Spooky Times Are Here Again

Well its that time of year again, soon ghosts and goblins will hit the streets in search of candy. Halloween is always a fun time of year, a last hurrah for kids before winter rears its head. Halloween has had quite the transformation over the centuries. It started as All Hallows Eve, and was associated with witches and demons. It was a dark day when you stayed inside and hoped nothing came for you in the night.

Did you know that the first Halloween costumes were meant to scare away evil spirits? I can’t imagine a spirit being too afraid of Charlie Brown is a hole-filled bed sheet, but I can imagine them getting a good laugh.


The turn of the twentieth century, and even a little earlier, saw the waning holiday go from being a day to be feared to one of jokes and pranks. In time, it became the Halloween we know today.


It is little wonder, given the history of the festive and colorful holiday why we still tend to associate fear and other dark things with it. Even today Halloween has an air of unease for some people. The neighborhoods of American before graveyards and haunted mansions, I wonder if those are to scare away evil spirits too?


So before the weather decides to turn its old familiar Minnesota Cold, let’s have one last night of spooks and jokes at the expense of whatever evil spirits might still linger. After all, the reward for be brave and going out is the best one of all some sweet, sweet candy!



A Golden Time

This year marks a fantastic occasion for us at the Scoot County Historical Society; we get to celebrate our 50th year Anniversary. In appreciation of our volunteers and our communities, we will be having an anniversary picnic at the Stans Museum in Shakopee. It will be a day of food, fun, and trip through the past. Our main entry way will be time machine back to 1968 where you can see what made the headlines and what the world was doing 50 years ago. We will have a photo booth where you can take a picture are a hippie, John Lennon, or even Richard Nixon.

Our Stans House Garden will have picnic tables for food and relaxing as we celebrate the historical societies golden anniversary. We will be recognizing a longtime volunteer, looking back at what we have accomplished, and looking forward to the future we hope to build. A day full of old fashion games, sack races, food, community, and history sounds like a great day to me. August 25th at the Stans Museum, come celebrate the Scott County Historical Society’s anniversary, and help us usher in the next 50 years of preserving our history. 50th picnic celebration

On the Hunt…

This summer the Scott County Historical Society turns 50 years old. To commemorate our golden anniversary, we are having a summer full of events, festivals, and grand picnic (August 25th), and we have launched the Great Summer History Scavenger Hunt!

FB-scavengerhunt-2018 (1)

Visit 10 historic locations (or as many as you can) in Scott County before our 50th anniversary picnic! Take a picture at each one and email it to us (info@scottcountyhistory.org). Complete the quest and you will win…

  • A prize at our 50th anniversary picnic
  • The chance to have your photos featured in an upcoming exhibit
  • everlasting fame and glory.

The great hunt has already spawned stories. A woman and her father have been visiting a new town’s locations each day and are trying new restaurants. A family has been making a summer scrapbook with their photos. To augment those tales, here are some of the stories behind the 10 Scott County locations you will visit as you complete your summer adventure:

Location 1: The Stans House/ Scott County Historical Society – Shakopee


The Stans House was built in 1908 by Hubert Stans. It is constructed in the Dutch Colonial Style, popular at the time. One of our long-serving volunteers recounted visiting the house while she was girl, but sad she never got past the kitchen because Mrs. Stans didn’t want young folks mussing up the rest of her house. Luckily, today you can visit the whole lower floor. It has been restored giving visitors peek at what life was like for a middle class family in Scott County near the turn of the 20th century. Inside you can wind a Victrola, learn how an icebox works, and recline on a fainting couch. If you are interested in touring the house, be sure to call us and make an appointment in advance- 952.445.0378.

