Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Speed on Ice

From the Pine County Pioneer, January 11, 1889:

Arrangements have been recently completed for a driving tournament which will take place in this village [Pine City] on Wednesday afternoon of next week on the ice on Cross Lake. A mile track has been marked out and is now in first-class shape. The purse has been divided into three parts vis: $40.00, $20.00 and $10.00. At present there is a prospect of at least five horses being here. Wm. Staples of Sandstone, Jas. Morrison and H.J. Carley of Hinckley, T.P. McKusick of this village and H.J. Brinkman of Rush City are each expected to enter horses. That the races will prove very interesting, there is but little question. There will in all probability be a large number of spectators present, and a good time is assured to those who attend. In the evening there will be a grand ball at the Pine City Roller Rink. Music for the occasion will be furnished by the Pine City Orchestra. Tickets to dance, including supper at the Lake View House, will be sold at $1.20. All are invited to attend both the races and dance in the evening.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Sandstone at One Year Old – Part 2

From the Pine County Pioneer, July 20, 1888:

The Eastern Minnesota

Railroad has finished its grade and it is expected that the iron will be laid to this place in a few days. We took a look at the new bridge they are just completing over Kettle River at this place, and which is a fine specimen of engineering skill. The track crosses the river 132 feet above the river and gives a fine view of the classical scenery up and down the river as well as of the quarry with its hundreds of workmen. The quarry is now running at full blast, and the mill of Ring & Tobin is kept in operation day and night, and is turning out finished stone at a very rapid rate. The new diamond saw gives excellent satisfaction, and is a marvel of mechanism, which must be seen to be appreciated. The St. Paul & Duluth road have laid new iron on the branch and have put on a new engine of light weight, but which is much better than old No. 1. They still run the “Pullman Car” in lieu of a caboose and the people of the town are kicking terribly. The travel over the line has been sufficiently good to warrant the company in putting on half way decent accommodations.

There has been a number of fine new residences built but time and space will not permit of a description of them. The village is prospering finely and is destined in the near future to make a city. There are promises of new quarries being opened up, and other new industries springing up. In fact Mr. Eric Troline [Troolin] has moved his saw mill from Kanabec County to this place and will be a valuable addition to our industries. The people of Pine County feel jubilant over the prospects of our new city and are pleased to note its rapid advancement. To those who have never seen the village, we would say, go up and look it over, it will pay you well.

The Kettle River Bridge in Sandstone prior to the 1894 fire

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sandstone at One Year Old – Part 1

From the Pine County Pioneer, July 20, 1888:

Sights Seen At Pine County's One-Year-Old City

On Tuesday of this week we paid the village of Sandstone a visit, and were surprised at the remarkable growth of the place since our last visit a few months since. The increase of business at the quarry as well as the business derived from the men who have been at work on the railroad during the past few months, has had a good effect on the prosperity of the town, and the indications for the future are continuously growing brighter and brighter. The sale of the quarry to the Eastern parties, who are now generally understood to be the stock holders of the Manitoba Railroad, will be of vast importance to the town. They will do their utmost to develop the quarry, as they will derive large benefits therefrom, in the way of transporting stone to the cities. A generally good feeling seems to prevail among all who are interested in the growth of the town and no better way of showing this can be found than by the increase of

Business Houses

The old pioneer merchants of Sandstone, J.P. Knowles & Co., have built an addition to their store and increased their stock. The interior of the store has been changed materially. New shelving has been put in all around, new counters have been built, and the whole has been painted so that it presents a very inviting appearance. The Post Office occupies a corner of this store and is presided over by W.H. Grant, Jr., P.M., and C.W. Finn and L.H. Bissonnette, the latter named gentlemen are also book-keeper and clerk for Knowles & Co. Up on the hill where the village is being built, Glasow Bros. have completed their new large store and have put in a large and well selected stock of general merchandise, which Albert Glasow, assisted by one clerk, deals out to the public. The railroad office for this station occupies the rear end of the store, and L.P. Carter, formerly agent at the Junction, is big mogul in the railroad and telegraphic department for the town. Finn Bros., who recently moved here from Duluth, have finished a very neat and commodious store and have it well stocked with general merchandise, and have settled down as one of our leading business firms. The appetite for wet goods is satiated by two firms. Staples & Smith succeed R.A. Smith, and have moved their bar from the hotel building into a large building recently built for that purpose and which is finely fitted up. They have fixed up as fine a place as one usually finds, while Kronenburg & Brandes continue at the old stand, and appear to be doing good business. They have also made numerous improvements and additions since our last visit. Jas. H. Houston has his new barber shop completed and running at full blast. while his meat market next door furnishes that very important article of diet. The Sandstone Hotel, R.A. Smith proprietor, has been so well patronized all summer that additional room has been found necessary, and is now being made by raising the roof of the annex and putting in new sleeping apartments. A Mr. McKenzie, recently from Stillwater, has commenced the erection of a new hotel just west of the Glasow Bros. store, which, while it will not be a very large building, will prove a valuable adjunct to our hotel accommodations. Burt Richardson now has a new store in course of construction, which he proposes to fill with general merchandise.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Pine City Ordinance No. 22

From the Pine County Pioneer, August 17, 1888:

AN ORDINANCE  Regulating the speed of railroad trains inside the corporate limits of the village of Pine City, Minnesota.

The Common Council of the village of Pine City do ordain:

SECTION I.  That the running of railroad trains inside the corporate limits of said village at a rate of speed exceeding six (6) miles per hour is hereby prohibited.

SECTION II.  Any conductor, engineer, or any other employee of any railroad company who shall run or cause to be run any railroad train, locomotive, car or cars, inside the corporate limits of the said village at a rate of speed exceeding six (6) miles per hour, shall be guilt of a misdemeanor and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine of not less than ten (10) dollars nor more than twenty-five (25) dollars or by imprisonment in the village lock-up not less than ten (10) days nor more than twenty-five (25) days for each conviction or by both fine and imprisonment at the discretion of the court.

SECTION III.  This ordinance shall take effect and be in force from and after its passage.

Passed this 16th day of August, 1888.

R. Lueck, President

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Pine County History Quiz #1 - Answers

1. Hjalmar Peterson, founder of the Askov American newspaper, was serving as Lieutenant Governor when Governor Floyd B. Olson died in 1936. Mr. Peterson took over the office and served as Minnesota governor from August 24, 1936, to January 4, 1937.

2. St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Beroun features twelve art glass windows that depict the Stations of the Cross. The first St. Joseph's was built in 1896. The current brick church, which is the third St. Joseph's building, was constructed in 1926-1927.

3. The Belle of Hickley was a cigar sold at Andrew Stumvoll's cigar store in Hinckley prior to the 1894 fire.

4. Dr. Joyce Shiels was a dentist who practiced in Sandstone from 1915 to 1919. She charged 25 cents to pull a child's tooth but gave the money to the child if he or she had been good during the procedure.

5. Early settlers in Friesland and Groningen were Dutch. The Theodore Koch Land Co. made a special effort to attract Dutch immigrants to the area by telling potential settlers that the soil in Pine County was similar to that of Holland. The company neglected to mention that the soil was full of rocks!

6. Partridge, which was settled in the late 1880s, was renamed Askov in 1909 by Danish immigrants who settled in and around the village.

7. The Arrowhead Line was an electric railroad that was scheduled to be built from the Twin Cities to the Twin Ports beginning in 1907. It was promoted by the Western Land and Improvement Company and would have run about two miles east of Duxbury. The company platted villages, sold land to prospective settlers, and even began construction activities. By 1912, however, the project had run out of steam. The Arrowhead Line was never built.

8. Hinckley was first called Central Station. A saw mill was built on the town site in 1869. The railroad came through in 1870, and settlers soon followed.

9. Pine County was organized by an act of the Minnesota Territorial Legislature in 1856, two years before Minnesota became a state.

10. Turpville was the original name for Cloverdale. In 1903, the Capilovich brothers from Russia started manufacturing turpentine from stumps left behind by loggers. The business only lasted about a year before it ran out of stumps.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pine County History Quiz #1

See if you can answer these ten questions about Pine County History. I'll post the answers in a day or two.

