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Research Trip to Sherburne History Center


I'm a bit shocked that this was my first time visiting the Sherburne History Center, but it was! I was stunned by the beautiful facility, and the staff was very friendly and helpful.  Their materials were very well organized and easy to find.

I can't say enough good things about this place!  I'm sure I'll be back there again soon to collect more information.

Have you ever visited a local historical society?  What was your experience?

Tragedy in History: Respectfully Acknowledging the Dakota Conflict

I confess I have been somewhat anxious for the coming of 2012, however, unlike those who expect the world to collapse in on itself, I have been anticipating it for a different reason... In history, so often we acknowledge the terrible, world-altering events with a certain kind of reverence.  Some events are idealized, shaped by scholars, historians and teachers to be more positive than negative.  Or, at the very least, the injustice, sacrifice, or sometimes abuse is considered a "necessary evil"  in order to accomplish change, revolution or advancement.  Sometimes, of course this is true, and there is never a "right" way to look at these things or address them, as with any historical event, it is open to interpretation and opinion.

It becomes more difficult in situations where conflict is present, what is an awful tragedy to one side, can be a victory to the other.  As the old adage goes, History is told through the eyes of the winners.

This August, 2012 marks the anniversary of the U.S. Dakota War of 1862.  The MNHS exhibit on this topic opens this Wednesday.


Unlike many wars, I have never read anything glorifying this one.  Personally, it is a perspective I wish we saw more of  in history.  The story of this war is devastating and horrific.  Six weeks, and hundreds dead, settlers and natives alike. In the end, no one wins.  People are starving and suffering, injured and dying.

In case you don't know the story of the Dakota Uprising: The Dakota were being pushed from their land by yet another land treaty, they were starving, living off of small government annuities which were continually late and  slowly dying.  Then it all started when on a dare, 4 Dakota men slaughtered a white family.  Chief Little Crow feared what the white settlers would do once news spread, he declared war in an effort to organize and protect his people from whatever would come next.  Lead by Colonel Henry Sibley who had until 1860 been the first Governor of Minnesota, the settlers charged.  After months of fighting 600 settlers were killed and 50 to 60 Dakotas.   At the end of the war 1,600 Native Americans were rounded up and moved to internment camps, over 400 went on trial for war crimes and consequently 300 were condemned to death.  President Lincoln issued an order to reduce that number to 39 and shortly thereafter on December 26, 1862 38 Dakotas were hanged to death in Mankato.  The largest mass execution in U.S. History.

This event spurred decades of racism against Native Americans setting ablaze the embers of all kinds of civil injustice and abuse.  By 1863 the Dakota people were banished from Minnesota and the U.S. Government abolished their reservations.

The whole matter is a delicate balance.  So many accounts in archives, libraries and museum are so grizzly and proud.   The details put forth are so horrific that I won't offer up the details here.  Rest assured, if you are curious and you have a strong stomach for such things, there are many online (and offline) resources that offer specifics.


Additional Reading:

The No-Win War - Minnesota Monthly

Dakota War of 1862 - Wikipedia

U.S. -Dakota War - Minnesota Historical Society

Family and Friends of the Dakota Uprising Victims 

Here Were Hanged 38 Sioux Indians - Nick Coleman, The State I'm In

Minnesota's Uncivil War - MPR

To Understand U.S. Dakota Conflict, Historians resort to 'Truth Recovery' - Mankato Free Press

And HERE is a fantastic list of additional resources put together by the City of Mankato on the topic, some are print, some are online.

The Star Tribune put together this transcription of newspaper articles from 1862 detailing the war.


Upcoming Events: 

May 16th - October 20th - Civil War and Dakota Conflict Exhibit - Minnesota History Center

June 3rd - The U.S. Dakota War of 1862 - Author's Sunday Historic LeDuc Estate


Every Historic Home Needs a Butler- Animate or Not.

Really.  I have found photographic evidence that it must be true.  While wistfully paging through historic mansions of Minnesota, I noted two beautiful multimillion dollar abodes, both built in the late 1800s, completely renovated, restored, and loved by their current owners. 

Apparently both of these homes, despite their enormity and the apparent abundant wealth the owners must have possessed, lacked butlers of the moving, breathing, waiting type.  Why you ask? How could I know this from simple real estate listings? Because, my dear friend, both of them found it necessary to purchase inanimate butlers. 

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

Here you'll note the prominent figure standing upright tray in hand awaiting your arrival in the foyer.  This house is an amazing beauty in St. Paul (you can click the photo to see the listing for the home).  The stunning woodwork throughout accentuated by the incredible chandeliers make it a place that any wax butler would be proud to service. 