Next door to the Stans House is the Scott County Historical Society. Inside the building is used for a wide variety of  purposes. We have rotating exhibit galleries: currently you can learn about Scott County in WW1, toursim in Scott County, American Indians of the area, and the history of the Stans Family. Coming soon are exhibits on sports in the county, and the use of tools to build Scott County. The building is also home to a play ball final transparent (002).png

research library featuring the lineup of newspapers throughout county history, subject folders, historic maps, county books, and a card catalog to help you track down your family’s history. The museum and library are open:
Tuesday , Wednesday and Friday- 9am to 4pm
Thursday- 9am to 8pm
Saturday- 10am to 3pm
Come pay us a visit!

Location 2: Veterans Memorial- Shakopee

Located off of highway 101, Memorial Park is Shakopee’s largest. scav2The 147 acre park features picnic shelters, friendly mill-pond ducks, multiple playgrounds and shady walking paths. Centrally located is an AH-1F Cobra helicopter. The design was prominently used during the Vietnam war, and now serves as a sculptural tribute to Shakopee’s veterans.


Location 3: Mudbaden (now called the SCALE Training Facility)- Jordan

Mudbaden was a health spa founded by Ose Rosendahl in 1906. Around 1900, a peddlers cart and horse got stuck in the mud while trying to pass through Rosendahl’s property. As they worked together to free the cart. As they labored in the mud, the murky ground began to release sulfurous fumes. Rather than be offput by the smell, the men realized that Rosendahl had a business opportunity on his hands. The smelly mud was believed to have health benefits, and mud spas were making money throught Europe at the time. Rosendahl began cooking up mud treatments in his kitchen, and soon “Rosendahl Sulpher Springs” was born. default.jpgscav4.png

By 1910 a new building was built to house up to 70 people who had come to visit the restorative mud. The sight was renamed Mudbaden, and it began to become a serious tourist attraction. By 1912, ten plus trains were stopping at the site each day.

In 1914 the modern brick building was built with a capacity of 200 visitors. Mudbaden was a true resort, with dancing, music, parties, movies and banquets complimenting mud treatments. The facility continued to grow, acquiring the rival Jordan Sulpher Springs site in 1925. It continued to host a steady clientele until the 1940s when medical advances made mud treatments seem out of vogue. Mudbaden finally closed it’s doors for good in 1952, but the beautiful structure created for the mud baths still stands. Now known as the SCALE regional training facility, Mudbaden is located at 17706 Valley View Dr and is a pleasant bike ride from Jordan.

Location 4: Ambrose Friedman Cabin – Jordan

One of the oldest European American homes still standing in Scott County. It was being used as a storage shed, but was purchased, restored and moved to its present location scav4 (1).pngby Clement Nachbar in memory of his parents, Mathias Nachbar and Wilhelmina Mertens Nachbar, who settled near Jordan in 1855. The cabin is now open as a museum on Memorial Day and for special events. The cabin is found at the intersection of Water st and Varner st, near downtown Jordanmedia.jpg

Location 5: Episcopal Church of the Transformation – Belle Plaine

The Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration, an Episcopal church building in Belle Plaine,  is a Carpenter Gothic style building with wooden buttresses. Sometimes referred to as a “prairie Gothic” church, it was built in 1868 for English-speaking parishioners, but most of the rural residents at the time were German and Irish immigrants who brought their own languages and religious practices with them. The result was a church building that struggled to attract worshipers for 80 years before the beautiful church was abandoned. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.scav5.png Memories, details and stories about the church can be found in the book “What Happened Here: A History of the Episcopal Church of the Transfigoraton” by Lee Howard Smith, available at the Scott County Historical Society. Here is a taste, recalled by Hinrietta Hillstrom Smith: episcopal-church-of-the-transfiguration.jpg

I have many memories of this church. I remember the early services at 7am with the early morning sun streaming through the east window above the alter with its beautiful colored glass. I remember the 5pm services during the winter months when the church had to be heated. The fires were started during the morning and kept going most of the day in order to get it warm enough to spend an hour at service. Later to save time and heat services were held in the Vestry. I had a round oak stove which wasn’t being used that I loaned to the church, some benches were moved in, a small table with white linen was used as an alter. It provided warmth and since there were so few people there was a closeness, and a closeness to God.

