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.

Sources:

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.

 

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Baseball with the Quicksteps

Base ball is a sport that has been enjoyed by many over a long span of years.  It was originally conceived of as “a gentleman’s sport” and was played with a great deal of reverence and respect for both the game and opponents.  Today it is America’s past time and one of its most popular sports.  Starting in the summer and extending into the fall, you can turn on your TV and watch a professional base ball game most any day of the week.  The games you see here, however, are not the same kind of game you would have seen in base ball’s early days.  There have been drastic changes in not only the appearance of the game but in the rules as well.  The set of rules credited with leading to today’s baseball is called the Knickerbocker Rules, which were established in 1845 by the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club.  Though the rules are what they are today there are still groups out there that choose to play baseball by older rule sets.  Some go all the way back to the original Knickerbocker rules others choose other iterations of the rules commonly from the 19th century and early 20th century.  One such group came to Shakopee in 1995 to put together a game based on rules used in 1858.  The Halsey Hall Chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research brought their team, the Quicksteps, to play baseball at Murphy’s Landing Restoration Village.  Scan_20170825

Pictured above are the Quicksteps in their, more or less, era appropriate garments posing for a photo taken in 1994.  We can immediately notice several differences between these outfits and those worn today.

Modern Baseball

The shirts of Quicksteps are collared and cuffed.  The hat, though it has similarities to a baseball cap, is a far less streamlined affair that sits much more loosely instead of hugging the head tight.  The pants are full length and sit loosely as compared to the modern players outfit which is pulled up on the leg and hugs the leg more tightly.  The shirts of the Quicksteps are cuffed and collared.  These shirts share the same baggy quality as their pants.  There are no short sleeves, afterall, it’s a gentleman’s sport and the clothing reflects that.  There are also a few more subtle differences.  If you look closely, you may notice that the Q on the Quicksteps’ shirts are not actually part of their shirt.  Instead these are bibs that attach to the shirt.  If we look at the Quickstep player kneeling on the far right of the photo we can see a ball in his right hand.  The base balls being used by the Quicksteps were made from leather wrapped around yarn and rubber. Early baseballs were often made from other materials as well but the leather yarn and rubber balls were rather typical.  Early on these balls were stitched with a cross pattern called the “lemon peel” pattern.  The figure eight pattern on base balls hadn’t started to become more popular until 1858.  Lastly, you’ll see that our modern base ball player has a glove.  Originally base ball was played without gloves, helmets, face masks, shin guards or chest pads.  Gloves were not introduced until 1875 and they looked very little like the gloves we know today.

Ball CatcherBaseball Glove

The introduction of these items was viewed with derision by many early base ball clubs.  The Quicksteps included a popular poem along with their rule set that reads, “We used no mattress on our hands no cage upon our face we stood right up and caught the ball with courage and with grace.”  Along with the outfits and equipment, the fields and team positioning have undergone various changes.

Before a time when public base ball diamonds were readily available, early diamonds were often impromptu and could vary widely.  Firstly, most games were not played on dirt diamonds.  Baseball players in these early days took their bases and set up their games in fields of grass.  Bases were canvas or a similar material stuffed with sand or sawdust.  These sat loosely on the field instead of being pinned down.  The hurler’s (pitcher’s) plate and home base were often made of metal or wood.  In these early day, the size of these plates and the distances between them changed frequently.

The players positions on these fields were much the same as they are today.  The biggest differences were in the positioning of the shortstop, the behind (catcher), and the umpire.  The positioning of these players and the umpire changed as their roles in the game changed.  Initially, the shortstop was not really a defined position.  This player would play anywhere on the field.  Over time players came to the realization that having a player in the modern shortstop position would be a good idea seeing how frequently the ball is struck to that position.  The behind, unlike modern catchers, was a glorified ball stop.  They stood further back from the pitcher than they do now and were not involved in making plays in quite the way they do today.  This is, in part, due to the relationship between the hurler and striker (batter) being different.  It is also due to the lack of protective gear.

You may be now wondering, “if the catcher is standing further away, where is the umpire.”  The answer is, between first base and home base.  While this is not an optimal viewing position, it worked well seeing as the umpire had different responsibilities at the time.  Players were expected to be well capable of following the rules on their own.  The umpire was not there to call every play.  They stepped in so that they could keep the game moving if it slowed down.  The umpire would call strikes and balls only if the time at bat was taking too long.  They also called balls fair or foul. The only other time they commented was when their arbitration was asked for.

Seeing as we have begun to touch on the rules, let us continue by discussing these differences.  The Quicksteps played their game based on a set of 33 rules adopted in 1858 that were known as the New York rules.  Comparatively their were only 20 Knickerbocker rules and in the 2017 Major League Baseball rulebook there are 9 sections of rules divided into 70 subsections with 32 clauses and 2 sub-clauses.  Despite this, a good portion of the modern game looks quite similar to what it would have been when played by the Quicksteps so we’ll focus on the most glaring differences.

