frontlines of the war doing the fighting, asides from Women’s Battalions of Provincial Russian Government, but women also contributed greatly to the war effort. Women contributed to the war effort in whatever ways that they could. Some would become nurses and actually join the military such as the US Navy, caring for the sick and the wounded and being with the dying. Others would join the Red Cross, working to collect supplies to support the war effort and helping in any ways that they could. Even by writing simple letters to their husbands, sons, or brothers ensuring that all was fine on the homefront was crucial to the war effort. Commanders needed their soldier’s minds focused on what they needed to do, not the what-ifs of home. These women were not only writing letters saying things were OK with the family, they were the ones who actually mad things OK. As the heads of the household women took on a new double burden if a male left their household. Not only would they have to still cook meals for their families to eat, no easy feat due to rationing, but in some cases, they needed to step into the male’s place in the economy by also working. Some British Women would work night shifts at a munitions plant, leave work early in the morning to get in line at the grocer, get home and take care of the house and family, and then go back to work in the late evening, somehow trying, or not, to fit in sleep. Though Scott County women did not experience the direct danger of being near a warzone they still made great sacrifices and contributed to the war effort.

Americans contributed to the war effort in any way that they possibly could. Men, many in Scott County, would stay at home and continue farming to provide food for the war effort. Others would go off to fight and die thousands of miles away from all that they knew. Women would continue running their households to keep moral on the homefront as high as possible while trying to keep their loved ones abroad in high spirits as well. Some would even take on positions in the workforce, albeit temporarily. African-American men, though struggling with the injustices of a legal racial divide still devoted themselves to the cause, with their wives and sisters standing behind them and the nation. The people of Scott County, and the men, women, and children of the United State of America banded together behind the cause for war regardless of race, religion, color or necessity because they were all Americans and thought it was morally what needed to be done. This unity is what helped the United States help win the First World War.

USS Texas
USS Texas, a New York Class Battleship, and the only surviving Capital Ship in the world to have served in both World Wars and is still seaworthy today. According the Mahan’s “Influence of Sea Power Upon History” whomever controls the seas controls the world. Many Empires built intimidating Dreadnought and Battleships, though they rarely met in direct confrontation during the First World War with the Battle of Jutland being the exception. They were often used to impose blockades instead. Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tomsaint/8039763196 labeled for non commercial reuse
Verdun-shell-holes
Verdun shell holes still visible today. The destruction destroyed thousands of human lives but also ravaging the landscape. Even today “red zones” remain in France where plant life is still unable to grow due to heavy metal concentration in the soil and people cannot go due to unexploded munitions. Image credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Verdun_5.jpg labeled for noncommercial reuse
Aerial reconnaissance
An aerial reconnaissance photograph of the opposing trenches and no-man’s land between Loos and Hulluch in Artois, France, taken at 7.15 pm, 22 July 1917. German trenches are at the right and bottom, British trenches are at the top left. The vertical line to the left of centre indicates the course of a pre-war road or track. Image and Caption Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Aerial_view_Loos-Hulluch_trench_system_July_1917.jpg labeled for noncommercial reuse.
Pershing propaganda poster
Propaganda poster of Pershing’s Crusaders. Image credit: https://c1.staticflickr.com/4/3048/3049886600_3af715fdf0_b.jpg labeled for noncommercial reuse

Platting It All Out

Here at the SCHS we often have donations of maps.  What we have received covers a wide span of time.  These maps provides us with information regarding the changes occurring in our county over time.  Things like street maps, political maps and topographic maps are all names we have probably heard before. That’s because they’re important and not only for historians.  Street maps show us the evolution of our roadways and the changing shapes of our cities.  Political maps show us the location of our cities and the shapes of our counties.  Topographic maps show us how the very land has been shaped and reshaped over time with the influence of human populations. These all provide important information for daily use and historical information.  Of course there are more types of maps then just these three and one in particular that is worth discussing for historical interest.  That is the plat map.19980140108Plat maps have a much narrower focus than any of the other maps already discussed. These maps cover only a small section of a city.  Plat maps like this were made when a land owner or land owners had their land surveyed and divided into plots. Generally this land is sold to others plot by plot.  For people interested in buying any of these plots, the plat map is useful for providing necessary information about what is available on those plots of land.19980140101Looking at this closeup we can analyze the plots of a plat map more closely.  Significant for every plat map is the compass as seen prominently displayed in the lower left of this image.  This helps show how this map is orienting its depiction of the land and helps to more accurately determine how a plot of land is shaped when inspecting it.  A plat map tells us the size of a plot.  Looking at the plot in the upper left hand corner labeled with a 7, we see other little numbers running along the insides of the polygon.  These numbers inform us that the southern side of the property is 166.90 ft., the eastern side is 135 ft., the northern side is 120 ft., and the western side is 142.92 ft.  Prospective land owners are also given information such as how their property faces roadways and how lakes and rivers interact with plots.  We can see here that plots 4 and 5 of the second section are lakeside properties, having borders along Lake Hanrahan.  Plats also indicate if part of your land is designated as an easement.  Depending on what type of easement your property has, the indicated section can be used for purposes other than the owner’s, such as building a new public roadway.  So, for a potential land owner, a plat map can help you learn what you’re getting from a piece of land.

For historians, old plat maps provide a lot of information about ownership.  For the two plat maps seen above, we are seeing the land as it was surveyed and originally divided into plots.  Plat maps also provide us with the dates of when surveys of land took place as well as giving us the names of others involved in this whole process.  The names of these original land owners can often be seen on street names in the neighborhoods that they once owned.  If you’re ever wondering where a strange street name came from, it could very well be this exact situation.                                                                                                                                                            19980140099

As plots are sold the names of the buyers are included in future updates of plat maps. This way, by looking at plat maps you can learn the land ownership history  of an area. This is useful for city or county history but could also come in handy for researching family history.  If you’re looking for a plot of land that an old relative owned, find the right plat map and you’re on your way.  So whether you’re a historian or a perspective land owner a plat map is a useful piece of information.

 

If you would like to learn more about map making or if you’re curious about the history of the city of Prior Lake has then visit the Prior Lake City Hall starting 8/11/2017 to see the exhibit Finding the Way: Map Making in Prior Lake.

 

Written by Tony Connors, Curatorial Assistant.