The Episcopal Church of the Transformation is at 201 N Walnut St in Belle Plaine

Location 6: Two Story Outhouse – Belle Plaine


The Hooper–Bowler–Hillstrom House was built in 1871 in Belle Plaine, Minnesota, United States, by Sandford A. Hooper, a local businessman and promoter of the town. By 1886 it was sold to Samuel Bowler, a founder of the State Bank of Belle Plaine and lumber-yard owner.3726_HillstromHouseTwoStoryLatrine2.jpg Bowler added a new kitchen, buttery, and , most famously, a five-hole, two-story outhouse that is connected to the house via a skyway. He also added a copper-lined bathtub. When the Bowlers moved to Denver, Colorado in 1901, the clapboard frame house was sold to Alfred Hillstrom whose family lived in the house until it was purchased in 1975 by the Belle Plaine Historical Society. The house is now furnished in a variety of periods that reflect its long life. It is open for tours from 1-4pm on Sundays between Memorial day and Labor day. Find the Hooper-Bowler-Hilstrom house along with its famous toilet at Court Square Park in Belle Plaine

Location 7: New Market Hotel and Store – Elko New Market

The Elko New Market Hotel and Store was built by Joesph Baltes in 1897. The building was originally given the cozy name of Home Hotel, and featured a first floor tavern with sleeping rooms upstairs. The hotel served visitors a business people traveling throughout the region. It also was a local social gathering place, holding suppers during dances at the Village Hall, and as a place to meet with locals and visitors.scav7.png
The hotel was typical of its time, with no electricity, and the owners living on site in the back of the first floor barroom. Laundry services were also offered for a small fee, and the owner’s wife would start washing sometimes as early as 3 O’clock.

Today the building still looks the same as it did in 1897, though with some different paint around the old windows, and big green sign on the front. . Visitors to the hotel today can walk up the double-wide staircase and peek into original rooms, each with a different theme which constantly changes. The current operators of the hotel maintain six rooms that visitors can see. The first floor is still a shop that is open periodically throughout the year.

Visit the Elko New Market Hotel and Store at 441 Main St, New Market, MN

Location 8: Church of Saint Wenceslaus – New Prague

The group of immigrants who settled New Prague had originally settled around Dubuque, Iowa, but many of them died of cholera. Four men from the community traveled up the Mississippi River to Saint Paul, in search of a healthier climate. They met with Catholics in the area who advised them that Benedictines from Saint John’s Abbey near Saint Cloud, Minnesota, were helping settlers find land. The explorers from the Czech community got lost, though, and ended up following the Minnesota River to Shakopee instead. They found that there was ample land to the south, so the four men purchased land and brought their families north from Iowa.

The parish of St. Wenceslaus was organized in 1856, and a log church was built the following year. The log church was destroyed by fire in 1864, so a more permanent building was erected in 1866, built of brick and stone. As the parish grew, though, more room was needed. Father Francis Tichy (pictured) default.jpgdirected the building of the new church, which was designed by St. Paul architect Hermann Kretz. Archbishop John Ireland dedicated the new building on July 7, 1907.scav8.png

Brick and Kasota limestone were used for constructing the spacious building. It dominates the skyline of the small city of New Prague, measuring 165 by 67 feet , with two towers that rise 110 feet. The architectural style combines neoclassical and Romanesque architectural styles, and is based on a church in Prague. Czech Republic. The church, rectory, and school were listed together on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Location 9: Train Depot – New Prague

One of the most important developments in the new village occurred in 1877 when the Minneapolis & St. Louis Railway (M & St. L) reached New Prague.scav9.png The arrival of the railroad era expedited agriculture as New Prague’s most important industry. A link with the outside world enabled farmers to send their commodities to markets and created a conduit to bring inventory to the village’s businesses. Just four years after the M & St. L reached New Prague, the first grain elevator and flour mill were completed, marking the beginning of New Prague earning its nickname, the “Flour City.”