Exhibit B

Exhibit B

This one is a little bit harder to spot, but I assure you, dear readers, if you look carefully you'll see the little butler standing there in the far left corner of the room, which is apparently some type of home theatre.  This house is also in St. Paul, and while equally lovely if not slightly more modern, it has a couple really unique quirks, that I got a real kick out of (that is aside from the tiny butler).  Despite the presence of a huge replica of the Mona Lisa and other classic art pieces, in the billiards room, painted on the walls are life-size portraits of gangsters lining the walls.

I hope this amuses you all as much as it did me!  Of course, if I owned a house like this, I'd surely consider buying a little butler to stand in a corner of my mansion.

Vintage Baseball


One thing I learned about 1860s baseball, it certainly wasn't a fast paced game!  The Quicksteps Vintage Baseball club went up against the "150 Eagan Celebrity Team" which included Eagan Mayor Mike Maguire as well as a couple of reporters from Fox 9 and an array of counsel members. 

A woman in a period dress was passing out the rules as the variations to the modern game of baseball were quite daunting.  It seemed most troubling for the Eagan team was the "one bounce" rule second only to the "over running the base" rule.  A foul ball where the ball is stricken by the bat, can be caught (even after the first bounce) to result in that player being out.  If a player over runs a base they can be tagged and also called out.  Needless to say the Quicksteps had a bit of an unfair advantage. 

We sat right behind the Quicksteps "dug-out" and each time a player would step up to bat a chorus of "Strike Well!"s would ring accross the diamond. 

You will have to excuse the pictures, our battery on our camera was dead so we were using a cell phone to take these  pictures!

The man in the brown jacket with the walking stick was the coach for the Quicksteps.  They were a great show, although I might guess that attending one of their usual games against another historic baseball team might be a little more exciting and authentic. 

I really enjoyed an informational poster they had put up about some of the early Eagan Baseball games, including some of the names of participants of an early team including : Rahn and LeMay. 

We had a blast, and what a neat idea for the City of Eagan! I'm really looking forward to seeing my next vintage baseball game.

I'll Build You A Castle


As promised, this is my very favorite of the old houses for sale in Minnesota.  This house in Glencoe, Minnesota is a towering reminder of the towns heritage.  While most of its extravagant details have been lost in recent years, the fact that it is still standing (and according to the City's website, is the oldest home in Glencoe to remain) is an extraordinary feat. 

This house was built by Joseph Jay Brechet construction began in 1895 and was finished in 1899.  Brechet was born in Buffalo, New York in 1861 and when he was a young child his parents moved the family to Glencoe, Minnesota.  As a teenager, Brechet worked in Glencoe at a local store, later leaving to work at stores throughout the midewest in Iowa and  Wisconsin.  Eventually, Brechet returned to his hometown of Glencoe, and made an offer to his old employer, he bought the store from its owner, slowly, over a period of time, by paying a portion of his wage he acquired the store.  By the age of 28 he owned it. 

Brechet was a hard working, self made man.  He had a true business sense, and it wasn't long before he had acquired a small fortune.  A cousin of his in Buffalo introduced him in writing to a young beauty from New York, Jennie Frankenstein.  It wasn't long before the two were writing constantly.  Brechet, who was known for his passion and determination, knew what he wanted.  He wrote in a letter to the lovely Jennie a marriage proposal, he proposed that if she would come to Glencoe and spend her life with him he would build her a castle in which she would spend the rest of her days. 

What girl could resist?

He traveled to Buffalo to see her and a short two weeks later they were married.  True to his word Brechet did build Jennie a castle.  It contained every luxury available, and he lavished dear Jennie with anything her heart desired.  Before long the Brechets welcomed two children, young Bertha and Carl.  It was around this time that Brechet took up photography.  He took hundreds of photographs of his young children and lovely wife, his eye was superb and the documentation of their life, and home are unsurpased.  The Minnesota Historical Society holds a collection of many of Brechet's photographs including those of his many stores and several family vacations. 

I wish I could post these pictures directly but, unfortunately, the best way of doing things is to direct you to the MNHS to view them.   I really hope you check them out and enjoy the fantastic images!

Brechet Family Photographs:

Jennie with Bertha and Carl ca. 1897

JJ Brechet Store Glencoe, MN ca. 1885

Tea Party on the Porch of the Brechet House ca. 1900

Bertha and Carl at Christmas ca. 1897

***The Eye of Brechet by Virginia L. Martin, Minnesota Historical Society.  See this article for further information, beautifully written and complete with many of the family's photographs. 

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