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.
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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!

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Tale of Two Cities – Merger

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the merger of Elko and New Market into one unified city.  Today the long-term residents of the two towns live side by side with new inhabitants, people who came to the area in search of small-town life, but who enjoy the convenience of the nearby suburbs.  The population of New Market quadrupled between 2000 and 2004 due to the influx of young professionals settling into the area.

In 2004, the city councils of both towns began to consider the possibility of a merger.  Together, the two towns drafted a Cooperation and Combination Plan which laid out the steps they would have to take for the approval and implementation of a merger.  This plan was completed and approved by both city councils in January 2006.

The merger plan was detailed, laying out the exact changes in city structure and services that would follow a successful merger.  The Cooperation and Combination Plan was especially thorough when it came to development and land use, facilities, services, finances, and governing structure, as these would be the most important elements to consider in a merger.

Even before the merger, Elko and New Market shared several services.  Elko contracted with New Market’s fire department and New Market borrowed Elko’s police department.  The two towns even shared a sewer system.  A successful merger would only compound the symbiotic relationship that existed between the two settlements.

A merger vote was held on March 21, 2006.  This was a public vote, open to all citizens of Elko and New Market.  The merger was passed with resounding success.  In Elko, 213 people voted for the merger, while only 38 voted against, and in New Market the score stood at 224 to 47.  The referendum to merge passed.

Once the merger passed, the towns’ administrators had just over nine months to implement the Cooperation and Combination Plan before the towns officially merged on January 1, 2007.  The city councils and administrators from both towns came together to form a single interim government in charge of implementing the merger plan.

Today, the unified town of Elko New Market is home to over 4,500 people, long-time natives and new arrivals alike.

To learn more about the histories of Elko and New Market and the merger that brought them together, visit the new exhibit on Elko New Market, opening soon at the Elko New Market Library.

Blog by SCHS Intern: Amanda Roberts

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Scott County Fair Origins

The Fourth of July has come and gone once again, and now it’s nearly August. Before August can roll in, however, the Scott County Fair must begin!  The Scott County Fair is coming up within a few weeks, running from July 26th to the 30th,  a long-awaited source of joy in mid-summer. Adults and children alike have waited patiently (and perhaps not so patiently) for the fair, mouths watering at the thought of deliciously fried food, a spike of excitement through the heart at the thought of rides, and pride at the thought of showing off their crafts.

The Scott County Fair has been a source of community camaraderie for a very long time, but for how long exactly? Strap on your boots and belts – we’re about to take a step back in time.

Long before the Scott County Fair was known with its modern name, it was first known fairas the Scott County Agricultural Fair. The very first Scott County Agricultural Fair took place in Shakopee in 1857. As the name suggests, the fair featured items concerning agriculture and livestock, hosting the displays in various buildings. The Scott County Agricultural Fair, having no permanent location, used Jordan, Belle Plaine, and Shakopee for fair locations, up until 1883. In 1872 the Scott County Agricultural Society was formed, and the society took it upon themselves to answer the demands of the people – find a permanent location for the county fair.

In 1883 a decision was made to have the permanent location in Shakopee. Twenty acres of ground were chosen, and within a year, buildings were erected to house agricultural, horticultural and livestock displays, as well as other various events, such as horse races.

Information on the Scott County Agricultural Fair is scarce between 1885 and the early 1890s. In years that had troubled times for crops, displays were small and nearly nonexistent. Mentions of fairs in Scott County do not appear until around 1893 – and this is where things get confusing. Instead of a county fair, there are articles of a street fair, located annually in Shakopee. The street fair was very similar to a county fair in that it ran for three days, and had displays on local agriculture and horticulture, but also featured music, dancing, parades, and performers of all kinds. It is not entirely known whether the street fair and county fair occurred in the same years, or that the street fair simply took place of the county fair when times were difficult.

fair1Street fairs were held in late August or early September – to make things even more confusing, newspaper articles described Shakopee’s street fairs as Scott County Fairs – perhaps in a way to let individuals of Scott County know that the fair was all inclusive, and not just for those living in Shakopee. An article in the Shakopee Tribune in 1925 noted that the “Scott County Agricultural Fair…in Shakopee” had a “larger crowd than usual”. It is unknown whether this is another street fair or an actual county fair.

The Scott County Fair eventually moved to a location in Jordan. Similar to the fairs mentioned above, displays were available for viewing, and plenty of entertainment was provided, such as trained animals, parades, band concerts, and free movies. In 1973, the fairgrounds moved to 80 acres in St. Lawrence township, which is where the fair has taken place ever since. The fair and fairgrounds are always improving, with new buildings being erected for more viewing entertainment, and new attractions entering the scope of joy. Despite all of the years that Untitled-2it has been since the very first Scott County Agricultural Fair and the many changes the fair has taken over the years, the coming together of Scott County individuals and the pride that they feel for their local farmers, businesses, friends, and family members, has not changed.

So, make sure to take the time to visit the Scott County Fair this July 26-30, and embrace the community and shared sense of joy that the fair gives to visitors.

 

Connections Across Time

It’s kinda weird, creepy even, when today’s events reflect those from 100 years ago. This year marks the centennial of the U.S. entry into World War I.  While researching this topic I was struck by the similarities between what we’re experiencing today and WWI sentiments.

Language

Before the U.S.19980150001 got involved in WWI, the phrase “America First” was used by those wanting to stay out of the war. This same phrase was used in the 2016 presidential campaign.

President Wilson stated: “The World must be made safe for democracy.  Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty.”  Barack Obama stated: “…we must recognize that lasting stability and real security require democracy.”