The historic New Prague Train Depot is still standing next to the flour mill on 2nd ave in New Prague

Location 10: Your Hometown History!

For site number 10, choose a place that has historic significance to you or your family. It could be a home that goes back generations, or simply a place that you enjoy today. Take a picture and share your story with us- these stories are what make history come alive. scav10.png

Please join us in the 2018 summer history hunt- and share your pictures and stores with is at info@scotthistory.org, even if you are unable to make it to every site. Happy hunting!

The “New Woman” in Scott County

Hello all, I’m Karly, one of the Scott County historical society’s summer interns. I’ve been digging through the archives here at the Stans Museum, taking in the wealth of Scott County history, and I noticed something in a microfilm of the 1898 Scott County Argus newspaper that caught my interest. The community news section of the paper read like a Facebook feed; entries appeared, ranging from where Mr. Frank Wilder was spending the weekend to who was selling the best apple cider, as well as this gem:

new woman attempt 2

Enter the “New Woman,” a politically and socially charged term from the early 19th century. The idea of what it was to be a woman in society was a subject of constant analysis by authors, newspapers, etc., often sarcastically. Satirical photos appear constantly in this era, depicting absurd or critical versions of new womanhood.


While the information presented on the brakewoman here in Scott County offers no opinion for or against the installment of a female rail worker, the very presence of the article speaks volumes about the sentiments of the time, showing that the public was interested, invested, in this new change. Even as popular topics today are circulated again and again, locally and globally, the 1898 Shakopee public was integrated into a news network that would continue to expand.

Shakopee 1880

I was surprised to learn that the city of Shakopee set itself apart by electing its first female Mayor in 1925, just 6 years after the state of Minnesota allowed women to vote in presidential elections. Shakopee women proved that they had a place in working society and leadership positions, creating a positive reputation for the new woman.

As I continue to work here in Shakopee this summer, I’m excited to think of what other insights into the past I’ll encounter as I discover what makes Scott County such a unique place. Come pay us a visit at the Stans Museum and join me in learning more about Scott County!


Summer Solstice

June 21 is the summer solstice – the longest day of the year and the start of astronomical summer.  Although, given our recent weather, I’d have to say that we somehow skipped spring and moved directly into summer in May.  However, this is the tipping point where days become shorter and nights become longer.

In ancient times people noticed the movement of stars and the sun and tracked their progress across the sky.  This was a great way to mark time and know when to plant and harvest crops, as well as track tides and predict flooding.

Different cultures have traditions and/or names for the solstice.  In northern Europe it’s called Midsummer, some Christian churches recognize it as St. John’s Day (birth of John the Baptist), and Wiccans call it Litha.  Ancient Greeks considered the summer solstice the start of the new year and the start date for the countdown to the Olympic games.

Greeks had lots of festivals and rules around the solstice: festivals for agriculture, festivals of hearth, and blessings for families.  European pagans welcomed Midsummer with bonfires – thought to boost the sun’s energy for a good growing season and harvest.  They also thought that magic was the strongest during the summer solstice – watchout  Harry Potter! Don’t forget the Vikings – for some reason they would deal with legal matters and disputes during the solstice. Some scholars believe that Wyoming’s Bighorn Medicine Wheel, built by Plains Indians hundreds of years ago, was the site of an annual sun dance as the stones align with the solstice sunrise and sunset.


Folklore indicates that people would wear garlands of herbs and flowers on the solstice to ward off evil spirts.  One of these herbs was St. John’s Wort – then called ‘chase devil’.  People would also sprinkle ashes from the Midsummer bonfire in their garden to protect themselves and bring on a good harvest.