1. Which Pine County resident served as governor of Minnesota in the 1930s?

2. Which Pine County church features stained glass windows that were imported from Austria in 1927?

3. What was the “Belle of Hinckley”?

4. Who was Joyce Shiels?

5. Immigrants of which nationality settled in Friesland and Groningen?

6. Which Pine County town was originally named Partridge?

7. What was the Arrowhead Line?

8. What was the original name of Hinckley?

9. In what year was Pine County officially organized?

10. What was Turpville?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Historical Days Away Back in the Sixties

From Hinckley's Pine Wood Dart, August 27, 1891:

The early history of Pine county is made up of incidents almost equal to a yellow-leafed novel, and W.H. Grant, Sr., an old pioneer, can furnish these facts with ease. The gentleman was in town last Friday and paid us an interesting visit. Mr. Grant located at St. Paul in 1859, and ten years later in company with his brother, David C. Grant, came to the present location of Hinckley, then a dense forest, the chief denizens of which were wild beasts ... and erected the first saw mill, the site being near where the S.P. & D. roundhouse now stands. The machinery was landed at Pine City by train from where it was boated over Cross Lake, thence hither by team. Our present Jim Morrison was on the ground cutting railroad ties, and he has reaped the reward of the diligent. A milling firm was formed under the name of Grant, McKane & Co., from which Mr. Grant retired in 1874, but has never given up interests in this part of the county although retaining a residence in St. Paul. His company dammed the Grindstone and built a new mill on the site where stands the Brennan Lumber Co.'s mill. The old mill burned down, we believe, in 1875, one year after Mr. Grant's retirement.

The St. Paul and Duluth railroad was commenced some time in the 60's. In 1867 it had reached White Bear Lake, one year later Wyoming, and by July same year (1868) was completed to Rush City, and the night before Christmas 1869, the first iron horse steamed into Hinckley, then a timbered wilderness, awakening new thought and energy. Work was prosecuted along the line that winter and Kettle River reached by March, but the balmy winds of spring caused new work to be done to perfect the condition of the track. In 1870 the road was finished to Duluth, the present terminus. It is now one of the busiest railroad companies in the state.

Mr. Grant was notary public and empowered to do business anywhere in Minnesota, and had the honor of administering the oath of “allegiance” to the judges of the first election ever held in this precinct. His brother David wore the title of P.M. the first. Mr. Grant was instrumental in the building of the Sandstone stub railway which connects that village with the S.P. & D. road a few miles north of Hinckley, and is associated with his son W.H. Grant, Jr., in the banking business at this place and Sandstone, but gives much attention to other sources of wealth. He is a pleasant gentleman and a shrewd business man as his present financial standing demonstrates. …

The first newspaper was established at Pine City – county seat – in 1872 by H.P. Rubie who, in 1873, published a tax-list covering a period of seventeen years and for which the county was charged the snug sum of $3,800, and which created much dissatisfaction, so much in fact that the publisher was forced to shut up shop. The county was organized by an act of 1856 but which was somewhat remodeled by the legislature the following year – 1857. Then it was sparsely settled. The present population is placed at 6000. Then it was principally lumbering and railroad building. Now the chief pursuits of its people are farming, stock growing, lumbering, quarrying, and general business. To lose one's self in wandering over the county in imagination twenty-two years ago, and then come back to the present, what wild, weird and dangerous scenes greet the fancy. What a contrast! But there was plenty of money then, as now, and that was what was wanted.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Fair a Success!

From the Pine City Pioneer, September 22, 1911:

The Twenty-fourth Annual Fair a Grand Success in Every Department

The Pine County Fair Association has just closed one of the most successful fairs in the history of the association and the management is to be congratulated in furnishing to the visitors such a high class fair, both entertaining and instructive. The success of the twenty-fourth annual fair can be largely accredited to the untiring efforts of Secretary H.W. Harte and President J.Y. Breckenridge.

The exhibits in all the departments were the best ever seen in Pine county, or in fact in this part of the state. The exhibits from the towns in the northern part of the county are deserving of special mention, especially those from Hinckley, Sandstone, Kerrick, Bruno, Willow River and Sturgeon Lake show that the soil of Pine county, that at one time was considered worthless for farming, produces as good crops as can be found anywhere in the state. It has always been supposed that it was too cold to raise fruit in this part of the state, but to see the fruit exhibited at the fair grounds would convince the most skeptical that such is not the case, as the quality of fruit exhibited would compare favorably with any seen at the state fair.

An exhibit of Hinckley strawberries at the 1904 Pine County Fair

The exhibit of S.B. Wells of corn and wheat, which took the first premium at the state fair was on exhibition but not entered for a premium, attracted a great deal of attention, as it was exhibited in a show case in the large tent that held the exhibits from the northern part of the county. The exhibit of Iver Stumne, in a show case in the same tent, of Indian relics found on his farm at Pokegama lake was exceedingly fine, and was looked at with interest by the fair visitors.

The live stock exhibits were the finest ever seen in this part of the state and shows conclusively that our farmers have found that it pays to keep good stock. The dairy herds exhibited show that Pine county farmers have as good dairy herds as can be found in the state.

Tuesday, the first day of the fair, was an ideal day and the program of entertainment and sports was carried out exactly as advertised. At about 1:30 J.Y. Breckenridge, president of the association, formally opened the fair with a few remarks, followed by music by the Hudson & Thurber Co. of Minneapolis, Southland orchestra, which by the way is one of the greatest attractions that a fair can have, as they furnish an entertainment that it is hard to equal. Joel G. Winkjer, of St. Paul, was introduced and spoke for some time on dairying, he being at the head of the state Dairy and Food Commission. At the close of his remarks Gov. E.O. Eberhart was next called on and for over an hour made one of the finest talks we have heard in many a day and made votes for himself next fall, although not a word of politics was spoken. The Governor talked as though he was addressing one person, and his remarks were listened too with marked attention.


Pine County Fair - September 19, 1911

The part of the program that drew the crowd the first day, which was the largest of the three, was the next on the program, that being the marriage on the platform in front of the grandstand. At about three o'clock the Boy Scouts marched to the entrance of the grounds and accompanied the two automobiles containing the bridal party clearing the road for them when near the grandstand as the people were packed around the platform in a solid mass and the boys had to use their staffs in order to clear a road. The party in the autos were Rev. H.H. Parish and wife and the bridal pair, who were Mr. Arthur Elroy Wood and Miss Gertrude May Eaton, both of Willow River, were in the first, the second contained the ring bearer, two flower girls, and Mrs. H.W. Harte.

The ceremony was performed according to the ritual of the M.E. Church, the bride being given away by Governor E.O. Eberhart. The pair looked very nice, and after the ceremony they received the congratulations of those on the platform. The couple took in the fair the balance of the afternoon and departed on the night train for Hinckley where they remained until morning, when they departed for St. Cloud to visit relatives and friends after which they will return to Willow River where they will make their future home.


Gertrude Eaton and Arthur Wood

After the ceremony Mons Dubec entertained the crowd with his troupe of trained dogs, cats, monkeys, apes and rats. The performance of these animals each day of the fair was watched with a great deal of interest by the assembled crowds.

The ball game between the teams of Meadow Lawn and Rock Lake resulted in a victory for the Rock Lake team.

The boy scouts who were very much in evidence during the fair then went through some of their stunts, which were both instructive and interesting.

Each evening of the fair at about 7:30 the Southland orchestra entertained a crowd in the park for about an hour and a half, and to say that they entertained is putting it mildly, as during their concerts the park in front of the band stand was filled with people, even Wednesday evening in quite a hard rain storm the crowd was about the same as on pleasant evenings.

Tuesday's entertainment concluded with a wrestling match in Stekl's hall between Fred Hass, of Princeton, and Guy Hendricks, of this place. Before the principal match a preliminary was arranged between Harvie Davis and George Stekl, who went a fast bout for about five minutes. At 9:30 the principal actors stepped onto the mat to make the final arrangements. They chose Axel Rosendahl, of Sandstone, as referee and J.D. Boyle time keeper. After the arrangements were completed the referee introduced the men, time was called, and the sport began. It took seventeen minutes of as pretty work as has ever been seen on a mat in this place before the local man with a body scissors succeeded in in pinning the shoulders of his antagonist to the mat. After a rest of five minutes they again battled royally for twelve minutes when the local man was given the second fall. Before the commencement of the match Earl Chaffee issued a challenge to the winner which was accepted both by Mr. Hendricks and also by Mr. Hass. Mr. Hass said that he was fairly defeated but would like to meet both of the local men.