We’ll go step by step through the phases of play and how they differ, starting with the pitch.  Base ball pitches of 1858 and prior were all done underhand.  This is partially due to the fact that base ball evolved out of games like rounders and cricket which were both played with underhand pitches.

Shakopee Player

This also due to, a point we touched on earlier, the purpose of the hurler being different at this time.  Base ball was much more focused on the idea of the ball being played in the field.  The hurler was permitted to apply things such as soap, grease, or mud to make hits less effective but it was still about playing the ball in the field.  The goal of the hurler was not to strike out their opponent, instead they were supposed to make it so the ball could be hit.  For this reason, the striker (batter) would actually point to where they wanted a pitch thrown.  As discussed, strikes and balls were not taken into consideration unless the umpire felt they needed to keep the game moving.  If an umpire felt that the hurler was throwing the ball where the striker could not reasonably hit the ball the umpire would give the hurler a warning.  It the hurler continued to throw poorly, the umpire would begin to call balls.  On the other hand, if the striker did not swing at good throws, the umpire would warn the striker and then call strikes from then on.  As it is today, a swing and a miss was still considered a strike.

Once the ball was hit, you would perhaps notice a few more changes.  Rules of fair and foul are practically the same as they are today.  If the ball goes out past the lines formed by first and home or third and home, the ball would be called foul.  A ball that hit something like a tree or privy, though, would not count.  If a ball were hit fair and did not hit something that made it not count then the ball would be played no matter where it went.  There was no such thing as a home run in the early days of base ball.  A contributor to this, was that games were usually only played using one ball.  If you wanted to continue playing you had to get the ball regardless.  As it is today, catching a fair ball before it hit the ground is one way to get a batter dead (out).  However, going by the 1858 rules their was a bit more room to get a batter out by catching the ball.  If a ball was caught off after only bouncing once, that striker would still be dead.  Unlike today’s rules this could also be done with foul balls either on the fly or after having bounced only once.  An interesting rule related to this is that if the ball was caught after a bounce, players on bases could be made dead if they had left their bases.  On the other hand, if the ball was caught mid-air players on the bases were permitted to freely return to their places.

Interestingly, in the case that someone did ace (score a point), that ace did not immediately count.  It was the the responsibility of the acing player to go report to the tally keeper.  The tally keeper would record the ace and the player would ring a bell to inform the cranks (fans) of this.

That is the last of the most apparent differences between the 1858 version of base ball that the Quicksteps played and modern professional league games.  However, there is one last interesting fact to bring up.  Like modern games the Quicksteps played their game with 9 innings.  However, the original Knickerbocker Rules did not have a set number of innings.  Instead the game ended once one team had 21 aces and only after both teams had an equal number of turns at bat.  To a modern audience this may sound ludicrous seeing as games that never leave the single digits are not uncommon.  This was less ludicrous than it seems though.  Around 1845 balls were known to be much smaller and bouncier than they are today.  It was more common for the balls to get launched and for scoring to go much faster than we would see today.

As stated, only the most glaringly obvious of changes between the games the Quicksteps played and modern professional league baseball have been noted.  There is so much more nuance to explore, so if you’re interested by this topic you are encouraged to explore.  This post is far from definitive and only focuses on one rule set so if you are curious there is far more to learn.

 

Written by Tony Connors, Curatorial Assistant.

Spring Has Arrived!

Spring is here! The flowers are blooming, the grass is green, and the days are getting longer. Indeed, summer will nearly be upon us in a month!

Now that the weather is warming up, and the sun is shining more and more, don’t forget to step outside your house and enjoy the warmth you haven’t felt since last year, as well as the activities your town has to offer.

Call your friends, sit in the yard, and enjoy a picnic or a party, just like these Shakopee foundry workers did back in 1905. 19960190001

Parades will soon start marching down the streets of towns, so don’t forget to set your chair on the curb and make memories like these individuals did during a parade in Belle Plaine in 1901! (And maybe…not so secretly… snack on some candy).
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Baseball season is already well underway, so make your way to your local baseball diamond, eat a hot dog and some nachos, and cheer on your favorite team, just like the fans of this Rock Spring team did in 1910.20130320068

Try and make time for some leisurely afternoon walks in your local park, be it to listen to music, take your dog for a walk, or just to hang out with friends, like these young women did in 1905. 19990680001

Last, but not least, hit the road! Head to your favorite destination, with your windows or top down, and enjoy the spring breeze on your face and in your hair. Have fun and make memories, just like Mathilda (Nyssen) Stans and her family did in 1905.20080051907