Most people think of Stonehenge or Chichen itza when it comes to the solstice.  No one knows for sure what the use for Stonehenge was – even though it is aligned with the direction of the sunrise/set on the summer solstice.  Chichen itza aligns with both the summer and fall solstice and most likely has a connection to agriculture.  It is interesting that during the solstice the sunlight playing across the pyramids makes it look like the carved snake sculpture on the steps is moving – quite an architectural feat!


Many cultures still celebrate the summer solstice.  Bonfires are still lit, people still wear flowers in their hair, and decorate their homes with greenery.  Many still flock to ancient sites to commemorate the longest day.

Here’s what you could do:

  • Watch the sky and spend time outside enjoying the longest day
  • Make solstice sun tea: put tea leaves (or edible flowers/herbs) in a jar filled with water and leave it in the sun to steep.
  • Make a crown of flowers – dandelions and daisies work best for this.
  • Start a garden – or visit a farm – or play in the water and watch the sun reflect on its surface.
  • Enjoy some really good food.


Here’s a “summer solstice” recipe from Llewellyn’s Sabbats Almanac: Samhain 2010 to Mabon 2011.

Banana Cream Pie
Banana cream pie makes a great feast for the eyes on Summer Solstice, looking much like a Sun in splendor when completed. Since you’ll want to spend more time visiting than cooking, this recipe cheats a bit with pre-made pie crust.

Prep Time: 20 minutes  Serves: 8 slices

  • 1 premade 10-inch pie crust (chocolate, shortbread, or graham cracker)
  • 1⁄2 cup flourBanana-Cream-Pie8-637x960
  • 3⁄4 cup sugar
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups milk
  • 2 large bananas mashed
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Whipped cream
  • Dried banana chips or yellow sprinkles

Directions: Place flour, sugar, and salt in a nonreactive saucepan (clay, enamel, glass, or stainless steel) over a low-medium flame. Slowly pour in milk, whisking constantly. Add the mashed banana and continue to whisk. Within 8 minutes your filling will become thicker and have an even consistency. Beat the egg yolks separately, adding 3⁄4 cup of the warm filling to the yolks before blending them into the rest of the mixture. Cook for 5 minutes, continuing to whisk. Add vanilla and butter, then remove from the stove. This should rest a few minutes before pouring into your crust. Chill the pie before garnishing, piping whipped cream around the banana Sun’s edges, and decorating with banana chips and/or yellow sprinkles to finish the effect.


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.

To Honor Mom

Mother’s Day can be filled with flowers, candy, presents, hugs, sticky kisses, longing, and sadness.  Setting aside a special day to celebrate mothers has a long and somewhat painful history.  Ancient Greeks and Romans held festivals to honor the mother goddess, and early Christians celebrated a festival known as “Mothering Sunday”, however, it was death, poverty, and war that brought Mother’s Day to a national holiday.

Modern Mother’s Day began as a political and social peace movement.  In 1868 a “Mothers Friendship Day” was organized by Ann Jarvis* for mothers to gather with former Union and Confederate soldiers to promote reconciliation. She stated the purpose of the day was to:

To revive the dormant filial love and gratitude we owe to those who gave us birth. To be a home tie for the absent. To obliterate family estrangement. To create a bond of brotherhood through the wearing of a floral badge. To make us better children by getting us closer to the hearts of our good mothers. To brighten the lives of good mothers. To have them know we appreciate them, though we do not show it as often as we ought… Mothers Day is to remind us of our duty before it is too late. This day is intended that we may make new resolutions for a more active thought to our dear mothers. By words, gifts, acts of affection, and in every way possible, give her pleasure, and make her heart glad every day, and constantly keep in memory Mothers Day.

Abolitionist, pacifist, author, and suffragette Julia Ward Howe wrote a Mothers’ Day Proclamation in 1870, calling mothers to unite in promoting world peace.  In fact, she and other antiwar activists called for a Mother’s Peace Day to promote unity after war.  She believed women bore the loss of human life more harshly than anyone else.