This closed the first day of the most successful fair ever held in Pine county.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Great Fire of 1894

In several of my blog posts, I have mentioned the forest fire that devastated portions of Pine County in 1894. What follows is a brief description of the events of September 1, 1894, a day that changed the lives of so many of Pine County's residents.  

The Great Fire of 1894

Small fires had been burning over much of central Pine County throughout the summer of 1894. The weather was especially hot and dry that year. Temperature soared to over 90 degrees, and rivers and creeks were reduced to the merest trickle in some places. Fires were often sparked by trains or started by farmers clearing land. These found ready fuel in dried out vegetation and in the “slash” left by the loggers, who cut down the pine trees only to leave branches and leaves in a tangle on the forest floor. Usually these small fires were brought under control by firemen and concerned citizens or burned out by themselves, but on September 1, conditions combined to create one of the most terrifying forest fires in the history of the United States.

The day dawned hot and dry. Smoke hung in the air from the dozens of little fires burning around the area. The people of Hinckley, Sandstone, and other small Pine County towns certainly complained about the heat as they began their daily work, but they had no idea that by evening their lives would be turned upside down. No one knows for sure how the fire or fires got started, but by afternoon a massive firestorm was approaching Hinckley from the south. The very air and clouds seemed to be on fire as the day turned black and red. Some terrified residents described a tornado of fire bearing down on the town. Buildings burst into flame. People burst into flame as they ran from their homes and businesses.

At the Eastern Minnesota railroad depot, engineer William Best waited nervously but bravely while as many Hinckley residents as possible boarded his train. He had coupled his engine and cars to another train to provide more space. The other engineer pleaded with Best to depart, but Best held fast to the air brake as long as he could before the situation finally became too dangerous. Since both trains were facing south and could not reach the already-burning roundhouse to turn around, when Best finally released the brake, the two trains slowly began backing up away from the fire and towards Duluth. The train backed toward Sandstone, about seven miles to the north. It stopped briefly in that village, and passengers frantically warned Sandstone's residents of the coming danger and urged them to take the train to safety. Tragically, not one villager accepted the invitation. The train resumed its backward journey, but by the time it reached the high bridge over the Kettle River just outside Sandstone, the bridge was already on fire. The structure was hardly safe on the best of days, and a speed limit of four miles per hour was strictly observed. Best decided to take one more chance and started across the burning bridge. He made it to the other side just in time. The train had barely reached solid ground before the bridge collapsed into the Kettle River. The train proceeded through the smoke and fire until it reached safety in Duluth where survivors were offered food, shelter, medical attention, and other necessities by the city's residents.

As the combined Eastern Minnesota train was making its way north, another train began its journey out of Hinckley. This train, engineered by James Root, departed from the St. Paul and Duluth depot and also tried to head north. It did not get very far, only seven miles in fact, before the train itself was on fire. Unable to go further, Root stopped his train near “Skunk Lake,” which was little more than a shallow puddle due to the drought. Passengers, some already seriously burned, hurried off the train and into the water, hunching down and throwing wet clothes over their heads. Sixty men, women, and children managed to survive.

Only a few hundred feet from Skunk Lake, the Samuelson family and many of their friends and neighbors huddled together in a root cellar. They had gathered together in a festive mood that day to celebrate the wedding of Minnie Samuelson and John DeRosier. The ceremony was just about to start when the firestorm made its way toward the Samuelson farm. Chaos ensued. People were running and screaming. Their happy day had turned into a nightmare. Then someone remembered the root cellar. It seemed like their only hope as the walls of flame drew near at a frantic pace. The family and their guests plunged inside...and then realized that perhaps they had made a horrible mistake. The air inside the cellar grew hotter and hotter as the flames approached. The door in front of them began to smolder. How would they ever survive? Perhaps someone bumped into or knocked over one of the cans of milk stored in the cellar. In any case, occupants were soon dowsing themselves and the burning door with milk. The stench must have been tremendous, but every person in the Samuelson root cellar survived. Minnie and John were finally married a few days later in Duluth.

Meanwhile, in Sandstone, Erick and Christine Troolin were going about their daily chores, probably aided by several of their children. Had they heard of the horrors to the south as the Eastern Minnesota train passed through town? Perhaps, like many other Sandstone residents, they did not believe that the fire would come their way. They would soon learn differently. After leaving Hinckley in ruins, the firestorm roared toward Sandstone. Horrified villagers soon realized how very wrong they were to turn down their one chance of escape. Some, like the Troolins, dashed down the steep paths into the Sandstone quarry and plunged into the Kettle River as the flames raged around them and temperatures soared to over a hundred degrees. They drenched themselves as best they could. Other residents tried to escape the fire by hopping into wells. A few survived, but many, including one whole family, suffocated as the fire literally sucked all the oxygen out of the air. The fire soon passed to the north to wage further destruction, and Sandstone's survivors, some horribly burned, spent a long, agonizing night by the river where the stones were still too hot to touch.

Before the firestorm of September 1, 1894, burned itself out, several Pine County towns had been completely destroyed, more than 400 people had lost their lives, and hundreds of others were injured and homeless. Survivors were left to mourn their lost loved ones, survey the barren waste where their homes and businesses once stood, and soon courageously begin the process of rebuilding.


[Note: Erick and Christine Troolin were my great-great-grandparents.  Minnie Samuelson DeRosier was my great-great-aunt.  Her sister, Crissie, who was nine years old in 1894, was also in the root cellar along with their parents, John and Hattie Samuelson.  In 1905, Crissie married Hans Troolin, who had ridden out the fire with the rest of his family in the Kettle River.]

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Graduates First Class

From the June 6, 1907, issue of the Hinckley Enterprise:

Three Receive Diplomas from Hinckley High School. Large Audience Sees Exercises.

Hon. C.B. Miller Delivers Eloquent Address. F.E. Kennedy Captures Crowd.

Rev. Clemens Preaches Baccalaureate Sermon.

          The first class ever to graduate from the Hinckley high school received diplomas last Monday evening. Those receiving the diplomas were Grace Lucile Toering, Goldie Magdalene Hoffman, and Ethel Leora Currie.
          The baccalaureate sermon was preached in the village hall Sunday evening by Rev. C.E. Clemens who gave much good advice not only to those graduating but to all.
          The commencement exercises were held Monday evening. These also were in the hall and before an audience that filled it to overflowing. The hall was tastily decorated with the class colors of green and white and the school colors of red and white. The stage was banked with flowers while the graduates carried bouquets.
          Each of the papers read was excellent, Miss Toering's salutary being especially worthy of mention.
          The eloquent address given by Hon. C.B. Miller of Duluth was the subject of much favorable comment. He held the closest attention of his audience as he briefly reviewed events of the past and applied the lessons to be learned by them.
          The singing of F.E. Kennedy brought forth a burst of applause that only ceased when he again went to the piano. The applause he received at this time was, however, exceeded when he recited “Jest Jim”. After this he was obliged to return and rendered “Casey at the Bat” that only whetted the appetite of the audience for more, and he recited a parody on “Barbara Fritchie”.
          The entire program was carried out smoothly from the opening piano solo through the benediction.
          The program follows:

Monday Evening
Piano Solo – Miss Gladys Buttrick
Entrance of Class
Invocation
Chorus – In the Harbor We've Been Sheltered
Salutary and Class History – Grace Lucile Toering
Oration “American Heroines” - Goldie Magdalene Hoffman
Valedictory and Class Prophecy – Ethel Leora Currie
Vocal Solo – Mr. F.E. Kennedy
Address – Hon. C.B. Miller
Chorus – Soldier's Farewell
Recitation – Mr. F.E. Kennedy
Presentation of Diplomas – Supt. R.H. Blankenship
Benediction

The Hinckley High School Class of 1907

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Worst Storm in Many Years

From a Pine City newspaper, February 22, 1922:

A jammed frog in the side-track at Wellman's crossing south of Hinckley and the worst storm that has visited this section in many, many noons, all tended to cause a disagreeable tie up in railroad traffic between the twin cities and twin ports. The fast freight Tuesday night started the ruction and five box cars and the engine and tender piled up in a neat heap during the early hours of the blizzard. Before the wrecking crew could reach the scene of the disaster, the wind and snow had piled the track full in many of the cuts along the line. The Tuesday night train reached here on time, but was held here until Wednesday afternoon. The south bound night train went over the G.N. tracks from Hinckley and no more trains reached here from Duluth until late yesterday.

