The Sound of History: Music and Society in Scott County

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plano

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

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

Overalls

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

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

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

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

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

By: Patrick Rodgers, past SCHS Curator

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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

Let’s All Go To The Movies!

Today we can watch movies at home on or televisions or even on our phones.  But it wasn’t so long ago that the neighborhood theater was the only place to see a movie.

Movies were distributed throughout the county and most towns had their own movie theater.  These theaters usually had one projector, however, early movies were made up of many reels.  Audiences had to wait patiently while the projectionist changed reels, sometimes several times during one film.

An article in the January 20, 1926 Jordan Independent reported on the installation of a second electric motion picture machine at the local Grand Theater.  They noted “the advantage of the double installation is that patrons now have no wait between reels as formerly, for one machine is ready for continuing projecting the next reel of the photoplay on the screen at the moment the other machine comes to the end of its reel, thus giving the audience a continuous play.  Not many towns of the size of Jordan can boast a double-machine motion picture theater.”

Like other businesses, disasters happened.  New Prague’s theater was completely gutted by fire in April 1934.  The New Prague Times reported that “The New Prague fireman battled with a fire hard to reach, as by the time the alarm was turned in, the theater interior was an inferno of flames.”   When it reopened in September, it was transformed from a blackened and charred interior to a luxurious beautiful space.  The exterior was altered to include a ticket booth facing the street entrance.  New projectors, sound system, lighting were installed as well.  The Times also  reported that “The theater has been inspected by the state fire marshal and pronounced thoroughly safe in every respect.” The rebuilt theater was renamed The Granada, replacing the former New Prague Theater.

The Jordan Theater also closed due to a fire in November 1956.  Seems that the owner, Leo Brazier had turned on the gas heating system in preparation for a movie showing that evening.  He went out for coffee and spent some time visiting with Mr. & Mrs. Julius Schultz (who lived next door to the theater), when they saw smoke pouring from the building.  The fire was concentrated near the theater stage, but didn’t cause much damage to the exterior, however the interior suffered quite a bit of water and smoke damage.  When it was rebuilt it received a new façade.

Scott County not only had a number of movie theaters, but was also home to a film distribution business, North Star Film Exchange.  Reno Wilk of Minneapolis and Julius Coller of Shakopee started the company to distribute re-issued films.  Julius Coller got into the film business through a toy projector he acquired when he was about 12 years old.  In later years he would show films to Shakopee kids in his attic.  He acquired quite a valuable private film library, including films such as “The Great Train Robbery” and several Fatty Arbuckle features.

North Star had a list of 62 current attractions in 1946.  Among them are such things as “Adventures of Tom Sawyer;” a couple of “Tarzans” “the 39 Steps”, “Half Way House” and others.  Upcoming oar others including a couple “Toppers”, “Turnabout,” “Of Mice and Men,” and others.  Six Hop-a-long Cassidy and 16 Range Busters westerns are also on the list.   In 1949, North Star Pictures was granted the exclusive Northwest distribution rights for the new screen hit, “I Shot Jesse James”.

Let’s not forget Drive-In theaters!  Prairie Drive-In was located on Co. Rd. 9 in Jordan, opening in 1965 with capacity for 450 cars.  Prior Lake Drive-In also opened in 1965.  Champions Drive-In is currently in operation in Elko with capacity for 600 cars!

Patronize your local movie theater, enjoy viewing a film on the large screen, nosh on some popcorn, and chill out this summer!

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.