Founder of Mother's Day Anna M. JarvisThe official observance of Mother’s Day is due to Anna Jarvis (Ann R. Jarvis’s daughter).  Anna pushed the efforts for an official Mothers’ Day after the death of her Mom, to honor her mother and the sacrifices mothers made for their children.  Her idea was to set aside a day for children to celebrate their Moms, and remember the work of peacemaking, reconciliation, and social action against poverty.**

She also argued that most national holidays were biased toward men’s achievements, so she started a letter writing campaign.  By 1912 many towns and states adopted Mothers’ Day as an annual holiday and by 1914 President Wilson officially established the second Sunday in May as Mothers’ Day.

Side note: originally the holiday was intended as a day to recognize women’s activism – the organized social and political action by all mothers. The apostrophe was moved so the original intent of Mothers’ Day, became Mother’s Day to emphasize women’s role in the home and family; a day to celebrate the service of your own mother.

Although she never married or had children, Anna Jarvis envisioning people wearing a carnation (colored if your mom was living, white if she was not***), as a badge and attend church services.  However, once it became a national holiday – it became heavily commercialized.  Anna spoke out against people buying items; she wanted to protect the day and filed lawsuits against groups that used the “Mother’s Day” as a slogan for sales.  “To have Mothers’ Day the burdensome, wasteful, expensive gift day that Christmas and other special days have become, is not our pleasure,” she wrote.  “If the American People are not willing to protect Mothers’ Day from the hordes of money schemers that would overwhelm it with their schemes, then we shall cease having a Mothers’ Day …” Eventually, she went broke using her money to battle the holiday’s commercialism. By her death in 1948, Anna – the Mom of Mothers’ Day – had completely divorced herself from the holiday and lobbied to have it removed from the calendar!

However you celebrate Mother’s Day or Mothers’ Day – we wish all moms peace and happiness, and thank you for your sacrifices.

Here are a few Scott County Moms.

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*Ann Jarvis helped start Mother’s Day Work Clubs to teach women how to properly care for their children.  Ann had lost eight of her own children under the age of seven and wanted to combat the poor health and sanitation conditions that contributed to a high child mortality rate.

** This was the Progressive Era.  Women started using their roles as mother, wife, and homemaker to make changes in the public arena.  Many women saw motherhood as a moral responsibility to become activists.

***Today, the white carnation is the most popular flower choice and was Annas original flower for Mother’s Day. She chose the flower because “The carnation does not drop its petals, but hugs them to its heart as it dies, as so, too, mothers hug their children to their hearts, their mother love never dying.”

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.


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.”


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.

Polaroid Exif JPEG

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.


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

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.

Little Chicago

Back in the mid-20th century, Shakopee had a bit of a reputation.  In a time when gambling and liquor were illegal, they were both pretty easy to obtain in Shakopee.  Restrictions on drinking and gambling made both of these activities lucrative for the business minded.  Gangsters and unscrupulous business people used corrupt officials, money, and force to keep their illegal activities unchecked and underground.  Shakopee became one of the area’s worst known offenders earning it the nicknames “Little Chicago” and “the local Las Vegas.”

In Early 1920, America enacted the 18th Amendment, also known as Prohibition, a movement that had been building in America well before 1920.  It was spurred on by heads of church, political figures, business leaders, and social reformists worried about what alcohol was doing to America and they sought to rid their country of this moral threat.  There was also a great deal of distaste for Germany at this time, it having been an opponent of America in World War I.  Seeing as most beer brewers had German surnames, this drew American distrust and ire (Holmgren, 2005).  Think “Freedom Fries” of the early 2000’s.  Their venture “succeeded” and Prohibition was put into action January 17, 1920, guided by what was known as  the Volstead Act.