The storm raged all day Wednesday and the drifting snow made matters worse. The Wednesday night train ran into much snow at the cut south of Rock Creek and when finally reached by rescue engines was almost buried. They reached here yesterday afternoon at 4 o'clock with three healthy engines hitched to the bow end. Shortly after their arrival the snow plow from the north reached here followed by a delayed passenger train. If the accident at Wellman's could have been averted, the steady passage of freight and passenger trains would have kept the tracks clear.

The city as well as several others along the way fed the storm bound passengers during their forced visit.

The streets of the city have taken on a grotesque aspect, with mountain-high drifts everywhere, behind which hide businesses and houses. Everybody who could scare up a camera was out yesterday afternoon getting snap shots of the town, and of the 10-horse snow plow outfit captained by Mayor Perkins which opened the streets for school children and others. Their work was to go on this morning.

Mail carriers are marking time and wondering how they will be able to haul the accumulated mail when the roads do become passable. 

A train stranded by the 1922 blizzard

Monday, November 7, 2011

News from the Dart - Part 8

From the February 8, 1893, issue:

Sandstone Grits

* Joseph Kronenberg drove up from Hinckley, Friday last, and visited with his family.

* There are murmurings of discontent among some of the workmen employed in the quarry.

* Mr. Tobin is here from Minneapolis in the interests of the firm of Ring & Tobin, the quarrymen who are doing such great work in this place.

* The quarrymen received their pay last Friday and Saturday, Mr. Tobin acting as paymaster.

* P. Peterson, the quarry foreman, is quite ill. His friends – and they are legion – hope his sickness will be of short duration.

* T.W. Finn, well known as a bright business man and jolly fellow, made a trip to the Twin Cities on business the first of the week.

* Mr. Adams, representing the Central Supply company of Chicago, was in town Friday, exhibiting school charts to the board of education of this village.

* Miss Anna Sutherland, who has been the guest of Miss Clara Troolin during the past fortnight, departed on Monday for her home at Stanchfield.

[Note – Clara Troolin was the sixteen-year-old daughter of Erick and Christine Troolin. The Troolin family lived on what is now Minnesota Street in Sandstone. They saved themselves in the Kettle River during the 1894 forest fire that destroyed Sandstone and several other Pine County towns.]


Sandstone before the 1894 fire

Thursday, November 3, 2011

News from the Dart - Part 7

News from the Dart – Part 7

From the February 8, 1893, issue:

Talk of the Town

* According to the weather clerk's report the lowest the thermometer has ranged this winter has been 28 below.

* Wm. Cathcart will rusticate at Brennan Lumber company's camp No. 5 for the next few weeks and attend to the culinary department there.

* Father Lawler is organizing a local company to present that laughable Irish comedy “Pike O'Callahan” to be given for the benefit of the church.

* When in search of a place to spend a pleasant evening, don't forget to visit the Tower temperance saloon and bowling alley; also a pool table in connection. All kinds of soft drinks, cigars, nuts and candies at the bar.

* A blizzard – one of the most severe storms experienced in this section this season – took place Monday evening and Tuesday. Traffic was somewhat retarded by the storm and the mail from Duluth arrived in town with a “double header” an hour late. The loggers in the vicinity have no doubt got enough of the “beautiful” to serve all ordinary purposes.

* Some despicable and contemptible person or persons were deftly manipulating the light fingered art at the ball last Friday evening. Some of the ladies on repairing to go home found they were minus quite a few articles of wearing apparel. It is to be regretted that the authorities cannot lay hands on the unprincipled thief or thieves and give them a few months rest in Washington county jail.

* S.C. Knouf returned from Iron River on Thursday evening last where he has been employed in a shingle mill for the past month. He has unfortunately been in bad health for some time and thought a change would be beneficial. On his arrival here his trunk was left on the depot platform, and some enterprising sneak thief broke open the trunk and rifled it of most of its contents. No clue has as yet been got as to the wily thief. Mr. Knouf holds a baggage check for the trunk and has entered a claim against the railroad company for his loss. He has accepted the position of night clerk at the Morrison hotel and being of jovial and obliging disposition the patrons of that hostelry may expect to be treated in first-class shape.

The Dance of the Season

          Through the energy and tact of Messrs. Maloney and Collins the most enjoyable dance of the season was held in Hanson's Opera Hall last Friday evening. All the youth and beauty of Hinckley, intermixed with a few of the reigning belles from North Branch, Sandstone, and Eau Claire, rehearsed the poetry of motion to music furnished in excellent style by Kleist's orchestra from St. Paul.
          Among those present were Misses Agnes Vaughan, Luelia Wright, Lu Quiilin and Messrs. Frank Olson, W.K. King, Morgan Vaughan, John Hurley, Will Smith, and Frank Smith from North Branch; Misses Edner and Prenevost and Messrs. Anderson and Edner from Sandstone; Miss Lizzie Cramer of Eau Claire.
          The belles of Hinckley have introduced something new by their supplying a sumptuous refreshment at the dance which kindness is thoroughly appreciated by all. A number of the young married folks were also present and added much to the hilarity of the evening.
          It is hoped before mother earth throws off her mantle of white that quite a few of such social gatherings will take place. Nothing has a better tendency to cause a feeling of true friendship to exist in society than meetings of this kind, and more than that Cupid takes such opportunities to be around on business of an agreeable nature.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

News from the Dart - Part 6

From the February 8, 1893, issue:


Willow River

* James Soames returned from his home in LaCrosse, Wis., the first of the week.

*Mrs. Latta returned on Monday after a week's visit with friends in White Bear.

*Billy McHale came in from Camp 2 on Saturday and spent Sunday with his many friends.

* Our village council showed their interest in school matters Wednesday morning by plowing out the streets to the school house.

* Mrs. Frank Elliott, of Winona, arrived here Sunday morning. She intends to remain here during the winter while Mr. E. is in camp. In all probability they will make Willow River their home.

* Dr. Fertig has been giving a series of lectures in the school house on his idea of new education or a development of the mind by the process of reasoning from the known to the unknown. The doctor's talks are logical and interesting and his lectures are spiced with humor.

* S.C. Sargent, official photographer of the St. Paul & Duluth R.R., was in town Saturday, taking views of the interesting points in this village.




The Willow River depot



Willow River

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

News from the Dart - Part 5

From the December 8, 1892, issue:

Sandstone Grits

* Otto Staffverfeldt writes from Sweden that he will bring several families on his return to settle up our farming lands. Why not bring a wife and raise a family yourself, Otto?

[Note - Otto survived the 1894 fire and is listed as receiving aid from the State Fire Relief Commission. According to the relief list, there were two people living in Otto's household at the time, so perhaps Otto had found a wife.]

* The roadmaster of the Eastern has received orders to remove the section house from Wareham to Sandstone. The siding at Wareham will also be removed to this place in the early spring, and then there will be no more Wareham.

[Note – The writer was correct. Wareham was once a small village just south of Sandstone on the Point Douglas to Superior Military Road. Today it is one of Pine County's ghost towns.]

* Times in the quarry are lively. One day last week twenty-six carloads were shipped. Ring & Tobin are just commencing a large contract in Minneapolis. It will take an average of twenty cars per day until next July to finish it. Who said Sandstone was dead? 



The Sandstone Quarry, 1888

Thursday, October 20, 2011

News from the Dart - Part 4

From the December 8, 1892, issue:

Gossip Around Town

* Engineer McAkron is placing the bath tub and fixtures in the fire department hall.

* Special brands of cigars at John Lindstrom's store. Smokers, there is your chance.

* Now is the time to select your Christmas goods! A large stock of fine goods to select from at G.J. Morast's store.

* The dance given in the Eastern hotel last Saturday evening was an enjoyable occasion to those who whiled away a few hours in the mazy.

* Stock of candies, fresh from the manufacturers, has been put in Lindstrom's confectionery store. The best candies made can be purchased there.

* Tramps in large numbers frequently call on citizens for food and shelter. Many tough specimens of “genus bum” are often seen on the streets.

