Ramsey County History Magazine: Volume 39-1 Spring 2004

Ramsey County History magazine offers a wide variety of articles on the people, places and history of Ramsey County.

Volume 39

Volume 39, Number 1: Spring 2004

‘High and Dry on a Sandstone Cliff:’ St. Paul and the Year of the Chicago and Rock Island’s Great Railroad Excursion

Author: Steve Trimble
This article examines what St. Paul looked like in 1854 when the Great Railroad Excursion came to the city. St. Paul was part of the urban frontier experience in America, a sometimes overlooked part of our history. Based on contemporary sources, it appears that the important issues in 1854 were very similar to modern problems. Crime led to public safety measures. Support of religion led to the construction of churches. The economy was booming and the number and variety of businesses led to a chronic labor shortage. As is the case today, the population was very diverse with several ethnic “island communities.” Cholera fears led to a concern for public health and a hospital was built. The Excursion was a celebration of the railroad reaching the Mississippi River and the Eastern visitors were feted in St. Paul. The article concludes with the execution of a Dakota man, U-Ha-zy, and public reactions to St. Paul’s first public hanging.
PDF of Trimble article

Irvine Park in 1854: Its Homes and the People Who Lived There 150 Years Ago

Author: Robert J. Stumm
There are an impressive number of homes in Irvine Park today that were already there in 1854. The neighborhood dates from 1849 when the land for a park was donated. The author then gives descriptions of ten large Greek revivals and smaller federal styles. The Symonds house at 234 Ryan, considered the city’s oldest surviving structure, was built in 1850. These pioneer houses survived to the present because Irvine Park was spared the intrusion of large-scale commercial development that has doomed other older neighborhoods in St. Paul.
PDF of Stumm article

A Quilt and a Diary: The Story of the Little Girl Who Rode the Orphan Train to a New Home

Author: Ann Zemke
The author made a quilt that is used to tell the story of her grandmother, Margaret Peterson, who was an orphan. From 1854 to 1929, thousands of children like her were “placed out” and sent off by rail to find new families. At the time the article was written, there were still 200 orphan train riders alive in Minnesota. Zemke’s grandmother kept a diary and wrote an autobiography that stated that she had been at a home school for a time before heading to northern Minnesota. Most of the children who were resettled came from the Eastern states. When Margaret Peterson was nineteen, she left her new family to go out on her own and married two years later.
PDF of Zemke article

Growing Up in St. Paul:
 Mechanic Arts—An Imposing ‘Melting Pot’ High School that Drew Minorities Together

Author: Bernice Fischer

After seven years at St. Adalbert’s School, in classes of thirty consisting of all white Catholic children, the author entered Mechanic Arts High School with its four floors, many nationalities and 1,400 students. It was considered a “melting pot.” The highlight of the week was assembly in the large auditorium, featuring guest lecturers or entertainers. Academics were at a high level and comic books were confiscated.

Fisher was in the class of 1946. At the time, girls were often expected to get married and not have a career, but the women who were teachers at MAHS were real role models. Her favorite was May Kellerhals, a biology teacher who pushed her to take more science and math courses. Consequently Fischer decided not to be a secretary and to go to college instead. Fischer includes memories of her friends and experiences at MAHS.
PDF of Growing Up in St. Paul

Book Reviews

Stephen J. Keillor, Grand Excursion: Antebellum America Discovers the Upper Mississippi (Afton, Minn.: Afton Historical Society Press, 2004).

John D. Besler, Legacy of Violence: Lynch Mobs and Executions in Minnesota (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003).
PDF of Book Reviews

PDF of Letters to the Editor