While the 18th Amendment, in broad terms, made it illegal to sell, make, or transport alcohol, the Volstead Act determined what violation meant and how it should be persecuted.  The Volstead Act stated that possessing, selling, manufacturing, bartering, or transporting anything that had an alcohol content above 0.5% was an in violation of the Amendment.  Juices and ciders below this limit were permissible.  There were few exceptions to this rule.  This act still allowed alcohol to be used for medicine, sacrament, science, and industry.  It also permitted physicians to prescribe up to one pint of alcohol per month to patients.  Those permitted to have alcohol needed permits and were required to keep records for the sale of all alcohol.  First offenders could be fined up to $1000 dollars and imprisoned for up to six months.  Second offenders could be fined up to $2000 and faced imprisonment for up to five years.

Scott County, in the summer of 1919, had 40 licensed saloons in Shakopee, Jordan, New Prague, Belle Plaine, New Market, Prior Lake, and Savage.  When the 18th Amendment came into effect, many of these businesses had to make changes.  At least, they had to give the appearance of change.  Some chose to serve soft drinks and root beer instead of alcohol.  Others changed to ice cream parlors. Sometimes both ice cream and soft drinks were served. One man planned to sell tobacco, merchandise, and a low to no alcohol malt beverage referred to as near beer.  Other local businesses like the St. Paul hotel and Minneapolis House kept on as just hotels (Shakopee Argus, 1919).  Some planned to continue on their businesses and practices with full intention to abide by the new laws but for various reasons, many did not.

A general issue that the 18th Amendment faced was the concept of supply and demand.  First: with supply cut short, the ability to provide alcohol became extremely profitable.  Second: Minnesota’s proximity to Canada, which had enacted its own form of Prohibition in 1920.  Unlike America, they repealed their Prohibition after only two years as opposed to America’s 13 years.  This meant the flow of alcohol from Canada reached the Twin Cities quite readily.  Third: like most everywhere else, police and federal agents lacked the manpower to have any hopes of giving the new law any teeth.  A fourth problem encountered in this area reached back years before Prohibition even began.  This problem being a culture of corruption and lax policy enforcement already in place.

In Minnesota, the 18th Amendment was preceded by strict gambling laws enacted in 1851.  Put simply, Minnesota had outlawed all forms of gambling.  Even playing Bingo for charitable causes was illegal until 1945 (Williams, 2005).  This was already poorly enforced and helped set a groundwork for further corruption.  Some businesses had slot machines, pull tabs, and other forms of gambling that they kept “secret”, usually with the help of letting police or politicians in on the take.  Other businesses were willing to leave their gambling out in the open without fear of repercussion. With gambling laws already being ignored, and/or profitable, it was easy to get police and politicians to lay off enforcing liquor laws.

It is not surprising that these elements allowed the Twin Cities to become a haven of criminal activity.  These factors drew in some of the most famous gangsters of the time like Alvin Karpis, John Dillinger, the Barker Family, and “Baby Face” Nelson.  The picture at the top is of our own local celebrity, Isadore “Kid Cann” Blumenfeld.  In the picture, he is celebrating after being acquitted of the most high profile murder of his career, the murder case of Walter Liggett (Foster, 1999).

In 1920, Leon Gleckman was “the kingpin of the St. Paul liquor industry.”  In St. Paul, he installed his own chief of police.  This man, Thomas Brown, maintained his position through the entirety of Prohibition and even two years afterwards.  He was not removed until wiretapping revealed his corroboration with criminal activities in 1935.  Brown and his corroborators allowed organized crime to operate with very little to stand in its way (Foster, 1999).