* Rev. Father Lawler has a class of boys practicing their parts to be taken in the Midnight Mass service which will be held in St. Patrick's church, Christmas eve.

* A complete and varied stock of toys, suitable for Christmas presents for the children, can be seen in Mrs. Booth's store. Photograph frames, gems of beauty, arranged in delicate shades, will set off a photograph to perfection.

* Archie McDonald came down from Kettle River, Wednesday, to receive surgical attendance for a severe scalp wound made by being kicked by a horse. At the time of the accident he was working in the woods for the Rutledge Lumber company. Dr. D.W. Cowan, who attended the injured man, says the skull is slightly fractured.

* A rain on Monday placed the sidewalks in a very dangerous condition. The water froze to the planks, causing a slippery surface. Pedestrians performed many evolutions in mid air endeavoring to navigate along the icy walks. Several of the boys used their skates as a means of travel. No broken bones have yet been heard of as a result of the many falls.

* A strange scene was enacted in front of the post-office last Saturday evening. A comely young lady, accompanied by an elderly gentleman were standing at the street crossing. The woman remained on the crossing while her escort went into the post-office, apparently for an expected letter. He returned to the sidewalk, where he read the contents of the missive. After learning the contents of the letter, he approached the young lady and spoke a few words to her when she gave vent to an unearthly screech, swooned for a moment and fell into the man's arms. The gentleman aided her to some retreat where they were safe from the gaze of the two or three bystanders. One of the boys heard the man say, on reading the letter, that unwelcome word – dead. That is all that is known of the strange occurrence.



Hinckley's Eastern Hotel before the 1894 fire

Saturday, October 15, 2011

News from the Dart - Part 3

From the October 1, 1891, issue:

Pleasant Time

          The firemen's third annual ball is history now but its recollection leaves a bright spot on the page to those attending. It was a success in every particular. Fifty-one numbers were sold and the supper at the Morrison house was pronounced superb, in fact, perfect. Sedwell's band, Minneapolis, made-up of four pieces, furnished the music which was highly satisfactory. It was a festive time. 


Members of the Hinckley Fire Department posed in front of their new firehall just before the 1894 fire.  

Gossip Around Town 

          The match game of ball last Sunday between the Sandstone nine and Hinckley resulted in a score of 37 to 8 in favor of the latter. It was a little moist on that day which probably accounts for the condition of the count. Anyhow there are good fellows in the defeated nine, who took their defeat philosophically.


Hinckley's baseball team is shown here just after the 1894 fire.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

News from the Dart - Part 2

Were newspapers ever objective? The publisher of Hinckley's Pine-Wood Dart certainly had a strong opinion about the latest land speculation schemes of businessman and banker William H. Grant, Sr., and his son. Grant was one of Hinckley's founding fathers. He also established the Kettle River quarry at Sandstone in 1885. As a shrewd entrepreneur, Grant knew a good, money-making deal when he saw one, but there is no evidence that any of the landowners targeted by his 1891 real estate scheme accepted Grant's proposal.

From the October 1, 1891, issue:

Unload: A Scheme on Foot that Will Enable Landowners to Disposes of their Realty

          It is past time something should be done to settle northern and central Pine county. But it is much better to be never late. Someone must undertake the work of it can ever be executed. It is evidently left to W.H. Grant, sr., and son, W.H. Grant, jr., to baffle with the lords of silence and awaken interest in the subject matter. In a conversation with Mr. Grant, sr., Monday, on the development and futurity of northern Pine county, the best place for a man of moderate means that can be found in the state, he outlined a scheme that promised good to this section and were in hopes it would terminate successfully because of the favor with which it has thus far been received. Mr. Grant's proposal is to the effect that if owners of land in the northern half of the county would place their realty in his hands for a term of years, giving absolute control of all sales at a fixed price, capable men would be sent abroad for the ostensible purpose of organizing colonies and ticketing each member direct to Hinckley. This is a laudable move and a big undertaking. The scheme has been put before officials of the St. Paul & Duluth railway company, who sanctioned the move and promised every possible aid and lands from which the timber has been cut. It remains for other large land-holders of the county to co-operate by consenting to make a disposition of their lands as desired by the Messrs Grant. It is hoped they will be governed by the sparkling gem of enterprise, and lend the proposition influence. We can never hope to induce settlers hitherward unless an endeavor is made, and if the above gentlemen are to be the Ulysses that have been raised up for the purpose of bringing about a revolution in the sale and development of lands all about us, that much better for all concerned. Identified as they are with business interests of the county, what profits netted will be kept at home and partially disbursed in home improvements. Mr. Grant is of the opinion one hundred families can be settled on these lands by next spring as his ideas mature in time to make necessary arrangements with the several transportation companies yet this fall. One hundred families mean a good deal to county matters. The scheme signifies a good deal if perfected. It should enlist the encouragement of every resident of the county and particularly owners of land as several of whom are what is called “land poor.” These men should unload. The S.P. & D. company have expressed a willingness to unload in agreeing to help Mr. Grant and son, and the Western Land Association may get out of its trance long enough to venture a remark about high taxes (and they ought to be higher on its property) and relapse again. There should be a general unloading. The county will be profited, humanity blessed and prosperity reign. Unload your realty. Allow would-be purchasers the privilege of buying just what is wanted, with the stipulation sales are not to be held for speculative purposes but must be cultivated. This will help the county. The people up this way have wearied of land speculators, and want to see actual settlers come in and make homes among them. Advantages of the county and adaptability of its soil must be made more public than at present. The work must be systematically done. Faith in the country must be shown. Money must be expended and liberally. In fact holders of northern Pine county soil should get in out of the wet.
          The Messrs Grant are pushers and will win if permitted to undertake what is proposed.
          Unload.

Friday, October 7, 2011

News from the Dart - Part 1

Hinckley's Pine-Wood Dart was published by Frank T. Sheppard, and later Angus Hay, from July 9, 1891, through June 30, 1893. It covered local news and ran advertising for Hinckley, Sandstone, Willow River, Pine City, and other nearby towns.

The next several posts will feature excepts from the Pine-Wood Dart that capture the “flavor” of a small Pine County newspaper in the 1890s.

From the October 1, 1891, issue:

Aftermath of the Fire – Narrow Escape – Loss – Busy Campers – A Dam Burned

          The forest fires last week swept over an immense territory but the loss to camps and other property and life was not as great as would naturally be supposed. A number of people had close calls for their lives. Five farm hands are reported as having been burned to death near Pine City while fighting fire. The escape of Mr. and Mrs. Louis Mottaz, together with ten others, was miraculous. For fifteen hours they were obliged to seek refuge in the waters of the South Fork of the Grindstone, and even there were not free from the distressing effects of a terrible smoke, heated as from a furnace, and saved themselves only by throwing wet blankets over their heads. The fire swept down upon their camp – one of A.J. Lammar's – unexpectedly from two directions, and but a few valuables were saved. A half mile above the parties the river was dammed which structure was entirely destroyed owing to the low stage of water, entailing loss to Mr. Lammars. Wednesday Mrs. Mottaz was brought to town and found a home with her mother, Dr. Mary M. Scott, a few days. It was a trying ordeal and Mrs. Mottaz does not care to undergo it again.
          It is impossible to estimate the damage to mill logs but it is thought not to be great where the trees are cut during the coming winter. The loss of A.J. Lammars in camp buildings and logging tools is placed at about $4000 and that of the Brennan Lumber company at from $2500 to $8000. Mr. Lammars lost three or four camps. Men are living in tents until suitable buildings can be erected, the work of which is being vigorously prosecuted. The B.L. Co. lost its Grindstone camp.
          The Finlayson mill company lost two small lumber piles the amount of which was not great. It was a fortunate and providential escape for that town, so terrific the flames and plenty the fire food. Heroic efforts only saved the town and five million feet of lumber. We rejoice with its citizens.
          Willow River did not suffer damage but had a close call owing to men putting out back fire, which got the start of them and made fighting lively for a time.
          No one relished the fires and are glad of the rains – which put out all traces.

[Note: Mrs. Mottaz, nee Agnes Scott, died along with her young children in the great forest fire of 1894, which killed at least 400 and probably closer to 500 people. Her husband Louis survived and later married Clara Troolin. The fate of the Scott family remains a mystery at this point. Dr. Mary, her husband Henry, and their children Carl, Della, and Albert do not seem to appear in any records after the 1894 fire.]