Loyalty – Surveillance

20000490029Being of German descent was not a positive fact during the war.  Since Scott County was settled by a majority of Germans, loyalty to America became a public issue.  This pamphlet of a speech by Julius Coller, clearly illustrates this public demonstration of loyalty.  In Belle Plaine, a movie that had a pro-German bent, was thrown into the street and burned by local citizens!  100percentAmerican

Not only were you expected to demonstrate your loyalty to the U.S., you were also encouraged to turn in those you suspected of German sympathy.  “It is the duty of every good citizen to communicate to proper authorities any evidence of sedition that comes to his notice.” New York Times, July 1917.  “Clip and send to us any editorial utterances they encounter which seem to them seditious or treasonable,” Literary Digest.  All of this brings to mind today’s wire taps, surveillance, Wiki Leaks, and investigations.

Immigration

The Immigration Act of 1917, among other things, required that immigrants be able to read and write in their native language, which led to standardized literacy tests. Standardized testing continues today in schools across the county.

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Terrorism

WWI introduced air raids and poison gas – precursors to today’s chemical weapons, bombings, and nuclear war threats.

It’s funny how researching the past can give you a clearer understanding of the present, and an understanding of how personal beliefs/conduct, and national and global relations evolved.

The SCHS newest exhibit: The Great War: Scott County in World War I, opens June 22, 2017.  Special guest speaker Iric Nathanson, author of World War I in Minnesota.

Recent Program Highlights

It’s been a busy few months at the SCHS! Below are photos and highlights from some of our recent programs.

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David Schleper presenting “We Were Here, Too: African-Americans in Early Shakopee” at the SCHS on Feb. 9, 2017.

– In February, we learned about the lives of several African-American men and women who lived in 1800s Shakopee, thanks to guest presenter David Schleper of the Shakopee Heritage Society.

– In March, Shelley Gorham from the Minnesota DNR taught us all about the Minnesota River valley, from the history of fur trading in the area to present-day habitats and wildlife. (PSSST- if you haven’t yet visited the SCHS’s “Minnesota River” exhibit, there’s still time! It will be up through the end of May!)

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Making lye soap at the SCHS!

-In April, guest instructor David Hudson showed us how to make our own lye soap, just as people did in the old days. (Well, except we had the advantage of microwaves to help speed up the process!)

We’ve also had lots of fun kids’ programs recently!

– If you visited the museum on just the right Saturday in January, February, or April, you may have seen students carving tools out of rocks, throwing darts with an atlatl, or digging for artifacts in the museum garden. This was all part of our Youth Archaeology program. Big thanks to the Minnesota Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund for making these workshops possible!

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Students flintknapping as part of our Youth Archaeology workshop series.

– Meanwhile, younger kids enjoyed singing songs, listening to stories, and making crafts at our monthly Kids Kraft program, a fun opportunity to introduce young children to the museum.

We have many more great programs coming up, including our annual meeting next Thursday, May 18 featuring guest speaker and local racing legend John Boegeman. Register for that program here, and stay up-to-date on all of our events by visiting http://www.scottcountyhistory.org.

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St. Patrick’s Day Kids Kraft at the SCHS

 

 

 

 

Prefabricated Homes: Page and Hill’s 15 Year Stint That Ended in Disaster

The Page and Hill Company moved to Shakopee in 1942 into the old Kienzle & Merrick oven enameling plant, and began operating in late June. They planned to make and sell prefabricated homes (also known as pre-fab or kit homes). They came in many styles, all designed by architects. Most things could be altered, giving each house a unique look and many possible floor plans. These were very popular for government use (in military bases) and for civilian homes, and are still very common. You can find whole neighborhoods full of prefab homes, and still purchase new ones today! Page and Hill employed many people during their 15 years in Shakopee. They planned to start out with 125 employees and increased that number to 500 in a few months, many of which were filled by women.

Two prefabricated homes (419 and 427 Seventh Avenue W.) that were constructed in 1948 are listed as historic properties today.

Within a few months of opening, the employees voted in a union and presented an employment contract to the company. The contract was not accepted, and this resulted in the declaration of a possible strike. The company was unable to accept more contracts (for 500 houses and several thousand grain bins) until the proposed strike was delayed for negotiations. A settlement was finally reached in late October 1942. Another labor dispute over the wages for skilled, unskilled, and common work caused a strike in 1948, halting the production of two houses a day that the plant was producing.

Nearly one decade later, in 1957, a fire swept through the plant. This caused a total of $500,000 ($4.4 million dollars today) worth of damages and destroyed a city block-sized area. The company either did not have the ability to recuperate after the major loss or did not want to rebuild, and decided on the permanent closure of the Shakopee plant.

The fire that caused the end of the Page and Hill Company in Shakopee was documented by LeRoy Lebens, who photographed the fire during its progress. These are photos of the fire.

 

Member Appreciation Event

We shook things up a bit this year at our annual Member’s Appreciation Event (3/16/2017). Instead of the same old- same old treats and speaker… we decided to play!

The exhibit scavenger hunt was a huge hit.  Members dug deep into the exhibits looking for snippets of photos to fill in their sheets.  They collaborated – or snuck peeks with each other to try and fill in every blank.

I have to say, it was pretty difficult – but tons of fun!  Before drawing the winner’s name, I read off the answers to plenty of groans and cheers.  The was most difficult picture to find was of fake pancakes found on the stove in the atrium. No one could figure out what the heck the photo was.

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Play didn’t stop there – we moved into the library for Exhibit Bingo!  Using exhibit images instead of numbers on the bingo cards was another way to learn more about the exhibits, while enjoying a little friendly competition, and some laughs.  We had plenty of winners this evening.

Oh yeah we also included the same-old, same-old treats too.

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Thanks again to all our members!  We appreciate your faithful support, and wouldn’t be here without you!  THANKS!!