In March of 1921, raids were conducted in Scott County and surrounding areas.  In Carver County, ten arrests were made and one complete still was found with large quantities of mash.  Mash being the fermented mixture of cornmeal, sugar, water, and yeast used to make moonshine.  Four arrests were made in Jordan and it was claimed that 100 gallons of liquor was seized, 25 gallons having come from one house alone.  Three arrests were made in Belle Plaine, along with two others in Chaska.  R. H. Mies, the mayor of Hampton was arrested for having approximately 10 gallons of liquor in a restaurant he owned.  Near Fish Lake, police expected to find stills but only found liquor.  In New Market, a man was raided after drunkenly bragging that he had already made $16,000 off of the sale of illegal liquor.  Shakopee stands out slightly in this list of raids, with only one arrest.  One arrest but seven other cases that were pending further investigation.  The reason for this?  Those seven were being investigated on suspicion of having been tipped off to the raids (Jordan Independent, 1921).

Authorities conducting a raid.

Operators in Shakopee had local police and politicians deep in their pockets.  Businesses, such as the Rock Spring Cafe, had runners to inform them of when raids were coming and safe houses to house their illicit materials.  Informants in the police department, much as in the case of Thomas Brown of St. Paul, profited from keeping gambling dens and speakeasies informed.  In later years, corruption was so bad that Shakopee’s mayor at that time, Mayor Cavanaugh, requested Pat Thielen become a police officer so there would be someone he could trust in the police department.  After making thirty-two arrests, people tried to use threats and whatever other leverage they had to stop him (Thielen).  This is one of the reasons Shakopee became known as “Little Chicago.”  It became known for its blatant disregard of gambling and liquor laws.  Betty Dols, Scott County Historical Society’s librarian, once wrote, “Anyone over sixty years of age can remember when there were slot machines in every bar, restaurant, store and cafe in Shakopee.” (Dols, 2003)  In fact, one reason Mayor Cavanaugh sought out Pat Thielen is because Governor Youngdahl gave a deadline to have Shakopee cleaned up or he would step in.

Shakopee also gained repute from its most famous establishments, The Millpond Club and the Rock Spring Cafe.  The Rock Spring Cafe was a curious case in which gambling and drinking was done in an exclusive basement room.  It was exclusive for two reasons.  On one hand, it only catered to wealthy patrons from out of town, mostly customers from the Twin Cities.  Secondly, only those that were well known to the man guarding the basement were allowed to enter.  People could come here to drink and gamble safely because the Rock Spring Cafe always had the aforementioned runners prepared to warn of any incoming raids.  The Millpond Club was renowned for its gambling.  It was said to have any of the same methods of gambling that could be found in Las Vegas.  They protected their business with political arrangements.  No police interfered with their business, even after they were robbed at gun point.  Instead, the Millpond Club beefed up security by installing a bulletproof enclosure in the gambling room that contained a guard armed with a shotgun.

Smashing Slot Machines
Authorities destroying slot machines.

As mentioned, Shakopee’s unsavory reputation did not go unnoticed.  Governor Youngdahl had turned his focus on cleaning this city up.  In the late 1940’s, police enforcement was increased.  Illegal activities were finally punished as they were supposed to be.  Governor Youngdahl also reduced Shakopee’s liquor licenses from 9 to 5 (Dols, 1999).  In time, Shakopee lost its role as a destination for debauchery and its title of “Little Chicago.”


Written by Tony Connors, Curatorial Assistant.


Holmgren, Chuck.  (2005, February 4).  It’s the Booze Talkin’: Prohibition and the Gangster Film.  Retrieved from https://http://xroads.virginia.edu/~MA03/holmgren/prohib/prohib. html.

N/A.  (1919, June 27).  Saloon Men Are Readjusting Businesses.  Shakopee Argus.

Williams, John.  (2005, March).  Gambling in Minnesota.  Retrieved from: http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/hrd/pubs/gambhist.pdf.

Foster.  (1999).  For the Record: 150 Years of Law and Lawyers in Minnesota.  Minnesota: Minnesota State Bar Association.

N/A.  (1921, March 24).  Prohibition Officers Active Herabouts.  Jordan Independent.

Pat Thielen.  Transcript from a tape recording.

Dols, Betty.  (2003).  Gambling in Shakopee.  Shakopee Heritage Society Newsletter, 1, 9, 2-3.