Monday, October 3, 2011

Schools Open

From the Pine County Courier, January 17, 1895:

At this season of the year with boys and girls about our doors, everyone thinks of the "pleasant school room" in which to get them off their hands and minds.

For some time all have been wishing for school to open, and the day of their satisfaction is at hand. Next Monday will witness the opening of the schoolhouse doors, and the opening of parents' mouths in thanksgiving.

No school has been held here since last June, as the building was burned just before the opening of the fall term [in the great forest fire of September 1, 1894, which completely destroyed Sandstone and several neighboring towns].

This was one of the severest loses of the fire, as Sandstone had as fine a school building as any town of its size in the country, and unfortunately there was no insurance on it. The building was constructed of brown sandstone taken from the quarries at this place and was two stories high with a ground measurement 60 by 80 feet. It contained a fine basement with two large rooms on the first floor and a spacious hall above. Its arrangement was complete and its facilities adequate to accommodate the school population of quite a large town. The building cannot be replaced for less than $12,000, so it has been found necessary to get along with more limited accommodations, which will probably be sufficient for the coming term. The number of pupils before the fire was 92, and it is anticipated that at least an equal number will be in attendance at the opening next Monday.

The new building is 24 by 42 feet and was constructed by the relief committee on lots donated by the Minneapolis Trust Company for that purpose. It will seat the number likely to attend but will not begin to be sufficient when six months have rolled around.

The school board has provided school furniture to the amount of $394 that will be in place for the five months' term, and everything will be done to insure complete success.



The photograph above shows the first school in Sandstone after the 1894 fire. It was purchased by the Pine County Courier after the village build a new, larger schoolhouse .

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Hinckley Photograph


Enjoy this aerial view of Hinckley!  This photograph was probably taken some time in the 1920s or early 1930s.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Federal Correctional Institution at Sandstone: A History - Part 5

          Sandstone's Chamber of Commerce immediately got to work to find a new use for the prison buildings and land. It urged the State of Minnesota to take over the property for some appropriate use. Negotiations ensued, and by August 16, 1949, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives had passed a bill leasing the prison to the State of Minnesota for a state mental hospital with the conditions of maintaining the property and turning it back over to the federal government on notice of eighteen months. (39) President Truman signed the bill on August 19, but the State of Minnesota did not take action until May of the following year. Governor Youngdahl signed the lease on May 22, 1950, and the Minnesota State Mental Hospital at Sandstone opened July 18, 1950, with a staff of 110. (40)
          Soon approximately 440 male mental patients resided at Sandstone. Most of these men had been institutionalized for at least five years and some up to fifty, and they were transferred to Sandstone in an effort to relieve overcrowding in other state mental hospitals. (41) Staff members worked hard to transform the former prison into a more homey, welcoming place where patients would feel comfortable. Most patients slept in dormitories, but eighty were rewarded with private rooms for their superlative behavior. Patients performed work details, engaged in leisure activities like arts and crafts, reading, music, and sports, and ate nutritious and tasty meals in the dining hall. (42) Some of them even operated a small canteen to entertain their fellow patients. One observing journalist noted,

"In all, Sandstone presents a bright picture amidst the gloom which marks much of the national situation in the care of the mentally ill. Sandstone shines especially in its individualized program of providing the most modern forms of treatment and therapy. No patient ever is considered hopeless, regardless of how many decades he's been in mental institutions." (43)

          Despite this “bright picture,” the hospital was nearly always short on funds and had to limit its per patient expenditure to sixty-five cents per day with only $40 allowed for clothing per year. Only $200 was available every three months for recreational purposes, so sometimes patients simply had to go without new clothes or recreational projects. (44) Sandstone residents, however, offered help in the form of donations of clothing, books, radios, magazines, records, sports equipment, and even volunteer hours to supervise recreational activities. The hospital's doctors were pleased by this effort, noting that interaction with local people would “be of great assistance from a medical standpoint, renewing the patients' ties with the outside world, creating new interests and helping in the process of rehabilitation.” (45)
          In July of 1958, John F. Hawley received word from Dr. G.H. Adkins, the State Mental Hospital's superintendent, that the federal government was planning to reclaim the buildings and grounds the following year. In February of 1959, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons made the following request: “To relieve the critical situation of overcrowding to some extent, and to provide another institution in the Middle West, we propose to reactivate the Federal Correctional Institution at Sandstone, Minnesota” (46) On July 1, 1959, Sandstone's Federal Correctional Institution was officially reestablished under the leadership of Warden R.W. Meier. (47) The prison was now a “medium security” facility, and most inmates' sentences were less than five years. Eventually the prison's farmland was turned over to the DNR as a wildlife refuge, and inmates were otherwise employed in the FCI's glove factory, print shop, or cafeteria. (48)
          Twenty years later, in March of 1979, a newspaper article appeared in one of the Twin Cities' newspapers. It asked the question, “What does the prison mean to Sandstone?” The answer? “Trade. Money. A housing shortage aggravated by relatives who move to Sandstone to be near the inmates. The sound of a whistle when a prisoner escapes. A special section in Spring Park Cemetery for inmates who had no home base.” (49) “This is our bread and butter,” one Sandstone resident remarked. “If we didn't have [the FCI], [Sandstone] would be a rather bleak place.” (50)

39. Hubin.
40. Ibid.
41. Walter Eldot, “No Hopeless Patients Here” (newspaper article, 1950s).
42. Ibid.
43. Ibid.
44. Ibid.
45. Ibid.
46. Hubin.
47. Ibid.
48. Hammond.
49. Ibid.
50. Ibid.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Federal Correctional Institution at Sandstone: A History - Part 4

          The FCI got off to a bit of a rough start in its first few days. When the first fifty inmates arrived in early April, the prison staff suddenly realized they were not ready for them. The kitchen and bakery were not yet complete, and supplies were limited, so preparing meals was quite difficult! The Sandstone bread man, Oscar Holbeck, stepped up to provide a large amount of bread, and more groceries soon arrived through the prison system. (27) Now well-fed, the first fifty prisoners set to work on building projects and preparing for the arrival of further inmates.
          Despite the initial glitches, the FCI prisoners and staff soon settled into a routine. When a new inmate arrived at the FCI, he entered into a thirty-day orientation period. First, he was taken into a “reception” room where he was provided with a shower and a prison uniform. Staff members checked his health, fingerprinted him, and took his picture. Over the next few days, the new prisoner met with a social service director, psychiatrist, and psychologist. He was checked out by doctors and dentists and introduced to the warden and associate warden. He talked with the director of education and was enrolled in classes appropriate for his educational level. (28) Why take so much effort to orient a new prisoner? Warden Humphrey explained:

"During this period we get to know the men. Not all are hardened criminals. Most of them have specific problems which need to be corrected. We let them know that they are here as punishment for crimes but at the same time we feel that by treating them well, giving them an opportunity to rest as well as work and devote their non-working hours to profitable leisure- time activity we can operate a more efficient institution." (29)

          When the orientation period was completed, the prisoner received his work assignment, which he fulfilled five days a week for seven and a half hours a day. (30) In the prison's early days, many of these work assignments involved tending to the “prison farm” portion of the FCI. In his off hours, the inmate could take classes, enjoy social activities in the recreation hall, participate in baseball games, read, write letters, receive visitors (on a limited, scheduled basis), watch movies (and in later years television), and participate in a variety of programs including religious services, Alcoholics Anonymous, and card clubs. (31) Most inmates at the FCI served prison terms of eighteen months or less during the institution's first years, and shortly before the end of each prisoner's sentence, he typically moved to a treatment center or halfway house (as those options became available) to help him manage his transition to freedom. (32)
          The FCI functioned relatively smoothly for eight years. It brought added jobs and income to Sandstone; a new base of prison employees and family members of inmates who purchased houses in the village and served as customers for local businesses; improved roads and bridges for transportation to and from the prison; and an overall feeling that, with the stability the institution brought to the village, Sandstone would survive the trouble times of the 1930s and 1940s. (33)
          That impression of security was relatively short-lived, however. On September 2, 1947, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons announced that it was considering reducing the FCI's inmate population and personnel. (34) A committee from Sandstone, including one of the original prison farm four, John F. Hawley, left almost immediately for Washington to ask the Bureau to reconsider. They were unsuccessful. The Bureau demoted the FCI to a “prison camp” with only thirty staff members and about 103 inmates. (35) The situation worsened over the next year. By April of 1949, the prison population had dropped below one hundred, and the few staff members left were awaiting transfer notices. At its peak, the prison had housed six hundred inmates and provided jobs for about 125 people, most of whom purchased homes in Sandstone. (36) Now the town was facing an “economic tragedy” when the Bureau of Prisons formally closed the FCI on June 30, 1949. (37) One newspaper article summed up the stressful situation:

"It is estimated that the prison closing will take one-fourth of the working population away from here. This means an average annual payroll of between $400,000 and $500,000 will disappear from the business life of Sandstone and other nearby communities. It does not take into account food products, clothing, fuel and other products sold here to the prison itself, which has been estimated in excess of $1,000,000 a year. The whole business economy of Sandstone has been geared for years to the needs of the prison and its personnel." (38)

27. “Officially Opened.”
28. Nathan Cohen, “Federal Institution Is Far Cry From Hard-Boiled Era” (newspaper article, 1939).
29. Ibid.
30. Ellen Walker, “The Federal Correctional Institution: Admission and Orientation” (newspaper article, n.d.).
31. Ibid.; Cohen
32. “'Open House'”; Walker
33. “New Prison”; Ruth Hammond, “Not Everyone Who Lives in Sandstone Does So by Choice” (newspaper article, March 17, 1979).
34. Hubin.
35. Ibid.
36. Larry Fitzmaurice, “Sandstone Reels Under Major Blow In Prison Closing” (newspaper article, 1949).
37. Ibid.
38. Ibid.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Federal Correctional Institution at Sandstone: A History - Part 3

          By early 1936, however, government officials realized that the repeal of Prohibition had not decreased the prison population as much as they had hoped. In fact, prisons were becoming more and more overcrowded. (20) In the spring, Congress appropriated $1.5 million to build three federal prisons, and the prison farm four received word that Sandstone had once again been chosen as the site of one of the new institutions. Current plans called for a larger prison than the one designed in 1932; instead of three hundred inmates, the new prison would hold six hundred prisoners. Surveyors arrived in Sandstone in August of 1936 to once again look over the prison site, but construction was delayed due to a shortage of funds and a good deal of political wrangling. Finally, late in 1937, construction began on Sandstone's Federal Correctional Institution. (21)
          By April of 1939, the institution, the twenty-second in the federal prison system, was nearly completed. (22) An enthusiastic newspaper article announced a three-day open house during which visitors could inspect the new institution. “This is one of a series of Federal regional institutions constructed at strategic points throughout the United States for the purpose of relieving congestion in local institutions...” the author explained. The prison, he continued, is built in the form of a quadrangle and

"...is simply but soundly constructed of reinforced concrete...There is no wall about the institution as the buildings are of a self-enclosing type. It consists of two cell blocks of the intermediate security type. In addition there are eight dormitories holding fifty men each. Adequate exercise yards have been provided as well as a receiving building, a small hospital, a congregate dining room, assembly hall, class rooms, shop space, and warehouse facilities." (23)

As another writer declared, “...it would be impossible for any of the inmates to scale the inside walls” of the 600 by 400 foot structure secured by “steel vault doors”. (24) Construction was supervised by the N.P. Severin Company of Chicago and the Maurice Schumacher Constructor Co., of Minneapolis, but many of the workers were recruited from Pine and Carlton counties. (25) Construction costs had already topped $800,000, and the prison was not yet completed. After nearly 9,000 curious spectators had passed through the prison gates to take a close look at this new “modern” structure, the institution was ready for business, and the warden, George W. Humphrey; a staff of trained federal prison personnel; and a group of fifty prisoners from the United States Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas, arrived at their new home. (26)

20. Ibid.
21. Ibid.
22. “'Open House' at Federal Institution for Three Days” (newspaper article, April 9, 1939).
23. Ibid.
24. “Federal Correctional Institution Officially Opened” (newspaper article, April 1939); “New Prison Rises At Sandstone,” Duluth News-Tribune, Nov. 28, 1937.
25. “'Open House'”; “New Prison”
26. “'Open House'”; “Officially Opened.”

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Federal Correctional Institution at Sandstone: A History - Part 2

          Prison farm plans seemed to go smoothly at first. In February and March of 1932, the Federal Prison Board looked at architectural plans for the new prison and selected an architect to complete the design process. The prison farm four and their colleagues ran into a slight glitch in acquiring the titles and deeds to some parcels of land on the prison farm site. The companies that owned the land had gone out of business years before. A title acquisition hearing was held on June 27, 1932, and since no one showed up to voice any objections, the last of the titles were secured without further ado. (12)
          Sandstone's residents proved ready to do their part to bring a federal prison farm to their town. The village council met July 1 to consider a petition signed by sixty-one Sandstone citizens that called for a special election to vote on the following question: “Shall the village of Sandstone issue its warrants in amount of $2,500, payable $500 per year interest at five per cent, to defray expenses incurred in locating a federal prison farm at Sandstone?” (13) The council approved the election, and the bond question passed with a resounding “yes” on July 15. Excitement mounted as federal surveyors and later Assistant Director of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons J.V. Bennett showed up in Sandstone to look over the prison site. In October, the Minneapolis Tribune announced:

          "America's first federal detention house for suspects and short term prisoners to be built next year at a cost of $300,000 at Sandstone, Minn., 85 miles north of Minneapolis, will stand as a monument to the progress of science in prison construction and to the community spirit of the Sandstone people who secured the great institution for their town....
          "This institution is unique in the United States....The building will house 328 prisoners and suspects. In reality, it will consist of merely the first wing of a greater institution. Other additions are to be built in future years.
          "[The] site is described as both healthful and picturesque. In addition, it consists entirely of fine farming land....Every prisoner, if he is physically able, will be required to do his share of the farm work...[which] will permit the detention home to produce a big share of food [for] its inmates." (14)

Sandstone residents were thrilled by this favorable publicity and hoped that their dream would soon become a reality.
          Time passed, a full year, with no word on when construction would begin. Mr. Barstow and Mr. Hawley decided to go directly to Washington to see what was holding things up. They left on July 22, 1933, but returned with no definite answers. That fall they met with U.S. Representative Einar Hoidale, who promised his support for the prison project. The rest of Minnesota's Representatives also offered their help. (15) Hopes were raised once again. Then something happened that changed in the whole landscape of the prison system. The Eighteenth Amendment was repealed.
          The Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified on January 16, 1919. Its first section declared, “After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.” (16) In other words, the making, selling, transporting, and drinking of alcohol was, for all practical purposes, illegal. Prohibition had begun. The supporters of prohibition were, as one author remarked, “naive in the extreme....They ignored the fact that one cannot make a crime overnight out of something that millions of people have never regarded as a crime. Lawmakers could not legislate away a thirst.” (17) Many people simply did not abide by the law. They concocted their own “moonshine” or “hooch” in homemade stills and sold it to their neighbors and friends. Others decided Prohibition was a good business opportunity and began trafficking alcohol on a larger scale. Organized crime flourished as “bootleggers” ran liquor across state and international lines. Sometimes these Prohibition-related criminals were not careful enough and were apprehended by authorities, increasing the prison population dramatically and leading to the overcrowding mentioned in the 1929 congressional report. By 1933, it was clear to most people that Prohibition had achieved the exact opposite of what it intended. Alcohol consumption had, if anything, risen over the past decade, and crime rates had soared along with it. Congress proposed the Twenty-First Amendment repealing Prohibition on February 20, 1933, and it was ratified on December 5. (18)
          Alcohol was legal once again, and many “criminals” were no longer classified as such. Federal prison officials, anticipating a decline in the prison population, halted all federal prison construction projects, including the one in Sandstone. (19) The hard work of the prison farm four and their colleagues appeared to have been in vain, and the financial contribution of Sandstone's residents seemed wasted.

12. Ibid.
13. Ibid.
14. Langseth, 149.
15. Hubin.
16. Baily and Kennedy, A18.
17. Ibid., 750.
18. “Twenty-First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twenty-first_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution (accessed June 16, 2011).
19. Hubin.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Federal Correctional Institution at Sandstone: A History - Part 1

          In 1931, the United States was in the midst of the Great Depression. After the stock market crash on “Black Tuesday,” October 29, 1929, the country faced an economic catastrophe. By the end of the year, horrified stockholders had lost approximately $40 billion. Businesses and industries floundered and failed. As 1930 drew to a close, over four million workers were without jobs. Banks collapsed, and in these days before FDIC insurance, people lost their entire life savings. Farmers struggled as their markets collapsed and bad weather destroyed their crops. A mood of gloom and despair settled over the nation. (1)
          Sandstone was not immune from the hardships of the Great Depression. Sandstone's economy centered on its famous sandstone quarry. Founded by William Grant in 1885, the quarry produced high-quality building stone that was shipped across the United States and Canada for use in the construction of public and commercial buildings, private homes, bridges, monuments, and other structures. In the mid-1920s, the Sandstone Quarries Company began producing Kericon Koncrete products at its new concrete manufacturing plant. (2) Sandstone was also well-known as a division point on the Great Northern Railway. With its twenty-stall round house, multiple tracks, and “modern” depot (built in 1922), Sandstone depended on the railroad industry as fundamental to its economic success. (3) By 1931, both the quarry and railroad industries were in decline. (4) The market for quarry stone tapered off as the building trade deteriorated, and fewer people could afford to ride the rails or ship their products to ever-weakening markets. Sandstone's businessmen and village leaders began to get nervous about the fate of their town in such a troubled economy. Would Sandstone survive the Great Depression?
          Ray Barstow, president of Sandstone's First National Bank, was determined to answer that question with a resounding “yes”. Mr. Barstow had recently studied the 1929 congressional report on the conditions of the nation's prisons. The report, which focused on overcrowding in the federal prison system, had spurred several federal judges in Minnesota to call for the establishment of more federal prison farms in the northern part of the state. These farms, they thought, would offer better living conditions and the possibility of valuable work and rehabilitation opportunities. (5) Mr. Barstow firmly agreed and decided that he knew just the right place for one of these federal prison farms. There was a piece of uncleared land across the Kettle River to the east of Sandstone that would be a perfect site. (6) A prison farm, Mr. Barstow reasoned, would bring revenue and jobs into Sandstone to make up for the economic downturn in the quarrying and railroad industries. He quickly enlisted the help of Minnesota Senator Adolph Larson, Dr. Homer P. Dredge, and businessman John F. Hawley. (7) “The prison farm four,” as these Sandstone men came to be known, called a meeting of Sandstone's leading citizens and formed the “Prison Farm Committee” with the goal of winning a federal prison farm for Sandstone. (8)
          The prison farm four and their colleagues were well aware that bringing a federal prison farm to Sandstone was going to involve hard work, but they could not have realized that when they started their venture in 1931 that eight years would pass before the prison would actually open. The U.S. Department of Justice had already announced its intention to build a new prison farm in Minnesota, but Sandstone was not alone in its bid for the new institution. Fourteen other communities were competing “strenuously” to be chosen. (9) Sandstone, however, had the unique advantage of being positioned half way between the Twin Cities and Duluth, the cities that provided most of the Minnesota prison population. In June of 1931, Superintendent of Federal Prisons Sandford Bates, visited Sandstone to inspect the proposed site. He must have been impressed, for in October, he officially recommended Sandstone as the location for the new prison farm. In the meantime, the Sandstone committee had been busy securing options to purchase the necessary land, 2,885 acres, which it could soon offer to the government at the rate of $5 per acre. (10) On November 10, 1931, Sandstone's residents received the exciting news that their bid for the federal prison farm had been approved by U.S. Attorney General William D. Mitchell. The village fire siren blew, and the citizens celebrated long into the night. (11) Perhaps things were finally looking up for their town.

1. Thomas A. Baily and David M. Kennedy, The American Pageant, vol. 2, 10th ed. (Lexington, Mass.: D.C. Heath and Company, 1994), 783-784.
2. Muriel Langseth, ed., Sandstone, the Quarry City (Dallas: Taylor Publishing Company, 1989), 19, 40, 44.
3. Ibid., 56, 57, 59.
4. Ibid., 149.
5. Edgar A. Hubin, Founding of a Prison (Sandstone: U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Correctional Institution, 1963).
6. Ibid.
7. Ibid.; Lanseth, 149.
8. Hubin.
9. Ibid.
10. Ibid.
11. Ibid.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sandstone Soccer Team



Pine County was home to numerous soccer fans before the sport was widely popular in the United States. The English stonecutters who worked in Sandstone's quarry brought their love of soccer with them when the immigrated to America. Other Pine County towns formed soccer teams to give the Sandstone players some competition. This photograph was taken in 1910.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Desperado Captured

From the Pine County News, November 7, 1874:

About two weeks ago a man came into this place and stated that he came from St. Cloud and wanted employ­ment. Mr. Nester at once hired him to work on the road between this city and Brunswick with a crew of men. This man gave his name as John Barney. On Thursday of last week two men (we withhold their names for various reasons) arrived from Brecken­ridge and, being around the hotel in the evening, noticed this man Barney and recognized him as the notorious John Seymour, alias "Black Jack," alias John Barney, the leader of the band of horse thieves and robbers, who have long infested the northwestern part of the State. The men gave the authorities the information, and on the following day, Constable Byers with the assistance of John McElroy succeeded in capturing him while he was at work on the road. When he found he was fast and could not get away from the officers, he exclaimed that he was "up again for a sale!" He was immediate­ly put in irons, word sent to Brecken­ridge, to the sheriff, who answered to hold him and take him as far as St. Paul where he would meet the officer having him in charge. This was done on Wednesday, Constable Byers conduct­ing him as far as St. Paul. Seymour was arrested this time on the charge of stealing a horse from one Edwards about the 23rd of September last, the horse having been found in his possession after it was taken. It is also reported that he has shot and killed several men and that his last lawless act of this character was shooting and severely wounding a man at Grand Forks on the Minnesota River about the first of September last. It is con­sidered by those who know him that if he gets what he deserves at the hands of the law he will "swing," and at present it is very probable that he will have a hearing before a tribunal of Justice.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Disastrous Blaze Strikes Brook Park

From The Kanabec County Times, September 10, 1936:

A disastrous fire swept through a part of Brook Park village late Wednesday night, the damage being estimated at from ten to twenty thousand dollars. The fire, which started in a shed adjoining the B.J. Kelsey store, on a corner of the main street, spread to the store and wiped out the whole corner, consisting of two places of business and one dwelling house to the south of the store. Three families were made homeless, and although there was time to carry much of the merchandise from the store and the household goods out into the street, breakage and fire caused almost a total loss to the entire contents.

The telephone office, located next door to the store, was wiped out, and the only communication with the village for several days was over the railroad telephone lines.

The fire was discovered about 11:30 p.m. and a call sent out for the fire departments of surrounding villages. The Pine City fire department came and arrived in time to keep the fire from spreading further. The absence of wind helped the fire fighters but the structures, all old frame buildings, burned like matchwood, and sparks for a time threatened the entire village, while buildings across the wide street smoldered and smoked.

The village has no water system or modern fire fighting equipment.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Disgraceful Affair

From the Pine County News, October 14, 1876:

Mr. J.W. Mills, who has been a resident of Rock Creek, Pine County, for the past two years, or at least his family has, has been in the habit of abusing his wife and children in a most shameful manner. Last spring he left home for the purpose of a final separation, but after staying away all summer, he drifted back last week and visited his wife, who lives at that place, and commenced his abuse upon her. She sent one of her children to the neighbors to inform them of her treatment, and several men called, took Mr. Mills by the ear, led him out, and told him to depart from town and not show himself there again. He left on the first train. In the evening, the citizens held a public meeting, and, after discussing the subject fully, signed the following paper, which effectually shows the feelings toward the family.

THE RESOLUTION

We, the undersigned, citizens of Rock Creek, have resolved ourselves into a committee to assist and aid Mrs. J.W. Mills and her two children to live comfortably through the coming winter, as far as we are able, in the way of clothing and provisions.

Chas. Gill, President
W.H. Gray, Clerk
O. Hewson
May Hewson
Cecil B. Burger
C.W. Gill
A.C. Burger
Fred L. Sherburn
S.M. Hewson
Mrs. M.E. Gray
Mrs. F.A. Webber